The Shopping List 12-2-10 and 12-8-10

The Demon Returns!

Yes, I return. Man, I’m not getting back on time with these. To be fair, I spent last Wednesday through Saturday in Portland, OR. Great city. Visited some great shops: Cosmic Monkey Comics, Floating World Comics, Things from Another World. I also found the Oni Press and Dark Horse Comics offices. Nothing to see at Oni, but Dark Horse’s foyer has a life-size statue of Concrete that is totally creepy.

Well, better late than never. Here we go.

Shadowland #5Daredevil #512Shadowland: After the Fall #1Three-fer!!!
Shadowland #5
by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan **
Daredevil #512
by Andy Diggle, Antony Johnston, and Marco Checchetto ****
Shadowland: After the Fall #1 by Antony Johnston, Marco Checchetto and Roberto De La Torre ***

Oh no, Shadowland is over! What am I going to do with the money I’ve spent on these issues? Oh, right. Buy something better.

Shadowland goes out singing the same song it came in on. Too much action. Questionable plot. Inconsistent art ill-suited to the story. And since Marvel thought these three books were needed to wrap up the same plot points, I thought I should review them together.

After five issues of fisticuffs, Iron Fist uses his chi to heal Matt, who then pulls a Ed Norton on the Brad Pitt of a demon possessing him. Maybe they should have tried that 100 pages ago. It’s an idiot plot, plain and simple. The heroes then have a “Wow, that was crazy. WAIT! Where’s Matt?” moment. Where’s Matt? He’s in church. (Murdock’s religion is an interesting facet that’s most been ignored for the past decade. Hopefully, when he makes his return, it’ll be a bigger part of Daredevil’s character.) Another outgoing sequence involves Kingpin taking control of Shadowland and unlocking Typhoid Mary’s DUN DUN DUH secret fourth personality! Stupid.

This last issue of Daredevil acts as an epilogue, setting up each of the characters going forward. It’s not a bad book, but no more than perfunctory. It’s the sort of wrap issue that needs to be published to wrap up/launch stories, rather than tell a story on its own. Foggy is loyal to the end (and beyond). The Kingpin does anything to get what he wants. Dakota North always has more knowledge and skills than anyone thinks. Diggle and Johnston know the characters.

Isn’t it about time Foggy gets some character growth? The only time he’s really interesting is when he finally snaps and yells at Matt for being an ass. Let’s give him a girlfriend, a new job, some sort of life away from Matt. Now that Murdock is out of the spotlight, this is Foggy’s chance, but in what book? Black Panther’s taking over the Daredevil numbering and I don’t know who his supporting cast will be. And yes, I’m still bitter that Panther and not Gambit is becoming The Man Without Fear. No matter how many issues they shoehorn him into, declaring his new position, nothing has helped it seem less arbitrary.

As I said, Daredevil #512 served as an epilogue. Matt and his supporting cast have all been shaken up and placed back home. So what does this leave for Shadowland: After the Fall? Much of the same, but focusing on Ben Urich and Detective Kurtz. Each is tasked with finding Matt  Murdock, despite the fact that it was never proven he’s Daredevil and that they don’t want to find him in the first place. The issue is told in clashing first-preson narrations, much like Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman. For the most part, it works. The issue’s best scene involves a Murdock monologue in the form of a confessional micro-cassette left for Urich. Matt knows he screwed up and rather than take the weight on his shoulders like he’s always done, he admits “Daredevil’s no good for me anymore.” After that, we can flash back to last page of Daredevil #512: Matt walking on a desert road, a cook without a kitchen.

Along with colorists Matt Hollingsworth and Morry Hollowell, Marco Checchetto and Roberto de la Torre turn in some nice pages. The foursome make Daredevil and After the Fall moody, but not overly dark. Telling a gloomy story in the four-color word of comics is an interesting task. It’s like the chapter of Gotham Central that featured the Teen Titans. Simply muting colors can ground even the most fantastic elements. This is where Shadowland proper failed. Whether his work was colored by Christina Strain or Guru eFx, Billy Tan’s work on the book was too bright. Hell’s Kitchen is a dark place. The book deals with ninjas and evil spirits. It is no place for bright spandex.

Detective Comics #871Detective Comics #871 by Scott Snyder, Jock and Francesco Francavilla ****

I know this came out two weeks ago, but I just bought it. It’s been a few big weeks and I have a small budget. Reviews were positive, so I picked it up this week. I’m glad I did.

Snyder’s inspiration for his run was the idea that Gotham is a black mirror. Its criminals are dark reflections of its hero: Two-Face is a reflection of Bruce’s dual nature, Joker the opposite of Bruce’s rules and boundaries. So, with Dick Grayson under the cowl, how will Gotham respond? Hearing that, I was hooked.

Snyder’s first issue doesn’t drop any revelations on you, but it is a solid read. Snyder gives a more unique personality in 22 pages than Grant Morrison did in 6 issues of Batman and Robin, and it’s easy to see why – the amount of time spent outside of the costume. We care about the hero because we care about the person under the mask. No personality under the mask, no drama. Dick spends time with Alfred and my boy Commissioner Gordon, making his mark on the legacy.

Speaking of the Commish, Snyder also writes a back-up tale starring Gordon. It’s mostly set-up, and hinges on a reveal of his son James. I have no idea who James is. Because of that, the story has no impact on me. Oh well.

As effective (or not) as these stories are, most people will be fixated on the art. Jock (on the Batman story) and Francesco Francavilla (Commissioner Gordon) have widely disparate styles, but both are enjoyable.

Jock relies on the jagged images he used on The Losers and his Batwoman issues of Detective Comics with Greg Rucka. Because this issue does not feature any of the classic Batman baddies, and I’ve never seen him draw Batman, this looks like Jock designing the book from scratch instead of using the work of others as a starting point. It’s truly his. Thumbs up.

Francesco Francavilla is a new name to me. If Sean Phillips only drew in a widescreen format, it would look an awful lot like this. Frankie also colors his own art, setting the tone by bathing entire scenes in oranges and blues. Simple, creepy art. I’m bummed that his current work is on the aforementioned Black Panther: The Man Without Fear. Not even his art can make me pick up an unproven book like that.

Flash #7Flash #7 by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins ***

Geoff Johns is a good writer with a bad tendency. He feels the need for aspect of a story to fit its theme. That theme is then used to bash us over the head. WE GET IT! BOOMERANGS COME BACK AND SO DO THE BAD THINGS IN LIFE! Not clever. Be smarter. A villain has daddy issues? That’s just fucked out. We hate it when heroes have overused origins, why are rogues any different? All this said, Identity Crisis is the only exposure I’ve had to Boomerang, so a full background is appreciated.

Francis Manapul gets the month off with Scott Kolins taking his place. I’ve been reading though Johns’ first run and Kolins art is great. The pages can have anywhere from one to eight panels, but each of those panels is packed with information. All that is only display here, but something is not quite right – it looks like a bastard son of Manapul. Kolins attempts the soft geometry that the book has had so fa, but should just stick to his own style. Also, for the past six issues, I’ve been in love with Brian Buccellato’s colors. He gave a painterly quality to Manapul’s art. He does the same here, but it doesn’t work as well here. Much like some of Simone Bianchi’s art, the shading becomes dark too easily. To be fair, I have heard artists complain about printed books being darker than they planned. I must judge the book on the book though, and it can be an eyesore.

“What Goes Around, Comes Around” is a bit of a speedbump (sorry). Hopefully next issue’s Reverse Flash spotlight won’t be reverse good.

Heroes for Hire #1Heroes for Hire #1 by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Brad Walker ****

A local store gave out free copies of the Heroes for Hire book that came out around Civil War. That edition never took off, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it wasn’t that good. Lucky for us readers, Abnett and Lanning take the idea of employable vigilantes and make Marvel’s newest non-team a great read.

Heroes for Hire is like a football game without any downtime. No penalty flags, no timeouts, just bone-crushing hits and 50-yard bombs. As Control’s (Misty Knight’s) personal hit squad, a variety of characters including Falcon, Black Widow and Moon Knight swoop in, have a great moment and swoop out. Finally, someone (both character and writers) focuses on each character’s specialties, rather than taking the chaff with the wheat.

Speaking of chaff, Brad Walker is on art duties. In Guardians of the Galaxy, he made Rocket Raccoon look like a rabid dog. Here, he makes Natasha Romanova look like a man. An ugly man. He puts some nice emotion in his faces though; Falcon looks like he’s truly having fun, grinning that he knows who’s behind all this. It’s strange, but it’s like he’s learning to draw backwards. He’s got the subtlety down, but he needs to work on his basic faces.

Teasers and covers suggest we’ll see more cameos in the future by the likes of Iron Fist and Ghost Rider. Perhaps DnA can make me interested in Rider for the first time. I’ll be back to find out, at least for issue #2.

Secret Six #28Secret Six #28 by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore ***

I say but what I have said before. Secret Six is great. J. Calafiore is a good artist, but this is all Gail Simone. She comes up with crazy plots and her characters bounce of each other in completely logical ways to great comic effect, much like Peter David does in X-Factor. Nothing new here. I don’t care that I couldn’t follow the final Skartaris climax, it’s about the characters. Ragdoll, Black Alice and even Giganta each get their chance to shine.

Plot-wise, I’m interested to see how many of the remaining members of Bane’s team stick around in service to Amanda Waller. Suicide Squad is a book I’ve never read, but really need to track down. It seems we could be inching closer to that book’s idea. As long as Simone is around, I will be too.

The Shopping List 9-9-10

Another short list this week.

***** = Loved It
**** = Really Liked It
*** = Liked It
** = Didn’t Like It
* = Hated It

Daredevil #510Daredevil #510 by Andy Diggle, Antony Johnston and Marco Checchetto ***

Like Captain America and Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil is such a dynamic book because of its supporting cast. From old favorites like Foggy and Elektra to newer additions like the Black Tarantula, they help keep the book unique. Each person adds a new facet to the events. That makes these Shadowland tie-in issues quite enjoyable. Foggy is mostly absent from the main miniseries, so it’s nice to see him show up here. On a related note, I’m so glad Ed Brubaker brought Dakota North into this book. Her scenes have brought some great non-superpowered action, especially this month. By focusing on the non-hero characters, Daredevil showcases an important side of the proceedings that is forgotten elsewhere.

We get yet another meeting between heroes discussing whether to take Matt out, with the addition this month of the Kingpin. Diggle and Johnston write a nice Wilson Fisk, who let’s not forget may be responsible for some of this, but also has as stake in taking Matt down. After all, how can a crime boss succeed in a city without crime? This issue also furthers the Hand conspiracy. In the past months, we’ve seen the new devil-inspired outfits on the Hand soldiers, but it’s a group of black-clad ninjas who attach Foggy and Dakota. This is even bigger than Murdock’s possession, which means the true antagonist has yet to be revealed.

Marco Checchetto shows up on penciling duties this month. He doesn’t have the flair of Roberto De La Torre, but his work suits the story just fine. On another art note, why are John Cassaday’s recent covers so boring? Look at his covers for Planetary, Astonishing X-Men, or the Irredeemable/Incorruptable books. They are all far and away more exciting that the work he’s turning in here.

Lines are being drawn for the big confrontation at the climax of this series. Let’s hope the fallout brings this book back to the level it was only a short time ago.

Daytripper #10Daytripper #10 by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá ***

Last month, I said I wasn’t sure how this final issue could top #9 as a finale for the series. It didn’t. It is a good issue, but it does not wrap up the themes Bá and Moon have explored in Daytripper as well as well as the last issue. I won’t get into the story too much, but I will say that after nine months of unnatural deaths for Brás de Oliva Domingos, it’s nice to see him live something resembling a full life.

There are no exciting set pieces like the flooding kitchen last week. This issue is more about complex emotions. The body language and facial expression of Brás’s wife when he tells her his plan says more than a caption ever could.

Daytripper is a well written, beautifully drawn series about the fragility of life and the importance of filling your days with the people you love. Pick up the trade. And once you’re done, share it with someone.

Invincible Iron Man #30Invincible Iron Man #30 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca ****

Superhero comics don’t have enough car chases. They’re such a staple of action movies, but you rarely see them in comic pages. Rather than have Tony Stark and Sasha Hammer have a tête à tête over a conference table, Fraction and Larroca place them in a car speeding down the highway. In case that wasn’t enough, Sasha finds the time to put the moves on Tony, while he’s driving. It’s a great way to up the drama and visual action in what could have been a floating head scene. One question: If they’re in Seattle, can someone tell me why Tony’s steering wheel is on the right side of the car? None of the panels give an idea of side of the road he’s on, so I can’t decide if he’s driving a European car or if Larroca made a mistake.

After a few months of spinning wheels, Fraction and Larroca have revealed part of Hammer Girl’s mission, shown off a hi-tech Sasha Hammer, as well as the Iron Man and Maiden, and tied the book back to its first arc, “The Five Nightmares.” Some fresh action and real plot development make this my favorite book of the week.

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The Shopping List 8-11-10

So what did I buy this week?

***** = Loved It
**** = Really Liked It
*** = Liked It
** = Didn’t Like It
* = Hated It

Daredevil #509Daredevil #509 by Andy Diggle, Antony Johnston and Roberto De La Torre ***

These Daredevil tie-in issues to Shadowland have been pretty good. By focusing on Dakota and Foggy, they do exactly the opposite of Shadowland proper – they focus on people, with problems normal people have. Other parts, following Elektra or Luke Cage and Iron Fist keep the issue exciting. The addition of Typhoid Mary is really interesting, but Daredevil is right; we can’t really trust her.

Roberto De La Torre’s art is incredible. The progression from Maleev to Lark to De La Torre has been nice to watch. Daredevil has looked like little else on the shelves for a decade now. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors are perfect. From smoke effects to filling in the spaces in De La Torre’s scratched up inks, this is coloring that helps the storytelling, which I rarely see outside of Dave Stewart and Laura Martin.

So, why are these tie-in issues so much better than Shadowland? Antony Johnston’s writing assistance? De La Torre art? Whatever it is, Marvel may have made the wrong decision on the creative team for this street-level event. Shadowland is not going to convince people to read Daredevil monthly, let alone support whatever series (one or more) they hope to launch when this is all over.

Daytripper #9Daytripper #9 by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá *****

I usually have a problem with dream sequences. They easily become too literal or too oblique. They do nothing to further a story. But, damn if the boys from Brazil haven’t written a damn good story here. Around issue seven I was getting tired of the Daytripper formula, guessing where Brás’s demise would come from instead of following the story. Because this issue switched from dream to dream and scene to scene rather quickly, I couldn’t get too ahead of myself. This leaves issue nine as one of the most enjoyable in the series.

The art is as crisp and unique as it was in issue one, but because of the dream sequences, the visuals weren’t held to our natural laws and logic. Brás’s kitchen filling with water from a running faucet, his dog asking, “What do you think you’re doing?,” it all fits.

The most exciting thing about the issue is how final it felt. It read as though Moon and Bá were tying together all of their themes and giving their readers a final piece of advice before they head back into the real world. With everything wrapped up, I have no idea what the tenth and final issue will hold. I can’t wait.

Invincible Iron Man #29Invincible Iron Man #29 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca ***

This is the best run of Iron Man ever. Salvador Larroca’s figures can be inconsistent. Frank D’Armata’s colors are off and his skintones are too shiny. What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said everywhere else?

Well, for one, I enjoyed catching up on the first 18 issues in one big chunk. If I had to summarize each issue of this arc, they would all be the same: “The Hammer Girls are up to something. Tony and Pepper have tension. Tony and Maria Hill have tension. Tony wants his company to create new technology.” I dig Fraction’s characterizations, but 22 pages at a time, “It gets confused with progress/It’s only motion.”

Morning Glories #1 by Nick Spncer and Joe Eisma ****

Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma sure can define characters. The first teaser for this series features Zoe and the caption “Most Likely To Cheat On You.” Each following ad featured a new Glory, each with their own superlative. Each of the six are instantly made unique by their wardrobe, body language and look. In an Avengers book, out of costume, I couldn’t tell you the difference between Steve Rogers, Hank Pym and Clint Barton. And how many nondescript brown haired heroes are there in the Marvel Universe? These six will never be confused with each other.

“You remind me of a cokewhore I used to love.” That one line showed more character than some entire issues of other books. I’ve never read anything by Nick Spencer, but this is a good start. Debuting with a double-sized issue gives plenty of room to set up the real world status quo, define your characters and then blow said status quo to bits by page 44. Jump on while this book it’s still fresh.

From the back issue bins:

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider #1Black Widow: Pale Little Spider #1 by Greg Ruck and Igor Kordey ***

Yes, this is the MAX Black Widow book. That may scare some into thinking this would be a regular Marvel book, but with swearing instead of ^*#@ing and maybe some nudity. But Greg Rucka is better than that. Yes, Yelena Belova lets an F-bomb or two fly, but the plot revolves around a murder at a sex club, truly an adult theme. (More on that in a future post.) Long story short, a military man is killed and it’s the Widow’s job to find out why and by whom. Nothing revolutionary, but Rucka’s dialogue and action scenes keep the plot exciting.

Other than some ugly issues of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, I’m not familiar with Igor Kordey. Here, his characters remind me of Steve Dillon, but with dark shadows instead of details. This sounds too much like an insult, but the best I can say is that the art is serviceable.

The story is only three issues. I’ll be sure to pick #2 up  the next Wednesday I’ve got some money left in the budget.

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