The Shopping List 12-29-10

Books were delayed a bit for my shop last week. Despite a Thursday pickup, it was a good week. They’re delayed a day, I get delayed a day. That’s fair, no?

Before we get into the books, I want to point out Spider-Girl’s Twitter feed. @The_Spider_Girl. It’s maintained by Paul Tobin, who writes the series and she (he) seems great at replying to comments. You should follow it.

No. No I shouldn'tWell, yeah. It would be kind of weird to follow yourself. And narcissistic. Still, whatever it takes to keep a books sales up. Which Spider-Girl isn’t too good at. But I’ll get to that later.

Captain America #613Captain America #613 by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice, Sean McKeever and Filipe Andrade ****

Another month. Another steady issue of Cap. I’m running out of things to say.

To review:
– Newest chapter in years-long epic
– Best supporting cast in comics
– Even without a shield in hand, Steve Rogers is THE MAN
– Most consistent art on the stands, even with three inkers and two colorists

Specific to this issue, Butch Guice gets to draw some really crazy stuff in Sin’s dream. And Brubaker keeps raising the stakes. It’s not enough to put Cap in jail. He’s disgracing him through the media and threatening to blowup America’s most famous landmark. Here we go.

8-page segments can often have too little happening, (see Detective Comics, next) but McKeever continues to write an exciting back-up tale starring Nomad. Unfortunately, Filipe Andrade doesn’t bring the same level of talent. His art isn’t exaggerated; it’s inconsistent. Sometimes it’s rounded. Sometimes it’s jagged. If he works out some issues, maybe he could be a good artist. He’s just not there yet. Hopefully, he’s got something new up his sleeve for the upcoming Onslaught Unleashed.

Detective Comics #872Detective Comics #872 by Scott Snyder, Jock and Francesco Francavilla ****

Batman’s a character that I really like, but it takes something special to actually get me to pick up the book. It just seems like there are so few unique stories told with him. So it’s great to say that I love what Scott Snyder is doing. He’s telling Batman stories that focus on the human side of the character, but without that pain in the ass Bruce Wayne guy. I know people loved Morrison’s Batman & Robin, but it didn’t grab me. Weird villain, punchy punchy, the end. I need to read it as one big chunk, I guess.

Dick is someone who is fun to root for, as opposed to Bruce where I just root against Joker, Two-Face, etc. Dick banters with Babs, flies a one-wheel motorcycle, then goes to a villain-paraphernalia auction in a burnt up old theater. Bruce would have just gritted his teeth and kicked until there was no one left to kick.

Our mystery bad guy sure is creepy. The first item up for auction is the crowbar the Joker used to beat Jason Todd to death. “There seems to be some human tissue still on the edge.” Ugh. The auctioneer must have some sort of connection, because he’s planned well ahead for Batman’s appearance at the auction. Can’t wait to see how Dick gets out of this.

The first time I saw Jock’s artwork was the Vertigo series Faker with Mike Carey. There, it was often hard to determine exactly what each panel was depicting. He’s fixed those problems here, even using some abnormal panel layouts to add to the tension. Often, silhouetted characters are laid over other images. By breaking out of panels and being drawn larger, they are literally more imposing,

The Commissioner Gordon back-up is too short for its own good. All that really happens here is the Jim tells Babs what’s up. She leaves and we are left with the same cliffhanger as last issue. But it impresses me for one reason – Francesco Francavilla’s colors. Francavilla’s art, with its thick brushstrokes and  large swatches of contrasting colors, is moody, dour, and other adjectives.

Flash #8Flash #8 by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins ****

The actual idea of Reverse Flash confuses me. I understand his powers are a reaction to Flash’s but then why does he really hate him? Was that covered in here? Disirregardlessly …

In every time travel movie, the main character is warned that if s/he changes anything in the past, it could change the future. But, what if that was the idea? What if you wanted to change the future?

I was a little rough on the Captain Boomerang spotlight last issue, but Johns and Kolins really turn it around this time. Johns does some experimental stuff this issue, with Reverse Flash turning back time mid-page. He changes to past, which changes his future. Brother’s a pain in the ass? Go back in time so he was never born. Professor won’t share his research with you? Go back in time and take his job. It’s a really refreshing twist on well-trodden ground. It’s wordy, but it tells a full, interesting story. I can’t wait to see how this seed blooms.

I find the same problems with Scott Kolins art this month that I did last month. Kolins’ pencils and Brian Buccellato’s colors both try to render shadows, making pages over-rendered and too dark. It’s a common problem in comics. If you’ve got an artist who loves crosshatching, and a colorist darkens the areas that are crosshatched, they’re doubling efforts at the cost of the art. A penciler needs to know that his inker will treat the pencils correctly. The penciler and inker need to trust that the colorist will render shadows and highlights in the best way to fit the art. They need to put more faith in each other.

Next month should be a boss issue: A) The return of regular artist Fancis Manapul, B) debut of a new villain, Hot Pursuit, and C) Team up with Wally West and Bart Allen. Awesome.

Spider-Girl #2Spider-Girl #2 by Paul Tobin and Clayton Henry ***

I appreciated Spider-Girl #1 because it was a good book. It felt like part of the Marvel universe, but without being weighed down by continuity. I don’t really know her Araña past, and I didn’t need to. It was easily accessible and made me eager to continue reading.

This issue offered much of the same, but it took a swift turn that I don’t like. After establishing Anya’s great relationship with her dad last issue, he gets killed. REALLY? WE NEED THAT? I thought this book was going to star someone who enjoys being a hero, free of moping. I don’t think that’s going to happen anymore. Anya continues being a hero even after losing her powers. That’s a strong character. She’s got the motivation she needs. She didn’t need to lose her father too.

Something else I mentioned last time was that the book would live and die by age recognition and guest stars. Last month we got the Fantastic Four, this we also get Red Hulk. And based on sales – less than 24,000 copies – this book does not have long. You’ve got to expect, what? A 20% decrease in sales for this issue? So that leaves 19,200, just below the cancellation threshold of 20,000. And that’s only issue #2. We’ve got another Young Allies on our hands. Help a good book out! Pick up a copy!

One place I can’t fault Spider-Girl is the art. The style switches more than I’d like from Clayton Henry on the heroic first half to Ray-Anthony Height on the private life second half. (Thanks to Comic Book DB for letting me know Height’s full name. No thanks to Marvel and their credits page.) Henry draws some great emotion, but I may like Heights work more. It’s a bit less nuanced, it has a nice smooth style. The bright pages by both artists suggest we may have some hope for a cheerful book after all.

Shall we put the over/under for cancellation at 5.5 issues? It’s a shame. This is the sort of book Marvel and the superhero genre need.

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.

Library Reviews 11-8-10

Batman: Heart of HushBatman: Heart of Hush by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen

“Hush” was one of the stories that got be back into superhero comics when I was in college. I was creeping around the comic shop and saw a book drawn by Jim Lee that included a plethora of Bat-villains. It was a no-brainer. Not being knowledgeable at the time meant I enjoyed the book more than a lot of continuity-tied readers do. So, Hush may not belong in the top tier of villains, but his presence doesn’t offend me outright. This story, which fills in Hush’s backstory answers some questions, but also makes him less relatable.

The problem with Hush is that his only motivation is jealousy of Bruce Wayne. Jealousy that even drove him to kill his parents. The jealousy is the core of his character and it quickly gets overwhelming and reduces him to one dimension. Everything he does in this book is driven by wanting to get at Bruce. His plan, to give himself plastic surgery to become identical to Bruce Wayne, doesn’t make sense. One of the results of this, that he can pose as Wayne and loot his banks accounts is mental. This is the 21st century, no one under the age of 65 does banking in person. You want to loot his accounts? Get a password or pin number.

In the end, Hush comes off as an idiot. The biggest shock of the story is that Hush steals Catwoman’s heart, which he then keeps frozen and on display. Which sure pisses Batman off, but also makes it all too easy to save her life.

Thinking about this story a year later, it just seems like they needed a way handle the whole “Bruce Wayne is missing too!” question when they “killed” Batman. I don’t know, maybe this worked a lot better monthly as part of the whole Bat-continuity at the time, but upon inspection, it just falls apart.

But Dustin Nguyen is awesome.

Spider-Man: Return of the Black CatAmazing Spider-Man: Return of the Black Cat by Joe Kelly, Marc Guggenheim, Mike McKone, and a boatload of others

It was both a strength and a weakness to have rotating writers on Spider-Man. It’s like the weather in New England. You don’t like it? Wait five minutes. Here it’s “You don’t like Marc Guggenheim? Wait three weeks.”

The problem is that the collections are very uneven. Here, Joe Kelly and Mike McKone have a very fun story that takes advantage of the unmarried Peter Parker. The sexual tension between Spider-Man and Black Cat (though not necessarily Peter Parker and Felicia Hardy) ensure excitement without resorting to explosions or punching.

A slutty (I say that in the sex-positive “Yay sluts!” sort of way) Peter Parker is fun to read. He’s got the awkward tension with the roommate (Michelle), the friends with benefits that he works with (Black Cat), the ex-girlfriend (Mary Jane), and the girl with the crush on him (Norah). He’s a 20-something guy, and most 20-something guys have one or more of these in their life. It’s a nice touch.

Next, Marc Guggenheim writes an overly convoluted story involving some relics of the “Clone Saga” of the 90s. I didn’t read the “Clone Saga.” Everyone says to avoid it as it’s the paragon of what was wrong with comics in those days. The story is so elaborate that it needed a prologue in another book (Web of Spider-Man) just to get people up to speed. It didn’t work. It constantly cuts to flashbacks featuring Ben Reilly, who looks just like Peter, but isn’t part of the modern-day story. The scenes have the same villain and two heroes that look identical. Without any sort of visual competent to tell the two apart, it collapses by trying to be too clever.

Lastly, Joe Kelly comes back for a Deadpool story that is too much for me. I’ve heard Kelly is the best writer to ever work on the character, but his quips and fourth wall breaking have always turned me off. I understand that Deadpool’s juvenile is the heart of the character, but it’s not for me.

I didn’t have much investment in the Parker-Watson marriage, so I didn’t care when they were broken up. All I know is that this status-quo has some aspects that add a lot of enjoyability for me. I’d gladly read more of these stories, as lumpy as they may be.

X-Men OriginsX-Men Origins by Mike Carey, Chris Yost and more than a boatload of others

This book is hard to review as it doesn’t collect one story. It’s six one-shots, each giving the backstory a different character.  This book shines where Spider-Man failed: BALANCE. I’ve got to give the credit to editor Nick Lowe. He’s got more writers (4) and artists (6) than Steve Wacker had on Spidey, but each story succeeds in its own way, resulting in a more cohesive package.

Chris Yost shows us the duty to family and country that drives Colossus. Then he turns around and gives a clean 30-page summation of Wolverine’s days prior to Giant Size X-Men #1.

Mike Carey shows the Clark Kent, small town boy side of the Beast and later makes the best of the ridiculousness that is Gambit’s history. As a child of the 90s’ X-Men cartoon, I dig Gambit. I can’t help it. But some of the ways he’s been tied to X-continuity are a stretch. Carey streamlines it all, painting him as a man who’s looking to control his powers and have his freedom, and finding the costs are a too high.

Also in the trade, Sean McKeever shows more personality for Jean Grey than I’ve seen just about anywhere and Kieron Gillen shows Sabretooth’s favorite part of his birthday.

I won’t go into details for each of the artists, but again, Nick Lowe earned his paycheck on this one. The stories that flashback to youth (Jean, Beast) are painted in beautiful, nostalgic styles. The violent life of Wolverine gets jagged, rough lines. The fun that Sabretooth finds in fighting is reflected in the quick panels and stark colors. Gambit’s story is illustrated with all the shadows that a thief deserves. This book shows what comics are at their best: a perfect unity of writing and art telling a story.

If you have any interest in the X-Men, X-Men Origins is worth a read.

Library Reviews 9-17-10

Nothing too in-depth, but some quick thoughts on some books I’ve read recently.

Batman and Robin: Batman RebornBatman and Robin: Batman Reborn by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Philip Tan

I do not believe this is the be-all, end-all series that some people are calling it. These are good comics, not great. Interesting is not a big enough word for Grant Morrison’s ideas, but too often, I feel he can’t follow though on them. I remember being so excited to read his New X-Men and Animal Man, but they never met my expectations. Come to think of it, only WE3 and All-Star Superman have. Here, he creates two unusual villains in Professor Pyg and the Flamingo, but very little comes of them. Both conflicts are solved by punching enough people enough times.

Since Philip Tan’s art is perfectly underwhelming, the real star here is Frank Quitely. I still don’t like his figures, but this is exemplary comics storytelling. I don’t necessarily mean his illustrated sound effects or camera angles. I mean things like showing Alfred preparing a meal in the penthouse, taking an elevator down the tower, climbing a ladder down to the batcave, and down a fight of stairs to the garage. We get a tour of the new base of operations, interactions with Dick and Damian, and a look into Alfred’s character. ALL IN ONE PAGE. Much admiration for that.

Hulk: Vs. X-ForceHulk Vs. X-Force by Jeph Loeb and Ian Chuchill with Whilce Portacio

I’m glad I didn’t pay for this, but I enjoyed reading it. It doesn’t make sense. It will not change your life or how you look at it. It’s just punchy, stabby action. It’s nice to see a cartoony take on the X-Force characters. The art on that book was always dreary or photo-realistic. Nice change-up here. The final issue in the collection, however, is the stand-out. That issue features Leonard Samson going under psychoanalysis from an unlikely doctor. That was my favorite. It was more cerebral, showing a side of Jeph Loeb I’ve always liked. This book isn’t worth buying, especially at its $4 price tag, but on a rainy day, for free, it’s worth a look.

Iron Man: Execute ProgramInvincible Iron Man: Execute Program by Daniel Knauf, Charles Knauf and Patrick Zircher

It must have been daunting to take over this book right after Warren Ellis wrote “Extremis,” but the Knaufs have nothing to be ashamed of. They write the best fun, playboy Tony Stark I’ve read, Matt Fraction’s book included. If you’re reading Iron Man with Robert Downey, Jr. in your head, this is a perfect fit. The only problem is that the story itself isn’t anything to write home about: Tony Stark loses control of his suit, blah blah blah. In fact, halfway through the book, I remembered that I read it last year or so. If that doesn’t tell you how memorable this book isn’t, nothing will.

Incorruptible, Vol. 1Incorruptible by Mark Waid and Jean Diaz

This was a cool book. Max Damage was a great superhero who decided to turn it around when his world’s greatest hero turned to evil. I’ve said before I enjoy villain books and seeing him try to do good, going as far as torching his stolen money and cars, is an interesting idea. There’s four issues here, so there’s not much more than setup, but it’s a lot of fun. I’ve never heard of Jean Diaz, but his art is impressive. Characters are larger than life and his panel layouts keep the pages interesting. I definitely plan on keeping up with this book and its sister, Irredeemable.

Justice League of America: When Worlds CollideJustice League of America: When Worlds Collide by Dwayne McDuffie and six pencilers

Six pencilers for seven issues? Really? That should show how little DC cared about making this a top-tier book. Dwayne McDuffie pulls some old Milestone characters into the DC universe and … I don’t really care. Only Hardware gets enough room to show some character, but all I can really remember is that he curses a lot. I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy this book. I don’t know why I continue reading it. “Thank you Holden Public Library. May I have another?” At least I didn’t have to pay for it.

Supergirl: CandorSupergirl: Candor by five writers and seven pencilers

With this book, DC’s trade department confused the hell out of me. Two of the stories don’t even involve Supergirl! After a cluster of four stories from around the DCU, this book collects the One-Year-Later story from Supergirl. It’s a strange tale, which desperately needs some context. Supergirl and Power Girl are stuck in the bottle city of Kandor (maybe there by choice?), fighting against the cruel dictator Kal-El. It isn’t Superman Kal-El (I think), but I never understood who he was. The last issue is outside of the bottle, but without any explanation or closure to that storyline. How did they get out? Was it a dream? Did I miss something? This book was not only bad, it was badly put together.

Superman: For TomorrowSuperman: For Tomorrow, Vol. 1 by Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee

Superman is not interesting to me when he’s facing a physical threat. He’s Superman! He will not lose! Yes, the actual conflict of this book didn’t intrigue me, but I did dig Kal debating issues with a priest. The conflict of religion and superheroics is always an interesting one. It’s moments like those that remind me of how good Azz can be. It is nice to see some Jim Lee artwork, if only to see once again how big of an influence he has had on the industry. Sadly, I have no desire to read volume 2.

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Roll of the Dice Reviews 8-22-10

To remind readers, these are books that I get from the library, and just want to get some quick ideas down.

Step 1: Read books
Step 2: Roll a six-sided die twice.
Step 3: Write a review for each book with a word count matching the numbers rolled. E.G. A 2 and a 6 means a 26-word review for each book.

This weeks rolls: 2 and 1 – 21 word reviews! Forgive me if my sentences aren’t complete thoughts.

SWORDS.W.O.R.D.: No Time To Breathe by Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders

Disappointing. Too many new, one-dimensional characters. Many jokes don’t work. Decent art other than Chester Cheetah as Beast. Skip it.

Justice League: SanctuaryJustice League of America: Sanctuary by Dwayne McDuffie, Ed Benes and others

Walking between the continuity of a two-year-old event (Salvation Run) makes this book pointless. Too many T&A shots.

Justice League: Second ComingJustice League of America: Second Coming by Dwayne McDuffie and Ed Benes

Reads like McDuffie complaining about his DC overlords (Anansi) and their steering of a story’s direction. Too many T&A shots.

Legion: Enemy ManifestLegion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Manifest by Jim Shooter and Francis Manapul

I always enjoy Legion stories. Future cursing like “florg” is distracting. Great Manapul art. Sad that this storyline ended the series.

Batman: Battle for the CowlBatman: Battle for the Cowl by Tony Daniel

Grant Morrison skips out for one of the most important parts of his Batman epic. Daniel isn’t as good as Morrison.

Wonder Woman: Love and MurderWonder Woman: Love and Murder by Jodi Picoult, Terry Dodson and Others

Picoult doesn’t understand Wonder Woman. Dodson draws gorgeous pages. Shows DC’s terrible tendency to switch artists mid-story. Nemesis is cool.

Gotham City Sirens: UnionGotham City Sirens: Union by Paul Dini and Guillem March

This is a unique book and I really enjoyed it. March and his colorists turn in some nice stuff. Check it.

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They're Gonna Kill Me for This – The Dark Knight Returns

What good are opinions if everyone shares them? With that in mind, this is the first installment of They’re Gonna Kill Me for This, in which I present an unpopular opinion I hold and my reasons for it. It’s fine to dislike something, but you have to have reasons.

Batman and RobinI just reread The Dark Knight Returns. I read it for the first time a couple of years ago and it didn’t grab me. I also read The Dark Knight Strikes Again, but didn’t enjoy it or study it enough to really get into. Finishing DKR this time, I just don’t like it. But why?

1) The Villains – Two-Face shows up, freed from prison. “Healed.” But just to turn back to crime and be arrested again.

The Joker kills a bunch people, then himself.

Then we have the Mutants. Who are these guys? What motivation do they have? I’m of the school that a hero’s last hurrah should have ties to their career. If Daredevil is to die, the Kingpin should have a hand in it. So, if Batman is going to “go down,” one of his villains should be involved. It ties the whole mythos together. Instead, we get a group with no background and no explanation (They’re just people in costumes, right? Or have they actually disfigured themselves?) If we accept this as the end of the Batman story, Bruce’s enemies (later allies) come out of left field.

The final protagonist is Superman. Is Frank Miller telling us that Superman is Batman’s greatest enemy? Then why does Supes complain (in his narration) about being used a government tool? “No, I don’t like it. But I get to save lives.” Sacrificing one’s self for the greater good. Isn’t that what heroes do? Not to mention that Superman doesn’t wholly disagree with Batman. After all, he gives Kelly that wink when he hears Bruce’s heart.

2) The Media – Is this anything more than annoying exposition? Instead of showing us cops being lax in pursuing Batman’s murder charge or the Joker killing 20 people at the fair, Tom and Lola tell us these things happen. Show. Don’t tell.

I would understand if they were used to show how Batman’s exploits were re-presented for the masses, spreading someone’s “sinister agenda.” (Can you tell I was a communications major at a liberal arts college?) Instead, they tell us something we haven’t seen or how to read panels we’ve been shown.

3) Is This Really a Batman Story? – Who is this guy? To call back an earlier point, looking back through Batman’s history, there could a lot more natural evolution of some of the ideas. This all started when a little boy lost his parents (See: Superman, Spider-Man). A man used fear to strike at his enemies. This Batman just uses fists. And bombs. And a tank. Making Batman into an old man, saying “this is a possible future”, is just a device to have some cool moments. I’m not sure what it says about Batman as a character other than “He’s an ass.”

People criticize Mark Millar for building stories around cool ideas with no substance. A friend tried to defend DKR the other day by telling me how cool it is to see Batman on a horse or Green Arrow firing a kryptonite arrow. But it all boils down to “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”

Wouldn’t it be cool if Green Arrow lost an arm? We don’t have to explain it, but as a bonus, we get to see him draw a bow with his teeth!

Wouldn’t it be cool if a nuke blew up a ton of dust, blocking the sun, depowering Superman? But don’t worry, it’ll be fine two pages later when he pulls solar energy from the earth.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Robin was a girl? Which leads me to …

4) Carrie Kelly – Yes, a female Robin is a cool idea. But Carrie’s a female for no reason. Cut her hair and you wouldn’t even know. Frank Miller isn’t known for his subtlety with female characters, but girls look at the world differently. Does Carrie do anything in this book differently than Dick or Jason or Tim would? It’s just another cool idea with nothing to back it up.

5) The Art – I’m not a big art guy, so I don’t have much to say. I dug Miller’s Daredevil art. I think Sin City‘s moodiness is amazing. Here, I find everything too ugly. Ugly in the “Yes, I know this is on purpose, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it” Paul Pope way. Uneven lines, early digital coloring, lack of backgrounds, lack of details that aren’t just more skin creases. Not my cup of tea.

These are just my thoughts, trying to rationalize why I didn’t enjoy what has repeatedly been called one of the best graphic novels of all time. Maybe these justifications are bullshit. At the very least, we can start a dialogue, no?

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