The Shopping List 10-27-10

Death and Lex Luthor

Action Comics #894Action Comics #894 by Paul Cornell and Pete Woods ***

I didn’t realize this issue was part five of the arc, but I’ve been interested in getting into the book and featuring Death on the cover is about as good of Bells-bait as anything.

To me, Lex Luthor has never been a great villain. Xenophobia + genius = Lex Luthor. Bleh. I suppose I see him as too reactionary. What I mean is, if Superman did not exist, would Lex Luthor, as we know him? No. Without the X-Men, Magneto still has it out for Homo sapiens. Without Daredevil, the Kingpin is still ruining crime in NYC.

Paul Cornell is a writer whose name I hear lauded often, but nothing he wrote even grabbed me. Here, Lex’s personality is as clear as a bell in the night and there are some great character moments. Sadly, there’s not much more than that. No action. I understand I grabbed one stray issue on the middle of a run but I’m not sure what the actual mission of this book is. Did this issue even have an antagonist? Was it Death?

It sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book. I really did and will buy the next issue. I’m just saying that it didn’t grab me the way an issue sure to grab new readers should. Bringing Death to mainstream DC Universe is a big step. I’m afraid it was a wasted opportunity.

It’s interesting to see Death in a modern art style. It works. Pete Woods draws her as the cheeky enigma that she should be, but modern coloring makes her more rendered, less distant than some Sandman artists. Negative reviews of his New Krypton work has me scared, but I had no problems here at all.

Last month, I took Uncanny X-Men off my subscription list. I just found a place for that $4, Action Comics.

Black Widow #7Black Widow #7 by Dwayne Swiercynzki and Manuel Garcia ****

Swiercynzki has certainly made this book more action-packed that Marjorie Liu did. His plots twist and turn, and once you think you see where it’s going, you’re kicked into a pit in a Polish bunker. I’m also impressed by his skill working Natasha’s various talents and weapons into the story. Most writers are content to have her shoot someone, maybe kick someone in the face, but he uses her full repertoire: Widow’s Kiss, Widow’s Bite, whatever. The books sales aren’t good; it’s selling less than 19,000 copies a month, but just as he did on Iron Fist, Swiercynzki refuses to let a character’s lack of popularity stop him from telling great stories.

Manuel Garcia doesn’t have a quickly recognized style, but even in his days on Mystique with Sean McKeever, he knew how to keep even the talkiest scenes interesting. He’s night and day from Daniel Acuna, but his agreeably exaggerated figures are fun to watch. And to anyone worried, no, the pages do not look anything like his covers. In fact, a couple places reminded me of Mark Bagley, other places, not so much.

For the one solicited issue left, followed by the Widow Maker miniseries, keep your eyes on this book while you can.

Captain America #611Captain America #611 by Ed Brubaker and Daniel Acuna ***

Brubaker must be hoping a lot of people jump on this book with “The Trial of Captain America” arc. He spends most of this initial issue explaining what brought us here over the last five years, much as he did with issue 25 before he, you know, killed Steve Rogers. That was a good jumping on point, so maybe he knows something we don’t. The story itself is interesting, showing various heroes’ various reactions to Bucky’s past as the Winter Soldier. Hawkeye’s disbelief that Bucky used to be an assassin is a bit off, but luckily, Natasha is the kettle that reminds Clint of his pot’s color.

For months, I’ve talked about how consistent the art has been on this book. No longer. Daniel Acuna, fresh of his Black Widow run, brings his truly unique style to Brubaker’s epic. He doesn’t look like any of the previous artists, but his art is so cool that I didn’t care. The large patches of color and lack of eyes make the art look deceptively simple, but give a haunting tone. That’s something I’m not used to on a Captain America title. Solicits show that Butch Guice will be back for the rest the arc, which may only make this issue stick out in the eventual collections. I love Guice, but it would have been nice to see what Acuna could have done with a full arc.

Sean McKeever’s Nomad story continues with a fun Black Widow team-up. I wonder, just as Rikki does, why Natasha chose her as a teammate. With such a dangerous mission, you think she’d choose someone more experienced. And if it’s training, take her somewhere safer! With the last issue of Young Allies out this week, this may be the only place to see the new Nomad. Keep you fingers crossed for her.

Teen Titans #88Teen Titans #88 by J. T. Krul and Nicola Scott ***

Close, but this isn’t quite doing it. The team members are a great mix of New Teen Titans (Raven, Beast Boy), Johns’ Titans (Wondergirl, Superboy, Kid Flash) and even newer faces (Ravager and Damian!). As much as I miss Nicola Scoot on Secret Six, it is nice to see her on a higher profile book. And she kills it. But …

J. T. Krul spends his first issue treading old ground. 1) Readers don’t need to be told that Raven has to keep her emotions in check. 2) Titans should have some romantic tension, but does it still have to Connor and Cassie? 3) The villain needs a motivation, which he doesn’t yet. He’s just a sketchy high school teacher.

The whole concept behind the Titans has always been family. You can see it in their villains: Deathstroke, Trigon, Blackfire. The list goes on. Use that to tell some stories. I’ve enjoyed Teen Titans the most when things are fresh. And no, killing off members does not count as fresh. Define the team and then shake some shit up. I want to like this book, but it needs to improve or it will stay on the shelf like it has since Johns left.

Thunderbolts #149Thunderbolts #149 by Jeff Parker and Declan Shalvey ****

This was an interesting way to do a tie-in series. In reality, it simply took advantage of the way things are in the Marvel U, instead of a specific book/event. The plot of Shadowland, that Daredevil is possessed by The Beast, does not factor in the story. The only related factor is that DD is using The Hand as his soldiers, which has been the case for over a year.

Between those fully reformed like Luke Cage, those trying their best like Songbird, and those who may never repent like Crossbones, Jeff Parker does a great job allowing his protagonists to show the many layers of evil. Parker also takes advantage of the above-mentioned status quo, using inhuman demon/ninja opponents. Of course, this allows his characters can truly let loose, which is always fun to see.

Declan Shalvey once again shows up on art. I assume the black dots within his inks are his doing as colorist Frank Martin has not used them on regular artist Kev Walker’s pages. They give a nice, idiosyncratic touch. That’s what you’ve got to do to stand out in this industry. I applaud it. I will, however admit that I am excited to see Walker back for the big 150th issue. Woot.

Sorry this was so late. Halloween’s a hell of a drug.

The Shopping List 8-25-10

Hey all! Short list this week.

Black Widow #5Black Widow #5 by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna***

It sucks that this book is going to be canceled. No, Marvel hasn’t said so, but let’s be honest. Marvel thought this would be a good book to have on the shelves post-Iron Man 2. Issue #3 didn’t even sell 20,000 copies; that’s about Marvel’s cancellation line for monthly 616 titles. Next month, Dwayne Swierczynski comes on as writer. I loved his Iron Fist, but his name doesn’t exactly set the charts on fire.

Disregarding the impending cancellation, I enjoy this book a lot. This is a book about spies. Liu’s characters are always two steps ahead of the reader, just like they should be. Cap and Wolverine show up for two good jokes. Widow is a character that does well on her own, but has cameos by the aforementioned Wolvie and Cap, but also Lady Bullseye. She’s been a part of the universe since 1964 and these appearances help show that.

I do have an issue with Imus Champion. Why does he want to kill Natasha? To hurt the Avengers? Why does he want to do that? Lex Luthor hates that Superman is an alien. I get that. Dr. Doom wants to rule the world. I get that. I never understand the bad guys who just want to hurt the hero. It doesn’t feel like enough.

Daniel Acuna’s art looks like no one else’s in the business, but not at the cost of storytelling. It’s an amazing skill that Natasha spends a third of the issue naked, but it never feels lascivious. Acuna’s art usually accompanies stories that are more out there like Klarion the Witch Boy or Inhumans, but I was pleased with it here.

Captain America #609Captain America #609 by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice***

Is there a reason why Marvel is trying to push this book out as soon as possible? Are they trying to get the story to a certain point before the movie next year? Steve back as Cap maybe? Issue #608 only came out three weeks ago. But three inkers put work in on these 22 pages. Why? Butch Guice’s art is good, but it gets styled in three different ways. Three inking styles means three coloring styles (at least it should). It feels disjointed.

After spending nine pages to fight the new Beetle last month, Brubaker makes some big moves. Zemo uses some strange logic to lure Bucky out, but everything goes according to his plan. I give Bru a lot of credit for his treatment of Cap’s supporting cast. Steve Rogers, The Falcon, Black Widow, they all get a chance to do something worthwhile. Makes it even sadder that I’ve never enjoyed his team books. This book is one of the most consistently good books Marvel has right now.

X-Factor #208X-Factor #208 by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino****

Peter David writes the best dialogue in superhero comics today. Hell, he may be the best writer in superhero comics today. He plants seeds that don’t bloom for years. He perfectly chooses the right characters for maximum conflict without altering their personalities. All of this and nothing ever feels forced. Rictor and Wolfsbane have sex. OK. Rictor and Shatterstar hook up. I’m still with you. Then, a year and half after Rahne leaves the team, she comes back, pregnant, walks in on the dudes and flips out. I love it. On a related note, Rahne admitted in issue 13 that she had dreams of eviscerating Jamie on his and an adult Layla’s wedding day. At the time, Layla was like 13. Almost 40 issues later, Layla comes back from the future, all grown up. That shows forward thinking, faith that a book will continue and just plain good ideas.

Emanuela Lupacchino is the umpteenth artist on this book, but she nails it. She may also be the first artist on the book whose Rhane looks good both in human and wolf form. I hope she sticks around.

Next month: Longshot in Vegas. Such a good idea.

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