Bells’ Art Collection, Part 1

If you haven’t been following Bells’ Kitchen on Tumblr, you’ve been missing out on some really great comic art, my collection. Once a day for first 50 or so days of 2015, I posted one piece from my sketchbooks. And now I bring all that here. As on Tumblr, I’ll go in alphabetical order, all the way from Banshee to Wonder Girl. If my math is right, I should have eight pieces for you each week for the next seven weeks.

For those with no patience, you can check it all out here.

Featured this week:

  • Banshee (Siryn) by Valentine De Landro
  • Batman by Rags Morales
  • Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes) by Franco Aureliani
  • Captain America by Sean Forney
  • Captain Cold by Scott Kolins
  • Daredevil by Cliff Chiang
  • Daredevil by David Mack
  • Daredevil by Tim Sale

You can click any of the images to open a gallery which also links to full-size images.

What do you think of this WordPress image gallery? Does that work or would you rather just see thumbnails that lead to larger sized photos?

Let me know.

Edit: So WordPress photo galleries do not cooperate well with CSS feeds. So now we have thumbnails. Enjoy!

– Bells

The Shopping List 5-11-11

There are some unexpected benefits in reviewing comics for Bells’ Kitchen. First, I end up reading the books twice. I read first on Wednesday and then again when I sit down to write my review. I pick up so much that I didn’t noticed the first time around. I also recognize when I’m not enjoying a book. If a book keeps getting two star reviews, it’s time to drop it. I may not always want to sit down and write, Comfort in These PagesIt’s something that is always there. It forces me to practice writing. Now, I can put it on a resume as a giant writing sample. I don’t have many friends who read comics, so it also gets my ideas out of my head. It’s nice. Enough taking. Here’s the books.

Daredevil: Reborn #4Daredevil: Reborn by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice ****

I’ve had some real complaints about Andy Diggle’s work on Daredevil: Reborn but it goes out with a truly enjoyable issue.

My favorite sequence of the book was the one with Matt Murdock talking to the blind boy. The kid’s “Quit sayin’ your sorry!” speech is really well done, pointing out how much heroes are focused on galactic problems, but ignore small ones. This issue shows what Superman should be doing on his walk across America.

The action sequence was also a nice surprise. I’ve often seen people use their enemy’s weapons against, them but heroin as a weapon? Only in Daredevil: Reborn.

So yeah, the writing finally got to the level I expected from Diggle. Too bad that this issue ends his run.

I really liked Davide Gianfelice’s art on this series. It acts as a nice transition from the Maleev/Lark/De La Torre days to the upcoming Rivera/Martin days. Of course, Billy Tan will always be out of place, but that’s Shadowland for you. I hope Gianfelice sticks around.

My only issue with the book is the final pages. I know it’s necessary to start Mark Waid’s run, but Foggy seems too quick to forgive Matt for a bunch of the shit that’s gone down. Even if Matt has faced his fears and is ready to move forward, I’m not sure everyone else is.

Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #1Fear Itself: Youth In Revolt #1 by Sean McKeever and Mike Norton ***

And so starts the deluge of Fear Itself tie-ins.

Any reader knows how much I like teen books, so between the cast and Sean McKeever’s name, this was a guaranteed buy.

The cast is also the strength of the book. We get members from The Initiative, Young Allies, and even The Order. No one gets that much time, but it’s nice to see a varied cast, especially with characters that are so underexposed.

I do have a problem with the timing of this book. Because of the release schedule, we haven’t seen this much hysteria in the main Fear Itself title. I don’t really understand why this is going on. I can’t tell if this “fear” is just a reaction to the hammers falling or something supernatural coming from the Serpent and all that. The Blitzkrieg USA would have been a sufficient inciting incident, but that happens 16 pages into the book. Thor Girl (still a terrible name) gets attacked for having a hammer, but we don’t even know who’s getting each of the hammers, let alone really see anyone use them. How does the public know to fear her? In another schedule issue (though not a problem), Gravity makes a comment about “Poor Nomad.” So … what happened? She was alive in Avengers Academy #13 (or will that take place previous to Onslaught Unleashed on continuity is established?).

Speaking of Gravity, he and Firestar have quickly become the hottest will they/won’t they of comics. I’m sure they will and can’t wait until they do. Let’s hope they get some sort of book where they get the chance.

Mike Norton is a chameleon of an artist. I’ve heard him speak about often aping the style of the artist before him. Is this Norton’s personal style, then? It’s good. Nothing special, but good. Something about Prodigy’s costume makes him look villainous to me. Maybe it’s the sharp metal. Maybe that you can’t see any of his face. Maybe the prominence of orange.

I realize I’ve said a lot of nothing in this review, but mostly this issue is concerned with setting up the story. I can’t until the cast building is finished and this book really gets going.

Flash #12The Flash #12 by Geoff Johns, Scott Kolins and Francis Manapul **

It may have been four issues, but not much happened in this arc. Hell, it’s been 12 issues, and not much has happened in this series. This issue starts with too quickly finishing a couple of plots, then we get two pages of epilogue and – BOOM – we’re off to Flashpoint.

As the name might suggest, “The Road to Flashpoint” is more about plot than its characters. Yes, last month’s intervention was all about Barry Allen’s relationships with his friends, but the more important parts of this story were all event and no fallout. Hot Pursuit never gets a chance to be a real character. He’s a plot in the form of a man. Bad. The same with Patty Spivot. If the book needed a crime scene analyst, Johns couldn’t have pulled one from the force? It’s nice that he pulled someone from the past, but her drama with Barry is more distraction than plot. There could have been a real story there, but it’s cut off so Flashpoint can start.

If anyone thinks I’ve been overly critical of Scott Kolins art, just read this issue. The difference between his and Manapul’s pages is ridiculous. The inking is so dark and heavy on Kolins’ pages. Are dark and heavy EVER words you want to associate with Flash? No.

I’m sure we’ll have a Flash book of some sort after Flashpoint, but looking back on these 12 issues, this series has been a disappointment. Not much has happened in the life of Barry Allen. He’s back, but done nothing that Wally West couldn’t have done. Manapul’s glorious art has often been substituted by Scott Kolins. Between rolling out of Blackest Night and into Flashpoint, The Flash was just too distracted to tell great speedster stories. Sad.

Flashpoint #1Flashpoint #1 by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert ****

The Flash may not have done a great job setting up this story, but here it is. Remember how House of M didn’t place you in that world until issue #2? No such problem here. By setting everything up in Flash, we get dropped right in. It doesn’t make Flash any more enjoyable, but it’s better this way.

Alternate reality stories and big events are both great times to try to push a character to the A-list. Here, Johns pulls his boy Cyborg out of the Teen Titans and into the spotlight. I also like the idea of Citizen Cold (a heroic Captain Cold), but it seems he’s still got a dark side. It’s also nice to see Wonder Woman in such an important role. She’s been too ignored by events recently. Element Woman, seeming like a hero version of Delirium, is primed to be my breakout character of the series.

Since I got into comics, I haven’t read much by Andy Kubert. Because of that, I see his art as DC house style, mostly because of the Jim Lee similarities. I’m not accusing him of aping his style; I know they came up together. And besides, Jim Lee’s great. That’s why he’s Jim Lee. It’s just disappointing to see more of the same.

For such a different universe, the cliffhanger is not as big as I’d like. So Batman is Thomas Wayne. Whatever. He’s Batman. Same motivations, just more violent. Again, whatever. Give me reason to be invested in this world, not one character.

Overall, It’s a good start. I can already see the in-universe conflict as well as the problem Barry Allen is going to have getting back to his reality. Let’s go!

The Shopping List 3-16-11 and 3-23-11

Strap in kids. This one is a doozy. Between coming down with the death disease and C2E2, I never got to do the reviews for the books that came out of the 16th. And it was a big week. This week was supposed to be lighter, but there were a couple books from the 16th that exceeded my budget, so I picked those up. Sad thing is, writing these reviews I realized just how “BLEH” these books left me.

I Do Say So

I do say so. Oh well, can’t love them all.

Avengers: The Children's Crusade Young Avengers #1Avengers: The Children’s Crusade – Young Avengers #1 by Allan Heinberg and Alan Davis **

I don’t know what to make of this issue. Since it’s not part of the main series and has a different artist, it comes off as just a really confusing fill-in. Even after reading it, I can’t figure out if it will prove to be completely unimportant or the linchpin of the series. Will this come back in the end or was it Marvel grabbing another four dollars out of my wallet? I feel like I need to finish the series to even understand what happened here, despite mountains of exposition. Where are they going to tell me why these Avengers want to kill today’s Avengers?

The other story in the issue flashes back to the team’s first night out on patrol. It’s an interesting enough story, but everything you needed to know was handled on the first page of the first issue of Young Avengers: kid doppelgangers saving people from a fire, “Who the #*&% are the Young Avengers?”

I don’t like Alan Davis’ art as much as the people’s who has influenced, namely Bryan Hitch. It’s something about his faces, especially his character’s mouths. But I appreciate his ignoring of a grid or standard panel layouts. It’s fun to look at. It keeps your eyes on their toes.

I don’t know. This was an awkward aside. Of course, I can’t judge until Avengers: The Children’s Crusade is finished. But it’s not looking good.

Avengers Academy #11Avengers Academy #11 by Christos Gage and Tom Raney **

I knew it had to happen eventually – a bad issue of Avengers Academy.

It’s a simple problem. There’s way too much exposition. Don’t get me wrong, I have no idea who this Korvac guy is beyond an Avengers villain, but the explanation goes on too long and is so convoluted that I still don’t get it. Most of this issue feels like an illustrated OHOTMU entry, though narrated by Korvac’s wife and with interjections by other characters. Over the 22 pages, I came to understand that Korvac is wicked powerful and it’s going to take a lot to beat him, but I could tell that from just the pictures. If I wanted the backstory, I could have dived into the longboxes at my local shop and read, ya know, THE BACKSTORY?!

This isn’t to say that the Avengers characters are wasted, set aside to focus on Korvac. It’s Veil that sets this all in motion and Speedball gets a big moment, something he really needed, even after last month’s trip to Stamford. All the others get their panels too, even if they serve as Korvac fodder.

Making sure the massacre is exciting, we welcome new artist Tom Raney. It sounds a bit back handed, but Raney is a better than average superhero artist. No more. In a nice move, he and Gage are gracious enough to illustrate the exposition not with talking heads, but with violence. Giant-Man getting giant-punched. Thor brought to his knees. Quicksilver tripped up. It keeps things visually interesting. I have a complaint though – the further into the background a character is, the worse they look. I don’t know if I should blame Raney or inker Scott Hanna, but if a character isn’t the focus on a panel, they become scantly more detailed than a smiley face.

A rough issue to be sure, but with the heavy narrative lifting out of the way, I look for AA to bounce back next month.

Captain America #615.1Captain America #615.1 by Ed Brubaker and Mitch Breitweiser ****

Steve Rogers is not the same character he was in the 1960s. Many of his defining characteristics have been negated. The man out of time, waking up after 20 years frozen in ice? Well, he’s had time to acclimate in the 15 or so Marvel years since the thawing. Remorseful for the loss of his sidekick while ending WW2? Oh … yeah … he never actually died. No problem. This is why Bucky makes an interesting Captain America. He’s got some conflict in him.

Despite that, Ed Brubaker is taking steps to get Steve back in the suit. I have no doubt it’s influenced by the movie, but because Bucky is such a good Cap, I don’t like the idea.

Despite that, Brubaker has me convinced after 22 pages. If I were a hero in the Marvel Universe, there is no one I would rather have lead me into battle. It’s not even that he’s a strategist, he can just handle any situation. He takes everything in this issue in stride, knows the right thing to do (both morally and fight-wise). My only hope is that Bucky has a place to fit in outside of the red, white and blue. I don’t want anyone to think Bucky’s story is finished and kill him off. It’d be a waste.

Mitch Breitweiser has drawn Captain America a few times in the past, so he’s no stranger to the character. His artwork is a great demonstration to anyone picking up this Point One issue, regardless of the fact that he’s not the regular artist.

Lastly, I want to call attention to letterer Joe Caramagna. I usually don’t like sound effects in my comic art. If you show me a gun with a muzzle flash, I can do the sound math. Other times, they feel intrusive or take me out of the story* Here, they’re well integrated into the art; they aren’t just pasted over it. It makes a difference.

A great done in one. A great starting point. A great issue.

* This is one reason I didn’t like the few issues of Incredible Hercules that I read. I don’t need the sound effect “NURPLE” when some twists a nipple. It’s not funny either.)

Daredevil Reborn #3Daredevil Reborn #3 by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice ***

Finally! an enjoyable issue of Daredevil Reborn.

After a couple issues that were derivative of … a lot of things, this finally feels like a uniquely Daredevil story. Not because Matt uses his super senses, but because we see some of the theme that ave carried the character for years,  like protecting the innocent. It’s not a perfect issue though; it’s very uneven. The first half is all action, the second half all talking. Neither part is bad, but it feels like there are only two scenes over these 22 pages.

I don’t have much to say. One more issue of Reborn, then Matt heads back to Hell’s Kitchen and the hands of Mark Waid, Marco Chechetto and Marcos Martin. I wish I could hit fast forward.

Fear Itself: Book of the Skull #1Fear Itself: Book of the Skull #1 by Ed Brubaker and Scot Eaton ****

Part of me didn’t want to review this until issue one of the actual event came out, but I figure they will be different enough that each deserves its own review.

I’ve heard the complaint that the plot of Fear Itself isn’t a result Marvel’s ongoing continuity as House of M, Secret Invasion and Siege have. It hasn’t been bubbling for months and years, it’s starting here and now. I see it the other way, if someone wants to read Fear Itself, they can start with this issue or Fear Itself #1. No more back story in necessary.

Take the Marvel Universe, mix in one part Hellboy, and one part Raiders of the Lost Arc, and you get this book. Though not completely original, it does a good job laying the groundwork while telling a satisfying tale on its own. Part of me feels that this new Red Skull could be Marvel’s Joker. She’s an agent of chaos. She sees an opportunity to raise hell and goes for it. She likes to make symbolic attacks, like her recent desecration of the Statue of Liberty. She quickly turns on her allies. With a shepherd as good as Ed Brubaker, she’s getting a real personality. I’m excited for her starring turn. It could be star-making.

Book of the Skull also features etter art from Scot Eaton than I expected, possibly due to the brighter coloring, especially compared to what I remember of his work on X-Men: Legacy. These big, open panels really do a service to his art. I used to shy away if I saw his name on a book, but he’ll get another look now.

Generation Hope #5Generation Hope #5 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie ****

This is a weird one. Phonogram 2: The Singles Club is the best comic of the past ten years, but everything else Kieron Gillen writes leaves me cold. Of course, anything McKelvie draws, even an 8-page backup, gets a look from me. So,when I saw this was a stand-alone issue and only three bucks, I gave it a shot.

It’s a cool book. You can easily see it as the newest entry in the line of New Mutants, Generation X, Academy X, New X-Men, Young X-Men, but it’s a handful of fresh characters, being defined by one clear voice (Gillen’s). I understand that due to their very nature, books like this don’t sell very well, but I hope it sticks around. These characters will only be able to blossom if they have a regular book. Pop in appearances here and there will just leave them to wither away, the way people like Surge, Prodigy and Dust have done recently.

Writers always talk about catering scripts to their artist. Gillen/McKelvie is one team where you can see this in action. Some of these jokes only work with McKelvie’s art. Could you read Prof’s “There’s few things I love more than seeing young mutants at play.” line with anyone else’s art? Greg Land? Prof would be a pervert! As it stands, he’s more of a weird uncle.

Dig it.

Invincible Iron Man #502Invincible Iron Man #502 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca **

I’m not sure if it’s a flaw of the issue or a testament to Fraction’s character building, but I much preferred the Pepper Potts scenes in this issue to the Tony Stark/Doc Ock ones. I have no doubt that Dr. Octopus will somehow be saved (like he would ever die in a non-Spider-Man book) and I also don’t think he’ll set off his bomb. It’s all just pacing until the problem is finished. Because the Stark scenes are just talking, they don’t feel like they have real conflict until too late in the game. Also, the strength of this series has been each arc coming off the one before it. This has an non-Iron Man villain coming to a man who isn’t the best to solve his problem, as Stark even points out. It feels more contrived than it needs to.

To harp on the Tony/Otto scenes again, the 11-13 panel pages, with a reliance on talking heads do Larroca no favors. Those aren’t his strength. The suit is. Action is. Not these blank, plastic faces.

Sure, this is my least favorite arc of Invincible Iron Man, but with Fraction at the helm of Fear Itself, I’m sure he has big plans for his boy Tony.

Amazing Spider-Man #656Amazing Spider-Man #656 by Dan Slott and Marcos Martin **

Talk about a letdown. After the incredible issue #655, we get a pretty standard Dan Slott Spider-Man issue, even Marcos Martin is wasted. Just one month after Slott wrote Martin some acting-heavy silent scenes and some dynamo spreads, we get an average issue. The only page that stood out to me was the opener with the detonator in Massacre’s hand. And with Martin off to do Daredevil with Mark Waid, I’m not sure he’ll get another go.

#655 touched on a lot of things: power and responsibility, comics’ revolving door of death, etc. This issue has a lame villain and an over-the-top J. Jonah Jameson. I bought his sadness after Marla’s death, but his reprisal is a bit much. Nice job letting him take advantage of his office as mayor though.

Four months in, and I’m ready to drop Amazing Spider-Man. I really liked the first “Big Time” arc, was underwhelmed with the second and only enjoyed the art of this third one. After the next issue, which ties into the Fantastic Four arc “Three,” I think I’m done. Of course, I recently saw that Christos Gage is coming on to help with a few scripts and do a bit of crossing over with his Avengers Academy kids, so I’m sure I’ll pick those up. I’m not going to add ASM to my pull list, but I’ll keep an eye on the solicits so I can be a cafeteria reader. “I have some of this … but not this.”

Thunderbolts #155Thunderbolts #155 by Jeff Parker and Kev Walker ***

It’s draft day for the Thunderbolts! Issue #155 finds two units (Fixer and Songbird, and Luke Cage, Dr. Strange and Man-Thing) enlisting new recruits for their cadre of villains gone good. It may sound uneventful, but Jeff Parker keeps it interesting in a number ways. Luke and crew fight show that there’s more than one way to skin an incantation. Meanwhile, the Fixer/Songbird sequences are more low key, but the Raft’s female prisoners have some nice catcalls directed at Fixer: “I know you can rig up a piece of tech that goes in here …” When was the last time a Marvel comic objectified a male character? I like it, though I guess it only serves to balance out the “private bath for the women of Shandor-Rah” that Satana uses to tempt the ex-Power Man and ex-Sorcerer Supreme.

As an issue, it feels a bit unfinished. There are some abrupt cuts, as when Dr. Strange drops Luke on an ice beast. The ntire battle takes place while we turn the page. We didn’t even see one punch. And the scenes back at the Raft don’t have much in the way of drama. I understand this is an issue of putting pieces in place for a Thunderbolts JV team, but it could have been smoother. I also wish I could recognize some of these prospects. Though I did tell you guys to keep an eye out for Troll.

Kev Walker rules. ‘Nuff said.

Twilight Guardian #3Twilight Guardian #3 by Troy Hickman and Sid Kotian ****

After last issue’s reveal that a comics company wants to publish the adventures of Twilight Guardian, issue #3 shows us a few possibilities. It’s a fresh idea, but it leaves the issue a bit lacking, because we’re not following Pam anymore. When we go into the comics within the comic, it slows the forward motion of the issue. It pauses all the actual plot and drama of the series. I hope that these aren’t reflections of any suggestions Top Cow made to Hickman about where the character could go. Can you imagine if Twilight Guardian was shoved in Artifacts? Yeesh. Talk about not understanding the book.

The real star of this issue is Sid Kotian. Not only does he turn in the strong linework we’ve seen in the previous two issues, but he also adopts a new art style for each of the pitches Avernus Comics sends. Hopefully this guy doesn’t disappear; his style on the super-mega-superhero-crossover segment proves he’d be a great fit on a book like Legion of Super-Heroes, and his TG in the same sequence look an awful lot like my favorite Teen Titan, Raven. One question – when girls are home alone, do they really hang out in their underwear and knee-high socks? Or is Kotian spying on my dreams?

Yes, it’s a stumble, but in addition to the metafiction, this issue pushes the pieces into place for the upcoming finale. I’m not sure how, or if, all the plots up in the air – Dusk Devil, TG’s missing ex-boyfriend, her newly reappeared father – will tie in, but I’ll be there.

Last question: What parent lets their three children, none of whom seem older than 10, light firecrackers outside at 12:45 AM? (Though the lettering says PM, the sky and the fact that TG is on patrol means it’s night.)

X-Factor #217X-Factor #217 by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino **

Right before Messiah Complex, X-Factor had its only stinker of a storyline, “The Isolationist.” It featured a few stories, but I don’t remember how or if they tied together. The biggest problem was that it didn’t feel like an X-Factor story. They aren’t really fighters anymore. They work at a detective agency? Sure, they’ve got muscle in Strong Guy and fighting skills in Shatterstar, but characters like Rictor and Layla are the glue of the team and they are action oriented at all. So when an arc comes along with a real physical threat, it feels off. And here we are with another action arc.

It’s rare that I don’t like an issue of X-Factor, but it has two serious problems:

  1. Lame villains – We’ve got a trio of female assassins going after J. Jonah Jameson and his friends. But after two issues, we don’t know who they are or what they want.I want to root against them, but no just because they’re labeled as the bad guys.
  2. Proselytizing – Peter David is a man with opinions. Anyone who’s read his blog knows that. And often times I agree with his opinions. But here, he spends three pages calling out anti-Muslim protesters on their bullshit philosophies. I agree with every word he puts in his characters mouths, but an issue of X-Factor isn’t the place for discourse on culturally insensitivity.

Emanuela Lupacchino loves breasts. Sure, her male characters are attractive as well, but you can’t go four pages in this issue without an eye-grabbing cleavage shot. Not a complaint, mind you, just an observation. To her credit, she really does draw stunning people. And unlike some lesser artists, she uses more face shapes than “male” and “female.” Most importantly, she’s a great fit on this book. Between her and Valentine De Landro, X-Factor has solved the artistic inconsistency that plagued it for years. Let’s just hope the next issue can turn the rest of the book around.

The Shopping List 2-16-11

I know I’m behind schedule, so I carved out some time to get these reviews up. Maybe next week Bells’ Kitchen be completely back on track.

As I continue writing reviews, I keep wondering “What if the creators read these?” Maybe I should only say nice things. I only buy books I enjoy, so it’s rare that I’ll have that bad of a review, but I did have some stinkers this week. I guess I’ll just keep my negative thoughts to myself.

Yeah right.

If a book sucks. We should shame the team. But it’s not OK to just say “This sucks.” Don’t get me wrong, some comics do, in fact, suck. But as a reviewer, it’s my job to explore and explain why. Something I could point out to a creator. An area they can improve on, so their work and our comics industry is better. I’m not saying there’ll be no snark, but I try to have something behind all my complaints.An insult digs a lot deeper fi there’s some truth behind it.

Hyperion don't need no stinkin' redemption.
Right guy? No way. Not once. Not never. Here we go.

Avengers Academy #9Avengers Academy #9 by Christos Gage and Mike McKone ****

With “Teach Your Children,” Avengers Academy continues a hot streak. The issue does a great job showing that no hero, veteran or student, has all the answers. As much as Veil, Striker and Haz-Mat may have been impulsive in attacking the Hood, their teachers are unprepared to deal with such a violation. And who would have ever expected that Quicksilver would be voice of reason?

A bulk of the issue is made up of Finesse facing her possible father, Taskmaster. It’s a super-exciting fight. Not because the stakes a very high, I never expected anyone to KO the other, but because these are two expect fighters (albeit one inexperienced), and Gage and McKone treat them as such. Finesse may be the most interesting student in the book. She’s got all these skills, but not the discipline to use them correctly. I hope she sticks around long after her time at the academy.

I didn’t read Fred Van Lente’s recent Taskmaster mini, but I may have to search the dollar bins this convention season. And the line he stole from Bill Cosby? My dad says the same thing.

McKone’s art looks great, especially with the extra heft given by Rebecca Buchman’s inks. It’s sad to see that this is his last issue. Do we know where he’s headed next?

Daredevil Reborn #2Daredevil Reborn #2 by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice **

Following up hit runs on Daredevil by Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker, Andy Diggle is using Daredevil Reborn to cement his reputation as a disappointment. It’s not that Reborn is bad, it’s just not good. Why does this book need to be published, other than the keep Matt Murdock on people’s minds? Even worse, I believe this is Diggle’s swansong on the title, which gives the impression that everything he wrote was leading to this. Perhaps it’s editorial influence, but it’s his name on the cover, isn’t it?

As I said, it’s not bad, but it’s not good. Something evil is happening in a desert town and Matt Murdock happens upon it. He will then have to outsmart and outfight the corrupt police force. There’s a twist coming, right? Another question: What makes this the story to tell following Shadowland? It doesn’t even feel like a DD story. Out of costume, Matt Murdock could be just about anyone. This isn’t exactly “Spider-Man No More” or even “The Return of Bruce Wayne.” If you’re going to take Daredevil out of his book, show me something special.

The light at the end of the tunnel is Gianfelice’s art. The simple figures and thick inks offer a fresh look for DD and is miles past Billy Tan’s work on Shadowland. Good stuff.

Doom Patrol #19Doom Patrol #19 by Keith Giffen, Matthew Clark and Ron Randall *

Daredevil Reborn wasn’t bad. Doom Patrol is bad.

The plot has problems:
1) Ambush Bug pops up (can he teleport?), telling Jeanette about a cabana. The scene then cuts to the exterior of said cabana and what I assume to be her screams. What happened there?
2) What happened that Elasti-woman is super surprised that there’s a lava flow. She watched a volcano explode on page 1. Did she forget? Does she not know how volcanic eruptions work?
3) After whatsisname runs away, abandoning the Six, Robotman claims it changes nothing and punches Catman in the face. Next page, they’re all buddy-buddy. Maybe I’m asking too much, for the narrative sequence to be logical, but that’s what I like in a book.

The art has problems:
1) When Ragdoll is attacked by the pelican, the artist forgot to show that.
2) The guy that hired the Six has randomly changing wardrobe/facial hair. I see that two pencilers worked on the book, but editor Elisabeth V. Gehrlein needs to ensure stuff like doesn’t happen.

The lettering even has a problem:
1) A line which clearly doesn’t belong to Deadshot (“Lawton! You broke ranks!”) is attributed to him. Again, Gehrlein, this is on you. Read the book before it goes to the printer.

One more thing, which I’ll say is my problem, not theirs, is that the two teams say they fought before. When was this? I thought I had read all of this Six’s appearances.

We can blame a lot of people for this debacle. It’s cancellation is a chicken-or-egg argument though. Is it always this bad, so no one buys it, leading to cancellation? Or have the team lost all interest and effort once the news of cancellation came down? Either way, for me and anyone else who picked this up to complete the Secret Six crossover, this was an embarrassment.

Spider-Girl #4Spider-Girl #4 by Paul Tobin and Matthew Southworth ***

Four issues in, I still need Paul Tobin to up his game on Spider-Girl. There’s been so much set dressing that I’m not what sure what the status quo of this book is or will be. At first it revolved around Anya and her dad, maybe some recurring guest appearances by Sue Storm. Then her dad died, so it was Anya vs. the world. Now, she’s getting a roommate. I can’t wrap my head around who the cast will be, so I can’t begin to understand the relationships. Does she have a job? Problems at school? Should I care about Rocky’s friends or just the creep down the hall? You’re trying to hook people who may have never heard of this (or any) Spider-Girl before. Make it easy to understand. With sales about to drop below 20,000, maybe I’m speaking to a wall called cancellation. Sorry.

From a story standpoint, I’m starting to wonder: Does anyone like being a superhero? Anya, much like her Spider-namesake do it out of the idea of responsibility. They feel like it’s something they have to do. Doesn’t anyone want to? Gravity, maybe?

Another problem I had with the issue is the art of Matthew Southworth. I like Southworth, but not here. It just doesn’t fit. It looks nice in the Kraven vs. Kraven scene or when Spider-Girl fights a bugler in a dark apartment, but the brighter scenes, like anything in Anya’s civilian life … not so much. After seeing the bright art of the past issues, his sketchy visuals seem out of place. Moody art and teenage banter don’t mix.

I know I’m all sorts of negative, but it could be worse; I could not care at all. I like this book enough to want it to be better. Doesn’t that count for something?

Amazing Spider-Man #654.1Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos **

False advertising. That’s the best way to describe this issue. It should be titled Venom #0.1. That I would have known I wouldn’t enjoy it and would have left on the shelf. Had it been $4, I would have left it anyway. Damn Point One initiative. Spider-Man is never even seen on these pages (yes, Peter is, but out of costume. And Flash has no idea that he’s Spidey, so that doesn’t count.) This is a Flash Thompson/Venom comic.

I like Spider-Man. I don’t like Venom. I know that following characters instead of creators is a sure way to read some bad comics, but even with Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos’ names, this is a Venom comic. Symbiote … first-person plural pronouns … eat brains … blah. Rick Remender is trying a black-ops twist on Venom, but there are some tropes of the character that are unavoidable.

All that said … I think Venom fans would enjoy this. The black-suited symbiote has always been about the loss of control. You may cheer him on when he’s on the side of the angels, but inside, you’re waiting for him to lash out. This is no different with Flash Thompson under the goo. He’s fighting terrorists, but really you want to see him eat someone. You’ll get that here.

Flash is a good guy, but it can’t be long before we come to resent his superiors. Let’s put this out on the table. They’re taking advantage of a man who lost his legs at war. They offer him new legs, super strength, and another chance to be a hero. They know the Venom alien is dangerous, but hell, he can control it, right? It’s only corrupted everyone who ever wore it. They see a broken man, offer him a chance to live his old life, a chance to emulate his hero, all he has to do is put on a crazy cannibalistic suit and do their dirty work. Shady.

Between the Amazing Spider-Man backup and this issue, any reader should know if they’re in or out for Venom. I’m out.

Thunderbolts #153Thunderbolts #153 by Jeff Parker and Kev Walker *****

I may have said this before, but Thunderbolts is the best book Marvel is publishing right now. It does everything right.

Since Kev Walker joined Jeff Parker with issue #144, it’s been perfect. There’s action, character moments, fan-favorite heroes, new characters brought to the spotlight. Perfect.

More than any other group I read, the Thunderbolts actually operate as a team. When going into battle, they survey the situation, divide and conquer. They’re a unit, each using their strengths in tandem to defeat their foe, in this case Godzilla-esque monsters. They may be forced to work together, but inside their villainous exteriors, they also care about each other. Even Ghost, the most emotionless of the group, pleads with Moonstone to save Juggernaut because “he is … … one of us.” It’s a surprise, and possibly in contradiction of his giddiness at giving Moonstone and Songbird mouth-to-mouth (I’d love to see how Parker scripted those panels), but the evolution of that character has been amazing. Parker may be able to develop characters (keep your eyes on Troll), but he also knows the Marvel U stalwarts; his Juggernaut and Luke Cage are pitch-perfect.

Declan Shalvey did a fine job on his fill-in issues, but these issues with Kev Walker are a step above. Start with the panels. Only the first two pages use right-angles. As the violence rises, the edges get more and more ragged. Next, look at the body language. The different poses that Ghost and Hyperion use to fly say so much about their characters. Juggernaut looks massive, but without looking out of place. And a simple shot of the back of Moonstone’s shoulder shows that she doesn’t necessarily want to help, but knows she should. A+.

In the past, I’ve hated on Greg Land. Like a lot. A lot. But it wasn’t until I read another review for this issue that I realized he drew the cover. It’s a great cover. I love those ben-day dots.

Twilight Guardian #2Twilight Guardian #2 by Troy Hickman and Sid Kotian *****

My only complaint about the first issue of Twilight Guardian ongoing was that much of the story was repeated from the Pilot Season issue. With #2, Troy Hickman takes our protagonist somewhere much more dangerous than the nine block area around her house – a comic convention.

For those unfamiliar, Twilight Guardian is the story of a young woman who has taken on the responsibility of protecting her neighborhood. Of course, she lives in our world, so the biggest threats she faces are mysterious cars and neighbors who keep their Christmas lights up year-round. As you read, it’s revealed that our hero is both obsessive compulsive and depressed, which may be related to a recent breakup. Depression is like a cloud overhead. You can keep your eyes forward and forget that it’s there, but sooner or later, you’ll bend your head back and there it is. A big, black cloud. There’s some real human drama here, but never melodrama.

The trick to avoiding depression is to find something to fill your days, rather than sitting around staring at dust. Like a comic convention. Twilight Guardian, like any comic fan, feels the need to surround herself with like minds. Of course in her case, like minds are other real-life superheroes. They meet up, trade techniques and even solve a mystery. It’s a fun issue. After identifying so well with the character’s sorrow in previous issues, seeing her surrounded by friends, feeling in her element is more uplifting than seeing random cape hero punch his nemesis again. But in the final pages, when she’s left her friends and headed home, TG takes a moment, looks around and … oh yeah … that cloud.

All of this would be worthless without the right artist. Whether showing the personalities of a convention or the silver-age styles of the comics with the comic, Sid Kotian is the right artist. Seeing the excitement on TG’s face when carrying a stack of comics or her sadness as she sits alone on a hotel bed, I buy this girl’s emotions.

Two more issues. I miss you already.

The Shopping List 1-12-11

A big week, with some of my favorite books. A couple first issues, but a distinct lack of creativity. I mentioned last week about how it’s easier to review bad books and that shows this week. Maybe you read it, but let’s be honest,

We Don't Get a Lot of Sightseers

None the less, I’m grateful for you, reader. So what was on the stack this week?

Daredevil: Reborn #1Daredevil: Reborn #1 by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice **

This is a strange book. Matt Murdock, abandoning his post in Hell’s Kitchen, walks his way through Random Hicktown, USA. But there’s a big twist … NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS! OMG, Andy Diggle blew my mind with that. I had no idea there would be something bad going on in this strange desert town.

But a lack of originality is not the only problem here. Another is characterization. Murdock refuses to admit his blindness to just about everybody, even when it makes trouble for him. The locals don’t seem out of character; they have no character. They’re just stereotypical, one-dimensional violent rednecks. It all feels soulless.

I’m not familiar with Davide Gianfelice’s art. I only bought the first issue of Greek Street and I’ve never read Northlanders. This is the cleanest Daredevil‘s art has been since the Dodsons’ fill-in issues during Bendis’s run. From a bully’s tattoo to the Sheriff’s mustache, everything is more pronounced than Daredevil fans are accustomed too. Even Matt Hollingsworth’s colors are more saturated than ever.

If this was the first issue of a new series, I’d run far from the second issue. I should avoid books like this, not tell Marvel to make more like this by buying it. I wish I was stronger.

Heroes for Hire #2Heroes for Hire #2 by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Brad Walker ****

Only two issues in, I can say that the emergence of Heroes for Hire will go down as the best part of Shadowland.

For the first time, I’m able to realize that I like an artist’s layouts, but not his actual art. From the extreme close-ups on Misty’s lips to wide shots showing an expansive morgue behind Paladin, Brad Walker places his camera at some great angles. But his people don’t look right, especially his females. His Silver Sable must be 60.

The book has one problem, but I’m not sure what it is yet. Choose Your Own Problem!:
Option 1) A lack of progress: The plot of last month’s issue got cleared up last month. Then we got hit with a bomb of a cliffhanger. That thread was only advanced by one page, this month’s cliffhanger. Abnett and Lanning may have something great planned for Puppet Master, so let’s see it. After all, he has to have some reason to want to stop these crimes. Perhaps to collect all the villainous items we see a la Scott Snyder’s recent Detective Comics?
Option 2) It’s repetitive. Perhaps this volume of Heroes for Hire will bypass longer arcs in favor of done-in-one stories with an overarching theme or threat. But in that case, this issue was too similar to the last. Threat pops up around the Marvel Universe, Misty calls a number of heroes in, each for a specific task until the day is saved.

The Infinite Vacation #1The Infinite Vacation #1 by Nick Spencer and Christian Ward **

Recently, I read a comic book about a new technology that allows you live a different life. It may be a little different that your current situation or wildly dissimilar. Whatever you want is possible, for a cost. As with any new technology, there’s also a group of rebels who are against the use of said technology. To go along with the story, there was some sketchy art with a lot of purposely imperfect color. And the first issue (and let’s say storyline) revolved around a murder mystery.

It was called The Surrogates.

Seriously? No one is going to acknowledge the similarities between these books?

I want to like Nick Spencer. Yes, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents didn’t wow me, but Morning Glories is great and his Jimmy Olsen work tells some fun short stories. But this is … meh. The previews had turned me off and I wasn’t even going to buy it, but it was in my subscription box so I gave it a shot.

The story itself, though not as original as it is being given credit for, is enjoyable. Dreaming of a change your life is the very definition of escapist fiction. Mark, our unhappy protagonist, is likable enough. He’s that guy with great ideas about where his life could take him, but with the ability to make those changes.

The art is where the book falls apart. Christian Ward’s pencils often resemble contour line drawings and the anatomy isn’t particularly strong. A bigger problem for me is the coloring. It’s a mix of watercolors and photoshop. With a rainbow across each page, there’s no focus. But the biggest offender, as many other reviewers seem to agree, is the expository sequence that explains how the Infinite Vacation process works. It’s done with photos. And not Greg Land photo-referencing either. Photos. It’s fummeti! Not my cup of tea, that’s for sure.

If a lack of originality was enough to make me avoid a book, I wouldn’t read enough to support this blog. Bad art can be enough though. And The Infinite Vacation can’t overcome some serious visual problems.

__

I also picked up Spider-Man and Secret Six last week, but don;t have much to say other than they were good.

Talk soon. Bye.

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 10-20-10

It’s Wednesday. i’ve got some free time. May as well knock these reviews out while they’re fresh in my mind.

Another note before I begin: My comics enjoyment has really increased since dropping a few titles. It’s just nice to look and the pile and not expect a stinker in the bunch.

Dakota North. Ass kicker.

Daredevil #511Daredevil #511 by Andy Diggle and Roberto De La Torre ****

I always focus on the supporting cast of books like Captain America and Invincible Iron Man, but these Shadowland tie-ins have certainly shown the strength of secondary and tertiary characters like Foggy Nelson (risking life and limb to save his friend), Dakota North (kicking some ass) and Becky Blake. And of course, past issues have spotlighted Elektra and Master Izo. Matt Murdock/Daredevil only appears on one page of this issue, but it was still a great read.

All the tension in Hell’s Kitchen is coming to a head. One issue of Shadowland, one issue of Daredevil left and 10 years of great DD stories are over. Please, please, please let it end well.

Despite a lack of heroic action, De La Torre turns in a striking, emotion issue. I love the spaces he leaves in his black inked areas. They add dimension and allow some color to shine through. They’re a nice touch.

Morning Glories #3Morning Glories #3 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma ****

Issue three of the industry’s newest surprise hit starts with a flashback. It appears some of the mysteries in Morning Glories have been going on for centuries. It’s a short enough sequence that the reader doesn’t get impatient, but connects to the plot enough that I can’t wait to see how this all ties together.

Much of this issue is spent building the cast, adding new students (prisoners) as well as staff at the school. It succeeds in expanding the world of the book, but Jun, Zoe and Hunter are nowhere to be found. Not a problem necessarily, but this early in the run, I’d hate to see half the main cast left behind.

Joe Eisma’s art is starting to look a bit uneven. Depending on the page and even panel, characters are smooth, then jagged and back again. Luckily, Alex Sollazzo’s colors keep everything balanced.

X-Factor #210X-Factor #210 by Peter David and Valentine De Landro *****

Writers of a team books could take a lesson from X-Factor. Rather than cram all the characters into one story, or split 22 pages 7 ways (my complaint to Matt Fraction a few weeks ago) Peter David allows the group to fracture and deal with their conflicts themselves. Many books would follow one plotline to its conclusion, then have an issue between arcs to catch us up on the other characters. But by taking a break from the great, great Vegas story, David ensures that we don’t forget about Rahne and Rictor. Speaking of Rahne, it’s great to see her laughing after the brood-fest that was X-Force.

There’s some big laughs and big drama here. And it’s stuff I’ve never read in a hero book before. Love it.

De Landro does his own inks here and I really like the results. Yes, the thicker lines can make mouths look a bit off, but details like clothing and environments look great.

A trimmed pull-list means some high-ranking books. Yay!

Convention Sketches – Daredevil

One of the best parts of fandom, for me, is being able to get original pieces of art from my favorite artists. I’m a big fan of Ed Hopper, but I’m not about to own an original painting or have him draw something just for me. But as a comics fan, I can buy a book on Wednesday and commission an original piece that weekend. It’s my favorite part of conventions, so I though I’d share my pieces here.

My first convention was Baltimore Comic Con 2008. On of the reasons I wanted to go was Tim Sale. He drew my favorite story of all time Daredevil: Yellow. His minimalist sketches are great. It was one of Captain America in the back of Captain America: White #0 (yes, that came out in 2008). I made my way to his booth. He’s a really nice guy and gave my first sketch:

Daredevil by Tim Sale

Also at that show was David Mack. I love his Daredevil work as well as his creator-owned Kabuki. He had some great prints at his table, but his con sketches are unique. It’s hard to even call them sketches, as he draws them with a calligraphy pen. Matt Murdock truly lives up the “devil” in his name here:

Daredevil by David Mack

I have to admit though, my favorite piece is by Cliff Chiang. His comics work is great because of his simple, confident lines. But his sketches are great because he brings so much to the table. I asked for Daredevil and got Daredevil and two ninjas! Bad ass. In every one of his sketches, he really brings something to the table. Pick any character, between his style and willingness to go further than everyone else, he’ll be the best in your book:

Daredevil by Cliff Chiang

More to come. And hopefully even more after New York Comic Con next week.

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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