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 4-27-11

Blog fatigue is very real. Regardless of any deadlines or restrictions you give yourself, sometimes you just don’t want to write. It can make comics feel like a chore rather than an exciting hobby. It’s like going to practice instead of playing a real basketball game. Sometimes you just have to spice things up.
With that in mind, AN EXPERIMENT! Live reviews! So, as I read each of the comics I bought this week, I’ll give you my thoughts. Let’s see how this goes. I hope this are easy to follow, even for those of you who haven’t read the books. But it’d probably be better if you can read along. It’d be like a DVD commentary. Except on comics. And you’re reading. And I had nothing to do with the creation of the book. But it’s like that.

Avengers #12.1Avengers #12.1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch ****

Recap page – Hitch’s version of Wolverine’s mask makes him look like a bird. An angry bird. However, I love that you can see a hint of Spider-Woman’s eyes beneath her mask.

Page 6 – “There are 32 alien races living here on planet earth.” – Agent Brand. Does that sound low to anyone else? I see Hitch never got the memo that Beast looks like a cat these days.

Page 9 – We’re lucky that Hitch gets all this leeway to stretch scripts out. If he was actually restricted to the 22 pages other artists are, we’d miss out on great splash pages like this.

Page 11 – Is anyone against those little logos/descriptions some writers use to introduce characters? They’re more graceful than shoving a character’s name in the dialogue. “Something not from earth, Moon Knight,” “We have to hope for the best, Protector.” I’ll admit I didn’t know that was Moon Knight at first glance, but help yourself out. Plus, those intro boxes are pure comic book. There’s a reason Edgar Wright carried them over into “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.”

Page 13 – More clunky names.

Page 14 – The what? Spaceknight? Bendis seems to be going back into and old toybox on this one.

Page 18 – Villains are great. Even the smartest ones forget that Tony Stark is just as smart as they are.

Page 23-24 – Ultron? Sick. Can we get some Hank Pym up in here? Hitch gets a bit weird on his right thigh, but big credit to colorist Paul Mounts on bringing a lot of energy to this spread.

Page 25-26 – Good old Thor. Got a problem? Hit it with a hammer. Nice moment there.

Page 27-28 – Uh … if there was that much destruction, and we see A LOT, you’d have some dead bodies on your hands.

Overall – This was a really exciting issue. This is the kind of thing that can launch an event. The Age of Ultron may be contained within the Avengers title, but it should be big enough to have been an event. This is the best Hitch has looked in years. I wasn’t big on his Fantastic Four or his Captain America: Reborn work, but this is great. I would like to see some more vibrant colors though. A lot of the backgrounds and even characters are very washed out. Art this detailed still needs some pop. Either way, this is a successful .1 issue, but any goodwill from it may be wasted in the months until this storyline continues.

Captain America #617Captain America #617 by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice, Mike Deodato, and Chris Samnee *****

Page 1-2 – Nazis are a really easy villain. No one cares if you kill a Nazi. Same with robots. Or some aliens (just as the Skrulls). But what about bears? Is this cool or is this animal cruelty?

Page 6 – These little tiny panels at the top? That’s some We3 shit right there. This is a 24 panel page, but reads so easy. I dig it.

Page 8 – Niko? Nick Fury? Or did I miss a character named Niko?

Page 9 – Nope. Not Fury.

Page 10 – Butch Guide is doing some real great design work here. Tiny moments, tiny panels. Events overlapping. I’d say it’s cinemetic, but really, it’s comics.

Page 18 – I knew there was a Steve Rogers feature starting soon, but I didn’t expect Black Widow. Sweet.

Page 20 – I like the style Deodato’s trying out here. It’s still got the shadows he’s known for, but his characters are much less chiseled, so it looks more fluid. Good to see he’s still not afraid to take a weird angle to tell the story, like in the shot directly above the desk.

Page 24 – Oh, Chris Samnee. You’re great.

Page 26 – A few pages back, Natasha got Steve on the phone. Now we see his side of the conversation. Nice job tying the stories together, Bru.

Page 30 – Damn, I’m really going to be sad when Steve gives up his Super-Solider outfit. That thing’s great.

Captain America has been a consistently good book since Ed Brubaker’s run started. But with each month expanding to 30 pages of his story and the storylines getting bigger and better in anticipation of the movie, there couldn’t be a better time to be a Cap fan.

Also, I just looked up Ursa Major, the bear from pages 1-2. I guess he’s a mutant that can shapeshift to a bear. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Detective Comics #876Detective Comics #876 by Scott Snyder and Jock ****

Cover – Yeah, I’ll start early on this one. I love it. It may not stand out on the shelf, but how many covers have the reader inside the mouth of a damn sea beast? The benday dot coloring is great too.

Pages 2-3 – They set me up to think a bomb was going to go off on this page turn. They got me. I expect kablam, I get Shamu. A check out the way Jock plays with perspective. Try to find a perpendicular line.

Page 6 – Uh … Dick? Should you really be cutting that dead whale open? What expertise do you have in marine biology?

Page 7 – Dialogue is a weird thing. You want it to sound authentic, but you often need to clue your readers in on information that may not naturally come out in conversation. Writers try their best to fit it in, and  Scott Snyder usually does. But here, Commish is just a bit dramatic. “As in Anthony ‘Fats’ Zucco” DUN DUN DUN “The man who killed your parents.”

Page 10 – Eww. Another reason to hate whales.

Page 11 – Excellent page. I won’t even try to explain. Just check it out.

Page 12 – Right here, in the narration, Dick says Zucco killed his parents. If it was going to be said in the issue already, there was no need to jam it in the dialogue a few pages back.

I didn’t have too much say about this issue, but that’s not a bad thing. Scott Snyder is giving readers a great Batman story and his artists have been giving it their all. Even if you’ve been jaded by too many mediocre Batman stories in the past, check this out. Who knows when Detective Comics will be this good again.

Flash #11Flash #11 by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul **

Page 1 – Oh no. Scott Kolins art. It’s not Kolins’ fault. He’s great, especially on Flash. It’s the coloring. When this style is laid upon Manapul’s art, it looks classic. Here, characters look plastic and lifeless. Not to mention it’s a lot darker than it needs to be, which could always be a printing problem. Working in advertising, I understand that 100%.

Page 6 – Pages like this are why I respect Kolins. Look at the details in the apartment – the rug, the pillows, the junk on the table behind Iris. But, why does everyone look squinty here (except Bart who looks ready to punch Barry in the face)? Speaking of Bart, he looks too much like the witness kid from the beginning of the issue. Both young redheads, and the kid is wearing yellow and red, Kid Flash colors.

Page 8 – I’m not sure if Johns is writing Bart as too self-centered or just whiny. “Barry didn’t come to the picnic because of me!” Wah wah.

Page 10 – Writer, artist, colorists, editors – This just doesn’t seem to be anyone’s issue. If Wally’s talking about being a kid, shouldn’t he be in his Kid Flash uniform? Back then, did they EVER wear red outfits at the same time? And Wally’s line “… I didn’t hope Barry Allen was the Flash — I hoped the Flash was Barry Allen” That’s more than a little melodramatic.

Page 15 – I hate when people in comics talk to themselves. Give them an internal monologue. Better yet, give them someone to talk to.

Page 20 – Well, I was right about the colors of the kid’s clothes. Just looking the wrong direction.

Not a bad issue, not really. But it’s flaws are so clear – overly sentimental writing and art that’s trying to clone what’s been done before, but with different ingredients. I’m still not sure how this will really connect to FlashPoint, but with one issue to go, who’s really going to stop reading now?

Morning Glories #9Morning Glories #9 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma ***

Page 2 – I will now welcome guests at my house with “Die alien scum!!!”

Page 11 – “I was warned you might be brainwashed.” Does Jun have someone on the inside?

Page 13 – All this birthtime stuff confuses me. Hisao was born second, at 23:59. That would mean they were both born on May 4, same as all the other students at Morning Glory Academy. So … what’s the problem with Jun?

Page 19 – Uh … so … we’ve haven’t been following Jun all this time? Why doesn’t Jun know who he is?

Page 26 – Wow, I never would have realized there were extra pages in this issue. ANYWAY, wasn’t Abraham the guy that discovered Zoe? Could he be the inside man?

There isn’t any real progress in this issue, but there’s some backstory that has already been proven important. That and a couple of twists and you’ve got a basic issue of Morning Glories. Next month: Jade. At C2E2, I told Nick Spencer that she was my favorite. It sounds like I’m the only one. Red-headed emo girls? Sign me up!

Spider-Girl #6Spider-Girl #6 by Paul Tobin and Clayton Henry ***

Recap page – I like that the frame of this page is an iPad. Seeing where the recap is made up of @The_Spider-Girl‘s tweets, it’s a nice tie in. It also doesn’t hurt that I love my iPad.

Page 1 – We’re back to Clayton Henry’s art. Now that the darker story is over, the darker art is as well. Nice.

Page 4 – Pop culture references … I appreciate it now, but will anyone know what Community was in 10 years? 5 years?
Henry’s art has clearer emotions than Southworth’s. That’s a good thing.

Page 8 – The real inciting incident for this series has been the death of Anya’s father. Since then, the Fantastic Four has lost someone as well. She goes to hang out with them, but we’re not going to comment on this?

Page 9 – I may have dropped Amazing Spider-Man from my subscription list, but it is nice to see the books tying together in regards to Phil’s crush on Norah.

Page 14 – Henry throws in a nice easter egg. “D-Man: Turn Off the Trash” I like it. Does the fact I like that conflict with my ambivalence on the Community reference?

Page 16 – It’s sad that Spidey shows little faith in Spider-Girl.

Page 21 – Faith which she totally deserves. There’s a narrative leap here. Hobgoblin is knocked out, but 4 panels later, escapes. It couldn’t have been thirty seconds. Spider-Man’s watching the whole time. We never see him even get up or get untied. Throw us a bone here. Focus on storytelling.

Page 22 – Spider-Man’s been more or less encouraging of Anya in the past, yet he criticizes her again, despite the fact that she’s now defeated numerous foes. This selective support doesn’t play well with me.

With its impending cancellation, Spider-Girl has some exciting ground to cover in the next couple months. If you’ve been reading up until this point, there’s no reason to stop now.

__

So what do you think about live reviews? Interesting? Failure? An interesting failure? Let me know. Maybe I’ll do this again sometime.

The Shopping List 4-13-11

As a blogger and reviewer, there are many ways one can choose to be. You can …Onslaught, You Are Very Wise … That’s the unspoken part of criticism. It’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it. Your favorite reviewers all have a tone. You may even be able to determine an author without seeing the byline. That’s a good writer. A tone. A voice. I guess I’m still working on mine. (For one, I think I should cut down on the parentheticals [but I’m so good at them!]).

Birds of Prey #11Birds of Prey #11 by Gail Simone and Pere Pérez ****

I was under the impression that the Catman/Huntress date was going to happen in Secret Six. But when I saw this (great) cover, it went right on my stack. I’ve read most of Simone’s previous run on Birds of Prey, but never found it any better than good. She’s a consistent writer and I like the characters, so I gave it a shot.

Critics are quick to praise a good done-in-one issue, but most are satisfied to simply have a hero/villain battle. Few have this much personal drama. Here, Catman and Huntress’ personal lives affect their costumed mission. On one hand, Helena thinks Blake’s a bad dude, which he is. On the other, she wants to get it on with him. This results in some great narration for the conflicted Huntress.

From roof diving to wind-ravaged kisses, Pere Pérez (is that the Latino equivalent of a name like Robbie Robertson?) fits the story quite well. He’s been poking around the Bat-verse for a while now, and handles Gotham’s bright lights and dark corners well. His Huntress shows a great range of emotion, but I wish he gave Catman more moods than flirty and blind-rage.

I’m not sure this book would interest me month to month without Catman, but I’m sure glad I picked it up. Fans of the Six are well recommended to give Gail Simone’s other monthly a try.

Flash #10The Flash #10 by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul ***

I’m not one to complain when a cover doesn’t really reflect what goes on inside a comic, but where’s Wally? I’ve been blowing though Johns’ first run* and I don’t want to see him shoved into the background forever. Speaking of Johns’ first run, the bridge in front of which Flash, Kid Flash, and Hot Pursuit have their debate was constructed in the “Crossfire” arc. Nice nod there.

This is hard to judge this issue on its own. It’s the middle of an arc and mostly setup for Flashpoint, so I can’t complain that there are a lot of questions – Why is alt-Barry such a douche? Why is Bart so quick to judge Hot Pursuit? What about Hot Pursuit’s version of the Rogues? – that go unanswered. It’s a point A to point B issue, not much more. And with the amount of exposition here, the distance between those points isn’t very large.

I’ve spent enough time commending Manapul’s art in general. Now, each month I’m going to focus on a specific aspect. This month – fashion. From Patty’s glasses to her cropped jacket – I thought only Cliff Chiang has this good of an eye for style. And Barry’s wearing layers! A button down, then a hoodie, then a jacket. Just great.

* Anyone have an “Ignition” trade they want to give me? It’s the only one I can’t find cheap.

Onslaught Unleashed #3Onslaught Unleashed #3 by Sean McKeever and Filipe Andrade ***

I think Sean McKeever is using the Secret Avengers better than Brubaker did in his inaugural arc. He’s using their skill sets and personalities in creative ways, creating conflict and forwarding the story. The (Gi)Ant-mans have always been disrespected, but being able to shrink then grow can be pretty powerful. Imagine if Ant-Man, under mind-control and in Sharon’s ear canal, grew to even one foot tall. BOOM goes Sharon’s skull.  I think Beast Boy pulled that in an episode of Teen Titans, going from mosquito to elephant in Trigon’s head. Onslaught is not the most compelling villain, but the character interaction make this series worth picking up for me.

However, the book is dragged down by the art. I mean, look at that cover. Wouldn’t this story be SO MUCH better with Ramos on art, rather than Andrade? This goes back to the idea of voice or tone from my introduction. It’s a matter of style. I’m not sure Andrade is done honing his. Drawing a lower-tier book, like this one, is the right idea. But I just wish it wasn’t on a book I was so excited to read.

The Shopping List 2-9-11

Hey everyone! How are you? I’m pretty goo–

Barry Allen and I Are Late

I was … see cuz the other time? See cuz it had rained. No, seriously. It was my birthday. It was Valentine’s day. I was celebrating. I’m allowed aren’t I?

Flash #9Flash #9 by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul ***

Manapul is back on Flash and I couldn’t be more excited. Between his return and the book getting back into multi-part stories, we’re back to the feeling we got from “The Dastardly Death of Rogues.”

For the past two issues, I’ve complained about Brian Buccellatto’s colors. They didn’t feel right on Scott Kolins, but on Manapul’s lines, they are perfect. It gives an old-timey almost Rockwell feel. Knowing how much Tim Sale is influenced by Rockwell, I wonder what Buccellatto would do to his art. (Sorry Dave Stewart.) There’s not much action in this issue. It’s not exciting, but damn it’s pretty.

Flash has traded its “Brightest Day” banner for a “The Road to Flashpoint” one and wastes no time getting into it. The bulk of the book involves Barry Allen investigating a dead body. It seems that The Elongated Kid (really?) had rapidly aged before death. It could be chalked up to another time-travel murder mystery, but that storyline is book-ended by the arrival of new character Hot Pursuit searching for Barry. Under the helmet, he’s a character known to all Flash readers. We don’t get any details, but we’re barreling towards “the single greatest time anomaly to even threaten reality.” Johns may put too much hyperbole in his writing, but I’m in for the ride.

Heroes for Hire #3Heroes for Hire #3 by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Brad Walker ***

I’m enjoying a book whose main character is Paladin. I say again, I’m enjoying a book whose main character is Paladin. I’m as surprised as you are.

Abnett and Lanning have switched the characters each month, giving a good interpretation of each until this issue. Danny Rand shows up, no surprise in a book called Heroes for Hire, but he’s really combative and reluctant to help, even when Misty’s name is dropped. Not very heroic. Not very Danny. It all seems like fitting him into a round hole for the purpose of the (again, forced) closing line.

I’m coming around on Brad Walker’s work. It isn’t any prettier, but at least it’s consistent. His Misty Knight isn’t attractive, but she’s consistently unattractive. I can live with that.

Jurassic Park continues its influence on comics. This is fourth book I can think of in about two months to include a battle with a dinosaur. You’d think was 1994.

Last month I wondered if Heroes for Hire would be too repetitive. This issue says yes. Misty uses a number of heroes to piece-meal a mission together. It’s fun, but each issue feels too slight. I want something bigger.

Onslaught Unleashed #1Onslaught Unleashed #1 by Sean McKeever and Filipe Andrade ****

Comics can interest people for a variety of reasons. The character. The writer. The artist. So why would I buy Onslaught Unleashed?

Onslaught? No. I wasn’t into comics at the time, but the Onslaught Saga sounds bloated and very bad 90’s comics.
The Secret Avengers? Sure. Brubaker didn’t impress me, but Steve Rogers? Black Widow? Beast? These are some of my favorite characters.
The Young Allies? Of course. My favorite book of 2010.
Sean McKeever? From The Waiting Place to Allies, absolutely. He’s now a name I follow.
Filipe Andrade? Well … no.

Well, that’s 60% positive going into the book. How did it fare?

Pretty well. Despite Onslaught’s presence, it feels like the continuation of threads from Young Allies and the Nomad backups from Captain America. I was wondering if/where these stories, such as El Dragón would be addressed, so its nice to see they have not been lost, dropped or canceled. Of course, the threat here is bigger than Rikki or the Allies can handle, so her mentors, Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff take over.

McKeever impressed here. Onslaught Unleashed is a natural evolution of the story, giving reason for the team-up, without the played-out team vs. team battle. He writes established characters like Best and Ant-Man just as well as those he created.

Filipe Andrade’s art is much like that seen in the Nomad backups. It’s … fine. I can tell characters apart and he does some nice storytelling bits, but his characters are too jagged. Hell, Gravity could stab someone with his chin. I wonder how this series would look with David Baldeon or Humberto Ramos (who supplied the cover) on art duties. I wanto give some points to colorist Ricardo Tercio. Whether it’s the greens of the facility or the magentas of the Onslaught machine, each scene gets its own palette, expertly setting the tone.

The art holds it back, but for three more issues, Onslaught Unleashed is a book I will look forward too.

Amazing Spider-Man #653Amazing Spider-Man #654Amazing Spider-Man #653-654 by Dan Slott, Fred Van Lente and Stefano Caselli **

Sophomore slump. That’s the only way I can think about “Revenge of the Spider-Slayer.” Compared to Dan Slott’s first “Big Time” arc, we’ve got an unsympathetic villain, flat dialogue, dull art, and a lack of Peter Parker’s personal life.

Taken on their own, any of these factors would be OK, but together they’re just a disappointment. Let’s go down the line.

  1. Alistair Smythe is boring. You stole my dad. You ruined my life. Blah blah. Who cares? And the return of the Scorpion? Who cares? Spider-Man has the second best villains in comics because they have interesting personalities: Green Goblin and his mental instability, Doc Ock and his inventor’s drive, the new Hobgoblin and his dark-side-of-the-spider personality. Smythe and Gargan don’t have anything to hang their hats on.
  2. For these two issues, Fred Van Lente has scripted over Dan Slott’s story. I’ve never been a fan of Van Lente’s writing and these issues are show why. Characters don’t speak naturally; they speak in plot points. Van Lente even uses a number of though balloons. Thought balloons! One of the most inelegant methods of comics writing.
  3. I loved Stefano Caselli’s work on Avengers: The Initiative, but something doesn’t work here. It’s over-detailed and over-rendered. And issue 654, with its nighttime climax, is very dark. No the fun BIG TIME Spider-Man we got with Ramos.
  4. This issue is action action action. The biggest emotional hit is on J. Jonah Jameson. Peter hasn’t really learned or changed or gone on a journey. I don’t like that.

We’ve got #654.1 next, launching the new Venom book (interest level: low) then the glorious Marcos Martin! I had the highest excitement for Martin when this “Big Time” status quo was announced. So far, Ramos gets a thumbs up, Caselli gets a thumbs down and I can’t wait to see where Martin goes.

X-Factor #215X-Factor #215 by Peter David and Valentine De Landro

Some quick scene setting: I love it when heroes use their powers in non-combative ways. Sue and Johnny Storm creating personal umbrellas in Civil War? Love it. Madrox creating a dupe so he can interview a client and her accused at the same time? It just makes sense. Think of how fast you could finish your chores if you could send a copy of yourself to do each task.

With X-Factor #215, Peter David uses another spotlight issues to focus on the real linchpins of the series – Jamie Madrox and Layla Miller. The story itself is a whodunit, which is solved fairly simply. But, as always, it comes down to the characters.

Some history: Back in issue #10, cover date October 2006, Layla Miller referenced her and Jamie’s wedding night. He had just slept with Siryn and Monet (separately, though still, lucky dude [again, think of how awesome duplicates are]), so he sort of brushed it off.  In issue #28 (April 2008), we saw Rahne’s terrible vision of the future – her killing Jamie and Layla on their wedding night (this vision was given by Damian Tryp to Rahne in issue #12). In issue #40 (April 2009), we see a Layla from the future, all grown up. Making their marriage a lot less creepy. In #50 (December 2009), Layla returns to our timeline. Now, with the April 2011 issue, we get another step – the proposal. This is more than four years of comics following one thread. I love it.

Not much to say about the issue itself, other than that De Landro toned down the shadows in his art to great improvement. It’s a lot clearer and his people are more attractive. I hope he keeps it up.

__

I know this was late. And the reviews for last week’s books are already late. They will come.

The Shopping List 11-10-10 and 11-17-10

Lots of book. Little time. Here we go.

Avengers: The Children's Crusade #3Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #2 by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung

– Heinberg writes great dialogue. Here, he writes too much. The issue is full of talking and debates and arguments and only one action of consequence.
– Cheung is taking his sweet-ass time on this book. I’m glad he is. It looks great.
– Once again, the schedule is killing the momentum on this book.
– I love Magneto and Quicksilver. I think they’re great characters on their own, but their relationship, especially here, really pushes them to a new level.

The Flash #6The Flash #6 by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul

– “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues” wraps up a little too easily here. Spinny, spinny, rewrite the future, change how a police department is run.
– Johns gives his characters great, unique personalities.
– Manapul is good. Colorist Brian Buccelato makes him amazing.
– Now that this arc is done and Scott Kolins is coming on for a few issues, maybe the book will get back on schedule. More Johns Flash? Yay!

Morning Glories #4Morning Glories #4 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma

– This book is a delight every time it comes out.
– Now that the characters have all been introduces, Spencer can start placing them together, letting their relationships build. I think most geeks will relate to Hunter. I know I do.
– Ooh! The plot thickens!
– Eisma’s art has smoothed out again. It looks great.

Amazing Spider-Man #648Amazing Spider-Man #648 by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos

– This is kind of exactly what I want in a Spider-Man book.
– I’ve never liked Humberto Ramos’ art. Runaways was close though. Here, it perfectly fits the energetic pace of Slott’s script.
– The issue has about 10 plots. Instead of cutting between each, they are dealt with one by one. You may think it would come off as disjointed, but it works. If these are the stories Slott is going to tell, I’m interested.
– Spider-Girl prologue! Yay!

Spider-Gril #1Spider-Girl #1 by Paul Tobin, Clayton Henry, and Dean Haspiel

– It’s nice to see Anya land on her feet after the cancellation of the great Young Allies.
– I wish the industry could have supported this book with the name “Araña.” It reeks of changing a book to suit the industry rather than the story.
– This book is the Marvel equivalent of Batgirl. That’s a good thing. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It will live and die by its name-recognition and guest stars.
– Clayton Henry draws an amazing range of emotions. He’s a real talent.
– Anytime I get to complain about the cancellation of Young Allies I’m going to take it.

Superior #2Superior #2 by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu

– A bit of a let-down. I know Millar loves the Superman archetype. Now do something new with it.
– Yu’s pencils are beautiful (just look at those pages in the backmatter), but the colors are too splotchy. It looks like Superior has a rash.
– This book has exactly what Nemesis doesn’t: heart. The only emotions in that book are anger, rage, wrath, blah blah.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 by Nick Spencer and Cafu **

– I bought this based on Nick Spencer and good reviews. After the incredible debut of Morning Glories, this falls flat.
– I’m not sure who is going to be the real protagonist(s?) here and the plot is a bit overthought.
– The big hook is the that the agents are given super-powers that will eventually kill them. But Spencer doesn’t show enough (if any) of the characters who would take such a deal.
– Cafu’s art is clean and Santiago Arcas’ colors give some eerie realism. They’d make a great fill-in if Salvador Larocca needed a break on Iron Man.

Thunderbolts #150Thunderbolts #150 by Jeff Parker and Kev Walker

– This issue feels like a book. For $5, you get a 40-page main story, an 8-page “Thunderbolts Saga,” and a 38-page reprint of Thunderbolts #1. Almost double the standard cost of the book, but well worth it.
– A pared-down cast results in some great conflicts and better outcomes. Tony Stark disarms Ghost with no punches or repulsor rays, just words. Clever.
– It’s nice to see Kev Walker back. If his art has always been this good, I’ve got to do some back issue searching.
– I know people complain about anniversary issues containing reprint content, but this had something going for it; I had never read the story. Despite knowing the plot, specifically the twist ending, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the story. It’s a bit wordy and Bagley’s art is not as clean as it would be on Ultimate Spider-Man, but very enjoyable.

X-Factor #211X-Factor #211 by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino

– Last issue, all the shit of the past few issues launched fanwards. Here, it splays all about Las Vegas. Three words: Undead Viking Henchmen.
– David’s best skill is his character interactions. Bringing prim and proper Thor and the motley crew of X-Factor Investigations together should be brilliant.
– I can’t wait to see where Emanuela Lupacchino ends up next. She’s so good. At NYCC, regular X-Factor artist Valentine DeLandro told me he would understand if they dropped him from the book and put here on full-time. (I’ve heard no plans to do so.)

Sorry for limiting this post to simple bullets points, but you know, life happens. Big week this week. Cap, Iron Man, Ultimate Spider-Man #150, and my girl Batwoman. Woot.

The Shopping List 9-22-10

Uhh … Mixed bag this week. I may have found another unclaimed seven dollars for comics next month.

Avengers Academy #4 by Christos Gage and Mike McKone ****

This second and concluding chapter of the “Scared Straight” crossover with Thunderbolts is also the weakest issue of this book yet. Most of this has to do with the prominence of Mettle, who I so far find the least interesting of the group. Also, his persistent use of the word “brah” is grating.

There is some good stuff here though. Hazmat makes a nice threat and you can really tell Hank Pym wants what’s best for these kids. Christos Gage decides to play Norman Osborne as Lex Luthor rather than the dissociative identity disorder guy we’ve seen since Civil War. Nothing wrong with that, but you really wonder how these kids could believe a word he says. The heroes have said a million times since he was in power “He’s the freaking Green Goblin!”

As I say, this may be the weakest issue of this book so far, but still, four stars.

Black Widow #6Black Widow #6 by Dwayne Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia ***

This is an exciting start for a new creative team. Nothing more complex than a case of mistaken identity, but Swierczynski has Natasha doing some undercover work, surveillance, and hand-to-hand combat proving her years of training.

Manuel Garcia draws some emotional, action-filled panels with his jagged pencils. His females show a bit more cleavage than necessary, but they do look good. I will say though, for a smooth, crafty spy book, I’d like some art that matches. (I would do bad things for a Greg Rucka/Terry Dodson Widow book.) Garcia would be well suited to something grittier, maybe Moon Knight.

It’s nice to see this book continue, even without its original creative team.

The Flash #5Flash #5 by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul ****

This book has a lot of good things going for it. But for each, you gotta take the bad with the good.

The Good: The Rogues – Part of what makes the Flash so great (regardless of who’s in the suit) is the Rogues. They’re unique and they share a bond. Teamwork comes more natural to them than Superman’s villains, for example. With that in mind, pitting two sets of Rogues against each other is a great idea.

The Bad: But it also mean that your storytelling has to be crystal clear. When you zoom out too far, no one can tell the difference between Captain Cold and Commander Cold. I swear there are some errors in this book because I’ve read page 4 a few times and it still does not make sense.

The Good: Momentum coming out of Blackest Night – Plenty of people read about Barry in last year’s big event and seeing Johns’ name on a new iteration of a book he was great on years ago no doubt influenced plenty of them to pick it up.

The Bad: Not everyone read Blackest Night. So having Captain Boomerang go into a hallucination about his post-resurrection mission feels out-of-nowhere. Way to cater to new readers.

The Good: A simple hook – The Rogues from the future have to come back to stop a murder before it happens.

The Bad: You know what the problem with time travels stories is? You have to spend half your time explaining how it works and why the typical paradoxes do or don’t apply here.

The Good: The art – Francis Manapul is perfect on this book.

The Bad: I got nothing. He’s perfect.

I don’t mean to make it sound like I don’t enjoy this book, but it does have problems.

Nemesis #3 by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven *

Wow. This book is tasteless. Just trashy. It’s got one issue left and I don’t want to buy the final issue. The only redemption here would be to see Nemesis pay for his sins. He has to pay for his cruel, revolting, implausible sins. If Mark Millar is going to give me that, maybe I’ll give him another three dollars. But I can’t encourage a book where this guy wins. Of course, Millar teases a follow-up series in the back matter, so I may as well piss into the wind.

I’m not going to boycott Millar. Just this book. Superior looks very nice. Maybe it’s actually about a hero.

Violence doesn’t bother me. I read superhero comic books, so maybe that’s obvious. Nemesis can kill all the cops he wants. But when you inseminate a teenage girl with her gay brother’s semen and then booby trap her womb so terminating the pregnancy will make her unable to ever conceive again, you leave me so offended that I cannot describe it.

Did I just spoil that for you? Good.

Steve McNiven does draw some nice pictures though. I wish he didn’t waste his time on this story.

Uncanny X-Men #528 by Matt Fraction and Whilce Portacio **

Yeah, I’m done with this book too. I know I said I may hold on until Kieron Gillen helps on writing chores, but I can’t wait. If I hear that the book turns, I’ll probably pick up the issues I skip. In the meantime, this book is not enjoyable.

It’s not for a lack of plots either. We’ve got another of the five lights, Iceman trying to find the X-men a publicist, Emma dealing with her prisoner (Sebastian Shaw), Namor dealing with underwater subordination, Colossus trying to connect with his ghost of a girlfriend, and a riot at a San Francisco art museum. Six plots in 22 pages. As it stands, 11 pages are dedicated to Storm and Hope saving the new mutant. Another half of them: Iceman, Namor, and the art museum, are brand new. I’m not sure one monthly issue can handle much more than an A, a B and possibly, a C plot. Give each one some real attention so they can move forward.

Once again, this book is suffering from a lack of focus. I’m done.

So yeah … some new holes in the budget. Maybe I can save some money for New York Comic Con next month!

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.

Find Related Posts: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,