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 10-27-10

Death and Lex Luthor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shopping List 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!

The Shopping List 10-13-10

I really wish I had more posts on here, but between moving the blog and NYCC, my focus hasn’t been on writing about comics. It’ll come.

Invincible Iron Man #31Invincible Iron Man #31 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca

What a good book this is. How many sci-fi/industrial espionage books are there in mainstream comics? Not enough. Someone finally put together the whole Detroit Steel/videogame connection. And in the last issue of “Stark Resilient,” I’m curious to see how Tony is going to get out of this mess. It’s great to see Fraction getting milage out out his new characters, Sasha and Justine in this case.

I have no real comments on Larroca’s art, but I will say his consistency continues.

I’ve run out of ways to criticize this book. I’m not dropping it, but don’t be surprised if I skip a few issues between my reviews.

Shadowland #4Shadowland #4 by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan

This is the best issue of Shadowland yet. That may not say much, but it’s always nice to see an upgrade. The bulk of the issue was building for next issue’s climax, but that’s not a bad thing. What it reminds me of the most is Siege #3. Daredevil (Osbourne) has been defeated, but that only sets up the big bad, the Beast (the Void).

Even Billy Tan shows some improvement this issue. Part of me thinks it’s the coloring. Focusing on Elektra, the rendering of her face offers the kind of dimension I’m not used to seeing in Tan’s pencils. I don’t remember seeing colors this bright in Shadowland. It’s nice.

The supporting cast gets more focus this time with Spider-Man and Wolverine in particular having some nice moments. To speak of Elektra again, after seeing here lead and kick some ass here, I would love to see a new book focusing on her. I believe she is part of the upcoming Heroes for Hire. I hope she’s a big one.

Once again, I want to express my disappointment with John Cassaday’s covers. I love Cassaday, but these covers are super boring. Also, this issue’s is a lie as the Bullseye resurrection is never completed (right?).

Yes, Shadowland is a disappointment, and one of my favorite books is coming to an end because of it, but here’s hoping it can go out an a good note.

Superior #1Superior #1 by Mark Millar and Leinil Francis Yu

Superior is exactly what I expected and was hoping for. Forgetting my displeasure with Nemesis, I enjoy Millar’s books. He’s the kind of guy who can get me interested in even Superman. Through his character’s discussion, he acknowledges an opinion held by much of fandom “He’s boring, He’s a boy scout, etc.” But you know it’s only to turn things around show you how interesting a nigh-perfect alien can be.

There’s something to be said for a Scotsman who’s so interested in the hero that best personifies the American Dream. Same goes for Grant Morrison. Even Alan Moore (British, of course) wrote a couple great Supes stories. What is it about Superman that gets the British imagination running wild?

I don’t have the love for Leinel Yu that many do. His action is great, but he has a tendency to over-crosshatch his characters. His colorists then use those lines as a guide for shadows and highlights. This redundancy in rendering only leads to unnatural faces. His mouths are also a weak point. They are often open for no reason. In comics, a character’s face determines the tone a reader give a speech bubble; gaping mouths and squinted eyes make them look unsure and a bit dumb.

This is issue is mostly setting the scene, but I’m in for next month.

The Shopping List 9-15-10

This was a quality not quantity week. Here we go:

Morning Glories #2Morning Glories #2 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma ****

The least I can say is that you should buy this book. Your shop may have issue two in stock. If not, a second printing is coming. And the third printing of issue one came out this week as well.

What you want me to say more? OK.

of the Glories (I guess we’re going to call them that, even if the book doesn’t?) acts like a normal person. Whether being questioned by a teacher or locked in a room filling with water, they argue, they panic, they each have their own reactions but they are all real. Nick Spencer is also doing something right with the staff of Morning Glory Academy. As a reader, I still don’t know their goal, but it’s not bothering me yet. That’s because in each scene, there is still something concrete that they want, even if it’s to have one of the student’s answer a question. This is how you handle mysterious circumstances. Each

Artist Joe Eisma has to be given equal credit for the characters’ clear personalities. Even if they are only in the background, Eisma gives each of the kids something to do like Jade writing or Ike reclining at his desk. That’s how they’ve defined these characters and gotten readers to relate to them so well in only two issues. *clap clap*

Thunderbolts #148Thunderbolts #148 by Jeff Parker and Declan Shalvey ****

The Siege tie-in issues were a killer for Thunderbolts. Of course, the arc also had the task of closing down that chapter in the book’s life, but the main thrust of the arc, the Spear of Odin, was inconsequential, much like the arc itself.

Not here. Rather than find a way the Bolts can fight Daredevil, Jeff Parker finds a side of the story mostly ignored, the prisoners of Shadowland, and giving one of the prisoners a connection to Luke Cage. Luke then sends his team out as, in Moonstone’s words, “his own private death squad.” Something great comes of this, as the leash is taken off and they are allowed to fight undead ninjas without restraint. Man-thing crushing people’s heads. Crossbones with a flamethrower. And it looks this will only continue next month. Woohoo.

Not seeing Kev Walker’s name on the cover was a disappointment, but Shalvey’s work is not a problem. It’s quite good. He sticks to square, easy to follow panels, but varies the layout and sizes to great effect. Reading through the issue again, another thing that sticks out to me is how often he moves the POV in and out of a scene. On page 15, he starts with way back with five figures at different depths. Then an extreme wide shot, an extreme close-up, another wide shot, then a midshot of two characters. Parker does him a favor by never asking him to repeat the same panel, but even when he does, he’ll change the zoom to keep it interesting. Perhaps this is more common than I think, but it caught my attention.

Wow. As I write this, I realize I like this issue even more than I thought. Awesome.

X-Factor #209X-Factor #209 by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino****

I was going to start this review by saying that no other X-book, or really any hero book, would ever take a trip to Vegas for gambling, pirate fisticuffs, and stripclubs. Then I remembered why X-Factor is so good: it’s not a hero book. The best storylines haven’t revolved around some megalomaniac trying to take over the world, but people with extraordinary abilities helping people in extraordinary situations. This story is no different. Summarized as much as possible, X-Factor is trying to rescue someone who was kidnapped. But in Peter David’s hands, that simple plot is made so much more interesting.

Emanuela Lupacchino returns on art. She’s a real find. Her linework is filled with details in the Vegas hotels and casinos. And her characters are the distillation of themselves. A trip to the craps table puts Longshot the showoff and Layla the excitable kid on display. And I hate sounding like such a dude, but her Banshee (Siryn) is super hot. And on page 8, Rahne has the best butt I’ve ever seen in a comic. Must be those cheeky underwear.

I’m running out of ways to compliment this book. Read it for yourself.

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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 9-1-10

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

Issue one was tasked with a lot of exposition, but here, the story just moves, and not just from Manhattan to Wundagore Mountain. New players are introduced, conflicts are developed, and it’s all wrapped up with a cliffhanger of Doom. Good times. Heinberg created the Young Avengers, so his voices for them are still the ones dominant in most people’s minds. They don’t quite have the idiosyncratic personalities of Vaughan’s Runaways, but each has their own believable stake in the proceedings. He also does well in making sure the book lives up its title. This not simply a Young Avengers story: needless to say, Scarlet Witch is a key part, but Quicksilver and the old New Avengers also show up.

I don’t like the bimonthly schedule. Two months is too long a time to remember any plot intricacies. It’s not that bad this early, but nine issues is a lot for anyone to remember, nevermind those nine issues coming out over a year and a half. However, the slower distribution allows Jim Cheung to perfect every panel. Scenes regularly involve 5+ characters, but they don’t seem rushed. Cheung doesn’t even skip backgrounds all that often.

I don’t have the memory for bimonthly publication, but with a book this good, having to reread every eight weeks is not a problem.

Scarlet #2Scarlet #2 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev ***

I don’t dislike this book, but I do have some problems with it.

Bendis is trying the whole address-the-audience thing. It works, but other than addressing it “you,” it’s not all that different from the first person narration of Ultimate Spider-Man or Daredevil. Scarlet tells us she needs our help, but unless this book goes interactive all of a sudden, there’s nothing we can actually do to help her. Reading comics is a passive thing. We’re not involved in the events. Bendis certainly would be among the first to try something new like that, but until it happens, Scarlet’s request feels empty.

Then there’s the art. Maleev makes choices that confuse me. When I first read Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum, I didn’t understand it. I could follow the plot, sure, but panels would go by and I didn’t understand their relevance. Luckily I had the 15th anniversary trade, which includes the full script. I read that and then everything clicked. I then understood Morrison’s allusions to Anubis or who certain characters were, regardless that the book hadn’t explained them. Maybe seeing the script would also make the difference here. Each issue has featured panels of solid color for reasons I can’t comprehend. Also, Maleev’s coloring is distracting; it bathes everything in an eerie glow. With Spider-Woman’s alien-centric story and Madripoor setting, this same technique made sense. Here, it doesn’t help tell the story, it’s bothersome.

The spread covering pages 2-3 shows Scarlet 12 times. Each panel shows the same facial expression and background, with her clothes, hairstyle and the panel’s coloring changing each time. Why? If it’s to break up the monotony of a floating head monologue, this is not the way to do it.

Scarlet may be one issue away from its real hook, but if not, it needs to do more for my $4.

Secret Six #25Secret Six #25 by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore ****

After two months of standalone issues, Secret Six is back to doing what it does best: showing terrible people doing terrible things. After expressing his displeasure with the Six’s recent activities, Bane has assembled his own team. And next issue the two teams will fight. I can’t wait.

Simone has a great talent for infusing new characters into a story without resorting to a dead-stop to introduce them. I don’t remember reading anything with Dwarfstar or King Stark before, but I feel I already understand their personalities. Much like my introduction to Cheshire in Villains United, she has a way of making me love these people. And that’s in addition to her skill creating new characters like Scandal or the new Ragdoll.

Calafiore’s art is certainly adequate. I don’t mean that as an insult, but there is nothing unique about his art. His name will never scare me away from a book, but it won’t convince me to try something either.

Please buy this book. I don’t want it to ever go away.

Shadowland #3Shadowland #3 by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan ***

Wow. This book. All action. All the time. Maybe I’m adjusting my expectations, because I didn’t hate it. Once I expected it to be all action, I didn’t mind waiting for the Daredevil tie-ins to give me real emotion. Once I accepted that Daredevil was possessed or whatever, I wasn’t bothered by his being out of character. Let’s be honest, if a correctly thinking Matt Murdock killed Bullseye, he would never EVER resurrect him. He would just cry about it for a while and say his prayers.  Shadowland is not good on it’s own, but it’ll do.

I’m not going to give Billy Tan any shit this month. This is the best his art has looked in the series. I like his rendition of the Punisher and his female characters, especially Lady Bullseye. I also want to give special recognition to colorist Christina Strain this month. Between all the shadows, Ghost Rider’s flames and the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, playing with light in this book must be a bear, but she does a great job. I’ve met her at cons and she’s always very sweet and does great sketches.

Stumptown #4Stumptown #4 by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth ****

Rucka and Southworth have a gem on their hands. With this 32-page closer to “The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo but Left Her Mini,” the pair has left me waiting for more. To solve the case (and not die) Dex has to use her PI skills, but also know how to read a situation and play the other parties against each other. Real crafty, this one.

Southworth’s art is perfectly unfinished. Darker books always run the risk of their art coming off too exaggerated and not fitting the mood. Looking at another Rucka series, Queen & Country, the art oscillates between cartoon and grit, much to the chagrin of some of its readers. Southworth is the regular artist on this title, so we don’t have to worry about that. What we do have to worry about is the schedule. Issue one came out on November 2009. That’s an almost three month average time between issues. The creators have assured us such delays will no longer happen, but that means a longer time between each arc.

The coloring in the book’s climax is a great experiment. The nighttime beach setting is washed in dark blue, with only a flashlight’s yellow glow to illuminate the characters. Not only does this preserve the beach’s shadows, but the contrasting colors make the players pop.

Young Allies #4Young Allies #4 by Sean McKeever and David Baldeon *****

This is my new favorite book. I wish I read these characters before. I know Gravity had his own series, but I never tracked it down. Same with Araña or whatever she’s called now. These are great characters finally finding a place in my spotlight.

McKeever spends this issue throwing the Bastards’ identities into question, leading to inner-group tension as well as hinting at a larger conspiracy. I was wondering who the Allies would have as antagonists after this initial arc. That conspiracy is just what I was looking for, a hook to keep the book going.

Compared to Stumptown, this is the kind of book that can use non-realistic art. Baldeon, Bowling and Sotomayor take advantage and have given us some exciting, fun pages.

I’m running out of ways to praise this book. Just read it.

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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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The Shopping List 8-4-10

The Shopping List is exactly what it sounds like: a list of books I bought that week. I’ll post thoughts and give a score. Like many reviewers I read, I’ll probably be more story-focused. I was always good in English, not art. I prefer reviews that actually talk about the book, so spoilers will abound.

I rank books the way Netflix ranks movies. I usually find it too positive-heavy, but if a book is that bad, I shouldn’t be buying it anyway.
***** = Loved It
**** = Really Liked It
*** = Liked It
** = Didn’t Like It
* = Hated It

Shadowland #2Shadowland #2 by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan **

Problems. Not just for Daredevil, but for us too. I almost wrote that Matt Murdock had problems, but that’s just it. This story is too much about Daredevil and not enough about Matt Murdock.

Miller’s DD run was great because it was about Matt Murdock. It was about his girlfriend Elektra. It was about his life being destroyed by the Kingpin. Bendis’s run was great because it was about Matt Murdock. It was about his girlfriend and later wife, Milla. It was about his life being destroyed when his identity was outed. Diggle’s run has been too about the superhero and not enough about the man. Some people may welcome this after Brubaker’s very Matt-centric run, but without a private life, the book never gets grounded in a problem readers can relate to.

I understand and appreciate Marvel’s desire to bring their street-level heroes together, but Kingpin summoning Ghost Rider seemed a little out there for me; “honest businessman” my ass.

Billy Tan fares better this issue, but maybe only because his terrible rendition of Iron Man didn’t show up.

Young Allies 3Young Allies #3 by Sean McKeever and David Baldeón ****

Tom Brevoort described this book as “what you wanted Sean’s Teen Titans run to be“. And it is. Young heroes, going though their teen drama and trying to stop some bad guys. Operative word “trying.” They’re still fresh. They make mistakes. They trust too easily. Therein lies the fun. No need for retreads of three-year-old storylines or dogs mauling their owners.

Too many writers rely on fights for conflict. McKeever, as he did in The Waiting Place, let’s his characters be themselves and the conflict comes naturally: disagreements over how to deal with a threat, the sadness of having a deadbeat dad. One page of fighting, 22 pages of drama. Well done Mr. McKeever.

Captain America 608Captain America #608 by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice ***

Nevermind Hawkeye and Mockingbird, the superspy couple I want to read about is Cap and Black Widow. (Nice idea for when Widow’s solo book gets canceled. [I like that book a lot, but don’t hold out much hope.]) A superhero being outed is interesting. I just hope Bru can do something different than Bendis did on Daredevil. The next arc is called “The Trial of Captain America.” I remember DD being arrested, but I don’t remember a trial. *Fingers crossed.*

Since issue #1, Captain America’s art, whether by Epting, Perkins, Luke Ross or Butch Guice has been the pinnacle of consistency. But this issue, with two inkers and three colorists, breaks the tradition. Line thickness is too irregular, colors are too bright. It just doesn’t fit.

The Nomad backup continues telling good, if short, stories. The cliffhanger of Steve telling Rikki she can drop the mantle feels like false stakes. She’s got an ongoing series, plus an appearance on a new team. It’s not going to happen.

Felipe Andrade’s art is a downgrade from David Baldeon, but I think most artists would be. He has a style that I don’t hate, but his storytelling isn’t great. The man with a gun to Rikki’s head doesn’t get hit by a fist; he gets hit by … nothing. And she would never exit the booth in the direction she does if she wanted to hug Steve. A different angle could have solved that problem. Am I being picky? Sure, but if someone’s making their debut to most people, (his only other ComicBookDB listing is for the recent X-23 one-shot), there is no reason to have such easily solved problems.

Secret Six #24Secret Six #24 by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore ****

This was unexpected. I’m sure I read the solicit three months ago, but I was surprised by this wild west Elseworlds story. Simone takes some of the current Six, some old favorites and tells a fun, exciting story. It’s nice to see characters repurposed and even nicer when their new roles make sense, like Scandal as Sheriff (Leader) and Bane as Native American muscle (Brazilian muscle). My favorite part has to be the ending. Elseworlds, What If?s, etc. can have finales that would never happen in their regular universes and Simone takes advantage. Highly recommended.

Come back next week, ya hear?

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