Saturday, April 19, 2014

Batman #30

   I've been struggling a bit with the "Zero Year" story because it features a Batman who's just beginning his career, and as such he makes mistakes - and sometimes, actually fails.

   As this issue begins, we find a hero who barely managed to survive his last defeat. He awakens to find a Gotham City that has changed completely - it's now under the control of the Riddler (thanks to a number of those video game-esque improbable "Sword of Damocles" devices).

   Those who defy the Riddler tend to have a short life span - so what can a broken Batman do? The answer marks the point where this story really starts to take off.

   As always, Greg Capullo's art is terrific, with bold layouts and some amazing panoramic shots.

    I think my real reluctance with the "Zero Year" story is just that this is well-trod ground, with Frank Miller's "Year One" story being the gold standard.

   This story only suffers by comparison with that classic - on its own merits, "Zero" is quite good.

Grade: A-


Friday, April 18, 2014

Justice League #29

   We must note that the Justice League is the first "New 52" comic to slip on the schedule - while all the other titles that kicked off the DC reboot are at issue #30, JL lags an issue behind.

   Perhaps it's interference from the Forever Evil mini-series, which is also running late.

   For whatever reason, and despite all that, this issue is worth the wait.

   That's because it includes one of my favorite DC teams, the Metal Men. The groups is reimagined and modernized (while largely keeping the original team's personalities).

   Cyborg (the last standing member of the League) comes to them for help as he faces off against Grid, the evil digital force that took over his original mechanized body (don't worry, he has a new one now).

   I like the story by Geoff Johns, which manages a positive, upbeat approach that fits the Metal Men. But I didn't much care for the resolution - the stories up to now have indicated that Relic was searching for something - but that angle never pays off.

   Still, the art by Doug Mahnke is excellent - fresh and dynamic, with some great action sequences.

   The rumblings say that there are some shakeups on the way, leading out of the end of the Forever Evil series. Here's hoping they can get the team back to work - and the comic back on schedule.

Grade: B


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Superior Spider-Man #31

   For 16 months (since January 2013) the Spider-Man comics have not featured the Amazing Spider-Man (which is why I haven't read an issue since the first in this "Superior" series).

   See, I'm a big fan of Peter Parker - the real Spider-Man. As a kid I bought issue #15 (Spidey's first meeting with Kraven the Hunter), and I was immediately hooked.

   Over the (ulp!) more than 50 years since, there have certainly been some ups and downs, with terrific stories balanced by lame stories.

   I stayed through decades of that sort of thing, staying loyal to the character who vowed to make up for his past mistakes by fighting crime and helping those in need.

   I finally started drifting away when Marvel started putting the character through ridiculous stories - such as allowing Mephisto to end the marriage between Peter and May Jane Watson.

   But even more insulting was the idea of having Doctor Octopus take over Peter's brain - co-opting his thoughts and memories along the way, and (apparently) killing off Peter's mind.

   That was actually resolved last issue, for vague reasons mentioned in the recap section on the first page of this issue. It's difficult to care, honestly.

   So this issue is given over to Peter ending the menace of the Goblin Nation (whatever that is), and confronting assorted Green Goblin-related villains (including GG himself), with the help of Spider-Man 2099, who has traveled through time somehow.

   So yeah, it's a mess, loaded with riffs on old stories, a few glimmers of the real Spider-Man, and a story that makes no sense to this reader who just landed at the tail end of this story.

   There's an aftermath that tries to clean up loose ends, covering prior events and doing everything possible to give Peter a clean slate in terms of supporting characters.

   The story is by Dan Slott and Christos Gage, and the art on the first chapter is by Giuseppe Camuncoli and the second chapter is by Will Sliney.  Perhaps the story is affecting my opinion, but I'm not crazy about the art, either. It's loaded with energy, but the layouts are jumbled - the panels don't flow together well, and the character hurl around the page without purpose.

   I'm not sure if I'm back with this series yet (of course, it's about to reboot with a new issue #1). I want to like it, if just for old times' sake, and a relief that the brain swap story is finally over.

   But I have to see more evidence that the real Spider-Man is back. Imposters have been running the show here for far too long.

 Grade: C+



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Comics Day

   Another light week. Here's what I picked up today:
- Batman #30 - More Year Zero action, fighting the Riddler.
- Hulk #1 - Who shot Bruce Banner?
- Justice League #29 - Cyborg and the Metal Men team up!
- Ms. Marvel #3 - Learning about her powers.
- Superior Spider-Man #31 - Finally, the end of the Dr. Octopus nonsense.
- Thor #21 - The end of the Earth.
- Wonder Woman #30 - Amassing an army to fight a god.
- Uncanny X-Men #20 - The X-Men vs. SHIELD!
   And that's it!

The Classics - Justice League of America #1

   I've never owned a copy of the first issue of Justice League of America, but I've read it countless times.

   And here I'm not talking about reprints (though I do have those in my collection) - I'm talking about an actual copy of the issue.

   That's because of a good friend of mine when I was young - who was also named Chuck (the only other Chuck in my school).

   One time when we were at his house I was looking through some of his comics. He didn't have a big collection, but there among the other (unmemorable) comics was this issue - Justice League of America #1!

   I have no idea where he got it, but even in those days (this would have been the late '60s, I'm guessing) we knew that this was a rare gem for anyone's comics collection.

   I tried desperately to talk him into trading or selling it to me, but he wouldn't hear of it, so I had to settle for reading it every chance I got.

   It followed (or set) the pattern for JLA stories, as the League is captured by an alien named Despero (in his first appearance). The character wasn't the Hulk-like powerhouse as he's now depicted. He was a spindly alien who used his mental powers to capture the League - but his powers didn't affect the Flash, so he tricks the speedster into playing a game that he can't win.

   As a result, the members of the team - Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter - are exiled to distant worlds, and must team up to overcome assorted alien menaces and return to deal with Despero.

   Like most of the JLA issues by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky, the story is a bit formulaic - but a heck of a lot of fun.

   By the mid-'60s, the JLA was one of the few DC Comics I was still interested in - I was mostly buying Marvel by that point - and this issue was the holy grail for me.

   But even though I never managed ownership, it was a thrill just to be able to real the actual comic. I wonder if the other Chuck still has that comic?

Grade: A


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #1

   To say that Iron Fist has had an erratic career would be an understatement.

   Created during the Kung Fu / Martial Arts craze of the '70s, he was an attempt to cross that genre with superheroes. Thus we have the costumed young man who can turn his fists into glowing, unbreakable... well, fists.

    The original series was quite good, and featured some top-notch writers and artists, including Roy Thomas, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama and John Byrne.

   The character eventually teamed up for a long run with Luke Cage (Power Man). Some (largely forgettable) mini-series followed, but Ed Brubaker's series titled The Immortal Iron Fist was excellent.

   For the "All New" version, Iron Fist's adventures are written and drawn by Kaare Kyle Andrews, and he's off to a solid start here.

   We get a partial recap of Danny Rand's young life, a look at his (rather grim) existence in the modern world, and an over-the-top action sequence. I don't really care for Danny as a listless, idle hero - but events seem to be moving to correct that.

   I like the art a lot - it's very dark and edgy, with a Jae Lee feel to it. The layouts are fresh and the designs outstanding, and the story flows with lots of energy.

   It's been typical through Iron Fist's past series that his stories start out strong and then eventually fade - but I'm a fan of the character, and hope this series will break the trend. It's off to a promising start!

Grade: A-



Monday, April 14, 2014

All-New Doop #1

   Well, I wanted to like this issue.

   Doop is the odd creature - presumably a mutant - who looks like a cross between a potato and Slimer, doesn't speak English, and is a complete mystery.

    He serves in a mysterious function (tutor? guard dog? janitor?) at the Jean Grey School for Gifted Children (and has appeared most recently in issues of Wolverine and the X-Men), but his motives and methods remain unknown.

   Now he has his own series - All-New Doop, of course, because everything at Marvel these days is "All-New" (just ask the Invaders or the Ghost Rider) - and I'm not quite sure if it's intended to be a comedy or just plain weird.

   The story by Peter Milligan succeeds at the latter, but not the former. It gives us a look at events during the recent "Battle of the Atom" mini-series to see the effect Doop had on the proceedings - and if you didn't read that mini-series, you'll be totally lost here.

   It's very clever and breaks the fourth wall in interesting ways, but ultimately, it never really manages to be much more than some clever vignettes.

   The art by David Lafuente is a lot of fun and loaded with energy and comic potential.

   I admit it, I just don't see how this character can sustain an ongoing series - but I could be wrong. Maybe I'm wrong. Hopefully I'm wrong.

   If you're looking for a comic that's daring and different, here you go.

Grade: B-


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Superman Wonder Woman #7

   While I'm willing to believe that Superman can survive an atomic blast, I'm not so sure I'm willing to accept Wonder Woman is quite that tough.

   But obviously I'm wrong, as this issue is mostly consumed with both heroes recovering from last issue's fiery conclusion, which (apparently) ended the threat posed by General Zod (who managed to escape the Phantom Zone in an earlier issue).

   There are some nice calm moments for the super-couple, which will come in handy given the nature of the menace revealed in the closing pages of this issue.

   The Superman Wonder Woman title continues to be one of the better of the more recent vintage "New 52" series - which surprises me, because I still don't "believe" them as a couple.

   But writer Charles Soule is mixing exciting stories, genuine menaces and the mythologies of both characters in clever and satisfying ways.

   The art is quite good and meshes well, which is a bit of a surprise since it's credited to three different pencilers - Paulo Siqueira, Eddy Barrows and Barry Kitson - and is inked by two others - Eber Ferreira and Kitson.

   This issue is a prelude to an upcoming crossover event that will cross over into four different issues:. I'm generally opposed to the idea of being strong-armed into buying issues of a series I don't follow, so I'll be missing most of those. Let me know how it comes out.

Grade: B+