Monday, February 27, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 2-22-06

Astonishing X-Men #13
Joss Whedon, Writer
John Cassaday, Artist

Like many things in geek culture I missed the boat on Joss Whedon the first time around. I never got into Buffy or Angel and I only picked up Firefly after it had already been released on DVD, however this series cemented Joss as one of the icons of geekery for me and therefore when I found out he was going to be writing the Astonishing X-Men I couldn’t wait to begin reading the series. Now after a several month hiatus Whedon and Cassaday and the Astonishing X-Men return for another twelve rounds of crunchy geek goodness. Picking up the story post-House of M this issue re-introduces us to the dynamics of the Astonishing team and the elements which will be important for the upcoming story arc. Fortunately Whedon’s dialogue is a joy to read in much the same way that Kevin Smith’s dialogue is a joy to read. That is to say that Whedon writes natural sounding dialogue that is far wittier than real dialogue. When you couple this with Cassaday’s superior art, this book was an all around joy to read and I look forward to the next issue.

(Bonus! See Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis go head to head on where Joss reveals Warren’s secret origin.)

Black Widow 2 #6 (of 6)
Richard K. Morgan, Script
Sean Phillips, Layouts
Bill Sienkiewicz, Finishes

Mmmm. I likes me some Black Widow. What’s not to like here? Spy? Check. Red head? Check. Tight leather? Check. Hot accent? Check. She could kill me with her pinky? Check. She’s almost the perfect woman, too bad she’s not real. (I can’t believe I actually typed last sentence. I need help.) Honestly, despite her off and on again romance with the Avengers and her semi-monthly guest star spots in Daredevil I feel she is one of the best Marvel characters who is WAY under utilized. Sadly this final issue of this limited series seemed a little formulaic and was not a very satisfying ending to the story, however the art from Sean Phillips and Bill Sienkiewicz made the book worth the $2.99 cover price. I have to admit that it was nice to see Natasha really cut loose and get her hands dirty by killing a couple of people, while quoting Shakespeare no less. I hope to see more from everyone involved in this series in the near future despite my concerns about this final issue.

Exiles #77
Tony Bedard, Writer
J. Calafiore, Penciller
Mark McKenna, Inker

Back when this book came out it was one of my favorite Marvel books, however it has slowly slipped down my list of have to reads until it is one of those books I am still picking up out of some sad, dork momentum. Over the past several issues Tony Bedard et al have been taking us on a tour of the various cobwebby corners of the Marvel U which are barely seen anymore. They include the lamentable 2099 Earth and New Universe Earth and now the Squadron Supreme Earth (classic flavor, not JMS’ relaunch.) To be honest this whole series of “World Tour” has the stink of an editorial mandate. I suspect they are throwing different worlds at the wall and seeing which ones stick, however this may be me projecting my pessimism about Marvel’s recent major events (I HATED the House of M) onto an otherwise innocent series. In this issue the Exiles continue their pursuit of Proteus across the multiverse to the Earth inhabited by the classic Squadron Supreme. In typical comie fashion both groups of heroes feel the need to fight first and ask questions later. To be fair to Bedard he does a good job of setting up the conflict, however I have to ask how long superheroes are going to continue behaving in this manner. Oh well, I will probably continue to pick up this book in the hope that it improves and because despite the aura of suck emanating from the title, I have to get my monthly fix of Morph.

Rising Stars: Untouchable #1
Fiona Avery, Writer
Brent Anderson, Artist

During its run Rising Stars was one of my favorite comics and I am a bit pissed at both JMS (a little) and Top Cow (a lot) for mucking about and letting their legal back and forth get in the way of me enjoying the end of the story. Continuing the tradition of Rising Stars: Bright and Rising Stars: Voices of the Dead, Rising Stars: Untouchable takes a deeper look at one of the specials. In this case it is Laurel Darkhaven, who, if I am remembering correctly, meets her end in the original series when she expends her power to lift arable soil from the depths of the deserts in the Middle East, rendering the entire region arable and ready for farming. Before she joined the other Specials in saving the world from itself she served the government as an assassin. Her special ability was telekinesis, however she could only control very small things; a computer chip in a car or a blood vessel in your brain, to quote a few examples. The concept of her as the perfect assassin was mind-blowingly cool when it cropped up in the original series and served as the basis for more than one Godlike character. This first issue does an adequate job of setting up her motivation for joining the government, she is running away from home after a fashion, as well as showing her discovery of how useful her special ability may turn out to be. I am glad that Fiona Avery is writing this series as she is, or was, JMS’ acolyte and certainly seems most qualified to continue to play in his world.

Solo #9
Scott Hampton, Writer & Artist

I know I seem to say this a lot, however Solo is one of the best books out there on the market. The concept alone is brilliant. Allowing some of the best and brightest in comic art to have an issue where they get to do whatever they damn well please. Brilliant. The stories range from stories dealing with DCs canonical characters to random bits of sequential art. All of the issues have served to make me more aware of art as it exists in the comic world and some of them have introduced me to artists I otherwise would not have necessarily been aware of. This is not to say that I have not seen and enjoyed work by the artists, however this book forces me to be more aware of them. One thing I think would be nice for DC to do with this series is to commission a series of short stories from some of the up and coming writing talents in the industry (or even have an open call for them) and require the artists to use a script from this pool for one of the stories in the book.

Warlord #1
Bruce Jones, Writer
Bart Sears, Artist

Yay! The cover tells me everything I need to know. “Beginnnig a bold new era of sword-and-sorcery EXCITEMENT!” A man clad in some sort of messed-up gladiatorial armor with a barely-dressed and raven-tressed hottie wrapped around one leg with a cloak-wrapped princess just behind him. Clearly we are in for more of the slightly misogynistic sword-and-sorcery action cut from the same vein as Conan or the Gor novels. There is certainly a place for this sort of story, heavy on the action and light on the character development, and I am not too embarrassed to admit I like Conan and other adventures of this ilk. Having said that, this first issue was a bit of a disappointment. I do not have a background with the previous series (published by DC from 1976 to 1989) so I cannot tell you how well this series jives with the original, however I can tell you that this series feels VERY derivative, particularly from the Gor novels, which were a boobular tubular joy (very few of you will get that.) The fact that Bart Sears is the artist on this series does not help matters. I do not like how he draws faces and while I can not remembed who leveled the charge, he is one of the artists responsible for adding about 200 muscles to the human anatomy back in the ‘90s. While this seems like a perfect match for this sort of book, and he has reined in the impulse a bit, it still bugs me. I am going to pick up a couple more issues of this series to see if it improves, however I do not have much hope.

The rest:
  • Batman #650
    • Judd Winick, Writer
    • Eric Battle, Penciller
    • Rodney Ramos, Inker
  • Batman: Journey into Knight #7 (of 12)
    • Andrew Helfer, Writer
    • Tan Eng Huat, Artist
  • Captain America #15
    • Ed Brubaker, Writer
    • Mike Perkins, Artist
  • Catwoman #52
    • Will Pfeifer, Writer
    • Pete Woods, Artist
  • Green Lantern #9
    • Geoff Johns, Writer
    • Ethan van Sciver, Penciller
    • Ethan van Sciver & Prentis Rollins, Inkers
  • JLA Classified #17
    • Gail Simone, Writer
    • Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Penciller
    • Klaus Janson, Inker
  • Supergirl #5
    • Jeph Loeb, Writer
    • Ian Churchill, Penciller
    • Norm Rapmund, Inker
  • Supreme Power: Hyperion #4 (of 5)
    • J. Michael Straczynski, Writer
    • Dan Jurgens and Klaus Janson, Artists
  • Usagi Yojimbo #91
    • Stan Sakai, Writer & Artist
  • Wolverine #39
    • Daniel Way, Writer
    • Javier Saltares, Breakdowns
    • Mark Texeira, Finishes
  • X-Men #183
    • Peter Milligan, Writer
    • Salvador Larroca, Artist
  • The Legion #s 20 & 23
    • (Only five more issues to go before I have the whole run.)
  • Liberty Meadows Book 4: Cold, Cold Heart
    • Frank Cho, Writer & Artist

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