Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 3-29-06

All-Star Superman #3
Grant Morrison, Writer
Frank Quitely, Penciller
Jamie Grant, Digital Inks & Colors

When this series first started I have to admit that I did not engage in the orgy of All-Star Superman love the rest of the comics blogosphere got caught up in. It is not that I was taking a wait and see attitude like I usually do with new series. I thought the first issue sucked and I was wondering what Morrison was doing. The next two issues have been a complete turn around for me. I loved reading this comic. Above and beyond the things Morrison is bringing to the story (The Dino-Czar? Subterranosauri?) I am really enjoying how Superman’s world already exists and we are just picking things up in media res. Morrison is operating under the assumption that any potential readers have enough knowledge of the Superman mythos to be familiar with the major players in the stories and thus we have not had to go through the tedium of being reintroduced to characters and relationships that are already old hat. I believe Morrison is doing an excellent job of reimagining Superman by stripping the stories back down to their core. Back when the All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder were announced I was one of the multitudes who decryed it as a Ultimate DC, and I still believe that. However in the case of All-Star Superman the creative team has taken a long, hard look at the mistakes made in the Ultimate line at Marvel and applied those lessons to this book. If you’re not reading this book then you are missing out on some of the best superheroic/sci fi action out there today.

Blue Beetle #1
Keith Giffen & John Rogers, Writers
Cully Hamner, Artist

I enjoyed this comic at first blush. The requisite world building is handled well and there are a couple of lines I really like. My favorite of these being his father’s line, “Nothing wrong with being just a kid for just a little longer…” Amen to that. Beyond that though there were a couple of problems with this book. The first is that we already saw Jaime become the Blue Beetle once, so showing us this again, and telling it differently, seems a bit stupid. The other problem I have, and I have discussed this in other FCC entries, is the fact that once again we are launched into a story where one hero fights the other hero in order to provide an action sequence. For once I will give the author the benefit of the doubt on this one since the other hero in question is Guy Gardner and the fact that this is happening in the midst of the Infinite Crisis and so the heroes are a bit more on edge. Or maybe Superboy punched something. Who knows.

Captain America 65th Anniversary Special
Ed Brubaker, Writer
Javier Pulido, Marcos Martin, Mike Perkins & Frank d’Armata, Artists

For a 65th Anniversary Special this was particularly devoid of retrospectives or the smattering of stories from Cap’s long history that one might expect. I am still not certain if this is a good thing or a bad thing as sometimes the old stories you would expect to see in an anniversary special are neat, but sometimes they are a stinky, stinky poo. In this case I got something I was not expecting and I was pleasantly surprised with what Ed Brubaker offered up. Although I keep pointing out missteps (here and here) I am a really big fan of Brubaker’s current run on the title so a (not so) little story set in WWII guest-starring Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos penned by Brubaker is almost an early birthday gift for me (October 4th, for the curious, start shopping now.) Then to use the story as a tie-in to the previous arc AND a set up for a future arc was just the icing on the cake. While my inner Cap fanboy was thrilled with this, it also left a bad taste in my mouth as this is the exact sort of action that I have been bellyaching about Dynamite and DC doing. What Marvel has done here is double the number of CA books I have to buy to keep up with what is going on. Admittedly this is just for one month, but the principle is the same.

Green Lantern
Geoff Johns, Writer
Ivan Reis, Penciller
Marc Campos, Inker

Somebody (over at Savage Critics I think) suggested that Johns had been marking time on this series until he could do a real story line with the OYL event and I couldn’t agree more. This book has been lurking on the edges of being dropped from my pull list since about issue 4, however since I am a big fan of Johns’ writing (for the most part) I kept clinging to it as I thought it had to get better. I was right. As much as I am enjoying the OYL Batman (does anyone else think about the Scatman John song when they say Batman or is it just me?) this is the first OYL book that has made me REALLY curious about what is going to happen in 52. Some of the tidbits Johns offers up as appetizers are exactly what I needed to get pumped about 52. Hal was a POW? There was a war? The Freedom of Power Treaty? I want to know what happened and I want to know NOW. Besides that the comic was better than the average relaunch issue, which the OYL books are meant to be. Several of the non-IC related elements in this book popped for me, including the formation of the Sinestro Corps complete with yellow power rings (how is that going to work since we learned that the Green Lantern rings are not really susceptible to yellow in the Green Lantern Corps Recharge! Series.) The thing that really stuck with me through this issue is why DC could not have waited to relaunch the whole Green Lantern series until this issue rather than serving up some barely passable material for the previous nine months.

Queen & Country #29
Greg Rucka, Writer
Chris Samnee, Artist

So those of you who have not read “A Gentleman’s Game” are going to be a bit confused by what is going on here, although if you’re a fan of the series and you haven’t read the novel, you probably deserve the discomfort and the spoiler in the comic. That’s right, one of the major “twists” in “A Gentleman’s Game” is revealed by this comic, titled Red Panda: Prologue. I am so happy to be getting the adventures of Tara Chace in funny-book form once again. While I really enjoyed the novels and think they actually may work better from a bang-for-my-buck perspective, there is something about the comics that just feels right. Kind of like being home. This issue is the prologue issue for Operation Red Panda, which will take Tara and Minder 2 to Iraq to assassinate a member of the government who is passing information to the insurgency. I don’t like the fact that some of this mission was discussed in the first chapter of “Private Wars” even though Rucka did not give away too much of the story. I was kind of hoping that the comic series would pick up after the novels. Oh well, regardless of what I was hoping for I have Queen & Country comics to read again, and that makes me a happy monkey.

Star Wars: The Return of Tag & Bink Special Edition #1 (of 2)
Kevin Rubio, Writer
Lucas Marangon, Artist

So the joke is that every time there are two characters in the Star Wars movies where you do not see their faces it is actually the Rebel Alliance operatives Tag and Bink. For what, quite frankly, seems to be a setup that would be funny once and then quickly move into the realm of really, really lame, this joke works, or rather serves as a good vehicle for Kevin Rubio (of Troops fame for the uninitiated) to take pot-shots at the rest of the Star Wars universe. A couple of my favorites being:

(Anonymity, the secret power of all mid-level bureaucrats.)


(This makes me think of the Wierd Al send up of "I Think We're Alone Now" titled "I Think I'm A Clone Now.")

Another one of the things I really liked about this comic was the cameos.. I am sure some of this comes from having spent way too much time as a young anime fan watching episodes of the Dirty Pair, which was lousy with cameos, and trying to spot all of them. Here are the ones I saw in this issue:
  • Astro Boy/Kips Big Boy on page two.
  • Arthur Dent on page nine
  • Cylons on page eighteen
  • Yogi and Boo-Boo on page twenty-two
I am looking forward to the next issue, Star Wars: Tag & Bink Episode I: Revenge of the Clone Menace, however I am glad this is a two issue affair.

Jeph Loeb, Writer
Ed McGuinness, Penciller
Dexter Vines, Inker

Are you kidding me? This issue is something on the order of six months late and this is what they serve up? Please. Now, before I come off sounding insensitive, I totally understand Jeph Loeb’s situation, or at least as much as someone who has never lost a son can, and my complaint is not with Jeph. Rather my complaint is with DC. I seem to remember a day where delays in writing/art were met with the fill-in issue. I realize this breaks up things and causes some problems when you want to publish the trade in story-arc form, however since we know you are not going to kill Superman or Batman in this book and, quite frankly, are probably not going to be doing much in the way of enhancing either mythology, a couple of done-in-ones or a fill-in story arc would have been nice. Hell, you don’t even have to use Superman and Batman, you could do it with Superboy and Robin (take your pick on which Boy Wonder you want to use.) As for this arc, I totally don’t get it. The Maximums really feel like a CRAPPY knock off of the Avengers (and Loeb’s handling of them makes me worry about his upcoming run on the Ultimates) and using the Joker is all powerful reasoning for this is a bit beyond the pale for me on this one. I am going to stick with this book, but at this point it is only to finish this incomprehensible arc and then get to the Sam Loeb tribute issue (which I think is a really classy move on the part of DC and all the creators involved.)

X-Men: Deadly Genesis #5 (of 6)
Ed Brubaker, Writer
Trevor Hairsine, Layouts
Scott Hanna, Finishes

You know, as much I as have enjoyed almost everything Ed Brubaker has offered up, this series is only eliciting a resounding yawn from me and I have enjoyed the backup stories more than the main plot. That does not hold true for this issue where we learn Emma Frost’s secret origin as a stripper (surprise, surprise). Beyond that the most notable things to come out of this issue were the fact that Kid Vulcan (soon to be of the Young Avengers) is the most powerful Summers brother (have you seen Cyclops or Havoc bring down a Sentinel single-handedly?) and Professor X no longer has powers but he can walk. Oh yeah, that irritating Squadron Supreme ad popped up in the middle of the story in this issue. Knock it off Marvel! Seriously.

Usagi Yojimbo #92
Stan Sakai, Everything

I love me some UY. If you read this and you like comics at all you need to be buying Usagi Yojimbo. Stan mixes it up a little by throwing this done in one story of a street performer/thief and her sidekick mixing it up with Usagi, Tomoe, and the local underworld after the street performer’s sidekick steals the Lotus Scroll, an artifact housed in the local temple. Usagi immediately suspects the street performer, Kitsune, when he sees she is in town as they have a history together and he knows she is actually a thief. The “mystery” of the stolen scroll is neatly tied up by the end of the book with the scroll being returned to the temple and Kistune opting, at the not too subtle urging of Usagi, to forego any reward for its return. The one thing that bothered me about this issue is that in the beginning of the issue Usagi immediately suspects Kitsune of stealing the scroll however at the end of the issue when Tomoe’s purse suddenly comes up missing he does not bat an eyelash. Even though Tomoe posits that she must have left it at the inn where she and Usagi had dinner, I think Usagi would have been astute enough to suspect Kitsune. This is the sort of misstep that Stan rarely makes and it did not detract from my enjoyment of the issue, just left me a little baffled. Like I said, if you like comics at all and are not reading this book then you need to have your head examined.

The rest:
  • Batman: Journey into Knight #8
    • Andrew Helfer, Writer
    • Tan Eng Huat, Artist
  • JLA Classified #19
    • Gail Simone, Writer
    • Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Penciller
    • Sean Phillips, Inker
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #202
    • Christos N. Gage, Writer
    • Ron Wagner, Penciller
    • Bill Reinholsd, Inker
  • Rising Stars: Untouchable #2
    • Fiona Avery, Writer
    • Brent Anderson, Artist
  • Uncanny X-Men #471
    • Chris Claremont, Writer
    • Billy Tan, Penciller
    • Sibal & Tan, Inkers

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