Monday, May 29, 2006

Four Color Commentary - Books Shipped 5-24-06

Checkmate #2
Greg Rucka, Writer
Jesus Saiz, Artist

Greg Rucka writes some tasty spy action. I am a huge fan of Queen & Country (both the comics and the novels) and while I found his OMAC miniseries disappointing, I suspect this really had more to do with editorial mandate rather than his writing ability. So far this series has started out with a bang. In the first issue alone we got to see the Checkmate team lay the smack down on some evil minions and then get shut down by the UN. Now Checkmate has five days to figure out how to convince the Chinese to not veto them into non-existence for the second time. By convince I mean blackmail, and that means more juicy super-powered spy action in the next issue. Despite some similarities between this and Queen & Country, this series has definitely made the pull list for the foreseeable future.

Daredevil #85
Ed Brubaker, Writer
Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano, Artists

It should be clear by now that I think Brubaker is one of the best writers working in comics today. He is consistently turning in interesting stories which celebrate the character’s history without being so mired in continuity as to be inaccessible. This issue continues his chronicling of Matt Murdock’s tenure in the big house. There were several things I really liked about this issue. The first is how Brubaker writes Frank Castle. Based on the few pages I have seen from Brubaker featuring Frank coupled with Brubaker’s two Sleeper series, I would LOVE to see a Punisher series penned by Brubaker. The second is I like how Brubaker has Urich talk back to Jameson. “Well, that mustache isn’t doing you any favors.” Brilliant! Finally I like how Brubaker is only letting us peel back the layers at the same pace as Murdock, but then he adds a little teaser at the end of each issue. So many writers end up hinting at the pay-off to their arc early on in the story. They kind of want the reader to understand in the first issue that Big Things are happening. When authors do this it bugs me since we end up waiting for the characters to catch up with what we know. It really sucks a lot of fun out of the story. Brubaker manages to avoid falling into this trap, even when he is telling a story with multiple view points.

Hawkgirl #52
Walter Simonson, Writer
Howard Chaykin, Artist

The more I read of this Simonson/Chaykin run, the more I think they may have allowed themselves to get too distracted by the set-up for their story. It is clear they have spent the last three issues building towards something, and while that something is not entirely clear, I suspect the first pay-off will be a resolution of the financial issues currently embroiling the Stonechat Museum. However it became clear in this issue that the financial pressure being brought to bear is merely an attempt to get some items from the museum’s collection. Once these items have been acquired, the real fun will begin. While I am enjoying the psychological games Simonson is playing with Kendra, I am ready to get to the meat of this story. I really am beginning to wonder how many more issues we are going to have to go through before they get there. Oh yeah, one last thing. If financial problems are going to be a driving point in the story, don’t have Bruce Wayne put in an appearance at the museum’s fundraiser.

Shadowpact #1
Bill Willingham, Writer & Artist
So far I have enjoyed everything I have read from Willingham. Fables is my favorite Vertigo series and while there were issues with the Day of Vengeance miniseries, much of that originated with editorial mandate rather than the actual writing. It was a safe bet that I would enjoy this series. If the first issue is any indication, this series is going to have all the fun of the good arcs in Fables with bonus drinkin’ monkey action. Actually that last part isn’t true, for some reason Detective Chimp has decided to get off the juice. (I find a certain amount of crunchy goodness in this in light of this article.) I have read a couple of reviews around the web that took Willingham to task for lazy artwork in the scenes where members of Shadowpact do not put in appearances. I don’t really see a difference between the art work, however I admit that artwork is one of the last things I notice about a comic unless it is atrociously bad. Regardless of the supposed issues with the art, I really enjoyed this issue and the series has been added to the pull list.

Squadron Supreme #3
J. Michael Straczynski, Writer
Gary Frank, Penciller
Jonathan Sibal, Inker

Since I have yet to track down the original series in trade, I am still able to enjoy this series on its own merits. Well, relatively own merits. I feel it suffers a bit in comparison to Straczynski’s original super-beings in the real world series Rising Stars. I think my biggest complaint about this series is how some of the team members are, quite frankly, dicks. For those of us familiar with the short-lived Crusade television series and Batman, Emil’s character and behavior seems a bit familiar. Beyond this rather minor point this series continues to be enjoyable and Gray Frank is bustin’ out some pretty pictures for us to look at. I did stumble across something that will get Ragnell spun up (and rightfully so) should she ever find it. Recently she discussed the use of rape in female character’s origin stories and expressing her views on what has become a typical ploy in comic stories. Then Straczynski gives us this sequence (click to enlarge):

I am not as sensitive to the sexual politics in comics as Ragnell, however I think her point bears repeating. Lets all agree to stop using rape as a crutch when creating female characters. It is, if nothing else, an easy out for the creator, and it arguably has the effect of cheapening the act itself.

Wolverine #42
Marc Guggenheim, Writer
Humberto Ramos, Penciller
Carlos Cuevas, Inker

I had two thoughts the first time I saw the cover for this issue. The first one was, “Oh crap, a Civil War tie-in.” I think the trade dress for the Civil War books is really irritating, of course I am sure some of this is an off-shoot of my general bad attitude about Civil War after last year’s House of Suck mega-super-cross-over. The second was, “Oh crap, it’s art from that dude that did Crimson.” I never got on the Crimson band-wagon because there is something about Ramos’ art that bugs me. I can’t put my finger on it, but there it is. I was not particularly looking forward to reading this issue. I was very pleasantly surprised. While I was expecting the involvement of the Civil War storyline to be an interruption, Guggenheim actually uses the event as a launching pad for a classic Wolverine story. I am looking forward to the next issue or so where Wolverine gets the opportunity to avenge something.

The rest:
  • 52 Week 3
    • Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid, Writers
    • Keith Giffen, Art Breakdowns
    • Joe Bennett, Penciller
    • Ruy Jose, Inker
  • Annihilation: Ronan #2 (of 4)
    • Simon Furman, Writer
    • Jorge Lucas, Artist
  • Batman #653
    • James Robinson, Writer
    • Don Kramer, Penciller
    • Wayne Faucher, Inker
  • Birds of Prey #94
    • Gail Simone, Writer
    • Paulo Siqueria, Penciller
    • Robin Riggs, Inker
  • Blue Beetle #3
    • Keith Giffen & John Rogers, Writers
    • Cynthia Martin, Penciller
    • Phil Moy, Inker
  • The Black Coat: A Call to Arms #2 (of 4)
    • Adam Cogan, Writer
    • Francesco Francavilla, Artist
  • Catwoman #55
    • Will Pfeifer, Writer
    • David Lopez, Penciller
    • Alvaro Lopez, Inker
  • Conan: Book of Thoth #3
    • Kurt Busiek & Len Wein, Writers
    • Kelley Jones, Artist
  • Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven #4 (of 6)
    • Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers
    • Dan Jurgens & Jimmy Palmiotti, Artists
  • Exiles #81
    • Tony Bedard, Writer
    • J. Calafiore, Penciller
    • Mark McKenna, Inker
  • Green Lantern #11
    • Geoff Johns, Writer
    • Ivan Reis, Penciller
    • Oclair Albert, Inker
  • JSA Classified #12
    • Stuart Moore, Writer
    • Paul Gulacy, Penciller
    • Jimmy Palmiotti, Inker
  • Loveless #7
    • Brian Azzarello, Writer
    • Danijel Zezejl, Artist
  • Nextwave #5
    • Warren Ellis, Writer
    • Stuart Immonen, Penciller
    • Wade von Grawbadger, Inker
  • Powers #18
    • Brian Michael Bendis, Writer
    • Mike Avon Oeming, Artist
  • Teen Titans #36
    • Geoff Johns, Writer
    • Tony S. Daniel, Penciller
    • Kevin Conrad, Andy Lanning & Norm Rapmund, Inkers

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