Friday, October 30, 2009

Pull List Reviews - October 29, 2009

Superman: Secret Origin #2
I enjoyed the first issue of this mini-series and this one really amps things up as we get to see young Superman's first encounter with the Legion. The artwork of Gary Frank is beautiful to behold. I especially love his facial expressions. There's one scene where Luthor turns his nose up at a young Clark that is pure genius! And Geoff John's writing... I've said it before and I'll say it again. This guy could write the entire DC Universe and I'd be a happy camper. Brilliant book all the way 'round this issue. Plus the Legion gives a few future hints at things that are currently going on in the DCU (and possibly a few that have yet to occur).
Score: 5 out of 5

Superman #693
I've really been into these World Without/Against Superman storylines. I like Mon-El, Nightwing and Flamebird. This is a good thing considering the last "without Superman" story I read was when we had the stand-in Supes after Big Blue's death at the hands of Doomsday. (Ick!) This issue, we discover what's happened to Mon-El at the hands of General Lane. The storyline's called 7734, which is the name of Lane's secret project, but type it into your calculator and flip it upside down... get it? Lane tries to brainwash Mon-El into his army only to discover that Mon-El is a tougher nut to crack than he expected. At the end of the issue, it seems as if Mon-El is ready to take the mantle of the big red S in earnest. I'm really enjoying Dick's taking of the cowl over in the Bat-books and, after this issue, I can really see Mon-El as a perfect stand-in for Superman. Maybe this new generation that DC seems to be trying to bring about will work after all.
Score: 4.5 out of 5

Green Lantern #47
Blackest Night really picks up steam with this issue. My only complaint in the past with this series is that it started getting repetitive with every issue being just a big battle only to end with another new Black Lantern rising on the final cliff-hanger page. This one has a cliff-hanger but it's a great one. In a few cool plot twists, we discover that there's at least one Lantern Corps that the Black Lanterns can't kill by ripping out their hearts. Meanwhile, Hal Jordan and Sinestro continue their strained partnership in a battle against the resurrected Abin and Arin Sur. The way this battle ends just cements Sinestro as my favorite DC villain. And then we get that cliff-hanger! Why can't Agent Orange get a break?
Score: 5 out of 5

Detective Comics #858
I'll be the first to tell you that I wasn't a huge fan of the first Batwoman story arc. The artwork from J.H. Williams III is some of the best in the DCU right now but I just wasn't interested in all the monster/supernatural elements or Alice's cult as villains. This issue takes little side-step from that storyline as we get a look into Kate's background. This is brilliantly written by Rucka and even more brilliantly illustrated by Williams III. Williams takes the tactic of using an almost Darwyn Cook retro look to the flashback scenes while keeping his lush hyper-realistic style for the modern sections of the story. The result is that is a piece of art, not just with the images but the story. Here's hoping that Rucka can keep this up when we get back to Batwoman vs Alice's cult as we're bound to do. Also this issue, the back-up story featuring The Question wraps up nicely. I like Montoya as The Question so I'll give yet another thumbs-up for DC's new universe.
Score: 4 out of 5

Blackest Night #4
Just as happened in this week's Green Lantern issue, Blackest Night really picks up steam and skips out on the battle/resurrection rut that it'd fallen into. Sure. There's still epic battles (featuring Flash, Atom, Mera, Alan Scott and others) but the way it's written and the vignettes that are slipped in between the fisticuffs are awesome. There is a great scene where a Black Lantern Azrael tries to scare the Scarecrow. I laughed at this scene as Azrael growls as the Scarecrow only to get a blank stare back. We get a brief look into Luthor's take on the Blackest Night which involves his power-suit. The final few pages do have a resurrection (of sorts) but it's one the avid followers of this series have seen coming for months and it means that the battle has finally been joined by its mastermind. Things are only going to heat up from here!
Score: 5 out of 5

Batman #692
This was an odd issue for me. I'm still loving Dick as Batman and these writers all seem to have a good grip on how he should behave. What I'm not too keen on is the tossing out of the majority of Batman's classic rogues gallery in favor of new and old-but-more-obscure villains. Black Mask seems to be the new mastermind of Gotham. This wouldn't normally be a bad thing. I like the Black Mask as a crime boss. But instead, what we get is a Black Mask dressed in S&M gear building an army of oddball cohorts including Dr. Death and Fright. Of course, Black Mask does recruit Hugo Strange so I guess that's one step in the right direction. Strange is one of the most underrated and underused Bat-villains. Another plus is that there's a new Falcone in town and that's a good thing. I'm hoping that Tony Daniel has something in mind with where this storyline is going because the new Batman has so much potential, I don't want to see it fall flat.
Score: 3.5 out of 5

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pull List Reviews - October 22, 2009

Superman/Batman #65
I wasn't sure what to make of this cover. I thought maybe DC had finally decided to write this series off since it's the odd out of continuity series that still stars Bruce and Clark. Instead what we get is a weird Hallowe'en tale of the Scarecrow gassing Bats, Supes, Joker and Luthor during a battle. For whatever reason, Scarecrow's gas knocks everyone out and he puts them all in shallow graves. This is all just a set-up for 4 mini stories in which the heroes and villains face their worse fears. It all comes to a predictable end when Batman's fear-induced nightmare goes too far. If I weren't in the Hallowe'en mood this week, this story would've just fallen flat as it's so predictable. But as I am in that mood, it wasn't a bad little nightmarish romp.
Score: 3 out of 5

Justice League of America #38
With the big three missing, the JLA is essentially falling apart (and in Plastic Man's case that's literal). This issue, Vixen, Dr. Light, Red Tornado and Plastic Man meet to discuss whether to just give up and disband the League altogether. It's a pretty depressing sad-sack meeting what with only these four JLA members answering Vixen's call... and then Despero shows up looking to eliminate this upstart League. After the JLA gets kicked around a bit, Zatana shows up late to Vixen's call and helps to save the day. But she brings bad news. She tells everyone that the League has to stay together to fight the Black Lanterns that are popping up all over the DCU. With that, the JLA heads back to the Hall of Justice where a newly risen old enemy awaits.
Score: 3.5 out of 5

DCU Halloween Special '09
If you're a Hallowe'en fan (and who isn't?), you'll get a kick out of a few of the 13 tales contained in this one-shot special issue. Sandwiched in a story of Bizarro's Hallowe'en are tales starring everyone from the Creeper to Superman and Batman. As with any compilation style book, there are hits and misses. Some of the stories just fall flat, like the Creeper one-pager, but overall, they're pretty decent. The gem of the book for me was the tale featuring yet another race between The Flash and Superman that is pure brilliance!. Another tale that may have lasting implications on the DCU involves the Outsiders fighting a vampire cult that resurrects Andrew Bennet of "I...Vampire". If you want some Hallowe'en goodness, this book would be a perfect way to get it.
Score: 4 out of 5

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pull List Reviews - October 16, 2009

Batman Annual #27
This is the first half of a story intended to herald Azrael's return to Gotham. Actually, I never liked Azrael and I still don't care for him after reading this issue. The story is that a mysterious group dressed as the seven deadly sins are kidnapping the children of various influential Gotham families in an attempt to bring back the eighth sin (whatever that means). Yeah. The story is an Azrael story through and through so I didn't care for it but the characterization of Dick and Damien as the new Batman and Robin is amazing! And to top it all off, the artwork of J. Calafiore is very fitting of the new Batman. While he makes Dick look like Batman, it's obvious that he's a slimmer and lighter version and definitely not Bruce. You know what? It actually reminds me of Neal Adams' Batman and that is a wonderful thing!

After the main story is over, there are two other back-up tales. The first is a fun little romp with Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen's "Li'l Gotham" version of the Bat-characters who I believe make their first appearance in this issue. It's a two page hot rod race between Batman and his rogues gallery. The humor and artwork just come together for me on this one. It's not quite the mini-JLA that appeared in Superman/Batman a few months back but it'll do in a pinch.

"Darker than Black" part 1 is the final story in which Barbara Gordon investigates a vampire. This story really doesn't cut the mustard for me. The artwork fits the story well enough but the story is just odd and seems out of place in a Batman book. But I guess it would be in line with Azrael so fans of the supernatural tales may like this more than I did.
Score: 3 out of 5

Batman and Robin #5
The "Revenge of the Red Hood" continues here as Red Hood (Jason Todd) and his sidekick Scarlett battle with the new dynamic duo of Dick and Damien. We get a look at what Jason looks like under his red hood and some insight into how he plans to overtake Gotham. His ideas on marketing and branding his campaign of violence is pure genius! However, his violent tactics against Gotham's underworld brings him unexpected results when a madman named Eduardo Flamingo arrives on the scene in some sick scenes that you can only get from a book written by Grant Morrison. The artwork is great on this issue as well. I thought when Frank Quitely moved to doing only covers we'd lose something but Philip Tan really stepped up to the plate and kept this book moving.
Score: 4 out of 5

Justice League of America 80-Page Giant
I'm always leery of one-shot titles and the cover price on this issue made that doubly true. But this tale of the JLA battling the Time Commander is actually quite inspired. There's a main wraparound story that serves to setup six mini-tales with the JLA scattered throught history. A couple of the best are with Hal Jordan and Red Arrow in the old west (Having them meet with Jonah Hex would've made this book near perfect for me... but alas! It didn't happen.) and Firestorm and Green Arrow meeting Ra's al Ghul in World War II. Brilliant! And the others are decent as well. All in all a surprisingly good one-off which justified the cover price... and setup a new villain for upcoming JLA storylines.
Score: 4 out of 5

Detective Comics Annual #11
This is the second half of "The Eighth Deadly Sin" starring Azrael which continues to serve to setup some villains for the new Azrael series that starts this week. The story is the supernatural tripe that's come to be a par for the course where Azrael is concerned. As with the first half in the Batman Annual, the characterization of Dick and Damien as Batman and Robin is very well written and this one gets an extra half point for the artwork from Tom Mandrake which is gritty and very befitting of Gotham City.

As with the Batman annual there are two back-up tales. There's another "Li'l Gotham" tale which is just as brilliant as the first one. Lastly, the Barbara Gordon "Darker than Black" vampire tale wraps up and doesn't get any better than the first part.
Score: 3.5 out of 5

Green Lantern Corps #41
The Corps continue to battle the Black Lanterns that have attacked Oa. Soranik and Iolande fight to save the injured Lanterns. Guy Gardner kicks ass (as usual). Soranik comes to the rescue of Kyle Rayner. But the best of storytelling in the issue comes from Lantern Arisia coming to grips with her family's Lantern lineage and Kilowog facing off against his old drill sergeant Lantern Ermey. Yeah. You heard that name right. I squeed a little when I read it. The "Children of the Corps" title doesn't come into play until the last few pages but after the title "children" arrive on the scene, so does an agent of the hidden corps. A great issue all around.
Score: 4.5 out of 5

Blackest Night: Batman #3
The final issue of this mini-series sees the Gotham heroes trying to defend their city against an army of Black Lanterns which are far too much for them to handle. Before it's all over, Dick and Tim have to come to terms with their parents' deaths and, to put a hurtin' on the undead Lanterns, they enlist the aid of a certain rhyming demon. A great side-story to the main Blackest Night series.
Score: 4 out of 5

Batman #691
This is one of my favorite Batman issues since Dick took the cowl. Continuing where the last issue left off, Dick is at the mercy of Two-Face who has teleported into the Batcave to kill what he believes is an impostor Batman. But Dick holds his own and, in the end, proves to Two-Face that Batman isn't dead. Then Dick's story takes an interesting turn as he tears down the Batcave and prepares to move to his new bunker beneath Wayne Tower. Dick discovers a secret about his parents' murder that it seems Bruce had been hiding from him.
Score: 5 out of 5

Action Comics #882
The "World Against Superman" continues here with Squad K tracking Supergirl, Nightwing and Flamebird (now dubbed the "Metropolis Three"). After taking a quick breather and some downtime with Lois, the on-the-run heroes finally have a Squad K and Reactron. When they try to explain that they were framed, things go from bad to worse as Colonel Hazard discovers too late the real enemy behind this scenario.
Score: 4 out of 5

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pull List Reviews - September 30

My apologies for this pull list review being somewhat belated. It's been a hectic week since I'm on the Board of Directors with Eerie Horror Film Festival that's coming up this weekend and things have been insane! I don't expect it to let up either so, while I'll try to avoid it if at all possible, I expect the next week's reviews to be a little late too. I just ask that you, my intrepid reader, bear with me and, if you're a horror movie fan and want to read some fun tweets from the Fest, be sure to follow me on Twitter. I plan to be back in full force after the Fest's over, so until then... here's the reviews:

Superman #692
The "World Against Superman" storyline continues as The Guardian deals with a rising tide of super-villains in Metropolis. Meanwhile, Zatara is held captive by Mirabai (Gen. Lane's shapeshifter) for reasons yet unknown. After the super-villain battle is over, The Guardian and his crew take a break at the local cop bar where a secret about one of their own is revealed. While not the best, still a fun read.
Score: 3.5 out of 5

Superman: Secret Origin #1
This review's a little late since I didn't pick this one up on its release date. But when my local comic shop forgot to pull the JLA 80-Page Giant for me, I snagged this one instead. And boy am I glad that I did! To start with, the artwork from Gary Frank is amazing! I listed Mr. Frank on my "top 5 artists currently working at DC" on an episode of DC Noise podcast a few weeks ago based on the preview pages for this comic alone and he proves me correct with the rest of this issue! His young Clark channels Chris Reeve in ways I've seen others only try. But, as amazing as his artwork is, it's merely a beautiful icing on the wonderful cake that is the writing of Geoff Johns. The super-sized issue is actually a series of vignettes detailing Clark dealing with his powers, meeting his real parents, his first encounter with Lex Luthor and learning that he wants to help people with his powers. To top off the goodness, the next issue tag on the last page teases us with the fact that the Legion will show up in issue 2. I'm glad I picked this one up and am dying to read the rest of this tale.
Score: 5 out of 5

Green Lantern #46
Blackest Night continues to rip across the DCU and, as usual, Hal Jordan is at the center of it. But this time, he's got an unlikely partner... Sinestro! Long time readers of my blog will realize that I love Sinestro. He was listed as my #1 DCU villain and here Geoff Johns shows me why! Yes. Johns again. This guy should just write the entire DCU. During Blackest Night and it's many spin-offs, Johns is rounding out Sinestro as a more sympathetic character. Well... as sympathetic as a fascist ego-maniac can be. But he's just so fun. In this issue, he battles Mongul to reclaims leadership of the Sinestro Corps and comes face to face with a long lost love from his past.
Score: 5 out of 5