Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's Comic Time (4/8/09)!

It's a short week with DC continuing the legacy of Batman and Superman getting his first full issue on New Krypton. The only non-limited series just happens to be a sweet rebound issue for Green Lantern. It's a real case of quality over quantity though, as two-thirds of this weeks reviews are fantastic and this third still strong. Hit the jump to enter the land of spoilers.

Comic Reviews for the Week of 04/08/2009

Batman: Battle For the Cowl #2 (of 3) - "Army of One"
Written and Art by Tony Daniels

Not to sound too petty, but it's now two issues of Battle For the Cowl that have been released before Andy Kubert managed to get us the second issue of "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader" and I am just mad as hell about it. Artists whose delays ruin what otherwise should be definitive works should be banned to the independents. We don't need them screwing things up in the big leagues.

But let's focus on Daniel's absolutely fantastic arc to reveal the new Batman. Considering the universal opinion is that Richard Grayson is only substantive choice, the journey getting there has been pretty impressive. The main villain of the series is revealed as a even more demented than usual Jason Todd. I stand in favor of that considering the recurring attempts by DC to put him on the side of the angels have never come close to working or sticking. Dressed in his own version of the Batsuit, Jason tears through most of the other contenders for the name and setting up an showdown with Bruce's Son #1 in the finale.

Despite Tim Drake wearing the titular cowl this month, it isn't exactly a note in his favor that while not mocking him, nobody really takes it seriously and he ends up in a place that doesn't exactly scream for an eleventh hour comeback. So being the only one seemingly not to wear the costume yet, Grayson remains the favorite. Since we can assume DC won't turn Batman into a murdering sociopath.

Daniel's artwork is just more of the same that we saw during the majority of Grant Morrison's run on the main title. And you can never really have enough greatness. He manages to keep selling exciting and bloody battle scenes that never become confusing or unrealistic (for a Batman comic). Todd especially looks fabulous with glowing red eyes and numerous weapons.

Only the rather predictable nature of the entire effort drags the score down slightly. At this point though, a change in the finale would probably devalue the effort. Too much time has been spent preparing Nightwing to take the leap, including a fantastic speech this week from Alfred, the elder-statesman of the Bat-Family.

Final score: A-

Green Lantern #39 - "Agent Orange: Part One"
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Philip Tan

After the extremely disappointing conclusion to the previous arc, which introduced both the Blue and Red Lantern Corps, this new arc got off to a fabulous start. Supposedly the Orange (Avarice, i.e. Greed) Lanterns as yet another destructive force in the universe while Ganthet's Blue Lanterns search out the source of the Indigo (Compassion) Lanterns. And yes, I probably should continue reminding everyone which portion of the emotional spectrum powers each Corp. Johns is certainly kind enough to work it into the dialogue enough to keep things straight. But you'll have to remember the Green Corp yourself. If you can't keep that straight reading this book, then I can't do anything for you.

Tan's art actually jumps right on par with series regulars Ivan Reis and Ethan Van Schiver. And that's quite a statement, my friends. He even handles the mixture of colors on Jordan, temporarily sporting a pair of rings, much better. As Ganthet reassures him that his place is meant to be on the Green side, reaffirming his identity (a crucial improvement over the various colors that have tried to dominate the title character last issue) the green in his uniform dominates his appearance much more than before. It's a nice little case of the art reinforcing the storytelling.

Johns has done a good and quick job introducing a much more unique and enjoyable villain than we had with the rather simplistic Red Lantern leader, Atrocitus. Even if Larfleeze isn't much an improvement in the name department. Neither can live up to the more explored history of Parallax and Sinestro at this time, however. But even better is the continuing evolution of the Guardians into a more complex and struggling organization. Of course the reveal throughout the "Origins and Omens" backup stories throughout the DCU that the scarred Guardian is in fact looking to bring about the Darkest Night clouds over ever scene they are involved in. We still don't know how much the Guardians are being manipulated and how much they are just flawed in recent years. It's one case of us knowing a bit more than the characters and one of the truth being hidden. But each way, Johns adds a bit to the enjoyment of the story in its own way.

Final score: A-

Superman: World of New Krypton #2 (of 12)
Written by Greg Rucka and James Robinson, Art by Pete Woods

Well, besides Robinson replacing Johns as Rucka's writing partner on this title, we get a big leap forward in the quality of storytelling this month. Whereas last month was yet more of the long and mostly inadequate set-up for the series, this issue gets into the meat of things. Now a member of Zod's army in the military guild, Superman's interactions with a domineering, but not maniacal (at least yet) General Zod are just one of the efforts to humanize the Kryptonians. Well not humanize... personalize. They really don't like humans still.

But the development of infighting between the various Guilds of Kryptonese society and meeting the soldiers serving under Kal-El (specifically his second-in-command Nar-As) all serves well to give Superman a more realistic and layered world to spend the year inhabiting. The writers do a fine job of pulling Zod back from his more villainous extremes to the level of a probably evil monster. But even if he reverts to form, which is more than probable, he still improves as a antagonist smart enough to conceal his master plan from the forgiving Kryptonian leadership of Alura.

And Woods artwork struggles with more awkward, pixelated shadows and some clunky facial expressions. For a good example, check out Kal-El's face at the top of page three... that's a little too Bruce Campbell-ish for my tastes. And in general I don't care for a slightly more muscular Superman than last week, especially with the more human and wonderful version on Gary Frank's cover. I've long been of the opinion that Superman doesn't need to be huge and muscular to explain his power. He's freaking Kryptonian!

But at the end of the day, the much improved story bumps this month's grade up slightly. Every little distraction to Superman's day just helps develop a more complete world and realistic characters. Even the easily resolved distraction of the month is a nice comparison of Superman and the other soldiers differing perspectives, which makes it all seem more real... as real as a world full of Kryptonians floating on the opposite side of the Earth's sun can be.

Final score: B-

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