Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's Comic Time (4/29/09)!

After a big week for Marvel, the boys at DC get in their shots with new issues for two of their Big Three and a huge contribution from Geoff Johns. He tries to rebound for his final issue on the title that helped him become a mainstream writer after recent struggles. The much-delayed Legion of 3 Worlds continues to build towards its conclusion and his Green Lantern continues to march toward Blackest Night.

Comic Reviews for the Week of 04/29/2009

Written by Geoff Johns, Art by George Perez

Do you still remember Final Crisis? I'm sure you do and almost nobody looks back on it as fondly as I do. And one of the most universally praised elements of the miniseries continues (and will not wrap up until June), but as much as Johns nails every large member of his main continuity Legion, the other versions of the team are substantively more in the background. With two big reveals this week (another resurrection and the identity of the Time Trapper) the story does take a step back from the natural and smooth vibe of the first two plus issues. Instead the plot this month is more a bit of filler to stuff in the shocking moments.

At this point in his career, is there anything else to say about Perez? The master of the large cast has never failed to impress me. The pure amount of detail and action he crams in this title ranks among his very best efforts. Perez is one of the few men who can use the artwork of a comic to make a title almost literary - the artistic equivalent of the wordiest BKV titles.

The main issue of the title is the continuing of the revolving door of death bringing back the recently deceased Bart Allen (Kid Flash version) last month and another significant member of the DCU. Whereas we've already seen Bart in current continuity in Flash: Rebirth, I honestly hope this current ressurection doesn't return to current continuity. Unlike Bart, this character's death was one of the most important emotional beats in DC comics over the last several years. Mostly it concerns me that death has such a revolving door even before the dead rise in Blackest Night. Although, speaking of Blackest Night...

Final score: B+

GREEN LANTERN #40 - "Agent Orange: Part 2"
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Philip Tan

Well, as Johns introduces his sixth color I have to say he's come up with the most interesting recruiting technique of any Corp so far. The Orange Corp, seemingly led by one creature is powered by Avarice (greed for the less tea-toddling members of our readership), consumes other ring bearers and their rings only to repossess them as Orange Lanterns. And I have to credit Johns for making the first casualty of this process someone we care about in very little time. His showdown with John Stewart next week will hopefully show us more of what the post-possession life of the Orange Lanterns is like.

As long as the series doesn't fall apart (coughRedLanternscough) Johns has gotten off to his best start with a new color since introducing the Sinestro Corp a while back. And his advancements to put the Guardians on the offensive and continually rewriting the Laws of Oa pushes the universe substantively towards all-out war, certainly accomplishing their goal of building excitement for the big event. It's just disappointing that DC decided to expand the series beyond the main GL and GLC books, given how masterfully the last War went down.

Final score: B

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #26 - "Black Adam Ruined My Birthday"
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Dale Eaglesham

After a terrible Marvel Family devoted arc, this final issue from Johns (who has been writer or co-writer of this series for nine years now) and Eaglesham (who joined at the post-Infinite Crisis reboot) is a perfect example of both a farewell issue and a stand-alone actionless issue. Highlighting Stargirl, Courtney Whitmore (a Johns creation), this now veteran member gets to celebrate a belated birthday party. And if you can't buy nearly two-dozen superheros showing up for a birthday party in full costume... well this just ain't the book for you. But I love it. Almost always one of the best written characters in the DCU, Stargirl has evolved from the new kid to a teacher of the new generation of superheros. And in a book that more than any other values legacy more than most others, recognizing her evolution and importance to the team is probably the best ending note Johns could have come up with.

Eaglesham's return to the artwork is like a change from night to day from the last several issues. His masterful work at handling crowds and developing unique and expressive facial features on this title turned him from an unknown to one of the premier artists in superhero comics. And even if he doesn't get a big action scene to bow out on, there is a distinct grace to all his work this month.

While the future doesn't seem as bright with any other creative team, this issue carries even more significance, like one more good day before an uncertain future. While it might seem I'm waxing poetical rather than reviewing, that's what happens at the end of a run of such a history and legacy intensive book for a DC fanboy like myself. We can only hope the letdown from these two stars isn't too significant. Time will tell, my friends.

Final score: A-

RUNAWAYS #9 - "Rock Zombies"
Written by Terry Moore, Art by Takeshi Miyazawa

What?! A book not written by Geoff Johns this week? Yep, and despite a steady decline in quality from the days of series creator Brian K. Vaughn to the (Yeah, I'll say it!) unexpectedly overrated contributions of Joss Whedon to substantively disappointing Moore, despite all this, he too manage to wrap it up with at least one appropriate closing scene. After a wildly disappointing opening to this third volume due mostly to the work of artist Humberto "Big Neck" Ramos, the book settled down a bit with Miyazawa taking over. Still the rather silly plastic surgery zombie controlling DJ villain... do I really need to offer more of an explanation on why this has been an underwhelming story?

The highlight is the final two pages, just a quiet scene between Chase and the two youngest team members, Molly and Klara. A nice combination of snappy dialogue reminiscent of BKV or maybe Bendis (at his better moments) and one final sweet sentiment. If only they had a better opponent to fight or if only the majority of this run hasn't been uninteresting to say the least. If the future doesn't improve really quickly, Marvel will have wasted the best original characters to come along in more than 25-30 years.

Final score: C-

SUPERMAN #687 - "Power and Weakness"
Written by James Robinson, Art by Renato Guedes

If someone had asked me which of the three Superman books I would be the least impressed with a few months ago it would have taken about 2.3 seconds to rattle off either Rucka's adventures with a thoroughly uninteresting Nightwing and Flamebird of Superman's adventures on New Krypton. But here it is two issues in and the great James Robinson still hasn't gotten his story off the ground. It's almost as if he wants to cram four years of plot into 12 issues. Bouncing back and forth between eight or nine different stories, none of them have the room to engage the reader.

Mon-El and Guardian are the supposed stars of the book, but how are they able to develop when we spend a page with an unknown monster, one with General Lane and his conspiracy, a couple with Black Lightning and the Trickster, a couple with John Henry Irons in the sewers of Metropolis, three with Zatara and Jimmy Olson with a guest appearance by Parasite (who has been teased as perhaps Mon-El's first big opponent, but far too slowly) and another with Guardian reintroducing the lead members of the Science Police. Whew!

Yeah, to call the first few issues scatter-shot would be a massive understatement. A part of me wants to think the writer of my favorite superhero comic ever (Starman) will pull it out, while another wants to admit even the great ones stumble sometimes. But for now, I'm stuck hoping.

Final score: C+

Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Greg Land

With every issue this title slips further and further away from being the top flight X-Men title that it should be. I personally think Land's porn-tastic artwork (see Emma Frost on the fourth from the last page for the best of many, many, many examples) has infected one of Marvel's better writers.

The only very interesting plot lines are the team Beast has assembled to solve the X-gene problem and Scott and Emma's incredibly underdeveloped relationship problems. Given what a strong place they were left in after Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men, it's discomforting to see them slipping apart with so little attention or explanation. Apparently Fraction will be setting that up for discussion after the current storyline. I suppose its a necessary development if Jean Grey will be returning in the next few years, but I hoped for it to be handled a bit more deftly than this.

Beast's team on the other hand is moving much more slowly now that they're assembled and not battling giant monsters and such. We can only hope a forthcoming trip to the distant past will spice things up again. The potential wasted here is just staggering for the one book that has all the big name X-Men. I never thought we'd have a book so unexciting that featured Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine, Colossus, Beast and many others. The return of a re-British-ed Psylocke doesn't signal a great return since she's controlled by the Goblin Queen and her army of super-hot super-villains.

Final score: D+

WONDER WOMAN #31 - "Uprising"
Written by Gail Simone, Art by Bernard Chang

Simone's storytelling has become more and more grating. Unlike Birds of Prey, where all her female characters were just deeply developed and unique personalities. This title has been bogged down with a message overshadowing every single scene. Diana is emotional, Diana is a great warrior, Diana has a deep faith. Diana has become so separated from humanity in this title.

There are only two types of men in Simone's universe. The one in a positive light are all deferential to a subservient degree to Diana. In a Green Lantern or Batman comic, the treatment of a romantic interest would inspire the most vehement blogging of sexism and saber-rattling to tear the internet down. The men that oppose Diana are never drawn out. Achilles especially is around as a name and nothing more. And the repeated pronouncements of Wonder Woman villains that women are so inferior to her come off far too heavy-handed. And the identity of Genocide... well, its worth spoiling given how terrible it is. A future version of Diana... that's right the only force that can beat Diana is... her. The word I think I'm looking for is "ugh."

The unexpected change in artists from Aaron Lopresti to Chang has been universally disappointing. At least the first could carry an action scene. The latter cannot carry a fight scene and the climatic battle between Diana and Achilles is one of the more disappointing fight scenes in a good long while.

Final score: D

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