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Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Here's hoping that 2011 is a banner year for all of us! Happy New Year from Cape Town Community!

Warmest Regards,
Don M. Ventura
Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger

Best of 2010. The Best Comic Books of the Year.

By Don M. Ventura

Here is my list, in no particular order, of the best comic books I read in 2010.

Batgirl #14
DC Comics

I continued to hear that Bryan Q. Miller and Lee Garbett’s run on Batgirl was an excellent read and it was difficult to not be intrigued by a cover with Supergirl and Batgirl back-to-back, surrounded by multiple Draculas.

I must have read the book three times the week I bought it. This was one of the funniest comic books that I can recall ever reading. Sure the premise was silly, but the dialogue and narration was so dry and clever. I immediately fell in love with the character Stephanie Brown and have since eagerly awaited each new issue of this fantastic series.

This issue can probably still be found in the back-issue bin. Since it's a one-shot it's completely accessible and worth the drive to your local comic shop.

Morning Glories #1
Image Comics

Not since I first read Brian K. Vaughn’s Runaways have I so instantly been smitten with a book. Nick Spencer starts unfolding the mysteries from the outset and we quickly learn that Morning Glory Academy is a prep school like no other on Earth. Thankfully.

Spencer then spends the majority of the opener introducing us to each of the six protagonists and completes the difficult task of making us like each one of them—even the unlikable Ike and Zoe. Spencer has an ear for snappy dialogue and he uses this skill to tell us who these characters are and why they’re special.

With gorgeous covers by Rodin Esquejo and interiors by Joe Eisma, Morning Glories #1 lived up to all the praise and buzz bestowed upon it. This is good comic book reading.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger #4
Marvel Comics

Thor: The Mighty Avenger has been surprise. Since I was a kid I’ve never warmed to this character, but I’ve been hooked by this simple take on the God of Thunder.

Stripped away is all of the posturing and dread seriousness. In it’s place we have a fish out of water tale about Thor’s banishment to Midgard (Earth).

In this issue he is visited by the Warriors Three who take him out for a boy’s night out in England that quickly turns to fisticuffs between the four Norsemen and Captain Britain. Writer Roger Langridge continues to impress with his take on Thor; it is both funny and accessible. Equally, I have become an enormous fan of Chris Samnee’s art. It is deceptively simple, but there is so much expression and character in his straightforward illustrations.

Time Bomb #2
Radical Comics

Writing team Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have written a fun time-travel yarn and introduced strong action characters.  While there is not much in the way of character development, the story’s strength is in its tension as a Special Ops Team find themselves in the middle of World War II Germany. They are separated and each working independently to locate a nasty weapon called the Omega Bomb.  Paul Gulacy’s artwork and Rain Beredo’s colors fit the tone perfectly; much of the action takes place in the dark, but even the tones of the lit scenes are muted and drab.

How can you go wrong with a line like “Die you fucking Nazi fucks!”?

Superman/Batman #76
DC Comics

I’ve never understood why writer Judd Winick doesn’t get more love from the fanboys. This touching one-shot covers the aftermath of Batman’s death and how his best friend begins to cope with his loss.

Lois Lane
awakens to find her husband, still in costume, sitting at the edge of their bed.  Slumped over, he grieves over the passing of his closest friend.  He is engulfed by his iconic cape.  A cape that, at this moment, is much larger than the man wearing it.  This issue is the exploration of Superman as a man. Winick and artist Marco Rudy take us inside Superman’s head and his heart in this emotionally gripping piece which is less a story than a series of substantive vignettes.

Hulk #25
Marvel Comics

There was nothing that interested me about a Red Hulk or the Jeph Loeb-penned story that has unfolded over the past two years.  After reading the first issue of Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman’s run on the book, I saw great potential for this character.

Parker’s spin on a good Red Hulk is believable considering what has occurred before this. I enjoyed the friction between Thunderbolt Ross and Bruce Banner; their distaste for one another is matched only by that of J. Jonah Jameson and Spider-Man.  Hardman draws a gorgeous Hulk and has been a revelation on this fun action-packed series.

Avengers Prime #3
Marvel Comics

Brian Michael Bendis has left me hot and tepid over the years.  Sometimes I have found his writing to feel rushed and not structured enough for my taste. Avengers Prime reminds me how good Bendis can be at storytelling.  Avengers Prime is a bi-monthly mini in which Steve Rogers, Iron Man and Thor are stuck in one of the nine realms of Asgard directly after the events of Siege.

This book is supposed to act as a catalyst, bringing these three classic Avengers back to the tight bond that once held Earth’s mightiest super team together.  Bendis is achieving this with ease.  The story does not feel rushed, he’s not throwing too much into the mix, and he’s got the voices of these characters down.  With each issue I have grown more impressed. The art by Alan Davis is perfectly suited to the title and makes the book that much better.

G.I. Joe: Hearts and Minds #5

This is the kind of book that reminds me immediately of the power of comic books as a means to tell a story.  Many casual readers passing by the comic racks would see the title and keep walking.  Big mistake.

G.I. Joe: Hearts and Minds has been a wonderful series with the same two-story set up each month.  The first half is a sparsely narrated tale of a classic Cobra baddie and a second similar story featuring a Joe.  But writer Max Brooks’ approach is minimalist.  Artists Howard Chaykin (Cobra features) and Antonio Fusso (Joe features) are as integral to bringing to life Brooks’ dialogue. Do not be turned of by the classic G.I. Joe Banner.  This book continues to pack a wallop each month.

Wolverine #2
Marvel Comics

Was there any doubt that Wolverine would end up in Hell?  I reckon only Frank Castle has sent more criminals to their early, well deserved graves. In this issue we learn how much Satan likes to toy with the souls that have been delivered to him.

Wolverine has never been one of my favorite characters but Jason Aaron, one of Marvel’s hot new writers, is handling the character better than expected.  He gets into Wolverine’s head and stays there as the character tries processing what is happening to him and what he needs to do. Renato Guedes’ pencils are suited perfectly to draw the mayhem that takes place in this issue.  There are some very dramatic splash pages, the first being a waterfall of Hand soldiers falling upon a Wolverine covered in blood with arrows and other weapons clinging to him.  Like the story, t’s all in gruesome fun.

Ultimate Thor #1
Marvel Comics

2010 saw a glut of Thor books, but there were two standouts. Thor: the Mighty Avenger and Ultimate Thor. This book by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Carlos Pacheco is as well drawn as it is written.

The Ultimate Universe’s Thor has been thought to be a loon and Hickman continues that here.  He is under observation by Captain Britain and the Captain’s father in Brussels as the story opens.  We then move back in time as a World War II Baron Zemo is preparing an attack on Asgard while Thor and his (eventually evil) half-brother Loki demonstrate brotherly machismo as they do battle with snow monsters.

I haven’t been crazy about Pacheco’s work in Avengers Academy, but it looks sleeker here which is assuredly due to strong inks by Dexter Vines.  There is nothing to complain about with this book.  In fact, I thought this was a much stronger opening than Matt Fraction’s first issue on the non-Ultimate Thor.

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home, Batgirl (One-Shot)
DC Comics

The Road Home line of books were a mediocre bunch, except for this standout and the Commissioner Gordon issue that came out the following week.

Miller has found a distinctive voice for Stephanie Miller as Batgirl; she’s funny, has a teenage mentality, and she’s smart. However, she is by no means the detective that Dick Grayson and Tim Drake have grown into.  While looking for a gun stolen from Waynetech she says “How else are we gonna solve the mystery of the thingy stolen by the invisible super-guy.” So charming.

I appreciate the light tone of this Batgirl; it is atypical of what readers expect in a Bat-family series and it’s nice to read a book where the character doesn’t take herself so seriously.

Power Girl #17
DC Comics

I picked up Power Girl on a lark when Judd Winick took over the reigns.  I wanted to read something with a good jumping on point and I’ve always enjoyed Winick’s writing.  Power Girl is always solid and this issue may was my favorite.

The first half of the story co-stars Batman as he helps Power Girl resolve the mystery of the creature she fought in the previous issue.  After reading Winick’s take on Dick Grayson’s Batman I wondered why the writer couldn’t get a crack at one of the many Bat-titles.  I fully endorsed Power Girl’s sentiment of the new Dark Knight in this issue: “I digs me some Dick Grayson scooting around in the Kevlar pajamas.”

Sami Basri has illustrated one gorgeous issue after another.  I am shocked that he is able to do a monthly series because his work looks terribly time-consuming.  The coloring by Sunny Gho and Jessica Kholinne is equally superb; they bring great depth to the flesh tones and costumes.

Incognito: Bad Influence #1
Icon Comics

Incognito: Bad Influence brings readers back into the life of Zack Overkill, a former villain who was forced into the witness protection program and then begins to fight crime for the thrills of using his powers.  As the story begins, Zack is out of witness protection and has begun working with the S.O.S.

While the world Brubaker is writing is set firmly in the present, there are great flashes to the types of villains that rose to prominence in the Silver Age of comics: G.I. Gorilla, Dick Deadly, Zhing Fu, and of course Dark Leopold and his Nuclear Nazis. Brubaker is having a good time on this book and it shows with some of these throwbacks, illustrated nicely by returning artist Sean Phillips.

Phillips draws grittiness quite capably and fits Brubaker’s style perfectly. Incognito has a classic pulp/noir comic book feel to the art and the story. Brubaker is a master storyteller and it is enjoyable seeing him produce more creator-owned work. I’ve been following his recent titles (Secret Avengers and Steve Rogers: Super Soldier) but I enjoy the spontaneity of a book like this.

Action Comics #890
DC Comics

2010 was going to be about big ideas for the Last Son of Krypton. Superman would focus on the hero’s desire to reconnect with the adopted citizens of his home planet after abandoning them for a year during the course of “New Krypton” storyline. Action Comics was going to be Superman-less as Paul Cornell got the thankless task of writing a book that focused on Superman’s greatest nemesis: Lex Luthor.

There wasn’t a lot of buzz on this book. Not until Action Comics #890 was released and readers found that Cornell was writing something special. Cornell’s take on Lex Luthor in this opening chapter was astounding and unconventional. Lex is on a quest for a Black Lantern ring after being exposed to the power of the Orange Lanterns in the pages of Blackest Night. He’s accompanied by a robot Lois whose arms turn into guns, thwarted by the diabolical Mr. Mind, and demonstrates his willingness to go insane looking for his ring.

Pete Wood’s artwork is fantastic (though I would like to see him get a chance on the covers). Cornell’s take on Luthor has been true to the character but the story is inventive, funny, and refreshing.

Fantastic Four #584
Marvel Comics

Man oh man, did this book have some good stuff for fans of Benjamin J. Grimm, arguably one of Marvel’s most beloved characters. This is the second issue of Writer Jonathan Hickman’s infamous “Three” storyline, but the focus is primarily on the everlovin’ blue-eyed Thing.

Ben has a serum that will allow him to become human-form Ben for one week every year. Hickman has all of the team’s voices down and he uses this to perfect effect in the Johnny/Ben scenes.  But it’s the final scene between Ben and Alicia that is so powerful, so amazingly touching, that you will regret not giving this book a try.

Credit the appropriately simple dialogue and Steve Epting’s gorgeous artwork.  Alicia’s expression and the knowledge that this is something that both character’s have longed for (for far too long) makes this scene so damned chilling.

Teen Titans #88
DC Comics

Nicola Scott knows how to draw a good comic book. And Teen Titans #88 is a good comic book. Scott’s pencils are clean and energetic when they need to be. We’re treated to a great fight scene between the Titans and a marauding group of zombie-like men called the feral boys.

This is Writer J.T. Krul’s first issue as the ongoing writer on the book and this is solid start.  He’s assembled all the familiar faces to the team and we are treated to a final panel (and another beautiful two page spread) with the newest Titan: Robin. Krul includes a great scene between Batman and Robin in the middle of the issue where Batman is concerned that Damian has no exposure to his peers.

This was my first trip back to Titans Tower in a few years. It feels as though I never left.

Batman and Robin #16
DC Comics

I’ve admitted a few times on this blog that reading Grant Morrison’s work can sometimes be, well… work. Thankfully, the payoff is usually somewhere between good and great (and every once in a while confounding unfortunately). I found Batman and Robin #16 to be an example of the writer’s greatness.

This was the triumphant return of Bruce Wayne who jumps right back into the game to take down Dr. Hurt after over three years of the villain’s crafty attempts to take down the Dark Knight. The art in this issue is handled excellently by Cameron Stewart, Chris Burnham, and Frazer Irving.

There are so many wonderful scenes. Bruce ordering Dick “on your feet soldier” after Dick is shot in the head; Damian kicking ass in a fantastic two-page spread; a touching scene in which Bruce is trying to save Alfred in which Alfred has accepted his possible demise. This book was one of the single best reads of 2010 and an excellent finish to this chapter of Morrison’s run on the Bat-books.

Strange Tales II #2
Marvel Comics

The more you know Marvel and its characters the more fun this book becomes. Marvel has assembled a group of indie-comics creators to write and draw a really entertaining (and often bizarre) anthology.

Strange Tales II #2 includes stories featuring Iron-Man, the lovely ladies of Marvel, Uatu (the Watcher), Ghost Rider, the X-Men, Spider-Man and more. Not everything works, but most of it does. Jeffrey Brown has Cyclops totally unfocused on anything but Jean Grey. When he goes to discuss his romantic problems with Professor X, the Professor makes him forget why he walked into the room. “Well just let me know when you think of it, Scott,” says the Professor. “You know you can talk to me anytime.” Comedy gold.

Anthologies are a rarity in comics nowadays, especially humorous ones. The writers and artists assembled on this project have enough familiarity with the characters to have some good natured fun with Marvel’s classic characters.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1
DC Comics

How do you test the quality of a quality writer? Give him a property that nobody cares about and see what becomes of it. Nick Spencer is a writer who seems to have come out of nowhere over the last year and is producing work that is so absolutely pleasing that you just want to give it someone and dare them not to enjoy it.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is a book about a covert team of heroes whose powers are granted to them, but those powers will eventually kill them. That sounds like a good hook, but it’s Spencer’s ability to tell a story that causes T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents to transcend ordinary storytelling.

Spencer is joined by artist CAFU on this book and here we have another star on the rise. CAFU’s work is really wonderful. It seems like a hybrid of Salvador Larroca and John Cassaday’s work.

Chew #15
Image Comics

Robert Guillory is an amazingly fine artist. The opening sequence of this issue (not to mention the striking tri-fold cover) is absolutely fantastic. The story begins with Savoy, Tony Chu’s former partner and current nemesis, dining alone and reviewing the origins of everything that strikes his palette. Then he has an old friend for dinner. And he sees, and he sees, and he sees some more until he finally finds something to focus on. When the story concludes we know that Tony’s life may become more difficult.

We are then introduced to Tony’s family; he’s arrived for the holidays and is greeted like any other loved one at a holiday gathering: with adoration and consternation. John Layman’s script is as sharp as always. Tony’s attempt at saying grace before the family digs into their illegal turkey was very amusing.

The story ends with a pretty significant cliffhanger. Make sure to pull out issue #4 to remind yourself what is happening.

Batman Incorporated #1
DC Comics

Grant Morrison had no interest in returning Bruce Wayne to the status quo. After reintroducing Bruce in Batman and Robin #16, Morrison writes a prologue in Batman: the Return and revs right into Batman’s quest to franchise himself in Batman Incorporated.

We open with the gruesome (and I mean gruesome) death of Mr. Unknown, a Japanese masked vigilante that Batman has traveled to Japan to recruit as the Japanese Batman. Unfortunately by that point he no longer has a face, hands, or a life.  Now Batman and Catwoman are on the search to locate Jiro Osamu, Mr. Unknown’s ward.

Yanick Paquette has drawn a fantastic piece with this first issue. I liked his square-jawed Batman, but even more so enjoyed his work on Selina. Her expressions were priceless, whether she was calmly cracking a safe while Batman took out one of Dr. Sivana’s robots or coveting the enormous diamond she was enlisted to steal. This is the fun, globe-trotting Batman that Morrison has promised since he began writing the character in 2006.

Superior #2
Icon Comics

While perhaps not “the most important comic book since 1938” as the cover promises, Superior is a fun and sometimes thoughtful book by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu.

Millar is has mastered foul language to communicate awe and disbelief. This issue serves as an opportunity to establish Superior’s powers and allow Simon to begin mastering them. Some are easier than others. Superior’s sight and strength come fairly easy. Heat vision and flight will take some work.

Yu’s work has continued to grow stronger with each project. The scene with Simon grappling with flight is wonderful as he awkwardly attempt to control his new powers. I have been enjoying Sunny Gho’s colors on Power Girl and her work on Superior is equally as strong.  

Supergirl #58
DC Comics

Sterling Gates closed up shop on Supergirl with this final two-part arc.  The story focuses on Cat Grant who Gates introduced into the book as a foil for Girl of Steel, criticizing her and trying to break her down at every turn.

Three children in Metropolis have gone missing and the modus operandi appears to be that of Winslow Schott, the original Toyman and murderer of Cat’s son. Gates takes his time on this issue presenting some strong character work between Cat and Kara. The writer brings closure to Cat’s arc on this series.

Jamal Igle’s artwork is as strong as always.  His Toyman is creepy and unbalanced and all the toys have a properly haunting quality. The story concludes with the appearance of a character that hasn’t been in the book for some time, an indication of more resolution to Gates’s fantastic run.

New Avengers #7
Marvel Comics

New Avengers #7 took me right back to what I originally enjoyed about the book after being somewhat disappointed with the middle of the first story arc. The Avengers mansion is in shambles and everyone is trying to get a grip.

Luke’s wife Jessica has some of my favorite moments in the issue. First when Luke has to accept Steve Rogers’ financial support to repair the damages to the mansion. She says “And this is what it looks like when Luke Cage quietly gets off his high horse.” She later has a scene of complete authenticity in which she puts Luke in his place and accepts being on the Avengers payroll. Pride isn’t going to feed and clothe their new baby she argues.

I also appreciated that Spider-Man was given a scene after being relegated so long to quips; he was has often been the equivalent of background noise in this series and in The Avengers.

Detective Comics #872
DC Comics

Scott Snyder and Jock have produced a fantastic issue with Detective Comics #872. Snyder writes a strong mystery story, with a new villain, and takes time for some characterization. I liked the idea of Barbara Gordon telling Dick something about himself that he might not otherwise have realized anyone understood about him; specifically that he doesn’t like to be tied down. Snyder does this with smart, natural, dry dialogue.

With Snyder’s polished script comes an equally talented artist: Jock. The artist is perfectly suited for a crime drama and this book plays to his strengths incredibly well. There’s an iconic shot of Batman soaring down to Earth face first from Oracle’s tower that deserves to be added to a DC Comics coffee-table book.

Best of 2010. A BIG Year for the Announcement of Film and Television Projects

Clockwise from left: Hulk, Alias, Raven and Wonder Woman television projects
were only a few of those announced in 2010.
There has been a lot of big comic book news in 2010: another year of sagging sales, the leap by all the major publishers into digital comic books, and the price point changes to $2.99 (for some Marvel books and at a cost of two pages for DC titles).

However, the biggest news has continued through the course of the year: the increase in the production of comic book properties for film and television. Just consider the slate of films that are scheduled for release over the next two years:

Thor kicks off the 2011 comic book summer movie
season and paves the way for an even more
explosive 2012!

2011: The Green Hornet, Priest, Thor, Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Cowboys and Aliens.

2012: Dredd, Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance, The Wolverine, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Men in Black 3, and untitled Spider-Man and Superman films.

In the pipeline: films based on Deadpool, the Crow, the Flash, Runaways, and Ant-Man (don’t laugh), plus a sequel to Green Lantern, and a third Iron Man.

These are the biggest properties in comic books—some of them are hitting the screen for the first time for a few reasons. The special effects have enabled filmmakers to fully-realize the fantastic adventures derived from the source material. More significantly, there’s money to be had with these properties. When handled properly the financial rewards have been there over the past decade: Spider-Man (Domestic: $403,706,375/Foreign: $418,002,176), The Dark Knight (Domestic: $533,345,358/Foreign: $468,576,467), Iron Man (Domestic: $318,412,101/ Foreign: $266,762,121), and Iron Man 2 (Domestic: $312,128,345/Foreign: $309,623,643).

This year Marvel Entertainment began looking beyond movies. By appointing Jeph Loeb to its head of television, the company is aiming to make a splash with episodic series as well. In October it was announced that a new Hulk series is being developed for ABC; nothing has been solidified but Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth) and David Eick (Battlestar Galactica) have had discussions to produce the series. AKA Jessica Jones, based on the Brian Michael Bendis comic book Alias, has been greenlit and will be executive-produced and written by Melissa Rosenberg (the Twilight films). A Cloak and Dagger series is also in the very early stages for ABC Family. 

Television audiences may be ready for Powers,
Bendis' post modern look at superheroes.
Of course The Walking Dead was a mini-phenomenon for AMC when it premiered in October and the ratings remained strong over the course of its brief six episodes; a second season premieres in October of 2011. Bendis has announced that his popular series Powers is also beginning to come together with plans to air on FX; former Walking Dead writer Charles H. "Chic" Eglee is negotiating to be a writer and executive producer on the new series.

The CW will bring a Raven series to the small screen under the guidance of producer Diego Gutierrez (V and Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Raven is a longtime member of the Teen Titans and one of the more tragic heroines of the 80’s.

It was also announced that David E. Kelly would be working to bring a Wonder Woman series to television. Admittedly the writer is not sure if he is right for the project, but he is continuing his attempt to develop the idea into something feasible. A rumor also circulated in mid November that Warner Bros. might be interested in bringing a Batman series to television once Christopher Nolan finishes his Dark Knight trilogy in 2012.

Both Marvel Entertainment and DC Entertainment seem eager to mine their vast library of properties for the proper medium. I would expect that we’ll be seeing less original series with a superhero bent such as Heroes, No Ordinary Family, and The Cape; in their place will be adaptations and reinterpretations of actual comic book properties. This is a good thing unless you love Hydrox cookies, Shasta soda, Granny Goose chips, or any other pale imitations.

In 2011 it will be interesting to see how many of the rumored projects, and the ones in the earliest of stages, actually turn into ongoing television series. Right now it’s looking like were a year or so away from some programming with some seriously cool potential.

How many of these projects will come to fruition? Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

McGuiness and McNiven Cover 'Ultimate Comics Spider-Man'

Marvel premiered the covers for the Ultimate Comics Spider-Man issues that are leading up to next year’s “Death of Spider-Man” storyline. This one is as confounding as those double rainbows. I stopped reading this book a long time ago, but will probably be picking this up out of interest.

Ed McGuiness handled the cover for Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #153 (above) and Steve McNiven’s handiwork can be found on the cover of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #154 (below).

I think that if Brian Michael Bendis were to say “I think I’m done here” then this would be the perfect time to close shop on the book because it is so uniquely his voice.  Could you imagine another writer on Powers or Alias? Call it what you want, Ultimate Spider-Man or Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, they wouldn’t enjoy the same longevity without Bendis.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #153 is scheduled for release on February 2, 2011.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #154 is scheduled for release on February 23, 2011.

Cape Town Capsule Reviews, 12/29/10 Releases

By Don M. Ventura

Captain America #613
Marvel Comics

Ed Brubaker does what he does best with his characters and puts Captain America over a barrel in Captain America #613. Bucky goes to trial in this issue and Sin, the Red Skull’s daughter, has gone to great lengths to make certain he stays in prison.

Steve Rogers plays a perfect game of hardball with Dr. Faustus to ensure the doctor provides adequate testimony that Bucky was not in control of his faculties while working as the Winter Soldier. Brubaker knows how to build drama and does so as Sin’s plotting begins to reveal itself during the course of the trial.

Butch Guice’s artwork is excellent, fitting the tone of the book nicely. My only problem is that the inking duties during the courtroom scene almost make Guice’s art look like it’s been drawn by two separate artists. Bettie Breitweiser’s colors are as brilliant as always.

27 #2
Image Comics

Unfortunately 27 #2 has slipped further from what I was expecting from this title. So much so that I went back to read the original solicitation.

“Hendrix, Cobain, Joplin, Morrison. All belong to the '27 Club,' which admits only the most brilliant musicians and artists…and kills them dead in their 27th year. Will Garland is a famous rock guitarist, secretly unable to play for months due to a neurological disorder afflicting his left hand. He’s also 27! With mad scientists, long dead rock legends and cosmic entities in his way, can he make it to 28?”

I was hoping for more about a musician and less about the supernatural stuff, which has not captured my interest me here. However, there’s a scene in a bar where Will and his manager discuss his playing abilities when a fan comes up and asks if Will if he’d be willing to jam with him. Will screws with the guy and agrees. This was a funny scene and seemed to be the only genuine part of the issue; other than this I haven’t gotten enough of a read on Will’s character.

Renzo Podesta’s art is fantastic and meshes well with the subject matter and the type of story Soule is telling. Podesta has an incredibly indie-look and W. Scott Forbes cover for this issue is really stunning.

Flash #8
DC Comics

Flash #7 was Geoff Johns’ retelling of Captain Boomerang’s back story and it was good. In Flash #8 the writer goes to town to make sure readers—who may not have been convinced after reading Flash: Rebirth—understand that Professor Zoom is one seriously twisted villain.

We begin with Eobard Thawne as a child in a dystopian culture that is managed by time, rather than the other way around. Thawne, a disappointment to his parents and brother, spends his precious time trying to unlock the mysteries of the Speed Force. And he does.

Soon Thawne wields the power of his past freely and without caution, tinkering with the lives around him in awful ways if he isn’t treated right. Thankfully for us, nobody treats him right and we see what lengths Thawne will go to for retribution. Johns is a master of creating formidable villains. He turned Sinestro into one of the more forceful villains in the DCU, and now it seems to be Professor Zoom’s turn.

Former Flash artist Scott Kolins rejoins Johns for this issue as he did last month and the art on the whole is fine, but there are a couple of awkward panels; at points Hawne’s face seemed a bit inconsistent.

Superman/Batman #79
DC Comics

I didn’t read any of the “DC One Million” stories, but I was interested in picking up Chris Roberson’s take on Superman and Batman. Superma/Batman #79 was a cool fast-paced issue featuring the time traveling villain Epoch as he goes back through time to claim his rightful place (all the best villains have a clear vision of their rightful place) as leader of a past society. Epoch lands in the past and comes face to face with Superman and Batman… and Robin. Specifically the Bronze-Age versions of the characters, so yes, Robin is wearing his little green tights.

Most of the action focuses on Epoch and his ability to stay a step ahead of the World’s Finest. The story is simple and feels like a throwback to classic Bronze-Age stories where there was little fuzziness between good guys and bad.

The last panel is fantastic with a spunky young Dick Grayson exclaiming “…or my name isn’t Robin, the Teen Wonder!” Gold. Jesus Merino has drawn a sharp looking book. Both his One Million Superman and Batman characters look fantastic and the actions sequences are snappy. I like Fiona Staples artwork on the cover, but I find Superman to be posturing a bit too much to love this piece.

Teen Titans #90
DC Comics

J.T. Krul and Nicola Scott have brought Teen Titans back to the prominence they have deserved. This book was feeling aimless even before Geoff Johns departed the book shortly after the “One Year Later” event.

Teen Titans is fun, Krul gives time to all of the characters, Scott’s pencils are some of the finest the series has seen, and Damian Wayne (Robin) is a welcome addition to the team. In this issue, the Titans track down Barney Venton (perhaps not the most realistic name for a teenager in 2010), the newly-powered teen that defeated the team in the last issue. Aided by a pair of students with grudges and new powers, the Titans find themselves at a stalemate with Barney and co.

Krul seems to really have an affinity for Damian and Ravager, as he saves some of the best moments in the book for them. Krul writes them both as a couple of thrill-seeking heroes, motivated more by their love for a good fight than fighting for good. Scott has a clean and dynamic style that has a feel of George Perez’s own original vibrant New Teen Titans work.

Batman: the Dark Knight #1
DC Comics

Batman: the Dark Knight may be the book that needs to be cut from the just-large-enough line of Bat-books. There was nothing significantly wrong with David Finch’s story except that it didn’t feel as though we were being presented with anything we haven’t seen before. This is a challenge to be sure, but one that Grant Morrison has Scott Snyder have been able to achieve on their Batman books.

Finch’s artwork is certainly above average and the book’s prestige format is always welcome; the artist draws an excellent Batman, Batcave, and the gadgetry and vehicles all look sharp. Finch isn’t a bad storyteller either. His pacing is good (no scenes linger) and his dialogue is fine. Ultimately, the book just doesn’t feel necessary.

Wednesday's Finest: 'Detective Comics' #872

By Don M. Ventura

Detective Comics #872
DC Comics

I have never read Batman comic books as regularly as I have this year. There have been some missteps along the way (most of the Bruce Wayne: The Road Home one-shots were pretty mediocre), but on the whole there have been some damn fine Batman reading to be had in 2010.

And here comes Scott Snyder (American Vampire) with artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla to add another book to your pull list: Detective Comics. Snyder began his run on last month’s well-received Detective #871 and his second issue proves the writer is on a serious roll on this book.

Detective Comics #872 continues the mystery behind an organization called Mirror House that is selling famous criminal artifacts to Gotham’s blue bloods, who apparently have plenty of money to burn on ghastly trinkets. I won’t spoil it here, but the item displayed for sale in this issue (and the way it is described) was a particularly morbid piece of Batman memorabilia. Dick reaches out to Oracle and Tim Drake for assistance in this issue.

While we have known some of these characters for decades it’s always refreshing to have more human characterization and Snyder uses this issue to establish Dick. I liked the idea of Barbara Gordon telling Dick something about himself that he might not otherwise have realized anyone understood about him; specifically that he doesn’t like to be tied down. Snyder does this with smart, natural, dry dialogue.

“You think I like the idea of being ‘mobile’?” asks Dick readying to leave her new headquarters.

“Are you really asking me that with one leg out my window?” says Barbara.

We all love our heroes fighting crimes, solving mysteries, and doing superheroics, but, if properly handled, it’s nice to have these characters talk to one another like human beings. This is not easily accomplished, but Snyder has effortlessly combined sincere characterization with his derring-do. There are also strong scenes with Tim and Lieutenant Bullock; I appreciate the use of the Bat-family of characters that Snyder has employed in this series.

With Snyder’s polished script comes an equally talented artist: Jock. The artist is perfectly suited for a crime drama and this book plays to his strengths incredibly well. There’s an iconic shot of Batman soaring down to Earth face first from Oracle’s tower that deserves to be added to a DC Comics coffee-table book. There is a scene in which a disguised Batman infiltrates a Mirror House auction conducted by a villain referred to as the Dealer. Jock used shadow and eerie imagery to evoke the dread the Mirror House proceedings. This is some really great stuff that is tied together by colorist David Baron.

The book concludes the way more superhero comics should (and again, I won’t really spoil it). Batman realizes he’s been caught, the villain cackles, and our hero ultimately realizes he is in an impossible bind. I was reminded of an old (and this is going back) issue of DC Challenge, a 12-issue series where different writers took on a single issue of the book and left the heroes in seemingly zero-solution scenarios. One writer had Batman falling into a volcano. This ending feels as similarly hopeless.

I eagerly await the resolution!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Marvel Teases 'X-Men: First to Last'

The “Age of X” Crossover will kick off 2011 beginning in January and crossover through some of the X-books (X-Men: Legacy and New Mutants). “Onslaught Unleashed” is coming to stir up trouble for the Secret Avengers and Young Allies in February. April will see the beginning of Marvel’s line-wide crossover event Fear Itself by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen. After a fairly peaceful 2010, Marvel looks like they are going to amp up the events next year.

Today Marvel teased something scheduled for May 2011 called “X-Men: First to Last” with not explanation of what it is. The art looks like Paco Medina’s so it might be a storyline akin to “Curse of the Mutants” that stays within Victor Gischler’s X-Men book with some expository one-shots and minis. Stay tuned.

'Thor' and 'Avengers' Rumors, To Debunk or Not To Debunk?

We’re five months away from the release of Thor and two months away before The Avengers begins filming, so naturally there are plenty of rumors going around.

The Wrap announced today that Hawkeye, as played by Jeremy Renner, would make an appearance at some point in Thor. While Renner has previously attempted to scuttle this rumor, a source who has seen an early cut of the film confirmed that Renner does indeed make an appearance. I believe it, but it would be nice if the scene were longer than the Nick Fury cameo from the first Iron Man film; this would indicate that 2012’s Avengers film does not spend half its time getting the team together (my worst fear for that movie).

As for The Avengers, the film is set to begin filming in New Mexico in February for an expected six-month shoot. Last week the Albuquerque Journal announced that filming would take place near the city and that the story involved the infamous, to comic fans at least, Kree-Skrull War. Marvel immediately debunked the story and the Journal indicated that it was a research error.

From the Albaqurque Journal:
"The Avengers' script will blend Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger story lines as the Avengers battle with two alien races, the Skrulls and the Kree."

Allow me to become a bit of a nerd conspiracy theorist for a moment, but how would your average reporter come up with anything having to do with the Kree-Skrull War? There may actually be something to the rumor, but warring alien races seems like an awfully ambitious plot for the team’s first outing. Though with Hulk and Thor on the team, Whedon is going to have to throw a formidable baddie at Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to capture our interest.

Also debunked: rumors that Alan Tudyk (Firefly) and Demi Lovato (Camp Rock) will be appearing in The Avengers as Hank Pym (Ant-Man) and Janet Van Dyne (Wasp) respectively. This week Heat Vision confirmed Lovato was not up for the role of Wasp and Moviefone confirmed that Tudyk will not playing the troubled Dr. Pym. What has not been debunked, which greatly excites me, is that these characters may just be appearing in The Avengers in some capacity. Not only are these characters founding members, they’ve been a part of the comic books for five decades.

Thor is scheduled for release on May 6, 2011. The Avengers is scheduled for release on May 4, 2012.