Written by: The CinCitizens
CC2K's resident comic book geeks have written and reviewed the best (and worst) titles of the week. Read on to learn all you need to know.
Action Comics #862 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Geoff Johns
Pencils – Gary Frank
Inks – Jon Sibal
Colors – Dave McCaig and Hi-Fi
Letters – Rob Leigh
There's two reasons to pick up this book. Number one, Geoff Johns is the lord and master of all things DC. Every book he touches is near perfect. Action Comics has gone from run of the mill Superman-bashes-monster stories to some of the most epic Superman stories that have been told in a very long time. In his "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" story arc, Johns is able to take D-List characters and make them fascinating to read. He provides us with wit, genuinely exciting action, and a faced paced read.
I've never cared for the Legion of Super-Heroes or really, any of DC's super science fiction, space opera-y type characters. It really says something that Johns is able to take these characters, both in Action and in Green Lantern and make it something that I can't wait to read every month. Issue #862 is no different. The plot is barreling towards it's sure to be epic conclusion, and if the last panel of this issue is any indication, it's going to be one hell of a ride. This issue is chock full of great character moments, many of which come from characters that I haven't even thought about in years, let alone if I even know who they are. Out of any issue thus far, #862 proves Johns' talent and love for the universe that he is working in.
It also cannot go unsaid that Gary Frank draws one mean Superman. Obviously, the first thing that stands out is his uncanny likeness to Christopher Reeve, who for most of my generation of comic book readers, is the definitive Superman. It's a great image to recall, especially with Johns' and Richard Donner's recent introduction of several concepts from the film into the canon of the comics.
Of course, there's plenty more to Frank's art than just his Reeve impression. His action sequences are truly exciting, often times cinematic. The final page alone, a larger than life splash page that features one of the best Superman images in a comic for a long time, is a sight to behold. It's simple in pretty much every way; the composition is standard and the colors are scarce – only a few shades to the palette – but it's an exceptionally strong way to end the issue and get you prepared for what promises to be a conclusion that pulls out all the stops. Mix in a couple of little things throughout this issue that are bound to tie into Johns' big plans for the Man of Steel in 2008, and you have yourself one of the best comics of this month.
4.5 out of 5.
Batman #674 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Grant Morrison
Pencils – Tony Daniel
Inks – Sandu Florea
Colors – Guy Major
Letters – Travis Lanham
This is one beautiful book. Dark, scary, and freaking nuts, but beautiful. Daniel's world of Batman is stark and gritty, with characters shrouded in shadow and full of mystery. Of course, Grant Morrison provides Daniel with plenty of space to play around in.
Morrison's run on Batman has been one of the most fascinating reads that I can recall. Coming off of Infinite Crisis and the "One Year Later" jump, Morrison gave us a breath of fresh air that truly stirred things up in Gotham. The past few issues have been sort of a mystery, in a mind numbing sort of way, but this is the issue that really puts it all together and finally gives us an idea of what is happening.
Morrison's "Three Batmen" arc is drawing to a close, and he is successfully putting together an intriguing story that no doubt is leading to something big. The end of this issue raises questions that are sure to be answered, whether it be in his upcoming "Batman RIP" story arc or beyond, it's exciting to know that there are big plans in store for this book for a long time to come. Morrison loves to explore the psyche of Batman, and it is never more evident in his decision to take these 60+ years of complex continuity and make them canon. Again, it just raises interesting questions. If all those things had really happened to a man, as Morrsion says, in the "span of about 15 years", what does that do to a person?
This is an example of a book that is quite difficult to review on its own without referring to the previous issues of the story, just because it flows so well as a continuous read. It's almost as though the creative team regrets having to go in the monthly format, because while there are the all important "cliff hangers" they are not of the traditional sort. Thankfully, I can rest well knowing that whatever Morrison decides to throw our way, we'll have Tony Daniel's beautiful art to back him up.
4 out of 5
Countdown to Final Crisis #9 Review by Joey Esposito
Head Writer – Paul Dini
Writer(s) – Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmotti
Pencils – Tom Derenick
Inks – Wayne Faucher
Colors – Pete Pantazis
Letters – Ken Lopez
Cover – Stephane Roux
Countdown to Final Crisis has been on a serious roll lately. The past couple months have been more exciting than the whole year before it, but unfortunately issue #9 is sort of a misstep. The intense action from the Apokolips-centric climax is continued here from the last issue, but somehow it's just not as exciting as it was. The dialogue in this issue is a bit contrived, and the "jokes" always fall flat. The real problem with this issue is the pacing. With all the forty something issues previous, I was pretty sure we had a system down for managing time between characters. Unfortunately, even with all the lead characters in the same location, it doesn't seem to have the right amount of pages devoted to certain characters.
The art in this issue seems to have taken a downgrade as well. If this book wasn't full price every single week, I might be okay with some imperfections in the art, but that's not the case here. The pencils are inconsistent at best. Derenick's work seems to work best for splash pages or George Perez-style epic action sequences with hundreds of characters. Except Derenick doesn't include as much detail. Where he falters is in regular action panels or close ups. Some panels look great, and others simply don't.
The cliffhanger at the end of this issue suggests that there is a new enemy to come. With only 8 issues remaining, and so many questions remaining, here's hoping that some answers are going to be found. We saw with 52 and World War III that DC mismanaged the amount of pages they had to tell their story. WWIII essentially served as an extra few pages to touch on some story points they realized they had no space left in the main series to wrap up. As no such announcement was made of a similar series (the countless tie-ins not withstanding), I'm going to assume that it's all going to be concluded by the time the book reaches #1.
Criminal Vol. 2 #1 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Ed Brubaker
Art – Sean Phillips
Colors – Val Staples
There is nothing that I don't like about this book. I shouldn't even really bother to "review" it, because it's perfect. But the thing I like the most about it isn't the clever noir writing of Ed Brubaker, or the dark, dangerous world that Sean Phillips draws, it's everything in between. The hand drawn panels and world balloons. The backup articles feature. Zero ads. Zero. None. Okay, one, but it's on the inside back cover and its for a crime magazine. I'll let it slide. Not only all that, but this issue has more pages. There is no other book being published that is a better value than Criminal.
This issue is essentially a stand alone story that will be tied in to other stories happening in future issues. The cast of characters in this world is huge, and Brubaker effortlessly ads to it in this week's installment. This new story features Jake "Gnarly" Brown, a professional African-American boxer who grew up on a rich white mobster's estate, for whom his father was his right hand man and confident, and whose son was his own. Things have changed over time, and the relationship Jake has with his best friend has become complicated, as Jake wishes to be a different man from his father while his friend emulates his.
Brubaker effortlessly creates these characters from nothing, giving only a brief amount of history before making them instantly relatable, with relatively few lines of dialogue or narration. He states in the backup letter "not a single drawing or word is wasted or unintended, I assure you.", and it truly shows. Every line out of a characters mouth and every action contributes to the story, which is why these characters and their plights are so suddenly familiar. There is no reason anyone should not be reading this book. If you haven't read the first volume, no worries. Criminal is a book that anyone can pick up at almost anytime. And with this being the first issue of the new volume, there's no reason not to start right now. As I said before, it's one of the few books being published where you'll feel as though you truly got your money's worth.
5 out of 5!
Daredevil #105 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Ed Brubaker
Art – Michael Lark, Paul Azaceta & Stenfano Gaudiano
Colors – Matt Hollingsworth
Letters – Chris Eliopoulos
Cover – Marko Djurdjevic
When Ed Brubaker took over Daredevil from Brian Michael Bendis and basically restored the character to his status quo after Bendis put him through the wringer like no one had ever seen…I basically assumed that there was nothing Brubaker could do that could ever compare to the mess that was Matt Murdock's life in the Bendis era. And up until this issue, I was right.
The trials and tribulations that Murdock has been going through as of late were quite interesting, but not consistently shocking. But to some degree, I think shocking is what Bendis' run consisted of; thinking of the worst things that he could and then make them happen. Brubaker though, instead seems to be taking the emotionally damaging approach. Bendis created very public issues for Murdock to deal with, where here Brubaker gives us a personally devastating scenario that involves one of the closest things to Matt, his wife Milla. Up to this point, (SPOILER!) it was assumed that the psychotic inducing gas that she was exposed to via B-list villain Mr. Fear would be reversed and everything would be back to normal. However, this is where Brubaker really steps up.
This issue does not resort to any sort of happy ending. There is no reversal. As far as we can tell, it's absolutely permanent. This devastating blow gives me incredible hope for the future of this series. Brubaker has promised in the past that his reason for previously restoring things to status quo was so that he could ruin his life all over again in his own fashion.
Michael Lark again delivers his great pencils in his noir style that so completely compliments Brubaker's story, harking back to the Gotham Central days. Speaking of which, we can look forward to an upcoming Daredevil arc co-written by Brubaker's GC co creator Greg Rucka. All in all, issue #105 is the issue that has quelled any concerns about Brubaker's future for Daredevil.
3.5 out of 5
Captain America #35 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Ed Brubaker
Pencils – Butch Guice
Inks – Butch Guice & Mike Perkins
Colorist – Frank D’Armata
Letters – Joe Caramagna
Bucky Barnes continues his new life under the mask of Captain America in the latest from writer Ed Brubaker. Picking up where issue #34 left off, the new Cap is now knee deep in riot and protest throughout the United States as he struggles to find a way to maintain a working relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. and honor the late great Steve Rogers all in a day’s work.
One of Marvel’s more mature books, Captain America takes a look at the political side of the universe, following Tony Stark as he tries to maintain a relationship with the United States figureheads. The character is taking up about equal time with Cap at this point, being written with much more dignity in care than how he’s currently written in the ongoing Hulk series. He still has the overconfidence and rude attitude that make the character great, but it’s built in with much more subtlety, making the character more rewarding. He has yet to have any sort of real face to face interaction with Cap since Bucky took the reigns, however, and this takes away from the book as a whole. The book begs for an ongoing clash between the two men, but so far it has been fairly absent. Bucky’s decisions as Captain America are underneath S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar, but it shouldn’t stop a conflict that begs to be brought to the forefront.
Political undertones are present, but only on the American side. The villains, Red Skull and Dr. Faustus, stay buried in hiding, having puppets underneath them and never being involved in the forefront of the bureaucratic “action.” Action is of course, maybe a bit too prominent in this book, but how could it not be? It’s certainly fairly balanced, but the political arguments are interesting enough where the fighting could be even less important and the book wouldn’t suffer. None of what Captain America does seems to have any sort of impact at this point. The main characters’ stories are running on parallels and beg to crash into each other, but haven’t done so yet. Whether or not this is intentional remains to be seen, but it certainly takes a toll on Captain America’s development. It doesn’t, however, take a toll on the book as a whole, and it’s worth getting now before its too late and the story gets too wrapped in itself and becomes hard to understand. Now’s the time!
3.5 out of 5
Kick-Ass #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
Pencils – John Romita Jr.
Colorist – Dean White
Letters – Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Inks – Klaus Janson
Kick-Ass boasts on its’ cover that the ‘greatest superhero book of all time is finally here!’ Whether its’ the truth or not will vary from person to person, but it unfortunately seems like the book will do nothing but make fanboys angry. It’s not a typical book, taking a fairly realistic approach to superheroes and breaking a fanboy rule of giving an escape from a miserable real life. Taking aspects of the Spider-Man formula of relatability and bringing them a step further, Kick-Ass brings the story of a high school kid with no super powers and only the desire and drive of superhero fantasy. Not anytime in this book will the main character be banging and marrying a supermodel girlfriend, or will he have any relatives torturously coming back from the dead. His mother is dead and dead she will stay, not even making an appearance but in one panel, sprawled on the floor from an aneurysm.
For most comic fans, I would assume this book hits a little too close to how they really feel about themselves for comfort. It could be a dose of truth for anyone who has ever seriously considered putting on a costume and fighting crime with little to no strength or fighting skills. The average comic book nerd is most likely worse than the story’s protagonist, who cleverly thinks more highly of himself than he should. It’s just too tasty of an idea to overlook the fact that a comic book fan would read this book and think “well, this may happen to him, but I certainly wouldn’t get massacred if I tried to be a super hero.” Sorely mistaken they would be, as they would most likely suffer a fate worse than that of the book’s hero, and be beaten to a pulp by a gang of thugs, or possibly killed. But of course, I’m only speaking from stereotype, and what I see walking into the comic store every week, so if you want to exclude yourself from the group of which I speak, be my guest. Also, by my guest in trying on your own latex suit and fighting drug dealers in South Central LA, and do it as soon as possible.
The book’s sensibility is its’ greatest asset, in a sub-Marvel world where everything is dumbfounded and epically linked by unnecessarily huge battles and painfully long arcs. Kick-Ass is for those looking for character development laced with verisimilitude. If you’re into the usual Marvel, you had better stay away, but if you’re in need of a change and suffering from a bit of Marvel-phobia, this is the book for you.
4.5 out of 5
Thunderbolts: International Incident #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Christos N. Gage
Artwork – Ben Oliver
Colorist – Jose Villarrubia
Lettering – Albert Deschesne
Cover – Jim Lawson and Steve Lavigne
A one shot, and rightly so. On would think that’s grounds for something quick and understandable, but this book is the opposite. Thunderbolt: International Incident is supposed to tell the story of a group of ex-super villains now working for Tony Stark’s mutant registration program, hunting down unregistered super powered folk. Run by Norman Osborn, a fantastic choice, the book showcases the ups and downs of the group and how they deal with each country’s political choices and repercussions based on those decisions. A fairly simple concept, and somehow it’s poorly executed anyway. The book jumps into an immediate fight with no explanation, and even though one isn’t necessarily needed, it switches subjects just as fast, making its’ move to a new target and a crisis with the painfully boring character of Radioactive Man.
The characters, most being rich with a history of development, or at least room for development, are in no way used to their full potential. The usually stark-raving mad yet publicly calm and collected Norman Osborn is reduced to a banal team leader, standing tall and looking like he’s waiting for a 1970’s meeting at the United Nations building. Even Venom seems watered down, timidly telling a reporter he will suck the marrow from her bones, but then doing no such thing and disappearing for the rest of the issue. A book is certainly hurting when you read it and are waiting for the return of a two dimensional overrated personality, like Venom.
Not much is redeeming about the book. A snooze worthy reveal shows that Swordsman has been working the entire time only for personal motives, trying to revive his dead sister. As if there would be no traitor amongst a team made primarily of villains, this is the books major downfall. Shouldn’t all the villains be in touch with their evil sides, trying only to gain fortune of their preferred kind for themselves? Unfortunately, the richly intriguing idea of political corruption brought on by the most evil subjects possible is instead reduced to a below average story about a team of heroes. Don’t bother unless you’re a fan of the ongoing Thunderbolts or a die hard collector.
1.5 out of 5
Tales of TMNT #43 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Dan Berger
Artwork – Jim Lawson
Lettering – Eric Talbot
Cover – Jim Lawson and Steve Lavigne
Well well, aren’t we lucky? A TMNT book two weeks in a row thanks to some late catch up! And guess what? This weeks’ book is way better than last weeks’. The turtles find themselves helping their old pal Casey Jones propose to April O’Neil once and for all, sealing the deal for good on whose love interest she actually is. The spark in their relationship still carries a need for buildup as Casey woos April on a picnic lunch at his Massachusetts farmhouse, complimenting her and delivering some fantastically juicy innuendos. All the while, the turtles are back together again after Leo, Don, and Mike took a break in #42, remain a presence in the surrounding woods, crafting a romantic setting for their friend’s emotional milestone. Returning with the turtles is the chemistry they share, strong as ever and further proving just how necessary all four turtles are to keep the book’s tenacity. Like going to a family reunion with only cousins your age and a wall of video game systems to play, getting them back together again even after a one month absence is the issues most exciting aspect.
The antagonists in TMNT continue to be a veritable mind fuck. Something about them works differently in print when contrasted with their cartoon or film counterparts. Watching Casey Jones’ cousin melt into the Tolkien-on-crack product that he becomes adds an extra bit of surreal tone in a book, of course, about teenaged mutant turtles.
The pacing is fantastic this issue, with only a bizarre appearance by Casey and April’s daughter being held by Splinter to slow things down. They’ve obviously knocked boots before, so why does Casey still have to talk up April so vehemently? Isn’t Shadow the product of their unmarried, painstaking lust? Despite the need for more sex, the ninja turtles truck on with another fun book for another month.
4 out of 5