The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 4/22/09: Detective Comics, Kick-Ass, Star Wars & more!

Written by: The CinCitizens

ImageWeek after week, every Wednesday, there is a sudden influx of content in the comic book world. It's CC2K's job to sift through the garbage to find the gold. Every week we'll be bringing you reviews on the widest range of books possible. This week: Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?", Supergirl, Star Wars: Dark Times and more!

Detective Comics #853 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Neil Gaiman
Pencils – Andy Kubert
Inks – Scott Williams
Colors – Alex Sinclair
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher

Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" is one fine read. It's not the most linear or sense-making narrative you'll ever read, but I certianly think that it gets across it's point with flying colors. Part 2 of Gaiman's tribute to Batman is essentially of a similar structure to that of the first part: Batman attends his own funeral from beyond, only to hear his allies and rogues alike tell the tale of his death, each with a different interpretation, but all pointing out another key trait to Bruce's personality. It's a very simply concept in execution, but touching and significant in every way, especially during a time at DC where there is a war to take over the cowl brewing. Simply put, Gaiman's send-off serves as a reminder of why Batman is so important.

My one gripe with the issue is that, obviously, it's the second part of a larger tribute, so it's really not complete without it's earlier counterpart.

However, as great as Gaiman's work here is, the highlight of both parts of this story for me is absolutely Andy Kubert's stunning work. He gets the chance to have a bit of fun, emulating classic Batman artists of the past, from Bob Kane, to Neil Adams, and back to Jerry Robinson, depending on the era that Gaiman is depicting. It's a great technique, and not only shows the diverse history of the character, but the long legacies of comics in general. It truly fits in with the whole "tribute" theme of the story, and I love that Kubert gives credit accordingly.

In addition, Kubert gets to really stretch from doing normal simplified panel layouts, to sweeping two page spreads, to more clever pages with panels shaped like Batman's cape. I really can't stress enough how impressive Kubert's work here is, and with the short (yet sweet) sketchbook included at the end, this book actually feels like it's worth $4, and that's more than most regularly priced books can say. In all, the issue is a satisfying read in nearly all respects, and while I don't believe the story will be looked on with such reverence as it's inspiration, Allen Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", it's nonetheless a worthwhile "conclusion" to Bruce Wayne's tale.

4.0 out of 5.


ImageDaredevil # 118 Review by Gary M. Kenny
Writer – Ed Brubaker
Artist – Michael Lark, John Lucas, and Stefano Guadiano
Colors – Matt Hollingsworth
Letters – VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
Cover – Marko Djurdjevic, Russ Heath and Juan Doe

"Return of the King" part three, specifically this issue has made me question who wrote DD better, Bendis or Brubaker? Though, I don’t have an answer at the moment, Brubaker has really upped his game and given this reader some much needed changes in the DD universe. Warning: the following paragraphs contain major spoilers.

Issue #118, contains some big character developments and in this reader’s opinion a true look into Matt Murdock’s ugly soul. This isn’t your daddy’s Daredevil, forget what you think you know about Matt Murdock because he really isn’t a “superhero” anymore. Looking back these past few years, every woman in Matt’s life has either died or been beaten or has gone crazy (Typhoid Mary and Milla). What has Matt really done about this? Answer: nothing. He just puts on his mask, forgets about his normal life and just get bitter and crazier as he ages. In the 70s, 80s, and even the 90s DD didn’t kill or even want to kill. Now he’s almost as bad as the Punisher. He teams up with the Kingpin like it’s not a big deal. The Kingpin has put everyone Matt’s ever cared about through hell and DD is now partners with him? Brubaker, If this was Spidey or Superman I would been really pissed off, but with Dare Devil, I love it. Reading DD is like watching a slow motion video of a car crash. Matt’s just a big fucking idiot and it’s awesome. To watch a man, a superhero, a brilliant lawyer, arguably a great comic role model become such a mess, I basically feel wowed with every issue Brubaker writes.

Most valuable character in this issue: Foggy! He has always been Matt’s voice of reason, comical sidekick, what have you. But in this one issue, he gets pissed off and it’s brilliant. Foggy goes off at Matt: “ I can’t even list our firm’s address because frigging stilt-man or the freaking toad might fire-bomb us!” “You’re dragging Milla and her parents through hell over your pride, and you don’t even care. You’re fired.” and his reasoning has so much merit that makes me wonder why nobody has written a plot twist like this in all the years Matt Murdock’s been a lawyer. I mean Peter Parker has lost his job, Clark Kent has too, why the hell hasn’t Murdock been canned years ago (I’m looking at you Bendis!)?

I usually read DD mid pile, it’s never on top or saved for last. When Bendis and Maleev were in charge, it was top three, but when they left, the comic began to slowly tank. Along comes Brubaker and surprises most DD fans with his brilliant writing and perfect take on who Matt Murdock really is, he’s a superhero asshole. Thus, Daredevil should be on everyone’s pull list.

4.5 out of 5.



ImageAmerican McGee’s Grimm #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Dwight L. Macpherson
Artist – Grant Bond
Letterer – Neil Uyetake

In a search for new material to review, I scanned for first issues this week as I explain in my Viking review. The only other thing I found was Grimm, apparently based on a video game and with super hero parody on the front cover. Based on that I gave it a 50-50 shot and after having read it, still basically sit on the fence in my opinion.

The book centers around a little bogger named Grimm who patrols different things and spreads misery wherever he goes. With such an exciting concept, it’s good that they showcased just what he’s spreading that misery to, in this case for his first issue, appropriately enough, to a comic book world. For example, Grimm sees two people kissing, walks by, and instead turns it upside down and into a horrible situation.

From the start, the tongue in cheek but still critical view of the comic book world had great promise, making me laugh more than a few times before receding into sophomoric attempts at acceptable humor. How something as brilliantly crude as a super villain named Killer Cock, which as far as I’m concerned, be used and overused with the same reaction every time can swim amongst a sea of mediocrity (including a horribly bland attempt at faux superheroes) is flat out bizarre. It seems like Macpherson wasn’t forcing “shit” and “ass” or references to balls when he could, he was just naturally kind of blurting them out like a 10 year old, either in church or trying to sneak a hairy penis picture past his teacher in an art project.

Because of this, the entire book reads like eating a chocolate covered potato chip, neither a taste you dislike, never a taste together, and absolutely unnatural. If this book could hit some kind of natural groove, either going over the top or focusing more on subtle, clever digs at whatever it’s lampooning, it could have something special. For now, though, I’m not convinced that when the next issue comes out I’ll be spending 3.99 on it. I’m also not intrigued enough to visit the website. I am intrigued enough, though, to give Killer Cock a second and third look. The fact that he most likely won’t be in the next issue is a downer, but then, it also leaves a clean start a possibility for this team to work out the kinks. Someone tell me how they do if I happen to miss it.

2.5 out of 5.


ImageThe Immortal Iron Fist # 25 Review by Gary M. Kenny
Writer – Duane Swierczynski
Artist – Travel Foreman and Juan Doe
Inks – Tom Palmer
Colors – Matt Milla

Letters – Blambot’s Nate Piekos

For those of you who haven’t been following “Escape from the Eighth City,” It’s the story about Iron Fist and his Cobra Kai gang of immortal weapons battling it out in hell. This issue was broken up into three separate stories, the 1st part is how Iron Fist and company break out from hell’s jail, 2nd part is the original of the Eighth City, and the 3rd is the tale of the 1st Iron Fist. Swierczynski puts lots of detail in his story and this arc should create a major addition to the Iron Fist mythology. Specifically Qian Yaozu the 1st Iron Fist.

Swierczynski’s tale of the Qian Yaozu reminds me of the story of Lucifer. Lucifer was God’s favorite Angel and long story short becomes the prince of evil. Many great comic book villains are molded from this tale, Green Lantern’s Sinestro, who was the greatest Green Lantern before he turned to evil, X-men’s Magneto, who was Charles’s partner in creating the X-men before he became the team’s bitter enemy. There are plenty of examples but I found the story of the 1st Iron Fist to be the closest example to Lucifer. This issue reveals that Qian Yaozu is in charge of the eighth city (aka Hell) and felt abandoned by the K’un-Lun after he gave his life to protect K’un-Lun from the eighth city. Unknown if Swierczynski ment the familiarity of Qian Yaozu to the Devil, but the comparison is too obvious not to mention.

I’ve really enjoyed what Marvel has been doing with the Iron Fist. Each issue feels like a B-martial arts movie crossed with some sci-fi and its outstanding. Big Trouble in Little China has nothing on this series. If you are a fan of crazy martial artists and ridiculous Kung Fu concepts, why don’t you join the fun and pick up the Immortal Iron Fist.

3.5 out of 5.



ImageKick-Ass #6 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Mark Millar
Artist – John Romita Jr.
Inker – Tom Palmer
Colorist – Dean White
Letterer – Chris Eliopoulos

It’s unfortunate when even the best books take too huge of a break that you really don’t care when they show up again. We’re on issue #6 of Kick-Ass, a book I feel like I’ve been reviewing since I was 9. I couldn’t remember the last issue or having read it so much so that I was in the store, wondering if I should really drop 10 bucks on a carded copy. I luckily and stupid-smartly decided against it, and just grabbed the new issue which has finally been released.

Kick-Ass has been roaming the streets with Red Mist, fighting crime and living his too real normal life. This issue takes a fairly complete break from that, focusing on Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Unfortunately, the books first faults have reared their ugly heads. Hit Girl tells their back story through her “diary” which is more like Hit “Woman’s” diary, and that’s to say she doesn’t talk like any 10 year old, ever. Even the smartest ten year old girl who has ever lived doesn’t talk like a 40 year old real estate agent bitching to her therapist. Granted, Hit Girl has obviously been through a lot with her psycho, right wing ex-detective father, but she’s still a child. Nothing about her tone is juvenile without being a forced attempt at innocence or doe-eyed pleading.

Still, this is one of those books that’s pretty much impossible to find anything bad about. Everything about Dave Lizewski’s thought process is real, and is mostly intertwined with, as he so eloquently puts it, “nerdgasms.” I guess I’m a little disappointed that the mind-blowing consistency I’ve been taking for granted the last five issues isn’t as strong, but that’s not my fault. I blame whoever’s delaying this awesome shit from being released every month, and that’s certainly annoying. Anyway, all of that is out the window with the shocking turn of events at the end of the book. While this is the weakest issue yet, it’s still necessary reading, especially if you’ve been following the series since the beginning. Kick-Ass still kicks it.

4.5 out of 5.


ImageStar Wars: Dark Times #13 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Mick Harrison
Art – Douglas Wheatley
Colors – Dave McCaig
Letters – Michael Heisler

After a months-ling hiatus, Star Wars: Dark Times has returned, and for whatever reason, has seemingly doubled in quality in nearly every respect. Perhaps it's the fact that there is no "Vector" to tie into, but I'm just happy to be back in the Star Wars universe in the time period that is most interesting to me. Issue #13 kicks of "Blue Harvest" (clever), which is only four months after Revenge of the Sith, but sees the universe in shambles and under the control of the Empire. While Darth Vader struggles with his paranoia over his attempted betrayal of Palpatine in "Vector", Das Jennir, our hero and former Jedi from issues previous, is on a mysterious new mission to a slaver planet from his "employer". Overall, there isn't much that occurs in this issue that isn't simple setup for the issues to follow, but Harrison opens up an interesting new character facet to Vader by showing his paranoia through the narration.

The only real downfall of this issue is the lack of familiar characters, and that's honestly a stupid fanboy complaint. While we get a few pages of Vader, Jennir is the main focus here, as he has been in issues past. Harrison is perfectly capable of creating new and interesting characters, it's simply that there is no way for Darth Vader to be outshined by anyone. One other difficult part of this issue is that there is no character for the reader to latch onto. Vader and Jennir are both complete badasses, but there is no down to Earth character, like Bomo in past issues, to be our entry way into the plot. In relation to it being Star Wars, it doesn't matter all too much, but without an identifiable main character and a lack of recognizable main-saga players, new readers could find this series hard to latch onto.

The art is spot on, Wheatley does a great job as usual of capturing the essence of some of the more exotic Star Wars locales and creatures, and uses very simple layouts to tell the story. Perhaps my favorite part about this issue is the amount of breathing room that Harrison leaves for Wheatley to do his thing; there is never a crowded panel of dialog or narration, and Wheatley is able to take his time with each panel and the limited action sequences, to make them effective as possible. In addition, I think his closeup character panels deserve special mention due to his skill making his characters emote efficiently. Jennir specifically has some great closeup facial expressions, but being able to do the same with Darth Vader through body language alone is a testament to Wheatley's skill.

Usually a book falters from a lengthy hiatus and publishing delays, but in the case of Dark Times, it's only increased my enjoyment of the latest issue.

3.5 out of 5.


ImageSupergirl #40 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Sterling Gates
Pencils – Jamal Igle
Inks – Jon Sibal
Colors – Nei Ruffino
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Cover – Joshua Middleton

Hmm. That's the only response that this issue of Supergirl was able to draw from me. Writer Sterling Gates clearly is under the tutelage of Geoff Johns, picking up everything from his desire to build a decent supporting cast to his narrative format and structure. However, I'm not sure he's quite nailed down making the main character the best part of the book. This is Kara's book, after all, yet in this issue I find myself waiting for something else to happen with the supporting cast. Though Gates introduces one interesting new facet of this character through the loss of her powers, overall the successes of this issue come from Kara's Daily Planet supporting players Lana Lang, Cat Grant, and Jimmy Olsen. The main drive of the plot is still uncovering "Who is Superwoman?" but I honestly just don't care all that much. The first issue or two was exciting, but Gates is starting to lose my interest. The head scratching cliffhanger doesn't really help either. Kara seems to "figure out" the true identity of Superwoman by some clue unknown to the reader; the result of which just makes me anticipate a long winded explanation next issue as to how she figured it out, rather than a way for me to put it together myself.

I hate to complain, because Gates and penciller Igle really have taken this book bounds beyond what it was previously (I'm shocked it's made it to issue #40), so I don't want to come off as sounding too critical. At the same time, that's like saying I'm eating razors, but at least it's not glass. The issue holds enough within it to get me back on board for the next round, but with the increasing cost of comics imminent, this book will be getting seriously reconsidered once the arc is done with.

Igle remains an adept, if inconsistent contributer to the series. Most panels are efficient in their duties, but there are some cases of such awkward facial structure and body language that it keeps your eyes lingering for seconds longer than they should on a single panel. His action is generally well plotted out, it's when characters are stationary or talking that seems to bring out problems.

I would love to say that I'm enjoying this series as much as the other New Krypton-infused Super-books, but I'm just not. There's a certain lack of logic and importance to the title, and no matter how much Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates tell us of it's importance to the over all saga, it's simply always going to remain the third wheel.

2.5 out of 5.



ImageViking #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Ivan Brandon
Artist/Colorist – Nic Klein
Letterers/Design – Kristin Ferretti & Nic Klein
Cover – Tom Muller

With a 15 dollar minimum at my comic book store and no desire whatsoever to read garbage Hulk ever again, I had to find new books to check out. I do in that case what I’ve been doing since the beginning, and that’s hope for some first issues. Most of the time there are none, but I do get lucky as I did with Viking this week. It was interesting to me right away because the book size is different from every other issue out this week, and with a $2.99 price tag that matches most everything else you can’t go wrong at first glance with something that looks bigger and better.

I don’t know jack shit about Vikings besides the fact that there was once an Eric the Red and a sweet video game on an alien space ship. So when I opened the book you can imagine my surprise when instead of getting what I assumed would be a 300-style who-knows-what I got an authentically spoken book woven with care and detail. Taken aback doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt as I read on, basically trying to get over the fact that I felt like I was looking at a death metal picture book.

If you ever hear Viking references in those songs, by the way, you’ll realize they’re actually not just gratuitous and have depth and meaning each and every time. I don’t have even a single example, of course, but this book embodies that sort of mentality. It’s obvious as it goes along, becoming not only easier to get used to but more enjoyable, that the artist and writer are both passionately making something not only for themselves but for whoever will look to enjoy. I’m not just saying that because I was swayed by the note at the end, no, but by the tender moment between Viking king (Viking king? That sounds funny) and daughter towards the end of the book, realizing all the raw emotion I’d been ignoring the entire issue simply because it was from another time period. It’s good to find a new book to enjoy, and if you see this oversized beast in your store, pick it up. $2.99 and way more paper than Hulk.

4.0 out of 5.