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Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 4/30/08: DC Universe #0, Action Comics, New Avengers, and 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: DC Universe #0, Ex Machina, New Avengers, Legion of Super-heroes, Action Comics and much more!

 Action Comics #864 Review by Erik Norris
Writer – Geoff Johns
Pencils – Joe Prado
Inks – Jon Sibal
Colors – David Curiel
Letters – Rob Leigh

Action Comics #864 is a tricky comic to review. Made up of a ton of spot-on characterization and memorable moments, but held back from finding it's own footing due to being a "gateway" comic. What i mean by "gateway" is that while issue #864 epilogues the "Superman and the Legion of Superheroes" story arc running through Action Comics for the last six issues, it also ties up plot threads from other series, and teases at titles outside the happenings in Action.

First let me discuss the great; the characterization. This issue, titled "Batman and the Legion of Superheroes," has the Dark Knight venturing to the Fortress of Solitude, finding Lightning Lad and Superman chillaxin' and reminiscing about the good ol' days. Batman spits his usual tone of voice and fireworks fly as he and Lightning Lad butt heads due to them being made up of completely different mindsets. Superman even joins in on the action to make jokes while Batman gets frustrated due to his lack of focus and carefree attitude towards the gravitas of the situation Batman has come to talk about. Apparently two legion members have been found dead in Gotham. Karate Kid and Duo Damsel, who carry over from the happenings of Countdown to Final Crisis (this being the external series wrap up).

Up to this point I was excited about the issue. It was a great mystery strung together by an awesome narrating voice hauntingly discussing the future downfall of the Man of Steel, Batman, and the Legion of Super Heroes. Even the wrap up from Countdown to Final Crisis wasn't an issue because, technically, it fit with Superman currently dealing with the Legion. However, then comes the kick to the teeth, then comes to cliffhanger.

Throughout the whole issue I figured this "voice" was that of definitive Superman villain, Brainiac. It all made sense. Talking about how everything was "history" to him, all the pieces fit, let alone Geoff Johns has a Brainiac/Superman epic to rival the Sinestro Corps War in the works. But you get to the cliffhanger to find it's someone else, and…..this plot is being picked up in a completely different series?! God damnit! I mean it's still a Geoff John's book, but I want plots for Action Comics when I read….Action Comics. Usually this stuff doesn't bother me to this extent, but I felt cheated by this issue.

I would say the issue is worth the price of admission solely for the interactions between Batman, Lightning Lad, and Superman. But those coming in to discover where Action Comics is headed, look elsewhere.

2.5 out of 5.





ImageAvengers: The Initiative #12 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer(s) – Dan Slott and Christos N. Gage
Artist – Steve Uy
Letters – Joe Caramagna

Immediately looking at the first page, the character’s faces look wrong and the art just looks off.  Everyone’s face is very plain and certain "camera" angles result in odd looking panels and it just hurts the whole book.  There are a few cool frames with interesting choices for angles and framing, but only two pages really show this off.  The rest of the book is an exercise in flat looking characters shown in a flat looking way.  It’s a real shame because the writing this time around is great.

Each character is really given their own voice.  The dialogue between everybody feels very natural and grows out of their personalities, not just for advancing the plot.  This is mostly a look back kind of story with the surviving members of the Initiative graduating.  And we also see the results of the recent “KIA” arc…which are essentially nothing.  Not to ruin anything, but almost nothing remains and it’s just confusing why they even told the story.  It’s more of an overall thing than this specific issue, but now that these events take place, the last four issues seem like a waste.  Even so, this specific issue is expertly written and fits well into the continuity of these stories.

3.0 out of 5.




ImageDaredevil: Blood of the Tarantula #1 Review by Joey Esposito
Story – Ed Brubaker & Ande Parks
Writer – Ande Parks
Artist – Chris Samnee
Colors – Matt Hollingsworth
Letters – Chris Eliopoulos
Cover – Marko Djurdjevic

Easing my appetite for the upcoming Daredevil #107, the start of an arc by the old Gotham Central team Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark, Marvel has given me a nifty little one-shot in Blood of the Tarantula. And while there is absolutely no reason for it to not have been part of the ongoing series, and thus not be a dollar more expensive, it is still an entertaining and well written story nonetheless.

Blood of the Tarantula puts Matt Murdock and Daredevil aside for obscure hero Black Tarantula, a vigilante from Argentina who winds up being haunted by shadows from his past. The story is relatively straight forward, if not completely predictable, but the script is strong enough that it doesn't fall flat. Parks is an extremely competent writer, and his ability to weave thematic elements into such an elementary story is engaging. Essentially, he's taken this character and re-birthed him as someone that casual readers, or even new ones, can care about.

The art in this one-shot is spot on in line with Lark's work on the main series, due mostly to the familiar coloring of Matt Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth give's Samnee's pencils and inks the familiar washed out and bleak color scheme that longtime readers of Daredevil are used to. Again, why this couldn't just be a done-in-one issue of the main series is beyond me. I wouldn't go as far to justify the $4 price tag, but it's certainly a pretty book that provides a fairly compelling read.

3.5 out of 5.

ImageDC Universe #0 Review by Erik Norris
Writer(s) – Grant Morrison & Geoff Johns
Pencils – Perez, Doug Mahnke, Tony Daniel, Ivan Reis, Aaron Lopresti, Philip Tan, Ed Benes, Carlos Pacheco, & J.G. Jones
Inks – Scott Koblish, Christian Alamy, Tony Daniel, Oclair Albert, Matt Ryan, J.G. Jones, et al.
Colors – Alex Sinclair, Tom Smith, David Baron
Letters – Nick J. Napolitano
Cover – George Perez

This is it. The single issue that kick starts the entire DC Universe through Final Crisis and beyond, handled by the two masterminds behind it all, Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns. To say this issue delivers is an understatement. It delivers on exactly what was promised; teases. The entire issue is comprised of a number of vignettes used as "jumping on" points for the DCU's biggest upcoming stories. The overall package is even handled in a extremely new reader friendly setup with the short segments followed by a house ad for their respective books.  Oh yea, and did I mention this sucker is only 50 cents?! Yea, it is, now go buy it!

So lets get this straight, we have a 50 cent comic, 1/6th the price of normal books, packing more information into its 22 pages of vignettes than you get with entire story arcs of other series. You get your Batman leading into "RIP," Superman and the Legion of Superheroes, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and of course, Final Crisis. Now what you might be wondering is how do all of these character vignettes, whose stories are clearly being handled in different series, fit together to make one complete comic? Well the answer comes from the mysterious, ominous voice, narrating the segments. And this "god" is a shocker ladies and gentlemen. I won't spoil it here, because that would be cruel, but prepare to have your face rocked off as if you went to a Styx concert.

All of DC's top talent has dumped a good bit of soul into this single 50 cent issue, and it shows. I have heard through the grapevine that Geoff Johns considers this single issue one of his proudest moments in comics, and that man has quite a few. All the artists contributing bring their "A" game, specifically Tony Daniel who draws the confrontation between Batman and Joker like nothing you have seen in his work thus far.

Am I on the DC Hype Train? You better god damn believe it. All of these stories look amazing, including the Wonder Woman story hinted at, and I have had a lot of problems getting engaged by her solo series. The DC Universe looks to be heading in some amazing directions and I'm sitting in my seat, I've paid the toll, now I'm just waiting for the train to depart. Choo choo!

5.0 out of 5!




ImageEx Machina #36 Review by Erik Norris
Writer – Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils – Tony Harris
Inks – Jim Clark
Colors – JD Mettler
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Cover – Tony Harris

Vaughan has always been a man who delivers a solid comic. However, issue #36 of Ex Machina leaves me more nervous for the future. Unlike last issue which stood alone, issue #36 is chapter one of the newest story arc, "Dirty Tricks." Vaughan has always had a distinct voice for all of this characters inhabiting the Ex Machina world, and Tony Harris' art has always been some of the best in the industry, and that trend continues. There really isn't much more to say in either of those departments, so instead I'm going to discuss the actual plot developments of the issue, or as I am going to call it, the "worry zone."


Things just got weird. Ex Machina has always been a series relying on it's characters living in the "real world." Save for Mitchell and his nemesis, who were "blessed" with powers by unknown origin, the individuals in the Machina World seemed normal. That is until now. Driving a motorcycle straight up the remaining tower at "Ground Zero" and jumping off in a base jumping statement, this new character seems almost superhuman in a Batman sense of the word. Where Mitchell's powers seem alien, this lady seems to be a normal human doing super feats. It all just seems "fake" to me. Now I know I'm reading a comic book about a man who can mysteriously talk to machines, but this turn of events seems troubling. I just really don't want Ex Machina to become a superhero book. I loved how the book had real world problems dealt with by a superhuman individual, a true "Superman" that was everything we are, but just had the power to make a difference on his own. I have faith in Vaughan, but it does make me nervous about the direction of Ex Machina, this arc specifically.

Chapter one of "Dirty Tricks" is an odd beast. Standard greatness coming from the writing and art, but a strange plot twist that has me scratching my head. Though the final page is rather funny. Kudos Mr. Vaughan, kudos.

3.5 out of 5.




ImageGreen Lantern #30 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Geoff Johns
Pencils – Ivan Reis
Inks – Oclair Albert
Colors – Randy Mayor
Letters – Rob Leigh
Cover – Ivan Reis & Dave McCaig

To be honest with you, I wasn't sure that yet another retelling of Hal Jordan's origin would really interest me, especially after Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier, but Geoff Johns has once again proven, thus far, that he is superhuman. With issue #30, the second part of "Secret Origin", Johns gives us more details into Abin Sur's life, pre-death, as well as hinting at the role that Sinestro will play in this arc. Issue #30 definitely poses more questions than it answers as far as "what's different" in this retelling, but it surely proves that Johns has a plan that will not disappoint.

It's strange to think that his arc might be a good jump on point for new readers, because there are so many references to story lines that have already happened. For example, when Abin Sur's last words are "Sinestro", would a new reader really know what that means? But that's the beauty of this issue and most of Johns' work; it's easy for new readers to jump aboard but has a whole new depth for the long timers.

This arc is gaining momentum fast and quickly proving that a retelling of an origin isn't a bad thing, even if it's been done hundreds of times – if the work is strong it will show.

Of course, it can't go without saying that Ivan Reis' work is, yet again, nothing short of phenomenal. It's dynamic, expressive, and exciting, all at once. In this one issue alone, Reis takes Hal Jordan through a large range of human emotion, from sorrow, excitement, giddy, sly, to anger (but not fear!) and each one is as expressive as the last. Combine this with his ability to block great and complicated action and splash panels, and you've got a comic book with a soul. Sound ridiculous? Just read the book.

4.0 out of 5.




ImageImmortal Iron Fist #14 Review by Tom Lynch

Writer – Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Tonci Zonjic & Clay Mann
Inker: Stefano Gaudiano
Artist: Kano
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Artmonkeys Studios

Finally, the most recent story of the Immortal Iron Fist comes to a close.  Now that isn’t a crack at the book, it has been a most excellent read, it just seemed to be running long.  Though that may be training from the industry getting too used to six issue arcs that fit nicely in a trade.  The book really needs to be looked at as a full story from issue #1 up until this point.

There are two parallel stories that really have no relation to each other, but they work well together, with one almost acting as a frame for the main action.  This is an oversized issue that reads so fast that it will seem like a normal page count.  The words all flow so well along the page and within the framework of the art.  There are parts with lots of talking followed immediately with inner monologue yet it all makes sense.  Nothing seems out of place and that helps the book out tremendously.  We see the closing up of many threads in good fashion that all makes sense.

On the art side of things, there are three different pencilers throughout this issue.  In all honesty, I could only differentiate two.  They all have the same general style with rough around the edges looking characters and lines.  It works well with the frenetic pacing of the story and all the action going on.  It is a bit jarring about ¾ the way through the book when another artist suddenly takes over, but the same kind of stylized art keeps the feel similar.  Because of that style of art, the color is muted a bit and makes the story seem more rooted in reality even though the battle is between Immortal Weapons.  It just helps the overall sense of action and excitement coming off of the pages. 

With only a two issues left before Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker leave the book, it will be interesting to see what they do with the new characters introduced into Iron Fist’s world.  Basically, this is a book that can’t be missed.

5.0 out of 5!


ImageLegion of Super-heroes #41 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Jim Shooter
Pencils – Aaron Lopresti
Inks – Matt Ryan
Colors – JD Smith
Letters – Steve Wands
Cover – Francis Manapul, Livesay and Brian Buccelato

These last two issues of Legion have both been exceptionally dialogue heavy.  I mean, every single page is littered with bubbles and words.  Thankfully, Shooter is capable of writing dialogue that is not only readable but also engaging.  Each page is completely flooded with some great conversation between the Legionnaires.

The story in this book, however, seems to be lacking direction.  It’s already the second issue in this arc and I’m really entirely unsure where it’s headed.  By the end of the book, our heroes have been given a next stop on their travels, but there has been no indication of mastermind or imminent threat. 

The start of this one, on the other hand, really pissed me off.  Last issue, readers were treated to an amazing cliff-hanger.  Truly.  By the time this issue rolled around, I couldn’t have been more excited to find out what happened next.  A seriously brief pleasure session had my questions answered in a little over six panels.  Six panels in and wham-o, problem solved.  That was it.  I waited a whole month for six panels?

In terms of dialogue and art, this book is great.  Is it a must-read?  No.  Nothing too epic happens.  I’ll reserve this buy for die-hard Legion fans only.

3.5 out of 5.



ImageMarvel Comics Presents #8 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer(s) – Marc Guggenheim, Ivan Brandon, Andy Schmidt, Rich Koslowski
Artist – Francis Tsai, Niko Henrighon, Marco Turini, Marco Checchetto
Colors – Tony Washington, Chris Sotomayer, Laura Villari
Letters – Dave Sharpe

This is an odd book to review.  With it having four stories, I almost feel that each one should get their own score.  You are buying all four with the $3.99 that you put down, but an average of all of them seems odd.  While one story may be worth the money alone, if the other three are terrible, what’s the point? 

Thankfully here, 3 out 4 are good, and that ain’t bad.  The two most interesting stories are the "Vanguard" and "Weapon Omega" that are both 12 parters.  There’s also the first of a "Machine Man" 4 parter, and a one off with Cyclops and Wolverine.  It makes sense that the longer stories have more of an opportunity to flesh things out, but the shorter ones seem to suffer more from lack of direction rather than space restriction.  The Cyclops and Wolverine story is, in essence, worthless.  There is no reason to spend the time reading it, for either the story or the art.  Machine Man is expertly drawn, but the writing is confusing with the story jumping around.  It is interesting enough for me to want to read more, but if only it was a more clear portion of the story.

That brings me to the "Vangaurd" story, which is kind of mystery that has some great art and great writing.  At this point, I’d rather just have a miniseries of this story than anything else.  Each part gives you just enough to stay interested.  "Weapon Omega" is also interesting, but in a more continuity driven way as you can see these characters will continue beyond this story.  The art here is also clean, but not quite as eye catching as the "Vanguard".

Like I said, this is an odd book to review.  In all this issue is worth it, but with that one 8 page story changing every issue, and usually for the worse, something needs to be done to make this book worthwhile after the two lead stories finish.  Lucky for this one, those lead stories really carry it above mediocrity.

4.0 out of 5.


ImageNew Avengers #40 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils – Jim Cheung
Inks – John Dell
Colors – Justin Ponsor
Letters – RS & Comicraft's Albert Deschesne
Cover – Aleski Briclot

This issue of New Avengers is a strange beast. It was entertaining enough, with a last-page mind blow, but could have been done some other way? Issue #40 is a flashback issue of sorts, taking place entirely on the Skrull worlds. We get to see how the planning of the Invasion occured, and when. Yes, someone is (supposedly) revealed as a Skrull in this issue and that's the best part about this book – the way it goes about it. Instead of being surprised when the actual character turns into a Skrull, we get to see this reveal through the eyes of the invaders and in the planning stages.

Overall, the issue is well written, and laced with teases, but I found it hard to not be disappointed by the lack of Avenger-ness inside. The high point of issue #40 is Cheung's work. His characters are detailed so heavily with so few lines that it's astonishing. He also has no fear of changing up perspectives, and as such he gives the panels a diversity that is rarely missed until you see how effective it is. Oh yeah, and Briclot's cover is badass.

If you are a die-hard New Avengers reader annoyed by the Secret Invasion craziness going on at the moment, I'm sorry to say that you might want to start skipping out on the series for a while. But knowing Marvel, once the event is over things will go back to normal and you can jump right back on board.

2.5 out of 5.




ImageTeen Titans: Year One #4 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Amy Wolfram
Pencils – Karl Kerschl
Inks – Serge Lapointe
Colors – John Rauch
Letters – Nick J. Napolitano

Before I get started, I’d just like to say that if you are looking for well polished art with a toony vibe, you can’t get any better than Karl Kerschl and his recent work on Teen Titans: Year One.  Truly stunning, every page and every panel look fantastic.  It’s easily the highlight of this mini-series.

The story, however, is lackluster.  Wolfram does a fine job showing the relationships between the Titans, but the plot itself does little to keep me going.  Kid Flash is jealous of Robin.  That’s really the only thing that moves this book along in the fourth installment of six.  Really… I don’t care.  There is no threat of disaster and no real concept of suspense.

As a comic for younger audiences, it does its job.  It entertains with sequential art.  The art, again, is fantastic.  But beyond that, the series doesn’t bring all that much to the table.  It certainly won’t be the best Year One entry… it may even be the most forgettable.

3.0 out of 5.



ImageX-Men: Legacy #210 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – Mike Carey
Pencils – Scot Eaton, Greg Land
Inks – John Dell, Andrew Hennessy, and Jay Leisten
Colors – Frank D’Armata and Brian Reber
Letters – Cory Petit

This book could almost be split in two.  The first part focuses on Xavier’s past through flashbacks, and the second part focuses on what is happening in the present.  The flashbacks are very powerful and really get their point across as Professor X’s largest failures.  Each one is from relatively recent storylines when his faults have been more part of his character.  There are some other characters that have small parts along the way, but this issue is primarily about Xavier.  Once the flashbacks pass, Xavier is the one doing most of the talking as he tries to figure out what has happened to him and the world around him.  He speaks almost as Wolverine used to, with pieces of his past missing.  While it’s an interesting idea, the fact that the most powerful telepath on the planet couldn’t just probe everyone around him and fill in the gaps is odd.  The ending is also very anti-climactic and doesn’t really seem to fit while the high octane events of the X-books.

There are two art teams that split the present events and the flashbacks.  Both look very clean with the whole art team obviously on board with the same vision.  The inks and pencils work well together to keep a coherent look to the book and I actually didn’t realize there were two teams until after looking at the credits once I was done reading.  That’s good cohesion. 

There are also two epilogues that just seem out of place.  While one seems more intent on pushing some new plot line forward, the other is pretty much a waste of a page.  It almost feels like they had a hard time fitting these into the actual story, so they took the shortcut of throwing epilogues in at the end.  It was a very odd end to a mostly entertaining issue.

3.0 out of 5.