Posts Tagged ‘J. Michael Straczynski’

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Rating System:
**** : Excellent
*** : Good
** : Fair
* : Poor
Zero : Horse Shit

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #34
By J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz

This month’s offering by J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz is a pretty ambitious two issue story staring members of the Doom Patrol and the Legion of Super-Heroes. JMS hits the ground running, putting Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl on the run from a Black Hole that destroys the Earth before our heroes can formulate a plan to stop it. With no time to escape from the Black Hole our trio is forced to use their Time Bubble to travel back in time to the Earth’s past to find help preventing the destruction of the planet in their future. So, who do you go to for help preventing the Earth from being sucked into a giant Black Hole? The Doom Patrol of course! Sure it might seem like a rather odd choice in this case, but after a short meeting between the two teams the plan is worked out and our heroes are off to save the day. If you guessed that something terribly wrong happens with the plan, leaving our heroes in a cliffhanger ending to be resolved in the second part…well… you would be wrong about that. The plan works and the Black Hole is dissipated with our heroes return back to Earth triumphant!

So what’s the deal with this being a two issue story?

It looks like JMS is doing something a little different here with his story structure. Even though the story is two issues long, there is no cliff hanger in this first issue, the book has a totally self contained story complete with an ending. However, there are things that happen in the course of the story leading the reader to suspect that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Objects disappear and then reappear in different locations, our heroes also find a mysterious object hidden in the Time Bubble and the Doom Patrol find that Dr. Niles Caulder has had ‘The worse day of his life’ while they were off saving the Earth in the future. It appears that some unknown force was trying to either help or hinder our heroes in their mission. Did they succeed or fail in what they were trying to do? I guess we will find out in the next issue.

JMS is taking what would be a pretty straight forward story in the hands of another author and having a little fun with the readers here. Obviously there is more going on in the story and since we are talking about a time travel story, anything could be happening here. Time travel stories love a good paradox or two, and a parallel storyline running along side this story is not out of the question. You can tell that JMS was having a good time writing this comic, there is a lot of humor contained in this book, and while the subject of the Earth being ripped apart by a Black Hole might not seem like a backdrop to find laughs, Straczynski writes more a few humorous one-liners and creates some nice awkward situations (Robot Man and Saturn Girl in the Time bubble being my favorite one) here to bring a smile to my face.

Jesus Saiz does his usual excellent work here on pencils, I have been impressed with how consistent he is with his artwork, the man has been very solid for this entire run on the Brave and the Bold up to this point. But for the life of me, I can’t seem to find any bio information on the guy, I would like to learn more about him, but he seems to be the rare comic artist online with little information out there.

Once again J. Michael Straczynski shows why he is one of the best in the business, just when I think I have him figure out, he goes and does something that surprises me again. I certainly hope that he will stick around on the Brave and the Bold for some time to come.

Raing: ***½

DOOMWAR #4
By Jonathan Maberry and Scot Eaton

I was surprised to see this book was getting less than stellar reviews this month. I find that to be a bit baffling, since this issue was just as strong as the first three issues. If you liked the first three books in this mini, there is really no reason not to like this one. The story continues with the forces of Wakanda, lead by Shuri, Storm and members of the Fantastic Four heading to Easter Island to retrieve the stolen Vibranium. Of course Doctor Doom isn’t going to let that happen without a fight, and he has his new and improved Doombots (augmented with the stolen Vibranium) there to fight for him.

While this issue seems like one long fight, there is a little more going on here in terms of the story. For the first time you can really see Doom’s overall plan coming together, everything he has done up to this point finally starts to make sense and you can see for the first time that his careful planning and detailed knowledge of Wakanda, T’Challa and Shuri will lead him to victory. Even T’Challa seems to realize that Doom has his number and in a moment of desperation calls in a wild card to try and throw a money wrench into Doom’s plan. Of course the money wrench is Deadpool, the one guy in the Marvel universe who’s actions no one can predict. I was a bit nervous about Deadpool showing up in this book, so far Doomwar has been a dead serious book with no room for humor in it. Deadpool has become the clown prince of Marvel over the years and I wasn’t sure how he would fit into the story. But not to worry, Jonathan Maberry reminds us all that good old Deadpool can be a very effective hero if written correctly.

My only complaints would be with the art, the JRJR cover once again is uninspired and dull, it wouldn’t surprise me if people where passing on getting this book based of the artwork alone. Scot Eaton artwork still looks terribly dark, I don’t know who to blame for that, the inkers I guess. And there is a couple of double sized splash pages that are pretty poorly done and just seem like filler.

This is still the best mini Marvel is putting out this year so far, and with two issue left I am not sure why people would be bailing on it at this point.

Rating: ***½

THUNDERBOLTS #144
By Jeff Parker and Kev Walker

Jeff Parker is off to a good start with this latest issue of Thunderbolts, he gets the chance to put his new team together under the leadership of Luke Cage. I wasn’t too sure about the lineup for the new team when it was announced, but after reading this book I was a lot happier about the new team.

Jeff Parker took a page from one of my favorite movies, The Dirty Dozen, when writing the introduction for his new team. Much like that movie the pool of new members are all convicts, former criminals captured and being held in the Raft. Cage comes to each potential new member of the T-Bolts and has a little chat with them, trying to see what they are about and what it will take to get them to work along side him.

Some of the convicts are easier to recruit than others, former T-Bolts members Ghost and Moonstone seems more than happy to rejoin their old team with little convincing needed. Juggernaut just wants to get out of his cell and may or may not be a team player. Crossbones is just fucking nuts and I am still not sure why Cage would invite him on the team. Crossbones reminds me of ‘Maggot’ from the Dirty Dozen, you know he’s crazy, Cage knows he’s crazy, everyone knows he is going to have a meltdown at some point, but yet there he is on the team.

The most interesting new member is Man-Thing, Not really a criminal, but no one is really sure what to do with it. The government wants to destroy it, Hank Pym wants to save it, and Luke Cage is kind of stuck with it. Seeing how Parker writes Man-Thing’s interactions with it’s new teammates is something I am looking forward to.

To top everything off, Jeff Parker throws in a surprise ending that was a real shock to me, I didn’t see it coming, but I am not sure if I really liked it. After everything that Parker did setting up Cage and his new team, to have it end the way it did, kind of sucked to me. I don’t want the T-Bolts back under the leadership of Baron Zemo dammit. For now, I am going to call shenanigans on his return. I am hoping that this is just some sort of test .

Thunderbolt has the potential to become my favorite Marvel book this year, but we will see where Parker takes this story after this month’s cliffhanger.

Rating: ***½

Welcome back to my semi-regular column about the stuff that caught my interest in the last week or two.

RANTS

I’ve been known to rant a bit and today is no exception. There are a number of things that irk me about blogs and message boards and one of the things that bugs me to no end is when a new writer is announced for a book how people start fretting about what he (or she) is going to do the character(s) in that book.

And this is months and months before a book is even printed mind you. Reams and reams of idle speculation is launched with all kinds of irrational ideas that they heard from someone or that a so-called “inside source” has leaked or whatever. Now I do realise that this is something that happens all the time but it does not mean that it is right. When I want to speculate I prefer to do so with at least some concrete factual information.

Take for example the speculation over what JMS would do with the Wonder Woman and Superman books, people worrying and getting inflamed with very little basis.  A whole thread on Bleeding Cool wandered about like a spastic dinosaur until JMS had to come on and quash stupid ideas like Superman wandering across America like Jack Kerouac or Kaine in the series Kung Fu. I’m going to reprint what JMS said on that thread just in case anyone didn’t get it.

“I wish to make several points very very clear.

It is absolutely and unequivocally untrue that I have at any time had any conversations at all with DC about Marc Guggenheim.

It is absolutely and unequivocally untrue that I insisted “that Superman only appear in the Superman book he’s writing.”

I have made every indication to DC that as and when Superman is needed during the time I am writing him, he will definitely be made available. You simply can’t keep a character as major as Superman out of every title for the length of my initial run. It’s impossible, and the idea that we could or would try is absurd.

It is absolutely and unequivocally untrue that Superman is “going to drop his Superman identity.”

It is absolutely and unequivocally untrue that he “not use his powers.”

So to those who have reacted (properly) to say that these are stupid ideas, you are absolutely right.

They are stupid.

Which is why we are not, have not been, and will not be doing any of them.

The only stupidity greater than those lay in the suggestion that we ever would.”

So there you go, from the horses mouth as it were. Speculation is fun, but please, it is better to do it where its based on facts.

…Except of course when it comes to Bendis, Loeb and Millar where its better to think the worst. The worst will probably happen but at least you’ll be prepared for it!

JMS on the other hand is a writer with more hits than misses so I think he’s worth the benefit of the doubt.

The DC Implosion

Back in the late 70’s DC canceled a couple of dozen of their poorer selling titles due to the bad economy of the time and other factors. This became known as the DC Implosion as it drastically reduced the amount of content that they were publishing.

Just in the last month DC have canceled the Red Circle titles, The Web and The Shield, they’ve canceled one of my favourite titles, The Warlord, and they’ve canceled The Great Ten (as of issue 9, so they are canceling a 10 issue series with one issue to go, great planning eh?)

It seems like its no coincidence that a new management and editorial team have come in and not long after a bunch of titles get canceled. So who’s going to be next then?

Based on the sales charts, titles like Magog, Wildcats, Authority, REBELS (keep spreading the word on this title!), Doom Patrol and Batman Confidential have cause to be worried. Johnny DC titles will be ok as they mainly sell at supermarkets and newsstands and most Vertigo titles should be ok as they do big business in the Trade Paperback market.

The DC Explosion

Another story that came out recently was that DC were looking to expand their range of output in order to compete equally with Marvel on the comics racks and to take market share off of Marvel. Word was put out that it was a good time for freelancers to approach DC for work as a rapid growth was foreseen.

So, considering my previous rant about the current DC mini-implosion, what exactly are DC going to publish in order to ramp up their market share. It looks as if anything they publish that’s quirky (Warlord, Doom Patrol) or non DCU-centric (Red Circle characters, possibly the First Wave characters) have weak sales potential.

What are your bets on what DC is going to do, will it be extra Batman (and surely there’s more than enough already!), more Superman, more Flash and we know that there is at least 1 more Green Lantern title on the way. Just what franchises can DC mine to increase their production? Personally I can’t see where long term growth is going to come from.

The Amazing Spectacular Amazing Spider-Man Price Increase

You didn’t think I was gonna go a whole column without laying into Marvel over something right? One thing I noticed from last months Marvel Previews magazine is that Amazing Spider-Man comic has gone up in price to $3.99.  They are gone up to 40 pages though with a 2 page Spidey Sunday story and a Kraven back up story but still, if you want to follow the main Spidey comic now you need to shell out 12 clams a month whereas just a couple of years ago you only needed to buy 1 issue of Amazing for $2.99 a month. Marvel seems to be out to exploit every segment of their fan base these days.

It used to be great back when you could buy 1 Avengers Comic, 1 X-Men comic, 1 Spidey comic and you didn’t need to buy 4 or 5 of each a month. No wonder smaller titles can’t get an audience now…

How does your nose get so brown?

Well if you shove it this far up Jeph Loeb’s arse your nose would be brown too, just take a look at this video (oh and keep the sick bucket near by in case you upchuck).

COMICS CAPSULE REVIEWS

Milestone Forever #2

I’d love to say that this comic got better with the second issue but I just can’t. As with the first issue the cover is horrible and the packaging and design is terrible, I can’t believe that Rian Hughes designed this thing. I did figure out what made me uneasy about the first issue though and it was that these two books felt more like shout-outs to old Milestone fans rather than something that could bring new readers into the fold.

After 2 expensive prestige format issues, I still don’t really know who Icon, Hardware, Static and the rest are, what their powers are or anything about their personalities. That’s a pretty bad indictment for any book. Regarding the art, Jean Paul Leon doing the framing sequence was good again and Denys Cowan and ChrisCross both did decent jobs on their sequences.

Brave and the Bold #32

After sledging a comic I like to follow up with a book I like, it freshens the soul or something, I dunno. Anyhoo, B&B 32 features Aquaman and The Demon teaming up against some underwater demons from hell…or thereabouts. After a Joker/Atom team-up that rather misfired this comic was satisfying on a number of notes. JMS had a handle on both characters, so much so that I’d like to seem him do solo books for either character….or at least backup features in either of his new books. Aquaman does much of the work carrying this issue with the Demon mostly standing around spouting rhyming couplets until the ending where he KABLAMMO’S the invading demon.

Jesus Saiz does another beautiful job on this issue, he’s rapidly becoming one of my favourite artists, he has sort of a Ryan Sook mixed with John Buscema quality, there’s a lovely sequence of Aquaman fighting a shark/demon on page 9 that works so well in its power and movement. Also the splash page of Aquaman backed up by thousands of whales, sharks and every other type of sea creature took my breath away. One of the best books of the month easily.

JLA #43

This is the tie in to the Rise and Fall of Arsenal that documents the post Cry for Justice JLA continuity. It was ok, certainly an improvement on the direness of the Blackest Night issues. Mark Bagley’s art is certainly better, especially pages that seem to be inked by Norm Rapmund. The main problem with this is too-many-character-itis , I count at least 14 members which means that no-one gets any face time, except for Ollie who we learn likes curry, no not Arthur Curry, the Indian chicken tikka sort of curry.

One thing that does really annoy me about DC though… and this sounds like a contradiction of the last point I made….but DC editors obviously tell writers they can use characters and then 2 issues they take the fucking characters away because they’re in another book. This completely ruined McDuffie’s run and its affecting Robinsons already. This issue Starfire zoomed off to join the REBELS, why couldn’t she just be in the 2 books, who the fuck cares much about continuity that a character can‘t be in 2 fucking books?

ZVR Aventure #1 and #2

Another Zombie book? Well yes it is but it’s the continuation of Ashley Wood’s Zombies versus Robots world, this time in the form of a 4 issue anthology book.  Each issue has 3 eight page stories which continue from one issue to the next. Ashley Wood does the (amazing) covers and Chris Ryall writes all the stories.

The first adventure has Sgt Davis organising resistance to the zombie horde in a New York-esque city, the art is by Menton Matthews III and is a strange heavily photoshopped type of art. The second story is about a remote testing facility where the cook is the only person left alive and pilots an early Iron Man type costume/robot while trying to survive another horde, the art by Paul McCaffrey which is reminiscent of Juan Gimenez’s style. The last story has art by Gabriel Hernandez which shows voodoo Zombies fighting normal zombies in Haiti. This is a great book for horror/aventure fans and considering the card cover and heavy quality paper its probably worth the $3.99

Echo #20

I never hear this book mentioned anywhere but it’s a consistently enjoyable tale by Terry Moore. The main story is about a young woman called Julie who unexpectedly encounters a disastrous military test and gets part of her body covered by a strange living metal. She is forced to go on the run from the government and the company behind the making of the living metal who send various assassins and maniacs after her. The black and white art by Moore is detailed yet simple and elegant and the characterisation as one would expect is top notch. What I didn’t expect is the constant tension because you feel none of these characters is safe.

Superman: Last Stand on New Krypton #1

The New Krypton arc that’s dominated the Superman books for over a year is coming to an end, but this is a bit of a confusing mess. Brainiac invades New Krypton in a stupid looking gigantic robot head, cue thousands of killer robots invading New Krypton and we get page after page of Kryptonians fighting robots….yada yada yada. The art from Pete Woods looks rushed, some of the writing just makes no sense like Zod arresting the Legion of Superheroes who are trying to help, perhaps this is a double bluff by Zod but it just seems like brain-numbingly stupid writing to me. This book isn’t terrible but I wouldn’t heartily recommend it either.

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed #1

Lets end the reviews on a high note,  the Pet Avengers was one of the best unexpected surprise hits of last year and I’m happy to say that this first issue of the new mini series carries on the charm of last years series. The Hairball/Ms. Lion duo is hilarious again and the art by Ig Guara and the colours by Sotomayor and Roberts is beautiful, really great work. This issue sets up the series when the rest of the Pet Avengers discover that Frog Thor is missing from Central Park.

BACK ISSUE BIN

Vlad the Impaler #1-3 (Topps comics, 1993)

This is a 3 issue mini-series from Topps short-lived foray into comics. Topps were more known for baseball cards but decided to get in on the act during the comics boom of the early 90’s. Unfortunately for them they got their strategy wrong, they decided to put out well written and drawn comics when what the market was looking for was badly written and appallingly drawn crap like Youngblood.  Vlad the Impaler was an excellent little 3 issue mini-series detailing the savage life of Prince Vlad Tepes of Transylvania and his eventual turning into Vlad Dracula.

Roy Thomas wrote it and did a great job worthy of his best Savage Sword of Conan work, and the art by Esteban Maroto is truly stunning. Even after 17 years this is a comic that I still cherish, it just reeks of quality.  The lettering by John Costanza adds greatly to the atmosphere and the colouring by Paul Mounts is sumptuous adding to the sense of baroque horror. I’ve checked online and these issues can be found for $2 each, an incredible bargain and certainly better than most comics out now.

BLOG RECOMMENDATIONS

Dark Roasted Blend
http://www.darkroastedblend.com/

This is a blog that I’ve been visiting for years, there is always something there to occupy the mind or the eyes whether it is hallucinatory architecture or sperm-racing. It also feeds my love for retro-futurism.

PostRock Xchange
http://www.postrockxchange.com/

This is another blog I visit heavily. Post Rock is a form of instrumental rock music that generally doesn’t conform to the normal rock music song structures. In general its more mellow but it can’t be incredibly intense also. This blog has LOTS of great music, some of my current favourites are Mooncake and 65daysofstatic.

TV

It was Christina Hendricks’ birthday this week so what better way to celebrate than with a video in honour of her!

Ironmuskrat does most of the heavy lifting in this Capsule Reviews post while I just pretty much throw in a quick two cents worth in an attempt to get back on the review wagon.

Rating System:
**** : Excellent
*** : Good
** : Fair
* : Poor
Zero : Horseshit

Avengers vs. Atlas #4 (of 4)

I have been really enjoying this mini from Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman. Nonstop action and lots of clever dialog from Parker, It was just a good old fashion, fun comic. However, I hate to say it, but the last issue was by far the weakest for me, not to say it wasn’t good, it just wasn’t as fun as the previous books. The big problem was Parker reached the end of the mini series and found himself having to explain just what the hell was going on in last four books. That lead to a lot of talking and not much action, with the brains of the Avengers and Atlas (Giant-Man, Marvel Boy) talking about the nature of the Temporal Virus and how to stop it, with everyone else just standing around looking on. It doesn’t help that our heroes are dealing with alternate time-lines and time travel, all things that don’t lend themselves to quick or easy explanations. I almost wish Parker had not made such an effort to tie the plot lines up and just left things to our imagination. Still, I enjoyed the series overall and I am looking forward the Atlas relaunch next month.

Rating: ** for this issue, **** for the series overall – IM

REBELS #15

This issue deals with the aftermath of the Staro invasion and finds Despero being hailed as a hero who stopped Staro. On the other, hand Vril Dox is vilified as the cause of the invasion in the first place. A pretty good issue that is mostly set up for future story lines. Dox has to find a new place to call home due to the fact everyone in that part of the galaxy wants to kill him, Staro finds that he still has allies loyal to him without being mind controlled and Starfire shows up to visit the Vega system and ends up making an amazing discovery. Tony Bedard writes some good moments here. One being where Dox is almost speechless that he isn’t being recognized as the hero he feels he is. And another where we see Starfire’s sadness at what happened to her home world and how much things have changed in Vega system. I guess the only part of the book I didn’t like was Staro’s fate, I sort of had to roll my eyes at that one, but I guess you can’t let a good villain go to waste. Oh! and I know how much you like redheads Jose and there is a very nice cheesecake shot of Starfire in this one from St. Aubin.

Rating: ** – IM

Brave and the Bold #33

I know I criticized JMS on the last issue of B & B for moving away from examining the inner thinking and personal conflicts of the heroes and sticking to a more impersonal storyline. I wanted to see into the minds of our heroes as they struggled to make tough choices about fighting crime and even about their own mortality. Well, all I can say is J. Michael Straczynski hits this one out of the park, he creates a powerful story about fate, love and trying to do the best thing you can to help someone even though you are helpless to really help them in the ways you wish you could. The story seems like a simple one, Zatanna convinces Wonder Woman and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) to head out on the town for a girls night out. Zatanna has a secret motive for this night on the town however that will affect the life of one of our heroes forever. I won’t spoil the story if you haven’t read it yet, but JMS writes a story that is funny, sexy and terribly sad at the same time. This is by far my favorite Brave and the Bold story by JMS so far. Straczynski does in this issue what he has been excelling so far on his run on the Brave and the Bold, taking heroes and putting them in tough spots and letting the readers follow along as our heroes agonize over life changing decisions. No Jesus Saiz this week, but Cliff Chiang has a somewhat similar style and does a good job bringing this story to life. I don’t know what else to say about this book, it really knocked my socks off.

Rating: **** -IM

Joe the Barbarian #4

Well, we are at the halfway point here on Grant Morrison mini and I can honestly say I am still not sure what is going on… well, that is not entirely true. This issue actually explains pretty much everything that is going on with Joe and the two worlds he finds himself bouncing between. I guess I should say I don’t care about the overall plot right now because I am so fascinated by the world that Morrison has created here and the very cool characters that inhabit it. Sean Murphy does such an amazing job on the art I find myself getting lost in the beauty of his artwork. I think this a case where the fantasy world Joe finds himself swallows the storyline whole and makes it take a backseat to the visuals. I don’t want to sell Morrison short on his storytelling, but right now I find myself appreciating the artwork more than what is going on with Joe’s personal life or the whole forces of good battling a rising evil that threatens the land storyline. I know I will go back and reread the whole series after all eight issues come out and pay more attention to the story. For now I will be content with visions of aerial battles with flying stingrays and a Leonardo Di Vinici flying machine.

Rating: *** – IM

American Vampire #2

I told myself ‘No more vampires!’ I am so tired of them and all the Emo crap that seems to be attached to them these days. Pop culture in the past 20 years have cut the nuts off of the once proud creatures of darkness and turned them into fodder for silly teenager dramas. But I can admit that American Vampire comes out of the gate firing on all cylinders. I like the way Scott Snyder and Stephen King are taking a genre that I thought was played out and breathing new life into it. Vampires are back to being brutal killing machines that not only want to drink your blood, but they want to take your money too while they’re at it. Most of the vampires so far appear to be of European origin and want to forge a business empire in the United States. The star of this book so far is Skinner Sweet, he appears to be the first American born vampire created by accident and is very different from his European counterparts. For one thing they hate each other with a passion and Skinner appears to working against their interests in America. That is not to say he is a hero, Sweet is a murdering, amoral outlaw at heart and his motives for his actions are not clear at this time, but I doubt he is acting out of any kindness in his heart.

Once again the book is split into two parts, that take place about 40 years apart. The first story is written by Scott Snyder. Snyder’s story once again deals with a young actress named Pearl, who finds herself surviving (or not surviving) a feeding frenzy from our European Vamps. She is helped by Skinner Sweet, for reasons that are unknown at this time. The second story is by Stephen King and deals with the early days of Skinner Sweet life as a new created vampire. Scott Snyder again has the better of the two stories this time around, but in King’s defense he is left with mostly the background story of Skinner to write and I get the feeling King’s half of the story will start to get better as he fills in more details of Sweet’s life. Rafael Albuquerque does a very job as the artist on this book, bring the story to life and making the vampires (especially Skinner) savage creatures that jump out at you from the page. I will be certainly be picking this book in the future to see just what that evil little shit Skinner is up to.

Rating: *** -IM

Brightest Day #0

Not a very good start. The Hawkman and Hawkgirl dialogue alone almost killed this issue for me. Maxwell Lord making (almost) everyone on the planet forget about him and what he did? Really? Didn’t DC already do a mind wipe story this decade? And Hawk is now DC’s version of Wolverine?

I did like the Martian Manhunter scene as well as the Jade/Kyle Rayner bit. I am really interested in knowing who wrote what in this issue between Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi. The art was decent enough.

Rating: ** -J.

Doc Savage #1

How this comic got the “OK” to be published mystifies me. This is the first issue to a new series for a character that most new readers aren’t familiar with so it should be solid right from the get go. At times it felt that the dialog presented on certain pages didn’t really correspond with anything that was going on and it really was just a jumbled, unreadable mess. And what the hell happened to Howard Porter’s art? He is much better than this. I think I’ll just stick with the main First Wave book for now.

Rating: ½* – J.

Flash #1

Now this was a surprise. After not being very impressed with the cliché ridden Flash: Rebirth and not being a very big fan of Francis Manpul’s art I was expecting to completely dislike this book. That did not happen. This issue was a fun read and Manapul’s art suited it very well. Johns does a good job of (re)introducing the supporting characters for this title as well as keeping a good pace to the story. And the 25th century’s version of the Rogues? Did not see that coming and I thought it was pretty cool.

How can this be? I enjoyed a Geoff Johns book? I thought I was supposed to hate him (according to some CCW viewers)?

Rating: *** – J.

Ultimate Comics Avengers #6

For fuck’s sake. After five and half issues of nonstop killing, implied sexual assault and a baby getting thrown out a window Mark Millar expects readers to sympathize with the Red Skull? Yes, apparently the Red Skull just wanted the Cosmic Cube so he could use it to go back into time and make sure Steve Rogers (his daddy) came back home from World War II so he could have a family and a happy childhood.

This has got to be the most ridiculous, lazy ass storytelling I have seen in quite some time. At no point in the entire series did the Skull come off as being conflicted about what he was doing. At no point did the reader want to feel sympathy for this character. But on his death bed he lays out what his true intention was all along and the reader is supposed to just fucking buy it? And then if the reader does sympathize with the Skull and believes “Gee, I guess me wasn’t a bad guy after all” Millar has the Red Wasp shoot him in the head, killing him. “But he just misunderstood this whole time! You didn’t have to kill him, you bitch!“ might think said reader. WTF.

Again, tragedy is being forced into a story to get the reader to empathize (right before smacking them in the face mind you) without any substance or context. The decent (if not at times just painfully boring) art of Carlos Pacheco helps this comic gain a half star.

Rating: 1/2* – J.

Title: The Brave and the Bold #32
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Jesus Saiz
Colorist: Trish Mulvihill
Publisher: DC Comics
Cost: $2.99

The big news came down last week that J. Michael Straczynski would be getting writing duties on not one but two major DC comics: Wonder Woman and Superman. I guess it was only a matter of time before JMS got a shot at the major comic titles that a man of his talent deserves. But I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at the news, mostly because I feel these new assignments mean the end of JMS’s run on The Brave and the Bold. I don’t know if the idea of him possibly leaving this book affected my feelings, but I was a little disappointed by the story this month.

I sat there after reading this latest installment of B&B strangely unaffected. Past issues from JMS had been filled with emotional stories of personal sacrifice, making hard decisions in the face of adversity and heroes facing their own mortality. This story had all of the elements of past Brave and the Bold stories from JMS: two strong heroes (Aquaman and The Demon) teaming up to stop a very dangerous threat to the Earth, nice action sequences and smart writing. So why was this story devoid of the emotional impact I felt from previous issues? I went back, read the story again and came to the conclusion that the story failed to work for me because of a man called Whitford Crane.

Who is Whitford Crane? He is a sailor, the sole survivor of a shipwreck that claims the lives of his fellow shipmates. Whitford witnessed his fellow sailors being dragged down to the bottom of the ocean by mysterious creatures before washing up on the shore in front of Aquaman and Demon. Aquaman decides that Whitford can be of use to hunt down the creatures that sank his ship and, more importantly, find the larger menace that threatens the Earth lurking under the ocean. Demon gives Whitford some gills and off they go to hunt down and defeat the Cthulhu like creature dwelling at the bottom of the ocean.

So how does Whitford Crane monkey wrench the story? Well, the story is told from his perspective, not Aquaman or Demon’s. You don’t know what either of our heroes are thinking, fearing or worrying about. I think that is what Straczynski did so well in previous issues, letting readers into the minds of the heroes, showing their fears, hopes and moments of indecision. Straczynski is at his best when he shows the reader just how hard it is to be a hero, just how much you have to give up to do the right thing and having to live with the decisions they make. Poor Whitford is really just an innocent bystander and to be honest, I couldn’t care less about what he thinks about the situation he is in, he is just there watching the action unfold with nothing to add to the battle that is occurring around him.

Unlike previous issues there are no conflicts between our two heroes, not only is there no conflict between them, they really don’t even speak to each other. I understand that The Demon is a, well… demon and not prone to witty banter or a lot of chit chat. Perhaps that is why Straczynski included the character of Whitford to serve as a catalyst for exposition, with either Aquaman or Demon explaining what is happening to Whitford as a way to impart information to the reader.

The battle with the creature itself is pretty straight forward, even fighting a giant demon squid, Aquaman and Demon never seem to be in serious trouble during the battle and make short work of the creature. Without the internal dialog of the heroes involved the battle is pretty boring and even the ending with Whitford Crane trying to prove to himself that he wasn’t imagining the whole experience falls flat because we already know the answers to his questions.

I guess Straczynski was due for a stumble on this book. He really did have a good run up to this point and I can’t really complain too much about one weak issue. I just hope he finishes his run on The Brave and the Bold on a strong note and doesn’t let his last few issues slide because his has bigger fish to fry now.

IM

The above pic is not at all related. It was just a chance for me to post one of my favorite covers ever.

J. Michael Straczynski via DC’s The Scource:

For as long as I’ve been doing conventions (starting in the early Cretaceous period, when it was just me and a handful of pterosaurs on a panel debating whether or not mammals with opposable thumbs were really necessary to the writing of quality comics, a point still hotly debated today), there has always been the same question from folks in the audience: “Is there any one character who is your dream character to write for?” The answer has always been the same: Superman. When I first came over to DC, that dream was realized in part by Dan DiDio’s gracious invitation to write the first of potentially many Superman original graphic novels. Now the dream has come fully true with the opportunity to write for the mainstream title, in a story that returns Superman to his roots in a way that will have the whole country talking about him in ways that we haven’t seen in a long time.

Similarly, the chance to write Wonder Woman — the nearest analogue to Superman in the DCU — is massively exciting. She’s a vital, powerful character, and we hope to bring a more contemporary sensibility to her character will retaining everything that makes her unique.

That DC is willing to jump-start these two runs in the pages of their respective anniversary issues is a great opportunity and a vote of confidence in what we have planned for these characters. I’m looking forward to this with more excitement than words can convey.

It’s gonna be a blast.

Well, it looks like Grant Morrison won’t be taking over the monthly Wonder Woman book (yet?) as many of us were speculating last week. Turns out that honor is going to J. Michael Straczynski starting in July with issue #601. This news kinda came out of nowhere but I must admit it’s an interesting choice. His current run on Brave and the Bold has been quite entertaining in my opinion and it will be good to see JMS break out of the confines of the one and done story format in the DC Universe. No artist has been announced as of yet but hopefully Nicola Scott will be remaining on the book.

Oh, I almost forgot, JMS will also be taking over the writing chores for some character called Superman as well starting with issue #701.

Read more about this news by clicking here and here.

J.