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Superman #681 [Review]

New Krypton, Part Two: Strange Meetings and Chance Encounters
Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Bernard Chang)

We open amidst numerous news reports all over the world in varying languages, announcing to the world the arrival of a hundred-thousand Kryptonians. Breaking to the Daily Planet, Perry has determined that on this day, there IS no other news story. The only sports, the only juicy gossip, the only anything–is this Arrival. Superman is confronted by the Justice League about bringing the Kryptonians to Earth, especially after what happened the last time Kryptonians came to earth (Superman: Last Son). Superman flies on to meet his aunt and uncle to lead them to Metropolis for a meeting with the President of the United States. A brief interlude shows us Ma Kent and the arrival of a possible comfort. Lois confronts Agent Liberty, questioning him on being back after having been gone so long. Finally, the Kryptonian delegation arrives…but before long, an extremely unwelcome intruder arrives, throwing things into chaos by its mere presence.

This entire package–from cover and a “triangle number” to a direct continuance of a story that feels more like a single story than a chapter of a cross-over–serves as a fine example of why I can never stay away from the Superman books. Now more than ever since partway through my college years, it is an awesome time to be reading not only this book, but the entire family of titles.

The art here is–for me–the only weakness. Yet, if it’s a weakness, this book is still far above many other titles out there. I’m not a huge fan of the art. Something about it just doesn’t seem entirely consistent…some panels seem to almost be painted, while others seem much less detailed and slightly differently stylized. Still, it more than gets the job done–everyone is totally recognizeable, and I’m never lost visually with what’s going on.

The writing is just fine, as well. For the moment it seems hard to separate Robinson as the sole mind behind this, as this is but one chapter of a larger three-title saga involving other writers and a nice, close continuity. I suppose that’s a strength–at the moment, I love that I’m more engaged with the story and characters than with noticing any particular writer out of a group/over another.

To me, this is how the Superman books work best: a single, ongoing story that flows from one issue to the next, regardless of the title or creative team…while allowing the individual creators to insert their marks within the overall story.

I’m chomping at the bit for the next installment of this story. This is hitting so positively on multiple levels…and while elements of the story are rich with continuity, if you’ve ever considered checking in on the Superman comics…now is the time to do so. This story looks to play with elements from all throughout Superman’s history, impact the entire Superman mythos…and give you the important information you need as you go along.

Highly recommended.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 8/10

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Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns [Review]

Rage of the Red Lanterns Prologue: Blood Feud
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Shane Davis
Inks: Sandra Hopoe
Colors: Nei Ruffino
Letters: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Covers: Davis, Hope, Ruffino

This one-shot opens with the “birth”–an origin of sorts–of the first of the Red Lanterns, in a sequence taking place between the first two issues of Final Crisis. We then cut to Hal Jordan reeling from the deicide, spending time with family…when he receives word that Sinestro’s execution orders have been handed down. Feeling unable to share thoughts on this with a new friend, Hal seeks out his old friend–Carol–who was actually part of his life when he first met Sinestro (as particularly revealed in the recently-concluded Secret Origin arc in the main GL title). While this is going on, we see Green Lantern Ash finding the upper husk of the Anti-Monitor, relaying the info to the scarred Guardian, and pursuing the trail. The Red Lanterns rise, recruited by Atrocitus, to feed their hatred and rage. As several Green Lanterns ‘escort’ Sinestro to his homeworld for execution, the group is ambushed…just before the Red Lanterns debut, ambushing the ambushers and ambushees alike. Finally, yet another player arrives in the thick of things, revealing to Hal a key ingredient to the survival of the Blackest Night.

Other than an editorial note indicating this issue’s timing in the Final Crisis series, and the references to events within that series that involved Hal (but nothing of his detention by the Alpha Lanterns?), this issue would have been perfectly titled had it been titled Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns or Rise of the Red Lanterns or some such–aside from whatever interaction crops up regarding Final Crisis and ties to the Blackest Night, this seems to deal a whole lot more with Green Lantern than Final Crisis itself.

The art is quite good here…I rather enjoyed it, and it has a certain tone that made it perfectly believable as something fitting into the current Green Lantern series. Aside from some questionable-looking blood placement, I have no particular complaint visually.

The writing being by Geoff Johns is certainly why this feels so much like a special issue of Green Lantern, as he is the writer of that book, and writes this with plenty of purpose and eye toward the ongoing title and how it plays in the greater DC Universe. This story picks up on certain seeds sown throughout the last couple years, and moves key points along as if it were anything but a one-shot tied to an event. We get some good moments between various characters, and I found it especially interesting the exploration of Hal’s feelings regarding the impending execution of his old friend and mentor.

While I fail at present to see what bearing this issue will actually have on Final Crisis, it very much is important to what’s been unfolding in Green Lantern and setting things along the course to the Blackest Night. As such, I don’t recommend this as a tie-in to Final Crisis…I recommend it to anyone keeping up with the GL books and reading with an eye toward next summer’s event.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

Tales of the TMNT #51 [Review]

Posted to comixtreme.com.

Superman: New Krypton Special #1 [Review]

New Krypton

Writers: Geoff Johns, James Robinson, Sterling Gates
Penciller: Pete Woods, Gary Frank, Renato Guedes
Inker: Pete Woods, Jon Sibal, Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Steve Wands
Assoc. Editor: Nachie Castro
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Gary Frank (variant by Renato Guedes and Wilson Magalhaes)

This is the way “events” should be done. And with the (temporary, at least for this storyline?) return of the “triangle-numbers,” this issue immediately feels like “classic” 90s Superman–in its highest quality.

The issue opens with the fairly immediate aftermath of Action Comics #870 with a particularly powerful “silent” sequence–if you’ve ever been to a funeral, if you’ve ever lost a loved one or seen someone else having lost someone they loved–you know that there ARE no words…and what words there are, tend often to be private and unique to those involved. The way this sequence comes off, one can fill in their own words, their own feelings–and it is that much more touching. Any words the writer could put on the page would not measure up to what I, as the reader, can imagine…which makes the scene that much more personal. Even when we get to the flashbacks and words, the scene is still very effective…I was almost in tears at the full-page of Clark in the barn.

After the funeral, we see that the story of Brainiac is actually far from being “over,” as the military has a certain interest in our alien friend. And as is cliche…they don’t quite know what they’re getting themselves into. Meanwhile, after a moment with his mother–Martha Kent–Superman visits Kandor where he gets some time with his Uncle and Aunt–actual living, breathing, genuine blood-relatives. He also has the honor of reintroducing them to their daughter Kara–and the Family of El gets to have their first dinner together in many years.

Lois and Lucy have a sisterly reunion at their father’s grave, and later at the Planet, Jimmy returns with information he needs to share about what he found out on his recent leave of absence. Finally, we’re introduced to the folks pulling the strings behind the scenes in a cliffhanger with the potential for major ongoing ramifications for the entire Superman family.

We have three creative teams collaborating on this book. Where often I don’t notice much difference in sequences, here I felt there were several distinct pieces. The “Action Comics Sequence” seems obvious–dealing with Jonathan’s death. The “Supergirl Sequence,” too, seems obvious with the reuniting of daughter and parents. The “Superman Sequence” stood out for me more for the art. As such, this issue felt a bit like it contained several mini-issues of the regular ongoing books, probably largely for the differing art to go with their respective writers.

Despite that, the overall story works quite well, and on assumption that the entire story will be told in this fashion–one overarching story with individual creative teams going “deeper” into certain characters/interactions–this is some good, solid stuf.

There were a number of great “moments” in this issue, stuff that sets up elements for all three of the “core” Superman books as well as setting the foundation for this specific New Krypton event.

As a reader who remembers and enjoyed the days of the triangle numbering–when all the Super-books were essentially a massive ongoing weekly story, with the quarterly special often starting or bookending particular arcs–this feels like a return to form. Though the Brainiac arc worked really well for me in terms of the writing and art–this special issue has me actually excited for the first time in nearly a decade for the multiple Super-books as a whole.

While you’ll almost certainly “appreciate” things a bit more if you’ve been reading the books for awhile, this is also a strong jumping-on point if you’ve been curious about the Superman family of books. And if you’ve any interest at all…I’d recommend jumping in now–this story/event looks to be for Superman what the Sinestro Corps. War was for Green Lantern…and well worth getting in at the start!

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 8/10

G.I.Joe (IDW) #0 [Review]

“One Word”, “In or Out”, “Deep Cover”

Writers: Chuck Dixon, Larry Hama, Mike Costa and Christos N. Gage
Artists: Robert Atkins, Tom Feister, Antonio Fuso
Colorists: Andrew Crossley, Tom Feister, Chris Chuckry
Design & Lettering: Neil Uyetake
Editor: Andy Schmidt
Covers: Robert Atkins, Chris Sotomayer, Jonboy Meyers, Tom Smith, Scott Kester, Ben Templesmith

I have to admit–I nearly did not get this issue. Oh, I saw it there at the store, but I’m not thrilled with the sudden departure from Devil’s Due and that the franchise is being rebooted to a new beginning–I liked the rich history of the series! Additionally, I’ve never been fond of the high price tag the publisher puts on their books–I simply do not care about cardstock covers and high-quality glossy-paper pages. I want to read a story…and $4 for a standard-size single issue is above my threshold. BUT…for $1, I could pick this up to check stuff out.

I was prepared to dislike this. I’d forgotten that IDW had announced they were doing not one, not two, but THREE Joe titles. One core book, an origins book, and a book looking moreso at classic foe Cobra. This issue offers prologue sequences for all three.

“One Word” involves a routine mission and Duke questioning a prisoner, who gives him one single word for his trouble–a word that means nothing (yet) to these characters, but will mean a great deal to anyone who knows anything of the GI Joe series.

“In or Out” provides an interesting look at how Duke was recruited, which in itself adds a certain depth to his character as well as General Hawk that leaves me honestly interested in their relationship as well as what it means to the tone of the overall Joe team.

Finally, “Deep Cover” introduces us to a character that apparently is headed–as the story’s title suggests–into deep cover with an enemy organization, after being met by representatives of said organization who could have killed him, but wish to talk instead.

All three of these stories seem so brief as to not really have enough room to discuss writing, characterization, and all that. Much of my interpretation and expectation is based on what I know of the (recognizeable) characters from their Devil’s Due (and prior to DD, Marvel) incarnations.

I’m a bit mixed on the art. I think my favorite is Atkins on the first story. The others had a certain look to them that at the moment doesn’t quite say “GI Joe” to me. At the same time, Feister’s art does have a slight surreal quality about it which fits the sequence quite well–though I wonder how it’ll fit long-term for full-size issues and changes of scenery. Fuso’s art–while it doesn’t have that GI Joe feel to it–has a certain grittiness to it that actually fits the tone of the story–a story that doesn’t seem like it will necessarily even be anything resembling a “classic” Joe story but more of a modern take on a story type.

After reading this issue, these three previews–and the “back matter” character sketches with reasoning for costume updates, as well as a brief interview with the three writers–IDW’s done most of what it probably set out to do. After all, I’m interested. I’m intrigued. I want to follow these characters as they follow that one word to its obvious source, and see the fight struck. I want to see how the team came together, how the recruitment of Duke plays out and how similar the recruitment of other Joes is, and how that will affect the team dynamics. I’m also interested in the character going under cover to infiltrate this enemy organization, to see how it affects him as a character, and what it might mean for the rest of the team.

But this issue has two standard covers, as well as two retailer-incentive covers. The images provided for the covers of each debut issue of these three series show that clearly, there will be multiple variants for those as well…

The stories look to be interesting and worthwhile for long-time GI Joe fans as well as those interested in checking ’em out for the first time. However, I am one reader who will probably be kept away by the high cover price and annoyingly numerous variant covers. (Whatever happened to pinup pages in the back of an issue, or as Devil’s Due would do, put a second full-size image on the back cover).

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 7/10

Captain America #43 [Review]

Time’s Arrow – Part 1 of 3

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciller: Luke Ross
Inker: Fabio Laguna
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Production: nthony Dial
Associate Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover: Steve Epting

This issue opens with a flashback to one of Bucky’s adventures with Steve/Cap in China in 1942. We’re then in the present, which is a month after the prior story (and apparently post-Secret Invasion as well), as James finds himself restless and so heads out to clear his head. In typical fashion, though, the hero can’t catch a break and he finds himself facing one of Steve’s old foes…rather unprepared. In the aftermath of the skirmish, we see both further difference in Bucky’s Cap compared to Steve, and learn that a an old foe who knows James as the Winter Soldier is preparing something…and is intrigued to realize that the man Batroc scrapped with is the man he knows as the Winter Soldier.

In a way, this reads like a first issue. Which is good–it IS a first issue, of an entirely new arc that presumably has nothing to do with the Red Skull, and is the first issue/first arc not part of the epic Death of Captain America saga. We see our hero in his down time, we get to see a bit of what drives him, what’s in his head–and that he does not operate in a vacuum, nor is he some “traditional” super-hero. His actions and motivations are much different than those of Steve Rogers, and that helps sell James/Bucky as his own character. The writing is strong, and totally fits the tone I’ve gotten used to on this series–this being my 19th issue since returning to it with the now-infamous “Death” issue #25.

The art is by a different artist–but I don’t think I even noticed that until I looked at the credits to do this review. The art is similar enough that there’s nothing particularly jarring to it from the previous issue–especially for being the start of a new arc and weeks having passed since I even read the previous issue. It maintains a rather realistic tone but keeps to the familiar looks of the characters from earlier issues. In looking back over it, perhaps it’s not quite up there with the prior team…but it works just as well in this issue, and I have no problem with it.

This is (as much as any) a good point to jump in if you’ve been holding off on reading the title. At the same time, as we’re now beyond the 18-issue saga begun with #25, this could also be a jumping off point. Steve is not (yet? if ever?) back, and this story is very much the new Captain America. I’ve been along for the ride for this long, and I plan to continue awhile yet.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 8/10

Final Crisis #4 [Review]

Darkseid Says

Script: Grant Morrison
Art: JG Jones, Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino
Cover: JG Jones
Sliver Cover: Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino
Colors & Sliver Cover: Alex Sinclair
Lettering: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza

This issue opens with the heroes defeated. Evil has won–and those heroes that remain are busy organizing safety zones–“watchtowers”–for surviving, uncorrupted civilians. An “underground resistance,” if you will. We get to see a world of darkness, in which the evil “gods” of the “5th world” have taken over, creating an Apokalips-on-Earth. While Earth has been subdued, the various evil “gods” are intent upon the re-awakening/return of their master, Darkseid…whose return will, apparently, seal the deal–Earth will be theirs, heroes won’t be able to stand, and so on.

The art for this issue is pretty good overall. I have no real qualms with it. Though it’s a bit disappointing to not have “just” Jones’ art, there are plenty of scene-shifts and points that I already don’t really have a clue what’s actually going on that hey…different art? Hardly jarring at all. It’s actually slightly helpful, as I assume as I read that different art means the scene has undoubtedly shifted and might be something to take note of.

The story? I’m “getting” a bit of the overall story, but I still am not getting the nuances. I’m sure there’s PLENTY going on that I’m not noticing, not picking up on. And…chances are those details I’m missing are rather important to enjoyment of this story.

I feel like I’m along for the ride–but not much else. This is a core-series “event” book…and it’s my LEAST-favorite of everything with the “Final Crisis” title on it. I just do not care about the New Gods–I never will, and the fact that their story is essentially THE story frustrates me all the more. Three issues to go–perhaps I’ll see by then why they’re ever so important to the fabric of the DC Universe that their coming into a new iteration is so tied to Earth.

Another issue I have with this particular issue is that there are several empty word balloons–was that intentional? an effect of us needing to know something was said, but not supposed to know WHAT just yet, and/or effect of hearing SOMETHING, but not over an explosion and other surrounding noise? Or is it just something that slipped through the cracks? Additionally, in my decision to read this issue to see how the story may have progressed, I learned the outcome of the Final Crisis: Submit one-shot, which was a bit frustrating when I turned over to that issue and realized what had happened.

Whether on me to “dig deeper” or not, I am not enjoying this series. I find myself following it for whatever context I might be able to find for the tie-in stories (which–excepting Superman Beyond–have all been far more enjoyable) and in the hopes that something might occur in this core series to change my mind, to make me feel like it’s actually a story that lives up to the year of hype predating its debut.

Story: 5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 6.5/10

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