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Superman #682 [Review]

New Krypton part six: Invasive Surgery

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Wilson Magalhares
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Rodolfo Migliari)
Publisher: DC Comics

Including the Jimmy Olsen special, this is the seventh straight week of an ongoing Superman narrative…in that sense, it’s definitely like the good ol’ days of the 90s ongoing story. Being a decade older and more knowledgeable at things like “creative teams” and in general knowing more than “just” the “character” I’m reading, I see a lot more–like while this is an ongoing story overall, we keep shifting focus from one character to another, as each creative team really gets to step up and tell their own story within the larger whole.

In part 6 of New Krypton, we begin with Clark and Martha visiting Jonathan’s grave–a fairly touching scene, though I don’t feel like I’ve seen Clark and Martha interact quite this way before. Martha seems a bit sharper…though given what the characters have been through, it’s still believable. After the two find an extremely unexpected “guest” already visiting the grave, we launch into the meat of the issue, as Kryptonians–led by Zor-El, Alura, and Supergirl–embark on a campaign of ridding the world of Superman’s old foes in a less than polite manor. Whatever their good intentions, they succeed mainly in provoking Superman to anger, and Earth’s populace to fear.

The art still hasn’t captured me–it’s got a style that somehow just doesn’t come across all that well, and I can’t quite tell how much it’s the pencils and how much it’s the colors. The look it gets for Bizarro works very well, though. There’s far, far more talent in the art than I’m capable of–but compared to the likes of Jim Lee, Gary Frank, Dan Jurgens, and others, this art just doesn’t do it for me.

The story makes perfect sense, and gets to deal with the question of how effective Superman really is, as well as the different perspectives held by the Kryptonians. It also continues to show that if Superman can do what he does, and a handful of Kryptonians do what they do, the world has justification for its fear and worry. This issue plays very well within the overall narrative of late, moving the story forward and setting up the next chapter(s) as well.

I like the cover–the image here reminds me of the cover to 1998’s Superman Forever, and it’s that much easier to imagine the motion in the depicted moment and that immediately following.

Overall, perhaps not the best point to start with on jumping in–but definitely worth getting if you’re already following the story or determined to get this title despite the crossover.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Batman #681 [Review]

R.I.P. the conclusion: Hearts in Darkness

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Tony Daniel
Inker: Sandu Florea
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Alex Ross and Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

This is an issue I’ve been looking forward to for awhile. While the opening of the arc left me rather cold, I figured it would all come to a satisfying conclusion that would explain my confusions away–especially when I picked up the Batman & Son hardcover and noticed a reference to “Zur-en-arrh” in the earliest pages of that story.

As this issue opens, we find Batman in a straightjacket in a coffin buried alive. While flashbacks show us how he’s prepared even for this situation, for facing death itself, we see Black Glove & Co. celebrate their victory with plans made to further degrade our hero, with speculation as to exhuming him still alive but brain-damaged from lack of oxygen. The Joker continues to be a wild card, not playing by the rules he was expected to adhere to, which complicates things when Batman pulls a Spider-Man Fearful Symmetry/Kraven’s Last Hunt and enters a final battle with Black Glove, with Nightwing and Robin backing him up. At battle’s end, we have seeds planted for upcoming arcs and major changes and questions for the Batman status quo.

The best thing about this issue is the art. Tony Daniel does a great Batman (backed by inker Sandu Florea and colorist Guy Major to complete the image). The full page of Batman standing over his supposed grave is poster-worthy, and we get a number of other great images (including Nightwing holding the cape-and-cowl, another poster-worthy image). There’s a realism to the images which–while realistic–stays within the bounds of “comic book art,” doing a very effective job of conveying what’s going on.

The writing–and the story’s ending–is a definite “miss” for me. Those hopes of a satisfying conclusion and confusions explained away were not realized. I found the main event toward the end of the issue extremely anti-climactic and reminiscent of a scene from A Death in the Family. While there is some decent imagery worked in by way of epilogue, I really don’t know what this story, in the end, was about. I don’t know who the Black Glove is supposed to really be, and we’re given no clear conclusion to the smear-campaign against Thomas and Martha Wayne. Leaving that unresolved is far more of a disappointment to me than any engaging ongoing plot point.

If you’re not totally steeped in Morrison’s Batman run, and this core Batman: R.I.P. arc, I don’t see this issue making a good read at all–and if you’re online reading this review, you’re just as well served to find a spoiler review or read wikipedia to catch up, and check out other titles as available if the follow-up stories sound interesting.

Story: 4/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 6/10

JSA Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom [Review]

The Kingdom

Story: Geoff Johns & Alex Ross
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Fernando Pasarin
Inkers: Mick Gray, Jack Purcell, Norm Rapmund & Fernando Pasarin
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Earth-2 Pin-Up: Jerry Ordway
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Fernando Pasarin)
Publisher: DC Comics

The main thrust of this issue follows several JSAers as they react to Gog’s “gifts”–reactions both positive and negative. Damage is very much in support of Gog–who, after all, healed his face. Others point out that Gog sent Power Girl to an Earth 2 where she was hunted as a traitor, and we see Dr. Mid-Nite and Sand both dealing with the negative repercussions to their being “cured” of what had seemed on the surface to be a curse. As “war” breaks out within the JSA, it appears that Gog might finally tip his hand, as we approach “The Seventh Day” which may or may not usher in–through Gog–the end of the world.

There’s a lot going on in this issue, and a lot of characters juggled. While it’s easy enough to lose track of everyone, Johns still manages to keep things engaging by focusing on several characters and let us see their arcs unfold in context of the larger whole. What began with the apparently simple premise a year ago of “Kingdom Come Superman arrives on New Earth” has become a lengthy, enjoyable epic that has drawn me back to the Justice Society and made the team a favorite. This is a story that will likely go down as one of the definitive Justice Society runs.

The art is–for the most part–well-suited to the story. There are a few points where characters appear a bit “off” (one panel has Superman looking like he ate too many burritos too quickly)…but as a whole, no significant complaint art wise. It’s easy to follow visually, and none of the characters seem unrecognizeable.

I’ve enjoyed these specials. While a bit pricey–both cover price, and simply by their very existence at all–I think they make for a great addition to the JSA narrative, and allow for far more than we could get with just the core title alone. It is unfortunate, though, as we have important events in these that are certainly key to the overall story, such that if one wants the full story they are essential and one will have missed a great deal reading “only” the core JSA title.

There’s a double-page pinup-style spread of the Earth-2 Justice Society included–I’m not sure I “get” exactly why it’s included…but it’s a cool little “moment” of that team sitting for team photo…there’s a lot going on in that one image that says a lot about the characters without dialogue needed…it would make a great poster.

All in all, a good package that–despite the higher cover price–feels like something special and important,and is worth the money paid. You could do so much worse by way of out-of-core-title tie-in specials in a major story.

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

Captain America #44 [Review]

Time’s Arrow – Part 2 of 3

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Luke Ross
Inkers: Fabio Laguna & Rick Kagyar
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Production Joe Sabino
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Bucky (Captain America, really) and Black Widow decide to split up to tackle their “problem” from two different angles–each taking the angle their strengths play to. While “Captain America” might get some results, Bucky is able to fall back on his reputation as the “Winter Soldier” to get answers, and eventually get his rematch with Batroc…and then face a figure from his past.

I’m not terribly familiar with Luke Ross–by name–in terms of prior work; but what we have in this issue, I really like. There’s a very realistic feel that lends something extra to the story. Though this plays in a world with super-spies and super-heroes, it feels like it takes place in a real world much moreso than a comic book world.

Brubaker continues to provide a strong story that goes beyond “simple” super-hero vs. bad guy, and exploring the world he’s crafted with Captain America now as a “legacy character.”

Despite this, I find myself checking out a bit. There was a certain excitement and interest locked up in the epic The Death of Captain America, and now that that story is behind and there’s no imminent sign of Steve Rogers returning, I feel like we have a new status quo that is interesting conceptually, but more well-suited for collected volumes. Barring learning something particularly engaging about the next story, I’ll likely finish out this arc, then let this title go for a bit, and possibly just wait for a collected volume of the next arc.

On the whole, definitely a solid issue of the title, and well worth getting if you’re interested in seeing the new Captain America in action, with the status quo left by the end of the aforementioned epic. This is, after all, the first “original” story OF the new Cap.

Especially if you can find the previous issue, this is well worth picking up–this is part 2 of just a 3-part story (a nice break from the 6-issue “acts” of an 18-issue epic).

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8.5/10

Golly! #3 [Review]

The Were-Hog of Siloville part 3

Story: Phil Hester
Art: Brook Turner
Cover: Tyler Walpole
Colors: Rick Hiltbrunner
Letters: Sean Konot
Publisher: Image Comics

Golly! is a rather…interesting…series. Mini-series, rather, as this is the third/final issue that I’m aware of. Basically, you have Golly–a “carny”–who has had an experience with a “divine entity” that told him about an aborted apocalypse that will be put on only to go through the motions, and that Golly gets to play a key part in the overall experience. Golly is imbued with great power (if very little responsibility) and a can of his best friend’s ashes–ashes “posessed” BY his friend (who is also a mentor-type). Golly has been tasked to deal with Brother Dare–a roaming televangelist-type by day, were-hog by night. Far from alone, Golly is backed by his carnival colleagues.

This issue opens with the group attempting to get one single drop of “holy water” into contact with the were-hog, the failure of which results in some fairly dirty innuendo. The townsfolk get their crack at the were-hog while Golly & co. form a plan involving bait and getting the were-hog to run up a slide…a plan that goes badly almost from the get-go. The ending was predictable, but well within-character as things have been set up throughout this mini.

The story itself is a bit crude, but somewhat interesting,if only for dealing with character-types I don’t usually find in comics. I can’t help but wonder, though, at the likely stereotypes found and how they’ll come across to others…especially given my distaste for the portrayal of Brother Dare and the stereotype that would seem to perpetuate.

This is yet another comic with art by someone I don’t recognize, so I’ve no point of comparison there. However, the art conveys the story very well and certainly fits it…enhances it. The story itself wouldn’t be at full strength without the visuals provided that set the tone/environment of events that unfold.

All in all, I’m not entirely sure why I picked up this series–I think that the first issue was discussed on the Alternate Reality podcast. At a mere 3 issues, I suspect that this will make a better “graphic novel” than it did “mini-series,” and unless you can snag all 3 issues at cover price or below, I’d recommend waiting for a collected volume. This definitely skirts the edges of my tolerance for its type of story, and certainly would not recommend this for kids nor the weak of stomach.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Wolverine: Origins #30 [Review]

Original Sin: Conclusion

Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Mike Deodato
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Letterist: VC’s Cory Petit
Production: Tom Van Cise
Assistant Editor: Jody Leheup
Editor: John Barber
Group Editor: Axel Alonso
Cover: Mike Deodto & Richard Isanove
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Daken is preparing to kill Xavier…and Wolverine provokes Daken’s rage, luring it to himself. After a bloody rumble with a glimpse into Wolverine’s memories of Daken’s mother, and the revelation of how Xavier survived the “psy-bomb” that he tripped when probing Daken’s mind, we are left with a Wolverine determined to head down a certain road.

The art is–by far–the best thing this issue offers. I definitely like the look of Wolverine’s costume here as depicted by Deodato (and colored by Beredo). Some panels are a bit unclear, and certain visual angles seem a bit strange and hard on the eyes in terms of actual clarity as to what’s going on. On the whole, though, not much of a complaint with the visuals.

The story on the other hand does nothing for me. Xavier’s condition seems a little too “convenient.” The interaction between Wolverine and Xavier seems forced, as does the revelation of their apparent past that after all these years of comics has just come to light. I still don’t care at all about Daken, and just don’t “buy” the reason of the character’s existence. I also have zero interest in whatever/whoever this “Romulus” is (I recall the name from the dreadful arc in Wolverine by Loeb, of course). I’m a bit confused by the issue’s ending–I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to mean in terms of Wolverine’s status quo and interaction with the X-teams and New Avengers and such.

Ultimately, at the end of this issue I actually asked out loud “That’s it?!?” This issue is far from satisfying, and while I initially enjoyed the idea of an Xavier/Wolverine story, the execution and final result is quite a disappointment, and I feel like neither character was particularly advanced story-wise…and that they may actually have been regressed or spoiled a bit by this story if it holds as any sort of defining point for either character or their relationship.

Recommended really only for anyone who has already bought the first four chapters…you’ve come this far, might as well see the trainwreck itself. If you’ve not followed the arc, I see no reason to get this issue–you can find much better Wolverine and/or Xavier stories to read.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 5/10

Walking Dead #55 [Review]

Posted to Comixtreme.com.

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