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Justice Society of America #22 [Review]

One World, Under Gog part VII: Thy Will Be Done

Story: Geoff Johns & Alex Ross
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencilers: Dale Eaglesham
Painted pages by: Alex Ross
Inker: Nathan Massengill
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Eaglesham & Hi-Fi)
Very special Thanks to: Mark Waid
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue wraps up the ongoing “Thy Kingdom Come” saga in this title. This issue jumps a lot, beginning with the JSA doing their thing with Gog while Superman and Starman have a few moments together before the former is sent “home.” The rest of the team deals with the effects of the loss of the “gifts” that Gog had bestowed, and the issue ends with a slight twist on the signature Johns end-of-saga look-ahead.

The art on this story was just what I’ve come to expect for the book. It’s high quality and yet looks like a comic book. There are also painted panels/sequences interspersed done by Ross that as usual are top-notch. While it’s a bit jarring to go from one style to the other, I for one would not trade it–it’s great to see the “Kingdom Come” world done by Ross–it lends a certain authenticity to the world, as well as a bit of a notion of things coming full-circle.

The story aspect of this issue is also quite good. There’s not a lot of “conflict-action” in the issue, as it seems largely about tying up loose ends and capping off this huge saga. A number of characters get “moments” that kinda set their status quo post-saga, showing us where they are at right now, moving forward.

After just over a year–12 prior issues, 1 annual and 3 specials–the saga concludes in this single standard-sized issue for $2.99. No extra-sized, extra-priced issue; no spinning off to another title or special for the actual conclusion; no weaseling in a virtual “to-be-continued” to get one buying even more books.

We have high quality art, solid high quality story, and a fitting conclusion to all the events. The story is capped here, though it by no means slams the door or leaves stuff closed. The scenes of Earth-22 prompted me to grab the original Kingdom Come story–I was curious if there was “recycled art,” but no–the words were the same, but the angles different…and something about the way it was done, I thought it was fantastic. (It was also quite classy that Mark Waid is thanked in the credits, as so much has been built upon his original story).

This really is not an issue for new readers–new readers can probably pick this up and appreciate it in general, but this issue is very much for the long-term readers who have followed this story, and is quite the reward for doing so. Of the comics I picked up this week, this was by far my favorite.

Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

Superman #683 [Review]

New Krypton part nine: Hard Times!

Writer: James Robinson
Pencillers: Renato Guedes & Jorge Correa Jr.
Inker: Wilson Magalhares & Jorge Correa Jr.
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story & Laura Martin)
Publisher: DC Comics

Superman faces a number of Earth super-heroes in this issue’s opening sequence–asking that they leave and let him attend to locating the Kryptonians who were responsible for a number of police deaths. They in turn give Supes an ultimatum–a half-hour before they’ll go into action. Superman confronts his aunt, and begins to realize things are beyond his control. As the battle is joined, we have Kryptonians vs. super-heroes, and then a moment between Superman and Supergirl that takes me back to a 1992 issue of Action Comics. The issue concludes with a certain “cavalry” arriving.

I’m still not the biggest fan of the art for this title–the style just seems a bit “off” to me; as probably stated before, the visual is shared by the entire art team–sometimes it’s the coloring that seems most “off” to me. I actually think I’d prefer to see Guedes’ linework inked and left uncolored–that might give me a different perception.

The story is decent if lacking complexity. Then again, given that we’re into the ninth chapter of this crossover story, it’s goot to get to action and not be bogged down with overly-complex layering and whatnot. The characters and situations are quite believable and make sense contextually. This certainly isn’t the best issue of this title–nor the “New Krypton” story–but it’s a solid chapter (and didn’t seem like some plot device forced into it for the sake of re-introducing old characters).

Not one to skip if you’re following the story; by this point in the story I assume one’s probably going to pick issues up whatever complaints they have, and doubt my recommendation would do much here. I’d recommend picking up earlier chapters before just grabbing this and wading in, of course.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6.5/10

Batman #684 [Review]

Batman: Last Rites – Last Days of Gotham part 2 of 2

Writer: Denny O’Neil
Art: Guillem March
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Guillem March & Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

Nightwing finds himself in need of rescuing, followed by guilt at having been rescued. A conversation with Alfred gets him back into fighting shape, and he heads out to do what he’s gotta do. Meanwhile, the other players in the story are busy–looking over the city, beating heads in (doing so in another’s name), and dealing with the “order” side of things. The expected fight happens, and a number of characters ponder what life’s handed them.

This is a bit of a vague summary. Some stuff in the story feels a bit vague to me–specifically the new characters with ties going back to the Gotham quake. Names did not stand out to me at all, and without going back and re-reading just to look for a name, I don’t recall ’em.

However, I did like this chapter much moreso than the first–not sure what made this so different, unless it just played better having already gotten the foundational stuff outta the way with the Detective Comics chapter of this.

The story plays nicely with continuity–drawing from stuff going back over a decade, while being planted in the midst of current/contemporary continuity, which is a definite strength in my eyes. I’d almost be interested in seeing a longer story by O’Neil, though I don’t think the current continuity’s climate would work well for that.

The art is not bad, though not my ideal choice for a Batman-related story. There’s something about this art that reminds me of the art in Superman right now–though I prefer this to the Superman art.

All in all, a solid issue for a fill-in arc (which if this is not a fill-in, it sure feels like one). If you picked up Detective 851 with the firstd chapter, this is worth nabbing to get the 2nd half of the story. I’m not sure how/where this’ll be collected (if it is) down the line; definitely beats trying to track down a 6-parter. I do wish DC would adopt some system of recounting what’s come before. I also wish they’d quit GLUING these Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe ads in–I wanna rip ’em out, but because of the glue cannot without ripping out actual story pages.

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

Justice League of America #28 [Review]

Welcome to Sundown Town Chapter 2: Shadow and Act

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Penciller: Jose Luis
Inks: JP Mayer
Color: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Travis Lanham
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover: Ed Benes w/Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

I wasn’t gonna pick this up. I was gonna content myself with waiting for a collected volume, or just waiting for the Milestone characters to pop up in other books. But curiosity got the better of me, and so I picked this up after all.

There’s not much of a plot here–the bulk of the issue is a lengthy fight scene between the League and the Shadow Cabinet. However, toward the end of the issue theres a slight bit of a twist that both bucks cliche and yet manages to play right in familiar old cliche none the less.

I find myself much more interested in finding out more about the Milestone characters than I am about the Justice League, and so am possibly more disappointed in this issue than I should be. I would gladly (and with enthusiasm) picked up a mini-series re-introducing these characters that guest-starred members of the Justice League; as it is, the Milestone characters don’t get enough focus-time in this issue (though they get far more than in the previous one). I’m also quite interested in the Icon/Superman interaction(s).

The art here–while not Benes–is quite good, and similar enough to Benes’ work that I thought nothing of the art until I looked at the credits, and realized that sure enough, this wasn’t Benes. I was particularly impressed with the final page–which also has me sufficiently hooked as to pick up the next issue more than likely.

All in all, not a bad issue. Worth getting if you want to see the Milestone characters that are appearing in this arc.

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

Final Crisis: Secret Files [Review]

Balancing Act!

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Tony Shasten
Colorist: Alex Bleyaert
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover: Frank Quitely (sliver cover by Jim Lee, Richard Friend & Randy Mayor)
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue introduces us to Libra. From his initial origin (with ties to the Ted Knight Starman) to how it is we have Libra in the Final Crisis story. The story shows us how the young man was impacted by events beyond his control as a child, and the home life he came from. We then see how he deals with it, and how he pulls himself up through the world to the point he was originally introduced at way back in the day, and the cost of actually achieving all that he seeks to do. We then find out how Darkseid came to have a “herald” or “prophet” Libra during the contemporary Final Crisis story.

I don’t recognize Shasten’s name, but the art here is quite good. It seems to fit the story well, and I have no real complaints. The story itself is fairly interesting, revealing the origin of Libra–not just as an obscure character from decades past, but as a character we see operating today.

As far as DC’s “Secret Files” specials go, this is certainly NOT what I expected. I should have been suspicious at the (relatively) small price point. Rather than character profiles and information about location and events that’ve unfolded in Final Crisis, this is simply another one-shot that fills us in on a character’s background and how they relate to Final Crisis. This should have been billed as a “Secret Origin issue, as the Secret Files title from DC has come to imply lengthy text/image pieces that go in-depth on bringing one up-to-speed on the current status of a number of characters related to the title.

As with other recent tie-ins, though…I enjoyed this a great deal more than I have the core series. When I saw Wein’s name on this, I was trying to place the name. I recognized the name, but didn’t think I’d seen it in awhile. This finally clicked for me when I saw a note in the credits that Libra was created by Wein. Given that, I find it quite cool that the character’s creator was brought on to reconcile past and present.

Simply as a one-shot that ties in to Final Crisis, this is a solid issue that–while it doesn’t move the Final Crisis story forward–goes a good way toward explaining a pretty major character related to that story.

I’ve had several times that by the time I’ve gotten to a comic store there’s been no choice BUT to get the “sliver cover” for a Final Crisis book. This was the first time that I found myself “stuck” with no choice but the full-cover image. Quitely’s art for the cover is not bad, and as I have yet to see the sliver image, I’m not gonna worry about it.

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

Captain America #45 [Review]

Time’s Arrow – Part 3 of 3

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencilers: Luke Ross with Butch Guice
Inkers: Rick Magyar, Mark Pennington and Butch Guice
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Production Irene Lee
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Bucky (well, Captain America) continues his battle with Batroc and a mysterious assailant with ties to the past. By the time all’s said ‘n done, Cap finds himself facing an even bigger threat than he’d initially thought.

No real complaint on the art here for me. Art duties are shared a fair bit according to the credits, but nothing on-page took me out of the story or got me to pause and think about having seen different art–which is credit to the team for keeping a consistent enough style to not jar me outta the experience. (Which is not to say one can’t find the differences).

The story’s solid as usual for the title, and we’re really seeing all the more a tonal shift from the “super-hero” stuff to the spy/espionage stuff. The costume, shield, and title of the series are Captain America…but with a diferent man under the mask and different relationships with supporting cast, this is beginning to feel like a much different character and title.

There’s a fairly decent ending to this issue, closing out this 3-parter; but we’re still left with a to-be-continued note, as this story “cliffhangers” into the next.

As 3-parters go, this is not a bad initial post-Steve, Bucky-actually-IS-Cap-now story. However, having been brought on-board with the Death of Cap back in #25 and following that and checking this out, I get the feeling that this is going to read much better in collected format, and so plan to discontinue purchasing the monthly issues and wait for the collected volumes to follow this. Brubaker’s story is fairly deep, layered, and well-done…but I’m ready to break from his single issues and wait for full stories.

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

Batman: Cacophony #2 [Review]

Wired for Sound

Writer: Kevin Smith
Penciller: Walt Flanagan
Inker: Sandra Hope
Colorist: Guy Major
Lettering: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Jann Jones
Editor: Dan Didio
Cover: Adam Kubert (variant by Bill Sienkiewicz)
Publisher: DC Comics

We open with typical Joker mayhem (one might be able to compare the method to that in a certain recent movie). Of course, Batman busts onto the scene and does his thing; though his other quarry shows as well. Batman then goes after Maxie Zeus. Plans are then set in motion, and a confrontation with the Joker yields the results Batman wanted…though the Joker finds himself rather disappointed.

I don’t know what–if any–place this story truly has in the Bat-continuity. Given that, I’m taking this simply as a Batman story with no particular place in continuity. Smith’s writing–his take on the characters–has a certain energy to it that is at once entertaining and yet a bit “off.” There’s a bit of crudeness present that somehow doesn’t seem to truly fit. I vaguely recall Onomatopoeia from Smith’s Green Arrow run, and it’s sorta cool seeing that character brought back–even though I don’t recal anything about him nor know/recall any background…just the “spoken sound effects” “gimmick” of the character.

I do have to credit Smith with an interesting analogy to explain a bit of what it might be if one were to picture the madness of the Joker. It doesn’t universally explain or apply to every prior version of the character…but it works here in this specific story.

The art is quite good, giving a nice, familiar visual for the Joker and Batman. The look on Joker’s face as he lands next to the Bat-Signal works well for this version of the character. Joker is dangerous, but he’s also quite enjoying himself here. To the character, this is simply great fun.

The cover seems a bit repetetive–how many times have we seen an image (cover or otherwise) of Batman and someone else diving/falling like this, gunfire and/or other projectiles a part of the fall? The cover’s art itself isn’t bad, just seems there could’ve been something “more.”

All in all, a solid issue for what this is. After years of primarily being stuck with 6-parters or lengthier, this seems particularly short–this is only the 2nd issue, but next issue is already the final issue.

Not sure if/how this story’ll be collected–perhaps a nice $9.99 paperback, though I would not be surprised to see it in a $19.99 hardback first–but if you’ve the inclination to read a Kevin Smith Batman story and can nab the first issue, too, you could do worse than to pick this up.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 7.5/10

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