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The Rest of the Stack: Two Weeks of Other Books I’ve Read

Due to hitting the busy season at work, I basically took a week off from reviewing. With the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve had a chance to catch up a bit. As usual, these are mini/”capsule” reviews of books I picked up but am not writing out a full review for. This post is double-sized due to covering TWO weeks’ worth of books.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Special #1
This issue’s a real treat. For the same price as a black-and-white issue of Tales of the TMNT, the issue is full-color. Best of all, it’s the classic #1 issue, now in color for the first time as a comic. (It’s been colorized at least once before, in the First graphic novel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Book I). The coloring looks quite natural, and it would have been awesome to see the original series re-issued in color…or at least, the first ten issues, the one-shots for each turtle, and Return to New York. For that matter, City at War as well. As-is, at the very least, this is a nice version of #1 to add to one’s collection without breaking the bank. Highly recommended for any TMNT fan, or anyone curious as to how the turtles’ story got started.

Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth #5
This issue continues the story of Deadpool, Zombie-head Deadpool and Dr. Betty facing Hydra agents trying to kill them to get the head themselves. A bit of cheesecake art to the issue, but that can be overlooked for an excellent scene in which Deadpool and Bill (not Bob–he insists he’s Bill, though Deadpool can’t seem to really tell the difference from his old buddy) have an exchange over the Star Wars series of movies. Suffice to say that reading this, one knows exactly where Deadpool stands regarding the trilogies. Overall another fun issue. I’m pretty sure the story wraps with issue 6, so at this point if you aren’t already following the book or able to get the first few issues, you’re probably just as well to wait for a collected edition. The story so far definitely seems well worthwhile for Deadpool fans, whichever way the story’s read.

Supergirl #47
This issue provides a good deal of backstory to Alura, and her courtship by Zor-El. We also see the character FINALLY acting out of real motivation that can be understood, instead of just coming off as a near-villainous witch of a character. Reactron is put on trial, and Alura is determined that he will be tried justly and not simply killed out of vengeance-seeking. Unfortunately, her fellow New Kryptonians don’t all share the sentiment, leading to some interesting character development. Though Supergirl is present in these pages, this is very much Alura’s story, with her daughter playing a minor role. The end of the issue has an interesting (in a way) revelation that does seem par for the course. Not a bad issue, but not wonderful. If you’re already following the title and/or the over-arching story in the Super-books, this’ll be just fine. It’s not really an issue to entice new readers, I don’t think. Not sure if it’s significant or just an oversight on someone’s part, but the cover lacks the “World Against Superman” banner the titles have been carrying lately, though this retains the red-shield numbering begun with August’s Codename: Patriot arc.

Flash: Rebirth #5
I’m pretty sure this started out as a 5-issue mini-series…I recall it seeming slightly “off” as I recalled Green Lantern: Rebirth being 6, and thinking the two ought to be pretty much the same length. This issue sees all the various speedsters team up, as well as a development that presumably “solves” whatever issue it was Wally’s kids were having with their powers…and we seem to have a new Impulse (given Bart gave up the identity to become Kid Flash back in 2003). This continues the “legacy” aspect of the Flash line. There’s a revelation that affects Barry’s past…as well as a very specific threat to his past. This is a sorta interesting issue, but on the whole, continues to be more “miss” than “hit” for me. GL: Rebirth dispelled my unease toward returning a long-dead character to an old status quo and really set up a great new status quo that worked everyone into the mix. This Flash: Rebirth has not at all sold me on any “WHY” Barry needs to be back, and simply puts things logically into place to ALLOW for the character being back, and incorporating pretty much everything else involving the Flash family of characters. Recommended if you’ve already invested in the first 4 issues of the series.

Uncle Scrooge #385
It’s great to be able to pick up this series now. I’d bought maybe 3 issues several years ago while it was being put out by Gemstone, but simply could not justify the $8 per issue, even if it was squarebound and double-ish-sized. This issue is fairly low-key, picking up from the previous issue. Scrooge, Donald, and the nephews continue to deal with Magica as she tries for Scrooge’s Number One Dime. Once things are wrapped up at the mine, Scrooge & Co. wind up looking for sunken treasure, and dealing with Magica AND the Beagle Boys. While not the greatest of comics, this is still a good, fun issue, and well worth getting if you’ve any interest in these characters.

Archie #603
The “Wedding Story” has taken a twist I didn’t expect: rather than being a 6-part exploration of Archie marrying Veronica, after 3 issues of that the story has switched to give us the story of what would happen if Archie married Betty instead. I’m really enjoying this “longform” story that not only takes more than a page to tell, but multiple issues. I’ve picked up the occasional Archie book through the years…but with stories like this, I might just stick around on a monthly basis.

Superman #694
This issue sees Mon-El’s “official” return to action as he re-reveals himself to the people who’ve thought him dead for awhile. This also debuts the “new” costume…which honestly seems a non-issue to me, despite the big deal being made of it. On the whole, it looks to me like the only difference is that Mon-El is now sporting a small “S-shield,” as he’s holding Superman’s place…and Blue shorts to contrast with the red costume (sort of a reverse-Superman color scheme). Probably the best part of the issue is the interaction with Connor and Ma, showing that Mon has a place within the Superman family of characters.

Image United #1
I have mixed feelings on this book. For one thing, something of this scale ought to have a huge multi-panel fold-out cover, such that all the primary characters are spotlighted…instead of one having to choose one of six segments of the picture as the cover to purchase. I chose the Savage Dragon segment, that character long being one of my favorite characters that I rarely read, though the Spawn cover was cool, too. The “jam session” of having each character’s creator doing that character’s visuals is a very cool thing, and a different take on doing a crossover project. The story itself seems to be a slow build and full of little but action (presumably to show off the blending of the different art styles). Being familiar with these characters for the past 16-17 years, the blended style worked well, and nothing really seemed all that jarring. Since this will surely be collected into a single volume eventually and my proclivity toward this type of variant/alternate covers…I’ll probably pass on the subsequent issues and snag the collected volume when that comes out, if I still have enough interest.

Son of Marvel Reading Chronology
This is one of those freebies that Marvel puts out on occasion, to try to hook one on buying more product. While I prefer the “Saga” issues (they’re free, and take far, far longer to read than any other single comics, and fill me in on stuff so I know what’s up overall without having to keep up on Marvel’s output in general), this guide is rather informative, showing what volumes are out there, in-print…and what they collect. As well as, of course, the order to read them for a chronological reading experience in-continuity. If nothing else, this has informed me that there are currently 10 hardcovers collecting Ultimate Spider-Man, so I know there are only 5 left that I want to try to track down. This is definitely a worthwhile guide if you can find it and not have to pay for it…or at least, please don’t pay much for it, as It is SUPPOSED to be FREE.

Justice League of America #39 [Review]

Reunion

Writer: James Robinson
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Rob Hunter
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Bagley, Hunter & Pantazis
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics

I’m not familiar with the “Detroit League,” and don’t really have much interest in it offhand. However–as with many of the other Blackest Night tie-ins–that doesn’t really hamper the story in this issue all that much. Certainly there are some subtleties that are lost on me for lacking background knowledge of certain characters. But at its heart, ultimately, this is still a good, solid story involving a character with “history” rising to cause grief with those still living.

While Red Tornado, Zatanna, Dr. Light and crew arrive on the sattelite to see what happened, they’re confronted by Vibe (of the Detroit League), Zatarra (Zatanna’s father) and Dr. Light (the guy who raped Sue Dibny, and got his mind mucked with for his trouble, ultimately leading to Identity Crisis and whatnot). The individual confrontations are fairly interesting, though the most disturbing is the meeting of the Drs. Light, and what has befallen Firestorm’s girlfriend. Though it got incredibly annoying trying to read the backwards-speak of Zatanna and Zatarra and I was taken out of the story entirely by the thought, I had a good chuckle when I realized their battle had all but come down to a “yo mamma” spitting contest, their magic given power by what they said: “Disregard what she said!” “No, disregard what HE said!” “No, disregard what SHE said!”

It seems obvious that Robinson knows these characters well, and has a good handle on them–whatever my feelings of the various “eras” of the JLA and such, he crafts an engaging story. Particularly with Zatara, it’s obvious that his fullest potential as a Black Lantern can’t be allowed to be reached and that he’s–like Psycho Pirate–perhaps one of the greatest weapons in the Black Lanterns’ arsenal.

The art is also quite good, and though I’m not yet all that used to Bagley’s art in the DCU, I like it already–and somehow, it reminds me just a bit of Dan Jurgens’ work, which is certainly a plus in my book.

This issue’s by no means an essential part to the core Blackest Night saga…but it’s still a solid read and well worth getting if you’re interested in the Drs. Light or the Detroit League, or just seeing Robinson/Bagley’s take on ’em.

This feels like a very stand-alone sort of story within the title, where it could almost be Blackest Night: Justice League of America #1 rather than #39 of the ongoing series. Though buying the issues for the tie-in to Blackest Night, I’m not convinced there’s enough here to truly, properly “sell” one on the title itself. But as this is only the first of a two-part story, there’s no telling what the next chapter may do.

Recommended.

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

Teen Titans #77 [Review]

A Family Affair

Writer: J.T. Krul
Pencils: Joe Bennett
Inks: Jack Jadson & Ruy Jose
Colors: Rod Reis
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Bennett, Jadson, & Reis
Asst. Editor: Rex Ogle
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics

This seems like another one of those stand-alone stories that–while it takes a couple issues in the actual title could work just as well as its own double-issue mini-series. Come to think of it, this would do better to be Blackest Night: Deathstroke the Terminator moreso than an issue of Teen Titans.

Deathstroke faces his still-living daughter who he has tried to help in his own way, though she still hates him for perceived LACK of caring from her point of view. The two are menaced by Black Lantern versions of Grant and Wintergreen–Deathstroke’s son and former close ally/advisor respectively. Fighting ensues, and someone else shows up at the end who fits quite well into the mix.

Overall, this was a solid issue–the writing worked well, as we’re able to “get” where the various characters are coming from. Though I’m not terribly familiar with them all, there is PLENTY of context to fill one in, making this a very accessible issue even if one has never read the title before (I think the last issue of the title I’d read was the final pre-One-Year-Later issue).

The art is good as well…no real complaint there. The only thing that really jumped out at me was that there were a couple of points where Deathstroke reminded me very much of Deadpool, only with a different costume.

This doesn’t seem to have ongoing threads as if the title were interrupted, so it seems likely that regular readers of Teen Titans could safely skip this if trying to avoid Blackest Night. By the same token, one following Blackest Night ought to be safe picking this up without being mired in the ongoing story.

I don’t think I even knew this issue was going to be a tie-in until I saw it listed as such on Diamond’s list of this week’s comics and again seeing it for myself in the store. It’s a $3.99 book, but seems to have foregone its cofeature to give the Blackest Night stuff more pages. This is well worthwhile overall, but doesn’t seem essential. It plays out the impact of Blackest Night on these characters, but does not itself seem to have anything of influence back to Blackest Night.

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

Blackest Night #5 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Green Lantern #48 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Superman: Secret Origin #3 [Review]

Mild-Mannered Reporter

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Assoc. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Covers: Frank w/ Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics

While I generally enjoy stuff Johns does, my feelings toward this series have been trending toward the negative. Initially, I thought it was sorta cool that elements from the various versions of Superman were being incorporated into this. But as this series has progressed and I consider it further, it seems more of an amalgamation than something definitive. It’s like a “PC” version of Superman intended to offer these little bones to as many readers as possible, without giving any one group a clear Superman.

This issue picks up with Clark’s (or should I say Kal’s?) early days in Metropolis, with a sinking Daily Planet where he’s been hired to replace someone else. From the country-boy-in-the-city bit to getting his briefcase stuck in the door to sliding into the parasitic elevator man, this is a Clark Kent far too much like the silver age “Clark-is-the-mask” persona put forth than I care for. There’s also a distinct feeling of Christopher Reeve’s presence here…it’s easy to hear his voice in the character.

Arriving in the office itself of the Daily Planet, Clark meets Jimmy, Ron, Steve, Perry, and of course Lois. Cat Grant is present, looking very much like she does in the current “present-day” story, which seems to do away with all the great characterization from her introduction through the mid/late 1990s–as if that version of the character never even existed.

Lois takes to clark just fine from the get-go…just another reporter for her to break in. The two head to a Lexcorp technology demonstration, where Lois uses Clark as “bait” to distract the guards while she slips by (apparently anyone from the Daily Planet are expressly not welcome around Lexcorp). Lois winds up falling of the building in an attempt to avoid getting squished by a helicopter that malfunctions, leading to a duplication of that scene from 1978’s Superman film in which Superman arrives on the scene, catching the falling Lois and a helicopter as his first public act. (Though people surrounding him and Lois demanding favors and askins salvation is kept, to give him something to go home and think about).

The art, truly, is the best part of this book. It’s just a bit much, though, that it’s so easy to see Christopher Reeve…that’s the primary problem I have with the visuals. It’s not that one shouldn’t be able to see Reeve, but that this Superman is then tied to that vision of the character, anchored in a past rather than freed to grow into the future.

The writing in and of itself is not bad, by any means. Johns certainly knows his stuff, working in subtle elements of the various Superman origins/backstory through the years–the films, the silver age comics, Byrne’s revamp, and presumably a bit of Birthright and Smallville (though if so, the latter two are over my head at present). It’s great that recognition is given to all the different visions…but it’d be better if there’s just one definitive version, rather than this bastardization of so many takes on the character.

Ultimately, this is a good issue in and of itself…just that the reworking of the character to bring so much of the silver age and films into the comics seem to rob the character of so much development that was accomplished over the past 20-some years.

Story: 7/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8/10

Tales of the TMNT #64 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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