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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

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

Superman/Batman #66 [Review]

Night of the Cure

Story, Art & Cover: Scott Kolins
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Colors: Michael Atiyeh
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s not really a whole lot to this issue, when you get right down to it. Black ring commands Solomon Grundy to Rise; Grundy goes off to kill. Meanwhile, Kirk Langstrom is yet again fighting the whole Manbat thing, and has a run in with Bizarro. And by issue’s end, they’re both facing Black Lantern Solomon Grundy.

Needless to say, I’m not too fond of this issue. Kolins’ art isn’t bad…it’s got a distinctive style that I like for the most part. Plus, I’ve gotten used to Bizarro’s appearance coming off differently with practically every artist who does the character lately. So no real complaint with the visuals.

The story itself, though just doesn’t do anything for me. I’m rather tired of the over-use of Bizarro the last few years; I’ve never been particularly fond of the character, and especially not when he/it shows up every other month or so. The Manbat bit is also rather tiresome and seems like any other Manbat story I can think of; there’s nothing new added to my understanding of the character, and nothing to show the character has moved forward at all; just the standard “every knows this basic original status quo” sort of take on the character, as I read this. Solomon Grundy being chosen by the Black Ring makes sense–he dies and comes back to ‘life’ all the time, so is one of the major offenders of Death.

As an issue of Superman/Batman, this issue is certainly mistitled: neither Superman nor Batman make any appearance here. The logo on the cover is more Manbat-ish and the S is backwards to represent Bizarro, so that part at least shows the difference…but this seems like it ought to have been its own special or mini-series.

As Blackest Night goes, this is one of the weaker tie-ins, and I’m confident the only reason for me to pick up the next issue is that I decided before Blackest Night began that I was going to follow the ENTIRE event/story. (Of course, I had no idea how huge it would become as it’s gone on!)

This is definitely one of those ancillary books that doesn’t seem to have any real bearing on the main story, and ties in due to the Black ring raising Grundy. If you’re interested in Grundy, Bizarro, or Manbat…you’ll probably enjoy this issue much more than I did. Otherwise, the only reason to get this is if you’re determined to follow Blackest Night into every last tie-in.

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

Outsiders #24 [Review]

Matter of Trust

Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Fernando Pasarin
Inkers: Scott Hanna, Prentis Rollins & Fernando Pasarin
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover: Tom Mandrake
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Publisher: DC Comics

We begin this issue much like the other Blackest Night tie-in issues: a flashback showing us the memories a black ring is downloading to use with an animated/rebuilt corpse, concluding the scene with the command to the body to RISE. In this case, it’s Tara Markov again, and fresh off menacing the Titans, now she goes to her brother and the others of the Outsiders. As the Outsiders seek to find the truth about what’s going on, the readers know it’s not quite what they think–or want to think. Meanwhile: Tatsu, Violet, and Creeper are transporting Killer Croc, and bump into Black Lanterns of their own to deal with…Tatsu’s dead family.

This is one of those issues that is far easier to read than it is to describe. Visually, I recognize everyone; the names I’m a little less confident with and have to search through the issue to find references (I’m pretty sure Tatsu and Violet are “civilian” names and not the characters’ codenames).

With the Blackest Night: Titans mini and its flashbacks, and other series lately dealing with the Titans’ history and characters related to them, I have that thin understanding that works fine while reading, but isn’t strong enough for me to really “get” fully. In a way, that’s something on the writing; but at the same time, the fact that I can read the story even not knowing much about the characters nor their status quo prior to this point is more positive than negative.

The art’s quite good; no real complaints from me. Everyone looks as I’d expect–if there’s any expectation–and at the very least, I recognize pretty much everyone. Even the Black Lantern has expressiveness…there’s a panel where one would almost feel bad for her, if one doesn’t keep in mind what’s been learned so far about these Black Lanterns.

Probably the largest factor that makes this work so well for me is that it is written by Tomasi, who has been doing plenty of other writing within the Blackest Night event, and presumably he is incorporating enough that even without non-Blackest Night knowledge, there’s some building continuity just within the event’s story.

All in all, a very solid tie-in, and certainly worth getting if you’re following either Blackest Night or the title itself. Then, of course, there’s also that little ring that ought to come with the issue, as well.

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

Deadpool #17 [Review]

Want You to Want Me Part Three: The Revolution Will Be Televised

Writer: Daniel Way
Penciller: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Assistant Editor: Jody Leheup
Editor: Axel Alonso
Cover: Jason Pearson
Publisher: Marvel Comics

It’s hard to believe this is only the third issue of Deadpool that I’ve bought new of this series. Since picking up #15 to “try” at a friend’s persistent urging/recommendation, I’ve gone back and bought issues 12-14, the Secret Invasion trade, the Deadpool/Thunderbolts trade, a Suicide Kings hardcover, Merc With a Mouth 1-3 (and 4 “new”), as well as Deadpool #900 and Deadpool Team-Up #899. (And of course, also picked up this week’s Amazing Spider-Man #611 just because it had Deadpool in it).

As the above paragraph probably suggests…I’m hooked. I’m a total sucker for anything Deadpool right now. Of course…that’s for good reason The character’s at the top of his game under the various creative teams right now. And over-exposed or exploited as the character may be, I’m thoroughly enjoying such a concentrated dose of the character at present.

This issue picks up on Deadpool seeking to prove himself to Cyclops, that he can cut it s an X-man. Cyclops is handling a sensitive political situation, and Deadpool doesn’t exactly help. His involvement leads Cyclops to send Domino after the Merc…and a misunderstnding with her overhearing Cyclops talking to Wolverine keeps them from hanging onto Wade once they have him. We’re also given a sort of wacky take on H.A.M.M.E.R. and its agents that fits perfectly with Deadpool. The ending sets up the concluding chapter of this arc on a fairly generic cliffhanger.

The art’s good stuff here, and I continue to really enjoy Medina’s work. This contrasts with the cover art, which–while amusing enough–isn’t all that appealing. Still, I’m thankful for the interior being to my liking.

I like that this title is fairly well self-contained; despite the large number of other Deadpool comics and appearances going on at present, this story isn’t forced to acknowledge all of that; its story is its own entity.

This isn’t a great jumping-on point, really (but certainly is not the worst, thanks to the “Previously Page” that Marvel actually does very well with). As a whole, this really feels like the “main” Deadpool book, allowing the other books their status as “secondary” or “side” titles. This seems the book you’ll want to give a look at if you’re interested in Deadpool’s place in interaction with the current Marvel Universe’s ongoing continuity (Dark Reign and all that).

All in all, another solid issue, and I’m ready for the next.

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

Green Lantern Corps #42 [Review]

Hungry Heart

Story & Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Patrick Gleason
Inkers: Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen
Colorists: Randy Mayor, Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Adam Schlagman
Cover: Gleason, Buchman & Mayor and Buchman (variant by Greg Horn)
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is mostly battle scenes, as we see the Green Lanterns (with help from the Indigo Tribe) defending Oa from the Black Lanterns. Killowog faces the Black Lanterns of recruits who try to stir up his guilt for failing to keep them alive. And the Black Lanterns reach 100% power…and prepare to Devour WILL. With things looking bleak, Kyle seizes on an idea that might just buy the defenders an edge–and sets his plan into motion. Unfortunately, an Alpha Lantern’s interference sends things in a less than desireable direction.

The ending of this issue was pretty much what I expected as the story progressed–from the moment the Alpha Lantern showed up, I had a sinking feeling…and the heroic action that resulted left me all the more sunk. The final page, seeing the body and the ring’s declaration that its Green Lantern was deceased and flying off…totally heart-breaking. Especially given WHO it was.

The action in this issue was so fast-paced that I hardly noticed the art. Where I did notice it, it didn’t seem all that bad. Gleason’s art seems much more well-suited for the alien characters; and even the cartooney aspect that usually bothers me so much didn’t really show through in this issue. The story was basically a straight-forward battle sequence followed by a fairly typical “heroic death” sequence. While significant in and of itself, it’s nothing special, and is rather formulaic in execution.

On the whole, a mostly average issue tending toward the better side for me as one who generally has not liked the visual style of the title’s artist. While the death at the end sucks, it fits in with the story, and provided me the biggest “Oh, crap!” moment since the end of Blackest Night #1. I must also applaud all involved for not letting this slip beforehand–I had no idea this was going to be the issue’s end when I bought the issue.

As usual, I certainly recommend this to anyone following the title anyway or Blackest Night as a whole.

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

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