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Darkwing Duck #4 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Invincible Iron Man #30 [Review]

Stark Resilient Part 6: Tony, We Don’t Want to Destroy You

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Production: Randall Miller
Assistant Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Published by: Marvel Comics

While one might expect to see someone like Tony Stark cruisin’ the freeway in a fancy car with a beautiful woman, the situation we see Tony in isn’t exactly normal. Tony and Sasha have it out, first through a sort of “dangerous” conversation that explodes into action as the two clash first via wits and then via high technology. While this is going on, Pepper Potts and the others in the startup Stark Resilient have their new car prototype to show investors, and things take an interesting twist for the fledgling company when Pepper leaps into action as Rescue.

Though the excitement has worn off for me with this title–it’s not longer the “shiny, new” thing as the Dark Reign closed out, and it’s not the immediate near-continuation of an epic hardback volume read in under a week–this is still a great read.

The art–while sometimes seeming slightly “off” in a way (lips especially seem awkward, somehow, in particular)–is great stuff, and I really do enjoy the realism of it. The characters don’t exactly look like their movie counterparts…but they have a great blend that is certainly close enough to the movies to be familiar that way, while maintaining a certain bit of the traditional so as to not be entirely new. I normally don’t care for characters looking like their live-action counterparts, but in this case, I don’t mind.

The story itself seems to be bucking the norm–I’d’ve sworn it should have had a bit of a “hard break” with either the previous issue or this one, but the story continues on without a clear conclusion. Having grown used to the “standard” 6-issue arc, this is a bit off-putting…but on the whole, I’m quite pleased to see a story continue in and of itself without having to have that hard break just because this is the 6th issue since the last major arc. Fraction seems to really get these characters, though in some ways it’s easier to see them as closer to the movies’ continuity than long-time, mainstream Marvel…and yet, this is rooted within the main Marvel continuity.

This issue deals with a lot of what’s been developing over the past few issues, so is not in and of itself a specific jumping on point, so this wouldn’t be one for new readers looking for such a point. This issue will primarily be of interest to the ongoing reader.

Even though I keep telling myself that I’m gonna let this title go and wait for the collected edition(s), every time I read an issue I find myself interested in the next issue, and as such, for present I’m hooked on the singles…and in the current comics climate…that’s quite an accomplishment.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #2 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

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

Wolverine #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 2/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

The Death of Dracula #1 [Review]

The Death of Dracula

Written by: Victor Gischler
Penciled by: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes by: Onofrio Catacchio
Colored by: Frank D’Armata
Lettered by: Jeff Eckleberry
Cover Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli and Marko Djurdjevic
Associate Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Executive Editor: Axel Alonso
Published by: Marvel Comics

I’d seen this image in ads for a couple weeks or so, and assumed–knowing the coming X-Men #1 will have the mutants fighting vampires–that this ‘event’ would be taking place in X-Men #1, setting up that arc. Turns out this is its own separate one-shot, serving as a prologue to the upcoming run. This is one of the few issues where having only seen a couple ads–nothing near enough to get “old” nor “annoying” or otherwise turn me off to the concept–and as a regular cover with the black and reds contrasting handily with the blue and yellow of the The Heroic Age banner across the top I was actually drawn in BY the cover. The issue felt thicker than an average issue, so though I was gritting my teeth and feeling a little dirty for going against my anti-$3.99 principles I bought the issue anyway.

Rather than only 22-30/32 story pages, we have 40 pages of story, which alleviates SOME of the concern with the cover price…this is a special one-shot with more pages than a standard issue of a regular, ongoing series…so the higher than $2.99 price has some merit.

The story is quite detailed, with a lot going on–a lot of setup, context, exposition…and general foundation-building for the new status quo of vampires in the Marvel Universe. We find the sons of Dracula, each part of different vampire factions/families/clans/sects/covens/whatever attending a regular meeting of all these groups–an event that takes place every century or so. One of the sons launches into a savage strike against their father–Dracula, intending to spur change from the status quo for all vampires. Rather than hide behind “the way it’s always been,” he seeks to initiate change to “how things can be, moving forward” (though without the vampires and murder part, sounds like something from a motivational speech for a corporate environment). With Dracula dead (hey, it’s not a spoiler if it’s the title of the one-shot, on the cover!) the vampires have to determine where they’re headed–do they reunite under a single leader, split into two groups to war against each other, or some other option?

I read the few issues of Blade that came out back in ’98 or ’99 shortly after the first Wesley Snipes film, but that’s about the extent of my familiarity with Marvel’s vampires. The way they’re portrayed visually in this issue has a certain air of the familiar…nothing seems like it’s really out of place or should belong elsewhere. The idea of these multiple factions, the occasional reunion, etc. does not seem far-fetched (though it does have a sense of being borrowed from elsewhere). I chalk that up to something fairly standard in literature regarding vampires…a familiar aspect that generally ought to be present unless one is trying to radically reinterpret the very genre.

So I not only have no problem with the art, I like the art…it fits the story very well, and conveys so much of what is necessary to getting things across to the reader in short order, in terms of the differing factions and lifestyles of all the different vampires. They come from all over the world, all walks of life and cultures; the common thread being–wait for it–they’re all vampires.

The story itself is–for what it is–fantastic. Gischler found his way onto my radar with Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth, and though I have no interest in getting back into the X-Men beyond following Second Coming, seeing his name attached to a major X-Men book was encouraging.

What Gischler does in this issue is introduce us to the vampires, lay foundation for who and what they are, where they’ve come from…and set up where they’re going, the new status quo that will allow for them to operate in the open, such that they even could reasonably interact with the X-Men and other general Marvel Universe characters not typically associated with the shadows of the universe. He also manages to avoid the route that I thought he was taking things. keeping to the familiar yet avoiding an exact predictability. And partially for that…I now, thanks to this one issue, have an actual interest in seeing where these characters go.

Though this serves as a prologue, presumably, to the coming X-Men story…it works very well on its own as a single-issue/one-shot. You get a complete story from beginning to end…just that as with virtually any film, the ending is left open such that there “could” be a sequel or continuation from what was laid down here.

Highly recommended.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Overall: 9/10

Wonder Woman #600 [Review]

This is the third “mega-anniversary” issue from DC in a month’s time (Batman #700 and Superman #700 preceded this) and for me, these are 3-for-3 in terms of being disappointments. Huge numbers, sure…and at least Batman and Superman got to theirs “legitimately.” Last month, Wonder Woman was on issue # 44…so it seems kinda fishy to arbitrarily skip 556 numbers just because issue #45 would be the 600th issue if you strung all the previous series combined in one continuing run.

But that’s a complaint to go into detail on another time.

This issue–even after reading the whole thing–is virtually forgettable. Less than 2 days after initially reading the issue, I couldn’t tell you what the “lead story” even was. I remembered the short with Power Girl’s cat, because it was a cat-story and combined with the Origin of Dex-Starr in Green Lantern #55, they stuck out as significant for hitting me close to the heart, having recently lost a cat I’d had for 18 years. The other story in the issue was setup for when Straczynski takes over the title, and showed a Diana Prince in a costume quite a bit different from the recent “traditional” version (and works extremely well in the story, despite all the buzz in the media..more on that later). There are also a number of “pinup pages” where other artistic teams had a chance to display their take on the character for this anniversary issue.

We open with an “introduction” by Lynda Carter–the actress who portrayed Wonder Woman in the old tv live-action series…I hardly remember the last time I saw a collected edition with an introduction, and now here we have one for a single-issue comic…I understand there’s big-time significance to a female character having so many issues published, but it still seems strange.

Valedictorian
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: George Perez
Inker: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Assoc. Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Brian Cuningham

The first story then begins, with Wonder Woman leading most of the well-known (and some less-so-well-known) female characters into battle, before rushing to a graduation ceremony where she’s glad to have arrived in time to see a girl graduate. We find out this is a girl who was part of the supporting cast, apparently, back when the Wonder Woman title was relaunched in the late 1980s after Crisis on Infinite Earths. The story here–at least to this male reader–as fairly generic. It’s cool to see the follow up on a character who has since her first appearance grown up, which lends some real history to the Wonder Woman tale as a whole…but it’s still–structurally–not all that interesting. The art by Perez is awesome, though, and I can overlook a boring story for the beautiful art, the detailed portrayal of the various characters. Plus, there’s that little tidbit of info older readers know: it was Perez who relaunched the character back in the 1980s, so seeing his return to contribute to a story all these years later–as the artist, and by indication in the credits, as an “inspiration” for the story.

Fuzzy Logic
Writer & Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: John J. Hill

Next up, Wonder Woman teams up with Power Girl to defeat “Egg Fu,” and then retire to Power Girl’s office, where they discuss the way Power Girl’s cat has been acting, and Power Girl realizes she needs a place away from the office, where she and the cat can be away from the day-to-day business of things. The art is so-so…nothing spectacular; it doesn’t blow me away or make me feel it’d be anough to carry a boring story. But it works for this story, and doesn’t put me off. The cat seems a bit stocky/bulky…but in terms of a fictitious comic-book cat, I really shouldn’t complain…he’s a cute little thing without being overly-cutesy.

Firepower
Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Travis Lanham

The story that follows is a short that basically pit Superman and Wonder Woman against Aegeus, who has stolen lightning bolts from Zeus. The character apparently is Olympian–I’m not familiar with this version of the character, but the name and visuals seem somewhat familiar, suggesting I’m not entirely unfamiliar–whether in DC‘s comics or simply in reading of Greek mythology. As Superman is vulnerable to magic, he’s more the “backup” in this tale, as Wonder Woman takes the lead in bringing the villain down. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of point to this story in and of itself outside this issue…it’s just a tale to show Wonder Woman and Superman teamed up, though giving Wonder Woman the starring role and relegating Superman to an almost second-tier status (as a guest-star, that’s how it goes, though)! The visuals are ok, but again…don’t stand out as significant (whereas the opening story with Perez’ art I recognized it and knew without looking at the credits that it was Perez’ work).

The Sensational Wonder Woman
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Scott Kolins
Coloris: Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

The next story reeks largely of being little more than metatextual. Wonder Woman is shown in battle, while narration boxes discuss her journey, and leads to what symbolically indicates the character rushing into an unknown future, from an established past…almost feeling like a vague series or season finale where the makers aren’t sure if they’ll get to do anything else with the story.

Odyssey – Prologue: Couture Shock
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Don Kramer
Inker: Michael Babinski
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Travis Lanham

Finally, we have the prologue to Staczynski‘s story, where we find a young Diana Prince in a new, unfamiliar (but with touches of familiarity) costume, seeking an oracle, and referencing a dead mother recently brought back…after having been dead for a few years. We come to see that this new, “current” Wonder Woman is the result of something screwing with the timeline, and she’s going to have to put things back to rights, to exist in the mainstream current DCU again.

We then close with a preview of Action Comics #890 with no cover image to differentiate it from any of the other stories in the issue.

Between stories, we get some “iconic” Wonder Woman pinup pages. While on the one hand they seem a bit like filler material, I am (as I was with Batman #700) very, VERY glad to see these on the INTERIOR of the book, rather than as variant covers!

There’s a two-page spread showing the classic/traditional-costumed Wonder Woman striking a pose in the foreground, with slightly dimmed-out images surrounding as the background, displaying many of the main DC heroes she’s worked with, the villains, and they seem grouped by time-frame, from the different periods of the character’s life, at least post-Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Overall Thoughts on the Issue

These are all decent stories, though the issue as a whole feels more like it should be some sort of Annual rather than a (renumbering aside) regularly-numbered issue in the midst of the ongoing series. If this were a half-half split with an epilogue from the previous writer and a prologue from the incoming writer, with pinup pages to lend to the anniversary feel, it wouldn’t seem so out of sorts. As is, it’s an issue with a whole bunch of stuff crammed in, apparently to give a LOT of people some way to say they “got to work on” this anniversary issue.

If you’re a Wonder Woman fan, this could be a bit iffy. The opening story hardly seems worth a $5 price for its nature just to wrap up Simone‘s run on the book. For newer fans, the final segment is the same way…not worth the $5 just to get such a short prologue to the upcoming run, nor is it worth the price just to get the “debut” of the “new costume” that seems to be THE buzz of late.

This issue seems like it’s more well-suited for the random person who is familiar with the character in American popular culture, but virtually entirely UNaware of current continuity. The stories are so short and lacking in ongoing plot elements that one mostly needn’t know anything of the character or stories…there’s a little more flash than substance here.

Despite the hype…this issue isn’t really worth it unless you specifically want this sort of anthology book. It’s not going to give much to summarize the last several years’ stories, and there’s little more than “previewing the premise” in the prologue to the upcoming arc.

I don’t particularly recommend the issue…but on the whole it’s not something I recommend against, either. Ratings below based on the whole issue and not just any single segment.

Story: 5.5/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 6/10

Action Comics #890 [Review]

The Black Ring, part one

Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: David Finch, Joe Weems & Peter Steigerwald
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with Luthor strung upside down over the edge of a building…many, many stories above the ground, being threatened. He takes it in stride, though, knowing that if they wanted him dead, he’d already be so, and that his captors want something else. While he waits to see what that is, he reflects on how he wound up in this position…from his deputization as an Orange Lantern during the Blackest Night, to his growing obsession with learning the secret of the rings–any ring, but particularly the black ones–as reflected in a conversation he has with “Lois” before he gets ready to suit up (remember, he has that goofy purple and green battlesuit) and head off in search of a ring.

The story is fairly reasonable…after having access to such incredible power, Luthor naturally would not want to give it up…and being stripped of it, would naturally seek to get it back. That it was an orange ring (avarice/greed) makes this all the more fitting. And as Luthor is supposed to be this evil genius, one of the smarter men on Earth in the DCU, he’s likely to find a way to at least get close to a ring again. This makes for an interesting status quo, and a show of actual repercussion from the recent event. Though I’ve yet to see any numbers or time-frames…no one has said “for this arc” or “for the next year” or anything regarding how long…Lex Luthor is presently the star of Action Comics for awhile, as Superman is embarking on a lengthy walk across America in the main Superman book under Straczyinski‘s direction.

The art is familiar…I got fairly used to Woods‘ work during the New Krypton stuff. Something about the style works a lot better for me here with the Luthor cast than involving Superman/Kal-El. And even apart from comparisons…it looks good here. Nothing to really complain about.

Though this is issue #890 of Action Comics, it’s essentially Lex Luthor #1. As first issues go, it’s not bad…though one jumping in totally fresh might lack info about Blackest Night, and one should note that this takes place–apparently–after the events of July’s Superman #701 which I assume is when Superman will leave everything behind to walk across the country. This is very much a “spin-off” of Blackest Night and not just some arbitrary “new title.” It continues Luthor’s story and does not try to reinvent it. The cover even sports the Blackest Night trade dress, albeit with the word “Aftermath” added.

If you’re a fan of Luthor, this is a good point to jump on and dig in. However, if you’re “only” a fan of Superman and only want to read about the adventures of Superman himself, this is not a book for you.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

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