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Joker’s Asylum II: Clayface #1 [Review]

Mudnight Madness

Writer: Kevin Shinick
Artist: Kelley Jones
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Published by: DC Comics

There’s not a whole lot of depth to this issue…it’s a sort of generic kind of tale of Basil Karlo, the original Clayface (for those of you keeping score, Matthew Hagan was Clayface II, and the one with the containment suit was Preston Payne (Clayface III), and Sondra Fuller was turned into a Clayface IV in the 1980s story The Mud Pack. Matthew Hagan was the version used for the animated series and in Batman: Hush, I believe, and so would be the more familiar character).

While out and about, Karlo finds that a bunch of kids are participating in an audience-participation showing of one of his old movies, “The Terror.” Seeing this Rocky Horror Picture Show type treatment as a sign of disrespect, he intervenes intending to show the terror of the film for real, but finds that the teens gathered idolize him, and hold him–Basil Karlo, Clayface–as their hero. Seeing how this could work, he accepts their willingness to be part of his legacy. When Batman shows up, he finds that the teens may have achieved more than they bargained for, as he faces this old foe.

The art on this issue, by Kelley Jones really takes me back quite a bit. I believe Jones was the artist on one of the Bat-titles (Detective Comics) in the early 1990s, during the Knightfall epic. I recognize the abnormally-large bat-ears on Batman’s cowl, and the exaggerated scalloping of the cape…just from the cover. Other than that, the art provides a solid visual for the story.

The story itself, as said, is not all that deep…it’s just a story that we see more of Clayface than we do Batman…but Batman’s involvement is much more noticeable here than I recall any of the other issues in this round of Joker’s Asylum. While this is not a bad Clayface vs. Batman story, it doesn’t offer as much of the title character and somewhat leaves a suggestion that without Batman’s actual involvement, there’s no story to tell at all.

This is probably the palest of this round…I don’t feel I learned anything new, gained any new insight, or otherwise got anything out of this that couldn’t be gotten from any other issue involving (to say nothing of starring this Clayface.

Recommended only if you’re specifically interested in Clayface as a concept, the Basil Karlo Clayface, or a completist interested in having all 5 of the Joker’s Asylum II issues.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 5.5/10

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Superman #700 [Review]

The Comeback
Storytellers: James Robinson & Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
Editor: Matt Idelson

Geometry
Writer/Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

Grounded Prologue: The Slap Heard ‘Round the World
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Eddy Barrows
Inker: J.P. Mayer
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

So…Superman hits #700. I still remember when Action Comics hit this number nearly 200 months ago, waaaaay back in 1994.

Of course, this one somehow doesn’t seem quite as special. For one thing, it doesn’t seem nearly so special, what with Batman #700 being out a couple weeks back, and Wonder Woman #600 about to hit, and being aware of those other titles and the anniversaries.

Plus, while perhaps after 16 years I’m forgetting…right now, I’m recalling that Action Comics #700 was simply its own story, part of the single, ongoing story of the time. An extra-sized issue celebrating the anniversary, but other than the length and the tease of a wedding…just another issue.

Superman #700 is just another issue, but not in the good way.

We have 3 partial-issue stories, making this just another “anthology” of sorts, of Superman stories. The first story features Superman’s reunion with Lois, after having been away so long on New Krypton…that creative team making their exit. The middle story by Dan Jurgens is a fairly fun throwback to the days of lighter stories, and is a fairly welcome return…unfortunately, just for this story as part of the anniversary issue. The final story is a prologue to the incoming creative team.

Frankly, I’m rather tired of things jumping all over the place with the Superman books of late. If multiple issues were all advancing different sides of a story fairly equally and on a consistent basis…sure. But lately–particularly the Last Stand of New Krypton–things have seemed outright disorganized to me. Better to have one issue focusing on this element, one issue focusing on another, one issue focusing on yet another element of the story, in terms of expanding beyond a “core.”

This feels like it should be an “annual” given the anthology nature. Incoming readers jumping on for #700 may not really have any sense of the past year and a half or so of stories, so that first segment won’t mean much; and those looking to get the conclusion to the story they’ve followed for over a year and a half are stuck with material for an entirely different creative team and story that on the whole is likely to be an entire disconnect from the last couple years’ worth of stories. And the Superman/Robin story–while enjoyable and entertaining enough, being disconnected from both the other segments, would also itself seem better-suited to be a special issue all its own.

I can’t help but compare The Comeback to the sequence from Adventures of Superman #505 back in 1993 that provided the official reunion between Superman and Lois after Superman’s death and the Reign of the Supermen epic. Though now nearly 17 years in the past, I prefer that to this…this one seems somehow arbitrary, and lacked the feeling and depth of the 1993 story. The art’s not bad, but when compared to the Jurgens/Rapmund that follows, it pales significantly for me.

Geometry is a nice little tale from Superman’s early years, and shows a situation which winds up being a Superman/Robin team-up between Clark and Dick, while Bruce is unable to do the Batman thing due to an essential Wayne Enterprises function. Robin strikes out on his own for the night, having realized that an arms transaction was going to go down sooner than he or Batman had thought. Superman had already dealt with the individuals in Metropolis, and follows up on the Gotham City side, where he winds up being in time to save Robin, who got in over his head. The two share the friendly bond of being out of their element/not having Batman in the mix…though the conclusion provides a nice extra touch. Jurgens is just about my favorite Superman artist, and working with Rapmund, the art for this segment is a huge treat with some of my favorite Superman art featured in the current titles in quite awhile.

The final 10-page prologue for Straczynski‘s Grounded serves as a true prologue–setting up the story to come. Still freshly returned from a year on New Krypton, Superman has been before governmental bodies explaining what happened and his role in what recently transpired (in War of the Supermen). He is confronted by a woman whose husband recently died of cancer, and she blames Superman for not being there to save him–that his powers surely could have allowed him to “operate” where actual doctors could not. This leads to Superman brooding over the situation, blaming himself, and through a flashback to a conversation with Pa Kent, he comes to the conclusion that he’s been keeping himself above things, in a comfort zone, and must change things up and put himself back into fertile soil, wake himself up from how he’s been, to do what he really needs to do.

The visuals for this story–as provided by Barrows & co.–isn’t quite up to Jurgens/Rapmund‘s style in my eyes, but is still good quality work, and enjoyable in and of itself. No real complaint to it, and if this quality is maintained for the entirety of the Grounded arc, I’ll be a pretty happy camper.

Overall, this is the second anniversary issue this month to be more disappointment than not, though. If you’re interested simply in having the anniversary issue with a big, round number…sure, you could do a lot worse than this issue. But if you’re not an ongoing/continuing reader, the Superman/Robin story (not tied to previous nor upcoming story) is only 16 pages and certainly not worth the $4.99 cover price by itself.

I won’t go so far as to recommend against this issue, as exact interests/tastes vary in what may be desired in such an issue. But I don’t specifically recommend this, either. Ratings below based on the issue as a whole.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 5.5/10

New Mutants #14 [Review]

Second Coming (chapter 11)

Written by: Zeb Wells
Art by: Ibraim Roberson, Lan Medina and Nathan Fox
Colored by: Brian Reber, Matt Milla and Jose Villarubia
Lettered by: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by: Adi Granov
Associate Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Marvel Comics

Xavier enters the mind of his son, David (Legion) Haller, to prepare him to help the X-Men. In the real world, Cyclops deputizes every mutant present as X-Men…the dome trapping them and the nimrods arriving every few minutes means that every individual must come together, to “Fight or die.” Meanwhile, Rogue and Hope share a moment, as Colossus and Namor have their hands full holding the Golden Gate Bridge against Nimrods. In the future, the X-Force contingent has their hands full with their own problems…including multiple Master Molds. Back in the present, Hank McCoy–Beast–says his goodbyes as he prepares to enter the fray, and another player joins the battle.

The multiple artists / multiple colorists team is quite noticeable, and while in some ways it’s distracting, it’s also fitting to the story, as we’re dealing with several very different locales: David Haller’s mindscape, the X-Men in present day, and X-Force in a dark future. I’m not particularly a fan of any of the art–the only issues of this series I’ve bought have been whatever issues were earlier chapters of Second Coming–and offhand I don’t even recognize the artists’ names from any of their previous work that I might have seen. Of the differing visuals, the most off-putting is David Haller’s mind…but that seems intentional, and works well. The future scenes with X-Force are fairly slick, and I do like the distinctiveness. The present-day scenes are probably my favorites.

The story seems fairly simple and generic in that this is “just” another chapter in the ongoing crossover Second Coming. This continues from the previous chapter, and leads into the next chapter; we get forward movement in the crossover, but as a shared story, there’s not a whole lot moving whatever the New Mutants story is along, that I can tell. Again, as with the art…this isn’t a bad thing…perhaps because I have no real interest in this title standing alone, don’t know the newer characters, and picked this up as Second Coming Chapter 11 rather than New Mutants #14. Despite that, I really don’t feel lost–and the unfamiliarity is something I expected for this story, since I barely touched the X-books after Messiah Complex. I enjoyed the interaction with Rogue and Hope–the characters seem well suited for each other, and could make for an interesting friendship in future issues.

All in all, another solid chapter of Second Coming. I’m not yet sold on whatever the story is that’ll immediately follow this arc’s conclusion, nor the next big story with the vampires. Still, this keeps me interested in Second Coming, and I’m very, very interested to see what unfolds next week. This issue’s cliffhanger also reminds me somewhat thematically of the season finale to the first season of the 1990s X-Men animated series.

If you’ve already been following New Mutants, or are following the Second Coming main story, this is not an issue to be missed. If you’re not following this, you’ll probably be better off waiting for the next arc.

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

Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth #12 [Review]

Writer: Victor Gischler
Pencils: Bong Dazo
Inks: Jose Pimentel
Colors: Matt Mills
Letters: Jeff Eckleberry
Cover: Arthur Suydam
Production: Taylor Esposito
Asst. Editor: Sebastian Girner
Editor: Axel Alonso
Published by: Marvel Comics

Deadpool and the gang find themselves in a bit of a race–both literal and figurative–to get back to the chopper and get to the portal so they can go home. While Deadpool’s group deals with their immeediate threat of Zombie Prof. Veronica, the surviving AIM agents plot how to get home, since they need Deadpool as well. When the groups converge, negotiations are had, a deal struck, and things still don’t really go according to plan…but then, Deadpool’s involved. What plan can really be had for things to go according to?

The art has a cartooney yet modern flair to it. The characters are pretty distinct, and it’s not hard to follow the action. Nothing much really stands out, as even the gorier parts fit within the atmosphere of the story. As with any character interpreted by multiple artists across different books, Deadpool’s got a mildly different appearance here than in other books–it in no way takes away from the character, but the style may not entirely fit one’s personal tastes. I do prefer other takes on the character slightly more, but this is not a bad look for the character. The zombies look properly creepy and messaged up…and as a whole, the art does fit itself with the story.

While I referenced above the idea of things not going according to plan where Deadpool’s involved, the writing does show a plan that stretches beyond just a single arc. While there was a distinct split-point, this arc specifically builds on elements from the opening arc. I’m not sure I’d read anything by Gischler a year ago, but he has quickly become my favorite Deadpool writer, capturing the chaotic, whimsical nature of the character (and the multiple voices) while building a relatively long-term story within a couple of smaller arcs.

Though this was begun as an ongoing series and has since been retroactively deemed a 13-issue limited series (something I’m not thrilled with)…this issue actually feels like a penultimate chapter of something big…and taking prior issues along with this, I would hope there’d be an oversized single-volume hardcover for this series.

If you’ve been following the series so far, this is certainly worth picking up. However, at issue 12 of 13, if you’ve not been following along, I’d recommend holding out for a collected volume.

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

Tales of the TMNT #70 [Review]

Return to New York, book 1.5: Zog

Plot: Eric Talbot and Jim Lawson
Script/Pencils: Jim Lawson
Inks/Tones/Letters: Eric Talbot
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney
Cover: Jim Lawson, Eric Talbot and Steve Lavigne
Published by: Mirage Publishing

Refusing to wait for his brothers, Raphael returns to the NYC sewers, where he promptly encounters a Triceraton. Upon waking from the beating inflicted, he finds himself prisoner of Zog, along with a Foot ninja. Though technically enemies, the Turtle and Foot realize they’re not gonna get free of this alone, and must work together…though after a bit of cooperation, their relationship tanks pretty quickly. When their captor returns, Raph takes advantage of the alien dinosaur’s deteriorating mental state by donning the skull of the dead Triceraton commander. With this guise, he convinces Zog that he’s needed for a final mission that involves helping the turtles.

I can’t be certain without digging out the original Return to New York arc…but this reads as slightly more refined than that. But then, it’s coming nearly two decades later, and the Mirage talent has had plenty of time to grow and refine their work since the original story. Also, this is written by Lawson & Talbot rather than Eastman & Laird, so has that slightly different feel. Despite that, this does not feel out of place in and of itself, and I greatly enjoyed the return to such a key story. The “voice” of the characters fits, and while the opening pages provide some context and serve to differentiate this from the early TMNT issues, there’s nothing that I can recall that this contradicts.

The Lawson/Talbot art seems pretty much standard-TMNT to me…really, the standard, to where other artists’ work on the characters has been the variance and different interpretations. While the visuals don’t exactly match what I recall of the original story, that’s fine by me. The art fits the story, conveys what’s going on, and it’s the story itself that makes the issue fit, the art just conveys this specific chapter.

This seems a fitting send-off to this long-running title. Though this is the final issue, its predecessor felt like much more of a final issue. This fits between-issues of the 1980s Return to New York arc when the turtles returned from Northampton and confronted the resurrected Shredder after their sound defeat months earlier. One of the best final touches to the issue is that rather than ship with different editions, each with a different cover (as virtually every other comic publisher seems wont to do these days), this issue ships with a “variant version” on the front, and the “standard” cover on the back…and Mirage gets loads of credit from me for that. This “variant” cover takes on the trade dress of the Return to New York arc–this’ll fit nicely in the longbox with that story and not look out of place–while the standard cover on the back carries the contemporary trade dress/logo.

This issue may whet your appetite for the full Return to New York story if you’re just checking this out or otherwise are not familiar with this key story from the original Mirage run of TMNT. If you’re already familiar with that story, this should be that much more of a treat.

I wouldn’t recommend this issue as a single issue to start with…but otherwise, it’s well worth tracking down…particularly if you’re familiar with the early Mirage TMNT stories.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 8/10

Deadpool #22 [Review]

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Tan Eng Huat
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artist: Jason Pearson
Assistant Editor: Jody Leheup
Editor: Axel Alonso
Published by: Marvel Comics

Having parted ways with Spider-Man, Deadpool finds himself on his own, trying to play the part of the “hero” rather than merely gun-totin’ merc-with-a-mouth. After a nice bit of Pool-o-vision, we find Wade on a bus, which, of course, conveniently is in the right place/time to be robbed. After the robbers leave, ‘Pool realizes they were dirty cops, and heads into a nearby town seeking justice. Of course, in typical Deadpool fashion, what he finds isn’t what one would exactly expect, and leads to a true test of Deadpool’s will to be more heroic than mercenary.

The art by Huat and Gracia is not bad, though somehow it doesn’t strike me as the best Deadpool’s looked. Of course, I’m finding myself inundated lately with Deadpool all over the place by so many artists that it doesn’t seem the character has any overly consistent appearance these days. This issue tips a bit more toward the realistic side away from some of the more exaggerated, cartooney takes on the character and his stories. The visuals don’t particularly stand out all that much, but they’re not anything that’ll turn me off to the book, either.

The story itself–while fitting into the general theme of Deadpool trying to “go hero” left me feeling rather put off. This issue is a one ‘n done tale–and as such, in a title that has operated on the modern formula of multi-issue arcs that have some forward movement but lead directly from one issue to another, it’s rather disappointing. I do imagine this will sit better in the longer view–whether it’s the first of several such stories, or if it’s setting up something to come or perhaps serving as a bit of an epilogue: “here, after encounterying Spider-Man, see what Deadpool tries to do after being so inspired.”

Whatever intellectual rationalization is given, for me, with what I’ve come to expect from a Deadpool comic, this one was a distinct let-down, and possibly my least favorite issue of the series to date.

If you’re all about ANYthing and everything Deadpool, chances are you’ll have already decided to pick this up. The single-issue story format makes it a sorta neutral point for someone considering checking the character out–you see some key aspects of the character, from “Pool-o-vision” to the multiple voices in his head, to how he deals with certain situations. But without a through-narrative from a previous issue or lead-in to the next issue, this one’s ultimately forgettable and seems non-essential.

Not recommended.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 5.5/10

Deadpool Team-Up #895 [review]

Writer: Christopher Long
Art: Dalibor Talajic
Colors: Tomislav Tikulin
Letters: Jeff Eckleberry
Cover: Humberto Ramos
Production: A. Dial & D. Lucchese
Asst Editor: Sebastian Girner
Editor: Axel Alonso
Published by: Marvel Comics

More than ever, this Deadpool Team-Up book seems to be the outlet for various creative teams to do one-off tales with Deadpool and various obscure Marvel characters. As with earlier issues…you don’t need to have read any of the previous issues of this series. And also in line with every previous issue…you don’t need to pick up the next issue to get the next part of the story, because this is a done-in-one story with nary a “To Be Continued” in sight.

For whatever reason, and however he does it, Deadpool’s been hired to captain a sub taking the niece of the man who controls “It! The Living Colossus,” who has been in a coma since a long-lost battle with Dr. Doom. The niece thinks that she can revive her uncle by getting him into close proximity with the Colossus he used to control. While the logic is iffy, the results can’t be argued with and–when things invariably go bad with the sub, Deadpool and his ‘client’ find an unexpected result of the uncle’s body being present so close to the statue his mind once controlled.

The story here is amusing enough, but ultimately not all that exciting. While I enjoy one-and-done issues as much as the next guy, as the status quo for this series, it’s just hard to get all that excited knowing nothing picks up from this issue’s events next issue, and to look back at these last few issues and realize that I could’ve skipped any–or all–of them and not be at all “lost” on the latest issue.

The art’s not bad–this is definitely Deadpool…he looks familiar and doesn’t appear out of place any more than he should in the situation he’s got himself mixed up in this issue.

Perhaps that’s the thing–this series is like the classic Ninja Turtles cartoon (or probably any of a number of other ‘classic’ cartoons of the 1980s and such). All you REALLY need to know is the basics of Deadpool. Merc With a Mouth. Healing factor, butt-ugly face…body basically maintained by that healing factor. Loves guns, great with a sword, somewhat crazy, and breaks the “fourth wall.” You can enjoy the entirety of the series as a large, dynamic dose of Deadpool…or you can tune in for any given issue and get a story from start to finish…a story that’s not entirely devoid of formula.

If you like Deadpool, and you have an extra $3 burning a hole in your budget…this is a great issue to get. No crossovers, no tie-ins, no preludes…just a complete Deadpool story all in one issue.

If you’re a bit more picky about your Deadpool stories, and prefer the longer multi-issue arcs, you’d be better served with Merc With a Mouth which is largely following its own continuity in multi-issue arcs, or the main Deadpool title, which follows the mainstream Marvel Universe continuity, in multi-issue arcs.

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

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