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From the Archives: The Atom and Hawkman #46

atom_and_hawkman_0046Bye Bye Birdie!

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ryan Sook & Fernando Pasarin
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Color: Hi Fi
Editors: Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza
Cover: Ryan Sook
The Atom/Ray Palmer and Hawkman created by: Gardner Fox
Published by: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

I’ve never been a huge fan specifically of these two characters, though I’m familiar with them and have read a number of comics they’ve appeared in. They’ve just tended to be on the outer edges of the books I read, showing up for the occasional guest-starring role or cameo, or as part of a team in a team book. I’d read the Return of Hawkman arc in JSA a few years back, and a few issues of his own series heading into Infinite Crisis. The Atom I feel I’m most familiar with from Identity Crisis, and material I’ve read online about both Ray and the new Atom and their adventures post-Infinite Crisis.

That said…this issue was quite enjoyable, rather accessible, and yet seems to have plenty for fans with ties to the characters going much deeper and much further back than mine.

In the "tradition" of many of the Blackest Night tie-ins, we open with a recap sequence of sorts, focusing on the character’s life, leading up to their death. This time, though, it’s a recap of the character’s compassion, and why Ray Palmer–The Atom–was chosen by the Indigo ring for recruitment into the Indigo Tribe. The Black Lantern Hawks (as Hawkman and Hawkgirl were killed and raised into the Black Lantern Corps way back in Blackest Night #1) then attack, and there’s the usual discourse between Black Lantern and Hero, as Hawkman tries to get Atom riled up and his heart ripe for the taking. As the fight wraps up for the present, Indigo-1 tasks Atom with protecting her–keeping her alive–while she contacts other Indigos across the universe who can reach the other Lantern Corps (so they know to get to Earth, where all the Black Lanterns are headed). While protecting Indigo-1, Atom is forced to recall the events that lead off Identity Crisis, as he again faces the horror of what Jean did to attempt to win him back. As the issue closes out, Ray makes an important request–one that seems quite obvious, and is something I would love to see accomplished.

This is definitely one of the better Blackest Night tie-ins. It seems that this issue’s events are more important and meaningful to the overall story than most of the tie-ins. While we do get some Atom/Hawkman interaction, it hardly seems like enough to satisfy expectation. It is, however, appropriate enough to an issue of a two-character book, as it’s natural that one or the other character may take more of a leading role, depending on the given story. As what is essentially a one-shot, though, it’s a bit misleading.

The issue having an important tie to the overall story is something that I suspect comes from this being written by Johns, essentially the orchestrator of Blackest Night in the grand scheme of things. The story touches on a number of elements–Ray’s role with the Indigos, a demonstration of what he can do with the Indigo ring, a confrontation with the Hawks, some resolution to things with Ray and setting a new course for the character–which makes for a very strong read. The recap at the beginning did more to clue me in on the past of the Atom than anything else I’d yet read (and I’m pretty sure answered my unasked question as to the premise of Sword of the Atom).

Sook‘s art is high quality as well, and does a great job of getting across the visual aspect of the story. It just fits the story, and worked very well for me.
All in all, a very strong one-shot issue within the Blackest Night arc. Though it remains to be seen how much–or what part(s) of this issue get recapped in the main mini…this seems to be a tie-in very much worth getting if you’re following Blackest Night, even if you’re not generally snagging the tie-ins.

Definitely recommended.

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #5 [Review]

Quick Rating: Fantastic
Story Title: Book Five

The Legions come together as their foes are dealt with and the story winds down.

finalcrisislegionof3worlds005Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: George Perez
Inker: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letters: Nick Napolitano
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Art: George Perez & Nei Ruffino
Publisher: DC Comics

In some ways, I hardly remember the last issue. It hasn’t been as long as it could have been…but long enough as we’re something like a half-year out from the ending of Final Crisis itself. Despite that…the wait seems to be worth it: this was a fantastic issue. I imagine I must’ve used phrasing like that before, but it fits here. There’s so much action and the pages are just filled with visual details on top of what we’re given overtly in words from the story.

The previous issue saw the return of OUR Superboy–Connor Kent. This series has also seen the return of Bart Allen (Kid Flash). Together with Superman and three different versions of the Legion, the characters work together to (would there be expectation otherwise?) overcome their foes.

We see a bit of personality from each version of the Legions (if not on an individual level in all cases). We have a satisfying conclusion to the story that makes sense. And we get set-up for a new ongoing series featuring these characters.

Johns’ writing is on a high level here, making use of story elements from the past few years–and going back through the history of these characters–and crafting what for now is THE Legion of Super-Heroes story to me. The story draws from elements seeded across numerous other books, and though this is a Legion-centric story, it borrows elements from throughout the DC universe as a whole.

Perez‘ art is top-notch as well with a level of detail that continues to impress me. His rendition of most of these characters comes off as iconic–and in many ways, this is the best I’ve seen many of the characters look.

I got a real kick out of seeing Superboy-Prime’s ultimate fate as the character comes full circle (though one should be careful what one wishes for), and there’s some interesting subtext to be taken from it as the character speaks right to the reader–or at least the comic-reading audience as a whole. Whether this is to drive home a purpose for the character and his unique position for executing this dynamic or is a way of Johns speaking to the audience…or both…it makes for a very satisfying conclusion.

I don’t feel like this story really justified its having the Final Crisis tag, as any tie it may have had to that story seemed to be covered in the actual Final Crisis series. This story ends without sending characters into Final Crisis (late or otherwise) but rather sends them toward adventure taking place after that event.

Despite severe lateness and showing no real justification for the Final Crisis tag, this concluding issue is not to be missed if you’ve at all enjoyed the story so far. If you’ve not read it at all…whether you’re a long-time Legion of Super-Heroes fan or have never touched an issue of any version of the Legion, I’d recommend considering the collected volume.

Ratings:

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

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4 [Review]

Quick Rating: Fantastic
Story Title: Book Four

Members of the Legions of Super-Heroes battle Superboy Prime and the Legion of Supervillains, while Brainiac 5’s plans bear further fruit, and the Time Trapper stands revealed.

finalcrisislegionof3worlds004Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: George Perez
Inker: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letters: Nick Napolitano
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Art: (Reg) George Perez & Tom Smith, (Sliver) George Perez & Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

I’m no fan of variant covers, and any kind of marketing ploy to con people into buying the same content multiple times. Thankfully (despite dual covers), this issue is not that. But this issue cements this Legion story for me as one that I absolutely want to get in hardcover. And given the trend with DC’s books…I will be shocked if this series does NOT get the hard-cover treatment out of the gate.

The battle between the Legions rages on, as they combat their enemies in the Legion of Villains. As the brawls unfold, we see the Time Trapper step into things in-person, no longer simply manipulating…and while he has planned things, we see Brainiac 5 pull stuff together as seeds he’s planted through time come to fruition at long last–including a major element that has taken 1,000 years to come to this very moment…though things look like they might not quite work out as he planned. Superboy Prime faces off with the just-returned/resurrected Kid Flash (Bart Allen), and sees that his ‘nightmare’ is just beginning. Issue’s end sets up stuff for next issue’s conclusion, and goes a long way toward making me interested in Superboy Prime and the Time Trapper.

The story in this issue feels like it flies along. Where earlier issues in the series felt really long, this one actually felt short…and yet, there’s still quite a lot unfolding, as we se so many characters doing so much in these pages. The foundation Johns put down in the earlier issues and pulling from prior continuity bear major fruit here, and the payoff more than offsets the long wait between issues (and at this point, I think of this story simply as Legion of 3 Worlds, and forget the Final Crisis tag as best I’m able). Johns certainly has a grasp on these characters–or at least, for a reader such as myself, he sure seems to have that grasp on ’em…without someone more steeped in Legion history pointing out individual flaws to me, I have no problem with the way characters are depicted here.

The art for the issue is fantastic as well…aside from the overt visual style, there’s something to the overall imagery (the art, the inking, the colors) that subtley remind me of past comics. The depiction of the Time Trapper really puts me in mind of his depiction in Zero Hour (the last I recall seeing much of the character), which to me marks an incredible consistency that just adds to the appeal of this issue. Yeah, it’s been forever between issues–and I normally would have let a series go by now in protest of the delay–but this is one series that really is too good to give up on.

I don’t know how things will play out for the final issue–nor how characters pulled into this story will work afterwards in terms of interaction throughout the DCU…but just the fact of their presence here makes me one happy camper, and gives me new appreciation for and interest in the Legion as a whole.

Obviously, the 4th issue of 5 isn’t a great jump-on point…but if you’ve considered skipping this and the final issue for delays, I’d encourage you to forego that and just pick it up if you enjoyed the earlier issues. And if you’ve not picked any of these up and have the chance to snag the whole story so far, it’s well worth it.

Highly recommended!

Ratings:

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

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #3 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Book Three

Legions good and bad fight a battle on multiple fronts while we learn more of the future and what it holds.

finalcrisislegionof3worlds003Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: George Perez
Inker: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letters: Nick Napolitano
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Art: (Reg) George Perez & Dave McCaig, (Sliver) George Perez & Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is jam-packed with loads of action, revelation, and character development.

We begin on Oa with a confrontation with Sodam Yat who has just memorialized the last of the Green Lanterns…yet, fellow Daxamite Mon-El challenges him to make a difference in the universe, particularly in the Legion’s current battle with Superboy Prime. The battle between the Legions of Super-Heroes and Legion of Super-Villains in Metropolis continues as everyone squares off amidst much collateral damage. While that battle rages, other plans have been set into motion as part of a grander plan orchestrated by Brainiac 5. One plan comes to fruition, adding a not unfamiliar ally to the party.

This is good stuff. Though this issue is very, very late–something I really don’t like–one cannot deny the quality to the product itself. Story and art are both of high quality here, and continue to sell me not only on this series, but the Legion itself as envisioned by Johns.

The story keeps stuff moving forward; there’s plenty of action–AND smaller moments–with a bit of face-time for characters from multiple Legions (though probably not nearly enough for fans of any version shorted on the face-time). The other drawback to such a dense story is that–as a Legion newcomer–I wondered a couple times if I was missing a page or an entire issue. This is made up for with some satisfying pay-off at issue’s end.

The art is at least as dense as the story, perhaps eclipsing the story–virtually every page has loads of characters, dialogue boxes, and word balloons. In a day where many other comics might have a couple word balloons and a dialogue box for an entire page or a double-page silent spread, I’m lovin’ this.

Long-time DCU readers should find this issue of particular interest whether they’ve been following this mini or not. While not the best issue to have as one’s first, for continuing readers this should be a blast.

Very much recommended.

Ratings:

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

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good!
Story Title: Book Two

Multiple Legions come into play, finally, as we also discover the fate of the Green Lanterns of the 31st Century.

finalcrisislegionof3worlds002Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: George Perez
Inker: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letters: Nick Napolitano
Asst. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Art: (Reg) George Perez & Dave McCaig, (Sliver) George Perez & Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue opens on an ominous–but perhaps also hopeful–note. We then shift on page 2 to events on Sorceror’s World, which quickly becomes a battle between the Legion and Mordru. The last of the Green Lanterns shows up about the time Superboy-Prime and HIS legion show up, and the two Legions clash. (the double-page shot of their arrival would make a great poster…) Meanwhile, Superman and other Legionaires argue over what to do about Superboy-Prime (an argument that feels a bit metatextual to this reader). As they prepare to contact other Legions, Superboy-Prime and his bunch bring the fight home. Chaos erupts with the introduction of two other Legions. While they start to determine what’s going on big-picture-wise, Superman engages Superboy in combat. As the fate of the Green Lanterns comes into focus, a new player comes into play.

Visually, this is another fantastic issue. I’m not happy it’s been nearly two months since the last issue…but as a limited series that (for the moment) doesn’t seem to impact any other tiles including the core Final Crisis mini…well, I can’t bring myself to objectively count points against this for lateness except to note said lateness.
Perez once again impresses me–the entire art team does, really–with such detail, great colors, and so very many characters while maintaining such a high quality.

Story-wise, the “newness” has slightly worn off for me. I’m conscious of the fact that I’m missing a lot of stuff that older/long-time readers will pick up on. In my role as a relatively recent reader of anything Legion, though, I’m still enjoying the story overall. No real complaints…I’m eager to get to the next issue, and the issue after, and the concluding issue. I’m hooked, and I want to know what happens next (and really, with any comic story, I find that’s often a good thing, patience-be-darned!)

I get the feeling this is going to be one of those series that will make for a fantastic single-volume read. I feel like there’s a lot to be found in both this and the previous issue singularly–not fond of the higher cover price, but at least I don’t feel ripped off, as there’s plenty to keep me reading for awhile and even more to keep me looking through the pretty pictures. This is certainly my favorite of the Final Crisis stories–I’m enjoying this far more than the core story.

I definitely recommend this issue (with the usual qualifications–interest in the characters, already having or having access TO the first issue, etc.–this being the 2nd issue of only 5 total).

Ratings:

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

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Great!
Story Title: Book One

Superboy-Prime is unleashed on Earth in 3008, prompting an already-have-their-hands-full Legion of Super-Heroes to call on their old ally to help attend to this particular crisis.

finalcrisislegionof3worlds001Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: George Perez
Inker: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letters: Nick Napolitano
Asst. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Art: (Reg) George Perez & Dave McCaig, (Sliver) George Perez & Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

There was something to the buzz for this book that–coupled with my reading Superman and the Legion of Superheroes all in one sitting on campus a few months back had me looking forward to this book, despite some worries. After all, I’m not your biggest Legion of Super-Heroes fan. I’m also not the greatest fan of the return of the multi-verse, and the seeming trend toward bring back all the silver-age concepts that were ditched after the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. Plus, I’m less than thrilled with the Superboy from Earth Prime being turned into a villain, with one of my favorite Superman stories (Superman: Secret Identity) being based on the original vision of Superboy-Prime.

This issue opens with the Time Trapper hanging out at the end of Time, reflecting on his failures to destroy the Legion of Superheroes. Realizing he can use the time-tossed Superboy-Prime to do some damage to the Legion, he sends Prime back to 31st-Century Earth where death and destruction begins immediately. A couple of temper-tantrums and a tour of the Superman Museum later, Superboy Prime has the beginnings of a plan for revenge on all those who have (from his perception) wronged him. Meanwhile, the Legion itself, represented by Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl face the United Planets Council in a debate as to the Legion’s necessity to the United Planets in light of recent events (as seen in Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes). Several Legionaires also venture into the Phantom Zone for Mon-El, and things don’t go quite according to plan. As Superboy-Prime starts his plan into motion, the Legion takes Superman up on his prior offer to not hesitate in contacting him for anything, and the stage is pretty much set for the rest of the series.

Along with continuity concerns, I was slightly worried about feeling a bit taken with the $3.99 cover price. However, I count 36 pages of story…broken by a mere 3 single-page ads…nd those story pages are chock full of great stuff.

The story is very well-written, working things in that allow readers new and old alike the chance to enjoy what would otherwise be mere exposition. There are also a lot of fun little “Easter Eggs” scattered throughout, with nods to all sorts of Superman history (and I’m sure there’s plenty that I–as a relatively inexperienced Legion reader–missed). This story seems to grow quite nicely out of prior stories, and yet maintains its autonomy from those stories: I was able to appreciate elements more having read a couple of those stories, and yet there’s plenty that I can only assume references other stuff, and yet I failed to feel “lost” in my reading. My only real quibble/point of confusion is from a comment Superman makes regarding Superboy Prime and his own past, apparently blurring the lines between characters that were quite distinctly different during/since Infinite Crisis.

The art in this issue is top-notch–I tend to forget how much I really do enjoy Perez‘ work. There’s a great amount of detail throughout, and yet even when things may almost seem too crowded, I find myself marveling at the number of characters fit into a panel with such individual detail. If Johns‘ writing brings you to the table, Perez‘ art will make you enjoy your stay.

All in all, this is a very solid and–more importantly–enjoyable issue. I don’t quite see where it “deserves” the Final Crisis treatment from this issue, but frankly…I don’t really care–the content of the package is a great read regardless of the packaging.

Aside from budget issues, a wait-for-the-trade determination or being entirely opposed to reading anything having to do with the Legion of Super-Heroes…I see no reason for one to not give this book a look-see. Very much recommended.

Ratings:

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

Flashpoint #1 [Review]

Flashpoint Chapter One of Five

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Andy Kubert
Inker: Sandra Hope
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover: Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope & Alex Sinclair
Editors: Adam Schlagman & Rex Ogle
Executive Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics

Narration opens the issue–we don’t know who it is, initially–telling us of Barry and having been inspired by him. Then Barry’s woken up in the forensics lab, but finds himself confused by the world around him–something’s not right. Racing out, he finds the ring with his costume is missing…a surprise that sends him tripping down a flight of stairs to meet his mom. The scene shifts to Batman in Gotham has he hunts information on the Joker, and is confronted by Cyborg. Cyborg and the heroic community need Batman’s help. Following plenty of exposition to ideally psyche one up for the 15+ mini-series and specials attached to this event, we find Barry later entering the Batcave from an un-tended-to Wayne Manor, to voice the “big shock” of this issue and set some of the tone for what’s to come. Continue reading

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