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52 Week #18 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Dismantled

Black Adam attempts to bestow an honor on The Question and Montoya, while the Shadowpact and Ralph attend to the helmet of Dr. Fate…and as an ‘afterthought,’ Booster gets a funeral.

52week18Writers: Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid
Layouts: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Rob Stull
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editors: Jann Jones and Harvey Richards
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

I’m not terribly thrilled with the choppiness on these issues–it sometimes seems like the story "jumps" a bit, and given the format/size of the issues, there’s not much room for "smooth transitions" exactly…and I can see where one would totally benefit from reading several weeks’ issues in a row. Even for a comic that’s out each week, a "previously" page would certainly come in handy. Viewing this series as a massive tv series (2-3 seasons in one, by giving new episodes for 52 weeks) makes for a good way of looking at it–with some episodes having a focus on one theme, others focusing on a specific character or largely on just a specific character. But even weekly shows often show a few clips of what happened "Previously, on __________."

Noticing the art seems to me to come largely from reading others’ thoughts the last several months, about there not being "top-tier talent" on the art for this series–I honestly don’t mind the so-called "second-stringers" on art–as usual, I’m not offended by the art, the characters are all recognizeable, and it’s clear what’s going on panel-to-panel, really. There’s nothing in the art that totally jumps out at me or blows me away–but I for one am definitely satisfied with said art.

We’re basically 1/3 through the story now, and starting to get some handy payoff to plots that’ve been building throughout. Ralph Dibny seems to be getting around quite a bit, when he does show up. Here he’s interacting with the Shadowpact, as they attend to the helmet of Dr. Fate, and the liquified previous user (who, I suppose, was previously established somewhere, but the name means nothing to me). I’m definitely interested in Ralph’s story, a lot more than I would’ve thought a few weeks ago–but between his dealings with the Connor-Cult and now the helmet…I’m interested in where these writers take the character.

This issue also gives us a look into the aftermath of the Question and Montoya’s actions at the Black Adam/Isis wedding and the impact things are having on them–especially Montoya. I don’t remember much detail from anything I read of her in the first One Year Later, except that she apparently dealt with some traumatic stuff in the missing year–this looks to be at least one of those events.

We also get to see the crap-fest that is Booster’s funeral. Apparently the pall bearers are of some "classic" significance to long-time readers; I didn’t recognize any visually or by name–but I suppose that’s as much the point as not. I don’t like the way Booster’s been portrayed in much of this series–but one has to admit, at least, that even in the funeral situation–there’s a consistency to this particular portrayal.

There’s a glimmer of potential as to the future found in this issue, and if you’ve seen the cover to next week’s issue online, you should have a pretty good idea of what’s coming.

Overall…this issue’s a bit of "same old, same old" as far as this series is concerned–the story moves forward, the art gets the visuals across to complement the story, and there’ll be an issue next week.

If you’re following the series anyway, it’s worth keeping up. If you’ve not been drawn in yet…I don’t think this issue’s gonna do much to change your mind.

The Origin of the Question
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Joe Bennett
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Asst. Edits: Harvey Richards
Edits: Stephen Wacker

I’m still not entirely thrilled with these origins…the visuals can be cool, but the way I, for one, am wired, I see panels laid out and I want a story, more of a narrative than just fade-in/fade-out flashes with a little bit of text in captions.

The highlight for me of this particular origin is that it’s a character I am not terribly familiar with, so it at least has some new information for me–or at least, confirms stuff I’d sorta picked up without realizing it.
While I’d prefer a couple extra story pages to this sort of "origin," 1. I could see these making for a nice special issue in themselves, as a collection of all these "origin backups" once the series concludes. Perhaps as Who’s Who of 52 or some such. and 2. even though not highly detailed, they at least would allow someone to be able to say "Hey, I recognize that guy..!"

If you’ve enjoyed these 2-pagers, this should be no exception.

Ratings:

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

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52 Week #10 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Stop the Press

Black Adam’s conference is interrupted, Clark Kent is on Perry White’s bad side, a new superhero shows up, Booster’s ticked off at events unfolding contrary to Skeets’ historical records, while Will Magnus and Professor Morrow converse…

52week10Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti & Jack Jadson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Assitant Editors: Jann Jones & Harvey Richards
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This series seems to be hit or miss for a lot of people, and while many seem to be losing interest entirely, that’s definitely not the case with me. Things are taking awhile to develop, and the overall story seems to be moving pretty slowly…but overall, I’m liking things pretty much as they are–though if we get in deep, I can find plenty of faults.

This is the tenth issue–and tenth week–of this series. For as slow as things seem to be, enough has happened already that I believe I would just have to dig out the previous issues to make sure I could list ’em all, if I were to attempt to do get into that. At the same time, as far as "big" or "major" stuff…not so much.

But that’s part of the fun of this title–and why I’m enjoying it so far. While it’s just over three times the price of a regular issue, it’s roughly four times the size of a regular issue. And rather than get a chunk of story and have to wait 4-X? weeks for another chapter, we get a new chapter each week. Despite the old/tired comparison…it’s really like following a tv show with a large cast, where there are characters you love and hate, and even when you’re most interested in a certain character, they may not even show up in a given episode, and then be the focus of another episode, or anything in-between.

This issue takes us back to Black Adam, who has gathered together Kahndaq’s allies. While he speaks to them, he is intrrupted by a woman who slipped past guards–a woman who disagrees very much with Adam’s gathering of allies, apparently to rival the U.S.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent has made Perry’s list, and not in a good way, prompting Clark to take some rather drastic action–quite at risk to himself–to re-prove himself to the editor (and possibly begin the setup for where things were at the start of the recently-concluded Up, Up and Away! arc). This ties into what looks to be a developing arc on a new superhero: Supernova–a character I am as much in the dark about as the characters themselves.

Booster Gold is understandably frustrated, as his plans from recent weeks have completely fallen apart on him, and events around him unfold very differently from what he expected. In fact, Skeets doesn’t even have record of certain events, which leads to some curiosity as to their place in all this.

Finally, Magnus and Morrow discuss a recent development, leaving me ready and interested in the next issue.
My favorite part of this issue is the segments devoted to Clark and Perry, and Clark’s developing status-quo in this pre-One-Year-Later world. Reading the issue after this week’s Superman issue felt like a real treat: an extra helping of Clark.

Though I know virtually nothing of the characters–and other than them being part of any large-scale stories/crossovers, I don’t think I’ve read anything with them before this series–I find myself looking forward to whatever it is that’s developing, that Magnus and Morrow are finding themselves involved in.

The story overall is good, though the further into this series we get, the more "continuity-heavy" it seems to be growing. We already know the basic outcome, as we’re into the 5th month of books that take place after this series, so some of that initial "wow, what happened in the missing year?!?" factor has worn off. Of course, that means that the story is going to have to carry itself all the more, and really be a story in and of itself, and not just "hey, this happened during the ‘missing year’!"

Not much to say about the art…it doesn’t blow me away, by any means…but it serves the story, and clearly at that. It’s not bad by any means…just fits the story, gets the job done, and elicits no real complaints from me.

The largest hurdle I see to this issue is really the price–that is, collectively for this series, given the weekly nature.

If you’ve been following these, though…I would argue that it’s worth keeping with the series. We’re about 1/5th into it, and I suspect due for some decent payoff in the near future.

And if you’ve been enjoying the recent Superman stuff, you may want to check in on this issue, for the segment with Clark, pre-One Year Later.

History of the DCU
Writer/Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Andy Lanning
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Colors: Jeromy Cox & Guy Major
Editors: Berganza, Cohen and Schaefer

What can I say about this? This backup feature–which, as recently as two and a half months ago, I was really looking forward to–is an absolute disappointment.

So far, it seems like it would have been FAR more appropriate to serve as its own special issue, perhaps a 52 # 0 or prelude. This 9th chapter basically brings us up to last September (2005) heading into the actual Infinite Crisis series. As far as I can tell, we’ve learned nothing "new" about the New Earth that resulted from that series.

A better "bonus" to these issues would be to save an extra twenty-five cents and cap the issue off with the main story at an even lower cover price…

Ratings:

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

52 Week #4 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Dances With Monsters

Renee Montoya and The Question do their thing, work is done to find the missing heroes-in-space, Booster and Fire discuss Booster’s current attitude and actions, John Irons contemplates what Steel means, and Ralph speaks with Cassie and her ‘cult.’

52week04Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Joe Bennett
Inks: Jack Jadson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editors: Jann Jones & Harvey Richards
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

History of the DCU Part 3
Story & Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Art Thibert
Colors: Guy Major & Jeromy Cox
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Edits: Berganza, Cohen & Schaefer

This issue fills us in on the fourth week of the first month following the conclusion to Infinite Crisis. Several of the core plotlines are at least touched on in this issue. Renee Montoya finds herself entirely bored and frustrated at a pointless surveillance job–a job that keeps getting interrupted by The Question.

Some astronauts–I think they’re astronauts–get a glimpse of hope at finding the heroes lost in space during the crisis. Additionally, Booster and Fire discuss the way Booster’s going about his hero-ing, as Fire comments on Booster’s initial reaction to the loss of Ted last year.
Ralph Dibny speaks with Cassie and her ‘cult’ as she’s promised him answers and the possibility of seeing a certain lost loved one. The final plot touched on this issue is John Henry Irons as he contemplates what he’s done by having rushed into the hero gig without thinking–what creating Steel has done in his life and others’ as well–and leads us into what might be a bit of a change for the character.

In a way, it feels like there’s not a LOT that happens in this issue–but with no less than five simultaneous, ongoing stories all being told, that’s to be expected. The scene transitions feel a bit choppy–not entirely interruptive, but at least a couple times I found myself flipping back a page to see what day I was on, and then was surprised when the main story ended, not having registered that it was the end of the week. In a sense, it might be fairly easy to be taken out of the story considering the week ends ‘conveniently’ at a cliffhanger.

Despite the aforementioned choppiness, I didn’t feel like I was reading multiple stories by distinct writers–which I feel is a good thing, given that this is overall a singular story of the events ocurring during the "missing year." The writing in and of itself is good, and conveys the sort of slice-of-life scenes of these characters.

The artwork is good–nothing much negative to say about it, really. Visually, characters are all recognizeable and distinct, and I didn’t catch myself at any scenes wondering who a character was because of artistic interpretations of familiar characters. The art may not be singularly distinct and recognizeable specifically (the way, say, Alex Ross artwork might be)–but it is clear and clean, and gets across what needs to be conveyed visually in the story, and that is the main concern.

The only story point that really jumped out at me offhand was Steel’s–I’m not certain, but I think we’re seeing where his history has been modified somewhat, possibly undoing stuff from several years ago. And frankly, I’m ok with such modification, as I wasn’t thrilled with said events as they originally unfolded at the end of Superman: The Man of Steel.

The backup I’m not as thrilled with. This week’s four-pager informs us (yet again?) that Donna Troy remembers and/or has access to memories and knowledge of the multiverse, pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths as well as post-, and everything up to present. We’re reminded THAT there was a multiverse, that there was a crisis, and that sacrifices were made that rocked everyone deeply. For this reader, at least, it feels like nothing new that wasn’t covered in Infinite Crisis. Additionally, it feels like the framing of this history is a bit of a detraction, robbing the history/story of precious panels to keep reminding us of Donna Troy (but then, perhaps that comes from my envisioning it as a singular story, how it will read when all the chapters are read back-to-back rather than a week apart?)

Taken as a whole, I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this format. While it’s not perfect (and I can’t quite put my finger on anything that WOULD make it perfect), I’m enjoying it thus far. Of course, 4 issues down leaves us with another 48 issues to go… This ride’s just beginning, and DC‘s got me hooked for the present.

Ratings:

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

52 Week 12 [Review]

classicreviewlogowhite

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Mighty

Summary: Black Adam introduces us to Isis, Montoya and The Question come to an agreement as to where they’re off to next, and Ralph Dibny confronts Cassie about her cult’s theft of materials from a storage locker.

52week12 Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Barrows
Inks: Stull
Colors: Baron
Letters: Lanham
Assistant Editors: Jann Jones & Harvey Richards
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

I don’t think I knew who "Black Adam" was two years ago. After reading the Countdown stuff, I was surprised when I went back through my Superman collection and found an issue in which he was prominently shown on the cover–point being, even if I’d heard of him, certainly had no clue who he was, nor what he’s all about. I’m still not certain, but something about him has had me quite interested–and for roughly $2.50/issue I’d gladly follow a series with this character in the starring role if of such quality as 52.

As-is, this issue is mostly Black Adam’s story, with a few pages of the other two plots thrown in. While this is a bit of a let-down as far as seeing what’s going on with Steel, or Booster–or anyone else, for that matter–the story held my interest, and regardless of what comes down the line, has an air of significance to it, as to Black Adam’s story, and the Marvel family in general. Adam’s actions do seem a little rushed, but given what he’s been up to lately, I wouldn’t see it as out-of-character…especially if there’s more to it all than we as the readers have been let in on just yet.

Ralph and Cassie’s angle, while brief, also has some good stuff, even though I’m not entirely interested in that particular plot. Possibly my favorite part of their exchange is Ralph’s comment about everyone confusing him with Plastic Man–something that I was definitely guilty of before Identity Crisis. Cassie seems a bit out of character, though it may well simply be my reading of things and that I’ve not figured her out yet.

Renee and The Question get 3 pages this issue, and while they keep that particular thread going, I’d have prefered 3 extra pages of Black Adam–right now, I’m just not all that interested in their story–especially just a snippet like this.

I think my favorite part of this issue involved Billy, and seeing how he’s adjusting to his new role.

The art on this issue is good–everyone’s recognizable and things are easy to follow. Facial expressions–particularly Adam and Billy–come across well, and give depth to the characters visually without even considering dialogue. I have no complaints offhand with art on this issue…

Overall, a strong issue that looks to affect Adam (and the Marvels) for quite awhile, though there’s not too much from other stories going on here. Certainly worth getting if you’re following the series; worth getting if you’re just a fan of Black Adam or the Marvel family, and so on. Recommended.

The Origin of Wonder Woman
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Adam Hughes
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Special Thanks to: Mark Chiarello
Wonder Woman created by: William Moulton Marston

If you’re looking for short ‘n sweet origin snippets, that’s what you’ll find here. This 2-page origin seems woefully inadequate to do more than tease just the barest, shallowest stuff involved with the character, and unfortunately, by itself doesn’t inspire me to want to know more about the character, other than the fact that this is so brief that almost anything would BE learning more about the character. The first 2/5ths-of-a-page panel/header seems a waste, and based on that visual, it’s a wonder that the character isn’t some porn-star.

The rest of the art on the pages works well, though being just a couple pages isn’t much to go on yay or nay. The bottom 2/5ths-of-a-page on the 2nd page offers a brief "Powers and Weapons," "Essential Storylines," and "Alliances" textual profile.

I’m not familiar enough with the character to know if anything in this 2-pager is new or sheds any light on any possibly "New Earth" changes/retcons, but nothing "feels" like new information to me. I hate to complain, but as with the disappointment the Origin of the DC Universe, this one is also a disappointment to me, and seems that it would serve better as some trading-card than taking up 2 pages that could have been used for continuing the overall 52 story.

Ratings:

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

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #5 [Review]

Mr. WHo? Mr. Atom!

Written By: Art Baltazar & Franco
Drawn By: Byron Vaughns
Inks: Ken Branch
Colors: David Tanguay
Letters: [no credit given]
Asst. Editor: Simona Martore
Editor: Dan Didio
Cover: Mike Kunkel
Publisher: Johnny DC (DC Comics)

This issue, just by not being by Kunkel seems to lose some of its magic. It’s still a solid, fun issue…but for one thing, it felt like I just sped right throughout in about half the time it’s taken on previous issues. While I don’t have the prior issues onhand for immediate comparison, I think a large difference is in panel size and action–the panels seem larger than I remembered for this series, and far more open with less action…almost as if the previous issues were super-compressed compared to this issue’s “standard” sort of appearance.

Billy and Mary battle a giant robot. That’s really the main plot here. Familiar elements are present–the kids’ living situation, Billy’s job, etc. The story’s fairly simple without being overly simplistic. The visual tone remains kid-friendly (as it should, given it’s part of the kids’ line). The art is also quite reminiscent of Kunkel’s…while the interior is not Kunkel’s, it does not seem all that far off from Kunkel’s cover image.

If you’ve enjoyed this book thus far, this issue is a bit of a step down from what it was…but it’s still a good book, and much more enjoyable than a lot of fare out there. With Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade done with, I daresay this is my favorite of the Johnny-DC line. We do have a “To Be Continued” on this issue…but it seems more one of those ominous “Not the End” types, not so much a “the-hero’s-in-danger” cliffhanger. As such…this makes for a fine one-off issue….from introducing the main characters and their status quo, introducing the threat, dealing with the threat, and winding down on the action, you needn’t have read prior issues to enjoy this, nor does it make one anxious for the next issue.

Recommended.

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

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade #6 [Review]

Graduation Day, Part 2

Writer: Landry Q. Walker
Artist: Eric Jones
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Coloring: Joey Mason
Asst. Editor: Simona Martore
Editors: Jann Jones & Elisabeth V. Gearlein
Cover: Eric Jones
Publisher: Johnny DC/DC Comics

We open on a battle–Lex Luthor vs. Superman and Supergirl. Supergirl’s opposite/duplicate, Belinda has been taken out of the equation, and Supergirl’s secret identity’s best friend–Luthor’s younger sister–is fighting mad. Amidst the carnage, Streaky the super-cat and Comet the super-horse can be found fulfilling their own roles, as the true menace stands revealed as that 5th-dimensional imp-whose-name-is-hard-to-spell. As Supergirl and her future self attend to Mxy, we even get a couple of great nods toward mainline DC continuity that ought to elicit a knowing smile, at least, from older readers, and yet remain innocent enough that those not “in the know” won’t feel left out as the panels serve the story in and of themselves.

This has been a great series–one that could have come across as overly simplistic, but has a strong balance of complexity with its simplicity. This issue draws on details sprinkled throughout the last 5 issues, building to a resolution that both wraps up the main points introduced without closing the door on the cast of characters.

The art–as it’s been consistently on this book–has a simplicity to it that feels like this could be adapting an animated series, without feeling like there’s been any loss in quality for that. The visuals convey the story very well, and are an integral part of the feel of this book.

The creative team has taken something that could have been a flop and created something much better than it had any right to be. If you passed on this or otherwise missed it as singles, I highly recommend checking out any collected volume that may become available…or track down the single issues, and share them with a younger reader in your life!

Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade #5 [Review]

Graduation Day, Part 1

Writer: Landry Q. Walker
Artist: Eric Jones
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Joey Mason
Asst. Editor: Simona Martore
Editors: Jann Jones & Elisabeth V. Gearlein
Cover: Eric Jones
Publisher: Johnny DC/DC Comics

Like most mini-series do, this one is coming to a close. In earlier issues, we’ve been introduced to a rich supporting cast of fun characters–Lena and Belinda, teachers and students, even Streaky the super-cat…as well as (of course) Superman, Lex Luthor, and even Supergirl’s parents. These characters being part of things help to define and add character to Supergirl herself, and her interactions with these characters are what makes this book work.

Having this foundation laid, this issue is billed as Graduation Day, Part 1…lending feeling to this “series finale” (though I’d hope that “season finale” will be a more appropriate term before long!). Taking elements built through the first few issues, we see payoff for a number of characters: Belinda dealing with being a duplicate of Supergirl; Lena realizing who her roommate is, Supergirl encountering her future self, even Streaky returning to play his own (rather amusing) role.

The art is perfectly consistent with earlier issues, maintaining the style and tone I’ve come to expect of this book, and havin the visual style of a contemporary cartoon series.

The story itself draws nicely on elements put in place with earlier issues, moving things to a bit of a resolution this issue. By issue’s end, a lot of the tension and conflict built up so far is dealt with, even as a new threat (that I feel I could have seen coming, but didn’t) is introduced that has loads of grat potential for the final issue.

If you’ve not been reading this series…get the collected volume when it comes out. For longtime fans of the Superman books or just those familiar with the Superman “lore,” this is a fun book for adults, and quite suitable for the younger crowd. Along with Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, these Johnny DC books are providing much more fun in comics for me today than most other comics from the big publishers.

Highly recommended!

Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

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