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The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #1 [Review]

fall_and_rise_of_captain_atom_0001Blowback

Writer: Cary Bates
Co-Plotter: Greg Weisman
Artist: Will Conrad
Colorist: Ivan Nunes
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Cover: Jason Badower
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Jim Chadwick
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: March 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

Several months ago, I read a random Captain Atom Annual from the late 1980s. It was the first Captain Atom comic I remembered reading in years (though I believe I forgot entirely about the character’s appearances midway into the New 52, as well as the character even having a series in the early New 52 days!) It was shortly after reviewing that Annual that I learned there would be a new mini-series by the writers of that time–Bates and Weisman. Of course, I assumed it would be yet another $3.99-an-issue mini, given a number of DC‘s other recent ones.

Color me surprised when I realized firstly the issue was coming out already (somehow I’d thought it was to come in February), realized I forgot to include it for DCBS as it’s not part of the bundles I’ve been getting, and all the more that it’s ONLY $2.99 an issue! This does NOT carry the Rebirth branding…but I take it from its content–and particularly its PRICE–that it is indeed squarely within current Rebirth stuff.

This issue is relatively simple: we start out with the good Captain in a containment facility, in a chair much like the one I recall him being in back in the 1980s’ #1 issue I read whenever it was that I read that (perhaps as far back as 2002 or 2003!), talking with his handlers about stuff that’d recently happened…which left me a bit lost for a moment. Did something happen with the character in a major way that I didn’t know about in the New 52 stuff? Did I miss something recently amidst all the stuff I’m behind on actually reading?

But then the story flashes back to some hours earlier, placing this into that old clichéd format…though ultimately I appreciate what it was going for, while I disliked it as I was reading.

Captain Atom’s sick, and it’s causing issues with his very energy matrix, expelling energy randomly–"venting"–and endangering those around him…perhaps the entire planet, just by his existing in this condition. While making his way back to base, he happens across a cruise ship in trouble, and refuses to turn his back on it…but the energy-expenditure of helping leaves him in far worse condition. His energy output brings members of the Justice League to investigate, though ultimately they’re not quite able to do as hoped, and there’s much destruction that they have to play damage-control with, while Captain Atom blames himself for what happened. Ultimately, we see that the issue’s perhaps the start of a new status quo, and I’m put a bit in mind of Savage Dragon, and quite curious where things go from here.

I don’t care much for the clichéd story format of starting on the climax, then flashing back X amount of time and "building" back to and then surpassing the climax. But I cannot deny its effectiveness–it elicited reaction from me as I read, and as I’ve thought about it since, I realize that it accentuates the fact that this is a SINGLE ISSUE. It made this single issue function as one, as an opening episode, rather than our perhaps getting this ENTIRE ISSUE as the height of the story, to pick up in #s 2-4 as flashback, #5 to get back to this, and then a final issue denouement.

Though this is a mini-series, this issue behaves as if it is an ongoing series, and behaves very well as a single issue and not JUST some first chapter of a single whole that must be read in one go to fully "get."

Even having forgotten recent years’ stuff with the character, I followed this issue just fine. My familiarity (such as it is) with the character allowed me to appreciate names mentioned as well as the visuals (such as the cover being fairly reminiscent of 1987’s first issue!) This character has about 30 years of history in the "modern" DC universe, and however many years prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths…but I think someone not all that familiar could certainly enjoy this in and of itself. Much as with a new movie, the lack of intricate continuity knowledge might even be better for enjoying this simply as a story in itself, without piecing it within long-form continuity.

I love the fact that Bates and Weisman are back on this; having them steering this story, re-establishing the character presumably for going forward after they set the standard with the character in the late 1980s seems quite fitting, to me. As such, I definitely look forward to reading this as single issues…getting the story AS it unfolds.

However…unless DC pulls something rather shocking–say, of extending this to an "ongoing" status–it is a 6-issue mini-series and I’d be even more surprised if it does NOT get a collected edition (or "graphic novel") that could be read all at once as a single, complete(-ish, as comics go) story.

If you’re a fan of the character from years back, and not a fan of the character, say, from Countdown on through to the present, this would be the point to jump back in, and ignore the last decade or so of Captain Atom stuff. And if you’re new to the character, this is a solid starting point, or re-directing (a la all of the Rebirth one-shots) the character from whatever’s been known of him during the New 52.

I enjoyed this issue personally, but see that it should be a solid singular story that as a full story I’ll very likely strongly recommend…but despite my praise, it’s not something so singularly fantastic in this single issue as to compel any/all potential readers to rush for this single issue.

I look forward to #2!

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The Hellblazer: Rebirth

hellblazer_rebirth_0001Writer: Simon Oliver
Artist: Moritat
Colorists: Andre Szymanowicz and Moritat
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Moritat
Associate Editor: Jessica Chen
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

It’s kinda hard to believe it at this point, but I’ve been a fan of John Constantine–the Hellblazer–for 15 years now. I was introduced the character barely halfway into his 300-issue run with Vertigo (around #160) and have followed off-and-on ever since, as well as backtracking. With the new editions of the collected volumes combined with what I already had, I have the entire series–and several of the spin-offs–on my shelf (though I still have some reading to catch up yet fully). I checked out Justice League Dark at the dawn of the New 52, specifically for the "DC Universe version" of Constantine (who had just earlier that year been re-introduced into the DCU proper in the Search for Swamp Thing mini during/following Brightest Day). I checked out the first couple issues of last year’s DC You launch, and had previously checked out the first issue or two of the previous Constantine series.

Neither of those overly grabbed me (and having the Vertigo Hellblazer stuff all in collected editions, I was content to pass on single issues for eventual collected volumes) and I was even going to pass on this issue for the moment (It’s part of a bundle I pre-ordered but still have a couple weeks to wait on arriving)…but I have "history" with the character/title, and seeing the "original" Hellblazer logo used here grabbed me enough to "double dip."

And while this is still a John Constantine–a Hellblazer–that IS set in a world in which Shazam and Wonder Woman exist as well, it also references back to key elements of the Vertigo series, establishing that this is a Constantine that has been impacted by those developments, and not just grabbed from his pre-Hellblazer stage.

In short, he’s back.

After an adventure "banished" in the US due to a curse placed on him by a demon, John returns to London, reunites with his best mate Chas, and sets about dealing with the curse. Of course the demon shows up, as well as another figure from Constantine’s past (that I am not sure if I know or not, or SHOULD know, but whatever), and things are dealt with in "typical" Constantine fashion.

The character appears younger here than I recall him from the Vertigo series, yet the visual style "fits" what I’ve grown used to over the last several years’ worth of stuff in the New 52. The art for the issue works well with the story mixing both the rough "darkness" in tone with something that definitely takes place in a world with super-heroes around.

Story-wise, I really very much appreciate things here, that this ‘feels’ like the version of the character I’m used to. Yet, this is not marked as a "mature readers title" nor is it part of a "mature readers line," therefore certain "language" is "bleeped out," but it’s not hard to fill in the blanks in reading…which is a nice compromise and something I have zero problem with. Often, certain things are all the more effective being "implied" than explicit…including language.

This issue seems like a "bridge" issue, moving from the most recent ongoing into this new "post-Rebirth" series that retakes the simpler Hellblazer name and general-ish status quo. As such, it is also very nicely self-contained in a way that seems like it’ll work very nicely for a reader continuing on from the last series as well as a lapsed reader that hasn’t seen the character since the Vertigo run ended…and funnel both sides into August’s ongoing.

That said…this seems a great issue for fans of either version of the character, and instills a definite confidence in me for the ongoing. That I’m not familiar with the writer is fine by me…I’m more interested in reading about the Constantine character than I am in reading _______’s version of the character. This even works as just a random one-off issue where you don’t really have to have read anything recently before, and it has an actual "ending" without pulling a "To Be Continued…" or cliffhanger on the reader.

I definitely recommend the issue, and look forward to the ongoing series…though I’m not 100% "sold" on whether I’ll opt to follow it as single issues or wait for collected volumes. I’ll be happy to–and presently look forward to–the singles as long as I’m getting the bundles, and will take it from there.

Astro City (2013) #3 [Review]

astrocity003Mistakes

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
Cover: Alex Ross
Lettering & Design: John G. Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft
Color Art: Alex Sinclair
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Assistant Editor: Jessica Chen
Executive Editor: Shelly Bond
Published by: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

I’ve always quite enjoyed stories set in a superhero universe that focus on the “regular people” in the world; how they are affected by the mere EXISTENCE of the super-heroes; how their lives are different from ours, for that “reality.” And I’ve found no series more consistent at delivering that than Astro City, whoever’s publishing the title at the time.

While I thought #1 was starting a single ongoing story, it seems that was either a red herring or something to be revisited later, as last issue gave a whole different story, which is picked up again in this issue.

After realizing her mistake and what she seems to have set off–a huge war between Honor Guard and the Skullcrushers–that’s resulted in much collateral damage and loss of life, our heroine first goes home sick, before resolving to take action…self-imposed penance, essentially. She takes it upon herself to use what resources she has access to, to try to assist those negatively impacted by her mistake, though this leads to another unintended result for her…and inadvertently proves her worth to those she most assumes sees none in her.

The art is clear and consistent as usual, the coloring and overall tone maintaining “the look and feel” I associate with Astro CityRoss‘ cover and ANDERSON’S interiors both.

The story feels like a “typical” sort, for this title in whatever its iteration (Wildstorm, Vertigo, etc)…which is to say it doesn’t blow me away in the way that, say, the #1/2 issue did from all those years back, but this is still darned good stuff!

This issue IS the second of a 2-part story, so while there’s plenty of context to “get” what’s going on in this issue, it’s likely far more appreciable if you at least snag #2 as well and read this in context of that…though you do not need to go all the back to #1.

Definitely recommended!

Astro City (2013) #2 [Review]

Astro City (2013) #2Welcome to HumanoGlobal

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
Cover: Alex Ross
Lettering & Design: John G. Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft
Color art: Alex Sinclair
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Assistant Editor: Jessica Chen
Published by: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

$3.99 sucks. I’m really, really very tired of this price point. I think I’m going to keep making sure that’s extremely well-documented in these reviews and other blog posts until I eventually give up on new comics altogether.

That said, if you’re going to pay $3.99 for a single issue of a comic, there are few better series out there than Astro City. Even when you don’t know what the issue will be about or it deviates from the previous issue or whatever…it’s hard not to look back on a given issue without a bit of a smile and some disbelief at how much it was enjoyed and sheds different light on superhero stuff typically taken for granted or outright not often considered.

This issue focuses on a new employee of a hotline–said hotline turns out to be for a call center that weeds out the truly important calls for the Honor Guard, and in other cases outright makes connections allowing Honor Guard to be sent after villains/terrorists before they have a chance to enact plans that would otherwise leave the heroes reactive rather than proactive. We see bits of her training, the sorts of calls she takes, and the excitement with her teammates when they manage to catch a big call and be part of the overall “process” that leads to the saving of so many lives. Though they largely have to keep the true nature of their work secret from family and non-work friends, they find certain perks within their work…but also learn that one mistake can be very costly.

The art is strong as usual for an Astro City issue; everyone who should look familiar does, and those that don’t still look quite good. While the story itself isn’t your usual fare, the sequences with superhero action look as one might expect (if not a bit on the higher end quality-wise) while the normal people look…normal.

Story-wise, this is another great outing, showing that Busiek knows his stuff–and does very well giving us a look at the human side of things, as “normal humans” interact in a world filled with super-powered beings and threats, and how the culture itself is impacted by their very existence.

While I missed this issue on Wednesday and thought “oh well” I quickly realized that no, I actually really wanted to read this, and it became the entire reason of going back to a comic shop Friday rather than simply waiting and picking it up with next week’s books. There really aren’t many series that do that for me.

Provided you have any background at all with Astro City–I’d especially recommend the first TPB Life in the Big City (there’s even a new edition out now)–you’d actually be fine jumping in on this issue without even having read #1…which is another strength of this series: there are a lot of short arcs and done-in-one issues, rather than the “standard” fare from DC and Marvel necessitating 4-6 issues’ investment just for a single story.

I’d largely prefer to hold off for the collected volumes, but for now, this return of Astro City is such a welcome thing, I’m likely to keep going with the single issues for at least a few more months.

Astro City (2013) #1 [Review]

Astro City (2013) #1 [cover]Through Open Doors (Part One)

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
Cover: Alex Ross
Lettering & Design: John G. Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft
Color Art: Alex Sinclair
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Assistant Editor: Jessica Chen
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

I’m pretty sure it’s been a few years since I’ve read Astro City. The last I recall, I left off during the Dark Age saga: as I’m typing this, I don’t even recall why I never finished. Might be I’d grown bored; maybe I was “protesting” a cover price if they were $3.99, whatever.

This new #1 is $3.99, but since it seems EVERYTHING is $3.99…I’d really have to just give up comics entirely, now, to “protest” the price point (and I am a lot quicker to find any “excuse” to outright “drop” a title as a result).

But Astro City! The series is back–after awhile under Image/Homage, then the Wildstorm banner and limbo when Wildstorm was terminated, I’d wondered where we’d see the series pop up. And now it’s under Vertigo, which while I wouldn’t consider this a title exactly fitting with Vertigo (moreso that I wouldn’t limit this series to the older crowd) means it’s still under DC, which is what it is. And as a new #1…I’ll bite for the first issue…particularly given the nostalgia factor and that I’ve generally enjoyed Astro City stuff that I’ve read.

We open with a strange man speaking to us of some looming threat, and we’re introduced to American Chibi, a sort of “overlooked” heroine of Astro City (that when you focus on the big ones, obviously some are going to be missed). We’re re-introduced to some familiar faces as well as new; see the city introduced to some powerful new alien, and a “common citizen” chosen to befriend him and be his guide to understanding the Earth. And finally, against his protestations, we learn a potentially disturbing fact about our narrator that can cast the whole story in a new light.

The creative team behind this issue is quite familiar, lending a continued consistency to the title as it’s been bounced from imprint to imprint: the cover logos may change, but the story, the art, the characters–those remain constants, creatively.

As the art is “standard” Astro City art by Anderson, everyone who should look familiar does, and I had no trouble following along…and there was no weird anatomy to throw me off with anyone (well, no weird anatomy that shouldn’t be there), no weirdly constructed pages/panels to leave me scratching my head. Basically, the visual side was a smooth ride all the way through the issue, with nice detail and all the right “touches” I expect of an Astro City comic.

The story left me a bit hesitant at first, but quickly drew me in. I quickly found myself first thinking of this narrator in terms of Doctor Who, which (to me) was rather amusing in a way, and then another sort of familiarity set in, and just when I felt I was getting to “know” the him, the end of the issue changes things rather dramatically.

Overall, the issue does what I’d want in a first issue, especially one like this where it’s an older, continuing property, but the RETURN of that property after several years’ hiatus. We get new characters and old; and we get the details pertaining to the story, that we need, in the story. Having a “history” with Astro City, I pick up on allusions to other stuff, other characters–but even so, I haven’t read any of those in years myself, so I’m foggy on details. But that in no way hinders this story; if anything it just makes me want to go back and re-read some older Astro City stories.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a great return to the series’ existence. I’d originally thought to just try this first issue, “for old time’s sake,” and let that be that…but I’m pretty likely to actually go ahead and snag the next issue.

Superman Family Adventures #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

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

General Mills Presents: Justice League #4 [Review]

Breakout!

Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Bruno Redondo
Colors by: Tony Avina
Letters by: Wes Abbott
Cover by: Dan Jurgens, Sandra Hope, Carrie Strachan
Associate Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Ben Abernathy
Senior Art Director: Larry Berry

So…Atlanteans are just like normal humans, except they live underwater. That’s ‘interesting.’ And Batman’s determined that no other family will ever be destroyed by crime. Penguin instigates a prison breakout to keep Aquaman busy, but the rest of the Justice League show up to help Aquaman and Batman. And we get several of the common “nicknames” such as “Big Blue” (Superman) and “Caped Crusader” (Batman).

This issue continues the trend of feeling rather generic, as well as having some stuff that feels a bit ‘forced’ in the course of dialogue or story.

The art’s not bad…also as with the other issues of this “mini-series” I’m not familiar with the artist…but, the art overall isn’t anything I actively dislike, which makes it good in my book.

The story is pretty basic, but it DOES have simple stuff worked in that would help inform someone on aspects of the characters–namely, that Batman’s all about not seeing another family destroyed as his was. This issue’s nothing special in the grand scheme…but as a comic that’s likely to be read by someone much younger than me…this isn’t a bad starting point to get someone interested in pursuing more about these characters.

And as a whole, this issue–and the whole “mini-series”–serves as a very basic introduction to the Justice League and several of the individual characters that doesn’t really contradict what I’m aware of about the characters, but this also makes the “real” comics look that much better.

Best of all, these comics are 24 pages of story–making them 4 pages (20%?) longer than current $3-$4 comics. And while totally separate from actual continuity…these even work a lot of “standard” elements in that give a “physical structure” like that of any contemporary comics–varied panel sizes, and even double-page spreads.

If these issues were to be collected as a full size 96-page one-shot in the $5 realm, I’d probably buy it for the novelty–and it’d be interesting to see if it would attract younger readers.

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

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