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The Rest of the Stack: Week of November 2, 2011

allofthestack

The Rest of the Stack is my general mini-review coverage of new comics for any given week. It’s in addition to (or in place of) full-size individual reviews. It’s far less formal, and more off-the-top-of-my head thoughts on the given comics than it is detailed reviews.

ANIMAL MAN #3

animalman003I liked the first issue quite a bit. I liked the sound of it even more, which is why I picked it up at all, though I did so a week or two late after hearing reviews. By now, though, with this issue…I’m just finding myself not enjoying this. The story’s good, yeah…but the art just bothers me. I know this is a horror book, it’s basically a Vertigo book under the DC banner…but the imagery just really bothers me, beyond simply being creepy. And so really, I’m getting the increasing feeling that this is not a book for me, or at least not in singles with monthly doses. I’m more a fan of Animal Man the super-hero…and this seems to be specifically moving away from that, saying that the super-hero stuff was a phase, to be there for a time in preparation for what comes now. So it’s a case of…this is not bad, in and of itself…but I’m realizing that it’s not for me. I may stick around for a couple more issues, finish out this story…but time will have to tell, on that. (6/10)

INVINCIBLE #84

invincible084I’m not terribly thrilled with this title in general. There’s something that just doesn’t exactly work for me, and I don’t find myself all that engaged with the characters. Perhaps it’s going from feeling like I only have to read this title to realizing there’s more going on–Guarding the Globe, and at least one other tie-in mini-series, and all those backups I couldn’t get into that I skipped (or read but don’t remember the content). AND YET…and yet, this title is doing something smart. I’m finding that I like this new method the character is trying: instead of just punching things, he’s trying to talk things out, figure out underlying motivations, and generally do more than just maintain some status quo. In this issue, he sees that despite putting the villain behind bars, the same exact result the villain was going for is being carried out…so maybe the villain isn’t as much in the wrong as thought. Which gives Invincible something to think about…and though the results are looking sort of familiar, the motivation seems a bit more genuine–and permanent–than just some one-off story arc for where I’ve seen this thing done before. And since the title’s still at $2.99 and I’ve dropped so many others recently…I’m gonna stick around awhile. Maybe get the Invincible Compendium and a couple trades to fill the gap, and get caught up. Might even be able to engage more. (7.5/10)

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #3

justiceleagueinternational003I’m sure I’m coming off as some sort of curmudgeon this week with the whopping 4 new comics from my pull list. I’m not exactly excited about stuff, and finding it far too easy of late to drop stuff. Reading this issue…I realized that I really don’t much CARE about these characters. Booster–the character and reason I’ve been getting this title to begin with–doesn’t have room to really be developed and shine, he’s just another character in the bunch. I can get more Guy Gardner over in GL Corps; and I’m getting Batman in his own title. But just as I’m ready to simply write this title off, yet another to wait and potentially consider via collected volumes, there’s a seemingly “key” moment. Something about August General in Iron that I did not know, and which adds something else to the character, something deeper that I’m a bit curious about. It reminds me of what I’ve read about X-Men, and the way the Wolverine character was developed out of an art mistake. And it’s stuff like that, that I miss about comics. So, maybe I’ll at least stick around for the rest of this arc…but after going from no DC to 13/14 DCs with the New 52 relaunch…my patience for 20-page issues isn’t there, and I have a feeling I’m not yet done dropping titles. (7/10)

SWAMP THING #3

swampthing003I kinda see this title going hand in hand with Animal Man in a loose sense. Swamp Thing deals with “the Green” while Animal Man deals with “the Red.” We also learn in this issue of “the Rot,” which means there’s more to be explored and developed. Of course, this title’s visuals are less disturbing than Animal Man, and I do have a bit more “history” and reading experience with Swamp Thing…so this is a bit more interesting. Abby Arcane finds Alec Holland, and brings him up to speed on stuff. She needs his help to save a boy who could end the world…and as the issue progresses, we learn how. And also–who this boy is, which ties to long-time continuity (if you know your Swamp Thing history) but is simply the current threat if you don’t. Of course, the cover blurbs do not seem to fit this as a relaunch–there has not yet been time to even delve into the character’s past…so “Once his greatest love…now his deadliest enemy?” suggests a lot more history than 3 issues. I’m interested, though…and of the 3 DCs I picked up this week, I’d say this one’s the safest from being dropped. (8/10)

Superman #2 [Review]

Flying Blind

Script & Breakdowns: George Perez
Pencils & Inks: Jesus Merino
Colors: Brian Buccellato
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover: Perez & Buccellato
Associate Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

From the very first look at this issue–the cover–there’s something that’s been missing for me for a long, long time from Superman comics. I can’t quite put my finger on it, put words to it…but I’m pretty sure it’s something to do with just really liking the look of this new costume as shown here. Maybe it’s just simply that I like Perez‘ art over so much of what I think of with a lot of Superman stuff in recent years and so the cover grabs me. This also seems like the sort of cover, somehow, that “fits” an early issue of a new series, and whatever else to it I can’t find words for…I just simply like this cover.

The interior visuals are high quality as well, and I can’t help but think some of that’s gotta be Perez doing the breakdowns, which makes things fit the story moreso than if the writer and artist were working far more independently of one another. Paging through the issue again, I really can’t find anything that particularly bothers me about the visuals, that isn’t attributable to a generic creature/antagonist or keeping with a “newish” younger look to Clark Kent.

The story itself is good, with all the elements that I’ve tended to enjoy about a Superman comic. And for what seems like the first time in too many YEARS, Clark Kent is actually a part of the Superman story again. Maybe not a huge part, and it’s too soon for me to have much hope of any great emphasis being placed on the Clark Kent personality…but Clark is there, is a part of the story unfolding, and for now, that’s a marked improvement over things during the New Krypton era of the previous DC Universe. I really enjoy that we have Clark, Lois, Jimmy, and Superman all playing parts in the overall story. Cat Grant even appears here, and we at least have a mention of Perry. There’s even a sense of continuity here, that Superman’s got a past, even though in some ways this is like a new beginning of his career. He comes off as a bit unsure of things and yet confident enough to do what he’s gotta do.

As we open the issue, Superman’s awaiting information from Sam Lane, who remains distrustful of the man of steel from their prior encounter (in the “5 years ago” story going on in Action Comics right now). We then transition to Lois and Clark discussing their encounter at the end of the previous issue before returning briefly to General Lane, and then Superman encountering the “monster” of this issue–a creature that everyone but him seems to be able to see. After getting knocked around by the creature, Superman of course figures out a way to deal with this threat, in a fight that rages across 11 of the issue’s 20 pages. Finally, we cut to Superman recording an audio journal or log–his narration has not actually been internal this issue, as it originally appeared to be. This also allows for some more defining of the current relationship Clark has with Lois, and then we’re set up with a mild cliffhanger to lead into the next issue.

All in all…another great issue, which is quickly cementing this as a version of Superman I’d love to read long-term…and somehow, I’m even ok with Superman and Lois not (yet) being romantically involved here. It’s also great that rather than load the back of the issue with a preview I’m not even going to read (yet tend to be annoyed at having to page through to make sure there’s no other RELEVANT content to the issue in-hand), this issue has only a single page advertising Batman: Noel.

Though there’s obviously an over-arcing story building…this is the second issue, and we’ve already had two stories where amidst the other character interactions and details, we’ve had the beginning, middle, and end of a creature’s introduction and battle with Superman, rather than stretch either of these into 4+ issue arcs apiece.

Of the two main Superman books, this is by far my favorite for the story, art, and the feeling of actually getting my money’s worth in content. I expect Action Comics will read as a fast but engaging graphic novel, if you want an actual comic with serialized adventures of Superman, this is certainly the title to get. As an “old fan” I’m greatly enjoying this…but it seems there’s enough here that a new or lapsed reader would be able to figure stuff out fairly easily as well without missing out on anything.

Highly recommended.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 8.5/10

The Rest of the Stack: Week of October 5, 2011

allofthestack

The Rest of the Stack is my general mini-review coverage of new comics for any given week. It’s in addition to (or in place of) full-size individual reviews. It’s far less formal, and more off-the-top-of-my head thoughts on the given comics than it is detailed reviews.

ACTION COMICS #2

actioncomics002Superman’s been smashed by a train, and captured by the government. While his captors question him, Supes is working up enough focus to break free–and woe to those who stand in his way. Meanwhile, his indestructible cape is also put to the test, while Lois Lane gains entry thanks to her father. And it seems Luthor’s out of his depths. Oh, and the actual CONTENT of this issue, the story itself, the thing that I buy any given issue for? 20 freaking pages. For $3.99. Meanwhile, there are 8 pages of generic extras–sketches and internet stuff printed for the sake of pages thrown in to make the issue feel that much thicker, and then the USUAL back-of-the-issue preview for something I’m not even going to buy, and which is not going to change my mind, because either I’m NOT BUYING WHAT IS BEING PREVIEWED…or I’m NOT GOING TO READ it because I am planning to buy it, and don’t want to read a QUARTER to THIRD of its contents before I pay too much for cover price. So on principle alone–$3.99 for 20 pages–this thing is a huge disappointment, and I discourage anyone who hasn’t already from buying the single issue, as such. Collected volume? Sure. I think this’ll be a strong story in the end. But I for one refuse to support this sort of crap for a $4 issue when bought alongside several $3 issues with the EXACT SAME LENGTH STORY. (2/10)

ANIMAL MAN #2

animalman002Lots of death, decay, and gore in this issue. Disturbingly so, really. Buddy finds himself drastically affected by “The Red,” and his daughter seems more powerful than her father, leading him to follow the call of the Red. The cover alone is quite disturbing, and the interior visuals are, too. Even some of the tamer stuff is rather creepy–the skeleton of a cat squatting for milk especially rattled me. And yet…for essentially a horror book, something that typically would’ve been Vertigo…it’s fitting. The story doesn’t have nearly the blown-away effect on me the first issue did. But still, something to this–I’m curious where it’s all leading. And hey…it’s Vertigo, yet not. A worthy second issue, and there’s nothing to this one that prompts me to drop it or otherwise not come back for the next issue. (6/10)

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #2

justiceleagueinternational002I wish I was overtly enthusiastic about this issue. There’s something just sort of mediocre about it. It’s nothing spectacular. The story’s not terribly engaging, and doesn’t send me running for back issues and chomping at the bit for the next issue. But the story’s solid enough. The art’s not bad–I do like it, really. And together, they make for a quality book. And while there isn’t much that really jumps out or stands out…I liked it. We have the team, already assembled from the first issue, we see them in action, we see them in down-time, we get interaction and we get a built-up threat that justifies the group staying together. And on the whole, this feels like a second issue–we’ve been introduced to the characters, but here we learn a bit more. Unfortunately, there are a lot of characters, so there’s little focus on any specific character. Much of my not being bothered too much by that is my history with these characters’ prior incarnations, so I’m “projecting” what I know of those onto these. Still sticking around for the next issue, and seeing where this goes…if only for Booster Gold. (6/10)

Continue reading

Superman #1 [Review]

What Price Tomorrow?

Script & Breakdowns: George Perez
Pencils & Inks: Jesus Merino
Colorist: Brian Buccellato
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover: George Perez & Brian Buccellato
Associate Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

What do you think of when you think of Superman? And more to the point, what do you expect to see in a Superman comic? Speaking for myself–especially for a premiere issue of a new series–I tend to expect to see Superman…but also Clark Kent. Ideally, Lois Lane would be there, and I don’t mind if we have something with Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and other staffers of the Daily Planet…to say nothing of the Daily Planet itself. I expect to see Clark Kent interacting with people, just as I expect to see Superman being…well, super. Have those elements, and I’m pretty much going to be one satisfied camper.

I came to this relaunch this month with a lot of mixed feelings. Probably the strongest was–has been–regarding Superman, and not knowing what he would be in this relaunch…knowing only that the character is one that DC felt the need to change quite a bit from the existing status quo, to update and bring back in a different way (unlike, say, Batman or Green Lantern). Action Comics left me rather cool–especially in retrospect…and there was but a cameo of Superman in the new Justice League book. So, there’s a lot of weight put upon this issue, the first issue of the new Superman comic itself. After Action Comics, and generally lukewarm if not hopeful feelings on a lot of the other #1s, I was prepared to dislike this issue, or at least find a lot of fault with it in and of itself.

The issue opens with a voiceover, discussing the history of the Daily Planet building. We follow the narration to find it’s live coverage of the unveiling of the NEW Daily Planet, recognition being given to the original. At this point, the Planet is an acquisition of Morgan Edge, and in moving things into the present, readying for the future–the newspaper is now “just” a part of the overall media corporation Edge owns. We’re introduced to Lois Lane and Perry White–familiar names and faces (though White looks a good 10-15 years too young), and find out their new roles moving forward with the new Planet. We learn some backstory about Clark’s opposition to the Planet’s acquisition, and that Superman is only just now back in town after some sort of noticeable absence. We get snippets on attitudes toward Superman in this new DCU. We see Jimmy Olsen at work–not as a bumbling cub reporter but as a competent video reporter working as part of a street team. We’re also introduced to new characters that will presumably be a regular part of the supporting cast.

When an alien fire-entity explodes onto the scene, it’s clearly a job for Superman. While the battle unfolds, we learn further detail about Superman–his powers are continuing to grow/develop, and no one knows for sure what can really hurt him…and there’s still a certain amount of distrust…or at least, willingness to believe that he doesn’t care about the very people he’s trying to protect. After the battle, we see the aftermath in the people involved, as we’re introduced to the current status quo of the Lois/Clark relationship.

I love the art on this issue. I don’t recall specifically enjoying Merino‘s art like this before, but in this issue, it feels like he was born to do this. I just paged through the issue again, and I can’t find a panel to dislike. The characters–if looking a bit young, but I knew they’d be, going in–all look recognizeable, and just simply…are. This is Superman–and I actually really enjoy this new costume–it just works, to the point that the ads in the issue showing the classic costume actually look dated. I hadn’t realized how much I like this costume until now.

Story-wise, Perez presents a new Superman with plenty of echoes of the classic. Though this Morgan Edge reminds me of Samuel Jackson‘s Nick Fury from Marvel…this works, too. The character seems to be what he is, or for longtime readers familiar with the name–there’s an extra layer to consider. The opening–the history of the Planet, its being swept away in favor of the new, and even some of Edge’s early comments in the issue–felt like a direct parellel to this entire new DCU thing…which adds levels of depth in and of itself to the story.

Unlike most of the other DC issues I’ve read this month, this issue does what I expect of a #1. We’re introduced to the setting, the characters–main and supporting. We’re introduced to what’s recently happened and given some slight hints as to what may be coming. We get a seemingly arbitrary scene, but a classic-style “footnote” directing us to Stormwatch #1 for more detail (which reminded me that Stormwatch #1 had a footnote itself directing us to Superman #1) which sets up some official continuity between this and another DCU book. And–best of all–despite the huge threat, that seems to be an actual challenge to Superman, we’re not left on some to-be-continued, left dangling to have to buy another issue to find out the (obvious) “fate” of the “hero” (sorry if that’s a spoiler, Superman doesn’t die in this issue).

By the end of the issue, I actually CARE about the status quo. I’m interested more, really, in all the “regular” characters–old and new–than I am Superman himself…and yet, I’m not actually disinterested in this Superman. He’s different from the Superman I grew up on…and thankfully, he’s different from boring post-Infinite Crisis caricature of the last few years that saw me walk away from the character for most of the past couple years. I think I like this character, and this issue. In fact, this has got to be just about my favorite issue of the relaunch so far.

If you’ve never read Superman before…give this issue a chance. It’s well worth it. And if you find you don’t like what you’re introduced to…you’re out a single issue. Only $2.99. No $3.99 let-downs, and no to-be-continued. This is a great single-issue story, and I really think that THIS should have been the “flagship” title of the new DCU. As-is, it certainly lives up to its title…Superman.

Highly recommended!

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

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