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52 Week #20 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Week #20: God is Fragged

Supernova in the Batcave, Steel grows into his new powers, and the heroes in space come under attack…

52week20Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Ruy Jose
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Lettering: Travis Lanham
Assistant Editors: Harvey Richards & Jeanine Schaefer
Edited by: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue gives us some fairly continuous action, opened with a moment of quiet as Supernova infiltrates the Batcave. Steel begins to grow into his new powers/strength, saving a number of lives from a burning building. The rest of the issue pretty much focuses on the hereos-in-space: Starfire, Adam Strange, and Animal Man…and of course, their new best buddy, Lobo. These folks come under attack by a bunch of (other) aliens, and wind up bringing more trouble down on their own heads due to the means by which they end the battle.

All in all, not a bad issue at all. I found it to be a good read–though I feel like we’ve not gotten to see nearly enough of the "new" Steel, so it almost feels like he was just tossed in to remind us he exists (though more likely, he’s there for us to see that he’s growing into his new powers, and learning to make use of ’em and in general, keep on truckin’ as a hero).

The battle in space works–I’m not totally into it, but hey, action-in-space and all that. Seeing what happened to Lobo was rather gruesome, though actually made sense, having read his origin a few issues ago–I wasn’t lost or dumbfounded at his state after the battle.
The art continues to work well, serving the story quite well. I really don’t have any complaints with this.

On the whole–this issue and the series in general–I continue to be satisfied with the product as a whole. It’s one of the better ‘values’ in comics these days, per individual issue, and just has a grand FEEL as a true serial (as opposed to other books that don’t often make the every-30ish-days frequency). I think this series challenges my recent expectations of comics–even with certain stories meandering in and out, I feel that I "get" more out of it than the same number of issues of most anything else.

All that said–chances are, if you’re not on-board yet, you probably aren’t gonna change your mind based on a few remarks from me. And if you’re STILL on-board…you’re probably similarly-minded on the series.

I’m enjoying it–it’s worthwhile and keeps me going to the comic shops each week. Nothing blows me away, but this is simply a solid, reliable series that builds on itself week after week.

Ratings:

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

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

Young Justice #0 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

 

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

The Web #1 [Review]

classicreviewlogowhite

Quick Rating: Solid
Story Title: Spinning the Future; Bad Men

The Web works on tracking down his brother’s killers; Hangman is further fleshed out with a status quo beyond the origin from his one-shot.

web001Writer: Angela Robinson
Penciller: Roger Robinson
Inker: Hilary Barta
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Cover: Stanley Lau
Publisher: DC Comics

I’m not used to starting fresh with characters I’ve never interacted with before. With Spawn, I’d read a couple issues back in the 90s, saw a couple episodes of the HBO animated series, read an annual in college, and of course, saw the live-action film. With Invincible (which I started reading recently) I’d read the first trade and the zero issue prior to jumping onboard. Even the Milestone characters I have some passing familiarity with from their original run, Static’s appearance in the DC Animated Universe, and a book I’d read in college about the entire line.

All that said: after reading this issue, I’m not all that interested in The Web. Or rather, the character has potential and it’s cool to "get in at the ground floor" for the reading/discovery experience of the character. But the story doesn’t really grab me in a way that leaves me specifically looking forward to the next issue.

This issue follows on the heels of the one-shot, picking up with the hunt for David’s (brother of John–the Web) killers. We get a flashback to events of the one-shot, and also see the reading of David’s will where he leaves a pair of dice and a gun to John–and a request to protect April (a friend of the brothers). Pondering the meaning of the dice and recalling their history with April, the Web goes back into action to find the killers, and winds up with more than he bargained for.

The story itself is not bad in and of itself. It just feels rather cliched, and though we’re left with a couple of cliffhanger points meant to draw us in, something about it just doesn’t work for me. It’s one of those things like some tv shows–I don’t care to follow it particularly, but won’t necessarily go out of my way to avoid, either.
The art is pretty good and I have no complaint there. I don’t really have any preconceived notion as to how characters should appear, and as I’m still trying to remember who is who, care more that there’s both a difference in characters and a consistency in that difference…and that’s pulled off here overall.

The Hangman
Writer: John Rozum
Layouts: Tom Derenick
Inker: Bill Sienkiewicz
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern

Unlike the main feature, something about The Hangman pulls me in. I’m reminded both of a character from Astro City, and The Spectre as I read this feature…and to be honest, I liked it. There’s a brief scene set in the past of the character, and then most of the scene is spent in the present, continuing to build the character. My main take-away from the one-shot was that the guy can be shot and such–the bullets don’t penetrate the skin, but he still feels them and bruises and all that, which was an interesting concept.

Here we see the Hangman in action, confronting various criminals, giving them a taste–but not the full meal–of death for their sins, cutting them loose with the warning that this WAS their only warning and if they act out again, they WILL know death. We’re given more info about the change between the Hangman and his human self, and shown what his life is during the day (as well as given the fact that he doesn’t need to sleep, and any injuries, damage, and even clothing are refreshed from each transformation).

There’s no particular throughline exactly for this chapter, it’s basically all stage-setting and informing the reader through a slice-of-life look at Hangman’s life what he’s all about and presumably getting us geared up for more plot-driven story now that we’ve some real idea of his status quo (having gotten the origin in the one-shot last month).

I definitely preferred this feature to the main, and it is the Hangman’s story that will keep me interested in where things go for this title.

This issue as a whole isn’t all that bad. You definitely need to have read the one-shots to have solid context for what’s going on in this issue–The Web moreso than The Hangman–but you’re given exposition in both to figure out a bit of what happened prior to these stories. I find myself doubting the legs on these characters, unfortunately…and wonder if they might have been better extra features for other books.

If you’ve interest in the characters specifically, I don’t think this issue is bad at all. In terms of just checking things out, I’m not particularly impressed. The Hangman’s feature on top of the Web’s makes the issue worth picking up to check out, but I don’t recommend going in with any expectation of being blown away by what you read.

Ratings:

The Web
Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5

The Hangman
Story: 4/5
Art: 3/5

Overall: 3/5

Wonder Woman #600 [Review]

This is the third “mega-anniversary” issue from DC in a month’s time (Batman #700 and Superman #700 preceded this) and for me, these are 3-for-3 in terms of being disappointments. Huge numbers, sure…and at least Batman and Superman got to theirs “legitimately.” Last month, Wonder Woman was on issue # 44…so it seems kinda fishy to arbitrarily skip 556 numbers just because issue #45 would be the 600th issue if you strung all the previous series combined in one continuing run.

But that’s a complaint to go into detail on another time.

This issue–even after reading the whole thing–is virtually forgettable. Less than 2 days after initially reading the issue, I couldn’t tell you what the “lead story” even was. I remembered the short with Power Girl’s cat, because it was a cat-story and combined with the Origin of Dex-Starr in Green Lantern #55, they stuck out as significant for hitting me close to the heart, having recently lost a cat I’d had for 18 years. The other story in the issue was setup for when Straczynski takes over the title, and showed a Diana Prince in a costume quite a bit different from the recent “traditional” version (and works extremely well in the story, despite all the buzz in the media..more on that later). There are also a number of “pinup pages” where other artistic teams had a chance to display their take on the character for this anniversary issue.

We open with an “introduction” by Lynda Carter–the actress who portrayed Wonder Woman in the old tv live-action series…I hardly remember the last time I saw a collected edition with an introduction, and now here we have one for a single-issue comic…I understand there’s big-time significance to a female character having so many issues published, but it still seems strange.

Valedictorian
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: George Perez
Inker: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Assoc. Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Brian Cuningham

The first story then begins, with Wonder Woman leading most of the well-known (and some less-so-well-known) female characters into battle, before rushing to a graduation ceremony where she’s glad to have arrived in time to see a girl graduate. We find out this is a girl who was part of the supporting cast, apparently, back when the Wonder Woman title was relaunched in the late 1980s after Crisis on Infinite Earths. The story here–at least to this male reader–as fairly generic. It’s cool to see the follow up on a character who has since her first appearance grown up, which lends some real history to the Wonder Woman tale as a whole…but it’s still–structurally–not all that interesting. The art by Perez is awesome, though, and I can overlook a boring story for the beautiful art, the detailed portrayal of the various characters. Plus, there’s that little tidbit of info older readers know: it was Perez who relaunched the character back in the 1980s, so seeing his return to contribute to a story all these years later–as the artist, and by indication in the credits, as an “inspiration” for the story.

Fuzzy Logic
Writer & Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: John J. Hill

Next up, Wonder Woman teams up with Power Girl to defeat “Egg Fu,” and then retire to Power Girl’s office, where they discuss the way Power Girl’s cat has been acting, and Power Girl realizes she needs a place away from the office, where she and the cat can be away from the day-to-day business of things. The art is so-so…nothing spectacular; it doesn’t blow me away or make me feel it’d be anough to carry a boring story. But it works for this story, and doesn’t put me off. The cat seems a bit stocky/bulky…but in terms of a fictitious comic-book cat, I really shouldn’t complain…he’s a cute little thing without being overly-cutesy.

Firepower
Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Travis Lanham

The story that follows is a short that basically pit Superman and Wonder Woman against Aegeus, who has stolen lightning bolts from Zeus. The character apparently is Olympian–I’m not familiar with this version of the character, but the name and visuals seem somewhat familiar, suggesting I’m not entirely unfamiliar–whether in DC‘s comics or simply in reading of Greek mythology. As Superman is vulnerable to magic, he’s more the “backup” in this tale, as Wonder Woman takes the lead in bringing the villain down. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of point to this story in and of itself outside this issue…it’s just a tale to show Wonder Woman and Superman teamed up, though giving Wonder Woman the starring role and relegating Superman to an almost second-tier status (as a guest-star, that’s how it goes, though)! The visuals are ok, but again…don’t stand out as significant (whereas the opening story with Perez’ art I recognized it and knew without looking at the credits that it was Perez’ work).

The Sensational Wonder Woman
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Scott Kolins
Coloris: Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

The next story reeks largely of being little more than metatextual. Wonder Woman is shown in battle, while narration boxes discuss her journey, and leads to what symbolically indicates the character rushing into an unknown future, from an established past…almost feeling like a vague series or season finale where the makers aren’t sure if they’ll get to do anything else with the story.

Odyssey – Prologue: Couture Shock
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Don Kramer
Inker: Michael Babinski
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Travis Lanham

Finally, we have the prologue to Staczynski‘s story, where we find a young Diana Prince in a new, unfamiliar (but with touches of familiarity) costume, seeking an oracle, and referencing a dead mother recently brought back…after having been dead for a few years. We come to see that this new, “current” Wonder Woman is the result of something screwing with the timeline, and she’s going to have to put things back to rights, to exist in the mainstream current DCU again.

We then close with a preview of Action Comics #890 with no cover image to differentiate it from any of the other stories in the issue.

Between stories, we get some “iconic” Wonder Woman pinup pages. While on the one hand they seem a bit like filler material, I am (as I was with Batman #700) very, VERY glad to see these on the INTERIOR of the book, rather than as variant covers!

There’s a two-page spread showing the classic/traditional-costumed Wonder Woman striking a pose in the foreground, with slightly dimmed-out images surrounding as the background, displaying many of the main DC heroes she’s worked with, the villains, and they seem grouped by time-frame, from the different periods of the character’s life, at least post-Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Overall Thoughts on the Issue

These are all decent stories, though the issue as a whole feels more like it should be some sort of Annual rather than a (renumbering aside) regularly-numbered issue in the midst of the ongoing series. If this were a half-half split with an epilogue from the previous writer and a prologue from the incoming writer, with pinup pages to lend to the anniversary feel, it wouldn’t seem so out of sorts. As is, it’s an issue with a whole bunch of stuff crammed in, apparently to give a LOT of people some way to say they “got to work on” this anniversary issue.

If you’re a Wonder Woman fan, this could be a bit iffy. The opening story hardly seems worth a $5 price for its nature just to wrap up Simone‘s run on the book. For newer fans, the final segment is the same way…not worth the $5 just to get such a short prologue to the upcoming run, nor is it worth the price just to get the “debut” of the “new costume” that seems to be THE buzz of late.

This issue seems like it’s more well-suited for the random person who is familiar with the character in American popular culture, but virtually entirely UNaware of current continuity. The stories are so short and lacking in ongoing plot elements that one mostly needn’t know anything of the character or stories…there’s a little more flash than substance here.

Despite the hype…this issue isn’t really worth it unless you specifically want this sort of anthology book. It’s not going to give much to summarize the last several years’ stories, and there’s little more than “previewing the premise” in the prologue to the upcoming arc.

I don’t particularly recommend the issue…but on the whole it’s not something I recommend against, either. Ratings below based on the whole issue and not just any single segment.

Story: 5.5/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 6/10

Action Comics #888 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Action Comics
Story: 2/5
Art: 2.5/5

Captain Atom
Story: 1.5/5
Art: 2/5

Overall: 2/5

Secret Six #18 [Review]

Danse Macabre Part 3

Writers: Gail Simone & John Ostrander
Artist: J. Calafiore
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Colorist: Jason Wright
Editor: Sean Ryan
Cover: Daniel Luvisi
Published by: DC Comics

I’ve not been following this title to any great degree. I read the first 2-3 issues, and may have read one or two other issues prior to this Blackest Night tie-in. Still, I know enough of these characters to enjoy the issue, even lacking the full series’ context.

This issue sees the various members of the Six dealing with Black Lanterns, as well as Amanda Waller’s plan for combatting those same Lanterns. Essentially, the Six have to survive long enough for that plan to be put into motion–to retrieve an old Manhunter body to make use of its stored Green Lantern energy (which, along with another color light/energy is the only thing that can permanently put down the Black Lanterns). The end result of this gamble seems to indicate both change and revelation–at least to the reader, as Waller reveals her ultimate intent regarding the Six.

The story’s not bad, though it’s not terribly engaging, either. I don’t know all the characters well enough to get as much appreciation out of this issue as I’m sure others will get, but they’re not entirely unfamiliar. And though I am unfamiliar, I learned a bit more about a couple of ’em as I read this issue. Digging up an old Manhunter makes perfect sense to me, and a great solution for a bunch of essentially human characters to reasonably fight and have any hope at all of winning against multiple Black lanterns, when the bulk of the super-folks of the DCU aren’t around to intercede in this battle. It also roots the story in long-term history, as–and perhaps I’m wrong on this–the Manhunter is probably left over from Millennium. Waller’s presence seems like an added bonus, coming just after seeing Pam Grier taking the role of this character on Smallville‘s Absolute Justice movie/episode.

The art’s good stuff, too…while some faces seem to take on slightly different appearances here and there depending on their angles, on the whole the art is nicely detailed and the characters recognizable and distinct, and I really had no trouble following the action of the issue.

This issue wraps up what is one of the better tie-in stories to Blackest Night, as we see events unfold that appear to have contributed to the ongoing Secret Six arc, and yet plays well in the Blackest Night sandbox. This doesn’t really add anything to Blackest Night, but Blackest Night adds to this. Well worth picking up if you’ve been following the previous couple issues (this is the third of 3) and/or the main event.

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

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #3 [Review]

Wonder Woman: Blackest Night
Writer: Greg Rucka
Pencils: Nicola Scott
Inks: Jonathan Glapion
Colors: Nei Ruffino
Cover: Greg Horn
Letters: Travis Lanham
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics

Wonder Woman marvels over the Love-Ring, witnesses the spreading destruction from the Black Lanterns and chats briefly with Carol Ferris about their differences as Star Sapphires, fights Mera, and when she tries to use her ring to help Mera, makes some sort of realization that hits close to the heart. The issue’s ending seems almost tacked-on, and directs us into the main Blackest Night series.

Story-wise, this continues to be more of a disappointment than not. Somehow, it’s feeling more like a “filler” story than anything else, with not much really happening. I don’t feel I have any new understanding of Wonder Woman/Diana coming out of this issue, and just as with the previous issue, this seems to take place in a very limited span of time–between Nekron commanding all those who’ve been resurrected withOUT rings to “Die” and the “reinforcement” rings seeking out “backup.” While there’s probably stuff here that’s much more compelling to longtime fans of Mera and Diana, any such content seems to have gone over my head reading by myself.

The art of this issue is good, on the whole…not much for complaint. The art certainly carries its weight providing the imagery of the story, showing Diana’s wonder at the ring, the two Star Sapphires soaring over the city, the Diana/Mera fight, and so on. My primary complaints are the Star Sapphire costumes, which seem overly “exposing”–but then, I suppose “lust” could be a form of “love”–and the double-page spread preceding Diana’s final conversing with Mera left me wondering what the significance was…but I’m not sure how much of that is the art not getting something across, or the story not getting it across (at the same time, just as likely to be me as a reader not “getting” something).

On the whole, not much about this to recommend except to those wanting light expansion on Wonder Woman’s being a short-term Star Sapphire. If you’re just following the Blackest Night series itself, this issue/mini really doesn’t seem to add anything to the main story.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 5/10

Blackest Night: The Flash #2 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

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