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JLA/Hitman #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: On the Darkside Part One

Faced with the return of an old threat, the JLA finds itself in close quarters with the Hitman!

jlahitman001Writer: Garth Ennis
Art and Cover: John McCrea
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editors: Peter Tomasi & Michael Siglain

Before I sat down to read this, I noticed some doubts had crept in. When this 2-parter was solicited, something about it piqued my interest–I would not have sought it out if it hadn’t. But seeing it sitting on my desk waiting to be read, I asked myself how entertaining it could possibly be. I’ve never read one single issue of Hitman. All I know of it comes from panels reprinted online and/or in Wizard magazine (such as the main character vomiting on Batman) and that the character was (one of?) the only success story to come from the Bloodlines event that ran through the 1993 DC Annuals. And the 90s JLA logo evoking a feel of the 90s-to-Infinite Crisis version of the Justice League–an era I’m not terribly familiar with–left me wondering if I’d care at all for this.

Thankfully, once I started reading, I just kept going.

We open on a scene with someone asking Clark Kent some questions, ultimately leading Kent to divulge a story Superman had shared with him a long time ago. This framing sequence leads into the core story itself. With information discovered about a returning NASA probe, the JLA realizes that a threat from the past is resurfacing, and that they’ll need access to another remnant of the past–and Batman knows just where to find such a person. Unfortunately, this person is Tommy Monaghan–the Hitman, and he doesn’t exactly mesh well with the JLA. Before too much can go down between the two parties, the real threat arrives, and the JLA finds itself in quite the ridiculous predicament, both frightening and yet almost silver-age simplistic.

Ennis crafts a very entertaining tale here, that takes these characters who–on the surface, at least–should have nothing to do with each other and puts them together in a believable fashion, while allowing the absurdity of things to also show through. The two things that stood out most to me and really tripped my geek-meter were the use of footnotes (which have me stoked to track down the referenced issues, not to merely understand what’s going on here–I get that just fine, but to read the original events characters reference and thus enjoy stuff that much more). And the Bloodlines event is mentioned by name and in broad strokes recapped–showing that other than being a generic "origin" for the Hitman, it’s an event that actually DID happen, that these characters DO remember, that actually MATTERED in the grand scheme of things.

Offhand, I’m not familiar with the artist, though the visual style feels familiar. I know that I like the visuals here, overall–the art just works, plain and simple. Though Batman in particular seems just a bit off with the sculpting of the cowl, something about it feels–somehow–like it fits.

This is the first of two chapters, probably "just" a one-off sorta story that while it references and builds on "continuity," will have no lasting impact on it at present. As a package, though, it’s a fun, enjoyable story. There’s a dark humour present here, and the character interactions speak to a fairly rich history. Also, for a guy that grew up on 90s’ comics, this carries the feel of those mid-to-late-90s comics, while the framing sequence seems pretty timeless, such that it could be taking place in the present.

If you’re a fan of the pre-Meltzer incarnation of the JLA, or of the Hitman, this should be a nice romp through familiar-but-now-gone territory. And even if you’re not familiar with one or both sides, this stands decently as its own story…and you could do a heckuva lot worse.

Ratings:

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

Young Justice #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com

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

52 Week #32 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Seven Days in Nanda Parbat

Ralph and snow don’t necessarily mix; Black Adam Junior and Sobek meet the Teen Titans; and the space heroes buckle down.

52week32Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inks: Drew Geraci
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Stephen Wacker & Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue doesn’t bring anything new to the table format-wise. It’s like a prime-time TV series…you get some intro, you check in on various characters in their present situations, the credits roll, and you’re off. If you’ve been following the series, this should be quite familiar to you; if you’ve not been following the series, you’re probably not gonna find anything here to change your mind.

At this point–six weeks over the "hump" with 20 left to go, I think it’s a safe bet that most anyone who’s going to follow the series in its serialized nature is onboard for the run, while those who aren’t going to jump in haven’t and won’t. So reading this, you’re in for the long haul, whether an issue/"episode" is slow OR fast-paced.

The familiar elements of the book are here: for this reader at least, the names in the credits are all recognizable, be it from earlier issues of this series or just seeing them as credits for other series. The cover dress is normal, the style of the credits is normal, the few pages here and there to "check in" on some subplots while one or another gets the most pages is there.

Is it GOOD, though? Yeah–Though I’m not familiar with Nanda Parbat, Rama Kushna, and so on, aside from seeing the names mentioned in the past, and any prior appearance of ’em in this series.

We get–as the focus of this issue–more development of the Ralph storyline as he and the helmet of Fate spend some time in Nanda Parbat, and Ralph seems to find some information he’s been seeking. We get to see the first(?) meeting of Black Adam Junior and Sobek with the Teen Titans, which in itself seems to further solidify the characters into the DCU as a whole and see that prior actions–"sins of the father," if you will–indeed have consequences. We also get to check in on the space heroes as they continue to realize the seriousness of their situation and what they’re going to have to face.

So the story advances on at least these three long-running plotlines, and by the series’ format, the whole story moves forward as a result.

Visually, I can’t complain about the art. I’m not terribly familiar with Olliffe or Geraci, though I’m sure I’ve seen the names before. Regardless, the art seems solid; everyone looks consistent and the visuals enhance the story.

As a whole, the whole package comes together as another solid issue of this title; nothing to spur one to drop it in itself, but nothing to convince a new reader to jump on based on this issue alone.

The Origin of Blue Beetle
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Cully Hamner
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Ed.: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Ed.: Jeanine Schaefer
Editors: Wacker & Siglain

I actually learned some new information from this 2-pager. In and of itself, the art’s fine, and the writing’s fine. I’d still rather get a couple extra pages of story, but that’s a personal preference. Though BB’s not playing any major role in this series, this origin seems to sum up the main points of what I assume is the unfolding story in the character’s own new title, which ever so slightly piques the interest in this reader.

Ratings:

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

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
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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

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