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Superman: Doomed #2 [Review]

Superman: Doomed #2Evolutions

Story: Greg Pak & Charles Soule
Art: Ken Lashley, Szymon Kudranski, Cory Smith, Dave Bullock, Jack Herbert, Ian Churchill, Aaron Kuder, Vicente Cifuentes, Norm Rapmund
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover: Guillem March & Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor: Anthony Marques
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

[———- Please note: I will spoil this issue’s ending below, denoted by a further note. ———-]

This issue is late. I believe it was originally solicited/scheduled for at least a month ago, sometime in August. I’m not certain of course, but I’m guessing that also accounts for so many involved on the art team for the issue. With all the one-shots I’ve been reading this month on the Futures End stuff, in some ways I’d even forgotten about this story for several weeks, only last week realizing “Hey…Doomed #2 never DID come out, did it?!?”

This issue sees the “last stand” of Earth and its heroes against Brainiac. With Superman having given himself over to Doomsday, his “essence” is basically a passenger along for the ride, or in the mind or such, where Brainiac reaches out, showing how much better things would be with Brainiac free to do his thing, why he should be allowed to, etc. Perhaps most pressing is that if Doomsday–Superman–“Superdoom”–destroys Brainiac, it’ll mean the destruction of all human life on Earth, as the stolen minds will be done for and not returned to their bodies.

While showing Superman visions of what could be, Brainiac continues taking down the last remnants of Earth’s heroes–having apparently utilized Superman somehow to “find” them and get through their defenses. He also reveals his core, true motivation to things, which on one hand could be sympathetic but for the notion of “the good of the many outweigh the good of the few” and all that. Lois plays a key part in things, and ultimately the minds–and thus lives–of all on Earth rest with Superman and a gambit to take down Brainiac before he can remake the universe itself.

Visually, this issue is a jumble. A lot of artists involved, but that can be forgiven as they seem to be utilized for the visions of what-could-be and such. I’ve never been a fan of the “Superdoom” look and have found it ridiculous–still do–so that lends a visual weirdness to stuff for me anyway on top of numerous artists. That said, having made it through all the tie-ins and such to this point–all those styles and renditions of involved characters–I can’t complain too much here. The issue is what it is, and whether utilized to show alternate realities or that’s just a fortuitous element given so many involved, I’ll take it at face value. The only point that I REALLY consciously noticed a huge difference was a sequence that reminded me of Darwyn Cooke‘s art.

Story-wise I’m left with a fair bit of frustration at the sheer length of this “event” and such. It seems that SO MUCH was made of the “Doomsday virus” and Superman fighting it/becoming a Doomsday and so on–that Brainiac’s involvement feels like a bait-and-switch. Like this whole thing could have been done in just a couple issues–perhaps Doomed #1, a single month’s slot of tie-ins, then this #2.

Then there’s the fact that this issue itself doesn’t even definitively end but rather kicks down the door onto something else.

[——————————— Spoilers below ———————————]

In “trying to find a place for” Brainiac, Superdoom–powered by all that Brainiac had sought–pushes Brainiac’s ship into a black hole of sorts, ready to sacrifice himself as well to see that Brainiac’s threat to the universe is over. But in this we see shards of something broken, and in those shards, we see what look to me like glimpses of the pre-52 DC Universe…particularly recognizeable to me are Nightwing and his classic first costume (circa 1989) and of course, Superman himself with the “trunks.”

Like this week’s Futures End: Booster Gold issue, this sees to show that in some fashion or another, the DC Universe that *I* grew up on is still out there somehow, and perhaps something involving Brainiac would be a key to–if not bringing it “back,” then at least accessing it.

[——————————— Spoilers above ———————————]

Despite the enormity of what we see on the last pae of the issue, I still don’t feel this story warranted all the chapters it carried, and that this could have been handled in just a handful of issues. Chances are, with the likes of Bleeding Cool and other online spoilers, this issue will wind up being fairly signifiant in the long run and thus in that regard probably worth seeking out, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it in and of itself unless you’ve been following the story in general.

I’m actually (overall) glad I went and hand got it–despite that hefty $5 cover price–for the feelings elicited by that last page, for capping things off, and giving me an “out” to drop back to spending far less each month.

Except that this issue–and event–leads directly to an aftermath issue in October’s Action Comics, at minimum. The story isn’t over. And rather than a definitive conclusion, an actual “bookend” to things…we’re simply propelled on to “The next thing.”

Superman: Doomed will probably make for a nice, thick hardcover collection, similarly thick paperback eventually…and really, that’s gonna be the way to go. If you haven’t followed stuff so far, just wait for the collected volume. If it’s priced around $30 for this entire thing, that will be quite a bargain compared to the price paid for the single issues involved, and will put the entire story between two covers instead of the umpteen ones across five-some months for the single issues.

Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing [Review]

Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing

Writer: Jonathan Vankin
Pencils: Marco Castiello
Inks: Vincenzo Acunzo
Art (Issue #2): Renato Arlem
Colors: Barb Ciardo
Letters: Sal Cipriano, (Issue #3) Dave Sharpe
Cover: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, Ulises Arreola
Editors: Rex Ogle and Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics

I haven’t finished Brightest Day yet, but I know that the big hubbub over the final issue was the return of Swamp Thing and John Constantine–after a lengthy absence–to the mainstream DCU. And waiting for the collected volumes of Brightest Day, I opted to pass on this series. But this weekend, I found myself looking for something “extra” to pick up, and the comic shop I was at had all three issues, so I decided that rather than spend only $3.99 for a one-shot, at “only” $2.99/issue, I’d snag this entire 3-issue mini.

John Constantine finds himself the butt of his pal Chaz’s jokes for having bought a newspaper–though this particular newspaper had literally called out to him, the Swamp Thing’s attempt to make contact with him through the plant fibers in the paper. The trouble apparently caused by the Swamp Thing draws Constantine into a quest for his old acquaintance. After all, John saw the Swamp Thing through a couple other major events, so only fitting to be part of whatever this latest go-round is. Constantine makes contact with Batman to enlist the detective’s aid. When this doesn’t go as planned, he finds himself in Metropolis seeking the Man of Steel’s brand of assistance. Upon realizing what may actually be going on, John finds himself on a path that neither Superman nor Batman can condone as he seeks to set things right in a way that only he–John Constantine–can do.

It’s been ages since I’ve read any Hellblazer stuff–at least a year and a half, maybe 2+ years–so this was a welcome reading experience. Vankin has a good feel for the character, I felt like I was reading Hellblazer…except this is set within the DCU, with John interacting once more with a world that includes Superman, Batman, and other super-powered people, unlike the world the character’s Vertigo counterpart inhabits. This version of Constantine is younger, though still quite recognizeable as the character he is. There’s plenty of reference to the past to establish the character’s roots, to remind those familiar with the characters past of what they are. And if one is unfamiliar, it serves to establish that this character has a past in the DCU, though he’s not cropped up in a DCU book in quite a few years.

Though the series’ title emphasizes the Swamp Thing, this feels fully like a DCU-based John Constantine/Hellblazer story, and does so far more than I’d anticipated, expecting there to be a lot more focus on Swamp Thing (especially with Swamp Thing being one of the “New 52” in DC’s relaunch in September). Of course, I’ve long been more a fan of Constantine than Swamp Thing, so this focus didn’t bother me and I think my enjoyment of this series was higher than it would have been if it actually did focus more on Swamp Thing).

The story itself felt pretty basic, and even a bit choppy, almost as if it should have been stretched to at least another issue. Given its timing at the very end of this version of the DCU, though, there seems to have been a need to compress it into only three issues. The first two issues had a nice build, reintroducing us to Constantine, as well as putting him back on the map for Batman and Superman. The third issue held a good bit of promise to it, but after 2 1/2 issues’ build, the end seemed to be anticlimactic, almost negating the purpose of having this series to begin with. This could change depending on the status quo in the new Swamp Thing ongoing, but that would almost make this series seem a prologue and worthy of an altered title.

The art was a sort of mixed experience going through the three issues. Offhand, I’m not familiar with the art team(s) behind this series. The style was not unattractive, and seemed to fit the characters involved. Batman and Superman, if only for the amount of Vertigo Hellblazer that I’ve read seemed a bit out of place by existing, though the artists had a good blend that allowed them to visually work with Constantine and Swamp Thing (or vice-versa). Though the second issue had a different artist, the style’s similar enough to the first and third that I honestly didn’t even notice until pulling the credits to write this review.

As I have not yet finished reading Brightest Day, this doesn’t honestly seem or feel connected to that, except that it would sort of explain an apparent resurrection that lies at the core of this story (even as it reminds me a bit of The Spectre’s character shortly after Green Lantern: Rebirth). If this ties to the new Swamp Thing series as I think it might, I’d hope to see this collected either as a Swamp Thing vol. 1 or 0, or somehow simply not as just a Brightest Day companion volume. If you’re a fan of Hellblazer, this series presents a chance to see a younger Constantine interacting with the DC Universe he came from, and get away from the intricate mythology that’s built up over the last 200+ issues of Hellblazer. If you’re interested in Swamp Thing, this wouldn’t seem a horrible story, but Swamp Thing seems a bit player at best, though you’ll find plenty with Constantine, a character with some key ties to Swamp Thing’s past.

Recommended.

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

Fall of the Hulks: Alpha [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Meeting of the Minds

The Leader and his group of intellectual villains work behind the scenes through Marvel’s history to assemble the lost knowledge of the Library of Alexandria.

fallofthehulksalphaWriter: Jeff Parker
Penciler: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorists: Guru eFX
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover: Ed McGuinness, Mark Farmer, Dave Stewart
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Associate Editor: Nathan Cosby
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this issue, except perhaps a jumping-on point in preparation for the coming Fall of the Hulks "event." What I did not expect was what seems to essentially be an "Illuminati" of intellectual Marvel villains and their "backstory" throughout Marvel’s past.

This issue basically follows The Leader, M.O.D.O.K., Egghead, The Wizard, The Mad Thinker, The Red Ghost, and Dr. Doom as they assemble the contents of the formerly-believed-lost contents of the Library of Alexandria through the years. Their first mission is an incursion into the home of the Eternals. Here the protagonists discover there are other locations around the planet with further Alexandrian contents, including Wakanda and Atlantis. Bucking the silver Age trend of simplicity, here we see that it takes months and years for the protagonists to prepare to actually launch a mission to gain the knowledge they’re after, as well as the explanation that allows for what we’ve already seen in the last half-decade of continuity regarding these characters. As the issue closes out, we get some info regarding the Red Hulk, which actually intrigues me after never before this having any interest in even the concept of that character.

The story is pretty good in and of itself. It’s not spectacular, and I’m not a huge fan of retcons…but for my understanding of things, the backstory that is here inserted into existing continuity seems to work. Additionally, I feel like I have a better understanding of who The Leader and The Red Ghost are now than I ever did before.
The art is also quite solid…while keeping its own feel, it also evokes some of the feeling of the different eras the story touches upon.

Though I came to the issue familiar with little more than the characters’ names and visual representations (excepting Dr. Doom), everyone was quite recognizable, and I really enjoyed the visuals.
Even though I’ve not followed the Hulk side of the Marvel Universe since World War Hulk ended, I still really enjoyed this issue and found that I didn’t need to know recent events. I’ve often enjoyed stories that flesh out villain characters and give them depth and motivation, and true explanation for why they would door act as they do, and this is one such issue.

I expect this is little more than set-up in the grand scheme of things, but if you want a Leader story involving a teaming-up of supervillains (including death and betrayal) reminiscent of 1980s stories but with a modern feel, this is a great issue for that.

Ratings:

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

Green Lantern Corps #50 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

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

Green Arrow #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Black Lantern Green Arrow #30 [Review]

Lying to Myself

Writer: J.T. Krul
Pencils: Diogenes Neves
Inks: Ruy Jose, Vicente Cifuentes
Colors: Chuck Pires
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Greg Horn
Editor: Adam Schlagman
Published by: DC Comics

This is yet another issue where we get to see one of the Nekron/Black-Ring-posessed heroes fighting against what their outward body has become. In this case, Green Arrow as a Black Lantern, trapped inside his own body, watching it do and say horrible stuff to those he loves. While Ollie recalls key parts of his life and how certain people were there for him, how much they mean to him…his body is busy trying to kill those people, while he hopes they will have the strength to take him down.

I don’t think I was are of Krul before Blackest Night. What I’ve read of his throughout this event, though, leaves me quite interested in what he has to offer in general. In this case, I enjoyed the one-shot nature of this issue, as its context fills one in on the things they need to know about the character, while presenting some of those “deep” moments as a Black Lantern does horrible stuff to someone with strong emotional ties to the deceased (even if Ollie is something else, not dead but not alive, while possessed by one of the Black Rings). The moments touched on throughout this issue are both familiar and unfamiliar. It was particularly touching to see that a moment I remember being so moving to me back in 1994’s Zero Hour was a key moment to the character even here, 15 years later.

The entire art team did a great job on this issue, really capturing a surreal tone that really enhanced the story. The effect of having what’s at the forefront of Ollie’s perception in normal color, while other things that were going on around his body but not part of the memories he was going through inside lent a great effect to things. The visuals in general were very good here. I’m not familiar offhand with Neves‘ art, but this issue felt familiar, and I think Neves‘ style is similar to Ivan Reis‘; at least, this didn’t feel like something that was all that different from the core Blackest Night series.

Though I haven’t read an issue of Green Arrow since before Infinite Crisis, I didn’t feel lost reading this. There may be subtle stuff I’m not picking up on that’ll mean more to others who have followed the ongoing stuff. But on the whole, this seems quite accessible to those following Blackest Night in general, or who know at least the broad strokes of Green Arrow’s place in the DCU.

The cover is a nice homage to that silver age Neal Adams cover; here, reversing the image, with Ollie “charging” a ring and Hal shattering the lantern, mid-oath. It speaks volumes on its own, conveying a sense of history for those familiar with the history, but still serves as a fairly symbolic image of this issue in itself.

While I’ve been down on a couple other recent issues with this sort of theme/set-up (Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2, Adventure Comics #7, etc), this one actually works for me in a way those other issues did not. Perhaps it’s because of the way this ends, differently than I expected it to; or that I have more interest and “history” with Green Arrow than I do Wonder Woman…perhaps it’s simply my lack of context with this Green Arrow series, and so enjoying this “random” issue.

Accessible for newer readers, and presumably deeper meaning for longtime readers. This issue is very much rooted within Blackest Night…other than remembered past events for characters, this issue doesn’t seem tied to previous issues, and this issue leads back to Blackest Night itself (as opposed to the characters walking through a Blackest Night tie-in to go back to the normal/continuing story next issue virtually unscathed).

Recommended.

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

Superman/Batman #68 [Review]

The Big Noise, part one: Rumble Face

Writer: Joe Casey
Pencils: Ardian Syaf
Inks: Vicente Cifuentes & David Enebral
Color: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Syaf, Cifuentes and Arreola
Assistant Editor: Rex Ogle
Editor: Eddie Berganza

I wanted to like this issue. I was even looking forward to it, on hearing the book would come back into continuity with stories revisiting previous events. In this case, Summer 2001’s “Our Worlds at War” crossover event. I couldn’t remember which issue would begin this new “format” or “focus” of the series, but when I saw the Our Worlds at War banner across the top, I was excited. A bit of nostalgia flooded in seeing the tag “Casualties of War!” included–several of those Casualties of War issues back in 2001 were among the most powerful comics I read that year. So to say that I had high hopes for this issue would probably be an understatement.

And as one might expect from my phrasing…this issue was extremely disappointing in its execution. Other than the time-frame it’s supposed to be set in, and references to the world having just been through a war, there’s not much that seems to solidly place this issue’s events as coming on the heels of Our Worlds at War itself.

I suspect this is another “standard” story arc…that is, six-issues and well-paced for the eventual “graphic novel,” which might even have some sales crossover with the 2-volume collected edition of the event, or the large “omnibus” TPB. As a single issue, though…this is entirely forgettable.

The story doesn’t even begin to hook me–the “hook” was the OWAW tie-in. The hope that I’d see something that would make this feel like a long-lost chapter of that story. That expectation never did deliver. I’m confident that once all 6 issues are assembled, and read in one-go, possibly following a re-reading of the original event…the OVERALL story is likely to come across much better.

The art is very solid throughout, and not at all a bad depiction of Superman nor Batman. I really have no complaint with the visuals…they’re actually quite good overall. Nothing memorable, exactly…just good, clean work.

Unless you don’t mind a slow build, and an issue that’s nothing more than introduction to a standardized-arc format, I’m highly disinclined to recommend this issue.

Story: 4/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 5/10

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