Tim Stevens' Reviews

Opinions on the Work of People Far More Talented Than I

A plethora of books out this week and most were very good. Sadly, those that weren’t were downright atrocious. Let’s take a look-see, shall we?


52 Week 7

“Going Down”
Published by: DC
Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdows: Keith Giffen
Artists: Ken Lashley and Draxhall
Colorist: Alex Sinclair

Awwwwwwwwww damn! You’s in trouble now Booster.

And might I say, nice work Mr. Dibny.

But please, I’ll give you anything DC, just stop the Donna Troi backup feature.

B (paying the backup no mind)

All Star Superman #4

“The Superman/Olsen War”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Frank Quitely
Digital Inker/Colorist: Jamie Grant

Wow…that’s like a sugar rush…inside my head (and here endeth my attempt to be Grant Morrison).

In all seriousness though, this was a shot of pure, unadulterated comic book-ness. And it is SO good.

I know, I know. “But Tim, you’re generally down on the Silver Age.” Well, yes, but only because most of the time the Silver Age shows up now, it is not really Silver Age-y. I mean, sure, it involves Krypto or Supergirl or hundred of shade of Kryptonite or whatever, but it doesn’t feel like the Silver Age. It feels like someone really like the Silver Age and thus just dropped elements of it into modern stories without attempting to really make them work.

Here, Morrison/Quitely nail the tone of the Silver Age. It’s big, crazy, colorful, and madcap. It’s not afraid to make Jimmy Olsen cool or give him a nice set of breasts. It’s not afraid to give Superman a complete change of personality to be resolved eight pages later. Could I deal with all my comics being like this, all the time? Probably not. But for one or two (I think Nextwave is sort of a cynical cousin of this book) comics? It fits just right.

Also, special props to the generally unsung Jamie Grant. He’s not as incredible a colorist as say Mettler or D’Armata, but he does strong solid work and does it while being responsible for the digital inking as well. I say DC throw his name on the cover too. He may not be a big guy like Morrison or Quitely, but he deserves credit.

A

Birds of Prey #95

“A Cup of Kindness Yet”
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Joe Prado
Inker: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Hi-Fi Design

Ouch…Prometheus falls for the ol’ shot to the crotch again. Otherwise, I’ve pretty darn happy with how Prometheus was written in this issue (and arc). And heck, at least the kick to the crotch is a continuity nod, of sorts, to his first appearance. I was pretty sure he’d be toxic for a bit following his (mis)treatment in Gotham Knights and I’m thrilled to see that that isn’t so.

Great ending for the Crime Doctor as well. Very much dug the step inside his head and how his origin followed a logical (albeit horrifying) sequence of events before culminating in his “other’s” “birth”.

The Canary storyline, which had been the weakest for me, ends in a similarly “eh” way. It’s certainly more interesting than when it started, but that’s not saying much. Plus, it hit one of my pet peeves. Yes, Oliver Queen is now mayor of a major city. Yes, that means he would wield a decent amount of power if he and Star City were real. At least, in the state in which Star City is located he would. Maybe even the region. But beyond that, not so much. The mayor of Chicago could not make it so you could illegally bring a baby into the country and neither could the mayor of Star City, awesome facial hair or not. Also, isn’t bringing in a kid like the kiss of death for serial storytelling? Haven’t we already had our hearts broken enough by the cousin Olivers of the world?

Still, it’s over with now and it was okay while it lasted. Meanwhile, things with the rest of the crew were more than good enough to make up for this draggy subplot.

B

Ex Machina #21

“Smoke Smoke” Chapter 1
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciller: Tony Harris
Inker: Tom Feister
Colorist: JD Mettler

Maybe it’s the renewed interest generated by the Special, maybe not. In any case, this issue, the opening of the “Smoke, Smoke” arc, is probably the strongest of the “main” title (in other words, not counting the Special) since issue 15 or so. There are weird occurrences that may or may not be connected, a new villain (I love how Vaughan gets the villains into “masks” and “costumes” despite the “real world” setting), and conspiracies afoot. Vaughan, and this book, are at their best when they are juggling many storylines, both big and small, and this issue gets back to doing that. The result is a resurgence of energy that reminds me of what I was missing in this title a few issues back. It was not action, in the superhero sense, it was action, in the physical/plot momentum sense. So while recent efforts were good, this is up to par with what I’ve come to expect out of this series.

A

The Flash #1

“Flashback”
Writers: Danny Bilson and Paul Demeo
Penciller: Ken Lashley
Inker: KWL Studio, Norm Rapmund, Marlo Alquiza, and Jay Leisten
Colorist: Carrie Strachan

Huh. And here I thought New Avengers would feature the most muddled match of storytelling, art, and plot this week. Never underestimate a book’s capacity to surprise you.

First off, on the positive side, I have to say that I think Strachan’s coloring is, at the least interesting, and Lashley’s art, while not as strong as his conceptual drawing, has merit as well. However, the meeting of the two seems problematic. I’m not saying it is “bad” because I don’t think either element is. I just think they are wrong for each other. Also, four inkers? Really?

As for the story…I’ve read it three times and I still have the same question: why? Why start and end the issue where you do? Why the Barry Allen narration interlude? Why sacrifice any hope of building interest in the book by shoveling yet more vagueness on a book that has a heaping helping of it since it was first announced? The Speed Force as a danger is interesting and the writing duo clearly know their Flash facts (check out the Black Flash, everybody!) but goodness. This book had to work double time to connect with an audience made up of Waid fans, Johns fans, Wally fans, and those that just hate the idea of Bart being an adult (which probably includes those who were already sore at the Impulse to Kid Flash transition two or so years ago) but it comes out of the gate, I don’t know, limping (to throw in a strained metaphor). It’s not unsalvageable (what book featuring Jay Garrick could be) but the rest of this arc’s going to have to be a homerun if this thing’s gonna survive its infancy.

D

Manhunter #23

“Phantom Pain”
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Layouts: Javier Pina and Diego Olmos
Finishes: Fernando Blanco
Colorist: Jason Wright

Kate trades one large superhero family (the Pratts) for another (that would be telling) with the news of her true lineage this time out. I think I would have liked to see her connected to a Golden Age family that had a few less limbs off the family tree already, but anything that connects back to that family usually turns out pretty damn good, so what the heck.

While the lineage issue was neither here nor there for me, I liked Kate’s reunion with her grandmother and what that could/should mean for the supporting cast and future storylines. I too am looking forward to she and Ramsey’s reunion.

The non-lineage related stuff took the cake though. Dylan Battles continues his quest to be Comics’ Most Valuable Supporting Player as he comes clean about who Kilg%re is, freaks out about Chase, and then attempts to “accidentally” run into Chase in public because of how worried he was. He’s just positively excellent. The banter is strong as always as well, especially between Todd and Damon during the café scene, and the new villain is convincingly crazy and an excellent Broadway reference, all rolled into one.

A

Robin #151

“Harder Questions”
Writer: Adam Beechen
Artist: Freddie E. Williams II
Colorist: Guy Major

Bad news Batgirl fans: It’s not all a dream, a robot, or a clone (well, it might be the latter two, but so far, there’s no such indication.

Good news Robin fans: The book remains quite good.

Beechen’s in a tough spot here, as are fans. Beechen, as one blogger recently put it, is stuck with the unenviable position of following through on an editorial mandate to turn a hero into a villain (see also, again as the blogger pointed out, Ron Marz). It doesn’t matter how well you do it, you are still taking someone’s (or several someones’ in the case of cult favorite Batgirl) favorite character and turning them evil. From the fans’ perspective it is tough as well. You want someone to be angry and blame for it, but again, Beechen is following through on a process begun in another title before he took on “Robin”. The fact that “Robin” is a better title now than at any point in recent history (dating back to about the midpoint of Chuck Dixon’s run) only further clouds allegiances.

For me, I’m siding on “Robin” being a good book again. The rest is unfortunate and, admittedly, not convincingly told. I’m holding out hope that it will either a.) all come out in the wash (in other words, Superboy punches reality again and this is all forgotten) or b.) a suitable explanation does surface, and soon.

Looking beyond Cassie’s turn, a number of cool subplots are setup here, not the least of which is the former Joker flunkie coming out of the woodwork to warn cops about plots that even Mr. J himself has forgotten that he set up (god, there are so many misplaced modifiers in that sentence. Somewhere, Ms. Perkins, my 10th grade English teacher is screaming). The pending Captain Boomerang/Robin faceoff is equally interesting, but less surprising, given Previews and all that. The final one, of a new hero in Gotham, could go either way for me. I’d hate to see another Nite-Wing (although Dixon did that whole thing nicely), but I can’t think of another way it could go down without either putting another death on the Bat family’s conscience or further overstuffing Gotham’s superhero population. I’m probably putting the car before the horse on that one though.

Finally, check out that cover. Damn! If Gleason was turning in the level of work for GLC that he is on these covers, I’d probably still be collecting that title. Very well done.

B

Shadowpact #2

“Pentacle”
Writer/Penciller: Bill Willingham
Inker: Wayne Faucher
Colorist: Chris Chuckry

I’ll admit it, I’m normally a sucker for the “heroes face off against their opposite number” stories. Normally. As delivered in this issue though, I find myself doing little more than stifling a yawn.

The action, while dominating the issue, feels perfunctory and cannot seem to inject any life into the story. The art can be partially blamed for this. It is workmanlike, but rarely anything more. However, the script is no better. The snaps of wit that were present in the miniseries this book grew out of are nowhere to be found. The rest of the dialogue is flat, dull, failing to achieve any measure of menace when necessary. About all it does convey is arrogance and even that seems to be a half measure.

I’ve gotta be honest, this makes my list of most disappointing OYL launch.

D

Astonishing X-Men #15

Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin

Sweet pastiche! I may not have read the story that the ending of this book draws its inspiration from (I know, I know. A comics reviewer who has not the “classic” X-Men stories? Throw him to the wolves!!!) but I still recognize it and got a kick out of it.

Of course, getting a kick out of it is meaningless if the rest of the story is just no good. But this is Astonishing X-Men we’re talking about so don’t worry about that. The art looks great, a few of the young students got a moment to shine, and the book is not afraid to reference Morrison’s New X-Men or to mock Wolverine’s “I’m the best blah blah blah” past.

My only complaint: is Colossus really that oblivious?

Otherwise, great stuff.

A

The New Avengers #20

“The Collective” Part Four
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mike Deodata Jr.
Inker: Joe Pimentel
Colorists: Dave Stewart and Richard Isanove

I don’t read X-Men books (Astonishing being the exception, see below) and I avoided House of M . Apparently, this book tells me, for that I must be punished with this bit of nigh incomprehensibility.

The irony here is that, despite not reading House or X-Men, I am familiar with the elements here. I know all about the “No More Mutants” exhalation that closed House and I read Grant Morrison’s New X-Men when all was said and done. I was even aware of Xorn’s return in whatever X-Men title Chuck Austen was writing. Yet I’d still be hard pressed to tell what the devil is going on here or, more importantly, why anyone should try and figure it out.

Making matters worse is Deodata’s art which is the ugliest I’ve seen from him since the mid 90’s when it may or may not have actually been him drawing it (Deodata had a “studio” that signed his name regardless of who did it, which is why “he” could pencil like 5 books a month back then). Perspective is a mess with figures being too large or too small in comparison with other figures. The worst is when the “too small/too large”-ness fluctuates for the same character on the same page.

I’ve generally been a New Avengers fan. I don’t get the “But they aren’t really the Avengers” line of reasoning that every non-fan seems honor bound to fling at the product. I’m a huge Bendis fan (some have even said apologist). So this is not an angry screed against the creators or the book.

But this…this is just no good.

D

The Ultimates 2 #11

“America Strikes Back”
Writer: Mark Millar
Penciler: Bryan Hitch
Inker: Paul Neary
Colorist: Laura Martin

Not much happens this month, but what does looks gorgeous. All topped off with a great ending that we all knew was coming at some point and still managed to be deeply satisfying.

B