Monthly Archives: June 2007

Rotten to the Corps

Green Lantern Sinestro Corps Special #1
“Sinestro Corps, Prologue: The Second Rebirth”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist/Cover artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Colors: Mouse Baumann
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US/$5.99 CAN

Crisis on Infinite Earths. “The Death of Superman.” “Emerald Twilight.” “The Return of Superman.” Green Lantern: Rebirth. Villains United. Infinite Crisis. Ion. 52 #52. These stories and more are really required reading if one wants to fully appreciate the various continuity references that turn up in this new Green Lantern story. Johns’s script is incredibly dense, and even those with knowledge of the DC history at play here might be a little put off. To the writer’s credit, though, a creepy atmosphere of intense foreboding manages to pierce that wall of potential inaccessibility to pull the reader into the prelude to a cosmic war. The plot here may be dressed up with the notions of ideology, prophecy and emotion, but it’s actually quite simple: opposite numbers are getting ready to rumble. No, the book derives its strength not from plot but from atmosphere. Ethan Van Sciver’s dark artwork goes a long way to enhancing the tense and unsettling mood that pervades almost every moment in the story.

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The Music Man

Phonogram Vol. 1: Rue Britannia trade paperback
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist/Cover artist: Jamie McKelvie
Letters: Jamie McKelvie & Drew Gill
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $14.99 US

Though lauded by many, Phonogram has also been the target of criticism. Writer Kieron Gillen’s been accused of immersing the plot in far too many music references, ranging from the somewhat mainstream to the obscure. I have to admit that I didn’t pick up on the majority of the band and musician references that serve as important elements when it came to the plot and characters. Nevertheless, that insider, inaccessible perspective didn’t deter me. Gillen’s powerful characterization and novel ideas, combined with Jamie McKelvie’s soft but solid artwork, make for an engaging read. This story isn’t really about Britpop, undiscovered bands or music as magic. Instead, it’s about art being corrupted, manipulated from something that inspires, something one loves, into something to be used for personal gain, for ego. We’ve all got our passions, things we love that, in part, make us who we are, and Gillen’s story is about what happens when a warm, soothing passion turned into a cold, hard weapon.

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Annotations – Justice League of America #10

With this week’s release of Justice League of America #10, Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns’s JLA/JSA/Legion of Super-Heroes teamup tale comes to a close. And that means I have one last installment of my “Lightning Saga” annotations to share. The two writers, with their scripts for this event, have mined some somewhat obscure veins of continuity, and these notes should help some newer readers make sense of the story. For the previous four sets of these annotations, you can click here, here, here and here. Otherwise, let’s proceed with the final set in the series…

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Quick Critiques – June 20, 2007

Annihilation: Conquest Prologue #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Mike Perkins

Though Civil War lit up the sales charts for Marvel in 2006 and 2007, one could easily argue that its Annihilation brand was a bigger success. The various Annihilation limited series didn’t sell Civil War numbers, but the creators behind those titles managed to grab readers’ attention with a number of third-tier, space-faring characters that no one really cared about at the time. The first round of Annihilation was so successful that it spawned a new hit ongoing title (Nova) and this sequel event. My concern was that the writers would tread the same territory as before, but Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning introduce a creepy new threat. The tension in this script is palpable, and it really draws one into this cosmic drama. More importantly, though, the writers are careful to bring these impossible heroes down to earth. With the new Quasar, they do so with her relationship with Moondragon and her insecurities about living up to heroic legacies. With Star-Lord, it’s his charisma and humor that make the cybernetically enhanced hero seem like a regular guy. Mike Perkins was an excellent choice as artist. His style brings a dark sense of drama to bear as well as a creepy, almost supernatural air to it. More importantly, the photorealistic leanings in his art makes these alien beings seem like people, not impossible figures on the far side of the universe. The design for the physical manifestation of the technological infection that drives the story forward is simple but thoroughly effective in instilling a sense of foreboding. it also makes it clear to the characters and readers that the infestation is deeply rooted and seemingly impossible to overcome. 8/10

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Paradise Lost

Strangers in Paradise #90
Writer/Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Terry Moore
Publisher: Abstract Studios
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN

My one-time reviewing partner Randy Lander introduced me to the world of Strangers in Paradise a few years ago, and I was immediately drawn into Terry Moore’s unique love story. Predominantly about a romantic triangle, the story also boasted crime-story elements, sitcom-like humor and even a touch of espionage-genre intrigue. I followed the series religiously for a while, even during its stint at Image Comics, but eventually, it felt as though nothing was getting resolved. After a move and a missed issue or two, I lost touch with the title altogether. With the release of its final issue, though, I jumped at the chance to revisit these characters and see the ultimate culmination of Moore’s vision for his cherished characters, Katchoo, Francine and David. This concluding issue held a couple of surprises, but more importantly, it offered exactly the sort of ending I would imagine fans desired. In some ways, Moore’s wrap-up seems too neat. The ever-after proves to be a little too happy. On the other hand, there’s such a pure, hopeful tone to the script that one can’t help but become infected by the joy. As enjoyable as the ending is, what’s most impressive is the series as a whole. Terry Moore is to be applauded for delivering this title consistently and reliably for so many years, all on his own.

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Quick Critiques – June 14, 2007

Countdown #46 (DC Comics)
by Paul Dini, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray & Jesus Saiz/by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of DC Universe characters than me, and I love to see lesser known characters put to use in adventure stories and cosmic crossovers. So Countdown should be firing on all cylinders as far as I’m concerned, right? Wrong. This sixth issue of DC’s current weekly series disappoints in a number of ways. The more traditional tone to the super-hero story is lost when we see Mary marvel against a demon made up with the souls of stillborn babies. Stillborn babies? Who thought that was a good idea for a mainstream DC super-hero book? To be fair, it’s an interesting concept and definitely evokes an emotional response from the reader, but it would be more at home in a Swamp Thing or Hellblazer comic from DC’s Vertigo imprint. The new character introduced in this issue, Forerunner, doesn’t stand out in any way. All we know of her is that she’s a speedster, but the design looks generic inspired by the empty, Kewl mode of super-hero comics of the early 1990s. I remain interested in the Jimmy Olsen plotline, and Jason Todd’s detective skills help him stand out as an interesting character. I’m also a fan of the Flash’s Rogues Gallery, but the writers prove with this issue that including Piper among their number once again just doesn’t jibe with past continuity. Saiz’s art is pretty solid here, especially the Mary Marvel scenes (and his design for the unsettling demon is quite powerful). The “History of the Multiverse” backup story just doesn’t work in this format. The cosmic recap of DC’s past just doesn’t work in four-page spurts. Furthermore, Rapmund’s inks sometimes get in the way of Jurgens’s normally crisp, dynamic lines; the Monitor crowd scenes always look rushed, and the small distinctions among the Monitors are rarely clear. 3/10

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Home Is Where the Art Is

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Alison Bechdel
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Price: $13.95 US (softcover) / $19.95 US (hardcover)

It may seem like I’m late in the game when it comes to reviewing this award-winning and much-lauded graphic novel, but given the recent release of the softcover edition of the book, it merits some extra attention now anyway. Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical exploration of her dysfunction family dynamic, her father’s repressed sexuality and the parallels she sees in her own sexual awakening during her youth is a challenging read. It’s also enlightening with the information the author provides and impressive when it comes to the depths of her honesty. Earlier chapters are certainly stronger than those toward the end of the book, as the creator becomes mired in literary parallels, but ultimately, her matter-of-fact narration and sense of personal isolation make it surprisingly easy to relate to her and her odd upbringing. Her cartooning is remarkably effective at establishing the dreariness and quiet of small-town existence as well. Perhaps what’s most encouraging about this project is how it has reached out beyond the traditional niche comics market and demonstrated the power of the medium to an audience that’s not so obsessed with super-heroes and swordsmen.

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Boys Will Be Boys

The Boys Volume 1: The Name of the Game trade paperback & The Boys #7
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist/Cover artist: Darick Robertson
Colors: Tony Avina
Letters: Greg Thompson & Simon Bowland
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $14.99 US (TPB) / $2.99 US (comic)

When this property debuted under DC’s Wildstorm Productions banner, I made a point of checking it out. After all, I’m a fan of both writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson, and their gritty, extreme sensibilities are a good match. Ultimately, the first couple of issues failed to really grab me, as I felt I had seen this sort of over-the-top satire of the super-hero genre many times before from Ennis. With Dynamite Entertainment’s decision to publish the property in the wake of some skittishness over content at DC Comics, The Boys is receiving a second promotional push, and I’m pleased I took a second look at the title. Had I stuck with the first story arc, I would have discovered that Ennis tries to balance the more extremist tendencies in his plotting with some moments of vulnerability and actual optimism. Those brief instances of grounded characterization were welcome, but ultimately, The Boys is still defined by its typically Ennis-ian characters. The disdain for unchecked authority, a common theme in Ennis’s work, remains entertaining, but at this point in this career, it’s becoming cliched.

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Annotations – Justice Society of America #6

“The Lightning Saga,” the JLA/JSA/Legion of Super-Heroes teamup story running through Justice League of America and Justice Society of America, reaches its penultimate chapter, and so, we reach the next to last in this series of annotations. JLA writer Brad Meltzer and JSA scribe Geoff Johns clearly have a soft spot for the DC stories of the 1970s and 1980s, but some of the references from that era that they include here might elude newer comics readers. So I’ve put together this guide.

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