Monthly Archives: February 2010

A Night to Remember

Variant coverBlackest Night #7
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Oclair Albert & Joe Prado
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover artists: Reis & Albert/Rodolfo Migliari (variant)
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Geoff Johns must’ve been really pleased when he saw Avatar or a little bit miffed (I’m assuming he saw it; given the box-office numbers on the flick, our entire species must’ve seen it). A central plot point and the main theme of the movie are reflected in the climactic revelation of this penultimate issue of Blackest Night. While not necessarily predictable, there’s definitely a certain logic to the plotting leading up to the reveal that keeps it from having that “wow” factor. Fortunately, the action that fills the scenes before that big moment makes for a thoroughly entertaining read. While many of the Blackest Night spinoffs/tie-ins have left something to be desired, the core event title has featured solid, fun super-hero storytelling.

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Books With Missing Pages

Advance cover art for Blackest Night hardcoverIt’s a new era over at DC Comics, or should I say DC Entertainment, with last week’s announcement of its new lineup of executives who will guide the comics publisher into the second decade of the 21st century. But while there’s an atmosphere of renewed energy and drive at DC, I noticed that in some other information it released last week, the publisher appears to be on the cusp of repeating the same mistake it made last year when it came to the collection edition of a crossover event.

Along with its advance solicitation information for its May comics and other products, DC also released some information about collected editions slated for release later this summer. Most notable among those listings were the seven — count ’em, seven — hardcover collected editions of DC’s popular Blackest Night comics. The Blackest Night hardcover is priced at $29.99 US, while the other six books ring in at $24.99 US. The first three are slated for release July 7, while two each will reach stores July 14 and 21.

To my surprise, the Blackest Night hardcover collects only Blackest Night #s 0-8 inclusive. That would seem to be logical, but those such as myself who’ve been following the event know that there are key developments in the story that take place in other titles. Green Lantern and the Atom & Hawkman one-shot come to mind. What’s worse is that DC’s own solicitation information for these hardcover collections acknowledges that shortcoming.

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Quick Critiques – Feb. 19, 2010

Liefeld variant coverChase Variant One Shot (Is All I Need) one-shot (Image Comics)
by Rich Johnston, Saverio Tenuta & Bagwell

I decided to pick up this comic book because I like Rich Johnston’s online musings about the comic-book industry and some of his past efforts have been amusing. I expected a comic that embraced satire, that spoofed the Kewl comics of the 1990s (many of which were published by the same company that published this comic, oddly enough). To my surprise, I didn’t find what I expected, but I did find an intelligently constructed story about hobbies and escapist fiction. This comic is made up of three shorter stories featuring the title heroine — a genetically engineered assassin — in battle with various threats, but connecting all three is a parallel story running under (literally) all of them, featuring two guys playing a collectible-card game. Now, incorporating a CCG into a comic-book story seems a little behind the times — such games peaked a decade or so ago — but I really enjoy the dual approach to the storytelling. Ultimately, I think Johnston’s point about such Kewl comics characters and stories is that they’re random and a bit pointless, but they can also serve as a fun diversion.

Two artists contribute line art to this book. Saverio Tenuta’s style is a more conventional pencil/ink approach, reminiscent of Todd (Spawn) McFarlane’s work. He captures the over-the-top intensity that serves to define characters such as Chase Variant. Bagwell’s painted (or at least it looks painted) art brings an even darker, slightly more realistic tone to bear, but the shift actually works in the context of the story. From start to finish, having jumped from one story to another, the title character becomes more and more aware of the illogical nature of what’s happening. Both artists bring consistency to the book by following Johnston’s structure closely. The white space along the bottom panel of each page (no doubt at Johnston’s direction) strings everything together nicely. 7/10

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Right Makes Might?

Tea Party scene in Cap #602When I read Captain America #602 a couple of weeks ago, I appreciated the real-world political and social elements that writer Ed Brubaker incorporated into the story. By including the Tea Party movement (or an analogy of it), Brubaker’s script becomes all the more relevant and interesting. Mind you, as much as I enjoyed seeing such poignant and thought-provoking elements in the super-hero story, I was much more disappointed when Brubaker and Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada apologized for that content, claiming it was unintentional and explaining it away as a lettering gaffe. I’m at a loss as to why they were quick to cow-tow to a political movement that probably boasted very few members that are also Marvel readers, and I was thoroughly disappointed that Marvel plans to alter select elements from Cap #602 for eventual collected editions.

So the Tea Party folks saw everything from insults to conspiracies. Marvel apparently saw a PR problem. And I saw much ado about nothing, not to mention corporate interests usurping the integrity of art.

Fortunately, the folks at comics publisher Boom! Studios saw something else: an opportunity.

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Syndication in Animation

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths 2-Disc Digital Copy Special Edition DVD
Main movie
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Voice Actors: William Baldwin, Mark Harmon, Chris Noth, Gina Torres, James Woods, Jonathan Adams, Brian Bloom, Bruce Davison, Josh Keaton, Vanessa Marshall, Nolan North, Freddi Rogers & James Patrick Stuart
Directors: Sam Lui & Lauren Montgomery

“DC Showcase – The Spectre”
Writer: Steve Niles
Voice Actors: Gary Cole, Alyssa Milano, Jeff Bennett, Rob Paulsen & Jon Polito
Director: Joaquim Dos Santos

Producer: Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Premiere Home Video
Rating: PG-13

Crisis: Writer Dwayne McDuffie takes classic and cherished concepts from DC’s history — in this case, infinite alternate dimensions and the Justice League’s first encounter with their evil counterparts, the Crime Syndicate — and updates them. For longtime super-hero comics fans such as myself, there are a lot of familiar elements that will delight but there’s so much new going on here that the story avoids predictability and has a real sense of excitement and tension to it. Furthermore, one needn’t be familiar with the source material in any way to enjoy the plot and action. Of the various DC Universe animated movies that have been released thus far, I’d have to say this is my favorite of the bunch.

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Road Trip

The Road to God Knows… original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Von Allan
Publisher: Von Allan Studio
Price: $12.95

When it comes to the slice-of-life genre in comics, there’s a rich vein of storytelling strength to be found in independent and self-published works. Often, writers and artists starting out in the medium wisely stick with what they know rather than delve into fantasy or action stories. Von Allan is one such creator, who offers up a period piece about an awkward teenage girl who’s lost in her own life. Marie’s struggle to find herself or any happiness in difficult and painful circumstances is normally the kind of story I love to see from indy creators, but the plotting here is incredibly slow. Furthermore, the conflicts don’t seem to go anywhere.

There’s certainly a heartfelt tone to the writing, and as a Canadian, it was fun to see cultural elements unique to the Great White North incorporated into the script. Ultimately, though, I think the creator would have benefitted from some strong editing and guidance. Furthermore, while it’s easy to see that Von Allan has strived to establish a realistic look in the artwork, he needs to work on perspective and anatomy.

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When Is a Comic Con Not a Comic Con?

So Gareb Shamus has announced his latest comic-convention acquisition with the addition of Cleveland Comic Con to his roster of Wizard World events, bringing it to a total of 11. Shamus continued his strategy of scooping up a smaller convention from the owner/s and keeping him/them on as a consultant or show-runner. This time around, he bought the North Coast Comic Con from Roger Priebe, who will advise Shamus’s people and consult on the convention.

In the official news release, Priebe said, “This partnership is a win-win for everyone; the fans, the industry and the locals. I see nothing but good things ahead.”

Well, he’s not looking hard enough.

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Quick Critiques – Feb. 5, 2010

Astro City: The Dark Age, Book Four #1 (DC Comics/Wildstorm Productions)
by Kurt Busiek & Brent E. Anderson

First of all… wow, what a cover. This is one of Alex Ross’s most striking covers and character designs, not only for Astro City comics. The greenery and the intensity of the stare really allow this book to stand out when racked along with other recent comics release. This elemental force of nature, the Green Man, doesn’t play a pivotal role in the plot, but he serves to send a strong thematic message to the main characters. It’s good that this has just an attractive and effective cover, because the subtitle — The Dark Age, Book Four — isn’t the most alluring one I’ve seen. The Book Four part is basically a cue for new readers to avoid this comic book, and that’s too bad, because Busiek’s script is thoroughly accessible despite the fact that this is the umpteenth issue in an ongoing story arc. The Williams brothers have really transformed into well-supplied and armed rogues who ignore everything else going on around them in pursuit of the man who killed their parents. Busiek really drives home how anger and thirst for revenge have tainted these two men, and their prey’s desperation and fear also sells the story effectively as well.

Anderson’s art is obviously a lot rougher in tone than the polished, photorealistic images that Alex Ross provides for the covers, but that grittier look works well with the larger theme of the story. The Dark Age is about a period in American history that wounded the country’s ideals, that robbed a proud nation of its innocence. That’s reflected in the sketchier leanings in Anderson’s approach to the characters and action. He handles the Green Man adeptly as well, albeit in a different way than Ross did for the cover. He captures the immensity of the character’s presence nicely, further reinforcing the thematic importance of that scene. 8/10

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Let’s Talk About X

Ultimate X #1
“Chapter One: His Father’s Son”
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Arthur Adams
Digital inks & colors: Aspen MLT
Letters: Comicraft
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I only made two issues into Jeph Loeb’s last foray into Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, Ultimatum, before the excesses of the plotting turned me off, and I dropped Hulk after a few months, though I did enjoy some of Loeb’s Red Hulk storylines over the course of its first year. So some might wonder why I’m back for another dose of Loeb after his other recent disappointments (albeit strong-selling ones). Well, artist Arthur Adams draws some pretty pictures at times, and I did like the prospect of a new character (rather than a retooled one) being featured in a new Ultimate title. The good news is that this is much better than Ultimatum, as it boasts a more character-driven tone. Furthermore, I like how Loeb and Marvel have taken the notion of mutants an analogy for racism in society to an extreme, albeit in a logical way given the events of Ultimatum. The bad news, though, is that the potential in the plot is overshadowed by the bombastic, ridiculously outdated quality of the opening scene and the central character’s impossibly easy acceptance of the weirdness that’s erupted in his life.

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Caps in Your Ass

In recent weeks, it seemed as though every other Marvel periodical I picked up featured an appearance by the original Captain America, back from the dead as a result of the events of Captain America: Reborn #6. It was a bit irksome, though, as the comic that ended with the character’s resurrection hadn’t been released. Other Captain America-related titles would turn up in my account at the local comic shop, so I started setting them aside until I could read them in the order in which they were intended.

Well, Reborn #6 finally landed last week, so I sat down to peruse a trio of comics featuring the title character all at once.

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