Monthly Archives: June 2011

Quick Critiques – June 30, 2011

Flashpoint: Reverse-Flash #1 (DC Comics)
by Scott Kolins & Joel Gomez

I’ve been enjoying both Flashpoint and the related spinoff books set in the altered DC Universe timeline, but after reading this one-shot featuring the catalyst for the event’s plot, I was puzzled. this isn’t set in the world of Flashpoint and doesn’t even seem all that connected to it, at least not directly. In the first issue of Flashpoint, we learn that the Flash’s dead mother was restored to life in the new timeline, but this comic book features the lead-up to her murder, not her resurrection. It reads more like a supplement to The Flash: Rebirth. Yes, it explains the Reverse-Flash’s motives, but it was only a few months ago that the antagonist was spotlighted in an issue of the regular Flash title. The notion of a man whose aspirations of heroism and glory are denied him by his hero is interesting, but I question if this merited yet another Flashpoint spinoff comic.

The art adorning this one-shot is unusual, and at first, I didn’t really know what I thought of it. Joel Gomez’s work here looks like a cross between the styles of Francis Manapul and Bill Sienkiewicz. The loose, exaggerated approach conveys the title character’s twisted, corrupt nature pretty well, and I actually really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the dark deeds wrought in the story and the bright and garish colors of the villain’s costume. Gomez could stand to learn that sometimes, less is more; for example, the evil grin splashed across the villain’s face at one point is too over the top. But overall, I enjoyed his unconventional artwork. 5/10

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The Proofreading Isn’t In the Pudding

I’ve written before about the smart public-relations campaign that DC Comics has run and continues to run so as to promote its fall relaunch of its entire super-hero line (save for a couple of younger-readers’ titles). DC has dominated the niche world of North American comic-book news since its initial announcement at the end of May, and all signs are that it’ll continue to do so for the rest of the summer. With 52 new titles, most of which boast new creative teams, the publisher can keep providing teases to its readership, ramping up anticipation. And honestly, I think it’s working. I wasn’t all that interested in the new O.M.A.C. book by Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen, for example, until I saw some interior art previews in recent days.

The only real complaint I had about the initiative, and more specifically, with the PR campaign, but the lack of a slogan or brand name for such a bold publishing plan. Well, it was my only main complaint until now, as I’ve recently made my way through DC’s website listings and solicitation information for the new 52 first issues. Some instances of sloppy promotional writing might point to just how rushed and chaotic things have been at DC since it first began to gear up for a summer of sensationalism.

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Gene Colan, 1926-2011

The first time I saw Gene Colan’s art, I didn’t care for it.

My introduction to Colan’s work wasn’t through his iconic run on Tomb of Dracula or Iron Man. I didn’t really get into Marvel’s comics until the mid 1980s, so it was his work on Batman that probably served as my initial Gene Colan experience.

It may have been Batman #340 — penned by Gerry Conway and introducing a villain named the Mole, a character that’s never resurfaced, as far as I know — that was my first Colan comic. The next was likely Batman #343, which introduced another footnote of a villain, Dagger.

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Post-Traumatic Stress New Order

Resurrection Volume One trade paperback
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artists: David Dumeer, Douglas Dabbs & Justin Greenwood
Colors: Dan Jackson
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Additional material: Pat Bollin, Robbi Rodriguez, Dominike Stanton, Brandon Graham, Christos Gage & Jon Proctor
Editors: James Lucas Jones & Jill Beaton
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $24.99 US

Given that the Green Lantern movie has been playing in cinemas for a week now, it’s probably how most comics fans have had (or will get) a taste of Marc Guggenheim’s work this month, as he’s the co-writer of the screen story and screenplay. It looked like I wouldn’t get a chance to get to the theatre for a while, so it seemed to me that the time had come for me to finish reading this creator-owned work of Guggenheim’s and to jot down my thoughts about the book.

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Krul Intentions

Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1
“The Show Must Go On”
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artist: Cliff Chiang & Jared Fletcher
Editor: Pat McCallum
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

There may no other writer in mainstream super-hero comics today who’s more maligned than J.T. Krul. The main reason: the awful (yet somehow award-winning) way he’s written former Green Arrow sidekick Arsenal as a one-armed, cybernetic, cat-twirling, junkie, lunatic super-hero. To be honest, I feel kind of bad for the guy (Krul, not Arsenal). The reality is that his take on the character was likely one directed by DC Editorial (or at the very least, approved and supported by DC Editorial). Krul landed assignments with DC’s lineup of 52 new titles in the fall, and many critics, (myself included), lamented this development. But to be fair, Krul seems like a reliable resource for DC, and it seems like that reliability is being rewarded with his participation in the publisher’s new direction. Krul’s critics couldn’t see why that was, but with the release of Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1, I can see what DC sees in his work. While some of the fun here stems from seeing new and radically different interpretations of DC lore, the real strength here lies in the characterization. This is by far the best thing to come out of Flashpoint thus far, and my only beef with it is that we’ll only get three issues of it. Krul has definitely redeemed himself in my eyes with this script.

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Quick Critiques – June 14, 2011

Godzilla: Gangsters & Goliaths #1 (IDW Publishing)
by John Layman & Alberto Ponticelli

One would think a lone cop’s war against a drug lord with seemingly unending influence and capacity for cruelty wouldn’t have much to do with Godzilla, but writer John (Chew) Layman delivers an odd but effective story that merges two disparate genres — hard-boiled crime and giant monsters — in a way that actually makes sense (or at least creates the illusion that it makes sense). The world in which Layman sets his story is one in which the world is well aware of the existence of Godzilla, Mothra and other monsters that call Monster Island home. I find it interesting that in such a world, life continues on as usual despite the “knowledge” of the existence of such immense, devastating threats. I also appreciated the achronological approach to the plotting, especially since Layman is careful to distinguish clearly between the Monster Island scenes and the flashbacks that explain the Tokyo detective hero’s story. Furthermore, the story development at the very end of the issue shows the protagonist isn’t exactly a paragon of ethical behavior, but is rather depicted as a desperate man willing to go to any lengths not only to survive but to come out on top of an impossible situation.

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Getting Even By Getting Mad

It’s been a rather intense week or two when it comes to announcements about super-hero comics, but obviously, DC Comics dominated the discussion with its rollout of details of its September line-wide relaunch. Over the weekend, Marvel Comics entered the fray with one of those announcements that it’ll announce something. It put the word out that it would deliver some big news Monday afternoon. The move seemed pretty clearly sparked by DC’s week-long PR campaign revealing the titles and creative teams that will serve as Marvel’s main competition in the marketplace in the fall. And even if it wasn’t a direct response to DC’s successful and well co-ordinated publicity moves, the perception certainly is that there’s a connection between the two.

When Marvel’s news finally arrived, it was word of a new ongoing Spider-Man title — Avenging Spider-Man — set to begin in November. Written by Zeb Wells and illustrated by Joe Madureira, the series will focus more on the title character’s super-heroic life (especially as a member of the Avengers, duh) rather than his personal life. Furthermore, it will feature repeated team-ups with other heroes.

Now here’s where Marvel went wrong.

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The New DC, Picks and Pans – Part 2

Before moving onto my thoughts on the second half of DC’s new fall lineup of titles (the first half is discussed here) and what DC did right and wrong with those choices, I first want to discuss briefly what it’s done right and wrong in another respect. Overall, regardless of how one feels about these new comics and the impact this broad publishing initiative might have on the comics marketplace, I think DC is to be commended for how it’s conducted its publicity campaign thus far. Not only has the September relaunch dominated industry news and discussions, but DC has managed to penetrate the mainstream media consciousness with this move. People outside of comics are aware of the relaunch. Furthermore, it’s managed to control the story well and kept a significant number of players from spoiling its secrets. And with DC’s announcement this week it will follow up that PR campaign with national television advertising, the publisher has demonstrated that this is not business as usual. Such dramatic shakeups in any business, let alone the comics publishing industry, are rare, and one has to respect the willingness to take on such an immense professional undertaking.

While I’ve taken issue with some of the choices DC has made in terms of specific titles in this relaunch, there’s been little to criticize as far as the publicity is concerned. There’s really only one aspect with which I take issue, but unfortunately, it’s a significant issue. DC forgot (or so it seems) to do one thing for this initiative, and that’s to identify. DC hasn’t named its baby, and that’s led to some possible misinformation and misrepresentation. Newsarama and Comics Beat have taken to calling the initiative “DCNu,” a play on “DCU” (short for “DC Universe”). Others keep referring to the relaunch or reboot, and DC officials have maintained it’s not a reboot. Maybe the publisher is holding off on announcing the branding identity for the relaunch so as to give it something to announce later on, thereby keeping the initiative in the pop-culture news cycle. Still, failing to name this line-wide endeavor seems like a missed opportunity to me and a painfully obvious move that DC shouldn’t have been able to overlook.

Anyhoo, on with the second half of my title-by-title, team-by-team commentary…

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The New DC, Picks and Pans – Part 1

For a long time, comics readers in North America fell into two main categories: those that discovered and favored DC Comics titles as kids, and those that latched onto Marvel Comics characters. The first three comics I ever got as a kid and read were an issue of Charlton’s Six Million Dollar Man, Amazing Spider-Man #183 (featuring Rocket Racer and the Big Wheel) and Batman Family #19. It was the latter to which I was drawn the most because it featured more colorful characters and more stories. That was the summer of 1978, and right away, I was a DC kid. It wasn’t until the mid 1980s that I ventured into the world of Marvel.

So, skipping ahead 30 years or so, the DC kid inside me is rather intrigued about DC’s ambitious relaunched initiative, set to begin in September with 52 new first issues. Now that all 52 new titles and creative teams have been announced, I felt like offering my two cents’ worth about the new DC Universe line as a whole, in the order in which they were announced, and by clusters.

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Green-Lit Movie

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights direct-to-video animated movie
Writers: Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim, Peter J. Tomasi, Dave Gibbons, Geoff Johns, Alan Burnett, Todd Casey and Eddie Berganza
Voice actors: Nathan Fillion, Jason Isaacs, Elisabeth Moss, Henry Rollins, Arnold Vosloo, Kelly Hu, Michael Jackson, Roddy Piper, James Arnold Taylor, Bruce Thomas, Mitchell Whitfield & Wade Williams.
Directors: Christopher Berkeley, Lauren Montgomery & Jay Oliva,
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Premiere Home Video
Rating: PG

I haven’t had a chance to get to the cinemas to see Thor (and it doesn’t look like I will at all, since it’s only available here in 3D now). I haven’t had a chance to get there to see X-Men: First Class. So when Green Lantern: Emerald Knights was released on home video this week, I was determined to get a comic-book adaptation fix after many weeks of deprivation. I’m quite looking forward to the live-action GL movie, so I figure this would be a lot of fun as well. To my surprise, I found a number of short comics stories were adapted for a pseudo-anthology video, and unfortunately, the adaptations were a bit lacking. The animation and designs are sharp throughout the direct-to-video movie, so at least it looks good.

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Thinking Outside the Mail Box

Pretty much as long as there have been comics, they’ve been making their way to some readers through the mail. While direct subscriptions with publishers aren’t as popular as they once were, a lot of readers still get their comics through mail order, especially since businesses selling to such a market have been much more accessible online.

The question arises: what happens when the mail stops? Most of Canada Post Corp.’s unionized workers — including letter carriers — have been in a legal strike position since last week. While the Canadian Union of Postal Workers hasn’t opted to go into a full-on strike mode, it is taking job action in the form of rotating strikes in different cities across the country. CUPW and Canada Post are still in negotiations, but the threat of a nationwide strike by 50,000 postal employees looms.

Eye on Comics checked in with some of Canadian retailers about how an interruption in postal service will affect their businesses.

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Quick Critiques – June 5, 2011

Variant coverHellboy: The Fury #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo

I must thank writer and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola for dedicating the first two pages of this issue to recapping what’s come before in the various limited series that led up to it. I definitely missed a few of those issues along the way, and even the synopsis of what’s come before is complicated. As the issue progresses, it also becomes clear that this isn’t the climactic storyline of Hellboy’s life since he left the B.P.R.D. The plot here connects with the earliest Hellboy stories from the 1990s, and that grants this crescendo toward the battle a feeling that this is a major turning point in the title character’s life, not just this nomadic mode of his existence. Of course, given the graver, climactic tone that dominates this issue, the more playful, comedic elements that turn up in other Hellboy comics has faded here. For the most part, little actually happens in this issue when it comes to the conflict. Instead, the various players take their places on the stage, and what’s important in this issue is mood rather than plot developments. I also thoroughly enjoyed the mish-mash of mythic references.

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Flashpoints of View

Everybody with an interest in mainstream comics and in the business of the industry are talking about DC’s big announcements this week about a line-wide relaunch for its super-hero books and a much more aggressive and timely digital-distribution plan. Of course, we must also acknowledge that it was a big week for its existing comics. This week saw the release of five, count ’em five, Flashpoint-related comics, and while this doesn’t mark the beginning of the event, it is the first week with a major bombardment of titles bearing the Flashpoint brand.

I bought and read ’em all, and here’s what I thought of them…

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Last Exit to Riverdale

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist/Cover artist: Sean Phillips
Colors: Val Staples
Publisher: Marvel Comics/Icon imprint
Price: $3.50 US

You know those comics Archie published not too long ago in which the longtime publisher and its storytellers showed us what it would be like if Archie and the gang grew up and got married? Well, Ed Brubaker offers his much darker take on the concept here with a cast of characters that were clearly inspired by the close-knit group of teen friends from Riverdale. Archie doesn’t just grow up here, he grows the fuck up. It’s a great concept, but it was also a risky undertaking on the writer’s part. Such an experiment could easily go awry, with the reader seeing the juxtaposition of the harshness of the world of Criminal with the innocence of the Archies as being ludicrous. But he and artist Sean Phillips make it work, and it works incredibly well. While far from the most intense of the Criminal story arcs we’ve seen, this was perhaps the most amusing and the most grounded one we’ve seen thus far.

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A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Blurbs

It was only after I posted my editorial about DC’s fall reboot/renumbering initiative a little while ago that I happened upon the Jim Lee illustration of the new Justice League lineup that’s to star in the new Justice League #1 that Lee’s doing with writer Geoff Johns. The image says a lot about the coming changes without saying much of anything at all.

The image is going to be examined, analyzed and generally picked apart by fandom, and I thought, “Hey, won’t not join in?”

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