Monthly Archives: August 2011

Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s Aluminum Siding Salesman

With the beginning of DC’s New 52 initiative this week and its corresponding same-date digital comics offerings, I’m put in mind of the fact that all forms of print publishing are seeing their businesses turned upside down and transformed by the digital age, struggling to adapt to the demands of the 21st century. As it happens, I was thumbing through a back issue I picked up for 52 cents at my local comic shop’s midnight release event for Justice League #1, only to find some similar language… but they’re words written two decades before the arrival of the new millennium.

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A New 52 Review: Justice League #1

Variant coverJustice League #1
“Justice League, Part One”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Jim Lee
Inks: Scott Williams
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artists: Lee & Williams (regular)/David Finch & Richard Friend (variant)
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US (comic only)/$4.99 US (digital combo pack)

We already know Justice League #1, from a sales perspective, is a huge success. Its initial orders topped 200,000, and its sales will likely remain strong as long as DC keeps its two top talents on the book. But the question is: the story any good? While this comic book appears set to break sales records for 2011, the story’s not going to blow anyone’s mind. There’s no moment in the first issue that’s going to keep people talking non-stop until the next issue. Nevertheless, Johns turns in an entertaining first issue that focuses more on how the characters interact, and that’s a good thing. But the really good news is just how accessible this first issue is. The whole point of “the New 52” is to attract new and lapsed readers to comics, and this initial step in the relaunch initiative is one that’s headed in the right direction to achieve that goal.

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An Almost New 52 Review: Flashpoint #5

Variant coverFlashpoint #5
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Sandra Hope & Jesse Delperdang
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover artists: Andy Kubert & Sandra Hope (regular)/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (variant)
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

In some ways, Flashpoint #5 is exactly what people expect it to be: a bridge between DC’s past continuity to the world in which the publisher is setting its “New 52.” So in some respects, it’s a utilitarian comic book, a tool used in the construction of DC’s new “home,” so to speak. But the good news is that Johns doesn’t forget to tell a story here. While the conflict between the Atlanteans and Amazons that seems to have defined the world of Flashpoint goes unresolved in this climax, Johns finally explores the cosmic manipulations that led to the creation of the alternate timeline, and the answer is surprising. Not only is the source of the problem an unexpected one, the catalyst for the changes is one stemming from characterization, not some villainous plot to destroy reality or rule the world.

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Eve of Destruction

Pherone softcover graphic novel
Writers: Patrick Baggatta, Jim Sink & Viktor Kalvachev
Artist: Viktor Kalvachev
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $14.99 US

In some respects, Pherone demonstrates the versatility and strong artistic possibilities that lie in computer-enhanced comic art. In some respects, Pherone reads like an adolescent boy’s idea of the perfect action story — one with a lot of sex. In some respects, Pherone is a worthy sibling to such crime/espionage books as Sin City, 100 Bullets and Criminal. In some respects, it’s really about atmosphere above story, about the surface rather than substance. There’s a lot to like about Pherone, but there are also a lot of elements in the book that made me roll my eyes. Pherone is nevertheless a lot of fun in its own gratuitous way, but maybe what’s most interesting about it is its history. The story was originally published in serialized form in Kevin Eastman’s revived Heavy Metal magazine, and I can see this material fitting in perfectly with that publication. After all, if Heavy Metal was about anything, it was about sex and violence. And that’s what Pherone offers in spades.

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Hahn’s Maid’s Tale

All Nighter #3
“Stealing Boyfriends”
Writers/Artist/Cover artist: David Hahn
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

The first issue of this five-part series was good but really didn’t stand out all that much, maybe because I thought it was going to be about a couple of punks who got kicks from stealing from others and breaking into other people’s homes, but the issues that followed have really grabbed my attention. This series just keeps getting better and better, because those subsequent episodes of All Nighter have focused on the relationships in the main character’s life. David Hahn has crafted a tremendously compelling collection of characters and interpersonal dynamics, and his simple cartooning style has made for some attractive but believable figures. I’m thoroughly enjoying this series, in part from an unusual mystery but mostly because I’m interest in seeing Kit learning from the mistakes she’s making. Ultimately, this series seems to be about a girl maturing into a woman, not from a physiological or sexual perspective, but from an emotional one.

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Deal or No Deal? (Answer: No Deal)

Marvel reached out to direct-market comics retailers this week to offer a special ordering incentive that’s perhaps unintentionally revealing about its publishing policies and plans for revenue generation. Retailers were told for every 5,000 copies of Ultimate Fallout #4 first and second printings (or any combination of the pair that adds up to 5,000), they can get a free full-page ad in upcoming Marvel titles.

The first thing that struck me about the promotion was the fact Marvel is trying to sell second printings of a comic book that’s still available in its initial print run. Why would there be a second printing if the first was still up for grabs?

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Once More With Feeling

DC Retroactive: JLA – The ’90s #1
“Apokalips No!”
Writers: Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Kevin Maguire
Colors: Rosemary Cheetham
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Jim Chadwick

Writers: Giffen & DeMatteis
Pencils: Maguire
Inks: Terry Austin
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Letters: Bob Lappan
Editor: Kevin Dooley

Cover artist: Maguire
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

When DC Comics first announced its plans for these DC Retroactive one-shots, I was pleased to see the published was acknowledging the skills and contributions of some of its past creators by spotlighting them once again. Of course, since then we’ve learned that these one-shots were intended in part to fill out DC’s schedule as it ramped up to its September “New 52” relaunch. Still, these nods to its past were a welcome development, and I planned on picking up several of them. After my first experience with the line — DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman – The ’70s #1 — my enthusiasm quickly waned. I didn’t pick up as many of the one-shots as I planned, but those I did read were more than a little disappointing. Still, as a huge fan of the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire era of the Justice League, I couldn’t resist delving back to the Retroactive line one more time.

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52 Comics, 52 Reviews

With its “New 52” line of comics, DC Comics has promised everything old is new again with its super-hero properties, so I’m turning my critical eye to all 52 first issues this fall.

I plan to review each and every one of DC’s “New 52” releases in September here on Eye on Comics. With DC’s relaunch of its entire super-hero line, its comics and some creators are going to be unknown quantities to a number of readers, both new and old. I intend these reviews to be something of a guide for those with an interest in some or even all of the titles, not just in terms of content but also in quality.

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Burn Notice

Spontaneous #s 1 & 2
Writer: Joe Harris
Artist/Cover artist: Brett Weldele
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: Jill Beaton
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.99 US each

Joe Harris was once one of Marvel’s go-to guys for various projects, and in addition to a lot of work on various X-titles, he might be best known (in comics, anyway) as the writer for Spidey spin-off Slingers. But sometime in the 1990s, his name disappeared from the credits of Marvel titles. His name popped up elsewhere, in DC, Image and Dark Horse titles, but more recently, he’s kind of reinvented himself as a suspense writer with small, indy-flavored publisher Oni Press. Ghost Projekt was well-received last year, and I expect this new title will capture readers’ interest as well. Spontaneous is a bit of an odd mix. There’s a pervading, unsettling feeling throughout the storytelling, as we learn of a horrific doom that awaits certain victims while we also get to know the damaged protagonist, but there are also sillier moments. It’s like The X-Files with a dash of The Goonies thrown in for good measure. The thing about this book really interests me but also frustrates me a bit is the supporting player, the intrepid would-be journalist that’s entertaining but not necessarily believable.

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 13, 2011

Variant coverBatman and Robin #26 (DC Comics)
by David Hine, Greg Tocchini & Andrei Bressan

This series ends on a strong note (it’s being relaunched next month as part of DC’s New 52 initiative) with a story of French super-villains and art as a motive for brutal, grisly crimes. The plot revolves around a breakout at the Black Garden, Paris’ version of Arkham Asylum. I not only love the name of the French institution for the criminally insane, but the new villain concepts here are fantastic. These new French villains are so interesting and novel that it’s a shame that they’re treated as essentially fleeting, throwaway concepts. Their abilities and the ideas behind the character concepts are chilling. I hope I’m wrong about them being seen as disposable notions meant only for this self-contained story. The script is a bit awkward in the final scene, but the final reveal more than makes up for it. The much-maligned parkour hero Nightrunner appears in this story, but mainly as a narrator, as the title characters’ guide to France’s villain scene. There’s never an explanation as to why the Dick Grayson Batman and his sidekick are in France (international travel has been the original Batman’s domain as of late), but it’s really not important.

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A Compromised Position

Flashpoint #4
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Jesse Delperdang
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover artists: Andy Kubert & Sandra Hope (regular)/Rags Morales (variant)
Editor: Kate Stewart & Rex Ogle
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I was covering a criminal case recently as part of my regular court beat for the daily newspaper for which I work when a particular offender’s behavior caught my attention and made for a good story. It was already an interesting story — a cabbie had been convicted at trial of sexually assaulting a drunken fare — but his appearance (actually, his refusal to appear in court) for his sentencing hearing added to the drama. It seemed as though this man just couldn’t accept recent developments in his life, so he simply refused to acknowledge that his life had been altered (due to his own criminal actions, mind you) irrevocably. His choice to refuse to deal with the recent developments in his life just made things worse. One might perceive that he seemed to take a stand on principle, but there comes a point when principles conflict with harsh realities.

And that got me thinking about Flashpoint #4.

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Booty Call

The Vault #1
Writer: Sam Sarkar
Artist: Garrie Gastonny
Colors: Sakti Yuwono
Cover artist: Bagus Hutomo
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50

The creators of The Vault aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here with their story about treasure hunters who happen upon something paranormal and, I’m assuming, deadly. But as I made my way through the opening pages, I was thrilled to find some real-world history and culture from my corner of the world — Atlantic Canada — playing a significant role in the plot. The Oak Island treasure and Sable Island references really pleased me and drew me further into the story. Of course, writer Sam Sarkar and artist Garrie Gastonny can’t count on Oak Island buffs (or, you know, people like me who’ve just heard of it) to make up their entire audience. The real-world history that serves as the foundation of the story is a strong one, strong enough to keep a relatively formulaic plot interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention through some generic plot developments and the customary cast introductions. This is essentially a cheesy popcorn movie put to paper, and if you enjoy flicks from The Mummy to Virus, you’ll probably enjoy The Vault.

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I Think the DeLorean’s on the Fritz

A word to the wise: in the eventuality that you invent a time machine, you ought to really make sure it’s a functioning time machine and not just a way for your friends to pull a fast one on you. Should you ever be lucky enough to travel back in time, keep a sharp eye out for details that might seem out of place in the chosen period. If need be, make a game out of it, like how people take a drink every time when watching an old, cheesy gladiator movie and they spot someone wearing high tops or a Timex. If you happen to spy such an anomaly, rest assured you haven’t actually pierced the space-time continuum. You probably just passed out on the couch and your friends dropped you in the middle of a Renaissance fair or a Civil War re-enactment weekend.

Case in point: DC’s line of Retroactive one-shots in August. And more specifically, DC Retroactive: JLA – The 70s #1.

When DC announced these one-shots a few months ago, I figured we’d see stories written and rendered in styles reflecting the title properties as they were in the periods in question, but as I read the new story in this issue — “Enter Justice League Prime” — writer Cary Bates quickly established that the story itself is set in the 1970s, doing so with what’s probably the most referred to and overused pop-culture reference of the decade…

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