Monthly Archives: May 2012

A New 52 Review: The Ravagers #1

Variant coverThe Ravagers #1
“Children of Destiny”
Writer: Howard Mackie
Pencils: Ian Churchill
Inks: Norm Rapmund & Ian Churchill
Colors: Alex Sollazzo
Letters: Dezi Sienty
Cover artists: Churchill (regular)/Brett Booth & Rapmund (variant)
Editor: Pat McCallum & Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While I knew going in this wasn’t going to be the sort of comic book I normally enjoy, the first sign something was amiss was apparent on the cover, with the six protagonists all identified with bold captions. It’s not often one sees that incorporated into cover art, at least not in a composition such as this one. Still, I kept an open mind, interested in how DC and its creative talent have reinvented some familiar and not-so familiar characters. Unfortunately, this comic is exactly what it appears to be: an inaccessible, uber-violent exercise in “Kewl” comics storytelling of the mid-1990s. In other words, it’s an example of How Not to Do Comics. I hope DC will be content with circulations numbers at the same level of Teen Titans, because there isn’t a prayer of this title bringing in any more readers than that. And it’s far more likely The Ravagers will find itself kicked to the curb to make way for another wave of New 52 titles in the future.

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How I Read My Mother

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Alison Bechdel
Editor: Deanne Urmy
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Price: $22 US

Considering Alison Bechdel’s previous graphic novel was the critically acclaimed Fun Home, which is about her father, and this new project focuses on her mother, comparisons are unavoidable. As such, I won’t even try to avoid them, even though the two books are significantly different in tone and approach. Given the strength of Fun Home and the apparent similarity in subject matter, I really looked forward to delving into Are You My Mother?. Now, I thoroughly enjoyed Fun Home. When considering the experience of reading Bechdel’s new graphic novel, “enjoyment” isn’t a term that leaps to mind, but don’t misunderstand me: it’s a worthy creative endeavor. Are You My Mother? is more of a challenge. It demands a great deal from the reader, and it sticks with the reader. While I wasn’t as engrossed in Bechdel’s exploration of motherhood and her own insecurities, I found the book made me think. I thought about it. A lot. And not just when I was reading it. At work. Lying awake in bed. As I drove. It’s as much an exploration of the written works of thinkers and authors she enjoys as it is as examination of her relationship with her mother, and while I found the many text excerpts halted the flow of the narrative, I appreciated the book for how thought-provoking it is.

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A New 52 Review: Batman Incorporated v.2 #1

Variant coverBatman Incorporated v.2 #1
“Batman, Incorporated: Leviathan, Part One: Demon Star”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Colors: Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artists: Burnham (regular)/Frank Quitely (variant)
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While Grant Morrison acknowledges in this script some of the events from various Batman comics he didn’t write, what he really does here is pick up where he left off in the first volume of Batman and Robin. In that series, he impressed readers with his presentation of a new dynamic between the Dynamic Duo. In that previous project, Batman was Dick Grayson, the original Robin, and the new Robin was a genetically engineered child assassin. The dark and light aspects of the pairing were reversed. Now Morrison has Bruce Wayne back, and the Dynamic Duo is the Dark and Dismal Duo. Peter J. Tomasi has been doing some solid work with the two characters in the New 52 incarnation of Batman and Robin, but Morrison has something else in store here. His focus isn’t so much on character but on plot, but given the scope and inventiveness of that plot, it’s a worthwhile read. More importantly, Morrison’s Batman work has served as a great spotlight for Chris Burnham, who quickly went from being an unknown illustrator with a couple of obscure graphic novels under his belt to a go-to talent for DC.

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Quick Critiques – May 22, 2012

Marvel’s The Avengers in RealD 3D movie (Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures)
directed by Joss Whedon

Because one person demanded it, here are my thoughts on the Avengers flick — spoiler free, I assure you. There are two elements that influenced my movie-viewing experience Saturday night, and the first was seeing the movie more than a week after its release. The box-office success and hyperbole I’ve seen from fans and comics professionals alike online really built the movie up. I had people tell me even though they went in with high expectations, Avengers exceeded them. I didn’t feel the same enthusiasm for the film, though I couldn’t really pinpoint anything about it that disappointed in any real way. The movie’s paced well, and it boasts an interesting story, a punchy script, great effects and a strong emphasis on interpersonal conflicts to go along with the widescreen action in the third act. I was also impressed with how well balanced the movie is; all of the players get moments to shine. I was also surprised to find Scarlett Johannson’s role was pivotal throughout the film. The movie’s a lot of fun at times and boasts some great moments of humor, but it also exhibits some strong dramatic tension. The only character that doesn’t really seem like his original comic-book incarnation is Hawkeye. I also appreciated how the second act focuses on a much different sort of conflict than I expected, and the action in the climax unfolds quite differently than what the marketing campaign led me to expect. Nevertheless, while I thought the movie was solid across the board, I don’t agree Avengers the best super-hero movie ever made. The Incredibles and The Dark Knight stand above it for me.

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A New 52 Review: DC Universe Presents #9

DC Universe Presents #9
“Savage, Part One: Daddy’s Little Girl”
Writer: James Robinson
Artist/Colors: Bernard Chang
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artist: Ryan Sook
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Well, this series has only struck out once in three times at bat. James Robinson’s reinterpretation of Vandal Savage is the third feature to grace the pages of this series, which offers stories spotlighting different characters by different creative teams. There’s an undeniable Silence of the Lambs riff at play in this story, but the familial dynamic keeps it from seeming derivative. The writer blends the serial-killer genre with the periphery of that of the super-hero (or villain, to be more precise), and the result is thoroughly entertaining. While I enjoyed the strong, new female protagonist Robinson introduces here, what stands out as the greatest strength of the issue is Bernard Chang’s artwork. He did such a great job on the inaugural Deadman story arc in DC Universe Presents and on this new one, it seems to me DC ought to just make him the regular artist for the series across the board. Chang is a skilled comics artist whose traditional style nevertheless boasts a great deal of nuance and impact when the story calls for it.

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A New 52 Review: Worlds’ Finest #1

Variant coverWorlds’ Finest #1
Writer: Paul Levitz
Pencils: George Perez & Kevin Maguire
Inks: Scott Koblish & Kevin Maguire
Colors: Hi-Fi & Rosemary Cheetham
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover artists: Perez (regular)/Maguire (variant)
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Of the four New 52 second-wave titles to debut this past week, this one offers the most traditional, purest approach to the super-hero genre, and consequently, it’s a thoroughly fun title. It also stands out as writer Paul Levitz’s strongest work since leaving his executive position at DC Comics and returning to writing full-time. The strength of his storytelling stems from a couple of sources: a strong friendship built on a shared tragedy, and the disparate ways those two friends chose to deal with it. What will like draw a number of readers to this book is the strength of the artistic talent. George Perez and Kevin Maguire are deservedly popular artists, and they demonstrate here why they’re so sought after. The writer and artists aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here, but they’re building on a solid foundation. Despite the cosmic catalyst of dimensional displacement and the title’s connection to the continuities of two different worlds, at its heart, Worlds’ Finest is about a friendship that’s strengthened due to a shared obstacle.

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A New 52 Review: G.I. Combat #1

G.I. Combat #1
“The War That Time Forgot”
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Ariel Olivetti

“The Unknown Soldier”
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Dan Panosian
Colors: Rob Schwager

Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Brett Booth (regular)/Ariel Olivetti (variant)
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Of all of the entries in DC’s second wave of New 52 titles, this was the most curious. When G.I. Combat was announced as one of the six replacement titles, it seemed an odd move to move this title into the slot of the cancelled Men of War. Furthermore, the two features DC planned for the revived G.I. Combat — “The War That Time Forgot” and “Unknown Soldier” — had both been the subject of scuttled reinventions in titles of the same name. Nevertheless, I went into this debut issue with an open mind, as it features the work of some creators — notably Ariel Olivetti and the writing team of Gray and Palmiotti — I normally enjoy.

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A New 52 Review: Dial H #1

Variant coverDial H #1
“What’s the 411?”
Writer: China Mieville
Artist: Mateus Santolouco
Colors: Tanya & Richard Horie
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artists: Brian Bolland (regular)/David Finch & Richard Friend (variant)
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

You couldn’t find a better target audience than me for this new title. I’ve loved the “Dial H for H-E-R-O” concept since I discovered it in Adventure Comics in the 1980s in a stint by Marv Wolfman, Carmine Infantino and Don Heck. I never submitted a hero for inclusion in the book, but I devoured every issue and marvelled at how DC accepted ideas from its readership. Skip forward a decade or two, and I was gobbling up just about every title being offered by DC’s Vertigo imprint, headed by Karen Berger, the mature-readers’ brand’s editor, who also happens to be editing this new spin on the H-Dial (heh, “spin”). I suppose if I was familiar with China Mieville’s prose works, I’d represent the perfect demographic trifecta. Admittedly, I was receptive to this book going in, but one could argue I had high expectations as well. Well, if I did, Mieville and artist Mateus Santolouco lived up to them. Despite my love for the title concept, I really didn’t know what was in store for me, and what I found was unreal, unconventional and unique. The creators have crafted something dark but goofy, surreal but grounded.

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A New 52 Review: Earth 2 #1

Earth 2 #1
“The Price of Victory”
Writer: James Robinson
Pencils: Nicola Scott
Inks: Trevor Scott
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dezi Sienty
Cover artists: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado (regular)/Bryan Hitch (variant)
Editor: Pat McCallum
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

When DC announced Earth 2 would be a part of its second wave of New 52 titles, I was thrilled. There were rumors of the book long before the official announcement, so I was already a bit keyed up for it. I’m a huge fan of DC’s Golden Age characters and the Silver Age notion of World War II super-heroes’ adventures taking place on “Earth 2.” Hell, one of the purchases I made at the same time as picking up the first issue of Earth 2 was Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron Vol. 1. In any case, as the weeks passed and we neared the release date of this new project, the promotional images made it increasingly clearer writer James Robinson wasn’t restoring the icons of DC’s Golden Age to their former glory. Earth 2 isn’t a bad comic book. It’s actually quite a bit of fun, the kind of thing that made comics released under DC’s Elseworlds imprint years ago such a success. The problem with the book is the title and the creators’ decision not to fulfill the promise that title makes. Those hopeful for the return of the Justice Society of America and other related characters will be somewhat disappointed with what they find here as a result.

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Eye on the Eisners: Optic Nerve #12

The nominees for the 2012 Eisner Awards were announced about a month ago, and as I did for a couple of Eisner-nominated books last year, I decided I’d offer some reviews of some 2012 nominees as well. There’s no way I could review all of the nominees; I just don’t have the time or resources for such an endeavor. However, I thought it would be interesting to spotlight comics selected by the Eisner judges as being the cream of the crop of the past year. By the way, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2012 will be presented July 13 at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

First up for the 2012 “Eye on the Eisners” is Optic Nerve #12, which contains “A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture,” a piece nominated in the Best Short Story category.

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A Manhattan Project

Captain Atom #s 2-5
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Colors: Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US per issue

I undertook last fall to review all 52 first issues of DC’s relaunched lineup, which it dubbed “the New 52.” It was a lot of comics, and as a result, I reviewed a lot of comics I never would have read otherwise. Among them was Captain Atom #1, to which I had a lukewarm reaction. In my review of the first issue, I dismissed the series, positing the title character was “a standard super-hero now, and aside from the terminal nature of his powers, he doesn’t seem particularly special anymore. Captain Atom #1 is, unfortunately, a rather boring read, and I’d rather my super-hero comics be campy or cheesy than boring any day of the week.”

That was the last I thought I’d see of the relaunched series, but thanks to my local comics retailer’s efforts to clear out surplus backstock, I had the chance to sample subsequent issues at a bargain-basement price. I couldn’t resist revisit the book at a buck an issue. I discovered Captain Atom wasn’t the boring comic book I thought it to be. However, while I’m pleased I took a second look, I still wasn’t won over, finding the pacing to be lacking and the concepts being explored too strongly influenced by a landmark comic of the 1980s that DC’s about to mine for new stories and sales this summer.

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