Category Archives: Reviews – DC

The Book of Revelation (or Lack Thereof)

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #1
“Resurrection”
Writer: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inks: John Stanisci
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Editor: Michael Siglain
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

I really didn’t care all that much for the pseudo-nouveau Fourth World villains from 52, the Four Horsemen. Visually, the characters were a mess, and I felt they were built up so much that their quick demise made for an anti-climactic moment. Still, I’ve been a fan of Keith Giffen’s recent writing for Marvel (such as Drax the Destroyer and Annihilation: Conquest – Star-Lord), and I don’t think Pat Olliffe’s art has ever disappointed me. So I figured I’d give The Four Horsemen a chance. There’s some potential in the premise as it’s presented here, but ultimately, it’s hindered by an inaccessible script and what seems like a missed opportunity when it comes to marketing the book.

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Super-Team Family

The Flash #231
“The Wild Wests, Part One: Growing Up Fast”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Daniel Acuna
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover artists: Acuna/Doug Braithwaite
Editor: Joan Hilty
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

Mark Waid’s return to this title and to the protagonist he molded into a fan favorite in the 1990s thankfully doesn’t result in a return to the same kinds of stories he told before with the help of such artists as Greg Laroque, Salvador Larroca, Paul Pelletier and the late, great Mike Wieringo. No, he’s opted to explore a completely different kind of dynamic with this turning point in the character’s four-color life. When Wally West took over the mantle of the Flash at first in the 1980s, the storytelling in this title revolved around him learning to be a man, bridging the divide between adolescence and adulthood. With Waid’s previous run on the book, we can assume Wally is well into his 20s and he’s learning to be a good man. Now, we have Wally in his 30s, learning to be a father. It’s a natural progression for the character (and for the readership, I would imagine), consistent with previous canon while providing a fresh take, distinct from previous incarnations.

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Metallurgy

Metal Men #1
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Duncan Rouleau
Colors: Moose Baumann
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

Duncan Rouleau twisted, surreal and fluid style is a perfect match for DC’s oddball, shapechanging robotic heroes, the Metal Men. Rouleau is mainly known to DC and Marvel super-hero readers as an artist alone, not a writer. He’s no rookie when it comes to plotting and scripting, though, as those who have read his graphic novel, The Nightmarist, can attest. Just as he boasts an unusual and unique approach in his art, his writing is unconventional in tone as well. That makes for a challenging read, though, and that holds true here. The plot incorporates magicks from the dark ages, theoretical physics about the building blocks of reality and shapeshifting super-heroics. It’s not easy to follow the storytelling here, but one can’t deny the fun that’s to be had. While Rouleau’s time-jumping plot has yet to fully reveal itself, there’s enough entertainment value here to keep me on board until things make a little more sense.

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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 Plain Truth

The Plain Janes original graphic novel
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artist/Cover artist: Jim Rugg
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: DC Comics/Minx imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN

DC’s Minx line has finally arrived with this inaugural release, and if The Plain Janes is any indication of what we can expect from Minx books, it’s going to be a strong imprint. This graphic novel should appeal to female readers, especially teen girls, but the characterization is so strong and the ideas so grounded yet offbeat that the book should achieve a much wider appeal. The Plain Janes taps into a modern angst about a world that seems to be growing more and more violent with every passing day. More importantly, writer Cecil Castellucci offers a story that will appeal to anyone who felt excluded by the It crowd in high school, who felt his or her parents ignored needs and pleas or who felt, well, like a teenager. The story and characterization boast definite universal qualities, but at the same time, this is about a smarter group of alienated teens. This is about constructive rebellion, but the tone of the story isn’t all that celebratory either. There’s a definitely downtrodden atmosphere at play, and the black-and-white art enhances that atmosphere quite well. Jim Rugg’s art is simple but effective. Sometimes his characters’ faces and his eye for perspective are a bit off, but overall, he conveys a convincing, realistic world in which this quirky, John Hughes-esque drama can unfold.

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Here We Go Again…

Countdown #51
“Look to the Skies”
Writer: Paul Dini
Pencils: Jesus Saiz
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colors: Tom Chu
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Andy Kubert & Tim Townsend
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

I’m not all that surprised that DC’s 2006-2007 weekly series, 52, proved to be a sales success. It was so unlike what we’ve seen in North American super-hero comics before that it was bound to attract the attention of fans of the genre. The series’s strong sales are a testament to the novel approach to comics storytelling, but it remains to be seen if the weekly format is a viable. DC and Marvel have demonstrated time and time again that when they happen upon successful formats or concepts, each flogs that horse until it’s good and dead. So Countdown will serve as the true gauge of whether or not there’s life in the weekly format. Fortunately, DC has lined up some solid talent to spearhead the new book, and while it shares some common traits with 52, there are some clear differences as well. As was the case when 52 launched, it’s difficult to tell what to expect from Countdown in the long run, but this first taste offers solid art, a diverse array of players, strong characterization and entertaining action.

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The Year of Living Dangerously

52 Week 52
“A Year in the Life”
Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka & Mark Waid
Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils:Mike McKone, Justiniano, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Pat Olliffe & Darick Robertson
Inks: Andy Lanning, Walden Wong, Rodney Ramos, Drew Geraci & Darick Robertson
Colors: Alex Sinclair, David Baron & Hi-Fi
Letters: Ken Lopez
Editor: Michael Siglain
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.50 US/$2.99 CAN

DC’s power quartet of writers resurrects the past in this cosmic finale while maintaining the status quo that had replaced it, and I’m honestly not sure how to feel about it. The nostalgic super-hero fan in me is thrilled to see the return of DC’s multiverse concept, and the writers have tweaked it somewhat so that it’s more manageable than the one that came before it. This is big, flashy genre fun, but it relies on a number of plot devices and supposed twists that make it a bit difficult to follow at times, let alone to swallow. Some character-driven elements are thrown in to balance the larger-than-life, science-fiction concepts thrown about in the story, but it succeeds only to a mild degree.

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War Correspondence

In the latter part of its run, DC’s 52 has proven to be a solidly entertaining read, with some solid super-hero action, melodrama and imaginative use of obscure characters, so I was looking forward to this spinoff event. I’m at a loss as to why DC would release all the episodes of a five-issue story in the same week. The publisher clearly expects potential readers to pick up all the issues, so why not release it as a special, graphic-novel sized issue of 52? I thought that would prove to be the most frustrating and puzzling aspect of 52/WW III, but I was quickly proved wrong. The plot is limited to just one of these five comic books. The rest of them seem to serve only to address a number of minor points of continuity and little more. I don’t mind DC sorting out its continuity, but it shouldn’t have come at the cost of storytelling and characterization, which should be priorities, not afterthoughts.

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Take Your Picoult the Litter

Wonder Woman #6
“Love and Murder, Part 1”
Writer: Jodi Picoult
Pencils: Drew Johnson
Inks: Ray Snyder
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Terry & Rachel Dodson
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

While the scheduling and release of the first five issue of this relaunched series proved to be a disaster, DC couldn’t have asked for better timing with the release of novelist Jodi Picoult’s first issue and foray into super-hero comics. Picoult is the Queen of prose fiction bestseller lists right now. I was walking through the local big-box bookstore the other day, and there was a big display of Picoult books that one couldn’t miss. I’ve not read her books, and after reading this Wonder Woman story, I don’t plan to do so. To be fair, writing novels is a radically different business than writing comics, and perhaps Picoult’s strengths lie with prose. The writer does nothing to distinguish her take on the title character from Allan Heinberg’s, and the script here is repetitive. Even more frustrating is a tired premise.

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Keeping an Ion Things

Ion #12
“Burying the Past”
Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Fernando Pasarin
Colors: Richard & Tanya Horie
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Kalman Andrasofszky
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65

I admit it… I got sucked in. The cover for this issue, which serves as the concluding chapter of this limited series, as well as the first page, drew me into a comic book that I figured would focus on characterization above cosmic action. That didn’t prove to be the case. But hey, that’s OK, as I enjoy well-crafted cosmic action as well. But that’s not to be found in this comic book either. In fact, I really don’t see the makings of any kind of plot here at all. No epic is brought to a close. The title character seems to make no changes or advances in his life, super or otherwise. As far as I can tell, Ion isn’t really about Kyle Rayner or any kind of space-faring adventure. Instead, I was left with the impression that it was nothing but an exercise in teasing and setting up DC’s next crossover event book, which is rumored to be about the return of parallel universes to DC continuity.

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Life Sucks, Get a Helmet

Over the course of the past couple of months, DC has released a number of specials to tee-up next month’s launch a new, ongoing Doctor Fate series from DC Comics. Given the prominence of the Helmet of Fate in DC’s weekly series, 52, it made sense to see these one-shots as spinoffs of that title as well, but events have recently shown that the mystical artifact has really had nothing to do with the Ralph Dibny subplot in 52. In terms of generating interest and excitement about the new ongoing title, these specials fall short of their goal, as they tell us nothing of what to expect, nor do the scripts endeavor to do so at all. Where these one-shots do succeed, though, are with efforts to offer up some fun stories that tap into a lighter, more traditional approach to comics storytelling and with some more grounded, characterization-oriented scripting.

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Brave New Whirl

The Brave and the Bold v.3 #1
“The Lords of Luck, Chapter One: Roulette”
Writer: Mark Waid
Pencils/Cover artist: George Perez
Inks: Bob Wiacek
Colors: Tom Smith
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

I’m a major fan of Mark Waid’s writing and George Perez’s art in the super-hero genre, so I’ve been eagerly anticipating the launch of this title. But what’s really had me eager to delve into the new series is my fondness and nostalgia for team-up titles. As a kid, I found I was drawn to team titles such as Justice League of America and The New Teen Titans, but also to DC Comics Presents, Marvel Team-Up and, of course, The Brave and the Bold‘s first incarnation. As a younger reader, I relished the chance to get to know new, colorful characters and villains, and I actually loved that I got not just one but two flashy super-hero logos on the cover. Though most of those old-school stories of the 1970s and ’80s were single-issue, self-contained tales and this series promises longer story arcs, Waid has certainly taken a traditional tack with this new series. Unfortunately, a couple of cooler plot elements are cast off, turning out to be minor in nature, and Perez’s art, though full of energy and imagination, is a bit difficult to follow in the more chaotic moments of the story. Even so, those who feel super-hero storytelling has grown too dark and grim over the past decade or so will enjoy the lighter tone that’s restored here.

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Comics Prose from a Comics Pro

Batman #663
“The Clown at Midnight”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: John Van Fleet
Letters: Todd Klein
Cover artist: Andy Kubert
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

This issue of the Dark Knight’s adventures is not a comic book. I know… it looks like a comic and feels like a comic, but it ain’t a comic. Writer Grant Morrison offers up a prose short story, accompanied by illustrations by John Van Fleet, which appear to be digital paintings. It makes for a much denser read, and it forces Morrison to flex a different set of writing muscles. The manager at my local comic shop told me he wished DC had released this as a separate, special one-shot. After reading the story, it’s clear why it wasn’t, though. Morrison specifically follows up a plot point from his first issue on this series from a few months ago — the near-fatal shooting of the Joker. The script here manages to make the Joker’s latest resurrection a real event, and the writer reconciles the various, divergent versions of the antagonist we’ve see over the course of six decades. Unfortunately, the novel take on the character is marred by stiff, confusing artwork and unnecessarily verbose descriptions of peripheral details.

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Lightning in a Bottle

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #1
“Chapter 1: YROOB SZH Z HVXIVG!”
Writer/Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Jeff Smith
Colorist: Steve Hamaker
Editor: Mike Carlin
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $5.99 US/$7.25 CAN

When it announced when Bone creator Jeff Smith would write and illustrate a new Captain Marvel story, anyone familiar with his work and fans of traditional super-hero storytelling were elated. The news was celebrated, and we all sat back to wait. We waited, but we all knew what to expect, didn’t we? We knew Smith was going to retell the Captain Marvel origin. We knew he was going to bring a lighter, more innocent quality back to the Marvel Family. Like so many others, I anticipated the project, but I knew it would hold no surprises. It knew it would be fun but that it would be familiar as well. I just knew.

Turns out I didn’t know a damn thing.

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Gold Standard

52 Week Thirty-Seven
“Secret Identities”
Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka & Mark Waid
Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inks: Drew Geraci
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: J.G. Jones
Editor: Michael Siglain
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.50 US/$3.50 CAN

DC’s weekly series, exploring the DC Universe and some of its second-tier characters, has been an interesting and unique entity in super-hero comics. Usually entertaining and sometimes frustrating, the 52 experiment is finally starting to yield results, and it’s this issue is where the payoff begins. This action-packed issue not only surprised me with its big revelation, but it impresses with how the writers demonstrate that they’ve used the readers’ expectations of super-hero genre conventions and tricks to pull the wool over our eyes. Furthermore, this particular issue is illustrated by the one recurring art team whose style has stood out as unique and well suited to the tone of the project. If this book has one major flaw, it’s the cover, which sadly spoils the big surprise to which the series has been building for months.

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