Category Archives: Reviews – DC

Love Shoplifts Us Up Where We Belong

Token original graphic novel
Writer: Alisa Kwitney
Artist/Cover artist: Joelle Jones
Letters: Steve Wands
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: DC Comics/Minx imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN

The cancellation of the Minx line of graphic novels aimed at younger, female readers strikes me now as even more unfortunate news, as the Shelly Bond-edited brand has brought us yet another compelling read. Former Vertigo editor Alisa Kwitney lulls the readers into an expectation of conventional, by-the-numbers storytelling, but she ends up taking her audience down an unexpected path later on in the book. Like most of the other titles under the Minx banner, this one is a coming-of-age tale, but it doesn’t come off as derivative or repetitive. To be honest, though, it wasn’t Kwitney’s name that drew me to this book. I’ve been waiting for a chance to take in Joelle Jones’s artwork again since I first saw it in the excellent 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, penned by Jamie S. Rich and published by Oni Press. Though I think I favored her work on that project over this one, she still offers some strong visuals here.

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Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns #1
“Rage of the Red Lanterns, Prologue: Blood Feud”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Shane Davis
Inks: Sandra Hope
Colors: Nei Ruffino
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Shane Davis & Sandra Hope
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/CAN

For regular readers of Green Lantern, this one-shot (connected to Final Crisis in title only, it seems) will be a real treat, as the storyline about several new lantern corps of different colors finally goes from trotting up to the gate to galloping down the track. The Corps-of-Many-Colors concept is a simple one, but it seems to have really caught readers’ attention, tapping into a nostalgic sense of wonder while still maintaining a modern, dark edge in the midst of the traditional super-hero storytelling. I would imagine this one-shot was designed to draw in even more readers to Green Lantern’s corner of the DC Universe, but I don’t think it’ll succeed. Johns’s story isn’t the most accessible I’ve read, but there’s a sense of fun, a sense of foreboding and a sense of myth at play that makes for an entertaining experience for the audience overall.

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Flagging Flagship

Justice League of America #25
“The Second Coming, Chapter Four: The Best Lack All Conviction”
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils: Ed Benes, Doug Mahnke, Darick Robertson, Shane Davis, Ian Churchill & Ivan Reis
Inks: Ed Benes, Christian Alamy, Darick Robertson, Rob Stull, Ian Churchill & Joe Prado
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Ed Benes
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/CAN

I want to like this title. I liked it when it debuted with writer Brad Meltzer at the helm. There were flaws in the storytelling, yes, but it harkened back to the colorful, epic super-hero stories of the Justice League of America series of the 1970s, as it was intended to do. When Dwayne McDuffie signed on to replace Meltzer, I was pleased, given the strength of his contributions to the Justice League Unlimited animated TV series. But the series has really lost any real sense of direction. Plotlines play tug-of-war with the reader’s attention, and Ed Benes’s muddied artwork is further hampered by the use of multiple art teams on this issue. JLA should be a big, flashy, fun super-hero romp. Lately, it’s been confusing and conflicted.

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Crisis Counselling

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1
“Last Will and Testament: Conversions”
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: John Dell & Joe Kubert
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Adam Kubert & Joe Kubert/Adam Kubert & John Dell
Editors: Eddie Berganza & Dan Didio
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/CAN

Meltzer delivers more of the same that he’s offered DC readers in the past: solid storytelling that rewards longtime readers but leaves the uninitiated out of the loop. To get the full impact (and understanding) of this story, one has to be familiar with some past DC stories, especially “The Judas Contract” by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, published in Tales of the Teen Titans more than 20 years ago. That’s a pretty distant footnote and a big hurdle for new readers. I’m not one of those new readers, though, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this story. Last Will and Testament, despite lacking the Final Crisis label, is the kind of story DC should have given us in Final Crisis: Requiem. What was lacking from that story is to be found here: a grounded perspective of an Armageddon-like situation from the hero’s point of view, some real emotion and, well, a plot. The art is a bit on the inconsistent side as two inkers are employed to embellish Adam Kubert’s pencils, but when one of those inkers is his father, the legendary Joe Kubert, it’s hard to be dissatisfied with the artwork.

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Afraid of the Shark

Water Baby original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Ross Campbell
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: DC Comics/Minx imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN

The second wave of books from DC’s Minx line of graphic novels is proving to be an impressive one. While the novelty of the original wave of books aimed at female readers was enough to garner my attention, the strength and originality of the storytelling in such titles as Burnout, The New York Four and Water Baby are showing that the line has the potential to be sustainable and successful, at least from a creative standpoint. Ross Campbell’s contribution to the imprint is unlike any of the other books that have preceded it. There’s an edgier quality at play that allows the graphic novel and its heroine to stand apart. It’s not as easy to relate to Brody, Water Baby‘s protagonist, but Campbell’s writing and expressive artwork offer up a compelling character study. There are no clear answers or morals at play in this book, and the ending is disappointingly anticlimactic. But the characters and carefree spirit that dominates the book are so well crafted and conveyed that they help Water Baby to shine as one of the best graphic novels of the year so far.

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Comic in Crisis

Final Crisis: Requiem #1
“Final Crisis: Requiem – Caretakers of Mars”
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Christian Alamy & Rodney Ramos
Colors: Nei Ruffino
Letters: John J. Hill
Cover artists: Mahnke & Alamy (regular cover) and J.G. Jones (sliver cover)
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/CAN

I’m holding a requiem of my own, as I — as are many others who bought this comic, I suspect — mourn the loss of the four bucks I spent on this one-shot. I’m a longtime fan of super-hero comics, especially DC’s, and I enjoy a well-crafted super-hero universe event story. I don’t even mind crossover tangents and tie-ins, as long as they’re crafted well. Final Crisis: Requiem isn’t, and while there are many flaws to be found in this book, the biggest problem with this comic is clear: there’s no story. This is about characters reacting to a story, or at least to a plot development in a story. The art has its strengths, but it’s not consistently strong throughout the entire issue. Requiem doesn’t fill me with confidence about forthcoming Final Crisis spinoff titles at all.

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I Can’t See the Forest for the Teens

Burnout original graphic novel
Writer: Rebecca Donner
Arist/Cover artist: Inaki Miranda
Gray tones: Eva de la Cruz
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: DC Comics/Minx imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN

Whenever a new Minx graphic novel hits the stand, I take a look. I’ve rarely been disappointed by the imprint’s books, and there’s no denying that one of its advantages is how it exposes new or lesser-known voices in comics to readers. I’ve read nothing of novelist Rebecca Donner’s work before, but I enjoyed the quiet tone, her sullen characters and slightly off-the-wall premise. On the surface, this seems to be a teenage love story set against the backdrop of an environmental message, but on closer inspection, Donner boils the socio-economic complexities of the issue down to a simpler, more balanced level. Perhaps my favorite aspect of her plot is that this is a coming-of-age story for more than just the teenage protagonist. Artist¬†Inaki Miranda is the one who makes the most of this North American coming-out party, though. His soft lines and eye for detail really help this unusual story to come to life. His work boasts a nice mix of American, European and Asian influences, which should make for a broad appeal. Burnout definitely stands out as another creative success for the Minx line, but unfortunately, the question remains why such creative successes aren’t translating into stronger sales.

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Crisis of Faith

Final Crisis #1
“D.O.A.: The God of War!”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist/Cover artist: J.G. Jones
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/CAN

After the awkward plotting of Infinite Crisis and inconsistent, patchwork storytelling of Countdown to Final Crisis, it’s safe to say that a lot of readers were leery of this latest DC Comics super-hero event title. Balancing that perspective is the fact that it’s penned by Grant Morrison, a unique and powerful creative voice who’s known the innovation and intelligence he brings to the super-hero genre. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this book. While it feels as though he’s repeated himself a bit here, Morrison delivers a plot and script that’s challenging and engaging. Continuity fans might take issue with his script, as DC’s icons speak and react differently than what we’ve seen from them in the past. I rather appreciated it, though, as Morrison manages to mix two vastly different concepts. He approaches these characters as a larger part of a pantheon of gods, but the story also adopts a police-procedural tone that makes for a sharp contrast. Blending the disparate tones is intriguing, and I’m honestly interested in what’s coming next.

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Death Note

Batman #676
“Batman R.I.P. – Midnight in the House of Hurt”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Tony Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Randy Gentile
Cover artists: Alex Ross/Tony Daniel
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/CAN

Like many other readers, Grant Morrison’s stint on Batman has been running hot and cold for me. His Batmen of All Nations story — “The Island of Mister Mayhew” story arc,¬†published in this series last year — was one of the best Batman stories in recent memory, and it’s the sort of fare we all expected from Morrison from the start. But other efforts have been awkward and confusing, showing only faint glimmers of the writer’s usual genius. The first chapter of “Batman R.I.P.” falls into the latter category. It starts off strong, but later in the issue, the plot stumbles around, trying in vain to proceed while dragging the dead weight of multiple continuity references. I get the sense that Morrison is approaching things with a big-picture perspective, and how the pieces of puzzles fit together won’t be clear for some time. I’m willing to give Morrison the benefit of the doubt for now as he blends his surreal ideas with a more traditional approach to super-hero storytelling.

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Zero Tolerance

DC Universe #0
“Let There Be Lightning”
Writers: Grant Morrison & Geoff Johns
Pencils: George Perez, Doug Mahnke, Tony S. Daniel, Ivan Reis, Aaron Lopresti, Philip Tan, Ed Benes, Carlos Pacheco & J.G. Jones
Inks: Scott Koblish, Christian Alamy, Tony S. Daniel, Oclair Albert, Matt Ryan, Jeff De Los Santos, Ed Benes, Jesus Merino & J.G. Jones
Colors: Alex Sinclair, Tom Smith & David Baron
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover artist: George Perez
Editor: Dan Didio
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: 50 cents

DC’s release of this inexpensive comic book, focusing on the best-known icons from its super-hero stable, strikes me as kind of odd. Just days in advance of Free Comic Book Day, I’m left wondering why the publisher didn’t just make this one of its freebie titles for the event. Mind you, if other retailers are like mine, a lot of shops will likely give this cheap comic book away anyway. Still, I wonder if DC might be undercutting its FCBD efforts or if it will end up capitalizing on the larger crowds that it tends to generate. In any case, this is far from a key issue, despite early promotional and marketing efforts to bill it as such. This is little more than a tease, and not just for Final Crisis. Writers Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns just tease readers here, giving them sneak peeks at upcoming storylines for its top tier characters. On the one hand, it’s a bit frustrating. The comic reads like it’s a picture made up of pieces from different puzzles, a patchwork quilt made up of almost random pieces of fiction fabric. On the other hand, the teases are incredibly effective. It really makes me want to read several of the storylines previewed in its pages.

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Kurt Kritiques

Ever since he and an up-and-coming comics painter by the name of Alex Ross brought maturity to the world of Captain America, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man with Marvels, writer Kurt Busiek has been a prominent creative force in the realm of super-hero comics. Still, his profile has waned a bit as of late, but 2008 promises to be another big year for the writer. This summer, DC will launch Trinity, a new weekly series that promises to recapture the sales heat the publisher saw with 52 and lost with Countdown to Final Crisis. And Busiek will be at the helm.

He’s been writing Superman as well, and a new jumping-on point released last week is what’s sparked this focus on his recent work and my perception of a disparity in quality.

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You Can’t Go Home Again

Action Comics #858
“Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Chapter 1: Alien World”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils/Cover artist: Gary Frank
Inks: Jon Sibal
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.50 US/$4.25 CAN

Geoff Johns delivers an unusual but ultimately charming story that manages to balance an appreciation of the lighter, more innocent tone of Silver Age super-hero stories and a slightly darker, more modern edge. The plot — about Superman visiting his super-hero pals in a harsh future he no longer recognizes — is hardly the most innovative premise; we’ve seen this sort of fare time and time again (no pun intended). Furthermore, introducing another altered version of the Legion of Super-Heroes seems like an odd choice, given how many permutations of property seem to exist simultaneously in DC lore. However, Johns’s story works quite well, and even the inconsistent continuity is easy to ignore given the more iconic, nostalgic approach he takes with the characters. Also adding strength is the introduction of Gary Frank’s pencils to the title. His realistic art not only brings a sense of grandeur to the superhuman characters but reinforces the dire and intense tone of the plot elements that turn up in the latter part of this issue.

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Say Uncle

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters v.2 #1
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist: Renato Arlem
Colors: Rob Schwager
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Dave Johnson
Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

This new ongoing title flows from the previous eight-part limited series of the same name from late 2006/early 2007, and I’m pleased to find it maintains some of the same themes and strong characterization that made the first series so entertaining and interesting. Among those credited with the creation of the first limited series was writer Grant Morrison, and though his name’s been dropped from the credits here, his surreal and challenging influence is still being felt. The biggest shift in this new title comes with the artwork. Daniel Acuna’s bright, energetic artwork is replaced with a darker approach, but it reinforces the more mature side of this socio-political study, dressed up as a super-hero adventure.

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Ray, Ray, Go Away; Come Again Another Day

Countdown Presents the Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm #1
“The Search for Ray Palmer: Running Wild”
Writer: Ron Marz
Pencils: Angel Unzueta
Inks: Oliver Nome, Richard Friend, Saleem Crawford & Trevor Scott
Colors: Allen Passalaour
Letters: John J. Hill
Cover artist: Arthur Adams
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN

DC is offering up several Countdown spinoff books such as this one to introduce readers to some of the parallel earths that make up DC’s resurrected multiverse. It’s not a bad idea, as the high-profile event book is bound to pique the curiosity of readers who have never ventured outside of regular DC continuity. Personally, I was curious to read a story in which the more traditional DC heroes interact with the edgier champions of Jim Lee’s Wildstorm universe. There’s a problem, though: there’s no story here. Ron Marz’s script takes the reader on an uninformative tour of the world of Wildstorm. So there’s no story, next to no information about the Wildstorm characters and no resolution to or advancement of the heroes’ quest. Throw in some loose, distorted artwork and you’ve got the makings of a thoroughly disappointing super-hero comic.

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