Category Archives: Reviews – DC

Weekly Report

Trinity #52Trinity #s 1-52
Writers: Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Mark Bagley, Mike Norton, Scott McDaniel & Tom Derenick
Inks: Art Thibert, Jerry Ordway, Andy Owens, Ande Parks, John Stanisci, Wayne Faucher
Colors: Pete Pantazis & Allen Passalaqua
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover artists: Various
Editor: Mike Carlin
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US per issue

Has it already been another year? Judging from the number on this week’s issue of Trinity, yes it has. As DC’s third weekly series of the century comes to a close, it’s natural to look back and evaluate this experiment. Was it a success? If one were to compare its sales figures to those of 52 from two years ago (or even to the figures of the much-maligned Countdown to Final Crisis), one would have to say it was a flop. But the fact of the matter is that DC move a couple of hundred thousand copies (or more) of Trinity every month. That’s a lot of comics being rung up at cash registers. Given that DC’s next weekly series, Wednesday Comics, is exploring a much different approach to weekly genre comics, it’s clear that the publisher it out to revitalize its weekly efforts. I have to admit, I can’t wait to see it, but I’ll also have a soft spot for this scattered saga.

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Animal Pragmatism

The Last Days of Animal Man #1
“Part One: Deny”
Writer: Gerry Conway
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Dave Meikis
Colors: Mike Atiyeh
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artist: Brian Bolland
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

This limited series is getting underway about, oh, two years too late. I’m not suggesting it’s been delayed or lying around or anything. The point is that Animal Man’s popularity peaked in 2006-2007, when he was a featured player in 52. This far removed from that weekly series, this title’s sudden arrival in comic shops is a little perplexing. However, there were a couple of elements that were enough to grab my attention, to pique my curiosity. Chief among them was the fact that this marks Punisher and Firestorm co-creator Gerry Conway’s return to comics. He spent some time as a part of the Law & Order machine, and he also served as a producer and writer for a variety of other TV shows. Conway’s super-hero sensibilities of the 1970s and 1980s show through here, but he also includes some socio-political elements and some solid characterization. Furthermore, I’ve always really enjoyed the crisp, dynamic super-hero artwork of Chris Batista.

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Flee Market

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1
“Step One: Make a Lot of Enemies”
Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artist: Freddie Williams
Colors: Tanya & Richard Horie
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artist: Kako
Editor: Ian Sattler
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I was a bit perplexed when DC Comics announced its plans to publish a bunch of Final Crisis Aftermath mini-series four months after the conclusion of Final Crisis. The publisher has essentially lost any momentum generated by the (generally) well-received final issue of Grant Morrison’s event title. It seems these Final Crisis Aftermath books should have been released in — oh, I don’t know — the aftermath of Final Crisis. Still, there were elements in the solicitation copy for some of these new limited series that piqued my interest, and one was the potential for an interesting character study of a villain, the Human Flame, in Run!. That’s why I opted to purchase this first issue, but my wallet won’t abide any more for future issues. Williams offers up a caricature rather than a character. The central figure in this story is so completely loathsome that I’m at a loss as to why anyone would be interested in learning more about him. Perhaps some depth will be found in future issues, but I won’t be around to discover them.

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Night of the Living Dead

Blackest Night #0
“Death Becomes Us”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils/Cover artist: Ivan Reis
Inks: Oclair Albert & Rob Hunter
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: Free

This is one of two free comics DC is offering for Free Comic Book Day, scheduled for May 2 this year (the other is DC Kids Mega Sampler, obviously designed for new, young readers). As the title suggests, this is a prologue to DC’s big summer event, but it also serves as a primer on the Green Lantern Corps, the other color corps that have debuted recently and play a role in the event. Furthermore, the 12-page story also sums up recent events in the DC Universe, mainly, those that involve the deaths of a number of super-heroes, including Batman and the Martian Manhunter. Despite the fact that this story is steeped in DC continuity and a contrived (by fun) event concept, it’s accessible, which is exactly what one of these free comics ought to be. The goal of Free Comic Book Day is, after all, to attract new readers to the medium. DC’s goal with this publication, however, seems to be to attract existing comics readers — mainly Marvel fans — to its universe of colorful characters.

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Murder Mysteries

Batman #686
“Whatever Happened to the Caper Crusader?
Part 1 of 2: The Beginning of the End”
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Scott Williams
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artists: Andy Kubert and Alex Ross
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I’m honestly surprised that this two-part story from comics scribe-turned-acclaimed novelist Neil Gaiman has been marketed more heavily outside of the comics industry. Gaiman’s the brains behind a popular and lauded animated film still in theatres and the recent winner of a prestigious literary award, and he’s become quite the star in the world of prose, known to audiences beside those who frequent comic-book shops on a regular basis. In his eulogies for the Dark Knight, Gaiman essentially pays tribute to the history of the Batman, and I would have expected that to be of interest to pop-culture journalists across the spectrum. In any case, Gaiman offers some strong, entertaining and novel examinations of the title character with a script that’s sufficiently surreal so as to offer an atmosphere that’s somewhat consistent with the weird, stream-of-consciousness scripting that Grant Morrison offered up over the course of “Batman R.I.P.” I don’t know if that was by design or coincidence, but it works, as “Whatever Happened to…?” works nicely as a quiet, thematic epilogue to the excesses and madness of “R.I.P.”

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Milestones, Meet the Milestones…

Justice League of America #27
“Be Careful What You Wish For…”
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils/Cover artist: Ed Benes
Inks: Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, Norm Rapmund & Drew Geraci
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’d promised myself I was done with Justice League of America, at least until writer James Robinson takes the helm with a more unconventional lineup, but my curiosity about the manner in which DC and Dwayne McDuffie planned to revive and reintroduce the Milestone characters got the better of me. To my relief, the writing seemed more focused as compared to the past story arc or two; there seems to be a clear direction (though what that direction is isn’t clear yet, which is fine). Unfortunately, the script is riddled with references that are bound to perplex newer readers. And of course, JLA remains hampered by Ed Benes’s artwork. His performance on this title has slowly degraded since its debut, and his artwork appears to be at its most rushed in this issue.

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Psychiatric Assessment

Batman #681
“Batman R.I.P., the Conclusion: Hearts in Darkness”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Tony Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artists: Alex Ross (standard cover) & Tony Daniel (variant)
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/CAN

Superman’s often been described as a great big Boy Scout, but it seems that writer Grant Morrison might disagree, giving the Dark Knight that particular distinction among super-hero icons. After all, the Scout motto is “be prepared,” and that’s what this story is all about. In fact, Morrison suggests that’s what the title character is all about, and it works pretty well. As I suspected, Morrison’s confusing story arc (and his lengthy run on the title) all comes together in the final chapter. Still, while the surreal storyline makes much more sense in the end, this isn’t as strong and innovative a climactic chapter as I’d expected from a writer of Morrison’s caliber.

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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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