Category Archives: Reviews – DC

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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Prenuptial Disagreement

Justice League Wedding Special #1
“Unlimited, Chapter 1: Injustice League”
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils: Mike McKone
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Ed Benes
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.75 CAN

There were elements from Brad Meltzer’s run on Justice League of America that I enjoyed, but there were problems as well. That didn’t stop the title from selling like gangbusters, but all the same, I anticipated Dwayne (Fantastic Four) McDuffie’s arrival as the new Justice League writer. This special is essentially his first issue of the regular series, as he launched his first story arc here. McDuffie has impressed as of late with his work on FF and Beyond, as well as his contributions to the delightfully entertaining Justice League Unlimited cartoon, so it seemed that his tenure with the comic-book adventures of the League would be just as strong. That, unfortunately, does not prove to be the case. There’s potential here in the old-fashioned approach to super-hero storytelling, but the script is inaccessible and points out several times that it really doesn’t make sense in the broader context of DC continuity. But the most frustrating thing about this “wedding special” is that it really has little to do with a wedding and doesn’t seem all that special.

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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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