Category Archives: Reviews – DC

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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Beauty Is In the Eisner of the Beholder

The Spirit #1
“Ice Ginger Coffee”
Writer/Pencils/Cover artist: Darwyn Cooke
Inks: J. Bone
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Scott Dunbier
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN

Artist Darwyn Cooke is no stranger to writing for the medium. He penned Batman: Ego and merited a lot of attention for his work on DC: The New Frontier (which is getting a big push during this holiday gift-giving season with its Absolute edition). But with his scripts on Superman: Confidential and now The Spirit, Cooke is really starting to come into his own as a comics writer. Based on the Batman/The Spirit one-shot Cooke did recently with writer Jeph Loeb, I was expecting a light, traditional super-hero romp in this first issue. Instead, Cooke offers up a clever and entertaining criticism of 24-hour news networks and superficial journalism. Even the writer/artist’s visual storytelling exceeds expectations, and given Cooke’s track record as a comics artist, that’s really saying something.

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The Society Pages

Justice Society of America v.3 #1
“The Next Age, Chapter 1”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Dale Eaglesham
Inks: Art Thibert
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Alex Ross (regular edition) & Dale Eaglesham (variant)
Editor: Stephen Wacker & Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$5.50 CAN

Ever since the Silver Age of Comics, stories featuring the Justice Society of America and its members have been about preserving tradition, about remembering where the modern icons of super-hero pop culture of today came from in the first place. That was true of Gardner Fox’s JLA/JSA stories in Justice League of America in the 1960s. It was true of Paul Levitz’s JSA stories in All-Star Comics in the 1970s. And it was true of Roy Thomas’s All-Star Squadron in the 1980s. I loved all of those stories and still do today. In this relaunched series, writer Geoff Johns balances the fondness of the heroes of yesteryear with an accessible script and a slightly darker edge.

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Kiss the Cooke

Batman/The Spirit #1
“Crime Convention”
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils/Cover artist: Darwyn Cooke
Inks: J. Bone
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Comicraft
Editor: Mark Chiarello
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US/$6.75 CAN

Though I’ve read a couple of the late, great Will Eisner’s past Spirit stories here and there, I’m really not all that familiar with the property and the supporting cast of characters. With Darwyn Cooke’s new ongoing Spirit series due in stores next month, this crossover with the Darknight Detective is a perfect primer for readers who might be unfamiliar with the more charming, crimefighting title character. Of course, the real appeal isn’t so much the meeting of two classic comics icons but Cooke’s artwork, and the pop-comic artist doesn’t disappoint his fans. With his artwork on this one-shot and his scripts for Superman Confidential, with writing and illustration duties on The Spirit and a New Frontier DVD release on the horizon beyond that, Cooke is gearing up to be the hottest creator of 2007. And it’s not as though he didn’t have some heat going already.

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On a Wing and a Dare

Birds of Prey #100
“Blood & Circuits: Part One – A Chance To Do Good”
Writer: Gail Simone
Pencils: Nicola Scott
Inks: Doug Hazlewood
“Keepsakes”
Writers: Tony Bedard & Gail Simone
Pencils: Paulo Sequiera
Inks: Robin Riggs

Colors: Hi-Fi Design
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artist: Jerry Ordway
Editor: Mike Carlin
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$5.50 CAN

DC’s all-female super-hero title reaches a milestone that one doesn’t often see in the industry anymore, and it merits this special, oversized issue. Writer Gail Simone has wisely opted to make this landmark an accessible jumping-on point for new readers, and both stories work well on that level. I wonder if longtime readers of the title won’t be just a little disappointed, feeling as though something is missing.

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And Now For Something Completely Different

Superman/Batman Annual #1
“Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One…”
Writer: Joe Kelly
Pencils: Ed McGuinness, Ryan Ottley, Sean Murphy & Carlo Barberi
Inks: Dexter Vines, Cliff Rathburn, Sean Murphy, Don Hillsman II, Bob Petrecca, Andy Owens & Rodney Ramos
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: McGuinness & Vines
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$5.50 CAN

A reader posted a comment on my site recently, longing for the days of fun comics, in which super-heroes acted like heroes. I recommended a couple of new comics, noting that such comics haven’t disappeared altogether. I can now add another newly released comic to that short list of recommendations, and it’s Superman/Batman Annual #1. DC readers who love tightly scripted stories that maintain a strong sense of continuity won’t much care for this book, but there’s definitely an audience that will want to seek this comic out.

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Donner’s Party

Action Comics #844
“Last Son, Part One”
Writers: Geoff Johns & Richard Donner
Artist/Cover artist: Adam Kubert
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN

Marvel Comics has made a lot of noise about its ability to lure TV and movie talent into the world of creating comics, especially as of late. DC has had its fair share of contributing talent coming in from other media (such as Kevin Smith and Brad Meltzer), but much more has been made of blockbuster movie director Richard Donner’s collaboration with Geoff Johns, his one-time assistant turned sought-after comics scribe. Donner’s probably best known as the director of Lethal Weapon, but almost three decades ago, he mesmerized moviegoers with Superman and Superman II. There’s definitely a more cinematic tone to the pacing of the plot, the way the dialogue plays and the simpler, more traditional characterizations for the supporting cast. Fans of recent, in-continuity Superman stories might find this story to be a bit frustrating at times, but viewed outside of that context, Donner and Johns’s story is fun and yet promises something epic in tone.

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The Answers Are Blowin’ in the Wind

Justice League of America v.2 #2
“The Tornado’s Path, Chapter Two: Tornado-Red/Tornado-Blue”
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Pencils: Ed Benes
Inks: Sandra Hope
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Michael Turner/Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN

There are a couple of plot developments in this issue that don’t quite make sense to me. The disconnect between the big three iconic heroes and the rest of the case is frustrating, for example, and Black Lightning doesn’t seem to act in the most intuitive manner either. Still, there’s something fun and engrossing about this issue, and it’s the air of mystery Meltzer brings to the book. There’s a real sense of buildup here and a hint of an epic, larger-than-life threat that only a team of god-like heroes can combat. Meltzer’s script also adds credibility to the genre by creating a convincing super-criminal underworld that has an air of logic to it but also pays homage to the many stories that have come before this one.

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Trials Judged

Trials of Shazam #1
“The Boy and the Man”
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist/Cover artist: Howard Porter
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Mike Carlin
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN

I’ve never been a big fan of the original Captain Marvel.  Though in part the ultimate in childhood wish fulfillment, he was also a clear knockoff of Superman (if memory serves, a court even ruled as much decades ago).  Both the Big Red Cheese and the Man of Steel of whitebread pillars of strength and speed, both with rogues’ galleries full of mad scientists and monsters.  With Trials of Shazam, writer Judd Winick addresses that redundancy, focuses on the main difference between the pair and reworks Captain Marvel into a different kind of hero with a different kind of mission.  It’s a smart move, but I wonder if DC will stick with it in the long term (especially with a Jeff Smith Shazam! project in the future) or allow the changes to last solely for the 12-issue of this limited series.

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