Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney Buys Marvel?

I usually don't post news stories here, but this is too big to pass up: regular reader Pete sent me this link to a story about Disney buying Marvel for $4 billion!

The deal apparently includes all the characters, rights, etc. My first reaction was "Oh, no!" - but then I thought about Pixar doing a movie based on Marvel characters and I felt much better about the whole thing.

We'll see how this goes... but it should have the Internet in an uproar for a few days, at least.

Fantastic Four #570

Getting a new creative team on a comic book is sort of like going on a blind date - you never know what you're going to end up with.

Even if you liked a writer or artist's previous work, you never know if they're going to have the same success with a different book - sometimes, it's just not a good match.

So new writer Jonathan Hickman and new artist Dale Eaglesham take over the adventures of the Fantastic Four with this issue. Hickman's been doing good work on Secret Warriors, and Eaglesham just wrapped up an excellent run on Justice Society, so one would expect good things from them here.

After reading the first issue, I have to say - the jury's still out on this one. That's because we're just getting the first part of the new storyline, so it's a bit early to decide whether the book deserves a "thumbs up" - but so far, I see no reason to think the story will earn a "thumbs down."

Here we have a good mix of family interaction, pseudo-science exploration and old-fashioned comic book-style action (though the opponent never seems particularly menacing - Reed hardly breaks a sweat here). It's the FF by the book.

Still, the characters all "sound" right, and Reed (who is the focus of the story) is well-portrayed as the ultra-intelligent hero with a heart. He's trying to find the answers to some very big questions, and it'll be interesting to see where it goes.

The art I like a lot. Eaglesham has tons of talent - his characters are individual and expressive, his actions scenes are strong, and his layouts tell the story cleanly. I'm not sure how I feel about little touches, like the short-sleeve shirts on the new FF uniforms (except for the shirtless Thing, of course) and Reed's permanent stubble, but those are minor complaints.

The final grade on the new team is going to depend on where the story goes from here, and while the opening round was solid, it remains to be seen if the new creative team and the Fantastic Four will be the right match. But so far, it's promising.

Grade: B+

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Batman and Robin #3

Here's the final issue in the opening chapter to Batman and Robin, and sadly, it's also the last issue for artist Frank Quitely.

His style is unique, with perhaps a little Geoff Darrow in there, and maybe a smidgen of Bernie Wrightson. But whatever the source of his inspiration, Quitely manages to create a world that is dark, dynamic and often horrific, with art that combines a realistic flair with an abstract style. If that makes any sense.

His work is always compelling. and I'm sorry to see him wrapping up his run.

Grant Morrison continues as the writer, and here he crafts a strange and disturbing tale that focuses around an evil circus and its demented owner and operator, Pyg.

The Dynamic Duo (gee, I always wanted to write that) get to show off their physical prowess and get in lots of fighting. But the team also shows some flaws, as they overlook an important matter that may come back to haunt them.

As the new team (in the comic at in the real world) settles in, so far, this has been a strong effort and well worth checking out - though the material is a bit rough in places and this may not be suitable for young kids.

Grade: A-

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The New Avengers #56

When a franchise starts creating spinoff titles, that's usually a good sign that the end is near.

Look at the Uncanny X-Men. Once the top book in the industry, now it keeps dropping in sales. Why? Because the brand has been watered down. New X-Men, X-Men First Class, X-Force, X-Factor, New Mutants, etc. etc. etc.

Soon the reader gets tired of the overload and starts drifting away from the titles - but the line limps on as the company keeps trying to milk every last dollar out of the readers. (By the way, DC and the other comics companies are equally guilty of this.)

At Marvel, it happened to Spider-Man and it's about to happen to the Hulk, but that character is in a race with the Avengers.

The Avengers spent a lot of years near the top of the sales charts, and then, through a series of lackluster stories (don't get me started on teen Tony Stark), it came crashing down.

But it's been revived over the past five years (or so) by Brian Bendis, who shook up the status quo and infused the New Avengers title with some new characters, powerful stories and unexpected directions.

Of course, nothing breeds excess like success, so now there are other Avengers titles to choose from: Dark Avengers, Mighty Avengers and the assorted mini-series, such as the recent one starring Ronin (Hawkeye) and Mockingbird.

Thankfully, Bendis has maintained control of the "original" Avengers comic, New Avengers, and continues to take it in surprising directions. In the latest issue, he has the team stricken by a mysterious force that has wiped out their powers - which is a bad thing when an army of super-villains show up who are apparently immune to the effect. Then throw the Dark Avengers into the mix and things really get interesting.

The art is by the always-excellent Stuart Immonen, with inks by Wade von Grawbadger, and they manage to cover the army of characters and the chaos of battle with great skill.

I'll admit that I'm suffering from Avengers overload, and if those other titles went away, it wouldn't bother me a bit. But this comic, I like.

Grade: B+

Friday, August 28, 2009

Green Lantern #45

This issue should carry a warning: "Now with 100% less Green Lantern content!"

Of course, Hal Jordan is busy right now fighting for his life over in the Blackest Night mini-series, so this issue (which also ties into that series) focuses on some of the other colorful Corps stories, with special emphasis on Sinestro and Star Sapphire (Carol Ferris).

Written by Geoff Johns, the issue features some good moments, but is largely focused on moving all the pieces into place, as the Black Rings continue to seek out more dead heroes and villains to resurrect.

The art is excellent under Doug Mahnke, with some strong moments here. He's rapidly moving up on my "favorite artists" list.

There's not much else to say about the issue without giving away important story elements, but it's not all grim events - there's a funny moment with Larfleeze (Agent Orange) that should get a laugh.

This issue isn't crucial for following the Blackest Night events, but as always, it couldn't hurt.

Grade: B

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Flash: Rebirth #4 (of 6)

When reviewing the last issue of The Flash: Rebirth, I wrote:
What this series really requires of the reader is patience and trust that the creative team knows what it's doing. I wouldn't go along with that idea for most comic books, but with this issue, I'm on board.
And this issue, judging by the genuine chills, cheers and emotional moments, pays back that trust.

I was tempted to just write "Wow!" for my review here, but that would be cheating. But after the surprisingly slow build-up for this series, and the threat of a dark, grim and gritty future for the character, this issue delivers the goods in spades.

It does this by finally introducing the mysterious villain behind the disruptions in the Speed Force - our old friend, the Reverse-Flash (who was revealed on the last page of the previous issue, and on the alternate cover of this issue, lest you think I'm spoiling any surprises).

Here writer Geoff Johns finally starts revealing those plot points he's been carefully keeping just out of sight, and artist Ethan Van Sciver turns in another outstanding issue, with striking layouts, emotional splash pages and high-powered pencils. Colorist Brian Miller also deserves lots of kudos for his outstanding work here.

Finally, the mysteries around the true nature of the Speed Force are revealed, and that's when... well, stuff really starts happening.

I know Barry Allen has been back since his appearance in the first issue of Final Crisis, but with this issue, we see the return of The Flash. (No offense intended to those who think Jay Garrick or Wally West are the ones deserving of the title.)

If you're a Flash fan, you must read this issue.

Mark me down as "can't wait to see the next one."

Grade: A+

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Pile of Comics!

Lots of good stuff at the comics shop today. I picked up:

- New Avengers #56 - This one has taken an interesting twist.

- Batman and Robin #3 - The last of Quitely's run, alas.

- Dark Reign: Electra #5 (of 5) - This has been quite good.

- Fantastic Four #570 - The first issue for the new creative team. Looks promising!

- Flash Rebirth #4 (of 6) - Wow! After a slow start for this series, this issue gave me chills. If you were ever a Flash fan, you should read this issue.

- Green Lantern #45 - More Blackest Night action, which has been darned good so far.

- The Incredible Hercules #133 - A fun book.

- The Incredible Hulk #601 - Glad to see this back with Greg Pak at the helm.

- Justice Society of America #30 - Hey, Dr. Fate's back! Or is he?

- Secret Warriors #7 - This takes a surprising turn.

- Wednesday Comics #8 (of 12) - Two-thirds of the way there!

I somehow overlooked Sherlock Holmes #4 (of 5), so I'll have to pick that up next time around!

The Classics - Rip Hunter... Time Master #16

Bear with me, I'll get to the comic is a minute. First, a story.

About 15 years ago I was working for a local TV station and I was given the opportunity to write an original children's special - the topic was up to me, and the only stipulation was that it had to be educational and practical in terms of budget - in other words, it had to be something we could shoot on the cheap.

I thought about it a long time, and since the show was aimed at kids, I decided to seek inspiration (some would say steal) from the books and comics I enjoyed as a kid. One of my favorites - and one that I actually learned from - was Rip Hunter... Time Master.

That comic featured four friends who traveled through time, courtesy of Rip's invention, the Time Sphere. Rip was the leader, his friend and lab assistant Jeff Smith was his right-hand man, Bonnie Baxter provided the love interest, and her kid brother Corky was the obligatory kid.

They were very much in the vein of the Challengers of the Unknown and Cave Carson - close friends and family members who shared amazing adventures.

The Time Sphere would carry them to the past (and occasionally into the future), where they'd meet famous historic figures, witness events and enjoy all kinds of adventures.

For example, in this issue (cover dated Sept.-Oct. 1963), a criminal hijacks the Time Sphere (luckily Rip has a backup) and sets out to build a "Criminal League of the Ages," which will include Captain Harry Hawkins, the infamous English highwayman, and Baron De Koven, the Black Knight.

As a kid, I never minded the way writers would sneak in some education with the story - it gave it an added dimension that's (sadly) almost completely missing from today's comics.

Rip Hunter always featured solid art in the classic DC style (though of course the artist and writer were never credited - Wikipedia lists Jack Miller as the writer and Ruben Moreira as the artist), and each issue was a treat, filled with adventure, twists and turns and a fun story, all "done-in-one."

Back in the world of TV, I used the idea to write an hour show that featured a kid being sent back in time when his Uncle's invention is accidentally activated (that part we shot in the engineer's shop at the TV station). He visits several time periods, learns about the history of the area (we shot at existing historic sites and used local actors to play historic characters), and along the way the viewers learn about history and such.

It turned out well, especially considering our monetary limitations, and when it appeared on the air it got good reviews, although one writer suggested that I had lifted the idea from the Back to the Future movies (which had honestly never occurred to me).

Hey, I wonder if Robert Zemeckis read Rip Hunter, too?

Grade: A-

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Conan the Cimmerian #13

Here's a comic that seems to fly under the radar of most fans.

That's a shame, because Conan of Cimmeria is consistently an excellent read.

This issue wraps up the six-part adaptation of Robert E. Howard's story Black Colossus, and it's outstanding. Writer Tim Truman has an excellent grasp of the Hyborean Age, the brutality of armed combat and the dark magic that fills the shadows (and our nightmares). I'm not sure how much of the comic script is Howard and how much is Truman, but it all reads like Howard, and that's the highest compliment I can pay any writer.

The art is by Tomas Giorello, with color by Jose Villarruria, and what a fantastic job they do here, especially considering it's one of those jobs that has to be a nightmare for any artist. "Draw 500 horsemen racing down a hill toward an invading army of thousands of Stygians." But they manage it with great power and skill. They evoke horror, fear and brutality, and still manage to draw one of the sexiest women in comics with the barely-covered Princess Yasmela.

Admittedly, "Colossus" isn't one of Howard's best stories, but even his average stuff is well worth seeking out. It's a brutal fight to the finish, and not to be missed.

Back when Roy Thomas left the Conan books in the '80s and lesser writers took his place, I thought the series could never be that good again.

That's one of those rare moments when I'm glad to be proven wrong. Kurt Busiek got this series off to a great start, and now Truman is carrying the banner high. If you're not reading this series, you're missing out.

Grade: A

Monday, August 24, 2009

Daredevil #500

This is a comic that very few creators have ever managed to get a grip on.

Oh, a few have done well with it. Stan Lee, Wally Wood, Gene Colan, Frank Miller, Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker have done outstanding work on Daredevil's adventures. But so many others never seem to know what to do with the character.

Perhaps it's because he doesn't have any real powers, other than his radar sense, which is more a gimmick than a power. Maybe it's because he's an attorney in the real world - not an occupation many have warm feelings about, although they've been careful to paint him as a "good" lawyer. Whatever the reason, Daredevil has been everything from a wise-cracking, de-powered Spider-Man to a grim avenger of the night.

The best and worst moments in DD's career usually happen when a creative team decides to make a drastic change. Examples include: Wood's creation of a new red-and-black costume (good); sending Matt Murdock off to the West Coast (bad); Miller and McKenzie introducing new supporting characters and turning to darker storylines (good); giving DD a new bio-costume (bad); focusing on strong writing and street-level stories under Bendis (good); and exposing DD's identity to the world (bad).

Let me explain that last point. It's always a good shock to have the hero's secret identity exposed, and Bendis did it as well as it has ever been done - but it also cuts the hero off from his history and supporting characters and leaves him out in the cold - something they realized too late on Spider-Man. And it's something you can't "un-do" without jumping through some major hoops or cooking up a ridiculous explanation (again, see Spidey).

Anyway... with this issue, Brubaker wraps up his run on the title, which has been quite good, largely a continuation of what Bendis had done, with a continued focus on crime and street-level action.

But the stories just keep getting darker and darker, and the result is that members of the supporting cast are put through all kinds of hell so DD can be tormented about his part in their fate. Am I the only getting tired of the ever-tortured hero?

To be honest, I miss the wise-cracking good guy who battled against the odds and found a way to win through his courage and wits. But I suspect it'll be a long time before he shows up again (if ever).

None of this is to take away from the good work done in this issue by Brubaker and artists Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano. They turn in a tight final chapter on the conflict between Daredevil, the Kingpin and the Hand, touching on DD's origins and adventures since. They also manage to launch the series off in yet another direction (which may or may not be to your liking. Me, not so much).

The issue is filled out with a preview of new writer Andy Diggle's work (not enough here to get a sense about it), a new and delightful short story written by Ann Nocenti (who had a long respectable run on the title years ago) with art by David Aja; a darned impressive pinup gallery; a reprint of a classic Frank Miller issue; and a gallery of all the covers in DD's history.

Of all Marvel's heroes, Daredevil has to have the most peaks and valleys in his publishing history. He started out strong, waned, became the most popular comic in the stable under Miller, slowly declined and faced cancellation, only to be revived by Bendis and Brubaker to be one of the best-written comics in Marvel's line.

It'll be interesting to see what the future holds for "The Man Without Fear." Given past ups-and-downs, I'd be a little worried if I were him.

Grade: B+

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Web

There seems to be an unwritten rule in comics that every 10 years or so, a company needs to trot out some of its older characters to see if they can be rebooted for a new generation of readers.

That seems to be in play at DC this year, as the company once again attempts a return for the line of heroes that originated with Archie Comics, some of whom date back to the Golden Age.

Here we have The Web, who I first saw in the mid-1960s as a supporting character under the Radio Comics banner. It was remarkable at the time because it was probably the worst comic I'd ever read (up to that time). It was written in an attempt to mimic the success of the Batman TV show and Marvel Comics, and the creative team got almost everything wrong, from the poor attempts at camp humor, the laughable "hip" dialogue, and the forgettable villains. The comic quickly died a well-deserved death.

The characters returned in the early '80s in Archie's short-lived Red Circle line of comics. The Web returned at DC in the early '90s as part of its ill-fated Impact Comics line, and this time it was (if I recall correctly) set up as a SHIELD-like organization, fighting the bad guys. Cancellation soon followed.

Now the concept is back yet again in DC's new imprint called The Red Circle, although this time around the heroes are apparently being folded into the DC Universe.

The title character is a hero in the Tony Stark / Bruce Wayne style - an ultra-rich businessman who decides to use his skills to fight the bad guys.

Of course, today the word "Web" has a completely different meaning, and the comic uses the Internet definition to good effect.

DC is smart to turn the Red Circle comics over to a darn good writer, J. Michael Straczynski, and a strong art team in Roger Robinson and Hilary Barta.

But despite the talented team, the comic seems awfully rushed, and we have lots of questions unanswered - the big one being, what are The Web's powers and where did they come from? He's powerful, but it would be nice to have some idea of how he's managing these stunts.

Still, it's a promising start. Hopefully this time around those Archie heroes can stick around for a while. Like Coach always said, "Keep running that play until you get it right."

Grade: B

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wednesday Comics #7 (of 12)

Just over halfway through the run of Wednesday Comics and I have to declare it a brave, clever, entertaining and delightful failure.

Which is not to say that I'm not enjoying it.

Each edition is packed with terrific art, at least a few good stories - some clever, some fun, some adventurous - and several storylines that just don't work.

Let's run 'em down:

- Batman has great art, but the story is a mess. I have no idea why he's torturing this guy or what's going on. Some guy got killed in the first issue, it involves his pretty wife and some other guy, but that's all I remember. Some kind of recap would be a big help.

- Kamandi is still the cream of the crop - fantastic art and a compelling story, it makes perfect use of this format.

- Superman is finally back on track after several weeks of whining and moaning. It's tough to feel sorry for the most powerful hero on Earth, but here we get back to some action sequences. Thank goodness! I like the art.

- Deadman is another interesting strip that works well, but his adventure into the afterlife is just now starting to make sense.

- Green Lantern, like Superman, finally hits the action button, although the page isn't much more than a short fight scene. The art is quite good, though.

- After moving along at a glacial pace, the lighthearted Metamorpho strip finally starts making sense here. This nicely captures the spirit of the original comic.

- The story in Teen Titans is also finally making some sense, but it's hard to care about the story, and I have to admit I'm not crazy the art.

- Strange Adventures gives us the strangest Adam Strange ever - but it's a real delight to see the new twists Paul Pope has layered on this concept. Lots of fun.

- The award for the cutest page goes to Supergirl, as she seeks help for her super-dog and super-cat from a grouchy Aquaman. A bit silly, but this strip continues to be a hoot.

- Metal Men features fantastic art and a story that's moving at a snail's pace. The first issue started out with the team in the lobby of a bank and they're still there!

- Wonder Woman might as well be printed in another language - it's just indecipherable. I'm not even sure what order to read the teeny tiny panels. I just skip this page, sorry.

- Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. continues to move along very slowly. After a month-and-a-half of Rock being tortured he finally gets to stand up. Great art.

- The Flash continues to mix the storyline between superhero action and a focus on Barry Allen's wife, Iris West. The story seems to be spinning out of control, as more than a dozen Flashes convene to fight Gorilla Grodd, but what's going on and why there are numerous Flashes is a mystery. A new reader would be lost here.

- The Demon and Cat Woman is another strip that baffles, since I can't really remember what's happening here. Cat Woman stole something from the Demon, escaped and was transformed into a real cat by an old witch, and the Demon went after her and now they're both dealing with Morgaine Le Fay. I think. Good art but confusing story.

- I like Kyle Baker's art on Hawkman, but the printing doesn't seem to be doing the strip any favors. Still, it's entertaining and continues rolling along at a brisk pace.

So to tally up the score, we have lots of great artwork displayed nicely in a big format, but only six or seven out of 12 have compelling stories. None of the strips are outright bad, but I would only rank two of them as outstanding.

Still, I'm enjoying this experiment, I salute DC for having the guts to give it a try, and I'll be around for the rest of the run. I'm hoping the average of great stories to average stories will continue to rise.

Grade: B-

Friday, August 21, 2009

Power Girl #4

Four issues into this series and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it.

As I've said before, the art by Amanda Conner is wonderful - she's one of my favorite comic artists. The story just oozes fun, her characters are so expressive, her comic scenes are hilarious (I love the sequence where Power Girl and Terra are watching a horror movie), her women are sexy, her storytelling is clear and professional, and her work is just a delight from start to finish.

It's the story by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti that still seems to be finding its rhythm. This "done-in-one" issue has three parts: the opening character bits with P.G. and Terra; a fun action sequence where the two fight an invading army of fantasy characters; and the focus on PG's professional and personal life, as we learn more about her company and employees.

It's all light and fun and features sharp dialogue - but it never quite goes anywhere. The issue just feels like it's offering a little downtime for the reader, a breather between the series opener (issues 1 through 3) and the story that follows, of which we get an odd tease at the end of this issue.

Since the series is just starting, it seems odd to have a "down time" issue already - but despite that minor complaint, this is a series I'm enjoying a lot. The characters are fun to be around, the stories are breezy, and did I mention the art is fantastic?

Grade: B+

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Archie #600

OK, sue me - I couldn't resist checking out this issue, especially after all the media attention it has received.

In case you missed it, this issue of Archie shows what happens when the eternal teen finally grows up. He marries Veronica!

Of course, most of the comics-reading world probably had the same reaction to this news: "What, is he stupid? Obviously Archie is supposed to marry Betty!"

Not to worry - writer Michael Uslan knows what he's doing: getting the attention of both fans and the media.

The story's structured in such a way that they have lots of leeway for future stories (as always, we try not to give away key plot points here at Chuck's Comic of the Day).

What I found most interesting was the art by Stan Goldberg. His depiction of the older (as in early 20's) Riverdale gang is largely the same, they're just a little... well, rounder. I suppose that is what happens to us as we get older (at least that's what happened to me).

Still, it's an interesting look at the future, although I'm surprised at the career plans the members of the gang have. With a couple of exceptions, they are not terribly ambitious. Did Jughead go to college to end up flipping burgers? Maybe it's the recession.

Archie is really an amazing phenomenon in comics - the series is pretty much the same as it was 60 years ago, but by keeping current with trends and fashions, and providing fun stories that young readers can relate to, it continues to be among the top-selling comics in the U.S. (and one of the few still managing hefty sales outside comics shops), and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Kudos to the company for coming up with a storyline that has me picking up my first Archie comic in years - and I'll probably be back for the rest of the issues in this series, too.

Grade: B

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Comics!

Hey, this is post #400 - and so far, no missed days. How about that?

Anyway, here's what I picked up today at the comic shop - a light week indeed:

- Wednesday Comics #7 - Still fun, but a real mixed bag.

- The Web #1 - I was never a big fan of these characters in the '60s or in their later versions, but I figured, what the heck.

- Power Girl #4 - Worth it just for Amanda Conner's art. (I know, I say that every month.)

- Justice League of America #36 - Stalling for time, but at least Len Wein is writing it!

- Daredevil #500 - This has been a strong series, and this issue sadly wraps up Ed Brubaker's run.

- Conan the Cimmerian #13 - The last chapter in the excellent Black Colossus adaptation.


- Archie #600 - Set in the future, in which Archie proposes to Veronica. Gad, he's an idiot. If only I owned the first issue of Archie - I'd sell it out of anger (but mostly I'd sell it for the 30 grand).

Oh, and I picked up an action figure of Goodwin and Simonson's Manhunter, a character I've always liked.

The Classics - Sandman #8

Here's a terrific comic that didn't cost a cent. No, I didn't get it by trading or stealing.

I got this issue of Neil Gaiman's Sandman as a gift. At the time it was issued (the cover date is August 1989) I got all my comics through Westfield Comics, an excellent subscription service which is still up and running today and still providing great service - highly recommended, and tell 'em Chuck sent you! (OK, end of plug.)

As I recall, DC Comics and Westfield went together to offer this complimentary issue as a way to promote the series, which was starting to get some serious buzz from the fans.

It was a promotion that worked well on me - I added Sandman to my list after that, and got them all right up to the last issue.

The fantasy series focuses on the character Dream, the personification of the world of sleep and the imagination. He's just one member of a family of similar creatures, and is closest to the sister introduced in this issue, Death.

The setting allowed the exploration of all kinds of stories, including love, damnation, destruction, creation - you name it. Gaiman built a lush mythology all his own, and peopled it with fascinating characters, heroes and monsters.

It's the series that established Neil Gaiman as one of the outstanding modern fantasy writers, and the heir apparent to Alan Moore's crown.

I don't want to give away too much about this particular issue, but it explores the nature of death and life and is one of the better single issue comics in modern memory.

The Sandman comics have been collected many times over, and if you're inclined toward thoughtful fantasy, then you can't go wrong with any of the collections (though I should add that most of them include adult content).

The stories are intelligent, thoughtful and clever - always a good read. The series was also blessed with an array of outstanding artists, such as this issue's Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III.

Of course, the series is now known as a classic, so I'm not really telling most of you reading this anything new. But it does give me a chance to say "Thanks" to my pals at Westfield Comics for introducing me to one of the most literate comics in the history of the genre.

Hopefully I've passed the favor along to other readers out there!

Grade: A+

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #5 (of 8)

After a bit of a delay, it's good to see this mini-series back on track.

But gaps in publishing are the best argument for waiting for the collected trade edition. As much as I enjoy this comic, which always brings a smile (even with its horror setting), I have to admit I'm having trouble remembering the story so far.

But maybe it's not necessary to remember - this issue really tells you everything you need to know. Hellboy's friend is dying, and the only chance to save her is to get her to a nearby castle - which just happens to be surrounded by flames and guarded by an invincible opponent.

Add to that a deadly foe plotting against everyone's favorite monster, a surprising guest appearance and lots of action, and you have yet another outstanding issue to enjoy.

The comic also features as six-page MonsterMen backup drawn by the excellent Gary Gianni, who apparently squeezed in some more excellent artwork in between his regular gig drawing Prince Valiant every Sunday.

Whether you wait for the trades or pick up the floppies, you'll rarely go wrong with Hellboy. I can honestly say I've never read an issue about Mike Mignola's creation that I didn't enjoy - and I've read 'em all.

Grade: B+

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Marvels Project #1 (of 8)

As part of the celebration of Marvel's 70th Anniversary, the company has been issuing a series of special issues devoted to its Golden Age characters, such as the Human Torch, Captain America and the Sub-Mariner.

Those have led up to this mini-series, The Marvels Project, which will apparently unveil the "true" history of the Marvel Universe, beginning with the first appearance of super-powered characters.

The idea is to show how it's all connected - presumably in ways we never thought about before.

I'm tempted to gripe that series like this always try to tie everything together in a neat bow of convergence and coincidence, and often strain credulity to manage it (we see the Ultimate Origins series bowing its head in shame over there).

I don't really think it's necessary - the stories are already interesting without trying to link everything together - but I suppose there's no resisting the impulse to make things "make sense."

Thankfully, Marvel was smart enough to put some of its best creative talent on this issue, including writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting. They take us back to the late 1930s, linking the beginning of the Marvel Age to the heroes of the Wild West in a clever way.

This series covers some familiar ground, but also sets up some interesting subplots along the way that (thankfully) make sense without really changing anything about Marvel's history as we know it.

It's not always easy to make history fun, but so far, this series is off to a great start.

Grade: A-

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Adventure Comics #1

This series kicks off with a couple of handicaps and two strong points.

Among the handicaps: it stars the newly-reborn Conner (Superboy) Kent, a character I've never been too crazy about. He has potential, and hopefully this issue will bring it out, but he's always been just another B-list character to me.

Also working against it is the general malaise that seems to have fallen over the Superman family of comics, as they're all overshadowed by the New Krypton storyline.

On the plus side, the story is written by Geoff Johns, one of DC's best writers, and a guy who's very good at crafting new beginnings for characters who have been, shall we say, underused in the past. His story here is a good reintroduction to the character and his new setting, with some interesting twists along the way.

The art by Francis Manapul is also good - light and fresh, well-suited to a story about life in Smallville.

Another strong point is the backup feature starring the Legion of Super-heroes. This first story is mysteriously set almost entirely in the present, but it features Johns' patented final page teasing upcoming storylines, and that's always fun.

So all in all, not a bad package, but nothing earth-shattering yet, either. It is great to see Adventure Comics back on the stands, though we'll have to give this one a few more months to get a better idea of where it's all going.

Grade: B+

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ultimate Comics Avengers #1

After almost 10 years, the Ultimates finally have the right name for their group - The Avengers - and a new creative team to guide the title out of the turbulent waters of Ultimatum.

Well, part of the team is new - writer Mark Millar returns to the comic he co-created, this time teamed with artist Carlos Pacheco.

The good news is, the comic is much better than the last version of the Ultimates (though one wonders how it could have been much worse).

Of course, I have to admit to having kind of a love/hate relationship with this comic. Some of the elements of the Ultimates stories I enjoyed - the slight retooling of Captain America, character tweaks to Thor and Iron Man were interesting, and the massive scale of the stories was fun - but there were things I didn't like, too, including making the Hulk a mass murderer, turning Henry Pym into a serial wife abuser / murderous thug, and generally making all the heroes less heroic. One friend of mine dropped the book early on, saying he preferred stories about heroes who were actually heroic. I held on, but I often agreed with him.

So here's the latest version of the team. The story re-establishes the characters, sets up a mystery and launches into a huge action sequence that's a lot of fun. There are some shocking moments and a last-page revelation that sets up a heckuva story to follow.

Pacheco's art is quite good, with lots of dynamic sequences and detailed art. His work is strong, and only suffers in comparison to Bryan Hitch's art - but the same could be said of any other artist who took the job.

It's good to see this comic getting back to big story, clear storytelling and the kind of twists and turns you'd hope for.

So far, so good.

Grade: B+

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1

Now that the ugly business that was Ultimatum is behind us, the Ultimate Universe has been reconfigured into the Ultimate Comics Universe, and the first two releases popped up this week.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man picks up six months later, and hoo boy, have things changed for Peter Parker, and I'm not just talking about the clumsy new title for the comic.

Of course, I can't really talk about the changes without giving away some of the juicier parts of the story - but the good news is, it all works, and has that same feeling of fun, adventure and discovery that was the hallmark for the original Ultimate Spidey series.

Brian Bendis continues as the writer for the book, and that's good news. He has a lot of great comics to his credit, but not many better than his work on this title. It's just a shame he can't write Amazing Spider-Man, too.

The art is in the hands of David Lafuente, one of the brighter up-and-coming artists in comics today. His work just bubbles with energy and enthusiasm - a perfect fit for this comic.

This first issue sets up several plots and mysteries for future exploration, and apparently we're going to see more super-powered supporting characters, including some from other super-teams.

I was genuinely afraid they were going to toss out this comic with the rest of the Ultimate Universe. How nice to be wrong!

Grade: A-

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blackest Night #2

I always thought zombies made poor monsters. Slow, shambling, easy to outrun or fight back against - as long as you stay out of their grip, what's to worry about?

Not that I'd like to run into one, especially with their modern upgrades - these days they're fast, fierce, smart and utterly evil.

Those are exactly the kind of undead creatures the heroes in the DC Universe are facing, and as this issue of Blackest Night shows, it may be a battle they can't win.

The army of the Black Lantern Corps continues to grow as rings seek out the dead and somehow reanimate and reconstitute their corpses.

Here we see the battle raging on several different fronts, including quite a few members of the Justice League (some alive, some not). The central figures are Green Lantern and the Flash, who team up to take on the Martian Manhunter.

Geoff Johns has a gripping story building here, and Ivan Reis provides some powerful art, including some stunning full-page spreads.

For a battle like this to be an epic, at some point while reading it you have to wonder, "How can the good guys possibly win?" It's a question you'll ask yourself more than once here.

The fun part is seeing how it all works out. Bring on the next chapter!

Grade: A-

Back in Business!

Sorry for the delay - I had to go out of town a few days to help my oldest son move to his new home in Texas, and I got back late Wednesday, so I didn't get to my Comic Shop this week until, oh, about a hour ago.

So, 24 hours late, here's what I picked up this week:

- Adventure Comics #1 - Hard for any comics fan to pass up a first issue, isn't it?

- Blackest Night #2
- Or in this case, a second issue.

- Green Lantern Corps #39 - More Blackest Night action.

- GrimJack: The Manx Cat #1 - Yet another first issue!

- Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #5 (of 8) - It's been a while since issue #4, hasn't it?

- The Incredible Hercules #132 - Finally, a cross-over with the Asgardians.

- The Marvels Project #1 - How many number ones can one week hold?

- Ultimate Avengers #1
- Well...

- Ultimate Spider-Man #1 - Apparently at least two more.

- Wednesday Comics #6 - Halfway there!

And that's it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Today's Comics? No Idea.

Usually your pal Chuck posts a list of the comics he picked up at the comic shop on our weekly holiday, Comic Book Day (most people just call it "Wednesday").

Unfortunately, he's on the road right now and won't be able to post his list until tomorrow. Sorry to keep you waiting, faithful readers - but bear with us. He'll be home soon, if the friendly skies cooperate!

The Classics - Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #8

I'm pretty sure this was the first issue of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos I read when I was a kid - I got it in a trade with a friend in the neighborhood, probably a few months after it was printed (the cover date is July 1964).

My copy of the comic is not in great shape - someone had marked some ink lines on the cover before I bought it - and I read it to pieces in the years after.

I was never a big fan of war comics, but I was interested in this issue because it featured Dr. Zemo, who was also appearing in that month's issue of The Avengers (#6), having surfaced in the modern era as an enemy of Captain America. The same character in two adventures across a 20-year span - how's that for cross-promotion?

This issue convinced me I was wrong about those war comics - at least the ones featuring the Howlers. The issue, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Dick Ayers, featured the Howlers doing all kinds of amazing things, like destroying an enemy submarine, blasting a tank, invading a castle, escaping death traps, and facing off against Zemo's deadly death ray. Oh, and they introduced a new Howler in their spare moments, as Percy Pinkerton joined the team, becoming the comic's token British Commando.

The comic was improbable, over-the-top, loaded with humor and a complete blast from start to finish. I started picking up the team's adventures more often after that, and I've been a fan ever since.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Astro City: The Dark Age: Book Three #4 (of 4)

You can count me as a huge fan of the Astro City series - I think they're some of the best comics of the last 20 years and I look forward to each issue.

Having said that, even the best creators can stumble, and it seems like each of the creators has stumbled on this latest series.

It carries the title The Dark Age: Book Three, and the storyline certainly matches the title. It follows two brothers - Charles and Royal Williams - who are trying to track down the man who murdered their parents. They were children when the murder happened, and their lives have taken different paths - but they're united in their thirst for revenge.

Their path has brought them into the middle of several different super-human conflicts, each one darker than the one before it. Unfortunately, each storyline has also become more convoluted and difficult to follow.

Even though Book Three has come out on a monthly basis (which is wonderful to see), it's set in the middle of a cosmic conflict between every team of heroes in Astro City and a Galactus-level opponent called The Incarnate.

The story jumps back and forth between the Williams brothers and the cosmic battle, leaving the reader somewhat shell-shocked.

Even the art by the always-outstanding Brent Anderson seems crunched in places, as he squeezes in armies of heroes and villains into chaotic battles.

And Alex Ross, whose covers are usually a great selling point, has devised an unusual design for this series that makes it almost impossible to tell what you're looking at. The title is completely obscured, and the figures all run together. I actually was a week late picking up the third issue because I looked right at it on the stands and didn't see it.

Now, having griped about this comic, let me say that Kurt Busiek's poor issues are better than most comics out there. The problem is, I'm so spoiled by the high levels of this series, that any issues that descend into the "normal" level get hammered for not being extraordinary.

All comics should have this problem.

Despite this issue's stumbles, I'm still a huge fan of this series and I anxiously await the next issue. I just hope I'll see it when it goes by.

Grade: B-

Monday, August 10, 2009


Sorry, had a minor problem with posting - it should be all better now!

All Winners 70th Anniversary Special #1 (One Shot)

I have to say that I've really been enjoying these 70th Anniversary issues Marvel's been offering this summer.

They feature some strong creative talent telling good, interesting stories, with fresh, inventive art.

This issue is another strong addition to the series, as it focuses in on the short-lived super-team, the All Winners Squad.

The team was first gathered not long after World War II ended, and they didn't exactly set the world on fire - in fact, the team's best stories have been told in modern days, flashing back to its "untold" tales.

This issue is another example of that, as we see the replacement Captain America struggling to fill Steve Rogers' red boots (Steve and Bucky were apparently killed at the end of World War II, you'll remember. They got better).

We also see the beginnings of romance between the Whizzer and Miss America, and lots of interaction with the other members of the team, including the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, Bucky and Toro.

It's a good story by the underrated Karl Kesel, with a fun twist on a classic tale. The art is by Steve Uy, whose work is dynamic but with a good cartoonish look that's appropriate for the time period.

The issue also features some Golden Age reprints, including a Captain America story from 1944.

So far, these anniversary issues have been quite good - only fitting for a special occasion, right? Keep 'em coming!

Grade: B+

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Doom Patrol #1

When I picked up this issue, John, the owner of the comic shop I frequent, said, "Good choice - this is going to be a sleeper hit."

Of course, I've long been a fan of the Doom Patrol, so it was an easy call for me, especially since the comic includes a Metal Men back-up.

The comic seems to pick up where John Byrne's recent series left off, centered around the original trio - Robot Man, Negative Man and Elasti-Woman. There's no apparent connection to the Vertigo series, or to the original Silver Age version of the team. But I suspect Byrne won't be happy with the events in the first part of this issue.

I wasn't too crazy about it, either. Writer Keith Giffen provides a dark, nasty and grim story that devotes most of its time to examining the individual team members (to be fair, there is some humor in evidence).

In the original incarnation, the Doom Patrol members were troubled but heroic - an odd family of sorts. This time around, so far, they're just odd, they don't seem to like each other much, and they're frankly not terribly interesting.

The art by Matthew Clark is pretty good, though some of the action scenes were difficult to follow.

So all I can say is: I think my comic shop owner was wrong.

But wait, what about the Metal Men story? Well, all those things I said about the Doom Patrol? This story is the opposite.

It's also written by Giffen (along with J.M. Dematteis) with art by Kevin Maguire. It's a light-hearted romp very much in the style of that team's work on the classic Justice League America.

There's lots of humor, great art, a breezy story - it's like a breath of fresh air after the grim world of the Doom Patrol. When it comes to this issue, split between Doom Patrol and Metal Men, I vote for more of the latter and less of the former.

Doom Patrol: C+
Metal Men A-

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Invincible Iron Man #16

Virtually every mainstream title at Marvel has been touched (or perhaps I should say stained) by the overarching Dark Reign story.

One of the titles that has managed its tie-in with the most skill is The Invincible Iron Man, which has been carrying the subtitle, "World's Most Wanted."

The story has Tony Stark on the run from Norman Osborn and his HAMMER army. Osborn wants some information that can only be found in Stark's brain, so in an effort to protect his friends, Stark has initiated a process that slowly breaks down his mind's thought process.

As a result, he's moving backwards through his career as Iron Man, using earlier versions of his armor as he loses the ability to manage the newer, more sophisticated versions.

It's been an exciting (and somewhat sad) story, as Stark goes on the run while his mind slowly goes away.

This issue features two other elements of the past - two of his old girlfriends, Pepper Potts (the heroic Rescue) and Whitney Frost (the wicked Madame Masque) face off and complicate his life.

This has been an outstanding series, with excellent art and story and lots of plot twists and turns. The next issue will apparently take Stark back to his beginning (or at least a beginning) - should be interesting.

I'm ready for Dark Reign to end, but I'm really enjoying this little corner of the event.

Grade: A-

Friday, August 7, 2009

Justice League: Cry for Justice #2 (of 7)

My review of the first issue of this series came down to: "I don't know what to make of this series yet."

Unfortunately, we're two issues into a seven-issue series, and I still haven't decided if Justice League: Cry for Justice is working or not.

Perhaps the problem is that the issue (like the last one) is almost entirely made up of heroes standing around talking. There are three pages of fighting - the hoary "two heroes meet and fight because of a misunderstanding," which is resolved in a completely unconvincing way.

There's another big action scene, but it almost entirely happens off-screen.

The art is nice, but since it's mostly static talking scenes, Mauro Cascioli doesn't get much of a chance to impress us with his painted art.

My confusion is probably related to my high hopes for James Robinson's writing - and he plants some nice touches in here, referencing DC history and characters in a fun way for long-time readers - but that's not enough to carry the story, and so far this series hasn't taken off.

Perhaps the biggest problem is the line-up, which seems to have been assembled entirely at random. There's still time for this series to impress, but it's sure taking the long way around.

Grade: B-

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Captain America: Reborn #2 (of 5)

Back when Captain America died, my biggest concern (like most every other comic book reader) was: when they bring Steve Rogers back, will the story be worthy of the idea of killing an icon?

Because let's face it, death is cheap in comics. It would probably be easier to list the heroes who haven't died and been brought back, instead of the ones who have "died."

So now we're two issues into Cap being Reborn, and thankfully, Brubaker's story is powerful enough to warrant special attention. It doubles as an exciting adventure story and an examination of who Captain America is and what makes him unique among heroes.

The story elements Brubaker put in place years ago are finally coming into focus, and the story is developing on several fronts.

We have Steve Rogers "jumping" into different moments during his life, and immediately sizing up the situation and working on a plan. The new Cap (Bucky) and the Black Widow find themselves facing overwhelming odds, as the depth of their problem is revealed. And the mystery around Sharon Carter and her connection to Cap's disappearance continues to grow.

Add to that the incredible art by Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice, and you end up with one of the best comics on the stands.

The toughest part is having to wait a month to see the next chapter!

Grade: A

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Major Event for Comic Book Day

At least it was a major event for your pal Chuck! Today, for the first time in more than 45 years, I didn't pick up the latest issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. I thumbed through it at the shop and couldn't work up any interest.

I've been hanging on since the whole One Day More storyline left such a bad taste, but I've endured through bad storylines before.

This time, I think the culprit is more the three-times-a-month publishing schedule, which keeps the book from having a consistent creative team. It's just too patchwork and haphazard, as the teams grind out stories at top speed.

No doubt one of these days they'll have a story that interests me enough to pick it up. In the meantime, I'm a fan who chose this moment to "jump off." It was fun while it lasted!

Here's what I did pick up:

- Agents of Atlas #9 - Looks like this comic is getting out of its Dark Reign slump. Good!

- All Winners Comics 70th Anniversary #1 - I've been enjoying these anniversary specials.

- Astro City: The Dark Age: Book Three #4 - This thing is coming out monthly - awesome!

- Black Panther #7 - This one's been flying under the radar - a darn good comic.

- Captain America Reborn #2 (of 5) - I was hoping Brubaker had a good story to tell when he finally brought Cap back. So far, turns out that he did.

- Doom Patrol #1 - One of my all-time faves, with a Metal Men backup? I wouldn't miss it.

- Hulk #13
- This one is hanging by a thread.

- Invincible Iron Man #16 - This series, on the other hand, has been very strong.

- Irredeemable #5 - A good series and a comic for 99 cents - can't pass that up.

- Justice League: Cry for Justice #2 (of 7) - Still gathering the team.

- The Spirit #32 by Mike Ploog, which is the wrap-up of the this version of Will Eisner's character. Good to see it going out on a high note - this comic has really run the gamut from terrific stories to truly bad ones.

- The Warlord #5 - This has been good, if a bit slow evolving.

- Wednesday Comics #5 - Still enjoying this, though some strips obviously work much better than others (I'm looking at you, Wonder Woman).

I also picked up Alter Ego #88, which features a lot of info about the legendary Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson.

The Classics - The Shadow

Even as a young child, I had heard of The Shadow.

Kids knew the famous phrase, "Crime does not pay! The Shadow knows!" (Cue the evil laugh.)

But despite all that, I had never seen the character until I picked up this comic book - The Shadow #5, cover dated September 1965 and published by Radio Comics (an offshoot of Archie Comics).

I wasn't impressed. Little did I know that this character had almost nothing in common with the original pulp character.

Here was a hero dressed in a generic blue-and-green superhero costume. The entire issue is devoted to a series of battles with five different villains, each of which he manages to defeat through a variety of super-weapons or abilities, including his ability to create illusions, a metal-destroying whistle, flying boots that allow him to catch a missile, and taking mental control of an opponent (which seems like the only power he'd really need).

The writer and artist aren't credited, but even by my 9-year-old self's standards, this was pretty weak stuff. It seemed like a weak imitation of Marvel's comics.

That series didn't last long, and not long after I started picking up the paperbacks reprinting The Shadow's original pulp adventures. I was immediately hooked.

So it was great to see, a mere eight years after that earlier Shadow, the real deal showing up in a new series from DC Comics (cover dated October-November 1973).

Guided by writer Denny O'Neil and artist Michael Kaluta, here was a series that returned the character to his origins. Set in the 1930s, it was surprisingly brutal, with gun battles, death and destruction aplenty.

In his war on crime, the mysterious Dark Avenger uses his band of agents (including the beautiful Margo Lane) to solve a mystery on the waterfront. The Shadow is not a superhero, though he has some amazing abilities - near-instant hypnosis, for example - but like Batman (whose creation was obviously inspired by The Shadow), he's a human who's trained himself to be at the peak of his abilities.

Also like Batman, The Shadow uses some "wonderful toys" in his battles. One of my favorites is on display here - the Autogyro, an early version of a helicopter.

The art is fantastic, which is to be expected from an industry legend like Kaluta. Each panel drips with mood and suspense - few artists can compare to his version of the world of The Shadow.

It's a shame that modern audiences probably don't know much about this classic character, although pulp reprints are once more available. DC is apparently planning some pulp projects, including one coming soon with Doc Savage.

I'm a big fan of Doc, but I can't help but hope that we'll see The Shadow back in action, too. He was the biggest star of the pulps, and deserves to be back in the spotlight. So to speak.

Grade: Radio Comics version: C-
DC version: A

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Secret Warriors #6

This is not always an easy book to like.

It's filled with characters who are tough as nails, and we still don't have a very good handle on the members of Nick Fury's Secret Warriors.

However (if I may contradict myself), I really, really liked this issue. It's loaded with plot twists, a huge battle between Hydra, the Secret Warriors, SHIELD, HAMMER and the Howling Commandos. Who could ask for more?

I love the way Fury is being presented here - maybe a little too hard-edged and cynical, but he's just what is needed - a tough leader in a difficult time, facing impossible odds.

The issue also benefits from some outstanding art by Stefano Casselli, although I have to admit that the monochrome coloring is starting to wear a little thin. Still, the art is powerful, rough-and-tumble, and matches the Brian Bendis and Jonathan Hickman script perfectly.

This issue wraps up the first big battle in this series, but they have a long way to go to win the war.

This book can be tough to like because the story is rolling out slowly, and that can try the reader's patience. But judging by this issue, that patience will pay off in spades!

Grade: A-

Monday, August 3, 2009

Justice Society of America #29

First the first time in a long time, the Justice Society of America comic is not being guided by Geoff Johns.

With this issue, a new creative team takes over. The writing is provided by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges and the art by Jesus Merino. And while, with just one issue done, it's too early to pass judgment on their run, I can say that they're off to a promising start.

We start where things left off under Johns, with the JSA being a cross between an extended super-hero family and a small army of heroes. No less than 14 heroes are presented on the first page, and more are waiting inside. The problem of too many heroes will probably be managed by the upcoming spinoff JSA title - but more about that in the months ahead.

This issue kicks off with a mystery - the discovery of a jet-black egg. While that's being investigated, the team is called away to a hostage situation that seems simple enough, but soon grows into a challenge that could spell the end of the JSA.

Then the issue wraps up with a double-cliffhanger - what's not to like? Well, the only problem with the issue is that it all feels a bit cramped and rushed - like they were trying to squeeze too much into one issue. But that's a mild complaint - better too much than not enough!

Merino's art is quite good, although he has to crowd so many characters in there that we don't get much room for close-ups or dramatic angles - still, it's a promising start.

The same is true for the rest of the book. The JSA is loaded with potential, and so far the new creative team is doing a good job of carrying the torch.

Grade: B+

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ultimatum: Spider-Man: Requiem #2 (of 2)

I have to admit to being puzzled by these Requiem books (they have them for Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four).

It really feels like Marvel is just clearing out its files as it wraps up the last 10 years of the Ultimate-verse, and gets ready to send the whole thing off in a new direction.

In this issue, for example, we have a 22-page story wonderfully drawn by Mark Bagley, surrounded by a framing sequence by the also-excellent Stuart Immonen, with the whole magilla written quite well by Brian Bendis.

Since Bagley is under contract to DC, this is presumably (like issue #1) a filler story that's been in the files for a while.

Whatever the case, it's an entertaining story as we see Spider-Man facing off against a major powerhouse.

It's an odd send-off for the best book in the Ultimate series, but I'm looking forward to seeing what the creative team does for the next chapter in Ultimate Spider-Man's story.

For quite a few years, this has been the home for the best Spider-Man stories around.

Hopefully the new comic with a slightly-different title and a brand new number will keep that string going!

Grade: B

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The New Avengers #55

After wrapping up an outstanding story featuring Dr. Strange, the New Avengers return to their underground existence in New York, trying to decide what to do about Norman Osborn.

This would probably be a lot more interesting if the team hadn't already done this in almost every issue since the end of Secret Invasion.

Can you tell that I'm getting tired of the whole Dark Reign story?

Writer Brian Bendis offers an interesting twist on a well-worn story idea, as a team of bad guys move in a completely different direction as a result of an overlooked event several months back. It's clever and well thought out, and it leaves us with an interesting twist ending, but it's still a letdown after the high octane story that just wrapped.

The art is by Stuart Immonen, who seems to be drawing everything these days (he also drew this week's Fantastic Four). As always, strong work from him as he tackles a few dozen different characters.

So it's a decent issue with some good moments and a twist or two, but it's not quite up to recent efforts.

Grade: B-