Thursday, July 24, 2008

Comic Con - Kevin Smith on "Batman: Cacophony"

During the DC Nation panel, DC Editor Dan Didio introduced Kevin Smith as the writer for a 3-issue miniseries called "Batman: Cacophony". Smith was entertaining stating that issues 1 and 2 would come out in 2009 with issue 3 coming out years later. He addressed his issues with being good at putting out #1 issues and not following through. He assured the audience that issues #1 & 2 have been scripted and he's almost completed with #3. The artist is a good friend of his and is done with 22 pages so far. Didio stated that issue #1 would be out in November. Smith feigned surprise at that statement.

As quickly as he came in...he left. As I've been picking up the Bat-titles lately, I'll probably pick this up just to see Smith's take on the character.

Comic Con - Chatting with Freddie E. Williams II

I won't bore you with the long day I had before I even made it to Comic Con, but let me just say sitting in traffic on I-5 South for 4 hours isn't fun.

I got to the Con pretty late and headed to my favorite spot - Artist's Row. There sitting at the far end was "The Flash" artist Freddie E. Williams II. He was a very personable guy. I remember when he first came onto "The Flash" I was excited but then initially disappointed with how his art was being colored. Well, I think in the last few issues he really hit is stride....just in time for DC to move in a new direction. I discussed this with him and surprisingly there was not a note of bad feelings. He said DC asked him what he'd like to do next. He said he'd like to work on a young, caped hero that can have a dark side. To his surprise DC offered him to come back to "Robin". He had a bright smile on his face as he talked about it.

I'm looking forward to his last issue on "The Flash" as he said that DC allowed him to "cut loose" on the character. He said that he wanted to go out with a bang on the last issue. During our discussion he was sketching a pretty neat little Flash and it was interesting to see him draw. Freddie is a good guy from the great state of Missouri. He even talked with me about my son's art and told me to drop him a line when my son was old enough to start thinking about the biz.

If you make it to San Diego, go to artists row and check out the great personalities there. No lines and good conversation. It is neat to pull back the curtain a bit and see what makes these talents tick.

Thanks for the chat Freddie.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Nightwing #146

When writer Peter J. Tomasi hopped onto "Nightwing", it was like he was shot out of a cannon. This first arc has been a wonderful read, establishing Nightwing as a major player in the DCU. He's come a long way from almost being killed off in "Infinite Crisis". I hope that Tomasi has a character to work with after With what is happening to Dick over in Morrison's "Batman R.I.P.". Everytime Tomasi has Nightwing talk with Superman, I dig it. Tomasi can really nail dialogue between these two.

Art: 2 out of 4
Story: 3 out of 4
Overall: 3 out of 4

The art in this issue was passable. I liked Rags Morales previous issues much better. The fill-in artists, Don Kramer and Sandu Florea, just didn't capture the strength or grace of Nightwing like Morales can. While I'm not a big fan of fill-in artist, I do appreciate DC keeping this book on time. The closing chapter of the "Freefall" story arc wasn't as good as I would have hoped, but in the end Tomasi accomplished getting Nightwing back into the DCU at large. Tomasi's dialogue makes this book. If you didn't pick this up in floppies, I'd recommend the TPB when it comes out.

Billy Batson & the Magic of SHAZAM! #1

Aritst/Writer Mike Kunkel breathes life into Billy & Mary Batson. Kunkel crams a lot into this first issue. He quickly lets the reader know that this is a continuation of the Captain Marvel that we read in Jeff Smith's "Monster Society of Evil" miniseries. Kunkel sticks with the kid-like Billy & Mary and that really goes a long way in making this book kid friendly. He has a humorous take on the beginning adventures of Captain Marvel and he got a few chuckles out of me while I read this book.

Art: 4 out of 4
Story: 4 out of 4
Overall: 4 out of 4

Kunkel's art is stylistic and matches the tone of the story. I don't think he could cram any more panels onto the page. While many first issues cover little ground, Kunkel sets up Billy & Mary's living situation, school, Billy's job, the villain, and the relationship Billy has with the wizard Shazam. Along with a train saving adventure, this comic was well worth the price tag. My only concern is that there is so much dialogue on the page that younger readers may skip it. I hope they don't because this book is a breath of fresh air.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Final Crisis #1 of 7

After reading "Final Crisis" #1, I skimmed around the net looking at some reviews. Over at Rokk's site he had a very detailed review of the issue and Val over at Occasional Superheroine was not impressed. I come into "Final Crisis" having read "Infinite Crisis", "52", "Countdown", "Salvation Run", and the big guns (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, JLA) books for the past few years. So, I have a pretty good understanding of current DC continuity. To my surprise, writer Grant Morrison pretty much throws a boat load of it out the window. The first casualty is the awful "Countdown". Morrison, in the hopes to inform the reader, almost completely ignores that 52 -week mess. As I guy who bought and ready every issue hoping for it to get better, I'm happy that this choice was made. Somewhere along the line DC Editorial realized that "Countdown" was a dud, even though it sold well. It was a big failure as a story. "Final Crisis" #1 begins to clean that mess up.

Art: 4 out of 4
Story: 4 out of 4
Overall: 4 out of 4

There isn't really any big "Wow!" moment like Marvel gave readers in there current crossover's first issue. Morrison gives the reader a constantly building tension filled issue. The pacing is solid and provides an excellent jumping on point for the series. I think if you skipped "Countdown" and all of its tie-ins, you will be right at home in "Final Crisis". Morrison lays down a story that starts literally at the beginning and starts the path down to what could be New Earth's destruction. The stakes are high and the players are many. J.G. Jones nails the art. He provides the mood to Morrison's excellent script. I get the feeling that these are universe shattering events going on and the stakes are high.

You don't need a scorecard to read this book. Morrison allows the characters to bring the reader up to speed. You'll know who's who as you move along and you will be sucked in. I'm looking forward to see how this series plays out. I have faith that Morrison can bring it home.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Batman #676 (R.I.P.)

I jumped back onto "Batman" at the beginning of "The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul" story and was quickly disappointed. I have never really read a lot of Grant Morrision and was told he's the best. Well, that little story did not live up to the hype. I have never been a huge Batman fan. I generally like him better when he's playing off of the other DC heroes. However, my son wanted to keep getting the Batman Family of books ("Batman", "Detective Comics", "Robin", & "Nightwing"). While the latter three books have kept my interest, I have been somewhat confused by Morrison's "Batman". Having not read the entire Morrison run, I'm probably coming into the party too late. I was hoping that with the "Batman R.I.P." story that Morrison would welcome new readers by making this issue new reader friendly.

Art Rating: 2.5 out of 4
Story Rating: 4 out of 4
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 4

I was truly impressed with this issue. From the first page through the end, Morrison kept the pace up and the plot points coming. Morrison has truly take the Joker to a dark place and it is interesting to see this insane take on the character. The reader gets to get into Bruce Wayne/Batman's head a bit in this issue and Morrison shows that he is very much a conflicted character. Tony Daniel's art is good but it just doesn't scream "Top Tier Book!". He does a fine job of putting Morrison's plot to page and his Joker looks very insane. The true star of this issue is Morrison's writing. He has me looking forward to how this story plays out.

Justice League of America #21

I'm not sure what to think about writer Dwayne McDuffie's stint on "Justice League of America". I know that he is held in high regard for his previous work, but it seems that he is a bit off his game with this book. The JLA is supposed to be the premiere DC book. The stories should be blockbusters. However, whether due to DC Editorial mismanagement or bad writing, each issue seems to be a setup for some other big event. Just recently we've seen a setup for "Tangent: Superman's Reign", "Salvation Run", and now "Final Crisis". I'd like to see this book get its footing and let McDuffie shine.

Art Rating: 3 out of 4
Story Rating: 3 out of 4
Overall Rating: 3 out of 4

McDuffie takes some time to do a little evaluation in this issue. The Trinity meeting reflects the vibe of "Justice League of America" #0 but is more a status check on how the league is doing. McDuffie handles the banter between the big three and shows he has a good understanding of their dynamic. He uses this plot device to clean up some nagging questions and address some complaints I've read on message boards. For example, Batman treating supposed team leader Black Canary poorly is discussed. The art team of Pacheco & Merino do a fine job with the discussion giving the characters the proper facial expressions to match McDuffie's plot. The art team really shines when an old Martian Manhunter villain shows up and the "Final Crisis" prologue action happens.

As a stand alone issue, I liked what McDuffie and company did here. They presented a pretty good jumping on point for new readers while addressing current reader's issues. However, if this turns into a one-shot and forgot regarding Libra's plans and the next issue goes on to set up another miniseries event that is coming up, I will truly feel sorry for McDuffie. DC is treating him like a glorified fill-in writer and he deserves better than that.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Justice Society of America #15

With the explosive ending of last month's "Justice Society of America" I was looking forward to what writer Geoff Johns hand in store. Many on the web have lamented the addition of so many members new members to the roster, while I have taken a bit of a wait and see approach. Johns has worked his magic on several titles and I have faith in him. Johns had no problem making a story about a plethora of ring toting good guys and bad guys a great story over in "Green Lantern". While the added characters haven't really lit me up, they do add some depth to the team making it almost a current day "Legion of Super-Heroes".

Art Rating: 4 out of 4
Story Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Overall Rating: 4 out of 4

While Johns' writing continues to drive this book, I amazed at the effort put forth by penciller Dale Eaglesham and inker Prentis Rollins. Assisted by the outstanding colors of Alex Sinclair, the art team brings a depth to the proceedings that is missing in some of DC's other high profile books. You can feel the weight of each character on every page. Johns sends up a very good action packed story, bringing along quite a few character bits as well. The final introduction of Gog is also not to be missed. My only complaint about the issue is that the promise of the Kingdom Come looking Green Lantern really isn't met in this issue. Alan Scott and son join the fight, but by no means do the win the day. I love the KC GL design and hope to see more of it.

Month-to-month Johns puts out a good story. Even if you are not steeped in JSA lore, you can connect with this book and enjoy its variety of characters. If you haven't checked it out you should.

The Flash #240

In the last year DC has botched not one but two launchings of "The Flash". Having been onboard for Wally's return, I must say that after the 9 Waid/Peyer penned issues that the Bart Allen "Flash: Fastest Man Alive" series wasn't all that bad. Bart Allen had a lot of potential as the new Flash and it was waisted when DC needlessly killed him off. Wally's return on the other hand was supposed to be a return to greatness for the character. Well, that has not happened. Saddled with two lame kids - and I'm not saying lame because they are kids. I'm saying lame because of the way they are characterized in the books - Wally just is not as peppy as he was back in the day. I was a huge Barry Allen fan, but when he was killed off in COIE I thought it was a fitting end to the character. I was a huge Wally West fan as well. His series as it flowed from its beginnings through Waid and the Speed Force and Johns and the Rogues was very good. I wasn't upset when during IC they sacrificed Wally. It had some nice symmetry to it.

Art Rating: 2 out of 4
Story Rating 2 out of 4
Overall Rating : 2 out of 4

"The Flash" Relaunch Rating: 1 out of 4

However, with Wally's return, it seems DC just doesn't know what to do with the character. Waid's second stint was a failure. Peyer was supposed to set in motion a plot that would be compelling, but we get Wally looking for a job. The new villain, as lame as the costume and name are, has started to add some interesting bits to the mix. I would prefer the villain just dress like an NBC Executive and run his Spinning like a true network suit. Just as Spin begins to to get interesting we get Gorilla Grodd - I guess he survived "Salvation Run" - rampaging through the set leaving Hulk-size destruction in his wake. Who knows if Spin will be cast aside now.

Peyer was starting to put the pieces together for a good Flash run. He has Jay Garrick tightly tied in and that is a blessing. He has a classic Flash villain Gorilla Grodd and an new rogue Spin added tot the mix. He's nudge the twins story along some. I'm hoping he grows them up fast and gets them out of the book faster. Freddie Williams II's art looked good. He is getting more comfortable with the Flash and the supporting cast. However, the coloring is just to bright in this book and brings down Williams' art. The coloring seems to have gotten better over the last couple of issues, but the reds are so red they make the pages look almost like Cel shaded cartoons. Tone down the reds and the book would look much better.

Overall, I still have this on my pull list...hoping that DC will spin the character around and make this a top tier book again.

The Brave and the Bold #13

I can't understand why people are not buying this title. With all of the continuity driven events going going on, this book stands outside of all of that and gives some pretty good team ups month-to-month. This month we get the unusual team up of Batman and Jay "The Flash" Garrick. Writer Mark Waid deftly handles the dialogue between the veteran Flash and Batman. The similarities between the two are a bonding point, but Batman gives a pretty realistic reaction to Jay's questions. While I loved George Perez's art on the earlier issues of this series, DC has not missed a beat with the addition of the superb Jerry Ordway. His classic renderings are a perfect fit for this book. He draws a very nice Golden Age Flash.

Art Rating: 4 out of 4
Story Rating: 3 out of 4
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 4

I heard the announcement that J. Michael Straczynski is taking over the reigns from Waid. While I believe that Waid has done an excellent job over the first year of this series, I have read a lot of JMS over the past few months ("Supreme Power", "The Twelve", etc.) and I think he is certainly up to the task. From what JMS has said in interviews we will see more quirky team ups and I'm all for that. "The Brave and the Bold" should be a comic that anyone can pick off of the rack and enjoy the read. This issue is one of those types of reads.

Batman and the Outsiders #7

As an individual issue of "Batman and the Outsiders", this issue is a very brisk and well plotted read. I like the handling of Metamorpho's powers but he comes across as a bit whiny in the crunch. Batgirl continues to be intriguing. I just wonder how she breathes with her face fully covered by what looks like a leather mask. The team is taking a beating here. Batman is finally gathering steam to get out into the field. Hopefully next issue we will see Batman & the Outsiders not just the Outsiders on a mission.

The art on this book is very good. I like the coloring by Marta Martinez. The painted look gives the reader a rich and detailed page to take in. The art team of Rodriguez and Bit are also in good form here. The art really pulls me in.

Art Rating: 3 out of 4
Story Rating 3 out of 4
Overall Rating: 3 out of 4

My only complaint about this story line is the pacing. The individual issues are good reads. Dixon can keep the tension up quite easily, but the overall arc is a bit plodding. We haven't moved much from the team getting to the launch site until now. I get the feeling the story is being padded a bit for the future TPB treatment.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

DC Universe #0

Before I even got a chance to get to my LCS and pick up "DC Universe" #0, I heard the big news. I saw it on the AP, at comic sites, and even heard it discussed on Howard Stern. So, to gauge the reaction of someone not born during "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and a big Wally & Bart fan, I had my son read it first. His reaction was interesting. He didn't get that big reveal. I had to explain it to him. His entry into DC comics happened during "Infinite Crisis" so he isn't the biggest Barry fan. He did like the art saying every page was outstanding and the fact that it the issue had a story. I thought this issue was a good way to wash the bad taste of "Countdown" away. Writers Grant Morrisson and Geoff Johns stitch together trailers for the big DC books for 2008 into a very good comic. The art by DC's best is very good - worth the 50 cents alone.

I was a bit down on the coming Final Crisis as the last year of "Countdown" hasn't wowed me. Having said that, after reading this book, I'm excited about what DC has planned. Here's hoping that DC can deliver on the promise of "DC Universe".

Friday, April 25, 2008

Countdown to Final Crisis #1 & The Death of the New Gods #8 - FINALLY!

The mess that is "Countdown to Final Crisis" and "The Death of the New Gods" is over. For those of you reading "The Death of the New Gods", after this final issue you should bounce over to "Countdown to Final Crisis" #2 to read the final chapter of that story. You would think that a title called "The Death of the New Gods" would end with...say...the death of one of the biggest New Gods.
"Countdown" reads like an epilogue wrapping up stories that I just didn't care about. In the end, this was a dismal failure - maybe not is sales but certainly in story telling.

Skip both when they come out in TPB...neither are good or required reading.

Superman/Batman #46

Quite the opposite of this month's "Justice League of America", "Superman/Batman" delivers on all levels. From the outstanding cover to the final splash page, writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson are hitting on all cylinders. Penciller Shane Davis continues to impress me. He gives the book a cinematic feel and captures the intensity of Batman and the strength of Superman. I'm glad he's on for this entire story arc. When I heard of this arc I was a bit "meh" on it. However, I have enjoyed the entire arc and I'm looking forward to the slam/bang conclusion.

Green & Johnson have really turned this title around. With them on the title, you can't go wrong in picking it up. If you dropped "Superman/Batman" it may be time to try it out again.

Justice League of America #20

Ugliest cover of the week goes to "Justice League of America" #20. If I was shopping for a new comic, this cover would not reach out to me. The story inside is a bit of a mixed bag. It is a great story for "The Flash". If this story had appeared in his regular monthly, it would have fit right in...well, compared to Mark Waid's recent run this would have been a stand out issue. As a JLA story, it didn't really hold up. "Justice League of America" is supposed to be the premiere monthly from DC. It certainly is a top seller. This story just didn't reach the level that it should have. Dwayne McDuffie has had a rocky run so far on this title. I hope that he can refocus and put out a true JLA story with the characters facing something truly daunting. Otherwise, this comes off as another filler issue. Oh, Ethan Van Sciver's flash is pretty damn good.

Hulk #3

The first three issues of "Hulk" have hit like a summer popcorn flick. If you're looking for deep thinking, look elsewhere. If you're looking for some "leave your brain at the door" action packed fighting, you've come to the right place. Writer Jeph Loeb has produced a script that really lets penciller Ed McGuinness shine. The art on this book is outstanding - not realistic, not cartoony...just fun to look at. McGuiness' Hulk is dynamic and expressive. Who is the red Hulk? I have a few ideas but it doesn't really matter. Rick as the Abobmination is pretty funny. The "A-bomb" as he calls himself comes across as a very early version of the original Hulk - split personalities on display here.

If you're looking for a fast, action packed read, this is it. If you are into more high brow reading, stay away.