Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Comic Book Update: 5-1-2013

I guess three months is about the average time between posts for this particular article. I don’t even plan it that way. It just tends to happen that when my brain goes, “Hey! You need to do a comic book thingy,” that’s the amount of time that has passed.
           I’ve dropped a couple more books since last time and one old favorite has ended. From my point of view DC Comics seems to be dying a slow death, though I don’t have any numbers or anything to back that up. I’m just going by the following:
  • I am still dropping New 52 books and not adding any.
  • Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series were both cancelled after two seasons. They were both excellent shows (though I preferred YJ) that through an interesting collusion of gross incompetence from various parties died early, undeserved deaths.
  • Man of Steel has done nothing to earn unadulterated excitement, despite the involvement of beloved Bat-producer Christopher Nolan. It may well end up being amazing, but so far I haven’t seen enough to reassure me. I actually discussed this with Buttlanta’s own Le Sexoflex on the latest Needless Things Podcast. Check it out.
  • WB’s plans for future DC Comics-based movies… well… they don’t seem to have any. Not for sure.
  • The new Arkham game is not being made by the people that made the first two critically acclaimed, wildly successful games. This is not an automatic fail, but it can’t be good. Actually, now that I think about it, why the heck aren’t there more hero-based games from both comic book companies?
Oh. Never mind.
I’m going to go back to talking about comics now.
A+X
Each comic features two stories with two characters in each – one X-Man and one Avenger. You don’t need to know anything going in. Each story is self-contained. There is no angst, no grittiness, no edginess. It’s all fun, all the time. I love this book. All it asks of the reader is to open it up and read. The creative teams have all been pleasing so far; usually an accomplished writer with an artist I am unfamiliar with but almost always end up liking.
A+X definitely gets my highest recommendation.
Verdict - KEEPER
ALL-STAR WESTERN
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey have taken a book that I initially had no interest in and made it a “Top of the Stack” title; not to mention the best of the New 52. Moritat’s art is well-suited to the era and I am thrilled that he has illustrated every single issue so far. I don’t know how such a talented artist manages to stay on schedule when so many others can’t, but he deserves a bonus.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
ANGEL & FAITH
Still the best of the Buffy books. Issue #9 is one of my favorite single issues so far this year. It had action, drama, and humor – it felt more like a Buffy episode than 90% of the other comics that have come out since the beginning of Season 8. Kudos to Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs for producing such an excellent licensed title.
Verdict – KEEPER
THE ANSWER
I am already a big fan of Mike Norton’s work, but what made this book a definite buy for me was Dennis Hopeless’ writing on Cable and X-Force. I was so bummed out when Remender’s run on Uncanny X-Force ended, but the two spin-off titles have both been very strong so far. Hopeless’ in particular has been interesting and possibly the stronger of the two. So when I saw a book by Norton and Hopeless coming out, I had to get it.
It’s awesome. It’s a fast-paced title with an enigmatic hero and CONSPIRACIES! Norton’s art is obviously great and he and Hopeless have crafted a new and interesting universe that I hope to see more of. The initial 4-issue miniseries is done now, but when the trade comes out I recommend you pick it up. Very good stuff.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
BATMAN
The fallout from Damian’s death has been handled very well not only by Snyder but by all of the Bat-writers (the ones I read, anyway). That’s the main story right now. I still like the book.
Verdict - KEEPER
BATMAN AND ROBIN
The last issue teased Carrie (from Dark Knight Returns) as the new Robin, featured her in the very good story inside, and then made it pretty clear that she was not going to be the new Robin. Sometimes it’s fun to be fucked with. Gleason and Tomasi have really found their groove on this book. It is close to becoming the best of the Bat-titles. Or my favorite to read, anyway.
Verdict - KEEPER
BATMAN INCORPORATED
I said what I had to say about Damian’s death here. Since then the story seems to have devolved into a simple “must stop the Big Bad” thing. That’s okay. It took me a little longer than some, but I think I might finally be suffering from Morrison fatigue. As far as his Bat books go anyway. I did enjoy Happy, even if I do think it’s Morrison’s attempt at a “Hollywood bought it before it even got published” book, ala Mark Millar.
Verdict – WAITING FOR THE END
BATWOMAN
It has been becoming clearer by the issue that this book needed Greg Rucka. While the past two issues have taken a turn and been a bit more straightforward in their narrative, the previous stuff went on far too long. I will say that I am very happy with Trevor McCarthy’s art. He is the only acceptable alternative to JH Williams III.
Verdict - PROBATION
THE BLACK BEETLE
This is the first title I have read where Francesco Francavilla – one of my favorite artists currently working – is getting to do pretty much whatever he wants. The art is beautiful and the story is a lot of fun. I would describe it is pulpy noir if I honestly knew exactly what those terms meant (help me, Bobby Nash). Beetle is an amalgam of lots of classic heroes – The Shadow, Batman, Green Hornet - and I love the design for the character. I would pay top dollar for a Black Beetle in the style of Grafitti Design’s old Big Blast figures. Those are truly some of the best figures I own. I almost bought a new Grendel and Hellboy last time we were at Billy’s just to have fresher ones. Mine are old and worn and still have the smoky smell from the old house where my Man Room was in the garage.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 9
I’m burned out on this one. Or nearing burned out, anyway. I don’t outright dislike what they’ve been doing, but it isn’t exciting me. With every issue I keep thinking, “Just solve the fucking problem!” There isn’t really a compelling narrative, just this background problem of no magic while other stuff is going on. Maybe it’s just me, but the book seems kind of bland and directionless. There’s no urgency.
Verdict – PROBATION
CABLE AND X-FORCE
This is an awesome book. While Cable’s motives are mysterious, the writer – Dennis Hopeless – keeps the story compelling enough and Cable’s character just impeccable enough that things don’t seem chaotic or pointless. You can tell there is a grand scheme at work and I for one am comfortable letting it all play out. Salvador LaRocca provides beautiful art to compliment Hopeless’ story.
Verdict – KEEPER
CAPTAIN AMERICA
Uh oh. I have been raving about Rick Remender for the past three (or so) years. I love every single thing I have read. Except for this. I read the first five issues and just could not get into the story of Cap in the alternate dimension, not even with Arnim Zola around.
Verdict – DROPPED IT
CONSTANTINE
Jeff Lemire has been doing a bang-up job with Constantine’s character over in Justice League Dark, so I’m hoping he has a solid, grand plan for this solo book. So far it seems like he does. Two issues in and we’ve already seen a good bit of magic and also gotten a good idea of what a bastard Constantine is, but also why.
Verdict – CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM
DANGER GIRL: TRINITY
If you like J. Scott Campbell’s creation – a mix of Charlie’s Angels, James Bond, and Indiana Jones; but with chicks – then you’ll like this newest miniseries. The art is definitely up to Campbell standards and the story so far is about as good as a solid action movie. Like A+X, this is one of those popcorn books that you can just sit back and enjoy.
Verdict – FUN BOOK
DOCTOR WHO
I was a little concerned when I saw that the last and current issues were by a writer I had not heard of; as the first two story arcs of this new series were great. But I needn’t have worried – what we got a was a fun between-the-companions tale about a Cosmonaut and the Vashta Nerada. This book continues to be top quality and finds its way to the top of my stack every month. I hope they can continue this for the entire anniversary year.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
DOCTOR WHO: PRISONERS OF TIME
I have yet to read issue #4 with Doctor Four, but the third issue was outstanding, yet another contender for Best Single Issue this year. The Tiptons obviously have a knowledge and fondness for the material and Jon Pertwee’s era in particular. While the first two issues were very good, the third was a perfect encapsulation of everything that was great about the Third Doctor’s run. #3 also featured the best art yet by far, very suited to the era.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
HACK/SLASH
It’s been a long and rocky road, but Tim Seeley has seen fit to put what is perhaps his most famous creation in the grave with issue #25 (?) from Image.
I got on board with Hack/Slash in the beginning, based on Seeley’s work on GI Joe and the fact that the main character was a hot chick that killed analogs of Freddy and Jason. I loved the art and the story. I stayed with the title through delays, bad artists, stories that seemed penned out of sheer frustration, and all manner of other tribulations because I knew that Seeley was there behind it the whole time.
I’m glad this series go out at a high point. Seeley has created a finale that brings together the history of the comic without feeling too contrived. He has always done a good job of making the Hack/Slash mythology seem logical and tied-together.
If you’re looking to check out some of Cassie Hack’s adventures now that it’s over, the first two Omnibuses are a safe bet. After those your mileage may vary. You’re pretty safe picking up all of the Image stuff, as well. Especially the first miniseries, “My First (?)”.
Verdict – SO LONG, AND THANKS FOR ALL THE MURDER
INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK
So awesome. Mark Waid and Lenil Yu are a powerful team. The series is less than ten issues in, but it’s entirely possible that I will claim this interpretation of Bruce Banner as my favorite, even over Peter David’s. This book is awesome and my favorite of the Marvel NOW stuff. That’s pretty amazing considering that I have never been a big Hulk fan.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
IRON MAN
Speaking of Marvel NOW, Kieron Gillen – another of my favorite current writers – is killing it with Iron Man. Gone is all the tiresome, angsty nonsense of the previous Invincible Iron Man. Now we have the fun, intense, and brilliant Tony Stark of the movies. I understand that Hollywood’s versions of comic book characters should not be the be-all, end-all, but prior to Robert Downey, Jr’s portrayal of Tony Stark, who here gave a shit about Iron Man? Show of hands.
Right. That’s what I thought.
The new hook here is that Tony is utilizing all kinds of different armors and accessories for the armors, similar to the current toy line for Iron Man 3. I can’t imagine this is coincidence, but Gillen is handling it very well and putting Tony into situations where it all makes sense. Great book.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
Okay, just to be clear – I felt that the last story arc was good. It just came at a bad time where I was sick to fucking death of people being in alternate dimensions or other worlds or whatever. Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Uncanny X-Force (in one of the only storylines from Remender’s run that I didn’t care for), and Flashpoint before them had run that shit into the ground. Hack/Slash even crossed over with Bomb Queen. So while the story of DC’s supernatural crew adventuring in another dimension was well done, I just didn’t like it. But I liked the conclusion with Tim Hunter’s dad.
Thankfully the last issue closed that storyline and it’s time to move on to something else.
Verdict - KEEPER
NIGHTWING
The issue dealing with Damian’s death was fantastic. And now it looks like I am finally getting my wish and Dick Grayson is moving away from Gotham. Kyle Higgins has been doing a fantastic job on this book, especially given the constraints put on him in having to work in Scott Snyder’s playground. I’m really hoping that DC is going to let Higgins take off on his own now and let Dick be the character we got a glimpse of before they shit all over everything with this New 52 nonsense.
I can’t overlook Eddie Barrows’ consistent and kinetically charged artwork, either. He is one of the few artists that had managed to stay on his title and I thank him for his work ethic and the quality of his art.
Verdict - KEEPER
REVIVAL
I would love to get a glimpse at Mike Norton and Tim Seeley’s outline (or whatever comic book guys use to plot out a story) for this book. I am absolutely fucking fascinated. The pacing in Revival is intense, yet measured. I find it to be very similar to a Coen Brothers movie. I don’t read many books that I would categorize in such a way, but this is a classy book. I feel like a sophisticated comics dude when I read it.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
SAGA
The best comic book I have ever read in my life. Still. Read Saga.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
STAR WARS: AGENT OF THE EMPIRE
Jahan Cross’ second story arc just wrapped up and it was another good one. The Imperial intrigue was deep in this one and while each arc was self-contained, the mythology of this little pocket of the Star Wars universe is slowly getting deeper. I can’t wait for the next miniseries.
I am currently avoiding any comments or speculations about Disney’s potential handling of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
UNCANNY AVENGERS
Hot dog, this thing is a hoot. The opening story arc with Red Skull was all action, but now we’re getting into some characterization. Alex is dealing (but not struggling) with being the leader of such a high-profile team while Steve Rogers is bristling a bit under his leadership. But he’s Cap, so he’s doing what’s best. And now, much to my (long list of positive and euphoric feelings here), Rick Remender is bringing elements of his Uncanny X-Force run into play. Given my opinion that said run is one of the best of the past twenty years, I am extremely (lots of positive emotions).
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
UNCANNY X-FORCE
I think I’ve gushed enough about Rick Remender that you can probably guess how enthused I was about his book being relaunched with a different author. Especially one I had never heard of. But so far it has been engaging. The spirit of Remender’s storytelling continues on, but with a slightly different tone and a different team. I have to say, I am very satisfied with this change.
Verdict – KEEPER
WALKING DEAD
While the TV show might literally bore me to sleep almost every week, the comic continues to be one of the best things going. I think it’s because they have tried to make the people on the show more realistic and to have them react in more grounded ways, but that’s made them all unlikeable assholes (admittedly, except for Daryl). Andrea has always been my favorite character in the comic. I like Laurie Holden a lot as an actress, not only for her talents, but I think she’s hot, too. But I was so glad when they killed her moronic dipshit of a character on that show. And that’s what they’ve done to all of my beloved Walking Dead characters – made them thoroughly unlikeable. Even Glenn is annoying now.
Sorry. The comic is still rad.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
WOLVERINE
Paul Cornell. Alan Davis.
FUCK YES.
(Yes, it is actually a good book so far, I’m not just stoked about the creative team. This one is very reminiscent of the Wolverine books I read back in the… honestly, I’m not sure when. But they were full of fun and adventure. Wolvie wasn’t such a bitch back then. I am happy to report that Marvel NOW seems to be what we thought Age of Heroes was going to be – fun and largely angst-free funnybooks.)
Verdict – HOOKED
WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN
Okay, so Wolverine’s not really a bitch in this book, either. But I don’t like the current arc with his brother (that I have never heard of because he’s from the era where I wasn’t reading Marvel comics) trying to teach him a lesson or whatever. The art is sub-par compared to what we’ve been getting with this series and I just don’t care about the story. I’m sure the next arc will be better.
Verdict – KEEPER (not on probation yet – I have faith)
WONDER WOMAN
I’m digging the current arc a lot, which is good because I was close to dropping this right before it got good. Stay tuned for my video review of New 52 Wonder Woman from DC Unlimited. It’ll be up… soon.
Verdict – KEEPER
X-FACTOR
Speaking of arcs I don’t; like, I hate to say it but I am not thrilled with this god war thing that Peter David has going on right now. I like X-Factor as the detectives dealing with local, smaller-scale stuff. This one isn’t doing it for me. Plus, I’m sick of David taking Madrox out of the picture.
Verdict – KEEPER

Other Comic-Related News
Not much to report this time. I am super-fucking stoked about Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3.



That’s all.
-Phantom

7 comments:

  1. I would say the reason DC Comics is dying a slow death is because they suck at merchandising anything that's not Batman or Superman. WB doesn't do them any favors when they also suck at it ("Static Shock" would probably still be a show if they showed any interest at all in making action figures out of it or anything else outside of that one time it was in Subway kids' meals.)

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    1. It's been nine years. I think it's time to let go of the Static Shock thing. I'm not so sure it's that WB is bad at licensing; it's that they choose shitty partners. Mattel has proven their incompetence time and time again. Paul Dini basically said that the cancellation of Young Justice and Green Lantern was due to Mattel's failure to create sustainable toy lines.

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    2. I live in Malaysia, and the only YJ figures I've seen were loose ones that I suspect failed Mattel's QA test... (I'm assuming because I read online that it's one of the main sources of loose toys; there were too many figures of the same characters for them to be second-hand)

      I've also yet to see the 2nd DC Unlimited Wave in local Toys r Us's, despite reading online that the figures were released at the end of April... Also, Hawkman. =_= My point is... Mattel's distribution sucks.

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    3. Hasbro's doing a better job, to be honest, although I think it has something to do with their licenses being more popular...

      I'm already seeing Avengers Assemble toys (the cartoon, not the movie) on aisles (although there's not much; and why is Wolverine in the line?!), and the Transformers toys are always up-to-date, despite older toys from the license still warming shelves. Needless to say, Iron Man 3 toys are absolutely filling shelves at the moment.

      The non-movie/TV show related products aren't as popular though. Marvel Legends is non-existent in two of the Toys r Us's I've visited (located in a major city, so I assume the situation's the same throughout the country), while Marvel Universe pops on and off shelves with an annoying irregularity. I saw the new, single-carded Hulk on my last visit. Couldn't afford the guy, not with my new devotion to DC Unlimited. =(

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    4. Yeah, for the most part Hasbro seems to have much better marketing, distribution, and lead time on their toy lines. And quality. But the Marvel Legends line is definitely suffering between the shoddy distro and the bizarre issues with the assortments.

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  2. Man...I wish I had that kind of disposible income for all those books!

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