The End of 2008 and the Beginning of 2009: Spiffy Reviews Aplenty




Last time it took me a month to review comics, and this week I’ve shaved it down to 3! At this rate I might actually be timely in my reviews by mid-February. So look forward to that. But until then, you’ll have to settle for an onslaught of the equivalent of premature ejaculation in review form: quickie reviews!

End of December Comics, Ranked for Your Convenience

9. Batman #684: Denny O’Neil, Guillem March. This wasn’t really a bad issue, but it wasn’t a very good one either. March’s art was very offputting at times and inconsistent, and O’Neil’s characterization of Nightwing made me think that this was written in the past, because he was written more like a Robin or a kid: Gordon didn’t trust him, not like Batman, and just the way Nightwing acted seemed like he was doing this for the first time. Now I don’t know a lot about Dick, but that doesn’t seem right. This issue marks the end of my run on Batman, at least until next week when I find out what happens to Batman in Final Crisis #6.

8. Batman Cacophony #2: Kevin Smith, Walter Flanagan. This issue suffers from the fantastic competition, as it wasn’t as bad as 8th place sounds. Last issue I complimented Flanagan, but now I wonder how much I’d like it with a different artist involved rather than Smith’s friend from View Askew land. He’s not bad, but as an reviewer pointed out, he just doesn’t draw Batman well enough for a Batman mini series. For me, I don’t mind his art, it’s just rather simplistic.  Smith packs this issue with a lot of good moments with Joker and Batman, but he also undermines Joker later in the issue, continuing his inconsistent vision for the character. Joker goes from some weird sex crazed figure in issue 1 to someone Batman would list as his “sixteenth” greatest foe. In a year where Joker became creepy again thanks to Heath Ledger and the Joker HC, this is a dangerous thing to say. That said, there’s enough good to spread this out: Maxie Zeuss is a great punching bag to have around, and Onomatopoeia is a great villain. Hopefully #3  either manages to make him a mainstay in the DCU or finishes his story with a bang.

7. Fantastic Four #562: Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch. This is by far the lowest ranking FF has gotten during Millar and Hitch’s run, and while that’s a function of the competition, it’s also easily the weakest issue so far (but it still grades out well in comparison to most titles). Hitch’s art is nothing short of his usual best. You wouldn’t know it by the title, but “The Funeral of the Invisible Woman” is more of a filler issue than anything, at least for half the issue. Then, Millar goes a bit nutty. I won’t know how I feel about the ending until next issue, but it’s a big reveal from Doom to end the issue that I won’t reveal. But it could undermine Doom’s standing as the greatest villain ever, or could somehow make him even more nefarious, depending on how Millar plays this. It’ll be interesting though, I’ll give him that.

6. Kick-Ass #5: Mark Millar, John Romita Jr. Another delay, and another pretty good issue. While it’s not as great as the first 2 issues, we get another new character and some good moments. This has to do with both writer and artist. Romita’s art was at its best in the first couple issues, but has gotten progressively worse, and his portrayal of the “hot” cheerleader was deplorable, and maybe I’m just not a big fan of his style in the first place. Onto the writing. One of my main problems about this book…is the longer it goes, the more I dislike Dave, the protagonist. Hopefully it’s by design, but there’s no way this guy should be such a whiny arrogant prick. I guess it’s the “fame” getting to him stage. But once Kick-Ass tracks down Red Mist, a superhero who’s stealing away the limelight, the issue takes a fun turn, when a “superhero teamup” occurs, and Kick-Ass proves his balls during a fire. Of course, it doesn’t go as planned, and that’s the GREAT aspect of Kick-Ass. More action, less whiny monologue, and more crazy characters, and Kick-Ass will be fine. Judging by the end of this issue, I think it’s back on the upswing.

5. The Immortal Iron Fist #21: Duane Swierczynski, Timothy Green. Following Fraction and Brubaker’s lead, Duane has continued to give the spotlight to past and future Iron Fist’s from time to time in the title. For this issue, it’s a stand alone set way in the sad and deplorable future on a different planet, where the population is dwindling and being sent to “Heaven” by the president, which is not as happy as it would seem. To save the world….Wah Sing-Rand, the youngest Iron Fist ever, comes to the rescue. A big positive is no Travel Foreman here. Timothy Green is perfect for this futuristic issue and his detailed style was refreshing. While it’s a filler issue before the big storyline to come, it’s a delight.

4. Captain America #45: Ed Brubaker, Luke Ross. This is the end of the 3-part “Time’s Arrow”, but really, it’s the beginning of the next saga and Bucky’s first since donning the red, white and blue. Let’s see…we got Batroc the Leaper actually being a semi badass, and then the great new villain “The Man With No Face” all under the command of an evil asian scientist, all with connections to Bucky’s past as, well, Bucky and the Winter Soldier. Luke Ross, with Butch Guice, has drastically improved since the first issue, and has become another of the brilliant artists to grace the pages of Brubaker’s best title. The shit, as it is wont to do, will hit the fan next issue, and I can’t wait.

NOW, a 3-way tie for #1…

1. Batman #683: Grant Morrison, Lee Garbett. The last issue of Morrison’s run is here, and it’s fucking good. I started with RIP, but judging on that and “Last Rites”, it’s clear that it was one of the best Batman runs in awhile, albeit one of the more convoluted and confusing, as all Morrison stories are for someone so inept with DC continuity. Here, in “What the Butler Saw”, Batman is trapped and under the mental attack by a creature known as the “Lump”, with the help of the Simian and some other guy. They bombard him with his worst and saddest memories, and fake memories of what he and Gotham would be like if he hadn’t donned the cowl, all under the guise of Alfred. It’s heady stuff, but with Garbett’s steady hand on the art chores, it’s a beautiful thing to watch transpire. I don’t want to ruin it, but damn, Batman fights back in such a fantastic way that adds to his growing legacy. Then, the issue ends on the precipice of Final Crisis #6, said to be Batman’s last mission with a fantastic Alfred monologue about Batman. Great stuff.

1. Wolverine #70: Mark Millar, Steve McNiven. Millar is a busy man. In this issue, Wolverine tells Hawkeye why he’s a pacificist and no longer pops his claws, something that’s been eating away at every reader of his excellent “Old Man Logan” story. He retells the story of the day the villains won and took over the world, and it’s one of the most heartbreaking and terrible things I could think of to happen to Wolverine. Brilliance, and McNiven clearly agrees with the bloody mess that takes place in this issue (I’m surprised this can be published under Marvel’s main line).  Granted I don’t read Wolverine, well ever, but this is shaping up to be one of the best Wolverine stories ever.

1. Green Lantern #36: Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis. While Grant Morrison delivered this week, he could learn a thing or two from Geoff Johns. I’ve read all of ONE issue of Green Lantern in my life, and that was the “Rage of the Red Lanterns” oneshot (which I loved), and now I’ve read my first issue of the actual title, and I’m in for the long haul. While I’m sure I would appreciate some of the intricacies and appreciate more of the characters if I had been reading since the beginning of his run, it doesn’t matter: I can still enjoy and love every panel of this issue with having no prior knowledge of what’s been going on, which is rather remarkable, since the title has been leading up to the huge Blackest Night crossover since Hal Jordan came back. Everything about this issue was great: Ivan Reis is a superstar, drawing Atrocitus to perfection in particular. But really, it’s like discovering a new world when I opened this book, and I loved it. Johns, unlike other writers, makes the lush Green Lantern history alluring and interesting, not a burden. It also helps that new shit is going on too: the new Blue Lanterns are just sweet, and I’m looking forward to what comes of everything. I can’t believe I was so uninterested in the GL Corps for so long. 2009 leaves me a changed man.

Fucktastic Writers: Geoff Johns for Green Lantern. Mark Millar for Wolverine, Fantastic Four, Kick-Ass. Grant Morrison for Batman.

Fucktastic Artists: Ivan Reis for Green Lantern. Bryan Hitch for FF. Steve McNiven for Wolverine.

These Noir Things Are Pretty Good: 1/7/09

Rankings these aren’t going to work because they are all really close, but there is a clear #1.

Green Arrow and Black Canary #15: Andrew Kreisberg, Mike Norton. I know this came out like a month ago, but I got it this week, so sue me. Green Arrow has been my favorite character since I started reading comics, so I felt the need to give the new writer a shot, because Judd Winick clearly wasn’t working any longer. I have to give Kreisberg mucho credit. In one issue, he switched the focus back to Oliver and Dinah and cutting off the annoying extremities (who were cool under Meltzer and Smith, but no longer), as it should be. Kreisberg also references the sweet Green Arrow: Year One. Norton’s art has a different quality with Josef Rubinstein’s inks, but it’s still a clean and articulate style that works. It’s not tremendous, but it won’t hurt the storytelling. It’s too early to tell for sure, but I think DC’s best couple (yeah I said it) are in capable hands. Which means…I’ll be on board.

Cable #10: Duane Swierczynski, Ariel Olivetti. Cable is the title I can’t drop. Each month I try and lower the load (and I am horribly at doing this), and Cable is always one of the ones I think about stopping. But it never happens. Why? Duane and Ariel are consistently good, not great, every month, and it grows on me each month. This month, however, was one of the best of the series. It had some great moments with Bishop and Beast/Emma in the present, and some heartbreaking stuff with Cable and his wife Hope and the Messiah Child.

Sub-Mariner: The Depths #3-4: Peter Milligan, Essad Ribic. I don’t think Ribic’s ever been on the art for anything bad (feel free to prove me wrong, world). My store in New York didn’t ever get the 3rd issue, so this was a double dose of Milligan and Ribic’s creepy and understated nautical thriller. And guess what? This has been a great cabin fever-y ride, very much like a horror thriller movie. That said, I think this series will read better in trade, because while everything is well done, it just doesn’t seem like enough goes on in each $3.99 issue.

Invincible Iron Man #9: Matt Fraction, Salvador Larocca. I’ll never know how much I like this series as long as Larocca stays on. As the actual Iron Man part of Tony Stark’s life disappears, the only thing that Larocca could draw and draw well, we’re forced to see awkward and fugly faces of normally beautiful people (Maria Hill gives me a chubby, guilty). This is unfortunate, because Fraction is doing a good job in “World’s Most Wanted”, even if this issue was much weaker than the first. Tony Stark is trying to erase his brain (because his brain is like a hard drive, ‘natch), but don’t worry Pepper, Maria, audience, Tony Stark has a plan. Um, okay. We also get to see Norman pissed off, which is always a treat (because he’s always pissed off, get it?). I think I’ll stay on for another issue or two to see how it progresses, but I think I’ll be satisfied with my Stark dose in the upcoming Dark Avengers.

Secret Six #5: Gail Simone, Nicola Scott. Best issue yet of DC’s best title. One of Simone’s gifts is her characterization of even the minor characters, and this issue really stood out in that aspect with the continuing hilarity of the “twins”, Junior’s henchman. Also, the inner monologue for Bane and Deadshot were true highlights, and the ending brought a fucktastic twist about Junior and his identity. Also….bricks hurt. There’s really not a lot I can say about this title, it’s just that good right now.

Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy Oneshot: Geoff Johns, Scot Kolins. I made fun of Grundy in my Weekly Recommendations, but little did I know that the uber awesome team of Johns and Kolins were in charge of the creative duties. I am both glad and upset that I got this. I’m glad because I enjoyed it, and upset because I found out that this leads to a mini series, making me likely to spend even more money on a character that I understand a helluva lot more now than I did before reading this issue. As usual, Johns has a gift for articulating a villain’s mind, even one so Jekyll and Hyde-ian as Grundy. Kolins does his usual superb work, even if it’s not as stellar as his amazing work on Flash and rhe recent Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge.

1. X-Men Noir #1-2: Fred Van Lente, Dennis Calero. While I may have been one of the only one’s who really liked Spider-Man Noir, I’m glad I did, because it made me search for the first issue of this series and then buy the subsequent issue. While Spider-Man was good, this was on another level. Lente and Calero bring the complete noir experience to the table, and Calero’s art is especially magnificent. I’m unfamiliar with both of them, but they are clearly top talents. Anyways, the scoop: Chief Eric Magnus is the top detective in a 30s era New York, and a crooked one to boot (his gang of hoodlums are, guess what, called the “Brotherhood” and he’s in the pockets of a Mr. Shaw). He used to teach the “juvenile sociopaths” with Professor Xavier who theorized they were the next in the line of evolution, but is now imprisoned for siccing these “X-Men” onto the general public. All the while there’s “Angel”, Tommy Halloway (don’t worry, Worrington is mentioned as well) who’s trying to work all the angles, wearing a cape at night and working the paper by day (or earlier at night, because there is no daylight during noir). There’s plenty of X-Men characters, both obvious and not so much (I had to look up some names of the alter egos here), and the ending of issue 2 brings greatness to the series. This is something not to be missed.

Fucktastic Writers of the Week: Fred Van Lente, X-Men Noir. Gail Simone for Secret Six.

Fucktastic Artists of the Week: Dennis Calero, X-Men Noir. Essad Ribic, Sub Mariner. Ariel Olivetti, Cable.


3 Responses to “The End of 2008 and the Beginning of 2009: Spiffy Reviews Aplenty”

  1. gokitalo Says:

    Green Lantern #36 and Batman #683 were awesome. I actually liked the way Ivan Reiss drew the Blue Lantern scenes more, especially that breathtaking double-splash page of Odym. I wouldn’t mind paying that planet a visit! Geoff Johns’ writing was top-notch, and I’m interested in seeing where that last page twist goes…

    I bet people probably got ticked off that neither “Batman R.I.P.” nor “Last Rites” showed Batman’s final fate, but #683 was just so clever. From the way Batman beat the Lump to the way the Lump fought back (spine-splitting!), this issue was very nicely done. And like you said, Alfred’s speech at the end was a terrific closer.

    Let’s see, what else… I bought Batman #684, but I haven’t read it yet. I actually couldn’t find the latest Invincible Iron Man issues at the store, but I may need to look again. Secret Six is in sitting in my nice and toasty pull box waiting for me. And want to know what made Logan into a pacifist in “Old Man Logan”…

    I’m glad to hear you liked Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy. A couple of other people didn’t seem to like it!

    Let’s see…we got Batroc the Leaper actually being a semi badass, and then the great new villain “The Man With No Face” all under the command of an evil asian scientist

    Dude, don’t underestimate Batroc. Sure, he’s been used as comic relief before (and very effectively), but this guy could take Steve Rogers on in hand-to-hand. Well, FEET-to-hand.

  2. spiffyithaca Says:

    You’re totally right about the Blue Lantern and Odym pages, god those were beautiful.

    The stuff between Lump and Batman was so great, “what kind of a man can use his memories as a weapon?!”

    Let me know what you thought of #684. I thought it was lame.

    And you need to know what happened in Old Man Logan. Heartbreaking.

    My review for Grundy was far more positive than it should have been, in hindsight, but I did enjoy it. It wasn’t the best work by Kolins and Johns, however.

    Batroc will become Bucky’s arch nemesis!

  3. gokitalo Says:

    YES! “Ze Buck Stops Here, Mon Ami!!”

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