Playing catch-up

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As some of you may know, I was in England for much of the summer, returning home to Oklahoma a little less than three weeks ago. Now I’m about caught up on comic books, and I thought I’d give some quick comments about some notable books. Let’s do this!

EDIT: Oookay, the Brightest Day teaser image I originally posted here was apparently far too massive, and on my computer’s screen, became super scrunched on the main page. It’s still worth checking out, as it looks super cool. As substitute art, here’s one of Marco Cascioli’s covers from Green Arrow.


Prince of Power, X-Factor, Uncanny X-Men

These are some of the lone books I’m still behind on. Prince of Power, the miniseries continuing Pak and Van Lente’s BRILLIANT Hercules run, is the one I’m most excited about. The mini just concluded, and my comic shop proprietor said it was the best story he’s read in years from Marvel; he and I usually agree, and always agree about the badassery that is this Herc run, so I think I’ll love it just as much. And I always love X-Factor, too, so I have no doubt some awesomeness is waiting for me there, too. I don’t care as much about Uncanny, but I need to decide if I want to try to catch up on the big Second Coming crossover. I could wait for the trade; we’ll see. The problem with trade waiting is that I can’t read X-Factor or Uncanny now without spoiling the crossover anyway. I might even drop Uncanny before long. Matt Fraction wasn’t doing it for me consistently enough in the pre-crossover issues, but we’ll see how he’s done lately when I get caught up.

Brightest Day

DC’s big follow-up to Blackest Night is eight issues in, and it’s about the hottest book in comics, as everything that Geoff Johns touches becomes a best-seller these days. The picture at the beginning of this post is a teaser image for the whole “Brightest Day” line of books (not just the series itself), and there’s a lot to be intrigued by. As for the series? It’s good, and has shown flashes of greatness, but it’s definitely moving a little slowly. The goal of the book seems to be to develop stories for each of the main characters brought back in BN, possibly in an attempt to gain fans for future solo books, but that’s resulted in a lengthy wait for any substantive answers to the bigger picture. Johns is also continuing his trend of unnecessary retcons (Highlight for minor spoiler: Mera is now a former assassin who was sent to kill Aquaman before falling in love with him), and the dialogue has been weak at times, possibly an influence of co-writer Peter J. Tomasi (who always struggled mightily with dialogue in his Green Lantern Corps run). It’s a worthwhile read, just not as mindblowing as it perhaps could be.

Justice League: Generation Lost

The big winner of the “Brightest Day” line of books? Hands down, Generation Lost. With a biweekly schedule like Brightest Day, this book is also already eight issues in, and kicking ass in a serious way. The Justice League International crew is back together again, written by JLI veteran Keith Giffen, this time teaming with co-writer Judd Winick. The result has been one of the best books in comics, with the newly re-formed JLI going after the resurrected Max Lord in a story that has been perfectly mixing intrigue, drama, and lots of humor.

Red Robin

Christopher Yost ended his run after 12 amazing issues that catapulted RR into being the best book in comics over that year. Upon his departure, Fabian Nicieza took over, and while I’ll always love FabNic for his Thunderbolts, his career has had some ups and downs, so I was a little nervous about what to expect from his run. But three issues in, it looks like this is going to be a serious up. Not only has he maintained the high quality of the book, but the smooth transition between writers reminds me of when Nicieza took over for Kurt Busiek on T-Bolts: he’s kept the tone and feel of the book so similar that if you didn’t see a different name on the credits, you wouldn’t have guessed there was a new writer.

Captain America

Ed Brubaker has already put together what is probably the greatest Cap run ever, and to kick of the “Heroic Age,” he brought Baron Zemo back to being a Cap villain. I thought the story got off to a great start and alleviated some of my concerns with making Zemo a villain again. However, I was a little disappointed in the latest issue, both with Zemo’s overly casual dialogue and the way he wholly relied on techno-gadgets; Zemo is a character who certainly takes what advantages he can give himself, but he’s also a very skilled fighter and shouldn’t have seemed almost afraid to test his mettle against Cap’s. Bit of a shame. His move back into villainy also hasn’t been given enough depth, so I don’t know quite how I feel about all this yet.

Black Widow

The first (five-part) storyline just concluded, and it was an impressive start to a promising book. Marjorie Liu might be about Marvel’s only female writer these days, but she could be a rising star in time. There were a couple weird bumps in the story, but nothing too bothersome. The appearances by Lady Bullseye and especially Elektra seemed a little forced, mostly just to get Marvel’s other “deadliest females” in the book, but it added some cool violence. It reminds me a little of early in Christopher Priest’s Black Panther — still working out the kinks, but high on intrigue. Liu added some to Natasha’s history, while developing her badassness to uber levels. Unlike DC, Marvel has no clear flagship female character, but BW could move into that role. Daniel Acuna’s art wouldn’t work on every book, but I’m a big fan here.

Batman/Return of Bruce Wayne

Grant Morrison’s brief return to the main Batman title has been uninspiring as he tells the “missing chapter of R.I.P.” It’s been the kind of disjointed story with insufficient payoff that I’ve come to expect from Morrison lately. Tony Daniel’s run as writer hadn’t been too much better; I think I’m just going to drop the title. With only two issues left of Return of Bruce Wayne, I might as well finish that miniseries, but it too has felt mostly lame to me. I’m more interested in the aftermath of Bruce’s return than the actual return at this point. Not caught up on Batman and Robin yet.

Justice Society/Justice League

Bill Willingham wrapped up his far-too-short run on JSA. It had gotten really good, but his last issue, the conclusion to “Fatherland,” felt a little anticlimactic, possibly because he had to set up some stuff for his successor. With Willingham gone, thus began the JLA/JSA crossover, “Dark Things,” that just ended, written entirely by James Robinson. God, it was bad. Robinson has just lost his talent, I think. Jade especially and Obsidian were both written terribly, and I really didn’t care how it would all end. I’ll have to endure another Robinson issue of Justice Society next month before Marc Guggenheim comes in October. Never read any of Guggenheim’s stuff, but my comic shop guy is a fan, so I’ll give him a shot.

Thanos Imperative

Marvel’s latest big cosmic story is halfway over. Hasn’t blown my mind, but it’s a very solid story so far that I think has a strong conclusion in its future. Thanos is a badass, and it’s always cool to see all of Marvel’s cosmic heroes in one story. Makes me want to go read the Annihilation War, or whatever that story was.

Green Arrow

Another “Brightest Day” book that I’m enjoying. Writer J.T. Krul is making the most of the relaunch so far, using the forest to return Ollie to his down-to-earth roots despite the cosmic background of “Brightest Day.” The teaser in the first issue, on who will be the “Merry Men” to Ollie’s Robin Hood, is also a cool reason to stick around. Plus, the book has arguably the best cover art around right now, courtesy of Marco Cascioli.

DoomWar

I do still need to read the final issue of this miniseries that has re-ignited my love for Black Panther. I wasn’t a big fan of the inclusion of Deadpool at first, but #5 won me over to the idea. I’ll also be on board when BP restarts under writer Johnathan Maberry in October as Klaws of the Panther. Maberry handles these characters well.

Green Lantern

Interest in GL is probably at an all-time high right now, and Geoff Johns is keeping the quality high enough to match. Doug Mahnke continues to provide strong pencils, as he did during Blackest Night, with Ivan Reis currently one of the artists doing the Brightest Day series. Lobo showing up was a fun issue, and Johns has done a nice job of developing Atrocitus. The downside is that Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns are so cool that Sinestro seems almost lame now by comparison.

Green Lantern Corps

Tony Bedard took over for the uneven Peter J. Tomasi, and because of Bedard’s underwhelming start as the writer on Batman, I was actually expecting to drop the series soon. However, Bedard has really turned himself around so far and made the book into a very good read. I like his use of Ganthet, and while my long-term fanship hinges mostly on what he does with Kyle Rayner, I’m very interested right now. Bringing back Cyborg Superman has been very good.

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors

With Bedard on Corps, Tomasi has launched a third GL book: Emerald Warriors, which revolves around Guy Gardner, with Kilowog and Ganthet supposed to play large roles, as well. I got the first issue and was unimpressed. Tomasi is trying build long-term suspense with the mystery behind the GL-Atrocitus alliance, but I really wish he would have laid all the cards on the table right away. As it is, I don’t know that I’m intrigued enough to stick around.

Secret Avengers

Marvel canceled all its Avengers titles after Siege, only to relaunch the exact same number of Avengers titles. It’s been hard for me to stay away from the flagship book, Avengers, with one of my very favorite villains, Kang, currently involved, but I’m refusing to be sucked in by Bendis yet again; I always just end up annoyed or downright pissed. Secret Avengers, on the other hand, I can get on board with. Written by Ed Brubaker and featuring a team of very cool characters (Steve Rogers, Beast, Moon Knight, Black Widow, Nova, etc.), this book had a strong start in its first four-issue story. I’ll keep buying for the foreseeable future.

Fables

“Rose Red” concludes next issue, and it’s nice to be getting some closure on the character after 20 issues of her falling apart, and even longer since she really got to be shown as a badass. The only thing that’s slowed this classic book’s momentum lately has been a not-quite-monthly schedule the past year or more. But it looks to be getting back on a more regular track as we approach #100 in November (really hard to believe it’s been going so long; I feel old).

Jack of Fables

This book has also lost a little steam from being not-quite-monthly for a while now, and though it’s still an enjoyable read, it used to be a top-ten title before the shift in focus from Jack Horner to his son following “The Great Fables Crossover.” It looks to be on the verge of something big, though, and there are even (unsubstantiated) rumors the book could end in October, which I doubt, but who knows.

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5 Responses to “Playing catch-up”

  1. Gokitalo Says:

    Wooooo! I always get excited when Dave and Spiff surprise me with stuff. Let’s work our way down the post here…

    Totally get your sentiments about Matt’s Uncanny X-Men run. Many times when I check it out, something throws me about it, e.g. sometimes he’ll mess up a character’s “voice” or what-not. Although I recently check out his X-Men/Dark Avengers: Utopia crossover and actually liked it quite a bit.

    You also summed up my thoughts about Brightest Day pretty well: good, but a little on the slow side. It hasn’t quite captured the sense of urgency that made 52 so compelling. Although now that we have a better idea of why the 12 heroes were brought back to life, I get the feelings things are about to heat up. Will “Aliveman” and Dove become a couple?

    The Justice League International crew is back together again, written by JLI veteran Keith Giffen, this time teaming with co-writer Judd Winick.

    Well, Keith wasn’t a co-writer, but he was a co-plotter and in charge of breakdowns. He’s going to hop off-board soon since his schedule’s too full, but I suspect Judd’s not going to deviate too far from what he and Keith came up with.

    But yeah, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Generation Lost. Ditto DoomWar. I meant to pick them up, but couldn’t quite afford it. May have to trade-wait ’em, although DC can take a while with its trades…

    I’ve actually been digging the Return of Bruce Wayne. The scene with the Archivist in issue #2 was fairly mind-blowing, and I want to see where it’s all heading. Oh, and Batman and Robin #13 was pretty mindblowing (see what I did there? Go read the issue and you will, Bat-fans!).

    On the other hand, totally agree about Green Lantern. Lobo’s dog versus Atrocitus’ cat was hilarious, even if I think Sinestro’s totally more rad than you give him credit for. Last issue with Hector Hammond and Larfleeze was great fun, too, even though I’m still not entirely sold on Geoff’s “I want to be Hal Jordan” take for Hector.

    Green Lantern Corps hasn’t been bad, either (I rather liked the explanation for where the Cyborg Superman was during Blackest Night), although I’m not as blown away by it. It might be the art, which isn’t bad, but hasn’t quite knocked my socks off. I did love Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s final issue, though, so I’m probably going to give their Guy Gardner series a shot.

    Now for “The Rest”! Cap and Black Widow are on my “to read” list, meant to buy Secret Avengers but forgot, and I’m interested in seeing what Guggenheim and Scott Kolins do with the JSA (Kolins’ new style is GORGEOUS: http://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/2010/08/23/first-look-at-scott-kolins%e2%80%99-jsa/).

    Last, but not least, Fables… well, I should probably read the second trade first, shouldn’t I? 😉

  2. davidry214 Says:

    After catching up on Uncanny, I am indeed going to drop it. I’ve hung on for a while despite so-so storytelling, just because I like the characters. And even now, I’m still intrigued about Hope and how she’ll keep developing, and even more interested in seeing Kitty restored. But as some point, it just becomes too frustrating to see such substandard work in dealing with such great characters.

    I hope you’re right about the pace picking up on Brightest Day, but the chances of that don’t look good to me. The 12’s purposes/tasks were finally revealed in #7, but #s 8 and 9 (which just came out) have gone right back to the slower pace. A bit annoying, frankly. I did giggle at “Aliveman,” though.

    Yeah, I didn’t really differentiate between co-writer and co-plotter, but I didn’t know Giffen was about to leave. I have a lot of confidence in Winick now, though. He seems to be back near his Exiles-level glory days.

    I’ll give you that #2 of Return of Bruce Wayne was pretty cool, and some of the buildup to the whole possible destruction caused by Bruce coming back on his own has been really good. But the actual past adventures are borderline killing the mini for me. The one with the witch wasn’t bad, but the others haven’t been very relatable, original, or interesting.

    I would seriously consider buying a Lobo series or mini. Very fun character when done right. And as good as the scenes with Atrocitus’ cat and Lobo’s dog were, I imagine they’ll pale in comparison to the Dexx-Star vs. Krypto comic we’re supposedly getting for Valentine’s Day. And yeah, Sinestro’s rad, but I do feel that an unintended consequence of the whole rainbow of corps we have now is that it diminishes the brand a little. In a period of a few years, we’ve gone from having one corps to seven (with an eighth just recently defeated, and a ninth possibly about to begin). It’s not a bad thing, but it does in effect make the originals seem a little less special.

    I’ve actually really liked Syaf’s art on Corps. I might give the Guy series one more try, but I’m nearing an Uncanny-esque breaking point with Tomasi, I think.

    You know Goki, when we go into these inactive periods on the board, the result is that I never look at any comics news. So after reading Black Widow #4, I bought #5, the conclusion to the first arc, while confidently adding the book to my regular pull list. After reading the issue, I felt even better about the decision, excited to see where Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna would take the book. Then I find out the rather easy answer: nowhere; #5 was their final issue. Duane Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia come on board with #6, and while Garcia has been good in the past, I’ve never read anything by Swierczynski. But I heard his Iron Fist was pretty good, so I’ll give him an extended tryout. Meanwhile, Liu is launching the new X-23 book, which I wouldn’t have had any interest in, but am considering now because of her clear writing ability.

    I think you were trying to link here for the JSA/Kolins preview (http://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/2010/08/23/first-look-at-scott-kolins%E2%80%99-jsa/). It does look quite good. Still bummed Willingham left so soon, but while we wait to see how Guggenheim does replacing him, Kolins is certainly a nice replacement for Jesus Merino, who did a great job in a likewise brief stint on the book. Freddie Williams III is a bit more unique (tad cartoony at times), but I’m also enjoying his art on JSA All-Stars; unfortunately, Matt Sturges’ story has been another matter, and I’m on the verge of dropping that title.

  3. davidry214 Says:

    Oh, and in addition to Uncanny, I caught up on the other books I was still lagging behind on. X-Factor, as I expected, was a delight. The crossover parts felt a little forced, but Peter David has been roped into enough crossovers that he knows how to enhance his own bigger story even while participating in a mandatory event that has little to do with his characters. The past three issues have seen the returns of two former members, meaning we’re seeing the whole team back together again. I’m very excited for more.

    Batman and Robin was pretty good. Certainly better than Morrison’s brief return to Batman. The Joker is being used to great effect, and Damian is perhaps cooler than ever right now.

    But the big winner? That’d be Prince of Power, the four-issue mini that continued the adventures of Amadeus Cho and the entire cast of Hercules. I do take issue with some of how Pak and Van Lente used Vali Halfling, best known as Agamemnon from the Pantheon in Peter David’s classic Hulk run, but I’m willing to look past that. The end was awesome, and it sets up the killer Chaos War crossover, coming in October.

  4. spiffyithaca Says:

    I’m kinda jealous you discovered Hercules, since it sounds like something I would’ve read and you wouldn’t have when we were both reading. I knew it was brilliant but never checked it out….Sad.

    That cover art for Green Arrow is beautiful.

    Also, I can’t believe I missed out on a Black Panther/Dr. Doom crossover.

  5. davidry214 Says:

    You’d love Herc. Maybe I’ll send it to you to read in the hospital after the car crash you have in three months.

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