Thursday, September 25, 2008

Issue #32: Comic Books For The Week of Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Project Superpowers #6 (of 7) (Dynamite Entertainment)
Legion of Super-Heroes #46 (DC)
Fantastic Four #560 (Marvel)
Superman #680 (DC)
Powers #30 (Icon/Marvel)

Sadly, my local comic book store, Bad Apple Comics, is closing its Leesburg location at the Lake Square Mall. The good news is that the closing is temporary, until early next year, when the company hopes to open a smaller location with cheaper rent on the US Hwy 441 corridor between Mount Dora and Leesburg. In the meantime, the store manager will be working out of the Orlando location, and has arranged for us Lake County customers to pick up our comics at his home. That is great, because the other options were to drive to the Orlando store (an hour's drive) or having them mailed (for a small fee). I will miss going to a comic store for some months. It made for a nice break in the middle of the week when I could take maybe fifteen minutes to just walk around the store and chill, look for titles I may have missed or eye a graphic novel that's on my wish list but out of my budget range.
My wife is planning a birthday party for me, and if I get any money or gift cards I might hit Bad Apple's clearance sale. First, however, I plan on ordering the DVD The Mindscape of Alan Moore, which will be released next Tuesday, September 30, wiht any birthday money I might get. Secondly is the upcoming book by Dave Gibbons, Who Watches The Watchmen, about the creation of the most well crafted comic book series ever created, in my opinion. Beyond the grim and dark tone of the story, Watchmen is a treasure trove of storytelling techniques and panel layout for any hopeful comic book creator. But enough digression, let's get to this week's comics.

Project Superpowers #6 (of 7) (Dynamite Entertainment) * * * * *
After setting up the story for most of this first mini-series, the action and plot are now rushing to a conclusion next issue. The good news is that the story is not rushed haphazardly. The fate of the Fighting Yank is coming to a head. We learn about the power behind the Dynamic Family and plans to counterattack the heroes. This issue finds the heroes cornered, setting up the final issue of this mini-series to end with gangbusters. I can't wait until the next issue comes out . After this first mini-series Black Terroris scheduled to begin publication next month, October 2008, with Project Superpowers Chapter Two to follow.

Legion of Super-Heroes #42 (DC) * * * *
Ultra Boy and Saturn Girl face some consequences from the situation Invisible Kid found them in at the end of last issue. Lightning Lad and Element Lad wrap up their meeting with the U. P. President, who admires the Legion, in contrast to her advisers. Phantom Girl helps Princess Projectra adjust to life without a home planet. There is another development in the Princess' life later in the issue. Ultra Boy cleans up Metropolis from some rowdy would be auditioners to the U. P.'s Young Heroes. And the Legion find out that the worst may not be over.
According to some comic book web site reports, Jim Shooter might have already left DC after turning in his scripts for this run on Legion. This storyline is measuring up to the best of past Legion stories. The plot is very dense, with plenty of character moments for many Legionnaires, and lots of super-powered Legion action. However Shooter ends this story I don't think I will be disappointed. It is a story any Legion fan will enjoy.

Fantastic Four #560 (Marvel) * * * * *
After the jaw dropping conclusion to last issue, after reading this issue I had to pick up my jaw off of the floor. The origin of the New Defenders is revealed, as well as the end of the world, as the cover headline suggests. We also learn the reason for nanny Tabitha Deneuve's unusual relationship with the Richards children, especially Valeria. And Ben's new girlfriend has some domestic problems of her own. Mark Millar and Brian Hitch are doing for the FF what Geoff Johns has done for Superman in Action Comics. This is the best FF story I have read in a long time, and I am so glad I decided to subscribe to this title when Millar and Hitch began theirrun on this title.

Superman #680 (DC) * * * * *
Alex Ross cover painting of Krypto the Super Dog is worth 5*'s by itself. What also puts an extra (*) for this issue is that Superman uses his brain. This is something that isn't used enough in Superman stories. He doesn't have to be portrayed as a super genius as in the silver age, but Superman should by shown having to use his brain, not just crashing through the latest villain of the month. He figures out the reason for Atlas' advantage over him, and finds a tactic to counterattack Atlas. And Lois has second thoughts about her past feelings toward Krypto. James Robinson is climbing up the pedestal for Superman to stand next to Action Comics as the best Superman stories of recent memory. I think Robinson is putting his unique stamp on Superman.

Powers #30 (Icon/Marvel) * * * * *
Even though Superman was published this week I knew that Powers would be the best read of this stack, as it always is, which is why I saved it to read last. I didn't know how great this story would be. The crisis of the powers virus is over except for burying the dead and healing the vistims. Deena faces the consequences of her months long life underground and awol from the police force. Things are settled quickly by the city in a manner true to life. Deena and Christian have a heart to heart that they have not often enough in the past. In their conversation we learn a dark aspect of being super powered heroes that the public isn't aware of enough in this Powers world. At the end of the issue a long standing question about Deena's past is finally answered. This storyline ends in a satisfying fashion, but in typical Powers fashion, not a happy one.
The next storyline, involving a Powers "Rat Pack", and involving Walker's super powered past, has me anxious for next month's (hopefully) issue. There are a few titles that I have known I would never be disappointed when the newest issue is published. Superman titles have gone up and down in quality, but Planetary and Powers have always been excellent titles with every issue.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Issue #31: Comic Books For The Week of Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, July 9, 2008:
Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (of 1) (DC)
Comic books for the week of Wednesday, September 17, 2008:
Terry Moore's Echo #6 (Abstract Studios)
Action Comics #869 (DC)
All-Star Superman #12 (of 12) (DC)

I know I'm a little late about Final Crisis: Requiem. The only Final Crisis tie-in I'm reading is Final Crisis:Legion of 3 Worlds, but after watching Blair Butler's Fresh Ink podcast recently, her review compelled me to check out Requiem. I wasn't disappointed.
What made this a great week for reading comic books were the latest chapter of the Brainiac story in Action Comics and the final issue of All-Star Superman. I was not disappointed about any of the titles I read this week. So you can imagine what my ratings will be this week.
this week I will be reviewing these titles a little differently. Even though Requiem is some weeks old, I will be reviewing them in the order I read them, not in order of release, saving my favorite read for last.

Terry Moore's Echo #6 (Abstract Studios) * * * * *
I was going to rate this issue 4*'s but I have to rate this at 5. Terry Moore is moving the story along, and filling in the gaps of the characters' histories. We learn a little about Dillon's late girlfriend Annie, and what she was working on at HeNRI, while he and Julie are on the run. The person on their trail, the very experienced "troubleshooter" Ivy is searching for clues about Julie's weherabouts. What secret of Julie's does she discover? There's more to this plot, and what HeNRI is up to, than what we've seen so far, and this is one of the mysteries that keep me waiting in anticipation for the next issue. I'm hooked on Julie and Dillon and their struggle, and look forward to the story of how, or if, they overcome the forces chasing them.

Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (of 1) (DC) * * * * *
Martian Manhunter is a character I read in the back of Detective Comics as a boy in the 1960's and had a fondness for. I enjoyed him in Justice League: Europe as the hopeless voice of sanity in an embassy of crazy characters in costumes, and his craving for Choco cookies (Oreos). When I read that he was swiftly killed in Final Crisis #1 I didn't have the heart to read it, beyond the fact I'm burnt out on "event" books. I was more shocked at the murder of Sue Dibney in the older series Identity Crisis, but the story was too much to resist, and that was several "event" series ago. Sue and Ralph Dibney as the Elongated Man were other characters I enjoyed from my youth in the back of Detective. I've already posted my admiration for how Ralph Dibney's story ended in the final issue of 52, but I'm ready for a moratorium on superhero characters dying. It's become an overused plot device when creative teams and editors run out of ideas for some characters, I would rather see such characters put on a back burner, when possible, until a creative team can develop a fresh idea for the character. I would prefer that over once again turning death into a revolving door, another overused plot device that could use some rest.
Having said all that, I was very touched by this issue. We learn what John J'onzz meant to the DC heroes and how many of them were hit very hard by his death. His mental link to them in his final moments provides an original and effective platform to summarize his long history. Their final good-bye to their close firend, and the lenghts everyone goes to entomb Martian Manhunter with honor is excellent. I just hate that one of the best Martian Manhunter stories happened to be his last. Another thing I like about this one shot issue is that you do not need to read the main Final Crisis mini-series to understand what's happening, and I thank writer Peter J. Tomasi for that. Even if you feel the same way about "event" series as I do, and aren't reading Final Crisis, I would recommend Final Crisis: Requiem. Part of me would like to see Martian Manhunter return in great stories, but I have enough respect for the character to say good bye. Rest in peace, John J'onzz.

Action Comics #869 (DC) * * * * *
This fourth part of the five-part Brainiac story really backs Superman and Supergirl in a corner, before next issue's conclusion. We also see a fiesty and fearless Lois, which we haven't seen in a while. Superman is re-introduced to some familiar faces to silver age Superman lore, and Supergirl's escape from Argo City, first introduced in Superman/Batman #8, is filled in more. If Warner Bro's. movie executives are looking to make a "dark" Superman movie, they need look no farther than using Brainiac as a villain. They could make as dark of a Superman movie as they want without finding a reason to put Superman in a black costume and making him a character he isn't, a Batman without the cowl. And the next story about Kandorians on Earth promises to continue the excellent run of Action Comics issues, which is living up to its title thanks to Geoff Johns.

All-Star Superman #12 (of 12) * * * * *
When I saw that this concluding issue was finally being published I knew this would be the issue I would save for last because it would be the best story I would read this week. I was not disappointed in that regard. Superman has one final labor to perform. Grant Morrison has found a creative way to truly physically challenge Superman and show how Superman is willing to fight to his last breath to overcome the villain. This series has shown Superman using his brains as well as his brawn, and shows how he can match withs with Lex Luthor and not be found lacking. For all of Luthor's genius his greatest fault over the decades has always been his vanity and selfishness. Superman's greatest strength has always been his lack of vanity, his selflessness. I don't think I've spoiled the end of the story. Like most great Superman stories, this one has a touch of melancholy at the end. Now that I have the entire series I'll have to take these issues to work with me tomorrow to read the story as a whole. On my list of favorite Superman stories I would have to place the entire All-Star Superman series as my fourth favorite story. #3 is the Alan Moore story For the Man Who Has Everything, #2 is Alan Moore's Whatever Happened To the Man of Tomorrow? My favorite Superman story is Superman #167 The Luthor Brainiac Team.

Comic books scheduled for the week of September 24, 2008:
(in the order I plan on reading them, saving the best for last as usual)
Legion of Super-Heroes #46 (DC)
Fantastic Four #560 (Marvel)
Powers #30 (Icon/Marvel)
After Diamond Comics Distributors updates its list next Monday, I'll know if there is anything else to add to my list.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Issue #30: Catch Up Week #6

Comic book for the week of Wednesday, August 27, 2008:
Justice Society of America #18 (DC)
Comic books for the week of Thursday, September 4, 2008:
Noble Causes #36 (Image)
Tor #5 (of 6) (DC)
Comic books for the week of Wednesday, September 10, 2008:
Ultimate Origins #4 (of 5) (Marvel)
Invincible #52 (Image)

Comic book for the week of Wednesday, August 27, 2008:
Justice Society of America #18 (DC) * * * * *
Somehow I missed seeing this issue on the rack that week, not having bothered to add it to my pull list, but better late than never. Like the cover suggests, we see the origin of Magog. First we see Gog continuing his quest against war in Africa, and in coming up with creative ways of dealing with the terrorists who have been committing atrocities in Congolese villiages. We also are given a window into the thoughts of Hawkman, as well as Power Girl's struggles on Earth-2. I wonder if this storyline is reaching its final phase. It seems to be setting up for quite a conclusion. I don;t see a way that Geoff Johns will disappoint.

Comic books for the week of Thursday, September 4, 2008:
Noble Causes #36 (Image) * * * * *
The fight against the imposter Amy Wells, girlfriend of Surge, reaches its apparent conclusion. The Nobles use some guile in their strategy, and Surge shows a different side of his otherwise impulsive personality to the still incapacitated Frost. The issue ends with Doc asking one member of the team a very pointed question. Even though the story has advanced five years from its original run, the family intrigues contine, and keep my interest in what happens in the next issue. The new relationships and new characters on the team also hold my interest, and my anticipation of how they will develop.
Tor #5 (of 6) * * * * *
Joe Kubert continues his textbook on how to create an excellent comic book story in this next to last issue. It is a bittersweet issue, as, like previous issues, Tor faces peril after peril with brief moments of peace. This issue is Tor's ultimate confrontation with the hairy tribe, and ends with what may be the most serious peril of all. The test is told through narration, without word balloons, ala Prince Valient. When the concluding issue is published next month, I'll have to read the story all together with an eye toward learning storytelling tips from its pages. Tor joins Watchmen on my very short list of comic books that also serve as textbooks on comic book storytelling.
Comic books for the week of Wednesday, September 10, 2008:
Ultimate Origins #4 (of 5) (Marvel) * * * * *
This issue continues the origin of Nick Fury and how he came to head the secret government organization that gave birth to the Ultimates team of heroes. We also see the origin of another Marvel Ultimate hero, and by the end of the issue we learn what the strange obelisks that are appearing everywhere. We even meet the Ultimate Gen. "Thunderbolt" Ross, which is a nice treat, and brought me back to some issues of the 1970's Incredible Hulk series. This series will probably conclude with a plot that leads into a March On Ultimatum mini series of some kind. It promises to be an ominous story. While I don't know if I will pick up the next mini series, but however this one ends I don't think I will be disappointed. Seeing Fury's origin as well as the other hero is a satisfying enough reason to read this mini series. Brian Michael Bendis is another comic book writer, along with Geoff Johns and Robert Kirkman, who usually do not disappoint with their comic book scripts.
Invincible #52 (Image) * * * * *
The siezure of the missle silo plot reaches its apparent conclusion, and we learn the reasoning behind it.The Mauler Twins have defeated the Guardians of the Globe, but now face Invincible, with unwanted help from his brother Kid Omni-Man. The battle is particularly bloody as sometimes happens in Invincible. At the end of the issue Invincible makes a shocking admission to himself. I really can't say more than this without spoiling part of the plot. Even though there were not any short transition scenes that Kirkman usually puts in each issue, but the events in this issue will drive the plot for issues to come. The story of Invincible seems to be heading to a point from which there may be no return for him, depending on the decisions he makes ahead. Invincible is definitely a title to keep on your pull list.
Some Upcoming comic books for the week of Wednesday, September 17, 2008:
Action Comics #869 (DC) Continues the creepy and excellent Brainiac story, which is probably one of the best stories in Action along with the Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes story.
All-Star Superman #12 (of 12) (DC) This is the final issue of one of the best Superman stories I have ever read. Sometime in October I plan to do a wrap-up episode on this mini series on Superman Fan Podcast.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Issue #29: Superman Red, Superman Blue, Superman Dark

Comic Books For the Week of thursday, September 4, 2008:

Tor #5 (of 6) (DC)

Noble Causes #36 (Image)

This week will be another week that I'll have to wait until next week to go to the comic store, so I will review these issues next week. Plus, I will look for Justice Society of America #18, which I missed last week.
This week I wanted to comment on the recent news from Warner Brothers that they will "reboot" the Superman movie franchise; mainly the comment by one studio executive that the studio will create movies with a "darker" tone ala The Dark Knight (as much as will be true to the character).
When I first read the latter comment on line, it raised a red flag with me. Superman is not a "dark" character. Some of the best Superman stories have placed Superman in dark situations that have vexed his soul. What has made Superman Superman is the power of his spirit when his posers may not be enough. To make him a "darker" brooding character full of angst would make him someone else, not Superman. Such a change for Superman would be putting Batman in Superman's costume.
Superman Returns had some "darker" aspects to Superman. The costume itself was not the classic bright hues of blue and red but darker, more muted hues. And Superman was not above what could be termed stalking when he used his x-ray vision to spy on Lois in her home with her fiance. Also, he was not above sneaking into Lois' son's bedroom at the end of the movie, even if the boy is his son.
It may not be a bad idea to "reboot" the Superman movie franchise. It certainly has worked for the Batman movie franchise. After Superman II and Batman Returns, both movie franchises sputtered and withered. And with Superman, as much as I enjoy watching Superman I and II, Ned Beatty's Otis, and Gene Hackman's campy portrayal of Lex Luthor are weak points of solid plots and stories. Kevin Spacey made a better. more evil and maniacal Lex, but could be less campy. Brandon Routh was a capable actor in the dual role of Clark / Superman, and I hope will get a chance to reprise his role in the next Superman movie.
A "darker" Superman movie will work if it pits Superman against "dark" and evil villains. I would like to see a more maniacal Lex Luthor that comic book readers are familiar with. And there is also Brainiac, who would be perfect for a "dark" Superman movie. Movie makers could really do a lot of things with Brainiac. He would be a great "toy" for them to play with.
The big question for studio executives is can they do it right? One thing that worries me is that it has taken WB executives a long time to decide on a plan to develop DC characters. For being perfectly positioned as a corporation with a comic book company as part of the corporate family, Time/Warner seems to have been slow to develop DC's big characters for a modern movie audiance. Marvel seems to have jumped ahead, at least before Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. And that was before Marvel created their own movie studio. The Dark Knight was a tremendous success, and is presently the #2 highest grossing movie in history. After Watchmen early next year (if it isn't derailed by a money grubbing lawsuit by 20th Century Fox), what's next, and when for WB? The longer it takes for the next DC movie to appear in theaters, the more momentum WB will lose. They run the risk of having to regroup once again and play catch up with Marvel Studios.
With the exception of the first Hulk movie, Spider-Man 3, both Fantastic Four movies and Ghost Rider, all Marvel properties, most super hero movies have been great ones. An ominous question is, after the big characters are used, will the next wave of super hero movies be good, or will we have a run of flops, and see the whole super hero movie train be derailed, like westerns in the past.

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Issue #28: Comic Books For The Week Of Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes #45 (DC)
DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1 (One Shot) (DC)
Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #1 (of 2) (DC)
Superman #679 (DC)

Legion of Super-Heroes #45 (DC) * * * *
There are various scenes of individual Legionairres recuperating from their recent battles, but of course the universe rolls on, requiring the Legion's services. Brainiac, Light Lass and Star Boy deal with the rouge planet, seen only on monitor screens at the Spaceguard Command Center. Lightning Lad and Element Lad take down on rowdy oversized aliens who take their frustrations out on Science Police officers, after the U. P. Young Heroes tryouts are cancelled because of the tremors caused by the rogue planet. It's interesting to see the Legion prove themselves invaluable to the UP after being treated like unwanted orphans in recent issues. Overall it was a fun above average read.

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1 (One Shot) (DC) * * * * *
While I'm not reading Final Crisis (except for the Legion of 3 Worlds tie-in) but this issue was too intriguing to pass up. It did not disappoint. We see various DC heroes in very personal moments as they deal with the possible end of the world. Being a Superman fan, of course, my favorite was Clark having a man-to-man talk with Pa Kent. The main plot of the issue is Geo-Force going after Deathstroke for revenge after the death of his sister Terra. The battle is brutal , and the ending shocking. The heroes' idea of how it ended is slightly different from the actual events, and they are unaware of certain secrets revealed in the battle. I'm sure this particular plot point will lead to a future storyline. Brad Meltzers excellent script was embellished by the always gre4at artists, Adam and Joe Kubert.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #1 (of 2) (DC) * * * *
Clark Kent is torn from Lois' bedside at Metropolis hospital by one of the Monitors to join other "Supermen" from other universes to battle a threat to Earth, winding up on the "nowhere" Earth. This issue is a typical Grant Morrison bizarre story, and is a promising first issue. The threat was not so cosmic that it was hard to wrap a reader's mind around it, as it was in Infinite Crisis. Morrison has created some "trippy" characters. Depending on how the second issue develops, this story may wind up a 5 * story.

Superman #679 (DC) * * * *
The issue is as advertised on the cover, and is reminiscent of the Death of Superman issue, although Superman isn't killed in this issue. There is a touching flashback scene between Clark and Lois, that has continued from the first issue of James Robinson's scripting. There is a big development with Lana at Lexcorp, and Jimmy spots a mysterious figure who keeps popping in and out on top of a nearby building. Action Comics still is a better Superman book, but with several plot developments in this issue, Superman might catch up. Robinson's story has the potential to be the best that has appeared in Superman for a long time.

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