Monday, September 23, 2013
The script, by Chris Roberson, is all breathless action, so there's no time for any character development whatsoever. If you don't already have a working knowledge of who these characters are, you're out of luck. Zorro and The Black Bat get full-fledged origin stories, but everyone else just appears as is, which is fine (Maybe, depending on your storehouse of geek knowledge....) for The Shadow and The Green Hornet, but I had no idea who Miss Fury and The Green Lama were, and I still don't.
Roberson's script is serviceable at best, and ham-handed at worst. You'll be able to figure out who the big bad is as soon as you read a certain passage of clunky exposition early on, and even after the bad guy's identity is revealed, or I thought it was revealed, Roberson still tries to milk his identity for a shock. Weird. I guess since he didn't actually come out and give his name yet, Roberson felt it would still be a surprise. It wasn't. I did appreciate the way that Roberson winkingly included Doc Savage, who Dynamite does not hold the rights to.
Alex Ross handles the art for the first issue, and is followed up by Dennis Calero for issues 2-8. The art is decent, aside from a handful of times where sloppy storytelling had me scratching my head as to just what it was that I was supposed to be seeing.
Dynamite Comics does collections right, and MASKS, VOLUME 1 is no exception. You get all eight issues of the mini-series, the compete script for issue #1, Alex Ross' thumbnail sketches for issue #1, character designs, promotional art, and EVERY variant cover, of which there had to be at least a hundred. You get a lot of bang for your buck here.
Dynamite Comics provided a review copy.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
HELLBOY: THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS is a slim 56 page hardcover, and like the previous HELLBOY original graphic novels, it's a light, almost trifling, story that could hardly be considered essential, but is extremely well done.
The story finds Hellboy sneaking out of B.P.R.D. headquarters after hours, and stumbling upon a sinister Circus troupe setting up their Big Top in the middle of a field. Hellboy is taken on a tour of the Circus by the owner, and discovers some secrets about his past and future that he'd rather not know.
This is a quick read, but it's packed with the creepy moments that Mignola has become a master of. Duncan Fegredo uses a different art style here, and the result is gorgeous. While seemingly a stand-alone tale, I suspect that one of the characters introduced in this book will become very important to the Hellboy mythology somewhere down the road. I think Hellboy fans are going to have a good time, and new readers might find this to be a great place to jump into Mignola's Fantasy/Horror epic. Recommended.
Dark Horse Comics provided a review copy.
Friday, September 20, 2013
I've been there for the entirety of Geoff John's run on GREEN LANTERN, and it's been a better than average run, but when I reached the last page of GREEN LANTERN, VOLUME 3: THE END, all I could think was "It's way past time that he moved on." Much like Chris Claremont on X-MEN, Geoff Johns has been on this book for too long, and it's just degenerated into a mish-mash of ideas that are presented over and over again, ad nauseum.
This is a strange volume, in that it shares a handful of issues with the RISE OF THE THIRD ARMY crossover (Hardcover collection reviewed HERE), but then goes on to collect portions of a hardcover (GREEN LANTERN: WRATH OF THE FIRST LANTERN) which will not be available until March of 2014. So you basically get small portions of other, larger stories in this collection, and it's very unsatisfying.
The book starts off with a new Green Lantern, Simon Baz, who seems like a nice enough character, but is totally unnecessary. Why introduce yet another Earth Green Lantern right before you wrap up your run on the book? Readers who don't know that Baz's story continues in the THIRD ARMY collection will be perplexed at the way the book jumps right into the FIRST LANTERN crossover without any resolution. The "First Lantern" himself is a dreadfully boring character that exists solely to give Geoff Johns yet another reason to trot out every Lantern from the entire color spectrum, and have our main characters swap rings back and forth endlessly. Sinestro is a Green Lantern, and he becomes a Yellow Lantern again. Hal is a Green Lantern, then a Black Lantern, then a Green Lantern again. Kyle is a White Lantern, but he can become any other color Lantern he wants, whenever he wants.
My head was spinning.
And again, all I could think was "It's about time he decided to leave GL...he really ran out of ideas years ago."
And as Johns wraps up his seemingly eternal run on GREEN LANTERN, I drop another of DC's "New 52" books. This reboot is just not for me, it seems.
DC Comics provided a review copy.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
First of all, this is a MASSIVE book. It clocks in a a whopping 416 pages, and retails for $29.99, but you can get it a lot cheaper online. So you're getting your money's worth, at least. (It also makes me wonder just how they price this stuff....ALL STAR WESTERN, VOLUME 1 collected a measly six issues, in paperback format, and cost seventeen bucks. This book, a hardcover, collects 18 issues, along with extra material, for thirty. I don't get it.) So there's that.
GREEN LANTERN: RISE OF THE THIRD ARMY continues Writer Geoff Johns endless quest to make The Guardians the most evil shitbags ever by having them plot to kill off the entire Green Lantern Corps, and replace them with "The Third Army", a kind of grosser Borg that will assimilate everything they touch. The goal is to bring perfect order to the universe by having everyone and everything in it be a mindless Third Army member. Then there will be no crime, fear, confusion, despair, etc., and The Guardians can finally sit back and take a load off.
Oddly enough, for such a massive collection, The Third Army kind of rises in the background, and doesn't really make a great impact until the very end of the book. This makes it kind of a non-crossover crossover. Issues of GREEN LANTERN, GREEN LANTERN CORPS, GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS, and RED LANTERNS are reprinted , and kind of sit there on their own before connecting in the final chapter. The only book that I read is GREEN LANTERN, and the issues collected here are also collected in GREEN LANTERN, VOLUME 3: THE END, so I could have theoretically skipped this whole affair and just read that book, and I probably would have been just fine. Having said that, I'll admit that I'm glad that I picked this book up, because the other GL books that I don't read all told compelling stories in their own right. Peter J. Tomasi did a great job on the NEW GUARDIANS and GREEN LANTERN CORPS chapters, and I especially enjoyed Peter Milligan's RED LANTERNS portion, which is saying a lot, considering how much Milligan has been falling on the "Miss" side of "Hit-or-miss" for me lately.
The art is uniformly excellent throughout, and the story, while convoluted, works, so I just went with it.
Complaints? Of course! This IS "The Crabby Reviewer", after all......
First off, the book starts off with a new Earthling becoming a Green Lantern. He's a pretty interesting character, so that's nice, but.....How many times must DC go to the "Oh shit, our hero is gone, and someone NEW is taking up the mantle!!! " well? Geoff Johns is close to wrapping up his GL run here...did he really need to take Hal and Sinestro off the board completely and introduce yet another new character? There must already be 500 characters in this book. That's more than enough.
And....after reading 400 fairly well-executed pages (SPOILERS BELOW!!!!!!!)
the book ends on a fucking cliff-hanger that leads to YET ANOTHER CROSSOVER!
There's nothing close to a resolution here, folks. Just a "Buy more books, fool!" at the end.
I bitch about it, but I want to know what happens next, so, fool that I am, I will buy more books.
Also, DC continues to publish probably the grossest, most depressing books out there. This one has dismemberment galore, hearts being ripped out, corpses being defiled, eyes getting gouged, people vomiting hot blood onto other people and melting them with it....It's fucking gross. I can deal with it, but don't buy any of this shit for your kids, unless you want them to become serial killers.
GREEN LANTERN: RISE OF THE THIRD ARMY collects GREEN LANTERN ANNUAL #1, GREEN LANTERN #13-16, GREEN LANTERN CORPS #13-16, GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #13-16, RED LANTERNS #13-16, and GREEN LANTERN CORPS ANNUAL #1, along with all covers and variants, and a sketch gallery by various artists. A fun read for GREEN LANTERN fans, but it may be a little overwhelming for newcomers.
DC Comics provided a review copy.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Brian Azzarello has always been hit-or-miss for me, but his work over the course of these three volumes is nothing short of outstanding, and he's complimented perfectly by Pencillers Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins, who share the art chores.
The three volumes to date tell an ongoing story that looks to continue on into Volume 4, which will be released in March 2014. Zeus is missing from Olympus, and his children are engaged in a power struggle to see who will assume the throne of Olympus. Zeus' Wife, Hera, finds out that a young woman named Zola is pregnant with Zeus' bastard child, and sends her minions to kill it. The young woman, Zola, comes under Wonder Woman's protection, drawing Princess Diana of Themyscira into the Olympians dangerous game of thrones.
This third volume centers around Diana's quest to find Zola's missing child, who was kidnapped at the end of Volume 2. Interspersed with Diana's quest, we are introduced to Zeus' first child, "The First Born", who is headed to Mount Olympus to take the throne that he feels is rightfully his. Diana is aided in her quest by a familiar ally, albeit one who is new (I assume...) to this rebooted universe: Orion, of The New Gods.
The banter between Diana and Orion is priceless, and I enjoyed seeing them bounce off each other. I hope Orion will stick around through the fourth volume. I'd rather see him hook up with Diana than Superman. Thankfully, Azzarello seems content to just ignore whatever is happening in the rest of the "New 52" Universe.
WONDER WOMAN, VOLUME 3: IRON was so good that I am tempted to run out and buy the floppies so I don't have to wait six months to see what happens next. Amazingly good stuff.
DC Comics provided a review copy.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
STAR WARS, VOLUME 1: IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN picks up shortly after the destruction of The Death Star, as Mon Mothma (Every time I hear that name, I chuckle and think of Mothra.) and Princess Leia lead the Rebel Alliance in search of a new base of operations. Leia assembles a secret squadron to search out potential sites for the new base, Han and Chewbacca are dispatched to Coruscant to make a deal for weapons to aid in the rebellion, and Luke moons over an Outer Space Indian chick.Also, there's a traitor in Leia's inner circle. I'm betting it's one of these new characters we've never seen before, but I'll probably never know, as Brian Wood doesn't bring this turgid, overlong story to any kind of a conclusion, and I probably won't be back for Volume 2.
I decided about halfway through that I am totally uninterested in the vast majority of STAR WARS characters. Watching the movies now, the good guys are so bland and white bread that the only real interest I can muster up for them is nostalgia-based. I ate, slept, and breathed STAR WARS when I was a kid, but George Lucas killed that off with THE PHANTOM MENACE and Hayden Christensen's awful acting in the other two films. I'm more interested in the fringe characters, like Boba Fett and the Bounty Hunters, or the bad guys, like Darth Vader. Han Solo gets a pass because Harrison Ford gave him some charisma and personality. Luke and Leia and The Droids......not so much. And unfortunately, this first volume is heavy on Luke and Leia and their creepy lust for one another. Get a room, already!!
Wood commits what is, to me, one of the cardinal sins of prequels and in-between stories: He introduces concepts and characterizations that don't jibe with what we've already seen in adventures that take place after this one, specifically the way he makes Leia a fighter pilot and an ass-kicker. I have no problem with Leia getting out there and getting her hands dirty, but.........If you are to accept the fact that she's out there, flying an X-Wing and leading an elite squadron right after the destruction of The Death Star, then why is she right back to sitting in the control room and worrying when we get around to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK? Maybe Wood has some grand character arc planned, where Leia screws up so bad that she never lets herself go out in the field again, but as far as this volume goes, none of her actions rang true. Nor, for that matter, did her manner of speech and her dialogue. I thought Wood did an admirable job of capturing the voices of the rest of the cast, but Leia didn't work for me at all, and that's a sticking point, considering the fact that she is the star of this book.
Most of what worked in this book was due to the excellent art, by Carlos D'Anda. His likenesses are spot-on, and the amount of detail he imbues his panels with is, at times, mind-boggling. His Darth Vader is a sight to behold.
STAR WARS, VOLUME 1: IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN collects the first six issues of Dark Horse's ongoing STAR WARS series, as well as the Darth Vader Free Comic Book Day story. Dark Horse continues their maddening tradition of not reprinting all of the original series covers. That drives me freaking nuts. There's plenty of room to print two or three cover images. It won't kill you, Dark Horse.....
Dark Horse Comics provided a review copy.
Friday, September 13, 2013
A MATTER OF LIFE is less a graphic novel than it is a series of loosely connected vignettes about three generations of Brown men: Author/Illustrator Jeffrey Brown, his Father, and his Son Oscar. The stories flow together wonderfully, creating a beautiful narrative that is funny, poignant, and heartbreaking, and these emotions are perfectly complimented by Brown's endearingly scratchy art. I grew especially fond of young Oscar over the course of the book....My Son is the same age as Oscar, and I could totally relate to the way Oscar and Jeffrey bounce around one another. If I had one complaint, and it's really the only one that I have, it's that Brown's lettering can be hard to read at times. But if that's the worst thing this Crabby Reviewer can come up with, you know you've got a winner on your hands. Highly recommended.
Top Shelf provided a review copy.
Monday, September 9, 2013
Oy yoy yoy, this is a bad book.
Generally, I would give a brief synopsis here, but I literally have no idea what this book is about or what happened in it, aside from the fact that it's as gory as hell, and I would never let my kid read it. I mean, I realize that most people reading comics are my age, or slightly younger or older, but Batman should be accessible to younger readers, and all of what was shown here could have been implied , or maybe less of it could have been shown. I mean, there;s faces being taken off, cops being decapitated, Commissioner Gordon gets abducted and has a Kidney removed against his will, there are dismembered body parts, eyes taken out by throwing stars....it's a real Horror show. I could probably accept this, if it was a competently written book, but as a Writer, Tony S. Daniel is a pretty good Artist.
BATMAN- DETECTIVE COMICS, VOLUME 1: FACES OF DEATH presents the first seven issues of DETECTIVE COMICS, and starts off with Batman chasing The Joker, who may or may not be on a serial killing spree. This is never really explained, nor is the reason why he may or may not be killing people buck naked. Some loon called The Dollmaker is also maybe killing people (Again, bad writing, so I really have no idea...), and he comes over to The Joker's cell in Arkham Asylum to take his face off and helps him escape. Why The Joker would want his face removed is never explained. Then there's some nut little kid, who apparently comes and goes as she pleases, be it in a Hospital or a Police Precinct, places where I would expect better security, or at least someone to say "Hey kid, what are you doing here?", but I guess not. The book ends with Batman fighting The Penguin, with a one-eyed woman thrown in to complicate matters for some unclear reason. I don't know...I was just praying for this to end, and kicking myself for having bought the second volume as well.
This is bad, bad stuff, and doesn't do much to make me a "New 52" fan. I'm still totally perplexed at just what DC was aiming for here. It was presented as a total reboot, but Geoff Johns kept going with GREEN LANTERN as if nothing happened, yet JUSTICE LEAGUE was a ground-up, day-one reboot. But Batman seems like he's been around forever, complete was his whole slew of Robins. I'm so confused. And in Scott Snyder's BATMAN, Bats works with the G.C.P.D., yet here, they shoot at him on sight.
DC is just a sloppy fucking mess, isn't it?
BATMAN- DETECTIVE COMICS, VOLUME 1: FACES OF DEATH presents the first seven issues of DETECTIVE COMICS, complete with covers as well as the black-and-white versions of the covers (I just don't get the whole black-and-white cover variant thing at all...), and a sketch Gallery by Tony S. Daniel.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS/CRIMSON CORSAIR is written (Mostly...) by original WATCHMEN Editor Len Wein, a name that's sure to be familiar to fans of 1970's Marvel and DC Comics. I've never really been a fan of Wein's overly-wordy scripts, but I kept an open mind, mainly because, I wrongly assumed, he might have some special insight into the Watchmen characters, since he was involved with the original and all.
One day I'll learn to go with my gut. (Not that the collector in me would have allowed for the horrific possibility of skipping this questionable volume and not having a complete set!!!!! Shudder.....
Anyway, the book starts with Wein and Jae Lee's six-part Ozymandias story, which basically regurgitates Bruce Wayne's trek around the world to learn how to fight crime and kick ass before it settles into a pattern of Wein presenting WATCHMEN/BEFORE WATCHMEN greatest hits, where he shamelessly presents large chunks of other Writers dialogue without any kind of credit being given. The asshole in me did enjoy seeing the big "Fuck you!" that Wein gives Alan Moore by showing Adrian Veidt getting his whole evil scheme from an old episode of "The Outer Limits", which is an accusation that has long dogged Moore and the original series. Artwise, Jae Lee has never really clicked with me, for some reason. His work here is good, beautiful in places, but something about it seems cold and sterile to me. He always seems to pick the most bland way to execute a scene, as evidenced by the totally lazy sequence where we see Edward Blake discover Veidt's Squid-Beast. That could have been an amazing page, but it just kind of lies there and does nothing.Wein continues the trend of making Veidt another mustache-twirling megalomaniac, which was never really the impression that I got from Alan Moore, who presented him more as a man who has to do bad to achieve the ultimate good. And as much as I felt "Meh" about this story, I thought that Wein chose to end it too soon...I would have preferred to see it through to Veidt's Arctic showdown with his old compatriots. Not a terrible story, but not an especially good one, and not one that needed to be told.
Next up is the story that ran in two-page increments as a BEFORE WATCHMEN back-up, THE CRIMSON CORSAIR. This is basically a repeat of the TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER story that Moore wove though the original series, and it's pretty terrible, and gets worse when Wein is booted off and replaced by Co-Writer/Artist John Higgins, after what I read was a pretty nasty behind-the-scenes power struggle. Higgins is a talented Artist, but he's no Writer, and the already weak story is virtually crippled by the hideous, hideous color palette that Higgins uses. It makes his art look muddy and ugly, and left me puzzled as to why the Editors let it go to press as is.
Finally we get the totally unnecessary DOLLAR BILL one-shot. (Yes, I know that you could argue that the entire BEFORE WATCHMEN run has been unnecessary.....) This one is also Written by Wein, with art by Steve Rude. Rude's cover is fantastic, but his interior art seemed rushed, which would make sense as this story was, to my understanding, basically a last-minute afterthought. We get Dollar Bill's origin, and Wein once again uses scene after scene that we've already seen Moore and various BEFORE WATCHMEN Writers show us. The ironic end of Dollar Bill's career is almost entirely ruined by the puzzling perspective that Rude uses, so much so that Wein had to use dialogue to tell us what we are supposed to be seeing. Sloppy, boring stuff.
Overall, there's little to recommend to anyone but anal-retentive collectors in this last volume. I'd say that you should read this one first, so you can go out on a high note with one of the other volumes.
BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS/CRIMSON CORSAIR collects all six issues of the OZYMANDIAS mini-series, the complete CRIMSON CORSAIR back-up, and the DOLLAR BILL one-shot, complete with all covers and variants. The extras here are pretty sparse, with two pages apiece of Jae Lee and John Higgins sketches and preliminary art.
DC provided a review copy, but I bought a hardcover anyway. Shame on me.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
The Publisher provided a review copy.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
BEFORE WATCHMEN: NITE OWL/DR. MANHATTAN is the third volume in my four-volume WATCHMEN prequel binge, and it’s my least favorite so far.
This volume collects three separate BEFORE WATCHMEN mini-series: Two four-part stories (NITE OWL, written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, and Bill Sienkiewicz and DR. MANHATTAN, also written by Straczynski and illustrated by Adam Hughes) and the two-part MOLOCH, showcasing the ill-fated retired villain from the original WATCHMEN.
I do have to say this before I start: I’m a fan of J. Michael Straczynski’s work. I’ve enjoyed his writing on RISING STARS (Which would probably be remembered as a classic, if it wasn’t saddled with such hideous art for most of its terminally-late 24 issue run…) and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Yes, I’M the one who enjoyed his run on Spidey!). I haven’t read everything that he’s written, but when he’s on, he can be really good. As I said earlier, this was my least favorite volume so far, but it was still a really good read.
The book starts strong with NITE OWL, which is actually more of an exploration of the bizarre NITE OWL/RORSCHACH team than a solo story. Kudos to Straczynski for taking a throwaway line from the original WATCHMEN and making a strong, compelling story out of it. (Although I have to say, Rorschach seems to have stumbled across a new serial killer every time he turned around.) The art, by the Son/Father team of Andy & Joe Kubert, fits the story wonderfully, and the coloring compliments their art beautifully. (Bill Sienkiewicz takes over the inking reins from Joe Kubert halfway through the four-issue run….I’m assuming Joe Kubert passed away while working on the book. The change of inker really doesn’t seem to impact the art much. I was surprised to see that there was no mention of Kubert’s death in the collection, or any kind of dedication. )
Next up is DR. MANHATTAN, which seemed a little too clever and deep for its own good. Straczynski does a good job of channeling Moore’s introspective voice, but what worked so well for one chapter in WATCHMEN stretches a little thin after four. The twisty, mind-bending narrative was certainly enjoyable, but it went on a bit too long for my tastes.
The book ends on a high note, as Straczynski teams with Artist Eduardo Risso for the two-part MOLOCH. The story follows the pointy-eared Magician from his birth through his death as a part of Adrian Veidt’s plot to save the world, and it’s quite a compelling read, but it’s marred at times by Risso’s heavy-handed art. Part of the shock of finding out that Veidt was the “Bad guy” in WATCHMEN was because Moore and Gibbons played it totally straight, and didn’t portray Veidt as a scheming, evil fuck….Straczynski does his part, but Risso has so many panels of Veidt leering, grinning, and making evil faces that it’s hard to believe no one saw this guy coming a mile off. A great story, with a few points taken off for the occasional heavy-handedness of the art.
BEFORE WATCHMEN: NITE OWL/DR. MANHATTAN collects all of the original covers, as well as variant covers, sketches, and concept art.
DC Comics provided a review copy, but I bought a hardcover anyway, because I’m mentally ill and need help.