Archive for 52

Blackest Night #1

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Black is the new Green.

Black is the new Green.

Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Artists: Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Alex Sinclair
Alternate Cover Artists: Ethan Van Sciver & Hi-Fi

If you had of told Dan DiDio four years ago that Green Lantern, under Geoff Johns’ guidance, would not only stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Batman and Superman in stature and following, but would also spawn the biggest comic book event of 2009, he probably would have slapped you twice and thrown you to the Crises.  Well, that was then, and this is now, and let me tell you, I was more than excited to be opening the first issue of Blackest Night proper.  In fact, I can’t remember ever being this excited for a comic book event in all my years of reading comics (which I’ll admit, is not very long at all compared to some).  Well, it turns out that all that anticipation is paying off in spades, and that Blackest Night is every bit the bee’s knees it promised to be.

Naturally, Blackest Night #1 picks up where Blackest Night #0 left off, in Gotham Cemetery.  It’s a dark and stormy night, and Black Hand ushers in the Age of Dark and Stormy Nights with a decidedly sick and twisted invocation.  The first thing I noticed about this issue was, damn, it’s great to have Ivan Reis back on a Green Lantern book.  Then of course I noticed the striking visuals, the epic presentation, et cetera, but honestly, there’s so much going on here that I really don’t know where to start.

This book is a great jumping-on point for newcomers, but they’ll also find a lot to digest here; while long-term Green Lantern and DC Comics readers have plenty of Easter eggs to scour through.  Sure, there’s a fair bit of background that the DC faithful will already know, but Johns is clearly highlighting which parts to pay attention to (and believe me, there’s a lot to pay attention to) and fleshing them out to augment the emotional impact of future events.  It’s actually surprising to see which untended plot threads he does highlight – without giving too much away – fans of Keith Giffen’s Justice League will no doubt be intrigued by the developments they see here.  It’s pretty clear by the end of this issue that Blackest Night represents his life’s work, drawing on every major DC storyline he’s had a hand in, from JSA to Hawkman to Infinite Crisis to 52 and everything in between right up to Flash: Rebirth.  Perhaps contrary to his original plans (though not by much), Blackest Night encompasses the entire DC Universe (or is it ‘Multiverse’?).  That is to say that its scope is far greater than just the Green Lantern universe – which is already massive thanks to Johns – and centres upon his two no-doubt-favourite heroes, Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Barry Allen (The Flash), as our anchors to this epic tale.

The core of this super-sized issue takes place appropriately on the anniversary of Superman’s death; once a national day of mourning, now a day used to honour fallen superheroes.  Geoff Johns has stated in interviews that this issue mentions all the major players in this storyline, and I believe it – many names are checked by the mourners, which may as well be a roll call for the Black Lantern Corps – some are expected, though many may surprise you.  In point of fact, the first Black Lanterns to reveal themselves surprised the hell out of me, and their first dark deeds shocked me all the more, due in no small part to Ivan Reis’ grisly depiction.

It’s getting very dark in the DC Universe, and I, for one, am loving it.

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Detective Comics #854

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 1st July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Damn good value.  Damn good detectives.

Damn good value. Damn good detectives.

“Elegy Agitato: Part One”
Author: Greg Rucka
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Variant Cover Artist: J.G. Jones

“Pipeline: Chapter One/Part One”
Artist: Cully Hamner
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

Congratulations must go to James H. “Jim” Williams the Third for producing the first genuinely beautiful DC comic book I’ve read in two weeks.  It’s been nothing short of depressing to see so many potentially great stories dragged down by lacklustre artwork in some of DC’s most important books, particularly the Action line and Green Lantern Corps.  What did DC do, round up all the good artists and blast them into the Phantom Zone?

Consider then, what a breathe of fresh air it must have been for me to see Detective Comics – second-stringer of the Batman line – in such fine artistic form.  Consider also that this artistic treatment was not reserved for the Dark Knight himself, as one would expect, rather for a character who until now has assumed a place of relative obscurity in the DC realms.  Batwoman may have been popular with the mainstream press as the ‘first lesbian superheroine’ – a highly dubious claim, I might add – two or so years ago, but little has been seen of the character since her throwaway introduction in the hit series 52, which proved to be just that.  The third surprise was DC’s willingness to let a character other than Batman headline Detective Comics, but that had long since worn off thanks to the solicits.*

What wasn’t surprising was that writing duties for Batwoman fell to Greg Rucka, the only writer who has written the character since her debut (and even then, he was heavily involved!), and I dare say the only writer who could successfully write her without resorting to lesbian caricature.  A blank slate can be as daunting as it is liberating, but Rucka seems to have taken Katy Kane in his stride.  Rucka’s writing style is as natural as it comes, right down to ‘dealing with’ Katy’s lesbianism, which is precisely what this book needed to dispel claims of PC-shoehorning.  For the record, Batwoman’s debut in 52 was just that – a lipstick lesbian superheroine thrust upon the public consciousness for the sake of political correctness and a few headline-grabs – and in that respect, Rucka has achieved the seemingly impossible: he’s given Batwoman a real origin, a real personality, a real motivation, and as a result, he’s made her into a real character worth reading about.  He didn’t achieve this feat in a single issue – he does draw heavily upon his work in 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons in Blood and Final Crisis: Revelations – but newcomers will find that the hard work’s already been done for them.  This is a character already established in Rucka’s mind: he knows who she is, and what she would do in a given situation and why, and reading this will give you an appreciation of that.  Batwoman’s first nemesis, Alice, is another non-conventional and interesting villain, drawing on Lewis Carroll’s famous character of the same name.  What’s awesome about this is how deeply rooted in Batman mythology Wonderland and its denizens are (see also: Mad Hatter, Tweedledee and Tweedledum).

It would be a disservice to J.H. Williams III’s work for me to simply compare it to its lacklustre contemporaries and declare it a “welcome relief”.  It is much more than that.  It’s strikingly beautiful.  He always seems to gravitate towards these black, white, and red affairs (like his “Club of Heroes” Batman story with Grant Morrison in recent years) – full credit to Dave Stewart for the beautiful colours, by the way – and he’s right at home here.  His artistic efforts give these events some much-needed gravity: after all, Batwoman has yet to prove her worth as a character, and her worthiness as a usurper of Detective Comics until now.  He continues to experiment with panel layouts, as he is in the habit of doing, and the result is a comic book that looks fresh and exciting.

But wait– there’s more!  The Question backup feature is no slouch either.  Rucka handles writing duties again – as, again, the only writer to have dealt with the character since 52 – with Cully Hamner (Black Lightning: Year One) on art.  Rucka wears Rene Montoya (aka The Question) like a comfortable pair of shoes, while Cully delivers his unique blend of industrial grit and cartooniness.  It’s a strange contrast, being that his art style could easily attract the attention of small children, and yet he never shies from depicting home truths at street-level.  I for one would like to see him employ some thinner linework just to see the difference.  The Question is on the tail of a mystery once again, as she should be (this is Detective Comics, after all).  DNA-wise, The Question and Batwoman are a match made in comic book heaven, even if romantically they are not.  Then again, who knows?  Regardless of whether they get back together, I can see these two mysteries intersecting in the future.  Maybe then it will merge into one great big comic book.

It’s surprising to see the shoe on the other foot this time – normally it’s Batwoman playing second fiddle to Rene Montoya.  One thing’s for sure, though, Rucka’s the only one to be writing these two.  Detective Comics is damn good value.  Pick it up.

Booster Gold #20

Posted in Booster Gold, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 26th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
You'd be surpised how few Commies are actually in this.

You'd be surprised how few Commies are actually in this.

“1952 Pickup”
Author: Keith Giffen
Artists: Patrick Oliffe & Dan Jurgens
Inkers: Norm Rapmund & Rodney Ramos
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Artist: Jurgens & Rapmund

I stopped reading Booster Gold after lucky issue 13.  That’s two issues after Geoff Johns left the book, which yielded a noticeable drop in quality.  All the while Dan Jurgens continued to draw Booster – which was great, seeing as he created the character – but writing duties were passed to less accomplished writers, and at one point, Jurgens had to draw and write.  I thought it was only a matter of time before this once illustrious series got the axe.  Not yet, it seems.

When I noticed Keith Giffen’s name credited on the front cover (along with Jurgens’) of issue 20, I decided now might be the right time to climb back into the chronosphere with Booster Gold and Rip Hunter.  After all, Giffen has quite a pedigree when it comes to Booster Gold.  Booster was in Giffen’s hilarious incarnation of the Justice League.  Giffen also did the page breakdowns for my favourite ‘event’ comic, 52, in which Booster was a major character.  But most importantly, Giffen has a reputation for witty dialogue.

He doesn’t disappoint in that regard – Booster’s a smartass as always and Rip’s a time-wearied cynic as expected – although I was missing the presence of his robotic encyclopaedia, Skeets (perhaps there wasn’t room for three smartasses in Giffen’s story).  When I stopped reading the title, Booster’s sister had just joined the crew, which was an interesting development, so it was sad to see that she had already been dispensed with (or maybe she’s just on an adventure with Skeets).  The issue kicks off with an amusing verbal skirmish between Booster and Rip,

In Booster Gold #20, Rip’s time machine stalls ‘somewhere to the left of yesterday’, and Booster decides to pass the time by visiting the [relatively] peaceful 50s.  He, of course, gets more than he bargains for when he journeys to 1952.  Hoping for Las Vegas, he lands instead in the Nevada desert, near the small town of Mosely, population 265, but more importantly, near a top-secret rocket launch site.  Booster, oblivious to the ‘anti-cape’ laws of the time, flies to the nearest servo [Americans read: gas station] for directions to Sin City.  What he gets instead is the ‘FBI’, who actually turn out to be none other than Sergeant Rock and the Suicide Squad.  They blackmail Booster into stopping one of the world’s first manned space flights, because the project is headed by a deep cover Soviet scientist.  Booster is happy to oblige when he realises the first successful manned space flight wasn’t to occur until a decade later.  Everybody wins.  (This, of course, leads to some witty banter between Booster and Sgt. Rock.)

This issue was pretty entertaining.  Probably the biggest disappointment was the guest art by Patrick Oliffe.  It’s not bad per se, but the characters’ faces lacked detail at times, and Jurgens’ Booster just can’t be matched.  It probably would have fared better had the issue not been book-ended by Dan Jurgens’ illustrations.  It just lacked consistency given the differences in style and ability.  Of course, I would have preferred that Jurgens drew the whole thing, but obviously there were time constraints there.

When all is said and done, Booster #20 is a simple, yet enjoyable one-shot.  Whether or not you’ll enjoy this issue is wholly dependent on what you value most in a comic book – the writing, which is great, or the art, which is good in places, and merely *okay* in others.  If you enjoy Keith Giffen’s ear for dialogue and *a spot of* Dan Jurgens’ art, then by all means, have a read.