Archive for cover art

Blackest Night #1

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20th July, 2009 by Red Baron
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.

Superman #689

Posted in Comics, DC, Superman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 4th July, 2009 by Red Baron
A World Without Superman ain't so bad after all.

A World Without Superman ain't so bad after all.

“The Tourist”
Author: James Robinson
Artist: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover Artist: Andrew Robinson
Assistant Editor: Will Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

Against all odds, James Robinson’s Superman has become, for me, the most interesting Superman book on the stands.  That Robinson achieved this without its titular character is no mean feat.

The issue opens with a snidely amusing xenophobic diatribe from Bill O’Reilly knock-off, Morgan Edge.  Widespread fear of the Kryptonian threat has created PR problems for its new protector, Mon-El, and even Superman himself.  As he’s dispensing with two-bit supervillains (and no doubt listening to a television in the distance), Mon-El reflects upon the fickleness of Metropolis, and humanity at large.  Not out of judgement, but out of pure fascination with the human condition.  Why all the existentialism?  Mon-El has been told the baddest of bad news – he doesn’t have long to live – and having spent a majority of his life in dimensional purgatory; he’s got a lot of living to do.

(This may require a history lesson: some of you may remember Mon-El, the boy from the planet Daxam, who met Superboy all those years ago.  Superboy was delighted to have found a friend (or a big brother, so he thought) he could relate to; someone else just like him, with the same powers.  But he wasn’t just like him.  He didn’t have a weakness to kryptonite, and they soon discovered he had a different planet of origin, and a far more fatal weakness: to lead.  And so it was that a lead-poisoned Mon-El was projected into the Phantom Zone until Superboy (now Superman) could find a cure.  The recent destruction of the Phantom Zone meant that Superman had to get Mon-El out of there, pronto.  Thankfully – for reasons best not discussed in this review-cum-history lesson – an anti-lead serum had been left for him.  After running a series of tests at S.T.A.R. Labs, Dr Light discovers that the serum is working its magic, but that his superpowers are trying to metabolise the serum.  Thus, the more he does to protect Metropolis, the closer he comes to his own death.)

And a lot of living he does!  As soon as he’s dealt with the D-listers, he flies off to Russia to see St. Basil’s Cathedral, goes on a date with one of the Rocket Reds(!), fights an imitation Blue Hulk in England, takes a break to admire the art of Georges Seurat and the architecture of Gaudi, and helps a vampiress fight crime in Barcelona!  What a rip-roaring, rollicking tour of the world according to DC!  The result are some beautiful drawings from Renato Guedes, no doubt leaping at this chance to spread his wings.  I believe James Robinson is also taking this opportunity to include a few of his favourite comic book characters from across the globe (Will Von Hammer, La Sangre, Beaumont and Sunny Jim), and the fun he’s no doubt having is almost tangible.  The character and his creative team are going on an adventure, and they’re taking us with them.  It’s an amusing relief from the heaviness of Mon’s terminal illness.  This is the strength of the medium: gravity and levity, reality and fantasy, can somehow co-exist to deliver an emotionally rich and entertaining story.

Mon-El’s story, though it is the most interesting, is not the only one this issue tells.  There’s a weird little interaction between the Guardian Jim Harper, and his alien friend, and still I’m struggling to discern the importance of that particular plot thread (one that requires reading the Guardian and Jimmy Olsen one-shots in order to follow).  Another interesting plot thread emerges from these pages involving John Henry Irons (aka Steel) and a long-dormant character.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll leave it there.  As much as I’d prefer to see these stories of Metropolis’ heroes advanced in separate stories, I understand the difficulty in selling a Mon-El series or a Steel series separately.  Huge respect to DC for using one of its biggest titles to explore the untapped potential of these characters.  I hope they are rewarded for their efforts with a deeper roster of characters and a richer catalogue of stories.

Green Lantern #42

Posted in Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3rd July, 2009 by Red Baron
Make it yours.

Make it yours.

“Agent Orange: Part Four”
Author: Geoff Johns
Artists: Philip Tan & Eddy Barrows
Inkers: Jonathan Glapion & Ruy Jose
Colorists: Nei Ruffino & Rod Reis
Cover Artists: Philip Tan, Jonathan Glapion & Nei Ruffino
Variant Cover Artists: Eddy Barrows & Nei Ruffino

Another month, another great issue of Green Lantern.  Can we all agree that Geoff Johns is the greatest Green Lantern writer that ever lived?  I don’t feel too audacious for making such a claim.  Four years and he’s never skipped a beat, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the artwork in this issue (or the one before, for that matter).  It’s not awful by any means, but the phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth” springs to mind.  I’d happily read a full issue of Green Lantern drawn by either Philip Tan or Eddy Barrows – in fact, I quite enjoyed Philip Tan’s solo work in issue 40 – but the constant switching really pulled me out of the book.  The fact that there’s also two inkers and two colorists doesn’t help, either.  As far as I can determine, Eddy Barrow’s horror-inspired pencils are employed for the Agent Orange scenes, while Philip Tan handles the outer space duties and the Star Sapphire scenes (but don’t quote me on that).  Even then, it can be difficult to determine, which is probably where the multiple inkers and colorists come into play.  Some of the panels appear to be hand-painted; and again, while I wouldn’t mind seeing a full issue of this, the patchwork-style approach really didn’t work for me.  Again, I stress: individually these artists are great, and the colours are as vibrant as I’d expect from a Green Lantern book, but this series needs to regain a consistency of artistic vision and approach.  I can only hope that artistic duties are being shared out now, while Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke work ahead on future issues – certainly Johns has indicated in interviews that he is several issues ahead on the writing side of things.

The cover art, while cool, is also more than a bit misleading.  Firstly, I love the way Agent Orange (and in this case, Hal) is always depicted clutching the orange power battery like a child that doesn’t want to share his toys.  But Hal’s flirtations with the colours of the emotional spectrum have been all too brief thus far (save for the blue ring), and this occasion is no exception.  Like his scrape with the Red Lanterns beforehand, Hal’s encounter with the orange light is almost dismissed out of hand just when things started to get interesting.  I for one would have loved to have seen the emotional colour spectrum explored in greater detail prior to Blackest Night – which is better than it dragging – but I can’t help but feel we’re being rushed to Blackest Night.  I would quite happily see more of this War of Light played out as a comic book event in its own right.  I want to see the full repercussions of Hal Jordan holding the orange power battery; I want to see Hal put through the ringer as a Red Lantern and the fallout that proceeds from that.  Perhaps I’m just a cosmic sadist.

Having said all that, I can certainly see why Johns didn’t take that route – after all, it took him over a year to undo the effects of the “Parallax Debacle”, unravel the proceeding cover-up attempts, and restore Hal Jordan’s honour – why undo all that hard work?  There’s another reason for it, and I think it is this: Hal Jordan is the only being in the universe equipped to deal with this conflict in the emotional spectrum.  I’ll go one further: I think Hal represents the Yin-Yang of the entire emotional spectrum.  I think he will become the White Lantern, if only for a brief period.  He will prove to be the only being capable and experienced enough to control all colours in the emotional spectrum, and these ‘tastes’ of the other colours will prepare him for that role.  He will become this series’ Neo, so to speak.

I’ll go out on another limb: the role of the Guardians in the Green Lantern Corps will change forever, if not vanish altogether.  We will see the Guardians step back and embrace their individuality; embrace and acknowledge the full emotional spectrum.

None of these things are stated by the book; but it’s a book that makes you wonder where it all leads; it’s a book that intrigues through the use of foreshadowing; it’s a book so brimming with excitement that you honestly believe nothing is sacred, and anything can happen.  And trust me, anything does happen in this issue.

I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Green Lantern #40

Posted in Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12th May, 2009 by Red Baron
Looks can be deceiving.

Looks can be deceiving.

Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Philip Tan
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover Artists: Tan, Glapion and Ruffino
Alternate Cover Artist: Rodolfo Migliari
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
“Tales of the Orange Lanterns: Weed Killer” Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

Let’s start with the cover.  ‘Prelude to Blackest Night.’  Okay.  ‘Green Lantern vs. Agent Orange.’  Now, that’s a little bit misleading.  Sorry folks, but Hal Jordan won’t be fighting Agent Orange in this issue.  That’s not to say that Green Lantern #40 isn’t already packed with exciting stuff, but the cover art is probably more indicative of what will happen next issue.

Thankfully, everything else about the cover art is very indicative of what you can expect to see inside this issue.  And that is brilliant comic action depicted by the art team of Tan, Glapion and Ruffino.  It’s good to see the full complement of inker, colorist and letterer credited on the splash page of this issue, because I don’t think their roles could possibly be overstated in making Green Lantern the quality title it has been from month to month since 2004.  It’s amazing to see the book that used to be characterised by green and green only grow into what is essentially the most colourful series on comic store shelves, month-in month-out.  The book opens with purple, moving on to green and blue, and then of course, orange.  The brilliant colours and pencil work on the cover are consistent throughout the entire story.  Philip Tan’s pencils are dynamic and perfectly suited to the breakneck action that fills these pages.  Take the cover art alone, for instance: Agent Orange grips Hal Jordan’s neck possessively; a hungry reptilian maw burning from his other hand; Hal threshes in frustration, his green constructs shattering on his opponent’s chest.  It really says all you need to know about the character and his insatiable thirst for more.  The unsung hero of Green Lantern comics is of course the letterer (in this case Rob Leigh), whose ring transmissions and ring commands are always interesting to look at.  All of these elements work together to generate the atmosphere that is unmistakably Green Lantern.

Geoff Johns must have heeded our general weariness for Hal Jordan’s narrative recaps in the opening of every single Green Lantern issue, instead shifting them to the sixth and seventh pages!  Newsflash, Geoff: an annoying narrative recap is still an annoying narrative recap, even if it comes five or six pages later!  Imagine how this is going to read in a trade!  I can count ten out of sixteen caption boxes that this glorious two-page splash could have done without.  While I understand the desire to get new readers up to speed, especially those who may have jumped on board for Blackest Night, there’s got to be a more economic way of doing it.  In fact, most of the dialogue contains enough incidental information to get by.  Luckily there’s enough action unfolding on-page that it doesn’t really slow things down.

The opening story snippet hints at big things to come for John Stewart, which is interesting, considering this book’s one-eyed focus on Hal Jordan since Rebirth.  It stands to reason that Lantern Stewart would have his time to shine – Green Lantern Corps centres around Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner – so he has been without a comic book home for quite some time.  In fact, I seem to remember an interview with Geoff Johns last year indicating that Green Lantern would focus on the adventures of Hal and John, while the support book deals with Kyle and Guy.  I guess that time is now.

It’s all happening in the Vega system at the moment, which should excite fans of Alan Moore.  Johns himself must be a huge Alan Moore fan – just about every single issue up to now seems to contain at least one tip of the hat to his Tales of the Green Lantern Corps.  The beleagured Guardians introduce a fourth new law to the Book of Oa, and it’s refreshing to finally see some resistance to all this revisionism from within the ranks.  The Guardians themselves embark on a mission, and so we’re starting to see a more interventionist creed taking root here.  Hal Jordan is a nerd’s dream come true as he struggles to reconcile his blue ring’s powers with his green ring.  The blue ring gives us a glimpse of Hal Jordan’s deepest hopes, which hints at a possible future.  I’m starting to see the setup here, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone with further details.

Once again we see Larfleeze (Agent Orange) gripping the orange power battery in his cave.  I love this depiction of the character; his posture says “MINE!”  Thanks again to Philip Tan.

Unfortunately, the core story caps off at 18-pages, and we have a backup feature to conclude.  The good news is that it’s still entertaining and very Moore-ian.  The bad news is the change of artist – not because Rafael Albuquerque’s art is unwelcome; in fact it’s quite good – it just makes the overall product feel a little inconsistent.  The four-page story is titled “Tales of the Orange Lanterns: Weed Killer”, and narrates the origin of Glomulus, one of the orange constructs that debuted four pages earlier.  You may remember Albuquerque’s work on Blue Beetle (though judging by the sales figures, probably not!), and it’s actually well-suited to this type of story.  It’s just that I would have preferred to see this and other stories like it in a separate tie-in, to make room for the main feature.  It does flesh out the character, but it feels a little strange, given that Glomulus is essentially dead, and lives only as a construct within Agent Orange’s power battery (as do all the Orange Lanterns).

All in all, we have a pretty juicy issue of Green Lantern to dig into this month, even without the cover’s promised match-up.