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Lasso of Truth – Weekly Comics Round-up: 23rd September 2009

Posted in Batwoman, Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Detective Comics, Final Crisis, Superman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 23rd September, 2009 by Adam Redsell

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Lasso of Truth is your weekly guide to what’s hot and what’s not in the DC Universe.  Each week, the Red Baron goes through his comics haul to tell you what’s worth buying and what’s best left alone.

Here’s the key:

Must havethere’s no question, you should buy this great book.
Buy ita high-quality read that won’t disappoint.
Check it outpick it up if you have some extra cash.  May be an acquired taste.
Avoida disappointing read.  Save your money and steer clear.


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Blackest Night: Superman #2
Written by James Robinson ǀ Art by Eddy Barrows
Blackest Night: Superman #2 drops the horror movie tone of the first issue and opts for superhero fisticuffs instead.  It’s a pity, because depicting horror is Eddy Barrows’ specialty.  This book reads as a who’s who of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which will no doubt excite long-time DC readers.  It does lack a little in the emotional pay-off department, though (which is surprising considering the re-appearance of the Psycho Pirate).
Verdict: Check it out.


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Detective Comics #857
Written by Greg Rucka ǀ Art by J.H. Williams III
Bold and beautiful artwork, coupled with DC’s most interesting new villain makes this comic hard to fault.
Verdict: Must have.


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Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #5
Written by Joe Casey ǀ Art by Eduardo Pansica
The Super Young Team finally awaken to their destiny, as their leader Most Excellent Superbat proves he is worthy of both names.  The art holds up surprisingly well, considering ChrisCross’ absence once again.
Verdict: Buy it.


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Superman: Secret Origin #1
Written by Geoff Johns ǀ Art by Gary Frank
It’s great to see these two back on a Superman title again, and boy, do they knock this one out of the park.  It’s simply beautiful, human drama.
Verdict: Must have.

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Green Lantern #42

Posted in Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3rd July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
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.

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.

Black Lightning: Year One #6 (of 6)

Posted in Black Lightning, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
If only it was as straightforward as the cover.

If only the rest of it was as straightforward as the cover.

Author: Jen Van Meter
Artist: Cully Hamner
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Colorist: Laura Martin
Editors: Rachel Gluckstern & Joan Hilty

This is the sixth and final chapter of Black Lightning’s origin story, and while this issue and the story as a whole was *good*, I have a major gripe with it that has detracted from my enjoyment of it.  I admire Van Meter’s attempt at parallel storytelling, but damn those narrative caption boxes get annoying by the sixth time around.  If you read the collected volume, do yourself a favour – read the caption boxes first from start to finish, then devote your attention to the rest of the story.  Instead of hitting us up front with all of the exposition in one go, Van Meter has attempted to spread it evenly across each panel.  The problem is, no real thought has been put into their distribution, and it’s impossible to maintain the narrative in your head in between dialogue.  Van Meter expects the reader to keep one foot [brain] in the past and the other foot [brain] in the present during the first two-thirds of this issue.  It just can’t be done.  The backstory interrupts the story at hand and vice versa.  Every single issue of this mini-series has been written in this fashion, and after six hits of it, I still find it a jarring experience and a clunky read.

What I believe Van Meter should have done was either begin with three issues of backstory followed by three issues of story (or even alternating between issues), or come up with an inventive way of putting all the exposition in one place.  Hollis Mason’s “Under the Hood” biography in Watchmen springs to mind.

As soon as the exposition is done with and Black Lightning’s thinking about the events at hand, it’s smooth sailing.  I just wished it was like that all the way through, which is why I recommend readers read the captions exclusively, and ignore them altogether on the second read-through.

Putting these issues aside (and you’re going to have to to enjoy it), the story is, at its core, a good one.  In essence, this is the story of Jefferson Pierce the man returning to Suicide Slum to break the spirit of defeat and despair that has strangled his hometown.  As the school principal, Pierce shows his students that they don’t need to accept mediocrity; that they don’t need to accept defeat.  As Black Lightning, Pierce shows his fellow citizens that they do not need to accept injustice and corruption.  This particular issue sees Black Lightning lead his students and the citizens in a final struggle against the corruption of their local government in league with the criminal organisation known as The One Hundred.  More on that later.

Whether or not you’ll enjoy this story depends on a few things:

  1. Are you interested in social reform?
  2. Do you believe the world of comics needs [conceptually] stronger black superheroes?
  3. Are you a young black person in need of a wholesome role model?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then Black Lightning is the strongest black role model you’re likely to find in superhero comics, and this book (along with Final Crisis: Submit and Final Crisis: Resist) is the best book I’ve read starring the character.

Artistically, Black Lightning: Year One is stylistically confident and cohesive across all six issues.  Cully Hamner’s style is best described as classic American cartooning with a dab of gritty realism.  It’s very well-drawn, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  One could argue for more realism given the gritty subject matter, but I think this style helps incorporate the more supernatural elements of the story.

The final battle, I’d have to admit, is a little anti-climactic.  It felt as though Van Meter had run out of pages and needed to get it over with.  Had the mystery behind The One Hundred been preserved until this final issue, I think the impact could have been a lot stronger (although the revelation itself is strange and probably requires at least two issues to get used to).  That it all boiled down to superhero fisticuffs was also a little disappointing.

In case you couldn’t tell, I really did like this story deep down; there’s just a lot to look past in terms of execution.  If you’re a patient soul (or the next Malcolm X), and the positives I’ve mentioned appeal to your sensibilities, then certainly pick up issues 1 through 6 or the inevitable trade paperback.  If you’re a harsh bastard then save yourself the frustration and avoid.

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.