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CSBG Archive

Dean Trippe’s The Good Stuff (10/20/08)

In the interest of helping the mainstream comics industry by both promoting their best stuff and ignoring their less successful attempts, Dean Trippe takes time out of his busy schedule to inform you about the best of the best put out by the Big Two. Here are his picks for the last few weeks.

Action Comics #870 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. This issue concluded Johns’ reintroduction of Braniac, applying his usual “include and transcend” problem solving to enhance the emotional and physical power of the villain. In his new “first” appearance, Brainiac is now far more reminiscent of his Golden Age counterpart (complete with monkey-like alien pet, Koko!) as a traveling alien species collector. Meeting the real Brainiac puts all of their previous encounters into a new perspective, retconning them into mere drones and odd offshoots that developed from them. In this arc, Johns and Frank have also been laying the groundwork for the new status quo in the Superman books. Lois is strong and confident, Supergirl is facing her real past and her real power, and the Daily Planet newsroom has some old familiar faces (even for recent fans dropping in from All-Star Superman). Perhaps most notably, Pa Kent’s fatherly guidance of the Last Son of Krypton has come to an end. While controversial to some, I think it’s a fair time for Superman to deal with this loss, and the handling of Pa’s final moments was incredibly respectful. Similarly, the above moment of self-doubt with Supergirl respects the recent handling of the character, but forces her to grow. The introduction of her real–and alive!–parents promises to be just as helpful in undoing the problematic “Zor-El Sent Supergirl to Kill Baby Kal-El” plotline in a way that makes that stuff all make sense. Also, Gary Frank is doing the work of his career here, and I say that as a fan of his going back to his runs on Hulk and Supergirl. (By the way, if you haven’t read Brainiac’s first appearance, it’s available in these collections.)

Captain America #42 by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. This issue brings Brubaker’s long-running New Cap introduction of the last year to a close. Good gosh, there was a lot to tie up, and Brubaker manages to pull it all together. Bucky as Captain America is a Change You Can Believe In, even if you know Steve Rogers will be back someday. Brubaker’s put Buck through the gauntlet, forcing him to prove himself to Cap’s closest allies and battle the machinations of Cap’s fiercest villains. The great thing about this book is the wicked mix of “24”-like action and intrigue (thanks in large part to Epting’s strong cinematic pages) alongside…let’s call it “comic booky sci-fi fun.” As evidenced above, as weird old Cap villain, Arnim Zola has been back on the scene, adding a strong and welcome Marvel Silver Age vibe. Brubaker’s monthly-fu is strong, so the running subplots hold plenty of story yet to be mined. If you missed the new Cap’s introduction (intentionally or not), but have been waiting to hear if it turned out to be worth reading…it did. Even the costume kinda grows on you. Grab the last year of issues, or consider the next one a good jumping-on point.

Fantastic Four #560 by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. Okay, this team’s first arc received mixed reviews, even from me. My main concern was that half the enjoyment of a comic book is the artwork, which can often be sabotaged a bit by mistakes in coloring. The colorist Paul Mounts is one of the top ten in the industry in my book, so I was a little disappointed in his choices in the first arc, which featured muted, nearly-pale colors and WAY too many blurry effects. If you doubt my claim that a colorist can affect the readability of a book that much, try to decipher the Robo-Cap fight from issue 556 with all the artwork covered in blurry snow, electrical power effects, washed out costume colors, and lack of panel borders. Now. That said, the storyline as an opening for Millar’s run, was actually pretty strong, Hitch’s art is as usual, pretty great, and as of this story arc, Mounts is back on his usual A-game. Millar is currently writing three Marvel titles, Wolverine, 1985, and Fantastic Four. If you’re reading all three, it really feels like Millar is laying down some broad ideas about the Marvel U. We’ve got future Hulk bloodlines playing out in Wolverine and Fantastic Four, as well as an appearance by Smart Hulk back in 1985. If you’re currently reading one, I’d recommend checking out the other two. He’s doing some interesting stuff in all three. Here in FF, a new team of Defenders has shown up to save the population of 2509 with a South Park-reminiscent evacuation plan. Personally, I’m starting to think this has the potential to be the best run on FF since Mark Waid and the late Mike Wieringo’s excellent run on the title.

Hulk #6 by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. A friend of mine said, “Turn off your brain and this book is awesome.” I agree. I was initially skeptical of this run, the Red Hulk, and the merits of a decompressed fight book, but I stuck it out on the merits of the stellar artwork from McGuinness. And I’m glad I did! Holy smokes, this series is an all-star, Brawlfest. Loeb applies some interesting logic to how the A-List fights would go down, like Thor’s hammer being wield-able in outer space–outside of Earth’s gravitational pull–even by the unworthy. And the plot and dialogue seems to be intentionally simplistic, setting up a superhero mystery that appeals to my old adolescent power fantasies. Again, it’s not heavy stuff, but as a fun book with excellent art, this book delivers.

Marvel 1985 #5 by Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards. Of the three Marvel titles Millar is penning, this is the most touching. This series is a love letter to the Marvel Universe of my childhood wrapped up in a truly scary storyline as the villains of the Marvel U. have found their way from their universe into ours via a secret portal in a spooky old house. Our only hope: A young boy and his dad who both read comics. In this issue, Toby escapes back through the portal to rally the superheroes to come save the day. Edwards’ art here is so gorgeous. His storytelling and expressive linework is inviting and bold. I’m SO glad they ditched the idea to do this as a photo comic. Millar is similarly doing solid work here, offering plenty of action and heart at the same time. Most of Millar’s work of the last decade has been soldier-as-superhero, cinematic, deconstructive kinda stuff (and I’ve enjoyed most of it), but his current Marvel titles seem to me to be reflecting the New Golden Age reconstructive movement that’s been building since the mid-to-late 90s and is really gathering steam lately with writers like Morrison, Johns, Waid, etc. If this is the one title of Millar’s books you’re not reading, it’s almost wrapped, so be sure to grab the trade.

Supergirl #34 by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle. As with all of the Supergirl creative team changes of the last few years, I approached this new one with a little trepidation, but I gave it a shot, just as I’ve done with each of the last few. I wanted to review this book with just one word. “Finally.” But just to make sure you give it a shot, I’ll say a bit more. Igle’s art offers the best Supergirl since Amanda Conner’s single issue chores on Supergirl #12, and Gates’ take on the character surpasses all previous attempts since the reintroduction. Honestly, I’m kinda floored by how much Gates accomplishes in this single issue. He brings up the criticisms of how she’s been handled recently, using recently reintroduced Daily Planet staffer Cat Grant as a critic. Supergirl has to face her own recent actions, which begins the healing process for both the character and the title. Gates is right on here, finally giving the new Supergirl a secret identity, the a familiar supporting cast, and a much needed female mentor. Also, Gates efficiently has Supergirl catch up with her familiar super-mentors, or in the case of Batman, his protege (above). I’ve been pretty critical of this title since its inception, but I am quite pleased to finally be able to recommend Supergirl. With the upcoming New Krypton Superman title crossovers, it’s the perfect time to jump onto this book.

22 Comments

This is what comics must be like on a heavy regimen of prozac and illiteracy.

“Turn off your brain and this book is awesome” is not something that I’d consider applicable to the “best of the best” of anything.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 20, 2008 at 7:40 pm

Personally, I’m starting to think this has the potential to be the best run on FF since Mark Waid and the late Mike Wieringo’s excellent run on the title.

That’s not saying much though is it?

It’s not like anything memorable happened in the book in the mean time.

Wow, everyone’s just lined up to throw poop at this column, aren’t they? I mean, why does anyone bother to write anything on these websites these days?

For my part, I’ll say that I agree with you about the Hulk; I didn’t want to like it, but the stupid-fun feel of all it has just somehow won me over. The punch to the Watcher’s face probably tipped the scales for me, and from the sounds of it, it tipped them in the opposite way than it did for the rest of the inter-web.

You’d have to really work on it to convince me about Millar’s FF tho, I checked in a few times, and it just really felt dull. Captain America, however, has me by the throat right now.

Great column this time around!

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 20, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Wow, everyone’s just lined up to throw poop at this column, aren’t they?

Yup, looks like the whole internet is here to throw shit at Dean…

I mean, why does anyone bother to write anything on these websites these days?

Why did you?

Throw away. Under your yellow sun, I am impervious to poop-throwing.

But for the record: The Good Stuff is about the comics I had fun reading recently and would like to recommend. I follow creators over characters, arcs over sprawling continuities, and the elusive combination of solid art with solid writing.

You’re all more than welcome to disagree with my picks! But instead of just dissing the books I enjoyed, wouldn’t it be more productive for you, me, and anyone who stumbles across these comments to instead use your space to rec your own picks? Consider this an open invite.

At least be constructive. Jesus.

Dean: I dig the column. It’s not likely to make me want to read Hulk, for example, because turning my brain off isn’t really what I look to comics for most of the time, but I like your work, so that mean I’ll keep reading, at the very least.

These, for the most part, are the comics that I enjoy the most.

Funny thing is that I though the same about the Millar run on FF this far. The 1rst arc let me cold but the last issue was cool I’d say it was a slow start.

Action Comics by Johns & Frank is my 1rst read the week it’s released.

Captain America is consistently strong.

Your comment on Hulk is so correct…. Nuuf’ said.

I tried Supergirl for the 1rst time with this issue & will give it a chance.

Good job, guy !! (Meaning that I agree with you, you know it’s the internet hehe)

Dean is right about all of these comics, and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong.

Sorry, but it’s true.

Is Action Comics by Johns and Frank really that well received? I can’t believe that.

To me, it really reads like the worst of Johns’ work. I like Geoff Johns, but can anyone really say that his Brainiac is menacing??? I find Johns’ Brainiac to be lacking in any sort of entertaining personality that a villain should have. I get he’s supposed to be robotic, but is he supposed to be boring and bland?

@Suzene: I like intellectual pursuits more than most, but even I enjoy stupid hilarity from time to time. Not everything has to be smart to be good.

Wow, Funky Green Jerusalem, you’re so nice, won’t you be my friend?

I wrote because I like this column, and yeah, I’m a little tired of people just hurling nasty little comments around like being on prozac or being illiterate just because you don’t like a freakin’ comic book that someone else enjoyed.

It got to me, and normally, I’m pretty well inoculated to this BS, but there ya go.

Does that answer your snarky little question?

-Max

Oh, and for Dean, here’s some of my latest picks:

Dynamo 5: consistently one of the best super-hero team books on the racks.

House of Mystery: my favorite new title of the year.

Amazing Spider-Girl: sad to see it go.

All-Star Superman: same thing, but damn if that last issue by Morrison and Quitley wasn’t great.

And, of course, some of the others from this column. Captain America, etc.

-Max

Love this, Dean. Hope to see you do this here regularly.

Love you, Dean (Butterfly is my Favorite. Thing. Ever!), and thanks for showing up here.

I agree with you about Action (and I’m saying that despite the general Geoff Johns hate I feel from other posts here) and somewhat about Cap, but a lot of the other books just leave me cold.
Here’s my three that I look forward to probably the most each month:

1) Green Lantern: I was always a casual fan, but once the book really got rolling (about a year before the Sinestro War, IMO) I was sold. Granted, the art can be a bit uneven, and the pacing can be odd (I think the Secret Origin storyline could have been much shorter, for example), but the scope and the action make me love this book.

2) Uncanny X-Men: The X-Men and I have had a tumultuous relationship. We first got together around 25 years ago, but we had a rather acrimonious divorce many years ago. New X and I hung out for a while, but that was only because this guy Morrison was around and as soon as he was gone it was over again. I figured I’d give Uncanny another look starting with “The Rise and Fall…” and we’re going steady again. It’s not perfect, and it never will be, but it’s closer than it’s been in years: It’s FUN again. Space, San Francisco, the X-family pretty much under one roof, a little humor, less angsty characters. I do, however, have gigantic reservations about Greg Land’s art (don’t get me started…).

3) Buffy, The Vampire Slayer Season 8: Casual fan of the show, huge fan of the book. Some of the dialogue sounds very contrived in print as opposed to if I heard it on TV (oddly I find that it’s usually the converse), but the wit, the wll-paced plot-point reveals, and George Jeanty’s art keep me coming back for more.

Also enjoying Manhunter (boo hoo!), Secret Six, Ex Machina, Superman (Robinson!), DMZ, Fables, New Avengers, Batman, and too many others.

Good choices! I’d personally have to fit in Green Lantern and Batman somewhere. I’d be curious to know your thoughts on the various Final Crisis tie-ins. I’ve liked most; especially Legion of Three Worlds #1.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 21, 2008 at 7:07 pm

But instead of just dissing the books I enjoyed, wouldn’t it be more productive for you, me, and anyone who stumbles across these comments to instead use your space to rec your own picks?

I’m a trade man myself – due to price issues and my preferred reading habits – so I’m a bit behind and all over the place in what I read…

But superhero wise I’m enjoying Green Lantern, which is odd as he’s never been a fave of mine, and Rebirth, which I picked up as a bit of a joke, was actually really good and got me going with that.
The first trade of the series felt more like a continuity-wank than Rebirth did to me, but the second one was pretty damn good.
This also led me to GLC, which I must admit I think I enjoy the concept of more than the execution.
The stories are more character based than you’d expect in a cosmic space adventure thingy, however lot of the characters are still enigmas, so it’s not working for me as well as it could, but it’s a good enough hook, and just enough of the right stuff to keep pulling me back in.

On the non-All Star Superman books I’m still reading the Busiek comics, which are fantastic.
Good grasp of the character, and plenty of imagination in the stories.
I might give the Johns and Donner stuff a try, but in the trades, DC are doing their best to make it impossible to figure out the order to read them.

Marvel’s pretty much dead to me at the moment.
I’m enjoying Amazing Spiderman, but I get the feeling one bad trade and I won’t be back.
I enjoyed Carey’s first X-men collection, Supernovas, but none of the shops near me have the next one, and everything else seems to tie into crossovers, and I avoid those as much as possible.
Other than that Punisher MAX is the only Marvel book I couldn’t do without.

Does that answer your snarky little question?

It kind of raises more about how you’ve been snarky in every post, and yet feel you have the moral high ground when it comes to snarky posts… but I guess passive aggressiveness (passive-snarkiness?) is your thing, then it’s your thing.

““Turn off your brain and this book is awesome” is not something that I’d consider applicable to the “best of the best” of anything.”–Well, good luck ever having fun doing anything at all, because you clearly hate to enjoy yourself.

My picks.

Batman: Fuck the haters, this story is amazing. And I know this doesn’t completely let Morrison off the hook for some of what was difficult about his previous Batman work, but because of Batman RIP, his entire run makes sense now. I almost feel like his run should have been All-Star Batman, so it could be allowed to unfold at its own correct pace, without all of us whiny fans screaming for it to be more logical and immediate. In retrospect, it’s the single best work of superhero comic book literature aside from Watchmen. But as a monthly comic book in a mainstream Big-Two superhero universe, it may have been a poor choice. At any rate, where it is now is pure awesome.
The Batman Strikes!: Don’t get me wrong, I hated the show with a passion that I really can’t put into words without slipping into Yiddish. The comic book adaptation, however, was pretty good. It made the cartoon’s HORRENDOUS interpretations of the villains (and no, they NEVER got better, not in Season 4 or whenever you weirdos think they did, not ever) into passably tolerable ones, and when it forsook the villains of the show for one-shots or new adaptations (like the final issue from this month), it absolutely shone.
DCU Decisions: Only because everything about it is a bad idea, but that’s what makes it so good. I mean, what kind of arch-conservative hawk (Lois Lane) marries a guy who is all but a poster boy for socialism, in a very really sense (and in the Golden Age, was LITERALLY a socialist figure in all but name)? And Wonder Woman, Ms. Peace-and-Feminism, votes Republican? What the hell? At least in the third issue, they finally explain WHY all these superheroes have been outing themselves like this (hint: it’s a decent reason), but the whole thing rubs me the wrong way…which is why for some masochistic reason, I like it. Also, as ever, the BatGod reigns supreme, the only superhero who hasn’t proclaimed, even privately, who he’s voting for. Bruce Wayne has. But Batman? No. Not unless Harvey Dent is running.
El Diablo: UNSTOPPABLY KICKASS. Pick up this book RIGHT NOW. Every single one of you that’s always bitching about how they’re aren’t enough Irredeemable Ant-Mans, Blue Beetles, or Manhunters on the shelves, you go out and you buy El Diablo. And if you don’t enjoy it, then guess what? You don’t actually enjoy IAM, Blue Beetle, or Manhunter either, you’re just a slave to trends and you think you enjoy them.
Jonah Hex: I almost want to say I don’t recommend it, just so I can be the one guy on the planet who says that, but then I would be telling a very stupid and pointless lie, and giving a few fools an excuse not to pick up the only comic book in history that has never had an issue that was anywhere below superb.
Justice League of America: No, really, guys, it’s been fine ever since Meltzer left. Seriously. I’ve been trying to say this for a long time and–oh screw you, you won’t come back to this book till it gets a new #1 and a writer like Warren Ellis.
Manhunter: Way to go, assholes. Way to screw it up. DC has given you, what, FOUR chances? Three? DC has given you a LOT of chances to support one of the best superhero books that has ever been published, and what do you do? You buy Countdown instead. AND THEN YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT COUNTDOWN AND THE LACK OF QUALITY SUPERHERO BOOKS ON THE MARKET. I HATE YOU.
Nightwing: I didn’t mean for this to veer so far into commentary, so I’ll bring it back to recommendations. It really pissed me off to see half the internet come down on Peter Tomasi for putting blood and failure in a comic book. Like “ooh, this is something that has never happened before and Tomasi’s Nightwing is the reason comics aren’t for kids anymore.” Dude, comics aren’t for kids because kids are reading MORE violent shit, not LESS violent shit. At any rate, Tomasi has been kicking ass on Nightwing and bringing it back to its pre-OYL greatness. It’s amazing how often I’m saying that phrase, “bringing it back to its pre-OYL greatness,” these days. Not in this post, but in general, I’m saying that a lot. It’s a testament to how awesome DC was before OYL, how pathetic it was immediately following, and how close it is to that greatness again now.
Supergirl: You know, I actually liked the writer before Sterling Gates better. This is good, but the other guy was better. They shoulda kept him. They’re certainly cashing in on his story and the direction for the character that he authored.
Trinity: It’s in a big slump right now, since the Trinity isn’t even in it, but come November or December or whenever they get back, it’ll be great again. Hell, maybe it’ll be better again tomorrow.
Action/Superman: Both doing great, solid storytelling, but I’m tired of the big event style of narrative. I’d prefer what Rucka used to do.
Detective is vintage, classic Dini at his best.
Final Crisis and all its tie-ins: Best. Event. Ever. If every event from now on is done like this, comics will be infinitely better for it. Yeah, there’s some lateness, and I don’t forgive that, but I also can’t ignore the fact that these stories are not just superior to every event comic ever, they’re superior to the vast majority of ALL superhero comics ever. This is one kickass event, and it accomplishes exactly what it should: it doesn’t try to re-overexpose properties like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman (because Superman Beyond is NOT bringing new readers to Superman). Rather, it focuses on exposing perennially second-tier properties like Legion of Super-Heroes, the Spectre, and the Flash, not to mention the multiverse itself, while also getting in a little bit of face-time for almost every character in the (very massive) DC stable.
Green Lantern/GLC: See Action/Superman.
Secret Six: Love Gail Simone, love Secret Six, REALLY DAMN TIRED of the old “Hey, my character is lighthearted and fun and/or badass, and I will show it by having him embarrass Batman!” trope. Seriously, this shit got old shortly after Starman did it in the 1990s. And like most relics of 90s comics, it needs to go. Goodbye, variant covers. Goodbye, excessive stroking of artists’ egos. Goodbye, EXTREME!!1!!1! FERAL WILDSCARY Wolverine ripoff characters. And goodbye, Another-Embarrassing-Moment-for-Batman guest spots.
Two Face Year One: Fantastic story, but holy crap it was delayed. TWO ISSUES! TWO ISSUES! How do you not finish even TWO ISSUES in less than half a year? (Shut up, don’t even mention the Worldstorm reboot, I know it happened, I’m making a point.)
Booster Gold: Oh good, it’s worth reading and has a direction again.
Flash: I just want to say that I’m heartbroken about the impending character assassination of Wally West. His book has been awesome under Peyer and now Burnett, and I’m sure they could have gotten more good writers for it. Instead, they’re just going to let him fade into obscurity so BARRY ALLEN TEH BEST SUPERHERO EVER can take center stage.
Justice Society of America: Countdown to Gog story being over: Two months. Countdown to me enjoying this book even more than I currently am: Two months.
Robin: Fabe is doing awesome on this book. I’m almost happy that Dixon’s off it, although the circumstances suck.
Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves: Hey, if you don’t get why this book is awesome, then you’re not cool enough.
Ghost Rider: This comic tries SOOOO hard to be hipster, but it succeeds, so I guess that’s alright.
Avengers: The Initiative: I don’t think there’s anything I could say that hasn’t been said before. About this book I mean.
Captain America: See ATI.
Secret Invasion: I’m still interested in the badass superheroes of the Marvel U. kickin’ the ass of every damn dirty stinkin’ skrull in the universe, but just barely. Compared to what Morrison is doing (or I should say, was doing and will soon be doing again, following a two-month break), though, Secret Invasion is just another dumb Bendis book that’s almost not worth picking up.
The X-Books: I’m glad they have a coherent direction. I’m also glad that at least the CREATORS know how all the stories fit together. It would be nice if they would share that information with me, though.
And I’m tired, so I’m just gonna say that Gotham After Midnight, Birds of Prey, Blue Beetle, Reign in Hell, Superman/Batman, and Teen Titans are good too.

Funky Green Jerusalem:

I’ve been snarky in every post? Me? I admitted that the “illiterate and on prozac” comment pissed me off, and that I let it get to me enough to post a bit of “snap” at it, but you’ve been on my ass ever since I put anything out on here. I’d say your cutting-and-pasting my comments and mocking them directly as soon as I had anything to say on here counts as being just a bit more snarky than anything I’ve been up to.

So shut up and back off from here on out, get me?

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 24, 2008 at 12:26 am

So shut up and back off from here on out, get me?

Or what?

You’ll get more snarky about me being snarky?

Chillax my man.

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