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What I bought – 8 July 2009

This was a very odd week for two reasons. Yes, very odd indeed …

So I went to my local comics retailing entrepôt on Wednesday, and a few things struck me as strange. First, I was only purchasing three regular comics, and one is shaped all funny, like a newspaper. How bizarre! Yes, in the middle of a month, not a fifth week, I was only getting three regular comics. That’s strange, as I usually get a ton more than that. Second, I was getting absolutely NO Marvel comics. As the mainstream DC Universe has become more and more, well, bloodthirsty (more on that below!), I’ve lost interest in many of the books it produces (the irony of me liking Secret Six is not lost on me, but the point is that they’re villains, so I don’t mind if they’re a bit skeevy), and although I don’t buy a ton of Marvel books, I still buy more than those from DC. But this week absolutely nothing from Marvel appealed to me. And so, much like I did with Marvel back in March, I decided to buy every single DC book that came out, and see what’s what. I must warn you – I didn’t buy every Vertigo title (just The Unwritten, which I would have bought anyway) nor did I buy the Wildstorm books. When I did Marvel, I didn’t get the Soleil book and the Ender Wiggins book, so I stuck to mainstream DCU books this time. Plus, I also bought Marvel Masterworks: Adam Warlock ($60), Asterios Polyp ($30), the last 100 Bullets trade ($20), Jeff Lemire’s The Nobody ($20), Pixu ($18), and Ed Hannigan’s Skull & Bones trade ($16), so you’ll forgive me if I didn’t feel like spending a few more ducats on individual issues. Let’s get to the three books I bought because I wanted to, and then let’s check out the rest of the DCU this week, shall we?

(And, according to Antony Johnston himself and Brian Hibbs, retailer extraordinaire, Wasteland #25 came out this week. Well, not in Mesa it didn’t! DAMN IT!!!!! I hope it will arrive next week!)

I Am Legion #4 (of 6) (“Vlad”) by Fabien Nury (writer), John Cassaday (artist), Laura Martin (colorist), Justin Kelly (translator), and Crank! (letterer). $3.50, 25 pgs, FC, Devil’s Due.

Okay, so here we are, a bit late with this issue (the advert in the back claims issue #5 will be out in May), and I don’t get it. I can only assume that the translator is slow, because this thing is finished! We’re not waiting on Cassaday, who drew the damned thing a few years ago! It’s very frustrating, because as difficult it is to translate something to English (and I’ve done it, so I know how vexing it can be), why wouldn’t it already be done or at least much closer to completion? The first two issues didn’t need to be translated, because they were translated a few years ago, when DC published this. So if it is the translation, couldn’t Kelly have gotten a bigger jump on it? If it’s not the translator (again, I have no idea what causes the delay), what’s going on? The artwork has been enlarged to fit the page, but that can’t take that long, can it?

Speaking of the artwork being enlarged to fit the page, it looks better than the first few issues, which had a lot of white space at the top and bottom of the page. Cassaday, for all his precision and (I assume) photo-reference, still draws very well, and the larger art helps us see some of the rough edges of his work, which helps ground it a bit. It remains a gorgeous comic, but it’s a bit more “real,” in the sense that we get more of a feeling for a guiding hand, which is nice.

As for the story – well, it zips along, and there are now so many cast members that it’s hard to keep up, so I’m just reading it for the art and for the vague general story, which means we get more body-switching from the bad guy and more Allied shenanigans behind Nazi lines. I’ll re-read it when the final issue comes out and see how well it holds together. The big draw, of course, is still the art.

The Unwritten #3 (“Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity Chapter Three”) by Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Jeanna McGee (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

As interesting as it might be to follow Tom around to the places where various great works of literature were conceived, there’s a weird conversation in a flashback section that turns the themes a bit on their ear, depending on how it plays out. Tom’s father seems to be talking on the telephone about something seedy and, well, real, but Carey is still leading us down a path littered with fantasy tropes. Tom’s dad might be discussing something that has to do with the fantastic, of course, but it’s an odd few panels that implies something far nastier.

And then the farmhand attacks someone with a sickle, so what do I know about nasty?

Carey has some fun this issue, too, with the various horror writers discussing Frankenstein and getting all grumpy with each other. It’s too broad and even familiar to be really trenchant criticism of the form, but it’s a fun diversion from the main story. Why do I have a feeling that Torture Porn guy is going to be having a bowel-related accident next issue, when the sickle-wielder comes a-calling?

Oh, yeah, Gross is really good. Check out the first two pages, which look all 1820s-ish. It’s a cool way to show the literary sections, and I hope he changes styles each time we encounter a new text. That’d be neat.

Wednesday Comics #1 (of 12) by a whole mess o’ talent. $3.99, 16 big-ass pages, FC, DC.

If you didn’t buy this, it’s hard to describe just how FUCKING COOL it looks and feels, as we get sixteen pages of comics printed like the Sunday Funnies, on actual newspaper paper (high-end paper, as it doesn’t get all over your hands, but still). If you did buy this, isn’t it FUCKING COOL?

I really can’t say how much I want this to do well. I don’t really care all that much about “bringing in non-comics readers” or anything like that, I just love it when any company does something wacky that makes reading their books a bit more fun. I mean, this could be sixteen pages of a Geoff Johns killfest and it would still be terrifically fun to read. Just opening it is fun! Companies have forgotten, to a large degree, that reading comics should be, at least, wildly entertaining, so even though the first story features a kidnap victim about to be smothered to death, it was such a ball reading it in this format that the story becomes, well, not fun exactly, but more fun than it would be in a regular book.

The stories range in quality, but most of them are pretty good, even the Didio-penned one. I guess it helps that each one takes up exactly one (1) page, so even Didio can’t screw up that badly. Azzarello and Risso manage some nice pathos in their Batman tale, while Sook’s art on Kamandi is gorgeous (and is that really how he got his name?). The Arcudi/Bermejo Superman story is a nice tease, and there’s quite a bit to the Deadman story. Busiek and Quinones’s Green Lantern story drags a bit, Gaiman and Allred’s Metamorpho tale packs a bunch into the space, as does Paul Pope in the Adam Strange tale. Didio and his collaborators, Garcia-Lopez and Nowlan, offer us a Metal Men story that puzzles me – why wouldn’t Will Magnus want the Metal Men to stop a bank robbery? – while Joe Kubert’s wonderful art covers up the fact that, at nine panels, Adam Kubert’s “story” is ridiculously decompressed. Kerschl and Fletcher’s Flash story is split into two sections, one focusing on Iris, and it’s a slice of Silver Age Superbness, while Simonson and Steelfreeze’s Demon/Catwoman story and Baker’s Hawkman tale are nice set-ups. The only stories that didn’t work for me were the Teen Titans’ story, which was boring and featured almost incomprehensible art by Sean Galloway; Jimmy Palmiotti’s Kitten Streaky and Puppy Krypto story, which, like the others, was all set-up, but it was kind of a dumb set-up (and was, as usual, almost rescued by Amanda Conner’s art); and Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman story, which seems like a complete tale in one page, but had way too much going on in it, was poorly lettered, and is not crisp enough, art-wise, to work on this kind of paper. Other than that, the stories did what they were supposed to – set up the longer story and hook us. Well done, creators!

As I mentioned, the paper stock used is interesting. It works against Galloway and Caldwell, I think, because their styles fit more with the slick paper used in comics these days. Galloway, especially, has that very cartoonish thing going on that loses some of its vibrancy on this kind of paper. Fine draftsmen, like Garcia-Lopez and Sook, look great in this format, and Bermejo, interestingly enough, probably gets the most help from this. I’m not sure why, but Bermejo’s style, which is very nice but often leaves me a bit cold, is much earthier in his Superman story, and it helps sell the tale more. Had Bermejo drawn the alien in a regular comic, I have a feeling it would have looked far too sterile, but because of the paper stock, his alien looks like something that could actually be alive. The quality of paper is rarely discussed when discussing an artist’s strengths and weaknesses, but Wednesday Comics makes it clear that sometimes that plays a role.

And yes, there are crazed, blue-furred mandrills in this comic. Come on!

Now, let’s look at the rest of DC’s output for the week. Not for the faint-hearted!!!!!

Batman #688 (“Long Shadows Part One: Old Sins Cast Long Shadows”) by Judd Winick (writer), Mark Bagley (penciller), Rob Hunter (inker), Ian Hannin (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Like many of the rest of the non-dumb comics readers out there, I think Judd Winick’s Barry Ween approaches genius, yet whenever I’ve read anything else by him, I’ve been completely underwhelmed. Is it because he can’t curse and do toilet humor in DC books? From what we’ve had as content in the DiDio era, I can’t believe that. Yet Winick keeps pumping out thoroughly unremarkable superhero pap, such as Batman #688. I mean, this isn’t awful, but it’s really dull (which, I’m sad to say, will become a common complaint of mine as we go forward). The first few pages show us Batman (Dick) getting pummeled by an unknown foe inside the Batcave, and then Winick goes back in time (well, not really, but I’ll get to that) to show how he got there. Of course, as this is Part One, we never return to that particular point in time, but I assume Winick will get to it.

The main theme is that Dick is acting out of character for Batman, and some villains – notably Two-Face, with whom Dick has a history – are beginning to figure it out. “Out of character” means that Dick is actually making it easy for the police to prosecute bad guys he rounds up, because he doesn’t disable video cameras (thereby capturing their nefarious deeds on tape) and makes sure the evidence is ready for the boys in blue. This is actually not a bad idea, and Winick does a fairly decent job with it. Winick also brings in the Penguin, who’s a bit peeved that his gang got caught up in one of Dick’s raids, because he’s trying to keep a low profile. Bringing in the Penguin was a mistake, I think – like the Riddler and his recent switch to detective, the Penguin is far more interesting as a smarmy businessman who’s “legitimate” than he is as a criminal, even if he’s a crime boss – but whatever. Then we get a bunch of boring scenes with Commissioner Gordon speaking cryptically on the roof and Dick whining, yet again, about the damned cape on the Batman costume. Alfred, as usual, is the best part of this scene. Dick trains Damian, Two-Face hatches a scheme to draw Batman out, and that’s it. Again, there’s nothing terribly wrong with it, but it lacks the visceral thrill of, say, Batman and Robin (and yes, it’s unfair to compare this to the God of All Comics, but it’s even less thrilling than your average issue of, say, The Incredible Hercules). Morrison wrote pretty much the same scene between Dick and Alfred in Batman and Robin #2, but with that, you felt that you were eavesdropping on a conversation between two actual people, while here, the heavy hand of the writer is very evident.

Bagley is the wrong choice for this particular comic, as he just doesn’t do moody well. The final shot of Batman grinning from ear to ear is nice, because it’s so incongruous, but otherwise, the art just seems off. It’s interesting that Bagley can draw teenagers really well, but when he starts drawing grown-ups, he gives them muscles where no one has them. Oh well.

Finally, I’ll point out a writing tic that, as far as I know, has its genesis in Brad Meltzer’s magnum opus, Identity Crisis. This was the comic that (may have) introduced us to “future writing” – meaning we open the book, and instead of it being “now,” Meltzer specifically told us it was taking place in the future. This has been done before, of course, but I don’t remember it beginning a comic book, when we’re conditioned to think of it as “now.” Winick is the first person this week (but not the last) to do this – his opening scene takes place “three weeks from now,” and then, a few pages in, we switch to “now.” Why the first few pages couldn’t be “now” and then we go into a flashback I don’t know, but it’s an annoying tic. I know it doesn’t really matter, but it’s an odd convention that does two things: 1) Distracts from the flow of the narrative; 2) Shows how creatively bankrupt a lot of writers are – “Oooh, Meltzer did it, and it’s so cool, so I’m going to do it too!” Maybe I’m being too harsh. If you read every DC book that came out this week, you’d be harsh too.

So that’s one mediocre comic down. I’ll get to the Doom Patrol preview later. Trust me.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? It’s a DC comic! The first page shows Batman bleeding from his nose, a cut on his leg, a cut on his elbow, and from his bicep. Later the Penguin beats one of his henchmen with his umbrella handle (said henchmen then bleeds profusely from his nose). And that’s by far not the worst DC book of the week!

Booster Gold #22 (“Day of Death Part II of IV”) by Dan Jurgens (writer/artist), Norm Rapmund (finisher), Hi-Fi (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). Back-up story by Matthew Sturges (writer), Mike Norton (penciller), Norm Rapmund (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

Okay, I get that covers are supposed to be conceptual, but I’m not sure what’s going on in that cover. Are the Titans being reflected in Deathstroke’s mask? I doubt that, as it’s not really a reflective surface. Is he imagining them running at him? It’s possible. I’m not sure how any of this actually alters the shape of his mask, but it’s just a disconcerting image.

I got a few Booster Gold issues when it first came out and was unimpressed, and it’s not gotten any better. In fact, it’s a typical Dan Jurgens comic – bland and somewhat dull, not too egregious, but utterly forgettable. Seriously, I’ve been reading Dan Jurgens comics for over 15 years (I know he’s been around longer than that, but I think the first time I came across him was around the Death of Superman), even though I’ve never actively sought out his work, and he writes (and draws) some of the most astonishingly forgettable comics in that time period. And he’s done some big events – the aforementioned Death of Superman, Zero Hour – yet does he ever put any kind of stamp on any book he’s writing? He’s the very definition of a journeyman, never completing a masterpiece and therefore never graduating to anything other than a steady veteran who gives you, well, bland and forgettable comics. You remember the Death of Superman, but not because of the great writing – you remember it because Superman dies, not because Jurgens wrote such a great story. Even his art is bland and forgettable – there’s nothing terribly wrong with it, but it’s still kind of dull.

Man, I’m mean, aren’t I? This is a perfectly serviceable superhero comic, I guess. I’m not sure how far Jurgens has gone with the conceit of Booster zipping around the timestream, but in this issue, at least, he goes back in time to stop Slade Wilson’s son, aka Ravager, from killing Dick Grayson and the other Titans. For some reason this Black Beetle character has managed to change the past, so Booster has to stop him. He goes back in time to right before the Titans meet Deathstroke for the first time, and they battle. Oh, what a battle!

Booster joins up with the Titans, ogles a bikinied Koriand’r, and helps them fight Deathstroke, Ravager, and Black Beetle. Things go a bit badly. It’s only part two of four (I don’t need fancy Roman numerals, man!), so it’s not surprising that it goes badly, is it? Jurgens is following the multi-part superhero epic handbook closely, so if you’ve ever read a superhero story before, you know what’s coming. See what I mean about being bland?

Sturges continues his work on Blue Beetle in the back-up story, and much like his run on the regular series, it’s fairly bland as well. It’s a bit more fun than the main story, but that’s about it. Norton’s a good artist, though.

Well, another mediocre comic down. Sigh. By the way, this is the second instance of a weird time tag. We begin with a caption box that reads “Moments ago.” Two pages later, we switch scenes and get “The present.” Why aren’t those two things happening simultaneously? Do we really need to know that one scene comes fractionally earlier than the next one?

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? People die, but it’s rather bloodless. Doesn’t Jurgens know the discriminating comics readers wants gore? Sheesh.

Green Arrow and Black Canary #22 (“Enemies List Conclusion: Peace and Quiet” and “Opening Night Jitters”) by Andrew Kreisberg (writer), Mike Norton (penciller), Josef Rubinstein (inker, “Enemies List”), Bill Sienkiewicz (inker, “Opening Night”), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Allen Passalaqua (colorist, “Enemies List”), and David Baron (colorist, “Opening Night”). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

Kreisberg wrote the wonderful and slightly demented mini-series Helen Killer last year, and it appears that working for the Big Two has sucked the life out of his writing (I’ve mentioned this before with regard to Matt Fraction; it’s not a new phenomenon). Helen Killer was an insane brew of crazy action, solid characterization, and mad ideas, but this issue exhibits none of those. Well, I guess Wildcat is written well, but this is just another standard superhero story, with some dude who has created a machine to make everyone deaf. Dinah must stop him! And Ollie stands around until the second story, where we learn that he and some unnamed supervillain chick (well, she’s unnamed in this issue; I assume she has a name) had to stop a domestic abuse case that turned ugly, and Ollie wasn’t sure if he was going to stop the supervillain chick from killing the abusive husband, which leads Dinah to demand something dramatic of him on the last page. Again, it’s nothing we haven’t seen hundreds of times before from a superhero comic, and the only notable thing about it is that Sienkiewicz inks the second story. That’s actually kind of sad, if we think about it. Unless Sienkiewicz really loves inking mediocre superhero comics, it’s a shame he’s not doing higher-level work.

As is becoming clear with these comics, none of them are at the suckiness level of, say Ultimatum (or, if you prefer, Justice League: Cry for Justice). They’re just mediocre superhero comics. But will any make me rage against the corporate machine, like, say, Jeph Loeb’s Hank Pym-biting-the-head-off-the-Blob scene or the Boom Boom-gets-a-bullet-in-the-brain scene? Where’s DC’s Brian Michael Bendis, giving us nine pages of the same back-and-forth conversation? Geoff Johns, where are you?????

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? In the domestic dispute portion of the comic, the wife ends up with a butcher’s knife in her chest. It’s a bit unpleasant, but nothing too horrifying.

(By the way, unnamed supervillain chick: Don’t say that the mummification tool you’re about to use on that dude “doesn’t have an actual name.” A quick Google search reveals that, I guess technically, you’re right, but why not call it a “pick” or a “needle,” both of which I’ve seen. Just because you don’t know the name doesn’t mean it doesn’t have one. That’s the beauty of language – everything has a name. Just ask aglets.)

Green Lantern #43 (“Blackest Night Prologue: Tale of the Black Lantern”) by Geoff Johns (writer), Doug Mahnke (penciller), Christian Alamy (inker), Randy Mayor (colorist), and Rob Leigh (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Oh, Geoff Johns, you never fail to rise to the occasion. Just so you know, I’m going to SPOIL the shit out of this.

Whenever I make a joke about Geoff Johns’s bloodthirstiness, people get on my case. “I don’t think he’s that bad” is a common rejoinder. Now, I don’t often read Geoff Johns’s comics, but if what people say about him is true, why, whenever I do read one, is someone killed in a horribly brutal manner? Am I just picking up the very few that feature savagery? If I had bought Green Lantern #42, would I have seen bunnies and chipmunks and squirrels frolicking in the forest while Hal Jordan plays the pan pipe? Probably not, as Johns manages to slaughter a squirrel in this issue, so obviously he has something against them. (Yes, a character slaughters a squirrel. I wish I was joking.)

So let’s break this down, as I guess Blackest Night starts next week, and this is the “secret origin” of William Hand, the Black Lantern. After a page of the gobbledygook about the emotional spectrum, we get William lying in a grave caressing a skeleton. Then he remembers his home life with his father the undertaker and how he was always fascinated by death. So he stuffs animals he finds, kills his brother’s dog and stuffs him, and tells his dad where he wants his grave to be. He’s a charmer, that William Hand! Then, one day, Atrocitus shows up. This has to be a retcon, right, as didn’t that ugly dude just recently show up for the first time? Yet here he is figuring in the creation of William Hand, Supervillain. Atrocitus drops his “cosmic divining rod,” which Hand narrates was supposed to “hold the darkness locked inside me … the evil that my family believed had possessed my soul.” He grabs the rod and runs from Hal Jordan and Sinestro. Then, just for fun, he blows up a squirrel.

William makes a costume out of a body bag, fights Green Lantern, remembers Hal as Parallax, remembers Hal as the Spectre being mean to him (I remember that too, as it occurred in Green Lantern: Rebirth), gets a new hand from some aliens – as well as the ability to “see” death. So we get a litany of dead DC characters. The voice inside his head tells him that it wants all of the heroes who died, even those who have been resurrected. This montage of heroes is unintentionally funny – writers really shouldn’t remind us how idiotic the “death policy” of the Big Two is. The second page is all heroes who have been resurrected, and while that’s when Hand is speaking of those who have come back to life, it’s still pretty silly. We do, however, get to see how Psycho-Pirate died again, and that’s always pleasant. Mahnke makes it even yuckier than the original, if possible.

William knows he has to do one more thing if he really wants to be a true Black Lantern. So he slaughters his entire family and then uses the cosmic divining rod to shoot himself through the head. Mahnke gives us a full page of William Hand’s brains blowing out through his temple. We get a few panels of him falling to the ground, blood spraying out of him and pooling nicely around his head, and then the creepy Evil Guardian vomits up a black ring, which brings him back to “life” as a Black Lantern. Yay! We’re ready for the Big Event!

Of course this is an unpleasant comic. It’s depressing, horrific, mean-spirited, and revels in its nastiness. It’s not helped by the fact that Mahnke draws the freakin’ shit out of it – this is an amazing-looking book, which makes it even more unpleasant. More than anything, it’s pointless. We don’t need to wallow in William Hand’s depravity, because we know he’s a villain and he’s a big jerk. It’s this kind of stupid storytelling – yes, I called it “stupid” – that makes a lot of modern comics so unbearable – the need to dig into the psyche of a crazed serial killer, but only for 22 pages, means this will be astonishingly shallow, with no real motivations for William Hand and no real reason for him to go so nuts. We’re supposed to be disgusted by his suicide, because it’s the last act in a thoroughly horrid life, so I guess Johns is successful at that, but who cares? This is a waste of 22 pages, because all it tells us is that William Hand is a scumbag. I have read one comic with William Hand in my life (the aforementioned Green Lantern: Rebirth), and he was only in that a few pages, and I could figure out that he was a scumbag. Do we really need an entire issue about it? Was the point of this comic to show a beautifully rendered suicide? Yuck.

I’d like to muster up some rage over this (just like Atrocitus!), but I can’t. This is who Geoff Johns is, apparently – someone who can’t write a script without making sure someone (and usually more than one person) dies or at least suffers horribly. With a lot of writers who do horrible things in comics, there’s either black humor (Ennis, for instance) or some larger point about the character that makes it bearable (I’ll always use the latest iteration of Moon Knight for this, because Huston and then Benson did horrible things to characters, but they explored over the course of 20+ issues why Marc Spector was insane). Johns might attempt to do the latter, but at least in this issue, he completely misses the point. This is a perfect example of why I rarely buy mainstream DC comics these days. In Secret Six, Simone tempers the awful things with biting humor. In Green Lantern #43, Johns tempers it by having his character blow up a squirrel. I’d like to rant about how this is destroying my comics-reading experience, but it’s not. I just don’t buy shit like this. I can’t imagine people liking this. I know I’m in the minority in that regard, but that’s the way it is.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? Oh yes. Dear Lord, yes.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #6 (“Dominator”) by Tony Bedard (writer), Claude St. Aubin (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), José Villarrubia (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

R.E.B.E.L.S. used to mean Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eradicate L.E.G.I.O.N. Supremacy. I don’t know if it still means that.

And, it’s yet another mediocre DC superhero book! As usual, there’s nothing terribly wrong with this, but it’s instantly forgettable. The only reason to read this book is Vril Dox, who’s inexplicably always awesome no matter who’s writing him. It’s as if every writer wants to get Dox right so they concentrate on making him as snotty and arrogant and exceptionally competent as previous writers, then hope the rest of the book doesn’t suck. I mean, if this didn’t have Vril Dox, someone might think it’s just an Annihilation rip-off, with Starro substituting for the Phalanx. But, I mean, that would be just crazy, right? Right?

I don’t really have anything against this comic. It’s odd seeing Dominators without their stylish green robes, and it’s always fun to see what alien conquerors are doing when they’re not invading Earth (the answer: pretty much what they do when they invade Earth, except with aliens substituted for humans), and St. Aubin’s art is pretty good, and Bedard doesn’t do anything horribly evil in the script department. It’s just kind of there.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? Nope. There’s a lot of fighting, but nothing graphic.

Red Robin #2 (“The Grail Part Two of Four”) by Chris Yost (writer), Ramon Bachs (penciller), Art Thibert (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Sigh. Yet another book that just doesn’t make any effort to be different. This reads and looks exactly like almost every other superhero comic on the stand. I hated Green Lantern #43, but at least Mahnke’s art made it look nice. Bachs and Thibert don’t do that here. Marvel has that “soft-focus” with a lot of “realistic” art style going on, and it seems that DC has a less-annoying early Image vibe going on. Every face looks similar, every hero has similar musculature, and there’s a lot of brooding. Tim does a lot of brooding in this book, in case you’re wondering.

So the story deals with his continuing quest to find Bruce Wayne, except now he finds out he has the League of Assassins on his trail, which means Ra’s al Ghul. The fight between Tim and the assassins is actually written and drawn quite well, as Yost breaks down how Tim fights and figures out who the people are, while Bachs has nice choreography to the scenes. Yost cuts back and forth between the fight and flashback scenes about how Tim got to where he is, which are less successful. As is the theme with DC’s books this week, the scenes aren’t bad, but they’re a bit boring and seem unnecessary, except for the brief scene with Stephanie Brown. (So she’s alive now? I wonder if destroying one of Batman’s best supporting characters for a cheap stunt was worth it.) At least they don’t take up much time. (And I asked this last week, and no one answered: Does Lucius Fox know all the Wayne secrets now? One panel in this book seems to imply that he knows who Tim is. What’s the story?) Oh, and there’s an interlude in South Africa, which presumably introduces or continues a sub-plot that will interesect with Tim somewhere down the line.

I don’t know. There’s nothing here that’s really bad (well, flight attendants may look like that, but they certainly don’t dress like that, even in first class), but there’s also no reason to come back for issue #3. Man, it’s sad that that’s the trend in DC books this week. Oh, and here’s yet another example of weird narrative time. The book begins “twenty-four hours from now” as Tim is flying from Paris to Berlin. Then, the fight takes place, not “now,” but “twenty-four hours earlier.” Um, yeah, that would be “now.” Interestingly enough, when the book actually goes into flashback, Yost doesn’t feel the need to tell us it’s “three days earlier” or whenever it actually occurs. Strange.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? Tim beats the crap out of the assassins, so there’s some blood there. An assassin shoots someone in the head, but it’s not too graphic despite the stream of blood that flies from the victim’s head. That assassin is then killed in a horrible manner, but again, it’s not too graphic. Somewhere, Geoff Johns is looking at this book thinking, “What a missed opportunity to show brain matter!”

Superman: World of New Krypton #5 by James Robinson (writer), Greg Rucka (writer), Pete Woods (artist), Brad Anderson (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC.

With this creative team, one would think this would be a very good comic. Well, until Cry for Justice came out last week and scared everyone away from James Robinson’s comics. But still – I like Robinson (for the most part), I like Rucka, I like Woods. What’s not to love?

Well, in terms of DC’s other output this week, this is better, but it’s still not that great. I mean, Woods does what he can with the material, but there’s not a lot for him to do, as Robinson and Rucka spend this issue with Superman on trial, so there’s a lot of standing around and talking. Apparently, Kal-El is on trial for disobeying an order from General Zod, which kind of sucks for him. Zod has a vendetta against the House of El, so perhaps he’s pursuing this with a bit more vigor than usual. Plus, there’s some big celebration coming up during which the New Kryptonians will take the dome off of Kandor because the atmosphere of this planet is now viable. That’s an important plot point, as it turns out.

Robinson and Rucka do a yeomanlike job with the trial, and the twist that allows Kal to not get executed (did you really think he would?) is interesting. Despite the fact that this isn’t a great issue, it’s interesting that Rucka and Robinson seem to be trying to do something a bit more interesting than just telling a standard superhero story. There’s some nice pacing and decent characterization in this issue, and although the idea of Superman in Kandor on a distant planet is wrong-headed in a lot of ways (yes, I get that if he’s no longer unique we can see what a true hero he still is, but he’s Superman, for crying out loud – we already know he’s a hero), Rucka and Robinson have given it some thought. It’s dumb that Kal-El’s “Superman” logo isn’t unique, but whatever.

Although I’m not terribly interested in this, it’s better than the other DC books that came out this week. Of course, that’s not saying much.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? There’s a shocking death, but it’s not graphic.

The Warlord #4 (“Saga Part 4: The Castle’s Secret”) by Mike Grell (writer), Joe Prado (penciller), Chad Hardin (penciller), Walden Wong (inker), Wayne Faucher (inker), Dan Green (inker), Rob Leigh (letterer), and David Curiel (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

As I wrap up this journey through DC’s offerings for this week, we come upon yet another dull comic, one that doesn’t piss me off but doesn’t make me want to run out and buy it, either. That means Green Lantern #43 was the only one that stirred any emotion in me, and that was utter disgust. It’s something, I guess!

The story in this comic is inconsequential – it has a lot to do with how the evil dude came to rule in Skartaris and how Travis Morgan is going to stop him, but there’s nothing all that interesting about it. The art is interesting for a number of reasons. First, Grell shouldn’t do the covers of this book, because it just reminds us that he’s not doing the interior art, and this would greatly benefit by him doing the interior art. His writing seems listless, and perhaps if he were writing and drawing it, he’d be a bit more inspired. I haven’t read too much by Grell, but I can tell he’s not the greatest writer, but in combination with his art, he can make things a lot more interesting. The cover is more dynamic that pretty much everything in the book, so it’s a shame that Grell isn’t drawing this too.

The artists, Prado and Hardin, aren’t awful, but they fit, once again, into what appears to be the DC House Style. It’s pertinent to consider what effect the inkers and colorist had on the art, because at Hardin’s blog, he posted a few of the uninked, uncolored pages, and they look much nicer than the finished product. They’re still not great, but they convey more of a sense of dynamism and medievalism, for lack of a better term (the book takes place in a Conan-like world, after all), than the finished pages do. The inkers and colorists have smoothed out the rough edges, to the detriment of the art. It’s not to the point where the pencilled pages are unrecognizable when they’re inked and colored, but there is a big difference, and like the Marvel House Style, I wonder how much of this is editorially-mandated. If I had seen Hardin’s pencils with no adornments, I would have thought there wasn’t much that was needed. Did DC editorial think differently? Were they trying to blend Prado and Hardin’s styles to make the book look more seamless? I don’t know, and I doubt if I’ll ever get answers to my questions.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? There’s some blood, but nothing all that awful.

If we look at the Doom Patrol preview in the back of many DC books this week, we see the same thing. It certainly doesn’t look like something I’d like to pick up, because all the weirdness is gone, and we’re left with a superhero team written competently by Keith Giffen and drawn competently by Matthew Clark. As with most of these comics, it doesn’t look too bad, but the Doom Patrol isn’t a superhero team, for crying out loud. Whenever it’s been successful, it’s because it’s been weird. The original stories are still fun to read, 40 years later, because Drake and Premiani went nuts in the stories even more than, say, Lee and Kirby did on Fantastic Four. Morrison’s run, of course, was in this tradition, and it was genius. Even Rachel Pollack managed to keep it weird, even though it was rip-off weird. You know what this preview reminded me of? Kupperberg’s incarnation, the one that came before Morrison. Yeah, we all remember that, don’t we? So, no new DP for me, I guess!

Well, that was the week from DC. Man, how dull. I can see why they’re in a distant second place to Marvel. When I bought all the Marvel books, there were a few that were pretty good even though, for one reason or another, I didn’t want to start buying them. I can’t even imagine other people buying these books, much less me. As I pointed out, except for Green Lantern, there’s nothing even to get angry about in these comics. Back in March, when I did this with Marvel, there was Ultimatum, which is a higher standard of suck, as well as X-Force and Dark Avengers. Even the books I didn’t like were at least interesting. The only one that could fit into the completely bland category that these do was Eternals, and that’s no longer with us. Marvel has better overall talent working for them, of course, and even though I don’t believe Joey Q really knows how to run a business, he seems to have a better grasp on how to produce decent comics than DiDio does. Of course, my four-year-old can probably tie her shoes better than DiDio, and she can barely get one lace over the other so far.

The nice thing is, I don’t have to do this again. I certainly wouldn’t mind reading some of these books for free, but I can’t imagine paying money for them just to make sure I know what’s going on with the characters. That’s why I don’t know why Spoiler is alive. But you know what? I really don’t care.

Let’s fire up some totally random lyrics!

“I awoke on impact
Under surveillance from the camera eye
Searching high and low
The criminal mind found at the scene of the crime
Handcuffed and blind, I didn’t do it
She said she loved me
I guess I never knew
But do we ever, ever really know?
She said she’d meet me on the other side
But I knew right then, I’d never find her”

Finally, I know I pimped my other blog last week, but I’m doing it again! Well, actually, this time I’m pimping the blog I write about my daughters, mainly because I have pictures up of the metal brackets they just removed from my daughter’s legs. No, they’re not bloody and gross – it isn’t a Geoff Johns blog! Check them out here, if you’re interested.

Have a nice day!

55 Comments

Pretty much every Superman story I’ve read has been about why Superman is great. I get the sense that that’s what Superman stories ARE, at least today, and reading New Krypton, I feel that Robinson and Rucka have found a novel way of telling that type of story. I like it. It’s not at the top of my stack, but I enjoy reading it whenever I get around to it.

I’ve been buying “I Am Legion” since DC’s abortive release years ago and I’m definitely still enjoying the series, athough it isn’t well-suited to serialization, that’s for sure. Reading all four of the translated chapters in one sitting made it entirely comprehensible though.

What really struck me after this latest issue, however, was that it’s only $3.50. (“About three-fitty.”) I didn’t even notice that until after I got home, but… wow? $3.50 for a great story, gorgeous artwork, super-high quality materials and clearly no more ad revenue than anyone else is making these days (i.e. “house ads” only).

Stick that in your Cup O’ Joe, Quesada.

Greg–

Man, you are brutal towards Jurgens. On the other hand, you’re also correct, at least with respect to his DC Stuff. On the third hand, did you read any of his 70-some issues of Thor? Really good stuff there, although it was helped by the John Romita Jr. art.

I still think Doom Patrol might surprise in a few issues. Keith is known for doing surprises and building great setups.
But I don’t see DC worse than Marvel in respect to dullness: I can’t even read a Marvel book these days.

Yeah, even I, who has sat through some of the worst Thor comics ever, had no time for Jurgens’ run once Romita left. But that’s me.

This was a brilliant cross-section of the terrifying mediocrity found in modern superhero comics. Thanks for being a guinea pig.

This is the issue of The Unwritten that has me convinced that this book is soon to going to be the book I keep insisting people buy or lest they be considered morons. Then again, I spent six years studying English lit at a university level, so I’m thinking I may be the target audience — and I mean JUST me. Heh.

I can totally understand your anger towards Geoff Johns because it’s the same way I feel about Bendis.
Although I think you exagerated a bit towards Jurgens. His writing is bland but I really like his art.

Thanks for biting the bullet and doing these experiments,though. I’ll always love superhero comics but these books are just depressing.

Hope everything goes well with your daughter’s recovery.

Adam: I’ve forgotten about Jurgens on Thor. I dig like that he went a bit nuts and had Thor take over the world, even though the “out” was fairly obvious from the beginning. That being said, the idea was what made it work, not necessarily the strength of Jurgens’s writing.

Thanks, Dude! She’s already feeling much better!

“Shows how creatively bankrupt a lot of writers are – “Oooh, Meltzer did it, and it’s so cool, so I’m going to do it too!” Maybe I’m being too harsh. If you read every DC book that came out this week, you’d be harsh too.”

Geez, you didn’t watch much of West Wing, did you? Aaron Sorkin used that one a couple of times a season, usually to great effect (the finale of the first season being the most notable example).

I really like the device – it gets the reader interested in both the hook – what’s happening in the future scene – as well as what happened to set it up, and requires the reader (or viewer) to be a little more active in their reading. And anytime you do that, you’re successful in my eyes.

I think you’ve really missed the point about GL 43. The fact that it’s an incredibly ugly comic is sort of the point; it’s a horror comic with superhero trappings, which makes sense as a lead-in to Blackest Night, a horror comic crossover in a superhero universe.

Random Stranger

July 10, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Queensryche! Finally, I knew one of the songs immediately.

Wednesday Comics – Love the concept, enjoyed most of the stories, BUT it was a bit anticlimatic because of all the art that DC has been splashing around for the past few months. I felt like I’d already bought and read most of it before I’d actually bought and read it.
I have to say I agree with your point and thought “Why doesn’t Magus WANT the Metal Men to be heroic” and then I also thought “and why does Commissioner Gordon wait until three minutes before a man is going to be killed to ask Batman for help”?

Darkest Night – See, avoiding stuff like this makes me very pleased with myself. Really. I feel more mature for NOT reading it and NOT spending my money on it. I don’t HATE Geoff Johns. I bought most of the first Volume of JSA and he deserves tons of credit for bringing those characters back. But he’s better when tempered by other writers (Alex Ross on “Kingdom Come II” and Morrison, Rucka and Waid on “52”.) I also was entertained by Infinite Crisis and liked some of the elements he brought to that book, like the dissolution of the Big Three and the tie in to the first Crisis. But yeah, man, his stuff is just so in your face violent. It embarrasses me as a comic book fan that this is what sells.

Warlord – I always loved the CONCEPT of the Warlord, particularly as a kid when I couldn’t figure out why DC was publishing this weird book alongside Superman, Batman, the Justice League, etc. It fascinated me. Recently I picked up Grell’s original run. It’s entertaining. I love his artwork and while not the best writer it’s very fun in a pulpy way with some issues above average.
I’m on board with the new series for a few reasons:
1. It’s cool Grell is back writing his creation and he really seems to be picking up from where he left off years ago, but it’s not so overly complicated a newbie couldn’t easily figure out what’s happening
2. I honestly think he ENJOYS writing Travis Morgan
3. It’s insulated from any crazy DC events like Darkest Night
4. I really like the Warlord character and his world
5. Every issue has some nice little touch. I quite enjoyed Morgan learning he’s actually 82 because of how time passes in Skartaris and his exchange with the visitor from the outside world with the videocamera over his usefulness to the villain when the battery dies AND the little joke about “who’s President” “You’re not going to believe this…” No, Grell’s not my favorite writer but he does a decent job and for me is a bit above average.

I am worried about the book, though. Prado brought some good color and energy to the art, but it looks like he’s being phased out for other DC projects. I respect the new guy’s art – Lord knows I can’t draw – but I just don’t think it fits the book as well.
And the fact that the book was sold in part on Prado being the artist (I think in an interview Grell said he was given the right to choose an artist) and Prado is not part of the next two or three issues makes me think selling this ain’t a big priority for Didio.

If you dislike Winick and Bagley’s Batman, don’t worry, they’re only on for a few more issues. After that Tony Daniel takes over writing and art.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 10, 2009 at 3:04 pm

I think you’ve really missed the point about GL 43. The fact that it’s an incredibly ugly comic is sort of the point; it’s a horror comic with superhero trappings, which makes sense as a lead-in to Blackest Night, a horror comic crossover in a superhero universe.

It would work that way if Geoff Johns reserved the ugly gore and violence ordinarily, so that when it turned up in this story it’d be shocking and a tone-shift towards horror.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t hold it in reserve, so rather than seeming like an especially ugly issue that signals a horror story is about to begin, it reads like…well, every other Johns story of the last half-decade or so. That’s the real problem here — the ostensible horror story isn’t actually more gruesome or bloody than the other stories preceding it.

One more thing about The Warlord. I just honestly think that time and tastes have changed. You know, it’s like Stan Lee. Love the guy. Love him. Have a hard time reading his new stuff.
Grell is like Starlin and, to an extent, Simonson and Byrne and Claremont. At one time they were considered fresh, hot, cutting edge and are now veterans. They still have their fans and can still write entertaining as hell, even above average books, but to an extent the marketing of them relies on the nostalgia of those of us who enjoyed them and were more impressed by them at a younger age.
So my point? Warlord ain’t going to burn up sales charts and DC probably new that going in. But hopefully it will meet whatever expectations they had and be around for a bit. It’s nice having it back on the shelves with those beautiful covers and maybe Grell will do some interior artwork.

Dang it! Random Stranger beat me! Queensryche “I Don’t Believe in Love”. I never usually get them either.

And isn’t there supposed to be a comparison of Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed between both companies (though I suppose I should be less lazy and just pull the other post up)?

The Doom Patrol segment didn’t look like a generic superhero thing to me– more like a procedural story with metahumans as the agents. The DP are wearing paramilitary uniforms with minimal colors ( except for Cliff, who’s just got black trunks on his robot body, and Rita, who has a red color scheme that I assume is meant to draw attention to her size-changing form ), and they’re coming into the mad scientist’s lab with detached, dry humor and light bickering.

It suits the idea of the Doom Patrol as the freaky heroes on the fringes of the DCU; for a mainstream DC book ( keeping in mind that Morrison’s was a Vertigo title ), it’s good to have them around, and I’m looking forward to what Giffen and co. do.

Doom Patrol didn’t become a Vertigo title until after Grant Morrison left.

“It’s depressing, horrific, mean-spirited, and revels in its nastiness.”

Rad.

I actually really enjoyed this issue. I really don’t like Johns’ Green Lantern most of the time, but I felt like here he at the very least went all the way. I think this issue works better if you don’t look at it so much as a superhero comic as a one-off about a really bad dude who’s about to get a lot worse.

I dunno. I found Hand to be a really engaging psychopath. I do sort of a wish he’d stayed dead, as that would have enhanced the point a lot more.

I thought it was really well done. Mahnke had a lot to do with that, of course.

Eliot Johnson

July 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Thok, I don’t think Greg missed the point of GL #43 because there’s no point to miss.

I haven’t read the latest issue of REBELS yet, but through the first 3 issues, I’ve found it pretty damn fun. Bedard can write sci-fi (Negation was one of the better books out of the drek that was most of CrossGen) and he’s doing a fine job here. Better than mediocre I’d say, especially for a DC book.

This is where I rant about not being able to get a copy of Wednesday Comics. Maybe Hannibal Tabu can send me his.

I feel exactly the same way you do about Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed in comics, particularly at DC, particularly in Johns’ books. What makes it so much more disappointing for me is that I feel Johns’ GL, other than the juvenile Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed, is the by far the best big-two superhero book right now.

Why would you assume Grell is a not a good writer if, as you say, you haven’t read enough of his work to know? He’s one of the all-time-great comics writers.

Brian: That’s a good point about Grell and the other creators you cited. I hadn’t thought of that.

Nitz: That might be where Giffen is going, and I agree that it seemed like he’s going for more of a Checkmate vibe than your standard superhero book, but it didn’t seem, I don’t know, weird enough. It’s only a preview, of course, so I might have to flip through the book (I did like the purple things, for instance) to get a better look at what he’s doing.

Omar has hit the nail on the head with regard to Green Lantern. If this were a completely different kind of Johns comic, it might have more impact. But whenever I read one, he’s doing this. It gets dull after a while.

What bothers me the most about these comics is that these writers don’t seem to be taking risks. Eliot mentioned that he likes REBELS, and that’s fine. It’s refreshing to see a good solid sci-fi book, especially one with a well-written Vril Dox, but it seems like Bedard could be really taking chances on this book, because let’s be honest, not many people are going to care about it. I remember Bedard from another CrossGen book, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and as abortive as that book was, it crackled with energy. There’s no reason REBELS can’t either.

Sorry, Matt. What I, in particular, have read by Grell hasn’t been too impressive. It’s not awful, but it seems like it works better in conjunction with him doing the art. I’ve read Longbow Hunters, some random issues of Green Arrow, the first trade of Jon Sable, and a few of the original issues of Warlord. I actually like them all, but more for the whole rather than for the writing. I feel the same way about Matt Wagner, although I think he’s a better writer than Grell, but I think he’s best when he’s drawing his own scripts.

If GL had been produced when Johns was wrapping up Flash and his first JLA run, it would have been a departure from what was his norm at the time. But since then, he’s gone into more and more of this type of thing.

This isn’t like that infamous Nightwing issue that was a complete aberration and therefore more effective – this is Johns continuing a trend of desensitizing his readers to ultraviolence by throwing it in even when using some discretion would have an equal or greater effect. To use a wrestling analogy, Johns is old-school ECW: it doesn’t matter what happens as long as he gets a reaction, but he doesn’t realise that you can only push things so far before NOTHING gets a reaction.

(Or, for a more modern example, TNA’s Abyss, who’s turned thumbtacks into a transition spot via overuse)

Kirkman’s the same way with me – he seems to inexplicably revel in the gore in Invincible, which I used to have in my pull list but dropped because it just became tiresome.

AAARGH. First *JSA* run.

“Unfortunately, he doesn’t hold it in reserve, so rather than seeming like an especially ugly issue that signals a horror story is about to begin, it reads like…well, every other Johns story of the last half-decade or so. That’s the real problem here — the ostensible horror story isn’t actually more gruesome or bloody than the other stories preceding it.”

Have you been reading Green Lantern up to this point? The tone and subject matter shift in #43 was DRAMATICALLY different to what has been in Green Lantern the last few years.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 10, 2009 at 5:21 pm

I dunn on the “Johns of Flash and JSA v.1″ points…even those two books, in retrospect, have more of this sort of thing than you might recall. The Rival Flash splattering people around the country to spell Jay Garrick’s name, Captain Cold murdering Chillblaine and the Top in rather gruesome fashion, the McCulough Mirror Master as an out-and-out assassin (complete with blood-spatter from his usual mirror gimmicks) who started his independent costumed career by burning a hole through a superhero’s head, Black Adam and the Black Reign crew dispatching villains on-panel and quite bloodily, etc.

Johns also opened his first issue of Teen Titans by having Deathstroke graphically shoot Bart Allen in the kneecap. His ouvere sometimes seems like Ennis’ superhero stories minus the irony.

And I agree that the preview wasn’t very impressive in and of itself, but it was enough to make me interested in getting the new Doom Patrol. I’m a sucker for those characters, even if I’d rather Crazy Jane than Rita Farr…

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 10, 2009 at 7:29 pm

Have you been reading Green Lantern up to this point? The tone and subject matter shift in #43 was DRAMATICALLY different to what has been in Green Lantern the last few years.

I’m gonna go out on a limb hgere and suggest that maybe you haven’t been reading the series to date.

Let’s see:

Rebirth #1 — The Spectre burns off Black Hand’s hand after Hand nearly murders Mia; Guy Gardner’s body erupts grotesquely as his Warrior powers kick into overdrive and burn out, blowing up the Warriors bar; Hector Hammond, witha new, MODOK-like appearance, erases a man’s mind; Guy is essentially shown vivisected, with protruding ribs and internal organs, on the JLA satellite.

Rebirth #2 –The cover depicts Hal with literal blood on his hands, orbited by the corpses of Green Lanterns; Guy Gardner very bloodily returns to totally human DNA

Rebirth #3 — Parallax, a giant, yellow insectoid monster personifying fear it shown; Hal breaks Sinestro’s neck, which, inexplicably, causes gouts of blood to pour from Sinestro’s mouth in the flashback panel; Parallax manifests by tearing off Hal’s skin to reveal a toothy, monstrous Hal face; Sinestro conjures skeletal hands to fire a bow, piercing Green Arrow and Kyle Jordan with the arrows.

Rebirth #4 — Sinestro uses a spike to nail Kyle’s hand to the ground, which Kyle pulls out with a “shunk!” sound effect; Sinestro burns a hole in Kyle’s shoulder, which smolders for several pages; Green Arrow fires an arrow through Sinestro, leaving a bleeding exit wound visible for the rest of the issue; closeups of the extremely bloody faces of Kyle and Ollie; Hal Jordan literally tears himself out of Parallax’s body, with yellow blood visible

Rebirth #5 — Kyle Rayner burns the GL symbol into Sinestro’s back.

Rebirth #6 — Lots pof grotesque closeups of Parallaxc-Ganthet’s multiple rows of teeth and gullet; the GLs bloodily rip Parallax out of Ganthet, then blow it up in a panel displaying plenty of viscera and leaving behind a Ganthet spattered with yellow blood; Hammond’s drool is lovingly rendered.

GL v4 #1 — A Manhunter splatters a guy and his gal across an alley, leaving piles of flesh and boiling puddles and splashes of blood everywhere.

GL v4 #2 — A Manhunter incinerates half-a-dozen soldiers.

GL v4 #3 — A Manhunter breaks Hal’s wrist; the Lost Lanterns are seen suspended and half dead in a web of circuitry that enters their flesh.

GL v4 #4 — A “grey” alien is bloodily run over in the road, then autopsied on-panel; giant drooling Hammond features for most of the issue; Hal reconnects the pain centers of his brain for the express purpose of beating information out of him; Hal pulls at Hammond’s eyelid, showing off most of his eye and the surrounding tissue; the Shark eats a man on panel, and his eye and bits of his flesh fall onto the shoulder of his female companion, the half-chewed man visible in the Shark’s throat.

GL v4 #5 — Cover shows a bloody Hal Jordan floating int he water, his hand bitten almost entirely off by the Shark; closeup of Black Hand’s cauterized stump; gruesome remains fot he Shark’s attack seen for several pages in daylight; a very bloody battle with the Shark; zombie-like Black Hand withers all life around him, then murders every single person in a hospital.

Gl v4 #6 — More zombie Blac Hand and the Shark; open brain surgery on Hammond by aliens; Hal severs Black Hand’s hand on-panel with copious black blood spilling therefrom, then buries him in a grave.

#7 — Mongul crushing corpses with his feet; Black Mercy plants invading flesh and displaying never-before-seen toothy, snapping jaws; Hal and Ollie graphically crucifying Mongul with arrows, which he then rips out of his flesh.

#8 — Main cover depicts Hal apparently blasting a hole all the way through Mongul’s head; more arrow impalements; Mongul punches his sister’s head off, with plenty of gore shown.

#9 — Lots of photos of dead Tattooed Man victims; Hal is strangled with barbed wire; “I don’t usually bleed this much in a team-up.”

#10 — Bloody air crash in Chechnya followed by torture sequence flashbacks; Arkillo is introduced biting a sentient alien’s head off on-panel.

#11 — Manhunters graphically revealed to use blood, not oil in their tubing and systems.

#12 — Gruesome image of Hank Henshaw’s skinless body after his mutation; graphic images of oast City being destroyed, with human victims’ skin and flesh melting off on-panel; invasive mechanical tendrils going into faces; Flicker speared through the heart on-panel by a rival bounty hunter.

#13 — Cyborg Superman torn apart on-panel; Superboy-prime and his self-inflicited S-shield scar in cloeup.

#14 — Cover depicts Hal among various bodies, some of which are dead and smoldering with visible bones; unusually bloody Abin Sur flashback-gone-wrong courtesy of Amon Sur; Chechnya torturwe scenes in flashback; graphic description of a man’s leg being broken repeatedly to induce suffering; Hal beats his jailers’ brains out, literally and graphically; brainwashed Global Guardians mass-murder the Chechnyans.

#15 — Cover depicts Crimson Fox bloodily slashing up Hal’s chest; decapitated Cyborg Superman interrogation scene; Star Sapphire graphically murders campers by sending energy beams straight through them; Arkillo eats a Qwardian.

#16 — Guards in Chechnya being murdered on panel, with visible skeletons and burning flesh, by Amon Sur; a panel of burning corpses.

#17 — Rotting corpse of Abin Sur gets a full page panel.

The Sinestro War stuff starts after this, with lots of gore and blood; then we move on to the Red Lanterns literally vomiting their burning blood onto people and the buildup to Blackest Night.

So, uh, where’s this other tone and content you’re talking about, friend? Or did I miss the puppies-n-rainbows issues where there wasn’t cheap shock ultraviolence?

“His ouvere sometimes seems like Ennis’ superhero stories minus the irony.”

I see it as slasher movie tropes.

Which would be FINE – Alan Moore did some great stuff combining horror with superheroes – if he didn’t repeat the same trick over an’ over an’ over an’ over an’ over in every. single. book he writes.

It’s presented differently, though, Omar-there’s a difference between sci-fi violence and horror violence. The latest issue was more horror violence. That’s what I meant by tone shift-not that it had been UNVIOLENT before, just that it was shown in a less bizarre, twisted light.

The quality of paper is rarely discussed when discussing an artist’s strengths and weaknesses, but Wednesday Comics makes it clear that sometimes that plays a role.

I agree, the best example being Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman strip, which suffers terribly from the paper quality, which is such a shame. On the more usual kind of paper, I honestly think that page would have blown a lot of minds. To see what Caldwell’s work is supposed to look like, I’d recommend checking out his blog- purgetheory.blogspot.com . To be honest, even with the printing problems, it’s still my favourite page in the issue, just for the fact that it’s the only one that really tries to do anything interesting with the space.

Also, I don’t get why everybdy (not just you, all over the net) has been quite so hard on the Teen Titans page. I understand that Galloway’s art isn’t to evryone’s taste (I like the dynamism of it, but dislike the weakness of his line), but the story is fine so far as I can see- almost all these pages follow the same pattern: here’s your hero, here’s your villain, here’s the set up for the fight to start next week- the Titans story (which has it’s own special challenge when it comes to introducing the characters, being one of only two team-based strips in the thing- and the other is the metal men, who have a simple core concept that is easily introduced (and yet I think Didio manages to fudge it up a bit by using the whole “disguise” schtick)) manages this in a refreshignly direct and simple manner. I enjoyed it, personally.

David: I can tell that the Caldwell page would probably look a bit better on different paper, but I wonder if it’s too crowded even for that. Perhaps it might have worked as a two-page story.

I don’t know about the Titans story. I don’t like the art, but I also don’t like set-up, leading to the impaling of what’s-her-name (Miss Martian?).

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 10, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Perhaps, Chris, but I’d argue that the tone shift is almost undetectable to me and — apparently — to many others because the overall level and character of the violent acts the book has been depicting all along really isn’t that immediately obvious in any putative difference as of this issue.

Could you point, perhaps, to the technical or aesthetic features that might signpost the tonal shift you’re detecting? Because it doesn’t look like many of the rest of us are seeing them.

Could you point, perhaps, to the technical or aesthetic features that might signpost the tonal shift you’re detecting? Because it doesn’t look like many of the rest of us are seeing them.

There’s no intentionally humor, for one thing (no jokes about Larfleeze looking like a Muppet, or Hal wanting two hamburgers, or Rage Cats.) The closest we get is the broken Easter Egg, which fits thematically into the issue anyways. It’s worth noting that Burgas specifically praised Simone for including dark humor to temper the darkness in Secret Six.

“Have you been reading Green Lantern up to this point? The tone and subject matter shift in #43 was DRAMATICALLY different to what has been in Green Lantern the last few years.”

Well, lately it’s been written by someone else, so that may account for the tone shift.

I used to love Johns. I have most of his Flash run and thought at the time that he took the characters up a notch.

The problem is that he has the tendency to do the same “opposite number” style story everywhere, and it’s worn thin (for example, we had “new rogues” vs. “old rogues” in Flash; a new “Zoom”, a Black Marvel family, and now a rainbow of Lantern corps). In many ways, it’s just too similar to me, and it shows a lack of recognition of what makes villains (or heroes) special: that there’s more to it than a numbers game (one yellow lantern is bad…thousands of faceless yellow lanterns will be worse; forget that the one yellow lantern could take on the whole Green Lantern corps. and win…which was the point of the character).

It actually analogizes well to The Last Laugh, which showed clearly why only one Joker was needed. The concept seemed cool at first, but then you realize it’s all imitation of the original and the story becomes pointless. Zombie Lanterns that kill just to kill; how different is that then Red Lanterns or Yellow Lanterns that kill just to kill? Are they more articulate (I mean, the Red ones just seemed to growl)? Are the costumes cooler? Is it just the idea of zombie heroes? Can that be enough to sustain it for all these issues and warrant the cash expenditure?

I suspect that Blackest Night, despite Johns protests to the contrary, will be a typical summer crossover: lots of things look bad, but the status quo is never in doubt and whatever changes arise will be minor ones (like Kyle getting a different ring and costume that really isn’t that different than his current ring and costume). If anything, it’ll be a chance to bring back the DC dead and return them to good standing in the DCU, which was probably the plan all along. Pass.

The main thing that I can point to is that it’s not just aliens bumrushing each other and then FLYING LIMBS WOW. It’s one lunatic, doing a lot of premeditated murders in an intentionally horrible way. A big alien getting shot in the head is very different then a guy shooting HIMSELF in the head.

The violence in this one snuck up and struck, rather than just charging head on(stuffing the family dog as opposed to tearing a spaceman’s arm off). I think that was the big difference.

To put it more bluntly: It’s like comparing the violence in “Starship Troopers” to the violence in “Eastern Promises.”

My problem with Caldwell’s page wasn’t that it was too crowded. I thought his layout was one of the best. Those colors were just way too muddy though. If he was going for that two tone feel, I wish he would have just drawn the strip in blue and magenta ink rather than done the digital colors. Cold Heat and Asterios Polyp have spoiled me I guess, but if your going to go for an idea like Wednesday Comics why not go all the way?

As for Galloway’s art. I used to wonder why he didn’t get more comics work and now I think I know why. He’s an exceptionally talented character designer and his gestures are certainly dynamic, but his entire page took place in a void. There was no real sense of space. Meanwhile Berganza’s story did a poor job at a set up and didn’t even get to a hook or a cliffhanger. Not that he was alone. Only a handful of the writers really had a sense for the format. Its still a fantastic comic, and Kamandi, Strange Adventures, and The Flash are all going to be my new wallpaper by the time this is through. However, I do think there is some room for improvement.

Agreed about the Green Lantern issue. Johns sometimes takes it way too far than necessary in terms of gore in storytelling, i.e. the last issue of Infinite Crisis, which was just gory violent to the point of awkwardness. I’m not squeamish in the slightest, but the amount of violence he seems to randomly toss into some stories is ludicrous at times.

Re: I Am Legion

“…why wouldn’t it already be done or at least much closer to completion?”

Perhaps a cash crunch? It wouldn’t be thew first time a comics company had to delay publishing an issue.

Out of curiosity, has Geoff Johns ever done any creator-owned work? That his writing has been almost exclusively in the context of established DC characters may be why it’s gotten more and more atavistic; multi-colored lanterns, Black Marvel families, new rogues, etc…perhaps creating something cut loose from established icons would help rejuvenate his work?

[…] large slice of the comics blogosphere has gone all melty over Wednesday Comics (for instance, see here, here, or here). This is DC’s new weekly anthology series where each chapter of each story is […]

Sorry to hear you didn’t get a copy of WASTELAND, Greg — it did definitely ship, we’ve heard from many people who picked it up. Diamond no doubt regrets the error…

I’m sure I’ll get it next week, Antony. If not, someone may have to be beaten with a sockful of quarters!

Also, I don’t get why everybdy (not just you, all over the net) has been quite so hard on the Teen Titans page. I understand that Galloway’s art isn’t to evryone’s taste …, but the story is fine so far as I can see- almost all these pages follow the same pattern: here’s your hero, here’s your villain, here’s the set up for the fight to start next week- the Titans story (which has it’s own special challenge when it comes to introducing the characters, being one of only two team-based strips in the thing … ) manages this in a refreshignly direct and simple manner.

Teen Titans was really the only strip which disappointed me. Nearly all the other creators went the route presenting a very straight-forward, classic take on their material. You’ve got Batman answering the Bat-Signal, Superman engaged in a punch-up on the streets of Metropolis and Supergirl chasing misbehaving Super-Pets. Just the thing itself … straight, no chaser.

The effect is strangely electrifying. You forget that Hawkman’s wings and Adam Strange’s Rocket Pack are sort of cool. Darwyn Cooke reminded everyone that Hal Jordan was insanely cool in the Jet Age, but it is nice to see someone else going back to that well. That Kershl and Fletcher story just feels like the Flash. Like I said, I could rave about the vast majority of the strips.

Page after page, I was reminded why I started reading DC Comics in the first place all those years ago.

Berganza and Galloway managed to remind me why I stop reading every few years. Their Teen Titans has that Xerox of a Xerox feel that I have come to hate. Blah, Blah … History … Blah, Blah …. Legacy of interesting characters who are no longer in the cast … Blah, Blah … They are like a family … Blah, Blah … LOOK! Someone got impaled with a trident … KEWL! How X-TREME! … Hmmmm … Maybe I am too old to be reading this garbage.

I personally like geoff johns’ work, but if you don’t thats cool. If I’m not mistaken you say that he is too graphic, i feel that could be the artist’s choice. he does work with artists that can draw the shit out of everything (van sciver, jimenez) so his script could just read “burns off hand” or “Guy goes weird and loses his vuldarian look” or the artist adds squirrels just becuase. I’ve never seen a sample of Johns’ scripts but it is a possibility

Nitz, I don’t know if it’s creator owned, but Geoff Johns did do Olympus for Humanoids. Not having read it, I can’t personally speak for its quality, but according to Tucker Stone it’s a complete piece of shit.

Personally I thought GL #43 was an immensely boring comic that could have told its entire story in 5 pages without lessening the impact even slightly, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to care about the franchise since the Sinestro Corps War completely fell apart in its second half and then the comic spent the next year and a half introducing a shitload of laughable rainbow spectrum corps that nobody will ever use again 5 years from now.

“What really struck me after this latest issue, however, was that it’s only $3.50. (”About three-fitty.”) I didn’t even notice that until after I got home, but… wow? $3.50 for a great story, gorgeous artwork, super-high quality materials and clearly no more ad revenue than anyone else is making these days (i.e. “house ads” only).

Stick that in your Cup O’ Joe, Quesada.”

Let’s be fair here, I Am Legion is a licensed reprint of an already done (and paid for) european comic. That is MUCH cheaper to do than creating a comic from the whole cloth!

And on its own european reprints (the Soleil line, you know, those comics no one seems to read and/or review online for some reason, even though there is some darn good stuff there), Quesada is charging six bucks for a whole (44+ pages) european issue instead of 3.50 for half an issue like Devil’d Due does. So Marvel european reprints are really CHEAPER!

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Please do a review of Asterios Polyp sometime!

Oh, I will, Dan. As usual, I have a bunch of big thick slabs of graphic novel goodness to review, so it’ll come in a little bit. I’m excited to read it!

And Pedro, you know I read some of the Soliel books! The problem is, they look so much nicer in the trade format, so except for Universal War One, which I started buying in individual issues, I’ve been looking for the trades. I may have to do an all-Soleil post once I get a few more (right now I only have Samurai, which was quite good). Sorry for offending your European sensibilities!

FunkyGreenJerusalem

July 12, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Greg, I’m sure it was fun for you to ‘spoil the shit’ out of GL, but it means that anyone reading the series won’t read that review – I had to skip it because you were going to ‘spoil the shit’ out of it.
I guess that’s great for everyone who doesn’t read the book and likes to make fun of it – ‘they took a panel to explain a hair colour… that’s so pandering’ etc – but a bit weird that I had to skip the review of the one book I’ll mostly likely read from that bunch of DC books.

As I pointed out, except for Green Lantern, there’s nothing even to get angry about in these comics.

So DC suck because unlike Marvel, they only put out one issue that you flat out hated?
Those bastards!

Of course, my four-year-old can probably tie her shoes better than DiDio, and she can barely get one lace over the other so far.

I thought you liked Seven Soldiers?
And All Star Superman?
And Wednesday Comics?
And Blue Beetle?
Secret Six?
Final Crisis?

Everyone blames him for the failures, but he gets no credit for any of the successes.
And before you say ‘yeah, but most of the are Morrison!’, Marvel had Morrison and couldn’t keep him due to the editors and publisher interfering.

The Sinestro War stuff starts after this, with lots of gore and blood; then we move on to the Red Lanterns literally vomiting their burning blood onto people and the buildup to Blackest Night.

There’s blood… there’s not really gore.

FGJ: DC sucks because the output from this week was just terribly bland. The people from Marvel, it seems, take more chances, and therefore, when they miss, they miss terribly. But I can respect that, even if I hate some of the stuff they come up with. When they do succeed, they give us some really good comics. It seems like most of DC’s stuff comes from an ideology of “Let’s not screw up too much.” It’s unbelievably boring, and while, with some exceptions, none of DC’s books make me as angry as something like Ultimatum, none of them are as awesome as something like The Incredible Hercules, which is a mid-level book on par with, say, Booster Gold, yet Pak and Van Lente go absolutely crazy on it. As much as I hated the Green Lantern issue, Johns is pushing the envelope in his own demented way. I don’t like the way he’s pushing it, but he goes at it with balls to the wall, and that’s cool.

With respect to DiDio, it seems, from scuttlebutt around the Internet water cooler, that the more he interferes with a book, the worse it is. I could be wrong, of course, but I guess I should give him credit for the good stuff that comes out of DC. Of course, neither he nor Joey Q seems equipped to run a business well (from a marketing standpoint), so I won’t give either of them credit there.

Sorry for the fact that you had to skip the review. Basically, it’s Johns doing what Johns does best: Giving a backstory that involves a lot of blood. If that’s your thing, you’ll probably like this issue. And Mahnke kicks butt on it.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

July 12, 2009 at 7:13 pm

My thing with Didio is I don’t really like the stuff I hear from him, however I read more DC than I did before, where as Marvel since Quesada and Buckely started running has just chased me away (with a few exceptions such as Incredible Hercules).

It seems like most of DC’s stuff comes from an ideology of “Let’s not screw up too much.”

Surely the bat-books and Superman books are an exception to that – both are playing with their core concepts quite a bit at the moment.
Sure, it won’t last forever, but neither did Tony Stark, Director Of Shield.

Basically, it’s Johns doing what Johns does best: Giving a backstory that involves a lot of blood. If that’s your thing, you’ll probably like this issue

I do find his Green Lantern oddly compelling, although it’s only really been the death of Moguls sister that I thought was way over the line in terms of violence (although there have been a few off panel deaths that I don’t see the point to) – but I’ve never felt it get in the way of the story… silly it may have been but Sinestro Corps War was just plain fun to read.
(I’m actually surprised your not into the book).

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