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Haven’t been posting much because honestly, I’ve been working through my back issues and trades at a pretty hectic pace to try and get caught up on almost a year’s worth of comics (and actually more than that, for a couple of titles I still haven’t started on), so here are some quick little pellet reviews of a buttload of trades.

First up, Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds by Geoff Johns and George Perez. This story actually has zero connection to Final Crisis, instead dealing with a huge showdown between the Legion and Superboy Prime in the 31st century. The number of plot threads Johns works into this story is amazing. It builds on or references Green Lantern, Flash, Superman and Legion work, lays down several hints for future arcs, and is a really awesome story. If you’re a fan of the Legion, any version of them, this is an awesome book, and it’s all wrapped up in amazing George Perez art.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas is Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s second story arc. The first one was much better than I was expecting, and as a result I had pretty high expectations for this book. It met them and then some, it’s actually pretty crazy how good this book is, considering the Umbrella Academy is all that Way has written, comic-wise. Reading this series is just so much damn fun, the ideas, the execution, this series just drips with pure love of the superhero genre, but in a way that’s 100% readable if you’ve never picked up an issue of Spidey or Batman in your life.

Speaking of writers who blew me away from the word go, Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman was absolutely incredible. I thought his first work, The Nightly News, was brilliant (and it was) but this is on a completely different level. His attention to detail and annotations (which aren’t back matter, they’re actually present on the comic pages) are amazing, as are the moral and ethical questions discussed by the characters. This was the best science fiction I’ve read in quite a while. Hickman really is in a league of his own, and I expect a decade from now that he’ll be thought of in the same way as Grant Morrison and Alan Moore.

Nixon’s Pals is a graphic novel by Joe Casey and Chris Burnham that follows the titular Nixon, a parole officer for supervillains in LA. I picked this up because I’m a big Joe Casey fan, I didn’t really know that much about it. I was really surprised to learn that it’s actually something of a gritty noir tale set against a superhero backdrop, like a Raymond Chandler novel with mad scientists and dream machines. Being a huge fan of noir, this was a very pleasant surprise, and I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a different kind of superhero comic.

That’s just a smattering of the stuff I’ve been reading in the past month and a half or so, hopefully I’ll be back with a similar post of mini reviews for some of the issues I’ve been working on in a few days.

supermanbrainiacI’ve read a bunch of trades that haven’t ended up on here, so I figured I’d better change that before I don’t remember enough about the stories.

Being a huge Geoff Johns fan, once I had some cash to spend on comics again (and had got myself nice and caught up on GL and Blackest Night) it was time to pick up the next in the series of very pretty hardcover collections of Johns’ Superman work (are you fucking kidding me, two volumes of New Krypton are already out now? Sigh…) so Brainiac was one of my Fan Expo purchases.

The second arc by Johns and Gary Frank after Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Brainiac gives us a unique look at one of Supes’ biggest foes. I’ve never been a huge fan of Brainiac (possibly because of how much I love the Legion Brainy, I dunno), but I really liked how Johns wrote him here. Quite creepy and I really loved the germophobe touch at the end. The possible connection between Brainiac and the destruction of Krypton was especially intriguing, and I hope that was more than just a plot thread Johns left for someone else to pick up on.

I don’t want to be too spoilery here, but the ending was seriously sad. I definitely teared up a bit at the final page. Part of the credit for that has to go to Frank though, because he really blew me away here. I’ve collected a lot of his stuff over the years, from Supreme Power and Midnight Nation with JMS, to his Gen 13 work. He’s always been good with expressions, but I think he really stepped his game up with this story. The characters are so amazingly emotive (to say nothing of the way he manages to perfectly blend the iconic live action versions of characters with the traditional comic representations. I often had to marvel at the face of Clark or Lois or Kara.

Oh and speaking of Kara, I’ll be damned if I didn’t really like her in this! I have not been a fan of the modern take on Supergirl, but she was really great here.

Not as good as Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, but this was a damn good Superman story, and a very important milestone for the character as he stands in current DC continuity.

I’m going to compare Marvel and DC’s presence at Fan Expo from this past weekend. This is a little idea I had on Friday at work before heading to Fan Expo. I figure I’ll break this into three sections: the panels, the booths, and other.

fanexpoThe Panels

The idea to do this post originally came from the fact that both Dan Didio and Joe Quesada would be at Fan Expo this year, and I wanted to see how the heads of both Marvel and DC would do in person. I attended the DC Nation, DCU and Cup’O Joe panels. First major difference between the two was the people who made up the panels. DC panels were headed up by Didio, and featured a number of creative DC people, editors, writers and artists. The Marvel panel I saw was headed up by Quesada, with writer/editor/talent scout CB Cebulski, and then some business/marketing guys. Now I know Matt Fraction was planning to attend, but there were a number of Marvel-centric artists who they could have had on the panel. As a result, the Marvel panel had questions asked of Marvel in general, whereas the DC panel had several questions directed at specific people.

As for the content of the panels. I found the DC ones to be far more entertaining. Didio was much more jovial and interacted with the crowd way more than Quesada, which was sort of the opposite of what I was expecting. I liked how information was revealed at the DC panels better as well. The Marvel panel just had a slideshow that went through each item of news they wanted to impart, like bullet points. In the DC panel, the news was just things Didio mentioned as he talked about the various books.

The Booths

The DC booth wins hands down. Marvel had a booth where you could go and talk to some of the Marvel guys, maybe get an autograph depending on who was there. The DC booth did the same thing, but also gave away a crapload of free stuff. I picked up posters for Planetary #27 and Blackest Night, several free comics (including Batman & Robin #1, which I’d been planning to buy anyway, which was pretty cool), a Black Lantern ring, and a whole bunch of DC pins. DC’s booth rocked!

marvelvsdcOther

This is just other feelings about DC and Marvel from the convention, and really this comes down to the two sketch duels I saw. The first one was Ivan Reis and Ethan Van Sciver. As they talked to the crowd while drawing, it was clear that they both really loved comics, and loved working in comics. Van Sciver even gave a bit of a spoiler for Flash Rebirth #5, explaining a big action scene to answer the question “what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to draw?” and it sounds so awesome, I’m tempted to pick up the series in issues instead of getting the trade just so I can read it sooner.

The other sketch duel I saw was Olivier Coipel and Marko Djurdevic. They (especially Marko) clearly didn’t love comics, didn’t read any comics, and were just working on them as a job, not because they liked them. Marko even went so far as to say he doesn’t bother reading the dialogue for his comics, just the scene descriptions because he doesn’t care what’s happening in the story.

So, in a big shock to me, DC pretty soundly kicked Marvel’s ass at every aspect of the con.

blackestnightI’ve just recently caught up on the past nine issues of Green Lantern as well as reading Blackest Night #1. I wanted to post something, but I figured Blackest Night #2 would be out in just over a week, so I waited until I got the chance to read that too. Well I have, and now comes the postness!

First of all, I’ve really been enjoying Green Lantern since Geoff Johns started working with Hal in GL: Rebirth. Even the arc I didn’t like (GL #4-6), which I didn’t so much dislike as feel pretty meh towards combined with it was extremely late coming out, even that arc I think I’d like now (and I’ll find out soon, when I reread them!), because it’s an important bit about William Hand, who’s central to Blackest Night. I’d go so far as to say that what Johns has been doing on GL rivals what Bendis has done with New Avengers.

The Rage of the Red Lanterns and Agent Orange arcs did a great job of introducing two new types of power ring, as well as building to Blackest Night. I’m really liking how Hal has used pretty much every ring at this point, and I’m honestly a bit amazed by how different each Lantern Corps manages to be from the others (Agent Orange is the best, I loved him and am now the proud owner of a Orange Lantern Corps shirt). But as awesome as these stories were, the Blackest Night prelude issue about William hand blew them away. Such a creepy look into his mind, and into the Black Lantern Corps itself. Doug Mahnke was the perfect choice to take over GL while Ivan Reis was drawing Blackest Night proper, he can do creepy, disturbing, rotting things so well. Okay, now about Blackest Night itself:

You might have seen in an earlier post when I called Secret Invasion the best ‘Event’ comic I’d read. Well, one year later Blackest Night looks to be on course to surpass it. It’s all the awesomeness of Johns best action scenes, combined with one of the coolest concepts I’ve seen, and with a foundation of years of setup and planning. This next bit will be a tad spoilery.

Heading into Blackest Night, it was fun guessing as to which dead characters would be resurrected as Black Lanterns. I never, ever would have expected the answer to be ‘all of them’. Or that when someone’s killed by a Black Lantern, they get a ring and rise to join the ranks. This is just insanely awesome!

I’d like to digress here, to mention that The Buy Pile didn’t like Blackest Night #2. Here’s the exact quote for you:

“Blackest Night” #2 was just not working. Period. The Spectre, like Lady Shiva, seems more of a paper tiger every appearance, going from the terrifying force that once held Superman back with a single finger to a whining, self-doubting poozer who can’t hold his own against a girl scount troop. That’s the biggest problem here, indicating that the powers behind the Black Lantern are, essentially, more badass than God. Outlandishly, unacceptably stupid.

Okay. First off, being able to hold back Superman, and being able to stop a power ring from corrupting your dead human host, not the same thing. Second, why can’t the ‘powers behind the Black Lantern’ be more badass than God? Religious much? There are many, many gods in the DCU. Ares often causes trouble for Wonder Woman, the New Gods, etc. Many forces have been shown to be more powerful than gods in the DCU (including the Guardians of the Universe, who aren’t faring too well in Blackest Night, but that didn’t bother you did it? No, because they aren’t similar to your ‘God’). I have nothing against someone who reads Blackest Night and doesn’t like it (though I have to admit, I find that unlikely to happen due to rockitude), but writing it off as ‘outlandishly, unacceptably stupid’ because of a perceived encroachment against your religion? Come on.

martianmanhunterblacklanternOkay, back to the comics: I’m interested to find out what will happen when the Black Lantern is fully charged. It seems to me that every time someone is killed while their heart is full of one of the emotions belonging to a lantern corps, that the Black Lantern is charged (I’m assuming it’s the main power battery, and not the ring of the individual black lantern who just killed someone, but I could be wrong). I’m very interested in what this is all leading up to, and if Black Hand is aware of this, or just trying to bring the universe peace through death. Why specifically target those who have escaped death or been reborn? It has to be more than death wanting revenge. Also very interesting from BN #2 is the rings inability to possess Dove. Clearly they can only possess the dead if they aren’t at peace, but I’m not sure how this will prove to be relevant to the story.

Oh, and why is Black Hand using Bruce Wayne’s skull as his power ring holder, that I’d like to know too.

So in conclusion, if you haven’t been reading Green Lantern recently, you should really start, because it’s already amazing and I have a feeling Blackest Night will just keep getting better!

news-logoSome breaking comics news I felt I should share: Looks like AMC has decided to make The Walking Dead into a television series! This is really, really cool news. I feel that the two comics I love that could make for the best TV shows are TWD and Powers. Now, I’ve heard murmers of a Powers pilot for quite a while now, but I’d never seen anything even remotely like an official announcement.

twdWith The Walking Dead I hadn’t heard even a whisper of a show past ‘wouldn’t it be sweet if…’ and we now have an announcement! Not only that, but that article makes it sound like the plan is to go straight to series with it!

Oh, and if you’re unfamiliar with Frank Darabont, he wrote and directed both The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, so he’s about as perfect of a showrunner for TWD as you can get (better even than having Kirkman do it, because Darabont’s familiar with pretty much all aspects of filmmaking, just look at his IMDB entry). I can’t wait to hear more details about this, hands-down the most exciting comics-related TV news ever!

Ultimatum Review

Reworking things a bit here, I don’t really see a point in the weekly reviews, so they’ll be discontinued and replaced with a more general reviews section. This could be a single issue or a miniseries or a story arc, as long as I read it in issues (trades will still be covered in Trade Relations). So first up is the five issue Ultimatum series by Jeph Loeb and David Finch.

ultimatum 01I’m not really a big fan of Loeb’s more recent work, so I wasn’t really all that excited for this series. I was collecting it as a major turning point for the Ultimate Universe. That said, I thought the first two issues were pretty good. A couple of the characters weren’t written perfectly, but they weren’t horribly out of character. However as the series continued, it got worse. Much, much worse.

Before I get into the bad, I’d like to mention David Finch. I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time now, since Ascension and Aphrodite IX at Top Cow. I have to say, as much as I may have disliked the story of Ultimatum it looked really damn nice (I found the same thing with Loeb and Joe Mad’s Ultimates 3, having Loeb work with great artists really softens the blow). This is some of my favourite work from Finch.

ultimatum 02Okay, now: the plot. The whole point of Ultimatum was to be this huge, epic catastrophe for the Ultimate U, something that will forever alter it and once again show the Ultimate books as more continuity-free modern reimaginings of classic Marvel series and characters. Which I guess it is, but it comes across more like some crazy torture porn fanfic. Many, many characters die, most in very explicit and brutal ways (like Wasp here). About half the Ultimates die, and the large cast of the Ultimate X-Men is culled to… I think six? Maybe seven? And that’s including Kitty Pryde, who’s really become more of a Ultimate Spidey cast member than an X-Men one. The worst deaths come in the final issue, when two heroes just flat-out murder two of the biggest villains. Not even in the heat of battle, one was defeated, the other was in his home.

Some parts I like. The complete destruction of Manhattan is a great idea, saying as pretty much all ove the Ultimate books (like 616 Marvel) are set there. This is an interesting change, I look forward to seeing what they do with this in the future. Bringing Nick Fury back to the Ultimate U is also a good move, Ultimate Fury is one of my favourite characters. I also like how it was his absence that allowed Ultimatum to happen.

Okay, now the ending. Where apparently Quicksilver didn’t die at the end of Ultimates 3, and also is completely evil and had found his father to have gone soft, and faked his death in order to bring about Ultimatum? What the fuck is that shit? How is that even remotely in character for Ultimate Quicksilver? This is absolutely not the character from Mark Millar’s Ultimates. Oh, and the ‘shadowy outline of the woman who Quicksilver was working with’ on the last page? What the fuck is that? Ending the big, universe-changing series with some bull shit “Who is this mystery person secretly pulling the strings?” ending? What the fuck Loeb?!?! I’m not even going to talk about Cyclops’ press conference.

Taken as a whole, I found Ultimates 3 to be okay. Nowhere near the quality of 1 and 2, but it was readable. This? This was fucking awful. If you want to read Ultimatum, go pick up the final issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. After you finish reading them, add ‘and most of the X-Men and Ultimates died, too’ and you’ll be good.

Almost five months since that last post, huh? Oops. To be fair, there were times I was going to post, but… you know logging out of my J/DB account and back into this one is a pain…

finalcrisishcAnyway, Final Crisis by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Dough Mahnke and more! I sure have a lot to say about this one. I’m going to do this backwards and start with an overall rating. Did it work? Not really, no. It had some great parts, but it just didn’t come together. Just when the story started to flow well, you’d hit something completely… other that would fuck it up. It certainly wasn’t terrible, and some bits were absolutely brilliant, but taken as a whole Final Crisis tries to do too much and fails at about half of it. So if you want an awesome multiverse-spanning Event from DC, go pick up Geoff Johns’ Infinite Crisis. If you want an awesome time-and-DCU-spanning story from Grant Morrison, go pick up Seven Soldiers. If you want to read something awesome by Morrison and J.G. Jones, go pick up Marvel Boy.

So what worked? Well first of all, J.G. Jones on interiors is always a big plus in my book, I love his work. When later issues brought in Carlos Pacheco I didn’t mind, their styles are very complimentary and the issues looked great. However bringing in Doug Mahnke seemed like a poor choice. The series was already so delayed at that point, waiting for J.G. and Carlos to finish one more issue wouldn’t have hurt. I love Mahnke’s work, but it’s gritty on a level that makes it a very noticeable shift for the end of the series.

Speaking of shifts, this trade contained the following issues in this order: Final Crisis #1-#3, Superman Beyond #1-#2, FC: Submit #1, Final Crisis #4-#7. Now I think the Superman Beyond issues were a vital part of the story (which is annoying, needing another miniseries to fill in part of a miniseries), though Final Crisis: Submit #1 was pretty much just filler, an attempt at an after-school special ‘message’ with a bit of plot that we didn’t need to see for the remaining issues to flow. However, even though the Superman Beyond issues were important, I found the writing style Morrison used on them to be quite different from what he was doing on FC proper, so going back into FC #4 felt a bit jarring. (I also liked the Superman Beyond issues more than the rest of FC)

As for the Final Crisis story (there will be spoilers here), I found a lot of really cool ideas and concepts in here, but the execution was often less than perfect (and I am curious to know how much of this was due to editorially mandated re-writes, especially at the end). The whole idea of Apokolips being reborn on Earth was really cool, though for some reason I found the New Gods hiding in human hosts worked far, far better when Morrison did it in the Mister Miracle issues of Seven Soldiers. Darkseid seemed more formidable then too.

The attempts to make the series actually encompass the entire DCU worked pretty well (although the two random Aquaman panels could have been done without, he had no connection to the story), although sometimes it resulted in a group of characters being left for too long (I’m thinking of Wally and Barry with Iris, here). Checkmate and the JSA actually got far more screentime than I expected, which was good.

overmanOkay, stand-out characters: I quite liked Libra. His costume is really cool, and he’s connected to the Crime Bible, which I love. I hope he shows up again. I was also a really big fan of Overman (the Nazi Superman) and I think a miniseries set on his world would be really cool. I don’t know if this really counts, but I didn’t hate Evil Mary Marvel nearly as much as I was prepared to. Also, I totally called Desaad on that one.

Now, the bad. Some things just didn’t track correctly. Issue six opens with Superman and Brainiac 5 in the 31st Century. What? Superman Beyond ended with him back home and saving Lois, when/how did he get to the future? Still on #6, how about Batman? He was captured in the second issue, then just walks up to Darkseid with a gun. I could also go on about how FC and Batman: RIP had zero connection to each other, except that Batman dies in FC and not RIP. It also seemed like having both the Monitors and the New Gods involved in the story was a mistake, saying as each group is both more and less omnipotent than the other, in various ways. It’s levels of omnipotence, which isn’t something you should have in a story (and was one of my major problems with COIE).

Then there’s the final issue. Wow was I not a fan. I’m usually a big fan of Morrison’s brand of crazy. I loved The Filth, Animal Man, The Invisibles, his JLA: Classified arc and Seven Soldiers. The Superman Beyond issues were great (Superman in a thought robot fighting a vampire god as they act out a living story? That shit is gold!), but I was not feeling that final issue. What was going on with the escape to a parallel world (uuugh, btw)? And The Flashes coming in with their big moment that… well did nothing because afterwards Darkseid was still alive, until Superman sang the song that negated his existence (not sure if I loved or completely hated that moment, I’m really not). Shrinking survivors to be stuck in a freezer? What the fuck was that? And then of course Mandrakk the vampire god shows up again (which would confuse the fuck out of anyone who hadn’t picked up those Superman Beyond issues), and Supergirl in that weird bare-shouldered costume variant (I’ll get to that), and fucking everybody shows up for the least action-packed finale ever, and Captain Fucking Carrot is there, and then Hal stakes the vampire god, except if it’s a ring creation it wouldn’t be actual wood but Mandrakk doesn’t mind and dies anyway. Then the Monitors realize they’re horrid and decide to fuck off forever, I hope. Oh, and Batman’s a caveman and not dead.

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUU–

*ahem* Anyway, I wasn’t a fan of how the series ended. Though all that said, Frankenstein riding a giant dog and singlehandedly taking down Evil Wonder Woman was pretty sweet (but not half as sweet as he was in Seven Soldiers), so it’s not like I hated everything in the final issue. But I did set the book down a few times as I read it to marvel at the sheer what-the-fuckery of what I was seeing.

evil maryNow, back to Supergirl for my final complaint about the series. Apparently with the destruction of space, time, and alternate realities she had the time to redesign her top so it was even more revealing. This was a bit of a running thing with the series, the oversexualization of the female characters. I know most people would point out Evil Mary Marvel first, but she was being controlled by Desaad, who’s always been a perverted, sadistic little freak. Evil Mary I have no problem with, it fits the story. Here’s what I have a problem with: We see both Green Arrow and Black Lightning turned into servants of Darkseid by the Anti-Life Equation. What happens to them? They get big metal helmets, but otherwise just stay in their costumes. We also see Wonder Woman and Catwoman as servants of Darkseid. Selina’s now wearing thigh-high leather boots and Diana’s got a thick iron collar and whip marks all over her back. Oh and Libra, did you really have to mention how you’re planning to all take turns fucking Supergirl after you capture her? I’ve read Fourth World stuff before, so I’m familiar with Apokolips and I can see how this is all stuff that they’d do, being sadistic dark gods and all. It just seems to be a little completely one-sided towards females in FC.

…okay, I think I’ve pretty much covered everything now. I do recommend those Superman Beyond issues though, go hunt them down at your LCS, the single issues were in 3-D with glasses and everything!