Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Justice League of America #52

“D.C. Challenge” is the third part of “Omega” by James Robinson and artist Mark Bagley.  The League is isolated in Washington D.C. battling not only the Crime Syndicate of Amerika and the menace known only as Omega Man.

I know that most fans have a problem with James Robinson’s writing of this title, and after “Cry for Justice” I did too, especially for his treatment of the characters and lack of knowledge of their histories, which editors are also to blame for; however, his run on this title has not been a complete train wreck.

This arc has a silver age feeling with all its impending inevitability and campiness -which I really want to believe is intentional.- I like the inner dialog we see with each character which is used as a tool for development, while the action takes place in the forefront.  The cast in this adventure is large –the League, the Syndicate, the Tangent Green Lantern, Blue Jay, Omega Man, but despite that it does not feel crowded and everyone has been able to participate.

Speaking of Blue Jay, I had never had any exposure to him before, but I really like him; I hope he sticks around after “Omega” or that we get to see him again somewhere else; I just fell in love with the character design.

I also like Mark Bagley’s art.  While it is a little on the comical side at times, he makes great use of the space and as a result you feel like a lot happens in just one issue; he does not struggle in scenes with multiple characters, and the action sequences are very detailed.

Variant by David Mack
Going back to my initial objection, the biggest problem with this title is the fact that Robinson does not know his history.  The story started with the Syndicate taking the body of Alexander Luthor “their worst enemy”, which is incorrect, that was not him but his father; this is a huge mistake that should have been caught by editorial; and in many ways is a shame that a reader knows this and not the creators.  It is not the first mistake in Robinson’s run, and will not be the last one, and this takes a lot away from the story and credibility from the writer.

Supergirl is also a kind of liability at this point.  In the relatively short life of this character, her continuity is pretty messed up and confusing.  To me, one of the lowest points was the whole “Dark Supergirl” thing, and bringing the subject back just does not help.

All in all, the “Omega” arc is not bad if you look at it as its own thing, forget about continuity, and enjoy campy adventures a la Silver Age.  Don’t see it as a story featuring the Justice League -because let’s admit it, they are nice people, but they are not the JLA- but as an interim team fighting your typical baddie of the quarter.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes #8

“The Shape of Death” by Paul Levitz and artists Yildiray Cinar & Daniel HDR.  The Legion of Super Heroes tracks the Durlan terrorists and elects a new leader as the life of one of their own hangs in the balance.

Colossal Boy and Dream Girl investigate the Durlan attack on the United Planets Council when they are suddenly attacked by the shape-shifters.  Anyone who ever questioned Dreamy’s worth as a member of the team will have to eat their words because she kicks butt in this issue.

While this is happening, Tellus gets help for Dawnstar, who along with Wildfire suffered a devastating attack last issue, and in Legion headquarters, Cosmic Boy is target of another Durlan attack.

By the end of the issue, we learn how far the Durlans are willing to go in order to achieve their objective, and it becomes pretty scary when all fiction and super heroics aside, the one thing that mirrors real life is the last line of the issue.

But this is also a special issue because the Legion and the readers elected a new leader.  Via online elections a couple of months back, fans were able to vote for their favorite legionnaire and the results are in.  Not the one I voted for, but I am fine with the winner!

Dream Girl A.K.A. Nura Nal from Naltor.  Precognition.
I don’t know what it is, but there is something just lovable about the Legion of Super Heroes, and specifically THIS Legion of Super Heroes, the original ones, the ones that had adventures with Superboy and returned recently during “The Lightning Saga”.  Maybe it’s the fact that they appeal to everyone’s inner child by retaining their –boy –girl –kid –lass names even though they are now adults and are the quintessential cool club.

Paul Levitz is doing a fantastic job reviving this franchise, and the art has been solid and fluid.  Every issue has been full of action and every member has had a chance to shine a little bit; I think that’s what I like the most: even though there are so many of them, each one always gets camera time, there is no “core” team or the same five or six all the time.  Heck, I am even linking Earth Man (Kid?)

Overall, “The Shape of Death” is a very entertaining issue, has lots of stuff happening, and leaves you asking for more, but in a good way.  Anyone who is looking for a team book with no non-sense and really cool characters, this is the one for you!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Heroic Age : X-Men #1

“Heroic Age: X-Men” is a compendium of mutant profiles presented in the form of Steve Rogers’ journal after the defeat of Normal Osborn at the end of “Dark Reign”.  All profiles are “written by” the former Captain America, and include the individual’s classification, latest sighting, analysis and comments by Rogers, a quote by the individual, and an image from one of their most recent apparition.

After an introduction that catches up readers with the state of affairs in the current Marvel Universe and the X-Men world in particular, Steve Rogers starts his analysis of the core team -18 members minus Nightcrawler-, then, we have the New Mutants, X-Factor, and the Five Lights.  There are also files in other 63 mutants that are not part of the core team, are former members, missing in action, or on leave. 15 files on mutant allies, 45 files on evil mutants, and 15 files on mutant haters.  The journal ends with entries on some locations such as Genosha and the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning.

This is an impressive undertaking and it is evident it took a lot of work by the different writers who deserve kudos; my best guess is that for the most part they are fans like you and I, because they know these characters and their whereabouts much better than actual Marvel creators.  To reiterate, this compendium is different from others in the sense that it is not a blow-by-blow description of powers, abilities, and history; it is an analysis of each character from the point of view of Steve Rogers.

One conclusion you draw from this book is that there are tons of useless characters that just need to go away; you would think that M-Day would have taken care of that , but there is still a lot of them around: Alchemy, Adam-X, Bling, Catiana, Gentle, Loa, Pulse… what the heck?  And now they have added the Five Lights to the mix!  Hey Marvel, can we do something about that?

Cover art is by Jae Lee prominently featuring Colossus and Xavier; a strange choice considering what I had discussed previously about Professor X losing all relevance in the X-Universe.  Usually I don’t buy this type of book, but overall, it was actually a good purchase; for four bucks you get 65 pages of material that will keep you entertained for a long while; you might find pics by your favorite artist, avid readers will have fun finding errors to correct, and for new or returning readers, it is a great start point.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Brightest Day #17

“Homecoming” by Geoff Johns & Peter Tomasi and artists Ivan Reis, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark & Joe Prado, with beautiful variant cover treatments by Ivan Reis (Aquaman) and Gary Frank & Nathan Eyring (Firestorm) -Isn't that Finch, though?-

As we may have suspected, the universe did not end when Firestorm exploded; Ronnie and Jason were transported to the anti-matter universe, right in the middle of a cluster of Shadow Demons, and very close to Oa, where the pair goes after dealing with the Anti-Monitor’s minions.  My guess is that this ties in to Green Lantern Corps #57 where Firestorm will guest-star.

In Zamaron, Carol Ferris, the new Queen of the Star Sapphires and the Predator, the entity of love, help Hawkman and Hawkgirl break free from the gate that brought them to the distant planet and fight Khea, Chayara’s mother.  Unfortunately, the Predator is attracted to Khea’s heart which is devoided of love and possesses her, granting her all its power and causing even more problems for the Hawks and the Sapphire.

On Earth, Boston Brand a.k.a. Deadman is starting to find joy in life, first by going to third base with Dove and starting to build a relationship with her, and then by reconnecting with his grandfather and making him smile again.  It is at this moment that the white ring starts to slowly recharge, marking the beginning of the end for Brightest Day.  I found this to be a very exciting moment, and makes me happy to see that Boston is finally snapping out of it; let’s hope it’s not all for nothing.

The main act in this issue is the sequence in Zamaron.  While there is a connection between Zamaron and the Hawks (via the Violet battery), I don’t see the point in making this storyline even more convoluted than it already is.  The conflict between Carter, Shiera, and Khea should have been contained in Hawkworld, which was in itself a complex setting.  Might that be Hawkman’s real curse? Having the most confusing continuity in comics?  Ardian Syaf’s art, however, is amazing, and after Brightest Day he should be in an ongoing title (Red Lanterns, anyone?)

STOP IT WITH THE SPREADS! This issue alone had three splash pages and two double spreads.  While it is a showcase for the artists, I feel robbed because there is no story, and considering how slowly Hawkman’s plot is moving, page space is not something creators should be wasting in double spreads.  What the heck was that in pages 2-3?  Really?  This issue should have been a buck cheaper.

Overall “Homecoming” was an average issue; definitely moves forward Deadman’s storyline, and the art was great.  With nine issues left before the end, I hope the creators start cramming more on each chapter, or we’ll be left with one of those finales Marvel has been giving us the last few years where there is really no finale and it all ended up being just a  prologue to the next event.  Don’t do the same DC!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Avengers #8

Avengers 8 features the return of the Illuminati in a story without name by Brian Michael Bendis and artist John Romita Jr.  Trying to solve the mystery of who beat the Red Hulk to a pulp, Iron Man brings the Illuminati together one more time.

The members of the secret group meet in an abandoned warehouse, not before welcoming an interim member, Queen Medusa, who shows up unexpectedly in place of her deceased husband Black Bolt.  Iron Man and his companions explain to the Inhuman that years ago each took one of the Infinity Gems to “protect them” and now two seem to be missing.  FYI Brian Michael Bendis, if Tony Stark's technology were that good, it would have identified Medusa as Medusalith Amaquelin Boltagon, not "Alias: None."

Flashback to the end of issue 7 when the Red Hulk crashes wounded in Avenger’s tower and tells the heroes his encounter with the strange man who kicked his butt.  After hearing the story, Iron Man left quickly without giving any explanations, and a suspicious Steve Rogers asked Maria Hill to track him.  Tony Stark doesn’t realize that as he is gathering the Illuminati, he is being followed by his fellow Avengers.  End of flashback.

Medusa and Lockjaw take the Illuminati to the Himalayas, where the city of Attilan used to be, and once there, they confirm that Reed Richards’ gem is not the only one missing but Black Bolt’s as well.  And more bad news for Stark and his posse:  The New, Secret, and Regular Avengers arrive in the Himalayas to ask for an explanation.  To be continued.

Medusa joins the Illuminati
It is great seeing Medusa interacting with the heroes back on Earth once again.  It seems no one had brought news from Shi’ar space about Black Bolt’s death, and Xavier might not even know of Lilandra’s assassination either (all this happened during "War of Kings").  Speaking of Xavier, it is in this issue -of all places- that I realize how irrelevant he has become; it’s been years since he did anything of significance; it’s like big stuff about him happens only when people think he is dead.

Other than the Illuminati’s reunion, I didn’t care for this issue.  I never collected any stories involving the Infinity gems, so I cannot tell whether the arrangement the Illuminati made is a believable retcon.  The story was such a quick read, in big part because there was very little to read.  The art by John Romita Jr. was a bit better than in the first seven issues, but still a shadow of his previous work on other titles.  He seems to be struggling with big group settings, and his interpretation of Spider Woman makes me want to scream.

Overall, Avengers 8 is another forgettable issue, with too many pages that had no dialog or captions whatsoever, and one more example of why decompressed writing is a bad thing.  The cliffhanger might lead to something interesting since it’s the first time all three teams of avengers are together since the relaunch, but I am not holding my breath.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Red Lanterns

I swear to God I didnt know! Just yesterday I was daydreaming about Atrocitus and company getting a series, and today DC announced through The Source that the Red Lanterns are getting their own book!

Red With Rage
"Over his six years on the book, Geoff Johns has brought so many cool new elements to the Green Lantern mythos, one of my (and I’m sure many other fans’) favorites being the other colors of Lantern Corps — from the Sinestro Corps War, to Rage of the Red Lanterns, Blackest Night and Brightest Day and everything in between, the introduction of the new Corps in the Green Lantern books have made for one heck of an epic story.  That said, we’re excited to announce that one of those Corps is getting their own book: RED LANTERNS, launching as an ongoing comic book series written by Peter Milligan in 2011"

The series will be written by Peter Milligan, and will star Atrocitus, Bleez, Dex-Starr, and many others. I am already drooling over this title, and can't wait to see whether we'll see guest spots for Mera or Guy Gardner who were also immersed in the red during Blackest Night; and what about the Butcher? I am sure we'll see it there as well!  More details at The Source. Thank you DC! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Green Lantern #61

“Seeing Red” by Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke.  An interlude starring Red Lantern Atrocitus in his search for the rage entity.  The Butcher makes its presence known in Deer Lodge, Montana, where is immediately confronted by the Spectre.  During Blackest Night, the spirit of vengeance had warned Atrocitus how dangerous this entity was; in this follow up, the Spectre plays the role of the kettle calling the pot back and tries to eliminate the Butcher.

It is easy to see why Atrocitus initially though that the Spectre was the rage entity; you really can’t see what separates him from the Butcher, except probably the fact that the spirit of vengeance has a host.  That difference is quickly set aside as the entity possesses a human to give rise to a fantastic creature.  This design for the Butcher-human hybrid was amazing, and I hope we get to see it again.

Geoff Johns is doing an excellent job with the New Guardians.  Take Atrocitus for instance, he is such a paradox; all the rage he represents comes from a place of lost love; same thing with Larfleeze.  On the other hand, we have seen how deranged love can be at the hands of the Star Sapphires, and the dirty little secret of the Indigo Tribe is becoming exposed.  So the emotions that initially were thought as “the bad ones” are turning out to be not so bad, while “the good ones” are proving to be very dark.  What does this mean for Fear and Hope?  Are they not what they seem? 

By the end of the issue, Atrocitus is finally able to capture the Butcher in his lantern, and make a compelling argument before the Spectre passes judgment on him, not before showing his compassionate side.

Variant by Alex Garner
It is astonishing how this issue can be enjoyed from beginning to end, and only then realize that the flag character was actually absent from the story.  The world of Green Lantern is growing so much and becoming so rich, that soon the current titles are not going to be enough to contain its wide range of characters; we are already seeing signs of it with Saint Walker joining the Justice League and Larfleeze appearing in Action Comics.  My hope for Atrocitus is either a series for the Red Lanterns or integrating him into the Aquaman world –via Mera.-

Doug Mahnke’s art continues to improve with every issue, and his representation of the Butcher –with and without a host- was excellent.  Despite the multiple inkers in this issue, the art by Mahnke and Randy Mayor’s colors were good enough to make it seamless.  I loved Gary Frank’s cover, and there is a variant cover by Alex Garner as well, but be careful DC… don’t mislead your readers, it is a slippery slope.

Overall “Seeing Red” was an entertaining read, and one that helps us understand Atrocitus better.  The ongoing effort in making us question the real motivations behind each of the corps is also evident, and the build up toward the fight against Krona is nothing but exciting.