Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Firestorm #5

First the good: The art team of Yildiray Cinar, Norm Rapmund, and Steve Buccellato continues delivering a great visual experience full of motion and vivid colors.  The mad Firestorm from Qurac adds yet another layer, another point of view to a mix where each party believes they are on the right side. Finally, Pozhar, the Firestorm from Russia who debuted last month, returns in this issue to deliver his  questionable brand of justice.  Now the not-so-good: The writing team cannot talk teenage language and should stop trying to do it.  Even though Jason and Ronnie are young and probably impressionable, their acceptance of Zither's offer was absolutely unrealistic; after the events of the previous four issues, anyone with two ounces of heroism in them would have not even considered it. Jason's scene with his father seemed taken from "The Stepford Wives." Below average issue.

New Guardians #5

With a diverse cast, great art, and an ever flowing storyline, this title is one of my favorites, and probably the best within the Green Lantern family of books.  The New Guardians enter "The Orrery" while their team dynamics continue to build; from Arkillo and Saint Walker, to Fatality and Monk, to Kyle and Glommy, there is plenty of characterization in the middle of the action.  One question that had been dangling was the presence of Bleeze and how it fit within her other title, "Red Lanterns".  That is addressed impeccably here, and the way it is presented perfectly fits the events of that other book.  Tyler Kirkham's artwork just gets better with each issue; crisp and inviting with lots of detail.  The challenging part seemed to be putting in paper the scale of the orrery itself; not talking just about the art, but also the writing; it is a difficult concept to get in one's head; still, it was a great issue.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Dark Knight #5

Time for Scarecrow to mess with Batman's head using a "Handful of Dust" by Paul Jenkins and David Finch.  The Dark Knight had a psychedelic experience fighting Dr. Kane, and so did I reading the dialog; not sure whether it was intentional, but very little of what Scarecrow said made sense to me.  The second part of the issue featured the Man of Steel, who came to lend a hand and ended up getting his butt kicked.  It was a nice surprise having Superman do not just a cameo, but a full appearance, and that is what I like best about this title: you just never know who's going to pop-up.  Both sequences were superbly pencilled by David Finch, and the colors by Jeromy Cox were just amazing. Back to the dialog, or lack thereof, it was so scarce that it was a quick read, and the story relied mostly on artwork.  Okay issue, not the best.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

X-Men Legacy #261

Exodus returns to mortify the X-Men in "Lost Tribes" by Christos Gage.  Rogue's self imposed goal of giving the students' lives a sense of normalcy is reinforced in this story, but is also challenged as the former Acolyte and still madman shows up at the school looking to cause trouble.  Worthy of mention is the fact that Frenzy had an important role in the fight, and her past as one of Exodus' peers was acknowledged; it was also good to see that there was consistency in his characterization despite his long absence: he is still a very powerful and not quite sane mutant.  David Baldeon's art is a bit too cartoonish, but also energetic and lively.  The resolution to the battle had a humorous component to it, but it was mostly exciting, as the attack will cause the paths of the Gold and Blue teams to cross for the first time since "Schism", and it will be awkward.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Justice League #5

The not-yet Justice League clashes with Darkseid for the first time in the fifth chapter of their secret origin.  The point of view characters in this issue are Flash and Green Lantern, and both of them take on a kind of co-leadership role within the still rag-tag team, which is strange given that Diana and Aquaman are the royal members of the ensemble; and speaking of, I hated that they didn't do anything here.  The best idea by Johns in the story was not giving Darkseid any lines; that made him truly menacing.  Batman seemed out of character by trusting Green Lantern so early on; yet again, perhaps five years ago he was not as paranoid.  Art wise, this was not Jim Lee's brightest moment; his pencils were very rushed and rough; to his credit, however, even that way he is better than most.  Next: Apokolips!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Flash #5

The fate of Mob Rule is revealed in this issue by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.  Despite the limited page count, the story provides resolution to several dangling plots; the civil unrest in the city, the breakout at Iron Heights, an explanation for the pulse of issue #2, and of course, the fall of Barry's friend, Manuel Lago, are all addressed here.  At the same time, the doors open for exciting new possibilities in the form of Captain Cold and the Speed Force.  The art is somewhat different in this installment as it is more compressed to accommodate the entire script; however, it does not lose any of its charm.  With all the emphasis made in showing how important Manuel was to him, I would have liked to see Barry express more emotion at the end of the story; still, this first arc is very entertaining and a must read.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Aquaman #5

This story needed to be told.  DC's efforts to change the public's perception of Aquaman as a character have been impeccable, and until now they have also been effective mostly thanks to the work Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Jim Lee have done; however, it is important not to push the coolness factor too far, or make it seem like Aquaman is almighty; this issue takes care of that.  Johns and Reis put the hero in what can be described as the most precarious situation possible for him, just to show he is vulnerable after all; and the best part is that it is not presented as a cliche.  While this important aspect of Aquaman is exposed, readers will also find they are being smoothly bridged from one arc to the next as the mystery behind the sinking of Atlantis is introduced.  Great issue, and even better yet will be the next one when Mera goes solo!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Scarlet Spider #1

No, we are not back in the 90's, but admit it, you are glad it looks like it.  Spinning off from "Spider Island" comes the new Scarlet Spider series written by Christopher Yost.  I had very little knowledge of Kaine, having only read one of the old "Maximum Clonage" comics; but this is by no means an obstacle to enjoy the book, as it has a short and sweet explanation of who he is and how he ended up where he is now.  I was not familiar with Ryan Stegman either, but his pencils are fantastic; his style is so neat and refreshing that it fits perfectly with the story being told here.  Using as premise a man's new beginning and his search for atonement, "Life After Death" is an extremely fun read.  As long as the book keeps it simple and maintains a consistent creative team, it can easily become a hit.  For now, what a great start.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Birds of Prey #5

If the purpose of the Birds' enemy is to confuse them, then he certainly achieved his goal, and in the process is dragging us along.  "Chokepoint" by Duane Swierczynski turns everything upside down for readers and characters, throwing us all into new situations that seriously disrupt the flow of the story.  I am sure there is a bigger picture to this, but the plot felt like a do-over of issue #4.  An interesting moment between Black Canary and Katana makes Tatsu look a lot less creepy, and Poison Ivy seems to have never really left her villainous roots -pun intended.  The art by Saiz, Pina, and Chung is more refined and not as rough as in previous issues; their Batgirl, particularly is very well done.  This issue might look better as part of a whole, but it is hard to judge it as a single book; only when the arc is finished we'll know whether it was truly worth the reading or not.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Avengers #21

As expected, The Avengers continues its run as the title for preludes, tie-ins, and aftermaths.  Under the banner "Shattered Heroes", the book is riding on the fumes of "Fear Itself" for as long as possible before getting on board the "A vs. X" train. This story is a repetition of last issue's events:  Spider Woman and Hawkeye had fallen; here, there is more of the same.  Storm and Hulk had fallen as well; here, there is more of the same.  Noh-Varr had been defeated by Iron Man; here, there is more of the same.  The only non-repetitive sequence featured Captain America, and that took half the issue to be told, in what was the most blatant intentional waste of space just to be done with the 20 pages for this month.  It was evident this issue was just filler to make time in preparation for the next big thing; the story did not advance an inch.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nightwing #5

Things take a supernatural turn for Nightwing when Haly's Circus stops in New Orleans for a show.  With a perfect balance between heroics and characterization (and some motorcycle bragging in between), Kyle Higgins writes a nice self contained story, while adding another piece to the overall puzzle that is the current arc.  One interesting fact we learn in this issue is that Etrigan the demon has not surfaced in present times -not yet.  The return of Eddy Barrows to the series is more than welcome; he really outdid himself in this issue with very intricate and fluid pencils; just in time for the shocking revelation of the last page: holy mother of crap! I did not see that one coming.  January seems to be a lucky month for many of the New 52, and this is not the exception; "'Til Death do us Part" is the best issue of the series to date.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Uncanny X-Men #5

Unknowingly, Cyclops's extinction team deals with the aftermath of "Dark Angel Saga" in the new arc "Tabula Rasa" by Kieron Gillen.  Rather than babysitting students, the X-Men are finally going on an actual mission; just like it used to be when they were the hottest property at Marvel.  A cordial moment between Cyclops and Captain America is possibly the last friendly exchange between these two before the storm that "A vs. X" will bring in the coming months.  It was great to see the old fashioned pairing up of team members to fight threats and share personal moments; the best of those ineteractions was that between Magneto and Psylocke.  Greg Land's insufferable pencils are made more tolerable thanks to the rest of the art team.  Free of Wolverine and Emma Frost, this issue was a respite from their overwhelming presence, and quite fun, actually.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Green Lantern Corps #5

This issue of GLC takes a militaristic approach as Guy Gardner assembles a squadron composed of badasses to rescue John Stewart and the other captured lanterns from the Keepers.  Although the story by Peter J. Tomasi is more of a set up for what's to come next, it does a nice job in showing the development of group dynamics, and the different phases of Guy's plan as it comes together.  Also, a nice double spread explains the origin of the Keepers in a clean and simple manner, without overcomplicating things.  Fernando Pasarin's pencils are extremely detailed; yet, he manages not to make the panels seem saturated or busy, while Gabe Eltaeb with his colors achieves a balanced palette despite all the green he is forced to work with.  With a cinematic feel to it, "Mean Machine" is the best issue of the series thus far, and the one that clearly shows the title has found a solid footing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Batman #5

Stretch your neck muscles everybody, and get ready for a surreal experience.  So early in the year, and Batman #5 already looks like the best book of 2012.  "Face the Court" is so good that it just should not be allowed.  The emotional intensity, the desperation, the sheer madness of it are so enthralling, that each page in its crazy beauty becomes a tendril that ensnares readers until there is no escape; just like what the Court of Owls is doing to Batman.  I don't think I have ever felt this uncomfortable or disturbed (in a good way, if there is such a thing) after reading a comic; and that talks volumes of its creators.  Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's carefulness in crafting each panel of this issue is evident; from Siggy to Damian, and all the psychological thrill in between, this issue was a true masterpiece.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Ray #2

After reading this issue written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, I started thinking about those Firestorm fans who might be disappointed with -or expected something different from- the Nuclear Man title.  To those fans I say "The Ray is the book you were looking for!"  Its youthful and fresh approach, with touches of humor and campy situations, is complemented by the writing style that breaks the fourth wall as the character talks to the readers, making of this a fun and enjoyable book.  The visuals by Igle, Perrotta, and Major, are full of energy and dynamism, with panels rich in color and detail.  If there is something to object about this issue, is the excess of character development; added to the already mentioned fact that The Ray walks readers through his inner thoughts, there was too much Lucien and Chanti, so next issue may want to bring it down a tad.

Monday, January 16, 2012

X-Men Legacy #260.1

X-Men Legacy enters the "Regenesis" era with Christos Gage as its writer, with a football game, and with Rogue and company settling in at the school as faculty members.  Using an N'Garai invasion as the catalyst, the issue's purpose is to define the team's role.  Rogue has become not just a mentor, but also a protector to the students, and her promise is to ensure they get the full academic experience with some sense of normalcy.  The story also touches briefly on the Guthrie siblings, and has huge developments for Frenzy and Gambit.  The pencils by David Baldeon are average, but are enhanced by nice ink and color work.  Nothing says "filler issue" like those "point one" books, so it was not the best idea for it to be the new creative team's inaugural issue; however, it will be easy for new readers to come on board, as characters and situations are nicely introduced.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Batman and Robin #5

More than any of the previous installments in this series, "Mutineer" is a very personal and private story.  In a surprising, yet, touching moment, Batman actually opens up and pours his heart out; yes, to a recording machine; still, his words are powerful and moving.  Few times this vulnerability is shown in the character, so kudos to Peter J. Tomasi, for a great script.  Then there's Damian.  He is being written as a beast, as an atom bomb about to go off, all that anger contained in a tiny vessel.  No wonder he is such an apathetic being; the continuous struggle to maintain control, the effort he has to make to show restrain; a child should never have to deal with that.  Now that NoBody has gotten his claws on Robin, the story can go in any direction, and that is what makes it so grandiose: the not knowing what will happen next.  Great issue!

Green Lantern #5

Sinestro and Hal Jordan make their move against the Corps of Fear in a story written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Doug Mahnke.  The issue mostly focuses on Sinestro trying to justify to Jordan, the Korugarians -and himself?- the reasons for his past actions, and how he was being perceived as a villain when all he wanted was to bring order to his world. Even though his transformation has been gradual -starting prior to "Blackest Night"- it is still hard to sympathize with Sinestro; he is being "too good" to be convincing.  Hal's characterization on the other hand, continues making him look like a rookie, with too many insecurities and flaws, all to the benefit of making Sinestro look better.  How long can this angle be played out before he turns to villainy again? It is going to happen at some point, and then it will be hard to explain all the back and forth, or make it enjoyable.  Not a memorable arc.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Great Moments :: Wonder Woman No More

The year was 1994, Superman had died at the hands of Doomsday and been replaced by four new characters, all claiming to be the Man of Steel.  Batman had his back broken by Bane, and a psychotic had taken over the mantle of the Dark Knight.  The next obvious idea:  Replace Wonder Woman!

Artemis of Bana Mighdall.  Created by Messner-Loebs and Deodato Jr.

Writer William Messner-Loebs and then breakout star Mike Deodato Jr. created one of the most successful eras in the history of the character, which strangely enough was also the lowest point in her life.  Her worst enemy turned out not to be a monstrous alien, or a criminally insane, venom-pumping villain; it was her own mother: Queen Hippolyta!  The matriarch of the amazons decreed that Diana was no longer worthy of her title as Wonder Woman, and called for a new contest to choose a new representative of Themyscira in the world of man.  Enter the amazon Artemis.

"It's Diana! She's passing everyone! Gaea, she looks tired!"

After dealing with her own mother's intrigues, the indifference of her sister amazons, and avoiding endless dangers such as whirlpools, harpies, and even Medusa, Diana herself and Artemis were the two front runners in the last leg of the deadly contest; but then, the unthinkable happened...

Diana loses the contest, and Artemis wins

Much to the pleasure of Hippolyta, Diana lost the contest and the title of Wonder Woman to the Bana-Mighdall Artemis, who received from her Queen not only the fabled magic lasso of truth, tiara, and bracelets, but also the gauntlet of Atlas and the sandals of Hermes.  This, however, did not stop Diana from being a hero, and she continued delivering justice, if not in the name of the amazons, in her own.

Diana of Themyscira and Artemis, the New Wonder Woman

This saga not only introduced Artemis to the DC Universe, but also gave Queen Hippolyta a huge boost in popularity among readers, to the point that years later she would become Wonder Woman herself; but that's a different story.  "The Contest" and "The Challenge of Artemis" delivered beautiful art, compelling stories full of emotion and drama, and one of the most violent deaths in comics.  Whose you say?  Go and read these great arcs to find out!

Magneto #3

Loved it, loved it, loved it!  The Master of Magnetism finds himself at odds against a monstrous version of his Brotherhood, cloned by Astra.  It was interesting that the Scarlet Witch did not have any malformations; is it because she is twisted enough as is? In any case, it was great to see that Magneto did not buy into the head games, going for the jugular instead.  That little piece of characterization during the exchange with Cyclops was perfect; it had it all.  Skottie Young ups the anthem by hinting at a big secret involving Astra's past, and Joseph gets ready for his final move.  I don't have enough compliments for Clay Mann's pencils; the guy just can do no wrong, and the contributions by Seth Mann and David Curiel make the art even more stunning.  This issue was by far the best of the mini, art and story wise.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Batgirl #5

"A Candy Full of Spiders" jumps right into the action with Batgirl trying to stop some bad guys from her old days, and introducing a new menace named Gretel.  As she has done in all other issues so far, Gail Simone gives us one little piece of information about Barbara's early career and also about her recovery; just enough to keep us satisfied and asking for more; much better than  throwing it all in a "flashback" issue.  I have grown fond of the inner monologue in this series; this style is enjoyable because it provides two perspectives on the events being told, and what human being does not maintain a never-ending conversation with one self?  The middle of the issue also is strong in character development, drama, and conflict; and to leave us hanging, the story closes with Gretel about to beat Batgirl in the most ironic way possible.  A must read!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Batwoman #5

One could write an entire dissertation on the cover of this issue alone; what a beautiful piece of art, worthy of getting hung on a museum wall.  Readers will also be glad to have judged the book just by the cover, as its content is just as great.  The final chapter of "Hydrology" marks the defining face-to-face between Batwoman and La Llorona.  What a nice way for Kate to finally be at peace with herself for what happened to her sister; this epiphany makes the character move forward and grow, not only as a person, but as a hero a well.  This issue also opened the gates for the title to expand its horizons in multiple directions, as Batwoman is forced to make a hard choice in order to continue her mission, and a warning from a guest star in the final pages, creates a sense of inevitability for what's to come.  That last line of this issue, that promise, was the best part of the whole thing.  Excellent arc!  Next: Amy Reeder joins the series.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Batwing #5

Ben Oliver returns to the pages of Batwing to pencil Judd Winick's "Like a Nightmare Coming to Life".  The first part of this issue is dedicated to character development; Winick digs deeper inside David's head to show readers fragile aspects of his personality, which strongly contrast with his background, hence giving him much dimension.  The second part of the story is all out action, and this time Batwing is not alone, as guest star Batman is glad to lend a hand.  Worthy of note is that Bats is not full of condescension and arrogance, sign of his respect towards Batwing and hopefully building the foundation of a long term association.  The third act is absolute chaos and the set up for what will be the final battle against Massacre.  Needless to elaborate on it, Oliver's art is top notch and a welcome sight.  Great issue!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Action Comics #5

If you don't know Superman's secret origin, you don't deserve having it explained to you; with that said, this issue of Action Comics provides an updated origin for the man of steel, courtesy of Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert.  This version of the story does not diverge much from previous iterations, except for some minor details; the biggest changes affect other characters such as Krypto and Brainiac, but even then, they respect what came before.  Having Andy Kubert in this interlude was a welcome surprise, as his pencils alone are enough reason to buy a book; and Delperdang's inks and Anderson's colors made them even better.  Another pleasant surprise was the fact that Morrison kept in continuity one important phase in Kal-El's formative years, that not only helped him become a better hero, but also gave way to one of the most enduring legacies in the DC Universe.  "Rocket Song" was a great issue!