Just Giblets

2013: the Year in Comics

10th January 2014
by Michael

2013: the Year in Comics

Winner

Marvel Now

Loser

DC Comics - The New 52

 

 

 

 

 

A year ago, as 2013 was starting, DC was still riding on the successes of the New 52, although the steam was starting to sputter, and the creativity that had been evident during its launch was starting to get scarce.  On the other hand, Marvel, who had spent years heading in a direction I just wasn’t at all interested in, was starting to show some promise with their Marvel Now campaign, their answer to DC’s New 52.  Who would know that in just one year, as 2014 is kicking off, I would have made such a radical shift, jettisoning many of my DC titles, and feeling lackluster about the ones I’m keeping, and embracing so many new Marvel titles… or at least enjoying the new directions that they are headed in. I’m somewhat unique when it comes to comic readers, I think.  I’m largely interested in super-heroines, and as a gay man, I’ve been enjoying the growing number of gay characters that have been popping up in comics.  Overall, I would give DC higher marks when it comes to their treatment of women and gays in comics.  That all seemed to change during 2013, when Marvel really started putting their money where their mouth is, and showcasing female characters in a really big way, putting marketing muscle behind them, and really starting to address some of the criticisms that have been dogging them:  namely that they were a old, white boys club.  2013 showed them really trying new things, and 2014 looks to be continuing the trend.

High Point of 2013

Sif

Sif from Journey into Mystery by Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti.  Hands down, best comic book read in 2013, and I dare say, in the last ten years.  Smart, rollicking fun.  Too bad it only lasted 10 issues.

Journey Into Mystery 2013 saw the bulk of the short run that I have to mark as one of the best comic arcs I have ever enjoyed.  That was Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery, featuring Sif, written by Kathryn Immonen with art by Valerio Schiti.  Wow.  I remember reading an interview with Immonen before the series launched, and she talked about giving Sif some fun, sprawling adventures, filled with brawls, revelry, bad behavior, and just plain old fun.  She succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.  From Asgardian berserkers, to fighting back to back with Spider-Man in Manhattan, to cosmic, space adventure, Immonen wrote Sif as the consummate warrior who fit in everywhere.  It was truly the most fully realized the character has ever been.  Completely defined on her own, and not as Thor’s boyfriend, or Beta Ray Bill’s boyfriend, but as a warrior, as a goddess, ad a friend, and as a super-heroine.  Valerio Schiti brought Sif to life with his pencils that combined a goddess’ beauty, with the true strength of a warrior.  I never doubted that Sif couldn’t do all the mighty thinks she did, and she was beautiful while she did it.  And did I mention the gorgeous cover art by Jeff Dekal?  Blew me away every month.  But it was too good to be true, and I knew it wouldn’t last.  Still we had 10 fantastic issues to enjoy – and it was a real longshot to begin with.  I am so happy to have had such a joy to read for ten months running.

 

Other Shining Moments

Sandman: Overtures

Neil Gaiman returns to Sandman along with J.H. Williams III

The only thing better than Neil Gaiman returning to his most well-known work, The Sandman, would be having return with someone like J. H. Williams III handling the artwork.  Well, that is just what Vertigo did, and the result is spectacular.  Only a single issue has been published thus far and already the results are out of this world… literally.  Neil is crafting the story that serves as a prequel of sorts to his groundbreaking series.  What were the events that led to Morpheus’ decades-long captivity in issue #1 of The Sandman comic?  Overture  will reveal this story over the course of several bi-monthly issues. Neil’s return is fresh and welcoming. It feels both comfortable, a soft, enveloping afghan to curl up in on a snowy night, and revitalized and energized.  And other than Dave McKean, was there ever an artist more suited to visualizing the tales of the Dream-King than J.H. Williams III?  He gave us hints of this type of work in Promethea, matured to the superstar comic artist he is today with Batwoman and now turns his formidable talents to such a classic character whose visuals have been chronicled by a series of great artists.  In 2013, this is the one thing DC really did right.

 

 

 

 

 

Young Avengers

Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen.  Innovative, fresh and fun.   Smart as hell.  Too bad it’s only lasting 12 issues.

The third comics high point in 2013 has a connection with the first.  Prior to Sif taking over the spotlight in Journey Into Mystery, Kieron Gillen had a very successful run on the title featuring Sif’s fellow Asgardian, Kid Loki. In 2013, Gillen brought Kid Loki along for the ride when he launched Young Avengers, surpassing even the heights the groups’ creator, Allan Heinberg took them.  With innovative artwork and stories that truly felt like they were populated by super-powered teenagers (albeit fantastically powerful and incredibly beautiful teenagers) Young Avengers was fresh and exciting every month. Kid Loki wasn’t the only new member in the Young Avengers, a mysterious powerhouse named Miss America, Kree superhero Marvel Boy, and former X-Man Prodigy joined original members Wiccan, Hulkling and Hawkeye for some truly dimension-hopping adventures. It is notable to mention that the Kate Bishop Hawkeye has starred to not just one, but two of the year’s spotlight series.  Read more about her activities in the Hawkeye entry below. It is also notable that the gay relationship between Wiccan and Hulkling is central to the series.  Again, this series could have run much longer, but after a single year, Gillen decided to call it a day rather than lose the innovative energy that infused his first season.  It will be greatly missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FF

FF by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred.  Full of heart, joy and spontaneity.  And you could find a better artist for this title.  Too bad it’s only lasting 14 issues.

My next entry has been a consistent high point for 2013 and is yet another title that will be ending after just over one year.  Matt Fraction was everywhere in Marvel in 2013, including taking over the Fantastic Four franchise.  In addition to the flagship title, Fantastic Four, Fraction took over FF (formerly the Future Foundation) keeping the large cast of young students at the Foundation, and replacing the Fantastic Four with the quirky  combo of Ant-man (Scott Lang), She-Hulk, Medusa, and She-Thing (Johnny’s pop-star girlfriend, Darla, in a Thing suit).  Sound weird?  Well it was, but it had originality, fun, and most importantly, heart.  It didn’t hurt that Michael Allred handled the artwork, and his gorgeous, cartoony style fit the title to perfection.

Batwoman

Batwoman proposes to maggie Sawyer.  Groundbreaking and powerful.  Too bad DC had to mess it all up afterwards.  Fingers crossed for Andreyko.

Alas, the tale of Batwoman should probably be a blog post all on its own, but it has been examined and talked over by many better writers/bloggers than me, so I will try to keep it down to a paragraph or two.  Nothing DC has put out in the last decade can compare to the excitement generated and quality served that Batwoman, first under the masterful team of Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III.  When Greg left the title due to editorial interference from DC, Batwoman fans collectively held their breath. Would their beloved title survive?  When the announcement came that the writing duties would be taken over by artist Williams III, and that he would continue to draw every other story arc, you could feel the internet sigh in relief. Personally, although I would miss Rucka, who really was an act that couldn’t be topped for this title, I was thrilled because the artist who would be alternating with Williams III was Amy Reeder, who I also loved.  Her work on Madame Xanadu was clean and fresh, but also broke convention and would be a perfect counterpoint for Williams III.  Alas, after a couple of issues, ‘creative differences’ forced Reeder off the title. Somehow Batwoman survived yet another creative shake-up, but the third, and most recent will be the make or break moment, I fear.  In a glorious moment, Williams III had Kate Kane aka Batwoman, propose to her beloved, Maggie Sawyer.  Before any follow-up could be seen in the book itself, the news broke that DC was not allowing any characters to get married (because all their characters had to be angst-ridden and miserable, which marriage prevents) and due to larger creative differences, J.H. Williams III was leaving the title.  Now that was a blow that I doubted Batwoman could survive. Yet somehow, some way, DC got one of the very few writers that might be able to take the reins successfully to do just that.  Marc Andreyko, whose amazing work on Manhunter could have been a precursor to Batwoman, has taken over the writing duties of Batwoman.  The real question is, as 2014 kicks off, can Marc rise above the editorial interference that seems to be the true enemy Batwoman must face to rise triumphant back to her former glory.  Only time will tell.  2014 will either be one more sigh of relief, or the year that Batwoman comes crashing down from the heights she has existed in since her launch.

 

 

 

Fearless Defenders

Cullen Bunn had big plans for the superheroines of Marvel in Fearless Defenders.  Too bad it only lasted 12 issues.

Cullen Bunn did something promising at the end of his Fear Itself: The Fearless miniseries a couple of years ago.  He ended the story with Valkyrie realizing that she needed to gather together a new group of Valkyries to be ready to combat evil, etc.  What followed in 2013 was a series to surprising when you think about Marvel’s track record, that the fact that it lasted 12 issues was an astounding feat that I will always treasure.  It may not have been the most innovative writing, or the most polished art, but it spoke directly to my particular fan-boy heart. Fearless Defenders was basically a forum for writer Cullen Bunn to spotlight the heroines (and villainesses) of Marvel.  It starts as an odd copule scenario, Brunnhilde the Valkyrie and Misty Knight, bionic detective coming together to combat evil.  Along the twelve-issue run we are treated to an assortment of well-known (She-Hulk, Storm, Black Cat, Elektra), fan-favorite (Tigra, Dani Moonstar, Hellcat, Colleen Wing, Thundra, Elsa Bloodston) and downright obscure (Hippolyta, Clea, Tarantula) heroines coming  together for some kick-ass adventure. Add to that a terrific new ‘human’ character, Annabelle, who gets caught up in the team’s adventures and falls for Valkyrie, who, being an Asgardian goddess, is not necessarily opposed to a relationship with another woman.  Sadly, that gets slightly derailed when Annabelle is killed and with a little help for Clea, Valkyrie rescues her soul but ends up having to share her body with her. And that’s just the start.  When I read what Mr. Bunn had planned for the longer run of this title, my soul just weeps.  Why wasn’t this title flying off the shelves!  Then, I step back and wonder, how did he sell more than a dozen copies?  I’m so thankful this title existed, and I’m so thankful that this Marvel Now initiative gave Marvel the balls to get behind it for a year.  Who knows?  Perhaps the Fearless Defenders will return?

 

 

 

 

Hawkeye

Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is original and fun.  Surprised (and happy) that this one is still being published!

Matt Fraction has an offbeat sensibility.  And I really, really welcome it in comics.  Just take a look at FF and Hawkeye?  I’ve always enjoyed Hawkeye (Clint Barton) as a character, but since the Bendis-i-zation of all things Avengers, I was pretty much over most of them as characters.  When this new Hawkeye series was announced, honestly, what caught my attention were the fantastic covers created by David Aja.  I also read an interview with Fraction somewhere where he mentioned that both Clint and Kate Bishop – the other Hawkeye – would be appearing in this title.  My interest was suitably piqued. The rest is history.  Hawkeye is one of the most original mainstream superhero comic today.  It’s firmly rooted in the superhero world, with references to Hawkeye’s Avengers membership, and villains like Madame Masque popping in from time to time, but the stories’ focus is much more personal.  From Clint trying to protect his building’s fellow tenants from a shady landlord, Kate trying to find a job, or Clint’s dog having an issue-long adventure on his own, Hawkeye never ceases to please. And it’s truly showing in the non-comic book store world.  Collected editions of the Hawkeye comic are showing up next to Fables on the top selling graphic novel lists on Amazon. This is the way you grab an audience, people.  Not by playing it safe, but by taking chances.  Thanks, Matt.

 

 

 

 

 

Red She-Hulk

Biggest surprise of the year

Have I said this too many times already?  Surely this was the biggest surprise of the year for me.  That whole Red Hulk think was totally lost on me over the last few years, and when they started in on the Red She-Hulk?  I just couldn’t be bothered.  There was a perfectly good She-Hulk running around: Jennifer Walters, and the spotlight on any She-Hulk should be on her.  Sure, Betty Ross Banner is a character with a lot of history, and the fact that she’s got some Hulk issues of her own is vaguely interesting, I just didn’t see the need. So why did I pick up the first issues of the new Red She-Hulk comic?  I really have no idea.  Jeff Parker was the creative force behind Agents of Atlas, which I actually didn’t read, but heard good things about it.  I’m wracking my brain, but honestly, I can’t remember why I picked it up, but something about that very first issue, with the Avengers trying to hunt Red She-Hulk down, and with Machine Man of all people being the readers’ point of entry, that really clicked, and like Journey Into Mystery featuring Sif, there was something just old school and fun, while still being original, about Red She-Hulk.  Too bad it only last 8 issues.

 

 

 

 

 

X-Men

Brian Wood’s X-Men

Despite being saddled with a mutant-line crossover a couple issues after it debuted, X-Men has managed to find a nice identity and let the central characters shine.  What could have easily been a gimmick — let’s feature a team of X-Men that’s all women — very quickly became something much more organic and fun under Brian Wood’s steady hand.  It has helped that he’s had a couple of terrific artists helping him out, first Olivier Copiel, then Terry and Rachel Dodson, but the dynamic between the characters, the action sequences, the rhythm of the stories… by gosh, you might not even notice that there aren’t any guys featured!  It’s just kind of business as usual! The roster has changed slightly since the start. Kitty Pryde has left the building (sadly).  Kitty is such a mature and stabilizing presence, I would have liked to seen her play off some of the more volatile characters a bit more.  That said, the introduction of X-Factor’s Monet (M) into the mix in the last couple of issues is inspired, and should make for a nice team dynamic.   Wood has set up a little tension between Storm and Rachel, which is nice.  It’s nice to see Rachel do much of anything, actually.  And having Jubilee as the catalyst of sorts for this team was kind of nice as well.  Especially since the fact that she’s a vampire now is barely mentioned.  Maybe they’ll just forget about it.  It’s nice that the students are all running around in the background as well, interacting where appropriate.  I’m also loving the natural growth of the Sisterhood, a team of super villainesses to oppose the X-Men.  And the fact that Brian is reaching beyond the mutantverse to populate this Sisterhood with the likes of the Enchantress and Typhoid Mary is inspired.  If the writing and art stays at this level, X-Men could be around for a long time.

 

Mixed Bags

Guardians of the GalaxyBefore I get into the two major families that Marvel focuses on, let me say a brief word about Guardians of the Galaxy.  A few years ago, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning revitalized Marvel’s cosmic line of comics through a couple of major events called Annhiliation and Annihilation: Conquest.  Among the titles they launched was a whacky band of cosmic misfits, The Guardians of the Galaxy.  Led by Starlord, their roster was  a loose collection of space-faring warriors such as Drax, Gamora, Captain Marvel (Phyla-Vell), Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Moondragon, Mantis, Cosmo, Bug, and a few more.  It was fresh, it was funny, the characters were distinct and unique.  One of the best comics in the last ten years.  With the announcement last year that Marvel’s next new movie in their stable would be a Guardians of the Galaxy film, a new series was launched written by Marvel powerhouse Brian Michael Bendis.  It was a stripped down roster, Starlord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot, with the addition of Neil Gaiman’s creation, Angela.  And amazingly (not) Mr. Bendis took every ounce of character and intelligence out of the book.  The characters are the blandest batch of heroes to be found.  They took away Gamora’s inappropriately revealing costume and replaced it with ugly, clunky armor that makes her pretty generic looking.  They added in Iron Man just because.  It’s really pretty abysmal.  Not even a very brief appearance by my favorite ex-Guardian, Mantis, could perk up this blah title.  Well, I waited out Bendis over in the Avengers.  Maybe in ten years, Guardians of the Galaxy will have a new writer and I will enjoy it once again.

The Avengers

Not counting Young Avengers, which is so far removed from the Avengers family, I just pretend it’s not even related.  Marvel leaned heavily on the Avengers family of titles this year with not one, but two major events wrapped around them.  The first, Age of Ultron came and went without a whole lot of impact.  For me, the main positive moment in this event came from the prominent role played by Susan Storm Richards, the Invisible Woman.  A thank you to Bendis for including her in that role.  I barely remember the rest of the story.

Infinity

Infinity was a bit of a dud. Overlong and repetitious.

The main event of 2013 was called Infinity, and it was helmed by Jonathan Hickman.  This one crossed over throughout pretty much all the Avengers titles to varying degrees of success.  There was a whole lot of repetition, i.e. here’s the same exact story from Captain America’s point of view in The Avengers; here it is from Captain Marvel’s point of view in Captain Marvel; here it is from Spider-woman’s point of view in Avengers Assemble… you get the idea?  One thing Infinity did for me was help me come to the realization that Hickman’s Avengers is not my cup of tea.  It’s all big ideas, zero characterization.  He’s swollen the Avengers roster to about 35 members, and honestly, they are pretty interchangeable.  There are literally no defining characteristics that make one character any different from another.  Sure, Captain America spouts orders – but so does Captain Marvel.  Thor just wants to hit things — well so does Smasher.  And on… and on.  Some of the sister Avenger titles fare a little better.  Avengers Assemble written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Warren Ellis, focused more on the lady Avengers, and brought some interesting insight to their tale.  Hickman’s New Avengers featuring the Illuminati, was slightly more interesting because it was focused more tightly on a small group of characters. Uncanny AvengersThe one new title that I have been enjoying a great deal is Mighty Avengers.  While it’s too soon to tell how long it will last, or how long I will like it, it features an interesting mix of characters, including Spectrum (Monica Rambeau), She-Hulk, White Tiger, and Luke Cage, among others, and is the most diverse gathering of heroes that Marvel has put together.  Similarly, reaching back to Âge of Ultron, the one new title to emerge from that event is Avengers A.I. starring Hank Pym, the Vision, and some other artificial intelligences.  It’s intriguing and fun, and this latest issues reveal that Jocasta would be involved has me even more interested. The one major Avengers title that somehow managed to avoid the Infinity onslaught was also the best of the bunch.  Uncanny Avengers was born out of last year’s Avengers vs. X-men event.  Helmed by Rick Remender, Uncanny Avengers has taken a bold premise, humans and mutants working together quite visibly, and created a major epic storyline that doesn’t sacrifice some powerful character work.  Remender had the challenging job of integrating the Scarlet Witch back onto a team after Bendis dragged her character through the mud every way you could conceive of, and he has done so effectively and without sacrificing what came before.  He has also written the Wasp back in character, flirtatious, yet tough and capable.  He has integrated former X-Men, Havok, Rogue and Sunfire into the mix nicely… and of course, Wolverine, who was already an Avenger.  Honestly, this one took me by surprise.  I hadn’t really been expecting much.

X-Men

X-Factor

Good-bye X-Factor. We’ll miss you.

I’ve already shown the winner in the X-Men family above… and that would be Brian Wood’s X-Men, featuring a team of female X-Men.  Speaking of Peter David’s X-Factor, my #1 mutant book came to a close last year, and while it’s coming back in a different incarnation in 2014, these last few years, the title, spawned from a mini-series starring Madrox, was something really special.  Not only did it give us another fantastic gay couple, Rictor and Shatterstar, but it deftly wove together intricate stories featuring Pip the Troll and Hela, not an easy feat for mutant title.  I’m sure David’s new X-Factor will be a fun read… most of his work is… but there was something about that last X-Factor that was special.  I certainly never thought I’d like Layla Miller, and a couple issues under David’s pen, and she was a favorite. The real surprise for me has been Bendis’ All-New X-Men.  The concept, bring the original X-Men forward in time so they can see what a mess their Cylcops has made of the present, so they can go back and make sure this stuff doesn’t happen in their future, is just the kind of ridiculous claptrap that makes many people roll their eyes at comics.  Lets be clear, this was a way to bring Jean Grey back to life without bringing her back to life.  Since Alias, I haven’t really thought much of Bendis playing in the Marvel world.  In fact, his whole Avengers run is what nearly drove me away from Marvel.  So you can imagine how surprised I was when I was really enjoying his All New X-Men!

All-New X-Men

Second biggest surprise of 2013. I’m loving this.

 

DC

Other than Neil Gaiman’s return to  Sandman, the most positive thing I can say about DC is that some of their title maintained a certain level of quality.  I am in the midst of a major purge of DC titles, and their recent line-wide push, namely Villains United, hasleft me decidedly cold.  The editorial interference that drove J. H. Williams III from Batwoman was enough to put me off all on its own.  It’s a slim hope that the talented Marc Andreyko will be able to do something positive with the formerly amazing title under the current editorial regime.

Wonder Woman

The biggest surprise about Wonder Woman is that DC is letting Brian Azzarello continue to write it.  I am enjoying his fresh take on the series, but it’s truly baffling when there is another Wonder Woman starring in Justice League and Superman & Wonder Woman that doesn’t resemble Azzarello’s lead character much at all.  In fact, the Wonder Woman in those other two titles is one of the worst iterations of the character since the 70′s.  I can only imagine that at some point, Mr. Azzarello will move on to another title, and the Wonder Woman starring in her own comic will slowly (or quickly) morph into the one that more people are seeing over in Justice League.  That will truly be a sad day.

The Movement

Gail Simone’s new title, The Movement

Of course, the bright spot over at DC remains Gail Simone. She is such a talented writer that she consistently keeps me interested in Batgirl despite the fact that DC keeps dragging her into the Batman family and the stories going on over in that part of the world.  It seems that every few issues, Gail has to work in some Batman-related storyline that disrupts the flow of her own storytelling.  Gail has a second title over at DC called The Movement.  This oddball group of young super-heroes fight for the homeless, the poor, and the otherwise disenfranchised against a corrupt law enforcement agency.  It’s fresh and fun, and Gail injects it with her usual share of LGBT issues and other diversity.  That said, I don’t expect it to last much longer.  Gail will be writing her first story over at Marvel in over ten years, and it is my hope that they lure her over there to take part in the seeming renaissance that’s happening there.

Other than that, the titles that I am still enjoying over at DC include World’s Finest: Huntress & Power Girl, Earth 2 (largely thanks to Nicola Scott’s amazing artwork), Swamp Thing and Animal Man.  Trinity of Sin: Pandora intrigues me, and I always like to support female characters, but it has been so tied up in the whole Villains United story that I’m rapidly losing interest.  Same with Justice League Dark, which I find interesting because of the characters, but I wish it was off on its own and not tied up in all the goings on of the main Justice Leagues.

Vertigo’s mainstays, Fables and Fairest remain top quality books. The big problem over at DC is, as I mentioned, their Villains United initiative, where the focus for the past several months has been on villains.  I don’t read these comics for the villains, I read them for the heroes.  It’s all pretty boring, actually, and it caused me to drop a bunch of titles that I wasn’t really enjoying anyway.  And the rash of cancellations at DC of books that I was enjoying is disheartening:  Legion of Superheroes, Katana, Demon Knights, Sword & Sorcery: Amethyst, and I, Vampire.  Honestly, this is the first time I can remember that there wasn’t a Legion of Superheroes title being published, or at least in the works.

Other publishers

But there’s good work being down outside of the big two as well.  I don’t seek out a whole lot of indies, but Gail Simone got me to check out Red Sonja which she is writing for Dynamite.  Terry Moore continues his creative work on Rachel Rising.  Amy Reeder has started her own book along with writer Brandon Montclare called Rocket Girl for Image which has started off promisingly.  Colleen Doran has gotten Image to resume publication of her epic A Distant Soil, and I’m really enjoying seeing all my favorite kaiju come to life in the Godzilla titles for IDW.

So that’s it!  My year in comics.  Still reading, still enjoying them over all, although DC really is hitting a low point.  If nothing else, the comics industry is pretty quixotic, so who knows what will happen in 2014.

posted in Comics, Year-end lists | at 7:32 am | 0 Comments
6th October 2011
by Michael

The rest of the DCnU’s new #1′s

Picked up my remaining #1′s from DC’s new 52 for September, and like the first batch, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but overall I’d have to say more consistently enjoyable books. Again, I principally stuck to the books I had marked as Yes, Definitely, Yes, Probably and Maybe, with a single title being added on a whim. I also read my first two digital comics, both of which I ended up buying in paper format as well. I enjoyed the digital comics more than I thought I would. It’s a nice way to keep up with titles that I really like when I can’t get to the comic book store in a timely fashion. And now, on with the reviews.

Wonder WomanWonder Woman, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang – What I like about Wonder Woman is her nobility, her dignity, her strength, her wisdom… the fact that everyone respects her. I know that can make her boring for some people, or difficult to write as being a character the reader can relate to. What bothered me a little during last year’s relaunch was the fact that some of characteristics were lessened by making her younger and more like Buffy Summers. Fortunately, by the end of that arc, she had slowly returned to the character I loved, and Brian Azzarello certainly picks up with that character. Some people have criticized Wonder Woman #1 as being confusing and new-reader unfriendly. I didn’t find it so. We all started reading comics at some point in the middle of a story. If the story is good enough, you get drawn in and over the next couple of months, you fill in the gaps. You don’t have to start reading a new comic with a complete knowledge of the character at your fingertips. I don’t mind the violence in this book so much due to its background in Greek mythology, and the warrior aspect of Diana. As someone who sleeps in the nude, I certainly don’t understand the (few) complaints about Diana doing the same. An Amazon from a Greek Isle sleeping in the nude? I can’t imagine! And Chiang never draws Diana in a cheesecake pose. Azzarello’s Diana doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time in this first issue, but she’s tough and compassionate, and off to a good star in my eyes. 4 1/2 stars.

Justice League DarkJustice League Dark, Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin – While some have scoffed at the idea of a Justice League title made up of mystical characters, I was excited by the prospect, and Justice League Dark lived up to my expectations, and even surpassed them. Written by Peter Milligan, JLD reads like a super hero comic Vertigo style. The choice of characters is intriguing, with two strong female leads. Madame Xanadu and Zatanna are great characters, and they come off well here. Milligan always writes Shade the Changing Man well, and as unlikely as it sounds, it will be interesting to see Deadman and John Constantine interacting with teammates, especially given Constantine’s past associations with these characters (if he still has them in this new continuity. The use of the main Justice League characters works as well. I especially appreciated Wonder Woman’s acceptance of a mystical threat as opposed to Superman (who is vulnerable to magic) and Cyborg, a man born of science and technology. Milligan’s use of Enchantress/June Moon as the pieces villain and victim is also well done, creepy, and complex. Mikel Janin’s gorgeous artwork is icing on the cake of this terrific debut. I hope this book lasts, because I will be following it for the duration. 4 1/2 stars.

NightwingNightwing, Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrow – I’ve never followed a Nightwing title before, and while I’ve always liked the character, there was never anything about his solo exploits that drew me in. But recently, I’ve been intrigued by the Dick Grayson character, and Eddy Barrow’s art and Nightwing’s new costume design (which reminds me of Batwoman) are gorgeous. I felt this relaunch was the perfect opportunity to give him a try, and so far, I’m very pleased with the result. Dick is a character that’s easy to relate to. He’s a kid sidekick who has managed to transition to an adult who can stand on his own. He’s basically optimistic and likeable, but works well in the dark underbelly of Gotham City. Not having a lot of experience with his solo back story, I appreciate the exploration of Dick’s past by having him pay a visit to the circus where he was raised. Some have criticized Dick’s lack of concern over the death’s of two policeman that he might have been able to prevent had he not take the time to change into costume, but I felt the narrative conveyed that he misjudged the situation and took responsibility for it. It will be interesting to see what kind of supporting cast writer Kyle Higgins builds for Dick, but I appreciated the attention on the main character for this debut issue. If the quality of the writing and art remain this high, I will continue to read Nightwing, which was only a ‘maybe’ on my initial list. 4 stars

Birds of PreyBirds of Prey, Duane Swierczynski, Jesus Saiz – While it was nice to have Black Canary have a brief interaction with Barbara Gordon to harken back to the glory days of Birds of Prey, I am looking at this version as a brand new thing with nothing in common other than the name of the book. Actually, I was positively surprised at how much I enjoyed Birds of Prey. My expectations were pretty low, as superficially, it seems like a random assortment of superheroines thrown together to mimic a concept. Still, Black Canary is a strong leader/focal point for the team. Starling is a new character, and it will be interesting to learn about her. I’m not thrilled with Katana’s redesign, but I’ve enjoyed the character during her early Batman and the Outsiders days, so I’m interested in seeing her interact here. Poison Ivy is the big question mark. While I like the character, she seems rather shoehorned into this title. Of course, post-relaunch, I have no idea what her motivations will be. The writing is good, opening strongly with a mystery, then slowly revealing tidbits in flashback. Jesus Saiz’ artwork is clean and dynamic. He manages to fill a book with attractive women without making it seem like a teen’s wet dream. I’ll stick around for this. 4 cats.

AquamanAquaman, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis – I’ve always kind of liked Aquaman, and I always give his books a try. They often start off strong, but then lose of shift focus after a time and I lose interest. Then there’s Geoff Johns DC’s superstar lead writer. Not part of the Green Lantern bandwagon, and not a fan of excessive violence in comics, I’m very hit-or-miss with Johns. His writing does come off like fanfic, but that’s no always a bad thing. It works pretty well here in Aquaman. Aquaman stops some crooks, then stops for a bite at a seafood restaurant while all around him bystanders belittle him: “Does he need a glass of water?” “How can he eat fish ‘n chips? He talks to fish! They’re his friends!” Okay, it goes on a little too long, and is a little bit like being hit in the head by a sledgehammer, but he does show Aquamqn as a powerful hero, sets up a dangerous (and sure to be very bloody, with lots of dismemberment) threat approaching. Most important, Johns is a fan of Mera, and she will be an important element of this comic. That, in and of itself locks me in as a reader. Oh, and thanks Ivan, it’s really purty to look at too. 4 stars

SupermanSuperman, George Perez and Jesus Merino – With all the debate on decompressed storytelling in comics, it’s refreshing, and almost overwhelming to pick up a book written by George Perez. The book is thick with text, with small panels and incredibly detailed artwork. His books have got to be the least decompressed comics on the market. I’ve never really been a follower of Superman, but with Grant Morrison on Action Comics, and Perez on Superman (for the time being), I figured that this was the time to give him another try. Perez spends his time setting up the situation in Superman #1: introducing us to his supporting cast, laying out the world of journalism in today’s internet age, and setting up a dangerous and interesting menace for Metropolis and Superman. While I’m not enough of a fan to really care about the much-talked about dissolution of Lois and Clark’s marriage, I do think that there was much more to explore with them married, than rehashing their on-again/off-again attraction, or Clark’s unrequited pining for Lois. Again, it’s only been one issue, and I’ll keep reading at least as long as Perez is on the title (which is only going to be 3 or 4 issues based on recent press announcements — too bad.) 4 stars

Legion of Super-HeroesLegion of Super-Heroes, Paul Levitz and Francis Portela – What can I say? I’m a long time fan of this title. Not that I’m a Legion zombie. I’ve dropped the title before. But never while it featured the first and original version of the team. That said, so far, (and come on, it’s only been one issue) LoSH is merely adequate. It picks up pretty much where it left off before the relaunch, and after the events in the other DCnU Legion title, Legion Lost. I’m glad DC didn’t try to revamp this title, after doing so just over a year ago. I like the fact that they finally added some new members pulled from the Legion Academy, but why not Gravity Kid and Powerboy? A gay couple is exactly what the Legion needs (and I’m still hoping that Vi and Lightning Lass just come out finally and get married or something!) We’ll see where this title goes in the future, but I’m pretty certain I’ll be along for the ride. 3 1/2 stars

The Fury of FirestormThe Fury of Firestorm, Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone, and Yidiray Cinar – I’m picking up Firestorm for one reason, and one reason alone: Gail Simone. I will give anything Gail Simone writes a chance. It doesn’t mean I will keep reading it, but I will definitely give it a fair shot. I actually used to regularly read Firestorm’s title in the 80′s (or was it 90′s?) I loved Pat Broderick’s art, and the concept of a fused being, especially one involving two such disparate characters (high school jock and brilliant scientist) was pretty fun. Well the brilliant scientist is dead, and the second half of this fused being is a brilliant high school student who happens to be African-American, which leads in this new version of Firestorm, to some well-written explorations on race. I tend to prefer Gail’s team books to her solo books (actually I tend to prefer team books to solo books in general) but I have faith that she will build a fascinating supporting cast. This first issue was entertaining and kept my interest, but hasn’t yet drawn me in and made me want to find out more about the characters. Hopefully that will emerge in the next couple of issues. 3 stars.

SupergirlSupergirl, Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Mahmud Asrar – I haven’t read Supergirl in several years; not since her skirt got really short after Peter David left the title. I want to like Supergirl because I really want to support as many books as I can that feature super-heroines. What better time to give it another try than this new relaunch. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much given the solicits and the apparent story direction they were describing, but the first issue was intriguing enough to keep me reading. Not a lot happens in issues #1, other than give us pieces of Supergirl’s personality, and show us the range of her powers. And it sets her up for her first meeting/confrontation with her cousin (at least in the old continuity) Superman. The high cut of her shorts did distract me a little… especially since in some profile shots it looks like that she’s naked from the waist down, but other than that, I didn’t find the book to be all that sexist. 3 stars

VoodooVoodoo, Ron Marz and Sami Basri – I don’t know much about Voodoo. I read a handful of the WildC.A.T.S. issues when they first came out, but don’t really remember much about the character. I decided to give this series a try to see how it would mesh with the DC Universe, and to support another female led title. Yes, I read that she was a stripper by profession, more opportunity for some barely clad women for the men who like that sort of thing in comics, but at least it was in context. The book held my interest, and intrigued me enough to keep reading. Of the two main supporting character, the man was a dick and got his just desserts, and the woman being set up to be Voodoo’s nemesis could develop into an interesting character. The art is fine, and the story compelling enough to keep me interested enough to see where it will lead. I’m in for now. 3 stars

Green Lantern: New GuardiansGreen Lantern: New Guardians, Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham – While never a big Green Lantern fan, Kyle Rayner has always been by far my choice to wear the ring. Surrounding him with a team of lanterns representing the spectrum appeals to me as a fan of team books, especially with a couple of female members. Unfortunately, the first issue is basically a set-up issue, bringing the characters together, and giving Kyle what appears to be a new origin story. While I will miss the Kyle who has already mastered his ring and has an illustrious career of being a Green Lantern behind him, it could be interesting to see his maturation into a Green Lantern starting from ground zero. It’s enough to keep me reading at any rate. 3 stars

DC Universe Presents: DeadmanDC Universe Presents: Deadman, Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chaing – Deadman is an interesting choice of character to kick off this title, which will be a series of rotating storylines featuring different characters (and presumably different creative teams). I suppose given the attention Deadman was given during Brightest Day, and the fact that he appears in Justice League Dark means that DC thinks he’s a character that could succeed. I’ve never been a fan of solo Deadman stories, but Paul Jenkins does a pretty good job drawing me in with this one. We get retold his origin, of course, yet there’s no mention of his experiences in Brightest Day as yet. I think that story, along with his relationship with Dove, made him a more interesting character for me. Bernard Chaing’s artwork is crisp and clean. This title will depend largely on it’s featured character, of course, but the possibilities are endless. 2 1/2 stars

I,VampireI, Vampire, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino – Here was a title that I had no intention of buying, but for some reason, I decided to give it a try. I’m pretty much over vampires, but when I flipped through the book, the art caught my eye. Like Voodoo, I am somewhat interested in the integration of the vampire mythos being introduced into the world of superheroes. The story sets up a conflict between two long-lived vampires, one who feels it is time for vampires to stop being an oppressed minority and subjugate humankind, the other seeing that path lead to self-destruction when there are opponents like Superman in the world. The two characters have a long, involved history, as both lovers and foes, which could be interesting. I’ll continue to read this for a bit and see if it keeps my interest. 2 1/2 stars

Blue BeetleBlue Beetle, Tony Bedard and Ig Guara – I’ve never read Blue Beetle’s comic, but I grew to appreciate this new rendition of the character during is recent appearances in team books and crossovers. Jaime is a Puerto Rican high school student who becomes the host for a semi-sentient suit of alien armor that gives him super powers. I wanted to support DC’s nod to diversity by picking up this title. Like Green Lantern: New Guardians, Blue Beetle #1 is a set-up issue retelling Jaime’s origin and establishing the cast of characters. We don’t actually see Jaime in his Blue Beetle armor until the final splash page. Still, the story unfolds well, and I will continue to support the book and watch the storyline unfold. 2 1/2 stars

HawkmanThe Savage Hawkman, Tony S. Daniel and Philip Tan – While I have enjoyed Hawkman’s previous series in the past, I wasn’t all that interested in this new “savage” take… especially without a Hawkgirl or Hawkwoman involved. Still, I decided to give this a try, with very few expectations. It wasn’t as uninteresting as I thought, but it didn’t really wow me. There’s an interesting take, almost similar to Blue Beetle, where Carter Hall is possessed by the Nth metal that defies gravity. I was interested enough to keep following the title and see where it goes, but I’m not optimistic. 2 stars

All in all I’m enjoying the DC relaunch. There are a small handful of books I really like, a large swatch that are pretty good and I will enjoy following, a very small group that I was disappointed in, and then a bunch that I didn’t try and I don’t feel I’m missing out on. Anyone else have any thoughts?

posted in Comics, Nonsense | at 8:38 am | 1 Comment
30th July 2011
by Michael

A Surprising and Welcome Postscript to Yesterday’s Post

How interesting to discover this morning, that DC co-publishers, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee released this blog post yesterday on the DC Universe blog, The Source. It’s a response to the community’s uproar and criticism of the lack of female comics creators and characters.

They write:

Over the past week we’ve heard from fans about a need for more women writers, artists and characters. We want you to know, first and foremost, that we hear you and take your concerns very seriously.

Is this damage control? Oh sure. But it’s also a response that shows they’re at least acknowledging the criticism and saying they are doing something about it:

We’ll have exciting news about new projects with women creators in the coming months and will be making those announcements closer to publication. Many of the above creators will be working on new projects, as we continue to tell the ongoing adventures of our characters. We know there are dozens of other women creators and we welcome the opportunity to work with them.

Maybe next time they’re called out, they’ll just answer the question instead of mocking the person asking. Oh wait, they probably need to go back and write a response that won’t piss everyone off further. They seem to be a lot better scripted than off-the-cuff.

Still, it’s nice to see this, and let’s hope something comes of it.

posted in Comics | at 7:38 am | 0 Comments
29th July 2011
by Michael

My Sad Realization About the Comics Industry

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman in the DCnU

Anyone who pays any attention to comics on the Internet has probably noticed a bit of a kerfluffle going on after some comments made by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio at the San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC). A question was asked about the lack of female comics creators at DC, and DiDio by all accounts, avoided the question and treated it with some derision. I wasn’t there, and I haven’t listened to the audio; only read the reports, but I’m not really surprised. Comics is a man’s world, and it’s pretty surprising to me that I’ve been a comics reader for over 40 years. Especially, as I realized a few years ago, I’m not actually a fan of superheroes, I am a fan of women with super powers. Woe is me. That doesn’t give me a whole lot to get excited about in the world of comics, and I tend to get really excited by some of the slightest scraps of attention paid to female characters.

The long-awaited Batwoman solo title in the DCnUBut let me get to the point of this article, and the realization that I have finally admitted to myself about the comics industry. For some background, here are some good articles about the situation that we suddenly find ourselves in. I first learned about the SDCC here: http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/7985599811/panels. Then the intelligent and highly enteraining DC Women Kicking Ass Tumblr Blog followed up with http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/8130151171/bgsdccinterview. Tonight I read a couple more articles, that led to more background. Graeme Macmillan wrote for Newsarama this article, http://blog.newsarama.com/2011/07/29/the-dcu-relaunch-tough-on-female-creators-tough-on-female-characters/, which referred to Laura Hudson’s article here, http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/07/28/dc-dan-didio-female-creators/, and Tim Hanley’s article here: http://thanley.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/there-are-actually-less-female-characters-in-the-dc-relaunch-than-there-are-now/.

Birds of Prey in the DCnU

What really started to bother me was not the allegations that DC doesn’t hire enough female creators, or DC doesn’t feature enough female characters, both of which are statements I agree with, but some of the inferences I gleaned from Laura Hudson’s article. She talks about the danger of a writer not being able to capture the experiences of a character who is not like them. She states, “And if you’re a creator and you’re trying to write and draw characters that are different from you, it can mean that you end up sounding inauthentic, tone-deaf, or worse, actively feeding into stereotypes.” While this is certainly true and has happened frequently… okay, endlessly in comics (Laura includes an example in her article) it worries me that she makes this point in an article about the difficulty DC claims it has finding good, female comics creators.

The problem, to me, of putting these two idea together is that one affects the other. If a writer is good (and there is a wide range of talent currently writing in comics) their gender, race, sexuality, etc. should matter one whit. They should have an abundance of creativity, empathy, observational powers, and insight to be able to write, convincingly, a character of a different gender, race, sexuality, etc. Does this mean we should be satisfied if DC has all male writers even though they write terrific stories about complex women? Well, no. But even if that were the case, at least we’d have some good stories about complex women.

What really bothers me, and what I finally verbalized to myself is what I think is the root of the problem. This issue has emerged with the upcoming relaunching of the DC Universe: 52 new #1′s that people are complaining are reducing the number of female-led titles. Let’s look at the likely reasons DC is doing this relaunch. They are the #2 comic publisher in an industry that is floundering. The #1 company (Marvel) is gaining ground by focusing on fewer and fewer different titles, and for the most part, ignoring women. The market is glutted with Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and X-Men titles and very little else. So you’re #2, and you’re looking around to do something bold and potentially ground-breaking in order to gain some market share, and maybe even revitalize the market a little. So you’re certainly going to look at your competition that is consistently outselling you, and see what they’re doing right. Well, they’re certainly not branching out to feature more titles with women, more titles by women, more titles featuring diverse nationalities or sexualities. They consistently sell comics by playing it pretty safe. Why do they do this? Because that’s what sells.

Can we just accept this bottom line, people? Marvel and DC, in the end, are all about making money. They’re not going to spend too much money, or risk too much, by publishing a title that doesn’t make money. Sure, they’ll try for a little while, hoping it might catch on, or even because they’re trying to feature a Latino, or gay, or female character, but in the end, if people aren’t buying it in big numbers, it’s going to be history.

We’re in a Catch-22 situation. If DC or Marvel does try to diversify a little, it usually takes too long for the word to get out for them to turn around and be profitable. Now, maybe this relaunch of DC’s will do exactly that, and titles like Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Birds of Prey and Voodoo will benefit from this attention and promotional hype, and attract a new audience that actually supports the books and gets some people who would like to read superhero comics beyond the male-centric stuff that we’re force fed, which will in turn, embolden DC to try more comics like Huntress, Black Orchid, Dr. Light, Vixen and Stargirl. And so on.

It’s not easy loving comics that feature women with super powers. Especially when you also demand well-written, well-drawn comics. But every now and then, individual writers and artists will deliver, often surreptitiously, behind the disguise of a mainstream, superhero comic. (One of my favorite examples is how Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took the testosterone heavy Marvel cosmic event, Annihilation, which featured one or two women in supporting roles, and slowly and quietly kept adding more fascinating females, and gave them more and more amazingly complex storylines, until we were reveling in the likes of Phylla-Vell, Moondragon, Gamora, Mantis, Medusa, Crystal and many, many more). See? It can be done?

Moondragon and Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy

Please keep in mind, that I do understand that there are exceptions. Marvel tried some nifty things with their Year of the Woman. DC has actually done pretty well of late with regard to women and other diverse characters. I can only hope that despite the apparent dip in female characters/creators in the DCnU, we will see a resurgence. But then both companies go and do the stupid, insensitive things like having Wonder Women holding Mera’s severed head on the cover of a Flashpoint comic, or changing Harley Quinn’s costume to something so ridiculous as to be beyond laughable, or Marvel continually forgetting about all the fascinating female characters they have in their rich history and continuing to focus on the same characters over and over again.

That’s it, that’s my rant. I didn’t really intend to do this, or for it to be so long, but since I don’t have many close friends who read comics, I needed an outlet somewhere. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Feel free to contradict, agree, or enlighten in the coomments.

posted in Comics | at 10:15 pm | 0 Comments
28th June 2011
by Michael

Thanks, I’ll Pass – and a Footnote

This last batch of titles from the new DCnU relaunch are titles that I have no interest in at all. It would take some pretty high praise to get me to even take a look. Not that they might not be anyone else’s cup of tea.

  • All-Star Western (Gray; Palmiotti) – Not into Westerns.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight (Finch) – I’m giving one Batman title a try. That’s enough.
  • Batman and Robin (Tomasi; Gleason) – Ditto.
  • Blackhawks (Costa; Lashley) – Only Lady Blackhawk would make me pick this up and flip through it.
  • Captain Atom (Krul; Williams II) – For some reason, this one just doesn’t interest me at all. And I really don’t like the redesign — at least what I’ve seen of it so far.
  • Deathstroke (Higgins; Bennett) – Not interested.
  • The Flash – If it’s Wally West, I’ll flip through it, but I’m pretty sure it’s Barry Allen, one of DC’s most boring characters, and one that really, really didn’t need to come back.
  • Green Arrow (Krul; Jurgens) – This character has been so damaged in recent years that I have zero interest in seeing where he goes from here.
  • Green Lantern (Johns; Mahnke) – I really dislike Hal Jordan, so this one’s out for me.
  • Green Lantern Corps. (Tomasi; Pasarin) – Eh. I’m already trying on Green Lantern title. That’s enough for me.
  • Grifter (Edmonson; Cafu) – Nope.
  • I, Vampire (Fialkov; Sorrentino) – Ick. This looks terribiel
  • Men of War (Brenden; Derenick) – Not a fan of war comics.
  • Static Shock (McDaniel; Rozum) – This character just does nothing for me.
  • Superboy (Lobdell; Silva) – I suppose this one might surprise me, and I don’t have anything against Superboy, but from what I’ve seen so far, not interested.

As a footnote, the one DC title that isn’t involved in the relaunch that I’ll continue to pick up in Vertigo’s Fables. I’m actually a little surprised that there is only one Vertigo book that I’m going to read, but unless they start to focus more on the supernatural side of things, that’s how it will be. I guess with characters like John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Madame Xanadu, Animal Man, and Shade, the Changing Man all fully integrated into the mainstream DC Universe, there’s no reason to focus on them in Vertigo.

posted in Comics, Nonsense | at 9:24 am | 0 Comments
27th June 2011
by Michael

Doubtful…

This next category of new relaunches from the DCnU are titles that I’m pretty doubtful about. I plan to flip through them at the comic book store and if something catches my eye, I will pick up the first issue. But I would be surprised if any of them make it onto my regular pull list.

  • Batman (Snyder; Capullo) – Not a huge fan of Batman’s solo exploits. Strangely enough, i enjoy Batman in team scenarios, but his solo stories don’t do much for me. Just not interested.
  • Catwoman (Winick; March) – Between the uber-cheesecake cover, and my ambivalence toward Judd Winick as a writer, this is one title featuring a superheroine that I think I’ll be passing on. However, I may be surprised.
  • Detective Comics (Daniel) – See Batman above.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (Lemire; Ponticelli) – Of this list, this one has the best chance of piquing my interest. I have no interest in Frankenstein as a character, however, the set up sounds somewhat intriguing, and I do enjoy Lemire’s writing. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if I find myself picking up the first story arc of this title. In fact, if I read more about it, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. might graduate to the “Maybe” list.
  • Hawk and Dove (Gates; Liefeld) – Surely this must rank as my biggest disappointment of the announcements. I like Dove a lot. She’s an intriguing character that has a lot of room for development. Her relationship with Boston Brand ended tragically at the end of Brightest Day. I’m very sorry we don’t get to see what Gail Simone had in mind for them as part of Birds of Prey long term. That said, Rob Liefeld is quite possibly the most horrendous artist ever published, and I would have a great deal of difficulty supporting anything that features his art. Here’s hoping they switch artists immediately, then I will try this title out.
  • O.M.A.C. – (Didio; Giffen) – No interest whatsoever, but as a new title, I will flip through it and see if it can catch my attention.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws (Lobdell; Rocafort) – I’m a little surprised that this one ended up on my “Maybe” list as opposed to my “Absolutely not” list. I do have a slight fondness for Arsenal, but Starfire bores me to tears, and Red Hood should have been left out completely. No Stephanie Brown, Power Girl, JSA, Secret Six, but a revamped Red Hood? It;s criminal.
  • Suicide Squad (Glass; Rudy) – Normally, this would be a much more likely candidate for purchase, but man, oh, man, that cover is atrocious! The original Suicide Squad was brilliant. Brilliant concept, superb execution. This just looks like trash. Would love for this to surprise me though.
  • Teen Titans (Lobdell; Booth) – I was hoping a revamped Teen Titans might interest me in the title again… especially with the inclusion of so many superheroines, but again, this cover, and the costume redesigns just look abysmal. I would love a good Teen Titans book though, so I will flip through this and hope for the best. However, I remain… doubtful.

Tomorrow will be my final list of :”Absolutely Nots.” Titles I just have no interest in whatsoever and would have to work really hard for me to even flip through them.

posted in Comics | at 12:00 pm | 0 Comments
26th June 2011
by Michael

Maybe…

So this next batch of new titles from the DCnU relaunch are titles that I might be picking up. I will add them to my picklist, and will at least give the first issue a try, but I am making no commitments to continuing on with them.

  • Action Comics (Morrison; Morales) – I don’t currently read any of the Superman titles, but I’d like to give this one a chance, particularly because it’s Grant Morrison writing it. It will have to really grab me though for me to keep reading.
  • Batwing (Winick; Oliver) – This one is a bit intriguing, and as I said in an earlier post, I’m all for supporting more diversity in comics. I’ll check this out and see what I think.
  • Mister Terrific (Wallace; Robinson) – Mister Terrific is a character that I’ve always thought had some potential, but I’ve only read his JSA exploits, so I can’t quite imagine him as a solo character. Still, see above re: diversity, so I’ll give this a shot.
  • Nightwing (Higgins; Barrows) – I’ve always liked Nightwing as a character, even though I didn’t follow his earlier solo series. Since this relaunch gives me an opportunity to try new titles, I will give it a try. I do like the costume redesign.
  • Red Lanterns (Milligan; Benes) – I can’t quite figure this title out, but it’s got Peter Milligan writing, and it’s got Lanterns fueled by rage, so it could be pretty darn cool. I’ll check it out.
  • The Savage Hawkman (Daniels; Tan) – Ummm… not too sure about this one. I enjoy Hawkman as a character, but largely because of having Hawkgirl/woman to balance him out. The savage part doesn’t really impress me, but because Hawkman intrigues me a bit, I’ll give this a try.
  • Stormwatch (Cornell; Sepulveda) – Adding the Martian Manhunter to this title is really interesting. For that reason alone I’ll give it a try.
  • Supergirl (Green; Johnson; Asrar) – This so looks and sounds bad. I would love to love a Supergirl title, but no one has made her interesting to me since Peter David. I don’t expect this to last more than one issues on my picklist, but I’ll try to keep an open mind.
  • Superman (Perez; Marino) – See above for Action Comics but substitute George Perez for Grant Morrison.
  • Voodoo (Marz; Basri) – The only reason I’m giving this a try is because it’s a comic book with a superheroine as the lead. Worth a shot. If it’s any good, I’ll keep going. Not a fan of the Wildstorm comics, but anything is possible.

Two more categories left. Tomorrow I’ll list the titles I’m doubtful about.

posted in Comics | at 11:38 pm | 0 Comments
25th June 2011
by Michael

Looks Promising… we’ll see in the long run

The next category of relaunches in the DCnU that I will post about are the “Yes, provisionally” titles. These are titles that will be on my pull list, and I plan to give them a good chance. These are books I expect to follow, unless they disappoint me after the first story arc or so.

  • Batgirl (Simone; Syaf) – I will give anything Gail Simone writes a chance, and I’m actually looking forward to this title. That said, I’m from that camp that really prefers Barbara Gordon as Oracle. I always enjoyed Batgirl as an idea, but honestly, she was never a favorite. I’m very interested to see what Gail does with Barbara in the cowl, so I’m sure I’ll be in for the long haul.
  • Birds of Prey (Swierczynski; Saiz) – I love Birds of Prey as a concept; and I will support almost any book focused on superheroines, but I can’t deny the fact that when Gail left the title to write Wonder Woman a few years ago, the quality suffered. Add to that the fact that I can’t really imagine the Birds with Barbara, and I’m not thrilled with the costume redesigns, so I’m slightly concerned. Still, I’ll give this title a fair chance, and I’m hoping for the best.
  • Blue Beetle (Bedard; Guara) – Honestly, I’ve never followed Blue Beetle in his solo book. However, I quite liked his appearances in Justice League: Generation Lost, and I’d like to support books that feature diverse character, so I’m going to give this one a good college try.
  • DC Universe Presents (Jenkins; Chang) – I’m generally a fan of Paul Jenkins work, and I do have a soft spot for anthology comics, so I will be giving DC Universe Presents a try. I’m hoping they use this title to spotlight some of the less than A-list characters in the DCU, and Deadman is a good start. I wonder if they will be following up on any of the Brightest Day storyline? I’d love to see a role for Dove in this story.
  • Demon Knights (Cornell; Neves) – I’m not a huge fan of the Demon, but as I mentioned yesterday, Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder turned Madame Xanadu into a must read for me, so I’m intrigued by her role in this title. As long as she’s featured somewhat prominently, I’ll be following this title.
  • The Fury of Firestorm (Simone; Van Sciver; Cinar) – As I mentioned above, I will give anything Gail writes a chance, however I’m even less of a fan of Firestorm that I am of Batgirl, so this will be a bit of a difficult sell for me. However, if anyone can make me a fan, it’s Gail Simone, so I’m committed to giving this title a try.
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians (Bedard; Kirkham) – Of all the Green Lanterns, Kyle Rayner is my favorite. Add to that a new rainbow of lanterns, some sure to be superheroines, and this one has me intrigued. I’ve never followed a Green Lantern title regularly, but I view this as an opportunity to give this one a try.
  • Justice League (Johns; Lee) – I have followed all the versions of the Justice League except for Tony Robinson’s recent disappointing run, so I will definitely give this one a try. I’m not super hopeful though, as I’m fairly over Jim Lee as an artist. Still, Geoff Johns usually does some interesting things, and I want to see how he handles Wonder Woman, so I’ll give this a try.
  • Resurrection Man (Abnett; Lanning; Dagnino) – I barely remember the last iteration of this title, but I am a fan of what Abnett and Lanning have been doing lately, so I’m looking forward to Resurrection Man. Not sure how long I’ll stick with it, but as long as it’s entertaining, I’ll keep buying it.

Come back tomorrow to see my list of “maybes.”

posted in Comics | at 11:44 pm | 0 Comments
25th June 2011
by Michael

What I’m Looking Forward to in the DCnU

It’s been a few weeks, and the dust has started to settle. Here are my thoughts about the big DC Comics announcement that they would be relaunching their universe with 52 new #1 issues — a total revamp of their superhero line. Like many, my knee-jerk reaction was, what? How could they do this? That’s it for me. This quickly turned into cautious optimism, even excitement about the bold new direction, and groundbreaking attempt to turn the superhero comic industry around.

Of course, not everything is a win, nor would I expect it to be. I certainly don’t buy and enjoy all the superhero titles that DC has coming out at the moment. And for every Batwoman, there are still numerous examples of how women and handled so shabbily in the world of superhero comics. (Don’t even get me started on the apparent fate of Mera in the Flashpoint event). Anyway, you can see the whole line-up of newly revamped titles coming out in September at Newsarama. I’m also going to list them all below, separated into five categories.

The “Yes, definitely” category – These are titles I will buy, and I expect to enjoy. Titles I’m really looking forward to for one reason or another.

  • Animal Man (Lemire; Foreman) – The family aspect of Vertigo’s Animal Man series was my favorite element, so the fact the Jeff Lemire is going to focus on Buddy’s family is a big plus for me. Plus, Lemire did some pretty interesting work on Sweet Tooth.
  • Aquaman (Johns, Reis) – Despite the paranthetical reference to Mera’s shabby treatment in Flashpoint above, Geoff Johns has done wonders for her in recent years. I’m on board with Aquaman because I think I read somewhere that Mera will feature prominently. If she does, I’m in. If she doesn’t, Aquaman slips to the next category.
  • Batwoman (Williams III; Reeder) – Most anticipated series in as long as I can remember. Batwoman is way cool, and with alternating artistic arc by J. H. Williams III and Amy Reeder, this is going to be heaven for me.
  • Justice League Dark (Milligan; Janin) I’m a big fan of the mystic side of superheroes, plus Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder made Madame Xanadu one of my favorite DC heroines, so I’m looking forward to this. Peter Milligan does some pretty interesting stuff, especially when he’s allowed to play a little crazy, and with his pet character Shade the Changing Man involved, this sure to be a little crazy. And Zatanna’s involved too. Win!
  • Justice League International (Jurgens; Lopresti) – I’ve been enjoying the JLI reunion. Fire, Ice and Vixen are all characters I enjoy. Plus Dan Jurgens did some fun stuff with Booster Gold, so I’m sure he’s committed to this project.
  • Legion Lost (Nicieza; Woods) – Legion fan here. I would give any Legion title a chance, so I’m on the ride for this one. Plus Nicieza handles team books well. Love Dawnstar too… and Yera is a bonus!
  • Legion of Superheroes (Levitz; Portela) – See above. I’m a big fan of Levitz’ current Legion run, and word is there will be little change in the relaunch. I’m so in.
  • Swamp Thing (Snyder; Paquette) – Giving this one a pretty confident try. I’m been around for all the Swamp Thing series, and all had strands that kept me entertained. This is probably the title in this category that I’m least convinced I will still be buying in a year, but I’m looking forward to it.
  • Wonder Woman (Azzarello; Chiang) – Huge WW fan, but not a fan of this most recent relaunch, which is wrapping up just in time for this next relaunch. Not a huge fan of the new costume, but I’m getting used to it. I’d be on board for just about any Wonder Woman comic, but I have to admit that I’m really intrigued by this creative team. I think Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are just about the last two creators I would have pegged for Wonder Woman, and that’s probably a good thing. Very excited about this.

Okay, this post is long enough. I will follow up with the rest of my categories tomorrow.

posted in Comics, Nonsense | at 8:51 am | 0 Comments
30th August 2009
by Michael

August Comics of Note

I’ve been on a bit of a comics jag lately, and the other day I picked up my semi-monthly haul of new comics.  After reading them (Friday night and Saturday) I decided to share some of my favorites of the month, since there were some pretty darn good ones in the mix.  It also showed me that I come firmly down on the DC side for the most part, with 7 of my top 10 coming from that company, and the other 3 coming from Marvel.  While I like some of the obscure Marvel heroines more than I like the DC characters, it’s clear that the writing and the stories that they’re producing are far superior (or at least more to my liking) than Marvel.  Anyway, here they are, my Top 10 comics of August.

  1. secret_six_12_page9Secret Six #12 written by Gail Simone, art by Nicola Scott.  Both of Gail’s titles  made the Top 2 this week, but I have to say, Secret Six #12 makes it to the top with the artistic aid of Nicola Scott.  The premise of Secret Six is this:  six villains (or at best, anti-heroes) band together originally to survive, and eventually because they enjoy working together.  In recent issues they got involved with a slavery ring, and discovered that Artemis, one of the Amazons, was a captive of the slavers.  This issues the ultimate Amazon shows up… yeah, that’s Wonder Woman.  She has an awesome smackdown with Jeannette, one of the more mysterious members of the Six, whose secret is finally revealed in this issue.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Diana captured as perfectly both in script or in image as this issues of Secret Six.  She is truly chilling and awesome to behold in this issue.  Take a look on the right.  DC Comics
  2. Detective Comics #856 featuring Batwoman written by Greg Rucka, art by J.H. Williams III.  I spoke a lot about Batwoman in my previous post so it’s really no surprise that she shows up so prominently in this list.  Again, the gorgeous art helps quite a bit, but Rucka’s writing is top notch.  Williams layouts take a little getting used to, but they sure are breathtaking.  You need to know a little bit of Batwoman’s brief history to follow this issue, but it also features a nifty meeting of Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer who share a spin on the dance floor.  The Question back-up story is a little lackluster, mainly due to Cully Hamner’s artwork.  It’s not bad, by any means, but it sure pales in comparison to Williams.  Rucka’s story is still compelling.  DC Comics
  3. Wonder Woman #35 written by Gail Simone, art by Aaron Lopresti.  Gail really knows how to write characters, and it’s such a thrill to see women characters in comics get such great treatment.  This arc is basically a Wonder Woman/Black Canary team up, and Gail really characterizes these two women wonderfully.  Now, if we could only get Nicola Scott to draw this title as well?  Awesome.  Anyway, this issue ties together a couple of storylines very nicely.  Diana and Dinah (Black Canary) are in Tokyo posing as underground wrestlers, in order to find one of Diana’s colleagues, Sarge Steel, who has been captured by one of her nemeses, Dr. Psycho.  Along comes the Pacific Islander goddess Pele, seeking revenge on Diana for her father’s death at the hands of Zeus.  Yeah, it probably sounds confusing to a non-comic reader, but this comic has it all.  Great characterization, kick-ass action, and an emotional wallop right at the end.  DC Comics
  4. gog 17Guardians of the Galaxy #17 written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, art by Brad Walker.  Marvel comes in with one of their cosmic titles, which is also the single most enjoyable title they are putting out right now.  Two of my favorite Marvel heroines are featured regularly, Moondragon (who only has a small part in this issue) and Mantis (who is absent from this issue), but this issue does guest star my second favorite Marvel heroine, Medusa along with the rest of the Inhumans Royal Family in this War of Kings follow-up.  The Inhumans have gone and detonated a deadly bomb to end the Kree/Shair War, and the result is a massive rift in time and space that threatens to destroy the cosmos.  The Guardians of the Galaxy go to confront the Inhumans for their actions, and to see if they can do something about the unravelling of the galaxy.  Naturally Medusa is a bit consumed by grief as it looks like her husband, and King of the Inhuamns, Black Bolt, has been obliterated.  As you can see in the image on the right, she doesn’t have much patience for Martyr’s “I told you so’s.”  Fortunately for the cosmos, Adam Warlock manages to stop the rift’s growth.  Unfortunately for the cosmos, the resulting timeshift causes him to become the villainous Magus.  It’s a pretty shocking ending, and great cosmic space opera.  Marvel comics
  5. X-Factor #47 written by Peter David, art by Valentine De Landro.  Pretty much the only X-title worth reading right now (except perhaps New Mutants, in my opinion) and that’s because of Peter David’s writing.  Humor, adventure, twists, emotional swings… Peter does it all, imbuing life and interest even into such cardboard characters as Longshot, Shatterstar, Strong Guy and his masterwork, Madrox the Multiple Man.  This issue is in the middle of a multi-part storyline, so it’s pretty darn confusing.  I’m not even going to try to summarize it.  Suffice it to say, Madrox, X-Factor’s leader, is trapped in the future with Layla Miller, trying to figure out a way to keep a nasty future from coming to past for mutantkind.  Meanwhile back in the present, a couple of Omega level sentinels are after Siryn and M, while Longshot confronts the apparent mastermind of the whole thing… who is shockingly revealed in the final panel.  Marvel comics
  6. Madame Xanadu #14 written by Matt Wagner, art by Michael Wm. Kaluta.  DC’s fantasy/horror/crime imprint, Vertigo, spawned the likes of such popular titles as The Sandman and Fables.  Now they have scored again with one of DC’s b-list mystics, the mysterious Madame Xanadu.  Issue #14 is part four of a storyline with art by original Madame Xanadu artist Michael Kaluta, and while it’s beautiful, it doesn’t have the appeal for me as Amy Reeder Hadley’s fine line work, and I look forward to her return in a few issues.  This storyline is set alternately in 1940s New York, where Madame Xanadu must solve a mystical serial killing, and 1493 when the Spanish Inquisition was at the height of its powers.  This issue also features a great encounter between Madame Xanadu and the Golden Age Sandman, aka Wesley Dodds, who is trying to solve the crimes in his own way.  There’s a dramatic cliffhanger where it looks like things are about to go terribly wrong for Xanadu in the 1493.  Wagner has turned a stock character into something magical and wondrous, and whose adventures each month I look forward to eagerly.  DC Comics/Vertigo
  7. kingsWar of Kings #6 of 6 written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, art by Paul Pelletier.  As mentioned above, Medusa is one of my all-time favorite heroines from Marvel, and she and the rest of the Royal Family of the Inhumans is featured prominently in the War of Kings miniseries which reached its conclusion this month.  It comes down to an epic personal battle between Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans, and Vulcan, man Emperor of the Shiar.  Black Bolt intends to detonate  a T-bomb, powered by his deadly voice, that will have deadly repercussions to the galaxy.  Vulcan intends to stop him.  Medusa comes to realize that Black Bolt will perish in the explosion as this epic war comes to a close.  Abnett and Lanning do cosmic storylines with finesse, action, political intrigue and great characterization.  Unfortunately, they tend to paint their characters in fairly broad strokes:  Crystal and Ronan are our heroes, and seem to make no errors in judgment, while the rest of the Inhumans Royal Family are nearly reduced to cardboard villains.  I would have rather seen more layers.  The miniseries was elevated by the fabulous artwork of Paul Pelletier though, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the next chapter in this saga.  Marvel Comics
  8. Justice Society of America #30 written by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham, art by Jesus Merino.  The new writing team of Sturges and Willingham (of Fables fame) has breathed much needed new life into the Justice Society of America; enough to propel it back into the Top 1o of my monthly reads.  It’s not easy to handle the writing chores of a team of superheroes that features over 20 members, but this kick-off storyline does the job, and even adds another member (bringing in the new Dr. Fate in a very dramatic fashion.)  The JSA is nearly defeated by a horde of Super-villains, leaving only the Flash and Stargirl standing.  While Stargirl holds her own, Flash recruits the new Dr. Fate and the three manage to stall long enough for the rest of the team to recover.  When the villains flee, a rift forms in the team of heroes, with some wanting to pursue the villains and find out the reason for the attack, and the rest feeling it important to return to headquarters to see why Mr. Terrific doesn’t answer their call.  It turns out  that there is a larger plot at work against the team and it threatens to tear the JSA apart.  Oh, Merino’s art really adds a lot to the book.  I’m looking forward to seeing this new creative team’s work.  DC Comics
  9. batgirlBatgirl #1 written by Bryan Q. Miller, art by Lee Garbett.  I wasn’t going to read the new Batgirl series, as I wasn’t all that interested in the last young lady who wore the costume.  For some reason, when I found out who was going to be wearing the costume, I was intrigued, so I decided to pick up issues #1.  I’m going to spoil you about the new Batgirl’s identity, because it’s revealed very early on in the issue.  Stephanie Brown, formerly Spoiler, is our new Batgirl, and while I don’t really know all that much about Ms. Brown, I thought I’d see how she handles the role.  The art is terrific, and Brown’s Batgirl is a little uncertain of herself and makes some mistakes.  Clearly she is in need of a mentor, and she is apparently going to get one in the form of Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, and now the uber-information broker, Oracle.  Miller writes Barbara with a lot of pent up anger, which I’m not sure I buy, but I’m going to wait and see where that anger is coming from and see how the story develops.  In the meantime, I’m in.  DC Comics
  10. Power Girl #4 written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmotti, art by Amanda Conner.  DC is sure showing the ladies some love with all these female-led titles!  Power Girl is a great character… originally Earth 2′s answer to Supergirl.  She devolved into a large pair of breasts and an attitude in the 90′s, but her regular strong appearances in the Justice Society of America over the last several years have done a lot to powergirlpropel her back to serious status.  Gray and Pamottie are taking a slightly humorous approach to Power Girl (there’s a joke about her breasts in just about every issue) but they’re also doing a good job establishing her as an entertaining and strong character.  Amanda Conner’s art is a little cartoony, but it fits thebig adventures well, and she captures facial expressions really well.  I’m enjoying this title much more than I thought I would.  DC Comics

meraI wanted to mention a few other titles for various reasons, starting with Blackest Night #2.  I’m not as over the moon about this event as most of fandom.  Never been much of a Green Lantern fan, and Geoff Johns stories are wildly uneven for me, some being outstanding, others being overhyped.  But the big surprise in this issue was the awesome return of Mera in a big way (take a gander at left).  Mera is the long-suffering wife of Aquaman, who has basically been the ultimate expression of the wife/girlfriend character in comics.  Now that Aquaman is dead (and returned in Blackest Night) it appears that Johns is going to shine a little spotlight on Mera, and for that I must thank him.  She’s got tons of potential, great powers, and an outstanding visual.  She’s the Queen of Atlantis, and as you know from Marvel’s Medusa, I’ve got a thing for Queens!

Other mentions this month include a new creative team over in Fantastic Four, thank god.  I loathed what Millar and Hitch were doing to this title, and things look promising in the hands of new scribe Jonathan Hickman.  Vertigo’s Air continues to confound and to please.  It’s some pretty heady stuff, but nothing less than I’d expect from Peter Milligan.  Terry Moore’s Echo is moving along nicely and Streets of Gotham has me following yet another Batman title; but this time for the back-up story featuring Manhunter.  This month’s addition of The Huntress piques my interest even more.  Other titles I enjoyed this month include Nova, Justice League of America, Marvel Divas, New Mutants, R.E.B.E.L.S., Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers, Fables, The Unwritten, Greek Street, JSA vs. Kobra, and The Last Days of Animal Man.  Other titles that I have mixed feelings about include Justice League: Cry for Justice, Adventure Comics, The Mighty Avengers, Fallen Angel, and Avengers: The Initiative.  And two titles that I was enjoying before,but seem to have taken missteps this month are Gotham City Sirens and Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter.

posted in Comics, Personal | at 1:00 pm | 0 Comments
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