Comic Fodder

Drunken Dave Reviews: Week Of 07/03 to 07/07

Hey Kids, you're lovable Uncle David is back with some reviews of my weekly comics load. Usually I'll have this posted on Thursdays, but due to the US kicking Britain's ass 230 years ago, comics shipped late thus we have my reviews today, on Friday.
As of now I'll only be reviewing the comics that I bought every week. Usually there are a few books I buy every month (you'll see which ones) and a few new ones I'll sneak in each week to try. This week was pretty exciting in that there is one new limited series added to my reading pile, and 2 new creative teams on other books.
So let's get crackin'!

Teen Titans #37 (DC Comics- Written By Geoff Johns and penciled by Tony S. Daniel):

I've been a Titans fan since this series launched (I had random issues of the Wolfman/Perez era bought as back issues when I was younger, but I largely missed it's 80's heyday because I was pretty young and obsessed with Marvel). Since Graduation Day there are few titles I've enjoyed this consistently month in and month out. I loved the team; I love Johns writing and the inimitable Mike Mccone's pencils. Then came the controversial "One Year Later" status quo featuring a much shaken up Titans roster having a prolonged adventure with the Doom Patrol against the Brotherhood of Evil (not Mutants mind you, just an evil brotherhood). Many readers have been turned off by the darker, more somber turn the series has taken as cast members deal with the death of a beloved team member, an incapacitated Cyborg, the defection of stalwart Beastboy to the DP, whatever the hell happened to Kid Flash (uh, he's got the speed force? He doesn't have the speed force? He's now super hero leading man age?) The absence of Wonder Girl due to said death (Infinite Crisis SPOILER ALERT: the beloved dead team member is Superboy), and new members: the prickly Ravager (Deathstroke's daughter) and the mysterious (pathological liar?) Kid Devil. Whew! That was quite a sentence!

Anyway...all this has turned off many fan boys. I ain't one of them. Did I enjoy the fun that series started out with? Yes. Do I look forward to it returning? Yes. But sometimes you can't appreciate the summer without some winter (trust me, I grew up in South Florida).

These ballsy and drastic changes to one of DC's top selling titles shows why Geoff Johns is one of the industry's top writers. With many comics being geared towards trade paperbacks, Johns brings us a title that is geared towards being read as a series.

As for this issue, it brings us a wrap up of the Doom Patrol arc, which seems like Johns is sticking to his guns for now on some of these changes, while returning Wonder Girl to the team and once again driving home the importance of Cyborg to the team. There's a big cast, but I feel Johns does a great job of giving everyone some great moments, and diving into the feelings of a select few (damn I feel bad for Robin). Oh, yeah, and this issue has quite an ending.

The one set back to this book is the inconsistency of penciled Tony Daniel. I'm enjoying his stylistic evolution from 90's Image/McFarlane knock off into a mature storyteller with a more realistic, yet moody approach, I just feel he's not all the way there yet. While his excellent covers and subtle costume re designs (like Wonder Girl getting a back to her shirt) show the potential he's reaching, some of the art is uneven and seems rushed. Kudos to him though for going all out on a monthly title (something unheard of, for any duration, with many of his peers). I'm rooting for you Tony. Plus it must be noted, Daniel is in many ways the perfect artist for this moody story arc, and I look forward to seeing some more diversity from him in a sunnier story arc.

Detective Comics #821 (DC Comics-Written by Paul Dini and penciled by J.H. Williams III):

Awwwww hell yeah! One half of the "OYL" launch I was/is looking most forward to have landed (the other half of course being Grant Morrison & and Andy Kubert's Batman). This launch is exactly what you'd hope for and expect from Paul Dini. Basically it reads like the beloved Batman: the Animated Series as a more sophisticated, slightly more mature comic. Batman is back in action, working a mystery (which seems to make a lot of sense with the title of the book and all).

The plot sees Bats working on a case trying to find the perpetrator of a rash of crimes recently aimed at Gotham's elite. Dini introduces a new member to Batman's rouge gallery, who although has a great visual, isn't all that unique to Batman's roster of facially obsessed group of sociopath's and mass murderers. Dini takes this shortcoming and turns it into strength as Batman acts like a man who has done this sort of thing countless times and knows exactly how to handle it.

The art, by J.H Williams III is quite kick-ass. It is stylized, and may not appeal to everyone, but I love it. Extra points for making Bruce Wayne look like a socialite civilian and not a super hero and for the awesome technique used every time Batman punches/kicks someone.

I'm not sure I need to buy every issue as they come out; I think I'll enjoy it most as a trade (which isn't a downgrade from me, some of my favorite titles I only read in trade). Not sure though, I guess I'll find out next month if I pick up the floppy or not.

52 week 9 (DC Comics-Written by everyone and penciled this week by Shawn Mol)l:

Not going to go into to much detail here, as I'll probably have to write something about this book every week. On a whole I'm enjoying this series. Unlike many readers, I didn't mind the end of Infinite Crisis, so I have no reason to backlash. I love all the writers involved in 52, and am enjoying all the threads of the DCU being laid out there for us to pick up on. The main thing I'll be commenting on here though is the art.

Let me preface this by saying my opinion on art in comics is as long as its serves it storytelling purposes and isn't distractingly bad then the story is what's most important. I love comics’ art, I study it in my own amateur way, but if I had to sacrifice story vs. art I'd rather sacrifice the art (unless the art is reallllly freakin' sweet). That said: this week's art sucked. It was distractingly bad. I can't even give Mr. Moll credit for storytelling because Keith Giffen did the breakdowns. I feel bad writing this, and am sympathetic to the pressures of producing a weekly comic book, but come on! It's not like he's doing all 52 issues himself (or even doing a fraction of that). I don't want to dump on it, but DC could've done better here. It especially squanders the first in costume appearance of the new Batwoman, and the first appearance of the, uh, Uncanny LeX-Men?

Sorry, I usually try to be positive about these things, but I also calls'em as I sees'em.
Here's hoping that week 10 is better.

Speaking of things that aren't Canny (Nice segue - SD):

Uncanny X-men #475 (Marvel-Written by Ed Brubaker and penciled by Billy Tan):

Remember the days when this was THE flagship X-men book? The pendulum swung back when Jim Lee did the adjective less X-Men book (which became New X-men, and the New Mutants became New X-men, or something, and then that title went back to not having adjective, but I digress), but Uncanny historically used to be the book of not only the X-men stable, but for all of Marvel. Uncanny is the book of Claremont & Byrne ("his old stuff was better"), of Claremont & Arthur Adams, Paul Smith, and young Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee. Uncanny brought us Joe Mad, JR JR and countless other stars in the comic book sky. Well I think we can add Ed Brubaker and Billy Tan to that list.

Obviously it's not going to over take Astonishing on the sales chart (who could beat that Juggernaut...B*tch?) However Bru and Tan (who will now be collectively be referred to as "The Bru-Tan Clan") bring us the freshest team of X-men seen since Whedon and Cassadey started playing in the merry mutant sand box. The team is rag tag collection of veterans (Prof X, Havok, Polaris, Marvel Girl and Nightcrawler) and recently promoted X-Forcer/X-Corper India member James Proudstar, Warpath.
I think the choice of bringing Warpath in as team badass (instead of, I don't know...Wolverine?) is an inspired one, and consistant with Marvel's new policy of publishing 3 books a month not featuring Wolverine (easy joke). I've actually not even realized that I've been a Warpath fan since the ol' Liefeld days, but I am. Anyway I like what Bru's done with the character, portraying him as a Native American (referencing his unease of living on a Sentinel patrolled X-Mansion, likening it to his experiences of growing up on a Reservation) and not playing him as a stereotype (not having him exclaim "Great Spirit!" when distressed).

I also like the characterization of Polaris running away from, and beginning to come to terms with her recent dark past. I like how Havok is being portrayed as an A Lister (Havok rules!) and his line about rescuing Polaris, just really hit home to me as an old X-reader. It's the little touches like that, that Brubaker has been adding to his super hero stories that I love. For example having Nightcrawler reading "Origin of the Species" impressed me. A lazier writer would have had Kurt reading the Bible, for the umpteenth time. Nightcrawler used to be a fully rounded character whose religion was part of his personality, and not the sum total of his personality. So, props to Bru for subtly bringing some of that back.

The art, by Billy Tan is great. It's great to see Tan step up his style, giving us a flashy, high-octane style that this book deserves. Coolest part? The way the ground looked after Havok's energy blast hit it. Awesome. The only shortcoming I have with the art is the lack of strength in costume designs. I don’t know if this is Tan's fault though, or editor mandated. I can see why Marvel doesn't want to give Marvel Girl, Havok, and Nightcrawler new costumes yet again, but I think they missed the boat on this one. Warpath's streamlined look is great, and I'd love to see Tan do the same with Nightcrawler's classic costume (or at least get rid that "X" that's just sitting on his chest. It looks like an after thought). And what is up with Havok's costume? Why isn’t he in his classic "rings of Saturn" mask? Havok's classic costume is one of the best X-men costumes, ever. Change can be good, but we haven't seen that costume in a while, and it's another classis look I'd like to see Tan update. This costume griping is just window dressing though. If you're a fan of classic Uncanny, and of Bru's writing (like I am) than this book is for you.

One last thought, since Bucky came back, the original Thunderbird is one of the last remaining dead dead-people. With Bru writing this book, and T-Bird's lil' brother a part of the cast, does anyone else think we may be seeing John Proudstar back?

I don't, but it's an interesting thing to consider.

Beyond! #1 (Marvel- Written by Dwayne McDuffy and penciled by Scott Kolins):

Wow, it's like someone running one of the "Big Two" was watching Justice League Unlimited and thought, "Hey, this cartoon is really kick ass. The writers of this show really know how to handle the characters. Let's get some of them writing for us!". Genius. So the whole "JLU" writer thing combined with one of my favorite member of the newer crop of artists working, Scott Kolins, know I was getting this title. Add to that an unpredictable cast of Spider-man, former Scorpion (and now Venom) Mac Gargan, Inhumans queen Medusa, BKV's MAX creation The Hood, former Avengers stalwart The Wasp and her ex husband "Fat scientist" Henry Pym, slimy but badass scion of the original Kraven the Hunter (how many kids did Kraven have? ...That Russian pimp), newcomer Gravity, and, last but not least, former West Coast Avenger (and second Native American in a Marvel comic this week) Firebird.

I like this diverse team, and am enjoying their interactions. I wonder if Gravity is thinking "Hey, this is the second time I've been put into a random assemblage of heroes in the last couple of weeks" (I'm referencing the awesome "League of Losers" arc in the very fun Marvel Team-Up book- although Gravity may not remember the events of that story, there was time traveling. It was confusing. Good, but confusing. Oh look! It's another digression; just call me Peter David Kushner, except don’t).

Great first issue, with an ending I sure as hell didn't see coming. McDuffy doesn't disappoint with a familiarity of these character's (some obscure) recent histories and characterizations.

What can I say about Scott Kolins? I love his art (although it's pretty polarizing; some people just don’t get it), and it's no different with this issue. I've always enjoys his kinetic style, and it's great to see him putting that same attention to detail and energy into backgrounds (how is he perfectly comfortable drawing Washington Square Park, and the depths of outer space?).

Add to this fun team of heroes and creators a plot and villain that is familiar (and not that much of a surprise to anyone analyzing the title) to long time Marvel Zombies and we've got a us one helluva mini series on our hands.

Okay, hope everyone enjoyed these reviews and found them helpful. In the future some of these reviews will be long, so I will be using bullet points. Some of the books reviewed in this column will pop up again for further review; some will be exiled to non-review land (none of these titles though, they're all good). I still haven’t gotten around to reading Marvel Team-Up#22, or Thing #8, but hopefully if I have time I'll get reviews of those up soon.

The comments section is all the way at the bottom of the page so make sure to scroll all the way down and comment away!

Dave Kushner

Cause if I go out drinkin'
then I can stop thinkin'
about how the world's done me wrong!


-- Posted by: I Think I'll Go Out Drinkin' at July 7, 2006 2:19 PM