Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part Two

These were almost all some fun comics to read this week!

All Star Superman 12

by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

This title is almost like a guilty pleasure. We spend so much time cooped up in a modern comic universe, where we hate the confines that limit the storytelling, but at the same time we pout as soon as they make the slightest deviation from continuity. Here we simply get to see fun comics and good stories, unencumbered. Don’t get me wrong, the type of personality that I am, I tend towards the complex and intelligent themes, and always wander towards the more intricate weaves whenever I can. But there is something just as good, and better in many respects, to be said for reading a single title with familiar elements that is allowed to vary from a “rulebook,” and just entertain you.

Frank Quitely is not the perfect artist, and he could stand to develop some variation and improvement in how he draws people. However, he’s quite good already (pun unintended), and he does a great job showing us things from different angles, so that even a simple conversation between two people can flow naturally along the page and take the reader with it.

The one drawback to this issue is that it is digitally inked and colored by one person, and the coloring has suffered for it. There is way too much red all over every other page, and not nearly enough effort has been put into giving us a blend to look at. The story itself is great, and the shape of the ‘S’ at the end, in the form of a question mark, looks awesome.

As usual with books of this type, they tend to develop scheduling delays. A good company would plan things so that a good creative team would have a little more lead time so as to maintain a better publishing schedule, because this book would rack up even more in sales if it came out on a more regular and predictable schedule. They are willing to let this stuff slip partly because it is out-of-continuity, and does not need to flow in a proper time frame with the rest of the regular monthly titles, and partly because Grant Morrison has the status he does at DC. Also because work ethic has suffered through the years, but don’t get me started on that. Bottom line, it’s a great read.

Checkmate 30

by Chuck Bruce Jones and Manuel Garcia

This title has gotten so boring. Manuel Garcia does great on art duties, but it can’t help this slow-moving stinker. All that made Checkmate great, all of the international flavor, the sense of intrigue involving both undercover operations and high-status international relations complete with diplomatic incidents and behind-the-scenes political maneuvering… all gone. If Bruce Jones wanted to do a monster book, why didn’t he just keep it confined in the pages of The War That Time Forgot?

Here’s the whole story: Chimera goes after another monster. Chimera destroys the monster. Next issue will be the final issue of the entire series. They should have ended it a few issues back, before this waste of time. Chimera is nothing more than the latest in a long line of unimaginative super-powered people who have the ability to adapt until they are powerful enough to defeat the enemy. I’d love to shove them all in a room and have them fight it out until only one of them emerged, so we only have one character with the “instant evolution” power left. I think I’m reading six stories this month with one of those characters in it. And Bruce Jones thought we needed another one. It’s enough to make you scream.

Rann/Thanagar Holy War 5

by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim

The book catches up with the specials that Adam Strange and Hawkman experienced as Synnar becomes the reincarnation dupe, still taking the name Synnar. Confused? It all has to do with time travel, so that’s perfectly natural. Starlin is paying attention to his story and the actions of the characters, especially with Adam Strange. Adam messed up big, and sometimes writers will forego any introspection in favor of moving the plot along quickly, or just trying to get to the action. Adam dwells a little on the possible implications of his mistake, something that all of us would do if in a similar position. It’s good storytelling.

I know some people do not see the point of a series like this and want to see some of these characters in other series. The nice thing about a comic universe is, we already can. Starfire is hanging out in Titans, Hawkman is still in JSA, etc. While this cosmic mini-series is nowhere near as gripping as Marvel’s cosmic odyssey, Guardians of the Galaxy, it is a solid read, and better than the aforementioned Titans. Plus, a lot of these characters just weren’t being used anywhere else. Add in Ron Lim on pencils and excellent coloring, plus Travis Lanham on letters, who always does a good job (and I’m not just saying that because his name is also ‘Travis’), and you’ve got a mini-series that is slightly better than average, even allowing for some common themes that always pop up in Starlin books.

Tangent: Superman’s Reign 7

by Dan Jurgens and Wes Craig

backup story by Ron Marz and Andie Tong

I noticed something unusual with this book: I kept moving it frther back in the stack. Normally, this means it’s getting better, but this time it meant that I was putting it off because I found it a little wordy. I forced myself to read it earlier in my stack, and narrow it down: what was putting me off about this book?

It’s not the art; Wes Craig is good, and I really like the Tangent Batman. Travis Lanham on the letters, and we already know he’s good in my book (It’s not the name similarity, honest!). Coloring’s good, check… the writing? The writing gives us a great beat with the Tangent Joker and our Batman, good screen time for each character, another good beat between the two Batmen, clearly delineating the difference between the two, and an excellent ending. This is all good.

Ah, the backup story. As much as the artist tries to tease us with a woman stripping down, the attempt at doing a “History of the Tangent Universe” after the main feature is wordy, and does not add much to the main story. Most of the stuff you can pick up on in the first part, making this part superfluous – and that’s one of the few times “super”-anything can be bad.

If I stick with the main story, it is a fun action romp with a cohesive storyline. It won’t win awards, but I actually do enjoy reading it. And it was better this week than Titans, Batgirl, Batman and the Outsiders, Checkmate, and the Flash. That’s not a bad batting average, in my opinion.

Trinity 16

by Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley, Fabian Nicieza, Mike Norton and Jerry Ordway

Okay, I know that Bagley can work fast, and his characters can use a little better definition in the face, but he reminds me of Jack Kirby, both in his speed and his attempts to give us something worth looking at every time. The first page spread shows us not only a bunch of easily-identifiable heroes, but they are all engaged in battle juxtaposed nicely regarding each other, plus he gives us a nice background. You can tell some of this comes from collaboration with Kurt Busiek, who improved his ability to give stage direction settings to his artists after working for a long time with George Perez, who is notorious for giving writers more than they asked for. In short, even though I think Bagley can tighten up some of his art, I find myself appreciating him more every time he comes out with something.

The pacing of the story is wonderful, as they have already set the stage in previous issues. Here we get a ton of action, plus an M.C Escher-isc spell that you don’t see that much in comics these days. The action sequences are better than in most other comics, and despite this issue being mostly action, they also advance the plot significantly with the developments. Special bonus: one of the villains isn’t who we thought it was. They are successfully adding a dose of mystery when we’re already solidly into a major story!

The backup story is a good companion piece; the characterization of the stone guards in the first page is great, and even though they are just guards that we may never see again, there was enough life to them that I would actually be interested to see them again sometime, just because I enjoyed their dialogue and interaction so much. The art is fantastic, and the tie-ins to the main story are well-written, when other titles show the way things interact, and it comes across as a pale, shadowy re-run of the main feature (see my comments on the Tangent backup story). Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the awesome cover by Jim Lee and Scott Williams!

This is everything Countdown could have had the chance to be, but wasn’t. I would already put this ahead of the 52 series, and we’re only 16 issues into this one.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

I'm actually pleasantly surprised with Trinity. I have faith in Mr. Busiek, but the first four issues didn't knock my socks off. However, things picked up significantly after that, and I'm sincerely glad I stuck with it. This is, I might add, a major about face. I had almost considered dropping Trinity, but I'm doing the opposite.

I have a stack of comics I order online that I'm fine with reading whenever they show up, and then I have several I pick up every week or so at the LCS. Trinity has been reshuffled into that list of comics I don't want to wait to read.

-- Posted by: Ryan at September 21, 2008 2:32 AM