Best Shots 2-01-2010
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Greetings, campers. As you know, you can find the previous reviews and columns from this past week at the Best Shots Topics page, linked HERE for your convenience. Also, please visit Blog@Newsarama for even more reviews from our friends and associates. Let’s start off with Reverend Overachiever.
I Can't Believe I Got TEN BOOKS This Week!
A look at an insanely busy week by The Rev. O.J. Flow
As was the case a while back, a good chunk of my monthly supply of comics happened to fall all on the same week. So rather than single out the best of the bunch, I figured all of them were worthy of at least some mention. (Full disclosure: DC's currently the only publisher occupying my comic book shop pull list, but this is not intended to be a promotional piece on their behalf. No conspiracy here, folks.)
If you fancy yourself a fan of the Justice Society, this was a pretty good week. I'd been down on the lead monthly book for a while, yet I was quite pleased with what I found in Justice Society of America #35. The long, dragged out breakup of the team was unbecoming a team of such stature, but now that they've turned a corner and set up shop at an old HQ of the Justice League, writer Bill Willingham is offering much more assured material. The dialogue's a lot snappier, and the leaner, meaner assembly of veterans are the ones I enjoy following and will continue to do so. As a bonus, the Society's involvement in the Black Lantern invasion was detailed further in Blackest Night: JSA #2. What's funny is the way this felt almost like a continuation of "Blackest Night: Superman," what with the combination of writer (James Robinson), artist (Eddy Barrows) and characters (the late Superman and Lois Lane of Earth 2). While it's a perfectly serviceable read, the formula that we've seen for months is starting to show signs of wear, so I'm glad that we're starting to see the light at the end of this. I think we know the drill: dead characters rise, torment their living loved ones, rinse and repeat.
Wonder Woman #40 is a shining example of what an absolutely terrific series it is in the hands of Gail Simone and Aaron Lopresti. It's great to see a whole new story being told, not one particularly bound to Diana's frequent struggles with her Amazonian heritage and her recurring role as goddess of truth on Earth. WW is facing a whole new kind of threat to herself and the citizens of Washington, D.C., a quintet of Angus Young wannabes who collectively possess a lethal power of persuasion. Simone's script is sharp and engaging, and it's made all the better with some sparkling line work by Lopresti and inker Matt Ryan. This artistic duo makes Diana look amazing month in, month out, and for "A Murder of Crows" they only made things prettier bringing in Power Girl as some guest muscle. Appropriate for such a strong title.
I think any comic reader here can empathize with the idea of sticking with a title for the sake of "completism" when you've all but given up on it. That's me right now with Justice League: Cry For Justice. With #6, the penultimate chapter, things get no better as the lion's share of the book is Prometheus knocking off one Leaguer after another with great ease, and James Robinson is not making me feel any better about this team right now. It's ugly, literally and figuratively, made no better by Mauro Cascioli's fill-in, Scott Clark. To his credit, Clark maintains the look and feel of things from previous issues, but it almost looked more like Cascioli simply lost a step or two, failing to keep up with the book's schedule (which, apparently, he did). And was I this only one who found it crazy that Roy Harper, after what the character was put through one issue ago, didn't even figure into one panel of this issue? I made it this far, so I'll be around for the seventh and final issue, and I figure that's a good place to leave things until DC decides it's time to bring in a creative team who's up for restoring the JLA to genuine greatness.
The World's Mightiest Mortal is definitely better represented in Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #12. A superbly action-packed tale, writers Art Baltazar and Franco handle each character with such care and reverence, and if this book's made just one kid out there a fan of the Big Red Cheese, I'd say they succeeded.
It was a jam-packed week for the Man of Steel, and it was all pretty great. Superman: Secret Origin #4 opens things up more with Lex Luthor and reinvents the Parasite along the way. A very shrewd conception by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank to recreate Rudy Jones as a self-serving leech even before fateful exposure to toxic radioactivity turned him into one of Superman's most formidable opponents. Johns has already proven in this young 2010 alone that he has quite a handle on Luthor's character, and here's no different. I wish the cover art was actually implemented in the book's contents, but hopefully that gets touched on in one of the last two issues. Back in the present day, things are anything but dull in Supergirl #49 and Superman #696. In Part 3 of "Man of Valor," Mon-El especially proves how worthy he is of holding the starring role of this series while the original lead is elsewhere. Adding to Mon-El's renewed confidence is the artwork of artist Bernard Chang. Considering that I can't remember the last time an artist strung together six issues in a row on this book, I'm keeping my happiness with Chang's assignment in check. Oh, and another lost Legionnaire is revealed! Elsewhere, some big excitement is getting built up for the Maid of Steel's fiftieth issue a month from now, and it should be interesting to see what's in store for Lana Lang. Going off the final page, I can't help but wonder if an old identity of hers is being dusted off for a new generation. We shall see very soon what Sterling Gates & Co. have planned, because I know I'll be there to check it out!
Artist extraordinaire J.H. Williams gets a much needed break from blowing our minds with Detective Comics #861. But stepping in nicely and servicing Greg Rucka's script well is (just) Jock. And those who have found their "Detective Comics" lacking in a certain Dark Knight have to be happy with the flashback sequences featuring the one, the only Bruce Wayne. Turns out an old foe from his earlier days may be back with even worse intentions for innocents in Gotham City. Is Batwoman up for resolving some unfinished business? Stay tuned. Rucka's secondary work in the book, the backup series "The Question" brings up some interesting ideas as the duo of Question and the Huntress use some, um, questionable methods to get a hired assassin of their trail. What'll be interesting to see is if a line's been crossed from which they can't come back.
And finally, some major developments go down in "Blackest Night" as the star of Green Lantern #50 gets a most unsettling makeover. To editorial's discredit, that key plot development is laid out for all right there on the cover. Fortunately the journey is spectacularly rendered by Doug Mahnke who's turning in some lights-out graphics in this series since it's been the secondary book to "Blackest Night." Geoff Johns' story is also nicely streamlined since all the action in this chapter takes place on Earth as opposed to when things got dizzying prior when all the characters were bouncing between planets elsewhere. The threat here is pretty much all Spectre as the combination of a black ring and a thirst for vengeance bears catastrophic results. Call me crazy, but I was wondering what Nekron and Black Hand were up to through all of this, but I guess that's for another book, another time. One major plus about "Parallax Rebirth" is getting to see more of the different colored Lanterns in action. Who knew that a Batman villain in Scarecrow could get such good coverage in a Green Lantern book? And again Mera gets an amazing moment or two, and her confession is killer. Another stellar component to the best crossover DC's produced in years.
And now the rest of us mere mortals . . .
Tex: The Art of Mark Texeira
Written by: Mark Texeira and Renee Wittstaetter
Art By: Mark Texeira
Published by: Vanguard Productions
Reviewed By: Tim Janson
Like a lot of comic book fans, I first took note of Mark Texeira when we worked on the revamped Ghost Rider title for Marvel Comics in the early 1990s. Texeira’s bold, heavy style seemed a perfect match for this new and more terrifying version of Ghost Rider. Since then, “Tex” has cemented his place among the best artists in comics, leaving an indelible impression on every title he has worked on.
Vanguard’s collection traces Texeira’s roots from growing up in New York and attending the prestigious Art & Design High School in Manhattan, to his career as one of the premiere comic book artists and illustrators of the last twenty years. Throughout the book, Texeira comments on his life and career, giving readers an insight into how he has developed as an artist, and his incredible work ethic. Mark also discusses growing up in a tough Bronx neighborhood where gangs were prevalent and butting heads with his father who didn’t think that an artists was a suitable profession.
While Ghost Rider may have catapulted him to stardom, fame didn’t come overnight. Texeira was assisting Rich Buckler on Spider-Man Vs. Superman in the late 1970s and got his break with Marvel doing an adaptation of “Buckaroo Banzai” in the mid-1980s. But it’s all about the art isn’t it and Vanguard has included an incredible collection of Texeira’s work. Interior pages, covers, sketches, full color oil paintings, and private commissions…many of them never published previously. In particular there are wonderful oil paintings of Thor, Vampirella, and the Black Cat; incredible watercolor illustrations of Batman and Wonder Woman; and Texeira’s take on Frank Frazetta’s “Death Dealer”. It’s simply a superb collection of one of the best, and one of my favorite artists.
Batman & Robin #7 (DC Entertainment; review by George Marston): As far as I'm concerned, Bruce Wayne can stay dead. Grant Morrison has injected Batman with a new life since slipping Dick Grayson into his mentor's vacant tights, and though there have certainly been stumbles in the seven issues of this, the new flagship of the Batman line, fine characterization and a strong dynamic for the title duo elevate this book beyond the sum of its parts. Batman & Robin #7 was absolutely my favorite issue of the series so far, finally moving forward with Dick Grayson's arc as a character and bringing a strong sense of excitement for the rest of the story at hand. Cameron Stewart is the best artist the series has had so far, and though there are some choppy transitions between scenes, his overall storytelling ability complimented the sometimes inscrutable Grant Morrison nicely. I truly enjoyed Dick's Ozymandias like moment in front of the Lazarus pit, and the suspense of learning just who was actually buried in that unmarked grave has me on the edge of my seat for the next issue.
Secret Warriors #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): Interesting read, even if it would absolutely -- absolutely -- lose any new reader right out of the gate. Again, the Secret Warriors themselves take a bit of a backseat, with Jonathan Hickman focusing on the cabal behind HYDRA. It's to his credit, as I'm really starting to warm up to this cracked-mirror image of organized spycraft -- I think a lot of that has is because Stefano Caselli opens a six-pack of artistic whup-ass on just about every page of this book. Great motion, great emotion -- Gorgon looks hard-core, Nick Fury looks charismatic as all get out, and Yo-Yo and Stonewall are cute as can be. With Hickman's writing giving nice bursts of genius, and Caselli looking great as ever, this is a fun book for those in the know.
Ultimate Enemy #1 (Marvel Comics; Review By Jeff Marsick): It’s not good, but it’s not bad. It’s your typical Bendis-writes-a-first-issue-keeping-it-in-first-gear-for-two-and-twenty-pages. Roxxon Corporation has gone and played God again, this time their baby blob has outgrown its petrie dish ahead and gone and demolished their building. Citywide collateral damage and panic ensue while someone wicked comes calling on Reed Richards and Nick Fury and Ben Grimm bares his heart to Sue, leaving her a scab of elbow to remember him by (um...ew). Which of the terrors is the “Ultimate Enemy” at this point is unknown, and you’re either really curious or a Bendis completist in order to come back for a second serving of this relatively bland but rehashed plot. The best part is actually an accidental coincidence: Sue Storm arrives in the Baxter lab and as the elevator opens, she gasps “No way…” Turning the page brings the centerfold teaser ad for Spider-Man in 2010, as if even she’s had a vision and can’t believe what Petey’s got in store for him. It’s too bad it was just an interruption; for a second there this issue actually had a pulse.
Joe the Barbarian #1 (DC Comics; Review By Jeff Marsick): This issue came out last week and I was so giggity about playoff football that I forgot to write it up. It’s worth picking up, and not only because the cover clocks in at a buck. Joe Manson’s the resident oddball kid whose soldier dad is passed and whose mother’s on the verge of losing their house. Joe loses himself in his cartoon drawings and finds escape in the immense expanse of his home’s immense attic. Joe forgets to take his insulin, then wakes from a sleep confronted by his now-sentient footlocker of toys and action figures, replete with familiar faces of 80s icons. The awesomeness of The Stuff of Legend takes a lot of wind from this book’s sails, but I’m a sucker for toys-come-to-life stories, and since this feels more like Morrison of We3 and not Morrison of Final Crisis, I’ll probably be onboard for all eight issues. Sean Murphy’s artwork is pretty good, offbeat enough to match the mood of the main character, even if Sean lacks some consistency. From the outside, Joe’s house is a two-story Cape, but when he gets inside, the interior floorplan is massive, on a McMansion-scale with an attic a thousand square feet by itself. Even exterior shots looking in through windows aren’t uniform with prior panels. Still, it’s small blip on an otherwise intriguing premise.