Best Shots: Rapid Fire 11-19-09
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Welcome back to our range of immediate reactions! Click here for our Best Shots Topic page and all our reviews from all our columns and extras. Let's kick it off with a longer look at one particular Blackest Night tie-in . . .
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin
Published by DC Comics
Review by George MarstonI confess that I dropped Outsiders some time ago, and haven't looked back. I needed some space on the list, and the title seemed to fluctuate wildly from month to month in terms of line-up and quality. I also confess that this issue found its way into my hands because of the promotional power ring that accompanied it. That said, I felt that this issue was much stronger than the last few I remember reading, and was an interesting, if inessential, blip on the Blackest Night radar. Perhaps it is Peter Tomasi's connection to the main event that gives this issue a bit more weight than some of the other tie-ins I've picked up, but it does at least provide a different angle on the central nightmare of all of your loved ones rising from the dead. Additionally, Fernando Pasarin's art, which I first encountered as a bright spot in the abysmal "Lightning Saga" crossover, is quite good here.
The story begins by picking up where "Blackest Night: Titans" left off as an undead Terra confronts her still-living brother Geo-Force and his allies Black Lightning, Owl-Man, and Metamorpho. The part that immediately struck me is that Terra comes to her brother not to destroy him, but seeking his aid in losing the black ring, and getting back to the business of being dead. Clearly a change of pace from every scene in every other issue of every Blackest Night book so far. It was a decent hook, because I definitely want to see if Terra is pulling a ruse here (something you may realize that she is known for), or if she has finally found some morality in death. Later, we catch up with Halo, Katana, and the Creeper as they transport Killer Croc back to Arkham Asylum. The theme of family continues here, as Katana is confronted with Black Lantern versions of her long dead husband and children, but they are not nearly so civil as the reanimated corpse of her teammate's sister. Tomasi has some nice bits of dialogue here, as the Creeper spouts some appropriately out-there dialogue, and Halo and Katana get in some girl talk.
They mention rounding up the Arkham escapees from "Battle for the Cowl," which does make me want to seek out some of those issues I passed on. Pasarin handles both these action scenes and the more subtle bits with equal clarity, injecting a nice level of acting into his character's faces and body language.All in all, this was a solid comic from a title that I hadn't planned to read, and didn't expect to enjoy. Many of the problems I had when I dropped the title seem to have been resolved, such as the unappealing, and unstable line-up and creative team. Peter Tomasi is doing a fine job of earning some level of loyalty with me, and the fact that he and Pasarin will soon be leaving this title to make way for Dan DiDio and Philip Tan is dissapointing, as I may have gone back into this title for the foreseeable future after this issue. I will certainly take a look at some of the issues from the last few months, though, and that in itself is a fine accomplishment for a book long since dropped. If you have been reading Blackest Night, this issue is worth a look if only for the change of pace in examining the relationship of the Black Lanterns to their still living loved ones. And hey, you'll get a pretty spiffy ring out of it!
Phonogram: The Singles Club #5 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose): With a series devoted to the magic of music, it's ironic that the character with the lack of it has the most weight. Kieron Gillen manages to weave in lyrics for their poetry as well as their sound with a challenging, expressionistic script focusing on Laura Heaven, Penny B's "plus one." (Bonus game: Start playing all these songs on YouTube. You'll get yourself an education, don't you worry.) Yet as a silent medium, don't ignore the art. There is some real expressiveness to the characters, with some real personality and even some looks of true humanity -- there's magic in this here book, and it's name is Jamie McKelvie. Even for a musical illiterate -- or even someone who hasn't read the past four issues -- this issue in particular stands on its own. It's about the relationship between poetry and life, and there's an obliterating sense of longing when everyone but you can seize the magic. The ending itself is simply marvelous in its beauty and its mystery -- you can really take it anyway you want. Combine it with a raucous Ska-themed back-up with art by Dan Boultwood, and you've got yourself one great comic.
The Flash: Rebirth #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Robert Repici): Well, the wait is over. The pivotal and much-anticipated fifth issue of The Flash: Rebirth miniseries finally hit the stands yesterday, and as expected, Geoff Johns put the pedal to the metal and drove this story into yet another exciting direction. Surprisingly, however, Barry Allen seemed to take a back seat this issue as the focus shifted to some of the other members of the so-called Flash Family for a significant number of pages. But even with Barry sharing the spotlight, this issue was still chock full of great character moments, including a spectacular scene featuring Liberty Belle (or is it Jesse Quick again?) and a surprising new addition to the Flash Family entering the fray against Barry Allen's antithesis, the evil Professor Zoom. Now, needless to say, the long delays seem to be really hurting this book, but Ethan Van Sciver's stunning artwork is definitely worth the wait here. His splash pages are beautiful to behold, and once again, his kinetic visuals creatively capture and showcase the speed powers of the entire Flash Family. Oh, and just for the record, I like Wally West's new costume. All in all, I can't wait to find out what the future holds for the new and improved Flash franchise.
The Black Knight #1 (Marvel; review by Troy): This one-shot, which originally appeared online at Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, comes across a very old-school type of tale. Obviously, the Arthurian milieu is part of that, but the Tom Defalco script and Ron Frenz/Sal Buscema art put me in mind (probably purposefully on their part) of “Prince Valiant”. It’s a nice little piece of comic entertainment, but I didn’t find myself investing much in the characters or the story. Rather than getting interested in the minutiae surrounding the origin of the original Black Knight, I found myself thinking, “Why again did Captain Britain get cancelled?”
Realm of Kings: Inhumans #1 (Marvel; review by Troy): How can you not love giant teleporting doggies? Okay, Lockjaw aside, I found a lot to like about this tile in Marvel’s latest cosmic mosaic. Abnett and Lanning certainly have the tone and characters down cold. The Ronan/Crystal relationship provides some interesting moments, as do the ever-present ambition of Maximus and Medusa’s newly-discovered self-loathing. The art by Raimondi and Hennessey is smooth and sure. The sudden attacks and arrivals at the end made me smile; DnA know how to throw a super-hero party.
Rapid-Fire Round-Table: Adventure Comics #4Adventure Comics #4
Written by Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates
Pencils by Jerry Ordway
Inks by Bob Wiacek
Colors by Brian Buccaleto
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Francis Manapul and Jerry Ordway
Review by Russ Burlingame
Jerry Ordway—ahh, his art just feels like home. It may not be as sexy as Manapul’s, but it’s more consistent—and I still like seeing Jerry and/or Geoff handle these Crisis-inspired characters whenever possible. You’ve got to hand it to whoever is making these art choices (and to Johns, who appears to have a lot of say): They’re choosing well.
This issue is, like most of this month’s Blackest Night tie-ins, part one of a two-part story…and for those of us growing a little impatient waiting for one of these stories to pay off with actual action in the month of November, Johns has some choice words. As always, Superboy Prime is a proxy for irritating fans here, although at least if you read between the lines of the dialog it’s being acknowledged in continuity at this point. After reading this issue of Adventure Comics, Superboy Prime (who asks, “Why couldn’t they just leave me out of this?”—both a question that anyone might ask given his situation AND a question many readers found themselves asking back when this cover was solicited) sets out for his local comics retailer to try and get his hands on the next issue. The idea? Find out what happens next, when he sees something on the last page of the story that terrifies him.
Needless to say, Alexander Luthor and the Black Lanterns have come to Earth Prime to look for him (are they the ones responsible for bringing back those canceled titles in January? Are we going to find out it’s Black Lantern Archie Goodwin taking over the DC offices, or is that where they draw the line?), and as Luthor points out, he helped put a lot of folks in the ground (or, ya know, in big metal drawers at the Justice League HQ, as the case may be). So this can’t be a good time to be Superboy Prime.
Ultimately this is a lot like last week’s “Booster Gold” issue. As tie-ins go, it establishes the story and gives us some revealing, fun and thoughtful character moments but doesn’t move the action along much. If you’re looking for Black Lanterns rumbling with your titular heroes, I’m guessing December is the month for you. But this is kind of like the “Kill Bill” movies—the first one was slow, but the character development you got out of it is really what made the action-packed second episode sing.
The Legion of Super-Heroes backup is pretty boilerplate stuff; it’s entertaining, and Johns certainly seems to have a sense of exactly what he wants to do with those characters (who appear in both features, although their moment in the Superboy story is just that—a moment); we get a real sense of what’s going on with Mysa, and some great character moments for Blok, one of the characters who’s gotten the least play in the (admittedly few) Legion stories I’ve read. But the second features still suffer from ten-page syndrome; without making the stories languish unresolved for months at a time, it’s difficult to make really profound out of a ten-page story, and a guy like Johns has the handicap of already being the type of writer who likes to invest in the future (no Legion pun intended) by leaving things out there to pick up in a year or two. It all seems to conspire to invest the Legion second feature with a sense of permanent limbo—but at least, even when things are slow, Johns has made the 31st Century someplace new readers might like to visit.
Adventure Comics #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Robert Repici): Let me just say this right off the bat: I can't stand Superboy-Prime. At times, the super-villain has actually been considered to be the bane of the DC Universe's existence (both literally and figuratively), and it's certainly no secret that he's become one of the most annoying and despised characters in the wide world of superhero comic books ever since his return in Infinite Crisis. And he just won't go away. The seemingly one-note super-villain takes center stage in Adventure Comics #4, and once again, he does nothing but complain about his unpopularity and his humiliating legacy in the DCU. Fortunately, however, Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates (who's credited as a co-writer on this latest Prime story) bring Black Lantern Alexander Luthor to the table this issue to take out Prime for good. Now, one thing I really appreciated about this issue is the fact that Johns and Gates made this Black Lantern version of Alexander Luthor a viable threat to Prime, a character that, up until now, has been virtually unstoppable. Superboy-Prime seems scared out of his wits here. Also, all of the breaking of the Fourth Wall business in this issue was brilliant. I got a kick out of seeing Superboy-Prime actually admit that he's one of the most hated characters in comic books, and naturally, no one in this issue ever lets him forget it. The cliffhanger ending was also effective and well-executed, and I can't wait to find out what Johns and Gates have in store for Prime next issue. (Unlike Prime, however, I won't be trolling around DC's online message boards looking for Adventure Comics #5 spoilers.) Superboy-Prime may still be an extremely annoying and one-dimensional character, but he's a character that I certainly love to hate.
Adventure Comics #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): We interrupt the adventures of Superboy to bring you the return of -- Superboy-Prime! If you're into the metatext vis-a-vis SB-Prime and the angrier segment of the Internet population, you may get a kick out of Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates inflicting the Blackest Night onto "the real world" of Earth-Prime, as they make Superboy-Prime an almost sympathetic character. For me, though, I don't know if I got what Johns was trying to say with this story, even with Jerry Ordway's old-school art. In other words, lots of set-up, but no real wrap-up at this point. That said, Johns and Michael Shoemaker really knock the ball out of the park for an 11-page Legion of Superheroes second feature -- Clayton Henry is just hitting his stride, even giving characters like Blok and Wildfire some real expressiveness, and the whole Blok/White Witch storyline from Legion of Three Worlds finally gets a worthy conclusion.
In Case You Missed It...
Wall-E #0 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): How do you portray pantomime in a static, silent medium? Ask J. Torres and Morgan Luthi, as they spin a charming tale about Wall-E and his siblings: Wall-A, Wall-B, Wall-C, and Wall-D. It's a funny gag, with Luthi really pulling the team with very emotive robots. The only problem? These siblings are largely identical, which sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate one from the other. Torres has some real poignancy to his story as well, dealing with responsibility and loss -- that said, part of me wonders if I would have understood that without having read the solicitation. In this case, the solicit isn't a bad thing -- it's like a logline to a silent film -- but that may lead some people astray. This is a book that I think would be great for parents and kids to read together -- I think reactions are going to fuel this book's popularity. If only more comics could be a group activity -- this is definitely a book I think has a lot of potential.