Last week, I started to review every comic book that I bought in October, seeing as I bought them all in one visit at the end of the month. But there’s only so much I can write in one sitting. And I’m figuring there’s only so much you can read. So here’s the second half of my column reviewing all of October.
Blackest Night #4:It doesn’t get much better than this. Geoff Johns is crafting an excellent story. And it just happens to be the major crossover tent-pole event story with all kinds of tie-in opportunities. At this point, the main story is focusing on the surviving members of the Justice League and their battle to protect earth from the growing forces of the Black Lanterns. It’s wonderful to see less-familiar and less-powerful characters like Atom and Mera come to the fore. My favorite scene had to be the one in which Jason Rusch wrestled control of Firestorm away from Ronnie Raymond long enough to warn the Flash of the Black Lanterns’ plan for world domination. Even the villains get their chance to shine as Lex Luthor makes preparations to hold off the rising incarnations of all the people he’s killed over the years while simultaneously telling the Calculator that he doesn’t consider anyone else his equal or his teammate. I don’t have enough superlatives for this story. It even makes me smile when flipping through it again.
Dark Reign- The List: Wolverine: This was an impulse buy, based on the facts that I was under my self-imposed limit for the month and that Jason Aaron’s name was on the cover as the writer. Aaron has been my favorite Wolverine writer of late and I thought he might be able to do something interesting here. I was wrong. This was more of a Marvel Boy/Weapon XIII team-up than it was a Wolverine story. Wolverine has some face time in the beginning as Noh-Varr (Marvel Boy) brings him in on a mission. But he spends most of the rest of the book brainwashed and running around like a zombie on drugs. Meanwhile, one of my least favorite characters, Fantomex (Weapon XIII), gets to be the big hero who shows Noh-Varr the ropes and saves the day. There wasn’t much to the story either. The basic plot was there’s this base full of bad things that a bad wants to get his hands on and we have to destroy it before he does. I should have skipped this one.
Dynamo 5 #25:Dynamo 5 has been one of my favorite superhero comics for more than two years. And this issue was not an exception. There was a great battle scene between the team and two villains, Synergy and Father Gideon. The battle was nicely balanced with the personal drama- Synergy is a half-sister to everyone on the team and Gideon is Maddie’s estranged son. Plus, there was a great twist as the battle turned on guile
rather than brute force- Hector tells Synergy to use her mind-reading powers on Gideon in order to find out whether or not he was planning to betray her after the battle. Yet this issue has also left me leery for the future. Dynamo 5 is going on hiatus to let the new artist get ahead a bit, but the Faerberverse has not always fared well with artist changes. There’s also the fall-out from this issue. Dynamo 5 traded powers and I’m not sure it’s a good idea. That’s a twist that Power Pack once tried and turned its back on. Jay Faerber has built up
enough good-will that I’ll be back when Dynamo 5 is but I’m admittedly nervous.
Fables #89:Fables is back to being one of the best books in the business. Every scene is interesting. Every character is compelling. Everything is perfect. With this issue, Bufkin the monkey leads the charge against a witch and a genie with only his wits, while Beast and Bigby start to spy on the Dark Man. The issue features clever story turns and witty dialogue. It builds up some big future villains, without seeming like
its keeping time. And it finishes one small plot while moving several others forward. My only complaint is that I wasn’t always sure of the chronology. The little boxes “some days past” and “now” were more
distracting than helpful.
Green Lantern #47:While Earth’s heroes fight a delaying battle against the Black Lanterns, Hal Jordan is in the midst of gathering together representatives from all of the other Corps. We’ve always known that they would have to come together sooner or later, yet seeing them do it is no less enjoyable. There’s both the visceral thrill of seeing
several Lanterns in action at the same time. And there’s the craft in characterization as the various Lanterns vie for leadership of the fledgling alliance. Will they follow Hal Jordan or Sinestro? Plus
Atrocitus and Larfleeze have plans of their own that might not fight in with the larger picture. The Blackest Night story is like a wild Halloween themed roller coaster and I’m enjoying every minute of it.
Green Lantern Corps #41: This is probably the weakest of the Green Lantern stories right now but that’s not much of a complaint. Peter Tomasi shows the battle of Oa through the eyes of four main characters: Soranik Natu, Guy Gardner, Arisia and Kilowog. It’s a strong approach, giving us the sense of a larger battle while keeping us personally interested. Unfortunately, there are a few moments of confusion, especially when one villain starts using unrecognizable insults for Kilowog. The art is great, too. It’s not just Patrick Gleason on this book. Ivan Reis on Blackest Night and Doug Mahnke on Green Lantern are also doing phenomenal work. I love how all three of them are using the effect of showing us the inner light of the characters. In this issue, Gleason tells us about the characters through the technique, first
showing Soranik as a creature of will but later depicting her with a mixture of rage and compassion as well as will. It reveals her anger towards the villains, her compassion towards their victims and her will
to emerge victorious. That might not be what creative writing teachers meant when they say, “Show, don’t tell” but it works for me.
Invincible #67:I’m glad I didn’t give up on Invincible despite the excessive violence of the Conquest arc. This two-part story focusing on Omni-Man and Allen the Alien has been a real treat. It’s been great to get the secret history of the Viltrumites (in part one) and to see the developing plans to resist them (in this issue). Nolan and Allen make for a wonderful buddy cop dynamic. And Robert Kirkman gives us a full buffet of scenes, from the opening battle with the Space Racer to Nolan’s jaw-clenching attempts to fall asleep on Allen’s couch. I’m still a little disappointed with the way Kirkman defended the Conquest arc in the letters page as I think he did go too far in that story but my enjoyment of this story is well on its way to overcoming my disappointment in the previous one.
Justice Society of America #32: I thought about dropping JSA after Geoff Johns left as the writer but new scribe Bill Willingham has kept my attention so far. He’s taken a classic comic book cliché- the new team member that betrays the team- and made it work. He’s kept us guessing as to who the traitor really
is and used the betrayal to further drive a wedge between the founding members like Wildcat and the new ones like Magog. We also see Power Girl straining to keep the team together, especially without Mr.Terrific to back her up. Jesus Merino is a perfect fit on art, blending the styles of former JSA artists Dale Eaglesham and Carlos
Pacheco. I’m not sold yet on the idea of splitting the team into two titles, but I’ll definitely pick up the concluding chapter of Willingham’s opening arc.
JSA vs. Kobra #5:Meanwhile, Eric Trautman is telling another stellar JSA story in this mini-series. He’s given us a new head of Kobra and turned him into a worthwhile villain. The new Kobra has masterfully manipulated the Justice Society by overly attacking them in one place while covertly achieving his goals somewhere else. It’s been a wonderful chess match. In the last issue, Mr. Terrific led the JSA on the offensive. That continues into this issue and sets up a big clash for the finale. But I can’t help thinking there’s a few more twists yet to come.
The Stand: Soul Survivors #1:Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has yet to make a wrong step with this adaptation. With some issues, he’s nicely balanced three or four storylines. With this issue, he nicely focuses on just the one: the meeting of Nick Andros, the deaf-mute, and Tom, who’s mentally handicapped. We read all of their early adventures, including Nick’s invitation to Tom to travel with him, their confrontation with Julie Lawry and their escape from the tornado. We see the budding friendship. And we’re still given glimpses of the growing danger. The face of the dark man in the tornado is much more powerful in a comic book than it is in prose. By telling the one story, Roberto allows us to really get to know these characters. I don’t know if he’ll do the same thing with the rest of this installment in The Stand series. Either way, The Stand continues to be one of the best comic books I’m reading in any genre.
Star Wars: Legacy #41:To my surprise, this was my least favorite issue of Legacy so far. Until now, Legacy had been the most consistently excellent Star Wars series. But this issue introduced us to some new characters-
Mandalorian mercenary warriors. I understand that Mandalorians are a popular part of the Star Wars universe but they already play a significant role in Knights of the Old Republic
and don’t add much here. And with odd names, similar features and similar war suits, it’s not easy to tell the Mandalorians apart. Plus, John Ostrander’s story jumps around in time. I think. It’ not really
clear. Legacy has done a good job of telling this kind of story before, as with the short arc that introduced freelance admiral Gar Stazi. But this was confusing and boring.
Wildcats #16:I don’t care about the sales numbers (which are poor); I love this version of Wildcats. I’m not happy that writer Christos Gage killed off Nemesis, but I have to confess that he used it well as it led to Majestic’s turn from recent foe to powerful ally. Gage is also doing a great job of balancing the cosmic powers of Max Faraday and Tao with more personal interaction like the banter between Zealot and Savant. The Wildcats live in a world where anything can happen- they’ve already lived through World’s End- and Gage has kept me guessing so far. I have no idea how they’re going to beat Tao. Especially after he became even more powerful at the end of this issue.
Wolverine: Weapon X #6:Did Jason Aaron just watch “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for the first time? Because that’s what it feels like. Wolverine is trapped in an insane asylum and he’s being dosed with psychotropic gas that
makes him think he’s crazy. But it’s the asylum that’s really crazy. The patients are given jelly beans, life saver candies and even buttons in place of medicine. And one potential escapee is lobotomized. So
it’s more like “Saw” meets “Cuckoo’s Nest.” On the bright side, the reader is truly left wondering what’s going on. And that could be a strong enough hook to bring most readers back. But, the odd story can
also be more than a little off-putting. And that could be enough to drive some readers away. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m not sure I liked it but I want to know what it’s about. Anyway, Weapon X is on my
pull list so I’ll be around for at least several more issues.
Wonder Woman #37:I should probably blame my high expectations but Wonder Woman has been a bit of a let-down of late. Gail Simone’s run started so well, especially in comparison to the Jodi Picoult arc, that I figured it
would always be excellent. Now, it’s merely good. Simone is doing some interesting things, such as allowing some of the Amazons
to become pregnant, bringing Artemis back into the title and setting Alkyone up as the real power (and the real villain) behind the throne. But Achilles has yet to develop a personality and the supporting cast
is flitting in and out of the title inconsistently. It didn’t help that Bernard Chang did a poor job as a fill-in artist. Both Wonder Woman and Donna Troy looked ugly and awkward, and the fight scene
between them was poorly staged. I keep wanting better than I’m getting, and that’s not a good sign.
X-Factor #50:What a great issue! This is the climax of the future story as Madrox fights his alter ego Cortex and Ruby Summers has to fight both Doctor Doom and her mind-controlled father. We get no less than three villain
origins as we find out why Falcone hates mutants so much that he would rebuild the Sentinel program, how Cortex was upgraded from a duplicate to a deadly foe and what made Trevor Fitzroy turn evil. We find out
Layla Miller’s real power and how come she knows so much. And writer Peter David both creates and closes time travel circles in creative fashion. Plus, the Valentine De Landro art is beautiful- some of the
best this series has seen.
And that’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about a month’s worth of comics as much as I enjoyed reading them in the first place.