With house guests four weekends in a row, I didn’t make it to the comic book store during the month of October. The silver lining is that I had a month’s worth of comics waiting for me when I finally showed up. That gives me the perfect opportunity to assess my current pull list and share some reviews. So sit tight, we’ve got a month to discuss…
Action Comics #882: This issue was better than the last couple, though I’m still mildly annoyed that it’s crossing over with Supergirl and I’m only getting half the story. However, judging this issue on it’s own, I was fairly pleased. Greg Rucka and Sterling Gates do a good job of characterization- showing Colonel Hazard of Squad K as a conflicted soldier, Lois’ loving concern for her adopted “son” Chris, and the growing friendship between Kara and Thara. Even
Reactron is turning into a compelling villain, though I find General Lane pretty boring as the mastermind. Pat Perez’ art is also growing on me. He gave us some interesting visuals, like Blue Beetle’s bug and the sewer scene, and did a great job depicting several different
Adventure Comics #3:I keep thinking that I’ll be able to drop this book. I have no nostalgia for the old Adventure Comics featuring Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. So I should be able to resist the new series’ charms, right? Not a chance. Geoff Johns is establishing a new status quo for Superboy as deftly as he once did for Hawkman, the Flash and the Teen Titans. Superboy’s inner struggle concerning his two biological parent donors, Lex Luthor and Superman, is strangely compelling. It raises all kinds of nature vs. nurture and fate vs. free will questions, without being overly philosophical. And this issue’s team-up with Tim Drake as Red Robin was a real treat. “You’re even more messed up than I am.” Johns is capturing adolescent confusion marvelously, without being condescending. There are so many potential pitfalls in this series and Johns is avoiding every one. Oh, and the Legion of Super-Heroes is one of the few back-up stories I’m actually enjoying.
Amazing Spider-Man #608-609:Marc Guggenheim does a great job of simplifying the clone saga for new readers (or those who didn’t bother reading the clone saga when it was coming out). In this story, a villain named Raptor blames Peter Parker for the death of his family because of the perfect resemblance between Peter and his deceased clone, Ben Reilly. Raptor’s pursuit of Peter wonderfully complicates Peter’s personal life as his co-workers at the Front Line want to know why someone thinks he’s a murderer, his room-mate Michelle thinks the Raptor is kind of nice and the Raptor targets Peter’s cousins. Oh, and Screwball is running around challenging
Spider-Man to a made-for-YouTube fight. The downside to this particular story is the art. The Adi Granov covers are stiff and I wasn’t impressed by the interior work of either Marco Checchetto on the main story or Luke Ross on the
Angel #26: Bryan Lynch comes back for a short tale about the after-effects of Angel (and all of L.A.’s) trip to Hell. Naturally, a screenwriter attempts to turn the story into a Hollywood movie. Except he changes every little detail. Angel and Spike come down to the San Diego Sci-Fi Fest to check it out, and to prevent one of Angel’s weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Of course, it’s never that easy. A small squad of demons is after the weapon and another group casts a spell which causes everyone wearing a costume to be possessed by it. It’s a great humorous tale, like Buffy’s Halloween” episode or Angel’s “Spin the Bottle.” And Lynch is a much stronger story-teller when he doesn’t have to balance a huge cast.
Angel: Only Human #3: I’m enjoying this mini-series about Gunn and Illyria a lot more than Ana is. I like the idea of having Illyria go home to Texas to meet Fred’s family. I’ve found the way that both Illyria and Gunn deal with the combination of humanity and demonhood compelling. And I especially enjoyed this issue’s flashback story about Illyria’s first pet when she was still a demon conqueror and how that flashback impacts their current situation. Scott Lobdell is doing something very interesting here and I simultaneously can’t wait to see how it end and don’t want it to be over.
Angel vs. Frankenstein: It’s an Angel triple feature as John Byrne brings us another tale from Angel’s past. This time, Byrne focuses on Angelus, Angel’s evil alter ego from the time before his soul was restored. Angelus is after the heirs of Dr. Frankenstein in order to steal his family treasure. The Frankenstein monster is after the same thing and their paths cross in a memorable conflict. Byrne does a great job of showing Angelus’ callowness towards human life and matching it with the monster’s similar disregard for any life other than his own. The story is structured well, with the two main characters on similar tracks like trains heading towards a collision. And the climactic fight between the two is a great pay-off. Byrne’s art is also exceptional. He does a great job with the likenesses, without trying for photo-realism, and is the perfect mood for a period piece.
Astonishing X-Men #31: I think this is what Mark Millar meant when he coined the term “big screen comics.” This is an amazing opening. Agent Brand narrowly escapes a planet filled with the alien Brood by burning everything in her wake. Unfortunately, her craft is damaged during the escape and she’s about to crash into Earth. Her organization, SWORD, isn’t able to intervene in time so they call in the X-Men who spring into action. The X-Men work like a well-oiled machine, using their incredible powers such as Storm’s command over weather and their incredible bravery to rescue the craft. Mission accomplished, they start to head home when Emma Frost thinks she sees one of her former students. The student reveals itself to be a bio-Sentinel and the X-Men suddenly find themselves worrying about new versions of two of their most persistent foes. Like I said, it’s an amazing opening. I can only hope that Warren Ellis is able to keep the momentum going this time, as his previous arc started out well but went nowhere.
Astro City: Astra #2:The second half of this two part tale is well told. I enjoyed the tour of the Gordian Knot of universes that have been tied together in a Crisis on Infinite Earths kind of confrontation. And I liked the twist at the heart of the story. The characterization was great as well- Astra’s hopes for the future, longing for a normal life (bringing us all the way back to her first story when she ran away to a real school so that she could learn to play hop-scotch) and her feeling of betrayal. This doesn’t quite measure up to the earlier short stories featuring Samaritan and Beautie but that’s like complaining Rembrandt’s other paintings weren’t as good as “Night Watch.”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #29: Buffy’s Season Eight has been an incredible trip so far. And this issue was still very enjoyable with great character moments like Xander and Dawn kissing in not-so-private and with Willow’s desperation at not having magic to turn to. So I feel like I’m unfairly nit-picking this series when I note that there were a couple of things that didn’t work for me in this issue. And yet, there were. Having an untrained mob of slayers hold off an army battalion without using magic stretched my credulity. And we’ve seen too many girlfriends killed off, including Renee earlier in this season, to be emotionally affected by the possibility of another.
Farscape: Gone and Back #4:With issue four, this mini-series is gone and I won’t be back. There have been glimpses of the kind of wackiness that made Farscape such a fun show to watch. But those glimpses aren’t enough. The art has been sub-standard for most of the run (Farscape is being published as a series of mini-series). And the stories aren’t consistently entertaining. This side trip into an unrealized reality (alternate dimension) started out fun as we got to visit characters who died inthe show and meet some new ones. But when Crichton returned with critical information about both baby Deke’s powers and the person trying to kill him, it seemed like a bit of story-telling cheat.
The Mighty Avengers #30:Yup, I’m still loving Dan Slott’s Mighty Avengers. This issue had all kinds of goodies: Hank Pym’s conversation with Eternity, the gathering of both the Young Avengers and the New Avengers, Jarvis’ delight at having a house-full of Avengers to take care of, the failed attempt to recruit Osborn’s Dark Avengers, Eternity’s declaration that Hank Pym is Earth’s Scientist Supreme, and all of that happened in interludes before getting back to the big battle against the Unspoken. Yup, this is the quick-paced, high-action, quick-witted, high-drama kind of story I want from the Avengers, or pretty much any superhero book.
Superman #693: This was the weakest of the Superman issues this month. I did like seeing General Lane gathertogether his gang of henchmen. But that was only good for a couple of panels, not several pages of having them stand around talking about Mon-El while he’s imprisoned. Plus, it was odd that we were never given the mind-reader’s name. The escape scene was interesting but the transition from the pocket dimension to the real world wasn’t clear at first. Finally, the cliffhanger appearance of Bzarro was nice. But altogether, this was a poorly paced and poorly told story. I supposed that part of the blame belongs to artist Fernando Dagnino but I expect better of writer James Robinson.
Superman: World of New Krypton #8:This was the best of the Superman issues this month. I was wondering how Robinson and Rucka were going to stretch out the Superman vs. Zod story for an entire year. Well, they showed us that there’s a lot more
to this series than that classic stand-off. The arrival of a new planet in Earth’s solar system impacts more than two people, or even two planets. This issue features a great battle with a fleet of Thanagarians and a surprising team-up to save the new planet from being demolished by a small moon. The Thanagarians aren’t standard villains. They’re given reasonable motives and their flip from foes to allies is believably handled. There’s also a great final panel as J’emm and the Saturnians make their first appearance in this story.
Plus, the art is still good- and occasionally great- as Pete Woods is the only showcase Superman artist still on his title.
Uncanny X-Men #516:Okay, that was a lot of standing around talking. I get that these are important conversations: Magneto offering his services to Cyclops as the new leader of the X-Men, Cyclops fully asserting his position of authority over Professor X, and a new villain offering Scalphunter a chance to destroy the X-Men. And the Greg Land art is beautiful no matter what. But still, that was a lot of non-action. And it was a lot of exposition, with Magneto explaining his work with the High Evolutionary and Cyclops explaining Cable’s mission to protect the baby named Hope. At least there’s the promise of action next issue as Scalphunter is about to attack the X-Men’s new island home.
X-Men Legacy #228:I have to admit that I’ve been enjoying Legacy of late. The new focus on Rogue and the next generation of X-Men is much more interesting than the previous focus on Professor’s X’s flashbacks. And I have to admit
that Daniel Acuna is getting much better as an interior artist. His pencils used to look stiff and posed, but they’re much more natural and emotional now. He does a great job of depicting Emplate and D.O.A.
despite having a very different style from their co-creator Chris Bachalo.
I’m impressed with writer Mike Carey, too. He actually managed to make Bling interesting (something I never thought was possible). He showed Rogue stepping up as a real leader. He kept Danger in the story, without having her overshadow it. He introduced us to one of the young heroes, Trance, and her still developing powers. And he juggled a huge cast while keeping us focused on the characters that counted for this particular story. It’s too bad that Legacy is heading towards a crossover with X-Force because it’s really starting to pick up an identity and some momentum of its own.
X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #1:This was a fairly solid opening. Jeff Parker gives us a couple of scenes introducing both teams. You might think that the X-Men need no introduction but there are new characters like Dr. Nemesis and Pixie that newer readers might not be familiar with. Parker also gives us a credible reason for the two teams to run into each other. The Agents of Atlas are stealing something from the X-Men’s supposedly abandoned base on the Marin Headlands in order to save their captured teammate Venus. The headquarters weren’t abandoned but the Agents are quick to react. The X-Men are pros as well and they respond to the invasion of their former headquarters with an invasion of their own, leading to a wonderfully huge battle scene. This may turn into a “fight and then team up” crossover yet but right now it’s much more than that, and much more enjoyable, too.
Well, that’s about half my pile. I could use a break right about now. And I’m sure you could, too. Come on back next week for the second half of the stack.