Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Establishment 1 - 7

These seven issues make up the first half of this Wildstorm series from 2001. It wasn't a direct spin-off from the Authority, but it definitely feels weighed down by a shared continuity with other titles. Since I'd never read the Authority, or many other Wildstorm titles for that matter, I felt like I was missing out on all this series had to offer. There seemed to be many references to other things going on in Wildstorm continuity, none of them playing a central role, but enough that it detracted from the story as a whole.

Another problem that I had with these seven issues is that I never really felt like I knew any of the characters or that I could really connect with them. The majority of the two story arcs in these issues focused on bringing the members of the Establishment into play and then sending them off against a horde of Deamonites and then a group of aliens from Venus. The members of the group each had their own special powers, but it wasn't ever really explained why they had the powers they did, what their reasons for being on the team were, how they got to know each other, or why they were operating in the way they were. The reader was just expected to take for granted that there were answers to all of those questions, but they simply weren't explained yet.

Even though the characters were hard to relate to, the stories were very action packed and kept me turning the pages to see what was next. The dialogue was written in a very realistic tone, so this didn't feel like one of the standard Marvle or DC superhero books, but from what I've heard from people most of the Wildstorm universe is written in this grounded tone.

As it stands, these two story arcs feel unfulfilling and leaves a reader not versed in the Wildstorm universe somewhat lost. Hopefully many of the questions I raised above will be touched on in the second half of the series, but even if they are it seems like it might be a case of "too little, too late". Wildstorm fans, you might enjoy this one more than I did, so take what I wrote with a grain of salt.

Art: 3.75
Story: 2.75
Overall: 3

Friday, October 29, 2004

Superman: Secret Identity

Superman is one of those characters that you'd think has had every possible story about him told in 10 different ways simply because he's been around so long and been written about so heavily. Superman is also one of those characters that I never really thought about much until I met my girlfriend. It turned out that she was a big fan, even having a Superman tatoo (she was more of a fan of the movies than the comics, but that's beside the point). Because of her, Superman has taken to the forefront of my collection, along with Batman and the plethora of X-titles I have. It is also because of her that this story seems so... special.

Secret Identity, written by Kurt Busiek, tells the tale of a boy named Clark Kent. He is an outcast, made fun of, and constantly hating his name. You see, he's just a normal kid who was unluckily named after a comic book superhero by his parents. The first issue deals with this topic very well. I empathized and related a lot to the constant abuse Clark took in his high school, being something of a social pariah for most of my high school career. Something happens one day, though, that changes Clark's life, changes it in a way he had only dreamed about--he's developed the powers of Superman to become the world's first superhero.

The next chapter deals with his struggle to keep his secret, yet exercise his powers to do good. Of course the government would want someone like him for their own use. Clark's constant battle is complicated by meeting, oddly enough, a woman named Lois. On their initial date, she storms off knowing it was set up in jest, but Clark's subtle charm wins her over. It made me think back to when I first met Kristin and how she almost didn't give me a chance. The way Busiek writes his characters, I can't help but feel a connection with them. They're not just one-sided stereotypes, but instead they have so many little quirks that if you can't relate to them, something is definitely wrong.

As Lois and Clark fall hopelessly in love, Clark divulges his secret hoping that Lois will be accepting. The love shown between the two characters throughout the story is almost palatable. It's such a full, wholesome, and unbelievably trusting relationship that will ring true with anyone who's fallen in love.

As time goes on, Clark and Lois grown older, have children, and experience life just like all of us will over the course of our very own lives. In the way that it's written, it feels like you're reading about your parents or your neighbors or maybe even what you hope your future will be like... except for that small bit about superpowers. Sure, that leads to some interesting plot developments, but for the most part this is a story simply about living life and experiencing love. We only get one shot at this and this wonderfully uplifting tale will fill even the most callous heart with a little joy. I didn't think I'd say it, but the final reflective scenes showing Clark reflecting on his life, his family, and his experiences brought a few tears to my eyes. I never though I'd ever read a comic book of all things that could elicit such an emotional response, but Busiek pulls it of with ease. Read this story. I know you won't regret it.

Art: 4
Story: 5
Overall: 5

Monday, October 25, 2004


I'm beginning to find that just about anything from Ait/PlanetLar is going to be a good read and Abel is no exception. This story is one of lies and how they guide our lives (and as much is said in the afterward by Rachel Pollack). It's also a story of two boys, their family, and the town they live in. It's also a story of misdirection. It's also really, really good.

The story starts off with a very attention grabbing scene--the two brothers are in a ditch, the older holding a rifle, and a dog is in the opposite ditch. The older brother, who has the rifle shoots the dog while the younger brother watches wide-eyed. The dog, not being quite dead yet, lies helplessly in the ditch as the older brother, Phillip, beats the remaining life out of it before shooting it in the head. The younger brother, John, looks on in horror only to be knocked back to reality by his brother's fist hitting his face.

With my attention fully focused on this story I was glued to to each sequential page as the rest of the story developed. The violent and hate-filled relationships of the brothers is complicated by the fact that the older brother covers up his beating of his brother by claiming his little brother was a hero and beat up a bully.

John doesn't have it all bad as he develops a friendship with an Asian worker, but when his brother finds out about it, he uses this friend of John's as a scapegoat for his own evil deeds. John is caught in the middle, surrounded by lies spun by everyone around him.

I can't recall the last time I read something so ugly, yet so captivating. William Harms has truly created a spectacular tale of a rough childhood of a boy during the time of World War II. This graphic novel comes with the highest recommendation!

Art: 4
Story: 4.5
Overall: 4.25

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Batman: War Drums

This trade paperback, War Drums, from DC collects Detective Comics #790-796 and Robin #126-128 and also serves as the prelude to 2004's Bat-title uber crossover, War Games. Whenever a gigantic crossover comes along in any of the big comic families (X-Men, Superman, Avengers, Batman, etc.) I always wait for the trade. I just never liked the concept of buying a bunch of comics I don't usually buy just to get all the parts of a story in one of the titles I read (in this case, Batman). True, this tpb doesn't actually have anything from the Batman core title collected in it, but it acts as a lead-in to War Games, which does use cross into the main Batman title so I picked it up to give it a read.

After reading it, I'm a little torn. I liked some of what was in here, and some of it I didn't. On the good side is Batman and his interactions with the new, female Robin, Spoiler. She has taken up the mantle after Tim decided to quit (I guess it had something to do with his dad not wanting him to, but it's not really explained). Seeing Batman train in a new Robin, especially one so dedicated and containing so much wit, was a real treat.

Another treat was seeing Batman working with a new character named Orpheus to set up a fake criminal organization to fill in where another gang had previously held sway. It's an interesting way to attempt to take care of the crime rate--install a leader that would answer to the Bat directly.

On the bad side is a story about a pop star and her sister's baby and another about some disease monster infecting workers at a waste treatment plant. Neither really held my interest too much. The monster story was only slightly more readable since it contained a nice guest appearance by the Tarantula. The resolution to the monster story was very obvious and just felt kind of lame.

The pop star story seemed very interesting to start, but it just couldn't hold my interest. Besides it not holding my interest, it, along with the rest of the stories, didn't seem to fit together as well as I had hoped. It was quite obvious that these stories only held a cursory connection to each other and DC simply slapped them together to make a tpb that they could sell with all the War Games hype. All in all it wasn't a bad read, but it wasn't that great of one either.

Art: 3.5
Story: 3
Overall: 3

Friday, October 22, 2004

Please Vote (For Comics, Of Course!)

Well, since no one has left a comment on this site yet (you can do so by clicking that little link at the bottom of a post that says "Please Comment"), I thought I'd put up something to vote on over the weekend. Maybe this will get some discussion started in the commments! Anyhow, below is a list of comic series that I have sitting around waiting to read. Let me know which you'd like for me to read next and then review. Now, here are your choices:

  • Phantom Jack (Image - 5 issues)
  • Marvel: The Lost Generation (Marvel - 12 issues)
  • Batman: Fortunate Son (DC - graphic novel)
  • Lobo: Unamerican Gladiators (DC - 4 issues)
  • The Establishment (DC/Wildstorm - 13 issues)
  • Will to Power (Dark Horse - 12 issues)
  • Toyboy (Continuity - 7 issue)
Now, vote away!

[Update: Looks like there were only two votes and both were for The Establishment so that looks like the next series to go under my microscope. I've got two other reviews to post on already read stuff and then it's on to The Establishment!]

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Magneto Rex

Is it just a rule that when you write the X-men, you have to do it in such a heavy-handed way that it makes readers want to cry? In this little three issue mini, Joe Pruett managed to cram more text in than Claremont does in six issues. I know, that's quite a feat, but he pulls it off wonderfully, which means that in reading this mini I was horribly bored.

This is the story of how Magneto came to be the ruler of Genosha. Turns out it involved lots and lots of dialogue between Magneto, Rogue, Quicksilver, and a couple of Genoshans. I'm not just talking a little more than an average amount of dialogue, I'm talking every pane filled to the brim with dialogue balloons. There's also plenty of caption boxes restating what the art clearly shows and recapping what happened just a few pages previous. I don't know why the captions were so redundant, but they sure as heck drove me crazy.

So, what is the actual plot? Well, the UN turned over Genosha to Magneto, but there's som mutates there that don't want him to take over so they fight against him. Throw in lots of dialogue and a couple of fight scenes and that's basically it. There's some reactions show from news agencies around the world and the occasional page of government officials talking about the UN's move, but most of the story revolves around Magneto fighting off the mutates. Rogue's role in the whole thing is pretty extraneous and totally unnecessary. Quicksilver played a moderately large role, but it was all just set up for the position he takes up at the end of the story.

The art was pretty good. I've enjoyed what Brandon Peterson has done and this is a decent offering from him. I just wish that I got to see more of his art and less dialogue balloons. One drawback to his style, though, is that in this instance Magneto and Quicksilver looked almost identical when it was simply face shots. He needs to work on differentiating facial features.

Well, if you wondered how Magneto became the leader of Genosha, don't waste your time reading this, just know that the UN handed it over to him and he fought off some mutates to solidify his position as ruler. The end.

Art: 3
Story: 2
Overall: 2.25

Monday, October 18, 2004

Weapon X 23-28

These issues make up the end of 2002-2004's iteration of the Weapon X series. Oddly enough, over the last few years this has actually been my favorite of the myriad of X-Men comic book series that are out there (outside of Morrison's New X-Men run). For starters, this series has always been about the bad guys, many of them second tier villains that are not seen very often. Adding to that is the fact that this series was very intelligently written by Frank Tieri and actually payed attention to the continuity of the other X-titles out there (unlike just about every current X-title).

In this six issue run there are two distinct arcs, the first focusing on Wolverine, Fantomex, and Agent Zero. The second is about Sabertooth tracking down Sinister. In the first arc, Wolvie, Fatomex, and Agent Zero are all brought together for some unknown purpose. In coming together, a very important nugget of Wolverine's history is revealed. This information was hinted at in Morrison's New X-Men run, but never revealed. It is here in issue 24 that you find out, so for Wolverine fans, this is an essential issue to have.

The rest of this arc is good, but is left unresolved. No doubt Tieri was going to come back to visit this arc later on, but couldn't as Marvel axed the series. The Tom Mandrake art in this arc, as well as in the second arc, is good, but I really hate how the colors were put down right over his pencils. The lack of inking made it feel like an unfinished comic. Don't get me wrong, Mandrake is a superb penciler, but I would rather see his stuff inked before it is colored.

The second arc was just as enjoyable as the first, but also just as unfinished as the first. Sabertooth is hired by some shady big name company to track down Sinister. In doing so, he throws down on some of Sinister's henchmen and finally confronts the man himself. At this point the leader of the company that hired Sabertooth calls him off in order to talk to Sinister himself. The head of the company, in a surprise reveal, turns out to be another character from Morrison's run (but I'll let you read to find out who). Since the series is over now I can only hope this plotline is picked up and explored in one of the other X-titles as it has a lot of promise.

All in all this was a decent enough close to a wonderful series. Buy the entire series if you can. On their own, though, these issues are good, yet unfulfilling, reads.

Art: 3.5
Story: 3.25
Overall: 3.25

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Tellos vol II: Kindred Spirits

Since there was such a cliffhanger in volume I, I had to go pull out volume II of my Tellos collection and see how the story ended. With Kindred Spirits, I was again transported to a magical world with talking animals, magic, and a couple of unlikely heroes who have set out to save the entire realm.

I'm not going to reveal too much about the plot because if you're anything like me, a story like this one with as many different, and sometimes subtle, plot shifts as it has, I wouldn't want any of them revealed to me unless I was reading it myself.

What I can say is that this volume is a lot more of the same in terms of content in comparison to the first volume. Just for clarity's sake, this volume collects the second half of the Tellos comic book series from Image, issues 6-10. In this volume there are less outside adversaries and more intrapersonal relationships fleshed out. Don't worry, there's still plenty of fantasy action, cluminating in the standard "representative of everything good vs. representative of everything bad" battle to end the series.

I found that I didn't enjoy this volume quite as much as the first simply because a few things are left unexplained, probably to be explored elsewhere in some of the Tellos one-shot's that are out there. What really annoyed me most was what happened to the character of Hawke. It's never really explained and just let go. This happens with a couple of other small plot points as well. If it wasn't for these few unresolved threads, I again would have thoroughly enjoyed this volume, but as it is, it was still good reading and would seem appropriate for all ages of readers.

Art: 3.5
Story: 3.25
Overall: 3.5

Friday, October 15, 2004

Tellos vol. I: Reluctant Heroes

Reluctant Heroes collects the first five issues of the Tellos comic book series from Image comics along with the Prelude and Prologue. I originally bought this trade paperback, along with a few other Tellos books for my girlfriend. She really enjoys fantasy styled comics (which there aren't a ton of at the moment since CrossGen folded) and this one looked to be one she could really enjoy because it contained one thing--anthropomorphic animals.

This story is a basic fantasy, hero coming of age story. The main character, Jarek, is a thief who has been living on the run with his friend Koj, a tiger-man. They later meet up with Serra, a pirate ship captain, and two other thieves, Rikk and Hawke (Rikk being a fox-man and Hawke an "ulf" (this realm's version of an elf)). In their quest to find another hero to help in the great battle of good versus evil (like any good fantasy story), they take on water serpents, frog-warriors, and a band of assassins.

As cliched and hokey as the story might sound, Todd Dezago does a good job of writing this tale so that it remains compelling. The art from Mike Wieringo also helps. His style is very cartoony and the bright, pastel colors washed over his pencils gives this story a laid back, fun feel.

The only small drawback to this trade paperback is it doesn't contain the complete story. The end of the book leaves you with a cliffhanger that holds the fate of one of the members in the balance. I know I can't wait to read the next book, so it's a successful application of a cliffhanger, but I didn't like having to go buy another book to get the entire story.

As it is, this is a perfect book for anyone who enjoys light-hearted fantasy. I think it would even work very well for kids too, as none of the themes are too adult and the art style should be appealing to the little ones.

Art: 3.5
Story: 3.75
Overall: 3.75

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

With Christopher Reeve's passing, I found that I had a sudden urge to start reading some Superman titles again. Appropriately for the moment, I finally read Alan Moore's Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? This story is supposedly the last Superman story, but in actuality it was simply a filler story to fill the last couple of issues of Superman's titles before John Byrne revamped him. Because of this, I viewed the story as an Elseworlds style of story and with that mindset, I truly enjoyed Moore's story immensely.

It should be pointed out that this story is written in the style of most silver age comic stories, but with a much darker tone. Many of the main Superman staple characters die in this story and it can come off as depressing for anyone who loves Superman and all of the mythos attached to the character, but it was very well suited for a "last" style story.

Appearances are made by almost any big name character from the silver age of Superman including Bizzarro, Luthor, Brainiac, The Legion of Superheroes, Lana Lang, Lois, Jimmy, and even Krypto, among others. If you're unfamiliar with Superman comics, some of these characters might appear foreign to you (the Legion was for me as I've never read anything with the Legion in it) as they aren't fleshed out too greatly beyond their stereotypical features.

What I found that I enjoyed most about this story is the strain that is apparent upon Superman as he tries to protect all of his friends and loved ones from the wrath of the combined power of many of his past enemies. You can feel the stress that he's under as well as the care that he exudes for those around him. Moore writes him perfectly as a man under pressure but determined not to fail.

Legendary artist Curt Swan contributes the art for this story and he captures the mood of Moore's story perfectly while still maintaining a silver age feel. Personally, I have never been too big of a fan of the silver age style of art, but in this case I found that I really appreciated it simply because it made me remember that Superman has a much longer history that I usually remember.

For anyone that is a Superman fan in the least, this story should be required reading. Moore demonstrates perfectly how to write a character that is often very hard to tell a story about because of his immense history and very narrowly defined characteristics.

Art: 3.5
Story: 5
Overall: 4.5

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I Miss You, Christopher Reeve

Oddly enough, after attending a comic book convention on Saturday (at which I bought many a Superman comic), the man who will embody the character of Superman in most people's minds, Christopher Reeve, passed away on Sunday. Most of the time I wouldn't pay attention to a celebrity death, but this time it's different. Mr. Reeve wasn't your stereotypical celebrity. Ever since the horse riding accident that paralyzed him, he's been a wonderful example of someone who wouldn't give up.

For me Reeve was a wonderful person. Unlike many, I haven't attached "Superman" to him, but instead thought he was a good actor that portrayed Superman well. What I have always thought of Reeve as is a wonderful, positive human being that has shown many of us how to fight past adversity. I can't imagine how I would react to being paralyzed. Much like he initially did, I probably would have thought about ending it all. A life where only my head could function would be such a hard life, yet he managed to turn his into an inspiration for those like him, as well as many fully functional people who were motivationally paralyzed.

I had such a great admiration for this man, even though I've probably never made a point of expressing it to many people, but just the fact that he's persevered for 9 years, and done so much while being in the condition he was in is simply amazing. For him to be as selfless and positive as he was while enduring such a tragic joke of fate has been a compelling example for me of how I would like to live my life. Whatever the cards that are dealt, make the most of them.

I think about how often I whine or complain when things don't go my way. I have to stay a little longer at work one day. I don't get a run in at night. I have to help clean our basement. I don't like driving to and from work every day. All of these things, and many of the other things I complain about, are all so small in comparison and yet Reeve never seemed to be unhappy, lazy, or whiney. He was always the opposite.

It almost feels like losing a loved one, losing someone who has been an inspiration to you. I've never met him and I don't know him personally, but through his actions he had become some I looked up to. Now in his passing I'm left with an empty feeling. I've never mourned for a celebrity, but somehow I feel like it is appropriate now. If anything is a testament to what a great role model he was, it's knowing that I'll actually miss him.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Werewolf by Night vol. II

I've been a huge Paul Jenkins fan for a while now. He has yet to disappoint me and his work on Sentry and Inhumans are some of my favorite stories of the last few years. Instead of taking superheroes in the more traditional direction, he has always given them a more grounded feel. Werewolf by Night isn't really a superhero tale, but Jenkins still keeps his grounded storytelling tone and also adds a little of the occult.

The story starts off by presenting us with Jack Russell, a man who turns into a werewolf during every full moon. He has hit rock bottom and is living his life simply out of obligation, that is until he is presented with a way to confront the curse of the wolf and possibly control it. With this newfound knowledge, he has a new purpose to living his life.

The first four issues of this six issue series are devoted to his quest to gain control over the curse of the wolf. I was really drawn in to this story as Jack confronts many demons (some person and some actual) on his quest for control. Once he reaches the point where he has wrestled control of his werewolf nature from the demon, it appears that his life is in order. In fact, the entire fifth issue is dedicated solely to him dealing with his newly found "normal" life. This issue was by far my favorite of the series as it explores Jack's friends and why it is they've stuck by him through the thick and thin. It was truly refreshing to see what actually happens after a climactic battle, such as Jack's with the demon that controlled him.

But then there's the sixth issue. I get the feeling, after reading it, that this series was meant to run longer but Marvel pulled the plug on it quite quickly. In the first half of the issue, a new story arc seems to be being set up. There's been gruesome murders in Jack's home city and he's been asked to find the culprit. As he starts his investigation, he goes to a club for the undead where he meets Ghost Rider. It would appear that this was the start of his quest for the killer, but in the last few pages a hackneyed ending is tacked on. Jack, on his way home, sees the full moon and is again turned into a werewolf and kills someone. It turns out he is the killer and the status quo is reset, possibly for future use of the character. It was really a terrible, terrible end to such a strong series start.

If you're going to grab this series, get all of the issues except the sixth. Pretend it ends at issue five and you'll be happy.

As for the art, I was very impressed by Leonardo Manco's heavily inked linework and the muted colors used on top of them. The art was very rough and gritty while remaining very detailed, which suited the story perfectly. I couldn't have really imagined a better artist for this story.

Art: 4
Story: 3.5
Overall: 3.5

Saturday, October 02, 2004


This little four issue mini is the first batch of comics I've ever read from now defunct publisher First Comics. My first impression after reading through the beautiful 100+ pages of trippy storytelling is that this really felt like a Vertigo title. It could have just as easily been written by Moore, Morrison, or Gaiman. Instead, I was surprised to see it was written by a freelance technical writer by the name of Stefan Petrucha. This gives me hope that someday I can break into the comics writing business as I have now seen someone from my profession jump into the comics writing world (even if said world is from 1989).

Squalor is the tale of a man who has supposedly discovered "A-time". A-time is is our reality minus linear time. Basically it's a neat way of saying that he can jump into the fourth dimension. In the first couple of issues you're left wondering if he is really someone capable of something superhuman or if he's simply crazy. There's notions that lead you to believe both such as the facts that he was previously institutionalized and often talks in rants that have no bearing on reality, yet he can at times know exactly what you are thinking and can predict the immediate future.

The art helps lend to the questioning of Squalor's sanity or superpowers. The best way to describe many of the images would be to simply say that this might have been how Salvador Dali would have made comics if given the chance... and a little more sanity.

There are truly some wonderful images and metaphors to be found throughout this series. One such moment is a series of panels where a gigantic clown, while conversing with Squalor, detaches his head and dives into his neck and upon completely engulfing himself inside of Squalor, the disembodied head reattaches itself and Squalor returns to reality.

The only drawback to the story is the ending. The last issue doesn't contain as many of the odd, crazy moments as the first three and as the pieces start to fall together, the conclusion of the story doesn't seem as creative as the interesting world of "A-time" and Squalor's adventures in craziness in the beginning of the series. However, this series still trumps most current comics in terms of creativity and mental stimulation. In fact, it's series such as this that helps reinforce my belief that there are good comics to be found in all those back issue bins out there. Do yourself a favor and dig this one up and give it a read.

Art: 4
Story: 4
Overall: 4