Monday, February 28, 2005

Superman: Day of Doom

The death of Superman created quite the buzz when it happened. I know I was sucked into the gigantic, title spanning story arc. Knowing that the Man of Steel would perish created so much anticipation in my mind, not because I hated Superman or anything, but because I was so curious as to how something like that could happen. How would it happen? Would it be someone in his already vast rogues gallery or a new villain? Would it be a kryptonite inflicted death? Would Superman get tricked somehow? I was so stoked to find out what would happen to the seemingly indestructable Superman.

When I finally read the collected story (I only had managed to get a part of the story since I didn't buy all the titles involved initially), and the collected stories of the world without Superman and his return, I was extremely satisfied. The story was great and I couldn't have asked for anything more grand or interesting. With Day of Doom, Dan Jurgens revisits the events of Superman's death and return to life.

I was hoping to like this four issue mini as much as the original story. Instead, though, I found it a painful read. The story was quite heavy handed and the art was hard on the eyes for a good majority of the time. The story focuses on a reporter who is assigned to writing a retrospective on Superman's death for the anniversary of the event. The reporter hates Superman and is bound & determined to focus on the stories of those killed by the event rather than Superman himself.

It's this heavy handed look at the events of Superman's death that got real annoying real quick. Yeah, there were a ton of people affected by the battle between Superman and Doomsday, and many more people were affected by the return of the supposed Supermen. I know that. I'm sure Superman knows that as well, but this focus on how Superman was responsible for so many bad things was just dumb. He doesn't realize that if not for Superman Doomsday would have easily killed many more people and the evil Superman that emerged would have killed more people. Everything would have been worse if Superman wasn't there, so stop your bitching about how crappy you have it because Superman saved your ass!

The story got on my nerves real quick because it was so narrow-minded, but that's only part of what doesn't work for this mini. The art by Jurgens is a real eyesore. He does a few nice full page splashes of Superman, but when it comes to illustrating normal characters and doing small panel pieces, he couldn't do it. The scrawling, scratchy art of Jurgens is something that I just can't enjoy. Everything looks like he scribbled it out really fast without taking the time to put any real effort into it. Maybe some people enjoy it, but I found it hard to look at page in and page out.

As much as I wanted to like this retrospective on Superman's death, it failed to work on so many levels that even my feelings of nostalgia couldn't bring me to like this title. Unless you are a Superman completist or want to read a very mediocre look back on Superman's death, I can't recommend this.

Art: 2
Story: 2.25
Overall: 2

Friday, February 25, 2005

Dead @ 17

There's been so much talk about this series, as well as its sequels, that I figured it was about time that I gave it a look. Oddly enough, I have a hard time finding what all of the rave reviews are about. This isn't a bad series at all, but it somehow feels like the story isn't as polished as it could be. The art, on the other hand, is a unique and intersting style that I haven't really seen on display. I like it, and I also think that the art is this four issue mini-series' greatest strength.

This is an odd little story about zombies, a heroine come back from the dead, a demonic power trying to enslave the human race, a cult, a group of friends, and a covert government team. There's a lot crammed into the 80 or so pages of this story and I think that because there is so much, it loses a lot of focus that I feel would have helped out this story.

While reading through, I kept trying to figure out if this was going to be a zombie story, or maybe it was a character study of our returned from the dead heroine, or maybe it was a teen drama with the undead thrown in the mix, or maybe it was about stopping a malevolent power from overtaking the human race, or maybe it was an exploration of the occult. So many of these styles got mixed and matched together that I found it hard to really invest myself in the story. There were also a lot of moments where I had to really suspend my disbelief to identify with what was going on because some interactions just didn't seem natural or felt forced.

Even though the story was a little lackluster, the art was something unique and is easily Josh Howard's biggest strength. The best way to describe his style would be to call it very angular and cartoonish with a manga inspired feel to it. Usually I'd really dislike this style, but it's oddly appealing. There's not a ton of detail to his style either, but for some reason I still like it. Maybe it's because it is something different than what I'm usually exposed to on an everyday basis in what I read, but somehow Howard's art feels a cut above the rest.

So I really don't know how to properly judge the overall package of this mini. On one hand, the story really feels lacking and amatuerish, yet it is competently done. On the other hand, the art is something new and interesting and worth seeing. In the end, I guess these two things offset each other to create a decent overall mini.

Art: 4
Story: 2.5
Overall: 3

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Sigil 36 - 42

So the first CrossGen title I sat down to read comes to a close with these issues. Sadly, it ends just as it was at its best. These last seven issues are easily the best of the entire run. The differing characters were all embroiled in interesting subplots. The main plot, involving the coming of the Negation forces, was building up a strong head of steam. JeMerick is finally starting to have his true nature revealed and his purpose is coming to light. Then, just as I can't wait to read each subsequesent issue, it ends... leaving me with a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth.

The concept of the multi-title spanning Negation war was one that really intrigued me and these issues were working as a prime setup for that war. Sam was kidnapped by one of the Negation Lawbringers and later, after he escaped, is tricked into getting another Sigil-bearer pregnant as JeMerick knows that by doing that, they will have an advantage against the Negation. He doesn't reveal what this advantage would be or why they would need that child, but I certainly couldn't wait to find out.

The Negation forces were working their way into the outer rim of the human worlds, starting with Delassia. Sam, not wanting to see them killed, forces even the most stubborn from the planet. The political ramifications of having so many refugees residing on the already cramped asteroids that made up what was left of the planet Gaia would be interesting and were hinted at in the last couple of issues.

Loser, the Saurian leader, also becomes caught up in the conflict against the Negation. He, along with a human tracker, take on a group of Negation and are transported into another realm where the Saurians are being used as slaves. It looks as if they are going to do something about it... but we'll never know.

There was so much that was building in this series that I feel cheated for not getting to know how it ends. If you are going to read this series, I would suggest stopping at issue 35, the last issue before the arc involving the Negation begins. Having so much dangled in front of you and then never finished is too much of a tease for me. Damn you, CrossGen. Damn you and your terrible accounting problems!

Art: 3
Story: 3.5
Overall: 3

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Sigil 22 - 35

This is a big chunk of issues to review, but when I think about it, over the course of these 14 issues, there really wasn't any large thematic changes or writing changes or and other series shattering changes. These 14 issues are simply the continuing space opera of Sam, his allies, and his Saurian foes. Chuck Dixon writes the entire arc so there is a consitency in the characters and writing style and the art is done, for the most part, by Scot Eaton with a few fill in issues by other artists with much the same style as Eaton.

I thought I'd have a lot to write since this is such a large span of issues, but I really don't. As much as there is that happens throughout the course of this long arc, there also isn't a lot that happens. That sounds paradoxical, I know, but let me explain.

So through this run, the human homeworld of Gaia is destroyed, the physical Roiya returns from the dead so there are now two versions of her, the Saurian leader is killed, the Saurian race tumbles into a civil war, the Bitterluck and her crew mysteriously land on an alien world only for Sam to save the day, and there's also an entire issue devoted to a flashback of Sam and Roiya's days in the military.

Yeah, so that sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Well there's also a lot of other things that go on, but those were simply the major items. Oddly enough, as much as there is going on, it often feels somewhat rushed. I would have liked more exploration of some of these subplots, but it seemed like as soon as a subplot was getting deep, Dixon would wrap it up with a couple of huge splash pages detailing a grand scene and then the reader would be moved along to the next big thing.

I really liked this style of grandiose writing, but at times it got to be too much and I just wanted things to settle down for a bit so we could focus on the characters again instead of these big plot devices. With worlds exploding and matriarchs dying and ships getting lost in wormholes, there's not a lot of time left to devote to character development. True, there was a lot of development done in the first 20 or so issues of the series, but that doesn't mean you can't develop the characters further. There were a few issues that were so filled with splash pages that I could read through them in 5 minutes or so. Now don't get me wrong, the art by Eaton was pretty darn good and Dixon's plots gave him more of a chance to draw big, awesome stuff as opposed to when Kessel and Waid were writing it, but it just felt like the depth of the story was severely missing in spots.

I shouldn't complain too much, however, as it's hard to find any good space opera styled comics today. Sigil has been a very refreshing read for me and is a nice break from the majority of the superhero stuff I've been trying to wean myself off of. With CrossGen's demise, it's pretty easy to get their titles on the cheap now, so I'd heartily suggest if you haven't given this series a shot, go grab what issues you can and dig it. It's fun, light, sci-fi comics that'll easily keep you interested for a while.

Art: 3.75
Story: 3.25
Overall: 3.5

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Daisy Kutter

I'd read all the praise for this series on the various comic review websites scattered around the vastness of the internet, but I'd never been able to get a hold of this series (or any of the Dead @ 17 stuff for that matter) since I don't have a comic shop in my local area. I get all of my new comics through online preorder so if I miss a series that ends up getting a lot of critical acclaim, I'm usually out of luck and have to either wait until the trade hits or hope that down the line I'll remember to order it if I put in a back issue order somewhere. Thanks to Greg, however, I wasn't left sitting on the outside looking in as he so graciously sent me copies of each of the issues of this 4 issue mini.

The premise of this mini is an interesting one. In a world where the wild west has crossed paths with robots, Daisy has been tapped to perform one last heist. This heist will consist of her outwitting a rich entrepenuer's newest security robots, which are supposedly unable to be defeated. Daisy doesn't initially want to take the job, but after losing everything in a poker game in the first issue, her hand is forced and she has to in order to keep afloat.

The entire first issue revolves around a poker game, which I thought was really neat. When I read in another review that this was the premise of the issue, I wondered how it would actually work in a comic book setting, but it was pulled off perfectly.

After the intial setup, the next two issues focus on the train heist while the last issue is the final showdown between Daisy and a huge ass robot killing machine. Whereas the first issue was all about focusing on the characters, the last three issues were focused on action and some damn good action at that. Much like Diggle and Jock on the Losers, Kazu Kabuishi creates some wonderful action scenes.

What really makes these scenes work is the great gray scale art. Outside of The Walking Dead, this is some of the best gray scale art I've seen. Kabuishi has a very traditional style which, oddly enough, worked perfectly for this fictional world of robots and cowboys.

All in all, my first experience with Viper Comics has been a great one. Grab this series if you can (or the tpb that's out now) as it's a highly enjoyable, highly energetic, really fun title.

Art: 4
Story: 4
Overall: 4

Saturday, February 12, 2005

JLA Classified 1 - 3

Grant Morrison doing some more work with the JLA. How can that ever be a bad thing? That's exactly what I thought until reading this arc. I think I might have appreciated this story more if I knew anything about the Ultra-Marines, but I didn't. I also didn't really know anything about the mini universe that the JLA are trapped in for the first issue. Combine this with only a casual knowledge of the JLA and you get a story arc that, while well written, wasn't all that enjoyable for me.

Morrison is a writer who I have the utmost respect for and after just finishing We3, I was looking forward to reading this. I wanted to read a story about the JLA written by Morrison, not a story about the Ultra-Marines with the JLA playing only a partial role in the overall plot. The entire first issue is primarily devoted to watching the Ultra-Marines take on Gorilla Grodd and Batman working with one of the Ultr-Marines on a way to contact the rest of the JLA in the mini universe they were trapped in.

The middle issue sees the plot advancing and being used simply to set up the big throwdown battle between the brainwashed Ultra-Marines and the JLA. I don't have anything against big superhero battles and the many different match-ups were written well, but since I didn't know anything about the Ultra-Marines other than they were being mind controlled, I didn't feel invested into the outcome of the battles. I just didn't care. In the end, Grodd is stopped and everything is wrapped up nicely, and I'm left feeling a little empty.

The art by Ed McGuinness, although very cartoony, works nicely. I really didn't like his style when he was on Superman/Batman, but it seemed much better suited to this title. At times, though, I wished his style was more consistent. When drawing Grodd and his gorilla compatriots, Ed would use a more detailed, less cartoony style than when he was drawing the JLA and Ultra-Marines. Personally I wish he would have used this style the entire series through, but as it is, his work functioned just fine for the story on hand.

Art: 3
Story: 2.5
Overall: 2.5

Friday, February 11, 2005

New X-Men: Academy X 7 - 9

I know this title is aimed at a younger audience, and at times this can detract from the story, but for the most part I find that I've been enjoying this series even with its many faults. The New X-Men series might be a hard one to jump into as there are a lot of dangling plot lines, tons and tons of characters, and a population of characters that were unknown in the X-Universe before the second iteration of the New Mutants title came out.

The focus of this three issue arc is a supposed ghost story, but even by the end of the first issue, you have a very good inkling that the ghost really isn't a ghost. By the end of the second issue, it's pretty apparent who the ghost is and why it exists. The third issue simply spells it all out for the reader. With such a simplistic and easily transparent plot, then why do I happen to like it? Character interaction. There's a fair amount of it between the varied students and you can easily pick up on each character's personality and how they feel about the other characters in the school.

It's best to think of this series as a high school drama with superpowers thrown in as an afterthought. Yes, there are plenty of superhero moments and the main focus of this plot is otherworldly in nature, but underneath it all it's really a teen drama. I enjoy reading about the student love triangles and the way each student feels about the other and how they handle their feelings--it makes me remember high school, and not in a negative light like I usually do.

The art is passable, but I would really appreciate it if the artists made it look like Cyclops, Emma, and the rest of the staff looked older than 18. The cartoony nature of the art also isn't really my style, but it suits the story. I don't think a gritty style or a hyper-realistic style would suit the stories that are told in New X-Men, but that doesn't mean I like the cartoony hoo-hah that's in this series.

For a younger ages title, I find this series suprisingly enjoying and this arc, even though it's one of the weaker in the series, manages to satisfy.

Art: 3
Story: 3.25
Overall: 3

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Grant Morrison, frankly, I believe is one of the best writers in the modern comics world. Everything he touches is usually unique, interesting, and boundary defying. Sometimes it gets to be a little much, though (see the first volume of the Invisibles), but the majority of the time he's money. We3 is no exception. I was enthralled throughout the short run of this three issue miniseries and any discerning comics reader will be as well.

So you have three animals who were implanted with technology and possibly genetically engineered to be killing machines. You see their uncanny abilities for voilence in the first issue as they take down a squad of terrorists. Even though they are quite effective, the project is decomissioned because of the fact that the government representative doesn't like the fact that these killing animals have developed primitive intelligence, including very basic communication skills.

Needless to say, they get set free by their creator so that they aren't killed. The rest of the story is a study of these three animals and their search for a home, their dealing with the military trying to destroy them, and their learning to be on their own. Morrison has created a family of three animals, and the reason this story is much deeper than simply "robot animals vs. military" is the development of the primitive personalities of these animals. Reading the simple dialogue interaction between the animals, as well as seeing the expertly illustrated quirks of each animal, creates a story that works on a deeper, more personal level.

No one really knows what an animal is thinking, but if you could ever be granted a glimpse of what it might be to be an animal who has been granted superhuman skills, this is what it would be like. I can't really talk up the depth of this series any more than I already have. It's amazingly deep in it's animalistic simplicity, as odd as that may sound. Quietly complements Morrison's story perfectly in his extremely realistic and visceral art. Not only is this story an intellectual treat, but it's also a gift for your eyes. We3, quite simply put, was one of the best mini's of 2004, hands down.

Art: 4.25
Story: 4.5
Overall: 4.5

Monday, February 07, 2005

Outsiders 17 - 19

Almost the entire run of The Outsiders so far has been great in my book... up until the three issue run with the guest appearance by America's Most Wanted's John Walsh. What was the point of including him in this arc? There really wasn't a need for him in my opinion and it lead to some forced moments. On top of that the art took a definite step in the wrong direction.

Carlos D’Anda put together three issues of ugly, ugly art. It seems like every scene he was trying to make the heroes look as blocky and unattractive as possible. I flew through these issues partly because I didn't want to look at his art any more. To top off his terrible linework, there was excessive inking and the colors just seemed... off. There really wasn't anything to like about the interior art of this arc, but the covers of 18 and 19 were both very appealing.

The story didn't work at all. So there's a rash of missing kids and the Outsiders are going to do something about it. In order to help their search they enlist the help of John Walsh. Why? Because they think he has more connections than the Outsiders themselves. Come on! The Outsiders could easily call upon the help of the JLA or any number of other superheroes that would be able to hunt down and sniff out a child kidnapper better than some guy with a hit TV show.

As the search progresses, we get to see Grace be all overly emotional because she was one of the kids that this child kidnapper kidnapped back when she was young. I can understand why she'd have a vested interest in finding him, but her general hostility towards everyone seemed a little too much. When I think about it, it wasn't just her that felt "off," but the majority of the team felt that way.

I really enjoy this series and I would heartily recommend it to anyone looking for gritty, semi-realistic superhero action, but I'd recommend that you either go back and start at the beginning or wait until issue 20 hits to start reading because this arc will only leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

Art: 1.5
Story: 2
Overall: 2

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Awakening

This 100 page black & white graphic novel is my first experience with Oni Press, and while I liked the overall presentation of this book, the story was definitely lacking. The art, however, was very good in some spots, but somewhat dodgy in other areas. It almost felt like this book was rushed or wasn't given a whole lot of thought before it was published and frankly, it definitely isn't worth the $9.95 cover price.

The back cover would lead you to believe that this story is about a schoolgirl who is granted the power to see the future, but this only comes to use in a couple of scenes and neither really does anything for the plot. What this story is really about is a series of murders at an all girls high school. What I found most amazing about this story was the complete lack of fear or suspicion from any of the students. As their classmates are being brutally slain, the remaining students simply go about their day as if nothing happens. Oh, actually they do make some changes to their routine--they feel sorry for the loss of their classmates for a bit before they go about their day.

Really, if there was a rash of murders in my area, especially if the target each time is someone from the same group I am a part of, I would be freaked out and would fear for my life. I wouldn't walk home alone (the girls here do). I wouldn't be upset at having police watching me and my house (one of the girls here doesn't like this concept). I wouldn't go out into my yard alone to investigate odd sounds (one of the girls here does so as if nothing was wrong). It's just ludicrous how utterly stupid everyone in this book is. It's like they're completely oblivious to the heinous murders around them.

As for the mystery of the murderer, that's another big sack of stupid and illogic. You have a detective and a monk type person investigating. The monk talks all secretive like and lurks around the murder scenes, which is just stupid, while the detective does his detective thing. I don't want to ruin the end, but let's just say who you'd guess the murderer is, it definitely is. As for how the detective solves the murder, well, he keeps getting packages from a nameless source that gives the identity of the murderer away. You don't know where these packages come from--they just appear. Thank God, though, because without them all the girls would end up dead instead of just most of them.

The art is just as hodge-podge. Some scenes are detailed and well illustrated, while others lack defined shading and seem like they were rough drafts. You don't know how frustrating it is to have an expertly drawn scene followed by a rough sketch, followed by a mediocre few frames, and then the cycle starts again.

Hopefully this experience with Oni Press won't scare me away permanently, but I will say that I am horribly unimpressed by this graphic novel and I'll be tossing it up on ebay as fast as I can, so if you really want to experience its sheer stupidity, go search ebay for "suckiest graphic novel ever"... err, I mean "The Awakening graphic novel".

Art: 2
Story: 1.5
Overall: 1.75

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Hulk / Thing: Hard Knocks

I don't read Hulk comics and I don't read Fantastic Four comics. Neither has ever been all that appealing to me. Sure, I enjoyed the Hulk movie and I'll go see the Fantastic Four movie, but as comics, neither has ever really managed to get my attention enough to read them. So why did I buy this mini series? Especially since it cost me $3.50 an issue? For a guy that usually buys tons of stuff from the $0.25 bins, this is a lot of money to spend on four comics. The answer--Jae Lee. He is one of my favorite artists, so I try to pick up whatever issues of his that I can. If he wasn't involved in this story, I wouldn't have even looked at it.

Even though I thoroughly enjoy Lee's art, it is somewhat subpar in this mini, as opposed to much of his other work. Many scenes weren't as detailed as I was used to. Combine that with Lee's tendency to overink everything throughout this mini, and you have an unhappy reader. There were some great splash page moments, but for the most part I felt underwhelmed by Lee's work here.

As for the story, it was moderately interesting. I haven't read much of Bruce Jones work, so I didn't really know what to expect. What I got was a very talky story. For a mini dedicated to the Hulk and the Thing, and called Hard Knocks of all things, you'd expect it to be more action oriented. Instead, a solid chunk of the story is the Thing talking about one of the FF's encounters with Doom and the Thing's initial encounter with the Hulk.

The verbal interplay between Hulk and Thing was very well done, though, so even though this was a talky mini, I didn't mind too much. The ending of the story, however, seemed forced. In the final issue, a military force takes center stage over the interaction between the two main characters, which feels out of place. Then you have the end, which really left a lot to be desired. It made the mini seem very pointless in how it just left the Hulk and Thing sitting there, starting another conversation. It made me feel somewhat cheated, but I'm not exactly sure why.

I'm sure Hulk or Thing fans will get more out of this than I might because I'm assuming the flashbacks fall into continuity somehow, but it really didn't do much for me. Jae Lee did a passable job with his art, and it's still much better than many other current Marvel titles, but it wasn't one of his better offerings. I wouldn't recommend buying this if you have to pay cover price, but if you can pick up the tpb or issues on the cheap, you might as well go for it.

Art: 3.5
Story: 3
Overall: 3