FDBC2012

The annual Free Comic Book Day has come and passed, and what a day it was.Batman_TK_FCBD2012

Personally, I spent nearly two hours at the store, grabbing the swag, finding a collection package containing Kurt Busiek’s and Tom Grummett’s The Power Company from 10 years ago.  The highlight was waiting in line to meet local artist Tyler Kirkham (Green Lantern: New Guardians).

I talked with him for a little about different things while he sketched the accompanying sketch of Batman for me (he was doing requests for everyone in line, which wasn’t advertised, but a welcome surprise).  Watching him was humbling considering how fast he did the sketch and how good it looks.  As a person, I enjoyed talking with him for the few minutes.  As an artist, I was only vaguely familiar with his work (and felt like a heel that I hadn’t bought anything of his before).

BUT!  I had snagged a few copies of GL:NG #8, which he signed for my nephews.  Since then I added the title to my pull list, spent some time on eBay and found copies of #1-4 (first printings!), which should be on their way soon, and grabbed the remaining issues while at the store.

I’m looking forward to reading the entire series, as this was one title I had hoped to grab the 1st issue back in September and missed out.

I capped the day off by watching Avengers in IMAX 3D (so worth it!) and dinner with my wife and friends.

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DC The New 52, Second Wave, Part 1

 

A week ago the first issues of DC’s “Second Wave” hit the stands with four titles, including the much-anticipated Earth 2.

Earth 2

Whoa and Hmmm.  If you buy Earth 2 and World’s Finest, read Earth 2 first because you’ll see some of the backstory for WF from a different perspective, and perhaps understand a little more fully the situation the girls are in.

James Robinson and Nicola Scott introduced a world where Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, along with Supergirl and Robin.  But that’s it.  There is no Flash, Green Lantern, etc. existing on this world.  And, while Supergirl is still Superman’s cousin, Robin is Batman’s daughter Helena (no mention of her mother).

Also, they’re all friendly with each other.

Primarily set five years ago, the bulk of the story deals with The Big Three fighting the invading hordes of Apokolips, and their fall as they save the earth from another invasion by repelling Darkseid’s minions.  But not without great cost: all three die as victory is realized.  Supergirl and Robin follow parademon’s into a boom tube, and find themselves on Earth 1, if that is the proper term to use.

(Side bar: what is it about  five years ago?  On Earth 1, many of the heroes began emerging or appearing to the public, including several coming together and forming the Justice League in Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s first arc of the same title, which also involved an Apokoliptian invasion!)

All of this serves to set up the current events of Earth 2: we learn the narrator of the story has been Alan Scott, CEO of a major news organization, who had put a piece together memorializing the deaths and victory five years before.

(Side bar 2: Scott is flying over Italy, where giant craters of flame and smoke still exist from the battle.  They eerily resemble the flame pits of Apokolips.)

Then, the story cuts to a young Jay Garrick who is being dumped by his girlfriend.  While drinking his woes away, a light appears in the sky, streaking towards him and cratering in the ground near by.  Hermes has arrived with a warning of danger and need.

I think James Robinson and Nicola Scott did great with this issue.  James’ story doesn’t leave you bored, with lots of action, drama, and some mysteries to keep you entertained.  Obviously, there is a lot going on here that isn’t fully understood, but I don’t doubt he will superbly craft the new origins of the golden age characters, as they face the new challenges.

Nicola Scott’s art is good as ever.  Her characters are well defined, as is her backgrounds and scenery.  The expression on Robin’s face, as Batman is killed in an explosion, is full of pain and angst.  Overall, the art is very richly detailed and flows smoothly.

A fine start to the mysteries of the DC multiverse.

World’s Finest: Power Girl & Huntress

This book picks up after the just completed Huntress mini-series, also by Paul Levitz.  The two stranded girls have flown to Japan so Kara can show something off.

Overall, this story is quiet, with some action near the end.  The story dovetails between current day and the moments after the pair arrived on this earth.

George Perez and Kevin Maguire do a fantastic job with the former handling current day and the latter handling the past scenes.

While little seems to be mentioned about their current plans of action, Huntress has obviously been adventuring around the world, while Kara has built an empire and gathered large sums of money for something.  Kara has also, somehow, bridged their former world with their new one. For what reason remains unexplained.

G.I. Combat

I don’t know about this one.  The first story involves modern day special ops invading North Korea, only to find themselves fighting with all sorts of dinosaurs, while the second is about a man who privately financed his war on the Taliban because terrorists killed his family.   Basically, a faceless Punisher who is in the Middle East.

Thematically, this replaces the Men Of Valor title as the war title in DC’s line, and functionally it will be an anthology book with rotating stories.

With J.T. Krul’s war that time forgot story, I felt a little lost and disoriented reading, wondering what the heck was going on.  Perhaps that is something he was aiming for, because the concept is a wonky one to begin with, although it has been played out across different media for decades.

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s story is intriguing to me, but not enough for me to add this title to my pull list.

When first announced, someone suggested that perhaps this was a way of DC renewing their copyrights on the characters, concepts, and names.  Maybe.  But, wouldn’t it have been easier to just do one-shots or a mini-series?  Perhaps I would pick that up, instead, and it would give DC a little variety in their publishing efforts.

Dial H

Ok, this was a fun story, albeit with some weird and creepy goings on.

The premise of this book is that dialing a number summons something to aid you.  What that thing is, how it’s determined to be that thing, is unknown.

The summoned monster reminded me of Jim Carry in The Mask, particularly the scene where he confronts the gang members.

The story starts with two friends arguing over one’s health and what that friend should be doing to better take care of himself, his obesity, and general poor health.  However, the concerned friend isn’t doing too well with his own life, as he’s associated with some questionable folks who start beating him up.

Enter the other friend who tries to dial help, hits a few keys, and out pops a frightening but also funny being who puts a stop to the assault.

 

If Batman, Inc wasn’t returning I might have continued with one of these…I hope they get good support and continue on.  Well, except for G.I. Combat…still not sure about that one.

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DCnU–The New 52: Month 7 Thoughts

Seven months into the reboot, and things are looking fairly good for DC.  Sales numbers are up overall, and most ofthe titles are going strong.  6 of the weak titles see their final issues published next month, in April, and then 6 new titles replace them starting in May.

Financially, I think The New 52 initiative has been a success.  Many of their titles are in monthly Top 10 list provided by Diamond Distributing, which means they are selling a lot.  Dollar wise, Marvel has sometimes had the edge because most of their titles are $3.99.  DC is sticking by their $2.99 campaign for regular sized issues, so when they took top dollar it was because of strong showings in the sales numbers.

Product wise, they are publishing some great stories aimed at a variety of interests.  Every week has a few issues that I’m excited to pick up, along with a few others that I enjoy reading.

Aquaman is kicking butt and showing Rajesh Koothrapali that he doesn’t suck.  Issue #6 where Mera beats the crap out of sexually harrassing store owner, and a wife-beater, showed how strong she could be. 

Hal Jordan and Sinestro teamed together as the reluctant cop-buddy team is subtley funny, while they search for what the Guardians are planning on doing with the GL Corp.

Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman is awesome, as he put’s Dianna through some tough ringers as she deals with discovering that she is one of Zeus’s daughters, and the repurcussions.  She’s allied with some of the gods, while fighting against the others, and all cannot be trusted as they plot and scheme against each other.

The Flash is a great book to read, because of the page and panel layouts that not only tell a great story but work to convey action, such as falling off a building and landing several stories below.  I think some comics have been missing this type of storytelling, graphic storytelling, that has been missing in the medium.

The Bat team is rocking it with stories exploring Batman, Gotham city, Nightwing (love the way Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins have tied their books so closely, yet remain distinct and separate), and Damian’s struggles to follow his father while fighting with his upbringing.

Gail Simone continues exploring Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, who struggles with her former handicap and recovery, and has been brutal sometimes with what Barbara has gone through.

The only thing I do not like is the lack of Tim Drake.  His portrayal in Teen Titans makes him distant from the Batfamily, bordering on disenfranchised and unrelated.  Considering Tim carried his own title for 17 years, covering two titles and almost 200 issues plus annuals, mini-series, etc, making it seem odd that his only current title is a team book.

A few criticisms have been leveled at DC because of their lack of ethnic minority titles, and two of the cancelled titles, Mr. Terrific and Static Shock, are black characters.  I read both Mr. Terrific and Static Shock and both were bland.  Actually MrT wasn’t very great at all, and it deserved cancellation based on the quality of the first issue alone.

Is this some kind of bias against black characters?  I think that would be a hard answer to find because I, and like so many other critics, can only scratch the surface looking for evidence.  Whatever conclusions would be shallow and open for criticism of my own bias and accuracy of the analysis.

I think I can safely say that it is beholden upon DC to hire the best writer and artist for their titles, and that the stories they produce include good, strong characterization, interesting plotlines, and great art that contributes to the overall storytelling process.  If you make a good product, chances are that it will be bought.

I’m still buying Batwing, even though I summarily dismissed the title a few months ago.  The book has gotten better and the story stopped jumping around unintelligently in issue 3, which made for a nicer read.  One cannot help wonder if Winnick based his villain and Batwing’s background on Kony, now infamous because of the Kony2012 campaign that flared up a few weeks ago, and has now died out.  The similarities between Massacre and Kony are very strong, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Winnick admits as much.

If Winnick can manage to maintain interest in this book, then I think it would serve as an example producing a good product that people will buy.

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DCnU Month 2 Wrap-Up

Month 2 is finished, and my monthly pull list is changing.  This time I’m removing some titles: gone are Batwing, Catwoman, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Teen Titans.

Judd Winick still fails in so many ways with his writing, and my criticism is not the same for both titles.  In Batwing the story is dragging, and somewhat feels empty.  I’ve seen this story before.  I know events like this happen in 3rd world countries, but they aren’t that far off from events occurring in the States.  I know the artist can’t be directing this story that much; he’s working off Judd’s script and it doesn’t feel like there’s much happening.

Catwoman has a lot going on, and most of its sex.  Being sexy isn’t a problem, but being sexed up is.  Its been too much in the first two issues and I’m not willing to stick around and see what happens.

Scott Lobdell’s #2’s were much better than the 1st issues, but both just don’t interest me.  Where both are team books, neither feels like a team book.  Jason, Roy, and Kori are working together, but they don’t feel like they are at least partners, let alone a team.

Teen Titans is the same, with a twist on the dynamic: they aren’t a team, they aren’t partners, and not much of the team has shown up.  Birds of Prey is halfway between both of us and feels so much more like a team: maybe because Black Canary and Starling are working together and are on friendly terms.  Red Robin and Wonder Girl are warming up, but…I don’t’ know.  I just couldn’t care much.  Red Robin comes across as a smart ass know it all, not one of the world’s greatest detectives trained by Batman.

One of the #1’s I sampled was Savage Hawkman.  I liked it enough to warrant buying #2, but I’m not sold.  Carter Hall is rough and able to fight, however I can’t get a sense of why he is this way and why he sticks his neck out, beyond being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Daniels and Tan are filling in his backstory, but only what he’s done for a living, not what he has done and what has made him this way.

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DCnU’s First 52 Wrap-Up

All right, September’s final issues are out and I’m done writing my reviews and thoughts about the titles.

In most of my postings I mentioned if I was going to continue with the title, but I want to review the titles I originally planned on buying and the extras.  I’ve noted which ones I’m certainly going to keep buying and the ones I’m thinking of dropping.

Initial Choices Keeper? Along The Way Keeper?
Action Comics y Aquaman y
Batgirl y Blackhawks  
Batman y Flash y
Batman and Robin y Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E N
Batman: The Dark Knight y Green Lantern y
Batwing ? Justice League Dark N
Batwoman y Men of War N
Birds of Prey ? Savage Hawkman Maybe
Catwoman ?    
Detective Comics y    
Green Arrow y    
Justice League y    
Nightwing y    
Red Hood and the Outsiders ?    
Superman y    
Swamp Thing y    
Teen Titans ?    
Wonder Woman y    

First, throughout the month several creative changes were announced.  J.T. Krul’s last Green Arrow issue is #3 with Keith Giffen teaming with Dan Jurgens on writing, while Jurgens and George Perez remain on art duties.  George, however, finishes writing Superman with #6 and Giffen and Jurgens take over as writing, with one of them possibly doing layouts, as well.

If anything, these changes make me more excited for Green Arrow, and I’m officially down on J.T. Krul and his work.  I haven’t been too impressed with his work.  Judd Winick and Scott Lobdell aren’t too far behind.

I bought Batwing #2 this week, and I’m still uncertain about it.  This 2nd issue was a lot better, but I’m still shaking my head about the title’s concept and story so far.  I’ll see about the others as the month goes on.

As my list stands, if I dump every questionable one and add in the Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman, I will be one title a month less than I initially planned.  My titles will be very diverse, and I’ll be spending less per month than I was earlier this year.  Unless I add in Savage Hawkman, which is a good possibility.

All of this can change as Limited Series start flowing, and the inevitable cancellations DC Comics will be doing as title sales settle down and the bad ones stop selling, and as other title’s lose sales.  I expect most titles to reach a year’s worth, but after that I don’t know.

Overall, I think the relaunch has gone very well.  Most stores are selling out of their issues, a majority of the books have gone to 2nd printings which is very, very good news.  Stores have reported a lot of new faces stepping into their shops, which is also good news.  This is all good news for the industry as a whole and I hope it continues for DC, and starts spilling over to Marvel, Dark Horse, Image and all of the other offerings one can find in a store.

One thing I think DC has done very smartly is advertising through different media: specifically TV ads.  I hope they continue doing this, along with buying ads in different areas, say sports web sites, and in magazines other than trade magazines.  If they want to be constantly getting new people, they need to advertise their product where their target audience will see it.  As the months go by, they can specifically push individual titles and events.

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Teen Titans #1

Written by Scott Lobdell, Penciled by Brett Booth, Inked by Norm Rapmund.

titans1This is the 2nd Scott Lobdell title in as many weeks, and I find myself having the same feelings for him as I do for Judd Winick.  I’m not sure about the characters, where the title is going, and he could be losing me quickly.

I’m not fond of Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, and his characterization in this story.  Where he was a good kid and a great Robin, much like Dick Grayson was, in this story and new continuity he exhibits the preparedness learned from Batman, however he doesn’t’ seem bothered to detonate bombs in his apartment to destroy his home and the home invaders.

The premise in the first issue is that a lot of younger, teenage super meta humans are cropping up around the world, and many of them are not doing so hot.  Case in point is Kid Flash or Impulse rushing through a house on fire, leaving doors open allowing oxygen to flow in and strengthen the fire.  A reporter comments that this young generation is in need of guidance because they are such nuisances and irritating.

Wonder Girl seems to have a new origin unconnected to Wonder Woman, and she doesn’t have issues about stealing cars.

Apart from Tim and Cassie, there is little attention paid to any other team members at this time.

Brett’s art is alright, he still reminds me of a mix between Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee, laying the story out effectively pacing the story and moving through its paces.

The story sets some things up, but I don’t know if I want to continue with this one.  Next issue will tell.

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Superman #1

Written and laid out by George Perez, finished by Jesus Merino.

superman1Somewhere I read some folks complaining that much of the New 52 books stories suffer from decompression, where the story is being stretched out when it could contain more details.

Not so with Superman #1.  He packs a lot into this one issue.  With the #1 comes an introduction to a host of changes: not only are Clark and Lois not married, but the Daily Planet building and globe are demolished on the first two pages, replaced by an even larger skyscraper with a shinier globe.  At the ribbon cutting party for the new building, Morgan Edge announces that he is merging his new acquisition of the Daily Planet into his Global Broadcasting System (GBS, another longstanding Metropolis fixture) into the Global Planet Network, a modern day merger of print, broadcast, and internet news information services.

Lois, who does have a boyfriend, Jonathon (nice choice of name), is promoted to broadcast news director and her first assignment is covering Superman fighting costumed clowns driving a rig with poison in the chemical tank, and then fighting a bizarre living flame that appears to speak Kryptonian.

I like George’s portrayal of Superman, and how Supe’s handles his adversaries.  One of the clowns threatens to dump the tank’s poison into the river, which Superman responds “Good point, I’ll have to throw you into space, then.”  When he instructs the clowns to disarm themselves, he makes sure to let them know he can see them just fine, although he is directly under the truck.

Jesus handles the art chores very well, drawing cityscapes to a large gala, to Superman fighting crooks or the living fire, his characters are well defined.  He does well with George’s layouts to tell their story.

One oddity is the single-page interlude where a creature blows a horn to summon something.  An editor blurb indicates that it ties into Stormwatch #1, and I wonder what the connection is, although I’m not running out to find a Stormwatch #1.  It will be interesting to see if this is touched on again, and, if so, what comes of it.

I’ll be sticking with this one.

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