Sunday, June 29, 2008

Final Crisis #2 by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones

Review by Chris Clow

The threats just got a whole lot bigger.

Final Crisis #2 is still an issue of build-up, but with that build-up comes a whole lot of interesting actions between many different characters of the DC Universe. We start with the introduction of a Japanese hero (at least I think he’s a hero) named Sonny Sumo. He’s a really big guy, and someone comes along that wants to fight him. Sumo tears out his heart and walks to the bathroom, where he’s met by Mister Miracle.

Why? I don’t know yet.

We get to see the Martian Manhunter’s burial on Mars, with Superman providing a tight but emotional eulogy. One part in particular I liked was at the end, when he said that he and his colleagues will “pray for a resurrection.”

So many times in comics, heroes are always extremely surprised when someone returns to life, even though it’s kind of a mainstay of superhero comics. I like that Superman at least acknowledged the possibility while still showing heartfelt sorrow for the loss of his friend.

Batman is suspicious of J’onn’s death and believes that the passing of both Orion and J’onn are somehow connected. The Guardians of the Universe dispatched an Alpha Lantern (Green Lantern internal affairs), Kraken, to follow up on the JLA’s investigation of Orion’s murder, and she disagrees with Batman’s assessment. John Stewart is investigating the crime scene where he is seemingly attacked by another Green Lantern. We then see a group of Alpha Lantern’s arresting Hal Jordan, thinking that he tried to kill Stewart.

Batman corners the Alpha Lantern about Jordan’s arrest, but is beaten down by the Lantern after she implies that she is, in fact, Darkseid’s prophet Granny Goodness. Batman is locked in a chamber and his head is injected with…something.

At the Daily Planet, Clark Kent sees Jimmy Olsen take a paper down to copy from Lois, but he thinks he just saw Jimmy in another room. We actually see that “Jimmy” is Clayface, and he blows up the newsroom of the Planet Just as he makes an escape. We see Superman, his Clark Kent suit in tatters around his red and blue uniform, screaming for his wife.

Meanwhile, in Central City, Wally West and Jay Garrick find Metron’s chair after a tip from Batman. A portal opens up, and, imploring them to run for their lives from the Black Racer…

…Barry Allen returns.

A lot has happened in this issue, and I apologize if my distillation seems a little incoherent. It really does make sense when you read the issues, but as far as the review goes, this issue surpassed the first. Morrison is telling a story on an absolutely epic scale, and is setting up for a very large encounter. The day that evil wins is supposed to come in issue #3…but there are still four more issues after that. I am also stoked beyond belief that apparently, the greatest Flash of them all has finally returned.

What’s next? I don’t have a clue! Morrison is a master at unpredictability, and like Batman R.I.P., I am desperately awaiting the next part of the story to see what happens to comics’ original universe.

Grade: B+ (Must Read)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Logan #1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Eduardo Risso

Review by A.J. Burgin

Being a fan of Pride of Baghdad and Runaways, I get that Brian K. Vaughan has a flair for the dramatic. I expected a bit of a melodrama going into Logan, but this was too much. The opening says it all: “I’ve made a hell of a lot of enemies over the decades, but I don’t lose sleep over ‘em. No, it’s the women that keep me up at night, the handful of girls I was dumb enough to fall for over the last century or so. See, I can recover from just about anything…Anything but getting my heart ripped out.” I hate to say it, because I really like Vaughan, but Logan looks like it’s shaping up to be a bad emo song, with Logan haunted by lost love.

The storyline could be fairly interesting: Logan wakes up in a Japanese POW camp during World War II, fights his way out with an American soldier, and meets a Japanese woman named Atsuko. Logan turns hero as he prevents the American from killing Atsuko, at which point she takes him home to hide and feed him. The story is refreshingly different from your standard “Wolverine as ultimate badass” story, and reveals a new side of everyone’s favorite X-Man. Unfortunately, it is also surprisingly offensive. The romance between Logan and Atsuko reads like a throwback to the World War II era narrative of the Western man (soldier) who rescues the timid Japanese woman who then falls wildly in love with him and needs him in her bed. In real life, this fantasy scenario often led to rape, so it’s surprising to see the usually conscientious Vaughan employ such a shoddy trick.

The disappointing writing is at least well contrasted by Eduardo Risso’s artwork. His renderings of Logan humanize the character in a way that few artists have. The work is dark and powerful and adds the subtlety to the characters that the writing lacks. The attention to detail coupled with Dean White’s coloring makes for truly beautiful pages. Perhaps what I appreciate most about Risso is the really unusual portrayal of the sex scene: no real nudity. Atsuko strips herself for Logan, an occasion during which most artists would relish in drawing the lines and details of her body. Instead, Risso is able to show what is happening while keeping Atsuko’s body almost completely shadowed. Vaughan’s writing objectifies Atsuko far more than the artwork.

Overall, Logan #1 proved disappointing, but Risso and White’s artwork may be worth giving the mini-series a chance.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Helen Killer

Review by Roman Stadtler

Well, here's some words I never anticipated writing: Helen Keller, as a super-human government agent, is a actually a good comic! Yeah, I know, I can't believe it either.

Helen Keller is given a device by Alexander Graham Bell that lets her see and hear, gives her super-human strength and agility, and an intense violent aggressiveness (or is it repressed anger about her disabilities, given a fantastic outlet/manifestation?), becomes an agent for the U.S. government to protect Prez McKinley, and finds she can also perceive more than anyone guessed. It's a fantastic premise, with sci-fi elements and Victorian mystery, that holds great promise.

I've never read any biographies of Keller, but the writer of Helen Killer, Andrew Kreisberg, has, and it shows. He's done his research, and there's good representations of Keller contemporaries like Bell, McKinley, Annie Sullivan (Helen's teacher), and real historical events, like the McKinley shooting. There's a nice text piece of historical factoids at the end of the first two issues, providing more items of interest to history geeks like me (oh no, I don't limit my geekiness to just comics!).

Keller is presented as intelligent, politically and socially savvy, independent and free-thinking, just as she was in real life. She's shown as not trusting the invention that gives her sight, because she doesn't trust the intensity of the feelings that accompany it, and, perhaps, because it could somehow lessen the achievements of her life up to that point.

There's plenty of dramatic tension around Helen's relationship with her teacher, Annie, and the way Helen's new abilities and role changes their relationship; Helen's own emotions and inner life (given form, perhaps? A mystery abounds....); and a possible romantic interest(?); plus a larger Evil afoot.

Plenty of action, too, though that wasn't as interesting to me as the actual characterizations and solid storytelling in what I expected to be just another crappy "hot chick kickin' ass" book. The art is better than the average low budget indy book. There was one ridiculous acrobatic bit using an American flag in the second issue, but that's the only complaint I have in the entire first two issues! Check it out!

Monday, June 2, 2008

G.I. Joe America's Elite WWIII

Review by Brian Morgans

G.I. Joe was the title that got me into comic books. Marvel was the first back in the 80's to release these stories about an elite military team taking on this dangerous world terrorist force. Most people know about G.I. Joe through the cartoons or perhaps through the toys. The cartoons were weak and the toys seemed to become more and more ridiculous as they were introduced to the market. Really, what military value does a bouncing pod with missiles and guns have? Leave it to the writers to give this POS a solid purpose. The writers were able to look at the situation both strategically and tactically to put together a smart, intriguing story that had me hooked. (Turns out bouncing pods are really hard for computers to target and pop out of no-where giving them the element of surprise.)

Fast forward to the present after a few G.I. Joe titles have been put out and wrapped up and here we are in the midst of World War III G.I. Joe style. Gone are the days where Cobra went toe to toe with the Joes. They are a smarter bunch now. No more wicker baskets with mechanical snakes that spew knock-out gas. No more surprise Cobra surrenders for no good reason. And no more giant forts shaped like a cobra.

The glory days have returned to this story line by Devil's Due Publishing. The strategical and tactical elements have returned pitting Cobra Commander against General Colton. I've enjoyed the ride as it has taken me back to the intelligent and intriguing stories that hooked me back as a child. This is like watching two great leaders maneuver and counter-maneuver with well thought out methods in military and political warfare.

While the main story is compelling, I have to admit some of the side stories which will impact the main story are somewhat predictable. Fortunately, it hasn't distracted from my reading enjoyment. I am hoping this all doesn't end suddenly out of the blue due to some neglected Cobra officer pushing the self destruct button. I'm not seeing this come to fruition thus far.

This is a title where you can come in on the story at issue #25. This is a fantastic cover which has each and every G.I. Joe on the cover along with a key on the inside telling you who's who. Data Files occupy the last few pages of each issue that provide additional detail to enrich your appreciation of the good guys and bad guys you just read about.

Zorro by Matt Wagner and Francesco Francavilla

Review by Brian Morgans

Dynamite's Zorro written by Matt Wagner and drawn by Francesco Francavilla is working for me. The third issue has hit the stands and it is still delivering. Pretty much everyone knows who Zorro is and how he is unmatched with a rapier but this story arc is giving us the backstory for why and how he became the mysterious man we all have come to know.

I love the character development of Zorro. Wagner shows us the passion and emotion behind the mask that drives Zorro to fight for those who are oppressed. We see his childhood and can see his fire begin to burn bright as he witnesses the injustices inflicted upon those around him. This provides a purpose early in his life as he gains skills and knowledge from a variety of sources.

Normally I cannot stand a story that flips from one time frame to another with no apparent rhyme or reason. We see Zorro as a child and then we see the present day Zorro and then back again. This doesn't bother me at all as the back story sets up the present day events nicely. You may wonder how your hero knows what he knows or why he might care about his cause or purpose in life. Wagner answers those questions immediately by either priming the pump with a bit of back story and then shows us Zorro taking down some thugs or gives us the big "A-ha!" moment with a major panel after some present day action.

I am loving this comic plain and simple. The artwork is good and the story is outstanding. This was a pleasant surprise.