Writer: Ian Brill
Art: James Silvani
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover: James Silvani
Editor: Aaron Sparrow
Publisher: Boom! Kids
In the second part of “The Duck Knight Returns,” four of the former Fearsome Five have reunited, planning revenge on the most insidious jailers that have ever raised a finger against them – their gainful employers. St. Canard under the protection of Quackwerks has been tough for everyone. But as the villains regroup, so does Darkwing Duck.
Ian Brill has given the Masked Mallard a great return in his first two issues. He’s got every little character beat down perfectly, from his quips to his masterful introductions to the prolific use of alliteration as the duck investigates. Gosalyn and Launchpad, each making sort of a return to action of their own, help to flesh out the story nicely. We’ve got two groups of characters here, two groups of old friends (or at least associates in the villains’ case) who haven’t been around each other much lately, and those moments of reunion are just as much fun for the reader as they are for the characters themselves. They’re getting back together with each other, and with us.
The mystery is getting better as well. The villains have a decided prejudice against one of their former compatriots and the company that’s made St. Canard oh-so-safe in the time since the TV series ended. If there’s any real problem with the story – and this is a minor one, I assure you – it’s that we don’t really have any feeling like we’ve made progress with that mystery yet. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the clues just haven’t been obvious, and when the reveal is made, it will make perfect sense. It’s really hard to judge a mystery story halfway through.
James Silvani, the artist on this series, has spot-on nailed all of the characters in this book. Any one of them could have stepped right off the television screen. In a book like this one, having the characters so perfectly on-model is almost vital. The comic book has to feel like it’s picking up where the TV show left off, and bringing back those characters visually is just as big a part of that as getting the characterization right.
This book has completely sold me on the Brill/Silvani team. These were obviously guys to bring back Darkwing Duck, and they’re doing it in style.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: The Last Stand Part Four
It’s G.I. Joe versus Cobra versus The Coil in the biggest G.I. Joe battle in a decade!
Writer: Josh Blaylock with Brandon Jerwa
Pencils: Tim Seeley
Inks: Andrew Pepoy
Colors: Brett R. Smith
Letters: Dreamer Design
Cover Art: Brandon Badeaux & Andrew Pepoy (Cover A); Tim Seeley & Andrew Pepoy (Cover B)
Publisher: Image Comics/Devil’s Due
Three armies duke it out in this massive issue, with both G.I. Joe and Cobra launching assaults on Cobra Island to take out Serpentor’s new army, The Coil. As they battle it out, The Coil assaults capitals all over the world, making a bid for world domination that puts Cobra Commander’s schemes to shame.
With characters that have fought each other for so long (nearly 20 years), there’s always a danger of the story falling into cliché – Blaylock escapes that trap several times. The “united against a common foe” bit doesn’t go how you would expect. Characters on all three sides of the battle are killed. Cobra Commander is shown to be a devious, dangerous man, not the craven coward he became in the television series. Hawk is a man of honor, and one who will not compromise his honor easily, and one of my favorite characters, Duke, gets the obligatory rallying point speech. Everyone shines for a moment in this book.
Seeley does a good job on this title – each character gets a different, distinct look, the Coil troopers look even more menacing than the average Cobra Viper, and he does some spectacular battle choreography.
This is Blaylock’s swan song on the book, and he goes out in style. It’s a little sad to see the man who brought back this title leave the book, but Brandon Jerwa is the best man to replace him short of Larry Hama. If there’s anything this issue proved, it’s that the book that started the 80s revolution in comics still has plenty of life in it.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Red, White and Blue (March of the Wooden Soldiers Chapter Two)
Red Riding Hood confronts the world of the Fables in America, as Prince Charming begins his bid to become Fabletown’s new mayor.
Writer: Bill Willingham
Pencils: Mark Buckingham
Inks: Steve Leialoha
Colors: Daniel Vozzo
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Shelly Bond
Cover Art: James Jean
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Perhaps it’s the longtime comic book reader in me, but I can no longer see a character mysteriously come back from the dead without immediately suspecting him or her of being an imposter or a traitor. It happened with Superman. It happened with the Flash. It’s happened with lord knows how many X-Men. And now it’s happening with Red Riding Hood.
Red Riding Hood, believed to have perished at the end of the Fables: The Last Castle special, has returned, causing her once-lover Blue Boy to rejoice, King Cole to plan a PR offensive, and Bigby Wolf to suspect trickery by the Adversary.
If Red Riding Hood is for real, the fact that she’s escaped to the Mundane world – the first Fable to do so in centuries – is huge for Fabletown. Most of them who did escape the Adversary’s forces did so with next to nothing, a point driven home by an early scene with Pinocchio. It’s natural for the Fables to want to believe her, just as it’s natural for Bigby, who has a history with Red Riding Hood, to be skeptical.
Buckingham continues to impress with his panel shape and layout in this issue, making even the scene with Prince Charming’s soapbox speech stand out. The deposed Prince, of course, proves in this book that his time among the Mundanes has not been ill-spent… he’s learned tricks from the sleaziest of American politicians.
The story arc that ties together previous stories continues to impress, as this book does on the most consistent basis in comics. Whenever I put down an issue of Fables, I just start counting the days until the next one.
Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Allen Passalaqua
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Mark Bagley, Jesus Merino & Nei Rufino
Editor: Mike Carlin
Publisher: DC Comics
In part two of The Dark Things (which is, itself, a Brightest Day crossover), the Justice Society and Justice League continue to face off against heroes and villains alike with elemental powers gone haywire due to the sudden increase in power of the Starheart. As some of the JSA’s heavy hitters are in jeopardy, for our heroes, things get even worse.
Robinson and Bagley are doing solid work with this crossover. Robinson has quickly sold the Starheart as a legitimate threat, making Alan Scott the most dangerous man in the world without taking away the character’s inherent strength and nobility to do it. I’m also enjoying the sheer volume of characters – old and new – that are being tossed into the mix as the story moves forward. The end of the issue in particular is promising, as we’re given a chance to visit with a character that hasn’t been seen in a while, but who would make for a very interesting addition to the Justice League once this whole thing is over. The link between this story and the Brightest Day mysteries are obvious, especially with Jade playing such a prominent role, and you get the feeling that lasting changes are in the works for both of our groups of heroes.
Bagley is tossing out a lot of characters here, dozens of them, and while he isn’t exactly George Perez, he’s no slouch either. Each hero is distinctive, and while he still does better work with the younger characters than the elder statesmen, there’s never any doubt who we’re looking at or what’s going on in any given panel.
Strong book, strong crossover.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: A Knife in the Dark
Catwoman and Slam Bradley take on the Joker’s former thugs, while The Penguin and Zeiss follow a scheme of their own.
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Paul Gulacy
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colors: Laurie Kronenberg
Letters: Clem Robins
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover Art: Gulacy, Palmiotti & Kronenberg
Publisher: DC Comics
Ed Brubaker has taken a really interesting path with this comic book, casting Catwoman in a whole new role. She’s often been a villain and often been forced into the role of the hero, which she always played awkwardly because it didn’t quite fit her. Brubaker, instead, has made her not someone who fights crime, but someone who fights evil, which is much more logical for the character. Catwoman couldn’t care less if someone is breaking the law, but if that person is a danger to her little sector of Gotham City, there will be hell to pay.
This issue also fits neatly with current continuity – there’s a nod to the recent “Hush” storyline, where it is demonstrated that Catwoman now knows Batman’s secret identity. She’s not above learning from him either – she’s building a network of operatives of her own, and while it’s not likely that she’ll be calling Oracle for information anytime soon, she’s learning how to be a defender. She’s becoming more like Daredevil than Batman, and it’s a role that fits her very well.
Brubaker also gets major points for the way he uses Slam Bradley in this title. Most writers, wanting to give Catwoman a detective for a partner, would have tried to conjure up their own character, but Brubaker remembered the potential in this classic DCU character and brought him back – I’m always appreciative of a writer who shows love for and faith in old-school comic book characters.
Gulacy and Palmiotti do wonderful work on this issue, with hints of Phil Jimenez and Kevin Nowlan in the artwork. They give us a great fight scene in the rain, and they make the Clown gang look more pathetic than menacing, which is what they really are. The cover is great too – we get three panels of villains at the top flowing down into Catwoman’s cemetery battle at the bottom. A quote from the issue running along the upper edge into the logo in the far right corner really makes the cover pop out. Editors who subscribe to the current logic that you need a generic pin-up cover to sell a comic book should take a long, hard look at this issue – this is a comic that leaps from the stands, grabs your attention and gets you curious about the story without giving too much away. In short, it’s just what a comic book cover should be.
While I don’t think this will ever be one of my favorite titles, that’s only because I’m more a fan of the heroic characters than the anti-heroes. That in no way diminishes how good this creative team is making the book, or how original and well-done their take on Catwoman is. Die-hard fans of the character are already picking up this book, of course, but even casual fans should start reading it.
Quick Rating: Good
Title: Trial By Fire
The Autobots and G.I. Joe rejoin the fray.
Writer: John Ney Rieber
Art: Jae Lee
Colors: June Chung
Letters: Benjamin Lee
Editor-in-Chief: Pat Lee
Cover Art: Jae Lee
The World War II-era alternate universe crossover continues. The G.I. Joe team believes Snake Eyes dead in battle, but in reality everyone’s favorite All-American Ninja is locked in deadly combat with Storm Shadow and Ravage. Meanwhile, the G.I. Joe team and the Autobots finally take the initiative in the battle while Megatron and Cobra Commander get locked in a power struggle of their own.
This is another good issue of this crossover event, but it’s starting to wear a little thin. It feels like an example of the “decompressed” storytelling Marvel is putting to such use right now. G.I. Joe and the Autobots have been preparing for battle for two issues now, and the Snake Eyes/ Storm Shadow/ Ravage fight is starting to feel a bit padded and stretched out. Also, it makes perfect sense and is perfectly in character for Megatron and Cobra Commander to get locked in a power struggle, but that doesn’t make it any fresher. I feel like I’ve read the scene with them a dozen times already.
What we get works well, though. We get introduced to a couple more villains (well… re-introduced, since they’re longtime bad guys from both of these properties), and Rieber has these characters down pat. I particularly enjoyed the scene with Roadblock and Grimlock rolling into battle together. They make a pretty well-matched pair, I must say.
On the art front, Jae Lee continues to prove he is the perfect choice for this project. His dark, gritty style is well-suited to what is essentially a war story. Pages in this book are like reading “Saving Private Ryan”. He’s also fantastic at drawing the TransFormers characters in their World War II forms – but again, I have to complain a little about the fact that we still haven’t gotten really good looks at most of the redesigned forms. There’s a nice shot at the beginning of the issue of one of the Aerialbots with Stalker, and I still think making Grimlock a tank in this incarnation instead of trying to explain a tyrannosaurus rex was a stroke of genius, but we’re halfway through this series and most of the shots we’ve gotten of the big guns — Optimus Prime, Megatron, etc. – have been in the shadows. This is done, I presume, to have some “big reveal” moments later in the series, but the audience is still itching for more of what they paid admission for – great big robots.
On just a side tangent, I hate the title of this issue. “Trial of Fire” is one of those titles that has been overused so much I think it should be retired permanently.
This is a good series, but it’s getting stretched out too much. The hand-to-hand with Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow is getting old. We need some big action, and we need it soon. Hopefully, we’ll get it in the next issue.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Blood and Lies (The Headhunter Part Three)
Hawkman engages the Headhunter in bloody battle as Hawkgirl traces down the origin of their foe.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Rags Morales
Inks: Michael Bair
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Bill Oakley
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Cover Art: John Watson
Publisher: DC Comics
Hawkman is really taken to the brink this issue, reverting in battle to a cruel, brutal creature, abandoning his job, his life in St. Roch and even his partner, Hawkgirl, to take down the Headhunter. Johns paints a truly tortured hero in this book, and does it well.
Normally, I don’t like comics (or movies or anything) set in Louisiana, because it seems every writer is under the impression that every in this state, my home, speaks with a Cajun accent that automatically deducts 50 IQ points and that Mardi Gras is happening every other weekend year-round. (If I ever met Gambit in person, I’d throw a rock at him.) Johns, thankfully, escapes this track, although he does skirt dangerously close to the edge with the Headhunter’s voodoo origin. It’s not many a writer that could flirt with that very thin line between drawing on legitimate cultural influences for his story and lapsing into offensive stereotyping, but he just manages to pull it off. The villain comes across as suitably dangerous and frightening without getting me mad.
Morales is such a good choice for the art chores in this title. He handles everything well, from the Hawks in flight to the PC, code-approved “black blood” Hawkman is drenched in to the quaintness of the St. Roch’s “Voodoo District.” There is nary a misstep. It’s really a shame that he and Johns are leaving this title in a few months, the new creative team has a lot to live up to.
Most surprisingly, although this issue is the last of this story arc, it does not wrap things up in a neat little package. Instead, Johns is clearly setting up the chess pieces for next month’s Hawkman/JSA crossover, “Black Reign.” Crossing this title over with the best superhero book on the market, particularly with the same writer guiding both titles, can only be a good thing.