Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!
TITLE: The Root of the Problem Part 2
Writer: Mike Baron
Art: Mike Vosburg
Colors: Stu Suchit
Letters: Mary Kolvek
Editor: Maurice Fontenot
Publisher: Valiant Comics
PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: None. Cover looks sort of medieval. Could it be some sort of a period adventure comic?
IMPRESSIONS: Okay, this book gets confusing right off the bat. Granted, it says “Part 2.” I haven’t read Part 1. But the first caption box is someone talking in an outrageously stereotypical German accent that’s almost hard to read. The next couple of pages show us that this is a modern-day therapist talking to this “Mr. Armstrong” about some adventure that happened to him back during the Crusades. Evidently, in this time period he stole an invitation to see some “Goddess” of the Knights Templar, they got down and dirty, and the Knights have had it in for him ever since.
I really don’t know what to make of this comic book. The “Eternal Warrior” – I’m assuming this is the guy who appears on the cover and on the first page, Armstrong’s brother Gilad – hardly appears in the book at all. It’s all about Armstrong being something of a man-whore. The book also appears to be going for a more comedic tone. Fair enough, but the cover and title really don’t feel like I’m picking up a comedy when I pick it up. The whole book feels like it’s struggling for an identity.
The brothers, I take it, are immortal, and I get the impression here that this story exists mainly to explain the antipathy between Armstrong and some recurring villains that he’s faced. It may be wonderful in context, but as a first-time reader, I’m left thoroughly confused.
Quick Rating: Good
Title: Under Pressure
Wildcat drops by to spar with Catwoman – just as the ninjas show up.
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Paul Gulacy
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colors: Laurie Kronenberg
Letters: Clem Robins
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover Art: Paul Gulacy and Jimmy Palmiotti
Publisher: DC Comics
As Catwoman continues her search for the man who almost killed Slam Bradley, Wildcat shows up to give her friend Holly some pointers on self-defense. Neither of the feline furies is aware, however, that something is stalking them in the night.
This was a solid issue, although the Catwoman/Zeiss storyline is beginning to feel somewhat stretched. Hopefully, if the last page is any indication, next issue will close it off. Wildcat’s appearance was a surprise but, for a big JSA fan like myself, a welcome one. It’s odd to think that a member of the Justice Society would have trained such a notorious criminal, but if any of them would, it’s definitely Wildcat. Ed Brubaker also spends some time developing Catwoman’s relationship with Bradley, who isn’t taking recent events as well as one might like.
Although I’ve generally been a fan of Paul Gulacy and Jimmy Palmiotti on this title, the artwork this issue didn’t thrill me. Holly’s face looked oddly stretched, as though they had copied it onto a piece of Silly Putty and played with it, and a lot of the posing was awkward, especially in the early fight sequence. Laurie Kronenberg’s colors helped this issue a lot, though, setting off scenes like the sparring match and the rooftop dance through the rain. (Anyone ever notice how much it rains in Gotham City? People’s flood insurance premiums must be murder there.)
This was a solid issue and seems to have set up the finale of this storyline. I have no doubt that Brubaker will follow through with a knock-out punch. I just hope by next issue the art team is back up to speed and manages to follow through with him.
Quick Rating: Great
Title: Undertow (War Games Act Two Part One) & Low Part Two
Gotham has calmed from the mob war – but is it only the eye of the storm?
Writers: Andersen Gabrych & Shane McCarthy
Pencils: Pete Woods & Tommy Castillo
Inks: Cam Smith & Rodney Ramos
Colors: Jason Wright & Tony Avina
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Editors: Bob Schreck & Michael Wright
Cover Art: Jock
Publisher: DC Comics
Compared to the tumultuous events that defined the first act of “War Games,” Act Two begins in a positively subdued fashion as the city tries to pick itself up from the bloody mob war and the horrific events at Lewis E. Grieve Memorial High School. But Batman knows the calm cannot last. The mobs are regrouping during the day, and mob boss Henry Alquista wants retribution for the shooting of his daughter, Darla.
We spend a little time with many members of our cast this issue, seeing how each of them prepares for what will certainly be another night of violence. Batman approaches Commissioner Akins with a proposal to save the city, Onyx heals up from her injuries last month and both Oracle and Tim Drake are torn by the fact that they can’t be on the streets helping to put things right. For an issue that is virtually all set-up, putting the gamepieces in place for the battle to begin anew, Andersen Gabrych manages to build up an incredible amount of tension and suspense, all leading up to a last page which, while not terribly surprising, is triumphant nonetheless.
I almost feel bad for McCarthy and Castillo – it’s hard to imagine their back-up story, “Low,” will get much notice in the midst of all this, and it’s really quite good. The Riddler has been lured into Poison Ivy’s lair, and he’s not in the best position to slip out. The story is good and the artwork is great, including some fantastic colors by Tony Avina, but in all the hubbub over “War Games,” it’s bound to get lost.
Some people shy away from crossovers. Those people are missing out. This is the best storyline to hit the Batman family in years, and this is another great installment.
Quick Rating: Good
Title: Players and Pawns Part Four & Fantom
Duke’s insubordination catches up with him… and Destro wants to make a deal.
Writer: Brandon Jerwa
Pencils: Tim Seeley & Talent Caldwell
Backgrounds: Jason Millet
Inks: Cory Hamscher & Jason Gorder
Colors: Brett R. Smith & Christina Strain
Letters: Dreamer Design
Editor: Mark Powers
Cover Art: Mike Norton, Cory Hamscher & Val Staples (Cover A); Talent Caldwell, Jason Gorder, Peter Steigerwald & Christina Strain (Cover B)
Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing
As “Players and Pawns” continues, things seem to be falling apart for everyone… Cobra Commander is left to deal with yet another departure from his ranks, Duke is on the hot seat for his recent reckless behavior, the Baroness’s loyalty remains questionable… arguably the character in the most comfortable position this issue is Destro, and he’s been captured!
Although there hasn’t been a shortage of action in this story arc (or in this issue, either), Jerwa has surprised me with the story. Instead of a big, shoot-em-up war story like most G.I. Joe epics, this has been a quieter story about political games, strategies and working for the greater good even if one’s orders dictate otherwise. It’s made for a different sort of story, and it’s one I’m mostly enjoying. I do worry that going down this route may alienate some readers who come in mostly for the gunfights and explosions, and I hope Jerwa has included enough of them to keep them satisfied.
This issue also includes a back-up story, “Fantom,” by Jerwa with art by recent Superman wunderkind Talent Caldwell. Two mysterious agents are trying to recruit a third, a man called Wraith, into a new faction in the endless war between G.I. Joe and Cobra. The idea is not entirely original – there have been other sides to their struggle for years, from the Oktober Guard to The Coil. This storyline promises to go more in-depth with that plot device, though, and the fact that we don’t know exactly who these new agents are working for makes it even better.
The art, with inks by Jason Gorder and color by Christina Strain, is gorgeous. We’re in a nightclub, with a purple and blue color scheme that sets the stage perfectly and looks authentic, but isn’t dark enough to ruin things. It’s a very different art style from the rest of the book, though, and a rather jarring transition. Since I initially skipped reading the blurb on the first page of the back-up, I was two pages into it before I realized it was a G.I. Joe story and not a preview for a new Devil’s Due property. It’s an interesting idea, though, and I’ll be anxious to see where it goes.
While this isn’t the best Jerwa has done since taking over the title, he puts forth some very interesting ideas and some pretty surprising plot developments in this issue. With just one chapter left in the storyline, I’m waiting to see how it turns out.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Playing For Keeps (Fun ‘n Games Part Three)
Can the Thing get his pals free from Arcade?
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Andrea DiVito
Colors: Laura Villari
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover Art: Andrea DiVito
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The first arc of the new Thing series comes to a close, and I must say, it was pretty much everything I hoped for. Dan Slott has taken my favorite Marvel character and given him a title full of old-fashioned superhero slugfests, a smattering of angst, a healthy dose of lighthearted humor and a lot of fun.
Trapped on an island by Arcade, the Thing leads a group of kidnapped millionaires in an attempt to free themselves. Tony Stark (minus his Iron Man armor) is making a play for the villain’s headquarters, while the superhero called Nighthawk and the villain called Constrictor bat clean-up for ol’ Benjy. I don’t want this to become a title about guest-stars, but all of these characters (plus an appearance by Daredevil) work really well in this issue. I particularly like the interplay between Nighthawk – a reformed villain – and Constrictor – a villain who is starting to see the appeal in fighting for the other side.
Like in his acclaimed She-Hulk run, Slott doesn’t shy away from referencing past continuity in this title, like the Thing’s friendship with the Sandman before the reformed villain un-reformed and went back to villainy. But rather than making the story inaccessible, the way Slott uses the past is part of this title’s charm. It give the book more of a timeless feel while still relying on the status quo of the Marvel Universe to create his backdrop.
DiVito’s artwork is second to none here. He draws one of the best Things I’ve seen in recent memory (and he proves he can do many incarnations of the character in one sequence), and flawlessly segues between normal comic book stomping grounds like New York City to the lush tropical island where most of the issue takes place. Like the writing, both the artwork and the page layouts have a timeless quality. Were it not for the very modern coloring style of Laura Villari, this comic could have been published 20 years ago. (This is not a knock against Villari, however, far from it – she does as spectacular a job as the rest of the creative team.)
In just three issues, this has become one of my favorite Marvel titles. But I’ve come to expect that from Dan Slott. There are few people in comics today capable of giving us an old-fashioned superhero tale as well as him.
Quick Rating: Below Average
Title: Dark Agent and other stories
Amy and Yumi dump Kaz!
Writers: Sean Carolan, Jennifer Moore, J. Torres & Abby Denson
Pencils: Christopher Cook
Inks: Mike DeCarlo & Al Nickerson
Colors: Heroic Age
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano & Travis Lanham
Editor: Joan Hilty
Cover Art: Phil Moy
Publisher: DC Comics/Johnny DC
The Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi comic book experience continues this month with another collection of short stories that may hold some appeal for hardcore fans, but will likely leave everyone else wondering how these two ever got their own TV show.
In “Dark Agent,” Ami and Yumi finally get fed up and dump their loser manager, Kaz, replacing him with a new agent, “Mr. Scratch,” who (as it turns out) has less-than angelic goals for the band. The girls grow disenchanted and must turn to Kaz to get them out of their predicament. The basic premise, if done before, is all well and good, but there’s no logical transitioning in this story. There’s no explanation as to why they decide the life of a superstar isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. They simply sign the contract, there’s a one-page montage of how great life is, and then out of the blue, they’re tired of it. Adults will get the joke about their new agent, but kids will most likely wonder what the heck made the girls change their minds.
The second story, “Tiki Torture,” is a little better. Kaz gets the girls a Tiki statue to decorate their bus, but a curse follows it, and the girls must find a way to rid themselves of a statue that doesn’t want to go. Not a great story, but at least one without any gaping logic holes in it, and it’s cute enough for what it does.
The final story, “Puffy Amiyumi $ell Out,” splits the difference. The girls, facing waning popularity, agree to let Kaz license their music and images out to sell products, something which works fine and makes them rich, until they see one product they don’t like and they shut down the whole thing. This is one where the adults are more likely to see the logic gap than the children.
As I said before, I just can’t see the appeal of this franchise, either as a TV show or a comic. If you like it, more power to you, but it’s just not for me.