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G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (2001 Series) #39

June 29, 2012 Leave a comment

January 28, 2005

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Union of the Snake Part Four

Cobra launches their attack on the Pit – and neither team will ever be the same!

Writers: Brandon Jerwa & Josh Blaylock
Pencils: Tim Seeley
Inks: Cory Hamscher
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Robin Spehar
Editor: Mark Powers
Cover Art: Tim Seeley, Andrew Pepoy & Val Staples
Publisher: Devil’s Due

Last issue, Zartan broke Cobra Commander out of G.I. Joe custody, only to reveal that the two men were using each other’s identities. Meanwhile, Destro has finally discovered the location of the Joe headquarters, the Pit. This issue, Destro makes his move against the Joes, just as Cobra Commander makes his move against Destro.

With two issues left in this storyline, it’s incredible to think that there are still more shocks to come. This is a seriously action-heavy issue. The Joes are in bad shape – the Jugglers have cut the team down to 12 members, they’re under the command General Rey, a man many of them have never met, and now their viscous enemies are descending upon them with guns blazing.

G.I. Joe has always been a book that could surprise you – it’s ostensibly a kids’ property, but the fans are in their 20s now. More than that, even when the fans were kids, this book could be pretty harsh at times with the violence, the action, and even the casualties. Although there have been resurrections during the course of this property (the original Cobra Commander being the most obvious example), there have been far more characters who have stayed dead. This issue ends on a major cliffhanger that will have fans of one of the characters in an uproar.

We also start to get a little characterization of the new leader of the “official” Joes (as opposed to the splinter group of former Joes carrying out their own missions). General Rey is still something of an enigma, but here he’s painted as a man of honor. The question, for the Joes and the readers, is whether he’s being genuine or if he’s just a puppet of the Jugglers.

Tim Seeley continues to own this book artistically. He has a beautiful, clean line, and Cory Hamscher and Val Staples all come together to make this the best this property has ever looked.

This may not be the best point to jump into reading the book, in the middle of such a major storyline, but if you can find the first three issues in this arc it’s a great time to come on board, because the Joe team has never undergone so many changes so quickly, and the story has almost never been this good.

Rating: 8/10

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Hellblazer #195

June 28, 2012 Leave a comment

April 24, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Out of Season Part One

Constantine’s friends hunt for him as his amnesia causes him even more problems.

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Leonardo Manco
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Clem Robins
Editor: Will Dennis
Cover Art: Tim Bradstreet
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo

After an encounter with an unpleasant fellow with telepathic tendencies last issue, John Constantine is trying to figure out who he is with nothing but his first name. His large friend is looking for him, a new friend isn’t exactly stable, and his old friends are trying to find him by any means necessary.

This is listed as the first of a two-part story, but it essentially continues from last issue’s quite good “Ward 24” story. Seeing Constantine trying to get by without his usual wit, snarky nature or anything else is new territory for the character, and for someone with 195 issues under his belt, finding something new isn’t easy. He gets into a seriously dangerous position in this issue and is unable to rely on any of his usual tricks, not remembering what they are, and the result is much more perilous than usual without actually making the stakes as high as they often get in a book like this.

Leonardo Manco does a fantastic job with the artwork on this issue. He has a handle on Constantine that actually echoes the rendition of the character done by cover artist Tim Bradstreet. It’s not quite as detailed – but doing the level of detail on a Bradstreet cover for the interiors would virtually eliminate any chance of getting an issue done on time. The facial structure is similar, however, and moreso than it usually is when it’s just different artists trying to draw the same character. It’s as if they used the same model.

Manco’s creepier scenes work well too, with just the right touch of blood and gore interlaced with some pretty normal-looking characters. These guys are still in shape, but unlike some horror comics, there is no character in this title that could be mistaken for a superhero.

With My Faith in Frankie over, this is easily the best title Mike Carey is writing now. He manages just the right mix of horror and potboiler, and that’s something that’s always fun to read when it’s done right.

Rating: 7/10

The Imaginaries #3

June 27, 2012 Leave a comment

August 6, 2005

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Lost and Found Part Two

Is Superhero G a hero from the past?

Writers: Mike S. Miller & Ben Avery
Pencils: Greg Titus
Colors: Salvatore Aiala
Letters: Bill Tortolini
Editor: Mike S. Miller
Cover Art: Mike S. Miller
Publisher: Image Comics/Alias Enterprises

After something of a wait, the third issue of Mike S. Miller’s The Imaginaries hits. When last we left Superhero G, the newest citizen of the Imagined Nation, he was standing up for an abused faceless denizen of this strange world, coming under assault by a mob of the ruling caste – militant teddy bears. It’s kind of silly, I know, but in a world populated by discarded imaginary friends, the whole thing makes perfect sense.

As he switches back to his “secret identity” and makes his way among the other residents of the city, we learn that his appearance in the city may not be entirely unexpected. Some of the long-time residents of the Nation remember another superhero, another one clad in red, white and blue, another one who bore a “G” on his chest. Could Superhero G really be the second coming of a legend?

I was a little surprised to see Millar introduce the messiah aspect of the story – it’s not somewhere I really expected this title to go, but so far it seems to be working quite well. I doubt that storyline will be resolved one way or another before the end of this initial miniseries, but we all know there will be more stories from Alias in the coming months. Ultimately there’s only two possible resolutions – either he is the “chosen one” or he isn’t – but either of those can be a good story if played properly.

The story in this issue is just as sharp as the last two, but the artwork isn’t. It looks a bit too compressed at points, like the panels are being smooshed. At other points, it’s the opposite problem – panels that look stretched out. The design and look of the city and characters is still inventive as ever, it’s just the execution that seems off. There’s no inker credited this issue and I wonder if that might be part of the problem – Miller may have needed somebody to go over this with a talented pen and give it more depth.

I’m quite enjoying this series – Miller is one of the most creative people in comics today and I love all of the different corners of Alias Enterprises. This issue is no different, it’s just a little weak in the art department.

Rating: 7/10

Smallville #7

June 26, 2012 Leave a comment

March 13, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Chronicle & Parenthood

Chloe Sullivan gets a visitor that dredges up a case from the past.

Writer: Clint Carpenter
Pencils: Tom Derenick & Tom Grummett
Inks: Adam DeKraker & Kevin Conrad
Colors: Guy Major & Trish Mulvihill
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Cover Art: John Van Fleet
Publisher: DC Comics

DC comics and the WB network begin a multimedia assault with a story that picks up a thread from a season one episode of Smallville, continues on the show’s website and will wrap up two months from now in the next issue of the comic book. If you’re going to do a story like that, this is the way to do it – “Chronicle” is a story that has a fairly satisfying ending to it, even if you don’t decide to log on to the website and check out how it continues, but the option to keep reading is there if you want it.

A man arrives on Chloe’s doorstep with new information about the mysterious “Level Three” that Luthorcorp moved out of Smallville under mysterious circumstances. Chloe and Clark go out to investigate. In a back-up story, Jonathan and Martha Kent get stranded on the side of the road due to a series of Clark-related mishaps. The backup is a quick funny story with a predictably sappy ending, but in the context of the television show it works fairly well.

It’s always a challenge, when adapting a TV show or movie, to draw characters that resemble the real actors without completely surrendering the storytelling needs of a comic book. Tom Derenick does a great job with this – his characters look enough like Allison Mack and Tom Welling to remind us that there is a TV show but he never sacrifices the conventions of comic storytelling. Tom Grummett isn’t quite as successful at this – his faces, especially John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, tend to be a bit over-detailed, but overall, the story looks all right.

This issue also includes a few text pieces – an article about visual effects on the program, the beginning of the season two episode guide and a weird “Voices From the Future” report that uses that annoying internet technique of substituting numbers for letters. You’re welcome to try to decipher it if you want – I got frustrated in two sentences.

This is a decent comic book, but I don’t think it gets used to its fullest potential. I’ve never seen an issue outside of comic book stores. This should be out there on magazine racks where kids and teenagers who watch the TV show can find it, read it and hopefully make the transition to other comic books. It’s time DC learned how better to market the best tool for grabbing new readers they currently have.

Rating: 7/10

She-Hulk (2004) #12

June 25, 2012 Leave a comment

February 19, 2005

Quick Rating: Excellent
Title: Some Disassembly Required

It’s She-Hulk versus Titania in the title bout!

Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Paul Pelletier
Inks: Rick Magyar
Colors: Dave Kemp
Letters: Dave Sharp
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover Art: Mike Mayhew
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This may be the first time doing a review has ever almost gotten me in trouble. I’m working the sound effects for my community theatre this weekend, and since I had a little downtime (and have already seen the play five times by now), I made the mistake of reading this comic book in the booth. I almost laughed loud enough for the audience to hear me.

Here’s the bullet points – Titania, who hates the She-Hulk, has taken the Power Gem from the Champion to take her down. Forced to stay in her human form for reasons that are perfectly logical, although will take people by surprise if they aren’t familiar with some Marvel continuity, She-Hulk is trapped in human form and is forced to call in reinforcement. Lots of reinforcements. Unexpected reinforcements.

Since the first issue, the two best things about this title have been the humor and the rampant mining of Marvel continuity. This issue Dan Slott turns both of these factors up to eleven. She-Hulk goes to an incredibly unlikely source to figure out how to take down Titania, and the guest-stars make perfect sense and exist to complement her, not steal the show. There are some outrageously funny moments here – such as Hercules asking his Damage Control foreman if he can take a break to go save the city and Stu telling off not only some obnoxious characters, but taking a good-natured poke at readers who may take things too seriously.

Since this is the last issue of “season one” (Marvel has promised to bring this title back later this year, and the last page even includes a self-referential gag to let the readers know when it will be back), Slott wraps up a lot of storylines or at least brings them to a point of logical resolution, where we can accept things being left for a while. We get resolution for She-Hulk, Titania, Southpaw and the law firm. We even get a little resolution for some story threads left over from Avengers Disassembled, which tie into story elements in this book.

Paul Pelletier is at the absolute top of his game. The characters look great, the fight scenes are fantastic and the visual gags all just plain work. There are panels where your jaw just drops and panels where you laugh out loud. I’m in love with this book.

This same creative team is going to take some time off to do the upcoming GLA (that’s Great Lakes Avengers) miniseries, which promises to have a lot of the same comedic sensibilities, so you can bank on me following them there. But man, I can’t wait for this book to come back for season two.

Rating: 10/10

Animal Man (1988 Series) #10

June 23, 2012 Leave a comment

June 11, 2012

Title: Fox on the Run

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art:
Chas Truog & Mark McKenna
Letters:
John Costanza
Colors:
Tatjana Wood
Cover Art:
Brian Bolland
Editor:
Karen Berger
Publisher:
DC Comics

When former Justice League member Vixen shows up on his doorstep, Buddy Baker begins to think about the origins of his powers. Meanwhile, in Arkham Asylum, the Psycho-Pirate begins having very strange delusions.

Last issue I mentioned that the story here wasn’t quite as wild as we’ve come to expect from Grant Morrison. Here’s where he makes up for it. Buddy’s origins were always kind of odd, so the examination of them that begins here feels perfectly rational. The places that examination takes us, however, are really far out. It’s also easy to forget, all these years later, that the original Crisis on Infinite Earths had ended just two years prior to this story, the streamlined DCU (sans the multiverse) was still relatively new, and only Psycho-Pirate remembered the truth. That said, the way he treads on the fourth wall here is really quite unusual and entertaining. Morrison has built a career on metafiction, and as far as his work in American comics goes, this is where that all began. The way he draws not only on Animal Man’s past, but on the DCU as a whole, makes it a stronger story.

Would that I could say the same for the art. I’ve been down on Chas Truog’s pencils before, but this issue is really dreadful. The faces in particular are weak – ill-defined lines, eyes that are out of proportion with one another and misplaced… mistakes that a high school art teacher would call attention to. This issue actually sent me to the internet to see how long Truog stayed with the book… to my chagrin, I found he was there (minus the occasional fill-in) until the end of Grant Morrison’s run.

I’m really enjoying the story here, it’s just getting better and better. Now I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping Truog had an off-day when he was drawing this one.

Rating: 7/10

Breakdown #3

June 22, 2012 Leave a comment

January 21, 2005

Quick Rating: Very Good

His father freed, Jeff Carey finds out one of the family’s secrets.

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Dave Ross
Colors: Jeremy Roberts with Sunder Raj & Aadi Salaman
Letters: Robin Spehar
Editor: Mark Powers
Cover Art: Dave Ross & Jeremy Roberts
Publisher: Devil’s Due/Aftermath

Last issue Jeff Carey, once the superhero named Paragon, broke his father Brice out of prison to help him hunt down the people who murdered his wife and son. This issue, the two of them and their ally from the very company responsible for the turn their lives have taken set out for even more help. Both Jeff and Brice want vengeance. But Jeff doesn’t know all of his father’s secrets, or what they’re going to do to his life.

In the first two issues, I was a little afraid that this comic was going to meander, become just a knock-off of the Punisher plus superpowers. This issue went a long way towards alleviating my fears. There’s a lot more to the story than was really evident at the beginning. Brice’s life, frozen in place twenty years ago, was full of secrets, deceptions, twists and turns, and something tells me the two revelations we get in this issue aren’t the only ones we have waiting for us.

Chuck Dixon has been a favorite writer of mine for years, and he continues to prove himself with this series. He started out with a few characters who could easily have lapsed into stereotype, and has managed to make them a lot more realistic, a lot more fully-realized. He’s done fine work here.

Also deserving of praise is the art team of Dave Ross and Jeremy Roberts. Using the pencil-to-color process that seems to be so popular these days, they’ve managed to create a look for this series that hovers somewhere between the realistic and the fantastic. Some pages are as dark and gritty as anything I’ve ever seen, then other pages, like the one that shows the treatment that gave Brice his powers, are truly fantastic and would fit easily in a hard sci-fi comic. It’s a strange look, and one that works perfectly for this title.

This book clearly knew where it was going from the very first issue. It’s with this issue that we start to see where it’s going as well, and I for one am anxious to find out where it goes next.

Rating: 8/10