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Hawkman (2002 Series) #26

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment

March 20, 2004

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Rest

A mistake from Hawkman’s past comes back to haunt him.

Writer: Josh Siegal
Pencils: John Byrne
Inks: Lary Stucker
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: John Byrne
Publisher: DC Comics

Writer Josh Siegal is a new name to me, but after reading this issue of Hawkman I find myself asking why he’s only doing a fill-in until the new creative team comes on instead of handling writing chores full-time. This is a really smart issue, wherein Hawkman and Hawkgirl find themselves facing off the bloody menace of a vampire.

Siegal takes the fact that Hawkman has been around for thousands of years in hundreds of incarnations and runs with it, showing how an honest mistake can get magnified over the centuries, leading to the current predicament. He shows the flip side of that too, though, employing skills that may go unused for hundreds of years, but are never forgotten.

Siegal also employs a non-linear storytelling style, bouncing further and further into the past to show how the characters were brought to the point. The structure of the story (if not the content) reminds me very much of one of m favorite movies, “Memento,” which tells the story from the end to the beginning. It’s not an easy technique to pull off, and Siegal does a fantastic job.

John Byrne seems to be drawing a lot of vampires lately. He did it last week in JLA and he’s doing it here. They both look good, though, so I’m not going to complain. Lary Stucker’s inks compliment the pencils very well, and we have a comic book that manages to straddle the line between superhero storytelling and horror. Visually, this book could fit into either category, and that’s what it needs to do.

After the great run Geoff Johns had on this title, it’s going to be hard to follow up. This may be a done-in-one fill-in issue, but it’s a very good one. Hawkman fans will be highly satisfied.

Rating: 8/10

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Sensational She-Hulk #8

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

December 17, 2011

Title: The World’s Greatest Detective

Writer: John Bryne
Pencils:
John Byrne
Inks:
Bob Wiacek
Colorist:
Glynis Oliver
Letterer:
Jim Novak
Cover Artist:
John Byrne
Editor:
Bobbie Chase
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

In his run on Sensational She-Hulk, writer/artist John Byrne did a wonderfully funny, irreverent version of the character that fully was aware of the fact that she was in a comic book. She’d frequently converse with the creative team, use the conventions of the art form to her advantage, and otherwise have way more fun than most mainstream comics think they’re allowed to have these days. This early issue actually came out in the summer, but it’s got a distinct Christmasy tinge to it.

She-Hulk, alias prosecuting attorney Jennifer Walkers when she’s not busy saving the world, is called upon to handle the case against a man who is accused of seven murders. Although everybody – even his public defender – believes him to be guilty, there’s no concrete evidence of his guilt. Jennifer gets a call from a tiny elf of a man who calls himself Nick St. Christopher – the world’s greatest detective – who believes he can help her on the case.

Although the story plays a little coy with Nick’s true identity, if you haven’t figured it out simply by the picture of him on the cover, something is seriously wrong with you. Byrne follows the two of them with a trail of evidence just in case you missed it – Nick leaving snow in his wake, entering a building via the chimney, and informing Jen that he always knows who has been naughty and nice among them. The book, as it always was at this time period, was really funny, but also managed to balance itself against the relatively serious moments of Jennifer working as a prosecutor. These elements combined to make a unique kind of comic book that I loved back then and just wish still existed today.

On a side-note, the book includes a scene where Nick gives Jen a gift and warns her not to open it until Christmas. Byrne clearly was setting something up here, but he left the book with the next issue. Fortunately for us all, he returned to it a few years later, and in issue #36 he finally picked up on this thread. I’ve got to find a copy of that one and add it to the ol’ Christmas review pile.

Rating: 8/10

She-Hulk Sensational #1

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

April 2, 2010

She-Hulk Sensational #1 (Marvel Comics)
By Peter David, Jonboy Meyers, Gary Frank, Brian Reed, Ivan Coello & John Byrne

It’s She-Hulk’s 30th anniversary, and although Jennifer Walters is MIA in the Marvel Universe at the moment, that’s not going to stop the celebration. Peter David and Jonboy Meyers tell a magnificent tale of Jennifer struggling with getting older. As she tries to wrestle with the big 3-0, she finds herself facing her past, present, and future. Yep, David takes the ol’ Christmas Carol route and mixes it nicely with the sort of metafiction, self-awareness and fourth wall-breaking that made John Byrne‘s run on this title in the 90s such a classic. David gives us a wonderfully funny story full of winks to the camera and nods to classic continuity. Meyers‘ artwork is great, with just a hint of Manga flavor, but not enough to bring down the story. If the entire special was just this story, it would score an easy 4.5 out of 5. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only story. It’s followed up by “Ladies’ Night,” a terribly by-the-book story of Jen, Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel teaming up to face off against a bunch of generic villains. She-Hulk isn’t even the focus of this story, it almost feels like she and Spider-Woman are guest-starring in a leftover issue of Ms. Marvel that got shelved after Secret Invasion changed the status quo for the characters. We also get a reprint of John Bryne‘s Sensational She-Hulk #40 from the 90s. After several pages of She-Hulk jumping rope (seriously), she and her galpal Weezi get whisked off to outer space where the trucker superhero US Archer needs their help. I like having a Byrne reprint here — he arguably made the character what she is — but this is a really poor choice. It’s not that it’s a bad issue, but there’s not much of a story here. It’s 100 percent set-up for the storyline that followed and it ends on a cliffhanger, making it terribly incomplete for inclusion in a one-shot. Byrne‘s run was fantastic, but there must have been a one-off story they could have included instead of this one.
Rating: 7/10

Blood of the Demon #2

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

April 4, 2005

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Hunters

Jason and Etrigan strike an uneasy truce.

Plot: John Byrne
Script: Will Pfeifer
Pencils: John Byrne
Inks: Nekros
Colors: Alex Bleyaert
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Cover Art: John Byrne
Publisher: DC Comics

The new status quo for Jason Blood and the Demon is established this issue, and while it’s not what I expected, it’s an interesting take nonetheless. Last issue, Etrigan was fully unleashed in the midst of an arcane ritual to bring an “Elder God” to Earth. This issue the demon revels in his freedom as he does battle with the creature, only to find a new obstacle he didn’t expect.

I’m not entirely sure what I think of this new arrangement. It reminds me quite a bit of another DC hero (and I can’t say more without spoiling it) but it may be a bit more interesting in this case, as our two main characters have often been at odds – Jason’s heroic tendencies clashing with Etrigan’s basic evil nature. That part of the arrangement, at least, seems to have remained intact, and I think that’s important to keep. Although I’ve got to do on record as one of the people who misses the rhyming Etrigan – he never feels quite right if he’s not rhyming to me.

This is a heavy action issue, but we also get some development and some additions to our supporting cast, whom I suspect will be rather important to this series – some of them in a “support crew” kind of way and some in an adversarial “Jean Valjean” way. Both of these have a lot of potential for this series.

Byrne seems to have a lot of fun with the artwork in this issue, particularly with the rather Lovecraftian “Elder God” that gives us our Maguffin. He has an interesting take on Etrigan himself as well, making him look more beaten up, more weathered than most interpretations of the character.

Like the first issue, I feel like this is a solid start to relaunch the character. It’s interesting – not so long ago I remember reading an interview with Byrne where he said he had no jobs lined up after he finished Superman/Batman: Generations 3. Between this, Doom Patrol and his return to Action Comics, he’s not hurting for work anytime soon.

Rating: 8/10

Superman: Cover to Cover

July 17, 2011 Leave a comment

June 7, 2006

Quick Rating: Great

Over 270 of the most memorable Superman covers of all time!

Art: Alex Ross, Ed McGuinness, Matt Wagner, Neal Adams, Curt Swan, Joe Schuster, Walt Simonson, Leinil Francis Yu, Jim Lee, John Byrne and hundreds of the greatest Superman artists of all time
Commentary: Grant Morrison, Jeph Loeb, Mark Verheiden, Mark Waid, Elliot S! Maggin, Murphy Anderson, Al Plastino, Jim Mooney, Nick Cardy, Bryan Singer, Richard Donner, Jack Larson, Erica Durance and more
Collected Edition Editor: Robert Greenberger
Senior Art Director: Robbin Brosterman
Publisher: DC Comics

The follow-up to last year’s popular Batman: Cover to Cover, this handsome hardcover volume collects over 270 of the most memorable covers featuring Superman since the character’s first appearance back in Action Comics #1. Note that I say here “most memorable,” not “best” – while a great many of the covers included here are magnificent works of art (Alex Ross’s work on Superman: Peace on Earth and Kingdom Come #4, for example), many others aren’t quite as powerful from a purely aesthetic sense, but still deserve a place for honor for what they represent. Several covers from the Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane series are included to demonstrate how a bizarre cover, such as Superman standing by the graves of Lois, Lana Lang and Lori Lemaris, would entice a reader to grab the issue.

The book is divided up into several segments, each showcasing a different aspect of the man of steel – one section focuses on his relationship with Lois, another on the members of his extended family, one on Metropolis and one on Krypton, a section of patriotic covers and a section devoted entirely to his team-ups with other superheroes. The book is divided into over 20 such categories, and looking at the list it’s hard to think of any aspect of the character that isn’t covered somewhere.

In addition to the sections focusing on the different aspects of Superman, several times some of the writers, artists and other people most associated with Superman take a page to present their personal favorite Superman cover, and those covers are usually placed in the category they most belong. Classic artist Nick Cardy, for example, chooses his cover to Justice League of America #102, where Superman stands on a hilltop and announces that one of the assembled members of the Justice League and Justice Society must die to save the world. This powerful cover is, appropriately, placed in the “World’s Finest” chapter, which includes Superman’s great team-ups. Brandon Routh, who plays Clark and Superman in the upcoming Superman Returns film, chooses the simple but elegant Ron Frenz cover to Superman Vol. 2 #120 – a classic image of Superman bursting through chains with the entire cover colored green except for the S-shield. This is included in a section of covers selected for their clever and innovative graphic design qualities.

By the very nature of this project, not everyone will agree with the final covers selected. Everybody will have their own favorite covers that may not be included, and they’ll come across a few they may think less than deserving of inclusion – but the art by its very nature is selective. Most readers will be hard-pressed to argue this isn’t, overall, a very entertaining collection of iconic and eye-popping Superman images. This is a book that every Superman fan needs to have on his coffee table.

Rating: 9/10

Doom Patrol (2004 Series) #18

June 3, 2011 Leave a comment

November 29, 2005

Quick Rating: Fair
Title: Convergence Conclusion

Is this the end of the Doom Patrol?

Writer: John Byrne
Pencils: John Byrne
Inks: Doug Hazlewood
Colors: Alex Bleyaert
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Art: John Byrne
Publisher: DC Comics

The newest incarnation of the Doom Patrol comes to a fairly anticlimactic end. Frankly, I’ve felt the whole experiment was doomed from the start – not because John Byrne doesn’t still have talent given the right project, but because he alienated virtually every Doom Patrol fan on the planet by ignoring every previous incarnation and starting over from the ground-up. In this issue, as Elasti-Girl’s power leaves her close to death and the bizarre mingling of Negative Man and Vortex wreaks havoc, special guest star Metamorpho faces off against an intruder in Doom Patrol headquarters.

In and of itself, there’s really nothing wrong with this issue (except for DC’s continued lack of a “Previously” page to clue in new readers – but then, final issues don’t get a lot of those, do they?). It’s a perfectly adequate superhero story, and Byrne is still one of the best pure superhero artists in the business. It just suffered from the same problems this title has had since day one – the longtime fans feel snubbed and the characters aren’t unique or interesting enough to garner a lot of new readers.

Byrne’s skills absolutely still have a place in comics – his Blood of the Demon is quite good – but this book isn’t a fit. Chances are it will be forgotten as a part of DC continuity as completely as Byrne himself forgot the Doom Patrol incarnations of the past.

Rating: 6/10

Doom Patrol (2004 Series) #10

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

March 28, 2005

Quick Rating: Fair
Title: Hearts and Minds

The origin of Nudge and Grunt!

Writer: John Byrne
Pencils: John Byrne
Inks: Doug Hazlewood
Colors: Alex Bleyaert
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Art: John Byrne
Publisher: DC Comics

At a time when DC comics is making a big move to bring its titles together and create a cohesive universe again, this title stands apart as a strange anachronism, one that eschews all rules of continuity and seems to exist in a universe of its own. Clearly, the book flatly contradicts most, if not all, earlier incarnations of the Doom Patrol. Furthermore, the version of Metamorpho presented in this issue doesn’t jibe with the character as he’s currently being portrayed anywhere else in the DCU. The scenes with him alone or with the team as a whole don’t really work because they don’t fit into the greater context of the DC Universe.

The bits of this issue that do work are the rather tragic origins of Nudge, the mentalist of the group, and Grunt, the bizarre six-armed gorilla. Not having read this title regularly, I don’t really know if his beginnings have been explored before, but they’re interesting. We get a portrait of someone who has been used, his entire life turned upside down and destroyed, and an understanding of why he may have latched on to Nudge.

John Byrne’s artwork is continually strong. While some of his faces this issue seem rather static, with one character looking much like another, he does a good job of conveying emotion with those faces. The action scenes are very strong, and he lays out a really strong cover.

This is an okay title, but it’s a book that doesn’t really seem to have a place in the DCU as a whole. With the whole line leaning in that direction, it’s a little disheartening that this title isn’t part of that movement.

Rating: 6/10