Sunday, May 3, 2009

Two Weeks Of Comic Reviews

Because I just didn't feel like writing this past week.

CONAN THE CIMMERIAN #10 - So, Conan? Do you think this month's issue of your comic was a good one?

No. No, sir you do not.

The adaptation of Robert Howard's Black Colossus continues and remains true to the spirit of that classic tale. Truman borrows quite a bit from Howard's dialogue and scenario, but does get in his own original work as he explains precisely why Conan was wandering the streets when he is discovered by the queen, who was told to hand command of her armies over to the first man she met in the street that night.

The artwork by Thomas Giorello is excellent and has grown on me to the point that I think I'm beginning to like his work slightly more than Cary Nord on the original Dark Horse Conan series.

DETECTIVE COMICS #853 - The long-awaited conclusion to Neil Gaiman's Batman story.

How is it? Well, that depends entirely upon your tolerance for Neil Gaiman and - at the same time - Grant Morrison. Because this issue manages to simultaneously be a fairly typical Gaiman story about the power of stories and a perfect continuation of Bruce's fate following Morrison's Final Crisis.

On one level, it is an examination of the concept of the death of Batman through the eyes of many characters, which concludes that the details of how Batman dies are unimportant. What matters is that the only way Batman's story can ever end is WITH the death of Batman since, by definition, the main defining characteristic of Batman is cannot ever give up his quest for justice except in the face of the ultimate ending. And yet, because the concept of Batman is so powerful, he cannot ever truly die.

On the other level, this issue does go along neatly with the how Bruce was killed in Final Crisis and the idea of The Omega Sanction, which traps the person targeted in a series of alternate realities, each worse than the previous one. Most of the realities we see are indeed worse than the main DC Comics universe and we do see Bruce being reborn.

All in all, I recommend this story to all but those who would say "Oh... it's Neil Gaiman telling another story about stories!" It is that... but so much more as well. If nothing else, the end works as a neat little tribute to Goodnight Moon.

EX MACHINA #41 - Things seem to be going into the home-stretch for the final run of the book, with Mayor Hundred setting a dangerous gamble going into the final year of his administration to leave the city forever if he can't fix the budget. Journal and Kremlin step up their plans to bring down Hundred's administration before then. And it looks as if The Great Machine's arch-enemy has returned. Nothing but set-up this time around but it looks like it's setting up one hell of an ending. I'll be sorry to see this book go.

GREEN LANTERN #40 - Okay. Time for a War of Light update.

* Former Green Lantern baddie, turned Sinestro Corps member turned Star Sapphire Corps member Fatality is out looking for John Stewart. Probably to apologize for holding a grudge about his failure to save her home planet from blowing up.

* Scar, the injured female Guardian, appears to be going more and more unbalanced. This is no surprise to those of us who read the Black Lantern back-up stories a few months ago, which she narrated as she discussed the dead loved ones of various DC Comics Heroes.

* Hal still can't get the blue ring off his hand and hoping for World Peace isn't good enough. :)

* Orange Lanterns are created when a sentient being is killed or otherwise absorbed by an Orange Lantern projection. They are then transformed into a being of orange energy, controlled directly by Agent Orange.

* Orange Lanterns appear to have the ability to absorb/devour the energy output by Green Lanterns. Even the Guardians cannot harm them directly. For some reason, this ability doesn't seem to apply to the energy of Blue Lantern rings.

It's getting heated.

HELLBLAZER #254 - I can't say I'm really enjoying Peter Mulligan's run on the book so far. It's not that it's bad, persay. But it does seem like he's trying a bit too hard to be Jamie Delano.

This story briefly continues the thread from last issue with John's latest romance blowing up in his face, intermingling with a colleague of John's asking him to use his mojo to disrupt the plans of the rich-pricks remodeling London for the 2012 Olympics. There's also flashbacks to a possible ancestor of John's, who is faced with the prospect of whoring out his daughter to escape a plague-filled London or making a literal deal with the devil.

This is all very interesting, but the flashback doesn't seem to be connected at all to the main story with John and it seems to be a slippery slope giving us a flashback without a more direct connection in a two-part story. Delano and Ennis did this sort of thing quite often and to good effect but they usually limited such stories to one issue and never cheapened themselves as to make confusion the main impetus for buying a second issue.

The art by Goran Sudzuka is crisper and cleaner than I'm used to seeing the art in Hellblazer be. In fact, I think this may well be the "brightest" the book has ever looked. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Nice as the art looks. it just seems right to me that Hellblazer should be dark as anything with more shadows than color in the artwork.

JACK OF FABLES #33 - The plot thickens with Jack's bastard son by The Winter Queen (who has now become Jack Frost somehow) leaving home to seek his long-lost father. Babe the Blue Ox dreams of being a Conan expy named Brom Wilderhart. And Jack, fed up with having to deal with Bigby Wolf for five minutes, declares that he is quitting the book, going back to Fables and taking the artist with him. Not a good time to jump onto Fables, but an enjoyable story that shows why this is the best book on the market today... along with the other two Fables books that are out now.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #32 - Well, I finally dropped this book. I just don't have the patience to wait around while DC Editorial gets their act together and gives Dwayne McDuffie to write the same kind of stories he did when he was writing Justice League Unlimited. The entire JLA idea has been put on hold because of all the A-List heroes being busy elsewhere and the Justice League concept being put in the hands of James Robinson for a mini-series.

Even as a James Robinson fan who has really been looking forward to the new Justice League, I think that stinks. But what really stinks is that Dinah Lance continues to get no respect.

This issue opened with Superman questioning her decision to shut down the Justice League of America rather than compete with Ollie and Hal's scab team. While I think Dinah acquits herself well with the argument (i.e. "you think it's okay for ME to be the leader when you, Diana and Bruce need time off?" and "the resources to unite everyone for big problems are still there - there's just no team meetings on the satellite"), it doesn't say a lot that everyone else on the team is defying her orders and continuing to meet without her. And even though they refuse to elect a new team leader and John Stewart gets a page-long speech where he explains why Dinah is the best leader the JLA ever had and the main reason he refuses to take a leadership post is because it will make it a lot easier to convince Dinah to come back if nobody is actively replacing her, it doesn't ring true.

The last few months have been like asking a gourmet chef to make you a sloppy joe and DC needs to get its' act together and free McDuuffie up to do something like - oh, I don't know - a monthly Static book?

THE LITERALS #1 - A very funny issue in which we learn a little more about Kevin Thorn and the rest of the Literals family as he goes looking for a muse as he plans to rewrite the whole world. I love this if only for the fact that Comedy is Groucho Marx with a goatee.

"If it's a muse you want, I'm the guy to ask. I've got enough good material to amuse you all day!"

I think Comedy is probably the ones pulling the strings on this story already. Because at the end of the issue, in the greatest literal pun of all time, Kevin Thorn makes a monkey out of Bigby Wolf.

RED SONJA #43 - Horrible. Just horrible.

Granting that Red Sonja has always lent herself well to cheesecake portrayals (something too many of the covers have been devoted to), the various artists working the interiors of the book had been fairly good about not going overboard on this sort of faked posing.

No more, I'm sad to say. Nearly every page of this book seems to be a splash-page and we get more up-skirt shots of Sonja (if the phrase "up-skirt" can be applied to a chainmail breechcloth) in this issue than in the other 42 issues before combined. Still, I guess we can say we now know the answer to just what Sonja wears under her armor... even though the answer (leather short shorts) doesn't make a lick of sense.

Throw in the visions of the inner form of the Cthulhu-like beastie who Sonja is fighting (four-words; green-haired Lady Godiva) and you have a lot of flash with no substance at all.

WONDER WOMAN #31 - Much has said about how, to paraphrase Kingdom Come, the minute you make The Super more important than The Man, you lose what is most important. Oddly, I don't think anyone has ever applied this same sentiment to emphasizing The Wonder over The Woman.

I mention this, because in one panel Gail Simone has managed to ground Diana and make her seem like a real person and less like an imaginary goddess. And suddenly, she's a lot more interesting and likable for it.

Is this a little silly? Yes. But it's just so overwhelmingly refreshing to see a Wonder Woman who is allowed to make jokes, ogle her boyfriend and not be The Perfect Princess or The Amazon 24/7 that I like the idea. And the more I think about it, the more it seems right in the same way that Superman is more Martha Kent's boy than the Last Son of Krypton is right.

Don't worry though - there's still plenty of Wonder in this issue, including Diana punching a missile, a ton of Spartans on winged horses storming the UN and the return of Ares and Athena. Oh, and we finally get an answer on just who this crazy Genocide woman is and we get to see a use of the power of the Gods that truly makes sense in the contents of how the Greek Gods did operate and - in fact - probably WOULD operate in the DC Universe.

I gush on the writing but I should mention that the art is very good too. Great book - highly recommended.


  1. Conan is screaming to be made into an icon.

  2. Heh. I actually had this one on my other LJ account.