Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wolverine: Old Man Logan Hardcover Review

Wolverine: Old Man Logan
Marvel Comics
Oversized Hardcover
224 pages
ISBN 9780785131595

Contributors: Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

Reprints: Wolverine (2003) #66-72; Giant-Size Old Man Logan #1

Synopsis: The day the villains united the heroes fell.  Most died, but Wolverine survived the tragic event although his spirit was forever broken.  The man Logan continues, but the Wolverine is no more.  He lives out his days as a pacifist farmer with his family.  Their meager plot of land is rented from the Hulk Gang -- the in-bred offspring of Bruce Banner and rulers of the West Coast.  The rent is due and the punishment for not paying is death.

In order to save his family and pay the rent Logan accompanies the now-blind archer Hawkeye across the desolate Amerika -- a land carved up and controlled by the villains.  Can a man sworn never to pop his claws in anger protect his family in this brutal world? 

Pros: McNiven's art is spectacular, Millar's story is brutal with some major twists (fate of the X-Men is particularly harsh), includes all variant covers and sketchbook

Cons: Plot was a little too simple (kind of like the Hulk Gang), what happened to Wolverine's slow aging?

Mike Tells It Straight:  I read this book in a single sitting and it was a page-turner.  Not ground-breaking, but Millar and McNiven create a compelling genre-fusion tale.  I love a good dystopian future (like Hulk: Future Imperfect) and this story delivers.  A couple plot points are suspect and there's a lot of suspended disbelief here, but they nail Wolverine's character and motivation.  It's a worthy entry into the Wolverine mythos although possibly too heavy for hardcore traditionalists. 


TO BUY and Recommendations:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Booster Gold Vol. 1 52 Pick-Up Hardcover Review

Booster Gold Vol. 1 - 52 Pick-Up
DC Comics
160 pages
$24.99 (2008)
$14.99 (2009)
ISBN 9781401217877

Contributors: Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, and Art Adams

Reprints: Booster Gold (2007) #1-6

Synopsis: In the aftermath of 52 the multiverse is in peril from unstable time waves and only Booster Gold, the greatest hero you've never heard of, can save it!  Booster is just inches away from regaining membership in the Justice League of America when he is called back by Rip Hunter to protect the 'soft' spots in time.  Someone is attempting to exploit them and erase the greatest heroes of the Justice League before they can become heroes. 

Now Booster must travel through time ensuring specific events transpire and coming into contact (and mostly conflict) with several characters including Sinestro, Jonah Hex, the Silver Age Flashes, the Joker, and Batgirl.  His reward for repairing the time stream will be to save his best friend Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle, from being murdered by Maxwell Lord!

Pros: Great concept and nice continuation from 52 storyline, concept design sketches by creator Dan Jurgens

Cons: Dan Jurgens art is weak, story jumps around very quickly, keep Dan Katz away from comic writing

Mike Tells It Straight: Just like Booster Gold's character this book is mostly hype with little real substance.  It jumps around to a bunch of different times with a lot of guest stars, but just doesn't deliver a remarkable story.  I've never really liked Jurgens art style and it really doesn't impress me here.  The concept itself is really interesting and the story is enjoyable for its twists & turns.  I wouldn't recommend shelling out top dollar for this series and it's only for those fans who loved Booster's story from 52.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World War III Review

World War III
DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
128 pages
ISBN 9781401215040

Contributors: Keith Champagne, Pat Olliffe, Andy Smith, John Ostrander, Tom Derenick, Norm Rapmund, Jack Jadson, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, J. G. Jones, and Justiniano

Reprints: World War III #1-4 (of 4); 52 #50

Synopsis: The Black Marvel Family is dead and Black Adam rages against the world.  His family was murdered through treachery and he follows one of the murderers to the tiny nation of Bialya subsequently killing the entire nation in a haze of bloodlust.  In the ruins of Bialya the Martian Manhunter confronts Adam and is resoundingly defeated.  Other heroes band together battling Adam across the globe as he leaves death and destruction in his wake.  Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have been missing after the events of Infinite Crisis leaving the rest of the heroes to stop Adam's deadly rampage.  Can they accomplish the task without their three strongest members and who will be the casualties of this brutal war? 

Pros: Black Adam does some hardcore killing, writers kill off Teen Titan member Frankenstein (WTF is a teen Frankenstein doing on the Teen Titans!?), cover by J. G. Jones is awesome

Cons: Just like in 52 the revolving artist role can be distracting, some of the DCU storyline updates are confusing without any explanations

Mike Tells It Straight: WWIII fills in a lot of blanks on the rest of the DCU during the whole 52 storyline while expanding the conflict against Black Adam.  Two Teen Titans are killed, Checkmate's reformation continues, Aquaman/Sub-Diego are resolved/rebooted, and the Martian Manhunter gets a new direction.  You cannot read this series before reading 52 #1-49 or it will not have much impact.  Martian Manhunter is a particular focus of this story and you find out what changed him before his new series.  This series offers a nice, condensed recap of DCU events without having to read a bunch of different titles.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Batman: Manbat Review

Batman: Manbat
DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
160 pages
ISBN 9781563893209

Contributors: Jamie Delano and John Bolton

Reprints: Batman: Manbat #1-3 (of 3)

Synopsis: Marilyn Munro is a guerilla reporter for activist group "Video Witness" on a mission to expose Edencorp's corrupt animal testing.  She and partner Mac break into a facility in Northern Arizona bearing witness to horrific genetic experiments on helpless animals.  During the break-in Marilyn boosts a vial and subsequently becomes stranded in the desert after crash-landing her hyperlite.  She stumbles upon the lair of Kirk Langstrom, the Manbat and his family of half-bat/half-humans. 

Batman is called in to get the vial back before a deadly, man-made plague is released to destroy civilization.  The problem is Kirk Langstrom has been trying to create a new species of bat-people to inherit the Earth and the arrival of a plague to wipe out humanity is most fortuitous. 

Pros: Great story by Delano with a unique vision of Batman and Manbat, very nice painted artwork by Bolton

Cons: Art was a bit inconsistent at times

Mike Tells It Straight: I think Delano originally wrote a "continuity" Batman/Manbat tale, but his Batman was just different enough to prompt an Elseworlds label.  Batman does a few things which don't sit well with the reader 1) consorting with corporate and government officials who are obviously corrupt (granted it's to prevent the release of a plague) and 2) he kills someone in the story.  Despite that Delano's portrayal of Batman was really amusing along with Marilyn the environmentalist.  I loved how Delano painted them both as hypocrites by the end of the tale.  This book was enjoyable and probably the best Manbat story out there (that I've read).

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Infinity Inc.: Luthor's Monsters Review

Infinity Inc.: Luthor's Monsters
DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
128 pages
ISBN 9781401218164

Contributors: Peter Milligan, Max Fiumara, Matthew Southworth, Stefano Gaudiano, and Travel Foreman

Reprints: Infinity Inc. (2007) #1-5

Synopsis: Following the events of 52 John Henry Irons and his niece Natasha are busy running Steelworks in Metropolis.  It's been a year and a half since the Everyman Project and Lex Luthor almost destroyed their lives.  Natasha and all of the former members of Infinity Inc. are dealing with psychological damage from the sudden loss of their powers after Luthor pulled the plug. 

Now the former subjects of Luthor's Everyman Project are developing new, unsettling powers.  Coupled with their unstable personalities it's a recipe for disaster.  Can Steel save Natasha a second time and whatever happened to Luthor's former bodyguards?

Pros: Peter Milligan's writing is good, really off-beat team with some unique concepts

Cons: Art is weak, plot is simple yet seems confused (kind of like the character Fury)

Mike Tells It Straight: Milligan's writing takes a strange turn in this story and veers far from the norm.  It reminds me of a heavily goth-influenced '90s piece with no real direction.  Series only lasted twelve issues for a reason.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Monday, June 21, 2010

DC Comics 52 Vol. 1-4 Review

DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback Volumes 1-4
304 pages ea. 1,216 pages total
$19.99 ea. $79.96 total
ISBN 9781401213534/ 9781401213640/ 9781401214432/ 9781401214869

Contributors: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, J. G. Jones, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Joe Bennett, Ken Lashley, Shawn Moll, Todd Nauck, David Baron, Alex Sinclair, Dale Eaglesham, Phil Jimenez, Drew Johnson, Pat Olliffe, Tom Derenick, Jamal Igle, Dan Jurgens, Joe Prado, Andy Smith, Guiseppe Camuncoli, Justiniano, Mike McKone, Darick Robertson, and about 52 other people.

Reprints: 52 #1-52 (of 52)

Synopsis: Following the events of Infinite Crisis the world is without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  The trinity of heroes have disappeared and for an entire year other lesser-known heroes must fill their shoes.  Each issue of 52 represents one week of the year and were released in real-time - no mean feat for an American comic book series.  The series was made possible by four writers, one breakdown artist, and a veritable legion of pencil/ink/color/lettering artists. 

Over the course of the year several major storylines play out including:
  • In Metropolis Lex Luthor begins his Everyman Project where he grants superpowers to anyone he wishes.  Steel (John Henry Irons) has a falling out with his niece Natasha who wants to be a hero without paying her dues.  She joins up with Luthor's new superteam Infinity Inc. (he legally purchased the rights for the team's name).  Adding insult to injury Irons is slipped the Everyman treatment on the sly and *shock* grows a living steel skin.  He now looks like a complete hypocrite in his niece's eyes and she won't believe his warnings about Lex Luthor.  What terrible tragedy will Luthor mastermind and can Irons save his niece from becoming another victim of Luthor's treachery?
  • Ralph Dibny (the Elongated Man) is still reeling from the events of Identity Crisis when his wife was murdered by a long-time friend Jean Loring (wife of the original Atom).  He visits her grave and finds it has been vandalized by a new cult worshipping the Kryptonian theory of resurrection.  Wonder Girl is a member of the cult and desperately hopes Superboy (Kon-El) will return to her (he died in Infinite Crisis).  Ralph investigates and participates in a resurrection ceremony where he begins believing it may be possible to bring Sue back.  He soon embarks on a mystical journey with an unlikely traveling companion -- the Helmet of Fate!  Will Ralph discover a way to bring Sue back with the help of Fate or is she lost forever?
  • In Gotham Renee Montoya is drinking herself into oblivion after the death of her partner Crispus Allen (who later becomes a host for The Spectre) and the break-up with her lover Daria.  She encounters a strange face-less man who hires her to stake out a building for a week.  She follows a shadowy figure into the building and discovers a huge beast-man hauling boxes filled with sci-fi weaponry.  The face-less man is The Question and he joins Montoya in confronting the beast-man.  Intergang has started moving on Gotham with Batman out of the picture.  They have adopted a new religion based on the "Crime Bible" where crime is law.  A new hero rises up to face Intergang -- the Batwoman!  Who is she and what is her link with Intergang and Renee Montoya?
  • Black Adam is the ruler and protector of the nation Kahndaq.  He metes out a merciless form of justice based on capital punishment and an-eye-for-an-eye.  No one opposes him as he begins building a superhuman alliance to rival the oppressive West.  Adam meets a fiery young woman who strikes a cord in his heart.  He shares his power with her and soon the heroine Isis is born.  Her brother was sold into slavery and Adam helps rescue him.  Granting the brother powers the hero Osiris is born.  Soon the Black Marvel Family is together (with their own talking alligator mascot) and Adam's rage is finally tempered.  The treachery of Intergang has infiltrated Kahndaq and what fate awaits the newest superpowered family?
  • Dr. Will Magnus' work is foundering after a mental breakdown caused him to create the deadly Plutonium Man.  Now medicated to prevent any further relapses he visits old foe Dr. T. O. Morrow on a weekly basis.  Morrow was Magnus' former teacher and the creator of the Red Tornado.  On one of these visits he hears of the abduction of many "mad" scientists including Dr. Sivana (foil to Captain Marvel).  Soon Morrow is abducted and the head of the Red Tornado is sighted in Australia.  Magnus intends to discover where the scientists have been taken and wishes deeply to re-create his Metal Men.  Whatever happened to the little worm named Mister Mind kept in a jar in Sivana's lab?
  • Three heroes are lost in space after the events of Infinite Crisis - Animal Man, Starfire, and Adam Strange.  They wind up stranded on a beautiful, but uninhabited planet and must find their way home.  The planet is not what it seems and soon they encounter the deadliest bounty hunter in the galaxy - Lobo!  He has found religion and become a pacifist with a space dolphin buddy.  When a universe-level threat appears how will the three castaways manage to fight it without the Main Man?
  • Booster Gold in Metropolis has become a walking billboard covered in corporate sponsorship logos.  He uses the stored historical knowledge of his robot companion Skeets to avert disasters and gain fame/fortune.  Brand new hero Supernova bursts on the scene and begins stealing Booster's thunder.  When Skeets information turns out to be faulty a major threat to the time-stream emerges.  Can glory hound Booster step up when it really counts and what is the strange secret of Supernova?
Pros: Covers by J. G. Jones are great, story is compelling and changes many older characters' status quos (sometimes permanently), some thrilling surprises, commentary at the end of each issue giving unique insight into the creative process and afterthoughts by the creators

Cons: Biggest drawback to a weekly book is the constant artist shifting - some plotline resolutions are done by completely different artists than the regular weekly buildup, J. G. Jones covers are all sandwiched in the back of the trade paperbacks instead of prefacing each new week, the commentary sometimes had spoilers (one major one at least), Batwoman fights in high heels (it looks sexy, but it's absolutely impossible)

Mike Tells It Straight: I've got to hand it to DC and the creators of 52, they did it.  Published a weekly comic in today's market where squeezing out even a monthly book is often impossible for some creative teams.  They put together four top-notch writers and let them loose on the rest of the DCU.  Considering there were four writers some of the plotlines were a bit confusing at times, many didn't get enough spotlight time and/or had rushed endings.  Quick commentary on the resolutions for the main storylines:
  • Steel/Luthor ending was too predictable and very unsatisfying (possibly due to the art)
  • Ralph Dibny ending was well-handled and a good surprise
  • Question/Renee Montoya/Batwoman ending was decent, but I never really liked any of the characters (sorry Vic Sage)
  • Black Marvel Family storyline was pure genius and ending was perfectly executed
  • Magnus/Metal Men/Morrow ending was somewhat unremarkable, but filled holes in the plot
  • Animal Man/Starfire/Adam Strange/Lobo story sounded good on paper, but ending felt rushed
  • Booster Gold/Skeets/Rip Hunter/Supernova story was a breath of fresh air for the character and also really well done
52 is essential reading for the modern DC fan and a good follow-up to Infinite Crisis.  They managed to resurrect many B and C grade characters (and kill off a few D grade ones).  52 is a unique ride.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes Hardcover Review

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes
DC Comics
168 pages
ISBN 9781401218195

Contributors: Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Jon Sibal, and introduction by Keith Giffen

Reprints: Action Comics #858-863

Synopsis: Superman battles a Brainiac-style robot in present-day Metropolis which reveals itself to be sent from the 31st century by Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Super-Heroes.  Brainiac unlocks Superman's memories of having adventures with the Legion starting when he was a teenager.  He then catapults Kal-El into the future to help save the Legion.

On future Earth the Legion and all aliens are being hunted as outlaws.  Superman joins up with them, but the sun has been turned red and his powers are negated.  A powerless Superman must now face the new Justice League of Earth headed by the xenophobic Earth-Man (formerly Absorbency Boy).  He and the rest of the new League are all rejected candidates from past Legion tryouts. 

Earth-Man has hunted down many of the Legionnaires, stolen their powers, and begun indoctrinating the children of Earth to become xenophobes by perverting Superman's legend.  The intolerance has started a brewing conflict with the entire universe preparing to fight back against the Earth.  Only Superman and the remnants of the once-proud Legion (and their substitutes?) have any chance to stand up to Earth-Man's corrupt Justice League. 

Pros: Gary Frank's art and costume design is top notch as usual, Geoff Johns' story and characterization is spot on, extra design sketches and variant covers, future women wear a lot of skimpy outfits :)

Cons: The Legion reintroduced in this story has nothing to do with the current Legion (vol. 5) starring in their own series

Mike Tells It Straight: Originally a teen super-hero club the Legion of Super-Heroes was a silver age sensation, but has struggled to transition into the modern comics' world.  Going on its fifth (sixth if you count the team introduced here) incarnation the team gets a facelift by two of the best creators working today.  Johns walks the fine line between upbeat teen heroes and experienced veterans with this Legion, while Frank's futuristic costume designs are a breath of fresh air.  Johns manages to include the Legion of Substitute Heroes and rejects from the Legion.  This story fixes one of the major Crisis on Infinite Earths retcons when Superboy's (and his time with the Legion) adventures were written out of existence.  Long-time Legion fans may not fully embrace this new version, but the uninitiated get a perfect introduction. 

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Superman: Escape From Bizarro World Hardcover Review

Superman: Escape From Bizarro World
DC Comics
160 pages
ISBN 9781401217945

Contributors: Geoff Johns, Eric Powell, Richard Donner, Dave Stewart, and introduction by Brian Vaughan

Reprints: Action Comics #855-857, Superman #140, DC Comics Presents #71, and The Man of Steel #5 (of 6)

Synopsis: Pa Kent is kidnapped by Bizarro and taken to Bizarro World: a planetoid Bizarro created and populated with Bizarros through alternate powers granted to him under a blue sun.  Superman must rescue his Pa from the clutches of the mis-guided Bizarro.  Standing in his way are Bizarro versions of Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and the Justice League. 

Pros: Powell's art and Stewart's colors are amazing, perfect execution of a great idea, blue sun and alternate powers was a neat idea

Cons: Expensive price considering half the book is older reprints, actual story is too short at only three issues, campy

Mike Tells It Straight: An ode to the silver age Bizarro World tales this story is a quick, well-done monster-comedy.  Bizarro is portrayed here as a misguided simpleton who is not truly evil, but possesses vast and dangerous powers.  My only real gripe is the short length of the story at a meager three issues and the fact they used older reprints as filler to justify the price tag.  Expensive, but good.

TO BUY and Recommendations: