HOT OFF THE SHELVES
THE AVENGERS #38: Following the events of the past two issues, Captain America has become really pissed off and, with the help of The Wasp, has turned the Avengers into a pro-active team. They're not waiting for the fights to come to them anymore. They're jumping at the villains where they live, all around the world.
Comparisons to THE AUTHORITY are inevitable. After all, this issue also marks the start for new regular artist Alan Davis, who was Bryan Hitch's mentor, of sorts. Stylistic similarities abound, obviously. And if the Avengers are going after the bad guys, they're going to look like a bunch of badasses, especially as they go all around the world and fight bigger and bigger menaces. But the comparison rings very much shallow. For starters, the moral code of the Avengers is still there. They're not going around enforcing their will on other nations, or killing bad guys they don't like. They're going after known criminals who've gotten away in the past, who have caused no end of grief, or whose dirty work the Avengers have failed to follow up on in the past. Stylistically, the art isn't the same widescreen storytelling that Hitch perfected on THE AUTHORITY. While there are still two double-page splashes in this issue, Davis sticks with the more traditional methods of storytelling and square panels instead of rectangles. And Kurt Busiek still explains everything with the captions, taking us from setting to setting at breakneck speed. This isn't the whiz bang pacing of a book like THE AUTHORITY.
Much of this issue is a follow-up to the previous two, so the Avengers are split across multiple locations, and Busiek does a great job in showing us around and letting us in on who's who and where they are. Comicraft even created a new caption box to introduce us to each setting, giving it a slightly more technological and modern look.
THE SENTRY VS. THE VOID finally wraps up the Sentry story, something that could have been about four issues shorter without anyone noticing. The four or five titles in between the last issue of the mini-series and this one shot conclusion (a really screwed up publishing pattern, by the way) didn't really add much to the series in my mind. Yes, it was great to see Rick Leonardi drawing Spidey and Bill Sienkiewicz drawing The Hulk and Mark Texeira taking Angel, but they all felt redundant. They didn't add much to the characters involved, nor do I think it added a whole helluvalot to the main storyline. You could have added four or five pages to one of the other SENTRY issues to establish this stuff with the same affect. I think the Angel issue was about the only one that I thought added anything to the character.
I didn't see the big twist ending that happened in this issue, but thought it made good sense and explained the events of the previous issues just fine. Paul Jenkins crafts a tale here that is both heroic and tragic. Jae Lee's art is as gorgeous as ever, with the help of Jose Villarrubia's painted colors on top of it.
If I were on to give out such awards, the best in show award would go to ACTION COMICS #775. It is double-sized and a wonderful response to THE AUTHORITY. Superman fights against a thinly veiled parody of the Authority team and answers the question of why the world needs a wimpy Superman when it has the kick-arse team of elite characters ready to pro-actively solve problems with extreme prejudice.
There are some wonderful bits of parody to this piece, from the Bradstreet cover to the opening three pages, presented in widescreen and concluding with the sight of a gigantic gorilla slumped dead over many blocks of devastated city. It starts off strong that way to give you the idea of what Kelly is going for. From there, it veers off sharply and answers the question of why the world would need a Superman in the world of an Authority. (In this issue, the group's name is The Elite.)
Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo provide this art this issue, although Mahnke does the vast majority of it and Bermejo's pages needed a different inker. While Mahnke still isn't my type of artist, he gets the job done here just fine. The power of the story carries through.
For what it's worth, The Elite make some good points in here, but it feels good to root for the good guy, you know?
At last, the series-within-6-other-series is over. While I don't agree with the editorial mandate to have this story told across the main titles for more than a month, I have to think that the end result was good.
NIGHTWING #53 is Part 5 of "Officer Down." Rick Burchett pulls art duties. His PULP FANTASTIC last year looked really good. He inked himself there. Burchett's art in the first part of this "Officer Down" event looked terrific, particularly with the fine shading and crosshatching he employed. This issue suffers from spandex-itis. It almost looks as if Burchett is lost when it comes to drawing men in tights and it throws off the rest of his artwork, too. Many of the characters have chins that are too large and faces that are too round. Burchett is trying to mix a bit of the animated Batman into the mainstream Batman, and sometimes it doesn't work. The large chins on everyone (including Alfred) get to be a bit much.
Storywise, this one's a nice Oracle-starring romp through some classic crime investigating techniques.
DETECTIVE #754: (A/K/A/ "Officer Down" Part 6) The Gotham PD have their suspect, they've put him in the box, and they're going to interrogate the hell out of him. That's all I want to say. It's an intense issue, with an almost claustrophobic feel. There's only a page or two that takes place outside of the police station, up until the ending scene.
It's great, highly dramatic stuff. Writer Nunzio DeFilippis is new to me. I've never seen his name around comics before, but he's a keeper. He does an excellent job writing an episode of HOMICIDE that happens to take place at the Gotham Police Department.
The color-keyed format is thrown out for this issue. I miss it, but I can live without it for a month. Mike Collins does an excellent job on the art. I get the feeling he was chosen because he's less of a superhero artist and more capable of these "normal human" stories.
This is also really the end of the storyline. The next issue would be just wrapping up some of the character bits, putting a bow on the story, and doing a quick victory lap. It's still a very important issue for reasons
"Officer Down" comes to a conclusion in BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #13, where Rick Burchett returns yet again, but this time redeems himself. In the absence of men in tights, his art can shine again. Greg Rucka's story really works, too. As a whole, this event worked well as a story, even if some of the inconsistent story styles could throw you off here and there, particularly when it comes to pacing. It's not the typical open and shut casework from Gotham's finest. This book has definite shades of gray to it. There's a new status quo between Batman and Gordan that goes towards the illusion of change concept. If nothing else, this crossover has served well to humanize Batman, as placed next to Gordan.
ONE LAST LOOK BACK REVIEW
In light of JEZEBELLE #1 a couple of weeks ago, I finally went back to read the WildStorm annuals from last October that linked together to form the "Devil's Night" story arc. Jezebelle appeared first in there. The good news is that it is, indeed, completely unnecessary to have read those annuals to be able to understand and enjoy the first issue of the JEZEBELLE mini-series. The other interesting thing to learn is that none of those annuals was terribly enjoyable, with the exception of WILDCATS. I suspect there are two major reasons for that. The first is that it's the only title involved in the crossover whose regular writer also wrote the book. (Ben Raab wrote GEN13, and Casey wrote THE AUTHORITY.) The second is that Lee Bermejo drew the pages. They're as gorgeous as you'd expect to come from him pen. Casey manages to sneak a story in that works in the same style as the on-going series, while still adding to the character of Grifter, and bringing in Reno Bryce (a/k/a Warblade) along with him. What happens when Grifter's brother comes back from the dead? Well, it's another tense discussion, as so often happens in Casey's WILDCATS. =)
Joe Kelly doesn't call this title "ChattyCats" for nothing, you know.
MORE SILENT ISSUES
I received a bunch of e-mails from people suggesting more silent comics. I can't list them all here, but here's a sample of some of the issues from those who wrote in first:
Steve Brown wrote in to suggest a second silent G.I. JOE issue, which he thinks was #85. Can anyone confirm that?
Raheil Rahman wrote in to remind me of SIN CITY: SILENT NIGHT, the Frank Miller Christmas story from a few short years ago. That was a great one shot, indeed.
Erik Tramontana recalls an issue of GUY GARDNER (a book which I have to admit I have never read) that was silent, but didn't include an issue number.
And several people wrote in to tell me about the silent Batman story by John Byrne that I recalled. Jim Aparo drew it in BATMAN #433, the first part of "The Many Deaths of Batman." Thanks to Alex Pascover who included the exact issue number.
You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board, which also includes brief reviews of BREAKFAST AFTER NOON, MERIDIAN, and MARVEL KNIGHTS.
Close to 200 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML. Those columns are even migrating over here in drips and drabs. Eventually, they'll all be on CBR. I can't believe Pipeline is entering its fifth year in a few short months…
For those who occasionally ask: I will definitely be in attendance at the Chicago Comicon (i.e. WizardWorld) and the San Diego Comicon (i.e. the Comic Con International: San Diego). I will also be attending a couple more of the New York City shows that occasionally show up, and can now officially proclaim that I will, indeed, be attending the Pittsburgh Comicon at the end of April.
And, finally, I write DVD movie reviews for the gang over at DVD Channel News. If you're into DVD, check out my stuff there. My latest review is for a horrific piece of trash movie from last year called BODY SHOTS.
Pipeline2 is due out this Friday, and will be a look at the recently concluded JUSTICE LEAGUES event from DC. See why and where and how I believe this thing failed. Plus, what could have saved it.