The capsule review bit was kinda fun, I think, so let me try it at least one more time! Here are some pretty quick reviews of every book I can remember reading so far this week (there may be some omissions of memory here).
Conan and the Songs of the Dead #2 - You know what I like? I like it when Conan has someone to banter with. Conan's fine by himself, but when you give him someone he can interact with, especially someone who you don't think Conan is going to kill, and the stories become a lot more fun. This issue has Alvazar, a crook that Conan saved from certain death last issue, and he makes the comic quite enjoyable. The basic plot of the issue, too, is fun, as it involves sex with a genie and supernatural bad guys, but the talks between the two men are the highlight of the issue, written by Joe Lansdale and drawn by incoming Conan regular scribe, Timothy Truman. Recommended.
Escapists #2 - Wow, that James Jean cover rocked. Anyhow, the conceit of this story (comic creator buys the Escapist character, then has his friend dress up as the Escapist and fight crime for publicity) is a good one, and Brian K. Vaughan executes it with humor and warmth. When the plan goes awry (and, come on, it HAS to go awry), we really end up worrying about the characters. Alexander and Rolston do an excellent job with their mix and match artwork. Very good book. Definitely recommended.
52 #14 - Dale Eaglesham drew this issue, and he did a decent job. Sadly, though, most of the issue was pretty lame. First off, I am totally over Montoya and the Question. Their plot is just sooo boring. I have decided to blame Greg Rucka for that, because it keeps referring to old Detective Comics plots of his (I loved his Detective Comics run, but the one arc I didn't like is the one that he's using NOW - the one with Ra's' assistants). And that's the majority of the story. There is a bit with Steel that's equally annoying, as I don't like him being made out of Steel, and I especially detest how horribly silly his fight with Natasha was. However, I have decided to credit Morrison with the Will Magnus parts of the book, which I really, really liked. Especially the end, when he manages to get Tin working? That was beautiful. Still, four-five really good pages out of 20? Not enough! Even a good (but slight) origin of Metamorpho drawn by Eric Powell is not enough! Not recommended.
A Man Called Kev #2 - I was stunned by how good the first issue of this series was. Not that it was awesome or anything, but it was quite good, and I had grown sick of the Kev character by his second appearance, so the fact that it is this entertaining now is quite a writing accomplishment, I think, by Garth Ennis. He continues with this solid issue, as Kev goes to visit his friend with the pet tiger (one of the few past plots I thought WERE good, so it's good to see Ennis revisit that particular one), and discover two major things. The first, that his friend is gay, and the second, that everyone Kev comes into contact with is likely to be in danger of being killed. Both discoveries are charged with interesting character moments, and Ennis handles them both so well. Whether it be Kev's inability to cope with his friend's sexual preference or it be Kev's inability to allow others to get mixed up in his mess, the story is rife with interesting aspects. Meanwhile, Carlos Ezquerra does a fine job on the art. Definitely recommended.
Batman Strikes #24 - The art in this issue by Wes Craig was quite good. Although, it's funny, it's not nearly as good as I've seen from him on other works, and I actually wonder if he dumbs down his art a bit for the cartoon books. Weird. Anyhow, the story by Matthew Manning was interesting enough, with Catwoman breaking people out of Arkham to distract Batman while she robs a place. Batman's plan is to force Batgirl to watch the place while he corrals the escaped bad guys. I was going to give it a not recommended, because the plot is pretty darn slight, but you know what? Forget it! Manning's story is filled with enough fun parts and Craig's art is cool enough that I think I will recommend this issue.
Fables #52 - I enjoyed this issue a lot, as it shows how the Empire is reacting to Bigby's action in #50. Getting a nice, behind-the-scenes look at the Empire from the EMPIRE'S perspective was quite nice, I thought. I'm a big fan of Buckingham (especially inked by Leialoha), and I just LOVED his drawing of Red Riding Hood with her makeover. That was priceless. Another thing I liked a lot was seeing how the normal people in the Empire deal with the fact that they are working with sadistic madmen for the most part, but it's just a part of their everyday life. Like when the head cook tells his workers not to offer wooden soldiers food, as they see it as a huge insult. The next sentence, we are notified of the upcoming funeral of an assistant cook. Classic. The ending of the issue was likewise quite gripping, and I'd like to see something like that happen - to see the world have to deal with the KNOWLEDGE that the Fables exist amongst us. Finally, Gene Ha draws a delightful back-up story, which is the first in a series introducing us to some Fables we haven't met yet. It was quite nice. I would definitely recommend this issue.
Firestorm the Nuclear Man #28 - This was a good issue by Stuart Moore and artist Jamal Igle. Nothing groundbreaking, but a good, solid action-filled issue with interesting characters and especially, good characterizations, which are always key. The story opens with a return to the "status quo" of Jason Rusch and Martin Stein working together in the classic Firestorm combo. Stein giving Jason advice on how best to use the powers. Meanwhile, a former Firestorm reappears with Firehawk, before everyone is attacked. This is tossed on top of familial issues Jason has, namely his mother (who ran out on her family) returning to the fold, and how Jason tries to deal with that, and what happens when he's not around to do so. Meanwhile, Jason's girlfriend is ALSO having issues, but she, too, suffers from Jason being busy elsewhere. It's an interesting web of interaction Moore has set up here, and I'm interested in seeing where it will go. Recommended.
Green Arrow #65 - There was a good bit of writing in this issue, where Judd Winick has talking heads talking on one side of the page while the action is going on on the other side of the page. This all ties in to his plot of how Ollie Queen is doing controversial things just to make the media TALK about his city, to keep Star City in the limelight. That was good. Then Winick chose to devote THREE pages to JUST the talking heads. That was poor writing. You could argue that making the liberal lady so much more rational and intelligent than the buffoonish conservative guy is poor writing, too, but really, who cares about stuff like that? If you want to lampoon people's political beliefs, fine by me. Just do it well. Not like here. In any event, the action scenes are quite cool, in particular the excellent dialogue from Speedy, who has returned to Star City to assist Green Arrow. There's an awesome line about a fighting trick she's trying out - way too funny for me to ruin here. Plus, there's a good cameo by another DC superhero. Also, Ollie taking it to the corporation out to ruin him was handled well. I didn't like the ending, because it involved Drakon, who was introduced in Winick's first arcs, and is one of the stupidest characters ever created, and I wish I could burn my memory of any previous appearances he has made, because they involve such poor writing that it irks me just thinking of them, and now Winick wants to bring him BACK? Lame. The action scenes and the stuff with the corporation were handled well enough that I am only slightly not recommending this issue, mainly just because of the AWFUL talking heads bit and the return of Drakon. Man, do I hate Drakon.
JSA Classified #15 - Oh man, Steve Englehart is really writing a stinker here. Forget the fact that only, what, 4 issues ago, JSA Classified had an issue where the JSAers were forced to fight each other. Heck, specifically Wildcat and Flash, who fight in this issue. That I cannot blame on Steve Englehart. No, what my problem is the astonishingly one-note characterizations of everyone in the comic. Vixen, Stargirl, Gypsy - these are the supposed STARS of the comic, and yet they're just not getting anything interesting to do or say at all. Englehart is just banging us over the head with the fact that Gypsy and Vixen are from the "loser Justice League." And that's all we get for characterization - just that repeated constantly. Which is so weird, because Englehart did such good work - with the SAME characters - just a MONTH OR SO ago!!! So this was a real let down. Tom Derenick's art is at least still strong (nice inks from Mark Farmer). Very not recommended.
Martian Manhunter #1 - See this review, but basically, I thought the art was excellent, and the story just engaging enough to capture my attention. Cliched, but the cliches are all executed quite well. Even helps make up for the fugly new look. Slightly recommended.
The Next #2 - What I really liked about the first issue of the Next was that writer Tad Williams mixed the wackiness and strangeness of the characters well with more down-to-Earth reactions of the girl they meet, Monikka Wong. In this issue, I think he lost track of the down-to-Earth aspect of the story, and it suffers as a result. The story is just TOO strange. However, I must give him a lot of credit for PACKING the issue with story. This book takes quite awhile to get through because of all the story Williams has in it, and it's not even like early McFarlane written comics, where it was verbose to show that it was verbose - there is a point to all the words, so that's nice. In addition, there's a really cool fight scene between Superman and one of the Next. And all the crazy appearances of people from the past in the present (like buffaloes running down the street) were interesting. But the basic plot just got way too weird for me. I'd like it be a lot more grounded. So a slight not recommended, although I could easily see some people really going for this story.
Secret Six #3 - Artist Brad Walker's work looked different in the beginning of the book. Towards the middle and end, it was more detailed, while in the beginning, it was a lot sketchier. Weird. As for the story, there are some awesomely hilarious scenes with the Mad Hatter and Ragdoll, and there is a very good bit with Ragdoll turning on the team (but he was mind controlled...or was he?). In addition, the cliffhanger was quite nice. But the emotional heart of the issue fell a bit flat to me - namely, the whole "Vandal Savage 'possessing his daughter' to threaten her over his desire to have a grandchild, even though she's gay" thing. It seemed overwrought, especially when Savage threatens Knockout's life. We just got Knockout BACK, so to threaten her life two issues after she "died" just seemed a bit hokey. In addition, there was a bit in the issue explaining away Catman having different color hair during his appearance in Meltzer's Green Arrow arc. That's right, this issue explained away his hair color. What is this, Green Lantern: Rebirth? In any event, the dialogue was crisp, the action was cool, the ending was nice and Ragdoll and Mad Hatter were so engaging that I will recommend this comic, with the stated reservation over the Scandal (Savage's daughter) plot line.
Superman #655 - Stunning artwork by Carlos Pacheco. He really does a marvelous job. The story from Kurt Busiek is fairly interesting, but it isn't all THAT gripping. The magiciain from the past who goes to the future (our present) to deal with the monster Superman encounters in this issue is a cool idea - but I think we'll see more of it next issue. The Lana Lang stuff was handled well, I suppose, but I can't say I was a fan of her scenes. The current Lana is just such an enigma, I can't find myself caring much for her. I'm of two minds on the Super-Intelligence thing. On the one hand, it leads to some neat comic book-y moments like Clark memorizing books that he sneaks into microscopic dots on the pages of the novel he's reading. On the other hand, I don't think making Clark super-intelligent adds much to the character. So, while the art was excellent, and I think the future plots of the book will be intriguing, I will give this issue a slight not recommended. I just don't think the Lana Lang conversation and the Subject 17 stuff was interesting enough - and that was the meat of the issue!
Emmisary #3 - Three issues in, and I still don't think we've gotten anything all that interesting. Writer Jason Rand has totally captured the reality of the situation, in all its typical banality. Still, if you are really interested in a totally true to life portrayal of what would happen if a superpowered being showed up in Manhattan, this is the book for you! Since I don't think that's what people want out of their comics (I think people just want good stories), I am not going to recommend it. Nice Juan Ferreyra artwork, though!
Negative Burn #3 - I was a bit disappointed with the stories in this go-around. Especially the lead story by Phil Hester. The whole short story seemed designed like some joke you'd hear. Like the old "I asked the genie to scare me HALF-to-death!" joke - imagine that translated into a comic story? It'd be a bit weird, like this story. The art from the various artists were strong, especially Frazer Irving's sketchbook, which was magnificent, but I felt let down with most of the stories in this volume. Not recommended.
Annihilation #1 - Once again, the Giffen rule is in effect. This issue had a very entertaining plot, but I really think it needed another writer to come in and put it into a more cohesive order, because while it made sense as it is, it could have been a whole lot better, and I think a scripter would have helped that a lot. I was not a fan of the dialogue either. However, Andrea DiVito's art was quite good, and the basic plot of the story was strong as well. Giffen really does give us a feel of a real intergalactic WAR in this comic, and that's appreciated. Plus, the characters he is working with are interesting ones. Finally, that cliffhanger was extremely strong. A slight recommendation, I guess, but if this book had a scripter, I think it would be a good deal better.
Beyond! #2 - Man, this is one of the dorkiest comic books I have read in quite some time. Still, it's also a well-written comic, in spite of the dorkiness (or perhaps, at times, BECAUSE of the dorkiness). Writer Dwayne McDuffie seems to be like a kid in a candy shop, using the vast Marvel Universe to find characters that he both A. Finds interesting and B. Knows he can actually do stuff with. He is also using this series to bring back one of his OWN characters, in a piece of nepotistic continuity that would make Fabian Nicieza blush. Still, the character is a good one, so it works. In any event, the issue is mostly about Medusa going after Venom because of Venom (seemingly) killing Spider-Man last issue. Medusa rocks. Hank Pym gets some good moments, as McDuffie seems to be writing Hank as Hank was the last time McDuffie was regularly writing Marvel comics, which was about 15 years ago. But I liked that Hank Pym, so I don't mind. Gravity also gets some good moments here. McDuffie seems to have taken a shining to the Sean McKeever creation. In any event, there was a lot of cool action and some good character moments, so I would say recommended.
Civil War: Frontline #5 - The main story was not all that interesting. Paul Jenkins has really thrown J. Jonah Jameson under the bus with this story, making him to be not just basically evil, but buffonishly evil. Meanwhile, the Sally Floyd storyline strikes me as yet another example of TRYING to tie the story into real life situations, but having the comparisons just not hold up. A reporter protecting her sources is a heckuva lot different from a reporter refusing to cooperate with the investigation of a fugitive she was seen in the open with. Not that I have much of a problem with Sally not cooperating, but just that I think Jenkins is trying to draw a comparison to real-life "not revealing sources" situations that do not apply here. The Speedball story shows us how Reed Richards has gone insane, as he's sending SUPERHEROES to jail in the NEGATIVE ZONE. What's really weird is that Reed has ALREADY built a jail in the negative zone, and it was fairly recent, too (A Kirkman mini-series), so I wonder if this will actually tie into that. But either way, locking up SUPERHEROES in the NEGATIVE ZONE is just ludicrously lame. The third story was decent, except that Simon Williams, Wonder Man, is now embezzling money from his charity. Yep, that's right, once a crook, always a crook, apparently. SUPER lame. The final story, the dreaded "historical comparison" story, seemed less lame this issue, as, well, when you call the series CIVIL WAR, I guess it is not unreasonable to tie it to the actual Civil War. It is still pretty silly, but not as laughably lame as previous ones. Not recommended.
Incredible Hulk #97 - This was a decent issue, but a bit of a letdown for me, as Greg Pak has been turning out some really good Planet Hulk issues, but this second story-arc seems a bit lighter. There were some really cool moments, namely the scene where Hulk frees people from being slaves, even the giant monster about to eat him. That was well done. Aaron Lopresti's art was quite good. But there didn't seem to have the same emotional resonance of the first arc. The characters seem a bit more cipher-tastic. They seem to all wear their motivations on their sleeves, which doesn't make for all that engaging of a story. The Meik stuff was creepily nice, though. Oh, and this issue has one of the randomest, oddest "homages" ever. At one point, a bunch of a mountain are tossed at Hulk and his crew. Hulk helps to hold the mountain off. It's done in, like, one panel, and it really looks just like a pile of rocks. So, if not for the letter page TELLING me that that was an homage to the Secret Wars issue where Hulk held up the mountatin, I'd have no idea. Weird. So yeah, not a BAD issue, but not good enough for me to recommend, which is too bad, as I really enjoyed the first story arc. And you might very well dig this issue, too. It's not like I hated it or anything.
Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four #15 - Unlike Batman Strikes, there wasn't enough interesting moments in this Justin Gray story to make it feel any less slight of a plot. It's just way too straightforward of an action story, especially the "twist" at the end in how they defeat the bad guy. I'm pretty sure the twist doesn't even make sense. Yeah, the worms eat through metal, but that they'd eat through the bad guy's armor that fast? I'm pretty sure that doesn't work, and it especially doesn't work as the big "twist" of a fight. Juan Santacruz's art is nice. And please don't get me wrong, it's not that Gray's action scenes were BAD, they just weren't interesting enough for me to recommend the comic. Not recommended.
Ms. Marvel #6 - I think that Brian Reed did a very nice job working in continuity into this issue, but at the end of the day, that's really all this was - just continuity nods. It barely even HAD a story, as it seemed more like an entry in the Official Marvel Handbook. Since I enjoyed the characters involved (namely the Shroud and Julia Carpenter), I got a kick out of the issue, but you shouldn't have to have a soft spot for obscure characters to enjoy this story, which I believe was the case. Oh, also, Shroud is SOOOO dead - which stinks. Finally, the involvement of Arana will be interesting. Reed claims he will make people like her. I've heard that before (namely, Chuck Austen with Stacey X - that didn't last long), but I think it might work here. I think Arana's biggest problem was just being pushed too hard for her own title. As a supporting cast member, she might be fun. MIGHT be. I enjoyed Rob De La Torre's artwork. But yeah, this issue needed an actual plot, so I'm going to mildly not recommend this issue.
New X-Men #29 - I thought Duncan Rouleau's pencils were excellent in this issue, but the final artwork suffered. I don't blame the colorist Brian Reber, as what we got very well could have been the best he could manage to get to us with what was given to him, but man, what looked like such strong Rouleau pencilwork looked awfully amorphous in the final product. Especially a scene late in the book where it APPEARS as though they're making a reference to David wearing a bulletproof vest (which he says is because of Doug Ramsey), yet you can't tell it's a bulletproof vest at ALL. Still, for the most part, Rouleau's art was strong. As for the story, I thought it was fun. It had a sort of classic teen team feel to it, which is something I don't think we've really had yet in Yost and Kyle's run, as the first eight issues or so seem to be more about setting UP the team. I especially liked the whole alternate realities deal with Forge. Good stuff. All in all, I'd say recommended.
She-Hulk #10 - I enjoy Rich Burchett's work, so if you HAVE to have someone follow up the great Paul Smith, Burchett's as good a choice as any. Although, I wonder if Burchett, as well, will have complaints about Nelson's inks (or rather, Nelson's redrawings). This was a fun issue, with Slott making mincemeat out of the Anti-Registration arguments (of course, it's all about how the Act is presented, for each writer seems to think the Act has different requirements, which leads to differing levels of reasonability - as someone said on the CBR boards, which I found quite amusing, "I think it requires that all heroes eat twelve babies a month under Jenkins."). Also, the Starfox problem seems to be headed in the right direction (making Starfox not a rapist). I like John Jameson as Man-Wolf, and I think Pug is such a loser and I never want him to date She-Hulk. I don't care who DOES date She-Hulk, so long as it isn't Pug. The guy is a whiny loser, and that's his SELLING POINT!! "Hey, wouldn't it be great if the whiny loser bags the star?" NO! No, it would not be great! Finally, the "twist" with the identity of the current head of the law firm was handled well. Recommended.
Spider-Man Family Featuring Spider-Man's Amazing Friends #1 - Wow, a story set in the continuity of 1991! You don't see THAT too often, do you (yes, I know Kirkman specifically did a Marvel Team-Up recently TITLED 1991, but beyond that, where else?)? The main story is close to being worth the price of admission, as it's 32 pages of Sean McKeever telling an actual cohesive story of Spider-Man, Firestar and Iceman hanging out with each other as Spider-Man tries to fix Firestar and Iceman up with each other. McKeever does a great job making it fun, funny and actually kinda romantic. Also, after Pat Olliffe's stellar opening seven pages, I thought for sure that the following artists would be huge dropoffs, but instead, Casey Jones, Kano and Nick Dragotta all were more than up for the task! Very cool stuff. The first back-up was a new Mini-Marvels tale, which was funny as well. The reprints were chosen well, I thought, with a great issue of Untold Tales of Spider-Man (with, oddly enough, Tiny MCKEEVER in it...hehe), a good issue of Spider-Man 2099, and a funny Fred Hembeck short story starring Petey Parker, which was especially humorous in its use of Marvel continuity. Recommended!
Squadron Supreme #6 - So this is the artist who was "supposed to be" Oscar Jiminez in disguise? I could see it, but Juan Barranco seems a little bit different from Jiminez. Still, his art was quite good for this fill-in. Heck, the issue as a whole was a nice step up from the previous issues, I thought. More funny Burbank scenes. He is by far the best part of the book. I enjoy the idea of trying to work Nighthawk on to the team. Hyperion, though, man, what's up with that guy? He seems so boring now. Still, this issue was easy to follow, had some good character work, some nice art and a good cliffhanger, so I guess I'd say I'd mildly recommend it.
Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #2 - You know you're in trouble when you want Bagley to draw a story because you think he would give it a much needed grittier feel. That's how out of place Mark Brooks' art was at times in this issue. It's all about a gang war and the Ultimate universe's street level vigilantes all mixing together, and Brooks art is far too bright for a lot of the scenes. And his Punisher looks just creepy. Anyhow, that shouldn't distract TOO much from what was a very nice one-off story by Brian Michael Bendis. I really like it when he's "forced" to write a complete story in thirty-six pages, as he does here. It gives the book some meatiness that sometimes it lacks with the more drawn-out stories. In any event, this story is about how Jeanne De Wolffe, the corrupt New York cop, is using Spider-Man to take down a Kingpin competitor. Daredevil, Punisher and Moon Knight all get involved as well. There are a lot of cool action scenes, and the "twist" at the end was well handled. The last page, in particular, was a great idea by Bendis. I would recommend this issue, with the reservation that Brooks art is woefully inappropriate.
Ultimate X-Men #73 - Tom Raney only did breakdowns for the issue, and while I do not BLAME Scott Hanna for the finished art looking so poor (as I presume his finished art is not the same style as Raney's), the end result was poor looking artwork. A watered-down Raney, essentially. The story had a decent enough hook, which is that the X-Men are fighting their teammate, The Magician, who keeps messing with their heads DURING the fight. However, Kirkman builds practically the entire issue around that hook, and it's not THAT good, so it feels a bit flat. The cliffhanger ending seems interesting enough, though. Not recommended.
Wolverine: Origins #5 - Steve Dillon looks sooo out of place on this comic book, drawing all these bright costumes. Still, he's a very good artist, so it basically "works," but only in a very basic sense. As for the story, this was actually one of the better issues of Origins, story-wise, I thought. I really didn't like the Captain America/Wolverine fight from the previous issue. This was a good improvement over that, and I really enjoyed the fact that Way decided to get rid of the "super duper" sword plot, as Wolverine running around with a magic sword that could cut through anything seemed kinda weird. The son revelation, I'm fine with. Wolverine probably SHOULD have a bunch of kids out there. But for the most part, this series seems to be about revelations that no one REALLY cares about. I mean, was anyone really looking to see MORE of what went on with Silver Fox? Really? You were? Why? I thought this series would show us Wolverine going on adventures in the past - like a Legends of the Dark Knight-type book. THAT, I could get behind. This? Not so much. Not recommended.
Betty and Veronia #220 - Barbara Slate and Jeff Schultz (who draws each story) open with an interesting story of Veronica blowing off her father to attend an exclusive party (and it's great to see Jeff Schultz try to draw P. Diddy), but when the party seems not so exclusive, she relents. I don't really see much of a joke or moral to the story, so it was a bit odd. Kathleen Webb does a better second story about Betty and Veronica trying to cool off in the summer heat. It was quite clever how each idea didn't work out. The third story, by Webb, includes one of the most attractive drawings of an Archie character I've ever seen, courtesy of Schultz. He draws Veronia wearing a white outfit, and it actually looks quite attractive, which is odd, as the drawings usually aren't like that in Archie comics. In any event, the story is fairly blase - Veronia can't do things because it will mess up her outfit. The final story, by Slate, is a slight one about Betty giving Veronica her Christmas gift (upon Veronica's insistence) in the summer. All in all...I have to slightly not recommend this issue. There was some fun in the stories, but not enough, I don't think.
Veronica #173 - I enjoy Dan Parent's art style, so the book looked nice. I was disappointed, though, in his writing for this issue. The first story was about Veronica trying to control her anger. It was wayyyy too long of a story for such a little payoff (Betty tries to snap Veronica out of her "too nice" behavior by escalating things Betty is doing with Archie - them being engagement is what finally sets Veronica off). The second story is this weird one about the drawbacks of being rich. Parent seems to go out of his way to point out that being rich IS awesome, so it made him showing the drawbacks come off as kinda phony. Finally, the last story, about Veronica trying to ditch a trend-spotter, was a good idea. I think the punchline was a bit off, though. Not recommended.