What I bought - 8 July 2009

This was a very odd week for two reasons. Yes, very odd indeed ...

So I went to my local comics retailing entrepôt on Wednesday, and a few things struck me as strange. First, I was only purchasing three regular comics, and one is shaped all funny, like a newspaper. How bizarre! Yes, in the middle of a month, not a fifth week, I was only getting three regular comics. That's strange, as I usually get a ton more than that. Second, I was getting absolutely NO Marvel comics. As the mainstream DC Universe has become more and more, well, bloodthirsty (more on that below!), I've lost interest in many of the books it produces (the irony of me liking Secret Six is not lost on me, but the point is that they're villains, so I don't mind if they're a bit skeevy), and although I don't buy a ton of Marvel books, I still buy more than those from DC. But this week absolutely nothing from Marvel appealed to me. And so, much like I did with Marvel back in March, I decided to buy every single DC book that came out, and see what's what. I must warn you - I didn't buy every Vertigo title (just The Unwritten, which I would have bought anyway) nor did I buy the Wildstorm books. When I did Marvel, I didn't get the Soleil book and the Ender Wiggins book, so I stuck to mainstream DCU books this time. Plus, I also bought Marvel Masterworks: Adam Warlock ($60), Asterios Polyp ($30), the last 100 Bullets trade ($20), Jeff Lemire's The Nobody ($20), Pixu ($18), and Ed Hannigan's Skull & Bones trade ($16), so you'll forgive me if I didn't feel like spending a few more ducats on individual issues. Let's get to the three books I bought because I wanted to, and then let's check out the rest of the DCU this week, shall we?

(And, according to Antony Johnston himself and Brian Hibbs, retailer extraordinaire, Wasteland #25 came out this week. Well, not in Mesa it didn't! DAMN IT!!!!! I hope it will arrive next week!)

I Am Legion #4 (of 6) ("Vlad") by Fabien Nury (writer), John Cassaday (artist), Laura Martin (colorist), Justin Kelly (translator), and Crank! (letterer). $3.50, 25 pgs, FC, Devil's Due.

Okay, so here we are, a bit late with this issue (the advert in the back claims issue #5 will be out in May), and I don't get it. I can only assume that the translator is slow, because this thing is finished! We're not waiting on Cassaday, who drew the damned thing a few years ago! It's very frustrating, because as difficult it is to translate something to English (and I've done it, so I know how vexing it can be), why wouldn't it already be done or at least much closer to completion? The first two issues didn't need to be translated, because they were translated a few years ago, when DC published this. So if it is the translation, couldn't Kelly have gotten a bigger jump on it? If it's not the translator (again, I have no idea what causes the delay), what's going on? The artwork has been enlarged to fit the page, but that can't take that long, can it?

Speaking of the artwork being enlarged to fit the page, it looks better than the first few issues, which had a lot of white space at the top and bottom of the page. Cassaday, for all his precision and (I assume) photo-reference, still draws very well, and the larger art helps us see some of the rough edges of his work, which helps ground it a bit. It remains a gorgeous comic, but it's a bit more "real," in the sense that we get more of a feeling for a guiding hand, which is nice.

As for the story - well, it zips along, and there are now so many cast members that it's hard to keep up, so I'm just reading it for the art and for the vague general story, which means we get more body-switching from the bad guy and more Allied shenanigans behind Nazi lines. I'll re-read it when the final issue comes out and see how well it holds together. The big draw, of course, is still the art.

The Unwritten #3 ("Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity Chapter Three") by Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Jeanna McGee (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

As interesting as it might be to follow Tom around to the places where various great works of literature were conceived, there's a weird conversation in a flashback section that turns the themes a bit on their ear, depending on how it plays out. Tom's father seems to be talking on the telephone about something seedy and, well, real, but Carey is still leading us down a path littered with fantasy tropes. Tom's dad might be discussing something that has to do with the fantastic, of course, but it's an odd few panels that implies something far nastier.

And then the farmhand attacks someone with a sickle, so what do I know about nasty?

Carey has some fun this issue, too, with the various horror writers discussing Frankenstein and getting all grumpy with each other. It's too broad and even familiar to be really trenchant criticism of the form, but it's a fun diversion from the main story. Why do I have a feeling that Torture Porn guy is going to be having a bowel-related accident next issue, when the sickle-wielder comes a-calling?

Oh, yeah, Gross is really good. Check out the first two pages, which look all 1820s-ish. It's a cool way to show the literary sections, and I hope he changes styles each time we encounter a new text. That'd be neat.

Wednesday Comics #1 (of 12) by a whole mess o' talent. $3.99, 16 big-ass pages, FC, DC.

If you didn't buy this, it's hard to describe just how FUCKING COOL it looks and feels, as we get sixteen pages of comics printed like the Sunday Funnies, on actual newspaper paper (high-end paper, as it doesn't get all over your hands, but still). If you did buy this, isn't it FUCKING COOL?

I really can't say how much I want this to do well. I don't really care all that much about "bringing in non-comics readers" or anything like that, I just love it when any company does something wacky that makes reading their books a bit more fun. I mean, this could be sixteen pages of a Geoff Johns killfest and it would still be terrifically fun to read. Just opening it is fun! Companies have forgotten, to a large degree, that reading comics should be, at least, wildly entertaining, so even though the first story features a kidnap victim about to be smothered to death, it was such a ball reading it in this format that the story becomes, well, not fun exactly, but more fun than it would be in a regular book.

The stories range in quality, but most of them are pretty good, even the Didio-penned one. I guess it helps that each one takes up exactly one (1) page, so even Didio can't screw up that badly. Azzarello and Risso manage some nice pathos in their Batman tale, while Sook's art on Kamandi is gorgeous (and is that really how he got his name?). The Arcudi/Bermejo Superman story is a nice tease, and there's quite a bit to the Deadman story. Busiek and Quinones's Green Lantern story drags a bit, Gaiman and Allred's Metamorpho tale packs a bunch into the space, as does Paul Pope in the Adam Strange tale. Didio and his collaborators, Garcia-Lopez and Nowlan, offer us a Metal Men story that puzzles me - why wouldn't Will Magnus want the Metal Men to stop a bank robbery? - while Joe Kubert's wonderful art covers up the fact that, at nine panels, Adam Kubert's "story" is ridiculously decompressed. Kerschl and Fletcher's Flash story is split into two sections, one focusing on Iris, and it's a slice of Silver Age Superbness, while Simonson and Steelfreeze's Demon/Catwoman story and Baker's Hawkman tale are nice set-ups. The only stories that didn't work for me were the Teen Titans' story, which was boring and featured almost incomprehensible art by Sean Galloway; Jimmy Palmiotti's Kitten Streaky and Puppy Krypto story, which, like the others, was all set-up, but it was kind of a dumb set-up (and was, as usual, almost rescued by Amanda Conner's art); and Ben Caldwell's Wonder Woman story, which seems like a complete tale in one page, but had way too much going on in it, was poorly lettered, and is not crisp enough, art-wise, to work on this kind of paper. Other than that, the stories did what they were supposed to - set up the longer story and hook us. Well done, creators!

As I mentioned, the paper stock used is interesting. It works against Galloway and Caldwell, I think, because their styles fit more with the slick paper used in comics these days. Galloway, especially, has that very cartoonish thing going on that loses some of its vibrancy on this kind of paper. Fine draftsmen, like Garcia-Lopez and Sook, look great in this format, and Bermejo, interestingly enough, probably gets the most help from this. I'm not sure why, but Bermejo's style, which is very nice but often leaves me a bit cold, is much earthier in his Superman story, and it helps sell the tale more. Had Bermejo drawn the alien in a regular comic, I have a feeling it would have looked far too sterile, but because of the paper stock, his alien looks like something that could actually be alive. The quality of paper is rarely discussed when discussing an artist's strengths and weaknesses, but Wednesday Comics makes it clear that sometimes that plays a role.

And yes, there are crazed, blue-furred mandrills in this comic. Come on!

Now, let's look at the rest of DC's output for the week. Not for the faint-hearted!!!!!

Batman #688 ("Long Shadows Part One: Old Sins Cast Long Shadows") by Judd Winick (writer), Mark Bagley (penciller), Rob Hunter (inker), Ian Hannin (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Like many of the rest of the non-dumb comics readers out there, I think Judd Winick's Barry Ween approaches genius, yet whenever I've read anything else by him, I've been completely underwhelmed. Is it because he can't curse and do toilet humor in DC books? From what we've had as content in the DiDio era, I can't believe that. Yet Winick keeps pumping out thoroughly unremarkable superhero pap, such as Batman #688. I mean, this isn't awful, but it's really dull (which, I'm sad to say, will become a common complaint of mine as we go forward). The first few pages show us Batman (Dick) getting pummeled by an unknown foe inside the Batcave, and then Winick goes back in time (well, not really, but I'll get to that) to show how he got there. Of course, as this is Part One, we never return to that particular point in time, but I assume Winick will get to it.

The main theme is that Dick is acting out of character for Batman, and some villains - notably Two-Face, with whom Dick has a history - are beginning to figure it out. "Out of character" means that Dick is actually making it easy for the police to prosecute bad guys he rounds up, because he doesn't disable video cameras (thereby capturing their nefarious deeds on tape) and makes sure the evidence is ready for the boys in blue. This is actually not a bad idea, and Winick does a fairly decent job with it. Winick also brings in the Penguin, who's a bit peeved that his gang got caught up in one of Dick's raids, because he's trying to keep a low profile. Bringing in the Penguin was a mistake, I think - like the Riddler and his recent switch to detective, the Penguin is far more interesting as a smarmy businessman who's "legitimate" than he is as a criminal, even if he's a crime boss - but whatever. Then we get a bunch of boring scenes with Commissioner Gordon speaking cryptically on the roof and Dick whining, yet again, about the damned cape on the Batman costume. Alfred, as usual, is the best part of this scene. Dick trains Damian, Two-Face hatches a scheme to draw Batman out, and that's it. Again, there's nothing terribly wrong with it, but it lacks the visceral thrill of, say, Batman and Robin (and yes, it's unfair to compare this to the God of All Comics, but it's even less thrilling than your average issue of, say, The Incredible Hercules). Morrison wrote pretty much the same scene between Dick and Alfred in Batman and Robin #2, but with that, you felt that you were eavesdropping on a conversation between two actual people, while here, the heavy hand of the writer is very evident.

Bagley is the wrong choice for this particular comic, as he just doesn't do moody well. The final shot of Batman grinning from ear to ear is nice, because it's so incongruous, but otherwise, the art just seems off. It's interesting that Bagley can draw teenagers really well, but when he starts drawing grown-ups, he gives them muscles where no one has them. Oh well.

Finally, I'll point out a writing tic that, as far as I know, has its genesis in Brad Meltzer's magnum opus, Identity Crisis. This was the comic that (may have) introduced us to "future writing" - meaning we open the book, and instead of it being "now," Meltzer specifically told us it was taking place in the future. This has been done before, of course, but I don't remember it beginning a comic book, when we're conditioned to think of it as "now." Winick is the first person this week (but not the last) to do this - his opening scene takes place "three weeks from now," and then, a few pages in, we switch to "now." Why the first few pages couldn't be "now" and then we go into a flashback I don't know, but it's an annoying tic. I know it doesn't really matter, but it's an odd convention that does two things: 1) Distracts from the flow of the narrative; 2) Shows how creatively bankrupt a lot of writers are - "Oooh, Meltzer did it, and it's so cool, so I'm going to do it too!" Maybe I'm being too harsh. If you read every DC book that came out this week, you'd be harsh too.

So that's one mediocre comic down. I'll get to the Doom Patrol preview later. Trust me.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? It's a DC comic! The first page shows Batman bleeding from his nose, a cut on his leg, a cut on his elbow, and from his bicep. Later the Penguin beats one of his henchmen with his umbrella handle (said henchmen then bleeds profusely from his nose). And that's by far not the worst DC book of the week!

Booster Gold #22 ("Day of Death Part II of IV") by Dan Jurgens (writer/artist), Norm Rapmund (finisher), Hi-Fi (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). Back-up story by Matthew Sturges (writer), Mike Norton (penciller), Norm Rapmund (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

Okay, I get that covers are supposed to be conceptual, but I'm not sure what's going on in that cover. Are the Titans being reflected in Deathstroke's mask? I doubt that, as it's not really a reflective surface. Is he imagining them running at him? It's possible. I'm not sure how any of this actually alters the shape of his mask, but it's just a disconcerting image.

I got a few Booster Gold issues when it first came out and was unimpressed, and it's not gotten any better. In fact, it's a typical Dan Jurgens comic - bland and somewhat dull, not too egregious, but utterly forgettable. Seriously, I've been reading Dan Jurgens comics for over 15 years (I know he's been around longer than that, but I think the first time I came across him was around the Death of Superman), even though I've never actively sought out his work, and he writes (and draws) some of the most astonishingly forgettable comics in that time period. And he's done some big events - the aforementioned Death of Superman, Zero Hour - yet does he ever put any kind of stamp on any book he's writing? He's the very definition of a journeyman, never completing a masterpiece and therefore never graduating to anything other than a steady veteran who gives you, well, bland and forgettable comics. You remember the Death of Superman, but not because of the great writing - you remember it because Superman dies, not because Jurgens wrote such a great story. Even his art is bland and forgettable - there's nothing terribly wrong with it, but it's still kind of dull.

Man, I'm mean, aren't I? This is a perfectly serviceable superhero comic, I guess. I'm not sure how far Jurgens has gone with the conceit of Booster zipping around the timestream, but in this issue, at least, he goes back in time to stop Slade Wilson's son, aka Ravager, from killing Dick Grayson and the other Titans. For some reason this Black Beetle character has managed to change the past, so Booster has to stop him. He goes back in time to right before the Titans meet Deathstroke for the first time, and they battle. Oh, what a battle!

Booster joins up with the Titans, ogles a bikinied Koriand'r, and helps them fight Deathstroke, Ravager, and Black Beetle. Things go a bit badly. It's only part two of four (I don't need fancy Roman numerals, man!), so it's not surprising that it goes badly, is it? Jurgens is following the multi-part superhero epic handbook closely, so if you've ever read a superhero story before, you know what's coming. See what I mean about being bland?

Sturges continues his work on Blue Beetle in the back-up story, and much like his run on the regular series, it's fairly bland as well. It's a bit more fun than the main story, but that's about it. Norton's a good artist, though.

Well, another mediocre comic down. Sigh. By the way, this is the second instance of a weird time tag. We begin with a caption box that reads "Moments ago." Two pages later, we switch scenes and get "The present." Why aren't those two things happening simultaneously? Do we really need to know that one scene comes fractionally earlier than the next one?

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? People die, but it's rather bloodless. Doesn't Jurgens know the discriminating comics readers wants gore? Sheesh.

Green Arrow and Black Canary #22 ("Enemies List Conclusion: Peace and Quiet" and "Opening Night Jitters") by Andrew Kreisberg (writer), Mike Norton (penciller), Josef Rubinstein (inker, "Enemies List"), Bill Sienkiewicz (inker, "Opening Night"), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Allen Passalaqua (colorist, "Enemies List"), and David Baron (colorist, "Opening Night"). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

Kreisberg wrote the wonderful and slightly demented mini-series Helen Killer last year, and it appears that working for the Big Two has sucked the life out of his writing (I've mentioned this before with regard to Matt Fraction; it's not a new phenomenon). Helen Killer was an insane brew of crazy action, solid characterization, and mad ideas, but this issue exhibits none of those. Well, I guess Wildcat is written well, but this is just another standard superhero story, with some dude who has created a machine to make everyone deaf. Dinah must stop him! And Ollie stands around until the second story, where we learn that he and some unnamed supervillain chick (well, she's unnamed in this issue; I assume she has a name) had to stop a domestic abuse case that turned ugly, and Ollie wasn't sure if he was going to stop the supervillain chick from killing the abusive husband, which leads Dinah to demand something dramatic of him on the last page. Again, it's nothing we haven't seen hundreds of times before from a superhero comic, and the only notable thing about it is that Sienkiewicz inks the second story. That's actually kind of sad, if we think about it. Unless Sienkiewicz really loves inking mediocre superhero comics, it's a shame he's not doing higher-level work.

As is becoming clear with these comics, none of them are at the suckiness level of, say Ultimatum (or, if you prefer, Justice League: Cry for Justice). They're just mediocre superhero comics. But will any make me rage against the corporate machine, like, say, Jeph Loeb's Hank Pym-biting-the-head-off-the-Blob scene or the Boom Boom-gets-a-bullet-in-the-brain scene? Where's DC's Brian Michael Bendis, giving us nine pages of the same back-and-forth conversation? Geoff Johns, where are you?????

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? In the domestic dispute portion of the comic, the wife ends up with a butcher's knife in her chest. It's a bit unpleasant, but nothing too horrifying.

(By the way, unnamed supervillain chick: Don't say that the mummification tool you're about to use on that dude "doesn't have an actual name." A quick Google search reveals that, I guess technically, you're right, but why not call it a "pick" or a "needle," both of which I've seen. Just because you don't know the name doesn't mean it doesn't have one. That's the beauty of language - everything has a name. Just ask aglets.)

Green Lantern #43 ("Blackest Night Prologue: Tale of the Black Lantern") by Geoff Johns (writer), Doug Mahnke (penciller), Christian Alamy (inker), Randy Mayor (colorist), and Rob Leigh (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Oh, Geoff Johns, you never fail to rise to the occasion. Just so you know, I'm going to SPOIL the shit out of this.

Whenever I make a joke about Geoff Johns's bloodthirstiness, people get on my case. "I don't think he's that bad" is a common rejoinder. Now, I don't often read Geoff Johns's comics, but if what people say about him is true, why, whenever I do read one, is someone killed in a horribly brutal manner? Am I just picking up the very few that feature savagery? If I had bought Green Lantern #42, would I have seen bunnies and chipmunks and squirrels frolicking in the forest while Hal Jordan plays the pan pipe? Probably not, as Johns manages to slaughter a squirrel in this issue, so obviously he has something against them. (Yes, a character slaughters a squirrel. I wish I was joking.)

So let's break this down, as I guess Blackest Night starts next week, and this is the "secret origin" of William Hand, the Black Lantern. After a page of the gobbledygook about the emotional spectrum, we get William lying in a grave caressing a skeleton. Then he remembers his home life with his father the undertaker and how he was always fascinated by death. So he stuffs animals he finds, kills his brother's dog and stuffs him, and tells his dad where he wants his grave to be. He's a charmer, that William Hand! Then, one day, Atrocitus shows up. This has to be a retcon, right, as didn't that ugly dude just recently show up for the first time? Yet here he is figuring in the creation of William Hand, Supervillain. Atrocitus drops his "cosmic divining rod," which Hand narrates was supposed to "hold the darkness locked inside me ... the evil that my family believed had possessed my soul." He grabs the rod and runs from Hal Jordan and Sinestro. Then, just for fun, he blows up a squirrel.

William makes a costume out of a body bag, fights Green Lantern, remembers Hal as Parallax, remembers Hal as the Spectre being mean to him (I remember that too, as it occurred in Green Lantern: Rebirth), gets a new hand from some aliens - as well as the ability to "see" death. So we get a litany of dead DC characters. The voice inside his head tells him that it wants all of the heroes who died, even those who have been resurrected. This montage of heroes is unintentionally funny - writers really shouldn't remind us how idiotic the "death policy" of the Big Two is. The second page is all heroes who have been resurrected, and while that's when Hand is speaking of those who have come back to life, it's still pretty silly. We do, however, get to see how Psycho-Pirate died again, and that's always pleasant. Mahnke makes it even yuckier than the original, if possible.

William knows he has to do one more thing if he really wants to be a true Black Lantern. So he slaughters his entire family and then uses the cosmic divining rod to shoot himself through the head. Mahnke gives us a full page of William Hand's brains blowing out through his temple. We get a few panels of him falling to the ground, blood spraying out of him and pooling nicely around his head, and then the creepy Evil Guardian vomits up a black ring, which brings him back to "life" as a Black Lantern. Yay! We're ready for the Big Event!

Of course this is an unpleasant comic. It's depressing, horrific, mean-spirited, and revels in its nastiness. It's not helped by the fact that Mahnke draws the freakin' shit out of it - this is an amazing-looking book, which makes it even more unpleasant. More than anything, it's pointless. We don't need to wallow in William Hand's depravity, because we know he's a villain and he's a big jerk. It's this kind of stupid storytelling - yes, I called it "stupid" - that makes a lot of modern comics so unbearable - the need to dig into the psyche of a crazed serial killer, but only for 22 pages, means this will be astonishingly shallow, with no real motivations for William Hand and no real reason for him to go so nuts. We're supposed to be disgusted by his suicide, because it's the last act in a thoroughly horrid life, so I guess Johns is successful at that, but who cares? This is a waste of 22 pages, because all it tells us is that William Hand is a scumbag. I have read one comic with William Hand in my life (the aforementioned Green Lantern: Rebirth), and he was only in that a few pages, and I could figure out that he was a scumbag. Do we really need an entire issue about it? Was the point of this comic to show a beautifully rendered suicide? Yuck.

I'd like to muster up some rage over this (just like Atrocitus!), but I can't. This is who Geoff Johns is, apparently - someone who can't write a script without making sure someone (and usually more than one person) dies or at least suffers horribly. With a lot of writers who do horrible things in comics, there's either black humor (Ennis, for instance) or some larger point about the character that makes it bearable (I'll always use the latest iteration of Moon Knight for this, because Huston and then Benson did horrible things to characters, but they explored over the course of 20+ issues why Marc Spector was insane). Johns might attempt to do the latter, but at least in this issue, he completely misses the point. This is a perfect example of why I rarely buy mainstream DC comics these days. In Secret Six, Simone tempers the awful things with biting humor. In Green Lantern #43, Johns tempers it by having his character blow up a squirrel. I'd like to rant about how this is destroying my comics-reading experience, but it's not. I just don't buy shit like this. I can't imagine people liking this. I know I'm in the minority in that regard, but that's the way it is.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? Oh yes. Dear Lord, yes.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #6 ("Dominator") by Tony Bedard (writer), Claude St. Aubin (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), José Villarrubia (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

R.E.B.E.L.S. used to mean Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eradicate L.E.G.I.O.N. Supremacy. I don't know if it still means that.

And, it's yet another mediocre DC superhero book! As usual, there's nothing terribly wrong with this, but it's instantly forgettable. The only reason to read this book is Vril Dox, who's inexplicably always awesome no matter who's writing him. It's as if every writer wants to get Dox right so they concentrate on making him as snotty and arrogant and exceptionally competent as previous writers, then hope the rest of the book doesn't suck. I mean, if this didn't have Vril Dox, someone might think it's just an Annihilation rip-off, with Starro substituting for the Phalanx. But, I mean, that would be just crazy, right? Right?

I don't really have anything against this comic. It's odd seeing Dominators without their stylish green robes, and it's always fun to see what alien conquerors are doing when they're not invading Earth (the answer: pretty much what they do when they invade Earth, except with aliens substituted for humans), and St. Aubin's art is pretty good, and Bedard doesn't do anything horribly evil in the script department. It's just kind of there.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? Nope. There's a lot of fighting, but nothing graphic.

Red Robin #2 ("The Grail Part Two of Four") by Chris Yost (writer), Ramon Bachs (penciller), Art Thibert (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Sigh. Yet another book that just doesn't make any effort to be different. This reads and looks exactly like almost every other superhero comic on the stand. I hated Green Lantern #43, but at least Mahnke's art made it look nice. Bachs and Thibert don't do that here. Marvel has that "soft-focus" with a lot of "realistic" art style going on, and it seems that DC has a less-annoying early Image vibe going on. Every face looks similar, every hero has similar musculature, and there's a lot of brooding. Tim does a lot of brooding in this book, in case you're wondering.

So the story deals with his continuing quest to find Bruce Wayne, except now he finds out he has the League of Assassins on his trail, which means Ra's al Ghul. The fight between Tim and the assassins is actually written and drawn quite well, as Yost breaks down how Tim fights and figures out who the people are, while Bachs has nice choreography to the scenes. Yost cuts back and forth between the fight and flashback scenes about how Tim got to where he is, which are less successful. As is the theme with DC's books this week, the scenes aren't bad, but they're a bit boring and seem unnecessary, except for the brief scene with Stephanie Brown. (So she's alive now? I wonder if destroying one of Batman's best supporting characters for a cheap stunt was worth it.) At least they don't take up much time. (And I asked this last week, and no one answered: Does Lucius Fox know all the Wayne secrets now? One panel in this book seems to imply that he knows who Tim is. What's the story?) Oh, and there's an interlude in South Africa, which presumably introduces or continues a sub-plot that will interesect with Tim somewhere down the line.

I don't know. There's nothing here that's really bad (well, flight attendants may look like that, but they certainly don't dress like that, even in first class), but there's also no reason to come back for issue #3. Man, it's sad that that's the trend in DC books this week. Oh, and here's yet another example of weird narrative time. The book begins "twenty-four hours from now" as Tim is flying from Paris to Berlin. Then, the fight takes place, not "now," but "twenty-four hours earlier." Um, yeah, that would be "now." Interestingly enough, when the book actually goes into flashback, Yost doesn't feel the need to tell us it's "three days earlier" or whenever it actually occurs. Strange.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? Tim beats the crap out of the assassins, so there's some blood there. An assassin shoots someone in the head, but it's not too graphic despite the stream of blood that flies from the victim's head. That assassin is then killed in a horrible manner, but again, it's not too graphic. Somewhere, Geoff Johns is looking at this book thinking, "What a missed opportunity to show brain matter!"

Superman: World of New Krypton #5 by James Robinson (writer), Greg Rucka (writer), Pete Woods (artist), Brad Anderson (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC.

With this creative team, one would think this would be a very good comic. Well, until Cry for Justice came out last week and scared everyone away from James Robinson's comics. But still - I like Robinson (for the most part), I like Rucka, I like Woods. What's not to love?

Well, in terms of DC's other output this week, this is better, but it's still not that great. I mean, Woods does what he can with the material, but there's not a lot for him to do, as Robinson and Rucka spend this issue with Superman on trial, so there's a lot of standing around and talking. Apparently, Kal-El is on trial for disobeying an order from General Zod, which kind of sucks for him. Zod has a vendetta against the House of El, so perhaps he's pursuing this with a bit more vigor than usual. Plus, there's some big celebration coming up during which the New Kryptonians will take the dome off of Kandor because the atmosphere of this planet is now viable. That's an important plot point, as it turns out.

Robinson and Rucka do a yeomanlike job with the trial, and the twist that allows Kal to not get executed (did you really think he would?) is interesting. Despite the fact that this isn't a great issue, it's interesting that Rucka and Robinson seem to be trying to do something a bit more interesting than just telling a standard superhero story. There's some nice pacing and decent characterization in this issue, and although the idea of Superman in Kandor on a distant planet is wrong-headed in a lot of ways (yes, I get that if he's no longer unique we can see what a true hero he still is, but he's Superman, for crying out loud - we already know he's a hero), Rucka and Robinson have given it some thought. It's dumb that Kal-El's "Superman" logo isn't unique, but whatever.

Although I'm not terribly interested in this, it's better than the other DC books that came out this week. Of course, that's not saying much.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? There's a shocking death, but it's not graphic.

The Warlord #4 ("Saga Part 4: The Castle's Secret") by Mike Grell (writer), Joe Prado (penciller), Chad Hardin (penciller), Walden Wong (inker), Wayne Faucher (inker), Dan Green (inker), Rob Leigh (letterer), and David Curiel (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

As I wrap up this journey through DC's offerings for this week, we come upon yet another dull comic, one that doesn't piss me off but doesn't make me want to run out and buy it, either. That means Green Lantern #43 was the only one that stirred any emotion in me, and that was utter disgust. It's something, I guess!

The story in this comic is inconsequential - it has a lot to do with how the evil dude came to rule in Skartaris and how Travis Morgan is going to stop him, but there's nothing all that interesting about it. The art is interesting for a number of reasons. First, Grell shouldn't do the covers of this book, because it just reminds us that he's not doing the interior art, and this would greatly benefit by him doing the interior art. His writing seems listless, and perhaps if he were writing and drawing it, he'd be a bit more inspired. I haven't read too much by Grell, but I can tell he's not the greatest writer, but in combination with his art, he can make things a lot more interesting. The cover is more dynamic that pretty much everything in the book, so it's a shame that Grell isn't drawing this too.

The artists, Prado and Hardin, aren't awful, but they fit, once again, into what appears to be the DC House Style. It's pertinent to consider what effect the inkers and colorist had on the art, because at Hardin's blog, he posted a few of the uninked, uncolored pages, and they look much nicer than the finished product. They're still not great, but they convey more of a sense of dynamism and medievalism, for lack of a better term (the book takes place in a Conan-like world, after all), than the finished pages do. The inkers and colorists have smoothed out the rough edges, to the detriment of the art. It's not to the point where the pencilled pages are unrecognizable when they're inked and colored, but there is a big difference, and like the Marvel House Style, I wonder how much of this is editorially-mandated. If I had seen Hardin's pencils with no adornments, I would have thought there wasn't much that was needed. Did DC editorial think differently? Were they trying to blend Prado and Hardin's styles to make the book look more seamless? I don't know, and I doubt if I'll ever get answers to my questions.

Brutal Killings/Maimings/Bloodshed? There's some blood, but nothing all that awful.

If we look at the Doom Patrol preview in the back of many DC books this week, we see the same thing. It certainly doesn't look like something I'd like to pick up, because all the weirdness is gone, and we're left with a superhero team written competently by Keith Giffen and drawn competently by Matthew Clark. As with most of these comics, it doesn't look too bad, but the Doom Patrol isn't a superhero team, for crying out loud. Whenever it's been successful, it's because it's been weird. The original stories are still fun to read, 40 years later, because Drake and Premiani went nuts in the stories even more than, say, Lee and Kirby did on Fantastic Four. Morrison's run, of course, was in this tradition, and it was genius. Even Rachel Pollack managed to keep it weird, even though it was rip-off weird. You know what this preview reminded me of? Kupperberg's incarnation, the one that came before Morrison. Yeah, we all remember that, don't we? So, no new DP for me, I guess!

Well, that was the week from DC. Man, how dull. I can see why they're in a distant second place to Marvel. When I bought all the Marvel books, there were a few that were pretty good even though, for one reason or another, I didn't want to start buying them. I can't even imagine other people buying these books, much less me. As I pointed out, except for Green Lantern, there's nothing even to get angry about in these comics. Back in March, when I did this with Marvel, there was Ultimatum, which is a higher standard of suck, as well as X-Force and Dark Avengers. Even the books I didn't like were at least interesting. The only one that could fit into the completely bland category that these do was Eternals, and that's no longer with us. Marvel has better overall talent working for them, of course, and even though I don't believe Joey Q really knows how to run a business, he seems to have a better grasp on how to produce decent comics than DiDio does. Of course, my four-year-old can probably tie her shoes better than DiDio, and she can barely get one lace over the other so far.

The nice thing is, I don't have to do this again. I certainly wouldn't mind reading some of these books for free, but I can't imagine paying money for them just to make sure I know what's going on with the characters. That's why I don't know why Spoiler is alive. But you know what? I really don't care.

Let's fire up some totally random lyrics!

"I awoke on impactUnder surveillance from the camera eyeSearching high and lowThe criminal mind found at the scene of the crimeHandcuffed and blind, I didn't do itShe said she loved meI guess I never knewBut do we ever, ever really know?She said she'd meet me on the other sideBut I knew right then, I'd never find her"

Finally, I know I pimped my other blog last week, but I'm doing it again! Well, actually, this time I'm pimping the blog I write about my daughters, mainly because I have pictures up of the metal brackets they just removed from my daughter's legs. No, they're not bloody and gross - it isn't a Geoff Johns blog! Check them out here, if you're interested.

Have a nice day!

Gwenpool Strikes Back Cover
Gwenpool Strikes Back #1 Dials Up the Hero's Irreverent, Bizarre Antics

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