The Weekly Haul: Reviews for June 12, 2008
An odd blend of comics this week, with four new series, a couple of landmark issues (Invincible hit 50 and The Goon hit 25) and Geoff Johns making sure we remember why he’s THE MAN when it comes to superhero comics. On that note…
Book of the Week: Action Comics #866 — As in Green Lantern, Johns mines DC’s history for revelations that make big waves for today’s heroes. This issue marks the start of his Brainiac storyline, which begins with Braniac’s shockingly brutal theft of Kandar from Krypton.
That campy relic of Superman’s Silver Age becomes a tense and believable moment even before Johns uses it to lay out a mystery in the present (a Brainiac robot steals a sample of Superman’s blood while the main Brainiac seems imprisoned in his own ship). Check out the ComicMix interview with Johns about the story.
It’s that rare first issue of a storyline that delicately lets readers know something big is in the works without ramming that point down anyone’s throat. It’s epic but never self important.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s the best Daily Planet sequence in a Superman comic in years, highlighted by this exchange about the newly returned Cat Grant. Lois: "I bet she has TMZ tattooed on her butt." Clark (lifting his glasses): "I don’t see it… Kidding."
The Goon #25 — The return of Lazlo has the Goon thinking about turning tail, which shows just how lousy Eric Powell has made things for his scar-faced protagonist. It’s not as funny as your typical Goon tale, but that’s a good thing. And the end speaks for itself: "The war starts now!"
Powell’s art is in its finest, breathtaking form in this issue, from action sequences to emotional lulls. With his smooth designs and slight exaggerations, Powell is something of a modern Norman Rockwell who likes to draw demons being chopped up with cleavers instead of idyllic slices of life.
Captain Britain and MI 13 #2 — This series is essentially an answer to the question: What would Secret Invasion be like if Neil Gaiman wrote it? The British heroes continue to struggle to protect their homeland’s stores of magic from the invading Skrulls, which is complicated by old disagreements in the magical world and, of course, the apparent death of Captain Britain.
Even more than that other Skrull series, this book is capturing the "fate of the world in the balance" vibe, and it creates an interesting dichotomy between the surgically precise Skrull invasion and the unpredictable world of magic.
The Also Rans:
Invincible #50 — A big moment for Robert Kirkman’s superhero, as Mark finally confronts Cecil over the government’s willingness to get its hands dirty and work with killers. Though Kirkman once again makes a big status change for the series, the story itself falls a bit flat, as it essentially amounts to Cecil and Invincible going back and forth with the same rhetoric again and again. The true big moment comes at the end, between Mark and Eve, and it’s worth the price of admission.
100 Bullets #92 — The usual combination of pulpy violence and art from Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. The series is winding down to a close with plenty of double crosses on the way. A strong issue that suffered only from some herky jerky transitions.
Locke & Key #5 — Joe Hill’s horror series is building up to a final issue, which of course means the supernatural weirdness is out in full force and the killer is pounding on the door. Everything seems to be coming together a little too easily, though, and the big mystery remains pretty opaque. Decent, but not at the level of previous issues.
Skaar: Son of Hulk #1 — I don’t know what the recent obsession is with giving heroes new sons. Batman, Wolverine, Captain America and now Hulk have all knocked up their ladyfriends, and the wave of fatherhood has been largely worth avoiding. Skaar shows some promise, with a nice alien riff on the "raised by wolves" routine. But, by the book’s end, it’s pretty clear this is just an outer space Conan, for better and worse.
B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #1 — The first in a series of one-shots features Roger the Homunculus trekking back to Cavendish Hall in search of the two frog monsters that disappeared way back when. The monster vs. monster dynamic that makes Hellboy so compelling is in good effect here, and the issue manages to be both hugely entertaining and emotionally compelling. Check out my interview with co-author John Arcudi right here.
Chuck #1 — One of the main weaknesses of the NBC TV show is the limitations of its scope. Chuck and crew are secret agents investigating global intrigue, yet every episode takes place in L.A. With this new comic book series, the show’s writers are clearly expanding their vision. It comes close to working, held back only by some occasionally confused art.
Wonder Woman #21 — Diana continues her battles in mystical realms as her secret identity in the real world starts to unravel. It’s entertaining enough, but Gail Simone still hasn’t addressed WW’s identity issues that have plagued her thanks to DC’s inconsistent handling of the character.
Eternals #1 — This one is really only for those who already have an interest in the characters, which I can’t imagine is too large of a fan base. In short, Druig makes a power play amid lots and lots and lots of expository dialogue.
Booster Gold #10 — More superheroics from Johns as Booster and pals have a big fight with a little foe. After setting up Mr. Mind as such a great foe in 52, it seems far too soon to return him into play, especially considering there’s no real explanation as to how he escaped. That nearly sinks the big story, as Ted Kord pulls a Charlie from Lost.
Elephantmen #12 — A throwaway issue if there ever was one. I read it less than 24 hours ago and can’t remember a single thing about it. Unless I’m suffering from the earliest recorded onset of Alzheimer’s, that’s a bad sign.
Madman Atomic Comics #9 — It’s drop time for this series, which has all the weirdness and none of the verve of former Madman stories.
Van Jensen is a former crime reporter turned comic book journalist. Every Wednesday, he braves Atlanta traffic to visit Oxford Comics, where he reads a whole mess of books for his weekly reviews. Van’s blog can be found at graphicfiction.wordpress.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Van Jensen directly at van (dot) jensen (at) gmail (dot) com.