Saturday, July 9, 2016

BRIEF REVIEWS: For comics on sale July 6, 2016

So, it was a pretty big week for me, with 10 comics procured from my local comics shop, Zimmie's, in Lewiston, Maine. Full retail was $34.90 (an average cover price of — easy math — $3.49), but after my 20 percent discount and 5.5 percent sales tax, the actual damage came to a positively palindromic $29.29.

Here's what I thought:

(DC Comics, 36 pages, $2.99)

"The Drowning, Part Two: Full Circle"
[20 pages — 71 panels — 823 words — read time: 7:15]

What starts as in interesting introspection on what it means to be a hero, as Aquaman and Black Manta tussle and debate what ultimate good it will do for one to kill the other, ends up feeling quite anticlimactic as the sea kind seems to talk his arch-nemesis out of his year's-long quest for revenge a little too easily. Meanwhile, the art by Scott Eaton and Wayne Faucher, while not terrible, is nowhere near the storytelling standards set by Brad Walker last issue. But overall, this is way, way too quick a read to be worth the money. GRADE: C


(DC Comics, 36 pages, $2.99)

"I Am Gotham, Part Two"
[20 pages — 90 panels — 927 words — read time: 7:55]

The opening scene takes seven pages (more than a third of the story!) to make a minor point, while Batman goes on to spend time brooding on things that, unless you've read the previous issue, make little sense. Plane? What plane?! You died? AGAIN?! It's not until we get to the scenes with Gordon that things start to gel, with funny, yet revealing dialogue and the start of a genuine mystery. Alfred gets some great dialogue, too, showing that Tom King can write, but the plotting is glacial and gets us really nowhere. The entire business of this book could have been done in about half the pages, while the minimal time spent reading what's here will make you feel like one-tenth of a tale is all you got. On the plus side, the art by David Finch, with Matt Banning and Danny Miki on inks, is quite good. GRADE: B—


IDW Publishing, 44 pages, $3.99
"Revenge of the Duck Avenger, Part 2 of 2"
[30 pages — 146 panels — 2,027 words — read time: 11:45]

"Nobody's Home!"
[6 pages, 43 panels, 697 words, read time: 3:30]

 The first story, taken together with the previous issue, makes for a fun tale of Donald finally getting one over on his famously lucky cousin, Gladstone Gander. But skip the opening narration of what's come before and this issue reads like an object lesson in how crime actually does pay, as Donald steals, then pretends to find, Daisy's charity ball proceeds. Isn't that the failed scheme of every would-be hero turned villain ever? But here Donald gets no comeuppance, and the plan actually works! He also manages to shift blame on both Gladstone and, inexplicably, his heroic alter-ego. So, I guess the denizens of Duckburg view the Duck Avenger as a criminal now? The second story is a typical cartoon plot as Donald's neighbor, the gruff J. Jones, enlists Feathery Duck's aide in building implements of destruction, only to have things go horribly wrong, having not realized the foible-prone fowl knows nothing about construction. Really, both stories are enjoyable mostly for their charming artwork, by Romano Scarpa in the lead story (originally published in Italy in 1970) and by Jose Maria Manrique and Cesar Ferioli in the back-up (reprinted from a 2002 Czech Republic comic). Taken together, the two tales, plus the additional editorial content, puts the read time of this book at 20:10 — by far the best entertainment value of the week. GRADE: C+


DC Comics, 36 pages, $3.99

"Part Two: Visitors from Beyond"
[22 pages — 80 panels — 1,278 words— read time: 10:20]

Continuing a great yarn with some typical Jonny Quest-style high adventure, as the team tries to shake Dr. Zin's minions. The selling point of this epic cross-over of Hanna-Barbera action heroes is, of course, the artwork of Doc Shaner. It's a shame he only contributes the first 13 pages. Still, the pages done by Ron Randall and Jonathan Case blend nicely, with no jarring change in style to break the flow of the story. My only real complaint is that the prologue takes up eight pages (more than a third of the book) without really adding anything to the overall plot. It's nice to see the Herculoids and the Galaxy Trio, of course, but I'd much rather the sequence had been cut in half, at least, or else been used to give us more on the background and history of Omnikrom, or that the Trio had been given more screen time. GRADE: B++


(DC Comics, 36 pages, $2.99)

"Rage Planet, Part Two"
[20 pages — 91 panels — 1,603 words — read time: 12:00]

Except for a couple of scenes, such as the explosion of the rage tower, and Jessic Cruz' reflection of her past while fighting her rage-ified sister, this issue does an excellent job of containing enough plot within the confines of its cover to make it seem like a complete reading experience in its own right, even though it's part of a larger epic. The scenes mentioned above, I think, just needed an extra line or two to make clear what's happening, for any new reader who did not pick up the GLs" Rebirth title from two weeks back. In this issue, flashback to the previous night, as Jessica and her sister experiment to see what her new ring can do, adds a nice, compelling human interest element that both compliments and juxtaposes the main action. Writer Sam Humphries crafts some truly funny lines — "Crouton is not qualified to be a Green Lantern." — and I especially like how he is able to make each of his characters sound like a truly, authentic individual. I really like that this book is turning into a buddy-cop show, kind of an NYPD Blue-in-space. As a final thought, while the cover has just about nothing to do with the story inside, the final page is truly worthy of the shock-inducing cliffhanger so many comics try for. GRADE: A


DC Comics, 36 pages, $2.99

"Fear the Reaper"
[20 pages, 72 panels, xxx words, read time: 11:30]

There are a few minor continuity errors. For example, Jessica Cruz has short hair vs. long in her own title (which an editor's note specifically tells us is happening concurrently), and where did Wonder Woman get a "bolt of Zeus?" Is that new? But the worst one is that Lois Lane says she and the pre-New 52 Superman have been on Earth-52 "for years." But that doesn't jibe, as they only just crossed over with last year's "Convergence" event, which can only have happened months, maybe even weeks, ago in comic book time. Still, while that latter flub seems a serious boner, the rest can be written off as the usual byproduct of a shared universe, with so much happening in different editorial fiefdoms. The story itself is fairly basic, and the Reaper never seems as much a threat as it's made out to be, especially as easy as it's dispatched once Superman shows up. Far more compelling, as it's meant to be, is the League's uneasy acceptance of old Supes into its ranks, contrasted with its willing welcome mat set out for the rookie Green Lanterns. The art, by Bryan Hitch, is, of course, pretty fantastic, and while the script does not exactly sparkle, it hits all the right notes. I even find myself objecting less than ever to the shoehorning of Cyborg into the JL ranks. Overall, this issue does exactly what all of the Rebirth titles were meant to do, it sets up the new status quo and leaves the reader wanting to come back for more. GRADE: B+


(Marvel Comics, 32 pages, $3.99)

"Welcome to New Egypt, Part 4 of 5"
[20 pages — 78 panels — 1,025 words — read time: 6:30]

Well, if you noted above how I got annoyed at paying $3 for a comic that occupied only a little more than seven minutes of my time, you must know how cranky it makes me to pay $4 for one that goes in the long box after just six-and-a-half! Basically, this issue feels typical of most modern comic book story arcs. It's as if writer Jeff Lemire had plot enough to fill out maybe one or two issues, three tops, but had a dictate to make the story run for five, in order to fill out the eventual trade paperback collection. And so, as we often do these days, we get at least one middle chapter that really feels like little more than padding. Lemire did that to me with both Trillium and his Legion of Super-Heroes crossover in Justice League United. So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. On the plus side, the book looks nice, although, as good as the character drawings are, there's not much to make the eye linger long over any particular panel. Surprisingly, while this has a few hundred more words than both this week's Aquaman and Batman books, it read almost a minute faster. The story itself is interesting, even if it does leave me confused. I mean, Gena can see the sand, but not the alligator cop, so are "Mr. Knight's" visions real, or hallucinations? Maybe a bit of both?  And I have to wonder if Gena's diner is really there, or if that's also a hallucination? If a comic is going to leave me scratching my head, I'd as least like to have a little more meat on the bone to chew over. Still, at $4 a pop, this title is not worth the money. I've dropped it from my pre-order list. GRADE: C-


Image Comics, 32 pages, $2.99

"The Present is Not a Gift"
[22 pages — 96 panels — 1,207 words — read time: 9:15]

I continue to feel with this book as if what I'm actually reading is the storyboards to a future move . . . an AWESOME movie! The dialogue is smart and funny, the world-building thoughtful, and the character interactions heartfelt. The art also, as always, is amazingly well done in its deceptive simplicity. Of course, this is a series one has to have been on board with from the start. The opening sequence won't make much sense otherwise. Heck, even as a regular reader I was a little confused. Is the Chinese-speaking girl yet another alternate timeline version of Erin? I had to look up past issues to recall what K.J. looked like, so it's not her. Granted, the plot did not cover a lot of ground this issue, and the double-page spread could have been one largish panel on a single page and still accomplished the same effect — leaving more room to reveal more about who Chinese-girl is, or to explore more not-the-future-I-expected rad-ness. But what we do get, and the different, quite believable reactions to the present from the girls of 1988, made this a satisfying read, in part because present-Erin's little breakdown and touching reaction to the pep talk from her younger self gave this issue an element that was introduced, explored, and, to at least some extent, resolved under one cover. GRADE: A-


Marvel Comics, 32 pages, $3.99

"Citizen of Earth"
[20 pages — 87 panels— 2,062 words — read time: 13:45]

The strength of this series, both now and under it's previous numbering, is the ability of Dan Slott and Michael Allred to mix the mind-blowingly cosmic with the incredibly mundane. That's on perfect display here as the Greenwood family, relaxing on the front porch after at evening meal, casually wonders if the lights they're seeing on the moon are aliens, or robots, or maybe robot aliens, before finally concluding it's probably just the Surfer having a fight. And, of course, there are touches of poignancy and lunacy throughout as the Surfer attempts to deal emotionally with the fact that he's wiped his home planet from existence, erasing even it's mention in Fantastic Four comic books, before finally misdirecting his energies from trying to establish his own, new identity, to giving probably unwanted help to Dawn in answering questions about hers. My only real quibbles are that it took me a second read to figure out why the Surfer found a certain structure so off-putting — it was the Baxter Building newly adorned with the barely discernible Parker Industries logo — and the full-page cameo of Spider-Man — whose Amazing title Slott also writes — seemed pretty superfluous to the main action.  GRADE: A-


DC Comics, 36 pages, $3.99

[22 pages — 91 panels — 1,493 words — read time: 10:20]

At one point in this issue, Superman says, "I have no idea what the devil is going on." He's not alone. Rather than fulfilling the promise of its title, this issue delivers nothing but questions. Neal Adams really, really, really, could have used a scripter throughout this series, as he had on the first issue, because, although he remains facile with the brush, he writes with a club. What we get here is the most petulant and pathetic depiction of Darkseid ever. Frankly, no one sounds much like a real person. They're all just plot-advancement machines. Adams attempts to add to the New Gods mythos by adding new elements — new to me, anyway, if they have been used before — by suddenly establishing that the orphan boy Superman has been protecting since Issue No. 1 is actually Highfather's grandson (son of whom, exactly?), that Highfather is some kind of warewolf (or ware-puppy, anyway), and that the New Gods, and maybe even Superman, are all actually human. Somehow, I doubt that any of these elements will be picked up by other writers, not even Adams' new Lieutenant Supermen, because while Adams can certainly draw, producing here some of the most dynamic page layouts on the stands today, even if the occasional panel looks as if he's been away from his drawing table for a few decades, he's no writer. GRADE: D


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