Sunday, December 17, 2017

QUICK HITS: December 2017, Week 2


Boy, howdy! This was the slimmest week I can remember in a long time — like, decades — as I came away from my local comics shop with just three new books! Arriving from my pull list were:

ACTION COMICS #993 — DC, $2.99, 32pgs.
RAGMAN #3 (of 6) — DC, $2.99, 32pgs.
WONDER WOMAN #36 — DC, $2.99, 32pgs.

Since the haul was so small, I also picked up a MISTER MIRACLE #2-5, with the latest issue also out this week. I had skipped the book when it was first solicited, having been far less impressed than fandom assembled with writer Tom King, based on his work in GRAYSON and BATMAN. But after this book blew up the internet I looked into getting it, despite the $4 price tag. Sadly, my retailer informed me #1 was all sold out and he could not get any more copies from Diamond, not even of the second print. So, I had chalked it up to a missed opportunity. But then DC solicited a "Director's Cut" of #1 — the kind of gimmick I usually avoid like Darkseid's Omega Beams — for February. So, I ordered that and grabbed issue #s 2-5 at my LCS (getting the last #2, FWIW). I won't be reading them until I get the director's cut special, but I will add a review for #5 here at that time.

Until then, here are my thoughts on the rest of what this week brought in terms of four color wonders . . . 


ACTION COMICS #993
DC Comics
, $2.99, 32pgs.


"Booster Shot, Part 1"
20 pages, Read Time: 10:00

by Dan Jurgens (writer/penciller) with Joe Prado & Cam Smith (inkers)

It's nice to have Dan Jurgens taking up the pencil once again. For some reason I always enjoy his writing more when he also draws the story. And he did not let me down this time around, even if his Jon Kent looks nothing like a 10-year-old kid. He's basically just a shorter, thinner Clark, although Jon's spotlight page was clearly finished solo by whichever of this issue's two inkers is less accomplished, as it fell far short of every other page in the book, in terms of overall quality and looking like embellishment of a Dan Jurgens penciled page — unless Jurgens submitted that one in the roughest layout of the batch, maybe.

Sadly, while this issue had the germ of a good idea — and I would know, because I'm certain I've read the Superman-goes-back-to-Krypton-but-hings-are-different trope about a dozen times before — the plot moved too slowly. That's because in a 20-page story we have three full-page splash panels, plus a double-page spread and then four more pages featuring a new subplot about Lois' dad being in danger, Meanwhile, the storytelling is do decompressed it tales six pages (30 percent of the issue!) just to get Superman out of the time stream and land him on the planet — a tally that counts one of the three full-age panels and the double-page spread. If I were editor, I'd've made Jurgens lose two of the three splash panels, neither of which was particularly necessary or awe-inspiring anyway, and cut the four-page Lois sequence down to two. Also, I'd've had Perry show Lois a video of General Lane captured by terrorists, so we can actually see him and the danger he is in, not just have Parry and Lois yap about it. Still, the scene with Steve Lombard outing himself as Booster Gold's No. 1 fan was fun. But maybe that's because I also happen to be something of a Booster booster. Oh, there also were a couple of weirdly placed and/or paced caption boxes, and an airship on Krypton that threw me for a moment because it looked WAY too much like Skeets. I was, like, "Hey, how did he get here already?!" The cover was all kinds of Silver Age goodness, though. Word balloons — yay! ***MILDLY RECOMMENDED***

STORY GRADE: B–
ISSUE SCORE: 75.50

COVER: 9.00 | PLOT: 6.75 | SCRIPT: 8.75 | LAYOUT: 9.0 | ART: 8.50 | EDITS: 4.25
PRODUCTION: 9.00 | VALUE: 6.50 | COLLECTIBILITY: 7.25 | GOSH-WOW: 6.50







RAGMAN #3
DC Comics
, $2.99, 32pgs.

"Ragman, Chapter Three: S.N.A.F.U."
20 pages, Read Time: 12:00

by Ray Fawkes (writer) and Inaki Miranda (artist)

Well, this issue was certainly better than the last one, which, frankly, was kind of a hot mess. I only bought into this series out of nostalgia for the original 1976 run, and even then only because it was offered at $3. I'd've skipped this series if it had been a $3.99 book. So, far, I've been a little underwhelmed. But then, now that I think about it, this character has always been a bit of a tough nut to crack, narratively. And he did not work on the CW show ARROW at all. Honestly, I probably would have dropped this after the first issue, and definitely after the second, if this had not been a 6-issue limited series. But the nature of pre-ordering is such that I've already committed as far as #3 by the time I see #1, so, might as well run the board and have a complete set. At least that way, if I weed it out of the collection some years down the road, it'll be easier to move. 

This issue reads better than the previous ones, I think, because it introduces to the roster of villains a new one who has a bit of a back story, which makes him, if not more sympathetic, at least more interesting. Ever since THOR: THE DARK WORLD, I have measured villains — in all media, not just Marvel movies — as a 0-10 on what I call "The Malekith Scale." That is to say, to what degree is the villain more than just a cypherous cardboard prop, present merely to be evil and conquer the world, because he or she is evil and that is what evil people do, with no other motivation, or characterization. Until this issue, the baddies were an MS negative-3, at best. Seeing The Demon was fun, and it's always a hoot to see a writer struggle with any dialogue from the character longer than a rhymed couplet. It was a bit hard to tell exactly what was happening here and there, in part because everything is colored so darkly. Much of the inside was like the cover, on which you'll note all of the villain, much of The Demon, and even some of the hero, just blends right into the background. Between the coloing and some layout issues, it took reasoning things out from subsequent panels in order to figure out what exactly was happening in certain places. I also think this Ragman looks more like the musculature level of The Invisible Man, rather than a person dressed in a bundle of rags, in part because all the strips of cloth are hues of brown and grey. Still, he did gain a cool power this issue, the ability to see in all directions at once. It'll be interesting to see how that is used in the future. ***RAGGDLY RECOMMENDED***

STORY GRADE: C+
ISSUE SCORE: 62.75

COVER: 5.75 | PLOT: 7.25 | SCRIPT: 7.0 | LAYOUT: 7.0 | ART: 7.50 | EDITS: 5.50
PRODUCTION: 7.50 | VALUE: 6.75 | COLLECTIBILITY: 3.50 | GOSH-WOW: 5.0







WONDER WOMAN #36
DC Comics
, $2.99, 32pgs.

"Children of the Gods, Part 4"
20 pages, Read Time: 11:30

by James Robinson (writer), Carlo Pagulayan (penciller), and Jason Paz & Sean Parsons (inkers)

Okay, so that was pretty good. I'm loath to spoil things if you haven't read it, but the last panel reveal — yes, another last panel teaser, this is comics after all — sets up the mother-of-all Who'd Win? battles. I am seriously stoked for the next issue, maybe as much as I have for any comic since I was a kid, and certainly more than any issue of WONDER WOMAN, ever. Now, the thing with Jason — is he truly evil? — was kind of meh, I'll admit, and his conversion back to the good totally typical, as were the cheesy flashbacks to his first meeting with Wonder Woman, which ought not to have affected Jason so if he truly was plotting against her from the start, I would think. And it's true the plot didn't move that much. This entire issue just captures a moment in time, really. Meanwhile, Robinson still has this thing for trying to emulate actual speech that makes some of his dialogue balloons a tough slog to read. But the art was nice, and the overall story is advancing well, with Darkseid as much of an actual threat as he has ever seemed to me outside of "The Great Darkness Saga," Also, of note, the subplot with Steve Trevor actually enhances, rather than distracts from the main storyline, as so many subplots do these days, and is truly intriguing in its own right. I'm nearly as curious to see where that will go as I am to see who will win next issue's big fight, Darkseid, or [SPOILERS]. ***WONDERFULLY RECOMMENDED***

STORY GRADE: A–
ISSUE SCORE: 77.50

COVER: 6.0 | PLOT: 8.0 | SCRIPT: 8.50 | LAYOUT: 8.0 | ART: 8.50 | EDITS: 6.75
PRODUCTION: 8.75 | VALUE: 6.75 | COLLECTIBILITY: 7.50 | GOSH-WOW: 8.75


  

Well, that's it for now. Next week will be a bigger haul. According to ComicList.com, here's what I'll be reviewing here roughly seven days from now:

AQUAMAN #31
CHAMPIONS #15
DARK KNIGHTS: METAL #4
FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #5
GREEN LANTERNS #37
MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #1
THE MIGHTY THOR #702
Ms MARVEL #25
SUPER SONS #11

Nothing from non-Marvel/DC companies I'm sad to say. But it should be fun nonetheless. See ya then . . .

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