Tag Archives: DC

Quick shots for week 39: Kirby Genesis, getting caught up with my MArvel and some more DC 1’s

A beautifull two page spread by Alex Ross and Jack Herbert, from Kirby Genesis #3, published by Dynamite Entertainment.

A beautifull two page spread by Alex Ross and Jack Herbert, from Kirby Genesis #3, published by Dynamite Entertainment.

5. Kirby Genesis #3 (Dynamite Entertainment)                                                      8.5
This feels like an action packed Saturday morning cartoon, complete with a giant toyline. There are like a hundred characters in the cartoon, so they can sell all kinds of cool action figures. If that doesn´t sound too good for you, let me just spell it out for you: This comic is excellent! There’s a bit much going on and there really are a lot of characters. But they are all extremely well designed, very distinct from one another, very original and just like this series, heaps and heaps of fun! Basically, this series tells the story of a normal, realistic world (not unlike ours), which in the span of a couple of hours gets bombarded with a whole bunch of superheroes and villains (all unused or license-free creations of legendary comic creator Jack Kirby). The whole world quickly goes ballistic, while we follow a kid named Kirby, who is looking for his girlfriend (who turned into some kind of power princess) and in doing so gets abducted by aliens, together with Sasquatch and subsequently delivered in the land beyond time… (come on, need I say more?)
6. Ultimates #2 (Marvel comics)                                                                                         8
Contrary to the first issue, this really felt like its own beast. This isn´t so much a new take on Millar and Hitch’s (or Hitlar as we know that duo on the millarworld forums) run on the Ultimates, but a good story by Jonathan Hickman about the Ultimates. This issue, things are jam-packed with action. And once again I appreciate the bold editorial choices that have been made to set the Ultimate universe apart from the 616-verse. [Spoiler:] All the Asgardian gods (except for Thor, it seems) get killed by the inhabitants of evil Reed Richard’s sphere society.
7. New Avengers Annual (Marvel comics)                                                              7.9
Interesting story about former Avenger Simon Williams (AKA Wonderman) trying to end the Avengers with his own team of superheroes. First target, the New Avengers, [spoilers], they go down relatively easy, which was kinda surprising. But of course they aren’t the big league Avengers, which are their next target. So, I’m curious to see how that will pan out. The art was interesting, not great but pretty good. I think what made the art by Gabriele Dell’Otto back on Secret War particularly impressive, was all the dark areas which hid a lot of details. This issue plays out in clear daylight and we see much more details, which diminishes the impact of his linework.
8. New Avengers #16 (Marvel comics)                                                                      7.5
Very well written story about how Daredevil gets to join the New Avengers. A cute tie-in to fear itself. Yet, again Bendis does this thing where the story is narrated through interview scenes. I can’t stand them! They work great however, especially in this issue. The art however ugh… I (really!) like Deodato a lot, but the coloring here is not helping him, it’s making it far too photorealistic. Plus the architecture and Nazi mech armors look computer generated, which doesn’t look good.
9. Green Lantern #1 (DC comics)                                                                                     7
Not enough action. I like the premiss of Hall Jordan without a ring, without a job and without money, and seeing Sinestro (of all people) with a green ring. Well played comedic bits. There´s just not enough action and that’s what the art team of Mahnke and Alamy do best, which is a shame. Will check out the second issue, but I’m still very cautious.
10. Fear Itself #6 (Marvel comics)                                                                                     7
Once again, the grade is pulled down big time through the writing. I don’t think I’ll be back for the next issue. The writing was a bit better, art a bit worse compared to earlier issues.

Will try to get the Book of the week and Runner Ups online tomorrow or the day after. Titles to be reviewed: Batwoman #1, Ultimate Spider-man #2, Sweet Tooth #25 and X-men Schism 4.

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Quick shot reviews for week 38: If I read another first issue I’m gonna be sick…

A sweet two page sread of recess at Gladstone's school for World Conquerors, art by Armand Villavert.

A sweet two page sread of recess at Gladstone's school for World Conquerors, art by Armand Villavert.

 

5. Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #1(Image comics)            8.7
After having read issues 2-4, this issue quickly and entertainingly explains why the school is named Gladstone’s. Besides that it does a pretty good job of introducing the students of this school for super villains: Kid Nefarious, Mummy Girl, Martian Jones, Ghost Girl and Skull Brother one and two (which we later learn will play a surprisingly important part in this story). Besides setting up the school (including such classes as explosives 101, extortion, oversized reptiles and home economics), and the characters, the story does a great job at unveiling a bit of the driving plot of the series: at the end of the issue we see a hero and villain meeting up in secret to arrange their next fight. The art is by Armand Villavert is beautiful, with sparse, delicate and highly stylized linework it reminds me a bit of the art by Corey Walker in the early issues of Invincible. The big difference being that Gladstone’s look a bit more playful. I think an extra round of applause should be reserved for Mr. Carlos Carrasco for his stark color combinations, which makes the art pop off of the page and makes the book stand out of the crowd.
6. The Vault #1 (Image comics)                                                                                             8
This had come out a couple of months back as well, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. The Vault tells the atmospheric and brooding story of an underwater treasure hunt. It reads very good, and feels like an excellent horror/thriller movie. But don’t worry, it doesn’t read like a movie pitch. It’s a well crafted comic which, I really dug. At first I was a little disappointed by what the treasure hunter team finds. But at the end, let’s just say I wasn’t anymore, and the horror/mystery vibe got amped up quite high. The art (quite photorealistic ) was a bit too standard for me, but that may be a personal taste thing. It fitted well with this story.
7. Demon Knights #1 (DC comics)                                                                                      8
Nothing wrong here, perfectly likeable book about DC characters both widely known (Etrigen, Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage) and lesser known (the Shining Knight?). Looks good, reads even better. It takes place in the dark ages, I think it’s very interesting to see the early roots of the new DC.
8. Wonder Woman #1 (DC comics)                                                                                   8
Well, finally we’re back to a good Wonder Woman story. Great art by Cliff Chang. I don’t really know what else to say. Diana looks gorgeous, she gets involved in a murder plot against the unborn child of Zeus and thing are a quite dark. Good, clean fun, with a bit of a horror edge to it. Well worth your money.
9. Ultimate X-men #1 (Marvel comics)                                                                             8
I liked this mostly because of the characters, though the art (Paco Medina) and writing (Nick Spencer) didn’t hurt either. The characters of course are Karen Grant (aka Jean Grey), Angel (not Warren Worthington III), James Logan (little Wolverine) and firegirl (?) from Ultimate X and Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake and Kitty Pride from back in Ultimate Spider-man. Apparently Kitty is becoming ´the most feared and hated terrorist in the history of the United States´, which sounds very interesting. My only critique is that there was a bit too much going.
10. New Mutants #30 (Marvel comics)                                                                            8
Mephisto offers the team a deal to escape from Hell that seems so innocent I can’t imagine (but know there will be) a catch, while Dani Moonstar is defending Hel (notice how this one’s got only one ‘l’?), against the forces of the Fear Itself villain (the Serpent, right?). Great art by David Lafuente, especially the Dani scenes. This guy is so extremely good with expressions, it’s just a joy for the eye to watch the faces in this thing. The story by Abnett and Lanning is solid, fun and entertaining, though I’m still not sure they’ve got the newest recruit, Nathan Grey (aka X-man), pegged just yet.
11. Grifter #1 (DC comics)                                                                                                          8
I liked this despite never having read any Grifter prior to this. This is mainly due to the interesting plot, revolving around Grifter before he’s Grifter being abducted by telepathic space aliens (!?) while on his escape from a swindle. Unbeknownst to him, he’s missing 17 hours from his memory. Because of the abduction, his escape plan goes awry, he does escape from the aliens, but then is hunted by said aliens. Sounds a little out there, but it was really amusing to see that this wasn’t just another superhero story, but more of a science fiction mystery thriller.
12. Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (DC comics)                                                     7.9
We get a very exploitative portrayal of Starfire, which I certainly notice (but have no problems with whatsoever). Beautiful art, okay story. I didn’t understand anything in the second half, other than Red Arrow and Starfire getting freaky together. But maybe that was the point as the last caption says: ‘to be explained’ instead of ‘to be continued’. So, at the least they have piqued my interest.
13. Pigs #1 (Image comics)                                                                                                     7.6
I really didn’t want to read another first issue, but this just looked so good. A stunning cover by Jock, followed by a conspiracy story about a second generation Cuban sleeper cell that’s gotten activated in the present and wants to overthrow the US government. The story switches between past and present and spans nearly 60 years. This is sure to be one of those rare books that’s rife with historic accuracy (the two authors must have done a ton of research) and political intrigue. The art wasn’t the strongest part of the book, but served its purpose well and got progressively better.
14. Star Trek #1 (IDW Publishing)                                                                                    7.5
Pretty standard Star Trek fare here, both story and art are pretty decent. This is a well told story about what looks like a psychic attack after the latest Star Trek movie. Get it if you’re a big Trekkie or really liked the last film (which both applies to me). Props are due to artist Stephen Molar, for really making the characters resemble their motion picture counterparts. If you’re not into Star Trek or the last movie, this is just ‘one of those comics’. It’s certainly not bad, not great either. But positively entertaining, just like many other comics.
15. Nightwing #1(DC comics)                                                                                7.5
This seems to be tying into the cliffhanger from Batman #1, it appears that somehow Dick Greyson has another alter ego besides Nightwing, which Gotham´s heroes don’t know about. Well written by Kyle Higgins, he’s got the relationship between Dick and Bruce down and writes Dick like a real person (eating cereal, grabbing his costume from the floor, facing his fears and insecurities etc). Now the art… it’s great in the action scenes, the rest though… …not so much. When people aren’t fighting they look stiff and indistinct, plus there are way too many two page spreads here.

Come back soon, for more wordy reviews of the top four books I read this week. In no particular order: Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #5, Batman #1, Ultimate Spider-man #1 and Criminal. Last of the innocents #4. 

Runner ups for week 37: Crawl to me 2, Swamp Thing 1, Jezus Hates Zombies 1

2. Crawl to me #2 (IDW Publishing)
I reacted quite strongly (with my whole body) to this issue, because of this follows a guttural review (sorry, I’ll be swearing up a storm), describing my reactions as I was reading. Just to be clear: This is a horror book about a young family who is vacating their new home were something is horribly wrong. [written at page three:] The first couple of pages had me going ‘What the Fuck?!?!’, almost every panel. [Written at page nine:] Holy shit, I know this can’t be real. Ryan, the main character also knows this, but holy shit is this working on my nerves. We’ve landed smack dab in crazy town. [Written at page ten:] And just when you think things have turned back to normal, people have no eyes. This is some fucked up shit! [Written at page fifteen:] OMG she’s just cutting her hair, but it’s SO fucking creepy!!! [Written at page sixteen:] But I guess that means Ryan isn’t crazy (or at least not the only one whose crazy), as the scissors are talking to her… ‘You know what you have to do right?’. Oh no. No. Not the baby, right? [Written at page seventeen:] And then it looks like the baby’s gonna bite it… Shit man… [Written at page eighteen:] I’m clenching my fist here and have a weird feeling in my stomach… Things are not right. [Written at page twenty-two:] And it ends with the creepy child molester’s belt buckle. Wow, this went fast, but it was scarier than a fucking roller coaster!
Art:9               Writing:9        Overall:9

3. Swamp Thing #1 (DC comics)
It took me a while to get into this issue. I didn’t really care for the first half, but the story really picks up in the last third. That’s the part where we learn about a dreadful new villain (emphasizing once more that Swamp Thing is unmistakably a horror title). This part also shows how Alec Holland is plagued by ´the green´ (Swamp Thing’s connection to all of the world’s flora) and his memories of being Swamp Thing. While I wasn’t particularly excited about the writing, the art though… Oh, my God can this Yanick Paquette guy draw. He was already wonderful recently on Batman Inc., but with this series he has even improved upon that. For a random example of his unequalled artistic qualities, the first page of this book has the best looking pigeons I’ve ever seen in a comic book. They don’t just look like random birds, colored to look like pigeons. These are some realistic goddamned pigeons. Also in my review of Justice League #1, I said Superman’s new costume looks kind of like a royal ceremonial armor. …Well scratch that, in this issue he looks like a fascist superhero… Which I bet is not what DC was aiming for…
Art:9.5                        Writing:8        Overall:8.8

4. Jesus Hates Zombies. A Jurassic kinda life #1 (215 Ink)
This was one of my favorite reads in some time. Especially the number of chuckles (and even laugh out louds) it got from me made it rocket up the chart. The story by Stephen Lindsay doesn’t particularly make a lot of sense (however, I haven’t read the first Jesus Hates Zombies series, so who knows?), but if you want to read something completely different, you should really try it out. While the main character is Jesus (H.?) Christ, this isn’t your momma’s Jesus. For one thing, this Jesus curses like a sailor. It’s surprisingly refreshing to read the son of God go: ‘Sweet candy cane strap-ons! Is it really you, buddy? Fucking miracles never cease!’ Other important characters in this are Abe Lincoln (Jesus’ main wingman in prehistoric times), Benjamin Franklin, (SPOILERS) Elvis Presley and the animated wheelchair of Steven Hawkins (?)… The story: Jesus and Abe are stuck in prehistoric times, which for some reason is becoming infected with a zombie epidemic. They’re struggling with the decision of just getting back or saving reality as they know it. I thought that beyond the Walking Dead I was zombied out, but this proves me wrong. It actually a very good story, both exciting and funny and accompanied by outstanding, energetic artwork by Belgium artist Rob Croonenborghs. The book is black and white, uses a lot of effective dot patterns for extra texture. The only problem I had with this is the format. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with a smaller format, I thought some of the more diminutive panels became a bit unclear because of the scale. But seriously go check it out, it’s a ‘gloriously fun-filled prehistoric romp’ of 64 (!) pages.
Art:8.5                        Writing:9        Overall:8.7

Runners up for week 36: #new52, Stormwatch 1, Animal Man 1, Action Comics 1

2. Stormwatch #1 (DC comics)            
Okay, I love the first couple of volumes of the Authority (I finally got around to buying the trades yesterday) and this has me all giddy about those characters again. Very exciting to see some of my favorite familiar faces back like Jack Hawksmore, Jenny Quantum (the spirit of the 21st century), the Engineer and of course Apollo and Midnighter. In equal parts due to their appearance, their original use of superpowers and their bad-ass personalities these characters are among the very best of the spandex crowd to have arrived fairly recent.  It will be really interesting to see how this team will interact with classic DC characters. A tip of the iceberg was already shown, as Martian the Man Hunter is part of Stormwatch (as well as the Justice League). Basically, Stormwatch is the interdimensional secret superhero police. This new series is basically Stormwatch trying (very unsuccessfully) to get Apollo to join them because they want someone with ‘Superman-level’ powers. But then the roguishly handsome Midnighter sweeps all the members of Stormwatch off their feet to hit on Apollo: ‘I’m the Midnighter. With your help, I can kill every evil bastard on the planet. Interested…?’ (Cheers for my favorite couple in comics) Great art too! Oh, and what’s with the shimmering red cloaked guy that’s showing up in all the new 52 first issues?
Art: 8             Writing: 9       Overall: 8.5

3. Animal Man #1 (DC comics)        
This introduces Buddy Baker, aka Animal Man, just as I remember him. This guy can tap into the morphologic field of all the world’s fauna, to use the animal characteristics he needs. A superhero despite himself, yet foremost a family man. The first half of this issue tells you everything you need to know, neatly and elegantly. Without spoiling too much, first we get to know him and his wife and two children in his home environment. Then he puts on the costume to stop a guy who’s holding hostages in the children’s ward of the local hospital. In this sequence we learn about the kind of hero Buddy is. He´s hesitant to use violence, much rather trying to talk conflicted persons out of their troubles. Lastly we see one of his nightmares, which is portrayed wonderfully disturbing and then we see him waking up to see the weirdness has hit his private life again… Okay, now that´s a creepy cliffhanger… …well, maybe it´s not so much the cliffhanger that’s creepy, as much as the visuals of it (keep away from the last page if you’re allergic to dead animals). Nothing wrong with the writing here, leave it up to Jeff Lemire to rock his keyboard and make some magically good comics. Now the art though… Until the relaunch announcements, I´d never heard of Travel Foreman. And in the lead up to the relaunch his work got pretty hyped. And although I love the cover, and this issue´s dream sequence, I just couldn´t get into the rest of the art. It´s not bad, just not my kind of style I guess. It improved throughout the issue, but not enough as I´d like. Something about the rough, detailed line-work and lack of blacks just doesn´t sit well with me.
Art: 7.7           Writing: 9       Overall: 8.4

4. Action comics #1 (DC comics)      
This is a hard book for me to review, I had pretty high expectations, which weren’t met. Which doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, not at all. It’s pretty good, just not quit here nor there for me. Basically it’s whats been dubbed Bruce Springsteen Superman, with his shirt and jeans and working man’s boots. He’s a little edgier than we’re used to, threatening non-super powered villains with death. He’s also a lot more brash, making statements to the media that: ‘You know the deal Metropolis. Treat people right, or expect a visit from me.’ He seems to be standing up for the little people more than ever, which I also like. It gives him a bit of a political activist edge. Also, this issue introduces familiar mainstays like general Lane, Louis Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Lex Luthor. Plus a great Morrison idea of weaponizing the city against the man of steel. Art was pretty good, reminded me more than a little of Mark Bagley on Ultimate Spiderman for some reason. Come to think of it this whole issue kinda feels like the ultimate take on Superman: He’s younger, has to start from scratch in modern times, gets deconstructed to the ground, hmmm… Well if it worked for Spidey, it surely can’t hurt Supes. Plus if Bendis can pull something like this, I think Morrison should be able to do it well enough too.
Art:Writing: 8       Overall: 8

Come back tomorrow, to see if I can add anything new to my already extensively formulated love for Locke and Key. As I review the latest issue of Locke and Key. Clockworks…

Quick shots for week 36: Three Dutch comics vs three US comics

5. Ultimate Hawkeye #1 (Marvel comics)                                                                 7.8
This feels like an extra shot of Jonathan Hickman’s Ultimate goodness. Good art, I only felt it wasn’t distinctive enough for my taste. Very well woven into the story of last week’s Ultimates #1, curious to see where this goes. This kind of portrays Hawkeye as the operative most likely to one day follow in Nick Fury’s footsteps as head of SHIELD. And I can totally dig that.
6. Invincible #82 (Image comics)                                                                                    7.6
Good issue, although I’m not thrilled by the Ryan Otley art, which was still good, but not as great as much of his run on this series. Also, it was fairly inconsistent. I’m still on the fence on the coloring, which is getting progressively more painterly over the last couple of issues. The story though, I really like. It’s showcasing Robert Kirkman’s ability to throw everything around. Sure Invincible is still a superhero, but everything around that is becoming different than it has been and Mark being a superhero may be history soon too. In this issue he starts questioning the aggressive approach and tells Cecil Steadman, superhero liaison at the Pentagon, how he wants to try talking instead of hitting, more often. Which I really want him to try. Peace man!
7. Captain Roffa #1 (Windmill comics)                                                                         7.4
Very fun comic produced in my old ‘hood, especially liked the art. The concept is basically Captain Marvel but as a local Rotterdam superhero. The two stories by Johan de Neef is executed very well. A bit too gag-like for my taste, but still very entertaining. But as said: mayor props go out to Boykoesh, this young artist I met at Breda yesterday. He does some great cartoony and extremely dynamic stuff, which gives the book an action packed feeling. His art is topped with very confident, clean line-work and beautiful greytones. Also, this guy does some distinctive personalities and facial expressions: There are a couple B-list Dutch celebrities in there (Tatjana Simic and Marijke Helwegen) and while depicting them very cartoony, he retains their distinctive facial features. Recommended for everyone who loves Rotterdam (look for such Rotterdam celebs as Erasmus, Bokito as well as the Euromast, and both Sparta and Feyenoord jerseys), or a tongue-in-cheek superhero parody.
8. Batgirl #1 (DC comics)                                                                                                           7
Oh, so that’s how they explain away the paralysis. I for one have no problem at all with this explanation for Barbara walking again. While it doesn’t happen often, some people do regain the use of their legs, after severe spinal cord injury. Plus, the reboot has shortened the time that she’s spent in the chair and it’s also implied that she’s still not totally comfortable on her legs. Having gotten that out of the way, there’s nothing keeping me interested here. Until……we see Barbara freeze up when she gets a gun pointed at her. She’s afraid of being crippled again. Interesting, a superhero afraid of guns… Still wondering about the new DC timeline though…
9. ACE #1 (DROP comics)                                                                                                       6.8
Compared to the zero issue, the art has improved a lot. In this issue Ranjit shows a bold, confident line, which I like a lot better. Writing-wise there are big improvements too, basically the blockbuster movie continues. The ACE team (Action Committee Extraordinary), with all kind of sexy recruits and mysterious superpowers (a multiple man, good fighting guy, a healer, a telepath etc) investigating and taking action against a really bad guy and his corporation. This hits on all the notes, funny, action, sexy… Some minor things though, the lettering in the word balloons fits a little too tight. Also, sometimes things are happening off panel and it’s not entirely clear what’s happening… Still I am very impressed with this early foray into independent comics publishing. If every issue keeps getting better as much as it did between issues zero and one, this will end up as a damned good comic and a strong product for DROP comics to show their skills. This also has me very interested in the rest of their titles.
10. ACE #0 (DROP comics)                                                                                                    6.3
Back in 2009, this was one of the fist comics out of the Dutch DROP comics studio by Gert-Jan van Oosten and his talented collaborators, and it kinda feels like that. ACE has a very interesting premise of an anti terrorist strike force with superhuman abilities. This basically reads like a big blockbuster movie filled with action (…duh…), car chases, sexy women and a funny bit every now and then. While it was very entertaining, and I liked the art by Ranjit Domisse (think of J. Scott Cambell) and the layouts, I thought the inks and dialogues where a bit rough. Hopefully this will get better. A refreshing detail is that this story plays out in the Netherlands, so expect to see a lot of Dutch scenery.

Book of the week 34: Xombi #6

This week was a bit of a downer as far as comics are concerned to me. I tore into some Avatar books (Caligula, Crossed. Psychopath) and decided they weren’t really what I had hoped them to be. The same rings true for X-men Legacy and the Infinite by Kirkman and Liefeld. However, this week’s comics provided gems like the Ultimates, Mystery Men and Xombi.

1. Xombi #6 (DC comics)


I really hate it when I repeat my picks, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Xombi, from DC, really is one of the most entertaining and well made comics that I currently know of. It was only two weeks ago that I raved about the penultimate issue five and this week’s issue delivers just as much.

Since I concentrated mostly on the art in my review of the last issue, I’ll dig into the story and the writing this time. I can be sweet and short about the art though, it’s marvelous, take a look at the digitally painted sweetness of Frazer Irving in the pictures here, or take a gander at my review of last issue for the proof.

This series has been written by John Rozum, the original co-creator of Xombi, back in 1994. Xombi is a Korean-American superhero, created for Milestone media, the DC publishing imprint from back in the nineties. The first Xombi series reached 21 issues, and was part of the shared continuity of the Millstone– or Dakotaverse (Milestone heroes didn’t live in New York, but refreshingly in the Midwestern Dakota). Last year, through the Milestone Forever event, most of the Milestone heroes have been merged into the main DC continuity.

Xombi is a young guy, named David Kim, who used to work on a nanotechnological virus. Because of the nefarious interventions of one Dr. Sugarman, David was critically injured. When his assistant injects him with the virus to save his life, the virus does repair the damage done by Dr. Sugarman. However, it uses said assistant as fuel for the reparation process; the nanites devour her. This is the price that David Kim must pay for becoming a Xombi, a potentially immortal, technologically enhanced human being who keeps running into the supernatural. His superpower is basically twofold: he can repair himself from both physical harm as well as the effects of aging; he can mechanically alter the molecular configuration of everything he touches (for example making popcorn from paper, or a key from a coin).

The first issue of the current series starts out with David getting a call from his ally Julian Parker that he is needed in Dakota where it seems a very bad guy has escaped from a miniature prison, leaving a miniature bloody mess. When he arrives on the scene, he is met by a group of Catholic super-heroines: Nun of the Above, Nun the Less and Catholic Girl. Their investigation leads them to one Annie Porter having a discussion with Roland Finch, it appears that Annie was coaxed by Finch into breaking out a certain prisoner from the miniature prison. It turns out the prisoner is the vessel of Maranatha, the personification of God’s wrath, which Finch had intended for himself. Issues two and three depict a great fight with this being, which of course the good guys win. Afterwards Annie explains to our heroes, which are joined by the afore mentioned Julian Parker and Rabbi Sinnowitz, that Finch has stolen a chart, mapping out the positions of a number of mysterious and wonderful flying cities, which he intends to conquer. Annie originally came from one of those cities, the Skull Fortress, which has been taken over by the evil Roland Finch. Since his take-over, she has spent life as an exile, down on earth, doing everything she can to get the chart back. The last half of this series deals with the heroes planning and attacking the Skull Fortress.

Throughout this whole series John Rozum introduces a great many crazy, big ideas, issue six is no exception, with enemies like the Sisterhood of the Blood Mummies, who wear cloaks woven from spider silk, by spiders which crawl all over these cloaks making any necessary repairs and feeding on the mosquitoes drawn to the sisters, as well as the Dental Phantoms, who communicate through tickertape coming out of their mouths. This issue of course follows the culmination of the battle for the Skull Fortress and let’s just say that when all seems lost its wisdom that prevails. However, it´s not just action and wacky concepts. Rozum´s story shines in the parts with character development and especially when he explores the different ways that Annie and David handle their immortality and the loss of those around them who are (mere?) mortals.

John Rozum’s website does seem to imply that there may be more Xombi coming out in the future, but that could just be me reading into things. In the meantime, we’ll just have to make do with his new Staticshock series, which is one of DC’s new 52 series… Also, this volume of Xombi will make for a beautiful collected edition. If you want to get it and want to support the creators a bit more, buy it at Amazon through John Rozum’s website.
Art:9   Writing:9.5     Overall:9.3

Reviews for week 26: Holy keys to the Flashpoint universe, Batman!

Okay, so as soon as I sat down behind my keyboard to write this first week’s batch of reviews I realized I’ve got a problem. I don’t want to write solemnly about the comics that came out this week, or even the fairly recent ones. Truth is I’m only up to date on a handful of titles, while most books I’m weeks if not months behind on. And whites better than to read a whole slew of issues of the same title back to back?
So that’s what I did this week with Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom.

While issue six of Keys to the Kingdom was my absolute favorite of the week, I feel it wouldn’t make any sense to write something about issue six, before reviewing the rest of the series. So my solution is to first review all six issues of Keys to the Kingdom, which was my favorite read of the week, before continuing with the rest of the books.

So without further ado…

Reviews
I finally got around to reading Lock and Key. What I lacked for in timeliness, I made up for in reading speed. After a couple of days I opened the fourth volume: Keys to the Kingdom. While admittedly I had to warm up to the art by Gabriel Rodriguez, Joe Hill’s believable dialogues of the young protagonists sucked me right into the story. Halfway through the second series I suddenly ‘got’ why the art works extremely well with this story. It’s a horror book about children, and the art displays just that: A childlike cheerfulness with a sharp and dangerous edge to it. In the first three volumes the story of the Locke children unfolds. The briefest summary I can give is: ‘Key House mansion has many magical keys, three kids live in the mansion, a dark force is hell-bent on retrieving one such key, luckily the keys have magic properties which the kids can use to wage war against this dark force.’ Dealing with this subject matter, it an amazing feat that the story is more about character interaction than about magic key whacking.

Opening Splash page of Locke and Key. Keys to the Kingdom

The opening splash page of Keys to the Kingdom #4. Bode Locke's imaginary Squadron Strange.

Throughout the previous volumes the readers pulses have been rising as they have seen the bad guy get closer to his/her/its goal one step at a time. What’s worse is that he has taken the form of a cocky teenager who has befriended the kids. In this volume however the plot proverbially thickens as the first cracks show up in the cover of their enemy and things finally come to an ugly confrontation. With their enemy seemingly dead, it appears to the kids that better times are on the horizon. However at the end of this volume, the readers know that things are actually worse than ever.

In closing, some short thoughts: If you don’t care for Calvin and Hobbes you might scratch your head as I did during the first issue. Parts of the story seen from the youngest kid’s perspective are rendered in Calvin and Hobbes style. It fitted wonderfully however. The second issue has some clunky and heavy handed social commentary on racism, which to me felt like the worst and most contrived writing since Locke and Key started. The third issue is suddenly ultra compressed. Wikipedia describes it as 28 issues crammed into one. I agree, while I see how this played out in the overall story arc, as an issue it did not work particularly well. The three final issues however are deep fried comic book gold, nothing to complain there.

Average grades for the whole series based on the issues:
Art: 8.8 Writing: 7.9 overall: 8.2

If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor: read Locke and Key from IDW. I’ll go and find the first issue of the volume currently being published, Clockworks.

My runner-up is a current single issue, namely Detective Comics #878. With Art by Jock and words by Scott Snyder I don’t think you can go wrong. This continues Dick Grayson‘s stint as Gotham‘s Batman. While Bruce is of gallivanting the world in Batman Inc., Dick is left with the dark streets of Gotham to protect. It’s moody, it’s atmospheric, it’s noir. While the story is very much compelling, with all its twists and turns I have no idea where this is going and why it is taking the route it has. However, I am onboard for the trip!
This issue opens with Dick being captured by pirate villain Tiger Shark, who apparently lets his henchman do all the work, and because of this becomes way more compelling than his name might lead you to believe. Plus there are Killer Wales or Orca’s as I like to call them:

Batman fighting Killer Wale

Without question, Batman struggling in the jaws of a Killer Wale was my favorite panel of this week!

Batman fighting Killer Wales as rendered by Jock, I hope to continue seeing much more of this. Killer Wales are truly terrifying animal, not?
Art: 9 Writing: 8 Overall: 8.5

Also very good was the Walking Dead #86. This goes without mentioning of course. The only real topic of discussion with this series being whether the plots are too horrific, or rely too much on dialogue. However, to me it is the balance between these two ingredients, which can suddenly shift, that makes this series not only a horror comic but also a character study. This issue is a case in point: After some serious  horrifying shit went down the last couple of issues, this is where the characters pick up the pieces and try to get on with their lives. A talk between the main character Rick and the katana wielding Michone poignantly shows the state of emotional breakdown in which these characters find themselves, Michone: ‘…After everything that’s happened, why would I think that — that I could be happy? […] What’s wrong with us?‘ Oh, and there’s also a couple of zombies that get shot trough the head.
Art: 7.5 Writing: 9 Overall: 8.3 

Another great recent Bat-book was Batman Inc. #7, which proves that Batman stories can be fun. Which, I think, was one of Grant Morrison‘s main goals for his long running writing gig on the Bat. In this issue Batman is recruiting in a native American reserve. The local franchise holders on the reserve are Man-of-Bats and his son Red Raven. Without superpowers and without the money of Bruce Wayne it turns out this dynamic duo is pretty much the laughing stock of the reserve. So much so that Red Raven is one step away from quitting as a vigilante. Luckily Bruce arrives for a team up and to open his wallet. I think the following panel shows just why his money was so badly needed:

Great art by Chris Burnham on this one! And it would have scored higher if it would not have been for the typo on page 5. I can’t stand when books (let alone by the Big Two) have typo’s. Aren’t there like at least four people that should have catched this? Anyway:
Art: 8 Writing: 9 Overall: 8.5 …Nah, let’s make that 7.5 

Seeing as this is taking up far too much time and words, quick shots:

Flashpoint Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1                           7.5
Hey look, it’s Dick Grayson being happy with his parents. Let’s just give him his moment, yes? An interesting take on Doctor Fate in the Flashpoint universe shows some mysterious revelations. And very interesting to see the story of what’s left of Europe during the war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Plus a beautiful cover by Cliff Chang.
Flashpoint Captain Cold #1                                                                     7.5
So I am guessing this is Scot Kollins his old style? Very painterly and less cartoony? It looks really good and reads well too. Only problem that I totally got my Flashes mixed up. At the end of the book I thought: ‘Didn’t he already die in Flashpoint #2?
Wolverine #9                                                                                              7.5
While I like Acuna‘s art just fine, I always thought it didn’t really fit Wolverine. This issue he changes his stuff up, to almost look like Darwyn Cooke. Short to say, it looks fantastic! Wolverine takes revenge on Mystique for sending him to hell, and Jason Aaron writes it pretty well.
Flashpoint Wonder Woman and the Furies #1                                7.5
The art by Scott Clark is kinda Greg Landish, but way better. While this gives an interesting insight into the conflict between Wonder Woman and Aquaman even Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s great writing chops could not prevent this from feeling rather contrived. Still an entertaining read though…
X-men Legacy #251                                                                                   7.2
In my opinion Mike Carey‘s run on X-men/X-men Legacy is the qualitatively most constant run of any X series in recent years. While he may not always work with the greatest artists and it still remains to be seen where the book matters (ugh… I know) in the greater scheme of the X-universe, Carey really delves into the characters previous continuity and hit’s X-men fanboy gold. This issue shows artist Khoi Pham‘s best work ever. Clean dynamic line art depicts the fight of prof. X, Gambit, Rogue, Magneto, Frenzy and Legion against two of Legion‘s escaped personalities.
Flashpoint Grodd of War                                                                             7
Poor disgruntled Gorilla Grodd rules Africa. But as it is known as the forgotten continent his reign is largely neglected internationally. Seeking an even fight I think he might show up in upcoming issues of Flashpoint proper… While art and story where just fine, I thought the colouring was somewhat off on this one.
 Screamland #1                                                                                              7
One Fantasy Con. One Werewolf. One Creature from the Black Lagoon. One Invisible man. One former Starship captain. One Blob. One vampire. One acting Nazi robot. And one long forgotten sex tape. I mean come on, read it!
Alpha Flight #1                                                                                              7
The first Fear itself tie-in I actually like. While I was very psyched about Eaglesham on this book, they did something (inks/colour maybe?) that makes it look more like a standard superhero comic from the ’90’s than the great artwork I was expecting after having read Captain America and Fantastic Four. Solid writing, good dialogues. Great set-up for tensions between Northstar and Aurora. Seeing as I’m new to Alpha Flight I have no idea who the alien chick is, but the ‘Die human scum’-joke was priceless.
Alpha Flight #0.01                                                                                    6.5
Was this necessary? It was an adequate story, but nothing special. It also did not add much to the set-up for issue 1. Fun read though. 
Avengers #14                                                                                              6.5
This felt really contrived. We still get only one splash page of the blitzkrieg on Washington, however we do get an awesome fight between the bad Thing the Red Hulk. Apparently the Red Hulk dies and Jarvis is very upset about it. I mean come on… The whole structure of this issue, with an interview framing device was set up for something emotional, it worked out however as very cheesy.
Wolverine #10                                                                                            6.5
Not Jason Aaron‘s best work. One villain is called Cannon Foot, he kicks objects at Wolverine. We also find out what the Red Right Hand is, which is pretty cool. The back story of this organization however was not very good. Oh and the artist from the first arc is back. Not pleased with that…
Flashpoint Emperor Aquaman #1                                                         6.5
Aquaman is all brooding and angry and floods Rome. Why? Art looks kinda ’90’s but in a good way. When Merra is decapitated her helmet is empty but her hair sticks out of it, I’m guessing she was bald… An entertaining read but I think I am missing the significance of a lot of things in this. Maybe this is more for the die hard DC fans?
Flashpoint Secret Seven #1                                                                     5.5
I do not believe there was a lot of George Perez in here. And I don’t have enough DC lore in my head to understand what the hell is going on and who all these characters are.
Flashpoint Legion of Doom #1                                                               5.2
At some point in the story Plastic Man makes an appearance, that was the only good part of this comic. This book is filled with all kinds of corny puns on heat and fire, because it revolves around Firestorm and Heatwave. Also there was some wonky sequential storytelling, I will not be picking this up again.

Okay, so the first week. I read 24 books, which I rated on average 7.3. I guess that’s a pretty big week as well as a pretty good week.