Category Archives: reviews

Sometimes I miss Helen Slater, but not today.

Supergirl volume 1 : Last Daughter of Krypton

DC Comics


160 pages $15

I know there have been a lot of you out there that have not liked much of the new 52.  I am up to 11 titles of the collected books that I have enjoyed so far.  Some much better than others, this book is definitely in the “much better” category.

Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar were the team given the job of rebooting Superman’s cousin and they did something I didn’t think was possible;  make me care about Kara Zor-El at all.  The basic nuts and bolts of the origin seem to be the same as much as I can recall about the various older versions. The attitude is there, albeit for different reasons.  That was always my biggest gripe about Kara, she was usually something of a brat.  She never really struck me as someone that anyone would confuse for a hero.  This new incarnation keeps the outsider attitude but makes the character more believable and much more accessible.  She is clearly frightened and alone, but her arc in this first book makes it clear that she is someone with a strong sense of right and wrong and is an interesting character.  She seems very well thought out and planned.  The arc in this book is not as fragmented or truncated as many of the New 52 have felt and that gives the reader a chance to follow the story and Kara’s development with greater interest.

The obligatory Superman appearance is here, and handled reasonably well.  It is more or less as expected, and just a diversion designed to impart some exposition and background info.  The rest of the story focuses on another dark force in the new DCU that is interested in controlling one of these “new” heroes, and is already getting a bit tired.  Somehow I didn’t care all that much though.  I’m not sure if it is the way she is drawn, as she is a bit doe-eyed and gentle  or if everything in this package just falls into place, but I really cared about what was happening here.  That is not a common thing for me in a comic these days.  Helen Slater in the not just awful, but godawful Supergirl movie did not play the character as tough or bratty.  She was soft and much more likeable than most of the characterizations before or since.  (Laura Vandervoot was actually kind of irritating.) Most of the comics have just not had a good handle on her.  This version seems closer to the Slater version, so I may be just projecting my affection for that version here, but that is not an unusual thing to do.  As comic fans we are not very good at letting go of things we liked, and sometimes even less capable of letting go of things we didn’t like.  So comparing this to my only even remotely positive Supergirl memory should be expected.  Again, the only thing about the movie I liked was its star.  This book has much more plot than the movie, and is nothing like as stupid, but the character of Supergirl is just as likeable.

The art stays fairly consistent throughout and the entire package feels like it should:  as a single story collected in one book.  It does not feel like part of 2 stories stuck together as so many of the New 52 collections have.  This is as complete a story as any so far and the reader is pulled in quickly.  The complaints I have heard so far mostly seem to be that this was slight and action heavy (both true), but since the complaints I hear about most books are similar, I would just remind you that this is a mainstream comic, and that is fairly standard.

As a non-fan of Supergirl, I liked this a lot.  The new costume design is one of the better of the New 52.  I think that most people would like this book if they gave it a chance and it deserves every opportunity to reach everyone.  The trade paperback status and lower cost than many of the title released in hardcover make this a good buy in my mind, and I would recommend this as an all ages book for anyone that enjoys a fun and exciting superhero story.

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Listmania part 2: Favorite individual issues

Daredevil #181 “Last Hand” April 1982: Frank Miller was just hitting his stride and the character of Elektra was becoming hugely popular.  I remember picking this one up at the local newsstand and thinking it was just going to be cover hype.  I was already a jaded fan at that point.  By the time I was done reading this I had a new interest in comics.

Justice League of America #0 “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” September 2006: This was more like favorite single page.  Each of the short scenes in this story are interesting, but the single page that references Batman’s reaction after Superman was killed by Doomsday redefined the character for me and put a lump in my throat.  You don’t often think of Batman as human and this changed that for me.

The stunning wraparound cover to Mage #14

Mage #14 “…Or Not to be” August 1986:  This was the issue after the series lost the character that was the emotional center of the book and set out the direction for the lead Kevin Matchstick.  Drawing the parallels to King Arthur seemed odd on the first page, but by the last page I could not imagine a time when I couldn’t see them.

Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children #21 “Dances with Cows” February 1991:  There was never a point I didn’t love this forgotten series from Piranha Press (a DC precursor to Vertigo), but this issue was funny and sad and odd all at once.  I really wish they would collect this anthology series in bookshelf volumes.  There is a large amount of creator owned and fringe material that is all but lost to readers now unless they search out the original back-issues.  This series was uneven at times, but so different from what was out there then, and still very readable now, that it could not help but find a new audience today.

Miracleman #22 “Carnival” August 1991:  It is very hard to pick a single issue from this amazing series, and picking a Gaiman issue over a Moore one might be considered a bad choice, but this issue had an emotional core that would resonate with anyone, even people who had not read the preceding 21 issues.  It touched on much of what had come before without ever relying on it and made this a stand-alone issue that really packed an emotional punch.  Now all we need is for these to be reprinted.

Avengers Annual #10 “By Friends — Betrayed!” 1981:  An uninspired Al Milgrom cover (nothing against Al, the cover just didn’t work for the book) covered up the first appearance of Rouge, and began a run of X-Men stories that would see the book rise in sales to be Marvel’s biggest book for many years to come.  The fact that it was in an Avengers book, and that the X-Men are only in a few pages of it messed with my head a bit, but this really is more of an X-book than an Avengers one.  Art by the amazing Michael Golden with inks by Armando Gil gave this book a look that no other book at the time had.  This is collected (finally) in Marvel Masterworks X-Men vol 7 and the Claremont omnibus.  It had been reprinted before, but never in an edition where it really worked, and certainly not as nicely as it is here.

Lord Julius and a “like-a-look”. Cerebus #137

Cerebus #137 (& 138–sort of) “Epilogue” August 1990:  This was a single story that Sim used an issue and a half for, but the first part is the best.  It has never been collected in the phone books since it was a fun filler issue that really does not fit in either the book before it (Jaka’s Story) or the one that followed it (Melmoth), but gives a silly look at Lord Julius and his “like-a-looks”, explaining a lot about the character in a funny way.  It is available ONLY as the original issue(s) or in Cerebus #0 which collected the other in-between issues that are not included in any of the phone books.

Toad Men!?!?

Sensational She-Hulk #2 “Attack of the Terrible Toad Men” June 1989:  The first issue seemed like a fluke or a one-off, but when they did this one I was left in awe of how funny this book really was.  Byrne left the book after issue 8 over a flap with editorial and the book never quite recovered, until his return in issue #31 that is!  Then he left at issue 50 and the decline started all over.  Dan Slott did some fun stuff with Shulkie later, but this series is still the best there has been.

Alpha Flight #12 “… And One Shall Surely Die” July 1984:  I freely admit I was one of the zombies that jumped on this Byrne book when it arrived, and I loved it for the first years’ worth of stories.  Byrne himself has said he never really saw the point of having an AF book, but it didn’t show for most of his time on the book.  This issue was a surprise in every way.  Yes, they advertised that a major character was going to die for weeks in advance, but how often had we heard that before only to see some turd third stringer die?  Yes, death in comics has since become a revolving door plot hammer.  Never in a million years did I think Byrne would GUT the heart out of the team and kill someone as important as that!  Naive of me?  Maybe, but I had not become so jaded at that point and just didn’t see it coming.  This book gave me chills, and still does when I read it.

Uncanny X-Men #186 “Lifedeath” October 1984:  The single most beautifully drawn mainstream issue of the 1980s.  Barry Windsor Smith as inked by Terry Austin was too much for many at the time. It was a challenging story that made me expect more (too much) from my comics after that.

Superman #712 (had to sneak this one in) “Lost Boy: A Tale of Krypto the Superdog” August 2011:  I was never a huge fan of big blue and have only occasionally read his adventures.  What I AM is a dog person.  This was an inventory story used to fill time while the Grounded arc needed to get caught up.  This issue was better than ANY of those.  I defy any dog person out there to not be an emotional wreck after reading this book.

This was a REALLY hard list. To just come up with ten (OK, eleven) was really tough, and if asked in a month I would think that there would be changes.

Feel free to start throwing chair and arguing, but I would really rather see some other people’s lists.


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Star Trek the Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol 1 review

Star Trek the Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol 1



104 pages $17

I have stated before that I do not generally like licensed books.  They rarely managed to capture the certain special something about the franchise that you liked in the first place.  I think it is as much in the reader’s knowledge of the property as anything.  Sometimes it is our preconceived ideas about the characters and how they “should” behave that ruins these books.  This is one of the reasons to me that John Byrne’s Star Trek stuff for IDW and Peter David’s New Frontier series have worked so well.  Much of it deals with characters on the edge of the franchise that we can come to them fresh.  That cannot possibly be the case in ST:TNG/Dr. Who Assimilation2.  (Wow that’s a long name) as this is a book that jumps in feet first and uses all the characters it can.

Written by Tony Lee, Scott Tipton and David Tipton and drawn/painted by Gordon Purcell, The Sharp Brothers and JK Woodward, this book’s pedigree is certainly impressive and these creators do not disappoint.  This first volume of the series does good fan service and represents both franchises well.  At C2E2 this year, I had a chance to speak with Woodward and see some of the completed pages he was displaying.  They were fabulous and he was clearly thrilled to be working on the book.  The final product shows this.  Books like this involve a lot of photo reference and need a lot to look right.  In all the right places, Woodward has used the perfect look of a character and they fit the appearance that the reader expects.  The failing of books like this as far as the art goes is that the characters too often look so different from the expectation of the reader that we are pulled right out of the story.  That does not happen in the Woodward pages.  When a tight close up is not used, the shot is more loose and iconic, giving the clear impression of the character without trying to be an exact look-alike.   The pages by the other artists do not fare quite as well, but to be fair it is a harder trick to pull off in solid line art.  Those pages change in art fits the flashback nature of those pages exceptionally well and the surprise treat(assuming you had not seen the spoiler on the cover of the individual issues) for fans of both franchises is a nice touch in the story.

Speaking of the story, this one is a lot of fun.  Both franchises feel at home in this book and the quirks of both shine through.  Anyone that knows The Doctor from before the 2005 resurrection will likely be aware that the Borg from ST:TNG owe a HUGE debt to the Cybermen.  Created decades earlier, the silver cyborgs from The Doctor’s adventures were scary and threatening long before even Captain Kirk’s earliest adventures.  Putting them together in the same story is inspired and goes exactly as you would expect.  One faction ruthless, cold and emotionless, and yet constantly duplicitous and conniving, the other cold, logical and somehow based on fear and loss, and their interaction is interesting and surprising.  The Doctor and his companions are in fine form here and the TNG crew is just as I remember them.  The intersection of the two universes is handled in a very TNG style, with Guinan and the Doctor being the only ones with any idea at all what is happening, and Picard a bit dubious of this fellow in the blue box.  There is really no point in the story where something pulled me out as can often happen in these kinds of mashup.

I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did.  I really wanted it to be great and it was much to my surprise.  As a fan of both franchises since the late 70’s, this book was a treat that I don’t expect to see matched for a very long time.

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Digital High Society review

Cerebus High Society (digital audio/video)



60+ pages each .99 cents

This was a long time coming.  The build up for the digital versions of Cerebus has been a hot topic for some time now, and I have finally absorbed enough to decide.  This is, for those not in the know, issues 26 through 50 of Dave Sim’s massive 300 issue series that ran for 26 years ending in 2004.  While there was more than a little attention on the creator of the book in the later years, the series itself continued to become a forum to watch a master of the medium at work, and that is the important thing here.  When the controversy over Sim himself finally fades into the background, the work will remain.

The series digital presentation starts with the second book, and the first complete graphic novel High Society.  The first 25 issues having been a somewhat looser more episodic style largely parodying the comics that were Sim’s main influence early on.  With this collection of digital stories the series launched into a clever, witty and very detailed look at both the comics industry and at the political process of elections.  Sim was quoted many years ago in The Masters of Comic Book Art documentary describing Cerebus in this book as a cross between Richard Nixon and Chauncey Gardner.  I’m not sure how accurate that is in hindsight, but the story is a rich and relevant today as it was decades ago.

The digital presentation is everything a fan of the story would hope.  The regular digital comic is fine; with sharp clean scans of the black and white art.  There are a few panels where the lettering in white on a black background is a little hard to read, but from a visual standpoint, that is my ONLY gripe.  The real discussion point here is the audio portion and extras.  This entire collection, of which there are currently 3 issues available for download here, is recorded with Sim doing all the characters voices and narration himself, with music and sound effects.  While not 100% successful, the presentation works well.  I can’t say Sim is a great performer, but he makes it work.  These are his creations and this mostly works well.  You know that this is how it sounds in his head.  These characters are now as close to what Dave envisioned as possible, and that is a neat feeling.  There is an odd novelty to the whole thing that may wear off, but this is cool.  The music is far from perfect as it sometimes is a bit much, but it quickly becomes a more seamless and enjoyable part of the book.  The guided viewing experience is dynamic and extremely effective.  You move with the characters at times and the feeling of being taken through the story rather than reading like normal can be a bit trippy, but very fun.

The extras are exhaustive and amazing.  It is clear that the DVD extras concept is what they are going for here and there is most everything you could have ever hoped to see, turning a 20 page comic into a 60+ page digital DL for .99 cents.  Every page, letter, note, sketchbook or notebook page even business correspondence is included.  Some of it is just an odd curiosity, but most of it is really interesting, and out of print since the original issues or never seen at all.  Having completely forgotten the experience of reading the individual issues years ago (I now have all the phone books and sold my originals ages ago) this was all an unexpected treat.

For the new reader to Cerebus, this is the perfect intro and offers up everything you would need to enter the story.  As a long time reader the new digital presentation is something even more special.  There is so much more here in the per issue package than in any other modern comic DL , that I would be hard pressed to believe that the big boys will even try to step up, putting this in a class by itself.

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Trio review or: I still think there should be a “Lizard and a Spock” in this group.




120 pages $18

John Byrne was and still is comic book royalty.  Like most royalty he is simultaneously loved and hated by the people he encounters.  Like royalty most people form their opinions having never met him.  Others that do know him usually have a more realistic opinion of him.  Sometimes they come to a positive opinion, other times not so much.  There are stories all over the industry of how awful he is and just as many saying the opposite.  Personally I do not care.  He is human like anyone else and since I do not know him personally, I don’t care about anything other than his work; a comic book career decades long and filled with amazing things.

Trio is the newest work to come from his fertile imagination.  This collection is the first four (and so far the only) books of the series from IDW.  It is not his strongest story by any means, but there are some great touches here.  This was billed as a “traditional” super hero book, I think to its detriment.  This is really only traditional in that there are a lot of “bang”  “pow” and “zap” type sound effects graphics.  The book also is largely devoid of the needlessly dark and angst ridden “heroes” that are so common and tedious in most modern comics.  This is not a Garth Ennis book.  Calling this old school or any other term of the kind devalues and restricts the potential audience for this, and this was reflected in the book’s dismal sales.  Why tell people anything other than “it’s a John Byrne book”?  Anyone who has a clue will already know what they are in for, why scare them away with descriptions that are pejorative?  Unless this trade collection sells well, I think this is all we are likely to see of this book as a solo feature, and the poor marketing of the single issues will have been to blame.

Trio focuses on One, Two and Three, or as the media calls them “Rock, Paper and Scissors”.  Their powers are pretty much described in the names and the personalities are not all that well-defined in this book.  There was obviously more intended to follow this, and that would be a caveat for some, I guess.  If this volume does not sell well, the chance of a second volume is not great, so it is problematic.  I recommend buying this volume even though it does not actually have a complete story.  Yes there is a risk that you will never read the next part, but if you don’t get it, then the chance that there will be no follow-up is even greater.

Enough preaching about the lamentable state of the industry.  The book is quite good.  The story is a bit basic, due largely to its unfinished status, I think.  The art is just great though.  Byrne’s work post Terry Austin is hard for some people even to this day.  Austin’s clean and tight line gave Byrne’s pencils a very different quality from the line when he is inking himself.  I for one like both and this book is one where Byrne is clearly enjoying himself with these drawings.  At times he seems to be channeling Neal Adams or even Steranko, but not to the books detriment.  There is also more than a few things that will remind many of the Fantastic Four here.  This is a well-drawn book.  What little character development we get centers around Rock, and to a lesser degree, Scissors.  The group’s only female, Paper is the McGuffin the other two seem to focus their emotional depth on at this point, so her development is somewhat lacking at this stage.

The package is fairly typical of IDW’s trade collections, but I felt the paper was very flat.  This could have used a bit nicer grade of paper to liven up the visuals even more.  All in all, a good book that I hope you will support.  John Byrne is one of those creators that should be given the benefit of our doubts.  Anyone that likes his work in general should give anything he puts out a fair chance.  I have not liked everything he has done, but I have always given his work a look each time, before deciding to buy or not.  As long as he doesn’t pull a Miller and go bat-crap-crazy, we should continue to support and enjoy his works.

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Dave Stevens Stories and Covers review

Dave Stevens Stories and Covers



272 pages $40

It has been a while since I had a big fat art book to review here.  I’m very pleased this is the one that I get to do next.  Since Stevens died in 2008 from complications due to Hairy Cell Leukemia, there has been an increase demand for his work, and IDW has been the one much of it has come from.

In 2011 IDW released The Complete Sketches and Studies, a compilation of the four convention sketchbooks he did in the 80’s.  With those original books now long since unavailable, and in some cases REALLY expensive to get, this book was a dream come true for those of us on a budget.  This is an even more impressive book than that fabulous volume.  Starting with the covers, this book has most of the covers that Stevens did for the various publishers through his career.  Shot whenever possible from the original art, this looks amazing.  There are only a few full color pages here and they are a nice contrast to the black and white with blue line pieces here.  The pages that are shot from the originals reveal detail that I could have never seen on the final printed books, some of which I fondly recall from back in the day.  Also revealed are hints to the methods used to produce the pages themselves, touches that were never meant to be seen by the public, but are invaluable in understanding an artist of Stevens’ caliber.

The middle section of the book is the stories section.  Some are not complete, as they are only there as a taste of work done early in his career (like the Star Wars pages he inked for Marvel), while others are the complete stories.  These in particular show just how amazing his panel to panel work was.  He did not do very much panel to panel work beyond his own Rocketeer creation, but what is here is beautiful.  The Rocketeer stuff is not included here as it was already presented in another volume, but it is not missed here as the included works are representative of every facet to his style.

The final section of the book is the pin-ups section, and OH.  MY.  GAWD!!  These are unbelievable.  As known for his mainstream good-girl art as anything else in his career, I have to confess that I had largely forgotten about the number of fetish art style pieces he had done over the years.  Selections from Verotik in particular are a real treat to see again after all these years.  The final section is more like a bonus; it is the con program covers and miscellaneous art done for various shows and events from early in his career.

There is one warning I would issue here for anyone thinking about picking this book up; the page formatting has some minor issues.  There are a few pieces spread over 2 pages, or as gatefolds.  This causes some of the art to be lost in the binding.  The selections in these instances are of a mixed source quality, so the loss is something of a mixed bag.  It is not a horror, but it does detract from about a half-dozen or so works.  This has become enough of a concern that as of this writing, Amazon has pulled the listing from their direct page, but you can still get it from some of their partners.

This book cannot hope to include everything.  Rights and ownership issues aside, there would just be too much of his work to have in a book like this.  Additional volumes would ultimately dilute the special nature of this volume.  This is the best possible selection of the best possible sources from the entire career of a master artist, and this package is a fine addition to the bookshelf.

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Kyle Baker

Recently I have been on a bit of a Kyle Baker kick.  Having not read much of his work back in the day, I felt the urge to go back and find 3 of the more acclaimed books and read them for myself.  Why I Hate Saturn, You Are Here and The Cowboy Wally Show.  While known as much for his work in animation, his comics work, while low in quantity, is of the very finest quality around.

Starting as an assistant at Marvel, then moving to DC, Baker’s first major solo effort was The Cowboy Wally Show in the 80s, followed by more work at Marvel and DC.  Then under the Piranha Press imprint at DC, he created Why I Hate Saturn in 1990, which has become one of the most critically acclaimed books of the era.  He was also known for the short story Letitia Lerner, Superman’s Babysitter, a story that was actually pulped and never distributed in North America.  Still, it won the Harvey Award for best short story. (Take THAT DC!)

Starting with You Are Here, I found a wonderfully silly and surprisingly involving story.  I should qualify that a little.  The story, and its eventual resolution is actually on the dark side, but the characterizations and the style employed to tell the story are funny as hell.  Baker has a great wit, sometimes a very dry one as well.  His animation background and influences are on full display in this book.  Full color, but with very little actual line work, there are moments when the art feels like a Warner Brothers cartoon.  Panels are full of vibrant color and action, and the visual gags in the character’s facial expressions and physical actions are as funny as any cartoon I have ever seen.  You really root for the main character and what he is going through.  The supporting cast is a bit more outlandish in some instances, but that is balanced by the action and plot.  The end was appropriate, but I was left feeling a bit sad for everyone in the story.  While it is a happy ending of sorts, I can’t say it was what you hope for.  Well, it wasn’t what I had hoped for.  But a great book just needs to leave me wanting more, and this did that in spades.

Fortunately for me, I had purchased 2 other books at the same time.  Why I Hate Saturn is one of the most famous

Cover to the Vertigo edition

books to come out of the 1990s and is credited, at least in part, as one of the books that proved the original graphic novel format was a viable one.  I have been working on this post off and on for about 3 weeks, mostly because I have to step away from these pages to digest what I have read.  You are Here was read in a sitting, but this book took a while to really appreciate.  Here the art is much more specifically structured to be like an illustrated book instead of a traditional comic.  The art is much more loose and relaxed, with less emphasis on the design of each panel and more on a feel and impression.  Black and white with some sepia shading, the dialog mostly takes place outside the actual panel and is short and direct.  As wordy as this book gets at times, it never feels overwritten, just smart and witty.  It does at time feel very episodic.  Sometimes it gives the impression of being collected from a serialized strip.  The chapters are uneven at times, and occasionally cover the same ground repeatedly, but I think that my be the point at times.  This book deals with Anne and her life in the hip, shallow New York social scene of the early 90’s.  When her sister comes to visit, claiming she has been on Saturn, and things are getting dicey, Anne’s world begins to spin out of control.  This book has a very different feel to it.  The structure of the story is not as familiar or comfortable as You are Here.  Since it is not traditional panel to panel, and the chapters are clearly broken up as smaller vignettes, this is better read in smaller doses.  The humor here is very topical, and since this was done over 20 years ago now, some of it is a little dated.  I enjoyed it for the most part, but it seems as though this was such a critical darling in the 90’s more because of its differences from what was common then over what the subject and style of the book were.  This is a quality book, to be sure, it is just somewhat harder to enjoy outside of its intended context.  Most of its setting has changed enough that this may seem a little hard to buy into.  That and the fact that I am not a New Yorker.  Who knows, maybe NY is still very much like this today, but I kind of doubt it.

Original 1988 edition cover

The Cowboy Wally show is a very different beast.  This is a darker, more jaded story.  Wally is not really a likeable guy and is very much a riff on all the talentless hacks that populate our pop culture and media.  He gets his start with blackmail and despite never really being a success at anything, manages to stay in show business for the long haul.  The art falls in between the above volumes in terms of style, and is fairly straightforward.  The placement of dialog in the non-balloon word balloons is sometimes a bit hard to follow, and my edition has some odd printing errors, like missing letters.  This is not a happy volume.  While the previous two are funny and occasionally dark, this is dark and occasionally funny.  Even then the laughs are uncomfortable and less like humor and more like irony.

These three volumes are as different from each other as can be, given they are all by one author, and are not all for everyone.  If you like being challenged by the subject matter of a story, without wanting to be completely depressed, these are all a good place to start if you also want to have fun tracking them down.


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Spider-Man: Blue-review

Spider-Man:  Blue

Marvel Comics

2011 edition

168 pages $20

This is the second of the “color books” from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale I have read, the first being the wonderful Daredevil: Yellow.  I can’t say I liked this one as much as that volume, but this is still a strong entry.  The 2011 collected volume contains the six issue series from 2002 and some bonus material in the form of notes and sketchbook pages.

Many people who I have asked expressed a preference for the Spider-Man book, which puzzles me a bit.  I think they generally feel closer to this material because it’s Spidey.  He is the more familiar character to even the most casual fan, and more people have a reference point with the MJ and Gwen Stacy characters than Karen Page from DD.  This book is more immediately accessible than the DD one for many reasons, but it is not a better book, just different.

The first thing that strikes you about this volume compared to the Daredevil one is the look of the book.  DD was a much more “designed” book and had a slicker look.  The art and page design here is much cleaner and less busy.  This is not a knock on either of these fine volumes, just a comparison.  The Spider-Man pages and panels are closer to a minimalist style that suits Spidey well.  Daredevil SHOULD feel busy.  Fill his world with texture and form, while Peter Parker’s environment should be free of clutter.  He is a very flexible character in many ways, and this book continues that, but it is contrasted by a static looking world that he inhabits.  More tight close-ups and a personal feel to the panels makes you identify more with Peter and his friends.  I have heard the Flash Thompson part of this story by many different writers and artists, but this is the first time he seemed human to me instead of just a caricature.  I never was all that familiar with the Gwen Stacy character before.  I had read the “death of…” story, but that was it, this story is a complete work as far as the Gwen character is concerned.  She is interesting and rich here just like Karen in Yellow.  You feel a strong affection for the character, just as you are supposed to.  The Mary Jane of this book seems less interesting and more like a pest, but the last few pages of this story are a good MJ moment and pull you right over to her side.

This Spider-Man is less the jokester than in the current books and more of a sad figure.  His life at this stage in his history was not fun and this story emphasizes that strongly.  Also powerfully done is the conflict of emotions he feels about Gwen and MJ’s interest in him.  His inexperience with women is obvious, but it is not played for anything other than realism here.  There is emotional and personal depth in this whole story that was not here in the first telling.

Like Yellow, this book is telling a story we have all heard before, and like that volume, it takes the form of a letter to someone lost to us.  This is an old storytelling device, but in this medium, heavy with first person narration, it works nicely.  The sadness and regret of the failure of the hero to save someone close to him is immediate and painful to read, though I didn’t feel the strong emotional pull as easily with this book as I did with Yellow.  By the time I finished reading it though, this was a complete experience.  Loeb is a writer that has begun to impress me.  Since much of his work I have been exposed to I have not cared for, I have avoided these books and other “big” ones in his career.  I still have not read The Long Halloween, and I still don’t plan to.  Not soon anyway.  I need to back away and assess what I like in his work and decide from there which ones I will try next.  Hulk: Grey seems the next most obvious choice, but I may change my mind on that.

This is a special book.  Any book that can revitalize one of the classics and make it relevant for a modern audience is good, but Spider-Man: Blue is, along with Daredevil: Yellow, something everyone that wants engaging characters and a well written book over huge breasts and fisticuffs should be reading.




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Stormwatch (New 52) vol 1

Stormwatch:  The Dark Side

DC Comics 2012

144 pages


It has been a while since a post and this book is the reason!  I hated this book.  I also loved this book.  It really managed to bake my noodle, so much so that I found it hard to pick up another book for several days.  This is one of the most uneven books I have read in a while.  Alternating between moments that worked beautifully and beats so out-of-place, I expected them to be ads for delicious fruit pies!  (Bonus points to anyone old enough to get that reference)  I needed time to decide how I wanted to review this thing.

I was familiar with the Wildstorm version of Stormwatch, having read it so that I could get the back story for some of the characters in The Authority.  For the most part, the original book had never really impressed me.  It lost its way very early and never came back, much like The Authority did.  So while the characters and premise are familiar to me, putting this book into the DCU made very little sense.  What tried to make this work is that nobody is supposed to know about this team.  They refer to the Justice League as an amateur  organization and it is clear they have been around, working from behind the scenes for a long time.  Nothing more is really revealed about the origins of the group, and I suspect that will be a part of the ongoing story.  Things went off the rails on this book very quickly when Martian Manhunter was made into something of a jackass.  Why he is even part of this team is something that I find to be an issue.  There is a throwaway line about his involvement with the JL, but nothing more is really said, and if the purpose of this group is to defend earth from extra-terrestrial threat they really need to explain why a Martian is part of this team.

Some of the characterizations work well.  The Engineer seems a bit more interesting, while Apollo and Midnighter are getting a fresh start and seem to possess a bit more depth this time around.  The relationship that is sure to be re-explored between them can only improve, as it was a fairly shallow and uninteresting one, being noteworthy only because they started as one of the few gay couples in comics.  Characters that have been more interesting ones like Jack Hawksmoor are blunted and made less interesting at every turn.  Anyone not familiar with the Jenny (Sparks) Quantum concept, an indeed the whole idea of the century babies from the Wildstorm U will find her presence in the book just plain odd.  The century babies concept itself seems less effective now, presuming that we are going to ignore the WS versions like Elijah Snow. 

Written by Paul Cornell, the story is well crafted, but missing anything for new readers to connect to.  Miguel Sepulveda’s art is generally quite strong and flows well.  The characters are mostly pricks, or at least not developed enough to be of any interest.  This book was worth reading, but it does not belong in the New 52, at least not yet.  I am having a hard time seeing it mesh with the other books.  It is possible that they do not intend it to, and that would be fine, but to be honest, I just don’t see this book lasting a full second year.  It survived the first two rounds of cancellations, but I have my doubts about it holding on if it cannot find its footing soon.


Filed under Comics, reviews

Batgirl vol 1 The Darkest Reflection review

Batgirl The Darkest Reflection

DC Comics 2012

144 pages


The New 52 has been a pretty hit and miss proposition so far.  Many books started off very strong and faded within a few issues, others started weak and gained momentum and improved.  So far I have not seen much that has held quality through a complete volume yet.  So far the only exception has been the Batman book The Court of Owls, an outstanding book from cover to cover.  That was before I read the first Batgirl collection by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf (with Vicente Cifuentes).  This was a sold book all the way through.

It has been a year since the “miracle” that gave Barbara Gordon the use of her legs once more and she has wasted no time getting back into costume.  For those that don’t know about the wheel chair days, it started in The Killing Joke(read it if you have not already done so) and ran for the last several years in books like Birds of Prey.  Her paralysis reversed, she is back to being Batgirl in the new 52.  It has been 3 years since Killing Joke in the new continuity (5 years since the first appearance of the DC heroes) and she gets right into the swing of things with a new villain called Mirror.  He is a revenge obsessed mystery man with a list of potential victims; all people who escaped death thanks to miracles of one sort or another.  At first, he seems like a throwaway bad guy for the first arc, and while we may never see him again, he is a very interesting character by the end of this volume.  His story and another revolving around Bruce Wayne and another damaged villain called Gretel, make up the stories here, but the real treat is the way Gail puts it all together.  This is a fun book.  More adventure and swashbuckling style than dark brooding bat book, this is the Batgirl from the Silver-Age in many ways.  That is even referenced a few times and the Barbara of this book is very fun in a style of storytelling that recalls those early stories.  Simone knows this character inside and out, and is clearly trying hard to redefine her in a way that does not negate the powerful concept that the Oracle version of the character was.

The art is strong and consistent throughout most of the book, never really wowing, but never flying off the rails either.  Much of the New 52 seems to have art that emphasizes action and style over storytelling.  This book only suffers from that occasionally, but like most of the new crop, the issue persists.  There are very few masters in the field on the art side of DC right now, and they seem to be leaving rapidly, but Syaf’s art is strong and generally easy to read.  With time he could become one of the best they have in the stable.

This is a much lighter book than I expected.  The bat books can be so dark, it was nice to be surprised.  While not for the very young, I think anyone over the age of 12 can read and enjoy this book.  As long as you are not still pining for the Stephanie Brown version, this is a fresh new start to an old concept.  If this does not rapidly become your Batgirl, then I really don’t think you have an interest in the character.


Filed under Comics, reviews