I love this title. And I love Gail Simone. She “gets” Wonder Woman in a way that few others have gotten a character. It reminds me of Mark Waid’s take on Reed Richards. Unfortunately, while Gail “gets” this character, I didn’t exactly “get” this story. I talked to my wife about it after reading it and realize that I had almost no idea what was going on. I knew that Wonder Woman had teamed up with Beowulf and some claw guy, but I still wasn’t sure why or what they were trying to accomplish. I didn’t even realize that this was supposed to be one of DC’s alternate earths, with stand-ins for Batman, Robin and Oracle. I’m sure that was mentioned, or at least hinted at in the previous issue but it just didn’t sink in. So I had pretty much no idea what was going on. I liked the barbarian fights though, even without context. The good part of this issue was actually the sub-plot. Back on the regular earth, Diana Prince’s partner Nemesis has been given a new job- to spy on her. He’s supposed to find out what her connection is to the Amazons and if the Amazons intend any future hostilities. It’s a nice little maze to give to a secondary character. And I like the way that Gail is using the stories that came before her tenure to create interesting situations instead of just ignoring them, even though those stories were pretty awful. I was also amused in the way that Nemesis’ assignment eventually led him into a surprise confrontation with the sentient apes who have been allies of Wonder Woman. That’s where the interesting stuff is happening and I’m ready for Wonder Woman to be done with this other adventure so she can get back to it. With two more issues to go in the Beowulf story, that’s not exactly a good sign.
By Todd Nauck
There are three main pieces to Wildguard Insider #2. The first is a short story featuring Lily Hammer, one of the heroes who made the Wildguard team at the end of the first mini-series. The second is a continuing series of comic strips that was originally published online. The third is a pair of “Where Are They Now?” profiles telling us about some of the heroes who didn’t make the cut during Wildguard: Casting Call. The first story is fairly decent. I enjoyed Lilly Hammer’s banter with the late night host and her attempts to get rid of her accent. I was intrigued by the ghosts that only she could hear. And I liked that she fell back into her Scandinavian accent once she started fighting and lost control of her emotions. Plus, to my surprise, I didn’t even mind that it was all a dream, as it showed us a very strong glimpse of Lilly’s hopes and fears. The strips were pretty good as well. There’s not a lot of action in them. It’s mostly a behind-the-scenes look at Wildguard as heroes deal with fan mail, angry fans who don’t think they deserved to be on the team and fines. We certainly learn a lot about Four- both her heroic past and her managerial style. As for the “Where Are They Now?” features, I enjoyed the Astro Girl story with Ray Height art. It had a lot of action and a really good pace to it. The Power Temp story wasn’t quite as strong, but with the rest of the issue as good as it was, I’m willing to give a two-page tale at the end a bit of a pass.
By J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston
Straczynski has taken a lot of flack for his work on established characters like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. I’ll admit that I’ve dished some of it out, too. However, when JMS gets to work on characters he’s created he’s once again one of the best writers around. The Twelve aren’t exactly his own inventions. They’re obscure heroes from the Golden Age of comics, which means that most fans had never even heard of them before. I hadn’t even heard of some of them, and I’m a Golden Age history buff. And that means that JMS gets to put his own stamp on them, updating them and giving them characteristics and inconsistencies and personalities and depth. So far, it’s been a wonder to behold. Each issue reveals a new layer for at least one of the characters. In this issue, we see further progress for the Laughing Mask- arrested for a crime he committed back in the ‘40s- and the Black Widow- as the original goth vixen. But the big changes are reserved for Rockman and the Phantom Reporter. The Phantom Reporter has been our narrator and our point-of-view character for the story so far. With this issue, we see him continue to struggle to adapt to his new surroundings and finally decide that the only way he can fit in is through his costumed identity. As for Rockman, we are finally told the truth about his origin. It’s a sad story, full of sorrow, and his superiors decide that he’s actually better off not knowing. Chris Weston is the perfect artist for this story, as well. He does a great job of drawing faces, differentiating them from one another and depicting a variety of emotions. And he’s able to bring intensity to every scene, even those that don’t feature fights or costumes or capes- even those that feature the Phantom Reporter slumped over his typewriter with writer’s block. So far, The Twelve measures up to JMS’ other original takes on superheroes, Rising Stars and Supreme Power.
By Mike Allred
Madman has been maddeningly inconsistent. Mike Allred has intentionally turned Madman into an experimental comic. Some of the experiments have been admirable, such as the issue in which he drew every panel in the different style of artists he admired. Some of the experiments have failed fairly spectacularly. A few of the storytelling choices have been misguided- such as combining Madman’s first love and It! Girl into one person so that he can love two women at once. I think it was supposed to be romantic, but I found it to be revolting. However, a few of the issues have been, well, genius and that’s how I would describe this particular issue. The basic story is surprisingly simple. Madman, Mr. Gum and It! Girl are fighting these weird creatures from another dimension that look like windsocks with Rolling Stones lips on one end. It! Girl is knocked out on the first page and the other two heroes are left scrambling to fight the monsters and rescue the girl. Eventually, the other Atomics enter the story- some zooming in on a flying saucer and others walking home with the groceries. So it’s not that this is an amazing story. It’s that it’s told in an amazing way. I’m not sure I can even describe it in a way that does it justice. Basically, the story progresses in three different ways: the art depicting the action, dialogue of running commentary between Madman and Mr. Gum, and boxes of Madman’s thoughts. Each of these progresses the story in a different way. You can read just the dialogue and understand the story on one level. You can read just the inner monologue and understand the story on a different level. Or you can jump back and forth to get an even richer story. The art is as full of depth as the words. Each page is a double splash and the stores in the background show us how the fight is progressing down the street. There are full figures in action in the foreground, with usually multiple images of Madman and a wildly contorted Mr. Gum. And there are Easter Eggs in the background as Mike Allred pays homage to friends and stores. I found it to be an incredible issue, engaging on so many levels. But you do have to be in the right frame of mind for it. I talked to my wife about it and she complained that she wasn’t willing to work that hard to make sense of the story. Madman has become an experimental comic. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes it works for one person while not working for another. This issue, however, worked wonders for me.
By Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley and Cory Walker
Another wow! Robert Kirkman has been building up to this issue for a long time and it was worth it. I’m blown away. This is what comic books are supposed to be about. Okay, enough gushing. What was so great about it? Well, there are the moments that make you gasp in fear, such as the scene in which Clarence Steadman turns off the subterfuge setting on the white room and Invincible sees that he’s up against an armada of undead soldiers. There are the moments that make you want to cheer, such as the scene in which Invincible flies away as fast as he can in order to get out of the range of the transmitter that’s messing with his inner ear equilibrium. There are the moments when the art takes your breath away and you just want to savor it, such as the scene in which Clarence Steadman uses the teleportation door to follow Invincible across the country. There are the moments that make you smile, such as Invincible’s declaration of romantic feelings for Atom Eve. And there are moments that make you laugh, such as Invincible’s half-brother’s reaction to that same kiss. “Gross!” Plus, there’s so much more that makes this issue great. Clarence Steadman has been like a father figure to Invincible ever since he own father was forced to leave the planet. Now, Invincible has to fight another father and you can tell that it hurts him. Then there’s the back-up story telling you the origin of Clarence Steadman. Kirkman makes you hate him and feel sorry for him in the same issue. That’s pretty impressive. And of course, there’s a Science Dog back-up story which is just plain ol’ fun. I just don’t have enough superlatives for this issue. But I do know that I can’t wait to read the next issue. And I also know that I want to read this one all over again.
By Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Unlike some of the other comics I read this past week, I don’t have much to say about Green Lantern Corps. It was just a good solid story. There was a lot of great action, as the Lanterns fight off the Black Mercy plants. There were a couple of nice twists. First, as Mother Mercy reveals herself and explains the origin and the purpose of these plants. And second, as Mongul makes his move against the Lanterns. The origin story gives you an entirely different perspective on the Black Mercy. You suddenly understand why these plants would exist in the first place, and how they were designed for good before Mongul misused them for evil. And the fight does a great job of demonstrating the resolve of the different Lanterns. Almost every Lantern gets a page or a scene which highlights them- Arisia, Soranik Natu, Kyle Rayner, and so on. It’s simply an exceptional use of an ensemble cast and an action story that’s well worth reading.
By Peter Johnson, Zev Borow and Jeremy Haun
Almost every year, I find that one new show that becomes an immediate favorite. In 2004, it was Lost. In 2006, it was Heroes. And in 2007, it was Chuck. So I was pleased when I discovered that DC had obtained the license to publish Chuck comics through their Wildstorm imprint. This first issue was decent but not great. Some of the good stuff: there was an amusing opening in which Chuck dreamed that he and his friends were the cast of Gilligan’s Island. The writers did a good job of capturing the annoying yet amusing chatter of Chuck’s co-workers. The artist did a good job of capturing the feel of the tv show- as with Sarah’s sunny entrance- while also using the strengths of a comic book- such as showing a cross-section of the secret base. And they did a great job of making this a big story, by having several of Chuck’s former adversaries all escape prison together. Yet it wasn’t a perfect comic. The artist didn’t always do a good job of capturing facial likenesses, and I found myself occasionally confused as to whether I was looking at a spruced-up Chuck or his rival Blaine. Chuck’s almost precognitive flashes as the Intersect are a big part of the television show and they didn’t really capture the feel of that for the comic book. And I don’t think that the writers did a good job of showing the relationship between Chuck’s sister and her boyfriend “Awesome” in the limited time that they were shown. It made me feel like the understood some of the characters, but not all of them. Chuck #1 was a decent comic, but not a great one and not quite as good as I would want it to be.
By Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz and Dan Jurgens
Put this in the same category as Green Lantern Corps. Good fun, plenty of action, solid story-telling, decent characterization- only good things to say but not a lot to say other than that. This issue is part of the “Blue and Gold” story in which Booster Gold uses his newfound access to time-travel to go back and save his best friend, Blue Beetle, from his death at the hands of Max Lord. The rescue hasn’t gone as planned. He saved Blue Beetle, sure, but now the two of them are flitting through time fleeing from both their allies and their enemies. Rip Hunter is still trying to track down Booster Gold for interfering with the time stream. And several time-travelers are trying to kill Blue Beetle, including Despero and a Blue Beetle dressed in black. The cover teases us that somebody will successfully kill Blue Beetle but we won’t be able to guess who it is. I did guess actually. I knew that Blue Beetle is basically a decent guy and he would sacrifice himself to save the time stream if that’s what was needed. And, not surprisingly to me, that’s exactly what happens near the end of the issue. However, that’s not quite the end of the story as Booster Gold is pulled one million months into the future in the wake of the Blue Beetle’s death. So I guess I did have something bad to say about this issue, after all: I guessed the ending based on the cover. But I really enjoyed the story that got us to that point. And truthfully, I had a feeling we were eventually going to have to get to that ending from the moment that Booster Gold first saved Blue Beetle several issues ago. So it’s not as if this issue failed to deliver on a surprise so much as it is fulfilled the story you knew it had to tell from the beginning.
By Joss Whedon, Bryan Lynch and others
I was really looking forward to the “First Night” issues- the three issues that would tell us what happened on the first night after the end of Angel season five and how the various characters came to be in the places they were in at the beginning of Angel: After the Fall. Unfortunately, the sum total of these issues has been disappointing. There have been a few gems in there, such as John Byrne’s story in rhyme of Lorne’s founding of a new sanctuary. But mostly, they’ve just been vignettes. Even though they’re short stories, I would have still liked each story to have a beginning, a middle and a end. Also unfortunately, the quality of each issue has been less than the one before. Which means that this third issue was the worst of the three. The art on the “Gwen” story was bad- Gwen looked different depending on the angle. The art on the “civilians” story was even worse. At least the art on the “Gunn” story at the end was decent, but it was still of “fill-in” quality rather than the excellence that we had been seeing earlier in the series. The stories didn’t have much meat to them either. Gwen almost makes out with a guy- who is supposed to be drawn as if the part was being played by Nathan Fillion, but Fabio Mantovani’s Nathan Fillion is drawn even more inconsistently than his Gwen. Then Gwen doesn’t make out with him. Then she gets her powers back. Then she accidentally kills him. The story explains how Gwen got her powers back, but not why she’s now one of the good guys. The civilian story is supposed to be a love story in the midst of the apocalypse. I would’ve liked for it to work, but it didn’t. Neither character is sympathetic enough for us to really care whether or not they find love. Again, the Gunn story is the best. We see how Gunn became a vampire. And we see that Gunn still hates other vampires despite being one of them. It’s a good, but not great, beginning for him. But it’s not enough to carry the issue on its own and would’ve been one of the weaker stories in the first issue. Oh well. Next issue brings us back to the story we started with, and hopefully the quality we started with as well.