Each week we let you know about the comics we buy and tell you which
ones you should buy. Trust us.
Green Lantern #139
Home, Part Two
writer: Judd Winick,
pencils: Darryl Banks, Inks: Rich Faber
This two-part story
falls under the Star Trek category of science-fiction: using
it as a metaphor for conflicts we face here on Earth. Kyle and Jen (is
she officially Green Lantern, too? I've lost track.) have been sent
to Tendax, "a jewel of a planet very far away from Earth," as representatives
of the JLA for the signing a great peace accord. Despite Tendax being
a great vacation spot, it's been racked by civil war for countless years.
Last issue you could have substituted "Ireland" for "Tendax," and not
been far off. This issue makes it seem a little more like the Middle
East. Either way, it makes for a story that is more reflective than
adventurous, and that's not a bad thing.
Don't worry; plenty
of ring-slinging abounds. And Winick throws in a nice twist on the old
doomsday weapon scenario. But mostly, Kyle learns that there are problems
that the ring can't solve. Or rather, that the ring shouldn't
solve. The Banks/Faber team frames the scenes nicely, really showing
us Kyle's growing anguish, and the horror that surrounds him.
Though Winick has
won over a lot of fans, he still falls victim to the more melodramatic
touches around Kyle's character. Granted, it's switched tone. When Ron
Marz wrote the title, Kyle would consistently prove himself as a worthy
heir to the ring, and just as consistently worry that he wasn't measuring
up. It seemed lame then, and now we're getting the flip-side with Kyle
being too powerful. It must be a strange editorial mandate that Green
Lantern read like a bad Marvel book, because Winick and Marz are
both better writers than this. It's only jarring because Jen worries
about Kyle's new-found strength here, but laughs it off when Kyle worries
about it in last week's Our Worlds At War cross-over.
He's not heading
down Parallax Road, but could we let Kyle spend a few years both good
at being Green Lantern and able to enjoy it?
Harley Quinn #9
Part One: Shop 'Til You're Dropped
writer: Karl Kesel,
pencils: Pete Woods, Inks: Mark Lipka
Harley has a price
on her head. Actually, she doesn't, as it turns out that it's an underworld
game of "Telephone" gone wildly out of control. The first eight issues'
worth of sub-plots get neatly summarized in a page-one puppet show,
making this a good issue to jump onboard. The rest of the comic shows
the consequences of the "imaginary" contract, and it's pretty fun.
For many, the idea
of Harley having her own book seemed a bad one. But so far, writer Kesel
has managed to keep it interesting by embracing the core of Harley's
character: she's nuts. Absolutely nuts. Her response to any situation
won't be predictable, and unlike her ex-boyfriend, it tends not to be
lethal. She seems to be more playing at the criminal game than really
living it (though please, DC, don't make her a heroine).
Kesel also takes
advantage of Harley's skewed vision, though it's sometimes inconsistent.
There have been hints that, like Plastic Man, Harley literally sees
the world differently, which means that occasionally the artwork will
change from semi-realistic to the style of the animated series. In this
issue, we get the aforementioned puppet-show.
The guest artists
do a good job of maintaining the look of the series. They're not showy,
and yet manage to convey a lot of action in a lot of panels. With Kesel's
help, of course, it works; it moves; and you get a lot of actual story
in this issue. Call them old-school, but for the money a comic costs
these days, it's nice to see that some people can pack a lot into 21
Ostrander, pencils: Val Semeiks, Inks: Prentis Rollins
All hail Hypertime!
Because of it, we get this retconned vision of DC's flagship group,
which we don't have to accept as gospel if we don't want it. Which is
good, because even though this isn't really a bad story, it just seems
Mainly this issue
focuses on the year that the JLA asked Superman and Batman to join,
and their respective reactions to the invitations. Somewhere in there
is a giant super-genius dinosaur, in deference to the heyday of the
Silver Age. Super-Gorilla Grodd plays a huge role, too, making this
a perfect pastiche.
Except that it's
awkward. The Big Two's respective decisions and characterizations play
out arbitrarily. Things play out not because they make sense, but because
clearly, DC Editorial says this is the way it happened. For now. As
a result, this isn't Ostrander's best work, though he tries valiantly.
(And wisely, he does nothing with the presence of Hawkman - letting
him be active, but not delving into anything continuity-wise that could
cause a new fan's brain to melt.) He tries to give us a touching glimpse
of the beginning of the Green Arrow/Black Canary relationship, and yet
it rings a little hollow, since most fans are more concerned with what
Kevin Smith has to say about it. At least he covers Ollie's change from
fatcat to bleeding-heart liberal.
The art can't decide
between being cartoony or extremely detailed, and the result just sits
there. It's a shame, because Semieks, at least, has done some fine work
in the past. Like so many JLA products lately, this feels like
an assembly-line book, intended to gain market-share instead of fans.
If you're a JLA completist, yes, you'll want to continuie with this
book. But if you're wondering what the hullabaloo is about, buy the
regular monthly book (and for Highfather's sake, stay away from Black
Just A Pilgrim #4 of
writer: Garth Ennis,
artist: Carlos Ezquerra
Ripping off a host
of post-apocalyptic films, starring a reformed cannibal turned holy
man, and featuring a man reduced to nothing but a giant testicle, this
book is offensive, disgusting and morally reprehensible. By all means,
pirate Castenado and his Bloody Buckers attack the Shepherd party in
a fiery conflagration. As a result, the Pilgrim must once again prove
that though he walks in the dried-up ocean valley of the shadow of death,
he is the baddest mutha-f***** in the land. The Buckers take the testicle
prisoner, and we're set up for a final battle on a very logical (if
surprising) famous historical location.
It's simple, furious,
and annoyingly, one of the best books out there. Ennis is one of the
few writers who really give distinct voices to their characters, and
co-creator Ezquerra expertly matches faces to those voices. Despite
the ridiculousness of the concept, Castenado is a frightening villain.
The Pilgrim, too, has an horrific past, but when the Shepherd party
throws in with him, it's perfectly understandable. And though it's somewhat
lifted from The Road Warrior, Billy Shepherd's narrative reads
as all too human, and the moments when he realizes the consequences
of his decisions aren't those of an adults forced onto a child; Billy
is a believable kid struggling with a terrible situation.
Of course, Ennis
himself might take issue with that serious an interpretation, as he's
a great writer masquerading as a drunken lout. Or vice versa.
writer: Chuck Dixon,
pencils: Mike Lilly, Inks: Jesse Delperdang
At last the storyline
begun in Robin: Year One comes to a close with almost non-stop
fight scenes and guest-appearances from the Birds of Prey. Nightwing
(a.k.a. Chester Honeywell) takes on Shrike twice in this issue, with
a little interlude involving Nite-wing and Dudley Soames. Oh, sure,
it's exciting, but the book is becoming a little too much been there,
Dixon writes stories
that really move, and it is his hand that has made Dick Grayson such
a fan favorite. But the book has become plagued with elements that stretch
the suspension of disbelief. For starters, Tad and Dudley's escape plans
all hinge upon causing Amygdala to revert to his savage state. On the
surface, that doesn't sound implausible, except that Amygdala, former
psychopathic killer, is employed as a guard at Bludhaven
State Correctional Facilities. And as long as Dick has been in the public
eye as Nightwing, it's taken this long for Shrike to confront him? Oh,
yeah, they just created him, but still…
On the quieter,
more romantic side, with Dick and Barbara going hot and heavy (and boy,
he'd better not break her heart), why has his ex-wife Koriand'r never,
ever been mentioned? Granted, the actual "superhero" side of the Bat-books
always feels like an awkward fit, but right now Bludhaven has a crime
boss with (literally) the heart of a super-intelligent gorilla, so there's
room to try. If you're going to write soap opera elements in, you've
got to deal with the guy's romantic past.
Back to the main
It is just
more of the same. Dick gets in a lot of fights, proves that he has great
skills, and eventually triumphs. And the same two or three baddies hover
in the background every issue.
Without a doubt,
Nightwing is one of the best properties DC has. But right now, somebody
needs to shake this book up.
Well Come On
Everybody And Let's Get Together Tonight
writer: Garth Ennis,
pencils: Steve Dillon, Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
As a character,
The Punisher lost his luster for a lot of people years ago. Overused
and overexposed, he should have gone the way of the rest of the grim
and gritty trend in comics. Except that thanks to Joe Quesada, Garth
Ennis and Steve Dillon found their way to the character.
After a 12-issue
maxiseries, they've decided to give Frank Castle another go-round in
an open-ended series, and we're grateful. Ennis has the knack of writing
unrepentant a**-holes and making them compelling. Castle is pretty
much a one-note kind of guy, but he plays it loudly and without stopping.
From the opening page of this issue, Ennis has him summed up. "So this
is Christmas," Castle thinks as he walks into a mugging, ironically
quoting John Lennon. The intended victim tries to thank him, but he
doesn't do this for thanks, or kicks, or anything other than a burning
hole within himself: to punish.
Not since Frank
Miller has anyone made so few excuses for The Punisher. And it's great.
Of course, the
book would get boring without some sort of supporting cast, and so we
get the pathetic Detective Soap, assigned once more to The Punisher
Taskforce. Perhaps the worst detective alive (illustrated beautifully
in a seedy bar-scene), Soap may nonetheless prove useful to The Punisher.
One can only hope.
In true Ennis fashion
(see Just A Pilgrim above), the book takes a last-minute turn
into the grotesque that will either send you away screaming or laughing
away all bladder control. And really, what more could you want in your
Uncanny X-Men #395
Part 1 of 4
writer: Joe Casey,
pencils: Ian Churchill, Inks: Art Thibert & Norm Rapmund
It seemed as if
Marvel had learned its lesson. But here we are again, faced with multiple
covers. People, please, don't give in. Buy one copy of this book if
you must, and only one. And then read it.
Once again, the
X-team appears to be different than the previous issue; supposedly in
a couple of months editorial will have this all sorted out and obvious
to everyone. In the meantime, though, the X-books have lost a lot of
their impenetrable density. Just take anti-mutant hysteria for granted,
and everything will be fine.
The team travels
to London, ostensibly to find Jonathan Starsmore, a.k.a. Chamber, and
bring him back to the Academy. Instead they stumble across the British
version of the Morlocks, with their own more literal version of Cyclops.
It's pretty straightforward,
but Casey loads the story with lots of telling character bits. Bobby
Drake works very, very hard to be cool as the Iceman, and no longer
assumes the iced-up form we've grown so used to seeing. In a throwaway
incident, we get reminded of how limber Nightcrawler actually is. Good
thing he's a priest. The art team helps out by portraying most of the
X-men as being able to "pass" as normal humans, even the blue Archangel.
It's a long overdue touch, and it makes the conflict with the British
mutants more poignant.
If we must have
a beef, it's with the latest in a long line of characters designed to
play upon a trend just a little past its time. In this case, it's Chamber's
new "girlfriend," Sugar Kane, an obvious bubble-gum popstar made "edgier"
by being British and thinking that Chamber looks cool without a chest
and chin. If she displays a mutant power within six months, we'll know
that despite appearances, it's business as usual at X-Central. Casey
is better than that. At least, let's hope.