Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Superman #712 Review, Flashpoint #4 Review, Spike webcomic review, Screamland #3 Review

Comic Book Wednesday

Issue #12

And damn... it's a biggun.

Superman #714
Plotted by J. Michael Straczynski & Chris Roberson
Written by Chris Roberson
Pencils by Jamal Igle
DC Comics

"This is an imaginary story... aren't they all?"

This is it. The final issue of Superman before the series goes back to #1. Only one writer has ever written a Superman finale such as this before, and that would be the legendary Alan Moore. Legend has it that, when DC editor Paul Kupperberg told Alan Moore that would serve as an imaginary yet definitive end to the Superman story, Moore wrapped his hands around Kupperberg's neck and told him that, should Kupperberg let anyone else write that story, Moore would kill him. That itself is probably as imaginary as Moore's Superman finale, but it makes for a good story. I don't know if any strangling or death threats happened in the DC offices when Roberson was offered the arduous task of taking over J. Michael Straczynski's controversial and aborted storyline and writing the final Superman tale before the company-wide reboot, but I can imagine something similar going through Roberson's head. If you've read his run on Supes so far (or if you've seen this video), you know how much the man cares aboutSuperman. It's clearly a high honor that DC has bestowed upon the man, and Roberson does more than justice. He delivers a finale to the long-running series that pays homage to what has come before, paves a new road for Superman, and reminds fans that, even in the wake of this big reboot, the things that are important about Superman will always come back... because they are--and he is--legacy.

This beautifully written, moving comic includes Superman's final showdown with the woman who has been stalking him throughout Roberson's run, but it isn't your typical comic book brawl. Everything in this book feeds into Superman's emotional journey, which makes for a textured, emotionally rich story. This is not only the best issue of Roberson's run - it's one of the best Superman books I've read.

The issue ends, as Alan Moore's Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, with a wink. And really... what more can you ask for?

Screamland #3
Written by Harold Sipe and Christopher Sebela
Art by Lee Leslie
Image Comics

Though this issue is full of twists and turns that will keep readers engaged, there is still very little to latch onto. It's a fun enough read, but it suffers from the same problems as the first two installments... the leads are unlikable, the jokes never really stick, and the main story arc fails to live up to the back-up tales. The best thing about the series is the art, which follows through on the enormous potential of Sip and Sebela's concept. The monsters are gross, stylized, and great to look at. The coloring is perfect. The story, however, still has a lot of catching up to do.

Don't get me wrong... the series isn't bad. I'm sticking with it because of the wonderful concept, the fun cast of supporting characters, the great art, and the little gems of moments that have kept me entertained. It's a readable comic that has all the ingredients for being great... I'm just waiting for it to boil. It ends on a promising reveal, so I have high hopes for the fourth issue.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Nine
"Magical Mystery Tour"
Written by Jane Espenson
Pencils by Georges Jeanty
Dark Horse Comics

After I wrote Angel, I decided to bow out of reviewing Buffyverse comics. It just seemed right. However, with Season Nine on the horizon (I have no involvement), I figured... why not. It feels weird to be reviewing comics and not shedding some light on BtVS books, especially because most of my audience comes from the Whedon fandom.

This Spike-centric comic was released exclusively online, through a rather difficult process that involved getting a code from a list of approved retailers. Those who were able to get the comic, though, are in for a treat. Espenson delivers her best comic book work yet in this eight page tale. It follows Spike as he and the bug ship chase down the Vagina Monster from the finale of Buffy: Season Eight. I'm still dubious about the character design that has led to this creature being dubbed the Vagina Monster, but hey - at least it's dealt with quickly. The majority of the comic focuses on Spike's continued quest to adapt to life on a spaceship with a crew of bugs. Oddly, the plot seems almost as if Spike just got on the ship, while both Buffy: Last Gleaming and the Spike on-going series have established that Spike has been on the ship for quite a while. Other than being slightly confused about that, the comic is a ball of laughs. Every panel is a hoot; while it will do nothing for the folks who hated the appearance of the bug ship in both Dark Horse and IDW books, it will especially appeal to those who enjoyed the extensive Spike/bug interaction in the finale of Brian Lynch's excellent Spike series.

The comic ends on a brief but sweet moment between Buffy and Spike. As Spike crash lands back to Earth and bids the bugs farewell, Buffy asks him the question.

I'm not really sure what Buffy is wearing there (common with Jeanty's art), but the end of the comic is such a sweet turn that it doesn't take away from the overall moment. Overall, this is a good read that follows through on Joss Whedon's promise to cut the big budget hijinks and get Buffy back to the core of what it's supposed to be... a story about people that is moved along by small moments instead of clunky, sweeping plot movements.

Flashpoint #4
Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Andy Kubert
DC Comics

As the biggest event in DC history races toward its climax, Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert deliver an emotionally charged fourth issue. The build-up is done. The war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman is happening now. The Flash, Cyborg, and Batman (Thomas Wayne) make a last ditch effort to assemble a team of super-humans to stop the war from destroying the world. Joined by Captain Thunder (this universe's version of Captain Marvel who, before yelling SHAZAM, are just six kids who want nothing more than to be kids), the socially awkward Element Woman, and the shifty Enchantress, this makeshift Justice League infiltrates the battlefield.

Giving away more than that would be spoiling, so I'll leave it at this. The issue is full of big moments. The moment when Thomas Wayne decides to go with Flash to save the world is both tragic and moving. There are some big deaths here and, while I don't think a lot of the casualties will affect the DC Universe at large, the events of this bizarro Flashpoint world have a strange sort of emotional resonance. When Flash faces off with the murderous Aquaman, he doesn't see a completely different version... he sees the monster that his friend could have become, under different circumstances. To balance out all of the tragedy and action is Element Woman, who scores a laugh with every line of dialogue.

Those looking for a surprise reveal at the end will be disappointed... the Flash and the readers knew who was behind this world all along. His appearance in this issue, though, sets up things for the final installment of Flashpoint, which seems as if it will set a new status quo for the DCU.

Easily the best issue of Flashpoint so far. Johns, as always, delivers a gripping story that is more than worthy of the hype.

NEXT WEEK: Dollhouse Epitaphs #2, Fly #3

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