Wednesday, November 16, 2011

REVIEWS: Batman #3, Supergirl #3, Ghostbusters #3, Morning Glories #14, House of Night #1, Birds of Prey #3, Justice League #3 and more

Comic Book Wednesday
Issue #27

Before we kick things off, I'd like to direct folks to a post I wrote earlier this week. I shared an encounter I had with a young comics fan that gave me a bit of hope for this industry. Also, now I kind of want to read the Archie Sonic comics.

Well, I've been planning on doing that anyway, because a good friend of mine just announced that he'll be penning a story in an upcoming issue. The man in quesiton (Scott Tipton, who wrote a hell of a lot of excellent stories for IDW's Angel and Star Trek line) also has a book out this week. It's an Angel comic from IDW - which is a bit of a bittersweet thing. While Dark Horse has the license, IDW is still allowed to reproduce material that has already been published. Scott Tipton's Angel: Portraits is a 100 Page Spectacular in the vein of this years Angel and Spike 100 pager. This offers more than those, however, in that it gives us some new material. Scott interviews each of the artists in here, and the book reprints covers that failed to appear in the hardcover collections (something I know a lot of fans took issue with). This is the most beautiful comic you'll find on the shelf this week, and while I wish it were released in the hardcover format in which it was originally solicited, this is still one of the best books IDW has put out. Jenny Frison, who is for my money the best cover artist to work within the Buffyverse, deservedly gets the spotlight here, but longtime IDW artists David Messina, Elena Casagrade, Stephen Mooney, Franco Urru, John Byrne, and Nick Runge get lots of love as well.

Buy that. It's the best eight dollars you'll spend.

Now, let's get to some reviews.

Batman #3
The Thirteenth Hour
Written by Scott Snyder
Pencils by Greg Capulo
DC Comics

When I talk about Scott Snyder's Batman, I always worry about veering into hyperbole. I mean, when I took notes on the issue after the review, I came up with this:

- Amazing mystery
- Dichotomy of text to art is fabulous - almost at an Alan Moore level
- Consistently the best DC title

Thing is, all of that is true. And more. Synder approaches his Batman story with such attention to detail. A lot of folks comment on how good writing reads as if it was done effortlessly... but this absolutely doesn't. The strength of the theme and how each scene and each passage of dialogue serves to further the mystery as well as the character journeys makes it clear that this book was slaved over. Writing this good doesn't come easily, and Snyder's effort pays off tenfold.

I've been told that I should do more plot recap in reviews, and maybe I should. This time, though, I'll let the other reviews do that, because what interests me most about this series isn't the plot at all - but the ideas, characters, and intrigue behind it all. This isn't just a comic that I like. It's a story that matters to me. It's one of those rare books that I like so much that, when I read a review that I don't like (or as I pretentiously think, that just "doesn't get it"), I get a bit peeved. That's a bit of comic book fanboy sensibility, which I doubt ever wears off judging by the behavior of some of even the most famed professionals, but it's also a bit of testament to how much this book works. For some, it doesn't at all. For me, it matters to me as both a fan and a writer who wants to be this damn good.

Supergirl #3
Written by Michael Green & Mike Kohnson
Art by Mahmud Asrar & Dave McCaig
DC Comics

I feel like this book is going to be different every month. In September, it was hyper decompressed and didn't offer nearly enough plot to latch onto. In October, it was a hell of a lot better, and set up Kara as a sympathetic yet strong character. Now... well, this month was just sort of weird. It's back to the decompression, in that this issue was really just a recap of Kara's fight with Superman and her confusion over what he's saying about Krypton, and then one scene of the new Big Bad testing her with some of her monstrous creations.

The meat of the issue is definitely with the new Baddie, Simon Tycho. He's a young, rich dude who floats over Earth in his craft, checking out the whole "incoming alien" situation whenever that happens. He's all evil and maniacal, and the scenes where he lures Supergirl on board his "home" and proceeds to pit his monsters against her to test her powers show that DC was serious when they made Hunger Games comparisons. This book is definitely going for that. If it succeeds is a question I'll ask myself in the coming months. See, The Hunger Games had a lot of set-up and background that made readers connect to characters before putting them in danger. All in all, the amount of plot in issues 1-3 of Supergirl would be less than a chapter of that book. This comic, while consistently readable and beautiful in the art department (though this month it isn't nearly as sharp or stunning), seems to lack a story arc. There are just events happening, strung together by... well, not by much at all.

I'm looking forward to getting more character moments and an actual arc. I'd never drop a Supergirl book, especially one with art this good, but I definitely need more from my monthly dose of Kara.

Morning Glories #14
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma
Image Comics

Wow, Morning Glories just won't suck.

Despite the fact that a lot of scenes here are, in fact, repeated from the last issue, this is the most story you'll get for the least amount of money this week. Image is still somehow selling Morning Glories for $2.99 (a dollar cheaper than Justice League) while still having thirty pages of story (ten pages more than Justice League). THAT is phenomenal.

About the repetition of scenes. It's done for effect, giving the readers different perspectives. It fleshes out the story and the characters, allowing us to live in their lives and follow each of the characters on their respective journeys. This issue features a strange group coming together, muddy motivations, revelations that just pose more questions, and a dynamite cliffhanger. So yeah, basically it's every issue of Morning Glories ever, but that's not at all a bad thing. It's the best creator-owned series being published right now, and while the "this will be a 100 issue epic!" scares me into thinking we won't get answers for a long time, it also kind of sets me at ease.

We'll be reading Morning Glories for a long, long time. It's worth saying, though, that I miss reading this series in trade. The "different perspective" thing works so, so well when reading these issues one after the other. However, it's a testament to the strength of the writing and the art (gotta give credit where it's due to the brilliant Joe Eisma) that I can't wait for the trades any more, and neither should you. I want this comic to keep coming out, so I'm gonna keep buyin'.

Ghostbusters #3
Written by Erik Burnham
Art by Dan Schoening
PCOC Pages by Tristan Jones
IDW Publishing

Man, this week is big on my favorites. Snyder's Batman is my favorite superhero book, Spencer's Morning Glories is my favorite creator-owned series, and now Burnham's Ghostbusters tops it out as one of my favorite tie-in comics. Not only does this issue keep on with the goodness that loaded the last two installments, it does something very, very rare. I'm afraid that fans of the movies will think me a blasphemer, but I'll be damned if this comic isn't equal to the first movie in every way. The dialogue is on point, the mythology building is the best this franchise has ever seen, and the plot itself just keeps getting better and better. It's a slow-boil, letting the character moments and the comedy take the stage while the mystery and horror bubble in the background. It adds depth to the movies while telling its own story. It's just the highest caliber of tie-in comics that you'll find on the market.

Justice League #3
Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Jim Lee
DC Comics

Okay, now THIS is what I'm talking about.

I've had a bit of a rough time with this series, but I had a blast reading this issue. It focuses on Wonder Woman, who is often my least favorite of the heavy hitters in the DCU. She's the character that everyone writes differently but hardly anyone really makes her likable. She's fine enough in her on-going, but her previous guest appearances in the DC books I followed before the reboot made her the least likable character in the 'verse. Even her solo books, which I gave chance from time to time, did nothing to make me buy into her.

Well, then I read this book. Wonder Woman is the most likable character in the League. She's funny, powerful, brave, sexy without being a sex object (though Lantern calling "dibs" upon seeing her is great), and - most importantly - a character that I want to follow. Her scenes make this issue what it is, because the subplot with Victor being Cyborg really pushes my suspension of disbelief (and by pushes, I mean shanks eighty times and then kicks it into an active volcano). It's funny, because when I think about this issue, I almost blot all of those bad scenes from my mind. That's how effective Johns' Wonder Woman scenes are. They don't make up for the awkwardness of the Cyborg stuff, but they sure as hell give this book higher marks than either of the prior installments.

The team is coming together nicely, as is the story. I hope the Cyborg bits can make sense in the larger story arc, but for now I'm increasingly enjoying everything else in this book.

Nightwing #3
Past and Present
Written by Kyle Higgins
Pencils by Eddy Barrows & Eduardo Pansica
DC Comics

I like this book. I like it quite a bit. However, after reading it, I'm not sure that I have anything more to say about it than the first two reviews. While the story is enjoyable, it's sort of just that. It's nothing brilliant or particularly striking, just serviceably good on every angle. The mystery is interesting, Dick is a likable and fun lead with the most unfortunate name in comics, and the book even works on a thematic level. The "can't escape your past" theme, while incredibly heavy handed, goes a long way to keep this book in my pull list. I like what's going on with Haley's Circus and how Dick can't seem to... well, escape his past. Again, I'm left with nothing much to say. It makes for a fun companion read to Batman, but it doesn't work nearly as well as Batgirl.

Or, surprisingly...

Birds of Prey #3
You Might Think
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Jesus Saiz
DC Comics

It's funny... I wanted to drop this book. Hell, I was looking to drop at least one New 52 book a week this month. But this was just so, so good. Swierczynski's BoP easily the most improved series of the New 52, and it was already good to start with. The team comes together when Poison Ivy joins the ranks, much to the (violent) protest of Starling and Katana. However, when the dust settles, we're given one of the most interesting ensembles in superhero comics today. While Black Canary is our leading lady, I'm increasingly interested in the new lady on the scene... Starling. This bad-ass, tattooed chick manages to embrace all of the bad-ass tattoo chick cliches while still surprising me and endearing herself to me.

As these ladies chase down the mystery of the exploding folks, all my thoughts of dropping this book have fizzled out. It was among my favorite this week which, if you read the other reviews, you know is saying a lot.

House of Night #1
Story by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
Script by Kent Dalian
Art by Joelle Jones and Karl Kerschl
Dark Horse Comics

Let's start off with why I bought this book.

1. It costs a dollar.
2. Dan Roth told me to.
3. It costs a dollar.
4. Jenny Frison did the cover.
5. It costs a freaking dollar.

Comic book fans care a lot about their money. Compared to other media, comics are very, very affordable and generally offer more than most similarly priced items do... but still. There are a lot of comics published every week, so readers have to pick and choose what series they'll follow based on a lot of factors. Price is one of mine. Thankfully, most of the books I follow end up in the $2.99 - $3.50 range. What I've seen increasingly, though, is new series being offered for a buck. It's a brilliant strategy that is clearly pandering to the reader who normally wouldn't shell out the three bucks to try something new that they aren't guaranteed to love. And hey, I'm evidence of that, so it clearly worked.

Now, besides the fact that the cover is fantastic, the book actually isn't bad. I'm not sure if it's something I'd follow on a month to month basis, but I enjoyed this issue despite having never read the series of books on which this comic is based. To my understanding, this comic fills in the gap between one of the earlier books... but don't quote me on that. It's perfectly understandable on its own, though Kent Dalian is a bit careless with how he doles out exposition. The first scene is by far the clumsiest first scene I've read in a very long time. Zoey, our protagonist, has a bit of a confrontation with Aphrodite (this series' Draco Malfoy) and this conversation is used as a way to get all the exposition out in the fastest way possible, which just makes every line of dialogue so, so clunky.

A: Well, aren't you special with your filled-in mark and adult vamp tattoos? [...] How did you get those? Oh, wait, I remember! You screwed me over so Neferet would make you leader of the Dark Daughters!
Z: I have zero interest in leading the stupid Dark Daughters, and I didn't screw you over. You were letting those vampyre ghosts eat my ex-boyfriend. And I stopped you.
A: Hello, I was possessed by one of those vampyre ghosts and Heath is only your ex-boyfriend because you stole my boyfriend.
Z: You and Erik were already over, and so were me and Heath.
A: You may think you've won, but-

And so on.

I was ready to stop reading after that (hell, all that is just from pages one and two), but it seriously gets better. For Dalian's first foray into comic book writing, it's not bad. It's clunky, yes, but it effectively introduces a world and establishes the lead as a somewhat interesting character. The flashback scenes are great, and I dig the anthology feel of this series (a different vampyre in history seems to get spotlighted every issue).

Best thing about the issue? The art. Joelle Jones and Karl Kerschl's work is outright amazing. It adds so, so much to this series. I'll see how the reviews for the next few installments come out before I decide whether or not to follow this in trade, but I will say... for a buck, everyone should buy this. Jenny's cover alone is worth a hell of a lot more than that.


NEXT WEEK: Aquaman #3, The Flash #3, Justice League Dark #3, Superman #3. I guess all the titles I usually follow came out this week.

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