IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

IMJ Comic Book Reviews Banner with Nick & Simon ONLY
5 STAR RATING SYSTEM LOGO

Forever Evil #1Forever Evil #1
Nightfall
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: David Finch, Richard Friend
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Letterer: Rob Leigh
34-36 pages, $3.99

The treacherous DC “event” Trinity War is over, but not before leading directly into another DC crossover “event” called Forever Evil. Yes, I’m deadly serious… In case you haven’t been reading their comics lately (and who could blame you), DC just published an “event” as a prelude to another event. Wow… Talk about event fatigue!

Sadly, all roads lead here– with me again reviewing yet another Geoff Johns’ comic that isn’t worth the $3.99 price tag.

Forever Evil #1 is not nearly the debacle that Trinity War #1 was, but it is far from good. Like many of Johns’ recent attempts at comic book writing, there’s a lot of time and space wasted setting up this story. But even after all the plodding exposition– I still don’t really know what’s happening.

Coked Out Super-UltramanWithout a doubt, there was also too much time spent on Ultraman using green kryptonite as a drug. Even if they are villains, it’s not so great to see someone resembling Superman inhale/snort something that looks like cocaine. (To be fair, it isn’t like Ultraman rolled up a $100 bill and snorted a line of kryptonite… But I do picture U-man finishing up the product with a gummer.)

Check out the great values Johns & Co are teaching our children: If you take an amazing drug you will feel like you’re the strongest again. (I guess Paul Pope wasn’t kidding when he said the head of DC Comics let slip they’re only publishing comics for 45-year-olds nowadays.)

Two more quick things I must complain or question about the story before I get to the art:

(SPOILER!) 1) Superman soars into Earth’s stratosphere, flying faster and faster, until he reverses the planet’s rotation and the progress of time itself– taking us back to Marvel’s Civil War! At least, I think that’s almost exactly what must have happened off-panel… Because Geoff Johns and DC out Nightwing’s civilian identity! Why? Because Marvel’s decision to unmask Spider-Man all those years ago proved to be so popular? For whatever reason, this decision bugs the hell out of me. (/SPOILER)

2) Why does Lex Luthor always look at Superman and essentially say/ask, “I hate you and want you to die, but could you please do this for me first?” Wow. I’m so glad I got to see that cliche repeated again.

But wait! There’s more! If the boring, decompressed storyline doesn’t take you out of Forever Evil #1, the art most certainly will. Holy Hell! These are the worst David Finch pencils I have ever seen. Isn’t he “supposed” (the key word in this question) to be a top tier artist? I don’t see how anyone could think after witnessing this piss poor performance in this horribly drawn comic. To be clear, Finch can still draw– but he can’t resist making everything bland by using too much shading. There’s so much cross hatching in this book that Richard Friend can’t help but apply some very heavy inks– ultimately leaving very little for colorist Sonia Oback to work with.

Plus, I could never shake the similarities between Forever Evil #1 and A Better World– a two-part story arc featured in the Justice League Animated Series. There are some very strong parallels between those episodes and this comic… But trust me when I say the animated version is much more interesting. So, to wash the sour taste of Johns’ bland story and Finch’s horrendous art out of my mind– I actually went back and watched A Better World. That’s what we’ve come to in modern mainstream comics… We have to go watch an animated TV show to get a dose of comic books done right. – Nick Furi

Half Star Rating

Batman #23.1Batman #23.1
Time to Monkey Shine
Writer: Andy Kubert
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
20 pages, $3.99

It’s common knowledge that DC has dedicated the month of September to shitty gimmicks and poorly handled business decisions. To top last year’s useless Zero Month, DC has decided to throw some futile 3D covers into this year’s mix. Then the company screwed things up even more by announcing 2D covers would have to partially replace retailers’ 3D copies because of a shortage of lenticular material, time (or some other lame excuse.)

Like Ian in a couple of his recent Who’s Getting What This Week? columns, I was outraged by this mounting clusterfuck– and awaited September with an anxious hunch. After reading Batman #23.1, I find it even harder to forgive DC for its many doombacles and disrespectful stances. In the light of the poor quality of this Batman comic– and the latest news surrounding Batwoman genius J. H. Williams III’s departure from his Bat-comic due to editorial interferences… I’m seriously considering forgetting DC altogether.

I don’t want to be this hateful nerd spitting his poison all over the internet. But as a consumer, I can’t support a company that has no sense of respect and integrity… One that constantly harms itself (and the hobby’s reputation)… And unflinchingly (and unapologetically) creates a “Shitty Comics Month” every year.

When I think about it, today’s DC is like a bad Alien film remake. A deadly creature (DC’s New 52) spews forth from someone’s undulating chest (taking the place for Johns’, Lee’s, Didio’s and Harras’ disturbed minds)… Then, for most of the movie the space crew (played in reality by comic book fans and consumers) gets savagely slaughtered and fucked with. Sadly, I don’t see a Sigourney Weaver on the horizon to save the day this time around. If DC Executive Diane Nelson was supposed to be such a hero, she’s long since shown she could give a rat’s ass about the comic book side of the DC biz.

Batman #23.1 also shows a level of contempt for continuity and laziness that is beyond words. The main premise here is that the Joker decides to adopt a gorilla as a legitimate son. For twenty tedious pages you get Mister J. acting like a mad daddy, watching the telly and eating ice-cream with his monkey. At the end, the gorilla dies and… That’s it. Yes, you just got extorted $3.99 for the most useless, boring shit ever!

The story is told from the Clown Prince of Crime’s perspective. Having him talking to us is a dumb rookie writing mistake already, as it only serves to impair the well-known notion that the Joker’s mind can’t be read or understood. Joker’s talking to the reader might have worked if only written with a dashing sense of irony and cruel wittiness– things you will have a hard time finding here. To add insult to injury, his inner dialogue sounds weirdly simple-minded.

But besides all the questionable storytelling, it still wouldn’t be so bad if only writer Andy Kubert hadn’t also been allowed to tackle the Joker’s origin. We are now to believe our favorite madman was a normal kid, brought up by a crazy old lady who beat and abused him. Not only is giving the Joker a definitive origin wrong continuity-wise, but going with such a lame and overused one is a felony. It’s still possible to pretend this story is only part of the Joker’s crazy imagination and we’re not to believe any of it– since constantly reinventing his past is a known component of this character… But it should be the book’s job to imply such a possibility– not mine.

Andy Clarke’s art is very engaging. His craft is a wonder to look at– extremely detailed, smart, with gorgeous backgrounds. Sadly, even his enamoured care for the medium won’t avert a rough rating for this book. Still, I feel it’s important to highlight the high quality of the art here– despite the horrendous writing.

I deeply respect Andy Kubert as a creator, but if he can’t write a compelling and smart one-off story– he should stick to drawing, which he does masterfully. That said, this piece of shit is so odious– it makes me want to boycott all of his efforts for a while. I won’t be buying his Damian – Son of Batman (launching in October)… Which is probably just as well, since it’s most likely another bit of marketing fuckery anyway. – Simon J. O’Connor

Zero Stars Rating

Nova #7Nova #7
Away Game
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artists: Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
20 pages, $3.99

Blah!

That is exactly how I feel after reading Nova #7. Just another new comic I don’t care about. And you know what? I’m sick of it already. I want my comics to be fun and adventurous… Not boring or bland… Or used as filler before the next event crossover begins. And that’s what this was– a done-in-one story with the last few pages setting up a crossover with Marvel’s event, Infinity.

I liked the done-in-one part. The industry needs more stories to conclude in a single issue. Too bad Nova #7 was below mediocre in execution.

Writer Zeb Wells seems to be trying way too hard here. His overreaching attempt to bombard every page with comedy (either through character actions or straight jokes) completely destroys any fun the book’s premise may possess. I’m all for having fun in my funny books, but the “less is more” tactic should have applied here.

Writers– please remember quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality… Whether you’re using jokes, action or violence to further your story. There has to be a happy balance in order to allow your readers to feel the different beats you’re attempting to be hit. Otherwise, all we’ll get is a book resembling a drummer continuously double-kicking the bass drum… Drowning out Elton John as he tries to sing a heartfelt rendition of Candle in the Wind. It simply becomes too much.

Nova also inadvertently serves as a testament to just how terrible Superior Spider-Man’s Dan Slott is as a writer. An editor’s note at the beginning states this story takes place sometime from the beginning of the Doc Ock/Peter Parker body switch to the present day… And guess what? Nova can instantly tell the “new” Spider-Man is an “asshole.” (I’m not even joking– that’s the bleeped out word Nova calls the Wall-Crawler.)

Nova is supposed to be immature (he’s 15 after all)– but he reminds me of young Booster Gold… Without the charm. The first thing Sam thinks about when donning the Nova costume is becoming famous. I get he hasn’t been a hero for long, but surely someone would have taught him some basic values as a human being before this, right?

I guess not– because it takes him the whole issue to realize he should’ve been helping clean up the destruction he caused back in his home state instead of trying to be a hero in New York (or anywhere else.) While Nova #7 feels like an honest attempt at creating a story for people of all ages– the morals this book teaches young kids is horrid… Like showing kids the superhero version of not cleaning up after themselves– and telling them it okay to act bratty. Nova eventually does do the right thing, but it is the very last thing he wants to do.

Can’t really say much about the art, other than it was clean and barely acceptable… Sort of how I feel about the entire contents of this comic. 
– Nick Furi

1 Star Rating

Young Avengers #9Young Avengers #9
The Kiss and the Make-Up
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $2.99

We all know one lonely, farcical old bachelor trying too hard to act young. Maybe he’s your uncle… Or the gross math teacher hitting on your classmates. But whoever he might be, we all feel slightly disgusted and uncomfortable when this awkward guy initiates a desperate attempt to trick us into believing he’s a “hip” dude… Like when he starts talking about how awesome Miley Cyrus’ infamous VMA twerking was– making a fool of himself in the process.

Young Avengers #9 makes me think of pitiful guys like that. Everything smells of arthritis, rheumatism and desperation. This title should be renamed Crippled Old Geezers– since writer Kieron Gillen’s idea of youth consists of dumb hashtag jokes, lots of sexual discussions and lame one-liners.

Even more insulting, the story is incoherent and doesn’t make sense half the time. The plot reaks of cheap resolutions, lack of momentum and lazy dialogues. The pace of the tale is so fucking jerky, it makes me nauseous. The characterization simply sucks: The characters aren’t appealing, and simply put– you won’t give a shit about them. And finally, just to go full circle in this crap enterprise, the drawings are bland and deeply lack imagination… Which doesn’t help the bad case of not-giving-a-fuck displayed by Gillen.

The only positive thing here is that I bought a physical copy of this poxy shite– not a digital one. At least I’ll save a few bucks on toilet paper for the next few days.

PS: Of course I was going to talk about Cyrus twerking. I shamelessly admit I want the hits! – Simon J. O’Connor

Zero Stars Rating

X-Men Battle of the Atom #1X-Men Battle of the Atom #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen,
Wade Von Grawbadger
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramgna
28 pages $3.99

The X-Men clearly get the most leniency when it comes to messing with Marvel’s time streams. They’ve certainly had more than their fair share of time travel, pan-dimensional and alternate reality adventures… So really, what’s one more?

In X-Men Battle of the Atom #1 we eventually get the past, present and future X-Men all together. (And, of course, they immediately start disagreeing with each other.) The majority of this issue is pointless– as Brian Michael Bendis seems to aspire to little more than slowly setting up the three different timelines. In between these meanderings, Bendis also throws out a couple of blatant hints for future bits, foreshadowing the major problems the heroes will face. This part was exceptionally fun to read. Finally seeing some consequences arise from superheroes traveling through time is (surprisingly) unique.

The banal “Bendis-speak” Locusmortis often laments is on common display, but for some reason, doesn’t seem as bad here. (Makes one wonder if Bendis is possibly using “ghost writers”– as such rumors have plagued his prolific career for the last stretch.) Like I said, it’s weird… After years of making all his characters read exactly the same, he’s suddenly started giving them individual voices. (I actually chuckled at how young and brash Bobby Drake is compared to the rest of the X-Men in this book.) Hell, there’s even a decent variation between past Cyclops and present day Cyclops. Curious.

The artistic team submits a decent enough job. The art looks like what has now become the X-Men norm. With the exception of one (maybe two) X-Books, all the “X-art” looks the same now… So how can I really judge? There isn’t one person doing something completely jaw-droppingly awesome on any X-Men comic– it’s all become that standard. With the artistic mediocrity at an all-time high, there were a couple of things I wasn’t too pleased with. One splash page shows the heroes jumping in midair– in poses completely incongruous for what they were about to do. This kind of moronic shit happens all the time because it’s flashy and sells lots of books and art… And while I don’t like it one bit, I can understand the editorial decision-making behind the practice– even if it is totally devoid of any true creativity.

Do NOT adjust your screen, these panels are SUPPOSED to look this stupid

One thing I will never get behind is the use of Photoshop blur to portray motion in comics. This effect is heavily used on one page– in an attempt to emphasize the idea that something terrible has happened to space-time.

Like the needless splash pages, I understand the idea behind blur– but there has to be a better, more creative (non-lazy) way of producing the same effect. Blur always feels like a complete cop-out and takes me completely out of any story I’m reading.

Given the sum of this first issue’s parts, the comic is off to a mediocre start. I don’t know whether it’s my irrational, unfathomable desire to read some new X-Men comics or the series’ time travel element– but I’m sorry to admit I’m curious to see how this plays out. Still, my time as a loyal member of the IMJ Nation™ has taught me some truths I will not ignore going forward: I sure as hell don’t like the fact that this is a 10-issue crossover event, so I think I’m only going to commit to this comic one single issue at a time. It isn’t worth the big investment of putting it on my shop Pull List yet. – Nick Furi

2.5 Star Rating

Batman '66 #2Batman ’66 #2
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Ty Templeton, Jonathan Case
Colorists: Wes Hartman, Jonathan Case
Letterer: Wes Abbott
“60” pages, $3.99

Penny: “The prisoner is all locked up, sir, and I removed his utility belt like you ordered”.

Freeze: “Very goot! So many people don’t zink to do zat”.

If you needed an idea of the tone of this book, those two lines are definitely an example of it. Funny, witty comments constantly meet crazy and wonderful ideas: A moving iceberg! A submarine that looks like a penguin! A singing mermaid at a music hall! Batman’s hallucinogenic dreams… And so much more!

Wonderful writer Jeff Parker even gives us– in a quick, mocking nod to waddling villain’s recent Detective Comics run– an “Emperor Penguin”! You’ve got to love it!

As I also mentioned in my Deadpool #15 review, master scribe Grant Morrison apparently believes the future of comics involves putting the fun back into the books. In the light of such analysis, it becomes painfully obvious Geoff Johns (and many other hacks) should ask Parker for writing lessons.

I really enjoy that this title’s humor isn’t the product of laughing at the characters, but laughing with them. Batman looks like a total badass. No need for grim’n gritty shit to have a clever, believable Dark Knight here. The fun doesn’t lie in Bruce being ridiculous or stupid. He is funny as hell but still proves to be a truly capable hero. Batman taking some time to brag in front of Penguin (“Fortunately I trained in martial arts at a monastery in the Himalayas, so this combat is old hat to me”) is one of the cleverest and most hilarious comic book moments of the year.

If the writing is a rare example of light-hearted subtlety, the art is a delicacy as well. Ty Templeton and Jonathan Case’s art styles are different from each other, but they both ressuscitate the feel of the Adam West years. Old technics used at the time– also mimicking some Roy Lichtenstein’s famous painting tricks– are brought back from the dead. Since everything is so well handled and always used at the right time and in the right place– the tricks are a real treat to witness. The colors by Wes Hartman fail to impress though… While Case’s coloring (in the third and last chapter of the title) was tremendously imaginative.

Batman ’66 is not only an extremely well done title… It’s a comic that manages to innovate, refresh and bring something new to the crippled medium… Which has been forced (for far too long) to carry the burden of an over-the-top concern for realism and gravity. I should also note this comic is much more enjoyable in digital format on a weekly basis. I don’t think I would like to have the collected editions of these stories, as the chapters weren’t created to be read in just one or two sittings. In the end, I’ll let Ian be the judge of that in his Insideman’s Pull List™! – Simon J. O’Connor

4.5 Star Rating

Mind Mgmt #14Mind MGMT #14
The Second Floor
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Matt Kindt
Colorists: Matt Kindt, Ella Kindt
Letterer: Matt Kindt
24 pages, $3.99

Mind Mgmt– where have you been my entire life? There is so much about you I adore– and I’ve only read this one issue. Admittedly, this comic wouldn’t have been something I would’ve read when I began my comic book adventures– but I have gotten older, my tastes have changed and this is, without a doubt, right up my alley. It fuels the hipster in me, while at the same time filling my need for a well-told story.

I bought Mind Mgmt #14 digitally, but from first glance I could feel a real indie vibe protruding from my screen. If I didn’t know this book came in a regular magazine format, I would have imagined creator Matt Kindt handcrafting each copy by hand. What I would pay to see this comic in a deluxe hardcover, with thick cardstock paper– a presentation to match the richness of the interior work. I made this decision after only viewing the first 3 pages… The whole comic looks that fantastic.

I admire watercolour paintings too… So the watercolour look used in Mind Mgmt #14 (and I’m assuming the rest of the series) is a tremendous breath of fresh inspiration. It’s such a fickle way to paint too. If you don’t know what you are doing, you can easily destroy a piece of art in seconds. (This is the one thing I remember from my meager art class teachings.) Even if Kindt only uses the watercolour look as a technique– instead of actually painting each page of art this way– I totally appreciate his efforts.

As for the plot: Kindt has created an instant favourite for me– undeniably one of the most imaginative, engrossing comics I have read this year. I’ve experienced a lot of surprise hits too, but Kindt is a magician– creating a world full of twists and turns, cool powers, interesting characters and interesting plot. I haven’t read the thirteen issues prior– and amazingly, it doesn’t matter. There are enough ingenious character moments to capture the attention of any new reader from the very first page.

As a wordsmith, Kindt knows when to linger on a given topic in order to build intrigue or bring home his point. Conversely, he also knows when to move along– when a given moment is just there to help the story traipse from point A to point B. In truth, I felt like I could have been reading a first issue– as there was astonishingly nothing in this fourteenth issue to confuse the reader. Mind Mgmt #14 was able to stand on its own without the need for a recap page either, or any heavy exposition detailing past actions. Astonishing.

If you want a good non-superhero tale or a great comic book in general, pick up Mind Mgmt #14. Understandably, I can only make my recommendation based on this particular issue, but for me– this was so much more than an average comic. It actually transcends my expectations for the entire mediumMind Mgmt is only the second book to ever achieve this status with me (the other was Green Wake.) I have such a wonderfully strange, esoteric and uplifting feeling when a comic book gives me the ideal combination of words and art. But when it happens, it totally makes reading all the other crap worthwhile. – Nick Furi

5 Star Rating

Batman The Dark Knight #23.1Batman The Dark Knight #23.1
A Rising Star of Red!
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Derlis Santacruz, Karl Kesel
Colorist: Brett Smith
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
20 pages, $3.99

Gail Simone’s latest comic book script isn’t so much an example of how bad DC’s Villain Month is– as it embodies how fucked-up and wrong-headed some New 52 retellings are turning out to be.

I loved Arnold Wesker (the villain called The Ventriloquist.) He was a formidable Bat foe, mainly because what makes him tick is outrageously psychological. Batman has no superpower, and most of his enemies share this trait too… In order to emphasize the Bat’s physical feats and intellectual prowess . Wesker’s madness has always contained a wonderful twist with infinite ramifications– as he’s a ventriloquist who’s become the prisoner (and lackey) to his own wooden dummy.

Since this is such a great idea, I don’t understand why it could be desirable to wipe it out of the Dark Knight’s New 52 legacy. Arnold was all about asking Bruce, Batman (and comic readers) what controls us. Aren’t we all helpless dummies in our dreams… In our moments of uncontrollable lust or greed? In a strange and alluring way, this villain was reflective of Batman’s servitude towards his vigilante mission– and our constant enslavement to our obsessions as well.

The New 52 Ventriloquist is now Shauna, a crazy woman with mind-control. Her puppet looks like the one in the torture porn film Saw– with drills in its hands. This new origin has some interesting layers– such as her fascination for fame… But I still highly dislike the retelling. It is shallow and uninventive. More is lost than gained in the transition from Arnold to Shauna.

The art is satisfactory and pleasing enough, even though it can be extremely detailed on one page and then lack a lot of attentiveness in the next. The facial expressions all look weirdly frozen, as if Derlis Santacruz wasn’t able to bring enough life to the faces he draws. The end result can be disturbing at times. All in all though– the visuals suit this gory and violent tale well.

This isn’t a very interesting story (in fact, it’s a rather dull one), but it succeeds in throwing out some half-interesting ideas here and there. Simone sets up some intriguing threads that will probably be used in upcoming issues… Which helps make up (just a bit) for this comic book standing as mostly filler and a serious waste of money. – Simon J. O’Connor

1 Star Rating

Aquaman #23Aquaman #23
Death of a King Ch 5 – Dead End
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
20 pages, $2.99

Surprisingly, I didn’t hate this comic. Aquaman #23 had many faults, but as a whole– it wasn’t godawful. (That’s what I am reduced to now when reading most DC comics… Praising a book because it ISN’T godawful.) Since the story was entertaining in spots, I didn’t feel like writer Geoff Johns completely phoned in his script.

The biggest fault with the latest Aquaman issue? How grossly decompressed it is. I’m not joking when I say it took me less than 5 minutes to read this comic. If you look at the page count compared to story, there are really only 14 pages of consequence here… 6 pages are wasted on splash and double-splash pages containing little or no words and zero story development. The book’s first three pages are a gigantic waste of space. I truly believe I could condense them into three panels– and still leave room for at least one more panel on the page.

Johns’. crawling. stories. are worthy of much dislike. More often than not, he seems to haphazardly scribble down some half-hearted script on the fly… But even when he turns in something that isn’t complete garbage, he insists on bloating his stories with superficial action. The only good thing to come out of his new style? There’s less of Johns’ atrocious dialogue to read– and it has really been bad recently. I think I’ve figured out the difference between Aquaman and all of the other comics Johns currently writes– he still cares about this character… And he’s still trying to make the underwater hero cool. The rest of his new work reads more like comic book fan porn then serious attempts to come up with great stories.

Aquaman #23 provides a major showcase for the talent of artist Paul Pelletier. It’s quite amazing what he does with the little Johns gives him. He even does an exceptional job on the copious number of splash pages. I can’t quite put my finger on why I like his work more than many of the other competent artists working today– as his Aquaman pencils feature the same standard comic art I’ve been calling serviceable as of late. Maybe it the marriage of artist and character… As Pelletier’s dark and gritty style just seems to work with Aquaman’s underwater theme. It gives the art a murky quality you’d think the sea should have and fits the book’s tones of war, death and backstabbing.

Aquaman #23 is still far from a great comic, but it isn’t the worst thing I’ve read either. I don’t understand how there can be such a variance in quality with Johns’ work. Remember when he seemed to create several compelling books every month? But that was well before he ascended to his CCO position and started working on DC’s various TV and Film projects. (Apparently he even approves various DC Collectibles designs, among other duties.)

I don’t think this is a case where you can have your cake and eat it too, Geoff. Even the hacktastic Jeph Loeb realized he had to back off his regular writing duties when he became head of Marvel’s Animation and TV divisions. Either drop down to one job and stop phoning in your comic  book scripts– or just leave this part of the business behind. Whatever you’re working on is bound to improve when you quit burning the candle at both ends. – Nick Furi

1.5 Star Rating

God is Dead #1God is Dead #1
Deus. Rex. Terra.
Writers: Jonathan Hickman, Mike Costa
Artist: Di Amorim
Colorist: Juanmar
Letterer: Kurt Hathaway
25 pages, $3.99

So… Um… This was completely unexpected.

True Fact: I didn’t read the solicitation when I decided to pick God is Dead #1 to review. I just saw the title God is Dead, Jonathan Hickman’s name and the comic’s cover and I thought, “This looks promising.” Oops. I was hoping for something akin to the writer’s The Nightly News… And I didn’t get it.

I was expecting a very in-depth, slow burn of a story about how society views atheists, agnostics and all variations of religion. This could still happen with God is Dead, but Issue #1 seemed to set up an all-out war between America, Non-Believers and the Old Gods of all different shapes and sizes (Zeus, Odin etc.) Because I went in with some preconceived notions, I was disappointed.

I guess that’s you get when you judge a book by its cover.

And the big trend toward story decompression continues. Hickman is known for telling long tales– so some decompression is bound to occur. Most of the time, it’s the writer’s obsession with character and world building that gives the appearance he’s slowing down the progression of his stories. I usually enjoy this type of storytelling, but God is Dead #1 sets up the Gods returning to Earth in boisterous and inefficient ways.

Everything about this series seems larger than life– the panels seem bigger, with scenes that should be tight and close appearing to have as much room as any football field. And there are EIGHT splash pages. Maybe this is meant to showcase how outrageous and extreme having these Gods returning to Earth actually is– I don’t know. But all of it seemed unnecessary and gluttonous. Bigger isn’t always better.

The most interesting part about God is Dead #1? The Christian God is nowhere to be found. With Hickman, you never know if something major like this is intentional or not. (Is “God” really dead like the series’ title implies? Who knows?) Maybe he’s attempting to show Christianity, so heavily associated with Western Culture, has now taken the form of the United States Government. Then again, maybe I’m reading WAY TOO MUCH into the absence of this particular deity. It could be this being will show up later… With Hickman saving him/her for a big knock-em, sock-em story climax. (The Christian God versus the other Gods.)

After getting over the loud art and my personal shock of the comic not meeting my (unfair) expectations, the plot was actually interesting enough. This type of comic doesn’t fit in with my normal reading habits, but I am interested to see how it ends. The big decision for me… Will I trade-wait the rest of the series or just borrow a copy from my local library? I don’t plan on continuing with God is Dead past this inaugural issue. From what I’ve read so far, I have a sinking feeling this is all going to end in one big pissing match between the US Government, some Scientists/Theologians– and all the different religious factions. I get my fill of that on the real Nightly News… So this doesn’t interest me near enough to continue. – Nick Furi

2 Star Rating

Avengers #18Avengers #18
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Leinil Francis Yu,
Gerry Alanguilan

Colorist: Sunny Gho
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
20 pages, $3.99

I hope you like a lot of badassery, because writer Jonathan Hickman isn’t going for anything else lately!

This story has a big feel to it, à la Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Ancient, forgotten races teaming up with a young and frail humanity, big battles in space, heroes sacrificing themselves, the angst of battle, the fear of not only losing your life– but dying in dishonor… There’s definitely a nice vibe to it all.

Marvel’s Infinity crossover wants to be a big blockbuster and uses all possible clichés (and the usual tricks) to keep us excited and entertained. All I can say is, it mostly worked for me. However, succeeding in giving your story an epic dimension doesn’t allow you to lack finesse in your storytelling… And I’m being nice when I say this comic’s plot is a little shallow.

Gathering a majority of the most tired crossover clichés in only 20 pages while still providing a subtle, well fleshed out tale isn’t an easy task– I get it. But it looks way too much like Hickman was checking off boxes more than anything else when he was writing this script. Spaceships blown out? Check! Big explosions? Check! Someone uttering the worn, “I hate the waiting” catchphrase before a battle? Check! A superficial, lazy cliffhanger and some oh-so-trivial plot points don’t help Hickman’s cause either.

But there is something that more than makes up for the perfunctory parts of this story, and that’s Leinil Francis Yu’s wonderful art. Some panels representing planets and space made me think of the gorgeous-looking albums of the Belgian series Yoko Tsuno by Roger Leloup. These pages are really detailed and wonderfully inked. Those sinister landscapes of emptiness are eerie and fairy-looking. The art also succeeds in injecting just the right amount of momentum in the story, masterfully creating tension from nowhere.

Yu and inker Gerry Alanguilan’s craft is a true testament to the power images can have over words in this graphic medium. That said, the battle sequences aren’t often easy to decipher– as there are way too many details thrown into several of the panels. Some scenes were filled by so many flying warriors and spaceships, they couldn’t possibly be enjoyable for anyone to look at. We often complain about lackluster perfunctory art here at IMJ, but Avengers #18 is testament to what can happen when you can go too far in the other direction.

I also feel the need to quickly touch on the lettering work, as it’s a particularly bad job here. Cory Petit’s “A’s” and “R’s” look disturbingly alike. Some speech bubbles aren’t managed properly either, presenting the dialogue awkwardly. Petit’s work is usually orderly but this sure felt ill-planned and disorganized.

In any case, it’s hard not to like Avengers #18 for exactly what it was: An event comic from one of the Big Two. It’s entertaining enough and the art is gorgeous… But really, the book only deserves a comfy, average rating. It’s not a masterpiece, even if I’m relieved to finally witness a bearable event (a very rare beast nowadays.) Final musing: If I do the math, 1 “Recap” page + 1 “Cast” page + 1 “Credits” page + 2 “Chapter Title” pages = 5 empty pages of bullshit. Marvel really does excel at devising new ways to steal a few extra bucks from their fans, don’t they? – Simon J. O’Connor

2.5 Star Rating

Look! MORE Comic Book Reviews After the Jump!

Astonishing X-Men #66

Astonishing X-Men #66
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Amilcar Pinna
Colorist: Chris Peter
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $3.99

First off, huge props to artist Phil Noto for this issue’s cover. I forgot to mention it in the comment of IMJ’s excellent Rate the Covers! feature, but it’s one of my recent favorites. Not sure why, but I just like it!

The interior art was the second thing I noticed about Astonishing X-Men #66… Mostly due to the colour work by Chris Peter— who decides to lighten up Marvel’s X-World. Straying from the mainstream, he decides to use almost pastel-like colours. Rarely have  colours been used to reflect the tone of a mainstream comic story. (It just seems to happen more in indie comics where the creators take more chances.) Now, after a tragic event with Iceman, the X-Men are trying to reconnect and be bright and hopeful– exactly like Peter’s colours.

The rest of writer Marjorie Liu’s story centers on themes of loneliness and how to handle it. This is your typical “picking up the pieces after a tragic event” kind of issue. The difference? Actions and results here feel natural– never forced to conform to some preset story outcome.

There is heart within the pages of Astonishing X-Men #66. Characters act like themselves– something I haven’t seen happen in a long time. And the social commentary (such a huge component in so many X-Men comics for so long), finally feels relevant again. Feeling alone in a connected world seems to be a Mutant’s lot… But we’ve all felt that way– which is one of the main reasons the modern X-Men themes created by Chris Claremont have continued to be so popular. Even if we have friends from the IMJ Nation™ or right next door– it sometimes just isn’t enough.

Liu also takes on one of today’s bigger topics: Gay Marriage. It wasn’t a huge point in the story, yet I sadly await complaints from readers. But anyone who might be upset after reading this comic totally misses the point and concept behind the X-Men.

Even though Astonishing X-Men was a dollar more than most 20-page comics, I would rather pay the extra buck and get a full twenty page book that doesn’t waste the few pages it has. (Unlike that joke of a comic Aquaman #23 that I reviewed earlier.)

I’ve hardly heard any good things about Astonishing X-Men recently, but if every issue is immersed in this kind of emotion and camaraderie– who cares what everyone else says? And this particular story was very well done. My favourite moment in the book comes with the double-page spread (not double-page splash) where the X-Men hit a karaoke bar– trying to have a good time and be a family. It might sound corny, but sometimes that is exactly the kind of emotions a lonely mutant (or lonely comic fan) needs and I loved it. – Nick Furi

4 Star Rating

Catwoman #23Catwoman #23
No Blood No Foul
Co-Plot & Script: Ann Nocenti
Co-Plot: Scott McDaniel
Artists: Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Letterer: Travis Lanham
20 pages, $2.99

I think Ann Nocenti is trying to win a bet. It just can’t be otherwise.

One day Bob Harras passed by and jokingly taunted Nocenti, “I bet you can’t put more than ten daft plotpoints in one issue of Catwoman!” “Why, of course I can Bob! But wouldn’t that be a little disrespectful to our readers?” answered Nocenti (who isn’t the devil after all.) “Don’t give it too much thought, Ann. I stopped caring about comic book fans a long time ago. In fact… You know what? I don’t dare you to make a book with ten brainless ideas– I order you to! Let’s troll the silly bastards for buying our books!”

Let’s see if dear ol’ Ann delivered, shall we?

1. Doctor Phosphorus has a daughter.

2. Said daughter is named Tinderbox.

3. Said Tinderbox’s characterization as a shallow brat is so one-dimensional it’s obnoxious. (Could you be a little bit more subtle, Ann? Pretty please?)

4. There’s lava underneath Gotham City. (My brain feels raped at that stage.) LAVA!?

5. Catwoman spanks Tinderbox in the middle of a dark corridor (with exploding lava right underneath it, remember!) I guess it’s mildly homo-erotic, but even my deeply perverse mind can’t praise dumb, skanky bullshit like this.

6. There’s also a huge underground bunker built by a secret brotherhood underneath Gotham too. (At this stage, let’s all collectively weep… Or puke. “WTF?!” is no longer a strong enough response.)

7. The Fellowship that runs the Bunker “lodged between Gotham’s sewers and the lava” is led by a crazy (and smart) scientist. (Be honest, now… You knew a mad scientist was going to appear in this comic book!)

8. Of course, the scientist thinks he is a good guy– because he’s working on a cure to every illness and biological threat on Earth. The twist you would never expect? The cure isn’t stable yet, and is super-deadly at its current stage. HOLY COW!

9. Tinderbox has been lead by Selina to this secret/not-so-secret bunker in order to be married and impregnated by some dude. This makes PERFECT SENSE since EVERYONE KNOWS Selina Kyle isn’t a strong-willed female… In fact, Catwoman believes all women should be used as bartering commodities– didn’t you know that? (I so get it now! Nocenti wrote this comic in 1939!)

10. The idea of the Joker’s Daughter is shitty as hell. The fact that she’s used as this issue’s lazy, nonsensical cliffhanger doesn’t help.

If I looked, I’m pretty sure I could find another dozen insults to good sense and well thought-out writing in this comic. Next issue of Catwoman, we’ll surely be introduced to  the Penguin’s (heretofore unknown) son and watch as Selina Kyle becomes a subservient housewife.

In the meantime, I plan to lie down and rethink my whole life.

No thanks, Ann Nocenti. Kindly please fuck off. We’re getting an eyeful of why the comic industry said “Ta ta!” to you the first time. – Simon J. O’Connor

Zero Stars Rating

Solid State Tank Girl #3Solid State Tank Girl #3
Awesome Wells Part 3
Writer: Alan C Martin
Art/Colors: Warwick Johnson-Cadwell
Letterer: Jon Chapple
16 pages, $3.99

I honestly don’t know where to begin my review of Solid State Tank Girl #3. Should I start with the huge variance of quality between pages? Or not being completely sure if the adult jokes were coincidence or meant to make me laugh? Should I be distressed (or impressed) that the cartoony art reminds me of Clone High and Daria? Finally, should I just decide if I even enjoyed reading this comic?

I guess I’ll follow the list I just made up. There were only SIXTEEN PAGES of actual story and art in Solid State Tank Girl #3– with 6 additional pages of other content. This definitely wasn’t the standard run of the mill wiki-padding either– but actual bonus stuff. The extra pages had poems mixed with art. I really liked the idea, but I don’t know if I felt like paying for it.

If there was an entire book like this (which I am sure there are many out there in the Indie Comic Universe) I wouldn’t mind paying whatever the price– as I would know what I would be getting in advance. But here– now– I was not expecting to have poems replacing at least four pages of story at the end of my Tank Girl comic. And I’m lucky I quite enjoy poetry. If I didn’t, I would’ve been right pissed off. It wasn’t the most ground breaking, imaginative verse I’ve ever read either, but I enjoyed it. I’m just not entirely sure if any of it was relatable to the main story at all.

The remaining 16 pages of actual story underwhelmed me. I thought the FIRST penis joke was coincidence, but after 3 to 4 pages filled with phallic references– I got the point writer Alan C. Martin was trying to make. The main story was okay, nothing special… But for 16 pages, I was decently entertained. I had a few chuckles and was even starting to get into it a bit near the end when… Poof! It was over.

The art from Warwick Johnson-Cadwell was extremely simplistic and rough. It suited the style of the story being told, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I was watching late 90s, early 2000s MTV cartoons.

The lackluster story almost made me wish the poetry section took up the whole comic, since I enjoyed that the most. As it is, the combined product suffered. 
– Nick Furi

2.5 Star Rating

Deadpool #15Deadpool #15
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Part One
Writers: Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
21 pages, $2.99

Once upon a time, comics weren’t about raping kids and casual evisceration. Their main goal was to entertain and provide good times. Sadly, most current creators forget that, and what we’re left with is pseudo-intellectual gory bullshit– with a good measure of shady sex, pitiful angst and a decided lack of heroism. (Take a look at Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and you’ll know what I mean.)

Thirty years of grim and gritty stories have impoverished the genre. Nowadays, the best the medium usually provides is a sorrowful sense of “been there, done that.” Fortunately, every single art form runs in cycles. I quickly touched on the cyclical nature of comics before (and I know Ian has brought it up several times in the last few years.) Esteemed creators such as Grant Morrison seem to agree. Morrison believes we’re entering a new period in comics– where we’ll get lighter, funnier concepts.

Some scribes are already tackling this “new” territory: Jeff Parker’s Batman ’66 and Mark Waid’s Daredevil are just two of the comics bringing us this new breed of tales. And I’m very happy to say the same about Deadpool. The narrative is coherent and somewhat original, and the characterization is excellent. Writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan never try too hard when bringing the funny– which makes for very enjoyable, amusing jokes. Deadpool is even somewhat endearing and moving– something I sadly can’t say about many current comics.

I read a Venom comic sporting a cover by Declan Shalvey, and I swore back then to check this artist’s stuff out… And I’m glad I finally did. His simplistic approach to the art produces gorgeous results, perfectly complemented by the warm pastel color palette used by Jordie Bellaire.

Shalvey’s art reminds me slightly of David Aja’s work. Neither artist is everyone’s cup of tea, but I can’t get enough of this artistic style. In the end, Deadpool is a title without a inferiority complex or hang-ups. It’s no Nietzsche either, but that’s not a bad thing. It simply aims to give readers a solid, entertaining time… And doesn’t bother doing anything else. Good characterization, funny jokes, lots of action and one hell of a great artist. I’ll take more of that, please! 
– Simon J. O’Connor

4 Star Rating

Batwoman #23Batwoman #23
This Blood is Thick
Writers: J.H. Williams III,
W. Haden Blackman

Artist: Trevor McCarthy
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Todd Klein
20 pages, $2.99

There is only one thing wrong with this comic, so let me get that out of the way first: J.H. Williams III is not the artist. Seriously, this is the only thing wrong with Batwoman #23.

It has intriguing character moments, interesting villains, a psychedelic drug trip courtesy the Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin. It was all smart and exciting, even though there was very little action from Batwoman herself. Reading this issue makes me really wish I would’ve stuck with this series. I dropped it after the second arc because I felt the writing duo of Williams and W.Haden Blackman were not crafting good enough stories to make up for the issues where Williams wasn’t also the artist.

The two seemed to have picked up their game immensely. The story is well-crafted and doesn’t feel tremendously decompressed like some of their earlier work. Scenes between gay lovers Kate and Maggie are heartwarming and felt genuine. There’s been a lot of stink over the past year about some writers/publishers “shoving” gay characters into comics. Not once did I feel like I was reading anything the least bit disgusting or unnatural here.

There’s even a wonderful moment where Kate does something completely stupid to try and make up for a mistake she made earlier. We all make mistakes and many of us do dumb things in an attempt to reconcile the trouble we’ve caused. Kate’s drug-induced hallucinations make for some amazing moments too.

Trevor McCarthy did a fabulous job with this issue’s art– even if I lament his work isn’t as clean or dynamic as Williams’. (Those are some big shoes to fill.) That said, McCarthy’s double-page spreads still make you gawk. They are sketchy, intricate and super fun to absorb. The colours from Guy Major deserve praise as well. Major keeps everything basic for many scenes, then goes full blown awesome in order to really enhance the imagery in others. And even though Kate appears as Batwoman in only one page, I love how they keep her look consistently stellar.

There is also more to this story than just pretty art and an interesting relationship– there is a smart villain as well. It is so refreshing to see a baddie who doesn’t just think of inflicting as much pain as possible.

With Williams and Blackman improving as writers, Batwoman is being added to my very short list of DC Must Reads. DC! Wake up and insist (or allow) your other creators to rise to the high standards shown by this creator group. Your comics would be better for it… And you would sell more too.*

*Oops. Strike all of the above (especially the last paragraph.) All the major creators behind this great comic have now resigned due to DC Editorial refusing to allow the climax of a long gestating storyline. Score another blow against comic book integrity and creativity… Courtesy of DC Comics ignorant editorial meddling. – Nick Furi

4.5 Star Rating

DC Universe vs Masters of the Universe #1DC Universe vs Masters o/t Universe #1
Writer: Keith Giffen
Artist: Dexter Soy
Letterer: Deron Bennett
20 pages, $2.99

Talk about flying under the radar. With three mega-events (Marvel’s Infinity, Battle of the Atom and DC’s Forever Evil) currently running through various mainstream comics, there’s not much space left for DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe to shine. Bet you’re wondering– in the midst of these ridiculously huge marketing stunts– does Keith Giffen and Dexter Soy’s tale reveal itself to be the little event that could?

I’ll get to that in a second.

A very obvious fact about DCU vs MotU #1 (besides its title being a mouthful) is that being small doesn’t impede DC Comics from, once again, lying to its readers like a no good son of a bitch. See, the cover– sporting heroes such as Green Lantern, Cyborg and Wonder Woman– confidently promises a story involving the Justice League. Contrary to all reasonably raised hopes, however, don’t expect to find the JL in here.

Instead, you’ll get Madame Xanadu and John Constantine talking in a living room.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I’ll be the first to admit I’m sick and tired of reading rehashed stories always staging the same heroes. This month DC will release 16 Batman titles and 9 Superman comics! These numbers perfectly illustrate the creative vacuum currently wreaking havoc at DC. But one of my duties as an IMJ Comic Book Reviewer is to call out crass corporate moves when I see them– and DCU vs MotU #1 is nothing but an obnoxious poster child for the heinous bait & switch.

The story itself is divided into two major parts. The first involves the Xanadu and Constantine team-up which falls flat rather quickly– considering their encounter only consists in a weary sequence of talking heads. The second part deals with He-Man and his buds in Eternia trying to figure out their next move. Again, we’re mostly served a massive amount of exposition and numerous complicated discussions– with precious little background info to flesh out the character motivations and actions.

Usually when a comic resorts to this much weighty banter, it needs to eventually deliver a nice, huge pay-off… But that’s not the case here, because Giffen’s prose is one of the least new reader friendly scripts I’ve ever encountered. Personally not being widely acquainted with the Masters of the Universe lore, I wound up mostly confused and frustrated. To put up with an info dump is one thing… But not getting any information so you can enjoy the story is quite another.

This is not a bad comic. But it is heavily burdened by the cheap, coarse marketing act at its core and by the fact you need a DC & He-Man PhD to grasp the entirety of the story. I gave it a try, but I sure won’t be back for the next issue. This title isn’t aimed at me… But I don’t think that’s the book’s main problem. The real question about this comic should be: Who is it aimed at? I might be mistaken, but I don’t see a large enough He-Man community to credibly sustain such a continuity-laden event.

Which now raises the following question: Between the crappy Geoff Johns’ fanfic known as Forever Evil and Giffen’s hefty He-Man tale, why is DC unable to provide a fun, witty, accessible event– one that doesn’t talk down to readers, but doesn’t look like a serious history lesson either? Maybe you can tell me.
– Simon J. O’Connor

1.5 Star Rating

This entry was posted in Comic Book Reviews, Commentary, IMJ Comic Book Reviews, Inveterate Media Junkies™ Exclusive, Mainstream Comics, New Comic Book Reviews, New Comic Books, Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

  1. venom829bane says:

    I could not agree more with the statements made about Batman 23.1 and Forever Evil 1. Those books were just let downs no matter what you say about it. Forever Evil is just full of cliches and stuff happening for the sake of it. No compelling writing. You’d think Johns with all the talent he has would know that and attempt to stay away from that…

  2. jocrlujr says:

    I strongly agree with the comment about Batman ’66 being more enjoyable on a weekly basis. I know digital is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the weekly installment allows to comic to emulate the feel of the tv show even more in my opinion. Especially the stories that utilize the DC 2 guided view set up. It’s like getting a short mini-episode of the show every week.

  3. tomstewdevine says:

    Mind MGMT is a great book, great review Nick.

  4. Pingback: LAST WEEK on the ‘net: September 9 – 15 2013 | Ty Templeton's ART LAND!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s