Welcome to the first edition of The Pull List Comic Reviews for 2010! This week both Blackest Night and Siege took center stage with numerous titles, but don’t worry as the Caped Crusader and the Wall Crawler make appearances, too. As always, WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
PULL OF THE WEEK:
Blackest Night #6 [of 8]
DC Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
When we last saw our heroes, well… let’s just say that some of them were no longer heroes. As black rings zoomed towards the Flash and Green Lantern, their friends and allies who had suddenly switched sides surrounded them. Superman. Wonder Woman. Green Arrow. And so on. With the universe slipping precariously into a never-ending pool of black, a new group of Lanterns have risen to the cause, and you won’t believe your eyes when you see who they are.
I’m starting to think that Geoff Johns should have been a major league pitcher as opposed to a writer, just with the sheer number of curve balls he’s thrown at readers throughout this series so far. Clearly outdoing himself, Johns put together a new group of Lanterns consisting of some of the most inspiring choices to date. The story beats keep pumping along, making the rapidly approaching ending all the more bittersweet.
Artist Ivan Reis continues to weave his magic in this series. Classic speedster moments? Check. Glorious double-page spreads? You bet. Jaw-dropping panels for significant moments? Of course! All this, and a slew of costume re-designs for the new Lanterns, just in case you didn’t know that Reis is drawing at a level that’s almost peerless. The art in this issue, and the series overall, can be summed up in one word: unparalleled.
The fifth installment of this mini-series received a Pull of the Week and a spot on the Best of 2009 list, so I wasn’t expecting an encore performance with this latest chapter. Shame on me. Both Johns and Reis raise the bar once again, and let the record show that, if this upward trend continues, I might not survive the series in its entirety. For sheer comic brilliance – and Lex Luthor! – this was easily the Pull of the Week.
Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Jackpot #1 [of 3]
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Adriana Melo
From the very moment images of Jackpot hit the Internet, fanboys around the world screamed bloody murder thinking it was MJ. Admittedly, I was one of them. But, as Jackpot’s story played out in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, we readers found out that there was much more going on than we initially believed. Now, in this new mini-series, the true origin of the true Jackpot is revealed.
Marc Guggenheim has written more enjoyable comics than I can think of, so it pains me to say that this first issue had that “cookie-cutter” feel to it. Take supporting-level character, tell their origin and throw in a villain from the lead character’s rogues’ gallery. Knowing full well that Guggenheim is much better than this, I’m hoping that things pick up in the second issue.
Adriana Melo does some good Spider-Man work here, and by that I mean it’s got that Spidey-vibe that’s present in most of the recent issues. The action scenes are pretty good, but the rendering looks a little off; not entirely sure but something’s amiss. Regardless, there’s far worse art out there to look at.
B.P.R.D.: King Of Fear #1 [of 5]
Dark Horse Comics – $2.99 US
Writers: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
Artist: Guy Davis
The B.P.R.D. have reason to believe that the frog menace is about to reach a boiling point, but Washington refuses to help. Liz Sherman decides to do something about it anyway, regardless of jurisdiction. Meanwhile, Dr. Kate Corrigan sets out to remedy the Lobster Johnson/Johann Kraus dilemma, with a less-than-stellar start.
Writing team Mike Mignola and John Arcudi set forth on this latest B.P.R.D. adventure, once again showing that virtually any issue set within the universe that Mignola built is as good as any jumping-on point. Mixed evenly with suspense and mystery, this issue does a great job of switching between current events and flashback scenes, culminating in one, solid read.
Artist Guy Davis is certainly no stranger to the Hellboy mythos, but compared to the recently completed B.P.R.D. 1947 mini-series, it falls just a bit short. Still, the art has that familiar feel to it, making this issue extremely easy on the eyes. It should be said, though, that Davis’ designs on Panya creep me out even though the mummified character does barely a thing. Nice work.
Batman Confidential #40
DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Sam Kieth
Artist: Sam Kieth
In another tale from Batman’s earliest days, the Caped Crusader has to track down a murderer who has been preying on the homeless. Even more perplexing to the Dark Knight is the fact that all signs seem to point to the culprit being a ghost. Batman believes in science, not ghosts, but when he has an unexpected encounter, he learns the hard way that ghosts may actually exist.
In this new arc, Sam Kieth wastes little time in getting to the goods. In introducing social worker Callie Dean, Kieth also gives her and Batman a common theme: witnesses to a brutal attack at a young age. Similarly, both characters have spent their adult lives trying to help those that need it, and Kieth drives all of this home while quickly building up the intensity.
Pulling double-duty as artist as well, Kieth brings his unique style to Batman, and the art is simply beautiful. Even his page layouts look like they’ve been turned up a notch, compared to his recent work on Lobo: Highway To Hell mini-series. From Batman’s ears and bat emblem to Commissioner Gordon’s and Bruce’s hairstyles, the art presented here feels fresh while invoking some of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns work.
Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2 [of 3]
DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Nicola Scott
Black Lantern Wonder Woman, just like the rest of the Black Lanterns, is determined to destroy everything in her wake. There’s still a piece of Princess Diana trapped within, though, and she’s desperate to stop the carnage. Joining in on the fun are Mera, Donna Troy, Wonder Girl, Athena and… Bruce Wayne?
When I reviewed the first issue of this series I was pretty disappointed by what I perceived to be “filler” material from writer Greg Rucka. I can honestly say that, with this second issue, the writing I’ve come to expect from Rucka flat out slapped me in the face. This was the perfect compliment to the sixth Blackest Night issue, doing a remarkable job of filling in the blanks while turning my world upside down. Incredible issue.
The art by Nicola Scott is fantastic. Full of twists, turns, mayhem and more than a couple of surprises, this issue screams to be read. The savagery depicted during the fight scenes are quite memorable while other scenes – like Bruce and Diana’s meeting and Athena’s appearance – are breathtaking. The money shot, however, is the look of bewilderment on Mera’s face while fighting Wonder Woman. It’ll be some time before I forget that look in Mera’s eyes.
Nation X: X-Factor one-shot
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Cyclops extends an invitation to Madrox and X-Factor to come live on Utopia with the rest of the mutants, but it’s not all happy reunions and such because the two leaders can’t seem to see eye to eye. As they debate their philosophies while the rest of the mutants get acquainted and re-acquainted, a crazy lady shows up who only wants to be left alone to write her book.
Writer Peter David doesn’t miss a beat in this one-shot that reminds all X-readers that X-Factor is still firmly planted in the X-Universe, even if they have different addresses. Nary a panel is wasted here. The various introductions and reunions are pitch-perfect, ranging from humor to heartfelt moments, but it’s the ultimate point David is trying to make that’s really the star of the show. An engaging read from cover to cover.
Artwise, Valentine De Landro does a pretty good job, but in some rare instances I see a bit of Greg Land in there, re: too much posing. Nitpicking aside, the issue has more than enough examples of how to lay out an issue, working quite well if David’s script. The Rockslide/Guido football “game,” especially, was a treat to see; even it was too short for my liking. I would have loved to see more playful interactions of that caliber.
Siege #1 [of 4]
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Olivier Coipel
As the cracks begin to show on Norman Osborn’s psyche, Asgard becomes a target after Volstagg is duped into unleashing havoc on Soldier Field in Chicago. Despite the President’s contrary stance, Osborn feels he has all he needs to declare war on Asgard as Loki sits by, gleefully pulling the strings in his latest mischievous plan.
You ever see a movie trailer and thought it looked great, only to realize that upon seeing said movie that all the good parts were in the trailer to begin with? That’s how I felt about this opening salvo that’s 7 years in the making from superstar scribe Brian Michael Bendis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great issue, but unless you stay away from the Internet and advance solicitations, you know exactly how this issue plays out. The pace, it should be noted, is fast, so I’m quite confident I’ll be blown away once the second issue hits the stands.
Likewise, Olivier Coipel’s art is great, and makes me wish there was more from him. I’m struggling to remember the last thing he did, because House Of M keeps popping in my head. Coipel definitely has the chops to see a mega-event through, and this is no different. The scenes involving Thor are can’t miss, and if the return of Steve Rogers hadn’t been blown already, that final image would have had me salivating.
Siege: Embedded #1 [of 4]
Marvel Comics – $3.99 US
Writer: Brian Reed
Artist: Chris Samnee
After seeing the destruction at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ben Urich races down there only to find out that he’s not allowed anywhere near the stadium, thanks to Norman Osborn. What he does find, however, is an unlikely accomplice, a newfound determination and potentially the scoop of the year.
In my opinion, this was the best “Siege”-related issue this week. Brian Reed put together an entertaining story that is quite different from the Front Line mini-series tied to past events. I like this Ben Urich, who didn’t spend some of his time feeling sorry for himself; instead, he was very focused on getting the facts straight. If you’re buying Siege, don’t skip out on this tie-in.
I’ll say it: I’m in love with Chris Samnee, or rather, his art. His portrayals are so good that there was no question what every character was experiencing at any given moment. I’ve said it before: that is a trait that not many artists have. As for his style, at first I thought it had this artist’s vibe mixed with that artist’s, but in the end, it’s all Samnee, and that’s more than good enough for me.
Suicide Squad #67
DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writers: Gail Simone, John Ostrander
Artist: J. Calafiore
Amanda Waller wants Deadshot for a job, and couldn’t care less what happens to the rest of the Secret Six. Unbeknownst to her, however, is the return of the Fiddler, in Black Lantern gear no less, and his desire to reunite the Suicide Squad. We also learn that Belle Reeve isn’t impenetrable and that Bane should never have children.
A writing team-up for the ages, Gail Simone and John Ostrander take everything that made Secret Six and Suicide Squad good and amp it up a few notches. Every character gets their moment in the spotlight, and having Deadshot as the central figure amid the chaos was a stroke of genius. If you’re not familiar with Suicide Squad, do yourself a favor and grab this, previous knowledge of the team is not necessary.
The art here by J. Calafiore shows how much range he’s got at his disposal. From blown ops missions to Bane’s interrogation of Scandal’s date – and Ragdoll’s hilarious attempts to diffuse the situation – Calafiore lets it be known that there isn’t anything he can’t draw. Violence has never looked this sexy.
Weird Western Tales #71
DC Comics – $2.99 US
Writer: Dan DiDio
Artist: Renato Arlem
Joshua Turnbull, the descendant of the famous Quentin Turnbull, has to figure out how to utilize the power contained within the Black Lantern rings. Simon Stagg, with The Ray’s help, managed to capture one, but unfortunately for all involved, some rather familiar faces are knocking on the door, and they either want their ring back, or a few good hearts… preferably both.
DC Comics Senior VP and Executive Editor Dan DiDio switches caps to bring this story to life, which winds up being chock full of death, but that’s expected in this Blackest Night tie-in. I knew practically nothing of the characters within this story, and yet it was a pretty good done-in-one tale. Appearances by western staples like Bat Lash, Scalphunter and Super-Chief are nice enough, but seeing Jonah Hex – you can imagine what he looks like after being fitted for a black ring – in the current DC Universe was a real treat.
Artist Renato Arlem puts in some fine work in this issue, and his art has that western quality to it that makes the read all the more enjoyable. This is no small feat since he had to mix older characters like Hex with newer characters like The Ray, but he did so without a single misstep. I should also mention the cover, done by Bill Sienkiewicz, is fantastic.