Thursday, November 11, 2004

Quick Comic Reviews

Bugtown #1
by Matt Howarth
A great example of how to do a new first issue for a series that's been around in various forms for twenty-five years. Howarth opens with a short story about Brent Foxx, a convicted hacker on parole in Texas who, after a night on a drunken binge, awakens to find himself in the strange extra-dimensional city of Bugtown, where the normal rules of both physics and society no loner apply. This allows new readers to be introduced to Howarth extended setting through the eyes of a newcomer, while introducing long-time readers to a new player in Bugtown. The action then shifts to a Bulldaggers reunion concert being organized by Russ Post, one of the feared Post Bros. We are further introduced to many of the major characters in Bugtown, as well as the typical weirdness and ultraviolence, and the plot for this six issue series kicks into high gear. Of course, it should go without saying that Howarth's art is in top form, and he exhibits a great ability to present a story that is full of info-dumping without getting bogged down.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Action Comics #821
by Chuck Austen, Luke Ross, Renato Guedes, Shane Davis, Cliff Richards, Fabio Laguna, Lary Stucker & Will Conrad
No, your eyes do not deceive you. It took seven different artists to produce this steaming pile of nonsense. The problem isn't really with the art--individually, each of the four different art teams is okay. It's just the story that's utter tosh. Last issue ended with the return of Doomsday to Metropolis, and indeed this issue begins with the population of the city evacuating after hearing reports of Doomsday's return. But then the plot veers off into completely unrelated directions: Preus--apparently one of the characters from that gawdawful "Godfall" storyline--hooks up wih some sort of ultra right-wing survivalist group, whilest meanwhile Superman reacts to recent events in Adventures of Superman by standing around and gazing longingly at Lois in the hospital. The story ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, with Preus beating the stuffing out of the Martian Manhunter. Now you might think that the next issue would deal with the resolution of the Preus situation, or maybe even remember that Doomsday is reportedly around; but no, the next issue box says that Lois and Clark return to Smallville for the holidays. This is easily the worst Superman comic of the year, probably the decade, and perhaps ever.
Rating: 1 (of 5)

New Thunderbolts #1/82
by Fabian Nicieza, Tom Grummett & Gary Erskine
The original Thunderbolts #1 featured at its end one of the greatest reveals in the history of comics. It would be nearly impossible to repeat that feat, but Nicieza does give us a twist ending that puts this reassembled Thunderbolts team in a new light. With the Avengers is disarray, Mach IV decides that the time is right to resurrect the team of former villains trying to go straight, with a couple of old faces and some new ones as well. Like DC's late, lamented Suicide Squad, Thunderbolts provides an opportunity to resurrect and possibly redeem minor villains; Nicieza gives us The Blizzard as a new Thunderbolt trying to travel the road to redemption, and five long-forgotten water-based villains as the menace facing the new team. Grummett is a fine super-hero artist who is comfortable with team books with a lot of characters, as seems perfectly suited to this book. The good news is that it appears that Nicieza is not 'writing for the trade' here, and will be giving us the sort of comic that, while being an ongoing soap opera-style super-hero book, will make each issue an individual reading experience and drive you to want to pick up the next issue next month. This is a comic that will give a better reading experience in monthly doses than collected in a trade.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Nightwing #99
by Devin Grayson, Zach Howard & Andy Owens
Presumably a placeholder issue until next month's #100, nothing really happens in these 22 pages. While the Taratula busts some crooks' heads in Gotham (yawn), Nightwing recovers from his gunshot wound, and then gets an info-dump from Batman about the end of "War Games" and the new state of affairs in Gotham. Grayson has built her career around a reputation for spot-on characterization, but for some strange reason her Nightwing has been populated by pod people.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)

Green Arrow #44
by Judd Winick, Phil Hester & Ande Parks
As expected, this issue features the reactions of Mia, Ollie & Conner to the revelation of Mia's HIV status, and Winick packs in a good deal of teaching about HIV. It's admirable and not too heavy-handed, and is redemmed by some good character moments at the end. Hester & Parks do s good job with a script that is mostly talking heads; it was recently announced that they will soon be leaving the title, and boy will it miss them.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Avengers Finale
by Brian Michael Bendis & a bunch of artists
What a surprise: The Avengers 'celebrate' the end of an era by sitting around in the burned out Avengers Mansion and talking. Now, an issue by Bendis of people talking can be good, but not in this case. A lot of faux emotion and characters coming to bad conclusions in order to force the plot down the path to Bendis's New Avengers title. And while it makes a certain amount of sense to have the two-page spread flashback scenes illustraed by different artists, the incongruity up the different artists for the main narrative is unfortunate. Michael Goydos & George Perez are both great artists, but their style are completely incompatible. It's an ignoble end for the 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes.'
Rating: 2 (of 5)

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