Posts Tagged ‘Francis Manapul

05
Jun
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 224: The New DC

This week, DC Comics made an announcement that rocked the world of comics. This Sunday, the Showcase boys get together to talk about it. What’s the difference between a “reboot” and a “relaunch”? Will same-day digital change our reading habits? Which new books are we looking forward to, and what are some announcements we hope get made before all is said and done? In the picks, Mike likes Jack of Fables Vol. 8: The Fulminate Blade, Kenny chooses Flashpoint: Batman-Knight of Vengeance #1 and Blake goes with 50 Girls 50 #1. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 224: The New DC

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22
May
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 222: A Chat With Francis Manapul

It’s a Showcase first! Last week at Nola Comic-Con, the boys were lucky enough to host a few panel discussions, and we’re bringing the audio to you. This week, we talk with DC superstar artist Francis Manapul about getting started, his evolving art style, his work on Flash, his appearances on the TV show Beast Legends, and a hint about who’s going to be writing his next project. In the picks, Blake recommends Rocketeer Adventures #1! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 222: A Chat With Francis Manapul

14
May
11

Nola Comic-Con 2011 Day One!

Just got home from day one of the 2011 Nola Comic-Con. We had a blast today, and the Showcase crew managed to snag some choice audio. Hopefully, we’ll be able to share it all with you, including our panel discussion with DC artist Francis Manapul and a panel that was practically a who’s who of the New Orleans comic book scene. And there’s still a day left — if you didn’t make it, head on out to the Westin Canal Place tomorrow and join us!

And look for the first of what will be several Nola Comic-Con podcasts tomorrow!

03
Jul
10

Recent Roundup: Heroes, Robots, and Something Screwy

Continuing my look at some comics that have hit the stands lately that I think are worth talking about…

Avengers Academy #1: Marvel relaunched their Avengers franchise with a new first issue… heh, just kidding. That’s FOUR new first issues. Actually, six if you want to include miniseries. But I digress. I decided to sample each of the new ongoings to see which, if any, I would want to continue reading. Not surprisingly, the one I enjoyed the most was the one written by my favorite writer in the group: Avengers Academy by Christos Gage. With the Initiative camp shut down, a group of Avengers is given the job of training superpowered teens that were recruited under Norman Osborne’s regime. In the first issue we’re introduced to our core group of six young would-be heroes and the team of Avengers responsible for their training. There’s a lot to like about this issue — the inclusion of Speedball among the trainers not the least of those things. I absolutely despised it when he became “Penance” after Civil War, and bringing him back into the fold this way is keeping true to who the character really is without just ignoring that part of his continuity. The six new characters are well-shaped, well-developed, and each with their own distinct personality. Gage also finishes off the book with a pretty stunning revelation about our young cast. It’s a nice surprise, one that reminds me of the classic reveal at the end of Thunderbolts #1. (It’s not the same reveal, that wasn’t a spoiler, it just gave me the same sort of jolt.) This title has a wealth of potential, and I can’t wait to see what Gage does with it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Batman Beyond #1: Ever since the Batman Beyond TV show went off the air, fans of the character have been waiting to see him get some love in the DC Universe. A couple of years ago, we did get a glimpse of one of DC’s 52 Earths where he seemed to exist. Finally, after a tease in Superman/Batman Annual #4, Terry McGinnis is back in his own miniseries. If you didn’t watch the show back in the day, the premise is simple. We’re in the Gotham City of the future, a “Neo-Gotham,” where Bruce Wayne has gotten too old to continue the fight as Batman. Terry is the heir to the throne, a young man Bruce is training as he once trained his Robins, only this young man has taken on the mantle of the bat. In this first issue, someone has murdered one of Bruce’s old enemies, and as Terry races to save another, it turns out the perpetrator may be someone no one would ever have suspected. The last-page cliffhanger here is fantastic. Adam Beechen has plucked Batman’s most potentially dangerous adversary (even more than the Joker) and put him front and center here. It’s also nice to see a nod to the TV show, with Micron of the new Justice League again trying to get Terry to join up. I hope to see more of those characters as the series continues. Ryan Benjamin‘s style is interesting. It’s not a dark, gritty sci-fi comic, but it doesn’t have the animated feel that the original series did either. It exists somewhere in an in-between place that helps to ease the story into the DC Universe. Great first issue. I can’t wait for the rest of this arc.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fantastic Four #580: Also part of Marvel’s Heroic Age soft reboot, Jonathan Hickman‘s Fantastic Four has become probably their best ongoing title again (as it should be). Reed Richards has assembled a group of child geniuses to be his new apprentices, a group that includes his daughter Valeria, but doesn’t include his son Franklin. (Frank is potentially the most powerful mutant in existence, but doesn’t share Dad’s genius. Johnny Storm instead takes Franklin and his pal Leech to a toy store, where they encounter a pair of old adversaries — the mischievous Impossible Man and the murderous Arcade. Franklin and Johnny’s story makes up most of this issue, and it’s a good one, but what really knocks this issue out of the park is the conclusion, where Reed’s young geniuses decide on a class project, something they can do to help the world. What they decide on is something totally unexpected, something that can actually have a permanent effect on one of the members on the team. There’s something wonderful and brilliant about it. This has always been the book that housed my favorite Marvel characters. I’m really glad that, with Hickman writing it, it’s also a book that finally lives up to the name “The World’s Greatest Comics Magazine.”

Rating: 5/5

Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark #1: Sometimes it’s worth it to just do something silly. Artists Ryan Ottley and Jason Howard, best known for their collaborations with writer Robert Kirkman on Invincible and The Astounding Wolf-Man (respectively), were at a convention last year, throwing around some crazy ideas. One of those ideas, the idea of a bear and a shark getting “mixed up,” somehow stuck and turned into this one-shot. In Howard’s Sea Bear story, we watch as a young man undergoes terrible personal sacrifice to destroy the ferocious sea beast that killed his family. Grizzly Shark, on the other hand, follow a group of hunters that delve deep into the forest to try to hunt down the ferocious killer. Both stories are bizarre, crazy, and bloody as hell. They’re also a lot of fun. The stories themselves are somewhat ridiculous, and the one-page origin tale written by Kirkman to explain just how “they got mixed up” is even sillier. But it’s an awful lot of fun. The giant-sized book gives you two complete, full-length comic book stories for your money, and you’d be hard-pressed to find two crazier, more enjoyable stories on the shelves of recent comic books.

Rating: 4/5

Wall-E #7: This issue wraps up the “Out There” story arc, in which an astronaut named Andy (a nice little nod to Toy Story, I imagine) has returned to Earth to find it empty of human life, including his wife and children. With Wall-E’s help, Andy has been trying to repair his spacecraft, and he just may be on the verge of doing it. This was kind of a low-key ending to this arc… kind of quiet, even a little anticlimactic, but it actually sort of fits in with Wall-E and the desolate world he inhabited before the events of the movie. It’s a bittersweet story, and a highly appropriate one for this title. Bryce Carlson and Morgan Luthi have done a good job with this arc. Carlson’s story is sad, but hopeful, while Luthi’s artwork is a little grimy and dirty, which is absolutely perfect for a story set on the BNL-ruined world that we met in the motion picture. Whether or not the next arc (or any future arcs) will be set after the movie, I don’t know, but I hope they get to that part of the timeline sooner or later. I think there’s a lot of potential there for different kinds of stories than we’ve gotten in this comic so far.

Rating: 4/5

Wonder Woman #600: The 600th issue of Wonder Woman’s title (if you add up the three volumes) arrives with a bang. Outgoing writer Gail Simone and legendary Wonder Woman artist George Perez start off with a tale about an invasion force that only has the power to control men. Diana’s solution? Round up a team of DC’s greatest female fighters to take them out. This story really does the job of showing the position that Diana holds in the DC Universe — who she is and what she means to the other female heroes. There’s also a much more personal half to the story, where we catch up on a forgotten member of Wonder Woman’s supporting cast, someone who first showed up in George Perez’s legendary run on the title. In the second story, Amanda Conner writes and draws a team-up between Diana and Power Girl (with a little Batgirl thrown in). It’s a nice “girl’s night” story that’s very cute, but actually seems to fit in more as a chapter of the Power Girl title Conner recently left than a Wonder Woman story. Louise Simonson and Eduardo Pansica give us a Wonder Woman/Superman team-up, which isn’t bad, but is fairly generic.

The last two parts of the issue get more into the real meat. Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins (doing some work that’s very different than his usual style, but in a good way) provide a story that delves a bit into who Wonder Woman is and how people don’t realize her importance. This serves as a sort of prologue to the last part of the story, the beginning of writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Don Kramer‘s Odyssey storyline, in which Wonder Woman finds herself in an alternate reality where Paradise Island is in ruins and she never became the warrior we know her to be. This is also the story that introduces Wonder Woman’s much-publicized new Costume. I actually rather like the new look (although, like many others have said, I don’t care for the leather jacket), but I also recognize that it’s most likely a temporary change. Even if it doesn’t go back when Wonder Woman inevitably succeeds in restoring the original timeline, she’ll go back to the classic costume sooner or later. It’s an interesting starting point for a story, and I sincerely hope it does the job it promises to do — show people why Wonder Woman is so important, not just to the DC Universe, but to the culture of comic books in general. She’s been severely undervalued as a character for years. I don’t know if Straczynski is the man to change that, but I’m willing to give him a chance.

In addition to the stories, the book has an introduction by TV’s Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, a cover by Perez, and an avalanche of pin-up pages by the likes of Adam Hughes, Nicola Scott, Ivan Reis, Greg Horn, Francis Manpul and many more. Some of these are just okay, but many of them are great. It’s a solid issue, and a fitting anniversary for comics’ first female.

Rating: 4/5

02
Jul
10

Recent Comics Roundup: Brightest Day with extra Green

Okay, gang, how about another roundup of recent comic book releases. I’ll give you my usual slate of Brightest Day comics, then tomorrow I’ll get into some other recent books, including a few Heroic Age comics and the big Wonder Woman #600 that all the kids are talking about. Let’s get to it.

Green Lantern Corps #49: In part two of “Revolt of the Alpha-Lanterns,” Boodikka and John Stewart undertake a mission to planet Grenda, home of the robot Lantern Stel, who has gone incommunicado. Shortly after his arrival, though, John finds himself under attack by an unexpected source, and Kyle Rayner, Ganthet, and Soranik Natu go out to rescue the rescue mission. We also get a glimpse of the fallout from Deadman’s battle with the Anti-Monitor in Brightest Day #3, as it seems to be playing into this storyline. Ever since the Alpha-Lanterns were introduced, there’s been something distinctly creepy about them, and this issue seems to be pulling the curtain back a bit on them. We’re getting to see some of what they’re really up to, and while we still may not quite know why they’re behaving this way, the fact that they are is disturbing enough. Tony Bedard does still have room for character beats, though. The recent return of Kyle’s late ex-girlfriend, Jade, is causing trouble in his current relationship with Soranik. We also really get to see what makes John Stewart tick in this issue. I’m very happy that he’s joined the cast of this book full-time, as in just two issues he’s gotten more exposure than he did in the past 25 issues of the core Green Lantern title. Ardian Syaf gets to play with a lot of redesigns this issue, and he does a fine job. He’s rapidly rising up the ranks of DC’s bests artists, and this is one of DC’s best comics.

Rating: 8/10

Green Arrow #1: Hey, look, it’s a Green Arrow #1! It must be at least two, three months since we had one of those. At the beginning of Brightest Day, the devastated Star City became the site of an enormous star-shaped forest. Oliver Queen, now unmasked and disgraced as Green Arrow due to his murder of Prometheus (in Justice League: Cry For Justice), has taken to living in the forest, where he has become far more literal a modern Robin Hood than ever before. Not surprisingly, this issue is a lot of set-up. We find out where Ollie has been and what he’s been doing  since we last saw him, and we see what’s been happening to the power structure in what’s left of Star City. At the end of the issue, we see once again just how this title seems to be keyed in to Brightest Day, with a nice little reveal. While I’m still not sold that this revamp of the character justified yet another first issue for Green Arrow, I really do like what J.T. Krul is doing with him. He’s got a very good feel for Ollie, for who he is, for what he’s doing. Diogenes Neves’ artwork is strong, and interestingly enough seems to work better in the forest than in the city. Mauro Cascioli does a flat-out fantastic cover, one that really knocks my socks off. It’s not a knockout first issue, but it’s a strong one.

Rating: 7/10

Justice League: Generation Lost #4

The four JLI members who remember Max Lord, along with the new Blue Beetle, find themselves in Russia, unwillingly drawn into a conflict between a rogue Rocket Red and an entire squad of the armored Russian warriors. The new Rocket Red, a terrorist dedicated to the restoration of the Socialist rule, finds an unexpected ally in the former Justice League, and it’s Booster Gold of all people who starts to piece together what’s going on. Like many of the characters who returned from the dead, this issue we start to see that Maxwell Lord’s powers aren’t exactly like they were before his death. I find this particular mystery very interesting, and I’ve very much enjoyed watching it play out in several of the Brightest Day-branded titles. The reluctance of this group to form a team is also a really interesting way to play things. Judd Winick’s Power Girl last week didn’t impress me much, but his collaboration with Keith Giffen has been quite strong since this book launched. I’m enjoying the story, the mystery, and seeing these characters together again, which is what you want whenever this particular band is brought back together.

Rating: 7/10

Green Lantern #55: Lobo is back, and he’s on Earth to collect the bounty on Atrocitus. As the White Lantern still seems to want Atrocitus around, Hal Jordan finds himself in the odd position of defending the Red Lantern, along with Carol Ferris and Sinestro, from the last Czarnian. There’s a ton of action this issue, and Doug Mahnke does a great job of laying it out. The inks on this issue, though, are a little looser than I would like. Aside from the fight scenes, Geoff Johns also delves into the mystery of the strange being that seems determined to capture the Entities that embody the seven Corps. This has been a very strong element in this title, once that’s helped to propel the story forward since Brightest Day began. We also get a back-up story illustrated by Shawn Davis, the origin of the Red Lantern Dex-Starr. What exactly could take a cat from Earth and turn him into a brutal member of the rage-filled Red Lantern Corps? It’s a sad story, no surprise, and the last panel will break the heart of pretty much any cat-lover. Despite myself, I can’t help but hope that Johns returns to this story at some point and gives Dex-Starr the chance for a little payback.

Rating: 8/10

The Flash #3: Another Geoff Johns comic (the guy writes a lot of them, doesn’t he?) returns to the resurrected Captain Boomerang. Boomerang is back in prison, where he’s been given the “assignment” to break out before his fellow Rogues will consider accepting him back into the fold. Barry Allen, meanwhile, is being pursued by the Renegades – Rogue-based cops from the 25th century – who are accusing him of the murder of one of their own… a murder that hasn’t happened yet. This is a damn ominous issue. Not only is Captain Boomerang shaping up to be much more of a threat than he’s been in the past, but Johns briefly brushes up against just why Barry could be driven to kill Mirror Monarch. Here’s a hint. Barry has killed before. Anybody remember what it was that drove him to it the first time? Two more things to love about this issue. First, Johns has brought back the old-school “Flash Facts,” with the help of artist Scott Kolins, giving us both actual science (how a Boomerang works) and some “Secret Files”-style in-world info, in this case about Captain Boomerang himself. The other thing to love is the art of Francis Manapul. I don’t know if it’s an improvement in his style or the colors of Brian Buccellato (or a combination of the two), but his style on this book is so far ahead of his work on Legion of Super-Heroes just a few years ago that you couldn’t tell it was the same artist. It’s fantastic.

Rating: 9/10

Justice League of America #46: After a two-issue prologue, the JLA/JSA crossover “The Dark Things” begins in earnest this issue. The Starheart has taken over Green Lantern Alan Scott, and the power is spreading across the Earth, causing magic- or elemental-based heroes and villains to lose control and wreak havoc on the world. The Justice League and Justice Society spring into action to shut down the elementals, while the newly-returned Jade tries to use her altered powers to try to figure out what’s happened to her absent father and brother. James Robinson does good work balancing the two groups of characters and exploring some of the new relationships that this team is afforded – Congorilla and Jesse Quick, Nightwing and Supergirl… characters that we haven’t seen together very much, but work well together. Mark Bagley juggles a ton of characters this issue and he’s got a good feel for most of them. The young League looks great, the older JSA not as much, and that’s just a consequence of his style. He’s always done young characters very well. In the back-up story, Pow Rodrix illustrates the tale of two JLA members that don’t appear to be on the current team. Cyborg has helped develop a new technology that may prevent Red Tornado from ever having his body destroyed again, but when Red Tornado loses control, that’s a pretty big problem. The story isn’t clear as to whether Tornado’s loss of control is related to the Starheart in the main story, but I rather hope it is, as it will give the second story a bit more weight.

Rating: 7/10

Tomorrow, some comics that have nothing to do with Brightest Day.

27
May
10

What I’m Reading: Brightest Day in May

Okay, technically I this is my second Brightest Day post in the month of May, following this earlier one, but it rhymes, and I had a rough week, and I’m tired, and shut your face.

I’m sorry, I… I didn’t mean that. It’s the last week of the semester and I’m worn down and… I like your face. Really?

Let’s review some comics, okay?

Justice League: Generation Lost #1

The other bi-weekly series that we’re going to follow for the next year kicked off two weeks ago with this first issue. Maxwell Lord was an entrepreneur with a metahuman talent, the ability to control people’s minds, but the power was a weak one and even a small strain caused him to break into nosebleeds. Instead of becoming a hero himself, he settled for organizing the “International” incarnation of the Justice League in the 80s and 90s. But in the opening days of what would become Infinite Crisis, Max revealed that he was in fact manipulating the heroes in concert with Checkmate, and murdered the Blue Beetle. Wonder Woman was forced to put him down to stop him from using Superman as a weapon, and the fallout nearly destroyed her career. But in the wake of the Blackest Night, Max has come back to life, and in this issue he’s pulling the biggest scam of all time — using his power to make the world forget he ever existed.

Keith Giffen, who wrote the original Max stories back in the JLI era, is the plotter and breakdown artist for this series, helping give it a strong continuity. This isn’t the “Bwa-ha-ha” League he wrote back then, however. He’s giving us a more serious story, with real stakes for our heroes. His co-writer, Judd Winick, has often been hit and miss for me. His humor books (like The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius) are great, but his superhero work often fizzles out. I’m hoping that having him work in concert with Giffen, we’ll prevent that sort of thing from happening here.

As this is a biweekly book, there isn’t much chance of a “regular” art team. Aaron Lopresti does the chores on issue one, and he does a solid job. Working from Giffen’s breakdowns, he tells a solid story that I enjoyed quite a bit.

Rating: 7/10

As it’s been three Wednesdays since I talked about Brightest Day, another issue of this biweekly has already hit the stands. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

Justice League: Generation Lost #2

In the second issue, Max has cut loose with his power and succeeded in not just making nearly the entire planet forget him, but place some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion that makes people reject the truth when confronted with it. Only four people remember the truth, four members of Max’s former League who were in contact with his blood when he pulled his stunt. Booster Gold is already considered a joke to many of the heroes of the DC Universe, so his word is taken with a grain of salt, but now Max is taking steps to discredit and ruin Fire, Ice, and Captain Atom as well. With no one to turn to except each other, they set out to prove the truth and bring Max to justice.

The plot really kicks into gear this month, as the aftermath of Max’s global windwipe starts to come together. The writers have done a good job of filling in the gaps, even to the point of figuring out who Max would attribute each of his crimes to  in order to make people forget him more readily. The things he allows people to believe about Ted Kord’s death are perhaps more insidious than anything else he’s done, and it kind of makes you hope that Booster Gold is the one who lays the smack-down on him when the time comes. I’m also glad that the writers gave us a more scientific explanation (well… comic book science) for why these four and no one else remember Max. I was afraid it would be more emotional, that these four somehow felt more strongly than anyone else, but an answer like that would really be a disservice to Guy Gardner, the Martian Manhunter, Power Girl, and other members of those JLI teams.

Two issues in, I really think the writers have given us a solid start. I just hope there’s enough meat to the story to last a whole 26 issues.

Rating: 7.5/10

Titans: Villains For Hire Special #1

With the former Titans team pretty much disbanded and its members scattered to the four winds, the assassin called Deathstroke takes the name for his new team of mercenary villains. Their first target? Someone known to the heroes of the DCU all too well.

Plenty has been written about this issue already, so I won’t belabor the point, but there is one positive thing I can say about it. I promised that I wasn’t going to go out of my way to get every Brightest Day related title, but until I read this issue I was afraid that might happen anyway. Now, the chances of me following this story into the ongoing Titans comic are slim to none. First of all, the hero that’s killed in this issue is done so almost in a perfunctory way. I feel like he was discredited, killed just to show how “badass” the villains are. Death in comics, especially in a post-Blackest Day world, should mean something. When Ted Kord died, for example, it was very clearly the opening shot in a war. I don’t get the sense that there are going to be any serious repercussions for what Deathstroke’s team does in this issue.

What’s more, the team doesn’t really make any sense. Deathstroke has never needed a team before, and the only reason this book is called Titans is because no one seems to know what to do with the franchise. There are only two characters in this book I’m interested in reading on a regular basis, Tattooed Man and Osiris, but neither of them are villains. Neither of them belong on a team full of murderers. There’s an attempt to explain what Deathstroke has over them, but it doesn’t make their inclusion seem any less forced.

I was really happy to see Osiris among the living at the end of the Blackest Night, but my happiness was short-lived. I won’t be following his future adventures in this book.

Rating: 3/10

Birds of Prey #1

The birds are back! Barely a year after the title was canceled in the restructuring of the Batman universe, Gail Simone and Ed Benes return to the title they made great. Oracle decides to get the band back together for a new mission, calling up Black Canary, Huntress, and Lady Blackhawk to once again help her protect the heroes of the DC Universe from threats they can’t face on their own. While she’s rounding up her friends, however, the recently-resurrected Hawk is having some issues re-acclimating to life among the living. It seems he and his partner, Dove, may have to find a home among the Birds to figure out where to fly.

This new dynamic offers some really interesting story possibilities that I’m sure Simone will have the guts to address, and I don’t just mean the fact that Hawk is the first male member of this traditionally all-female team. Before he died, Hawk walked around for some time in villain’s clothes, and he killed a lot of people, including several founding members of the Justice Society of America. I can’t imagine the folks at JSA headquarters are going to be wild about him joining the “911 operators of the DC Universe,” as Simone often refers to this squad. This is something that almost has to be addressed. But I have every faith in Simone’s ability to do it.

Benes’ art hasn’t lost a step. He’s still got great, energetic, dynamic pencils and fantastic fight scenes. Coloring has progressed even more since his first run with these characters, and it’s not hyperbole to say this book looks better than ever.

I was really bummed when this title was canceled, but I couldn’t be happier to have it back, and back in the best of hands.

Rating: 8/10

The Flash #2

In part two of “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues,” Barry Allen is on the run from a group that mimics his worst enemies, but claim to be from the far future. This group, the “Renegades,” is in our time to arrest Barry because he’s going to murder one of their members 84 days in the future. Barry is none too keen on the idea of being arrested, of course, especially for something he hasn’t done (yet), and the Flash is soon on the run. Meanwhile, the present-day Rogues approach their recently-returned member, Captain Boomerang. Boomerang is none too happy with his old friends, though, as they seem intent on making him “prove himself” before they let him back into the club.

It’s not really clear how much of his time as a Black Lantern Captain Boomerang remembers. Does he remember killing his own son? Does he remember that his teammates basically gave him the boy as a snack? Does he even really want to reunite with the old team? One of the things that made Geoff Johns‘ first tenure on the Flash so memorable was the way he redefined the villains. It looks very much like he’s poised to do the same here.

Something that’s different than when he wrote the adventures of Wally West, though, is the way he’s bringing in more of the goofy comic book science and tech. Things like the Renegades are a very Silver Age-ish concept, and he’s executing them nicely in the present day with a more modern edge. Add in some great art by Francis J. Manapul and you’ve got another book I’m really happy with.

Rating: 8/10

Brightest Day #2

While some of the returnees have splintered off into the other titles we’ve been discussing, here in Brightest Day the focus really seems to be on some of the other characters. Firestorm is in a quandry, with Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond fused together in the Firestorm matrix. The situation is even more uncomfortable because Ronnie doesn’t remember, as a Black Lantern, killing Jason’s girlfriend. Jason, however, remembers it all too well. Also this week, the Martian Manhunter is seeking out the daughter of the scientist who brought him to Earth in the first place, and the Hawks are hunting down their oldest enemy. Firestorm is probably the most interesting part of this book to me, though, with Deadman coming in a close second. Still being jerked around by the White Lantern ring, Deadman gets a fantastic last-page cliffhanger.

The main mystery of Brightest Day seems to be split between this title and Green Lantern, with this book delving into those who returned from the dead and why. I’ve heard a few people understandably perturbed by the lack of Lantern content in this book, but I don’t think that’s what this is about. It reminds me much more of 52, the weekly series Johns co-wrote a few years ago, in that it follows a group of characters in the wake of a major event and examines how it changes their lives and, as a result, their world. Taken on its own merits, I think this story is succeeding quite well.

While I don’t expect a biweekly book to have a regular art team, it bothers me a bit when there are so many different artists on a single issue. Guys like Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Adian Syaf, Scott Clark and Joe Prado are all fine artists, but their styles are too different from one another to transition without a jolt. Hopefully future issues will be able to have a little more consistency.

Rating: 7/10

Justice League of America #45

This issue is part two of the two-part prelude to the five-part Justice Society of America crossover, “The Dark Things.” (They really should have just called it a seven-part crossover.) Jade, a Blackest Night returnee, comes back to earth inside a crystal. This “Starheart” is the mystical artifact that powers her father, the Golden Age Green Lantern, but now Alan Scott’s power is going haywire. The Justice League, Justice Society, and a few friends get together to try to prevent a disaster, but Power Girl seems to have gone mad. There’s only one person Batman can find with the juice to face her — Supergirl.

We know Supergirl is joining the team full-time soon, and this issue works very nicely as an introduction to her membership. She’s called up to deal with a specific threat (a nutcase Power Girl), but she’s already working well with the rest of the group. Robinson seems to want to build a JLA that’s built around all of the main “families” of the DC Universe without actually having the usual members. That’s an interesting idea, and as such, Supergirl is a very good candidate to represent the House of El.

The end of this book is an interesting cliffhanger, if not an earth-shattering one. Future solicits have already spoiled the end of this book (I hate when that happens) and I doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that’s likely to be permanent anyway. Still, it’s a pretty good superhero team-up, and it seems to be helping the League on a much-needed march towards stability.

Rating: 7/10

Green Lantern #54

The other main mystery in this series is that of the White Lantern itself. Fallen to Earth, we see as Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris and Sinestro (the “New Guardians” of the Green, Violet, and Yellow Lantern Corps, respectively) step up and try to lift the Lantern. It becomes clear, though, that the Lantern isn’t there for just anyone. It’s waiting for someone… or something.

Geoff Johns throws in two different B-plots in this issue, and each of them is intriguing. Atrocitus, “New Guardian” of the Red Lanterns, is prowling the subways of New York in search of something, while the entity that captured Parallax a few months ago makes a play for another of the entities that power the seven Corps. The mystery of the entities is one thing that Blackest Night didn’t dig into very deeply, and I’m really glad to see that storyline is being fed here. The whole “Sword in the Stone” analogy for the White Lantern seems a little on the nose, but that may be a red herring (or green or yellow or whatever the case may be). Atrocitus is becoming more and more interesting as a character, and I’m very curious to hear the long-awaited story of Dex-Starr.

I’ve said it over and over, but one of the best things to come out of the Blackest Night are the new characters in the new corps. I want to see more of those guys, and that’s what Johns is giving to me. It doesn’t appear that’s going to change any time soon, and I’m very happy about that.

Rating: 9/10

Green Lantern Corps #48

Closing off our look at the recent Brightest Day releases, we have Tony Bedard‘s debut as the new writer of Green Lantern Corps. As Guy Gardner leaves for a mysterious new mission of his own (which no doubt will be the focus of the upcoming Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors series) John Stewart comes to Oa to help with the rebuilding of the planet after the war. As he and Kyle Rayner help the rest of the Corps with reconstruction, the former Guardian called Ganthet approaches his brothers and sisters with a fateful decision — he is renouncing his status as a Guardian for any Corps, and instead will become the new permanently-stationed Green Lantern of the planet Oa.

The idea of Ganthet stepping down and becoming a “grunt” is an interesting one, and to the best of my knowledge it’s something that’s never been done before. Between that and the trade-off of Guy for John, Bedard has immediately created a very different feel for this book than it had under Peter Tomasi. As good as Tomasi’s run was, this new approach has a lot of promise of its own. John has really been forced out of the spotlight in recent years, ostensibly sharing the main Green Lantern title with Hal, but really getting very little screen time. Putting him in this book is already giving him a higher profile, without sacrificing any of the focus on Kyle Rayner or the rest of the cast. We also get a new mystery surrounding the Alpha Lanterns, characters that seemed to be out of a purpose not long ago. Bedard has re-purposed them and is turning them into something different, ominous, and fun to read about.

It’s a new era for this title, but it’s still a very strong part of Brightest Day.

Rating: 8/10

16
Apr
10

What I’m Reading: Brightest Day Begins

Well, like I said, I’m going to review all of the Brightest Day tie-in comics I read here. I’m not going out of my way for them, but I read so many DC books already chances are that I’ll cover most of ’em either here or at Comixtreme.com. At any rate, the first two books with that banner both came out this week, so it’s time to begin your reviews…

Brightest Day #0

Geoff Johns, mastermind behind Blackest Night, joins with his Green Lantern-universe writing partner Peter J. Tomasi to write this year-long biweekly maxiseries that spins out of the events of the final issue of Blackest Night. In this zero issue, we begin with Boston Brand, formerly Deadman, one of the twelve characters brought back from the dead in that previous storyline. Unlike the rest of them, however, Boston was never a force in his life. He didn’t become a hero until after he died, and the new “Aliveman” (as Johns has taken to calling him online) doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. That choice seems to be made for him as the White Lantern ring that brought him back from the dead takes him on a tour into the lives of the other 11 men and women who came back from beyond the grave and, at the end, gives him the first glimpse of just what the mission of his new life may be.

This feels like a true zero issue, with lots of set-up and lots of promise. Taking the time to show us who these characters are and how they’re dealing with their return to life is a good idea. Sure, the vast majority of the people reading this issue also read Blackest Night and know who the twelve are, But some of these characters have been dead for quite a while. It’s perfectly reasonable to think that an incoming reader may not be familiar with Osiris, Hawk, Jade, or Maxwell Lord, and taking the time to remind us who they are isn’t a bad thing at all. The writers go farther than that, though, giving us a real glimpse into how their return to the living has effected them. Some of them, naturally, are handling it better than others, and this issue seems to give at least a peek into the story direction each of these characters will enjoy over the course of the next year. We also get an idea of just where many of their stories will lead — Hawk into Birds of Prey, Max into Justice League: Generation Lost, Jade into Justice League of America and Justice Society of America, Osiris into Titans and Captain Boomerang and probably Professor Zoom into The Flash, although each of them no doubt will also play a part in this main series as well. (Actually, looking at this list the only book I wasn’t planning to read anyway was Titans, and with Osiris heading there I’m sorely tempted to get it.)

Fernando Pasarin does the art for this issue, although with a biweekly series I imagine that there won’t be one “regular” artist, but probably several rotating pencilers and inkers taking turns to get this series out on time, much as was done on the previous weekly comics 52 and Countdown. I really like Pasarin’s artwork — it’s strong, traditional superhero art that works for the bright heroes (and the dark villains) we see herein.

This is a solid beginning. Brightest Day is going to be a long road, but Johns and Tomasi got it off on the right foot.

Rating: 8/10

The Flash #1

Or, more accurately, The Flash (Vol. 3) #1. While I understand why this book has been relaunched with a new first issue instead of just continuing the numbering of the previous series, that’s a pet peeve of mine in the comic book universe. This is, however, at least better than what they’re about to do with Green Arrow. But I digress, Geoff Johns re-teams with his former Adventure Comics partner Francis Manapul for the new ongoing adventures of Barry Allen, the Flash. Barry was recently returned from the dead himself (well… recently in DC Universe time, it’s been nearly two years in the real world since his return began), and as his new series kicks off we see him trying to re-acclimate into his life. Johns has a pretty plausible story for him to tell his former friends and co-workers about where he’s been all these years, and Barry wastes no time getting back into the mix.

The story really kicks into gear when a murder victim is found in the middle of Central City wearing a costume similar to that of Barry’s old foe the Mirror Master. As he tries to look into the stranger’s death, he finds that he isn’t the only one investigating… and with Mirror Master down, the rest of the Rogues can’t be far behind.

Johns does a wonderful job capturing the flavor of Barry Allen in this book. While a lot of people — fairly — miss Wally West (Barry’s former sidekick who took the top job in the nearly 25 years since Barry’s “death” in Crisis on Infinite Earths), Johns has really conveyed who Barry is and what makes him different from Wally. The relationship between Barry and his wife, Barry and his coworkers, and Barry and his enemies is all clearly defined. What’s more — as Johns so often does — he takes great pains to characterize not just the hero, but his city as well. Central City is a place concerned with speed, with getting everything done fast. And that seems a perfect fit for the scarlet speedster.

Can I say how much I love Francis Manapul’s artwork? His linework, with beautiful colors by Brian Buccellato, is unlike anything else you see in a modern superhero comic. The book has a sort of washed look to it that gives it a timeless feel. The story you’re reading could have been told twenty years ago, it could be told twenty years from now, and it will fit in just perfectly.

As he often does, Johns ends this issue with a teaser from an upcoming storyline, Flashpoint, which is promised to come in 2011. Johns will apparently be telling this story with artist Andy Kubert, although whether this is a storyline in this title, a crossover with other titles, or its own miniseries remains unknown. I love when Johns does this, though. The first time was back at the end of Sinestro Corps War, when he first teased a little something called Blackest Night, and since then he’s stepped up several times to give us teases. This tease features a clock running out, Barry with Professor Zoom’s costume, something happening to the other speedsters, and glimpes of Paris underwater, a red-eyed Batman, an armored Wonder Woman in front of a flaming Big Ben, soldiers protecting a bunker sporting Superman’s S-shield, and a white-gloved hand wearing a White Lantern ring. Curiouser and curiouser. Whatever it is, Johns has proven himself to me time and again, so I can’t wait to see it.

Rating: 8/10




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