Saturday, June 30, 2012

Green Lantern Vol. 1 No Fear Trade Paperback Review

Green Lantern Vol. 1 No FearDC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
176 pages
$12.99 (2008)
$24.99 (2006) Hardcover
ISBN 9781401210588

Contributors: Geoff Johns, Carlos Pacheco, Ethan Van Sciver, Jesus Merino, Simone Bianchi, Darwyn Cooke, Prentiss Rollins, Dave Stewart, Nathan Eyring, W. Moose Baumann, Jared Fletcher, Rob Leigh, and cover by Alex Ross

Reprints: Green Lantern #1-6; Green Lantern Secret Files and Origins 2005

Synopsis: Hal Jordan has been through the ringer.  His home town of Coast City and its two million residents were annihilated by the interstellar warlord Mongul.  Bereft with grief, Hal lost control and single-handedly destroyed the Green Lantern Corps in an attempt to resurrect the city by harnessing the energy from the main power battery located on Oa.  He became the villain known as Parallax and threatened the entire universe.  Eventually he gave his life to restart the sun and save Earth.  It didn't end with his death as Hal became the new host for the wrathful holy spirit The Spectre in an attempt at redemption.  This fusion ended in failure, but later it was revealed Parallax was a separate entity which caused Hal to lose control and he eventually returns to his former life.
Hal Jordan returns as the primary Green Lantern
of space sector 2814
Now Hal is back as the primary Green Lantern for space sector 2814, the Green Lantern Corps is restoring itself on Oa, the government is rebuilding Coast City, and Hal is trying to become a fighter pilot again.  The rebuilt Coast City is a ghost town as no one wants to return to the site of such catastrophic death.  A new breed of Manhunter arrives on Earth with enough power to defeat a Green Lantern.  Hector Hammond is a powerful psychic who was hyper-evolved under mysterious circumstances.  He has a history with Hal and ends up resurfacing to cause problems.  A monstrous shark-creature is killing people off the shore of Coast City (that's gonna help bring people back).  All of these incidents are related and Hal is put to the test in order to solve the mystery.
Hal is brutally attacked by a new model Manhunter in midair.
I don't know why it's weilding a baton, but whatever
Pros: Great cover by Alex Ross, three excellent artists (Pacheco, Van Sciver, Bianchi), Johns sets up the new status quo with a decent kickstart to Hal's continuing adventures

Cons: No Kyle Rayner in sight, Hal is back to status quo with hardly any real change to his character after a decade of major events, bad guys are pretty lame, mostly story setup for later issues, three very different art styles
Hector Hammond looks even more grotesque through
the skilled art of Ethan Van Sciver
Mike Tells It Straight: The long-awaited re-establishment of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern after he spent years away from the role first as the evil Parallax and then as the repentant host of The Spectre.  It's highly recommended to read Green Lantern: Rebirth to get up-to-speed with Hal Jordan's saga prior to this collection.  Those fans of Hal Jordan who rankled at his replacement by Kyle Rayner will eat this collection up!
Hal battles a repowered, deadlier Black Hand
Johns really impressed me by bringing Hal back and earning the acceptance of the die-hard fans in Rebirth.  He continues to write a great Hal Jordan and reestablishes his status quo in this first collection.  I like the way Johns seeds future storylines (like bringing back Black Hand and then using him later in Blackest Night).  I didn't like the set of villains Johns chose here - the Manhunters are pretty static and three issues dedicated to them was too much, spending a whole issue fighting the shark-monster, and the big reveal of the bad guys behind Hector Hammond was kind of a letdown.

The mix of artists was a bit jarring - Pacheco is solid (although I didn't like his Manhunter revamp design - looks essentially the same), Van Sciver was the real standout with his hyper-detailed style, and Bianchi was more whimsical.  I liked the addition of the Secret Files stories to the collection.  Overall a good read with some great setup offset by several mediocre moments/stories.  Not the greatest and not the worst by a long shot.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ultra: Seven Days Deluxe Hardcover Review

Ultra: Seven Days
Image Comics
Oversized Hardcover
248 pages
$74.99 (2011)
$17.99 (2005) TPB
$39.95 (2005) Hardcover
ISBN 9781607064527

Contributors: Jonathan Luna and Joshua Luna

Reprints: Ultra #1-8 (of 8)

Synopsis: In Spring City superheroes exist and perform miracles everyday.  They help the authorities in an official capacity and work for commercial agencies.  Popular heroes are superstars and the target of lucrative promotional contracts (similar to pro athletes). It's not an easy job being a hero and famous icon under the constant, microscopic scrutiny of the public.

Aphrodite and Cowgirl
Pearl Penalosa is a superstar as the incredible Ultra and adored by millions of fans. She works for Heroine Inc., one of the premiere agencies in the city and has been nominated for a superhero award. Her life isn't all glitz and glam however as she prefers kicking back in a pair of sweatpants with a t-shirt rather than getting dressed up.  She hasn't been in a relationship for five years (now those are some cobwebs) since her highly public breakup with Captain Steel.

She's a workaholic with little time to repair her broken love life.  Fortunately she has some great supergal pals keeping her sane.  On the way home from a night on the town Pearl, Olivia (aka Aphrodite), and Jen (aka Cowgirl) make a chance stop at a psychic's apartment to have their fortunes read.

The fortune teller's reading is foreboding as something will happen to each woman within seven days - Olivia will suffer a loss, Jen will receive what she has given, and Pearl will find true love.  The three are somewhat incredulous until Olivia's car is totaled by a truck as they leave the fortune teller's place. The first of the fortunes has come true!

Now Pearl agonizes with self-doubt over the possibility of finding true love.  She has a chance meeting with a  nice, regular guy - could he be the one?  Meanwhile a devastating killer is on the loose killing people and superheroes alike.
Pros: Excellent dialogue, great premise of superheroes working for commercial agencies with product endorsements, subtle yet expressive art, good colors, nice characterization (i.e. human), lots of extras in the oversized hardcover edition, loved that each cover looked like a different tabloid magazine

Cons: Simple art (not flashy, but minimalist), relatively straightforward story, some panel repeating (i.e. repeating the same panel with some minor difference, I always complain about Bendis' work using this)

Mike Tells It Straight: This was an interesting read - simple, clean art with lively dialogue and a few plot twists.  I would literally call this a superhero Sex and the City.  It was utterly charming and very enjoyable as a change of pace from typical superhero stories filled with senseless brawls. No convoluted history to bog down the story and just simple storytelling.

This book is my second exposure to the Luna Brothers after reading Girls, and I'm officially a fan.  The brothers make a great team with highly competent art (almost subdued) and awesome dialogue.  I thought Ultra was refreshing and would easily recommend it to friends (both comic fans and non-comic fans alike).  My only gripe is it ended after eight issues and there doesn't appear to be a follow up planned.

The deluxe, oversized hardcover edition is absolutely beautiful with some nice extras.  You don't absolutely need to own it unless you love the story or large format a great deal (it looks great next to the other deluxe Luna books like Girls and The Sword).  The regular softcover trade paperback collection is perfectly fine to enjoy the story and a lot less expensive.  Check this one out.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

100 Bullets Vol. 4 A Foregone Tomorrow Trade Paperback Review

100 Bullets Vol. 4 - A Foregone Tomorrow
DC Comics - Vertigo
Softcover Trade Paperback
264 pages
$17.95 (2002)

Contributors: Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Dave Johnson, Patricia Mulvihill, Digital Chameleon, Clem Robins, Paul Pope, Joe Jusko, Mark Chiarello, Jim Lee, Lee Bermejo, Dave Gibbons, Tim Bradstreet, Jordi Bernet, Frank Miller, and J.G. Jones

Reprints: 100 Bullets #20-30

Synopsis: An organization rules from the shadows and has been in power for centuries.  They are simply known as "The Trust" and once upon a time the Minutemen kept them in line ensuring no one family gained too much control.  All of that changed one night when The Trust ordered the Minutemen destroyed.

  • The Mimic - Shepard meets with a young man named Benito whose father is a powerful member of The Trust.  It's apparent Shepard walks a fine line between The Trust and Agent Graves, but what is his motivation?  The young man is dissatisfied with his father and we are left to question - does Graves have an ally?
  • Sell Fish & Out to Sea - We meet a smackhead named Jack who has a briefcase filled with a gun and one hundred untraceable bullets.  He tells his story to another smackhead buddy after they score some dope.  Jack was a bouncer at a rock club, but loses his job one night.  He's down on his luck and has issues with addiction - drinking leads to drugs in a neverending spiral down the toilet.  The briefcase from Agent Graves just made things worse.  Apparently Jack is linked to The Trust somehow.  Is he another piece of the puzzle or just Agent Graves getting revenge?
  • My favorite cover yet by Johnson
  • Red Prince Blues - Hank has a gambling problem and a sick wife at home with big medical bills.  He just needs to score one righteous pot to save the day, but his luck never seems to hit.  One night he loses a crucial pot to a young man named Benito and swears revenge.  The Trust has a meeting in Atlantic City - the site where the Minutemen were supposedly killed.  Agent Graves plans to take a swipe at them, but will Hank foul up his plans with his attempt at revenge on Benito?
  • Mr. Branch & the Family Tree - Branch takes a French whore home and tells her the secrets of The Trust, Mintuemen, and Graves because she doesn't speak English.  We get an artist jam issue with pinups and recaps of all the characters thus far.
  • Idol Chatter - Agent Graves runs int an old man who once received a briefcase.  The tale is told about a famous ballplayer who married a movie star actress, but she died of an overdose of pills.  She was coveted by a president and foul play was involved.  The ballplayer gets a briefcase and takes a shot at a certain president in Dallas.  The rest is one of the biggest secrets and cover ups in history.
  • Contrabandolero - Wylie lives in a fly-blown town just north of the border from Juarez.  Nothing happens in town except drinkin' down at the bar with his two loser buddies Hopper and Doctor Dan. Things change for the worse when Shepard and Dizzy roll into town along with a bad news job Wylie gets roped into.  Now he's got to run something the wrong way across the border or die trying.  

Pros: Great writing by Azzarello, very nice art by Risso, covers by Johnson continue to be interesting, nice set of stories as the conspiracy and players are added upon, less emphasis on the high-concept briefcase deal with Graves, some welcome nudity, humor too!

Cons: Benito seems like a whiny brat, would expect The Trust to take care of any loose ends i.e. Graves, Graves seems to have too much autonomy and room to move around, Idol Chatter story is a bit of a reach (mildly entertaining nonetheless)
Wylie gets into some major trouble

Mike Tells It Straight: The largest collection yet of 100 Bullets stories and it's a good read.  Azzarello builds his crime noir/conspiracy theory tale and introduces more characters.  We get a good look at The Trust - the ultimate enemy of the Minutemen and Graves.  The artist jam issue was decent and had a lot of good pinups with bios to catch us up on the players.

Risso's art remains highly competent - reminds me of a cross between Frank Miller (heavy shadows especially in #24) and John McCrea (from Hitman).

Overall a nice read and if you've made it this far then you might as well keep going to the end of the series.  This series is a progression and you'll need to read the previous collections in order to fully appreciate/understand the story.  I like the characters Azzarello and Risso have created and want to know what happens to them.  It's gonna be a wild ride and I can guaranty a not so pretty ending.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Blood and Water Trade Paperback Review

Blood and Water (aka Blood + Water)
DC Comics - Vertigo
Softcover Trade Paperback
128 pages
$14.99 (2009)
ISBN 9781401201753

Contributors: Judd Winick, Tomm Coker, Sno-Cone Studios, Digital Chameleon, Jason Wright, Kurt Hathaway, and covers by Brian Bolland

Reprints: Blood and Water #1-5 (of 5)

Synopsis: Adam Heller was a popular kid with a bright future.  All of his aspirations disappeared when he developed a terminal illness and the last few years have been spent slowly dying as his body breaks down. 

His only friends through this entire ordeal are Joshua and Nicole.  They help him feel human when he feels hopeless.  On the latest trip to the doctor he finally gets the news he's been waiting for - he's going to die of liver cancer.  It's all over, but Adam is somewhat relieved after enduring a living hell for so long. 

Josh and Nicky visit again and hear the dire news, but they react in a strange way.  They suddenly reveal to Adam that they are vampires and he has a chance to live forever in a perfect body.  After reeling from the revelation for awhile Adam agrees and sheds his diseased humanity for undead immortality. 

Reborn as a vampire Adam delights in his new life.  Even better he learns that vampires don't drink the blood of humans, but instead animal blood is adequate to keep them alive.  No messy moral guilt over killing a bunch of people.  Now he can party and have sex every night of the week without any consequences.  An easy, happy ending, right? 

Wrong.  Something is different with Adam and his undead birth awakens an ancient terror even vampires are afraid of.  Now the terror stalks Adam and his makers with a bloody showdown looming over their fun. 

Pros: Nice covers by Bolland, interesting spin on the vampire mythos by Winick, some good dialogue, Coker has decent art

Cons: Art is a bit inconsistent (nice covers, but interior art is a lot different), character designs for vampire monsters is pretty weak, some bad dialogue, gaping plot holes, series is too short to reasonably accomplish what Winick attempts to write

Mike Tells It Straight: I was intrigued by the premise and love a good vampire story (especially one that strays from the typical mythos).  Adam's plight with terminal illness and transformation into a vampire made some sense, but I didn't like Josh and Nicky as characters.  They didn't ring true and why would they hang around a dying mortal for so many years?  Just didn't jive with my sensibilities. 

Then things got worse as the ancient vampire monsters started stalking them.  We're introduced to vampire society which was not very impressive and fast forward to a final showdown.  Overall I was left unsatisfied with the whole thing (not to mention the vampire monsters ended up being lame).  Felt like Winick had to cram a lot into a mere five issues.  No sequel or follow ups on the horizon (i.e. no chance for redemption here).  Overall low recommendation. 

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Global Frequency Vol. 2 Detonation Radio Trade Paperback Review

Global Frequency Vol. 2 Detonation Radio
DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
144 pages
$14.95 (2004)
ISBN 9781401202910

Contributors: Warren Ellis, Lee Bermejo, Simon Bisley, Tomm Coker, Gene Ha, Jason Pearson, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Mike Heisler, David Baron, Art Lyon, and covers by Brian Wood

Reprints: Global Frequency #7-12 (of 12)

Synopsis: The Global Frequency organization is an independent coalition of 1,001 individuals working together for the greater good. Headed by former intelligence agent Miranda Zero the group's main focus is stopping catastrophes conventional authorities cannot and attempting to save lives.  Utilizing special modified handhelds and a briefcase full of unique equipment for each agent, the Frequency cleans up dark science landmines left by former governments and twisted black ops programs.  A girl codenamed Aleph acts as their information hub in a secret, underground bunker.

This is beyond hardboiled detective

  • Detonation - a group of terrorists target a peace talk and Miranda Zero must lead a team of black ops killers to stop them.  Can they get to the bomb in time?  Not everyone gets out alive
  • Miranda Zero has been kidnapped and the Global Frequency must stage a daring rescue before she is killed outright.  Can they find her in time?
  • Aleph reinstates a former Global Frequency member in Japan to investigate a major accident at a nearby hospital.  Takashi has significant reservations, but can't refuse the call to help those in need.  The experiments he finds in the hospital are horrific beyond imagination and he is pushed to the limit of sanity.  Will he be able to stop the perpetrators?
  • Superviolence - the Global Frequency send an assassin to kill an assassin.  Both men are experts at hand-to-hand combat along with utilizing a powerful mind-over-matter technique called biofeedback.  What happens when you throw two combatants at each other that can ignore pain and generate super-strength through sheer force of will?  Superviolence
  • Aleph - we get the secret origin of Aleph joining the Global Frequency as a group of terrorists attempt to infiltrate her secret bunker.  Is this nerd all computer keyboards and memory chips or can she defend herself in the real world?  Let's find out!
  • Harpoon - a doomsday weapon activates after an aging computer brainfarts and the Global Frequency must save the city of Chicago.  Miranda Zero must activate nearly all 1,001 members in this nail-biting thriller

Pros: Phenomenal lineup of artists, Ellis gives us some dark science fiction and conspiracy theory writing, Gene Ha's art is incredible, Lee Bermejo's art is awesome as well

Yeah, that's superviolence
Cons: Multitude of visual styles with new art team on each issue feels jarring and inconsistent, Wood's covers are boring (a little less boring than the first volume, but still boring), one-shot stories with no real plot progression except another crisis to avert

Mike Tells It Straight: Another installment of one-shot stories by Warren Ellis with new artists on each issue.  I get the concept of having a comic series be more like an episodic television show with self-contained stories each issue so new readers pick up any issue without feeling lost, but it's not my preferred story vehicle for the medium.  He also introduces and kills off new, interesting characters without any notice.

Some really great art here by big names and the stories are interesting.  The last issue by Ha alone is almost worth it - Ellis finally has what feels like a progression to the story as all the other Global Frequency members make guest appearances.  He gives the fans two major wins - stories for new readers to pick up and not feel lost plus actually killing off decent characters.  It's something the Big Two (Marvel and DC) are too afraid to do.  I seem to remember this series being heavily marketed in Borders and can see where the lack of coherent plot would appeal to the masses (who possess microthin attention spans).
Warren Ellis and Gene Ha must work together again!
My real complaint on these stories is the singular nature of each story (same gripe with vol. 1) with no real plot between them and having so many new characters we really don't get emotionally attached by the time they get killed off.  This volume felt like fast food black ops pulp (while vol. 1 was fast food sci-fi) and only held up by some killer artwork.  A neat throwaway series, but no lasting impression.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Global Frequency Vol. 1 Planet Ablaze Trade Paperback Review

Global Frequency Vol. 1 Planet Ablaze
DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
144 pages
$14.95 (2004)
ISBN 9781401202743

Contributors: Warren Ellis, Garry Leach, Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry, David Lloyd, Roy Martinez, Jon J. Muth, Liam Sharp, David Baron, Michael Heisler, and covers by Brian Wood

Reprints: Global Frequency #1-6 (of 12)

Synopsis: The Global Frequency organization is an independent coalition of 1,001 individuals working together for the greater good.  Headed by former intelligence agent Miranda Zero the group's main focus is stopping catastrophes conventional authorities cannot and attempting to save lives.  Utilizing special modified handhelds and a briefcase full of unique equipment for each agent, the Frequency cleans up dark science landmines left by former governments and twisted black ops programs.  A girl codenamed Aleph acts as their information hub in a secret, underground bunker.

  • 'Bombhead' - a former cold war weapon will be unleashed in San Francisco as a deep cover Soviet spy's head begins surging with energy.  Miranda Zero must uncover the secret in order to save the city
  • 'Big Wheel' - a full body cyborg goes on a killing rampage in the black ops tech facility 'Big Wheel' when a lab tech accidentally shows him a mirror and the cyborg sees exactly what has been done to him (if you can still call him a 'him' after they removed his genitals).  The reality of artificial prosthetics granting superpowers is not as romantic as the comic books make it seem.  Miranda Zero leads a squad to stop the cyborg including a woman with a cybernetic arm
  • 'Invasive' - an extraterrestrial mind-virus invades Manhattan overriding the personality of people it comes in contact with.  Miranda Zero calls in a memetic expert to decode the virus before it spreads across the city
  • 'Hundred' - a group of internet consultants form a cult and are going to blow up a group of hostages to gain hits on their website.  An Aboriginal cop and assassin team up to kill one hundred web geeks
  • 'Big Sky' - in a remote Norwegian town the people begin acting strangely and committing suicide after a group of skinheads burn down a church.  Miranda Zero and a contingency of GF scientists investigate the cause of the mass hysteria.  Among them are a magician who may answer what science cannot
  • 'The Run' - a parkour runner must race across the city to attempt to defuse a bomb carrying a deadly flesh-eating virus

So that's why we're not all running around with bionic arms
Pros: Good lineup of artists, Ellis pushes the envelope on some neat science fiction (future) concepts, Baron's colors on each issue anchor the multiple visual styles a bit

Cons: Inconsistent visuals with different artist each issue, covers by Wood are boring, Ellis' science fiction is fast and loose - he's just trying to jam any new age concept into some type of story

Mike Tells It Straight: Ellis dazzles us with high concept science fiction mixed with a little spy action.  I liked a few of the ideas he chose to expound here, but the one-shots with multiple-artists format killed any story momentum.  It was just another situation with different people being directed by Miranda Zero (a female Nick Fury minus the eyepatch).  The Global Frequency formula sounds good on paper, but completely diffused in reality with no plot points carried to forward issues.
I like to imagine pretty girls are running across city
rooftops doing parkour almost constantly nowadays
The covers by Brian Wood felt incredibly static with vague graphics and nothing really took hold here.  I really liked Ellis' explanation of cyborg technology.  In the end Global Frequency is just fast food sci-fi pulp with a few highlight situations/concepts and an artist jam.  I expect the final volume of the series to be much of the same.

TO BUY and Recommendations: