Nostalgia is a funny creature. While I can muster no nostalgia as an adult for childhood favorites like G.I. Joe or Transformers, I can get very nostalgic about comic books. Remember new comic book day? This weekly event was a cherished day for me when I was tween and teenager. I can remember going into a shop on Wednesday or Thursday to buy the latest issue of X-Men or whatever bad girl book was "hot" back in the day. New comic book day was once a time honored tradition for me and many fans. With the advent of online mail order comic book stores, that time has passed. Now new comic book day has been replaced by new comic book week; the week when my monthly shipment of comic books arrive. I usually try to pace out my comic book reading to keep the freshly read feeling alive for a month. This month was different. For some reason, I burned through my stack of books like a man possessed. For this week's installment of my Summer Reading Reviews, I will highlight some of the best hits and worst misses from the batch.
Batman & Robin #1
This issue reminded me so much of this creative team's run on All-Star Superman. I'm not a Superman fan at all, but they managed to make Superman seem relevant and hip. That's right, they made the whitest boy scout this side of Idaho seem cool. I kind of got that buzz with Batman & Robin #1. The new dynamic between the new Dynamic Duo was actually pretty good. I don't read Batman titles regularly, but let's face it; replacing Bruce Wayne is sort of a dumb idea that almost everyone knows won't last longer than a couple of years. But reading this issue made me kind of wish DC would hold back on pulling that trigger for a while. The way Dick and Damian play off one another was fresh and new. This was the only issue of the Batman relaunch titles I pre-ordered. Based on the strength of this one issue, I decided to go pick up two others off the newsstand.
Detective Comics # 854
What's this? A lesbian Batwoman! Yes! YES! I can't wait to read all the steamy scenes of Batwoman and her Rogue's Gallery (a euphemism, for sure) doing the wildest, most outrageous sexual position on each other. This is going to be awesome! What? You mean she doesn't spend the whole issue getting Catwoman to do kinky things with her cape? Shit. Well, I guess I'll have to read it now... And it wasn't that bad! A lot has been made of the act that Batwoman is a lesbian, and on a serious note, that's not the reason I picked up this book either. Some very positive things have been said about Rucka's first salvo in the revamped Detective Comics. This was the only comic I picked up off the newsstand last week. It wasn't a bad impulse buy. Rucka is always an engaging writer, but the thing that really brew me in (pun intended) was the art. J.H. Williams has been one of my favorite artists since I picked the first four issues of Promethea years ago on a new comic book day. I think he is the best artist working in comic books today. Period. The artwork here in Detective Comics is lush and moody, establishing the perfect vibe for this book. I don't think I ever really followed Detective Comics regularly, but I may add this to the ye ol' pull list.
Judd Winick is one of those creators that I just don't really get. His work on Green Arrow was a turn off for me. Internet trolls are quick to point out that he is somewhat of a one trick pony, and I hate to agree with them, but there are certain trends that crop up in many of Judd Winick's comics. How long before we find out Damian has AIDS? The real thing that brought me into this impulse buy was Mark Bagley's always wonderful artwork. This issue was sort of pedestrian in comparison to Batman & Robin and Detective Comics. That's not to say it was bad. This issue was entertaining, but a little on the lighter side next to the other two titles I sampled. I like the fact that we get to see two classic villains here with Penguin and Two-Face. As much as I dislike month in, month out superhero fisticuffs, I have a soft spot for Batman's rogues gallery. I like reading stories about those classic villains despite the fact that it's all nearly been done before. I also enjoyed the training scene we see between Dick and Damian. There is limitless potential for this new Dynamic duo. I can honestly say that for the first time in a long time, I am genuinely excited about the Bat Books. Maybe killing Bruce Wayne off wasn't such a bad idea.
Booster Gold #22
This issue of Booster Gold was okay for the most part. While Jurgens' art was decent, I have no real connection with the Teen Titans or Deathstroke from the 1980s. This issue spent a lot of time pulling on the nostalgia string pretty hard, but it doesn't work when there is nothing there to pull. I spent most of the issue struggling to get to the next scene. As a reader, I hope that there will be some closure soon to this time traveling Black Beetle business. Surely DC can't expect this series to soldier on for all perpetuity having Booster Gold correct little missives in the past. Right? The second feature with Blue Beetle was still very entertaining and has enticed me to go back and check out the last series. The second feature makes paying $3.99 more bearable and it gives characters like Blue Beetle a second chance at living on in the printed world.
The Unwritten is the best Vertigo book being published now. I know it doesn't have stiff competition, but two-issues into he series, I can already tell that this will be classic Vertigo. If you are not familiar with the premise, Tom Taylor is the basis for a fictional Boy Wizard Tommy Taylor. Tom has been living off the fumes of his now missing father's successful Tommy Taylor novels for years. Things start to go awry when Tom finds out he may not be who he thinks he is. This book is chock full of mystery and stellar characters. Tom Taylor practically jumped into this series as a fully developed character from the first page because of the associations we all have with Harry Potter and the ever familiar struggling celebrity. If you're not reading this book, shame on you!
Astonishing X-Men #30
After reading their first Astonishing X-Men arc, I would like to respectfully request that Warren Ellis and Simon Bianchi step up their game. If this were a class, this arc was a D- effort at best. After the six issues of this arc and overpriced two-issue miniseries, I still don't understand what a Ghost Box is and nor do I care. It was sad to see Forge turned into a crazed mutant terrorist for the sake of this story. I don't mind the characterization because Forge has always needed a little more flare in order to remove the stench of lame from him. I had such great expectations for this stellar creative team, but they barely managed to make a sputter in terms of impact and seemingly effort. I'm sorry guys. Let's do better next time, okay?
Punisher: Naked Kill
This book was just brutal. When Frank Castle starts to unwind a snuff pornography film ring, readers just have to know that it is bound to get dirty. I remember an older issue of Punisher from the late 1980s or early 1990s where Frank ended up taking down a pornography ring at a Naval boys school. The whitewash of the Comic Code at the time prevented anything realistic coming out of that story. That just isn't the case here. What is described and shown is just brutal. Frank castle isn't much of a talker, but this particular one-shot gives him a lot of air time. This approach doesn't really work well for the Punisher, but it just clicks here. Suspense and supernatural story writer Jonathan Maberry really gets into a groove with Frank here right off the bat. At the very beginning of the issue, someone asks Frank to trade with him in return for his life. "I look like I'm here to swap Pokemon cards?" quips Frank as he fires off a round just above the crook's head. "Talk Fast, asshole. Clock's ticking." Indeed. For those folks who gave up on Frank when Garth Ennis left the title, I recommend you come back to give this issue a try. It's well worth the $3.99 price of admission.
Ultimate Spider-Man #133
& Ultimatum #4
I have made no bones about how awful I think Ultimatum has been for the Ultimate Marvel line. These two issues could be exhibits 1,843 and 1,844 in the trial against Ultimatum. The final issue of Ultimate Spider-Man was disappointing. This issue lacked any dialogue. It was completely silent. Remember the Nuff Said event from years ago? Interesting, but lame. It was jarring, which I get was kind of the point, but for $3.99, I want more from my comic. The interview with Brian Michael Bendis at the end of the book was obviously tacked on to make you feel like you got more content for your dollar. I don't need that. I need content. With the main Ultimatum mini, I get plenty of content, but much of it is for shock value. I can't imagine how Loeb has gotten away with raping the Ultimate Universe. Loeb is normally a creator that I don't get excited about either pro or con. However, Ultimatum is just rancid. I don't see how the Ultimate line can bounce back from this miscarriage of entertainment.
Conan the Cimmerian #'s 10-11
I just don't hear about many comic book fans talking about Conan anymore, which is a shame. I think Conan is one of the best titles I'm reading now. Tim Truman and Tomás Giorello have crafted a fine book for the traveling warrior Conan. The mixture of descriptive writing and lush artwork is just mesmerizing to me. This is one of the first books I read when I get my monthly stash. This second arc of Conan the Cimmerian finds our hero commanding the armies of Khoraja against the wizardry of Natohk, the Veiled One. Though "Black Colossus" is an adaptation of the classic Robert E. Howard short that has been adapted before for the Savage Sword of Conan in 1974, Truman and Giorello manage to make it exciting by creating an ominous atmosphere in both words and art. Dark Horse has done a magnificent job with Conan property, once again making the barbarian warrior a relevant and exciting character to read.
It's hard for me to believe that my summer break is halfway over! That doesn't mean I will stop reading, though. I will be back in a couple of days with more reviews, including Iron Man, Star Wars, Punisher, The End League, and much, much more.
See you then!