Tuesday, March 1, 2016

COMICS READING FOR FEBRUARY: “The Meh 52”


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman & Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

1.-3. Worlds’ Finest #6-8 (DC, 2013) ***¼
Writers: Paul Levitz/Artists: Kevin Maguire (#6-7 Huntress sequence); George Perez & Sandra Hope (#6-7 Power Girl sequence); George Perez, Cafu, Cliff Richards (#8)
4.-6. Earth 2 #6-8 (DC, 2013) ***¼
Writer: James Robinson/Artists: Nicola Scott & Trevor Scott (#6); Yildiray Cinar & Trevor Scott (#7); Yildiray Cinar, Ryan Winn & Ruy Jose (#8)
7.-15. Batman Incorporated #6-13, Special #1 (DC, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Grant Morrison/Artists: Chris Burnham & friends
16.-19. O.M.A.C. #5-8 (DC, 2012) **¾
Writers: Dan DiDio & Jeff Lemire/Artists: Keith Giffen & Scott Koblish
20.-26. Catwoman #6-12 (DC, 2012) ***
Writer: Judd Winick/Artists: Guillem March (#6); Adriana Melo & friends (#7-12)
27.-36. Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #5-12, 0 (DC, 2012) ***¾
Writer: Jeff Lemire (#5-10); Matt Kindt (#11-12, 0)/Artists: Alberto Ponticelli & friends
37. Men Of War #8 (DC, 2012) ***
Writers: Jeff Lemire & Matt Kindt/Artist: Tom Derenick
38.-44. Animal Man #6-11, Annual #1 (DC, 2012) ****
Writer: Jeff Lemire/Artists; John Paul Leon, Travel Foreman & Jeff Huet (#6 interior); Steve Pugh, Travel Foreman & Jeff Huet (#7-8 interior); Steve Pugh (#9-10 interior); Alberto Ponticelli & Wayne Faucher (#11 interior); Timothy Green II & Joseph Silver (Annual #1 interior); Travel Foreman (#6-10, Annual #1 covers); Steve Pugh (#11 cover)
This is the prelude to the “RotWorld” storyline that ran through several titles, and it’s still damn creepy. Second-string superhero Buddy “Animal Man” Baker learns that his 4yo daughter Maxine is a powerful elemental, an “Avatar for the Red”. But the Avatar for the Rot – who’s revealed in the final panel of #11 as old Swamp Thing foe Arcane – wants to get his hands on Maxine. On the run from an army of rotting zombie animals, Buddy and his family go searching for the Avatar of the Green, Swamp Thing, so they can fight Arcane and restore balance to the world. Many hardships and personal tragedies ensue, not least of which is Buddy Baker’s death (don’t worry, he gets better).
The art teams change regularly but maintain a remarkable uniform style, but it’s Lemire’s terrific writing – building layers of dread and suspense – that make Animal Man far and away the best series in the New 52 line. Bring on the crossovers and mini-“event”.

A Load Of Rot
45.-63. Animal Man #12, Swamp Thing #12, Animal Man #13, Swamp Thing #13, Swamp Thing Annual #1, Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #13, Swamp Thing #14, Animal Man #14, Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #14, Animal Man #15, Swamp Thing #15, Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #15, Animal Man #16, Swamp Thing #16, Animal Man #17, Swamp Thing #17, Animal Man #18-19, Swamp Thing #18 (DC, 2012-13) **¾
Writers: Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt & Scott Snyder/Artists: various
Basically, a piss-poor preview of the highly overrated and frustrating Future’s End maxiseries that ran a year later. A nightmare future, loads of weird groupings of superheroes with former villains, and former heroes with supervillains. A nonsensical Batman invention that saves the day (seemingly pulled from the writers’ collective arsehole), then the inevitable “we’ll send you back in time so you can stop this horrible future from ever happening” – and they do. The only thing that salvages this crossover is the downbeat, surprisingly human ending, particularly in Animal Man. Buddy Baker goes through hell to save his family and the planet, but still ultimately fails to save his son from death. If only the rest of “Rotworld” could have been that powerful.

64. Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #16 (DC, 2013) ***
Writer: Matt Kindt/Artist: Alberto Ponticelli

65.-76. The Shade #1-12 (DC, 2011-12) ***
Writer: James Robinson/Artists: Cully Hamner (interior #1-3), Darwyn Cooke & J. Bone (interior #4), Javier Pulido (interior #5-7), Jill Thompson (interior #8), Frazer Irving (interior #9-11), Gene Ha (interior #12); Tony Harris (covers)
The Shade was one of the most intriguing characters from Robinson’s run on Starman in the 1990s, so I was happy to buy this 12-issue maxiseries. It starts strongly with Shade surviving an assassination attempt by Deathstroke and setting out to find the man who hired him, which turns out to be one of his descendants. From there, we get a potted history of The Shade with individual stories and arcs that vary in quality. Artistically, the three-issue run by Irving looks fantastic. But the storyline lost my interest near the end and the conclusion (a brief origin story) felt oddly rushed...as if Robinson intended this series to be more than 12 issues, but got told to wrap it up early (due to poor sales, I presume). The final issue even has a heading that states its the first chapter in a longer arc, yet it’s all over 20 pages later. Odd.

77.-78. Deadpool & The Merc$ For Money #1/Spidey #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
[Deadpool] Writer: Cullen Bunn/Artists: Salva Espin (interior); Declan Shalvey (cover)
[Spidey] Writer: Robbie Thompson/Artists: Nick Bradshaw
79. Guardians Team-Up #5 (Marvel, 2015) ***½
Writers: Andy Lanning & Andy Schmidt /Artists: Gustavo Duarte (interior); Humberto Ramos (cover)
80.-85. Guardians Team-Up Vol. 2: Unlikely Story (Marvel, 2016) ***¾
- originally published in Guardians Team-Up #6-10 & Deadpool Team-Up #883) (Marvel, 2011, 2015)
Writers/Artists: various

86. Sidekick (included in Comic Heroes #22) (Future, 2014) ***
Writers/artists: various
87.-89. Stratu’s Diary Comix Aug.-Oct. 2015 (self-published, 2015) ***
Writer/artist: Stratu
The mundane, the fascinating, the horrifying, the melancholy...it’s all here in Stu’s daily diary.
90.-95. Prez Vol. 1: Corndog-in-Chief (DC, 2016) ***¾
- originally published in Prez #1-6 (DC, 2015)
Writer: Mark Russell/Artists: Ben Caldwell & friends
A decidedly witty, subversive, non-DCish series that updates and smartens up the old 1970s Prez series. Lost its way a little in the middle, but overall a big thumbs up on this title.
96.-101. Spider-Man’s Tangled Web Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2001) ****
- originally published in Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #1-6 (Marvel, 2001)
Writers/Artists: various


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