Serials for 11-30-11: Ultimate Comics All-New Spider-Man and The Flash

Ultimate Comics All-New Spider-Man #4
by Brian Bendis, Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor

It took me only 3 minutes to read this issue, so I looked back and counted the number of story pages - 20! What is going on here? What happened to my 2 missing story pages? I don't care if there's a letters page. I don't care that there's a preview for Avengers X-Sanction. I want a story. Brian Bendis really needs to consider page economy when he's writing a comic book. He gets to see all his scripts altogether, but the reader only gets to see one issue every four weeks. I know he knows better; stories like Ultimate Clone Saga are proof.

So it's been about 12 weeks since the first ish, and what's going on? In issue 4 Peter Parker dies and Miles Morales puts on a Spider-Man retail costume. It's frustrating to read about the death of Peter Parker 12 weeks after the death of Peter Parker. There is no new information here and no plot moves along. I don't want to be one of those fans who keeps picking up a disappointing title in the hopes that it'll be better, but, my goodness, I am. For Spider-Man I am. I want to enjoy this title and I'm gonna keep reading it until I do.

Maybe he's trying to write it like a "slice of life" story for Miles Morales. There are these quiet panels that emphasize Miles' emotions at the moment. It doesn't work and it shouldn't work without a plot. Not for an opening storyarc. What made Ultimate Peter Parker's story so great was that he grew up. He became a man in the issues, and he moved forward. He struggled. So far, Miles is not moving forward -- he seems to be regressing and picking up the pieces of Peter Parker's life. Fix it Bendis. Give Miles his own story.

The Flash #3
by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

The writing team here has got a great rhythm for the page economy. The issue starts on a high, with the Flash making a great feat with his powers -- he grabs a plummeting plane and vibrates it through the Central City bridge to land safely in the water. It's breathtaking. You can, no, you have to check out the entire sequence on Newsarama. After that high the issue coasts and escalates for an impossible cliffhanger.

Barry's cognitive foresight seems to cripple him. When a rifle's staring him in the eye, he's thinking so quickly that, to him, he's already defeated the mob. But he's shot instead. The bullet seemed to hit Barry in the eye. Will he return as eyepatch Barry? Barry Allen the one-eyed scourge of Central City? The pirate-Flash? The serial experience has never been more rewarding than with this title. Every issue takes you for a ride. Not only are they pushing Barry's limits as the Flash, they're pushing the  the medium itself. Newsarama landed an interview with the two creators about how you have to read the art as well as the words in a comic book, in order to make sense of the ish. It's a goodie.

That's all I have for you today. Tune in on Friday as I wrap up the month of November with an assortment of panels. After that we will be on hiatus a bit as I have final exams and final papers for this school quarter.

Trade for 11-28-11 + video

Hiya guys I hope your weekend was swell. Did you find any nice Black Friday deals? I online shopped mostly for friends and family, but I didn't care for any deals. Today I have Hellboy volume 1 for you as well as a video on digital comics.

Hellboy Volume 1: Seed of Destruction
collecting the 4-issue miniseries
by Mike Mignola and John Byrne

One of the opening dedications is to Jack Kirby, and you can really tell. A lot of the muscles are drawn with that Kirby-esque flair, and there are Kirby dots in the usual places. The idea behind the comic book is that Hellboy is one part of a group of paranormal researchers in the BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense). The main story revolves around a haunted house and a former Nazi scientist who seeks to open the gates of Hell and summon a demon.

Of course, they stop him, but there seems to be an unnecessarily think amount of backstory that gets in the way. As I was reading it on my device, it became more of a chore having to get through each panel than fun. It seemed to be about Rasputin the Nazi occult dude as much as it was about Hellboy, and I think that was a mistake -- Rasputin talks for an amount of panel time that doesn't really contribute to the plot. What I want to see more of is this gritty, tough-as-nails Hellboy.
Included with the trade are two short stories and some pin-ups: I think the short stories convey Mignola's vision much better than the main story, which gets bogged down in details and names and odd terms. Hellboy is a demon who faces down weird, supernatural stuff. He solves his problems by punching them. 

I usually get my Monday trades from the library, and no local library is complete without a Hellboy trade, but I actually bought this one from comiXology, which sells it at a phenomenal $2.99. It seems to be the only volume available there, as Dark Horse have moved everything to its own app?

You can also find the first issue for free, if you want just a nibble.

Usually I'll have two trades up for you, but not today. Today I have a video on the comiXology app for my device, the Kindle Fire!

The times, they are a-changin'.
If you too have been reading digital, let us know! What do you think?

Daredevil's all-new, all-action foe!

They're all over him! He's outnumbered!

Has ol' Hornhead finally met his match?


Happy Linksgiving

Not a lot of content today. Just links:

J. Caleb Mozzocco over at Every Day Is Like Wednesday has a fun comics-related thanksgiving game -- I got 3 out of 5 correct, shows what I know. . .

Newsarama landed an interview with Flash writers about yesterday's issue #3. Warning! It has spoilers, so buy and read a copy of it before you click the link! My own opinion will be up next Wednesday.

The Remembered Heroes tumblr is doing a Thanksgiving-themed posts, and you can find a shirtless Hawkman over here.

Marvel's put up an excerpt from their Holiday Special 2011. You can find it at comiXology, in which Prof. Logan teaches the students to play hockey!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Serials for 11-23-11: Daredevil and etc...

Check it out! It's an all-new, all-action, all-inclusive, all-expenses-paid banner! Whew.

Ya dig?

Daredevil #5
by Mark Waid and Marcos Martin

buddabuddabuddabuddabudda! I'm loving the way Marcos Martin draws his own sound effects. More artists ought to consider this -- digital SFX on top of hand-done inks are jarring.

Aw man just look at the way that fa-THOOM takes over the entire ship. Martin is on a whole new level of the craft.

If you haven't read Daredevil yet, I strongly urge you to check it out. ComiXology has an interview with Mark Waid, and the numbers should not be this low for such a quality super-comic.

Secret Avengers #16
by Warren Ellis and Jamie McKelvie

Check out the cover for this one! One look and I couldn't help myself. I never get the title, but I had to check it out. I'm weak.

This issue consists of the Secret Avengers finding a secret city of terrorism and then blowing it up. It manages to flesh out each of the 4 members in a seamless way. Beast, for example, gets to lecture everyone about the pseudo-science behind the secret city and about "Von Doom radiation." Everybody gets their fifteen seconds.

My one complaint is that the issue is one long, extended scene. It starts with the four entering the secret city, and ends with them leaving it. We don't get to see anything else! Comics are serial, and there's no story reason for me to check out the next issue. It's great that this issue is a full, self-contained story, but it's also a comic book that will be followed by another comic book.

Captain america #4
by Ed Brubaker and Steve McNiven

#4 rounds out our week of Marvel! Captain America is stuck in a dreeeamm world while the new HYDRA queen threatens to trap him there. There's nothing left to learn about the backstory behind this storyarc, so the issue is mostly punching.

It's a nice sentiment to think that, in Steve Rogers' utopia, the world doesn't need Capt. America and he pioneers the Moon for colonization with Sharon Carter. It also hearkens back to a couple panels in Captain America: Winter Soldier. In it Steve expresses regret to Sharon that so many men had to die for the sake of space research, when they could have sent him -- it was what he was built for! It's a nice shade of pathos for the man.

The issue was supposed to come out two months ago, which sucks.This is somewhat ameliorated by Steve McNiven's art. If I were trapped on an island and I could only look at five artists, he would be one of them.

Trades for 11-21-11: Walking Dead, Superman, Marvels Project

The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye (2004)
by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

The blurb goes, "There is no government, no mail delivery,
no cable TV. . . In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living," and it's 100% right. When Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma, he doesn't reach for his cell phone. He seeks a nurse, and he seeks his family. When he finds his family in a camp of survivors, the drama comes from their relationships: Rick argues with his friend on whether or not to move the camp closer to the city, and his wife finds unease in teaching their 2nd-grade son how to use a gun.

The Walking Dead is a human drama that happens to have zombies, and it is a survival soap opera. It pairs up peoples' instincts to live against the death of the world that surrounds them. It tries to assert life over death -- and it fails. No boy should have to shoot his daddy's friend because they were arguing. No group should have to leave a member in the woods because he got bitten by an undead.

If you like that kind of drama, you'll love Walking Dead. If you don't, you should still like it because it's flat-out well-written. I'm really curious as to how the series reads in single issues vs. trade paperbacks vs. compendiums. There's also that TV show on AMC which provides a whole-new experience!

If you're in the market for this, I recommend the compendium, collecting 48 issues for $35 on Amazon. That's less than a dollar an issue! Outstanding.

Superman: Kryptonite (2009)
by Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale

Hey here's a creative team you don't see very often! Cooke pinpoints a very specific spot in Superman's super-career, after his origin but before he learns all his powers. This gives us a rare glimpse into a vulnerable, frightened Superman. In here Supes saves a village from a volcano without knowing his invulnerability to its lava. Trapped in the thing, he loses his breath and ingests a bunch of lava.
At the same time we have this giant Kryptonite fragment -- narrating its life and journey to Superman, because there's some weird Kryptonite dude living there. That's fine with me. This is a comic after all! But, for all its attempts to excite the mythos, I wasn't particularly impressed. Highlights include Superman creating "Clarkbots" to deal with his secret identity, and Superman's pet polar bear. You could do worse than Superman: Kryptonite, but you could also do better.

Particularly wicked are Dave Stewart's inks over Tim Sale's pencils. Gone is the grittiness of a Batman: Long Halloween Tim Sale, replaced by these wholesome, clean lines from Dave Stewart! Good stuff.

The Marvels Project #1-8 (2009) 
by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting

Oh snap! It's a third trade (kind of). ComiXology had a sale
on Marvels Project and I bit the 8 bucks for the 8 issues. The eight issues. . . they're like eight pieces of eight different puzzles. They tie in a bunch of characters, Nick Fury, Red Hargrove, Abraham Erskine and other German researches, a New York Superhero along with other 40s-era superheroes, all at the cost of the story.

It doesn't really have any focus but, I think we can consider issues 4-8 an "Invaders origins" story that explains how the Invaders came to be. I think Brubaker was tasked with something like, "Hey man, put all these Timely characters together!" and Brubaker did. He just didn't really give them a tight storyline to follow.

Issue 7 is positively, without a doubt, unequivocally, my favorite.

It depicts the sheer joy of kicking a Nazi in the face. 
"Out of the way Nazi!" Immortal words from Bucky Barnes!

Cover to Cover: Superman/Batman #'s 50, et al.

Welcome back to our look at the Superman/Batman series. ComiXology had a sale on the title a while ago, and I bought into many, many issues. We conclude the series with issues 50, 60-61, 63, 75 and 79-80. Here's the first part: #'s 20-25, 37-42
the second: #'s 44-49

Superman/Batman #50
"The Fathers"
By Green, Johnson et al.

The Justice League rebuilds Smallville from the ground up when Superman and Batman discover an old Kryptonian relic! The relic flashes them back to the times of Thomas Wayne and Jor-El, who meet each other due to Jor-El's probe. Jor-El asks Thomas Wayne if Earth would be a good place to send his son, and the two have a dialogue together.

It's a great sentiment to think that Thomas Wayne and Jor-El met before they died. That's what comic books are for after all, to imagine the unlikely. I'm glad I didn't pay 3.99 for this comic, but I'm glad that I did pay .99 cents for it.

Superman/Batman # 60-61
by Green, Johnson and Manapul

This one is just wacky you guys. Superman and Batman wake up in a world where everything's mashed up -- the JUSTICE TITANS consists of Aquaborg, Night Lantern, Star Canary and Donna Wonder, among others.
They figure out that it's Doctor Destiny attempting to place everyone in a dream state and controlling that dream world. With the help of the dream versions of Zatanna and Raven, they emerge from it free.

Obligatory shirtless Bruce Wayne:
It's a wholly standard comic book, but I got a lot of jollies from seeing all the mash-ups.

Superman/Batman #63
"Night and Day"
by Green, Johnson and Albuquerque

Oh man you guys. I should've gotten this issue when it came out. Every time Albuquerque gets on this title it's a hit. In #62 he pencilled Supergirl and Robin taking on Arkham Asylum, and in this issue he imagines a dystopia in which Gorilla Grodd controls the world! After murdering all the other heroes and creating an atmosphere of synthetic Kryptonite on Earth, Batman is the only remaining super hero.
The emotions are so intense, Batman has never been grimmer! By the end, Grodd is about to have a public execution for Batman -- but at the very last moment, Superman returns, because Batman found the antidote for the synthetic Krypton! Together, the two subdue Grodd and re-inspire the people to think freely. It's an amazing one-shot and an amazing comic book.

On the last page we find out that this is just one of many simulations that Batman performs, preparing for every possibility and eventuality. This is what Batman does in his spare time.

Superman/Batman #75
by lots and lots of people

This one's an anthology book! The main story features the Legion of superheroes, which has its moments, but doesn't really appeal to me. The rest of the comic is two-page stories from a slew of creators!

Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo take on Lex and Joker with a Calvin & Hobbes jive!

Duncan Rouleau sizes up Krypto the Superdog against Ace the Bathound!

This one made me really happy to see. Green and Johnson, with Albuquerque, follow up on their story from issues #51 and 52. It turns out lil' Superman didn't die! He's only sleeping!

What a delightful comic book.

Superman/Batman #79-80
"World's Finest"
by Chris Roberson and Jesus Merino

So Epoch, this time-travel-dude goes back to the 1970s in order to conquer Earth and whatnot. He encases Superman and Batman in an "omega barrier," which is like a black hole in a cube, and so the two must stop him! It's a great comic book that really plays up the pseudo-science of the silver age and mixes it up with actual science. I love how Batman matter-of-factly assumes that Robin would know about Hawking Radiation.
Chris Sims has a wonderful write-up on the metafictional aspects of this story. In his attempts to control the world, Epoch always returns to a past era of the comic books -- for a man with so much knowledge and technology, he could go anywhere he wanted, but he stays stuck in this one mindset and refuses to accept other possibilities.

It's a comic that glorifies the stories of the past, but, at the same time, hopes for the stories of the future.

Serials for 11-16-11: Batman and Daredevil

Batman #1 (Sep. 2011) 

by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion

I've been sitting on this one for about two months, because I just don't know what to make of it. The opening splash page has Batman facing down his rogues gallery and grinning, saying, ":Sigh: There's no place like home." It's so strange to see a Batman who's embraced his role and even loves it, like Daredevil would. This isn't my idea of the grim avenger, and the cognitive dissonance has plagued me for two months.

By all accounts, I should enjoy this book. It steers Bruce Wayne, Gotham City and Batman into a bold, optimistic direction. It's fresh and takes advantage of the New 52 reboot. Platonically, I should love this book for the way it pushes Batman forward, for all the information it packs into 20 pages, but it's darn hard for me to accept this Batman. I have an idea in my head already of what Gotham's in-continuity dark knight should be, and this doesn't mesh with it.

Maybe I'll accept it over time if I get the next issues, but I can't really afford to give it the chance.

check out the bat-symbol on the sole of Batman's boot! Make it happen Adidas!

Daredevil #4 (Sep. 2011)
by Mark Waid and Marcos Martin

That cover is just gorgeous. Stare at it for a while and you'll realize that the "buildings" are actually the barrels of gigantic guns, some of them still smoking. It's a beautiful metaphor for the direction that Waid is taking Matt Murdock - the Daredevil is a man who dances between the barrels of rifles. Matt Murdock is risking his life for the joy of being alive, because for once, he's happy to be alive!

This issue sees the start of a new arc with the debut of rotating artist Marcos Martin. He is just as brilliant as Paolo Rivera. Here's this panel of DD dodging a streak of bullets, which appear to him as super-dangerous lines of sound:

My one complaint is Martin's interpretation of radarsense. It's a Mad Men-esque depiction of silhouettes and concentric circles:
Would Daredevil pick them up as silhouettes? I feel like he would be able to pick up depth within an object, not just between objects. Martin portrays depth between objects with color, ie, the darker an object is, the closer it is to us, but an object also has its own curves and whatnot that the panel doesn't represent.

What I'm trying to say is, it's wonderful that Martin has his own take on radarsense. I'm allowed to disagree with it, and I guess that's what makes "art."

Mark Waid packs all kinds of information in the issue, and Matt Murdock's a real person to me. Do yourself a favor and check out this title.

Kingdom Come. . . absolutely!

You may not have noticed, but we here at chezkevin have spruced the place up a bit. Look on your left and you'll find a handy-dandy google search bar, a photobucket slideshow and a goodreads widget, among others. We hope you appreciate these improvements as we forge a new path. . . together!

Absolute Kingdom Come (First Printing, 2006)
by Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Collecting Kingdom Comes #'s 1-4 (1996) 

It's a bunch of years in the future, and everyone and their grandma has superpowers. Except there just isn't that much crime in the future, so the irresponsible super-people spend their time fighting with each other for turf. Superman's walked away from civilization because society hungers for a modern hero, and most of the other heroes we know followed behind Supes. They're a vintage relic by then.

Superman comes to realize that the world still needs him, and so he returns! The story from there is kind of a proto-Civil War (Marvel's big event from 2007). He wages a war on the new superheroes with the rest of the DC heroes, recruiting those who agree with him -- and imprisoning those who don't.

The government also gets in the story, deciding whether or not to nuke the superheroes as they fight amongst each other. There's some great commentary there about the morality of superheroes, but it feels a bit trite, a little old. Considering that it was published in 1996, it was probably groundbreaking for its time. The only problem is I was 6 during 1996, and the hardest reading I underwent was on the back of my Cheerios.

While the story isn't fresh to me, it's exciting to see how Mark Waid addresses all the DC heroes in a world that doesn't accept them. The Flash forsakes his tangible form and just all-out runs around Keystone City preventing every little crime!
Batman's really embraced the future, creating all these Batsentries that do the work for him. Bruce also wears these shoulder braces that maintain his aged frame and whatnot.
Wonder Woman doesn't age too much, and she gets this bad-ass battle armor. I couldn't find any good story depictions of it, so here's a sketch from the back of the book:
Amazon's got a listing for the second printing of the absolute edition, but I don't recommend it. The story hasn't aged too well, and you'd be better off going with a paperback version.

Cover to Cover: Superman/Batman #'s 44-49, "The Search for Kryptonite"

We're continuing our look at Superman/Batman. Started by Jeph Loeb in 2003, the title lasted for a whopping 87 issues and 4 annuals until it was closed to make way for the New 52 in August 2011.
Here is part 1: #20-25, 38-42
Today we examine issues 44-49.

Superman/Batman #44-49
"The Search for Kryptonite"
by Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Shane Davis

Sometimes I'll read through a trade paperback and, in my reading, I realize that the creative team put so much effort as to make each issue its own self-contained story, while contributing to the overall story. I'll stop in the middle and I'll say, "Dang. I should've picked this up in serials."

"The Search for Kryptonite" is one of those stories. After getting buffeted by Kryptonite shards from a movie set, Superman realizes that it's way too easy to get ahold of Kryptonite on Earth. He asks Batman to help him scour the globe for the ore, and Batman agrees!

It turns out there's a lot more Kryptonite on Earth than they expected, and they find a HUGE fragment in the sea, lorded over by a young Aquaman. He argues that the sea is no one's spoils and that he's tired of the surface world doing what they please with it. It really gets to the politics of Superman: What gives him the right to remove his one weakness on Earth? What gives him the right to plunder the entire planet of one resource?

The next issue (46) features silver Kryptonite, found in a bar for magicians, which has. . . strange effects on Superman.
 It's also a meditation on science vs. magic, skepticism vs. illogic, represented by Batman's dialogues with Zatanna. The two end up going to a remote island in order to retrieve the silver K's counterpart and bring Superman back to reality. The natives there tell them that a human must retrieve it and so we have shirtless Batman entering the mouth of a volcano to get a rock for his friend.

You're welcome. The scene shows Bruce Wayne, this man of logic wearing the totem of a flying rat. It doesn't make sense at all! But this is what he does. He'll stop at nothing to fight crime, and he'll stop at nothing to save his friend. I love it.

The search continues when they find that Lexcorp itself is pioneering Kryptonite-powered technology. Superman and Batman investigate a research facility in Kansas that's harvesting the ore, and are attacked by a government-sanctioned strike team designed specifically to take down Superman.

It explores the nature between the American government and its Superman, an altogether realistic take that I haven't found anywhere else in the DC canon. The writing is very thoughtful and makes up for the whelming art from Davis. This issue shows a brilliant panel from Superman though:

The fifth issue (48) introduces a Kryptonite-powered Doomsday. You heard me, a Kryptonite-powered Doomsday. Superman and he brawl it out in Kansas, but it's not just a fight-fest. The writing takes you into Superman's head, the memories of his childhood in Smallville. There's some incredible narration about names -- the memories we have of our names, and the feelings attached to them. We find out that the Doomsday was an American boy who wanted to serve his country, and Batman brings an end to the fight:

The way the Doomsday struggles to say "Mom" and "Dad" is heartbreaking. The end of the issue depicts one last page on names. It's brilliant. The writing manages to capture the parallel thought processes between Superman and Batman, that Loeb established in the first arcs, but it surpasses any story that Loeb has written.

The final issue has Superman confront the C.E.O. of Lexcorp, Lana Lang, his childhood friend. It depicts her moral dilemma in handing over her mining locations to Superman -- because if she does, millions will be out of a job. She refuses Superman and vaporizes all Kryptonite on Earth, creating an atmosphere that makes the planet uninhabitable for all Super-people and dogs!

The issue is taken care of by the Toyman, and Superman ends up throwing the rest of the Kryptonite into the Sun -- except for one piece, which Superman entrusts to Batman. This makes for a brilliant ending:

Batman has his own depository of Kryptonite, as well as every single color of K there's ever been! In the six issues, Superman's been betrayed by his government, his childhood friend and even other superheroes. For all the betrayal, he still places his faith in the world and in his friend. Unfortunately, Batman fails to return the same faith -- because he can't! If anything should go wrong with Superman, someone has to be ready, and of course it'd be Batman. It's a tragic reality that he has to face in this superhero world. I found the arc to be overall brilliant, and it comes highly recommended -- no other story legitimizes the Superman/Batman title better than this.

Tune in next Friday for our last look at the title.
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