Monthly Archives: July 2015

DCU: July Stack

Its the last week of the month, so those of us without local stores are just now getting to read our entire July stacks. I have gone in pretty hard on the new DCU story lines, so I will take a minutes and rate my July stack and give a few thoughts on each.

I’m not going to include my non-DC offerings in this, but I’ll list them at the bottom. The stack goes  in order, from best to worst starting. . . now!

Great New Starts

Dr. Fate #2: The new Dr. Fate is an Egyptian American medical student named Khalid who is chosen by the Egyptian Goddess Bastat to fight against the forces of darkness (represented by a pack of talking Jackals controlled by Set or Anubis I guess). The story is starting out slow, like a lot of these. We are still int he “denial” phase of superhero origin, but the art here is the real seller. The coloring and art aren’t like anything else in DC’s line up right now, and it sets a great vibe. This book takes an old favorite character, reinvents it, injects diversity into the DCU in a way that doesn’t feel forced, and then packages everything in a gorgeous wrapping that makes this book look more like an indie or something from Image than what you’d expect from DC. The triple L creative team Levetz, Liew, and Loughridge certainly has my attention. Levitz and Liew are credited as “story tellers” so I am not sure how the art and writing splits out, but the cover from Sonny Liew is great, and the colors from Loughridge are perfect for this book.

We Are Robin #2: This book follows Duke Thomas as he is recruited by an organization of Gotham teens who are all “Robin”. We’ve gotten to know Duke over the last two issues and I’m excited about the diverse cast of characters that they have assembled into this group. Writer Lee Bermejo has set up a good story to put the group to use, and given us hints of the other Robins while establishing Duke as a strong protagonist. We see the other Robins, but we’ve barely been introduced and right now they mostly blend together. The back and forth dialogue is great, and the art from  Jorge Corona is nice here as well– stylized like in Dr. Fate, but a different style. The covers from Bermejo have been awesome, and he imagery/design of the promotional art and these covers are very effective and evocative.

Midnighter #2: Steve Orlando gives us a Midnighter who is dealing with three simultaneous story lines– his mentor’s arsenal (dubbed “The God Garden”) has been robbed of a massive amount of powerful weapons which are now on the black market serves as the action piece as Midnighter hunts them down. Then we get scenes of his attempt at dating, a new man he has met off an internet dating site. The third prong are flashbacks to his relationship with former Authority teammate and ex Apollo. This story feels deeply personal, and its great to get inside the mind of a character whose been part of the core DC for a while now, but who I previously had very little interaction with. The art from Alec Morgan nails the action scenes and seems to really move here. Another great story that I am in on going forward.

Cyborg #1: This book seems to have been one of the most anticipated new titles, and it was delayed a month from the rest of the #1s, but it was worth the wait overall. This issue sets up Vic to deal with a new evolution of his machine half which is regrowing his human half. It also spends about a third of the pages on an alternate dimension where some cyborg/robotic baddies are gathering. The art is in DC’s New 52 house style, but it serves this high tech story well and botht he robo-baddies and Vic have some great detail in their machinery.

Reliable Continuations

Secret Six #4: Gail Simone proves you can go home again, returning to bring a new Secret Six to life. She’s assembled a great mix of characters, blending old favorites like Thomas Blake/ Catman with new characters like Porcelain. Through four issues, this has been a great run, and this issue featured the return of favorites Jeannette, Scandal Savage, and Ragdoll. While its clear they won’t be part of the six, having these characters officially back in the DCU is great. I have no reason to believe this book will do anything but continue to be excellent.

Grayson #10: DC’s spy saga picks up steam this month as Dick Grayson, AKA Agent 37 is on the run from Spyrol, the agency that employs him. The plotting of this series has been good throughout these first ten issues of this has been great, and its been interesting to see Grayson work through the conflicting super-spy and Batman ethos. Helena Bertinelli as Matron/now director of Spyrol really works. The highlight of the art for me this issue are the panel layouts, early in the issue a fight is told through a series of neon-colored over-washed panels that drip the 60s. There’s also a gorgeous swan dive page with a really popping ocean cliff.

The main cover of this issue has received some attention over at panels.net, and I just have to weigh in– its sexy as hell. I am pretty disappointed that when I was making my selection off the solicits two months ago that I’d opted for the Teen Titans Go variant cover here.
Apparently the cover image I’ve seen is for issue #13, so I’m good on my random variant grabbing here!

Middle of the Pack:

JLA #2: The new second Justice League book is treading into some very high concept stuff. In the first two issue’s we’ve ended on big cliff hanger reveals. We’ve sent the league off in various directions. I like that this is out of continuity and gets to tell its story without hassling with current Batman or Superman continuity. Its a little disappointing to get the exact same line-up as the core Justice League book, but I guess seeing twice as many stories with the characters who will be in the upcoming films can’t hurt. I’m in on this for at least the first arc.

Aquaman #42: I like the direction writer Cullen Brown is taking this story, which sees Arthur Curry on the run, hunted by Merra who he left in charge of Atlantis and dealing with incursions from another reality. The art is stylized, but unlike “Dr. Fate” or “We Are Robin” it just doesn’t really fit in this book.

Batman #42: Snyder & Capullo’s Batman run ahs gotten a lot of praise and attention over the last few years, and while I’m just signing onto it now its obvious why. The current “”Jim Gordon as Batman” story arc is probably not going to run very long, and we’ve already seen Bruce Wayne reintroduced. My only complaints on this right now are that I want to see more of Batman. Gordon has both a Bat mech suit, and a Batman jumpsuit underneath and he’s spent most of the first two issues in a t-shirt and jeans training. I hope this isn’t rushed to bring Bruce back into the Bat suit too quickly like some story-lines have been recently (i.e. T shirt and jeans Superman from the start of the New 52). I have to admit, this is the first time I have ever put the core Batman book on my pull list.

New Suicide Squad #10: I have gone back and forth on some of the current Squad’s line-ups. Harley Quinn is now firmly ensconced and with her in the movie coming up I guess I have to accept her, and Deadshot and Boomerang and Manta are all solid. But the new/current Reverse Flash just feels out of place and has barely served a purpose the last few issues. I guess Parasite is with them currently. This issue seems to be pretty in between, and the overall arc of the book has been up and down, but I’m a sucker for Waller’s Task Force X, so I will keep reading here.

In Danger of Being Dropped

Martian Manhunter #2: This book combines a slow, confusing plot, with characters to whom we have no connection or proper introduction (Mr. Biscuits, whoever the girl in Dubai was/is?), and then tops it off by changing core assumptions of who Martian Manhunter is– instead of being the last Martian (or Green Martian), he’s now a sleeper agent/advance scout for a Martian invasion force. I’m committed through issue four, and I will have to make a choice about issue 5 before I get to read issue 3, but without some improvement here I’m going to be dropping what was the new series I was looking forward to the most.

Doomed #2: This was one of the most out there new titles in the solicits and I am game to give just about anything a try, but where a slow pace seems to serve some of the books in this list (Midnighter, Dr. Fate) where we have at least some familiarity with the characters or concepts, Doomed seems to creep along. I haven’t gotten to know the guy who is this new Doomsday, and he hasn’t learned how to control or even deal with his new alternate form at all. He seems to be still conscious while Doomsday-ed out, but hasn’t realized what he looks like and there’s no hint of how his switch is triggered. As of now, I am in tentatively through the first arc, but if this pace doesn’t pick up soon it will be another stack casualty.

Batman Beyond: The concept of this book is out there. (Tim Drake from the future goes further forward into the Future to take over as Batman for a Terry McGinnis who’d come back in time and died in the past.) I could probably buy in and run with that, but spinning out of Future’s End this is still a world where Brother Eye won. I am not sure how much longer my tolerance for the OMAC/Brother Eye as all powerful opponent in a hopeless world nature of this future.

Robin: Son of Batman: This was the last book I added to my pull list. I have never read any book with Damian in it, and he is by far not my favorite Robin, but for the first solo Robin series since Tim Drake’s run ended I decided to give it a try. The set up for the series is solid (Damian spent a year [“the Year of Blood”] doing bad stuff for the League of Assassins, now he is spending a year redeeming himself by undoing that bad stuff. The problem with this issue was that the art was very confusing. I was just plain lost the first read through of the meat of this particular story (something with the head Damian had chopped off a South American golem thing). This still has room to redeem itself and go forward into a solid story, but any more issues of this quality and I will be dropping it.

Missed: Justice League #42– I added the main Justice League title to my list too late for issues #41 and #42, picking up in my pre-orders for next month’s #43 so I need to fill this one in from a shop when I get a chance to get to one.

Non-DC Pull list: Saga #30, Adventure Time #42, Adventure Time Fiona and Cake Card Wards #1

Pushed to next month’s shipment: Low #8

Star Trek: Musings on the Epic Re-Watch

My head must be in the stars of late. I’ve been re-reading my Starman Omnibus volumes by James Robinson, and have been progressing on my epic re-watch of Star Trek. I started the project a little over a year ago, last summer, when the TV schedule was as light as it is now. The NBA and new scriped shows distracted me for a while, but as those petered out I’ve picked up steam on this again.

The project was  a relatively simple, if time consuming proposition– re-watch everything Star Trek from beginning to end, in order. I’ve come a long way, but I’ve only just scratched the surface so far– I am in the middle of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock currently. Through the original Star Trek, the animated series, and the first two movies already– but staring down 8 season of TNG, DS9, and Voyager before I get to the relatively light Enterprise and the new films.

A few thoughts so far. . .

1. There is a reason Star Trek (the original series) has the cache to have spawned the rest of the Trek universe. The characters sparkle, the concepts are high. These episodes function like Twilight Zone episodes, but set on far flung planets and with the same core cast at the heart of the episodes.

2. The animated series is, by contrast. pretty poor. Only episode two “Yesteryear” really holds up next to TOS.

3. The Motion picture is better than remembered. It’s weird. It’s out there– one of the more bizarre while simultaneously banal concepts for a Trek episode or movie, but its writing really does hold up and it deserves a second watch if your memories of it are from long ago.

4. KHAAAAAAAAAAN!

As I write this, Search for Spock has ended, and I’ve started into the Voyage Home. I will publish some more thoughts as I go along, but so far the epic Star Trek re-watch has been a rewarding experience.

The Judge and the Hermit in the Corridor

Papa Sizwe muttered under his breath, twisting his staff in his hand, waking the snake spirit within it, the staff hissing and writhing in his hand. “The Great Truth Sayer.”

“In mine own most eminent flesh,” the pair stood completely still. While others might circle in the grass or the dirt, they stood their ground watching one another. Asala bin Qalam raised an eye brow, cocking his head to the side, “The serpent strike staff? A hermit then?”

“In the south I am known as Papa Sizwe, though the spirits know me by other names,” Sizwe snatched a guard from the end of his snarling staff, cracking it open, running the red liquid inside across his face, tasting the fermented blood on his tongue, feeling the strength of the spirits flow into his veins, “Me estes la bestoj de la nokto.” I am the beast of the night, Papa Sizwe beseeched the spirits for guidance, asking them to fill his body, to ride his soul into battle with the legendary warrior.

Asala bin Qalam raised his scimitar above his head, humming an ancient Dokkaebi hymn under his breath as he backed a step further down the hall way, “You appear to be under the impression that these ululations and incantations would impress some shred of terror and horror upon my person. A peculiar impression which you hold in a state of absolute falsehood.”

“We shall see.” Before the words had left his mouth, Papa Sizwe’s snake strike staff struck, slipping suddenly sunward, sinking fangs shallowly into Asala’s side. The Judge struck back, bringing his great scimitar down onto Sizwe’s muscled arm, biting deep into the sinews, spraying his own blood across the corridor, splatters of it joining the purpled blood that decorated his face.

The two quickly paced backwards, retreating from one another in tandem. No words now, only near animal snarls at their lips. Sizwe held his wounded arm tight to his side to try to staunch the blood flowing from his opened veins.

Asala shifted his scimitar to his left hand, drawing out his wand, the club like weapon that all Dokkaebi made from their own tail’s which they cut off ritually upon adulthood. Then he strode forward, slashing with the scimitar, a blow basely blocked by Sizwe’s staff. Then the club clocked the Hermit on the head, a ringing beginning in his ears.

Sizwe struck back, three lightning quick staff strikes that met with scimitar, club, and finally skin. Once more the serpent staff sunk fangs in, venom piping forward into the Dokkaebi Judge’s blood. bin Qalam called out in pain, in shock, in swift setting agony. Then thrust his scimitar forward at the Hermit once more.

The dance of blade and wand and staff went on. Sizwe swung feebly several times, long arcing strikes and limp jabs, his blood trailing down to the floor from his mangled arm. bin Qalam swung his scimitar like a scythe in long level swaths, jabbing with his club, backing him down, buying time for Mettel to escape the tunnel’s end with the Truth Stone.

“You are slowing, Truth Sayer.” Sizwe smiled, showing his brilliant teeth.

“This may be as you say,” Asala responded, brushing his grayed fur aside from his face.

“Can you not recognize a truth when it is spoken without your stone? Can you not feel the venom from my staff? Can you not feel your blood slowing? Soon I will strike a final blow and finish you, old man.”

Asala laughed a hearty laugh, “How many years since you’d the occasion to use that particular epithet?”

“More than I can count,” Sizwe smiled as he dove forward, driving his staff into the Truth Sayer’s shoulder.