The Pull List – May 26th

It’s a new week, which means new comics! Here we go!

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2: Batman runs around in the age of Puritans, hunting witches and fighting giant tentacle monsters. Frazer Irving’s art is kind of hard to follow sometimes, as Bruce Wayne looks an awful lot like his antagonist in several panels and it’s not always clear who is who, but this is still a fun comic. The stuff with Rip Hunter and his Time Masters was interesting if kind of confusing; I’m definitely curious to see where this is headed next.

Detective Comics #865: A pretty cool little story with the Black Mask/Jeremiah Arkham. The art is solid, and there’s some neat little twists with what’s real/isn’t real, who Arkham really is, and an ending that (while not particularly original) still sets up future interesting stories. We also get the closing chapter of the Question backup feature. The ending is ambiguous, and I’m not really sure I care for it, but I did enjoy Cully Hamner’s art and Rucka definitely put in some interesting ideas. I’m not sure if I’ll keep following Detective Comics now that Rucka, Batwoman, and the Question are all gone, especially with the price staying at #3.99 despite the loss of its backup feature.

Justice League: Generation Lost #2: I keep expecting this to be more like the old JLI stuff. Maybe that’s not a fair comparison to make, but when the main characters are all JLI stalwarts, one of the key members of the creative team was behind the old JLI stuff, and it’s using the JLI as a key feature in the setting and plot…well, such comparison are bound to come up. There are some neat ideas here – discrediting the few people who do remember that Maxwell Lord even existed, the way that those who have forgotten Lord can’t even process when they see images of him – but this still feels like it’s just setup, and the art is kind of bland. Still, I’ll look forward to what comes next, ’cause it looks to be an interesting story at least.

Wonder Woman #44: Gail Simone’s last regular issue on Wonder Woman ends the run on a high note. There’s good spotlight moments for everyone from Etta Candy to Steve Trevor, the gorillas get their due, Achilles and Hippolyta lend a hand, and Wonder Woman gets to use cleverness and her brains to solve a problem rather than just punching something. It’s a good end to Simone’s run, though I will be sad to see her go. Next issue is the specially renumber #600, which will feature a story by Simone (with George Perez on art!) as well as stuff from incoming Wonder Woman writer J. Michael Straczynski. We’ll see how that goes.

Green Hornet: Year One #3: We finally get to see how Britt Reid and Kato met, not to mention seeing the two back in the States taking down a gambling club and upsetting some gangsters. Wagner and company continue to crank out an enjoyable comic here, though it’s nothing groundbreaking or that unusual from his other period comics work (I’m lookin’ at you, Sandman Mystery Theatre, and it’s a look filled with love).

I also picked up the Thor: Latverian Prometheus trade. It’s Kieron Gillen’s first few issues on the title following J. Michael Straczynski’s departure from the title. I’m not real far into it, but it’s pretty interesting so far. There’s the promise of a throwdown between Dr. Doom and Thor which should be fun.

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The Pull List – May 19th

Damn, but this was a great week for comics!

Atlas #1: I really got into the previous Agents of Atlas series, and this doesn’t feel like a new start so much as a continuation. The plot involving the 3D-Man is interesting and draws you in, but I’m kinda disappointed the Agents don’t get more panel time. The second story in this issue fills in some of the backstory for the main plot and features the Agents back in the ’50s, which is always fun. I’ll definitely be following this title.

Deadpool #23: This issue doesn’t feature nearly as much of the manic humor of most issues from this title, but it does bring back an old “friend” (if that term can be used for anyone connected to Deadpool) and introduces an interesting story. It’s also interesting to see Deadpool reacting to the public’s perception of him and to see that it actually hurts him. This should be a good story.

Invincible Iron Man #26: There may not be a whole lot of action in this issue, but there’s still some great characterization and we see that Tony Stark definitely has a history of being a bit of a dick to people. He’s clearly trying to make amends, but he’s not really making any apologies. This was an issue setting up Tony’s new status quo, for the most part, and getting pieces in place for some guys in robot suits punching each other later, but it’s still very well done.

Joe the Barbarian #5: Things go from bad to worse for Joe, as an open door leads to some big trouble, and a garbled phone conversation doesn’t help matters. Sean Murphy’s art continues to be perfectly-suited for this book, and all our heroes get some solid panel time. Good stuff.

Atomic Robo: Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #3: This is, quite possibly, the single best comic I’ve read this year. No, scratch that qualifier, it is the single best comic I’ve read all year. It’s funny as hell, and I laughed aloud at least once per page. The pacing is perfect, the action is perfect, and we get more Doctor Dinosaur, who is truly one of the greatest villains ever. This is a pitch-perfect comic, with fantastic art and dead-on writing. If you aren’t reading Atomic Robo, there’s probably something terribly, terribly wrong with you.

Got the second volume of the Peter David X-Factor Visionaries collection, ’cause there weren’t any trades that came out this week I was looking for. Man, I do love me some Peter David comics.

“You’re Standing On My Neck”

I picked up the Daria Complete Series DVD Collection this weekend, ostensibly for my wife (though it was also totally for me). The show is every bit as good as I remember it. I’d seen far fewer episodes of the show that I remembered having seen, but it’s still pure, distilled awesome.

Sadly, as many folks have probably already mentioned, most of the music in the show has been changed. Sometimes, this doesn’t have much of an impact, but there are definitely some moments where the missing music is noticeable. There are places where they managed to get the original music, but those moments are few and far between.

As far as I’m concerned, though, the music doesn’t really detract too much from what was a very intelligent, clever, and hysterical show. I definitely recommend it if you’re into sarcastic ’90s wit. And really, who isn’t?

The Pull List – May 12th

It’s Saturday and I’m sitting here with quite a stack of new comics, so let’s get to it, shall we?

I will say it’s interesting that, of the 6 single issues I pulled this week, only one of them isn’t a #1. Most of them are miniseries, too. Strange.

Birds of Prey #1: Gail Simone’s basically the reason I read comics, so a return to her career-making Birds of Prey title is a welcome thing indeed. And it gets off to a decent start: we get solid introductions, some of Simone’s trademark dialogue, and the caption boxes (mostly from Black Canary) work well. I’m not so thrilled with Hawk and Dove, mostly because they don’t seem to be as deep in terms of characterization as the rest of the team. Admittedly, we’ve had the other characters on the team (Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress, and Zinda Blake, aka Lady Blackhawk) for a considerably longer period of time; there’s been more time for them to receive good characterization. However, just the characters of Hawk and Dove kinda bore me. They seem like they’re completely defined by their superhero identities, rather than those superhero identities being an extension of who they are. Rather, it seems that, with Hawk and Dove, they are defined only by their superhero identities: Hawk sees himself as a soldier of God who came back to life to do God’s work (i.e., punch things), while Dove is all about trying to find peaceful solutions to situations. I’ve got faith in Gail Simone, though, so I’m sure she’ll do something worthwhile with these characters. On another note, Ed Benes turns in some decent art. I know he’s a divisive artist in the comics community, but he seemed to keep the cheesecake shots to a minimum here, and his storytelling is solid throughout. Definitely a great “let’s get the band back together” issue, and one where you surprisingly don’t have to know much about what’s come before to appreciate what’s going on now.

Justice League: Generation Lost #1: I’m a sucker for anything connected to the old JLI, so this was sort of a no-brainer. Tony Harris’s cover is pretty terrible (apparently Booster Gold is portrayed here by Michael Keaton?), but the art inside is Aaron Lopresti (who’d been doing the art for most of Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman run), so that’s cool. We’ve got a solid set-up in this issue, Maxwell Lord is established as a pretty credible threat (his ploy to make the world forget him is downright awesome, I think), and we get a reason why our four heroes (all former JLI members) are the only ones who can really stop him. I’m not sure how they’re going to make this last for twenty-some issues, but I’ll be there to find out. A minor quibble with the book: someone in editorial fell down on the job, ’cause there’s a half dozen pretty glaring typos, one in the first sentence in the book. That’s pretty ridiculous.

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #1: We still haven’t seen the conclusion to Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez’s Astonishing X-Men story, but here’s the title being relaunched with Ellis and a new artist, Kaare Andrews, with a similar name to the Ellis/Jimenez arc but with several key differences. The art in this title really bugged me; it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t fit. And the new uniforms? Even with Wolverine’s mention of the fact that it’s a “G.I. Joe uniform of the week,” it’s still pretty bad. They look like a frat out for a day hike. All that aside, it’s still a Warren Ellis comic, but it feels like one we’ve read a dozen times before already. Usually, I don’t mind that, ’cause he manages to put a unique spin on his favorite themes, but this just feels like a retread. I’ll give it another issue to see if I want to keep with it until the end of the miniseries, but right now it’s not looking favorable.

Booster Gold #32: The only non-#1 in my pull list this week, and it kicks off the start of a new creative team on the title. I enjoyed Dan Jurgens’s run on the book; it felt like solid superhero goodness with a sense of fun about it, but it also had a serious tone that I could appreciate. The new Booster Gold is being written by the Giffen/DeMatteis team, and it comes out exactly as you’d think it would with that pairing. There are plenty of funny moments, but don’t forget these guys can bring the serious, too. And they do: when Booster is sent to the planet Daxam right as Darkseid is beginning a war on the planet, things get pretty tense, especially when the Emerald Empress shows up. Giffen and DeMatteis have all the most gruesome stuff happen off-panel, but that just adds to the emotional gut-punch of finding out what’s happened. It’s brutal, but not in the way that dissecting a hero and presenting him to his enemy in a shoebox is (yes, I’m pissed about that). All in all, I think this is definitely a title I’m going to be happy with. If you’ve liked the other stuff this writing team has done in the past, you’ll enjoy this. If you haven’t…well, what’s wrong with you? Do you not like good comics?

Prince of Power #1: Speaking of a writing team that can bring the funny and the serious in equal parts, we’ve got Pak and Van Lente’s latest entry in the saga of the Olympus Pantheon. This time, we’re following Amadeus Cho, Hercules’s former kid sidekick, now stepping up to be a hero in his own right. And Cho is doing pretty awesome. He fights a giant supercriminal/monster thing with Herc’s mace, he continues his search for the fallen Hercules (whom he believes to be simply lost in a parallel universe rather than dead), and we get some of the great sound effects we’ve come to love from these guys (“REDDSHERT” being my favorite, as he hits Vali Halfling’s cannon fodder with the mace). This isn’t necessarily new-reader friendly, though Pak and Van Lente do go out of their way to bring everyone up to speed in a manner that doesn’t involve a huge data-dump/exposition and instead uses cleverly-written and well-placed captions to give you what you need to know about characters and situations. This is gonna be a fun ride.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1: Bruce Wayne is a badass. You get that from the first moment you see him in this book, standing shirtless at the mouth of the cave he ended up in back at the end of Final Crisis. The plot is fairly straightforward: Batman is found by a group of cavemen, another group of cavemen led by Vandal Savage come in and kill the group Bruce was hanging out with, and Bruce goes all prehistoric asskicker on them. Bruce doesn’t seem to be quite right at the moment, as though he’s in a daze and doesn’t quite fully realize who he is or what’s happening, but it doesn’t stop him from being a hero (or from inspiring a cavelad to don a domino mask, make a shield out of Batman’s shirt, and assist him like a good Robin does). The art in this book is fantastic, and part of me wishes Chris Sprouse was going to do the art for the whole miniseries. Then I see the list of guys coming up to do the art for the rest of the issues, and I’m okay with it.

I also picked up the latest Wonder Woman trade, Warkiller, this week. I love me some Gail Simone Wonder Woman, even if I feel it’s probably one of her weaker works overall (then again, I may just have an unhealthy love of her other stuff, and her Wonder Woman – while excellent – just isn’t as awesome as Welcome to Tranquility. Or her Secret Six work. Or the All-New Atom. Or Birds of Prey. It’s just not fair; it’s like comparing George Harrison’s Beatles songs to Lennon and McCartney’s Beatles songs. Sure, Harrison’s stuff is awesome, but the Lennon/McCartney stuff is just more awesome. In this case, Simone is Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. But not Ringo).

Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away

Josh Ritter’s latest, So Runs the World Away, is something of a departure from his previous albums. It’s not as immediately gripping as his other work, and the best songs on the album are still growers, but it’s a record that shows some nice artistic growth.

Ritter’s previous work was very much in the singer-songwriter vein, featuring plenty of finger-picked acoustic guitars, copious use of the word “babe” in the lyrics, and way more words crammed into phrases than will actually fit comfortably. This record ditches the acoustic guitar in favor of electric singer-songwriter finger-picking and (more prominently) organ and keyboard. The keyboard is the dominant sound on this record, and it adds plenty of texture and atmosphere to the songs. Ritter has changed the way he writes his lyrics much – there are still phrases where he’s essentially spitting the words out as fast as he can, he still croons in his half-hushed, mumbly way, and the word “babe” does crop up a couple of times – but he’s approaching the instrument side in a completely different way. Ritter plays with textures and layering sounds on this record, taking full advantage of the studio setting to create intricately-woven layers of organ, keyboard, and electric guitars. The work has a more atmospheric feel, relying very heavily on those keyboards and using guitars to fill in gaps and holes.

The album works, though none of the songs really jump out the way that songs on his previous work did. The songs are quite good, even if they are growers. Opener “Curtains” signals just how different this album is: 56 seconds of swirling keyboards and atmospherics, no words, just texture. “Change of Time” has a wonderful layered build, while “Folk Bloodbath” borrows some folksong heroes for a dark tale of death and betrayal.

The record is definitely a step forward for Ritter in terms of production and expanding his sound. The album may not grab you like his previous albums, but it rewards repeated listens with new depths and great songs.

The Pull List – May 5th

Man, it was a good week for comics. Let’s take a look!

Doom Patrol #10: This comic has definitely started to really click. The dialogue feels good, the characterization feels good, and we’ve got a nice little plot boiling with the Front Men. A cool villain shows up and make things miserable for our heroes, the Chief is a right bastard, and things are basically building up to some fun down the road.

Batman and Robin #12: Damn. Just…damn. This comic rocked. And the reveal at the end of the issue…perfect. I don’t know how long Grant Morrison’s been planting the seeds that are sprouting in this issue, but it feels like a huge, fantastic payoff. Morrison is also clearly demarcating Dick Grayson as a very different sort of Batman than Bruce Wayne, and it works very well here. If you aren’t reading this book, then there’s something very wrong with you.

Secret Six #21: We get a deeper look into Catman’s life and the events that formed the man, a kickass fight scene between Catman and a rather large bulk of a man who lasts way less time than you’d think, and the introduction of the replacement Six, a group that includes…well, villains who are even more has-been than the original Six (it does include Dwarfstar, though, a character Simone introduced in her All-New Atom run, as well as Giganta and *snerk* King Shark). There’s also a bit of a throwdown amongst the rest of the group as they track Catman. This book gets more and more disturbed and creepy with each passing issue, and I love Gail Simone for that.

Hellboy in Mexico: A brief, somewhat slight done-in-one featuring the art of the legendary Richard Corben. And luchadores. And demonically-possessed luchadores. And honestly, what more could you possibly want? While there may not be much meat to the story, and Mignola’s writing seems almost perfunctory and not exactly his best, it’s still a fun little diversion from the recent epic Wild Hunt storyline.

As for trades, I grabbed the latest Deadpool collection (in which our anti-hero attempts to become a member of the X-Men, with wacky results) and Invincible Iron Man (in which Tony Stark’s brain slowly melts away in an effort to beat Norman Osbourn). Both were quite good, and the Deadpool book reminded me yet again that the recent story arc featuring Hit Monkey was merely a misstep.

The Pull List – April 28th and May 1st

Today was Free Comic Book Day, which is truly one of the greatest holidays of them all. I managed to swing by and pick up a couple of free books, and got most of my usual pull list the day before. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Deadpool #22: Clearly the previous arc was just an aberration, as this done-in-one issue is freakin’ hilarious. The dialogue is spot-on, Deadpool’s interactions with the crooked cops is great, and his moral dilemma is wonderful. I had only two problems with this issue: the twist at the end about who was really behind the crimes was too obvious, and the overly-exaggerated southern accent the characters were given was just too much. But really, those are small complaints in a comic that was mostly dead-on.

Detective Comics #864: I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be continuing with this one now that Batwoman isn’t the lead character, but this particular issue still did a good job. We get to see just how screwed up Jeremiah Arkham really is, and the tone of the book is genuinely creepy and just a little off, but in a good way. I’ll definitely keep with it for the next issue or two at least, just to see what happens here. Plus, I really want to see what happens in the Question backup that’s still running in the book (and still keeping me turning pages to see what happens next). I was hesitant coming into this issue, but I’m glad I gave it a shot.

Wonder Woman #43: Not only do we get a great story from Gail Simone, we get Nikola Scott art? God, this must be what Heaven is like. Admittedly, there’s probably a lot more fighting going on here than in Heaven (unless you’re, y’know, a Viking), but Wonder Woman kicks some butt, we get some details about how her aunt ended up with the bad guys, and some more of the backstory is revealed. Plus, ape soldiers jumping around and saving small children, which is always cool. I’m very sad Gail’s run is about to end, but at least she’s pulling out all the stops on the way.

Invincible Iron Man #25: Double-sized issue, the start of a new story, and the introduction of new enemies and new armor. Man, Fraction manages to pack a lot into this issue. There’s plenty of neat twists (such as Stark’s new business plan), we get to see Stark dealing with his reset brain, and the promise of some serious robot-guy-on-robot-guy action to come in future issues. This title just keeps getting better and better.

The free comics that I picked up weren’t many, but damn were they good!

Red 5 Comics: It may be a short Atomic Robo story, but any Atomic Robo is better than no Atomic Robo. It’s a slight story, but long on fun. Everything we know and love about Robo is here: snarky robots, bizarre science, not-extinct giant chicken things…this comic has it all, and I managed to grab the last (or possibly only) copy my store had of this. There’s some other Red 5 stories in here as well, but I don’t really care about this. I’m all about the Robo, baby.

Mouse Guard: I absolutely love the Mouse Guard stuff I’ve read (which is really just Fall 1152, but damn if that isn’t a great book), and this brief story is just as beautiful as anything else set in this world. With two new Mouse Guard titles getting ready to hit the shelves in coming months, it’s a great time to jump in and see what the fuss is all about. While there’s not a story here per se, the book does a great job establishing the status quo and the setting. You don’t have to have read previous works to catch up with what’s happening here, which is nice. And, if you flip this book over, there’s a couple of Fraggle Rock shorts as well. They’re cute and manage to nail the tone of the show, which is nice.

Iron Man/Thor: With writing by Matt Fraction and art by John Romita, Jr., this was something of a no-brainer. It ties in well with this week’s issue of Invincible Iron Man, showing Stark’s resolve to try to fix the problems his past has created and make the world a better place with his technology, not a more dangerous place. It’s a good look at both characters and a nice glimpse of what a good writer can do with a very simple team-up.

As far as trades go, I picked up the new BPRD collection, War on Frogs, as well as volume 6 of Fables and the Strange: The Doctor is Out mini. The Strange trade was a pretty good story, and I wouldn’t mind a Doctor Strange ongoing from that particular creative team. Volume 6 of Fables was likewise enjoyable, featuring Boy Blue running around being way more badass than he had any right to be. I haven’t cracked the BPRD book yet, but I’m sure it’ll be as good as I’ve come to expect from these guys.