Comic Book Stash: March 13, 2013

Mini-reviews and ratings of comics released March 13, 2013.

Agree or disagree? Let me know by hitting me up on Twitter or Google+.

3 stars
Scott Snyder
Andy Kubert

One of the bajillion follow-ups to the death of Damian Wayne. (They're all clearly marked with the "Requiem" label.) I was prepared for the typical angsty, depressed post-Robin-death Batman and was pleasantly surprised. It's true that Bruce is having problems, however the majority of the story sticks with Harper. Yes, she's trying to rescue Batman from his self-destructive mourning, but it's all handled very well.

For all my trepidation heading into it, this was a good issue.

Suicide Squad
2 stars
Adam Glass
Henrik Jonsson

It just... I don't... I'm out.

Thor: God of Thunder
4 stars

Jason Aaron
Butch Guice

All of my glowing praise for the writing still applies. Read older reviews if you need more of that.

Esad Ribic has been replaced by Butch Guice as the penciller on this issue and that's disappointing. That should be taken more as evidence of the strength of Ribic's work and not a condemnation of Guice's. His work as a fill-in artist was very good.

Finally we see Gorr's origin story. And darn it if Aaron doesn't make us sympathize with him. A lot. One could really cheer for this guy if he weren't so set on removing one of my favorite Avengers.

That and a skinny Volstagg are well worth the price of admission.

4 stars
Duane Swierczynski
Manuel Garcia

Bloodshot fights Gamma to protect the young psiots and takes a beating in the process.

This really illustrates one of the things that I like about the reboot of the character. He has definite limitations. Yes, the nanobots in his blood repair any damage taken in a given situation, but it's not free (a la Wolverine's healing factor). Protein has to be used in the repair process which usually means eating meat. Too much damage between refueling and... well... it's not a good thing.

The end result is a character who is always on death's doorstep.

Speaking of death, we do lose someone this issue.

Archer & Armstrong
Fred Van Lente
Emanuela Lupacchino

I love, love, love this title. The story plays out like a weekly television series (the good kind) with the artwork filling in the blanks nicely. Expressions and sight gags play perfectly.

There are numerous villainous factions at work. There is The Null who want to zero out reality and whose motto is "Nothing Is Forever". There is the One Percent who wear golden Bull and Bear masks and fight against The Great Unwashed. Then the Vine, aliens from X-O Manowar's book. And the Gnomes of Zurich, which I don't know anything about. Of course, we can't forget the cult that Archer was raised in before he met Armstrong and realized that he was being used.

It's all very clever and entertaining.

Which makes the impact of the final couple of pages of this issue that much darker than it would normally be.

You can't go wrong with any of Valiant's titles, but if in some twisted world I could only choose one, Archer & Armstrong would be it.

Feedly, The Google Reader Alternative

Google Reader is going away. While there are apparently many petitions to convince Google to keep it around, one thing is clear: Don't build your product with a reliance on another company's services unless you have a plan for doing without it.

With that in mind, feedly has been doing everything right.

I've been using feedly as a front end to Google Reader from the very beginning so I am most definitely biased. I like the way it works and I'm used to it. The fact that they had the foresight to plan for a world without Google Reader just further cements them in my mind as a company that knows what they are doing. If you use feedly now, you will likely notice very little when Reader shuts down.

Unfortunately, I keep seeing people discounting the service because they don't like the magazine-like formatting of feeds. While that's the most visually interesting and marketable look, it is not the only way to browse articles.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, I would encourage you to check out feedly's tips for Google Reader users.

It's not the end of the RSS world, people. Au contraire. It's the dawn of a brave new RSS world.

Comic Book Stash: March 6, 2013

Mini-reviews and ratings of comics released March 6, 2013.

Agree or disagree? Let me know by hitting me up on Twitter or Google+.

Batman: The Dark Knight
2 stars
Gregg Hurwitz
Ethan Van Sciver

Hurwitz continues to flesh out the Mad Hatter origin story.

I hate the Mad Hatter as a Batman villain.

That is all.

Detective Comics
3 stars
John Layman
Jason Fabok

Adequate. That's about all I can say. Maybe I'm just not in the right mood or I'm burning out on The Batman. (No way!)

So one of The Penguin's henchman has engineered a crime empire coup.


Legends of the Dark Knight
3 stars
Jeff Parker, Michael Avon Oeming, Rob Williams
Gabriel Hardman, Michael Avon Oeming, Juan Jose Ryp

Three stories...

The first story of The Batman chasing down crooks we've seen before.

The second story is about The Batman fighting a dragon. The ending was somewhat predictable as far as what villain was involved.

The final story is about a strange new villain who doesn't speak but makes people disappear inside his vintage van.

I feel my pull list getting lighter by the minute.

Green Arrow
3 stars
Jeff Lemire
Andrea Sorrentino

I was about to just give up and resign myself to the fact that nothing in my list this week was going to make me happy. Fortunately, GA #18 came to the rescue.

A continuation from last issue's reset of Oliver Queen, we get a few more peeks into the mysteries surrounding Arrow's new nemesis (Komodo), new maybe ally (Magus) and his father's past. It's enough to be tantalizing while still providing enough action and story to keep things moving along.

I'm still on the fence as far as the art goes, though.

3 stars
Scott Lobdell
Kenneth Rocafort

The conclusion of the H'el on Earth arc. Some questions remained unanswered. Such as, why was H'el so much more powerful than Kal El with such different powers? Based on the epilogue, it's possible that we'll find that out some day.

The art was beautiful as is always the case with Rocafort. Faces are full of expression and alien designs are detailed and interesting. Even the often duplicated scene of Superman carrying the body of Supergirl was done in a way that didn't induce any eye-rolling on my part.

Scott Lobdell's stories might keep me around, but I'll definitely follow Kenneth to whatever his next project is since it looks like Aaron Kuder will be taking over as artist starting with issue 20.

Winter Soldier
3 stars
Jason Latour
Nic Klein

Bucky has put his moping on the back burner and he's a man on a mission. Literally. More spy intrigue with everyone quite sure that everyone else isn't quite telling the whole story. It's more of what I enjoy about Winter Soldier.

The down side is the art. I see what they are going for, but it just doesn't work for me here.

4 stars
Justin Jordan, Patrick Zircher
Patrick Zircher

We're finally past the origin story and starting into a new arc. While there is very little Jack/Shadowman, there is plenty for old-time fans of the original 1990's character to squeal over. Enter Dr. Mirage (now a female) and Baron Samedi. Throw in Master Darque and a new unknown player and one gets the feeling that this roller coaster is being pulled up a very tall hill.

Seems like I may have been getting worried for nothing.

3 stars
Jonathan Hickman
Dustin Weaver

We see the beginnings of the "White Event" and the creation of Starbrand. While light on action, the storytelling is pretty good and the art is excellent.

Recognizing the Starbrand symbol, but unable to place it, I did a quick search online. We're seeing the incorporation of New Universe characters, Nightmask and Star Brand, into the main (616) Marvel universe.

I never read much of the New Universe line, but mixing characters from different "realities" always has the potential for something interesting to happen. I'm intrigued.

Iron Man
3 stars
Kieron Gillen
Greg Land

Tony Stark is imprisoned and on trial for his part in killing the Phoenix. A sentient robot offers him a chance to escape, but the plan involves Stark invoking an ancient right that allows him to fight a person for each crime while his new friend retrieves his Iron Man suit/armor.

There's a nice cliff-hanger ending wherein we see that, tired of Tony beating amateur fighters, they have hired Death's Head to fight on their behalf.

Thoroughly enjoying this arc and Greg Land's art is even growing on me. At least it's not pulling me out of the story.

The Superior Spider-Man
4 stars
Dan Slott
Giuseppe Camuncoli

Just when I thought I'd heard everything, the evil villain Massacre hatches a plot to destroy the reputation of a soft-drink company by wearing their logo and going on a killing spree. All for the measly sum of twelve-million dollars.

Spidey-Ock proves that in every way he is the superior Spider-Man, captures Massacre and, to all appearances, kills him so he will never be a threat again.

The final page seems to indicate that Spidey has gone into Judge Dredd mode by acting as judge, jury and executioner.

This title hasn't missed yet.

Comic Book Stash: February 27, 2013

Mini-reviews and ratings of comics released February 27, 2013.

A much shorter stack than last week's. Thank goodness. This means I get my thoughts out there on New Comics Day Eve for once.

Agree or disagree? Let me know by hitting me up on Twitter or Google+.

3 stars
Geoff Johns
Paul Pelletier, Art Thibert

Finally! We see Arthur as King of the Seven Seas protecting his domain. Unfortunately the Atlanteans don't like him and the surface dwellers don't trust him. This is Aquaman as he's meant to be.

One quibble, however. In Justice League we see that Arthur turned his brother over to the surface authorities for judgement. In this issue he turns over the whalers to the surface authorities for judgement. Does Atlantis not have a legal system? I'm not clear on where the jurisdictional lines are drawn. One sure way to have Atlantis recognized as an actual nation-state would be to enforce its laws.

On the plus side, there is a gorgeous 2-page spread near the end of the book with Aquaman communing with the sea life. Considering all the people hate him, at least he has someone.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan
2 stars
J. Michael Straczynski
Adam Hughes

I'd pretty much given up on what's left of the Before Watchmen titles. Some were great and some were not. Dr. Manhattan is the least interesting character as far as I'm concerned.

This issue didn't do anything for me. I may be in the minority on this.

Additionally, there was an interesting (annoying) gimmick where certain sections of the book were upside down. I guess I just didn't get it.

Guardians of the Galaxy
4 stars
Brian Michael Bendis
Steve McNiven

I don't understand the numbering convention, but I appreciate the content. I've always been a fan of Marvel's cosmic storylines, but largely skirted on the edges. My familiarity with the Guardians dates back to the 90's which was apparently a very different team.

With that in mind, I'm not familiar with Star Lord other than being able to put a name to a... costume. I needed this prequel issue.

With Bendis writing and McNiven's art (which I quite enjoyed), I have high hopes for the series.

4 stars
Matt Fraction
David Aja

More brilliant art and story telling from Aja and Fraction. And humor. Clint wearing a sock cap with an "H" on it to break into the Russian's club and Stark having to remind Clint that there's "a behavior and morals clause" in his Avengers contract were just two moments that got a chuckle out of me.

Using comics books as part of the plot and incorporating the cover pages internally with art that referenced what was going on in this issue was a great touch. I realize this probably makes no sense unless you read it so go get a copy. I'll wait.

Things are about to get hot since Clint's ticked off the wrong people. The meeting amongst a rogues gallery of Marvel baddies to discuss putting out a hit on Hawkeye doesn't bode well for him. For us, the reader, it only means more awesomeness is heading our way.

Journey Into Mystery
4 stars
Kathryn Immomen
Valerio Schiti

Right now adding the Superior Spider-Man to any book makes it better. Adding him to a good book makes it great. This was a great issue with a startling final splash page.

Consistently excellent.

Comic Book Stash: February 20, 2013

Mini-reviews and ratings of comics released February 20, 2013. Took a little longer since the stack was a bit thicker than normal and pretty well packed with quality stories.

Agree or disagree? Let me know by hitting me up on Twitter or Google+.

3 stars
Jonathan Hickman
Adam Kubert

Continuing running through the origin stories of the new expanded team members, we learn a bit more about Captain Universe.

The heaviness of that story is lightened by the scenes of Doc Ock/Spider-Man being a pompous jerk. It's funny. Really.

I can see where some would prefer that Hickman get past all of this introductory stuff and onto something more meaningful. I, however, appreciate the pause to familiarize myself with characters who are largely new to me since I've been out of the comics game for a while.

3 stars
Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan
Tony Moore

More of the same silliness. This week Deadpool fights space-suited monkeys and Ronald Reagan on an old Soviet space defense platform. In the end George Washington shows up and things end on an uncharacteristically heavy note.

Joshua Dysart
Matthew Clark

We learn about the early life of Faith/Zephyr as she attempts to free the rest of the group from Tull. It's a decent read, but unlike this week's Avengers, I'm eager to get on to more important things.

Indestructible Hulk
4 stars
Mark Waid
Leinil Francis Yu

At the beginning of this issue we find out that Banner lives in an old atomic testing facility. "Welcome to Bannerville. Population 1." We also meet his new team of scientists in their new laboratory. As mundane as all of that sounds, it's all introduced cleverly by listening in on Bruce's side of a telephone conversation and the introductory speech he gives his team.

Something I'm finding particularly refreshing is that Bruce is being written as an intelligent and humorous human being rather than the angsty, moody guy we've come to tolerate over the years. When he starts yelling about there being no Internet connection just to see if any of his protégés... well... soil themselves, it's priceless.

I was confused for a moment as the Hulk is needed on an undersea mission against Attuma since I'd just finished reading the finale to Throne of Atlantis in Justice League. Orn. Attuma. Undersea kingdoms. It's just a blur sometimes. But that's more my fault than the book's.

This continues to be one of my favorites.

Justice League
3 stars
Geoff Johns
Ivan Reis, Paul Pelletier

The conclusion to the Throne of Atlantis storyline was... interesting. In my reviews you hear me complain about stories that drag on and on. Another peeve I have seems like the opposite; stories that end abruptly.

We've gone through a long build-up resulting in Atlanteans fighting an expanded Justice League and the Trench fighting everyone. Aquaman sort of beats up his brother who immediately abdicates the throne to him. This happens in less than a half-dozen panels. Not even two full pages.

With the battle all conveniently wrapped up, Arthur sends his brother to a surface prison. This seems a "cruel and unusual" punishment for an Atlantean and likely to bite someone in the tail-fin at some point. Arthur goes to Atlantis to be a king, Mera can't go for some reason and super-powered teams are being formed. The JL will expand the roster, a US government controlled Justice League America will be formed and it looks like a super-villain team is being organized by persons unknown.

I'm definitely ready for a new arc.

Justice League of America
4 stars
Geoff Johns
David Finch

I was really looking forward to this new team although I had my doubts about the odd makeup. Johns explains things and darn it if it doesn't actually make some sort of sense. The JLA is designed to go directly up against the Justice League if necessary. Here are the match-ups:

Justice League of AmericaJustice League
Martian ManhunterSuperman
KatanaWonder Woman
Green Lantern - Simon BazGreen Lantern - Hal Jordan

Green Arrow also has a role to play on the new team, but he's been chased down and injured to the point of death by the Justice League. Or so we've been led to believe.


3 stars
Mike Johnson
Mahmud Asrar

Like Superboy last week, I'm only picking this up for the H'el on Earth storyline. (Although if it drags on much longer, I'm going to quit caring.)

The only particularly noteworthy thing about this issue is that we get more a definitive assessment of the power levels of various characters. Wonder Woman thinks that Kara "looks as strong as Kal [Superman]". Later Wonder Woman tells Kara that they "are closely matched in strength [and] speed." Which means that WW is seriously super-powered in the New 52 or Superman's levels have dropped. Based on other books, Superman is not quite so omnipotent as he has been in the past.

My personal opinion is that this is a good thing, but I know it's a fairly hotly debated topic.

Other than that, the book was... adequate.

The Superior Spider-Man
Dan Slott
Giuseppe Camuncoli

I'm glad that I was convinced to start reading Spider-Man with Doc Ock taking over. I don't remember ever enjoying the character as much as I have been lately.

Thor: God of Thunder
5 stars
Jason Aaron
Esad Ribic

Look. If you have even the smallest interest in Thor, just go get all of the issues of this run. The storytelling and art are both top notch. This series is going to be a classic.

X-O Manowar
3 stars
Robert Venditti
Trevor Hairsine

Aric rescues Gafti, an old comrade-at-arms that he had left behind, and relinquishes his armor to heal him. Angry at having been left behind to be tortured for years, Gafti attacks Aric using Shanhara. Interestingly, the appearance of the armor apparently reflects something of the person wearing it.

Coming to terms with Aric, Gafti destroys the invasion fleet at the cost of his own life. Shanhara returns to Aric and they take a Vine ship "home".

Up next... Planet Death. I cannot wait.