Friday, 30 April 2010

Sif #1 review

As a little kid reading Thor reprints in UK Marvel Comics, I resented Sif for coming along and kicking Jane Foster out of the strip. Over the years though, I came to like the character - for one thing, Jack Kirby's design made her fun to look at; for another, her fighting spirit made her Thor's equal. She's been in and out of Thor's comic over the years and is currently in, though according to the recap at the start of this one-shot, she's a mortal at the moment.

Not that you'd know it, as apart from a scene in which she assesses her scars and pains, the lack of an Asgardian body makes no apparent difference to her fighting prowess. Horse-faced, stupidly-named Beta Ray Bill shows up in the pub where Sif's drowning her sorrows - we're not told why she isn't hanging out with her fellows in Asgard, despite being on their doorstep in Broxton, Oklahoma - looking for help. His equally stupidly named ship, Skuttlebutt, has been possessed by space conquerors and Bill and some stupidly named bald chick can't get in to help. But Sif can, so she does and she beats the baddies. The end.

Well, that's not quite it, with the story also involving Sif's being a Gloomy Gladys, but as I bailed on the JMS Thor, I'm not sure why. I suspect she's feeling her age. We are reminded that Loki wore her flesh and made her a dying cancer patient for awhile, but hey, this is the Marvel Universe, there has to be a support group. By issue's end she's talking tough, having apparently decided to re-embrace her godhood, though being mortal might make that a problem. Then again, Bill does refer to her 'Asgardian biology' and Sif seeming stronger than previously, but I dunno.

I do know that this is a thoroughly missable comic, seemingly motivated more by Marvel's current promotion of female characters than there being any need for a Sif-centred spin-off. If she was de-godded in Thor, that's where she should be re-godded (if that is indeed what happened here).

Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick does a decent job with the script, though it's a shame Sif is such a downer here - other than Hogun the Grim, Asgardians should be larger than life figures who are never happier than when on a foe-filled quest. Beta Ray Bill and his girlfriend are pretty pointless, being there as story set-up rather than an essential part of it. Once the story gets going DeConnick does offer up some lively dialogue (eg Sif after being warned of a space plague: 'I am an Asgardian. I will not be cowed by the sniffles'), so I'll be watching to see what she does next.

Ryan Stegman's art is suitably big and brash, nicely expressive and the scenes of a fighting mad Sif are when the book really comes to life. The inking is inconsistent, with the legendary Tom Palmer being assisted by Victor Olazaba, but it gets the job done.

Travel Foreman and June Chung provide an attractive cover design but for God's sake, the Lady Sif does not fight base villainy in her knickers. Grow up, Marvel!

Overall, this is a passable time-passer, but rather than make me want to see more Sif solo tales, it had me remembering how much I enjoyed her previous turn as a mortal, in the Nineties Journey Into Mystery revival, the Lost Gods. Maybe, like Sif, I'm just too darn old ...

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #16 review

I wonder if the kids love this book as much as I do. With Batman, Wonder Woman, the original Teen Titans, Nocturna, Egg Head and a mystery villain, the colourful character count is high. With Landry Walker writing and Eric Jones drawing, the script is smart and the artwork vibrant. It's another romp around the DC Universe - Sixties as much as animated - at breakneck speed which introduces all the characters as we go along. The story has our heroes collecting mystic eggs, knowing they're serving the old Adam West villain's masterplan but aiming to crack the mystery before it's too late. While the plot's fun, it's even better to see how Batman and Wonder Woman bounce off one another.

Wonder Woman and the Amazons are well served here, as Batman's narration tells newcomers everything they need to know to enjoy the team-up (click to enlarge that thar image). And by the end of the issue they've been shown just how awesome Diana is. One splash page, in particular, shows the power of the heroine (and makes up for Batman's cheekily describing Diana as 'one of the most powerful women on the planet'; anyway, he obviously places her in the first rank of heroes).

Oh, and there ain't no kissing - these heroes are colleagues and friends, neither has been fantasising about the other. Phew!

I mentioned a mystery villain. You can probably guess who else would show up, given the characters involved. If not, buy the book and see his background and name tweaked a tad.

The only thing I wasn't delighted with was the Wonder Woman costume design. While I'm a big fan of the original eagle bodice and even have room in my heart for the old ballet slippers, Diana is saddled with an incredibly unattractive skirt and tiara-style girdle. Plus, her features are very angular and she's rather bony all round. While it wouldn't be appropriate to have a zoftig Diana in an all-ages book, there must be a middleground between Baywatch and Handsome Spinster. And it's not like Eric Jones doesn't draw cute, as readers of the wonderful Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade (written by Landry Walker and available from all good booksellers pluggity plug - hey, I want to see a ninth grade sequel!) know.

Perhaps this is the look from the TV series bible, although I understand rights issues mean Diana has appeared only from the rear (stop it!). Never mind, I still loved seeing Wonder Woman fight alongside Batman, allowing some typically entertaining B&B moments. There's the promise of an arc storyline spinning out of this issue, but this Egg Head tale is self-contained. It's definitely worth shelling out for.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Wonder Woman #43 review

Goodness, what big arms you have, Diana. Mind, it's partly a question of perspective, as Nicola Scott gives us her spin on the Wonder Spin. While I prefer issue-specific covers, there's no denying this is an attractive image, and if it shifts a few extra copies, terrific.

Inside, Scott shares the pencilling with Fernando Dagnino as Diana battles the forces of Astarte, planetary conqueror, failed aunt and disappointed gourmand. It turns out she's not actually keen on eating a 'porridge' of mashed-up aliens whenever the Citizenry reaches a new planet; she only signed up to spare her little sister, Hippolyte, from being taken. And wouldn't you know it, the future Wonder Queen was too young to appreciate it and may not even remember Astarte exists.

So you can understand why Diana's auntie is rather bitter, she's had 3,000 years to mull over her fate; still, that doesn't make chowing down on the people of Earth OK, and Diana intends to get that message across. Wonder Woman is on fearsome form, razing Astarte's femme force, confronting her with the power of the lasso and finally coming up with a way to send the invaders packing - a good old duel. And she'll be fighting her previously unimagined anagrammatical cousin, Theana, to the death. I've had family gatherings like that ...

Elsewhere this issue we have a revised origin for Diana's costume elements, including a hint at why she wound up wearing a bathing suit rather than Greek warrior garb, in a marvellously moody flashback; the return of the DMA agents, here allied with the Gorilla Knights; a surprisingly effective Achilles (when can I have a plush of his two-trunked elephant, Mysia? Does it have to show up in Tiny Titans first, or something?).

It's another fun issue, full of believable characters and dialogue, as Gail Simone winds down her writing stint on this book. Steve Trevor and Etta Candy are in fine fettle, while the long-unseen Io is revealed to have been the creator of Diana's breastplate (no wonder she developed a crush what with all those hours in the foundry, contemplating the Wonder Bosom). There's good use made of both lasso and tiara, and the promise of fighter pilot Steve raining justice down on Astarte from the skies next time out.

The artwork by Scott and Dagnino - aided by four inkers - conveys the chaos as the humongous Silver Serpent attacks Washington DC, and shows what a formidable fighter Diana is in graceful sequences. Even daft old Achilles has a certain galumphing charm here. But the best scene, visually, is the flashback to Hippolyte in her palace - sad but serenely proud as an unseen Diana readies to leave Paradise Island for the first time.

The story concludes next month and I expect it'll be a corker as Simone says her goodbye to Diana. For now, anyway. Like Hippolyte, she won't let a departure end a great relationship ...

Mighty Avengers #36 review

And after three years the Mighty Avengers comes to an end. Not with a whimper, but a bang, as the don't-call-him-winsome Wasp, Jocasta and Blackjack take on Ultron and his infinite army of Jocastas. Regular readers of the book won't be surprised that Waspish Hank has a few tricks to pull out of thin air - hey, he's Earth's Scientist Supreme. It's not predictability, it's consistency; this is how Pym is these days, MA writer Dan Slott having rebuilt his personality and spirit over the last couple of years.

So when Hank uses Ultron's daddy issues against him, it makes sense. When he reveals the true nature of Infinite Avengers Mansion, you admire his ambition and intellect. It's safe to say that Hank is the standout character of this series, though Jocasta makes a late play for Avengers Legend status in a wonderfully hoo-rah moment.

There are a few pages given over to Stature, USAgent, Vision and Amadeus Cho at the siege of Asgard. Quicksilver appears for a panel or two. And I couldn't give a hoot, it's all just serving another book. The story I care about is back with Hank and chums, as my prediction for what would happen this issue proves rubbish and the series ends, in Shakespearean comedy style, with a marriage. And said marriage is something we've never seen the like of, a little unnerving but mostly amusing, and it's going to serve future Avengers stories rather well.

But sadly, not future Mighty Avengers stories as the book is being shuffled aside while the Avengers franchise shifts again. Dammit! Slott has made this Marvel's most entertaining team book in years, full of wit, intelligence and, of course, action. The glory days of the Avengers were under Roy Thomas, and this comic has proved the torch bearer for that run's legacy, mixing team history, character dynamics and Slott's original thinking (he may well be Earth's Scribe Supreme) to make modern magic.

Slott's partner in greatness is Koi Pham, whose pages are looking sharper than ever, aided by the inks of Craig Yeung and Dave Meikis. There are several money shots, both in terms of action and emotion, but nothing is over-sold.

Extra points to Pham for pulling off a wee homage:

Whak! indeed. With one evocative image, Slott and Pham have pseudo-Jan Jocasta return a blow that went down in comics history. Hopefully the scene writes a full stop to a moment in Hank's story which, wrongly (the guy was having a breakdown), came to define him for a generation.

So, congrats to all the creative crew - mustn't forget letterer Dave Lanphear, colourist John Rauch, production, editorial - for a wonderful run. If only Marvel appreciated this book as much as some of us did.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Siege: Loki #1 review

Led off by a magnificent cover from Marko Djurdjevic, Thor's trickster brother features in his own one-shot, bargaining with immortals to create mischief and mayhem. That's Mephisto, ruler of the Underworld, and Hela, former ruler of the Underworld (Norse division). By the end of the issue new maps of hell have been drawn and Loki departs to rejoin the Siege crossover.

This is an enjoyable flight of fancy from writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie. Loki is the consummate plotter, inviting all to come close and hear what he has to say, but ever unknowable. He's less the master manipulator here in the other realms than when venturing into the world of men. For Gillen, smartly, doesn't show Loki attempting to put one over on his fellow deities. All three are gamesplayers, masters of the fine-print bargain, on equal terms when it comes to oneupgodship. They can help one another, satisfying their individual motives, but they know where they stand ... never too close.

Gillen captures Loki's massive self-regard without making him a boastful buffoon; he's confident in his sorcery and wiles, as well he might be after untold millennia of being both the tormentor and tormented of the Asgardian pantheon. He's also pretty handy with a whip and sword, we learn here, as he routs the Dinir, a group of ancient goddesses. Who knew?

Mephisto and Hela are also on good form, the former fuelled by boredom, the latter by fire to launch a new Hel. And super-sallow Hela gets the best line of the book as she exits to mark out her new territory.

The exit in question looks terrific as drawn by McKelvie, as if she's being erased from the dimensional plane by a giant rubber (UK meaning, if you please!). And while I love Hela's traditional Jack Kirby outfit, she looks marvellous in a flowing shroud dress, an elegant, ethereal envoy of death as seductive as she is terrifying.

Mephisto could do with looking a tad scarier - he comes across like a minor Shakespearean actor in red make-up and fright wig - but it could be that he saves the physical histrionics for the mortal types. And Loki? Perfect, as angelic of face as he is black of heart, never sneering like a pantomime villain. And in a clever touch, Gillen and McKelvie occasionally have him looking off the page, as if he's making the reader a co-conspirator.
The page showing Loki battling the Disir is imaginatively designed. Perhaps because we're seeing new facets of Loki, tiny panels combine to present a jewel effect (or perhaps McKelvie simply thought it'd look nice, which works for me). While a collection of small panels usually speeds up a fight scene, this design lends a calm to proceedings. It's fascinating to look at and, like the whole book, is coloured with pizzazz by Nathan Fairbairn. And Joe Caramagna's lettering throughout matches the characters perfectly.

The Disir look like ghosts made from bone, with a Mike Allred quality to their faces; I believe this is their first appearance in the Marvel Universe and given the combination of mythical background and spooky look, I hope they appear again.

Overall, this is a splendid example of a crossover comic that's good, but thoroughly missable so far as the main event goes. While plot points here apparently feed into Loki's plan to use Norman Osborn as a tool against Earth's heroes, miss this and you won't be at a loss so far as the Siege mini is concerned. That doesn't mean it's not a valuable focus on Loki.

And where this book is important is in showing that Gillen and McKelvie - creators of Phonogram - can play well within the Marvel Universe. It'd be wonderful to see what mischief they could create were they given their own corner, unshackled from a crossover. Go on Marvel, you know Loki would want it.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Brightest Day #0 review

As well as space-wasting splash pages and characters yelling 'THE HELL?', one of the things guaranteed to get me moaning is a #0 issue. Usually it's simply a first issue by another number.

Not here though, as we join former Deadman Boston Brand on a journey across the DC Universe to check in with others who were recently resurrected. Brightest Day #0 justifies its serial number by providing an overview of the cast and a hint at the journey to come.

So after a bittersweet opening in which (and I know I tried it on for size in my Blackest Night #8 review, but I'm not calling him Aliveman) Boston destroys his gravestone, he's swept away by the white light of life to watch the other reborn heroes and villains.

There's Aquaman, reunited with wife Mera and, despite a night of nookie, fascinated by the shadow of his Blackest Night counterpart.

Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash, hangs around Iron Heights prison, apparently well out of it.

Elsewhere in the jail, the original Captain Boomerang, hints that he's maybe going to use his second chance to be a better man - though in a vaguely threatening way.

Hawkwoman Shiera Hall is acing a pop quiz on her past lives given by hubby Carter, who's being haunted by his former selves, before a souvenir of recent events carries them away on wings of mystery.

Max Lord kills himself again but makes sure he falls into, hmm, a Lazarus paddling pool?

J'onn J'onzz has a cunning plan to make Mars live again.

Jade shows she's not one to get bogged down by soap as she makes her peace with former boyfriend Kyle Rayner, who's currently swanning around space with some alien popsy.

Ronnie Raymond's misplaced guilt sees him avoid the funeral of Jason Rusch's girlfriend/Firestorm matrix partner Gehenna.

Osiris collects the petrified Isis and Black Adam as he pledges to make Kahndaq great.

Hawk tells Dove he's going to be a tad more proactive in terms of catching bad guys, but doesn't kill anyone.

And Boston himself has a vision of where the players' lives are going before the white energy he's been ferrying around in an Oan ring turns in its most impressive performance yet, bringing Star City back to life. It's not clear whether the citizens are alive once more - so far we see buildings and a spiffy park - but with luck there's more to it than urban regeneration and neat landscaping.

Oh, and there's a final page appearance of someone I'm sick and tired of, Banana Lantern Sinestro.

Brightest Day #0 is a blast, reintroducing old characters and immediately moving their stories on. The return of Star City, only weeks after its devastation in Cry For Justice, surprised and thrilled me. Because, why not? Its loss has done its job, setting Green Arrow and Roy Harper down new psychological paths that won't be cut off by the city's return (especially if it's empty of people, which seems likely; I can't see Roy's daughter Lian having been instantly resurrected like a packet of dried mash). And we've seen a hero lose an entire urban landscape previously, when Green Lantern's Coast City was wiped off the map. I've no idea how, as DC has said, Star City will become the most important place in the DCU, but finding out should be fun. Just as long as no one expects me to read any angsty Green Arrow or Arsenal solo books ...

There's nothing here to rant about: I wasn't keen on J'onn J'onzz ignoring the existence of Miss Martian in declaring himself the 'only Martian', but that's just scene-closing drama. I'm thoroughly sick of hearing characters say 'Flash fact' cos it makes no sense, unless they were reading Barry Allen feature pages in the Sixties.

But they're tiddling things. The characterisation from writers Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi is rich, the individual stories intrigue and I care about what happens to these people. I'm not delighted by the obvious ongoing linking to Green Lantern mythology, but it's inevitable - answers are yet to be found as to why the 12 people reborn were chosen while others remained dead. Finding out should be a blast.

Especially if we keep getting artwork like this from Fernando Pasarin, who turns in a bravura performance. The action moments explode, the quieter scenes pull us in. Individual compositions shine while building up into pages of spot-on storytelling. There seems to be no area of the DCU we can't go with Pasarin as tour guide. Wonders never cease, he even made me love the spread reveal of Star City, and I tend to hate double-pagers bereft of people. With all this goodness, it's tough to choose a favourite moment, but I have to say Pasarin's Flash demonstrates that Barry Allen really is generating a ridiculous amount of power. Looking like that, you wonder why the Rogues Gallery members bother getting out of bed (and yes, I realise I mentioned not liking 'Lightning Flash Barry' in my Flash #1 review, below - but, wow). Credit, too, to the battery on inkers and colourists who helped this issue shine, and Nick J Napolitano for lettering with flair.

The cover pencilled by David Finch is suitably splashy, he does a marvellous job of fitting in 14 characters without anyone getting short shrift, but I'd love to see Pasarin draw have a go at the lead image. Lord knows where he'd find the time, mind.

If the next 24 issues are as good as this first - zeroest? - then I'm delighted Brightest Day began with a nought, because it means one extra issue of superbly crafted superhero comics.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Flash #1 review

Barry Allen's back at work with the Central City Police Department, the Flash is patrolling the streets and there are some familiar, yet fresh, antagonists in town. It's fair to say that the first issue of this reborn book moves at a fair clip.

The opening pages, mind, make Barry look a bit rubbish, as he tells the kid Trickster to pull over in his tricked-up car. I really do think the Flash can outrace a bloomin' car! Oh well, the scene gives wife Iris a chance to be heroic, pushing a cyclist out of the way as the car mounts the pavement. It must be her coffee-charged reflexes, as she's here revealed to be addicted to caffeine.

The rest of the book sees Barry rejoining the crime lab and meeting colleagues new and old, and attending the body of some guy dressed in a Mirror Master suit. There's a bit of chitchat with reporter wife Iris, showing the professional boundaries Barry has around sharing information with the press, and a surprise ending that's very Silver Age.

While it would be fascinating to see Barry and Iris have a decent chat about their years apart, (literal) future children and the like, it makes sense to avoid this kind of baggage in a debut issue. And I'd not be surprised were writer Geoff Johns to avoid the ins and outs of the Allens' lives altogether, and just move forward. I'm certainly ready for the Flash to find his place in the DC Universe, and on the basis of this issue's script I'll enjoy doing so. Barry is presented as a happy bunny, ready to right wrongs that have piled up in his absence. Iris is ever the smart newshen, and a bit of a nag towards her always late hubby - I've no doubt that in time she'll be filled out a bit more but reestablishing her classic characteristics is a start.

And thank you Mr Johns for catching us up on Bazza's old lab partner, the magnificently monikered Patty Spivot, even if we don't see her. I bet she's back from her sojourn in Blue Valley before the year's out.

And I do hope we meet this 'sidekick stalker' person Iris mentions - maybe throw wee Irey West at him or her ...

Such a scene would certainly look good as drawn by Francis Manapul. One issue in and I want to live in his Central City, with two Jitters coffee shops on every block, tree-lined pavements, happy people. Criminal scumbags aside, it looks a great place. And Manapul produces a fine Flash, aided by the chromatic sculpting of Brian Buccellato. Their depiction of super-speed is very much their own, with Barry's after-images more jagged than in the past, producing an interesting jerky quality which makes more sense than the smooth transitions between poses of old. And while I'm not a huge fan of Barry being surrounded by electricity - that's more Wally West's thing - I love the way the speed-lines are presented. The supporting cast designs are interesting, and the expressive artwork brings them to life - I'm looking forward to spending time with the Central City cops, crooks and citizens.

Barry and Iris look a tad younger than perhaps they should, but with their history of time travel, rebirths, surgery and pre-owned bodies, who can truly say how they should appear? Manapul does give us a clever take on Barry's haircut - long enough to be modern, short enough to evoke the classic crew cut. Apart from a page showing the Rogues in panels spelling out WANTED, which doesn't quite come off, the layouts are happily straightforward, allowing us to be drawn into the story rather than be dazzled by design. And God bless Manapul, he gives us detail in the backgrounds and foregrounds, actually bothering to draw such things as the slats on Venetian blinds and enhancing the story immensely.

A nod, too, to Nick J Napolitano, whose lettering is filled with as much energy as any Flash book could ask.

By the end of the book Johns, Manapul and pals have reestablished Barry, Iris and Central City, set up a new career path for the police scientist and lined up a few mystery skittles. And as much as for the content, I'll be back next month for the tone - as with their recent Superboy run in Adventure Comics, Johns, Manapul and Buccellato have quickly found a sensibility that feels unique in the DC Universe, and right for the book.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

I swear, Medusa makes this shit up

Here's a scene from the latest Fantastic Four, #577, by Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham:

'Black Bolt has a saying ...' Yeah, and the Hulk likes to do needlepoint. Still, what can you expect from a woman too mean to fork out for sign language lessons for her hubby?

Friday, 9 April 2010

Spider-Man: Fever #1 review

Spider-Man meets black whimsy in this story written and illustrated by Brendan McCarthy or, as he playfully styles himself here, 'McMarvel'. A mystical tome* Dr Stephen Strange purchases by mail order (ha!) turns out to be linked to extra-dimensional spider-demons and when one breaks through into the Marvel Universe it's thrilled to come across Spider-Man; a tasty dish to set before the king. Can Dr Strange set things right or will Peter Parker's soul be consumed?

That's the simple premise of this first issue of three but it's not the point. The point is to give classic 2000AD creator McCarthy a chance to go wild in the Marvel playpen. There's a distinct Steve Ditko influence at times in the areas of figurework and netherealms, inevitable for any artist working with his most famous Marvel co-creations, but Fever is pretty much pure McCarthy. The storytelling, the sensibility, the sheer weirdness of even the scenes set on Earth before all hell breaks loose ... it's McCarthy all over. Never has the Vulture looked so creepy, Nosferatu with green wings, while modern tower blocks are covered in cobwebs and grime. And once the Arachnix turns up, in a wonderfully appropriate manner, things just keep getting weirder. The demon may visually recall cuddly anthropomorphic spiders from children's books but the relentless chanting, the demands for Peter's soul . . .. brrr, I can see why, despite there being no 'bad language' or nudity in this book, it has a parental advisory - the twisted spin on child-friendly imagery could prove disturbing to, well, me.

For regular Spider-Man readers the implied mystical connection between Spidey and the Arachnix may recall J Michael Straczynski's 'spider-totem' spin on Peter Parker's superheroic origins. That concept was presented to Spidey as a revelation, and to me it felt like over-explanation. And terribly icky. Here, though. we have a dazed Spidey in a trippy realm with Dr Strange the likely cavalry, making the nuttier notion easily dismissed as they're aired, and therefore palatable.

From the delightful cover via the striking title page and on through the book, this comic is a feast for jaded eyes. McCarthy, partnered with Steve Cook, also produces the special effects and lettering - gloriously appropriate lettering - to ensure a unified visual look. And let's not forget the script, which gets us from A to B nicely, throwing in darkly amusing flourishes among the way.

In one of those rare weeks in which there's no Amazing Spider-Man, it's great that editors Stephen Wacker and Tom Brennan have given us something with the Spidey flavour, but a decidedly different aftertaste.

* I refuse to refer to bound reading material in a Dr Strange story as anything other than a tome.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 review

High concept, low expectations about sums up my attitude to this series prior to reading this first issue. I'd not been able to get into writer Jonathan Hickman's Secret Warriors, featuring S.H.I.E.L.D. mainstay Nick Fury, so thought a story focused on the organisation's heritage might not be for me. But recent issues of Fantastic Four have showcased Hickman's wide-ranging imagination in terms of expanding the Marvel Universe geographically, so perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised he can do the same thing historically.

So yes, I do believe that Leonardo da Vinci can fly. That he, Galileo and other great thinkers joined a planet-wide protection agency set up after ancient Egyptian engineer and warrior Imhotep routed a familiar race of MU extraterrestrials. It's not only cool to see da Vinci as a Renaissance Reed Richards - a Senor Fantastic, if you like - it makes perfect sense for the story. Of course the likes of Galactus would have visited Earth over the centuries, it would be nutty to think attacks on Earth began only with the age of Atlas but have occurred almost weekly since then.

The scenes from distant history are framed within a 1950s sequence showing an unusual young man being recruited by (he said, dropping the annoying-to-type dots) SHIELD to help save the world. Suffice to say, he has an unusual father too.

The snippets from the past are hugely enjoyable but the mystery of what's going on in the present day of the story is equally engrossing. I can't wait to see what the big picture is here, and how this da Vinci-coded SHIELD connects to the modern version beyond name, symbol and honourable intentions. And the motto which gives the SHIELD folk confidence to take on any threat, no matter how big, is something I'm itching to see explained. Based on this first script I've faith that Hickman will make it good.

I'm also sure that artists Dustin Weaver and Christina Strain will combine with Hickman to make it great. They certainly hit that standard this month with page after page of fascinating people, cities and machines. Weaver's illustrations are, to use the cliche with utmost sincerity, cinematic. The spreads and splashes are mind-boggling, the close-ups and reveals filled with intimacy and information. There's some tremendous design work gone into this issue, with such things as Shield's Rome base and the High Council's armour, whose helmets are apparently based on their first enemy (I wouldn't be surprised if the artistic Mr Hickman had a hand in things).

And Strain ensures that we immediately know we're shifting from past to present and back again via her intelligent colour palette (sounds like a SHIELD device, that). The Fifties get rich, deep colours, the past is filled with sunshine tones, a sequencing underlined when the narrative has the original shield 'travel through time'. And for an extra touch of class, Todd Klein lends his lettering to the operation and Gerald Parel teams with Weaver for that movie-poster-in-waiting of a cover.

I mentioned spreads. There's one in here that could well prove my favourite Marvel image by year's end. It's bombastic, busy and a real statement that the creative team knows what they're doing. I could describe it. I couldn't do it justice. Even if you're not buying this issue, do yourself a favour and take a cheeky flick in the comic book shop. Then you'll buy it.

And there's this other spread . . .

There are a couple of bonus pages at the back illuminating one of the characters, but it was over my dumb old head. No matter, they were very much bonus pages, with the story coming in at 34pp.

I'll be back next month to enjoy this title in which, refreshingly, the ideas are as important as the action. One way or another, Hickman and friends are making comics history.

Flash Secret Files and Origins 2010 review

It's ironic that some of the momentum surrounding the return of Barry Allen has been lost due to the time it's taking to get his new series up and running. He showed up alive in Final Crisis in 2008; starred in a six-issue mini-series, Flash: Rebirth, that took almost a year to appear; had a three-issue Blackest Night mini; and now here's a Secret Files and Origins special heralding the start of his new series, finally, later this month.

As an old Barry fan I've been itching to see what stories Geoff Johns will give us justifying his return, what with the Silver Age Flash having died a great death a generation ago, and protege Wally having made the role of the Flash his own. Perhaps this mix of strips and profile pages will begin to satisfy my long-whetted appetite ...

The cover by incoming artist Francis Manapul is attractive, and there's more from him inside as he shares the pages with Wally West's number one illustrator, Scott Kolins. The first strip, with art by Kolins and colourist Michael Atiyeh, reminds us that time passes very slowly when you have super-speed, leading to extended moments staring at the clock - an obvious point made again an again in Flash stories. There's also more of Barry being haunted by the recently revealed/retconned murder of his mother by Professor Zoom, as seen in Flash: Rebirth. We note that the home where, the authorities believed, Henry Allen murdered wife Norah is today a wreck, Central City's equivalent to Gotham's Crime Alley, and a place of pilgrimage for Barry.

The only truly intriguing information here is that when Barry itches, the rest of the Flash Family aka the (ugh) Speed Force - six super-speedsters - turn up to scratch it. It seems that now Barry is nominated Father of the Speed Force he has a link to Wally, Jay, Irey, Max, Bart and Jesse, meaning that when he's worried, they're worried. It's not made clear whether or not this is one-way traffic; let's hope so, or they'll forever be showing up at one another's side in moments of excitement, which could prove embarrassing.

Honestly, it's bad enough that the literal-rather than-familial Speed Force, rather than being a cosmic field all Flashes could somehow tap into, has been over-explained as Barry-generated energy, continually looping into past and future so as to explain the presence of Flashes before and after him. There's no reasonable reason for this - both Max Mercury and Wally West have been shown to understand more about the Speed Force than Barry - other than that Barry Allen is the currently favoured Flash. And now it seems Barry has low-level telepathic tentacles caressing his peers and relatives at all times ... when Barry needs a hug, six speedsters show up to provide it. Some people may not find that a little creepy.

Original Flash Jay is the first to show up, letting us see that in his mental dictionary a lightning bolt is more than a simple flash of electricity. Can't say I get that one, but Jay's a scientist so of course I believe him.

The story closes with the Rogues together (they're beginning to look seriously co-dependent) for a clever gag that acts a prelude to the upcoming Flash #1.

Kolins' art has rarely looked better - clean, moody, well-composed - and it'll be a crying shame if he doesn't get to draw Wally again. A dream sequence of the boy Barry, perhaps an attempt to connect younger readers with the middle-aged hero, is especially effective (hopefully the obvious kid clothing nod to Barry's uniform was the product of Barry's subconscious, rather than Smallville corn). It's commendable that you can always see that this is Barry in the mask, not Wally. It's just a shame such a talented artist wasn't given anything fresh to draw.

The rest of the book is equally underwhelming. There are recaps of various Rogues' histories and abilities; paragraphs on Barry's crime lab colleagues (bring back the wonderfully named Patty Spivot!); an understandable glossing over of Iris Allen's messy background as a 30th century refugee and body transplant pioneer; a hint that a very dull speedster is returning (because there aren't enough of them in Barry's life); a very obvious likely path for Wally's speed-free son Jai which I hope is a red herring (he should lose the super-villain-in-training tee shirt, for a start); and the claim that time travel control device the Cosmic Treadmill's design had been transmitted to Barry's mind from points unknown - something I hope won't be followed up on as that way lies madness, and Mopee.

My favourite secret file entry compares and contrasts the twin cities of Central and Keystone, one bright and shiny, the other trying to regain its glory days. It didn't half make me realise how much I miss Johns writing, and Kolins drawing, the adventures of Wally and Linda West in their blue collar burg.

The art on all the feature pages - some co-written by Sterling Gates - is usually solid, often terrific, with the villains looking formidable and the flashbacked Allens charming. The one real exception is the profile of Mirror Master, in which a spot of dramatic foreshortening by Kolins doesn't quite come off. But well done to him for at least trying something different - I can't bear the Marvel Handbook style of character posing, with everyone looking stiff and dull.

Atiyeh colours the Kolins pieces, while old Adventure Comics partner Brian Buccellato is back with Manapul to good effect. What I would like to have seen is some proper comic book lettering on the profile pages - while mechanical fonts might seem logical for character profiles, they don't half pour cold water on the artwork.

This comic is, basically, nice but dull. I can't say it's bad as it's well-written and drawn and succeeds in illustrating the current state of the Flash's world, even giving one or two nods towards things to come. But it would have been nice were readers who have been reading Flash stories for awhile rewarded with a short strip in which something innovative happened, perhaps, or a brand new character was introduced. As is, I'd recommend Secret Files and Origins to new readers confused by the cast of Flash: Rebirth, but longtime fans should simply flick through their back issues while waiting for the long appetiser to be superceded by, I hope, a tasty meal.

Monday, 5 April 2010

She-Hulk Sensational #1 review

It's the 30th anniversary of She-Hulk's first publication and while she doesn't have an ongoing to celebrate the fact, Marvel have been generous enough to provide a one-shot.

I wouldn't have bothered, what with most of this $4.99 publication being irrelevant or reheated. First off, Gary Frank's cover, coloured by Emily Warren, is a beaut. It's a bit of a strange choice for a celebration issue, mind, with our heroine looking distinctly down at heel - the taxi number/signature, GF06, hints that what we have here is actually a four-year-old unused cover, from the time Jen was sacked from her law firm. What a fantastic birthday gift.

I suppose at a pinch the art could go with Peter David's opening story, the sole part of the book that's relevant to Shulkie's anniversary. It looks back to the days of John Byrne's Sensational She-Hulk with lots of fourth wall-breaking fun as the jade giantess gets the blues over having been around three decades. Luckily her creator, Stan Lee himself, is on hand to send her on a familiar journey in 'The She-Hulk Story That's a Riff on A Christmas Carol'.

And while the jumping off point is Ebenezer Scrooge's, the story is pure Jen Walters, with She-Hulk equal parts bemused and bristling as she meets her personal ghosts. It's fast-paced, fun-filled, Shulkie shenanigans and just right for the occasion. The opening page alone, starring Jen's answer machine, is a hoot. David even makes a few fair points about how far the character has come over the years. The art by illustrator Jonboy Meyers and colourist Jim Charalampidis, is bombastic and vibrant, perfectly suiting proceedings.

Marvel were ahead, and they should have quit. For the next story doesn't just reek of inventory, it admits as much with a first panel 'Skrull Queen's' note telling us the story takes place before Secret Invasion. That in itself wouldn't make the strip annoying, but as you plough through it and realise it's not a She-Hulk piece at all, but a 'one-size fits all' entry co-starring Spider-Woman and Ms Marvel ... that's annoying.

Of course, were it a great done-in-one, the day could perhaps be saved. It's not. Brian Reed's script presents the three women as so irritatingly stupid you realise why the story's sat around for a couple of years. And if this is set before Secret Invasion, presumably the Spider-Woman here is the disguised Skrull Queen, yet her thoughts aren't those of an evil spider-mole. Maybe this is a plot point covered elsewhere, perhaps she's in such deep cover she thinks she is Jessica. I dunno, and I shouldn't be expected to know in what's presented as a special tale of She-Hulk.

Oh, and can we have a moritorium on female team-ups called 'Ladies' Night'?

I like the artwork by Iban Coello and Andrew Hennessy, it's pleasantly powerful, with the senseless catfights presented effectively, but I'd rather it were in the service of a good script - and Reed can provide them.

Finally, a reprint of John Byrne's Sensational #40, not one of his better issues in terms of story, and it doesn't help for our purposes that it's part one of ... I dunno, I'd bailed on the title because the quality wasn't great. Plus, it's from the period when Byrne had dispensed with inkers and letterers, meaning the look isn't classic Byrne - too loose - and the lettering is a mess at times.

So, one lovely story, one less-good tale and an unsatisfying reprint. Shabby Birthday, She-Hulk.

PS Mart here - Just wondering why this review does so well in the stats - where is everyone coming from? Please feel free to add a comment and let me know!

Superman #698 review

There's some kind of comic book law that says that as soon as a writer divests themselves of teething problems on a book, they're off it. At the moment it's happening with Gail Simone on Wonder Woman, and here it is again with James Robinson. In my review of last issue I mentioned that I was truly appreciating the way he'd made Mon-El a compelling character. This time out, we finally have Superman back to star billing in his own book, and it seems that Robinson hasn't half missed him - he's having a whale of a time with Kal as superhero, not the soldier he's been of late. For most of the issue Superman is in the clutches of Brainiac's machines, but does that stop him being every inch the hero? Not as he's scripted here.

And the sequence just gets better. The story is the continuation of a crossover between the Superman Family titles but I'd recommend this as a taster to anyone wanting to know what Superman is made of.

Mon-El, continuing to co-star, comes off well too, showing the relentlessness of a true man of valour as he fights off first a horde of space mandrills, then four separate alien races to reach, and hopefully rescue, Superman. There's also some fine character work with Brainiac and semi-ally Lex Luthor, showing that while both are bald geniuses, to assume the only difference between them is skin tone would be folly. Plus, in five panels Robinson actually makes General Zod a sympathetic character.

He's helped here by the illustratins of Javier Pina, who imbues Zod with strength, grace and determination. Handling the Superman sequences - Bernard Chang looks after Mon-El's pages - Pina captures the eeriness of Brainiac's spaceship, with its miniaturised cities and a robot around every corner. What's more, Pina's depictions of Brainiac and Luthor could prove era-defining: Brainiac the powerful, robotic thinker dealing with an unexpected and unwelcome influx of feelings; Luthor, the always human, mocking egotist.

As for Chang, his sharp strokes reflect the energy of the constant conflict faced by Mon-El, who looks every bit the legend he becomes by the time of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The two clearly different artists are united, so far as is possible, by the terrific colourwork of Blond, while penciller John J Hill's letters are top notch.

Though I like the interior artwork a lot, the standout illustration for me this month is Julian Lopez's dynamite cover, which evokes the genius of JL Garcia-Lopez, whose matchless compositions and rendering graced this title most regularly between #301-323. I could go on and on about it, but just take a look, and imagine 1,000 gushing words.

It's the perfect summation of an issue that shows just how much James Robinson reveres the Superman legend. I hope he's back writing Earth's greatest hero regularly again before long.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Wonder Woman #42 review

It's alien invasion time on DC Earth ... actually, that's not quite right, it's alien feeding time as a shipful of space scavengers prepare to unleash some predatory little buggers on the citizenry.

Before that, though, there's a scene establishing the nature of the threat, via a visit with members of the Green Lanterns Corps. At six pages, it's longer than I'd prefer - heaven knows we see enough of the old emerald warriors across the DC line these days - but it gives them a reason to star on Nicola Scott's beaut of a cover and hopefully pull in a few extra readers. And one of the GLs, Khund kid Kho Kharhi, did debut in this comic, so likely her connection to Wonder Woman will come into play next month.

I can't imagine any visiting fans of Geoff Johns' GL run being disappointed with the Corps' presentation here as there's plenty of the militaristic chat that characterises the force these days. And a grisly death, of course, though like another unfortunate exit later in the issue, it's subtly presented.

Down on Earth we join Diana chatting to Steve Trevor about the fact Genocide - who tortured his wife, Etta Candy - is still out there somewhere and he's rightly slightly perturbed that Diana hasn't made locating the beast her priority. Oddly, this scene seems to take place immediately after Genocide blew up the Department of Metahuman Activities building - Diana is helping with the clear-up - nearly a year ago in publishing time. This wouldn't normally bother me but Diana's had a few in-continuity adventures since then. I suppose the adventures with Black Canary in the Far East, the Olympian on Paradise Island and Power Girl in Washington itself could have spanned just a week ...

OK, I've rationalised that away, so I'm free to say I loved 'Wrath of the Silver Serpent'. The chat with Steve, an intriguing silent moment between him and Etta, Diana's easy confidence as aliens attack and the revelation of the leader's identity. This last won't be a massive surprise to old-time readers - the story is a spin on the Empress of the Silver Snake sequence from the Seventies - but it's different enough to be worthwhile. And who knows where things will go from here.

Writer Gail Simone gets a tiny demerit for the reuse of a gag about hospital robes, but major credit for Diana's narrative, which strikes a pleasing balance of seriousness and whimsy. There's a nostalgic moment that warmed the cockles of my heart as Diana pushes Steve out of danger, a possible reference to the Groovy Diana Prince days and a wonderfully Golden Age demand from the alien leader. It's Gail nodding to Diana's various interpretations while still presenting the heroine she's made her own, a compassionate, wise warrior for the 21st century.

And as depicted by penciller Fernando Dagnino (fast becoming the MVP of DC's artistic pinch-hitters), she looks great too, whether in conversation or 'welcoming' the attacking extraterrestrials with a mighty left hook. Nicola Scott pencils the GL sequences and while Kho Kharhi looks a little slim for her race - previously she was something of an Etta Khundy - there's drama in them thar lines. Plus, Nicola and regular inker Doug Hazlewood bring on the cutest ickle aliens you'll see eaten this month. The intriguingly named Bit inks Fernando, and does an equally fine job, particularly in a scene set at the White House - check out the brilliant rendering of the villainess's face.

This is the Wonder Woman comic at its best, with a heroine to cheer for, villains to boo, supporting characters to love and a grabber of an ending. It's typical that I'm enjoying this book more than I have in ages just as a new creative team is due, but that's comics.

Cloak and Dagger #1 review

Cloak and Dagger are a study in contrasts: light/dark; female/male; white/black; rich/poor; covered/flashing ... goodness me, that Dagger girl really is flaunting it - outside of fan art I can't recall the shapely slits of her costume ever being quite so slitty (I said slitty). She's positively Emma Frosting, here. No wonder the Young X-Men can't beat her at the beginning of this one-shot, they're likely thoroughly distracted. Even gay Anole. Funnily enough, though, as the issue goes on, it's Cloak who ends up baring the most flesh.

As 'The Broken Church' opens, Cloak and Dagger - Tandy and Tyrone - have hooked up with the X-Men on the godforsaken rockpile amusingly christened Utopia. Tandy's having a terrific time practising her powers/teasing pubescent boys; for once she feels at home, among her own kind - mutants. Then science guy Dr Nemesis throws a spanner in the light works by revealing that she's not actually a mutant.

Tyrone is having a good time of his own back in the old Boston hood, spending days with an old pal, Tia, who, sadly, turns out to have an agenda. She runs with a bunch of brainy bruisers who are the mutant equivalent of the ridiculous Ex-Gay movement; they aim to persuade him not to use his powers, for the benefit of mankind.

Happily, Cloak finds out Tyrone is in trouble and mounts a rescue. By story's end Cloak and Dagger have reconnected with one another, disconnected from the X-Men and resolved to strike out on their own. Well, Dagger has, and Cloak goes with her, because he relies on her light to keep him whole, and because on some level he loves Tandy. Before this story I'd have said they loved one another equally, but Tyrone certainly has a fine time with the gorgeous Tia, and admits to feeling guilty, so he's likely being a naughty boy in his mind. And Tandy's talk of the vows they made in the church they tend to slink about in - if memory serves, St Patrick's Cathedral in New York - conjures up the idea of a married couple.

I've been intrigued by Cloak and Dagger ever since Ed Hannigan drew them so strikingly in Spectacular Spider-Man. Their powers were perfect for the comics page, being intensely visual, and were pleasingly mysterious. I've not followed them through the Marvel Universe of the past few years, though, and seem to have missed some changes - in this issue Dagger doesn't throw a single dagger of light at anyone, she simply generates light blasts. And Cloak looks to have gained a very stylish starfield effect. Thank goodness he at least remembers his unique selling point, sucking a bad guy into a dark dimension with his cloak. Let's hope Tandy follows his example and remembers that she's Dagger, not Dazzler.

Other than the non-depiction of Dagger's daggers, and slightly too-revealing costume, I rather liked the pencils of Mark Brooks - he's superb at capturing the story's emotions, and draws an especially fine Cloak.

He's aided by the inks of Walden Wong and colours of Emily Warren, who ensure each scene has the proper mood. The art team also give great buildings, there's a rare texture to them - important for urban-centred characters such as Cloak and Dagger. If the ex-mutant fellas return, though, they could do with a costume tweak, those uncomfortable chin pads give them a horrific Abe Lincoln tache-less beard aspect.

And a word about Mark's cover - wow!

Stuart Moore does a fine job presenting Dagger's state of mind - she's one of the few people in the Marvel Universe who wants to be a mutant, because it gives her somewhere to belong. Her sadness at learning she doesn't fit in after all is palpable. And while the X-Men don't actually tell her to bugger off and rejoin the rest of the flatliners, they don't give her the attention she needs at a tough time. But as the story unfolds, she finds her centre, and a new determination.

Cloak is a tougher sell altogether - in another of those built-in contrasts, where Tandy is the optimist, Tyrone is, frankly, a miserable git. This makes him harder to like, so it was good to see him having some fun for at least a page here.

It's just a shame that the nature of the story guarantees Cloak's in no fit state to get involved in much of the action, meaning we don't see how well he and Dagger combine their abilities and personalities. It's also disappointing that Dagger needs help from the
X-folk to rescue Cloak - I realise an X-Men tie-in helps sales, but they were present at the start of the book, by the end it should be simply the issue's stars - it's not like they get a comic of their own very often.

But, the story is intriguing and opens up some interesting areas for exploration and, best of all, Stuart puts to rest once and for all the idea that Cloak and Dagger are mutants. They're not, their origin is their origin - they were the victims of weird drug experiments and that's what supplied the powers. No x-gene was activated in the making of these heroes.

Which is how it should be - like Namor (also currently hanging out with the X-Men), they were tagged as mutants after the fact purely as a sales device. Circulation of their books didn't soar in either case, so there's no reason for any special x-association today. Which means Tyrone and Tandy can tear off the incongruous X-symbols they've been saddled with of late (let's just hope it doesn't create any new rips in Tandy's togs).

Now that Stuart has redefined and repositioned them, Cloak and Dagger are ready for some non-mutant misadventures. So I hope this promising special - heck, there's even well-placed humour in here - sells well enough to give them another one-shot, with both our pusher-punishing heroes front and centre, firing light daggers and absorbing evildoers. I've never been convinced they're series material - Cloak and Dagger are so sharply defined in character and mission that they've always seemed best as guest stars - but I'd happily be convinced otherwise.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Blackest Night #8 review

Phew. That was a busy comic. Black Hand, Nekron and the Anti-Monitor no longer a threat, a horde of dead heroes brought back to life, the revelation that macho pilot Hal Jordan quotes Latin poetry ... it's certainly a page turner. And also a page lifter, given the presence of a flappy foldout showing just who's alive again - Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Hawk, Max Lord, Firestorm, Jade, Hawkman and Hawkgirlwoman (it's complicated), Captain Boomerang, Reverse-Flash and Deadman - presumably Aliveman now. And Oriris, but could anyone possibly care?

And not only are they alive, a few of them get costume tweaks - J'onn is back in Silver Age form but with boooring long pants and a more claspy clasp, Digger Harkness swaps his 'fly me, I'm a steward' cap for a woolly dut, Aquaman's belt is more blingy. Little things, but who knew the White Light Entity was a celestial Gok Wan? Fashion is life.

It's left a mystery in the story why this lot were chosen to live again while the likes of Elongated Man and wife Sue, who unlike Osiris, actually have fans, are still feeding the worms (though in the DCU that probably means Mr Mind). Aquaman's former partner Tempest, too, was only killed in this crossover so I fully expected him back - getting him breathing again could, I suppose, be a plot point in the Brightest Day series spinning off from this, which is set to feature Aquaman.

What is obvious is that the animating light is actually the DiDio Force - the will of DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio that DC characters are presented to the public in 'their most iconic representations'. And it helps if the characters are alive. Hence J'onn, Aquaman, Firestorm and co back as they were. None more so than Hawkgirl, who turns out not to be Kendra Saunders, but Hawkwoman, Shiera Hall ... but that's OK, as the pair had been a tangled mess of soul and personality for years; this week, it's redheaded Shiera, is all. And Carter has black hair once more. So, everything new is old again - physically at least. We'll have to wait and see how the other shoe of personality drops.

While I like my comics to move on, allow characters to grow and develop, I admit to being thrilled by the return of J'onn, Arthur, Ronnie etc, characters who never should have died in the first place, their deaths merely serving an event or a relaunch. Now that the events are over, the relaunches failed, it's time to give the icons another chance (Barry Allen, back since last year, is the exception here - he died magnificently and for a good reason, and his successor Wally West had made the role of the Flash his own; so far I'm not convinced turning this particular clock back was a good idea).

So I'm good with the resurrection shuffle, for the most part. It made for a thoroughly entertaining second half to Brightest Night #8. The first several pages were just more crowd scenes of Rainbow Lanterns blasting Nekron and his Not Zombies Honest! horde. There's one scene in which a few of the dead heroes become the new White Lantern Corps on a gorgeous spread but that lasts about as long as the Anti-Monitor's trimphant return, which merits just a single splash page; they're flashy moments in a fun comic but the very definition of sound and fury signifying nothing much.

The most puzzling page features the Indigo Tribe, back in their own realm and offering a typically compassionate hand to one of the issue's villains. I don't doubt someone has a translation online but if something's worth saying, I'd like it in the comic, in English.

And the best page? It comes as we see heroes reunited with their formerly dead friends, enemies and lovers, and shows that while there's no denying they can bring home the big moments, writer Geoff Johns and penciller Ivan Reis truly excel in quieter, creepy sequences.
Credit to Johns for providing a decent ending to a story that's gone on for far too long. And a huge pat on the back to Reis for wrangling the cast of thousands through the book, keeping everyone in play and looking good. Inkers Oclair Albert and Joe Prado, too, more than merit their money, while Alex Sinclair must have earned his way into the colourists' Hall of Fame with this issue. Nick J Napolitano letters for drama, so deserves a nod too. Poor Steve Wands deserves a hug, as he has to letter a whole page of Indigo tripe representing Verse 7 of 'The Book of the Black: The Burned-in thoughts of William Hand' at story's end. It's Miss Othmar gone cosmic.

So it's over, so much as any superhero event is ever over at DC, which has taken its old 'there's no stopping us now!' slogan to heart over the last decade. The big picture never snaps fully into focus, it just goes on and on and on - neither characters nor readers get time to breathe, and nothing really matters as one status quo is quickly succeeded by another. So it is that this book closes with a checklist of two dozen comics we're meant to buy in order to behold the unweaving tapestry of the new DCU. Which seems to be the old DCU, but with a few different people alive and dead.

What can I say but 'nok nok nok'?