COMIC BOOK REVIEWS: Weekly Round-Up for Comics Released Wednesday, October 19th (10/19/2011)

X-Factor #226 CoverI’m quickly discovering that writing full reviews for a dozen-plus new comic books each week is beyond the amount of time available to me, so I’ve decided to combine my comic book reviews into one large compilation post of shorter reviews each week that I do them. I’ll still write full reviews for books that warrant them (Particularly god-awful ones–Thank you, Green Arrow #1 and Green Arrow #2!), though. This week I’ll be covering all 13 books from what I consider the weakest full week of DC Comics’ New 52 so far, an important issue of Transformers with some of the darkest and most indecipherable artwork ever in a Transformers comic, and even a few Marvel Comics reviews here in my blog for the first time ever (which surprisingly includes my pick of the week)…

Batman #2 CoverBATMAN #2
This is the second best-selling series of The New 52 and has received a plethora of good press, but I have to go against the masses here: I just don’t like this Batman book very much. It’s technically sound, but at the same time I find it really boring. This book feels unimportant and superfluous to me, and as a result it seems like a foregone conclusion nothing important will happen here. I mean, seriously–the big intrigue here is whether or not Nightwing is secretly evil? Uh, no. The art is good, the writing is sound enough, but this book simply does not wow me the way that books in The New 52 like Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and I Vampire do.
GRADE: C
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Batman? No.

Blue Beetle #2 CoverBLUE BEETLE #2
Blue Beetle was one of the books that I was excited to see get a new chance at life in The New 52. I like the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle character, and thought the series that he had a couple years ago was unappreciated and deserved another shot. Unfortunately, blatantly rehashing that series isn’t what I had in mind. I read the first year or so of issues of Blue Beetle during the last run, and this all feels like nothing but a remix to me. The problem isn’t even that we’re rehashing old material–it’s that we’re rehashing recent material. I’ve read about Jaime getting his powers. I’ve read about Jaime discovering the alien nature of the Scarab and struggling with it. I’ve even read about the evolving relationship between his friends Paco and Brenda and the “menace” of Brenda’s aunt La Dama before, and I just don’t want to spend $2.99 a month to go over the same stuff again. This series is fine if you’re interested in the character and didn’t read the prior series, but if you did then there’s really nothing at all to see here.
GRADE: C-
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Blue Beetle? No.

Legion of Super-Heroes #2 CoverLEGION OF SUPER HEROES #2
Last issue writer Paul Levitz through us straight into the thick of things with little exposition to introduce us to the concept and characters of the Legion of Super-Heroes. While many of The New 52 #2’s have stepped back and explained their book’s backstory, this isn’t one of those. I still don’t know anything power-wise or personality-wise about any of the Legionnaire new recruits beyond what they look like, and they’re seeming more and more interchangeable as this book goes on. Paul Levitz obviously assumes that you’ve read everything written about all of these characters ever and already thoroughly like and understand them, because there’s absolutely no character development in this book. I stopped reading the Legion in 2010 after reading consistently for about 15 years because I didn’t like Levitz’s writing, and thought The New 52 would be a great jumping-back-on-point. That was a mistake–both Legion of Superheroes and Legion Lost have done everything possible to alienate new or returning readers.  Everything that happens here is rooted in the old series that 90% of the people buying The New 52 did not read: Umbra is sad because somebody’s dead from the prior series, a Daxamite is pissed because his people have been unjustly held back in the past (according to him), and the Legion’s leader flies off half-cocked with no interest whatsoever toward leading the team, making me wonder why they elected him in the last series at all. This was the best chance to relaunch the Legion in ages, and DC has totally squandered it.
GRADE: F
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Legion of Super-Heroes? No.

Catwoman #2 CoverCATWOMAN #2
Any comic that opens up with a raunchy sex scene between Catwoman and Batman must be pretty wicked, right? No. There’s also hints of a love triangle between Batman, Catwoman, and Bruce Wayne (god help us). This Batman/Catwoman “romance” is never going to go anywhere–anywhere–beyond what we’ve already seen. Batman/Bruce will never marry Catwoman, and they’ve already gone all the way physically. There’s no intrigue or mystery to this relationship, because it’s not going anywhere. That “romance” was actually the high point of this issue, and when that’s your peak, you’ve got troubles. This wasn’t offensively bad or anything, but it’s just sorta there. I’m not interested, and I won’t be reading any more.
GRADE: D
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Catwoman? No.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #2 CoverRED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #2
Having just criticized Batman #2, I’m sure I’ll be lynched for praising Red Hood and the Outlaws #2 and awarding it a higher grade. Here’s my defense: I had fun reading this book, and I did not have fun reading that one. I was not as unbelievably offended by this issue as I was by #1, which is most likely because Starfire wasn’t in this one very much and doesn’t have random casual sex with anyone this time out. Red Hood himself actually shows a lot of personality this time out, his deceased teacher was amusing in a Yoda kind of way, Red Arrow is sorta funny in his awkwardness, and nothing as flat-out dumb happens in this issue as the last. This is not high literature, but the art looks great and I find myself interested in this book despite myself.
GRADE: C+
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws? Guh… Yes. I guess.

Nightwing #2 CoverNIGHTWING #2
I seriously think that DC should print a “Casual Sex Bingo Card” in the back of next month’s issues of The New 52, so we can keep track of all the books where the main characters have engaged in unnecessary, meaningless sex. This week Nightwing earns a mark on the card when he bangs some childhood friend who he goes from “old friend” to “lover” with faster than he can take his Nightwing mask off. Luckily, that’s only a minor disturbance in what’s otherwise a very strong Nightwing tale. We get more insight into Dick Grayson’s background as a circus acrobat and what that meant and will continue to mean for him, as well as a rare capable and quasi-memorable villain introduced who is one of the few non-generic new villains we’ve seen in The New 52. In the past the only Robin who resonated with me was Tim Drake, but I now find myself in the bizarre position of thinking that all of the Robins including Dick Grayson, Damian, and even Jason Todd are rich characters in this new DC Universe.
GRADE: B+
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Nightwing? Yes.

Birds of Prey #2 CoverBIRDS OF PREY #2
I was totally lost and confused by the first issue of Birds of Prey. Thankfully, this one is more coherent. I understand who’s who (for the most part) in this issue, but I can’t find it in myself to care about this cast. Black Canary has recruited a long-time evil villain, an out-of-her-mind ninja samurai, and some cranky chick who after two issues I don’t know the name or abilities of–all in order to fight yet another unknown shadow terrorist organization. There are so many of these evil organizations introduced in The New 52 over the last month that I legitimately feel like I need a scorecard to keep track of them all. The whole thing isn’t bad so much as derivative–I didn’t see a single idea in Birds of Prey that felt fresh or compelling.
GRADE: D
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Birds of Prey? No.

Green Lantern Corps #2 CoverGREEN LANTERN CORPS #2
The strong characterization in the first issue of Green Lantern Corps was a nice surprise, although little happened that issue plot-wise. I can’t complain about that this month, as this issue consists almost entirely of a big battle. I’m not sure that I’m buying into this new menace just yet, but I’m pleased that the antagonist isn’t a classic villain or one of the other Corps for a change of pace. The art is consistently good and the storytelling is easy-to-follow despite being largely about a chaotic battle. I’m starting to become a little attached to some of the non-human Green Lanterns and wanting to know more about them, so this book is doing something right.
GRADE: C+
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Green Lantern Corps? Yes.

Justice League #2 CoverJUSTICE LEAGUE #2
I enjoyed Justice League #1 a lot more than most, and my fondness for the series continue into Issue #2. I love that for once Batman’s tricks and plans are ultimately futile against Superman, and the victor in that “battle” is never in doubt. Justice League #2 cleanly develops the relationships amongst Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, and The Flash and I daresay portrays Green Lantern and The Flash better than they have been in their own titles so far in The New 52. (Which is rather ironic since Geoff Johns is also writing Hal Jordan in the main Green Lantern book.) This book made me second-guess my quick dismissal of The Flash in The New 52, as I had found his solo book tedious and boring last month. Whereas The Flash #1 completely turned me off, Barry came off as having a fun personality and actually being a compelling character here. The icing on the cake is that Cyborg, a character I’ve never had any attachment to in any comic book or cartoon, finally feels like an involving, sympathetic individual in this series. I’m actually anticipating seeing him in action as Cyborg and as part of the Justice League, which is a pretty strong indicator that this series is fulfilling its role properly in the new DC Universe.
GRADE: B
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Justice League? Yes.

Wonder Woman #2 CoverWONDER WOMAN #2
Again, I’m going against popular consensus here and I’m not going to blindly praise this new Wonder Woman series up-and-down. Yes, this is the most interesting Wonder Woman series I’ve ever read, but that’s frankly not saying much. People keep saying how “visionary” writer Brian Azzarello is for his incorporation of Greek mythology into the DC Universe, but this is hardly revolutionary. I’ve seen the “mythology in the superhero universe” done before–and done better. It was called “The Incredible Hercules”, and it was loads more fun than this book. This is an easy read and it’s certainly not bad, but it’s not the top-of-my-pull-list smash hit others are trying to promote it as. Diana herself still has received precious little characterization, and plot-driven, character-light stories like this rarely appeal to me. I’ll be curious to see if sales match up with the critical acclaim this title receives in the coming month, but Wonder Woman just doesn’t hold my attention enough to get another $2.99 from me.
GRADE: B-
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Wonder Woman? No.

Captain Atom #2 CoverCAPTAIN ATOM #2
I’ve made no secret that JT Krul is my absolute least-favorite current writer, but I was startled by how competent last month’s Captain Atom #1 was. Captain Atom #2 isn’t as good, but it’s also nowhere near as horrid as Krul’s Green Arrow. This year we get a quick, convoluted recap of Captain Atom’s origin and see the aftermath of last month’s cliffhanger. Captain Atom is seemingly the most powerful superhero in the whole DC Universe at this point, and struggling to come to grips with his new seeming omnipotent nature. Where this all falls flat is when Captain Atom “hears” a prayer for a miracle sent by a dying cancer-ridden child though the Internet, and acts to save the child. Despite the fact that Captain Atom has zero medical training and could barely even hold his corporeal form earlier in the issue, suddenly he has such amazing control that he’s able to shrink down and go inside of this child’s brain and destroy all the cancer cells. Much like all of Krul’s Green Arrow, this defies all logic and storytelling principles. The idea that Captain Atom is somehow already in control enough to work miracles like this tells me that this series is likely to fall into the same pitfalls as Krul’s other works, and as such I’m avoiding it like the plague before it does. Captain Atom could turn out to be an okay title, but I just don’t have the faith in JT Krul to pull it together.
GRADE: D+
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Captain Atom? No.

DC Universe Presents Deadman #2 CoverDC UNIVERSE PRESENTS DEADMAN #2
Deadman is not exactly a character I was clamoring for a series about, but that plays to the favor of the DC Universe Presents series format. We get four issues to spotlight the best of Deadman, possibly build a strong enough following for him to have his own book, and then move on to featuring another character. I’m actually engaged enough to see for exactly what purpose Deadman’s strings are being pulled, and what it’s going to mean for the character in the present and future of the DC Universe. This isn’t the most riveting arc ever or anything, but it’s a very unique, solid story that I’m content enough to fork over my three bucks for each month. I don’t think Deadman is going to spinoff into his own title anytime soon, but this story arc is doing precisely what it should by enriching Deadman’s character, which ahould pay off in the other books featuring him in the DCU (Justice League Dark and Hawk & Dove).
GRADE: B-
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of DC Universe Presents? Yes.

Supergirl #2 CoverSUPERGIRL #2
I had some hope for Supergirl with last month’s cliffhanger, and it’s almost delivered upon in issue 2. I had been hoping that Supergirl would be some sort of psycho rogue Kryptonian, sort’ve like Red Hulk was when he was introduced. I thought that that would put a fresh spin on Supergirl. Well, we do get her scared and confused and crazily attacking Superman for most of this issue, but it appears that she’s going to mellow out and be a more traditional Supergirl from this point on. Really, nothing about this character grabs me and makes me want to read more. She’s scared and confused, and that’s fine–but even in flashbacks, there doesn’t seem to be anything else to her. Simple and straight-forward with little substance, this is an easy book to drop off my pull list without feeling like I’m missing anything.
GRADE: D
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Supergirl? No.

Transformers Ongoing #28 CoverTRANSFORMERS ONGOING #28
This latest installment of “Chaos” may or may not have been any good. I’m honestly not certain, and that’s because the art is some of the worst ever seen in a Transformers comic book (and possibly any comic book). The story itself may have actually been okay, as the characters moments I could make out for Drift and Sunstreaker were really great moments. However, at least 75% of the time in this issue, the art was so dark and ambiguous that I honestly had no idea who was speaking or what was going on–and that’s me as a die-hard Transformers fan for 25 years. I thought the “Last Story on Earth” arc going on simultaneously was going to be the boring one, but it turns out I like it (and understand it) infinitely more than I do “Chaos”. IDW has oversold “Chaos” so spectacularly that I get the same vibe reading it that I got from watching “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen”–disappointed, lost and confused.
GRADE: D+
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Transformers? Yes, but because it’s a different story arc.

Uncanny X-Men #544 CoverUNCANNY X-MEN #544
For the last issue of a comic with 500+ issues, this really doesn’t feel even a tiny bit suitable. There’s almost as many pages in this comic of Mr. Sinister rambling as there are pages dealing with the actual “schism” that has split the X-Men. And to be frank, the “schism” doesn’t seem all that bad. I thought it was going to be a blood feud or something, but it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Some of the mutants want to leave Utopia, there’s no harsh feelings or bad blood between anyone (besides Wolverine/Beast and Cyclops) so far as I can tell, and it seems like it’s business as usual on Utopia–just with a dozen or so less people hanging out. I have a lot of hope for the new teams spinning out of Regenesis, and a lot of the rosters look really exciting to me, but thus far “Schism” itself and these epilogue issues to it have been colossal letdowns that feel more like editorial mandate than genuine, meaningful storytelling.
GRADE: C
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of Uncanny X-Men? Yes, because it’s an all-new #1.

X-Factor #226 CoverX-FACTOR #226
It’s kinda funny–I’ve read over three dozen DC comic books this month, and one of the half-dozen Marvel books I bought I end up liking more than virtually any of The New 52 books. Peter David has been writing this book for the better part of a decade, and has mastered the dialogue, quirks, actions, and personalities of his cast. Despite a semi-bloated cast of 9 team members (plus Pip the Troll), every single character has a chance to shine and say or do something meaningful to the story in this issue. Peter David seamlessly juggles mystery, comedy, and interpersonal dynamics to make the second chapter of a multi-part story feel like an essential, full-fledged story of its own. This is character-driven superheroics at its absolute finest, and one of the very best books being put out each month by Marvel or any other comic book company.
GRADE: A
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of X-Factor? YES!

Avengers #16 CoverAVENGERS #18
Brian Michael Bendis is the master of decompressed storytelling and wasting time and pages, and this issue is a perfect representation of that. We waste half the pages of this comic flashing back through the big events of the last few years seeing this female agent collecting DNA samples from various superhumans from Black Goliath to Captain America to Red Skull. Later on she explains why she took these actions, but why did we need to retread all this past material in the first place? It was a waste of pages and consequently a waste of money, and I don’t feel like seeing her obtain these samples was even slightly interesting, nor was is it what I bought this book for. I bought this comic because the cover and solicitations read “Who will be the new Avengers?”, which would make you think that that’s going to be addressed in this issue. In actuality, Captain America doesn’t pose that question until the very end of the issue, so the cover literally spoils the whole book. I bought this issue because I thought it might be important, but actually it’s perfectly throw-away. The next issue might be good, but this one felt like total filler.
GRADE: D+
Am I Ordering the Next Issue of The Avengers? No.

Dabid’s Pick of the Week: X-Factor #226
Dabid’s Trash of the Week: Legion of Super-Heroes #2

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