Archive for Spirit

Memorial Day Reviews

Oh, not that these have anything at all to do with Memorial Day, but ya gotta review ’em sometime.


Captain America #38

Sharon Carter has apparently found Steve Rogers, the late Captain America, alive again, but with heavy scarring. But she realizes that he’s actually a brainwashed and psychotic imposter who was the Captain America of the ’50s. She’s ready to kill him, but she is surprised and knocked out by Dr. Faustus. Elsewhere, Bucky Barnes, the new Captain America, and the Falcon go out to bust up an A.I.M. lab.

Verdict: Thumbs up, but the plot needs to be advanced a bit more. So far, the last few issues break down to (A) Red Skull and Dr. Faustus scheme and (B) Bucky and his pals beat up cannon fodder.


The Spirit #17

The Spirit’s kinda-sorta-girlfriend, Ellen Dolan, goes on a cruise, and the Spirit has to go on the same cruise ship to catch murderers and insurance scammers.

Verdict: Thumbs down. This is just so, so dreary. I’m starting to think DC shoulda just cancelled this book when Darwyn Cooke left.

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Escarabajo Azul!


Blue Beetle #26

In this very special issue of “Blue Beetle,” Jaime attends a family reunion with his girlfriend, Traci Thirteen, discovers that his grandmother knows his secret identity, and fights the Parasite after the villain has absorbed the powers of all the members of the Posse, El Paso’s magic-powered street gang. So what’s so special about this? Well, nearly the entire story is in Spanish.

Aww, now you kids don’t panic. If you can’t read Spanish (I can’t), there’s the original English script in the back to help you out. You won’t miss out on a bit of the story or dialogue.

In fact, the script ends up pointing up some errors in the comic — there’s a scene where Traci appears to be in two different places at the same time — very jarring in the comic. But the script reveals that one of those appearances is actually her astral form. A clumsy error, but not a deal-breaker. Another error? While the story is in Spanish, it’s not actually the Spanish you’d hear in El Paso or Mexico — it’s Spanish from Spain, because the translator is Sergio Aragones, who’s from Spain. So if you know Spanish, it may come off sounding a lot less than conversational.

So how is it? Despite the errors, it’s pretty good. The visual storytelling by guest penciller Mike Norton is excellent, for us non-Spanish-speakers. And guest writer Jai Nitz has a wonderful grasp on Jaime and his supporting cast. There’s plenty of humor, most of it character-driven. For instance, this panel, after Jaime sasses his mom and grandmom:


Translation: “No sass!”

Verdict: Thumbs up. By now, y’all should know I’m in favor of anything that (A) helps bring in new, non-traditional comic book readers and (B) makes comics look like something other than a bunch of white guys in tights, and this story works at doing both of those. I particularly hope this helps bring in some new readers, both Hispanic and otherwise, because this comic is still one of the best DC is producing, and it still needs more readers! If you’re interested in jumping on this bandwagon, this is a great place to do it.


Birds of Prey #117

In the city of Platinum Flats, Oracle, Manhunter, and Misfit tangle with a crew of magical meta-crooks, including a lizard man, a guy who shoots bullets out of his third eye, a telepath, and a nerdy cyber-mage. Manhunter and Misfit get captured, but everyone makes it out okay, barely. With this new magical gang of magicians supplying mystical weaponry to the underworld, Barbara decides to move the team out of Metropolis and to Platinum Flats.

Verdict: Thumbs up. These new villains are pretty cool, and Misfit gets another bunch of awesome moments. We even get a few pages with Lady Blackhawk and her world’s-greatest dimples.


The Spirit #16

When an actor gets murdered on the set of a movie, the Spirit goes undercover as a stuntman so he can listen to set gossip and try to discover the killer.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A better mix of humor and mystery than the last issue had.

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Good vs. Evil


The Brave and the Bold #11

DC’s epic team-up book continues, as the Challengers of the Unknown find themselves facing the evil alchemist Megistus himself, possessing the body of Metamorpho. What does he want Green Lantern’s power battery for? Meanwhile, why is Clark Kent beating the crap out of Steve Lombard and laying the liplock on passing blondes? Because he’s not Clark Kent — or at least, he’s the evil Clark Kent from the mirror universe, also known as Ultraman. After a brief struggle between Superman and Ultraman, the mirror-universe version of Mr. Mxyzptlk, called Mixyezpitelik, shows up and fills them both in on the crisis at hand — a red ion storm is on its way to Earth. It’s capable of causing horrific, random, and agonizing mutations in all forms of life, and Megistus is dragging it to our world. To stop him, Superman and Ultraman have to travel to his hidden HQ inside the sun itself. Not really a problem for a couple of guys who get their powers from the sun — but what happens if Megistus manages to change the sun…?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I tend to enjoy any stories featuring DC’s mirror universe.


The Spirit #15

The Spirit is on the trail of a band of diamond smugglers, and wicked femme fatale P’Gell is up to no good at the Ms. World Supermodel pageant in Paris. Could the two be connected? Oh, of course they are.

Verdict: I hate to say it, but thumbs down. There are too many lame gags, too much slapstick, too much cartooning. I like my Spirit stories to be a bit light-hearted, but this is just too much.

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Spirit of Justice


The Spirit #14

It’s the first issue with our new creative team — writers Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier and artist Mike Ploog. That’s right, Aragones, probably best known as the artist on “Groo” and several decades’ worth of MAD Magazines, is only the writer here. But that seems to be fine — I’m not sure his highly cartoonish style would’ve been a good fit for a book like “The Spirit.”

The plot is pretty simple — the Spirit is investigating a rash of murders of the city’s doctors. Commissioner Dolan becomes convinced that the murderers are a couple of elderly residents of an old folks home and throws them in jail, despite the obvious frame job. Can the Spirit track down the real murderer before he claims any more victims?”

Verdict: Thumbs up. Artwise, Mike Ploog isn’t Darwyn Cooke, but in a way, his rougher style fits the book better — Will Eisner’s “Spirit” was set in a rough-hewn city, with rough-hewn, sometimes cartoonish people. That isn’t to say that Cooke’s run on “The Spirit” wasn’t wonderful and beautiful, but Ploog’s interpretation has serious merit, too. I’ve got a few quibbles with the writing — Commissioner Dolan shouldn’t be anywhere near this stupid, and the personalities of the two oldsters are painted a bit too broad for my liking. Still, overall, I approve. If you haven’t been reading this one… start reading this one.

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Kid Stuff


Tiny Titans #1

This is probably the single cutest superhero comic you will ever see.

This is part of DC’s all-ages line — designed, at least in theory, to appeal to both children and grownups. In this case, we’ve got a collection of short gag strips starring little-kid versions of the Teen Titans. There’s no overarching plot here — just short joke comics, generally between two to five pages long. The kids get a new principal and a new substitute teacher, to the dismay of Rose and Raven. The girls give Plasmus a lollipop. Robin tries to figure out why Speedy is named Speedy when he’s not really speedy.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I love the art on this one. If you’re getting this for a kid, it might work best for younger ones, rather than older kids. Grownups might get the most out of it — they’re probably going to be the only ones to catch all the Titans in-jokes.


The Spirit #13

Hey, it ain’t Christmas! Looks like this one shipped a bit later than it should have. This is actually a collection of three short stories by different writers and artists. We’ve got the Spirit tasked with retrieving diamonds from a tiger cage, with the assistance of a beautiful and dangerous animal trainer, then he helps an old woman recover her family treasure. Finally, we’ve got an almost silent story about a very, very cold night.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Even without Darwyn Cooke on board, this one’s still pretty good. I think the artists and writers know that if they’re working on something starring Will Eisner’s greatest creation, they know they’d better bring their grade-A storytelling skills to the table.


The Trials of Shazam #11

Freddie Freeman is losing his battle to become the new champion of the powers of Shazam — he and the evil Sabina are almost evenly matched in power, and while Freddie is drawing on the assistance of the Shadowpact and Captain Marvel, they can’t match Sabina in pure ruthlessness. She discovers that the god Mercury has, like Apollo, been living his life as a human, with a human family. So she kidnaps his kids and holds them hostage until Mercury gives himself up. If she gets his power, too, will there be any way to stop her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m still liking it. One issue left for this all to be resolved. What’s gonna happen next?

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The Spirit is Willing


The Spirit #12

Ladies and gentlemen, hats off. This is Darwyn Cooke’s final issue of “The Spirit.”

The series will continue, of course. But Cooke is moving on. And he’s given us a whole year’s worth of truly excellent comics.

Our plot this time is based on a couple of stories by the great Will Eisner, the guy who created “The Spirit” back in 1940. It focuses on the Spirit and his first love, Sand Saref, from their childhood friendship to their animosity later in life, and on a plot Sand has gotten involved in with the criminal mastermind, the Octopus, and a mad scientist named Dr. Vitriol.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Darwyn Cooke’s art is just so beautiful. Part ’40s retro cool, part modern action movie. The splash page with the title is just a wonder to behold. Go get it. Get all of these that you can.

And I’m certainly not dropping this comic yet. Sergio Aragones and Mike Ploog are taking over the writing and artwork in a couple of issues, and I have high hopes for what they can do.

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A Quintet of Quick Qualitative Queries

In other words: Five lightning-fast reviews:


The Spirit #11

It’s the final battle — the Spirit vs. the diabolical El Morte and his army of zombies!

Verdict: Thumbs up! Good art, good story, great drama. Next to the last issue of the brilliant Darwyn Cooke’s stories and art, so pick it up!


Sugarshock #1-3

As far as I can tell, this is only available on Dark Horse Comics’ MySpace page. It’s written by Joss Whedon, creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly,” and it’s about a really weird but really fun rock band and their long, long, long journey to a Battle of the Bands contest.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Holy guacamole, was this one fun. Just wild, wild fun. Tons of wonderful, awesome, funny stuff. Go read it — it’s pretty short and extremely entertaining.


Umbrella Academy #3

What’s left of the Umbrella Academy takes on the Terminauts. Spaceboy appears to be the only one of these guys who’s much good in a fight. Also, Vanya tries to rejoin the family, gets rejected, and runs back to the evil Orchestra Verdammten.

Verdict: Thumbs up. But not as good as the previous issues.


Teen Titans #53

The Future Lex Luthor (from the future!) unveils the all-future, all-evil Titans Army. Starro attacks everyone, Miss Martian kacks her future evil self, Robin mopes.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m a sucker for stories about future evil doppelgangers from the future.


Grendel: Behold the Devil #1

A sociopathic super-assassin/acclaimed novelist kills a whole bunch of people and is just too wonderful and smart and cool and unstoppable and perfect for anyone else. Oh, and he wears a stupid mask.

Verdict: Thumbs down. The “Grendel” series was one of the things that irritated the tar out of me in the ’90s, and ten years hasn’t made the concept the slightest bit more appealing.

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Pundits and Punishment


The Spirit #10

And there is another beautiful cover. The guy’s name is Darwyn Cooke, ladies and gentlemen. You should go hunt down everything he’s done, ’cause it’s all that good looking.

This is a bit of an odd issue. It’s basically a combination of murder mystery and media parody. Someone is killing off the political punditocracy, and instead of sitting back, cracking open a cherry coke, and enjoying the culling, the Spirit decides to track down the killer. If you’re idea of a good time is watching a crazed killer hunt down barely-disguised versions of Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Stephen Colbert, Lou Dobbs, Anderson Cooper, Hannity and Colmes, and more, then you’re gonna have a plenty good time with the fictional schadenfreude.

And yes, it is making a fairly serious, though screamingly unsubtle, point about the rotten state of our TV news media. And though some parts of it are a bit preachy, I particularly liked some bits — there’s a page where a bunch of news anchors blather about their colleagues getting wiped out, and the crawls at the bottom of the screens are about horrible disasters and tragedies — real news shoved aside for the sake of ego-inflated pundits talking about themselves.

But it’s still fun. The mystery was actually excellent — the solution is wildly improbable, but it’s still got the oomph that a good mystery needs.

And the entire comic is jam-packed with Darwyn Cooke’s gorgeous, gorgeous artwork. Why ain’tcha run out to the store to buy it yet?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Didn’t you hear me tell you to go get it?

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They’re Creeping Up on You


The Spirit #9

An uncommonly dead-serious issue of this comic. The Spirit runs into a crimelord named El Morte who appears to be completely unstoppable. Much of the story is El Morte’s origin, and it’s pretty darn bizarre, but wow, he seems really far more scary than Sprit villains should be. Crazy kooky crimelords are fine, but when they can’t be shot or beat up or anything else, what can a non-powered guy like the Spirit do to them?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Darwyn Cooke’s artwork is so excellent. I’m a bit worried about El Morte — I hope it’s not just going to be several issues of “Spirit gets beat half to death” followed by a deus ex machina ending.


Shadowpact #16

Well, it turns out that the evil Dr. Gotham didn’t kill all of Chicago last issue, like they claimed he did. In fact, he missed almost everyone, thanks to Nightshade teleporting multiple skyscrapers and people into the Shadowrealm at the last second. Other superheroes show up to help, but Shadowpact does most of the work. Enchantress teleports into Dr. Gotham’s transdimensional armory and busts up a lot of his stuff until Gotham gives up and runs away. Meanwhile, Blue Devil’s lawyer fails to win back BD’s soul, mainly because Hell’s lawyers are so very good at what they do. A very angry priest requires BD to take on 13 nearly impossible tasks before he can be forgiven for selling his soul.

Verdict: Thumbs down. All this stuff happens, and it’s still not pulling me into the story. And I’m still pretty unhappy with the complete lack of characterization going on. Most of these characters, aside from Detective Chimp, seem to exhibit the same personality, except for Nightshade, who has never really had any personality at all.


Justice League of America #12

Brad Meltzer’s swan song on this comic focuses on the JLA’s time on monitor duty. Hawkgirl meets Red Arrow’s daughter, Black Canary plays the harmonica, GeoForce and Black Lightning run sting operations.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Part of the reason so many of Meltzer’s previous issues met with such rotten reviews is that he seems to be better at personality profiles than he is at superhero action. Well, that, and his cast is way too large. But hey, it’s cool that Black Canary plays the harmonica.


Supergirl #20

I’m astoundingly late with this one. Basically, the new, more realistic Supergirl completely fails to keep Air Force One from crashing, then tries to fight off angry Amazons, magic giants, and distrustful humans.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The character’s new look is a winner — pretty much just like the original without the creepy maniquinism that plagued her before. Good personality work, too. I wish Tony Bedard and Renato Guedes could work on this comic longer than the three issues they’ll be here…

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Cut the Blue Wire!

Wow, did I ever have a busy day yesterday. Tons of work here at the office, followed by a couple hours running errands for family before finally getting home in time to cook dinner at 8 p.m. I didn’t even have time to finish reading yesterday’s new comics, but we’ll try to remedy that over the weekend.

Here’s what I’ve gotten to read so far…


The Spirit #8

If you’re not familiar with the Spirit yet, here’s the general summary. The Spirit is a guy in a suit, fedora, and domino mask who runs around fighting crime in the best pulp tradition. He has no powers, other than his ability to get repeatedly and entertainingly beaten up. He was created by Will Eisner, who is generally considered one of the best artists and the very best storyteller who’s ever worked in the comics biz. This is a new series, written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, who is generally considered to rock the house.

In this issue, the Spirit and superspy Agent Satin are locked in an old water tower with a nuclear bomb. Satin could disarm it easily… but she’s got amnesia. With just 30 minutes left before the bomb explodes, can the Spirit get Satin to recover her memory in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Darwyn Cooke is the reigning King of All Awesomeness. If you’re not reading this comic every month, you’re missing out on a guaranteed pure 5000cc megadose of pure unfiltered AWESOME. Go pick it up.


Marvel Adventures: Giant-Size Avengers

An extra-sized one-shot of the best all-ages comic produced by Marvel, thanks to Jeff Parker’s ability to write outstanding action and hilarious dialogue. This issue combines teams up the Avengers with the Agents of Atlas, a team of Avengers surrogates who had their glory days during the Golden Age — Parker wrote a wonderful miniseries starring the Agents of Atlas last year.

Anyway, Kang the Conqueror, a time-traveling despot, attacks in this issue, first sending a wave of dinosaurs against the Avengers and later manipulating the Agents into reviving Captain America in the mid-50s instead of the present. As a result, Captain America becomes president and, tricked into thinking that Kang is a great hero, he signs the whole world over to him. Can Storm, Wolverine, and Spider-Man make it through Kang’s timegates to convince the Agents to let Cap remain frozen in the Arctic?

On top of all that, readers are treated to reprints of Golden Age comics starring Namor, Namora, and Venus.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is a joy from beginning to end. Kang’s plot is unusually subtle and clever, and his personality is a lot more interesting than is normally portrayed. It’s great to see the Agents of Atlas again, too. Gorilla-Man is hilarious, and I’d love to see him and the rest of the Agents in an ongoing series. Even the reprints at the end are fun — they’re kid-friendly without being simple-minded. My only disappointment is that there’s no appearance by the Hulk.


Countdown #41

Trickster and Piper fall out of a plane but survive. Mary Marvel is targeted by evil forces. Jimmy Olsen is wearing spandex under his clothes. Donna Troy, Jason Todd, the Atom, and the Monitor (now called “Bob”) shrink down to —

To heck with it.

Nothing happens. Everyone just marks time for another issue, waiting for whenever someone decides to start writing a real story instead of these pointless, meandering vignettes.

I’m done with this one. At its very, very best, it’s been only mediocre. “Countdown” is a symptom of everything that’s gone wrong with DC, and I’m not going to waste my time or money on it any longer.

That’s all for now. More reviews this weekend, I promise.

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