Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zatanna #1! About time, right?

Zatanna #1
Written by Paul Dini
Pencils by Stephane Roux
Inks by Karl Story
Colors by John Kalisz
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"The world's a scary place. If I can show people a friendlier aspect of magic, it benefits everyone, mystic or mortal." -- Zatanna

Created over four decades ago by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson, Zatanna has been a somewhat A to B-list character, having a few mini-series and one-shots sporadicly through the years, but never has had her own ongoing series. I find that a bit odd, but thankfully Paul Dini has remedied the situation and brings us everyone's favorite sorceress to center stage with her first series, simply entitled Zatanna.

Having moved away from the dark shadows of Gotham City, Zatanna has found a new home in San Fransisco with a steady gig, but of course a normal day goes awry when she's confronted by Detective Dale Colton who needs her assistance in a mass murder investigation. A very particular investigation. Reading a witnesses mind, the culprits are revealed to be led by well-known mystic by the name of Brother Night (no relation to Mother Night). The horrific acts of violence and sorcery play out while we get a feel of the villains at large and who they are. Zatanna decides to take matters in her own hand and pay Brother Night a visit to confront him on the situation and she easily takes on his cronies. Dini has supplied some great dialog between Night and Zatanna, including a bit on why she aligns herself with teams like the Justice League and doesn't look down on the human world. Though we also see that Night may not be the big picture and something more sinister and darker lay in nightmares and shadows.

As a Zatanna fan, I loved how Dini presented Zatanna in this issue. It shows her life as a super-hero, a stage show performer, and a protector of the human realm. She's many things to the DC Universe and this series could be one to watch for with Dini penning a character he has adored for years. If anybody was going to bring Zatanna into an ongoing series, I'm glad it's him.

The art team assembled on this book is astonishing. When I heard Stephane Roux was on board on the art, I was a bit concerned since I had only been aware of his cover work and wonder how his style would transfer to actual page layouts. Yeah, no worry here. Roux's construction and flow make it a real page-turner and just fun to look at. Of course since Roux is aided by the incredible talent of Karl Story on inks, it's sharp, clean and dare I say flawless. John Kalisz's colors fit everything just right as well. From the opening page with the spotlight, to how Night's den appears. You get a real sense of the world right down to the feel of Zee's cape to Night's skin.

Dini has set up numerous things in this first issue, and I love how easily accessible it since because it doesn't bog down with continuity and we get an idea of who she is, as I mentioned earlier. It's a great start to what I hope will be a fantastic read for years to come. It's been a long time coming and it was worth the wait.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This week in trite reviews.

Daredevil: Cage Match -- One Shot
Written by Antony Johnston
Pencils by Sean Chen
Inks by Sandu Florea
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"You and me, Fogwell's Gym, tomorrow night. A grand each, winner names a charity. What do you say?" -- Matt Murdock, Daredevil

This issue harkens back to some nice 1970's nostalgia, so readers who aren't reading the current series under Andy Diggles direction, fear not. Though saying that, this isn't the brooding rooftop hopping, ninja clan-leading Daredevil now, the one in Cage Match is bit more fun-loving, but still street tough.

So, on a nightly routine, Daredevil and Power Man Luke Cage quickly take down a gang of street kids, but Luke feels Daredevil has lost a certain edge and feels like he needed the help. Daredevil being on the defensive, challenges Luke to a boxing match and the loser pays the winner's charity of choice. Matt confides to his partner Foggy about the deal, as Luke tells Iron Fist (in the middle of a brawl no less) about the situation and both partners agree it's a bit odd to do that, but Luke and Matt understand there's a bit of pride at stake.

The notion that these two heroes would duke it out paints both characters as something different from what they are perceived now, especially Daredevil. It's nice to see his portrayal as not just a Batman archetype but as something not so brooding and to see him do an act like this is a nice change of pace. It's neither better or worse than what Diggle is doing on the main Daredevil title, it's just great to see what the character can also be.

Sean Chen does a great job with the posing and showcases old Hornhead's flexibility and agility and makes Luke Cage come across as the powerhouse he is. Sandu Florea's inks are touch and go, but for the most part excels in making Chen look good with crisp clean lines. Matt Hollingsworth is on coloring duty and adds a playful tone to the book by using a brighter pallet in contrast to the main title. Even in the night scenes, nothing is overshadowed and feels like a breath of fresh air.

All in all, it's a it's a solid book, but nothing outrageous. It would be a good introductory book for a young reader to the characters since Daredevil is a bit heavy at times. Johnston shows us that a man without fear isn't exactly a man without some fun.


Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time #2
Written by Robert Jordan
Script by Chuck Dixon
Art by Chase Conely
Colors by Nicolas Chapuis
Letters by Bill Tortolini
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Lan Pitts

"A locked door. No one in the Two Rivers had ever locked their doors. There had been a need...until now at least." -- Rand al'Thor

Coming from a perspective as a "Wheel of Time" fan, I'm really liking the series so far, especially with Chuck Dixon gets to do his stuff and is just let loose. This issue sheds a bit more light on Rand al'Thor's and his father's, Tam, home life. In addition to things to come, such as the revelation of Tam's heron-marked blade and how he uses it so well against a talking Trolloc.

How this read in the book is again pretty close to what happens in this issue. Dixon might have added a bit of dialog here and there to expand the events, but nothing outrageous where fans will cry foul. I think Dixon improved a few things, especially when trying to paint a picture on Rand and Tam's relationship, as not just father and son, but how they have just each other. Especially when their house is destroyed by hellish beasts and monsters. Nothing says father and son bonding like endangerment.

I'm still not sold on the art. The page layout reminded me of somebody just dropping random photographs on the ground and just traced the design from there. It's a bit scattered. In addition to the fact that I feel that sometimes the facial expressions were a bit either over done and cartoonish, or just too flat and boring. In contrast, the backgrounds are great, and the coloring detail is the perfect partner for Conley's style. Also, as a fan, I have to praise Conely for nailing down the imagery I've had in my mind for the past sixteen years of my life.

I'm enjoying the book so far, and since it's just the beginning of the series it might seem slow, but it's about to get into some good stuff.


The Unwritten #13 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Lan Pitts): What can one say that hasn't already been said about this series? Hell, what can I say that I haven't already said? In my opinion, page for page, it is the best series on the shelves these days, and after a year it still holds true. I've questioned Mike Carey's direction of the story from time to time since it seems to be going multiple places at once, but in fact he's just layering like a club sandwich. So, in this issue we have Tom, Liz, and Savoy hiding out at an apartment downtown so they can keep an eye out for Tom's father who may, or may not, appear at the debut of the new book...that he did not write. It's all a trap and Tom and Co. are none the wiser. New revelations are revealed, a cliffhanger ending, and a trap set in motion. Simply put, the story never stops until you put it down. Peter Gross is back on full art duties, colors aside of course. The layouts remain sharp and with a dialog-heavy book like this can be at times, Gross always makes sure the pages are still interesting and never boring. It's creative and inspiring without being avant garde. Chris Chuckry does a great job on colors, as usual, with his muted tone that adds a layer of realism to a fantasy story that makes it all that more intriguing and captivating. Everything is lining up for this book to be the stuff of legend and is already my "must-read" book.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Slacking off here. Yes, I said slacking. Tons o'reviews!

Detective Comics #864
Written by David Hines (Co-feature by Greg Rucka)
Pencils by Jeremy Haun (Co-feature by Cully Hamner)
Inks by Jeremy Haun and John Lucas
Colors by David Baron (Co-feature by Dave McCaig_
Letters by Todd Klein (Co-feature by Jared K. Fletcher)
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"I know you want the best for Gotham. You always have." - Batman

Over the past three years or so, Detective Comics has been my quintessential Bat-book. I find that it has had some of the best collaborations we've seen all decade. I fear a lot of people will be dropping this book, and sad to say I think I might be one of them. Where as Hines and Haun succeeded with Arkham Reborn, something here just fell sort flat.

After Dr. Jeremiah Arkham is revealed to the new Black Mask, he's sentenced to time in Arkham Asylum, where Batman can keep a watch on him. Where he can be monitored, and so forth, as well as give Batman information since Jeremiah has been diagnosed as a "genuine schizophrenic", which means there is some doubt he is indeed the new Black Mask. Consider Batman on the case.

Now this is where the book begins to fall apart. I wouldn't consider Jeremiah a schizo, as much as multiple personality, or something in that field. From there, we get a hint of Jeremiah's madness as he's confronted by his other inner-villains: No Face, the Mirror Man, and the Hamburger Lady. Enraged, by their visages, Jeremiah slashes them to pieces, but apparently they were real, and the cliffhanger confused me as much as the first time I watched "American Psycho". I understand it's a two-part arc, and my answers will (hopefully) be revealed in the following installment. The truth is,though, between the mediocre dialog and uninspiring art, I didn't care.

I believe Hines was trying to paint a sympathetic, yet malicious picture of Jeremiah (and there is one bit of okay dialog) but it comes off as trying too hard. I didn't feel his threat level, or believe Batman's intensity on getting answers.

Onward to the Greg Rucka, Cully Hamner and David McCaig Question and Huntress co-feature, in which the ladies take on Vandal Savage. Now at first you wouldn't suspect two urban-centric heroes to take on somebody like Savage, but Rucka has some clever moments and in doing so, the feature that is usually over-shadowed really gets to take centerstage. Hamner continues to do some of the best line work of his career, and McCaig does a great job making it look even better.

Now, the mentality of dumping a book because of Rucka making his exodus just on principle is, for a lack of a better word, silly. Though if you found Hines' style as lacking as I did, that's understandable.


In Case You Missed It...

American Vampire #2
Written by Scott Snyder (co-feature by Stephen King)
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Colors by Dave McCaig
Letters by Steve Wands
Published by Vertigo Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"You, Pearl Jones, are a different kind of vampire." - Skinner Sweet

Talk about a series you can sink your teeth into. Yes, I started off with a cheesy pun. I've seen ads for a while and after a few recommendations, I checked it out. Glad I did. With the vampire craze at a fever pitch, I guess it was only a matter of time before we saw them back on our comic shelves. I honestly can't remember a vampire-themed comic I read since Crimson. Since it carried the Vertigo imprint, I wasn't sure on what to expect. Add to the fact I was not too familiar with Scott Snyder's work, save for Iron Man: Noir.

Now, I wasn't blown away by the concept, but more intrigued. Snyder has woven an interesting story about an inspiring actress named Pearl who is turned into a vampire and gets a bit of revenge in this issue. It's not glamorous. It's gutsy, it's gory, and with Raf Albuquerque, it's glorious. From Pearl's metamorphosis from human to vampire to the desert landscapes, everything seems in place and nothing is wasted. On top of that you, Dave McCaig does another stellar job, but doesn't take away from Albuquerque's work. You can feel the heat of the sun, and the cold of the morgue.

One of the best things I love about this book is that it's a double header. Yes, it has a co-feature, but unlike most of the DC co-features, the b-story is intertwined with the main story and acts as a prequel. It's also not everyday such a feature is written by one of the most prolific authors in the horror genre: Stephen King. King touched on the vampire lore with "Salem's Lot" decades ago, and it seems he hasn't lost his touch. Albuquerque and McCaig are on art duties on this one as well, and while the style is slightly different, it's just as good.

The dynamic of Pearl and her mentor of sorts, Skinner Sweet (who is the main star in the co-feature) is going to be fun and bloody, I can tell. So if you like your vampires with a little bit more balls and less sparkles, be sure to pick this up.


X-Force #26
Written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost
Penciled by Mike Choi
Colors by Sonia Oback
Lettered by VC's Cory Petit
Cover by Adi Granov
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"I believe in you."

If you've been following the teasers Marvel has shown about Second Coming, you're aware that a death is on the horizon, and a major one at that. This is where it all happens. If you have NOT read this issue, consider this a warning shot, because things are about to get spoiled.

With mutant teams scattered over the country, you would think the book would seem scattered yet Kyle and Yost focus the issue mainly on Hope, Rogue and Nightcrawler trying to tackle a juiced-up Bastion to try to reach Utopia. Rightfully so, since one of those X-Men die, though if you've seen the teasers and just rationalized it all, you would know that all signs point to one person. Though, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Since this is usually considered Wolverine's team book, they play a minor part in the story, which I guess is to bring focus more on an X-Man's sacrifice and death. I love how Bastion is considered a real threat this time around. I do this his design is a bit overcomplicated, but not crossing the border as silly. The combination of Choi and Oback is one of my favorites in comicdom. I know some fans have a problem with photo-realism, but I think their style really captured the emotion of a story that is supposed to weigh heavy on a reader's heart. You have Cyclops looking speechless, Wolverine on the verge of tears and doesn't seem to believe the news of, wait for it, Nightcrawler's death. The issue feels light on dialog, but the art speaks for itself.

Kyle and Yost did what was promised, but I wish it was handled differently. Not the fact that he wouldn't have died, his death had a purpose and without vain. Just perhaps the panel direction and construction of it. It didn't feel as dramatic. I will say the imagery of Kurt with Bastion's arm sticking out of his chest is brutal, but Kurt was a man of God, and we know that he is in a much better place.

What will be the fallout from this? I can only imagine how the X-teams are feeling after losing a member that embodied their beliefs so well. Bastion received another upgrade at the end of the issue, so if you thought the slugout was brutal before, I'm sure we have another barn-burner on our hands.


The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1 (Published by Archaia; Review by Lan Pitts): You know, this is my first experience with this character, but after reading this issue, I want to go back and try the rest out. Essentially, The Killer centers around a nameless assassin with a murky and mysterious past, whose crimes and sins are catching up with him. Some moments are intense, and reminiscent of television shows like "The Shield" and some parts even echo "The Departed", with it's gritty dialog and violence. Alex Nolent, aka Matz, has such a way of telling the story that you know everything the Killer is thinking. There is hardly any page, much less a panel, without some sort of dialog or narration. The layouts by Luc Jacamon are exquisite and reflect the serious tone of the story when it needs to be, and lets up ever so slightly when the mood changes. Yet the color selection isn't noir-ish at all and is more bright and warm, and really make the pages pop with such a bold presentation I wasn't expecting. Faithful fans of the series will want to give this a try, but readers looking for a certain edge to add to their pullbox, I strongly recommend this one.