Monday, October 31, 2011

Buy This! - November 2nd 2011

Every Monday Seth picks out three items from Previews that are due to ship on Wednesday and directs you toward your best bets for a quality purchase. Some times it's a single issue of a comic, other times a massive omnibus edition of a beloved series, and occasionally a figure our shiny bauble that caught his eye. Read on to find the three items you shouldn't leave your comic shop without this week.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tales from the Long Box: The Mighty Thor #353

Every week Seth goes into his back issue bins, picks out a single issue, story arc, or creative run, pours through it and then writes about it. He calls it Tales from the Long Box. Though old and now either retconned out of existence or made irrelevant by the latest event, these books still share something in common... they're bagged, boarded, and a part of comics history.

The Mighty Thor #353

Walter Simonson is one of those names in comics that you just know. He's often named alongside the likes of Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko amongst others, as one of the great comic artists. His work on Thor in the 1980's plays a huge part in his legacy. Beginning with The Mighty Thor #337 his run ended at #382 almost five years later. Considering he pencilled as well as wrote a hefty chunk of that run it's even more impressive.

His Thor is all over the map in terms of variety of stories told. He started off by making some fairly substantial additions to the Thor canon with characters like Beta Ray Bill being introduced. Later he would delve into more bizarre fantasy-based stories including a not-as-goofy-as-it-sounds arc in which Thor becomes a frog. Yes. A frog. With a hammer.

However, the real meat of the run came fairly early on when Simonson wrote and drew the Surtur Saga. The story concerns a giant molten demon attempting enslave the earth. When this particular issue picks up Thor is beaten and unconscious, while his father Odin has been trapped inside an ice crystal... you know, it's basically like every other day in Asgard. On earth Beta Ray Bill and a host of Asgardians and a plethora of Marvel heroes are battling it out with Surtur's armies. Meanwhile Surtur is trying to ignite his sword , Twilight with flame that will not die... Or something.

I picked this particular issue up from a local shop where I found it nesting in a quarter bin some time back in 2003. At the time I'd had no prior experience with the character, his world or even the fantasy comic genre in general. I was blown away when I read this issue. As stated, I'd never read a Thor comic and this is an issue that essentially ends a story arc. Yet I was easily able to follow it and was completely blown away by the work of Walt Simonson.

I've since read the entirety of Simonson's work on Thor and whole-heartedly proclaim this the best issue. It's loud, it's huge in scope and it's pure comic book fun. Swords fly, villains are felled, heroes fall... it's everything today's comics are not. Coming, as it did, in the midst of the 80's it's written to the hilt. Characters explain things that are clearly shown, and the dialogue is a little stilted. But Thor #353 is a product of it's time and despite these seeming drawbacks they actually manage to enhance the experience for me. This is a book that actually benefits from it's seemingly negative aspects.The exposition is fun, and compared to some mid-80's books it doesn't feel like you're slogging your way through a swamp of words while you're reading it.

On the other hand, enough can't be said about Walt Simonson's art. His work would influence guys like Jim Lee and Rob Leifeld who, despite their best efforts, to this day can't capture the liveliness he infused in every panel of this book. Everything in this issue looks and feels enormous and epic. Like Lord of the Rings by way of Marvel comics. At times panels seem so full of characters engaged in acts of savagery you're almost afraid the book is going to explode in your hands.

Special mention has to go to John Workman Jr. who handled the lettering on the Surtur Saga. It may seem odd to call out the letterer of a book but once you've seen his work with sound effect text you'll understand what I mean.

This book hit me at a time when I was just getting back into comics and really exemplified the size and no-budget scope that a full blown action comic can reach. You should by all means seek out Walt Simonson's run on The Mighty Thor but especially track down this single issue.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

¡Paul's Picks!

I'm sure many of you faithful readers have recently been asking yourselves, "I wonder what books have been Paul's favorite this month?" Well, for all of you curious readers, I'm finally coming around with my weekly picks for this month! Okay, so maybe I'm a little behind on the "weekly" part, but going forward I will be faithfully posting my weekly favs and reviews for you all, starting now!

(Wednesday the 26th). When I grabbed my pulls for the day, I knew it was going to be a tough choice, with 7 great titles to read. With a lot of DC #2's like Flash and Superman, I was more than excited to get my stack home and power through them.

However, while Flash and Aquaman were both fantastic, I must admit they were beaten out by a very narrow margin by the one comic I'm pulling outside of the Big Two (*that's DC and Marvel, for those rare non-comic readers that happen to be reading this): Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3 from IDW.

For those of you that may be skeptical, let me just say that this decision was not made on a whim. Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm typically a DC fanboy, but even with the incredible art by Ivan Reis and the really fresh look into Barry Allen's mind by Manupal and Buccellato, I had to give it up for the "Heroes in a Half Shell." (Alert: Some mild SPOILERS ahead!!)

I have loved the Turtles since my preschool days, and I am so thankful for what Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman have given us here. This is a teenage-mutant-ninja-origin-story for the ages! Many of us might ask, why do these guys need an origin? We've all seen the movies, we get it. Turtles go in the ooze, get big, and have a natural affinity for pizza and butt-kicking. But what Waltz and Eastman have created is much more than that. There is the skeleton of the original story, with all new twists, and a great look into what made them who they are today.

Throughout the first three issues, W & E have been weaving the story back and forth between present day and flashbacks to the when the Turtles and Splinter were mutated. They manage to work between three different points of view seamlessly, masterfully employing the "show-don't-tell" that others often fail to accomplish. A couple of reviews online stated that they found this issue confusing, and that they had trouble figuring out where the authors were going with this. Personally, I found this issue to be the best out of the first three easily. Where there was some uncertainty before about Raphael and why he is separated from the other three with no knowledge of who he is or where he came from, we finally get a good view of the story from this one.

The dialogue flows great, with some funny moments between Raph and Casey

Jones, off on their own vigilante spree. On the other side, we see some great characterization between Donnie, Leo, and Mikey. If there was a fault in the first two issues, it was the shortage of characterization for the turtles (apart from Raph, who doesn't even know who he is). W & E hit their stride in issue three, giving us some very sincere dialogue between the brothers, slowly revealing to the readers (both old and new) what makes them who they are.

Of course, any comic reader knows that a book can't stand on words alone: the art needs to ROCK. And Dan Duncan draws the TMNT like no one else! His art is gritty but beautiful, creating a world that is absolutely perfect for these characters. This is my first run around with the guy, but his art is reminiscent of some of the pencillers with a more distinct art, like Francis Manupal and Scott Kollins. As a matter of fact, I'd say he's kind of a blend between the two, but still making his own distinct print.

Even in a week with heavy hitters like Flash and Aquaman, TMNT #3 stands out as an issue that heralds an amazing story ahead of us. For the old fans, we have a rare opportunity to see this world reborn in a way that I've personally been wanting for years! Right now we're seeing their beginning, but what next? An origin for Rocksteady and Bebop? Baxter Stockman? Crang? And if you don't know any of these characters, now is the perfect time for a new reader to order a pizza, grab this fantastic book, and watch as these guys raise some shell.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tales From the Long Box - Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge

 Every week Seth goes into his back issue bins, picks out a single issue, story arc, or creative run, pours through it and then writes about it. He calls it Tales from the Long Box. Though old and now either retconned out of existence or made irrelevant by the latest event, these books still share something in common... they're bagged, boarded, and a part of comics history.

Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge: 

In 2008 the Flash title was at a weird place. During the early days of the 21st century Geoff Johns (frequently aided by penciller Scott Kollins) had written a seminal run on The Flash. It served as a springboard for Johns, catapulting him to comics superstardom. It also made the Flash something of a marquee character for the first time since Mark Waid's run in the mid-90's.

Eventually Johns would depart from the title in the days immediately following DC's event, Infinite Crisis. Mark Waid came onboard as writer, gave Wally West (the Flash who picked up the mantel after the death of the previous Flash, Barry Allen) a family and the title a new Incredibles-inspired feel. Readers unwilling to go with the new changes fell off, and the book slumped into obscurity for a couple years. During this time Wally went into "retirement", and Barry Allens grandson from the future (yeah, it's a whole thing), Bart Allen came aboard as the new Flash.

Which brings us to 2008. DC had another Crisis event taking place, this one deemed the Final Crisis, written by Grant Morrison. That event would herald the resurrection of deceased Flash, Barry Allen.

One of the highlights of Geoff Johns run on the Flash title was his work with Flash's villains. Known as the Rogues, they comprise one of the strongest collection of villains in comics. A motley gathering of misfits, the Rogues boast bizarre power sets, and conceptually goofy costumes. Despite these seemingly negative qualities the rogues work, and during Johns work on the Flash title he only made them better. Devoting whole issues to the bad guys, while offering new aspects of their origins or creating new ones entirely, he helped to flesh out characters like Mirror Master, Captain Cold, Heatwave, and Weather Wizard.

Rogue's Revenge is a revenge tale with those same four characters serving as protoganists and though it bears the Final Crisis title, it has little to do with that event. This story really serves as a means for Geoff Johns to write some really bad guys doing some really bad things to some even worse people. The Flash never makes an appearance beyond the final page of the last issue.

As stated, this is a revenge tale. In the final story arc of the post-Infinite Crisis Flash series, the Rogues were tricked into murdering Wally West's replacement, Bart Allen. One of the things that seperates these guys from other villains is their "code". Namely, they don't kill unless they have to, and never women, children or superheroes. That last one isn't due to any moral reason but rather to the fact that to kill a superhero would bring other superheroes down on them. It's just bad for business.

After being tricked into murdering Bart Allen by a villain named Inertia the villains return to Keystone City, home of the Flash, to hunt down, and kill him. Meanwhile, Professor Zoom, the reverse Flash, helps Inertia escape from the Flash museum where he was being held in a state of suspended animation. Simultaneously the Rogues are being hunted by a society of supervillains headed by a villain named Libra, who want them to either join their numbers or die.

All of these plots interweave until we eventually have a throwdown in issue three between the Rogues and Intertia, as well as a standoff between the Rogues and Libra. Through it all the Rogues are constantly reaffirmed as some of the most interesting and just flat out cool characters in DC comics. Their unwillingness to go along with the society and their staunch resolve to kill inertia are countered by smaller subplots involving the accidental murder of Weather Wizards brother, and Len Snart's abusive father. All of these elements work together seamlessly.

I can't say enough about Geoff Johns work on this mini series. He continued to add depth to the characters and managed to write a straight-forward revenge story that still surprised with some of the twists it took. The interaction between the rogues is always fascinating and in three issues Johns reminded us of why he was born to write them.

On the art side of things, Scott Kollins handled the art chores on the Flash book for quite a while so to see his quirky style back on a series starring these characters seemed only natural. You have to realize when this book came out these two creators had been absent from the title for a few years. Opening this book was like coming home again to someone who adored their previous work as much as I did.

Out of the three issues of Rogues Revenge, Kollins excels on issue two. There are page layouts on that particular issue that are fantastic. His work always has an energy that few other artists can capture and that is one of the reasons he was perfectly suited to drawing a Flash book. Even though this series doesn't revolve around sequences of characters running really fast to solve problems Kollins brought a flair to this book that visually set it apart from all the other Final Crisis minis.

Three years after it's release I still read this title at least a couple times a year. The story, pacing, dialogue, and art all compliment each other perfectly. Read it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

DC New 52: Final Week

For some reason I didn't include these four titles in my previous column. I wish I'd dispersed them a little more evenly so there was something positive to say in this post. That's not the case though; these are all negative reviews. If you don't want to deal with that then feel free to read one of the previous columns... or read the pull list posts that we've put up over the last two days.

I'm glad to be done reviewing every book DC is putting on the shelves, frankly. It's fun but also frustrating and I had to pour through some lousy books on my way to the finish line. Seriously, who has the money to afford this many new books every month?

For more of my thoughts on the relaunch and how I believe it all panned out, again, consult my pull list article or any of the past review posts. I'm looking forward to writing about some non-DC stuff finally. For now, here's my final reviews of the New 52... and hopefully, very soon I'll be able to quit typing the words "New 52" "relaunch" and "reboot"...

Teen Titans #1: My experience with the Teen Titans is relegated to Geoff Johns stint on the title. While I loved that run, the Teen Titans concept has just never interested me all that much. Why is that? you ask. Is it my intense dislike for teens? Perhaps my hatred of the movie Remember the Titans? Whatever the reason, this book (and it's creative team) was going to have their work cut out in winning me over.

...and they obviously didn't try because I'm not won over. I'm actually kind of appalled by this book The art by Bret Booth reminds me of something I'd find in an Image title circa 1994, and I don't mean that as a positive. It's an ugly book. On the other hand Scott Lobdell writes cliched dialogue and a dull first issue in general. I like some of these characters but as written here I have no interest in reading more about them.

Superman #1: This book is hands down the biggest disappointment out of the New 52. I love George Perez as a penciller. I tend to buy anything he draws, and overspend on massive, slip-cased hard covers that are displayed prominently on my shelves. However, George Perez doesn't pencil this issue. He writes it. I wish I could say he does so superbly or even adequately but he doesn't. Instead, we're left with a book written by a man who seemingly missed the memo that less is more. Or show don't tell.

I barely finished reading Superman #1. It took multiple attempts and self-imposed abbreviations of wordy panels for me to work through it. I find it so sad that Superman, DC's (arguably) second marque character behind Batman, gets a self-titled book that is written so poorly. Artist Jesus Merino does a fine job on the issue, as near as I can tell. His panels are so obscured by word balloons and pointless text that it was hard to really see.

I'm surprised DC dropped the ball on this book. Hiring a penciller who hasn't had much writing experience since the 80's to handle one of their biggest characters was a giant misstep and one that I find hard to blame on the writer himself.

Savage Hawkman #1: This book was originally supposed to be written by James Robinson. While Robinson's work of late hasn't been very strong I have doubts it would have been as boring as the issue that Tony Daniel has turned in here. I failed to review this issue in the week it actually came out. It was left off my pull stack by accident. In retrospect it was probably God's way of telling me not to waste my time. The book isn't terrible but it's so... there. That's it. It exists.

Phillip Tan changed up his art style for this book but it didn't do him any favors. I'm not a huge fan of his prior work but I didn't hate it. What he's drawn here is muddled and ugly and the coloring doesn't help it at all. Hopefully some day Hawkman will be given a book worthy of him. This isn't it.

Voodoo #1: I have next to nothing to say about this book. It's so introductory that I can barely find anything to write about it beyond that it's a book written by Ron Marz. The pencils by Sami Basri are good, aside from some stiffness and the occasional lifeless expression. Again, I've got nothing bad or good to say about the book. More so than any issue, this was brief, and included very little in the way of story or character development. However, it didn't do anything to capture my interest enough to pick up another issue.

Pulling the New 52

So the wait is finally over, and the results are in: the New 52 was an apparent success. DC is raking in some very high numbers on these new issues, and there is a definite energy around the market that has been somewhat missing for a little while. Of course, there's no telling just how long these powerful sales will last, or for that matter if DC has truly managed to pull in new and/or stagnant readers, but you can't argue with the fact that this first month has been a success for the company on paper.

However, as a comic reader and buyer, I must admit that the monetary success of DC was not my primary concern with this "soft-reboot." Of course I want them to do well financially (after all, no money, no comics), but I"ll admit I spent most of my time wondering how it would all turn out in print! And now that the launch is behind us, I can reveal to all of you readers which books made the cut, and which books got the cut.

In choosing my list, I attempted to cut it down beneath 15 regular pulls. However, after strenuous difficulty in deciding which to keep, I decided to keep a portion of books that are on the "probation list." I'm going to follow these titles through their first arc, and see where they take me. In other words, I'm tempted but not quite sold. I really wanted some of these titles to be better than they were (Superman), but then some of them turned out to be much better than I anticipated (Batman). Overall, I felt this was a great start with a lot of great (or at least promising) titles, and I can't wait to see where DC is going to be taking us over the next year.

And so, with no further blab, I give you, "Paul's Fabulously Fantastic Pull List of the New 52!!"

Official Pulls:
  1. Action Comics - It was fantastic, although I'll admit I wasn't crazy about Morales' drawing of Clark Kent at times. Everything is, top notch. You can expect great things here.
  2. Aquaman - Wow Ivan Reis, just wow. You rocked Blackest Night, and you still got it.
  3. Batman - Scott Snyder knows Batman, that's all I can tell you.
  4. Batman and Robin - This one was iffy for me going in, but Tomasi did something here he failed to do with GLC: he pulled me in. I'm not sure about the regressing Damian, but I'm on board for now at least.
  5. Batgirl - I really liked seeing Barbara on familiar ground that felt unfamiliar to her, it was compelling.
  6. Demon Knights - Paul Cornell, you teased me with that first issue, but after reading the second, you hooked me. You got skills sir.
  7. Detective Comics - I don't know what I expected here from Tony Daniel, but it wasn't this. And I like it.
  8. The Flash - Barry Allen has arisen as one of my new favorite characters, and while I'm sure I'll miss Johns on the writing, Manupal is definitely familiar with the character and is giving him justice. And he's an artistic Beast.
  9. Green Lantern - This was fantastic. I'm back on board with GL like I haven't been since Sinestro Corp and Blackest Night. Kudos Johns.
  10. Justice League - Two words: Lee and Johns. Are you gonna pass this up? I didn't think so.
  11. Swamp Thing - This one surprised me, and I wasn't sure how to feel about it. After some pondering, it was good, I'm in for now.
  12. Teen Titans - I want to read cool stories with these characters, even if the first issue was a "?" for me. I'll wait it out.
  13. Wonder Woman - Very good stuff. I liked what JMS did before, but I think this could be something special.
Probational Pulls:
  1. Batman: The Dark Knight - This was the bottom of the Bat books, but I'll give it 3 issues.
  2. Green Lantern: New Guardians - I want a cool story with the different corp, which we have yet to see post-Blackest Night for me. Let this be it.
  3. Nightwing - This was a good book, just not solid enough for certainty. We'll see.
  4. Red Lanterns - I like Ed Benes. And I like Atrocitus. I'm hoping for something better going forward.
  5. Superman - I want to pull this. And Perez is already off in a few months, so I'm going to stick it out and see where it goes.
  6. Stormwatch - Another Cornell book, it's yet to blow me away, but I'm going to see where this arc goes anyway.
So officially, that's 19 books (not counting TMNT which I'm also pulling). I plan on knocking it down to 15 after the first arc, so we'll just have to see who can make the cut by then.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Seth's New 52 Pull List

Whether or not the new 52 has succeeded in pulling in that coveted "new reader" demographic that DC so desperately wanted remains to be seen. However, as far as I'm concerned it was a success. As of August I was pulling in the neighborhood of 12 DC titles. Starting in October I'll be pulling 26 titles.

Now, with a few of these titles (heck, really with all of these titles, as I'm picky in what I obligate myself to buy) there's drop-off potential. JLI, JLD, and Captain Atom are all books that have a lot to prove. Even with strong first issues in the cases of JLD and Captain Atom, they have a lot riding against them. With JLI it's getting added solely because I love the characters and while the first issue didn't really wow me, it was still solid enough to make the cut.

I added Animal Man. I did this because, though I didn't love the first issue, the critical acclaim being lavished on the book is enough to make me think maybe there's just something I'm missing here that everyone else sees. Yes I stand by my opinion that the first issue wasn't great and yes I still hold to an intense dislike for the art but I'm going to give it a little time.

I'm sad that the Superman title won't be on my list for the first time in about six years. Yes I even survived Strasczynski's run. On the other hand, nearly every Bat title is on my list for the first time since I started collecting again back around 2002. That's saying something for someone who loves the Bat universe.

There were  some surprises as well, like Suicide Squad, Supergirl and Birds of Prey. They came out of no where and really pulled me in with good first issues and in all three cases, fantastic art.

None of the ancillary Green Lantern books made the cut but then again, I haven't been all that involved in the GL universe outside of the main title since 2009. The new Corps. books just did nothing for me.

At any rate, here's my list.

Justice Leage

Wonder Woman


The Flash

Justice League International

Green Lantern


Detective Comics

Batman & Robin

Birds of Prey





Swamp Thing

Animal Man

Justice League Dark

Demon Knights

Frankenstein: Agent of Shade

Hawk & Dove


All Star Western

Suicide Squad

Action Comics


Captain Atom

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New 52: Final Week (almost done)

Disclaimer: I've had this written for well over a week but kept forgetting to post it. There are only a few books left from the final week that I haven't reviewed in this list and I'll try to get to them in the next day or so. We'll see how well that goes...


The last week of the new 52 brought with it the largest number of easily dropped books. Thankfully. My pull list has grown exponentially due to the relaunch and adding more than a couple of titles this week was going to break me. After this weeks reviews I'll post a list of which books I'll be keeping for you to peruse.

All Star Western #1: Flashback to Wizard World LA 2005. I was sitting in a DC panel when Dan Didio announced this book and showed the cover art by Frank Quitely. The place went nuts with applause. When it came out I picked up a handful of the early issues and then sort of forgot it existed. It's now 2011 and Jonah Hex still has his own book. Sure it's a new title but Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are still writing it.

At this point Gray and Palmiotti have been writing Hex so long that it has to feel like old hat to them. The inclusion of characters like Arkham (totally blanking on his first name) and Mayor Cobblepot are a lot of fun, and even help to flesh out the history of Gotham City. Moritat's pencils are solid for the most part. He's excellent at drawing character interactions and though a few panels looked rushed and a little sketchy for the most part he gets the job done. I didn't think I would be but I'm adding this to my pull list.

Aquaman #1: Aquaman is a strange book. I'll point out it was my favorite of the week but it also seemed like Johns was getting his sea legs under him (get it?!? because it's Aquaman!) in certain sections of the book. The constant hammering home of the fact that Aquaman is considered a joke by the normal people of the DCU was so over the top that it grew annoying fast. Other than that though, this was the Geoff Johns I haven't seen since his early work on Flash. This entire issue is merely introducing us to this character and giving us some hint at a looming threat. There aren't any epic action sequences or boss battles. I loved it for that. Though not as stellar as his work on Green Lantern #1, this still ranks as some of the best work I've seen from Johns in years.

Ivan Reis, just continues to impress me. His art style here reminds me of older Neal Adams or Alan Davis work but he's good at the quiet character moments. The scene in the diner was drawn so well that it took what could have been a minor sequence and transformed it into something more. The panel with Arthur looking at the seafood menu was beautiful in its simplicity.

It's going on my list and I expect to see great things from this book and it's creative team.

The Dark Knight #1: David Finch used to be one of my favorite artists. His work on books like New Avengers and Moon Knight was energetic and exciting. His DC stuff though has left me under whelmed, to say the least. Other than Batman: the Return, his previous Dark Knight run looked rushed.

His work here continues the downward progression. His characters have constantly changing faces, yet ever-present grimaces. His backgrounds are far less detailed than they used to be. Heck, even his action sequences are drawn in such a lifeless way that it's hard to believe I'm looking at the work of the same guy who impressed me so much just a couple years ago.

I'm spending so much time talking about Finch because, despite the presence of Paul Jenkins assisting on writing chores, the book feels like a continuation of what Finch was doing before the relaunch. DK has been his baby. Sadly, Jenkins does nothing to help the proceedings. His dialogue feels like it belongs in a late 90's Spawn comic. Judging from that last page cliffhanger that is probably the level of storytelling we should expect from this team.

Sadly, I won't pick up another issue. Rarely has one artist deflated me as much as David Finch has done with this book.

Blackhawks #1: DC's answer to GI Joe has arrived and it's... okay. There really isn't much to be said about this book. It's well written, competently drawn and a fun read. It didn't blow my mind nor did it anger, or annoy me with it's awfulness. I like the idea of a Joe-like team existing within the DC universe, and due to my undying love for crack squads of military commandoes taking on threats too big for the standard military I'll probably pick up another issue or two.

The book is written by Mike Costa (who I don't think I've heard of before this) and drawn by Graham Nolan. The story is intriguing for the most part but the characters come across as little more than half-hearted attempts at thwarting stereotypes. That doesn't make sense? How about a red headed, rowdy guy who everyone calls "Irish"... who is in fact, a one-time Spetsnaz operative from the former Soviet Union. Rather than, y'know, an actual Irishman. There's more where that came from.

At any rate, as stated, I'm going to pick up at least another issue. There's a chance this book could become something special.

Flash #1: Flash is having praise heaped on it from all over the blogosphere. It certainly is a good book but it also suffers from some weak writing. This first issue introduces us to a Barry Allen who isn't married, and is still perpetually late. However, that's about all we learned about him. Unfortunately the opening story seems to center around character duplicates or clones or alternate reality doubles...? We've been here before. Even in a Flash book. Even within the last few months. Hopefully, this isn't going where I fear it is.

However, this is the best looking book out of the relaunch. Francis Manapul should draw this character the rest of his career. His page layouts are getting more bold, and his panel progression, particularly during action sequences, is downright thrilling. Whether or not Brian Buccellato is a good writer remains to be seen. The dialogue is problematic at times and the story seems very familiar. On the other hand, it's a first issue and I have enough faith in Manapul as an artist to add the book to my list and hope for the best.

Fury of Firestorm #1: This is... bad. Really, really, not good at all. I'm saddened to see Gail Simone's name on the cover, to be honest. Other than the Ethan Van Sciver (who is also to blame for co-writing this mess) cover, there's literally nothing good I can say about this book. This first issue is muddled, badly written, and Cinar's art is rather dull. The whole thing reads like the first draft of a script that badly needed polishing. I won't give it a second chance, even with Simone's presence. Yes, it's that bad.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1: Another poor title from Tony Bedard. His Blue Beetle was one of the worst issues out of the new 52 and apparently he mandated himself to try and top it with this. He failed. While this is by no means a good comic, it's not at Beetle's level of boring ineptitude. I'm finding it hard to even have much to say about the lousy books this week, mostly due to burn out. There's only so much I can write about a book this dull.

The Tyler Kirkham art is probably going to take some flack but I found it passable. He comes from the Michael Turner school of art (disclaimer: not an actual educational institution) so if you like that sort of cheesecake then you'll enjoy this. Sadly, the writing is just bad. Bedard seems to have a really hard time writing dialogue that isn't posturing, cloying, annoying, or stupid. This book is full of that.

I, Vampire #1: I was surprised by how much I liked this book. Joshua Hale Fialkov is a name I've been hearing for months but this was my first time reading his work. Though not much happens in this issue it does a good job of setting up our main characters and introducing their conflict. The art by Andrea Sorrentino, however, was a little off-putting. It's not bad. In fact, it's actually quite good, but it looks so much like the work of another artist that I found myself taken out of the story with each turn of the page.

Other than that one complaint I found this to be a really good first issue. I'd like to see this book succeed too. It's not a superhero book and I like that DC is branching out into other genres. However, I don't think I'll be picking up another issue because it seems like something I'll enjoy far more when it's collected and I have to make cuts this week to keep my list under budget.

Justice League Dark #1: Now this, I can get behind. Where Stormwatch and Demon Knights both left me a little underwhelmed Dark packs a punch. In its opening issue alone we witness the Justice League crash and burn to a mystical threat, and are introduced to the members of this team without actually seeing them come together just yet. I guess in tone this is very similar to the other Dark titles we've seen (Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Demon Knights) but it feels bigger which is fitting for a team book with world-ending threats.

Milligan redeems himself for that Red Lanterns book here, writing characters who I want to learn more about and setting up what looks to be an interesting story. Mikel Janin on art does a good job, aside from a few stiff character moments. I'm adding this one to my list. I could see it being the underdog story of the whole relaunch if it can up the ante issue to issue. And more Zatanna is always a good thing...