Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #3: I thought for a moment that DC had finally done it. They had finally taken a gamble on their main attraction, made some pretty impressive moves, some very shocking moves that would add so much life to such a stale character. But you know where this is going, and by the end of the issue, it's business as usual in the Superman universe. They kept the tension for a mere eight pages before sorting out the conflict. Here it is: Superman is impaled on Brainiac's ship, and two pages later, Lex Luthor's neck is snapped by Brainiac himself. I was thrilled. It seemed like an unbelievably bold move on the part of the DC writers. Then we find out that Superboy can give a quick blood transfusion, with a little medical help from Brainiac-5, and Superman is fine. A page later, the Lex Luthor's corpse is revealed to be a robot that has been playing Brainiac for the past few issues. And even the final page does nothing to make readers interested for the next phase of this project, "War of the Supermen." I think I may have bought my last Superman comic ever, and it hurts me to say that because Superman should be the hero to which all other heroes are measured. I think this issue was the proverbial nail in the coffin for ol' Big Blue.
Green Lantern Corps #47: Spinning out of the events of Blackest Night, Green Lantern Corps provides the epilogue to Geoff Johns' epic. What we get here is the tying up of loose ends -- my least favorite type of storyline. While I'm pleased that Kilowog will be playing a larger role in the Green Lantern Universe, I feel like the rest of the issue is filler for what is to come. The Guardians have overstepped their bounds, and now the Corps is calling them out on it. But, as with Superman, the tension doesn't last, and the problem is solved within a page. Plus, I liked when Mogo was just a planet. His expanded role in the series has really destroyed his mystique, so I'm glad to see him go away. While I didn't really enjoy the issue, I'm not counting GLC out. Tomasi and Johns have provided readers with some of the best stories so far. What I'm most looking forward to is Tomasi's Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors. We saw a glimpse of this in Green Lantern last week, and it looks to be a nice follow up to Blackest Night, this time making Guy the center of the story. If you skip this issue, you won't miss much.
Amazing Spider-Man #629: I wanted lot more out of this. It's the conclusion of a three part arc, so readers expect to see a lot of action. What we get is mostly flashbacks about how the Juggernaut came to return to NYC and why Captain Universe is after him. As is the theme of the week, the tension doesn't mount long enough to really make the reader feel anything. We get a few cool shots of an Enigma Force Juggernaut, but that lasts only about seven pages. In the end, Zeb Wells gets the real prize of the issue with his four page prologue entitled "Shed." We see where "The Gauntlet" is heading next, and Wells creates more edginess in these four pages than Roger Stern does in the whole issue. While I've been pleased with most issues of "The Gauntlet", I feel the Juggernaut story fell flat. We didn't get to see him destroy things as he usually does, and there was no real throw down between the three characters. But, it's not enough to turn me off of Amazing Spider-Man. It's just enough to make me look forward to next week's issue.
Ultimate Avengers #2: I am very displeased with Mark Millar. In Ultimate Avengers 2, he finally gets a crack at the Punisher, but, and pardon the cliche, he wields him like a kid who's found his dad's gun. The first half of the issue is a blood bath, but it's so over the top that it feels forced. Plus, we get a poorly written one-page explanation of the Punisher's motives. There's no dialogue, just a few images to remind us of why he kills indiscriminately. And since Millar has spent the first half of the comic reminding us of what a killer the Punisher is, his willingness to go along with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. is wholly unbelievable. It's amazingly out of character. The only plus to the issue is Leinil Yu's art. I loved his rough pencils in New Avengers. In Secret Invasion, Mark Morales cleaned up the edginess of the art to make it more aesthetically pleasing, and it looks like this is the new way Yu is going to illustrate because while the art is definitively Leinil Yu, the erratic crosshatching has disappeared. I'm glad to see him doing work in the Ultimate Universe because I love his illustrations, and he seems to be able to keep up with the ultra-violent Mark Millar. But while the art is beautiful, the story is a mess. I think Mark Millar may be on a downward spiral, and sadly Ultimate Avengers 2 is his next victim.
IMAGE:Shuddertown #2 (Spencer & Green): Jon reviewed Shuddertown #1 a few weeks back, and in it, he cited the excessive narration by the book's main character as one of its drawbacks. So, when I read it, I hoped to find that this wouldn't be an issue with Shuddertown #2. Unfortunately, this is still it's greatest weakness. The book is laboriously slow, and a tedious read for what appears to be a simple and intriguing story. The sparsely filled final pages are the truly fun part of the comic. It's where we feel a sense of urgency, a remorsefulness by Isaac, the flawed cop looking for answers to a series of murders. And I don't think Shuddertown is a bad comic, just one that needs a bit more in the editing department.
Garrison #1 (WILDSTORM -- Mariotte & Francavilla): Jeff Mariotte introduces his main character by having him walk away from a full page explosion. The opening is intriguing, and we learn that this mysterious man has killed 150 people in 9 weeks. This man is dangerous. And this idea is reinforced throughout the issue. He encounters the two lead agents attempting to track him down, and he murders one in cold blood but lets the other live for reasons we have yet to learn. So towards the end of the issue, when he tracks down an impolite pedestrian, I felt as if I should be nervous or anxious. But why wasn't I? Well, because Garrison isn't a new character. He's the Punisher, except he wears a cowboy hat. Plus, there's a moment of self-reflection by Garrison at the end of the issue. It's this moment that destroys any fascination about the character. Why would a sociopath suddenly have a reflective moment? It doesn't match the rest of the story, and while Garrison is supposed to be deadly, this makes him seem conflicted. And suddenly, poof, there goes the aura of danger. Personally, I want to feel as if the panels on the page can barely contain this man. Instead, that's lost when he suddenly has a moment of realization about his murderin' ways. I don't think I'll be picking this up again.
Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows #5 (IDW -- Hill & Rodriguez): Crown of Shadows opens with ten -- that's right, ten -- full pages of knock-down, drag out brawling between a giant-sized Tyler and a Demonic Zack Wells. It's almost as if Joe Hill wanted to take a back seat to Gabriel Rodriguez's fantastic art because we're treated to so much of it in this issue, and the first twelve pages aren't crowded with any dialogue bubbles or narrative rectangles. Just Rodriguez doing what he does best. I have to admit that I'm surprised the series has maintained it's pacing and mystery. Right now, I'm reading Joe Hill's novel Horns, and if you're at all a fan of Locke and Key, I urge you to go out and read it. Hill is fast becoming one of my favorite writers, and his comic work is only one more facet of his ability as an author. And Locke and Key is one of the best series on the market today.
The Waking #3 (ZENESCOPE -- Gregory & Drujiniu): Raven Gregory continues his take on the Zombie genre, and in this issue, it's explained why the dead are coming back to life. Without ruining it, I will say that it's one of the most innovate takes on Zombies I've ever seen. We're getting closer to an answer on the hit and run introduced in the first issue, and the father/daughter mystery is coming to an end as well. This issue proves that Gregory has hit on the magic formula that paces action, dialogue, and humor evenly, allowing the story to move, but not at a speed that proves unreadable. Next month comes issue #4, and I'm already sad to see this series go. The Waking is easily one of the best comics I've ever read. If you're a fan of zombies, you should be reading this. If you're a fan of comics, you should be reading this. And if you're neither, you should pick this up as your introduction to the medium. The Waking is everything you'd want to read in a story.
The Last Unicorn #1 (IDW -- Beagle & De Liz): I picked this up because it's my wife's favorite story. It's the tale of a unicorn who learns that she may be the last of her kind, and she ends up wandering out of the safety of her enchanted forest. Having never read the story, I tried not to let my wife's bias make it's way into my review. Plus, the story's original author, Peter S. Beagle, is writing the comic as well. So he's adapting his own work to fit a new medium. First off, Renae De Liz's art is beautiful. She captures the enchantment of the unicorn, but still conveys the sadness of her being the last one of her kind. There are some beautiful mood shots that convey all the emotions Beagle is trying to get across. Story aside, it's a visually stunning comic to look at. As far as Beagle's work as a comic author, he paces the tale well (as he's the original author) and he spends much of the issue introducing the character of the unicorn so that, when the tension arrives at the end, we feel fear for her. My wife has said that this story makes her cry every time, so I don't think we're in for a happy ending. But at least getting there will be a visual and emotional treat.
BANNEN'S BOOK OF THE WEEK:
The Waking #3 (ZENESCOPE -- Gregory & Drujiniu): If you couldn't tell by my gushing over it, The Waking is definitely my pick for the week. The series hearkens back to the old horror movies -- a mix of violence, gore, nudity, and humor. It seems that every week a new "zombie" book is on the market. The problem is that these books do little to distinguish themselves from each other. It's easy to get trapped in the zombie story because it's one of the most simple to tell. The zombies can be representations of anything you feel is dead or hopeless. Think of George Romero's Land of the Dead. He wrote it at a time where American complacency with government rule was at an all time high. The main characters are trying to escape to Canada because there's too many "zombies" in the USA. So in reading a zombie book, you have to look for the author's ultimate goal. But The Waking is so much more than a "Zombie" book. It's a detective story. It's a "whodunit." And it's got all the necessary pieces: great dialogue, beautiful art, and intriguing characters. I know I've said this before, but it's necessary to repeat, here especially: If you're no reading The Waking, you're missing out. I've never been so pleasantly surprised about any comic before.