New 52 Trade Post: OMAC & Green Arrow

OMAC volume 1 OmactivateOMAC Volume 1: Omactivate (DC)
Written by Dan DiDio & Keith Giffen with Jeff Lemire, drawn by Giffen & Scott Kolins
Collects OMAC #1-8

Do you ever get a group of trades and pull the ones you’re least interested in to the top and read those first? I can’t say it’s something I’ve done a lot of. When I was a monthly comic reader, I’d move the books I was most excited about to the top and get to the rest later. But, I recently came into a stack of New 52 books and wanted to read a few of the more random ones first just to see how they were.

One of those books was OMAC. I wasn’t super excited about the creative team or the fact that yet another one of Jack Kirby’s creations was getting yet another make over. But you know what? I was pleasantly surprised by this series, which only lasted the 8 issues collected in this book. This new version actually stands for One-Machine Attack Construct unlike the One Man Army Corp of the original series (which I can’t believe I read three years ago at this point). Set in the new DCU, the human component this time is a scientist named Kevin who gets moved all over the chessboard by Brother Eye to do his bidding.

Basically, this whole series is a love letter to Kirby, or at least that’s how I’m looking at it. Giffen is clearly paying homage to The King’s style with his pages, all of which feature at least one of Jack’s trademarks: squared off fingers, Kirby crackle or the four panel pages he seemed to like. You could also say that some of DiDio’s story elements take their lead from Kirby’s. Not everything is explained super well and things just kind of happen, much like they did in Jack’s DC books.

I like the approach I mentioned above, but it does have its fair share of problems. There’s basically three levels you can enjoy this book on. Let’s called the homage one level. Then there’s the more basic level of a superhero smash ’em up bonanza which it definitely delivers. But, the third layer is a lot less satisfying. I mean, we’re never even told why Brother Eye chose Kevin. Worse than that, it’s never explained why Brother Eye (who annoyingly says “Eye” instead of “I”) even needs a human-hosted OMAC. Why doesn’t he just use a robot? I wish these questions had been answered in these eight issues but they weren’t. I can still enjoy the story that is told on the page, but it definitely could have been more satisfying.

KEEP/DUMP: I’m going to keep this one for now. Not sure if it’ll stay in the collection after a re-read later on down the line, though.

green arrow volume 1 midas touchGreen Arrow Volume 1: The Midas Touch (DC)
Written by Dan Jurgens, J.T. Krul & Keith Giffen, drawn by Jurgens & George Perez with Ray McCarthy & Ignacio Calero
Collects Green Arrow #-6

I fell in love with the character of Green Arrow when Kevin Smith brought him back from the dead and was on board with the series up until a few years ago when Judd Winick left Green Arrow & Black Canary. I even started collecting the previous volume by way of lots on eBay and back issues found at conventions. As such, I’m always leery when I experience a new version of the character.

I haven’t written about it much on the site, but I actually really enjoy Arrow on The CW because they gave Oliver Queen a really solid, interesting and believable back story that I can sink my teeth into and enjoy. I can’t say that’s the case for this New 52 series, though. Sure you’ve got rich Oliver Queen dressing up in a superhero costume and running around fighting supervillains, but why?

This is something that I think some of the New 52 books completely failed on and others nailed really well: the question of why this book exists. I understand that DC and Warner Bros. wanted to continue with a book that had done fairly well before the relaunch and also wanted something that eventual fans of the series could read if they were so inclined, but in the book itself, what’s the point of it existing?

Much of the plot of the first arc in this book focuses on younger supervillains who get their jollies committing crimes and sending that out over the internet for people to watch. It’s the next level up from schoolyard or bum fight vidoes in a world with super powers. For some reason, this aspect of the story never grabbed me. It didn’t feel super new (Will Pfeifer did something sort of like this in the amazing HERO). I think I didn’t care about that part of the story because I didn’t care about Ollie. Sure you see him in his civilian identity blowing off the guy who runs the larger Queen family company, but that’s not enough. This is supposed to be a brand new universe where anything can happen, you can’t rely on old stories for that, you need to put enough on front street to suck me in or get me with one crazy hook and unfortunately Green Arrow had neither of those.

It did have one issue — #6 — drawn by Ignacio Calero who looked like a more stylized JLA-era Howard Porter. I’d like to see more from him in the future.

KEEP/DUMP: This one’s going up on Sequential Swap where it will hopefully get me another book.

The Box: Solar #21, Ultraverse Break-Thru #2 & Micronauts #1

Here we have three more random books chosen at random and reviewed to the best of my abilities. I started off with Solar: Man Of The Atom #21 from Valiant, printed in 1993. The issue was written by Kevin Vanhook with pencils by Peter Grau and I’ll be honest, it didn’t do much for me making it the second Valaint book in a row that I didn’t like.

The main problem is that this is the 21st issue of a comic and I have close to no understanding of what’s going on. There’s some recap in the dialog boxes, but overall, I didn’t feel much connection to the characters or what was happening to them.

I did however like Grau’s art. It’s solid from a storytelling point of view and it looks like he got to have some real fun with the more outlandish characters and how some of the powers looked. His normal people aren’t particularly interesting, but when you’re dealing with super people in body-covering spandex, that’s not uncommon. There’s also an interesting kind of coloring going on in this comic that reminds me a bit of the original Milestone books as well as the other Valiant comics I’ve looked through. It’s got a pastel or colored pencil feel to it as opposed to the deep, rich colors you see in most comics these days. That might be thanks to different coloring methods or a difference in paper (this is newsprint and therefor not glossy).

The coolest thing about this comic? That rad Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti cover.

I had a lot more fun reading Ultraverse Break-Thru #2, though I had equally less knowledge of what the heck was actually going on. The issue came out from Malibu in 1994, was written by Gerard Jones with art by the amazing George Perez. There is a gigantic amount of information foisted upon the reader in this issue which acts as the second part in what appears to be a gigantic crossover featuring (I think) every character in the Malibu universe. You’ve got Prime, Hardcase, Ultraforce, Mantra, Sludge, The Strangers, Rune, Freex and lots more. If those names don’t ring a bell, we’re pretty much in the same boat. I had read two Prime comics in my life as a comic fan and remember watching the Ultraforce cartoon when it was on, but that’s about it.

Still, it seemed like Jones gave me enough information to follow along with what was going on, no small feat considering this is the SECOND issue of a COMPANY WIDE event. I didn’t feel lost about what was going on in the story, though I did not necesarrily know who the characters were or what their pasts were. This was a much better reading experience than something like Deathwatch 2000 Earth 4 which had a slew of characters I didn’t know or understand whatsoever. That book turned me off to pretty much all of Continuity Comics, whereas this one made me want to actually read a few more Malibu comics. I was always curious about the other Prime issues and I’ve heard from quite a few people that Sludge was actually pretty good. That alone makes this one of the better experiences I’ve had with The Box thus far.

Are you a Micronauts fan? Did you stumble across the toys at the toy store as a kid, then go on to discover and love the Marvel comic? Then, Micronauts #1 from Devil’s Due written by Dan Jolley with art by Pat Broderick might be a great read for you. If not, you’ll be shown a series of actions that mean next to nothing because they have almost no context. As a new reader I know that the Micronauts have been beaten down and their villain Baron Karza is seemingly on the loose. Or something.

They wind up working for another guy which sets a new status quo, we learn who the new Baron Karza is and what happened to the original. The problem, though, is that there’s nothing in this issue that makes me care about any of that. A number one issue like this should be a perfect entry point for everyone and get any possible reader absorbed right in. Not the case though.

I did like Broderick’s artwork, it has a fun cartooniness to it in certain panels. There’s one priceless look of shock on a regular guy’s face at one point in one of the scenes that made me chuckle. I think some of the line work was overdone with lots of extra black lines that give some of the finished product a cluttered look, but overall he did a solid job.

Superman Trade Post: Man Of Steel Volume 6 & Eradication!

SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL VOLUME 6 (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Ron Frenz, Jim Starlin & Dan Jurgens
Drawn by Art Adams, Ron Frenz, Dan Jurgens & John Byrne
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures Of Superman Annual #1, Superman Annual #1, Action Comics #594-595, Booster Gold #23 & Superman #12.
I’ve only blogged about the fourth Man of Steel volume before, but this is a series of collections that I adore, even if I’m not in love with all the of stories therein. I find myself looking back to the 80s and 90s moreso than looking forward to books coming out in the future from Marvel and DC. Part of that is because I’m out of the loop and only really hearing about things after they’re either well liked or panned. Not having all the comic book access I used to is a bummer, partially because I love reading comics, but more prominently because I don’t have the opportunity (or don’t give myself the opportunity) to make up my own opinions unless I find myself lucky enough to get a trade.

Anyway, I appreciate what creators were doing at DC back then. After Crisis everyone was just trying to figure out what was going on and making some really interesting comics that fit in all different corners–some of which we hadn’t seen before–in the DCU. This collection of Superman comics–mostly annuals–does some of that itself. The underutilized but ridiculously amazing Art Adams draws one of the annuals which features Superman, Batman, Robin AND vampires. I had read the issue before, but it was fun reading it again. Then, there’s one of those stories where a monster runs amok, but he’s not really a bad guy. It might have been new then, but I’ve read it enough to know all the beats. Jim Starlin–who I just interviewed actually for CBR–does some really interesting stuff in an annual that thankfully wasn’t paint by numbers and really had be guessing, trying to figure out what was going on. The Booster Gold crossover was fun, followed by the origin of Lori Lemaris which I already knew, so it was kinda boring and finally a Silver Banshee story (possibly her first–at least post-Crisis–appearance?) that does the ol’ “Superman/Martian Manhunter” switcheroo.

In the end, I think the level of enjoyment you get out of these issues will depend heavily on what comics you have already read, how much you already know about Superman and how much you like Superman. I’ve read a ton of comics and know a lot about Superman, but I also love the character and have a great interest in this era because it’s what directly influenced the comics I wound up reading in the early 90s. I’m definitely having holes filled in my mental map of Superman’s history and hope that the Man Of Steel trade series continues on. Has anyone heard anything about that? I don’t think anything past this sixth volume has been announced, right?

SUPERMAN ERADICATION (THE ORIGIN OF THE ERADICATOR) (DC)
Written by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway & Roger Stern
Drawn by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, George Perez & Kerry Gammill
Collects Action Comics #651-652, Adventures Of Superman #460, 464, 465 & Superman #41, 42
I have a series of 90s era Superman trades I’ve had sitting around for a while. I’ve been holding off on reading them because I was hoping the Man Of Steel volumes would catch up. I still want that to happen because, frankly, some of these books are kind of a mess. The trade paperback market was pretty infantile at the time, which might explain why this book that supposedly tells the origin of The Eradicator (who would play a big role in The Return Of Superman storyline, hence the trade) doesn’t really achieve that goal. From what I can tell, it would be a difficult task because there was a significant amount of time between Superman being given the Eradicator (that thing that looks like his spaceship floating about his hand in the trade) and the story you read in the pages.

Another problem is that this story doesn’t actually feature the character we came to know as Eradicator, but instead a tale of Superman/Clark Kent becoming very distant and more Kryptonian (ie cold and scientific). The problem is that, if you’ve probably seen this story before if you’ve been reading Superman comics before. I’d rather read all the comics that lead up to this, the ones that showed Clark becoming Editor in Chief of Newstime magazine or the troubles that Jimmy Olsen finds himself in or the Draaga story. Instead, we get peeks at those threads but the “Hey Clark and Superman are acting wonky, aren’t they?” takes center stage.

A few fun bits do include the building of the Fortress of Solitude, a fight with Lobo and Maxima explaining her intentions for Superman (she wants to make him her man and take him back to her planet Almerac). These are elements that I am familiar and was happy to learn more about. As it happened those same elements played into some of the other older Superman trades I happened to read and will write about shortly. I was kind of disappointed in the collection as a whole because it wasn’t very interesting or original, but it did offer more pieces to the puzzle that is “my” Superman (basically from the Man Of Steel miniseries til the end of Infinite Crisis). Hopefully, the Man of Steel collection series will continue on so I can have a better idea of everything that was going on around this time.

Trade Post: Gen 13 Road Trip, Space Usagi & JLA/Avengers

GEN 13 VOLUME 2: ROAD TRIP (WildStorm)
Written by Gail Simone, drawn by Alvin Lee, Carlo Barberi, Sunny Lee and Kevin West
Collects Gen 13 (current series) #7-13
I’ve had a long and tumultuous history with Gen 13. I first read about them in Wizard in the 90s and got very interested. I picked up an issue at the shop which immediately hooked me and I set out to collect every Gen13 appearance from there on out. This might sound odd to some people, but Gen 13 was basically my Teen Titans or New X-Men because they were young, fresh characters who also happened to be super powered beings with what seemed like the whole world against them. What teenager couldn’t relate? Anyway, I read that book through it’s pretty terrible completion and then the completely awful Chris Claremont relaunch. So, when the whole WorldStorm thing happened in the WildStorm universe, I was curious but cautious to see what Simone’s plans were for Gen13. Then the book hit and I was disappointed once again. The kids were some kind of super powered sex proxies. Or something. I read one issue and was out.

But, I’m one for second chances, so when I saw the potential to read this second volume, I figured what the heck. Road Trip jumps around showing the kids still getting to know each other while facing bad guys and what not. Many of the previous plot points are retread like Sarah Rainmaker being a lesbian and Cat being a nerd who now has a hot body. Eventually it’s explained that the Gen13 kids are anomalies in the universe because of Captain Atom Armageddon and WorldStorm. In the end, as a fan, I appreciate that explanation for why they seem so vastly different compared to say the Authority whose history seemed exactly the same before and after, but in the end there wasn’t enough of interest here to keep me really interested. It’s not a bad book if you’re new to Gen 13, but if you’re a fan I would imagine it’s like watching a remake which just keeps reminding you how much you want to go back and rewatch the original. Maybe when I go home in a few weeks, I’ll bring a stack of Gen 13 comics back with me.

SPACE USAGI (Dark Horse)
Written and drawn by Stan Sakai
Collects Space Usagi: Warrior #1-3, Space Usagi: Death And Honor #1-3, Space Usagi: White Star Rising #1-3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #47 and Usagi Yojimbo Color Special #3
I’ve never read an Usagi Yojimbo comic before. Not that I haven’t wanted to, it just seems like a difficult comic to just jump into, even though I’ve heard good things. My biggest exposure to the character was the highly coveted Usagi figure in the Ninja Turtles toy line that I didn’t get my hands on until last summer’s yard sale season kicked off. I figured this far-flung future sci-fi comic would be a pretty easy entry so gave it a shot.

Overall, it’s a pretty good book. The first story follows Usagi as his king is killed and he has to keep the prince safe while fighting all kinds of baddies. The second story is the weakest because it’s got way too many Star Wars references. Now, I know that chunks of Star Wars were taken from the classic hero story, but you’ve got the good guys teaming up with a smuggler in a crummy ship who then infiltrate the bad guy’s headquarters. There’s even a scene with the whole group in a room trying to get information until they’re surprised by relief. The third story was also pretty good and threw a good number of curveballs that I wasn’t expecting. My favorite story is the one which brings the original Usagi to the far future for a few minutes. It’s just a fun little thing that put a smile on my face.

Aside from the Star Wars riffs, I found these stories to be of a pretty great quality that kept my interested throughout. Sakai’s art looks deceptively simple at times, but turns out to be really intricate. He’s go a great mix of cartooning and comic art that makes every panel fun to stare at. Anyone know a good place to start with the regular Usagi book aside from the beginning, of course?

JLA/AVENGERS (DC & Marvel)
Written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by George Perez
Collects JLA/Avengers #1-4
It’s kind of crazy to think about how much DC and Marvel played together throughout the 90s. There was DC vs. Marvel, Amalgam, All Access and then a series of one- and two-shots bringing Captain America and Batman, Green Lantern and Silver Surfer and Darkseid and Galactus together. There’s been a pretty long dry spell lately, but the last great meeting of the two gigantic comic book minds was the long-awaited and highly anticipated JLA/Avengers from 2003 and 2004. But when it hit, I was definitely one of the people with a huge question mark hanging over my head. At the time, I was in college and only read comics whenever I went home which was about every 3 or 4 months. I think this book ended up coming out late which meant that I was reading them even further apart.

But, sitting down and reading it all in a few sittings was a joy. Yes, it’s a complex story. There’s big cosmic people playing games that effect both universes and even combine them for a time. As someone who reads through trades and comics pretty quickly, I felt like this book really gave me my money’s worth both in terms of the epic story and also in Perez’s artwork which is fantastic. I think he’s one of the few (only?) classic artists who keeps getting better. I loved his stuff in Legion Of Three Worlds last year.

Anyway, Busiek’s able to combine huge, sweeping and well choreographed fight scenes with smaller geek out moments like The Thing showing up in the Batcave or the Captain Marvels fighting alongside each other. If you’ve got a favorite Avenger or Leaguer they most likely show up in the book either throughout or during the crazy time warping battle at the end (what up Guy Gardner Warrior?!). While reading through that last issue I was struck by how complicated the script must have been and how easy Perez made it seem. I don’t remember a single time when I couldn’t keep up with what was happening on the page (at least visually, like I said, the story gets pretty dense). There’s also some fun stuff in the third issue in which the two teams seem to have been having a JLA/JSA Earth-1/Earth-2 relationship with the Avengers since the beginning. Of course, something’s not right. JLA/Avengers isn’t just for diehard fans of either series, but I wouldn’t recommend if for a complete newbie. Getting some of the history under your belt might be a good idea before diving into this bad boy, which makes sense considering how long it took to get from the page to the fans’ hands.

The Box: Logan’s Run #1-7

It’s been a while since I went through any comics in The Box, mostly because I put them in storage a few months back and haven’t gone there in a while. I went there this week and started thumbing through the Marvel box and grabbed a few things I wanted to check out: half of the Power Man & Iron Fist run in there and all seven Logan’s Run issues.

Tonight, I’ll be talking about the Logan’s Run issues which Marvel produced throughout 1977 with writing by Gerry Conway, David Kraft and John Warner with art by George Perez and Tom Sutton. The first five issues make up an adaptation of the film, which I checked out last year, while the last two seem to make for an ongoing that got canceled for one reason or another. Perez did the art on the adaptation with Sutton doing the two original pieces and Conway only doing the first issue with Kraft finishing out the adaptation and Warner working with Sutton.

I liked the movie when I watched it, but my memory isn’t crystal clear so I’m not exactly sure how accurate the adaptation is to the movies, but I recognized all of the major story beats: Logan getting his assignment, going to Cathedral, fighting box, getting out, meeting the old guy and returning. It’s enjoyable enough and probably would have been even more if I was either a bigger Logan’s Run fan who could appreciate the subtle differences and extra bits of info not seen in the movie or didn’t remember as much of the movie as I did. The likenesses aren’t great, so that didn’t help, but it definitely felt like I was watching something I had just watched which made it less interesting as a reading experience.

So, it’s not a bad story by any means, just one that wasn’t as interesting because I was familiar with it. The fun, of course, is seeing Perez draw more straight-up action and sci-fi stuff. The inner workings of The City probably looked better in the comics than the movie which used little models in wide shots. It would be great to see this recolored and collected with some cool supplemental materials including why the series got axed and why they couldn’t seem to make up their minds as to whether Logan had gotten four or five years taken off of his life thanks to his secret mission. You know, a director’s commentary of the comic based on a movie.

After my general non interest in the first five issues I was pretty excited when the sixth cover boasted “Now! Marvel takes you beyond the book, beyond the movie!” Sounded cool. Logan’s Run is a fun world and SPOILER leaves plenty of story opportunities after the end of the film with the whole population of The City out in the real world which is our world after a war. Maybe we’d see them trying to settle down in the ruins of the Washington Monument or the White House or branching out into other major cities. What does New York City look like?

Instead, we get a direct follow-up with everyone going nuts right outside the city. Had this been a much longer series as probably intended (like Marvel’s Star Wars comics), these two issues would have been a good and necessary beginning that branches out and makes for a fun story that launches into something much bigger. As it stands as a two issue burst, these two are just kind of disappointing, though not bad.

Like a lot of comics from the late 70s (really from the pre-80s) the dialogue is overwritten and doesn’t read like real people talk and the last two issues could have easily been cut down into one. But, hey, it’s pretty clear that there was a plan for this comic that got cut short. Who knows what could have been?