DC, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen Special #1, written by James Robinson, drawn by Jesus Merino, Leno Carvalho and Steve Scott, 2008
Do you remember pre-New52 DC? You should, it wasn’t that long ago. I’m generally in favor of the company’s reboot, but then I go back and read books like this. James Robinson, thank you for this issue, it perfectly encapsulates everything I miss about the Old52 (or whatever we call it).
Do you remember Superman in 2008? It was an exciting time. Geoff Johns had swept in and revitalized the franchise with his work on Action Comics and the industry was aflutter with news that Starman superstar James Robinson would be taking over Superman.
Robinson’s run proved to be almost everything I wanted it to be. His trademark chopped up dialogue boxes were back, as was his city-focused world building was back and his love for minor, forgotten characters. With this Jimmy Olsen special Robinson brought Codename: Assassin, the Guardian and the western hero Vigilante back into mainstream importance. Bring those characters out in a New52 book and I can’t imagine anything special happening, but in the Old52 this was just awesome. Robinson knew how to respect previous continuity, origins and established characterizations too, so each character has weight. Their inclusion into this “New Krypton” prelude story feels organic and exciting, not cheap and pointless.
Now this issue isn’t perfect. I’m not a big Jimmy Olsen fan and Robinson’s take on the feisty (and for some reason angst-ridden) redheaded reporter did little to change my mind. His dialogue isn’t anything special and the story has its questionable moments, but the supporting cast and backstory exploration won me over. Robinson makes the Guardian/Vigilante team-up absolutely magical. By the end of the book I was genuinely excited to start looking for the “New Krypton” issues I missed.
The art isn’t half bad either. The cadre of artists do a decent job staying consistent and maintain an exciting pace throughout. Choice splash pages simply sing with kinetic energy.
If you remember (and loved) when characters had history that added weight to the stories they appeared in, this book is for you.
Wildstorm, The Authority: More Kev #1-4, written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Glenn Fabry, 2004
I’ve always loved The Authority, but could never wrap my head around Garth Ennis. I love what few issues of Hitman I’ve collected, but for some reason I still haven’t tried Preacher. From what I can tell, he’s fond of adult content, being Irish and everybody seems to love him. This series was my Garth Ennis test.
And he passed! Yes, there’s plenty of adult content here and more than a few uncomfortable moments, but there’s also a cool story, terrific dialogue and even a little heart. Consider my expectations exceeded!
Despite being an Authority book, this is all about Kev. Kev is an SAS soldier with a foul mouth, nasty reputation and awful luck. Really the only Authority characters that show up here are Apollo and Midnighter—whose lifestyle Kev unfortunately takes issue with. The banter is well-timed and funny, in sort of an All in The Family way. The plot revolves around an escaped alien convict and a semi-domesticated tiger, and it takes a few interesting turns I wasn’t expecting.
Did I mention Glenn Fabry draws this book? Yes, interiors too. And it looks amazing. It’s not painted either, which is interesting. I wish Fabry would do more interiors, because every single panel was a treat. The facial expressions, the detail—even the disgusting stuff was done very, very well. We all knew he could do top-notch painted covers, but I was still surprised by just how amazing his pencils are.
This one’s a perfectly paced, R-rated mini you need to at least try. Ennis has won me over. I can’t wait to find the other Kev books!
Marvel, Dark Reign: Lethal Legion #1-3, written by Frank Tieri, drawn by Mateus Santolouco, 2009
Remember “Dark Reign”? Yeah, it was kind of cool, right? I figured I’m always up for a “C-list villain team-up” so Lethal Legion seemed right up my alley. Plus, Tommy Lee Edwards covers. Cool, right?
Meh. The entire story is told through interviews with prisoners at The Raft—Marvel’s super-villain prison. Each character tells their part of the story and we slowly piece together a tale of villains getting back at Norman Osborn. Who’s telling the truth? Who betrayed the team? It doesn’t really matter.
It’s not that this story is told well—Tieri does a fine job with dialogue and pace. It’s not that the drawings aren’t nice either—Santolouco’s work is cartoony and occasionally quite impressive. The problem here is that the book is built on a mystery that I simply couldn’t get invested in. I like all the characters involved and the Grim Reaper/Wonderman dynamic is plays out nicely, but in the end it’s a forgettable story.
Unless you want to go back to the time of “Dark Reign”, you can afford to skip this one. If you’re in the mood for an inconsequential three issue mini revolving around some random Marvel baddies, keep this one in mind while you’re hunting for bargains. I got each issue for 30cents, for a grand total of $1 altogether. It was worth that.
Marvel, Alpha Flight #5, 6, 8, written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, drawn by Dale Eaglesham, 2011-2012
Word of warning, I’m an Alpha Flight fanboy. As a Canuck, the original series was a gateway drug. In fact, John Byrne’s Canadian creation was the first series I dug around bargain bins for. It was the first series I tried to collect every issue of (still working on it, slowly).
So when I heard that Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente were teaming up with Dale Eaglesham to breathe new life into the team, I flipped. I’m a huge fan of Pak and Van Lente’s work with Hercules (as you all know) and I loved what Eaglesham did with the Justice Society, so I far a
s I was concerned, this was a winner from the start.
Then the news broke. Alpha Flight wasn’t just going to be a mini; it was upgraded to an ongoing. My brain popped. This was the news I never thought I’d hear. When Brian Michael Bendis killed off the team arbitrarily in the pages of New Avengers I thought all hope was lost. This second (well, fourth volume actually) was going to be the book that fulfilled all my dreams. Then I actually started reading the thing. Damn.
Somehow, Pak and Van Lente missed the mark. Their characterizations seemed off, the story wasn’t what I was expecting and the art was simply bland. Marrina was an angsty punk for some reason, Guardian and Vindicator were in a heated marital battle and team mainstay Sasquatch didn’t seem like the character I knew and loved. The plot, something to do with the “Fear Itself” event, fell flat too. I stopped collecting at issue 4.
Then I found 5,6 and 8 in the bargain bins and figured I might as well finish the story. That’s right, Alpha Flight went from being a 12 issue mini, to an ongoing, back down to an 8 issue mini. I can’t blame them, the ship was on fire—it deserved to sink.
These last issues didn’t do anything to change my mind. They’re fun little pieces that might appeal to non-Alpha fans, but me for they simply don’t cut it. Certain mischaracterizations are blamed on “Fear Itself”, but that doesn’t do it for me either. The art remains ill-suited to the story and in the end the book isn’t in any better condition than when it started.
I am glad I grabbed these issues, though. Taskmaster becomes a central character and he’s actually a lot of fun. Alpha Flight may have been mishandled, but Pak and Van Lente know how to make Taskmaster steal the show.
I can’t recommend this series. I wish I could.