No list, no theme, no method, no plan?just my initial thoughts on some of the comics I read over the past weekend (June 2-4), with a Robert Christgau-ish grading system thrown in for good (or bad) measure.

Ion #1.

June, 2006.
DC Comics.
(By Ron Marz, Greg Tocchini, and Jay Leisten.)

The essence of cosmic force with no substance; it’s all been done before, dangit. And dangit because Kyle Rayner, former-Green-Lantern-once-Ion-now-Ion-again, is always put in the position of becoming instead of just being. Marz isn’t progressing Kyle’s character, he’s recycling it. Dangit! C

Ex Machina #1.

August, 2004.
Wildstorm Productions.
(By Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister.)

There’s a lot of time-shifting from past to present-past in this debut as we’re introduced to Mitchell Hundred at various stages of his life (with only a brief glimpse at the true now), each segment a crucial piece but only a piece. And that’s okay, it’s meant to build toward a mind-blowing last page: a might-have-been premise that rattled my senses and really got me thinking. A

DMZ #5.

May, 2006.
Vertigo/DC Comics.
(By Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli.)

The opening sequence is awkward, but once the foot chase hits the streets of war-torn Manhattan, this story kicks. The ending seems a little abrupt and pat, but it wasn’t obvious, and it does set the stage for the next story-arc. Think of it as a good hamburger: juicy middle, slightly burnt buns. The series overall, though, if you’re patient with it, is awesome. A

Castle Waiting #2.

(By Linda Medley.)

I’m not reviewing this comic in detail for a single right reason: it’s too good to be true, a masterwork of fable and folklore, and you should budget the thirty bucks right now to buy the elegant, just released collected hardcover and have a great summer by reading it. (I tried buying Castle Waiting at three different comic book shops and they were all sold out; fortunately, I bought the first seven issues years ago.) A+

Ultimate Extinction #5.

July, 2006.
Marvel Publishing, Inc.
(By Warren Ellis and Brandon Peterson.)

Ultimate choke, sorry, No, I’m not sorry, it should have been better. Galactus, I mean, Gah Lak Tus (spare me!), is a swarm of mechanical purple-bugs that instantly retreats from Earth-invasion mode upon 20% annihilation? What, after all that build-up, 80% up and running wasn’t enough to decimate Earth’s populace? Wow, man, weren’t we lucky! Actually, it has been done better, check out Fantastic Four #48-50, volume one. And Ellis is better, check out Fell and Desolation Jones. Not a good scene when I’m steering you elsewhere. Peterson excels, thank goodness. C

Manhunter #1.

October, 2004.
DC Comics.
(By Marc Andreyko, Jesus Saiz, and Jimmy Palmiotti.)

DC canceled this puppy, and its justifiably disappointed and vocal fan base ‘won’ it a five-issue extension. All parties involved should get a pat on the back for the resurrection; now, it’s our responsibility to keep Manhunter alive. If you’re reading this column and not buying the series, please give Manhunter at least a one-issue try. A-

Plastic Man #1.

February, 2004.
DC Comics.
(By Kyle Baker.)

An ambitious take on Jack Cole’s classic character that was only classic when Cole handled him, which makes Baker’s take all the more ambitious because he succeeded in making Plastic Man contemporarily viable and immensely entertaining. Not enough people bought it so it was canceled after twenty issues. Alas, to be a fondly recalled classic by some seven thousand people, and that’s no stretch. A-

John Constantine, Hellblazer #217.

April, 2006.
Vertigo/DC Comics.
(By Denise Mina and Leonardo Manco.)

An intentionally dark, oft-times murky, frivolously gothic, caustic melodrama; with flashes of confounded confusion and extreme violence. It never pays to start a new Hellblazer story arc with the second part. But once I get the issues in order and begin at the beginning it becomes a very good, thoughtful, demanding horror comic. What’s shocking is that, for the most part, it’s always been a good, thoughtful, demanding horror comic. And suddenly, right now, it’s leaning towards being great. A

Superman #650.

May, 2006.
DC Comics.
(By Kurt Busiek, Geoff Johns, and Pete Woods.)

Return of the mythic superhero, same as the old mythic superhero, no longer the indecisive, sub-par mythic superhero. Actually, he’s been stripped of all his superpowers, and now he’s a very human Clark Kent. Yet the story’s super. A-

Swamp Thing #27.

July, 2006.
Vertigo/DC Comics.
(By Joshua Dysart and Enrique Breccia.)

Psychedelic horror; unfortunately, the series has been a bad trip. But I did like this issue, particularly the parade of gruesome characters led by Swampy, each given a precise, disturbing description ala Mr. Moore during his classic Swamp Thing days. And the return of a lately underutilized villain warmed this fanboy’s heart. So I’m finally warming to the book and now it’s ending. B+

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #201.

Early May, 2006.
DC Comics.
(By Christos N. Gage, Ron Wagner, and Bill Reinhold.)

Dr. Thomas Wayne?serial killer?! Batman?detective!?! Should I be enjoying this? Aren’t most three-part Legends of the Dark Knight story arcs doomed to disappoint? It’s a very strong opening by writer Gage, and I also enjoyed Wagner’s pencils immensely; he’s come a long way since 1997’s Genesis, DC’s much-maligned annual mega-crossover convolution. I honestly can’t wait to pick up the second chapter of this tale, something I haven’t been able to state about Legends of the Dark Knight for years. But will this be as good as it gets? A-

The Exterminators.

Vertigo/DC Comics.
(By Simon Oliver and Tony Moore.)

Forget civil wars and infinite crises, this is the ongoing comic book event of the year. Mutant cockroaches, boys and girls, it doesn’t get any more gruesome and unsettling than this. Oh, wait, there’s also humanity here, and observations on man versus nature, and the consequences of man versus himself. There’s also poverty and economics and power plays and conspiracy theories and collapsing relationships and the struggle to reintegrate into a troubled society. There’s a darkly comic sheen to everything about this comic; it offsets the fear of plausibility I’m developing from it. It’s those thousands of mutant cockroaches, let me tell you. Delightful (in a warped sense) and disgusting (unless you dig cockroaches, then you’ll really be delighted), capped by a stunning evolutionary twist at the end of issue five. A+

About The Author

Jim Kingman

Jim Kingman is a writer for Comics Bulletin