Monthly Archives: June 2009

Reviewing the Unwritten, the Unthinkable, the Unknown

I’d been planning to pick up Mark Waid’s The Unknown since learning about it back in February. The Unwritten sort of snuck up on me, but I read a preview in an issue of either House of Mystery or Madame Xanadu, and decided to check it out. The 99-cent first issue cemented the deal. Then there’s Unthinkable, which isn’t usually my type of story, but I was amused by the fact that all three first issues were coming out on the same day…and then I read quite a bit about it when the TSA found the script for an issue and detained the writer at an airport. So I grabbed that one as well.

Now all three series are on their second issues, and I’ve just caught up on all three of them.

The Unknown

4-issue mini by Mark Waid and Minck Oosterveer from BOOM! Studios. Cat Allingham is a world-class genius problem-solver who makes her living as a consultant to unsolved cases of all types, and has turned her attention to the greatest unsolved problem of all: what happens after death? Her assistant is a former bouncer who happens to be an expert at reading people, and has a mysterious background of his own.

It’s a combination mystery and action adventure, with some bizarre twists along the way — including one at the end of issue #2 that makes you rethink just what’s going on in the previous 40-odd pages. While the Macguffin itself strains my suspension of disbelief, the story around it has been interesting, especially the interplay between the two leads.

Verdict: Definitely on board!

Unthinkable

Mark Sable with Julian Totino Tedesco

5-issue mini, international intrigue and military action. After 9/11, a Tom-Clancy-like action writer gets hired by a think-tank to come up with doomsday scenarios — the unthinkable — before the bad guys do. Nearly a decade later, someone has started putting his ideas into practice.

The first issue is mostly setup, introducing the players and leading up to the attacks. The second issue picks up with the writer trying to get someone to listen to him and anticipate the next steps, which of course goes horribly wrong. (We’re at issue #2 or 5, after all.)

After the first issue, I was solidly onboard for #2. But after #2, I’m not sure I’m interested in continuing. It’s oddly disjointed, with a lot of critical story bits told in narration instead of being shown on the page. And characters shifting sides and motivation apparently with no cause. I’m not sure I’ll keep going with this one, but then as I said, it’s not a genre I’m usually drawn to.

Verdict: Not sure. If you like military action/adventure, you might like it better than I do.

The Unwritten

Ongoing by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, Vertigo.

The main character, Tom Taylor, was the inspiration for his vanished father’s best-selling not-quite-Harry-Potter fantasy series, and is about as self-absorbed as you might expect from the focus of a media empire. At least, that’s what he and everyone else believes until a fan’s question suggests that he’s a fraud. Then there are those who believe he’s the actual Tommy Taylor from the books, somehow brought to life in the real world…and they might not be that far off.

The first story arc is about Tom trying to learn the truth about his origins, and fighting for control of his public perception (con man or messiah?). And then there are the people who want him dead…

The books are filled with literary references (Tom’s father drilled literary geography into his head when he was a child, so he can’t help but remember details when he walks past, say, the building that was the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth in 1984), and the major theme is the intersection of fantasy and reality in the form of stories.

And let’s just say I’ve always been a sucker for stories about the nature of stories. Yes, even before I read Sandman.

Don’t forget to read the text pages. There are fragments of notes, news articles, forum discussions, chat logs, etc. and they all figure in. The first time I read issue #1, I missed the page in the back, and was glad I noticed it this time through.

Verdict: Heck, yeah! I don’t know how long they can keep this up, but I’m definitely along for the ride!

Catching Lightning in a Bottle…Again

Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1In recent weeks I’ve come to realize that I’m voicing some of the same complaints about Flash: Rebirth that I saw other people voice about Lightning in a Bottle, the story arc which attempted to launch Bart Allen as the Flash after Infinite Crisis.

No, seriously. Here are some of the things I’ve found myself saying (paraphrased a bit):

  • I don’t recognize Barry Allen in this book. He’s so mopey. Where’s the Barry I remember?
  • Why do all these flashbacks contradict past stories? Didn’t the writer actually read any issues of Flash with Barry in them?
  • After reading a fraction of it, I’m not enjoying the new direction.

These are some of the problems I’ve had with this book, and yet it drove me insane to see people make the exact same complaints about Bart’s book just a few years ago. Not that I loved Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, I had some serious problems with it…but I was willing to give it a chance to settle in and see what it turned into after the origin story was finished.

So I’m trying to figure out: why does it bother me now when it didn’t bother me then? Why, 3 years ago, was I willing to wait 6 issues for Bart to lighten up when the writers said he would do so by the end of the story? Why, today, am I not willing to wait 6 issues for Barry to lighten up when the writer has said that Flash: Rebirth is about the rebirth of Barry’s humanity? Why, in 2006, did I compare a 6-part comic book structure with a standard 1-hour TV show structure, say that the first issue was basically the teaser…and point out that we hadn’t actually seen the new direction, and wouldn’t until the end of the 6-part story…when today I’m losing interest at the 3-issue mark?

I’m really not sure.

Maybe I cut Bart’s series some slack because I was expecting things to change since he was new to the role, whereas this time around, it’s all about putting Barry back in the spotlight, so I’m expecting things to be more familiar.

Maybe I was willing to forgive Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo more because I knew they were new to writing comics, and could see that they were learning as they went.

Maybe it’s because I’d rather see Bart replace Wally than Barry replace Wally. As annoyed as I was that they chose to relaunch the book with Bart, at least they were moving the legacy forward. If you look at the Flash as a legacy, they’ve taken one step forward and two steps back in the last three years.

Maybe it’s just that after three years of watching DC mismanage my favorite character, I’m too bitter to cut the latest relaunch any slack.

Quick Thoughts: Weekly Twitter for 2009-06-21

Following Wizard World Philly and HeroesCon

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See also the first few Comic-Con Tips, which I’ve been posting daily on Twitter starting this Friday.

Flash News from Wizard World and HeroesCon (Updated)

A few interesting notes from this weekend’s conventions, HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina and WizardWorld Philadelphia.

Wednesday Comics

Newsarama’s writeup of DC Nation at HeroesCon has the most direct Flash news. Ian Sattler showed of a copy of Wednesday Comics and talked about the series:

Sattler said that the Flash story features Flash Comics on the top of the page and Iris West Comics on the bottom half, but halfway through the story, the two meet and join, as the Flash literally and figuratively “runs” into Iris’ story.

I love this idea. It’s the kind of thing that only really makes sense in a comic-book format, as well. If you did it as a movie, it would just be alternating scenes with each protagonist until they meet.

Kid Flash

Newsarama also says that when a fan asked Ethan Van Sciver why Superboy gets a new series but Kid Flash doesn’t, the artist responded, “We’re going to make you so happy in Rebirth.”

From the way it was presented, it sounds like a non-sequitur. Presumably he means that Bart Allen will have a bigger role in the second half of the miniseries. I don’t really expect to turn to the last page of issue #6 and see a Kid Flash series announced, though certainly stranger things have happened.

The other item of interest comes from Wizard World Philadelpha. CBR’s writeup of Philly’s DC Nation included a segment in which Dan Didio talked about Teen Titans.

DiDio said fans will start seeing a more stable team starting with issue #75, adding that a “couple of returning characters are going to be coming back in”

Now, I’m probably reading too much into this, but Superboy and Kid Flash both returned pretty recently. How many Teen Titans readers would like to see them back on the team?

Following Through

Update: CBR’s article on HeroesCon’s DC Nation has a few details missing from the Newsarama version.

First, Ethan Van Sciver talked more about Flash: Rebirth:

“It’s the best thing to be doing right now,” Van Sciver said. “Geoff Johns and I have a very large vision for these characters.” He said they’re planting “little tentpoles” and have big plans for Bart Allen.

This puts the other remark about Bart into context…though of course, what those plans might be remain in the “wait and see” corner.

A fan also asked EVS about the fate of Rival, and he simply said, “What happens in the Speed Force stays in the Speed Force.”

Another fan wanted Barry Allen to wear bow ties in Justice League of America, but new artist Mark Bagley declined, saying he (Bagley? Barry?) “doesn’t own a single tie.”

Seriously, what is it with the bow tie?

Daily Tips for Comic-Con

Comic-Con International BannerHeroesCon and WizardWorld Philadelphia start today. For fans who aren’t attending one of those two conventions, it’s time to start seriously thinking about Comic-Con International in July.

Every day between now and the start of the convention on July 22, I’ll be posting a new tip (or two) to my Twitter account @SpeedForceOrg. Some are specific to SDCC, some are specific to San Diego, and others are just good ideas for any con that you attend.

As they go out, I’ll save each one to a list of tips here on this site.

Follow me on Twitter, and check out the archive if you need to catch up!

Speed Reading — Flash: Rebirth #3 Review Roundup

It’s been a week since Flash: Rebirth #3 arrived in stores. Here’s a round-up of reviews I’ve found online.

Flash: Rebirth #3 VariantWeekly Crisis – “I don’t think this book is written for me or other readers like me. It’s clearly being aimed at long time Flash fans who would appreciate the return of Barry and could draw on emotional baggage associated with his Silver Age stories to carry an otherwise unremarkable issue.”

Ryan the Iowan at the Weekly Crisis – “a pretty issue that fails to engage me as a reader thanks to a lackluster plot, odd characterizations, and a ‘twist’ ending that feels pretty played out.”

Comic Book Revolution – “I would not recommend Flash: Rebirth to anyone outside of hard-core Flash fans. I just don’t think Johns has made it that interesting for new readers. If you want a tightly written and exciting read then Flash: Rebirth may not be for you. However, if you love the Flash family continuity and history then this is the title for you.”

Flash-Back Podcast – very much liked the issue.

The Homeworld – “So, essentially, the book is now beat for beat just like ‘Green Lantern: Rebirth’….Now, don’t get me wrong: the book is still good. I’ve always been a Flash fan, so I am enjoying Rebirth, but it certainly feels like there is something missing, some piece of polish that should be in place but is gone.”

IGN – “The mystery is heightened, the characters sharpened, and the stakes upped significantly. I can’t wait to see where the ride takes us next.”

Comic Book Resources – “for every great moment we get a few that don’t work at all. It’s certainly not a lumbering, slow comic, but its speedy pace comes at a price: we don’t know what its racing toward, or why any of it really matters.”

Major Spoilers – “It’s a puzzling issue, frought with doubt and darkness and portents of great evil, and I’m still interested in where it’s going, but so far this series just isn’t running on all cylinders for me.”

Mania – “After the sheer awesomeness of the last issue, I was really expecting this one to blow my doors down and it didn’t.”

Weekly Comic Book Review – “Ethan Van Sciver’s art continues to be absolutely amazing….Johns needs to stop it with the filler.”

Read/Rant (1) – “This is the best issue yet. As a Barry fan, I’m happy and touched to see Barry alive and running again. I just worry about the Wally and Bart fans. Johns has tried to please them, but I’m not sure they’re sold yet.”

Read/Rant (2) – “Flash Rebirth just feels like a jumble of scenes that pander to hard core Flash fans. But even on that level, I think the book misses it’s mark. It’s a Barry Allen book featuring a character who doesn’t act very much like Barry Allen and it requires extensive knowledge of the Wally West Flash run.”

POW Comics – “it’s a comic about the Fastest Man Alive, I can’t help but feel like the plot is dragging and almost going nowhere.”

Legion of Super-Nerds Clubhouse – “I think at the end of the day the Flash legacy has become so bogged down in continuity that the character can be a turn-off to new readers.”

Bureau 42 – “a few nice moments, but if we don’t start to see more of the old, heroic Barry soon I’m going to start losing interest.”

Clever Name – “Finally this book picks up, but my main problem still hinders my enjoyment of this book….I’m just not that big of a Flash fan.”

Reilly2040 – “I’m glad to see things pick up pace over the slow first two issues, and I’m definitely feeling a bit more into the storyline this issue than last.”

T’Pull’s Weekly DC Comics Reviews – “this is a beautifully drawn book, and if you just nod and smile at their attempted explanations, the rest of it reads well.”

Comic Book Bin – “The only bothersome part for me is the way another super-speedster was killed off rather casually, just to show how ‘bad’ the supervillain is. Oh well, guess they need more Black Lanterns.”

Comix 411 – “I’m enjoying this series so far. It’s not been the best Flash storyline I’ve ever read, but its a good story by Geoff Johns and amazing artwork by Ethan Van Sciver.”

Panels on Pages – “Despite not knowing much about Barry outside of his reputation, I have become riveted by him in this mini-series thanks to Johns and Sciver.”

Dead Brain – “Van Sciver’s art adeptly portrays a body shaken by intense high velocity in the second half of the book; although, some of the fluid panels are marred with clunky flashback segments…”

Giant Killer Squid – “Johns has a gift for keeping me into the story even if it is a little worn out. The thing that stands out above the rest on this series is the art by Ethan Van Sciver.”

Comic Per Day – “what Johns has given us is a neat little story about a guy who thinks his time has passed.”

And of course there’s my own review of the issue.