Saturday, July 12, 2008

Comic Book Reviews

Review: Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries #1, "Blonde Justice"

This four issue miniseries is the co-creation of writer Christopher Mills (Gravedigger: The Scavengers) and veteran artist Joe Staton. Staton co-created the underrated E-Man for Charlton Comics in 1973, worked on DC's Justice Society revival of the mid-to-late 1970s in All-Star Comics and Adventure Comics (including the famous "Only Legends Live Forever" story about the death of the Earth 2 Batman), and was involved with Green Lantern and its spinoffs in the 1980s.

It's a pulp tale of a female vigilante known as Blonde Justice, with her background explored through the eyes of a police detective as he tries to determine which one of three suspects (the daughter of a Mafia boss, a sultry singer, or a reporter) is really Blonde Justice. The influences of Will Eisner, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler are apparent without being heavy handed, and Staton's art energetically captures the noir mood of the story. Overall, a reasonably entertaining and well drawn entry in what is an underutilized genre in modern comics.

Review: Final Crisis: Requiem #1, "Caretakers of Mars"

This one-shot spinoff from the Final Crisis miniseries further explores the shocking murder of J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter in Final Crisis #1 and the effect it has on his fellow superheroes. The murder and funeral of J'onn were given a scant two pages in the miniseries, which seemed vastly insufficient for a venerable character who first appeared in Detective Comics #225 in 1955 and was a founding member of the Justice League of America in The Brave and the Bold #28 in 1960.

If his death and funeral were given short shrift there, this comic more than compensates as writer Peter J. Tomasi, penciller Doug Mahnke, and inkers Christian Alamy and Rodney Ramos admirably and powerfully fill the void with a poignant tribute to a fallen hero. It's rare that I get misty eyed over a superhero comic, but Tomasi's effective writing really cuts to the heart on the final page. It's emotional without crossing the line into mawkishness. It's one of the best, if not the best, single issue of a comic I've read since returning to reading comics in May.

Review: Captain America: White #0, "It Happened One Night"

In this prologue to the upcoming six-issue miniseries, the superstar team of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale revisit the events of 1940's Captain America Comics #1 where Captain America takes on a young sidekick named Bucky. They follow in the footsteps of a legendary superstar creative team of the past, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, by recreating and expanding upon Simon and Kirby's original story. It's a nice bit of storytelling that pays tribute to the past while feeling relevant to the present.

Review: Trinity #6, "Truth, Justice & the American Way..."

Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Mark Bagley continue their weekly series (planned to run 52 weeks) that focuses on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as a trio. The first five issues were action packed, but things slow down here for a story that explores who these heroes are and how they relate to one another. It's not terribly deep, mind you, but it does convey a good sense of characterization and relationship dynamics. The backup story, "Almost," by writers Busiek and Fabian Nicieza with artists Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens is an action oriented team-up of Hawkman and Gangbuster that relates to the main Trinity storyline as it's been developed so far.

Review: Joker's Asylum: Penguin #1, "He Who Laughs Last...!"

The series of one-shots focusing on Batman villains as narrated from Arkham Asylum by the Joker continues with a well-written story about the Penguin. The Penguin is a character that can easily turn into a joke, but writer Jason Aaron conveys depth of characterization by showing how the Penguin is motivated by a deep-seated lack of self-esteem than frequently erupts into frightening violence against anyone he perceives as being against him. I especially like Jason Pearson's moody, stylized art. And you can't help but like the Joker declaring that "I guess I'm probably not the best person to ask when it comes to morals."

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