Things That Actually Happened This Week: Graeme Really Manages To Review Some 6/22 Books

Why, if it's Monday, then it's capsule reviews. And, for once, proper capsule reviews about books that came out on Wednesday! How did that happen? (Also, scroll down for John's reviews, and then down some more for the shipping list. Yes, it's a surprisingly busy Monday here, for once.) ACTION COMICS #902: Oh, look. I really like Paul Cornell, and I can kind of see what he's going for here - The big, epic return to Metropolis and Action Comics, with Lois saying things like "He'll save us or die trying" and Superman stopping the unstoppably falling spaceship from crushing Metropolis - but... it's just not working, somehow. Everything's feeling very rushed, and the art isn't helping sell the scale of it in the slightest. I'm not sure what's wrong with it, exactly, but it's just Eh when it should be much, much better.

BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM #2: I'm still unsure why this is a stand-alone mini, aside from the need to get this story finished before Dick stops being Batman again. That said, it's weirdly enjoyable, if very familiar to anyone who's been reading Batman comics for as long as I have. Does anyone remember "Destroyer," in which a villain was destroying Gotham's buildings to - and this was admittedly a ridiculous moment even for 1990s comics - reveal the Anton Furst-designed architecture that somehow still existed underneath? If you liked that story, chances are, you'll like this one, because it's essentially the same plot but with slicker execution and more Bat-family characters. Maybe that's why they kept Bruce out of it, because he'd have a terrible sense of deja vu. Anyway, Okay.

BRIGHTEST DAY AFTERMATH: THE SEARCH FOR SWAMP THING #1: I'm tempted to say "What Hibbs said," but I read this after reading a comp of Flashpoint: The Canterbury Cricket, and that book is so bad that this genuinely looks a lot better by comparison. But, yes, this is a pretty Awful book, with Constantine's accent going all over the place ("Now sodd off, ye tosser!" Why's he saying "ye"?), one of the weirdest Batman portrayals in recent memory and a plot that really doesn't hang together well at all. Considering we're getting the reboot and a new Swamp Thing series in a couple of months, I really have no idea why this book exists other than to take up shelf space.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #58: Despite the last page, I really enjoyed this issue, especially the way that James Robinson clearly loves DC mythology - He works Bob Haney's Brave & Bold story where the Atom essentially works Batman's body like a puppet from inside his head into continuity, which is easily the highlight of the issue - and there's really something great about the incredibly expansive approach he's taken to this book since taking over: Alan Scott has pretty much become part of the team, and seeing characters like the Manhattan Guardian and Knight and Squire even for wordless cameos still brings a sense of unity to the DCU that so many other books (and other takes on the JLA) have been missing. I'm not sure exactly where this story is going, with only a couple of issues left, but it's been Good so far, and it'll be a shame to lose this one in the relaunch.

SUPERMAN #712: Ignoring all the controversy about replacing the originally planned story for this issue with the shelved-for-five-years Kurt Busiek/Rick Leonardi story about Krypto dealing with the death of Superboy, I have to say: This broke my heart. Maybe it's because I had a rough week last week with one of my dogs getting a corneal ulcer, leading to many hours in the animal hospital and a very depressed dog in between visits, but this issue completely destroyed me. Krypto howling for two pages because he can't find his owners, and then running away to be sad on an asteroid? If that's not the most upsetting thing I'll read this year, I might just want to stop reading anything right now. Very Good, but maybe that's entirely my own biases.

ULTIMATE DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN SPIDER-MAN #160: Wait, that is what the logo says, right? This was... underwhelming. I don't know why, because it does do everything it promises: It totally kills Spider-Man. But it does so in such a way as make that seem not only inevitable - That was to be expected considering the title of the story, surely - but also entirely boring. There's not only any sense of surprise here, there's also no emotion... which feels surprising for a Bendis comic, especially this Bendis comic, but it's true; all the angst and anguish feels rote, and everything feels generic and (no pun intended, I promise) lifeless. For someone who's enjoyed this comic since it was relaunched - and before then, too, but especially since LaFuente and Pichelli came on as artists - this was a really depressing comic, but not for the reasons Marvel wanted it to be. Crap.

(Almost) All DC, All The Time: Graeme On Some 5/18 Books

Wow, Jeff's really laid down the gauntlet with a second week of capsule reviews. Let's see what I can come up with, even with the short amount of time I have... BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM #1: I talked about this some over at Techland last week, but I admit to liking this far more than I'd expected to. It's not that I didn't have any faith in Scott Snyder - I'm a fan of both his Detective and American Vampire runs - but there was just something kind of... unnecessary about the whole idea of this series from the start, as if it was being rushed out for some reason (A co-writer? Why couldn't it just be a Detective arc? etc.). But I ended up thinking it was somewhere in the region of a low Good or high Okay, nonetheless, in large part due to my being entirely sucked in by the mystery at the heart of the story... Trevor McCarthy's weird, animation-cell-esque art helped, in a strange way, as well; I'm not sure if I like how the book looks, but it's definitely got its own look, and not trying to copy the many other Bat-books out there, and that's got to count for something, right...?

BOOSTER GOLD #44: I've been on a Booster bent lately, picking up the trades to Dan Jurgens' run on the new title from the library and finding them to be... workmanlike, but nothing inspiring. Unsurprisingly, then, this issue is exactly like that, and feels like nothing as much as "An Idiot's Guide To Flashpoint." Wonder what the hell is going on in #1, and didn't quite understand the exposition there? Here's a simpler version of the same thing, with functional but generic art to make it go down easier. The attempt to raise the stakes for a series that deals in alternate timelines (The Flashpoint world is, according to Skeets, somehow the "only" timeline) doesn't really make any sense, but... Well, that's not entirely unsurprising. How else are we supposed to know that Flashpoint will change everything forever no really honestly we're not joking this time? Eh, but I can't help but feel as if it's weirdly necessary for some reason.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #57: Talking of books I've recently read from the library, I picked up Cry For Justice as well, and... I'll leave that for the next Wait, What Jeff and I record. But it has to be said, James Robinson's JLA feels a million miles away from that series and, ridiculously cliffhanger aside, this issue continued what's quietly turned into one of my favorite runs on the series. I couldn't really tell you why, beyond saying that there's something weirdly nostalgic and comfortable about the mix of ambition, rushed character dynamics and familiar faces that Robinson's turned this book into; it feels like an updated version of Gerry Conway's 1970s/1980s run on the book in ways that I can't quite explain or even understand. It also feels, for the first time in a long time, like a book that's aggressively part of the DCU in a way that doesn't feel shoehorned in or inorganic, even with the weird continuity issues with other books (This storyline apparently happens midway through the last Justice Society story? You'd think the JSA might've noticed the moon being split in two, but apparently not. Also, what happened to the Spectre's beard? Or is he not Crispus Allen anymore, and I missed that?). It's one of those comics that you end up loving, but can't really work out why. In case you've never had any of those comics for yourself, let's just call this a potentially-biased Very Good and move on quickly.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #158: I'm pretty sure that anyone who ever wants to know how to provide readers of a long-running series a wonderful jumping-off point will, in years to come, just look at these last issues of Brian Michael Bendis' run and find everything laid out for them. Never mind the entirely forced, entirely meaningless "crossover" with Mark Millar's Ultimates - in part because Bendis clearly didn't put any effort into it - what's wrong with "The Death of Spider-Man" is that it all feels heartless and written on auto-pilot, with characters reduced to machines acting out the too-obvious plot, and all of the sense of fun or family that this series has excelled in completely drained. That Mark Bagley has returned to replace the more stylish, more modern, more appropriate David LaFuente and Sara Pichelli speaks to the lack of soul here. It's Crap stuff, and so bad it kills whatever curiosity I may have had for the upcoming relaunch.

But, as the Hibbs has been known to say, what do you think?