Worst to First: 5/17/07

A lot of people would call 13 an unlucky number. Well, that’s how many books I picked up (plus Vol. 2 of Rocketo!), so did the weekly take go sour on superstitious numerological mumbo jumbo? Hardly. Some very fine comics found their way home, including a bunch more from Boom! Studios, a big conclusion to a mega-arc, an issue of the always-great X-Factor and some long lost friends. Speaking of which, for the sake of space I’m leaving Ultimates 2 #13 (there’s that number again!) and ASSBAR #5 out of the roundup. For my thoughts (and those of the rest of the Doomers) on those books, come back Saturday and check out our latest Book of Doom. Now, on to the reviews…

Worst: Warhammer 40,000: Damnation Crusade #4

This was not necessarily a bad book, but for a big battle romp it has the terrible problem of the art becoming garbled whenever the fighting starts. That sinks some decent writing by Dan Abnett, who’s quickly rising into “writer to know” territory.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketGhastly: Batman #665

On the scale of sense-making, Grant Morrison’s Batman run gets a 0 out of 10. So Batman’s back was clearly stomped clean through last issue, but in this one he’s beaten up but still OK. I might be interested in these three ghosts of Batman, but Morrison doesn’t ever bother to invite the reader into the story, instead running headlong into nonsenseland. And since when are Gotham cops and city officials totally corrupt? And how is Batman nearly dead one moment and then off on a romantic tryst in another country the next? At least we find out Damien’s still alive. Oh, wait, that isn’t a good thing? Damn.

X marks the spot: X Isle #5

I’ve been hit and miss reading this series, so it took me a bit to find some bearings in this fifth issue. Aside from a bit of groan-tastic dialogue and action scenes that don’t hit quite as strongly as they could, this book offers a heaping lot of creepy imagery on this alien-infested island. It ends on a nice (if eyebrow-raising) note. Seems like this should be the last issue of the series, but nowhere does it mention if that’s the case. Anyone know?

Is it over yet: Countdown #50

Like our own Doom DeLuise, I concur that this issue was a big step backward. What’s really bad is the first issue didn’t start very far forward, if you catch my drift. Aside from a sequence of the Joker acting as either idiot savant or just savant, this thing was a flop. The big problem? We still don’t know what the heck the story is.

Freak show: Dominion #1

I’ll resist any “Doominion” jokes, I swear. This new series starts with a bit of text on the history of biological warfare, then jumps into Chicagoans suddenly taking on strange powers and causing massive damage. And no, it’s not because the Cubs finally won a World Series. Amid all the rampage is a regular schmoe cop. While this treads on the familiar territory of newuniversal, I think it’s headed in a much different direction. We just haven’t gotten near that point quite yet. A bad final splash page isn’t quite enough to dampen my interest.

Speechless: Salvador #1

For the first time, Boom! Studios really steps out of its “the Spike TV of comics” niche with this issue, written by the Polish brothers of indie films (the brothers are named Polish, not from Poland. Well, they could be. That’d be weird, though). What’s this issue about? I don’t know. When Boom! sent it over for review, I thought maybe I got a preview copy, because there was no text. Apparently that’s the real deal, though. What do the pages hold? Some beautiful artwork by Steph Stamb (and I mean ARTwork) that shows a white-suited being fall to earth, then be picked up and carted off across the world, eventually into the jungle. At the absolute least, this is a fascinating experiment in comics. Something tells me it’s a lot more than that.

Wandering eye: Army@Love #3

Rick Veitch’s romance-war mashup spins its wheels here, with not a lot of plot advancement overcoming some quality smaller moments. Most the issue takes place on the homefront, where Switzer surprises Loman and Flabbergast entertains a crowd. Not sure how a single fundraiser in a smallish city could fund much of the DOD, but oh well. What the issue does set up nicely is that everyone is falling out of love, and fast. Once again, a great cover illustration is all but ruined by the horrible font choice by the editors.

It’s over: Uncanny X-Men #486

The dozen-headed beast is slain! Or something like that. Ed Brubaker’s space epic slams to a close with a monumental death that’s treated very classily, some tense action, plenty of confused panels and the creation of a new team of space pirates. The way we came to this new status quo was a little convenient, but I like the endpoint. Still, for such a huge series, Brubaker left a lot of cards on the table.

Unseated: X-Factor #19

That several-month reign of Peter David’s atop the Worst to First board has finally come to an end. Finally, after nearly two years, the guy delivered a “pretty good” issue. It’s funny that most criticism of this book is that there’s too little action, but this issue is mostly action and it just doesn’t live up to the standard. Why? Because all the fighting takes away from the spectacularly well done character development. There are still plenty of moments, as Jamie’s detectives are laid low by Pietro and a bunch of ex-mutants, but they don’t come in the usual steady stream. The art, also, is not as good as it’s been and I can’t help but wonder if the planned storylines are being shunted to tie this book into the Endangered Species event. Let’s hope not.

Carryover success: Checkmate #14

Last week I gave Outsiders a spin and it came in second. This week I continue with the Checkout storyline and, guess what, Checkmate earns the number two spot. What seals the high ranking is a chock-full issue that manages to further the heroes gallavanting onto Oolong storyline while filling it out with sharp dialogue, reckless action, intrigue at the Checkmate Castle and tops it off with a classy cliffhanger. I’ll say it. This series makes me glad Dick didn’t die in the Crisis. There, glad that’s off my chest.

My only criticism is that the cover to this thing is just terrible (Let’s show only unrecognizable characters in lame poses!) and the art is nowhere near what’s shaking over in Outsiders. It’s decent, just not great.

First: Hero Squared #6

The “Two big origins for the price of one” issue was impressive enough in the first half, in which Captain Valor explains to Stephie from the alternate dimension how he came to possess his powers with the help of the silliest-assed Atlantean king ever. But then writers Keith Giffen and Cody DeMatteis jump into Caliginous explaining her transformation from Stephie to Milo. The silliness of the first half disappears into a wrenching second half that, gasp, shows a villain who just might not be a mindless evil-monger.

In series like JLA and many others, writers have taken a stab at parallel storylines and not succeeded. The structure is done masterfully here with a delicate sense of balance and continuity between the two stories. It’s really one tale, just explained in two pieces. Meanwhile, the writers set up a very delicate problem for the Milos and the Stephies, one that ultimately has me signed on to see where this ship is headed.