Author Archive

Review:: Superman #701

July 23, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

With all the controversy swirling around writer J. Michael Straczynski’s stint on Wonder Woman, it’s a little easy to overlook the fact that he’s also taken over writing chores on Superman.

Plus, the Wonder Woman hype aside, his story line on Supes — titled “Grounded,” about the Last Son of Krypton going for a walk around America — will undoubtedly feature a lot less explosions and punches than Princess Diana’s comic, so folks may be ready to sleep on the title. But, judging from the latest issue of the series (701), it would be in your best interest not to let Superman pass you by.

This month’s tale is the ultimate antithesis of everything Superman’s been about for the last few years; JMS has chucked all the Kryptonian crap (although he references those adventures) and instead surrounds Clark with normal people with normal problems. That sounds boring, I know. But if you read his stint on Thor, you know that JMS is one writer who knows how to handle quiet moments. As seen in his work on the God of Thunder, he’s able to deal with humanity without it coming off like “a very special episode of Superman.”

Every so many years, a superhero comic has to cleanse its palate of convoluted — and overly insular — garbage and get back to stories that are accessible to any reader off the street. It’s Supe’s time for a cleansing … and so far, so good.


REVIEW :: Avengers #1

June 25, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

I’m liking the Avengers right about now.

In case you hadn’t heard, after the Siege limited series, Marvel Comics decide to relaunch the entire Avengers franchise, canceling all the team’s books and then rolling out five new titles: The Avengers, New Avengers, Avengers Academy, Secret Avengers and Hawkeye & Mockingbird.

I managed to read the first issue of each book, and, I’m happy to report, they’re all off to great starts. The art and writing are top-notch, and — although five titles seem like maybe three too many, each title offers a unique angle on the team-book concept.

The Avengers seems tailored for fans of the classic crew; Thor, Iron Man and Captain America are members here. New Avengers is the home to Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Thing (among others), and seems to be a slightly offbeat take on the group. Secret Avengers is spy-centric. Hawkeye & Mockingbird throws a splash of sexual tension in the mix. And Avengers Academy is a cool take on all those “superheroes-in-training” types of books.

So that diverse mix of flavors is cool. What’s not so cool are the team lineups — especially when it comes to the Bendis-written books: Avengers and New Avengers. I mean, do we really need Wolverine and Spider-Man on two teams? And is Hawkeye on two teams, too? Maybe it’s too early to ask these questions, but lineups are big reasons why readers gravitate toward certain books. So, I hope we get some clarification on these rosters ASAP. (At least they managed to steal the Beast away from the X-Men and stick him on Secret Avengers. Yay.)

Anyway, as I said, I’m liking the Avengers. I’ll be picking up all of these books for the foreseeable future. You do the same.


REVIEW :: Legion of Superheroes #1 / Zatanna #1`

May 21, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

There’s a science to crafting the perfect first issue for a comic book series — and not everyone has mastered this science. Here’s a look at two of debut editions that were released this week:

Legion of Super-Heroes No. 1: As much as it pains me to say it, this comic makes all the wrong moves for a first issue. And this comes after years of rebuilding the LoSH brand; Geoff Johns in particular did a ton of work during his run on Action Comics and Legion of 3 Worlds to make the team viable and accessible again. This new No. 1, however, is anything but accessible. The issue starts off by jumping knee-deep in continuity — stuff that you’d have to follow the Legion to appreciate. First issues should, as I’ve said over and over again, set the status quo by bringing readers into worlds and showing them around. LoSH No. 1, instead, drops readers off and just makes them fend for themselves when it comes to understanding characters, locations, motivations and more. Moreover, the book never really shows readers what makes the Legion cool … and more than anything else, that’s what it needed to do.

Zatanna No. 1: Now this comic is the polar opposite of LoSH in terms of accessibility. Writer Paul Dini quickly tells you everything you need to know about Zatanna and supporting cast and then dives deep into the first storyline. The magical hero has been without a solo title for a looooong time, but Dini manages to shows us the ropes and explain the rules of her world in an easily digestible way. Granted, Zatanna features a lot less characters than LoSH, but the same techniques apply no matter what the book. Open the door and welcome the readers in — don’t scare them away with an uninviting presentation.


REVIEW :: Siege #4

May 14, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

So, Marvel’s latest blockbuster event — Siege — wrapped up this week, and it actually turned out to be one of their best in a few years.

Of course these mammoth events have become standard operating procedure for the “Big Two”; the last one at the House of Ideas, Secret Invasion, really stunk. Siege, however, was a great read because of three key factors.

First: It was short. In an effort to fill out trade paperbacks, story arcs usually run about six issues these days — and most don’t need to run that long. Siege, on the other hand, clocked in at four issues and, as a result, the story was a lot tighter and fast-paced.

Second: There weren’t a lot of tie-in books. OK, Marvel seemed to throw in a bunch of one-shot tie-ins near the end of the series, but the entire saga was essentially told in two major books (That’s not counting the Avengers books). And you truly only had to read the main Siege series to follow the story.

Third: It was action-packed. Writer Brian Michael Bendis, who penned the series, built a career out of “talking head” books, so it was refreshing to see him pull back on his own (sometimes-cliché) traits and serve up a straight-up superhero mega-battle.

Oh and one bonus point: The end of Siege ended years of dangling plot points and set up a new regime in the Marvel Universe that should please fans of all stripes. If you haven’t read Siege yet, scoop up the back issues and dig in.


REVIEW :: Green Lantern #53

April 23, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

Is Geoff Johns the only writer at DC who’s capable of churning out incredible comics on a consistent basis? Looking at the company’s output over the last few months, you’d think he was.

I mean, you’ve got the wrap up of the Blackest Night limited series, the first issue of the bi-weekly limited series Brightest Day and then the debut issue of the new Flash ongoing; all three titles were undoubtedly my favorite books recently published by the massive entertainment company.

And, in case you thought Johns was about to start going downhill post-BN, this Wednesday — with the release of Green Lantern No. 53 — he showed that he’s still got a ton of interesting things in store for Hal Jordan and friends.

This latest issue of GL shows Hal catching his breath with supporting cast member Carol Ferris, but the book actually starts out by introducing a brand-new mystery from the earliest days of the Guardians (possibly showing where Parallax went after BN). Johns also peppers this month’s installment with cool cameos from a few multi-colored Lanterns (and a big-time DCU bad guy) and ends with teases to a handful of upcoming comics and story lines.

I’ve written much about Johns over the years, but judging from his current creative offerings, this guy deserves the accolades.


REVIEW: Superman: Secret Origin #5

April 16, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

DC’s Superman Family of comics have been in a bit of a mess as of late. I haven’t exactly been loving Action Comics (sans Clark Kent) or any of the New Krypton books (sans awe-inspiring moments ). And, Superman: Secret Origin (an updated retelling of Supes’ earliest days) hasn’t been entertaining either … well, that is, until issue No. 5.

Up until this latest edition, Secret Origin sort of came off like a poor man’s version of Man of Steel (John Byrne’s 1980s-era comic); the first four issues didn’t seem to add anything incredibly cool or necessary to the Superman mythos — and they were downright boring.

This month, however, writer Geoff Johns really hit his stride. He told an entertaining tale — full of action this time around — that actually redefined some classic characters in ways that were fitting and logical. Plus, Johns, joined by superstar artist Gary Frank, threw in a bunch of cool moments, and even ended things with a cliffhanger.

With one issue to go in this limited series, I’m anxious to see how everything ends. If you haven’t jumped in yet, now may be a great time to get on board.


REVIEW :: X-Force #25

April 08, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

In the latest issue of Marvel’s X-Force (No. 25), writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost seem to be wrapping up a bunch of dangling plot lines, putting to close much of what they started rolling in the first issue of the series. And all that has me reflecting on how much I’ve enjoyed this iteration of the team.

Now I know there are many folks out there who consider this a mindless action book — or just clump it with millions of other X-books out there. But, I contend that, so far, X-Force has proved to be one of Marvel’s most entertaining mutant comics.

Sure, the title is filled with action. And blood. Lots of blood. After all, this team has been “sanctioned” by Cyclops to do what no other X-crew has been able to do: kill bad guys with extreme prejudice. And while Kyle and Yost don’t explore the legal ramifications of hacking folks to death on a monthly basis, they do examine the emotional consequences of murder — especially with members like Warpath, Wolfsbane, and X-23.

For the last two years, we’ve seen how Warpath and Woflsbane have been transformed and mentally tortured by the act — even when it’s been a necessity — of killing “evil” people. And we’ve seen X-23, on the other hand, NOT be affected by her homicidal tendencies … and Wolverine’s concern over her cold bloodlust.

By the end of this month’s edition, much of the team is gone — kicked out or, having come to terms with their actions, choosing to leave on their on accord. I’m interested to see where the series goes now — after its inevitable tie-in with the X-Men’s newest gargantuan crossover “Second Coming.” Hopefully it’ll be as good as what’s been published to date.


REVIEW :: Uncanny X-Men #522

March 31, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

In the latest issue of Uncanny X-Men (No. 522) writer Matt Fraction finally showed that he has a handle on the direction of Marvel’s favorite mutants.

I’ve used this space and my column/blog at Creative Loafing to, while praising his stellar work on Invincible Iron Man, criticize his output on the main monthly X-Men series. I just thought that his tales seemed to dwell on not-so-new ground and his overarching story line appeared to be going in circles. But the current edition of Uncanny really worked to payoff some of the plot points that he, and others, have laid for the team, and it cleared a path to the future.

I hate to spoil things, but in this issue Fraction finally brings back Kitty Pryde from outer space (Joss Whedon put her in orbit during his Astonishing X-Men run) via Magneto’s magnetic abilities. The drama that ensues as a result of this endeavor seems “realistic” for the Marvel Universe ; most importantly, characters here react in ways that are consistent with their portrayals over the last few decades … and that’s a great gift for longtime readers.

The book, of course, is not perfect. The art, by Whilce Portacio, looked a little sloppy and rushed. From a story perspective, I have some problems with how Magneto was even able to perform this cosmic task. And the ending seemed to be ripped from the pages of the “Mutant Massacre” from wayyyy back in the day. Still, I understand the need for those events in the context of the unfolding story. Ultimately, things are — at last — moving forward, so I’ll give Fraction a break.


REVIEW :: Spring Comics Preview

March 19, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

Spring is just about here, and — as a result — I’ve been going “spring comic book crazy.” Over in this week’s edition of Creative Loafing and on my Comic Proportions blog, I’ve been offering up my picks for the season’s most anticipated titles. So, in keeping with that theme, I thought I’d continue with my spring comic kick over here at the Heroes blog … check out a few of my choices from Marvel and DC:

Invincible Iron Man No. 25: Writer Matt Fraction did a terrific job of taking a pretty demonized Tony Stark and turning him into a fan-favorite super-dude again. Consequently, I’m excited to see the direction this title takes post-Siege — especially in light of the Iron Man 2 film set to open in May.

S.H.I.E.L.D. No. 1: Just as Fraction revitalized the lagging Iron Man franchise, writer Jonathan Hickman gave a shot in the arm to Nick Fury and his world of Howling Commandos and secret agents with Secret Warriors. So, I’m trusting that Hickman’s newest stab at Marvel’s spy world — a comic simply titled S.H.I.E.L.D. — will be an entertaining read. The book apparently will trace the origins of the organization back to the days of early Egypt, showing ancient battles with Galactus, the Brood and other baddies.

The Flash No. 1: Now that the slightly flawed Flash: Rebirth limited series is finally finished, I’m looking forward to seeing what writer Geoff Johns and artist Francis Manapul do with the Flash Family. I’m thinking it will be good stuff.

Zatanna No. 1: And we’ve been waiting for this series for a looooonnnngg time as well, but Paul Dini is handling the writing chores — so it’ll be worth the wait. Fact is, Dini proved that he understands Zatanna a few years ago when he penned that cool one-shot (the one with the Brian Bolland cover). I’m hyped.

For more spring previews, check out the Creative Loafing Comic Proportions blog.


REVIEW :: Flash: Rebirth #6

March 04, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

So The Flash: Rebirth is finally over. And as it ends, we’re left with one question: Was it any good?

Well, it sucked a bit but, ultimately, it was an satisfying — and necessary — comic.

First the bad. The story – written by DC demi-god Geoff Johns — was a tad bit convoluted. Each issue delivered page after page of gobbledy-smack about the Speed Force, the Negative Speed Force and other crap. Throw in a heaping helping of time travel, and you’ve got one confusing limited series.

In addition to a rather perplexing plot, the other bad thing about Rebirth was the lateness. I mean, I appreciate the fact that one creative team executed the entire project — which makes for better trade paperback — but the long delay between issues only added to the confusion I felt when reading the book.

OK, that was the bad — now on to the good. Although John’s story was confusing, the writer did succeed in fleshing out Barry Allen and (as I’ve said before) giving him the personality he never had.

Rebirth also succeeded in dusting off, restoring and refocusing the Flash family of characters. All of the characters who’ve been screwed over so much over the years — like Bart Allen, Max Mercury, Wally West and even the Rogues — all got a new lease on life as a result of this comic. And, honestly, wasn’t that the point of Rebirth?

Carlton Hargro is the Editor-In-Chief of Charlotte’s  Creative Loafing newspaper. You can read more of his reviews at the paper’s Comic Proportions blog.