Sunday, January 10, 2016

Superman: Earth One vol. 3 (comics)

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Ardian Syaf
Original Graphic Novel

I get the feeling JMS realized he screwed up.

When I reviewed Volume 2 of Superman: Earth One, I mentioned a bunch of story points that, to be blunt, destroyed the work and anything it was trying to do. New supporting character Lisa Lassalle working escort on the side - because of course - was one. Lois Lane going full stalker was another. Even if you could excuse that, Superman incited a full on revolution in a Middle Eastern country, one that was heavily implied to be violent. I know I've taken a sarcastic shot or two at people who have a rigid, immovable idea of Superman in the past, but there are some things you just don't do with him.

Volume 3 feels almost like an apology tour at times. The book goes out of its way to deal with the Lois Lane situation up top, addressing how screwed up her actions were - with Clark himself calling her out - while also attempting to give her some legitimate reasons for her paranoia without throwing her under the bus. I'm not sure it entirely works, but it does a fair job of letting us move on, especially considering Lois feels more like herself for the entire volume. Lisa's time as a hooker on the side is mentioned offhand at only one point and implied to be over, with any future reference relegated to vague mentions of things she regrets doing. Supermans actions in the foreign country are also central to the conflict of the book. I'm not sure that salvages what he did - that ending felt kind of sinister and acknowledged or not it's something that should not be done with the character - but addressing it goes a long way to making it easier to move forward from it, especially when Superman himself admits a couple times that while trying to do what he felt was right, he just wasn't thinking. At the very, very least, it can come off more like an impulsive action by a young adult prone to making mistakes on the way to figuring this out.

I don't think everything landed there, but at least we can try to move on.

Moving on seems like a decent idea anyway, because this book is far easier to enjoy than the last. Make no mistake, this story hits some pretty familiar beats. Zod is the main villain and the Luthors - yes, more than one - come into play. Obviously, we've seen this kind of thing before. I think the same basic Zod story has been told a solid six times now. But it works out fairly well, especially as Zods plan plays heavily into the worlds growing fear of Superman, which rightfully results in a "what the hell" from Superman himself. The odds are pretty believably stacked against Superman - and, as is acknowledged, it's kind of his own fault - but it does so without throwing humanity under the bus or undermining Supermans faith in it.

The big speech to the UN might not work for everyone - I'm sure some won't like that Superman appeals to the worlds sense of self interest rather than its more positive traits to convince them never to pull this kind of crap again - but it works in the context of the series and allows Superman to make some pretty salient points about what happens if he ever loses.

Regarding the Luthors, it's not the most amazingly different spin I've ever seen, but sometimes even the simple tweaks make for the best ones. Here, the usual, male Lex Luthor has a different set of values than we're used to seeing; while cautious regarding Superman, see's himself as purely a scientist and not a man interested in killing another being, even an alien. His wife is the one who is a bit more down with the idea, even if she has nothing against him for ninety percent of the volume. If nothing else, it plays into the climax well, with what I think might be the first time one of Supermans primary villains actually does something for selfless reasons. It didn't rock my world, but I liked it.

Ardian Syaf takes over for Shane Davis as the penciller. I'm not sure why the switch was made - maybe Shane Davis just got busy - but the book is in capable hands. I might even like Syafs work a little bit better than Davis. He's very, very good with character expressions and his sense of comic storytelling is pretty spot on. I also feel like he has a bit more varied a take on some characters and their fashion choices; Lisa Lassalle isn't always wearing form fitting clothing this time, for one. For an extra bonus, I didn't spy any panels or poses with Clark/Superman that felt... off, or sinister, as occasionally happened previously. I liked the art on previous volumes, but if Syaf's going to be the regular going forward, I'm cool with it.

All told, volume three is a marked improvement over the second, even if it doesn't necessarily redeem it, and is worth giving the series a second chance.

My Opinion: Read It

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Uncanny X-Men: Revolution (comics)

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Chris Bachalo, Frazier Irving
Collects: Uncanny X-Men (vol. 3) #1-5

I swear, I can't escape. Whenever I think I'm out, Marvel will throw Chris Bachalo and Frazier Irving at me and suddenly I'm reading about Cyclops again. It never ends.

Revolution picks up after Avengers vs X-Men* and deals pretty heavily with the fallout from said event. Cyclops has since escaped and - after a stop to his tailor for an upgrade to the coolest costume he's ever had - he's attempting to get the crew back together**. Problem is, their time as the Phoenix Five has effectively broken their powers in a way they don't understand. Regardless, Cyclops proves that's not enough to keep a good douchebag down, so he opens a new school, recruits some new mutants and doubles down on his previous rhetoric. He's not just threatening people anymore; Cyclops is straight up calling for revolution. Meanwhile, Magneto's gone triple agent; he's playing both sides of the field so well even we can't really tell whose side he's actually on.

I'm going to just say upfront that this series is not one you can really read on its own. This new volume of Uncanny X-Men shares a somewhat symbiotic relationship with All New X-Men, weaving in and out of that book while trying to do its own thing on the side. On the one hand, it makes for a richer overall experience; Bendis writes both books, so there's a tight connection between the two. On the other, it hobbles Uncannys ability to stand alone; this comic genuinely feels more like a full on spin-off of All New X-Men than its own entity at times.

There's no getting around it. To get the full experience of the Bendis run, you're going to have to read both books.

Is it worthwhile reading? Sure. Look, I can't stand Cyclops. I've made it clear by now. But I have to admit that while, given the choice, I'd rather not read about him, he's still an interesting character. Here, he's not even remotely humbled by what happened in AvX. Oh no, he's doubling down. As a result, he's not only alienating the rest of the mutant community, he's actively putting a target on everyones back by becoming exactly what everyone feared mutants could and would become.

He's so detached from the reality of what he's doing and what he's already done that he actually names his new school the New Xavier Institute. He has more or less rejected the teachings of his mentor - who he killed, Phoenix Force influence or not - while turning around and using the mans name for teaching schools of thought that man would actively oppose. He's ended up perverting Xaviers Dream in a way. This is interesting stuff to read about, even if the end result is that you don't particularly like the character.

If nothing else, we've at least abandoned the pretense that Cyclops is in the right, seemingly for real this time, which is a large part of what made the direction of the line unpalatable for years. Before, no one opposed him and he was treated like some unassailable leader. After Schism, people backed away from his increasingly extreme methods, but he still held enough clout to get the vast majority of mutants to rally behind him against the Avengers. Now, pretty much everyone recognizes the man not only lost his way somewhere up the line but is actively leading mutants into darker days.

I do wonder, however, if Bendis will end up acknowledging some of the problems with this direction and why Cyclops and his tactics have always come off so poorly. Mutants have special, super destructive powers that could easily wipe humans out and have a history of counting people who think that's a bitchin' idea among their number. See half of Magnetos schemes over the years, which at least had the X-Men around to stop them and act as a counterpoint. Hell, if you want to see an example of something like that actually coming to pass, Marvel already did that story; it was called Age of Apocalypse. Granted, the humans of the Marvel universe have taken it to extremes just as scary. The other side of the coin is Days of Future Past. But heroes are supposed to be better.

Point is, Cyclops and company are now punching down and I kind of hope that might be brought up, but I also realize that may be something the X-Men franchise never addresses for various reasons***.

Anyway, regarding the new school, we meet a couple new mutants due to the premise. So far, they all seem appealing enough, but it's early. We don't have a ton of time to really get to know them, especially since a good chunk of the book is about what trouble Cyclops and his team are getting into. So far, Uncanny doesn't quite reach the balance Wolverine and the X-Men has. That said, there's time.

Joining Bendis for this book is Chris Bachalo and Frazier Irving. I don't think I need to reiterate my love for both of these guys; I admit I'd rather they were on a book with a concept I could embrace, but given the fact that I'm going to be reading this comic anyway, it's nice to have such top shelf talent. I will express some reservations, however. Bachalo and Irving have wildly different art styles and they clash hard. So far, I'm not having too much trouble with it - and I completely understand that Bachalo needs an artist to switch off with, as the same thing happened with WatXM - but it's a jarring shift.

All told, it's a pretty good read. If you're already reading All New X-Men, you might as well get this as well. Just don't expect it to read well on its own.

My Opinion: Read It

 Cyclops Douchebaggery Alert: Hoo boy. Dude's gone full Che Guevera. He's calling for a revolution now. I'm sure that will work out great. On top of that, he decides the "New Xavier School" is a great name for his new headquarters. Look, I get some crazy circumstances were involved and the Phoenix didn't help, but he still killed Xavier. Maybe name it something else? At the bare minimum, it's tasteless. Oh well. At least he isn't creeping on Jean Grey in this volume.

* Yes, I did read that. The fact that I didn't bother reviewing it should tell you all you need to know. I might get around to it some day, but for now I'll just say that it's about as good as most of Marvels other events. Which is to say, not very.

** Minus Colossus. He kind of hates his sister now and she's on this team. He'll wander off to do his own thing in X-Force for a while. 

*** Chief among them being that acknowledging this might break the "mutant as a stand in for race" metaphor for good. Say what you want about how completely played out it is, but it's meant a great deal to a lot of readers over the years and Marvel has plenty of reasons not to want to toss it out the window. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Superman: Krypton Returns (comics)

Writers: Scott Lobdell, Tom DeFalco, Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Justin Jordan, Michael Alan Nelson
Artists: Kenneth Rocafort, Mahmud Asrar, Ed Benes, Dan Jurgans, Rob Lean, Ray McCarthy, R.B. Silva, Paulo Siquera
Collects: Superboy #0, 25, Supergirl #0, 25, Superman #0, 23.3, 25, Action Comics Annual #2

Ladies and Gentlemen, Superman: Krypton Returns, brought to you by a crew of hundreds.

This is a bizzare crossover than sort of ran through the Superman family for a month and ate up a bunch of specials. Pretty much the entirety of their Zero Month inventory was dedicated to setting up this story, as well as a villains month issue. You get a chance to put out clean origins for your characters and you use it to set up a crossover? I don't know, I'm not a businessman; clearly it made sense to someone.

It's a weird read, too. The high concept isn't a bad one. Basically, H'el - a recent addition to the rogues gallery - has used some time travel shenanigans to his advantage, managing to save Krypton from its destruction. Couple problems with that. For one, his actions have basically screwed with the timeline to the point it's causing devastating cosmic storms. For two, after learning his origins, he cracks and just takes over Krypton outright, ushering in a rule that is devastating to the planet.

None of the story from there plays out like you might expect. The three heroes basically split up into different points in Kryptons past, with the job of ensuring the planet dies for the good of the universe. Again, intriguing chance for drama here. But it also feels kind of flat. There's not a lot about the story that's all that exciting and their given tasks are, for the most part, completed without a lot of trouble. Supergirl has to stop a clone war that damages Krypton - why is never explained, despite Kara herself bringing up that doing so seems at a cross purpose to their ultimate goal - and just kind of warps in where the clones are hanging out and wrecks them. Superboy has to ensure past Kara is saved. He warps in where she is and saves her from some dude that's trying to kill her. Superman himself has to stop H'el from saving Krypton. He warps in where he needs to be with a brief stop to meet his younger parents.

Why? How do the three tasks correlate? It's not explained that well. They're given by an "Oracle" - who I don't think we've ever seen before - who speaks first through Kon and later through Faora*. It feels more like they needed something for everyone to do, including a chance for a heroic sacrifice, rather than an organic plan.

Speaking of which, it's shown within the story that portals to the present will show up once a task is complete, allowing the character to get back. This doesn't happen when it comes time for the heroic sacrifice. Before you ask, I don't know why either. It just doesn't. Like I said, there's not a lot here that's well explained.

That said, Krypton Returns is written fairly well from a character standpoint. A problem I had with Lobdells earlier volume was that every character he touched seemed to act like a dick. Here, everyone fares better. Superman feels like himself - right down to refusing to accept that Krypton is destined to die and trying a hail mary pass at the last moment, even if, again, this is not well explained - and Supergirl feels like she has it together more than she did during H'el on Earth. I want to be smarmy and suggest this might be because there were a ton of other writers involved, but even Lobdells chapters seem to have a better handle on things.

Plotwise, it's a vague mess, but at least everyone is acting more like themselves than the last time I checked in.

Unfortunately, I may have to play bad cop a bit on the art front. There are some storytelling issues to be found here and sadly, they are mostly confined to Kenneth Rocaforts chapters. I like his art a lot - and enjoy the fact that he doesn't just do static layouts - but there are instances of confusing storytelling. Some of his layouts leave you a bit confused as to where to look next. Not all of this is his fault - some of the blame is on a lot of oddly placed word balloons and interchangable dialogue - but it has to be said. Most of the other art flows fine, but you run into the usual problem of stylistic clash; no one else attempts the kind of interesting layouts Rocafort does and no one even attempts to ape his style, so it's painfully obvious when he is and isn't on art duties even without looking at the credits.

All told, Krypton Returns isn't bad. It isn't good. It just is.

My Opinion: Skip It

* Yes. That Faora. From Man of Steel. Her appearance here doesn't amount to much, as she's there to drop some exposition and exit stage right after about five pages. It's clear she's here because the movie was out around that time. It's pointless.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Superman: Fury at Worlds End (comics)

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Collects: Superman #0, 13-17

This volume is entirely pointless and its existence annoys the crap out of me. Fury At Worlds End is one of those volumes that collects a particular books issues of a crossover and nothing else. In this case, the Superman issues of H'el on Earth.

It's one of the most annoying practices comic companies pull and DC was especially guilty of it around the period this trade came out; see JL: The Grid and JLA: Worlds Most Dangerous, which had chapters of Trinity War. Sure, technically, you can fill in the blanks enough through basic logic to read this on its own, but most of the reasoning behind several plot points is stripped. Why is Supergirl so wrapped up in this guys bull? How did H'el get his hands on Superboy? How did H'el and Supergirl get control of the Fortress of Solitude? I don't know. You don't know. All of that happened in the Superboy and Supergirl issues of the crossover.

If you're interested in the story, basically someone names H'el shows up claiming to be a lost kryptonian and he's ready to wipe Earth off the map to bring Krypton back. He's convinced Supergirl to join him, I assume because she's got some serious PTSD over Kryptons destruction, so bringing it back appeals to her. Superman has to stop them. That's the long and the short of it. Most of the details are lost in the absence of the other two comics.

The writing is another throwback. The same problem previous volumes had. Reads like it belongs in another era, so on and so forth. This is clearly going to be an issue with Lobdells Superman going forward, so if that bugs you, it's probably safe to write off the New 52 Superman book for now, because Lobdells around for a while. I guess it doesn't bother me all that much - not like the characterization does, at any rate - but it can be tiresome.

Speaking of characterization, everyone in this book is an asshole. Superman is short with Superboy and barely seems to tolerate him at times. Kara's easily led by the nose and quick to distrust her cousin. Clark is a prick to Lois because she's moving in with her boyfriend and I guess she needs to run that by him first or something. No one is particularly likable. I really hope it's just a hiccup, because if this is the way everyone is going to be written going forward I'm not sure I'll continue with the book for long.

But hey, there are good things to be said! The artist is Kenneth Rocafort, an artist I'm rather fond of. I like his linework and style and the color is perfect. I assume he works with the same colorists every time? I checked and he's paired with Sunny Gho and Blond. I haven't checked before, so I'm not sure if they're the same colorists he always works with, but if so, he should definitely stick with them. The only problem here? I wish Rocafort were on a book I cared more about; so far, Superman has not been kind to me and I'm not super interested in Red Hood and the Outlaws.

The art is the only thing really worth praising, though. If you're going to read this, you should be reading the big, all encompassing volume titled, wait for it, "H'el on Earth"! It has every issue this one does, save #0. This is not a problem, because issue #0 has nothing to do with anything else in the Superman comic up through H'el on Earth. You don't have any other exclusive material like the Justice League books, so seriously, don't even bother with this.

For my part, I may read the trade collection that has the entire story at some point, but I'm beginning to lose patience with the New 52 Superman book. This is the third volume that has landed with a thud. Between the constant creative changeovers and the dated feel of the writing, this has been the weirdest comic launch I've seen and also the least interesting. I may give Lobdell another volume - Justice League pissed me off worse and my opinion on it took a major turn, so I feel like I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't give him another chance - but if that doesn't grab me I'm out until Gene Luen Yang takes over.

But seriously DC. Slapping the issues of a crossover together in a standalone volume? That's incredibly sleazy. Cut that shit out. Just title the next standalone story "volume three" if you have to.

My Opinion: Skip It

Monday, August 3, 2015

Batman and Robin: Dark Knight vs White Knight (comics)

Writers: Paul Cornell, Peter J. Tomasi, Judd Winick
Artists: Scott McDaniel, Patrick Gleason, Greg Tocchini
Collects: Batman and Robin #17-25

This, my friends, is what we call a holding pattern.

Grant Morrison had just finished up on this title - its part to play in his ongoing Batman Epic over - and despite the insistence it should be by armchair analysts who feel they know it all, it wasn't cancelled. In fact, they had a pretty exciting team lined up to take over. Peter J Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.

Well, turns out Flashpoint was just around the corner, so there's some time to kill; might as well get an arc out of the two with the old status quo, rotate some other teams in and start their actual run in earnest with the relaunch.

That's not to say Dark Knight vs White Knight is without merit. Of the three arcs collected, two are decent to good, with only one dropping to mediocre. Paul Cornell's story has an old flame of Bruce Waynes come back to haunt his sons, seemingly for Bruces negligence. Tomasi's arc concerns a new villain, the titular "White Knight"; the name is lame, but he has an interesting hook in that he aims to kill off the family lines of everyone in Arkham to stop the spread of their "evil".

Only Judd Winicks arc really falls below par. It concerns Jason Todd - a character Winick knows well - and while that's enough to get your interest it never really goes anywhere. It seems to exist mainly to undo the position Todd had been put in at the end of the second arc of Morrisons run on the title. Why? I don't know. The relaunch was right around the corner. I mean, we don't even find out the motives of the group that's after him; they're just there, seemingly for no other reason than to give the three sons of Batman someone to fight. It's competantly written and has a few fun scenes, but once you get to the end and nothing feels truly resolved, the whole thing feels like stalling.

For some reason I can't fathom, the last issue of Batman and Robin - issue #26 - is absent. Why? I haven't a damn clue. the trade was already nine issues. There's no good reason not to slip the last issue of the volume in, especially considering there is nowhere else it would fit and as such it went uncollected. No, it's fine, it's not like it was the issue I wanted to read the most out of the ten.

The art is, for the most part, pretty damn good. I'm not always the biggest fan of Scott McDaniels art, but there's no question it works for Batman. Patrick Gleason is just excellent and rightly goes on to be a steady hand in the Bat books from here on out. But it's the last arc that stumbles. The first issue of the three is a half and half job between Guillem March and Andre Bressan. That's not so bad; Bressan does a good enough job aping Marchs style. No, where things go sour is when we switch to Tocchini for the last two issues.

Now, I like Tocchini's artwork - his style reminds me a bit of Frazier Irving, though part of it comes down to the coloring - but stylistically it's the most jarring shift you could ever ask for mid-arc. Why? Hell if I know.

But hey. Two out of three ain't bad, right? Aside from the missing issue, which probably annoys me a hell of a lot more than it would you, this is a fairly solid volume. Not something you just gotta have, but for something coming out sandwiched between two long, acclaimed runs, you could do a lot worse.

My Opinion: Try It

Monday, July 27, 2015

Lazarus Book One (comics)

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark
Collects: Lazarus #1-4, four page preview story

Even the best fumble sometimes. I'm generally into most of the work Greg Rucka has made over the years. Lazarus might be the first that didn't lose me so much as it never had me and I'm not even sure how much of that is the books fault and how much of it is my own opinions.

Lazarus doesn't feel too much different from the typical Rucka deal. Some behind the scenes backstabbing is going on, there's some espionage, such like that, in a super vague dystopia. Maybe that's the problem. It feels "safe". It feels like a "typical book" for Rucka. Maybe that's not a problem for most people, but occasionally I find if a creator does a bit too much in one style or genre I start wishing they'd branch out some.

But all that could just be me. Hey, personal opinions and all that. I'm not so convinced the other issues are entirely on my end, though. There's something about Lazarus that just doesn't grab me. I couldn't connect to any of the characters, I didn't much care what happened to any of them and when things went bad I didn't much care to see where things would go from there. It feels so by the numbers I couldn't truly invest in it. It got to a point where, in the midst of the second issue, I actually hopped on Twitter to ask someone I knew was a Rucka fan if it got more interesting*. Something just isn't working.

As a side note, naming the unkillable bodyguard "Forever" is so on the nose I audibly groaned.

The bright spot is the art. Michael Lark is pretty amazing. But you know that. Even so, something feels off here. Like this is not the sort of project his artwork fits with. It's just a personal feeling. I'm not sure I can explain it.

Boy, not much I can explain in this review, huh?

Anyway, so far I'd say to give Lazarus a pass. Something isn't clicking. I may give it one more volume, but so far this is the least I've liked a Greg Rucka comic. That's an odd feeling. I hope it's just a hiccup.

My Opinion: Skip It

* The answer was no, by the way. He made it to the eighth issue before giving up. The rest of the first volume didn't exactly prove him wrong.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Phantom Stranger: A Stranger Among Us (comics)

Writers: Dan Didio, JM DeMatteis
Artist:Brent Anderson
Collects: Phantom Stranger #0-5

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Phantom Stranger. Yeah, I know, I'm one of about three people. What can I say? He's got a certain air of mystery surrounding him that lasted all the way to Flashpoint, a tendency to make cool cameos and a killer outfit. Don't underestimate how important a great look can be for a character. The only reason Ghost Rider lasted as long as he has is because the visual of a leather clad biker with a flaming skull for a head is rad as hell.

Even so, that mystery can sort of work against him. I've seen dozens of appearances by the Stranger and it became pretty clear that he's a fine tool to use for the sake of setting heroes on the right track, he's kind of limited in regards to what he offers as a solo character*. After all, prior to Flashpoint, his main schtick is that he could not directly interfere in most threats short of The Spectre himself bugging out and trying to annihilate magic or something. He's the DC iteration of Obi-Wans ghost, really.

Regardless, DC decided to take a crack at it, spinning off the Strangers very own solo title from his New 52 status as one of the "Trinity of Sin".

All told, they make a pretty good go of giving the Stranger a solid hook in the New 52 continuity - something he lacked prior to Flashpoint - with enough depth to make him a viable solo character you might want to follow. The broad strokes are that the Stranger was once Judas - yes, that Judas - whom, after betraying Jesus, was lost in such a bottomless pit of self-loathing that he hung himself in an attempt to pay for his sins. Unfortunately, the numerous higher powers of the DC universe had other plans. Cursing him with a necklace made of the thirty pieces of silver he was paid for the betrayal of Jesus, Judas was cast back to Earth to forever walk, a stranger to all, until the time came when his services were called upon.

One piece of silver is destroyed for every divine task he completes; often, these tasks lead to him being forced to betray everyone he comes in contact with or attempts to help.

It's a clearer purpose than the Stranger has had in a long time. Not only does he now have a hook, he has an actual origin as well; something the pre-Flashpoint universe was unwilling to commit to**. It gives him a good excuse to interact with a lot of the DC Universe; in this volume alone, we see an origin for Raven - of Teen Titans fame - Terrance Thirteen shows up, the Spectre is in the house, Trigon drops some threats and even John Constantines merry band of dark Justice Leaguers decide to drop in. The Stranger touches a lot of lives, for good or ill.

Seeing that we've addressed the upgrades, we might as well move to the writing. Honestly, it takes a little bit for it to catch up to the potential of the concept. Dan Didio scripts a good two thirds of this trade. Dan's usually hit or miss as a writer - he seems to do his best work when allowed to cut loose with a crazy character or concept - but he's perfectly servicable. Even so, his issues, while inoffensive, aren't wildly interesting and his dialogue could use a little work. As interesting as issue number one is - that is the Raven issue, where we see how one single encounter with the stranger upends her entire life and ends up sending her where she does not want to be - it's a quick one. There are maybe three real scenes across the issue and while they do a pretty decent job of getting the concept across, it feels like it could have easily been compressed a bit to add more to it.

Luckily, JM DeMatteis - a writer I've yet to read a bad story from - comes on board as the scripter as of issue four and coincidently or not that's where the comic starts to pick up the pace. He immediately takes the setup Dan provided him with and turns it on its head, almost immediately leading into encounters with the Justice League Dark - a book I believe DeMatteis had taken over by the time this comic saw print, or would take over shortly after - and a knock down drag out fight with the Spectre.

The artwork is provided by Brent Anderson. It's not a name I'm familiar with, but he seems pretty good at what he does. My only real complaint is that he does a bit more crosshatching than I care for. We're not talking 90's level, where there's so much of it that every character looks to be in their late eighties, but enough to be noticable.

By the end, I was on board The Phantom Stranger. Be aware, though, that it takes a bit for the book to pick up. Prior to issue four I liked it well enough but wasn't sure I would continue. While it ended strongly, my score reflects that. Hopefully the second volume picks up well from where we left off. Anyway, give it a shot if your local library has a copy.

My Opinion: Try It

* I know he had a solo title way back in the 70's or 80's that went for a good forty issues, but I've never read it, so I don't know how they got around it.

** In the pre-Flashpoint universe, they kind of pulled a Joker style "multiple choice" deal with him. There was a special DC once did that presented four different possible origins for the Stranger. No two were alike. One of them was similar to the broad strokes of the current iteration; he was not Judas, but someone else inadvertently affected by Jesus in a negative way. Unfortunately, one of the stories was written by Alan Moore and, as DC tended to do with any Alan Moore work, was thusly considered about as official as DC was willing to commit. Say what you want about Alan Moore and his bitter rants - I've plenty, not a lot of it nice - but he does have a bit of a point whenever he alludes to DC being unable to let go of his work.