America's Got Powers #1 and #2 by Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch - I went into this pretty open. I had expectations for the level of quality in the art of course. I've been a long time fan of Bryan Hitch. He's gone from being a bit of an Alan Davis clone to forming his own more realistic style and attaching himself to projects that stand way out from the crowd. The Authority and The Ultimates weren't just great work, they were the beginning of the new millennium for the comics industry. However, this was a ground up creation in concert with a writer who is really known for being a comedian and TV/radio show host in England. So, two Brits writing a comic about American's with powers in a gladiator style mix of American Idol and Survivor. The first issue tries to get you up to speed by explaining how the contestants gained their power. A quick history lesson of a huge crystal landing in Golden Gate Park causing every pregnant woman in a five mile radius to give birth successfully no matter how far along they were. All the kids grow up to have powers, except one...if you can't see the end of issue one coming at this point, you've never read a comic book or watched a movie before. So the "twist" comes and then the second issue hops back and forth giving us more back story and setting up the consequences from the first issue's ending. The concepts and ideas are interesting, but it all feels very "been there, done that". It's like a pastiche of many other ideas, which is really most modern storytelling I just don't see this one making itself stand out. The other problem is that I don't find myself caring about any character in this book. Nor does any of the danger faced feel threatening. Because the story feels fairly telegraphed. If the characters were compelling or interesting enough some of this wouldn't matter, but they aren't and it does. Hitch's art is a bit uneven too. I'll assume it's because two different inkers are used and perhaps their styles don't quite mesh. For someone known for his detail, some of the pages were pretty messy and a little hard to follow at first glance. I'll give it another issue to kick in, but only because I feel I owe it Hitch for all the years of greatness.
The Flash #9 by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato - The new version of The Flash has been a hard sell for me, but more on that later. Manapul and Buccellato co-create the book in the truest sense of the term. They co-write and Francis does the line art and Brian does the colors. Presumably they give each other a lot of input on both sides of the art. The look and design of the book is outstanding and has been since the first issue. I applaud their efforts to convey the powers of the Flash in new ways visually. They have done an outstanding job. The first arc went a little long, but since then they have really hit their stride (pun intended) on the story side of the book. The A stories are tighter and run about two issues. The B stories percolate alongside and then take center stage when necessary. In this issue we have my least favorite Flash villain, Gorilla Grodd. I have to say that I enjoyed this version of Grodd and Gorilla City. It's been so long since I read an old Grodd story though, I would be hard pressed to explain the difference. Other than the fact that this guy didn't seem silly at all. He popped up at the end of last issue as Barry emerged from the Speed Force and the story is wrapped up (for now) by the end of this issue and the Weather Wizard is set up for next issue. The Flash's Rogues are being re-established in the new 52, and so far they seem a pretty dangerous bunch. My only real quibble is Barry. I am a die hard Wally fan so even pre-new 52 I was having a hard time with the return of Barry. The stories have been well done, but I really have a hard time liking Barry. In this issue he paraphrases and steals Wally's famous intro line from all his issues by saying: "I'm Barry Allen, I'm the Flash and I'm the Fastest Man Alive." I have to be honest, it kinda pissed me off. You want Wally? Write Wally. Other than my little fanboy gripe, the issue is solidly done. The writing has improved, I'd say with every issue, and the art continues to astound.
Insufferable #1-5 by Mark Waid and Peter Krause - This is Mark Waid's big push into the digital frontier. He is putting his money where his mouth is and producing this book only digitally (for now) and making it available for free on his new website www.thrillbent.com It is really worth the time it takes to read it. I'd say it's worth the money you'll spend but IT'S FREE! Waid and Krause started Irredeemable together and I've just started reading that and so it got me checking this one out. The five weekly chapters read all together as one very good issue. I don't know if it would have hooked me as good if I had read every chapter a week at a time. Maybe it would have, I can never know now. What I do know is that I'll be reading the future chapters the moment they come out. Waid is one of my all time favorite writers (which you may have figured during my pro-Wally West statement above) and he continues to validate my stance in his work. The story concerns an older hero and his successor whom used to be his sidekick. I don't want to say anymore and ruin the fun for you. Do yourself a favor and read it. It won't cost you anything. How could you argue with that?
Dial "H" by China Mieville and Mateus Santolouco - I remember reading the old Dial "H" for Hero when I was quite young. They always had issues at the local library. Along with all the War and Western comics and issues of Batman and the Outsiders. It was eclectic selection at the old Santa Maria Public Library and it's Orcutt branch by the bowling alley. Anyway, this new version starts off with two friends, Darren and Nelson, arguing about Nelson's health. Darren storms off when Nelson won't take him seriously and is attacked in the alley outside the apartment building. Nelson runs after him to apologize and tries to stop the attack. After being knocked down he stumbles into a phone booth and in a panic randomly dials "4-3-7-6" and transforms into Boy Chimney. He saves Darren, and then realizes that the phone booth did something to him. That's basically the first half of the issue, it takes off from there and Nelson figures out how to use the phone and what those numbers stand for. The story nicely sets up our average character and shows that he obviously has a choice to make regarding his discovery. The art is dark and somewhat sketchy which lends itself to the story well, especially the Boy Chimney sequence. All in all, it is a promising start to a series that, if you asked a year ago, I never would have gambled on existing. Definitely worth checking out.
That's it for now. I will try to be back before the weekend with my thoughts on the new 52 version of Mr Freeze's origin in Batman Annual #1 and also the first three issues of Brian K. Vaughan's new book Saga. Let me know what you guys think of any of these books if you do read them, especially Insufferable since it won't cost you a dime.
Sean Stoltey, writer, raconteur and retired rabble rouser, hails originally from California's Central Coast but currently resides in Southern California's BEAUTIFUL--San Fernando Valley. Screenwriter, Comic Book author, these are things he does because he's too poor to be a Producer or Publisher.
Sean has been reading comics, watching movies, reading books and selling his soul (or at least his hearing) to Rock'n'Roll for as long as he can remember. He has been discussing and arguing about these things for almost as long.
So now he has come here to throw his opinions in your face as well and hope that, even if you don't agree, hopefully you will enjoy them. For the record: Kirk was the greatest Enterprise Captain, Han was the only one that shot, Led Zeppelin was the greatest Rock band to walk the Earth and Keith Richards is the coolest undead person to walk the Earth. Coolest living people are my sons and my Mom and Dad. My Dad F---in' rocks, and my Mom can kick your ass.
You can ask Sean anything at http://www.formspring.me/WWest3001 contact him via twitter @WWest3001 or boring old e-mail at SeanStoltey@yahoo.com