Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Comics Reviews!

Face it True Believers, it's time for

This Week's Reviews!

Batman: Battle for the Cowl – The Underground #1: Seriously, how many subtitles can these books have? Anyway, this is a one-shot leading up to Battle for the Cowl #3 and the Gotham City Sirens series (not to be confused with the Gotham Girls roller derby team), hereby proving that DC is trying to outdo Marvel’s Secret Invasion for sheer volume of ancillary titles. It’s kind of a shame that this book is a one-shot, as between the art and writing it could actually make a decent series.
This book opens with the Penguin hiring the Riddler to track down the former crime boss Black Mask, who is waging a war against both the Penguin and Two-Face’s respective gangs. Besides the obvious problem, there’s also the fact that Black Mask was supposed to have been killed by Catwoman years ago. Writer Chris Yost gives us a solid crime story, filled with all the back-stabbing and mistrust one would expect of the underworld. He fits the costumed fighting in this well, especially when Catwoman confronts the armed Batman imposter. The feel is fairly reminiscent of The Dark Knight, while Pablo Raimondi’s art has a clean, almost Vertigo-like feel to it. Obviously Batman’s going to have to come back fairly soon, but reading this makes me think there could be some potentially good stories without him. Ah well, I suppose there’s always fan fiction for that.

Captain America: Theater of War – A Brother in Arms: This issue continues the line of Theater of War one-shots, featuring the original Cap in various wartime stories. AbiA takes place in Germany, 1945, where Cap and a group of Army Rangers are shot down behind enemy lines. In the process of fighting for survival they take a German soldier prisoner – much to the disgust of the group’s corporal, who’d as soon shoot him and be done. As the story progresses, the enemies find their common humanity, especially when faced with the local SS officer, who has no use for common German Army soldiers.
Writer Paul Jenkins delivers a decent enough script, balancing the action scenes with the personal interplay, and John McCrea’s art is clean and tells the story well. But the story – both the plot and way it plays out – feels a bit too familiar. Not to take away from Jenkins, but it feels a lot like one of Garth Ennis’ many war books – so much so that you can guess the ending well in advance. Not a bad book by any means, but just a little too familiar.

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #4: I’ll fully admit that when Final Crisis was in full swing, this was one of the many tie-ins I ignored, figuring that a) anything not written by Grant Morrison would probably be incidental, and b) I’ve never been a huge Legion of Super-Heroes fan. Well here we are five months after the main FC ended, and FC:Lo3W is still going, mainly I think for one reason: who’s going to tell legendary artist George PĂ©rez he needs to hurry up? Add to that the fact that he probably crams the most panels per page of any book currently on the stands and yeah, you’re going to have to just forget about that monthly deadline.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the book provided a good read. The main problem with this book is, four issues in, all I can really get out of it is Superboy killing a whole bunch of people while whining. There are some interesting developments: the return of Bart Allen (which we knew) as well as one of the casualties of Infinite Crisis, and a twist with the Time Trapper. Maybe like the main FC series, it works better when read in one sitting, so look to try that out some time between now and, oh, the 30th century.

Justice Society of America #26: With this issue, writer Geoff Johns and penciller Dale Eaglesham end their run on JSA, and they go out not with a bang nor whimper, but a party. A birthday party that is, for teenage member Stargirl, which allows Johns to really focus on the personal interactions and human dimension of the team while avoiding having to insert any mandatory fight scenes. That’s right, not a single punch is thrown in the entire issue, giving one of those rare fun comics we see all too few of out of the Big Two any more. And of course, Alex Ross’ covers (count ‘em, three for this issue!) are simply amazing. Not a bad way to go out.

And that does it for this round!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Art is dead and Detroit is art


Detroit's about to lose another gallery. It's confirmed that C-Pop, Detroit's very own high/lowbrow art gallery, is shutting down in June. Having prominently featured several local artists (Glenn Barr, Tristan Eaton, and the ubiquitous Niagara) along with national/international talent (Anthony Ausgang, Robert Williams, and Shepard Fairey), C-Pop has truly been an institution in this city for a decade and a half.

The good news (if you can call it that) is that their last exhibition (which takes place this Saturday, May 2) looks pretty kick-ass. Along with works from all the above-mentioned artists will be art by H. R. Giger, Winston Smith (did a lot of Dead Kennedys art), Liz McGrath, and this blogger's art crush Tara McPherson. You can find the info on C-Pop's Myspace page.

On a similar note, I stumbled across this Time Magazine online piece about our fair city entitled "Detroit's Beautiful, Horrible Decline". It features shots from French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre series "The Ruins of Detroit," which captures the city in all its post-apocalyptic glory. I have to say, the shots are rather nice:

The William Livingston House

The United Artists Theater

Perhaps it's fitting that another gallery should be closing. After all, as things slide, Detroit is becoming less of a city and more of an installation piece (just ask Tyree Guyton). So who needs the confines (and politics) of an enclosed display space, when you can simply go down the street and be in the art itself?

That's Monday for you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Comics Reviews!

So, I was hoping to get these done sooner, but was too busy celebrating Detroit Comics' award (see below) to get them done 'til now. Anyhoo, without further ado:

This Week's Reviews!

Buck Rogers #0
This is a pretty standard teaser issue, but for a quarter, you could do a lot worse. While many people (or at least, older folks like us) will remember the 1980s tv show, this book shares little with it outside of name. Which isn't necessarily bad, given the old space suits.
In this issue we find ourselves with an older Buck Rogers, shot into the future, fighting giant amoebae from Ganymede, and sucked into some space vortex to parts unknown. Basically, classic sci-fi space thrills just like you want them. Everything here points to a solid start, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go with this. And it's far better for your teeth than that gumball you'd normally get with that quarter.

Detective Comics #853
Here we have the final send-off of Bruce Wayne, and what a fitting goodbye it is. Neil Gaiman’s strength has always been in bringing his characters to life (sometimes at the expense of the plot), and here he really delivers. This continues the wake from Batman #686; where the last issue focused on various (and varied) re-tellings of the death of Batman, this one focuses on Bruce himself, and acts as a reflection both of the character and the mythos of the Batman. Gaiman proves the perfect choice to handle this, and I can’t think of a writer who could have pulled it off better (although Grant Morrison’s Last Rites two-parter came close). Andy Kubert’s art is exceptional as well, particularly in the homage sequence at the end (I won’t give it away, but… yeah). And while the story does essentially make explicit what we all know anyway (the whole “death in comic books” bit), it is the tribute that Batman deserves. And as such, it earns this week's

Ignition City #2
The promising set-up of the first issue is continued in top fashion. With this issue, Mary Raven digs deeper into the mysterious death of her father, raising the ire of many of the locals, including his killer. Having established the world, Ellis gives us a taut mystery, almost a noir story and fills it with enough intrigue and unique characters to keep interest high. An excellent book.

Skrull Kill Krew #1
In the 1990s, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar created a series about a group of people who had super powers, and one job – kill off the alien Skrulls who were trying to surreptitiously take over the earth. There were about five people who read the series, and so it didn’t last very long. Having been one of those five, I was curious to see how Marvel would revive the not-very-high concept series, especially since it’s being written by Adam Felber, best known as one of the hosts of NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me program. So, the question was too great to ignore: take a ridiculous concept, add a nerdy humorist, and what do you get?
After reading the first issue of the new Skrull Kill Krew series, I can say the result is hilarity. The issue flips between origin flashbacks – continuing the original series’ reference to an old Fantastic Four story as its base – and the current day, where SKK leader Ryder spends his days eating in diners, tracking down Skrulls, and picking up the girls he saves. Oh yeah, and killing the aforementioned Skrulls. This has the over-the-top black humor one would expect from the title, plus a twist which indicates there should be a decent story unfolding as well. So the next time someone calls you a highbrow snob when you say, “I heard on NPR…”, just remember these three words: Skrull Kill Krew.

That does it for this week. And remember, this blog brought to you by the store that even French Spider-Man swears by, Detroit Comics!

We won!

Check out this write-up, from this week's Metro Times "Best of Detroit" issue:


Detroit Comics
23333 Woodward Ave. Ferndale; 248-548-COMX

Oh sure, it's still a great place to get your Green Lantern on, but the incongruously named Detroit Comics (it's actually in Ferndale) has none of the creepy mega-nerd vibe of your average android dungeon. Credit married owners Brian and Lori Kelly for creating a bright, hip and uncluttered storefront, stocked with all the graphic novels you'd expect, but also neat-o urban vinyl toys, clothing, accessories, yummy goodies from Bellyache candy and records, and the irresistible Art-O-Matic vending machine. Plus, Brian holds court with a jovial, geeky rock 'n' roll dad charm that's truly rare in a trade better known for surly clannishness.

Co-owner Lori likes to recount the story of when she went into a comic store years ago, whereupon all conversation stopped and someone piped up, "Ooh, a girl's in here!" That's pretty much the experience we're trying to be the opposite of, and the recognition is appreciated. Thanks!

French Spider-Man approves!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Comics Reviews!

It was pretty thin this week in Comics Land, but without further ado:

This Week's Reviews!

Green Lantern Corps # 35: At Brian’s behest I started checking out the Green Lantern books – even though I fully admit having Event Fatigue after Final Crisis (which, on second reading, isn’t as bad as people seem to think) – and both GL series are gearing up for the Blackest Night storyline. But given the high quality of both this book and the main Green Lantern series, I may just have to change all that.
Give it up to writer Peter Tomasi for making an issue planted square in the middle of a couple of year buildup highly entertaining to the novice just coming in. He piles on the action quickly, then drops back for some actual (serious) character development, and balances it out just right. The highlights: Prison break on Oa, culminating in a two page spread that should make every fanboy happy; Green Lantern Sodam Yat trying to save his planet from the Sinestro Corps, despite his animosity toward it and his family; GL Soranik trying to save her planet from its own bloodlust for her father, Sinestro. While I do have some reservations about seeing characters ripped in half in an ostensibly all-ages book, hey, that’s DC 2009 for you. Still, it’s an amazingly well done superhero book, and definitely worth checking out – primarily now, while you can still figure out what’s going on.

Wolverine Noir #1: We had X-Men: Noir, so really, could a Noir version of Wolverine be far behind (I mean, it’s not like Marvel would have any reason to push the character about this time of year, right?). That said, much like last week’s Daredevil: Noir, this book holds up to the concept’s promise.
Having another Noir book feature the main character as a private detective hired by some moll does seem a little repetitive, but this is our pal Logan, after all. And the femme fatale in this case is Mariko Yashida, Wolverine’s yakuza boss girlfriend in the mainstream series. This set-up allows for a series of flashbacks introducing us to Logan’s martial arts training and general childhood. Assisting him is Dog (Sabretooth), who is cast as Logan’s developmentally-challenged partner, who ends up getting more than he bargained for by taking the case.
Stuart Moore does a great job of not re-casting the characters in the noir world while retaining their essences, and C.P. Smith’s art captures the feel perfectly. A solid start to what looks like an impressive series.

And finally...

The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft #1: As someone who’s read more than his fair share of Lovecraft’s works, I admit to going into this book with a little trepidation. After all, you can count how many good movies have been made from Howard Phillips’ books on one tentacle. Thankfully, the TSAoHPL manages to be a highly entertaining read.
Writer Mac Carter makes the wise decision not to try and emulate Lovecraft’s style; in fact, the book seems to work hard to avoid it. Much of the dialogue has a real screwball comedy snappiness, pushing the story along at a fairly quick pace. Lovecraft’s own narration – while appropriately verbose and moody – isn’t an attempt to replicate his writing style, but still comes off as very literary.
The story centers on Lovecraft who, stricken with writer’s block and failing to gain the affections of his beloved (a flapper librarian, no less - who wouldn’t be smitten?) comes across a cursed ancient tome, and finds that he is possessed both of a terrible new idea, and dreams that turn out to be too realistic. There’s also the matter of his jerkwad publisher and duo of busybody aunts.
Tony Salmons’ art is great and really works in telling the story, capturing the vibrancy of a busy Chicago street and jump jazz hall, while evoking the horror of an attack by one of H.P.’s notorious creatures. Not only is this worth checking out, but it won't drive you insane after reading, earning it this week's...

As always, these reviews (and books) are brought to you by Detroit Comics - the only comic store where you're guaranteed third wave ska on your visit!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

CD!'s Mayoral Endorsement

Thanks to the departure of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and a city charter more confusing than a typical X-Men storyline, Detroit is having a special election May 5 for city mayor (so if you're a resident, go out and vote!).

Now, we here at Comics Devastation! have thought long and hard about just who would be most fitting for the position. We've reviewed the candidates' platforms and backgrounds, and have come to the conclusion that only one person is truly qualified to handle the particular responsibilities and stresses unique to the city of Detroit.

With that, CD! gives its full endorsement for Mayor of Detroit to: Dr. Doom.

Dr. Victor Von Doom possesses skills in several key areas, namely:

Political Background: Doom has successfully ruled the country of Latveria for decades now, and has a proven track both in maintaining law and order and making a country prosper (as the citizens will no doubt attest to).

Diplomacy: Along with usual pressures of maintaining an economy based on technologically advanced weapons of mass destruction and world domination, Doom has also fended off several attempted invasions and coups, and has not been afraid to literally terminate government officials underneath him when their performance has proven lacking. Given the antics of the city council, Doom seems the candidate best equipped to handle negotiations with the like of Monica Conyers.

Race Relations: While some may scoff at the idea of an eastern European native running a city with a majority African-American population, Doom has consistently shown his sensitivity to matters of race and economics.

And last, but certainly not least,
Education: Doom has a Ph.D. in Evil. 'Nuff said.

And unlike our previous mayor, Doom shows little preference for inter-office romances.

Additionally, should Doom win in May, the odds of there even being an election in November will be slim at best, saving the city countless time and money best suited to more productive goals - such as destroying the Fantastic Four once and for all.

In this election, there is only one sensible choice - Doom!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Comics Reviews!

All right, Ladies and Gents, it's Thursday, and that means it's time for the New Comics Reviews!
"But wait," I hear you say, "Isn't New Comics Day actually Wednesday?" Indeed it is. But you see, Detroit is a union town, so things get done on their own time, if you know what I mean.

UAW president Rod Gettelfinger does not approve of the above comment.

Anyhow, enough jibba jabba...

This Week's Reviews!

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2
I'll just come out and say what everyone's thinking: the problem with this whole "Batman's dead and who will be the new one?" thing is that come the next movie/when the new guy stops selling/DC needs a new Event, he's just going to come back. The last issue of Final Crisis even spelled it out for us, just in case anyone was worried. So reading all the Battle for the Cowl books almost seems like a pointless effort. But then, it's all about the journey, not the destination, so with that in mind, B:BftC #2.
The first book started with a lot of potential, playing up the legacy and significance of Batman and showing just how necessary his presence was to keep Gotham from descending into complete supervillain chaos. Given that artist Tony Daniel was essentially taking over from Grant Morrison, it was a nice start. This book keeps up a lot of what worked: Black Mask setting the Penguin and Two-Face, Gotham's leading crime bosses, against each other, Commissioner Gordon realizing how reliant on Batman he'd become, and pretty much every hero even remotely tied to Batman showing up to help out. But the book focuses a bit too much on the "Devil Batman," whose shocking secret identity actually makes sense, even if it's an underwhelming reveal. But for a concept which is pretty much doomed from the start, it makes for an enjoyable enough ride.

Daredevil: Noir #1
Here we have the third Marvel hero to be re-imagined in a 1930s setting, and of the characters given the Noir treatment so far (Spider-Man and the X-Men), he seems the one best suited for this sort of re-imagining. Writer Alexander Irvine does a solid job of translating the essential characters to that era, and even using time-appropriate plot devices: In his secret identity, blind Matt Murdock is not a lawyer, but assistant to his friend Foggy Nelson, who is - what else? - a private detective. The two are approached by a gangster's moll, offering give them information on her mob boss boyfriend to prevent him from starting a gang war with none other than the Kingpin. Irvine balances the elements well, and the superheroics actually fit in quite nicely, mainly because Daredevil's heroics consist of roughing up gangsters and torching a mob warehouse.
Irvine is obviously writing this for the reader who's unfamiliar with the character, and plays a bit too heavily with Matt's super-senses; anyone who's read Frank Miller's run on the original series knows that having the four remaining senses turned up to 11, 24/7, is a maddening experience. Still, it's a minor complaint, and one that doesn't detract from the book. Also, Irvine was born in Ypsilanti and is now on the east coast, which means he has truly lived the dream.
Tomm Coker's art is spot on as well, his heavy shadows and stark line work really evoking that noir feel. All in all, a good start to what looks to be an interesting series.

Dark Reign: Hawkeye #1
I think the best summary from this issue came from Brian Kelly (Detroit Comics owner)* himself: "It's basically an issue showing us how psychotic Bullseye is." That pretty much sums up the plot right there, but in case you haven't been following, former Daredevil villain Bullseye has now taken the role of bow-and-arrow slinger and Green Arrow analog Hawkeye in the new Avengers team. The whole villain-turned-hero mantle is never an easy one to wear, especially when said villain has no intention of not being a crazed killer. It's a concept that, in the wrong hands, could easily be dreck, but give writer Andy Diggle credit for some great characterization and the right amount of black humor to make a book about a guy with no qualms about letting three dozen bystanders die in the course of stopping a super-criminal actually fun.

Ignition City #1
Warren Ellis brings us yet another new book (seriously, does the man sleep?), and folks, this one gets the thumbs up. Here, he takes the basic idea behind Steampunk (anachronistic technology in a past era) and gives us a world where in 1956, not only have humans already made it to space, but we've fought wars with aliens and decided not to go back. Space travel has pretty much been outlawed everywhere, except for one lone island. This island also happens to be where our heroine - Mary Raven, former space pilot - has to go to collect the belongings of her recently deceased father, also a space pilot. Oh, and as it turns out, the island is pretty much a third world wreck filled with broken-down (physically and otherwise) astronauts and cosmonauts.
There's a lot of information needed to set the story up, and Ellis does a good job of catching the reader up quickly in the first few pages. From there, it's Mary's trip to Ignition City, and the promise of a deeper mystery behind her father's demise. Ellis definitely has a knack for character-based stories, and it's the characters - along with the novel world they inhabit - that make this worth checking out.

Last Week's Honorable Mention

Destroyer #1
What happens when you take The Walking Dead Robert Kirkman and combine him with Battle Pope Robert Kirkman? Brothers and sisters, I give you Destroyer.
Taking one of the more interesting Captain America analogs from the 1940s, Kirkman sets him as an aging superhero who learns he could drop dead at any minute. So, he decides to do the logical thing in that situation, which is to kill every supervillain possible before he dies, starting with his own brother.
As we've seen from his previous works, Kirkman knows how to delve into some serious darkness, and also knows complete farce (seriously, Battle Pope!), and with this book, he balances the two quite nicely, almost in a "come for the violence, stay for the humanity" ploy. Is it bloody? Let this unfinished art from page 1 answer your question. But then, not a few pages later, where we see the Destroyer as an old man at a family get together, and especially in his dealings with his wife pre- and post- diagnosis, it's actually touching. This book definitely gets the Fist of Approval!

That's it for this week, folks! Check back, and remember, you can always pick these books up at Detroit Comics!

*Can I get that raise now, boss?

Monday, April 6, 2009


Detroit and comic books have a lot in common: both have given culture some of its greatest icons; both are often maligned and misunderstood by people not familiar with them; both enjoyed creative and economic peaks, only to see their fortunes slip into decline; and, unfortunately, both have a core of fans whose attitude is, "If you aren't one of us, stay out!"

For decades, comic books have been considered a cultural wasteland. So has Detroit. These ideas couldn't be further from the truth.

Detroit gave the world Motown, Joe Louis, Sam Raimi, and, oh, a little thing you might have heard of called the car. Comic books gave us Superman, Spider-Man, Maus, and offered young kids the idea that inside every nerdy high school student or mild-mannered reporter was someone who, under the right circumstances, could be a true hero.

(Oh, and at least for now, Hollwood is all about mining both.)

With this in mind, Ladies and Gentlemen, we proudly present Comics Devastation!

This isn't just a blog about comics (although mostly it is). It isn't"Members Only." You don't have to be "in the club" to "get it." Like comic books, like Detroit, this blog is for everyone, if they're only willing to give it a chance. It'll talk about the good, and the bad, of both Detroit and comic books - because both have given a lot to the world already, and both still have plenty to offer.

Fist image courtesy The Aquitaine.

Friday, April 3, 2009

This town deserves a better class of protestor

Spotted at the G20 protests in London:

(Taken from The Gothamist.)