Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Timestorm 2009-2099 #1

Remember the Marvel: 2099 universe? Maybe I should preface that by asking if you were following the industry in the early 1990s, when the line was launched, expanded, downsized and then discontinued within only a few short years. If you were, chances are good you can’t help but remember. Well, if you hadn’t noticed, the present year also ends in a nine, and since Marvel missed the boat last decade, now’s as good a time as any to return to those forgotten characters and see what they’ve been up to since the last time we saw them.

In Timestorm 2009-2099, Brian Reed shares the story of the modern Spider-Man and Wolverine’s journey through time, where they’ll undoubtedly run into descendants, old enemies and futuristic versions of themselves. Reed gets the time frame and many of the most basic nuances of the old 2099 line correct, but never manages to deliver on most of the universe’s darker overtones. At their core, these books were a warning against the downfalls of trusting a super corporation and the consequences of ignoring the environment. Were those deeper connotations accompanied by a bright neon cityscape and a very slightly altered dialect? Sure, but that was never the line’s focus. Captain Planet-like as they might seem in retrospect, at least that direction gave the books a certain personality and shared vision that united them.

It’s not that I have a big problem with the writer’s decision to investigate the shallower aspects of life in the future. Surely that kind of focus could be every bit as intriguing as the time we’ve already spent digging at the roots of this society. It’s more his lack of ingenuity, elaboration and originality that’s turned me off to this story. Everything’s taken at face value: touched on the surface and then written off as fact without any further time dedicated to explanation. Why not give a bit of background to the history of the Mad Max style “Ultimate Combat Arena” when the story arrives there? How about the nondescript laser pistol that somehow teleported Spidey into the land of tomorrow? I’ve found that much of the appeal of future-focused storytelling is in the details, but those seem to be the last thing this writer has an interest in exposing.

Artist Eric Battle matches that reluctance every step of the way. Reed presents Spider-Man and Logan as simple cardboard cutouts, spraying recognizable phrases just to make sure we recognize them, and Battle visualizes them just as generically. Every male character in this universe is thick and ripped, including the traditionally slender Peter Parker, while all the ladies could share a single dress size. Battle recognizes the potential of the brightly glowing city skylines on the few chances he’s given to do so, but they aren’t nearly as imposing and impressive as they were when I first saw them fifteen years ago.

This is all around mediocre. It matches dull, riskless storytelling with generic, unappealing artwork. Brian Reed somehow manages to miss out on the appeal of both the modern Marvel Universe and its 2099 counterpart in this crossover, and Eric Battle doesn’t exactly make things any easier on us. This isn’t horrible, but it is terribly carefree. I’d welcome a proper return to the better parts of the 2099, but this isn’t the kind of homecoming it deserves. Flip through it. It isn’t bad enough to recommend a skip, but it also isn’t good enough to merit a closer look.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2.5

Daredevil Noir #1

Matt Murdock is just the latest in a string of Marvel characters to find himself transplanted into the 1930s with a decidedly darker, grittier atmosphere as a backdrop. That’s right, following in the footsteps of Spider-Man, the X-Men and Wolverine, this month Daredevil is the latest mighty Marvel mainstay to undergo the noir treatment. In this instance specifically, I know, the premise sounds like an exercise in redundancy. The regular Daredevil series has been an excellent example of modern noir for years now, why bother giving it an out-of-continuity, genre-specific mini-series? (Man, that's a lot of hyphens)

Strangely enough, it's actually worth a closer look. Daredevil Noir knows better than to directly match the direction of Murdock’s regular ongoing series, choosing instead to turn back the clocks to a slightly more innocent time in the crime fighter’s life. Alexander Irvine’s story deals with a more ingenuous, perhaps naïve, protagonist. He fights crime the old fashioned way, by knocking down the pawns until one of them screams loudly enough to identify their king. Freed of years’ worth of hardship, suffering and first-hand experience with the failings of the judicial system, Matt seems quite literally to be a completely different man. It’s a rare chance to start over for the maligned character, and seeing his enthusiasm and blind ambition (no pun intended) to right what he sees as the wrongs within his city is a reminder of what I’ve found so appealing with the core of his personality for years.

That’s really why this story succeeds. Irvine changes a few things up to fit the situation, but he keeps enough essential pieces in place to ensure the character remains identifiable. Matt still has the same powers, but he's a private eye instead of a lawyer. He still wears red, but the costume looks more homemade. His mutual respect with the Kingpin is still in place, but the specifics of their first encounter are completely different. Call me crazy, but this just works.

Tomm Coker's accompanying artwork is simply breathtaking, and could easily carry the show by itself. Sharp, vivid linework, beautiful decaying cityscapes in the background, efficient use of pointillism and constant throwbacks to the early days of comics abound, and I couldn't get enough. His work is an amalgam of the photography and illustrations you’d find in an era-appropriate newspaper. It’s gorgeous both in its restraint and in its vivid realism. Whether his aim is heartstring-tugging emotion, cold, brutal violence or simple, everyday reality, Coker delivers. With luck, he’s impressed enough of the right people with this issue to merit a run with the ongoing Daredevil series, because I’m already dreading his departure with the fourth issue of this mini.

I came into Daredevil Noir expecting the worst and stepped away mightily impressed. Does the story recycle a few ideas, borrowed both from the Daredevil mythos and from the films it aspires to mimic? Yes. Does that take away from the big picture? In my opinion, it does not. This is a great series, matching well-timed storytelling with masterful artwork. As someone who's getting really sick of all the retellings going on these days, it's nice to see one story that can manage to do so without making me yawn. Buy it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.5

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Flash: Rebirth #1

It's time for a regime change within the Flash mythos. Or rather, a regime reversion. Wally West, the on-again, off-again bearer of the crimson and gold, is out. Barry Allen, the silver age Flash who threw his life away to save reality during Crisis on Infinite Earths, is back in. For all intents and purposes, DC seems to have chosen the right men for the job. The mini-series teams one-time Flash scribe Geoff Johns with his Green Lantern: Rebirth collaborator, artist Ethan Van Scriver, in an attempt to revive and revitalize Barry Allen in the same way they did Hal Jordon years ago.

Despite the speedy nature of its namesake, this series really doesn't get off to much of a fast start. In his return to Central City after three years, Geoff Johns allows himself (and his story) to linger a bit too long in the nostalgia of this moment. It's nice to look back, to share a few stories with the heroes that ran alongside Barry back in the day, but at some point you'll start to wonder when the parade's going to end. It's two pages of talk about the old days, one page of requisite observations about how the world has changed since he's been gone. Johns doesn't make these scenes a burden or anything – in fact, I feel like I know more about Barry as a personality now than I ever did before – they're just so numerous, so universally slow in pace, that I found my appetite for drama overcoming my interest in supplemental characterization. It's all well written, but it doesn't feel like a genuine event. There's too much complacency and not enough crisis, for lack of a better word.

Van Scriver's artwork is quite the paradox. To say his work is obsessively meticulous simply wouldn't suffice – the man deals in detail like the devil does sin. He simply wallows in it, fills every last corner of every last panel with a precise rendering of something, no matter how inconsequential. In that regard, he's really something to behold: his cityscapes are marvelous, and the cluttered forensics office that houses the issue's opening scenes gives him every opportunity to totally cut loose and have some fun.

But that level of specialization carries a price tag, and in this case it's beautiful, abundant linework at the cost of heart-tugging emotion. Ethan spends so much time and effort ensuring every last detail in the environment is just right that he often overlooks the facial expressions and body language of the characters that reside alongside them. In this regard, he has a lot in common with Midnight Nation and Supreme Power's Gary Frank. Both bring a style and sensibility to the page that I can't help but admire, but at the same time there's just something missing from their cast. It's like they don't have the capacity to emote as loudly, or maybe as flamboyantly, as I've come to expect from this medium. This is especially pronounced when Van Scriver turns his focus exclusively to the more garishly outfitted heroes and villains. I can accept a somewhat sterile, robotic physical presence from the city's pedestrians, but when an entire roomful of rogues also suffers from the same malady, the jig is up.

As a character study, this is a triumph. And maybe that's all Johns and Van Scriver intended it to be: a love letter to fans of the old Flash and a reminder of why he's so adored for the newer audience. Despite a few intriguing hints of what's to come, scattered around the last pages of this chapter, there isn't much else to the issue than that. Borrow it and drink in the characterization, but don't step in expecting an event. Not just yet, anyway.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7.5

Dead Romeo #1

The latest in a string of vampire concepts to strike pop culture, Dead Romeo investigates the activities of nine freshly reincarnated blood-sucking monsters and their quest to… well, we don't really know that just yet. All that's certain is that it involves sharp teeth, grimy alleyways and gore... lots and lots of gore.

The book's author, Jesse Blaze Snider, delivers a cast of characters that's so bland and one-dimensional I can't help but wonder if he's doing it on purpose. We've got an actor-turned-vampire, a roided-out bodybuilder vampire, a gun wielding vampire, a rapist vampire… the list goes on, and if you expect any of them to have a touch of depth, personality or anything beyond a weak gimmick to separate them from their running buddies, you're being overly optimistic. This book has awful dialog, a weak underlying premise and an indecisive, painfully forced protagonist. Our hero spends a whopping three pages of quality time with the leading lady, consisting of a few terrible pick-up lines and a curt parting of ways, before she's thrown into harm's way and he must choose between her life and an eternity amidst hellfire and brimstone. Seriously, that's the long and the short of this entire issue. Is there only one woman in this city? The man returned from the dead, immediately found the nearest warm female body, (she was ASLEEP on a TOMBSTONE) made a genuinely rotten attempt at flirtation, and now he's contemplating eternal damnation to save her life? If this is the kind of substance I can expect from the rest of this mini-series, I think it can let me off right here, thanks.

The artwork, provided by journeyman Ryan Benjamin, can't seem to decide on an identity. On some pages he's mimicking Brandon Peterson, on others he looks to be offering up an homage to Pat Lee and Dreamwave Productions. I'm genuinely surprised a lot of these pages were credited to the same artist, their appearance is that radically different. Benjamin overloads this issue with two-page spreads, which comprise about three-quarters of the story, and delivers them with varying degrees of legibility. His action scenes are angled and directed so strangely, I still don't really have much of a clue about what actually happened. He takes the story's darker overtones just a step too far, bathing the page with so much black ink it's often completely illegible. Our introduction to the bulk of Dead Romeo's cast takes place in a bar so prohibitively dark, I couldn't put a single name to a face when they were suddenly thrown into a back-alley fight two pages later.

Benjamin's work never gets any better than it is on the cover, and that's a major disappointment. Casual readers might be misled by that truly gorgeous composition, which overflows with the kind of restraint, nuance and character that's missing from the issue's internals. Before that first page, Ryan looks like a talented, disciplined, striking new visual artist. After his first few internal layouts shatter that façade, it's a long, slippery downward slope.

Not to mince words, but don't waste your time with Dead Romeo. It's recycled, rehashed and regurgitated material that's been done, better, a dozen times before. You can admire the book's greatest asset, its cover, right there on the shelf without even lifting a finger. Skip it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 1.5

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In Brief - March 2009

A quick glimpse at what else I've been reading this month...

Daredevil #116 - Return of the King(pin). Not at all what I was expecting, but for the first three quarters of the issue I really didn't care. It was strangely compelling to observe this human side to a character that's long been known as cold, monstrous and impenetrable, but Brubaker's been working on that indirectly since he took over on this series, beginning with the arc surrounding Fisk's wife. I kept reading and hoping it wouldn't end as predictably as I'd imagined it might, and in the end it... did and it didn't. When I closed that back cover, I felt like I'd been listening to a musical arrangement that had built and built and built, and just when it was ready to climax, the whole orchestra quit playing and walked off the stage. Should I burst into applause or awkwardly gather my things and head for the doors? I have no idea where they go from here, but I'll be around to find out. No Murdock appearances this month.

Kingdom Come #2 - Only three months after I went back to revisit chapter one - at this rate I'll finish the entire series in just under a year! The story really lifts off in this issue, and Alex Ross's artwork follows suit. Where the first issue was about hope in the face of terrible adversity, this verse shows us that even the brightest stars have their dark corners. The wheels show signs that they're ready to fall off for Superman and his gang of old Justice Leaguers, the modern generation doesn't seem as enthused about their presence as Supes had imagined, and the return of the heroes has also brought with it the resurrection of their enemies. I was never all that thrilled with the way Kingdom Come depicted Bruce Wayne (I have a hard time imagining Batman reduced to an old man bent over a keyboard, keeping watch over a series of robots) but his role is becoming much more clear to me this time around. I'm also noticing a startling number of similarities to present-day America and its crusade to defend those who never really asked for our help in the first place, which has made the series twice as interesting. So, you mean showing a little muscle and draping ourselves in the red, white and blue isn't enough any more? All right, make with the impervious gulag. All of the best works remain relevant long after the date of their publication. Count Kingdom Come among them.

The Punisher: Frank Castle #68 - That's it, no more threats, I'm done with this series. The writing has transitioned from "going nowhere" to "going nowhere would've been more compelling" and the artwork is more interested in clumps of blood and sailing bullets than cluing the readers in on what's actually supposed to be happening. That's a shame, because on paper this is a great premise - a nameless bad guy injects Castle with a serum that will end his life in six hours, and rather than doing their bidding for the antidote, Frank puts a bullet in the villain's brain and prepares for death by annihilating as many bad guys on his checklist as he can before time runs out. But rather than using that as the spark to ignite a blood bath of heretofore-unseen proportions, Frank's aimlessly wandering around and blaming the serum when he doesn't land on his feet after a fall. Really? That's it? This was one of the most confusing, frustrating, aggravating reads I've endured so far in 2009. And, as if that weren't enough, it's also incredibly stale. I wish they'd canceled the series when Ennis left, because Frank just doesn't seem to have anything left in the tank without him.

Ex Machina Special #4 - This book is really starting to reek of the same problems that plagued Brian K. Vaughan's work on the second half of Y: The Last Man. Maybe I should just start jumping on board for his first three or four storylines, when he does his best work introducing a premise and setting up the major players, then exiting before he can get lost and the plot comes to a screeching halt. Ex Machina hasn't been making forward progress in years, but I keep buying it because I think I see a flicker of hope off in the distance. This concept is so strong, I hate to think the writer doesn't have a finish line in mind, but that's starting to look like it's the case. Again. Either way, it's nice to see the series testing fresh ground on the artistic front. John Paul Leon is nothing like Tony Harris's work on the regular series, but he still feels compatible. He's somewhat inconsistent this month, but when it was working I really liked what I saw. The hype machine would have me believe the seeds are being planted right here for the book's final storyline. In that case, let's hope I missed something because this is some dry shit.

Dark Avengers #3 - They can just go ahead and drop the rest of the team to focus on Osborn at this point, because he's like Atlas carrying the Earth on his shoulders. His opening dialog with the Sentry this month was flawless, and by the end of it I was ready to follow the guy into battle myself. The Sentry as a whole is a personality I'd really grown tired of, and when the book opened in his bedroom I feared the worst. We'd seen this same scene thirty times before, first in New Avengers and later when he joined Mighty Avengers; Big Yellow moping around and using his schizophrenia as a crutch, all the while running around in circles and carefully avoiding any sort of character development. I was actually wishing they'd drop him from the team as a whole because it was becoming clear that he was never going to go anywhere personally. Osborn solved that conundrum in six pages, then went on to win a battle of the egos with Victor Von Freaking Doom, of all people. If it weren't for a particularly bland battle in the second half of the issue and artwork I'm still not totally on board with, this would be getting top marks.

New Avengers #51 - This reads like a lesson in good visual storytelling, with Billy Tan providing a fascinating example of what not to do and Chris Bachalo repeatedly stepping in to show us the way it's supposed to be. Bachalo is close to his old form this month, particularly on the splash pages - his rendition of Dormammu right inside the front cover is breathtaking, and his take on the Cowl midway through is even better. Tan, meanwhile, seems to have replaced Clint Barton's head with a pumpkin and broadened his shoulders so far I'm curious how he fits through a standard doorway. I didn't even recognize Carol Danvers until someone addressed her by name, three or four pages after she'd appeared and begun speaking. This was kind of a filler issue, with a few cute character moments but nothing I'd have been sore about missing. Spider-Man unmasking in front of the team was unexpected, but that kind of lost its impact the first time it was done (and then immediately undone) and within two pages he was bouncing around on a rooftop without it like nothing's wrong. Whaaaat?! I'm thinking about ripping the Billy Tan pages out of this issue and pretending that's the way it's supposed to be read.

Daredevil #117 - An off month from both Michael Lark and Ed Brubaker. Lark's artwork feels excessively simple this month; his lines are thicker and clunkier than usual, and he's missing the emotion that usually characterizes his work. Matt Murdock has almost completely lost touch with reality, taking stupid risks as Daredevil that should've damned him but have instead rolled right off his back. He's fighting a losing battle to keep the wife he doesn't truly want, beating down the middle man with little justification and getting into arguments with the Kingpin's cronies on his front doorstep. Surely the media and the feds haven't abandoned his case so quickly? He feels like a guy who's lashing out in all directions, someone who's about to get burned, but I'm not sure I really like that direction. Matt's been in the dumpster for almost five years now, and while it's fascinating to see how close he can get to rock bottom without breaking, I'm just about ready to see the curtain fall.

Top 10: Season Two Special #1 - This was, hands down, my personal favorite of the ABC titles Alan Moore was creating for Wildstorm at the turn of the millennium. Sadly, if not unexpectedly, it hasn't held up nearly as well now that Moore's loving touch has become a thing of the past. Top 10 still benefits from the fantastic landscape, the giant supporting cast and the skewed perspectives that were established in "Season One," but in another writer's hands it feels hollow. These look like many of the same characters I loved in the first series, they've just been lobotomized. Gone are the inventive superpowered crimes, the colorful police forc e and the heartfelt nods to pop culture in the background. In their place is a single lead character (who, aside from her purple skin, is completely unrecognizable) a watered down courtroom drama and much more blunt, obvious visual puns. This isn't all that bad of a story, but it sure as hell isn't worthy of the name. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder and this was never as good as I'd remembered.

Wolverine Saga #1 - Freebie I was handed at the checkout counter when I made last week's purchase, I guess intended to fill all the fanboys in just in time for Wolvie's big motion picture later this summer. This is an all-encompassing retelling of every noteworthy moment in Logan's life, and has basically informed me that he's already met every single character in the Marvel Universe, often before they became heroes or villains. It's all text, spiced up with random panels from dozens of memorable issues featuring the character. Nice to have it all collected in one place, but reading it in one sitting, it becomes obvious just how ridiculous, overthought and convoluted his history really is. So he fought in six different wars, fell deeply in love with a busload of lovely ladies and lost/regained his memory weekly for over forty years? And he's only been in-costume since the '90s? After working my way through this, I'm now of the opinion that no further paper needs to be dedicated to the character because every possible storyline involving him has already been told. Some more than once. Cripes.

The Muppet Show #1

I have a hard time imagining that anyone was especially clamoring for a new Muppets comic book, but as the cover so boldly proclaims, this series is aimed directly at kids. Formerly the industry's lifeblood, the younger market has been sorely overlooked in recent years, as the industry has catered to a much more mature audience and largely lost sight of its roots. Marvel's tried to recapture that demographic via their Marvel Adventures line, but without any ties to the 616 universe, those books look and feel like something of an afterthought. With its Muppets property, however, Boom! Studios has landed a brand that's long been adored by children, while still remaining appealing to adults. The question now is whether they're still relevant or even recognized, eleven years since the cancellation of their most recent television series and nearly a decade since their last motion picture.

Roger Langridge provides both the story and the artwork, both of which are rooted deeply in the source material, but ever so slightly askew. These characters are so widely known and instantly recognizable that it's tough not to arrive with a preconceived notion of exactly how they should look and act. Langridge does his best to overcome that perception with his artwork, which takes a noticeably different angle on this familiar cast. The characters are still easy to identify, but at the same time they seem somewhat foreign. Kermit's face is just a bit too tall, Gonzo's appearance a little too manic, Mis Piggy's body a hair more realistic than I'm comfortable with. I realize how petty and miniscule these details may sound in print, but in conjunction with one another (and dozens of similar miscues on every other character) they really do add up.

Although his intentions may have been to give the issue's artwork a sense of loose spontaneity, in practice it feels regimented and over-disciplined. A lot of the fun of the TV series was in the casual way everything was orchestrated; puppets hanging limply from the roof or being hurled like a rag doll through the air. That's missing from Langridge's disciplined inks. Backgrounds and characters alike are sketched with a stern eye for order. It's like he was so concerned about getting everything just right that he sabotaged himself.

Lengridge's writing is much more in line with what I was expecting. A direct continuation of the Muppet Show format, he follows the crew from skit to skit, then backstage during the chaos that takes place in between sets. The jokes and puns are every bit as cheesy as ever, but the show's innocent nature and wholesome image make it all OK. He works hard to include as many familiar faces as possible from the TV show's enormous cast, but manages to do so without overcrowding the issue or losing sight of the more well-known characters. It's both fun and easy to read, still entertaining for the kids but also, amazingly, also for their parents.

The artwork needs to be a bit rougher around the edges, but overall I found this to be a worthy successor to the long-dead Muppet Show TV series. Old time fans will find a lot to like here, and younger readers without as deep a level of familiarity with the concept might be surprised by how much they catch themselves enjoying it. Borrow it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

Spawn #190

It's been ten years and a hundred issues since I finally laid my passion for this series to rest, severing my ties and removing it from my pull list. During that time I've grown, both as a person and as a reader, while I perceived Spawn as standing still in time, doing the same things in the same way over and over again. Whether that reputation was justified or not, I can't say – but on the occasions I would chance a peek at an issue to satisfy a certain, fleeting curiosity, the book did nothing but reinforce that belief. There's been little variety in this book, even when its focus shifts away from the title character, and that's what ultimately drove (and kept) me away. When you've read ninety issues of the same stuff, no matter how good it might be (and this wasn't always that good) you're going to start looking for something different.

For better or worse, a lot of that remains unchanged. The series is still like a bicycle with one gear, sticking to what it's always done and showing no interest in trying anything dramatically different. If anything, it's more set in its ways than it's ever been. Like I said, it's been ages since the last time I sat down with an issue of Spawn, but I didn't even need a recap page to jump right back in and feel like I was already up to speed. I can remember the excitement and adventure of this title's early days, when McFarlane was inviting the biggest names in the industry to come on board for an issue and tell a few stories in his sandbox. It was working – Neil Gaiman introduced us to Medieval Spawn and Angela, Alan Moore took a look at the Violator's lewd siblings, Frank Miller investigated a gang war in the streets of New York. It was headed somewhere genuinely different, and I wanted to be there when it arrived. It wasn't long, though, before McFarlane's baby had lost its way.

Now, Spawn fancies itself as the bringer of a much more subtle style of horror / fantasy, a goal which isn't always in sight. Gone are the more garish run-ins with costumed evildoers, complete with glowing hands, lime green eyeballs and constant blasts of gunfire. In their stead, this issue focuses on a much more pedestrian perspective. It's a good direction for the series, but even on the occasions that the plot is moving somewhere promising, McFarlane still isn't much of a writer. His cohort, Brian Holguin, doesn't exactly help the cause. For the amount of plot progression this issue makes, there's entirely too much dialog, and it's not the kind of stuff that's going to hold my attention. That transforms the issue from a ten-minute read into a half-hour sitting, which is enough to drain even the staunchest supporter.

The visual marriage between Image co-founders Whilce Portacio and Todd McFarlane looks just like it sounds. As a big fan of both artists back when they were in their prime, I noticed bits and pieces of each personality peeking through the panels at any given time, and the two have proven to be surprisingly compatible. Portacio's tendencies to over-detail and fill the page with stiff, blatantly postured characters have been restrained by McFarlane's inks. The Big Todd's predisposition for losing his focus and going over the top with his love for exaggeration is kept in check by Portacio's much more stern, vivid, realistic renderings. Together, they compensate for each other's shortcomings and respect each other's natural strengths. I see a lot of McFarlane when the panels are in close on a character's face, but it's almost all Portacio when the angle is a bit wider. It's still a good looking series, even with colorist Jay Fotos sapping the life out of every page with an unrelentingly dull, drab color palette. I get it, everything is bleak and the colors match the tone of the story, but he's hindering the artwork.

In this issue, my foregone conclusions were proven to be both right and wrong. Spawn is trying a few new things, and the book is currently enjoying a restored sense of direction, but it's going about things in the same old ways. It has no heart, there's a notable lack of passion in the writing, and it's still desperately in need of a major change in pace. This wasn't as bad as I'd feared, but it hadn't improved as much as I'd hoped. Flip through it and see if you can deal. It's worth a peek just to climb into the time machine and enjoy some fresh artwork from Portacio and McFarlane.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 3.5