|Saturday, February 7, 2009 10:23 PM|
| by Fëanor|
Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.
This covers new releases from the week of 1/28, plus a hardcover collection and a TPB.
Back issues and old data
Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Volume 2
This is a hardcover book that I got for Christmas which tells the rest of the story of the Sinestro Corps War (my review of Volume 1 can be found here). Well, most of the rest of the story, anyway. It's clear from various references made in this book that various tie-in stories were not included in these volumes, which is a little disappointing. Still, all the major plot points and big fights seem to be here.
This volume opens with pretty much the largest scale battle I've ever seen: living planets fighting each other, with huge armies of Green and Yellow Lanterns joining in. Sodam Yat is part of one group of Lanterns infiltrating Ranx, the Sinestro Corps' living planet, and he keeps trying to take over and give orders. Some prophecy says he'll be really important to the Green Lantern Corps in the future, and this book spends some time trying to develop him further, but he still ends up a mostly bland, annoying character. I was fascinated to learn that he's essentially a Kryptonian (really a Daxamite), which means he gets Superman's powers when under the light of a yellow sun. But when Superboy Prime describes him as "Superman-Lite with a power ring," he couldn't be more right.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. In the midst of the battle for Mogo, the Guardians decide things aren't going well and it's time to make their first major revision to the Book of Oa: they enable the use of lethal force. It's a huge and important step and, as we'll learn later, it's all Sinestro really wanted out of this war. It leads to a lot more carnage in a book that was already pretty bloody. The Lanterns start making a lot of big, green, glowy guns and swords and blowing Sinestro Corps members to bits with them. There's no question that it turns the tide of the battle (although interestingly some of the Lanterns still refuse to kill). In a particularly disturbing use of the new lethal force doctrine, Salaak captures one of the creepy suicidal kids and incinerates him. Wow.
Yat seems convinced he just can't die, and indeed he does not, even after being at the center of a huge explosion that destroys Ranx. Guess there's a yellow sun nearby?
But now that that battle's over, it's time to cut to the actual major Sinestro Corps assault: the invasion of Earth. And they've poured everything into this - the Warworld, Superboy Prime, Sinestro, Cyborg Superman and his Manhunters, Parallax, and pretty much everybody else in the Corps go crashing down to Earth and start wreaking havoc. I love the way Hal goes zooming back to his brother's place as soon as he learns Parallax is there, and then charges right into him. Sure, it's exactly what Sinestro wanted him to do, but it's still bad-ass. I also like that when Cyborg Superman tells Superman, "You can't kill me," Superman responds, "To be honest, Henshaw, I've never tried." Heh heh. Then when Superboy Prime jumps into the middle of things, he announces himself by saying, "I'm baaAaack. Jerks." I love the way he calls people jerks. He cracks me up.
Even though it's a little corny the way Hal talks Kyle into coming back out of Parallax, it's also a moving moment that's well illustrated. It's interesting that Ganthet and Sayd choose to cut Parallax up and seal the bits up into the four power batteries of the Green Lanterns from Earth. That seems like a dangerous move that could come back to bite them in the ass later. But what do I know. Another moving moment comes when the four Musketeers recharge their rings and get ready to kick some ass. (It's also pretty funny, and totally in-character, that Guy Gardner put a University of Michigan sticker on the side of his power battery.)
Btw, I feel I should mention here, although I like Kilowog, and I like the way he calls people "poozers," it's just possible that he uses that word a little too much. It seems like every writer in this book felt an obligation to have him say "poozers" every page he appeared on. Maybe dial it back a bit, guys! Regardless, it amused me a great deal that Arkillo and Kilowog's fight took them inside the San Diego Comic Con.
Next up, the Corps is called to NYC to take on the bulk of Sinestro's forces, including his biggest weapon: the Anti-Monitor. Sodam Yat rather foolishly attacks the Anti-Monitor head on multiple times, somehow surviving, although only barely. Thankfully the Guardians show up at that moment to fuse Yat with the power of Ion, making him the Corps' greatest weapon. He then faces off against Superboy Prime in a fight that takes up an entire issue. It should theoretically be a really good issue, too, but unfortunately it's written by Peter J. Tomasi, whose talents are uneven at best. Tomasi chooses to fill the fight with many gigantic narration boxes, wherein Sodam Yat goes on and on about how he's feeling and what he's doing and what it all means to him and blah blah blah. It's pretty bad. In between scenes from the fight, we get flashbacks that finally fill in a little of the backstory of Sodam Yat's character. Which is interesting, and good to know, but even that story is a bit lame and melodramatic. Still, it's not all bad. It's an exciting fight, and the art, by Patrick Gleason and Jamal Igle, with inks by Prentis Rollins and Jerry Ordway, and color by Guy Major, is quite excellent. After Prime is done giving Yat a thorough beating, we move on to the extra-long, epic conclusion to the war. To really get the feel for how insanely huge this war is, the issue opens with a couple of gigantic two-page splashes absolutely loaded to bursting with members of the Green Lantern Corps, the Sinestro Corps, and the Justice League, all fighting like crazy. There's some great little visual references in the background here, too; in the first two-page splash, there's one Yellow Lantern who's clearly based on a Predator, and another who's clearly based on an Alien from the Alien movies. Anyway, I won't go into too much detail on this particular issue, as I actually already reviewed it in a previous edition of The Take. My assessment of it has changed somewhat in the intervening months, however. I actually enjoy it a lot more now. I was more willing to accept Sinestro's motives in the war, after reading the entire story, and more willing to accept the immediate revival of all the villains. It's also really neat to look at the two-page spread predicting the gigantic war amongst all the corps and see a bunch of things that have since come to fruition. There's Atrocitus dressed as a Red Lantern; there's Saint Walker, the Blue Lantern; there are the Star Sapphires. The writers were really planning ahead here! And man is it bad-ass how the Lanterns take out the Anti-Monitor, Cyborg Superman, and Prime. It's neat also to see the rise of the Blue and Black Lanterns again, after seeing what the Blue Lanterns have been doing lately, and knowing that the Black Lanterns are going to start taking a hand in things soon.
The final story in the book is an epilogue by Peter J. Tomasi wherein we see how various Green Lanterns are dealing with the aftermath of the war. One of the more moving scenes here centers on a Lantern who is sitting in a bar saying the name of each and every fallen Lantern. The rebuilding of the Statue of Liberty, followed by a buddy-buddy conversation between Guy and Kyle, is a little corny, but reasonably effective. And I like Patrick Gleason's art.
The last thing in the book is an interesting and informative interview with a bunch of the writers and artists involved in Sinestro Corps War, wherein they talk about the making of the story and what's coming next.
Overall, a good book, and probably one of DC's best giant crossover stories.
Strange Killings: The Body Orchard
I've slowly been catching up on the past history of combat magician Bill Gravel via trades. This one is my most recent acquisition. Unfortunately, Mike Wolfer is on art duties throughout (I continue to find his work really amateurish), but Ellis is on writing duties, so it's not all bad.
The story opens with Gravel being seen by the police in the midst of performing another of his secret, private assassination missions, which he does between official missions for the British government. So he decides to lie low until he can deposit some cash he acquired during the mission. But then he stumbles into the middle of somebody else's secret mission. It's his old SAS team, and they're taking out a just-elected Mayor of New York. But why? And how did they learn all the magic they so ably make use of during their mission? And why do they try to kill Gravel when they recognize him? Curious and seriously pissed, Bill decides to find out the answers to these questions. He ends up fighting it out not only against the four men in his old SAS team (who are amateur magicians, but magicians nonetheless), but also against practically the entire NYPD, who blame him for the assassination of the mayor. When he tries to get help from his bosses back at HQ, he realizes they're out to get him, too. It's not a good day for Bill Gravel.
Eventually he follows his team into a strange, mystical realm known as the Body Orchard, where it's possible to grow weapons. We also get to see a flashback to a mission he went on with the SAS team in which they learned he was a magician, and got to see him duke it out with another magician. Back in the present, Gravel gets caught by the NYPD, fights his way out, and then follows his old team to the Pentagon, where they're killing everything that moves. He ultimately stops them by crashing a jet into the Pentagon. Yeah, Ellis went there. Maybe it was meant to be some kind of parallel universe explanation for the events of 9/11? Regardless, it's pretty twisted and offensive.
But then, Gravel's stories always are. This one is just a little more so, thanks in large part to the fact that many of the people he's blowing up and tearing apart this time are essentially innocents. Sure, the NYPD shoot at him, try to capture and imprison him, and later try to beat information out of him - but most of their actions are understandable, given what they know of Gravel. They think they're doing the right thing, going after the bad guy. Later it becomes clear that some of them are just being manipulated by Gravel's own superiors. Knowing all this, does Gravel perhaps take it easy on them? Just break their legs, instead of tearing their skin off? Nah. In fact, if anything, the stuff he does to them becomes more and more gruesome as the conflict goes on. It's pretty horrific.
Gravel's never been the kind of guy to pull punches, and he's never been particularly likable. But at least in the past when he was ripping people's eyeballs out and making them throw up their own guts, his victims were undeniably horrible people who deserved whatever they got. It's a little harder to watch him do the same stuff to policemen, some of whom are just passing by and don't even know what's going on.
I can't say I'm all that shocked and horrified. Like I said, we're talking Warren Ellis and Bill Gravel here. But I certainly didn't enjoy this book as much as the more recent adventures of Mr. Gravel.
It's not going to keep me from buying the next trade, though. The ending of this volume seems to suggest that the next story will be about Gravel going after his superiors in the British government, so that should be interesting.
Captain America #46
We open up here with Bucky and Namor flying to the rescue of the original Human Torch in an old jet of Namor's. It's just like old times! Namor acts like a dick, as always, but Bucky reads him well enough to know he approves, in his own way, of Bucky taking on the mantle of Captain America, and that he's just as determined as Bucky to save the Torch. A flashback reveals the evil Professor has been fascinated by the Human Torch since he first saw him, many years ago. Meanwhile, Black Widow, in the process of getting the info Cap and Namor need to track the Professor down, figures out that the Winter Soldier is wanted for crimes against the state of China for killing the Professor's wife during his last escape. D'oh.
It's great to see Namor and Cap together again, and on a mission to save the Human Torch, no less. And I always enjoy Namor when he's written well, and Brubaker captures his character perfectly here. It's not an incredibly exciting issue - but then, very few issues of Captain America do excite me all that much, what with the endlessly dark and muted color palette and the story that never comes to any real conclusions. But we do seem to be headed somewhere interesting this time, so I'm staying with it.
Final Crisis #7
At long last, Final Crisis comes to an end. Sort of, anyway; not all of the tie-in miniseries are over yet. But this is definitely the last issue of the main miniseries, and I have to admit, it's pretty impressive. I particularly enjoyed the opening, which picks up in an alternate universe where an intelligent black President shuts himself in the Oval Office of the White House and removes his shirt to reveal Superman's "S" on his chest (although his is yellow on red instead of red on yellow). It's Super Barack Obama! Sort of. He and the Wonder Woman of his universe (whose name is Nubia) answer a distress call and discover that the Yellow Submarine from Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D has swum through the bleed into their world. Turns out all the Supermen of the multiverse are being called together again as a last ditch, life-or-death effort. Meanwhile, all that's left of Earth in our Superman's universe is the Watchtower. Everything else has been taken over by Darkseid. Lois Lane, we learn, has written the story of Final Crisis - "the story of all our stories" - into the final edition of the Daily Planet. That story, along with a few other mementos, is loaded into a rocket ship and fired off from the doomed world, in the hopes that someone, somewhere will find it. Sound familiar? It's Superman's story, again. The story at the heart of everything. The story of stories. Fantastic.
Meanwhile, we cut back to Superman facing off against the mortally wounded Darkseid, who points out that since he is now everything there is, when he dies, everything else will, too. He then fires the poisoned bullet back in time to kill Orion. He's only able to take Orion by surprise and kill him this way because at this point in time, Orion no longer exists. Swallow that paradox!
It's at this point that Wally and Barry Allen arrive with the Black Flash in tow and bowl Darkseid over, running death right into him. It's pretty awesome, even if it doesn't make all that much sense. I mean, isn't Darkseid already dying? Don't we not want to finish killing him just yet? Because it'll, like, destroy all reality and stuff?
Then we find out what the deal was with that God Machine that turns will into reality at the end of last issue. Turns out Superman didn't use it, he just looked at it, and memorized every part of it. Now he asks for everyone's help (even Lex Luthor and Sivana) to build it. I love the conversation between Lex and Sivana about it. Lex: "This looks to me like something capable of rewriting the laws of physics." Sivana: "Meh."
Checkmate's last ditch plan to move the Earth to another Earth seems to have gone disastrously awry. I think. I didn't quite follow that part. The story jumps back and forth through time and space so much, and shows you things in such quick flashes, that it's really hard to grasp all the details. Supergirl puts it best: "I don't think I've ever felt anything so strange... like it's all broken up from one minute to the next..." But it looks like Frankenstein (uh, where the hell did he come from?!?), Lex, and the supervillains switched sides and helped Superman win out against Darkseid. Wonder Woman was finally able to overcome the mind control and lasso Darkseid's body, I guess to keep him alive and disabled long enough for them to try to save the multiverse. After that, the surviving members of the human race were somehow shrunk down and preserved in a freezer (wha?). After completing the God Machine, Superman finally finishes off Darkseid by singing a countersong to Darkseid's vibrations of evil, or something. This, of course, ends everything. As it's all falling apart, Superman finds the final magic ingredient for the God Machine. But then Mandrakk shows up with the vampire Superman! When Mandrakk said he'd be back at the end of Superman Beyond, I assumed he meant he'd be back in the next Crisis, but apparently he was talking more short term! Anyway, Superman manages to activate the God Machine despite Mandrakk, but what he does with it is not explained until later. There's a ridiculously insane showdown, where freaking everybody shows up for a final face-off against Mandrakk - I'm talking all the Supermen of the multiverse (whose arrival is heralded by our own Superman saying, "Look, up in the sky" - awesome), a bunch of Green Lanterns, a Monitor, the Army of God, the forever people of the 5th World, and even the super animals from the old funny animal comics. Holy crap, dude! Morrison seems to throw in the funny animal guys seemingly as an afterthought, or because he was obligated to (it's been sort of a tradition since the first Crisis that every character owned by DC has to be involved somehow). Thankfully they don't do or say anything; they just kind of show up and then Morrison keeps going. "And... these guys, too! Okay, moving on..." Anyway, at that point, Morrison had me going to the extent that I was ready to let him do anything, even pull in the funny animals. And after all, on the page opposite the one in which he introduces those characters, he shows us a bunch of Green Lanterns teaming up and using the last of their power to drive a giant glowing green stake through the heart of the final enemy of reality, and that's pretty damn hot stuff right there.
We cut from the victory scene to the hall of Monitors, where Nix Uotan is giving his report. He says some really inspiring things about humanity, and concludes that it's time for the Monitors to cease all contact with the multiverse and become nameless and faceless again, for the sake of everyone and everything. There's also some interesting stuff about how a new creation was brought about by Darkseid's death, and how the Monitors cleaned up after the Crisis by pretty much rebuilding the multiverse, and correcting all the remaining time anomalies (by which I guess he means DCU continuity!). As the Monitors are being removed from reality, their story ending, Nix Uotan reveals finally what Superman wished for with the God Machine: a happy ending. And maybe even Nix Uotan gets one, as someone looking quite a lot like him seems to awaken immediately afterwards on Earth, as a human. I think? Then we jump to some other time and place, where an old man (referred to as "old man") has found the rocket launched earlier, containing the story of Final Crisis. Old man seems very important and final somehow, but who he is exactly is unclear to me. He dies, but there's another man in the cave with him, a man who looks quite a bit like Bruce Wayne. As he begins drawing a bat symbol on the cave wall, a narrative box informs us that "the fire burns forever."
Yeah, I'm pretty confused. But I'm also pretty blown away. Despite the fact that this series has been jumbled and puzzling, it's also been beautifully written and extremely moving and effective. Even if I didn't understand it all the time, I always had the sense there was a wise and intelligent storyteller behind it, and that even if he wasn't always clear, he was always artful. And there are so many astounding ideas in here, and so many wonderful things said about stories, and storytelling, and humanity. And I love that it ends on a hopeful note, and with a glimpse of Batman, and the clear sense that he's not really gone, and that great stories never die.
Final Crisis is truly an amazing piece of work. Grant Morrison, I salute you!
The first issue of this miniseries, which ties in with the TV show, came out a long time ago, and I bought it and enjoyed it. Then I read that they'd resolicited the rest of the series for a much later date. I'm not sure why. Anyway, here's the second issue finally, and as it turns out, it was worth the wait. This series is way better than it has any right to be. First up is the second part of the main story, "Bell and Bishop," which tells the past history of William Bell and Walter Bishop - how they met, and what they did in that lab in Cambridge for all those years. I like that the comic is getting to tell what is actually some pretty important backstory. Anyway, as Bell and Bishop are toiling away in the lab, a mysterious man named R. Bradbury (ha!) shows up, claiming he's from a soap company and offering them unlimited resources to continue their experiments for said company. They get a tour of the company's facilities in Alaska and they're pretty impressive. When Bishop says, "This is some kind of secret weapons lab, isn't it? The soap is just a front," Bradbury responds, "Not at all. We have a very successful consumer products division. Trust me, gentlemen... we make excellent soap." And "Excellent Soap" is the title of this story. Great stuff! It's in this Alaska facility that Dr. Bishop meets a woman named Dr. Rachel Matheson. They hit it off immediately, thanks in part to the fact that he saves her from a giant monster. But things get a little complicated when Bell and Bishop stumble upon a room full of heads in jars.
The backup story is called "Strangers on a Train," and it's a fantastic little oneshot involving time travel that I really enjoyed. It's rather like an episode of Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone. And the guy in it just happens to work for the same soap company mentioned in the main story.
I'm really impressed with the quality of this miniseries, especially considering it's just a tie-in with a TV show. Looking forward to the next issue!
Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch #4
In the course of Danny going out again and again on raids, trying to find Verminus Rex, he once more becomes thoroughly addicted to the power of the Ghost Rider. To the extent that when his friend the witch finds him again and tries to talk some sense into him, it's already too late. He chooses to leave her once again to go with Eleven, who orders him to suck up a Ghost Rider's powers - for her own good, of course. Then he reveals that "the boss" is an angel, and he has a job for Danny: leech the power out of all the other Ghost Riders. After defeating Verminus Rex, of course. But Rex is not so easy to beat. Danny needs full access to the Ghost Rider power if he's to do it. And that's what he finally gets. No doubt it's all part of Zadkiel's plan. The next issue is the last of this miniseries, so it should include Ketch's final showdown with Rex, as well as his first step on the quest that will lead him to the showdown with Johnny that's occurring now in the pages of Ghost Rider.
Pretty good issue! Author Simon Spurrier is actually doing a creditable job of showing how Danny could have ended up where he is now, killing Ghost Riders for a rebel angel. It's all about his addiction to the power, an addiction that Spurrier and artist Javier Saltares depict in brutal, realistic detail.
Jack of Fables #30
Gary finally flips out at the beginning of this issue and really uses his power, causing the very walls, trees, and buildings of the Golden Boughs to rise up and fight. It all gets pretty epic! Meanwhile, Revise explains to Jack how and why he began revising Fables, and the relationships and history among Gary, Kevin, Revise, and Bookburner all start to make more sense. One of the best parts of the issue, however, is when the Fables get to read their original, unbowdlerized stories, thus getting back all their true power and viciousness. Unfortunately, at the end of the issue, it looks like Gary gets whacked, which would be a sad thing indeed. Hopefully we will learn in the next issue that that is not the case. Regardless, you can't call a comic anything but fun that includes the line, "Everybody read for your lives!"
The New Avengers #49
This issue surprised me, and actually kind of disappointed me, too. I had assumed the subplot about Luke Cage's kid being kidnapped, and Cage joining with Osborn in order to find the child, would be a long term thing with lasting consequences. But it's all resolved right here in this issue. Or at least, it seems to be. Maybe I'm underestimating Brian Michael Bendis, and there's more of this story still to come. I'm worried, for instance, that the baby Cage got back might not actually be his baby. We'll see what happens.
It's interesting that we end up feeling bad for the Jarvis Skrull. That's something I didn't expect to happen. And even though I'm a little disappointed that Cage got out of his commitment to Osborn almost immediately (a deal with the devil with no consequences is not particularly horrifying), I have to say, I really did enjoy seeing him whack the shit out of Bullseye and Venom with the Wrecker's magic crowbar. His exit was pretty impressive, too. I also liked Captain America's reaction to having a baby in his hideout. "I've never been this close to a baby before." And speaking of reactions, Clint's reaction to seeing the unveiling of the Dark Avengers, featuring Bullseye as Hawkeye, was pretty much as I expected. He gets really pissed and decides they should just go right over there and kick butt. "Because he dressed up like you?" Iron Fist asks. "No," Clint responds. Then, "Yes!" (I like that Captain America's reaction is, "Well, that's just obnoxious.") Clint's plan is probably not the best one, but the other guys all seem to agree with him and go with it. The little preview tagline promises that next issue will be a double-sized fiftieth anniversary issue, and that it will feature an "Avengers battle royale." Sounds good to me!
Despite the bit with Luke Cage that kind of disappointed me, I really did enjoy this issue, and I'm very much looking forward to the next one. I've been pretending like I'm just buying this comic on an issue by issue basis, but I think eventually I'm just going to have to give in and admit that I'm collecting it.
Oh, and by the way, this comic, along with many other Marvel comics of the past week or two, includes a preview in the back for the new Black Panther series. Looks like it's pretty well done, but it also looks like they're going to kill off T'Challa, and that's something I'm not sure I can condone.
Punisher: War Zone #6
I'm sad to say the final issue of this fantastic miniseries disappointed me a little bit. Maybe the fact that I'd seen that Chris Sims picked it as his best of the week on the Invincible Super-Blog before I read it put my expectations up too high. I don't know. I mean, Garth Ennis did deliver an insane gun battle involving the Punisher and a lesbian in her underwear mowing down an entire army of mobsters; a happily-ever-after ending for poor old Schitti and his pumpkin; and a brutal and ignominious defeat for the pathetic new Elite. But something about it just hit me the wrong way. Maybe it's the way poor von Richthofen gets treated. I don't know. Anyway, it's not like I hated it. It's still an entertaining comic. Just not as good as I was hoping.
The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #3
The insanity continues! As Seance is being tortured by the horrifying and hilarious Cha-Cha and Hazel, he manages to contact Spaceboy through the TV. But it's kind of too late by then, as the boys have already gotten the location of some nukes out of Seance, so they just shoot him in the head. At which point he finds himself in an odd kind of heaven with a cowboy God, who decides to send him back to Earth. Meanwhile, Number 5 finally explains to Rumor the true story of where he was all the time he was away and why a bunch of weirdos are after him. Turns out I was kind of right about the reason, only it's not that he saved JFK, it's that he refused to kill him. Through surgery and training, Number 5 has been transformed into the perfect assassin - an agent for fixing anomalies in the timeline. JFK was his final and most important assignment, but he ran out on it. Now he's being forced to come back. Oh, and it looks like maybe Spaceboy's dead. D'oh!
Another fantastic issue, loaded with brilliant ideas and completely unexpected twists. I also enjoyed Cha-Cha's Aliens reference ("It's the only way to be sure"). Good old Umbrella Academy.
The Wind Raider #1
The zero issue preview of this series convinced me to give it a try, and I have to say I remain impressed and surprised. It's actually pretty good! Gabriel Hardman's art (with colors by Micah Farritor) is beautiful - he has a gift for visual storytelling - and creators/authors Richard Finney and Dean Loftis have taken some imaginative ideas and turned them into an intriguing tale about some interesting characters. A little boy named Joshua strikes it rich for his family by finding a piece of valuable rock out in the desert, but some nasty fellows will do anything to find out where he got it - including track him down and attack his family. Joshua gives his life to try to save his father from them, but in vain. The lead criminal kidnaps Joshua's sister and takes off, but a Ki Warrior takes out the other criminals and brings Joshua back to life.
This is really just an introduction to the story, so it's hard to tell yet where this thing is going to go, and if it's going to remain as interesting as it has been so far, but I'll be sticking with it for now.
|Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Fringe (Not), Garth Ennis (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Punisher (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not)|