|Saturday, July 4, 2009 12:26 PM|
| by Fëanor|
Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.
This post covers new releases from 6/24. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.
Astonishing X-Men #30
I have to say, I came down mostly on Forge's side in the conflict described by this latest story arc. I mean, he makes a lot of good points. They do need to rebuild the mutant population. He did make mutants - maybe they're rather freakish, as Henry rather unkindly points out, but they are mutants nonetheless. It's an impressive feat. And there is indeed an invasion on the way from another universe, which Forge discovered and has been trying to prevent. So what is with the X-Men being all high and mighty and telling him he's crazy? It's pretty annoying. Especially when, at the end of the issue, they pretty much do what he wanted them to do anyway and shoot a laser through at the other universe, killing many potential invaders. So... what exactly was the point of all the fighting and stuff? I'm just confused. And I still feel pretty strongly that Simone Bianchi's art is just not a good fit for this title.
On the other hand, I do like the dark flavor of the ending of this comic, with the X-Men feeling quiet and guilty and unhappy, and with Storm now sadly convinced that sometimes killing really is necessary. And, this being Warren Ellis, there's lots of clever and funny dialog throughout. I enjoy Agent Brand and her relationship with Henry, and I like that she's able to somehow get a call through to Armor's cell phone in the middle of Forge's secret hideout - and that Armor has been using the phone to talk to people on Twitter, during the mission. When Brand reveals she's aware of everything that's been going on, and now has a very powerful laser aimed at the site, Scott is a bit upset: "I should have let Logan stab her that time." Heh. In the middle of a fight later he says, "This is taking too long. Wolverine, you're getting old." Then when the laser fires and the facility blows up, Wolverine says, "Damn. You know I don't like the woman, but I gotta say, her problem-solvin' skills amuse the crap outta me."
So Ellis' dialog-writing skills amuse the crap outta me. But I found this story kind of clumsy and unsatisfying. I'm hoping the next storyline will be better.
Dark Avengers #6
I was right - dudes from the end of last issue were Atlanteans. So naturally Norman calls his little junta together and asks Namor WTF is going on. Namor defies him and it looks like there's going to be a big blow-up, but then Norman just walks away. Disappointing. But it's interesting to see the cabal falling apart like we always knew it would. Meanwhile, Norman's Avengers are kind of falling apart, too. Norman himself is running himself ragged. Ares and Captain Marvel are AWOL. The team members that do show up are disobedient. And even though the Sentry is still following Norman's orders, Norman makes a really bad decision in this issue and asks him to let the Void loose to kill off the Atlanteans. You're playing with fire there, Norman! A fire the size of a million exploding suns, even. And now the darkness inside Norman himself is starting to peek out again.
I guess I realized this before, but this issue underlines once again that Norman and the Sentry have quite a bit in common. Both of them have an evil personality locked inside them that wreaks havoc when it comes out. Of course, the Sentry's is a little more dangerous than Norman's, but still.
I go up and down on this series, but I definitely enjoyed this month's entry.
Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1
Marvel launches their Utopia crossover storyline with this one-shot. The story continues in alternating issues of Uncanny X-Men and Dark Avengers, and then comes to an end with another one-shot, this one with the rather intriguing title of Exodus. The over-arching story is about how the X-Men finally find themselves inescapably drawn into the whole Dark Reign thing, and how Norman finally finds it necessary to do something about the mutant problem - namely, putting together his own team of "Dark" X-Men. Everything explodes in this issue thanks to Simon Trask leading a humans-first march on San Francisco, demanding that mutant breeding be controlled. Predictably, their peaceful march turns into a violent riot. The best part is when Doom says, "Well, then, here's to things finally getting interesting," and Loki replies, "Indeed." Sending the Dark Avengers in only adds more violence, but eventually martial law is declared and the X-Men are taken into custody, with Professor X seemingly condoning the action - except the real Professor X is actually in a secret prison. Meanwhile, Emma's got a new black costume and is apparently happy to go along with whatever Norman's new plan is for mutants.
I came to this book as an ex-fan of author Matt Fraction. I only bought it because I wanted to see what happened. The writing here is only so-so, and Emma's sudden but inevitable betrayal is a bit of a disappointment, but the overall story is indeed intriguing, and Marc Silvestri's art is quite good. I might have to go back to collecting Uncanny X-Men for a while just to keep up with the plot.
Dark Reign: Lethal Legion #1
This new miniseries has an intriguing premise: a group of villains who still hate Norman Osborn, and are pissed they didn't get cut in for as big a piece of the pie as they think they deserved when he took over, gang up to go against him. The actual comic itself is sadly not that interesting. A couple of things stood out for me: the cool way Norman's Iron Patriot armor jumps onto him while he's punching Tiger Shark, and the really interesting surprise on the final page, when the identity of the team's final member is revealed. I can't decide if I want to bother getting another issue of this or not.
Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #1
Brian Reed writes and Chris Bachalo draws a miniseries taking a look at the new Spider-Man: Mac Gargan, who used to go by the name Venom. Gargan is a true scumbag, through and through. But somehow he's managed to hide that fact enough to collect a lot of fans and groupies. If someone begins to suspect he's not the real Spider-Man, he just eats them. He likes the way things are going, but he's pissed at Osborn for yelling at him, and he still has a score to settle with Mayor J. Jonah Jameson. He sets his payback plan in motion at the end of this issue. Meanwhile, there's a dude going around calling himself The Redeemer who's pulled together a bunch of lame Spider-Man villains and is planning to go after Spider-Man with them. But which Spider-Man?
It seems a little unlikely to me that anyone could mistake Gargan for the real Spider-Man, or that it could somehow have gotten past people that there are two Spider-Men wandering the city at the moment, one in a black costume and one in the classic red and blue. But I guess it would be hard to keep up with the vagaries of the superheroes if you were just a regular person trying to live your life on Earth-616. The Redeemer, meanwhile, seems like a pretty lame villain whose motives are clouded and confusing, and whose influence over these other second string villains is a little hard to understand. Maybe that'll come together as the series goes on. I'm just not sure I'll be there to see it. I was hoping this comic would be more fun and interesting than it is. But there wasn't much here to excite me. Sure, Bachalo's art is unique and impressive. His figure work is great, the panel design is fascinating, and the way he uses stark black and white sometimes, almost like a photo negative, is interesting, even if it's also a bit puzzling and distracting.
I don't know, I might get one more issue. The Sinister Spider-Mail column in the back is kind of funny. And I would like to see J. Jonah Jameson get embroiled in a horrible scandal.
Dark Reign: Zodiac #1
Like Lethal Legion, this is another miniseries about a group of villains who team up to go after Osborn, but unlike Lethal Legion, this one is really well written (by Joe Casey), really beautifully drawn (by Nathan Fox, with colors by Jose Villarrubia), and really intriguing. It's also really stunningly violent! After I read the first couple pages, I checked the cover to see if this was part of Marvel's MAX line of explicit content comics, but nope, it's just a regular Marvel comic that happens to be loaded with brutal torture and bloody murder. It's a little disconcerting. But what makes it really good is the smart dialog and the fascinating characters. The title character, Zodiac, is a new villain on the scene who puts together a team because he loves the lawless, anarchic supervillain lifestyle, and hates that Osborn is trying to push everybody around and tell them how to act. Zodiac is intelligent and twisted, and he has a hot girlfriend covered in tattoos named Death Reaper. And I love that he recruits a sarcastic, filthy old clown villain who's seen it all; that guy's also a great character with some great dialog. He remembers a team of villains named Zodiac, based on the astrological signs, but the new Zodiac says he wanted to make sure the name was free to use, so he shows up with a bag full of all their heads. Great scene! I also really enjoy getting a look inside the day-to-day life of H.A.M.M.E.R. officers, and I love that the forensics guy explains his going outside to barf in his report as going exterior momentarily to confer with colleagues. It's also quite brilliant that Zodiac's inside man is Norman's pissed off chauffeur. When Norman tells him, "Driver, a little less bumpy on the landing, yes...?" he thinks, "Dick." I'm worried I'm supposed to recognize Zodiac when he takes his hood off at the end, but maybe not; maybe the surprise is just that he's so young. Anyway, it's great having a title centered on a villain who's really actually smart and competent, and who has a whole ethos behind his villainy. It helps that Fox's art is fantastic, full of wonderful details, and with a strong, Paul Pope kind of look to it. Villarrubia does a beautiful job on the colors, too. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the rest of this series. A really pleasant surprise.
Detective Comics #854
This issue marks a big change in direction for this title, as it sees Batwoman taking over the role of central character. I was curious to see where they were going to go with it, and to learn more about Batwoman, whom I'm completely unfamiliar with, so I picked up a copy despite the fact that it's written by Greg Rucka, whose work I generally dislike. I can't say he really changed my mind with this comic. It focuses on the whole religion of crime thing which Rucka made up for an earlier miniseries, and which I didn't like then. The new leader of the group calls herself Alice and speaks only in lines from Lewis Carroll's stories. Yawn. I mean, it's just kind of a dull story. Batwoman beats up punks to get information, then eventually meets the villain. That's all that happens. Yeah, there are some "character building" personal scenes where Batwoman talks to her Dad, deals with past trauma, and loses her girlfriend. But they're poorly written. J.H. Williams III's art is absolutely amazingly beautiful, especially with the addition of Dave Stewart's colors, which are perfect as always. Batwoman's breasts are maybe a little ridiculous sometimes, but otherwise his figure work is lovely and his panel and page design are incredible. And I love the idea of a sexy, tattooed, redheaded, lesbian Batwoman. It's also pretty funny when Batman gives her advice: "Do something about your hair. One pull, the fight's over for you." But overall, I'm just not sure there's anything here interesting enough for me to want to keep reading.
The series has an ongoing backup story focusing on the Question. But I'm really not a big fan of the new Question, and even though this story includes a Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference, it's otherwise even more dull and boring than the main story. Disappointing.
The final issue of this miniseries reveals that all the stories we've been reading so far about Walter Bishop's youth are stories he's telling a mysterious interrogator at the insane asylum. The interrogator wants to know something specific, about the night the Observer saved Walter and Peter after the car crash, but Walter won't tell him. It's interesting reading this episode from Walter's life in the asylum - we get to see him interact with Dashiell, put together a rather clever escape attempt, sing his little song about the lion tamer, and finally be saved by Olivia (the comic ends about where the TV series began). It's also interesting that someone was already trying to extract some kind of essential bit of information about Walter's past when he was still in the asylum. I'm sure that bit of information is still at the center of what's going on in the TV series. I think the earlier issues of this series were the best, but overall it still turned out to be a far more interesting supplement to the show than I thought it would be.
In the back of the book is a preview for North 40 #1, a Lovecraftian horror tale about a pair of teens who read a mysterious tome, thus allowing a bunch of monsters to take over the town. Actually, the comic is apparently not really about that; it's about what happens afterwards. The art looks kind of cool, and the story is interesting (especially the Lovecraftian elements, of course), but the writing leaves a bit to be desired. The preview included here is almost all exposition. There's definitely nothing here that convinces me I need to read this series.
Gotham City Sirens #1
I'm not a huge fan of Paul Dini, but I do generally enjoy his stories about Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, and that's exactly what this is, so here I am. Also sharing the spotlight with Harley and Ivy is Catwoman. The opening of this issue has some pretty poorly written exposition filling us in on the rather surprising and unlikely backstory that Catwoman had her heart ripped out of her chest by Hush, but then somebody put her heart back in and she got better. Okay then. I'm curious to know what that's all about, but I hate Hush with a flaming passion, so I don't intend to look into it too closely. Anyway, Catwoman's still having a hard time getting back into the groove of being a super... whatever she is, and nearly gets herself taken out by a green young villain fanboy. Luckily Ivy's got her back. They have a pretty funny, gossipy kind of conversation while Ivy's vines beat the crap out of the punk. It's also quite funny that Ivy is living at the Riddler's house, not because he really wants her there, but because she has him totally under her control with her drugs and poisons. As usual, Ivy has given away all her recently acquired cash to various charities involving plants, and Harley has wasted hers on frivolous shopping and rather foolish investments with Nigerian princes ("You got his e-mail, too?!"). Because Dini is a bit of a lecherous old bastard, and because he takes any excuse he can to put Zatanna in anything, he includes a completely gratuitous scene of Zatanna in a nightgown getting dunked in her bathtub repeatedly by Ivy. Sigh. I do really enjoy the way Dini writes Harley, though. And the scene where Nigma snaps out of it and takes out all his frustrations on the fanboy villain is really pretty fantastic. "You're going to kick my ass, aren't you?" "Oh my goodness, yes." I also really love that there's a guy called The Broker who specializes in selling lairs to supervillains. He sells Catwoman an abandoned animal shelter, and tries to sell a deserted storybook park to the Mad Hatter: "River view, numerous emergency exits, and, best of all, just down the street from an all-girls academy." Ha! I also like the exciting final twist, when the girls pin down Catwoman, drug her, and ask her who Batman is. That oughta be interesting!
So yeah, there are some corny bits, but overall I really enjoyed this comic, which means I'm afraid I'm going to have to buy at least one more issue of it.
Green Lantern #42
The longest prelude of all time continues! Turns out the arm-tearing from the end of last issue was just a trick of the blue ring. For a brief moment, Hal Jordan grabs hold of the Orange Lantern, and nearly falls under its control ("You could really go for a hamburger right now. Couldn't you? Two hamburgers!" OK, I like hamburgers and all, but an object of cosmic power that could theoretically alter the universe, and all it can think to offer him is hamburgers?? Is it the Lantern or Jordan that lacks imagination?). In another rather stupid moment, Hal finally gets the blue ring to work by telling it he hopes it'll stop asking him what he hopes for. Lame. The interesting thing is, he somehow gets a glimpse of the future, and the blue ring immediately flies off his hand. Does that mean he saw a bit of what's coming in the Blackest Night and lost all hope? It's not entirely clear. Anyway, the Guardians make another nasty deal with Larfleeze - they tell him where the home of the Blue Lanterns is. That's cold, man. The epilogue is pretty neat; the guy who can hear the dead is now deaf to the living, because the dead were so loud they ruptured his ear drums. He and his buddy find the corpse of the Anti-Monitor thanks to the voices of the dead - but it turns out the dead aren't friendly anymore. Those guys are probably gonna get eaten by zombies now. Another interesting moment: dude asks his ring where they are, and it tells him the location is classified. Why classified? Is that the result of another nasty little deal the Guardians made? Hmm.
The art in this issue is by Philip Tan and Eddy Barrows. I'm not sure who did what, but one of them I don't think I like very much, as some of the figure work in here is pretty poor.
I continue to be of two minds about this series. I'm intrigued by the story, but generally annoyed by the rather mediocre writing. I guess I'm sticking with it for now. One day this prelude's gonna be over!
The Incredible Hercules #130
Heh. This time the recap page is done up as a travel brochure for hell. Nice. Sadly, the story itself is not all that clever or exciting. I mean, putting God on trial for his crimes against humanity has been done. It's kind of an interesting idea, but it's really hard to do well without getting melodramatic and pseudo-philosophical, and this book get a little of both. Plus, the way they split up Herc and Cho and send Cho off to Elysium just feels really contrived. And if the waters of the River Lethe induce instant and permanent amnesia, how come Cho's able to splash the water at some monsters with his bare hands without being affected by it himself? I do enjoy Pak's usual silly, highly descriptive sound effects ("PAPAKRAK" and "PAPASOK" when Hercules' papa punches him), and the idea of Hercules facing off against his own mortal shade is kind interesting, even if I saw it coming from miles away. But overall what I'm seeing in this issue is the kind of mediocrity that led me to drop this book in the first place. So maybe it's time to drop it again.
The Incredibles #3
Aww, Violet's got a boyfriend. That's nice. I loved getting a little peek at Mr. Incredible's Rogue's Gallery. It's pretty funny seeing him doing housework and sighing with regret that he can't be with his teammates while they fight monsters at the mall. And it's pretty exciting when he figures out the mystery of why he's been losing his powers. The full explanation hasn't been revealed to us yet, so I remain curious and look forward to next issue. But it involves a surprising betrayal by the neighbors. One detail I found odd: why are Violet, Dash, and Helen just walking into the front door of their house with their Incredibles costumes on?! It looks like it's late at night at that point, so there's a better than average chance they won't be seen, but still! Shouldn't they be more careful about keeping their secret identities secret?
The Literals #3
The Great Fables Crossover finally comes to an end with the last issue of the Literals miniseries. (At least, I think this is the last issue of The Literals - unless it's going to continue as an ongoing now?) It's a thrilling conclusion; the world is literally only a few letters away from being destroyed when an unlikely person manages to save them all. But they don't have a permanent solution to the problem of Kevin Thorn - until Deus Ex Machina shows up and provides... well, a deus ex machina ending! Usually such endings are bad, but this one is so cleverly done, and makes such wonderful sense, it's hard not to love it. Plus, they've set things up now so they have a whole new universe to play around in if they want to. And I'm glad to see Gary's still kicking around, even if he might no longer have his powers. It's not the greatest comic ever, but it's a fun enough conclusion to a well done crossover series.
The New Avengers #54
The new Sorcerer Supreme gets crowned, as it were; the Avengers all team up and take shots at Dormammu; the wizards all team up to imprison and exorcise Dormammu; all kinds of cool, flashy magic gets done; Hellstrom points out that if Dormammu can come through to Earth via a cloak, the boundaries between things are breaking, the end of days is coming, and Brother Voodoo better be ready for the fight of his life (Spider-Man's response: "You... should write greeting cards. Really."); Parker Robbins ends up stripped of all his power, but offered a second chance by Loki (and an offer from Loki is never a good thing); and Hawkeye decides they have to kill Norman Osborn. Good comic!! Seriously, this is pretty fantastic stuff. It upsets me that my opinions of comic book authors end up being so variable, but in this book, at least, Brian Michael Bendis did a good job.
Military dudes in East Africa get killed by Predators. That's all this comic is about. It's a little... dull. It would be more interesting if the characters had personalities, but they're all pretty generic; a hard-ass military guy and a sarcastic, amoral mercenary who don't get along with each other very well. I'll get at least one more issue to see if it starts to go somewhere, but I'm pretty disappointed so far.
I gave this series two issues to grab me, but now I'm done with it. It's a bit too melodramatic, the dialog's a bit too clumsy (I appreciate the Terminator reference, but it's shoehorned in there a bit; and what the hell is with the guy named Old Man? That's just weird), and I'm just kind of tired of the whiny, emo characters and the incredibly depressing post-apocalyptic story.
Skaar: Son of Hulk #12
Time for the big showdown between father and son! Which the other characters would be fine with, if it weren't for the fact that it was happening next to a nuclear power plant. Whoops! Naturally the fight ends up stopping so they can keep the plant from exploding. Which is slightly lame, but okay. What is interesting is the discovery that Hulk has apparently retreated into his dumb Hulk personality to avoid the pain of remembering everything that happened during Planet Hulk and World War Hulk. Skaar is disappointed by this and decides he doesn't want to kill Hulk until Hulk remembers all the things he's done. As he's walking away he says, "This is my planet, now." Oh really?? I'll be fascinated to see how that works out for him.
So yeah, bit of an anti-climax on the big fight, and it's kind of a lame, overdone Hulk story cliche that they stop fighting each other to save innocent people being killed from the consequences of their fight. Then there's an epilogue where it's revealed that Galactus is now roaming the universe eating any planet that has any Old Power in it, because those are particularly tasty. The Silver Surfer is trying to warn all the people of said planets so they have time to prepare. He also, interestingly enough, bids them honor Caiera for trying to sacrifice herself and her world to save the universe, and curse Skaar for ruining her final gesture by reawakening Galactus. A rather powerful final sequence sees Skaar turning back into his humanoid child-self and cursing his own reflection.
The issue's a bit uneven, but overall pretty interesting and moving. Meanwhile, apparently big changes are on the way for this title! Next issue promises to have a new writer, a new artist, and a new direction. Guess I'll have to tune in for that. Unless the new writer is Jeph Loeb. That I won't tolerate.
Star Trek: Mission's End #4
Hooray for smart, old school Star Trek comics! This series is so good. I like the tough choices the ambassador is left with while Kirk is out of commission, and how she wrestles with them, and with her secret attraction to Kirk. I like that with Kirk out of the way, Spock recommends the ambassador make the harsh, logical choices, but as soon as Kirk is up and moving again, he's content to follow his friend's illogical lead. I like that Uhura is brilliant and traced an untraceable signal. I like that Sulu is a bad-ass and beats the crap out of the pirate mole. I like that Dr. McCoy is his old irascible, eminently peaceful and ethical self. I like that Lieutenant Arex makes a cameo. I just like this comic.
Dark Wolverine #75
This series goes off in a new direction in this issue, as Wolverine's son Daken, now recast as "Wolverine" by Norman Osborn, takes over as the book's main character. To signify this, the book gets "Dark" added on the front of its title, but keeps the original numbering. Although I had to read it out of curiosity, I was almost certain I would hate this book. I mean "Dark Wolverine?" C'mon. Wolverine's already dark! That's the whole point of the character! Furthermore, what little I've read of Daken I haven't liked, and what little I've read by Daniel Way I haven't liked. Plus, the whole numbering thing annoys me from an organizational perspective. I mean, do I file Dark Wolverine under "W" with my Wolverine comics, or do I file it under "D" for "Dark?" I went with the former idea when Incredible Hercules took over Incredible Hulk's numbering, and continued to file Herc with Hulk, with the understanding that eventually the title would change back to Hulk. But instead, Incredible Hulk is now coming back with new legacy numbering, and Hercules is going to continue using Incredible Hulk's old numbering. It's all going to hell.
But anyway. The point is, I was already predisposed to dislike this comic. But it defeated my expectations right away with a clever and darkly funny opening scene, wherein Osborn stabs Daken where it hurts by telling him, "You are Wolverine. But more importantly, you're my Wolverine." Daken stabs him right back by responding to the question, "Do you know what a hero is?" with, "You mean... like Spider-Man?" Heh. Right away I found out that Daken's a lot smarter than I thought. He knows how to manipulate people very well. And he's taken the trouble to weasel out the strengths and weaknesses of all his teammates and his boss, so he can manipulate them all even more effectively. There's a great scene in the conference room where he's gotten Venom all riled up and it looks like there's going to be a fight, but the Sentry completely defuses the situation by calmly and quietly saying, "Stop." Nobody effs with the Sentry! That's followed up by another great scene where all of Daken's rage over having to live in his hated father's shadow is perfectly summed up in two pages, where he shatters the glass case the Wolverine costume is in. His reflection and that of the woman he's just taken to bed are spread across the broken glass as she says, "I can't believe I slept with Wolverine," and he responds by telling her to get out. "I have to get dressed." At a party later, it becomes deadly clear why he earlier manipulated Bullseye into impaling him with a bolt - so he could catch the killer in a clever trap. Nice! I'm really looking forward to seeing where this goes next. It's good stuff.
There's a handy backup story called "Dark Wolverine Saga" that's just narration written from the perspective of the real Wolverine, telling us the backstory of Daken, accompanied by reprint illustrations. It's not the best writing ever, but it's not terrible, and I certainly needed the refresher course.
Wolverine: Weapon X #3
This series started off with a lot of promise, but is now disappointing me a little. Sure, the guys with the laser claws and the guns that shoot cancer are still here, but Wolverine's fight with them is edited down to a couple of quick panels of action, and mostly described in exposition. Some of the exposition is darkly funny, but I kind of wanted to see more of the actual fight. Meanwhile, Maverick comes back into the story in rather spectacular fashion, but the reporter subplot seems to hit a dead end when her expose article ends up being completely ineffective. Even Wolverine's clever plan fails, and we're left with the bad guys pretty much winning the day. Maybe that's what left a sour taste in my mouth, more than anything else. Regardless, it's still a pretty good story with some cool ideas, so I'll be back for next month's issue.
|Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Fables (Not), Fringe (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hulk (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not)|