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Tuesday, June 28, 2011 03:40 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Animals (Not), Art (Not), Automobiles (Not), Cartoons (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Movies (Not), Photography (Not), Pixar (Not), Recyclotron (Not), The Goon (Not), Tolkien (Not), Video (Not), Web comics (Not)
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009 12:43 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.

This post covers new releases from 7/22. 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.

Aliens #2
As I suspected, the only survivor of last issue's massacre is the ship's artificial person, but I had so little time to get to know the characters that I don't remember which guy he is. There's a pretty weak and rather contrived explanation for how he ends up getting in contact with the girl who's trapped and surrounded by aliens - without thinking, he just follows the basic procedure for taking off in a landing craft and tries to contact the "tower" first, but of course there is no tower, and he knows that. The girl picks up his random transmission and asks him to come save her - which he stupidly agrees to do! Dude, wtf? The planet is full of people who want to kill you (and who succeeded in killing all of your friends) and monsters that want to kill you. Get out while the getting's good! But of course, if he did that, there wouldn't be a story, so out he goes. We get a little more backstory on what happened to the people on the planet, but there's still no real solid explanation for why they all went crazy. Then our hero mistakenly saves the murderers instead of the little girl he was trying to find. Whoops! That should make next issue rather awkward.

I'm still not sure about this series. The story seems a bit clumsily written and I'm having a hard time mustering up any interest in the characters. But I'll hang in there for a bit longer. Maybe it'll go somewhere eventually.
Thumbs Sideways

The Amazing Spider-Man #600
I haven't bought a Spider-Man comic in a while, but I figured since it was the giant-sized, super-special 600th issue, I should make an exception. Believe it or not, there are actually seven separate stories in this thing. The first is the longest and tells the tale of the return of Doctor Octopus and the marriage of Aunt May to J. Jonah Jameson's dad (this is another one of those times in comics where it's hard not to stop and think, "Wait a minute, how old are these people now?!" But it's usually best to think of the characters as ageless and timeless and leave it at that). Dan Slott takes on writing duties, and John Romita, Jr. provides the pencils. I usually really dislike Slott's work, but he's not terrible here, and I always love John Romita, Jr.'s stuff. I like that there's actually consequences to an average human like Doc Ock getting bashed about all the time by superhumans. I'm a little sad that The Bar With No Name got trashed, but then again, it's happened before and the place has come back. I enjoy the scene where Blindside thinks he's got the drop on Daredevil when he uses special chemicals to make him... blind. Whoops! I also like the idea of the city of New York rising up to try to kill Spider-Man, and to try to stop Aunt May's wedding, all because Doc Ock is plugged into the infrastructure and his subconscious is full of hate and jealousy. Spider-Man has a few amusing comments, too, like his argument with Ronin over what the team is called, since there are three or four or five different "Avengers" these days. Also funny and effective is the relationship between the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, especially between Spider-Man and the Human Torch. I like that they remind us that Peter Parker is actually a pretty damn smart guy with some pretty mighty brainwave patterns of his own. In the end it's hard not to feel bad for Doc Ock; after all, he just wanted to do something great before his time ran out. Sure, he went about doing it in a psychopathic, megalomaniacal way, but he tried. Aww, and the FF gave Spider-Man an FF hoodie to cover up his burned off costume! I wish I had one of those. The marriage scene is actually quite touching, and I really enjoyed the classic byplay between Parker and JJJ. And then of course there's the rather dramatic return of MJ, which is fun. It's actually a surprisingly good story.

In between stories are a series of comedic illustrations: "Amazing Spider-Man Covers You'll Never See." The last one, which features a team-up between Batman and Spider-Man, is probably the best, but they're all reasonably clever and funny.

The next story is "Identity Crisis" by Stan Lee, with art by Marcos Martin, and is done totally for laughs. Spider-Man visits a psychiatrist named Dr. Gray Madder (who looks a bit like Stan Lee, actually) and tells him about all the craziest stuff that's happened to him through the years, in the hopes that the doctor can help him understand it and get past it. But Spider-Man's stories are so insane, they just end up driving the doctor crazy, too! It's not the best story ever, but it's fun for what it is.

"My Brother's Son," by Mark Waid with art by Colleen Doran, might be my favorite story in the book. It's about the relationship between Uncle Ben and a young Peter, and even though I saw the end coming, it's still a really sweet and moving story. The next one is also pretty cute. It's "If I Was Spider-Man..." by Bob Gale with art by Mario Alberti. Pete is sitting by a playground jungle gym and hears a bunch of kids discussing what it'd be like to be Spider-Man. At first one of them thinks it would be awesome, but the others convince him it would actually be a huge pain in the ass. Pete quietly, laughingly agrees, and wanders off to wash his costume at the laundromat.

Another rather sweet and moving story is "The Blessing" by Marc Guggenheim with art by Mitch Breitweiser. It's about Aunt May learning not to feel guilty about moving on and loving someone else now that Uncle Ben is gone. It's a bit corny, but still effective for all that.

"Fight at the Museum" by Zeb Wells with art by Derec Donovan is pretty funny, offering some meta, postmodern commentary on the history of Spider-Man. Pete and his friend are visiting a museum exhibit on superhero design when Pete is embarrassed to discover a bunch of folks standing around making fun of the Spider-Mobile (including a dude on a Segway who is clearly the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons). But he is moved to tears when one of the kids gets yelled at by his mom for making fun of Spider-Man; she points out that Spider-Man is a national hero and even saved the kid's father from a burning building.

The final story in the book I didn't really get, but it's possible I wasn't really supposed to. It's called "Violent Visions" and stars some character I've never heard of named Madame Web. She has some disturbing visions about the various spider-related characters of the Marvel Universe and their enemies, and then has an unfortunate run-in with a mysterious, and seemingly villainous, mother/daughter pair. The inset text at the end suggests this story is meant to be a prologue or setup for what's to come in future issues of Amazing Spider-Man, so it was probably meant to leave me confused and intrigued. Although I'm more the former than the latter.

But overall, this was really not a bad comic.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #2
We open with Geoff Johns' tale of how a sexy, winged alien princess went from being a sex slave to the Sinestro Corps to being the newest member of the Red Lantern Corps. Besides the gratuitous shower sequence, it's pretty lame. Johns also provides the words for the next story, "Lost Love," which is about how Carol Ferris is once again convinced to become a Star Sapphire. There are some flashbacks and some dime store psychoanalysis, and then Ferris is popping out of a pink crystal in a ridiculously revealing swimsuit screaming like she's having an orgasm. Jesus Christ I hate this Star Sapphire shit.

The final story, by Peter J. Tomasi, is actually a pretty neat, almost Twilight Zone-style parable about hunger and greed and what is considered valuable. If this story weren't here, the book would be a complete loss. In the back is a short essay by artist Ethan Van Sciver about the symbols of the various Lantern Corps - how they were designed, what they mean, etc. Kind of interesting.

I never thought I'd enjoy Peter J. Tomasi's writing more than Geoff Johns', but that definitely happened here. I think maybe the problem with Johns is that he's taken so many projects on, he can't afford to spend much time on any of them, so they all end up coming out half-assed.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain Britain and MI13 #15
Sadly this is the final issue of this great series, but the good news is that Cornell takes us out with a bang, tying up all the loose ends in a very satisfying and effective manner. The complete nature of Wisdom's incredibly clever and bad-ass plan is finally revealed, and Dracula and his friends don't weather it well. Some more British heroes I've never heard of show up to help out. I like the use of holy water mist, the cold way Blade dispatches Ken, and the absolutely awesome way Faiza dispatches Dracula. I also found myself powerfully moved by Captain Britain getting back together with his wife. "Brian — all I ever needed of you — my hope in hell — was that you'd stay the same." Then there's a very pleasant, appropriately British conclusion to everything. It's excellent stuff.
Thumbs Up

Dark Wolverine #76
We open with a discussion of meetings and what they mean philosophically and strategically, while Daken and Osborn continue to play a little chess game with each other, using the other Avengers and the Fantastic Four as their pawns. Daken is even trying to manipulate Osborn directly. His ultimate goal seems to be to turn everyone against each other and then sit back and watch while everything explodes. Daken is so convincing even I almost believed what he told the Fantastic Four. But it's not clear at the end whether Daken or Osborn has gotten the best of things.

I'm really loving Giuseppe Camuncoli's art here, and Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu's clever writing. I particularly like the way the FF are written.
Thumbs Up

Dethklok Versus The Goon
I've been looking forward to this rather unlikely one-shot since it was first announced. It's a combination of two of my favorite things: the brutal metal band from Cartoon Network's insane animated series Metalocalypse and Eric Powell's zombie-fighting anti-hero, The Goon. Powell does the writing and the art, with Brendon Small (creator of Metalocalypse) providing some dialog and plot assists. The colors are by Dave Stewart. The book opens with a warning (written in that special Dethklok way) for nerds and fanboys to not try to fit the story contained within into any existing continuity. Fair enough. The story itself begins as any episode of Metalocalypse begins: with a meeting of the secret group who are keeping a careful eye on the actions of everybody's favorite metal band. Hilariously, it turns out that William Murderface is the ultimate outcome of a secret breeding program attempting to create the perfect anti-human. Reminds me a bit of the Bene Gesserit breeding program attempting to create the perfect being: the Kwisatz Haderach. Anyway, to keep the anti-human from destroying everything, a programmed assassin dressed like a creepy clown is sent in to take out Dethklok once and for all, but ironically the code phrase chosen to toggle his killer programming is "peaches valentine," which any Goon fan knows is going to lead to hilarity down the line. I love Dethklok's marketing idea of shooting a thousand bald eagles out of a cannon into George Washington's face on Mt. Rushmore, and their belief that this is somehow patriotic. Anyway, a wizard dude shows up to activate Murderface's perfect anti-humanity and thereby take over the world, but he's shot dead in the middle of the act by the security people at the Dethklok castle. This somehow causes a space-time vortex that sucks Dethklok's castle into the Goon's universe. Despite the fact that something really weird has happened, the band isn't even interested in going outside and looking around until they realize the cable is out and they have no booze. And once they do go outside, they mistake the Goon's town for Cleveland. When they go into Norton's, they see the various monsters and decide a costume party is going on, which gives one band member the chance to finally use the inflatable Incredible Hulk chest muscles that he apparently always wears under his shirt, just in case. Heh.

Anyway, the collision of these two universes leads to some really horrible, awful things, like Franky taking cocaine and going wild; a member of Dethklok sleeping with Ma Norton; other members of Dethklok getting horrible things done to them by the Hairy Walnuts Gang; the townspeople becoming suicidal upon hearing the music of Dethklok; and lots and lots of people being mutilated or killed, including a couple of the main characters. Also, the Goon gets to have a thought balloon, which he decides is a first for him.

This is a pretty clever and funny comic that's true to the spirit of both the franchises that spawned it. That being said, I can't say I enjoyed it as much as I could have. It was just a little too disgusting and disturbing for me. Maybe if I read it again in a little while I'll feel differently, but for now...
Thumbs Sideways

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Dance #3
This issue came out during Comic-Con, which I hope was on purpose, because the story works as a very clever and funny satire of fan conventions like Comic-Con. It opens with the team visiting a convention celebrating them: the first Super Young Team Fanfest Extravaganza. They find themselves distracted by all the pretty people dressed like them. Perpetually unable to make any headway with the real Shiny Happy Aquazon, Big Atomic Lantern Boy sneaks off for a dalliance with a fake one, while the real Aquazon has a similar encounter with a Sonic Lightning Flash impersonator. But funniest of all is when Superbat makes out with a girl dressed like him and tweets, "Sometimes dreams can come true." Meanwhile, an evil Nazi-like secret society called The Parasitic Teutons of Assimilation (the P.T.A. - heh) are planning to take over the world, starting with the con. They're very appropriate enemies, given the context; they're a horde of zealots able to copy the powers of the Super Young Team. It amuses me that there are multiple people podcasting from the floor of the Extravaganza, and that Superbat misses the entire fight while making out with his own double. Interestingly, that old Japanese superhero seems to have made some kind of deal with a great and mysterious power, and may have just taken down the villains who have been trying to distract the Super Young Team from doing their duty. Although oddly enough that doesn't look like it's really a good thing. And now the team appears to be breaking up!

Really loving this book. This may have been one of my favorite issues yet. Very smart, very funny, very exciting, and lots of effective character development.

In the back is a preview for Adventure Comics #1. It's Conner Kent, the reborn Superclone, trying to catch up on all the life he's missed by doing all the stuff the real Superman did. It looks kind of cute. I'll probably pick up the book when it comes out.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #5
Geoff Johns' long-delayed Final Crisis tie-in miniseries finally comes to an end. And good lord is that end crazy and confusing, and accompanied by plenty of corny, melodramatic dialog. I thought all the Legions had already been pulled together in previous issues, but in this one, even more Legionnaires are called in for an even more insanely huge and epic battle against the Time Trapper and Superboy Prime. But ironically ultimate victory is only gained when our heroes bring their two enemies together, who neatly destroy each other. Prime is somehow sent back to his own planet, before it was destroyed. Mindbendingly, on this planet, this comic book miniseries also exists, and by reading it, Superboy Prime's disappointed and horrified parents have learned about all the terrible things he's done. Superboy Prime reads it, too, and makes some amusing meta commentary. Referring to the book's infamous difficulty with sticking to its release schedule, he complains, "I've been waiting for this stupid thing to end." On the next page he looks back over his shoulder at us and says, "Stop staring at me! This isn't right! You all know it. I was supposed to be the real Superboy! No, I'm not going away! You go away! Get out of here! They think I'm powerless. They think I can't do anything from here. They're wrong. They'll never get rid of me. I always survive." As he's saying these last few lines, he's visiting the DC website and typing something on his keyboard. It's a pretty hilarious and clever ending. The comic book fans and the Legion both hate Superboy Prime and want him to go away, but now he's become one of those annoying fans himself, hanging around in his parents' basement and cursing people off on the internet. Fantastic.

Overall this was a pretty fun and impressive series, but it kept one-upping itself so many times that it got a little ridiculous by the end. Plus the writing really did get quite corny and melodramatic.
Thumbs Sideways

Gotham City Sirens #2
A convenient (but reasonably believable) retcon saves Selina from giving up the true identity of Batman; instead, she offers an actually far more realistic explanation - that Batman is a part that's been played by many different people over the years. Then Harley gets herself kidnapped by the new Bruce Wayne, who's actually Hush. Ugh! Hush is going to come into this? I'm starting to lose my taste for this series. It's okay, but it's not great, and the writing's a little clumsy. I might just give up on it.
Thumbs Sideways

Green Lantern #44
Blackest Night continues! Hal Jordan and Barry Allen have a big fight with the newly resurrected Martian Manhunter. Interestingly, something weird happens to Barry when he touches that icky residue the Black Lanterns leave behind. Also, when J'onn looks at them, he sees Hal outlined in green ("Will") and Barry outlined in blue ("Hope"). He tries manipulating the two of them by bringing up the dark things from their past; when he scares Barry, he suddenly senses "Fear" in the same way he earlier sensed Hope. Apparently he can see in the emotional spectrum now. Does this mean Barry will be getting a blue or yellow ring later on? Or is J'onn just seeing the emotion Barry happens to feeling the strongest at the moment? Hmm. I like when J'onn says, "I'm as powerful as Superman. Why doesn't anyone ever remember that?" Then Scar points out he's not really betraying the Guardians - he's actually finally fulfilling their purpose. He's bringing order to the universe. Emotions cause chaos, so why not destroy them all? He goes on, "I learned this as my body died from the poisonous burn of the Anti-Monitor." Ah, so he's been dead and secretly a zombie for some time! He also says, "The Black Lanterns are collecting hearts full of the splintered light." That explains some things - it's the people who are most full of conflicted emotion that they're going after first. Next episode it looks like a whole planet full of dead people are coming back! I have to admit, Blackest Night is growing on me. This was a pretty interesting issue.
Thumbs Sideways

Immortal Weapons #1
Each issue of this new miniseries will focus on another member of the titular group of eternal warriors, of which the Iron Fist is the best known member. This first issue, written by Jason Aaron and with art by a whole team of folks, takes a look at Fat Cobra. Cobra is a rather ridiculous character, so I guess I was expecting a rather ridiculous story - fun and silly - but with Aaron at the wheel, I should have known better. Many parts of it are indeed darkly funny, but ultimately it takes the form of a rather horrific tragedy. It turns out Fat Cobra has lived so long and drank so much, he's forgotten most of the details of his life, so he's hired a man to research his past for him and write his biography. But Cobra's life story is not the glamorous, impressive tale of adventure and success he expected. Instead, it's full of shame, defeat, and dirty deeds. Some of the best sequences: Fat Cobra serves as a sidekick for Ulysses Bloodstone, and is the sole survivor of a team of kung fu commandos put together by Union Jack to take down "Hitler's secret death squad of S.S. ninjas led by the notorious butcher Herr Samurai." Later he beats Hercules, Volstagg, and what looks like Goom in an eating contest on Olympus, then joins Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. in defeating a team of Russian werewolves who'd overrun the American moon base. A quick glimpse of Fat Cobra's various romantic conquests reveals a Skrull and somebody who looks like Lilandra. A more detailed romantic sequence starts as a fight, with each of the kung fu moves named in narrative boxes, as is traditional (Diamond Slow Knife-Hand, Elbow of a Thousand Agonies), but then things take a turn for the passionate and the scene continues with each of the love-making moves being named in the same way (Kneading the Golden Dough, The Peddling Tortoise).

What Cobra really wants to hear, of course, is the story of his greatest triumph: how he defeated the Great Dragon and became an Immortal Weapon. But it turns out that wrapped up in the story of his greatest triumph is the story of his most shameful and terrible act. It's a powerful and moving tale. And in the end Cobra chooses to once again forget all about it, as he must have done many times before. Excellent stuff.

Next up is a backup story which will probably continue throughout each issue of this series. It's called "Caretakers," and it's about the Iron Fist trying to help a troubled student. It's by Duane Swierczynski, with art by Travel Foreman. It's okay so far, although I have the bad feeling it's going to get a bit preachy later on.
Thumbs Up

The Incredible Hercules #131
It's Hercules vs. Hercules, in a fight full of the clever sound effects and melodramatic, cheesy dialog I've come to expect from this book. As far as sound effects go, a couple of my favorites are BOSCH and ARDHISDOREE; these describe the noise of the twins kicking each other through and over a scene that looks like it's straight out of The Garden of Earthly Delights. Plotwise, Cho makes an exciting and disturbing discovery about his sister, which turns him against Athena and Hercules, and Zeus sort of reboots himself by drinking the waters of Lethe. These events should lead to some interesting new directions for the story. Although I again find myself tiring of Pak's writing, I'll probably hang in there for at least one more issue, just to see what this whole "Thorcules" thing is about, and to see if Cho ends up going anywhere interesting in the search for his sister (hey wait - this didn't just become The X-Files, did it??)
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredible Hulk #600
Because I like the Hulk, and because this was a big, historic issue, I decided to buy it, despite the fact that most of it is written by the archenemy of all that is good, Jeph Loeb. Loeb's first utterly ridiculous tale, which is also the main story in the book, is narrated by Ben Urich. In the story, he and Peter Parker play the parts of Woodward and Bernstein, and She-Hulk plays the part of Deep Throat. The Watergate comparison isn't my idea, by the way; Loeb actually makes the comparison himself in the text, despite the fact that it's completely inappropriate. In this case, the conspiracy that Urich and Pete are investigating reaches all the way back to the end of World War Hulk. It turns out that M.O.D.O.K. and General Ross, as part of yet another top secret super soldier program (sigh. Don't they have enough super soldiers yet?), had the presence of mind to tamper with the beam that Tony Stark shot the Hulk with, somehow creating the Red Hulk. She-Hulk starts Urich on the path to discovering all this by calling him and meeting him in a parking garage, where she tells him some tantalizing secrets from the shadows, but then almost immediately reveals her identity to him despite all her paranoia. This is all accompanied by plenty of brilliant Jeph Loeb dialog. Later, Parker and Urich are asked to put on A.I.M. beekeeper outfits, and She-Hulk says, "They're not for bees. They never were." Really?? I never would have guessed. I figured all A.I.M. did was keep bees! "What then?" Urich asks. "Radiation," she says. Dun dun dun! Or, more appropriately, duh duh duh! She-Hulk and Doc Samson keep speaking of Red Hulk as "he," like he's this horrible, unnameable thing. They see M.O.D.O.K. and Parker says, "Some guy with a big head is blocking the view." Samson responds, "That guy isn't with a big head... that guy is the big head." Wow. How long did it take you to come up with that one, Jeph? Then it turns out Samson has been brainwashed and has his own split personality now. "The good doctor is out," he says. "The bad doctor is in." Really? I mean... really? Also, the bad doctor is apparently somehow stronger and faster than the good doctor, even though that makes no sense. Spider-Man has equally stupid things to say - which are apparently meant to be funny - about rats and spiders and Albuquerque and the film adaptation of Watchmen. Later he tries to say a well known cliche, but messes it up. Then the Red Hulk somehow sucks the Hulk out of Banner. So I guess Banner isn't going to be the Hulk anymore. Which is lame.

Later Urich is walking in that parking garage again and this time the Red Hulk peeks out of the shadows to threaten him and his friends with death if he prints his story about all this madness. Seriously? The Red Hulk is hiding in a parking garage to threaten Ben Urich? Why exactly would he not just kill him? In fact, why wouldn't he just kill all of them? Why is he hiding? Since when do supervillains care about keeping their villainy secret? The story is stupid, nonsensical, and incredibly poorly written.

The next story is a very silly comedic story called "A Hulk of Many Colors." It's written by Stan Lee with art by Rodney Buchemi. As usual, Lee cameos in his own story, this time as a random military guy in a helicopter. The story itself is about the Hulk and the Red Hulk fighting. Something called the Wendihulk also shows up briefly. Galactus arrives just in time for the punchline - when asked if he can help by smashing the Red Hulk and saving the green Hulk, he says he won't be able to, because he's color blind. Argh! (I should point out that despite the fact that this is just a pointless bit of fluff full of weak jokes that only occasionally illicit a mild chuckle, it's still better than Loeb's story.)

The next bad story is by Fred Van Lente, and it's about "The All New Savage She-Hulk," Lyra. I've never been able to dredge up much interest in this character, and this story didn't help. It's about how she beats some techno-mages who are trying to take over the world by interpreting a prophecy. To put it another way, she solves a rather dumb riddle which reveals that she needs to punch a dude's heart out to kill him. Uh, regardless of what any prophecies might say, punching a dude's heart out usually is a good thing to try if you want to kill him.

I really wanted to like the final story. It's the first part of a six part series called Hulk: Gray, retelling the origin story of the Hulk. It has beautiful art throughout by Tim Sale, but sadly it also has terrible writing throughout by Jeph Loeb. In the frame story, Bruce has come to see Doc Samson on his wedding anniversary, and Samson seeks to help him by having him talk about his past. There's a really lame bit where Doc has Banner look at pictures of people he knows and say the first word that comes to mind. It's just a really weak excuse to get in some backstory and exposition. Then we finally get into a full-on flashback and the origin story begins in earnest. My favorite part is when Banner transforms in the doctor's office and we get to see the Hulk for the first time. The art here is just fantastic. Later there's a great panel that spreads across the entire width of the page, filled completely with the Hulk's massive back and shoulder, with just the corner of his face and his eye peeking up at the top right corner. Directly after this is a two-page splash of him smashing an army jeep. It's good stuff. It helps that during this sequence there is hardly any dialog - just the Hulk doing his thing. If only Jeph Loeb hadn't been the writer on this title, it might have turned out really well.

The rest of the book is a series of ads for future Hulk-related books. Loeb's Hulk #13 is advertised with the phrase "Hulk no more!" What the point is of a book called Hulk with no Hulk in it, I don't know. Incredible Hulk #601's teaser phrase is "Banner and son!" So it looks like this book will be focusing on Skaar as well as Banner from now on. Meanwhile, Incredible Hercules #133 promises to tell the "Secret Origin of Amadeus Cho." In the very back of the book is the traditional (by now, anyway) cover gallery, giving you little thumbnail-sized reprints of every cover of every book that Hulk ever starred in (although I believe they've gone a bit overboard and also included early issues of Tales to Astonish that didn't include him at all). This is kind of a cool feature, but it's hard to really get much out of it, as the covers have been made so tiny in order to fit them all in that it's almost impossible to get a good look at any of them.

After all of this are two final comedic one-page stories with fun cartoon art by Chris Giarrusso and writing by Jeph Loeb's daughter, Audrey Loeb. The first story is Green Hulk trying to pass his driver's test while Red Hulk and Blue Hulk sit in the back seat. Then Green Hulk tries working at HulkDonald's, but Red Hulk and Blue Hulk take too long ordering food. Needless to say, both stories end with disaster. They're kind of cute, but not as fun as it seems like they could be.

There are some moments of brilliance in this extra-large comic, but they're few and far between. The great majority of it is just garbage. It's really a shame.
Thumbs Down

The Incredibles #4
The first of what I hope will be multiple Incredibles miniseries comes to an end with this issue. It's action-packed and exciting, with moving character development, cool ideas, and amusing comedy. I love that the villain turns out to be, not an old enemy of Mr. Incredible as he suspected, but an old enemy of Elastigirl who tracked her down and became her neighbor, biding her time and planning to weaken her with power-stealing cookies, then strike when she was powerless. But Mr. Incredible unknowingly foiled her plan by eating all the food she sent over! Heh. Now Mr. Incredible has to foil her again, this time on purpose, and he does so brilliantly by having Dash sneak the defused devolution bomb into Futurion's prison cell so he'll fix it and Dash can run it back and use it to save them all. Both families, of course, have learned an important lesson: keeping big secrets from each other can get you all in serious trouble. There's also a really sweet ending where Violet has a cute chat with her boyfriend. Aww.

They've really captured everything that was great about The Incredibles and taken the story in a fun new direction. I hope more is one the way and soon!
Thumbs Up

Jack of Fables #36
This is a one-off tale from guest writer Chris Roberson about a time in Jack's life when he happened to stumble upon an enclave of Fable apes living together in the African jungle. When he first meets them, he quotes Planet of the Apes ("Get your paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"), and later another ape nicknames him "Bright Eyes." The apes have among their ranks pretty much every famous fictional ape: Curious George, the orangutans from those Clint Eastwood movies, King Kong, Magilla Gorilla, and so forth. Jack becomes their Tarzan, accepting an ape named Jane as his companion. (Yes, that kind of companion. Eeww.) Naturally, because he's Jack, he treats all the apes terribly and eventually abandons them. The story is reasonably amusing, and Tony Akins' art is excellent as always, but overall it's definitely not my favorite Jack of Fables tale ever.

In the back is a sneak preview of an upcoming graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos called Filthy Rich. It looks to be a classic crime noir story about a guy hired to keep a rich man's femme fatale daughter out of the papers. But it's clear from the very beginning she's going to pull him in over his head. Azzarello seems to be taking the classic archetypes and doing them up right. I'm tempted to check it out.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Spock - Reflections #1
This interesting new miniseries from IDW is set some time late in the Next Generation era (although presumably before the events of the recent movie prequel miniseries). It opens with Spock, having spent some time on Romulus as a teacher, leaving the planet to return to Earth, for reasons not yet explained. During the journey, a conversation with a rather pesky fellow passenger causes him to flash back to various moments throughout his past. A particularly fascinating scene sees him meeting with Captain Harriman, the man who took over the Enterprise B after the events of Star Trek: Generations. There are some fascinating emotions at play in the scene. Harriman, who was little more than a stereotype in the film, becomes a whole person in this book, with complex feelings of guilt and shame swirling in him, while Spock fights back his own set of complex emotions. Then we get to see another telling flashback, this time from Spock's childhood, developing his character further and illuminating the complicated relationship between him and his father. This is a surprisingly good comic, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes next.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #3
In the first two entries of the latest episode of Wednesday Comics, Batman listens in on an interesting conversation, while Kamandi meets up with another of his buddies and makes a startling discovery: a human girl! Superman, which took a dip in quality last week, is slightly better this week, as Clark decides to cure his ennui by flying back home to Smallville and hanging out with Ma and Pa. Deadman gets more interesting and more surreal as our title character falls through the swirling nightmare effect from Vertigo and into a flaming hell where he gains the solidity of the living again - although perhaps only for a brief time. I'm still surprised to be enjoying Green Lantern as much as I am. Hal has barely gotten through being fawned over by the crowd in the bar when he sees his buddy transform into a hideous alien on live TV and has to fly out again. It's great stuff. Metamorpho is following the same format as last week, with one big panel up top depicting all the action occurring simultaneously, and tiny panels down the bottom feature another amusing message from "The Metamorpho Fans of America." I could wish this one was moving along a little faster, but it's so pretty and so intriguing I'll give it a pass. As for Teen Titans... yep, still sucks. And Strange Adventures is still ridiculously awesome. The lush, beautiful art; the totally fun, over-the-top pulp sci-fi dialog - it's brilliant. The cutesy Supergirl and the bland, though unobjectionable, Metal Men both fail to interest me. And I just can't believe how poorly done Wonder Woman is. There are so many tiny panels, so tightly packed, that you practically need a magnifying glass to follow what's going on. And once you figure it out, you realize it wasn't worth the effort. Dull and dumb. I had high hopes for Sgt. Rock and Easy Co., but I'm starting to get a little frustrated with it. It really needs to start going somewhere soon. I feel like Rock has been getting beaten and Easy Company has been wandering randomly in caves forever. Meanwhile, the dynamic duo of Iris West and The Flash just keeps getting better. When Iris leaves both past Flash and future Flash again, they put their heads together and try to go even further into the past to give it another go, but find themselves instead zipping into the far future by mistake, and meeting yet another version of the Flash, who uses "Ether-Wiki" to fill them in on what's going to happen to Iris. It's totally brilliant. The real villain shows up in The Demon and Catwoman and Catwoman's name suddenly gets a bit more appropriate. Fun. Hawkman has gotten a bit better now that our titular character is fighting an alien, but it's still pretty clumsily written.

As usual, I find myself charmed by the overall experience of Wednesday Comics, even though some of its individual parts are less than great.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Captain Britain (Not), Comic books (Not), Duane Swierczynski (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Fables (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Hulk (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Legion of Super-Heroes (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Goon (Not), The Take (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009 01:41 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.

What with work and life being so busy lately, I've really let this feature slide, so it's time for a triple-length catch-up post! This covers new releases from the weeks of 2/25, 3/4, and 3/11, plus a handful of older books.

Back issues and old data
B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #2
If I'd realized that I'd missed this issue, I'd forgotten about it until #3 came out this past week and I saw #2 listed as the next issue in my comic wish list spreadsheet. Luckily, the shop had both issues and I was able to read them one after the other, which is actually a more pleasant experience than reading them a month apart anyway. This one sees the B.P.R.D. gang, plus a whole army of regular military backup, arriving at Memnan Saa's address with the intention of taking Liz back by force. But before they can attack, a monk comes out and invites three B.P.R.D.ers inside. A trip through a weird doorway and an eerie maze leads them to a magical city where they find Liz in a trance and Memnan Saa ready to talk. As he begins to explain everything to them, Memnan Saa's fortress, and the army outside, is attacked by a unified force of frogs and those little underground demon guys. It's crazy stuff. Memnan Saa keeps saying he's a good guy, and that he offers the last, desperate hope of saving the world. But how can he be on their side, when we've seen him do so many evil things? It's puzzling.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis #1-7
Final Crisis is awesome. Flash fact.

That may sound odd coming from somebody who clearly hated the first issue of the series the first time he read it, so much so that he dropped the series immediately afterward. I picked it up again, reluctantly, at issue #6 because I wanted to see what happened to Batman. What I've realized about Final Crisis since then is that any one part of it alone is confusing and a little off-putting; it's only once you've read the entire story, and you've seen it all come together as one epic, mind-bending, circular saga, that you realize the genius that went into it. Plus it takes a while to get used to the odd, almost overly dramatic style Morrison adopted when writing it.

Also, as I should have suspected, the plot of Final Crisis makes a lot more sense when you read the entire series in order from beginning to end. The story started really coming together for me even before I read the issues I'd missed; in fact, pretty much as soon as I read #1 again, the pieces began to fit together in my head. Even other stories, like Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D started to make more sense. And the dialogue that I'd originally found ridiculous and irritating I fell in love with almost immediately on a second pass.

Some of my favorite things about Final Crisis include: the romantic and beautiful story of Monitor Nix Uotan: the way he drops out of the orrery and into the world, only to find himself drawing sketches of the events of Superman Beyond, and of a lover he's forgotten, and the way he is reawakened to his true self; the crazy and funny Super Young Team, and the character whose super power is that he's incredibly wealthy; the way Orion is killed by Darkseid firing a poison bullet at him backwards through time, a bullet Orion can't dodge because he's already dead; the fact that the poison bullet, in its weird, circular trajectory, also mortally wounds the one firing it; that it's a man, just a man - albeit the most bad-ass man who's ever lived - who fires that bullet, making his last act the destruction of the God of evil; the triumphant return of Barry Allen; the funny and insanely imaginative things Morrison does with the Flashes and their incredible, mind-blowing speed; the way the Flashes outrun death, driving it into Darkseid; the hilarious and disturbing way that Anti-Life is sold, advertised with slogans, and packaged like a commodity; a Guardian of Oa saying to Hal: "You have 24 hours to save the universe, Lantern Jordan;" the miracle machine that turns thoughts into reality; the wonderfully sarcastic and cranky duo of Sivana and Luthor; the way the return of Superman is heralded by Wonder Woman saying, "Look! Up in the sky...;" the way the title of each issue is revealed only at the end; the brilliant title of #6: "How to Murder the Earth;" pretty much everything about #7; the black Superman who is also President of the United States; the way the story of Final Crisis is fired off in a rocket from a doomed world, just like Superman was; the ridiculously fantastic dialogue; all the crazily inventive science fiction ideas throughout; the way Superman shatters anti-life with the music of life; the way the coming of the Supermen of the multiverse is heralded by Superman saying, "Look up in the sky;" the way Nix Uotan shows up with freaking EVERYBODY at his back, chants the Green Lantern oath, and they all beat the crap out of Mandrakk and the vampire Superman; the way Superman gives everyone a happy ending; the incredible love shown in this book for people and their ability to survive; the incredible love shown in this book for stories and their ability to make surviving worth while; and that final page: the hope and the promise of it.

At some point in my comic reading career, I decided Grant Morrison was an uneven writer and that I should probably just avoid his work as much as possible. Recent books I've read by him, including this series, Superman Beyond, and All-Star Superman, have completely changed my mind. I need to track down everything this guy has written and read it all. He is freaking amazing. Final Crisis is freaking amazing. Even though I own all the issues, I'm seriously thinking about buying the trade when it comes out, just so I can have it in a more permanent form, all bound together nicely. It is a fantastic piece of work.
Thumbs Up

New releases, 2/25
Captain America #47
Cap gets himself captured - which was apparently his plan all along - and discovers the horrible truth behind the mad scientist's designs on the Human Torch. As is traditional, things do not look good at all for our heroes on the final page. This storyline is getting brutal, fast-paced, and exciting! I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch #5
In the final issue of this miniseries, we finally see the full outlines of Zadkiel's plan for Danny, and come to a full understanding of how he was transformed and set on the path that led him to his actions in the main Ghost Rider series. It's pretty fascinating and effective stuff. We also get to see the real Mister Eleven, who turns out to be not so bad a guy after all. I'm curious about some of the seeds writer Simon Spurrier plants here. Whose body is the technomage going to end up in? Will she show up later in the Ghost Rider saga? Has she already done so and we just didn't know? Regardless, this was a decent mini.
Thumbs Up

Green Lantern #38
Woah! Some crazy crap goes down in this book. As if things weren't confusing enough for poor Hal, he gets a third ring and joins yet another Corps at the beginning of this issue. He's starting to look like he did when he was Parallax! Luckily the number of rings he's wearing goes back down by one later on in the issue, but he's still looking seriously confused and messed up. At the end, all kinds of stuff happens at once: a group of super-powered dudes who I don't recognize beat up a bunch of other people and find themselves some kind of hidden source of power; Agent Orange stirs; Atrocitus does some magic to try to find the home world of the Blue Lanterns; Carrol Ferris, who's been pining after the missing Hal, gets inducted into a Corps of her own; and Scar hangs around promising doom. It's very exciting and very fast-paced, and the story continues in the Origins & Omens backup, where we see a bit more of the new Carol, and a bit more of what's going on inside John Stewart and Hal Jordan, and then we get an intriguing glimpse of the future: John attacked by a zombie lover; Hal and Sinestro fighting together against mysterious attackers; the original Green Lantern shackled and accused by the Guardians; a Black Lantern kneeling. It's good stuff! I'm ready for Blackest Night!
Thumbs Up

Jack of Fables #31
Things don't look good for our heroes, and Jack makes things even worse by shooting Bookburner at a parley. Revise has only one trick left up his sleeve: releasing from their bonds three incredibly powerful Native American spirits named Wy'East, Klickitat, and Loowit. This would destroy everyone, but Jack figures out some way of evacuating the Golden Boughs beforehand. We're promised the explanation in the next issue. But for now the conflict seems to have been resolved. Plus, Gary's still alive at the moment, which pleases me. Pretty cool issue. The Native American spirits are an impressive addition to the story. There are also a couple of pretty funny moments here, as usual. I'm curious to see how Jack got everybody out of there, and what will happen to Bookburner's zombie Fables now that he's gone. Guess I'll have to tune in again next time to find out!
Thumbs Up

The New Avengers #50
The fiftieth issue of New Avengers is meant to be a big, epic, landmark episode in the history of Marvel's flagship super team. Instead it's a disappointing story overflowing with corny, clumsy dialogue and narration. And in it, author Brian Michael Bendis even contradicts continuity he himself established in Dark Avengers!

We open up with the underground Avengers still reacting to the unveiling of Osborn's Avengers, and still trying to decide what to do about it. They talk and they talk and they talk. Some of it's reasonably clever and funny, but I'm really starting to get tired of Bendis' stilted, smart-ass dialogue style. Anyway, eventually they come up with a very dumb, simplistic plan to try to lure Osborn's Avengers to neutral ground where they hope to depower them and beat the snot out of them. We cut over to the Watchtower where an entire conversation from Dark Avengers is reenacted - except it now ends in a completely different way. Instead of a call coming in about Doctor Doom being attacked, followed by Osborn and his people suiting up and heading out, Spider-Woman appears and pretends to give up the underground Avengers' location in the hopes that Osborn will give her a job. Interestingly, instead of springing what he immediately knows to be a trap himself, Osborn sends the Hood and his gang of criminals in to do the job for him, then takes himself and his Avengers elsewhere. So there's a giant fight between the Avengers and the Hood's gang, during which all our heroes spew a lot of dialogue and narration that's supposed to give us a meaningful look inside their heads. But it's really just melodramatic, repetitive, and completely lacking in subtlety. At the end, Ronin walks out and gives a speech on the news fingering Osborn as a criminal and asking everyone to fight back against him and his people.

It all feels clumsy, overwritten, and contrived. I'll overlook the continuity issue, since I can't believe Bendis would have made such an obvious mistake, and after all they were going to have to erase the events of Dark Avengers from canon somehow anyway, probably via time travel or magic; we can't have all those major characters stay dead. But even with that set aside, this is just not a good comic. I'm pretty disappointed; I really wanted to like this issue, and I thought I was really becoming a fan of Bendis' work. Now I'm just not that sure.

After the main story is a preview from Dark Reign: Fantastic 4, a miniseries coming soon from Jonathan Hickman and Sean Chen. I didn't think I really liked Hickman's work very much, but this preview is actually rather intriguing and funny, and the characters are handled quite well. I just might have to pick up at least the first issue of this.
Thumbs Down

Star Trek: Countdown #2
This issue opens with Captain Data saving the day! Nero joins Spock on the Enterprise and they head to Vulcan with the hopes of enacting Spock's last ditch plan to save Romulus. Meanwhile, we learn how Data came back to life (his neural nets were imprinted onto B-4's existing programming), and Nero learns a bit about Captain Kirk from the ship's computers. Back home, the Romulans finally realize that Spock was right, but plan to fix things by evacuating the planet and invading Vulcan to steal the magic supernova-killing weapon from them. D'oh! The Vulcans are just as stupid and, before they even discover the Romulans' plans, refuse to hand over their technology to the Romulans. Nero rushes back home, but gets there too late. He blames the Vulcans. It's all gone wrong!

I believe Nero is actually the villain in the new Star Trek movie, which I assume means he travels back in time somehow and brings his grudge against Vulcan with him (and possibly also develops a grudge against Kirk for some reason). We'll have to see how that all develops. Regardless, this is an interesting series. It's dramatic with fascinating characters. And I love that we're getting to see what happened in the Star Trek universe after the events of the last movie.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Last Generation #4
The insane alternate universe saga continues! Finally the Silver Ghost and Picard's resistance cell join together. I like that when Riker returns, his first line is, "I hope you didn't sell my trombone." Heh. Then we learn that Deanna Troi is Worf's consort! She's all tarted up, too, in too much makeup and a ridiculous gown. She's a spy for the resistance, natch, but Worf has known all along, and now that her usefulness has passed, he brutally murders her. Wow. There's an insane sword fight between Worf and Sulu that ends in mutual destruction, but also success: the resistance gets Data back. Which means it's time for that trip into the past.

This series is just so crazy and twisted, and really feels more like fan fiction than a licensed comic. But I have to admit there are some pretty effective and exciting moments, and now that I've stuck with it this long, I might as well see it through to the end. I'm pretty sure there's only one issue left anyway.
Thumbs Sideways

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #4
Oh man, what a fantastic, fantastic issue. I swear, this comic just keeps getting better and better! We open up inside a dream of Spaceboy's which quickly devolves from happy utopia ("Holy *crap*, I missed you!") to horrific nightmare. He wakes to even more insanity, as Hazel and Cha-Cha return, loaded up on sugar, and activate the nukes! Luckily there's a timer. Also, Seance is way more powerful than I realized and pretty much takes care of everything (well, almost everything). Kraken's tries to join up with Seance and Spaceboy, but, in a rather hilarious twist, the televator is broken and he's stuck waiting for the subway. Meanwhile, that young rich guy who showed up a couple issues ago returns and performs a corporate takeover. Then we cut over to the office at the end of time where the assassins are all being briefed on their mission to take out JFK - after they stop Number Five, of course. The squad leader for the operation? Number Five! Brilliant! And it seems Number Five has a plan for stopping himself.

Back at the homestead, it turns out Pogo's not buried in his grave, but one of those time traveling assassins is, and somehow his body acts as a time machine, allowing Kraken, Spaceboy, and Seance to all head to Dallas, 1963, as well, just in time for the big showdown. And it's a good thing they leave, because it turns out Seance didn't defuse that detonator as well as he thought. Pop goes the world!

What an ending! Every comic should end that way. So brilliant and fantastic. So many amazing, wildly imaginative ideas in here. And it's all revving up to a big, climactic ending that I can't wait to read.
Thumbs Up

War Machine #3
This issue features the very cool confrontation between the God of War (who naturally has a very high kill number!) and the War Machine. Their fight is doubly interesting because not only is it a physical battle, it's also a war of words. Ares sees some things about Rhodey and his mission that even Rhodey himself is not aware of. In the end, the nasty, smart-ass, weapon-designing villain is taken out in excellent fashion - and as that was Osborn's objective, and Ares' mission, all along, that takes care of that. Right? Well, not quite. Ares is insane and decides to open up the vault that contains the ultimate weapon, just for fun. As I suspected, Glenda is not okay, and what was done to her is just a sample of what lies inside the vault. Ultimo, according to Wikipedia, is just some giant robot, but it looks like he's been reimagined as some kind of virus? I don't know, I'm sure it will all make more sense in time. The point is, great issue; well written, with many surprising plot twists and lots of exciting action.
Thumbs Up

New releases, 3/4
The Age of the Sentry #6
The final issue of this wonderful miniseries features a pull-quote on the cover from a fellow whose blog I read, Chris Sims: "The new apex of the artform... to which all others must be compared and, almost inevitably, fall short." I don't know if I'd describe the comic in terms as glowing as that, but it is indeed excellent.

Instead of having the usual two short stories, this issue has only one long one: "The Death of the Sentry." A narrative box immediately removes the power of the title by pointing out that this is just an imaginary story. But the quick and repeated insistence that it's imaginary only leads the reader to believe it might not be, especially once you get to the end. The story opens with a freak accident that reveals the Sentry's true identity to the world. Hilariously, everyone immediately recognizes the face of Rob Reynolds, crack entry investigator for America's #1 encyclopedia publisher. And oddly, no one working at the encyclopedia seems surprised in the least. Then the Void and Cranio team up and suck out all of the Sentry's life force, killing him! All of the classic Marvel heroes, and many of the original characters introduced in previous issues of this miniseries, show up for the Sentry's funeral. And with him gone, who will stop the asteroid that's on a collision course with Earth?? Luckily, the Sentry's not really dead after all; his body just went into a dormant state to stay alive while it recuperated (yep, same thing they pulled with Superman - the Superman parallels continue!). He's still weak, but he follows the Void and Cranio to get the rest of his power back anyway. Cranio isn't so much his enemy anymore, however; he shows up and finally explains all the mysterious stuff we've been seeing throughout the miniseries, as well as telling us the true origin of the Sentry and the Void! True to the series' continuing Superman/DC parallels, the origin story involves a multiverse, insane reality-warping events, and an epic, anti-monitor style enemy. Once we've heard the origin, it's time for a giant showdown between the Void and the Sentry. It seems the Sentry has no chance of winning, since he's already weakened, and each time the Void touches him, he loses more of his life force. But he quickly realizes that by losing, he will ultimately win. As the Void absorbs the last of the Sentry, he in effect becomes the Sentry, taking on all of his goodness, too. It's a fascinating new explanation for who the Sentry really is, and why the Void is inside him, and it's sort of a metaphor for how the Sentry was retconned into the Marvel Universe, and also a parallel to stuff DC has done with Superman. It's quite brilliant, and makes for a great final issue of the series, pulling together everything that's happened in the previous issues and sort of summing it all up.

I hope, now that this miniseries is over, that we'll see more of the Sentry in the near future. But hopefully he won't be in the hands of a writer like Brian Michael Bendis, who has him swooping in and tearing women's heads off over in Dark Avengers.
Thumbs Up

Batman: Cacophony #3
The Joker and Onomatopoeia seem to have turned the tables on Batman at the beginning of this issue, but, as Grant Morrison has taught us, Batman plans for everything, so he's able to turn things back his way soon enough. Then Onomatopoeia makes a clever move - he attacks the Joker instead of Batman. Batman has to make the same choice he's made many times, and he makes it the same way again: he chooses to save the Joker rather than let him die. And to save him, he must let Onomatopoeia go. I thought this series was going to be about Onomatopoeia - and it is, to a certain extent; we get a rather eerie look inside his other life at the end of this issue. But the series ends up being much more about Batman's relationship with the Joker, and the rather disturbing revelation that the Joker and his reign of terror is, in a very real sense, Batman's fault. It's an interesting concept, and an interesting look into this character dynamic. It kind of caught me off guard, however; it's not what I was expecting from this series. Also, I still am really not a fan of how Smith writes Batman; he makes him too melodramatic, wordy, and fallible. I much prefer Morrison's Batman. Overall, though, this was a pretty good series.
Thumbs Sideways

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #23
Here's an issue that focuses almost completely on Andrew, which makes for, as you might expect, not exactly the greatest issue ever. There is a pretty funny moment where Andrew and Buffy are traveling together and Andrew expounds on gay and geeky things of all kinds, including whether a Jedi could beat Superman in a fight, Smurfs, Battlestar Galactica, V for Vendetta, D&D, Terminator, Helen Killer, Heath Ledger, fashion, Jem, and James Bond. Anyway, storywise, he's helping Buffy track down the group of rebel Slayers who are going around robbing people - but the way he tracks them down is questionable in the extreme, and ends up causing more problems than it solves. And when did he learn to do genetic engineering?? The upshot is, they do get to the rebels' hideout, and they do get into a bit of a scuffle with them, but it ends in kind of a draw. In the end, Andrew realizes he's been accepted as part of the family now.

It's a decent issue, with some amusing and entertaining moments, but not one of my favorites.
Thumbs Sideways

Fringe #3
Things pick up speed in the main storyline here, starting with Rachel doing the little brain-sharing trick from the TV series with Dr. Bishop. This convinces him to trust her, but Bell isn't so sure. Still, he ends up going along with her plan to get the three of them out of there, which involves Bell and Bishop perfecting a teleporting device they've never seen before in the few minutes they have before men with guns come to kill them. It's pretty insane and brilliant. The end is really interesting; a guy from the "soap company" calls the president to let him know Bell and Bishop escaped, but that the company managed to get an implant of some kind in one of them. The president says, "When it's the right time... activate him." But which one? Bell or Bishop? Hmmm...

The backup story is a great little tale about a boy who's born a walking biological weapon. He's taken in by some nameless organization (probably the soap company, possibly Massive Dynamic), who cruelly train and test him in an attempt to reproduce his deadly abilities. Eventually, he escapes, and in pretty clever and dramatic fashion.

I continue to be really impressed by this series. The main storyline is fast-paced, exciting, clever, and is filling us in on fascinating details about the backstory of the television show which help inform the current events of the series. And the backup story is always something brilliant and wonderfully twisted.
Thumbs Up

The Goon #32
For the special tenth anniversary issue of his wonderful series, Eric Powell manages to tell a fantastic and hilarious story about the Goon's birthday that not only features silly cameos by celebrities, it also sums up the series, and acts as both an epilogue to the last arc of the book, and a prologue to the next arc. It's brilliant, and reminded me of everything that's great about this series. It's wonderful that what finally cheers up the Goon and gets him back to being his old self is not a birthday party with all his friends, a topless woman, or getting his hat back. It's beating up a hideous hobo demon! In between there's a singing birthday telegram from the rape gorilla, a Planet of the Apes parody, the battering down of the fourth wall, a surprising appearance by Frank Darabont, and a stunningly wrong but hilarious parody of The Shawshank Redemption starring bears. It's a true masterpiece, and is followed up by an awesome sketchbook featuring sketches of the Goon characters by comic book celebrities like Mike Mignola and Jeff Smith, and old sketches of the Goon characters and their predecessors by Powell himself, accompanied by a history of the comic's development. Fantastic.
Thumbs Up

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #4
Hellboy starts things out here by having another flashback to his slaughter of the giants. He sees himself, in the midst of that act, as the terrible, Earth-shattering demon he was meant to be. Meanwhile, in the present, just as it seems Hellboy is about to gain allies and perhaps even an army, he is betrayed again, and his friend is mortally wounded. Was Mab behind it? It doesn't seem like she could be, but it's hard to know for sure. Anyway, those bird entities who've been helping Hellboy on and off since forever show up to save his ass again, transporting him to a mysterious castle where they say their lady can save his friend. Interesting stuff! The backup story is a one-shot about Baba Yaga and how a mortal man is able to escape her and curse her. It's fantastic, of course. Another issue of Hellboy, another comic that's brilliant and beautiful from front cover to back cover.
Thumbs Up

I Am Legion: The Dancing Faun #2
Every issue of this comic is so long and complicated! It's also beautifully drawn, of course, by John Cassaday, and I'm still enjoying it quite a bit, but I had to go back and reread a couple of sections multiple times to understand them, and I still think I missed some stuff. I guess the important thing is, I'm getting the gist of it, and the gist is pretty cool. It's creepy and twisted and clever.
Thumbs Sideways

Jersey Gods #2
I really want to like this series. I really do. I love the concept. But it's just not that good. I don't really "get" any of the characters - there's nothing about them that's really familiar to me or that I can sympathize with - and that makes it really hard to care about them or their story. In this issue, the romance between the Jersey girl and the God-like alien takes its first tentative steps. The girl experiences some small drama at her job on Earth (she gets in trouble for criticizing a designer's ridiculous fashion collection), while the God runs into some more life-threatening problems trying to head off war on his planet. But like I said, I just don't care all that much. The tone is a weird mix of light and dramatic, and it just doesn't work for me. I like the Darwyn Cooke cover of this one, and I'm kind of curious about Mark Waid's backup story which is supposed to start in the next issue. But I'm not sure I can justify buying that issue.
Thumbs Sideways

New Avengers: The Reunion #1
This is a new miniseries taking a look at the adventures of Mockingbird and Ronin following Mockingbird's return from Skrull custody. It picks up shortly after the events of Dark Reign: New Nation #1, with Mockingbird still freaking out and being mysterious, and Ronin still chasing after her. This time he jumps her when she's in the middle of infiltrating a secret A.I.M. base. He helps her get in, and helps her escape, but she still won't reveal to him the secret information she got from the Skrulls, or exactly which old S.H.I.E.L.D. mission she's trying to complete with it. So he captures her with the idea of bringing her in to the Avengers.

There are some interesting concepts here, but I'm not a big fan of the writing. The script is by Jim McCann, whom I'm not familiar with. He fills this comic with lots and lots of dialogue and narration, which is rarely a good plan, and indeed most of it is clumsy and melodramatic. There's a scene where Captain America and Ronin almost come to blows for no good reason, and it reminds me of how bad filmmakers will use anger and shouting as a replacement for actual drama and acting talent. I very much doubt I'll buy another issue of this.
Thumbs Sideways

No Hero #4
Warren Ellis' twisted thought experiment - which attempts to answer the question, "How far would you go to be a superhero?" - continues. The answer turns out to be, at least in the case of our main character, pretty goddamn far. The poor bastard's junk has fallen off, along with a lot of his skin, but when he realizes he has superpowers, he's sort of okay with it. He's in no shape to fight evil - in fact, he's in no shape to even be seen by anyone - but the Front Line is desperate for new members, and desperate to show the world it's still alive and kicking, so the poor kid gets dragged out for a press conference anyway. They've got him covered up in a full bodysuit and mask, but when a faux camera guy in the crowd, who's apparently a part of the conspiracy that's been striking at the Front Line throughout the series, shoots off Josh's mask and then kills himself, the hideous new face of the Front Line is revealed to the world. The final panel is pathetic and devastating: the hideously mutated Josh, his alien face smoking and dripping goo, says, "Nothing wrong with me. I'm a superhuman now." Eee.

Very disturbing stuff! But I'd expect no less from Mr. Ellis. This is another of these series that takes a hard look at what the world would really be like if there were superheroes in it: the political and social consequences, the celebrity aspect, what it would take to be a superhero, and whether, after becoming a "superhero," you would really be a hero, or even a human, anymore. I am a fan of this book, and I'm very curious to see what dark and terrible place it takes us to.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: First Class - Finals #2
As the "finals" continue, the big ugly Frederick is giving the X-Men a pretty serious pounding when suddenly Juggernaut rolls in out of nowhere and runs him down. With Frederick taken care of, the kids try to locate Xavier using Cerebro, and continue to try to figure out what they'll do with their lives after they graduate. While looking for the Professor, they come across a different mutant signal and go to check it out, only to come face to face with a big pile of metal shaped like Magneto! Huh. The backup story about Jean and Scott's date continues as the couple sees on TV that Wanda has joined the Avengers. Scott, still fuming about the lame night they ended up having, decides to do something crazy and borrows Warren's car so the two of them can drive down to Manhattan. In the final cliffhanger panel, they seem to be about to run into something.

Both of these stories are fun and exciting, and feature subtle glimpses inside our heroes' heads as they try to figure themselves and their lives out. As usual with X-Men: First Class, I was not blown away, but I was entertained.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases, 3/11
After Watchmen... What's Next?
This is just a free promotional book that my comic shop guy dropped into my bag when I wasn't looking. I believe DC was giving it away at certain screenings of Watchmen. The idea was to capitalize on the popularity of the movie by giving viewers a checklist of books that are kinda sorta like Watchmen, in the hopes that they would then take that checklist into a comic shop, buy a bunch of stuff, and get well and truly addicted to the medium. Most of the stuff in here is good, or at least makes sense: more books by Alan Moore (although I would have picked From Hell instead of V for Vendetta); other challenging, non-standard, indie-style comics (Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man, neither of which I'm a huge fan of, but both of which make sense here); a couple of books by Warren Ellis (Planetary Volume One is an excellent choice, and one of the books I always recommend to somebody just trying comics for the first time, but I would probably have substituted something like Ocean for Transmetropolitan, which I've never liked as much as everybody else seems to); a couple of Frank Miller books (I give a big thumbs up to Dark Knight Returns, but I probably would have picked 300 or the first book of Sin City or Batman: Year One or really almost anything but Ronin); volume one of Sandman (practically a given); volume one of Fables; Kingdom Come; Joker; All-Star Superman Volume One (one of my all-time favorites); Superman: Red Son; and We3. Stuff I don't like: Identity Crisis (I've never read it, but from what I've read around the edges of it, so to speak, I get the impression it's pretty bad, and I've read stuff by the author, Brad Meltzer, that was just plain terrible. Plus, if you were going to recommend a Crisis to someone new to comics - and I don't know why you would, because they're probably the most confusing and off-putting things you could possibly read as a comics beginner - why would you not pick the best: Final Crisis??); Batman: Arkham Asylum (which I find painfully melodramatic and overwritten); and Preacher Volume 1 (which I just plain don't like, despite all the glowing things everybody else says about it).

And now that I've wasted far too many words on a promotional freebie, I'll move on.
Thumbs Sideways

Angel: Blood & Trenches #1
I didn't expect much from this comic, but I couldn't resist the idea of Angel running around fighting evil in the trenches during WWI. Happily, it turned out to be quite good. Angel, living in the gutters of NYC as an emo rat-sucker, learns that a vampire (or vampires) is ravaging soldiers on the front line, and leaving a strange sigil behind drawn in blood. He researches the symbol and discovers it's the mark of what looks like a particularly nasty vampire. He heads overseas to see if he can stop the guy, and finds an ally in a lovely young doctor. But he also finds plenty of enemies, and not just vampires: a Colonel Geoffery Wyndam-Price, presumably an ancestor of Angel's future friend Wesley (which is a clever, cool idea), is already aware of the vampire problem, discovers Angel's true nature, and exposes him to sunlight, making for a nice cliffhanger.

Author John Byrne writes the characters well, crafts an exciting and interesting story, and, perhaps most importantly, knows when not to write at all; there's a wordless sequence that tells the story of Angel's trip from America to the front very effectively. Impressively, Byrne also provides the comic's fantastic art. Very nice! I'll definitely be tuning in for episode 2.
Thumbs Up

B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #3
The story continues much as it left off in #2, with Memnan Saa explaining his backstory and his purpose to the folks he's invited inside his fortress, while the folks outside fight a desperate battle against a horde of frogs and demons. Then Memnan Saa activates Liz and, as the prophecies say, tames fire to breed dragons. Some mighty impressive and epic stuff goes down here, and it's wonderfully illustrated by Guy Davis and Dave Stewart. I'm still trying to reconcile Memnan Saa's clearly evil nature with his seeming good deeds, which is keeping me off kilter. But it's another exciting and fascinating issue.
Thumbs Up

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1
The next big DC event officially begins here. In Batman's absence, Gotham is falling apart, and Nightwing has formed the Network - an alliance of Batman's friends and allies - to try to keep it together. Despite the city's obvious need for the return of Batman (a need that Tim and Alfred can see quite clearly), Dick is adamant that no one take up Bruce's mantle. Not everybody got the memo, though; a mysterious, ultra-violent loner is on the streets and in the alleys, taking out criminals and leaving notes that read simply, "I am Batman."

It's a pretty interesting concept, and the comic is generally pretty good. The huge villain team-up is a little melodramatic and hard to believe, but I was willing to swallow it, because it's cool. There's a lot of narration, all from Tim's perspective, but it's mostly okay (although what's with Tim referring to Batman as his father??). I know Alfred used to be in British intelligence, but the dude should be pretty old by now, and it's a little odd to see him sparring with, and casually defeating and disarming, Dick Grayson, whom he's watched grow up from a boy into a man nearly as bad-ass as Batman himself. But none of that stuff is really terrible. No, the only really terrible thing in the comic is the way Damian is written. He's depicted as a helpless, cowardly dumbass who picks up girls with the Batmobile and who nearly pisses his pants when some supervillains come gunning for him. What? This is not at all the character Grant Morrison created. Sure, Damian's a bit of a goof, but he's also extremely smart, highly skilled in all forms of warfare (thanks to relentless training from his mother and his father), competent, and confident. He's written so completely wrong here that it really frustrated me and almost pulled me out of the book entirely. Tony S. Daniel wrote and drew this book, and he did a pretty good job on both counts. But I really wish he'd done better research on Damian's character, or at least explained how he came to change so very, very much. I might still get the next issue of this comic, but it's going to be hard seeing this fake Damian wandering around its pages.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain Britain and MI13 #11
It's really a shame that this book is getting so good just as it's being canceled. This issue opens with Captain Britain tearing a killer spell apart and then punching a vampire's heart out of its chest with his bare hands. (Oh, and it was good to get the explanation in the opening sum-up that the two women Pete and Cap were hanging out with last issue were just random backpackers; I hadn't understood that at all from reading the actual comic. I thought they were characters I was supposed to recognize.) And this is followed up by, wonder of wonders, a really, really good scene with Faiza. The scene I'm talking about is a page that's pretty much unlike anything I've ever seen in a comic. It's one big, surreal illustration with really long, detailed blocks of narration pasted on top of it, narration that describes, in the present tense, Faiza's thoughts and feelings as she and the Black Knight fall from a great height into the Earth, and she heals them both from their mortal injuries immediately as they receive them. It's wildly imaginative and brilliant and I love it. And it's followed immediately by a magical sword fight with vampires. Next we figure out what happened with Dracula and Faiza's family. Turns out Tepes of Wallachia left a special message just for Blade. There's a fantastic scene where Wisdom storms in and takes things over, handing out orders, putting on a new pair of sunglasses, and telling people to say "sir." It's hilarious and bad-ass. His scene later on, where he calls together all the heads of British intelligence, gives a little briefing, then outs a spy, and tells everybody to piss off, is possibly even cooler and more bad-ass. Finally, the horrific cliffhanger ending sees Dracula taking control of one of our heroes.

This is just a fantastic issue. Inventive, funny, brutal, thrilling, and crazy.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider #33
I really wasn't sure how I felt about this issue until I got to the end. Then I decided I liked it. It's basically just a transitional issue, linking the last story arc with the next one, and centers entirely on Sara, the new Caretaker. She heads back to her old convent in search of comfort and a new direction, but finds only a bloodbath perpetrated by an old enemy. Now pretty much completely hopeless, she wanders aimlessly until she receives a message from the future that gives her new purpose. Throughout all this we get glimpses of the history of the spirits of vengeance, from the beginning of the world down to the present day, a history that includes many, many insane versions of the Ghost Rider fighting many, many insane perils. There's the Ghost Flyer thirsting for Luftwaffe blood during WWI; a whole tank full of Ghost Riders shooting hellfire shells during WWII; the Undead G-Man and his sidekick Knuckles O'Shaugnessy taking out an evil secret society with a tommy gun and a club; Ghost Rider versions of the characters from Smokey and the Bandit chasing down demon cops; and a redneck Ghost Rider punching zombies at a truck stop. All of this was almost too insane and ridiculous for me, especially the way it's interspersed with the very serious, dark, dramatic story set in present day. I also feel like the art style (from new series artist Tony Moore) isn't wacky enough to match the wacky content it's depicting.

But then the hilarious future Ghost Riders show up and say things like, "What about the Skrulls? Should we tell her about the Skrulls? Have you been invaded by Skrulls yet?" This final sequence, and Sara's reaction to it (not to mention her name), actually gives me a really strong Terminator vibe, which probably had a pretty large part in turning me around on my opinion of this issue. Regardless, the important thing is, I decided I liked it in the end, and I'm excited to see where things go next. And even though Moore's art didn't always seem to fit the subject matter, I do like his work.
Thumbs Up

The Punisher: Frank Castle MAX #68
I really want to like Swierczynski's run on this title, and I've given it a lot of chances, but it's just not doing anything for me. For some reason I continue to find myself confused as to who's who and what's what, and I continue to dislike the art, especially the way the Punisher is drawn. I think my confusion has to do with the fact that there are a lot of characters, some of them look pretty similar, and I never really memorized properly what all their names are or how they're all related to each other. I'm not sure I can really blame any of that on Swierczynski; if I sat down and read the series through again from the beginning and really paid close attention this time, I'm sure I could follow it all without much trouble. And as it is I'm still getting the gist okay. But besides the confusion and the art I don't like, there's just something lacking about this story. I just find the whole thing kind of dull and off-putting. I know the Punisher isn't going to die, so there's not a lot of tension in the fact that he's poisoned and only has six hours to live. Plus that story concept is really old. And anybody in the story who's not the Punisher is just a sick, pathetic, disgusting human being that I don't want to know anything about. So yeah, I can't think of a reason to keep reading this.
Thumbs Sideways

Scalped #26
The latest issue of Scalped has a quote from the Philadelphia Daily News on the cover: "One of the best comics ever created." Woo! Go Daily News! Go Scalped! Inside, oddly enough, this issue has nothing to do with the casino heist storyline that was launched in the previous issue, and instead spends its entire length examining the character of Diesel, who is a seriously screwed up motherfucker. We get to see a brutal formative incident in Diesel's childhood intercut with what Diesel's up to now: scalping guys in prison. He's come a long way!

I'm guessing this one-shot detour into the mind and character of Diesel means he will be involved somehow in the casino heist story, but then again, maybe not; maybe this diversion was just for the heck of it. Regardless, it's typical Scalped: a powerful, violent, insightful look inside a seriously wounded human being.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Angel (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Fringe (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hellboy (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Cassaday (Not), Kevin Smith (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Punisher (Not), Scalped (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Goon (Not), The Sentry (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Monday, January 26, 2009 12:15 AM
(Last updated on Saturday, January 31, 2009 12:58 PM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.

This covers new releases from the week of 1/7, 1/14, and 1/21. Yep, my "weekly" comic book review post hasn't been very weekly lately. I'm way, way behind, so this is my big catchup entry. Settle in! Oh, and also, beware spoilers; they're all over the place down there.

Back issues and old data
The Goon Volume 6: Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker
Just last week, in my review of The Goon #31, I said serious drama was not author Eric Powell's strong point. Now that I've read this hardcover volume (which I received for Christmas), I feel like I may have been unnecessarily hard on Mr. Powell. This book is serious drama through and through - which it warns you of itself by opening with a page that says, in very large letters, "This ain't funny." - but it's also extremely effective, beautiful, and brilliant. The story clears up a lot of the confusion I was feeling over various characters and relationships in the most recent Goon arc. In fact, it's two stories interwoven, one set in the past and explaining finally the Goon's history with Isabella and Chinatown, and the other set in the present and dealing with the rise of a powerful and mysterious new crime lord named Mr. Wicker. There's also a really wonderful flashback at the very beginning that goes all the way back to the Goon's days in the carnival with Kizzie. The story as a whole is touching, tragic, and artfully told. The way Powell illustrates is amazing. When the Goon meets Bella again after many years, and she's sitting close to him in his room, he sees her as a series of fractured images: lips, a shoulder, breasts, legs, an eye.
Later, when Bella rejects him, he steps into the bathroom and looks into the mirror. There follow five full-page illustrations of the Goon's face as he stares into his own eyes and sees only ugliness, and all of his agony is clear in his expression. When Franky comes to visit the Goon later at the hospital, he shares his pain in a tender, quiet moment where the strength of their friendship is made clear. It's a subtle, powerful story, exciting, engaging, and moving, and it completely swallowed me up. I read practically the entire thing in one sitting. It's very possibly Powell's greatest achievement, and that's really saying something. My hat is off, sir!
Thumbs Up

Terminator: Salvation #1
Comic book prequels to movies seem to be all the rage these days. This book is set before the events of the upcoming film of the same name, and is being put out by IDW (the Terminator license is a complex thing, with three or four different publishing houses putting out three or four different books, all set in different timelines). IDW is also putting out the prequel miniseries tied into the new Star Trek movie. Because I'm interested in both movies, I decided to give both books a shot. This one I couldn't find the week it came out, but I was able to pick it up this week (which is why it's appearing in this section). The Star Trek book you'll find a review of near the bottom of this post.

The issue opens in 2018, post-Judgment Day, and focuses on two resistance cells, one in Detroit, and one in Niger. They're trying to coordinate an operation called "Sand in the Gears," which apparently involves blowing up a mine that's important to the machines. Elena, the woman heading the Detroit cell, is having a kind of long distance, flirty affair with the guy in Niger, whom she's never met. But from a flashback we see later in the book, it looks like she also has an unrequited thing for John Connor (don't we all?). A dude and his family trying to survive out on their own in Detroit, away from the resistance, get bombed out, and the patriarch goes up against a Terminator. Meanwhile, a machine busts in and attacks the folks in Niger, as well.

There's nothing really terrible in this book, but nothing particularly exciting, either. It's very talky, but the dialogue isn't all that great. And there's some decent action sequences, and then the cliffhanger at the end, but I don't care enough about the characters for them to mean much to me. So yeah, I don't think I'll be wasting any more money picking up future issues of this.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases 1/7
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #21
Wow, this was the best issue of this comic in a while - and I thought the recent ones were really good! The cover is done up like a fashion magazine, except with Harmony and vampires as its subject. That's because the story inside is about Harmony getting famous thanks to video of her sucking Andy Dick's blood ending up on TMZ. She gets a reality show, but the ratings are not so good... until she gets into a fight with a Slayer on TV. Then all of the sudden she's a star, and Slayers are in the public eye - as villains. It's a very interesting story that fits in perfectly with the arc of the "season" so far, and it's also very clever, very timely, and very, very funny - as in, brilliant pop culture satire. Just a great comic, from the front cover to the back.
Thumbs Up

Gravel #7
The latest Gravel arc comes to an end in this issue, but as is made very clear on the final page, it's just the beginning of a new direction for Bill's story. Gravel must make a decision here between the temptation of a life of ease amongst the upper class, with servants and an estate, or a continuation of his life of murder and dirty, blue collar brutality. He gives his servants and the remaining member of the Minor Seven a final test, and then makes his choice in spectacular and violent fashion. I wasn't always sure about this series, but I love the way Ellis and Wolfer pull everything together in this final issue and open the door to an even more exciting future story. I also enjoy Oscar Jimenez's art, and Gravel's trickery. Excellent!
Thumbs Up

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #2
Yes! Hellboy! And this issue even includes a back-up story, something I don't usually expect to see in a Hellboy book. In the main story, written by Mike Mignola with beautiful art by Duncan Fegredo, Hellboy makes an unexpected visit to another realm full of the bones of dead kings, then he's back in the present and rather foolishly jumps into battle with some giants. Meanwhile, big doings with Gruagach! We get to learn more of his early history (which has the flavor of ancient fairy tales and Tolkien epics), and get a replay of his more recent history with Hellboy (which was a nice refresher). I also got confirmation on my suspicion that Gruagach hasn't really heard the lady in the box speak, and has been putting words in her mouth. But he won't have to do that anymore, as a mysterious stranger shows up with a very disturbing gift to help him finally awaken her. And that just can't be a good thing!

The back-up story, written by Mignola and with wonderful art by Guy Davis, is part one of the tale of how Koshchei became deathless - a really evocative story out of Russian folklore. It's comics like these that remind me why I love Mignola, his team, and the entire Hellboy-verse so very, very much.
Thumbs Up

Kull #3
In this issue, Kull learns the true history of the world and some of the dark secrets that lurk inside his own castle. Also, the arc of the series begins to take shape. Kull's in even more trouble than he knew! Evil lizards lurking everywhere waiting to kill him! And an angry wife! Ouch. I have to say, I'm not loving this series quite as much as I was at first, now that the mysteries are being solved and going away, but it's still pretty well written, with great art and some great ideas, so I'm sticking with it.
Thumbs Up

No Hero #3
At the end of last issue, our new recruit started to experience his horrific, hallucinatory transformation into a super human. In this issue, the transformation continues in four incredibly detailed, gruesome, nightmarish, two-page splash illustrations. But even as a new super human is being born, another one gets offed. And there's still little clue as to who's doing it, except that they know a great deal about super humans and how to destroy them. At the end, newbie guy seems to start falling apart, but it's probably just the next stage in his transformation.

I'm still really enjoying this little series. Ellis is creating a fascinating alternate history; he's making an interesting examination of what super humans could be; he's developing a crazy little dysfunctional family with an arrogant genius as its patriarch; and he's even got an intriguing murder mystery brewing. Plus, Juan Jose Ryp's art is impressive, as always - although I think he gets so carried away with capturing all the details that sometimes the images end up cluttered and confused and it's hard to understand the whole. A cleaner style, with fewer lines, might be better. But what do I know? The point is, it's fine comics, and I'm still firmly on board.
Thumbs Up

Punisher #1
I was very wary of this new Punisher ongoing, especially since it's written by Rick Remender, whose work has disappointed me in the past. But it's a Dark Reign tie-in, and thus important to the future of the Marvel Universe, and it features the Punisher (obviously) and the Sentry, both of whom I love, so I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, as expected, I didn't care for it all that much. There's actually not all that much story here, as a lot of the back of the book is taken up with a preview of Agents of Atlas, and a detailed history of the Punisher, illustrated with reprints of selected panels from earlier Punisher comics. What story there is is interesting and well drawn (I particularly like the way the Sentry is depicted, and the way he just appears next to Frank immediately after stopping his bullet four miles away), but not well written. There's way, way too much narration, all very cheesy, and all from the perspective of the Punisher. The dialogue is also pretty weak. I might give the series one more issue, just to see where the story is going, but then again I might not.

As for the backup material, I did appreciate getting filled in on the strange and complex biography of the Punisher. I always like to catch up with the history of the Marvel Universe, and this was a part of it I was not familiar with. The preview of Agents of Atlas was less interesting. Some Feds bust into an Agents of Atlas building. The Agents show up and one of them says, "Feds, huh? what a coincidence. 'Cause we're Agents of Atlas." Uh... how is that a coincidence? That makes no sense. Really, it just doesn't.
Thumbs Sideways

War of Kings Saga
This isn't really an original comic, per se. It's a free book that tells the history of the Inhumans, with a particular focus on their connection with matters extraterrestrial, in order to get you ready for the War of Kings storyline that is currently ongoing. As with the history in the back of Punisher #1, I appreciated this book for the gaps it filled in for me in my knowledge of the Marvel Universe. I knew little about the Inhumans, and little about what happened to Vulcan and Havok after the events of X-Men: Deadly Genesis. There's also a bunch of other characters described here that I'd never even heard of before. All this history is conveyed in a pretty bland manner, however, with short bursts of words slapped on top of reprints of old illustrations. So I didn't really retain very much of it, and it wasn't really all that exciting to read. Plus, there's no way I'm jumping into another massive story arc that will spread itself over multiple books, especially since none of those books are ones I read.
Thumbs Sideways

X-Men: Noir #2
Hmmm. After reading another issue of this miniseries, I'm sad to say I think maybe my original feelings of dislike towards it were justified. The cliffhanger at the end of last issue is quickly discarded and deflated at the beginning of this one, and a lot of the mysteries are just as quickly swept out of the way with a few bursts of exposition. I still can't get used to the idea that mutations have been replaced with sociopathic tendencies. That's just not the same thing at all! It's also weird that Beast isn't actually smart here; in fact, he's dumb, and is constantly using big words in the wrong way. Plenty of the other character analogs take on similarly shameful and disappointing roles here. And the back-up sci-fi/pulp adventure story is really hard to read, it's so deliberately bad.

I probably won't pick up another issue of this. I'm curious as to where the story's going, but... not that curious.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases 1/14
Action Comics #873
Great line near the beginning of this one from General Lane: "What kills you makes you stronger." Heh. Anyway, apparently in the other episodes of the New Krypton storyline that I didn't read, a great big war started with the Green Lanterns, the Justice League, and the Justice Society on one side, and the people of Kandor on the other. It's getting pretty nasty until Kara's mother decides to end the fight by making it moot; she moves Kandor elsewhere. Woah. Well, that explains the storyline's title! Things aren't really taken care of for good, however; Superman still wants to see justice done on his fellow Kryptonians. And then we get a couple of epilogues (what is the deal with having multiple epilogues in comics, btw? Does anyone else think that's totally lame?) that throw a couple more big reveals into the mix. We find out where the mysterious Superwoman's true allegiances lie; some super dude gets wasted (I never did figure out who he was, but he's been skulking around this storyline for a while); and General Zod and friends drop back into the mix. Nice!

I still feel like this storyline was maybe a little too busy, trying to fit too many things in at once. There are a couple of panels thrown in at the end here showing Nightwing and Firebird, and some Bizarro people, almost as if to say, "Oh yeah, and this stuff is going on, too!" Like Geoff Johns felt obligated to mention those characters, even though there wasn't space to actually do anything with them.

I also can't say I really like the Superman who's depicted here. He's more self-righteous and annoying than he is just righteous. Part of the problem is the way the artists draw him; he just looks like a prick.

All that being said, there are some really neat things in here. I like the creation of New Krypton. I like the mysterious plotting of Lane and Luthor. And I like that Zod and friends are coming back into the story. This issue could have been a lot better, but it wasn't awful.
Thumbs Sideways

B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #1
The new B.P.R.D. miniseries starts out by making clear the connection between the current story arc and the recent Lobster Johnson miniseries (Iron Prometheus). I'm not sure why I never guessed that Martin Gilfryd and the villain in Iron Prometheus were one and the same person, but now that they made it explicit here, it was obvious in retrospect. Still, an exciting revelation, and it was also very neat to find out what happened to Lobster and his crew after the events of Iron Prometheus, and to learn a bit more of the story of Martin Gilfryd (although he remains quite mysterious). There's a weird two-page spread right in the middle of the issue where we see an old man in some kind of temple carving little stone frogs and painting red designs on their backs. I'm not sure what that's about. Meanwhile, Panya seems quite certain that Liz won't be coming back to B.P.R.D. headquarters, which is very disturbing. Things look bleak for the team finding a lead that will get them to Liz and Gilfryd, until Johnson's bad-ass old buddy comes through with freaking directions to Gilfryd's hideout. Nice!

I love the way everything they've been doing in B.P.R.D. almost since the beginning of the comic is all coming together and building to a big climax in this storyline. I also love that Lobster Johnson is involved, because he's awesome. As usual, Mike Mignola and John Arcudi do an excellent job with the words, and Guy Davis and Dave Stewart back them up with beautiful pictures and colors. I even like Kevin Nowlan's cover; it's interesting to see the familiar characters visualized in a unique, new way.
Thumbs Up

Captain Britain and MI13 #9
I just read online that this series has been canceled. Boo! I've really been enjoying this. It's a look at the British corner of the Marvel Universe, which rarely gets mentioned, and Paul Cornell's been putting some really interesting characters and concepts in here.

This particular issue sees Pete Wisdom tearing the Dream Corridor to bits and bringing everyone's fantasies crashing down with the help of the faux Black Blade. Which means we get a quick glimpse at a lot of different fantasies, including an old dude playing professional soccer, a guy in a bunny suit frolicking with a giant teddy bear (a plushie in a Marvel comic??), and a guy on a throne being served cheeseburgers and beers by beautiful young women. We also learn that scientific adviser Stewart is pretty bad-ass, and that Captain Britain can do anything. And Plokta, Duke of Hell, is finally disposed of in excellent fashion. A relationship seems to start up between Blade and Lady J (which is pretty impressive, given that they were trying to kill each other only a few issues ago), Captain Midlands ends up imprisoned and shamed, and tragically, it turns out that Captain Britain just missed seeing the real Meggan on his way out of the Dream Corridor. She's trapped in some kind of hell dimension. Argh! A powerful story with some very moving moments. I really liked the way they got Plokta in the end. And there wasn't much Faiza, which is always good!

At the very end, we get the preview for the next story arc, which will involve Dr. Doom teaming up with Dracula and an army of vampires to assault the Earth from the moon. Go back and look at that again, because it may just be the most awesome sentence I've ever written. Thankfully, it sounds like Marvel is going to print that story arc in its entirety before killing the book for good.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis #6
The last issue I read of this miniseries was the first one, so needless to say I was pretty confused as to what was going on in this one. Although frankly, I probably would have been pretty confused anyway, given that it's written by the master of confusion, Grant Morrison. But I saw some scans of this issue online and felt I had to pick it up and read it. After all, it features the death of Batman.

Yep, that's right. You'd figure Batman would have died in one of the comics that actually feature him as the main character, maybe during the story arc called Batman R.I.P.! But in fact at the end of that story he had merely disappeared. Then he started investigating the death of Orion, got captured briefly by Darkseid, and in this issue finally tracks down Darkseid and attacks him. But before that happens, Brainiac 5 lets Superman use a machine that turns thoughts into things (at least, I think that's what happens), although what Superman does with it is unclear. Then there's an insane war going on in the middle of a city, which involves Supergirl in a cat fight with an S&M obsessed Mary Marvel, who's possessed by Desaad. Mary calls Supergirl a slut. It's funny. Some tiger people have a showdown. There's a symbol you have to paint on your face to protect you from the Anti-Life Equation. A ton of characters I've never seen before and know nothing about huddle together and try to figure out how to fight back now that the world is ending. Checkmate initiates some kind of insane last minute plan to move the entire Earth onto another Earth in another universe. Which, as it turns out, may actually be a really bad idea. Luthor and Dr. Sivana turn on Libra and Darkseid because they decide they like life after all. The Flashes all get together to get to Darkseid and they plan to use some kind of Black Flash to do it. Batman sneaks into Darkseid's hideout and breaks his restriction against firearms to shoot Darkseid with a poison bullet. Somehow he's able to shoot Darkseid faster than Darkseid's able to shoot him with his eye beams, even after Batman has wasted time standing around explaining how we got to this point with some pointless exposition. It's a little silly, and a bit disappointing that Batman had to use a gun, but then again, if Batman had to go out, going out while killing an evil God and theoretically saving the entire world is a pretty good way to do it. That being said, even after Batman shoots Darkseid and Superman finally shows up and blows up some crap, it still doesn't look like either of them really succeeded in changing much, and the world is apparently still on the brink of ultimate destruction.

There are some really cool ideas in here: the God-weapon, or miracle machine, that Brainiac shows Superman; the way Luthor and Sivana turn on Libra (great dialogue in that scene); all the Flashes getting together and essentially outrunning death ("Godspeed" is a particularly appropriate thing for the woman to wish them as they dash off); and of course Batman sacrificing himself to kill Darkseid. But there's also some pretty odd stuff I don't quite get. (What does Superman do with the miracle machine, for instance?) I'm going to give Morrison the benefit of the doubt, however, and assume that most of those confusing bits either were already explained by earlier issues, or will be explained in the last issue. Regardless, I'm surprised to say it, but I really enjoyed this issue of Final Crisis, and I'm probably going to pick up the next (and final) one.
Thumbs Up

Gravel #8
Warren Ellis and Mike Wolfer apparently don't believe in dilly dallying! Only a week after the previous Gravel storyline ended, the next one begins here, with Gravel somehow surviving, with sanity intact, a marathon reading of the Sigsand manuscript. Then it's off to meet his new buddies, the Major Seven. At first it seems as if everything's going to be sunshine and daisies with this lot, but things quickly get more complicated. He's given two tasks: to reform the Minor Seven, and to establish a location in England that will be his place of power. But then he's also given a third, secret task by the sort of leader of the Major Seven: to discover which of the Major Seven killed Gravel's predecessor. D'oh! Here we go again. Or, as Gravel himself puts it, "Oh, bollocks."

As usual, I very much enjoyed this issue of Gravel. The character now finds himself at the start of a new phase in his life and his magical experience, and at the start of a new murder mystery. Should be exciting - although I was disappointed to see that Wolfer had taken over the art again. He's just not very good at it, so I'm really not sure why people keep letting him do it. Ah, well.
Thumbs Up

Punisher: War Zone #5
The Punisher and the still-drugged Schitti manage to escape from the trap Elite set for them, but not unscathed. The Punisher retreats to Schitti's place, takes out some more mobsters, and meets Von Richtofen, who agrees to not kill him or arrest him for a while, so he can help her survive an onslaught of wiseguys. The usual clever writing and dark humor run throughout, making this another entertaining entry in a wonderful miniseries. Sadly, there's only one more issue left, but I'm sure it'll be a doozy.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Last Generation #3
Hoo boy. This series is starting to feel like cheesy slash fiction again. Wesley and Picard ready their two factions of the resistance for a last ditch struggle. Wesley cuts his hair and paints his face all punk rock. We have to watch as Picard exits a bed full of naked Guinan (argh! My eyes!!). The relationship I guessed at between Tasha and Ro is made explicit. Then Wesley effs everything up and gets somebody killed. It doesn't look good for our heroes! But they've got two issues left to fix everything.

The second issue of this really picked things up and started building a clever and interesting story that played with these familiar characters in new and different ways. But this issue was mostly just melodrama, and man I really didn't need that scene in Picard and Guinan's bedroom. I can't quite decide if I'll get the next issue or not. I guess we'll see when the time comes...
Thumbs Sideways

New releases from 1/21
Angel: After the Fall #16
This is a book I dropped a long time ago, but I saw Joss Whedon's name on the cover of this issue and, after flipping through it in the store, noticed that it seemed to be the conclusion of the recent story arc, and that it seemed to include some pretty pivotal events in the lives of the characters, so I decided to give it a try. I'm still not sure how I feel about it. It opens with Connor dying, and with evil winning. But of course we can't have that. Luckily, Wesley and Angel discover a loophole that allows them to essentially reboot back to the beginning of the story arc (and thus back to the end of the last season of the TV show), but with everybody retaining their memories of everything that happened. So, everything's back to normal, except now everybody in the city remembers going to hell and back, and they all know and adore Angel as a hero. Which kind of freaks him out.

The reboot is a little lame, and I don't entirely understand how and why it happens, but it's an interesting turn of events, and it has some interesting consequences. There are some funny lines, too, like when the dude in the hospital says, "I made friends in hell, and now I have no idea where they are." Heh. It's a pretty good end to this part of the story, but probably not good enough to make me start reading this comic again on a regular basis. Not unless Whedon, or somebody equally talented, takes over the writing duties entirely (on this issue, Whedon just helped sketch out the plot, and Brian Lynch did the actual writing).
Thumbs Sideways

Astonishing X-Men #28
As this issue opens, the X-Men are still checking out that weird secret Chinese mutant hideout. They foolishly split up and end up getting attacked by a bunch of monstrous mutant creatures. Before that happens, Forge comes up in a couple of their conversations, which immediately made it clear to me that Forge would be involved in this storyline somehow, because why mention such a weird old character otherwise? And indeed, once the attacking creatures are subdued, they all talk about only one person: Forge.

I always thought Forge was an interesting character with an interesting power, so I'm glad he's being brought back, and I'll be curious to see what Ellis does with him. Is he going to be the ultimate villain here? Hmmm...

This is an okay issue, but not all that exciting, as it's mostly transitional. Plus it was a little clumsy the way Ellis threw that flag up about Forge. Still, I did enjoy the moment where Cyclops tells Wolverine and Armor to capture an enemy alive, but then Wolverine tells Armor, "Cyke's a good guy. You should listen to him. But if it comes down to it with some bastard out there, you kill him without even thinking about it." Nice.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Avengers #1
Brian Michael Bendis launches yet another Avengers book! This time it's a Dark Reign tie-in following the Avengers team that Norman Osborn puts together. It really surprised me how excellent this turned out to be. It opens with the official presentation of the team to the public and the press, but the actual identities of all the members aren't clear at first, until the book jumps back in time and shows you how Osborn assembled the group. It's quite a bunch he puts together! I'm disappointed in the Sentry for joining up, but apparently Osborn offered him something he couldn't refuse (probably some imaginary way of controlling the Void). None of the other guys in the group are much of a surprise, although it is interesting in some cases what superhero identity they've taken on. I kind of doubt Clint Barton will be very happy with what Bullseye's calling himself these days!

I love that Osborn came up with the acronym for his new version of S.H.I.E.L.D. (H.A.M.M.E.R.) and then left it to his new deputy director to figure out what it stands for. I also enjoy: the gratuitous shots of Ms. Marvel's ass; when Ares describes the food at a pizza place as "glorious crap;" the surprise expressed by all parties when Daken reveals that Wolverine is his father (but really, who didn't know that?); the scene where Ares points out what the team is still missing; when Osborn gets Stark's room full of Iron Man suits open (although, who is that Ghost guy? He's not familiar to me); and when Dr. Doom responds to a soldier's request to take a picture by just looking at him. Doom and Morgana get into it at the end of the comic; I'm not sure what that's about, as I'm not really knowledgeable about their history together. But it's just a really clever, really entertaining comic, and it looks like the start of a dark, funny, and exciting series. I should point out that possibly a large part of the reason I like it is that it's drawn by Mike Deodato, one of my favorite artists. He does a kick-ass job here, as usual.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #2
Wow. This is just... wow. I'm not sure they should let anybody but Grant Morrison write Superman anymore, because what with this miniseries, and his recently completed run on All-Star Superman, he's put together two of the most amazing, imaginative, artful, wise, moving, insightful Superman stories ever written.

One thing I noticed in this issue that I didn't notice in the first is how similar Captain Adam is to Dr. Manhattan. In fact, I'm quite certain the character is meant to be Manhattan, and Morrison just couldn't use the name due to rights issues.

As far as the story goes, it starts out with the inhabitants of Limbo rising up against the invasion of their universe by Mandrakk. As Morrison describes it: "The forgotten versus the yet to be. Like some half-remembered dream." And the story as a whole is very much like a half-remembered dream - surreal, primal, insane, with beautiful, stilted, strange dialogue. Superman makes his way to Mandrakk by colliding with Ultraman. Anti-matter + matter = huge explosion. Captain Adam is able to use the resulting energy to broadcast Superman's pure essence to a receiver in a higher dimension.
That receiver is a Superman statue in the primal realm of the Monitors - a final living weapon, a thought-robot designed to defeat the ultimate enemy. As Captain Adam does this, he says, "Only Superman can save us now." Effing A! The Monitors, Superman learns, have 5,555 different words for nothing. They were "once numberless and faceless... until narratives formed around them, like crystals in solution." It turns out the story of the multiverse is a massive circle. The ultimate weapon awakes to face the ultimate enemy, and his awakening convinces the Monitors they made a mistake when they banished the primal outcast. They open the door for him, but now he has become the final enemy, and the ultimate battle begins. Superman realizes, "I'm inside a self-assembling hyper story! And it's trying its best to destroy me." But he also realizes, "This is my reason to be. My purpose is simply to stop him."

Superman seems beaten, until one of the other Monitors cries to Mandrakk, "You're using us to believe you into existence! But deep within the germ-worlds, I found a better story; one created to be unstoppable, indestructible! The story of a child rocketed to Earth from a doomed planet..." (It's so incredible what Morrison is doing here, and how it ties in with what he did in All-Star Superman - the way he's making not just Superman, but the story of Superman, a thing of momentous and archetypal importance.) Mandrakk kills this Monitor, only to realize too late it was the woman he loved. The battle begins again in earnest. Superman narrates: "We fight in the ruins of utopia. In the wreckage of dreams... We fight in the black floodlights of an eternal last sunset." Discovering who Mandrakk truly is - the primal outcast and the best of Monitors - Superman flings him into oblivion. But Mandrakk lands safely in Limbo with Ultraman, whom he makes his first knight of terror - a vampire Superman. Then he promises he will come back and fight Superman again. (Some final crisis, huh? But the last page of the comic will make it all okay.) As the thought-robot that contains his essence dies, Superman falls back into his own body and fights his way back to Lois. He was told that the Bleed was the only thing that could save Lois, but that there was also no way to contain it and carry it back to his own world. But he found away. He carried it within himself, and he administers it with a kiss. When Lois awakens, she remembers all that happened in Limbo and those other universes as if she were with Superman the whole time, and she demands a pen so she can write it all down, because it's such a wonderful story. Earlier, as the thought-robot Superman was inhabiting was dying, he told the Monitors, "There's something about stories that you should know. Mandrakk asked what words I'd have inscribed on my tombstone. Only these. [He carves them himself.] Let them be a warning." Lois says when she saw those words on the tombstone, she knew everything was going to be okay. On the final page, we see what those words were: TO BE CONTINUED.

So beautiful. An incredible story about stories, but also about love and life and existence itself, all told via the archetypes of comic books, and via great art by Doug Mahnke. And it's in 3D! (Btw, the author icon I used for this post is a picture of me wearing the 3D glasses the thing came with.) Quite simply one of the greatest comics I've ever read; a triumph of the medium, and another feather in Morrison's impressive cap.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider #31
I was disappointed to find that this is yet another transitional issue of this title, and really not much happens in it. Instead, the big showdown is just pushed off for another issue. Which is not to say the book is utterly dull and pointless. We do get to figure out what's been going on with that poor, misguided, one-handed cop, Kowalski, which makes for a fun story; we get to meet the last two Ghost Riders and see their hidden city; there's a great full-page illustration that gives us glimpses of a bunch of the other, now dead, spirits of vengeance, including dudes riding elephants, bears, and even a freaking shark; we learn a bit more about the nature of the Riders, their power, heaven, and God; and finally, a couple of bad-ass kids manage to convince Johnny to get back into the fight. I was sure at the end of the last issue that this one would feature the final showdown, and it turned out I was wrong, but I'm almost certain this time that the final showdown will be in the next issue, especially since the words written in the bottom right of the final panel are "To Be Concluded" and not "To Be Continued."

Great, great art here from both Tan Eng Huat and Roland Boschi, and Jason Aaron delivers his usual fine work. Like I said, there could be more substance here, but it fills in some important gaps, and it was fun poring over all those headlines tacked to the wall of Kowalski's hotel room.
Thumbs Sideways

Green Lantern #37
This issue begins with Hal Jordan rejecting the Blue Lanterns and running ahead of them to get Sinestro off of Ysmault himself. Standing before Sinestro alone, he has his chance to kill him once and for all. But he keeps thinking back to everything they've been through together. He hesitates, and is distracted long enough to fall into Atrocitus' trap. It's an interesting moment.

This issue is part of the Faces of Evil event, which is a thing they're doing across the DCU that's supposed to center the stories more on the villains. It's a great idea, except that they're not really sticking to it; none of the Faces of Evil books I've read so far were actually told from the perspective of the villains at all. That aside, I did find it interesting that the villain they chose to put on the cover of this book is Laira, a former Green Lantern now fallen to the Red, who wants Hal Jordan dead. Before Atrocitus turns Jordan over to her, he pops out another of his interesting prophecies: Jordan will become a renegade again. The Guardians will take his greatest love from him. He'll revolt, and he'll lose everything as the universe divides. Interesting! Sounds pretty believable, too. Anyway, at this point things get really crazy, as both the Yellow Lanterns and the Blue Lanterns drop down and turn the whole thing into a crazy multi-colored battle. But the real twist comes at the end. Jordan is trying to talk Laira back to herself, and it seems like it be working, until suddenly Sinestro (now reunited with his ring) just wastes her. As Laira's ring goes looking for a nearby replacement, Jordan attacks Sinestro in a rage. Do you see where this is going? The red ring decides Jordan is the perfect guy for it, jumps on his finger, and all the sudden he's a Red Lantern (although he's still wearing the green ring on the other hand). Oh no! This should be interesting.

Still loving this series. The dialogue isn't stellar or anything, but it's a great adventure story from Geoff Johns, with great art by Ivan Reis. I'm looking forward to seeing how Jordan gets out of this one. Will he switch right back from red to green, or is this going to be a longterm thing? Hmmm...
Thumbs Up

Highlander Origins: The Kurgan #1
Finally, the origin of the Kurgan revealed!

The premise of this two-issue miniseries seems to be that Connor MacLeod is seeing the Kurgan's life replayed before his eyes as he takes in his essence after defeating him at the end of the first movie. The Kurgan's story begins with him as a small child on the Russian Steppes way back in 904 B.C.E. His people are trying to escape a flood, but he's been left behind. His mother tries to go back for him, but a man stops her, saying, "He's not even of your blood, woman!" (So she's not really his mother after all, which means the Kurgan's ultimate origins are still a mystery. You tricky writers, you!). So the boy is carried off by the flood, and later taken in by the Kurgan people (which is how he comes to be called the Kurgan). His new "father" hates him instantly, constantly abuses him, and finally even tries to kill him. The little boy Kurgan fights back, and his life of killing begins!

Much later, while he's traveling with a gang of thieves, the Kurgan experiences his first death, which awakens his true nature. He's taken in by a fellow immortal, who explains everything to him and trains him in sword fighting. This man also teaches the Kurgan not to suffer an immortal foe to live, a lesson the Kurgan learns well and exercises immediately.

Which brings up my one problem with the plot: why would one immortal ever take in another and teach him all of this, especially one who believes you should never leave an immortal foe alive? What was he expecting the Kurgan to do?

It's also a little hard to understand how the Kurgan survived all the terrible things that happened to him as a child, so that he could die for the first time as an adult. And besides the logic and believability issues, the book is just not written that well. Still, it's not terrible, and it is interesting finally learning this guy's story, so I might pick up the next issue, especially since it'll be the last one; it's only a two-part miniseries.
Thumbs Sideways

The Mighty Avengers #21
It's a new day for the Avengers! This Dark Reign tie-in issue, written by Dan Slott with art by Khoi Pham, reveals the new makeup of the team, and the first crisis they'll have to face. It also features Hank Pym as the Wasp. And that's why I bought it, despite the fact that it was written by the dreaded Dan Slott.

It starts off on the wrong foot by focusing on the Vision and Stature, two members of the Young Avengers, a team which, I think we'll all agree, sucks. They discover their teammates have been turned to stone. The Scarlet Witch is nearby, so naturally they suspect her. But before they can do anything about it, they all vanish. Meanwhile, it turns out that a few people turning to stone is the least of the world's worries, as horrible, large-scale, apocalyptic events are happening all over the planet. The Dark Avengers (who are actually officially known as the Mighty Avengers, confusingly enough) show up to take care of things, although they end up being mostly ineffectual. (I hadn't read Dark Avengers #1 yet at this point, so when I saw they were going to be major characters in this book, I put it down and read Dark Avengers first, then came back to this one.) Cho and Hercules have decided a new Avengers team is needed to save the world from these current crises, so they collect Jarvis (whom Cho has calculated is the constant element of successful Avengers teams) and go to convince Hank Pym to be the leader.

Of course, the question is, why assemble a new Avengers team when there are already two, including a "good" one that was assembled by the new Captain America? This question is not answered, although we do drop in on the Cap-led Avengers (who are... not mighty, I guess?) and find them fighting for their lives in Philadelphia against a bunch of plants that are taking over the city. In a couple of panels, they all seem to meet horrible deaths - yes, all of them, including Spider-Man and the new Captain America. What?!? Wanda (who, as it turns out, is also assembling a new Avengers team) had planned to grab Captain America for her team, but finding him already killed (by fricking plants, remember), she heads to Toronto (where, as an aside, we're told that most of Omega Flight is being eaten by bugs) and grabs U.S. Agent as a consolation prize. She also snags Hulk, then goes to meet Pym, Cho, Herc, and Jarvis as they arrive at the center of the disturbances. And then, for some silly reason that makes no sense, Pym has to say the old tagline ("Avengers assemble!") to actually make the whole team appear at once. It's kind of a cute idea, but c'mon. Meanwhile, we've learned that the guy behind all this is some dude named Modred who goes around with a talking cow as a sidekick. Good lord. Who thought digging up this character was a good idea? The old Slottster, apparently. Anyway, Modred's causing all the chaotic events apparently just as a side effect of turning himself into an old magic book called the Darkhold, and using the power of that book to call up Chthon the elder God and stick him in the body of Quicksilver. Why he wants to do all that I have no idea. (UPDATE: Actually, I have a slightly better idea, and some of this makes more sense, now that I've read these old scans explaining the origins of Bova, Chthon, Quicksilver, and Wanda.)

As you can probably tell, I really didn't like this comic. First off, Slott's writing is just not good. Secondly, it's ridiculous how suddenly and without warning he just drops the apocalypse on top of us. We learn there's an ocean of blood submerging New York, Philly is overrun with evil plants, and flesh-eating bugs are ravaging Toronto in the space of a few pages, and then the story just moves on. You can't just do that!! What the hell? For one thing, it really diminishes the power of your apocalypse if it's just the background of your story and you don't even slow down to let us appreciate the immensity of it. For another, because these things go by so fast and are treated so cavalierly, it's painfully clear they're all just going to be negated, either by the end of the next issue, or the end of the storyline. It's all a pathetic sham! Admittedly, stuff like that gets negated in comics all the time, but it's pretty poor form to make it so obvious that that's what you're going to do from the get-go.

It's the same with the way a bunch of big-name superheroes are killed off. They die in incredibly lame ways, sort of in the background, while the real story is going on in the foreground. I'm sorry, but you don't kill Spider-Man and Captain America with plants (plants!!), in two small panels, and then just move on like nothing happened. That their deaths will obviously be reversed later on in this storyline doesn't make it better; if anything, it makes it worse.

I really don't particularly care for the way Slott writes most of these characters. Pym, for instance, is an interesting, complex, tortured character, but Slott makes him arrogant and whiny. The Hulk is also dull in Slott's hands, and Cho is nowhere near as smart or as cool. And how did the Scarlet Witch suddenly get all articulate and well adjusted?

I don't like the team Slott has put together here, either. Why are two members of the Young Avengers being pulled into the Avengers? And they're not even two of the more interesting members of the Young Avengers, which is a team full of dull characters! And U.S. Agent? Seriously?

And did I mention the talking cow?

This is just bad, bad stuff. You better believe I won't be picking up another issue of this stinker.
Thumbs Down

The Punisher: Frank Castle MAX #66
It's hard to believe, but yes, there is yet another Punisher book on the stands! The character's popular these days, I guess. This particular book is part of the explicit MAX series, and this issue is the start of a new story arc written by Duane Swierczynski. I like Swierczynski because he's a Philadelphian who sets all his stories in Philadelphia, and because I enjoyed his book The Blonde. I have yet to really enjoy any of the comic books he's written, but I was hoping this would be the exception, especially since it's about the Punisher, a character I figure he should be able to handle with some facility, given his crime writing background. Unsurprisingly, it's set in Philadelphia, and opens with the Punisher breaking up a child trafficking ring. As soon as he's done, he's kidnapped and injected with a poison that will kill him in six hours. He's then told to go kill a crime lord, and once he's done, he can have the antidote. It's unclear whether he'll bother doing the job - he doesn't seem interested in giving into people's demands just for a little thing like his life - but we'll see.

The "you have a limited time to live, now go do something" premise is a pretty old one, but it's been modified a bit here, and applied to a character who's reacting to it in his own special way, so it could be interesting. I'll probably stick with the story for at least one more issue, just to see where it goes next. Although I don't really like the way artist Michael Lacombe draws the Punisher.
Thumbs Up

Ruins #1
I didn't actually know what this was; I just saw that it was a Marvel book written by Warren Ellis and I picked it up. Turns out it's a reprint of a two-issue miniseries (collected here into one, extra-thick comic book) originally published in 1995 (thank you, Wikipedia) that's sort of a twisted, "What If?" companion piece to Kurt Busiek's Marvels. Like Marvels, it features Phil Sheldon as its main character, and he's wandering the world following a trail of paranormal events and beings. But this story isn't set in the Marvel Universe we know; it's set in a universe where everything went awry - where every event that could have created a hero instead led only to death and pain and horror. What with this and Ellis' recent Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes miniseries, it seems clear the man revels in taking the canon events of the Marvel Universe and twisting them into the most depressing and awful stories imaginable. The book is well written and effective, there's no doubt of that, and the painted art by Cliff and Terese Nielsen (who are supported by Chris Moeller in the second part) is beautiful and impressive. But my God, is it depressing. Creating a universe ruled by Murphy's Law is an interesting concept, but I'm not sure the story needed to be told in such excruciating detail and dragged out over so many pages.
Thumbs Sideways

Spider-Man: Noir #2
The second issue of X-Men: Noir really made the luster fall off that series for me, but the second issue of this title has made me love it twice as much. The X-Men title discarded superpowers altogether and turned mutants into sociopaths (a change I just don't like). I thought this title might also get rid of the superhuman element, but I was pleased to find in this issue that authors David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky had instead chosen to simply reimagine Spider-Man's powers in a pulp/noir context. Peter is bitten by a spider, but it's a cursed spider, not an irradiated one. The scene of his transformation is fantastically realized, in words and visuals. He has a horrific hallucination in which a giant spider god tells him, "My bite brings death only to those of evil intent... I will bestow on you a greater torment... the curse of power..." Awesome!

Parker doesn't sit around wondering what to do with his newfound abilities; instead he just goes right to the top and starts threatening the crime lord known as the Goblin. But he's shocked and horrified to discover his friend Urich in the Goblin's office, accepting a payoff. ("Everyone takes their cut," Ben warned him.) Even as Urich is trying to pull himself up and do the right thing - but too late, and in the wrong way - Parker is putting together his costume and his arsenal, using his Uncle's uniform and sidearm from the war. Urich, who went by the nickname the Spider, is destroyed, even as the Spider-Man is being born. It's brilliant stuff, perfectly executed. I love the writing and the panel layout, and although Carmine Di Giandomenico's art doesn't always work for me, it's good enough (and really quite excellent during the spider hallucination scene), and anyway I almost always end up liking the books he works on.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Countdown #1
The upcoming Star Trek movie is set in the past, before the original series, but interestingly enough this comic book series that's supposedly tied into that film is set far in the future, after the events of the most recent, Next Generation-era film. So I'm pretty curious how the two stories are going to connect. We open with a Romulan mining crew witnessing a strange and powerful supernova, then jump ahead a bit to Ambassador Spock addressing the Romulan Senate about that same supernova. Turns out it's spreading and will soon threaten the entire Romulan Empire, and the only way to stop it is to use technology from Vulcan. But the Romulans still dislike and distrust the Vulcans, and other scientists don't think the supernova is as dangerous, so Spock is ignored. Only the captain of the mining crew that witnessed the birth of the supernova believes him, and secretly offers to help him, even though he and his crew will be thrown in prison if they're found out. But before they even get a chance to start mining the material they need, they're attacked by Remans (whom I'd almost forgotten about, as they were introduced in that terrible movie Star Trek: Nemesis). The Remans are then just as quickly attacked by... the Enterprise! Commanded by Captain Data!!

Wha? I'm pretty sure Data got killed at the end of the last Star Trek movie, and the only android left like him is his retarded brother, B-4 (another element introduced by Star Trek: Nemesis that I hated; man, that's a terrible movie). So... that's confusing.

As in the Terminator prequel comic, there wasn't anything particularly terrible in here, but there also wasn't anything particularly exciting. I might stick with this series for at least one more issue, however, just because I'm really curious to see how it will connect with the movie, and how they're going to explain the Data thing.
Thumbs Sideways

War Machine #2
So, does Pak's new Dark Reign tie-in series still stand up after a second issue? Yeah, pretty much, mostly because Rhodes is just so bad-ass. We learn in this issue that he can immediately adapt pretty much any piece of weaponry to work with his systems - which means he can pick your missiles out of the sky, load them on his back, and fire them back at you. He can also merge himself with a tank. It's pretty awesome. His mission is made more difficult by the fact that he's being backed up by a guy he can't entirely trust, and by the fact that he's fighting people that he doesn't want to kill (ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers). Also, it looks like maybe he was manipulated into going on this mission in the first place by Norman Osborn. But War Machine isn't doing exactly what Osborn wants, so he goes to plan B and drops in Ares. Which means next issue should be really fun! A God of war versus a War Machine.

So yes, this comic is still good! Let's hope it stays that way.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Action Comics (Not), Angel (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Gravel (Not), Hellboy (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Punisher (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), Terminator (Not), The Goon (Not), The Highlander (Not), The Sentry (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Thursday, January 8, 2009 03:58 PM
(Last updated on Saturday, January 10, 2009 11:36 AM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.

This covers new releases from the week of 1/2.

Batman #684
Oh no! I bought a Denny O'Neil comic by mistake!

Don't get me wrong: I don't hate Denny O'Neil. I appreciate what he's done for comics, for Batman, and what he did with the Batman animated series. But the sad fact is that he's actually not very good at writing comics. And this comic is a good example of why. It's actually the second part of a two-part story that started in another comic (Detective Comics #851) that I didn't read. It sees Nightwing solving a mystery involving some stolen jewels and a Two-Face copycat. But he makes a lot of mistakes along the way, and beats himself up about it maybe more than he would usually, because now he's trying to pick up the slack for the missing Batman. He doesn't even want to think of himself as trying to fill those shoes, but Alfred gently pushes him in that direction, giving him the keys to a Batmobile when his bike gets stolen. Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon is also having a hard time dealing with the idea that there's no Batman around, and that he has to settle for Nightwing instead.

It's a decent story, reasonably interesting, with some good character development. Plus, the art, by Guillem March, is fantastic. But O'Neil packs it with way too much cheesy narration, and gives his characters some seriously bad dialogue to say. ("Just call me Mister Snoopy-Pants" is not exactly the best hero comeback line I've ever read.)

Not my favorite issue of Batman ever, especially since I was expecting another fragment of weird brilliance from Grant Morrison. It looks like next issue is part of DC's big Faces of Evil event, and focuses on Catwoman. I'm not clear on who'll be writing that one, but I'll probably take a closer look at the cover before I pick it up this time.
Thumbs Sideways

Batman: Cacophony #2
It's really interesting reading the characterization of Joker in this book and comparing it to Morrison's Joker in Batman, and the Joker in The Dark Knight. In this comic, Batman describes the Joker as fairly predictable, and ridicules his fighting style. When Joker says he's Batman's greatest enemy, Batman scoffs that he's gone soft and he wouldn't even put him among his top 16 enemies anymore. In fact, in this story it turns out the Joker is merely bait laid out by Onomatopoeia. It's a far cry from the deadly dangerous mystical avatar of murderous genius that Morrison describes, and a far cry too from the equally dangerous and completely unpredictable character Heath Ledger played so well in the recent Batman film.

All that being said, I love this Joker, too. I love his hilarious dialogue; the vision of him as a Bat-Mite DJ at the beginning; the way he casually murders his henchmen; his rage at Maxie Zeus for turning his poison into a designer drug; and his silly gag weapons, like the giant hammer and ridiculously long-barreled gun. This may not be the same Joker that we've seen recently, but it is unquestionably faithful to the character's history - and entertaining to boot.

In general this is a very entertaining and funny comic, and I remain fascinated by Onomatopoeia and curious to see what his motives are here. The only flaw is the way Smith writes Batman. He makes him far too earnest, talky, and fallible. When Joker leaves a note for him that reads "Eat it Emo-Boy," it's funny because it's true.

Still it's a small flaw, especially since Batman is only one character among many here. I'll be tuning in for the final episode.
Thumbs Up

Captain America #45
Turns out the cloaked dude from the last issue does have a name: The Man with No Face. I Googled him and it looks like he was a villain from the 1950s Captain America comics. Bucky was able to disable him long enough to escape during his 1968 mission in China, but now the Man with No Face is back, and presumably so is his boss, Professor Chin. The suggestion is that it's Chin who's calling the shots in the present day heist of the mysterious cargo from the UN. The interesting part is that (spoiler alert!) that cargo is in fact the remains of the original Human Torch, and Bucky knows from a look into Chin's lab in 1968 that Chin has something really horrible in store for the Torch - something Bucky only hints at here.

Exciting stuff! I wish Brubaker's writing were a bit stronger, but he's got me hooked on the story. I'm fascinated by the original Human Torch, and I think it's interesting that Brubaker is bringing that character into this story, especially considering a recent connection I discovered between Bucky's Winter Soldier story and the story of the Human Torch. I read in my favorite Christmas present, a book called The Marvel Vault, that when they brought the Human Torch back in the '50s, his sidekick, Toro, was revealed to have been brainwashed into working for the Commies. Ah ha! So that's where you lifted your plot from, Brubaker! I wonder if he'll just ignore that storyline, since it's so similar to the one he wrote for Bucky, or if he will mention it, and use the similarities to create more drama? I'll just have to wait and see.
Thumbs Sideways

The Goon #31
I didn't realize that The Goon hasn't always been a monthly book. Because everything is done by Eric Powell himself, it usually takes him so long to finish each issue that he can't really sustain that kind of pace. But he committed to making it monthly for a whole year, and this is the last issue of that year's worth of comics, an issue that wraps up not just the story arc he's been building this year, but also a lot of the stuff he's been doing with the book since its origin. There's a big brutal showdown with lots of death and violence. Most of our main characters come out of it alive, but none of them unchanged or unscarred. There's also a rather melodramatic, soap operatic plot twist before the end ([spoiler]Goon has a son!! But he doesn't know!!! Because the kid's mother told only one other person, and that person happens to have an unrequited love for the Goon and is too jealous to tell him!!!![/spoiler]).

It's a pretty decent issue, exciting and dramatic. But I can't say I loved it. As I've said before in the past, Eric Powell's strong point as a writer is not serious drama. He's much better at the kind of goofy insane comedy The Goon used to be full of. This issue is almost entirely serious drama, with only one panel that can be described as comedic. So it tends a bit towards the cheesy melodrama. Still, the art is excellent, as always, and the story is mostly effective.

Sadly, with this issue done, The Goon will apparently go on hiatus for some time, possibly until March, when there's supposed to be a special tenth anniversary book coming out. I'll keep my eyes open for that.
Thumbs Sideways

Green Lantern #36
The Rage of the Red Lanterns storyline continues in this issue, with Sinestro now imprisoned by the Red instead of the Green Lanterns, but still smug and defiant - until Atrocitus uses a bit of magic and reveals that he now knows about Sinestro's daughter. Hmm. That's interesting. Meanwhile, Hal learns more about what Ganthet's been up to with the Blue Lanterns (whose power is based on hope), and what his future with them is expected to be. Ganthet and the Blues are convinced that Sinestro is very important to the fate of the universe, so they plan to save him, and it looks like Hal is going along for the ride. It also looks like John Stewart might have his own problems to prepare for; a Star Sapphire appears to be on the lookout for him.

I'm still really enjoying the epic mythology Johns is building in these books, with all the different Lanterns and their various powers, and the fateful conflict they're all flying towards. It's exciting stuff.
Thumbs Up

Incognito #1
This book I've been looking forward to for a long time. It's the first issue of a new miniseries from the Criminal team of Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Val Staples. They're actually dropping Criminal for a while to work on this. It's set in a superhero universe akin to those of Marvel or DC, but with more of a pulp feel to it. The main character is a supervillain who testified against his boss and went into the witness protection program. He's taking a drug that dampens his powers and has a crummy, mindless job as a file clerk in an office. He hates the dull daily grind, and feels like an alien amongst all of these hopeless normals. He starts taking some drugs to help him get through the day, but they have the unexpected side effect of reactivating his super powers. Almost by mistake, he ends up using them in classic superhero fashion, saving a lady from muggers in an alley. He thinks it was just a harmless fling, but it may have brought him to the attention of his former bosses, who until know thought he was dead. Uh oh!

I was expecting a lot from this book. Criminal, but with super powers? Awesome! It doesn't quite live up to my incredibly high expectations, but it's still quite good, with an interesting character at the center, and it has the potential to get even better as it goes on, so I'll definitely be sticking with it.
Thumbs Up

Jack of Fables #29
The epic war between Fables has begun in earnest! There's lots of fighting in this one, plus the usual humorous moments and excellent art throughout. Jack the fearless leader does very little that's actually helpful, although he does express a great love of tacos. It doesn't look good for the folks at the Golden Boughs, until Gary talks Revise into opening up a secret room full of books, where it seems Revise will reverse his life's work, and give the Fables back their full powers so they can fight back against Bookburner. In other words, this little conflict is going to end up fixing all the world's problems! Maybe. Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Thumbs Up

Punisher: War Zone #4
Yay, Punisher! Schitti spends this issue totally wasted on the drug he was shot up with at the end of last issue, which is the source of much comedy. There's a wonderful scene in which a dumb mobster pees in Schitti's fridge. Then poor Molly Von Richtofen gets trapped in the bathroom of Schitti's house, surrounded by mobsters. And the Punisher and Schitti get trapped by Elite. That's lots of trapping! It doesn't look good for our heroes!

I'm not sure what else to say about this series that I haven't said already. It's clever, twisted, funny, exciting, shocking, imaginative, and the art is excellent. I'm loving it way more than I thought I would.
Thumbs Up

Scalped #24
This comic almost gave me a heart attack. Chief Red Crow is trying to avoid conflict while he's looking over Gina's spirit, but his man Shunka makes him realize how terrible Mr. Brass is, and that something has to be done about him immediately. Unwilling to let anyone else take the heat for it (moving against the Hmongs means declaring war), Red Crow grabs a gun and goes after Mr. Brass himself. We find ourselves back at the moment we saw at the beginning of this storyline, with Red Crow apologizing to Gina's spirit before walking into a roadside bar. There he finds Brass torturing Dino. Oh no! This is where my heart really started beating fast. Like, nearly out of my chest. Crap goes down. People get shot. It's intense and dramatic. And then, to my surprise, Red Crow does not execute Brass (as I was kind of hoping he would) - he arrests him! I'd almost forgotten he was a policeman, too. Heh.

Throughout the issue, we also get Red Crow's flashbacks to some of his more violent encounters with Gina, and at the end, he returns her spirit to Granny Poor Bear, giving up on the idea of being "good," and going back to his old ways: doing whatever he feels he has to to protect the rez, and drowning his sorrows in drink and women.

It's another powerful, brutal issue with deep, insightful character development at its heart.
Thumbs Up

War Machine #1
The new ongoing series focusing on Tony Stark's friend Jim Rhodes debuts here, and it's all tied in with Dark Reign. Turns out a year ago Rhodes was blown apart in a battle. Tony found him and saw not just a friend in pain who needed help, but also an opportunity to create something he needed. He replaced the missing parts of Rhodes' body with machinery, plugged his brain into a computer, put him in an Iron Man-style suit that's bristling with weaponry, and installed him in a totally secret satellite orbiting the Earth, where he can keep an eye on what's going on everywhere, drop down anywhere, and take out anyone. Oh, and by the way, none of the technology in any of this is Stark Tech. That means Rhodes is funded by Tony, but not connected to him in any traceable way, and he's able to do the things Tony can't. He's essentially a high-powered, black ops Iron Man. He's also a cold-blooded, bad-ass killer. But his body is slowly dying, unable to stand the stresses of being tied into the War Machine armor. There's an organic body being built for him by Stark's people - but he might not get it, especially if Norman Osborn has anything to say about it.

This comic is written by Greg Pak, whose work I find uneven, but tend to enjoy more often than not. I definitely like what he's done with this title so far. I also really enjoy Leonardo Manco's art (and Jay David Ramos' colors). The Jim Rhodes being developed here is an interesting and multi-faceted character, much more than just another guy in Iron Man armor. The plot is intriguing, the action exciting, and there's a great deal of satisfying wish-fulfillment in the premise - being able to fly down and take out any scumbag committing atrocities anywhere in the world. Rhodes gets to decide who lives and who dies, which, as we all know, is the best Christmas present anyone could receive. Thanks, Tony!

But at the same time, Rhodes is not a God, and he's also not entirely a machine; he's a flawed human who could be in great danger. I'm sticking with this title for now; I'm looking forward to seeing where Pak goes with it.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine #70
Most of this issue is taken up by old!Logan finally explaining to old!Hawkeye what happened on the day of the final battle that led to his decision to become a pacifist. And it's quite horrific, as one might expect. Then there's a very funny scene at Dwight's Toll where a little kid in an old Ant Man helmet demands eighty cents to cross the bridge, or else he sics his ants on them (they pay up). And then we get a harbinger of what's to come, and a look at the monster that's following them.

I continue to really enjoy this storyline. The flashback story in this one isn't entirely believable to me, partially because we've been primed to not believe such things (that many major characters could never possibly die in that way in a story set in the present, canon timeline - and if they could have died that way, certainly it would already have been done by now); partially because it's hard to believe even Wolverine could take out all the other X-Men single-handedly, even given that they might pull their punches a bit fighting their ally; and partially because there's no way Jubilee would be the one to hold out the longest against Wolverine. Are you kidding me? She'd be the first one down. She has nearly as lame a power as Dazzler.

But I'm willing to suspend my disbelief because it's a powerful idea and because the rest of the story is so good. Great art, too (with pencils by Steve McNiven, inks by Dexter Vines and Mark Morales, and colors by Morry Hollowell and Justin Ponsor). Can't wait to see how this one wraps up.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine: Manifest Destiny #3
This miniseries has such a great premise - Wolverine dropped into the middle of a story that's an homage to just about every kung fu movie ever made - but it doesn't always live up to the promise of that central concept. This issue, despite a number of wonderful moments, is a little disappointing. Turns out 50 years ago, Wolverine defeated the Black Dragon Tong by convincing all the kung fu schools in Chinatown (pretty much every one of which is named after a specific kung fu movie or character) to band together with him. Which is odd, because Wolverine's strength has never been that he's a persuasive talker. Anyway, he tries to do the same thing this time, but they all just beat him up and kick him out for the way he betrayed them last time (although how exactly he betrayed them hasn't been entirely explained yet). Afterwards, he crawls back into the sewer and gets beat up by his teacher, who berates him for being a terrible fighter. Wolverine protests that he's killed plenty of ninjas, and this hilarious exchange follows:
Master: Ninjas are unskilled imbeciles. Any fool can kill a ninja. My dog could kill a ninja.
Wolverine: You don't have a dog.
Master: That's because it was put to death. Just like you're going to be.

Then, later on:
Kid: How's it coming?
Master: He's been bragging about killing ninjas again.
Kid: Ninjas are morons.
Master: That's what I told him.

That is comedy gold right there.

Anyway, Logan heads off to another meeting, this time with the two guys who look like John Saxon and Jim Kelly from Enter the Dragon. But they also are not interested in joining with him. The bad guys find out he's there and come for him, so there's a big fight, and Wolverine ends up getting arrested. Nightcrawler springs him in amusing fashion (he made a comment to Wolverine about his mother, so I had to look up what the deal was with that - wow! I had no idea Mystique was his Mom). In the final panel Wolverine faces off against the Black Dragon and her killers again, but that climactic fight won't occur until the next and final issue. It's hard to understand how the outcome could be any different than it was the first time, as Wolverine appears to have had very little time for training (the training montage I expected and wanted to see never happened), but we'll see.

There's a lot of great dialogue in here, especially the part about the ninjas. There's also a decent action sequence, and some amusing references to various kung fu movies (yay, flying guillotines!). The art (by Stephen Segovia and Paco Diaz Luque, with colors by John Rauch) is also pretty good. But the idea that Wolverine was (at least at one time) a persuasive speaker, and that he's actually really bad at fighting, goes against everything I know about Wolverine. And I'm kind of unclear on why all these incredibly bad-ass fighters put up with the Black Dragon Tong ruling over them all this time, when they clearly dislike her. (Maybe that last bit will be explained more clearly next issue.) All that being said, this is still an entertaining issue, and I'll definitely be picking up the next one. I just feel like something is missing here - like this series could have been a lot better. Maybe if there were more wacky kung fu fighting, with crazy characters and insane magic - like in the first issue, but more so. Ah, well.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: Magneto - Testament #4
The previous issues in this series were already very powerful and effective, but this one takes us inside a concentration camp during the Holocaust, and thus onto a whole new level of horror. Max is lucky enough to meet his kindly professor from school, Fritz Kalb, on the way in, and Kalb takes Max under his wing, showing him how to survive in the camp, and trying to get him on an easy work detail. But ultimately, Kalb cannot even save himself, let alone Max. Max ends up getting dragged into one of the most horrific work details in the camp: the Sonderkommando. He experiences too many terrible things and resolves to end it all - until he sees the girl he loves, Magda, again, somehow still alive, his necklace still around her neck, shining like the very last glimmer of hope in all the world. And he decides he will continue living after all.

This is one of the most excellent and moving comic books I've ever read. The two-page spread of the room full of eyeglasses hit me like a kick in the gut, taking my breath away. The totally black panels that followed, with narration boxes on them describing horrors too awful even to be illustrated, were nearly as powerful. This is truly incredible work. I look forward very much to the next and final issue.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Denny O'Neil (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Kevin Smith (Not), Movies (Not), Punisher (Not), Scalped (Not), The Goon (Not), The Take (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Thursday, December 25, 2008 06:12 PM
(Last updated on Friday, December 26, 2008 01:57 PM)
Xmas Haul - Now with Pics!
 by Fëanor

UPDATE 1: I added some photos! Click here to see the entire Christmas set. (All pics of my niece have been marked private, to protect her from evil. If you are a relative who would like to see them and cannot, let me know!)

UPDATE 2: Added a new item that I just received.

Below are all the awesome gifts I got for Christmas this year. If I forgot a gift, a gift-giver, or attributed a gift to the wrong gift-giver, I deeply apologize. Please know it is no reflection on you or your gift, but merely a reflection on my very poor memory.

My personal haul
Stuff I got from poppy and poppy's Dad.


  • From poppy's Dad:
    • Garmin nüvi GPS - This was a big surprise, and a very cool gift. We already used it driving to my parents' house this morning; it told us a slightly different route than we're used to, which worked pretty well. Plus, we've already switched it to talk in a British accent, and named it Cassandra.

    • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed color changing lightsaber - Aww yeah. It looks like you're a good guy with a green blade until you click a button that extends spikes from the sides and changes the blade color from green to red. Then you stab your enemies! I have two other lightsabers in the basement; I'm tempted to bring them all up, load them up with batteries, and have people over for a giant lightsaber fight.

    • Vivitar binoculars with UV-coated optics - For spying on the neighbors.

    • $100 debit card

    • Uncle John's Bathroom Reader: Golden Plunger Awards - I'm one of those people who can't stand just sitting on the toilet doing nothing, and poppy's Dad knows this. I've already made use of this book; it's full of fascinating trivia.

    • Open It! - This is a very handy little gadget for opening hard to open packages. It's a pair of serious-looking shears with a tiny screwdriver and a razor blade hidden in either handle. I've already used it a lot opening other Christmas presents.

  • From my grandparents:
    • $30 Olive Garden gift card - Yummy!

  • From poppy:
    • LEGO Mars Mission Crystal Hawk - poppy knows I love the LEGOs, so she got me this cool little spaceship with a dude riding it. Then she stole it from me and put it together herself. But she has since taken it apart again so I can do it, so I'll forgive her.

    • Christmas Star Wars figures - These are three pseudo-super-deformed SW figures (Han, Chewie, and C3PO), repurposed for Christmas with holiday-themed accessories. Han has a wreath around his blaster, Chewie is holding a Christmas tree, and 3PO is wearing a Santa hat.

    • The Complete Superman Collection - A DVD containing every one of the Fleischers' fantastic, award-winning Superman cartoons. Truly awesome.

    • Flight to Mars - A DVD of a cheesy sci-fi flick! Should be fun.

    • Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms on DVD - My favorite of the animated Hellboy movies.

    • Jenny Finn: Doom Messiah - A graphic novel that I had on my wishlist, and that I actually know nothing about apart from the fact that Mike Mignola wrote it. But that's all I need to know!

    • Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by the Wu-Tang Clan - My first Wu-Tang CD. I suspect I will love it.

    • Bat-Manga! - A book of reprints of some odd Japanese Batman comics made I think during the '60s. Can't wait to check this out. The book is big, colorful, and beautifully designed.

    • The Marvel Vault - Very possibly my favorite gift this year. A huge book telling the entire history of Marvel Comics, from its beginnings to present day, with a lot of fantastic Marvel memorabilia secreted into plastic sleeves throughout the book, including reprints of sketches by famous artists, Marvel fan club cards, posters, postcards, and all kinds of other crazy little things. I'd never heard of this, but it looks amazing and I'm looking forward to digging into it.

  • My personal haul
    Stuff I got from my parents and my brother and sister-in-law.

  • From my parents:
    • Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk on DVD - Yes, my friends, it was a very Marvel Christmas for me. Excelsior!

    • $25 iTunes gift card - Most excellent. There's definitely a few albums lying around that I need to get.

    • Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman - I just discovered this existed recently. It's sort of a prequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy. Exciting.

    • The Goon: Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker - Nothing says Christmas like the Goon.

    • Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War - Volume Two - Woo hoo! Been looking forward to this.

  • From Steve and Evelyn:
    • Brookstone Mini Charging Valet - A handy dealie for storing your devices while they charge.

  • From our friends Susan and Matt:
    • The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythical Creatures - We haven't known Susan and Matt for that long, but somehow Susan was still able to guess I would like this. She was right! I love books full of monsters.

Poppy also got a lot of cool stuff, and the pooch received some fun toys and treats (although he got nothing from us, because we're terrible dog parents). All-in-all, it's been a pretty awesome Christmas. Hope yours was as good!

All our gifts under the tree
All our stuff safely ensconced under the tree.


Floyd enjoys a Christmas present
The pooch enjoying his present from his granddad.

Tagged (?): Books (Not), Christmas (Not), Comic books (Not), Dogs (Not), Floyd (Not), Food (Not), GPS (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greyhounds (Not), Hellboy (Not), His Dark Materials (Not), Hulk (Not), Illustrated (Not), Iron Man (Not), LEGO (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), Photography (Not), Star Wars (Not), Superman (Not), Technology (Not), The Goon (Not), Toys (Not)
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Wednesday, January 2, 2008 10:36 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

I got to the comic book store way earlier than usual this past week - around noon - but I was still too late to get two of the books I was looking for: both Dan Dare #2 and Usagi Yojimbo #108 were sold out. This wasn't a huge loss, as I wasn't really excited about either of those books, but I'll try to track them down eventually. As usual, I ended up picking up one book that wasn't on my list, so it nearly evened out anyway.

Action Comics #860
This continues to be an exciting and clever story by Geoff Johns, and I'm just loving the pencils by Gary Frank, inks by Jon Sibal, and colors by Dave McCaig. The idea of rejected Legionnaires hijacking the legacy of Superman to pervert his and the Legion's message of unity, diversity, and tolerance into one of exclusion, xenophobia, and hatred is pure genius. As for the art, I just love the dramatic, quasi-realistic way the people are drawn. The action and plot are great, too. Definitely looking forward to the next chapter of this one.

Batman #672
It seems pretty clear that Morrison didn't care much for the whole Ra's al Ghul thing, because in this issue, the first after that storyline ended, he makes no mention of it at all, and does everything but pretend it never happened, picking up his "three crazy cops masquerading as evil Batmen" storyline right where he left it off. Here we finally get to see Batman face off against the third Batman and, well, let's just say things don't go well, and Morrison has set things up for a surreal trip through Batman's memory and nightmares next issue. I don't always love Morrison's work, but I definitely like what he's doing with Batman. This is good stuff.

Blue Beetle #22
The main over-arching storyline of this comic starts to come to a head in this issue - the first chapter of a new three-part arc - as the secret plan of the Beetle's alien enemies, the Reach, finally comes into focus. And frankly, it's really kind of a weird plan, with a really long timeframe. I know enslaving an entire race of people isn't exactly a small goal, but it still seems to me like they could have come up with an easier way to go about it that would have taken less time. Also, the whole thing with Tovar the Lava King is an interesting idea, and he's kind of a cool character, but his story is painfully rushed. I mean, he's introduced, goes through an entire developmental arc, and is convinced that his entire life is a lie, all in about five pages. It doesn't help that his whole deal is really kind of cliched.

I don't know. The art is good, and the dialogue is pretty funny sometimes, but I'm really thinking about dropping this comic again. I think it's too uneven to merit me spending money on it every month.

Captain America #33
Oh boy! Next issue the new Captain America gets unveiled! Of course, Brubaker makes it completely clear who it's going to be in this issue. Bucky does get to hand out some beatings this issue, as I'd hoped - and so does his disembodied arm! Holy crap, I didn't know it could do that! That's pretty funny stuff. The point is, it's another exciting issue that's over far too quickly. The next one will be big, and probably extremely popular, so I might want to get to the store early... although actually they'll probably make extra, some with different covers, so getting a copy will most likely not be a problem.

Badger Saves the World #1
I'd read about this comic (written by Mike Baron, published by IDW) and was vaguely interested in it, but I hadn't planned to pick up a copy. Of course, when I get to the store and see something on the shelf things can change; a whim can take me, and that's what happened in this case. And I'm glad, because this comic is hilarious and awesome.

I first encountered the Badger as a secondary character in the second volume of Nexus, a weird sci-fi comic also by Baron. Badger was my favorite thing about that book. He's a superhero whose power is that he knows kung fu, and he can use it well. However, he's also literally insane, with multiple personalities, and some issues with bloodlust.

The first page of this comic contains one of the funniest, and yet at the same time most heartless and awful, assassination sequences I've ever seen. Then the Badger shows up and tries to take out the two assassins in one of the most hilarious fight scenes I've ever seen. And the comic just keeps getting funnier, more surprising, and more surreal as it goes on. The only bad thing about it is the rather clumsy, amateur art. But thankfully it's not bad enough to ruin what's an otherwise laugh-out-loud fantastic book that features talking birds, dog suicide bombers, and the Badger tearing a demon apart with a chainsaw while his therapist looks on. Brilliant! You better believe I'll be collecting the rest of this series.

Captain Marvel #2
Rather than solving any mysteries, this issue only opens up more, by including a fight amongst three people who should all be dead, and a mysterious couple of messages that set up a trap sprung by people who look like Kree soldiers (which should be impossible, given what's happened to Kree space, as described in the Nova series). Interesting stuff!

Green Lantern #26
The various Lanterns deal with the aftermath of the Sinestro Corp War in their own way. Meanwhile, a conversation between Hal and Sinestro reveals a bit more of the outlines of Sinestro's plan; the Guardians take things a step further toward some mysterious doom by creating the mysterious Alpha Lanterns; and the deadly act of a grieving Lantern makes things even worse. This book continues to be interesting, so I guess I'm following it for the foreseeable future.

Hulk vs. Fin Fang Foom #1
This is really quite awesome. It's a one-shot packaging two stories together. The first story is a new one introduced as an "untold tale," set when the Hulk was the green, "savage" Hulk, and his true identity as Bruce Banner was publicly known. It starts with the Hulk, as usual, trying to find a place where he'll be left alone, a quest which this time has led him to the area of a polar research lab. He's overcome by the cold, reverts into the form of Banner, and is found nearly dead by a group of scientists, who revive him. Meanwhile, another scientist has found the dragon-like alien Fin Fang Foom encased in the ice and, while trying to chip it out, awakens the creature. Foom takes on the man's form and blends in among the scientists, but soon enough the true identities of both Banner and Foom are revealed, and they have a great big awesome knock-down, drag-out. The great thing about this comic is that everybody involved with making it was clearly just having a lot of fun with it. The wonderful art - with pencils by Jorge Lucas, inks by Robert Campanella, and colors by Brad Anderson - is done deliberately in a classic, Kirby-esque style, and even the writing is a bit classicized, though not so much as to make it really corny or lame. The story is funny and entertaining, and quite similar to that of The Thing from Another World, a great film which itself was based on a short story called "Who Goes There?", and the comic cleverly pays homage to both sources by including a poster for the film on a wall in the lab, the appearance of which is followed up quickly by one of the characters actually saying, "Who goes there?"

In the back of the book, after the modern story, a reprint of Fin Fang Foom's original appearance, from 1960's Strange Tales #89, is also included. This story is extremely dated and quite corny and ridiculous. It's loaded with anti-Communist propaganda, and tells the tale of a young man from the island of Formosa who defeats an invading Red Chinese army by awakening the ancient dragon Fin Fang Foom (this was before they retconned him into being an alien) and leading him on an unlikely chase (mostly on foot!) through the invasion forces, which Foom completely destroys in his attempts to capture and kill our hero. The art is kind of okay, but the dialogue and story are pretty awful, and the coloring is the cheap, ugly kind that was standard at the time - all primary colors and solid backgrounds. Still, it's fun to see Fin Fang Foom's original appearance, and the story is entertaining in its own way.

Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash #2
Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash #3
I finally gave up and decided to read 2 and 3 of this series, despite the fact that I never was able to get my hands on 1. And I'm glad I did, because now I know I really don't need to collect the rest of these. #2 starts with Ash showing up at Crystal Lake where he's been asked to take over management of the housewares department at the new S-Mart in town so he can straighten everybody out. But turns out he's also secretly looking to recover the Necronomicon, which he somehow knows is nearby. Unbeknownst to him, however, Freddy wants the book, too, and is using Jason as his pawn to get it. The comic apparently picked up right where the movie Freddy vs. Jason left off, as Freddy is still a disembodied head and is looking to get himself rejuvenated with the help of the Book of the Dead. Anyway, the story proceeds with lots of dumb teens screwing and cursing and getting themselves torn apart in horrible ways, whilst Ash fights back with his usual combination of sarcasm, metal hand, chainsaw, and boomstick. I have to admit, it's pretty much the comic book equivalent of the best we could have expected from a Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash movie. But that doesn't mean it's particularly good. It's not really very funny or clever; it's mostly just gory and disgusting. I also couldn't find a reason to care if any of the characters continued living or not, which kind of removes most of the excitement and interest from the story.

Jack of Fables #18
Oh no! The comic book obsession with zombies has infected even Jack of Fables! But it's okay, because they're handled in a slightly different, very funny way. They appear in a side trip to a little place called Idyll, where Miss Page meets a guy named Burner that she thought was her father, but apparently he's not? And then another famous character shows up and sets out after our heroes. I have to admit, I'm a little confused as to what was going on in the Idyll sequence, but I assume it'll make more sense later. Anyway, the important thing is, this issue is funny and clever, and it comes complete with another hilarious Babe the Blue Ox monologue!

Ultimate Power #9
I'm glad this series is over, as this final issue really kind of underlined for me its flaws: the ridiculously oversexualized women (drawn by Greg Land) prancing around and posing and sticking their butts in our faces; and the weak story (by Jeph Loeb) that's clearly just an excuse to have a bunch of super-powered characters fight each other, a fact that's made even more clear when the fight just ends suddenly for no real reason other than that the comic is over and it's time for everybody to go home. Sure there are some funny bits in here, and some fun action scenes, and the ending is rather moving. But it's definitely not one of my favorite comics ever.

X-Men: First Class #7
Both of the storylines launched in the last issue come to a head in this one, in which the de-powered X-Men must face off against an army of Sentinels, only to become super-super-powered a short time later. This story is followed by another amusing one-page Mini Marvels comic that features Iron Man trying to help Wolverine move. It's the fastest move ever! Anyways, this is another fun issue of X-Men: First Class. Nothing Earth-shatteringly amazing happens, but it's funny, the art is great, and there's some exciting action.

Blackgas
This is the complete trade paperback collection of a recent zombie horror miniseries by Warren Ellis, published by Avatar. So, yeah, more zombies. And indeed, it shares a lot in common with your average zombie horror story: a couple of hot, randy young teens travel to a cabin in the woods on an island that happens to be the home of an ancient mystery - long ago a whole community of people killed each other and the Native Americans shunned it ever after. Well, lo and behold, a fissure opens up and releases some kind of black gas which gets blown down toward town, and everybody who breathes it in turns into a (mostly) mindless, vicious, raping, killing, flesh-eating monster. And the teens have to fight their way through town to escape.

It's a pretty typical zombie movie premise. But this is Warren Ellis, so he manages to make the whole thing a lot more gruesome, awful, horrifying, and depressing than your average zombie story. These zombies aren't the undead; they're average people infected with some kind of chemical that causes them to lose all their inhibitions and fall back on their most primal desires: eating, fucking, killing. Most seem to retain the memory of who they are just enough that they feel really bad about what they're doing, but not enough to be able to stop themselves. It's really quite awful. There are some particularly horrible full-page pictures between chapters that I don't even want to describe. I'm not sure I would have kept buying issues of this had I been collecting it in that format, but having it all in one book meant that I kept reading page after page of it without being able to stop, dreading what was coming next, but needing to know how things turned out. Above all it's a great, exciting story, wonderfully paced, well written, well told, with lots of action and tension and surprises. But it also kind of makes you want to kill yourself.

Astonishing X-Men Volume 2: Dangerous
This is just fantastic - a big step up from Volume 1. Exciting action, big surprises, a great story, clever and funny dialogue, and the usual great art by John Cassaday. Best of all is that Whedon has a lot of great moments in this story that really wonderfully capture who these characters are. I think once I pick up the next volume (which I intend to do), I should own nearly every issue of Whedon's run on this title in some form or other.

The Goon Volume 1: Nothin' But Misery
The Goon = still awesome. This volume is loaded with plenty more fantastic monster-fighting action and hilarious dark comedy. There's not much of an overarching plot in this volume, but new characters are introduced and seeds are planted that I assume will come to fruition later. And anyway, even if this volume is a bit more episodic than the last, that doesn't make it any less brilliant. One of my favorite characters, Fishy Pete, returns with a whole horde of fish monster lackeys. There are a bunch of hilarious interludes featuring advertising for false products, the best of which are probably the ads for the faux Golden Age comic, The Atomic Rage. And there's even a Christmas issue that manages to be laugh-out-loud funny, deeply twisted, and heart-warming, all at the same time. In the very back there's also a fun gallery featuring a bunch of other comic artists taking a stab at drawing the Goon. It's another great volume, and I'm looking forward to the next one.
Tagged (?): Action Comics (Not), Batman (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Hulk (Not), Superman (Not), The Goon (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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