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Sunday, May 24, 2009 11:48 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

Once again, I've fallen dreadfully behind on my comics. And even with this gigantic anthology of reviews of books from previous weeks, I'm still not entirely caught up! I have yet to even start reading the books from this past week, and I've still got a trade paperback I need to finish that I picked up in Rehoboth weeks ago. But we'll see, maybe I can do a marathon reading and reviewing session one of these nights and get myself back on track.

This post covers new releases from 4/29, 5/2 (Free Comic Book Day), 5/6, and 5/13, plus back issues from FCBD, another back issue picked up on a recommendation, and a trade paperback I got in Rehoboth.

Back issues and old data
Aliens: Harvest
I picked up this Dark Horse trade paperback collection during my customary trip to the Book Trader in Rehoboth partly because Free Comic Book Day the previous weekend had seen the launch of Dark Horse's new Aliens series and I wanted to see what the old stuff was like; partly because I just like the Aliens franchise in general; partly because the introduction and the first few pages were pretty interesting; and partly because it was just really cheap. A lot went into my purchasing decision! Anyways, turns out it was a good decision, because this is a very neat book. It's apparently the follow-up to another story arc by the same creative team called Aliens: Hive, but luckily I didn't feel like I was missing anything for having not read that first. This story is about Dr. Stan Myakovsky, a scientist who has recently learned that he will soon die from cancer. The only thing that can relieve his symptoms and extend his life is the royal jelly of the Alien queen. It turns out the jelly is a highly sought-after psychedelic drug that has different effects on different people; for Myakovsky it slows down time to an endless moment in which he can move back over his memories and experience them again in perfect clarity (which is not only a really cool idea, it's also a really handy and clever plot device for inserting flashbacks into the story). But of course the jelly is hard to get and very expensive.

Myakovsky is approached by a beautiful young woman named Julian who's read his book Cyberantics, which tells of the adventures of an artificial ant that Myakovsky built and used to infiltrate an ant hive in order to study the creatures. She suggests he build an artificial Alien to infiltrate an Alien hive (the location of which she happens to know) and collect the jelly from the source. He'll get the drug he needs, and they'll both get rich. Can the crazy scheme somehow work?

Of course not! But seeing how it goes horribly awry is the fun part. Jerry Prosser's story is well written, with imaginative concepts, creative plot twists, fascinating and complex characters, and smart dialog. Kelley Jones' art is a little warped and abstract at times, and Les Dorscheid makes some odd color choices, but overall the visuals are quite effective as well. The opening chase sequence, with its surprise ending, followed by the surreal vision of an alien speaking polite English and playing fetch with a dog, is really fantastic. I also like the shocking attack on the crew by the synthetic Alien; the discovery of another harvesting team with their own method for entering the hive; the way the synthetic Alien's infiltration of the Alien hive is accompanied by narration of the synthetic ant's infiltration of the ant hive; our heroes' desperate run through the hive with the bracelets that make them invisible to the Aliens, but only for a limited time; Myakovsky's reprogramming of the android; Myakovsky's (and the Aliens'!) clever plan to defeat the other harvesting team; and finally, the eerie, tragic, brutal conclusion. Overall a really great book and a strong addition to the Aliens fictional universe. I think I might have to seek out Hive, as well.
Thumbs Up

Destroyer #1
The week this comic originally came out, I saw it on the shelves, but passed it by. I wasn't familiar with the character, the author (Robert Kirkman), or the artist (Cory Walker), and that adds up to a "don't buy" in my book. (Even if I am familiar with, and enjoy the work of, the colorist: the supremely talented Val Staples.) But later I read a recommendation of the book online (I think from Duane Swierczynski?) which described it in terms that made it sound like it was right up my alley, so I ended up picking up #2 when it came out, and fishing in the stacks for #1. I was not disappointed. The very first giant panel features our title character punching his fist all the way through a dude's face and out the other side of his head. He then proceeds to brutally murder the rest of a whole commando unit of high tech terrorists before jumping right down into ground zero of a gigantic explosion. The explosion leaves him unharmed, but does burn his clothes off, and that's when we see, to our surprise, that he's a very average-looking old man.

Some research revealed that Destroyer is an old hero from the Golden Age - another super soldier, like Captain America - and Kirkman decided to write this miniseries as if Destroyer had just been plugging away all these years, fighting bad guys and getting older, and Kirkman was just picking up the story in medias res. Destroyer has a family - a wife, a kid, and a grandkid. They know about his other life, but when he's with them he just acts like any other grandfather. And then the next page he'll be back tearing supervillains apart with his bare hands. It's a surreal and jarring juxtaposition, and makes for a really fascinating and darkly funny story. The premise of the miniseries is simple: Destroyer's body is finally breaking down after all the punishment he's put it through over the years. He knows this, but rather than take it as a sign to slow down, he's decided to use what time he has left to take out, once and for all, any and all villains who might pose a threat to his family after he's gone. The story is fast-paced and engaging, the characters deep and interesting, the art realistic and beautiful, the writing clever and funny, the action brutal and exciting. In other words, it's great comics. I'm so pleased.
Thumbs Up

Magneto #4
Free Comic Book Day isn't just a day for the various comic book publishers to try to hook new readers on their various offerings. It's also a day for the comic shop owners to try to offload their overstock of crappy old books on unsuspecting customers! Which is how I ended up with this book, from February 1997. The plot is by Peter Milligan, the script by Jorge Gonzalez, and the pencils by Kelley Jones. The story has to do with some mutant named Joseph claiming to be Magneto, and trying to use his power and influence to take over a group of reject mutants called the Acolytes. To tell you the truth, I couldn't even get through the whole thing. It's seriously awful. It's horribly overwritten, with tons of overloaded word and thought bubbles. The dialog is melodramatic and clumsy, the characters are two dimensional, and the story is a bunch of contrived nonsense. 'Nuff said!
Thumbs Down

The Uncanny X-Men #156
Like Magneto #4, this is another old book my comic shop was just trying to get rid of on FCBD. It's from April, 1982. There's no full list of credits, but it looks like Chris Claremont wrote it. It picks up in the middle of a storyline in which Deathbird has just attacked and seemingly killed Colossus. He and most of the rest of the X-Men are whisked into space by the Starjammers, who get to work healing Colossus, and chasing Deathbird. Meanwhile, Kitty, Nighcrawler, Xavier, and Lilandra are all prisoners of Deathbird. By the end, everybody's free and back where they belong, but the Earth is still in danger.

Like most Claremont books, it's got way too many words in it; when one word will do, he uses ten. There's exposition galore, and plenty of melodrama, too. All that being said, the story is relatively interesting, the art's pretty good, and there's some fun action. A particularly well done sequence has the X-Men and the Starjammers racing against time to save Storm when she's swept out into space. It's not a great comic, but it has its moments. And it also has one of those hilarious Hostess fruit pie ads! Awesome.
Thumbs Sideways

X-Men #1
I picked this up at FCBD only to realize later that it was the same old '90s book I'd already bought for cheap in Rehoboth a couple years ago. I disliked it then, so I didn't bother reading it again now. You can check out the original review here.

New releases from 4/29
Battle for the Cowl: Underground #1
This is a one-shot tie-in to DC's current event storyline - the one about everybody fighting over who gets to be the new Batman. Oddly, it takes the form of a crime noir detective story with Edward Nigma as the detective. Nigma's assignment, brought to him by the Penguin, is to find the Black Mask. He ends up picking up a bevy of femmes fatale along the way, including Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman. Catwoman is struggling with her new place in Gotham's power structure - trying to do the right thing - the thing Bruce would have wanted her to do - but thrown off balance by all the ghosts that seem to be haunting her, like the Black Mask, and a new, deadly Batman. It's a pretty good story, by Chris Yost, with pretty excellent, cinematic art by Pablo Raimondi (although I was a little thrown off by his decision to draw the Penguin as Danny DeVito's Penguin from Batman Returns). The weird thing is, it doesn't come to any kind of conclusion. Even though it's a one-shot, it feels like the start of a miniseries, a miniseries that would focus on Catwoman and her internal/external struggles, and on the Riddler and his crime noir-style detective story. I'd totally read that miniseries. But I guess it doesn't exist. Maybe they're going to pick up this storyline in some other Battle for the Cowl one-shot or tie-in? I don't know. It's all very confusing.
Thumbs Up

Captain America: Theater of War - A Brother in Arms #1
This is just another of a series of Cap one-shots set during WWII. I almost didn't get it, but I'm glad I did. It's quite good. Interestingly enough, as Cap himself points out in the opening narration, this is not really a Captain America story; it's a story about soldiers and war that happens to guest star Captain America. It has tense, exciting action, but also some very smart dialog and a thoughtful and deeply moving story. The plot and the moral are perhaps a bit cliche as far as WWII stories go, but it's still an effective comic.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers #4
The fight between Morgana and Doctor Doom ends with Doom throwing Morgana back to the time of the dinosaurs. Which is apparently less destructive to Doom's timeline than actually killing her. Although how it is, or why she can't simply time travel back and attack him again whenever, is totally unclear. Once you give a character almost limitless power, it's hard to explain how she can be defeated, and as far as I'm concerned, Bendis completely fails to explain that here. There's also still no explanation for why the scene that began this story arc ended in a completely different way in this book than it did in Bendis' other Avengers book. Is there still yet another bit of time travel that hasn't been shown yet that will reconcile the different timelines? Or is this book happening in a different reality than the other book? I don't know, and frankly at this point I barely care. The only thing keeping me buying this comic is that I want to know how the overarching storyline turns out. And I love Mike Deodato's art.

One more important event that takes place: the Sentry comes back to life. This also is presented with no explanation. I guess he just sort of puts himself back together somehow? Or he reemerges in this universe because he has to exist to balance out the Void? Or something? I don't know. But the final page is kind of cool, with the almost limitlessly powerful and indestructible Sentry just floating there staring Osborn down, and Osborn staring back at him in fear and dismay, sweating heavily.

I'm really not a fan of Bendis' writing anymore, and the fact that this book seems to be plotted in a clumsy, haphazard way, with many of its events left completely unexplained, is really pushing me past the breaking point. The question is, can I make myself stop buying it? Guess we'll see next month!
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Reign: The Cabal #1
This is an anthology one-shot, collecting a series of short stories, each about one of the members of Osborn's Cabal. First up is Jonathan Hickman on Doom: "...And I'll Get the Land." Adi Granov provides the (impressive) art. It starts out back at the end of Osborn's first meeting with the Cabal, with that rather irritating final exchange between Namor and Doom where it was clear they had their own little deal and Namor was following Doom's lead. Then it jumps forward a year, and we see Doom triumph over everyone - he's even got Loki and Emma in slinky costumes chained to his throne! Yowza. But then it turns out it's all just a dream! Or rather, it's all just Doom's vision of the future. Lame. Just lame.

Next is Matt Fraction on Emma Frost: "How I Survived Apocalyptic Fire." Daniel Acuna provides the art, which is again impressive. The story is not particularly impressive, though. It's just a look back at Emma's life, narrated by her, describing how she survived her various hardships and what her motives are now. Boring and not particularly subtle. The most interesting moment is the reveal of how she got her costume: she stole it from an adult video store! That explains a lot.

The story about the Hood is "Family Trust" with script by Rick Remender and art by Max Fiumara. I already knew I wasn't a fan of Remender's work, and he reminds me why here: terrible, over-the-top, melodramatic writing with no subtlety whatsoever. I don't even like Jeff Eckleberry's lettering!

Namor's story is "The Judgment of Namor" by Kiron Gillen with art by Carmine Di Giandomenico. In this one, Namor has to make a ruling on a family matter: whether the mother or the father should have custody of an adolescent child who happens to have mutated and gained super powers. Namor decides neither are worthy and takes the kid on as his ward, with plans to send him off to the X-Men for training. It's not a great story, and Namor's last line is really corny, but overall it's okay, and Di Giandomenico's art is pretty decent.

The best story in the book is easily the last one, "Dinner with Doom," starring Loki. It's written by Peter Milligan with art by Tonci Zonjic. It does indeed feature Loki having dinner with Doctor Doom, and opens with Doom putting Loki through a series of brutal and hilarious tests to make sure she's really who she says she is. She takes it all very calmly. Then they come to an interesting agreement: Doom will host the Asgardians in Latveria, and in return Loki will help him acquire the one thing he lacks. What that thing is remains a mystery. But it's a fun, entertaining, intriguing story with good art and clever dialog.
Thumbs Sideways

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4
Final Crisis itself ended months ago, I'm already reading miniseries about its aftermath, and still this tie-in miniseries is chugging along! This is, however, the penultimate issue, so it is finally almost done. All kinds of crazy epic fights and ridiculous science fiction stuff goes down here. More characters die, more get resurrected, and the true identity of the Time Trapper is revealed. It's pretty confusing, frankly! But also rather exciting and action-packed. I'll be sticking around for the last issue.
Thumbs Up

Fringe #4
In the main story, our heroes Walter and Peter get the blueprints for a mysterious machine from the military, so they build it and accidentally turn it on, getting thrown back in time to WWII Germany!! There they meet Bishop's father, who's a Nazi!! It's pretty crazy, exciting, intriguing stuff. The only thing that confuses me is that I thought they already built the teleporter, and that the teleporter was a combination space/time machine that did the same thing? Also, I thought that when you came through on the other end, you'd be horribly messed up, like Jones was in the TV show? I don't know.

The backup story is a pretty fantastic little tale called "Space Cowboy" about an experimental drug being tried out on astronauts. The drug makes people essentially super human, but there are some... unfortunate side effects. The end of the story is very darkly funny. Corrupt, cold-blooded government scientists FTW! This book continues to be surprisingly excellent. I'm very pleased.

In the back of the book is a preview for Killapalooza #1. This is a series I was curious about, about a rock band that is also secretly a group of super-powered assassins. I'm glad I was able to read this preview for free, however, as it convinced me not to buy the comic. The writing is awful and there's not a likable character in the whole bunch.
Thumbs Up

Green Lantern #40
Oh boy, yet another prelude to Blackest Night! Sigh. Things open up this time with another new law being written into the Book of Oa: the Vega system is no longer outside of the Green Lantern Corps' jurisdiction. So in they go, and the showdown with Larfleeze, AKA Agent Orange, begins. We finally get a better idea how his power works: he can kill and consume other creatures and then replicate them to fight for him. It's an interesting idea, but I'm getting tired of Geoff Johns' writing. He has great story ideas, but the actual dialog is often quite bad. Hal Jordan's narration - of which there is unfortunately quite a lot in this issue - is particularly disappointing. He's just not a very interesting or likable character the way Johns writes him. He's whiny and annoying.

There's a backup story here from what will apparently be a series of "Tales of the Orange Lanterns." It's also written by Johns, with art by Rafael Albuquerque, and it's called "Weed Killer." It tells the story of how a cute, hungry little monster called Glomulus got absorbed and replicated by Agent Orange. It's reasonably entertaining. Glomulus is a likable little monster, and seeing Agent Orange swimming around in his giant mound of rings, like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his treasure horde, is an amusing image.
Thumbs Sideways

The Literals #1
The third part of "The Great Fables Crossover" is the first issue of a new Fables-related series, this one focusing on the characters who are the embodiments of literary concepts. Kevin Thorn is having writer's block while attempting to rewrite reality and decides to call in some of the major genres to help him brainstorm. That doesn't seem to be helping, so he brings in some idea men instead: namely, the Fables Old Sam and Hansel. Oddly, Kevin is constantly accompanied by a drooling maniac in a straightjacket who looks quite a bit like him. The maniac never speaks, and no one ever mentions him, but he's always there in the corner. It's very curious, and I'm not sure what it means, apart from the obvious fact that Kevin is crazy. (Maybe the maniac is a representation of writer's block?)

Meanwhile, Bigby and friends arrive at Kevin's old place to pick up his trail, only to spring a booby trap. Luckily, they all escape uninjured, but Kevin becomes aware of their actions and uses his reality changing powers to work a rather odd and unexpected transformation on Bigby. Meanwhile, Jack Frost is still wandering about looking for his Dad.

The story here is intriguing and fun; I particularly like the crazy, creative, metaphorical stuff that's always happening around Kevin. There's also a full page sequence at the Dino Diner - consisting entirely of one of the Fables ordering lunch for the other Fables - which is surprisingly entertaining. And Mark Buckingham's art is quite excellent. Looks like I have a new series to collect.
Thumbs Up

The Muppet Show #2
On this episode of The Muppet Show, Fozzie's set of cheese-related jokes fails miserably with a crowd from the cheese manufacturers' convention. He loses confidence in himself and tries multiple times to rewrite his set from the ground up. But eventually it turns out that just a small adjustment is all that's necessary. In between scenes of the major plot are various minor sketches including a scene with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker! So far I can't say I love this comic, but it's mildly entertaining, it has a great nostalgic feel to it, and the art is quite nice. I'll probably stick with it for now.
Thumbs Up

Sherlock Holmes #1
This is the start of a new miniseries about the famous detective from Dynamite Entertainment entitled "The Trial of Sherlock Holmes." It's written by Leah Moore and John Reppion with art by Aaron Campbell, and John Cassaday did the cover. We open with a bombing, possibly related to the arrival of a foreign politician in England. Then a famous old British politician named Sir Henry, already unwell, gets a letter telling him he'll be murdered at a certain time on a certain date, and if he tries to escape his fate, bombs will go off across London. So he resolves to be in his house, but requests the presence of Sherlock Holmes. When the appointed hour arrives, Holmes is alone with Sir Henry in his locked bedroom. A gun shot is heard, and when everyone rushes in, the politician is dead and Holmes is standing there with a smoking gun. It seems pretty open and shut, so he's taken to jail! But we all know there's more to it than that. Obviously Holmes was framed, and I suspect that Sir Henry, since he was dying anyway, might have set it all up himself for some reason. But then how do the terrorist bombings fit in? Is that just something that happened to be going on and Sir Henry used it to add believability to his threat? Hmm...

Anyway, I love Holmes, and I love a good mystery, so I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.
Thumbs Up

War Machine #5
War Machine has to face off against a gang of Ultimo-infected people led by the God of War himself! And he only has minutes before his body craps out on him for good, so he has to act fast. He conceives a desperate plan and executes it. There's lots of crazy fast-paced action, some flashbacks that build character, and somehow it all works out for the best. Ares calls War Machine his champion, a title Rhodey doesn't care for, but which Ares insists is accurate. Osborn is pleased with how everything turned out, so he offers Rhodes and each of his friends what the thing they desire most. In Rhodes' case, that's a fresh, new body - the one Osborn's people stole from the secret facility where it was being made by Stark's people. In former S.H.I.E.L.D. member Jake Oh's case, it's a mint-in-box 1976 Bicentennial edition Captain America action figure. Heh. Anyway, Rhodes says no to Osborn and insists there's still plenty of work left to do, and now he has a team to help him do it. There's even a final page where they all get to pose together with guns, ready to start their next adventure. It's all a little corny. Pak tells a reasonably interesting story and Leonardo Manco illustrates it well, but... I'm not sure I care enough about the characters to stick around. I mean, Jake Oh just got shoehorned in here to have an extra guy on the team; we haven't learned a damn thing about him, and his personality is totally generic. Everybody else has a crazy melodramatic background. And Pak has let me down before in the past. So I don't know. Now that this first story arc is done, I'm really not sure I want to commit to reading the next one.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases from Free Comic Book Day
Aliens/Predator
Dark Horse did some pretty well received comic book adaptations of the Alien and Predator franchises some years ago (see above for my review of one!), and this two-in one comic marks the company's return to the series. John Arcudi, whose work I've enjoyed on B.P.R.D., writes both stories with art by Zach Howard on the Aliens story and Javier Saltares on the Predator story. The Aliens story uses the plot device of a cultural biologist writing an article on how his field has been transformed by the arrival of the xenomorphs to give us a quick summary of what's happened so far in the Aliens universe. But Arcudi manages to make the story more than just a bland exposition dump by telling it with an interesting voice and and from an interesting angle, and by using some clever trickery to make us feel like a xenomorph attack is imminent.

The Predator story is far more action-packed with far less exposition, instead focusing on a sniper who's preparing to take out a target when he's suddenly targeted himself by a Predator. But the Predator is then himself targeted in turn by other Predators. Intriguing! I'll definitely be picking up the first issues of both these series when they hit the stands for real in the coming weeks.
Thumbs Up

Archie Presents The Mighty Archie Art Players #1
I can't say for sure, but I don't think I'd ever read an Archie comic until I read this one. And now that I've read this one, I don't think I'll read another one. It's not that it's bad; in fact it occasionally made me chuckle. But it's just so bland and inoffensive and dated. It consists of a series of parodies, of High Noon, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, and Antony and Cleopatra. Every story is pretty much the same: our heroes get into a series of wacky hijinks, there are some bad puns and other silliness, and then the bad guys get punished and the good guys live happily ever after. Yawn.
Thumbs Sideways

Atomic Robo
This book was put out by Red 5 Comics, a company I'm not really familiar with. Besides the eponymous story, it also includes "Drone" and "We Kill Monsters." "Atomic Robo" is actually pretty funny. It consists of the title character having a brutal fight with his nemesis, Dr. Dinosaur, while also sparring with him verbally over how Dr. Dinosaur's origin story is completely ridiculous and impossible. I don't think I liked the story quite well enough to start trying to collect the series, but I definitely enjoyed it.

"Drone" is one of those all too frequent cases of a cool idea poorly executed. It's about a bunch of teens, one of whom has figured out how to hack into the live audio/video feed of a team of high tech war robots. He says he could even hack into it further and wrest control of the robots away from the soldiers who are remotely piloting them. The teens watch as the robots attack some terrorists, and then we cut away and get a brief introduction to said terrorists. The art is pretty clumsy and lame, and the dialog, especially that of the terrorists, is really quite poorly written. I definitely won't be seeking that one out.

"We Kill Monsters" is about a couple of mechanic brothers who kill a monster and decide to drag it home. But then they get attacked by yet another monster, and one of them begins to experience some odd side effects of the first attack. Again, a cute concept, with the potential for some amusing stories, but not particularly well written. I can't say I'm very impressed by Red 5 Comics.
Thumbs Sideways

Attack of the Alterna Zombies!
This is a black and white collection, in a smaller, thicker format from your average comic, put out by another company I'm not familiar with: Alterna Comics. Apparently Alterna Comics' major books are Jesus Hates Zombies and Lincoln Hates Werewolves, which are about pretty much what you'd figure they'd be about. The first story in this book features Jesus and Abraham Lincoln teaming up to fight zombies. Then they take some 'shrooms and meet weird zombie-like versions of all the rest of Alterna's roster of characters. This sounds a lot more awesome than it actually is. It felt like there were a lot of inside jokes in here I wasn't getting, and the jokes I did get weren't very funny. The next story is just a bunch of aliens killing each other. Pretty dull. The story after that is a painfully melodramatic thing about a lonely young alien who's the last of his kind now that his mother has died. After that is "Mr. Scootles," about two teens who find an old film in the school library starring a forgotten animated film star. We don't even get to see any of the movie; there's just a whole lot of really bad narration where they talk about the cartoon as if it's important and interesting, even though it isn't. Then it looks like the thing is going to turn into some kind of Cool World/Roger Rabbit type thing where the cartoon crawls out into the real world. Yack.

Next is a surreal, confusing tale about a mysterious dude in a mysterious dystopic city. That might sound interesting, but in fact it's dull. The story after that is actually the worst one in the book, which is really saying something. It's called "The Chair," and it's about some guy on death row who didn't commit the crime he was convicted of. It's just really poorly written narration of him whining about how crappy his life is, accompanied by drawings that look like they were done by an especially untalented 12-year-old. It's awful. Next up are Jesus Hates Zombies and Lincoln Hates Werewolves stories which feature Jesus killing zombies and Lincoln killing werewolves. Yep, pretty much. The last two stories are yet another zombie-related tale called "Risers," which has a vaguely interesting premise and some vaguely interesting art, but didn't end up wowing me, and finally "Morbid Myths," which is a really, really, really bad Twilight Zone rip-off. Seriously, it's really bad.

This was definitely the worst book I got at Free Comic Book Day. Why I read the whole thing, I'm really not sure. Anyway, at least now I know to avoid anything put out by Alterna Comics.
Thumbs Down

The Avengers
Hey, it's an Avengers story by Brian Michael Bendis! That never happens! Oh, wait... Anyway, this one is actually pretty good, even if it does have plenty of that uniquely irritating Bendis-style narration and dialog (his Spider-Man is particularly egregious, and unfortunately he happens to be the main character and narrator of this story). It's an interesting tale about Ymir the Frost Giant showing up and nearly destroying everything, until the rebel Avengers and the Dark Avengers team up to help Ares acquire the Twilight Sword, a magical weapon that's the only thing that can stop Ymir, and that can only be wielded by a God. They're triumphant, but then it looks like there's going to be another big fight between the different Avengers teams, until Thor slides up in there and puts his thing down. The story's a bit simplistic, but also intriguing, fun, and action packed, and Jim Cheung's art is quite excellent.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #0
Hey, what do you know! It's another prelude to Blackest Night! Some day this story is actually going to start!

This prelude opens with Hal Jordan contemplating Final Crisis over the grave of Batman. Barry Allen joins him and they talk about death and resurrection for a while: Batman's death, their deaths, etc. Then finally the Black Lantern (AKA the Black Hand) shows up, says his rhyme, and starts bringing people back to life. It's good to see things get moving, but it's hard sitting through Hal Jordan's lame and lengthy narration, and the conversation between him and Barry that ends up really just being a contrived plot device to take a look back at death and resurrection in the DC Universe. But Johns still has me hooked, for the story alone. I need to know what happens!

The back of the book has a series of profiles of the various Lantern Corps, which are actually kind of neat, as they give details on the history, powers, weaknesses, and other abilities of each Corps. The profile of the Indigo Tribe is both especially intriguing and especially irritating, as it contains almost no real information; everything is listed as "unknown."

Overall not a great book, but certainly a fascinating glimpse at what's to come.
Thumbs Sideways

Cartoon Palooza #2
Ape Entertainment is a company I've actually purchased books from before, but I'm unfamiliar with all of the comics represented in this issue. First up is R.P.M. (Rapid Performance Machines), which reads like a bad tie-in comic for a cartoon and toy line, except I don't think the cartoon or the toys exist. It's about secret agents who compete in extreme racing competitions with high performance vehicles that secretly transform into giant robot battle suits. Their mission is to "uncover ancient alien technology before the evil organization Scorpion beats them to the prize!" It sounds like a concept dreamed up by an 8-year-old, and it reads like it was written by one, too. Not so good.

Next is Go-Go Gorilla and the Jungle Crew, which is a pretty basic superhero book where all the heroes and villains are anthropomorphised animals. Kind of silly, nothing special. The only decent story in the book, really, is White Picket Fences, a cute, well-drawn comic about a bunch of regular kids who meet some aliens and then play baseball with them. After that comes Femme Noir (silly, poorly rendered pulp/noir about a sexy detective investigating paranormal crimes), Ursula Wilde (a half-way interesting action/sci-fi tale about a team of secret agents fighting monsters and mad science), and Elders of the Rune Stone (a really melodramatic, horribly written, blandly generic story about a team of teen superheroes). If it weren't for the one good story, and the couple of stories that weren't all bad, this one definitely would have gotten a Thumbs Down.
Thumbs Sideways

Comics Festival!
Most of the FCBD specials from indie publishers are chock full of really poorly done rip-offs of stuff the major publishers do much better. But this book is quite different. The stories in here are clever, funny, unique, and creative. Even when they're not all that good, they're at least original. The book was published by Legion of Evil Press for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and what the stories have in common is that they're all done by Canadians who appeared at the festival (which took place a week after FCBD).

One of my favorites is "Moon Pie," a magical, wonderfully nonsensical fantasy adventure about a pirate and a bunch of kids and animals who do magical stuff to help their friends and fight evil. There's also a number of short, weird, comic strip-style pieces in here that don't seem to be part of any on-going story, or involve any recurring characters. "To Do List" is a cute story about a young girl who's a superhero, but who's also careful to make time for the little things. "Ella & Squid" is an extremely simple and even rather corny little story with the moral written across it in big cursive type, but it's so sweet and warm and lovable that it's impossible to dislike it, especially since it's about the (completely innocent) friendship between a woman, a little boy, and a squid. "Ojingogo" is a really unique, one-page piece done in a kind of wrap-around, tapestry format that you have to turn the book on its side to read. It's quite neat. Then there's an Angora Napkin story featuring a hamster with tentacles; a strip about a crow brutally murdering some pancakes; a totally cute one-pager about an octopus who gets the ability to breathe air and swim through the air for a day and uses it to go bike riding, play speed chess, and get ice cream for everybody; a funny bit about a really pathetic superhero team called the Go Friends; a four panel comic about making Blackbeard break down and cry using kittens; and an amusing back cover story about Monster Cops. It's pretty wonderful stuff!
Thumbs Up

Cyber Force/Hunter Killer: First Look
This is Top Cow's FCBD book, and it's basically a prelude to the company's upcoming Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer crossover. It's written by Mark Waid with impressive art by Kenneth Rocafort, and the story basically just sets up the inevitable confrontation between the two teams. No doubt they'll fight for a while, then decide they're on the same side and team up to take down somebody else. Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer sounded vaguely familiar to me, and the team members looked vaguely familiar, too, but the character profiles in the back of this book didn't really ring any bells. Maybe I just paged through a couple of old books in the '90s? I don't know. Anyway, although the art is good, and the story is vaguely intriguing, the profiles are really pretty poorly written, and the characters sound pretty generic and melodramatic. I don't plan to start collecting.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Horse Comics: Free Comic Book Day
The Aliens/Predator book wasn't Dark Horse's only contribution to FCBD; they also put out this sampler book which includes stories from Usagi Yojimbo, Emily the Strange, Beanworld, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I already knew I wasn't a huge fan of Usagi Yojimbo, and this story pretty much confirmed that opinion; it's a really standard, formulaic ghost story. The Emily the Strange and Beanworld stories are just weird and pointless. The Indiana Jones story is lame, with a weak plot, poor characterization of Indy, and cartoony art. The Clone Wars story, on the other hand, is just like one of the better episodes of the TV series. It features Jedi Master Kit Fisto overcoming difficult odds with the help of a sharpshooting clone named Cooker, some clever strategy, and some bad-ass lightsaber work. It's quite awesome. So, mostly duds in this book, but the one success saves it from being a complete loss.
Thumbs Up

DC Kids Mega Sampler #1
This book is exactly what it says it is: a sampler of all of DC's children's titles. Represented are Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam (a title I gave up on pretty quickly; the story included here is just a rather dull plot summary of everything that's come before), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (a comic based on the new cartoon; this rather clever and entertaining, if also formulaic, story features the new Blue Beetle teaming with Batman - and gamers around the world - to defeat a villain who's set himself up inside a World of Warcraft-style video game), Tiny Titans (even tinier, younger versions of the Teen Titans; I love the cute, simple art in this handful of short, comic stories, but sadly the writing is not at all funny or interesting, even for an all ages title), and Super Friends (the Super Friends don't even get a story in this book, just a couple of lame kids' puzzles). So, cute stuff and lame stuff in pretty equal measure, and nothing here convinces me I should be collecting any of these books.
Thumbs Sideways

IDW
IDW's sampler includes one Transformers Animated story, one G.I. Joe story, and one G.I. Joe: Origins story. The Transformers story is just okay. It features a "young" Optimus Prime fighting Megatron, and has an entirely unsurprising and unoriginal twist ending. Still, it's vaguely interesting to see Optimus in his youth, and doing well for himself even then.

The G.I. Joe stories are actually kind of cool. The first one (by Chuck Dixon) sees the team taking out some arms dealers and stumbling across the work of Cobra for the first time. The second one (by Larry Hama) reveals how the man code-named Duke was inducted into G.I. Joe. The latter story is particularly interesting because it gives you a peek into Duke's past, and into the Joe's recruiting methods, and portrays Duke's superiors as not particularly friendly or trustworthy. I still don't think I'm going to rush out and start collecting G.I. Joe comics, but these were pretty good.
Thumbs Up

Love and Capes #10
This is a vaguely realistic comedy/drama/romance in the form of a superhero comic. It's from Maerkle Press and focuses on a Superman-style hero called The Crusader (secret identity: Mark) and his relationship with a normal young woman named Abby. Abby wants to better understand Mark, and so gets a magician friend to throw together a potion to give her his powers temporarily. And she does come to understand him better, to both her joy and her sorrow. It's actually a pretty interesting story, and relatively effective, but the art is kind of lame, and the writing lacks subtlety. It's not a bad book, but it's not a great book, either.
Thumbs Sideways

Radical
I tried out the first issues of Radical's first two titles when the company launched last year and I wasn't impressed. Nothing in this sampler changed my mind. And really, there's not much here. It's mostly just art and short plot summaries from some of their upcoming titles, which include: an Aladdin adaptation; a new Hercules miniseries; something with the ridiculous title Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency; another book that takes old fairy tales and reimagines them as "dark" and "extreme" (c'mon, people, that is so lame and overdone); and some ridiculously dark horror comic with apparently only one thing going for it: it was written and illustrated by the son of Gene Simmons. Admittedly some of the art in here is pretty impressive, and there are a few stories that intrigue me. The Last Days of American Crime is a near-future story in which the American government is about to broadcast a signal that will make it impossible for anyone to knowingly commit a crime. Before the broadcast, a group of criminals try to make what will literally be the last big score. The problem with this story is that it was created and written by Rick Remender, whose work I've never been a big fan of. The other title in here that interested me is Alice Hotwire, Detective Exorcist. But all it has going for it is that it's based on a story by Warren Ellis. It's actually written and illustrated by some other guy I've never heard of. And that title is pretty dumb.

So, a predictably weak showing from Radical.
Thumbs Down

Resurrection
This book from Oni Press contains an introductory story to an upcoming ongoing series from the company called Resurrection, and a Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen backup story. The main story is actually kind of intriguing. It's about an alien invasion that nearly destroys the Earth. Then the aliens just disappear. One man who lived through it all knows secrets about the aliens and about what happened to them that the authorities don't want to get out. Like I said, neat premise, but the art and writing are not all that exciting. I think I'll stay away.

The Tek Jansen story is a very silly sci-fi parody about a rather stupid, bumbling secret agent of questionable morals, and the organization of even more questionable morals for which he works. In this particular tale his mission is to infiltrate an alien society and try to manipulate it to bring an end to racism. He actually succeeds, but too well. The conclusion is quite clever and darkly funny.
Thumbs Sideways

Savage Dragon
I read a Savage Dragon comic a long time ago, and I don't remember much about it except that I didn't like it. But this one was free, and I've actually heard some good things about the series, so I picked it up. Turns out, I still don't like it! The comic opens with three pages of illustrated backstory, catching us up on everything that's ever happened to Savage Dragon. Then it drops into a story wherein our hero teams up with Daredevil - not the Marvel Daredevil, but the old school Daredevil. The character is now in the public domain, so everybody is dragging him out and using him again. In this tale, Daredevil and his gang of scruffy kid sidekicks help Dragon find his own kids, who've been kidnapped by an old foe. Despite the lengthy prologue that caught us up with Dragon's backstory, author and artist Erik Larsen felt it necessary for Daredevil and Dragon to have a lengthy conversation repeating all of that information in awkward expository outbursts. While they're not doing that, they're saying other awkward, melodramatic things, and then occasionally beating up bad guys and moving the plot along. What I'm trying to say is, the writing is terrible.
Thumbs Down

Shonen Jump Special
It's a read right-to-left manga special! Sadly, the only thing in it is a zero issue prologue to an upcoming collaboration between Stan Lee and manga artist Hiroyuki Takei called Karakuridoji Ultimo. It's about a mad scientist (who looks suspiciously like Stan Lee) who creates twin robots, each embodying opposing Noh forces, and sets them to awaken many years hence to battle each other at the end of the world, apparently because he thinks it'll be funny. Sadly, it's not. It's just really lame.
Thumbs Down

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the birth of TMNT, here's a new TMNT comic by creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman! Uh, except that it's not. It's just a reprint of the original black and white first issue. This kind of disappointed me, but at the same time, it was fun to go back and read the original comic. I feel like TMNT is one of those things, like Penny Arcade's cardboard tube samurai and, to a lesser extent, The Goon, that's a silly, ridiculous, one-off concept that for whatever reason became really popular, so its creators tried to turn it into something serious and dramatic. But it's inherently a silly idea, so trying to turn it into something serious doesn't ever quite work. That being said, I still really enjoy TMNT and The Goon. I just feel a little weird and vaguely embarrassed about it sometimes.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine
Hey, what's this other book from Marvel? It's about Wolverine?! I never would have expected that!

But I kid Marvel. This particular Wolverine story tells the tale of the first mission he performed for the Canadian Department H, the secret division in charge of superhumans. They drop him into a town that's been taken over by some kind of weird metallic, robotic menace. Thanks to the reading he's been doing on the human brain, he's able to figure out what's going on and end the crisis. It's a pretty silly and contrived story, written for an all ages audience, and drawn in a clean, kid-friendly, cartoony kind of style. Which is just disturbing. I mean, this is Wolverine! He's not kid-friendly! Still, the story has its fun moments, and it's not all bad.
Thumbs Sideways

The World of Cars: The Rookie
Boom!'s contribution to FCBD is mostly an advertisement for the company's new line of kids' comics. I'm not sure if the main story is a prelude to the new Cars miniseries, or a preview of the first issue, but anyway it takes the form of an interview with main character Lightning McQueen on how he got his first big break. McQueen tells the story one way in the narration, while we see what really happened in the panels. Basically what we learn is that McQueen is a stupid jerk. Cars is one of the few Pixar movies I've never seen, so I hadn't planned to pick up this series, especially since I've heard bad things about the film. Now I know for sure I won't be collecting this one.

Also in the book is a preview of the first issue of Boom!'s Incredibles series (which I already own), and a one-page ad for the Muppet Show series, which I'm also collecting.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases from 5/6
Angel: Blood and Trenches #3
This issue jumps back in time to show us how Colonel Wyndam-Pryce got involved in this business, and how he's been tracking Angel's movements all along. We go back through some of the events we've already seen and see them again, this time from the Colonel's perspective. Then we finally take a step forward in time, and see Angel returning to the base. Only this time, unfortunately, he's been followed by Kakistos. And the requisite shocking reveal on the final page is actually pretty shocking!

I'm a little puzzled as to what happened to Angel between the events of last issue and the events of this issue. The last time we saw him, he was with Kakistos pretending to be Angelus and it looked like he was about to be found out. But in this issue, all of the sudden he's back and unharmed. Maybe they'll fill us in on how he escaped next issue. Anyway, this story is still a lot of fun. I really enjoy Wyndam-Pryce and his men; they're very funny and rather bad-ass in that wonderfully British way. And just in general I like John Byrne's writing and art. I'm looking forward to the conclusion of this series.
Thumbs Up

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #25
This story, by Doug Petrie, finally wraps up the arc about Dawn, her uncomfortable transformations, and her relationship with the thricewise. It's a good story, exciting and fun, with some strong moments of character development and a satisfying conclusion. Plus, Petrie does a great job on the Whedonesque dialog, with the silliness and the pop culture references. I like that Buffy gets to wear a Wolverine glove, that the little guy from The Yellow Submarine gets a cameo, and that Dawn borrowed Buffy's Veronica Mars DVD. Also, Dawn is naked for a few panels, and that's hot. The creepy living toys thing comes out of left field a little, but whatever.
Thumbs Up

Daredevil Noir #2
I really love Tomm Coker's art in this book. It's quite lovely. There are also some cool story moments here, like the sexy scene where Matt feels Eliza's face, and the drama over Matt discovering for certain (it seems) who killed his father. It's not as good as the first issue, because not all that much actually happens, but it is good and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Thumbs Up

Destroyer #2
Woo hoo! Destroyer! Damn, I love this series. Cory Walker's art is fantastic, as are Val Staples colors, and Kirkman's writing is quite good. But what makes it really great are the characters, specifically the title character. I love how this unassuming-looking old white man can strike such fear in people and do so much damage. In the opening scene he's attending the funeral for his brother (the man he killed at the end of the last issue!) and gets a huge black man named Bruiser to start sweating and freaking out just by walking over to him and asking him a few questions. Anyway, it seems Destroyer is looking for the big bad guy: a villain named Scar. Scar has disappeared, and everyone warns Destroyer to just leave well enough alone and don't go poking around looking for him, but Destroyer wants all his enemies accounted for, and this one in particular put down for good.

I absolutely adore the gigantic two-page spread title page image of the tiny Destoyer leaping out of a helicopter onto a huge monster that's destroying the city. And I love that this is all that we see of that fight; right after this page, we cut to Destroyer describing the fight to his son-in-law after the fact, as they hit golf balls at a driving range. Then Destroyer identifies another of his enemies and, in a hilariously dark sequence, takes him out with cold-blooded cunning. A quieter scene afterward with his wife reveals the complexities of his relationship with her. She knows she'll always come second to his work. Then Scar makes his move and Destroyer teams up with his son-in-law, who comes out of superhero retirement to help him.

This is just fantastic, fantastic stuff. Looking back through this issue again made me realize how excellent it really is. The writing, the story, the characters, the art: all top notch. Funny, smart, subtle, twisted, creative. If you're not reading this series, you should be!
Thumbs Up

Fin Fang 4 Return #1
This was truly a great week for comics, but out of all the great books that came out, this might be the one I enjoyed the most. It's a one-shot anthology book that brings back four of Marvel's old monster characters, sticks them in a modern setting, and lets the hijinks ensue. All the stories are written by Scott Gray and drawn by Roger Langridge. The first story, "Shrink Rap," essentially sets up the premise of the book. Doc Samson is sent in by Reed Richards to meet with the four monsters Fin Fang Foom (an ancient, arrogant dragon), Googam (a tiny would-be dictator), Elektro (a robot who just wants love), and Gorgilla (a big gorilla monster who just wants bananas) to determine if they're psychologically ready for life as honest citizens. Fin Fang Foom doesn't show up at first, so Samson asks each of the three others what they want out of life and we get hilarious glimpses at their secret fantasies. Then Fin Fang Foom barges in with his lawyer and tries to stop the proceedings, but instead it just turns into a big fight. Next up is a Fin Fang Foom story: "The Bald Truth." Here we learn that FFF has had to become a chef in a Chinese restaurant to make a living. The final page, which includes a brief survey of the bald characters of the Marvel Universe all looking depressed, is truly hilarious. And that's followed by the possibly even more hilarious "Curious Gorgilla and The Man in the Stovepipe Hat," which, if you haven't guessed already, is a spot-on parody of Curious George that happens to also be a fantastic adventure involving time travel and Abraham Lincoln. Googam's story, "Little Orphan Angry," is up next. He's working as a parking attendant when he meets a rich and famous actress, clearly meant to be Angelina Jolie, who's known for adopting exotic orphans. Googam manages to trick her into adopting him, as well, and gets a taste of the good life (despite the actress' hard-ass Latverian nanny) before it all falls apart on him. Another brilliant and clever satire, and I love the Latveria references. "Jailhouse Crock" cleverly and hilariously turns the satire around and points it at the Marvel Universe itself. In this story, the robotic Elektro is mistaken for the current Marvel villain named Electro and thrown into prison with all the other failed Spider-Man villains. It's only when he finally gets frustrated, snaps, and leads a prison riot that his girlfriend (Reed Richards' receptionist robot) recognizes him on TV and sorts out the mistake.

All these stories are just great, so full of clever and funny references to the Marvel U and wonderful satire of pop culture in general. But the best of all just might be the last one, "How Fin Fang Foom Saved Christmas." I mean, just look at that title! You know that's going to be comedy gold. It's about Dr. Strange's manservant, Wong, running into his hero, Fin Fang Foom, on the street just as Hydra attacks the city with a giant killer Santa robot. Wong assumes FFF will jump into action to stop them, and is disappointed at first when it seems as if that's not going to happen, and that he will have to fight alone. But FFF eventually has a change of heart and helps out. It's heartwarming, funny, and exciting, all at once!

The only thing I don't like about this book is that it's a one-shot. I could read stories like this forever. I demand a Fin Fang 4 ongoing series!
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #1
I thought I was going to avoid all the Final Crisis: Aftermath books, but instead I've been suckered into buying almost every one so far. This one grabbed me thanks to its amusing premise: the two-bit villain the Human Flame wakes up in a hospital immediately after the events of Final Crisis and realizes that everyone must hate him now - the villains for betraying them to Libra, and the heroes for taking part in the Martian Manhunter's murder. His only choice is to run for it. But before he can do that, he's got to get some cash. That means making one last big score before he gets out of town. And you know how well that always goes. Indeed, things go predictably and horrifically awry, leading to him making many more enemies and getting lots of people killed, maimed, and scarred for life. As if that weren't enough, he then proceeds to screw over his ex-wife and daughter - again - just so he can get his hands on a spare suit and a car. When it finally it looks like he's home free, some of his more recent poor decisions start to catch up with him.

Author Matthew Sturges and artist Freddie Williams II do a great job of showing us what a hideous, slimy bastard the Human Flame is. The very first time we see him, he's presented to us covered in greasy sweat and unsightly body hair, slugging a young nurse in the face just for showing concern for him. And he only gets worse from there! This is the story of a despicable bastard trying to get away from the consequences of his own poor decisions, only to get caught up in the consequences of even more poor decisions. Reading it will make you feel dirty, but it's also pretty brilliant and loaded with devilish dark comedy. I mean, crashing the children's party with a gun, leaving his dead friend in the ball pit, and then lighting a poor innocent guy in a sheep costume on fire? Wow! I think I'm going to have to read the rest of this series.
Thumbs Up

The Flash: Rebirth #2
I'm still not enjoying Geoff Johns' dialog in this series, and I can't say I find Barry Allen all that interesting a character, either, but dialog and character have never been Johns' strong points. What the man does well is tell stories, and he's doing it well again here. I like the way he shows us how fast Barry Allen is, even when he's just talking to somebody. We get an interesting glimpse into his past, where we see how he first met Iris, and the personal case he was investigating that kept him late in the office that fateful night when the lightning bolt struck. Back in the present, he and Wally go to investigate the dead body of the Black Flash. I was just thinking it was really hard to tell Wally and Barry apart, what with them wearing the same costume and all, when something happens that helpfully alters Barry's costume! It also explains a lot of the weird things that have been happening to him lately, and what's been happening to the speedsters he touches. Wow! I was having some doubts about this series until I got to that ending, but now I'm really excited to keep reading. What a great idea, a great twist to the story, and a fascinating transformation of the character.
Thumbs Up

The Human Torch Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
It's time for another one of these 70th Anniversary one-shot specials, this one focusing on the original Human Torch, a character I have a special fascination with, for one reason or another. The first story is a brand new tale set just nine months after Jim Hammond's "birth," and sees him struggling to understand who he is in the world, and what it means to be human. He rises to sudden fame, only to just as quickly fall into infamy, and then become a beloved hero yet again. The story ends up being an interesting and moving meditation on prejudice, on humanity, and on finding the best in people, no matter what they look like on the outside. It gets a little corny at times, but it's mostly quite well done. Nice work by writer Scott Snyder. I'm not as big a fan of Scott Wegener's art, but it does the job.

The second and final story in the book is a reprint of the origin story of the Human Torch's sidekick, Toro. The only credit on this story is given to Carl Burgos for writing; sadly, it's unknown who else might have been involved in its creation. It's a pretty generic Golden Age comic all around, though, in both art and story. The Human Torch happens to be passing by a circus when a fire-eating boy accidentally catches fire. Oddly, he escapes from the fire unharmed, and it's quickly discovered that he has the same abilities as the Torch, although there's never really any explanation for how that could be. Meanwhile, it turns out the strong man at the circus is a criminal and has a plot to rob the place which the Human Torch and his new sidekick must foil. It's all very silly and unlikely and contrived (especially the bit with the gun that can temporarily turn off the Torch's powers), but it has some fun moments, and it's certainly interesting to see this historic moment in the evolution of these characters.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #2
I wasn't exactly sure how I felt about this series yet after the first issue, but now that I've read this one, I think I've decided I like it and I'm probably going to stick with it. The remaining heroes, in their continuing attempts to find out how to stop the Plutonian, send Kaidan (a woman with the ability to make ghost stories become real - cool power!) to interview the Plutonian's girlfriend, Alana, to see if she knows anything useful. Alana is essentially the Lois Lane to the Plutonian's Superman, but in an interesting and realistic twist on the old story, when the Plutonian reveals his secret identity to Alana (as a prelude to proposing), she freaks out, rejects him, and reveals his identity to her colleagues. This doesn't make him happy. Really the only useful info Alana has for them is the identity of the villain who seemed to give the Plutonian the most trouble, and some vague information about the Plutonian's parents. Interestingly enough, our heroes (well, one of them, at least) seem to have already contacted the villain Alana mentions. But I'm betting getting in bed with the enemy, even when he's the only chance of saving the world, isn't going to turn out well.

This story is getting really intriguing, and is taking the classic superhero story in some really interesting, twisted new directions. I'm very curious to see where it goes next.
Thumbs Up

Kull #6
While Kull does some awkward verbal sparring with the Priest of the Great Serpent in the banquet hall, Brule does some actual sparring with serpent priests in their temple, making off with their sacred gem, the Eye of Terror. He manages to make it back to Kull with the gem, and Kull is able to use it as a bargaining chip to get Ka-Nu released. He even manages to hang onto the gem, too, which really upsets the serpent priest; he warns that Kull will bring destruction down on all of them if he keeps the Eye of Terror. What can he mean? Sadly we won't find out any time soon, as this miniseries is now over!

I started out loving Kull, but now that it's over I'm not sure how I really feel about it. It has some really cool scenes and some great ideas, but ultimately there isn't really all that much to it. Evil serpents have infiltrated humanity, and Kull kills a whole bunch of them and steals their gem. That's pretty much all that happens. If they do another Kull miniseries down the road, I might pick it up to see if the story goes anywhere. But if it's just more of the same, I'd probably drop it pretty quickly.
Thumbs Up

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Century #1: 1910
The new League book is here! I wasn't as excited about this as I could have been, given how disappointed I was by Black Dossier, but I was still eager and hopeful. As the title suggests, this book jumps back quite a bit in time from the last storyline, all the way to the turn of the century, and deals with some past events referred to obliquely in Black Dossier. Page 1 features Carnacki having a vision about a cult attempting to perform an apocalyptic ceremony involving raising a moonchild (apparently a reference to an Aleister Crowley novel). And page 2 features full frontal nudity! Thank you, Alan Moore, you dirty old bastard. The naked lady in this case is Captain Nemo's daughter, Janni. She angrily refuses her father's dying wish that she succeed him and runs away to build a new life in England. She happens to arrive there on the same ship as a fellow named Jack MacHeath, who goes about singing very jauntily all the time, and who just might be Jack the Ripper. Oddly, there's another woman on the riverfront who also goes around singing all the time, but she sings only dreadful prophecies of doom. The two of them end up together at the end, as seems appropriate, although who she's meant to be I'm not sure. Mina and her group begin poking around based on the vague hints from Carnacki's vision, trying to find out what catastrophe could be coming and how they can prevent it, but all they really seem to succeed in doing is helping to fulfill Carnacki's prophecy by telling the evil cult about it, thus giving them the last ingredient they need to complete the moonchild ceremony! In this extremely dark and horrific story, the League is worse than useless, and we end on a scene of death, devastation, and terror, and with the line: "Mankind is kept alive by monstrous deeds." Which was in fact also the moral of the first two volumes of League.

Immediately after I finished reading this story, I decided I didn't really like it, but looking back over it and getting a better feel for it as a whole, I find I'm actually more impressed with it than I thought. It's actually a pretty neat story. Kevin O'Neill's finely detailed, expressive art is quite excellent. But I'm still a bit turned off by how very, very depraved it is. The scenes on the waterfront are horrifically filthy and wrong. Moore plays the rape card as part of an admittedly rather effective major plot point. Then there's all the gratuitous nudity, weird sex, and violence. It was also a bit difficult to like or sympathize with our main characters. They're really just a bunch of incompetent bumblers this time. Mina is a cold, hard bitch. Orlando is a tiresome fop. The other men in the group are mostly clumsy oafs. The most likable character in the story is probably Janni, and she ends up being a cruel, cold-blooded mass murderer.

But really, the unlikable characters and the depravity have been there from the beginning. And Mina and her buddies aren't that bad. Not all the time, anyway. There are also some really cool moments in here. Even though I understood very few of the references made in the Prisoner of London sequence, it was still a really cool sequence, and very cleverly done. In the end, this is a decent addition to the League series (even if it's not nearly as good as the first two volumes) and a powerful and complete story.

After the main story is the first chapter of a prose tale called "Minions of the Moon," supposedly by John Thomas. Really it's just a collection of short stories about the League, no doubt written by Alan Moore himself. First up is a short tale about Orlando's early years that actually pulls the story of 2001: A Space Odyssey into the League's fictional universe. After that is a short epilogue to the events of the book's main story, wherein Mina and Allan comfort each other with the hope that their love will last forever and comfort them throughout the long ages of eternity that loom before them. But a jump ahead in time to 1964 seems to reveal that their hopes were in vain, as we see Allan and Orlando (now female again) alone together and heading to some new debauchery, with Allan complaining that Mina doesn't seem to be up for the weird sex anymore. Meanwhile, Mina, now masquerading as Vull the Invisible, is hanging out with a superhero named Captain Universe. It seems Mina tried to put together a team of superheroes called The Seven Stars, but it didn't really work out. Next she, Golliwogg, and Golliwogg's wooden toy friends are called in by Prospero to help quiet some unrest on the moon, apparently mostly so humanity will not stumble upon the monolith hidden on the moon too early (they're not supposed to find it until 2001). The story breaks off before Mina and her companions arrive on the moon, so I assume this backup will continue in the next volume of Century.

It's always interesting to read a continuation of the League's adventures, of course, and I rather like the way Moore has worked the mythology of 2001 into his universe, not to mention superheroes. It's also interesting to see the weird relationship of Mina, Allan, and Orlando continue to transform as the years go by. But I'm once again put off by all the gratuitous weird sex. Did I need to know about Golliwogg lubing up his wooden toys with oil in preparation for wild group sex? The answer is no. And that's beside the fact that I'm really uncomfortable with the Golliwogg character in the first place. I suppose if you want to pull all fictional characters into your universe, the embarrassing, politically incorrect ones have to be there, too. But do they have to be given such a prominent role? Ah, well.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #1
I have vague but fond memories of the original New Mutants comics (back when they really were new mutants; it's kind of silly that the series is still called that, but then again, what else could you call it? Old Mutants? Just Mutants?), and I read a preview of this new ongoing series that impressed me, so I decided to pick this book up, despite the fact that I didn't really expect it to be any good. Thankfully, I was really pleasantly surprised. Diogenes Neves' art is really excellent, especially with the addition of John Rauch's subtle, effective colors, and the story concocted by Zeb Wells is an intriguing one, with complex, realistic characters and clever, funny dialog. We open up two weeks in the past, with Shan discovering a little girl she and Dani have been looking for. Almost immediately, they're attacked by some kind of monster. Then we jump forward into the present and Illyana drops out of a magic portal into the middle of the young mutants at the X-Men's San Francisco HQ, spouting weird prophecies of doom and insisting that Shan and Dani are in grave danger. The rest of the New Mutants team decides to reform and set out to help their old friends. When they arrive in the little Colorado town where the bad stuff seems to have gone down, it's immediately clear that they've stumbled upon a strange mystery. They do find Shan - in fact, they find her two times over - but they also find a dangerous old enemy.

The story has definitely grabbed me, but what I really like about this comic is that, unlike some of the other books I've been reading recently, it's not just the story that's good. Everything else is, too! I particularly like the way Wells is handling Illyana. Her cryptic dialog about the future is fascinating and unsettling, as is the cruel way she toys with people. The scene where she's able to somehow instantly pry into Amara's secret thoughts and desires is particularly disturbing and effective.

Wow, great stuff! I'm very excited to see where this series goes.
Thumbs Up

Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye #2
Now that this series is acquiring a plot, I'm really starting to enjoy it! This issue opens where the last one ended, with Seaguy escaping from the hospital with the help of his mysterious trio of duplicates. Their identities and powers are quickly revealed: they're a real superhero team inspired by Seaguy's adventures! Treeguy, who can grow as tall as a tree! Peaguy, who can shrink as small as a pea! Threeguy, one man who can become three men! In fact, Threeguy contains within him both Peaguy and Treeguy. They have real super powers! And they use them to brutally and hilariously defeat Seaguy's pursuers. Then they all jump aboard the Octomarine, the octopus-like vehicle of the Octomariner, and flee. The Octomariner's plan is to hide Seaguy from his enemies by giving him a completely new identity: El Macho, king of the bulldressers of Los Huevos! Just as we think Seaguy's finally on the way to figuring things out, and has finally got himself in with some powerful rebels who are fighting back against the Eye and Lotharius, it comes out that even this adventure has all been set up by Seadog to give Seaguy the excitement he craves and keep him out of the way so Seadog can continue with his evil plans. Interestingly, it looks like Lotharius/Seadog is the real power behind everything, as he's able to boss around even the Eye. The Eye and his group appear to be "former" villains who have now taken over the world in order to enforce happiness for everyone, but while the Eye wants no one harmed in the process, Lotharius is not so picky. There's a surreal and hilarious interlude as Seaguy lives out his new life as El Macho, a type of bullfighter who, rather than hurting or fighting the bull, skillfully dresses it in ladies' underwear. But once again Seaguy's restless nature and desire to find out what's really going on breaks through the false world they've built for him and he runs off, loose again. Meanwhile, Seadog is preparing for some kind of endgame by getting all the old heroes even more out of the way than they already are. Doc Hero, sadly and disturbingly addicted to the Eye Go Round, is dragged away from the ride, missing a turn for the first time ever. They steal his signature hero's helmet, put some kind of creepy Eye crown on his head in its place, and throw him in the back of a van. That can't be good!

I'm so excited that so much stuff is happening in this series now that's still surreal and darkly funny, but that now actually makes a kind of sense! I love the three other versions of Seaguy, the creepy interlude with Doc Hero, the hilarious sequence on El Huevos, and the even more hilarious and twisted method that Maria Del Muerto employs to try to hold onto Seaguy ("When did this happen? You weren't eight months pregnant when you left this morning!!"). It's a wonderful collection of insanity and I'm excited to see it actually maybe come to some kind of conclusion in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Crew #3
Yay, another John Byrne comic! This issue of this great series, more than any one so far, really reads like a classic episode of the original Star Trek. Our heroine leads an away team down to a colony that seems to be abandoned, and that looks like a perfectly preserved little suburban town, right out of 1960s America. The "colonists" eventually show up, but in fact the real colonists have been replaced, and the entity that did it is planning on replacing the crew of the starship Ventura, as well! Luckily, thanks to some quick thinking from our girl, the entity's creepy - although not entirely evil - plans are thwarted. For her heroic actions, she gets a promotion, and a transfer, back to the ship she vowed to return to: a beautiful lady called the Enterprise.

This is such a fun, exciting, well written series, and with great art, as well. I'm really enjoying it. It's really like having new episodes of Star Trek to watch.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: First Class - Finals #4
Time for the big conclusion of the Finals miniseries! Cyclops puts forward his theory that Jean is responsible for all the weird stuff that's been going on, so they all jump into her head and have some fun adventures in her unconscious until they can finally contact her and force her to face the lingering trauma, guilt, and fear that's causing her to manifest psychic enemies. It's not a particularly creative idea for a story, but it ends up being relatively entertaining. Plus, these characters and the way they interact are just a lot of fun. And it's interesting to see a dramatization of their transition from students to the first real full X-Men team. When Professor Xavier calls them "My X-Men" at the end, it feels like an important moment for them all.

This story will lead into a lengthily titled one-shot called Uncanny X-Men First Class Giant-Size Special, with writing by Jeff Parker and Scott Gray, and that in turn will lead into a new ongoing series called Uncanny X-Men First Class also by Scott Gray. I'll definitely be picking those up, because Gray is the guy who wrote Fin Fang 4 Return, which I loved so very much.
Thumbs Up

New releases from 5/13
B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #5
With this issue, the latest B.P.R.D. story arc comes to an end, and - although I admit I may change my mind on a later reread - right now I feel like it's the worst B.P.R.D. miniseries ever. The great majority of it is people standing in rooms spouting exposition. And even when it's not exposition, the dialog is pretty poor. Plus, our heroes end up looking like stupid jerks. I'll admit there's something interesting and clever about making us question whether what the B.P.R.D. is doing is right, and if maybe the villain is the hero after all. But it could have been done in a much more interesting way.

That's not to say the series is all bad. In this issue there are some cool moments, like when Liz blows up the little frogs and takes out Gilfryd. And seeing Lobster Johnson again is fun. Although it's also really confusing. I mean, where does that guy keep coming from? And was Gilfryd right or not? Hopefully my confusion will be cleared up in future stories, and this one will get better in retrospect.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain Britain and MI13 #13
To say that things look bad for our heroes at the end of this issue is an enormous understatement. In fact, they're all either dead, turned to the Dark Side, or missing, and Dracula has essentially won!! Wow. Some interesting moments: the cameos from Norman Osborn and the Mighty Avengers, the former popping in to say he can't help, and the latter popping in to say they can't help - oh and btw planes are going to start crashing into the air around Britain. I'm not a big fan of Faiza as a character, but I like her in this issue. She has very little dialog, but what she does have is believable and not annoying, and she goes out like a hero. I also like that Dracula is such a brilliant and deadly enemy. Really the only part of the book I don't like is the page where in one panel Blade and Captain Britain are fighting, and then in the next panel Cap is talking to some guy and not fighting anymore. After reading the scene a couple of times I decided the fight had just petered out, and that there were not actually two different guys dressed like Captain Britain in the room, but I wish the pencilers (Ardian Syaf and Leonard Kirk) could have found a less confusing way of getting that across.

The point is, it's an exciting, brutal, and dramatic comic, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Young Avengers #1
Since there are already warring Avengers teams, I guess somebody decided there ought to be warring Young Avengers teams, too. Thus, this new miniseries by Paul Cornell with art by Mark Brooks. The new team also calls itself the Young Avengers and mostly they think of themselves as heroes, although they're having a hard time always knowing what a hero really is and what a hero should do - but that, it turns out, is the point. They were brought together by a woman named Coat of Arms (who apparently has a coat that gives her extra arms? Good lord, what a terrible pun/power) who's really more a high concept performance artist than a superhero. She calls their crime-fighting outings "scenes," and wants to use them, and the team as a whole, to illuminate the philosophical tensions that exist in this new world, a world where Norman Osborn and Barack Obama are both in charge, and there are good and bad Avengers, but nobody can agree which is which.

It's a really fascinating concept, and the other characters in the team are just as odd and effed up as Coat of Arms. The guy Coat of Arms chose to be the leader is a particularly conflicted and confused young man who goes by the name Melter, because he can melt things. He's always fighting to make sure he acts like the famous heroes he knows and loves, and trying to make his teammates do the same, but he has little control over them, and nearly as little over himself. His girlfriend is a magic-user named Enchantress. She claims to have been kicked out of Asgard, but her attempts to speak the way Asgardians do are clumsy and unconvincing. Big Zero is a racist bitch who can grow gigantic. She's trying to adjust the team's robot, Egghead, so he's racist, too. And Executioner is a Punisher rip-off who still gets anxious, nagging phone calls from his Mom. It's a unique, fascinating, deeply twisted comic, and I kind of love it. At the end of this first issue, the actual Young Avengers drop in to pay their rival team a visit, so there may already be a showdown between the two groups next issue! I'm looking forward to it.
Thumbs Up

Fables #84
Part 4 of "The Great Fables Crossover" picks up with Jack arriving at Fabletown, happily ignorant of everything that's been going on there lately. He jumps right into bed with Rose Red and, as soon as he learns that the absent Boy Blue has gained a fanatical following, impersonates him and takes over the town. Just as Rose Red finally (inevitably) gets disgusted with him and kicks him out, Jack Frost shows up to confront Jack Horner, his father. This should be interesting!

The last issue of Fables I read I found to be pretty dull and uneventful, and I missed the humor and wackiness of Jack. So it's unsurprising that, now that Jack has invaded Fables, the book has become entertaining. This issue is funny and engaging. I'm very curious to see how the showdown between the two Jacks turns out, and what will happen when Boy Blue actually returns.
Thumbs Up

Gravel #11
Wow! This is some issue. Gravel makes a move here against the Major Seven that's really shocking, and that actually made me question whether he's really the "hero" here anymore, if he ever was. What are his motives? Has he found out something we don't know yet? I don't know, and I like that I don't know! This series just became a lot more exciting. Oh, and there's plenty of the insane magic-fueled action and extreme violence we've come to love and expect from Gravel. And although I'm still not a fan of Mike Wolfer's art, I feel like he's maybe getting a little bit better. Not every person in this book looks ugly and clumsily drawn.
Thumbs Up

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1
I know, I know. But I had to at least try it! It's the first in a four-part, all ages miniseries focusing on an all-animal version of the Avengers. The book opens with Reed Richards meeting with the Inhumans to ask them to help him find one of the massively powerful, and thus incredibly dangerous, Infinity Gems, which he knows is on the moon somewhere. What he doesn't realize is that the Inhumans' super-powered teleporting dog, Lockjaw, has already found that particular gem. For some reason, instead of using the gem's mind powers to communicate to the Inhumans and/or Reed what he's found, Lockjaw decides to assemble his own team of animal Avengers so they can gather up the rest of the gems themselves. Each of the animals is reluctant at first, but all are quickly guilted, coaxed, or cajoled into joining. The Pet Avengers are: Throg (a frog version of Thor, with a melodramatic and unlikely origin story), Lockheed (Kitty Pryde's now deeply depressed dragon), Redwing (Falcon's arrogant bird sidekick), Hairball (formerly Niels, Speedball's cat), and Ms. Lion (a none-too-smart, inappropriately named male dog who belongs to Aunt May, and who actually has no superpowers, but asks to be taken along anyway). They're a goofy, crabby, argumentative bunch, but by the end of this first issue they've already got two of the Infinity Gems, so I guess they're pretty effective. The book is mildly amusing, but just as simplistic and silly as you might expect. I don't feel any need to buy another issue.
Thumbs Sideways

Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos #1
Holy crap is this freaking fantastic. It's a one-shot containing a story entitled "Shotgun Opera!" and it's set in 1942, chronicling a mission which Sergeant Nick Fury and his commandos are dropped into Nazi-held Yugoslavia to execute. They are to follow a mysterious set of train tracks back to their origin, photograph what they find there, and then return to base, all without engaging the enemy. But, as Fury puts it in the first line of the book, "No plan ever survives enemy contact," and the boys end up having to engage the enemy immediately, repeatedly, and with extreme prejudice. In fact, Fury is still falling out of the plane that got them to Yugoslavia, and hasn't even engaged his chute yet, when he personally shoots a Nazi aircraft out of the sky with a shotgun and a machine gun, which he's carrying in either hand as he falls. It's a hilarious, hotshot, bad-ass move, and the rest of the book is chock full of scenes exactly like it. Which is why it's my favorite comic that came out this week. I mean, in the very next scene, Fury parachutes directly onto a landmine and manages to not only survive the explosion intact, but also kill a squad of Nazi soldiers while spouting hilarious, cutting one-liners at them. Then he meets back up with his Howling Commandos, who are all just as insane and bad-ass as he is, but each in their own unique way. They team up with hot Russian agent Anya "Black Widow" Derevkova, who happens to be there on pretty much the same mission for her government, and who is pretty damn bad-ass herself. Shortly after meeting her, Fury takes out three tanks single-handedly with nothing but a belt of grenades and an umbrella. They use one of the tanks to liberate a village, and then take a short break to romance all the girls there. Then it's on to the Nazi secret base to defeat Baron Zemo and stop the Nazi nuclear program! And then they have to fight a giant armored Nazi mech suit called Panzer Max. And they defeat it. With their bare hands. At the very end is a brief glimpse at what's to come: a screening of a top secret film of Captain America in action. Fury's comment? "Now they've got this guy running around in his pajamas. I'll tell you one thing - he's sure as hell not going to do it alone."

\m/

Actually, looking through it again, I now believe this may be one of the greatest comic books of all time. It's beautifully drawn and colored by John Paul Leon, and brilliantly written by Jesse Alexander, who packs it with hilarious dialog; insane, over-the-top action; and simple but totally lovable characters. And did I mention the bad-assery? I think I did.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Mission's End #3
The other excellent IDW Star Trek miniseries going on at the moment is this one, which picks up here with Kirk still trying to get the giant spider entities of Archernar-IV into the Federation, while McCoy, Chekov, and a small away team have been kidnapped by the spider's surprisingly intelligent domestic animals, who are planning a revolution against their masters. There's a pretty hilarious moment where one of the red shirts explicitly talks about the fact that dudes in red shirts rarely come back from away missions! Then a new subplot is introduced: it turns out one of the Enterprise crew is a turncoat who's leaking the location of Archernar-IV's omega weapon to the dastardly Orion Syndicate! As if that weren't bad enough, just as the final ceremony on Archernar-IV is about to begin, the crawlers launch their rebellion, stealing part of the heart of the world's ancient and powerful technology. In the process, both Spock and Kirk are injured.

It's a very exciting, complex, and intriguing story (by Ty Templeton) with some quite excellent art (by Stephen Molnar), featuring accurately rendered portraits of all our favorite characters. Templeton also does a fine job at rendering the characters through the dialog and plot; I like the way Kirk is constantly hitting on Cassady, and the way she's constantly rejecting him. And I particularly like the subtle concern Spock shows for Kirk at the end of this issue, calling him "Jim" instead of "Captain." I'll be there for the next issue, definitely.
Thumbs Up

Thor: Tales of Asgard #1
I'm not entirely sure why I bought this. It's just a collection of reprints of a series of backup stories, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, called "Tales of Asgard," which retell/reimagine stories out of ancient Norse mythology. The first is a summary of the origin of the world and of Odin, told with a few pictures and a bunch of narration boxes. Then there's the story of how Odin defeated Ymir, King of the Ice Giants, and the story of how he defeated the fire demon Surtur. The next couple of tales are from the boyhood of Thor. He steals back the golden apples of the goddess Iduna from the Storm Giants, despite Loki's interference. He helps defend Asgard from a terrible attack that Loki brought about. At the end of each story, he tries again to lift Mjolnir, which he can only claim as his own when he has done enough heroic deeds and he can lift it over his head. In the next story, he finally does lift the hammer, when he hears that Balder's sister, Sif, has been kidnapped by the Storm Giants. He rushes off and saves her from Hela, the goddess of death herself. In the next story we see him as an adult, helping to bring about the birth of humanity. The final story tells us how Heimdall came to be the guardian of the rainbow bridge. In the back is a lovely, full-color map of Asgard, followed by a series of character portraits of the more important gods, demons, and giants, and finally a reproduction of the cover of the issue of Journey Into Mystery wherein the "Tales of Asgard" stories debuted.

It's fun to see the famous (if contentious) team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in action, of course, and these stories are reasonably fun and interesting. The best one is definitely "'Death' Comes to Thor!" as it features Thor lifting Mjolnir for the first time, without even thinking about it, so he can go to rescue fair Sif. And then later he's willing to sacrifice his own life for hers, and Hela is so touched by this that she lets both of them go. It's just a neat story. That being said, I've never been a big fan of Stan Lee's writing. It's so bombastic and overdone, and yet at the same time so simplistic. He's constantly describing things in narration that we can see perfectly well with our own eyes. And good God, the exclamation points! Sometimes it seems like the man can't end a sentence without one.

So it's a fun book in the old school Marvel manner, and a nice piece of comics history, but not something I'm going to pick up and read again any time soon.
Thumbs Sideways

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #6
Another brilliant, powerful, darkly funny, mind-blowing Umbrella Academy miniseries comes to an end with this issue. I remember being a little disappointed with the end of the first arc when I read it for the first time, but I experienced no such disappointment with the end of this arc. With the help of Spaceboy and the others, the old-looking, younger Number Five takes out all the alternate shooters, and it seems as if JFK's assassination has been stopped again. But the young-looking, older Number Five points out, "[JFK]'s something special. He's an idea. And what you can't take down with bullets... you have to take down with words. That's why I needed her." And Rumor's amazing power is used again, brutally, incredibly. She does it to save Spaceboy, but he can't forgive her. "We put our lives on the line for them. Our lives aren't worth more than theirs. Certainly not his." But in a strange and awful way, the terrible thing Rumor has done has saved the world. Everything's back to normal when they return to the present. How, when they changed so much? Carmichael explains: "Another frail man of privilege in a dark suit will take Kennedy's place, and another after that... until another disaffected outcast decides to change the world with a bullet." It's a pretty dark and frightening view of history. A final act of violence from Number Five brings an oddly satisfying end to things, and each of the team heads off to find solace wherever they can from the horrors of the past.

It's a dark, harsh story, but also exceedingly clever, imaginative, and thrilling, and with the occasional twisted bit of humor. I think I actually enjoyed this UA miniseries even more than the first. And I can't wait for the next one.
Thumbs Up

Unthinkable #1
This comic has a fascinating premise. What if, after 9/11, our government responded by putting together a think-tank of specialists in various fields, all with slightly crazy creative minds, and had them think up all the unthinkable things the terrorists could do to us, so we could be ready for them? And what if all those terrible things they thought up started happening, as if someone were using their ideas as a playbook?

It's a pretty clever and horrific concept. The guy who came up with it is Mark Sable, but sadly he's not up to the task of executing it. This story is full of clumsy, wince-worthy dialog, unlikable, barely sketched-out characters, and a series of ridiculously unlikely events. The pacing is also quite poor; the story will be moving along steadily, then suddenly make a jarring jump six weeks into the future, then eight years into the future, only summarizing major plot events - either in a few panels, or in a few narration boxes - that really should have been fleshed out or dramatized rather than simply explained away. Show don't tell! It's pretty elementary. Sure, Julian Totino Tedesco's art is quite good, as are Juan Manuel Tumburus' colors. But that's nowhere near enough to save this comic.
Thumbs Down

The Unwritten #1
This is a new Vertigo title from writer Mike Carey and artist Peter Gross. It opens up by showing us the end of a series of fantasy novels about a young boy named Tommy Taylor, who's clearly meant to be a Harry Potter analog. Then we cut to a convention and meet the real Tom Taylor - the son of Wilson Taylor, the author who wrote the Tommy Taylor books, and the person the boy in the books is modeled after. Wilson himself recently disappeared, and now Tom Taylor makes appearances for him, living off of his weird pseudo-fame. But the truth is Tom hates being "Tommy," and is furious at his father for abandoning him. And things only get weirder and more disturbing for him when a fan points out that he doesn't seem to actually exist. Early photos of Tom Taylor as a boy aren't really of him. He has someone else's national insurance number. Where did he come from? Is he actually the Tommy Taylor from the books, somehow made flesh? And if he's out in the real world, could the villain from the books escape as well?

Besides being an eerie, exciting, and engaging story about a rather complex and realistic character, this book is also a meditation on stories - their true power and meaning, and how they're able to alter reality itself. I particularly love the scribbled notes from Wilson Taylor on the final page of the book, mulling over the power of stories, and hinting at what might actually be happening here. Carey's writing is excellent, Gross' art is wonderful. I'm hooked!
Thumbs Up

Wolverine #73
Marvel is doing a very strange thing with this title. When I saw #73 on the release schedule, I was very confused, because according to my spreadsheet, #72 should have been the next issue. But I've been known to forget to update my spreadsheet, or to miss an issue here and there, so when I got to the store I just picked up #73 and then went into the long boxes to see if I could find #72. No good. When I got to the cash register, the comic shop dude explained: the next entry in the "Old Man Logan" storyline wasn't ready in time for this week, but rather than change the numbering or let a month go by without a new issue of Wolverine (especially this soon after the release of the movie), they just skipped right on to the next issue. Confusing! Even more confusing, #72, when it does come out, after #73, will not be the final part of the "Old Man Logan" storyline. That will be in its own Old Man Logan Giant-Sized Special one-shot. Good lord.

But anyway. Let's talk about the actual comic! It has two stories in it, each of which is part one of its own new continuing storyline. The first story is "A Mile in My Moccasins" by writer Jason Aaron and artist Adam Kubert, and it's brilliant. It's a tour of what Wolverine's life is like in the form of a series of panels, each one labeled with a day of the week, and each one depicting Wolverine in the midst of some huge epic battle, often wordless, but sometimes accompanied by some amusing banter. Some of the panels show Wolverine enjoying some time off, and some days take more than one panel to sum up, but the point is clear: Wolverine's life is pretty much non-stop brutality. Every day he's taking a beating, getting a beating, or recovering from the last beating. It's hilarious dark comedy with a tragic twist, and it's a powerful characterization of Wolverine as a man haunted and running from his past.

The second story is called "One-Percenter" and it's written by Daniel Way with art by Tommy Lee Edwards. It sees Wolverine catching up with an old friend, nicknamed Horrorshow, who's head of a motorcycle gang. His son has gotten pretty wild; he's joined a rival gang, and has apparently just killed a couple of members of Horrorshow's gang. Horrorshow blames himself for how his son has gone wrong and wants to find some way of resolving the issue that won't involve him having to kill the boy. Wolverine sees strong parallels in Horrorshow's situation to his relationship with his own son, and sets out to look into the issue for his friend. But almost before he's started, there's another killing, and thing have gotten a lot more complicated.

I don't remember being a big fan of Daniel Way's work, but I like this story so far, especially the subtle connections to Wolverine's life that are driving him to get involved. And I definitely like Tommy Lee Edwards' art. I'm pleased that Wolverine is going to apparently continue to be a good title worth collecting, even after "Old Man Logan" is finally done.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Alan Moore (Not), Aliens (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Daredevil (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Free Comic Book Day (Not), Fringe (Not), G.I. Joe (Not), Garth Ennis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Human Torch (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Legion of Super-Heroes (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Predator (Not), Seaguy (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Star Trek (Not), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Not), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not), Zombies (Not)
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Sunday, April 26, 2009 02:50 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 4/22, plus a hard copy collection I'd forgotten I owned, and a couple of back issues I missed when they originally came out.

Back issues and old data
Jack of Fables #32
This issue opens with Jack still harboring dreams of bagging all three of the Page sisters at the same time, but only one of them seems into the idea. Jack also fills us in on how he and the other Fables escaped from the explosion at the end of last issue - sort of. He tells the story in his own way, with him as the hero, accompanied by hilariously skewed illustrations. A quick aside from the other characters reveals what really happened. Afterwards, the whole gang splits up and goes their separate ways. Then Revise reveals that Jack is half Literal and, further, that the Page sisters are his half-sisters!! Everybody is shocked and disgusted at this news, a fact that is driven home in humorous fashion by a couple panels of the four of them just staring wide-eyed off into nothing.

This isn't a particularly exceptional issue, but it's got some fun moments, and of course the interesting revelation about Jack's heritage.
Thumbs Up

The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank
After reading and (mostly) enjoying the follow-up to this storyline, I thought I'd better go back and check out the original. It's the same creative team and a lot of the same characters in a similar story, so I (mostly) enjoyed it, too. It's a Marvel Knights series first published in 2000 and 2001. The Punisher hadn't appeared in a Marvel comic for some time, and the last time he had had been in a series where he was resurrected as the agent of angels and other supernatural forces. Which, I think you'll agree, is a really weird idea. In this book, Ennis wisely mentions that part of the Punisher's history only briefly, putting it swiftly to bed and then moving on. He takes the Punisher back to his roots: killing mobsters. Specifically, Frank sets his sights on Ma Gnucci's huge criminal empire and methodically dismantles it with the application of extreme violence. While he's not doing that, he's living quietly in an apartment building under the name John Smith, along with a collection of other colorful characters, who befriend him, and whom he ends up befriending in turn, in his own rather moving way. There's a particularly interesting dynamic between him and the frightened, mousy Joan, which actually reminds me of the dynamic between Ballard and Mellie in Dollhouse.

I could read about the Punisher killing mobsters in various horrifically brutal, darkly humorous ways for just about forever, so that part of the story is fantastic. I particularly enjoy the sequence where he easily picks off the three assassins hired to kill him, before they've even collected their weapons. The narration is well written, too, and gives us an insight into the Punisher's rather twisted psyche, besides further underlining how incredibly bad-ass he is.

There are a couple of subplots running throughout the story: the tale of the hated and disgraced cops who are given the thankless and impossible jobs of capturing the Punisher and Ma Gnucci's gang, and the tales of the three copycat vigilantes who show up around the same time that the Punisher comes back on the scene. The vigilantes storyline is interesting because it attempts to examine where the fine line lies between crazed murderers like them and the Punisher. The cops storyline I find... less fun. Ennis has a pretty sick sense of humor, but I'm generally okay with it - until he applies it to poor, pathetic characters like detective Martin Soap and criminal psychologist Bud Plugg. Plugg's story is particularly sad, pathetic, and horrific, but it's played entirely for laughs, and worse, it's completely gratuitous. It doesn't add a thing to the story, and it just made me feel dirty reading it. It reminds me too much of R. Crumb and his whole twisted, shameful, pathetic sad-sack genre. I really wish it just wasn't here.

One of the only other things I don't like about the book is, believe it or not, the lettering, which is provided by Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Wes Abbott. Lettering is one of those things that you don't notice until it's done poorly, and sadly it is done poorly here. The font just doesn't seem right to me, and the fact that all the text is in italics throughout makes it annoying to look at.

But stuff like that aside, the series is quite funny, clever, thought-provoking, and entertaining. It mostly doesn't cross over into the greater Marvel Universe, except when Daredevil does get involved in a powerful, disturbing, and memorable sequence in which the Punisher basically picks apart DD's entire moral and ethical universe. There's also the fantastic sequence featuring a huge, comically unstoppable killer called the Russian, who talks at length about his love of superheroes. Another favorite scene of mine, although it doesn't involve superheroes, is the one in which the Punisher uses the animals at the zoo to horribly slaughter and maim his enemies. He even punches a polar bear! That's comedy.

The interior art, by penciler Steve Dillon, inker Jimmy Palmiotti, and colorist Chris Sotomayor, is quite good, and I'm very impressed by Tim Bradstreet's covers. So overall, it's a pretty fantastic book. But I remain a bit uneasy about Ennis' twisted sense of humor. I think it's mostly that that kept me from enjoying his acclaimed Preacher series, and that keeps me from being an all-out fan of his work in general.
Thumbs Up

The Wind Raider #2
I was pretty surprised that I liked #0 and #1 of this miniseries as much as I did, so I'm actually kind of reassured by the fact that in this issue, the luster is starting to wear off. I'm still impressed by Gabriel Hardman's art and his gift for visual storytelling, but the writing (provided by Richard Finney and Dean Loftis) leaves a lot to be desired. The Ki Warrior sayings are embarrassingly dumb, and the villains - Barfog in particular - just sound like idiots. There are some original ideas, but overall the story and concepts tend to be derivative and dull. I think it's time I dropped this book.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases, 4/22
Astonishing X-Men #29
I'm still not enjoying Warren Ellis' run on this title nearly as much as I thought I would. I think a large part of the problem is that I just can't get used to Simone Bianchi's surreal, stylized art; it just doesn't seem to fit the story at all. He also often draws the characters in odd poses and positions. Storywise, we're looking at an invasion by evil mutants from a parallel Earth, an invasion which Forge has apparently been trying to counter by creating his own mutants. That's a cool idea, so I'm sticking with the book for now.
Thumbs Sideways

Buck Rogers #0
This is a 25 cent preview issue of a new series rebooting the story of the titular adventurer from the past who fights evil in the future. It's... not good. The dialogue is ridiculous, the plot is pretty dull, and I generally dislike stories that begin with the hero dying. But hey, I only had to spend 25 cents to find out I don't need to collect this comic! Good stuff.
Thumbs Down

Detective Comics #853
At long last, the second and final part of Neil Gaiman's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" story is here. Batman's friends, enemies, and lovers continue to arrive at a weird imaginary wake and tell tales about different imaginary Batmen and how they died. Slowly the false stories begin to build a true portrait of the real Batman. And finally we find out where we are and what this all is. The reveal is a little disappointing, as it turns out to essentially be an "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" kind of thing. There are also some corny bits where Batman talks about what he learned from the experience. But as corny as the story gets, it's still extremely moving and effective. I was warned that I might cry reading this story, and indeed, when Bruce started saying good-bye to everything and everyone, I seriously began weeping like a baby. Ultimately this is a powerful, philosophical, and emotional eulogy to the character of Batman.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider #34
I feel like the quality of Jason Aaron's run on this series has gone up and down, but this issue is definitely a high point. I was laughing like a maniac throughout the entire thing. It's just brilliant. It opens with the origin story of a trucker who made a deal with the devil and now roams the highways lopping people's heads off and stealing their souls. He's known as the Highwayman, and is apparently a real Marvel character from back in the day. Jason Aaron brings him back for some brutal, hilarious mayhem, and for a fight with Danny Ketch, who is roaming the highways himself, aimless and hopeless, cursed to seek vengeance on evil wherever he finds it as the Ghost Rider. As far as Ketch is concerned, the only thing to look forward to now is the end of the world, and he's hoping Zadkiel will bring that about very soon. Despite Ketch's moping, this issue is pretty much pure fun, thanks to a fantastic action sequence and the wonderful character that is the Highwayman. He and his hellish 18 wheeler are well designed and look fantastic, thanks to the art of Tony Moore and the colors of Dave McCaig, and his dialogue is hilarious, thanks to Jason Aaron. Here's hoping the Highwayman returns again soon!
Thumbs Up

I Am Legion #3
I seriously need a chart of all the characters, their names, and their relationships with each other to follow this story. I spend most of every issue with my brow furrowed in confusion. Maybe if I read it all together in one go I'd be able to remember who they all were and keep it all together in my head. But I don't know. It doesn't help that some of the word bubbles in here are clearly being attributed to the wrong characters. Anyway, this issue features a secret mission to disrupt and/or destroy the Nazi project involving the little girl who can control people from afar. Actually it might not even be just the one secret mission; there might be two groups trying to stop the project. I'm not entirely clear on that. Like I said, I'm confused. But there are some exciting sequences, and John Cassaday's art is excellent as always. I might stick around for at least one more issue.
Thumbs Sideways

Ignition City #2
I was pretty bored by the first issue of this series, but things pick up a bit in this one. Mary pokes around some more and we get a better idea what kind of world her Dad was living in and what kind of twisted, broken people populate it. We also get to know her a little better; she's really quite experienced and clever. The mystery deepens and so does the danger, and there's also some pretty funny dialogue. I think I'm officially hooked.
Thumbs Up

The Incredible Hercules #128
This is one of those series that I read and complained about for a long time before finally dropping it, and that I still keep coming back to every once in a while. The reason I couldn't resist this particular issue is because it's a "Dark Reign" tie-in that sees our heroes facing off against not only a bunch of evil Olympians, but also the Dark Avengers themselves. It's a ton of fun. There's plenty of action and comedy, and some pretty clever plot twists. I love the ridiculously silly, onomatopoetic sound effect words, like "N-TU-DASUNNN!" and "BRAKKAFACE!" I love Hercules facing off against Venom, quickly realizing he's not Spider-Man, and then spending the rest of the fight trying to get Venom's mouth off of his hand. I like all the tie-ins with stories out of ancient Greek mythology. And I freaking love Bullseye. That guy is hilarious. I even like the way authors Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente write the Sentry. Sure, he ends up getting beat by Herc, but that's because, as Herc points out, he's not fighting like he means it - he's afraid to use his full power. That's the Sentry I know. I like the byplay among Herc, Cho, and Athena, and the sequence where they sink the cruise ship and thus force the Avengers to stop fighting in order to act like the heroes they're really not. I love Osborn's line: "The boy Cho is utterly calculating and devious. Next time I'm going to offer him a job." I'm a little confused by the thing at the end with the woman who's obsessed with Herc, but that might make more sense if I read previous issues.

Obviously this issue tempts me to start collecting this comic again, but maybe I'll limit myself to picking it up only when it sounds particularly interesting.
Thumbs Up

Jack of Fables #33
"The Great Fables Crossover" begins in earnest in this issue, as Bigby and Snow show up at the diner where Jack and the others are all hanging out; Bigby and Jack end up getting in a fight; and not only does Bigby win, he even steals Jack's sidekick. Meanwhile, Jack Frost comes into his own somehow or other, for some reason (that seems to be connected to a past storyline I'm not familiar with), and Kevin Thorn begins practicing for a major rewrite of reality by doing horrible things to random people. This book has always been happy to do crazy postmodern things and break the fourth wall, so it's not particularly surprising when, in the final panel, Jack says, "I'm headed back to the real Fables book, where I've always belonged! And I'm taking my favorite artist with me!"

There are some amusing scenes in here - like the disturbing transformation that occurs when Thorn rewrites reality, and Babe's story, which this month involves a barbarian of the northern wastes strewing corpses in a particular way. And as usual, I like the art (Jack has good taste). But I find myself a bit bored by the issue as a whole. I mean, nothing really happens, does it?
Thumbs Sideways

The New Avengers #52
Okay, I am officially tired of the way Brian Michael Bendis writes dialogue. The verbosity, the little asides, the slang, the faux realistic pauses, the repetitions - it was all cute at first. But now it's just annoying. And it ends up turning pretty much every character in a smarmy jackass. I particularly dislike the monologue from the Son of Satan at the end of the issue, even though it does sort of tangentially bring Patsy Walker into the story (whom I like). I'm fascinated by the story here, and I like the art (which is provided by a huge gang of people this issue for some reason), but I'm just not sure I can put up with Bendis' writing anymore.
Thumbs Down

No Hero #5
I enjoy the character of Carrick and his dialogue very much. He's cursing left, right, up, and down as this issue starts, frustrated with how his organization seems to be getting attacked from all sides by all its old enemies. Meanwhile, it's time to send Revere out into the world again so people can get a look at him, and so the Front Line can show it's not afraid. Revere even gets a chance to look like a real hero in the eyes of the city - but horrifically, at the end of the issue we learn that the entire near tragedy has been staged at Carrick's orders for publicity purposes. The dark underbelly of the Front Line is really starting to show now. Revere's reaction is to simply say, "Guess I'm a real hero now. Thanks." It's hard to tell if he's serious or not. Has he completely thrown away his principles in his single-minded quest to be a hero - and thus, by becoming one, actually become its opposite - or has he just cracked completely now? I'm really fascinated to see where this goes next.
Thumbs Up

Scalped #28
The last couple of issues were each a portrait of a single character, and offered only small advancements of the overall story, but in this issue we get back to that story in a big, big way. The twin mysteries of who murdered those two FBI agents all those years ago, and who murdered Gina Bad Horse more recently, are all of the sudden solved (or at least, we as readers now know the culprit, even if few of the other characters do). And the solution is quite shocking. Meanwhile, Officer Falls Down is back and has been put on the case of the exotic dancer the grifter from a few issues ago killed in his hotel room. Unfortunately he's been paired with Agent Newsome, Nitz's asshole partner. The two of them have a nasty little argument that's a joy to read. In the midst of their conversation, Newsome mentions "what happened at the casino a couple nights ago," no doubt referring to when the grifter tried to blackmail Officer Bad Horse into helping him rob the place. But he doesn't say any more about it, so we'll have to wait for a future issue to fill us in on how that all went down. Damn it. In the end, Catcher makes a surprising vow to save Officer Bad Horse, although how he intends to do that, or what he thinks "saving" means, is a little unclear.

I was a bit disappointed with the previous issue, but this one is a big improvement, in terms of both story and art (series regular R.M. Guera is back on the job, thank God). Things are really starting to come together!
Thumbs Up

Skrull Kill Krew #1
I enjoyed the preview issue of this that came out some months ago, so I've been waiting for the series proper to start. The first issue is just as amusing and surreal as the zero issue. It opens with a very funny sum-up of recent Skrull history, from the point of view of a Skrull being killed by the book's main character: Ryder, a one-man, shape-shifting, Skrull-killing machine. Then we cut to a group of Skrulls living secretly in the middle of the city, apparently descended from a half-Skrull, half-cow hybrid, dating back to that time Reed Richards forced a bunch of Skrulls to turn into cows and stay that way. Which is a damn crazy story, but not even as crazy as the origin of the Skrull Kill Krew - a bunch of folks who ate the meat of those Skrull cows and thus got mutated. (Apparently the original Skrull Kill Krew miniseries was written by Grant Morrison, which is why it's such a twisted, crazy story. I'm definitely going to have to check that out.) Anyway, the cow/Skrull hybrids are hanging out, doing bad Thor impersonations, and slaughtering drunk humans. Ryder turns the tables on them, slaughtering them all, and then gets a friend at H.A.M.M.E.R. to test their blood. She also tests Ryder's blood, however, and discovers something unsettling about his true nature.

Interesting stuff! And like I said, quite funny. I'll probably end up collecting the entire mini, since it's only five issues long.
Thumbs Up

Star Wars: Dark Times #13
I don't get a chance to check MySpace.com/DarkHorsePresents very often. But when I saw that this issue of Dark Times - the first in some months - had a prologue that was free to read on that website, I knew it was time to give it another look. Besides reading the prologue, which was very good, with excellent art, I also got to check out Joss Whedon's hilariously imaginative and insanely stream-of-consciousness Sugarshock, which is a ton of fun.

Anyways, as for the comic itself, it features Vader finally returning to the Emperor after the disastrous events of Vector, worried that Palpatine might have somehow found out about the plotting Vader was doing behind his master's back. His suspicions are not assuaged when the Emperor sends him away on another mission clearly just to get him out of the way, and mentions a plan set in motion to deal with surviving Jedi - a plan that Vader will apparently not be a part of. Very interesting! I love seeing this other side of these two characters - the intrigue, the scheming.

Meanwhile, Jedi Dass Jennir is surviving by working as a mercenary, and decides to take a job offer from a beautiful woman to save a small world from violent gangs, but discovers when he gets there the job is not exactly how the woman described it. In fact, the story appears to be an interesting mixture of a film noir (femme fatale and all) and Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars. So it's a little derivative, but it's derivative of stuff I love. Plus there's a couple of fantastic action scenes, and the dialogue is great; I particularly like the way Jennir's droid is constantly mentioning the fact that Jennir killed his previous master. It's a little contrived that on this world they follow a code of honor that requires everyone to fight with swords, but I'm willing to accept it; I like sword fighting!

After I tried out most of the Star Wars comics, I settled on this one as the best, and it hasn't let me down yet. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this new storyline (which is entitled, by the way, "Blue Harvest" - a reference I appreciate).
Thumbs Up

Wolverine: The Anniversary #1
I hadn't planned to get this comic - in fact, I didn't remember seeing it on the release list, and was surprised to find it on the shelf - but I have a hard time resisting comics about Wolverine, even anthology one-shots, which tend to be pretty uneven. Plus, that title, "The Anniversary," made me think it was an important book. In fact, it's barely an anthology - it contains one long story, followed by one very short story - and it's not particularly important as far as comic stories go. But it is surprisingly good.

The long story is, in fact, called "The Anniversary," and it's written by William Harms with art by Jefte Palo and colors by Lee Loughridge. It's about Wolverine flying to Japan to pay his respects to his lover Mariko on the anniversary of her death. But the plane he's on just happens to be hijacked by terrorists. This does not make him happy. I really enjoy the art, and you can't go wrong with a story about Wolverine making mincemeat out of terrorists, especially with the added drama of his painful memories of Mariko's death driving him on to revenge. There's also a nice irony in the way Wolverine ultimately tracks down the man responsible.

The short story is "Ghosts," written by Jonathan Maberry with art by Tomm Coker and colors by Daniel Freedman, and it's also concerned with the death of Mariko, and with how Wolverine's life is so nightmarish, and so haunted by those he's lost. It's a bit surreal, and tries to gray out the line between waking and sleeping, between life and death. Wolverine's narration is a little melodramatic, but it's still a pretty neat story, and the art is quite impressive.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Garth Ennis (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Punisher (Not), Scalped (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Saturday, February 7, 2009 10:23 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.

This covers new releases from the week of 1/28, plus a hardcover collection and a TPB.

Back issues and old data
Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Volume 2
This is a hardcover book that I got for Christmas which tells the rest of the story of the Sinestro Corps War (my review of Volume 1 can be found here). Well, most of the rest of the story, anyway. It's clear from various references made in this book that various tie-in stories were not included in these volumes, which is a little disappointing. Still, all the major plot points and big fights seem to be here.

This volume opens with pretty much the largest scale battle I've ever seen: living planets fighting each other, with huge armies of Green and Yellow Lanterns joining in. Sodam Yat is part of one group of Lanterns infiltrating Ranx, the Sinestro Corps' living planet, and he keeps trying to take over and give orders. Some prophecy says he'll be really important to the Green Lantern Corps in the future, and this book spends some time trying to develop him further, but he still ends up a mostly bland, annoying character. I was fascinated to learn that he's essentially a Kryptonian (really a Daxamite), which means he gets Superman's powers when under the light of a yellow sun. But when Superboy Prime describes him as "Superman-Lite with a power ring," he couldn't be more right.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. In the midst of the battle for Mogo, the Guardians decide things aren't going well and it's time to make their first major revision to the Book of Oa: they enable the use of lethal force. It's a huge and important step and, as we'll learn later, it's all Sinestro really wanted out of this war. It leads to a lot more carnage in a book that was already pretty bloody. The Lanterns start making a lot of big, green, glowy guns and swords and blowing Sinestro Corps members to bits with them. There's no question that it turns the tide of the battle (although interestingly some of the Lanterns still refuse to kill). In a particularly disturbing use of the new lethal force doctrine, Salaak captures one of the creepy suicidal kids and incinerates him. Wow.

Yat seems convinced he just can't die, and indeed he does not, even after being at the center of a huge explosion that destroys Ranx. Guess there's a yellow sun nearby?

But now that that battle's over, it's time to cut to the actual major Sinestro Corps assault: the invasion of Earth. And they've poured everything into this - the Warworld, Superboy Prime, Sinestro, Cyborg Superman and his Manhunters, Parallax, and pretty much everybody else in the Corps go crashing down to Earth and start wreaking havoc. I love the way Hal goes zooming back to his brother's place as soon as he learns Parallax is there, and then charges right into him. Sure, it's exactly what Sinestro wanted him to do, but it's still bad-ass. I also like that when Cyborg Superman tells Superman, "You can't kill me," Superman responds, "To be honest, Henshaw, I've never tried." Heh heh. Then when Superboy Prime jumps into the middle of things, he announces himself by saying, "I'm baaAaack. Jerks." I love the way he calls people jerks. He cracks me up.

Even though it's a little corny the way Hal talks Kyle into coming back out of Parallax, it's also a moving moment that's well illustrated. It's interesting that Ganthet and Sayd choose to cut Parallax up and seal the bits up into the four power batteries of the Green Lanterns from Earth. That seems like a dangerous move that could come back to bite them in the ass later. But what do I know. Another moving moment comes when the four Musketeers recharge their rings and get ready to kick some ass. (It's also pretty funny, and totally in-character, that Guy Gardner put a University of Michigan sticker on the side of his power battery.)

Btw, I feel I should mention here, although I like Kilowog, and I like the way he calls people "poozers," it's just possible that he uses that word a little too much. It seems like every writer in this book felt an obligation to have him say "poozers" every page he appeared on. Maybe dial it back a bit, guys! Regardless, it amused me a great deal that Arkillo and Kilowog's fight took them inside the San Diego Comic Con.

Next up, the Corps is called to NYC to take on the bulk of Sinestro's forces, including his biggest weapon: the Anti-Monitor. Sodam Yat rather foolishly attacks the Anti-Monitor head on multiple times, somehow surviving, although only barely. Thankfully the Guardians show up at that moment to fuse Yat with the power of Ion, making him the Corps' greatest weapon. He then faces off against Superboy Prime in a fight that takes up an entire issue. It should theoretically be a really good issue, too, but unfortunately it's written by Peter J. Tomasi, whose talents are uneven at best. Tomasi chooses to fill the fight with many gigantic narration boxes, wherein Sodam Yat goes on and on about how he's feeling and what he's doing and what it all means to him and blah blah blah. It's pretty bad. In between scenes from the fight, we get flashbacks that finally fill in a little of the backstory of Sodam Yat's character. Which is interesting, and good to know, but even that story is a bit lame and melodramatic. Still, it's not all bad. It's an exciting fight, and the art, by Patrick Gleason and Jamal Igle, with inks by Prentis Rollins and Jerry Ordway, and color by Guy Major, is quite excellent. After Prime is done giving Yat a thorough beating, we move on to the extra-long, epic conclusion to the war. To really get the feel for how insanely huge this war is, the issue opens with a couple of gigantic two-page splashes absolutely loaded to bursting with members of the Green Lantern Corps, the Sinestro Corps, and the Justice League, all fighting like crazy. There's some great little visual references in the background here, too; in the first two-page splash, there's one Yellow Lantern who's clearly based on a Predator, and another who's clearly based on an Alien from the Alien movies. Anyway, I won't go into too much detail on this particular issue, as I actually already reviewed it in a previous edition of The Take. My assessment of it has changed somewhat in the intervening months, however. I actually enjoy it a lot more now. I was more willing to accept Sinestro's motives in the war, after reading the entire story, and more willing to accept the immediate revival of all the villains. It's also really neat to look at the two-page spread predicting the gigantic war amongst all the corps and see a bunch of things that have since come to fruition. There's Atrocitus dressed as a Red Lantern; there's Saint Walker, the Blue Lantern; there are the Star Sapphires. The writers were really planning ahead here! And man is it bad-ass how the Lanterns take out the Anti-Monitor, Cyborg Superman, and Prime. It's neat also to see the rise of the Blue and Black Lanterns again, after seeing what the Blue Lanterns have been doing lately, and knowing that the Black Lanterns are going to start taking a hand in things soon.

The final story in the book is an epilogue by Peter J. Tomasi wherein we see how various Green Lanterns are dealing with the aftermath of the war. One of the more moving scenes here centers on a Lantern who is sitting in a bar saying the name of each and every fallen Lantern. The rebuilding of the Statue of Liberty, followed by a buddy-buddy conversation between Guy and Kyle, is a little corny, but reasonably effective. And I like Patrick Gleason's art.

The last thing in the book is an interesting and informative interview with a bunch of the writers and artists involved in Sinestro Corps War, wherein they talk about the making of the story and what's coming next.

Overall, a good book, and probably one of DC's best giant crossover stories.
Thumbs Up

Strange Killings: The Body Orchard
I've slowly been catching up on the past history of combat magician Bill Gravel via trades. This one is my most recent acquisition. Unfortunately, Mike Wolfer is on art duties throughout (I continue to find his work really amateurish), but Ellis is on writing duties, so it's not all bad.

The story opens with Gravel being seen by the police in the midst of performing another of his secret, private assassination missions, which he does between official missions for the British government. So he decides to lie low until he can deposit some cash he acquired during the mission. But then he stumbles into the middle of somebody else's secret mission. It's his old SAS team, and they're taking out a just-elected Mayor of New York. But why? And how did they learn all the magic they so ably make use of during their mission? And why do they try to kill Gravel when they recognize him? Curious and seriously pissed, Bill decides to find out the answers to these questions. He ends up fighting it out not only against the four men in his old SAS team (who are amateur magicians, but magicians nonetheless), but also against practically the entire NYPD, who blame him for the assassination of the mayor. When he tries to get help from his bosses back at HQ, he realizes they're out to get him, too. It's not a good day for Bill Gravel.

Eventually he follows his team into a strange, mystical realm known as the Body Orchard, where it's possible to grow weapons. We also get to see a flashback to a mission he went on with the SAS team in which they learned he was a magician, and got to see him duke it out with another magician. Back in the present, Gravel gets caught by the NYPD, fights his way out, and then follows his old team to the Pentagon, where they're killing everything that moves. He ultimately stops them by crashing a jet into the Pentagon. Yeah, Ellis went there. Maybe it was meant to be some kind of parallel universe explanation for the events of 9/11? Regardless, it's pretty twisted and offensive.

But then, Gravel's stories always are. This one is just a little more so, thanks in large part to the fact that many of the people he's blowing up and tearing apart this time are essentially innocents. Sure, the NYPD shoot at him, try to capture and imprison him, and later try to beat information out of him - but most of their actions are understandable, given what they know of Gravel. They think they're doing the right thing, going after the bad guy. Later it becomes clear that some of them are just being manipulated by Gravel's own superiors. Knowing all this, does Gravel perhaps take it easy on them? Just break their legs, instead of tearing their skin off? Nah. In fact, if anything, the stuff he does to them becomes more and more gruesome as the conflict goes on. It's pretty horrific.

Gravel's never been the kind of guy to pull punches, and he's never been particularly likable. But at least in the past when he was ripping people's eyeballs out and making them throw up their own guts, his victims were undeniably horrible people who deserved whatever they got. It's a little harder to watch him do the same stuff to policemen, some of whom are just passing by and don't even know what's going on.

I can't say I'm all that shocked and horrified. Like I said, we're talking Warren Ellis and Bill Gravel here. But I certainly didn't enjoy this book as much as the more recent adventures of Mr. Gravel.

It's not going to keep me from buying the next trade, though. The ending of this volume seems to suggest that the next story will be about Gravel going after his superiors in the British government, so that should be interesting.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases
Captain America #46
We open up here with Bucky and Namor flying to the rescue of the original Human Torch in an old jet of Namor's. It's just like old times! Namor acts like a dick, as always, but Bucky reads him well enough to know he approves, in his own way, of Bucky taking on the mantle of Captain America, and that he's just as determined as Bucky to save the Torch. A flashback reveals the evil Professor has been fascinated by the Human Torch since he first saw him, many years ago. Meanwhile, Black Widow, in the process of getting the info Cap and Namor need to track the Professor down, figures out that the Winter Soldier is wanted for crimes against the state of China for killing the Professor's wife during his last escape. D'oh.

It's great to see Namor and Cap together again, and on a mission to save the Human Torch, no less. And I always enjoy Namor when he's written well, and Brubaker captures his character perfectly here. It's not an incredibly exciting issue - but then, very few issues of Captain America do excite me all that much, what with the endlessly dark and muted color palette and the story that never comes to any real conclusions. But we do seem to be headed somewhere interesting this time, so I'm staying with it.
Thumbs Sideways

Final Crisis #7
At long last, Final Crisis comes to an end. Sort of, anyway; not all of the tie-in miniseries are over yet. But this is definitely the last issue of the main miniseries, and I have to admit, it's pretty impressive. I particularly enjoyed the opening, which picks up in an alternate universe where an intelligent black President shuts himself in the Oval Office of the White House and removes his shirt to reveal Superman's "S" on his chest (although his is yellow on red instead of red on yellow). It's Super Barack Obama! Sort of. He and the Wonder Woman of his universe (whose name is Nubia) answer a distress call and discover that the Yellow Submarine from Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D has swum through the bleed into their world. Turns out all the Supermen of the multiverse are being called together again as a last ditch, life-or-death effort. Meanwhile, all that's left of Earth in our Superman's universe is the Watchtower. Everything else has been taken over by Darkseid. Lois Lane, we learn, has written the story of Final Crisis - "the story of all our stories" - into the final edition of the Daily Planet. That story, along with a few other mementos, is loaded into a rocket ship and fired off from the doomed world, in the hopes that someone, somewhere will find it. Sound familiar? It's Superman's story, again. The story at the heart of everything. The story of stories. Fantastic.

Meanwhile, we cut back to Superman facing off against the mortally wounded Darkseid, who points out that since he is now everything there is, when he dies, everything else will, too. He then fires the poisoned bullet back in time to kill Orion. He's only able to take Orion by surprise and kill him this way because at this point in time, Orion no longer exists. Swallow that paradox!

It's at this point that Wally and Barry Allen arrive with the Black Flash in tow and bowl Darkseid over, running death right into him. It's pretty awesome, even if it doesn't make all that much sense. I mean, isn't Darkseid already dying? Don't we not want to finish killing him just yet? Because it'll, like, destroy all reality and stuff?

Then we find out what the deal was with that God Machine that turns will into reality at the end of last issue. Turns out Superman didn't use it, he just looked at it, and memorized every part of it. Now he asks for everyone's help (even Lex Luthor and Sivana) to build it. I love the conversation between Lex and Sivana about it. Lex: "This looks to me like something capable of rewriting the laws of physics." Sivana: "Meh."

Checkmate's last ditch plan to move the Earth to another Earth seems to have gone disastrously awry. I think. I didn't quite follow that part. The story jumps back and forth through time and space so much, and shows you things in such quick flashes, that it's really hard to grasp all the details. Supergirl puts it best: "I don't think I've ever felt anything so strange... like it's all broken up from one minute to the next..." But it looks like Frankenstein (uh, where the hell did he come from?!?), Lex, and the supervillains switched sides and helped Superman win out against Darkseid. Wonder Woman was finally able to overcome the mind control and lasso Darkseid's body, I guess to keep him alive and disabled long enough for them to try to save the multiverse. After that, the surviving members of the human race were somehow shrunk down and preserved in a freezer (wha?). After completing the God Machine, Superman finally finishes off Darkseid by singing a countersong to Darkseid's vibrations of evil, or something. This, of course, ends everything. As it's all falling apart, Superman finds the final magic ingredient for the God Machine. But then Mandrakk shows up with the vampire Superman! When Mandrakk said he'd be back at the end of Superman Beyond, I assumed he meant he'd be back in the next Crisis, but apparently he was talking more short term! Anyway, Superman manages to activate the God Machine despite Mandrakk, but what he does with it is not explained until later. There's a ridiculously insane showdown, where freaking everybody shows up for a final face-off against Mandrakk - I'm talking all the Supermen of the multiverse (whose arrival is heralded by our own Superman saying, "Look, up in the sky" - awesome), a bunch of Green Lanterns, a Monitor, the Army of God, the forever people of the 5th World, and even the super animals from the old funny animal comics. Holy crap, dude! Morrison seems to throw in the funny animal guys seemingly as an afterthought, or because he was obligated to (it's been sort of a tradition since the first Crisis that every character owned by DC has to be involved somehow). Thankfully they don't do or say anything; they just kind of show up and then Morrison keeps going. "And... these guys, too! Okay, moving on..." Anyway, at that point, Morrison had me going to the extent that I was ready to let him do anything, even pull in the funny animals. And after all, on the page opposite the one in which he introduces those characters, he shows us a bunch of Green Lanterns teaming up and using the last of their power to drive a giant glowing green stake through the heart of the final enemy of reality, and that's pretty damn hot stuff right there.

We cut from the victory scene to the hall of Monitors, where Nix Uotan is giving his report. He says some really inspiring things about humanity, and concludes that it's time for the Monitors to cease all contact with the multiverse and become nameless and faceless again, for the sake of everyone and everything. There's also some interesting stuff about how a new creation was brought about by Darkseid's death, and how the Monitors cleaned up after the Crisis by pretty much rebuilding the multiverse, and correcting all the remaining time anomalies (by which I guess he means DCU continuity!). As the Monitors are being removed from reality, their story ending, Nix Uotan reveals finally what Superman wished for with the God Machine: a happy ending. And maybe even Nix Uotan gets one, as someone looking quite a lot like him seems to awaken immediately afterwards on Earth, as a human. I think? Then we jump to some other time and place, where an old man (referred to as "old man") has found the rocket launched earlier, containing the story of Final Crisis. Old man seems very important and final somehow, but who he is exactly is unclear to me. He dies, but there's another man in the cave with him, a man who looks quite a bit like Bruce Wayne. As he begins drawing a bat symbol on the cave wall, a narrative box informs us that "the fire burns forever."

Yeah, I'm pretty confused. But I'm also pretty blown away. Despite the fact that this series has been jumbled and puzzling, it's also been beautifully written and extremely moving and effective. Even if I didn't understand it all the time, I always had the sense there was a wise and intelligent storyteller behind it, and that even if he wasn't always clear, he was always artful. And there are so many astounding ideas in here, and so many wonderful things said about stories, and storytelling, and humanity. And I love that it ends on a hopeful note, and with a glimpse of Batman, and the clear sense that he's not really gone, and that great stories never die.

Final Crisis is truly an amazing piece of work. Grant Morrison, I salute you!
Thumbs Up

Fringe #2
The first issue of this miniseries, which ties in with the TV show, came out a long time ago, and I bought it and enjoyed it. Then I read that they'd resolicited the rest of the series for a much later date. I'm not sure why. Anyway, here's the second issue finally, and as it turns out, it was worth the wait. This series is way better than it has any right to be. First up is the second part of the main story, "Bell and Bishop," which tells the past history of William Bell and Walter Bishop - how they met, and what they did in that lab in Cambridge for all those years. I like that the comic is getting to tell what is actually some pretty important backstory. Anyway, as Bell and Bishop are toiling away in the lab, a mysterious man named R. Bradbury (ha!) shows up, claiming he's from a soap company and offering them unlimited resources to continue their experiments for said company. They get a tour of the company's facilities in Alaska and they're pretty impressive. When Bishop says, "This is some kind of secret weapons lab, isn't it? The soap is just a front," Bradbury responds, "Not at all. We have a very successful consumer products division. Trust me, gentlemen... we make excellent soap." And "Excellent Soap" is the title of this story. Great stuff! It's in this Alaska facility that Dr. Bishop meets a woman named Dr. Rachel Matheson. They hit it off immediately, thanks in part to the fact that he saves her from a giant monster. But things get a little complicated when Bell and Bishop stumble upon a room full of heads in jars.

The backup story is called "Strangers on a Train," and it's a fantastic little oneshot involving time travel that I really enjoyed. It's rather like an episode of Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone. And the guy in it just happens to work for the same soap company mentioned in the main story.

I'm really impressed with the quality of this miniseries, especially considering it's just a tie-in with a TV show. Looking forward to the next issue!
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch #4
In the course of Danny going out again and again on raids, trying to find Verminus Rex, he once more becomes thoroughly addicted to the power of the Ghost Rider. To the extent that when his friend the witch finds him again and tries to talk some sense into him, it's already too late. He chooses to leave her once again to go with Eleven, who orders him to suck up a Ghost Rider's powers - for her own good, of course. Then he reveals that "the boss" is an angel, and he has a job for Danny: leech the power out of all the other Ghost Riders. After defeating Verminus Rex, of course. But Rex is not so easy to beat. Danny needs full access to the Ghost Rider power if he's to do it. And that's what he finally gets. No doubt it's all part of Zadkiel's plan. The next issue is the last of this miniseries, so it should include Ketch's final showdown with Rex, as well as his first step on the quest that will lead him to the showdown with Johnny that's occurring now in the pages of Ghost Rider.

Pretty good issue! Author Simon Spurrier is actually doing a creditable job of showing how Danny could have ended up where he is now, killing Ghost Riders for a rebel angel. It's all about his addiction to the power, an addiction that Spurrier and artist Javier Saltares depict in brutal, realistic detail.
Thumbs Up

Jack of Fables #30
Gary finally flips out at the beginning of this issue and really uses his power, causing the very walls, trees, and buildings of the Golden Boughs to rise up and fight. It all gets pretty epic! Meanwhile, Revise explains to Jack how and why he began revising Fables, and the relationships and history among Gary, Kevin, Revise, and Bookburner all start to make more sense. One of the best parts of the issue, however, is when the Fables get to read their original, unbowdlerized stories, thus getting back all their true power and viciousness. Unfortunately, at the end of the issue, it looks like Gary gets whacked, which would be a sad thing indeed. Hopefully we will learn in the next issue that that is not the case. Regardless, you can't call a comic anything but fun that includes the line, "Everybody read for your lives!"
Thumbs Up

The New Avengers #49
This issue surprised me, and actually kind of disappointed me, too. I had assumed the subplot about Luke Cage's kid being kidnapped, and Cage joining with Osborn in order to find the child, would be a long term thing with lasting consequences. But it's all resolved right here in this issue. Or at least, it seems to be. Maybe I'm underestimating Brian Michael Bendis, and there's more of this story still to come. I'm worried, for instance, that the baby Cage got back might not actually be his baby. We'll see what happens.

It's interesting that we end up feeling bad for the Jarvis Skrull. That's something I didn't expect to happen. And even though I'm a little disappointed that Cage got out of his commitment to Osborn almost immediately (a deal with the devil with no consequences is not particularly horrifying), I have to say, I really did enjoy seeing him whack the shit out of Bullseye and Venom with the Wrecker's magic crowbar. His exit was pretty impressive, too. I also liked Captain America's reaction to having a baby in his hideout. "I've never been this close to a baby before." And speaking of reactions, Clint's reaction to seeing the unveiling of the Dark Avengers, featuring Bullseye as Hawkeye, was pretty much as I expected. He gets really pissed and decides they should just go right over there and kick butt. "Because he dressed up like you?" Iron Fist asks. "No," Clint responds. Then, "Yes!" (I like that Captain America's reaction is, "Well, that's just obnoxious.") Clint's plan is probably not the best one, but the other guys all seem to agree with him and go with it. The little preview tagline promises that next issue will be a double-sized fiftieth anniversary issue, and that it will feature an "Avengers battle royale." Sounds good to me!

Despite the bit with Luke Cage that kind of disappointed me, I really did enjoy this issue, and I'm very much looking forward to the next one. I've been pretending like I'm just buying this comic on an issue by issue basis, but I think eventually I'm just going to have to give in and admit that I'm collecting it.

Oh, and by the way, this comic, along with many other Marvel comics of the past week or two, includes a preview in the back for the new Black Panther series. Looks like it's pretty well done, but it also looks like they're going to kill off T'Challa, and that's something I'm not sure I can condone.
Thumbs Up

Punisher: War Zone #6
I'm sad to say the final issue of this fantastic miniseries disappointed me a little bit. Maybe the fact that I'd seen that Chris Sims picked it as his best of the week on the Invincible Super-Blog before I read it put my expectations up too high. I don't know. I mean, Garth Ennis did deliver an insane gun battle involving the Punisher and a lesbian in her underwear mowing down an entire army of mobsters; a happily-ever-after ending for poor old Schitti and his pumpkin; and a brutal and ignominious defeat for the pathetic new Elite. But something about it just hit me the wrong way. Maybe it's the way poor von Richthofen gets treated. I don't know. Anyway, it's not like I hated it. It's still an entertaining comic. Just not as good as I was hoping.
Thumbs Sideways

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #3
The insanity continues! As Seance is being tortured by the horrifying and hilarious Cha-Cha and Hazel, he manages to contact Spaceboy through the TV. But it's kind of too late by then, as the boys have already gotten the location of some nukes out of Seance, so they just shoot him in the head. At which point he finds himself in an odd kind of heaven with a cowboy God, who decides to send him back to Earth. Meanwhile, Number 5 finally explains to Rumor the true story of where he was all the time he was away and why a bunch of weirdos are after him. Turns out I was kind of right about the reason, only it's not that he saved JFK, it's that he refused to kill him. Through surgery and training, Number 5 has been transformed into the perfect assassin - an agent for fixing anomalies in the timeline. JFK was his final and most important assignment, but he ran out on it. Now he's being forced to come back. Oh, and it looks like maybe Spaceboy's dead. D'oh!

Another fantastic issue, loaded with brilliant ideas and completely unexpected twists. I also enjoyed Cha-Cha's Aliens reference ("It's the only way to be sure"). Good old Umbrella Academy.
Thumbs Up

The Wind Raider #1
The zero issue preview of this series convinced me to give it a try, and I have to say I remain impressed and surprised. It's actually pretty good! Gabriel Hardman's art (with colors by Micah Farritor) is beautiful - he has a gift for visual storytelling - and creators/authors Richard Finney and Dean Loftis have taken some imaginative ideas and turned them into an intriguing tale about some interesting characters. A little boy named Joshua strikes it rich for his family by finding a piece of valuable rock out in the desert, but some nasty fellows will do anything to find out where he got it - including track him down and attack his family. Joshua gives his life to try to save his father from them, but in vain. The lead criminal kidnaps Joshua's sister and takes off, but a Ki Warrior takes out the other criminals and brings Joshua back to life.

This is really just an introduction to the story, so it's hard to tell yet where this thing is going to go, and if it's going to remain as interesting as it has been so far, but I'll be sticking with it for now.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Fringe (Not), Garth Ennis (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Punisher (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not)
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Saturday, December 27, 2008 12:01 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.

This covers new releases from the week of 12/17, plus a trade paperback poppy found for me at the library.

Back issues and old data
Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities
Poppy knows I like Eric Powell, so when she found this TPB with his name in the credits, she snapped it up for me. She's nice like that. The book, it turns out, is strange indeed. Powell wrote it and colored it, but Kyle Hotz provided the art. It opens with a news article about the killing of Billy the Kid, then introduces us to our main character as he's having a nightmarish flashback to his horrific childhood. He awakes suddenly on a train. Turns out Billy wasn't actually killed the way everyone thought. Someone else died in his stead, and he's gone underground, under an assumed name. The freakish man sitting across from Billy on the train (Fineas Sproule, who has more than the usual number of arms) reveals that he knows his traveling companion's true identity, but that he's willing to keep it a secret if Billy will help him with a certain undertaking. Billy isn't doing much else, and doesn't have much of a choice, so he agrees. Fineas introduces him to the other members of his traveling "biological curiosities" show, and reveals the outlines of the plan: they are to infiltrate the castle of one Frankenstein (yes, that one) and steal from him a legendary jewel known as the Golem's Heart. But there's more to the adventure than they're revealing to Billy, and it turns out to be more costly than any of them expected.

As one might expect from a story by Powell, this book is extremely twisted and violent, and it's full of freaks and monsters. Billy's childhood consisted of his hooker mother stuffing him in a box whenever her gentleman callers came over. This naturally left him a deeply scarred individual. Actually, he's a scumbag and a bastard. You can sort of sympathize with him in certain parts of the book, but it's pretty hard to actually like him. The freaks he takes up with are more likable, but the story is over before they get anything more than a cursory characterization; they're mostly stereotypes. The sequence in Frankenstein's castle is horrific, bloody, and disturbing, but makes for some pretty exciting reading. In the end, Billy has become a marginally better person - but only marginally.

I love the premise of this book (a secretly still-alive Billy the Kid helping the performers in a freak show to break into Frankenstein's castle), and it turns out to be a pretty interesting story, with good art. But it also had the potential to be much, much better than it is.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases
The Age of the Sentry #4
This issue starts out by extending the series' loving parody of the comics of the past even further back in time with a story called "The Golden-Age Sentry." In this story, the Sentry's recurring enemy, Cranio, steals a time machine and starts screwing around in the past. His meddling actually brings about the origin of Harrison Oogar, the Caveman of Wall Street. He also opens up a rift between worlds, allowing a Golden Age Sentry to cross over. So back in the present, there are now two Sentries: the one we know, and another one from an earlier age, with different slang, a different sensibility, a different secret identity, and even a different origin! While the Silver Age Sentry's origin involves science and an experimental serum, the Golden Age Sentry's involves magic (he doesn't get to tell the whole story, but it sounds a lot like the origin of DC's Captain Marvel). Which is of course the usual difference between Golden Age and Silver Age origins. Plus the Golden Age Sentry is secretly Ed Eckles (there are those double E's again - is somebody trying to tell the Sentry something?), an apple industry millionaire and playboy. This is again familiar, as Golden Age characters were almost always millionaires and playboys (although they were rarely in the apple industry... heh). Also, in a particularly knowing and hilarious sequence, we learn that the Golden Age Sentry (like the Golden Age Batman) used a gun! "No need for me to get in close when my pal Colt .45 can do the talking for me! ...I learned back in the Big One, you never know when a gun will come in handy!" Awesome. Golden Age Sentry also takes to calling Silver Age Sentry "Sentry 2," in a sly reference to the Earth One and Earth Two Supermen. Being number two kind of upsets Silver Age Sentry, as does the thing with the gun, but he deals with it. There's also a great scene where Golden Age Sentry mistakes some beatniks for criminals and starts punching them. Eventually the two Sentries pull a fun trick and send the Golden Age Sentry back to his own world. Then there's an amusing and slightly unsettling foreshadowing of things to come ("Years in the future people might be surprised that you're a real hero in this age!"). Before the conclusion, however, there's a weird moment when Cranio says he has to tell the Sentry the truth - but then he vanishes. This scene will be continued, sort of, in the next story: "All You Need Is Sentry." But before that starts, there's another of those quick frame story interludes where we see a father telling all these stories to his son. Only now the identity of the father and son is finally revealed: it's Reed Richards and Franklin Richards. At least, that sure looks like Reed, with that white streak in his hair.

The next story features a version of the Beatles called the Crick-Hits - there's even a list of goofy new versions of Beatles song titles, and a parody of the Sgt. Pepper's album cover. The story opens with the Sentry-Siren going off. "The signal is audible only to me!" says the Sentry. "Well, me and dogs. Sorry about that Fido!" Heh. Anyway, it turns out the emergency is that a subway train carrying the Crick-Hits has disappeared - a tragedy which causes the Sentry to exclaim: "Dang! Oh, sorry about my language, ma'am." The woman he's speaking to, who's standing nearby, responds, "No offense taken," but she's thinking, "Gosh! The Sentry! He's so passionate and forceful! *sigh*" Heh. Once the Sentry arrives at the subway station where the train was last seen, he teams up with a lovely blonde in a snazzy red dress named the Blonde Phantom. I'd never heard of the Blonde Phantom before, but luckily Wikipedia filled me in. I don't think the whole idea of her taking over the Avengers from a retiring Captain America is canon, however, which raises interesting questions about where this story fits in the Marvel universe. But to get back to the story: as the Sentry is talking to the Blonde Phantom, he suddenly finds himself elsewhere. In a three-panel sequence done in a completely different, more modern art style, Cranio shows the Sentry planets exploding all over the universe, and suggests that some infinitely powerful villain has caused this, and there was nothing anyone could do. Of course, the obvious inference is that he's referring to the Void. The Sentry flips out, but then finds himself back with the Blonde Phantom underground, being attacked by Moloids. Wow! Creepy stuff. They beat up the Moloids, then follow them back to where they came from, and find a guy named Tyrannus, whom they assume is another of Mole Man's henchmen, since everybody associates Moloids with the Mole Man. This Tyrannus finds very insulting. They easily knock him down and are about to beat him up when it finally comes out that the Crick-Hits are here on purpose to headline an underground concert. Then it all turns into a great big fun dance party.

Another very funny, very clever issue of this fantastic miniseries, with all kinds of fun references to, and fun-loving parodies of, Silver and Golden Age comics, and Silver and Golden Age culture. I suspect in the last issue this whole thing is going to blow apart and get really creepy and disturbing. Should be interesting!
Thumbs Up

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #20
One of my cardinal rules of comics, which I've developed after much hardship and pain, is to never buy anything written by Jeph Loeb. And this comic was written by Jeph Loeb. But it's also Buffy, and it contains a look at the Buffy animated series that could have been, so I had to break my rule.

The animated series was set during the time frame of the early part of the original television series, so in order to come up with an excuse to go back to that time, they have Buffy fall asleep and have a dream, and the dream is done up in a completely different, cartoon-like art style. The dream is very real, so Buffy is at first very confused and disturbed to find herself back in high school, with her mother still alive, Willow still just a shy young girl, and her old flame Angel still very much her new flame. But she quickly decides to just go with it, especially since things were so much simpler during this time in her life. Her adventures in the past are very reminiscent of the original TV show; Giles gives them a mission which conflicts with their high school social life, so Buffy tries to knock it out quickly so she can get to the big party, but of course her duty as a Slayer gets in the way. It's fun and amusing, if not incredibly exciting or original. I'm happy to say that Jeph Loeb doesn't do anything really horrible here, probably because he was trying to write like Joss Whedon, and thus wasn't writing like himself. I'd love to see a Buffy animated series on TV, but I guess if the only way they can use the material is to put it in a comic book, the chances of that happening are pretty slim.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Reign: New Nation #1
I assumed the previews in the back of Secret Invasion: Dark Reign (which I read last week) were made up of material excerpted from the first issues of the various new series they were advertising, which tie into Dark Reign, but apparently they were all excerpted from the various stories included in this one-shot anthology, stories which themselves are essentially previews of those new series. Very strange and confusing. The good news is, whereas I was not particularly impressed by the excerpts I read last week, I was very impressed by the full short stories that I read in this title.

First up is "Secret Warriors: Declaration," by Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman with art by Stefano Caselli and color by Daniele Rudoni. It's a surprisingly moving story that intercuts Nick Fury in the present (watching Norman Osborn taking over, and then traveling to meet and speak with his new secret commandos), and Nick Fury in the past (listening to a speech from Captain America before a big WWII battle). Cap's speech is very powerful, and of course informs what Fury says to his men in the present.

"Agents of Atlas: The Heist" is written by Jeff Parker with pencils by Carlo Pagulayan, inks by Jason Paz, and colors by Jana Schirmer. In this story, the Agents of Atlas rob Fort Knox and declare war on the United States - but it turns out it's all just so they can go undercover and figure out who the real criminals are. Cool!

"War Machine: Crossing the Line" is by Greg Pak with art by Leonardo Manco and color by Jay David Ramos. War Machine witnesses an old enemy of his do some nasty deeds, but frustratingly finds himself unable to act against the man directly. Luckily, he finds a clever, bad-ass way to take him out anyway. It's a fun story, and also a strong character portrait of Rhodes as a soldier who's perhaps living up to his superhero name a bit too well.

The next story is a straight-up comedy called "Skrull Kill Krew: Breakfast in America," and it's written by Adam Felber with pencils by Paulo Siqueira, inks by Amilton Santos & Paulo Siqueira, and color by Chris Sotomayor. The premise of this one is that there are still a lot of Skrulls hiding out on the Earth after the invasion, and it's the Skrull Kill Krew's job to clean things up and take them out. In this story, the Krew consists entirely of a guy whose arms turn into guns, and the Skrulls are all pretending to be cows. There's a lot of hilarious dialogue as gun-arm-guy tries to explain to a couple of dumb (but surprisingly knowledgeable) farmers just what's going on. It all gives off a Monty Python vibe, with the farmers discussing pointless trivia (on the order of the air speed velocity of a laden swallow) when they should be scared for their lives. It's good stuff.

Last up is "New Avengers: The Reunion - Suspicion," which sees Clint Barton (previously Hawkeye, now Ronin) and Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) - the former recently dead, the latter recently presumed dead - trying to get to know one another again. Clint wants things to go back to the way they were before, but Bobbi is having a hard time dealing with everything that's happened. Is she definitely not a Skrull? Is he definitely not? How can they really be sure? She does some weird stuff during the story, and has some weird flashes. It looks like she may have infiltrated the Skrulls on purpose, for S.H.I.E.L.D., and has come back with important information. Anyway, there's definitely more going on than she's telling. It's intriguing. But man. Poor Clint. He gets the crappy end of the stick in every one of these over-arching storylines!

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed all the stories in this book, especially considering I'd read parts of a number of them before, and disliked them! Anyway, my confidence in the Dark Reign storyline has just increased slightly.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider #30
Danny goes after the Japanese Ghost Rider (it's funny that his Caretaker looks almost exactly the same as the American one), and Johnny and friends get there too late to help. But there are apparently still two more Ghost Riders left, on top of Johnny and the two he's hanging out with now, so the five of them are going to get together and make a final stand against Danny and Zadkiel. Unfortunately for them, that fits prefectly into Zadkiel's plan; he sends an army of angels to Danny and tells him to go finish the rest of the Ghost Riders off in one fell swoop. We also get a look at what Zadkiel's been telling Danny to convince him to take this course of action. It's a little surprising Danny would fall for such obvious BS, but maybe Zadkiel is also exerting some kind of influence on his mind. Besides, as we're learning in the Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch miniseries, Danny was so desperate to have the Ghost Rider power back, he would have swallowed any line of bull necessary to justify its reacquisition. A surprising final scene reveals that we haven't seen the last of the cop who got his hand eaten, and that he has chosen to blame the Ghost Rider for his loss.

This was not my favorite issue of this series, because it's mostly just a transition issue with lots of rehashing and exposition, but it's not terrible, and it paves the way for an exciting showdown in the near future.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellblazer #250
I don't usually buy this title, but this issue was the "Hellblazer Holiday Special," with stories by a number of famous writers, so I had to get it. First up is "Happy New Fucking Year" by Dave Gibbons with art by Sean Phillips and color by Val Staples (both of Criminal fame). This is one of the best stories in the book, and sees Constantine stuck investigating a museum theft on New Year's Eve, instead of partying. The robber turns out to be a scientist who's gone mad and is trying to sacrifice a baby with an ancient scythe to gain power. Constantine is able to save the day with the application of a good old fashioned kick in the balls, and then enjoy the rest of his New Year's with a naughty nurse. Good show!

In "Christmas Cards," by Jamie Delano (who was the second guy to write Constantine after Alan Moore) with art by David Lloyd, is about a pair of guys playing poker. Constantine uses his gift for reading people and situations and is able to see the weird relationship between the two men, and predict who has which cards, but even he's surprised by the good deed one of them does for the other. This one's pretty twisted and sordid, and I found myself a bit confused as to who was who. The art's very good, but the story is not my favorite.

"All I Goat for Christmas" is pretty brilliant in its own special way. It's written by Brian Azzarello with art by Rafael Grampa and colors by Marcus Penna. The poem that makes up the entire text of the comic isn't particularly well written, but the story that it tells, together with the spectacular and unique art, is quite clever and funny. Basically, Constantine is called in to help break the curse on the Chicago Cubs - but there's a pretty disgusting price that has to be paid.

Speaking of curses, next up is "The Curse of Christmas," by Peter Milligan, with art by Eddie Campbell and colors by Dominic Regan. This story has one cool idea at its heart, but the rest of it is pretty dull. Constantine is being haunted by a dead guy and finally discovers that (cool idea coming!) he was killed by a curse that someone had cleverly inserted into the Queen's Christmas speech. But there's nobody you can really sympathize with or like - even the dead guy - and it's just generally a pretty hateful story.

The last story in the book is "Snow Had Fallen" by China Mieville, with colors by Jamie Grant, breakdowns by Giuseppe Camuncoli, and finishes by Stefano Landini (no, I'm not entirely sure what breakdowns and finishes are, but I'm guessing it means Camuncoli drew up the preliminary art and Landini finished it off). This time Constantine's called in to figure out why some sick children and the priest who runs their hospital are being haunted by faceless, winged creatures, ever since an accident at a nearby plant caused some kind of ash to rain down on them. Were they poisoned by a mystical industrial accident? Actually, no. It turns out they've been given a strange kind of gift, which the priest makes use of in a very appropriate way. Cool concept, powerful resolution. I could do without Constantine's final speech, and the art is rather odd (why are they always drawing everybody's eyeballs so freakishly huge??), but otherwise this is a really good one.

I have to say, I really enjoy holiday specials like this. They seem to turn out really well most of the time.
Thumbs Up

Hulk Family: Green Genes #1
This one-shot anthology of stories about the Hulk and his crazy family was supposed to come out a few weeks back, but I didn't find it on the shelf until this past week. *shrug* The first story is "Your Lucky Day," written by Fred Van Lente, with pencils by Scott Clark, inks by Greg Adams, and colors by Ulises Areola (is that a real name??). It's set during the strange time in Hulk's life when he was a big gray guy going by the name Joe Fixit. Joe is working as muscle for a casino, the same casino where Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk happens to be having her law school reunion. Joe is still hiding his true identity from everyone, so he's not exactly happy to see Jen there. She's sure she recognizes him, but his brutish actions and constant denials finally convince her she's wrong. Meanwhile, the two of them end up getting in a fight with some passing supervillains. The main themes of the story are fate and chance. Is it fate that all these characters ended up in the same place at the same time, or pure chance? Is it fate or chance that created the Hulk and She-Hulk? What if things had happened differently? They're vaguely interesting questions, but the comic is clumsy about asking them, and doesn't really do anything very interesting with them. I know Van Lente can be a pretty decent writer, but the dialogue and narration he provides here are not very good. The art is pretty good, at least (She-Hulk is hot!), but overall it's really not a great story.

Next up is another not-great story! It's "School for Savages" by Greg Pak with pencils by Jheremy Raapack, inks by Greg Adams, and colors by Chris Sotomayor. It's a story from the youth of Skaar, son of Hulk, and features Old Sam trying to get Skaar to embrace his destiny and save the world, and Skaar trying to teach Old Sam a series of harsh lessons about the world. It's an okay idea for a story, but it's not executed all that well. Pretty good art, pretty lame writing.

The next story is called "Daughter of Hulk" and is written by Paul Tobin with art by Benton Jew and colors by Moose Baumann (seriously, these are all real names?). Yep, the Hulk has a daughter, too! At least one, in fact. The guy drops kids all over the place! Anyway, the daughter we're talking about here is a woman whose name is never mentioned. Thundra made her by combining her own genetic material with that of the Hulk. This daughter of Hulk and Thundra lives on a future Earth where a warrior tribe of women known as the Femizons (sigh) is constantly at war with the men. In this story, Thundra's daughter discovers how the men are reproducing. She could strike a final blow in the Femizons' war against men, but some part of her - maybe some part of Banner - keeps her from doing so. Disturbed by her moment of compassion, which caused her to waver from her purpose, she throws herself back into battle. I like the art here quite a lot, but the story is kind of corny. It's hard to care much about these characters, or about the stark, ridiculous world they live in.

The last of the new stories is "Scorpion: Emerald Highway." Fred Van Lente again provides the words, with Diedrich O'Clark on pencils, Al Vey on inks, and Lee Loughridge on colors. This story is set immediately after the events of World War Hulk, and sees the green-haired, poisonous assassin Scorpion attacking a convoy to try to get a tissue sample from the imprisoned Bruce Banner, so she can determine whether he's really her father or not (a possibility that Amadeus Cho brought up to her during WWH). This is probably one of the better stories in the bunch; it's reasonably effective and interesting. But it's still not all that exciting.

The last thing in the book is a reprint of The Savage She-Hulk #1, featuring the origin story of She-Hulk. It's an old comic by Stan Lee, so it's not exactly a masterpiece of writing and characterization. It has the usual, clumsy, slang- and exposition-laden dialogue. Still, it's fun, and it's a great piece of comics history; I'm very glad to have read the original origin story of a classic character like She-Hulk.

Of course, what this one-shot is really all about is selling you other books. In the back are ads for She-Hulk, Skaar, Son of Hulk, Hulk: Raging Thunder (which features the origin story of Thundra's daughter), Scorpion: Poison Tomorrow, and Jeph Loeb's Hulk (the next issue of which apparently features She-Hulk and her Lady Liberators, a team which includes Thundra and a bunch of other ladies with giant breasts in tight outfits - seriously, you should see the cover graphic included here; it's ridiculous). Thing is, this book is so mediocre, all it's done is convince me not to buy any of those books (not that I needed any more convincing as far as Hulk and Skaar are concerned; I already know they suck).
Thumbs Down

The Mighty Avengers #20
The last one of these Avengers Secret Invasion tie-ins I read (The New Avengers #47) was disappointing, so I was a little leery of buying another one. But this issue is being billed as the epilogue to Secret Invasion, and features a closer look at the reaction to the death of Janet van Dyne, so I felt like I had to get it. And I was pleasantly surprised. This is a very well done, very moving comic. It's written by Brian Michael Bendis, natch, with pencils by Lee Weeks, Jim Cheung, and Carlo Pagulayan, inks by Weeks, Cheung, and Jeffrey Huet, and colors by Dean White and Jason Keith. It opens with Hank Pym flashing back to when the Avengers discovered Captain America frozen in the ice. He and Janet talk about what it would be like to wake up out of stasis like that and find yourself in a brand new world. There's also some romantic talk, and Janet says half-jokingly if Hank were frozen in a block of ice, she'd wait for him. Then we cut to Hank Pym with some other heroes, talking to a man about the funeral arrangements. Hank doesn't look good, can't deal, and has to leave. In the car, Carol Danvers tells him about all the terrible things he missed while he was away. Each big story arc is summarized by a huge full-page graphic, with Danvers' and Pyms' faces below, reacting to the telling. It's slightly comical seeing it all paraded out this way, but at the same time really powerful and even a little horrific. Of course, Pym was the man trapped in ice this time; he's the one waking up to a new world - but Janet wasn't able to wait for him after all. It's pretty agonizing, especially considering all the other crap he and Janet went through, and when he breaks down in the car with Carol, it's hard not to feel for him, especially since the scene is depicted with such realism and emotion. At the funeral, Pym stands up to speak, and quickly starts shouting in a rage, blaming Tony Stark for everything. Finally Thor steps up and defuses the situation with a pretty speech of his own, and then takes Pym out. That's not the last of the freak-outs at the funeral, though! Clint Barton sees Norman Osborn as everyone's filing out, and he just can't resist going over and being belligerent. Some pretty nasty words are exchanged. Later we see Osborn standing in Avengers Tower, holding a glass of champagne and smirking. Eee.

It's an achingly sad book, with a very dark ending, but it's all done very artfully and I enjoyed it very much.
Thumbs Up

Punisher: War Zone #2
Oh, man. This series is just brilliant. This issue starts off with a rather amusing vision of the new Elite's worst nightmare. Then Ennis takes your expectations for the story and blows them apart. When the Punisher saw someone who appeared to be Ma Gnucci at the end of the last issue, I assumed there would be some cat-and-mouse stuff as he tried to figure out if it was really her, and then eventually there would be a showdown in the last issue of the miniseries. Instead, the Punisher just immediately shoots everybody. It's brutal and brilliant and darkly hilarious. He is so hardcore. But anyway, according to Schitti, there's still yet another Ma Gnucci rolling around out there, so things get curiouser and curiouser. Meanwhile, the lesbian cop takes shit from no one, and brutally beats anybody who goes anywhere near her girlfriend. She's some character. I love the reference to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly at the end, and how it ties into the last scene at the cemetery. Ennis' dialogue is hilarious and fantastic, especially as far as the mobsters are concerned; he has wiseguy patter down pat. I never thought I'd turn around so completely on my estimation of Ennis, but I seem to have. I'll definitely have to track down his other Punisher stuff soon.
Thumbs Up

Spider-Man: Noir #1
Marvel is giving both the X-Men and Spider-Man the noir treatment in two new miniseries. I already tried the first issue of X-Men: Noir and enjoyed it, so I thought I'd give this a shot, too. Actually, it had "noir" in the title, so I was probably going to buy it anyway, but whatever. This was written by David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky, with art by Carmine Di Giandomenico. I recognized Di Giandomenico as the guy who does X-Men: Magneto - Testament, and sadly I continue to mostly dislike his work. There's something almost childish about the way he draws people. They come out looking rumpled and ugly. There's also a panel or two in here where the art is so clumsy I can't even tell what's supposed to be going on. As for the story and the writing, I didn't like those all that much at first, either - but that may have actually had a lot to do with my dislike of the art. Once I got further into book, I found myself enjoying it more and more, and going back over it, it really is a pretty neat story. It opens with the cops discovering a cloaked, armed, masked vigilante crouching over the bullet-ridden body of J. Jonah Jameson. He professes innocence, but they don't believe him, so he takes off, catching one of the cops in a web before he goes. Yep, it's Spider-Man!

We immediately jump back in time three weeks to see how things got to this pass. Turns out the story is set during the Great Depression, in an incredibly corrupt New York run by crime lord Norman Osborn, who goes by the name Goblin (no one knows why). His enforcers are all ex-carnies: the Vulture was a geek, Kraven was an animal trainer. While they enjoy the fruits of their illegal labors, people are starving and in dire straits all over. Aunt May is a socialist organizer who speaks out against the corrupt government. Uncle Ben was killed for pretty much the same thing. Peter is full of rage and a desire for revenge, but is also pretty much entirely powerless. Photographer Ben Urich serves as our narrator. When he meets Peter, he's both moved and irritated by the boy's righteous naivete, and takes him to a speakeasy called the Black Cat to try to show him the harsh realities of the world - but it only gives Peter a list of enemies, and new determination to see justice done. To protect him, Urich takes him under his wing and gets him a job helping him take photos for the Bugle. But Urich isn't telling Peter everything he knows about his uncle's death.

It's quite clever the way the writers have mapped Spider-Man's story onto a noir universe. There's maybe a bit more melodrama and dark angst here than I'd like, but overall it's a great story full of great ideas and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes next. Plus, the Vulture is a far more disturbing and threatening villain in this comic than he ever has been in the regular Marvel universe.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Last Generation #2
I wasn't sure I even wanted to buy another issue of this miniseries after the ridiculousness I witnessed in the first issue, but after flipping through this book in the store, I decided it looked interesting enough to give it a try. Now that I've read it, I remain a bit conflicted, but I'm mostly converted. There's the occasional moments of melodrama here that leave a bad taste in my mouth, but there are so many cool ideas that are so well executed that I'm mostly able to ignore them.

This issue is book-ended in a really cool way. The holographic doctor from Star Trek: Voyager (they manage to work nearly every character from every series into here somehow; it's really pretty impressive) tells Data there's no cure for not being human, and at the end of the issue, Data points out there's no cure for being human, either. Powerfully done, and a very Star Trek concept. Data has a lot of great lines in the issue, actually. Anyway, there's an exciting and tense sequence wherein Riker, Geordi, and Data are waiting to transport to the home base of the resistance on Earth, unaware that they've been followed by a Klingon ship commanded by Alexander, Worf's son. Luckily the Ghost is there, too, and helps out. Plus, Alexander gets anxious and makes a critical error. Then he gets the end he so richly deserves. I always hated Alexander. Anyways, Data gets to the resistance, and Picard figures out what's caused the timeline to go all screwy - a time-traveling dude named Braxton who stopped Kirk from stopping the assassination back at Khitomer. Picard wants to restore the timeline where Klingons and humans are at peace. But Wesley stomps in, exuding pure melodrama, and says he wants no peace with the Klingons. So now we have two factions.

It's interesting stuff! The sequences with Wesley are pretty awful, but then, they always were. I'm going to stick with this series and see where it goes.
Thumbs Up

The X-Files #2
This is the end of a two-issue miniseries by TV series co-creator Frank Spotnitz. At the end of last issue, Mulder was showing the same symptoms as a guy who'd killed himself. Skinner busts into his apartment and gets him to the hospital before he can actually kick the bucket, however, and the Lone Gunmen reveal what happened to both Mulder and the poor dude from the first issue: they absorbed a naturally occurring protein with a powerful psychotropic effect: it can make you paranoiac to the extent that your mind literally takes your own life. Which is similar to an idea in a recent episode of Fringe. Anyways, Scully goes back to the guy from the company that seems to be behind all of this and tries to push him into giving away something. There are more deaths, eliminating all the witnesses who could testify - except Mulder himself. So he goes and talks to the Congressional committee that's making the decision on the company's contract. And they believe him! But Mulder and Scully still fail to get the outcome they're hoping for.

The art's pretty cool - it's a bit dark, but the color choices are interesting and the depictions of the actors are very true to life - and the story's pretty cool, too, with some intriguing ideas and fun (if not terribly surprising) twists. But the story is also pretty simplistic, and some of my least favorite things about the TV show - like the angsty melodrama - have been copied over. This wasn't a terrible miniseries, but I wish it could have been better than just okay.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Garth Ennis (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hulk (Not), Punisher (Not), Secret Invasion (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Sentry (Not), The Take (Not), TV (Not), X-Files (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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