|Thursday, January 8, 2009 03:58 PM|
|(Last updated on Saturday, January 10, 2009 11:36 AM)|
| by Fëanor|
Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.
This covers new releases from the week of 1/2.
Oh no! I bought a Denny O'Neil comic by mistake!
Don't get me wrong: I don't hate Denny O'Neil. I appreciate what he's done for comics, for Batman, and what he did with the Batman animated series. But the sad fact is that he's actually not very good at writing comics. And this comic is a good example of why. It's actually the second part of a two-part story that started in another comic (Detective Comics #851) that I didn't read. It sees Nightwing solving a mystery involving some stolen jewels and a Two-Face copycat. But he makes a lot of mistakes along the way, and beats himself up about it maybe more than he would usually, because now he's trying to pick up the slack for the missing Batman. He doesn't even want to think of himself as trying to fill those shoes, but Alfred gently pushes him in that direction, giving him the keys to a Batmobile when his bike gets stolen. Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon is also having a hard time dealing with the idea that there's no Batman around, and that he has to settle for Nightwing instead.
It's a decent story, reasonably interesting, with some good character development. Plus, the art, by Guillem March, is fantastic. But O'Neil packs it with way too much cheesy narration, and gives his characters some seriously bad dialogue to say. ("Just call me Mister Snoopy-Pants" is not exactly the best hero comeback line I've ever read.)
Not my favorite issue of Batman ever, especially since I was expecting another fragment of weird brilliance from Grant Morrison. It looks like next issue is part of DC's big Faces of Evil event, and focuses on Catwoman. I'm not clear on who'll be writing that one, but I'll probably take a closer look at the cover before I pick it up this time.
Batman: Cacophony #2
It's really interesting reading the characterization of Joker in this book and comparing it to Morrison's Joker in Batman, and the Joker in The Dark Knight. In this comic, Batman describes the Joker as fairly predictable, and ridicules his fighting style. When Joker says he's Batman's greatest enemy, Batman scoffs that he's gone soft and he wouldn't even put him among his top 16 enemies anymore. In fact, in this story it turns out the Joker is merely bait laid out by Onomatopoeia. It's a far cry from the deadly dangerous mystical avatar of murderous genius that Morrison describes, and a far cry too from the equally dangerous and completely unpredictable character Heath Ledger played so well in the recent Batman film.
All that being said, I love this Joker, too. I love his hilarious dialogue; the vision of him as a Bat-Mite DJ at the beginning; the way he casually murders his henchmen; his rage at Maxie Zeus for turning his poison into a designer drug; and his silly gag weapons, like the giant hammer and ridiculously long-barreled gun. This may not be the same Joker that we've seen recently, but it is unquestionably faithful to the character's history - and entertaining to boot.
In general this is a very entertaining and funny comic, and I remain fascinated by Onomatopoeia and curious to see what his motives are here. The only flaw is the way Smith writes Batman. He makes him far too earnest, talky, and fallible. When Joker leaves a note for him that reads "Eat it Emo-Boy," it's funny because it's true.
Still it's a small flaw, especially since Batman is only one character among many here. I'll be tuning in for the final episode.
Captain America #45
Turns out the cloaked dude from the last issue does have a name: The Man with No Face. I Googled him and it looks like he was a villain from the 1950s Captain America comics. Bucky was able to disable him long enough to escape during his 1968 mission in China, but now the Man with No Face is back, and presumably so is his boss, Professor Chin. The suggestion is that it's Chin who's calling the shots in the present day heist of the mysterious cargo from the UN. The interesting part is that (spoiler alert!) that cargo is in fact the remains of the original Human Torch, and Bucky knows from a look into Chin's lab in 1968 that Chin has something really horrible in store for the Torch - something Bucky only hints at here.
Exciting stuff! I wish Brubaker's writing were a bit stronger, but he's got me hooked on the story. I'm fascinated by the original Human Torch, and I think it's interesting that Brubaker is bringing that character into this story, especially considering a recent connection I discovered between Bucky's Winter Soldier story and the story of the Human Torch. I read in my favorite Christmas present, a book called The Marvel Vault, that when they brought the Human Torch back in the '50s, his sidekick, Toro, was revealed to have been brainwashed into working for the Commies. Ah ha! So that's where you lifted your plot from, Brubaker! I wonder if he'll just ignore that storyline, since it's so similar to the one he wrote for Bucky, or if he will mention it, and use the similarities to create more drama? I'll just have to wait and see.
The Goon #31
I didn't realize that The Goon hasn't always been a monthly book. Because everything is done by Eric Powell himself, it usually takes him so long to finish each issue that he can't really sustain that kind of pace. But he committed to making it monthly for a whole year, and this is the last issue of that year's worth of comics, an issue that wraps up not just the story arc he's been building this year, but also a lot of the stuff he's been doing with the book since its origin. There's a big brutal showdown with lots of death and violence. Most of our main characters come out of it alive, but none of them unchanged or unscarred. There's also a rather melodramatic, soap operatic plot twist before the end ([spoiler]Goon has a son!! But he doesn't know!!! Because the kid's mother told only one other person, and that person happens to have an unrequited love for the Goon and is too jealous to tell him!!!![/spoiler]).
It's a pretty decent issue, exciting and dramatic. But I can't say I loved it. As I've said before in the past, Eric Powell's strong point as a writer is not serious drama. He's much better at the kind of goofy insane comedy The Goon used to be full of. This issue is almost entirely serious drama, with only one panel that can be described as comedic. So it tends a bit towards the cheesy melodrama. Still, the art is excellent, as always, and the story is mostly effective.
Sadly, with this issue done, The Goon will apparently go on hiatus for some time, possibly until March, when there's supposed to be a special tenth anniversary book coming out. I'll keep my eyes open for that.
Green Lantern #36
The Rage of the Red Lanterns storyline continues in this issue, with Sinestro now imprisoned by the Red instead of the Green Lanterns, but still smug and defiant - until Atrocitus uses a bit of magic and reveals that he now knows about Sinestro's daughter. Hmm. That's interesting. Meanwhile, Hal learns more about what Ganthet's been up to with the Blue Lanterns (whose power is based on hope), and what his future with them is expected to be. Ganthet and the Blues are convinced that Sinestro is very important to the fate of the universe, so they plan to save him, and it looks like Hal is going along for the ride. It also looks like John Stewart might have his own problems to prepare for; a Star Sapphire appears to be on the lookout for him.
I'm still really enjoying the epic mythology Johns is building in these books, with all the different Lanterns and their various powers, and the fateful conflict they're all flying towards. It's exciting stuff.
This book I've been looking forward to for a long time. It's the first issue of a new miniseries from the Criminal team of Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Val Staples. They're actually dropping Criminal for a while to work on this. It's set in a superhero universe akin to those of Marvel or DC, but with more of a pulp feel to it. The main character is a supervillain who testified against his boss and went into the witness protection program. He's taking a drug that dampens his powers and has a crummy, mindless job as a file clerk in an office. He hates the dull daily grind, and feels like an alien amongst all of these hopeless normals. He starts taking some drugs to help him get through the day, but they have the unexpected side effect of reactivating his super powers. Almost by mistake, he ends up using them in classic superhero fashion, saving a lady from muggers in an alley. He thinks it was just a harmless fling, but it may have brought him to the attention of his former bosses, who until know thought he was dead. Uh oh!
I was expecting a lot from this book. Criminal, but with super powers? Awesome! It doesn't quite live up to my incredibly high expectations, but it's still quite good, with an interesting character at the center, and it has the potential to get even better as it goes on, so I'll definitely be sticking with it.
Jack of Fables #29
The epic war between Fables has begun in earnest! There's lots of fighting in this one, plus the usual humorous moments and excellent art throughout. Jack the fearless leader does very little that's actually helpful, although he does express a great love of tacos. It doesn't look good for the folks at the Golden Boughs, until Gary talks Revise into opening up a secret room full of books, where it seems Revise will reverse his life's work, and give the Fables back their full powers so they can fight back against Bookburner. In other words, this little conflict is going to end up fixing all the world's problems! Maybe. Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Punisher: War Zone #4
Yay, Punisher! Schitti spends this issue totally wasted on the drug he was shot up with at the end of last issue, which is the source of much comedy. There's a wonderful scene in which a dumb mobster pees in Schitti's fridge. Then poor Molly Von Richtofen gets trapped in the bathroom of Schitti's house, surrounded by mobsters. And the Punisher and Schitti get trapped by Elite. That's lots of trapping! It doesn't look good for our heroes!
I'm not sure what else to say about this series that I haven't said already. It's clever, twisted, funny, exciting, shocking, imaginative, and the art is excellent. I'm loving it way more than I thought I would.
This comic almost gave me a heart attack. Chief Red Crow is trying to avoid conflict while he's looking over Gina's spirit, but his man Shunka makes him realize how terrible Mr. Brass is, and that something has to be done about him immediately. Unwilling to let anyone else take the heat for it (moving against the Hmongs means declaring war), Red Crow grabs a gun and goes after Mr. Brass himself. We find ourselves back at the moment we saw at the beginning of this storyline, with Red Crow apologizing to Gina's spirit before walking into a roadside bar. There he finds Brass torturing Dino. Oh no! This is where my heart really started beating fast. Like, nearly out of my chest. Crap goes down. People get shot. It's intense and dramatic. And then, to my surprise, Red Crow does not execute Brass (as I was kind of hoping he would) - he arrests him! I'd almost forgotten he was a policeman, too. Heh.
Throughout the issue, we also get Red Crow's flashbacks to some of his more violent encounters with Gina, and at the end, he returns her spirit to Granny Poor Bear, giving up on the idea of being "good," and going back to his old ways: doing whatever he feels he has to to protect the rez, and drowning his sorrows in drink and women.
It's another powerful, brutal issue with deep, insightful character development at its heart.
War Machine #1
The new ongoing series focusing on Tony Stark's friend Jim Rhodes debuts here, and it's all tied in with Dark Reign. Turns out a year ago Rhodes was blown apart in a battle. Tony found him and saw not just a friend in pain who needed help, but also an opportunity to create something he needed. He replaced the missing parts of Rhodes' body with machinery, plugged his brain into a computer, put him in an Iron Man-style suit that's bristling with weaponry, and installed him in a totally secret satellite orbiting the Earth, where he can keep an eye on what's going on everywhere, drop down anywhere, and take out anyone. Oh, and by the way, none of the technology in any of this is Stark Tech. That means Rhodes is funded by Tony, but not connected to him in any traceable way, and he's able to do the things Tony can't. He's essentially a high-powered, black ops Iron Man. He's also a cold-blooded, bad-ass killer. But his body is slowly dying, unable to stand the stresses of being tied into the War Machine armor. There's an organic body being built for him by Stark's people - but he might not get it, especially if Norman Osborn has anything to say about it.
This comic is written by Greg Pak, whose work I find uneven, but tend to enjoy more often than not. I definitely like what he's done with this title so far. I also really enjoy Leonardo Manco's art (and Jay David Ramos' colors). The Jim Rhodes being developed here is an interesting and multi-faceted character, much more than just another guy in Iron Man armor. The plot is intriguing, the action exciting, and there's a great deal of satisfying wish-fulfillment in the premise - being able to fly down and take out any scumbag committing atrocities anywhere in the world. Rhodes gets to decide who lives and who dies, which, as we all know, is the best Christmas present anyone could receive. Thanks, Tony!
But at the same time, Rhodes is not a God, and he's also not entirely a machine; he's a flawed human who could be in great danger. I'm sticking with this title for now; I'm looking forward to seeing where Pak goes with it.
Most of this issue is taken up by old!Logan finally explaining to old!Hawkeye what happened on the day of the final battle that led to his decision to become a pacifist. And it's quite horrific, as one might expect. Then there's a very funny scene at Dwight's Toll where a little kid in an old Ant Man helmet demands eighty cents to cross the bridge, or else he sics his ants on them (they pay up). And then we get a harbinger of what's to come, and a look at the monster that's following them.
I continue to really enjoy this storyline. The flashback story in this one isn't entirely believable to me, partially because we've been primed to not believe such things (that many major characters could never possibly die in that way in a story set in the present, canon timeline - and if they could have died that way, certainly it would already have been done by now); partially because it's hard to believe even Wolverine could take out all the other X-Men single-handedly, even given that they might pull their punches a bit fighting their ally; and partially because there's no way Jubilee would be the one to hold out the longest against Wolverine. Are you kidding me? She'd be the first one down. She has nearly as lame a power as Dazzler.
But I'm willing to suspend my disbelief because it's a powerful idea and because the rest of the story is so good. Great art, too (with pencils by Steve McNiven, inks by Dexter Vines and Mark Morales, and colors by Morry Hollowell and Justin Ponsor). Can't wait to see how this one wraps up.
Wolverine: Manifest Destiny #3
This miniseries has such a great premise - Wolverine dropped into the middle of a story that's an homage to just about every kung fu movie ever made - but it doesn't always live up to the promise of that central concept. This issue, despite a number of wonderful moments, is a little disappointing. Turns out 50 years ago, Wolverine defeated the Black Dragon Tong by convincing all the kung fu schools in Chinatown (pretty much every one of which is named after a specific kung fu movie or character) to band together with him. Which is odd, because Wolverine's strength has never been that he's a persuasive talker. Anyway, he tries to do the same thing this time, but they all just beat him up and kick him out for the way he betrayed them last time (although how exactly he betrayed them hasn't been entirely explained yet). Afterwards, he crawls back into the sewer and gets beat up by his teacher, who berates him for being a terrible fighter. Wolverine protests that he's killed plenty of ninjas, and this hilarious exchange follows:
Master: Ninjas are unskilled imbeciles. Any fool can kill a ninja. My dog could kill a ninja.
Wolverine: You don't have a dog.
Master: That's because it was put to death. Just like you're going to be.
Then, later on:
Kid: How's it coming?
Master: He's been bragging about killing ninjas again.
Kid: Ninjas are morons.
Master: That's what I told him.
That is comedy gold right there.
Anyway, Logan heads off to another meeting, this time with the two guys who look like John Saxon and Jim Kelly from Enter the Dragon. But they also are not interested in joining with him. The bad guys find out he's there and come for him, so there's a big fight, and Wolverine ends up getting arrested. Nightcrawler springs him in amusing fashion (he made a comment to Wolverine about his mother, so I had to look up what the deal was with that - wow! I had no idea Mystique was his Mom). In the final panel Wolverine faces off against the Black Dragon and her killers again, but that climactic fight won't occur until the next and final issue. It's hard to understand how the outcome could be any different than it was the first time, as Wolverine appears to have had very little time for training (the training montage I expected and wanted to see never happened), but we'll see.
There's a lot of great dialogue in here, especially the part about the ninjas. There's also a decent action sequence, and some amusing references to various kung fu movies (yay, flying guillotines!). The art (by Stephen Segovia and Paco Diaz Luque, with colors by John Rauch) is also pretty good. But the idea that Wolverine was (at least at one time) a persuasive speaker, and that he's actually really bad at fighting, goes against everything I know about Wolverine. And I'm kind of unclear on why all these incredibly bad-ass fighters put up with the Black Dragon Tong ruling over them all this time, when they clearly dislike her. (Maybe that last bit will be explained more clearly next issue.) All that being said, this is still an entertaining issue, and I'll definitely be picking up the next one. I just feel like something is missing here - like this series could have been a lot better. Maybe if there were more wacky kung fu fighting, with crazy characters and insane magic - like in the first issue, but more so. Ah, well.
X-Men: Magneto - Testament #4
The previous issues in this series were already very powerful and effective, but this one takes us inside a concentration camp during the Holocaust, and thus onto a whole new level of horror. Max is lucky enough to meet his kindly professor from school, Fritz Kalb, on the way in, and Kalb takes Max under his wing, showing him how to survive in the camp, and trying to get him on an easy work detail. But ultimately, Kalb cannot even save himself, let alone Max. Max ends up getting dragged into one of the most horrific work details in the camp: the Sonderkommando. He experiences too many terrible things and resolves to end it all - until he sees the girl he loves, Magda, again, somehow still alive, his necklace still around her neck, shining like the very last glimmer of hope in all the world. And he decides he will continue living after all.
This is one of the most excellent and moving comic books I've ever read. The two-page spread of the room full of eyeglasses hit me like a kick in the gut, taking my breath away. The totally black panels that followed, with narration boxes on them describing horrors too awful even to be illustrated, were nearly as powerful. This is truly incredible work. I look forward very much to the next and final issue.
|Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Denny O'Neil (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Kevin Smith (Not), Movies (Not), Punisher (Not), Scalped (Not), The Goon (Not), The Take (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not)|