Feanor's Journal logo

A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy

Filtered: Only entries tagged as Angel displayed.
Main feed for this filter: rss icon
Comments feed for this filter: xml
Remove filter


Friday, April 2, 2010 10:50 AM
(Last updated on Friday, April 2, 2010 12:39 PM)
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

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

Tagged (?): Angel (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Dollhouse (Not), Firefly (Not), Food (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Movies (Not), Netflix (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not)
Back to Top



Thursday, June 18, 2009 02:43 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 6/10, plus a back issue from a few weeks ago.

(I should mention that, as usual, this post contains many spoilers.)

Back issues and old data
Final Crisis: Aftermath - Escape #1
This is one of the few Final Crisis: Aftermath miniseries that I thought for sure I could safely avoid. I was familiar neither with the character it focused on (a master of disguise named Nemesis, connected to that whole Checkmate thing of which I remain mostly ignorant), nor the artists writing and drawing it. When this first issue came out, I saw it on the shelf and calmly passed it by. But later, I read somewhere that it was not only really good, but similar in theme to The Prisoner. Upon reading this, I groaned, because I knew I was sunk. I'd have to collect this miniseries, too.

It is indeed very similar to The Prisoner, but possibly even more surreal. Tom Tresser (AKA Nemesis) is at home hanging out with his cat when he drinks some drugged milk and drops to the floor. He awakens in a strange bed, and is offered breakfast by a trio of identical, creepy, smiling girls. He rushes out only to find himself in a nightmarish labyrinth that seems to change as he moves through it, more fluid dream than solid reality. He keeps passing out and waking up again. He meets faceless guards, but also people he recognizes: Amanda Waller, former White Queen of Checkmate; fellow agents Cameron Chase, Vertigo, and Rick Flag. Sometimes they seem to want his help. Sometimes they seem completely indifferent to him. Sometimes they seem to want to hinder him. Are they fellow prisoners? Or are they his jailers?

It's all very strange and disturbing, especially the clinically detailed, repetitive narration, written in the third person like a field report, and often containing the ominous phrase "[WORD DELETED]." Ivan Brandon's writing is strong, and Marco Rudy's art is haunting and wonderfully psychedelic. It's a unique comic and very intriguing. It could still turn out to be really lame, depending on how it ends, but I'm going to remain hopeful for now.
Thumbs Up

New releases from 6/10
Angel: Blood & Trenches #4
As I suspected after reading the previous issue, the final issue of this miniseries goes back in time to explain how Angel escaped from Kakistos. Then we move forward from the end of last issue and see Angel defeat Kakistos, at least temporarily. This entire issue is thoroughly narrated by Angel himself, and I'm not sure why. The great majority of the narration is just unnecessary textual descriptions of what we're already seeing in the panel. It's pretty disappointing. And at this point the story has boiled down to an only mildly interesting action adventure tale. The interaction between Angel and the Colonel is fascinating, as is the fact that the other vampires assume that Angel must have lost many of his vampire abilities when he gained a soul. But that's about it. And I really didn't like the twist ending where it turns out the German soldier that they let go is actually Hitler. C'mon, was that necessary? Just because there are Germans and it's the past, one of them has to be Hitler? Sigh. I don't know, maybe it wouldn't have annoyed me that much if I hadn't just read a vaguely similar twist ending in Fringe.
Thumbs Sideways

B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #3
The latest one-shot set back during the time of the first war against the frog creatures focuses on Liz, as seen through the eyes of a female soldier who has a bit of a crush on her. There's a contrast drawn between the tough, energetic, reckless, action-oriented Liz of the past, who charged headfirst into all the frogs' nests and burned them to a crisp, and the Liz of recent times, trapped in the dark apocalyptic dreams put into her head by Memnan Saa. There's some cool art from Karl Moline and some neat action scenes, but I couldn't get over the feeling that this story is pretty pointless. It doesn't really tell us anything new about Liz, and there's not really much of a story here. It's vaguely interesting to see things from the perspective of the grunts at B.P.R.D., and the fact that one of them is a lesbian with a thing for Liz is a cute idea. But author John Arcudi doesn't really go anywhere with these ideas. Overall, pretty disappointing.
Thumbs Sideways

Batman #687
The new guy working the counter at my local comic shop wasn't too impressed with Batman and Robin #1, but said this comic and Red Robin #1 were both very good. I'll know not to trust his opinion from now on. This comic is quite bad. It marks Judd Winick's takeover of the book, and he uses this first issue to once again go over the fact that Dick Grayson is feeling conflicted about becoming Batman - even though Battle for the Cowl and Batman and Robin have already thoroughly covered that territory. There's an interesting scene that's actually kind of moving where Superman and Wonder Woman hand over Batman's cowl to Nightwing in the Batcave. And the scene where Dick demands there not be a funeral for Batman is also rather interesting, as is the scene where Dick chooses the basement of the Wayne Foundation Building for his new headquarters. But this issue has so many guys weeping in it, and so many corny, melodramatic speeches about grief, by the end I just wanted to pull a Godfather, slap these dudes in their faces, and tell them to act like men. I mean, for God's sake, there's such a thing as subtlety! Also, Winick seems to have picked up Tony Daniel's unfortunate tendency to write Damian as a stupid, incompetent, whiny brat. He is supposed to be a bit of a brat, but he is not stupid or incompetent. He's a brilliant and insane killer raised by expert assassins! Get the backstory and the characters right!! Another thing I disliked is the way the villains are written. They're dull stereotypes, spouting the same old villain cliches. The action scenes in this book are just boring.

Of course, it could be worse. In the back of this book is a preview for a Justice League comic by James Robinson that's so bad I couldn't even finish reading it.
Thumbs Down

Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #1
The only thing I know about Beta Ray Bill is that he's an alien version of Thor. But I wanted to know more, and the premise of this new miniseries is that Bill gets pissed at Galactus for eating his planet and resolves to hunt him down and kill him once and for all, and that is one fantastic premise. So here we are. The first issue opens with Thor and Bill teaming up to defeat a tsunami. It's pretty awesome. Then Thor tries to talk Bill out of his mad plan to take down Galactus, but Bill's determined. He gets the info on Galactus' location from Agent Brand, who asks him to take care of another deadly alien menace that happens to be on his way. Bill has no trouble with that, and quickly arrives at the scene of Galactus' latest conquest, where he comes into conflict with one of Galactus' heralds. It looks like he'll be facing off against the other - the Silver Surfer - next issue. Bill also reveals his plan for defeating Galactus: he won't fight the guy head on (that would be suicide); instead, he'll keep him from his food until he starves. "Any world which I cannot defend, I will destroy. No matter where he runs, he will find naught but dust to sustain him." Woah. That is bad-ass. I'm excited. This is a revenge story with lots of epic action, and it's well written (by Kieron Gillen) and well drawn (by Kano). Definitely looking forward to reading more of this.

I also really appreciate that in the back of this book they've reprinted the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill, from The Mighty Thor #337. Walter Simonson provides both art and story and does a pretty damn fine job at both (although the dialog and narration do get a bit corny and repetitive at times). The story is constructed like a crossover tale, wherein due to a misunderstanding our two heroes end up at odds with each other and get into a big fight, but we know eventually they'll figure out what's going wrong and team up against a greater evil. They run into each other in the first place because Nick Fury detects Bill's spaceship headed toward Earth, and it's so powerful and of such epic magnitude the only person he can think of to call on for help is a God: Thor. Bill assumes Thor is just one of the demons he's apparently been hunting, and rather than try to stop the fight and explain the truth to Bill, Thor stupidly fights back. After a while, Thor weakens and changes back into Donald Blake. For some reason, Bill is able to then take Blake's staff, tap it, and gain the power of Thor. Odin then mistakes Bill for Thor and whisks him home to Asgard, where there's trouble brewing. Whoops! Needless to say Blake/Thor is upset. I'm curious to see how this story wraps up, and I'm hoping the rest of it will be reprinted in future issues of this miniseries.
Thumbs Up

Fables #85
In part 7 of "The Great Fables Crossover," Jack Horner is finally forced to have a confrontation with his son, Jack Frost, and Sam manages to convince Kevin to hold off destroying the world, hopefully long enough for Sam to get his hands on the magic pen and possibly destroy it.

It's good to see Jack Horner finally get a little taste of what he deserves in this issue. His son gets so frustrated with him, he attacks him, and the Boy Blue cult finally turns against him as well when his duplicity is at last explained to them. But of course Jack learns nothing from all of this. Instead, in a hilarious sequence, he steals Bigby's liquor and teaches Bigby's kids how to play poker before tricking his own son into running off and confronting Kevin Thorn. What an unmitigated bastard he is. And yet somehow I still enjoy reading about him.

In the back of this comic is a preview, by way of a series of character portraits, of an upcoming comic called Greek Street. The premise is simple: it's a modern day update of ancient Greek mythology. I was actually vaguely interested in this when I first read about it, but this preview really turned me off. It's just poorly written. It looks as if they tried too hard - or didn't try hard enough - to link mythology with the modern world. I'm simultaneously amused and horrified that the Greek chorus is a bunch of strippers.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Escape #2
The second issue of this insane miniseries is pretty much more of the same, although some fascinating new clues do surface. Someone tells Tresser, "He wants you to leave. Not all of you. The real you." That seems significant. Also, a robotic-looking entity, possibly a guard, is surprised to find that Tresser can somehow see him; apparently he's supposed to be invisible. There's a fun interlude wherein Tresser, Cameron, and Vertigo beat the crap out of Captain Nazi. Then Tresser pulls an older version of himself out of a time pool! And maybe the Rick Flag he's been seeing is just a hallucination?!

Yep, it's some crazy crap, all right. It continues to be unclear what's real and what's not, but something interesting is definitely going on. I wonder if all of this will ever make sense. Or if it will perhaps end up making too much sense. If that makes sense.
Thumbs Up

The Flash: Rebirth #3
As this issue opens, the other superheroes have assembled to lock Barry in a stasis field until they can figure out how to make him not the Black Flash anymore. But Barry is certain the only way out is to return to the speed force again, so he just runs away as fast as he can. Superman tries to stop him. "I've raced you before, Barry," he says. "I even won some of those races." "Those were for charity, Clark," Barry says, and zooms away much faster than even Superman can follow. Somehow he leaves behind the Black Flash costume in the process, reverting to the old red and gold, but he just keeps going anyway. His life plays out in reverse in front of his eyes as he runs, his memory and his sense of self drifting away in the process. He repeats to himself, like a charm, "As long as I remember Iris, I'll be all right." It's an incredibly moving and heartbreaking sequence. But Barry doesn't die again at the end of it - instead he finds Johnny Quick and Max Mercury caught in some kind of weird vortex where their life force is being sucked out of them. And finally the villain who's really behind it all is revealed: Reverse Flash!

Wow! Very cool stuff. The sequence where Barry tries to sacrifice himself again to save everyone - easily running faster than Superman, and trying desperately to keep at least the memory of Iris, even if he must lose all the rest of himself - is really amazing.
Thumbs Up

Miss America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
These 70th anniversary one-shots are introducing me to a lot of old school Marvel characters I'd never heard of before. The first story in this one - a new tale written by Jen Van Meter with art by Andy MacDonald - opens with the Liberty Leionnaires - Miss America, Whizzer, and Blue Diamond - fighting off a gang of mind-controlled civilians. Miss America and Blue Diamond are pretty generic super-strong, nigh invulnerable types, while Whizzer is a speedster, natch. Whizzer is married to Miss America and is a little overprotective of her, but in order to root out a Nazi sabotage plot, she has to go undercover as a worker at a shipyard. Eventually it turns out that hidden among the regular workers are a whole band of super saboteurs: Madame Mauzer, Vichy Vixen, Axis Annie, Fraulein Fatale, and Penny Panzer! They briefly capture Miss America, but she gets assistance from the regular girls at the shipyard, who fight back to defend her, their ship, and their country. It's all a little silly and over-the-top, but in a wonderfully smart, funny, self-aware kind of way. I particularly enjoyed when Vichy Vixen spontaneously surrenders, and when one of the shipyard gals gives Penny Panzer a brutal slug to the face and says, "Don't fall down yet, sugar. I ain't done hittin' you." Ha! It's a cute story and it's a ton of fun.

Next up is "The Whizzer" from All-Winners Comics #9. Credits are hard to come by for old Golden Age comics, but they know Alan Mandel penciled this one. It features Whizzer foiling a plot to sabotage a test of a new high explosive armor piercing shell. He solves the case thanks to the fact that he was listening to a random channel on his powerful short wave radio and overheard the saboteurs talking to each other in coded language. It's quite goofy. Still, I rather enjoy the character of Whizzer; the current Marvel Universe is seriously lacking in speedsters.

The third story in the book is "The Whizzer: The Terror of the Triple Destruction" from All-Winners Comics #10, fall 1943. This is an even more ridiculous story than the previous one, and involves Whizzer fighting three saboteurs dressed as demons. These saboteurs boast that they will strike three war plants at the same time, but Whizzer is able to foil their plans by getting the Western Union people to agree to set their clocks slightly off in each of the plants. I could explain that further, but it doesn't get much less silly. The story feels like a commercial for Western Union. Also, like a lot of Golden Age stories, it's painfully over-narrated, describing things in text that we can see plainly with our own eyes. Still, it's fun in its own way.

The final story is "Let's Play Detective: The Mystery of the Ghost Killer" from All-Winners Comics #11, winter 1943-1944. It was written and drawn by Allen Bellman. It's a rather odd two-page, locked room murder mystery wherein a detective examines a few clues (really, just the one - some holes in the ground outside the window), interviews a few witnesses, and swiftly fingers the guilty party - a German gardener who used to be in the circus, and who was forced to kill by Nazis who threatened his family back in the fatherland. Interestingly enough, there's no suggestion that anybody's going to do anything about the people who coerced him - the murderer has been caught, and that's that! The trick to how the detective solved the murder is printed upside down in the final panel, so you can try to figure it out yourself first, then turn the book over to check your solution. (I was able to figure it out, btw, as it was rather glaringly obvious. I guess it's pretty hard to put together a complicated mystery in just two pages.)

Most of these 70th anniversary one-shots have been quite fun. Even when the old stories are lame or the new ones aren't all that exciting, it's still fascinating getting a peek into the history of Marvel Comics.
Thumbs Up

Red Robin #1
The Red Robin character has a strange and complicated history in the DC Universe, but this miniseries is about its latest incarnation: Tim Drake - or Tim Wayne, as he calls himself now (Bruce adopted him at some point, apparently). Tim - unsurprisingly, in retrospect - was pretty pissed at being passed over not only for the job of Batman, but also for the job of Robin, so he stormed off. Unable to face losing everything and everyone again, he became convinced that Bruce Wayne is somehow still alive. So he took on the Red Robin persona and went out in search of the original Batman. In this issue, he gets sidetracked from his search by some good old fashioned crime-fighting, and we learn that an old enemy is keeping track of his movements, and is possibly planning to kill him.

I was pleasantly surprised by this comic. The story is told in an interesting, non-chronological way, jumping back and forth through time until the whole thing has been pieced together for us. There's a lot of narration, but it's interesting, well-written, and not redundant. Tim himself is a fascinating character, complex, flawed, and hurting. I hadn't really thought about how he would react to Dick taking over the Batman identity and giving Damian the Robin identity, but his reaction here is totally believable, and it's the obvious way for him to feel in retrospect. I like that despite the fact that Tim is angry and maybe even a little crazy, he's still extremely competent. I'm really enjoying this story and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes. I suspect it may turn out that Tim is right, and Bruce is somehow still alive. But I'd actually like it better if that weren't true, and this series ended up being about Tim trying to come to grips with that fact.
Thumbs Up

Sherlock Holmes #2
A couple of new and interesting twists pop up in this, the second part of "The Trial of Sherlock Holmes." Turns out not only is Sherlock apparently guilty of murder, there were also papers at the crime scene that seem to show he himself was the mysterious Moriarty he was always talking about! Meanwhile, to save face, Scotland Yard is ordering both Watson and Lestrade to keep their noses entirely out of the case! But there's no way they can sit still while their friend is in trouble, so they begin investigating the case secretly, under cover of darkness. Meanwhile, Holmes has cleverly escaped his prison cell and is on the lam!

I'm enjoying this story. It's quite intriguing. The only complaint I have is with the way Aaron Campbell draws Mrs. Hudson and Dr. Watson looking all disheveled. I understand their concern for their friend would end up affecting their outward appearance, but I just can't imagine either of them - proper British folk like they are - letting themselves go quite that much. I mean, they look positively disgusting!
Thumbs Up

Toy Story #1
Boom! keeps churning out the new kids titles, and I keep buying them! This is the first issue in a four-part miniseries, and it tells a one-and-done story called "The Mysterious Stranger." It opens with Andy running in and dropping a strange, egg-like object off in his room before dashing out again to go somewhere with his family. The toys all approach the egg and try to figure out what it is. They are unsuccessful. Paranoia gets the better of a few of them, and those few stage a desperate and poorly thought-out attempt to get rid of the egg. Woody and the rest of the gang stop them, and then have to rush to put everything back the way it was before Andy returns. The object turns out to be harmless, and we all learn a valuable lesson.

But I kid Toy Story. Despite the simplicity of the story, and the obviousness of its message, I actually really enjoyed it. It was fun to see the old gang from the movies again, in an adventure full of fun, action, and comedy. I suspect I'll be picking up the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Uncanny X-Men: First Class Giant-Size #1
This is the one-shot special that bridges the gap between X-Men: First Class and Uncanny X-Men: First Class, with the old writer Jeff Parker handing off the reins to new writer Scott Gray, who's accompanied here by partner Roger Langridge. I had high hopes for this title, as I enjoyed Gray and Langridge's work on Fin Fang 4 Return, but sadly it's an uneven mess. It opens with Scott trying to get used to working with his new teammates: Banshee, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Storm. They're all a bit too crazy and undisciplined for his tastes, and they're not so good at following his orders. But Dr. MacTaggert tells him a series of stories that they told her about themselves which gives Cyclops more insight into who they are. At the end there's hope that Cyclops and his new team will learn to get along.

The device of having MacTaggert tell Cyclops stories about his teammates is a pretty contrived excuse to do a series of one-shot origin stories. And the stories themselves often leave a lot to be desired. Storm's story is beautifully drawn and relatively interesting, but a bit corny. Someone had the horrible idea of writing Banshee's story as a song, but the meter is all wrong and the language has been twisted about in all kinds of clumsy and awkward ways in order to try to make it rhyme. It's quite awful. The story itself is a pretty dull thing about Banshee fighting a bunch of monsters for a girl, only to discover he and the girl can't be together. I like the very end, where he realizes he'll meet her again in death, but that's about it.

Nightcrawler's story is a very childish, cartoony-looking thing about the fact that what he is scares people, and he has to hide behind lies to be accepted. The only really good stories are the last two: Colossus' and Wolverine's. Colossus describes an adventure that takes place shortly after he discovered his mutant ability. He's depressed about the recent death of his brother, and not sure what to do about his secret. His friends are trying to cheer him up when an accident nearly kills them all, but Colossus is able to save them with his mutant power. Not only that, but he finds new hope and a purpose in life. It sounds a bit corny, but it's handled well and is actually quite effective.

The last story - Wolverine's - might be the best. We all know that Wolverine doesn't actually remember his past at all at this point in his history, but instead of telling MacTaggert that, he makes up a bunch of totally ridiculous adventure stories about himself. He says he got his powers by being bitten by a radioactive wolverine at a science exhibition. We then get quick glimpses of his hilarious attempts to become a children's author, a theater actor (I love his take on Willy Loman - "This is one salesman who ain't dyin', bub!"), and a folk singer. Then he finally finds his purpose: punching creeps and blowing things up with the spy organization S.N.I.K.T.! He fights zombie clowns, mechanical lunar ticks on the moon, and the agents of B.I.M.B.O.! Then he saves Charles Xavier from B.I.M.B.O. and agrees to join the X-Men, where he totally macks on Jean Grey.

In the back of the book is an amusing collection of "International Mutants Who Didn't Make the Team" which includes people like Didgeri Dude, an Australian who can surf on anything and drain a tinny in ten seconds flat. I feel like some of the jokes in here went over my head, or are just so weird and random that I thought they'd gone over my head, but most of it is pretty funny.

After reading this rather clumsy, uneven book, I'm a little worried about the quality of the upcoming issues of Uncanny X-Men: First Class. But to be fair, this one-shot was written and illustrated by a large number of people all trying to work in concert, and I suspect it's difficult to produce good work that way. Maybe the ongoing series - written by just one writer and drawn by just one artist - will be stronger and less uneven. We'll see.
Thumbs Sideways

The Unwritten #2
I'm definitely still loving this series. I enjoy the quick glimpses we get into the Tommy Taylor novels - how they're so like and yet so unlike Harry Potter - and the quick glimpses we get into the completely believable internet reaction to the events surrounding Tom Taylor in the "real" world. Some shocking and exciting moments: a new Tommy Taylor novel arrives at the publisher! Then Tom visits his Dad's old flame for information, and it's clear she knows more than she's saying. "You know that trick where you pull away the tablecloth without disturbing the plates and dishes?" she says. "That's what the truth is." Then she tells him to count the stairs in her basement. Somehow, impossibly, he keeps going down and down, getting all the way to step number 1,708 before she turns the light on and tells him to come back. He turns around and finds there are only 12 steps going back up. Such a cool scene.

The villain who's tracking Tom threatens his Dad's old flame a bit after Tom leaves. It looks like she knows the thug, and is perhaps cooperating with him to a certain extent. But she did give Tom a tip on where to go next: the old house where his father wrote the Tommy Taylor novels. There Tom has a flashback to a horrific childhood memory of his father beating the crap out of some man, a man holding a mysterious map. Also at the house is the woman who called herself Lizzie Hexam, and she points out that Tom now has Tommy Taylor's tattoo on the back of his hand, something I've been expecting to see for some time now.

This is a really wonderful, magical mystery about the thin line between fiction and reality. Just my kind of thing.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine #74
Both stories that were launched in #73 conclude in this issue. The biker story really feels rushed and a little clumsy. I think it probably needed to have more space to develop. Also, it needed to be a little more subtle about the parallels to Wolverine's relationship with his own son. And it needed to be more interesting. I really didn't care that much about scummy drug-dealing bikers killing each other. Jason Aaron's "A Mile in My Moccasins" also gets a bit corny and unsubtle at times, but it's still a good story because it never takes itself too seriously. I especially enjoyed the moment when a bunch of unlucky criminals try to rob the bar where Wolverine and Spider-Man are having an argument. Big mistake! I also like when Wolverine's bartender answers the phone and says, "Logan, it's for you. It's that Cyclops guy." Heh. So yeah, a bit cheesy, but also clever and funny, and overall a pretty strong character portrait of Wolverine.

It looks like next issue this book is going to change its title to Dark Wolverine and start focusing on Logan's son, Daken. I'm not totally happy about that, and neither am I happy about the fact that Daniel Way will apparently be taking over writing duties. I remember that guy being pretty uneven. Still, I might give it a try, just to see what it's like.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Angel (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Fables (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Byrne (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), The Take (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not)
Back to Top



Saturday, April 25, 2009 01:40 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

Maybe you thought I'd given up on reviewing comics, but it is not so! In fact, I just fell so horribly behind (partly because of the film festival) that I ended up with an intimidatingly huge pile of comics and it took me a while to even get up the courage to get started. But I did, and now I'm mostly caught up. This post covers new releases from 3/18, 3/25, 4/1, 4/8, and 4/15, plus a trade paperback.

Back issues and old data
Seaguy
When poppy asked me recently if there was anything I wanted from Amazon so she could round out her latest order, my newfound passion for Grant Morrison, and the fact that a new Seaguy miniseries was coming out soon, led me to request the trade paperback collection of Morrison's original Seaguy miniseries. After I read it, I really wasn't sure whether I wanted to read the new series or not (as you'll see later on in this post, I decided to pick up the first issue anyway). I thought I was starting to get used to Morrison's particular brand of weirdness, but this might be his weirdest series ever. Seaguy is a hero in some future, parallel world where heroes are no longer necessary - at first, it seems, because they won some final, huge fight against evil. But ultimately it seems clear that the heroes didn't really win; they were squeezed out, their minds crushed and taken over, by some kind of all-controlling corporation whose mascot is a walking eyeball named Mickey Eye. It's a world like that of The Matrix, where a huge and carefully constructed fantasy prison has been built for everyone to live in. A particularly disturbing sequence sees Seaguy and his pal Chubby (a talking fish who floats in the air and hates being in water) visiting a Mickey Eye theme park, where none of the rides or attractions are fun in the least; in fact, they all look hideous, terrifying, and depressing, and everywhere we look there are people screaming and crying in fear, or preparing to vomit in disgust.

The story, such as it is, is surreal in the extreme, and involves the moon being run by an ancient mummy, firing heiroglyph-covered rocks at the Earth, and a self-aware food product escaping and running amok in the ocean. If there is a purpose or a meaning, I'm not sure what it is. Maybe the book is about how life is a dark and terrible trick; powerful and unknowable forces control almost everything you do; and every day is another game played against death. If so... wow, that's depressing!
Thumbs Sideways

New releases, 3/18
Dark Avengers #3
Things are back on the up swing again with this series. Sort of. This issue opens with the little therapy session Osborn used to get the Sentry on his side, reveals how Morgana keeps surviving and coming back, sees Osborn getting a bit of a leg up on Doom, and promises another knock-down, drag-out between Doom and Morgana next issue, except this time perhaps on slightly more even terms. I still don't like the way the Sentry tore a woman's head off and then went out like a punk, but I have to admit the story remains interesting and exciting.
Thumbs Up

Kull #5
More intrigue, more treachery, and more serpent-killing! Good times.
Thumbs Up

Spider-Man: Noir #4
Although overall I really enjoyed this miniseries, I find this final issue a little disappointing and odd. The end is pretty formulaic, with the hero deciding not to kill the villain - because that would be Wrong - instead resolving to take him in and make him stand trial for his crimes - because it's The Right Thing to Do - but he's conveniently spared the trouble when someone else does the dirty work for him and kills the villain after all. No muss, no fuss! It's kind of a lame cop-out. But oddest of all is the fact that the last line of a comic with "Noir" in the title - a comic in which decent people were killed or brutally beaten constantly - is "in the end, when all's said and done, good guys always win." Um... what?! No they don't! You just got done showing us that most of the time they absolutely don't! Maybe Spider-Man's supposed to be an unreliable narrator here, but I don't think so; I think that's actually supposed to be the real moral of this story. And if so, that's totally lame.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Countdown #3
Nero's rather unconvincing transformation from loving, sympathetic family man to genocidal maniac is completed in this issue. A couple more familiar characters out of Star Trek lore - Worf and Geordi La Forge - make appearances, and we get a quick idea what they've been up to since the last time we saw them. I am still appreciating these glimpses into the futures of my favorite characters, but like I said, I just don't buy Nero's sudden, jarring metamorphosis. Not only does it not make sense to me emotionally, it also doesn't make sense to me that others would be willing to entrust Nero with
incredibly powerful and dangerous technology after just meeting him, or that he would suddenly become a master tactician and brutal warrior after being a miner his entire life. And as Nero and his story are really the heart of the comic - and, I assume, the heart of the upcoming movie - I'm having a hard time enjoying this series anymore.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Crew #1
Luckily there are still some really good Star Trek comics out there - like any Star Trek comic written by John Byrne. This miniseries takes us back before the beginning of the original series and tells us what the woman crew member featured prominently in "The Cage" was up to before that episode. This issue sees her on what's supposed to be a boring, routine shakedown cruise of a brand new constitution class starship - the Enterprise, in fact, before it was even commissioned. Of course, since it's the Enterprise, the routine cruise does not go as planned, but instead turns into a thrilling, fast-paced, tense, deadly fight for survival against Klingon saboteurs. It's a fantastic, tight little adventure story, and it even features some truly moving moments, and a neat bit of foreshadowing at the end.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine #71
The truly fantastic "Old Man Logan" story arc continues with an awesome sequence in which Wolverine and Hawkeye are running from an en-Venomed Tyrannosaur, only to be saved at the last instant by Emma Frost and Black Bolt. Then there's the truly mind-blowing two-page spread of our dynamic duo traveling past Pym Falls. We finally figure out the nature of the package Hawkeye and Wolverine have been transporting, just in time for a terrible betrayal to ruin everything. It's pretty heart-breaking. I'll definitely be tuning in to find out how the story finishes up.
Thumbs Up

New releases, 3/25
Captain America #48
The third and final part of the "Old Friends and Enemies" story arc is quite good, with lots of action and drama, some brutal bad-assery from my man Namor, and a very moving and effective ending. I was kind of hoping they'd bring back the original Human Torch, but it's probably just as well they didn't.
Thumbs Up

The Incredibles #1
This is a new miniseries based on the Pixar film, and part of the Boom! Kids line of comics. I usually try to avoid all ages comics, as they tend to be juvenile and lack the complexity and adult sensibility that I want from my comics, but after seeing The Incredibles multiple times on TV recently reignited my love for the movie, I was primed and ready for this comic. It opens up in magnificent fashion, right in the middle of a fight between the Incredibles and a gang of dinosaur/animal hybrids led by a robot named Futurion. The Incredibles are victorious, of course, but then they have to face an even more difficult task: fitting in with a normal family during a get-together. And later we learn a terrible secret: Mr. Incredible is losing his powers! This issue is fast-paced, fun, and sets up an intriguing mystery. They've definitely hooked me in for at least one more issue.
Thumbs Up

The Muppet Show #1
The other new entry in the Boom! Kids line is this comic book adaptation of The Muppet Show. It seems like rather an odd choice, turning an old puppet variety show into a comic, but they do it, and they do it very faithfully; this is indeed nothing more or less than an episode of The Muppet Show translated directly into comic book format, complete with musical numbers, corny jokes, and an episode of Pigs in Space. The only thing missing is the celebrity guest star. I like the way the old familiar characters are drawn, and the book as a whole is mildly funny and wonderfully nostalgic. There's nothing really excellent in here, but I might buy another issue, just for old time's sake.
Thumbs Sideways

The New Avengers #51
The follow-up to the big, deluxe, totally disappointing 50th issue of New Avengers is the start of a new and interesting storyline, all about the search for the new Sorcerer Supreme. It seems Doctor Strange lost the title when he used some dark magics recently, and now somebody else has to take on the mantle. Strange is hoping he can find and train a good, honest replacement, but meanwhile The Hood is looking to kill him and take the title by force. Awesome stuff! Meanwhile, there's an amusing and awkward scene back at Avengers headquarters where Spider-Man is forced to reveal his secret identity (again, because of course the big dramatic reveal that happened during Civil War got retconned out of existence), and ends up deeply hurting Jessica Jones' feelings when it comes out that she had a crush on him in high school, but he doesn't even remember who she was. Thankfully the subject is changed when Doctor Strange crashes in looking for help.

#50 really disappointed me, so I was happy to see things getting back on track with this issue, which is exciting and funny and dramatic. Looking forward to the next issue!
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Alien Spotlight - Tribbles
I usually avoid the one-shot "Alien Spotlight" titles, but for whatever reason I broke down and decided to pick this one up. I think what caught my eye was when I flipped through the book in the store and saw there were sections narrated by the tribbles themselves. It's an interesting idea and they handle it pretty well here. The story is about some human traders with a shipment of dilithium to deliver who are attacked by Klingons and forced to crash land on a planet full of tribbles. The tribbles end up helping them defeat the Klingons and retake their ship. It's not a spectacularly wonderful comic or anything, but it's pretty cute.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Mission's End #1
I've been getting a lot of Star Trek comics lately! This one's by Ty Templeton with art by Stephen Molnar. It tells the story of an early mission for Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the Enterprise - a first contact mission between humanity and a race of giant, intelligent spiders on a planet called Archernar IV. The spiders are sentient and have a reasonably complex society, but they're also brutal and war-like, and there's ancient technology on their planet which, if they learn to harness and control it, could make them unstoppable.

I was puzzled by this first issue, as I'd read that this series was about Kirk's last mission on the original Enterprise, not one of his first, but things became clearer when I read the second issue (reviewed below) and realized that this first issue was just giving us background information for the rest of the story. Regardless, it's interesting stuff, with good art, political intrigue, action, moral quandaries, fun interpersonal drama, and all the old, familiar characters - well written, even. I'm fascinated to see what happens.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Last Generation #5
This strange and even rather creepy alternate universe miniseries finally comes to its deeply cheesy conclusion in this issue. They introduce a rather fascinating idea - that the Federation might ultimately be the cause of the complete destruction of the galaxy, and that going back through time to destroy it might be the only way to save everyone. They even slip in a pretty funny gag about Kirk and Star Trek IV. But then there's just a bunch of crap about time travel that really doesn't make any sense, more melodramatic self-sacrifice (I swear, sometimes it seems like all anybody ever wants to do in Star Trek is sacrifice themselves and blow up their own ships), and then they redo the speech at the end of Star Trek VI, but alter it to be even more cheesy and ridiculous and corny, even going so far as to end with a big group shot, and the Next Generation logo jammed into Picard's final word bubble. It's quite awful.
Thumbs Down

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #5
This is just another brilliant issue of a truly brilliant series. The crazy opening, featuring a magic corpse in Vietnam, had me totally confused for a while, until they finally explained that the time travel hadn't gone exactly according to plan. Most excellent. Then there's the truly hilarious and twisted interlude with Number Five, his dog, and his expendable helpers. And then there's a weird moment with Seance and his baby mama. I'm so excited to see the big showdown in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

War Machine #4
War Machine and Ares continue to fight, both physically and philosophically, leading to some interesting character development. Also, Ares is crazy and I kind of love him. But things aren't looking good for anybody at the end of this issue, as the Ultimo virus spreads, and Rhodey is at the edge of death with no new body to download into. There are some corny bits in this issue, so I can't quite love it all the way, but it's overall pretty good. My biggest complaint is with the final page, which has one of the worst drawings of a human being I've ever seen:


Thumbs Up

New releases, 4/1
Angel: Blood & Trenches #2
John Byrne strikes again, with more adventures of Angel during WWI. Angel has to do some masquerading as Angelus to get in to see the big bad guy who's really in charge of all the evil going down, but he may not have done his play-acting well enough. This continues to be an exciting comic with fine art.
Thumbs Up

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #24
This one-shot from writer Jim Krueger sees Faith and Giles helping out an inexperienced slayer named Courtney, who tells them about a place called Slayer Sanctuary, where slayers are being told they can come to be safe and avoid the dangers and horrors of fighting evil. Faith and Giles are intrigued and go to check it out. Of course it turns out to be a sinister and deadly trap, involving a face-to-face between Faith and the demons of her past. It's an okay issue, with a few interesting moments, but mostly it's rather predictable and formulaic.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
It's the 70th anniversary of Marvel Comics this year, and that means plenty of anniversary specials! This one has a frame story set in 1942, with Cap and Bucky leading a secret mission
to infiltrate a Nazi secret base. The main story is set back in 1940, and describes a little adventure Steve Rogers went on before he even became Captain America. The moral of the story is that the thing that makes Captain America really great isn't the super soldier serum - it's the good heart, loyal soul, and intelligent mind of Steve Rogers. It's a bit corny, but then, Captain America is a bit corny. Anyway the art is good. After this story is a reprint of a classic original Captain America tale called "Death Loads the Bases." It's a pretty ridiculous story about how Cap and Bucky take out a madman with a ridiculous plan to buy a baseball team for cheap by killing a bunch of its best players, thereby making it look like it's cursed. A highlight is the sequence where our heroes suit up and play some baseball themselves.
Thumbs Sideways

The Flash: Rebirth #1
Grant Morrison brought Barry Allen back to life in Final Crisis, but he didn't go into detail about the whys and wherefores. Now Geoff Johns plans to fill in those details, and give Barry Allen's Flash, and the whole Flash universe, the same kind of revamping he gave to Hal Jordan's Green Lantern and the whole Green Lantern universe. That's an idea I just can't resist, especially since I love speedsters and have been wanting to find a good Flash comic to read for a while now. This first issue gives us a quick look at how various groups of people are reacting to the news of Barry Allen's return - including Barry Allen himself. Allen finds himself in a very different, much faster world than the one he left. And he's got a lot of old ghosts he's still dealing with. We also get intriguing hints about the larger storyline - a character who claims to have brought Barry back, and seems to have given himself the same speed powers; and some kind of weird feedback in the speed force. There are some cheesy bits in here, but it doesn't matter; I'm totally hooked.
Thumbs Up

Gravel #10
I thought Gravel was really in trouble at the end of last issue, but this issue opens with him fine, and offers only vague explanations of how he escaped his perilous situation. Still, I'm willing to swallow that; after all, at this point we all know how good he is at getting out of bad scrapes. The rest of the issue is devoted to introducing us to Gravel's first pick for the new Minor Seven. It's a fun enough little story, with plenty of the old ultra violence. But I would like to register my old complaint about Mike Wolver's terrible art.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #1
This is an interesting new miniseries from Mark Waid and Boom! The premise is essentially: what if Superman was really insecure and couldn't stand criticism, and one day he just snapped and started killing everybody? Of course they can't really use Superman, so here he's the Plutonian. All of the other heroes are similarly familiar but unfamiliar. It's a pretty disturbing and brutal comic, and a fascinating premise. I'm definitely in for #2, at least.
Thumbs Up

Scalped #27
The series of one-shot character portraits continues with this deep, dark look at Agent Nitz. We finally figure out just why he has such a chip on his shoulder, and how much he's thrown away in pursuit of his revenge. As one might expect, he's just as twisted and broken as everybody else in this comic. It's a pretty good issue, but I can't say it's one of my favorites. They brought a different artist in for this one - Francesco Francavilla - and I kind of hope it's not a permanent change, because I don't think his rather cartoony style really fits the subject matter very well.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Countdown #4
The last issue of this miniseries finally explains how these events in the far future can possibly be connected to a prequel story set before the original television series. Spock is successful in delivering his payload and negating the supernova, but it creates a singularity that ends up sucking in both Spock's ship (there's that Star Trek self-sacrifice again!) and Nero's. Picard and the others all assume Spock and Nero are dead, but doubtless they've actually just been pulled back in time, and once he arrives in the past, Nero will attempt to continue his war of revenge against the whole galaxy.

The plot of this issue feels pretty clumsy and contrived, and the science behind the premise of the miniseries has seemed pretty questionable from the start. Plus, as I've said numerous times now, I just don't get Nero's character.

I'll be curious to see how much of the events of this miniseries are incorporated into the movie. Hopefully they'll be able to handle Nero and his story in a way that makes more emotional and logical sense.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Crew #2
Our bad-ass brunette crew member finds herself in the middle of another dangerous adventure, this time while working on an old ship called the U.S.S. Fortune. It's another clever, fast-paced, extremely exciting story well told by John Byrne. I'm really enjoying this series.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: First Class - Finals #3
The mysterious attacks and strange events continue in this issue, until Scott finally reveals he might know who's behind it all: Jean! Is this the start of the Phoenix storyline? Hmm. Anyway, there's the usual silly, sometimes slightly postmodern, humor, and the conclusion of the cute backup story about Jean and Scott on a date, which ends with them getting a tour of their past and their future courtesy the Man-Thing. It's a pretty good issue, and certainly intriguing enough to make me want to keep reading.
Thumbs Up

New releases, 4/8
B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #4
This isn't a very exciting issue. There's a cool moment where the major events of the 20th century are summarized in one panel; there are some impressive battle scenes; and I'm curious as to what Johann is doing wandering around on his own, killing people. But otherwise not much changes here - guy keeps talking, monsters keep fighting. A little disappointing. Hopefully next issue will have more content. I'm getting a little tired of mystical snake guy just standing around dumping exposition on us.
Thumbs Sideways

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2
I still hate, hate, hate the way Tony Daniel is writing Damian here - like he's a helpless kid who's in over his head. He's supposed to be a snide, twisted little killing machine, not a scared brat! Ugh. Anyway, the identity of the killer Batman seems to have been revealed: Jason Todd. Makes sense. Alfred has clearly picked Dick Grayson as the best man to follow in Bruce Wayne's footsteps, and indeed he is the most obvious choice, maybe especially because he keeps refusing the mantle. Tim Drake is the other guy running around in a Batman costume, but it doesn't look good for him by the end of this issue. Meanwhile, the Black Mask is playing Two-Face and Penguin against each other, and dragging Gordon and the cops into it as well. It's bloody chaos!

I'm sticking with this miniseries because it's important to the future of Batman, and because, what the hell, there's only one issue left. But I can't say it's really all that good. The only thing that actively annoys me about it is, as I've already mentioned, the way Damian is being portrayed. But everything else - the story, the dialogue, the art - is just kind of bland and vaguely mediocre. There's nothing particularly exciting or imaginative going on. It's a shame.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain Britain and MI13 #12
This series just seems to be getting better and better all the time. I love the writing, I love the character stuff they're doing - even with Faiza and Lady J - and I love the crazy combinations of technology and magic. I also really enjoyed the scene where Captain Britain talks to Blade about his burgeoning relationship with Jac, a scene which ends with Captain Britain telling Blade, "Well... you really are British." The vampires have a horrific plan for Dr. Hussain, for England, and for the Earth. I like the idea of the magic skull that keeps all vampires out of England unless they're individually invited, but unfortunately the good guys lead the bad guys right to it. Next issue promises shame and surrender, which certainly doesn't sound good. It's exciting, darkly funny, truly brilliant stuff, and it's constantly going off in directions I don't expect. Plus, vampires invading Earth from the moon? That's just awesome.
Thumbs Up

Daredevil: Noir #1
At first I was pretty excited about Marvel giving a noir spin to some of its major titles, but now that they're doing it to everything, I'm starting to get a little wary. I mean, did Daredevil really need a noir spin? It's already pretty noir. But I couldn't resist giving this a try, and as it turns out it's actually quite good. First off, Tomm Coker's art is really fantastic. It's a shadowy, stylized realism that's just loaded with atmosphere. The story is fascinating, beginning at the end - a final confrontation between Daredevil and the Kingpin - and flashing back to the beginning. In this version of the story, Matt wanted to be a lawyer but couldn't get the right education or opportunities, so he ended up a performer, and an assistant to a private detective - his friend Foggy. They meet a mysterious femme fatale, natch, whom Matt can't read like he can other people, and who hires them to save her from her ex-boyfriend, Orville Halloran, a nasty hood who's in the middle of a gang war with Fisk. He also just happens to be the dude who killed Matt's father. Fisk, meanwhile, is trying to manipulate Halloran into eliminating his most dangerous and persistent enemy: Daredevil.

It's an intriguing story that has noir written all over it and, like I said, I really love that art. I'll be back for the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Green Lantern #39
The Controllers think it'll be a piece of cake to steal the Orange Lantern's power for their own, but are greatly mistaken. The Orange Lantern decides this means the Guardians have broken their treaty with him and ventures outside of his home apparently for the first time in many, many years to confront his little blue enemies. But his move against them causes them to react aggressively, too. In fact, Scar proposes another change to the Book of Oa, and further suggests that the Guardians start taking part in the war themselves. That should be interesting! Meanwhile, Hal would really like to get that blue ring off his finger, but apparently he can't do so until he's drained its power. D'oh.

Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern, is a pretty one dimensional character, which I guess is the point, but it's still a bit boring. And Hal is so petulant and whiny that I kind of want to slap him. Dude, you have two super-powered energy rings! Shut up and enjoy them!

But besides some minor annoyances, this is a pretty interesting issue, and takes the story to new and fascinating places. I'm especially looking forward to seeing what crazy crap the Guardians get up to next.
Thumbs Sideways

Ignition City #1
Warren Ellis' long in the making, steampunk alternate history adventure story begins here. We haven't been given the details of this world's history yet, but from what I've been able to glean so far, it appears as if space and air travel advanced more quickly in this world than in ours, and led to a devastating first contact with an aggressive alien race. Now space travel has become far less popular, and all the nations of the world are closing off access to space ports. Yuri Gagarin is drinking himself to death beneath the ruins of a rocket ship in the last space port on Earth: a filthy, muddy, wild, lawless place. The daughter of a famous pilot and adventurer shows up in town to collect his things, on the event of his recent death, and tries to find out what happened to him. Apparently it's not a happy story.

This is a relatively intriguing story, taking place in a relatively intriguing world, but it's also kind of brutal, hideous, and over the top. That's Warren Ellis for you! I hate to say it, but I think I might actually be getting a bit tired of the steampunk alternate history stuff. I was excited to read this comic, but now that I have, I find I'm a little bored by it. Still, I'll pick up the next issue and see where it goes; maybe it'll get more interesting.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Mission's End #2
It's got a silly cover, but this is a very good comic. The first issue of this series recounted an early adventure of the crew of the Enterprise; this issue jumps forward in time all the way to the final assignment for the Enterprise and her crew - being on hand to welcome Archernar IV into the Federation. It should theoretically be an easy, peaceful mission, but we all know the crew of the Enterprise never really gets any of those. Instead, there's revolution, assassination, brutal violence, and a surprise ending that could put everything the Federation knows about the civilization on Archernar IV into question. The story is fast-paced, thrilling, and intelligent, and all the characters are written well. I particularly like some of the moments with Kirk, and the references to his past and future career (including his infamous indiscretions with women!). IDW's Star Trek comics are surprisingly good, and this series is no exception.
Thumbs Up

Timestorm: 2009-2099 #1
I have pretty much no knowledge of the original 2099 versions of the Marvel heroes (introduced in the early '90s), so maybe it was a mistake for me to pick up the first issue of this new four-issue miniseries by Brian Reed, which is about Marvel heroes of our current time being mysteriously zapped forward in time to 2099. It features characters from those original 2099 stories, and is probably making various subtle references to them that I'm not picking up. The story is about a CEO who sends an agent back in time to make alterations to the timeline, apparently as part of a plan to fashion his present world into one more to his liking. But of course things start to get out of his control pretty quickly. I'm vaguely intrigued, but the dialogue is pretty corny, especially in the future scenes, where it's laced with lame future slang terms and jargon. And I can't say I'm interested at all in the story of the future teen and his relationship issues. I don't think I'll be getting another issue of this.
Thumbs Sideways

Wolverine: Weapon X #1
Why did I start collecting yet another ongoing Wolverine series? Because it's written by Jason Aaron, that's why! Sure, the last Wolverine miniseries I read by him (Wolverine: Manifest Destiny) ended up being pretty disappointing, but this one is about Wolverine discovering that somebody's found all the old records on the original Weapon X program, and is starting it up all over again on a new set of guinea pigs. That means mad science and super violence, and those are two of my favorite things. It also makes Wolverine angry, and an angry Wolverine makes good comics.

The series starts out very strong in this first issue. It opens with a small gang of terrorists being found and destroyed in quick, clean, clever, and brutal fashion. Then a drunk Wolverine on a subway train hilariously takes out some muggers before finding out about the new Weapon X program and slipping into one of their abandoned facilities, where the scope of the program becomes horrifyingly clear. The dialogue and narration are smart and funny, the story intriguing and exciting, and there's plenty of the super violence I was hoping for, if not that much of the mad science yet (although the fact that the new Weapon X agents have green lightsaber claws is pretty freaking awesome). I'll definitely be sticking with this one.

After the main story is a handy summary of the history of the character called Maverick, and the Weapon X program in general. Then there's an awesome six-page preview for Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #1, which is apparently the start of a new miniseries from Jason Aaron about Johnny and the new Caretaker trying to get to Zadkiel while some other dude goes looking for the Anti-Christ. It looks creepy, darkly funny, and super fun. I'll keep an eye out for it.
Thumbs Up

New releases, 4/15
Captain America #49
This issue is basically just an interlude with Sharon Carter - a placeholder before the big explosions and craziness that will no doubt go down in the landmark 50th issue. Still, it has some moving moments, and some important things do happen: we find out that bad Cap is creeping around, trying to get information about the real Cap for some reason, and Sharon suddenly remembers all the terrible things that happened to her during the last big story arc - except what it is she saw during that final experiment that the Skull and Zola performed on her. I'm very curious about that! Overall, an okay issue, and I'll be back for the next one.
Thumbs Sideways

Fables #83
I don't usually read Fables, but as this issue is the first part in a nine-part story called "The Great Fables Crossover," which will naturally cross into Jack of Fables and the upcoming Literals, and as I've been meaning to give the series another try anyway, what with everybody always talking about how great it is, naturally I had to pick it up. Sadly, it mostly just reminded me why I didn't care so much for Fables in the first place. It's like Jack of Fables, but with most of the humor removed. Plus, the dialogue tends toward the pretentious. Mark Buckingham's art (with inks by Andrew Pepoy and colors by Lee Loughridge) is good, though, and the story's vaguely interesting; apparently there's some evil force at work in the world that's upping the violence and the anger all over, and it's especially affecting the Fables with beast-like natures, like Bigby. When Jack calls to warn about the danger of Kevin Thorn and his magic, reality-altering pen, it's decided that Bigby should go check on it, less because they really believe Jack, and more because Bigby needs to get further away from that evil influence for a while.

I'll probably try to read the rest of the crossover, even though the villain of the piece, who gets introduced at the end of this issue, doesn't seem particularly threatening or interesting and, like I said, the dialogue in this issue could really use some work. More interesting than the main story in this book is the preview in the back for Mike Carey's new Vertigo series The Unwritten. It's about a guy named Tom Taylor whose father wrote an extremely popular series of Harry Potter-like books about a boy wizard named Tommy Taylor. Thing is, Tom Taylor might not actually exist, and he might really be a wizard. Interesting stuff! I'll have to pick up at least the first issue of that when it comes out.
Thumbs Sideways

Incognito #3
This series has been getting steadily better with each issue, so obviously this is the best one yet! Zack's problems are piling up. Ava Destruction, an old flame of his brother, and the same crazy supervillain who screwed up Zack's hot, bitchy coworker, is looking for Zack and probably wants him dead. Zack agrees to perform all kinds of ridiculous favors for his blackmailing buddy (including an extremely funny series of demolitions of the guy's landlord's car) so as to keep his mind off his idea of robbing a bank, but it's not working. Then all the sudden a couple of Zack's old supervillain buddies show up and attack, and we get a brutal and awesome supervillain fight to round out the issue. Dark humor, smart writing, insane action, noir flavor, great art and colors - this is just a superb book. I also enjoyed this issue's backup essay, which focuses on the pulp hero The Spider. I wasn't too familiar with The Spider, but he sounds interesting, and I liked the author's analysis of the two major types of heroes in American popular culture: the Noble Hero and the Killer Vigilante.
Thumbs Up

Rampaging Wolverine #1
I assume this is a one-shot, but it's hard to say for sure. It's a collection of four Wolverine stories in black and white, each by a different creative team. The first, "Sense Memory," sees Wolverine returning to an island to exact revenge on an old man for a betrayal he committed many years ago. The interesting thing is, although the betrayal led to death and tragedy, that's not how the man meant it to happen, and he's led a good life since then. So Wolverine's terrible punishment seems harsh and perhaps undeserved, although it does make for a powerful, artful ending. It's an interesting look at Wolverine's character, and a reminder that he's a brutal, hard man who's never really been your typical, noble hero. It's a well written story from author Joshua Hale Fialkov, with pretty strong art by Paco Diaz Luque.

But the second story, "Unconfirmed Kill," is even better. It's told from the perspective of a sniper working for Hydra on a remote island base. All he's done every night for a year is take up his position in some cover on a hillside and shoot anything that passes in front of his sights. But on his last night, the thing that passes in front of his sights is Wolverine, and no matter how many times you shoot Wolverine, he won't go down. The sniper thinks he's the best there is at what he does, but it turns out there's somebody a little bit better. It's a great story which turns the typical Wolverine tale inside out, transforming it into a horror tale with Wolverine as the relentless, unstoppable monster. Well written (by Chris Yost) and well drawn (by Mateus Santolouco).

The next story, "Kiss, Kiss," is actually a prose tale by Robin Furth, accompanied by a few illustrations by a guy named Nelson. Interestingly enough, it opens with a retelling of "Unconfirmed Kill" from Wolverine's perspective, then moves on to reveal what Wolverine found when he fell asleep in a cave further up the island: namely, a Shelob-like monster. Although there are a few interesting ideas here, this is probably the weakest story of the bunch. The writing is clumsy, not particularly creative or imaginative, and painfully lacking in subtlety.

Last is "Modern Primitive," with writing and art by Ted McKeever. The art is the most interesting thing about this story; it's very unconventional - stylized, surreal, and artful. The story is a simple thing about Wolverine getting stranded on an island and accidentally becoming pack leader to a band of monkeys. It's vaguely funny.

Story anthologies like this are rarely all that good, but this one is of relatively high quality and I enjoyed it.
Thumbs Up

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #1
Seaguy is back! And I wasn't sure at first if that was a good thing or a bad thing. We pick up in this issue pretty much right where the first storyline left off. Seaguy has his new parrot pal Lucky and has mostly forgotten his previous adventures with Chubby. But only mostly. In fact, something is eating at him. He's unhappy in a world where everyone is supposed to be happy. Lucky is clearly less his friend, and more a spy sent to keep an eye on him (the scene where Seaguy tries to go out without him, and Lucky guilts him into taking him along, is quite creepy). Meanwhile, there's some mysterious new construction underway in town, and Sea Dog (really Lotharius, an upper up in Mickey Eye's organization) doesn't want anyone looking at it too closely for some reason. Seaguy follows what appears to be the ghost of Chubby and sees more things the folks in charge don't him to see, and experiences yet another horrific tragedy. Then suddenly there are three more Seaguys! Except I think they're actually Three-guy, Pee-guy and Tee-guy.

Yes, it's a pretty insane story, but actually not quite as insane as the first Seaguy story. In fact, things are starting to come together into an understandable narrative now. Clearly there's an oppressive force in control of the world, which took control after the giant fight between good and evil that's constantly mentioned. This force - Mickey Eye - is crushing everyone's minds - especially the minds of the heroes - keeping them stupid and happy while it goes about its mysterious business. What that business is I'm not clear on yet, but perhaps it will finally come to the surface in the course of this story.

A final note: the associate editor for this comic book is listed as Pornsak Pichershote. Seriously? Pornsak? That's a real name? Sir or madam, I'm sorry for you.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Alien Spotlight - Klingons
As I mentioned further up this post, I usually avoid these one-shot "Alien Spotlight" titles, but I read that this one was about the Klingon named Kang telling three different stories revolving around an old Klingon proverb: "Four thousand throats may be cut in a single night by a running man." And that right there is an irresistible premise. Unfortunately, each of the stories ends up being a very literal interpretation of the proverb, to the point of near ridiculousness. I mean, how often is it really going to come up that one guy is going to kill that many people in just that way? Not that often, I'm thinking. Still, through the telling of these stories, we learn a good deal about Kang as a character, and he turns out to be a fascinating man: stubborn, patient, brutal, and loyal to his code of honor to the bitter end. There are some neat ideas in here (story by Keith R.A. DeCandido), and some pretty impressive art (by J.K. Woodward), but overall it's just lacking a bit in terms of imagination, cleverness, and style.
Thumbs Sideways

Sub-Mariner Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
Marvel is continuing to celebrate 70 years in the biz with throwback, one-shot anthology comics. This one has three stories about the Sub-Mariner - two new ones, and one reprint. The new ones are "Sub-Mariner" by Roy Thomas with art by Mitch Breitweiser and color by Elizabeth Breitwesier (nepotism much?) and "Vergeltungswaffe!" by Mark Shultz with art by Al Williamson. The reprint is actually the origin story of our hero, "The Sub-Mariner," from Marvel Comics #1, published way the hell back in October of 1939. Bill Everett provided the art and the story.

The first story sees the Sub-Mariner stopping a U-boat attack on New York - but failing to destroy the sub. He has decided he should no longer take part in what he feels is a pointless war amongst the surface dwellers. But then he runs into a hot Nazi spy in a bar who tries to convince him to switch sides. She convinces him of something, all right! The dialogue and narration gets a bit corny and melodramatic, but overall this is an entertaining and dramatic story with some interesting analysis and development of Namor as a character. Plus the art is quite excellent - contemporary, but with a tinge of the classical.

The second story, "Vergeltungswaffe," uses a very old school, hyper-detailed, newspaper strip kind of art style, and tells the story of Namor's attempt to stop the Nazis at a secret island base from testing their weapons on his beloved reefs. His arrogance and inflated self-confidence get him captured, but he ends up getting some help from an American pilot who has randomly crash landed there. Then Hitler gets a cameo at the end! The writing here is nearly as old school as the art, and thus tends toward the flowery and verbose. Plus the Nazi commander's classic bad guy mistake of letting his prisoner wander around free while he explains to her his entire evil plan in great detail is a little tiring. But overall it's still a rather clever and entertaining story. I particularly like the inclusion of the kraken!

The final story is not the first Sub-Mariner story ever, but it is a very early one, and even includes his origin. It opens with some innocent divers trying to salvage a shipwreck only to be brutally murdered by Namor, who is not familiar with diving suits and naturally assumes the people in them must be robots. Although how he would have heard of robots and not diving suits is a little hard to understand. He brings the suits back home, realizes his error, and is then told his own origin in great detail by his mother. It's pretty funny how the origin is crammed into the last few pages of the story; it requires so much exposition that one panel is just all words, and a few more are almost all words with tiny pictures of Namor's mother squeezed in between or below them. The story doesn't make a lot of sense, either. She says she fell in love with and married Leonard McKenzie, the human in charge of a scientific expedition. Part of their investigations involved blasting the seabed with high explosives, a bombardment that killed nearly all of her people. But somehow throughout her relationship with McKenzie, she never seems to have mentioned to him what was going on, and never asked him if he could maybe stop blowing up all her family and friends. It's very strange. The art is also rather strange and awkward looking. Like most Golden Age comics I've encountered, it's not high art, but it is a fascinating piece of comic book history. It's also intriguing and imaginative; it was certainly an interesting idea to have the main character be an enemy of all surface dwellers who mistakenly murders two innocent human beings.

I'm starting to really become a fan of Namor as a character, so I was hoping for a little more from this comic. Still, what I got was okay.
Thumbs Sideways

Wolverine: Noir #1
Like Daredevil: Noir, Wolverine: Noir seemed like a rather unnecessary and redundant concept (I mean, how much darker can Wolverine's story get?), but also one I couldn't quite resist. So far I think it's my least favorite of Marvel's Noir series. It's set in 1937 and Wolverine is a detective at the Logan & Logan Detective Agency ("The Best There Is At What We Do"), along with a dude with mental problems named Dog. Naturally a beautiful, mysterious woman walks into the office with a case. And naturally it leads to death. A flashback reveals a little bit of the history between the Logans, as well as the highly unlikely fact that the gardener at Logan's house growing up had been to Japan and taught him all about samurai, honor, and how to fight with swords and knives. I understand that they wanted to keep Wolverine's Japanese past in the story somehow, but c'mon. That doesn't make any kind of sense. I also understand that they wanted to keep the idea of the claws, but I'm pretty sure you can't hold knives between your fingers like that and actually do anything useful with them. The dialogue and narration aren't terrible, but they're not great, either. And Dog is just a hideous character. It's hard to understand how Logan could think it was okay to send Dog out to complete any kind of task on his own, and it's even harder to understand how any client could come into the office, meet Dog, and still decide to hire the two of them. And overall the story is pretty tired. There's nothing here that makes me want to continue reading this series.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Angel (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Illustrated (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Noir (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Scalped (Not), Spider-Man (Not), ST:TNG (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not)
Back to Top



Wednesday, March 18, 2009 01:41 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Monday, January 26, 2009 12:15 AM
(Last updated on Saturday, January 31, 2009 12:58 PM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And did I mention the talking cow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So yes, this comic is still good! Let's hope it stays that way.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Action Comics (Not), Angel (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Gravel (Not), Hellboy (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Punisher (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), Terminator (Not), The Goon (Not), The Highlander (Not), The Sentry (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
Back to Top




About
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.

RSS icon  Twitter icon  Facebook icon  Google Plus icon



Advanced Search

Recent Entries

Recent Comments

Most Popular Entries

Entry Archive

Tags

RSS Feeds
  • Main feed: RSS icon
  • Comments: RSS icon
  • You can also click any tag to find feeds that include just posts with that tag.


Back Home


© Copyright 2004-2017 Jim Genzano, All Rights Reserved

Like what you see here? Show your gratitude in the form of cold, hard cash, and you could help me make it even better!