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Friday, August 20, 2010 02:02 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 8/4 and 8/11. Beware spoilers!

New releases
B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth - New World #1
Apparently this and the next handful of B.P.R.D. story arcs are all going to be published under the "Hell on Earth" subtitle, which bugs me. Too many subtitles! I have to use the colon, and then the dash to write it all out! Ah, well. In this issue we learn that B.P.R.D. is dealing with dead-ends, wild goose chases, employee conflicts, backlash from the public, and a bunch of mysterious disappearances. I'm still upset about Devon's friction with Abe. The disappearances are unsettling, as well, as is Johann's obsession with getting back the physical body he lost. Where is it all leading?? We can only wait and see.
Thumbs Up

Captain America #607 & #608
Ouch. The new Zemo is hitting Bucky where it hurts now, drugging him to make him look bad, and then dragging the Winter Soldier out into the light. Harsh. I'm curious to see how Bucky fights back. Meanwhile, the Nomad backup stories are actually getting slightly less sucky, which is nice.
Thumbs Up

Fringe: Tales from the Fringe #2
I almost didn't buy another issue of this anthology comic, as the previous issue was rather mediocre, but the first, full-page panel in this book features Broyles crumbling into dust, and that was just too interesting for me to pass up. (It's just a dream, of course, but still.) The first story jumps back in time to fill in some of the blanks surrounding the case that finally killed Broyles' marriage. We also get to meet Broyles' old partner and get a look at what happened to her. It's not pretty! The second story is a pretty standard Twilight Zone-style affair about a guy who goes in a room he's told not to go in, sees something he should never have seen, and creates a terrible future in his attempts to prevent it. Meh.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellboy: The Storm #2
Oh hey! That old guy from the end of the last issue was Merlin! Like, Merlin Merlin! He tells the story of Nimue - the new Queen of Witches - and reveals the horrible origin of the beast Hellboy's in the middle of fighting. He also shows that little pig guy the enormity of the betrayal he's performed, leveling a terrible curse against him in the process. It's intense. Plus, the vision of apocalypse Merlin reveals is very similar to the one we've been seeing in B.P.R.D., which is neat. I love the eerie moment in the church when the ghost comes to visit the priest. And the way Hellboy beats the monster is so bad-ass - very similar to the end of the legendary fight between Arthur and his son, Mordred. Nimue's champion hints at some terrible truth about her that's still hidden. Dropping the sword in the ground seems to call up an inn for them to rest in, which also becomes a meeting place for Hellboy's army. He gets a glimpse of what's happening to B.P.R.D. on the TV, and has a really moving flashback to his childhood. "I'm not a monster, am I?" Fantastic, fantastic issue, summing up what's come before and setting up what's to come, with some great character development. And Duncan Fegredo's art is just amazing, especially paired with Dave Stewart's usual stunning colors. Damn, I love Hellboy!
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #16
This issue is sort of a moment of calm amidst the storm, as our characters recover from the events of the last story arc and prepare themselves for what's coming next. Gilgamos' story is particularly dark and brutal. I enjoy Qubit's water-teleporting umbrella. And it's cool to discover that Kaidan might be a lot more powerful than she suspected. Meanwhile, it looks like Modeus may be getting ready to take the next step in his plan, and I'm very curious to see what it is.
Thumbs Up

S.H.I.E.L.D. #3
Just as the previous issue revealed Da Vinci to be the head of the faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. that believes the world can be saved, this issue reveals Isaac Newton to be the head of the opposing faction. He is one twisted dude! The way he infiltrates the Deviants, steals their knowledge, and destroys them - man! I love the machine built to defeat Galactus, that works by sacrificing men. "There is nothing that can't be done. There is simply a price to be paid." Newton takes Galileo's teachings, adds to them, and twists them into something evil. Galileo says, "Some men call me master... you will call me brother." Later Newton repeats this and reverses it: "Some men call me brother... you will call me master." In the back of the book is some correspondence from the secret Vatican archives revealing that the adoption of the Gregorian calendar was part of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s plan to erase from history the defeat of Galactus. Awesome! This comic is so brilliant and creative and amazing.
Thumbs Up

Supergod #4
The madness continues, as our British scientist describes a super God fight, the destruction of the moon, and people being used as the building blocks of a strange structure. Good old Warren Ellis. I'm both curious and terrified to see how this all concludes in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Thor: The Might Avenger #3
I like the way this comic catches you up on previous events by just slapping together a bunch of old panels with big "PREVIOUSLY..." and "MEANWHILE..." narration boxes on them. Very effective and comic booky! Plus the book really hits its stride in this issue by pulling great characters like Henry Pym, Janet van Dyne, and Loki into the story. Jane and Thor are cute together, and the story of Pym's relationship with Lew Stephens is sweet. The whole enterprise has a very satisfying, old school vibe to it. Well done!
Thumbs Up

Unwritten #16
Time for the big climactic showdown! Tommy's Dad explains things! (Some things. Kind of.) The book is released! (Only it's not the book we thought.) People die! (A good guy who wasn't so good, and the very worst bad guy of them all.) Lizzie goes home! (Except it turns out you really can't go home again, at least not once you've been written out of your own story.) Also, magic! It is great, great stuff. Incredibly thrilling, and satisfying enough, even though it doesn't actually answer all our questions or tie up all the loose ends. Where to next? I'll be there to find out.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Fringe (Not), Hellboy (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), S.H.I.E.L.D. (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not)
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Friday, August 20, 2010 11:29 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 6/30, 7/7, 7/14, 7/21, and 7/28, as well as some back issues picked up during that time period. Basically, I'm catching up on a huge pile of unreviewed comics here. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1 & #2
We head back to the mid-'80s to tell a solo Abe story wherein everybody's favorite fish dude dives to the wreck of a Russian submarine in search of a magical artifact: Melchiorre's burgonet. The artifact has a fascinating history, but the real story here ends up being about the Russian soldier tasked with guarding the artifact - his love, his tragic death, and his boundless loyalty. Artist Peter Snejbjerg contributes some truly haunting, eerie, beautiful images, with the usual wonderful coloring by Dave Stewart. And hey, there's a fun cameo from Miss Varvara! Gotta love her. The plot is a pretty classic ghost story, but it's well done. It's also kind of interesting to meet a B.P.R.D. agent who's just a complete dick.
Thumbs Up

Astonishing X-Men #34
What with all the other X-Men miniseries Warren Ellis has been putting out lately, I completely forgot that he had a separate, unfinished story arc still going in this title. It's been so long since an issue came out I just barely remember the plot, but it's easy enough to pick it back up again. Anyway, Ellis' X-Men books are less about the plot and more about sitting back and enjoying the bitter, amusing banter among the characters as they slay gigantic, hideous monsters, and this issue is no exception. I particularly love the way Ellis writes Emma Frost and Abigail Brand. Using Frost to do some hilarious meta-criticism of the weird history of the X-Men and their villains was ingenious. My only problem: I feel like I should probably know who the shadowy figure in the wheelchair is at the end. But that's okay, I'm sure everything will be explained in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Batman #701
Grant Morrison is so good at writing Batman. Which is why I buy all his Batman books. This book - which jumps back in time to fill in the gap between Bruce's escape from Hurt and the beginning of Final Crisis - opens like this: "Surviving is easy. Surviving is what I do. Ever since that first night, when Joe Chill turned his gun on Dad and Mom, I've been surviving." There's some fun banter between him and a girl he saved, and him and Alfred. And a lot of ominous brooding over Hurt. There's lots of narration, but it's good narration. "I could still taste graveyard soil. And I felt disembodied, haunting the halls and stairways of my own home." It's all a bit unnerving, hinting at some giant conspiracy. The events of Final Crisis, of Batman R.I.P., of The Return of Bruce Wayne - they're all somehow tied together in a great twisted loop of doom that spans hundreds, maybe thousands of years. It's brilliant stuff. I also like the way Bruce describes his relationship with the super-powered people: "I've worked so hard to gain their respect, they sometimes forget I'm flesh and blood. In Superman's world, everything is mythology." And then, the conclusion: "The hole in things was everywhere I looked. The trap I was so sure I'd escaped was locking into place all around me. Think fast, Batman..." That is good stuff, people. The next issue should be the conclusion of this story, and I can't wait to read it.
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #13
We open with a creepy, alternate history retelling of the story of Thomas Wayne, then move to the future for the death, at Thomas Wayne's hands, of Dick Grayson. Then it's back in time three days to explain how this could have happened. Hurt is a very unsettling character for lots of reasons. He cuts at the very heart of what Batman is. To take away the idea that Batman's father was anything but a good man is to take away Batman. Is this "Thomas Wayne" from an alternate Earth? Or is he a creature with false memories created to bring Bruce down? And what are we to make of the return of the Joker? Is he really trying to help? It's hard to believe. I'm fascinated by the relationship between Grayson's Batman and the police. They're aware that he's not the same Batman, but they're not sure just who he is. Gordon pokes at him politely, trying to figure him out, and even mentions that his men prefer him to the other Batman. Meanwhile, Professor Pyg, his Dollotrons, and his infectious addictions have come all the way back from the beginning of this book to haunt Batman again. The image of dominoes falling gives us the sense again that there's a huge plan behind all of this that's only now coming to its fruition. Morrison likes the long con.
Thumbs Up

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4
A classic scene of Old West violence ends with a woman praying: "Oh, dear Lord... if you cannot... send me a miracle of love and salvation... send your darkest, truest angel... of... retribution..." Enter Bruce Wayne, with lightning. Nice. Turns out the folks who hired Hex to take out Bruce are two nigh-immortal beings: Vandal Savage and Doctor Thomas Wayne. Is this the Doctor Hurt from the other Batman books? It seems likely. So he's clearly not Bruce's father - he's some other kind of being entirely, ages and ages old. Anyway, Savage and Wayne seem to think if they can open the box with the bat symbol on it that this family's been keeping for Bruce all these years, they can ensure their immortality, although others say it will bring about the end of the world. In fact, it turns out there's just a book and some papers in there, but they may in fact be the key to oblivion. The closing narration continues the story of the Wayne family history, and suggests that "Thomas Wayne" was also Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, Bruce jumps forward to what looks like modern, or near modern, times. Only two issues of this one left! I'll be curious to see how Morrison ties it all together.
Thumbs Up

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #2
Now that the mysteries are getting cleared away in this book, it's getting less interesting. But I am fascinated by the conflict between the pirates who want to give the power of science away freely to everybody, and the cult of the establishment who want to keep the power of magic for themselves alone.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellboy: The Storm #1
Awww. Hellboy's got a girlfriend. That's nice. An army of dead British guys is also rising up to follow him, although he doesn't know where they're all going. Sadly it looks like Queen Mab and her people have been killed. I'm not totally sure who that old guy is the pig dude runs into at the end, but the book's been pretty good lately at going back and filling us in on anything we might have forgotten, so hopefully that will happen again in this case. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, but it's still well drawn with some very thrilling moments.
Thumbs Up

Heralds #5
The final issue of this miniseries is truly great. A woman faces her fears and a new hero is born. I'm not sure what else to say. Just read it!
Thumbs Up

Incorruptible #8
The cover of this issue seems to promise a fight between the old and new Jailbaits, but sadly that does not occur. However, Max does get to take out some racist scumbags, and picks up a clue that will apparently lead him to his next adventure - and will help unlock more of the secrets of his past. I have to say, this book is really losing me. The writing is just nowhere near as strong as it used to be, and I continue to really dislike Horacio Domingues' childish, overdone art.
Thumbs Sideways

The Invincible Iron Man Annual #1
I swore off Matt Fraction a long time ago, but all the comic book fans I follow on Twitter kept going on and on about how great this book was, so I picked it up. Yeah, still not a Fraction fan. I mean, it's a well told story and all, tragic and brutal. I just didn't love it.
Thumbs Sideways

Irredeemable #14 & #15
I read these two issues in the wrong order, because I missed 14 the week it actually came out, so I was a little confused at first about what happened, but I think I have it mostly sorted out in my head now. There's a huge climactic fight which pretty much concludes this story arc, and ends with the death of a major character, although it's not who you might expect. Qubit makes a last second decision which may or may not have been the right one. He also keeps a pretty big secret, and I think is on the verge of figuring out another. Meanwhile, Modeus' mysterious plan is still playing itself out. Intriguing and exciting.
Thumbs Up

The Man with the Getaway Face
Darwyn Cooke's original plan was to adapt the first four of Richard Stark's Parker books, but as he explains in the introduction to this book, he decided there were two later books in the series he was more interested in adapting. That meant dropping two of the earlier books. But he couldn't discard The Man with the Getaway Face entirely, as it sets up some of the events of the later stories. So he decided to do a shortened adaptation of that book as a prelude to The Outfit, and put it out as a separate, over-sized, $2 preview. The result is a tight, brutal, crime noir tale. Certain parts of the story, Cooke accompanies with loads of wonderfully written narration, while other parts are completely wordless, relying entirely on his powerful imagery to tell the story. Skim's tale is a twisted sort of mirror image of Parker's own tale, but Parker himself doesn't really see it that way. I have a feeling Skim is going to misunderstand what happened during this heist and come back to haunt Parker in the future. I look forward to seeing if I'm right.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #15
Now that all the giant, maxi-series X-Drama is over, we can return to the far more interesting story Zeb Wells was in the middle of telling before all that started: the one about that troop of bad-ass army dudes who came back from Limbo looking to take out Magik. Gillen gives us only a vague sense of what these soldiers have been through and how they've been changed - which just makes them that much more intriguing. I particularly love the moment when one of the guys in the unit, his face entirely bandaged, lifts the goggles off his glowing red eyes, and says "Ruff! Ruff!" to a nearby normal human soldier, just to freak him out. Meanwhile, our heroes are getting drunk and making out in an attempt to get over all the crap that's happened to them lately. But crap ain't done happening! And Pixie's in trouble! Fun!
Thumbs Up

Scalped #39
It seems like forever since I've read an issue of Scalped. I suspect I missed one or two issues. The good news is, this is the first issue of a new story arc, so I wasn't completely lost. Although the various plotlines and character relationships, spread across past and present, are beginning to get so complex I feel like I need a chart to keep track of them all. This storyline is about Carol finally getting her shit together, which is good to see. Then there's the usual shock ending. Wait, I thought we already knew who Bad Horse's father was?? Well, I guess that makes his relationship with the Chief's daughter a little less icky than I thought it was...
Thumbs Up

Secret Warriors #17
This is not a book I'd normally pick up, but I couldn't resist the subtitle of this story arc: "The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos." Not much happens in this first part, however; it's basically all setup. Looks like they're using the old "start at the end and then flashback to explain what happened" structure. Not sure I'll bother to keep reading, though, as nothing in here really intrigued me all that much.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Wars: Dark Times #17
At long last, the "Blue Harvest" story arc comes to an end! And what a doozie of an end it is. I truly love it. It reminds me a lot of the series finale of Angel. "They're going to kill you! Why are you doing this?" "It's my job." Bad-ass. The short scene set in the Bomo Greenbark storyline is interesting, too. I get the strong sense the Jedi who showed up offering his help planned to betray Greenbark and his friends - and might still plan to do so. Killing the troopers was probably all show to gain their trust. Hmm...
Thumbs Up

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #1
Ed Brubaker and Steve Rogers both seem really busy these days, but here they are, together again on yet another book. This time Rogers finds himself on the trail of a descendant of the Professor Erskine who turned him into who he is. At first this Erskine seems to be using his grandfather's work for evil, but Rogers quickly discovers there's a lot more going on than he realized. It's a vaguely intriguing story concept, but not exciting enough to get me to keep reading. The most interesting thing in the book, actually, is a reprint of the original version of Captain America's origin story. I'd never actually read that before.
Thumbs Sideways

Thor #611 & #612
Loki's still causing trouble! His earlier machinations lead, in these issues, to Thor having to go to Hell to protect the souls of his fallen brothers. It sounds like a great idea, but the story itself is actually a bit dull, maybe because it's hard to really get interested in such cosmic, inhuman drama. Plus, the idea of Mephisto making out with cannibalistic zombies is pretty nasty.
Thumbs Sideways

Thor: The Mighty Avenger #1 & #2
Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee have teamed up for a new ongoing Thor series which seems to be sort of a reboot of his story, probably in preparation for the release of the movie. Thor shows up on Earth with only vague memories of who he is and where he came from, and ends up relying on museum department head Jane Foster to acclimate him to the confusing vagaries of Midgard. Oddly, the first villain he has to face off against is the rather lame Hyde. Regardless, the book is kind of fun so far. We'll see where it goes from here.
Thumbs Sideways

The Unwritten #15
Tommy follows a trail of literary clues and finally comes face to face with his Dad - who promptly kicks Ambrosio's ass, before getting a nice punch in the face for his troubles. Meanwhile, we get a better idea of Lizzie Hexam's origins, although she herself seems unaware of just how much she's changed since then. And all along, the release of the final Tommy Taylor book comes closer! Tense and exciting.
Thumbs Up

World War Hulks: Spider-Man vs. Thor #1
I've mostly been staying away from the World War Hulks maxi-series because I dislike the work of most of the writers involved. But this two-part miniseries was written by Kieron Gillen, so I thought it might be interesting. Sadly, I was mistaken. It is kind of fun seeing Hulkified versions of Spider-Man and Thor. But their Hulkified dialog, while funny at first, starts to get stupid and grating very quickly. Plus the story makes contrived use of random memories from the characters' past to get them to fight each other, which is just lame.
Thumbs Down

X-Men: Second Coming #2
This is the concluding part of the most recent X-Drama maxi-series - the one I was talking about earlier. There are four chapters in this book, one by Zeb Wells, one by Mike Carey, one by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, and one by Matt Fraction. They all deal with the aftermath of the events of "Second Coming" - which means another superhero funeral with lots of tearful speeches. Ugh. I'm so tired of that crap. There's also a ridiculous two-page spread of X-Force posing for the camera, courtesy the pencil of Greg Land. Oh, and naturally the Phoenix raises her ugly head again. Sigh. Sometimes the X-Men just make me tired.
Thumbs Down
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Darwyn Cooke (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Hellboy (Not), Hulk (Not), Iron Man (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), Scalped (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not), Zeb Wells (Not)
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Monday, June 7, 2010 10:47 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 5/12. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #1
Warren Ellis returns to play in X country again for a new five-issue miniseries. This time he sends the team to Africa to investigate a mysterious rash of mutant births. Along the way, he highlights some of the more awful and violent parts of the socio-political history of Africa, and has the characters banter with each other in highly amusing ways. ("There's beer on the plane, Logan.") I thought from the sample of his art on the cover that I would dislike Kaare Andrews' work, but I actually enjoy it quite a bit. It's exaggerated in a funny, clever way that fits Ellis' writing well. I particularly like how he's highlighted the ridiculousness of Emma Frost's figure and costume. A good start to the series!
Thumbs Up

B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #5
This issue reveals the horrific consequences of the events of the previous issue, and they are pretty shocking. Apparently Liz's most recent use of her powers really was nearly apocalyptic in its strength, and incredibly draining for her. Our heroes were teleported out of harm's way, but many thousands of people were not. Zinco is back and making some seemingly humanitarian gestures which no doubt have evil motives behind them, and one of Abe's old "friends" is still puttering around underwater in his big metal diving suit. Speaking of Abe, it makes me sad that Devon doesn't even want to be near him anymore, but considering what the Black Flame said about the guy, it's hard to blame him. In one of the more interesting subplots, it looks like reality is about to come crashing down on B.P.R.D.'s head. When you read these stories, you don't think much about the political consequences of the epic events that take place, but obviously the huge, world-altering supernatural things that have been going down would put B.P.R.D. on the spot, and they'd have to answer to somebody. But what starts as a dressing down turns into a sort of promotion. This should make the future of B.P.R.D. pretty interesting.

I like that they don't spell everything out for you in the Hellboyverse, but at the same time, I felt a bit lost after reading this issue. What exactly happened, and why? And who was the dude with the red hand on his face again? And what's going to happen to Liz now?? But maybe all that will be answered in future issues. Or maybe I should go back and read the old issues a bit more closely.
Thumbs Up

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1
Bruce is back!! This first issue of Grant Morrison's six-issue miniseries picks up right where Final Crisis left off, with Bruce hanging out with a dying old man in a cave and drawing some familiar-looking graffiti on the wall. It looks like when Bruce's corpse was shot off into space along with other artifacts of the dying Earth, he was somehow resurrected? And sent back in time? I assume they'll explain that in more detail later. Anyway, by the end of this issue, it becomes clear that he's going to be leapfrogging forward in time at random moments, sort of Quantum Leap-like, and the Justice League is going to be following him. Superman says if he makes it to the present he could destroy the universe! Another thing I assume they'll explain later. Meanwhile, we can enjoy the fun of Batman-through-time! In this issue, he fights cavemen, gets himself a caveman Robin, and experiences a weird summarized, nightmare version of his superhero origin story. Then it's forward to Puritan times where he'll fight extra-dimensional monsters with a sword! Excellent.
Thumbs Up

The Marvels Project #8
The final issue of this miniseries gives us an interesting look at the Marvel Universe version of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the very end brings us full circle in a satisfying way. But I have to repeat the same complaint I've been making about this series for the past couple of issues: there's far too much summarizing via narration and far too little actual comic book story-telling. They either needed to take more time and more issues to tell this story the right way, without clumsy, expository summarizing, or they needed to tell a smaller, shorter story in a tighter, more economic fashion. I like the concept of this series, and the art, but overall it's a disappointment, and doesn't live up to its potential.
Thumbs Sideways

The Sentry: Fallen Sun #1
Oh sweet lord, what an awful, awful comic this is. I had to force myself to even skim it. It's another of these one-shots, which are becoming woefully popular lately, where we spend an entire comic at the funeral of the latest dead superhero (whom we all know will be brought back to life in a year at the most anyway), and get to wallow in grief for over twenty pages. It's a really cheap way to elicit emotion from the audience. I'm not saying it can't be done well, but it certainly is not done well here. There is zero subtlety in Paul Jenkins' overwrought, ridiculously melodramatic writing. Tony's agonizingly long and awful speech about alcoholism and addiction and friendship is practically unreadable. And there are plenty more speeches of similar quality. What makes the book particularly odd and ineffective is that these characters are all speaking lovingly of events that I've never heard of before and that I'm pretty sure were never even dramatized in a comic before, because they were all retconned into this universe via the Sentry's origin story. Regardless, this comic is so full of corny, overly earnest, cliched dialog that it's totally unbearable. It's an embarrassment.
Thumbs Down

Siege #4
I expressed surprise in my review of New Avengers #64 that I learned about Loki's final double-cross in the pages of that book instead of in the pages of the main Siege miniseries. Well, this last entry in said miniseries finally explains Loki's actions. It's pretty much another version of the end of Secret Invasion, with one of the traditional Marvel villains stepping up to help the heroes defeat an even more dangerous villain. It's also, as I guessed from New Avengers, pretty much a literal deus ex machina. It's really quite lame. Basically this comic involves the heroes hitting a guy until they've finally hit him enough that he stops moving. Then Cap gets Norman Osborn's job. Yawn. Olivier Coipel's art is excellent, but I'm really tired of Brian Michael Bendis. His writing is just not very good, and the whole Siege story is tired and cliche. The Sentry character arc, for instance, is just a repeat, not only of many other, better stories about many other, better characters, but of stories that have already been told about this very same character. The same could be said for the Siege story as a whole. It feels like Bendis is just recycling the plots from Civil War and Secret Invasion because people seemed to like those. How about we try something new, huh?
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor #2
Another intriguing medical puzzle for everybody's favorite grumpy frontier doctor, this time with a cameo from Scotty. The solution to the puzzle involves the behavior of an ancient transporter system, and is pretty standard Trek stuff, but like I said about the first issue, it's really just fun seeing these beloved characters in action again.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #13
This issue opens with an intriguing look into the traditions and secrets of "The Order," and gives us a better idea of what's really going on. The two-page spread in which Tom sees a crowd of people rear up like a giant monster is very cool. We figure out who Richie is really working for just before he gets taken out of the picture for good in a really horrific manner. Damn! I was just starting to like that guy. But hey, it's fun meeting Frankenstein's monster again. All-in-all, another enjoyable issue.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Byrne (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Siege (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Sentry (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Monday, April 26, 2010 01:14 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 4/7 and 4/14. Beware spoilers!

New releases
B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #4
Liz goes hunting in the ruins of a future apocalypse that she supposedly helped create and finds evidence that seems to support the Black Flame's disturbing claim that Abe is just a slightly more evolved frog creature. The whole second half of the book is incredibly thrilling, as Hellboy makes a cameo and it is strongly suggested that since he was/will be unable or unwilling to end the world, Liz took/will take over for him. Luckily, in a truly ass-kicking climactic conflagration, a mysterious man with a red hand on his forehead shows up and helps direct Liz's power at the right people. It's nice when a super-powerful magician shows up to fight on the side of good for a change! Excellent, excellent stuff.
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #11
I'll admit it, I had to do some googling to figure out just who everybody was supposed to be in this comic (I finally found my answers here, if you're interested). I guess I'm just not that good at holding all these story threads in my head at once, and I don't know as much about the history of the DCU as I'd like. I didn't know that Dr. Hurt and El Penitente were the same guy (or if I did know, I forgot), or that that's who that guy was in the opening scene. And I definitely didn't recognize the villain who showed up in the final panel (which is too bad, as I'm sure that was meant to be a shocking reveal). Ah, well. I still really enjoyed the comic. Morrison's kooky dialog and wild story ideas are just fantastic. I love the 99 Fiends, and Batman's Indiana Jones-like investigation under Wayne Manor. I'm glad Robin is thinking the same thing about Sexton I was thinking, but I'd sure like to know if we're right. And the thrilling, cliffhanger ending is very exciting.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable: Special #1
This is the kind of book that, if Marvel or DC were putting it out, would probably be called an "Annual." It's bigger than your average issue and has three separate stories done by three separate creative teams (although they were all written by Mark Waid). It opens with a short sum-up of the story so far, and some intriguing hints as to where the story will go next, revealing that the three characters who are at the center of each of these three stories will take a critical role in the events to come. The first tale tells the story of one of the Plutonian's former teammates, a guy called the Hornet, who would have been the first superhero (albeit without any powers) if the Plutonian hadn't showed up first. His story is pretty similar to that of Plutonian's other former teammates, except for one difference: the Hornet had a contingency plan in case the Plutonian ever went bad, and he was able to activate it before he was killed. But what is it, and what does it do? I guess we'll see...

Next up is the origin story of Kaidan, done in an appropriately manga-type style. It's a little melodramatic, but does give us a bit more of an insight into her powers and her past. Last is the story of how Max Damage met Jailbait. This one's possibly the weakest and least interesting of the three; it just feels perfunctory and doesn't really add anything to what we know about the characters.

Still, overall this is a pretty fun book. Really, I'm just excited about the fact that it exists. If Irredeemable is putting out "special" issues, that must mean the series is doing well!
Thumbs Up

Siege: Loki #1
This is a one-shot revealing more of Loki's motives and machinations as far as the events of Siege are concerned. I picked it up because it was written by Kieron Gillen, whose work I've enjoyed in the past, and because I have a bit of a soft spot for Loki. The setup is interesting: Loki realizes that despite all his meddling, Asgard and its citizens - including Thor and himself - remain essentially the same. This frustrates and angers him, and he decides he's going to have to work some real chaos if he's to see any kind of true change in the nature of things. So he puts a bug in Osborn's ear about Asgard, then seeks out the terrible Disir and makes himself their master, so that he can make a deal with Hela and Mephisto which will not only cause some serious strife, but also leave him truly immortal and fateless. It's an entertaining and clever series of machinations, and gives us an interesting look into Loki as a character. In the back of the book, we're told Loki's endgame will play out in Thor #609 and Siege #4. I was probably going to buy those anyway, so that's cool.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor #1
John Byrne returns to the Star Trek universe for a new miniseries focusing on what Dr. McCoy was up to in between the original Enterprise's final mission and the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I always like these kinds of stories that fill in gaps in the overall plotline of a larger saga, and Byrne is particularly good at writing them. His prose is smart and he treats the characters with respect. We learn in this issue that McCoy, after sitting around being retired for a while, got restless and signed up to be a frontier doctor, meaning he's out cruising the spaceways with a fellow doctor, answering random medical emergency calls from various alien planets. He and his friend pick up a stowaway and then have to fight a mysterious and fast-moving disease. The stowaway character is basically a stereotype, and many of the other plot elements are pretty familiar, but it's still a reasonably entertaining story, and as I said, it's really just fun seeing these beloved characters moving around again, and learning more about their past.
Thumbs Up

Star Wars: Dark Times #16
The "Blue Harvest" storyline continues with Dass Jennir's Yojimbo/Fistful of Dollars-style gambit playing out pretty much as planned (except maybe for that beating he takes). This continues to be an entertaining series with beautiful art.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Byrne (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Siege (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not)
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010 03:41 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 2/10. Beware spoilers!

New releases
B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #2
The sequence where Liz gets separated from the group is classic horror movie stuff. Extremely well done, and very creepy. And seeing Liz's torturer return is also unsettling, especially considering how much trouble they went through to get rid of him before. I don't feel like the way the Lobster's story is wrapped up here is very satisfying in terms of explaining why he popped up when he did and why and how his ghost did all the things it did, but none of that really matters that much in the face of how awesome that final page is. Is the Lobster's ghost finally at peace now? Well, no, not exactly. But he has found his own personal paradise: fighting an endless horde of Nazi ghosts for all eternity. Fantastic!
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #8
This issue jumps around in time a bit, showing us in more detail how Batwoman ended up in the pit with Batman, and how Eddie ended up on a train with a bomb strapped to him. It even flashes way back to Final Crisis and reveals where the evil insane Batman zombie came from. Then we get what we've been waiting for: Batman vs. Batman! Batwoman appears to die, but I'm pretty sure Batman was just helping her fake her own death for some reason. And now evil Batman is after Alfred and Damian! Oh no!

This title got a little lame for a few issues there, but this new story arc is really exciting, and it's loaded with fantastic ideas, fantastic characters, and fantastic dialog. In particular, I continue to love Morrison's Damian. Everybody else writes him as an annoying, arrogant brat, but Morrison writes him as a really entertaining, brilliant, bad-ass, arrogant brat.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #10
Emma is such a nag in this issue! But the New Mutants themselves are wonderful. I love the way Wells writes their dialog and their interactions. Funny and very human. Plus, there's exciting action. I particularly like when Cannonball punches Sauron through the ship and then hops on deck to help his teammates like it was nothing. The plot device of the New Mutants getting their minds taken over by a villainous outside force is getting a bit old at this point (I mean, c'mon, we just did a story arc all about that), but whatever. I like the idea of Cyclops throwing his people into action and trying to sort out which of them could be a good future leader. All-in-all, a good standalone story.

In the back is a preview of the first issue of something called X-Factor Forever, which I'm guessing is analogous to X-Men Forever - somebody picking up an old storyline right where it left off years ago, as if none of the intervening continuity ever happened, and taking that story to its natural conclusion. The art is cute, especially the super-sexy interpretation of Marvel Girl, but there's not much else interesting here, and the exposition-filled thought bubbles referring back to all the unbelievable plot twists of old school X-Factor are pretty ridiculous. I'll pass.
Thumbs Up

S.W.O.R.D. #4
This is a fun, rollicking issue with plenty of amusing banter amongst our heroes, adventures with dumb rock aliens, and a scary subplot involving a different set of aliens, far more bloodthirsty and dangerous, who use that incredibly dangerous robot to help them take over the Peak. Gotta love the cliffhanger ending, and the hilarious and clever preview text: "TO BE CONCLUDED...! Possibly in the first two pages with Beast and Brand getting gunned down, leaving 20 pages of Drenx celebratory conga. Alternatively: ACTION!" I'm betting we're going to see the "ACTION!" myself.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #10
Our heroes mistakenly wander into a ghostly version of 1940 Stuttgart and get separated. They have a fascinating, enlightening, and deeply disturbing discussion with Josef Goebbels which ends in a bad way for Tommy. It's another tense, exciting, unsettling, thought-provoking issue full of imaginative ideas. This is truly a great comic.

In the back is a preview for a graphic novel by Peter Milligan called The Bronx Kill. It's supposed to be noir, but the preview is just a bunch of annoying people yammering at each other. Definitely not going to pick that up.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back #1
A miniseries about Pixie and her mutant teen girlfriends is not something I'd usually pick up (well, let's pretend it's not, anyway), but this one was written by Kathryn Immonen, and I've enjoyed her work in the past, so I nabbed a copy. But I'd forgotten how odd Immonen's writing is. This was definitely the most confusing comic I read this week. As near as I can make out, Pixie and her buddies have been imprisoned in an illusion where they think they're a bunch of normal girls attending a normal high school, but actually they're mutants surrounded by demons! I'm not sure if I'll pick up another issue of this. There are some interesting moments, but the basic story isn't very original, and I didn't really enjoy being vaguely confused the whole time.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), The Take (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Saturday, January 16, 2010 09:42 AM
(Last updated on Saturday, January 16, 2010 09:43 AM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 1/6 and 1/13. Beware spoilers!

New releases (1/6)
B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #1
As per usual when picking up an issue of B.P.R.D., I felt a little lost at the beginning of this comic, like I'd forgotten some important plot details. But only a little. Even though it's not good for our heroes, I rather like the plot twist of the military withdrawing its support from B.P.R.D. and insisting on handling things its own way. That seems realistic, especially considering all the crazy crap B.P.R.D. has asked them to do. It's good to see Kate hanging out with her boyfriend again, and the Lobster's riddle-spewing ghost is both amusing and disturbing. And of course I loved seeing the link back to an earlier part of the Hellboy story. But what has happened to the Lobster and poor Johann now? Guess I'll have to wait and see. Anyway, another intriguing episode in the saga of the Hellboyverse.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #6
I really want to stop collecting this series! But something always draws me back in. This time it was the promise on the cover of "NEW GUARDIANS." Also, a quick flip through the book revealed that a whole bunch of random superheroes were getting rings, and that intrigued me. And, to be honest, there is some cool stuff in here. It's genuinely funny when Larfleez interrupts Sinestro's serious speech about tactics to point out that he wants the kill shot, too. It's cool when Barry grabs onto a chain of willpower and drags Hal along while he dashes two seconds into the future and outruns the black rings. The ring duplicating, deputizing thing is a bit gimmicky and hard to believe, but I loved the idea of Luthor getting an orange ring and Scarecrow getting a yellow ring - that's just perfect. Sadly, the other pairings of characters with rings don't work as well. The power of love overcoming the power of the black ring and turning Wonder Woman into a Whore Lantern, for instance. Yuck. And apparently the indigo ring comes with free language lessons, a staff, a loincloth, and body paint? Still, I have to admit, there are cool ideas here. It's hard to resist the concept of a huge ring war where every damn superhero and villain gets a magic ring and jumps into the fight.

After the main story, there's a cover gallery in the back advertising a bunch of upcoming Blackest Night tie-in issues, none of which really interest me. I don't quite get the numbering on them, either. Starman #81? The Question #37? Did they just make up those numbers or what? And why and how are there going to be so many tie-ins, anyway? I thought this series was finally almost over! How can it just go on and on?!
Thumbs Sideways

Siege #1
Speaking of epic, flagship, universe-changing miniseries, here's Marvel's new one. I'm not familiar with the name of penciler Olivier Coipel, but I rather like his work here, especially the two-page spread set in Asgard where Loki shows up to warn Balder about what's coming. There's an impressive vision of the city plus a creative panel layout. That full-page pic of the Avengers flying toward Asgard with Ares on the nose of a jet is also super hot. The comic is also pretty fun story-wise, especially now that I've mostly gotten over the lame plot device of Loki and Osborn manipulating Volstagg into creating another Stamford event. I like the way everybody but Osborn is pretty freaked out about going up against the Gods. I liked it when Thor shows up and gets into the fight, although I would have preferred to see more of Thor vs. Sentry (talk about a clash of the Titans!). And it's great having Cap jump up with his fist shaking in rage in that last panel. There's a transcript in the back of a longer version of Osborn's conversation about the siege with his Avengers which is kind of amusing, although my copy of it is a little messed up; the dialog on the third page is just a reprint of the dialog on the first page. You'd think Marvel would have paid a little closer attention to stuff like that on such an important comic, but whatever.

This is an okay start for Siege. I'll stick with it for now, see how it goes.
Thumbs Sideways

Siege: Embedded #1
I wasn't planning on picking up this tie-in comic, but... well, you know me. Sometimes I just can't resist. Anyway, this thing is actually pretty interesting. There's a character named Todd Keller who's clearly a parody of Glenn Beck (and perhaps Bill O'Reilly, to a lesser extent). Really the whole thing is about the media, about news-reporting intrigue, and about how political forces can shape how people view them by controlling who tells the story and how. It's rather clever.
Thumbs Sideways

New Mutants #9
Good lord I love this comic. The opening, with a portal to hell opening and a bad-ass commando group stepping out - wow. I also like Doug, and I like the scene of reconciliation between him and Amara. But best of all is Magik's story of time travel and Lovecraftian doom. Yay! I can't wait to read more of this storyline.
Thumbs Up

New releases (1/13)
Aliens vs. Predator: Three World War #1
Despite the fact that I've given up on both the Aliens and Predator miniseries being put out by Dark Horse at the moment, I still couldn't resist giving the company's Aliens vs. Predator series a try, especially since it's written by a guy named Randy Stradley whom I just started following on Twitter (he does these little known Star Wars facts on there that are pretty funny). The comic doesn't waste time and jumps right into the action and the killing. A ship lands in the middle of a mining colony and out come the Aliens! The twist is, they're actually being led out on chains and used as attack dogs by a bunch of Predators! Woah. That's a terrifying and exciting concept right there. Later we learn these are actually a quasi-mythical faction of Predators who don't hunt with honor, but simply kill for no reason. Interesting.

This storyline is actually a sequel to another storyline I never read, but the comic does a good job catching you up on the important information, so I never felt lost or confused. The writing isn't fantastic, but the concepts are intriguing, so I'll probably hang in there for at least one more issue.
Thumbs Sideways

The Marvels Project #5
This comic continues the disappointingly brief and exposition-heavy summary of Steve Rogers' transformation into Captain America. I know we've heard this story a million times, but I thought they'd give it a new spin or a different perspective in this miniseries. Instead Brubaker is just kind of hurrying on past it. Ah, well. The fun part here is the first appearance of the Red Skull, who is, as usual, right in the middle of doing something really awful and despicable. The bits with Steele and Fury and the Nazi scientists are interesting, and it's great seeing Cap getting suited up in the classic uniform for the first time, and meeting The Angel, whose perspective on Cap is fascinating.
Thumbs Sideways

S.W.O.R.D. #3
I love the contentious relationship between Brand and Beast, and Beast's witty dialog. Writer Kieron Gillen is even managing to make Gyrich a vaguely interesting character, which is difficult indeed. I love the scene where the troops invade Lockheed's room (which has nothing in it but a basket, a bottle of liquor, and a picture of Kitty) and try to take him into custody, and he easily eludes them. The scene with Doug, Warlock, and the Celestial is clever and cool; the Unit's backstory is totally fascinating; and Beast's escape plan is pretty brilliant. I was kind of hoping this issue would suck so I could drop this comic, but no such luck! In fact, it's fantastic.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #9
I think it's fair to say that this is my favorite comic on the stands at the moment. This issue is full of magic, tension, mystery, drama, and tragedy. Watching the children, their heads full of fantasy and a desire to help, wander into the prison and toward their doom, trusting to the very last in the power of a make-believe world to save them, is absolutely agonizing and devastating. I love the scene where the Governor reaches toward the ghost of Roland holding out his horn and punches through him to the fire alarm. I love the doorknob that opens magic doorways. And then Roland blowing his horn, and the final, terrible, fateful transformation of the Governor into Count Ambrosio - WOW. This is amazing, amazing stuff.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Lovecraft (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Predator (Not), Siege (Not), The Take (Not)
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 02:20 PM
(Last updated on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 03:13 PM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 12/9. Beware spoilers!

New releases
B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #4
The latest (and I believe last?) in a series of one-shots set back during the original plague of frogs, this one focusing on Johann Kraus. Peter Snejbjerg's art coupled with Bjarne Hansen's colors makes for some beautiful, creepy, atmospheric visuals. The story is eerie, unsettling, and moving, and provides some further development of Kraus' character.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #5
Gun Nuns, activate!! Lots of fun and darkly funny stuff in this issue. That eyeball guy is amusing. I didn't see the surprise twist coming - that the Caretaker herself was a gateway to heaven. And finally we're all set up for the big showdown that's been heading our way since Jason Aaron took over the Ghost Rider franchise. Meanwhile, the reprint origin story of the Son of Satan continues in the back of the book. Gotta say, this entry is pretty bad. Lots of corny dialog and clumsy recapping and exposition.
Thumbs Up

The Muppet Show #0
I think this marks the start of the new ongoing Muppet book, although I could be wrong. The concept - Rizzo Rat and Fozzie Bear pitching a Pigs in Space movie to Statler and Waldorf - is brilliant, but the execution leaves something to be desired. It's mildly amusing, and that's it. I kept wanting it to get better, and it never did. I also thought it was weird and pointless that they tried to hide the fact that the two movie execs were Statler and Waldorf by depicting them in silhouette at first. C'mon, it's two cranky, critical old guys. Who else were they going to turn out to be?
Thumbs Sideways

The New Avengers Annual #3
Sometimes I find comic book chronology really odd. It was months and months ago that a comic came out about Hawkeye breaking into Osborn's hideout to kill him. He subsequently got captured. A number of comics have come out since then dealing with the aftermath of that event - Hawkeye's inevitable escape. And yet only now do we finally get the comic that actually tells the follow-up story to the original issue, explaining the details of Hawkeye's escape. Making things even more confusing, the resurrected Steve Rogers shows up at the end of this issue, even though the miniseries bringing him back (Captain America: Reborn) hasn't finished yet, so we don't know how he got there. Sigh.

As for the story itself... well, it has its moments. It's fun seeing the rebel Avengers bust in and one-up the Dark Avengers. I don't like the art, though. It's that hyper-realistic, Alex Ross-style stuff that I always feel as if I should like, but that always ends up annoying me. Maybe I'm getting an uncanny valley vibe off of it.
Thumbs Sideways

S.W.O.R.D. #2
Marvel Boy gets captured in the opening of this, but again I'm confused by the chronology - is this the new, uber-powerful Marvel Boy, or the old, weaker Marvel Boy? Either way it seems like he should have been harder to nab. And why is Spider-Woman helping the Man? I thought she was with the rebel Avengers! Confusing. There are some corny bits to the story, too, but also a reasonably exciting plot about Gyrich forcibly expatriating all of Earth's alien residents. I'm loving the preview image from next issue, featuring Lockheed surrounded by flames and pointing two guns at us in his most bad-ass stance.
Thumbs Sideways

The Unwritten #8
This issue takes a quick jump backwards in time and retells some of the story's more recent events, this time with a focus on the governor of the prison that Tom has been put in, as well as the governor's children, who have a slightly unhealthy obsession with the Tommy Taylor books - an obsession that could put them in serious danger. It's another tense, unsettling, emotionally powerful issue crammed with brilliant ideas. I continue to believe this is one of the best comics on the stands right now.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), The Take (Not)
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Saturday, October 24, 2009 04:12 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 9/23. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Final Crisis: Aftermath - Dance #5
Super Young Team reunites, but of course they have to do it on a Dr. Phil-like talk show. Then it's time for the big showdown. Is that Mr. Mind in Rising Sun's head? This issue wasn't as fun as previous issues, but I'm hoping the conclusion will be exciting.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Size #1
Two of the most disturbing comics I've ever read came out the same week. This is one of them. There is so much in this book that is disgusting and wrong. It's depressing and horrific to see what's become of Bruce Banner. I mean, inbreeding and cannibalism? Ugh. And yeah, Wolverine is tough, but it's a little hard to believe he'd be able to kill the entire Hulk family so quickly and easily. I mean, the Hulk is practically impossible to kill! The odd ending with Wolverine riding off into the sunset with little baby Bruce on his back is almost too cute. An impressive and explosive - but also sickening and slightly disappointing - conclusion to a great series.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredible Hercules #135
I keep ditching this series and then picking it up again. This issue I had to get because it focuses on Amadeus Cho, one of my favorite characters, and it connects back to the old school Master Mind Excello stories. The introduction is done up as a combo of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel and a D&D module, and that thematic premise is carried forward throughout the rest of the book in a really clever and funny way. I'm impressed! But I think I'm leaving this series alone again until something similarly clever pops up.
Thumbs Up

Monsters, Inc.: Laugh Factory #2
This issue features the return of Mr. Waternoose, and the reveal of a powerful new "Master Door" technology. But just as in the first issue, interesting ideas that have the potential to be developed over an entire series are introduced and hastily resolved in only one issue. This series still feels rushed and clumsy, and is definitely not living up to its source material.
Thumbs Sideways

The Muppet Show: The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson #3
I enjoy the amusing board game gag, and the rather moving scene between Animal and the fleas. But yeah, this could be better.
Thumbs Sideways

The New Avengers #57
I am so loving this art, but the incredibly wordy thought bubbles are not so good. Show don't tell, Bendis! It's also a bit hard to believe that the crippled rogue Avengers could have escaped from the united forces of Norman's Avengers and the Hood's entire gang. Of course, Norman catches up with them almost immediately, but still. At least the ending is dramatic and exciting, and the subplot with Loki and the Hood is a ton of fun.
Thumbs Up

No Hero #7
I said earlier that two of the most disturbing comics I ever read came out this week. This is the other one. The conclusion of this miniseries makes it clear just how appropriate the title is. There are indeed no heroes here. The superhuman security team secretly controlling the world is morally bankrupt and awful. The agent sent in to destroy that team is a horrifically twisted, homicidal individual. The people and nations who have joined together to send him in are just as terrible; they don't want freedom for the world, they just want to steal back their power from the superhumans. And once the evil superhumans have fallen, the whole broken world falls with them. All is death and horror and evil. Even for Warren Ellis, this is an incredibly dark and depressing and cynical story. But also incredibly powerful and well told.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Spock - Reflections #3
More fascinating gap-filling recollections from Spock. First up is a telling meeting between T'Pring and Spock that takes place between the events of the original TV series and the first movie - she really does know him well. Then another example of how Kirk would commit daring acts of bravery that flaunted the regulations, and he'd still somehow get results. And then a moving letter from Picard explaining Kirk's death. This is really a fascinating and powerful series.
Thumbs Up

Superman: Secret Origin #1
A really emotionally effective, totally human and believable, and somehow wonderfully original retelling of Superman's childhood - how he learned to deal with his incredible powers and with the revelation that he's not from Earth, and even how he first met his nemesis, Lex Luthor. Once again Johns and Frank are a dynamite combination.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #12
Batman - Batman lets some shameless, murdering hussy find out his secret identity, and then kisses her while she's bloody and dead? I just don't buy it! This should not be a Batman story.

Kamandi - It's a bittersweet ending, but Kamandi still has some hope of finding more of his kind. Definitely one of the most beautifully drawn stories of the series, even if it didn't always move me.

Superman - A weirdly anticlimactic ending. The threat of danger at the end of the last episode is immediately defused and deflated at the start of this one, and everything is suddenly just fine. A little disappointing, but I do like that Batman got to save the day, and that Superman is now feeling at home again.

Deadman - This conclusion is pretty interesting. Deadman finds himself having to do the dirty work of Hell to maintain the balance he upset by interfering earlier.

Green Lantern - A fun, cute ending to one of the more solid and entertaining strips.

Metamorpho - Heh. The French chef and his helpers get left behind during the escape. I like the silly previews of future Metamorpho stories that will never be. This was an uneven strip, but definitely had its moments.

Teen Titans - Absolutely the worst strip in Wednesday Comics. Terrible from beginning to end.

Strange Adventures - One of my favorite strips has one of my favorite final episodes. Absolutely beautiful. "And the days roll by, one by one... days of strange adventure."

Supergirl - This strip ends with a really cutesy, Twilight Zone-style surprise reveal. Yawn.

Metal Men - A surprisingly moving, if also rather corny, conclusion to one of the less interesting strips in the book.

Wonder Woman - The lesbian make-out session between the villains in this episode is pretty much the only interesting thing that happens. Once again the action is so cramped, poorly drawn, and laid out that it's nearly impossible to tell what's going on. Lame. Just lame.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - This strip was mostly a huge disappointment to me, but this final episode has a bit of a twist ending that's actually quite moving.

The Flash - One of the better strips wraps up in true postmodern fashion, by concluding the action in a comic strip inside a comic strip. As Iris points out, it "doesn't make any sense at all," but it's still a ton of fun, especially when Barry whisks Iris off to the restaurant at the end.

The Demon and Catwoman - This strip was uneven, but this last episode is sexy and cute.

Hawkman - For about half of this strip's length, I really hated it, but then it took a sudden turn toward the totally awesome. This ending keeps the awesome going, as Hawkman kills a T. Rex by carving through to its brain from inside its mouth while Aquaman keeps its jaws open. Then there's this exchange - Superman: "Sorry we're late, Batman. There was a black hole in hyperspace. Don't ask." Batman: "Save the Earth, and all is forgiven." Heh.

Although the strips themselves were uneven, Wednesday Comics was a wonderful experiment and a great format in which to deliver comics. I hope they do something similar again in the future.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mark Millar (Not), Monsters (Not), Monsters Inc. (Not), Muppets (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Pixar (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Friday, October 16, 2009 04:38 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post has really gotten out of control lately. It takes so long to write that I've started to look at it as a chore, and I've purposefully avoided working on it, which doesn't make sense; this is supposed to be something I'm writing for myself, for fun, on my own blog! And when I do get it done, it's so long that even I don't want to read it. For now I'm going to stick with it, but try to keep my reviews as short as I possibly can. If it remains a chore, I might drop it altogether.

This post covers new releases from the week of 9/16, plus a back-issue I missed. Beware spoilers!

Back-issues and old data
Dark Wolverine #77
The first story arc of Dark Wolverine ends with a kind of stalemate. But Daken has gained allies and is owed favors. Clever guy. Clever book.
Thumbs Up

New releases
Batman and Robin #4
Scarlet is seriously creepy. She and the new Red Hood are taking a violent but effective approach to crime-fighting. But who is Oberon Sexton, and who is the Flamingo? Hmm.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #3
Flash: "Whoever did this... crossed one hell of a line." I couldn't have said it better myself, Barry! The new Firestorm is seriously lame, and there's lots of corny dialog and melodrama in this issue. But it's good to see the Indigo Lanterns finally showing up and explaining how to defeat the Black Lanterns. It feels satisfyingly right that to counter the absence of light you'd need to combine the whole light spectrum to make White.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America: Reborn #3
More emotionally effective time-shifting scenes with Steve. He figures out a clever way to send a message to the present that reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Bucky makes a bad-ass escape, Sharon makes another in a long line of really bad choices, and then there's a really effective and creepy ending.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers #9
A surprisingly moving and effective issue focusing on Ares' relationship with his son, and his reaction to discovering that the kid is essentially working with his enemies. Also features a shocking sequence with the Sentry, and another amusing Osborn freakout.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: M.O.D.O.K. - Reign Delay #1
A comedic one-shot in which M.O.D.O.K. is tricked by Norman Osborn into returning to his hometown of Erie, PA, where he comes face to face with what a desperate & pathetic a loser he used to be - and still is. It's only when he meets a hero even more desperate & pathetic than he is that he stumbles on success. The book relies on shame and the incompetence of its main character to generate humor, and that's my least favorite type of comedy. Still, the book has its moments.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Wolverine #78
This issue reminds us that Daken and Norman Osborn are not nice guys. In fact, they're both extremely clever and manipulative scum bags who aren't afraid to kill innocent people to get what they want. Fun!
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Romulans - Schism #1
Klingon sex is scary. I've enjoyed Byrne's other books in this storyline, but I'm having a hard time getting into this one. Maybe it'll get better.
Thumbs Sideways

Ultimate Armor Wars #1
I was expecting a lot from a new Warren Ellis book set in the Ultimate universe, so naturally I was a bit disappointed in this rather dull story about Tony getting robbed and saving a girl. But it does have a classic Ellis-style line of dialog: "I'm dying of super-powers."
Thumbs Sideways

Wednesday Comics #11
Batman - More clumsy dialog and hard-to-believe emotional reactions from Batman and our villainess. Is her heart made of ice or gold? Azzarello can't seem to decide. And I can't shake the feeling this is a mediocre crime noir story that shouldn't have Batman in it at all.

Kamandi - Our happy ending is interrupted by a deus ex tragedy. Argh! That sucks.

Superman - Some fun action and an exciting ending, but the dialog, though occasionally effective, is mostly just a load of clumsy exposition.

Deadman - The other shoe finally drops and what's really going on is at last revealed. Only thing is, everything seems to be resolved, so I'm not sure what's left for the last issue.

Green Lantern - Giant space fight! I don't really get why the narration says, "They came, they saw-" and then never finishes the phrase. But otherwise, fun.

Metamorpho - Another big reveal/happy ending that seems to leave little room for another issue's worth of doings. Cool art, some fun action, but not as exciting as one might hope.

Teen Titans - I believe I've read comics that sucked worse than this one, but I can't really think of any right now.

Strange Adventures - A slightly disappointing entry in an otherwise great strip; basically this episode just repeats and slightly augments the ending of the last episode. Still, it's pretty fun and the art is great, so...

Supergirl - Supergirl sucks at nonverbal communication, and the aliens shoot her. Luckily, the superpets are coming to save the day. I remain unable to get into this strip. It is cutesy and dull.

Metal Men - A terrible sacrifice is made by the few for the good of the many! It's actually slightly moving. Slightly.

Wonder Woman - Another cluttered and confused episode of this strip. Well, at least it's consistent. All the gleeful bondage harks back to the rather embarrassing origins of this character. But hey, since when did the lasso make you a slave? I thought it just made you tell the truth.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - Finally, a real action scene! Unfortunately, it's a pretty clumsy action scene, with more unbelievable back and forth between Rock and the Nazi Captain. Sigh.

Flash - A surreal, powerful, dramatic climax with more unique and imaginative panel layout - this time the strip spirals down toward a point in the bottom right corner. I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but it's an interesting, emotionally effective story with well written dialog, so I'm okay with it.

The Demon and Catwoman - Exciting magical action! The Demon even breathes flame. But Catwoman's jokes at the end fall a bit flat.

Hawkman - Aquaman sets a shark and an octopus on a T. Rex! That might be the coolest thing I've ever seen Aquaman do. Awesome!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Iron Man (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Byrne (Not), M.O.D.O.K. (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Monday, September 21, 2009 11:47 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 9/2. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #28
Another rather silly Andrew issue, in which he films himself seeking out the spy he's sure is in their midst. He finds all the girls pretty pissed with the new "no powers" doctrine (understandably! I'd be pissed, too! In fact, I am pissed!), except perhaps Faith and Buffy (who seem to have finally come to an understanding). An aside: it's cute that Buffy is wearing a T-shirt with the Count from Sesame Street on it. This issue carefully sets us up to believe that Xander and Buffy are at long last going to get together, but then takes a sudden sharp turn at the last minute and throws Xander and Dawn together instead. Woah. That's a little... creepy. The moment when Buffy walks in on them kissing is a classic, heart-breaking, Whedon-esque relationship moment. Meanwhile, Oz helps Willow deal with her darkness, and she comes to believe that she, and even Buffy, might be able to eventually have real, normal lives after all.

Oh, and also, turns out there really was a spy, and it was the cat! That's unexpected. Looks like next issue could be the start of the big showdown, or at least another large battle. Exciting!
Thumbs Up

Daring Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
Our first story is by David Liss with art by Jason Armstrong, and it focuses on a reimagining of the origin story of an old Marvel character I'd never heard of before: The Phantom Reporter. He's a regular guy working as a journalist who, in the process of chasing down a story, becomes frustrated with just writing about the bad guys and determines to do something about them himself. So he puts on a mask and uses his smarts and his experience as an athlete and a fighter to beat the truth out of the villains and ultimately take them down. It's all a bit hard to believe, really, and the fact that the big bad guy is a mad, immortal genius who always goes around with a monkey on his shoulder and who's stolen the formula for the philosopher's stone doesn't help with the credibility. Another silly moment comes at the very beginning of the issue in the frame story, wherein the Phantom Reporter mentions off-hand that he was frozen back in WWII, like a lot of other mystery men, and thawed out in the present day. C'mon, how many people can that have happened to?? I'm willing to buy Captain America, and Bucky, but after a while it starts to get pretty ridiculous.

All that being said, one has to expect to suspend one's disbelief quite a bit for a superhero comic book, and Liss' writing is good enough that it's pretty easy to overlook most of the story's more unlikely elements. Interestingly enough, there's a short essay by Liss after the story where he talks about the fact that he's a novelist, and this was his first comic, but he enjoyed it quite a bit and plans to do it again.

Next up in this book is a reprint of the original origin story for the Phantom Reporter. It's your typical Golden Age story about corrupt politicians in bed with street-talking thugs who are beating people up as part of a scheme to make money. The title character is a crummy reporter by day, but by night he puts on a mask, ties on a cape over his suit jacket, and heads out to interrogate criminals with truth serum and beat the snot out of their bosses. Unlike in the modern reimagining, where the Reporter gets a backstory and is carefully developed, here we learn little to nothing about him. It's not the weirdest or worst Golden Age story I've ever read, but it is rather silly.
Thumbs Sideways

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #5
Another very funny and entertaining issue of this mini. Our "hero" continues burning bridges before he's even finished crossing them, and running head-on into any crazy thing that might give him more power, even if it's insanely dangerous for himself and everyone else in a 100-mile radius. He manages to survive a direct confrontation with some Justice Leaguers, but it remains to be seen whether he'll survive his own stupidity and recklessness.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #2
Jason Aaron opens this issue with a very odd, darkly funny, and vaguely disturbing sequence in which he reintroduces a weird old character known as Master Pandemonium, who has demons for arms and a gateway to hell in his belly. Danny Ketch uses him to make a deal with the devil. Danny, Johnny, the Caretaker, Daimon, Jaine, and the Anti-Christ all end up getting together, and Danny says he has a plan to take on Zadkiel. It's pretty thrilling, and it's also funny what a mismatched gang this is. The scene where Daimon comes onto the Caretaker is particularly amusing. But there's even more fun and dark humor in store at the end of the issue, as a whole gang of old and new Ghost Rider villains team up to take on their old foes. I love how crazy and epic Aaron is making this story. I mean, he brought back the Trull the Inhuman, a living steam shovel! Awesome.

In the back of the book is the continuation of the reprinted storyline which originally introduced Daimon Hellstrom. It's a bit wordy and melodramatic, but also surprisingly interesting and engaging. It's really legitimately horrifying when Johnny's replacement crashes into the cliff side.
Thumbs Up

Immortal Weapons #2
This issue's Immortal Weapon is the sexy/creepy Bride of Nine Spiders. Her story is, appropriately enough, a Twilight Zone-style tale about an inter-dimensional spider and its haunting song. Unlike the first issue, this one does not reveal the origin story of its subject. The furthest it goes back in the Bride's history is 1935, when she faces off against a psychotic killer who meant to make her his bride. It's then that she leaves one of her magic spiders behind on Earth. In modern times, the spider is bought by a man who unwisely attempts to pry open the secret of its powers and only calls down horror and death upon himself. A team of mercenaries go in to try to get the spider back, only to find themselves caught in the same web. The story structure isn't particularly imaginative, but there are some cool moments. The second part of the backup story, "The Caretakers," is a bit melodramatic and frankly not all that interesting, but Travel Foreman's art is very effective.
Thumbs Sideways

Incognito #6
This issue brings an end to what will hopefully be only the first of many stories set in the Incognito universe. Some really cool backstory reveals that Zack's origin is tied up with the origins of superhumans on Earth, and that his heritage is more heroic than we knew. His brother's girlfriend and her story about the coin flip is pretty funny. Some bad-ass moves from Zack and some quick thinking from Zoe save the day. Then Zack gets just a little bit of revenge on the Black Death before officially (sort of) joining the other side.

Yes, our anti-hero drops the "anti," which is frankly a little disappointing. I think I would have liked it better if he'd remained a scumbag right to the end. Still, the comic was kind of headed this way all along, and I like the future story possibilities that this opens up. Brubaker and Phillips have built a fascinating little world here that I hope they'll revisit soon.

In the back of the book is another highly entertaining essay from Jess Nevins about forgotten pulp history. This time he focuses on an odd sub-genre: zeppelin pulps. These were stories about pulp heroes who flew around in giant airships, and their origins lie in the Army and Navy attempting to redeem the image of zeppelins in the eyes of the public after the Macon disaster. A lot of the story elements from these zeppelin pulps sound familiar; they appear to have been borrowed by Brubaker when he was writing Incognito. There's a Zeppelin of Silence where operations are performed to remove the "sickness of evil" from the brains of criminals; there's a villain named Black Death; and later a two-gun wielding rip-off of the Shadow named Lazarus the Returned Man is introduced. (Turns out Lazarus died in nearly every appearance, only to reappear in the next episode. Cool!) Some of the other story elements are just insane. Villains included a Nazi aviator named Pontius Pilot; Amenhotep, the simian Pharaoh of the Congo; and Baron Nosferatu, the Flying Vampire. Dude, I want to read about those characters! I also kind of want to read the wildly unpopular Spicy Zeppelin Stories, and Strange Tales of the Black Zeppelin, a weird menace pulp. Anyway, ultimately the popularity of zeppelins as a means of transport, and as a focus for pulps, was destroyed by the Hindenberg disaster.

I hadn't meant to copy down so much of that, but it's totally fascinating stuff.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #6
I love this series so much, and this is another great issue of it. We get a very telling look at the Plutonian's (or rather, Danny's) tough childhood, and even see the surprisingly terrestrial origin of the symbol on his chest. Meanwhile, our heroes track down and disable the Modeus-bots, but not before one of them sets off a distress signal that brings the Plutonian zooming straight at their location. They escape to the only place they know the Plutonian is not: his own secret lair! Charybdis sticks around to slow down the Plutonian, not by fighting him (as that would hardly work), but by talking to him. He brings up a disturbing story out of the Plutonian's past, back when he was a hero, and reveals there might be more to the story than even the Plutonian realized. Meanwhile, the rest of our heroes stumble upon something horrific in the Plutonian's lair - but we don't get to see what it is! Bastards!

I feel like this story is hurtling towards its conclusion now, and I can't wait to read it and figure out the solutions to all the hidden mysteries.
Thumbs Up

Moon Knight Saga
This is one of those freebies that summarizes the entire history of a character. It's written in first person, from the perspective of the Moon Knight himself. I'm vaguely curious about Moon Knight's story, but I just can't get into him as a character, and I have yet to read a really good comic about him. Sadly, this book did not change my opinion; the writing is so bad and so melodramatic I couldn't even finish it.
Thumbs Down

Mystic Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
Turns out the original version of The Vision was really freaking weird. We open with a new story about the character, set back in his original time period. The premise is that The Vision is a supernatural being who can appear wherever there is smoke - the smoke from a fire, from a pipe, any kind of smoke. It's a pretty silly concept really, and you can see them stretching it almost right out of the gate, as the Vision has to use the smoke from a convenient fire in the kitchen of a restaurant to transport himself into said restaurant and attack a couple of criminals who've busted in to assassinate somebody with tommy guns. He tricks one into shooting the other, then makes it look like the getaway car is driving into his mouth and dropping down into his guts, when really they've just swerved off the pier and into the river. It's pretty surreal. Later, The Vision has taken the guise of a normal human, and we learn that he entered our world from his own supernatural realm through a portal opened by a scientist. Almost before he's done warning us that something awful could come through that same portal if they're not careful... something does. Like The Vision, this hideous monster is able to travel through smoke, and show people horrible visions that trick them into doing terrible things to each other (there's the strong suggestion that one man kills his wife because he was tricked into thinking she was a giant spider, and The Vision's love interest nearly commits suicide to avoid being molested by a zombie that's not even there). In the end The Vision triumphs in epic fashion, and turns the gangsters behind all the trouble against each other by subtly influencing their minds. It's a strange, eerie story. It's not excellent, but it is occasionally effective. It's followed up by reprints of two original stories about The Vision. In these stories, there's no mention of a scientist or a portal, and The Vision never takes on the guise of a normal human. The Vision just appears mysteriously out of smoke wherever and whenever he's needed, and then vanishes again just as mysteriously. I imagine him sitting in a room full of mystical windows, one for each spot on the Earth where there's smoke, all of them appearing and disappearing as smoke is generated and dissipates, and when he sees something through one of them that he feels he should interfere with, he simply leaps through. Anyway, in the first story, The Vision finds himself facing off against a couple of werewolves, one the innocent victim of the other. The victim explains the backstory in a series of lengthy bits of exposition-heavy dialog and then, having achieved his story purpose (info-dump), he is promptly killed. Attacked by the other werewolf, The Vision simply shoots it with a mystical beam which instantly turns it back into a human and kills it. He says: "They're both dead now.... My work here is done! There are others who need my aid. Farewell, Earthman." Um... help?? You just made sure everybody was dead and then took off! That's not really particularly helpful. The panel layout in this story is also quite awkward; they find it necessary more than once to slap big red arrows on the page to explain which panel you're supposed to read next. One particular page has to be read in an awkward, circular direction.

The final story is quite silly, but also kind of awesome. A businessman has made himself his own little Jurassic Park, and of course almost before he's done explaining how safe it is to the press, the dinosaurs have smashed out of their cages and are rampaging through the city. The Vision pops up out of the smoke of a demolished building and runs off to get some dynamite. And this is where things get a bit weird. The businessman who started all this calls his press agent and demands that he recapture the dinosaurs alive. Apparently this isn't just any press agent, as he immediately grabs a tommy gun, rounds up a crowd of goons (who even call him "boss"), and orders them to shoot anybody who interferes with them grabbing the monsters! It's almost as if the writer was contractually obligated to include a gang of criminals in the story for The Vision to fight. Anyway, next up The Vision chucks some dynamite into one dinosaur's mouth, where it explodes, blowing the animal's head off! The businessman, blindly raging about his dead dinosaur, is swiftly eaten by the one that's still alive, which in turn is also blown to bits by The Vision and his dynamite. It's a ridiculous - but also ridiculously fun - little story.
Thumbs Sideways

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #3
This issue opens up with a big, bloody fight with the demon monster. Afterwards, Grey and his new medium friend talk through everything that's happened and finally work out what's going on. But things are complicated by the interference of The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, a group that fans of the Hellboyverse will recognize immediately. Turns out they want the monster's bones. On a hunch, the medium takes them into the Church of the Inner World, a weird little temple whose members believe in the Hollow Earth concept. These church members were tricked into believing the demon was an angel, and it's sucked them all dry. (This is finally the pay-off to that weird scene we saw earlier in the series of the old man saying, "Thank you, Lord," when the monster entered his office.) It's an extremely eerie and effective sequence, and it reveals even more connections into the larger story of the Hellboyverse. The demon is in fact one of many slave monsters that tended the war machines of the Old Ones deep in the Earth. Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. will run into these little guys a number of times in the future. But right now, Grey and his friends aren't well equipped to take them on, and could be in serious trouble.

I'm loving this series more and more all the time. I'm constantly impressed by what a huge, epic, millenia-spanning story Mignola is building. All of these books are connected, and there are things happening in this comic that actually illuminate stuff going on in other books that are set some 200 years in the future. But it's not just a part of that bigger story; it's also its own powerfully atmospheric Gothic horror tale, with its own set of fascinating characters, and it alludes to all kinds of wonderful myths and fairy tales and ghost stories. It's excellent stuff.
Thumbs Up

Strange Tales #1
This is the first issue of a fascinating new Marvel Knights three-part anthology miniseries, collecting weird stories by indie comic creators. First up is a totally cute and fun story about the Inhumans (well, really just Lockjaw - the other Inhumans are just supporting characters) by Paul Pope. It's a pretty hilarious, deliberately over-the-top adventure story about all the work Lockjaw has to do just to get his dinner. I love it. Next up is a story about She-Hulk, reimagined as a 19th century period story about a woman whose true self, in all its power and ferocity, is being repressed by her mother. The title of the book she's reading is prominently displayed: The Yellow Wallpaper. Ha! This is another fun one, with unique art from Molly Crabapple and amusing writing from John Leavitt. "Welcome to the Spider Town" is a very odd, cutesy, manga-style tale from Junko Mizuno about MJ trying to help Spider-Man fit in in their new home: a city populated entirely by spider people. "Dr. Strange vs. Nightmare" by Dash Shaw is very, very funny. Tricked by a soup that says it was not poisoned by Nightmare, Dr. Strange falls into the dream realm and gets into a big fight with the supervillain. When Nightmare leaves to get his evil unicorn (ha!), Strange wakes up, but then must keep himself awake or face Nightmare again. So it's off to a diner to drink coffee and try not to yawn. Funny stuff. The silliest and most childish story in the book is probably James Kochalka's "Hulk Squad, Smash!" in which a trio of variously colored Hulks fight the regular green Hulk. Johnny Ryan provides an amusing interlude with "Marvel's Most Embarrassing Moments." Included is Doctor Strange's rap album and Cyclops getting caught peeping in the girls' locker room. Ryan also gives us "Scared Smart," starring The Punisher. As you might imagine, it's about him threatening a slacker into getting a decent education, and hilariously ends with him and the post-post-graduate laughing and hugging each other.

Even though M. Kupperman's "Fed Up with Man," starring Namor, is exceedingly odd and pointless, I still got a real kick out of it. "Mankind- ugh!" says Namor. "A dog, a barrel... ridiculous! ...Yet they make such delicious pizza!"

Next is the first part of what will apparently be a longer, continuing story called "The Incorrigible Hulk," written and drawn by P. Bagge. The art, satire, uncomfortable social situations, and sexual references all remind me of R. Crumb - which of course means I'm not a big fan of this story. I've always hated Crumb and his ilk.

"And Call My Lover M.O.D.O.K." by Nick Bertozzi is at first a rather amusing story about M.O.D.O.K.'s long-term, squabbling relationship with one of his AIM henchwomen, but halfway through it takes a turn for the extremely dark and by the end it has become almost punishingly sad and depressing. I guess it's good in its own way, but it's certainly not fun to read. The rest of the book is a handful of really quick, goofy stories: The Perry Bible Fellowship shows us how Bruce Banner opens a pickle jar in "The Green Menace," and how a case of mistaken identity leads to tragedy in "The Blue Hair." And finally, Jason (yeah, just Jason) gives us the fun and silly tale of how Peter Parker finally manages to get into a bar fight.

There are some misses among the hits, as with any anthology comic, but overall this is a great little book with a wonderful premise and thematic arc to it.
Thumbs Up

Thulsa Doom #1
I loved the character of Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian, and the world of that film in general, so I was interested to try out this new miniseries from Dynamite which focuses on Doom's backstory. Adding to my curiosity is the fact that Djimon Hounsou has apparently already signed on to star in a film adaptation of this comic. In fact artist Lui Antonio has taken things one step further and already cast Hounsou in the lead role of the comic itself; Doom is the spitting image of Hounsou, just with more muscles. He shows up out of nowhere at the start of the issue and saves some folks from slavery by bloodily murdering their captors. Then he is in turn saved from a giant monster by soldiers who show up out of nowhere. He joins them, but he's not really there to help people; he's looking for some mysterious object. Meanwhile, in the remnants of Atlantis, an impossibly voluptuous evil sorceress steps naked out of a bath in order to drink the blood of a pretty young slave as part of some black magic ritual to recover her beauty. Needless to say, she's the villain who'll be hunting Thulsa Doom. There's an unnecessary and odd wordless final panel of Thulsa sitting at a campfire, and then the issue comes to an end.

This comic is ridiculous, over-the-top, and utterly gratuitous from top to bottom. I understand why they've drawn the main character as the actor they expect to play him, but it still feels cheesy and vaguely pathetic, especially the overly dramatic way he's introduced in a full-page panel that seems to linger on his impossibly large and ropey muscles. It doesn't help that there's really almost nothing imaginative or interesting going on here. I won't be buying another issue of this.
Thumbs Down

The Torch #1
I love the Human Torch as a character, so I couldn't resist trying out this new Marvel/Dynamite miniseries, written by Mike Carey and Alex Ross with art by Patrick Berkenkotter. It's set in the modern day, with the Torch's sidekick Toro taking the role of narrator and main character. Apparently Toro was brought back to life by Bucky, when at some point he managed to grab the Cosmic Cube for a few seconds. Like other characters who've experienced something similar, Toro is feeling all sulky and depressed and aimless and out of place. The original Vision shows up to try to cheer Toro up, and ultimately Toro asks for his help in finding the guy who killed him: a supervillain known as The Thinker. But The Thinker is in the midst of some serious supervillainy, and Toro's sudden appearance actually just helps inspire him to new and more terrible evil involving the Human Torch himself.

Although the premise and story of this book are vaguely interesting (I was particularly fascinated by the new, reimagined origin for Toro's powers), the writing is quite melodramatic and over-the-top, and Toro's sulking is just irritating. I think I'll save my money and drop this one now.
Thumbs Sideways

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #2
For now the Kingpin appears to be staying dead! The guy who killed him is Mysterio, and he's planning on becoming a big player. Spider-Man's nightmarish vision of all the heroes chained and drowned underwater is very powerful. It's also interesting seeing Kitty Pryde getting persecuted in the lunch room at school. I didn't realize that in this universe mutants are outlawed. Peter and Gwen are totally cute together, but Pete has to dash off to fight some brand new supervillains: a mother/daughter pair whose explosive projectile powers only activate when they're near each other. Spidey's still having a hard time getting used to everybody loving him, and the mystery surround the Human Torch's sudden reappearance (not that Human Torch, the other Human Torch) has yet to be solved.

I keep expecting and almost hoping that this series will get lame, so I can drop it, but it continues to be fun and funny.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #9
Batman - This strip has been... stuttering a bit lately, you might say. Unsurprisingly, thug guy is betrayed and shot by his femme fatale lover. As he's dying in Batman's arms, Batman says to him, "Hardy, you're going to have to..." But Hardy interrupts, "...make peace. Don't... Go easy. That's all I ask. Luna... I love her." Uh... did anybody else think that dialog exchange was really confusing at first? I think I have it worked out now (Batman wants Hardy to give up his lover, but Hardy, even though he's just been shot by her, wants Batman to go easy on her, and let her go), but still. It shouldn't have been so hard to follow.

Kamandi - I still love the art in this one, but the writing leaves a bit to be desired this time; the strip feels over-narrated, with too much exposition. The deus ex machina at the end is particularly clumsy: "Just in time, the computer printouts that Kamandi and Dr. Canus brought with them from the Command D bunker have enabled them to locate the secret armories buried deep beneath Shintun." Riiiight.

Superman - Lots of exposition in this strip, too, as Superman explains to the aliens what they've been doing to him and how he figured it out. Except he's clearly explaining it to us, not to them. "That's what all the soul-searching was about," he says. Ah, thanks for clearing that up, Supes. Apparently he also knows the aliens' secret weakness. We'll have to wait until next week to get the exposition explaining that. Lee Bermejo's art continues to be impressive, but John Arcudi's writing is awkward.

Deadman - Deadman fights a demon with a stone, but then he gets in trouble. Blah. I'm finding myself losing interest in this one again.

Green Lantern - This strip is going the way of Hawkman and suddenly introducing a gigantic alien invasion force into the story. Fun and exciting.

Metamorpho - Okay, the periodic table gimmick in the previous issue was pretty impressive, but it was already getting a little tired before I'd even gotten to the bottom of the page, and now there's a whole other page of it in this issue! Jamming those chemical symbol letter combinations into the dialog makes for some really awkward and clumsy writing. Can't say I'm a big fan of this episode.

Teen Titans - Yep. Still sucks.

Strange Adventures - Despite Alanna's diplomacy last issue, which allows her to lead an army against the evil Korgo, things still look bad for our heroes - until Adam finally drops back into the story and prepares to save the day. Thrilling action and adventure, and the usual beautiful art.

Supergirl - At long last, we get an idea just what's driving the superpets crazy. Supergirl zooms off to take care of it, but unbeknownst to her and Doc Mid-Nite, both pets sneak off after her. Yeah, I still can't really get into this one. It's kind of cute, and some of the background details in this episode are amusing, but mostly I just find it dull.

Metal Men - I still don't care.

Wonder Woman - This is maybe slightly better than usual, as the story is finally building to a conclusion and is getting a bit tense and exciting. But the writing is still clumsy and lame, and the panel layout is still confusing and cluttered.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - A brief moment of action, a lame joke, and a stupid move by Rock. Blah.

The Flash - This one's a real trip this week! Apparently due to Grodd's poison, the Flash finds himself having visions all centering around his past and future life with Iris, depicted in the styles of various famous newspaper comic strips. It's clever, imaginative, immensely entertaining, and wonderfully executed.

The Demon and Catwoman - A very exciting episode of this strip, as things erupt into a crazy, back-and-forth battle that's both physical and magical. And of course there's all the fun, high-falutin' language being thrown about.

Hawkman - Hawkman has an oddly and almost annoyingly protracted argument with a museum curator over whether the survivors of the plane crash should run from the T. Rex or not. He finally wins the argument by pointing out that, "I'm Hawkman, dammit!" Heh. He stole that from Batman. Anyway, despite the slightly irritating and drawn out back-and-forth between Hawkman and the curator, this is a fun episode, thanks in large part to the giant, epic panel at the bottom showing the T. Rex and Hawkman soaring into battle with each other.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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