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Monday, August 24, 2009 08:33 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 8/5. 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.

All Winners Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
"All Winners" - This first story (a new one by Karl Kesel with art by Steve Uy) takes a look at an interesting period in the history of the Marvel Universe. It's immediately after WWII and the All Winners Squad is still busy fighting threats to America. The Squad features the Human Torch and Toro, Captain America and Bucky, Miss America and Whizzer, and Namor. Except this Cap and Bucky are replacements for the now lost originals, and the new Cap, Jeff Mace, is having a hard time filling Steve Rogers' shoes. This story, like a lot of these special one-shots, once again stresses the fact that Marvel comic books exist in this world, too, but here they're sensationalized retellings of real events. Amusingly, Namor is not happy with the way he is portrayed in them. The tale itself offers a rather complex and intriguing portrait of these characters and takes them through a tough, emotional battle with literal ghosts out of their past. Even the villains are characterized as full, vaguely sympathetic human beings, with their own complex emotions and problems, and a tragic and moving story. It is rather wordy, and gets a bit corny at times, but seeing Namor give the new Cap his grudging respect is very powerful, and it's also great that we get a glimpse at the future, in the form of the plans of the Baxter Building lying on the table at the end.

"Winners All" - This is a reprint of an utterly ridiculous short text story by Stan Lee about what The Destroyer and The Whizzer did to earn their All Winners awards and get added to the All Winners team. It's typical Golden Age Stan Lee stuff: corny, silly, and really pretty bad.

"Captain America: The Four Trials of Justice" - Speaking of corny and silly, this reprint story sees Cap and Bucky randomly stumbling upon a group of Nazis who've secretly invaded America, taken over a resort, kidnapped all the people there, and are now trying to crush their freedoms, defined by the story as freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of worship, and freedom of speech. The plot is full of awkward, painful contrivances all designed to create situations wherein Cap and Bucky can defend these various freedoms. It's amusing and entertaining in its own special, Golden Age way, but also really quite ridiculous.
Thumbs Sideways

The Amazing Spider-Man #601
Seeing as how I rather enjoyed Amazing Spider-Man #600, and seeing as how this issue has a cute picture of MJ on the cover, and the main story is written by Mark Waid, I decided to pick it up. Mario Alberti provides the art for the main story, and does quite a nice job, but the tale itself is just okay. In the aftermath of the wild wedding party, Pete finds he's slept with his roommate (which of course ruins their relationship), but has also made plans with MJ, the details of which he can no longer remember. Meanwhile, Spider-Man has his own problems to take care of. It's a cute little story, but just not interesting enough to really grab me. The backup story is by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Joe Quesada himself. It's a rather moving and effective tale wherein Jessica Jones is finally able to explain to Peter Parker how much he meant to her growing up, and he finally understands. He also inspires her once again, perhaps into returning to the superhero life. The way Quesada draws Spider-Man's face - with the mask clinging to all Pete's facial features - is probably more realistic than the way it's usually drawn, but it looks really weird. Anyway, this is a time when I definitely enjoyed the backup feature more than the main feature, but I didn't love either enough to continue collecting this book.
Thumbs Sideways

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #27
Heh. I like the running gag of everybody confusing the word "spike" for the name "Spike." It's interesting to see what Oz has been up to, and how he's been managing his wolfiness. It's also funny seeing how Willow and him deal with meeting each other again after all this time. And I love how uncomfortable Giles is with the baby. It says, "GA!" to him and he responds, "Yes, hello, baby." I'm not sure how I feel about the overarching plot, though. I'm not really a fan of the idea of Willow and the Slayers all giving up their magic. I mean, magic is cool! It's through magic that they're able to effectively fight evil. How is it going to help anybody if the good guys can't use magic anymore?
Thumbs Up

Captain America Reborn #2
Poor Steve is still unstuck in time. I love the two-page splash of him leaping full-out through the shrapnel. It's interesting learning more about how Steve is experiencing this - that he's really a passenger in his own mind, unless he chooses to leap to the surface and take control. Although it's still a mystery exactly how much control he has. Is he able to influence what part of his life he jumps to next? He does manage to get to Erskine to ask him about time travel, but what the Doctor tells him just confirms for him that he can't take the chance of changing any of the events he's experiencing, for fear it will shatter the timeline. We get a sense of the real agony and frustration he must be feeling, having to watch over again the terribly tragedies of his life without being able to do anything about them. Meanwhile, there's an amusing interlude where Pym and Reed bicker mildly; Osborn offers Sin and Crossbones a job, and mentions that Red Skull was planning on moving his mind into Steven's body, which makes perfect sense; and then Osborn reveals to the world the (partial) truth about Sharon Carter's part in Steve's death, like the scumbag he is. I definitely enjoyed this issue more than the first one. It's exciting, intriguing, disturbing, and moving.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Zodiac #2
There's a really fascinating and funny scene in Johnny's hospital room where Pym and Ronin argue with each other about various things, including the meaning of the attack on Johnny, and the identity of the likely perpetrator. There's a surprisingly filthy and explicit sex scene between Zodiac and Death Reaper, followed by a stunning, brutal, and dramatic further attack on Johnny and his friends. Sue doesn't take it well. Our H.A.M.M.E.R. forensics operative is actually pretty close to figuring out what's really going on with these crimes, but Osborn isn't buying it and furthermore isn't even really interested. He thinks he's got everything under control and has a pretty good bead on things - until Galactus suddenly shows up!! Or does he? I like the shock on the clown's face when he wonders for a moment if Zodiac could possibly have even Galactus on his team. But that, and the giant robot attacking, is all just a diversion so Zodiac and friends can do something else, something which I can only imagine is even more horrific than what they've already done. Good times.

Still loving this series. Brilliant writing from Joe Casey, surprising and creative plot, and great art from Nathan Fox and colorist Jose Villarrubia.
Thumbs Up

Destroyer #5
It looks like Keene is finally going to go out of the world for good, but he manages to fight back even death itself, in the form of four skull-headed reapers. After wiping the floor with them, he says, "Don't bring four next time... bring ten." So bad-ass! In fact, he's done such a good job fighting back death, he seems to have made himself a little better. He's also succeeded in his other goal: bringing Turret back to the superhero life. But he's not Turret anymore: he's the new Destroyer. And a bad-ass Destroyer at that! His wife and the rest of his family are at peace with this decision, but they're still hoping the next generation won't be quite so good at fighting evil.

This is a strong, moving, warm, wryly funny conclusion to a truly fantastic miniseries.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #4
I'm a bit surprised the girl's still on the Human Flame's side after everything that's happened, but there you go. It's hilarious that Immortus has something called a Skelecopter. I already knew the Flame was really beyond the pale, but I was still slightly taken aback when he stabbed Miss Army Knife in the eyes with her own scissors. The rest of Immortus' army go out in equally gruesome and shocking ways. And then they all crash a monorail into an amusement park! It's horrific and awful... and totally fantastic. The ending is even better, as the Human Flame unwisely steps into a vault at S.T.A.R. labs, assuming it will contain something valuable and useful, only to find himself face to face with a terrible beast. "What the hell is that?" he asks. "That is a 26-dimensional hypergriffin," the title at the bottom of the page answers. Awesome. Can't wait till next issue! This series is so brilliant and hilarious and wrong.

In the back is a preview of the upcoming Magog miniseries that no one wanted. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't look very interesting. Also, I think they spelled the author's name wrong. I'm pretty sure it's "Keith" and not "Kieth."
Thumbs Up

Frankenstein's Womb
This rather odd black and white graphic novella, written by Warren Ellis for Apparat, opens in a vaguely similar way to the film Bride of Frankenstein. We meet Mary Wollestonecraft Godwin and her husband-to-be Percy Bysshe Shelley on their way to meet Lord Byron, accompanied by Mary's stepsister, Claire. Ellis' Shelley is a clever, sarcastic, funny, foul-mouthed bastard. During their journey, they come upon the supposedly haunted Castle Frankenstein and Mary decides she must go inside and take a quick look. Inside she has a very strange experience: she meets her own Creature, and he takes her on a tour, not just of the castle, but also of his life, her life, and the future that lies beyond both of their lives. The sense is that Mary's creation of Frankenstein, and Frankenstein's monster, is an act of destiny which brings about the birth of the future world. It's a bit corny and pretentious, frankly, but also eerie and touching and cleverly written. Some of the things Ellis is saying in here remind me very strongly of things Alan Moore says in From Hell. From Hell is definitely the better book, but this one is also interesting and effective in its own way.
Thumbs Sideways

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #1
At long last, Jason Aaron's new miniseries, which will supposedly bring his run on Ghost Rider to a big, fiery conclusion, has begun. The opening, which I'd read before as a preview in the back of another Marvel comic, is intriguing and well done. The idea of a breeding program to create the next Antichrist is always fun. I particularly enjoy the list of ideal parents for this enterprise: "prostitutes, sexual deviants, serial killers, psychopaths, cannibals, CEOs." The Daimon Hellstrom depicted here is quite a bit different, both visually and in terms of character, than the one I've seen recently in New Avengers and Marvel Divas, but he's also a fascinating guy. I also once again really enjoyed the scene where Johnny and the Caretaker raid the new age gift shop looking for answers. One of Zadkiel's men ends up being surprisingly talkative, and reveals some of the details of the angel's plans: wait to achieve omnipotence, then erase the Ghost Riders from existence, and thwart the biblical prophecies. The only thing standing between him and this goal is the Antichrist. Only the Antichrist can save the world from an evil angel! What a fantastic twist. And another funny sequence: when Johnny and the Caretaker check the places they think the most evil person on Earth would be most likely to go, and those places include Vegas, Hollywood, D.C., and Wall Street. Naturally the Antichrist turns out to be an investment banker going by the name Satan ("Actually, that's pronounced Shuh-tan. It's Czechoslovakian"). Ha! The ending is quite exciting: a trio of familiar Ghost Rider enemies team up to go after him again. It's hilarious seeing The Orb's medical chart ("massive eyeball trauma"), and The Orb with a giant band-aid on his eye. In other words, this is a fantastic start to what I hope will be an epic miniseries.

Helpfully, the backup feature in this miniseries is reprints of the much earlier miniseries that introduced the character of Daimon Hellstrom. I'm not too familiar with him, so I'm glad to get caught up on the background. The writing's not even that bad, either; it's a bit melodramatic, but okay.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #5
Every time I think the Plutonian has gone and done the most disturbing and creepy thing imaginable, he finds a way to one-up himself. This issue opens with him broadcasting to the entire world responses to things people have said about him in private. We get another intriguing flashback involving the Plutonian from a black superhero with electrical powers, who has a pretty funny backstory. But the really important and shocking stuff happens at the end of the comic. The Modeusbots claim to have located their originator, but in fact they've found the Plutonian himself, in his secret stronghold! What does this mean? Has the Plutonian gone crazy because he's somehow been infected or taken over by Modeus? And what important information has Bette Noir been hiding from everyone?

Man, I love this story! So creative, so intense, so thrilling, so disturbing! I can't wait to see where it's going to go next.
Thumbs Up

Muppet Robin Hood #3
This issue opens by finally introducing us to King Richard (it's the prawn guy!) and revealing the hilarious fact that King Richard and the Crusades is a band, and they're on tour in the Holy Lands. There's plenty more cleverness and hilarity, too. And the "mahna mahna" guy even makes a cameo as one of the other archers in the archery contest! Brilliant.
Thumbs Up

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #2
I already liked this from issue 1, but now it's getting really good. Eerie, atmospheric, full of intriguing mysteries and fantastic ideas. "You labor in service of angels," a spirit tells Edward, but, "do not be too quick to thank me for the news... Remember the fate of so many in that service." She also tells him to look out for Acheron. And then a giant demon comes in and starts eating people. It rules!!! Writing, art, color, story, characters - everything is top notch. Mignola has another winner here.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Alien Spotlight - Q
This reads quite a bit like a never-before-seen episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Q shows up again and decides to take over Picard's body, to show him that humans have it easy and he'll have no trouble at all doing Picard's job. But of course he has no end of trouble and eventually has to give in and let Picard take over. Q doesn't concede the point, of course, but he does admit that humans might be working harder than he thought. It's an okay issue with a cute premise, but kind of cheesy.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Wars: Dark Times - Blue Harvest #0
I actually already read this issue virtually on MySpace.com/DarkHorsePresents, but I enjoyed it so much I figured I might as well buy it and own a copy. Besides, there are also some neat sketches in the back. I think the fact that this book is coming out now means that this storyline is going to start back up again, so I'm looking forward to that.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #5
Batman - Alfred is doing his usual thing and using sarcastic comments to try to impart some good advice to Bruce. As usual Bruce is only half listening. He appears to be falling for the femme fatale. Big mistake!

Kamandi - More big, beautiful, epic art; exciting action; and a cliffhanger ending. Pure fun adventure comics.

Superman - It's pretty neat the way they integrate the present into the past here while telling Superman's origin story. I still kind of want more from this strip, but it's all right.

Deadman - Lovely art, exciting action - and could Deadman be dead... again??

Green Lantern - The Hal Jordan in this flashback seems like a bit of a hotheaded jerk. But then again, I guess Hal Jordan is a bit of a hotheaded jerk.

Metamorpho - This is definitely the weirdest episode in this strip so far. In a surreal turn of events, it turns out Mister Stagg has brought his entire cooking staff along with him on the dangerous adventure, and they nearly all fall victim to one of the temple's death traps, until the element people save the day (but ruin the dinner). Very goofy. Not sure how I feel about this strip. It's just so odd.

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

Strange Adventures - Pope's visuals are weird and beautiful as always, and the writing is fun, too. Great stuff.

Supergirl - Still lame.

Metal Men - Not much happens here; we just get a bit more backstory and learn a bit of the villain's motive. Just not a big fan of this strip. It's rather dull.

Wonder Woman - Repetitive, cluttered, and dumb.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - Still nothing happening in this one. I really want to like it, but it's so boring!!

Flash Comics & Iris West - Grodd seems to have done something big and horrifying with the space-time rifts the Flash has been unwittingly leaving behind every time he runs around, and our hero looks like he might be done for. Meanwhile, in the other strip, the other Flash is quitting the hero game to save his relationship with Iris. It looks like the Flash is dead two times over! How will he make it out of this one?? I can't wait to find out.

The Demon and Catwoman - More flowery language and rather neat fantasy ideas set up a big showdown between the Demon and the witch.

Hawkman - I have to admit, this one is definitely getting better. This is a pretty fun issue in which Hawkman does a crazy thing to try to save a plane, but doesn't quite make it. And the teaser text says, "Next week: it gets worse!" Awesome!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Destroyer (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Frankenstein (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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