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Monday, May 31, 2010 08:13 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 4/28, new releases from Free Comic Book Day, and also a bunch of old stuff the comic shop wanted to get rid of and therefore put up for grabs on Free Comic Book Day. It was quite a pile of books, and I've been a bit busy lately, so I'm afraid it took me longer to get through them and write them up than usual. I can't say when or if I'll be able to catch up on all the other books that came after these, either. But I'll do my best!

As usual, beware spoilers!

New releases
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #34
Wow. I was a little surprised at first when I started reading this Buffy arc by Brad Meltzer and it wasn't terrible, given how much I've disliked Meltzer's work in the past, but now his awfulness has finally reared its ugly head, and in spectacular fashion. Then again, I'm not sure how much of this I can really blame on him, as I assume the general shape of the story was already laid out for him by Joss and company, and it's mostly the story itself that's bad. I mean, Angel and Buffy having graphic sex for an entire comic? It's kind of gross. And what the hell are they doing having sex in the middle of everything anyway, when Buffy should by all rights be kicking Angel's ass, seeing as how he's been a villain committing MASS MURDER for the entire Season? And why the hell was Angel committing doing that anyway? I still need answers to these questions!! But instead they just throw a lot of really lame bullcrap at us about "the Universe" and how it has manipulated everyone and everything in some really hand-wavy fashion, and manufactured this entire plot line (in fact, very possibly the entire history of reality so far) just so that Buffy and Angel will have sex and thus elevate themselves to some new level of existence, destroying the old one in the process. That's lame. Seriously, seriously lame. It sounds like Angel actually had some inkling this is what was going to happen. But why would Angel ever be so selfish as to deliberately kill thousands of people and possibly destroy an entire universe just so he can get lucky with his ex and have some peace and quiet for a change? I just don't buy it.
Thumbs Down

Captain America #605
A fun and slightly sad conclusion to the Captain America vs. the Tea Party storyline, ending with a classic comic book fight on top of the Hoover Dam. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of crazy '50s Cap. (I didn't even bother reading the Nomad backup story; that shit is terrible.)
Thumbs Up

New Avengers #64
Now we get to see the events leading up to the Fall of Asgard from the perspective of The Hood. So I guess we're going to get to see the same events from the perspective of every single character in the Marvel Universe eventually. Sigh. Anyway, what we learn in this run-through is that Loki pulled a literal deus ex machina, took The Hood gang's power away from them, and gave it to the good guys. I'm not sure why that happened, or why I haven't already read about it in some other, more important comic book (like Siege #3 or something). It's a confusing twist, and I'm not sure what I'm supposed to feel when I look at the final panel of this comic, which is a picture of The Hood's girlfriend's gold mask with The Hood's face reflected in it. I can't say I find either of these characters all that interesting anymore. I mean, The Hood's story so far has been that he got magic power, and then he lost it, and then he got magic power again, and then he lost it again. Yawn.
Thumbs Sideways

Siege: Secret Warriors #1
This is a pretty cool one-shot revealing what Phobos, the God of Fear, did when he learned of the death of his father, Ares. Basically, he flips out, kills a lot of Secret Service agents, and then drops a really bitter, angry, well-written letter on the President's desk. In between, there is a truly hilarious and fantastic scene in which Nick Fury and Steve Rogers - the two bad-ass old campaigners - have a casual conversation about hanging out in the middle of the Siege of Asgard. I loved this scene so much I can't even tell you. It's ridiculous and warm and funny and hardcore all at once, and really wonderfully illuminates these two characters. Surprisingly good one-shot!
Thumbs Up

The Terminator: 2029 #2
We open with a gigantic firefight, and then we get to meet an interesting new faction of humanity: a lone wolf pack who don't follow John Connor, but just go roaming around the wilderness hunting machines. It's a different philosophy of the post-apocalypse than we've seen before, and brings up some interesting questions. Do you take the risk of settling down - building families and making connections - or do you go off on your own, avoid connections, and fend for yourself as best you can? The same conflict of philosophies is on display between Paige and Ben - Paige wants to shut herself off from everyone, because she's afraid to be hurt again and lose someone else who matters to her. But Ben is willing to take the risk. And finally Paige takes it with him. But then something unexpected interrupts them: the old man Reese saved from a machine outpost turns out to be a future version of himself, who asks for Ben by name! Woah. Clearly this Reese is from some other timeline than the one we know. Either that or he's just some crazy guy. Either way, I'm intrigued! This is good writing, and an exciting story.
Thumbs Up

Thor #609
Lots of exciting action and god-fighting in this one. Plus Loki gets some good lines: "I am Loki, the fire that burns. And why does the fire burn? I know not. But I am he." He admits to having fashioned the plot that led to the Fall of Asgard, but claims he didn't think it would go this far. Balder gets all bad-ass, and exiles Loki, but in fact it looks like that may have been part of Loki's plan all along. That tricky guy. There are some corny moments in this issue, but all-in-all it's pretty entertaining.
Thumbs Sideways

FCBD new releases
Bongo Comics Free-For-All!
Despite the title, which would seem to suggest that this is a sampler of various comic titles put out by Bongo, it's actually just a handful of Simpsons stories. They're all mildly amusing, with one or two decent gags, but there's none of the true comic brilliance from the show's heyday.
Thumbs Sideways

DC Kids Mega Sampler 2010
Yep, these are some DC kids comics. Nothing very exciting. I like Art Baltazar's exaggerated art style, and Batman has some fun lines about his desire to punch things in the final story, but that's about it.
Thumbs Sideways

Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom/Magnus: Robot Fighter
These are previews of two new titles from Dark Horse Comics, both written by Jim Shooter. The first is simply awful. Incredibly cheesy writing, totally lacking in subtlety, and a story that's entirely unimaginative. It's reminiscent of every superhero origin story ever, but the character is probably most similar to a really boring version of Doctor Manhattan. Robot Fighter is slightly more interesting, as it has a quirky sense of humor instead of just being painfully earnest. Plus, the story's not as dull and lacking in creativity as Doctor Solar; here we've got a human being who's somehow strong enough to fight rogue robots, but he also has a robot friend, and can interface with the robots in a limited way. That's not to say this is a really good comic; the relationship between the main character and the story's only woman is the classic contentious, they-hate-each-other, they-love-each-other dynamic. And the plot ends up being pretty dull. You can bet I won't be collecting these comics when they start asking you to pay for them.
Thumbs Down

Green Hornet
This book contains previews of most, if not all, of Dynamite's many Green Hornet-related titles. First up is part of Kevin Smith's awful Green Hornet book, which I already read and hated, so I skipped over that. Next up is Green Hornet: Year One, which has some nice art by Aaron Campbell, but pretty ho-hum dialog and story from Matt Wagner. Then there's The Green Hornet Strikes! There's not really enough of this one to get a good feel for it, and there's even less of Kato Origins and Kato (the former has color but no dialog; the latter is black and white and doesn't even have ink, let alone dialog). I doubt there's any reason to buy any of these. The last one, after all, is just a spin-off of Kevin Smith's story, focusing on the hot Kato with large boobs, so it's almost certainly awful.
Thumbs Down

Incorruptible/Irredeemable
This is just a book containing reprints of the first issue of each of Mark Waid's great new series. A good way to get into them for anybody who hasn't yet. Anybody want my copy?
Thumbs Up

Iron Man/Nova
It's Iron Man and Nova versus a team of super apes! Except one of the apes defects and helps them, in return for candy. Pretty cute and fun. In the back is a goofy Superhero Squad short about Iron Man trying to find a way to repair all the damage from Hulk's constant smashing, but Hulk points out that prevention would be the better course. Also kind of cute.
Thumbs Sideways

Iron Man/Thor
The opening image of this one - Thor standing with his hammer in front of a giant oncoming wave and ordering it to yield - is a really powerful one. But it's not the prelude to a surreal, philosophical comic. In fact the story is about some folks who have stolen one of Tony Stark's inventions and are using it to make the moon habitable and the Earth inhabitable. Iron Man and Thor team up to stop them. I'm kind of surprised these two are willing to work together, after the bad blood that's passed between them lately, but whatever. There's some fun banter, Romita provides his usual excellent artwork, and the story is reasonably exciting.
Thumbs Sideways

Kizoic Presents
This book has two Penguins of Madagascar stories on one side and two Shrek stories on the other. The one Shrek story about Donkey and Shrek getting sick and being quarantined together is oddly pointless and never goes anywhere, but the rest are all pretty standard kids' comic stories - mildly entertaining, but not very exciting, and not terribly imaginative either. I wanted to like the Penguins stories more than I did, since I enjoy the cartoon, but they're just okay.
Thumbs Sideways

The Library of American Comics
This is little more than a long ad for collections of old newspaper strips. It includes a bunch of samples of what the company has to offer, including really early Archie, Blondie, and Li'l Abner. Mostly it just convinced me that, yes, some comics do eventually become hopelessly dated.
Thumbs Sideways

Toy Story
It's disappointing to me that nearly every Toy Story story has the same format: a new toy arrives, and the other toys react to it with fear and suspicion, but usually end up embracing it in the end. This story is no exception. The only wrinkle is that this time the new toy is another Buzz Lightyear, which Andy receives by mistake, and which his Mom promises to exchange for a new, better toy. But the new Buzz gets switched with the old Buzz, and is about to be taken back to the store when the comic ends. The book has its moments, but there's nothing so exciting here that it makes me want to start collecting this series again.
Thumbs Sideways

War of the Supermen #0
I've been avoiding all the Superman titles lately because they're all being written by authors whose work I've disliked in the past. This free zero issue convinced me I've been making the right decision. It's just lots of cheesy, overwrought, melodramatic dialog and narration. Plus, Superman comes off as self-righteous and preachy. There's nobody in the book you can like or identify with. Even the villains just stand around and spout the standard villain cliches.
Thumbs Down

Worlds of Aspen 2010
I was not familiar with any Aspen comics before I looked at this sampler, but it seems clear now that all of their books are about boobs. There's some sad attempts at dialog and story attached to the boobs, but they're clearly an afterthought. The only exception is Dellec. The sadly extremely short preview for this book is actually pretty funny, as it involves a gang of big guys dressed as apes who call themselves The Kongs.
Thumbs Down

FCBD back issues and old data
Charlemagne #1
This is a book put out by a publishing company called Defiant in the early '90s. It's an absolutely awful story which opens up in the '70s with a young boy worrying about his soldier brother, who's overseas in Vietnam. He ends up getting over there somehow and trying to save his brother, only to fail at the last moment. Then he goes into a coma for many years and somehow develops super strength. I couldn't even read the entire thing, the dialog and narration were so poorly written; I just skimmed the last three quarters or so. It's melodramatic and overwrought and cheesy and just bad in every way that writing can be bad. The credits reveal that it was plotted by five different people working together, which is not a good sign; too many cooks in the kitchen, clearly. Apparently the actual writing was done by only one guy, though: D.G. Chichester. I'll have to make sure to avoid his work in the future - assuming it even comes up.
Thumbs Down

Fantastic Four Versus the X-Men #2
Fantastic Four Versus the X-Men #3

These are two issues from the middle of a four-issue miniseries published in the mid-'80s. They're written by Chris Claremont, so they're exceedingly over-narrated and seriously lacking in subtlety. Plus, Franklin Richards baby-speak dialog makes me want to punch somebody. That being said, it's a surprisingly effective story, which finds the X-Men so desperate to save Shadowcat from an odd medical condition that they are even willing to fight the Fantastic Four when Reed refuses to help them, and accept the assistance of Doctor Doom when he offers it. But the FF is going through its own issues, as it turns out Sue has recently discovered a book that appears to be Reed's diary, and which states plainly that he knew what would happen on the fateful flight that turned them all into superheroes (and Ben into a freakish monster), and that he planned it deliberately. The book is a lie, but that doesn't stop it from briefly tearing the FF apart. Despite how melodramatic the story gets, it never feels unbelievable, and Claremont treats the characters well. Maybe it's because I'm a new father and therefore vulnerable to this sort of thing, but the tender moment between Reed and Franklin put a lump in my throat. As a final note, it's hilarious how incredibly inaccurate and sensationalized the covers of each of these comics are. The scenes they depict have absolutely nothing to do with what actually happens inside the books.
Thumbs Up

Fantasy Masterpieces #2
This book, from January of 1980, finds an extremely emo Silver Surfer (the opening panel features him lying stretched out on his board with one arm flung over his eyes in classic Victorian-lady-with-the-vapors style) protecting the Earth from invisible alien invaders, despite the fact that the humans constantly misinterpret his actions and repay his selfless acts of kindness with only hatred and violence. The writing, because it's by Stan "The Man" Lee, is really rather ridiculous. But, because it's by Stan "The Man" Lee, it's also reasonably fun and entertaining.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredible Hulk #315
This book, from January 1986, actually documents a pretty important moment in the history of the Hulk, wherein Doc Samson manages to split the Hulk and Bruce Banner into two physically and mentally separate beings, only discovering after he's succeeded what a terrible and dangerous thing he's done. The writing and art are both by John Byrne, whose work I've enjoyed in the past, and he delivers a pretty entertaining comic here, although the opening metaphorical chase between Bruce and the Hulk is a bit overdone, and there's maybe a bit more exposition - and talking in general - than there really needs to be.
Thumbs Sideways

JLA: Paradise Lost #2
The middle issue of a three-part miniseries by Mark Millar, with art by Ariel Olivetti. I hardly need the first and third issues to understand the story, however, as it's a really old one about guardian angels who forsook their places in heaven for the love of mortal women, and another angel who's rebelling and plans to overthrow God. The fact that the Archangel Michael turns out to be a tattooed smoker is kind of amusing, and it's both entertaining and embarrassing to note that this was during the period where Superman didn't have the cape, and instead wore a ridiculous blue and white jumpsuit, and even had purple skin for some reason. This book also features one of the (apparently many) times that the Martian Manhunter died. It doesn't have a lot of that over-the-top, Millar charm, but he does get to show the evil angel burning some people alive and throwing a boat around, so there's that.
Thumbs Sideways

Will to Power #8
This is a short, 16-page book from the mid-'90s about a young, snot-nosed super team and their far more experienced boss facing off against a guy who appears to be a sort of Superman-gone-wild. We're clearly coming in at the middle of the story here, and what with that and the fact that there are so few pages, it's hard to get a feel even for who's meant to be the heroes and who's meant to be the villains. Luckily none of the characters are particularly interesting or fresh, so it doesn't really matter.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Fantastic Four (Not), Free Comic Book Day (Not), Green Hornet (Not), Hulk (Not), Iron Man (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Millar (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Nova (Not), Pixar (Not), Siege (Not), Simpsons (Not), Superman (Not), Terminator (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), X-Men (Not), Zack Whedon (Not)
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Monday, March 8, 2010 03:09 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 3/3, which was sadly the worst week for comics in recent memory. Beware spoilers! And bitterness!

New releases
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #33
It's an interesting moment when the vampire slayer realizes that, metaphorically at least, she has now become a vampire herself. But this is followed up by a patented Scooby gang pep talk from Xander, and Buffy's soon up and fighting again. There's a weird thing that only lasts a handful of panels where Andrew somehow gets his hands on a whole bunch of geeky gear and uses it to try to fight Twilight. I don't know where that came from or how it makes sense.

Of course, the big deal about this issue is that it includes the long-awaited reveal of Twilight's secret identity, a reveal that fails entirely to have any power or suspense because anybody who goes online has known the secret for weeks now, thanks to Dark Horse doing a really poor job on information control. Twilight's true identity originally leaked thanks to the cover art for a future issue hitting the internet too early. I'd forgive them that - who can keep stuff like that from leaking out these days? - except that they then assumed that everyone knew the secret, and started talking about it openly on Twitter and Facebook, thus ruining it for everyone else, including people like myself who hadn't even known anything about the leaked cover, and wouldn't have looked at it even if they had. Sigh.

But anyway, the point is, the reveal doesn't make a lot of sense, even in context. I don't see why this character would become a villain all of the sudden, and his explanation of why he let a bunch of innocent people die is not sufficient. I just don't see him ever doing the kinds of things that Twilight has done. Buffy's reaction to the reveal doesn't make any sense, either. I mean, she's made poor decisions as far as romance is concerned as long as we've known her, but to stop in the middle of a fight and just start having sex with someone who is essentially a mass murderer? Really? And what the hell is with her and Twilight glowing, and Twilight talking about them being some kind of fated pair, and Giles being all doom and gloom? Meltzer has some serious explaining to do in the next couple issues!
Thumbs Sideways

First Wave #1
All the prequels and previews of this series that I've seen so far have been crappy, but I decided to give this first issue a try anyway, maybe because there were so few other interesting books on the stands this week. Unsurprisingly, it's mediocre. There's way too much narration, none of which is terribly well written, and none of the subplots that get initiated here are really grabbing me. Boring characters, boring dialog, boring, boring, boring.
Thumbs Sideways

Girl Comics #1
This is the first of a three-issue anthology miniseries from Marvel consisting of short stories by all women comic book creators. It's all part of the company's new "Women of Marvel" initiative, highlighting and celebrating all the female talent in the field. It's a cool idea, but as with most anthology books, this one is really hit-and-miss - mostly miss. The introductory bit by Colleen Coover is cute and inspiring, but the Cabaret-style Nightcrawler story is a real yawner (even if the art is intriguing and unique). Trina Robbins' Venus short is perhaps even more dull. Interspersed with the stories are "spotlight" prose pieces which consist of short bios of particularly important women in the comics field. These are a nice idea, and are reasonably interesting. Valerie D'Orazio's Punisher story is pretty amusing, even if, as others have pointed out, the ending is a foregone conclusion from page one. The She-Hulk pin-up is nice. The goofy Doctor Octopus two-pager is probably my favorite story in here, because it's just pure cutesy fun. Robyn Furth and Agnes Garbowska's fairy tale-inspired Franklin & Valeria Richards' story is interminable, and packed full of completely unnecessary text. You should never need this many words to tell a story in a visual medium like comic books, especially when the words are this boring. "Head Space," which focuses on the complex Cyclops-Jean Grey-Wolverine love triangle, has a fascinatingly surreal story-telling format, but it's not saying anything we haven't already heard a million times before. I doubt I'll pick up another issue of this book, unless something really sticks out when I flip through it in the store.
Thumbs Sideways

Green Hornet #1
I realized after his latest Batman series that I really disliked the way Kevin Smith writes comics, but I was interested enough in this Green Hornet comic that I decided to give it a chance anyway. Mistake! It's terrible. Seriously. So formulaic and awful. All the characters speak that same Kevin Smith language we all know so well, but Smith is even less inspired here than usual, and is just churning out all the usual stereotypical junk. The jokes are incredibly cheesy and cliche and unfunny. The characters are all smug and unlikable. There's even a slacker whose girlfriend leaves him because he's so much of a lazy, uncaring jerk. It's pretty hard to blame her.

The comic is full of ads for the seemingly hundreds of other Green Hornet-related series that Dynamite is launching, but after reading this example of their work, I think I'll skip the rest.
Thumbs Down

Ultimate Avengers #5
It feels like I may have missed an issue of this, but maybe the mild confusion I'm feeling as to why all these people are where they are, and what it is exactly that they're talking about, has more to do with how long it's been since I read the previous issue. Anyway, the series is getting really... Millary now. I find that with pretty much all of Mark Millar's stuff, eventually it crosses a line and I stop liking it. It just gets too dark and thoughtless and disgusting and offensive and I lose my taste for it. I think this series might have hit that point for me now. The Ultimate Red Skull is just such a ridiculously awful creature, what with the baby-killing and the gang-raping. And there's a scene in here where poor Nerd Hulk vomits just because Millar thinks it'd be funny for that character to vomit and be shamed in front of the other characters. And you know what? Not funny. Then Millar makes fun of the French for no real good reason, and that's not particularly funny either; it's just a boring cliche. And there's plenty more lame dialog where that came from. Yeah, I think I'm done with this book.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Kevin Smith (Not), Mark Millar (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (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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Wednesday, August 26, 2009 05:30 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 8/12. 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.

Adventure Comics #1
Conner Kent is trying to get back into the swing of being alive by doing all the things Superman did - living with the Kents, going to Smallville High, joining a team of superheroes, and helping anyone who needs it. But some evil entity is already after him, presumably with the plan of making him dead all over again. And the final page of the comic reveals there's a lot more to Conner Kent than there at first appeared. It seems he's going to try to replicate the deeds of both of his "fathers." Very interesting! This is one of my favorite last page surprise reveals in a while. It really turns both the character and the story on their heads and opens up a whole new series of possibilities for the future. I'm impressed!

The backup story, also by Geoff Johns, focuses on the mentally disturbed Starman, who's trying to keep the various threads of his mind together long enough to complete some final mission for the Legion, but what that mission is isn't entirely clear. We get a few intriguing glimpses of the future to come, but they're mostly just puzzling fragments. I can't say I'm a huge fan of crazy Starman, but I'll probably stick with this book, for the main story if nothing else, and we'll see how it goes.
Thumbs Up

B.P.R.D.: 1947 #2
Man am I loving this one! I always love stories about people crossing over into ghostly other worlds, and the fact that it's Mike Mignola and Joshua Dysart's words and Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon's drawings telling the story just makes it that much better. The drama, tension, and sense of threatening danger build as we cut back and forth between Simon and his friends. And I love the way Mignola handles witches in his universe - dancing with goats and giant toads. Simon is in trouble, but it looks like he might have gotten Konig in trouble, too. Good stuff. In the back of the book is a preview for the release of a trade collection of Guy Davis' The Marquis. It's hard to get a real feel for it from just these four enigmatic pages, but it certainly looks eerie and intriguing. I might have to check it out.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #2
I've already gone back and forth a few times on the whole Blackest Night thing, but now I feel pretty certain I'm just going to drop it. It's just ridiculous and cheesy and not very good. Sure, the idea of Deadman coming back to life is kind of interesting, as is the idea of an evil Aquaman going around making sharks eat people. The Spectre going bad is also fascinating, and I like the use of the "Flash Fact" thing. But those ideas aren't enough to make up for the general lameness. I've also noticed an unfortunate consequence of bringing characters back to life who have been dead for a long time: the guys who die and stay dead in comic books tend to be the expendable guys that nobody really cares about, and that nobody remembers. I had to look up Don Hall and Hank Hall online to figure out who they were.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the prose piece in the back from The Book of the Black. It's well written and uses metaphor and everything. I also like the preview of Superman: Secret Origin #1 in the very back. But it's done by the dynamite team of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, so it was almost bound to be good. Just in this preview you get to see the historic first meeting of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor (it involves Kryptonite!), and Clark runs to save Lana from a tornado. Good stuff.
Thumbs Sideways

Blackest Night: Batman #1
How did I talk myself into buying the first issue of a Blackest Night spin-off miniseries written by Peter J. Tomasi? Sigh. I guess the word "Batman" was enough to pull me in. As one might expect, it is Not Good. Tomasi doesn't handle Damian or the relationship between him, Dick, and Bruce with anywhere near the subtlety and power of Grant Morrison. We get to see a bunch of villains come back to life, but they must be rather obscure second- or third-stringers because I recognized only one of them. Blackest Night is really over-the-top in many ways, but bringing the zombie Flying Graysons into it might be the most ridiculous thing yet. I'm definitely dropping this one.
Thumbs Down

Captain America: Theater of War - To Soldier On #1
I've been surprised at the high quality of most of these Captain America: Theater of War one-shots, but this might be the best one yet. Cap isn't even the main character here; instead, we focus on a regular soldier in the Iraq War, trying to make it through a tough situation with a bunch of his buddies. We see Cap from a different perspective: to the grunts he's an impossible, superhuman hero, but also a rather obtuse superior officer whose decisions sometimes irritate his men and put them in danger. Ultimately this is a story about what happens to regular people during and in the aftermath of warfare. It's powerful, insightful, and emotionally effective.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Escape #4
I think I'm done with this series. It just keeps being odd and surreal and repetitive and not really going anywhere.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #5
Yay, Hellboy's back! Unfortunately for him, the Queen of witches is after him. In his desperation to save Alice from poison, Hellboy is tricked into making what could be some really dangerous mistakes. He frees a fly (probably a powerful demon) from its prison, and accepts the help of Morgan Le Fay. There's a really fantastic scene where the Queen of witches demands a terrible crime in worship of her, and says she will become a goddess of war. I love the regal, old timey, magical speeches she makes. And Duncan Fegredo's art, in combination with Dave Stewart's colors, is of course absolutely beautiful.

In the back is a very odd story indeed called "The MonsterMen in O Sinner Beneath Us!" It's written and drawn by Gary Gianni. I assume The MonsterMen are characters from some kind of ongoing series, but I don't know anything about them. The story itself is about a man in a suit and a knight's helmet, and a young woman trying to exorcise the ghost of a young girl from a house. In the process, they meet an old friend who turns out to have a terrible and powerful artifact that causes some trouble. I'm not sure how I feel about this story. There are some cool ideas, but overall it feels a bit confused and hurried. It looks like this is the first part of a two part story, so we'll see how it finishes up in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

The Incredible Hercules #132
I think it's time I gave up on this series again, too. It's not that it's bad, it's just not that good. The opening is pretty clever - it's a handful of panels quickly explaining Thor's origin, accompanied by sarcastic commentary by Hercules. Inside, Herc is given the task of hiding Zeus, but almost immediately screws up and gets the two of them embroiled in a dangerous adventure. There are some neat ideas, and the usual amusing sound effect words, but overall I'm just not impressed. Maybe it's time to put Greg Pak on my list of authors to be avoided. It's too bad, because I know he can be really good sometimes. It's just that most of the time he's really just mediocre.
Thumbs Sideways

Marvel Comics #1: 70th Anniversary Edition
This is one of the stranger of the 70th anniversary one-shots. I'm pretty sure this one is all reprints of old Golden Age stories - it might even be an exact reprint of the actual original Marvel Comics #1 - except that the art and coloring appears to have been cleaned up and redone so everything's a bit sleeker and prettier. There's a very odd black and white comic strip on the first page (which is not particularly funny), then we get the origin of the Human Torch, which is a rather strange story when you get right down to it. Despite being encased in a concrete block for most of his life, the Torch is surprisingly compassionate and knowledgeable; he immediately recognizes a racketeer at work when he sees one, and resolves to defeat him. It's interesting that Dr. Horton, the Torch's creator, isn't all that good himself; he too is touched by greed. The Torch is the only really good man in the story (despite the fact that he's not a man at all), and he spends the great majority of it being maligned, manipulated, and misunderstood. It's a pretty complex and well put together story for the Golden Age, although it certainly does have a bit of that Golden Age weirdness to it.

Next up is the story of The Angel. This character I don't know all that much about, so it was cool to read what's essentially his origin story. Interestingly, The Angel is really more like an early version of The Punisher than anything else. When he learns there's a group of racketeers called The Six Big Men controlling the city, he puts their names on a list and kills them off one by one. It's pretty brutal! Of course, it's also a bit silly and clumsily plotted, and the story is hurriedly wrapped up by squashing the conclusion into the last couple of panels; the final panel barely has enough space for a drawing of The Angel in it, as the rest of it is filled with a dialog balloon that's all exposition tying up the remaining loose ends.

Next up is a story I'd already seen reprinted in another recent special: the origin of The Sub-Mariner. I've already complained about how clumsy and unbelievable this story is. But this version of the story has an extra bit at the end that shows Namor and his cousin heading out to begin in earnest their war against the humans. It mostly involves Namor smashing things up and chucking people around while trying to keep his cousin safe. It's pretty fun, and the art throughout is unique and fascinating.

The next story in the book is arguably the worst. It's "The Masked Rider," and it reads like it was written by a rather confused child with a learning disability who was brought up on bad Western movies. There's the usual evil land baron unfairly running the other ranchers out of town, but one man resolves to do something about it, so he escapes from prison by pretending he's sick, puts a mask on, tames a wild horse, and comes back with a gun and starts beating up the bad guys, with the help of the other townspeople. When the bad guys see him, they say intelligent things like, "Yer masked!"

Nearly as silly as "The Masked Raider" is "Jungle Terror," which sees a young kid and an older man resolve to fly out to the Amazon and try to find the kid's uncle, a professor who went out there looking for diamonds and then went missing. After flying all the way to the Amazon from Florida, they suddenly have plane trouble: "Oh-oh! Something's wrong! Motor's missing!!" Uh... only now do you notice there's a motor missing?? Anyway, they crash and are captured by savages, but eventually make it out alive with a diamond. The art is very odd, and the people's faces sometimes take on weirdly demonic expressions, possibly thanks to the odd way their eyes are drawn. The writing is, as you might have already guessed, clumsy, stereotypical, and silly.

Speaking of bad writing, next up is a short prose story "About The Auto Race Tracks" called "Burning Rubber" by Raymond Gill. It's about a guy who's testing an experimental engine in a really dangerous manner, but his concerned girlfriend saves him and helps him out. He misunderstands and is a jerk to her at first, but then all is well. It's quite silly.

Surprisingly, one of the best stories in the book is "Adventures of Ka-Zar the Great," the origin story of a Tarzan-type character called Ka-Zar. His parents' plane crashes in the jungle when he's a boy and he grows up with the animals, making them his friends and learning to communicate with them. It's reasonably well written, and the art is dramatic and effective.
Thumbs Sideways

Marvel Divas #2
I love that Doctor Voodoo sent a zombie to Monica with flowers, like a moaning telegram. I also rather enjoy the depiction of Doctor Strange as a slightly arrogant rock star. This comic seems to have an oddly large number of thought bubbles in it, but not in an annoying way. It's rather touching that the Night Nurse tells Angelica her real name. It's funny that Felicia tries to get a loan from a bank that she robbed. Angelica's predicament and the way she's responding to it is realistic and moving. And Patsy now has a terrible choice to make. This is really a neat book: funny, touching, clever.
Thumbs Up

The Marvels Project #1
A preview of the opening section of this book has been in the back of a lot of Marvel comics lately. I was a little disappointed by that preview for whatever reason, but I knew I'd get the comic anyway because I was fascinated by the premise. And I'm glad I did because it's really living up to my expectations so far. I even liked the opening better reading it in context. It's cool that Brubaker was able to work the Two-Gun Kid into this story, and thus link the distant past of the Marvel Universe to its origins, and its future. I love the glimpse of the secret meeting with the President where the race to create the first superhuman is being orchestrated. Here it comes out that the Human Torch is secretly a government funded project. Meanwhile, the Nazis are at work on their own superhuman, and are killing Namor's people as part of their experiments. And guess who's in charge of that German program? A scientist named Erskine who wants to defect! But the Germans didn't count on Namor's rage or his vengeance. The Human Torch's origin story, which I'd just read in Marvel Comics #1, is retold here in a much smarter, realistic, and dramatic manner. Nick Fury and his pal Red are pulled in to help Erskine defect, and the man who will call himself The Angel finds his purpose fighting looters in the confusion that reigns after the Human Torch escapes his prison and mistakenly burns the city. Brubaker is polishing up all these old stories, giving them vibrant new life, and brilliantly weaving them all together into a new tale: the rise of the Marvels. If it continues to be as good as this first issue, this will be a truly excellent miniseries.
Thumbs Up

Red Robin #3
Suddenly the artist on this title (Ramon Bachs) is really reminding me of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Huh. Anyway, I've been impressed with this series so far, but this issue is kind of mediocre. There's another fun assassination sequence, but the dialog is getting a little weak and melodramatic, and the story is getting a bit dull. I might hang in there for at least one more issue, but... then again, maybe not.
Thumbs Sideways

Toy Story: Mysterious Stranger #4
The final issue of Boom!'s Toy Story miniseries is sadly the weakest. Once again it plays with the idea of the toys revealing the fact that they can talk to humans, but the motive behind revealing it is rather nonsensical, and the argument against revealing it is pretty weak. It seems odd that the toys would frequently think about revealing their secret to humans; surely a toy would have let the cat out of the bag by now if it's something they consider often. On the other hand, if it is a huge taboo, why would they think about breaking it just because one toy was briefly removed from the premises? And why, if Andy knew the toys could talk, would he no longer be able to pretend they were something other than themselves? When kids play with their friends they constantly pretend they're someone else, despite what Woody says. It's just a clumsy story, and not nearly as interesting or effective as some of the others have been.
Thumbs Sideways

Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1
Ever since Jeph Loeb took over Marvel's Ultimate universe and made it really, really dumb and bad, I've been avoiding the titles set there. But seeing as how they're relaunching it now and putting it in the hands of more talented writers, I thought I'd give it another shot. I still wasn't expecting much, however, so when this book, with writing by Mark Millar and art by Carlos Pacheco, turned out to be really awesome, I was pretty startled. Apparently during the events of Loeb's Ultimatum there was a big flood. Luckily I didn't need to know much about any of that to pick up the thread of what was going on. Cap and Hawkeye are out on a mission doing ridiculously awesome and bad-ass things when they run into the Ultimate universe version of the Red Skull. The Skull reveals a horrible truth to Cap that leads to him going rogue and Hawkeye asking Nick Fury to come back to help capture him. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is drunk in some crazy sex club. It's a dramatic, funny, exciting start to the new series, and I'll definitely be tuning in next month for part two.
Thumbs Up

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1
Brian Michael Bendis is in charge of Spider-Man's new Ultimate title, and he's put together a fine first outing. I love the hilarious opening that features Peter Parker facing the overwhelming and horrific task of working at a fast food restaurant. Then an intriguing new hero appears on the scene - but is he really a good guy? He looks kind of like the Hood, if you ask me. Pete's relationship with Gwen Stacy is getting all hot and heavy; something bad happened to Johnny Storm; and the Kingpin is back, but a new villain shows up (is it Ultimate Electro?) and does something pretty stunning and awesome to him. It's an incredibly fun and action-packed first issue of what looks likely to be an exciting new comic. Which actually kind of pisses me off, because it's I really don't need a new series to collect.
Thumbs Up

Uncanny X-Men #514
Hey, Psylocke is back. And boy does she look stunning in that "wetsuit." Sadly Norm's Avengers and Emma's X-Men don't get to finish their fight. We're given a slightly better explanation for why Cloak and Dagger joined Emma's X-Men, which is nice. Dani Moonstar shows up in Vegas to make a deal with somebody, but I'm not sure who. I feel like maybe I'm supposed to know what's going on there from the clues I've been given, but I'm hoping I'm wrong, because I have no idea. It's good to see the real Wolverine show up and it's good to know Scott has sent him and some others on a mission to retrieve their people from prison (I was wondering when he was going to get to that). As for the last page, I have no idea what's going on there. I don't know who any of those people are or where they're going. And I'm pretty certain I'm supposed to know. Sigh.

I think it's time to drop this one again. I started collecting it again because of the whole Utopia thing, but I still really don't like Matt Fraction's very much, and I just don't care about Utopia anymore.
Thumbs Sideways

Wednesday Comics #6
Batman - Batman fights a guy! I'm not entirely sure who or why. Is he the assassin from before? I guess. Anyway, the art's good.

Kamandi - Speaking of good art, the art on this title continues to be amazingly beautiful. And the story is a fun and engaging adventure tale.

Superman - Looks like we're done watching Superman brood and something is actually going to happen now, as the buddies of the alien he beat up in the first issue seem to have shown up looking for revenge. Love the art on this one, too.

Deadman - Deadman has apparently died again, but at least he also got to meet some pretty ladies.

Green Lantern - We finally learn what Hal did to get himself kicked out of the astronaut program, and we get to see what part Dill played in it all. Interesting stuff. And now it looks like the flashback is over and we're going to get back into the action in the present. Fun.

Metamorpho - I just can't get a handle on this strip. Gaiman seems intent on trying every crazy idea he can think of with it. This time there's a fight with a snake on a ladder, the Metamorpho Fans of America intrude again, and then the rest of the strip is a Metamorpho-ized version of Snakes and Ladders. I appreciate the creativity on display here, but at the same time... it's just really weird.

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

Strange Adventures - Things take a really fascinating turn in this week's issue of this strip, as we find that Adam has returned to Earth, and to his own body - that of an old professor. Unable to find the chart of the Zeta-Beam's trajectory, he must remain on his home planet and move forward with his expedition to Machu Picchu. There are some fantastic images from the archaeological dig, and Adam begins to lose all sense of reality. Have all his adventures on Rann been a dream, and this is the dull reality? Or is his life on Earth the dream, and Rann the truth? Wonderful ideas + stunning imagery = great comics.

Supergirl - I actually rather like the latest episode of this strip, as it features an amusing modern interpretation of Aquaman (or is that Aqualad?). He's incredibly busy, dealing with one problem after another in the seas all over the Earth. He uses odd combinations of modern slang, and shells like cell phones (shell phones?).

Metal Men - I'm still not all that interested in this strip, but the addition of an evil giant robot does make it at least a little more attractive.

Wonder Woman - There are a couple of interesting things in this strip: a cool story about an ancient sword known as "The Red Death," and the introduction of the modern version of WW's buddy Etta, who gets to fight monsters with a lollipop - although that turns out to be a hallucination brought on by drugs, apparently. Despite these few interesting things, however, this strip continues to be cluttered, confused, and rather silly.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - Hey, it looks like something is finally about to happen in this strip! In a rather surprising turn of events, Rock gets cut free by a traitor! Maybe he can beat up some Nazis next time. Assuming he's up to it.

Flash Comics and Gorilla Grodd - Yes, Iris West has been replaced by Gorilla Grodd! That's a nice surprise. Flash escapes from the horrific trap he was thrown into at the end of last issue via a crazy awesome use of his super powers, then dashes back to meet up with two more Flashes, one of whom is only interested in making his dinner date. Meanwhile, Gorilla Grodd seems to be telling us the fascinating origin story of its titular character. Cool stuff!

The Demon and Catwoman - I thought this issue would be the big fight between the Demon and the witch, but it's just more backstory explaining their relationship. Thankfully it's pretty interesting backstory, and well illustrated.

Hawkman - I'm pleased to say that this continues to not suck, although it looks like it might be about to turn into Lost, which is a little disturbing.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hellboy (Not), Mark Millar (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Pixar (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Toy Story (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), X-Men (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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