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Wednesday, October 1, 2014 10:17 AM
On the Viewer - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E1, "Shadows"
 by Fëanor

Something I forgot to cover in my recent TV post was Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The first season of this show had its ups and downs, but overall I really enjoyed it and was very much looking forward to the second season. Unfortunately, the premiere was disappointing in a number of ways. But first, let's talk about the things I liked:

Things have changed in deep and important ways, and I always like when TV shows have the courage to do this. I saw the twist coming in Fitz's story, but was still moved by it. I liked the introduction of the new villain, even though I'm not terribly familiar with the character from the comics. I liked the opening set during WWII, and the quick cameo from Agent Carter and the Howling Commandos. I liked the explanation/origin of the 084 code name. And I liked the addition of Lucy Lawless to the cast.

What I didn't like was the then (SPOILER ALERT!) immediate removal of Lucy Lawless from the cast. Of course, in Whedon World, dead characters rarely stay dead, but jeez. We only just met her!

Also, the weird primal 084 just... burns you if you touch it? So what? And the purpose of the big, all-or-nothing op where you sacrifice everything and put everything on the line is... to get a jet? It's a cloaking jet, but, c'mon, big deal. A jet? It's not even that big. Huge let down.

I also really, really didn't like Director Coulson's long, earnest, expository speech at the end of the episode. It was nearly unbearable to listen to. Whedon is better than that. We don't deserve to be talked down to like that as an audience. It's patronizing and cheesy and just completely uncalled for.

But hey, maybe I'm just grumpy. I'm watching the second episode now and I'm hopeful it will be better, and that Lawless will somehow rise from the dead, perhaps with a bionic arm or some such. We'll see!
Tagged (?): Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Not), On the Viewer (Not), S.H.I.E.L.D. (Not), TV (Not)
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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, July 2, 2010 11:30 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 6/2, 6/9, and 6/16, as well as a handful of back issues. Beware spoilers!

New releases (6/2)
Avengers Prime #1
Another Avengers book? By Brian Michael Bendis? I thought I said I was going to stop buying these? Apparently not. This one seems to be squeezing its story between the end of Siege and the beginning of the other new Avengers books. Bendis is using it to attempt to establish Thor, Iron Man, and Steve Rogers as Marvel's major trinity of heroes. Our heroic trinity start out this book by bitching and moaning at each other for a bit, in such a way as to catch the reader up on recent events. Then, thankfully, they get sucked into a magical portal and sent to another world - or worlds; it's not clear if they've gone to totally different places or the same general place yet, as they've all landed in different locations. Each have their own separate adventures. Tony is approached by an unseen character, which is vaguely intriguing. Thor is attacked by the Enchantress, who spouts the usual villain cliches at him. Not very interesting. The best scene in the book, which is so good it almost makes me want to keep reading the series, is when Steve Rogers stumbles into an inn full of monsters, politely asks for their help, and then politely kicks all of their asses, to their own incredulity - how could one little human beat them all?? Because that human is Captain America, that's why! Very enjoyable.
Thumbs Sideways

Heralds #1
A new miniseries from Kathryn Immonen! I often find her writing a bit opaque, but also very intelligent, creative, and unique. This book opens with Emma's surprise birthday party being interrupted by a mysterious event that's hard to explain, but which involves an alien intelligence, a bunch of clones in a secret S.W.O.R.D. facility, and a waitress going berserk. The gang of ladies who show up to Emma's surprise party are our main characters for the series, and they're a fun bunch, especially the way Immonen writes them and Tonci Zonjic draws them. The dialog is snappy, sarcastic, and witty, and I really enjoy the enthusiasm with which the girls go after the dead scientist clones. "Come on! Haven't you always wanted to punch Einstein in the face?" I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but I like it!
Thumbs Up

New releases 6/9
Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #2
I really love the way Ellis and Andrews are using Emma Frost in this book. Very funny stuff. Scott says to her, "You're... holding a baby." She responds, "Full marks, Mr. Summers. Save any further comments for a time when I can beat you in private." Story-wise, looks like Ellis is dragging the Ghost Boxes back into it again. I have to say I'm a little tired of those, but I'm willing to hear him out.
Thumbs Up

Batman #700
For this special, extra-long anniversary issue, DC wisely turned the reins over to the best writer in their stable: Grant Morrison. Morrison delivers four separate short stories, each set in different time periods, but each dealing with part of the same overarching locked-room mystery. The time travel aspect of the story just kind of hurts my brain a little, but I think I follow what's going on. I also think I know the answer to the story's central riddle (the answer - spoiler alert! - is time). Regardless, it's a joy to read, as Morrison gets to play with every version of Batman there is - Bruce, Dick, Damian, Terry, and even a couple of post-apocalyptic Batmen, one living in a world that reminds me of Miller's Dark Knight Returns (the mutant gang from that book makes a cameo in the present day timeline), and another living in a world that reminds me of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Also along for the ride are a lot of Batman's most famous villains and allies, in various guises and incarnations. Morrison tosses in his usual handful of truly insane and amazing ideas, like time hypnosis helmets, and 2-Face-2, a new version of Two-Face who has two coins and a separate monster face living on his own normal human face. And of course every version of Batman gets to engage in the usual combination of brilliant detective work and bad-ass fighting. There's also a truly great, uplifting ending, promising us that no matter what or when, there will always be a Batman. Amen!
Thumbs Up

Buzzard #1
Eric Powell's strength is in wild, off-the-wall, offensive comedy, but for some reason he insists on writing morbid, melodramatic stories about humorless, moping, emo characters. This is another one of those. Still, it has its moments. It's certainly not as melodramatic as it could be, and it's vaguely intriguing. In the back is a continuation of the story Powell began in Billy the Kid's Old-Timey Oddities. Again, kind of interesting, but not terribly exciting.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America #606
We pick up with Bucky still trying to deal with the guilt over what he had to do to crazy Cap. But he needs to get his head back in the game soon, because Baron Zemo is putting the band back together. A fun start to a new storyline.
Thumbs Sideways

Gravel #19
Finally we get the creepy, twisted backstory on Gravel's latest mysterious enemy. He manages to hit Gravel where it hurts, and then somebody else - possibly another combat magician working for the British government? - sneaks in and steals a lot of Gravel's stuff. It's a hard day to be Gravel!
Thumbs Up

S.H.I.E.L.D. #2
Still really enjoying this series. This issue reveals there are two factions of S.H.I.E.L.D. - the Da Vinci faction, which believes there's always a way forward for humanity, and the group currently in charge, which believes there's an inevitable end for humanity that we must move toward. It's cool stuff. There's an interesting moment where the comic gets all postmodern and turns into a plain text script, as if Da Vinci and our young hero are passing through different story formats in their journey. I also love the surreal scene in which Agent Richards reaches for the exploding Night Machine, in a heroic attempt to save everyone, and it seems as if every member of S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout past and future is reaching with him. Like I said about Heralds: I'm not entirely sure what's going on, but I like it.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #14
This issue opens by giving us a peek at the hilariously awful and cliched fake Tommy Taylor book, which makes a bunch of deliberately clumsy references to the His Dark Materials trilogy. We also get to see Lizzie using another method of communicating with Wilson, and the conspiracy's method of tracking it - "Someone's touching the grid." Then it turns out Savoy is still alive, but he's not exactly himself anymore - Count Ambrosio is looking out through his eyes. Meanwhile, Pullman casually kills an innocent stranger by turning the ladder he's climbing into insubstantial words. It's all brilliant, creative stuff, thrilling and disturbing. But with Lizzie gone back to where she came from, how will Tom make it on his own? I look forward to finding out.
Thumbs Up

New releases, back issues, and old data (6/16)
Heralds #2 & #3
I love the news report at the opening of #2, in which we learn S.W.O.R.D.'s hilarious cover story for the events of the previous issue: "Cirque Du Soleil has claimed full responsibility for the late night appearance of scientist-impersonators, aliens and dinosaurs!" She-Hulk's comment: "Puppets can make the bravest of us panic." Later, Patsy learns she missed out on a chance to fight a clone of Hitler and is very upset. Valkyrie has some amusing outbursts. I also like that Scott parked the Blackbird parked on top of the hotel for Emma. And Scott owned a Miata. Hee! Next up are some weird moments for Johnny Storm, including a short stay in a surreal mental landscape where Johnny and Frankie fight about their relationship. Did I mention I really love the art in both issues? Seeing the Thing and Valeria prance into the Baxter Building both wearing pink princess hats is wonderful. Patsy also expresses a truth about how weird it is to be a superhero: "We've all had other lives." Finally, it turns out it's a bad idea to shoot a former herald of Galactus with a big space gun, because it can turn her into a black hole. Whoops! All-in-all, good stuff. An interesting mix of humor, intense drama, sci-fi action, and complex character development.
Thumbs Up

The New Avengers #1
Yes, another Avengers book by Bendis. I just can't resist them for some reason! This one explains how there can possibly be yet another Avengers team - turns out there's still some bad blood between the former renegade Avengers and the former official Avengers. Anticipating this, Tony and Steve sell Luke Cage and his buddies the newly renovated Avengers Mansion for a dollar and let them be Avengers over there, on their own terms. "Who do we get?" Luke asks. "Who do you want?" Steve answers, then quickly adds, "You can't have Thor or Iron Man." Heh. Meanwhile, some evil entity is going around possessing people. And at the end it makes Luke really big somehow? I don't know. It's your typical Avengers-level threat, I suppose. I don't think I need to read this book anymore. It has its moments, but it also has lots of Bendis-speak. Yuck.
Thumbs Sideways

New Mutants #13 & #14
Zeb Wells' New Mutants is currently being taken over by another of those multi-book mutant miniseries that seem to happen every other week. However, I don't collect any of the other books involved, which means these issues are two parts of a much larger story of which I haven't read any of the other parts. The laughably long "Previously..." summary at the front of each issue helps, but I still feel a bit lost. The short version is that that whole thing with Cable and Hope - the girl who's supposedly the last hope for mutantkind - is coming to head. Hope is now an annoying teenager, and the villains are trying to eliminate all the teleporters for some reason, which means lots of famous mutants are getting offed. Also, turns out Cyclops can kill people with his eye beams when he wants to. Huh.

I like the idea of using Legion against the enemy - dangerous but cool. And I like the art during the Legion sequences. But hey, dude, what the hell is with Rogue's costume? I know women superheroes tend to have ridiculous costumes, but jeez. Meanwhile, the mutants end up in a typical hopeless-looking last stand. A bit cliche, but reasonably well handled here. I also like the very ominous giant Sentinel thing that Wolverine and friends are fighting in the future. And how bad-ass Magneto is at the end. I'm not a fan of these big mutant storylines, but with the exception of a few cheesy sequences, Wells handles his part of it pretty well.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Mike Carey (Not), S.H.I.E.L.D. (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010 12:03 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

New releases
Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #1
This is the start of a six-issue limited series by Jason Aaron, with art by Adam Kubert. It's rather an odd story in which Wolverine and Spider-Man are sent back in time, apparently by accident, to just before the extinction of the dinosaurs. The time travel happens in the middle of a bank heist - a heist, I might add, being pulled off by The Orb and his gang; it's nice that Aaron is giving work to the weird old Ghost Rider villains he recently resurrected. Anyway, after some time in the past - long enough to seriously screw things up and come face to face with various other strange mysteries - our heroes jump in time again, this time to a twisted future ruled over by war-like people riding Devil Dinosaur robots. Whoops. Obviously there are some cool ideas in here, but for whatever reason - maybe the tons of narration and the depressing apocalyptic tone - the book just didn't grab me. I don't think I'll be collecting the rest of the issues.
Thumbs Sideways

Batman and Robin #12
Good lord, I love Grant Morrison. In this issue, Dick Grayson and Slade Wilson fight both face-to-face, and across a distance with Damian as the go-between. Wayne Manor is discovered to be a bat signal sent across time. The crazy, cold-as-ice Talia Al Ghul reveals she has had a backup Damian all ready to go, just in case he should choose to betray him. And indeed he does, choosing to remain as Robin and side with Batman. She tells him he is now an enemy of the House of Al Ghul, and he responds, "I hope I can be a worthy one, mother." Awesome. Meanwhile, Dick seems close to working out the riddle of Bruce's adventure through time. And, the big shocker: Oberon Sexton turns out to be, not Bruce Wayne, but the Joker! I did not see that coming at all. I'm not sure it makes a lot of sense, either, as Sexton is a pretty serious guy, and a good fighter. But then again, the Joker has been through a lot lately, and maybe Morrison will explain further in the next issue. Regardless, fun!
Thumbs Up

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #35
You can pretty much take my review of #34, copy it in here, and apply it to this issue, as well. One good thing about this issue: at least the decision that Buffy and Angel make at the end feels right and fits their characters, even if almost nothing else they've done recently in this story arc has been true to character. Of course they would give up any hope of peace in an eternal paradise where they're ultimately powerful in order to return to Earth and help their friends in a hopeless fight against hordes of monsters. That's what they always do. As Buffy says, "I never do what I'm meant for." But that still doesn't explain why Angel became Twilight and did all this crap in the first place. I guess we're still going with the dumb excuse that "the Universe" made him do it. Ugh.
Thumbs Down

Hellboy in Mexcio
Mike Mignola and Richard Corben team up again for another amazing Hellboy one-shot. This one has a frame story set in 1982 Mexico. While Abe and Hellboy are waiting for pickup, babysitting a mysterious monster locked in a suitcase, Hellboy tells Abe a sad and wonderful story about the last time he was in Mexico, back in 1956, when he joined a trio of Mexican wrestler brothers in fighting a bunch of local demons, and then ultimately ended up wrestling for the soul of one of the brothers. There's the suggestion that he spent a couple of months after that doing some professional wrestling himself. It's a classic Hellboy story, funny and subtle and moving and creative, fantastically illustrated by Corben.
Thumbs Up

Incorruptible #5
Looks like this title just got a new artist. His name is Horacio Domingues, and sadly I don't think his exaggerated, cartoonish style really fits the serious tone of the book. That being said, this issue is still pretty interesting. A new character is introduced, and Max's protective feelings for Jailbait become better defined even as she gets herself into greater danger.
Thumbs Sideways

Irredeemable #13
Hey, there was a new issue of each of Mark Waid's one-word-title-that-starts-with-an-I books this week! This one's useful in that it goes back and better explains some of the more recent plot twists, but mostly it just feels like filler, and a pause in the action. Which is slightly disappointing.
Thumbs Sideways

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1
Holy crap did I love this comic. It's an epic, thrilling, and creative reimagining of what S.H.I.E.L.D. is. It turns the organization into an ancient secret society that's existed since the beginning of civilization. The strongest and wisest men of each generation have been members, and have acted to protect the world from various alien invasions. The rather disturbing part is that they seem to be only postponing the destruction of Earth - preparing the planet for some other mysterious final doom. The writing is wonderful, with fantastically over-the-top dialog, and I love how famous historical figures are tied into the story, and shown using impossible inventions and weapons to fight infamous Marvel space villains. Then there's the unexpected appearance of Agent Richards and Agent Stark, not to mention Leonardo da Vinci. They're building a really interesting mythology here, and the fascinating diagram of "The Human Machine" in the back of the comic only adds to the mystique. Excellent stuff! I will definitely be collecting the rest of this series.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Hellboy (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), S.H.I.E.L.D. (Not), Spider-Man (Not), The Take (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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