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Thursday, September 9, 2010 12:13 PM
 by Fëanor

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

Tagged (?): Animals (Not), Art (Not), Captain America (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Cosplay (Not), Costumes (Not), Food (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Monty Python (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Science (Not), Simpsons (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), Stephen King (Not), Superman (Not), The Dark Tower (Not), Tolkien (Not), Tron (Not), Tron Legacy (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010 07:53 PM
 by Fëanor

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

Tagged (?): Advertising (Not), Alan Moore (Not), Aliens (Not), Animals (Not), Art (Not), Avatar (Not), Celebrities (Not), Clothing (Not), Comic books (Not), Craft (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Facebook (Not), Fringe (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Iron Man (Not), Links (Not), Mario (Not), Metroid (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Predator (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Shirts (Not), Tolkien (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not)
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Thursday, February 11, 2010 08:39 AM
(Last updated on Thursday, February 11, 2010 10:20 AM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 2/3. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #32
This issue had multiple covers, but I got the best one: it retitles the book Buffy Comics and the illustration is a parody of the famous cover of Action Comics #1, with Buffy standing in for Superman. Also, I'm pretty sure that's Joss Whedon playing the screaming man in the bottom left corner. They didn't do this just for the fun of it, either; the issue is about Buffy gaining super powers, way above anything she ever had before, and is loaded with references to other super-powered characters from throughout the history of popular culture, especially Superman. There's something particularly funny about the references to Kitty Pryde, and Buffy's dislike of the character, given that Whedon wrote an arc of Astonishing X-Men in which Kitty was the central character. A lot of the story is quite funny, really, especially how Xander just totally geeks out over Buffy's powers. I also rather like the Superman II reference, when Buffy, standing in the air with her arms folded, says, "General... would you care to step outside?"

I was a little worried about this issue, because it was written by Brad Meltzer, whose work I've really disliked in the past, and indeed some of the dialog is a bit awkward and odd, but overall I was pleasantly surprised. It's a pretty good issue - fast-paced, exciting, funny - and it moves the overarching plot forward in fascinating ways. The revelation about the origin of Buffy's new powers is not particularly shocking, but it's still an interesting development. Hopefully Meltzer can keep up the good work.

In the back of the book is a preview of Zack Whedon's upcoming Terminator series. I was going to buy the first issue of this sight unseen because I love Terminator and I love anybody named Whedon, but this preview seals the deal. Fun dialog, interesting characters, and a sense of impending doom. Good stuff!
Thumbs Up

Criminal: The Sinners #4
Another great issue. One of the killer kids realizes it's not all black and white, and that some of the bad guys aren't so bad that they deserve to get executed. He makes a fateful decision, and Lawless solves the murder mystery. That doesn't get Lawless out of any trouble, though; in fact, he's making brand new enemies, and now his fellow employees know about him and the boss's wife. Yay for dark and evil noir!

In the back of the book is a really amazing essay by Joe Hill called "Real, True Damage." On the surface it's an appreciation of a Charles Bronson movie called Mr. Majestyk, but underneath that it's really a powerful, insightful memoir about life and human nature. I think I might have to start reading more stuff by Joe Hill.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #6
Finally, the epic conclusion to Jason Aaron's run on Ghost Rider! Sadly, the pacing of the opening is a bit off; almost before we realize Johnny and Danny's first fight with Zadkiel is over, they're going back to face him again, with no real indication of where everybody went in the meantime. Still, the rest of the book pretty easily makes up for this, as the next sequence features every Ghost Rider ever rising up to pull Zadkiel down, and then, when they're done with that, utterly destroying the invading armies of hell. It's pretty awesome, especially the huge two-page spread of the entire Ghost Rider army. Then there's tiny Knuckles O'Shaugnessy spitting out ridiculous slang, and a Wild West Ghost Rider saying, "Bring it on, you sumbitches!" and a Ghost Rider on a giant shark tearing into people, and... yeah, it's fantastic. Later there's a handful of fun epilogue panels, including one where the giant zealot guy is stuck paralyzed in a hospital room with eyeball guy, who is just talking and talking in the most annoying way and it's hilarious. The very end is also excellent, with our three heroes riding off into the sunset, in search of new adventures. Danny: "Where the hell are we going?" Johnny: "I don't know. But I'll race ya." Yep, that pretty much sums it up! Aaron's Ghost Rider arc had its bumpy moments, but overall it was a lot of fun, and this conclusion was pretty much everything I could have hoped for.

There's not much to say about the reprint, in the back of the book, of the final part of the origin story of the Son of Satan, except that it's pretty ridiculous.
Thumbs Up

Marvel Heart-Breakers #1
I'm not really sure why I felt I had to pick up this one-shot anthology. I guess it was the inclusion of a character from Nextwave (Tabitha Smith) that pulled me in. I believe the book is meant to be Marvel's celebration of Valentine's Day, so the focus is, stereotypically, on the women of the Marvel universe and their love lives. There's a goofy Spider-Man story that looks like it's going to be about Gwen Stacy vs. MJ, but then ends up mostly being about Spider-Man vs. an ill-conceived science project. It's vaguely amusing, but nothing to write home about. The next story, "Superboys!", is funnier, if also a bit uneven. It features Tabitha Smith and Elsa Bloodstone waiting around to beat up Bloodstone's ex. While they're sitting there, they share stories about relationships gone awry. I particularly like Elsa's story about how her Dad chucked her into the water with sharks to celebrate her womanhood. Tabitha points out that this is a continuity problem, but Elsa retorts, "Who are you, Uatu the Watcher?" Heh. The gossip about the other men of the Marvel U is also pretty amusing. The next story centers on the Beast and Dazzler, and it's kind of sweet, but also kind of corny, and also... Dazzler. Dazzler is lame. The last story, about Snowbird, is dull and melodramatic. Then there's a cute page of art with a bunch of the Marvel women hanging out with white outfits on that show off their boobs. Classy.

I really have to stop getting these anthology books. They're always mediocre.
Thumbs Sideways

Siege #2
I'm really enjoying Olivier Coipel's epic art on this title, which is set off by Mark Morales' fine inks and Laura Martin's wonderful colors. In the opening of this issue, Ares learns the truth: that Osborn has lied to him to trick him into fighting against his brother Gods. This is clearly an important plot point, but unfortunately it's a pretty weak hinge for the story to swing on. I mean, the lie was a transparent one that Ares was bound to see through eventually. Why didn't Osborn come up with something a little more believable? Why didn't Ares bother doing some research first? It's kind of lame. It is totally fun, however, when Maria Hill drives in on the back of a beat-up truck and shoots Osborn with a missile launcher, and then follows that up by covering the rest of the Avengers with machine gun fire while her new buddy tries to drag the injured Thor to safety. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers pulls pretty much every other hero in the Marvel U together to help him stop Osborn, which is awesome. Then it's time for a huge, brutal fight between the Sentry and Ares that ends with... well, with the Sentry ripping Ares in half with his bare hands. Sigh. Have I mentioned lately that I hate what Bendis is doing with the Sentry? However, I was ready to forgive pretty much all of this comic's flaws when I got to the last page, a page so great it made me pump my fist in celebration. It's just four panels of Osborn staring up while we watch the reflection of Cap's shield getting closer and closer in his armor's faceplate. Hilarious and fantastic and a thrilling preview of the epic battle to come.
Thumbs Up

Siege: Embedded #2
I'm enjoying this series more than I thought I would. The characters are strong and interesting - Volstagg is particularly fun - and it's good to see somebody taking jabs at Fox News and our media-obsessed culture. There's even some exciting action. In the back is a preview for a Jeph Loeb Ultimate title which is predictably bad.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Criminal (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Siege (Not), Superman (Not), Terminator (Not), The Take (Not)
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 02:20 PM
(Last updated on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 03:13 PM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unwritten #8
This issue takes a quick jump backwards in time and retells some of the story's more recent events, this time with a focus on the governor of the prison that Tom has been put in, as well as the governor's children, who have a slightly unhealthy obsession with the Tommy Taylor books - an obsession that could put them in serious danger. It's another tense, unsettling, emotionally powerful issue crammed with brilliant ideas. I continue to believe this is one of the best comics on the stands right now.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), The Take (Not)
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009 03:51 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

Wow, it has been a looooooong time since I've posted one of these. I had been falling behind anyway, and then Nanowrimo happened, and I fell so much further behind that it became ridiculous. So I've decided to give up on the idea of catching up on all the comics I missed reviewing, and just pick up with the most recent week. Hope nobody minds!

This post covers some new releases from the week of 10/7 (because I happened to already have them written, so I figured I might as well post them), as well as new releases from the week of 12/3. Beware spoilers!

New releases (10/7)
Astonishing X-Men #31
Now this - this is a good X-Men comic. We start with alien fighting, then the whole team works together to save people in danger, and then there's a weird, creepy Sentinel attack! Also, amusing humor throughout.
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #5
The new artist is not as good as the old guy. Scarlet's backstory just makes her creepier. It's pretty disappointing to me that the new Red Hood is just... Jason Todd again. Boring! Once somebody pointed it out to me, I did get a bit of a chuckle out of the fact that there's a phone poll in support of Jason Todd in the book, considering that a phone poll is how it was decided he would be killed. Flamingo, meanwhile, is gross and disturbing.

Definitely not my favorite issue of this. Hoping for better soon.
Thumbs Sideways

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #29
Giant war! It's cute how Xander and Dawn teach the Slayers about guns. And now it turns out Oz & friends' hippie dippy crap about giving the magic to the Earth was a bit of a lie. In fact they were giving the magic to wrathful goddesses, whom they now call upon to save them. So yeah, getting rid of the magic was as bad an idea as it seemed. But calling on wrathful goddesses sounds like maybe an even worse idea. Hmm...
Thumbs Up

Captain America: Theater of War - Ghosts of My Country #1
Another in a series of Captain America: Theater of War one-shots. This one takes us through a series of important moments in the history of America, and each time a phrase is repeated, and Captain America's spirit is there. The book is alternately cheesy and effective. I can't quite decide how I feel about it.
Thumbs Sideways

Criminal: The Sinners #1
Hooray, Criminal is back! And so is Tracy Lawless. As usual he's got trouble closing in on him from every direction. Sleeping with the boss' wife? Really? And man, that's a bad job you got stuck with. I didn't expect kids to be the culprits!

I really enjoyed the interview with Darwyn Cooke in the back about the Parker books. Some great details on Cooke's adaptation process for The Hunter, and some really interesting insight into the story. And the appreciation of Sam Peckinpah's The Killer Elite was so convincing I immediately added the movie to my Netflix queue.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Zodiac #3
The object of our villain/hero's immediate scheme is finally revealed, but it's really only the first part of a much larger plan to change the world. I'd love to see more of this story. Great writing and art. But man, that poor H.A.M.M.E.R. agent. He just had no luck.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #6
Pretty great ending for this series, and a poetic defeat for the Human Flame. He's trapped by his own lust for power, and his refusal to go back to the loser he used to be. Also, his stupidity. His stupidity definitely doesn't help. The bit with the cell phone pic is a nice touch.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #3
Big showdown between both Ghost Riders and their enemies. I love Trull! Also, the Gun Nuns. Still really enjoying the reprint backup story, too. Exciting plot, and Witch-woman is hot!
Thumbs Up

The Incredibles #1
As I suspected, our storyline focuses on the alien virus introduced in #0. Turns out it passes on super powers! Cool idea, and I love the silly henchmen. "Should you really be holding a baby when you're on fire?" Also, I instantly approve of any character named Ungorilla.
Thumbs Up

New releases (12/3)
Captain America: Theater of War - Prisoners of Duty #1
Another surprisingly good entry in this series of one-shots. Exciting action, coupled with a powerful statement about the cruelty of war.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers Annual #1
Finally we find out what the new Captain Marvel has been up to since he ran out on the Dark Avengers. Turns out he's been calling home for further instructions, and also flirting with a goth art student. Then at the end he gets a new power set and a new uniform. Some vaguely interesting ideas here, and I could see how somebody could now go interesting places with the Captain Marvel character. But the writing is also pretty cheesy, especially as far as the goth art student is concerned. And it's painfully obvious that nobody knows what to do with this Captain Marvel guy. New writers just keep changing the character completely so they can try something different with him. It's kind of sad.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredibles #3
Reasonably fun issue. There's a huge, super-powered war that might have been too hard to do even in an animated movie. So that's cool. Still, I feel like something is missing here. There's just not a lot of life or energy or creativity in the dialog and the story. I might drop this book.
Thumbs Sideways

The Marvels Project #4
I was a little disappointed with this. The opening especially is really over-narrated, and it's pretty harsh how Brubaker casually dispatches The Ferret. It's a little tiresome reading yet another summary of Steve Roger's early life. Why not do something different with it this time? I mean, this is just a straight-up summary of the same events we all know by heart. John Steele is interesting, and I like how he meets up with Nick Fury and his guys; I imagine they'll get along well. But the way Brubaker just skips through Steele's interactions with the German townspeople seems a bit clumsy. I like seeing the assassination of Erskine from the perspective of the saboteur; that's interesting. But yeah, overall this is definitely not my favorite issue of this series.
Thumbs Sideways

Scalped #33
In case you were wondering, yes, Scalped is still awesome. I'm glad to see our hero seems to finally be pulling himself together and enacting some kind of plan, even if it involves teaming up with the ultimate scumbag, Diesel. Is Chief Red Crow's big plan to defuse the Hmong situation to just get beaten up? I'm not sure that's going to satisfy them...

In the back of the book is a preview for something called Luna Park. It's awful! So that's good to know.
Thumbs Up

Siege: The Cabal #1
This one-shot is meant to bridge the gap between Marvel's last big event (Dark Reign) and its next one (Siege). It involves Norman Osborn rather arbitrarily deciding to move on Asgard. He also has a violent argument with Doctor Doom over Namor. I don't really care for this comic. I think the problem is that I don't understand the characters' motivations. They just seem to be performing random acts in service of Bendis' plot. Also, the preview of Siege #1 is disappointing. It looks like Loki and Osborn are going to team up to create an inciting incident nearly identical to the one that started the Civil War, as an excuse for Osborn to move on Asgard. First of all, I don't even get why Osborn is going after Asgard. He has to know he can't take on a whole city full of Gods. Why not just let them be if they're not coming after him? And it's also really disappointing to me that Bendis is just going to reuse the same plot mechanic from Civil War. I mean, come on. That is lame.
Thumbs Sideways

Supergod #2
This series is amazing. The natural next step in Warren Ellis' examination of the concept of the superhuman. Now he's looking at the superhuman in relation to humanity's conception of religion - Superheroes as Gods. The problem is, once you've made a God, how do you control it? How do you understand it? And the answer is, you can't. This comic is loaded with amazing, mind-blowing ideas and incredibly dark humor.
Thumbs Up

Ultimate Spider-Man #5
I was really excited about this comic at first, but I'm starting to get tired of it. It's cute. The art's good. The story's okay. But it's not blowing me away anymore. And that Bendis dialog! It really starts to grate on you. I mean, how many books did I buy this week by Bendis? That guy is everywhere! Can't he just back off a little?
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Criminal (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Pixar (Not), Scalped (Not), Siege (Not), Spider-Man (Not), The Take (Not), Vampires (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Monday, October 5, 2009 03:18 PM
 by Fëanor

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

Tagged (?): Animals (Not), Art (Not), Automobiles (Not), Bacon (Not), Batman (Not), Books (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Dinosaurs (Not), Drink (Not), FlashForward (Not), Food (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Health (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Lovecraft (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Pixar (Not), Products (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Robots (Not), Science (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), Technology (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not), Zombies (Not)
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Monday, September 21, 2009 11:47 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Titans - Yep. Still sucks.

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

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

Metal Men - I still don't care.

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

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

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

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

Hawkman - Hawkman has an oddly and almost annoyingly protracted argument with a museum curator over whether the survivors of the plane crash should run from the T. Rex or not. He finally wins the argument by pointing out that, "I'm Hawkman, dammit!" Heh. He stole that from Batman. Anyway, despite the slightly irritating and drawn out back-and-forth between Hawkman and the curator, this is a fun episode, thanks in large part to the giant, epic panel at the bottom showing the T. Rex and Hawkman soaring into battle with each other.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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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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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 12:08 AM
On the Viewer - Ghost Rider
 by Fëanor

Even though I heard terrible things about the 2007 Ghost Rider film starring Nicolas Cage, I love the comic book character enough that I still felt honor bound to see the movie. Besides, I thought there was a slim chance it might be fun. I managed to snag a copy of the movie on DVD as a reward of sorts for helping SuperTarzan move, and recently I finally got around to sitting down and watching it. I decided to live-tweet the entire experience. Here's the whole thing reprinted in chronological order. (I've removed the "Ghost Rider:" prefix from the front of every tweet to avoid repetitiveness, and I've done a bit of editing and formatting for readability.)
I'm glad @samsmoustache is in this movie. Is Sam playing his same character from Big Lebowski?

Dude! Peter Fonda is Satan! Nice.

Wow, this is cheesy. The origin story they come up with here might actually make more sense than the comic book one, though.

His buddy is played by Donal Logue? OK then. They flipped past a great movie on a TV in the movie. Can't remember title.

He eats jelly beans all the time instead of liquor? And he loves TV shows about monkeys? Who is he, Ronald Reagan?

I remembered! Movie on TV earlier was Jacques Tourneur's Night of the Demon.

This movie is going to be about finding a contract? So... it's a legal thriller?

Johnny says, "You're stepping on Karen." Then Donal throws him a pimp cane. Wow.

Johnny asks Roxanne if she wants to go to dinner. "Eye-talian?" Sigh. He's kind of a dumb-ass.

Villains are lame as hell. They're fighting over whether the lights stay on or not. "I will retire him." That's the best you got?

Roxanne using a magic eight ball at the restaurant. Wow.

If Johnny has to do what Mephistopheles says, how was earlier Ghost Rider able to defy him and run away with the contract?

Blackheart appears to kill people by giving them way too much eyeliner.

Is Johnny supposed to be laughing crazily while turning into Ghost Rider, or is he just having lots of fun?

Ghost Rider's head looks too small for his body. Why did Blackheart think hanging would kill him? Hasn't he met Rider before?

Demon immediately freaks out and asks for mercy from Ghost Rider. That's one lousy demon.

In this movie Rider seems to be here to do specific job for devil, so why does he bother saving girl from mugger?

At this point I had to pause the movie. When I came back to it later, I decided to watch it over again from the very beginning, just to get the full effect.
Just realized, contract is totally a MacGuffin.

Young Johnny walks in planning to leave & immediately finds item proving dad really loves him & item stating dad about to die.

Young Johnny pretty bad actor.

Mephistopheles tells him, "Forget friends, forget family, forget love." Each line gets flashback; for family, we see his dad...

... for love, we see Roxanne. But he has no friends, so for that line they just show him walking with bike and smiling. D'oh.

Movie asks us to sympathize w/suicidally reckless redneck who enjoys monkey comedy & eating jellybeans out of martini glasses.

What is with Johnny doing all the dramatic pointing at people?

Reintroduction of Roxanne ridiculous. Johnny really a jerk during Roxanne's interview. Romantic music truly awful.

I do appreciate that he adds helicopters to the jump, though. That's pretty hilarious.

Highway they're driving on has 1 lane each going opposite directions, but lanes are separated by *white* not yellow lines.

Villains posing like they're doing a magazine shoot.

Love how poorly thought out villain's plan is. "We'll get the contract, then... take over the world. Somehow."

Is it good or bad if Mephistopheles is your biggest fan?

Why doesn't Mephistopheles kill Blackheart? Should be able to if he's powerful enough to make something that can kill him.

So, the Caretaker just stands around in the cemetery all day, leaning on his shovel?

This is... this is just really bad.

As Rider leaves nearby parking garage, he knocks out the G and A in the neon sign, so it says RAGE. Woah! My mind is now blown.

Movie finds it completely impossible to make any character either threatening or likable. Villains laughable, heroes lame.

Didn't Caretaker just tell us Blackheart & friends can't enter hallowed ground? How is Blackheart raising havoc in a church?

OK, there are some cool effects in here. They got the look of the Rider pretty much right.

I just don't get the whole contract thing. It's a bunch of souls? So what? Mephistopheles must pick up 100s of souls every day.

Oh no! Not Donal Logue!

Hm. JB took the death of his best friend surprisingly well. Barely even noticed it, in fact.

So Blackheart's new plan is to get GR to get the contract for him. But what's to stop Mephistopheles getting it first?

Spoiler! The Caretaker is the old school Ghost Rider of legend. That's actually pretty cool.

Caretaker wastes last bit of GR power riding w/JB to final showdown, then disappears. Couldn't've shot some fire at B first?

Seriously. You hang onto spectral superpowers for a hundred years, then use them up on... a joyride?

Love how Caretaker's last advice to flaming dude on motorcycle is to "stick to the shadows." Yeah. They'll never see him!

If your last remaining enemy is a demonic water elemental, you might want to consider driving around any bodies of water.

Demons clearly familiar w/GR, but all surprised by his abilities, completely unprepared to fight him. All easily dispatched.

Exchanging Roxanne for contract. GR says "let her go first." So Blackheart...does. Thus giving away any leverage he had. Idiot!

Was this movie written by a 12-year-old boy?

Can't believe GR's powers just go away when the sun rises.

So you just have to hold the contract, say you have it, and then you get all the souls? Law is simpler than I thought!

Why does having some old souls from a dead town mean he now can take over the world? This movie makes no sense at all.

I liked the thing where he turned the gun into a hellfire gun, though. That was cool.

What happened to Mephistopheles wanting the contract? He no longer seems to care what happened to it at all.

"Whenever innocent blood is spilt it'll be my father's blood and you'll find me there." Did he just paraphrase Grapes of Wrath?

GR defies devil to his face. So devil gets mad and leaves. What? Just take back the power like you said you would!

There has never been a more pathetic and impotent Mephistopheles in cinema history.

"My daddy always said if you don't make a choice, the choice makes you." Yep. Didn't make sense then, and it doesn't now!

Good God, that was awful. So cheesy and nonsensical.

Some final thoughts: Johnny's dramatic pointing was less pointing than it was a shove of his claw in a particular direction; rather then actually stick out one finger, Nic Cage just stuck out his half-closed fist. Very strange.

There's an odd scene in the film that seems completely unnecessary where Blackheart threatens a priest in a church. First of all, I thought the Caretaker said earlier that Blackheart can't enter hallowed ground, so it seems to me he shouldn't even be in there, let alone using his dark powers to scare people. And second of all, it really feels like this scene was part of a subplot that was otherwise cut out of the movie. The scene doesn't go anywhere, and we never find out who the priest is, what he has to do with anything, or what happens to him.

In general the plot is an obviously slapdash affair that falls to pieces at the merest brush of logic. The contract that's at the center of the story is especially problematic. We pretty much just have to take for granted that it's important, even though what it's supposed to do and why is never made clear. But I'm particularly confused by the character of Mephistopheles. Clearly this is a being of great power; he's able to turn regular people into brutal spirits of vengeance. He can cure cancer. But for some reason he can't pick up a contract for himself, but instead has to send a Ghost Rider to do it for him. Then when the Ghost Rider defies him, rides off, and hides the contract... he can't do anything about it. Later when his son Blackheart comes to Earth and defies him, he again seems unable to do anything about it personally, and instead sends a Ghost Rider to take care of the problem for him. He's made a deal with this Rider that he'll give him back his humanity and take the Ghost Rider curse away when Blackheart is dead. Earlier it seemed clear that Mephistopheles' deals are powerfully binding. But when the Ghost Rider defies Mephistopheles to his face and says he'd rather keep the power to fight him... Mephistopheles just yells at him petulantly and runs away.

But anyway. I think I've spent way more words already on this movie than it deserves. Suffice it to say, it ain't worth watching.
Tagged (?): Comic books (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Movies (Not), On the Viewer (Not), Twitter (Not)
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009 01:41 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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