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Wednesday, June 9, 2010 01:36 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 5/26. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2
Bruce finds himself in Puritan times fighting a giant Lovecraftian monster with a sword. Which, right there... I mean, let's just stop and consider that sentence. That's awesome. Anyway, he's rescued and nursed back to health by a witch woman who, it turns out, called the monster forth in the first place. She's of the Bat-People, and has a necklace with Wonder Woman and Superman's symbols on it - probably derived from the symbols Bruce himself painted on the cave wall in these parts all those ages ago. "My devils are the old lords of the land and the sky," she tells him. "Gods of the Wheel of Time and the Never-Ending World. And all the spaces beyond." Uh oh, that doesn't sound good. Meanwhile, the Justice League jumps to just before the end of the universe in the hopes that they can look back on the universe's timeline and find where Batman has ended up. Another great, mind-blowing Grant Morrison idea. We get to see the origin of the painting of "Brother Mordecai," which, if I remember correctly, hangs in Wayne Manor in the present. Bruce's time-jumping seems to be linked to eclipses for some reason. And then the big revelation: Bruce has somehow made it to the end of time and taken the identity of the archivist there, all so he can steal the Justice League's time sphere and get back to his own time. He ignores Superman's desperate warnings: "He took your memories, relied on your survival instinct... you've been booby-trapped! Darkseid turned you into a doomsday weapon and aimed you directly at the 21st century!" Yeah, okay, that's awesome. And it even sort of makes sense - Darkseid didn't kill Bruce, he turned him into a failsafe world-destroyer, just in case his original plot failed. There's also a creepy time-looping curse: Bruce manages to slay the "dragon" using just a sword (because he's just that bad-ass), but he can't save his witch-woman. She dies cursing her executioner, who just happens to be Nathaniel Wayne. "My curse on you and all your kin! Until the end of time!" She's unwittingly cursing the man she was desperate for them to save: Bruce Wayne. Who now finds himself thrown across time again, right into the hands of the pirate Blackbeard. Awesome.

I truly love this series. It's classic Morrison: tons of crazy awesome ideas thrown at you all at once. He tells you just enough for you to work out what's going on, then rushes onward.
Thumbs Up

Incorruptible #6
I think this was probably the worst issue of this comic yet, and I think it has a lot to do with new artist Horacio Domingues. His work is just childish and cartoony, and the expressions on the characters' faces are exaggerated and overly emotional. It doesn't suit the material at all. All that being said, the writing here isn't too good, either. There's a lot of overwrought, melodramatic, and cliche dialog, especially during Jailbait's suicide attempt. That last scene is pretty over-the-top, too. Hopefully things will pick back up with the next issue.
Thumbs Down

Secret Avengers #1
Not content with starting just one, gigantic, 25-member Avengers team, Steve Rogers has also launched a smaller, secret Avengers team to handle black ops missions. Oddly it includes some of the same members as the larger team. Could they make this more confusing? Anyway, the secret team's first mission sees them intercepting an alien artifact that puts them on a trail that leads to Mars, where an even more dangerous, companion artifact is awaiting them. Both artifacts seem to have the power to turn former allies into enemies. The story is intriguing and fun, but the dialog and art are surprisingly clumsy. I expect better writing from Ed Brubaker, and better art from Mike Deodato. Valkyrie's and Black Widow's outfits cling to them in ridiculous ways in the opening fight sequence, and there's a panel near the beginning where Steve Rogers is supposed to be smiling casually that's just horrific - it looks like he's making some kind of hideous death grimace. On top of all that, the Secret Avengers team is mostly composed of characters I don't care that much about. Sure, Steve Rogers, Beast, and Nova are cool, but Moon Knight, Sharon Carter, Black Widow, Valkyrie, and War Machine are all pretty dull. I'll hold off judgment on the (redeemable) Ant Man, as I'm not too familiar with him. Anyway, I'm not crazy about this issue, but I might stick with the series for now and see where the story goes.
Thumbs Sideways

The Terminator: 2029 #3
This is the last issue of this series! I didn't realize it was only going to be three issues long! Thankfully it's just the prelude to another three-issue miniseries, done by the same creative team, that continues the story, but in a different year: 1984. Hoo boy! It's nice to see Ben and Paige getting together, and it's cool how future-Reese convinces Ben he's telling the truth. It's also interesting that Ben can't see past his current happiness to what's really important, until that happiness is taken away. I feel like it's a little cheap to introduce Ben and Paige's relationship only to tear it apart in order to give Ben motivation to complete his mission, but... it's done relatively well, with some effective narration, and Paige did feel like a real person while she was around, so I'll allow it. I like the way the comic fills in gaps in the original story, showing us Reese volunteering for the mission to protect Sarah Connor. We even get to see John sending him back. But there's an extra and interesting new element added: the older, future Reese claims he woke up after the fight with the T-800 in the factory (which took place at the end of the first movie) and was then imprisoned and questioned by machines. How could that have happened? In the movie he seemed pretty clearly to have died. Is this a different timeline? Or when his body was taken away at the end of the movie, did someone intercept it and revive him? I'm interested to see how they'll explain this, and of course to see how they weave Ben's story into the story of the original movie.

Unfortunately, there is a rather large continuity error here. In the movie, Reese said the time travel equipment was destroyed as soon as he went through, but that doesn't happen here, and in fact no such plan is even mentioned; instead, after Reese is sent back, John just leaves the machine sitting there and Ben and future-Reese have no trouble sneaking in to use it again. Which doesn't even make sense. I mean, who'd leave a time machine just sitting around? It's a disappointing logic error in what's an otherwise strong story.
Thumbs Up

Thor #610
The cover of this comic is labeled "Siege: Epilogue," and indeed that's all this issue really is: an epilogue to Siege. There's a two-page spread that nicely summarizes the end of Siege using six panels, mostly primary colors, and a handful of short phrases. It's better than reading the real thing, actually! Then we get Balder brooding, and trying to give the throne back to Thor, who wisely refuses, so he can go on kicking ass as the Thor we know and love. There's also a subplot with this Kelda lady who I still can't quite figure out. Apparently she used to like some dumb-ass named Bill? And now they're separated forever? I don't really care. Anyway, Thor finally gets to have it out once and for all with his clone, and that's kind of fun. But really this issue is just cleaning up old plot lines so we can move on to new stuff in future issues, so it's kind of dull and disappointing.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Terminator (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Zack Whedon (Not)
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Monday, May 31, 2010 08:13 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

As usual, beware spoilers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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