Wednesday, December 19, 2007 10:29 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Bat Lash #1
I'm not reading a Western title at the moment, so I thought I'd try this relaunch of an old DC cowboy title. Well, I'm done trying it now. It's not absolutely awful or anything, but it certainly isn't good. The plot is so familiar you nearly fall asleep reading it: it's about a regular guy - the titular character - who falls in love with a girl, but her father doesn't like her hanging around with him because he's too low class; he'd rather she marry the nasty, racist, but well off scoundrel with whom he's making a crooked business deal. Meanwhile, said scoundrel sees Lash with "his" girl, and nearly hangs Lash - until Lash's Native American sidekick (whose life he saved earlier) shows up to shoot the noose off. If you have ever seen a Western, or even heard someone tell you about one, all of that should sound painfully familiar to you. Worse, the art isn't very good, and the characters are constantly repeating ridiculous jargon that I doubt people ever used even in the Old West. There's also actually more than one panel featuring a close-up on a character as that character clenches his fists and/or teeth in rage and spits out the name of his enemy: "Bat Lash!" "Brubaker!" So ridiculous and melodramatic! Also, there's a modern sensibility being applied here that I think leads to at least one anachronism. During the scene in question, our villain says the line, "Sure as teguila on a bean-eater's breath" in front of the Mexican help, and this is followed up by a panel of the villain actually saying, "Uh...sorry..." while sort of smirking at the Mexican servant, who seems to be frowning a little. Admittedly, the villain is being sarcastic with his apology, but I very much doubt that in this time and place he would have thought to say he was sorry, even in jest.

The point is, it's a bland and silly comic book that I'm not interested in reading any more of.

B.P.R.D. Killing Ground #5
The Killing Ground storyline concludes in this issue, thanks to Johann finally showing up and doing his thing with the dead bodies, and thus getting the whole backstory, which explains nearly everything - except for the meaning of Liz's strange and disturbing dreams, the sudden appearance of Lobster Johnson, and the weird connection between Daimio and the wendigo. All of these questions are simply left unanswered, and apparently the bastards are going to leave us hanging for some time, as the next B.P.R.D. story arc will be a flashback to Bruttenholm's work with the group immediately after WWII, entitled 1946. It's only after that arc is complete that they'll pick up this story again with a new series called B.P.R.D.: The Warning. Still, given that 1946 sounds awesome, I won't really mind waiting.

As for this issue, I was a little disappointed that everything was wrapped up thanks to a couple of expository flashbacks, but the stories told in said flashbacks are interesting, and the art is great, so it's not so bad. Still, I have to say I've found the endings of the most recent handful of B.P.R.D. and Hellboy story arcs to be rather anti-climactic. None of them have been bad, per se, but neither have any of them been as good as the classic stuff I've been reading in TPB format. Ah, well.

Ghost Rider #18
This story arc is nearly complete now, as this issue finally explains away a lot of the mysteries and secrets that have been lurking in the background for a long time. I actually found myself a little puzzled by the explanations, though (I still don't quite get why those two angels showed up and then pretty much didn't do anything), so perhaps a re-read of my Ghost Rider collection may be in order. I think I got the gist of things, though. Essentially, they've rewritten the Ghost Rider origin to be a lot more clever and interesting, and so that it makes a lot more sense.

[spoilers]After Johnny made his deal with the devil, his girlfriend's prayers to save his soul were answered, it turns out, not by God, but by an angel who's in disfavor, and is the head of a kind of black ops group for heaven. Said angel couldn't keep Blaze's soul from belonging to the devil, as that was a done deal, so instead he attached Blaze's soul to that of the Ghost Rider, a heavenly spirit of vengeance on Earth. The angel was essentially using Blaze's situation to help himself, as he needed an enforcer on Earth. Since Blaze's soul is attached to the Ghost Rider, even though it belongs to the devil, it can't go to hell for keeps. The devil, still trying to get something useful out of the deal, hitched a ride out of hell with Blaze and the Ghost Rider, and is now busy trying to take over the mortal plane.[/spoilers]

The question now is whether Blaze/Ghost Rider will complete the destruction of the devil's avatars on Earth, or decide to make war against the angel who's using him, or try to screw both sides. Should be interesting!

Green Lantern #25
I feel like a bit of a sucker for picking this up. I don't collect Green Lantern, but this issue was advertised as the super-sized finale to the Sinestro Corps War storyline that's been going on in all the GL titles lately, and although I haven't been following that storyline too closely, I was still interested enough to want to see how it all turned out.

And actually, the conclusion isn't too bad. It's definitely an uneven issue, with some sections that really frustrated and annoyed me, but plenty of other sections that I actually really enjoyed.

It starts off with a couple of two-page spreads of a gigantic super-hero war, so that's pretty hot. Then there's this whole fascinating prophecy that kind of re-imagines the entire concept of Green Lanterns. They're connecting colors with emotions, and making both the color and the emotion important to where the power comes from. And they're establishing a bunch more lantern colors for the future, promising seven corps (!), all of whom will get into a gigantic war, which ultimately will lead to "The Blackest Night," which is some kind of final, terrible, apocalyptic event the exact nature of which is unknown (although the preview material at the end of this issue is pretty suggestive). After the explication of the prophecy, there's tons more kick-ass super-fighting, and some slightly corny, but nonetheless surprisingly effective and moving, sequences about the people of Coast City standing strong behind their Lantern. This is followed up by even more seriously violent and epic super-warring, with background cameos from nearly every major and minor hero in the DC Universe. Superboy Prime finally makes himself useful; there's an awesome disease fight; the Guardians of Oa kick some ass; and, punching!

This section is all extremely entertaining and fun. I do find it disappointing and unbelievable, however, that Sinestro's apparent motive for this entire war was to push the Green Lantern Corps into sanctioning the use of lethal force. I mean, I know that's a big deal, because not killing people is one of the central tenets of heroes in the DC Universe. But how exactly does that benefit Sinestro in any way? All it meant was that a ton of guys on his side got wasted. Probably his plan is far more long term, and this is just one step in it - but it still seems kind of ridiculous.

But what really frustrated me about the book was the ending. It's kind of a given in comics that if a villain seems to have been killed or utterly defeated, it's not really true, and the guy will be back sooner or later. But it's also generally expected that at least a few issues will go by before the villain shows up again, so we all have time to pretend like he's really dead. This book, however, is already busy bringing every single one of its major villains back to life practically before we've even had time to register that they were killed. I mean, that's just annoying. And to then go ahead and (spoilers ahead) introduce yet another color of lantern, and then make it clear that the next big threat will be (sigh) zombie lanterns, is just too much. You've gone too far! Stop it already!

I'm not saying I didn't like some of these concepts. But piling them on top of everything else that already happened in this issue just felt like overkill.

Still, overall it's actually a pretty good comic with some really great ideas and some really well-executed scenes.

Nova #9
This isn't my favorite issue of Nova ever, but it's still pretty good. A flashback narrated by Cosmo the Russian space dog fills us in on how we got to this point, and then there's lots more space zombie fighting. Then, in a kind of cool, but also slightly unbelievable, turn of events, Nova actually uses the transmode virus to fix everything. Then Cosmo rather fortuitously gives Nova the info he needs to take the next step in his quest, and the issue concludes, although not before there's a very funny little scene with Cosmo and a chew toy.

So yeah, this issue feels a little contrived. Also, it really doesn't seem like a good strategic move on Richard's part to go running off to the actual homeworld of the evil aliens - the lion's den, as it were - while he's at about a quarter of his full power. Especially since it sounded like he was in a place where he could literally go anywhere in the universe he wanted. Maybe he should have, I don't know, gone to some place that might have had a cure to the virus? Or gone to get some backup?

Still, it's a pretty fun issue, with the usual excellent art, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

Punisher War Journal #14
Sadly, Fraction's extremely uneven run on this title takes another dip this issue. There are some funny bits, but nothing nearly as hilarious or clever as last issue. And why would Craven the Hunter go to what has obviously been a lot of time and trouble to assemble an amazing floating zoo of super-animals only to immediately set them loose and start sinking the ship as soon as the Punisher shows up? I know he's crazy and all, but that just doesn't make any sense. It doesn't help that Scott Wegener's art has a cartoony, almost amateur kind of look to it. Still, the Punisher's last line ("I hate everybody.") is truly a classic, and it looks like next issue will be him fighting his way out of a sinking ship while being hunted by Craven and an entire zoo of feral super-beasts, and that sounds like a lot of fun to me.

Oh, and this comic also has Marvel's usual handful of fun little back-up filler, including another episode of "Fury's Files," this time focusing on general supervillain trivia; a "Portfolio Review" of the art from Warren Ellis' upcoming miniseries Ultimate Human, with drawings by Cary Nord; an interview with Brian Reed, focusing on his work on the Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel titles, as well as New Avengers: Illuminati and the upcoming Secret Invasion series; and finally, a "Questions that Need Answers!" that asks all the Marvel comic book creators what their most memorable comic convention experience was. The "Portfolio Review" was cool to check out, as I'm really looking forward to Ultimate Human for reasons that should be obvious. The interview with Reed was a little... unsettling. I'm finding it hard to believe that they're really going to go through with this whole Skrull thing. I've always thought Marvel's tendency to reveal that a bunch of people were Skrulls after the fact to totally transform a previous story arc was pretty incredibly lame, almost tantamount to the old "it was just a dream" thing. But of course I'm also curious about it, and about Reed's other titles, especially Ms. Marvel, as I really enjoy Captain Marvel. I might have to give that one a shot... Anyway, the last bit about the memorable convention experiences is pretty funny. My favorite answer is Robert Kirkman's, which I will reprint here in full for your edification:

I've had a few. I saw two guys get in a fight in front of me one time over who would win, Thor or Hulk. They were actually screaming at each other so my friend and I stopped to watch, because it was hilarious. Then they came to blows and it really wasn't very funny. We were about to break it up when the convention security came and intervened. Then it got funny again as they were screaming "THOR!" nad "HULK!" at each other as they were dragged away. That would probably top my list.

Nightwing #139
Yeah, this isn't too good. Basically it's a whole lot of thinking, narrating, soul-searching, talking, and half-assed, touch-feely philosophizing, all while Nightwing and Robin occasionally throw punches at each other. Admittedly, the characters' actions and emotions are slightly more realistic and believable here than they were in Robin, but that's not saying much. And then there's the fact that the art's not very good, and the ending is pretty ridiculous. Blech. I'll be glad when this story arc is finally over.

Highlander: Way of the Sword #1
I know, I know. I can hardly believe I bought it myself. But it was there on the shelf, with the Kurgan on the cover and everything, and I thought, what the hell? And actually, as it turns out, the thing is surprisingly not terrible. It's not crazy imaginative or clever, but it's reasonably entertaining and never does anything too stupid. It follows the story of how immortal Connor MacLeod lost his sword - the one given to him by Ramirez - to the Kurgan in 1804, and how he eventually tracked it to a secret auction in Paris in 1966. Problem is, another immortal is already on the scene, and things are no doubt not what they seem. The art is serviceable and there's some pretty good action, as well as an amusing Queen reference ("a kind of magic," eh?). I may actually pick up #2, if there's not much else going on the week it comes out.

Fantastic Four #552
Yep. Robots. That's pretty much what I figured.

The cool thing about this issue is that it focuses in on the real tension in the team right now: the unresolved issues from the Civil War. The readers and the other members of the Fantastic Four have had their perceptions of Reed changed so much by the recent conflict that they actually are able to believe that Reed Richards might have shot to death a couple of his best friends, and that a plan that he implements in the future just might ruin the world. Doom hits them right where it hurts. It's a brilliant storyline to do now, right after the team has reformed and they're still raw and a bit uncomfortable, and it gets to the heart of these characters and their relationships with each other. Of course it helps that there's also a great big fight that ends with the FF of the future showing up. Good stuff!

Black Summer #1
The fourth issue of this Warren Ellis series came out a week or so ago, and looking at the cover I realized that this was the series that actually got into mainstream news because it featured "superheroes" - or, at least, metahumans - killing the president. And I was like, "why am I not reading this series?" So I went into the stacks and dug out issue #1. And it freaking rocks. It's classic Ellis, with a really smart and interesting story, incredibly bloody violence, insane future science, and a team of ridiculously powerful superhumans doing ridiculously crazy things. I'll definitely be looking for the rest of these. And now I'm kicking myself for not picking up #4 earlier, when it would have been easy. Oh, and a quick look at Wikipedia reveals that there was actually an issue #0 which I'm going to have to try to find, too.

Spawn: The Dark Ages #1
This is one of Star's comics that I tried to read a while back while I was waiting for my computer to do something. I put it down after a few pages and I don't expect to pick it up again. I'm guessing that it's probably just the story of Spawn, but moved to the Dark Ages. It was so poorly drawn and written, and so melodramatic and dull, that I gave up on it before I even found out for sure.

B.P.R.D.: A Plague of Frogs
This is a collection of what looks to be the first actual multi-issue story arc in the B.P.R.D. series, and I'm glad I finally got to it, because the most recent couple of B.P.R.D. storylines that I've been reading in issues refered to this arc a couple of times. The story is about the events of the very first Hellboy storyline coming back to haunt everybody, partially due to bad planning on the part of Bureau officials (never allow evil fungus to grow!), and partially due to the fact that Rasputin's successor has been chosen, and dude is getting to work. There are also hints worked in about Abe's origin, which eventually come to their fruition in the first B.P.R.D. story arc that I read in issues, Garden of Souls.

Put simply, this is a fantastic, fantastic book and easily the best B.P.R.D. story I've read yet. It's loaded with amazing, breath-taking images (courtesy the dynamite artistic team of Guy Davis on pencils and inks, and Dave Stewart on colors); hilarious dialogue; crazy, dramatic action; a prophecy fulfilled; a talking dog; and frog monsters! I love it dearly.

Ultimate Iron Man I
Hey, it's Tony's Game! Yes, Orson Scott Card wrote the origin of the Ultimate universe version of Iron Man, and there are a couple of rather suspicious similarities to the story of Ender as told in Card's novel Ender's Game. An incredibly smart child who has great aptitude with war machines learns war strategy from his elders and finds it necessary to use his abilities on the school bullies... I'm just saying is all.

Still, the thing isn't anything like a complete rehash of Ender's Game. In fact, the story is creative, clever, funny, and in all ways completely engaging, involving, and entertaining. A surprising amount of it is about Tony's parents and about Tony as a child. Tony in this version of the story gets infected by an experimental virus in the womb which gives him the ability to regrow tissue at an incredible rate, and fills his entire body with brain tissue, so he's like a walking brain. He has to wear bio-armor at all times to keep from being constantly in agony due to his incredibly sensitive skin - and even so, he does experience low level pain at all times (which causes him to turn to drink, and we know how that turns out). So he's sort of like Wolverine, but he's also a super-genius, and doesn't have claws. The science of his condition is questionable at best, but it's such a totally fascinating concept that I really don't care. The dialogue is excellent, the characters are great (especially Tony), and the art is quite good, too. Tony doesn't actually go into action as Iron Man until the very, very end of the story, but the book is so interesting you hardly even notice. This turned out to be a really good buy!

Ultimate Iron Man II #1
This is the first issue of Card's continuation of the Ultimate Iron Man origin story, released just this past week. It picks up right where Ultimate Iron Man I left off, with Tony recovering from his first "mission" as Iron Man, and his Dad still in jail. It further develops the rather complex relationship between Tony and his father, further establishes just how horrible Obadiah Stane really is, and sees Iron Man and War Machine go out together on a new mission, this time one they're sent on by a couple of creepy government agents. Not sure why they think going somewhere and killing people for a couple of guys who won't even tell them who they really work for is such a good idea, but it does allow Card to tackle the concept of terrorists and suicide bombers, and further investigate Tony's father issues. It's interesting stuff, and I'll definitely be collecting the rest of this miniseries.
Tagged (?): Comic books (Not), The Take (Not)

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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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