Wednesday, April 30, 2008 09:28 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.

Back issues and old data: Star's old comics
Gifts of the Night #1
Gifts of the Night #2
Gifts of the Night #4
I couldn't find the third issue of this 1999 4-issue miniseries from Vertigo, but I went ahead and read the final installment anyway and I don't feel like I missed much. The story is set in an anonymous European kingdom of the past and tells the tale of a scholar whose job it is to educate the young Prince. The scholar loves books and his education of the boy takes the form of stories out of history and mythology. The boy watches the fireplace while he listens to the stories and sees strange visions there that are connected to those stories. His father, the King, mistakes the boy's stories for real, prophetic visions, and begins basing his actions on them. The scholar sees a chance at power and begins telling the boy specific stories to try to manipulate policy. Unfortunately, one of the King's cruel and clever advisers figures out what's going on and starts using the boy for his own ends. Eventually, it all comes crashing down in tragedy. This miniseries was written by Paul Chadwick with what looks like painted art by John Bolton. Chadwick's writing is a bit melodramatic, and his characters are mostly stereotypes without much flesh on them. The story itself is meant to be powerful, affecting, epic tragedy, but it ends up being rather annoying and unsatisfying, with a hero who is pretty pretentious, pathetic, and hard to like. The art is quite lovely at times, but at other times it's kind of hideous. All in all, a pretty dull book.
Thumbs Down

New releases
Superman/Batman #47
The latest chapter in the "Hey, let's round up all the Kryptonite" saga sees the boys stumbling upon a secret government stash of the famous rock at a rather unlikely location. They also run into a team called The Last Line trained specifically to take Superman down should he ever go bad. It's a fascinating idea, and despite the fact that the woman in charge lays down some stereotypical villain dialogue, this issue leaves you feeling strongly like our heroes and their enemies are working in a bit of a gray area here. It seems to me that maybe there should be a team trained to take Superman down, just in case. And maybe Superman shouldn't have complete control over all the Kryptonite, just in case. It's interesting stuff. Plus, there's some exciting action, and both our heroes are in serious trouble at the end of this issue, so it should be interesting to see how they get out of it next time.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: First Class #11
I missed this one when I was making up my list, so I'm glad I noticed it on the shelf when I got to the shop, because this off-and-on title was really on this week. The whole issue is like an ode to classic Marvel comics, and to the culture of comic book collecting in general. When a villain starts messing with reality, only a trio of comic-loving folks who call themselves the Continuiteens can give the X-Men the information they need to save the day, thanks to their incredible knowledge of continuity! It's very funny and clever and postmodern, with wonderful art throughout, and although it does of course make fun of comic book nerds a little, it does so in a very loving way - after all, this was created by a bunch of comic book nerds, too. I particularly love the scenes where the Continuiteens take issue with Ice Man wishing Cyclops could just "laser-eye" the villain ("He does not have laser eyes! It's a force beam!"); where the X-Men try to trick Galactus by pointing a fake Ultimate Nullifier at him ("That does not even look like the Ultimate Nullifier."); the flashback sequence wherein the Continuiteens reveal how they've affected continuity over the years (by putting the book of Vishanti in Doctor Strange's mailbox, for instance); the cameo from Devil Dinosaur; and, of course, the wonderful ending. Just great comics.
Thumbs Up

The Uncanny X-Men #497
This is the X-Men book being written by Ed Brubaker, who is a really hit-and-miss writer as far as I'm concerned. I read an issue of this series way back, decided I didn't care for it, and never bought any more... until this week. Something about this issue really attracted me. There's this crazy storyline going on where Cyclops and Emma Frost have gone to San Francisco only to find it transformed into a far-out version of itself circa 1969. The transformation has apparently been worked by an extremely powerful woman known as the Goddess, although why exactly is as yet unclear. But it does make for some entertaining costume changes and creepy and wacky sequences. Meanwhile, Colossus, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler are in trouble in Russia and get to fight some giant robots. Sweet! I'm a little upset to say that I really enjoyed this issue, because that means I now have to start collecting another book. Ah, well.
Thumbs Up

The Mighty Avengers #12
This is another book that I hadn't intended to buy, because I picked up an issue of it a while back, decided I didn't like it, and dropped it. But this week I was pulled in by it, partially because it's a Secret Invasion tie-in, and partially because after quickly flipping through it, I was intrigued. Happily, my curiosity was rewarded with a pretty entertaining comic. A major reason why it's enjoyable is that the Mighty Avengers - who are quite frankly a really crappy team - don't show up in the issue at all. Instead, it's all about what Nick Fury has been up to all this time that he's been missing. Turns out he figured out there was a Skrull invasion going on way back and he's been trying to work out who's involved and who he can trust and who can help him. There's a really interesting final two-page splash of him staring at a wall full of photos of all the major Marvel heroes, some of them circled in one color, some circled in another, and some not circled at all. I'm betting there are some big hints here as to who's a Skrull and who's not. Hmmm... Anyway, the point is, Brian Michael Bendis put out a good comic here, and Alex Maleev (whose work I believe I've enjoyed before) did a wonderful job on the art. Can't promise I'll buy the next issue, but I'll certainly consider it.
Thumbs Up

Batman #675
This is a pretty good issue, but as Chris Sims has already pointed out, Batman has been in this position (where a woman he's interested in figures out his secret) before. But in this case, again as Sims points out, it's hard to understand why he's interested in this woman, or why we should really care about her at all, because we hardly know her. Although she claims she's more than just one of Bruce Wayne's bimbos, she's certainly something less than a well-rounded character. Still, it was fun to see Bruce take out the crazy guy with the eyes on his fingers, and I'm going to trust that Morrison is taking us somewhere interesting with the Batman R.I.P. story that starts next issue.
Thumbs Up

Helen Killer #1
Yes, it is what you're thinking: an alternate history story that imagines, what if Helen Keller had actually been a deadly assassin? It's from a smaller publishing company called Arcana. Sims got a preview copy of this book and has been raving about it for a while. I myself have been excited since I heard about it. I mean, I assumed it would probably suck, but it's really hard to resist a premise like that. And what a perfect title!

Now, having read the first issue, I have to say, it's actually not that bad. But I was disappointed by a number of things. I was assuming Keller would be doing a Daredevil-type thing where she'd use an enhanced sense of touch or something to be able to work out where people were and then beat them down, but it turns out she just has these crazy goggles invented by Alexander Graham Bell that allow her to hear and see - and not only the normal stuff that we see, but also auras indicating whether people are good or evil. The glasses also have the side effect of giving her super strength and filling her with a terrible rage. Oh, and she can talk, too; that hasn't really been explained. In other words, the things that made Helen Keller so fascinating - the disabilities that she was able to overcome in order to accomplish so many amazing things - have pretty much been removed.

All that being said, however, the book is quite funny and clever, with some kick-ass action sequences and an interesting story wherein Keller is being hired as a special bodyguard to the president in order to protect him from anarchist assassins(!). Also, all the characters in it (except one, a secret service agent who will apparently end up being a love interest for Keller) are real historical people. And the note from author Andrew Kreisberg in the back, which explains the genesis of the idea for the book, is interesting and reveals that Kreisberg really has a deep fascination with, and respect for, Helen Keller. So I'll probably pick up at least one more issue.
Thumbs Up

Hulk Vs. Hercules: When Titans Collide #1
This is a lengthy one-shot with a frame story set just before or after the latest issue of Incredible Hercules, with Hercules, Athena, and Amadeus Cho traveling together. Athena wants Cho to know what Hercules is capable of and tells him the tale of an earlier meeting between Hercules and the Hulk. Interestingly, Athena sets Hulk's story in the context of mythology, describing him as a fierce, savage child of Gaea. Her tale is set during the time when Doctor Strange had dropped Hulk into the Crossroads, a kind of dimensional vortex that would send Hulk to a random new world, and if he was happy there he would stay, but if he became unhappy, he would be returned to the Crossroads to find another, better world. As Athena's story opens, the Crossroads take him to Olympus itself and he is convinced by circumstances to wage war on the Gods. Hercules is called in to stop him, but during their fight Herc realizes that Hulk doesn't really mean any harm and talks the green guy down. But then things get hairy again when the giants, Cronos, and the God-Eater all show up at once. The story is told in a slightly clunky way, but it's kind of interesting, has some really great action sequences, and puts Hercules and Hulk both in a bit of a new light.

Next up is a fascinating black-and-white preview of the next issue of Incredible Hercules (featuring a weird Skrull-filled, apocalyptic vision, complete with the return of the God-Eater), and then finally a reprint of Tales to Astonish #79 (including the letter column, even!), which tells the story of the first meeting between Hulk and Herc. Hulk is fighting a crazy guy who's trying to steal all his strength for himself, and the guy ends up killing himself by mistake, but of course the Hulk is blamed, so he runs away, and ends up tearing up some train tracks, tracks which Herc's train is traveling down. Herc is pissed because his journey has been delayed, so he fights Hulk. The battle ends in a draw. This is a classic example of a Stan Lee story - silly and over the top, but kind of fun.

All-in-all, it's an okay comic, but not as exciting as I'd hoped it would be.
Thumbs Sideways

Secret History of the Authority: Jack Hawsmoor #2
Still enjoying this one. Jack learns a bit more about the mysterious woman, and gets closer to her, but she's still holding things back. And meanwhile, the dead guy is still a question mark, and it looks like maybe some super-terrorists are trying to kill Jack? But we still don't know what the deal is with his connection to the city getting cut off. It's a fascinating mystery, there's some exciting action, great art, and the whole thing has the feel of a super-powered film noir. Awesome.
Thumbs Up

Star Wars: Legacy #22
This is one of the Star Wars titles that I hadn't tried yet, and so, since a new issue was coming out this week, and it's set well after the events of Return of the Jedi, which is an interesting time period, I thought I'd give it a shot. At this point in the Star Wars universe, the Empire has, predictably, resurfaced, and, just as predictably, rebels have risen to fight it. But the interesting thing here is that the Sith have taken power away from the Empire, and the Imperial loyalists may actually join together with the rebels to try to take them down.

The Sith establish their evilness early in this issue by slaughtering a bunch of people, then we get to see some kick-ass action involving the Imperial Knights, who are Imperial loyalists with Jedi training. It's pretty great stuff. My only problem with the issue is some clumsy storytelling near the beginning where the author (John Ostrander) uses some exposition-heavy narration to fill in the gaps. Other than that it's a good comic, which unfortunately means I have another book to add to my list.
Thumbs Up

Star Wars: Dark Times #10
This issue concluded the latest story arc for the title, and in true Star Wars fashion the climax took the form of two thrilling, inter-cut battle sequences. Really fantastic and exciting. Great art, amazing action, killer use of Jedi force powers. My only issue is with the writing at the very end. I wish author Mick Harrison had found a subtler way to express that the Jedi Master's violent act would haunt his students and himself, and that the smugglers had now become a tight family, with their ship as their home. Still, good stuff. Apparently next issue will be a part of the Vector story that's crossing over all the Star Wars titles at the moment. I really like the concept behind Vector - a tale that stretches across the entire Star Wars timeline - and I kind of wish I'd been following it closer, but hopefully that next issue will make sense to me anyway.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Comic books (Not), Philadelphia Film Festival 2008 (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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