|Monday, November 17, 2008 08:36 PM|
| by Fëanor|
Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.
This covers new releases from the weeks of 11/5 and 11/12, plus a TPB I picked up while on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, and a back issue in a miniseries that I somehow missed when it originally came out. 11/5 was a very light week for me in terms of new releases: only four books! I did pass up a few things that I might have bought in my earlier, carefree days, but mostly there just wasn't much interesting that week. And yet, it still took me forever to review them all. Go figure!
Back issues and old data
Ghost Rider Team-Up
This is, as you might expect, a collection of a number of stories, presented in chronological order, wherein Ghost Rider teams up with, or faces off against, other Marvel Universe heroes. It was published in 2007, but contains only older stories, the most recent one from 1981, and the oldest from 1976. That oldest, first story is from February 1976 to be exact, and comes from the pages of Marvel Premiere #28. It's written by the famous Bill Mantlo, edited by the even more famous Marv Wolfman, lettered by Karen Mantlo, drawn by Frank Robbins, inked by Steve Gan, and colored by Janice Cohen. The cover of the issue claims to feature something called "The Legion of Monsters," which is made up of Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Morbius, and Werewolf by Night. But in the story the characters come together suddenly and mostly by chance, and fall back apart almost immediately. Things open up in promising fashion, with Mantlo and Robbins introducing us to each of the four characters by depicting each in a narrow vertical panel and including narrative backstory for each - in a poetic second person. Mantlo uses second person for the narration throughout, which was a unique and interesting choice that adds a lot of atmosphere and interest to the issue. Mantlo gets even more on my good side by next introducing LA by ragging on it in amusing fashion. The next couple pages continue to be amusing, and clever, as Mantlo describes a huge mountain shooting right up out of the Earth on Sunset Boulevard. Johnny Blaze happens to be riding by and gets toppled off his bike by the odd occurrence. He resolves to investigate the mountain and rides onto it as the Ghost Rider, who is surprised to find himself suddenly in an Edenic paradise, dreamlike and strange. Next we jump back in time a bit to focus on Morbius, who's flying by when he spots somebody on a rooftop and decides to drink his blood, only to discover his chosen prey is the Werewolf by Night. In the middle of their fight, the mountain pops up, and Morbius heads off to investigate, with the Werewolf following. Then we switch scenes again to Florida, where Man-Thing is sort of wandering about randomly and somehow stumbles right onto the mountain in LA (guess that's that whole nexus of realities thing at work again). Up until this point the story is still fun and interesting, but then our four "heroes" all meet up and run into a character who calls himself the Starseed, who proceeds to tell them an utterly ridiculous story about how he was part of a race of early humans who shunned war and conflict and went to live on a mountain where everything was wonderful and happy, until some really weird elephant/snake aliens came and took the mountain into space for no particular reason. Eventually these early men took their mountain back and flew it back to Earth, but now Starseed is the only one of them left for some reason. After he's done his story, the werewolf and the vampire jump him, apparently because they're hungry. Ghost Rider tires to stop them, but is mostly ineffectual, and then Man-Thing tries to help and just makes things worse. Starseed, as he's dying, gives each of the monsters a glimpse of what it would be like to be normal and whole again. But that just makes everybody even more depressed. Then he fades away like a dream. In fact, he and his appearance are constantly described using words like "dream" and "dream-like." It's all very strange and confusing and hard to believe. Plus, there is a whole lot of melodramatic angst among these four characters - so much so that it's almost overwhelming. Still, there are some neat ideas in here, some effective and funny moments, and I really liked some of the second person narration. The art's not bad either.
Next up is Ghost Rider #27 from December 1977. This one opens with a short recap of some of the craziness that's befallen Johnny Blaze recently. Essentially he's been outcast from his former life and has had to leave his job, his friends, and his lovers behind. Still, he manages to feel happy and carefree as he rides around the desert, reveling in his skills as a stunt biker. But before you know it, his bike breaks down, and he has to putter over to a ranch where he hopes he'll be able to fix it. By chance, it happens to be the same ranch where Hawkeye and the Two-Gun Kid are hanging out, in their secret identities, of course. The Two-Gun Kid, as it turns out, is an old Western hero who came back to the future with the Avengers after an adventure in his time period. There's some palling around, and then a ridiculous villain called the Manticore shows up, spouting a lot of classically gaudy villain patter, loaded with exposition, and tries to kill Hawkeye. The Ghost Rider and the Kid intervene, and eventually they all triumph, but in the process the Ghost Rider does some scary crap and the Kid and Hawkeye are both freaked out by him. Feeling an outcast even more than ever, Johnny goes on his way.
This is an okay story, with some decent art, but the Manticore is a really ridiculous villain. He's a double amputee in a lion-like battle suit who goes around explaining his evil plans in great detail. One of the only interesting things here is watching the progression of Johnny's character. It's fascinating how he really goes through an arc as the book goes on, from troubled hero, to outcast, to raging, out of control villain.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Next is Marvel Team-Up #91, where Ghost Rider is paired with Spider-Man. The story opens with Peter Parker enjoying a carnival with his friend (and possibly more than friend), Glory Grant. He recognizes the flaming skeleton in the sideshow as the Ghost Rider, and comes back later as Spider-Man to find out what's going on. He finds the swami-looking guy in charge has a bunch of mindless minions at his disposal, including the Ghost Rider, and he has to fight them. Eventually he's knocked out and imprisoned, and swami dude shows up to explain his backstory and scheme. He's capturing souls to give to Satan in return for his own. Luckily Spider-Man's able to free Ghost Rider's soul, and then the two of them knock down swami and release the rest of the souls. Finally, Satan comes to collect. The Ghost Rider is satisfied and rides off, leaving Spider-Man highly disturbed. Definitely a fun story (as evil carnival stories almost always are) with fun art. Good stuff.
Next up is Ghost Rider #50, which picks up in the middle of a story wherein the bad guys had just blown up a dam, washing the Ghost Rider away in floodwaters that were also threatening to engulf an ancient Comanche burial ground. Johnny ends up in some magical caves that somehow take him back in time to the Old West. He's injured by angry Comanches, but then saved from them by a rather silly Old West hero named the Night Rider. We're given a quick origin story on him (he was healed and given magic power by a Native American medicine man after being left for dead by outlaws), he nurses Johnny back to health, and then a band of outlaws led by a guy named Tarantula rob the bank. Johnny slips off to try to find the way back to the magic caves and his own time, while the Night Rider slips off to try to find the robbers. Both the Riders end up fighting the outlaws, and this time GR has to save NR. Finally Johnny finds his way back to the caves, but the Native Americans misunderstand his presence there and send a powerful spirit after him. There's a big fight, but after Ghost Rider saves a Native American girl from the outlaws, the misunderstanding is cleared up, and he's sent back home to his own time - and even early enough that he's able to stop the dam from blowing up and save the Indian burial ground.
I liked the time travel bit here, and the Native American magic, but I was a little disappointed by the Night Rider. I was hoping he'd be an Old West version of the Ghost Rider, but he's just some dude who can turn invisible with his magic cloak. Lame!
The next part of the book is also kind of lame, as it teases us with full-page pictures (apparently cover pages) from other Ghost Rider team-up stories that are not included here. These may have been included in the back of the original issue #50, however, as they're followed up here by a special letters page from that issue, which lists every comic the Ghost Rider ever appeared in up to that date. Interesting!
The next issue is Marvel Two-In-One #80, featuring the Thing versus the Ghost Rider. This opens up with the Thing exercising in the Baxter Building. He gets carried away, not realizing his own strength, and nearly kills his girlfriend. Distraught and full of self-loathing, he runs out, only to find the Ghost Rider engaged in some pointless and extremely dangerous dare-devilry in the city. The Thing follows him until he turns back into Johnny Blaze, who mentions in narration that he seems to have less and less control over the Ghost Rider anymore. He and the Thing commiserate over being horrible monsters, and Johnny offers Ben tickets to his next stunt show. The Thing and Alicia make up and go to the show, where a couple of dumb kids steal a car. The Ghost Rider goes after them a little too violently, the Thing tries to stop him, and they get into a fight. Eventually things end when the Thing talks him down and Johnny is able to take control again. Johnny rides off, and the Thing goes back to his girl. He realizes he's much better off than poor Johnny, and has learned to appreciate what he has. Ouch! This is a neat story. Johnny's arc is progressing, as the Ghost Rider takes more control over him, and it's fun to see the two monsters see themselves in each other. The ending is also pretty powerful.
Probably the most powerful story, however, is the last one: The Avengers #214. This one picks up shortly after one of the team's founding members, Hank Pym, has been dishonorably discharged. I assumed that Pym only abused his wife in the Ultimate stories - it seemed like the kind of twisted thing that would have been introduced there - but apparently that comes from his original story in the actual Marvel Universe. Wow. Marvel really did take on all the heavy subjects! Besides abusing his wife, Pym also screwed up on a mission, and then, while being court-martialed, Pym had a robot attack the trial with the idea that he'd save everybody and make himself look good, but the pathetic stunt backfired and his own wife had to save him. Oh, Pym!
Anyways, as this issue picks up, Pym is now missing, and Captain America is still really angry with the way things turned out - but in typical Cap fashion, he's mostly angry with himself, for not being a better friend and team leader. Jarvis gives him some therapy and makes him realize that every man is responsible for his own actions, and that Pym will have to learn to be a man and pick himself up again on his own. Meanwhile, Tony Stark and Donald Blake have a conference and agree that they want to help Hank, but they're not sure how to find him. Hank turns up at Janet's place, looking pathetic and unshaven and still wearing his Yellowjacket costume (without the helmet), wanting to talk. But Janet's through with him, and reveals she's divorcing him. He doesn't know what to say to that and just wanders off. It's a really tough, realistic sequence, that's actually really well done. Even knowing what Pym's done, it's hard not to feel for him a little; all the characters are drawn in very human fashion, hurt and flawed and just trying to figure out how to do what's right.
Next we finally hook up with Johnny Blaze who, since we last saw him, has now lost everything, even his world title in stunt riding. He's lonely and bitter and angry. When Warren Worthington III just happens to drive by in a sports car with a hot girl, Blaze gets so bitter and angry he spontaneously transforms into the Ghost Rider and beats Warren into a coma. The girl calls the Avengers for help and they fly into town to hunt down the Ghost Rider. They're unaware that the Ghost Rider has a secret, human identity, so they don't know to look for Johnny Blaze. Blaze figures out what's going on and plans to leave town, but a kid excited about the superheroes in town decides to pretend to be one and gets trapped up on a water tower where he will certainly fall to his death if someone doesn't act quickly. Johnny realizes he can only save the child as Ghost Rider, and so changes - but the Ghost Rider has become more evil and wild as time has gone on, and he's not interested in saving children, so he just drives off. Luckily, the Avengers are nearby, too, and they save the kid. Then the chase is on. There's a lengthy fight and the Ghost Rider is actually holding his own, and even scaring the crap out of some of the Avengers. But then Angel shows up, having woken out of his coma, and makes use of the Ghost Rider's classic Achilles' heel - he talks him down until he turns back into Johnny Blaze. Blaze now hates himself even more for what he's done as Ghost Rider, and just wants to be left alone. The Avengers and Angel decide that Blaze has committed no crime, so they give him his wish. Furthermore, Blaze reminds Cap of Pym, and he remembers the lesson Jarvis taught him - that a man needs to be given space and time to pick himself up.
Like I said, a surprisingly effective and powerful story. There are no supervillains, and although there are superheroes, the story is far less about their adventures and their powers and far more about them as people and the choices they have to make. Really good stuff.
Overall, a very entertaining book with some great stories in it about the early Ghost Rider and his friends and enemies. This was definitely worth the seven bucks I paid for it!
When I checked the new comics list for 11/12, I was horrified to discover that it had #6 listed as the next issue of Gravel, while in my spreadsheet I had #5 listed as the next issue. This meant I'd either never picked up #5, or I had, but I'd forgotten to mark it off on my list. When I got to the shop and peaked at the first page of #6, and saw Gravel talking about events I didn't remember reading, I realized that my first guess was correct - I'd missed an issue. Horrors! Luckily, Fat Jack's had my missing issue in the stacks and I walked away with both it and the new issue. Double the Gravel in one week!
This issue opens with Gravel on his way to the estate of the wizard he killed last issue, where he hopes to find the next page of the Sigsand, and then hole up for a rest. While he's in transit, he checks his phone messages, which makes for a pretty funny sequence. He's got one message from somebody who wants to hire him, probably for a hit; one from his pissed off commanding officer wanting to know where he is; one from Sykes, who apparently called him from the Other Side; and one from his mysterious benefactor, who warns him that Royston almost certainly has another line of defense around his home. A creepy old guy and his creepy dog show up and get even more specific: the defender is yet another wizard, an arrogant, upper class bastard named Colegrave. Time for another giant magic battle! And this one even involves the Wild Hunt, which is soon to be the subject of a new Hellboy miniseries. Gravel seems to have succeeded yet again, but the house has yet another line of defense, and things end with a cliffhanger.
I'm not sure what to say about this series that I haven't said already. Good art, cool ideas, great story, interesting characters, awesome action. Can't wait to see how it all comes together in the end.
New releases (11/5)
Daredevil & Captain America: Dead on Arrival
This is an interesting one-shot written and illustrated by a couple of European comic creators (Tito Faraci and Claudio Villa), and adapted into English for this edition by Larry Hama. It opens up with Death-Stalker, a supervillain who was thought to have died fighting Daredevil, suddenly showing up out of nowhere. S.H.I.E.L.D. figures out he must have time traveled somehow, so Captain America is sent in to check it out, and warned to keep Death-Stalker from dying, as the techs suspect this could cause a temporal paradox that would destroy the universe. But Death-Stalker, looking for revenge, has already sent Daredevil a challenge, and is waiting for him in the cemetery where he knows he met (meets?) his death. Time for a big showdown! Things seem to be going pretty well for Daredevil until Death-Stalker sprays him with some nasty chemicals that give him his vision back, but make everyone look like a twisted monster. This means when Captain America shows up, Daredevil mistakes him for an enemy, thus giving the heroes an excuse to fight each other (because when heroes meet in a comic, they always have to fight). Luckily, the techs at S.H.I.E.L.D. thought this might happen, so they told Cap to equip himself with the antidote to Death-Stalker's evil spray. Cap and Daredevil make short work of Death-Stalker after Cap applies said antidote, but then Cap tells Daredevil about the possibility of apocalypse if Death-Stalker dies. Overhearing this, the villain touches himself with his own death-dealing gloves, hoping to take his revenge out on everyone by destroying the world. As you might expect, that's not what happens; instead, the weird time loop of the story closes on itself.
The writing here isn't amazing, but it's pretty decent considering it's a translation. The overall story is also pretty good; some bits of it are simplistic and familiar, but the odd time looping thing that goes on is interesting and different. The art is also quite good. Definitely not my favorite comic ever, but certainly not bad.
Grant Morrison's Doctor Who #2
The second and final issue in this miniseries reprinting Morrison's old Doctor Who comics contains all three parts of a complete storyline called "The World Shapers." The story opens with the Sixth Doctor (accompanied by Peri and the penguin-looking alien Frobisher) arriving on the planet Marinus in answer to a distress call which turns out to be from another TARDIS. The Time Lord who belongs to the TARDIS dies in the Doctor's arms, croaking out a warning about "planet 14." This phrase, and Marinus itself, strike something in the Doctor's memory, so he heads to Scotland to hook up with an old companion whom he thinks will help him remember: Jamie. Old Jamie's had a tough time without the Doctor and can't wait to jump back in the TARDIS for another adventure. When they all head back to Marinus, they meet a maintenance operative for world-shaping machines, and the whole story finally comes together. Marinus is a planet that the Doctor has visited numerous times throughout his personal history, and it's also central to the history of the Cybermen. Jamie acts bravely to try to stop their evil, but some Time Lords show up and we learn the fate of the Cybermen in the far future, and why letting them come to be may be more important than the Doctor could imagine. It's a really interesting story, because the nature of time and the growth of beings over time is at the center of it, even more so than usual for Doctor Who stories, and the Doctor's adventures and the history of one of his persistent enemies sort of wrap in and around themselves in a very fascinating way. Then it's all put in perspective by the Time Lords, and we get a sort of God's eye view of things that makes the Doctor and his concerns seem small, and perhaps even misguided. Really interesting stuff, and a very unique Doctor Who story. I really enjoyed this.
Iron Man: The End
This is a one-shot that's apparently part of a special series of one-shots wherein we get a peak at the end of the careers of various famous Marvel heroes. In this case, influential Iron Man creators David Michelinie and Bob Layton were brought back to plot out the story, with Michelinie also providing the script, and Layton also providing the ink. The story opens up in the near future when Tony is still head of his company and still running around in the Iron Man suit, but he's also getting old and shaky. He's obsessed with what he wants to be his last great project: a space elevator. He realizes he just doesn't have time left anymore to do everything he used to do, so he hands over the title of head technologist to a young wunderkind whom he feels is like the son he never had. When he loses a fight as Iron Man, he finally realizes he needs somebody to take over for him there, too. So he offers that job to genius kid, as well, and gets mighty prickly when the guy refuses him at first. (As an aside, I find it interesting that this story takes place in a universe where Tony never revealed to the public that he is Iron Man.) But he talks him into giving it a try, and the kid takes to it pretty quickly. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but it shouldn't be terribly surprising that the mantle gets handed over successfully (after a final fight and a nice ceremony), and then Tony heads up his space elevator with his wife, satisfied and fulfilled.
It's kind of an interesting story, and the art is pretty good, but the writing is a bit weak (Michelinie missed that creative writing class about how you should show and not tell), and Tony comes off as kind of a touchy, egotistical jerk. Which, admittedly, is pretty accurate to his character, but usually he somehow ends up being likable, too, and here he kind of doesn't. Actually, there are pretty much no completely likable characters in this book. Everybody is really touchy and vaguely irritating and talks too much. It's also disappointing that Tony/Iron Man's successor is just some random young guy we've never met before and who has no real personality.
I was going to give this one Thumbs Sideways, but I've actually talked myself into a Thumbs Down. The comic just doesn't have the grandeur and power that a final Iron Man story deserves.
I've actually been pretty disappointed in Dark Horse's Robert E. Howard adaptations so far. The Conan books just haven't grabbed me, and I gave up on Solomon Kane after only a couple of issues. But I LOVED this latest addition to the line. It opens with Kull, exile from Atlantis, having just overthrown the tyrant leader of Valusia and taken the throne for himself. However, there's still one man left who defies Kull's rule: Count Areyas. And Areyas' fortress is impregnable. Or, it would be if he didn't have a traitor working for him. Dude opens the gates to Kull's army. Areyas, staring down certain doom, orders the release of a horrible monster named Etrigor that they keep in the basement, apparently for occasions just like this. Etrigor is sort of a bat/orc/centaur - really awesome and horrific-looking. He's tearing everybody apart until Kull himself rides up (in a fantastically awesome, two-page introductory splash) and takes him on one-on-one. A brutal battle follows with Kull, of course, claiming the ultimate victory. But, as he's dying, Etrigor warns that more like him still lurk in the depths of Valusia, and that there is a shadow kingdom greater than this one. Very creepy-cool! Later, the traitor reveals himself to be a screw-up who can't follow orders, and practically ruins Kull's victory.
Kull is a barbarian and an outsider, uneasy with the ways of Valusia - and the people of Valusia are uneasy with him. He wants to rule them wisely and well, and not seem cruel and violent, but things are conspiring to make this difficult. It's a very interesting story (Kull is like the future Conan, after he's taken over the kingdom we always hear he's fated to rule), excellently told, with great writing, great art, and a kick-ass action sequence. I also love the ideas in here - especially Etrigor and the shadow kingdom. I'm really, really looking forward to seeing where this series goes next. Woo hoo!
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Sketchbook
This is a freebie that the comic shop guy dropped into my bag. Apparently Marvel's going to be putting out a new comic book adaptation of Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and this is a collection of some concept art and early character sketches from the series, as well as three pages of finished art from the first issue (with no dialogue added). The book also contains an introduction that includes an interesting and informative history of adaptations of the Oz books, as well as an overview of what they're trying to do with this adaptation. I enjoyed the introduction, and learned some things about the history of Oz that I hadn't known before. The art is rather nice, as well. But I doubt I'll actually pick up the title when it comes out, as it's going to be All Ages, and books of that type, being aimed at children, tend to be a bit dull and simplistic, at least as far as I'm concerned.
New Releases (11/12)
Action Comics #871
This is part four of the New Krypton storyline, and the last part I read was number one, so obviously I missed a few things. One of those things was the introduction of a couple of Kryptonian army guys, who are wandering around at the opening of this issue trying to figure out what Kal-El sees in this planet and its people, because they're feeling like General Zod had the right idea when he tried to turn Earth into New Krypton. Meanwhile, the contentious relationship between General Lane and Lex Luthor continues with Lane putting Luthor on the job of getting some useful information about Kryptonians out of Brainiac's head. But that's not Lane's only plan; he also dropped Doomsday in the middle of Metropolis in the hopes of thinning out the Kryptonian population a bit. As you might expect, it doesn't work, although in the process Superman learns a bit more about Doomsday from the other Kryptonians. The surprise reveal on the final page introduces (or rather, re-introduces) a couple of characters with a long history in DCU continuity; this Wikipedia page was very helpful. What exactly they'll have to do with anything, I'm not sure. And in fact their appearance just kind of annoys me. At first it meant nothing to me, because I didn't know about the history of the characters, so I was just wondering what Dick was doing in a new costume and with powers. And now that I've read about them, I realize them showing up is just opening the door to a horrible morass of confused and retconned DCU continuity. And DCU continuity is the most confused and terrible of all.
But, that being said, this was otherwise a fun and interesting issue that's delving further into the complexities of having a bunch of Kryptonians on Earth, and into Superman's ambivalent feelings about the whole thing. He seems to be having a particularly hard time knowing how to feel after that fight with Doomsday. Good stuff!
B.P.R.D.: The Warning #5
I didn't realize it until I read something in the letters column, and then went back to the last page of the comic proper to confirm, but this is actually the last issue of this miniseries. This surprised me, as very little comes to a conclusion or is explained in this issue, and the story is left wide open. But that's okay because more B.P.R.D. is on the way soon, in the form of The Black Goddess! Looking forward to it.
But anyway, as far as this issue goes, it opens with Abe having a very interesting, very cool, and very disturbing little vision (a Warning, you might say), before waking up in the midst of devastation. The battle against the giant, city-destroying monster-bots is pretty much over. But the war has barely begun! And it looks like the B.P.R.D.'s enemies are now teaming up against them. That's not good! Johann says a sad good-bye to the people of his ruined city; Kate gets something new and good out of all the destruction; and then Gilfryd shows up with some mind-blowingly scary stuff to say about Liz and the future. Finally, Lobster Johnson's name pops up again at the very end, suggesting our next miniseries will touch on his history once more. Cool!
I'm just loving everything in the Hellboy-verse at the moment. There's tons of stuff going on and tons of new things being released, but there can't be enough of them and they can't come out fast enough for me! Go Mignola and friends, go!
Batman: Cacophony #1
Kevin Smith returns to comics for a Batman miniseries, thankfully completely unconnected to the huge, sprawling, and utterly mystifying Batman RIP storyline. Things open up with Deadshot springing the Joker from Arkham Asylum so he can kill the guy. Deadshot was hired to do the clown by the parents of a kid who killed himself while high on a drug called "Chuckles," which crimelord Maxie Zeus designed using Joker's venom. Joker is furious that somebody made a recreational drug out of his poison, and vows revenge. But he'll have to survive Deadshot first! And that survival is made possible by an unlikely person: Onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is a villain introduced by Kevin Smith in the pages of Green Arrow. His shtick is that he never speaks except to repeat sounds he hears. Anyway, he saves Joker from Deadshot and then gives the clown a briefcase full of cash (thankfully not taking advantage of the... gift the Joker offers him in return). He gives no explanation for this good deed, but instead just disappears into the night. That's... weird. Meanwhile, Batman is busy taking out one of his more horrible recurring villains (some guy named Zsasz who I had to look up) when he gets the word that the Joker has escaped from Arkham... again. He gets the details from Deadshot, then takes off. Next the Joker visits Maxie Zeus (now attempting to go legit as Maximillian Zeus) and starts a war with him over the whole Chuckles thing... all while Onomatopoeia watches in the distance.
Hmmm. Interesting stuff. I'm very curious to see where this is all headed. I did read the beginning of Smith's arc on Green Arrow, but I guess I didn't read far enough to meet Onomatopoeia, as he's totally unfamiliar to me. Pretty interesting character, though. There's something really creepy about him that I like, although I was a bit disappointed that he doesn't have any sound-related powers or anything. Smith's writing is a bit overdone and cliche in parts (especially when it comes to Batman's narration), but the comic is still reasonably funny and reasonably clever. I also like the art - in particular the way the Joker is drawn. (I have penciller Walt Flanagan, inker Sandra Hope, and colorist Guy Major to thank for that.) I'll be sticking with this one through to the end of its three issue run, I'm betting.
Captain Britain and MI13 #7
Captain Britain unfortunately falls for the demon Plokta's lying, wish-fulfilling magic at the very opening of this comic, thus making things decidedly worse for everybody. His fascinating vision of his heart's desire is intercut with the rest of the action as the issue continues. Blade (who is quite ridiculous, btw) and vampire girl seem to work out their differences (for the short term, anyway) and get to work fighting the bad guys instead of each other. The rest of the gang also start working their way further into the building. But Plokta's magic starts affecting all of them, including Pete Wisdom, who gets a glimpse of his odd, but very cute, heart's desire before he's slapped out of it by the Black Knight. Wisdom tries to do the Knight the same favor when he starts to wig out by revealing a surprising secret at the end of the issue. A surprising and confusing secret. Which I assume will be explained more completely next issue. Anyway, this series continues to be quite excellent, with fun action, fascinating plot, good dialogue, satisfying art, and interesting characters.
The last issue ended with Gravel apparently being struck by some kind of protective spell when he touched the gate of Shockham Hall, leaving him unconscious on the ground. This issue, oddly enough, opens up with no mention of that episode, and with Gravel awaking warm and safe in the master suite of the mansion. I'm tempted to assume he just recovered and then broke his way in, but the other possibility is that everything that happens in this issue is some kind of enchanted dream, and he's actually still lying unconscious in the driveway. Hmmm...
Anyway, assuming the events of this issue are real, they begin with Gravel waking up to discover that not only has he inherited Royston's estate, he's also inherited the dude's acolytes, and they're all eager to do his bidding and call him master. He's really not sure how to feel about this. In many ways this miniseries has been about the tension between the upper class wizards and the lower class upstart, tension that turned into all-out war after the introduction of one small spark. So what does the lower class wizard do when offered the chance to become his enemy? At first, he refuses, feeling uncomfortable in the role of teacher and master. But it's not long before he's giving orders and instruction like he's been doing it all his life. I can't help but feel it's a mistake for him to start down this road - that it's a temptation that will somehow lead him to the Dark Side. But then again, these people want a teacher and a leader, and he can provide that, so...
At the end of the issue, Gravel faces yet another trap left behind by Royston (this one particularly cruel, as it involved enslaving one of the other already dead wizards), and finally contacts the last member of the Minor Seven and calls a parley with him. This should be interesting...
As I said above, this series continues to be completely engaging and totally excellent on every level. I'm sad to say that the next issue will be the last, but definitely excited to see how it all turns out.
Star Trek: Mirror Images #5
Speaking of last issues, this is the last in this miniseries, and sees Pike and Kirk entering into their endgame. With his nasty little alien machine up and running, Kirk figures he has little to worry about, and even toys with Pike, like a cat with a mouse. But Pike knows Kirk's weak point - McCoy. He pushes the Doctor until he breaks, learns where Kirk's secret weapon is located, and nearly turns the tables on him. But of course we all know who wins in the end, and ultimately it turns out Kirk has more, and more loyal, supporters. The final page, however, foreshadows Kirk's uneasy future in the captain's chair, as the paranoia over who will be first to stab him in the back envelopes him almost before he's done savoring his victory.
Despite one misstep (the issue that took a side trip to the future to show us Picard's ascent to the captain's chair), this was a fantastic miniseries, and a really intriguing look into the Mirror Universe, its characters, and its history. In this issue, as in the other issues, there's brutal action, like Kirk and Pike's extended fight, but also dark comedy, like the scene with Kirk and Nurse Chapel. The art is strong throughout, too. Just a surprisingly good series all around. I'm looking forward to the Last Generation/Myriad Universes miniseries coming up later this month.
Logan manages to save Hawkeye from the predicament he got himself into last issue (and possibly without even killing anybody, although that's not entirely clear), but then they get chased by dinosaurs down a giant hole in the Earth and are attacked by cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. And that, people, is great comics. Logan gets them out of that, too, and the crazy cross-country trip continues, with more visions of the strange wreckage of the future world, which provide intriguing glimpses into the terrible events of the past. And speaking of terrible past events, Logan finally promises to tell Hawkeye what made him sheath his claws for good. But we'll have to wait till next issue to find out what that was.
This has been another shockingly good story arc. Just a fantastic premise that author Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven are having a ton of fun with. I'll definitely be tuning in for the rest of the issues.
X-Men: Magneto - Testament #3
This series is also incredibly good, but for very different reasons from pretty much any other comic I'm reading at the moment. It's just an amazingly powerful and well told story about a family trying to survive the Holocaust. The narration and dialogue are very well written, but the book is just as good at telling its story with no words at all - as it does multiple times in this issue - and sometimes without even an image. The all-black panels speak volumes. A particularly important and powerful moment in this issue is when Max must make a defining choice - turn back and fight, or stay with his family and help them survive. He chooses the latter, only to find himself trapped and facing death with them. It's at this moment that his mutant power finally enters the story - saving him, but not his family. And saving him only for a greater horror: a train trip to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
I can't explain how impressed I am with this series, and how important I think it is for Marvel and for comics in general that it exists. Absolutely the best thing on the stands right now.
Marvel's Greatest Collections
This is just a free booklet advertising Marvel's various trade paperbacks and hardcover collections. I only mention it here because I was so outraged that Marvel had the gall to slap the title "Greatest Collections" on a book that included ads for complete garbage like Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, Ultimates 3, the universally despised Amazing Spider-Man: One More Day, Jeph Loeb's ridiculously bad Hulk, JMS' ridiculously bad Thor, and other lame crap. Admittedly, there are also some really good books in here, but that's small consolation.