Wednesday, August 26, 2009 05:30 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 8/12. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

Adventure Comics #1
Conner Kent is trying to get back into the swing of being alive by doing all the things Superman did - living with the Kents, going to Smallville High, joining a team of superheroes, and helping anyone who needs it. But some evil entity is already after him, presumably with the plan of making him dead all over again. And the final page of the comic reveals there's a lot more to Conner Kent than there at first appeared. It seems he's going to try to replicate the deeds of both of his "fathers." Very interesting! This is one of my favorite last page surprise reveals in a while. It really turns both the character and the story on their heads and opens up a whole new series of possibilities for the future. I'm impressed!

The backup story, also by Geoff Johns, focuses on the mentally disturbed Starman, who's trying to keep the various threads of his mind together long enough to complete some final mission for the Legion, but what that mission is isn't entirely clear. We get a few intriguing glimpses of the future to come, but they're mostly just puzzling fragments. I can't say I'm a huge fan of crazy Starman, but I'll probably stick with this book, for the main story if nothing else, and we'll see how it goes.
Thumbs Up

B.P.R.D.: 1947 #2
Man am I loving this one! I always love stories about people crossing over into ghostly other worlds, and the fact that it's Mike Mignola and Joshua Dysart's words and Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon's drawings telling the story just makes it that much better. The drama, tension, and sense of threatening danger build as we cut back and forth between Simon and his friends. And I love the way Mignola handles witches in his universe - dancing with goats and giant toads. Simon is in trouble, but it looks like he might have gotten Konig in trouble, too. Good stuff. In the back of the book is a preview for the release of a trade collection of Guy Davis' The Marquis. It's hard to get a real feel for it from just these four enigmatic pages, but it certainly looks eerie and intriguing. I might have to check it out.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #2
I've already gone back and forth a few times on the whole Blackest Night thing, but now I feel pretty certain I'm just going to drop it. It's just ridiculous and cheesy and not very good. Sure, the idea of Deadman coming back to life is kind of interesting, as is the idea of an evil Aquaman going around making sharks eat people. The Spectre going bad is also fascinating, and I like the use of the "Flash Fact" thing. But those ideas aren't enough to make up for the general lameness. I've also noticed an unfortunate consequence of bringing characters back to life who have been dead for a long time: the guys who die and stay dead in comic books tend to be the expendable guys that nobody really cares about, and that nobody remembers. I had to look up Don Hall and Hank Hall online to figure out who they were.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the prose piece in the back from The Book of the Black. It's well written and uses metaphor and everything. I also like the preview of Superman: Secret Origin #1 in the very back. But it's done by the dynamite team of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, so it was almost bound to be good. Just in this preview you get to see the historic first meeting of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor (it involves Kryptonite!), and Clark runs to save Lana from a tornado. Good stuff.
Thumbs Sideways

Blackest Night: Batman #1
How did I talk myself into buying the first issue of a Blackest Night spin-off miniseries written by Peter J. Tomasi? Sigh. I guess the word "Batman" was enough to pull me in. As one might expect, it is Not Good. Tomasi doesn't handle Damian or the relationship between him, Dick, and Bruce with anywhere near the subtlety and power of Grant Morrison. We get to see a bunch of villains come back to life, but they must be rather obscure second- or third-stringers because I recognized only one of them. Blackest Night is really over-the-top in many ways, but bringing the zombie Flying Graysons into it might be the most ridiculous thing yet. I'm definitely dropping this one.
Thumbs Down

Captain America: Theater of War - To Soldier On #1
I've been surprised at the high quality of most of these Captain America: Theater of War one-shots, but this might be the best one yet. Cap isn't even the main character here; instead, we focus on a regular soldier in the Iraq War, trying to make it through a tough situation with a bunch of his buddies. We see Cap from a different perspective: to the grunts he's an impossible, superhuman hero, but also a rather obtuse superior officer whose decisions sometimes irritate his men and put them in danger. Ultimately this is a story about what happens to regular people during and in the aftermath of warfare. It's powerful, insightful, and emotionally effective.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Escape #4
I think I'm done with this series. It just keeps being odd and surreal and repetitive and not really going anywhere.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #5
Yay, Hellboy's back! Unfortunately for him, the Queen of witches is after him. In his desperation to save Alice from poison, Hellboy is tricked into making what could be some really dangerous mistakes. He frees a fly (probably a powerful demon) from its prison, and accepts the help of Morgan Le Fay. There's a really fantastic scene where the Queen of witches demands a terrible crime in worship of her, and says she will become a goddess of war. I love the regal, old timey, magical speeches she makes. And Duncan Fegredo's art, in combination with Dave Stewart's colors, is of course absolutely beautiful.

In the back is a very odd story indeed called "The MonsterMen in O Sinner Beneath Us!" It's written and drawn by Gary Gianni. I assume The MonsterMen are characters from some kind of ongoing series, but I don't know anything about them. The story itself is about a man in a suit and a knight's helmet, and a young woman trying to exorcise the ghost of a young girl from a house. In the process, they meet an old friend who turns out to have a terrible and powerful artifact that causes some trouble. I'm not sure how I feel about this story. There are some cool ideas, but overall it feels a bit confused and hurried. It looks like this is the first part of a two part story, so we'll see how it finishes up in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

The Incredible Hercules #132
I think it's time I gave up on this series again, too. It's not that it's bad, it's just not that good. The opening is pretty clever - it's a handful of panels quickly explaining Thor's origin, accompanied by sarcastic commentary by Hercules. Inside, Herc is given the task of hiding Zeus, but almost immediately screws up and gets the two of them embroiled in a dangerous adventure. There are some neat ideas, and the usual amusing sound effect words, but overall I'm just not impressed. Maybe it's time to put Greg Pak on my list of authors to be avoided. It's too bad, because I know he can be really good sometimes. It's just that most of the time he's really just mediocre.
Thumbs Sideways

Marvel Comics #1: 70th Anniversary Edition
This is one of the stranger of the 70th anniversary one-shots. I'm pretty sure this one is all reprints of old Golden Age stories - it might even be an exact reprint of the actual original Marvel Comics #1 - except that the art and coloring appears to have been cleaned up and redone so everything's a bit sleeker and prettier. There's a very odd black and white comic strip on the first page (which is not particularly funny), then we get the origin of the Human Torch, which is a rather strange story when you get right down to it. Despite being encased in a concrete block for most of his life, the Torch is surprisingly compassionate and knowledgeable; he immediately recognizes a racketeer at work when he sees one, and resolves to defeat him. It's interesting that Dr. Horton, the Torch's creator, isn't all that good himself; he too is touched by greed. The Torch is the only really good man in the story (despite the fact that he's not a man at all), and he spends the great majority of it being maligned, manipulated, and misunderstood. It's a pretty complex and well put together story for the Golden Age, although it certainly does have a bit of that Golden Age weirdness to it.

Next up is the story of The Angel. This character I don't know all that much about, so it was cool to read what's essentially his origin story. Interestingly, The Angel is really more like an early version of The Punisher than anything else. When he learns there's a group of racketeers called The Six Big Men controlling the city, he puts their names on a list and kills them off one by one. It's pretty brutal! Of course, it's also a bit silly and clumsily plotted, and the story is hurriedly wrapped up by squashing the conclusion into the last couple of panels; the final panel barely has enough space for a drawing of The Angel in it, as the rest of it is filled with a dialog balloon that's all exposition tying up the remaining loose ends.

Next up is a story I'd already seen reprinted in another recent special: the origin of The Sub-Mariner. I've already complained about how clumsy and unbelievable this story is. But this version of the story has an extra bit at the end that shows Namor and his cousin heading out to begin in earnest their war against the humans. It mostly involves Namor smashing things up and chucking people around while trying to keep his cousin safe. It's pretty fun, and the art throughout is unique and fascinating.

The next story in the book is arguably the worst. It's "The Masked Rider," and it reads like it was written by a rather confused child with a learning disability who was brought up on bad Western movies. There's the usual evil land baron unfairly running the other ranchers out of town, but one man resolves to do something about it, so he escapes from prison by pretending he's sick, puts a mask on, tames a wild horse, and comes back with a gun and starts beating up the bad guys, with the help of the other townspeople. When the bad guys see him, they say intelligent things like, "Yer masked!"

Nearly as silly as "The Masked Raider" is "Jungle Terror," which sees a young kid and an older man resolve to fly out to the Amazon and try to find the kid's uncle, a professor who went out there looking for diamonds and then went missing. After flying all the way to the Amazon from Florida, they suddenly have plane trouble: "Oh-oh! Something's wrong! Motor's missing!!" Uh... only now do you notice there's a motor missing?? Anyway, they crash and are captured by savages, but eventually make it out alive with a diamond. The art is very odd, and the people's faces sometimes take on weirdly demonic expressions, possibly thanks to the odd way their eyes are drawn. The writing is, as you might have already guessed, clumsy, stereotypical, and silly.

Speaking of bad writing, next up is a short prose story "About The Auto Race Tracks" called "Burning Rubber" by Raymond Gill. It's about a guy who's testing an experimental engine in a really dangerous manner, but his concerned girlfriend saves him and helps him out. He misunderstands and is a jerk to her at first, but then all is well. It's quite silly.

Surprisingly, one of the best stories in the book is "Adventures of Ka-Zar the Great," the origin story of a Tarzan-type character called Ka-Zar. His parents' plane crashes in the jungle when he's a boy and he grows up with the animals, making them his friends and learning to communicate with them. It's reasonably well written, and the art is dramatic and effective.
Thumbs Sideways

Marvel Divas #2
I love that Doctor Voodoo sent a zombie to Monica with flowers, like a moaning telegram. I also rather enjoy the depiction of Doctor Strange as a slightly arrogant rock star. This comic seems to have an oddly large number of thought bubbles in it, but not in an annoying way. It's rather touching that the Night Nurse tells Angelica her real name. It's funny that Felicia tries to get a loan from a bank that she robbed. Angelica's predicament and the way she's responding to it is realistic and moving. And Patsy now has a terrible choice to make. This is really a neat book: funny, touching, clever.
Thumbs Up

The Marvels Project #1
A preview of the opening section of this book has been in the back of a lot of Marvel comics lately. I was a little disappointed by that preview for whatever reason, but I knew I'd get the comic anyway because I was fascinated by the premise. And I'm glad I did because it's really living up to my expectations so far. I even liked the opening better reading it in context. It's cool that Brubaker was able to work the Two-Gun Kid into this story, and thus link the distant past of the Marvel Universe to its origins, and its future. I love the glimpse of the secret meeting with the President where the race to create the first superhuman is being orchestrated. Here it comes out that the Human Torch is secretly a government funded project. Meanwhile, the Nazis are at work on their own superhuman, and are killing Namor's people as part of their experiments. And guess who's in charge of that German program? A scientist named Erskine who wants to defect! But the Germans didn't count on Namor's rage or his vengeance. The Human Torch's origin story, which I'd just read in Marvel Comics #1, is retold here in a much smarter, realistic, and dramatic manner. Nick Fury and his pal Red are pulled in to help Erskine defect, and the man who will call himself The Angel finds his purpose fighting looters in the confusion that reigns after the Human Torch escapes his prison and mistakenly burns the city. Brubaker is polishing up all these old stories, giving them vibrant new life, and brilliantly weaving them all together into a new tale: the rise of the Marvels. If it continues to be as good as this first issue, this will be a truly excellent miniseries.
Thumbs Up

Red Robin #3
Suddenly the artist on this title (Ramon Bachs) is really reminding me of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Huh. Anyway, I've been impressed with this series so far, but this issue is kind of mediocre. There's another fun assassination sequence, but the dialog is getting a little weak and melodramatic, and the story is getting a bit dull. I might hang in there for at least one more issue, but... then again, maybe not.
Thumbs Sideways

Toy Story: Mysterious Stranger #4
The final issue of Boom!'s Toy Story miniseries is sadly the weakest. Once again it plays with the idea of the toys revealing the fact that they can talk to humans, but the motive behind revealing it is rather nonsensical, and the argument against revealing it is pretty weak. It seems odd that the toys would frequently think about revealing their secret to humans; surely a toy would have let the cat out of the bag by now if it's something they consider often. On the other hand, if it is a huge taboo, why would they think about breaking it just because one toy was briefly removed from the premises? And why, if Andy knew the toys could talk, would he no longer be able to pretend they were something other than themselves? When kids play with their friends they constantly pretend they're someone else, despite what Woody says. It's just a clumsy story, and not nearly as interesting or effective as some of the others have been.
Thumbs Sideways

Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1
Ever since Jeph Loeb took over Marvel's Ultimate universe and made it really, really dumb and bad, I've been avoiding the titles set there. But seeing as how they're relaunching it now and putting it in the hands of more talented writers, I thought I'd give it another shot. I still wasn't expecting much, however, so when this book, with writing by Mark Millar and art by Carlos Pacheco, turned out to be really awesome, I was pretty startled. Apparently during the events of Loeb's Ultimatum there was a big flood. Luckily I didn't need to know much about any of that to pick up the thread of what was going on. Cap and Hawkeye are out on a mission doing ridiculously awesome and bad-ass things when they run into the Ultimate universe version of the Red Skull. The Skull reveals a horrible truth to Cap that leads to him going rogue and Hawkeye asking Nick Fury to come back to help capture him. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is drunk in some crazy sex club. It's a dramatic, funny, exciting start to the new series, and I'll definitely be tuning in next month for part two.
Thumbs Up

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1
Brian Michael Bendis is in charge of Spider-Man's new Ultimate title, and he's put together a fine first outing. I love the hilarious opening that features Peter Parker facing the overwhelming and horrific task of working at a fast food restaurant. Then an intriguing new hero appears on the scene - but is he really a good guy? He looks kind of like the Hood, if you ask me. Pete's relationship with Gwen Stacy is getting all hot and heavy; something bad happened to Johnny Storm; and the Kingpin is back, but a new villain shows up (is it Ultimate Electro?) and does something pretty stunning and awesome to him. It's an incredibly fun and action-packed first issue of what looks likely to be an exciting new comic. Which actually kind of pisses me off, because it's I really don't need a new series to collect.
Thumbs Up

Uncanny X-Men #514
Hey, Psylocke is back. And boy does she look stunning in that "wetsuit." Sadly Norm's Avengers and Emma's X-Men don't get to finish their fight. We're given a slightly better explanation for why Cloak and Dagger joined Emma's X-Men, which is nice. Dani Moonstar shows up in Vegas to make a deal with somebody, but I'm not sure who. I feel like maybe I'm supposed to know what's going on there from the clues I've been given, but I'm hoping I'm wrong, because I have no idea. It's good to see the real Wolverine show up and it's good to know Scott has sent him and some others on a mission to retrieve their people from prison (I was wondering when he was going to get to that). As for the last page, I have no idea what's going on there. I don't know who any of those people are or where they're going. And I'm pretty certain I'm supposed to know. Sigh.

I think it's time to drop this one again. I started collecting it again because of the whole Utopia thing, but I still really don't like Matt Fraction's very much, and I just don't care about Utopia anymore.
Thumbs Sideways

Wednesday Comics #6
Batman - Batman fights a guy! I'm not entirely sure who or why. Is he the assassin from before? I guess. Anyway, the art's good.

Kamandi - Speaking of good art, the art on this title continues to be amazingly beautiful. And the story is a fun and engaging adventure tale.

Superman - Looks like we're done watching Superman brood and something is actually going to happen now, as the buddies of the alien he beat up in the first issue seem to have shown up looking for revenge. Love the art on this one, too.

Deadman - Deadman has apparently died again, but at least he also got to meet some pretty ladies.

Green Lantern - We finally learn what Hal did to get himself kicked out of the astronaut program, and we get to see what part Dill played in it all. Interesting stuff. And now it looks like the flashback is over and we're going to get back into the action in the present. Fun.

Metamorpho - I just can't get a handle on this strip. Gaiman seems intent on trying every crazy idea he can think of with it. This time there's a fight with a snake on a ladder, the Metamorpho Fans of America intrude again, and then the rest of the strip is a Metamorpho-ized version of Snakes and Ladders. I appreciate the creativity on display here, but at the same time... it's just really weird.

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

Strange Adventures - Things take a really fascinating turn in this week's issue of this strip, as we find that Adam has returned to Earth, and to his own body - that of an old professor. Unable to find the chart of the Zeta-Beam's trajectory, he must remain on his home planet and move forward with his expedition to Machu Picchu. There are some fantastic images from the archaeological dig, and Adam begins to lose all sense of reality. Have all his adventures on Rann been a dream, and this is the dull reality? Or is his life on Earth the dream, and Rann the truth? Wonderful ideas + stunning imagery = great comics.

Supergirl - I actually rather like the latest episode of this strip, as it features an amusing modern interpretation of Aquaman (or is that Aqualad?). He's incredibly busy, dealing with one problem after another in the seas all over the Earth. He uses odd combinations of modern slang, and shells like cell phones (shell phones?).

Metal Men - I'm still not all that interested in this strip, but the addition of an evil giant robot does make it at least a little more attractive.

Wonder Woman - There are a couple of interesting things in this strip: a cool story about an ancient sword known as "The Red Death," and the introduction of the modern version of WW's buddy Etta, who gets to fight monsters with a lollipop - although that turns out to be a hallucination brought on by drugs, apparently. Despite these few interesting things, however, this strip continues to be cluttered, confused, and rather silly.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - Hey, it looks like something is finally about to happen in this strip! In a rather surprising turn of events, Rock gets cut free by a traitor! Maybe he can beat up some Nazis next time. Assuming he's up to it.

Flash Comics and Gorilla Grodd - Yes, Iris West has been replaced by Gorilla Grodd! That's a nice surprise. Flash escapes from the horrific trap he was thrown into at the end of last issue via a crazy awesome use of his super powers, then dashes back to meet up with two more Flashes, one of whom is only interested in making his dinner date. Meanwhile, Gorilla Grodd seems to be telling us the fascinating origin story of its titular character. Cool stuff!

The Demon and Catwoman - I thought this issue would be the big fight between the Demon and the witch, but it's just more backstory explaining their relationship. Thankfully it's pretty interesting backstory, and well illustrated.

Hawkman - I'm pleased to say that this continues to not suck, although it looks like it might be about to turn into Lost, which is a little disturbing.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hellboy (Not), Mark Millar (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Pixar (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Toy Story (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), X-Men (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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