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Tuesday, December 8, 2009 03:51 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

Wow, it has been a looooooong time since I've posted one of these. I had been falling behind anyway, and then Nanowrimo happened, and I fell so much further behind that it became ridiculous. So I've decided to give up on the idea of catching up on all the comics I missed reviewing, and just pick up with the most recent week. Hope nobody minds!

This post covers some new releases from the week of 10/7 (because I happened to already have them written, so I figured I might as well post them), as well as new releases from the week of 12/3. Beware spoilers!

New releases (10/7)
Astonishing X-Men #31
Now this - this is a good X-Men comic. We start with alien fighting, then the whole team works together to save people in danger, and then there's a weird, creepy Sentinel attack! Also, amusing humor throughout.
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #5
The new artist is not as good as the old guy. Scarlet's backstory just makes her creepier. It's pretty disappointing to me that the new Red Hood is just... Jason Todd again. Boring! Once somebody pointed it out to me, I did get a bit of a chuckle out of the fact that there's a phone poll in support of Jason Todd in the book, considering that a phone poll is how it was decided he would be killed. Flamingo, meanwhile, is gross and disturbing.

Definitely not my favorite issue of this. Hoping for better soon.
Thumbs Sideways

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #29
Giant war! It's cute how Xander and Dawn teach the Slayers about guns. And now it turns out Oz & friends' hippie dippy crap about giving the magic to the Earth was a bit of a lie. In fact they were giving the magic to wrathful goddesses, whom they now call upon to save them. So yeah, getting rid of the magic was as bad an idea as it seemed. But calling on wrathful goddesses sounds like maybe an even worse idea. Hmm...
Thumbs Up

Captain America: Theater of War - Ghosts of My Country #1
Another in a series of Captain America: Theater of War one-shots. This one takes us through a series of important moments in the history of America, and each time a phrase is repeated, and Captain America's spirit is there. The book is alternately cheesy and effective. I can't quite decide how I feel about it.
Thumbs Sideways

Criminal: The Sinners #1
Hooray, Criminal is back! And so is Tracy Lawless. As usual he's got trouble closing in on him from every direction. Sleeping with the boss' wife? Really? And man, that's a bad job you got stuck with. I didn't expect kids to be the culprits!

I really enjoyed the interview with Darwyn Cooke in the back about the Parker books. Some great details on Cooke's adaptation process for The Hunter, and some really interesting insight into the story. And the appreciation of Sam Peckinpah's The Killer Elite was so convincing I immediately added the movie to my Netflix queue.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Zodiac #3
The object of our villain/hero's immediate scheme is finally revealed, but it's really only the first part of a much larger plan to change the world. I'd love to see more of this story. Great writing and art. But man, that poor H.A.M.M.E.R. agent. He just had no luck.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #6
Pretty great ending for this series, and a poetic defeat for the Human Flame. He's trapped by his own lust for power, and his refusal to go back to the loser he used to be. Also, his stupidity. His stupidity definitely doesn't help. The bit with the cell phone pic is a nice touch.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #3
Big showdown between both Ghost Riders and their enemies. I love Trull! Also, the Gun Nuns. Still really enjoying the reprint backup story, too. Exciting plot, and Witch-woman is hot!
Thumbs Up

The Incredibles #1
As I suspected, our storyline focuses on the alien virus introduced in #0. Turns out it passes on super powers! Cool idea, and I love the silly henchmen. "Should you really be holding a baby when you're on fire?" Also, I instantly approve of any character named Ungorilla.
Thumbs Up

New releases (12/3)
Captain America: Theater of War - Prisoners of Duty #1
Another surprisingly good entry in this series of one-shots. Exciting action, coupled with a powerful statement about the cruelty of war.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers Annual #1
Finally we find out what the new Captain Marvel has been up to since he ran out on the Dark Avengers. Turns out he's been calling home for further instructions, and also flirting with a goth art student. Then at the end he gets a new power set and a new uniform. Some vaguely interesting ideas here, and I could see how somebody could now go interesting places with the Captain Marvel character. But the writing is also pretty cheesy, especially as far as the goth art student is concerned. And it's painfully obvious that nobody knows what to do with this Captain Marvel guy. New writers just keep changing the character completely so they can try something different with him. It's kind of sad.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredibles #3
Reasonably fun issue. There's a huge, super-powered war that might have been too hard to do even in an animated movie. So that's cool. Still, I feel like something is missing here. There's just not a lot of life or energy or creativity in the dialog and the story. I might drop this book.
Thumbs Sideways

The Marvels Project #4
I was a little disappointed with this. The opening especially is really over-narrated, and it's pretty harsh how Brubaker casually dispatches The Ferret. It's a little tiresome reading yet another summary of Steve Roger's early life. Why not do something different with it this time? I mean, this is just a straight-up summary of the same events we all know by heart. John Steele is interesting, and I like how he meets up with Nick Fury and his guys; I imagine they'll get along well. But the way Brubaker just skips through Steele's interactions with the German townspeople seems a bit clumsy. I like seeing the assassination of Erskine from the perspective of the saboteur; that's interesting. But yeah, overall this is definitely not my favorite issue of this series.
Thumbs Sideways

Scalped #33
In case you were wondering, yes, Scalped is still awesome. I'm glad to see our hero seems to finally be pulling himself together and enacting some kind of plan, even if it involves teaming up with the ultimate scumbag, Diesel. Is Chief Red Crow's big plan to defuse the Hmong situation to just get beaten up? I'm not sure that's going to satisfy them...

In the back of the book is a preview for something called Luna Park. It's awful! So that's good to know.
Thumbs Up

Siege: The Cabal #1
This one-shot is meant to bridge the gap between Marvel's last big event (Dark Reign) and its next one (Siege). It involves Norman Osborn rather arbitrarily deciding to move on Asgard. He also has a violent argument with Doctor Doom over Namor. I don't really care for this comic. I think the problem is that I don't understand the characters' motivations. They just seem to be performing random acts in service of Bendis' plot. Also, the preview of Siege #1 is disappointing. It looks like Loki and Osborn are going to team up to create an inciting incident nearly identical to the one that started the Civil War, as an excuse for Osborn to move on Asgard. First of all, I don't even get why Osborn is going after Asgard. He has to know he can't take on a whole city full of Gods. Why not just let them be if they're not coming after him? And it's also really disappointing to me that Bendis is just going to reuse the same plot mechanic from Civil War. I mean, come on. That is lame.
Thumbs Sideways

Supergod #2
This series is amazing. The natural next step in Warren Ellis' examination of the concept of the superhuman. Now he's looking at the superhuman in relation to humanity's conception of religion - Superheroes as Gods. The problem is, once you've made a God, how do you control it? How do you understand it? And the answer is, you can't. This comic is loaded with amazing, mind-blowing ideas and incredibly dark humor.
Thumbs Up

Ultimate Spider-Man #5
I was really excited about this comic at first, but I'm starting to get tired of it. It's cute. The art's good. The story's okay. But it's not blowing me away anymore. And that Bendis dialog! It really starts to grate on you. I mean, how many books did I buy this week by Bendis? That guy is everywhere! Can't he just back off a little?
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Criminal (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Pixar (Not), Scalped (Not), Siege (Not), Spider-Man (Not), The Take (Not), Vampires (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009 06:29 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 9/30. Beware spoilers!

Back issues and old data
The Hunter
Darwyn Cooke adapts as a graphic novel one of Donald Westlake's Parker novels, which Westlake wrote under the pen name Richard Stark. The story I'm familiar with from the film adaptations, but this is a different version of it altogether - from what I can tell, far more faithful to the source material. The great majority of the opening sequence is entirely wordless, making for some really powerful but subtle storytelling. About a quarter of the way through the book, Cooke takes a 180 and resorts to a whole lot of exposition to fill us in on the backstory, but the writing is so good it doesn't feel like cheating at all. One of the most fascinating things about the book is that it's a character portrait of a man who resists at all times any attempts to sympathize with him. The very first page of the book sees him responding to a kind offer of help with a curse. When his remorseful ex-lover tells him she takes pills every day to try to get over what she did to him, he says, "Take too many pills." When she does, he cuts up her face and dumps her in the woods so it will take longer for her to be found and identified, and he'll have more time to do what he needs to do. He's a hard, brutal man - not totally heartless, as his mission is one of passion and revenge, but certainly not sensitive or romantic. He's willing to do whatever it takes - even casually, efficiently, and single-handedly taking on a huge criminal empire - to get back at the people who hurt him, and to return to the pleasant, mechanical pattern that his life once had.

If the book has a flaw, it's that the ending is perhaps a bit anticlimactic, but really I'm just picking at nits. It's brilliant and riveting, and I can't wait for the next one, which we can apparently expect in summer of next year.
Thumbs Up

I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets
An amazing collection of reprints of the Golden Age work of writer/artist Fletcher Hanks. Most of these stories star either the interplanetary techno wizard Stardust, or the magical jungle goddess Fantomah, although there are a couple of random stories featuring tough logger Big Red McLane and space cop Buzz Crandall. It doesn't really matter that much who's in the stories, however, as every one of them has exactly the same structure: an incredibly powerful hero discovers that a crazed villain is planning to wreak terrible havoc. After the villain has set his evil plans into motion, the hero intervenes, easily defeats the villain, and then gives him a horribly appropriate punishment, a la Dante's Inferno. The sameness of the plots does not lead to boredom, however, as the details are endlessly inventive. The stories and dialog are oddly simplistic and almost childish in terms of logic, conception, and motivation, and yet they're also epic in scope and surreally imaginative. (The title of the book is an actual line of dialog from one of the comics; the characters are spitting out fantastic stuff like that all the time!) Hanks' art perfectly complements his writing; it's big, bold, weird, and striking, and yet also simple in its colors and forms.

Hanks' heroes are impossibly, unimaginably strong, and yet one gets the sense they're not being quite as heroic as they could be. Each story opens with the hero somehow becoming aware of what the villain is about to do, but quickly thereafter the hero vanishes from the story, and for the next few pages we simply watch as the villain sets his horrible plan into motion and begins murdering innocent people and destroying whole cities or planets. It's only as the chaos is about to reach its peak that the hero finally strolls onto the scene and takes care of business.

Hanks' villains seem like children compared to his God-like heroes, and yet their powers and schemes are also epic in size. Inevitably they have whole squadrons of bombers at their disposal, or the ability to create tsunamis, or to stop the Earth from spinning. But rarely do they think their plans through. After you've thrown everyone else off the Earth to steal their wealth, what good will that wealth be to you? Hanks' heroes seem troubled by similar short-sightedness, which is never clearer than in this unintentionally hilarious text on the title page of one of the comics: "Stardust, whose vast knowledge of interplanetary science has made him the most remarkable man that ever lived, devotes his abilities to racket-busting."

Hanks' stories are simple and clumsy, but also full of amazing magic, insane technology, indelible images, and incredible action. I will definitely have to pick up the second collection, You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the book's unique and wonderful afterword, "Whatever Happened to Fletcher Hanks?" This is a short autobiographical story by Paul Karasik, the guy who put this collection together, in which he explains how he became fascinated by Fletcher Hanks, what Hanks' work means to him, and how he started trying to track down what had happened to Hanks by finding and interviewing his son, Fletcher Hanks, Jr. The clever bit is that Karasik has chosen to write his afterword in the form of a comic - a smart, subtle, funny, and moving comic, at that. We learn some unsettling facts about Hanks here - that he was an abusive drunk who walked out on his own family. But he also made some incredible comics.
Thumbs Up

New releases
Aliens #3
This series is finally starting to get a little interesting. We get more backstory and explanations, and also the android is malfunctioning in pretty fascinating ways - he's even falling asleep and dreaming.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Reign: Lethal Legion #3
All the secrets finally come out, and all the mysteries are revealed. Turns out everybody was betraying everybody else! It's actually a pretty complicated story, with a lot of little twists and turns, and some intriguing characters at the heart of it. I particularly liked the relationship between the Reaper and Wonder Man. And the Grey Gargoyle's totally wrongheaded guesses as to the true identities of Osborn's Avengers are pretty funny.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man #4
The end of this series does not disappoint. All of our subplots collide in a scene of extreme hilarity and chaos at Mayor JJJ's festival. I love Bullseye throwing a yap dog into Venom's eye, and the gangsters bonding over corn dogs. In the end, everyone of any importance mistakenly thinks Venom is a hero, and he's learned absolutely nothing from the entire ordeal. Fantastic!
Thumbs Up

Die Hard: Year One #1
I'm really tired of the whole "Year One" phenomenon, but I like the Die Hard franchise enough that this seemed worth trying. Unfortunately, it's quite bad. There's too much narration, it's poorly written, and nearly every character in the book is a completely disgusting and terrible human being. It's repulsive.
Thumbs Down

Green Lantern #46
We get to find out who those lovers are at the heart of the Star Sapphire's power battery: they're the original Hawk Girl and Hawkman. Sort of. I think. Meanwhile, there's lots of cheesy dialog, and then Sinestro gets to have his showdown with Mongul over ownership of the Yellow Lanterns. It's pretty cool how he wins. The arrival of Abin Sur and Arin Sur at the end is not at all a surprise, though it is rather melodramatic and over-the-top.
Thumbs Sideways

Jack of Fables #38
Jack Frost travels from fantasy world to fantasy world, and finally gets himself settled in a grand old fantasy adventure. Meanwhile, his Dad keeps getting uglier, fatter, and more disgusting. He's not anywhere near as charming as he used to be, and I don't see him coming to a good end. The dialog is still quite funny, and the tale reasonably entertaining, but I'm losing interest in this title.
Thumbs Sideways

Marvel Divas #3
Heh. I like the Runaways joke. I'm also really impressed with how this comic has turned into a funny, moving, realistic story about a woman dealing with cancer, and her friends rallying around her even as they deal with their own personal problems. Of course, because it's a superhero comic those personal problems have to do with winning a cursed monkey's paw at an auction, fighting with a super boyfriend over committing a robbery, and making a misbegotten deal with the son of the Devil. It's great stuff!
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #5
This issue ties up of some of the loose ends from the last story arc, gives us the return of Warlock, and introduces us to a new artist. Not sure how I feel about the weird new art, but I'm still loving the writing and the characters.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine: Weapon X #5
Another big showdown - this time including sharks! - a shocking reveal about Maverick's participation in all this, and that's it for the first story arc in this title. I have to say, I'm really disappointed. I was expecting a lot from Jason Aaron on Wolverine - especially Aaron on Wolverine versus new Weapon X soldiers armed with laser claws. But despite some great concepts and a few great scenes, overall this book has been pretty dull and mediocre. I think I'm dropping it.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Fables (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), The Take (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Friday, October 16, 2009 04:38 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post has really gotten out of control lately. It takes so long to write that I've started to look at it as a chore, and I've purposefully avoided working on it, which doesn't make sense; this is supposed to be something I'm writing for myself, for fun, on my own blog! And when I do get it done, it's so long that even I don't want to read it. For now I'm going to stick with it, but try to keep my reviews as short as I possibly can. If it remains a chore, I might drop it altogether.

This post covers new releases from the week of 9/16, plus a back-issue I missed. Beware spoilers!

Back-issues and old data
Dark Wolverine #77
The first story arc of Dark Wolverine ends with a kind of stalemate. But Daken has gained allies and is owed favors. Clever guy. Clever book.
Thumbs Up

New releases
Batman and Robin #4
Scarlet is seriously creepy. She and the new Red Hood are taking a violent but effective approach to crime-fighting. But who is Oberon Sexton, and who is the Flamingo? Hmm.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #3
Flash: "Whoever did this... crossed one hell of a line." I couldn't have said it better myself, Barry! The new Firestorm is seriously lame, and there's lots of corny dialog and melodrama in this issue. But it's good to see the Indigo Lanterns finally showing up and explaining how to defeat the Black Lanterns. It feels satisfyingly right that to counter the absence of light you'd need to combine the whole light spectrum to make White.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America: Reborn #3
More emotionally effective time-shifting scenes with Steve. He figures out a clever way to send a message to the present that reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Bucky makes a bad-ass escape, Sharon makes another in a long line of really bad choices, and then there's a really effective and creepy ending.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers #9
A surprisingly moving and effective issue focusing on Ares' relationship with his son, and his reaction to discovering that the kid is essentially working with his enemies. Also features a shocking sequence with the Sentry, and another amusing Osborn freakout.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: M.O.D.O.K. - Reign Delay #1
A comedic one-shot in which M.O.D.O.K. is tricked by Norman Osborn into returning to his hometown of Erie, PA, where he comes face to face with what a desperate & pathetic a loser he used to be - and still is. It's only when he meets a hero even more desperate & pathetic than he is that he stumbles on success. The book relies on shame and the incompetence of its main character to generate humor, and that's my least favorite type of comedy. Still, the book has its moments.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Wolverine #78
This issue reminds us that Daken and Norman Osborn are not nice guys. In fact, they're both extremely clever and manipulative scum bags who aren't afraid to kill innocent people to get what they want. Fun!
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Romulans - Schism #1
Klingon sex is scary. I've enjoyed Byrne's other books in this storyline, but I'm having a hard time getting into this one. Maybe it'll get better.
Thumbs Sideways

Ultimate Armor Wars #1
I was expecting a lot from a new Warren Ellis book set in the Ultimate universe, so naturally I was a bit disappointed in this rather dull story about Tony getting robbed and saving a girl. But it does have a classic Ellis-style line of dialog: "I'm dying of super-powers."
Thumbs Sideways

Wednesday Comics #11
Batman - More clumsy dialog and hard-to-believe emotional reactions from Batman and our villainess. Is her heart made of ice or gold? Azzarello can't seem to decide. And I can't shake the feeling this is a mediocre crime noir story that shouldn't have Batman in it at all.

Kamandi - Our happy ending is interrupted by a deus ex tragedy. Argh! That sucks.

Superman - Some fun action and an exciting ending, but the dialog, though occasionally effective, is mostly just a load of clumsy exposition.

Deadman - The other shoe finally drops and what's really going on is at last revealed. Only thing is, everything seems to be resolved, so I'm not sure what's left for the last issue.

Green Lantern - Giant space fight! I don't really get why the narration says, "They came, they saw-" and then never finishes the phrase. But otherwise, fun.

Metamorpho - Another big reveal/happy ending that seems to leave little room for another issue's worth of doings. Cool art, some fun action, but not as exciting as one might hope.

Teen Titans - I believe I've read comics that sucked worse than this one, but I can't really think of any right now.

Strange Adventures - A slightly disappointing entry in an otherwise great strip; basically this episode just repeats and slightly augments the ending of the last episode. Still, it's pretty fun and the art is great, so...

Supergirl - Supergirl sucks at nonverbal communication, and the aliens shoot her. Luckily, the superpets are coming to save the day. I remain unable to get into this strip. It is cutesy and dull.

Metal Men - A terrible sacrifice is made by the few for the good of the many! It's actually slightly moving. Slightly.

Wonder Woman - Another cluttered and confused episode of this strip. Well, at least it's consistent. All the gleeful bondage harks back to the rather embarrassing origins of this character. But hey, since when did the lasso make you a slave? I thought it just made you tell the truth.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - Finally, a real action scene! Unfortunately, it's a pretty clumsy action scene, with more unbelievable back and forth between Rock and the Nazi Captain. Sigh.

Flash - A surreal, powerful, dramatic climax with more unique and imaginative panel layout - this time the strip spirals down toward a point in the bottom right corner. I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but it's an interesting, emotionally effective story with well written dialog, so I'm okay with it.

The Demon and Catwoman - Exciting magical action! The Demon even breathes flame. But Catwoman's jokes at the end fall a bit flat.

Hawkman - Aquaman sets a shark and an octopus on a T. Rex! That might be the coolest thing I've ever seen Aquaman do. Awesome!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Iron Man (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Byrne (Not), M.O.D.O.K. (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Thursday, October 1, 2009 12:12 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 9/9, plus a back-issue I missed. Beware spoilers!

Back-issues and old data
The Unwritten #4
Things start off with some really brutal, violent, and twisted Tommy Taylor fan fiction, which just sets the scene for the brutal, violent, and twisted stuff that's about to occur in the main story. Tom uses the knob he found last issue to open the door into his father's secret room and, even though he's warned by Mathilde Venner that entering the room will set terrible things into motion, he does so. Inside, he finds a map of fictional locations, which is bound to be important and powerful. Oddly, inside the room there is no storm outside, and the coffee mug on the desk is still hot. Did Tom somehow go back in time when he walked into the room? Meanwhile, nearly everyone else in the house is horribly murdered! When the killer chucks Venner's head at Tom, it dissolves into a puddle of letters. Is she a fictional character somehow brought to life? If so, was it chopping her head off that turned her back into letters - or was it Tom touching her? Does he have some kind of power? And now Tom has been framed for murder, but Tommy's flying cat familiar has also appeared out of nowhere, perhaps to help him?

Crazy stuff! I'm loving the way this story is shifting and evolving in unexpected ways, while its mysteries remain mysterious.
Thumbs Up

New releases
Adventure Comics #2
Meh. This series has hit a serious sophomore slump. We open with a couple of soldiers trading exposition with each other. Then there's a reasonably impressive two-page spread of Brainiac tearing their ship apart, and an interesting tease of some kind of Kryptonian-killing project Luthor was working on. Then we go back to checking out Superboy's lists of things Superman and Luthor do. These had gotten really creepy and interesting at the end of last issue, but they immediately become silly again here. The romantic scene between Superboy and Wondergirl is a bit hard to take, although I like the way Krypto tries to set the mood by lighting the candle with his laser vision. I also enjoy the look on Luthor's face when he learns that Superboy has returned. The backup feature has lots of Lightning Lad storming around shouting at people, which is less than fun. I'm curious as to what the story is with his buddy Lightning Lord and his missing twin, but not really all that curious. I think I might drop this book.
Thumbs Sideways

B.P.R.D.: 1947 #3
The "To Be Continued" at the end of this book means there must be more issues in this miniseries, but this sure feels like the last one to me! The issue opens up with a bunch of our heroes getting slaughtered in horrible ways. Interestingly enough, our villain is also dispatched, as his fellow vamps don't take kindly to what he's been doing back on Earth. I'm not clear on exactly what happens to Simon, or the only guy who actually escapes the castle ruins. The latter guy calls in what happened, but then Bruttenholm says, "They're all dead." So, was Simon killed by the witches? And the guy who made the phone call - did he die, too? If so, how? He seemed safe. Did he kill himself? Or did the innkeeper kill him, thinking he was now a vampire? I don't know. Maybe the next issue will clear things up a bit, but I'm a little disappointed that this one was so confusing; I don't think it was meant to be.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: The List - Avengers #1
This is one of a series of one-shots focusing on Norman Osborn's sinister to-do list, which is really pretty much just a hit list of the heroes he wants out of the way. One of the guys on his list presents himself on a silver platter in this issue: Clint Barton. Barton finally loses it and heads across town to kill Osborn personally. As you might expect, it does not go well. One of my favorite scenes comes before all that happens, though, near the start of the issue. Barton asks, "If you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?" Cap responds, "I did." Miss Marvel: "You did what?" Cap: "I, uh, killed Hitler." Awesome.

Anyway, Barton gets surprisingly far on his assassination attempt. I like the way he uses to his advantage the fact that the Dark Avengers is just a loose alliance of people who hate and distrust each other. When he throws Venom out the window, everyone's first assumption is not that they've been invaded, but that Venom has tried to escape. Barton then pretty easily works his way through most of the rest of the team - but there's not much a human being can do against a God.

Good issue! Fun, exciting, with an interesting ending. And I have to admit, the preview for Dark Reign: The List - Daredevil is pretty intriguing, too, even though I'm not really a fan of author Andy Diggle, or where Daredevil is at right now. I mean, leader of the Hand? Really?
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Young Avengers #4
The real Young Avengers put together a pretty clever trick to protect Hawkeye's secret identity. Melter has a horrific flashback that reveals why he's so twisted up inside, and quickly thereafter we learn the true origin of the Enchantress. There's a sudden but inevitable betrayal from Melter. And Danny, having learned the shocking truth about his mother, responds with shocking violence and finality. At the end we've got three different teams of Avengers in one room together! (Too bad Cornell couldn't work out a way to have the two or three or four other teams of Avengers show up, too, just to get the whole gang together.) Should make for a nice big showdown next issue. Fun series! Lots of surprising twists and turns, creative ideas, and dark humor.
Thumbs Up

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #6
This is a HUGE issue of Hellboy, revealing important new secrets about his origin and heritage. Not only is he a king of demons, and a king of witches, he's also the rightful king of Britain!! In the end, he's given a terrible choice: he can take on the heavy mantle of his birthright, pull forth the sword, call up an army, and lead it to bloody war - or not. If he refuses, the world may be swept away by Nimue and her monsters. If he accepts, he could lose his humanity and himself in the tide of violence. It's really powerful and epic stuff. It's very impressive to me that after all these years, Mignola can still tell fresh, original, exciting stories about this character, and that he can still be revealing secrets about this character that are interesting, that make sense, and that fit in believably with what we already know about him.

In the back of the book is the conclusion to the MonsterMen story that started last issue. It's pretty neat, too; crazy, funny dialog, creative imagery, fascinating story.
Thumbs Up

The Marvels Project #2
I feel like I'm supposed to know who John Steele is - the guy the Nazis have in the tube. But whatever. I love that Fury and Red are the guys who help Erskine defect, by flamboyantly assassinating a bunch of Nazis. It's interesting getting a look at some of the other really early, lesser known Marvel Mystery Men, too. I'd never even heard of Fiery Mask, Phantom Bullet, or Mister E. But I guess that's because those guys were quickly created and quickly discarded. Brubaker explains Phantom Bullet's disappearance from the Marvel Universe by killing him and throwing him in the garbage. Harsh! But it's cool the connection that Bullet has to The Human Torch and The Angel. And it's good to see The Human Torch pulling himself together, learning that he can be one of the good guys, and coming back to the world. I really like the way this series is coming together.
Thumbs Up

Models Inc. #1
I was rather looking forward to this miniseries for some reason, but I didn't end up being all that impressed by the first issue. The cover and letter from the editor are done up like a fashion magazine, and with good reason, as the main story inside features the return of Marvel's various supermodel characters. They're all palling around together, dealing with pushy photographers, difficult relationships, and petty criminals. At the end, one of them is pulled right into the middle of a murder mystery. It's a cute idea for a story, but Paul Tobin's dialog feels forced and fake, and I just don't care that much about the characters. I actually much prefer the backup one-shot, "Loaded Gunn," which features fashion guru Tim Gunn presiding over the grand opening of the Janet Van Dyne memorial wing of the New York Fashion Museum. AIM shows up to steal some of the superhero costumes and gadgets included in the exhibit, but Gunn isn't going to stand for that and jumps into an old Iron Man suit to take them out. It's an amusing idea and Marc Sumerak's dialog is pretty funny, although occasionally a bit cheesy.
Thumbs Sideways

Muppet Robin Hood #4
It's a very meta, postmodern, Monty Python-esque ending for this miniseries, as the characters chase after, and ultimately find, the book's narrator, who gives them the address of the writer. They then presumably track him down as well, and the original writer is briefly replaced by someone who, in a hilarious interlude, makes the Swedish Chef into the hero who saves Robin. Then the original writer returns to bring us the story's happy ending, which features Statler and Waldorf as a pair of bad-ass immortal knights. It's not the greatest comic ever, but it's amusing and fun.
Thumbs Up

Ultimate Comics: Avengers #2
Of course one of our number one questions after last issue is, how the heck does Cap have a son he didn't know about? Where did he come from? This issue answers that question almost immediately, with a flashback that reveals a naughty night Cap shared with a redhead named Gail, the same redhead who'd later end up married to Bucky. There's a quick, subtle scene of Gail and Bucky together in the present that I really enjoyed; it doesn't tell you anything about them, but it shows a lot. Shortly after Cap was lost, it's discovered that Gail's pregnant, and the government takes the baby away from her and raises him in what's essentially a prison, where they train and test his abilities. Early in the book, there's an exciting scene where Cap escapes from his handlers, but the flashback scene where his son escapes from his handlers is far more brutal, twisted, and epic. That he could have been quietly planning this all along, with a smile on his face! And the origin of his red skull? He cut his own face off with a knife!! Wow. Anyway, now Fury has to put a team together to go get Cap. Danvers: "I'll give you Hawkeye, but the rest of my Ultimates stay a million miles from your black ops crap." Fury: "Fine by me. Hawkeye's the only cool one, anyway." Heh. He's right about that, too. Looks like they're also pulling in Tony Stark's smarter, nastier, more successful older brother, a character I hate the very concept of, but maybe he'll turn out to be okay. The series is definitely fantastic so far!
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #5
Speaking of fantastic, this comic book right here is absolutely amazing. It leaves Tom Taylor completely behind to instead takes as its narrator and main character the famous, real-world author Rudyard Kipling. It turns out Kipling, and pretty much every other major author throughout history, had dealings with the group that Tom Taylor is currently facing off against. It's a group of people who are trying to influence and control the world by influencing and controlling the fiction that's written in it. Kipling falls under the group's power without even realizing it. When he defies them, they hurt him terribly, so he finds a strange and beautiful way of fighting back. By the time he's realized how much power he really has, it's too late, but he manages to record his secrets in a book, which, years later, is found by a Mr. Taylor...

Mike Carey writes this story with true power and artistry, and artist Peter Gross matches Carey's words with astonishing and blazingly imaginative imagery. This book reveals the secret history of fiction. It's an extremely moving and intelligent comic, and one of the best I've read in a while.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #10
Batman - Time for the final confrontation between Bats and Mrs. Slut! She's got dogs, but we all know Batman is an expert at dog fighting. Fling! Fun art.

Kamandi - Triumph for our heroes! More great art.

Superman - Supes engages in psychic warfare with the aliens by shooting all his memories into the mind of one of them at once. As he helpfully and rather clumsily explains, this takes out all of them simultaneously because they're a hive mind - which is both their strength and their weakness. The dialog is kind of weak, but the fight is mighty entertaining.

Deadman - Some bad-ass gymnastics from our hero lead to what looks like a final victory, but obviously there must be more to wrap up, as we still have two issues of this left. Anyway, exciting action!

Green Lantern - Another great episode of this, as Hal soars up to face off against an entire alien armada. I love the way he uses that great line he learned from his friend Dill to explain to them how tough he is and how much trouble they're in. Good stuff.

Metamorpho - A guy turns out to be an alien who's made of exposition! Yeah, dude shows up and explains what's really going on and how terrible it's really going to be when Algon touches the Star of Atlantis, and it looks like that's just about to happen at the end of the strip. It's maybe a bit clumsily told, but the story's kind of interesting, and there's some fun comedy from Java again.

Teen Titans - Finally everything is about to be explained. It would almost be intriguing if it weren't so poorly written.

Strange Adventures - Strange gives Korgo exactly what he wanted - except it's not really what he wanted after all. Fantastic, and with beautiful art and colors, as usual.

Supergirl - Supergirl hopes to stop the aliens peacefully, but it doesn't look to be going well. This one's getting exciting - looks like there's about to be a fight, finally!

Metal Men - Wow. This strip actually managed to move me this week. Well done, chief!

Wonder Woman - Hey, confusing and cluttered art, story, and panel layout again! What a surprise! Although the part where they raise the ancient god-monster is kind of cool.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - I think this is probably one of the best issues of Wednesday Comics so far - almost all the strips are better than usual, and this strip is no exception. The annoying back-and-forth struggle between Rock and the Nazi commander isn't that fun, but the final three panels are well drawn and very effective.

The Flash - I'm not entirely sure I know what's going on in this strip anymore, but I don't care, because it's crazy and cool. The Flash finds himself in some crazy alternate future reality that's a world of apes ruled over by Grodd. In an eerie and fascinating twist, one of the apes suddenly reveals herself to be Iris, and it looks like Barry's about to lose his wife just as he heard he would when he visited the future. But I have a feeling he'll save her somehow.

The Demon and Catwoman - Cool magic fighting! With swords and bees and necklaces! I'm liking it. Although the way Catwoman keeps getting possessed and unpossessed is becoming a bit tiring.

Hawkman - It's all Hawkman fighting a T. Rex this week, and you know that's good comics, especially when he starts taunting the thing about how it can't touch its own nose.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Hellboy (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Robin Hood (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Friday, September 18, 2009 11:36 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 8/28 and a back issue from 8/19. 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.

Back issues and old data
Doctor Who #2
Meh. This is relatively fun and clever, and the silent movie comedy/chase sequence near the end is vaguely amusing, but overall it's just rather silly and bland. I'm not going to buy any more of these.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases from 8/28
Batman and Robin #3
When I started reading this issue, I was afraid I'd somehow missed the previous issue. It picks up right in the middle of the action, and has Batman talking about people and events that were unfamiliar to me. But that's just Grant Morrison's crazy style; you'd think I'd be used to it by now. This is just another insane, disturbing, confusing, exciting issue of Batman and Robin. I like that Dick gets to say the "I'm Batman" thing. I also like that Damian gets to prove he's a badass by beating the crap out of Pyg and his freakish slaves. But then he makes the terrible mistake of promising a girl he'll save her, and then failing to do so. Twisted and hurting, she's taken under the wing of the next villain B&R will have to face: the new Red Hood. And that's not the only hint at more evil to come, as Batman finds an ominous clue along with the antidote to Pyg's plague (which has "Antidote" written on it - heh). The end as a whole is quite eerie, actually, with Pyg mumbling creepy, threatening predictions in his cell, his freaks losing their faces, that poor girl smothering people, the Red Hood shooting cops - and just who is it that's watching Alfred from the gargoyle on the building across the street? There's also a funny bit between Dick and Damian. Damian: "So we're agreed. It's Robin and Batman from now on." Dick: "That'll catch on."
Thumbs Up

Batman: The Widening Gyre #1
Sometimes I like Kevin Smith's writing, but not here. I hate the way his Batman over-narrates and over-shares. It might be acceptable if the narration was really well written, but it's not. Smith's Batman, when interacting with Nightwing, ends up seeming rude and annoying instead of the cold, hard bad-ass he's supposed to be. Plus, the story just isn't that interesting or creative. A body turns up with weeds all over it - must by Poison Ivy! Oh, and look, she took over Arkham Asylum again. Yawn. Smith also seems to feel like he always has to take things that one step too far. His Ivy is ridiculously over-sexualized (I'll admit to enjoying artist Walt Flanagan's half-naked depictions of her, but Flanagan's Batman mostly just looks stupid), his Etrigan ridiculously violent and bloody, and his dialog ridiculously over-the-top. I don't see any reason to keep collecting this series.
Thumbs Down

Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #3
Bill actually has Galactus on his knees, but finds to his horror and rage that the greater good lies in protecting Galactus from those who would finish him off. It's a powerful and well done sequence, beautifully drawn by Kano and well written by Kieron Gillen, although why the Silver Surfer didn't tell Bill in the first place that Galactus' death would cause a colossal and apocalyptic explosion I'm not sure. Galactus' act of mercy and creation is moving and effective, and it's good to see Bill whole again. This was an excellent little series. I even enjoyed the backup reprint tale - Beta Ray Bill's origin story - which is wonderfully drawn and written by Walter Simonson. It's full of sweeping, epic, mythological adventure, as well as sacrifice, heroism, nobility, and magic. There's even a little comedy and romance! It's just great comics.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers #8
Woah! Artist Luke Ross' interpretation of Hela is mighty sexy! Although what she has to do with the story isn't entirely clear to me. I also have no idea who all those people are fiddling about under the ocean, or what that place is that they drag up out of the water at the end. I'm guessing I need more background on the incredibly complex history of the X-Men. Anyway, throughout this series I've been complaining about characters acting in unlikely ways, but in this issue pretty much all of that is explained away, as various folks reveal themselves to be double agents. I had the feeling something like this might happen, although I probably should have been more prepared for it than I was. Why Norman Osborn wasn't more prepared for it, I really don't know. I mean, it's reasonably exciting and impressive, but not exactly a huge shock. The people he was trusting to stay on his side are people who notoriously change sides constantly. Ultimately, Scott's big plan isn't really all that impressive. I mean, he just orchestrates a big retreat to some island he dragged up out of the ocean. How does that really solve anything? And what was the point of even having moles in Osborn's organization if in the end all they did was just leave?

I'll admit at this point I'm a bit prejudiced against Matt Fraction, but c'mon, this story was just lame. The conclusion of it will be told in a one-shot which I obviously won't be buying.
Thumbs Sideways

Flash: Rebirth #4
In this issue, Geoff Johns starts outlining his new conceptual framework for the Speed Force, mostly via a lengthy lecture from Reverse Flash, and it's a bit confusing. I think I got the gist, though. Speedsters need a lightning rod - a person to keep them anchored to reality - so they can return from the Speed Force. Also, there's both a positive and negative Speed Force. Barry Allen appears to be the creator and personification of the positive Speed Force, and the Reverse Flash is the same for the negative Speed Force. But the two Speed Forces sort of attack and feed off of each other. The Reverse Flash brought Barry back to life so he could pollute him with negative Speed Force and torment him, but now his plan is backfiring on him.

Anyway, despite the fact that this issue is mostly a lot of really crazy, highly unlikely exposition, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm willing to buy the conflicting Speed Force idea for now, as it's kind of neat. And anyway, all that exposition is accompanied by plenty of exciting, fast-paced (natch) action, wonderfully visualized by artist Ethan Van Sciver. He uses some really inventive techniques to get across the incredible power that's being accessed here, and the incredible speed at which these characters are moving. One of my favorite panels, however, is one with very little detail where everything is still. It's the one where Wally is lining up like an Olympic runner before a race, preparing to dash into the Speed Force to save Barry. All we see is his silhouette, with the lightning bolts on his costume glowing, and a lightning bolt cracking the sky in the background, as the silhouettes of Bart and Jay look on. Run, runner!

I have to say, to my surprise, I'm still really loving this comic, and looking forward to more.
Thumbs Up

Green Lantern #45
Really? A zombie planet? I actually said, "Oh, c'mon!" aloud when I got to that part. There's an interesting moment a bit further on, when Carrol's ring tells her, "You shine the light of the immortal love that was crystallized eons ago between the two unknown souls whose bodies were brought from Earth to Zamaron." I'm assuming those two are going to turn out to be characters we know. Hmm... I enjoy how this issue successfully gets across the idea - more than ever before - that an epic, galaxies-spanning war is going on here, as we jump back and forth from world to world and see the fighting and killing going on everywhere. It's also fun seeing the black rings suddenly burst in on people all over and add a whole new dimension to the fighting. And hey, Laira's coming back! I bet she'll be pretty pissed at Hal. Another fascinating moment comes when Sinestro uses a giant construct of Hal Jordan against Carrol in their battle. We also get a glimpse at Sinestro's secret lost love, right before the Black Lanterns show up. But my favorite scene is when the black rings come to visit Agent Orange. There's a fantastic two-page splash of all the people he's murdered now rising against him. Doug Mahnke's human figures are sometimes a bit freakish looking, but he's pretty fantastic at monsters and huge battle scenes, so this comic generally looks great, thanks in part to Randy Mayor's fine coloring.

There are still things about Blackest Night that bug me, but I have to admit this is a good comic.
Thumbs Up

The Incredible Hulk #601
I'd pretty much decided I was going to drop this book before I even looked at this issue, but since I'd already bought it, and since I was curious to see where Pak was going to take the Hulk next, I decided to give it a read. Yeah, it's not so good. It opens with a really ridiculous and unbelievable sequence in which Bruce Banner (now de-powered after the highly ridiculous and unbelievable events of the previous issue) meets an abusive father and is somehow able to instantly hack the guy's phone, learn everything about him, and threaten him without getting himself beat to a pulp. Then he has a pissy conversation with Reed Richards, who takes him into the Baxter Building to be examined thoroughly and officially cleared of Hulkness, as it were. A while back I had a few debates with other comic fans over who the smartest people in the Marvel universe must be, and one of the most interesting things about this issue is when they give you some strong hints on that subject. Bruce says he's "one of the eight smartest people on the planet," suggesting that he must be number eight (otherwise, wouldn't he have said he was one of the seven smartest people on the planet, or some even lower number?). Later Reed assembles "a few of the smartest people on the planet" to help him examine Banner and they include Hank Pym, Hank McCoy, T'Challa, Amadeus Cho, and, of course, himself. Add Banner to that list and we've got six of the smartest people on Earth. Later Banner mentions Tony Stark, whom I believe is another member of the group. And nobody mentions Dr. Doom, but I think it's safe to put him in there, too. And that makes eight!

There are some subtle hints that Bruce isn't really as free of the Hulk as he seems, and then all of the sudden we're in the middle of a fight, as Skaar shows up out of nowhere and pounces on Banner. It really happens ridiculously quickly. The pacing feels all wrong. And it seems just a little silly that they've decided to bring back some kind of giant metal suit that Banner invented way the hell back in Tales to Astonish #60. He also has conveniently invented a personal shield that feeds off of gamma radiation and the Old Power, so he's completely protected from Skaar. He just threw together this magical, deus ex machina device during all his recent leisure hours, huh? It's all very silly. Although I do rather enjoy the ending, wherein Banner decides to pick a fight by hacking a H.A.M.M.E.R. satellite to shoot a laser at some guy (is that Juggernaut?? What does he have to do with anything?).

In the back, after the main story, is a pretty terrible backup story starring the new She-Hulk (Lyra). It's melodramatic and painfully poorly written by Fred Van Lente.

So yeah, I'm glad I decided to drop this book!
Thumbs Down

The Incredibles #0
Yay, an Incredibles ongoing series!! This zero issue jumps back in time to tell the story of Jack-Jack's birth. Doc Sunbright, just introduced in the previous Incredibles miniseries, has a major part in this story as well, as he's the only doctor they can really go to when the time comes for Helen to give birth. The problem is, when that time does come, Sunbright is being held hostage by a gang of supervillains, who demand that he give them a mysterious alien virus. Bob and family have to suit up and power up to save Sunbright and keep him and Helen safe long enough for Jack-Jack to be born. All goes well, of course (in fact, in an entertaining turn of events, Bob gets to work out his anxiety and aggression about the birth by beating the snot out of a whole load of bad guys - "I'm not trapped in here with you - you're trapped in here with me!"), but there's an ominous final shot of the alien virus that suggests we're not really done with it after all. I wonder if it will be at the center of the first story arc of the series?

It's great getting to read this fun, untold story from the past of the Incredibles. I also loved getting a look at some more of the supervillains in the Incredibles universe. Writers Mark Waid and Landry Walker deliver the characters we know and love having another exciting and funny adventure together, and artist Marcio Takara illustrates things perfectly. My only complaint is one of continuity. It was clear in the movie that the family had never fought together as a team until they did so on Syndrome's island. It was also clear that Violet had used her force field powers very rarely and really didn't know how to handle them. But this story has the four of them suiting up and going at it like old pros, and Violet creates a force field big enough and strong enough to contain her Dad and a whole bunch of angry supervillains. It just doesn't make sense. Still, overall I enjoyed this issue and I'm looking forward to more.
Thumbs Up

The Muppet Show: The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson #2
We open with a recap of the previous issue being sung to us by a three-piece hillbilly band sitting on the stoop outside the theater. Next, the "mahna mahna" guy and his pair of "doo doo" backup singers show up and do pretty much the same song, except instead of "mahna mahna," the guy says, "Machu Picchu." It's a cute reference. And as I suspected, it turns out the guy in the leather jacket is not, in fact, Kermit, but an impersonator - he even pulls the mirror gag on Kermit. I love Scooter's page, where he does some detective work and comes to the conclusion that the hypnotist hanging around the theater is most likely an evil hypnotist. He also eventually figures out the identity of the impersonator: it's a toad named Kismet. But as it turns out, he's not as shifty as he seems. Or maybe he is! This continues to be a fun comic, with wonderful art by Roger Langridge.
Thumbs Up

The New Avengers #56
Most of the Avengers do not take well to being de-powered. The one or two who didn't have any powers in the first place are just as fine as ever - but also just as de-powered as their buddies, and thus not much of a match against the big bads. But as it turns out, the Wrecking Crew and their buddy Doctor Jonas Harrow are targeting a different set of Avengers - Norman's! And what the hell do you know - their de-powering device even works on the Sentry! Not only that, they hack Norman's armor and tear it to pieces! Very impressive stuff. Two teams of Avengers on their knees. And meanwhile, Loki is helping Parker Robbins find a new source of power now that his Hood is no more.

A really thrilling and engaging issue with some really interesting and unexpected plot twists. Brian Michael Bendis must have written this one on one of his good days. Still, I might not have enjoyed it as much as I did if it weren't for the mind-bogglingly excellent art of Stuart Immonen, accompanied by Dave McCaig's beautiful colors. Great, great work.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #4
The first story arc comes to a satisfying conclusion in another fine issue of this series. It's really interesting seeing the uncomfortable interactions between the rest of the team and its de-powered member, Dani. Dani still wants to contribute, but Cannonball just wants her safely out of the way, and it makes for lots of tension and drama. Artist Diogenes Neves (with the help of colorist John Rauch) really kicks things up to the next level in this issue, especially in his depictions of Legion's mental landscape. I love the visual metaphors being used here, and the fantastic imagery. And the physical fight going on outside Legion's mindscape is nearly as thrilling and visually inventive. Meanwhile, writer Zeb Wells' deftly handles characters, dialog, and story with subtlety, realism, drama, and humor. I particularly like the final exchange between Cannonball and Cyclops. Cannonball: "I get the feeling that half of them think they could have done a better job, and one of them out-and-out hates me." Cyclops: "Heh. Welcome to my world."

I was afraid this series would start to let me down as the first story arc progressed, but it stuck to the same high level of quality in both writing and art from first issue to last. I'm very excited to see where this book goes next!
Thumbs Up

Predator #2
The first issue of this series really bored me, and I was prepared to drop it if this issue was lame as well, but as it turns out things got a lot more interesting this time around. Our group of soldiers and mercenaries manages to take down one Predator, and it looks like one of their number (Thorpe) knows a lot more than he's letting on about the creatures. But their problems aren't over. Not only are human rebels shooting at them, there's also a whole gang of Predators picking them off one by one. But the really cool and interesting moment comes at the end, when we realize there's at least one Predator who's hunting the other Predators, and is thus sort of on their side. Woah. Yeah, okay, I'm hooked! For now.
Thumbs Up

Scalped #31
Wow. Just, wow. Jason Aaron has been carefully building up a fistful of storylines over the past 30 issues, and now he's ratcheting up the tension in every single one of those storylines and building them all up to the breaking point. The overwhelming feeling is that the whole thing could bust open at any moment. Franklin might be about to solve not just the murder of the agents back in '75, but also Gina's murder. Bad Horse could be about to help Nitz nail Red Crow once and for all - if he doesn't get ratted out or killed first. Diesel is about to get out of jail and is planning to get revenge on Bad Horse - possibly by taking it out on Bad Horse's girlfriend. Meanwhile, the Hmongs are roaring into town with a load of guns in the trunk and war on their minds. Aaron is conducting a symphony here. It's brilliant how he's bringing this all together. And R.M. Guera's excellent art just adds another layer of drama and power. Comics at their finest.
Thumbs Up

Sherlock Holmes #4
Another series that's really coming together is Dynamite's Sherlock Holmes. Last issue left me a bit confused and impatient, but this one explains away some of those confusing bits and adds some interesting new layers. It seems Holmes is a lot more in command of things than he seemed, and he may in fact have been manipulating the situation from the beginning. The entire outlines of his plan aren't clear yet, but what is clear is that he has a plan and that it's under way, and that's good enough for me. I'm quite content to sit back and watch it unfold, and confident that I'll be impressed by his genius when all is revealed in the end. It's a great feeling!
Thumbs Up

Sinister Spider-Man #3
This series is so twisted and wrong. I love it. Pissed at a reporter, "Spider-Man" leaves a dead, half-digested, rabid squirrel on his desk along with a note reading "FROM YOUR F-N-SPIDER-MAN." Nice! Later he has a confrontation with the gang of freaks and geeks who want to "redeem" him. Things don't go well for the redeemers. In fact, Spider-Man does horrible, awful things to them. But he hands over only one to the police - the hilarious Doctor Manhattan parody. "I think he's magic or something? I dunno." Ha! Later, the poor armless Redeemer has to have someone else open an envelope for him - an envelope with which the Mayor can destroy Spider-Man. Theoretically. Should be fun to watch him try!
Thumbs Up

Skrull Kill Krew #4
Even taking into account Sinister Spider-Man, I think I still have to give the title of most twisted and wrong comic this week to Skrull Kill Krew #4. Now that the Krew know what they really are (and how they got that way - apparently what was left of their humanity has died off, leaving only Skrull behind), some of them are feeling understandably confused about what they should do, and of two minds about what they've done. There's an odd moment where Ryder and his girl apparently get it on while each of them are shifted into the other's shape. Then it turns out the hippie guy has figured out how to become incorporeal or something? And also some of the Skrulls they killed were innocents, and now pretty much the entire native Skrull population has showed up to kill them in revenge. Most of the members of the Krew have learned nothing from this, and believe Skrulls should still be killed wherever they are found. Really, the major members of the Skrull Kill Krew are looking less and less like heroes and more and more like villains. It's creepy stuff. This issue feels a bit clumsily written, and some of the plot points don't make all that much sense, but it's definitely interesting and thought-provoking.
Thumbs Up

Star Wars: Dark Times #14
After a long recess, the Blue Harvest storyline (not to mention Dark Times itself) finally continues. We get a fun peek at what Darth Vader is up to these days (it consists mainly of absentmindedly kicking ass in epic fashion while worrying about the Emperors plans), and then it's back to Dass Jennir, who is quickly discovering that his hot employer is not as good or as innocent as she seemed. Then again, Dass Jennir isn't as good or innocent as he used to be, either. He shows up at a mining platform where they're keeping slaves, and his droid looks around and says, "I'm going back to the ship. Let me know when you've killed them all." And indeed Jennir then proceeds to rather brutally and cold-bloodedly murder everybody. As the narration puts it: "As a Jedi, Jennir was a peacekeeper - protecting the innocent - supporting the laws of the Republic... but without laws - without the Republic - he will become a peacemaker - removing those who would harm the defenseless." He kills only bad guys, and frees a bunch of slaves, but still... sounds like you're on the path to the Dark Side there, Jennir! He's also rather cleverly setting the two gangs against each other, as I thought he would. Great action, a clever plot, and an interesting central character with a lot of depth and drama to him.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #8
Batman - Batman makes a rare mistake, and the Commissioner is pretty pissed at him. It's an odd scene, and feels out of place in a Batman comic. It's hard to believe that Batman could still fall for a pretty face. Meanwhile, the true villain is finally revealed.

Kamandi - More beautiful, epic art, and Kamandi and his pals gain some new, powerful allies.

Superman - Supes seems to finally be working out what's been happening to him all this time. These aliens are messing with his brain! It's taken us a while to get here, but the art is cool, and now we've got another fun fight going on, so...

Deadman - Axe-wielding demon dude does indeed appear to be the villain here, but I'm not sure I trust the hot ghost girls entirely yet. Or maybe I'm just saying that because of the hot, evil woman in the Batman strip...

Green Lantern - More fantastic art from Joe Quinones. He really does faces well. Plus, cool fight!

Metamorpho - A very unique strip this time around. The Element Man and his partner/competitor have to cross a room shaped like a periodic table, where they must turn into the correct element on each square or risk springing a death trap. Gaiman even managed to fit the chemical symbol for each element into the dialog the characters speak on each square. It's quite a crazy gimmick, and artist Mike and colorist Laura Allred do a fine job depicting it. The character's faces are particularly well done.

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

Strange Adventures - Adam's incredibly hot girlfriend shows up at Ragathan and makes a deal with the ruler there. An interesting device is used to skip their no doubt lengthy conference: Pope claims no recording of Alanna-Sardath's conversation with the ruler of Ragathan exists, and sticks narration boxes on top of the world bubbles so we can't read them. In the second half of the page, the narration boxes switch over into some rather philosophical musing about war and greed and family and alliances. The point being, another great episode, with more weird and wonderful art from Pope.

Supergirl - Another cute, but also not particularly exciting episode of this strip.

Metal Men - Sorry, I just don't care about this one at all.

Wonder Woman - This strip has been bad all along, but the writing and page layout are particularly bad in this episode. It's almost impossible to figure out what order you're supposed to read it in, and there's some clumsy postmodern gags about all the exposition they're dumping on us which don't at all make up for the fact that they're dumping a lot of exposition on us. You get the fleeting sense that this could have been an interesting story in the hands of a different writer/artist, as the idea of Wonder Woman getting back the golden lasso of the Amazons at the price of freeing the evil wolf Fenris is an interesting one. But alas.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - This strip has been such a disappointment. Slow and stuttering and clumsy and dull.

The Flash - This strip, however, is definitely one of my favorites. The gang of past and future Flashes manage to take down Grodd's gravity field by eating it up with a million tiny black holes. But are they already too late?? Their past self is still reeling from whatever poison he was given in the restaurant, and now it's affecting all of them! Time travel is just not good for you, people.

The Demon and Catwoman - Boy, that is one slutty witch.

Hawkman - This episode establishes that giant space battles are still going on elsewhere, and so nobody is available to help Hawkman fight off dinosaurs on Dinosaur Island - except Aquaman. D'oh! This strip has really surprised me. I hated the first four or five episodes, but now it's really picked up and is a lot more fun.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hulk (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Kevin Smith (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Muppets (Not), Pixar (Not), Predator (Not), Scalped (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Monday, August 24, 2009 08:33 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 8/5. 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.

All Winners Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
"All Winners" - This first story (a new one by Karl Kesel with art by Steve Uy) takes a look at an interesting period in the history of the Marvel Universe. It's immediately after WWII and the All Winners Squad is still busy fighting threats to America. The Squad features the Human Torch and Toro, Captain America and Bucky, Miss America and Whizzer, and Namor. Except this Cap and Bucky are replacements for the now lost originals, and the new Cap, Jeff Mace, is having a hard time filling Steve Rogers' shoes. This story, like a lot of these special one-shots, once again stresses the fact that Marvel comic books exist in this world, too, but here they're sensationalized retellings of real events. Amusingly, Namor is not happy with the way he is portrayed in them. The tale itself offers a rather complex and intriguing portrait of these characters and takes them through a tough, emotional battle with literal ghosts out of their past. Even the villains are characterized as full, vaguely sympathetic human beings, with their own complex emotions and problems, and a tragic and moving story. It is rather wordy, and gets a bit corny at times, but seeing Namor give the new Cap his grudging respect is very powerful, and it's also great that we get a glimpse at the future, in the form of the plans of the Baxter Building lying on the table at the end.

"Winners All" - This is a reprint of an utterly ridiculous short text story by Stan Lee about what The Destroyer and The Whizzer did to earn their All Winners awards and get added to the All Winners team. It's typical Golden Age Stan Lee stuff: corny, silly, and really pretty bad.

"Captain America: The Four Trials of Justice" - Speaking of corny and silly, this reprint story sees Cap and Bucky randomly stumbling upon a group of Nazis who've secretly invaded America, taken over a resort, kidnapped all the people there, and are now trying to crush their freedoms, defined by the story as freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of worship, and freedom of speech. The plot is full of awkward, painful contrivances all designed to create situations wherein Cap and Bucky can defend these various freedoms. It's amusing and entertaining in its own special, Golden Age way, but also really quite ridiculous.
Thumbs Sideways

The Amazing Spider-Man #601
Seeing as how I rather enjoyed Amazing Spider-Man #600, and seeing as how this issue has a cute picture of MJ on the cover, and the main story is written by Mark Waid, I decided to pick it up. Mario Alberti provides the art for the main story, and does quite a nice job, but the tale itself is just okay. In the aftermath of the wild wedding party, Pete finds he's slept with his roommate (which of course ruins their relationship), but has also made plans with MJ, the details of which he can no longer remember. Meanwhile, Spider-Man has his own problems to take care of. It's a cute little story, but just not interesting enough to really grab me. The backup story is by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Joe Quesada himself. It's a rather moving and effective tale wherein Jessica Jones is finally able to explain to Peter Parker how much he meant to her growing up, and he finally understands. He also inspires her once again, perhaps into returning to the superhero life. The way Quesada draws Spider-Man's face - with the mask clinging to all Pete's facial features - is probably more realistic than the way it's usually drawn, but it looks really weird. Anyway, this is a time when I definitely enjoyed the backup feature more than the main feature, but I didn't love either enough to continue collecting this book.
Thumbs Sideways

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #27
Heh. I like the running gag of everybody confusing the word "spike" for the name "Spike." It's interesting to see what Oz has been up to, and how he's been managing his wolfiness. It's also funny seeing how Willow and him deal with meeting each other again after all this time. And I love how uncomfortable Giles is with the baby. It says, "GA!" to him and he responds, "Yes, hello, baby." I'm not sure how I feel about the overarching plot, though. I'm not really a fan of the idea of Willow and the Slayers all giving up their magic. I mean, magic is cool! It's through magic that they're able to effectively fight evil. How is it going to help anybody if the good guys can't use magic anymore?
Thumbs Up

Captain America Reborn #2
Poor Steve is still unstuck in time. I love the two-page splash of him leaping full-out through the shrapnel. It's interesting learning more about how Steve is experiencing this - that he's really a passenger in his own mind, unless he chooses to leap to the surface and take control. Although it's still a mystery exactly how much control he has. Is he able to influence what part of his life he jumps to next? He does manage to get to Erskine to ask him about time travel, but what the Doctor tells him just confirms for him that he can't take the chance of changing any of the events he's experiencing, for fear it will shatter the timeline. We get a sense of the real agony and frustration he must be feeling, having to watch over again the terribly tragedies of his life without being able to do anything about them. Meanwhile, there's an amusing interlude where Pym and Reed bicker mildly; Osborn offers Sin and Crossbones a job, and mentions that Red Skull was planning on moving his mind into Steven's body, which makes perfect sense; and then Osborn reveals to the world the (partial) truth about Sharon Carter's part in Steve's death, like the scumbag he is. I definitely enjoyed this issue more than the first one. It's exciting, intriguing, disturbing, and moving.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Zodiac #2
There's a really fascinating and funny scene in Johnny's hospital room where Pym and Ronin argue with each other about various things, including the meaning of the attack on Johnny, and the identity of the likely perpetrator. There's a surprisingly filthy and explicit sex scene between Zodiac and Death Reaper, followed by a stunning, brutal, and dramatic further attack on Johnny and his friends. Sue doesn't take it well. Our H.A.M.M.E.R. forensics operative is actually pretty close to figuring out what's really going on with these crimes, but Osborn isn't buying it and furthermore isn't even really interested. He thinks he's got everything under control and has a pretty good bead on things - until Galactus suddenly shows up!! Or does he? I like the shock on the clown's face when he wonders for a moment if Zodiac could possibly have even Galactus on his team. But that, and the giant robot attacking, is all just a diversion so Zodiac and friends can do something else, something which I can only imagine is even more horrific than what they've already done. Good times.

Still loving this series. Brilliant writing from Joe Casey, surprising and creative plot, and great art from Nathan Fox and colorist Jose Villarrubia.
Thumbs Up

Destroyer #5
It looks like Keene is finally going to go out of the world for good, but he manages to fight back even death itself, in the form of four skull-headed reapers. After wiping the floor with them, he says, "Don't bring four next time... bring ten." So bad-ass! In fact, he's done such a good job fighting back death, he seems to have made himself a little better. He's also succeeded in his other goal: bringing Turret back to the superhero life. But he's not Turret anymore: he's the new Destroyer. And a bad-ass Destroyer at that! His wife and the rest of his family are at peace with this decision, but they're still hoping the next generation won't be quite so good at fighting evil.

This is a strong, moving, warm, wryly funny conclusion to a truly fantastic miniseries.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #4
I'm a bit surprised the girl's still on the Human Flame's side after everything that's happened, but there you go. It's hilarious that Immortus has something called a Skelecopter. I already knew the Flame was really beyond the pale, but I was still slightly taken aback when he stabbed Miss Army Knife in the eyes with her own scissors. The rest of Immortus' army go out in equally gruesome and shocking ways. And then they all crash a monorail into an amusement park! It's horrific and awful... and totally fantastic. The ending is even better, as the Human Flame unwisely steps into a vault at S.T.A.R. labs, assuming it will contain something valuable and useful, only to find himself face to face with a terrible beast. "What the hell is that?" he asks. "That is a 26-dimensional hypergriffin," the title at the bottom of the page answers. Awesome. Can't wait till next issue! This series is so brilliant and hilarious and wrong.

In the back is a preview of the upcoming Magog miniseries that no one wanted. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't look very interesting. Also, I think they spelled the author's name wrong. I'm pretty sure it's "Keith" and not "Kieth."
Thumbs Up

Frankenstein's Womb
This rather odd black and white graphic novella, written by Warren Ellis for Apparat, opens in a vaguely similar way to the film Bride of Frankenstein. We meet Mary Wollestonecraft Godwin and her husband-to-be Percy Bysshe Shelley on their way to meet Lord Byron, accompanied by Mary's stepsister, Claire. Ellis' Shelley is a clever, sarcastic, funny, foul-mouthed bastard. During their journey, they come upon the supposedly haunted Castle Frankenstein and Mary decides she must go inside and take a quick look. Inside she has a very strange experience: she meets her own Creature, and he takes her on a tour, not just of the castle, but also of his life, her life, and the future that lies beyond both of their lives. The sense is that Mary's creation of Frankenstein, and Frankenstein's monster, is an act of destiny which brings about the birth of the future world. It's a bit corny and pretentious, frankly, but also eerie and touching and cleverly written. Some of the things Ellis is saying in here remind me very strongly of things Alan Moore says in From Hell. From Hell is definitely the better book, but this one is also interesting and effective in its own way.
Thumbs Sideways

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #1
At long last, Jason Aaron's new miniseries, which will supposedly bring his run on Ghost Rider to a big, fiery conclusion, has begun. The opening, which I'd read before as a preview in the back of another Marvel comic, is intriguing and well done. The idea of a breeding program to create the next Antichrist is always fun. I particularly enjoy the list of ideal parents for this enterprise: "prostitutes, sexual deviants, serial killers, psychopaths, cannibals, CEOs." The Daimon Hellstrom depicted here is quite a bit different, both visually and in terms of character, than the one I've seen recently in New Avengers and Marvel Divas, but he's also a fascinating guy. I also once again really enjoyed the scene where Johnny and the Caretaker raid the new age gift shop looking for answers. One of Zadkiel's men ends up being surprisingly talkative, and reveals some of the details of the angel's plans: wait to achieve omnipotence, then erase the Ghost Riders from existence, and thwart the biblical prophecies. The only thing standing between him and this goal is the Antichrist. Only the Antichrist can save the world from an evil angel! What a fantastic twist. And another funny sequence: when Johnny and the Caretaker check the places they think the most evil person on Earth would be most likely to go, and those places include Vegas, Hollywood, D.C., and Wall Street. Naturally the Antichrist turns out to be an investment banker going by the name Satan ("Actually, that's pronounced Shuh-tan. It's Czechoslovakian"). Ha! The ending is quite exciting: a trio of familiar Ghost Rider enemies team up to go after him again. It's hilarious seeing The Orb's medical chart ("massive eyeball trauma"), and The Orb with a giant band-aid on his eye. In other words, this is a fantastic start to what I hope will be an epic miniseries.

Helpfully, the backup feature in this miniseries is reprints of the much earlier miniseries that introduced the character of Daimon Hellstrom. I'm not too familiar with him, so I'm glad to get caught up on the background. The writing's not even that bad, either; it's a bit melodramatic, but okay.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #5
Every time I think the Plutonian has gone and done the most disturbing and creepy thing imaginable, he finds a way to one-up himself. This issue opens with him broadcasting to the entire world responses to things people have said about him in private. We get another intriguing flashback involving the Plutonian from a black superhero with electrical powers, who has a pretty funny backstory. But the really important and shocking stuff happens at the end of the comic. The Modeusbots claim to have located their originator, but in fact they've found the Plutonian himself, in his secret stronghold! What does this mean? Has the Plutonian gone crazy because he's somehow been infected or taken over by Modeus? And what important information has Bette Noir been hiding from everyone?

Man, I love this story! So creative, so intense, so thrilling, so disturbing! I can't wait to see where it's going to go next.
Thumbs Up

Muppet Robin Hood #3
This issue opens by finally introducing us to King Richard (it's the prawn guy!) and revealing the hilarious fact that King Richard and the Crusades is a band, and they're on tour in the Holy Lands. There's plenty more cleverness and hilarity, too. And the "mahna mahna" guy even makes a cameo as one of the other archers in the archery contest! Brilliant.
Thumbs Up

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #2
I already liked this from issue 1, but now it's getting really good. Eerie, atmospheric, full of intriguing mysteries and fantastic ideas. "You labor in service of angels," a spirit tells Edward, but, "do not be too quick to thank me for the news... Remember the fate of so many in that service." She also tells him to look out for Acheron. And then a giant demon comes in and starts eating people. It rules!!! Writing, art, color, story, characters - everything is top notch. Mignola has another winner here.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Alien Spotlight - Q
This reads quite a bit like a never-before-seen episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Q shows up again and decides to take over Picard's body, to show him that humans have it easy and he'll have no trouble at all doing Picard's job. But of course he has no end of trouble and eventually has to give in and let Picard take over. Q doesn't concede the point, of course, but he does admit that humans might be working harder than he thought. It's an okay issue with a cute premise, but kind of cheesy.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Wars: Dark Times - Blue Harvest #0
I actually already read this issue virtually on MySpace.com/DarkHorsePresents, but I enjoyed it so much I figured I might as well buy it and own a copy. Besides, there are also some neat sketches in the back. I think the fact that this book is coming out now means that this storyline is going to start back up again, so I'm looking forward to that.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #5
Batman - Alfred is doing his usual thing and using sarcastic comments to try to impart some good advice to Bruce. As usual Bruce is only half listening. He appears to be falling for the femme fatale. Big mistake!

Kamandi - More big, beautiful, epic art; exciting action; and a cliffhanger ending. Pure fun adventure comics.

Superman - It's pretty neat the way they integrate the present into the past here while telling Superman's origin story. I still kind of want more from this strip, but it's all right.

Deadman - Lovely art, exciting action - and could Deadman be dead... again??

Green Lantern - The Hal Jordan in this flashback seems like a bit of a hotheaded jerk. But then again, I guess Hal Jordan is a bit of a hotheaded jerk.

Metamorpho - This is definitely the weirdest episode in this strip so far. In a surreal turn of events, it turns out Mister Stagg has brought his entire cooking staff along with him on the dangerous adventure, and they nearly all fall victim to one of the temple's death traps, until the element people save the day (but ruin the dinner). Very goofy. Not sure how I feel about this strip. It's just so odd.

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

Strange Adventures - Pope's visuals are weird and beautiful as always, and the writing is fun, too. Great stuff.

Supergirl - Still lame.

Metal Men - Not much happens here; we just get a bit more backstory and learn a bit of the villain's motive. Just not a big fan of this strip. It's rather dull.

Wonder Woman - Repetitive, cluttered, and dumb.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - Still nothing happening in this one. I really want to like it, but it's so boring!!

Flash Comics & Iris West - Grodd seems to have done something big and horrifying with the space-time rifts the Flash has been unwittingly leaving behind every time he runs around, and our hero looks like he might be done for. Meanwhile, in the other strip, the other Flash is quitting the hero game to save his relationship with Iris. It looks like the Flash is dead two times over! How will he make it out of this one?? I can't wait to find out.

The Demon and Catwoman - More flowery language and rather neat fantasy ideas set up a big showdown between the Demon and the witch.

Hawkman - I have to admit, this one is definitely getting better. This is a pretty fun issue in which Hawkman does a crazy thing to try to save a plane, but doesn't quite make it. And the teaser text says, "Next week: it gets worse!" Awesome!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Destroyer (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Frankenstein (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Thursday, August 13, 2009 12:27 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 7/29. 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.

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #3
Our first tale is by Peter J. Tomasi with art by Chris Samnee and it's an interesting look back at when Kilowog was a rookie Lantern and had to fight his way through his own brutal training period with a drill instructor shouting in his ear. I have to admit it's not a particularly creative story, and it's quite predictable, but I still found it amusing, effective, and even rather moving. There were also some fascinating moments, like Kilowog's short conversation with Sinestro at the end.

Tomasi once again provides the words for the next story, but this time it's Mike Mayhew who does the (rather lovely and realistic) art. The tale is about Arisia and her proud but sad family tradition with the Lanterns. Once again, nothing really shocking and new here, but still a solid little story that's surprisingly effective. The last tale in the book is rather ridiculous: it's Blackest Night #0, this time reprinted with just the black and white pencils and no colors, and accompanied by extra narrative boxes full of "Director's Commentary." The problem is, Blackest Night #0 wasn't all that great the first time around, and there's very little interesting information contained in the commentary.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Reign: Lethal Legion #2
This issue reveals how Wonder Man got roped into joining the Lethal Legion, delves into the interesting and complex relationship he has with his brother, shows us more of the group's crazy plan to kidnap Osborn, and then hits us with a zinger of an ending. Wow! I was actually thinking about dropping this book after the rather bland first issue, but it's turning into a surprisingly good comic.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #2
This comic opens with what is definitely one of my favorite recap pages ever: it's done up as a page in Mac's spiral-bound notebook diary, surrounded with cute stickers and character portraits in little paper hearts. Meanwhile, the things it describes are absolutely horrific and awful. Brilliant! Inside, it quickly becomes clear that nobody really bought Mac's frame-up of the Mayor, but it was still plenty embarrassing and annoying for JJJ, and after all that was the goal. To create further embarrassment and chaos, Mac initiates a gang war, then picks up a bunch of hot triplets, who mistakenly and hilariously refer to him as Ant-Man (he doesn't mind). Meanwhile, the subplot with the crazy Redeemer guy gets a lot funnier and a lot more interesting as we learn more about the gang of crazy freaks he's brought together. General Wolfram's fake origin story is hilarious, and Doctor Everything turns out to be a brilliant parody of Doctor Manhattan (with his censored shlong hanging out and everything) who's never even met Spider-Man, and has just joined the group seeking human companionship. It amuses me that the gang who are out to get Spider-Man claim they really want to "save" him. And of course the irony of Spider-Man being chosen to help J. Jonah Jameson with the gang problem that Spider-Man himself started just to piss off JJJ is quite delicious. Yep, I'm loving this series, too! Still enjoying the silly letters column, even.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Young Avengers #3
Speaking of great recap page concepts, this series has a good one, too: it's a blog! Inside, we get to see the "Dark" Young Avengers getting tested for inclusion in the real Young Avengers. The test consists of each member of the former group teaming up with one member of the latter group to perform tasks like fighting helicopters and Hydra soldiers. The way Cornell jumps from one scene to the next, stringing the dialog together on the connecting phrase "an Avenger," is vaguely clever, but also kind of annoying. Coat of Arms' origin story is quite odd (maybe it'll be explained further later on?), but it's good to finally know the truth about the Enchantress. It's interesting how the one team of Avengers goes about grading the other team of Avengers, and how each team is affected by the other. Kate's conversation - the real one, and the one she wished she had - with the Executioner is enlightening and disturbing. I loved getting glimpses at a couple more of Coat of Arms clever, funny, postmodern art pieces. And of course it's intriguing learning that Osborn is keeping a close eye on this whole situation, and apparently expects something to come out of it soon that will be to his advantage. This is a really unique, thought-provoking series with some excellent dark comedy.
Thumbs Up

Ignition City #4
I already knew someone was going to say "Science will fuck you!" in this issue, because Warren Ellis tweeted about it before the comic hit the stands, but knowing it was coming, and seeing a mad scientist kick his door open holding a homemade laser, shout out that ridiculous and fantastic phrase, and then blow some crap up and scare off a couple of bad men, was really another thing entirely. An awesome thing. That character's dialog is wonderful throughout, actually. He may be my favorite person in this book so far, and there were already a number of great people here. He and Mary now both know the terrible, impossible secret that got Mary's Dad killed, but it remains a mystery to the reader. We also get an intriguing but mostly unilluminating glimpse at the post-apocalypse the guy from the future has seen. This is a good, exciting comic. It smells of science!
Thumbs Up

Kid Colt #1
This is a one-shot I picked up mostly on a whim. It tells in four chapters an adventure in the life of one of Marvel's old timey Western heroes: the titular Kid Colt. Rick Burchett's art is quite nice, and writer Tom DeFalco tells a reasonably engaging, classic Western story about a fantastically talented young gunslinger running from the law because he's been accused of a crime he didn't commit. Unfortunately, although it's unobjectionable, the story is also rather bland, predictable, and unimaginative. Certainly not terrible, but definitely a disappointment.
Thumbs Sideways

The Muppet Show: The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson #1
Yay, a new Muppet Show miniseries from Roger Langridge! As usual there's a lot of stuff going on, but the main plotline revolves around an old treasure map which Scooter finds while cleaning up a storage area, and which the rats take very seriously. There's a great subplot involving a tap-dancing ninja, and another one about Animal getting all straight-laced and boring. Kermit is acting equally oddly, but whereas Animal's condition is explained, Kermit's is not. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that's not really Kermit at all! At the end of this issue, Animal is tired and lost, and everyone signs a get well card for him. It's sweet and funny and even a little sad. It's the Muppets and I love it.
Thumbs Up

The New Avengers #55
We jump back in time to get a look at what happened to The Hood's gang at the conclusion of the big fight in New Avengers #50, then we get an amusing look at how the Avengers are really trashing Bucky Cap's place and it's kind of pissing him off. Frankly, I like Ronin's plan to just kill Osborn, and I think Spider-Man's being a little stuck-up and nitpicky about the whole thing. And wow, did the Avengers fall into that trap like a bunch of idiots or what? And wasn't that the exact same trap they tried to set for Osborn and his gang earlier? D'oh. All in all, a pretty decent story. Can't say I find the preview in the back for Vengeance of Moon Knight all that tantalizing, though. Don't think I'll be picking that one up. Moon Knight just doesn't do it for me.
Thumbs Up

Son of Hulk #13
This book is going off in a completely new and weird direction. It's now in the hands of a new creative team (Paul Jenkins writing, Andres Guinaldo drawing) and it's jumped back in time to follow the refugees who escaped the destruction of Sakaar. But if it's not about Skaar anymore, you might ask, then why is it still called Son of Hulk? Because it turns out the Jade Giant left yet another kid behind on Sakaar without knowing it. This one's a former slave named Hiro-Kala. (Hiro. Riiiight. Very subtle.) But how the heck did Hulk have another son?? Where did this kid come from? It doesn't even make any sense. And I am seriously sick and tired of all the back and forth about the stupid world-breaker/Sakaarson/life-bringer prophecy. I don't care anymore whether the prophecy's true or false, whether somebody just made it up or not, or whether this guy's going to break the world or that guy's going to save everyone. They've led us down too many different paths with this thing and dicked us around on it too many times. I've had enough. And Hiro's going to go after Galactus now, too? There's already another miniseries going on now about a guy going after Galactus (Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter), and it's much better written than this.

So yeah. Not really a fan of this issue. But the good news is that means I can now drop this book again.
Thumbs Down

Star Trek: Mission's End #5
I really love how this miniseries comes to a conclusion in this issue. Kirk swoops in and saves the day just like we knew he would, of course, but the other characters get to be heroes, too. Mr. Scott's cold, hard, calculating tactics against the Orion fleet are particularly bad-ass. And I really love how the spider king develops as a character, and makes a powerful, culture-changing choice for his people. The idea of the alien artifact turning into a doorway into another dimension that the spiders and crawlers all walk through is also really effective and intriguing. Then the Orion pirates are disposed of in satisfying fashion. In a cute and funny sequence, Kirk finally gets the girl... but then pushes her away to offer her a promotion instead. And hey, check out the dude in the first panel on page 17. That's Han Solo making his way off the Enterprise! Thanks to artist Stephen Molnar for that wonderful little cameo, and the excellent art throughout.

The final scene of the book is perhaps the best, however, as the old school Star Trek trinity - Kirk, Spock, and McCoy - have a revealing conversation which works as a fascinating examination of their relationship with each other, and of them as individual characters, and which believably and realistically explains why each of them ended up where they were at the start of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The events of this miniseries have led all of them to take a deep look inside themselves, and they've all come to some disturbing conclusions. Spock has realized he's still troubled by emotions and he needs to see if he can purge them once and for all; McCoy has realized that he's too old for this shit (especially if Kirk's not going to be in the Captain's chair to save his bacon anymore); and Kirk has realized that if the people higher up the chain of command are making poor decisions, he needs to get up there himself so he can make better ones.

This is a truly excellent series. Author Ty Templeton really understands these characters and what makes them tick, and brilliantly bridges the gap between the original TV series and the films. Highly recommended for any fan of old school Star Trek.
Thumbs Up

Toy Story: Mysterious Stranger #3
I was confused at first as to how this was going to hold together as a miniseries, given that each story so far has been a one-shot story-wise, but I'm realizing now that the title of the series is the recurring theme that runs through each episode, and in fact each story has a very similar plot: the toys encounter something new and strange, initially react to it with fear and paranoia, but then ultimately learn how to deal with it and sometimes even embrace it. In this case the new element they have to deal with is Andy's dog, and the fact that he's seen them walking and talking and thus knows their secret. This poses an interesting problem for the toys, but is ultimately resolved when they help the dog out and make friends with him. It's not clever, complex art or anything, but it's a fun enough little tale.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #4
Batman - It's been done before, but I enjoy the panel where Bruce's shadow takes on the shape of the Batman. And hey, Mrs. Glass is hot, and it looks like Bruce is about to score with her!

Kamandi - There's really just a couple quick moments of action in this one before it's all over, but man, Ryan Sook's art is just so beautiful, you've got to sit back and admire it for a while.

Superman - Clark's still back home in Smallville, trying to work through his sudden attack of ennui with the help of a corn dog! Things get a bit more interesting at the end of this episode, as he steps into the family barn and takes a peek at what I assume is the Kryptonian ship he crash landed in.

Deadman - This one's growing on me. It helps that this episode includes lots of action-packed demon fighting and big, dramatic art.

Green Lantern - Speaking of great art, check out Joe Quinones' great work in this strip. There's also some great further characterization of Hal Jordan and his buddy Dill via an amusing flashback. Gotta say I think Busiek's doing a much better job handling Jordan as a character here than Johns is doing in the current Green Lantern book.

Metamorpho - This episode we go back to normal comic book format (stuff happening sequentially in separate panels, instead of all at once in one giant panel) and the plot suddenly takes a leap forward - namely, we meet the Element Woman Urania Blackwell and learn that she'll be Rex's enemy and competitor in the search for the Star of Atlantis. Should be fun. But why does Metamorpho look so weird and creepy in the penultimate panel?

Teen Titans - Still sucks. It's too bad, too, because I really like the cartoon.

Strange Adventures - With Adam zapped back to Earth, we're now left to follow the adventures of his super hot, super bad-ass, punk rock girlfriend, Alanna-Sardath. She escapes the mandrill aliens on a giant greyhound! Needless to say, this is another awesome episode full of fun dialog; ridiculously lush, creative, and beautiful art; and exciting action.

Supergirl - Okay, the face-off between the cat and the evil-looking mouse illustration is funny. But mostly I still just don't care about this strip.

Metal Men - Now that a supervillain has suddenly revealed himself, this story has gotten a bit more interesting. And the dialog is kind of funny. But there's still something about it that's keeping me from really loving it. Not sure what. I guess I just don't care about these characters all that much.

Wonder Woman - Still cluttered and dumb.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - Finally something almost sort of happens! But yeah, I feel like I'm still waiting for the story to pick up and get going. It's so dull!

Iris West and The Flash - We get to see the straw that broke the camel's back as far as Iris and Barry's relationship was concerned, but then the two Flashes enact their plan to split up and woo Iris and defeat Grodd at the same time. The wooing part seems to be going all right, but the defeating Grodd, not so much. In fact, it looks like the Flash is caught in a kind of time loop there; he was actually defeated before he even got to Grodd. These two strips are ridiculously clever and fun.

The Demon and Catwoman - The Demon finally gets to really let loose with the cool, poetic language in this one. I like!

Hawkman - This has easily been the worst strip in Wednesday Comics throughout its run so far, but in this issue it gets totally crazy and epic and action-packed. We pull out to the planetary scale and the rest of the JLA starts to get dragged into the story. Then Hawkman finishes things up by beheading his enemy and delivering a ridiculous but oddly hilarious and bad-ass one-liner. Kyle Baker could save this strip yet!

Go, Wednesday Comics, go!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Hulk (Not), Muppets (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), Toy Story (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Saturday, July 4, 2009 12:26 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 6/24. 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.

Astonishing X-Men #30
I have to say, I came down mostly on Forge's side in the conflict described by this latest story arc. I mean, he makes a lot of good points. They do need to rebuild the mutant population. He did make mutants - maybe they're rather freakish, as Henry rather unkindly points out, but they are mutants nonetheless. It's an impressive feat. And there is indeed an invasion on the way from another universe, which Forge discovered and has been trying to prevent. So what is with the X-Men being all high and mighty and telling him he's crazy? It's pretty annoying. Especially when, at the end of the issue, they pretty much do what he wanted them to do anyway and shoot a laser through at the other universe, killing many potential invaders. So... what exactly was the point of all the fighting and stuff? I'm just confused. And I still feel pretty strongly that Simone Bianchi's art is just not a good fit for this title.

On the other hand, I do like the dark flavor of the ending of this comic, with the X-Men feeling quiet and guilty and unhappy, and with Storm now sadly convinced that sometimes killing really is necessary. And, this being Warren Ellis, there's lots of clever and funny dialog throughout. I enjoy Agent Brand and her relationship with Henry, and I like that she's able to somehow get a call through to Armor's cell phone in the middle of Forge's secret hideout - and that Armor has been using the phone to talk to people on Twitter, during the mission. When Brand reveals she's aware of everything that's been going on, and now has a very powerful laser aimed at the site, Scott is a bit upset: "I should have let Logan stab her that time." Heh. In the middle of a fight later he says, "This is taking too long. Wolverine, you're getting old." Then when the laser fires and the facility blows up, Wolverine says, "Damn. You know I don't like the woman, but I gotta say, her problem-solvin' skills amuse the crap outta me."

So Ellis' dialog-writing skills amuse the crap outta me. But I found this story kind of clumsy and unsatisfying. I'm hoping the next storyline will be better.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Avengers #6
I was right - dudes from the end of last issue were Atlanteans. So naturally Norman calls his little junta together and asks Namor WTF is going on. Namor defies him and it looks like there's going to be a big blow-up, but then Norman just walks away. Disappointing. But it's interesting to see the cabal falling apart like we always knew it would. Meanwhile, Norman's Avengers are kind of falling apart, too. Norman himself is running himself ragged. Ares and Captain Marvel are AWOL. The team members that do show up are disobedient. And even though the Sentry is still following Norman's orders, Norman makes a really bad decision in this issue and asks him to let the Void loose to kill off the Atlanteans. You're playing with fire there, Norman! A fire the size of a million exploding suns, even. And now the darkness inside Norman himself is starting to peek out again.

I guess I realized this before, but this issue underlines once again that Norman and the Sentry have quite a bit in common. Both of them have an evil personality locked inside them that wreaks havoc when it comes out. Of course, the Sentry's is a little more dangerous than Norman's, but still.

I go up and down on this series, but I definitely enjoyed this month's entry.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1
Marvel launches their Utopia crossover storyline with this one-shot. The story continues in alternating issues of Uncanny X-Men and Dark Avengers, and then comes to an end with another one-shot, this one with the rather intriguing title of Exodus. The over-arching story is about how the X-Men finally find themselves inescapably drawn into the whole Dark Reign thing, and how Norman finally finds it necessary to do something about the mutant problem - namely, putting together his own team of "Dark" X-Men. Everything explodes in this issue thanks to Simon Trask leading a humans-first march on San Francisco, demanding that mutant breeding be controlled. Predictably, their peaceful march turns into a violent riot. The best part is when Doom says, "Well, then, here's to things finally getting interesting," and Loki replies, "Indeed." Sending the Dark Avengers in only adds more violence, but eventually martial law is declared and the X-Men are taken into custody, with Professor X seemingly condoning the action - except the real Professor X is actually in a secret prison. Meanwhile, Emma's got a new black costume and is apparently happy to go along with whatever Norman's new plan is for mutants.

I came to this book as an ex-fan of author Matt Fraction. I only bought it because I wanted to see what happened. The writing here is only so-so, and Emma's sudden but inevitable betrayal is a bit of a disappointment, but the overall story is indeed intriguing, and Marc Silvestri's art is quite good. I might have to go back to collecting Uncanny X-Men for a while just to keep up with the plot.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Reign: Lethal Legion #1
This new miniseries has an intriguing premise: a group of villains who still hate Norman Osborn, and are pissed they didn't get cut in for as big a piece of the pie as they think they deserved when he took over, gang up to go against him. The actual comic itself is sadly not that interesting. A couple of things stood out for me: the cool way Norman's Iron Patriot armor jumps onto him while he's punching Tiger Shark, and the really interesting surprise on the final page, when the identity of the team's final member is revealed. I can't decide if I want to bother getting another issue of this or not.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #1
Brian Reed writes and Chris Bachalo draws a miniseries taking a look at the new Spider-Man: Mac Gargan, who used to go by the name Venom. Gargan is a true scumbag, through and through. But somehow he's managed to hide that fact enough to collect a lot of fans and groupies. If someone begins to suspect he's not the real Spider-Man, he just eats them. He likes the way things are going, but he's pissed at Osborn for yelling at him, and he still has a score to settle with Mayor J. Jonah Jameson. He sets his payback plan in motion at the end of this issue. Meanwhile, there's a dude going around calling himself The Redeemer who's pulled together a bunch of lame Spider-Man villains and is planning to go after Spider-Man with them. But which Spider-Man?

It seems a little unlikely to me that anyone could mistake Gargan for the real Spider-Man, or that it could somehow have gotten past people that there are two Spider-Men wandering the city at the moment, one in a black costume and one in the classic red and blue. But I guess it would be hard to keep up with the vagaries of the superheroes if you were just a regular person trying to live your life on Earth-616. The Redeemer, meanwhile, seems like a pretty lame villain whose motives are clouded and confusing, and whose influence over these other second string villains is a little hard to understand. Maybe that'll come together as the series goes on. I'm just not sure I'll be there to see it. I was hoping this comic would be more fun and interesting than it is. But there wasn't much here to excite me. Sure, Bachalo's art is unique and impressive. His figure work is great, the panel design is fascinating, and the way he uses stark black and white sometimes, almost like a photo negative, is interesting, even if it's also a bit puzzling and distracting.

I don't know, I might get one more issue. The Sinister Spider-Mail column in the back is kind of funny. And I would like to see J. Jonah Jameson get embroiled in a horrible scandal.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Reign: Zodiac #1
Like Lethal Legion, this is another miniseries about a group of villains who team up to go after Osborn, but unlike Lethal Legion, this one is really well written (by Joe Casey), really beautifully drawn (by Nathan Fox, with colors by Jose Villarrubia), and really intriguing. It's also really stunningly violent! After I read the first couple pages, I checked the cover to see if this was part of Marvel's MAX line of explicit content comics, but nope, it's just a regular Marvel comic that happens to be loaded with brutal torture and bloody murder. It's a little disconcerting. But what makes it really good is the smart dialog and the fascinating characters. The title character, Zodiac, is a new villain on the scene who puts together a team because he loves the lawless, anarchic supervillain lifestyle, and hates that Osborn is trying to push everybody around and tell them how to act. Zodiac is intelligent and twisted, and he has a hot girlfriend covered in tattoos named Death Reaper. And I love that he recruits a sarcastic, filthy old clown villain who's seen it all; that guy's also a great character with some great dialog. He remembers a team of villains named Zodiac, based on the astrological signs, but the new Zodiac says he wanted to make sure the name was free to use, so he shows up with a bag full of all their heads. Great scene! I also really enjoy getting a look inside the day-to-day life of H.A.M.M.E.R. officers, and I love that the forensics guy explains his going outside to barf in his report as going exterior momentarily to confer with colleagues. It's also quite brilliant that Zodiac's inside man is Norman's pissed off chauffeur. When Norman tells him, "Driver, a little less bumpy on the landing, yes...?" he thinks, "Dick." I'm worried I'm supposed to recognize Zodiac when he takes his hood off at the end, but maybe not; maybe the surprise is just that he's so young. Anyway, it's great having a title centered on a villain who's really actually smart and competent, and who has a whole ethos behind his villainy. It helps that Fox's art is fantastic, full of wonderful details, and with a strong, Paul Pope kind of look to it. Villarrubia does a beautiful job on the colors, too. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the rest of this series. A really pleasant surprise.
Thumbs Up

Detective Comics #854
This issue marks a big change in direction for this title, as it sees Batwoman taking over the role of central character. I was curious to see where they were going to go with it, and to learn more about Batwoman, whom I'm completely unfamiliar with, so I picked up a copy despite the fact that it's written by Greg Rucka, whose work I generally dislike. I can't say he really changed my mind with this comic. It focuses on the whole religion of crime thing which Rucka made up for an earlier miniseries, and which I didn't like then. The new leader of the group calls herself Alice and speaks only in lines from Lewis Carroll's stories. Yawn. I mean, it's just kind of a dull story. Batwoman beats up punks to get information, then eventually meets the villain. That's all that happens. Yeah, there are some "character building" personal scenes where Batwoman talks to her Dad, deals with past trauma, and loses her girlfriend. But they're poorly written. J.H. Williams III's art is absolutely amazingly beautiful, especially with the addition of Dave Stewart's colors, which are perfect as always. Batwoman's breasts are maybe a little ridiculous sometimes, but otherwise his figure work is lovely and his panel and page design are incredible. And I love the idea of a sexy, tattooed, redheaded, lesbian Batwoman. It's also pretty funny when Batman gives her advice: "Do something about your hair. One pull, the fight's over for you." But overall, I'm just not sure there's anything here interesting enough for me to want to keep reading.

The series has an ongoing backup story focusing on the Question. But I'm really not a big fan of the new Question, and even though this story includes a Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference, it's otherwise even more dull and boring than the main story. Disappointing.
Thumbs Sideways

Fringe #6
The final issue of this miniseries reveals that all the stories we've been reading so far about Walter Bishop's youth are stories he's telling a mysterious interrogator at the insane asylum. The interrogator wants to know something specific, about the night the Observer saved Walter and Peter after the car crash, but Walter won't tell him. It's interesting reading this episode from Walter's life in the asylum - we get to see him interact with Dashiell, put together a rather clever escape attempt, sing his little song about the lion tamer, and finally be saved by Olivia (the comic ends about where the TV series began). It's also interesting that someone was already trying to extract some kind of essential bit of information about Walter's past when he was still in the asylum. I'm sure that bit of information is still at the center of what's going on in the TV series. I think the earlier issues of this series were the best, but overall it still turned out to be a far more interesting supplement to the show than I thought it would be.

In the back of the book is a preview for North 40 #1, a Lovecraftian horror tale about a pair of teens who read a mysterious tome, thus allowing a bunch of monsters to take over the town. Actually, the comic is apparently not really about that; it's about what happens afterwards. The art looks kind of cool, and the story is interesting (especially the Lovecraftian elements, of course), but the writing leaves a bit to be desired. The preview included here is almost all exposition. There's definitely nothing here that convinces me I need to read this series.
Thumbs Up

Gotham City Sirens #1
I'm not a huge fan of Paul Dini, but I do generally enjoy his stories about Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, and that's exactly what this is, so here I am. Also sharing the spotlight with Harley and Ivy is Catwoman. The opening of this issue has some pretty poorly written exposition filling us in on the rather surprising and unlikely backstory that Catwoman had her heart ripped out of her chest by Hush, but then somebody put her heart back in and she got better. Okay then. I'm curious to know what that's all about, but I hate Hush with a flaming passion, so I don't intend to look into it too closely. Anyway, Catwoman's still having a hard time getting back into the groove of being a super... whatever she is, and nearly gets herself taken out by a green young villain fanboy. Luckily Ivy's got her back. They have a pretty funny, gossipy kind of conversation while Ivy's vines beat the crap out of the punk. It's also quite funny that Ivy is living at the Riddler's house, not because he really wants her there, but because she has him totally under her control with her drugs and poisons. As usual, Ivy has given away all her recently acquired cash to various charities involving plants, and Harley has wasted hers on frivolous shopping and rather foolish investments with Nigerian princes ("You got his e-mail, too?!"). Because Dini is a bit of a lecherous old bastard, and because he takes any excuse he can to put Zatanna in anything, he includes a completely gratuitous scene of Zatanna in a nightgown getting dunked in her bathtub repeatedly by Ivy. Sigh. I do really enjoy the way Dini writes Harley, though. And the scene where Nigma snaps out of it and takes out all his frustrations on the fanboy villain is really pretty fantastic. "You're going to kick my ass, aren't you?" "Oh my goodness, yes." I also really love that there's a guy called The Broker who specializes in selling lairs to supervillains. He sells Catwoman an abandoned animal shelter, and tries to sell a deserted storybook park to the Mad Hatter: "River view, numerous emergency exits, and, best of all, just down the street from an all-girls academy." Ha! I also like the exciting final twist, when the girls pin down Catwoman, drug her, and ask her who Batman is. That oughta be interesting!

So yeah, there are some corny bits, but overall I really enjoyed this comic, which means I'm afraid I'm going to have to buy at least one more issue of it.
Thumbs Up

Green Lantern #42
The longest prelude of all time continues! Turns out the arm-tearing from the end of last issue was just a trick of the blue ring. For a brief moment, Hal Jordan grabs hold of the Orange Lantern, and nearly falls under its control ("You could really go for a hamburger right now. Couldn't you? Two hamburgers!" OK, I like hamburgers and all, but an object of cosmic power that could theoretically alter the universe, and all it can think to offer him is hamburgers?? Is it the Lantern or Jordan that lacks imagination?). In another rather stupid moment, Hal finally gets the blue ring to work by telling it he hopes it'll stop asking him what he hopes for. Lame. The interesting thing is, he somehow gets a glimpse of the future, and the blue ring immediately flies off his hand. Does that mean he saw a bit of what's coming in the Blackest Night and lost all hope? It's not entirely clear. Anyway, the Guardians make another nasty deal with Larfleeze - they tell him where the home of the Blue Lanterns is. That's cold, man. The epilogue is pretty neat; the guy who can hear the dead is now deaf to the living, because the dead were so loud they ruptured his ear drums. He and his buddy find the corpse of the Anti-Monitor thanks to the voices of the dead - but it turns out the dead aren't friendly anymore. Those guys are probably gonna get eaten by zombies now. Another interesting moment: dude asks his ring where they are, and it tells him the location is classified. Why classified? Is that the result of another nasty little deal the Guardians made? Hmm.

The art in this issue is by Philip Tan and Eddy Barrows. I'm not sure who did what, but one of them I don't think I like very much, as some of the figure work in here is pretty poor.

I continue to be of two minds about this series. I'm intrigued by the story, but generally annoyed by the rather mediocre writing. I guess I'm sticking with it for now. One day this prelude's gonna be over!
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredible Hercules #130
Heh. This time the recap page is done up as a travel brochure for hell. Nice. Sadly, the story itself is not all that clever or exciting. I mean, putting God on trial for his crimes against humanity has been done. It's kind of an interesting idea, but it's really hard to do well without getting melodramatic and pseudo-philosophical, and this book get a little of both. Plus, the way they split up Herc and Cho and send Cho off to Elysium just feels really contrived. And if the waters of the River Lethe induce instant and permanent amnesia, how come Cho's able to splash the water at some monsters with his bare hands without being affected by it himself? I do enjoy Pak's usual silly, highly descriptive sound effects ("PAPAKRAK" and "PAPASOK" when Hercules' papa punches him), and the idea of Hercules facing off against his own mortal shade is kind interesting, even if I saw it coming from miles away. But overall what I'm seeing in this issue is the kind of mediocrity that led me to drop this book in the first place. So maybe it's time to drop it again.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredibles #3
Aww, Violet's got a boyfriend. That's nice. I loved getting a little peek at Mr. Incredible's Rogue's Gallery. It's pretty funny seeing him doing housework and sighing with regret that he can't be with his teammates while they fight monsters at the mall. And it's pretty exciting when he figures out the mystery of why he's been losing his powers. The full explanation hasn't been revealed to us yet, so I remain curious and look forward to next issue. But it involves a surprising betrayal by the neighbors. One detail I found odd: why are Violet, Dash, and Helen just walking into the front door of their house with their Incredibles costumes on?! It looks like it's late at night at that point, so there's a better than average chance they won't be seen, but still! Shouldn't they be more careful about keeping their secret identities secret?
Thumbs Up

The Literals #3
The Great Fables Crossover finally comes to an end with the last issue of the Literals miniseries. (At least, I think this is the last issue of The Literals - unless it's going to continue as an ongoing now?) It's a thrilling conclusion; the world is literally only a few letters away from being destroyed when an unlikely person manages to save them all. But they don't have a permanent solution to the problem of Kevin Thorn - until Deus Ex Machina shows up and provides... well, a deus ex machina ending! Usually such endings are bad, but this one is so cleverly done, and makes such wonderful sense, it's hard not to love it. Plus, they've set things up now so they have a whole new universe to play around in if they want to. And I'm glad to see Gary's still kicking around, even if he might no longer have his powers. It's not the greatest comic ever, but it's a fun enough conclusion to a well done crossover series.
Thumbs Up

The New Avengers #54
The new Sorcerer Supreme gets crowned, as it were; the Avengers all team up and take shots at Dormammu; the wizards all team up to imprison and exorcise Dormammu; all kinds of cool, flashy magic gets done; Hellstrom points out that if Dormammu can come through to Earth via a cloak, the boundaries between things are breaking, the end of days is coming, and Brother Voodoo better be ready for the fight of his life (Spider-Man's response: "You... should write greeting cards. Really."); Parker Robbins ends up stripped of all his power, but offered a second chance by Loki (and an offer from Loki is never a good thing); and Hawkeye decides they have to kill Norman Osborn. Good comic!! Seriously, this is pretty fantastic stuff. It upsets me that my opinions of comic book authors end up being so variable, but in this book, at least, Brian Michael Bendis did a good job.
Thumbs Up

Predator #1
Military dudes in East Africa get killed by Predators. That's all this comic is about. It's a little... dull. It would be more interesting if the characters had personalities, but they're all pretty generic; a hard-ass military guy and a sarcastic, amoral mercenary who don't get along with each other very well. I'll get at least one more issue to see if it starts to go somewhere, but I'm pretty disappointed so far.
Thumbs Sideways

Rapture #2
I gave this series two issues to grab me, but now I'm done with it. It's a bit too melodramatic, the dialog's a bit too clumsy (I appreciate the Terminator reference, but it's shoehorned in there a bit; and what the hell is with the guy named Old Man? That's just weird), and I'm just kind of tired of the whiny, emo characters and the incredibly depressing post-apocalyptic story.
Thumbs Down

Skaar: Son of Hulk #12
Time for the big showdown between father and son! Which the other characters would be fine with, if it weren't for the fact that it was happening next to a nuclear power plant. Whoops! Naturally the fight ends up stopping so they can keep the plant from exploding. Which is slightly lame, but okay. What is interesting is the discovery that Hulk has apparently retreated into his dumb Hulk personality to avoid the pain of remembering everything that happened during Planet Hulk and World War Hulk. Skaar is disappointed by this and decides he doesn't want to kill Hulk until Hulk remembers all the things he's done. As he's walking away he says, "This is my planet, now." Oh really?? I'll be fascinated to see how that works out for him.

So yeah, bit of an anti-climax on the big fight, and it's kind of a lame, overdone Hulk story cliche that they stop fighting each other to save innocent people being killed from the consequences of their fight. Then there's an epilogue where it's revealed that Galactus is now roaming the universe eating any planet that has any Old Power in it, because those are particularly tasty. The Silver Surfer is trying to warn all the people of said planets so they have time to prepare. He also, interestingly enough, bids them honor Caiera for trying to sacrifice herself and her world to save the universe, and curse Skaar for ruining her final gesture by reawakening Galactus. A rather powerful final sequence sees Skaar turning back into his humanoid child-self and cursing his own reflection.

The issue's a bit uneven, but overall pretty interesting and moving. Meanwhile, apparently big changes are on the way for this title! Next issue promises to have a new writer, a new artist, and a new direction. Guess I'll have to tune in for that. Unless the new writer is Jeph Loeb. That I won't tolerate.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Mission's End #4
Hooray for smart, old school Star Trek comics! This series is so good. I like the tough choices the ambassador is left with while Kirk is out of commission, and how she wrestles with them, and with her secret attraction to Kirk. I like that with Kirk out of the way, Spock recommends the ambassador make the harsh, logical choices, but as soon as Kirk is up and moving again, he's content to follow his friend's illogical lead. I like that Uhura is brilliant and traced an untraceable signal. I like that Sulu is a bad-ass and beats the crap out of the pirate mole. I like that Dr. McCoy is his old irascible, eminently peaceful and ethical self. I like that Lieutenant Arex makes a cameo. I just like this comic.
Thumbs Up

Dark Wolverine #75
This series goes off in a new direction in this issue, as Wolverine's son Daken, now recast as "Wolverine" by Norman Osborn, takes over as the book's main character. To signify this, the book gets "Dark" added on the front of its title, but keeps the original numbering. Although I had to read it out of curiosity, I was almost certain I would hate this book. I mean "Dark Wolverine?" C'mon. Wolverine's already dark! That's the whole point of the character! Furthermore, what little I've read of Daken I haven't liked, and what little I've read by Daniel Way I haven't liked. Plus, the whole numbering thing annoys me from an organizational perspective. I mean, do I file Dark Wolverine under "W" with my Wolverine comics, or do I file it under "D" for "Dark?" I went with the former idea when Incredible Hercules took over Incredible Hulk's numbering, and continued to file Herc with Hulk, with the understanding that eventually the title would change back to Hulk. But instead, Incredible Hulk is now coming back with new legacy numbering, and Hercules is going to continue using Incredible Hulk's old numbering. It's all going to hell.

But anyway. The point is, I was already predisposed to dislike this comic. But it defeated my expectations right away with a clever and darkly funny opening scene, wherein Osborn stabs Daken where it hurts by telling him, "You are Wolverine. But more importantly, you're my Wolverine." Daken stabs him right back by responding to the question, "Do you know what a hero is?" with, "You mean... like Spider-Man?" Heh. Right away I found out that Daken's a lot smarter than I thought. He knows how to manipulate people very well. And he's taken the trouble to weasel out the strengths and weaknesses of all his teammates and his boss, so he can manipulate them all even more effectively. There's a great scene in the conference room where he's gotten Venom all riled up and it looks like there's going to be a fight, but the Sentry completely defuses the situation by calmly and quietly saying, "Stop." Nobody effs with the Sentry! That's followed up by another great scene where all of Daken's rage over having to live in his hated father's shadow is perfectly summed up in two pages, where he shatters the glass case the Wolverine costume is in. His reflection and that of the woman he's just taken to bed are spread across the broken glass as she says, "I can't believe I slept with Wolverine," and he responds by telling her to get out. "I have to get dressed." At a party later, it becomes deadly clear why he earlier manipulated Bullseye into impaling him with a bolt - so he could catch the killer in a clever trap. Nice! I'm really looking forward to seeing where this goes next. It's good stuff.

There's a handy backup story called "Dark Wolverine Saga" that's just narration written from the perspective of the real Wolverine, telling us the backstory of Daken, accompanied by reprint illustrations. It's not the best writing ever, but it's not terrible, and I certainly needed the refresher course.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine: Weapon X #3
This series started off with a lot of promise, but is now disappointing me a little. Sure, the guys with the laser claws and the guns that shoot cancer are still here, but Wolverine's fight with them is edited down to a couple of quick panels of action, and mostly described in exposition. Some of the exposition is darkly funny, but I kind of wanted to see more of the actual fight. Meanwhile, Maverick comes back into the story in rather spectacular fashion, but the reporter subplot seems to hit a dead end when her expose article ends up being completely ineffective. Even Wolverine's clever plan fails, and we're left with the bad guys pretty much winning the day. Maybe that's what left a sour taste in my mouth, more than anything else. Regardless, it's still a pretty good story with some cool ideas, so I'll be back for next month's issue.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Fables (Not), Fringe (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hulk (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Sunday, May 24, 2009 11:48 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

Once again, I've fallen dreadfully behind on my comics. And even with this gigantic anthology of reviews of books from previous weeks, I'm still not entirely caught up! I have yet to even start reading the books from this past week, and I've still got a trade paperback I need to finish that I picked up in Rehoboth weeks ago. But we'll see, maybe I can do a marathon reading and reviewing session one of these nights and get myself back on track.

This post covers new releases from 4/29, 5/2 (Free Comic Book Day), 5/6, and 5/13, plus back issues from FCBD, another back issue picked up on a recommendation, and a trade paperback I got in Rehoboth.

Back issues and old data
Aliens: Harvest
I picked up this Dark Horse trade paperback collection during my customary trip to the Book Trader in Rehoboth partly because Free Comic Book Day the previous weekend had seen the launch of Dark Horse's new Aliens series and I wanted to see what the old stuff was like; partly because I just like the Aliens franchise in general; partly because the introduction and the first few pages were pretty interesting; and partly because it was just really cheap. A lot went into my purchasing decision! Anyways, turns out it was a good decision, because this is a very neat book. It's apparently the follow-up to another story arc by the same creative team called Aliens: Hive, but luckily I didn't feel like I was missing anything for having not read that first. This story is about Dr. Stan Myakovsky, a scientist who has recently learned that he will soon die from cancer. The only thing that can relieve his symptoms and extend his life is the royal jelly of the Alien queen. It turns out the jelly is a highly sought-after psychedelic drug that has different effects on different people; for Myakovsky it slows down time to an endless moment in which he can move back over his memories and experience them again in perfect clarity (which is not only a really cool idea, it's also a really handy and clever plot device for inserting flashbacks into the story). But of course the jelly is hard to get and very expensive.

Myakovsky is approached by a beautiful young woman named Julian who's read his book Cyberantics, which tells of the adventures of an artificial ant that Myakovsky built and used to infiltrate an ant hive in order to study the creatures. She suggests he build an artificial Alien to infiltrate an Alien hive (the location of which she happens to know) and collect the jelly from the source. He'll get the drug he needs, and they'll both get rich. Can the crazy scheme somehow work?

Of course not! But seeing how it goes horribly awry is the fun part. Jerry Prosser's story is well written, with imaginative concepts, creative plot twists, fascinating and complex characters, and smart dialog. Kelley Jones' art is a little warped and abstract at times, and Les Dorscheid makes some odd color choices, but overall the visuals are quite effective as well. The opening chase sequence, with its surprise ending, followed by the surreal vision of an alien speaking polite English and playing fetch with a dog, is really fantastic. I also like the shocking attack on the crew by the synthetic Alien; the discovery of another harvesting team with their own method for entering the hive; the way the synthetic Alien's infiltration of the Alien hive is accompanied by narration of the synthetic ant's infiltration of the ant hive; our heroes' desperate run through the hive with the bracelets that make them invisible to the Aliens, but only for a limited time; Myakovsky's reprogramming of the android; Myakovsky's (and the Aliens'!) clever plan to defeat the other harvesting team; and finally, the eerie, tragic, brutal conclusion. Overall a really great book and a strong addition to the Aliens fictional universe. I think I might have to seek out Hive, as well.
Thumbs Up

Destroyer #1
The week this comic originally came out, I saw it on the shelves, but passed it by. I wasn't familiar with the character, the author (Robert Kirkman), or the artist (Cory Walker), and that adds up to a "don't buy" in my book. (Even if I am familiar with, and enjoy the work of, the colorist: the supremely talented Val Staples.) But later I read a recommendation of the book online (I think from Duane Swierczynski?) which described it in terms that made it sound like it was right up my alley, so I ended up picking up #2 when it came out, and fishing in the stacks for #1. I was not disappointed. The very first giant panel features our title character punching his fist all the way through a dude's face and out the other side of his head. He then proceeds to brutally murder the rest of a whole commando unit of high tech terrorists before jumping right down into ground zero of a gigantic explosion. The explosion leaves him unharmed, but does burn his clothes off, and that's when we see, to our surprise, that he's a very average-looking old man.

Some research revealed that Destroyer is an old hero from the Golden Age - another super soldier, like Captain America - and Kirkman decided to write this miniseries as if Destroyer had just been plugging away all these years, fighting bad guys and getting older, and Kirkman was just picking up the story in medias res. Destroyer has a family - a wife, a kid, and a grandkid. They know about his other life, but when he's with them he just acts like any other grandfather. And then the next page he'll be back tearing supervillains apart with his bare hands. It's a surreal and jarring juxtaposition, and makes for a really fascinating and darkly funny story. The premise of the miniseries is simple: Destroyer's body is finally breaking down after all the punishment he's put it through over the years. He knows this, but rather than take it as a sign to slow down, he's decided to use what time he has left to take out, once and for all, any and all villains who might pose a threat to his family after he's gone. The story is fast-paced and engaging, the characters deep and interesting, the art realistic and beautiful, the writing clever and funny, the action brutal and exciting. In other words, it's great comics. I'm so pleased.
Thumbs Up

Magneto #4
Free Comic Book Day isn't just a day for the various comic book publishers to try to hook new readers on their various offerings. It's also a day for the comic shop owners to try to offload their overstock of crappy old books on unsuspecting customers! Which is how I ended up with this book, from February 1997. The plot is by Peter Milligan, the script by Jorge Gonzalez, and the pencils by Kelley Jones. The story has to do with some mutant named Joseph claiming to be Magneto, and trying to use his power and influence to take over a group of reject mutants called the Acolytes. To tell you the truth, I couldn't even get through the whole thing. It's seriously awful. It's horribly overwritten, with tons of overloaded word and thought bubbles. The dialog is melodramatic and clumsy, the characters are two dimensional, and the story is a bunch of contrived nonsense. 'Nuff said!
Thumbs Down

The Uncanny X-Men #156
Like Magneto #4, this is another old book my comic shop was just trying to get rid of on FCBD. It's from April, 1982. There's no full list of credits, but it looks like Chris Claremont wrote it. It picks up in the middle of a storyline in which Deathbird has just attacked and seemingly killed Colossus. He and most of the rest of the X-Men are whisked into space by the Starjammers, who get to work healing Colossus, and chasing Deathbird. Meanwhile, Kitty, Nighcrawler, Xavier, and Lilandra are all prisoners of Deathbird. By the end, everybody's free and back where they belong, but the Earth is still in danger.

Like most Claremont books, it's got way too many words in it; when one word will do, he uses ten. There's exposition galore, and plenty of melodrama, too. All that being said, the story is relatively interesting, the art's pretty good, and there's some fun action. A particularly well done sequence has the X-Men and the Starjammers racing against time to save Storm when she's swept out into space. It's not a great comic, but it has its moments. And it also has one of those hilarious Hostess fruit pie ads! Awesome.
Thumbs Sideways

X-Men #1
I picked this up at FCBD only to realize later that it was the same old '90s book I'd already bought for cheap in Rehoboth a couple years ago. I disliked it then, so I didn't bother reading it again now. You can check out the original review here.

New releases from 4/29
Battle for the Cowl: Underground #1
This is a one-shot tie-in to DC's current event storyline - the one about everybody fighting over who gets to be the new Batman. Oddly, it takes the form of a crime noir detective story with Edward Nigma as the detective. Nigma's assignment, brought to him by the Penguin, is to find the Black Mask. He ends up picking up a bevy of femmes fatale along the way, including Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman. Catwoman is struggling with her new place in Gotham's power structure - trying to do the right thing - the thing Bruce would have wanted her to do - but thrown off balance by all the ghosts that seem to be haunting her, like the Black Mask, and a new, deadly Batman. It's a pretty good story, by Chris Yost, with pretty excellent, cinematic art by Pablo Raimondi (although I was a little thrown off by his decision to draw the Penguin as Danny DeVito's Penguin from Batman Returns). The weird thing is, it doesn't come to any kind of conclusion. Even though it's a one-shot, it feels like the start of a miniseries, a miniseries that would focus on Catwoman and her internal/external struggles, and on the Riddler and his crime noir-style detective story. I'd totally read that miniseries. But I guess it doesn't exist. Maybe they're going to pick up this storyline in some other Battle for the Cowl one-shot or tie-in? I don't know. It's all very confusing.
Thumbs Up

Captain America: Theater of War - A Brother in Arms #1
This is just another of a series of Cap one-shots set during WWII. I almost didn't get it, but I'm glad I did. It's quite good. Interestingly enough, as Cap himself points out in the opening narration, this is not really a Captain America story; it's a story about soldiers and war that happens to guest star Captain America. It has tense, exciting action, but also some very smart dialog and a thoughtful and deeply moving story. The plot and the moral are perhaps a bit cliche as far as WWII stories go, but it's still an effective comic.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers #4
The fight between Morgana and Doctor Doom ends with Doom throwing Morgana back to the time of the dinosaurs. Which is apparently less destructive to Doom's timeline than actually killing her. Although how it is, or why she can't simply time travel back and attack him again whenever, is totally unclear. Once you give a character almost limitless power, it's hard to explain how she can be defeated, and as far as I'm concerned, Bendis completely fails to explain that here. There's also still no explanation for why the scene that began this story arc ended in a completely different way in this book than it did in Bendis' other Avengers book. Is there still yet another bit of time travel that hasn't been shown yet that will reconcile the different timelines? Or is this book happening in a different reality than the other book? I don't know, and frankly at this point I barely care. The only thing keeping me buying this comic is that I want to know how the overarching storyline turns out. And I love Mike Deodato's art.

One more important event that takes place: the Sentry comes back to life. This also is presented with no explanation. I guess he just sort of puts himself back together somehow? Or he reemerges in this universe because he has to exist to balance out the Void? Or something? I don't know. But the final page is kind of cool, with the almost limitlessly powerful and indestructible Sentry just floating there staring Osborn down, and Osborn staring back at him in fear and dismay, sweating heavily.

I'm really not a fan of Bendis' writing anymore, and the fact that this book seems to be plotted in a clumsy, haphazard way, with many of its events left completely unexplained, is really pushing me past the breaking point. The question is, can I make myself stop buying it? Guess we'll see next month!
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Reign: The Cabal #1
This is an anthology one-shot, collecting a series of short stories, each about one of the members of Osborn's Cabal. First up is Jonathan Hickman on Doom: "...And I'll Get the Land." Adi Granov provides the (impressive) art. It starts out back at the end of Osborn's first meeting with the Cabal, with that rather irritating final exchange between Namor and Doom where it was clear they had their own little deal and Namor was following Doom's lead. Then it jumps forward a year, and we see Doom triumph over everyone - he's even got Loki and Emma in slinky costumes chained to his throne! Yowza. But then it turns out it's all just a dream! Or rather, it's all just Doom's vision of the future. Lame. Just lame.

Next is Matt Fraction on Emma Frost: "How I Survived Apocalyptic Fire." Daniel Acuna provides the art, which is again impressive. The story is not particularly impressive, though. It's just a look back at Emma's life, narrated by her, describing how she survived her various hardships and what her motives are now. Boring and not particularly subtle. The most interesting moment is the reveal of how she got her costume: she stole it from an adult video store! That explains a lot.

The story about the Hood is "Family Trust" with script by Rick Remender and art by Max Fiumara. I already knew I wasn't a fan of Remender's work, and he reminds me why here: terrible, over-the-top, melodramatic writing with no subtlety whatsoever. I don't even like Jeff Eckleberry's lettering!

Namor's story is "The Judgment of Namor" by Kiron Gillen with art by Carmine Di Giandomenico. In this one, Namor has to make a ruling on a family matter: whether the mother or the father should have custody of an adolescent child who happens to have mutated and gained super powers. Namor decides neither are worthy and takes the kid on as his ward, with plans to send him off to the X-Men for training. It's not a great story, and Namor's last line is really corny, but overall it's okay, and Di Giandomenico's art is pretty decent.

The best story in the book is easily the last one, "Dinner with Doom," starring Loki. It's written by Peter Milligan with art by Tonci Zonjic. It does indeed feature Loki having dinner with Doctor Doom, and opens with Doom putting Loki through a series of brutal and hilarious tests to make sure she's really who she says she is. She takes it all very calmly. Then they come to an interesting agreement: Doom will host the Asgardians in Latveria, and in return Loki will help him acquire the one thing he lacks. What that thing is remains a mystery. But it's a fun, entertaining, intriguing story with good art and clever dialog.
Thumbs Sideways

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4
Final Crisis itself ended months ago, I'm already reading miniseries about its aftermath, and still this tie-in miniseries is chugging along! This is, however, the penultimate issue, so it is finally almost done. All kinds of crazy epic fights and ridiculous science fiction stuff goes down here. More characters die, more get resurrected, and the true identity of the Time Trapper is revealed. It's pretty confusing, frankly! But also rather exciting and action-packed. I'll be sticking around for the last issue.
Thumbs Up

Fringe #4
In the main story, our heroes Walter and Peter get the blueprints for a mysterious machine from the military, so they build it and accidentally turn it on, getting thrown back in time to WWII Germany!! There they meet Bishop's father, who's a Nazi!! It's pretty crazy, exciting, intriguing stuff. The only thing that confuses me is that I thought they already built the teleporter, and that the teleporter was a combination space/time machine that did the same thing? Also, I thought that when you came through on the other end, you'd be horribly messed up, like Jones was in the TV show? I don't know.

The backup story is a pretty fantastic little tale called "Space Cowboy" about an experimental drug being tried out on astronauts. The drug makes people essentially super human, but there are some... unfortunate side effects. The end of the story is very darkly funny. Corrupt, cold-blooded government scientists FTW! This book continues to be surprisingly excellent. I'm very pleased.

In the back of the book is a preview for Killapalooza #1. This is a series I was curious about, about a rock band that is also secretly a group of super-powered assassins. I'm glad I was able to read this preview for free, however, as it convinced me not to buy the comic. The writing is awful and there's not a likable character in the whole bunch.
Thumbs Up

Green Lantern #40
Oh boy, yet another prelude to Blackest Night! Sigh. Things open up this time with another new law being written into the Book of Oa: the Vega system is no longer outside of the Green Lantern Corps' jurisdiction. So in they go, and the showdown with Larfleeze, AKA Agent Orange, begins. We finally get a better idea how his power works: he can kill and consume other creatures and then replicate them to fight for him. It's an interesting idea, but I'm getting tired of Geoff Johns' writing. He has great story ideas, but the actual dialog is often quite bad. Hal Jordan's narration - of which there is unfortunately quite a lot in this issue - is particularly disappointing. He's just not a very interesting or likable character the way Johns writes him. He's whiny and annoying.

There's a backup story here from what will apparently be a series of "Tales of the Orange Lanterns." It's also written by Johns, with art by Rafael Albuquerque, and it's called "Weed Killer." It tells the story of how a cute, hungry little monster called Glomulus got absorbed and replicated by Agent Orange. It's reasonably entertaining. Glomulus is a likable little monster, and seeing Agent Orange swimming around in his giant mound of rings, like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his treasure horde, is an amusing image.
Thumbs Sideways

The Literals #1
The third part of "The Great Fables Crossover" is the first issue of a new Fables-related series, this one focusing on the characters who are the embodiments of literary concepts. Kevin Thorn is having writer's block while attempting to rewrite reality and decides to call in some of the major genres to help him brainstorm. That doesn't seem to be helping, so he brings in some idea men instead: namely, the Fables Old Sam and Hansel. Oddly, Kevin is constantly accompanied by a drooling maniac in a straightjacket who looks quite a bit like him. The maniac never speaks, and no one ever mentions him, but he's always there in the corner. It's very curious, and I'm not sure what it means, apart from the obvious fact that Kevin is crazy. (Maybe the maniac is a representation of writer's block?)

Meanwhile, Bigby and friends arrive at Kevin's old place to pick up his trail, only to spring a booby trap. Luckily, they all escape uninjured, but Kevin becomes aware of their actions and uses his reality changing powers to work a rather odd and unexpected transformation on Bigby. Meanwhile, Jack Frost is still wandering about looking for his Dad.

The story here is intriguing and fun; I particularly like the crazy, creative, metaphorical stuff that's always happening around Kevin. There's also a full page sequence at the Dino Diner - consisting entirely of one of the Fables ordering lunch for the other Fables - which is surprisingly entertaining. And Mark Buckingham's art is quite excellent. Looks like I have a new series to collect.
Thumbs Up

The Muppet Show #2
On this episode of The Muppet Show, Fozzie's set of cheese-related jokes fails miserably with a crowd from the cheese manufacturers' convention. He loses confidence in himself and tries multiple times to rewrite his set from the ground up. But eventually it turns out that just a small adjustment is all that's necessary. In between scenes of the major plot are various minor sketches including a scene with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker! So far I can't say I love this comic, but it's mildly entertaining, it has a great nostalgic feel to it, and the art is quite nice. I'll probably stick with it for now.
Thumbs Up

Sherlock Holmes #1
This is the start of a new miniseries about the famous detective from Dynamite Entertainment entitled "The Trial of Sherlock Holmes." It's written by Leah Moore and John Reppion with art by Aaron Campbell, and John Cassaday did the cover. We open with a bombing, possibly related to the arrival of a foreign politician in England. Then a famous old British politician named Sir Henry, already unwell, gets a letter telling him he'll be murdered at a certain time on a certain date, and if he tries to escape his fate, bombs will go off across London. So he resolves to be in his house, but requests the presence of Sherlock Holmes. When the appointed hour arrives, Holmes is alone with Sir Henry in his locked bedroom. A gun shot is heard, and when everyone rushes in, the politician is dead and Holmes is standing there with a smoking gun. It seems pretty open and shut, so he's taken to jail! But we all know there's more to it than that. Obviously Holmes was framed, and I suspect that Sir Henry, since he was dying anyway, might have set it all up himself for some reason. But then how do the terrorist bombings fit in? Is that just something that happened to be going on and Sir Henry used it to add believability to his threat? Hmm...

Anyway, I love Holmes, and I love a good mystery, so I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.
Thumbs Up

War Machine #5
War Machine has to face off against a gang of Ultimo-infected people led by the God of War himself! And he only has minutes before his body craps out on him for good, so he has to act fast. He conceives a desperate plan and executes it. There's lots of crazy fast-paced action, some flashbacks that build character, and somehow it all works out for the best. Ares calls War Machine his champion, a title Rhodey doesn't care for, but which Ares insists is accurate. Osborn is pleased with how everything turned out, so he offers Rhodes and each of his friends what the thing they desire most. In Rhodes' case, that's a fresh, new body - the one Osborn's people stole from the secret facility where it was being made by Stark's people. In former S.H.I.E.L.D. member Jake Oh's case, it's a mint-in-box 1976 Bicentennial edition Captain America action figure. Heh. Anyway, Rhodes says no to Osborn and insists there's still plenty of work left to do, and now he has a team to help him do it. There's even a final page where they all get to pose together with guns, ready to start their next adventure. It's all a little corny. Pak tells a reasonably interesting story and Leonardo Manco illustrates it well, but... I'm not sure I care enough about the characters to stick around. I mean, Jake Oh just got shoehorned in here to have an extra guy on the team; we haven't learned a damn thing about him, and his personality is totally generic. Everybody else has a crazy melodramatic background. And Pak has let me down before in the past. So I don't know. Now that this first story arc is done, I'm really not sure I want to commit to reading the next one.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases from Free Comic Book Day
Aliens/Predator
Dark Horse did some pretty well received comic book adaptations of the Alien and Predator franchises some years ago (see above for my review of one!), and this two-in one comic marks the company's return to the series. John Arcudi, whose work I've enjoyed on B.P.R.D., writes both stories with art by Zach Howard on the Aliens story and Javier Saltares on the Predator story. The Aliens story uses the plot device of a cultural biologist writing an article on how his field has been transformed by the arrival of the xenomorphs to give us a quick summary of what's happened so far in the Aliens universe. But Arcudi manages to make the story more than just a bland exposition dump by telling it with an interesting voice and and from an interesting angle, and by using some clever trickery to make us feel like a xenomorph attack is imminent.

The Predator story is far more action-packed with far less exposition, instead focusing on a sniper who's preparing to take out a target when he's suddenly targeted himself by a Predator. But the Predator is then himself targeted in turn by other Predators. Intriguing! I'll definitely be picking up the first issues of both these series when they hit the stands for real in the coming weeks.
Thumbs Up

Archie Presents The Mighty Archie Art Players #1
I can't say for sure, but I don't think I'd ever read an Archie comic until I read this one. And now that I've read this one, I don't think I'll read another one. It's not that it's bad; in fact it occasionally made me chuckle. But it's just so bland and inoffensive and dated. It consists of a series of parodies, of High Noon, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, and Antony and Cleopatra. Every story is pretty much the same: our heroes get into a series of wacky hijinks, there are some bad puns and other silliness, and then the bad guys get punished and the good guys live happily ever after. Yawn.
Thumbs Sideways

Atomic Robo
This book was put out by Red 5 Comics, a company I'm not really familiar with. Besides the eponymous story, it also includes "Drone" and "We Kill Monsters." "Atomic Robo" is actually pretty funny. It consists of the title character having a brutal fight with his nemesis, Dr. Dinosaur, while also sparring with him verbally over how Dr. Dinosaur's origin story is completely ridiculous and impossible. I don't think I liked the story quite well enough to start trying to collect the series, but I definitely enjoyed it.

"Drone" is one of those all too frequent cases of a cool idea poorly executed. It's about a bunch of teens, one of whom has figured out how to hack into the live audio/video feed of a team of high tech war robots. He says he could even hack into it further and wrest control of the robots away from the soldiers who are remotely piloting them. The teens watch as the robots attack some terrorists, and then we cut away and get a brief introduction to said terrorists. The art is pretty clumsy and lame, and the dialog, especially that of the terrorists, is really quite poorly written. I definitely won't be seeking that one out.

"We Kill Monsters" is about a couple of mechanic brothers who kill a monster and decide to drag it home. But then they get attacked by yet another monster, and one of them begins to experience some odd side effects of the first attack. Again, a cute concept, with the potential for some amusing stories, but not particularly well written. I can't say I'm very impressed by Red 5 Comics.
Thumbs Sideways

Attack of the Alterna Zombies!
This is a black and white collection, in a smaller, thicker format from your average comic, put out by another company I'm not familiar with: Alterna Comics. Apparently Alterna Comics' major books are Jesus Hates Zombies and Lincoln Hates Werewolves, which are about pretty much what you'd figure they'd be about. The first story in this book features Jesus and Abraham Lincoln teaming up to fight zombies. Then they take some 'shrooms and meet weird zombie-like versions of all the rest of Alterna's roster of characters. This sounds a lot more awesome than it actually is. It felt like there were a lot of inside jokes in here I wasn't getting, and the jokes I did get weren't very funny. The next story is just a bunch of aliens killing each other. Pretty dull. The story after that is a painfully melodramatic thing about a lonely young alien who's the last of his kind now that his mother has died. After that is "Mr. Scootles," about two teens who find an old film in the school library starring a forgotten animated film star. We don't even get to see any of the movie; there's just a whole lot of really bad narration where they talk about the cartoon as if it's important and interesting, even though it isn't. Then it looks like the thing is going to turn into some kind of Cool World/Roger Rabbit type thing where the cartoon crawls out into the real world. Yack.

Next is a surreal, confusing tale about a mysterious dude in a mysterious dystopic city. That might sound interesting, but in fact it's dull. The story after that is actually the worst one in the book, which is really saying something. It's called "The Chair," and it's about some guy on death row who didn't commit the crime he was convicted of. It's just really poorly written narration of him whining about how crappy his life is, accompanied by drawings that look like they were done by an especially untalented 12-year-old. It's awful. Next up are Jesus Hates Zombies and Lincoln Hates Werewolves stories which feature Jesus killing zombies and Lincoln killing werewolves. Yep, pretty much. The last two stories are yet another zombie-related tale called "Risers," which has a vaguely interesting premise and some vaguely interesting art, but didn't end up wowing me, and finally "Morbid Myths," which is a really, really, really bad Twilight Zone rip-off. Seriously, it's really bad.

This was definitely the worst book I got at Free Comic Book Day. Why I read the whole thing, I'm really not sure. Anyway, at least now I know to avoid anything put out by Alterna Comics.
Thumbs Down

The Avengers
Hey, it's an Avengers story by Brian Michael Bendis! That never happens! Oh, wait... Anyway, this one is actually pretty good, even if it does have plenty of that uniquely irritating Bendis-style narration and dialog (his Spider-Man is particularly egregious, and unfortunately he happens to be the main character and narrator of this story). It's an interesting tale about Ymir the Frost Giant showing up and nearly destroying everything, until the rebel Avengers and the Dark Avengers team up to help Ares acquire the Twilight Sword, a magical weapon that's the only thing that can stop Ymir, and that can only be wielded by a God. They're triumphant, but then it looks like there's going to be another big fight between the different Avengers teams, until Thor slides up in there and puts his thing down. The story's a bit simplistic, but also intriguing, fun, and action packed, and Jim Cheung's art is quite excellent.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #0
Hey, what do you know! It's another prelude to Blackest Night! Some day this story is actually going to start!

This prelude opens with Hal Jordan contemplating Final Crisis over the grave of Batman. Barry Allen joins him and they talk about death and resurrection for a while: Batman's death, their deaths, etc. Then finally the Black Lantern (AKA the Black Hand) shows up, says his rhyme, and starts bringing people back to life. It's good to see things get moving, but it's hard sitting through Hal Jordan's lame and lengthy narration, and the conversation between him and Barry that ends up really just being a contrived plot device to take a look back at death and resurrection in the DC Universe. But Johns still has me hooked, for the story alone. I need to know what happens!

The back of the book has a series of profiles of the various Lantern Corps, which are actually kind of neat, as they give details on the history, powers, weaknesses, and other abilities of each Corps. The profile of the Indigo Tribe is both especially intriguing and especially irritating, as it contains almost no real information; everything is listed as "unknown."

Overall not a great book, but certainly a fascinating glimpse at what's to come.
Thumbs Sideways

Cartoon Palooza #2
Ape Entertainment is a company I've actually purchased books from before, but I'm unfamiliar with all of the comics represented in this issue. First up is R.P.M. (Rapid Performance Machines), which reads like a bad tie-in comic for a cartoon and toy line, except I don't think the cartoon or the toys exist. It's about secret agents who compete in extreme racing competitions with high performance vehicles that secretly transform into giant robot battle suits. Their mission is to "uncover ancient alien technology before the evil organization Scorpion beats them to the prize!" It sounds like a concept dreamed up by an 8-year-old, and it reads like it was written by one, too. Not so good.

Next is Go-Go Gorilla and the Jungle Crew, which is a pretty basic superhero book where all the heroes and villains are anthropomorphised animals. Kind of silly, nothing special. The only decent story in the book, really, is White Picket Fences, a cute, well-drawn comic about a bunch of regular kids who meet some aliens and then play baseball with them. After that comes Femme Noir (silly, poorly rendered pulp/noir about a sexy detective investigating paranormal crimes), Ursula Wilde (a half-way interesting action/sci-fi tale about a team of secret agents fighting monsters and mad science), and Elders of the Rune Stone (a really melodramatic, horribly written, blandly generic story about a team of teen superheroes). If it weren't for the one good story, and the couple of stories that weren't all bad, this one definitely would have gotten a Thumbs Down.
Thumbs Sideways

Comics Festival!
Most of the FCBD specials from indie publishers are chock full of really poorly done rip-offs of stuff the major publishers do much better. But this book is quite different. The stories in here are clever, funny, unique, and creative. Even when they're not all that good, they're at least original. The book was published by Legion of Evil Press for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and what the stories have in common is that they're all done by Canadians who appeared at the festival (which took place a week after FCBD).

One of my favorites is "Moon Pie," a magical, wonderfully nonsensical fantasy adventure about a pirate and a bunch of kids and animals who do magical stuff to help their friends and fight evil. There's also a number of short, weird, comic strip-style pieces in here that don't seem to be part of any on-going story, or involve any recurring characters. "To Do List" is a cute story about a young girl who's a superhero, but who's also careful to make time for the little things. "Ella & Squid" is an extremely simple and even rather corny little story with the moral written across it in big cursive type, but it's so sweet and warm and lovable that it's impossible to dislike it, especially since it's about the (completely innocent) friendship between a woman, a little boy, and a squid. "Ojingogo" is a really unique, one-page piece done in a kind of wrap-around, tapestry format that you have to turn the book on its side to read. It's quite neat. Then there's an Angora Napkin story featuring a hamster with tentacles; a strip about a crow brutally murdering some pancakes; a totally cute one-pager about an octopus who gets the ability to breathe air and swim through the air for a day and uses it to go bike riding, play speed chess, and get ice cream for everybody; a funny bit about a really pathetic superhero team called the Go Friends; a four panel comic about making Blackbeard break down and cry using kittens; and an amusing back cover story about Monster Cops. It's pretty wonderful stuff!
Thumbs Up

Cyber Force/Hunter Killer: First Look
This is Top Cow's FCBD book, and it's basically a prelude to the company's upcoming Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer crossover. It's written by Mark Waid with impressive art by Kenneth Rocafort, and the story basically just sets up the inevitable confrontation between the two teams. No doubt they'll fight for a while, then decide they're on the same side and team up to take down somebody else. Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer sounded vaguely familiar to me, and the team members looked vaguely familiar, too, but the character profiles in the back of this book didn't really ring any bells. Maybe I just paged through a couple of old books in the '90s? I don't know. Anyway, although the art is good, and the story is vaguely intriguing, the profiles are really pretty poorly written, and the characters sound pretty generic and melodramatic. I don't plan to start collecting.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Horse Comics: Free Comic Book Day
The Aliens/Predator book wasn't Dark Horse's only contribution to FCBD; they also put out this sampler book which includes stories from Usagi Yojimbo, Emily the Strange, Beanworld, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I already knew I wasn't a huge fan of Usagi Yojimbo, and this story pretty much confirmed that opinion; it's a really standard, formulaic ghost story. The Emily the Strange and Beanworld stories are just weird and pointless. The Indiana Jones story is lame, with a weak plot, poor characterization of Indy, and cartoony art. The Clone Wars story, on the other hand, is just like one of the better episodes of the TV series. It features Jedi Master Kit Fisto overcoming difficult odds with the help of a sharpshooting clone named Cooker, some clever strategy, and some bad-ass lightsaber work. It's quite awesome. So, mostly duds in this book, but the one success saves it from being a complete loss.
Thumbs Up

DC Kids Mega Sampler #1
This book is exactly what it says it is: a sampler of all of DC's children's titles. Represented are Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam (a title I gave up on pretty quickly; the story included here is just a rather dull plot summary of everything that's come before), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (a comic based on the new cartoon; this rather clever and entertaining, if also formulaic, story features the new Blue Beetle teaming with Batman - and gamers around the world - to defeat a villain who's set himself up inside a World of Warcraft-style video game), Tiny Titans (even tinier, younger versions of the Teen Titans; I love the cute, simple art in this handful of short, comic stories, but sadly the writing is not at all funny or interesting, even for an all ages title), and Super Friends (the Super Friends don't even get a story in this book, just a couple of lame kids' puzzles). So, cute stuff and lame stuff in pretty equal measure, and nothing here convinces me I should be collecting any of these books.
Thumbs Sideways

IDW
IDW's sampler includes one Transformers Animated story, one G.I. Joe story, and one G.I. Joe: Origins story. The Transformers story is just okay. It features a "young" Optimus Prime fighting Megatron, and has an entirely unsurprising and unoriginal twist ending. Still, it's vaguely interesting to see Optimus in his youth, and doing well for himself even then.

The G.I. Joe stories are actually kind of cool. The first one (by Chuck Dixon) sees the team taking out some arms dealers and stumbling across the work of Cobra for the first time. The second one (by Larry Hama) reveals how the man code-named Duke was inducted into G.I. Joe. The latter story is particularly interesting because it gives you a peek into Duke's past, and into the Joe's recruiting methods, and portrays Duke's superiors as not particularly friendly or trustworthy. I still don't think I'm going to rush out and start collecting G.I. Joe comics, but these were pretty good.
Thumbs Up

Love and Capes #10
This is a vaguely realistic comedy/drama/romance in the form of a superhero comic. It's from Maerkle Press and focuses on a Superman-style hero called The Crusader (secret identity: Mark) and his relationship with a normal young woman named Abby. Abby wants to better understand Mark, and so gets a magician friend to throw together a potion to give her his powers temporarily. And she does come to understand him better, to both her joy and her sorrow. It's actually a pretty interesting story, and relatively effective, but the art is kind of lame, and the writing lacks subtlety. It's not a bad book, but it's not a great book, either.
Thumbs Sideways

Radical
I tried out the first issues of Radical's first two titles when the company launched last year and I wasn't impressed. Nothing in this sampler changed my mind. And really, there's not much here. It's mostly just art and short plot summaries from some of their upcoming titles, which include: an Aladdin adaptation; a new Hercules miniseries; something with the ridiculous title Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency; another book that takes old fairy tales and reimagines them as "dark" and "extreme" (c'mon, people, that is so lame and overdone); and some ridiculously dark horror comic with apparently only one thing going for it: it was written and illustrated by the son of Gene Simmons. Admittedly some of the art in here is pretty impressive, and there are a few stories that intrigue me. The Last Days of American Crime is a near-future story in which the American government is about to broadcast a signal that will make it impossible for anyone to knowingly commit a crime. Before the broadcast, a group of criminals try to make what will literally be the last big score. The problem with this story is that it was created and written by Rick Remender, whose work I've never been a big fan of. The other title in here that interested me is Alice Hotwire, Detective Exorcist. But all it has going for it is that it's based on a story by Warren Ellis. It's actually written and illustrated by some other guy I've never heard of. And that title is pretty dumb.

So, a predictably weak showing from Radical.
Thumbs Down

Resurrection
This book from Oni Press contains an introductory story to an upcoming ongoing series from the company called Resurrection, and a Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen backup story. The main story is actually kind of intriguing. It's about an alien invasion that nearly destroys the Earth. Then the aliens just disappear. One man who lived through it all knows secrets about the aliens and about what happened to them that the authorities don't want to get out. Like I said, neat premise, but the art and writing are not all that exciting. I think I'll stay away.

The Tek Jansen story is a very silly sci-fi parody about a rather stupid, bumbling secret agent of questionable morals, and the organization of even more questionable morals for which he works. In this particular tale his mission is to infiltrate an alien society and try to manipulate it to bring an end to racism. He actually succeeds, but too well. The conclusion is quite clever and darkly funny.
Thumbs Sideways

Savage Dragon
I read a Savage Dragon comic a long time ago, and I don't remember much about it except that I didn't like it. But this one was free, and I've actually heard some good things about the series, so I picked it up. Turns out, I still don't like it! The comic opens with three pages of illustrated backstory, catching us up on everything that's ever happened to Savage Dragon. Then it drops into a story wherein our hero teams up with Daredevil - not the Marvel Daredevil, but the old school Daredevil. The character is now in the public domain, so everybody is dragging him out and using him again. In this tale, Daredevil and his gang of scruffy kid sidekicks help Dragon find his own kids, who've been kidnapped by an old foe. Despite the lengthy prologue that caught us up with Dragon's backstory, author and artist Erik Larsen felt it necessary for Daredevil and Dragon to have a lengthy conversation repeating all of that information in awkward expository outbursts. While they're not doing that, they're saying other awkward, melodramatic things, and then occasionally beating up bad guys and moving the plot along. What I'm trying to say is, the writing is terrible.
Thumbs Down

Shonen Jump Special
It's a read right-to-left manga special! Sadly, the only thing in it is a zero issue prologue to an upcoming collaboration between Stan Lee and manga artist Hiroyuki Takei called Karakuridoji Ultimo. It's about a mad scientist (who looks suspiciously like Stan Lee) who creates twin robots, each embodying opposing Noh forces, and sets them to awaken many years hence to battle each other at the end of the world, apparently because he thinks it'll be funny. Sadly, it's not. It's just really lame.
Thumbs Down

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the birth of TMNT, here's a new TMNT comic by creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman! Uh, except that it's not. It's just a reprint of the original black and white first issue. This kind of disappointed me, but at the same time, it was fun to go back and read the original comic. I feel like TMNT is one of those things, like Penny Arcade's cardboard tube samurai and, to a lesser extent, The Goon, that's a silly, ridiculous, one-off concept that for whatever reason became really popular, so its creators tried to turn it into something serious and dramatic. But it's inherently a silly idea, so trying to turn it into something serious doesn't ever quite work. That being said, I still really enjoy TMNT and The Goon. I just feel a little weird and vaguely embarrassed about it sometimes.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine
Hey, what's this other book from Marvel? It's about Wolverine?! I never would have expected that!

But I kid Marvel. This particular Wolverine story tells the tale of the first mission he performed for the Canadian Department H, the secret division in charge of superhumans. They drop him into a town that's been taken over by some kind of weird metallic, robotic menace. Thanks to the reading he's been doing on the human brain, he's able to figure out what's going on and end the crisis. It's a pretty silly and contrived story, written for an all ages audience, and drawn in a clean, kid-friendly, cartoony kind of style. Which is just disturbing. I mean, this is Wolverine! He's not kid-friendly! Still, the story has its fun moments, and it's not all bad.
Thumbs Sideways

The World of Cars: The Rookie
Boom!'s contribution to FCBD is mostly an advertisement for the company's new line of kids' comics. I'm not sure if the main story is a prelude to the new Cars miniseries, or a preview of the first issue, but anyway it takes the form of an interview with main character Lightning McQueen on how he got his first big break. McQueen tells the story one way in the narration, while we see what really happened in the panels. Basically what we learn is that McQueen is a stupid jerk. Cars is one of the few Pixar movies I've never seen, so I hadn't planned to pick up this series, especially since I've heard bad things about the film. Now I know for sure I won't be collecting this one.

Also in the book is a preview of the first issue of Boom!'s Incredibles series (which I already own), and a one-page ad for the Muppet Show series, which I'm also collecting.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases from 5/6
Angel: Blood and Trenches #3
This issue jumps back in time to show us how Colonel Wyndam-Pryce got involved in this business, and how he's been tracking Angel's movements all along. We go back through some of the events we've already seen and see them again, this time from the Colonel's perspective. Then we finally take a step forward in time, and see Angel returning to the base. Only this time, unfortunately, he's been followed by Kakistos. And the requisite shocking reveal on the final page is actually pretty shocking!

I'm a little puzzled as to what happened to Angel between the events of last issue and the events of this issue. The last time we saw him, he was with Kakistos pretending to be Angelus and it looked like he was about to be found out. But in this issue, all of the sudden he's back and unharmed. Maybe they'll fill us in on how he escaped next issue. Anyway, this story is still a lot of fun. I really enjoy Wyndam-Pryce and his men; they're very funny and rather bad-ass in that wonderfully British way. And just in general I like John Byrne's writing and art. I'm looking forward to the conclusion of this series.
Thumbs Up

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #25
This story, by Doug Petrie, finally wraps up the arc about Dawn, her uncomfortable transformations, and her relationship with the thricewise. It's a good story, exciting and fun, with some strong moments of character development and a satisfying conclusion. Plus, Petrie does a great job on the Whedonesque dialog, with the silliness and the pop culture references. I like that Buffy gets to wear a Wolverine glove, that the little guy from The Yellow Submarine gets a cameo, and that Dawn borrowed Buffy's Veronica Mars DVD. Also, Dawn is naked for a few panels, and that's hot. The creepy living toys thing comes out of left field a little, but whatever.
Thumbs Up

Daredevil Noir #2
I really love Tomm Coker's art in this book. It's quite lovely. There are also some cool story moments here, like the sexy scene where Matt feels Eliza's face, and the drama over Matt discovering for certain (it seems) who killed his father. It's not as good as the first issue, because not all that much actually happens, but it is good and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Thumbs Up

Destroyer #2
Woo hoo! Destroyer! Damn, I love this series. Cory Walker's art is fantastic, as are Val Staples colors, and Kirkman's writing is quite good. But what makes it really great are the characters, specifically the title character. I love how this unassuming-looking old white man can strike such fear in people and do so much damage. In the opening scene he's attending the funeral for his brother (the man he killed at the end of the last issue!) and gets a huge black man named Bruiser to start sweating and freaking out just by walking over to him and asking him a few questions. Anyway, it seems Destroyer is looking for the big bad guy: a villain named Scar. Scar has disappeared, and everyone warns Destroyer to just leave well enough alone and don't go poking around looking for him, but Destroyer wants all his enemies accounted for, and this one in particular put down for good.

I absolutely adore the gigantic two-page spread title page image of the tiny Destoyer leaping out of a helicopter onto a huge monster that's destroying the city. And I love that this is all that we see of that fight; right after this page, we cut to Destroyer describing the fight to his son-in-law after the fact, as they hit golf balls at a driving range. Then Destroyer identifies another of his enemies and, in a hilariously dark sequence, takes him out with cold-blooded cunning. A quieter scene afterward with his wife reveals the complexities of his relationship with her. She knows she'll always come second to his work. Then Scar makes his move and Destroyer teams up with his son-in-law, who comes out of superhero retirement to help him.

This is just fantastic, fantastic stuff. Looking back through this issue again made me realize how excellent it really is. The writing, the story, the characters, the art: all top notch. Funny, smart, subtle, twisted, creative. If you're not reading this series, you should be!
Thumbs Up

Fin Fang 4 Return #1
This was truly a great week for comics, but out of all the great books that came out, this might be the one I enjoyed the most. It's a one-shot anthology book that brings back four of Marvel's old monster characters, sticks them in a modern setting, and lets the hijinks ensue. All the stories are written by Scott Gray and drawn by Roger Langridge. The first story, "Shrink Rap," essentially sets up the premise of the book. Doc Samson is sent in by Reed Richards to meet with the four monsters Fin Fang Foom (an ancient, arrogant dragon), Googam (a tiny would-be dictator), Elektro (a robot who just wants love), and Gorgilla (a big gorilla monster who just wants bananas) to determine if they're psychologically ready for life as honest citizens. Fin Fang Foom doesn't show up at first, so Samson asks each of the three others what they want out of life and we get hilarious glimpses at their secret fantasies. Then Fin Fang Foom barges in with his lawyer and tries to stop the proceedings, but instead it just turns into a big fight. Next up is a Fin Fang Foom story: "The Bald Truth." Here we learn that FFF has had to become a chef in a Chinese restaurant to make a living. The final page, which includes a brief survey of the bald characters of the Marvel Universe all looking depressed, is truly hilarious. And that's followed by the possibly even more hilarious "Curious Gorgilla and The Man in the Stovepipe Hat," which, if you haven't guessed already, is a spot-on parody of Curious George that happens to also be a fantastic adventure involving time travel and Abraham Lincoln. Googam's story, "Little Orphan Angry," is up next. He's working as a parking attendant when he meets a rich and famous actress, clearly meant to be Angelina Jolie, who's known for adopting exotic orphans. Googam manages to trick her into adopting him, as well, and gets a taste of the good life (despite the actress' hard-ass Latverian nanny) before it all falls apart on him. Another brilliant and clever satire, and I love the Latveria references. "Jailhouse Crock" cleverly and hilariously turns the satire around and points it at the Marvel Universe itself. In this story, the robotic Elektro is mistaken for the current Marvel villain named Electro and thrown into prison with all the other failed Spider-Man villains. It's only when he finally gets frustrated, snaps, and leads a prison riot that his girlfriend (Reed Richards' receptionist robot) recognizes him on TV and sorts out the mistake.

All these stories are just great, so full of clever and funny references to the Marvel U and wonderful satire of pop culture in general. But the best of all just might be the last one, "How Fin Fang Foom Saved Christmas." I mean, just look at that title! You know that's going to be comedy gold. It's about Dr. Strange's manservant, Wong, running into his hero, Fin Fang Foom, on the street just as Hydra attacks the city with a giant killer Santa robot. Wong assumes FFF will jump into action to stop them, and is disappointed at first when it seems as if that's not going to happen, and that he will have to fight alone. But FFF eventually has a change of heart and helps out. It's heartwarming, funny, and exciting, all at once!

The only thing I don't like about this book is that it's a one-shot. I could read stories like this forever. I demand a Fin Fang 4 ongoing series!
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #1
I thought I was going to avoid all the Final Crisis: Aftermath books, but instead I've been suckered into buying almost every one so far. This one grabbed me thanks to its amusing premise: the two-bit villain the Human Flame wakes up in a hospital immediately after the events of Final Crisis and realizes that everyone must hate him now - the villains for betraying them to Libra, and the heroes for taking part in the Martian Manhunter's murder. His only choice is to run for it. But before he can do that, he's got to get some cash. That means making one last big score before he gets out of town. And you know how well that always goes. Indeed, things go predictably and horrifically awry, leading to him making many more enemies and getting lots of people killed, maimed, and scarred for life. As if that weren't enough, he then proceeds to screw over his ex-wife and daughter - again - just so he can get his hands on a spare suit and a car. When it finally it looks like he's home free, some of his more recent poor decisions start to catch up with him.

Author Matthew Sturges and artist Freddie Williams II do a great job of showing us what a hideous, slimy bastard the Human Flame is. The very first time we see him, he's presented to us covered in greasy sweat and unsightly body hair, slugging a young nurse in the face just for showing concern for him. And he only gets worse from there! This is the story of a despicable bastard trying to get away from the consequences of his own poor decisions, only to get caught up in the consequences of even more poor decisions. Reading it will make you feel dirty, but it's also pretty brilliant and loaded with devilish dark comedy. I mean, crashing the children's party with a gun, leaving his dead friend in the ball pit, and then lighting a poor innocent guy in a sheep costume on fire? Wow! I think I'm going to have to read the rest of this series.
Thumbs Up

The Flash: Rebirth #2
I'm still not enjoying Geoff Johns' dialog in this series, and I can't say I find Barry Allen all that interesting a character, either, but dialog and character have never been Johns' strong points. What the man does well is tell stories, and he's doing it well again here. I like the way he shows us how fast Barry Allen is, even when he's just talking to somebody. We get an interesting glimpse into his past, where we see how he first met Iris, and the personal case he was investigating that kept him late in the office that fateful night when the lightning bolt struck. Back in the present, he and Wally go to investigate the dead body of the Black Flash. I was just thinking it was really hard to tell Wally and Barry apart, what with them wearing the same costume and all, when something happens that helpfully alters Barry's costume! It also explains a lot of the weird things that have been happening to him lately, and what's been happening to the speedsters he touches. Wow! I was having some doubts about this series until I got to that ending, but now I'm really excited to keep reading. What a great idea, a great twist to the story, and a fascinating transformation of the character.
Thumbs Up

The Human Torch Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
It's time for another one of these 70th Anniversary one-shot specials, this one focusing on the original Human Torch, a character I have a special fascination with, for one reason or another. The first story is a brand new tale set just nine months after Jim Hammond's "birth," and sees him struggling to understand who he is in the world, and what it means to be human. He rises to sudden fame, only to just as quickly fall into infamy, and then become a beloved hero yet again. The story ends up being an interesting and moving meditation on prejudice, on humanity, and on finding the best in people, no matter what they look like on the outside. It gets a little corny at times, but it's mostly quite well done. Nice work by writer Scott Snyder. I'm not as big a fan of Scott Wegener's art, but it does the job.

The second and final story in the book is a reprint of the origin story of the Human Torch's sidekick, Toro. The only credit on this story is given to Carl Burgos for writing; sadly, it's unknown who else might have been involved in its creation. It's a pretty generic Golden Age comic all around, though, in both art and story. The Human Torch happens to be passing by a circus when a fire-eating boy accidentally catches fire. Oddly, he escapes from the fire unharmed, and it's quickly discovered that he has the same abilities as the Torch, although there's never really any explanation for how that could be. Meanwhile, it turns out the strong man at the circus is a criminal and has a plot to rob the place which the Human Torch and his new sidekick must foil. It's all very silly and unlikely and contrived (especially the bit with the gun that can temporarily turn off the Torch's powers), but it has some fun moments, and it's certainly interesting to see this historic moment in the evolution of these characters.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #2
I wasn't exactly sure how I felt about this series yet after the first issue, but now that I've read this one, I think I've decided I like it and I'm probably going to stick with it. The remaining heroes, in their continuing attempts to find out how to stop the Plutonian, send Kaidan (a woman with the ability to make ghost stories become real - cool power!) to interview the Plutonian's girlfriend, Alana, to see if she knows anything useful. Alana is essentially the Lois Lane to the Plutonian's Superman, but in an interesting and realistic twist on the old story, when the Plutonian reveals his secret identity to Alana (as a prelude to proposing), she freaks out, rejects him, and reveals his identity to her colleagues. This doesn't make him happy. Really the only useful info Alana has for them is the identity of the villain who seemed to give the Plutonian the most trouble, and some vague information about the Plutonian's parents. Interestingly enough, our heroes (well, one of them, at least) seem to have already contacted the villain Alana mentions. But I'm betting getting in bed with the enemy, even when he's the only chance of saving the world, isn't going to turn out well.

This story is getting really intriguing, and is taking the classic superhero story in some really interesting, twisted new directions. I'm very curious to see where it goes next.
Thumbs Up

Kull #6
While Kull does some awkward verbal sparring with the Priest of the Great Serpent in the banquet hall, Brule does some actual sparring with serpent priests in their temple, making off with their sacred gem, the Eye of Terror. He manages to make it back to Kull with the gem, and Kull is able to use it as a bargaining chip to get Ka-Nu released. He even manages to hang onto the gem, too, which really upsets the serpent priest; he warns that Kull will bring destruction down on all of them if he keeps the Eye of Terror. What can he mean? Sadly we won't find out any time soon, as this miniseries is now over!

I started out loving Kull, but now that it's over I'm not sure how I really feel about it. It has some really cool scenes and some great ideas, but ultimately there isn't really all that much to it. Evil serpents have infiltrated humanity, and Kull kills a whole bunch of them and steals their gem. That's pretty much all that happens. If they do another Kull miniseries down the road, I might pick it up to see if the story goes anywhere. But if it's just more of the same, I'd probably drop it pretty quickly.
Thumbs Up

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Century #1: 1910
The new League book is here! I wasn't as excited about this as I could have been, given how disappointed I was by Black Dossier, but I was still eager and hopeful. As the title suggests, this book jumps back quite a bit in time from the last storyline, all the way to the turn of the century, and deals with some past events referred to obliquely in Black Dossier. Page 1 features Carnacki having a vision about a cult attempting to perform an apocalyptic ceremony involving raising a moonchild (apparently a reference to an Aleister Crowley novel). And page 2 features full frontal nudity! Thank you, Alan Moore, you dirty old bastard. The naked lady in this case is Captain Nemo's daughter, Janni. She angrily refuses her father's dying wish that she succeed him and runs away to build a new life in England. She happens to arrive there on the same ship as a fellow named Jack MacHeath, who goes about singing very jauntily all the time, and who just might be Jack the Ripper. Oddly, there's another woman on the riverfront who also goes around singing all the time, but she sings only dreadful prophecies of doom. The two of them end up together at the end, as seems appropriate, although who she's meant to be I'm not sure. Mina and her group begin poking around based on the vague hints from Carnacki's vision, trying to find out what catastrophe could be coming and how they can prevent it, but all they really seem to succeed in doing is helping to fulfill Carnacki's prophecy by telling the evil cult about it, thus giving them the last ingredient they need to complete the moonchild ceremony! In this extremely dark and horrific story, the League is worse than useless, and we end on a scene of death, devastation, and terror, and with the line: "Mankind is kept alive by monstrous deeds." Which was in fact also the moral of the first two volumes of League.

Immediately after I finished reading this story, I decided I didn't really like it, but looking back over it and getting a better feel for it as a whole, I find I'm actually more impressed with it than I thought. It's actually a pretty neat story. Kevin O'Neill's finely detailed, expressive art is quite excellent. But I'm still a bit turned off by how very, very depraved it is. The scenes on the waterfront are horrifically filthy and wrong. Moore plays the rape card as part of an admittedly rather effective major plot point. Then there's all the gratuitous nudity, weird sex, and violence. It was also a bit difficult to like or sympathize with our main characters. They're really just a bunch of incompetent bumblers this time. Mina is a cold, hard bitch. Orlando is a tiresome fop. The other men in the group are mostly clumsy oafs. The most likable character in the story is probably Janni, and she ends up being a cruel, cold-blooded mass murderer.

But really, the unlikable characters and the depravity have been there from the beginning. And Mina and her buddies aren't that bad. Not all the time, anyway. There are also some really cool moments in here. Even though I understood very few of the references made in the Prisoner of London sequence, it was still a really cool sequence, and very cleverly done. In the end, this is a decent addition to the League series (even if it's not nearly as good as the first two volumes) and a powerful and complete story.

After the main story is the first chapter of a prose tale called "Minions of the Moon," supposedly by John Thomas. Really it's just a collection of short stories about the League, no doubt written by Alan Moore himself. First up is a short tale about Orlando's early years that actually pulls the story of 2001: A Space Odyssey into the League's fictional universe. After that is a short epilogue to the events of the book's main story, wherein Mina and Allan comfort each other with the hope that their love will last forever and comfort them throughout the long ages of eternity that loom before them. But a jump ahead in time to 1964 seems to reveal that their hopes were in vain, as we see Allan and Orlando (now female again) alone together and heading to some new debauchery, with Allan complaining that Mina doesn't seem to be up for the weird sex anymore. Meanwhile, Mina, now masquerading as Vull the Invisible, is hanging out with a superhero named Captain Universe. It seems Mina tried to put together a team of superheroes called The Seven Stars, but it didn't really work out. Next she, Golliwogg, and Golliwogg's wooden toy friends are called in by Prospero to help quiet some unrest on the moon, apparently mostly so humanity will not stumble upon the monolith hidden on the moon too early (they're not supposed to find it until 2001). The story breaks off before Mina and her companions arrive on the moon, so I assume this backup will continue in the next volume of Century.

It's always interesting to read a continuation of the League's adventures, of course, and I rather like the way Moore has worked the mythology of 2001 into his universe, not to mention superheroes. It's also interesting to see the weird relationship of Mina, Allan, and Orlando continue to transform as the years go by. But I'm once again put off by all the gratuitous weird sex. Did I need to know about Golliwogg lubing up his wooden toys with oil in preparation for wild group sex? The answer is no. And that's beside the fact that I'm really uncomfortable with the Golliwogg character in the first place. I suppose if you want to pull all fictional characters into your universe, the embarrassing, politically incorrect ones have to be there, too. But do they have to be given such a prominent role? Ah, well.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #1
I have vague but fond memories of the original New Mutants comics (back when they really were new mutants; it's kind of silly that the series is still called that, but then again, what else could you call it? Old Mutants? Just Mutants?), and I read a preview of this new ongoing series that impressed me, so I decided to pick this book up, despite the fact that I didn't really expect it to be any good. Thankfully, I was really pleasantly surprised. Diogenes Neves' art is really excellent, especially with the addition of John Rauch's subtle, effective colors, and the story concocted by Zeb Wells is an intriguing one, with complex, realistic characters and clever, funny dialog. We open up two weeks in the past, with Shan discovering a little girl she and Dani have been looking for. Almost immediately, they're attacked by some kind of monster. Then we jump forward into the present and Illyana drops out of a magic portal into the middle of the young mutants at the X-Men's San Francisco HQ, spouting weird prophecies of doom and insisting that Shan and Dani are in grave danger. The rest of the New Mutants team decides to reform and set out to help their old friends. When they arrive in the little Colorado town where the bad stuff seems to have gone down, it's immediately clear that they've stumbled upon a strange mystery. They do find Shan - in fact, they find her two times over - but they also find a dangerous old enemy.

The story has definitely grabbed me, but what I really like about this comic is that, unlike some of the other books I've been reading recently, it's not just the story that's good. Everything else is, too! I particularly like the way Wells is handling Illyana. Her cryptic dialog about the future is fascinating and unsettling, as is the cruel way she toys with people. The scene where she's able to somehow instantly pry into Amara's secret thoughts and desires is particularly disturbing and effective.

Wow, great stuff! I'm very excited to see where this series goes.
Thumbs Up

Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye #2
Now that this series is acquiring a plot, I'm really starting to enjoy it! This issue opens where the last one ended, with Seaguy escaping from the hospital with the help of his mysterious trio of duplicates. Their identities and powers are quickly revealed: they're a real superhero team inspired by Seaguy's adventures! Treeguy, who can grow as tall as a tree! Peaguy, who can shrink as small as a pea! Threeguy, one man who can become three men! In fact, Threeguy contains within him both Peaguy and Treeguy. They have real super powers! And they use them to brutally and hilariously defeat Seaguy's pursuers. Then they all jump aboard the Octomarine, the octopus-like vehicle of the Octomariner, and flee. The Octomariner's plan is to hide Seaguy from his enemies by giving him a completely new identity: El Macho, king of the bulldressers of Los Huevos! Just as we think Seaguy's finally on the way to figuring things out, and has finally got himself in with some powerful rebels who are fighting back against the Eye and Lotharius, it comes out that even this adventure has all been set up by Seadog to give Seaguy the excitement he craves and keep him out of the way so Seadog can continue with his evil plans. Interestingly, it looks like Lotharius/Seadog is the real power behind everything, as he's able to boss around even the Eye. The Eye and his group appear to be "former" villains who have now taken over the world in order to enforce happiness for everyone, but while the Eye wants no one harmed in the process, Lotharius is not so picky. There's a surreal and hilarious interlude as Seaguy lives out his new life as El Macho, a type of bullfighter who, rather than hurting or fighting the bull, skillfully dresses it in ladies' underwear. But once again Seaguy's restless nature and desire to find out what's really going on breaks through the false world they've built for him and he runs off, loose again. Meanwhile, Seadog is preparing for some kind of endgame by getting all the old heroes even more out of the way than they already are. Doc Hero, sadly and disturbingly addicted to the Eye Go Round, is dragged away from the ride, missing a turn for the first time ever. They steal his signature hero's helmet, put some kind of creepy Eye crown on his head in its place, and throw him in the back of a van. That can't be good!

I'm so excited that so much stuff is happening in this series now that's still surreal and darkly funny, but that now actually makes a kind of sense! I love the three other versions of Seaguy, the creepy interlude with Doc Hero, the hilarious sequence on El Huevos, and the even more hilarious and twisted method that Maria Del Muerto employs to try to hold onto Seaguy ("When did this happen? You weren't eight months pregnant when you left this morning!!"). It's a wonderful collection of insanity and I'm excited to see it actually maybe come to some kind of conclusion in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Crew #3
Yay, another John Byrne comic! This issue of this great series, more than any one so far, really reads like a classic episode of the original Star Trek. Our heroine leads an away team down to a colony that seems to be abandoned, and that looks like a perfectly preserved little suburban town, right out of 1960s America. The "colonists" eventually show up, but in fact the real colonists have been replaced, and the entity that did it is planning on replacing the crew of the starship Ventura, as well! Luckily, thanks to some quick thinking from our girl, the entity's creepy - although not entirely evil - plans are thwarted. For her heroic actions, she gets a promotion, and a transfer, back to the ship she vowed to return to: a beautiful lady called the Enterprise.

This is such a fun, exciting, well written series, and with great art, as well. I'm really enjoying it. It's really like having new episodes of Star Trek to watch.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: First Class - Finals #4
Time for the big conclusion of the Finals miniseries! Cyclops puts forward his theory that Jean is responsible for all the weird stuff that's been going on, so they all jump into her head and have some fun adventures in her unconscious until they can finally contact her and force her to face the lingering trauma, guilt, and fear that's causing her to manifest psychic enemies. It's not a particularly creative idea for a story, but it ends up being relatively entertaining. Plus, these characters and the way they interact are just a lot of fun. And it's interesting to see a dramatization of their transition from students to the first real full X-Men team. When Professor Xavier calls them "My X-Men" at the end, it feels like an important moment for them all.

This story will lead into a lengthily titled one-shot called Uncanny X-Men First Class Giant-Size Special, with writing by Jeff Parker and Scott Gray, and that in turn will lead into a new ongoing series called Uncanny X-Men First Class also by Scott Gray. I'll definitely be picking those up, because Gray is the guy who wrote Fin Fang 4 Return, which I loved so very much.
Thumbs Up

New releases from 5/13
B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #5
With this issue, the latest B.P.R.D. story arc comes to an end, and - although I admit I may change my mind on a later reread - right now I feel like it's the worst B.P.R.D. miniseries ever. The great majority of it is people standing in rooms spouting exposition. And even when it's not exposition, the dialog is pretty poor. Plus, our heroes end up looking like stupid jerks. I'll admit there's something interesting and clever about making us question whether what the B.P.R.D. is doing is right, and if maybe the villain is the hero after all. But it could have been done in a much more interesting way.

That's not to say the series is all bad. In this issue there are some cool moments, like when Liz blows up the little frogs and takes out Gilfryd. And seeing Lobster Johnson again is fun. Although it's also really confusing. I mean, where does that guy keep coming from? And was Gilfryd right or not? Hopefully my confusion will be cleared up in future stories, and this one will get better in retrospect.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain Britain and MI13 #13
To say that things look bad for our heroes at the end of this issue is an enormous understatement. In fact, they're all either dead, turned to the Dark Side, or missing, and Dracula has essentially won!! Wow. Some interesting moments: the cameos from Norman Osborn and the Mighty Avengers, the former popping in to say he can't help, and the latter popping in to say they can't help - oh and btw planes are going to start crashing into the air around Britain. I'm not a big fan of Faiza as a character, but I like her in this issue. She has very little dialog, but what she does have is believable and not annoying, and she goes out like a hero. I also like that Dracula is such a brilliant and deadly enemy. Really the only part of the book I don't like is the page where in one panel Blade and Captain Britain are fighting, and then in the next panel Cap is talking to some guy and not fighting anymore. After reading the scene a couple of times I decided the fight had just petered out, and that there were not actually two different guys dressed like Captain Britain in the room, but I wish the pencilers (Ardian Syaf and Leonard Kirk) could have found a less confusing way of getting that across.

The point is, it's an exciting, brutal, and dramatic comic, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Young Avengers #1
Since there are already warring Avengers teams, I guess somebody decided there ought to be warring Young Avengers teams, too. Thus, this new miniseries by Paul Cornell with art by Mark Brooks. The new team also calls itself the Young Avengers and mostly they think of themselves as heroes, although they're having a hard time always knowing what a hero really is and what a hero should do - but that, it turns out, is the point. They were brought together by a woman named Coat of Arms (who apparently has a coat that gives her extra arms? Good lord, what a terrible pun/power) who's really more a high concept performance artist than a superhero. She calls their crime-fighting outings "scenes," and wants to use them, and the team as a whole, to illuminate the philosophical tensions that exist in this new world, a world where Norman Osborn and Barack Obama are both in charge, and there are good and bad Avengers, but nobody can agree which is which.

It's a really fascinating concept, and the other characters in the team are just as odd and effed up as Coat of Arms. The guy Coat of Arms chose to be the leader is a particularly conflicted and confused young man who goes by the name Melter, because he can melt things. He's always fighting to make sure he acts like the famous heroes he knows and loves, and trying to make his teammates do the same, but he has little control over them, and nearly as little over himself. His girlfriend is a magic-user named Enchantress. She claims to have been kicked out of Asgard, but her attempts to speak the way Asgardians do are clumsy and unconvincing. Big Zero is a racist bitch who can grow gigantic. She's trying to adjust the team's robot, Egghead, so he's racist, too. And Executioner is a Punisher rip-off who still gets anxious, nagging phone calls from his Mom. It's a unique, fascinating, deeply twisted comic, and I kind of love it. At the end of this first issue, the actual Young Avengers drop in to pay their rival team a visit, so there may already be a showdown between the two groups next issue! I'm looking forward to it.
Thumbs Up

Fables #84
Part 4 of "The Great Fables Crossover" picks up with Jack arriving at Fabletown, happily ignorant of everything that's been going on there lately. He jumps right into bed with Rose Red and, as soon as he learns that the absent Boy Blue has gained a fanatical following, impersonates him and takes over the town. Just as Rose Red finally (inevitably) gets disgusted with him and kicks him out, Jack Frost shows up to confront Jack Horner, his father. This should be interesting!

The last issue of Fables I read I found to be pretty dull and uneventful, and I missed the humor and wackiness of Jack. So it's unsurprising that, now that Jack has invaded Fables, the book has become entertaining. This issue is funny and engaging. I'm very curious to see how the showdown between the two Jacks turns out, and what will happen when Boy Blue actually returns.
Thumbs Up

Gravel #11
Wow! This is some issue. Gravel makes a move here against the Major Seven that's really shocking, and that actually made me question whether he's really the "hero" here anymore, if he ever was. What are his motives? Has he found out something we don't know yet? I don't know, and I like that I don't know! This series just became a lot more exciting. Oh, and there's plenty of the insane magic-fueled action and extreme violence we've come to love and expect from Gravel. And although I'm still not a fan of Mike Wolfer's art, I feel like he's maybe getting a little bit better. Not every person in this book looks ugly and clumsily drawn.
Thumbs Up

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1
I know, I know. But I had to at least try it! It's the first in a four-part, all ages miniseries focusing on an all-animal version of the Avengers. The book opens with Reed Richards meeting with the Inhumans to ask them to help him find one of the massively powerful, and thus incredibly dangerous, Infinity Gems, which he knows is on the moon somewhere. What he doesn't realize is that the Inhumans' super-powered teleporting dog, Lockjaw, has already found that particular gem. For some reason, instead of using the gem's mind powers to communicate to the Inhumans and/or Reed what he's found, Lockjaw decides to assemble his own team of animal Avengers so they can gather up the rest of the gems themselves. Each of the animals is reluctant at first, but all are quickly guilted, coaxed, or cajoled into joining. The Pet Avengers are: Throg (a frog version of Thor, with a melodramatic and unlikely origin story), Lockheed (Kitty Pryde's now deeply depressed dragon), Redwing (Falcon's arrogant bird sidekick), Hairball (formerly Niels, Speedball's cat), and Ms. Lion (a none-too-smart, inappropriately named male dog who belongs to Aunt May, and who actually has no superpowers, but asks to be taken along anyway). They're a goofy, crabby, argumentative bunch, but by the end of this first issue they've already got two of the Infinity Gems, so I guess they're pretty effective. The book is mildly amusing, but just as simplistic and silly as you might expect. I don't feel any need to buy another issue.
Thumbs Sideways

Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos #1
Holy crap is this freaking fantastic. It's a one-shot containing a story entitled "Shotgun Opera!" and it's set in 1942, chronicling a mission which Sergeant Nick Fury and his commandos are dropped into Nazi-held Yugoslavia to execute. They are to follow a mysterious set of train tracks back to their origin, photograph what they find there, and then return to base, all without engaging the enemy. But, as Fury puts it in the first line of the book, "No plan ever survives enemy contact," and the boys end up having to engage the enemy immediately, repeatedly, and with extreme prejudice. In fact, Fury is still falling out of the plane that got them to Yugoslavia, and hasn't even engaged his chute yet, when he personally shoots a Nazi aircraft out of the sky with a shotgun and a machine gun, which he's carrying in either hand as he falls. It's a hilarious, hotshot, bad-ass move, and the rest of the book is chock full of scenes exactly like it. Which is why it's my favorite comic that came out this week. I mean, in the very next scene, Fury parachutes directly onto a landmine and manages to not only survive the explosion intact, but also kill a squad of Nazi soldiers while spouting hilarious, cutting one-liners at them. Then he meets back up with his Howling Commandos, who are all just as insane and bad-ass as he is, but each in their own unique way. They team up with hot Russian agent Anya "Black Widow" Derevkova, who happens to be there on pretty much the same mission for her government, and who is pretty damn bad-ass herself. Shortly after meeting her, Fury takes out three tanks single-handedly with nothing but a belt of grenades and an umbrella. They use one of the tanks to liberate a village, and then take a short break to romance all the girls there. Then it's on to the Nazi secret base to defeat Baron Zemo and stop the Nazi nuclear program! And then they have to fight a giant armored Nazi mech suit called Panzer Max. And they defeat it. With their bare hands. At the very end is a brief glimpse at what's to come: a screening of a top secret film of Captain America in action. Fury's comment? "Now they've got this guy running around in his pajamas. I'll tell you one thing - he's sure as hell not going to do it alone."

\m/

Actually, looking through it again, I now believe this may be one of the greatest comic books of all time. It's beautifully drawn and colored by John Paul Leon, and brilliantly written by Jesse Alexander, who packs it with hilarious dialog; insane, over-the-top action; and simple but totally lovable characters. And did I mention the bad-assery? I think I did.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Mission's End #3
The other excellent IDW Star Trek miniseries going on at the moment is this one, which picks up here with Kirk still trying to get the giant spider entities of Archernar-IV into the Federation, while McCoy, Chekov, and a small away team have been kidnapped by the spider's surprisingly intelligent domestic animals, who are planning a revolution against their masters. There's a pretty hilarious moment where one of the red shirts explicitly talks about the fact that dudes in red shirts rarely come back from away missions! Then a new subplot is introduced: it turns out one of the Enterprise crew is a turncoat who's leaking the location of Archernar-IV's omega weapon to the dastardly Orion Syndicate! As if that weren't bad enough, just as the final ceremony on Archernar-IV is about to begin, the crawlers launch their rebellion, stealing part of the heart of the world's ancient and powerful technology. In the process, both Spock and Kirk are injured.

It's a very exciting, complex, and intriguing story (by Ty Templeton) with some quite excellent art (by Stephen Molnar), featuring accurately rendered portraits of all our favorite characters. Templeton also does a fine job at rendering the characters through the dialog and plot; I like the way Kirk is constantly hitting on Cassady, and the way she's constantly rejecting him. And I particularly like the subtle concern Spock shows for Kirk at the end of this issue, calling him "Jim" instead of "Captain." I'll be there for the next issue, definitely.
Thumbs Up

Thor: Tales of Asgard #1
I'm not entirely sure why I bought this. It's just a collection of reprints of a series of backup stories, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, called "Tales of Asgard," which retell/reimagine stories out of ancient Norse mythology. The first is a summary of the origin of the world and of Odin, told with a few pictures and a bunch of narration boxes. Then there's the story of how Odin defeated Ymir, King of the Ice Giants, and the story of how he defeated the fire demon Surtur. The next couple of tales are from the boyhood of Thor. He steals back the golden apples of the goddess Iduna from the Storm Giants, despite Loki's interference. He helps defend Asgard from a terrible attack that Loki brought about. At the end of each story, he tries again to lift Mjolnir, which he can only claim as his own when he has done enough heroic deeds and he can lift it over his head. In the next story, he finally does lift the hammer, when he hears that Balder's sister, Sif, has been kidnapped by the Storm Giants. He rushes off and saves her from Hela, the goddess of death herself. In the next story we see him as an adult, helping to bring about the birth of humanity. The final story tells us how Heimdall came to be the guardian of the rainbow bridge. In the back is a lovely, full-color map of Asgard, followed by a series of character portraits of the more important gods, demons, and giants, and finally a reproduction of the cover of the issue of Journey Into Mystery wherein the "Tales of Asgard" stories debuted.

It's fun to see the famous (if contentious) team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in action, of course, and these stories are reasonably fun and interesting. The best one is definitely "'Death' Comes to Thor!" as it features Thor lifting Mjolnir for the first time, without even thinking about it, so he can go to rescue fair Sif. And then later he's willing to sacrifice his own life for hers, and Hela is so touched by this that she lets both of them go. It's just a neat story. That being said, I've never been a big fan of Stan Lee's writing. It's so bombastic and overdone, and yet at the same time so simplistic. He's constantly describing things in narration that we can see perfectly well with our own eyes. And good God, the exclamation points! Sometimes it seems like the man can't end a sentence without one.

So it's a fun book in the old school Marvel manner, and a nice piece of comics history, but not something I'm going to pick up and read again any time soon.
Thumbs Sideways

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #6
Another brilliant, powerful, darkly funny, mind-blowing Umbrella Academy miniseries comes to an end with this issue. I remember being a little disappointed with the end of the first arc when I read it for the first time, but I experienced no such disappointment with the end of this arc. With the help of Spaceboy and the others, the old-looking, younger Number Five takes out all the alternate shooters, and it seems as if JFK's assassination has been stopped again. But the young-looking, older Number Five points out, "[JFK]'s something special. He's an idea. And what you can't take down with bullets... you have to take down with words. That's why I needed her." And Rumor's amazing power is used again, brutally, incredibly. She does it to save Spaceboy, but he can't forgive her. "We put our lives on the line for them. Our lives aren't worth more than theirs. Certainly not his." But in a strange and awful way, the terrible thing Rumor has done has saved the world. Everything's back to normal when they return to the present. How, when they changed so much? Carmichael explains: "Another frail man of privilege in a dark suit will take Kennedy's place, and another after that... until another disaffected outcast decides to change the world with a bullet." It's a pretty dark and frightening view of history. A final act of violence from Number Five brings an oddly satisfying end to things, and each of the team heads off to find solace wherever they can from the horrors of the past.

It's a dark, harsh story, but also exceedingly clever, imaginative, and thrilling, and with the occasional twisted bit of humor. I think I actually enjoyed this UA miniseries even more than the first. And I can't wait for the next one.
Thumbs Up

Unthinkable #1
This comic has a fascinating premise. What if, after 9/11, our government responded by putting together a think-tank of specialists in various fields, all with slightly crazy creative minds, and had them think up all the unthinkable things the terrorists could do to us, so we could be ready for them? And what if all those terrible things they thought up started happening, as if someone were using their ideas as a playbook?

It's a pretty clever and horrific concept. The guy who came up with it is Mark Sable, but sadly he's not up to the task of executing it. This story is full of clumsy, wince-worthy dialog, unlikable, barely sketched-out characters, and a series of ridiculously unlikely events. The pacing is also quite poor; the story will be moving along steadily, then suddenly make a jarring jump six weeks into the future, then eight years into the future, only summarizing major plot events - either in a few panels, or in a few narration boxes - that really should have been fleshed out or dramatized rather than simply explained away. Show don't tell! It's pretty elementary. Sure, Julian Totino Tedesco's art is quite good, as are Juan Manuel Tumburus' colors. But that's nowhere near enough to save this comic.
Thumbs Down

The Unwritten #1
This is a new Vertigo title from writer Mike Carey and artist Peter Gross. It opens up by showing us the end of a series of fantasy novels about a young boy named Tommy Taylor, who's clearly meant to be a Harry Potter analog. Then we cut to a convention and meet the real Tom Taylor - the son of Wilson Taylor, the author who wrote the Tommy Taylor books, and the person the boy in the books is modeled after. Wilson himself recently disappeared, and now Tom Taylor makes appearances for him, living off of his weird pseudo-fame. But the truth is Tom hates being "Tommy," and is furious at his father for abandoning him. And things only get weirder and more disturbing for him when a fan points out that he doesn't seem to actually exist. Early photos of Tom Taylor as a boy aren't really of him. He has someone else's national insurance number. Where did he come from? Is he actually the Tommy Taylor from the books, somehow made flesh? And if he's out in the real world, could the villain from the books escape as well?

Besides being an eerie, exciting, and engaging story about a rather complex and realistic character, this book is also a meditation on stories - their true power and meaning, and how they're able to alter reality itself. I particularly love the scribbled notes from Wilson Taylor on the final page of the book, mulling over the power of stories, and hinting at what might actually be happening here. Carey's writing is excellent, Gross' art is wonderful. I'm hooked!
Thumbs Up

Wolverine #73
Marvel is doing a very strange thing with this title. When I saw #73 on the release schedule, I was very confused, because according to my spreadsheet, #72 should have been the next issue. But I've been known to forget to update my spreadsheet, or to miss an issue here and there, so when I got to the store I just picked up #73 and then went into the long boxes to see if I could find #72. No good. When I got to the cash register, the comic shop dude explained: the next entry in the "Old Man Logan" storyline wasn't ready in time for this week, but rather than change the numbering or let a month go by without a new issue of Wolverine (especially this soon after the release of the movie), they just skipped right on to the next issue. Confusing! Even more confusing, #72, when it does come out, after #73, will not be the final part of the "Old Man Logan" storyline. That will be in its own Old Man Logan Giant-Sized Special one-shot. Good lord.

But anyway. Let's talk about the actual comic! It has two stories in it, each of which is part one of its own new continuing storyline. The first story is "A Mile in My Moccasins" by writer Jason Aaron and artist Adam Kubert, and it's brilliant. It's a tour of what Wolverine's life is like in the form of a series of panels, each one labeled with a day of the week, and each one depicting Wolverine in the midst of some huge epic battle, often wordless, but sometimes accompanied by some amusing banter. Some of the panels show Wolverine enjoying some time off, and some days take more than one panel to sum up, but the point is clear: Wolverine's life is pretty much non-stop brutality. Every day he's taking a beating, getting a beating, or recovering from the last beating. It's hilarious dark comedy with a tragic twist, and it's a powerful characterization of Wolverine as a man haunted and running from his past.

The second story is called "One-Percenter" and it's written by Daniel Way with art by Tommy Lee Edwards. It sees Wolverine catching up with an old friend, nicknamed Horrorshow, who's head of a motorcycle gang. His son has gotten pretty wild; he's joined a rival gang, and has apparently just killed a couple of members of Horrorshow's gang. Horrorshow blames himself for how his son has gone wrong and wants to find some way of resolving the issue that won't involve him having to kill the boy. Wolverine sees strong parallels in Horrorshow's situation to his relationship with his own son, and sets out to look into the issue for his friend. But almost before he's started, there's another killing, and thing have gotten a lot more complicated.

I don't remember being a big fan of Daniel Way's work, but I like this story so far, especially the subtle connections to Wolverine's life that are driving him to get involved. And I definitely like Tommy Lee Edwards' art. I'm pleased that Wolverine is going to apparently continue to be a good title worth collecting, even after "Old Man Logan" is finally done.
Thumbs Up
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Monday, February 16, 2009 12:43 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.

This covers new releases from the week of 2/4, which I collected over multiple days from three different comic shops!

Adventure Comics #0
That's right, DC's bringing back Adventure Comics! It's pretty exciting. So exciting, in fact, that the first shop I went to to purchase the value-priced $1 zero issue was sold out. But I persevered and got my hands on it at the second shop. As it turns out, it's a cheap zero issue because in terms of new content, it contains only one very short backup feature. The bulk of the issue is taken up by a reprint of the first "Legion of Super-Heroes" adventure. But it's still pretty fun.

The first story featuring the Legion was a Superboy tale from Adventure Comics #247, written by Otto Binder with art by Al Plastino, and like all stories from that period it is insane, action-packed, ridiculously silly, and utterly contrived. As it opens, three random young people from around town seem to have discovered Superboy's secret identity! They casually greet Clark with the name "Superboy," and Superboy with the name "Clark Kent." What can it mean?! The explanation is of course simple: they're three young superheroes from the future who know Superman's life story from historical records, and who came back in time and got dressed up in 20th century clothes and greeted him that way just to have a bit of fun with him. Uh, yeah. Simple. Anyway, now they want him to come back to the 30th century with them to become a member of their super club. He agrees, and they take him on a tour of Smallville of the future, including the Kent house, still preserved as a shrine (although it's a bit overshadowed by the gigantic ROBOT FACTORY looming frighteningly close to it next door). Next they wow him by taking him to school to see a history lesson on himself! The teacher is using a Superboy robot to demonstrate Superboy's abilities - in this case melting steel with his X-ray vision (which doesn't make a lot of sense - why would X-ray vision melt steel? - but whatever) - when the robot craps out on him. Oddly no one has noticed that there's a kid who's dressed and looks exactly like Superboy in the classroom, but now his friends from the future bring him forward and explain to the teacher that they've got the real thing. The teacher says, oh good, so Superboy can finish the demonstration. That's it? The kids in your class brought a famous hero into the future from the past and you're just glad because he can finish melting a block of metal for you? Shouldn't you have a couple of thousand questions to ask him? Or maybe you might want to point out to the kids that removing someone from the past could seriously disrupt the timeline? No? Okay, buddy! I guess he's already got tenure, so he just doesn't give a crap anymore.

At first Superboy's new friends made it sound like his membership in the Legion was already assured, but now all of the sudden they reveal he'll have to compete against the three of them in turn, racing to complete three random super-tasks. He assumes this will be easy, as the three of them each have only one power, while he has many. But as he and his competitor start off to perform each task, Superboy always notices some other, more important emergency that he has to run off and fix first, so his competitor always beats him. Certain if he explains what happened, it will just be seen as a lame excuse, he doesn't mention any of the other emergencies to the group. The first time, when Superboy is pitted against the telepathic Saturn Girl, the Superboy robot suddenly goes berserk, a problem Superboy fixes by digging a tunnel in the robot's path that leads straight to the science professor's classroom; the professor disables the robot, but Superboy's already too late to perform the real task. Next he's pitted against Cosmic Boy, who has my favorite power: magnetic eyes!!! Seriously, who thought of that? Were they just throwing darts at two boards, one with random adjectives and one with random body parts? I also love the way Cosmic Boy explains his powers: "Special serums gave me magnetic eyes of super-power!" I bet they did, Cosmic Boy. I bet they did.

Anyway, Cosmic Boy beats Superboy, too, thanks to the fact that Superboy is distracted by a satellite hurtling to Earth. But the final distraction is the most ridiculous. As he and Lightning Boy are racing to warn a spaceship that its fuel tank is leaking, he overhears that the invisible eagle of Neptune has escaped through a very large hole in the Interplanetary Zoo, which is worrisome because: "Rocket-liners may bump into it without seeing it!" Superboy's solution is also quite ridiculous: he goes to sea and grabs an iceberg which he then flies back and forth through the air until it's nice and chilly. He chucks the iceberg and then looks around and is able to see the invisible eagle now, thanks to the fact that frost has formed on it. Uh, couldn't you have seen it anyway if you'd just looked for it on a different wavelength or something? Maybe he didn't have so many different vision abilities yet at this point in DC continuity. Anyway, Superboy has lost the Legion's challenges, and consequently they mock him as a pretty pathetic "super-hero" and send him off crying. But then they immediately call him back and reveal that it was all a test and they caused all the other emergencies that distracted him from the real tasks. They induct him as a member after all. Then suddenly a real emergency occurs - the spire holding the giant cosmic lamp above South Pole City starts to topple - and not only does he take care of it, he does so using the three powers of his new friends: magnetism (a magnetic meteor he grabs on the way), lightning (which he creates by seeding the clouds with salt), and... telepathy?? Okay, he cheats on the telepathy; when he gets back to Legion HQ, he says to Saturn Girl, "I'll bet you're wondering why I simply didn't shove the tower straight with my super-strength?" and she responds, "You read my mind!" D'oh.

The Legion is very impressed and give him their highest award. He gets back home and shows off to his pop. The end.

It's funny how often people are just casually assholes to each other in old comics, and it's treated like it's not a big deal at all. The Legion messes with Superboy so bad in this story, but he just kind of takes it with a smile (even if in one case he cries a little bit when they're not looking). And the plot itself is just such a random collection of odd events, all treated as if they're normal. A trip to the future, a robot replica of Superboy going haywire, an invisible eagle escaping the zoo, the statue of the unknown spaceman being dredged up from the bottom of the ocean by a telepathically controlled dinosaur (whose presence is never explained). It's like a fever dream, or a bad trip. But I guess that's old comics for you!

The new story in the back of the book is one of many "Origins & Omens" stories that will be appearing in the backs of DC comic books in the near future - or at least, that's my understanding. This little story actually reveals some pretty big plot points, which is kind of surprising. First of all, the Guardian of Oa who was burned during the Sinestro Corps War is now referred to as Scar, and we learn - just in the prologue! - that she's reading the Book of the Black, and clearly working for the Black Lanterns now. The particular passage she's looking at at the moment reveals what Lex Luthor is up to at the moment. Why Lex Luthor? Because he will influence the Black Lanterns a great deal somehow in the near future. As it turns out, Lex is currently escaping General Lane's confinement with the help of Brainiac! But it turns out Brainiac, although he does want to work with Lex, doesn't want to escape just yet. Hmmm... Anyways, Scar points out that while Lex might not really be in control of Brainiac, he will be in control of... Superman?? Sort of. There's a panel showing some version of Superman. I'm not really sure which version it's supposed to be - it could be Superboy Prime, or some other Superboy from some other universe. The point is this Superman will be dead, and it's reiterated that the Black Lanterns will control the dead.

There are some intriguing things in here, definitely. It feels like big things are happening, but not much is really explicitly revealed. It's pretty effective as a little backup story. I enjoyed it, and the comic as a whole.
Thumbs Up

The Age of the Sentry #5
It was pretty funny reading this comic right after reading the first adventure of the Legion in Adventure Comics #0, as the first story in this issue is clearly a parody of old Superman/Legion stories, right down to the classic art style. Marvel's version of the Legion - an intergalactic superhero team from the future - is the Guardians of the Galaxy, and of course the Sentry takes the place of Superman (as he usually does). I didn't recognize any of the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy who appear in this issue, but Wikipedia reveals that a good number of them are actually from the real lineup of the original team. But knowing anything about them is really unnecessary because, like I said, they're being used here merely as analogs for characters in the Legion. And just as in a Legion story, the plot is ridiculous: a living planet is about to give birth, and the gang needs to find a planet midwifery book to help out. They are briefly interrupted in their quest by an attack from some evil lizard men, but end up saving the day anyway, of course.

Some amusing moments include Laser Lass' crush on the Sentry ("Oooh, Sentry! Though you come from Earth's past, I wish you were the man of my future!"), followed quickly by Sun Girl's crush on the Sentry (her true name has those double letter initials again...), a quick cameo from a Guardian named Immortal One who is clearly Wolverine (we don't see his claws, but as he's walking off-panel, the classic SNIKT sound effect shows up in the corner), Teen Beat and Boy Blob (who are just funny character ideas), and of course the goofy, corny ending. In the middle of this story comes one of those intriguing, creepy moments where the art style changes and the Sentry spaces out and gets a weird glimpse of some horrifically large scale destruction. What can it mean? I'm sure we'll find out soon. The point is, another great Sentry story, full of clever, wry humor, at once a parody and an appreciation of classic comics, plus that extra suggestion of something sinister going on in the background.

Before the second story begins, there is a brilliant, one-page Hostess Fruit Pie advertisement parody in which Cranio's evil plan to hypnotize some hippies into doing his bidding is foiled by the Sentry distributing Marvel Brand Fruit Pies to the crowd. So hilarious.

Next up is "Fan Club!" in which three young people who are huge fans of the Sentry start trying to manipulate the hero's life and public image via a high tech control panel. One of their big problems is with Lindy Lee; they feel the Sentress would be a better match for the Sentry, so they have a Sentry robot rather hilariously break up with Lindy Lee while they set up a team-up between the Sentry and the Sentress. But the Sentry figures out something weird is going on and asks for Dr. Strange's advice, setting up some very, very funny sequences involving the Sorcerer Supreme. Strange is introduced laying full out on a huge pile of pillows with a hot lady next to him, and at first he lazily blows off the Sentry, but then gives him an idea for a clever plan to discover his manipulators, which involves the help of Mr. Fantastic. It works, and the kids apologize, but protest that they had the best intentions. The Sentry scolds them, "The road to Dormammu's dimension is paved with those, kids." Ha! When Robert Reynolds shows up back at the office, he's surprised when Lindy Lee suddenly makes out with him; she's decided to give up on the Sentry and try for Reynolds. Reynolds asks Dr. Strange telepathically, "Is it okay if Rob Reynolds dates Lindy Lee while Sentry dates the Sentress?" and Strange's astral projection says, with a wink, "I see no problem." Awesome. Another truly wonderful, truly funny Sentry story, this time taking a cockeyed look at comic fandom.

The next page of the comic is a return to the frame story set in the Baxter Building. Franklin still wants more stories, but Reed is totally exhausted. Susan, explaining Reed's tiredness: "He's spent the past week trying to reverse global warming—" The Thing: "Wuzzat?" Susan: "—I mean, working on a cure for your Uncle Ben." Franklin says he's so into the Sentry stories because "he has all these weird cool adventures, but they don't line up, I guess. Some of it sounds real, and other parts sound fake." Indeed, Franklin. Indeed. Suddenly Reed gets all creepy and threatening and says he's got a story for Franklin, all right: the final Sentry story!!! And we can expect that next issue. Exciting!

I love, love, love this book. I'm going to be sad when it's over. I hope it leads into another miniseries or something.
Thumbs Up

Agents of Atlas #1
Although this is not a very good book, the opening page, entitled "Gorilla Man's Continuity Catch-Up," is pretty fantastic, as it features Gorilla Man recapping years of Marvel Universe story arcs with just a handful of words each. The comic itself is rather clumsily written, but it has its moments. I like when Osborn realizes his facility's being infiltrated by Venus, so he just shouts for the Sentry. The Sentry is halfway across the world saving some people from a crashing helicopter, but he hears Osborn, sets the helicopter down and zooms back - only to be instantly put under the control of Venus. But it turns out Osborn has the goods on Venus, as well as on every other member of the Agents of Atlas; he gives us a handy little summary of their recent history. Then Atlas and Osborn come to an understanding. We get a look inside the Atlas Foundation's hidden city and get a better idea of why the Agents are acting like supervillains instead of the superheroes they actually are.

The backup story is set in Cuba, 1958, where Wolverine is on a mission (probably for S.H.I.E.L.D.?) and runs into the Agents of Atlas. As usual with this kind of thing, there's a misunderstanding at first and they get into a bit of a fight, but then they team up to kill evil mind-controlling alien parasites.

Neither of these stories really did anything for me. They're both kind of dull and clumsily written (we have to blame author Jeff Parker for that - he's pretty good as far as light humor tales are concerned, but apparently not so much on the serious drama), and I just don't care about the characters. The art (provided by Carlo Pagulayan in the first story and Benton Jew in the second) is quite good, and is especially interesting in the second story, but that's not enough to save the comic. I don't think I'll be picking up another issue of this series.
Thumbs Sideways

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #22
Although this issue fits into the current over-arching story and continues it in an interesting way, it's poorly paced, a bit dull, and disappointing. You'd think it'd be better, as it features a team-up by the two lesbian slayers, Kennedy and Satsu. Kennedy is on Satsu's turf to give her a performance review, seeing as how she just got promoted to cell leader. The two of them, while fighting a giant monster, stumble upon an example of the latest variation on a cute plush toy - Vampy Cat. It's an expression of the new popularity of vampires in popular culture, but it turns out it's also an evil mind-controlling parasite (lots of those in my comics this week...). It jumps down Satsu's throat and turns her into a slayer-hating conservative geisha. Luckily they get it out of her quickly, but the fun's not over: Vampy Cats are being shipped all over, with the bulk going to Scotland, because of course that's where Buffy and the slayer HQ is located. So Kennedy, Satsu, and her whole cell intercept the shipment and there's a huge fight against a horde of cute little plush monsters. Which is pretty fun and all, but the pacing of the issue is off - it just all seems to happen too fast. It is pretty funny the way Harmony goes on Larry King and spins the Vampy Cat fiasco to make the slayers look even worse. And it's nice that Satsu's moving on from her doomed-from-the-beginning romance with Buffy. But this definitely could have been a better issue.
Thumbs Sideways

Comic Book Comics #3
Yay! A new issue of Comic Book Comics! I had no idea this was coming out, as sadly the publisher (Evil Twin Comics) is one of the few not included on ComicList.com, but luckily I spotted it on the shelf at the second shop I visited this past week and snatched it up. It covers the comic book violence controversy, created in large part by Dr. Fredric Wertham; the creation of the Comics Magazine Association of America, and the Comics Code; the rise of pop art and how it brought comics back into the public consciousness; the popularity of the '60s Batman TV show; the arrival of R. Crumb on the scene; the explosion in popularity of science fiction, and how it took over many comics; gorillas (I love the story that DC started featuring gorillas on tons of covers in the '50s because comics with gorillas on the cover sold better than those without); the resurgence of superheroes and the birth of the Silver Age; and finally the return of Kirby to Marvel Comics. As usual, it's a highly entertaining, completely fascinating chunk of history. It'd be interesting to me even if it was told in a completely dry fashion, but the clever, comic tone and silly illustrations makes it truly excellent. My favorite page is titled "The Evolution of the Superhero" and summarizes in little allegorical panels how the superhero changed from the Golden Age to the Silver Age to the Modern Age. They really nail down all the themes and stereotypes of each age. Plus, "Holy Christ Rape!" is a pretty unforgettable phrase.
Thumbs Up

Dead Irons #1
I read about this new horror Western series from Dynamite in Comic Shop News and thought it looked and sounded kind of cool. Unfortunately, it's not so much. The surreal, painterly art from Jason Shawn Alexander is eerie and impressive, but the writing is painfully cheesy, melodramatic, and emo. It's about an undead family, some of whom are evil bounty hunters, and one of whom has a conscience and is hunting them, I think. There's a werewolf, a vampire, Satanists, and lots of shooting and blood. It's kind of fun in some ways, but not fun enough.
Thumbs Down

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #3
Man, this miniseries is taking forever to finish. I think it might be the last Final Crisis tie-in left, still chugging along. I guess I can understand why; it seems like every couple pages there's another giant two-page spread with about a million characters on it. The story's not exactly simple, either. It opens with Mon-El convincing Sodam Yat to come back and fight Superboy Prime, and he even decides he's going to revive the Corps, too. I'm fascinated that the Green Lantern Corps' oath has changed into something that seems to hint at how the Corps War that will precede Blackest Night has affected things ("...no other Corps shall spread its light! Let those who try to stop what's right burn like my power, Green Lantern's light!"). A few Legionnaires are killed, including Karate Kid (that guy's getting killed all the time! Although I can understand why writers would want to kill him. I mean... Karate Kid?). Then the two other Legions show up and the giant fight gets really giant. This is a pretty funny sequence, as the three different versions of each of the characters get to meet each other. Meanwhile, one small group of Legionnaires has headed back in time to Smallville of the 20th century, where they're going to follow some trail having to do with a young Lex Luthor. Interesting... In yet another meanwhile, another group of Legionnaires talk over some very complex continuity issues that I didn't particularly follow, and then do some very complicated hand-wavy, science fiction stuff which somehow brings back Kid Flash, whom Superboy Prime is afraid of for some reason. Yeah, this miniseries is definitely all about the continuity porn, so a lot of it is lost on me. (Some quick research on Wikipedia did at least explain Prime's fear of Kid Flash.) Still, pretty exciting and epic, so I'm hanging in there.
Thumbs Sideways

I Am Legion: The Dancing Faun #1
Like Iron Nails, this is another series that I decided to try based on an article in Comic Shop News (I guess that's what it's for, after all), but in this case I'm pretty impressed. It helps tremendously that the art is by John Cassaday, whose work always blows me away. The story is by Fabien Nury, and it opens in 1942 London, where a dude switches bodies! Which is cool. Then some underground resistance guys in Romania get made by the Nazis and have to run. Only one of them makes it, after coldly eliminating one of his friends so he's not caught alive. Back in London, a secret team is assembled and ordered to investigate the "death" of the guy who switched bodies earlier. Meanwhile, there's a creepy little girl with magic powers in Romania, and the Nazis are trying to maybe... make more people like her? I'm not clear on that. Oh, and the resistance guy who got away cuts his finger off for some reason.

This series was apparently already released years ago, but it was never finished, and now the whole thing is being reprinted from the beginning again thanks to a joint effort by Humanoids and Devil's Due Publishing. I'm very intrigued so far. The writing is smart, there are some cool concepts, and of course the WWII setting is always interesting. I'll definitely tune in for the next episode.
Thumbs Up

Jersey Gods #1
Yet another book I was sold on thanks to an article in Comic Shop News, this one's about a Kirby-style, God-like alien super-being who's lured to Earth (the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey, to be exact) by his enemy and drawn into a dangerous fight. Meanwhile, a Jersey girl who's unlucky in love (thanks in large part to her tendency to try to mold her boyfriends into something they're not) sees he's in trouble and tries to do what she can to help him.

The local connection is of course a large part of what drew me to the comic (and I'm guessing that drew in a lot of other people around here, too; the first two shops I went to were sold out of this book), but so did the rest of the concept - a Kirby hero trying to juggle intergalactic peacekeeping and a relationship with a high maintenance Jersey girl (because inevitably the two of them end up together). I really love Dan McDaid's art here, and Glen Brunswick's writing is pretty fun so far. It's funny that even though there are giant super-fights going on, the comic is really more a relationship story than anything else; even the God-like super beings, while clobbering giant asteroids and each other, are constantly talking about relationships and personal issues.

The series already seems to be pretty popular among comic creators, judging by the pull-quotes on the back, and the fact that upcoming issues are going to feature covers by Darwyn Cooke and Paul Pope, and a backup story by Mark Waid. So I'm definitely sticking around to check out that stuff, if nothing else. And the characters and story are kind of interesting, too!
Thumbs Up

Kull #4
After a sobering night that turns Brule and Kull from ancestral enemies to fast friends and allies, Kull finds that the serpents have declared war against them, so they declare war right back. There's plenty of brutal slaughter, and Kull proves himself a true stone-cold bad-ass.

I've been enjoying this comic, but the last couple issues didn't excite me all that much. I think I was waiting for this issue, which is practically wall-to-wall fighting and bad-assery. It's good stuff.
Thumbs Up

Secret Warriors #1
Another Dark Reign tie-in, this one focuses on Nick Fury and the team of previously unknown super-powered young people that he put together to fight the Skrull menace. He's now keeping them together to try to fight evil in a world that's become even more complex. I like very much the phrase "Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing" which appears on the cover. The shattered S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on the inside is a nice touch, too. But as far as the story's concerned: the gang's latest mission, which was supposed to just be recon at an old S.H.I.E.L.D. base, turns into a giant fight where they're caught between Hydra and H.A.M.M.E.R. Fury is pissed, because he didn't want his team exposed so early. He drops a real bomb at the end of the issue - something on par with the revelation that the Skrulls were among us: S.H.I.E.L.D. is and has been compromised by Hydra for a long, long time.

This is disturbing and intriguing, but it's also one of those retcon type things that annoy me so much. Also, the comic is wordy, with too much narration. And the words aren't even that good! It's very tell-don't-show, corny, melodramatic. Brian Michael Bendis has a story credit, but so does Jonathan Hickman, and Hickman is the sole person given a script credit, so I suppose he's to blame. It doesn't help that the art is by Stefano Caselli. There's something about Caselli's rather cartoony style that just turns me off. Or it might be that I just associate his style with bad comics, because he seems to illustrate so many of them.

So yeah, even though I like the concept behind this comic, and I'm vaguely curious to see where it goes... I don't think I'll be getting another issue.
Thumbs Sideways

X-Men: First Class - Finals #1
I gave up reading X-Men: First Class a while back, but not because I disliked it, per se. It was more because it just wasn't that good. I was always at least mildly entertained by it. So when I saw that a new miniseries was coming out that would put a point on the early X-Men's adventures, I knew I had to pick it up. The premise is that Xavier has decided his first class is ready to graduate, so he sets up a very special final examination for them. But before that, the whole class shares a strange dream, thanks to Jean's telepathic powers. It gives us an interesting glimpse of what's on and in her mind, and a look at how these characters and their relationships with each other have grown and developed.

The X-Men's final test involves a long, tough fight versus a sort of "greatest hits" of the big villains they've faced over the series, and it eventually breaks out of the danger room and onto the grounds, and then seems to turn into something more than just a test when they run into a real villain.

It's a pretty exciting story that handles the characters well, and there's plenty of that usual Jeff Parker humor (one of my favorite bits being the weird running gag, apparently left over from a previous issue, wherein the team is constantly using the word "deuce").

There's a backup story called "Scott and Jean Are on a Date!" wherein Scott tries to take Jean to a fancy restaurant, but doesn't make reservations first, so they end up having to fall back on their normal hang-out after all, to his shame. But then some story about the Avengers pops up on the TV which will apparently be important to future installments of this story. Not much here yet, but it's kind of cute, and I always like Colleen Coover's art.

In the very back of the book is a preview for War of Kings. It's got some action and some soap opera melodrama. I'm not interested.

Overall a decent book, and since the miniseries is only four issues, I can't think of a reason to not collect the whole thing.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: Magneto - Testament
The final issue of this powerful miniseries picks up the speed and the action. The war is winding down and the prisoners know a final run of executions are on the way, so plans for an escape gain momentum, and Max in particular knows he has to get Magda out. The way he saves her is horrific and scarring, but he does save her. The two of them escape during a mostly failed uprising. Years later, Max returns to the camp to retrieve the letter he wrote and buried - the letter he thought would be his final testament. The final sentiment - "Please. Don't let this ever happen again." - is of course the central idea of this story, and the thought that drives Max and underlies all his future actions as Magneto. I was kind of hoping for some kind of quick jump forward to him as Magneto, so the connection between his past and future self would be made more clear, but I understand why it's not here; we can make it ourselves just fine.

I have to say this final issue was not as moving or as powerful as some previous issues in the series have been, but it is good. In a short Afterword, author Greg Pak talks briefly about what went into making the story, gives thanks, and provides a limited bibliography, promising a more detailed list of his sources and books for further reading in the collected edition. Finally, in the back is a short comic by Rafael Medoff, penciled by Neal Adams, and inked by Adams and Joe Kubert, telling the true story of the artist Dina Babbitt, who was forced to paint a series of portraits of concentration camp prisoners for Dr. Josef Mengele. In the years after the war, she has tried to get those paintings back from the Aushcwitz State Museum, but the museum refuses to return them. Many people, including a group of comic book artists, authors, and editors, have taken up her cause - thus this short comic, and the message afterwards by Stan Lee, also in support of Babbitt.

I'm impressed that a comic that could have been merely another supervillain origin story was turned into such a powerful retelling of such an important piece of history, and that this final book includes a message in support of a survivor. The series as a whole is a beautiful and moving piece that not only captures the essence of the character, but also makes a meaningful statement about humanity. Bravo.
Thumbs Up

Young Guns '09 Sketchbook
This is not a comic, just a freebie highlighting the artwork of some of the latest and greatest artists Marvel has acquired for its stable of exclusives: Daniel Acuña, Steffano Caselli, Mike Choi, Marko Djurdjevic, Khoi Pham, and Rafa Sandoval. I've already made my feelings on Caselli clear further up this post, but I do enjoy the work of Daniel Acuña. Choi's stuff I don't love, but it's all right. Djurdjevic is cool, as is Pham, and I'm particularly impressed by Sandoval's work. Regardless, it's kind of neat to see the artists get their due.
Tagged (?): Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Dr. Strange (Not), Fantastic Four (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jack Kirby (Not), John Cassaday (Not), Legion of Super-Heroes (Not), Superman (Not), The Sentry (Not), The Take (Not), Wolverine (Not), WWII (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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