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Wednesday, September 1, 2010 03:26 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 8/25, plus a trade paperback from the library. Beware spoilers!

Back issues and old data
Batwoman: Elegy
This is a hardcover collection poppy was good enough to get out of the library for me. It collects material from Detective Comics #854-#860, the first story arc from that book where Batwoman was the main character. The writing is by Greg Rucka and the art is by J.H. Williams III. I reviewed Detective Comics #854 when it originally came out, and I was unimpressed. I dropped the book. But I kept hearing great things about Greg Rucka's Batwoman, and I wondered if maybe I should have given it more of a chance. Well, now I finally have, and I am officially upgrading my initial "unimpressed" reaction to "impressed." Kate Kane is a complex and fascinating character, flawed and broken, with a deep, dark backstory that slowly comes out during the course of this book. Her main enemies throughout are devotees of the religion of crime. But she finds she also has allies among those same devotees - one sect of the religion seeks to help her, while another seeks to destroy her. Both see her as the fulfillment of some sort of prophecy, and Gotham as a kind of Mecca. But the shattering revelation of the true identity of the religion's new leader sends Kate into a tailspin and digs up terrible memories from her past that she thought were buried for good.

What really brings the book to the next level is the wildly imaginative, incredibly beautiful, intricately constructed art of J.H. Williams III (which is made even more impressive thanks to the as-always fantastic colors of Dave Stewart). Seriously, this stuff is like a gauntlet thrown down, challenging every other artist to live up to its brilliance. It takes the traditional format and layout of comic book art, blows it apart, and puts it back together in an entirely new way. Early on I thought the mirroring trick he was using - where he positioned panels and characters in similar locations and poses across from each other on the page - was just a cool thing he was doing for coolness' sake, but later in the book I realized it was also conveying meaning - it was a subtle foreshadowing of the secret at the heart of the story. I mean, that's just crazy brilliant.

I might try to track down the next Batwoman story arc. Some research has revealed that Williams was dropped as artist for that arc, which is a shame, but I'd still be interested to see what happened to Kate next.
Thumbs Up

New releases
Astonishing X-Men #35
It's been a while since I laughed as much reading a comic as I did reading this comic. Oh my lord do I love the way Warren Ellis writes the X-Men - because he writes them as a pack of brilliant, bickering bad-asses. This issue opens with Cyclops setting a bunch of monsters on fire and then plowing the blackbird through an escape hatch that is way too small for it. The X-Men then burst out of the exploding craft with their metaphorical guns blazing. "X-Men are go," indeed. Then there's the scene where Armor and Wolverine do a fastball special, against Wolverine's will. Then finally the Big Bad is revealed, and he's pretty interesting. A "real" mutant coming face-to-face with our pretty, hero mutants, hating them for the reverse reason that normal people hated mutants. It's a fascinating concept which I imagine more could be done with in the future. It's a bit of an anticlimax when he just kind of backs down, but I'm not sure how else it could have ended, really. The final scene, when Logan punches him and everybody gets pissed, is just hilarious. "You say potato, I say crazy old man with a wheelchair of death!" Oh my lord. Thank you, Mr. Ellis.
Thumbs Up

Batman #702
Have I mentioned lately how much I love Grant Morrison? Because, damn I love Grant Morrison. This issue is the second part of "The Missing Chapter" of Batman R.I.P. It goes back over some of the central events of Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis, filling in some gaps and adding a new narrative track throughout that is basically The Last Will and Testament of Batman, spoken by him into a tape recorder in the distant past (his own future) in the hopes that somehow Superman, with his godlike powers, will eventually be able to reconstruct it (which, naturally, he does). This gives Morrison the chance to go into more detail about the magic bullet that killed Orion, how Batman turned it back on Orion's murderer, and what Darkseid did to him then. It's amazingly brilliant and imaginative stuff. The bullet, it turns out, isn't just any bullet - it's The Bullet. It's "bulletness" given form. It's every bullet ever. In fact, it's the bullet that killed Batman's parents. That image in the background of young Bruce standing over the graves of Martha and Thomas Wayne as Batman faces off against Darkseid with the gun in his hand? Wow.

Just as The Bullet is the Platonic Ideal of bullets, Darkseid is the Platonic Ideal of villains - The Wolf, The Dragon, The Tyrant. But how do you kill a myth? Answer: with a new myth - "a myth where Ultimate Evil turns its gaze on humanity and humanity gazes right back and says... 'Gotcha.'"

Which should be the moment of Batman's triumph! But Darkseid has something special in store for him: the Omega Sanction - "The death that gives and gives forever! Omega 'tailor-makes' an unbeatable 'life trap' just for you! It uses 'history' to do it!" Darkseid's strike alters all of time to create a trap for Batman from which even Batman can't escape, because his life itself is the trap. "Wounded by the Hunter, Darkseid's Dying Fall made the Hole in Things. The Hole in Things is Darkseid-shaped.... Time is the Omega Sanction." Holy shit. So what can Batman do now? "Don't forget. Survive." He tells himself, "I should have known when I chose to walk this path. It never ends."

That's Batman. That's who Batman is. The Hunter, the Survivor, fighting an endless war. A mortal man with the will and the guts and the smarts to strike down the God of Evil. Yes, yes, yes.
Thumbs Up

Captain America #609
Bucky is goaded by his enemy into going off half-cocked, running off alone, and falling into a sinister trap?! I didn't see that coming! But seriously, folks, even if the story structure's a little tired, this is still a reasonably effective and engaging tale, and I like the drama of the final showdown taking place on the island where Cap and Bucky were nearly killed by the original Baron Zemo all those years ago. Oh, and now for your Nomad backup story update: it's getting lame again.
Thumbs Sideways

Fringe: Tales From the Fringe #3
Both stories in this anthology title are good this month! The first one is sort of an origin story for Astrid; an invention for a class leads her to investigate an apparent murder which turns out to be more and less than it seemed. (Warning: big spoilers ahead.) I doubt the FBI actually goes to this much trouble to test if somebody has the potential to be an agent (if so, we have easier, cheaper, and less time-intensive options for assessing people's job fitness at the company where I work; call me, FBI, and I can hook you up with a sales rep!), but it's still a fun story, and it's great to see Astrid get the spotlight for once. The second story is sort of a high-speed heist, loaded with clever trickery, double-crosses, and brutal ultra-violence. And the nature of "the weapon" that everybody is fighting over is creepy indeed, and is made creepier by the fact that its nature and origin are not explained. Well done!
Thumbs Up

Gravel #20
"Bible Jack" is turning out to be a seriously formidable enemy. He hits Gravel really hard in this issue, taking away nearly everything he has, including his favorite pub! I mean, that's harsh. (Warning: big spoilers ahead.) I was surprised and a little disappointed to see all of the new characters that were slowly being developed and introduced over the past however many issues, and whom we'd barely gotten to know yet, just get wiped out in a handful of pages. I mean, what's up with that? Of course, there's always the chance Gravel's pulling some elaborate trick and they're actually all still alive, but I kind of doubt it. Anyway, I'm looking forward to the big showdown that will no doubt take place in the next issue.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Fringe (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Friday, July 2, 2010 11:30 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 6/2, 6/9, and 6/16, as well as a handful of back issues. Beware spoilers!

New releases (6/2)
Avengers Prime #1
Another Avengers book? By Brian Michael Bendis? I thought I said I was going to stop buying these? Apparently not. This one seems to be squeezing its story between the end of Siege and the beginning of the other new Avengers books. Bendis is using it to attempt to establish Thor, Iron Man, and Steve Rogers as Marvel's major trinity of heroes. Our heroic trinity start out this book by bitching and moaning at each other for a bit, in such a way as to catch the reader up on recent events. Then, thankfully, they get sucked into a magical portal and sent to another world - or worlds; it's not clear if they've gone to totally different places or the same general place yet, as they've all landed in different locations. Each have their own separate adventures. Tony is approached by an unseen character, which is vaguely intriguing. Thor is attacked by the Enchantress, who spouts the usual villain cliches at him. Not very interesting. The best scene in the book, which is so good it almost makes me want to keep reading the series, is when Steve Rogers stumbles into an inn full of monsters, politely asks for their help, and then politely kicks all of their asses, to their own incredulity - how could one little human beat them all?? Because that human is Captain America, that's why! Very enjoyable.
Thumbs Sideways

Heralds #1
A new miniseries from Kathryn Immonen! I often find her writing a bit opaque, but also very intelligent, creative, and unique. This book opens with Emma's surprise birthday party being interrupted by a mysterious event that's hard to explain, but which involves an alien intelligence, a bunch of clones in a secret S.W.O.R.D. facility, and a waitress going berserk. The gang of ladies who show up to Emma's surprise party are our main characters for the series, and they're a fun bunch, especially the way Immonen writes them and Tonci Zonjic draws them. The dialog is snappy, sarcastic, and witty, and I really enjoy the enthusiasm with which the girls go after the dead scientist clones. "Come on! Haven't you always wanted to punch Einstein in the face?" I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but I like it!
Thumbs Up

New releases 6/9
Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #2
I really love the way Ellis and Andrews are using Emma Frost in this book. Very funny stuff. Scott says to her, "You're... holding a baby." She responds, "Full marks, Mr. Summers. Save any further comments for a time when I can beat you in private." Story-wise, looks like Ellis is dragging the Ghost Boxes back into it again. I have to say I'm a little tired of those, but I'm willing to hear him out.
Thumbs Up

Batman #700
For this special, extra-long anniversary issue, DC wisely turned the reins over to the best writer in their stable: Grant Morrison. Morrison delivers four separate short stories, each set in different time periods, but each dealing with part of the same overarching locked-room mystery. The time travel aspect of the story just kind of hurts my brain a little, but I think I follow what's going on. I also think I know the answer to the story's central riddle (the answer - spoiler alert! - is time). Regardless, it's a joy to read, as Morrison gets to play with every version of Batman there is - Bruce, Dick, Damian, Terry, and even a couple of post-apocalyptic Batmen, one living in a world that reminds me of Miller's Dark Knight Returns (the mutant gang from that book makes a cameo in the present day timeline), and another living in a world that reminds me of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Also along for the ride are a lot of Batman's most famous villains and allies, in various guises and incarnations. Morrison tosses in his usual handful of truly insane and amazing ideas, like time hypnosis helmets, and 2-Face-2, a new version of Two-Face who has two coins and a separate monster face living on his own normal human face. And of course every version of Batman gets to engage in the usual combination of brilliant detective work and bad-ass fighting. There's also a truly great, uplifting ending, promising us that no matter what or when, there will always be a Batman. Amen!
Thumbs Up

Buzzard #1
Eric Powell's strength is in wild, off-the-wall, offensive comedy, but for some reason he insists on writing morbid, melodramatic stories about humorless, moping, emo characters. This is another one of those. Still, it has its moments. It's certainly not as melodramatic as it could be, and it's vaguely intriguing. In the back is a continuation of the story Powell began in Billy the Kid's Old-Timey Oddities. Again, kind of interesting, but not terribly exciting.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America #606
We pick up with Bucky still trying to deal with the guilt over what he had to do to crazy Cap. But he needs to get his head back in the game soon, because Baron Zemo is putting the band back together. A fun start to a new storyline.
Thumbs Sideways

Gravel #19
Finally we get the creepy, twisted backstory on Gravel's latest mysterious enemy. He manages to hit Gravel where it hurts, and then somebody else - possibly another combat magician working for the British government? - sneaks in and steals a lot of Gravel's stuff. It's a hard day to be Gravel!
Thumbs Up

S.H.I.E.L.D. #2
Still really enjoying this series. This issue reveals there are two factions of S.H.I.E.L.D. - the Da Vinci faction, which believes there's always a way forward for humanity, and the group currently in charge, which believes there's an inevitable end for humanity that we must move toward. It's cool stuff. There's an interesting moment where the comic gets all postmodern and turns into a plain text script, as if Da Vinci and our young hero are passing through different story formats in their journey. I also love the surreal scene in which Agent Richards reaches for the exploding Night Machine, in a heroic attempt to save everyone, and it seems as if every member of S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout past and future is reaching with him. Like I said about Heralds: I'm not entirely sure what's going on, but I like it.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #14
This issue opens by giving us a peek at the hilariously awful and cliched fake Tommy Taylor book, which makes a bunch of deliberately clumsy references to the His Dark Materials trilogy. We also get to see Lizzie using another method of communicating with Wilson, and the conspiracy's method of tracking it - "Someone's touching the grid." Then it turns out Savoy is still alive, but he's not exactly himself anymore - Count Ambrosio is looking out through his eyes. Meanwhile, Pullman casually kills an innocent stranger by turning the ladder he's climbing into insubstantial words. It's all brilliant, creative stuff, thrilling and disturbing. But with Lizzie gone back to where she came from, how will Tom make it on his own? I look forward to finding out.
Thumbs Up

New releases, back issues, and old data (6/16)
Heralds #2 & #3
I love the news report at the opening of #2, in which we learn S.W.O.R.D.'s hilarious cover story for the events of the previous issue: "Cirque Du Soleil has claimed full responsibility for the late night appearance of scientist-impersonators, aliens and dinosaurs!" She-Hulk's comment: "Puppets can make the bravest of us panic." Later, Patsy learns she missed out on a chance to fight a clone of Hitler and is very upset. Valkyrie has some amusing outbursts. I also like that Scott parked the Blackbird parked on top of the hotel for Emma. And Scott owned a Miata. Hee! Next up are some weird moments for Johnny Storm, including a short stay in a surreal mental landscape where Johnny and Frankie fight about their relationship. Did I mention I really love the art in both issues? Seeing the Thing and Valeria prance into the Baxter Building both wearing pink princess hats is wonderful. Patsy also expresses a truth about how weird it is to be a superhero: "We've all had other lives." Finally, it turns out it's a bad idea to shoot a former herald of Galactus with a big space gun, because it can turn her into a black hole. Whoops! All-in-all, good stuff. An interesting mix of humor, intense drama, sci-fi action, and complex character development.
Thumbs Up

The New Avengers #1
Yes, another Avengers book by Bendis. I just can't resist them for some reason! This one explains how there can possibly be yet another Avengers team - turns out there's still some bad blood between the former renegade Avengers and the former official Avengers. Anticipating this, Tony and Steve sell Luke Cage and his buddies the newly renovated Avengers Mansion for a dollar and let them be Avengers over there, on their own terms. "Who do we get?" Luke asks. "Who do you want?" Steve answers, then quickly adds, "You can't have Thor or Iron Man." Heh. Meanwhile, some evil entity is going around possessing people. And at the end it makes Luke really big somehow? I don't know. It's your typical Avengers-level threat, I suppose. I don't think I need to read this book anymore. It has its moments, but it also has lots of Bendis-speak. Yuck.
Thumbs Sideways

New Mutants #13 & #14
Zeb Wells' New Mutants is currently being taken over by another of those multi-book mutant miniseries that seem to happen every other week. However, I don't collect any of the other books involved, which means these issues are two parts of a much larger story of which I haven't read any of the other parts. The laughably long "Previously..." summary at the front of each issue helps, but I still feel a bit lost. The short version is that that whole thing with Cable and Hope - the girl who's supposedly the last hope for mutantkind - is coming to head. Hope is now an annoying teenager, and the villains are trying to eliminate all the teleporters for some reason, which means lots of famous mutants are getting offed. Also, turns out Cyclops can kill people with his eye beams when he wants to. Huh.

I like the idea of using Legion against the enemy - dangerous but cool. And I like the art during the Legion sequences. But hey, dude, what the hell is with Rogue's costume? I know women superheroes tend to have ridiculous costumes, but jeez. Meanwhile, the mutants end up in a typical hopeless-looking last stand. A bit cliche, but reasonably well handled here. I also like the very ominous giant Sentinel thing that Wolverine and friends are fighting in the future. And how bad-ass Magneto is at the end. I'm not a fan of these big mutant storylines, but with the exception of a few cheesy sequences, Wells handles his part of it pretty well.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Mike Carey (Not), S.H.I.E.L.D. (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010 03:44 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 4/21. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Captain America: Who Won't Wield the Shield #1
This is one of those weird, self-parodying, one-shot, anthology comics full of silly in-jokes that the comic creators themselves probably get a lot more of a kick out of than any reader could. Forbush Man - the main character of Marvel's parody comics from way back - takes the starring role in the frame story, assaulting some of Marvel's most popular and famous creators, who are skewered, and/or skewer themselves, in amusing fashion (it's even more amusing if you follow them on Twitter). They distract Forbush Man by showing him (and us) other parody comics. The first is a surreal, far out, drugged-up mashup of Doctor Strange and Captain America. It's certainly colorful, and occasionally funny, but mostly just odd. Next up is "The Golden Age Deadpool," which is a great concept, with plenty of fun art and plenty of ridiculously anachronistic hip-hop dialog from Deadpool, but which overall could have been executed better. Really the most brutal and effective self-parody in the book is the final page, which is a "Sleege" checklist that rips Marvel's publishing schedule, its characters, its storytelling, and all of its recent large-scale sagas in truly biting fashion.
Thumbs Sideways

Gravel #18
Gravel seems to have decided five people is enough to make a Minor Seven and he pulls all his recruits together for their first collective group meeting, where he sets some ground rules for them, gives them a general mission, and also takes them (and us) on a tour of his previous adventures. If Gravel were a TV show (which, oh my God, it totally should be), this would be the clip show episode. And as we all know, the clip show episode is a bit of a cop-out. Still, it's fun to get a quick reminder of all the crazy crap Gravel's been through, and to see it again through the eyes of his apprentices. Plus we get to learn more about what Gravel expects of his Minor Seven. Finally, near the end of the issue that crazy killer dude who's been trying to get Gravel's attention finally does, and our hero sets out on a new mission. Should be fun!
Thumbs Up

Joe the Barbarian #4
Joe meets a cult of wizards whose magic is really just half-understood bits of science and technology ("square root of eye of newt, over function of the cosine where EEE equals magic times the speed of all likelihood squared"). They think the fact that Joe has broken through into this reality is what's causing this reality to fall apart ("A door has been opened into the outer murk"). We end on a cliffhanger again as Joe seems to be simultaneously soaring down a cliff in an untested flying machine, pursued by monstrous agents of evil, and standing at the top of a flight of stairs in his house about to tumble down them. The magicians are a set of great, funny new characters, the story is well constructed and intriguing, the action is exciting, and the dialog is brilliant. Good times.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #12
Man, I love this comic. It is so, so good. I know I say that pretty much every month, but... wow. This issue is another one-shot, this time revealing what happens to those who piss off Wilson Taylor. Somehow he's trapped a couple of his enemies inside a children's story, which is sort of an amalgamation of all famous children's stories - Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit (the comic has almost the same opening line - "In a hole in the side of a hill, there lived a rabbit."), Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, etc. It might sound like a fun time, living life in a children's story, but Carey depicts it, in a darkly hilarious way, as a truly hellish existence. It's clear right away that the rabbit doesn't belong in this story, because he starts stabbing himself, and screaming "Pauly Bruckner!" which is presumably his own true name, that he is trying desperately to hang onto. It is so wonderfully, horribly funny when he emits streams of terrible curses at all the kindly forest creatures he meets. He probes the edges of the fantasy world, trying to find a way out, but the story just brings him right back to where he started. Then he hatches a plan to kill the story's very creator, with the idea that it will burst the bubble once and for all. But what he doesn't realize about children's stories is that there's a dark space at the heart of every one, and it's not empty.

What I'm saying is, this is another amazing issue, containing another wonderful ode to another wonderful genre of literature, and another insightful and funny deconstruction of said genre, which also simultaneously advances the overall storyline (if only incrementally), and certainly gives us a closer look at the dark side of Wilson Taylor. I love this comic to bits.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Books (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dr. Strange (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Mike Carey (Not), The Take (Not), Tolkien (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wonderland (Not)
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010 04:06 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 2/24. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Batman and Robin #9
I seriously love this story arc. We open up this issue with the other shoe dropping on Batwoman's death. Turns out she killed herself on purpose, so Batman could drag her out and resurrect her in the Lazarus Pit! Crazy. She is seriously bad-ass. I love the banter between Batman, the Knight, and Squire. "At least we all grew up normal," Dick says. Riiiight. I love crazy clone Batman's insane dialog and twisted, nightmarish versions of Bruce Wayne's memories. I also love how Alfred and a crippled Damian manage to hold their own against him for a bit, using an elevator, a computer mouse, some gasoline, and electricity. "Stepping in gasoline was your biggest mistake." Ha! Batman jumping on a suborbital experimental craft so he can get back to Gotham in time, then swinging in to save Damian in the nick of time in an image that mirrors the cover of Detective Comics #27 = fabulous. Then he and Batwoman get to share a double-punch takeout of evil Batman. Sadly, Dick doesn't know Batwoman likes the ladies and makes a pass at her. Poor Dick. It's hilarious when Squire and Knight show up and get to do their own double-punch takeout of another criminal kingpin, who hopes they won't tell his "missus aboot the lasses." Heh. Then we finish up with the lead-in to the next storyline: "Bruce is still alive and we have to find him!" Awesome. Long live Grant Morrison!
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #7
This opens with a bit of an interesting moment: Nekron asking one of the Guardians why he vowed to guard the universe, and him answering, "I do not remember." That's probably a large part of the Guardians' problem right there. Sadly, this scene is followed by a lot of pointless back-and-forth and bickering. The Black Hand makes a speech, Luthor goes berserk briefly, and there's lots of poor dialog. Then there's an impressive moment when all the armies of all the Corps suddenly show up in orbit over Earth in a big two-page spread. I'm curious about whoever is trapped inside the Black Lantern power battery - could it be the Anti-Monitor maybe? But the big reveal of this issue is that the Guardians secretly buried on Earth The Entity - the first life in the universe, and the embodiment of the White Light, just as Parallax is the embodiment of the Yellow Light. Nekron digs it up to kill it, but then Sinestro jumps in and becomes the White Lantern (or the Honky Lantern, as I like to call him), which is rather an interesting turn of events. Is he going to pull a Norman Osborn and save the universe so he can take it over? I don't know. All I know is, there's only one more issue of this thing left, thank God.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #1
Warren Ellis' new, crazily-titled Avatar series is here! It's set in an alternate-history version of London, 1830 (well, a secret-history version of London, 1830, if the narrative text is to be believed), where there's a conspiracy involving magistrates and Bow Street Runners; Bobbies are being horribly killed, possibly by Spring-Heeled Jack; and a guy named Captain Swing, who's mastered electricity and electrogravitics, is flying around the skies in a boat covered in lightning. Needless to say, I freaking love this comic. I even love the narration; it provides historical context, but not in a dry way - it's loaded with personality and humor. The dialog is excellent, too, my favorite line being the following: "The future is whatever in this world I have decided not to kill." Looking forward to seeing where this one goes next.
Thumbs Up

The Flash: Rebirth #6
Finally, after even longer than it took Captain America, the Flash is done getting reborn! This issue opens with a pretty exciting and emotionally effective action sequence, spanning across enormous amounts of time and space, in which Reverse Flash is finally captured and there's a parade. Then there's a whole bunch of rather confusing jump-cuts to various other settings and characters. I didn't really follow what all of that was about, except that clearly Johns is planting seeds for future story arcs. The scene between Barry and Iris is a little corny, but mostly works, and I really enjoy the final scene at Justice League HQ with Barry showing up late, as usual. On the whole, not a bad miniseries.
Thumbs Up

Gravel #17
This issue opens by reminding us that Gravel isn't exactly a nice guy, as he recruits into his Minor Seven a woman who uses "blonde magic" to kill a bunch of guys in really horrible ways, despite the fact that some of them, at least, don't really seem to deserve it. Meanwhile, some dude who doesn't like Gravel very much makes some kind of hideous magic machine out of bone and guts and kills a bunch of people in a church, apparently just to get Gravel's attention. Which is interesting. It's nice to see a larger story arc developing again!
Thumbs Sideways

Irredeemable #11
Some of Bette Noir's secrets have come out, and they're definitely interesting, but it sounds like she's still holding back some further, even more terrible secret, and I'm curious to know what it is. It looks like Qubit screwed up as far as Encanta is concerned and she got whisked away somehow. I'm not sure what that's about. The sequence in the home of Tony's first foster family is twisted in the extreme. The idea that they haven't spoken a single word aloud for years and years, just because they were afraid Tony would hear them, is mind-blowing. I continue to burn through each issue of this comic as quickly as I can read it, and I'm always disappointed when I run out of pages. Nice work, Mr. Waid!
Thumbs Up

The Marvels Project #6
Brubaker starts rewriting Toro's origin story in this issue. I'm intrigued as to how that's going to turn out; I suspect it will make a lot more sense than the original version - the Human Torch just randomly stumbling upon a kid with a weird ability at a traveling circus. And hey, look, an evil (well, more evil) Sub-Mariner! Meanwhile, the actual Sub-Mariner makes his move, and it's destructive in the extreme! The disaster brings out all the heroes, including a lot of dudes I don't recognize at all. Cool! Of course, the arrival of Captain America is the most exciting moment. It's great to see the core of the old-school Invaders standing together in the final panel, even if they're not all buddies yet.
Thumbs Up

New Avengers #62
This issue brings to an end the latest story arc and takes us up to the start of the events of Siege, also connecting back up to things we saw in what I think was the New Avengers Annual. When I got to the end and realized we'd just caught up with the present, it was hard not to see this whole story arc as just filler. I mean, all it does is fill in some blanks and reveal where certain characters were at certain times. Plus we get to see certain characters meet the returned Steve Rogers for the first time. Which is fun and all, and there's some great art and some fun action. It's also pretty funny that Luke Cage came back to the hideout just to get his kid's favorite binky, and it's great to see Cap say "Avengers assemble!" just like old times. But yeah, bit of an anticlimax and a letdown here.
Thumbs Sideways

Scalped #35
This is a one-shot focusing entirely on a poor, elderly couple trying to scrape out a living at the edge of the rez. It teeters on the edge of melodrama, especially when the jet crashes at the end, but the strong art and Aaron's excellent writing save it from falling over. Instead, it turns out to be another powerful and emotionally effective issue of one of the best comic series on the stands.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #3
Speaking of comics that are just filler, this issue feels like a bunch of people repeating the same information over and over, adding a few small details on each repeat, but ultimately not really getting anywhere. It's just repetitive and dull. The Major is still way over-sexualized, constantly standing around pouting with a hand on her hips, and there's another of those weird panels where somebody's expression is way more dramatic than it has any right to be given the circumstances (this time it's the Major instead of Sisko). I did enjoy that classic moment when Odo walked into the bar and yelled, "Quaaaark!" and I'm still curious as to what the solution to the mystery is, but mostly I'm just getting tired of this series.
Thumbs Sideways

Thor #607
I love Thor as a character, but I didn't like the writing on this book when JMS was on it, so I've been avoiding it. But I noticed that this issue was starting a new story arc, tied into Siege, and that my man Kieron Gillen was now on writing duties, so I picked it up. And what the hell do you know - it's fantastic! Heimdall trapped in his room, condemned to see invaders coming to destroy Asgard, but unable to do anything about it? Amazing. Epic. Mythical! The dialog in general is excellent, and I like the characterization of Volstagg and his cop friends. It's also pretty funny seeing them try to use YouTube. And hey, Agent_M makes a cameo at the end! Well, his Twitter feed does, sort of. I like the idea of people adding Asgard banners to their "chatter" icons, and the posters in the style of Shepard Fairey's Obama poster, with the image of Thor and "WRONG" written across the bottom, are inspired. Good stuff! Guess I'm collecting another series now. Sigh.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Scalped (Not), Siege (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not)
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010 01:22 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 1/20, plus another, older book. Beware spoilers!

Back issues and old data
Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan
This huge, beautiful book is a random collection of issues of the licensed Japanese Batman comic that came out in the late '60s, and which was largely unknown in the West. In fact the comic was nearly lost in Japan, as well, and the folks who put this book together (Chip Kidd, Geoff Spear, and Saul Ferris) had a hard time scrabbling together enough issues to make it worthwhile, and that were in fit condition to be photographed. Because they got the comics from here, there, and everywhere, some of the stories pick up in the middle of an arc, and others leave us with agonizing cliffhangers. Interspersed between the comics are full-color photos of Japanese Batman memorabilia from the same era.

The Batman manga was produced to cash in on the popularity of the Batman TV series, and it was drawn and written by Jiro Kuwata. Kuwata was given a stack of American comics to base his work on, but all he took from these were some basic characters and story ideas. His plots and his artistic visualizations of the characters are therefore almost entirely original. He even created a series of brand new villains for Batman and Robin to face off against - like the unkillable Lord Death Man; the incredibly powerful Go-Go the Magician (whose "magic" really comes from a weather-controlling gadget he stole); the super-intelligent gorilla named Karmak, AKA Professor Gorilla; and an evil mutant that wants to destroy humanity.

The plots are simple in construction, but full of exciting action and fantastic ideas, and the visuals are wonderful. Kuwata's Clayface, instead of just turning his fists into hammers and impersonating other people, transforms into a giant bird, a praying mantis, a pterodactyl, a statue, a drill, a sea monster, Pegasus, a giant beetle, and on and on. And in the insane climax of Clayface's origin story, Batman briefly shares the villain's powers, and beats him at his own game.

The comics are enormous fun, and it's interesting also to read the random trivia that was printed in the margins of nearly every page, and to see some of the truly odd Batman memorabilia that was sold in Japan. One thing that really struck me about these toys is how they almost always get the colors of Robin's outfit correct, but often choose random, totally inaccurate colors for Batman's outfit.

These comics are not complex or clever or realistic, but they are blazingly fast-paced, crazy imaginative, and totally entertaining. Kidd suggests that a sequel is in the offing, so I'll be on the lookout for that.
Thumbs Up

New releases
Captain America #602
Wow. I mean... wow. Brubaker has taken the crazy '50s Cap and put him at the head of an army of teabaggers, whom the real Cap must now oppose by going undercover. The last arc was basically Cap versus the economic crisis, and now we've got Cap versus the teabaggers. Crazy stuff, man. I don't know if I like it or not yet, but Brubaker sure has some balls on him. Meanwhile, there's now an ongoing backup story in this title following Nomad. It's pretty cheesy and bad.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Avengers #13
I haven't really liked a lot of the things Bendis has been doing with the Sentry, but I've been hanging in there anyway, waiting to see if maybe he was going somewhere interesting with all of this. Looks like we're finally getting near that ultimate destination, but I don't know if "interesting" is the word. More like "ridiculous" and "confusing." I mean, I wasn't sure it was even possible to muddy the waters any further regarding the Sentry's origin and identity, but Bendis has managed to do so here. Now we've got the suggestion that the Sentry is actually a worthless junkie scumbag addicted to super serum. Or maybe he's actually the God of the Old Testament. Or maybe he's actually Galactus. What?! I mean, seriously, WTF? This is nonsensical garbage.
Thumbs Down

Gravel #16
Here we take a break from the over-arching plot to do a one-shot murder mystery/ghost story. Then at the end the over-arching plot intrudes again, as Gravel gets warned once more not to interfere in affairs that don't concern him. It's a reasonably engaging story, but overall a bit disappointing. There's just nothing particularly fresh or creative here. Plus, I have my usual complaints about Mike Wolfer's ugly art.
Thumbs Sideways

Incorruptible #2
In this issue, we learn a bit more about the nature of Max Damage's powers, he takes another shot at being a superhero crime-fighter (it doesn't go so well), and then he stumbles on the trail of a supervillain and what I assume will be the first story arc. I'm finding the comic pretty interesting so far, but I still feel like I'm waiting for it to really grab me. Of course, it took a while for Irredeemable to grab me, too, so we'll see.
Thumbs Up

Joe the Barbarian #1
The premise of this comic - a kid has a vision of a fantasy world which could be real, or could just be a dream brought on by diabetic shock - is kind of an old story and wasn't particularly attractive to me, but the fact that it's written by Grant Morrison and cost only a buck made the book irresistible. In typical Morrison style, the comic dumps us right into the middle of the action and moves at a quick, staccato pace, using no narration and the absolute minimum amount of dialog to tell its simple story, forcing you to fill in the blanks. The premise, as I said, is a rather old and creaky one, and our main character is such a standard stereotype in so many ways - from his family situation to his nerd status at school - that it's easy for Morrison to tell us everything we need to know about him in a handful of panels. All that being said, the story is delivered with subtlety and skill by a master, who knows that most important art of writing: when not to say anything. I particularly like the choppy editing in the final sequence, as we jump back and forth between one world and the other. Also, there's the strong suggestion that future issues of the title will involve all your favorite characters from all your favorite franchises battling it out in an epic war, and that's pretty exciting.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #2
The people infesting the station are treasure hunters, seeking a map supposedly hidden on DS9! I kind of figured. Oddly, this is identical to the plot of a Muppet comic I was reading recently. Anyway, I suspect Quark created the rumors about the map just to bring in more customers, but we'll see. A couple of odd things about the art in this comic: artist Fabio Mantovani must have a thing for Major Kira, because every time she appears, she's ridiculously over-sexualized. I know that's not exactly surprising to see in a comic book, but still. The other weird art thing: in one of the panels where Ben Sisko is shown talking to Gul Dukat, Sisko looks like he's roaring in a fit of rage, but it's completely out of context to what's actually happening in that panel.

Despite the not particularly creative plot and a few odd bits of art, I'm still enjoying the comic.
Thumbs Up

Star Wars: Dark Times #15
It's been a loooong time since I read an issue of this comic, but luckily it was easy enough to drop back into the story. I'm really enjoying the subplot involving all the intrigue and machinations between the Emperor and Vader. I like that the injured kid isn't an innocent, but is instead dumb and violent and ungrateful, and all-in-all a product of his environment. I also really like Jennir's status as a fallen Jedi - the way he's walking the line between the light and dark sides, and the totally bad-ass, Fistful of Dollars way he's working these two gangs against each other. And of course I love his bitter, sarcastic droid.

It's so nice to have a decent Star Wars story to read!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Siege (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not)
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Sunday, October 11, 2009 05:19 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.



Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Animals (Not), Art (Not), Automobiles (Not), Batman (Not), Books (Not), Cartoons (Not), Cats (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Dollhouse (Not), Gravel (Not), Harry Potter (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), LOLCats (Not), Lovecraft (Not), Movies (Not), Philadelphia Film Festival (Not), Photography (Not), Products (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Robots (Not), Science (Not), Shakespeare (Not), Space (Not), Star Wars (Not), Technology (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not), Zombies (Not)
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Friday, August 28, 2009 11:57 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases 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.

One of the books I meant to pick up in this week's batch (Doctor Who #2) was sold out at my shop, so I'll have to get it at a later date and include it in an upcoming edition of The Take.

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Dance #4
I was surprised to notice in this issue that Most Excellent Super Bat uses Batman's bat symbol quite a lot. Bats might want to consider trademarking that. We also get a look inside Super Bat's "Batcave" in this issue, and we get to meet Japan's most honorable hero team, Big Science Action. They fight some cool-looking bad guys. It's still not clear who or what has possessed Rising Sun, or what has happened to Japan, but it feels like we're getting closer to the heart of the mystery. It's a little disappointing that Sonic Lightning Flash pulled a Forrest Gump and is just walking across America. In fact, overall this is a disappointingly average issue of this series. It's nowhere near as clever, funny, or crazy as previous issues have been.
Thumbs Sideways

Gravel #13
Gravel continues interviewing members of the Major Seven as part of his investigation into the death of Avalon Lake, even as he's also recruiting new members of the Minor Seven. By the end of this issue he claims to have solved the murder mystery, although we as audience members are still in the dark. It's a similar format to previous issues, but slightly more interesting, thanks in large part to the character of Lost, who converses with Gravel by telling him a handful of fascinating old folk tales. The new member of the Minor Seven is pretty lame: a goth girl who does magic by cutting herself. And the final page where Gravel melodramatically announces to us that he's solved the mystery is also pretty lame. And of course I continue to dislike Mike Wolfer's art. I'll probably stick with the book to find out what happens, and because it's Warren Ellis, but unless the next story arc is really intriguing I might actually end up dropping this one.
Thumbs Sideways

Jack of Fables #37
This book looks to be turning off onto an interesting new path. It already sounded like Gary was going to lose his powers, but now it looks like Jack might lose his, too, as he's suddenly getting fat, ugly, and bald. There's some amusing meta humor, and Babe strikes out on his own. The focus then shifts onto Jack's son, Jack Frost, who's trying to find a new purpose in life and settles on being a hero. He discards a lot of his powers, in order to cut ties with his evil mother, gets into his first big fight against some orc-like monsters, and even picks up a sidekick (who reminds me of Bubo the owl from Clash of the Titans). This sequence of events is a bit contrived, but it's also fun, and I'm willing to hang in there to see where the story goes next.

In the back of the book is a preview of something called Sweet Tooth, about a boy with antlers. It looks melodramatic and bad.
Thumbs Up

Monsters, Inc.: Laugh Factory #1
This new miniseries is the continuation of Boom Kids' successful line of Pixar-inspired all-ages comics. It's set shortly after the end of the movie and introduces new problems for our heroes to deal with, while picking up a number of the plot threads from the original story. It's pretty cute, but it feels hurried and a bit uninspired. There's a decent idea for a story here, but it's one that should really have been developed over a number of issues, instead of being crammed into one book. And it's a little disappointing that in a lot of ways they just seem to be repeating the same gags and story ideas from the original movie, as if afraid to do anything new with this universe. I might pick up another issue, but I'll drop it if it doesn't start getting better soon.
Thumbs Sideways

Punisher: Noir #1
Making a noir version of The Punisher seems repetitive and unnecessary, but this book looked kind of cool when I flipped through it at the store, so I decided to give it a try. The opening is fantastic: it's done up as a pulp radio show intro, reminiscent of The Shadow, and artist Paul Azaceta's gritty, old school reimagining of The Punisher's outfit is very, very cool. After this opening, we jump back in time and discover that this Punisher's 'Nam is WWI, and his wife and child aren't killed by gangsters; instead, he loses his wife to cancer, and his son drifts away from him, joining up with street gangs. And that's not the only trouble Frank has with gangs - by the end of the issue, he's made a powerful and dangerous enemy in the person of Dutch Schultz. But he has yet to become The Punisher.

Visually this is a pretty neat comic, and I'm curious to see how the origin story will play out in this new universe, but overall I find it a bit dull. The story feels tired and cliche. I might buy the next issue to see if it gets more interesting, but I might not.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Spock - Reflections #2
The format of this comic is starting to feel a bit contrived and repetitive, but I'm enjoying the story so much that it doesn't really matter. By "format" I mean the structure of Spock talking to his traveling companion in the frame story, and that conversation bringing up concepts and topics that cause Spock to flash back to various points in his life. His first flashback in this issue is to a very brief meeting between himself and Doctor Chapel that's subtle, moving, and deeply sad. Then we jump all the way back to a very interesting early adventure that Spock has with Captain Pike. I love the idea of someone experimenting with a dangerous alternative to the transporter that involves small portals through space-time, and I love the characterization of Pike as a brave Captain who will risk anything to save a crew member, even an emotionless one he barely knows. The issue ends by finally revealing, with satisfying drama, the purpose of Spock's journey: he has been informed of the death of Captain Kirk, and is presumably going to attend his funeral services on Earth.

I'm really surprised at how excellent this comic is. Scott and David Tipton (who seem to have worked together on the writing and art) are doing a great job of visualizing the Star Trek universe, and also of somehow piecing together a series of untold stories about Spock that are intriguing, effective, illuminating, and, dare I say, fascinating.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #7
Batman - Bats is using some pretty nasty torture techniques on the shooting suspect to get information. And things wrap up this week with a murder. The identity of the killer seems clear, but maybe there'll turn out to be more to it. Can't say I'm all too thrilled about this story anymore. It's getting a bit dull. The art is quite good, though.

Kamandi - We're learning a bit more about the human girl Kamandi has adopted, but now it looks like the Tiger army has been smashed! Oh no! Such a pretty comic.

Superman - Finally, more fighting! Also, it seems clear to me now that these aliens are telepathic and are reading his mind. They also might actually be affecting his mind somehow; maybe it's their influence that's made him moody and depressed lately.

Deadman - The mysteries surrounding this story are finally clearing up. This issue is also rather sexy, in a really creepy, horror movie kind of way.

Green Lantern - Time for full-on action in this strip, as Hal finds himself in deadly combat with his horribly transformed friend. Good stuff!

Metamorpho - This is probably my favorite episode of this strip yet. The story takes some meaningful steps forward, and there's some very funny comedy, mostly involving Stagg's manservant, Java.

Teen Titans - It almost gets interesting, but then... no, it still sucks.

Strange Adventures - I think I've decided that this is my favorite Wednesday Comics strip. It's always beautiful, and it's always full of fantastic ideas and exciting adventure. This issue sees Adam in the midst of a strange dream where he meets his Black Dog of Fear, as well as Dr. Fate, who helps him regain what he's lost. Fate also gets some really cool lines: "I do know that in all the cosmos, there is nothing that is out of place.... except for you... man of two worlds!" Adam should be hurtling back into action on Rann next episode. Or, as he puts it, "I'm going home!!" Excellent. Adam's story is an inherently dramatic and powerful one, and Pope's writing and art are just making it all the more entrancing.

Supergirl - I have to admit, this one is growing on me. There's more fun with Aquaman, the writer managed to make me feel a bit bad for Supergirl, and I'm actually kind of looking forward to next issue, when she'll be meeting with Doctor Mid-Nite.

Metal Men - Hey, one of our heroes seems to have been terribly wounded! That's kind of interesting. But I'm still finding it really hard to care about this strip.

Wonder Woman - Huh. This is actually a pretty good episode of this strip. Some characters from previous episodes return, and the overarching story feels like it's starting to come together and really build into something. Also there's some fun action, decent drama, and I enjoy the irritable, ancient, talking skull.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - I'm still really disappointed in this strip. In this episode, they once again manage to put off having anything really happen. They even tease us by pretending like there's going to be an explosion, and then revealing that no, there won't be. But at least Rock is now armed and dangerous.

The Flash and Iris West - If Strange Adventures isn't my favorite strip, then it's this dynamic duo. In this week's issue, the two strips are woven together into one cleverly edited, full-page story. In one part of the tale, Flash is joined by many other Flashes and together they appear to finally be ready to stick it to Grodd. But meanwhile another version of Barry, who seemed safe and finally back on track, even arriving early for his dinner date with Iris, finds himself dragged back into the conflict with Grodd by an unlikely (but awesome!) attack from a poisoning monkey waiter. I love the concepts and the visuals.

The Demon and Catwoman - This week this strip gets filthy sexy, as the witch, in her slutty, ghostly form, plans to turn Jason into her own personal sex slave, and seems to want to involve Selina, too. But she sets Catwoman free as a prelude to enacting her plan, and that will probably be her downfall. Although I'm not sure Jason will appreciate Selina saving him. Being a sex slave to a naughty witch doesn't sound all that bad!

Hawkman - This strip is making a big comeback as far as I'm concerned, as in this issue we discover that Hawkman and the plane he was trying to save have crashed on Dinosaur Island! The final panel sees a kid standing in the middle of a giant dinosaur footprint with the words "NEXT WEEK: HOW MANY FOR DINNER?" written underneath. Awesome.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine: Weapon X #4
Heh. I like how the dude in the opening gets fired. He asks for a severance package. "Ummm... is this a blindfold and a cigarette?" Poor bastard. I also really enjoy Logan's phone conversation with Maverick, where it turns out Logan is already way ahead of him. I approve of Logan's plan to just kill everybody. The way he attacks the Chief Executive is truly fantastic - driving headlong at the limo on his bike, and then leaping through the windshield with his claws out. Classic! It's nice that even the insane Wolverine and the scumbag from Blackguard wordlessly agree that it's going to far to fight in front of a school bus full of kids. Oh and hey, they can shoot those laser claws! That's a handy feature. Gotta love Logan's use of the gas pump combined with a spark from his claws to make a flame thrower. Artist Ron Garney does some great work in here; I particularly like the two-page splash of Wolverine's fight with the top Blackguard agent, where the battle is fractured into moments described by a collection of red-backed squares. I wish I'd read the particular Faulkner novel they talk about, though, so I would understand better what Aaron is trying to do by referencing it. Overall I enjoyed the epic fight between Wolverine and the Blackguard agent, but the way it ends is a little disappointing. I mean, it seems pretty clear the agent is supposed to be dead, but how can you really kill somebody with a healing factor just by stabbing him? Don't you have to do something pretty extreme, perhaps involving a wood chipper? Besides that, it's a good issue.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Fables (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Monsters Inc. (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Pixar (Not), Punisher (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Monday, July 20, 2009 11:47 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 7/8. 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.

B.P.R.D.: 1947 #1
At last, the sequel to B.P.R.D. 1946's vampire Nazi story is here! This time the story is by Mike Mignola and Joshua Dysart with art by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, and colors by Dave Stewart. The vampire from the last series is now killing people all over, just to make a point. Bruttenholm is freaking out, and Varvara is back and being creepy again. Aww, and there's little Hellboy! Of him, Varvara tells Bruttenholm, "He got to you, no? You are turning out to be more human than I had hoped." Bruttenholm's assistant is also disappointed in him; she doesn't understand why he's bothering to investigate the deaths of a bunch of Nazis. But to him they're a bunch of humans. He puts together a team of men who've already experienced a lot of strange things (which is how they got transferred to the B.P.R.D. in the first place) and sends them out to investigate their enemy: Baron Konig. They have some interesting and revealing conversations about themselves and their past, while one of them goes off on his own and has some queer and disturbing paranormal experiences. That dude will be lucky if he survives.

It's great seeing the Umbrella Academy art team working their magic in the Hellboyverse. They really create some lovely atmosphere here. This story is quite eerie and unsettling, and I love the glimpses we're getting back into Baron Konig's past. I also like getting to know this new team of soldiers, all wounded in their own secret ways. Can't wait to see how the rest of this story unfolds!
Thumbs Up

Dark X-Men #1
I had high hopes for this miniseries because I thought it was going to be written entirely by Paul Cornell. But in fact this issue is a collection of short stories all by different writers, and Cornell is only responsible for one: the first one, entitled "Namor/Norman." It features Namor walking around naked and dripping wet throughout, while Norman Osborn psychoanalyzes him, particularly in the context of his decision to come back and work for Norman as a member of the Dark X-Men instead of kicking Norman's ass for sending the Sentry to massacre all those Atlanteans. But Osborn's explanation for Namor's actions is pretty weak, as is Namor's reaction, and all this story really did is underline for me again how odd it is that Namor is working for Osborn. Oh, and I also learned that Namor is a mutant, which I didn't know.

I figured it was a pretty bad sign that I didn't even like the story in here by the writer I knew and liked, and I was right. James Asmus' tale, "Mimic," is interesting insofar as it gave me some background on the title character, whom I knew nothing about. And Jesse Delperdang's art is quite nice. But mostly this is just thinly disguised exposition and backstory, told through some pretty corny and melodramatic narration. The last story is writer Shane McCarthy's "Dark Beast," which reveals how Norman Osborn found and recruited the evil McCoy to his cause. Ibraim Roberson's art is really quite terrible, and although I do kind of like the way Dark Beast pokes at Osborn's sore spot (that whole Goblin thing), overall this story is pretty dull, too.

So yeah, not exactly my favorite book this week. The miniseries is only three issues long, however, so I have a bad feeling I might end up getting the other two issues anyway, just to see what happens. But you never know, maybe I'll be able to stop myself.
Thumbs Down

Gravel #12
The previous issue of this really threw me off, and I remain unsure what Gravel's really planning for the Major Seven. Is his plan actually to take them out one by one, just like he did the Minor Seven? I hope not, one because it doesn't seem like they all really deserve it, and two because that would be little more than a boring and unimaginative repeat of the last story arc. I think it's more likely that Gravel knows or suspects more than he's saying, and this is part of his investigation into what's really going on amongst the Major Seven. Why is he being asked to investigate Avalon's murder when one of the other Seven would seem a better pick for the job?

John B. is an interesting character, but his dialog's a little corny. I'm kind of glad he's out of the picture now. The final half of the book sees Gravel recruiting another member of the Minor Seven. This sequence is sort of neat, but also a bit formulaic. I hope this series isn't falling into a rut. Gravel kills a guy or scares him off, then Gravel finds a young wizard killing some villains and recruits him/her, rinse and repeat. It's a rather fun formula, but it's still a formula, and it's going to get boring pretty quick.
Thumbs Up

Green Lantern #43
I have to admit, I didn't realize until I read this issue that the Black Hand isn't a character that Geoff Johns just made up, but has instead been lurking around the DCU for many years. A trip to Wikipedia helped fill out my knowledge a bit more, and further revealed that although Johns didn't create the Black Hand, he did reimagine the character and his origins. This comic is narrated entirely by the Black Hand, and takes a close look at just how twisted he is - and how twisted he has been, even from childhood. We're talking necrophilia here, people. Ugh. Anyway, there's also a handy primer of some of the DCU's more important dead people, followed by a pretty horrific multiple murder/suicide sequence which finally brings about the Black Hand's rebirth as the embodiment of the Black Lantern Corps - a herald, like Ion and Parallax. The teaser text on the final page promises that the Martian Manhunter will be the next to rise and join this new Corps. Which is not entirely unexpected.

As I've said many times before, Geoff Johns' strong point is not dialog or narration, and sadly this issue is full of both. Still, it's not as terrible as it could be, and he does do a pretty good job of giving us a deeper look at the Black Hand as a character, and moves the plot of Blackest Night forward a bit in an intriguing manner. I definitely didn't expect the Black Hand to turn out to be a herald, rather than just a regular Lantern, so that was interesting. I also generally like Doug Mahnke's art, although sometimes he draws even the live people as if they're dead. The Black Hand would be creepy enough, but Mahnke's depictions of the character bring the creep factor up to a whole new level. Randy Mayor's colors also contribute a lot to the atmosphere. Long story short, I'm still hooked.
Thumbs Sideways

I Am Legion #4
As I opened up this comic, I said to myself, "I wonder if this'll be as confusing to me as the last two issues?" I got about two or three pages in and I said to myself, "Yep, it sure is!" Part of the problem is that this comic comes out pretty infrequently, giving me plenty of time to forget everything that happened last time. Another part of the problem is that there a lot of characters and a lot of them look really similar to each other. Also, some characters can move between bodies, so even though they look like one guy, they're actually another guy. And then of course there's the fact that the plot is actually quite complex.

Now, I could try to go back to earlier issues, read through them again, and work hard to piece it all together. But instead I mostly just smile, nod, and turn the page. This latter method works pretty well, as I ended up getting the gist of things. It's good to see our heroes finally figuring out what's really going on, but a little disappointing that it has to involve Dracula. Does every single vampire story have to drag Dracula into it at some point? I mean, I know Dracula is the mother of all vampire stories, but jeez. Anyway, the scene with the tongue is hideous, clever, and very well done. And now things are getting pretty tense and exciting. Even though I continue to be vaguely confused every time I read an issue, I'm going to stick with this series to the end. There are only two issues left now anyway.
Thumbs Sideways

No Hero #6
This is the game-changing issue of this series. Up until now, it's been pretty interesting and pretty good, but here it gets even more twisted than it already has been, and takes off in a whole new, really interesting direction. I should have seen the surprise at the end coming, and to a certain extent I did; I always felt there was something a little off about Josh. But now it turns out there's a LOT off about Josh. And a lot off about the Front Line. It's not an organization of heroes and protectors; it's an organization of people who secretly control the world, at the bidding of one man. The whole story sort of comes together at once. Josh: "I'm no hero, Ben." WOW. Fantastic, brutal, dark. And what he does at the end, with the thing and the... I mean... good lord!

I pretty much always enjoy Warren Ellis' work to some extent, but lately he hasn't really been blowing me away. This blew me away. I'm a solid fan of this series now.
Thumbs Up

Red Robin #2
I like that when Ra's al Ghul's men ask him if they should kill Tim, he tells them, "You can try." Heh. I also like how Tim is so observant, even during the fight, and picks up all the important details his attackers are dropping as they talk to each other. He's learned well! I also really love this bit of narration: "I still have to work on my new 'voice,' though. Batman's voice was half the battle. It took me a while not to be rattled by it. And then I found out that he had to work at keeping Bruce's voice. Then I got rattled again." Just another reminder that Batman was a crazy bad-ass. I found Tim's conversation with Spoiler to be a bit corny, but that's partially because I hate Spoiler. It does help further highlight just how broken up Tim is inside, and helps further explain why he'd accept an invitation from someone like Ra's al Ghul. Overall, another surprisingly good issue of this surprisingly good series. Looking forward to the next one.

In the back of the book is a preview of Doom Patrol #1. It's got some funny and clever moments, but ultimately it's just not interesting enough to make me want to buy the comic.
Thumbs Up

Skrull Kill Krew #3
Racist dude came back in black! And he's not too happy about it. The gang massacres a party full of Skrulls, but most of the team is starting to get pretty ambivalent about the whole thing ("Well, we're not the 'Skrull Negotiate Krew.'"), feelings that will probably only get stronger now that they've been let in on the secret about their own natures. Also, now there are two Wolverines? But it looks like they're both Skrulls? So was the Wolverine in the previous issue a Skrull, too? I'm not sure; that whole thing just really confuses me now. Anyway, pretty good comic, and I'm curious to see how the team reacts to the new knowledge they've just acquired.
Thumbs Up

Uncanny X-Men: First Class #1
I was not a fan of the Uncanny X-Men First Class Giant Size Special, or whatever it was called, that served as a prelude to this series, but I decided to pick up this first issue anyway because I'd enjoyed both X-Men First Class and the previous work of author Scott Gray, and I wanted to see where he'd take these characters. Sadly, it doesn't look like he's taking them anywhere interesting. This book opens with a corny, unsubtle, and painfully familiar scene: Nightcrawler saves some people, but because of the way he looks, his actions are misconstrued and he's attacked by an angry mob. Yawn. When the Inhumans show up and reveal they have a city full of freaks where Nightcrawler would fit in just fine, he can't wait to see it. Meanwhile, Wolverine doesn't get along as well with the visitors; after he pisses off Gorgon, he gets kicked into the sky. Medusa tries to apologize, but Cyclops says, "He survived being punched into orbit once - he'll be fine. Wow. Look at that. Still going..." Heh. Anyway, Nightcrawler checks out Attilan in a pretty lame little montage of images accompanied by some clumsy narration. Needless to say, Nightcrawler thinks he's found paradise - until he sees the ritual that creates new Inhumans and is so horrified he leaps in to stop it, only to find himself the victim of another angry mob. He's got to stop pissing off mobs like that!

The comic is well drawn and colored by Roger Cruz and Val Staples, respectively, but the writing, while occasionally funny, is generally weak, dull, childish, and lacking in creativity and imagination. A real disappointment. I don't see any reason to keep collecting this.
Thumbs Down

The Unwritten #3
Things start off right this issue with a really fantastic cover by Yuko Shimizu. Inside, we meet a group of professional authors gathered for a writer's workshop about the legacy of Frankenstein. They're quite a bunch. Tom has some interesting conversations with Lizzie. "I learn about how stories work for the same reason that soldiers learn how to strip a rifle. You should, too," she tells him. Later she says something really crazy to one of the members of the workshop: "Tom has taken a vow of celibacy... Plus he has syphilis. And we're engaged to be married." It's like she's just throwing out every excuse she can think of to keep anyone but her from touching Tom. Even further on, she kisses his hand almost as if she can't stop herself, then runs off saying it won't happen again. The old woman running the workshop, meanwhile, seems to know more than she's letting on. Another puzzling and disturbing flashback to Tom's childhood leads him to uncover a note and a doorknob (which looks suspiciously like a magic wand), but these just bring up further questions. And now it looks like the workshop might turn into a reenactment of And Then There Were None. It's all mighty intriguing, very cleverly written by Mike Carey, and wonderfully drawn by Peter Gross. I shall eagerly await the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #1
DC's latest weekly project is its most interesting yet: a comic on newsprint that folds out to the size of a newspaper and contains a cornucopia of super-sized, snazzy, full-color, serial comic stories done by some of the biggest names in the industry. The idea is to hearken back to old school Sunday newspaper comic strips. First up is Batman written by Brian Azzarello with art by Eduardo Risso. As with all of the stories in the book, it's so short you barely get a feel for it before it's over and you're onto the next story. Still, what's here is certainly intriguing, and Risso's art is quite lovely and eerie. My only complaint is with the characterization of Batman. It's hard to believe he wouldn't know anything about a famous rich guy being kidnapped in Gotham until Gordon tells him (Batman knows everything!), and it's even harder to believe that he would show so much emotion on his face when told that the rich guy is about to be killed (Batman has no emotion but rage!). But I'm definitely intrigued and I look forward to the next episode.

Next up is Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! by Dave Gibbons with art by Ryan Sook. I think of all the stories included in the book, this one does the best job of capturing the look and feel of a classic newspaper comic strip. Sook does a pretty convincing impression of Hal Foster's Prince Valiant, drawing huge, beautiful, realistic, panels full of wonderful details. The writing is all narration explaining Kamandi's backstory and setting up the adventure to come, but it's still fun and interesting.

John Arcudi's Superman, with art by Lee Bermejo, sees the big blue boy in the midst of a pretty average, everyday fight with an alien monster in the middle of Metropolis, when suddenly he's blindsided by an attack to a far more vulnerable part of him than his physical body. The monster says to him, "Kryptonian. You don't belong. Do you?" Ouch! Very intriguing. In just one page, Arcudi and Bermejo have managed to get to the heart of what Superman is - a hero, a fighter, a protector, but also a man lost and out of place. Good stuff! And I love Bermejo's beautiful, detailed, painterly art, which is greatly enhanced by Barbara Ciardo's lovely, subtle coloring.

Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck share credit for art, plot, and script on Deadman, which introduces the ghostly acrobat, fills us in on his backstory, and throws us into the middle of his latest case: a series of inexplicable murders where the victims are all marked with the same strange scar. I've never been a big fan of the Deadman character, and there's a serious lack of subtlety in the writing on this story, so this is definitely not one of my favorites, but the art is nice, and who knows, maybe it'll get more interesting as it goes along.

I have never enjoyed the work of author Kurt Busiek, so I didn't expect to like his Green Lantern. But to my surprise I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think my enjoyment has a great deal to do with Joe Quinones' beautiful, classical art style, which features nice, chunky inks outlining all the characters, and a wonderful nostalgic atmosphere. There's no action in the story at all, really, and the title character (although he is the topic of conversation throughout) doesn't actually show up until the final panel. But that doesn't matter, because that's not what this story is about; it's meant to be a warm, realistic portrait of a moment in time - a bunch of people getting together after the work day is done at the local bar. I might be disappointed by the story as it continues to unfold in future episodes, but for now I'm really enjoying it.

The story I was probably looking forward to the most in this book was Neil Gaiman's Metamorpho. I know next to nothing about the title character, but I love Gaiman's work. Like a lot of the other creators here, Gaiman goes for a really classic comic book writing style on the title, with some rather silly and unnecessary - though also amusing and fun - thought bubbles, and a lot of equally fun and silly dialog. Laura Allred's art is lovely - especially when it comes to the girl in the bikini! We'll see where this one goes; looks like it should be an exciting, Indiana Jones-style adventure.

One of the worst stories in the book is definitely Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway's Teen Titans. It's not even really a story at all; it's a bunch of abstract portraits of the titans, followed by the team fighting a villain in some abstract space, and then it ends with one of the team seemingly dying, although we all know this will turn out to not be the case in the next episode. I find both Galloway's art and Berganza's writing (which is entirely first person narration from the perspective of the villain) to be childish and clumsy. It's a story that's very dull and completely lacking in artistry or subtlety. I'm tempted to just skip over it when it comes up in the next issue of Wednesday Comics.

I said above that Gaiman's story was probably the one I was most looking forward to, but it's possible it was tied with Strange Adventures by Paul Pope. I've been a huge fan of Pope's work since the first time I laid eyes on it. That he's paired here with one of my favorite colorists (Jose Villarrubia) makes his art only that much more beautiful. Adam's girlfriend Alanna-Sardath is totally punk-rock hot, and Adam himself looks very snazzy in his uniform, complete with helmet and jetpack. And then there's the awesome mandril-like alien attackers! "Why, they resemble nothing less than the Mandrillus Sphynx monkey of the family Cercopithecidae... only huge, blue-furred, and operating strange flying machines." Can't wait to see the fight that will inevitably take place in the next episode. This is classic, deliberately over-the-top space pulp adventure at its finest.

I can't say I enjoyed Jimmy Palmiotti's Supergirl. It's a cutesy bit of fluff about a little girl looking at puppies in a pet shop window, and Supergirl chasing her own misbehaving superpets. Amanda Conner's art is okay, but mostly this is just boring.

The editor of DC got down into the trenches himself to and write Metal Men. He's accompanied on the title by artists Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan. The story is just a silly thing about the Doctor who created the Metal Men taking the whole gang on a field trip to a bank to study the American banking system. But of course the bank ends up being robbed while they're in it, and although he tells his creations not to get involved, one of them does. I don't know much about the Metal Men, and maybe if I did I would enjoy this more, but as it is, it seems pretty dull and corny to me. But maybe I'll get into it more in later episodes.

Writer and illustrator Ben Caldwell tried to fit a lot more into the first part of his Wonder Woman story than most of the other creators tried to fit into theirs, and as a consequence his story feels squished, squeezed, and rushed. The premise is that we're back in time to when Diana was still a young teen living on Paradise Island, visiting the mortal world only in her dreams. The art is okay, although rather cartoony, but the writing is weak, and the story's rather dull. Again, hopefully this one will develop into something more interesting as it goes on.

Another of the stories that really captures the look and feel of a comic strip is Adam Kubert and Joe Kubert's Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. There's not a lot to go by on this one yet, as all we get to see in this episode is nine big, brutal panels of Rock getting beaten up by some Nazis, but I have high hopes for it. After all, it's Kubert and Kubert on Sgt. Rock vs. Nazis! What could be more awesome?

I really enjoy Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher's linked pair of title, even though they get only one page between the two of them. First up is Flash Comics, which features Barry Allen being outsmarted by Gorilla Grodd (the first line is a clever reference back to Barry's origin story: "Late again, Allen," Grodd tells him). At the end, Barry worries if he gets back home too late he'll lose Iris. The story continues in the romance comic Iris West, where, just as Barry feared, Iris is walking out the door, finally fed up with him never being around when she needs him. When she suddenly has second thoughts and runs back, Barry's already reading her note and vanishes before her eyes. What's happened to him? Guess we'll have to wait until next time to find out! I really enjoy the concept of linking these two comics, and I like that they're including an Iris West comic at all, especially one with the old school benday dot printing effect. Some of these panels look ready to be turned directly into Roy Lichtenstein pieces.

The Demon and Catwoman features Selina Kyle casing Jason Blood's place with the intention, no doubt, of stealing one of the ancient Arthurian artifacts he has on display; little does she know he has a demon inside him! Veteran Walt Simonson provides the words on this one and Brian Stelfreeze provides the art. Nothing too exciting here in terms of story yet, but there's certainly a chance it will develop into something interesting. And Stelfreeze's art is quite nice.

The last story in the book is Kyle Baker's Hawkman, which sees the winged man calling together a huge flock of birds to help him save a plane that's been hijacked by terrorists. Unfortunately, the entire thing is narrated by one of the birds. That's just not a good idea. A really talented writer might have been able to make the concept work, but Baker is not that writer. It doesn't help that the phrase the bird keeps repeating over and over is "we flap." That's really lame, man. The art is generally pretty good - the massive central panel which features Hawkman surrounded by an impossibly large number of birds is really fantastic - but even that isn't perfect throughout; the captain of the plane has an oddly misshapen face, and his hat is ridiculously gigantic and out of proportion to his head. This was one of my least favorite stories in the book.

Wednesday Comics turns out to be pretty hit-and-miss, but then again, what anthology isn't? The important point here is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I love the concept and the way it's executed. Some of the stories aren't great, but others are quite excellent, and all are filled with a nostalgic sense of the joy of classic comics.

(Btw, one final complaint about the presentation: I know they were going for a newspaper feel, but a couple of staples would have been nice. It seems like every time I try to page through the thing, it falls apart on me!)
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Cassaday (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
Tagged (?): Alan Moore (Not), Aliens (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Daredevil (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Free Comic Book Day (Not), Fringe (Not), G.I. Joe (Not), Garth Ennis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Human Torch (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Legion of Super-Heroes (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Predator (Not), Seaguy (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Star Trek (Not), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Not), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not), Zombies (Not)
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Saturday, April 25, 2009 01:40 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

Maybe you thought I'd given up on reviewing comics, but it is not so! In fact, I just fell so horribly behind (partly because of the film festival) that I ended up with an intimidatingly huge pile of comics and it took me a while to even get up the courage to get started. But I did, and now I'm mostly caught up. This post covers new releases from 3/18, 3/25, 4/1, 4/8, and 4/15, plus a trade paperback.

Back issues and old data
Seaguy
When poppy asked me recently if there was anything I wanted from Amazon so she could round out her latest order, my newfound passion for Grant Morrison, and the fact that a new Seaguy miniseries was coming out soon, led me to request the trade paperback collection of Morrison's original Seaguy miniseries. After I read it, I really wasn't sure whether I wanted to read the new series or not (as you'll see later on in this post, I decided to pick up the first issue anyway). I thought I was starting to get used to Morrison's particular brand of weirdness, but this might be his weirdest series ever. Seaguy is a hero in some future, parallel world where heroes are no longer necessary - at first, it seems, because they won some final, huge fight against evil. But ultimately it seems clear that the heroes didn't really win; they were squeezed out, their minds crushed and taken over, by some kind of all-controlling corporation whose mascot is a walking eyeball named Mickey Eye. It's a world like that of The Matrix, where a huge and carefully constructed fantasy prison has been built for everyone to live in. A particularly disturbing sequence sees Seaguy and his pal Chubby (a talking fish who floats in the air and hates being in water) visiting a Mickey Eye theme park, where none of the rides or attractions are fun in the least; in fact, they all look hideous, terrifying, and depressing, and everywhere we look there are people screaming and crying in fear, or preparing to vomit in disgust.

The story, such as it is, is surreal in the extreme, and involves the moon being run by an ancient mummy, firing heiroglyph-covered rocks at the Earth, and a self-aware food product escaping and running amok in the ocean. If there is a purpose or a meaning, I'm not sure what it is. Maybe the book is about how life is a dark and terrible trick; powerful and unknowable forces control almost everything you do; and every day is another game played against death. If so... wow, that's depressing!
Thumbs Sideways

New releases, 3/18
Dark Avengers #3
Things are back on the up swing again with this series. Sort of. This issue opens with the little therapy session Osborn used to get the Sentry on his side, reveals how Morgana keeps surviving and coming back, sees Osborn getting a bit of a leg up on Doom, and promises another knock-down, drag-out between Doom and Morgana next issue, except this time perhaps on slightly more even terms. I still don't like the way the Sentry tore a woman's head off and then went out like a punk, but I have to admit the story remains interesting and exciting.
Thumbs Up

Kull #5
More intrigue, more treachery, and more serpent-killing! Good times.
Thumbs Up

Spider-Man: Noir #4
Although overall I really enjoyed this miniseries, I find this final issue a little disappointing and odd. The end is pretty formulaic, with the hero deciding not to kill the villain - because that would be Wrong - instead resolving to take him in and make him stand trial for his crimes - because it's The Right Thing to Do - but he's conveniently spared the trouble when someone else does the dirty work for him and kills the villain after all. No muss, no fuss! It's kind of a lame cop-out. But oddest of all is the fact that the last line of a comic with "Noir" in the title - a comic in which decent people were killed or brutally beaten constantly - is "in the end, when all's said and done, good guys always win." Um... what?! No they don't! You just got done showing us that most of the time they absolutely don't! Maybe Spider-Man's supposed to be an unreliable narrator here, but I don't think so; I think that's actually supposed to be the real moral of this story. And if so, that's totally lame.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Countdown #3
Nero's rather unconvincing transformation from loving, sympathetic family man to genocidal maniac is completed in this issue. A couple more familiar characters out of Star Trek lore - Worf and Geordi La Forge - make appearances, and we get a quick idea what they've been up to since the last time we saw them. I am still appreciating these glimpses into the futures of my favorite characters, but like I said, I just don't buy Nero's sudden, jarring metamorphosis. Not only does it not make sense to me emotionally, it also doesn't make sense to me that others would be willing to entrust Nero with
incredibly powerful and dangerous technology after just meeting him, or that he would suddenly become a master tactician and brutal warrior after being a miner his entire life. And as Nero and his story are really the heart of the comic - and, I assume, the heart of the upcoming movie - I'm having a hard time enjoying this series anymore.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Crew #1
Luckily there are still some really good Star Trek comics out there - like any Star Trek comic written by John Byrne. This miniseries takes us back before the beginning of the original series and tells us what the woman crew member featured prominently in "The Cage" was up to before that episode. This issue sees her on what's supposed to be a boring, routine shakedown cruise of a brand new constitution class starship - the Enterprise, in fact, before it was even commissioned. Of course, since it's the Enterprise, the routine cruise does not go as planned, but instead turns into a thrilling, fast-paced, tense, deadly fight for survival against Klingon saboteurs. It's a fantastic, tight little adventure story, and it even features some truly moving moments, and a neat bit of foreshadowing at the end.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine #71
The truly fantastic "Old Man Logan" story arc continues with an awesome sequence in which Wolverine and Hawkeye are running from an en-Venomed Tyrannosaur, only to be saved at the last instant by Emma Frost and Black Bolt. Then there's the truly mind-blowing two-page spread of our dynamic duo traveling past Pym Falls. We finally figure out the nature of the package Hawkeye and Wolverine have been transporting, just in time for a terrible betrayal to ruin everything. It's pretty heart-breaking. I'll definitely be tuning in to find out how the story finishes up.
Thumbs Up

New releases, 3/25
Captain America #48
The third and final part of the "Old Friends and Enemies" story arc is quite good, with lots of action and drama, some brutal bad-assery from my man Namor, and a very moving and effective ending. I was kind of hoping they'd bring back the original Human Torch, but it's probably just as well they didn't.
Thumbs Up

The Incredibles #1
This is a new miniseries based on the Pixar film, and part of the Boom! Kids line of comics. I usually try to avoid all ages comics, as they tend to be juvenile and lack the complexity and adult sensibility that I want from my comics, but after seeing The Incredibles multiple times on TV recently reignited my love for the movie, I was primed and ready for this comic. It opens up in magnificent fashion, right in the middle of a fight between the Incredibles and a gang of dinosaur/animal hybrids led by a robot named Futurion. The Incredibles are victorious, of course, but then they have to face an even more difficult task: fitting in with a normal family during a get-together. And later we learn a terrible secret: Mr. Incredible is losing his powers! This issue is fast-paced, fun, and sets up an intriguing mystery. They've definitely hooked me in for at least one more issue.
Thumbs Up

The Muppet Show #1
The other new entry in the Boom! Kids line is this comic book adaptation of The Muppet Show. It seems like rather an odd choice, turning an old puppet variety show into a comic, but they do it, and they do it very faithfully; this is indeed nothing more or less than an episode of The Muppet Show translated directly into comic book format, complete with musical numbers, corny jokes, and an episode of Pigs in Space. The only thing missing is the celebrity guest star. I like the way the old familiar characters are drawn, and the book as a whole is mildly funny and wonderfully nostalgic. There's nothing really excellent in here, but I might buy another issue, just for old time's sake.
Thumbs Sideways

The New Avengers #51
The follow-up to the big, deluxe, totally disappointing 50th issue of New Avengers is the start of a new and interesting storyline, all about the search for the new Sorcerer Supreme. It seems Doctor Strange lost the title when he used some dark magics recently, and now somebody else has to take on the mantle. Strange is hoping he can find and train a good, honest replacement, but meanwhile The Hood is looking to kill him and take the title by force. Awesome stuff! Meanwhile, there's an amusing and awkward scene back at Avengers headquarters where Spider-Man is forced to reveal his secret identity (again, because of course the big dramatic reveal that happened during Civil War got retconned out of existence), and ends up deeply hurting Jessica Jones' feelings when it comes out that she had a crush on him in high school, but he doesn't even remember who she was. Thankfully the subject is changed when Doctor Strange crashes in looking for help.

#50 really disappointed me, so I was happy to see things getting back on track with this issue, which is exciting and funny and dramatic. Looking forward to the next issue!
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Alien Spotlight - Tribbles
I usually avoid the one-shot "Alien Spotlight" titles, but for whatever reason I broke down and decided to pick this one up. I think what caught my eye was when I flipped through the book in the store and saw there were sections narrated by the tribbles themselves. It's an interesting idea and they handle it pretty well here. The story is about some human traders with a shipment of dilithium to deliver who are attacked by Klingons and forced to crash land on a planet full of tribbles. The tribbles end up helping them defeat the Klingons and retake their ship. It's not a spectacularly wonderful comic or anything, but it's pretty cute.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Mission's End #1
I've been getting a lot of Star Trek comics lately! This one's by Ty Templeton with art by Stephen Molnar. It tells the story of an early mission for Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the Enterprise - a first contact mission between humanity and a race of giant, intelligent spiders on a planet called Archernar IV. The spiders are sentient and have a reasonably complex society, but they're also brutal and war-like, and there's ancient technology on their planet which, if they learn to harness and control it, could make them unstoppable.

I was puzzled by this first issue, as I'd read that this series was about Kirk's last mission on the original Enterprise, not one of his first, but things became clearer when I read the second issue (reviewed below) and realized that this first issue was just giving us background information for the rest of the story. Regardless, it's interesting stuff, with good art, political intrigue, action, moral quandaries, fun interpersonal drama, and all the old, familiar characters - well written, even. I'm fascinated to see what happens.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Last Generation #5
This strange and even rather creepy alternate universe miniseries finally comes to its deeply cheesy conclusion in this issue. They introduce a rather fascinating idea - that the Federation might ultimately be the cause of the complete destruction of the galaxy, and that going back through time to destroy it might be the only way to save everyone. They even slip in a pretty funny gag about Kirk and Star Trek IV. But then there's just a bunch of crap about time travel that really doesn't make any sense, more melodramatic self-sacrifice (I swear, sometimes it seems like all anybody ever wants to do in Star Trek is sacrifice themselves and blow up their own ships), and then they redo the speech at the end of Star Trek VI, but alter it to be even more cheesy and ridiculous and corny, even going so far as to end with a big group shot, and the Next Generation logo jammed into Picard's final word bubble. It's quite awful.
Thumbs Down

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #5
This is just another brilliant issue of a truly brilliant series. The crazy opening, featuring a magic corpse in Vietnam, had me totally confused for a while, until they finally explained that the time travel hadn't gone exactly according to plan. Most excellent. Then there's the truly hilarious and twisted interlude with Number Five, his dog, and his expendable helpers. And then there's a weird moment with Seance and his baby mama. I'm so excited to see the big showdown in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

War Machine #4
War Machine and Ares continue to fight, both physically and philosophically, leading to some interesting character development. Also, Ares is crazy and I kind of love him. But things aren't looking good for anybody at the end of this issue, as the Ultimo virus spreads, and Rhodey is at the edge of death with no new body to download into. There are some corny bits in this issue, so I can't quite love it all the way, but it's overall pretty good. My biggest complaint is with the final page, which has one of the worst drawings of a human being I've ever seen:


Thumbs Up

New releases, 4/1
Angel: Blood & Trenches #2
John Byrne strikes again, with more adventures of Angel during WWI. Angel has to do some masquerading as Angelus to get in to see the big bad guy who's really in charge of all the evil going down, but he may not have done his play-acting well enough. This continues to be an exciting comic with fine art.
Thumbs Up

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #24
This one-shot from writer Jim Krueger sees Faith and Giles helping out an inexperienced slayer named Courtney, who tells them about a place called Slayer Sanctuary, where slayers are being told they can come to be safe and avoid the dangers and horrors of fighting evil. Faith and Giles are intrigued and go to check it out. Of course it turns out to be a sinister and deadly trap, involving a face-to-face between Faith and the demons of her past. It's an okay issue, with a few interesting moments, but mostly it's rather predictable and formulaic.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
It's the 70th anniversary of Marvel Comics this year, and that means plenty of anniversary specials! This one has a frame story set in 1942, with Cap and Bucky leading a secret mission
to infiltrate a Nazi secret base. The main story is set back in 1940, and describes a little adventure Steve Rogers went on before he even became Captain America. The moral of the story is that the thing that makes Captain America really great isn't the super soldier serum - it's the good heart, loyal soul, and intelligent mind of Steve Rogers. It's a bit corny, but then, Captain America is a bit corny. Anyway the art is good. After this story is a reprint of a classic original Captain America tale called "Death Loads the Bases." It's a pretty ridiculous story about how Cap and Bucky take out a madman with a ridiculous plan to buy a baseball team for cheap by killing a bunch of its best players, thereby making it look like it's cursed. A highlight is the sequence where our heroes suit up and play some baseball themselves.
Thumbs Sideways

The Flash: Rebirth #1
Grant Morrison brought Barry Allen back to life in Final Crisis, but he didn't go into detail about the whys and wherefores. Now Geoff Johns plans to fill in those details, and give Barry Allen's Flash, and the whole Flash universe, the same kind of revamping he gave to Hal Jordan's Green Lantern and the whole Green Lantern universe. That's an idea I just can't resist, especially since I love speedsters and have been wanting to find a good Flash comic to read for a while now. This first issue gives us a quick look at how various groups of people are reacting to the news of Barry Allen's return - including Barry Allen himself. Allen finds himself in a very different, much faster world than the one he left. And he's got a lot of old ghosts he's still dealing with. We also get intriguing hints about the larger storyline - a character who claims to have brought Barry back, and seems to have given himself the same speed powers; and some kind of weird feedback in the speed force. There are some cheesy bits in here, but it doesn't matter; I'm totally hooked.
Thumbs Up

Gravel #10
I thought Gravel was really in trouble at the end of last issue, but this issue opens with him fine, and offers only vague explanations of how he escaped his perilous situation. Still, I'm willing to swallow that; after all, at this point we all know how good he is at getting out of bad scrapes. The rest of the issue is devoted to introducing us to Gravel's first pick for the new Minor Seven. It's a fun enough little story, with plenty of the old ultra violence. But I would like to register my old complaint about Mike Wolver's terrible art.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #1
This is an interesting new miniseries from Mark Waid and Boom! The premise is essentially: what if Superman was really insecure and couldn't stand criticism, and one day he just snapped and started killing everybody? Of course they can't really use Superman, so here he's the Plutonian. All of the other heroes are similarly familiar but unfamiliar. It's a pretty disturbing and brutal comic, and a fascinating premise. I'm definitely in for #2, at least.
Thumbs Up

Scalped #27
The series of one-shot character portraits continues with this deep, dark look at Agent Nitz. We finally figure out just why he has such a chip on his shoulder, and how much he's thrown away in pursuit of his revenge. As one might expect, he's just as twisted and broken as everybody else in this comic. It's a pretty good issue, but I can't say it's one of my favorites. They brought a different artist in for this one - Francesco Francavilla - and I kind of hope it's not a permanent change, because I don't think his rather cartoony style really fits the subject matter very well.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Countdown #4
The last issue of this miniseries finally explains how these events in the far future can possibly be connected to a prequel story set before the original television series. Spock is successful in delivering his payload and negating the supernova, but it creates a singularity that ends up sucking in both Spock's ship (there's that Star Trek self-sacrifice again!) and Nero's. Picard and the others all assume Spock and Nero are dead, but doubtless they've actually just been pulled back in time, and once he arrives in the past, Nero will attempt to continue his war of revenge against the whole galaxy.

The plot of this issue feels pretty clumsy and contrived, and the science behind the premise of the miniseries has seemed pretty questionable from the start. Plus, as I've said numerous times now, I just don't get Nero's character.

I'll be curious to see how much of the events of this miniseries are incorporated into the movie. Hopefully they'll be able to handle Nero and his story in a way that makes more emotional and logical sense.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Crew #2
Our bad-ass brunette crew member finds herself in the middle of another dangerous adventure, this time while working on an old ship called the U.S.S. Fortune. It's another clever, fast-paced, extremely exciting story well told by John Byrne. I'm really enjoying this series.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: First Class - Finals #3
The mysterious attacks and strange events continue in this issue, until Scott finally reveals he might know who's behind it all: Jean! Is this the start of the Phoenix storyline? Hmm. Anyway, there's the usual silly, sometimes slightly postmodern, humor, and the conclusion of the cute backup story about Jean and Scott on a date, which ends with them getting a tour of their past and their future courtesy the Man-Thing. It's a pretty good issue, and certainly intriguing enough to make me want to keep reading.
Thumbs Up

New releases, 4/8
B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #4
This isn't a very exciting issue. There's a cool moment where the major events of the 20th century are summarized in one panel; there are some impressive battle scenes; and I'm curious as to what Johann is doing wandering around on his own, killing people. But otherwise not much changes here - guy keeps talking, monsters keep fighting. A little disappointing. Hopefully next issue will have more content. I'm getting a little tired of mystical snake guy just standing around dumping exposition on us.
Thumbs Sideways

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2
I still hate, hate, hate the way Tony Daniel is writing Damian here - like he's a helpless kid who's in over his head. He's supposed to be a snide, twisted little killing machine, not a scared brat! Ugh. Anyway, the identity of the killer Batman seems to have been revealed: Jason Todd. Makes sense. Alfred has clearly picked Dick Grayson as the best man to follow in Bruce Wayne's footsteps, and indeed he is the most obvious choice, maybe especially because he keeps refusing the mantle. Tim Drake is the other guy running around in a Batman costume, but it doesn't look good for him by the end of this issue. Meanwhile, the Black Mask is playing Two-Face and Penguin against each other, and dragging Gordon and the cops into it as well. It's bloody chaos!

I'm sticking with this miniseries because it's important to the future of Batman, and because, what the hell, there's only one issue left. But I can't say it's really all that good. The only thing that actively annoys me about it is, as I've already mentioned, the way Damian is being portrayed. But everything else - the story, the dialogue, the art - is just kind of bland and vaguely mediocre. There's nothing particularly exciting or imaginative going on. It's a shame.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain Britain and MI13 #12
This series just seems to be getting better and better all the time. I love the writing, I love the character stuff they're doing - even with Faiza and Lady J - and I love the crazy combinations of technology and magic. I also really enjoyed the scene where Captain Britain talks to Blade about his burgeoning relationship with Jac, a scene which ends with Captain Britain telling Blade, "Well... you really are British." The vampires have a horrific plan for Dr. Hussain, for England, and for the Earth. I like the idea of the magic skull that keeps all vampires out of England unless they're individually invited, but unfortunately the good guys lead the bad guys right to it. Next issue promises shame and surrender, which certainly doesn't sound good. It's exciting, darkly funny, truly brilliant stuff, and it's constantly going off in directions I don't expect. Plus, vampires invading Earth from the moon? That's just awesome.
Thumbs Up

Daredevil: Noir #1
At first I was pretty excited about Marvel giving a noir spin to some of its major titles, but now that they're doing it to everything, I'm starting to get a little wary. I mean, did Daredevil really need a noir spin? It's already pretty noir. But I couldn't resist giving this a try, and as it turns out it's actually quite good. First off, Tomm Coker's art is really fantastic. It's a shadowy, stylized realism that's just loaded with atmosphere. The story is fascinating, beginning at the end - a final confrontation between Daredevil and the Kingpin - and flashing back to the beginning. In this version of the story, Matt wanted to be a lawyer but couldn't get the right education or opportunities, so he ended up a performer, and an assistant to a private detective - his friend Foggy. They meet a mysterious femme fatale, natch, whom Matt can't read like he can other people, and who hires them to save her from her ex-boyfriend, Orville Halloran, a nasty hood who's in the middle of a gang war with Fisk. He also just happens to be the dude who killed Matt's father. Fisk, meanwhile, is trying to manipulate Halloran into eliminating his most dangerous and persistent enemy: Daredevil.

It's an intriguing story that has noir written all over it and, like I said, I really love that art. I'll be back for the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Green Lantern #39
The Controllers think it'll be a piece of cake to steal the Orange Lantern's power for their own, but are greatly mistaken. The Orange Lantern decides this means the Guardians have broken their treaty with him and ventures outside of his home apparently for the first time in many, many years to confront his little blue enemies. But his move against them causes them to react aggressively, too. In fact, Scar proposes another change to the Book of Oa, and further suggests that the Guardians start taking part in the war themselves. That should be interesting! Meanwhile, Hal would really like to get that blue ring off his finger, but apparently he can't do so until he's drained its power. D'oh.

Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern, is a pretty one dimensional character, which I guess is the point, but it's still a bit boring. And Hal is so petulant and whiny that I kind of want to slap him. Dude, you have two super-powered energy rings! Shut up and enjoy them!

But besides some minor annoyances, this is a pretty interesting issue, and takes the story to new and fascinating places. I'm especially looking forward to seeing what crazy crap the Guardians get up to next.
Thumbs Sideways

Ignition City #1
Warren Ellis' long in the making, steampunk alternate history adventure story begins here. We haven't been given the details of this world's history yet, but from what I've been able to glean so far, it appears as if space and air travel advanced more quickly in this world than in ours, and led to a devastating first contact with an aggressive alien race. Now space travel has become far less popular, and all the nations of the world are closing off access to space ports. Yuri Gagarin is drinking himself to death beneath the ruins of a rocket ship in the last space port on Earth: a filthy, muddy, wild, lawless place. The daughter of a famous pilot and adventurer shows up in town to collect his things, on the event of his recent death, and tries to find out what happened to him. Apparently it's not a happy story.

This is a relatively intriguing story, taking place in a relatively intriguing world, but it's also kind of brutal, hideous, and over the top. That's Warren Ellis for you! I hate to say it, but I think I might actually be getting a bit tired of the steampunk alternate history stuff. I was excited to read this comic, but now that I have, I find I'm a little bored by it. Still, I'll pick up the next issue and see where it goes; maybe it'll get more interesting.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Mission's End #2
It's got a silly cover, but this is a very good comic. The first issue of this series recounted an early adventure of the crew of the Enterprise; this issue jumps forward in time all the way to the final assignment for the Enterprise and her crew - being on hand to welcome Archernar IV into the Federation. It should theoretically be an easy, peaceful mission, but we all know the crew of the Enterprise never really gets any of those. Instead, there's revolution, assassination, brutal violence, and a surprise ending that could put everything the Federation knows about the civilization on Archernar IV into question. The story is fast-paced, thrilling, and intelligent, and all the characters are written well. I particularly like some of the moments with Kirk, and the references to his past and future career (including his infamous indiscretions with women!). IDW's Star Trek comics are surprisingly good, and this series is no exception.
Thumbs Up

Timestorm: 2009-2099 #1
I have pretty much no knowledge of the original 2099 versions of the Marvel heroes (introduced in the early '90s), so maybe it was a mistake for me to pick up the first issue of this new four-issue miniseries by Brian Reed, which is about Marvel heroes of our current time being mysteriously zapped forward in time to 2099. It features characters from those original 2099 stories, and is probably making various subtle references to them that I'm not picking up. The story is about a CEO who sends an agent back in time to make alterations to the timeline, apparently as part of a plan to fashion his present world into one more to his liking. But of course things start to get out of his control pretty quickly. I'm vaguely intrigued, but the dialogue is pretty corny, especially in the future scenes, where it's laced with lame future slang terms and jargon. And I can't say I'm interested at all in the story of the future teen and his relationship issues. I don't think I'll be getting another issue of this.
Thumbs Sideways

Wolverine: Weapon X #1
Why did I start collecting yet another ongoing Wolverine series? Because it's written by Jason Aaron, that's why! Sure, the last Wolverine miniseries I read by him (Wolverine: Manifest Destiny) ended up being pretty disappointing, but this one is about Wolverine discovering that somebody's found all the old records on the original Weapon X program, and is starting it up all over again on a new set of guinea pigs. That means mad science and super violence, and those are two of my favorite things. It also makes Wolverine angry, and an angry Wolverine makes good comics.

The series starts out very strong in this first issue. It opens with a small gang of terrorists being found and destroyed in quick, clean, clever, and brutal fashion. Then a drunk Wolverine on a subway train hilariously takes out some muggers before finding out about the new Weapon X program and slipping into one of their abandoned facilities, where the scope of the program becomes horrifyingly clear. The dialogue and narration are smart and funny, the story intriguing and exciting, and there's plenty of the super violence I was hoping for, if not that much of the mad science yet (although the fact that the new Weapon X agents have green lightsaber claws is pretty freaking awesome). I'll definitely be sticking with this one.

After the main story is a handy summary of the history of the character called Maverick, and the Weapon X program in general. Then there's an awesome six-page preview for Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #1, which is apparently the start of a new miniseries from Jason Aaron about Johnny and the new Caretaker trying to get to Zadkiel while some other dude goes looking for the Anti-Christ. It looks creepy, darkly funny, and super fun. I'll keep an eye out for it.
Thumbs Up

New releases, 4/15
Captain America #49
This issue is basically just an interlude with Sharon Carter - a placeholder before the big explosions and craziness that will no doubt go down in the landmark 50th issue. Still, it has some moving moments, and some important things do happen: we find out that bad Cap is creeping around, trying to get information about the real Cap for some reason, and Sharon suddenly remembers all the terrible things that happened to her during the last big story arc - except what it is she saw during that final experiment that the Skull and Zola performed on her. I'm very curious about that! Overall, an okay issue, and I'll be back for the next one.
Thumbs Sideways

Fables #83
I don't usually read Fables, but as this issue is the first part in a nine-part story called "The Great Fables Crossover," which will naturally cross into Jack of Fables and the upcoming Literals, and as I've been meaning to give the series another try anyway, what with everybody always talking about how great it is, naturally I had to pick it up. Sadly, it mostly just reminded me why I didn't care so much for Fables in the first place. It's like Jack of Fables, but with most of the humor removed. Plus, the dialogue tends toward the pretentious. Mark Buckingham's art (with inks by Andrew Pepoy and colors by Lee Loughridge) is good, though, and the story's vaguely interesting; apparently there's some evil force at work in the world that's upping the violence and the anger all over, and it's especially affecting the Fables with beast-like natures, like Bigby. When Jack calls to warn about the danger of Kevin Thorn and his magic, reality-altering pen, it's decided that Bigby should go check on it, less because they really believe Jack, and more because Bigby needs to get further away from that evil influence for a while.

I'll probably try to read the rest of the crossover, even though the villain of the piece, who gets introduced at the end of this issue, doesn't seem particularly threatening or interesting and, like I said, the dialogue in this issue could really use some work. More interesting than the main story in this book is the preview in the back for Mike Carey's new Vertigo series The Unwritten. It's about a guy named Tom Taylor whose father wrote an extremely popular series of Harry Potter-like books about a boy wizard named Tommy Taylor. Thing is, Tom Taylor might not actually exist, and he might really be a wizard. Interesting stuff! I'll have to pick up at least the first issue of that when it comes out.
Thumbs Sideways

Incognito #3
This series has been getting steadily better with each issue, so obviously this is the best one yet! Zack's problems are piling up. Ava Destruction, an old flame of his brother, and the same crazy supervillain who screwed up Zack's hot, bitchy coworker, is looking for Zack and probably wants him dead. Zack agrees to perform all kinds of ridiculous favors for his blackmailing buddy (including an extremely funny series of demolitions of the guy's landlord's car) so as to keep his mind off his idea of robbing a bank, but it's not working. Then all the sudden a couple of Zack's old supervillain buddies show up and attack, and we get a brutal and awesome supervillain fight to round out the issue. Dark humor, smart writing, insane action, noir flavor, great art and colors - this is just a superb book. I also enjoyed this issue's backup essay, which focuses on the pulp hero The Spider. I wasn't too familiar with The Spider, but he sounds interesting, and I liked the author's analysis of the two major types of heroes in American popular culture: the Noble Hero and the Killer Vigilante.
Thumbs Up

Rampaging Wolverine #1
I assume this is a one-shot, but it's hard to say for sure. It's a collection of four Wolverine stories in black and white, each by a different creative team. The first, "Sense Memory," sees Wolverine returning to an island to exact revenge on an old man for a betrayal he committed many years ago. The interesting thing is, although the betrayal led to death and tragedy, that's not how the man meant it to happen, and he's led a good life since then. So Wolverine's terrible punishment seems harsh and perhaps undeserved, although it does make for a powerful, artful ending. It's an interesting look at Wolverine's character, and a reminder that he's a brutal, hard man who's never really been your typical, noble hero. It's a well written story from author Joshua Hale Fialkov, with pretty strong art by Paco Diaz Luque.

But the second story, "Unconfirmed Kill," is even better. It's told from the perspective of a sniper working for Hydra on a remote island base. All he's done every night for a year is take up his position in some cover on a hillside and shoot anything that passes in front of his sights. But on his last night, the thing that passes in front of his sights is Wolverine, and no matter how many times you shoot Wolverine, he won't go down. The sniper thinks he's the best there is at what he does, but it turns out there's somebody a little bit better. It's a great story which turns the typical Wolverine tale inside out, transforming it into a horror tale with Wolverine as the relentless, unstoppable monster. Well written (by Chris Yost) and well drawn (by Mateus Santolouco).

The next story, "Kiss, Kiss," is actually a prose tale by Robin Furth, accompanied by a few illustrations by a guy named Nelson. Interestingly enough, it opens with a retelling of "Unconfirmed Kill" from Wolverine's perspective, then moves on to reveal what Wolverine found when he fell asleep in a cave further up the island: namely, a Shelob-like monster. Although there are a few interesting ideas here, this is probably the weakest story of the bunch. The writing is clumsy, not particularly creative or imaginative, and painfully lacking in subtlety.

Last is "Modern Primitive," with writing and art by Ted McKeever. The art is the most interesting thing about this story; it's very unconventional - stylized, surreal, and artful. The story is a simple thing about Wolverine getting stranded on an island and accidentally becoming pack leader to a band of monkeys. It's vaguely funny.

Story anthologies like this are rarely all that good, but this one is of relatively high quality and I enjoyed it.
Thumbs Up

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #1
Seaguy is back! And I wasn't sure at first if that was a good thing or a bad thing. We pick up in this issue pretty much right where the first storyline left off. Seaguy has his new parrot pal Lucky and has mostly forgotten his previous adventures with Chubby. But only mostly. In fact, something is eating at him. He's unhappy in a world where everyone is supposed to be happy. Lucky is clearly less his friend, and more a spy sent to keep an eye on him (the scene where Seaguy tries to go out without him, and Lucky guilts him into taking him along, is quite creepy). Meanwhile, there's some mysterious new construction underway in town, and Sea Dog (really Lotharius, an upper up in Mickey Eye's organization) doesn't want anyone looking at it too closely for some reason. Seaguy follows what appears to be the ghost of Chubby and sees more things the folks in charge don't him to see, and experiences yet another horrific tragedy. Then suddenly there are three more Seaguys! Except I think they're actually Three-guy, Pee-guy and Tee-guy.

Yes, it's a pretty insane story, but actually not quite as insane as the first Seaguy story. In fact, things are starting to come together into an understandable narrative now. Clearly there's an oppressive force in control of the world, which took control after the giant fight between good and evil that's constantly mentioned. This force - Mickey Eye - is crushing everyone's minds - especially the minds of the heroes - keeping them stupid and happy while it goes about its mysterious business. What that business is I'm not clear on yet, but perhaps it will finally come to the surface in the course of this story.

A final note: the associate editor for this comic book is listed as Pornsak Pichershote. Seriously? Pornsak? That's a real name? Sir or madam, I'm sorry for you.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Alien Spotlight - Klingons
As I mentioned further up this post, I usually avoid these one-shot "Alien Spotlight" titles, but I read that this one was about the Klingon named Kang telling three different stories revolving around an old Klingon proverb: "Four thousand throats may be cut in a single night by a running man." And that right there is an irresistible premise. Unfortunately, each of the stories ends up being a very literal interpretation of the proverb, to the point of near ridiculousness. I mean, how often is it really going to come up that one guy is going to kill that many people in just that way? Not that often, I'm thinking. Still, through the telling of these stories, we learn a good deal about Kang as a character, and he turns out to be a fascinating man: stubborn, patient, brutal, and loyal to his code of honor to the bitter end. There are some neat ideas in here (story by Keith R.A. DeCandido), and some pretty impressive art (by J.K. Woodward), but overall it's just lacking a bit in terms of imagination, cleverness, and style.
Thumbs Sideways

Sub-Mariner Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
Marvel is continuing to celebrate 70 years in the biz with throwback, one-shot anthology comics. This one has three stories about the Sub-Mariner - two new ones, and one reprint. The new ones are "Sub-Mariner" by Roy Thomas with art by Mitch Breitweiser and color by Elizabeth Breitwesier (nepotism much?) and "Vergeltungswaffe!" by Mark Shultz with art by Al Williamson. The reprint is actually the origin story of our hero, "The Sub-Mariner," from Marvel Comics #1, published way the hell back in October of 1939. Bill Everett provided the art and the story.

The first story sees the Sub-Mariner stopping a U-boat attack on New York - but failing to destroy the sub. He has decided he should no longer take part in what he feels is a pointless war amongst the surface dwellers. But then he runs into a hot Nazi spy in a bar who tries to convince him to switch sides. She convinces him of something, all right! The dialogue and narration gets a bit corny and melodramatic, but overall this is an entertaining and dramatic story with some interesting analysis and development of Namor as a character. Plus the art is quite excellent - contemporary, but with a tinge of the classical.

The second story, "Vergeltungswaffe," uses a very old school, hyper-detailed, newspaper strip kind of art style, and tells the story of Namor's attempt to stop the Nazis at a secret island base from testing their weapons on his beloved reefs. His arrogance and inflated self-confidence get him captured, but he ends up getting some help from an American pilot who has randomly crash landed there. Then Hitler gets a cameo at the end! The writing here is nearly as old school as the art, and thus tends toward the flowery and verbose. Plus the Nazi commander's classic bad guy mistake of letting his prisoner wander around free while he explains to her his entire evil plan in great detail is a little tiring. But overall it's still a rather clever and entertaining story. I particularly like the inclusion of the kraken!

The final story is not the first Sub-Mariner story ever, but it is a very early one, and even includes his origin. It opens with some innocent divers trying to salvage a shipwreck only to be brutally murdered by Namor, who is not familiar with diving suits and naturally assumes the people in them must be robots. Although how he would have heard of robots and not diving suits is a little hard to understand. He brings the suits back home, realizes his error, and is then told his own origin in great detail by his mother. It's pretty funny how the origin is crammed into the last few pages of the story; it requires so much exposition that one panel is just all words, and a few more are almost all words with tiny pictures of Namor's mother squeezed in between or below them. The story doesn't make a lot of sense, either. She says she fell in love with and married Leonard McKenzie, the human in charge of a scientific expedition. Part of their investigations involved blasting the seabed with high explosives, a bombardment that killed nearly all of her people. But somehow throughout her relationship with McKenzie, she never seems to have mentioned to him what was going on, and never asked him if he could maybe stop blowing up all her family and friends. It's very strange. The art is also rather strange and awkward looking. Like most Golden Age comics I've encountered, it's not high art, but it is a fascinating piece of comic book history. It's also intriguing and imaginative; it was certainly an interesting idea to have the main character be an enemy of all surface dwellers who mistakenly murders two innocent human beings.

I'm starting to really become a fan of Namor as a character, so I was hoping for a little more from this comic. Still, what I got was okay.
Thumbs Sideways

Wolverine: Noir #1
Like Daredevil: Noir, Wolverine: Noir seemed like a rather unnecessary and redundant concept (I mean, how much darker can Wolverine's story get?), but also one I couldn't quite resist. So far I think it's my least favorite of Marvel's Noir series. It's set in 1937 and Wolverine is a detective at the Logan & Logan Detective Agency ("The Best There Is At What We Do"), along with a dude with mental problems named Dog. Naturally a beautiful, mysterious woman walks into the office with a case. And naturally it leads to death. A flashback reveals a little bit of the history between the Logans, as well as the highly unlikely fact that the gardener at Logan's house growing up had been to Japan and taught him all about samurai, honor, and how to fight with swords and knives. I understand that they wanted to keep Wolverine's Japanese past in the story somehow, but c'mon. That doesn't make any kind of sense. I also understand that they wanted to keep the idea of the claws, but I'm pretty sure you can't hold knives between your fingers like that and actually do anything useful with them. The dialogue and narration aren't terrible, but they're not great, either. And Dog is just a hideous character. It's hard to understand how Logan could think it was okay to send Dog out to complete any kind of task on his own, and it's even harder to understand how any client could come into the office, meet Dog, and still decide to hire the two of them. And overall the story is pretty tired. There's nothing here that makes me want to continue reading this series.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Angel (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Illustrated (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Noir (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Scalped (Not), Spider-Man (Not), ST:TNG (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (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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