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Friday, August 20, 2010 11:29 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 6/30, 7/7, 7/14, 7/21, and 7/28, as well as some back issues picked up during that time period. Basically, I'm catching up on a huge pile of unreviewed comics here. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1 & #2
We head back to the mid-'80s to tell a solo Abe story wherein everybody's favorite fish dude dives to the wreck of a Russian submarine in search of a magical artifact: Melchiorre's burgonet. The artifact has a fascinating history, but the real story here ends up being about the Russian soldier tasked with guarding the artifact - his love, his tragic death, and his boundless loyalty. Artist Peter Snejbjerg contributes some truly haunting, eerie, beautiful images, with the usual wonderful coloring by Dave Stewart. And hey, there's a fun cameo from Miss Varvara! Gotta love her. The plot is a pretty classic ghost story, but it's well done. It's also kind of interesting to meet a B.P.R.D. agent who's just a complete dick.
Thumbs Up

Astonishing X-Men #34
What with all the other X-Men miniseries Warren Ellis has been putting out lately, I completely forgot that he had a separate, unfinished story arc still going in this title. It's been so long since an issue came out I just barely remember the plot, but it's easy enough to pick it back up again. Anyway, Ellis' X-Men books are less about the plot and more about sitting back and enjoying the bitter, amusing banter among the characters as they slay gigantic, hideous monsters, and this issue is no exception. I particularly love the way Ellis writes Emma Frost and Abigail Brand. Using Frost to do some hilarious meta-criticism of the weird history of the X-Men and their villains was ingenious. My only problem: I feel like I should probably know who the shadowy figure in the wheelchair is at the end. But that's okay, I'm sure everything will be explained in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Batman #701
Grant Morrison is so good at writing Batman. Which is why I buy all his Batman books. This book - which jumps back in time to fill in the gap between Bruce's escape from Hurt and the beginning of Final Crisis - opens like this: "Surviving is easy. Surviving is what I do. Ever since that first night, when Joe Chill turned his gun on Dad and Mom, I've been surviving." There's some fun banter between him and a girl he saved, and him and Alfred. And a lot of ominous brooding over Hurt. There's lots of narration, but it's good narration. "I could still taste graveyard soil. And I felt disembodied, haunting the halls and stairways of my own home." It's all a bit unnerving, hinting at some giant conspiracy. The events of Final Crisis, of Batman R.I.P., of The Return of Bruce Wayne - they're all somehow tied together in a great twisted loop of doom that spans hundreds, maybe thousands of years. It's brilliant stuff. I also like the way Bruce describes his relationship with the super-powered people: "I've worked so hard to gain their respect, they sometimes forget I'm flesh and blood. In Superman's world, everything is mythology." And then, the conclusion: "The hole in things was everywhere I looked. The trap I was so sure I'd escaped was locking into place all around me. Think fast, Batman..." That is good stuff, people. The next issue should be the conclusion of this story, and I can't wait to read it.
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #13
We open with a creepy, alternate history retelling of the story of Thomas Wayne, then move to the future for the death, at Thomas Wayne's hands, of Dick Grayson. Then it's back in time three days to explain how this could have happened. Hurt is a very unsettling character for lots of reasons. He cuts at the very heart of what Batman is. To take away the idea that Batman's father was anything but a good man is to take away Batman. Is this "Thomas Wayne" from an alternate Earth? Or is he a creature with false memories created to bring Bruce down? And what are we to make of the return of the Joker? Is he really trying to help? It's hard to believe. I'm fascinated by the relationship between Grayson's Batman and the police. They're aware that he's not the same Batman, but they're not sure just who he is. Gordon pokes at him politely, trying to figure him out, and even mentions that his men prefer him to the other Batman. Meanwhile, Professor Pyg, his Dollotrons, and his infectious addictions have come all the way back from the beginning of this book to haunt Batman again. The image of dominoes falling gives us the sense again that there's a huge plan behind all of this that's only now coming to its fruition. Morrison likes the long con.
Thumbs Up

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4
A classic scene of Old West violence ends with a woman praying: "Oh, dear Lord... if you cannot... send me a miracle of love and salvation... send your darkest, truest angel... of... retribution..." Enter Bruce Wayne, with lightning. Nice. Turns out the folks who hired Hex to take out Bruce are two nigh-immortal beings: Vandal Savage and Doctor Thomas Wayne. Is this the Doctor Hurt from the other Batman books? It seems likely. So he's clearly not Bruce's father - he's some other kind of being entirely, ages and ages old. Anyway, Savage and Wayne seem to think if they can open the box with the bat symbol on it that this family's been keeping for Bruce all these years, they can ensure their immortality, although others say it will bring about the end of the world. In fact, it turns out there's just a book and some papers in there, but they may in fact be the key to oblivion. The closing narration continues the story of the Wayne family history, and suggests that "Thomas Wayne" was also Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, Bruce jumps forward to what looks like modern, or near modern, times. Only two issues of this one left! I'll be curious to see how Morrison ties it all together.
Thumbs Up

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #2
Now that the mysteries are getting cleared away in this book, it's getting less interesting. But I am fascinated by the conflict between the pirates who want to give the power of science away freely to everybody, and the cult of the establishment who want to keep the power of magic for themselves alone.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellboy: The Storm #1
Awww. Hellboy's got a girlfriend. That's nice. An army of dead British guys is also rising up to follow him, although he doesn't know where they're all going. Sadly it looks like Queen Mab and her people have been killed. I'm not totally sure who that old guy is the pig dude runs into at the end, but the book's been pretty good lately at going back and filling us in on anything we might have forgotten, so hopefully that will happen again in this case. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, but it's still well drawn with some very thrilling moments.
Thumbs Up

Heralds #5
The final issue of this miniseries is truly great. A woman faces her fears and a new hero is born. I'm not sure what else to say. Just read it!
Thumbs Up

Incorruptible #8
The cover of this issue seems to promise a fight between the old and new Jailbaits, but sadly that does not occur. However, Max does get to take out some racist scumbags, and picks up a clue that will apparently lead him to his next adventure - and will help unlock more of the secrets of his past. I have to say, this book is really losing me. The writing is just nowhere near as strong as it used to be, and I continue to really dislike Horacio Domingues' childish, overdone art.
Thumbs Sideways

The Invincible Iron Man Annual #1
I swore off Matt Fraction a long time ago, but all the comic book fans I follow on Twitter kept going on and on about how great this book was, so I picked it up. Yeah, still not a Fraction fan. I mean, it's a well told story and all, tragic and brutal. I just didn't love it.
Thumbs Sideways

Irredeemable #14 & #15
I read these two issues in the wrong order, because I missed 14 the week it actually came out, so I was a little confused at first about what happened, but I think I have it mostly sorted out in my head now. There's a huge climactic fight which pretty much concludes this story arc, and ends with the death of a major character, although it's not who you might expect. Qubit makes a last second decision which may or may not have been the right one. He also keeps a pretty big secret, and I think is on the verge of figuring out another. Meanwhile, Modeus' mysterious plan is still playing itself out. Intriguing and exciting.
Thumbs Up

The Man with the Getaway Face
Darwyn Cooke's original plan was to adapt the first four of Richard Stark's Parker books, but as he explains in the introduction to this book, he decided there were two later books in the series he was more interested in adapting. That meant dropping two of the earlier books. But he couldn't discard The Man with the Getaway Face entirely, as it sets up some of the events of the later stories. So he decided to do a shortened adaptation of that book as a prelude to The Outfit, and put it out as a separate, over-sized, $2 preview. The result is a tight, brutal, crime noir tale. Certain parts of the story, Cooke accompanies with loads of wonderfully written narration, while other parts are completely wordless, relying entirely on his powerful imagery to tell the story. Skim's tale is a twisted sort of mirror image of Parker's own tale, but Parker himself doesn't really see it that way. I have a feeling Skim is going to misunderstand what happened during this heist and come back to haunt Parker in the future. I look forward to seeing if I'm right.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #15
Now that all the giant, maxi-series X-Drama is over, we can return to the far more interesting story Zeb Wells was in the middle of telling before all that started: the one about that troop of bad-ass army dudes who came back from Limbo looking to take out Magik. Gillen gives us only a vague sense of what these soldiers have been through and how they've been changed - which just makes them that much more intriguing. I particularly love the moment when one of the guys in the unit, his face entirely bandaged, lifts the goggles off his glowing red eyes, and says "Ruff! Ruff!" to a nearby normal human soldier, just to freak him out. Meanwhile, our heroes are getting drunk and making out in an attempt to get over all the crap that's happened to them lately. But crap ain't done happening! And Pixie's in trouble! Fun!
Thumbs Up

Scalped #39
It seems like forever since I've read an issue of Scalped. I suspect I missed one or two issues. The good news is, this is the first issue of a new story arc, so I wasn't completely lost. Although the various plotlines and character relationships, spread across past and present, are beginning to get so complex I feel like I need a chart to keep track of them all. This storyline is about Carol finally getting her shit together, which is good to see. Then there's the usual shock ending. Wait, I thought we already knew who Bad Horse's father was?? Well, I guess that makes his relationship with the Chief's daughter a little less icky than I thought it was...
Thumbs Up

Secret Warriors #17
This is not a book I'd normally pick up, but I couldn't resist the subtitle of this story arc: "The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos." Not much happens in this first part, however; it's basically all setup. Looks like they're using the old "start at the end and then flashback to explain what happened" structure. Not sure I'll bother to keep reading, though, as nothing in here really intrigued me all that much.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Wars: Dark Times #17
At long last, the "Blue Harvest" story arc comes to an end! And what a doozie of an end it is. I truly love it. It reminds me a lot of the series finale of Angel. "They're going to kill you! Why are you doing this?" "It's my job." Bad-ass. The short scene set in the Bomo Greenbark storyline is interesting, too. I get the strong sense the Jedi who showed up offering his help planned to betray Greenbark and his friends - and might still plan to do so. Killing the troopers was probably all show to gain their trust. Hmm...
Thumbs Up

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #1
Ed Brubaker and Steve Rogers both seem really busy these days, but here they are, together again on yet another book. This time Rogers finds himself on the trail of a descendant of the Professor Erskine who turned him into who he is. At first this Erskine seems to be using his grandfather's work for evil, but Rogers quickly discovers there's a lot more going on than he realized. It's a vaguely intriguing story concept, but not exciting enough to get me to keep reading. The most interesting thing in the book, actually, is a reprint of the original version of Captain America's origin story. I'd never actually read that before.
Thumbs Sideways

Thor #611 & #612
Loki's still causing trouble! His earlier machinations lead, in these issues, to Thor having to go to Hell to protect the souls of his fallen brothers. It sounds like a great idea, but the story itself is actually a bit dull, maybe because it's hard to really get interested in such cosmic, inhuman drama. Plus, the idea of Mephisto making out with cannibalistic zombies is pretty nasty.
Thumbs Sideways

Thor: The Mighty Avenger #1 & #2
Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee have teamed up for a new ongoing Thor series which seems to be sort of a reboot of his story, probably in preparation for the release of the movie. Thor shows up on Earth with only vague memories of who he is and where he came from, and ends up relying on museum department head Jane Foster to acclimate him to the confusing vagaries of Midgard. Oddly, the first villain he has to face off against is the rather lame Hyde. Regardless, the book is kind of fun so far. We'll see where it goes from here.
Thumbs Sideways

The Unwritten #15
Tommy follows a trail of literary clues and finally comes face to face with his Dad - who promptly kicks Ambrosio's ass, before getting a nice punch in the face for his troubles. Meanwhile, we get a better idea of Lizzie Hexam's origins, although she herself seems unaware of just how much she's changed since then. And all along, the release of the final Tommy Taylor book comes closer! Tense and exciting.
Thumbs Up

World War Hulks: Spider-Man vs. Thor #1
I've mostly been staying away from the World War Hulks maxi-series because I dislike the work of most of the writers involved. But this two-part miniseries was written by Kieron Gillen, so I thought it might be interesting. Sadly, I was mistaken. It is kind of fun seeing Hulkified versions of Spider-Man and Thor. But their Hulkified dialog, while funny at first, starts to get stupid and grating very quickly. Plus the story makes contrived use of random memories from the characters' past to get them to fight each other, which is just lame.
Thumbs Down

X-Men: Second Coming #2
This is the concluding part of the most recent X-Drama maxi-series - the one I was talking about earlier. There are four chapters in this book, one by Zeb Wells, one by Mike Carey, one by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, and one by Matt Fraction. They all deal with the aftermath of the events of "Second Coming" - which means another superhero funeral with lots of tearful speeches. Ugh. I'm so tired of that crap. There's also a ridiculous two-page spread of X-Force posing for the camera, courtesy the pencil of Greg Land. Oh, and naturally the Phoenix raises her ugly head again. Sigh. Sometimes the X-Men just make me tired.
Thumbs Down
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Darwyn Cooke (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Hellboy (Not), Hulk (Not), Iron Man (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), Scalped (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not), Zeb Wells (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, December 30, 2009 04:43 PM
Best of the Double Nothings: Best Comics of 2009
 by Fëanor

  1. Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D - Along with All-Star Superman, this is Grant Morrison's ultimate Superman story. It also provides some beautiful and insightful commentary on stories in general.

  2. Final Crisis - Easily the best huge multiverse event miniseries ever. Epic, brilliant, and breath-takingly imaginative.

  3. The Unwritten - A beautiful and stunning commentary, not just on the Harry Potter series, but also on fiction in general, and its incredible power over reality itself.

  4. The Umbrella Academy: Dallas - If you thought the first Umbrella Academy miniseries, written by a rock star, was a fluke, the follow-up should convince you otherwise. If anything, it's more stunning, darkly funny, mind-blowing, and creative than the first.

  5. X-Men: Magneto - Testament - A supervillain origin story that turns into a devastating examination of the worst act of villainy ever committed in the real world. It's the rare comic book that I can confidently describe as "important," and this is one.

  6. Scalped - Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera's brutal crime noir thriller set on an Indian reservation continues to be one of the tensest, most exciting, and most intelligent books on the stands.

  7. Irredeemable - Mark Waid imagines a world whose "Superman" snaps one day and decides to do all the unthinkable, incredibly destructive, horrifically evil things that Superman would never do. The result is an extremely unsettling and engrossing story set in an exciting new universe.

  8. No Hero - In this series, Warren Ellis continues the examination of the superhuman that he began in Black Summer, and that he is currently still working through in Supergod (a series which failed to make this list for no other reason than the fact that only two issues have come out, so I didn't think I'd seen enough of it yet to include it). It's a dark, but rather painfully realistic, visualization of humanity, and of how the world might change if people could really have super powers.

  9. Comic Book Comics - A smart, engrossing, and extremely irreverent history of comic books cleverly and appropriately presented in comic book form. Fun!

  10. Criminal - Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips continue their incredibly impressive, artful, and entertaining crime noir series. One of the best parts is the essay in the back on other noir-related topics.
Tagged (?): Best of the Double Nothings (Not), Comic books (Not), Criminal (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Lists (Not), Scalped (Not), Superman (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009 03:51 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimate Spider-Man #5
I was really excited about this comic at first, but I'm starting to get tired of it. It's cute. The art's good. The story's okay. But it's not blowing me away anymore. And that Bendis dialog! It really starts to grate on you. I mean, how many books did I buy this week by Bendis? That guy is everywhere! Can't he just back off a little?
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Criminal (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Pixar (Not), Scalped (Not), Siege (Not), Spider-Man (Not), The Take (Not), Vampires (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Friday, September 18, 2009 11:36 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 8/28 and a back issue from 8/19. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawkman - This episode establishes that giant space battles are still going on elsewhere, and so nobody is available to help Hawkman fight off dinosaurs on Dinosaur Island - except Aquaman. D'oh! This strip has really surprised me. I hated the first four or five episodes, but now it's really picked up and is a lot more fun.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hulk (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Kevin Smith (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Muppets (Not), Pixar (Not), Predator (Not), Scalped (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Sunday, July 26, 2009 07:29 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 7/15. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

All Select Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
There are two new stories this time: a pretty poor Blonde Phantom murder mystery by Marc Guggenheim, with art by Javier Pulido, and a very strange and even rather disturbing parody story by Michael Kupperman called "Marvex the Super Robot." The reprints are two (I think the first two, and possibly the only two) Marvex the Super Robot stories from issues #3 and 4 of Daring Mystery Comics from April-May of 1940.

The Blonde Phantom story is called "Murder on Another Planet," but sadly the title is just a metaphor and no alien worlds are involved. Instead, we just see the Phantom getting back into her snazzy superhero outfit after many years out of it in order to solve the murder of her friend Michael Brayden. The tale is told mostly through noir-style narration; really it's more an illustrated short story than a comic book. The art is quite excellent, but sadly, the writing is cheesy, melodramatic, and overdone, particularly during the final sequence. Not so good.

Kupperman's Marvex story is absurd to the point of being almost frighteningly deranged, but it's only slightly more insane than the original Marvex stories of which it's a parody. I probably should have read the original stories first, then come back to Kupperman's story; perhaps it would have been slightly less disturbing that way. As it is, I have to say I found it more weird than funny, although I enjoy the art and the premise. Marvex's actual origin story comes next. It's a classic Golden Age story - a super-powered good guy versus gangsters who are trying to steal military secrets - but in this case the good guy is a robot, modeled after Earthlings by aliens from another dimension and created to be a slave to them. Only they seem to have mistakenly given him self-awareness, as immediately after being created he decides he doesn't like them and their plan of enslavement and promptly KILLS ALL OF THEM. Then we are presented with this brilliant piece of narration: "By some strange turn of events Marvex is blown out of the fifth dimension onto Earth." There's no time for pesky explanations! Let's just move things along. Later Marvex saves a woman from a fire and she sends him after the spies who stole her father's secret military plans. Marvex doesn't mince words with them, or pull any punches. He yanks one out of a speeding car by his hair, telling him, "You are no good! You die!" When the crook asks to be let go, Marvex hurls him into a nearby boulder, saying, "There! I let you go!" When he corners the mastermind behind the heist, Marvex throws him through the wall of an office, presumably to his death, as the office is clearly not on the first floor. When Marvex returns the plans to the woman, she says, "Oh, thank you! You are the only friend I have!" He responds, "But remember - we can never be more than friends." (Uh, I don't think she asked to be!) She asks, "Why not?" and in response he removes his shirt and says, "Because I am not human - I am Marvex the Super-Robot." A narration box at the bottom of the panel helpfully explains, "The Super-Robot quickly disrobes showing his metal body."

Wow. I mean... wow.

In the next story, despite the fact that it's the very next episode in the Marvex saga and came out only a month after the previous one, Marvex already has a different character design. His face is now less human and more obviously robotic, and he has odd white circles around his eyes. He also now speaks in huge bold letters at all times, as if he's constantly shouting at the top of his super-robotic lungs. He takes out some more gangsters for his blonde girlfriend, but when she tells him at the end of the story, "Marvex - you're the most wonderful man I know!" he insists, "I AM NOT A MAN - ONLY A MACHINE!" What is your deal, dude? Almost every robotic man throughout the history of science fiction has wanted desperately to be human, and has tried at all times to act like a human and be seen as a human. But Marvex insists at all times that he is a robot, so you'd better not try to have relations of any kind with him! His desire to not be touched by your fleshy appendages reminds me of Machine Man.

The last thing in the book is a short preview of issue #570 of Fantastic Four. Looks like this is the issue in which a new creative team takes over (Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham). The art is nice, the flashback is rather effective, and the fight with the weird human-powered machines is intriguing. Still, not sure I'm up for giving that series yet another try.
Thumbs Sideways

Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #2
Man, those poor little furry aliens sure have terrible luck! I enjoy the dark humor surrounding their adventures, and their fascinating backstory. I also love the epic knock-down, drag-out between Silver Surfer and Beta Ray Bill. Then Bill makes a terrible choice, and the consequences are dramatized in subtle and powerful fashion. This is such a great series! I'm also pleased that, as I'd hoped, they're continuing to run the reprints of Bill's origin story as a backup throughout. Interestingly enough, when Thor and Bill stop fighting long enough to realize they're on the same side, we don't move directly to them joining forces - instead they end up having another, even more brutal fight... to the death! It's thrilling stuff, and there's even an amusing interlude with Volstagg.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #1
Here it is at last, after all the hype and all the preludes: Blackest Night. And I have to say, I'm not really a fan. My main complaint is one I'm not used to making: I feel like it crosses lines that didn't need to be crossed. I didn't need to see the Black Hand sloppily licking Bruce Wayne's skull, accompanied by the sound effect "SLLK." I didn't need to revisit the infamous "girl in the fridge" scene. I didn't need to see Scar the evil Guardian bite another Guardian in the throat, tear his heart out of his chest, and eat it, and then follow that up by barfing out some disgusting black substance and encasing the rest of the Guardians in it. I didn't need to see Ralph and Sue Dibny come back to life so they could savagely beat Hawkman and Hawkgirl to death before ripping their hearts out.

Admittedly, maybe I would have accepted all this more readily if the comic were well written. But it most definitely is not. It's loaded with clumsy, melodramatic dialog and far too much painfully corny narration. It is the complete opposite of subtle.

I won't say the entire thing is garbage. There are some good ideas in here, and some powerful emotional moments, and Ivan Reis' art is quite excellent. I remain intrigued by the story, and yes, I will probably buy the next issue to find out what happens. But I sure hope it gets better!
Thumbs Down

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1
Despite the title, this book isn't really so much about Blackest Night. It's more a series of character portraits of people involved (in some cases rather tangentially) in the War of Light. There's the origin story of Saint Walker, which takes the form of a religious parable; a darkly funny story about Mongul; and a rather enigmatic tale about the mysterious Indigo Tribe. The first story is by Geoff Johns, with art by Jerry Ordway, and although it's a bit melodramatic and reminiscent of many a story before it (especially the Book of Job), it's surprisingly effective. I don't always like the work of Peter J. Tomasi, but his Mongul story is moving and clever; it's a look at the DCU inverted, from the villain's perspective. The final story, again by Geoff Johns, this time with art by Rags Morales, doesn't explain much about the Indigo Tribe, and it features a lot of them talking in rather irritating nonsense language, but it does reveal that they seem to be able to take in the powers of the other Lanterns and turn them back on their wielders. Where they stand in the conflict is also unclear; they end up killing a Green Lantern (perhaps it's more correct to say they put him out of his misery), but also attacking and scaring off a Yellow Lantern.

I didn't love this book - it's okay, not great - but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I was expecting it to be.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America #601
This comic turned me off right away by actually printing "A VERY SPECIAL ISSUE OF CAPTAIN AMERICA" on the cover. Seriously, who does that? That's a bad cliche they used to use to decribe the episode of a TV show that's about sex or drug abuse, or an incurable disease. That's not something you say with complete sincerity about your own comic book in 2009.

The reason why the issue is so special is because the art was provided by comic legend Gene Colan. And indeed the art is reasonably impressive with interesting page/panel design and a real painterly look to it. But some of the character faces - especially, unfortunately, Captain America's - are oddly misshapen. And Brubaker really dropped the ball as far as the writing goes. The story is clumsily constructed, opening up in a frame that's already a flashback, set during the Civil War, which then flashes back again to 1945, and then a couple pages later flashes back yet again to Cap's many-times-retold origin story. A flashback within a flashback within a flashback? Come on! The story ends up being a silly, melodramatic thing about vampires during WWII. Which is kind of a cool idea, but it's been done. And the payoff as to who the vampires are, and what Cap has to do to finally stop them, is quite lame and cliche. The dialog throughout is pretty ridiculous and clunky, and the last panel, which features Bucky winking - winking! - as he talks about the horrors he and Cap have been through seems really inappropriate. It's a really disappointing comic and, as I said on Twitter after I finished reading it, the only thing "special" about it is that it's especially bad.
Thumbs Down

Dark Avengers #7
I was pretty surprised when, after I finished reading this comic, I turned it over and saw Matt Fraction's name on the cover. But... it's funny and clever! And I thought Brian Michael Bendis wrote this title! These comic book authors are always throwing me off. Anyway, one of the things I really enjoy about this comic are the clever descriptions Fraction slips into the narrative boxes introducing each character. Norman Osborn, for instance, is described as "Director of H.A.M.M.E.R. Slowly boiling cauldron of insanity." Mimic's box says, "Powers of the original five X-Men. Mimics other powers in proximity. Really happy to be here." Emma Frost's box reveals she's going by "Black Queen" now, which is rather silly, but okay. Cyclops, meanwhile, flies in on a jetpack to meet with Norman Osborn on Alcatraz, so his box says, "Leader of the X-Men. Owner of a jetpack." Heh. More fun character descriptions: Bullseye - "Psychotic killing machine. Bored." Ms. Marvel - "Team leader. Hooks up with everything that moves."

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the confrontation between Scott and Norman. Norman starts in on this big speech, and Scott just suddenly interrupts him with one word: "Surrender." It's the last thing anybody expects him to say. Osborn blows up on him: "Or... or what? Are you... are you insane? Hm?" It's pretty great. Plus it makes me think Scott's being cleverer here than I thought he was.

I also enjoy Bullseye ranting in the next scene. He complains about Wolverine ("Give me a break. How many teams can that guy be on?!?") and says he wants to get out there and fight. "And what about you, big guy?" he asks Ares. "You with me?" Ares responds with the only word he says in the entire scene: "Aye." (His box describes him as "Greek God of war. Orator." Pfft.) When Bullseye finally taunts Wolverine in person, he responds, "I would love - quite literally, love - to see you try, you ridiculous carny." Then, big fight!! Awesome. Meanwhile, Emma demands to know what's really happening to all the captured mutants. It's pretty funny seeing Norman and Dark Beast try to keep straight faces while lying to her about what they're doing. Finally, one of the more interesting character intro boxes describes Simon Trask as "Human Sentinel Zero." Oh really? This might explain this whole thing he's doing where he seems to be controlling people's minds and commanding them to destroy. That should be interesting!

I was totally down on this whole Utopia thing before, but I have to admit Fraction has turned me nearly completely around with this issue. I even like Luke Ross' art. I'll be damned.
Thumbs Up

Doctor Who #1
I've been a fan of Doctor Who since I was a kid, but for whatever reason I've mostly avoided the comic books. When I saw there was a new ongoing series starting, though, I knew I had to check it out. The first issue is written by Tony Lee with art by Al Davison and it stars the current Doctor from the BBC TV series in the title role. This time he's in Hollywood in 1926, hobnobbing with famous and soon-to-be-famous actors. Amusingly, whenever they ask his name, he gives the name of a different famous 20th century Hollywood actor. Inevitably he discovers there's an evil alien plot afoot that he has to stop, with the help of some contemporary folks, including the actor "Archie Maplin," who's clearly meant to be a stand-in for Charlie Chaplin (although why they didn't just use the real name instead of making up a fake one is a little confusing to me). The end features the Doctor in a classic silent movie predicament and is really quite clever and fun; I like how the panels on the penultimate page are drawn like train tracks, or like a strip of film. And the final page is wonderfully dramatic.

It's not a fantastic comic - it's actually rather silly and formulaic - but it's still pretty fun and I'm curious to see where it goes, so I'll most likely pick up the next issue.
Thumbs Sideways

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Escape #3
The surreal Prisoner-like adventures continue! Our "heroes" get together and try to figure things out, but it's like they're each having a different conversation all at the same time. Then the "bad guys" put some folks on a wheel and spin it to decide the fates of others, like in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. It's kind of cool. The story remains confusing in the extreme, however. I'll stick around to see if it actually resolves into something understandable.
Thumbs Sideways

Incognito #5
In this issue, lots of cool little secrets start to leak out about: the creepy, twisted relationship between Xander, his brother, and Ava Destruction (when they're about to hook up, Zack asks, "You don't think it'll be too weird?" and Ava says, "It fucking better be..."); the connection between the twins; the explanation for Ava's looks and the price she paid for them; a look at the mole the villains have placed amongst their enemies; where the twins came from, and that there's something about them that frightens the other villains; the origin of superpowers in this universe; just what "The Sleeper" is, and just what the villains plan to do with him. And hey, Lazarus looks a lot like The Hood! Although I guess he's supposed to be a Shadow analog.

Anyway, the point is, awesome issue!! This series is really picking up speed and adding all kinds of interesting new story elements. Fun, creative, exciting. And there's even an interesting essay in the back about Fu Manchu by Jess Nevins!
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #3
This issue starts off on the right foot with a kick-ass cover, featuring Dani Moonstar walking towards us and pointing a pistol directly at us, while completely festooned in a whole arsenal of other weaponry. I'm actually not sure if this is the standard cover or the alternate cover; I'm thinking standard, in which case it's by Adam Kubert & Justin Ponsor. Anyway, inside the book there's a great scene where Legion gets a brutal kick to the head, and then Sam makes the decision to leave Dani locked up to keep her safe, a decision which ends up putting her in more danger, which she does not appreciate, and which interestingly underlines the rift that's opened between the powered and depowered mutants. I like the scene where Legion suddenly becomes impossibly muscular, almost like in a Dragonball-style anime. At the same time he screams, "NOBODY LOVES ME!!!" Bobby responds, "I... I have no idea what to say to that." There's a creepy scene where one of the seemingly "good" personalities in Legion attacks the defenseless Dani, but is stopped in time. Then Illyana decides to enter Legion herself to try to save the missing girl. Sam points out she could lose herself forever in there, but she responds, "What makes you so sure, Sam, that I have a self to lose?" Okay, so she's still crazy, then. It looks like it might be time to call in the X-Men, but Dani says no, let's go after Legion ourselves - with guns! Meanwhile, inside Legion, Illyana throws caution to the wind and starts laying about with her soul sword with extreme prejudice. Very nice!

Definitely still loving Diogenes Neves' art and Zeb Wells' writing here. It's an exciting and intriguing story with a good mix of action, drama, and humor.
Thumbs Up

Scalped #30
This is the first part of a new story arc, and boy is it a doozie. It opens with the wise old lady telling Falls Down an old Cheyenne story about how the great white grandfather beaver of the North is always gnawing at the pole that holds up the Earth. Then she says, "Sometimes when I first wake up I feel like I can hear it." "Hear what?" he asks. "The gnawing," she answers, and that's also the title of the arc: "The Gnawing." Excellent.

Bad Horse ends up with Catcher in the back of his squad car, and they have an eerie coversation wherein Catcher drops some heavy info on Bad Horse, revealing that he knows all kinds of things he shouldn't. Then he says, "Wanbli." "What the fuck does that mean?" Bad Horse asks. "Eagle," Catcher says, pointing, and there ahead of them is an eagle, which crashes into the windshield, sending the car out of control. Bad Horse stumbles out and Catcher disappears. Another great scene!

But the next scene ramps things up even further, as Red Crow reveals to Bad Horse that not only does he know Nitz has a mole in his organization, he wants Bad Horse to find that mole! Delicious irony. Everything and everyone is pressing down on Bad Horse now. For both Nitz and Red Crow, this is his final test. Meanwhile, Red Crow reveals to the Hmongs what he's done to Brass. When their leader demands he put Brass on the phone, Red Crow does so - but then shoots Brass in the head. It's the greatest, most bad-ass scene of all time. I cackled with glee as I read it. But now a huge, bloody war seems inevitable.

Such a fantastic issue! Explosive and insane and transformative. Everything is coming to a head now. But then, it feels like that's happening in practically every issue of Scalped - like everything's always teetering on the edge of complete collapse. Which is why it's so good.
Thumbs Up

Sherlock Holmes #3
I love the way Holmes, dressed as an old guy, totally dismantles a rich guy's bodyguard. That's bad-ass. I don't quite get what's supposed to be happening in the scene where Holmes sneaks back into his house and knocks over a pie. Is he causing a distraction to keep the reporter from getting something important out of Mrs. Hudson? I'm not clear on that. Maybe it will make more sense in a future issue. Anyway, there's also an exciting assassination attempt that's thwarted by a quick-thinking Lestrade, whose name is apparently familiar to the Baron, which is a bit odd. Maybe that will also be explained later on. Meanwhile Watson tries to get some help from Mycroft, but is unsuccessful. Then Holmes himself goes to see Mycroft, looking for answers. It should be interesting to see how that turns out!

This is getting more and more intriguing. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Crew #5
A science officer named Ensign Spock is introduced in this issue. Exciting! We also learn that our nameless main character has been constantly refusing promotions, and we learn at the end of the issue why: she wants to remain in the middle of the action, and not be held back by rules and regulations. In fact, she wants to be first officer! But before we get there, the Enterprise has an adventure chasing vanishing star systems, and is eventually sucked after one of them and into a vast emptiness. The story is actually pretty odd, over-the-top, and even depressing. Thanks to Spock's telepathic mind, they're able to learn that super-advanced, but oddly childish, entities in the future have been stealing star systems from the past in an attempt to stave off entropy and keep the universe from ending. But it's not doing any good, and the crew of the Enterprise is slowly dying from the effects of entropy themselves. Finally the future entities are talked into returning the ship and its crew to their own time, and giving up their vain attempts to stop the universe's ultimate destruction.

I can't say I really enjoyed this issue very much. It's more unbelievable even than your average Star Trek comic, and like I said, it's a bit more depressing than I really like. Still, it has some cool moments, and I believe we're now all set up for the concluding issue of this rather strong miniseries.
Thumbs Sideways

Wednesday Comics #2
I was a bit harsh on the first issue of Wednesday Comics in my last edition of The Take. The truth is, I love the format and the concept so much that I really enjoy reading even the weakest stories in it. We open up here once again with Azzarello's Batman, and it's a really well done little story. We meet the widow of the rich man killed in the last episode, and Bruce Wayne cleverly saves her life from an assassin's bullet in a really beautifully and cleverly drawn series of panels (compliments go to artist Risso). Meanwhile, Ryan Sook contributes more beautiful, classical art to Dave Gibbons' Kamandi, which continues with our title character meeting up with Prince Tuftan and fighting off some giant rats. Arcudi's Superman also has some fantastic art, this time from Lee Bermejo, but I'm not as happy with some of the writing here. Superman talks to his friend Batman about his unease over his confrontation with the mysterious alien last issue, but Batman is less than helpful, and Superman storms off all bitter and petulant. It's kind of lame, and I'm not sure I see the two of them having that kind of interaction. I don't think Bruce is that simplistic and brutal, and I don't think Clark is that sensitive. But maybe I'm being picky. We'll see where this one goes. I'm also still not a huge fan of Deadman. The story does get a little more intriguing when the goddess intervenes to warn Deadman off from his latest investigation. He defies her and leaps inside the body of the murderer anyway, only to find himself sucked into some kind of mysterious darkness. Hmm... Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy Busiek's Green Lantern! In this episode, we get to see the emerald guardian in action, fighting some dudes with jetpacks and laser guns, and then we cut over to an astronaut being transformed by some kind of space fungus on live TV. Nice! And the art is, as usual, classical and fun. Gaiman and Allred's Metamorpho uses an interesting stylistic conceit in this episode: all the action occurs simultaneously in one gigantic panel, just like in old paintings. Metamorpho asks if there will be dinosaurs in the hidden land they're visiting. His mad scientist boss says, "Possibly a couple," and he responds, "Neat." Fun! Also, across the bottom of the page is a fake message from the "Metamorpho Fans of America," all done up in old school Ben-day dot printing style, explaining that there have been other "element men" (and women!) throughout the history of comics. Good to know! Thanks, little guys!

I still don't like Sean Galloway's art on Teen Titans, but this episode is thankfully not as blandly abstract or melodramatic as the first one. Once again it's all narration, but this time it's from the perspective of Robin, whose voice is bitter, sarcastic, and slightly more interesting than Trident's. Still not great writing, though, and the story remains rather lame.

The second part of Paul Pope's Strange Adventures is just as beautiful, fun, and stylish as the first. He's hit just the right note with the language - it has that wonderful, bombastic, over-the-top, Silver Age kind of flavor to it, without being corny or lame. Adam nearly quotes Planet of the Apes in the fourth panel: "Get your paws off her, you-!" Later, he agrees to the big villain's demands in the hopes that he can turn things to his advantage later. Should be fun!

Part two of Supergirl is more of the same: she's still chasing the superpets, and the superpets are still making a mess of everything. It's cutesy and rather dull. Metal Men is also still kind of fun, but mostly just bland and silly. Wonder Woman is still squished and hurried. I don't understand why Ben Caldwell, when he was given the chance to use this extra-large, epic-sized format, broke his story into episodes that are so long and detailed, he had to squeeze them into a bunch of tiny little panels with so many words in them you can barely read them, and such small pictures you can barely see them. The story's not even that complex; I don't think it required so much detail to tell it. Weak.

Sgt. Rock continues with a bit of exposition and then a flashback that starts to explain how Rock got into this position. Not as exciting as the opening chapter, but now we're getting more into the story, and there's the promise of some serious Nazi beatings in the future.

This time around Iris West and Flash have switched places on the page, but it's still just one story that continues through each of them in turn. We start off by learning that Barry's vanishing act at the end of the last issue was him accidentally going back through time. It leads to him having a fight with himself over Iris' note, which is pretty interesting. Still definitely having fun with these two linked comics.

The Demon and Catwoman starts to get a little more interesting, as Selina gets sucked through a magic doorway, and the Demon mentions a witch whom he thinks is behind all of this. Hmm. The final story, Hawkman, is thankfully not narrated by birds this time, but there is still a lot of narration and it is still very clumsy and cheesy. It's loaded with exposition, and tells a story that's barely even believable. This is still the worst strip in the book.

But despite the many misses nestled among the hits, I still really enjoy Wednesday Comics.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Byrne (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Scalped (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Saturday, June 13, 2009 09:00 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 5/20, 5/28, and 6/3, plus a trade paperback I got in Rehoboth, and another trade paperback that I found on my bookshelf; I stored it there and then forgot I owned it. I have to stop doing that.

(I should mention that, as usual, this post contains many spoilers.)

Back issues and old data
Jenny Finn: Doom Messiah
This is a black and white graphic novel in four chapters, written by Mike Mignola and Troy Nixey. Nixey also provides the art for the first three chapters, with Farel Dalrymple taking over for the final chapter. The plot is Lovecraftian, although the actual storytelling and characters are not - if that makes any sense. It appears to be set in 19th century London (or a nearby city in a nearby timeline). Strange tentacled monsters are being pulled up by fishermen, and even the regular fish are acting oddly, whispering "doom" over and over. A hideous, fishy plague starts spreading through the populace. Meanwhile, prostitutes are being murdered by a serial killer, and their ghosts haunt the streets. It all seems to be tied to a newcomer in town: a young whore named Jenny Finn. Thrown into the middle of this mystery by chance (or fate?) is a simple country boy named Joe who just moved to the city to earn a living there. The mystery ends up involving a secret society trying to bring about the birth of a hideous monster.

Troy Nixey's art is unique, eerie, fantastic, and perfectly suited to the story. Luckily Dalrymple's work is nearly as good (I'd like to believe he inserted Alan Moore into the book, as that dude wearing the snazzy tentacle hat at the secret society meeting at the end). The writing is fun and fascinating; the mystery is intriguing, and there's lots of great incidental dialog. And I have a hard time resisting anything with that lovely Lovecraftian flavor. I particularly like all the fish saying "doom" in the background all the time, and nobody really mentioning it at all. The ending comes rather abruptly, and doesn't make all that much sense to me (she was for everybody, high born and low? What does that even mean?), but I love the totally twisted Christmas Carol reference. Overall, a pretty wonderful graphic novel. Troy Nixey's sketchbook in the back is a true delight and is full of many wonderfully creepy portraits, including one of Hellboy!
Thumbs Up

John Woo's Seven Brothers
This is a trade paperback collection of a miniseries from the now defunct Virgin Comics, written by Garth Ennis with art by Jeevan Kang. What John Woo actually had to do with it, I'm not sure. Possibly he came up with the premise? On the title page, Garth Ennis' name appears under "Script," and under that it says, "with additional scenes from the cutting room floor of Tiger Hill Productions." Maybe this was going to be a movie before it became a comic book?

Anyway. The book is a crazy, modern day reimagining of the old folk tale about the seven (or five, or ten, depending on which version you're talking about) Chinese brothers with extraordinary abilities, a story I know about mostly thanks to poppy and REM. We open with the revelation that China sent a huge expedition to explore the world all the way back in the 1400s, thus discovering America and proving that the world was round before anybody else. But all history of this expedition was wiped away because it bankrupted the nation and everybody was pissed. It further turns out the expedition was being used by a great wizard, known as the Son of Hell, to place magic stones at certain key points along the "Dragon Lines," or ley lines of the Earth, and thus gain ultimate power over the entire planet. But the wizard's apprentice, Fong, realizing that a dude named Son of Hell shouldn't be allowed to have control of the Earth, used his charm to impregnate women all over the planet, passing different aspects of his powers into his children, so they would be there to fight back should the Son of Hell eventually succeed in putting all the stones in their places. When the Son of Hell tried to grasp the power of the dragon lines prematurely, Fong attacked him as a last resort. He died, but still managed to seal the wizard underground for hundreds of years. A modern day CEO, having learned about the Son of Hell and the dragon lines and all the power that could be had through them, digs up the Son of Hell and reawakens evil. Luckily, Fong's descendants are still around to fight back.

It's a neat premise and since it's written by Garth Ennis there's plenty of brutal insanity. The first scene after the prologue features one of our main characters - Ronald, a pathetic, would-be bad-ass pimp - getting the crap beat out of him by a bunch of whores. It's almost like Frank Miller's writing this! Luckily for Ronald, Rachel (descendant of Fong and carrier of his legacy) shows up and saves him using her magic powers: she can tell people how she beat them up, and then it happens. Very cool. Later we learn the various abilities of six of the seven "brothers," all of which turn out to be quite cool, as well. Only Ronald's powers remain a mystery. Then the Son of Hell reveals his plan: "I will slake my righteous anger in the bowels of whorish fate. And when I do, I'll use this world as a condom." That is some great villain dialog right there.

I was really shocked when all the heroes of the story got killed very early on. But then, in another very cool sequence, the first of Ronald's incredible powers are revealed: he knows the way out of hell! I'm kind of okay with Ronald being a pretty despicable person - at least we get to know him a little bit, which is more than you can really say for a lot of the other characters - but I'm not really okay with the way it turns out that he has so many, incredibly huge powers. It seems like kind of a cheat. He can dream the future, he knows the way out of hell, he knows the secret to defeating the Son of Hell, and also he's an incredibly powerful dragon? How does that all work? And why, as one of the other characters points out, is Ronald so powerful, while some of them can just jump really high? Still, the other guys do some cool stuff with their powers. I like when the guy with the incredibly powerful voice yells, "Son of Hell! Go back there!" And it is amusing when Ronald says, "I'm a muthafuckin' dragon, bitch!!"

Despite some occasional vicious attacks on my suspension of disbelief, and some other moments of ridiculousness, this is a pretty good book. The story is fast-paced, action-packed, and fun, with lots of clever ideas. According to Wikipedia there's a sequel, but I'm not sure what it would be about. This book is a complete story in and of itself. I might be interested if it was also written by Ennis, or someone else just as talented, but it was written by some guy I've never heard of named Ben Raab, so I don't plan to seek it out.
Thumbs Up

New releases from 5/20
Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3
Ugh! What a crummy comic this is. It's absolutely loaded with painfully cheesy narration and dialog from Dick Grayson, and some equally bad expository monologue from Tim Drake. Things get off on the wrong foot right away with a page full of bad narration, followed by a corny two-page spread of all the Batman-related heroes standing around posing heroically, followed by another page full of bad narration. There's a pretty neat one-page interlude with Commissioner Gordon, but we're back to the corny stuff soon enough.

Now for some spoilers. So far Tony Daniel has written Damian as a pathetic, incompetent, whiny brat, but for some reason Alfred puts him in the Robin costume in this book, as a reward for trying to knock the butler out with a wrench. Wha? The true identity of the new Black Mask remains a mystery, which is slightly irritating. Dick fights Jason with love and holographic messages from Bruce. Squire allows herself to be beaten up, robbed, and led around by the nose by a gimpy Damian. Tim explains aloud to himself and to us why he's still alive despite being stabbed by a Batarang in the chest. Jason dies again in one of those painfully cliche moments where the villain is hanging from a cliff by one hand and the hero offers him his hand because it's the heroic thing to do but the crazy villain drops anyway because he's crazy. Then Dick spouts even more corny, nonsensical narration and finally consents to be Batman like we all knew he was supposed to do from the beginning.

Blargh!

Tony Daniel's art is pretty good, but his writing is quite terrible. Still, it's good to see the identities of the new Batman and Robin finally settled and revealed. And now their story will be handed off to the all-star team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. I can't wait to read what they're going to do with Dick and Damian.
Thumbs Down

Captain America #50
Marvel loves celebrating milestones! They've got the 70th Anniversary to celebrate all year. And of course they have to celebrate reaching #50 in the latest volume of Captain America, so this issue contains not only a new story looking back on Bucky's life, but also a summary of Captain America's entire life history, and a short comedic story summarizing the very brief career of the fake '60s Captain America. And next month they're returning to the legacy numbering of Captain America and presenting a big, super special issue #600! Good lord.

The first story in this issue - with writing by Ed Brubaker and art by Luke Ross, as usual - cleverly discusses these milestone celebrations via the metaphor of setting its events on Bucky's birthday. Bucky is in the middle of a fight with some mysterious jet-packed individuals, and thinking back he realizes this kind of thing happens to him every birthday. This is a good excuse to take a look back at Bucky's life, so we jump back to 1941 and see a young Bucky cooling his heels in a jail cell after getting into a bar brawl (I love it!). The Major who's looking after him decides the way to straighten him out is to send him to England for special combat training with the SAS. It's Bucky's first step along the path that will make him Cap's sidekick. The next birthday we see is in 1943. This is a fun little story wherein Toro mistakenly gives up the Invaders' position to the super-powered Nazi villain Master Man in a wrongheaded attempt to throw Bucky a surprise party. Then we fast forward through Bucky's other birthdays, and fall back into the present, where we finally figure out what the deal is with the guys who are attacking him: they're crazy patriots who love Captain America, but don't think Bucky is the real thing, and don't appreciate him wearing the uniform. This revelation hits Bucky a little too close to home, as he's still not sure himself he should be wearing Cap's colors. But luckily, all his super buddies are waiting at home to make him feel better. Even though it's a little corny, I was really touched by the happy ending, and the fact that Bucky doesn't need to make a birthday wish, because he has everything he needs (aww).

The next story, as I said, is just a simple summary of the history of Captain America, but it's wonderfully illustrated, with classic style and dramatic design, so I quite enjoyed it. It's apparently both written and illustrated by Marcos Martin. Nice job, Mr. Martin!

The last part of the book is "Passing the Torch!" which tells a story that originally appeared in Strange Tales #106 and 114 in 1963, about a petty criminal who dressed up as Captain America in a sad attempt to rob a bank. The story is told directly to us by the criminal himself in a simple monologue. Except for the first and last panels, none of the action is dramatized at all. It's kind of a boring way to tell a story. It still ends up being mildly amusing, but I had to struggle a bit to stay focused and read the whole thing. It's OK, but could have been better.
Thumbs Up

The Complete Dracula #1
This is the start of Dynamite's comic book adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Even though I think the novel is flawed, I love it, and was curious to see what a straight comic book adaptation would look like. Unfortunately, it's a bit boring. This is literally just the novel, edited down and accompanied by illustrations. Leah Moore and John Reppion have done a pretty good job of paring Stoker's text down to the essentials, but it's still just Stoker's text. Colton Worley's art, while sometimes realistic and evocative, is also often clumsy, blurry, and disappointing. It's interesting to see "Dracula's Guest," the rather controversial prologue/alternate opening to the novel, dramatized and added on the front of the story. But besides that there's really not much exciting going on here, and I'm just not sure what the point is of treading again over such already well-traveled ground. I love John Cassaday's cover art, naturally, and I'm almost tempted to pick up the next issue just for that, and for the adaptation of the Demeter sequence, always my favorite part of the book. But I don't think I'm tempted enough to actually do it.
Thumbs Sideways

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Dance #1
This miniseries focuses on the exploits of some of my favorite characters from Final Crisis: the stylish and ridiculous Japanese hero group Super Young Team. Despite this fact, if I'd remembered that I really disliked everything else I'd read by author Joe Casey, I probably wouldn't have bought it. But I did, and I'm glad I did, because it's quite a bit of fun. (Which actually kind of annoys me. If Joe Casey isn't going to be crappy all the time, how do I know whether to buy his comics or not?! Bastard.) I kind of loved it right away when I opened it up and saw that the first line was Most Excellent Superbat saying, "Super Young Team! Suspension of disbelief: on." The characters are introduced on the title page by showing us their "Facespace" profiles on the screen of what looks like an iPhone. It's a brilliant idea, as is the idea to present Superbat's narration as Twitter updates throughout (his user name is @mosexbat - as of this writing not in use on Twitter!). Storywise, the team just got themselves a new PR guy and a new, high tech satellite headquarters. But they're all still a bit confused as to what their purpose is in this new world. They used to be all about style and popularity and fun, but now they want to be more than that - they want to be real heroes, and help rebuild Japan! Sort of - if they can still party and hang out with celebrities throughout. But their PR guy is focused on turning them away from real hero work - and perhaps for darker reasons than he's letting on. It's a fun and intriguing story, and I love these crazy characters. Superbat is a bit of an arrogant bastard, but in a funny way, and his heart's in the right place. I also love that the villain they fight at the end is just that sleazy, over-sexed guy who won't leave a girl alone at a party - but times two, and with super powers!

I'm very impressed with this comic. I even like the art, despite the fact that it's done by some guy who calls himself Chriscross. I just hope Joe Casey doesn't go back to being lame again before the series is over.
Thumbs Up

The Incredibles #2
When will Mr. Incredible learn?? You gotta tell your team when something's going wrong with you! Sigh. Before he finally has to break down and explain what's happening to him to his family, Bob visits the doctor to the superheroes, Doc Sunbright, who just happens to be the cousin of the tailor to the superheroes, Edna Mode. That those two are related is slightly stupid, but I'm willing to buy it, mostly because I enjoy the idea of there being a doctor to the superheros, and loved seeing Bob get a super checkup. Sadly, Doc Sunbright can't figure out what's wrong with Bob, and he fails to help out during the team's next mission. (I like how his line "I wasn't strong enough" mirrors one of my favorite of his lines from the movie: "I can't lose you again. I'm not strong enough.") So Elastigirl makes the command decision to ground him! Probably a good call, but I know Mr. Incredible isn't going to take it well. Hopefully they'll find out what's wrong with him soon!

Definitely still enjoying this series. Mark Waid's writing is strong, and so is Marcio Takara's art. They both get what was cool about the movie.
Thumbs Up

Jack of Fables #34
Part 5 of "The Great Fables Crossover" picks up with Jack and the main characters from Fables having swapped books. Bigby is still reeling from his sudden transformation at the hands (or rather, pen) of Kevin Thorn when Thorn makes another attempt to destroy him, and again doesn't quite succeed. He can't figure out what's holding him back - until he finally notices the dude in the straightjacket who's been tailing him all along. Turns out I was right about that guy: he is indeed Writer's Block. Thorn reveals that he killed Writer's Block years ago, but it cost him his favorite pen to do it, and since the guy's a Literal, he just came back anyway. While he's trying to figure out what to do about this, he sends the genres out to protect him from Bigby and friends. Meanwhile, the Page sisters have finally lost patience with just sitting around the diner and are headed Kevin's way, too, with a car full of weapons. Also, Bigby is continuing to go through a series of more and more embarrassing, and more and more amusing, transformations. Lots of fun, imaginative, and funny stuff happens in this issue. I really enjoy the genres and how deliberately corny and cliche they are. I like the glimpse of apocalypse that we get while the Page sisters are discussing how Kevin might end the world. I like Revise's dry sarcasm. I like Gary's pure, child-like joy at Bigby's various transformations. And I like the Writer's Block concept.
Thumbs Up

Marvel Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
The latest of these anniversary one-shots features one new story ("Project: Blockbuster" by writer Tom DeFalco and artist Chris Burnham) and two reprints of old stories ("The Human Torch" by Carl Burgos from Marvel Mystery Comics #4, February 1940, and "The Ferret" by Stockbridge Winslow and Irwin Hasen from Marvel Mystery Comics #5, March 1940). The first story is a team-up between Namor, the Ferret, the Angel, and the Human Torch and Toro. It opens with Namor fighting an enemy who's similar to the Human Torch, but is instead covered in a green fire that's freezing cold. The Ferret and Betty Dean figure the Green Flame might be just the first of a series of deadly weapons being created by a missing professor for the Nazis. Namor hates the Human Torch and is certain he's involved somehow, but in fact Torch gets kidnapped as well. The Angel helps them find out where he's being kept and the whole gang of heroes raids the place, where they're forced to fight not just an army of regular Green Flames, but also an extra large one called Project: Blockbuster, and the giant robot Electro! A huge battle ensues, and of course our heroes win. It's not a particularly imaginative story, and it's not exactly loaded with subtle character development, but it's pretty fun. It was interesting meeting the Ferret; he's a character I was not familiar with.

The next story features the first appearance of the Green Flame in the original comic. In this case, the Green Flame has so terrified New York, it's been put under martial law. The Human Torch is coming to see a friend in the city when the cops stop him and ask for his credentials; he tells them he's Jim Hamond, then they all run off when the Green Flame shows up. Hamond turns into the Human Torch and fights it, but it gets away. The cops come back, and since Hamond is no longer there, they stupidly assume the Human Torch must have killed him. They also refuse to believe that he is the Human Torch, but decide he must be some random other guy who happens to also be covered entirely with red fire. Admittedly, with these Green Flame guys running around this isn't an entirely ridiculous idea, but it's still pretty ridiculous (I mean, how many flaming dudes can there really be in the world?). Anyway, Torch escapes and meets up with his friend, who thinks it's hilarious that Torch is now wanted for the murder of himself. Then Torch fights off the Green Flame and defeats their creator, a mad scientist who helpfully calls himself Dr. Manyac. As in a lot of other Golden Age stories, the art is clumsy, and the story and the dialog are silly, but it's fun in its own way.

The final story shows us the Ferret in action. He's just a regular human detective with an actual ferret for a sidekick. He arrives at the scene of a murder and makes a bet with the cop in charge that he can solve the mystery with just one or two seemingly inconsequential clues. Of course, he succeeds. It's all quite ridiculous, and also very rushed and simplistic, as the whole story has to be crammed into just six pages. Can't say I'll be seeking out any collections of The Ferret anytime soon!
Thumbs Sideways

Planet Skaar: Prologue #1
Like Joe Casey, Greg Pak is an author who confounds me by being really good sometimes and really mediocre other times. I'd given up on Pak's Skaar: Son of Hulk series some time ago, but decided to grab this one-shot and see what it was about anyway. Turns out it's irritatingly good! Even worse, the recap in the beginning, which fills us in on Skaar's life story, makes it sound like the more recent issues of Skaar were really cool. Damn it! Now I might have to go back and get them, too.

This comic opens with Bruce Banner (apparently free and out in the world again?) getting pissed about some ketchup and turning into Hulk. But was the ketchup really to blame?? Jen Walters also finds herself Hulking out for no particular reason, and both she and Hulk are drawn toward the same location. Meanwhile, Dr. Waynesboro experiences a sudden flare of her inherited Old Power. We get an interesting glimpse of a letter Reed was writing to Bruce and probably never sent wherein he promises him that should he have had a child, and should it have somehow survived, Reed would do everything in his power to protect it. And then, of course, that child comes zapping down to Earth. It's his landing site that Hulk and She-Hulk are being drawn to. Skaar wants to see his father, but Osborn drops some bombs on him instead. Skaar disappears in the explosion and falls off the Hulk and She-Hulk's radar. What no one realizes is that he has simply reverted to a humanoid form and wandered off. It's a bit of a shocking revelation - for us, and for Skaar - that he has this ability, and the realization makes for an interesting and moving ending.

Other things I liked about this issue: it stays true to Marvel's tendency to get She-Hulk as close to naked as possible as often as possible (although well placed strips of cloth and gestures by other characters keep us from seeing her completely nude); the FF have a spare outfit for She-Hulk already, harking back to the time when she was a member of the team; the Thing and the Human Torch squabbling in that funny, friendly way they always do; Wolverine watching the arrival of Skaar on TV - his bartender says, "Kids, huh?" and he responds, "Tell me about it;" and Waynesboro's rather majestic speech about Skaar. Also, I find it both amusing and just slightly annoying that Pak is apparently turning Skaar into Amadeus Cho II, complete with injured wild coyote sidekick. How many rebel kids are gonna end up with injured wild coyote pets in Pak comics, exactly? On the other hand, I kind of enjoy the parallel (I do love Cho, after all), and the comic is otherwise so smart and funny and effective, I'm willing to forgive it the slightly unbelievable coincidence. Looks like I'm reading Pak on Skaar again, at least for a little while...
Thumbs Up

Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time: Dragonmount #0
I'm really not sure what possessed me to buy this. Yes, I used to love Robert Jordan's fantasy epic The Wheel of Time when I was younger. I read the first couple books over and over, and waited eagerly for more. But after I finished book 6 or 7, I looked back on it and realized that nothing had really happened at all in the entire 900 or so pages, and I just gave up on the series. Since the fact that it wasn't going anywhere was really my main reason for stopping, when I heard that the series would finally be completed by Jordan's chosen successor, according to the notes he left behind, I thought I might actually read the entire series of books through from the beginning, for old time's sake, and to see how everything finally turned out. So I guess it's that feeling, plus my nostalgia for the series in general, that led me to pick up this zero issue of the Dabel Brothers' comic book adaptation, despite the fact that it was scripted by Chuck Dixon, an author whose work I generally dislike. It opens about where the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, opens. We're in the small town of Emond's Field, where nothing ever happens, and we briefly meet the main characters from the village: the young woman Egwene, her boyfriend Rand al'Thor, and his friends Mat, Ban, and Elam. We also meet Rand's father Tam, who tells the story of a legendary hero named Lews Therin Telamon, known as the Dragon, and how he defeated evil by sealing the Dark One back into his prison many years ago. But there's a sense of a lingering menace. In the back of the book is a prologue, which is a direct adaptation of the prologue of The Eye of the World, and shows us the terrible revenge the Dark One had on the Dragon after his victory.

The main story here is very obviously nothing more than a cursory introduction to this world and its characters. There's no real story; Egwene is used by the author as a narrative pawn, dragged here and there simply so we can see the other characters through her eyes. Her father says he's going to tell a story, but apparently just so we can hear him say a few lines, as he then immediately tells Tam to tell a story instead, and the storytelling sequence is just another thinly veiled attempt at exposition, filling us in on the important history of this world. We barely get to know Rand and his friends at all; some of them aren't even named in the text. What dialog there is is pretty clumsy, and the characters really protest too much that "all that happened long ago" and "nothing ever happens here." It's so obvious that they're about to be proven wrong that it's almost painful. The prologue (which inexplicably appears in the back of the book) is a bit better; this was always one of the most interesting parts of The Eye of the World. But it's still not particularly exciting. I don't think I'll be tricked into buying another issue of this.
Thumbs Down

Skrull Kill Krew #2
This series continues to be fun and interesting. In this issue, the band continues to get back together as Ryder recruits Riot (a lonely lesbian stuck in the form of a horrible monster because her shape-shifting powers have crapped out on her) to help him infiltrate a "Reverse Rodeo" where the Skrull-cows are roping humans, riding them, and killing them. Surprisingly, the humans aren't prisoners; they're actually there by choice, looking for some kind of kinky, S&M experience (they don't know about the killing part). Riot and Ryder start massacring the Skrulls, and are unexpectedly assisted by Wolverine, who claims to be among the humans as an undercover agent (although it seems clear he was there for the S&M thing, too). Later, Riot's shape-shifting powers come back, and Ryder decides to resurrect another member of the team. It turns out he has all their heads in jars in a garage, and all he has to do to bring one back is to dump it out on the floor and wait.

So yeah, that's all a little weird. Not sure what that's about. But it's an interesting and surprising story, and the dialog's quite funny.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Alien Spotlight - Romulans
I was hoping for great things from this one-shot, written by Ian Edgington with art by Wagner Reis, but it ended up being disappointing. It tells the story of a successful Romulan military commander who decides to go into politics, but doesn't bargain on how violently and underhandedly the Praetor will oppose him. It's an okay story with some vaguely interesting action and political intrigue, but it's hurt by the art. The characters are all ridiculously muscular, wearing ridiculously tight clothing; I expect this kind of thing from a superhero comic, but in a Star Trek comic? Worse, the space battle sequences are just pure confusion. The ships are all so similar-looking, and are depicted at such random angles with so many explosions and obstructions all around them, it's impossible to tell which is which and what's going on. It's just not very well done.
Thumbs Sideways

Wolverine: Weapon X #2
Jason Aaron's kick-ass Wolverine story continues! That woman reporter he met is getting obsessed with him, and with figuring out what his story is. Her interest gets her contacted by a mysterious informant who puts her on the same track he's on: the new Weapon X. Wolverine cleverly draws out the new Weapon X guys and attacks them, but gets more than he bargained for: these guys are just like him, but younger, and with laser claws. Plus, there are a whole lot of them. Luckily, he does have a few advantages on his side: his experience, and the fact that he's the best at what he does. He draws them into the jungle, where he can fight them where and how he wants to. Next issue, showdown! The original Weapon X versus the new models. Good times. This story is clever, darkly funny, and has plenty of exciting action. And it has guns that shoot cancer! Awesome.
Thumbs Up

New releases from 5/28
Aliens #1
Dark Horse relaunches its Aliens series with this comic, written by John Arcudi with art by Zach Howard. We open with some folks on a planet being killed by Aliens, then cut to the usual "group of people waking from hyper sleep on a spaceship" sequence. The memory loss from hyper sleep is used as a clumsy excuse to shoehorn in some exposition to explain who these folks are and why they're here (they're scientists who've traveled to this planet to examine an archaeological site uncovered by a mining company). Then things finally take a surprising and interesting turn when the scientists meet some miners who seem to have gone a bit crazy and perhaps joined some kind of religious cult. It's all rather curious and intriguing. There's more violence, but someone miraculously survives. I'm betting it's the ship's synthetic person.

For an Aliens comic written by John Arcudi, this is surprisingly boring, clumsy, and lacking in creativity and characterization, but like I said, it does get more interesting at the end. Hopefully the next issue will be better.
Thumbs Sideways

Batman in Barcelona: Dragon's Knight #1
This is an odd one-shot from writer Mark Waid and artist Diego Olmos. It's set pre-Final Crisis, when Bruce Wayne was still Batman and he wasn't busy fighting the Black Hand or an evil God. Killer Croc has escaped from Arkham - again! - and this time has apparently been tricked by the Mad Hatter and Scarecrow into believing he's the reincarnation of the dragon from the story of St. George and the Dragon, and that he has to go to Barcelona to find the knight who slayed him and take his revenge. It's a rather unlikely and contrived reason to move the action to Barcelona, but... whatever. Batman has, of course, planned ahead for just such a situation and has a mini-Bat Cave in that city, so he just flies over and sets up shop, inventing a reason for Bruce Wayne to be there, and taking the opportunity to catch up with and old friend. What he isn't prepared for is how Batman will be received in a city other than Gotham. The cops take shots at him and the citizens are afraid of him. It's an interesting twist.

I like the opening page of this one, which shows a Wayne jet flying into Barcelona, its shadow a giant bat symbol, but I do think it's a little corny to do that on the first page, and then immediately jump back 24 hours earlier on the next page. And like I already said, the plot in general is rather contrived and nonsensical. There are some neat character moments between Bruce and his old friend Cristina Llanero. It's also interesting seeing Batman off-balance in a new, alien city - but I feel like more could have been done with that idea. I mean, one time a woman is scared of him, and then another time the cops shoot at him, but that's it. I think the whole story should have been about Batman trying to adjust to working in a different city. That's an interesting fish out of water (bat out of cave?) type of story. As it is, this ends up being a pretty basic "Batman uses detective work to find a criminal and then they fight" story. At least there are a few scenes where the metaphor of knight vs. dragon is used in fun and interesting ways.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Reign: The Hood #1
The first issue of this Dark Reign tie-in miniseries by Jeff Parker, with art by Kyle Hotz, is the most intimate look we've had at The Hood since his introductory miniseries. We see his gang pulling a job, and get an idea how he's been holding all these villains together. And we see how he's changed, and how the demon that owns his cloak is haunting him. After seeing him in all his brutal grandeur as The Hood, it's surreal and almost unbelievable to see him go back to his wife and try to pretend he's still just Parker Robbins - your everyday, average petty crook with a wife and a child. How much longer can he keep these lives separate? Especially now that an old enemy has returned to finish him once and for all?

The White Fang character is pretty lame and contrived, so I'm not sure how I feel about her being back, but at least she's not annoying in this issue. The Hood and his gang continue to be fascinating, and Hotz's art is good, especially during the creepy sequence where the demon speaks to The Hood through a dead body. I might have to get at least one more issue of this.
Thumbs Up

Ignition City #3
A look through her Dad's logbook and a talk with Gayle the bartender, plus some hard logic, leads our hero to the identity of her father's killer. Pretty shortly after she makes this discovery, the tension finally erupts into an all-out firefight with ray guns. In between, we get a further peek into the strange and violent history of his world, and Yuri has a hilarious drunken run-in with some alien beetles before finally actually being useful for once. I kind of love Yuri. It's a fascinating world Ellis is building here, with the help of illustrator Gianluca Pagliarani. The glimpses we get of the horrific acts of Kharg The Killer are particularly intriguing. And of course it's hard not to love our main character, a beautiful young rocket jockey just trying to do right by her poor dead Dad. It took a while but I think I'm finally hooked on this series.
Thumbs Up

The New Avengers #53
I think I might have become THAT comic fan. The one who goes on and on about how much he dislikes an author, and then continues to buy his comics anyway. The author I'm talking about in this case is Brian Michael Bendis. Even though his style has begun to seriously annoy me, I can't seem to keep myself from buying his books. In this issue, the same corny back and forth dialog is here again, but there's also a story about the Eye of Agamotto seeking out its new owner, who turns out to be (spoiler!) "Brudder" Voodoo. Huh. Not sure how to feel about that. I know almost nothing about the character. Although I can tell you I'm not a big fan of his silly accent. There are enough silly accents in comics. Anyway, in the meantime there are some fun fights; Captain America gets bad-ass and just shoots Madame Masque in the face, and Son of Satan and The Hood face off.

I just can't seem to come to a final decision about Bendis. I guess for now I'll keep reading his books. The stories are interesting, and integral to the Marvel Universe, and anyway sometimes he really is funny. I liked the thing about Spider-Man calling Captain America "Bucky Cap," and him not liking it.
Thumbs Sideways

Fringe #5
This isn't the best issue of this miniseries, but it's a decent one. Bishop actually manages to convince his future father he's his son thanks to the fact that the Nazis just turned on their own version of the time machine that Bishop and Bell used to get here. Which probably explains why their time machine brought them here in the first place; it's the first time the machine was turned on and thus, theoretically, the furthest back they could go - kind of a zero point. A Back to the Future-style fading person moment occurs, but they manage to save their futures and get back to their own time. There's even a fun final glimpse of how Hitler really died: he was eaten alive by dinosaurs! Nice.

The backup story is about an anchorwoman who's noticed a pattern in the recent weird stories she's been reporting: Massive Dynamic is connected to all of them. The company somehow knows she's figured this out and invites her out to a research facility to show her what they're really doing. But she just ends up becoming a part of their latest experiment. Kind of an obvious idea, but pretty eerie and fun anyway.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider #35
In the third of a series of one-shots taking a look at what our main characters are doing now that Zadkiel has conquered heaven, we see Johnny Blaze trying to find some kind of peace at a seaside town, only to end up having to fight a hideous demon known as The Skinbender, who resembles a woman who's had far too much plastic surgery, and who's horribly mutating everybody in town. Johnny tries to avoid calling on the Ghost Rider's help, but of course must eventually do so. When Johnny unleashes the Ghost Rider, the Skinbender kind of falls in love with him a little bit, but he just torches her anyway. And she likes it. Johnny seems on the verge once again of being subsumed by the Ghost Rider, but luckily the Caretaker shows up and talks Johnny into coming with her and helping her fight back against Zadkiel any way they can. All in all, a pretty brutal and twisted story. I like it! Tony Moore's art in particular is quite good.

If I understand correctly, this book is going to take a break until August, at which point it will come back as Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire, wherein Jason Aaron will finish up his run on the title. I'll be sad to see him leave the book, but am excited to see what he does with it before he goes, and curious to see who'll pick it up after him, and where they'll go with it.
Thumbs Up

Green Lantern #41
The prelude to Blackest Night continues! Sigh. This Blackest Night thing better be pretty good after all the hype and buildup they've given it. Anyway, in this episode of the neverending prologue to the actual story, Larfleeze is keeping Hal Jordan alive because he wants to know what the deal is with the blue ring and how he can get it. Meanwhile, Fatality, now in purple love mode, saves John Stewart, but Sinestro and his Corps have some nasty things in mind for her and the Zamarons. Then that dude who's still looking for the Anti-Monitor's corpse is killing vampires or something? I didn't really quite follow what the deal was with that. Anyway, Hal figures out one way to stall Larfleeze, and try to figure out what's going on with him, is to tell him he'll give him the blue ring in exchange for information. Which is how he learns the rather fascinating origin of Agent Orange, how the Guardians' ended up agreeing to stay out of the Vega System, and a small piece of the story of Parallax. But after the story's told, Larfleeze gets impatient and does the smart thing: he lops Hal's arm off and steals the blue ring! Good call, man. It looks like he's in the Blue Lantern Corps now, and it looks like Hal's about to die. But both of those things seem unlikely, so we'll just have to see how it gets resolved in the next issue.

And yes, I will be getting the next issue. No matter how much I complain about Johns' poorly written dialog and narration, and his endlessly not-quite-starting Blackest Night, I have to admit the dude has got me hooked on this story.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredible Hercules #129
This series and its author, Greg Pak, really bug me. Sometimes really good, sometimes really mediocre. I keep picking them up and dropping them. But at this particular moment I'm in a picking up mood, because Pak's integration of ancient Greek mythology into the Marvel comics universe is really entertaining. This issue opens with Amadeus and Hercules washing themselves in the toxins of the Jersey Shore to burn away their sins before entering the afterlife, where they hope to take advantage of Pluto's disinterest in the domain of the dead to find Zeus and sneak him out of there, so he can help them defeat Hera. A casino in Atlantic City turns out to be one of the entrances to hell. A mythology refresher helps explain why that lady Hebe is stalking Herc. Cerberus has met a sad fate: he's now just a chained attraction in the casino. Herc and Cho's guide, Aegis, describes each afterlife as an interface, like a web browser, all accessing the same group of dead people. At the moment, because Pluto is interested in more Earthly pursuits, death is pretty variable; if you win at the games in the casino, you get to come back to life. Everybody's playing for their second chance. Which explains why everybody's always coming back to life in the Marvel Universe! The two-page spread where we get to see a bunch of familiar dead heroes playing slot machines and roulette is really fantastic. Cho then beats the system to win them some more chips to pay the ferryman, and Herc ends up tearing the place apart, in a scene that's both funny and moving. But now it looks like Pluto is going to put Zeus on trial, with a jury full of dead villains deciding his fate?

I just love what Pak is doing here, mixing together these two mythologies in such a clever and funny way. His dialog is clever and funny, too. Looks like I'm collecting this book again!
Thumbs Up

The Literals #2
I continue to be very amused by the personification of the Genres, as done by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges. It's pretty amusing satire. But man are they brutal to Fantasy! Sam and Hansel give Kevin quite different advice on how to deal with his little Writer's Block issue; Sam, of course, wants to try to save the world, while Hansel is eager to see it destroyed. Sam finally decides it's necessary to take drastic action against Hansel to keep him from unduly influencing Kevin (go Sam! That was bad-ass), but he makes his move too late! Bigby and his gang have joined up with the Page sisters and are doing fierce battle against the Genres practically on Kevin's doorstep, but they could be too late, as well. It's not looking good for the future of this world!

I was a little leery of this whole Great Fables Crossover thing, but I'm really enjoying it so far. Nice work, guys!
Thumbs Up

Muppet Robin Hood #1
Boom!'s main Muppet Show ongoing is apparently doing quite well, so now they're doing this miniseries, which is exactly what it sounds like: the Muppets doing Robin Hood. It's the standard Muppet adaptation: they tell the original story, but with an all-Muppet cast, and everything has been slightly twisted, with plenty of pop culture references and silly jokes added in. Kermit is Robin, which is slightly confusing, given that Kermit's nephew's name is Robin, and Robin also appears in the story. They solve this problem by changing Robin's name to Squirt for this story, and they make sure to mention how goofy all that is. The story opens with Robin (by which I mean Kermit) returning home from the Crusades to his ancestral swamp only to find it has been turned into a mini-golf course by Prince John - in fact, all of England has been turned into a cheesy, money-making tourist trap (I particularly like that the Manchester Marketplace is a literal tourist trap - they stick you in a maze and you have to pay to get out!). Naturally, Robin decides he must return England to its former glory. Luckily he meets up with Little John and his group of outcasts in the forest, and he quickly recruits them all to his cause. My favorite gag in the whole book is probably the one about the hippie band member who plays Willa Scarlet. Little John says of her: "You'll never meet someone with a better knowledge of herbs than her." Herbs, huh? Riiiight.

It's not exactly a knee-slappingly hilarious comic, but it's mildly amusing and generally pretty fun, so I'll probably keep reading it.
Thumbs Sideways

Rapture #1
I read a preview of this new Dark Horse miniseries ages ago and rather liked it, so naturally I picked up the first issue. The premise is interesting. Basically the superheroes in this particular universe have a huge, horrific war wherein they kill each other off and throw the Earth into a post-apocalyptic state, complete with bloodthirsty cannibals roaming the smoking ruins. One young woman is chosen by what appears to be an angel to protect the Earth now that the heroes are gone. She's offered a magical weapon and incredible power, but she keeps rejecting it, because she doesn't want the responsibility - she just wants to find her boyfriend, a young singer-songwriter whom she was separated from due to her own mixed feelings, and the chaos of the super-war. Finally the angel promises her that if she accepts her power and her destiny, she will be reunited with her boyfriend, and that convinces her to give in. Meanwhile, the lovesick boyfriend could be seeking comfort in the arms of another woman!

It's a pretty classic melodramatic doomed love story, but set in a post-apocalyptic, post-superhero context. The writing is by Taki Soma and Michael Avon Oeming, and Oeming also provides the art. The story is dramatic and intriguing, the dialog is realistic, and the visuals are powerful and effective, thanks in large part to Val Staples colors. I'm not a huge fan of melodrama, but it's pretty well done here. I'll probably get at least one more issue.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine #72
Having skipped from #71 to #73, this series returns now to #72 for the penultimate episode in the Old Man Logan storyline. And boy is it fantastic. This has been a great arc, but this might be the greatest issue yet. It opens with a flashback to the brutal and awful final defeat of Captain America at the hands of the Red Skull, who now lives in a White House bedecked with Nazi insignia, wears Captain America's ragged, bloody costume for fun, and keeps a room full of the costumes and weaponry of all the old, dead heroes so he can look around and gloat. It's sick and twisted and just right. Naturally his henchmen bring the bodies of Wolverine and Hawkeye to him, but somebody's forgotten just how dangerous and resilient Wolverine can be. The way he finally defeats the Red Skull is so fantastic and bad-ass I just about hooted with joy when I saw it. Then he roars back across the country in an old Iron Man suit, focused even now only on getting back in time with the money that will save his family. But even after all of this, after everything he's been through, it wasn't enough, and he's too late. And that's the last straw. We know he's finally snapped back to his old brutal self thanks to a two-page spread that's just one gigantic, red word on a black background: "SNIKT!" Brilliant.

Holy crap, do I love this comic!! Looking forward to the conclusion in Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Sized Special, which I expect will be just as creative, bloody, insane, and awesome as the rest of the series has been.
Thumbs Up

New releases from 6/3
Batman and Robin #1
Writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely take on the new Batman and Robin in a new ongoing series. There aren't really words to describe how much I was looking forward to this. Which is usually a recipe for disappointment, but this book met pretty much all of my expectations. We open with B&R in the middle of a fantastic car chase. Quitely brilliantly writes the sound effects into the panels with the actual things that are making the sounds - so the explosion in the first panel bursts outwards in the form of two giant orange-red-yellow words: "BOOM BOOM." B&R are chasing an unfamiliar villain who calls himself Toad - and he looks like a toad, too. His dialog and that of his henchmen is hilarious. "The mingers can't catch us now!" he says. "They'd need wings to chase old Toad! They'd have to be Batman - and Batman's as dead as the sky is black! Belts, gentlemen, please! Safety first!" But of course, it is Batman, and he and Robin capture Toad handily, even putting him down with an old school simultaneous double punch. It turns out Toad isn't the head villain: he's working for someone else named Pyg. Afterwards, in a conversation with Alfred that spans two short pages, Morrison handles all of Dick Grayson's internal conflict over becoming Batman far more gracefully and powerfully than it was handled in all of Battle for the Cowl. Then there's a clever page that takes a sort of cross-section of the Wayne skyscraper, pulling out inset detail panels to show us what's going on at various points in the building as Alfred takes supper down to the boys. I love that Damian calls Alfred simply "Pennyworth," and treats him like a servant. Damian is such a stuck up little snot, but Morrison somehow makes him amusing anyway. Alfred takes his crap and responds with a simple arch of the eyebrow. The repartee between Dick and Alfred is wonderful. "Alfred, these chicken and jalapeno sandwiches are ferocious - I could eat them by the ton." The dialog in general is so old school comic-booky, but somehow without being over-the-top. As the Batmobile roars out of the cave, Batman says offhandedly, "Crime is doomed." Later, as they present themselves to Commissioner Gordon in grand fashion, flying down in answer to his signal on their new paracapes, Batman says, "This is it. Batman and Robin. Together again for the first time." This is followed shortly by a glorious, full-page illustration of them floating down with the signal behind them. These two feel so right in these costumes. They're not comfortable in them yet themselves, but I'm comfortable with them, as a reader.

In the book's final sequence, we meet Pyg for the first time as he grabs one of the henchmen who got away and tortures him for his failure in truly horrific fashion. So this issue has successfully introduced us to our new heroes, and our new villains. And in the back are four panels previewing what we can expect in future issues of the series. Is that Robin ripping off his cape? The Red Hood? Batman fighting Batwoman while another Batman walks out of molten lava? The Black Hand? Wow. I can't wait to see where Morrison and Quitely go next with this story. Batman and Robin are back, and they're in good hands.
Thumbs Up

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 - Tales of the Vampires
Since this isn't numbered at all, it would appear to be a one-shot, although the plurality of the title suggests otherwise. I don't know. Anyway, the idea is that we're taking a look at vampires in the context of the new world that the events of Season Eight have created: a world where the vampire is popular and accepted and the Slayer is hated and demonized (which is of course a clever metaphor for the current vampire fad in popular culture). The story is written by Becky Cloonan with art by Vasilis Lolos. It's about, and narrated by, a teen named Jacob who's bored with his life and desperate to feel something. He gets his kicks letting vampires suck his blood. His friend Alex doesn't approve, but likes him anyway, and agrees to go on a date with him. Feeling that his life is turning around, Jacob tells the vampires he's not in the mood to have his blood sucked tonight. But he quickly finds out that's not exactly how it works.

This ends up being a powerful character portrait and a really great story. A large part of what makes this such an excellent comic is the really lovely, Paul Pope-style art from Lolos, and the lush, candy-like colors from Dave Stewart. Seriously, Stewart has really outdone himself on this one. Just beautiful. I'm not sure if there will be any more Tales of the Vampires one-shots, but I certainly hope so!
Thumbs Up

Captain Britain and MI13 Annual #1
This book contains two stories by Paul Cornell: "The Harrowing of Hell" with art by Mike Collins and "British Magic" with art by Adrian Alphona. The first story gives us a short history of the life of Meggan, Captain Britain's lost love, and explains what she's been doing in hell and how she eventually got out. I didn't know anything about this character, so I was glad to read more about her, especially since her adventures in hell are so interesting and so well written. I particularly like the dialog of the other creatures there, especially the rulers of hell. I'm always fascinated by magical rules of give and take, so I enjoy the way Meggan barters with the rulers of hell, and the way they trick her and trap her with her own powers and her own hope. But it's hope and love that eventually leads her out of hell - into the arms of an unexpected savior. Interesting stuff! This ending seems to pull Meggan right into the current storyline of Captain Britain; it'll be interesting to see how she fits in.

"Harrowing" is a great story, but the art is just okay. The art in "British Magic," however, is quite excellent, with lots of fantastic use of perspective, and some really wonderful character portraits. The story here is set during a friendly game of cricket among the members of the team, and focuses on Captain Britain thinking back to his time with Meggan, and moping over having lost her. But eventually he realizes he's surrounded by loving friends who really understand him, and he's able to move on at least a little bit. It's a nice character-centered story. I just wish I understood cricket better. None of that part of the story makes any sense to me at all. The game is a complete mystery.
Thumbs Up

Daredevil Noir #3
Now feeling certain that Halloran is his father's killer, Daredevil tears the city apart looking for him. But when he finally gets to him, he discovers it's been a trap all along - Halloran wanted him to come, so he could take him out. But who'll do the deed? The Bull's-Eye Killer, of course, who is in fact none other than (drum roll) Eliza! An obvious plot twist in retrospect, but they cleverly threw Marvel fans off track by making them associate the Bull's-Eye Killer with Bullseye, and thus expect a man. Anyway, lucky for Daredevil Eliza is there to betray more than one person, and Halloran gets what's coming to him. Next issue I suppose we'll find out what went down between Eliza and Matt after that.

It's a rather beautifully written story (we can thank author Alexander Irvine for that), and even leaves me vaguely confused the way a labyrinthine noir plot should. And Tomm Coker's art is as realistic and artful as ever. I feel like if I look back over the plot once I've read the whole miniseries, it won't actually hold together, but I could be totally wrong about that. We'll see.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers #5
Yes, I went back to drink at Bendis' well yet again. But this time I really didn't regret the decision. I've got to hand it to the guy: this is a clever, funny, well-written comic. I particularly like the way he's written Norman Osborn during his live TV rebuttal of Hawkeye. We know, of course, that Osborn's being completely insincere - that he's really a madman and a scumbag. And that's what makes his reasoned arguments, his careful spin, and his false piety so very entertaining. Intercut with the masterful centerpiece of the issue (Osborn's interview) are various other scenes: a flashback showing us how Osborn talked the Sentry down after the events of last issue (although no one yet knows how he came back to life, including the Sentry himself), an interesting moment after that where Ares tried to straighten out his fellow Avengers and put them in their place (Bullseye seemed to calmly accept a bitch slap from the god of war, but I suspect he's just planning the best time to strike back), and a scene set after that when Ares comes home to find his son Alexander gone (which makes sense; that's the kid who's working for Nick Fury now). Then "Captain Marvel" and "Miss Marvel" have sex. Cap is a little disturbed by the way humans do the deed, and even more disturbed when Miss Marvel lets slip that the Dark Avengers is a team of psychotic criminals and murderers, a fact of which Cap was somehow unaware. Just around this time, a bunch of crazy guys on flying manta rays attack LA! Are those Namor's people? Anyway, Norman's pissed because coverage of the attack preempts his interview, so he calls the Avengers together. He can't quite bring himself to say the whole "Avengers assemble!" catchphrase, though: "Get 'em up and ready. Avengers... you know. Get them together." Heh.

So yeah, great stuff. Very funny and smart, and then there are explosions at the end.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #2
Our hero (if you can call the Human Flame that) somehow survives the explosions and the killers from the end of last issue, but his money does not, so he's back at square one and still needs a big chunk of cash before he can hightail it out of town. Luckily, the guy from the Russian mob had his driver's license on him, complete with address ("Huh. Your name actually is Boris. Go figure."), so Mike heads over there, only to be attacked by the mobster's corgis, which, in true Human Flame style, he throws out the window (don't worry, they land safely in the pool below). He grabs the mobster's cash, but wants to use it to get some more weapons. He picks the wrong guy to try to buy from, however, and gets his ass beat. Now he needs a doctor. He foolishly accepts help from a two-bit supervillain who calls himself The Condiment King, and gets himself in with a whole gang of similar misfits led by a madman who calls himself Immortus. As usual, Mike's bad luck comes in about equal measure with his good: Immortus hooks him up with a bunch of super-human improvements, but also wants his obedience and is willing to enforce it through pain and torture.

Wow, this story has taken a crazy turn! But I still like it. Mike continues to be an entertainingly awful scumbag who's dragging himself through some serious mud. I'm curious to see if he'll get out of this, and how.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #3
I was on the fence about this series, until this issue. This one sealed the deal. I'm a fan for good now. The opening is seriously twisted: the Plutonian is forcing a couple of random people to play out a fantasy sex scene for him, with the man playing him and the girl playing his ex. Then we cut to a prison outside Philadelphia (yay, Philly!). Underneath the prison is the secret hideout of a now dead superhero named Inferno. Inferno's secret identity was a Bruce Wayne-like billionaire, and this was his Batcave. The supervillains found the hideout and have gathered there to loot the place, and to decide what to do about the Plutonian situation. Is he on their side now? Meanwhile, the heroes have some spies on the scene in the hopes that the villains will let something slip about the Plutonian's weaknesses. What no one has counted on is the Plutonian's cleverness; he anticipated this move and he's already on the scene. In an incredibly tense and nerve-wracking sequence, the Plutonian has a chat with the villains, calmly feeling them out and setting them up while the hero spy looks on, unable to move for fear he'll be spotted and killed on the spot. Ironically, the Plutonian never even notices the spy, or his partner, but manages to defeat them both anyway. Then he just gets ready to set up the twisted fantasy play from the beginning again, this time with new actors.

Holy crap is this brutal! The Plutonian is such a fearsome, horrific, unstoppable force: a brilliant, invincible madman with God-like powers. I loved meeting the villains of this universe, and I especially loved hearing them gripe at each other and take potshots at the heroes. Writer Mark Waid is using this story to turn the entire concept of superhero comics on its head. It's satire, but loving satire; this is a superhero comic, too, after all. And a damn good one at that: the ending of this issue is breath-takingly exciting. I can't wait to see what Waid has in store for us next month.
Thumbs Up

The Muppet Show #3
This is my favorite issue of this series yet. The overarching story this time is that the show is being visited by an insurance agent who needs to know the species of everybody on staff in order to renew the show's policy. Scooter sets about putting together a list for him, but the problem is, nobody really knows what Gonzo is - or rather, a lot of people think they know, but none of them agree. Finally, Scooter has an illuminating conversation with Rizzo, a chunk of which I'm going to copy down here because it's so hilarious and excellent:
Scooter: This Gonzo business is getting me down.
Rizzo: What Gonzo business is this? When he landed on a policeman or when he tried to set fire to one?
Scooter: Heh heh. January sure was a bad month to be a policeman, wasn't it? No, no, those were settled out of court. This is about figuring out what Gonzo actually is so we can insure the theater.
Rizzo: What he is? Isn't it obvious?
Scooter: Is it?
Rizzo: Sure! He's a Gonzo... Gonzo the Great! The one! The only! The best!

Scooter brings this answer to the agent, but in the end feels compelled to ask Gonzo what the real answer is, and Gonzo says, "Oh, Scooter... I thought you knew. I'm an artist. An artist..." And Scooter thinks, "Well... I guess he is, after all." That ending seriously put a little lump in my throat. Smart, moving, and funny. And some of the gags in between are pretty great, too. I particularly enjoyed the crime noir detective story parody, "Gumshoe McGurk, Private Eye!" and the parody of the Mad Hatter's tea party, both starring Gonzo. And I love the way they finally get the theater insured by scaring the crap out of the insurance agent.

I was still waffling on whether I wanted to continue collecting this book, but now I'm a solid fan.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #2
The mysterious and disturbing events of last issue finally start to make sense in this issue, as we realize that Shan's mind has been projected outside of her body and is now trapped inside Legion's body, along with the mind of the missing girl, Marci, and all of Legion's many murderous, insane personalities. Shan has control of Legion's body at first, but then Legion wrests it away from her and goes off in search of Dani, planning to kill her. Meanwhile, the folks in town aren't exactly being helpful; they're prejudiced against mutants and have been trying to keep them out of their town. It's hard to blame them too much; I mean, they have a point! When mutants come to town, things tend to start blowing up and people tend to start dying. Just look what happens in this comic!

This series continues to be surprisingly excellent. It's an exciting, unique, creative story cleverly told (I particularly like the metaphorical representation of the interior of Legion's mind, where whoever holds the doll gets control of the body), interesting characters, and smart, funny dialog, all courtesy writer Zeb Wells; fantastic pencils courtesy Diogenes Neves; and subtle, beautiful colors courtesy John Rauch.
Thumbs Up

Scalped #29
In this issue, we finally get the story of the casino heist from Bad Horse's perspective, but it's told like a puzzle, shattered into overlapping shards of time. We get fragments of Bad Horse's twisted relationship with his girlfriend - their angry fights, frenzied love-making, desperate drug-taking - followed by a replay of the scene we saw in the first issue of this arc, where Bad Horse meets the mastermind of the heist at the casino bar. Then the heist starts. Then Bad Horse jumps back in time to the war. Then back to the heist. Back to his screwed up childhood. Back to the heist. Back to laying in bed with his girlfriend. Back to the heist. He's high and his mind is broken into pieces. As the thief prepares to kill him, he sobers up and gains sudden clarity. In a dark twist, it's pure luck, and the fact that someone else was trying to kill him earlier, that saves him. Furious in the wake of his near death, and the near loss of his cover, he makes a suicidal run at the other thieves and brutally guns them all down. But after barely saving himself and his cover story, he seems now prepared to tell his whacked out girlfriend who he really works for, which seems like a terrible idea to me.

This comic continues to be so excellent it's really kind of mind-blowing. This issue is quite simply a work of art; a brilliant jewel of a story, skillfully constructed and beautifully drawn. Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera, I salute you! And I look forward to following this story through to what I'm sure will be a brutal and shattering conclusion.
Thumbs Up

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #3
The latest Seaguy miniseries comes to an end with this issue - and what an end it is! A horrific scene at Mickey Eye Park reveals some of the disturbing work that goes on underground there, and then we see more of how Lotharius plans to make everyone glad - by making them mindless consumers, enslaved by their televisions and housed in tiny pens. But Lotharius forgets the old proverb and makes the mistake of scorning a woman. He also underestimates Seaguy, who finally performs a real act of rebellion. Funnily enough, Seaguy's rebellion is a short-lived failure - he just gets his ass kicked - but it's enough to inspire other, more successful heroes to finally, gloriously fight back. At last they win the day! Mickey Eye is beaten! Sort of. In fact, another empire that sounds pretty similar to Mickey's gets started up almost right away, and everything returns to the status quo. Well, almost everything. Seaguy seems to have finally gained confidence and self-awareness, and he and She-Beard finally get together. Aww.

I really, really loved this series, much more than I did the original Seaguy series - although really, that one is necessary for this one to work, and it's the whole complete story that they tell together that I really enjoy. It's brilliant and strange and unique and romantic and funny and disturbing and moving. It's a return to Morrison's favorite type of story (and one of my favorite types of stories): the endless fight of chaos, rebellion, and individuality against order, the establishment, and society. And artist Cameron Stewart and colorist extraordinaire Dave Stewart provide the perfect visual embodiment of Morrison's odd world. Excellent!
Thumbs Up

Skaar #11
The excellence of Planet Skaar: Prologue #1 sucked me back into this book, which now has a new, shorter title! Instead of Skaar, Son of Hulk, we have just Skaar. He's become his own man, as it were. As the issue opens, Kate Waynesboro has gone AWOL and hooked up with the Warbound to seek out Skaar. Osborn is totally okay with this, because now he can just follow these folks, see how they handle things, and hope they take care of the Skaar problem for him. The humanoid Skaar meets some puny Earthlings, there's a misunderstanding, he gets pissed, and boom, he turns right back into his big green self. Kind of saw that coming. His transformation turns back on whatever biological tracking device was acting on the Hulk and She-Hulk before, and brings the Warbound and the Hulk running. The Warbound try to befriend Skaar, but he's not having it; all he wants to do is fight his Dad - a wish it looks like he'll get granted next issue.

Nestled in the middle of the main story are a couple of interesting and illuminating flashbacks to the consumption of Sakaar by Galactus. Yep, definitely enjoying this story, and the characters in it. I also like Ron Lim and Dan Panosian's art. They're good at both intimate closeups and epic long shots. And I'm really looking forward to the titanic duel between father and son that's coming next!
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Crew #4
This issue is actually a sort of tie-in with Assignment: Earth, which meant I felt slightly left out, as I don't read that comic. Still, it was good to see our hero back on the Enterprise finally, and having another exciting adventure, this time at the side of Lieutenant Commander Christopher Pike, later to be Captain of the Enterprise. The two of them end up on what should be a routine away mission to a seemingly uninhabited planet, but of course nothing is ever routine for the Enterprise crew. In fact the planet turns out to be inhabited by a race of super-warriors bred only for battle. The away team has a rather bloody adventure there, and then end up just leaving the warriors to fight things out on their own. It's not a satisfactory conclusion, especially for our hero, but it seems like the only option. This was one of the less exciting issues of this miniseries - I couldn't muster up a lot of interest in the story of the primitive super-warriors - but still vaguely entertaining. The next issue will be the last one, and I'm hoping the series goes out with a bang. I wonder how far it will go, timeline-wise; I've been kind of assuming it would end just before the start of the events of the original Star Trek pilot, "The Cage," but who knows? I look forward to it regardless.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Books (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Daredevil (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Frank Quitely (Not), Fringe (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hulk (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Byrne (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Scalped (Not), Seaguy (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), The Wheel of Time (Not), Vampires (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Sunday, April 26, 2009 02:50 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 4/22, plus a hard copy collection I'd forgotten I owned, and a couple of back issues I missed when they originally came out.

Back issues and old data
Jack of Fables #32
This issue opens with Jack still harboring dreams of bagging all three of the Page sisters at the same time, but only one of them seems into the idea. Jack also fills us in on how he and the other Fables escaped from the explosion at the end of last issue - sort of. He tells the story in his own way, with him as the hero, accompanied by hilariously skewed illustrations. A quick aside from the other characters reveals what really happened. Afterwards, the whole gang splits up and goes their separate ways. Then Revise reveals that Jack is half Literal and, further, that the Page sisters are his half-sisters!! Everybody is shocked and disgusted at this news, a fact that is driven home in humorous fashion by a couple panels of the four of them just staring wide-eyed off into nothing.

This isn't a particularly exceptional issue, but it's got some fun moments, and of course the interesting revelation about Jack's heritage.
Thumbs Up

The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank
After reading and (mostly) enjoying the follow-up to this storyline, I thought I'd better go back and check out the original. It's the same creative team and a lot of the same characters in a similar story, so I (mostly) enjoyed it, too. It's a Marvel Knights series first published in 2000 and 2001. The Punisher hadn't appeared in a Marvel comic for some time, and the last time he had had been in a series where he was resurrected as the agent of angels and other supernatural forces. Which, I think you'll agree, is a really weird idea. In this book, Ennis wisely mentions that part of the Punisher's history only briefly, putting it swiftly to bed and then moving on. He takes the Punisher back to his roots: killing mobsters. Specifically, Frank sets his sights on Ma Gnucci's huge criminal empire and methodically dismantles it with the application of extreme violence. While he's not doing that, he's living quietly in an apartment building under the name John Smith, along with a collection of other colorful characters, who befriend him, and whom he ends up befriending in turn, in his own rather moving way. There's a particularly interesting dynamic between him and the frightened, mousy Joan, which actually reminds me of the dynamic between Ballard and Mellie in Dollhouse.

I could read about the Punisher killing mobsters in various horrifically brutal, darkly humorous ways for just about forever, so that part of the story is fantastic. I particularly enjoy the sequence where he easily picks off the three assassins hired to kill him, before they've even collected their weapons. The narration is well written, too, and gives us an insight into the Punisher's rather twisted psyche, besides further underlining how incredibly bad-ass he is.

There are a couple of subplots running throughout the story: the tale of the hated and disgraced cops who are given the thankless and impossible jobs of capturing the Punisher and Ma Gnucci's gang, and the tales of the three copycat vigilantes who show up around the same time that the Punisher comes back on the scene. The vigilantes storyline is interesting because it attempts to examine where the fine line lies between crazed murderers like them and the Punisher. The cops storyline I find... less fun. Ennis has a pretty sick sense of humor, but I'm generally okay with it - until he applies it to poor, pathetic characters like detective Martin Soap and criminal psychologist Bud Plugg. Plugg's story is particularly sad, pathetic, and horrific, but it's played entirely for laughs, and worse, it's completely gratuitous. It doesn't add a thing to the story, and it just made me feel dirty reading it. It reminds me too much of R. Crumb and his whole twisted, shameful, pathetic sad-sack genre. I really wish it just wasn't here.

One of the only other things I don't like about the book is, believe it or not, the lettering, which is provided by Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Wes Abbott. Lettering is one of those things that you don't notice until it's done poorly, and sadly it is done poorly here. The font just doesn't seem right to me, and the fact that all the text is in italics throughout makes it annoying to look at.

But stuff like that aside, the series is quite funny, clever, thought-provoking, and entertaining. It mostly doesn't cross over into the greater Marvel Universe, except when Daredevil does get involved in a powerful, disturbing, and memorable sequence in which the Punisher basically picks apart DD's entire moral and ethical universe. There's also the fantastic sequence featuring a huge, comically unstoppable killer called the Russian, who talks at length about his love of superheroes. Another favorite scene of mine, although it doesn't involve superheroes, is the one in which the Punisher uses the animals at the zoo to horribly slaughter and maim his enemies. He even punches a polar bear! That's comedy.

The interior art, by penciler Steve Dillon, inker Jimmy Palmiotti, and colorist Chris Sotomayor, is quite good, and I'm very impressed by Tim Bradstreet's covers. So overall, it's a pretty fantastic book. But I remain a bit uneasy about Ennis' twisted sense of humor. I think it's mostly that that kept me from enjoying his acclaimed Preacher series, and that keeps me from being an all-out fan of his work in general.
Thumbs Up

The Wind Raider #2
I was pretty surprised that I liked #0 and #1 of this miniseries as much as I did, so I'm actually kind of reassured by the fact that in this issue, the luster is starting to wear off. I'm still impressed by Gabriel Hardman's art and his gift for visual storytelling, but the writing (provided by Richard Finney and Dean Loftis) leaves a lot to be desired. The Ki Warrior sayings are embarrassingly dumb, and the villains - Barfog in particular - just sound like idiots. There are some original ideas, but overall the story and concepts tend to be derivative and dull. I think it's time I dropped this book.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases, 4/22
Astonishing X-Men #29
I'm still not enjoying Warren Ellis' run on this title nearly as much as I thought I would. I think a large part of the problem is that I just can't get used to Simone Bianchi's surreal, stylized art; it just doesn't seem to fit the story at all. He also often draws the characters in odd poses and positions. Storywise, we're looking at an invasion by evil mutants from a parallel Earth, an invasion which Forge has apparently been trying to counter by creating his own mutants. That's a cool idea, so I'm sticking with the book for now.
Thumbs Sideways

Buck Rogers #0
This is a 25 cent preview issue of a new series rebooting the story of the titular adventurer from the past who fights evil in the future. It's... not good. The dialogue is ridiculous, the plot is pretty dull, and I generally dislike stories that begin with the hero dying. But hey, I only had to spend 25 cents to find out I don't need to collect this comic! Good stuff.
Thumbs Down

Detective Comics #853
At long last, the second and final part of Neil Gaiman's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" story is here. Batman's friends, enemies, and lovers continue to arrive at a weird imaginary wake and tell tales about different imaginary Batmen and how they died. Slowly the false stories begin to build a true portrait of the real Batman. And finally we find out where we are and what this all is. The reveal is a little disappointing, as it turns out to essentially be an "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" kind of thing. There are also some corny bits where Batman talks about what he learned from the experience. But as corny as the story gets, it's still extremely moving and effective. I was warned that I might cry reading this story, and indeed, when Bruce started saying good-bye to everything and everyone, I seriously began weeping like a baby. Ultimately this is a powerful, philosophical, and emotional eulogy to the character of Batman.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider #34
I feel like the quality of Jason Aaron's run on this series has gone up and down, but this issue is definitely a high point. I was laughing like a maniac throughout the entire thing. It's just brilliant. It opens with the origin story of a trucker who made a deal with the devil and now roams the highways lopping people's heads off and stealing their souls. He's known as the Highwayman, and is apparently a real Marvel character from back in the day. Jason Aaron brings him back for some brutal, hilarious mayhem, and for a fight with Danny Ketch, who is roaming the highways himself, aimless and hopeless, cursed to seek vengeance on evil wherever he finds it as the Ghost Rider. As far as Ketch is concerned, the only thing to look forward to now is the end of the world, and he's hoping Zadkiel will bring that about very soon. Despite Ketch's moping, this issue is pretty much pure fun, thanks to a fantastic action sequence and the wonderful character that is the Highwayman. He and his hellish 18 wheeler are well designed and look fantastic, thanks to the art of Tony Moore and the colors of Dave McCaig, and his dialogue is hilarious, thanks to Jason Aaron. Here's hoping the Highwayman returns again soon!
Thumbs Up

I Am Legion #3
I seriously need a chart of all the characters, their names, and their relationships with each other to follow this story. I spend most of every issue with my brow furrowed in confusion. Maybe if I read it all together in one go I'd be able to remember who they all were and keep it all together in my head. But I don't know. It doesn't help that some of the word bubbles in here are clearly being attributed to the wrong characters. Anyway, this issue features a secret mission to disrupt and/or destroy the Nazi project involving the little girl who can control people from afar. Actually it might not even be just the one secret mission; there might be two groups trying to stop the project. I'm not entirely clear on that. Like I said, I'm confused. But there are some exciting sequences, and John Cassaday's art is excellent as always. I might stick around for at least one more issue.
Thumbs Sideways

Ignition City #2
I was pretty bored by the first issue of this series, but things pick up a bit in this one. Mary pokes around some more and we get a better idea what kind of world her Dad was living in and what kind of twisted, broken people populate it. We also get to know her a little better; she's really quite experienced and clever. The mystery deepens and so does the danger, and there's also some pretty funny dialogue. I think I'm officially hooked.
Thumbs Up

The Incredible Hercules #128
This is one of those series that I read and complained about for a long time before finally dropping it, and that I still keep coming back to every once in a while. The reason I couldn't resist this particular issue is because it's a "Dark Reign" tie-in that sees our heroes facing off against not only a bunch of evil Olympians, but also the Dark Avengers themselves. It's a ton of fun. There's plenty of action and comedy, and some pretty clever plot twists. I love the ridiculously silly, onomatopoetic sound effect words, like "N-TU-DASUNNN!" and "BRAKKAFACE!" I love Hercules facing off against Venom, quickly realizing he's not Spider-Man, and then spending the rest of the fight trying to get Venom's mouth off of his hand. I like all the tie-ins with stories out of ancient Greek mythology. And I freaking love Bullseye. That guy is hilarious. I even like the way authors Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente write the Sentry. Sure, he ends up getting beat by Herc, but that's because, as Herc points out, he's not fighting like he means it - he's afraid to use his full power. That's the Sentry I know. I like the byplay among Herc, Cho, and Athena, and the sequence where they sink the cruise ship and thus force the Avengers to stop fighting in order to act like the heroes they're really not. I love Osborn's line: "The boy Cho is utterly calculating and devious. Next time I'm going to offer him a job." I'm a little confused by the thing at the end with the woman who's obsessed with Herc, but that might make more sense if I read previous issues.

Obviously this issue tempts me to start collecting this comic again, but maybe I'll limit myself to picking it up only when it sounds particularly interesting.
Thumbs Up

Jack of Fables #33
"The Great Fables Crossover" begins in earnest in this issue, as Bigby and Snow show up at the diner where Jack and the others are all hanging out; Bigby and Jack end up getting in a fight; and not only does Bigby win, he even steals Jack's sidekick. Meanwhile, Jack Frost comes into his own somehow or other, for some reason (that seems to be connected to a past storyline I'm not familiar with), and Kevin Thorn begins practicing for a major rewrite of reality by doing horrible things to random people. This book has always been happy to do crazy postmodern things and break the fourth wall, so it's not particularly surprising when, in the final panel, Jack says, "I'm headed back to the real Fables book, where I've always belonged! And I'm taking my favorite artist with me!"

There are some amusing scenes in here - like the disturbing transformation that occurs when Thorn rewrites reality, and Babe's story, which this month involves a barbarian of the northern wastes strewing corpses in a particular way. And as usual, I like the art (Jack has good taste). But I find myself a bit bored by the issue as a whole. I mean, nothing really happens, does it?
Thumbs Sideways

The New Avengers #52
Okay, I am officially tired of the way Brian Michael Bendis writes dialogue. The verbosity, the little asides, the slang, the faux realistic pauses, the repetitions - it was all cute at first. But now it's just annoying. And it ends up turning pretty much every character in a smarmy jackass. I particularly dislike the monologue from the Son of Satan at the end of the issue, even though it does sort of tangentially bring Patsy Walker into the story (whom I like). I'm fascinated by the story here, and I like the art (which is provided by a huge gang of people this issue for some reason), but I'm just not sure I can put up with Bendis' writing anymore.
Thumbs Down

No Hero #5
I enjoy the character of Carrick and his dialogue very much. He's cursing left, right, up, and down as this issue starts, frustrated with how his organization seems to be getting attacked from all sides by all its old enemies. Meanwhile, it's time to send Revere out into the world again so people can get a look at him, and so the Front Line can show it's not afraid. Revere even gets a chance to look like a real hero in the eyes of the city - but horrifically, at the end of the issue we learn that the entire near tragedy has been staged at Carrick's orders for publicity purposes. The dark underbelly of the Front Line is really starting to show now. Revere's reaction is to simply say, "Guess I'm a real hero now. Thanks." It's hard to tell if he's serious or not. Has he completely thrown away his principles in his single-minded quest to be a hero - and thus, by becoming one, actually become its opposite - or has he just cracked completely now? I'm really fascinated to see where this goes next.
Thumbs Up

Scalped #28
The last couple of issues were each a portrait of a single character, and offered only small advancements of the overall story, but in this issue we get back to that story in a big, big way. The twin mysteries of who murdered those two FBI agents all those years ago, and who murdered Gina Bad Horse more recently, are all of the sudden solved (or at least, we as readers now know the culprit, even if few of the other characters do). And the solution is quite shocking. Meanwhile, Officer Falls Down is back and has been put on the case of the exotic dancer the grifter from a few issues ago killed in his hotel room. Unfortunately he's been paired with Agent Newsome, Nitz's asshole partner. The two of them have a nasty little argument that's a joy to read. In the midst of their conversation, Newsome mentions "what happened at the casino a couple nights ago," no doubt referring to when the grifter tried to blackmail Officer Bad Horse into helping him rob the place. But he doesn't say any more about it, so we'll have to wait for a future issue to fill us in on how that all went down. Damn it. In the end, Catcher makes a surprising vow to save Officer Bad Horse, although how he intends to do that, or what he thinks "saving" means, is a little unclear.

I was a bit disappointed with the previous issue, but this one is a big improvement, in terms of both story and art (series regular R.M. Guera is back on the job, thank God). Things are really starting to come together!
Thumbs Up

Skrull Kill Krew #1
I enjoyed the preview issue of this that came out some months ago, so I've been waiting for the series proper to start. The first issue is just as amusing and surreal as the zero issue. It opens with a very funny sum-up of recent Skrull history, from the point of view of a Skrull being killed by the book's main character: Ryder, a one-man, shape-shifting, Skrull-killing machine. Then we cut to a group of Skrulls living secretly in the middle of the city, apparently descended from a half-Skrull, half-cow hybrid, dating back to that time Reed Richards forced a bunch of Skrulls to turn into cows and stay that way. Which is a damn crazy story, but not even as crazy as the origin of the Skrull Kill Krew - a bunch of folks who ate the meat of those Skrull cows and thus got mutated. (Apparently the original Skrull Kill Krew miniseries was written by Grant Morrison, which is why it's such a twisted, crazy story. I'm definitely going to have to check that out.) Anyway, the cow/Skrull hybrids are hanging out, doing bad Thor impersonations, and slaughtering drunk humans. Ryder turns the tables on them, slaughtering them all, and then gets a friend at H.A.M.M.E.R. to test their blood. She also tests Ryder's blood, however, and discovers something unsettling about his true nature.

Interesting stuff! And like I said, quite funny. I'll probably end up collecting the entire mini, since it's only five issues long.
Thumbs Up

Star Wars: Dark Times #13
I don't get a chance to check MySpace.com/DarkHorsePresents very often. But when I saw that this issue of Dark Times - the first in some months - had a prologue that was free to read on that website, I knew it was time to give it another look. Besides reading the prologue, which was very good, with excellent art, I also got to check out Joss Whedon's hilariously imaginative and insanely stream-of-consciousness Sugarshock, which is a ton of fun.

Anyways, as for the comic itself, it features Vader finally returning to the Emperor after the disastrous events of Vector, worried that Palpatine might have somehow found out about the plotting Vader was doing behind his master's back. His suspicions are not assuaged when the Emperor sends him away on another mission clearly just to get him out of the way, and mentions a plan set in motion to deal with surviving Jedi - a plan that Vader will apparently not be a part of. Very interesting! I love seeing this other side of these two characters - the intrigue, the scheming.

Meanwhile, Jedi Dass Jennir is surviving by working as a mercenary, and decides to take a job offer from a beautiful woman to save a small world from violent gangs, but discovers when he gets there the job is not exactly how the woman described it. In fact, the story appears to be an interesting mixture of a film noir (femme fatale and all) and Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars. So it's a little derivative, but it's derivative of stuff I love. Plus there's a couple of fantastic action scenes, and the dialogue is great; I particularly like the way Jennir's droid is constantly mentioning the fact that Jennir killed his previous master. It's a little contrived that on this world they follow a code of honor that requires everyone to fight with swords, but I'm willing to accept it; I like sword fighting!

After I tried out most of the Star Wars comics, I settled on this one as the best, and it hasn't let me down yet. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this new storyline (which is entitled, by the way, "Blue Harvest" - a reference I appreciate).
Thumbs Up

Wolverine: The Anniversary #1
I hadn't planned to get this comic - in fact, I didn't remember seeing it on the release list, and was surprised to find it on the shelf - but I have a hard time resisting comics about Wolverine, even anthology one-shots, which tend to be pretty uneven. Plus, that title, "The Anniversary," made me think it was an important book. In fact, it's barely an anthology - it contains one long story, followed by one very short story - and it's not particularly important as far as comic stories go. But it is surprisingly good.

The long story is, in fact, called "The Anniversary," and it's written by William Harms with art by Jefte Palo and colors by Lee Loughridge. It's about Wolverine flying to Japan to pay his respects to his lover Mariko on the anniversary of her death. But the plane he's on just happens to be hijacked by terrorists. This does not make him happy. I really enjoy the art, and you can't go wrong with a story about Wolverine making mincemeat out of terrorists, especially with the added drama of his painful memories of Mariko's death driving him on to revenge. There's also a nice irony in the way Wolverine ultimately tracks down the man responsible.

The short story is "Ghosts," written by Jonathan Maberry with art by Tomm Coker and colors by Daniel Freedman, and it's also concerned with the death of Mariko, and with how Wolverine's life is so nightmarish, and so haunted by those he's lost. It's a bit surreal, and tries to gray out the line between waking and sleeping, between life and death. Wolverine's narration is a little melodramatic, but it's still a pretty neat story, and the art is quite impressive.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Garth Ennis (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Punisher (Not), Scalped (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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Wednesday, March 18, 2009 01:41 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

What with work and life being so busy lately, I've really let this feature slide, so it's time for a triple-length catch-up post! This covers new releases from the weeks of 2/25, 3/4, and 3/11, plus a handful of older books.

Back issues and old data
B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #2
If I'd realized that I'd missed this issue, I'd forgotten about it until #3 came out this past week and I saw #2 listed as the next issue in my comic wish list spreadsheet. Luckily, the shop had both issues and I was able to read them one after the other, which is actually a more pleasant experience than reading them a month apart anyway. This one sees the B.P.R.D. gang, plus a whole army of regular military backup, arriving at Memnan Saa's address with the intention of taking Liz back by force. But before they can attack, a monk comes out and invites three B.P.R.D.ers inside. A trip through a weird doorway and an eerie maze leads them to a magical city where they find Liz in a trance and Memnan Saa ready to talk. As he begins to explain everything to them, Memnan Saa's fortress, and the army outside, is attacked by a unified force of frogs and those little underground demon guys. It's crazy stuff. Memnan Saa keeps saying he's a good guy, and that he offers the last, desperate hope of saving the world. But how can he be on their side, when we've seen him do so many evil things? It's puzzling.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis #1-7
Final Crisis is awesome. Flash fact.

That may sound odd coming from somebody who clearly hated the first issue of the series the first time he read it, so much so that he dropped the series immediately afterward. I picked it up again, reluctantly, at issue #6 because I wanted to see what happened to Batman. What I've realized about Final Crisis since then is that any one part of it alone is confusing and a little off-putting; it's only once you've read the entire story, and you've seen it all come together as one epic, mind-bending, circular saga, that you realize the genius that went into it. Plus it takes a while to get used to the odd, almost overly dramatic style Morrison adopted when writing it.

Also, as I should have suspected, the plot of Final Crisis makes a lot more sense when you read the entire series in order from beginning to end. The story started really coming together for me even before I read the issues I'd missed; in fact, pretty much as soon as I read #1 again, the pieces began to fit together in my head. Even other stories, like Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D started to make more sense. And the dialogue that I'd originally found ridiculous and irritating I fell in love with almost immediately on a second pass.

Some of my favorite things about Final Crisis include: the romantic and beautiful story of Monitor Nix Uotan: the way he drops out of the orrery and into the world, only to find himself drawing sketches of the events of Superman Beyond, and of a lover he's forgotten, and the way he is reawakened to his true self; the crazy and funny Super Young Team, and the character whose super power is that he's incredibly wealthy; the way Orion is killed by Darkseid firing a poison bullet at him backwards through time, a bullet Orion can't dodge because he's already dead; the fact that the poison bullet, in its weird, circular trajectory, also mortally wounds the one firing it; that it's a man, just a man - albeit the most bad-ass man who's ever lived - who fires that bullet, making his last act the destruction of the God of evil; the triumphant return of Barry Allen; the funny and insanely imaginative things Morrison does with the Flashes and their incredible, mind-blowing speed; the way the Flashes outrun death, driving it into Darkseid; the hilarious and disturbing way that Anti-Life is sold, advertised with slogans, and packaged like a commodity; a Guardian of Oa saying to Hal: "You have 24 hours to save the universe, Lantern Jordan;" the miracle machine that turns thoughts into reality; the wonderfully sarcastic and cranky duo of Sivana and Luthor; the way the return of Superman is heralded by Wonder Woman saying, "Look! Up in the sky...;" the way the title of each issue is revealed only at the end; the brilliant title of #6: "How to Murder the Earth;" pretty much everything about #7; the black Superman who is also President of the United States; the way the story of Final Crisis is fired off in a rocket from a doomed world, just like Superman was; the ridiculously fantastic dialogue; all the crazily inventive science fiction ideas throughout; the way Superman shatters anti-life with the music of life; the way the coming of the Supermen of the multiverse is heralded by Superman saying, "Look up in the sky;" the way Nix Uotan shows up with freaking EVERYBODY at his back, chants the Green Lantern oath, and they all beat the crap out of Mandrakk and the vampire Superman; the way Superman gives everyone a happy ending; the incredible love shown in this book for people and their ability to survive; the incredible love shown in this book for stories and their ability to make surviving worth while; and that final page: the hope and the promise of it.

At some point in my comic reading career, I decided Grant Morrison was an uneven writer and that I should probably just avoid his work as much as possible. Recent books I've read by him, including this series, Superman Beyond, and All-Star Superman, have completely changed my mind. I need to track down everything this guy has written and read it all. He is freaking amazing. Final Crisis is freaking amazing. Even though I own all the issues, I'm seriously thinking about buying the trade when it comes out, just so I can have it in a more permanent form, all bound together nicely. It is a fantastic piece of work.
Thumbs Up

New releases, 2/25
Captain America #47
Cap gets himself captured - which was apparently his plan all along - and discovers the horrible truth behind the mad scientist's designs on the Human Torch. As is traditional, things do not look good at all for our heroes on the final page. This storyline is getting brutal, fast-paced, and exciting! I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch #5
In the final issue of this miniseries, we finally see the full outlines of Zadkiel's plan for Danny, and come to a full understanding of how he was transformed and set on the path that led him to his actions in the main Ghost Rider series. It's pretty fascinating and effective stuff. We also get to see the real Mister Eleven, who turns out to be not so bad a guy after all. I'm curious about some of the seeds writer Simon Spurrier plants here. Whose body is the technomage going to end up in? Will she show up later in the Ghost Rider saga? Has she already done so and we just didn't know? Regardless, this was a decent mini.
Thumbs Up

Green Lantern #38
Woah! Some crazy crap goes down in this book. As if things weren't confusing enough for poor Hal, he gets a third ring and joins yet another Corps at the beginning of this issue. He's starting to look like he did when he was Parallax! Luckily the number of rings he's wearing goes back down by one later on in the issue, but he's still looking seriously confused and messed up. At the end, all kinds of stuff happens at once: a group of super-powered dudes who I don't recognize beat up a bunch of other people and find themselves some kind of hidden source of power; Agent Orange stirs; Atrocitus does some magic to try to find the home world of the Blue Lanterns; Carrol Ferris, who's been pining after the missing Hal, gets inducted into a Corps of her own; and Scar hangs around promising doom. It's very exciting and very fast-paced, and the story continues in the Origins & Omens backup, where we see a bit more of the new Carol, and a bit more of what's going on inside John Stewart and Hal Jordan, and then we get an intriguing glimpse of the future: John attacked by a zombie lover; Hal and Sinestro fighting together against mysterious attackers; the original Green Lantern shackled and accused by the Guardians; a Black Lantern kneeling. It's good stuff! I'm ready for Blackest Night!
Thumbs Up

Jack of Fables #31
Things don't look good for our heroes, and Jack makes things even worse by shooting Bookburner at a parley. Revise has only one trick left up his sleeve: releasing from their bonds three incredibly powerful Native American spirits named Wy'East, Klickitat, and Loowit. This would destroy everyone, but Jack figures out some way of evacuating the Golden Boughs beforehand. We're promised the explanation in the next issue. But for now the conflict seems to have been resolved. Plus, Gary's still alive at the moment, which pleases me. Pretty cool issue. The Native American spirits are an impressive addition to the story. There are also a couple of pretty funny moments here, as usual. I'm curious to see how Jack got everybody out of there, and what will happen to Bookburner's zombie Fables now that he's gone. Guess I'll have to tune in again next time to find out!
Thumbs Up

The New Avengers #50
The fiftieth issue of New Avengers is meant to be a big, epic, landmark episode in the history of Marvel's flagship super team. Instead it's a disappointing story overflowing with corny, clumsy dialogue and narration. And in it, author Brian Michael Bendis even contradicts continuity he himself established in Dark Avengers!

We open up with the underground Avengers still reacting to the unveiling of Osborn's Avengers, and still trying to decide what to do about it. They talk and they talk and they talk. Some of it's reasonably clever and funny, but I'm really starting to get tired of Bendis' stilted, smart-ass dialogue style. Anyway, eventually they come up with a very dumb, simplistic plan to try to lure Osborn's Avengers to neutral ground where they hope to depower them and beat the snot out of them. We cut over to the Watchtower where an entire conversation from Dark Avengers is reenacted - except it now ends in a completely different way. Instead of a call coming in about Doctor Doom being attacked, followed by Osborn and his people suiting up and heading out, Spider-Woman appears and pretends to give up the underground Avengers' location in the hopes that Osborn will give her a job. Interestingly, instead of springing what he immediately knows to be a trap himself, Osborn sends the Hood and his gang of criminals in to do the job for him, then takes himself and his Avengers elsewhere. So there's a giant fight between the Avengers and the Hood's gang, during which all our heroes spew a lot of dialogue and narration that's supposed to give us a meaningful look inside their heads. But it's really just melodramatic, repetitive, and completely lacking in subtlety. At the end, Ronin walks out and gives a speech on the news fingering Osborn as a criminal and asking everyone to fight back against him and his people.

It all feels clumsy, overwritten, and contrived. I'll overlook the continuity issue, since I can't believe Bendis would have made such an obvious mistake, and after all they were going to have to erase the events of Dark Avengers from canon somehow anyway, probably via time travel or magic; we can't have all those major characters stay dead. But even with that set aside, this is just not a good comic. I'm pretty disappointed; I really wanted to like this issue, and I thought I was really becoming a fan of Bendis' work. Now I'm just not that sure.

After the main story is a preview from Dark Reign: Fantastic 4, a miniseries coming soon from Jonathan Hickman and Sean Chen. I didn't think I really liked Hickman's work very much, but this preview is actually rather intriguing and funny, and the characters are handled quite well. I just might have to pick up at least the first issue of this.
Thumbs Down

Star Trek: Countdown #2
This issue opens with Captain Data saving the day! Nero joins Spock on the Enterprise and they head to Vulcan with the hopes of enacting Spock's last ditch plan to save Romulus. Meanwhile, we learn how Data came back to life (his neural nets were imprinted onto B-4's existing programming), and Nero learns a bit about Captain Kirk from the ship's computers. Back home, the Romulans finally realize that Spock was right, but plan to fix things by evacuating the planet and invading Vulcan to steal the magic supernova-killing weapon from them. D'oh! The Vulcans are just as stupid and, before they even discover the Romulans' plans, refuse to hand over their technology to the Romulans. Nero rushes back home, but gets there too late. He blames the Vulcans. It's all gone wrong!

I believe Nero is actually the villain in the new Star Trek movie, which I assume means he travels back in time somehow and brings his grudge against Vulcan with him (and possibly also develops a grudge against Kirk for some reason). We'll have to see how that all develops. Regardless, this is an interesting series. It's dramatic with fascinating characters. And I love that we're getting to see what happened in the Star Trek universe after the events of the last movie.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Last Generation #4
The insane alternate universe saga continues! Finally the Silver Ghost and Picard's resistance cell join together. I like that when Riker returns, his first line is, "I hope you didn't sell my trombone." Heh. Then we learn that Deanna Troi is Worf's consort! She's all tarted up, too, in too much makeup and a ridiculous gown. She's a spy for the resistance, natch, but Worf has known all along, and now that her usefulness has passed, he brutally murders her. Wow. There's an insane sword fight between Worf and Sulu that ends in mutual destruction, but also success: the resistance gets Data back. Which means it's time for that trip into the past.

This series is just so crazy and twisted, and really feels more like fan fiction than a licensed comic. But I have to admit there are some pretty effective and exciting moments, and now that I've stuck with it this long, I might as well see it through to the end. I'm pretty sure there's only one issue left anyway.
Thumbs Sideways

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #4
Oh man, what a fantastic, fantastic issue. I swear, this comic just keeps getting better and better! We open up inside a dream of Spaceboy's which quickly devolves from happy utopia ("Holy *crap*, I missed you!") to horrific nightmare. He wakes to even more insanity, as Hazel and Cha-Cha return, loaded up on sugar, and activate the nukes! Luckily there's a timer. Also, Seance is way more powerful than I realized and pretty much takes care of everything (well, almost everything). Kraken's tries to join up with Seance and Spaceboy, but, in a rather hilarious twist, the televator is broken and he's stuck waiting for the subway. Meanwhile, that young rich guy who showed up a couple issues ago returns and performs a corporate takeover. Then we cut over to the office at the end of time where the assassins are all being briefed on their mission to take out JFK - after they stop Number Five, of course. The squad leader for the operation? Number Five! Brilliant! And it seems Number Five has a plan for stopping himself.

Back at the homestead, it turns out Pogo's not buried in his grave, but one of those time traveling assassins is, and somehow his body acts as a time machine, allowing Kraken, Spaceboy, and Seance to all head to Dallas, 1963, as well, just in time for the big showdown. And it's a good thing they leave, because it turns out Seance didn't defuse that detonator as well as he thought. Pop goes the world!

What an ending! Every comic should end that way. So brilliant and fantastic. So many amazing, wildly imaginative ideas in here. And it's all revving up to a big, climactic ending that I can't wait to read.
Thumbs Up

War Machine #3
This issue features the very cool confrontation between the God of War (who naturally has a very high kill number!) and the War Machine. Their fight is doubly interesting because not only is it a physical battle, it's also a war of words. Ares sees some things about Rhodey and his mission that even Rhodey himself is not aware of. In the end, the nasty, smart-ass, weapon-designing villain is taken out in excellent fashion - and as that was Osborn's objective, and Ares' mission, all along, that takes care of that. Right? Well, not quite. Ares is insane and decides to open up the vault that contains the ultimate weapon, just for fun. As I suspected, Glenda is not okay, and what was done to her is just a sample of what lies inside the vault. Ultimo, according to Wikipedia, is just some giant robot, but it looks like he's been reimagined as some kind of virus? I don't know, I'm sure it will all make more sense in time. The point is, great issue; well written, with many surprising plot twists and lots of exciting action.
Thumbs Up

New releases, 3/4
The Age of the Sentry #6
The final issue of this wonderful miniseries features a pull-quote on the cover from a fellow whose blog I read, Chris Sims: "The new apex of the artform... to which all others must be compared and, almost inevitably, fall short." I don't know if I'd describe the comic in terms as glowing as that, but it is indeed excellent.

Instead of having the usual two short stories, this issue has only one long one: "The Death of the Sentry." A narrative box immediately removes the power of the title by pointing out that this is just an imaginary story. But the quick and repeated insistence that it's imaginary only leads the reader to believe it might not be, especially once you get to the end. The story opens with a freak accident that reveals the Sentry's true identity to the world. Hilariously, everyone immediately recognizes the face of Rob Reynolds, crack entry investigator for America's #1 encyclopedia publisher. And oddly, no one working at the encyclopedia seems surprised in the least. Then the Void and Cranio team up and suck out all of the Sentry's life force, killing him! All of the classic Marvel heroes, and many of the original characters introduced in previous issues of this miniseries, show up for the Sentry's funeral. And with him gone, who will stop the asteroid that's on a collision course with Earth?? Luckily, the Sentry's not really dead after all; his body just went into a dormant state to stay alive while it recuperated (yep, same thing they pulled with Superman - the Superman parallels continue!). He's still weak, but he follows the Void and Cranio to get the rest of his power back anyway. Cranio isn't so much his enemy anymore, however; he shows up and finally explains all the mysterious stuff we've been seeing throughout the miniseries, as well as telling us the true origin of the Sentry and the Void! True to the series' continuing Superman/DC parallels, the origin story involves a multiverse, insane reality-warping events, and an epic, anti-monitor style enemy. Once we've heard the origin, it's time for a giant showdown between the Void and the Sentry. It seems the Sentry has no chance of winning, since he's already weakened, and each time the Void touches him, he loses more of his life force. But he quickly realizes that by losing, he will ultimately win. As the Void absorbs the last of the Sentry, he in effect becomes the Sentry, taking on all of his goodness, too. It's a fascinating new explanation for who the Sentry really is, and why the Void is inside him, and it's sort of a metaphor for how the Sentry was retconned into the Marvel Universe, and also a parallel to stuff DC has done with Superman. It's quite brilliant, and makes for a great final issue of the series, pulling together everything that's happened in the previous issues and sort of summing it all up.

I hope, now that this miniseries is over, that we'll see more of the Sentry in the near future. But hopefully he won't be in the hands of a writer like Brian Michael Bendis, who has him swooping in and tearing women's heads off over in Dark Avengers.
Thumbs Up

Batman: Cacophony #3
The Joker and Onomatopoeia seem to have turned the tables on Batman at the beginning of this issue, but, as Grant Morrison has taught us, Batman plans for everything, so he's able to turn things back his way soon enough. Then Onomatopoeia makes a clever move - he attacks the Joker instead of Batman. Batman has to make the same choice he's made many times, and he makes it the same way again: he chooses to save the Joker rather than let him die. And to save him, he must let Onomatopoeia go. I thought this series was going to be about Onomatopoeia - and it is, to a certain extent; we get a rather eerie look inside his other life at the end of this issue. But the series ends up being much more about Batman's relationship with the Joker, and the rather disturbing revelation that the Joker and his reign of terror is, in a very real sense, Batman's fault. It's an interesting concept, and an interesting look into this character dynamic. It kind of caught me off guard, however; it's not what I was expecting from this series. Also, I still am really not a fan of how Smith writes Batman; he makes him too melodramatic, wordy, and fallible. I much prefer Morrison's Batman. Overall, though, this was a pretty good series.
Thumbs Sideways

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #23
Here's an issue that focuses almost completely on Andrew, which makes for, as you might expect, not exactly the greatest issue ever. There is a pretty funny moment where Andrew and Buffy are traveling together and Andrew expounds on gay and geeky things of all kinds, including whether a Jedi could beat Superman in a fight, Smurfs, Battlestar Galactica, V for Vendetta, D&D, Terminator, Helen Killer, Heath Ledger, fashion, Jem, and James Bond. Anyway, storywise, he's helping Buffy track down the group of rebel Slayers who are going around robbing people - but the way he tracks them down is questionable in the extreme, and ends up causing more problems than it solves. And when did he learn to do genetic engineering?? The upshot is, they do get to the rebels' hideout, and they do get into a bit of a scuffle with them, but it ends in kind of a draw. In the end, Andrew realizes he's been accepted as part of the family now.

It's a decent issue, with some amusing and entertaining moments, but not one of my favorites.
Thumbs Sideways

Fringe #3
Things pick up speed in the main storyline here, starting with Rachel doing the little brain-sharing trick from the TV series with Dr. Bishop. This convinces him to trust her, but Bell isn't so sure. Still, he ends up going along with her plan to get the three of them out of there, which involves Bell and Bishop perfecting a teleporting device they've never seen before in the few minutes they have before men with guns come to kill them. It's pretty insane and brilliant. The end is really interesting; a guy from the "soap company" calls the president to let him know Bell and Bishop escaped, but that the company managed to get an implant of some kind in one of them. The president says, "When it's the right time... activate him." But which one? Bell or Bishop? Hmmm...

The backup story is a great little tale about a boy who's born a walking biological weapon. He's taken in by some nameless organization (probably the soap company, possibly Massive Dynamic), who cruelly train and test him in an attempt to reproduce his deadly abilities. Eventually, he escapes, and in pretty clever and dramatic fashion.

I continue to be really impressed by this series. The main storyline is fast-paced, exciting, clever, and is filling us in on fascinating details about the backstory of the television show which help inform the current events of the series. And the backup story is always something brilliant and wonderfully twisted.
Thumbs Up

The Goon #32
For the special tenth anniversary issue of his wonderful series, Eric Powell manages to tell a fantastic and hilarious story about the Goon's birthday that not only features silly cameos by celebrities, it also sums up the series, and acts as both an epilogue to the last arc of the book, and a prologue to the next arc. It's brilliant, and reminded me of everything that's great about this series. It's wonderful that what finally cheers up the Goon and gets him back to being his old self is not a birthday party with all his friends, a topless woman, or getting his hat back. It's beating up a hideous hobo demon! In between there's a singing birthday telegram from the rape gorilla, a Planet of the Apes parody, the battering down of the fourth wall, a surprising appearance by Frank Darabont, and a stunningly wrong but hilarious parody of The Shawshank Redemption starring bears. It's a true masterpiece, and is followed up by an awesome sketchbook featuring sketches of the Goon characters by comic book celebrities like Mike Mignola and Jeff Smith, and old sketches of the Goon characters and their predecessors by Powell himself, accompanied by a history of the comic's development. Fantastic.
Thumbs Up

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #4
Hellboy starts things out here by having another flashback to his slaughter of the giants. He sees himself, in the midst of that act, as the terrible, Earth-shattering demon he was meant to be. Meanwhile, in the present, just as it seems Hellboy is about to gain allies and perhaps even an army, he is betrayed again, and his friend is mortally wounded. Was Mab behind it? It doesn't seem like she could be, but it's hard to know for sure. Anyway, those bird entities who've been helping Hellboy on and off since forever show up to save his ass again, transporting him to a mysterious castle where they say their lady can save his friend. Interesting stuff! The backup story is a one-shot about Baba Yaga and how a mortal man is able to escape her and curse her. It's fantastic, of course. Another issue of Hellboy, another comic that's brilliant and beautiful from front cover to back cover.
Thumbs Up

I Am Legion: The Dancing Faun #2
Every issue of this comic is so long and complicated! It's also beautifully drawn, of course, by John Cassaday, and I'm still enjoying it quite a bit, but I had to go back and reread a couple of sections multiple times to understand them, and I still think I missed some stuff. I guess the important thing is, I'm getting the gist of it, and the gist is pretty cool. It's creepy and twisted and clever.
Thumbs Sideways

Jersey Gods #2
I really want to like this series. I really do. I love the concept. But it's just not that good. I don't really "get" any of the characters - there's nothing about them that's really familiar to me or that I can sympathize with - and that makes it really hard to care about them or their story. In this issue, the romance between the Jersey girl and the God-like alien takes its first tentative steps. The girl experiences some small drama at her job on Earth (she gets in trouble for criticizing a designer's ridiculous fashion collection), while the God runs into some more life-threatening problems trying to head off war on his planet. But like I said, I just don't care all that much. The tone is a weird mix of light and dramatic, and it just doesn't work for me. I like the Darwyn Cooke cover of this one, and I'm kind of curious about Mark Waid's backup story which is supposed to start in the next issue. But I'm not sure I can justify buying that issue.
Thumbs Sideways

New Avengers: The Reunion #1
This is a new miniseries taking a look at the adventures of Mockingbird and Ronin following Mockingbird's return from Skrull custody. It picks up shortly after the events of Dark Reign: New Nation #1, with Mockingbird still freaking out and being mysterious, and Ronin still chasing after her. This time he jumps her when she's in the middle of infiltrating a secret A.I.M. base. He helps her get in, and helps her escape, but she still won't reveal to him the secret information she got from the Skrulls, or exactly which old S.H.I.E.L.D. mission she's trying to complete with it. So he captures her with the idea of bringing her in to the Avengers.

There are some interesting concepts here, but I'm not a big fan of the writing. The script is by Jim McCann, whom I'm not familiar with. He fills this comic with lots and lots of dialogue and narration, which is rarely a good plan, and indeed most of it is clumsy and melodramatic. There's a scene where Captain America and Ronin almost come to blows for no good reason, and it reminds me of how bad filmmakers will use anger and shouting as a replacement for actual drama and acting talent. I very much doubt I'll buy another issue of this.
Thumbs Sideways

No Hero #4
Warren Ellis' twisted thought experiment - which attempts to answer the question, "How far would you go to be a superhero?" - continues. The answer turns out to be, at least in the case of our main character, pretty goddamn far. The poor bastard's junk has fallen off, along with a lot of his skin, but when he realizes he has superpowers, he's sort of okay with it. He's in no shape to fight evil - in fact, he's in no shape to even be seen by anyone - but the Front Line is desperate for new members, and desperate to show the world it's still alive and kicking, so the poor kid gets dragged out for a press conference anyway. They've got him covered up in a full bodysuit and mask, but when a faux camera guy in the crowd, who's apparently a part of the conspiracy that's been striking at the Front Line throughout the series, shoots off Josh's mask and then kills himself, the hideous new face of the Front Line is revealed to the world. The final panel is pathetic and devastating: the hideously mutated Josh, his alien face smoking and dripping goo, says, "Nothing wrong with me. I'm a superhuman now." Eee.

Very disturbing stuff! But I'd expect no less from Mr. Ellis. This is another of these series that takes a hard look at what the world would really be like if there were superheroes in it: the political and social consequences, the celebrity aspect, what it would take to be a superhero, and whether, after becoming a "superhero," you would really be a hero, or even a human, anymore. I am a fan of this book, and I'm very curious to see what dark and terrible place it takes us to.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: First Class - Finals #2
As the "finals" continue, the big ugly Frederick is giving the X-Men a pretty serious pounding when suddenly Juggernaut rolls in out of nowhere and runs him down. With Frederick taken care of, the kids try to locate Xavier using Cerebro, and continue to try to figure out what they'll do with their lives after they graduate. While looking for the Professor, they come across a different mutant signal and go to check it out, only to come face to face with a big pile of metal shaped like Magneto! Huh. The backup story about Jean and Scott's date continues as the couple sees on TV that Wanda has joined the Avengers. Scott, still fuming about the lame night they ended up having, decides to do something crazy and borrows Warren's car so the two of them can drive down to Manhattan. In the final cliffhanger panel, they seem to be about to run into something.

Both of these stories are fun and exciting, and feature subtle glimpses inside our heroes' heads as they try to figure themselves and their lives out. As usual with X-Men: First Class, I was not blown away, but I was entertained.
Thumbs Sideways

New releases, 3/11
After Watchmen... What's Next?
This is just a free promotional book that my comic shop guy dropped into my bag when I wasn't looking. I believe DC was giving it away at certain screenings of Watchmen. The idea was to capitalize on the popularity of the movie by giving viewers a checklist of books that are kinda sorta like Watchmen, in the hopes that they would then take that checklist into a comic shop, buy a bunch of stuff, and get well and truly addicted to the medium. Most of the stuff in here is good, or at least makes sense: more books by Alan Moore (although I would have picked From Hell instead of V for Vendetta); other challenging, non-standard, indie-style comics (Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man, neither of which I'm a huge fan of, but both of which make sense here); a couple of books by Warren Ellis (Planetary Volume One is an excellent choice, and one of the books I always recommend to somebody just trying comics for the first time, but I would probably have substituted something like Ocean for Transmetropolitan, which I've never liked as much as everybody else seems to); a couple of Frank Miller books (I give a big thumbs up to Dark Knight Returns, but I probably would have picked 300 or the first book of Sin City or Batman: Year One or really almost anything but Ronin); volume one of Sandman (practically a given); volume one of Fables; Kingdom Come; Joker; All-Star Superman Volume One (one of my all-time favorites); Superman: Red Son; and We3. Stuff I don't like: Identity Crisis (I've never read it, but from what I've read around the edges of it, so to speak, I get the impression it's pretty bad, and I've read stuff by the author, Brad Meltzer, that was just plain terrible. Plus, if you were going to recommend a Crisis to someone new to comics - and I don't know why you would, because they're probably the most confusing and off-putting things you could possibly read as a comics beginner - why would you not pick the best: Final Crisis??); Batman: Arkham Asylum (which I find painfully melodramatic and overwritten); and Preacher Volume 1 (which I just plain don't like, despite all the glowing things everybody else says about it).

And now that I've wasted far too many words on a promotional freebie, I'll move on.
Thumbs Sideways

Angel: Blood & Trenches #1
I didn't expect much from this comic, but I couldn't resist the idea of Angel running around fighting evil in the trenches during WWI. Happily, it turned out to be quite good. Angel, living in the gutters of NYC as an emo rat-sucker, learns that a vampire (or vampires) is ravaging soldiers on the front line, and leaving a strange sigil behind drawn in blood. He researches the symbol and discovers it's the mark of what looks like a particularly nasty vampire. He heads overseas to see if he can stop the guy, and finds an ally in a lovely young doctor. But he also finds plenty of enemies, and not just vampires: a Colonel Geoffery Wyndam-Price, presumably an ancestor of Angel's future friend Wesley (which is a clever, cool idea), is already aware of the vampire problem, discovers Angel's true nature, and exposes him to sunlight, making for a nice cliffhanger.

Author John Byrne writes the characters well, crafts an exciting and interesting story, and, perhaps most importantly, knows when not to write at all; there's a wordless sequence that tells the story of Angel's trip from America to the front very effectively. Impressively, Byrne also provides the comic's fantastic art. Very nice! I'll definitely be tuning in for episode 2.
Thumbs Up

B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #3
The story continues much as it left off in #2, with Memnan Saa explaining his backstory and his purpose to the folks he's invited inside his fortress, while the folks outside fight a desperate battle against a horde of frogs and demons. Then Memnan Saa activates Liz and, as the prophecies say, tames fire to breed dragons. Some mighty impressive and epic stuff goes down here, and it's wonderfully illustrated by Guy Davis and Dave Stewart. I'm still trying to reconcile Memnan Saa's clearly evil nature with his seeming good deeds, which is keeping me off kilter. But it's another exciting and fascinating issue.
Thumbs Up

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1
The next big DC event officially begins here. In Batman's absence, Gotham is falling apart, and Nightwing has formed the Network - an alliance of Batman's friends and allies - to try to keep it together. Despite the city's obvious need for the return of Batman (a need that Tim and Alfred can see quite clearly), Dick is adamant that no one take up Bruce's mantle. Not everybody got the memo, though; a mysterious, ultra-violent loner is on the streets and in the alleys, taking out criminals and leaving notes that read simply, "I am Batman."

It's a pretty interesting concept, and the comic is generally pretty good. The huge villain team-up is a little melodramatic and hard to believe, but I was willing to swallow it, because it's cool. There's a lot of narration, all from Tim's perspective, but it's mostly okay (although what's with Tim referring to Batman as his father??). I know Alfred used to be in British intelligence, but the dude should be pretty old by now, and it's a little odd to see him sparring with, and casually defeating and disarming, Dick Grayson, whom he's watched grow up from a boy into a man nearly as bad-ass as Batman himself. But none of that stuff is really terrible. No, the only really terrible thing in the comic is the way Damian is written. He's depicted as a helpless, cowardly dumbass who picks up girls with the Batmobile and who nearly pisses his pants when some supervillains come gunning for him. What? This is not at all the character Grant Morrison created. Sure, Damian's a bit of a goof, but he's also extremely smart, highly skilled in all forms of warfare (thanks to relentless training from his mother and his father), competent, and confident. He's written so completely wrong here that it really frustrated me and almost pulled me out of the book entirely. Tony S. Daniel wrote and drew this book, and he did a pretty good job on both counts. But I really wish he'd done better research on Damian's character, or at least explained how he came to change so very, very much. I might still get the next issue of this comic, but it's going to be hard seeing this fake Damian wandering around its pages.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain Britain and MI13 #11
It's really a shame that this book is getting so good just as it's being canceled. This issue opens with Captain Britain tearing a killer spell apart and then punching a vampire's heart out of its chest with his bare hands. (Oh, and it was good to get the explanation in the opening sum-up that the two women Pete and Cap were hanging out with last issue were just random backpackers; I hadn't understood that at all from reading the actual comic. I thought they were characters I was supposed to recognize.) And this is followed up by, wonder of wonders, a really, really good scene with Faiza. The scene I'm talking about is a page that's pretty much unlike anything I've ever seen in a comic. It's one big, surreal illustration with really long, detailed blocks of narration pasted on top of it, narration that describes, in the present tense, Faiza's thoughts and feelings as she and the Black Knight fall from a great height into the Earth, and she heals them both from their mortal injuries immediately as they receive them. It's wildly imaginative and brilliant and I love it. And it's followed immediately by a magical sword fight with vampires. Next we figure out what happened with Dracula and Faiza's family. Turns out Tepes of Wallachia left a special message just for Blade. There's a fantastic scene where Wisdom storms in and takes things over, handing out orders, putting on a new pair of sunglasses, and telling people to say "sir." It's hilarious and bad-ass. His scene later on, where he calls together all the heads of British intelligence, gives a little briefing, then outs a spy, and tells everybody to piss off, is possibly even cooler and more bad-ass. Finally, the horrific cliffhanger ending sees Dracula taking control of one of our heroes.

This is just a fantastic issue. Inventive, funny, brutal, thrilling, and crazy.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Rider #33
I really wasn't sure how I felt about this issue until I got to the end. Then I decided I liked it. It's basically just a transitional issue, linking the last story arc with the next one, and centers entirely on Sara, the new Caretaker. She heads back to her old convent in search of comfort and a new direction, but finds only a bloodbath perpetrated by an old enemy. Now pretty much completely hopeless, she wanders aimlessly until she receives a message from the future that gives her new purpose. Throughout all this we get glimpses of the history of the spirits of vengeance, from the beginning of the world down to the present day, a history that includes many, many insane versions of the Ghost Rider fighting many, many insane perils. There's the Ghost Flyer thirsting for Luftwaffe blood during WWI; a whole tank full of Ghost Riders shooting hellfire shells during WWII; the Undead G-Man and his sidekick Knuckles O'Shaugnessy taking out an evil secret society with a tommy gun and a club; Ghost Rider versions of the characters from Smokey and the Bandit chasing down demon cops; and a redneck Ghost Rider punching zombies at a truck stop. All of this was almost too insane and ridiculous for me, especially the way it's interspersed with the very serious, dark, dramatic story set in present day. I also feel like the art style (from new series artist Tony Moore) isn't wacky enough to match the wacky content it's depicting.

But then the hilarious future Ghost Riders show up and say things like, "What about the Skrulls? Should we tell her about the Skrulls? Have you been invaded by Skrulls yet?" This final sequence, and Sara's reaction to it (not to mention her name), actually gives me a really strong Terminator vibe, which probably had a pretty large part in turning me around on my opinion of this issue. Regardless, the important thing is, I decided I liked it in the end, and I'm excited to see where things go next. And even though Moore's art didn't always seem to fit the subject matter, I do like his work.
Thumbs Up

The Punisher: Frank Castle MAX #68
I really want to like Swierczynski's run on this title, and I've given it a lot of chances, but it's just not doing anything for me. For some reason I continue to find myself confused as to who's who and what's what, and I continue to dislike the art, especially the way the Punisher is drawn. I think my confusion has to do with the fact that there are a lot of characters, some of them look pretty similar, and I never really memorized properly what all their names are or how they're all related to each other. I'm not sure I can really blame any of that on Swierczynski; if I sat down and read the series through again from the beginning and really paid close attention this time, I'm sure I could follow it all without much trouble. And as it is I'm still getting the gist okay. But besides the confusion and the art I don't like, there's just something lacking about this story. I just find the whole thing kind of dull and off-putting. I know the Punisher isn't going to die, so there's not a lot of tension in the fact that he's poisoned and only has six hours to live. Plus that story concept is really old. And anybody in the story who's not the Punisher is just a sick, pathetic, disgusting human being that I don't want to know anything about. So yeah, I can't think of a reason to keep reading this.
Thumbs Sideways

Scalped #26
The latest issue of Scalped has a quote from the Philadelphia Daily News on the cover: "One of the best comics ever created." Woo! Go Daily News! Go Scalped! Inside, oddly enough, this issue has nothing to do with the casino heist storyline that was launched in the previous issue, and instead spends its entire length examining the character of Diesel, who is a seriously screwed up motherfucker. We get to see a brutal formative incident in Diesel's childhood intercut with what Diesel's up to now: scalping guys in prison. He's come a long way!

I'm guessing this one-shot detour into the mind and character of Diesel means he will be involved somehow in the casino heist story, but then again, maybe not; maybe this diversion was just for the heck of it. Regardless, it's typical Scalped: a powerful, violent, insightful look inside a seriously wounded human being.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Angel (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Fringe (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hellboy (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Cassaday (Not), Kevin Smith (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Punisher (Not), Scalped (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Goon (Not), The Sentry (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (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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