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Tuesday, December 22, 2009 12:31 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 12/16. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Astonishing X-Men #33
This issue opens with Brand dumping a load of exposition and backstory on us while the X-Men reminisce. Then, giant hideous monster! Enormous aircraft! Crazy ideas involving zombies! Insane action! More reminiscing!

A rather strange issue, all-in-all. But we're getting closer to whoever the Big Bad is this time. Maybe it'll be... Forge's twin brother! From a parallel Earth's future! Or something.

There are some funny bits here, like when everybody's ragging on Wolverine. But hey, when did Cyclops get so incredibly powerful?

Not sure how to feel about the issue, really. It's all right, I guess.
Thumbs Sideways

The Authority: The Lost Year #4
This is the continuation of Grant Morrison's Authority storyline, which he started about a year ago, did two issues of, and then never finished. Keith Giffen has taken over the writing duties. I started collecting the original miniseries and was a bit disappointed when it didn't go anywhere, so I thought I'd pick this up and see where it takes the story. Apparently I missed #3, and apparently there are going to be a total of 12 issues. I don't think I need to see any more, though. The writing is melodramatic and overwrought, and the story, while epic and apocalyptic, still manages to be a bit dull. I love The Authority, so I keep wishing somebody would write a good story about them again one of these days. Sadly, this isn't it.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America: Reborn #5
There are lots of great ideas in this issue. Steve is imprisoned inside a horrible Nazi-controlled alternate history America, designed by Zola and placed inside of the Red Skull's mind, which itself is now inside of Steve's skull. But still Steve finds a way to fight back, because he's just that bad-ass. Good old Steve. In the outside world, the Red Skull unleashes the awesome and insane Super-M.O.D.O.K. Squadron on Steve's friends. Meanwhile, Steve's friends are finding it pretty hard to fight back against him, even knowing that it's the Red Skull who's running the show. It doesn't look good! But I suspect everything will turn out right in the end, especially considering I've already seen Steve walking around in his own body in other comics set after this. Anyway, loved this issue. Extremely fun concepts and action, and just crazy enough to keep things interesting.
Thumbs Up

The Complete Alice in Wonderland #1
I love Lewis Carroll's Alice stories, and I find it hard to resist at least glancing at nearly every adaptation of them. And this book has a snazzy die-cut cover by John Cassaday, which made it doubly hard to resist. Overall it's pretty good, but also a bit disappointing. I hadn't thought much about creating my own comics in the past, but this comic made me think about it a lot, although sadly not in a "I'm inspired by how awesome this is" way. It was more of a "I really think I could have done this better" kind of way. The biggest problem I have is with the pacing. The whole thing feels incredibly rushed. Probably they had a strict issue- and page-limit staring them down, but I really think they needed to give certain sequences more time and space. It might even have been worth it to cut less important parts of the story out just to give the important things their due. But then I guess it wouldn't be "The Complete Alice in Wonderland" anymore. An example: in one panel near the beginning, Alice is crawling along a tunnel, and in the next panel she's already halfway down the rabbit hole, surrounded by weird stuff floating in the air. It's a jarring jump, and takes away the power and shock of the fall. I think we needed one very big panel devoted to the tumble into the rabbit hole. Then you move on to the slow fall and the stuff floating by, maybe on the next page. The sequence where Alice enters the White Rabbit's house, grows very large, kicks Bill out of the chimney, and then shrinks and escapes, is also horribly collapsed and rushed. We hardly get to see Bill at all, and barely understand what's going on before it's over. I also am not a huge fan of the manga-y representation of Alice, or the rather boring conception of the caterpillar (I much prefer Cassaday's versions of Alice and the caterpillar on the cover).

It's not a horrible comic. Some sequences are pretty well done visually and pacing-wise. But all the same, I don't think I'll bother picking up another issue.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Avengers #12
In this comic, Bendis comes up with an excuse to strip Victoria Hand to her underwear. And I can't say I don't appreciate it on some level, but still. C'mon, man. Anyway, this issue ultimately turns into the war of the super-powered crazy people, and the upshot is that the Sentry becomes aware of the true nature and depth of his power, and Osborn gets a little closer to his inevitable breakdown. Still not sure I really like where Bendis is taking the Sentry as a character, but we'll see.
Thumbs Sideways

Incorruptible #1
Mark Waid's Irredeemable is going well, so now he's started a new series set in the same universe, but looking at the other side of the coin: instead of a God-like superhero turning evil, now we've got a bad-ass supervillain going straight. This first issue is intriguing and fun, with some good dark humor. I'm amused by the underage sidekick named Jailbait, and the slightly corrupted version of Jim Gordon. Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

In the back there's an excerpt from The Unknown, another Mark Waid comic, this one about a paranormal detective. I was thinking of trying this out, and now I'm glad I didn't. Looks pretty dumb.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine #1
I was a pretty big fan of DS9 (until it went off the rails somewhere around the last season), and this comic reminds me why. It reintroduces you to all the recurring characters of the series in a very warm, nostalgic way, and even brings back a weird-looking alien background character and continues the running gag about him from the show (you never get to hear him speak, but there's the constant suggestion that he talks all the time whenever you aren't watching). The plot is an intriguing mystery about a sudden influx of visitors to the station. It's fun stuff. I'll be picking up the next issue to see where it goes.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Authority (Not), Avengers (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), John Cassaday (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wonderland (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Monday, July 20, 2009 11:47 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 7/8. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Btw, one final complaint about the presentation: I know they were going for a newspaper feel, but a couple of staples would have been nice. It seems like every time I try to page through the thing, it falls apart on me!)
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Cassaday (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), X-Men (Not)
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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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Monday, February 16, 2009 12:43 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

Fëanor's weekly comic book review post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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