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Thursday, August 26, 2010 01:59 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 8/18, plus one or two back issues. Beware spoilers!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight - Riley
I didn't expect much from a one-shot about Riley (yuck), but this is surprisingly good. A large reason why is probably the fact that it's written by Jane Espenson, a talented lady who wrote a lot of the original Buffy TV episodes, and is continuing to write great television even as we speak (she's also got a pretty fun Twitter feed at @JaneEspenson). The issue fills us in on what Riley was doing before he joined up with Twilight, and also explains a little better exactly what Twilight's motives were and how it was that Riley ended up joining him. These explanations nearly fix the recent, terrible story arc by Brad Meltzer, and nearly make Angel's actions throughout all this make sense. Nearly. Anyway, it's fun, clever, funny, and effective.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #16
This issue of New Mutants doesn't actually involve the New Mutants at all! Instead, it focuses entirely on the group of soldiers who literally went to Hell and back, and spends most of its pages on flashbacks explaining what they were doing in Hell and what happened to them there. The final page surprise reveal is a bit of a cliche in comics, but the one at the end of this book is legitimately surprising. It's also not contrived; it advances the story in an interesting and unexpected way; and it introduces a bunch of new characters about whom I can't wait to find out more. This here is a crazy fantastic comic - chilling, thrilling, exciting, imaginative, and even funny. My favorite moment combines pretty much all of that: a new recruit who foolishly failed to follow the rules suddenly gets carried off by a demon and General Ulysses responds by saying, "Yep. That will happen."
Thumbs Up

Secret Avengers #3 & #4
I think I decided after I read the first issue of this book that I wouldn't read any more... but I came in under budget this week, and I was curious to see where the evil magic crown storyline would go, so... here we are. #3 opens with an unexpected flashback to the Wild West. Apparently the guy who runs the mysterious Shadow Council is pretty old! I'm curious to see more of the Wild West storyline, but we don't get back to it in these two issues. The backstory on the crowns turns out to be unbelievably epic, spanning all the way back to before the beginning of the universe as we know it, one-upping even the Celestials and Galactus in age and grandeur.

I have to say, I really enjoy the new Ant-Man as a character. Comic book characters, even the more interesting ones, are generally divided into the heroic good guys and the villainous bad guys, but here's a dude who's just a selfish coward trying to survive. He's pretty hilarious. His best moment is when he mans up and takes out a troop of suicide bombers by causing a nuclear chain reaction. He runs for it, accompanied by narrative boxes reading "Oh God Oh God Oh God," and when he successfully escapes, he screams, "YES! ALIVE!" Issue #4 also includes Nova-powered Steve Rogers, which is a crazy bad-ass concept. It's incredibly fun seeing him duke it out with a crown-possessed Nova. The story arc ends with Steve learning the bad news that Nick Fury is part of the Shadow Council. This should be interesting!
Thumbs Up

Spitfire #1
It's just a one-shot, but it's still pretty fun getting to watch Paul Cornell play with the MI:13 characters again. The focus here is mostly on Spitfire, obviously, as she feels out her new relationship with Blade, and learns how to live with being a vampire - or at least, a part vampire. It kind of cracked me up that the first page of the book - usually reserved for a short summary of what's been going on recently, so you can pick up the story easily - is covered with text from top to bottom. Spitfire's story is just that complicated! The issue itself has some cheesy dialog moments, but is overall entertaining, insightful, and funny.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), The Take (Not), Vampires (Not), X-Men (Not), Zeb Wells (Not)
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Thursday, October 1, 2009 12:12 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kamandi - Triumph for our heroes! More great art.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawkman - It's all Hawkman fighting a T. Rex this week, and you know that's good comics, especially when he starts taunting the thing about how it can't touch its own nose.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Hellboy (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Robin Hood (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Thursday, August 13, 2009 12:27 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 7/29. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman - Still cluttered and dumb.

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

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

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

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

Go, Wednesday Comics, go!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Hulk (Not), Muppets (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), Toy Story (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009 12:43 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 7/22. 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.

Aliens #2
As I suspected, the only survivor of last issue's massacre is the ship's artificial person, but I had so little time to get to know the characters that I don't remember which guy he is. There's a pretty weak and rather contrived explanation for how he ends up getting in contact with the girl who's trapped and surrounded by aliens - without thinking, he just follows the basic procedure for taking off in a landing craft and tries to contact the "tower" first, but of course there is no tower, and he knows that. The girl picks up his random transmission and asks him to come save her - which he stupidly agrees to do! Dude, wtf? The planet is full of people who want to kill you (and who succeeded in killing all of your friends) and monsters that want to kill you. Get out while the getting's good! But of course, if he did that, there wouldn't be a story, so out he goes. We get a little more backstory on what happened to the people on the planet, but there's still no real solid explanation for why they all went crazy. Then our hero mistakenly saves the murderers instead of the little girl he was trying to find. Whoops! That should make next issue rather awkward.

I'm still not sure about this series. The story seems a bit clumsily written and I'm having a hard time mustering up any interest in the characters. But I'll hang in there for a bit longer. Maybe it'll go somewhere eventually.
Thumbs Sideways

The Amazing Spider-Man #600
I haven't bought a Spider-Man comic in a while, but I figured since it was the giant-sized, super-special 600th issue, I should make an exception. Believe it or not, there are actually seven separate stories in this thing. The first is the longest and tells the tale of the return of Doctor Octopus and the marriage of Aunt May to J. Jonah Jameson's dad (this is another one of those times in comics where it's hard not to stop and think, "Wait a minute, how old are these people now?!" But it's usually best to think of the characters as ageless and timeless and leave it at that). Dan Slott takes on writing duties, and John Romita, Jr. provides the pencils. I usually really dislike Slott's work, but he's not terrible here, and I always love John Romita, Jr.'s stuff. I like that there's actually consequences to an average human like Doc Ock getting bashed about all the time by superhumans. I'm a little sad that The Bar With No Name got trashed, but then again, it's happened before and the place has come back. I enjoy the scene where Blindside thinks he's got the drop on Daredevil when he uses special chemicals to make him... blind. Whoops! I also like the idea of the city of New York rising up to try to kill Spider-Man, and to try to stop Aunt May's wedding, all because Doc Ock is plugged into the infrastructure and his subconscious is full of hate and jealousy. Spider-Man has a few amusing comments, too, like his argument with Ronin over what the team is called, since there are three or four or five different "Avengers" these days. Also funny and effective is the relationship between the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, especially between Spider-Man and the Human Torch. I like that they remind us that Peter Parker is actually a pretty damn smart guy with some pretty mighty brainwave patterns of his own. In the end it's hard not to feel bad for Doc Ock; after all, he just wanted to do something great before his time ran out. Sure, he went about doing it in a psychopathic, megalomaniacal way, but he tried. Aww, and the FF gave Spider-Man an FF hoodie to cover up his burned off costume! I wish I had one of those. The marriage scene is actually quite touching, and I really enjoyed the classic byplay between Parker and JJJ. And then of course there's the rather dramatic return of MJ, which is fun. It's actually a surprisingly good story.

In between stories are a series of comedic illustrations: "Amazing Spider-Man Covers You'll Never See." The last one, which features a team-up between Batman and Spider-Man, is probably the best, but they're all reasonably clever and funny.

The next story is "Identity Crisis" by Stan Lee, with art by Marcos Martin, and is done totally for laughs. Spider-Man visits a psychiatrist named Dr. Gray Madder (who looks a bit like Stan Lee, actually) and tells him about all the craziest stuff that's happened to him through the years, in the hopes that the doctor can help him understand it and get past it. But Spider-Man's stories are so insane, they just end up driving the doctor crazy, too! It's not the best story ever, but it's fun for what it is.

"My Brother's Son," by Mark Waid with art by Colleen Doran, might be my favorite story in the book. It's about the relationship between Uncle Ben and a young Peter, and even though I saw the end coming, it's still a really sweet and moving story. The next one is also pretty cute. It's "If I Was Spider-Man..." by Bob Gale with art by Mario Alberti. Pete is sitting by a playground jungle gym and hears a bunch of kids discussing what it'd be like to be Spider-Man. At first one of them thinks it would be awesome, but the others convince him it would actually be a huge pain in the ass. Pete quietly, laughingly agrees, and wanders off to wash his costume at the laundromat.

Another rather sweet and moving story is "The Blessing" by Marc Guggenheim with art by Mitch Breitweiser. It's about Aunt May learning not to feel guilty about moving on and loving someone else now that Uncle Ben is gone. It's a bit corny, but still effective for all that.

"Fight at the Museum" by Zeb Wells with art by Derec Donovan is pretty funny, offering some meta, postmodern commentary on the history of Spider-Man. Pete and his friend are visiting a museum exhibit on superhero design when Pete is embarrassed to discover a bunch of folks standing around making fun of the Spider-Mobile (including a dude on a Segway who is clearly the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons). But he is moved to tears when one of the kids gets yelled at by his mom for making fun of Spider-Man; she points out that Spider-Man is a national hero and even saved the kid's father from a burning building.

The final story in the book I didn't really get, but it's possible I wasn't really supposed to. It's called "Violent Visions" and stars some character I've never heard of named Madame Web. She has some disturbing visions about the various spider-related characters of the Marvel Universe and their enemies, and then has an unfortunate run-in with a mysterious, and seemingly villainous, mother/daughter pair. The inset text at the end suggests this story is meant to be a prologue or setup for what's to come in future issues of Amazing Spider-Man, so it was probably meant to leave me confused and intrigued. Although I'm more the former than the latter.

But overall, this was really not a bad comic.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #2
We open with Geoff Johns' tale of how a sexy, winged alien princess went from being a sex slave to the Sinestro Corps to being the newest member of the Red Lantern Corps. Besides the gratuitous shower sequence, it's pretty lame. Johns also provides the words for the next story, "Lost Love," which is about how Carol Ferris is once again convinced to become a Star Sapphire. There are some flashbacks and some dime store psychoanalysis, and then Ferris is popping out of a pink crystal in a ridiculously revealing swimsuit screaming like she's having an orgasm. Jesus Christ I hate this Star Sapphire shit.

The final story, by Peter J. Tomasi, is actually a pretty neat, almost Twilight Zone-style parable about hunger and greed and what is considered valuable. If this story weren't here, the book would be a complete loss. In the back is a short essay by artist Ethan Van Sciver about the symbols of the various Lantern Corps - how they were designed, what they mean, etc. Kind of interesting.

I never thought I'd enjoy Peter J. Tomasi's writing more than Geoff Johns', but that definitely happened here. I think maybe the problem with Johns is that he's taken so many projects on, he can't afford to spend much time on any of them, so they all end up coming out half-assed.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain Britain and MI13 #15
Sadly this is the final issue of this great series, but the good news is that Cornell takes us out with a bang, tying up all the loose ends in a very satisfying and effective manner. The complete nature of Wisdom's incredibly clever and bad-ass plan is finally revealed, and Dracula and his friends don't weather it well. Some more British heroes I've never heard of show up to help out. I like the use of holy water mist, the cold way Blade dispatches Ken, and the absolutely awesome way Faiza dispatches Dracula. I also found myself powerfully moved by Captain Britain getting back together with his wife. "Brian — all I ever needed of you — my hope in hell — was that you'd stay the same." Then there's a very pleasant, appropriately British conclusion to everything. It's excellent stuff.
Thumbs Up

Dark Wolverine #76
We open with a discussion of meetings and what they mean philosophically and strategically, while Daken and Osborn continue to play a little chess game with each other, using the other Avengers and the Fantastic Four as their pawns. Daken is even trying to manipulate Osborn directly. His ultimate goal seems to be to turn everyone against each other and then sit back and watch while everything explodes. Daken is so convincing even I almost believed what he told the Fantastic Four. But it's not clear at the end whether Daken or Osborn has gotten the best of things.

I'm really loving Giuseppe Camuncoli's art here, and Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu's clever writing. I particularly like the way the FF are written.
Thumbs Up

Dethklok Versus The Goon
I've been looking forward to this rather unlikely one-shot since it was first announced. It's a combination of two of my favorite things: the brutal metal band from Cartoon Network's insane animated series Metalocalypse and Eric Powell's zombie-fighting anti-hero, The Goon. Powell does the writing and the art, with Brendon Small (creator of Metalocalypse) providing some dialog and plot assists. The colors are by Dave Stewart. The book opens with a warning (written in that special Dethklok way) for nerds and fanboys to not try to fit the story contained within into any existing continuity. Fair enough. The story itself begins as any episode of Metalocalypse begins: with a meeting of the secret group who are keeping a careful eye on the actions of everybody's favorite metal band. Hilariously, it turns out that William Murderface is the ultimate outcome of a secret breeding program attempting to create the perfect anti-human. Reminds me a bit of the Bene Gesserit breeding program attempting to create the perfect being: the Kwisatz Haderach. Anyway, to keep the anti-human from destroying everything, a programmed assassin dressed like a creepy clown is sent in to take out Dethklok once and for all, but ironically the code phrase chosen to toggle his killer programming is "peaches valentine," which any Goon fan knows is going to lead to hilarity down the line. I love Dethklok's marketing idea of shooting a thousand bald eagles out of a cannon into George Washington's face on Mt. Rushmore, and their belief that this is somehow patriotic. Anyway, a wizard dude shows up to activate Murderface's perfect anti-humanity and thereby take over the world, but he's shot dead in the middle of the act by the security people at the Dethklok castle. This somehow causes a space-time vortex that sucks Dethklok's castle into the Goon's universe. Despite the fact that something really weird has happened, the band isn't even interested in going outside and looking around until they realize the cable is out and they have no booze. And once they do go outside, they mistake the Goon's town for Cleveland. When they go into Norton's, they see the various monsters and decide a costume party is going on, which gives one band member the chance to finally use the inflatable Incredible Hulk chest muscles that he apparently always wears under his shirt, just in case. Heh.

Anyway, the collision of these two universes leads to some really horrible, awful things, like Franky taking cocaine and going wild; a member of Dethklok sleeping with Ma Norton; other members of Dethklok getting horrible things done to them by the Hairy Walnuts Gang; the townspeople becoming suicidal upon hearing the music of Dethklok; and lots and lots of people being mutilated or killed, including a couple of the main characters. Also, the Goon gets to have a thought balloon, which he decides is a first for him.

This is a pretty clever and funny comic that's true to the spirit of both the franchises that spawned it. That being said, I can't say I enjoyed it as much as I could have. It was just a little too disgusting and disturbing for me. Maybe if I read it again in a little while I'll feel differently, but for now...
Thumbs Sideways

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Dance #3
This issue came out during Comic-Con, which I hope was on purpose, because the story works as a very clever and funny satire of fan conventions like Comic-Con. It opens with the team visiting a convention celebrating them: the first Super Young Team Fanfest Extravaganza. They find themselves distracted by all the pretty people dressed like them. Perpetually unable to make any headway with the real Shiny Happy Aquazon, Big Atomic Lantern Boy sneaks off for a dalliance with a fake one, while the real Aquazon has a similar encounter with a Sonic Lightning Flash impersonator. But funniest of all is when Superbat makes out with a girl dressed like him and tweets, "Sometimes dreams can come true." Meanwhile, an evil Nazi-like secret society called The Parasitic Teutons of Assimilation (the P.T.A. - heh) are planning to take over the world, starting with the con. They're very appropriate enemies, given the context; they're a horde of zealots able to copy the powers of the Super Young Team. It amuses me that there are multiple people podcasting from the floor of the Extravaganza, and that Superbat misses the entire fight while making out with his own double. Interestingly, that old Japanese superhero seems to have made some kind of deal with a great and mysterious power, and may have just taken down the villains who have been trying to distract the Super Young Team from doing their duty. Although oddly enough that doesn't look like it's really a good thing. And now the team appears to be breaking up!

Really loving this book. This may have been one of my favorite issues yet. Very smart, very funny, very exciting, and lots of effective character development.

In the back is a preview for Adventure Comics #1. It's Conner Kent, the reborn Superclone, trying to catch up on all the life he's missed by doing all the stuff the real Superman did. It looks kind of cute. I'll probably pick up the book when it comes out.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #5
Geoff Johns' long-delayed Final Crisis tie-in miniseries finally comes to an end. And good lord is that end crazy and confusing, and accompanied by plenty of corny, melodramatic dialog. I thought all the Legions had already been pulled together in previous issues, but in this one, even more Legionnaires are called in for an even more insanely huge and epic battle against the Time Trapper and Superboy Prime. But ironically ultimate victory is only gained when our heroes bring their two enemies together, who neatly destroy each other. Prime is somehow sent back to his own planet, before it was destroyed. Mindbendingly, on this planet, this comic book miniseries also exists, and by reading it, Superboy Prime's disappointed and horrified parents have learned about all the terrible things he's done. Superboy Prime reads it, too, and makes some amusing meta commentary. Referring to the book's infamous difficulty with sticking to its release schedule, he complains, "I've been waiting for this stupid thing to end." On the next page he looks back over his shoulder at us and says, "Stop staring at me! This isn't right! You all know it. I was supposed to be the real Superboy! No, I'm not going away! You go away! Get out of here! They think I'm powerless. They think I can't do anything from here. They're wrong. They'll never get rid of me. I always survive." As he's saying these last few lines, he's visiting the DC website and typing something on his keyboard. It's a pretty hilarious and clever ending. The comic book fans and the Legion both hate Superboy Prime and want him to go away, but now he's become one of those annoying fans himself, hanging around in his parents' basement and cursing people off on the internet. Fantastic.

Overall this was a pretty fun and impressive series, but it kept one-upping itself so many times that it got a little ridiculous by the end. Plus the writing really did get quite corny and melodramatic.
Thumbs Sideways

Gotham City Sirens #2
A convenient (but reasonably believable) retcon saves Selina from giving up the true identity of Batman; instead, she offers an actually far more realistic explanation - that Batman is a part that's been played by many different people over the years. Then Harley gets herself kidnapped by the new Bruce Wayne, who's actually Hush. Ugh! Hush is going to come into this? I'm starting to lose my taste for this series. It's okay, but it's not great, and the writing's a little clumsy. I might just give up on it.
Thumbs Sideways

Green Lantern #44
Blackest Night continues! Hal Jordan and Barry Allen have a big fight with the newly resurrected Martian Manhunter. Interestingly, something weird happens to Barry when he touches that icky residue the Black Lanterns leave behind. Also, when J'onn looks at them, he sees Hal outlined in green ("Will") and Barry outlined in blue ("Hope"). He tries manipulating the two of them by bringing up the dark things from their past; when he scares Barry, he suddenly senses "Fear" in the same way he earlier sensed Hope. Apparently he can see in the emotional spectrum now. Does this mean Barry will be getting a blue or yellow ring later on? Or is J'onn just seeing the emotion Barry happens to feeling the strongest at the moment? Hmm. I like when J'onn says, "I'm as powerful as Superman. Why doesn't anyone ever remember that?" Then Scar points out he's not really betraying the Guardians - he's actually finally fulfilling their purpose. He's bringing order to the universe. Emotions cause chaos, so why not destroy them all? He goes on, "I learned this as my body died from the poisonous burn of the Anti-Monitor." Ah, so he's been dead and secretly a zombie for some time! He also says, "The Black Lanterns are collecting hearts full of the splintered light." That explains some things - it's the people who are most full of conflicted emotion that they're going after first. Next episode it looks like a whole planet full of dead people are coming back! I have to admit, Blackest Night is growing on me. This was a pretty interesting issue.
Thumbs Sideways

Immortal Weapons #1
Each issue of this new miniseries will focus on another member of the titular group of eternal warriors, of which the Iron Fist is the best known member. This first issue, written by Jason Aaron and with art by a whole team of folks, takes a look at Fat Cobra. Cobra is a rather ridiculous character, so I guess I was expecting a rather ridiculous story - fun and silly - but with Aaron at the wheel, I should have known better. Many parts of it are indeed darkly funny, but ultimately it takes the form of a rather horrific tragedy. It turns out Fat Cobra has lived so long and drank so much, he's forgotten most of the details of his life, so he's hired a man to research his past for him and write his biography. But Cobra's life story is not the glamorous, impressive tale of adventure and success he expected. Instead, it's full of shame, defeat, and dirty deeds. Some of the best sequences: Fat Cobra serves as a sidekick for Ulysses Bloodstone, and is the sole survivor of a team of kung fu commandos put together by Union Jack to take down "Hitler's secret death squad of S.S. ninjas led by the notorious butcher Herr Samurai." Later he beats Hercules, Volstagg, and what looks like Goom in an eating contest on Olympus, then joins Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. in defeating a team of Russian werewolves who'd overrun the American moon base. A quick glimpse of Fat Cobra's various romantic conquests reveals a Skrull and somebody who looks like Lilandra. A more detailed romantic sequence starts as a fight, with each of the kung fu moves named in narrative boxes, as is traditional (Diamond Slow Knife-Hand, Elbow of a Thousand Agonies), but then things take a turn for the passionate and the scene continues with each of the love-making moves being named in the same way (Kneading the Golden Dough, The Peddling Tortoise).

What Cobra really wants to hear, of course, is the story of his greatest triumph: how he defeated the Great Dragon and became an Immortal Weapon. But it turns out that wrapped up in the story of his greatest triumph is the story of his most shameful and terrible act. It's a powerful and moving tale. And in the end Cobra chooses to once again forget all about it, as he must have done many times before. Excellent stuff.

Next up is a backup story which will probably continue throughout each issue of this series. It's called "Caretakers," and it's about the Iron Fist trying to help a troubled student. It's by Duane Swierczynski, with art by Travel Foreman. It's okay so far, although I have the bad feeling it's going to get a bit preachy later on.
Thumbs Up

The Incredible Hercules #131
It's Hercules vs. Hercules, in a fight full of the clever sound effects and melodramatic, cheesy dialog I've come to expect from this book. As far as sound effects go, a couple of my favorites are BOSCH and ARDHISDOREE; these describe the noise of the twins kicking each other through and over a scene that looks like it's straight out of The Garden of Earthly Delights. Plotwise, Cho makes an exciting and disturbing discovery about his sister, which turns him against Athena and Hercules, and Zeus sort of reboots himself by drinking the waters of Lethe. These events should lead to some interesting new directions for the story. Although I again find myself tiring of Pak's writing, I'll probably hang in there for at least one more issue, just to see what this whole "Thorcules" thing is about, and to see if Cho ends up going anywhere interesting in the search for his sister (hey wait - this didn't just become The X-Files, did it??)
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredible Hulk #600
Because I like the Hulk, and because this was a big, historic issue, I decided to buy it, despite the fact that most of it is written by the archenemy of all that is good, Jeph Loeb. Loeb's first utterly ridiculous tale, which is also the main story in the book, is narrated by Ben Urich. In the story, he and Peter Parker play the parts of Woodward and Bernstein, and She-Hulk plays the part of Deep Throat. The Watergate comparison isn't my idea, by the way; Loeb actually makes the comparison himself in the text, despite the fact that it's completely inappropriate. In this case, the conspiracy that Urich and Pete are investigating reaches all the way back to the end of World War Hulk. It turns out that M.O.D.O.K. and General Ross, as part of yet another top secret super soldier program (sigh. Don't they have enough super soldiers yet?), had the presence of mind to tamper with the beam that Tony Stark shot the Hulk with, somehow creating the Red Hulk. She-Hulk starts Urich on the path to discovering all this by calling him and meeting him in a parking garage, where she tells him some tantalizing secrets from the shadows, but then almost immediately reveals her identity to him despite all her paranoia. This is all accompanied by plenty of brilliant Jeph Loeb dialog. Later, Parker and Urich are asked to put on A.I.M. beekeeper outfits, and She-Hulk says, "They're not for bees. They never were." Really?? I never would have guessed. I figured all A.I.M. did was keep bees! "What then?" Urich asks. "Radiation," she says. Dun dun dun! Or, more appropriately, duh duh duh! She-Hulk and Doc Samson keep speaking of Red Hulk as "he," like he's this horrible, unnameable thing. They see M.O.D.O.K. and Parker says, "Some guy with a big head is blocking the view." Samson responds, "That guy isn't with a big head... that guy is the big head." Wow. How long did it take you to come up with that one, Jeph? Then it turns out Samson has been brainwashed and has his own split personality now. "The good doctor is out," he says. "The bad doctor is in." Really? I mean... really? Also, the bad doctor is apparently somehow stronger and faster than the good doctor, even though that makes no sense. Spider-Man has equally stupid things to say - which are apparently meant to be funny - about rats and spiders and Albuquerque and the film adaptation of Watchmen. Later he tries to say a well known cliche, but messes it up. Then the Red Hulk somehow sucks the Hulk out of Banner. So I guess Banner isn't going to be the Hulk anymore. Which is lame.

Later Urich is walking in that parking garage again and this time the Red Hulk peeks out of the shadows to threaten him and his friends with death if he prints his story about all this madness. Seriously? The Red Hulk is hiding in a parking garage to threaten Ben Urich? Why exactly would he not just kill him? In fact, why wouldn't he just kill all of them? Why is he hiding? Since when do supervillains care about keeping their villainy secret? The story is stupid, nonsensical, and incredibly poorly written.

The next story is a very silly comedic story called "A Hulk of Many Colors." It's written by Stan Lee with art by Rodney Buchemi. As usual, Lee cameos in his own story, this time as a random military guy in a helicopter. The story itself is about the Hulk and the Red Hulk fighting. Something called the Wendihulk also shows up briefly. Galactus arrives just in time for the punchline - when asked if he can help by smashing the Red Hulk and saving the green Hulk, he says he won't be able to, because he's color blind. Argh! (I should point out that despite the fact that this is just a pointless bit of fluff full of weak jokes that only occasionally illicit a mild chuckle, it's still better than Loeb's story.)

The next bad story is by Fred Van Lente, and it's about "The All New Savage She-Hulk," Lyra. I've never been able to dredge up much interest in this character, and this story didn't help. It's about how she beats some techno-mages who are trying to take over the world by interpreting a prophecy. To put it another way, she solves a rather dumb riddle which reveals that she needs to punch a dude's heart out to kill him. Uh, regardless of what any prophecies might say, punching a dude's heart out usually is a good thing to try if you want to kill him.

I really wanted to like the final story. It's the first part of a six part series called Hulk: Gray, retelling the origin story of the Hulk. It has beautiful art throughout by Tim Sale, but sadly it also has terrible writing throughout by Jeph Loeb. In the frame story, Bruce has come to see Doc Samson on his wedding anniversary, and Samson seeks to help him by having him talk about his past. There's a really lame bit where Doc has Banner look at pictures of people he knows and say the first word that comes to mind. It's just a really weak excuse to get in some backstory and exposition. Then we finally get into a full-on flashback and the origin story begins in earnest. My favorite part is when Banner transforms in the doctor's office and we get to see the Hulk for the first time. The art here is just fantastic. Later there's a great panel that spreads across the entire width of the page, filled completely with the Hulk's massive back and shoulder, with just the corner of his face and his eye peeking up at the top right corner. Directly after this is a two-page splash of him smashing an army jeep. It's good stuff. It helps that during this sequence there is hardly any dialog - just the Hulk doing his thing. If only Jeph Loeb hadn't been the writer on this title, it might have turned out really well.

The rest of the book is a series of ads for future Hulk-related books. Loeb's Hulk #13 is advertised with the phrase "Hulk no more!" What the point is of a book called Hulk with no Hulk in it, I don't know. Incredible Hulk #601's teaser phrase is "Banner and son!" So it looks like this book will be focusing on Skaar as well as Banner from now on. Meanwhile, Incredible Hercules #133 promises to tell the "Secret Origin of Amadeus Cho." In the very back of the book is the traditional (by now, anyway) cover gallery, giving you little thumbnail-sized reprints of every cover of every book that Hulk ever starred in (although I believe they've gone a bit overboard and also included early issues of Tales to Astonish that didn't include him at all). This is kind of a cool feature, but it's hard to really get much out of it, as the covers have been made so tiny in order to fit them all in that it's almost impossible to get a good look at any of them.

After all of this are two final comedic one-page stories with fun cartoon art by Chris Giarrusso and writing by Jeph Loeb's daughter, Audrey Loeb. The first story is Green Hulk trying to pass his driver's test while Red Hulk and Blue Hulk sit in the back seat. Then Green Hulk tries working at HulkDonald's, but Red Hulk and Blue Hulk take too long ordering food. Needless to say, both stories end with disaster. They're kind of cute, but not as fun as it seems like they could be.

There are some moments of brilliance in this extra-large comic, but they're few and far between. The great majority of it is just garbage. It's really a shame.
Thumbs Down

The Incredibles #4
The first of what I hope will be multiple Incredibles miniseries comes to an end with this issue. It's action-packed and exciting, with moving character development, cool ideas, and amusing comedy. I love that the villain turns out to be, not an old enemy of Mr. Incredible as he suspected, but an old enemy of Elastigirl who tracked her down and became her neighbor, biding her time and planning to weaken her with power-stealing cookies, then strike when she was powerless. But Mr. Incredible unknowingly foiled her plan by eating all the food she sent over! Heh. Now Mr. Incredible has to foil her again, this time on purpose, and he does so brilliantly by having Dash sneak the defused devolution bomb into Futurion's prison cell so he'll fix it and Dash can run it back and use it to save them all. Both families, of course, have learned an important lesson: keeping big secrets from each other can get you all in serious trouble. There's also a really sweet ending where Violet has a cute chat with her boyfriend. Aww.

They've really captured everything that was great about The Incredibles and taken the story in a fun new direction. I hope more is one the way and soon!
Thumbs Up

Jack of Fables #36
This is a one-off tale from guest writer Chris Roberson about a time in Jack's life when he happened to stumble upon an enclave of Fable apes living together in the African jungle. When he first meets them, he quotes Planet of the Apes ("Get your paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"), and later another ape nicknames him "Bright Eyes." The apes have among their ranks pretty much every famous fictional ape: Curious George, the orangutans from those Clint Eastwood movies, King Kong, Magilla Gorilla, and so forth. Jack becomes their Tarzan, accepting an ape named Jane as his companion. (Yes, that kind of companion. Eeww.) Naturally, because he's Jack, he treats all the apes terribly and eventually abandons them. The story is reasonably amusing, and Tony Akins' art is excellent as always, but overall it's definitely not my favorite Jack of Fables tale ever.

In the back is a sneak preview of an upcoming graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos called Filthy Rich. It looks to be a classic crime noir story about a guy hired to keep a rich man's femme fatale daughter out of the papers. But it's clear from the very beginning she's going to pull him in over his head. Azzarello seems to be taking the classic archetypes and doing them up right. I'm tempted to check it out.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Spock - Reflections #1
This interesting new miniseries from IDW is set some time late in the Next Generation era (although presumably before the events of the recent movie prequel miniseries). It opens with Spock, having spent some time on Romulus as a teacher, leaving the planet to return to Earth, for reasons not yet explained. During the journey, a conversation with a rather pesky fellow passenger causes him to flash back to various moments throughout his past. A particularly fascinating scene sees him meeting with Captain Harriman, the man who took over the Enterprise B after the events of Star Trek: Generations. There are some fascinating emotions at play in the scene. Harriman, who was little more than a stereotype in the film, becomes a whole person in this book, with complex feelings of guilt and shame swirling in him, while Spock fights back his own set of complex emotions. Then we get to see another telling flashback, this time from Spock's childhood, developing his character further and illuminating the complicated relationship between him and his father. This is a surprisingly good comic, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes next.
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Wednesday Comics #3
In the first two entries of the latest episode of Wednesday Comics, Batman listens in on an interesting conversation, while Kamandi meets up with another of his buddies and makes a startling discovery: a human girl! Superman, which took a dip in quality last week, is slightly better this week, as Clark decides to cure his ennui by flying back home to Smallville and hanging out with Ma and Pa. Deadman gets more interesting and more surreal as our title character falls through the swirling nightmare effect from Vertigo and into a flaming hell where he gains the solidity of the living again - although perhaps only for a brief time. I'm still surprised to be enjoying Green Lantern as much as I am. Hal has barely gotten through being fawned over by the crowd in the bar when he sees his buddy transform into a hideous alien on live TV and has to fly out again. It's great stuff. Metamorpho is following the same format as last week, with one big panel up top depicting all the action occurring simultaneously, and tiny panels down the bottom feature another amusing message from "The Metamorpho Fans of America." I could wish this one was moving along a little faster, but it's so pretty and so intriguing I'll give it a pass. As for Teen Titans... yep, still sucks. And Strange Adventures is still ridiculously awesome. The lush, beautiful art; the totally fun, over-the-top pulp sci-fi dialog - it's brilliant. The cutesy Supergirl and the bland, though unobjectionable, Metal Men both fail to interest me. And I just can't believe how poorly done Wonder Woman is. There are so many tiny panels, so tightly packed, that you practically need a magnifying glass to follow what's going on. And once you figure it out, you realize it wasn't worth the effort. Dull and dumb. I had high hopes for Sgt. Rock and Easy Co., but I'm starting to get a little frustrated with it. It really needs to start going somewhere soon. I feel like Rock has been getting beaten and Easy Company has been wandering randomly in caves forever. Meanwhile, the dynamic duo of Iris West and The Flash just keeps getting better. When Iris leaves both past Flash and future Flash again, they put their heads together and try to go even further into the past to give it another go, but find themselves instead zipping into the far future by mistake, and meeting yet another version of the Flash, who uses "Ether-Wiki" to fill them in on what's going to happen to Iris. It's totally brilliant. The real villain shows up in The Demon and Catwoman and Catwoman's name suddenly gets a bit more appropriate. Fun. Hawkman has gotten a bit better now that our titular character is fighting an alien, but it's still pretty clumsily written.

As usual, I find myself charmed by the overall experience of Wednesday Comics, even though some of its individual parts are less than great.
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Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Captain Britain (Not), Comic books (Not), Duane Swierczynski (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Fables (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Hulk (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Legion of Super-Heroes (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Goon (Not), The Take (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!)
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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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Tuesday, June 30, 2009 07:32 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 6/17.

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

Captain America #600
Holy crap is this a big comic book! It took me forever to finish it. It contains six separate stories and a cover gallery in the back. The first story is a reprint called "Origin" by Alex Ross and Paul Dini. It's just a two-page summary of Captain America's origin story, written in simple, rather corny phrases, and in first person from Cap's perspective. It's all done up in red, white, and blue, with your typical Ross-style art (his work is technically impressive, but I'm just not a fan). It's nothing special, but something like this almost had to be included, so okay. Next up is "One Year After" by Ed Brubaker with art by Butch Guice, Howard Chaykin, Rafael Albuquerque, David Aja, and Mitch Breitweiser. This part of the book is itself split up into parts. The important things that Sharon is starting to remember about the day Steve died are suspiciously like retcons, but they're clever and believable, so I'm willing to go along. I was glad to get a look at what the fake Cap has been doing lately - but he apparently hasn't been doing much of anything, and all he has to say is some ancient cliches about how the world was different in his day, and kids these days have no respect. Boring! I was also glad to finally get a look at the "girl without a world" from the Captain America promo ads I've been seeing in all my Marvel comics, but I remain confused as to who she is, exactly. Apparently some young woman from another planet who used to hang out with Cap? But the thing about the secret black Captain America and where he's ended up is sad and moving, and it's rather touching how Patriot welcomes her to join him and the Young Avengers at the vigil for Steve. I particularly like the story about Crossbones and Sin, and how he plows through a bunch of guards to get to her in a twisted romantic gesture. The couple of pages we spend with the Red Skull are fun, as he thinks back on his long and painful relationship with Cap, and suggests there's still more to be revealed about what he did to Steve. And hey, did we already know that he was in one of Zola's robot bodies now? Because I didn't remember that. Creepy! The scene at the vigil at the end of this story is the highlight, however. I love the way Osborn is really blossoming as a character throughout this whole Dark Reign thing; how he cleverly does not turn the vigil into a war zone, but instead manages to use it as a way to make himself look good to the crowd. And the bit where he follows up his show-stealing announcement by bringing out Simon and Garfunkel for a reunion show is really hilarious. Then the big bombshell: Sharon arrives to tell them Steve could still be saved. I think I've said before that I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of them bringing Steve back. On the one hand I like it because I love the character and I'd love to see him return. But on the other hand, dude only just died! I only just got used to Bucky as the new Cap! And I like how Bucky's character is developing now that he's wearing the uniform. Can't anybody stay dead for at least a couple of years around here? Well, anyway, I'll just have to see how they do the resurrection. Maybe it'll be really cool.

The next story, "In Memoriam" (whose title is misspelled as "In Memorium" in the table of contents) is probably the worst one in the book. It's two people having a really clumsy, cheesy conversation that's nothing but thinly veiled backstory and exposition. Blargh. So corny and unsubtle. Roger Stern is the writer, so he is to be blamed (although oddly he also wrote a really good Captain America story in another comic I read this week). It's a shame because Kalman Andrasofszky's art is actually quite good.

Mark Waid provides the words and Dale Eaglesham provides the art for the next story, which is cleverly titled "The Persistence of Memorabilia." Interestingly, Marvel comics about Captain America exist within the Marvel Universe, as well, but in the MU they're fictionalized accounts of real events. It's neat seeing how the auctioning off of the largest collection of Captain America memorabilia in the world brings out many people that Cap helped over the years, hoping to purchase a memory - a piece of the man who touched them. And I'm pretty sure they modeled that old soldier after Stan Lee! Of course, the auction also brings out scumbags and villains. The guy who plans to publish a series of comics painting Steve Rogers as a traitor is a bit ridiculous and over-the-top, but it is fun seeing him get what he deserves. I also love that Tony Stark purchased one of the items.

The next piece is rather odd. It's just a non-fiction essay by Joe Simon, reflecting back on the old days when he and Jack Kirby were working together at Timely. But most of the stuff he has to say about Kirby is not particularly complimentary. He focuses on the guy's absent-mindedness. It is interesting to learn that legal troubles led to the decision to change the shape of Cap's shield to a circle, and how that actually ended up adding to the character and his abilities. But mostly this essay just made me uncomfortable.

The last story in the book is a reprint of a tale called "Red Skull's Deadly Revenge," first published in Captain America Comics #16 in July of 1942, written by Stan Lee with art by Al Avison. This is a pretty cool artifact: an old school Red Skull story! It opens with the Nazi villain busting out of prison in brutal fashion. Next we cut to Steve and Bucky getting into some hijinks at the army base, and then randomly meeting a goofy-looking archer in a beret and short pants doing target practice. But that's no normal archer! It's the Red Skull in disguise! There's a pretty hilarious panel of him prancing along with bow in hand and arrows on his back, screaming threats at America. The Skull ends up horribly wounding Bucky with his arrows, and Cap must rush the boy to a doctor to get him treated. The Skull ambushes and traps Captain America, and then learns his secret identity! Although how he does this is really quite ridiculous. Of course just taking the mask off and looking at Cap's face doesn't do much for him (it's not like Steve Rogers is famous), so he actually takes Cap's wallet out of his back pocket, and learns his enemy's real name from his driver's license! Steve, what the hell?! You carry your wallet and driver's license around with you when you're dressed as Captain America?! That is just plain stupid. Anyway, with Cap imprisoned in the Red Skull's basement, the Skull is free to go on a crime spree. Then, to make things even worse, he steals Cap's uniform and, masquerading as him, steals the nation's defense plans!

At this point, Bucky is finally well enough to get out of bed and go looking for Cap. Naturally he finds his buddy almost immediately and releases him. Then they get spare costumes at a costume shop (heh), and run off after the Red Skull, who's just about to fly back home with America's defense plans. They scare the Skull into falling out of his own plane to his death. The end!

I don't know what the later explanation was for how the Skull survived his tumble to Earth at the end of this story, but I'm sure it was a doozie! This story has a lot of ridiculous moments, and Avison's art is quite odd (his people look gangly and awkward), but it's still fun, and certainly an important and fascinating moment in the history of the conflict between Captain America and the Red Skull.

The last thing in the comic is an impressive and fascinating gallery of what appears to be the cover of every comic ever printed that prominently featured Captain America. I'm amused that for at least a couple of issues during the Golden Age of Timely Comics, Captain America became Captain America's Weird Tales.

So #600 turns out to be a rather uneven collection of Cap stories, featuring moments both powerful and lame. Here's hoping there's more and better to come!
Thumbs Sideways

Captain Britain and MI13 #14
WOW! Paul Cornell totally tricked me. And even though it was a variation on the old "it was all just a dream" gimmick, I still think it was terribly clever and I really enjoyed it. That's because it fits into the plot in a believable fashion, and it doesn't feel lame or unfair; a smart reader probably could have guessed what was going on, just as Dracula did, if he'd been reading more carefully than I was.

It's fascinating to see, not only Dracula's reaction to the deception, but also the heroes' reaction. After all, they just got a glimpse of Dracula's perception of them. Blade is particularly disturbed to realize that Dracula likes fighting him so much that in the Count's ultimate fantasy of victory, Blade was the only one left alive. Of course, besides being disturbed, getting a look at Dracula's vision of ultimate victory also gives the heroes' a glimpse at his strategy and his plan. Good stuff! I love when Pete is about to give Cap his orders, but then breaks off and says, "Nah, I don't need to say a word to you. You're Captain Britain." Cap responds, "I believe we've met," and they fist bump. Heh heh. Awesome. But the good guys have even more cleverness up their sleeves; in another fantastic and exciting sequence a couple of sleeper agents aboard Dracula's vessel are activated and wreak havoc. Excellent. Unfortunately, this doesn't lead to ultimate victory for our heroes. Instead, Doom makes a move that will give Dracula a powerful bargaining chip in the conflict - although Dracula is of two minds about the whole thing: "A gift from [Doom] is a sword - a sword without a hilt!"

A great, great issue of what is shaping up to be a really fantastic series. It's really a shame the thing is canceled. Still, I'm excited to see how it all wraps up.
Thumbs Up

Daily Bugle
This is actually not a comic, but a freebie done up in the style of a newspaper - and printed on newsprint, no less. It's actually quite clever. The premise is that you're looking at the actual issue of the Daily Bugle paper that was released on Friday, October 13th, 1939 on Earth-616. (Btw, I checked and October 13th was indeed a Friday in 1939. Nice touch!) Throughout are references to the mysterious "Marvels" that at the time were just beginning to appear around the world, especially in and around New York City. The writing here is quite subtle and clever; the first article is clearly about Namor the Submariner, but he is never mentioned by name because the reporters didn't know his name at this point, or even whether he was real or not. There are even subtler and cleverer references like this throughout: an article about a new and accomplished female member of the NYPD named Betty Dean; a piece about sightings of a mysterious, beast-like man along the Canadian border (clearly Wolverine, but the artist's sketch accompanying the story shows the man carrying a three-pronged knife because no one has guessed yet that his claws are a part of his body); an article about a young, patriotic artist named Steve Rogers; a piece about a cocky, precocious young kid named Nicholas Fury; a description of a Wild West exhibit containing information on lots of old gunfighters including Kid Colt, the Two-Gun Kid, the Rawhide Kid, and the Masked Raider; then there's the fashion section, with articles about Van Dyne's latest line, the winner of this year's Little Miss Brisket (Miss Patsy Walker), and the latest on the Hanover Agency; intriguing letters to the editor, including one from a patriotic little boy named James Barnes, and another from a man with some rather frightening ideas named Andrew Stryker; and a list of births, which include Ben Parker, Daniel Grimm, and Thaddeus Ross. And that's just a sampling of the stuff I "got;" there are plenty of other little references and allusions in here that went completely over my head. It's a brilliant little in-universe construct and I really enjoy both the concept and the execution.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Young Avengers #2
I love the clever ways comics are doing their recap/credits pages these days. This one does it as a post on a superhero gossip website. I enjoy that Coat of Arms starts the two teams fighting just because that's what happens in comics when two teams meet like this. It's also interesting to see the various surprising connections that exist between these two teams. Coat of Arms knows Speed! And Executioner knows Hawkeye! And the Executioner's mom is... some kind of snake-themed supervillain! Woah! Enchantress wants to be a part of the real Avengers team, and is even more tongue-tied than usual to find herself fighting its members. She's also way more powerful than she realizes, which is intriguing; she's even able to use her power to alter the other team member's viewpoints without them noticing. Some favorite moments: Coat of Arms' triptych of the Green Goblin - "Pop," "Crackle," and a very famous "SNAP!" So wrong, and yet so right. The conversation between Hulkling and Wiccan about Big Zero: "I could do without the one with the I-can't-believe-it's-not-Nazi-tattoos." "Maybe she just likes Cabaret." Melter's disturbing nightmare. And Executioner's creepy relationship with his creepy Mom. Now the plot's taking an interesting turn, with the real Young Avengers demanding that the new ones try out to join the team. This ought to be good.

Really enjoying this series! It's so twisted and clever. Excellent work again, Mr. Cornell!
Thumbs Up

Destroyer #3
Man, this is one brutal and bloody series! And the most brutal character of all is the hero. I mean, dude tortures villains to death for information! And when he gets caught in a trap set by Scar, his arch enemy, he sets one of his own; he lets himself be beat to a bloody pulp by the Scar's henchmen, saving up all his energy and waiting for the right moment to use it on Scar himself. And how does he kill Scar? He rips the dude's arm off with his bare hands and shoves it down his throat. Then he punches him over and over and over until everything in the immediate vicinity is bright red with blood.

This seems like the end of the story, but as Destroyer points out, he's still alive, so nothing's over yet! He's going to kill and keep killing until he can't kill anymore! God bless him.

This was a slightly less interesting issue of this series than the previous ones have been - perhaps because the ending was a bit anticlimactic, and the story had fewer twists - but it was still pretty freaking awesome. I'm confused as to how there can still be two issues left, but I'm looking forward to reading them regardless.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Dance #2
Now our heroes are in Vegas, and are being filmed for their own reality show! But it's all part of another attempt to keep them from realizing what's actually going on in the world - especially what's going on in Japan. Their PR guy says, "Take a look around," and the speedster replies, "I already did. Saw all the rooms. Just now. Not bad. Seen better." I love that guy. The team finds a supervillain nearby, so they attack him, just for the hell of it, but eventually a truce is called ("Not the face! Not the face!") and he actually ends up helping them out. Great scene. Meanwhile, Shiny Happy Aquazon decides to accept the chance to endorse a product, but the thing turns out to be a drug created by Brain Drain to take over the minds of the populace. Luckily the rest of the team swoops in and together they save the day. "Did something unusual happen?" "Nothing too complex. Forced binary fission via sonic death wail." Nice. I'm also still really loving Most Excellent Superbat's constant Twitter commentary. I can't believe this miniseries is so good! Looking forward to the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Incognito #4
Hmm. Turns out the good guys are maybe not so good after all. They've apparently been doing mind-altering surgeries on the bad guys, often lobotomizing them by mistake. But their attempt to alter the mind of Black Death didn't take. (Funny fact: I'm pretty sure Colonel von Chance, the dude with the one bionic eye, is this universe's version of Nick Fury.) At first it seems like Overkill's going to be in even worse shape than before - stuck back into his old life, powerless, just waiting for the bad guys to show up and tear him to pieces. Then an unlikely savior swoops in to take him away from all of that. But is he really any better off with her?

It's a pretty harsh and darkly funny irony that Zack is identified as the guy who knew Farmer best and is asked to say a few words at a memorial for him at work. Zack is the one who got Farmer killed, and he never even knew the guy's first name!

I really love the scenes where the Black Death's lawyer comes to talk to him in prison, and their real conversation occurs telepathically. This time it looks like Black Death has some nasty plans for Zack that involve someone called The Sleeper. He starts laughing menacingly, and one of the guards listening says, "Okay, now that is fucking creepy." Heh. At the end we get a fascinating clue as to how powerful and special the Black Death really is: apparently he's 200 years old and it's taking enough energy to light the eastern seaboard just to keep his powers from working.

Still loving this book! In the back is an interesting essay by Jess Nevins (who's an interesting guy himself; I follow him on Twitter, where he's known, appropriately enough, as @jessnevins). It's about a pulp hero called Operator #5 who had some unique and epic battles with the "Yellow Peril." As usual, a fascinating look at the literary tradition that this comic comes out of.
Thumbs Up

Jack of Fables #35
Poor Old Sam. Turns out he isn't up to destroying the pen after all. Babe gets two pages this issue; he spends the first trashing Snoopy, and the second doing some meta-commentary on how he's not used to having two pages. Then he wanders off. Deux Ex Machina drops in again for a little more tantalizing foreshadowing, there's some further amusing literary parody involving the genres... and then Bigby flies in and gets positively beast-like, tearing the genres to bloody bits! Wow, that was unexpectedly brutal! Anyway, now that that's taken care of, and Frost has joined the team, it's time for a final assault on Ken, which will take place in the last part of the crossover: Literals #3. It's been entertaining, and exciting.
Thumbs Up

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Official Movie Adaptation #1
I'm happy to say I did not pay money for this; I got it for free at the preview screening I attended. Stunningly, the comic is even more rushed, clumsy, confusing, and poorly written than the film. For some reason, even though they weren't able to fit the entire plot of the movie into this comic (it ends just as Megatron is resurrected), and there is apparently no follow-up comic (the message on the final page says "To be continued in the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," and not "To be continued in issue #2"), they apparently were obligated to fit in a certain amount of the story in the 24 pages allotted them, and in order to do so, they cut out details left and right, making things even more puzzling than they already were. It's hard to blame writer Simon Furman too much, as he had little to work with here, but... wow. This is bad.
Thumbs Down

X-Men Origins: Gambit #1
Speaking of bad, here's this comic! I'm fascinated by the character of Gambit - his cool abilities; the fact that he can use playing cards as weapons - but I didn't know a lot about him, so I figured this would be a good comic to pick up. But no. Even though this is supposed to be an origin story, it turns out it's the kind of origin story where you have to already know the character's origin to understand it! It takes huge leaps through time to various selected scenes in Gambit's life, and assumes you'll be able to fill in the blanks yourself. Which would be annoying enough. But then there's the painfully clumsy, melodramatic dialog; the choppy, poorly paced plot; and, perhaps worst of all, Gambit's painfully awful accent. And that's not to mention Gambit's irritating habit of randomly dropping into French occasionally (um, I can't read French! Dick). I've also never been a fan of Mister Sinister. He's just so ridiculous, with his huge cape and his silly makeup.

I'm really disappointed in author Mike Carey. I don't understand how this guy can be such an uneven talent. I know I've read good things by him in the past, but how could somebody who's any good put out a piece of rubbish like this? If he'd settled down and chosen to tell just one story from Gambit's life, and if he'd also taken the time to polish the dialog a lot more than he has, he might have been able to make it interesting and moving. But this comic jumps around so much, and is written so very poorly, you don't even get to know the characters' names before he's moving you on to something else entirely. You don't have time to get involved as a reader, and consequently you don't care about anything that happens. It doesn't help that artists David Yardin and Ibraim Roberson do some pretty clumsy and ugly work, especially on the characters' faces. Just a tremendously bad comic.
Thumbs Down

Young Allies 70th Anniversary Special #1
Yes, it's time for another 70th anniversary one-shot special! This one focuses on some characters I'd never heard of before: a band of regular kids who fought alongside Cap, Bucky, and Toro, and who were known as the Young Allies. Contained in this collection is one new story, followed by reprints of three old stories. The new story is by Roger Stern with art by Paolo Rivera and it's quite moving and excellent. I love the page of old school art that leads into Bucky's flashback to when he first met the Young Allies, followed by another great little flashback about one of their adventures fighting the Red Skull. This story once again brings up the interesting fact, mentioned further up this post, that Marvel comics, including the old ones about Bucky and the Young Allies, are supposed to exist on Earth-616 as well as on our Earth. Bucky and his friends add another interesting dimension to this postmodern concept when they say here that the comics exaggerate the truth, "inventing wild fantasies about us." That's a rather neat way to retcon! Now they can deny and remove from canon any events they don't like from the old comics.

But anyway. Bucky's reunion with his old pals is really quite powerful. It's great seeing the flashback to their final mission together, and then reading a quick catchup on what the Young Allies have been up to since then. Bucky gets a chance to confess all his sins to his old friends, and receives in return a measure of closure and redemption. I have to say I choked up a bit at the very end, when he pours the last of the brandy out, salutes the monument, and says, "It was a privilege to serve with you." Excellent writing by Stern - who manages to include lots of exposition and recapping without being boring - and lovely, classical art by Rivera.

Next up is a vintage ad for the Sentinels of Liberty fan club, then a short text story about the Young Allies by Stan Lee. Wash mentioned in the previous story that he was made out to be some kind of ridiculous stereotype in these old comics, and boy was he right! I'm surprised Marvel had the guts to reprint this story, in which Wash is horribly stereotyped before he's even named: "'Hey, look where you-all am goin'!' cried one of the boys, as he dropped a piece of watermelon out of his hand." Argh! With the watermelon, even! The story itself is a simple and even rather dull adventure involving the Allies overhearing a plot to steal American secrets and thwarting said plot with the help of Captain America. Next up is another ad for the Sentinels of Liberty fan club, and then a comic starring "The School Boy Sleuth, Terry Vance." I'd never heard of this character before, but he turns out to be your typical young amateur detective, who happens to be accompanied by a real live monkey sidekick named Dr. Watson. Like a lot of Golden Age comics, it's a simple, ridiculous story, clumsily plotted, but fun in its own way. The last story in the book is another prose piece by Stan Lee about the Young Allies and Bucky helping Captain America stop people who are trying to steal American secrets. It's practically the same story we already read a handful of pages ago. The very end of the book is more interesting: it's a collection of vintage ads, puzzles, and games, including a wonderful ad for All Winners #4, which starred Captain America, Human Torch, Sub Mariner, Destroyer, and Whizzer. Sweet!

I really enjoyed the modern story in this comic, and the reprints and accompanying material are, as usual, vaguely entertaining, but more interesting as historical curiosities than anything else.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Captain America (Not), Captain Britain (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Fables (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), The Take (Not), Transformers (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Saturday, June 13, 2009 09:00 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blargh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Trek: Crew #4
This issue is actually a sort of tie-in with Assignment: Earth, which meant I felt slightly left out, as I don't read that comic. Still, it was good to see our hero back on the Enterprise finally, and having another exciting adventure, this time at the side of Lieutenant Commander Christopher Pike, later to be Captain of the Enterprise. The two of them end up on what should be a routine away mission to a seemingly uninhabited planet, but of course nothing is ever routine for the Enterprise crew. In fact the planet turns out to be inhabited by a race of super-warriors bred only for battle. The away team has a rather bloody adventure there, and then end up just leaving the warriors to fight things out on their own. It's not a satisfactory conclusion, especially for our hero, but it seems like the only option. This was one of the less exciting issues of this miniseries - I couldn't muster up a lot of interest in the story of the primitive super-warriors - but still vaguely entertaining. The next issue will be the last one, and I'm hoping the series goes out with a bang. I wonder how far it will go, timeline-wise; I've been kind of assuming it would end just before the start of the events of the original Star Trek pilot, "The Cage," but who knows? I look forward to it regardless.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Books (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Daredevil (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Frank Quitely (Not), Fringe (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hulk (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Byrne (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Scalped (Not), Seaguy (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), The Wheel of Time (Not), Vampires (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Sunday, May 24, 2009 11:48 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, a predictably weak showing from Radical.
Thumbs Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

\m/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don't remember being a big fan of Daniel Way's work, but I like this story so far, especially the subtle connections to Wolverine's life that are driving him to get involved. And I definitely like Tommy Lee Edwards' art. I'm pleased that Wolverine is going to apparently continue to be a good title worth collecting, even after "Old Man Logan" is finally done.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Alan Moore (Not), Aliens (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Daredevil (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Free Comic Book Day (Not), Fringe (Not), G.I. Joe (Not), Garth Ennis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Human Torch (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Legion of Super-Heroes (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Predator (Not), Seaguy (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Star Trek (Not), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Not), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not), Zombies (Not)
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Saturday, April 25, 2009 01:40 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thumbs Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wolverine: Noir #1
Like Daredevil: Noir, Wolverine: Noir seemed like a rather unnecessary and redundant concept (I mean, how much darker can Wolverine's story get?), but also one I couldn't quite resist. So far I think it's my least favorite of Marvel's Noir series. It's set in 1937 and Wolverine is a detective at the Logan & Logan Detective Agency ("The Best There Is At What We Do"), along with a dude with mental problems named Dog. Naturally a beautiful, mysterious woman walks into the office with a case. And naturally it leads to death. A flashback reveals a little bit of the history between the Logans, as well as the highly unlikely fact that the gardener at Logan's house growing up had been to Japan and taught him all about samurai, honor, and how to fight with swords and knives. I understand that they wanted to keep Wolverine's Japanese past in the story somehow, but c'mon. That doesn't make any kind of sense. I also understand that they wanted to keep the idea of the claws, but I'm pretty sure you can't hold knives between your fingers like that and actually do anything useful with them. The dialogue and narration aren't terrible, but they're not great, either. And Dog is just a hideous character. It's hard to understand how Logan could think it was okay to send Dog out to complete any kind of task on his own, and it's even harder to understand how any client could come into the office, meet Dog, and still decide to hire the two of them. And overall the story is pretty tired. There's nothing here that makes me want to continue reading this series.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Angel (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Illustrated (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Noir (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Scalped (Not), Spider-Man (Not), ST:TNG (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009 01:41 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm guessing this one-shot detour into the mind and character of Diesel means he will be involved somehow in the casino heist story, but then again, maybe not; maybe this diversion was just for the heck of it. Regardless, it's typical Scalped: a powerful, violent, insightful look inside a seriously wounded human being.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Angel (Not), Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Fringe (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hellboy (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Cassaday (Not), Kevin Smith (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Punisher (Not), Scalped (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Goon (Not), The Sentry (Not), The Take (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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