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Wednesday, December 17, 2014 09:58 AM
On the Viewer - A Look Back at Recent TV at the Winter Break
 by Fëanor

I've been trying to keep up with TV shows while they're actually on TV this season! I haven't actually watched most of them on TV (just caught the replays online later), but still.

Gotham
I gave up on this one after a couple of episodes. Just couldn't stand the ridiculous, ham-handed foreshadowing, the incredibly cliche way they were handling the Bruce Wayne character (he's grieving and hurt! You can tell because he's drawing scary things and listening to heavy metal!), and the relentless darkness. There were also one or two spots where I just couldn't suspend my disbelief. (Sorry, but one person cannot hide on an empty school bus from another person who knows they are in there.) I'm disappointed, but a bit relieved, as it would have been difficult to keep up with this show along with all the others I'm watching!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I'm pleased to say that season two of this show picked up quite a bit after that rather lame first episode. I often find the dialog and writing a bit clumsy, but it's still a fun and exciting show with plenty of humor and unexpected twists and turns, and I always look forward to the next episode. I particularly like Patton Oswalt's inexplicable gang of twin brothers, and it's exciting to have seen, in the most recent episode, the birth of a superhero. I'm a bit ashamed to say that I had to do a bit of research to discover that a couple of the characters we thought we knew are actually minor characters straight out of the pages of the comics. Cool stuff! I'm a little disappointed to (spoiler alert!) lose a promising character, and one of the only two black guys on the show at that. Especially since I'm still stinging from the loss of Lucy Lawless. But we'll see. People rarely stay dead in Whedon world.

The Flash
This is one of my favorite current TV shows - possibly my very favorite. It's definitely the best superhero show on TV, and the only one that's really succeeded in capturing the flavor of superhero comic books - the earnest emotions, the heroism, the over-the-top insanity, the goofiness. It's just a ton of fun, with lovable characters, a good sense of humor, and a warm heart. Plus, an exciting ongoing story with secrets and romance and betrayal, and new supervillains and superheroes getting introduced every episode. I was a little disappointed that in the Arrow crossover episode, the actual confrontation with the villain occurs off-screen (!!!), but I guess that wasn't what the episode was really about. It was, as it should be, focused on the characters. It was about Barry - his unresolved issues with Iris, his overconfidence. It was also about Oliver and what a different hero he is from Barry. I hadn't watched Arrow before, but I was inspired by this episode to jump over and watch that show's followup crossover with Flash. It was quite good! Dealt with some pretty deep, and very timely, ethical issues around torture, and whether the ends justify the means. I might have to catch up on the rest of Arrow at some point.

Constantine
I read an article or two that suggests this show might get cancelled soon, which is a shame, because it's quite good and has the potential to be even better. Basically it's a monster-of-the-week show, with the bitter, sarcastic, haunted (but sexy!) loner Constantine using dubious magic to save people as best he can. But, as with most shows, there's an over-arching story in the background as well, about a mysterious Rising Darkness that Constantine must stop. There's also a blot on his soul from an exorcism gone wrong that he's hoping he can somehow wipe clean; a guardian angel who hangs around him, mostly teasing him with vague pronouncements; and a visionary artist partner with her own mysterious past that's come back to haunt her. He's also got an inexplicably immortal buddy and a totally sweet hideout full of creepy magical artifacts.

The bitter, sarcastic, haunted (but sexy!) loner act can be grating at times, and the show has been a bit unimaginative and even racist in terms of who it casts as the villain (a gypsy witch, a black voodoo man), but it's got good ideas, interesting characters, it's exciting, and what the heck, I love a good monster-of-the-week show. The cliffhanger before the winter break was particularly stunning.

Star Wars: Rebels
The latest Star Wars animated series, and the follow-up to the sadly cancelled Clone Wars, is a really fun show that I enjoy quite a lot. It's set in the period between Episode III and Episode IV, after the fall of the Republic and Anakin and the Jedi, and before the rise of the Rebellion and Luke Skywalker. The Empire has a firm grip on the galaxy and is looking to solidify that hold by mercilessly destroying anyone with even the potential to become a threat - like, for instance, anyone with Force sensitivity, including children. One such child is our main character, a self-interested, street-wise, not-particularly-law-abiding orphan named Ezra. When Ezra runs into a small rebel cell led by a Jedi named Kanan, they make him realize there might be more to life than just stealing what he needs to survive and letting everybody else fend for themselves. He joins the crew of the Ghost, which includes the ship's pilot and owner, Hera; a Mandalorian explosives expert named Sabine (on whom Ezra quickly develops a crush); a screwy, grumpy droid called Chopper; and a big, tough, prickly creature named Zeb, who's one of the last Lasats in the galaxy, thanks to the Empire nearly wiping them out. Needless to say, he's not too happy about that.

The crew of the Ghost do what they can to ruin the Empire's day and to protect the citizens being crushed under its heel. Meanwhile, Kanan tries to teach Ezra how to be a Jedi, Ezra tries to figure out what the Empire did to his parents, and they all try to steer clear of the Empire's Sith agent, the Inquisitor, who's working clean-up for Darth Vader, executing any Jedi or potential Jedi he can get his hands on.

One of the things I like most about the show is the different perspective it has on the Star Wars universe. The great majority of other Star Wars shows and movies have focused on the most important characters in a huge conflict: the Generals and Emperors and Ambassadors. This is a story about a handful of criminals and misfits living on the outskirts of everything. There is no Rebellion yet, as we see it in A New Hope. There's just this little bunch of angry weirdos doing what they can against an impossibly huge and dangerous enemy.

I also really like the great dynamic that's developed among the main characters. They're an uneasy dysfunctional family, always fighting with each other, but under the surface, bonded tightly together by mutual loss and a united purpose. Also, there are two women in there, and they're important and interesting and active characters!

Which makes me doubly pissed that when they put out the first wave of Rebels action figures, those two characters were not included. Seriously, they put out Rebels-branded figures of characters who only make cameo appearances in the show (Darth Vader and Obi-wan Kenobi), and others who are not even in the show at all (Jango Fett, a Clone Trooper, and Luke Skywalker), but did not release figures of two of the main characters. If you're going to try to tell me that has nothing to do with the fact that those two characters are women, then I'm going to tell you you're wrong.

Sorry, I get super pissed whenever I think about that. Anyway, the point is, it's a good show!
Tagged (?): Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Not), Comic books (Not), Flash (Not), On the Viewer (Not), TV (Not)
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Monday, September 27, 2010 03:44 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

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

Tagged (?): Celebrities (Not), Craft (Not), Flash (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not)
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010 10:12 AM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

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

Tagged (?): Animals (Not), Art (Not), Comedy (Not), Craft (Not), Flash (Not), Ghostbusters (Not), Links (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Star Wars (Not), Terminator (Not), Video (Not)
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Thursday, April 1, 2010 10:39 AM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

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

Tagged (?): Animals (Not), Art (Not), Avengers (Not), Bacon (Not), Batman (Not), Cats (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Flash (Not), Food (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Hellboy (Not), Hulk (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Links (Not), LOLCats (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), Video (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010 04:06 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thor #607
I love Thor as a character, but I didn't like the writing on this book when JMS was on it, so I've been avoiding it. But I noticed that this issue was starting a new story arc, tied into Siege, and that my man Kieron Gillen was now on writing duties, so I picked it up. And what the hell do you know - it's fantastic! Heimdall trapped in his room, condemned to see invaders coming to destroy Asgard, but unable to do anything about it? Amazing. Epic. Mythical! The dialog in general is excellent, and I like the characterization of Volstagg and his cop friends. It's also pretty funny seeing them try to use YouTube. And hey, Agent_M makes a cameo at the end! Well, his Twitter feed does, sort of. I like the idea of people adding Asgard banners to their "chatter" icons, and the posters in the style of Shepard Fairey's Obama poster, with the image of Thor and "WRONG" written across the bottom, are inspired. Good stuff! Guess I'm collecting another series now. Sigh.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Scalped (Not), Siege (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not)
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Monday, March 1, 2010 12:23 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

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



Tagged (?): Art (Not), Books (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comic books (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Lovecraft (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Star Wars (Not), Tattoos (Not), Toys (Not), Tron (Not), Vampires (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not), Wonderland (Not), Zelda (Not)
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Thursday, February 11, 2010 10:19 AM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

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

Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Art (Not), Avatar (Not), Batman (Not), Books (Not), Comic books (Not), Craft (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Flash (Not), Iron Man (Not), Links (Not), Monsters (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Robots (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not)
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Saturday, October 24, 2009 04:12 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 9/23. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Final Crisis: Aftermath - Dance #5
Super Young Team reunites, but of course they have to do it on a Dr. Phil-like talk show. Then it's time for the big showdown. Is that Mr. Mind in Rising Sun's head? This issue wasn't as fun as previous issues, but I'm hoping the conclusion will be exciting.
Thumbs Up

Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Size #1
Two of the most disturbing comics I've ever read came out the same week. This is one of them. There is so much in this book that is disgusting and wrong. It's depressing and horrific to see what's become of Bruce Banner. I mean, inbreeding and cannibalism? Ugh. And yeah, Wolverine is tough, but it's a little hard to believe he'd be able to kill the entire Hulk family so quickly and easily. I mean, the Hulk is practically impossible to kill! The odd ending with Wolverine riding off into the sunset with little baby Bruce on his back is almost too cute. An impressive and explosive - but also sickening and slightly disappointing - conclusion to a great series.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredible Hercules #135
I keep ditching this series and then picking it up again. This issue I had to get because it focuses on Amadeus Cho, one of my favorite characters, and it connects back to the old school Master Mind Excello stories. The introduction is done up as a combo of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel and a D&D module, and that thematic premise is carried forward throughout the rest of the book in a really clever and funny way. I'm impressed! But I think I'm leaving this series alone again until something similarly clever pops up.
Thumbs Up

Monsters, Inc.: Laugh Factory #2
This issue features the return of Mr. Waternoose, and the reveal of a powerful new "Master Door" technology. But just as in the first issue, interesting ideas that have the potential to be developed over an entire series are introduced and hastily resolved in only one issue. This series still feels rushed and clumsy, and is definitely not living up to its source material.
Thumbs Sideways

The Muppet Show: The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson #3
I enjoy the amusing board game gag, and the rather moving scene between Animal and the fleas. But yeah, this could be better.
Thumbs Sideways

The New Avengers #57
I am so loving this art, but the incredibly wordy thought bubbles are not so good. Show don't tell, Bendis! It's also a bit hard to believe that the crippled rogue Avengers could have escaped from the united forces of Norman's Avengers and the Hood's entire gang. Of course, Norman catches up with them almost immediately, but still. At least the ending is dramatic and exciting, and the subplot with Loki and the Hood is a ton of fun.
Thumbs Up

No Hero #7
I said earlier that two of the most disturbing comics I ever read came out this week. This is the other one. The conclusion of this miniseries makes it clear just how appropriate the title is. There are indeed no heroes here. The superhuman security team secretly controlling the world is morally bankrupt and awful. The agent sent in to destroy that team is a horrifically twisted, homicidal individual. The people and nations who have joined together to send him in are just as terrible; they don't want freedom for the world, they just want to steal back their power from the superhumans. And once the evil superhumans have fallen, the whole broken world falls with them. All is death and horror and evil. Even for Warren Ellis, this is an incredibly dark and depressing and cynical story. But also incredibly powerful and well told.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Spock - Reflections #3
More fascinating gap-filling recollections from Spock. First up is a telling meeting between T'Pring and Spock that takes place between the events of the original TV series and the first movie - she really does know him well. Then another example of how Kirk would commit daring acts of bravery that flaunted the regulations, and he'd still somehow get results. And then a moving letter from Picard explaining Kirk's death. This is really a fascinating and powerful series.
Thumbs Up

Superman: Secret Origin #1
A really emotionally effective, totally human and believable, and somehow wonderfully original retelling of Superman's childhood - how he learned to deal with his incredible powers and with the revelation that he's not from Earth, and even how he first met his nemesis, Lex Luthor. Once again Johns and Frank are a dynamite combination.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #12
Batman - Batman lets some shameless, murdering hussy find out his secret identity, and then kisses her while she's bloody and dead? I just don't buy it! This should not be a Batman story.

Kamandi - It's a bittersweet ending, but Kamandi still has some hope of finding more of his kind. Definitely one of the most beautifully drawn stories of the series, even if it didn't always move me.

Superman - A weirdly anticlimactic ending. The threat of danger at the end of the last episode is immediately defused and deflated at the start of this one, and everything is suddenly just fine. A little disappointing, but I do like that Batman got to save the day, and that Superman is now feeling at home again.

Deadman - This conclusion is pretty interesting. Deadman finds himself having to do the dirty work of Hell to maintain the balance he upset by interfering earlier.

Green Lantern - A fun, cute ending to one of the more solid and entertaining strips.

Metamorpho - Heh. The French chef and his helpers get left behind during the escape. I like the silly previews of future Metamorpho stories that will never be. This was an uneven strip, but definitely had its moments.

Teen Titans - Absolutely the worst strip in Wednesday Comics. Terrible from beginning to end.

Strange Adventures - One of my favorite strips has one of my favorite final episodes. Absolutely beautiful. "And the days roll by, one by one... days of strange adventure."

Supergirl - This strip ends with a really cutesy, Twilight Zone-style surprise reveal. Yawn.

Metal Men - A surprisingly moving, if also rather corny, conclusion to one of the less interesting strips in the book.

Wonder Woman - The lesbian make-out session between the villains in this episode is pretty much the only interesting thing that happens. Once again the action is so cramped, poorly drawn, and laid out that it's nearly impossible to tell what's going on. Lame. Just lame.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - This strip was mostly a huge disappointment to me, but this final episode has a bit of a twist ending that's actually quite moving.

The Flash - One of the better strips wraps up in true postmodern fashion, by concluding the action in a comic strip inside a comic strip. As Iris points out, it "doesn't make any sense at all," but it's still a ton of fun, especially when Barry whisks Iris off to the restaurant at the end.

The Demon and Catwoman - This strip was uneven, but this last episode is sexy and cute.

Hawkman - For about half of this strip's length, I really hated it, but then it took a sudden turn toward the totally awesome. This ending keeps the awesome going, as Hawkman kills a T. Rex by carving through to its brain from inside its mouth while Aquaman keeps its jaws open. Then there's this exchange - Superman: "Sorry we're late, Batman. There was a black hole in hyperspace. Don't ask." Batman: "Save the Earth, and all is forgiven." Heh.

Although the strips themselves were uneven, Wednesday Comics was a wonderful experiment and a great format in which to deliver comics. I hope they do something similar again in the future.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mark Millar (Not), Monsters (Not), Monsters Inc. (Not), Muppets (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Pixar (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Monday, September 21, 2009 11:47 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 9/2. 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.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #28
Another rather silly Andrew issue, in which he films himself seeking out the spy he's sure is in their midst. He finds all the girls pretty pissed with the new "no powers" doctrine (understandably! I'd be pissed, too! In fact, I am pissed!), except perhaps Faith and Buffy (who seem to have finally come to an understanding). An aside: it's cute that Buffy is wearing a T-shirt with the Count from Sesame Street on it. This issue carefully sets us up to believe that Xander and Buffy are at long last going to get together, but then takes a sudden sharp turn at the last minute and throws Xander and Dawn together instead. Woah. That's a little... creepy. The moment when Buffy walks in on them kissing is a classic, heart-breaking, Whedon-esque relationship moment. Meanwhile, Oz helps Willow deal with her darkness, and she comes to believe that she, and even Buffy, might be able to eventually have real, normal lives after all.

Oh, and also, turns out there really was a spy, and it was the cat! That's unexpected. Looks like next issue could be the start of the big showdown, or at least another large battle. Exciting!
Thumbs Up

Daring Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
Our first story is by David Liss with art by Jason Armstrong, and it focuses on a reimagining of the origin story of an old Marvel character I'd never heard of before: The Phantom Reporter. He's a regular guy working as a journalist who, in the process of chasing down a story, becomes frustrated with just writing about the bad guys and determines to do something about them himself. So he puts on a mask and uses his smarts and his experience as an athlete and a fighter to beat the truth out of the villains and ultimately take them down. It's all a bit hard to believe, really, and the fact that the big bad guy is a mad, immortal genius who always goes around with a monkey on his shoulder and who's stolen the formula for the philosopher's stone doesn't help with the credibility. Another silly moment comes at the very beginning of the issue in the frame story, wherein the Phantom Reporter mentions off-hand that he was frozen back in WWII, like a lot of other mystery men, and thawed out in the present day. C'mon, how many people can that have happened to?? I'm willing to buy Captain America, and Bucky, but after a while it starts to get pretty ridiculous.

All that being said, one has to expect to suspend one's disbelief quite a bit for a superhero comic book, and Liss' writing is good enough that it's pretty easy to overlook most of the story's more unlikely elements. Interestingly enough, there's a short essay by Liss after the story where he talks about the fact that he's a novelist, and this was his first comic, but he enjoyed it quite a bit and plans to do it again.

Next up in this book is a reprint of the original origin story for the Phantom Reporter. It's your typical Golden Age story about corrupt politicians in bed with street-talking thugs who are beating people up as part of a scheme to make money. The title character is a crummy reporter by day, but by night he puts on a mask, ties on a cape over his suit jacket, and heads out to interrogate criminals with truth serum and beat the snot out of their bosses. Unlike in the modern reimagining, where the Reporter gets a backstory and is carefully developed, here we learn little to nothing about him. It's not the weirdest or worst Golden Age story I've ever read, but it is rather silly.
Thumbs Sideways

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #5
Another very funny and entertaining issue of this mini. Our "hero" continues burning bridges before he's even finished crossing them, and running head-on into any crazy thing that might give him more power, even if it's insanely dangerous for himself and everyone else in a 100-mile radius. He manages to survive a direct confrontation with some Justice Leaguers, but it remains to be seen whether he'll survive his own stupidity and recklessness.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #2
Jason Aaron opens this issue with a very odd, darkly funny, and vaguely disturbing sequence in which he reintroduces a weird old character known as Master Pandemonium, who has demons for arms and a gateway to hell in his belly. Danny Ketch uses him to make a deal with the devil. Danny, Johnny, the Caretaker, Daimon, Jaine, and the Anti-Christ all end up getting together, and Danny says he has a plan to take on Zadkiel. It's pretty thrilling, and it's also funny what a mismatched gang this is. The scene where Daimon comes onto the Caretaker is particularly amusing. But there's even more fun and dark humor in store at the end of the issue, as a whole gang of old and new Ghost Rider villains team up to take on their old foes. I love how crazy and epic Aaron is making this story. I mean, he brought back the Trull the Inhuman, a living steam shovel! Awesome.

In the back of the book is the continuation of the reprinted storyline which originally introduced Daimon Hellstrom. It's a bit wordy and melodramatic, but also surprisingly interesting and engaging. It's really legitimately horrifying when Johnny's replacement crashes into the cliff side.
Thumbs Up

Immortal Weapons #2
This issue's Immortal Weapon is the sexy/creepy Bride of Nine Spiders. Her story is, appropriately enough, a Twilight Zone-style tale about an inter-dimensional spider and its haunting song. Unlike the first issue, this one does not reveal the origin story of its subject. The furthest it goes back in the Bride's history is 1935, when she faces off against a psychotic killer who meant to make her his bride. It's then that she leaves one of her magic spiders behind on Earth. In modern times, the spider is bought by a man who unwisely attempts to pry open the secret of its powers and only calls down horror and death upon himself. A team of mercenaries go in to try to get the spider back, only to find themselves caught in the same web. The story structure isn't particularly imaginative, but there are some cool moments. The second part of the backup story, "The Caretakers," is a bit melodramatic and frankly not all that interesting, but Travel Foreman's art is very effective.
Thumbs Sideways

Incognito #6
This issue brings an end to what will hopefully be only the first of many stories set in the Incognito universe. Some really cool backstory reveals that Zack's origin is tied up with the origins of superhumans on Earth, and that his heritage is more heroic than we knew. His brother's girlfriend and her story about the coin flip is pretty funny. Some bad-ass moves from Zack and some quick thinking from Zoe save the day. Then Zack gets just a little bit of revenge on the Black Death before officially (sort of) joining the other side.

Yes, our anti-hero drops the "anti," which is frankly a little disappointing. I think I would have liked it better if he'd remained a scumbag right to the end. Still, the comic was kind of headed this way all along, and I like the future story possibilities that this opens up. Brubaker and Phillips have built a fascinating little world here that I hope they'll revisit soon.

In the back of the book is another highly entertaining essay from Jess Nevins about forgotten pulp history. This time he focuses on an odd sub-genre: zeppelin pulps. These were stories about pulp heroes who flew around in giant airships, and their origins lie in the Army and Navy attempting to redeem the image of zeppelins in the eyes of the public after the Macon disaster. A lot of the story elements from these zeppelin pulps sound familiar; they appear to have been borrowed by Brubaker when he was writing Incognito. There's a Zeppelin of Silence where operations are performed to remove the "sickness of evil" from the brains of criminals; there's a villain named Black Death; and later a two-gun wielding rip-off of the Shadow named Lazarus the Returned Man is introduced. (Turns out Lazarus died in nearly every appearance, only to reappear in the next episode. Cool!) Some of the other story elements are just insane. Villains included a Nazi aviator named Pontius Pilot; Amenhotep, the simian Pharaoh of the Congo; and Baron Nosferatu, the Flying Vampire. Dude, I want to read about those characters! I also kind of want to read the wildly unpopular Spicy Zeppelin Stories, and Strange Tales of the Black Zeppelin, a weird menace pulp. Anyway, ultimately the popularity of zeppelins as a means of transport, and as a focus for pulps, was destroyed by the Hindenberg disaster.

I hadn't meant to copy down so much of that, but it's totally fascinating stuff.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #6
I love this series so much, and this is another great issue of it. We get a very telling look at the Plutonian's (or rather, Danny's) tough childhood, and even see the surprisingly terrestrial origin of the symbol on his chest. Meanwhile, our heroes track down and disable the Modeus-bots, but not before one of them sets off a distress signal that brings the Plutonian zooming straight at their location. They escape to the only place they know the Plutonian is not: his own secret lair! Charybdis sticks around to slow down the Plutonian, not by fighting him (as that would hardly work), but by talking to him. He brings up a disturbing story out of the Plutonian's past, back when he was a hero, and reveals there might be more to the story than even the Plutonian realized. Meanwhile, the rest of our heroes stumble upon something horrific in the Plutonian's lair - but we don't get to see what it is! Bastards!

I feel like this story is hurtling towards its conclusion now, and I can't wait to read it and figure out the solutions to all the hidden mysteries.
Thumbs Up

Moon Knight Saga
This is one of those freebies that summarizes the entire history of a character. It's written in first person, from the perspective of the Moon Knight himself. I'm vaguely curious about Moon Knight's story, but I just can't get into him as a character, and I have yet to read a really good comic about him. Sadly, this book did not change my opinion; the writing is so bad and so melodramatic I couldn't even finish it.
Thumbs Down

Mystic Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
Turns out the original version of The Vision was really freaking weird. We open with a new story about the character, set back in his original time period. The premise is that The Vision is a supernatural being who can appear wherever there is smoke - the smoke from a fire, from a pipe, any kind of smoke. It's a pretty silly concept really, and you can see them stretching it almost right out of the gate, as the Vision has to use the smoke from a convenient fire in the kitchen of a restaurant to transport himself into said restaurant and attack a couple of criminals who've busted in to assassinate somebody with tommy guns. He tricks one into shooting the other, then makes it look like the getaway car is driving into his mouth and dropping down into his guts, when really they've just swerved off the pier and into the river. It's pretty surreal. Later, The Vision has taken the guise of a normal human, and we learn that he entered our world from his own supernatural realm through a portal opened by a scientist. Almost before he's done warning us that something awful could come through that same portal if they're not careful... something does. Like The Vision, this hideous monster is able to travel through smoke, and show people horrible visions that trick them into doing terrible things to each other (there's the strong suggestion that one man kills his wife because he was tricked into thinking she was a giant spider, and The Vision's love interest nearly commits suicide to avoid being molested by a zombie that's not even there). In the end The Vision triumphs in epic fashion, and turns the gangsters behind all the trouble against each other by subtly influencing their minds. It's a strange, eerie story. It's not excellent, but it is occasionally effective. It's followed up by reprints of two original stories about The Vision. In these stories, there's no mention of a scientist or a portal, and The Vision never takes on the guise of a normal human. The Vision just appears mysteriously out of smoke wherever and whenever he's needed, and then vanishes again just as mysteriously. I imagine him sitting in a room full of mystical windows, one for each spot on the Earth where there's smoke, all of them appearing and disappearing as smoke is generated and dissipates, and when he sees something through one of them that he feels he should interfere with, he simply leaps through. Anyway, in the first story, The Vision finds himself facing off against a couple of werewolves, one the innocent victim of the other. The victim explains the backstory in a series of lengthy bits of exposition-heavy dialog and then, having achieved his story purpose (info-dump), he is promptly killed. Attacked by the other werewolf, The Vision simply shoots it with a mystical beam which instantly turns it back into a human and kills it. He says: "They're both dead now.... My work here is done! There are others who need my aid. Farewell, Earthman." Um... help?? You just made sure everybody was dead and then took off! That's not really particularly helpful. The panel layout in this story is also quite awkward; they find it necessary more than once to slap big red arrows on the page to explain which panel you're supposed to read next. One particular page has to be read in an awkward, circular direction.

The final story is quite silly, but also kind of awesome. A businessman has made himself his own little Jurassic Park, and of course almost before he's done explaining how safe it is to the press, the dinosaurs have smashed out of their cages and are rampaging through the city. The Vision pops up out of the smoke of a demolished building and runs off to get some dynamite. And this is where things get a bit weird. The businessman who started all this calls his press agent and demands that he recapture the dinosaurs alive. Apparently this isn't just any press agent, as he immediately grabs a tommy gun, rounds up a crowd of goons (who even call him "boss"), and orders them to shoot anybody who interferes with them grabbing the monsters! It's almost as if the writer was contractually obligated to include a gang of criminals in the story for The Vision to fight. Anyway, next up The Vision chucks some dynamite into one dinosaur's mouth, where it explodes, blowing the animal's head off! The businessman, blindly raging about his dead dinosaur, is swiftly eaten by the one that's still alive, which in turn is also blown to bits by The Vision and his dynamite. It's a ridiculous - but also ridiculously fun - little story.
Thumbs Sideways

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #3
This issue opens up with a big, bloody fight with the demon monster. Afterwards, Grey and his new medium friend talk through everything that's happened and finally work out what's going on. But things are complicated by the interference of The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, a group that fans of the Hellboyverse will recognize immediately. Turns out they want the monster's bones. On a hunch, the medium takes them into the Church of the Inner World, a weird little temple whose members believe in the Hollow Earth concept. These church members were tricked into believing the demon was an angel, and it's sucked them all dry. (This is finally the pay-off to that weird scene we saw earlier in the series of the old man saying, "Thank you, Lord," when the monster entered his office.) It's an extremely eerie and effective sequence, and it reveals even more connections into the larger story of the Hellboyverse. The demon is in fact one of many slave monsters that tended the war machines of the Old Ones deep in the Earth. Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. will run into these little guys a number of times in the future. But right now, Grey and his friends aren't well equipped to take them on, and could be in serious trouble.

I'm loving this series more and more all the time. I'm constantly impressed by what a huge, epic, millenia-spanning story Mignola is building. All of these books are connected, and there are things happening in this comic that actually illuminate stuff going on in other books that are set some 200 years in the future. But it's not just a part of that bigger story; it's also its own powerfully atmospheric Gothic horror tale, with its own set of fascinating characters, and it alludes to all kinds of wonderful myths and fairy tales and ghost stories. It's excellent stuff.
Thumbs Up

Strange Tales #1
This is the first issue of a fascinating new Marvel Knights three-part anthology miniseries, collecting weird stories by indie comic creators. First up is a totally cute and fun story about the Inhumans (well, really just Lockjaw - the other Inhumans are just supporting characters) by Paul Pope. It's a pretty hilarious, deliberately over-the-top adventure story about all the work Lockjaw has to do just to get his dinner. I love it. Next up is a story about She-Hulk, reimagined as a 19th century period story about a woman whose true self, in all its power and ferocity, is being repressed by her mother. The title of the book she's reading is prominently displayed: The Yellow Wallpaper. Ha! This is another fun one, with unique art from Molly Crabapple and amusing writing from John Leavitt. "Welcome to the Spider Town" is a very odd, cutesy, manga-style tale from Junko Mizuno about MJ trying to help Spider-Man fit in in their new home: a city populated entirely by spider people. "Dr. Strange vs. Nightmare" by Dash Shaw is very, very funny. Tricked by a soup that says it was not poisoned by Nightmare, Dr. Strange falls into the dream realm and gets into a big fight with the supervillain. When Nightmare leaves to get his evil unicorn (ha!), Strange wakes up, but then must keep himself awake or face Nightmare again. So it's off to a diner to drink coffee and try not to yawn. Funny stuff. The silliest and most childish story in the book is probably James Kochalka's "Hulk Squad, Smash!" in which a trio of variously colored Hulks fight the regular green Hulk. Johnny Ryan provides an amusing interlude with "Marvel's Most Embarrassing Moments." Included is Doctor Strange's rap album and Cyclops getting caught peeping in the girls' locker room. Ryan also gives us "Scared Smart," starring The Punisher. As you might imagine, it's about him threatening a slacker into getting a decent education, and hilariously ends with him and the post-post-graduate laughing and hugging each other.

Even though M. Kupperman's "Fed Up with Man," starring Namor, is exceedingly odd and pointless, I still got a real kick out of it. "Mankind- ugh!" says Namor. "A dog, a barrel... ridiculous! ...Yet they make such delicious pizza!"

Next is the first part of what will apparently be a longer, continuing story called "The Incorrigible Hulk," written and drawn by P. Bagge. The art, satire, uncomfortable social situations, and sexual references all remind me of R. Crumb - which of course means I'm not a big fan of this story. I've always hated Crumb and his ilk.

"And Call My Lover M.O.D.O.K." by Nick Bertozzi is at first a rather amusing story about M.O.D.O.K.'s long-term, squabbling relationship with one of his AIM henchwomen, but halfway through it takes a turn for the extremely dark and by the end it has become almost punishingly sad and depressing. I guess it's good in its own way, but it's certainly not fun to read. The rest of the book is a handful of really quick, goofy stories: The Perry Bible Fellowship shows us how Bruce Banner opens a pickle jar in "The Green Menace," and how a case of mistaken identity leads to tragedy in "The Blue Hair." And finally, Jason (yeah, just Jason) gives us the fun and silly tale of how Peter Parker finally manages to get into a bar fight.

There are some misses among the hits, as with any anthology comic, but overall this is a great little book with a wonderful premise and thematic arc to it.
Thumbs Up

Thulsa Doom #1
I loved the character of Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian, and the world of that film in general, so I was interested to try out this new miniseries from Dynamite which focuses on Doom's backstory. Adding to my curiosity is the fact that Djimon Hounsou has apparently already signed on to star in a film adaptation of this comic. In fact artist Lui Antonio has taken things one step further and already cast Hounsou in the lead role of the comic itself; Doom is the spitting image of Hounsou, just with more muscles. He shows up out of nowhere at the start of the issue and saves some folks from slavery by bloodily murdering their captors. Then he is in turn saved from a giant monster by soldiers who show up out of nowhere. He joins them, but he's not really there to help people; he's looking for some mysterious object. Meanwhile, in the remnants of Atlantis, an impossibly voluptuous evil sorceress steps naked out of a bath in order to drink the blood of a pretty young slave as part of some black magic ritual to recover her beauty. Needless to say, she's the villain who'll be hunting Thulsa Doom. There's an unnecessary and odd wordless final panel of Thulsa sitting at a campfire, and then the issue comes to an end.

This comic is ridiculous, over-the-top, and utterly gratuitous from top to bottom. I understand why they've drawn the main character as the actor they expect to play him, but it still feels cheesy and vaguely pathetic, especially the overly dramatic way he's introduced in a full-page panel that seems to linger on his impossibly large and ropey muscles. It doesn't help that there's really almost nothing imaginative or interesting going on here. I won't be buying another issue of this.
Thumbs Down

The Torch #1
I love the Human Torch as a character, so I couldn't resist trying out this new Marvel/Dynamite miniseries, written by Mike Carey and Alex Ross with art by Patrick Berkenkotter. It's set in the modern day, with the Torch's sidekick Toro taking the role of narrator and main character. Apparently Toro was brought back to life by Bucky, when at some point he managed to grab the Cosmic Cube for a few seconds. Like other characters who've experienced something similar, Toro is feeling all sulky and depressed and aimless and out of place. The original Vision shows up to try to cheer Toro up, and ultimately Toro asks for his help in finding the guy who killed him: a supervillain known as The Thinker. But The Thinker is in the midst of some serious supervillainy, and Toro's sudden appearance actually just helps inspire him to new and more terrible evil involving the Human Torch himself.

Although the premise and story of this book are vaguely interesting (I was particularly fascinated by the new, reimagined origin for Toro's powers), the writing is quite melodramatic and over-the-top, and Toro's sulking is just irritating. I think I'll save my money and drop this one now.
Thumbs Sideways

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #2
For now the Kingpin appears to be staying dead! The guy who killed him is Mysterio, and he's planning on becoming a big player. Spider-Man's nightmarish vision of all the heroes chained and drowned underwater is very powerful. It's also interesting seeing Kitty Pryde getting persecuted in the lunch room at school. I didn't realize that in this universe mutants are outlawed. Peter and Gwen are totally cute together, but Pete has to dash off to fight some brand new supervillains: a mother/daughter pair whose explosive projectile powers only activate when they're near each other. Spidey's still having a hard time getting used to everybody loving him, and the mystery surround the Human Torch's sudden reappearance (not that Human Torch, the other Human Torch) has yet to be solved.

I keep expecting and almost hoping that this series will get lame, so I can drop it, but it continues to be fun and funny.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #9
Batman - This strip has been... stuttering a bit lately, you might say. Unsurprisingly, thug guy is betrayed and shot by his femme fatale lover. As he's dying in Batman's arms, Batman says to him, "Hardy, you're going to have to..." But Hardy interrupts, "...make peace. Don't... Go easy. That's all I ask. Luna... I love her." Uh... did anybody else think that dialog exchange was really confusing at first? I think I have it worked out now (Batman wants Hardy to give up his lover, but Hardy, even though he's just been shot by her, wants Batman to go easy on her, and let her go), but still. It shouldn't have been so hard to follow.

Kamandi - I still love the art in this one, but the writing leaves a bit to be desired this time; the strip feels over-narrated, with too much exposition. The deus ex machina at the end is particularly clumsy: "Just in time, the computer printouts that Kamandi and Dr. Canus brought with them from the Command D bunker have enabled them to locate the secret armories buried deep beneath Shintun." Riiiight.

Superman - Lots of exposition in this strip, too, as Superman explains to the aliens what they've been doing to him and how he figured it out. Except he's clearly explaining it to us, not to them. "That's what all the soul-searching was about," he says. Ah, thanks for clearing that up, Supes. Apparently he also knows the aliens' secret weakness. We'll have to wait until next week to get the exposition explaining that. Lee Bermejo's art continues to be impressive, but John Arcudi's writing is awkward.

Deadman - Deadman fights a demon with a stone, but then he gets in trouble. Blah. I'm finding myself losing interest in this one again.

Green Lantern - This strip is going the way of Hawkman and suddenly introducing a gigantic alien invasion force into the story. Fun and exciting.

Metamorpho - Okay, the periodic table gimmick in the previous issue was pretty impressive, but it was already getting a little tired before I'd even gotten to the bottom of the page, and now there's a whole other page of it in this issue! Jamming those chemical symbol letter combinations into the dialog makes for some really awkward and clumsy writing. Can't say I'm a big fan of this episode.

Teen Titans - Yep. Still sucks.

Strange Adventures - Despite Alanna's diplomacy last issue, which allows her to lead an army against the evil Korgo, things still look bad for our heroes - until Adam finally drops back into the story and prepares to save the day. Thrilling action and adventure, and the usual beautiful art.

Supergirl - At long last, we get an idea just what's driving the superpets crazy. Supergirl zooms off to take care of it, but unbeknownst to her and Doc Mid-Nite, both pets sneak off after her. Yeah, I still can't really get into this one. It's kind of cute, and some of the background details in this episode are amusing, but mostly I just find it dull.

Metal Men - I still don't care.

Wonder Woman - This is maybe slightly better than usual, as the story is finally building to a conclusion and is getting a bit tense and exciting. But the writing is still clumsy and lame, and the panel layout is still confusing and cluttered.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - A brief moment of action, a lame joke, and a stupid move by Rock. Blah.

The Flash - This one's a real trip this week! Apparently due to Grodd's poison, the Flash finds himself having visions all centering around his past and future life with Iris, depicted in the styles of various famous newspaper comic strips. It's clever, imaginative, immensely entertaining, and wonderfully executed.

The Demon and Catwoman - A very exciting episode of this strip, as things erupt into a crazy, back-and-forth battle that's both physical and magical. And of course there's all the fun, high-falutin' language being thrown about.

Hawkman - Hawkman has an oddly and almost annoyingly protracted argument with a museum curator over whether the survivors of the plane crash should run from the T. Rex or not. He finally wins the argument by pointing out that, "I'm Hawkman, dammit!" Heh. He stole that from Batman. Anyway, despite the slightly irritating and drawn out back-and-forth between Hawkman and the curator, this is a fun episode, thanks in large part to the giant, epic panel at the bottom showing the T. Rex and Hawkman soaring into battle with each other.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Friday, September 18, 2009 11:36 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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