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Friday, August 28, 2009 11:57 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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