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Friday, August 20, 2010 02:02 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 8/4 and 8/11. Beware spoilers!

New releases
B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth - New World #1
Apparently this and the next handful of B.P.R.D. story arcs are all going to be published under the "Hell on Earth" subtitle, which bugs me. Too many subtitles! I have to use the colon, and then the dash to write it all out! Ah, well. In this issue we learn that B.P.R.D. is dealing with dead-ends, wild goose chases, employee conflicts, backlash from the public, and a bunch of mysterious disappearances. I'm still upset about Devon's friction with Abe. The disappearances are unsettling, as well, as is Johann's obsession with getting back the physical body he lost. Where is it all leading?? We can only wait and see.
Thumbs Up

Captain America #607 & #608
Ouch. The new Zemo is hitting Bucky where it hurts now, drugging him to make him look bad, and then dragging the Winter Soldier out into the light. Harsh. I'm curious to see how Bucky fights back. Meanwhile, the Nomad backup stories are actually getting slightly less sucky, which is nice.
Thumbs Up

Fringe: Tales from the Fringe #2
I almost didn't buy another issue of this anthology comic, as the previous issue was rather mediocre, but the first, full-page panel in this book features Broyles crumbling into dust, and that was just too interesting for me to pass up. (It's just a dream, of course, but still.) The first story jumps back in time to fill in some of the blanks surrounding the case that finally killed Broyles' marriage. We also get to meet Broyles' old partner and get a look at what happened to her. It's not pretty! The second story is a pretty standard Twilight Zone-style affair about a guy who goes in a room he's told not to go in, sees something he should never have seen, and creates a terrible future in his attempts to prevent it. Meh.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellboy: The Storm #2
Oh hey! That old guy from the end of the last issue was Merlin! Like, Merlin Merlin! He tells the story of Nimue - the new Queen of Witches - and reveals the horrible origin of the beast Hellboy's in the middle of fighting. He also shows that little pig guy the enormity of the betrayal he's performed, leveling a terrible curse against him in the process. It's intense. Plus, the vision of apocalypse Merlin reveals is very similar to the one we've been seeing in B.P.R.D., which is neat. I love the eerie moment in the church when the ghost comes to visit the priest. And the way Hellboy beats the monster is so bad-ass - very similar to the end of the legendary fight between Arthur and his son, Mordred. Nimue's champion hints at some terrible truth about her that's still hidden. Dropping the sword in the ground seems to call up an inn for them to rest in, which also becomes a meeting place for Hellboy's army. He gets a glimpse of what's happening to B.P.R.D. on the TV, and has a really moving flashback to his childhood. "I'm not a monster, am I?" Fantastic, fantastic issue, summing up what's come before and setting up what's to come, with some great character development. And Duncan Fegredo's art is just amazing, especially paired with Dave Stewart's usual stunning colors. Damn, I love Hellboy!
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #16
This issue is sort of a moment of calm amidst the storm, as our characters recover from the events of the last story arc and prepare themselves for what's coming next. Gilgamos' story is particularly dark and brutal. I enjoy Qubit's water-teleporting umbrella. And it's cool to discover that Kaidan might be a lot more powerful than she suspected. Meanwhile, it looks like Modeus may be getting ready to take the next step in his plan, and I'm very curious to see what it is.
Thumbs Up

S.H.I.E.L.D. #3
Just as the previous issue revealed Da Vinci to be the head of the faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. that believes the world can be saved, this issue reveals Isaac Newton to be the head of the opposing faction. He is one twisted dude! The way he infiltrates the Deviants, steals their knowledge, and destroys them - man! I love the machine built to defeat Galactus, that works by sacrificing men. "There is nothing that can't be done. There is simply a price to be paid." Newton takes Galileo's teachings, adds to them, and twists them into something evil. Galileo says, "Some men call me master... you will call me brother." Later Newton repeats this and reverses it: "Some men call me brother... you will call me master." In the back of the book is some correspondence from the secret Vatican archives revealing that the adoption of the Gregorian calendar was part of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s plan to erase from history the defeat of Galactus. Awesome! This comic is so brilliant and creative and amazing.
Thumbs Up

Supergod #4
The madness continues, as our British scientist describes a super God fight, the destruction of the moon, and people being used as the building blocks of a strange structure. Good old Warren Ellis. I'm both curious and terrified to see how this all concludes in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Thor: The Might Avenger #3
I like the way this comic catches you up on previous events by just slapping together a bunch of old panels with big "PREVIOUSLY..." and "MEANWHILE..." narration boxes on them. Very effective and comic booky! Plus the book really hits its stride in this issue by pulling great characters like Henry Pym, Janet van Dyne, and Loki into the story. Jane and Thor are cute together, and the story of Pym's relationship with Lew Stephens is sweet. The whole enterprise has a very satisfying, old school vibe to it. Well done!
Thumbs Up

Unwritten #16
Time for the big climactic showdown! Tommy's Dad explains things! (Some things. Kind of.) The book is released! (Only it's not the book we thought.) People die! (A good guy who wasn't so good, and the very worst bad guy of them all.) Lizzie goes home! (Except it turns out you really can't go home again, at least not once you've been written out of your own story.) Also, magic! It is great, great stuff. Incredibly thrilling, and satisfying enough, even though it doesn't actually answer all our questions or tie up all the loose ends. Where to next? I'll be there to find out.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Fringe (Not), Hellboy (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), S.H.I.E.L.D. (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not)
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Friday, August 20, 2010 11:29 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

X-Men: Second Coming #2
This is the concluding part of the most recent X-Drama maxi-series - the one I was talking about earlier. There are four chapters in this book, one by Zeb Wells, one by Mike Carey, one by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, and one by Matt Fraction. They all deal with the aftermath of the events of "Second Coming" - which means another superhero funeral with lots of tearful speeches. Ugh. I'm so tired of that crap. There's also a ridiculous two-page spread of X-Force posing for the camera, courtesy the pencil of Greg Land. Oh, and naturally the Phoenix raises her ugly head again. Sigh. Sometimes the X-Men just make me tired.
Thumbs Down
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Darwyn Cooke (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Hellboy (Not), Hulk (Not), Iron Man (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), Scalped (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not), Zeb Wells (Not)
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Friday, July 2, 2010 11:30 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 6/2, 6/9, and 6/16, as well as a handful of back issues. Beware spoilers!

New releases (6/2)
Avengers Prime #1
Another Avengers book? By Brian Michael Bendis? I thought I said I was going to stop buying these? Apparently not. This one seems to be squeezing its story between the end of Siege and the beginning of the other new Avengers books. Bendis is using it to attempt to establish Thor, Iron Man, and Steve Rogers as Marvel's major trinity of heroes. Our heroic trinity start out this book by bitching and moaning at each other for a bit, in such a way as to catch the reader up on recent events. Then, thankfully, they get sucked into a magical portal and sent to another world - or worlds; it's not clear if they've gone to totally different places or the same general place yet, as they've all landed in different locations. Each have their own separate adventures. Tony is approached by an unseen character, which is vaguely intriguing. Thor is attacked by the Enchantress, who spouts the usual villain cliches at him. Not very interesting. The best scene in the book, which is so good it almost makes me want to keep reading the series, is when Steve Rogers stumbles into an inn full of monsters, politely asks for their help, and then politely kicks all of their asses, to their own incredulity - how could one little human beat them all?? Because that human is Captain America, that's why! Very enjoyable.
Thumbs Sideways

Heralds #1
A new miniseries from Kathryn Immonen! I often find her writing a bit opaque, but also very intelligent, creative, and unique. This book opens with Emma's surprise birthday party being interrupted by a mysterious event that's hard to explain, but which involves an alien intelligence, a bunch of clones in a secret S.W.O.R.D. facility, and a waitress going berserk. The gang of ladies who show up to Emma's surprise party are our main characters for the series, and they're a fun bunch, especially the way Immonen writes them and Tonci Zonjic draws them. The dialog is snappy, sarcastic, and witty, and I really enjoy the enthusiasm with which the girls go after the dead scientist clones. "Come on! Haven't you always wanted to punch Einstein in the face?" I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but I like it!
Thumbs Up

New releases 6/9
Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #2
I really love the way Ellis and Andrews are using Emma Frost in this book. Very funny stuff. Scott says to her, "You're... holding a baby." She responds, "Full marks, Mr. Summers. Save any further comments for a time when I can beat you in private." Story-wise, looks like Ellis is dragging the Ghost Boxes back into it again. I have to say I'm a little tired of those, but I'm willing to hear him out.
Thumbs Up

Batman #700
For this special, extra-long anniversary issue, DC wisely turned the reins over to the best writer in their stable: Grant Morrison. Morrison delivers four separate short stories, each set in different time periods, but each dealing with part of the same overarching locked-room mystery. The time travel aspect of the story just kind of hurts my brain a little, but I think I follow what's going on. I also think I know the answer to the story's central riddle (the answer - spoiler alert! - is time). Regardless, it's a joy to read, as Morrison gets to play with every version of Batman there is - Bruce, Dick, Damian, Terry, and even a couple of post-apocalyptic Batmen, one living in a world that reminds me of Miller's Dark Knight Returns (the mutant gang from that book makes a cameo in the present day timeline), and another living in a world that reminds me of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Also along for the ride are a lot of Batman's most famous villains and allies, in various guises and incarnations. Morrison tosses in his usual handful of truly insane and amazing ideas, like time hypnosis helmets, and 2-Face-2, a new version of Two-Face who has two coins and a separate monster face living on his own normal human face. And of course every version of Batman gets to engage in the usual combination of brilliant detective work and bad-ass fighting. There's also a truly great, uplifting ending, promising us that no matter what or when, there will always be a Batman. Amen!
Thumbs Up

Buzzard #1
Eric Powell's strength is in wild, off-the-wall, offensive comedy, but for some reason he insists on writing morbid, melodramatic stories about humorless, moping, emo characters. This is another one of those. Still, it has its moments. It's certainly not as melodramatic as it could be, and it's vaguely intriguing. In the back is a continuation of the story Powell began in Billy the Kid's Old-Timey Oddities. Again, kind of interesting, but not terribly exciting.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America #606
We pick up with Bucky still trying to deal with the guilt over what he had to do to crazy Cap. But he needs to get his head back in the game soon, because Baron Zemo is putting the band back together. A fun start to a new storyline.
Thumbs Sideways

Gravel #19
Finally we get the creepy, twisted backstory on Gravel's latest mysterious enemy. He manages to hit Gravel where it hurts, and then somebody else - possibly another combat magician working for the British government? - sneaks in and steals a lot of Gravel's stuff. It's a hard day to be Gravel!
Thumbs Up

S.H.I.E.L.D. #2
Still really enjoying this series. This issue reveals there are two factions of S.H.I.E.L.D. - the Da Vinci faction, which believes there's always a way forward for humanity, and the group currently in charge, which believes there's an inevitable end for humanity that we must move toward. It's cool stuff. There's an interesting moment where the comic gets all postmodern and turns into a plain text script, as if Da Vinci and our young hero are passing through different story formats in their journey. I also love the surreal scene in which Agent Richards reaches for the exploding Night Machine, in a heroic attempt to save everyone, and it seems as if every member of S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout past and future is reaching with him. Like I said about Heralds: I'm not entirely sure what's going on, but I like it.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #14
This issue opens by giving us a peek at the hilariously awful and cliched fake Tommy Taylor book, which makes a bunch of deliberately clumsy references to the His Dark Materials trilogy. We also get to see Lizzie using another method of communicating with Wilson, and the conspiracy's method of tracking it - "Someone's touching the grid." Then it turns out Savoy is still alive, but he's not exactly himself anymore - Count Ambrosio is looking out through his eyes. Meanwhile, Pullman casually kills an innocent stranger by turning the ladder he's climbing into insubstantial words. It's all brilliant, creative stuff, thrilling and disturbing. But with Lizzie gone back to where she came from, how will Tom make it on his own? I look forward to finding out.
Thumbs Up

New releases, back issues, and old data (6/16)
Heralds #2 & #3
I love the news report at the opening of #2, in which we learn S.W.O.R.D.'s hilarious cover story for the events of the previous issue: "Cirque Du Soleil has claimed full responsibility for the late night appearance of scientist-impersonators, aliens and dinosaurs!" She-Hulk's comment: "Puppets can make the bravest of us panic." Later, Patsy learns she missed out on a chance to fight a clone of Hitler and is very upset. Valkyrie has some amusing outbursts. I also like that Scott parked the Blackbird parked on top of the hotel for Emma. And Scott owned a Miata. Hee! Next up are some weird moments for Johnny Storm, including a short stay in a surreal mental landscape where Johnny and Frankie fight about their relationship. Did I mention I really love the art in both issues? Seeing the Thing and Valeria prance into the Baxter Building both wearing pink princess hats is wonderful. Patsy also expresses a truth about how weird it is to be a superhero: "We've all had other lives." Finally, it turns out it's a bad idea to shoot a former herald of Galactus with a big space gun, because it can turn her into a black hole. Whoops! All-in-all, good stuff. An interesting mix of humor, intense drama, sci-fi action, and complex character development.
Thumbs Up

The New Avengers #1
Yes, another Avengers book by Bendis. I just can't resist them for some reason! This one explains how there can possibly be yet another Avengers team - turns out there's still some bad blood between the former renegade Avengers and the former official Avengers. Anticipating this, Tony and Steve sell Luke Cage and his buddies the newly renovated Avengers Mansion for a dollar and let them be Avengers over there, on their own terms. "Who do we get?" Luke asks. "Who do you want?" Steve answers, then quickly adds, "You can't have Thor or Iron Man." Heh. Meanwhile, some evil entity is going around possessing people. And at the end it makes Luke really big somehow? I don't know. It's your typical Avengers-level threat, I suppose. I don't think I need to read this book anymore. It has its moments, but it also has lots of Bendis-speak. Yuck.
Thumbs Sideways

New Mutants #13 & #14
Zeb Wells' New Mutants is currently being taken over by another of those multi-book mutant miniseries that seem to happen every other week. However, I don't collect any of the other books involved, which means these issues are two parts of a much larger story of which I haven't read any of the other parts. The laughably long "Previously..." summary at the front of each issue helps, but I still feel a bit lost. The short version is that that whole thing with Cable and Hope - the girl who's supposedly the last hope for mutantkind - is coming to head. Hope is now an annoying teenager, and the villains are trying to eliminate all the teleporters for some reason, which means lots of famous mutants are getting offed. Also, turns out Cyclops can kill people with his eye beams when he wants to. Huh.

I like the idea of using Legion against the enemy - dangerous but cool. And I like the art during the Legion sequences. But hey, dude, what the hell is with Rogue's costume? I know women superheroes tend to have ridiculous costumes, but jeez. Meanwhile, the mutants end up in a typical hopeless-looking last stand. A bit cliche, but reasonably well handled here. I also like the very ominous giant Sentinel thing that Wolverine and friends are fighting in the future. And how bad-ass Magneto is at the end. I'm not a fan of these big mutant storylines, but with the exception of a few cheesy sequences, Wells handles his part of it pretty well.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Mike Carey (Not), S.H.I.E.L.D. (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Monday, June 7, 2010 10:47 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 5/12. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #1
Warren Ellis returns to play in X country again for a new five-issue miniseries. This time he sends the team to Africa to investigate a mysterious rash of mutant births. Along the way, he highlights some of the more awful and violent parts of the socio-political history of Africa, and has the characters banter with each other in highly amusing ways. ("There's beer on the plane, Logan.") I thought from the sample of his art on the cover that I would dislike Kaare Andrews' work, but I actually enjoy it quite a bit. It's exaggerated in a funny, clever way that fits Ellis' writing well. I particularly like how he's highlighted the ridiculousness of Emma Frost's figure and costume. A good start to the series!
Thumbs Up

B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #5
This issue reveals the horrific consequences of the events of the previous issue, and they are pretty shocking. Apparently Liz's most recent use of her powers really was nearly apocalyptic in its strength, and incredibly draining for her. Our heroes were teleported out of harm's way, but many thousands of people were not. Zinco is back and making some seemingly humanitarian gestures which no doubt have evil motives behind them, and one of Abe's old "friends" is still puttering around underwater in his big metal diving suit. Speaking of Abe, it makes me sad that Devon doesn't even want to be near him anymore, but considering what the Black Flame said about the guy, it's hard to blame him. In one of the more interesting subplots, it looks like reality is about to come crashing down on B.P.R.D.'s head. When you read these stories, you don't think much about the political consequences of the epic events that take place, but obviously the huge, world-altering supernatural things that have been going down would put B.P.R.D. on the spot, and they'd have to answer to somebody. But what starts as a dressing down turns into a sort of promotion. This should make the future of B.P.R.D. pretty interesting.

I like that they don't spell everything out for you in the Hellboyverse, but at the same time, I felt a bit lost after reading this issue. What exactly happened, and why? And who was the dude with the red hand on his face again? And what's going to happen to Liz now?? But maybe all that will be answered in future issues. Or maybe I should go back and read the old issues a bit more closely.
Thumbs Up

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1
Bruce is back!! This first issue of Grant Morrison's six-issue miniseries picks up right where Final Crisis left off, with Bruce hanging out with a dying old man in a cave and drawing some familiar-looking graffiti on the wall. It looks like when Bruce's corpse was shot off into space along with other artifacts of the dying Earth, he was somehow resurrected? And sent back in time? I assume they'll explain that in more detail later. Anyway, by the end of this issue, it becomes clear that he's going to be leapfrogging forward in time at random moments, sort of Quantum Leap-like, and the Justice League is going to be following him. Superman says if he makes it to the present he could destroy the universe! Another thing I assume they'll explain later. Meanwhile, we can enjoy the fun of Batman-through-time! In this issue, he fights cavemen, gets himself a caveman Robin, and experiences a weird summarized, nightmare version of his superhero origin story. Then it's forward to Puritan times where he'll fight extra-dimensional monsters with a sword! Excellent.
Thumbs Up

The Marvels Project #8
The final issue of this miniseries gives us an interesting look at the Marvel Universe version of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the very end brings us full circle in a satisfying way. But I have to repeat the same complaint I've been making about this series for the past couple of issues: there's far too much summarizing via narration and far too little actual comic book story-telling. They either needed to take more time and more issues to tell this story the right way, without clumsy, expository summarizing, or they needed to tell a smaller, shorter story in a tighter, more economic fashion. I like the concept of this series, and the art, but overall it's a disappointment, and doesn't live up to its potential.
Thumbs Sideways

The Sentry: Fallen Sun #1
Oh sweet lord, what an awful, awful comic this is. I had to force myself to even skim it. It's another of these one-shots, which are becoming woefully popular lately, where we spend an entire comic at the funeral of the latest dead superhero (whom we all know will be brought back to life in a year at the most anyway), and get to wallow in grief for over twenty pages. It's a really cheap way to elicit emotion from the audience. I'm not saying it can't be done well, but it certainly is not done well here. There is zero subtlety in Paul Jenkins' overwrought, ridiculously melodramatic writing. Tony's agonizingly long and awful speech about alcoholism and addiction and friendship is practically unreadable. And there are plenty more speeches of similar quality. What makes the book particularly odd and ineffective is that these characters are all speaking lovingly of events that I've never heard of before and that I'm pretty sure were never even dramatized in a comic before, because they were all retconned into this universe via the Sentry's origin story. Regardless, this comic is so full of corny, overly earnest, cliched dialog that it's totally unbearable. It's an embarrassment.
Thumbs Down

Siege #4
I expressed surprise in my review of New Avengers #64 that I learned about Loki's final double-cross in the pages of that book instead of in the pages of the main Siege miniseries. Well, this last entry in said miniseries finally explains Loki's actions. It's pretty much another version of the end of Secret Invasion, with one of the traditional Marvel villains stepping up to help the heroes defeat an even more dangerous villain. It's also, as I guessed from New Avengers, pretty much a literal deus ex machina. It's really quite lame. Basically this comic involves the heroes hitting a guy until they've finally hit him enough that he stops moving. Then Cap gets Norman Osborn's job. Yawn. Olivier Coipel's art is excellent, but I'm really tired of Brian Michael Bendis. His writing is just not very good, and the whole Siege story is tired and cliche. The Sentry character arc, for instance, is just a repeat, not only of many other, better stories about many other, better characters, but of stories that have already been told about this very same character. The same could be said for the Siege story as a whole. It feels like Bendis is just recycling the plots from Civil War and Secret Invasion because people seemed to like those. How about we try something new, huh?
Thumbs Sideways

Star Trek: Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor #2
Another intriguing medical puzzle for everybody's favorite grumpy frontier doctor, this time with a cameo from Scotty. The solution to the puzzle involves the behavior of an ancient transporter system, and is pretty standard Trek stuff, but like I said about the first issue, it's really just fun seeing these beloved characters in action again.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #13
This issue opens with an intriguing look into the traditions and secrets of "The Order," and gives us a better idea of what's really going on. The two-page spread in which Tom sees a crowd of people rear up like a giant monster is very cool. We figure out who Richie is really working for just before he gets taken out of the picture for good in a really horrific manner. Damn! I was just starting to like that guy. But hey, it's fun meeting Frankenstein's monster again. All-in-all, another enjoyable issue.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Byrne (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Siege (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Sentry (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010 03:44 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 4/21. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Captain America: Who Won't Wield the Shield #1
This is one of those weird, self-parodying, one-shot, anthology comics full of silly in-jokes that the comic creators themselves probably get a lot more of a kick out of than any reader could. Forbush Man - the main character of Marvel's parody comics from way back - takes the starring role in the frame story, assaulting some of Marvel's most popular and famous creators, who are skewered, and/or skewer themselves, in amusing fashion (it's even more amusing if you follow them on Twitter). They distract Forbush Man by showing him (and us) other parody comics. The first is a surreal, far out, drugged-up mashup of Doctor Strange and Captain America. It's certainly colorful, and occasionally funny, but mostly just odd. Next up is "The Golden Age Deadpool," which is a great concept, with plenty of fun art and plenty of ridiculously anachronistic hip-hop dialog from Deadpool, but which overall could have been executed better. Really the most brutal and effective self-parody in the book is the final page, which is a "Sleege" checklist that rips Marvel's publishing schedule, its characters, its storytelling, and all of its recent large-scale sagas in truly biting fashion.
Thumbs Sideways

Gravel #18
Gravel seems to have decided five people is enough to make a Minor Seven and he pulls all his recruits together for their first collective group meeting, where he sets some ground rules for them, gives them a general mission, and also takes them (and us) on a tour of his previous adventures. If Gravel were a TV show (which, oh my God, it totally should be), this would be the clip show episode. And as we all know, the clip show episode is a bit of a cop-out. Still, it's fun to get a quick reminder of all the crazy crap Gravel's been through, and to see it again through the eyes of his apprentices. Plus we get to learn more about what Gravel expects of his Minor Seven. Finally, near the end of the issue that crazy killer dude who's been trying to get Gravel's attention finally does, and our hero sets out on a new mission. Should be fun!
Thumbs Up

Joe the Barbarian #4
Joe meets a cult of wizards whose magic is really just half-understood bits of science and technology ("square root of eye of newt, over function of the cosine where EEE equals magic times the speed of all likelihood squared"). They think the fact that Joe has broken through into this reality is what's causing this reality to fall apart ("A door has been opened into the outer murk"). We end on a cliffhanger again as Joe seems to be simultaneously soaring down a cliff in an untested flying machine, pursued by monstrous agents of evil, and standing at the top of a flight of stairs in his house about to tumble down them. The magicians are a set of great, funny new characters, the story is well constructed and intriguing, the action is exciting, and the dialog is brilliant. Good times.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #12
Man, I love this comic. It is so, so good. I know I say that pretty much every month, but... wow. This issue is another one-shot, this time revealing what happens to those who piss off Wilson Taylor. Somehow he's trapped a couple of his enemies inside a children's story, which is sort of an amalgamation of all famous children's stories - Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit (the comic has almost the same opening line - "In a hole in the side of a hill, there lived a rabbit."), Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, etc. It might sound like a fun time, living life in a children's story, but Carey depicts it, in a darkly hilarious way, as a truly hellish existence. It's clear right away that the rabbit doesn't belong in this story, because he starts stabbing himself, and screaming "Pauly Bruckner!" which is presumably his own true name, that he is trying desperately to hang onto. It is so wonderfully, horribly funny when he emits streams of terrible curses at all the kindly forest creatures he meets. He probes the edges of the fantasy world, trying to find a way out, but the story just brings him right back to where he started. Then he hatches a plan to kill the story's very creator, with the idea that it will burst the bubble once and for all. But what he doesn't realize about children's stories is that there's a dark space at the heart of every one, and it's not empty.

What I'm saying is, this is another amazing issue, containing another wonderful ode to another wonderful genre of literature, and another insightful and funny deconstruction of said genre, which also simultaneously advances the overall storyline (if only incrementally), and certainly gives us a closer look at the dark side of Wilson Taylor. I love this comic to bits.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Books (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dr. Strange (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Mike Carey (Not), The Take (Not), Tolkien (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wonderland (Not)
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010 01:52 PM
(Last updated on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 02:21 PM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 3/10. Beware spoilers!

New releases
B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #3
Hey, the Black Flame is back! And he says Abe is the new Hellboy! Sort of. I like the idea that Abe could be the key to the apocalypse now - that he also has a fateful destiny. After all, he is the "child of Dagon." I also like the two competing, all-too-similar visions of the end of the world that the Black Flame offers. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out what Liz is seeing. Is it an actual present apocalypse, or is it yet another false vision of doom being put into her head by the ghost of Saa? Hmm... Regardless, I'm intrigued and I'm looking forward to the next issue.
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #10
Grant Morrison is an insane magician. His new story arc on this title opens with Damian yelling at the board of Wayne Enterprises. The mysterious detective Oberon Sexton returns, and he suspects Bruce Wayne of being part of the Black Glove. Then the real craziness starts. Alfred, Batman, and Robin begin following an Indiana Jones-style series of artifacts, clues, and secret passages hidden in and around Wayne Manor, apparently by the time-lost Bruce Wayne. (The time-lost concept appears to have already been introduced in other comic series that I don't read, but whatever.) To add to the fun, Penitente's goons come after Sexton, and the whole lot of them end up on the grounds of Wayne Manor, where they run into Damian, who's running away from himself, having discovered that his mother planted some kind of hypnotic suggestion in him that's making him try to kill Dick Grayson - and this right after he's finally begun to like and respect Grayson. I love all these subplots. I particularly like the crazy patter Penitente's goons are using. And I'm really starting to like Oberon Sexton as a character. Could he be Bruce Wayne in disguise? I don't know, that seems too obvious...
Thumbs Up

Criminal: The Sinners #5
The latest Criminal story arc comes to a brutal and brilliant conclusion in this issue. It's an instant classic. I love the way Brubaker holds fast to the archetypes of the noir genre, but still manages to use them to tell a fresh and powerful story that surprises. Lawless carefully and cleverly tidies up all the storylines and loose plot threads by turning them all in on each other. The way he takes out Hyde is just beautiful. "Don't you wanna know who the killers are?" he asks Hyde. "Ah. Fuck 'em... Who cares?" Hyde says, while the killers are standing behind him, waiting to dispatch him. Lawless' final narration is fantastic, too: beautiful and painful and sad, and cleverly presented on top of Lawless' final act of justice - or, at least, revenge. In the back of the book is an interesting essay by Jess Nevins about the history and development of the character type known as the femme fatale. I wish it were a bit longer, with a bit more analysis and explication, but it's still pretty good.
Thumbs Up

S.W.O.R.D. #5
I've gone back and forth on this series, often changing my opinion of it with each issue, but this issue made me decide definitively that I love it. And so, of course, shortly after I finished reading it, I learned that the series has been canceled. Sigh. Anyway, this issue is loaded with wonderful comedy, which is made even funnier thanks to the fact that it comes out of the interactions between its fantastic cast of characters. I love these people and their relationships - especially Beast and Brant, and that final scene they have together. There's also unexpected plot twists, exciting action, and great dialog from the creepy Drenx. I can't tell you how much I love the two-page spread near the middle of the book where pretty much every one of Marvel's space alien heroes go Medieval on the Drenx. Epic bad-assery! And man, I love the character of the creepy, nameless, potentially universe-destroying android and his complex machinations. And the way Beast and Brant point out just how bad-ass the Earth and its heroes really are. It's just a great book. A great, canceled book. Sigh.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #11
It's always excellent when we get to see excerpts from the Tommy Taylor novels. The vision here of an afterlife tied up in bureaucratic knots is wonderful. And hey, how about Lizzie going to town on that Nazi? Peter Gross' depiction of the canker at the center of Jud Suss is stunning. It's great seeing Tom finally take an active role, too - changing things and choosing a direction. And at the end we get a look at the next big plot point: the impending release of a new Tommy Taylor novel! Is this a good or a bad thing? I'm thinking bad. It's probably an attempt by the evil, secret conspiracy to take control of the Taylor saga and use it for their own nefarious purposes. Regardless, it should be exciting!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Criminal (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), The Take (Not)
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010 03:41 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 2/10. Beware spoilers!

New releases
B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #2
The sequence where Liz gets separated from the group is classic horror movie stuff. Extremely well done, and very creepy. And seeing Liz's torturer return is also unsettling, especially considering how much trouble they went through to get rid of him before. I don't feel like the way the Lobster's story is wrapped up here is very satisfying in terms of explaining why he popped up when he did and why and how his ghost did all the things it did, but none of that really matters that much in the face of how awesome that final page is. Is the Lobster's ghost finally at peace now? Well, no, not exactly. But he has found his own personal paradise: fighting an endless horde of Nazi ghosts for all eternity. Fantastic!
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #8
This issue jumps around in time a bit, showing us in more detail how Batwoman ended up in the pit with Batman, and how Eddie ended up on a train with a bomb strapped to him. It even flashes way back to Final Crisis and reveals where the evil insane Batman zombie came from. Then we get what we've been waiting for: Batman vs. Batman! Batwoman appears to die, but I'm pretty sure Batman was just helping her fake her own death for some reason. And now evil Batman is after Alfred and Damian! Oh no!

This title got a little lame for a few issues there, but this new story arc is really exciting, and it's loaded with fantastic ideas, fantastic characters, and fantastic dialog. In particular, I continue to love Morrison's Damian. Everybody else writes him as an annoying, arrogant brat, but Morrison writes him as a really entertaining, brilliant, bad-ass, arrogant brat.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #10
Emma is such a nag in this issue! But the New Mutants themselves are wonderful. I love the way Wells writes their dialog and their interactions. Funny and very human. Plus, there's exciting action. I particularly like when Cannonball punches Sauron through the ship and then hops on deck to help his teammates like it was nothing. The plot device of the New Mutants getting their minds taken over by a villainous outside force is getting a bit old at this point (I mean, c'mon, we just did a story arc all about that), but whatever. I like the idea of Cyclops throwing his people into action and trying to sort out which of them could be a good future leader. All-in-all, a good standalone story.

In the back is a preview of the first issue of something called X-Factor Forever, which I'm guessing is analogous to X-Men Forever - somebody picking up an old storyline right where it left off years ago, as if none of the intervening continuity ever happened, and taking that story to its natural conclusion. The art is cute, especially the super-sexy interpretation of Marvel Girl, but there's not much else interesting here, and the exposition-filled thought bubbles referring back to all the unbelievable plot twists of old school X-Factor are pretty ridiculous. I'll pass.
Thumbs Up

S.W.O.R.D. #4
This is a fun, rollicking issue with plenty of amusing banter amongst our heroes, adventures with dumb rock aliens, and a scary subplot involving a different set of aliens, far more bloodthirsty and dangerous, who use that incredibly dangerous robot to help them take over the Peak. Gotta love the cliffhanger ending, and the hilarious and clever preview text: "TO BE CONCLUDED...! Possibly in the first two pages with Beast and Brand getting gunned down, leaving 20 pages of Drenx celebratory conga. Alternatively: ACTION!" I'm betting we're going to see the "ACTION!" myself.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #10
Our heroes mistakenly wander into a ghostly version of 1940 Stuttgart and get separated. They have a fascinating, enlightening, and deeply disturbing discussion with Josef Goebbels which ends in a bad way for Tommy. It's another tense, exciting, unsettling, thought-provoking issue full of imaginative ideas. This is truly a great comic.

In the back is a preview for a graphic novel by Peter Milligan called The Bronx Kill. It's supposed to be noir, but the preview is just a bunch of annoying people yammering at each other. Definitely not going to pick that up.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back #1
A miniseries about Pixie and her mutant teen girlfriends is not something I'd usually pick up (well, let's pretend it's not, anyway), but this one was written by Kathryn Immonen, and I've enjoyed her work in the past, so I nabbed a copy. But I'd forgotten how odd Immonen's writing is. This was definitely the most confusing comic I read this week. As near as I can make out, Pixie and her buddies have been imprisoned in an illusion where they think they're a bunch of normal girls attending a normal high school, but actually they're mutants surrounded by demons! I'm not sure if I'll pick up another issue of this. There are some interesting moments, but the basic story isn't very original, and I didn't really enjoy being vaguely confused the whole time.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), The Take (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Saturday, January 16, 2010 09:42 AM
(Last updated on Saturday, January 16, 2010 09:43 AM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the weeks of 1/6 and 1/13. Beware spoilers!

New releases (1/6)
B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #1
As per usual when picking up an issue of B.P.R.D., I felt a little lost at the beginning of this comic, like I'd forgotten some important plot details. But only a little. Even though it's not good for our heroes, I rather like the plot twist of the military withdrawing its support from B.P.R.D. and insisting on handling things its own way. That seems realistic, especially considering all the crazy crap B.P.R.D. has asked them to do. It's good to see Kate hanging out with her boyfriend again, and the Lobster's riddle-spewing ghost is both amusing and disturbing. And of course I loved seeing the link back to an earlier part of the Hellboy story. But what has happened to the Lobster and poor Johann now? Guess I'll have to wait and see. Anyway, another intriguing episode in the saga of the Hellboyverse.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #6
I really want to stop collecting this series! But something always draws me back in. This time it was the promise on the cover of "NEW GUARDIANS." Also, a quick flip through the book revealed that a whole bunch of random superheroes were getting rings, and that intrigued me. And, to be honest, there is some cool stuff in here. It's genuinely funny when Larfleez interrupts Sinestro's serious speech about tactics to point out that he wants the kill shot, too. It's cool when Barry grabs onto a chain of willpower and drags Hal along while he dashes two seconds into the future and outruns the black rings. The ring duplicating, deputizing thing is a bit gimmicky and hard to believe, but I loved the idea of Luthor getting an orange ring and Scarecrow getting a yellow ring - that's just perfect. Sadly, the other pairings of characters with rings don't work as well. The power of love overcoming the power of the black ring and turning Wonder Woman into a Whore Lantern, for instance. Yuck. And apparently the indigo ring comes with free language lessons, a staff, a loincloth, and body paint? Still, I have to admit, there are cool ideas here. It's hard to resist the concept of a huge ring war where every damn superhero and villain gets a magic ring and jumps into the fight.

After the main story, there's a cover gallery in the back advertising a bunch of upcoming Blackest Night tie-in issues, none of which really interest me. I don't quite get the numbering on them, either. Starman #81? The Question #37? Did they just make up those numbers or what? And why and how are there going to be so many tie-ins, anyway? I thought this series was finally almost over! How can it just go on and on?!
Thumbs Sideways

Siege #1
Speaking of epic, flagship, universe-changing miniseries, here's Marvel's new one. I'm not familiar with the name of penciler Olivier Coipel, but I rather like his work here, especially the two-page spread set in Asgard where Loki shows up to warn Balder about what's coming. There's an impressive vision of the city plus a creative panel layout. That full-page pic of the Avengers flying toward Asgard with Ares on the nose of a jet is also super hot. The comic is also pretty fun story-wise, especially now that I've mostly gotten over the lame plot device of Loki and Osborn manipulating Volstagg into creating another Stamford event. I like the way everybody but Osborn is pretty freaked out about going up against the Gods. I liked it when Thor shows up and gets into the fight, although I would have preferred to see more of Thor vs. Sentry (talk about a clash of the Titans!). And it's great having Cap jump up with his fist shaking in rage in that last panel. There's a transcript in the back of a longer version of Osborn's conversation about the siege with his Avengers which is kind of amusing, although my copy of it is a little messed up; the dialog on the third page is just a reprint of the dialog on the first page. You'd think Marvel would have paid a little closer attention to stuff like that on such an important comic, but whatever.

This is an okay start for Siege. I'll stick with it for now, see how it goes.
Thumbs Sideways

Siege: Embedded #1
I wasn't planning on picking up this tie-in comic, but... well, you know me. Sometimes I just can't resist. Anyway, this thing is actually pretty interesting. There's a character named Todd Keller who's clearly a parody of Glenn Beck (and perhaps Bill O'Reilly, to a lesser extent). Really the whole thing is about the media, about news-reporting intrigue, and about how political forces can shape how people view them by controlling who tells the story and how. It's rather clever.
Thumbs Sideways

New Mutants #9
Good lord I love this comic. The opening, with a portal to hell opening and a bad-ass commando group stepping out - wow. I also like Doug, and I like the scene of reconciliation between him and Amara. But best of all is Magik's story of time travel and Lovecraftian doom. Yay! I can't wait to read more of this storyline.
Thumbs Up

New releases (1/13)
Aliens vs. Predator: Three World War #1
Despite the fact that I've given up on both the Aliens and Predator miniseries being put out by Dark Horse at the moment, I still couldn't resist giving the company's Aliens vs. Predator series a try, especially since it's written by a guy named Randy Stradley whom I just started following on Twitter (he does these little known Star Wars facts on there that are pretty funny). The comic doesn't waste time and jumps right into the action and the killing. A ship lands in the middle of a mining colony and out come the Aliens! The twist is, they're actually being led out on chains and used as attack dogs by a bunch of Predators! Woah. That's a terrifying and exciting concept right there. Later we learn these are actually a quasi-mythical faction of Predators who don't hunt with honor, but simply kill for no reason. Interesting.

This storyline is actually a sequel to another storyline I never read, but the comic does a good job catching you up on the important information, so I never felt lost or confused. The writing isn't fantastic, but the concepts are intriguing, so I'll probably hang in there for at least one more issue.
Thumbs Sideways

The Marvels Project #5
This comic continues the disappointingly brief and exposition-heavy summary of Steve Rogers' transformation into Captain America. I know we've heard this story a million times, but I thought they'd give it a new spin or a different perspective in this miniseries. Instead Brubaker is just kind of hurrying on past it. Ah, well. The fun part here is the first appearance of the Red Skull, who is, as usual, right in the middle of doing something really awful and despicable. The bits with Steele and Fury and the Nazi scientists are interesting, and it's great seeing Cap getting suited up in the classic uniform for the first time, and meeting The Angel, whose perspective on Cap is fascinating.
Thumbs Sideways

S.W.O.R.D. #3
I love the contentious relationship between Brand and Beast, and Beast's witty dialog. Writer Kieron Gillen is even managing to make Gyrich a vaguely interesting character, which is difficult indeed. I love the scene where the troops invade Lockheed's room (which has nothing in it but a basket, a bottle of liquor, and a picture of Kitty) and try to take him into custody, and he easily eludes them. The scene with Doug, Warlock, and the Celestial is clever and cool; the Unit's backstory is totally fascinating; and Beast's escape plan is pretty brilliant. I was kind of hoping this issue would suck so I could drop this comic, but no such luck! In fact, it's fantastic.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #9
I think it's fair to say that this is my favorite comic on the stands at the moment. This issue is full of magic, tension, mystery, drama, and tragedy. Watching the children, their heads full of fantasy and a desire to help, wander into the prison and toward their doom, trusting to the very last in the power of a make-believe world to save them, is absolutely agonizing and devastating. I love the scene where the Governor reaches toward the ghost of Roland holding out his horn and punches through him to the fire alarm. I love the doorknob that opens magic doorways. And then Roland blowing his horn, and the final, terrible, fateful transformation of the Governor into Count Ambrosio - WOW. This is amazing, amazing stuff.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Lovecraft (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Predator (Not), Siege (Not), The Take (Not)
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 02:20 PM
(Last updated on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 03:13 PM)
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 12/9. Beware spoilers!

New releases
B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #4
The latest (and I believe last?) in a series of one-shots set back during the original plague of frogs, this one focusing on Johann Kraus. Peter Snejbjerg's art coupled with Bjarne Hansen's colors makes for some beautiful, creepy, atmospheric visuals. The story is eerie, unsettling, and moving, and provides some further development of Kraus' character.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #5
Gun Nuns, activate!! Lots of fun and darkly funny stuff in this issue. That eyeball guy is amusing. I didn't see the surprise twist coming - that the Caretaker herself was a gateway to heaven. And finally we're all set up for the big showdown that's been heading our way since Jason Aaron took over the Ghost Rider franchise. Meanwhile, the reprint origin story of the Son of Satan continues in the back of the book. Gotta say, this entry is pretty bad. Lots of corny dialog and clumsy recapping and exposition.
Thumbs Up

The Muppet Show #0
I think this marks the start of the new ongoing Muppet book, although I could be wrong. The concept - Rizzo Rat and Fozzie Bear pitching a Pigs in Space movie to Statler and Waldorf - is brilliant, but the execution leaves something to be desired. It's mildly amusing, and that's it. I kept wanting it to get better, and it never did. I also thought it was weird and pointless that they tried to hide the fact that the two movie execs were Statler and Waldorf by depicting them in silhouette at first. C'mon, it's two cranky, critical old guys. Who else were they going to turn out to be?
Thumbs Sideways

The New Avengers Annual #3
Sometimes I find comic book chronology really odd. It was months and months ago that a comic came out about Hawkeye breaking into Osborn's hideout to kill him. He subsequently got captured. A number of comics have come out since then dealing with the aftermath of that event - Hawkeye's inevitable escape. And yet only now do we finally get the comic that actually tells the follow-up story to the original issue, explaining the details of Hawkeye's escape. Making things even more confusing, the resurrected Steve Rogers shows up at the end of this issue, even though the miniseries bringing him back (Captain America: Reborn) hasn't finished yet, so we don't know how he got there. Sigh.

As for the story itself... well, it has its moments. It's fun seeing the rebel Avengers bust in and one-up the Dark Avengers. I don't like the art, though. It's that hyper-realistic, Alex Ross-style stuff that I always feel as if I should like, but that always ends up annoying me. Maybe I'm getting an uncanny valley vibe off of it.
Thumbs Sideways

S.W.O.R.D. #2
Marvel Boy gets captured in the opening of this, but again I'm confused by the chronology - is this the new, uber-powerful Marvel Boy, or the old, weaker Marvel Boy? Either way it seems like he should have been harder to nab. And why is Spider-Woman helping the Man? I thought she was with the rebel Avengers! Confusing. There are some corny bits to the story, too, but also a reasonably exciting plot about Gyrich forcibly expatriating all of Earth's alien residents. I'm loving the preview image from next issue, featuring Lockheed surrounded by flames and pointing two guns at us in his most bad-ass stance.
Thumbs Sideways

The Unwritten #8
This issue takes a quick jump backwards in time and retells some of the story's more recent events, this time with a focus on the governor of the prison that Tom has been put in, as well as the governor's children, who have a slightly unhealthy obsession with the Tommy Taylor books - an obsession that could put them in serious danger. It's another tense, unsettling, emotionally powerful issue crammed with brilliant ideas. I continue to believe this is one of the best comics on the stands right now.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), The Take (Not)
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Monday, July 20, 2009 11:47 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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