Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.
This post covers new releases from 7/1. 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.
Batman and Robin #2
It's interesting that the first gang of bad guys Dick goes up against as Batman are a bunch of crazy circus performers. It's appropriate, and takes him back to his roots. It's also probably why he's rather good at fighting them and understanding them. But nobody has quite accepted him as Batman yet - not Commissioner Gordon, not the rest of the cops, not Robin, not even himself. Damian defies orders and runs off on his own. But Alfred, as usual, gives Dick some good advice: you're a performer, so think of Batman as a performance. Break a leg.
This issue isn't quite as fantastic as the first, but it's still a lot of fun. Morrison's writing is brilliant - a wonderful performance - and so is Quitely's art. Can't wait to see what happens next!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #26
Great opening, with Buffy and Willow disguised as fish and bird. I enjoy, but am slightly disturbed by, the bits about Giles and Faith in a bunker under Berlin and then in a cattle car across Germany. I also enjoy the conversation between Warren and Andrew, where the "We are as Gods!" thing comes back, there's a funny Keith Olbermann reference, and then it all ends with Andrew hitting Warren with a bone and saying, "I bet you won't find this too humerus," while Warren protests, "That's a femur—AHH!" The slayers also use old bones to fight Warren's monster pals. "It seems so wrong! Won't they mind?" "They're martyrs. They're into it."
And then, huge reunion! All the Scoobies get back together again! Yay! But there's little time to celebrate. Even a whole army of Slayers is having a hard time standing up against an alliance between demons and men. And meanwhile, Willow seems to be addicted to magic and slipping back towards her evil self again. Which provides a shaky reason to get Oz back into the story. But I don't mind that the reason is shaky because... Oz! Yay!
Things are really blowing up in this story now, what with all the characters joining up, getting into huge battles, retreating, and teleporting in submarines. It's pretty fantastic! One thing though: although I like Georges Jeanty's art, it's really hard to recognize whom he's drawing sometimes. I had to guess that was Oz at the end from context, and from what it said in the letters column. But the plot's exciting and Jane Espenson's dialog is hilarious, so it all evens out.
Captain America Reborn #1
Finally what really happened to Steve Rogers starts to come out, and it's connected to what Zola and the Skull were doing to Sharon with that machine from Doctor Doom. The full outlines of what happened aren't entirely clear yet, but the gist of it is this: Steve Rogers has come unstuck in time. I mean full-on, Slaughterhouse-Five-style unstuck in time. Poor bastard. Meanwhile, Bucky and Natasha get caught in a trap by the Dark Avengers because, as it turns out, Norman Osborn knew more about all this than anybody suspected.
It's good to see Nick Fury peeking out of hiding to help out a bit! But I'm not sure how I feel about this comic overall. The writing isn't fantastic, and the idea of Cap being unstuck in time is kind of cool, but also kind of lame at the same time. I'm going to keep collecting the miniseries, of course - I have no choice, really - but this is not exactly a stellar opening chapter.
In the back is a preview for another big upcoming series from Brubaker: The Marvels Project. I think this is meant to be a version of that Ultimate Origins miniseries for the regular Marvel Universe. It's going back to the beginning and looking at the connections between all the early heroes. I'm not blown away by the preview, but it has its moments, and certainly the concepts are intriguing. It's cool to think that an elderly Two-Gun Kid got to live all the way to 1938, and thus get a glimpse of the arrival of the Marvels to come.
Daredevil Noir #4
Here's a topic for Mythbusters: can you really punch somebody underwater, like Daredevil does here? Physics aside, I ultimately enjoyed this miniseries (which comes to an end with this issue), although not as much as I could have. I found myself slightly confused by the plot, and disconnected from and unable to sympathize fully with Daredevil as a person. But I love the very end of this issue, where Daredevil and Fisk square off and then we zoom out, leaving their conflict unresolved and thus epic and eternal. And Tomm Coker's art was amazing throughout.
Things I love about this comic: Destroyer instantly leaps out of his recovery bed as soon as he learns there's a chance of crashing the headquarters of the evil organization Horde. He even agrees to use a gun for once, when its "glorious" properties are explained to him. His entrance into Horde HQ: a giant metal missile drops in, there's a pause, then out he leaps! A young member of Horde screams, "Let loose the hordes of Horde!!" (That's comedy right there.) Turret flies in to back up the old man. The leader of all Horde, whose name is a sound effect (Krakoom) demands, "Who dares oppose me?!" "That'd be us," Destroyer replies. "Now you're weaponless and completely harmless!" Krakoom says. "Wrong... and wrong," says Destroyer. Turret takes out Krakoom in truly gruesome style, just like the old man.
Then the story takes an interesting final turn. Destroyer seems to have realized now that making Turret quit the hero life was a mistake. Turret is even stronger and faster and better than he is. He should be out there, fighting the good fight. So maybe the final issue will be Destroyer turning Turret into his successor? Hmm...
Still loving this series. Brilliant writing from Robert Kirkman, accompanied by brilliant art by Cory Walker.
Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #3
Oh, Human Flame. You stupid, disgusting bastard. It takes Mike way too long to realize that Immortus is a nutjob, and that this group of villains is his cult. I love that this issue is entitled "Step Three: Betray Your Only Allies." Clayface tells Mike the awful truth about himself: "You're a tool, pal, and that's all you'll ever be! You can doll yourself up with a bunch of fancy toys, but you're still a little punk on the inside!" But later, Mike just thinks, "This from a guy who looks like he's made of poop." The running gag about Polka-Dot Man is great. He brags that he went up against Batman. Mike says, "Really. And how did that go, with you and the Batman?" PDM: [pause] "I fought Batman. He got the drop on me, okay? Robin tracked me down with a leopard, for Pete's sake. A leopard! Who saw that coming?" Immortus' girl Seductress is a pretty hilarious ditzy blonde character. "I wasn't always a criminal, you know. I started out right - I was an exotic dancer." She explains her relationship with Immortus, and Mike asks, "So what you're saying is that when the immortal guy dies, you get everything. Is that right?" D'oh. Clayface is pretty damn hilarious, as well, in his later appearance, where he brings up the leopard thing again, and then gets out of the containment system they put him in pretty much instantly. "Hey, you guys! You know what I love about this new containment system you built for me? It doesn't work. What is this, amateur night? Damn." Mike saves his stupidest mistake so far for last, when he leaps out a third floor window and gets himself horribly injured, again.
This continues to be a surprisingly entertaining series about a guy who's his own worst enemy (as well as being the enemy of pretty much everybody he meets).
I deeply love this series. This time we open up with a brilliant, Silver Age-style flashback giving us another look at the Plutonian when he was still a good guy, and an interesting look at Qubit's past. We get to know both of them just a little better here, and the rest of the issue will continue to develop their characters, and their relationship. Oh, and hey, Charybdis actually survived the explosion at the end of last issue! Of course, he could die later of his injuries, but still. It's something.
The secretary of the United Nations tries to rally the members together to fight back against the Plutonian, but instead they all fall over themselves offering the rampaging superhuman whatever they can think of to avoid his wrath. But their insincerity just makes him angrier, and leads him to commit his most brutal and terrible act yet. It's twisted and horrifying. Qubit and friends try to save whoever they can, but Plutonian allows Qubit to take only ten people, just to make a point, and to finally answer the question Qubit asked him all those years ago, about what it feels like to have all that responsibility. Turns out, it feels pretty effing terrible! This series is smart, complex, powerful, and absolutely riveting.
In the back of this issue is a preview for an upcoming miniseries from Boom! called Poe, which looks like it will feature Edgar Allan Poe using his ability to see dead people to help his brother the cop solve murders. It's poorly written, rather clumsily drawn, and looks all around quite awful.
Marvel Divas #1
This new miniseries takes four of Marvel's second-string heroines and recasts them as Sex and the City-style gal pals. That might sound like an awful idea, but it's actually quite a bit of fun. The main character and narrator is Patsy Walker, who, as the story opens, has just completed a tell-all book about the events of her previous miniseries. Her book is about how a second-string female superhero gets through her daily life in the Marvel Universe - and, appropriately enough, that's what this miniseries is about, too. Patsy's pals are the Captain Marvel from Nextwave, the Black Cat, and Firestar. She meets up with Cap and Cat at the release party for her book, but they bug out when the A-list superheroines show up and spoil their fun. To Patsy and her friends, characters like Emma Frost, Storm, She-Hulk, and the Invisible Woman are irritatingly self-righteous, disgustingly popular "glamazons." It's pretty funny. Also funny is the story of how the four Marvel Divas met at a speed dating event for superheroines. The men they get paired up with are less than stellar: a nerdy fanboy, a sleazy hipster, an old homeless guy (whose hilarious only line is, "Face it, Tigress - you just hit the jackpot"), and an obviously gay guy. They bond over the experience, and we get to see some of the other fun stuff they've done together over the years, including a visit to an art museum that includes a very meta, post-modern Roy Lichtenstein reference. Then we get to hear some amusing stories about their recent troubles with men - Captain Marvel having commitment issues with Brother Voodoo; Felicia feeling crowded and controlled by her rich guy, and considering robbery so she can make it on her own (awkward!); Patsy messing around with the Son of Satan; and then the big bombshell reveal at the end: Firestar has cancer!
Tonci Zonjic's art in this book is wonderful - the girls all look terribly cute, but not ridiculously overdone. And Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's writing is clever and funny, while also being surprisingly realistic, and even rather moving. I'm charmed, and will continue reading.
Muppet Robin Hood #2
This series is pretty entertaining. It's the usual fun, silly, Muppet-style humor applied to the Robin Hood story. But I was struck by how extremely wordy this issue is. It's no longer than your average comic, but I think it must have taken me twice or three times as long to read because there's just so much content jammed into it. I mean, they all just talk and talk and talk! Luckily it's mostly gags and it rarely gets boring, but still. In this issue, we finally meet Prince John, and he turns out to be that gangster Muppet with the monkey sidekick named Sal. I enjoy them. One thing I don't like about this issue is how often author Tim Beedle has Miss Piggy refer to herself as "moi." I know this is a part of her character, but in this book she says it all the time. It really needs to be more of a sometimes gag, otherwise it just starts to get awkward and annoying. It's pretty funny when our heroes all get dressed up as monsters and scare the crap out of the people at the banquet. The real monsters are also amusing.
This isn't a great comic by any means, but it's fun enough. Beedle does a good job of capturing the Muppet sense of humor, and artist Armand Villavert, Jr. does a good job of capturing the look.
The Muppet Show #4
The final issue of the main Muppet series turns the focus on Miss Piggy. When the show is forced to book a psychic as its guest star, she tells Piggy she'll be losing something green very soon. The psychic is referring to Piggy's cash (turns out she's a fraud and a thief), but Piggy assumes she means Kermit, and instantly gets extremely jealous and angry at her main squeeze. Of course it all turns out all right in the end. The title pages throughout this miniseries have been really great, and have really captured the wacky insanity of the opening sequence of each episode of The Muppet Show, but I particularly like this issue's. I also like the cameo by Sasquatch, Beaker's unexplained fear of chives, and the telepathic sequence during "Pigs in Space."
This has been a really fun miniseries! Roger Langridge's silly, gag-rich scripts, put together with his fantastic, spot-on art is a winning combination. I'm curious to see how Boom! will follow this up - if they'll stick with Muppet parody miniseries like Muppet Robin Hood, or if they'll upgrade Muppet Show to an ongoing - assuming it's done well (which I believe it has).
Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #1
Woo hoo! I've been looking forward to this one. It's a new miniseries set in the Hellboyverse telling the story of a Victorian-era paranormal detective who was essentially a one-man proto-B.P.R.D. Grey has appeared in Hellboyverse stories before (apparently more times than I, or many other readers, realized; I might have to go back and reread all those damn comics again, damn it), but this is the first time he's gotten his own series. It's a pretty great story, about a series of gruesome murders, seemingly related to a curse brought on by the unearthing of the bones of some mysterious creature, found at the site of an ancient city whose existence defies everything we know about human development and history. Ben Stenbeck's art together with Dave Stewart's color create a beautiful, wonderfully atmospheric world for these characters to inhabit - the dark, smoggy, sinister, haunted world of 1879 London. I really enjoy the way many panels are devoted to establishing the scene, in a very cinematic way; they're just full of pictures of the weird, unnerving knick knacks sitting on people's shelves. It adds to that atmosphere I was talking about, besides being stylish and creative. There's an interesting subplot here, too - Grey is very uncomfortable with the nickname "Witchfinder," but he seems to hear it muttered under the breath wherever he goes. He also seems convinced it's the power of God that saves him from the evil beings he comes across, but is it really God's power that fills up that ancient sword with golden light? Very interesting! It should go without saying that I will be collecting the rest of this miniseries.
Star Wars: Invasion #1
I never got into the expanded universe novels set after Return of the Jedi which told of an invasion by an evil alien race, but I was rather curious about them, so when I saw that they were going to do a comic book series adaptation, I figured I'd give it a shot. This book is set on a world inhabited by peaceful humans - so peaceful that they're nearly defenseless when the invasion comes. But luckily the king is a smart, well-prepared veteran of the Battle of Hoth, his son has a connection with the Force he's not even aware of, and Luke Skywalker shows up to offer what help and advice he can. The story is a bit intriguing, but the narration is pretty melodramatic and corny, and the dialog isn't a lot better. Plus, the characters are all pretty much stereotypes. I might give it one more issue, just to see if it gets any better, but then again I might not.
Toy Story: Mysterious Stranger #2
Once again Rex makes a mistake which forces the whole gang of toys to go on a last minute adventure to fix something for Andy, and to ensure their true nature is not revealed. D'oh. In this issue, Hamm makes an interesting argument that I don't think has come up before: he wants to be able to talk to humans, and impart to them all the wisdom he's picked up over the years. He's disappointed by toys that just pretend to talk, but really just parrot back what they're told. He makes clever use of this concept to confuse and misdirect a security guard who nearly finds them at the school science fair. And he's not the only one; the other toys also make clever use of the other experiments to fight back. I didn't love this comic, but it's pretty cute, and I did enjoy the Bug's Life reference on the cover.
Uncanny X-Men #513
In order to follow the Utopia crossover storyline, and to witness the birth of the Dark X-Men, I foolishly bought a copy of Uncanny X-Men, which is currently being written by Matt Fraction, an author whose work I've decided multiple times that I don't enjoy. Unsurprisingly, I once again did not enjoy it here. I found the storytelling dull and uninspired, and I didn't buy that these characters would do and say the things they do and say here. Why is Emma so easily convinced to hop over to the dark side and leave her lover in the lurch (excuse the alliteration)? And why would Cloak and Dagger sign up with Osborn? I get the sense from what I've read about them that they're outlaws with hearts of gold. They just don't seem the type to fall for Osborn's bull. And Dark Beast? Really? Did we need to bring this character back? Sure, he's thematically appropriate, but... man. And why the hell is Cyclops so impressed by Emma and Osborn establishing a curfew? That's not exactly a genius strategic move; it's more of an obvious first step. Furthermore, what the hell kind of X-Man is he that he's willing to just sit around and wait while mutants are being declared the enemy of the state, and at least one of his friends has been thrown in jail? The old school X-Men would already have figured out where Hank was being held and would be on the way to springing him! Meanwhile, by the end the only thing Scott's finally been convinced to do, after watching defiant mutants get their asses kicked by his girlfriend and her new team, is talk to Norman Osborn. Talk? That's all you want to do? Gah!
Of course, all of this could be a complex trick. Maybe Emma's a double agent. Maybe Hank got himself captured on purpose to collect information. If so, I might have to take back some of the things I've said. But as of right now, this just seems ridiculous. Also, the Dark X-Men? Pretty lame team! First of all, some of them aren't even mutants! (UPDATE: Actually, I may have been wrong about this particular complaint. Apparently Namor is a mutant. I had no idea!) What kind of X-Men aren't mutants?! And second of all, most of them are pretty lame, B-string heroes/villains. Sure, Cloak, Emma, and Namor are pretty useful, but Mimic and Weapon Omega are jokes. And did I mention how I felt about Dark Beast? I do love the amusing, meta way Osborn explains the presence of "Wolverine," though: "Daken Akihiro is a strategic loaner from my Avengers. His Q numbers are astronomical and I want him to be the gateway brand between the two teams. Turns out people love Wolverine. Can't get enough of him. Who knew?"
On the one hand, I almost feel obligated to pick up the other issues of Uncanny X-Men so I can keep up with the Utopia storyline. But on the other hand... it's just not very good. Maybe I'll flip through them in the store to get the gist of what's going on, then put them back on the shelf.
USA Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
Time for another 70th anniversary one-shot special, and this one I was rather looking forward to, as it centers on The Destroyer, a character I've really fallen in love with thanks to the current miniseries I'm reading about him. But there are only two stories in this book: a rather melodramatic new tale written by John Arcudi, and a totally insane, almost completely nonsensical reprint story by Stan Lee from All Winners Comics #3, originally published in the winter of 1942. Both are a bit disappointing. Arcudi's story takes as its main character and narrator a German reporter named Hansen. He doesn't approve of the Nazis, but he loves his country and feels he must stick by it. Destroyer changes his mind by showing him what the Nazis were really doing in the concentration camps. The concept is pretty powerful, and I liked learning that Destroyer's striped pants are a reference to those worn by the prisoners of concentration camps, and thus a symbol and a warning. But overall the story is just over-narrated, overdone, preachy, contrived, and just not that interesting. Steve Ellis' art is also rather overdone, and his figure work is a bit clumsy.
Stan Lee's story, meanwhile, is just pure crazy. The title page shows The Destroyer facing off against some kind of Nazi dragon with a unibrow, which I guess is supposed to be a metaphorical depiction of a character named Doctor Dragon who actually does appear in the story. We open with Hitler, Doctor Dragon, and various other high up Nazis speaking in outrageous German accents, raging about how irritating the English airforce is and how it must be destroyed. Their plan to do so? Build a chunnel and attack them that way! Next The Destroyer mistakenly kills an innocent old man while taking out a supply train, but before the old dude dies, he reveals the secret chunnel plan. There's a weird interlude where Destroyer tries to live undercover in a German apartment building for a while, but is found out by some rather reluctant Nazi officers. "He looks like he iss strong! Ve might haff trouble!...Oh, vy didn't I become a plumber like I vanted to instead of a German gee-man?" Um... wow. Destroyer interrogates the officers and gets some essential information out of them - or at least, that's what the narration box claims. We don't see it actually happen. Then suddenly another Nazi comes out of nowhere with a whip, but The Destroyer is somehow able to get into his Destroyer costume and become really huge in between panels, even while the guy with the whip is holding onto him, and his ability to inexplicably change sizes and clothes really quickly (understandably) scares the crap out of the guy. Next Destroyer blows up a Nazi airplane factory and flies to England to tell them about the chunnel, all in about half a page. The British won't believe him, and in fact intend to hold him against his will, but do mention that his fiancee has been captured by the Nazis. So he escapes them and swims the channel (again, all in about half a page), frees the girl (who somehow has enough strength left in her, even after being held in a concentration camp for who knows how long, to actually leap over a barbed wire fence), blows up half the camp, and then leaves the woman in the German countryside to fend for herself while he goes to finally blow up the chunnel. Doctor Dragon defeats him by hitting him on the back of the head with his walking stick, but then luckily fails to tie up Destroyer very well at all; within a panel, he's already free again. ("What luck! My bonds are loose!") Then it turns out that somebody apparently filled the chunnel with dynamite and left the switch lying around? I have no idea what that's about. Needless to say, the Destroyer hits the switch and blows up the whole thing. He informs the British over radio: "This is The Destroyer in Nazi Germany! I've just blown up the tunnel! Take charge!" The response? "Righto!" And that's that.
Like I said, pure madness. But I kind of like the wild glee with which its written - the bold disregard for realism, logic, and plot. It's funny, and action packed! Anyway, I definitely prefer it to the other story in the book.