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Saturday, October 24, 2009 04:12 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Although the strips themselves were uneven, Wednesday Comics was a wonderful experiment and a great format in which to deliver comics. I hope they do something similar again in the future.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mark Millar (Not), Monsters (Not), Monsters Inc. (Not), Muppets (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Pixar (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Friday, October 16, 2009 04:38 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post has really gotten out of control lately. It takes so long to write that I've started to look at it as a chore, and I've purposefully avoided working on it, which doesn't make sense; this is supposed to be something I'm writing for myself, for fun, on my own blog! And when I do get it done, it's so long that even I don't want to read it. For now I'm going to stick with it, but try to keep my reviews as short as I possibly can. If it remains a chore, I might drop it altogether.

This post covers new releases from the week of 9/16, plus a back-issue I missed. Beware spoilers!

Back-issues and old data
Dark Wolverine #77
The first story arc of Dark Wolverine ends with a kind of stalemate. But Daken has gained allies and is owed favors. Clever guy. Clever book.
Thumbs Up

New releases
Batman and Robin #4
Scarlet is seriously creepy. She and the new Red Hood are taking a violent but effective approach to crime-fighting. But who is Oberon Sexton, and who is the Flamingo? Hmm.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #3
Flash: "Whoever did this... crossed one hell of a line." I couldn't have said it better myself, Barry! The new Firestorm is seriously lame, and there's lots of corny dialog and melodrama in this issue. But it's good to see the Indigo Lanterns finally showing up and explaining how to defeat the Black Lanterns. It feels satisfyingly right that to counter the absence of light you'd need to combine the whole light spectrum to make White.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America: Reborn #3
More emotionally effective time-shifting scenes with Steve. He figures out a clever way to send a message to the present that reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Bucky makes a bad-ass escape, Sharon makes another in a long line of really bad choices, and then there's a really effective and creepy ending.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers #9
A surprisingly moving and effective issue focusing on Ares' relationship with his son, and his reaction to discovering that the kid is essentially working with his enemies. Also features a shocking sequence with the Sentry, and another amusing Osborn freakout.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: M.O.D.O.K. - Reign Delay #1
A comedic one-shot in which M.O.D.O.K. is tricked by Norman Osborn into returning to his hometown of Erie, PA, where he comes face to face with what a desperate & pathetic a loser he used to be - and still is. It's only when he meets a hero even more desperate & pathetic than he is that he stumbles on success. The book relies on shame and the incompetence of its main character to generate humor, and that's my least favorite type of comedy. Still, the book has its moments.
Thumbs Sideways

Dark Wolverine #78
This issue reminds us that Daken and Norman Osborn are not nice guys. In fact, they're both extremely clever and manipulative scum bags who aren't afraid to kill innocent people to get what they want. Fun!
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Romulans - Schism #1
Klingon sex is scary. I've enjoyed Byrne's other books in this storyline, but I'm having a hard time getting into this one. Maybe it'll get better.
Thumbs Sideways

Ultimate Armor Wars #1
I was expecting a lot from a new Warren Ellis book set in the Ultimate universe, so naturally I was a bit disappointed in this rather dull story about Tony getting robbed and saving a girl. But it does have a classic Ellis-style line of dialog: "I'm dying of super-powers."
Thumbs Sideways

Wednesday Comics #11
Batman - More clumsy dialog and hard-to-believe emotional reactions from Batman and our villainess. Is her heart made of ice or gold? Azzarello can't seem to decide. And I can't shake the feeling this is a mediocre crime noir story that shouldn't have Batman in it at all.

Kamandi - Our happy ending is interrupted by a deus ex tragedy. Argh! That sucks.

Superman - Some fun action and an exciting ending, but the dialog, though occasionally effective, is mostly just a load of clumsy exposition.

Deadman - The other shoe finally drops and what's really going on is at last revealed. Only thing is, everything seems to be resolved, so I'm not sure what's left for the last issue.

Green Lantern - Giant space fight! I don't really get why the narration says, "They came, they saw-" and then never finishes the phrase. But otherwise, fun.

Metamorpho - Another big reveal/happy ending that seems to leave little room for another issue's worth of doings. Cool art, some fun action, but not as exciting as one might hope.

Teen Titans - I believe I've read comics that sucked worse than this one, but I can't really think of any right now.

Strange Adventures - A slightly disappointing entry in an otherwise great strip; basically this episode just repeats and slightly augments the ending of the last episode. Still, it's pretty fun and the art is great, so...

Supergirl - Supergirl sucks at nonverbal communication, and the aliens shoot her. Luckily, the superpets are coming to save the day. I remain unable to get into this strip. It is cutesy and dull.

Metal Men - A terrible sacrifice is made by the few for the good of the many! It's actually slightly moving. Slightly.

Wonder Woman - Another cluttered and confused episode of this strip. Well, at least it's consistent. All the gleeful bondage harks back to the rather embarrassing origins of this character. But hey, since when did the lasso make you a slave? I thought it just made you tell the truth.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - Finally, a real action scene! Unfortunately, it's a pretty clumsy action scene, with more unbelievable back and forth between Rock and the Nazi Captain. Sigh.

Flash - A surreal, powerful, dramatic climax with more unique and imaginative panel layout - this time the strip spirals down toward a point in the bottom right corner. I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but it's an interesting, emotionally effective story with well written dialog, so I'm okay with it.

The Demon and Catwoman - Exciting magical action! The Demon even breathes flame. But Catwoman's jokes at the end fall a bit flat.

Hawkman - Aquaman sets a shark and an octopus on a T. Rex! That might be the coolest thing I've ever seen Aquaman do. Awesome!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Iron Man (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Byrne (Not), M.O.D.O.K. (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Thursday, October 1, 2009 12:12 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kamandi - Triumph for our heroes! More great art.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawkman - It's all Hawkman fighting a T. Rex this week, and you know that's good comics, especially when he starts taunting the thing about how it can't touch its own nose.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Hellboy (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Robin Hood (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Monday, September 21, 2009 11:47 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 9/2. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Titans - Yep. Still sucks.

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

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

Metal Men - I still don't care.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawkman - This episode establishes that giant space battles are still going on elsewhere, and so nobody is available to help Hawkman fight off dinosaurs on Dinosaur Island - except Aquaman. D'oh! This strip has really surprised me. I hated the first four or five episodes, but now it's really picked up and is a lot more fun.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hulk (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Kevin Smith (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Muppets (Not), Pixar (Not), Predator (Not), Scalped (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Friday, August 28, 2009 11:57 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wolverine: Weapon X #4
Heh. I like how the dude in the opening gets fired. He asks for a severance package. "Ummm... is this a blindfold and a cigarette?" Poor bastard. I also really enjoy Logan's phone conversation with Maverick, where it turns out Logan is already way ahead of him. I approve of Logan's plan to just kill everybody. The way he attacks the Chief Executive is truly fantastic - driving headlong at the limo on his bike, and then leaping through the windshield with his claws out. Classic! It's nice that even the insane Wolverine and the scumbag from Blackguard wordlessly agree that it's going to far to fight in front of a school bus full of kids. Oh and hey, they can shoot those laser claws! That's a handy feature. Gotta love Logan's use of the gas pump combined with a spark from his claws to make a flame thrower. Artist Ron Garney does some great work in here; I particularly like the two-page splash of Wolverine's fight with the top Blackguard agent, where the battle is fractured into moments described by a collection of red-backed squares. I wish I'd read the particular Faulkner novel they talk about, though, so I would understand better what Aaron is trying to do by referencing it. Overall I enjoyed the epic fight between Wolverine and the Blackguard agent, but the way it ends is a little disappointing. I mean, it seems pretty clear the agent is supposed to be dead, but how can you really kill somebody with a healing factor just by stabbing him? Don't you have to do something pretty extreme, perhaps involving a wood chipper? Besides that, it's a good issue.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Fables (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Gravel (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Monsters Inc. (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Pixar (Not), Punisher (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009 05:30 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 8/12. 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.

Adventure Comics #1
Conner Kent is trying to get back into the swing of being alive by doing all the things Superman did - living with the Kents, going to Smallville High, joining a team of superheroes, and helping anyone who needs it. But some evil entity is already after him, presumably with the plan of making him dead all over again. And the final page of the comic reveals there's a lot more to Conner Kent than there at first appeared. It seems he's going to try to replicate the deeds of both of his "fathers." Very interesting! This is one of my favorite last page surprise reveals in a while. It really turns both the character and the story on their heads and opens up a whole new series of possibilities for the future. I'm impressed!

The backup story, also by Geoff Johns, focuses on the mentally disturbed Starman, who's trying to keep the various threads of his mind together long enough to complete some final mission for the Legion, but what that mission is isn't entirely clear. We get a few intriguing glimpses of the future to come, but they're mostly just puzzling fragments. I can't say I'm a huge fan of crazy Starman, but I'll probably stick with this book, for the main story if nothing else, and we'll see how it goes.
Thumbs Up

B.P.R.D.: 1947 #2
Man am I loving this one! I always love stories about people crossing over into ghostly other worlds, and the fact that it's Mike Mignola and Joshua Dysart's words and Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon's drawings telling the story just makes it that much better. The drama, tension, and sense of threatening danger build as we cut back and forth between Simon and his friends. And I love the way Mignola handles witches in his universe - dancing with goats and giant toads. Simon is in trouble, but it looks like he might have gotten Konig in trouble, too. Good stuff. In the back of the book is a preview for the release of a trade collection of Guy Davis' The Marquis. It's hard to get a real feel for it from just these four enigmatic pages, but it certainly looks eerie and intriguing. I might have to check it out.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #2
I've already gone back and forth a few times on the whole Blackest Night thing, but now I feel pretty certain I'm just going to drop it. It's just ridiculous and cheesy and not very good. Sure, the idea of Deadman coming back to life is kind of interesting, as is the idea of an evil Aquaman going around making sharks eat people. The Spectre going bad is also fascinating, and I like the use of the "Flash Fact" thing. But those ideas aren't enough to make up for the general lameness. I've also noticed an unfortunate consequence of bringing characters back to life who have been dead for a long time: the guys who die and stay dead in comic books tend to be the expendable guys that nobody really cares about, and that nobody remembers. I had to look up Don Hall and Hank Hall online to figure out who they were.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the prose piece in the back from The Book of the Black. It's well written and uses metaphor and everything. I also like the preview of Superman: Secret Origin #1 in the very back. But it's done by the dynamite team of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, so it was almost bound to be good. Just in this preview you get to see the historic first meeting of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor (it involves Kryptonite!), and Clark runs to save Lana from a tornado. Good stuff.
Thumbs Sideways

Blackest Night: Batman #1
How did I talk myself into buying the first issue of a Blackest Night spin-off miniseries written by Peter J. Tomasi? Sigh. I guess the word "Batman" was enough to pull me in. As one might expect, it is Not Good. Tomasi doesn't handle Damian or the relationship between him, Dick, and Bruce with anywhere near the subtlety and power of Grant Morrison. We get to see a bunch of villains come back to life, but they must be rather obscure second- or third-stringers because I recognized only one of them. Blackest Night is really over-the-top in many ways, but bringing the zombie Flying Graysons into it might be the most ridiculous thing yet. I'm definitely dropping this one.
Thumbs Down

Captain America: Theater of War - To Soldier On #1
I've been surprised at the high quality of most of these Captain America: Theater of War one-shots, but this might be the best one yet. Cap isn't even the main character here; instead, we focus on a regular soldier in the Iraq War, trying to make it through a tough situation with a bunch of his buddies. We see Cap from a different perspective: to the grunts he's an impossible, superhuman hero, but also a rather obtuse superior officer whose decisions sometimes irritate his men and put them in danger. Ultimately this is a story about what happens to regular people during and in the aftermath of warfare. It's powerful, insightful, and emotionally effective.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Escape #4
I think I'm done with this series. It just keeps being odd and surreal and repetitive and not really going anywhere.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #5
Yay, Hellboy's back! Unfortunately for him, the Queen of witches is after him. In his desperation to save Alice from poison, Hellboy is tricked into making what could be some really dangerous mistakes. He frees a fly (probably a powerful demon) from its prison, and accepts the help of Morgan Le Fay. There's a really fantastic scene where the Queen of witches demands a terrible crime in worship of her, and says she will become a goddess of war. I love the regal, old timey, magical speeches she makes. And Duncan Fegredo's art, in combination with Dave Stewart's colors, is of course absolutely beautiful.

In the back is a very odd story indeed called "The MonsterMen in O Sinner Beneath Us!" It's written and drawn by Gary Gianni. I assume The MonsterMen are characters from some kind of ongoing series, but I don't know anything about them. The story itself is about a man in a suit and a knight's helmet, and a young woman trying to exorcise the ghost of a young girl from a house. In the process, they meet an old friend who turns out to have a terrible and powerful artifact that causes some trouble. I'm not sure how I feel about this story. There are some cool ideas, but overall it feels a bit confused and hurried. It looks like this is the first part of a two part story, so we'll see how it finishes up in the next issue.
Thumbs Up

The Incredible Hercules #132
I think it's time I gave up on this series again, too. It's not that it's bad, it's just not that good. The opening is pretty clever - it's a handful of panels quickly explaining Thor's origin, accompanied by sarcastic commentary by Hercules. Inside, Herc is given the task of hiding Zeus, but almost immediately screws up and gets the two of them embroiled in a dangerous adventure. There are some neat ideas, and the usual amusing sound effect words, but overall I'm just not impressed. Maybe it's time to put Greg Pak on my list of authors to be avoided. It's too bad, because I know he can be really good sometimes. It's just that most of the time he's really just mediocre.
Thumbs Sideways

Marvel Comics #1: 70th Anniversary Edition
This is one of the stranger of the 70th anniversary one-shots. I'm pretty sure this one is all reprints of old Golden Age stories - it might even be an exact reprint of the actual original Marvel Comics #1 - except that the art and coloring appears to have been cleaned up and redone so everything's a bit sleeker and prettier. There's a very odd black and white comic strip on the first page (which is not particularly funny), then we get the origin of the Human Torch, which is a rather strange story when you get right down to it. Despite being encased in a concrete block for most of his life, the Torch is surprisingly compassionate and knowledgeable; he immediately recognizes a racketeer at work when he sees one, and resolves to defeat him. It's interesting that Dr. Horton, the Torch's creator, isn't all that good himself; he too is touched by greed. The Torch is the only really good man in the story (despite the fact that he's not a man at all), and he spends the great majority of it being maligned, manipulated, and misunderstood. It's a pretty complex and well put together story for the Golden Age, although it certainly does have a bit of that Golden Age weirdness to it.

Next up is the story of The Angel. This character I don't know all that much about, so it was cool to read what's essentially his origin story. Interestingly, The Angel is really more like an early version of The Punisher than anything else. When he learns there's a group of racketeers called The Six Big Men controlling the city, he puts their names on a list and kills them off one by one. It's pretty brutal! Of course, it's also a bit silly and clumsily plotted, and the story is hurriedly wrapped up by squashing the conclusion into the last couple of panels; the final panel barely has enough space for a drawing of The Angel in it, as the rest of it is filled with a dialog balloon that's all exposition tying up the remaining loose ends.

Next up is a story I'd already seen reprinted in another recent special: the origin of The Sub-Mariner. I've already complained about how clumsy and unbelievable this story is. But this version of the story has an extra bit at the end that shows Namor and his cousin heading out to begin in earnest their war against the humans. It mostly involves Namor smashing things up and chucking people around while trying to keep his cousin safe. It's pretty fun, and the art throughout is unique and fascinating.

The next story in the book is arguably the worst. It's "The Masked Rider," and it reads like it was written by a rather confused child with a learning disability who was brought up on bad Western movies. There's the usual evil land baron unfairly running the other ranchers out of town, but one man resolves to do something about it, so he escapes from prison by pretending he's sick, puts a mask on, tames a wild horse, and comes back with a gun and starts beating up the bad guys, with the help of the other townspeople. When the bad guys see him, they say intelligent things like, "Yer masked!"

Nearly as silly as "The Masked Raider" is "Jungle Terror," which sees a young kid and an older man resolve to fly out to the Amazon and try to find the kid's uncle, a professor who went out there looking for diamonds and then went missing. After flying all the way to the Amazon from Florida, they suddenly have plane trouble: "Oh-oh! Something's wrong! Motor's missing!!" Uh... only now do you notice there's a motor missing?? Anyway, they crash and are captured by savages, but eventually make it out alive with a diamond. The art is very odd, and the people's faces sometimes take on weirdly demonic expressions, possibly thanks to the odd way their eyes are drawn. The writing is, as you might have already guessed, clumsy, stereotypical, and silly.

Speaking of bad writing, next up is a short prose story "About The Auto Race Tracks" called "Burning Rubber" by Raymond Gill. It's about a guy who's testing an experimental engine in a really dangerous manner, but his concerned girlfriend saves him and helps him out. He misunderstands and is a jerk to her at first, but then all is well. It's quite silly.

Surprisingly, one of the best stories in the book is "Adventures of Ka-Zar the Great," the origin story of a Tarzan-type character called Ka-Zar. His parents' plane crashes in the jungle when he's a boy and he grows up with the animals, making them his friends and learning to communicate with them. It's reasonably well written, and the art is dramatic and effective.
Thumbs Sideways

Marvel Divas #2
I love that Doctor Voodoo sent a zombie to Monica with flowers, like a moaning telegram. I also rather enjoy the depiction of Doctor Strange as a slightly arrogant rock star. This comic seems to have an oddly large number of thought bubbles in it, but not in an annoying way. It's rather touching that the Night Nurse tells Angelica her real name. It's funny that Felicia tries to get a loan from a bank that she robbed. Angelica's predicament and the way she's responding to it is realistic and moving. And Patsy now has a terrible choice to make. This is really a neat book: funny, touching, clever.
Thumbs Up

The Marvels Project #1
A preview of the opening section of this book has been in the back of a lot of Marvel comics lately. I was a little disappointed by that preview for whatever reason, but I knew I'd get the comic anyway because I was fascinated by the premise. And I'm glad I did because it's really living up to my expectations so far. I even liked the opening better reading it in context. It's cool that Brubaker was able to work the Two-Gun Kid into this story, and thus link the distant past of the Marvel Universe to its origins, and its future. I love the glimpse of the secret meeting with the President where the race to create the first superhuman is being orchestrated. Here it comes out that the Human Torch is secretly a government funded project. Meanwhile, the Nazis are at work on their own superhuman, and are killing Namor's people as part of their experiments. And guess who's in charge of that German program? A scientist named Erskine who wants to defect! But the Germans didn't count on Namor's rage or his vengeance. The Human Torch's origin story, which I'd just read in Marvel Comics #1, is retold here in a much smarter, realistic, and dramatic manner. Nick Fury and his pal Red are pulled in to help Erskine defect, and the man who will call himself The Angel finds his purpose fighting looters in the confusion that reigns after the Human Torch escapes his prison and mistakenly burns the city. Brubaker is polishing up all these old stories, giving them vibrant new life, and brilliantly weaving them all together into a new tale: the rise of the Marvels. If it continues to be as good as this first issue, this will be a truly excellent miniseries.
Thumbs Up

Red Robin #3
Suddenly the artist on this title (Ramon Bachs) is really reminding me of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Huh. Anyway, I've been impressed with this series so far, but this issue is kind of mediocre. There's another fun assassination sequence, but the dialog is getting a little weak and melodramatic, and the story is getting a bit dull. I might hang in there for at least one more issue, but... then again, maybe not.
Thumbs Sideways

Toy Story: Mysterious Stranger #4
The final issue of Boom!'s Toy Story miniseries is sadly the weakest. Once again it plays with the idea of the toys revealing the fact that they can talk to humans, but the motive behind revealing it is rather nonsensical, and the argument against revealing it is pretty weak. It seems odd that the toys would frequently think about revealing their secret to humans; surely a toy would have let the cat out of the bag by now if it's something they consider often. On the other hand, if it is a huge taboo, why would they think about breaking it just because one toy was briefly removed from the premises? And why, if Andy knew the toys could talk, would he no longer be able to pretend they were something other than themselves? When kids play with their friends they constantly pretend they're someone else, despite what Woody says. It's just a clumsy story, and not nearly as interesting or effective as some of the others have been.
Thumbs Sideways

Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1
Ever since Jeph Loeb took over Marvel's Ultimate universe and made it really, really dumb and bad, I've been avoiding the titles set there. But seeing as how they're relaunching it now and putting it in the hands of more talented writers, I thought I'd give it another shot. I still wasn't expecting much, however, so when this book, with writing by Mark Millar and art by Carlos Pacheco, turned out to be really awesome, I was pretty startled. Apparently during the events of Loeb's Ultimatum there was a big flood. Luckily I didn't need to know much about any of that to pick up the thread of what was going on. Cap and Hawkeye are out on a mission doing ridiculously awesome and bad-ass things when they run into the Ultimate universe version of the Red Skull. The Skull reveals a horrible truth to Cap that leads to him going rogue and Hawkeye asking Nick Fury to come back to help capture him. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is drunk in some crazy sex club. It's a dramatic, funny, exciting start to the new series, and I'll definitely be tuning in next month for part two.
Thumbs Up

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1
Brian Michael Bendis is in charge of Spider-Man's new Ultimate title, and he's put together a fine first outing. I love the hilarious opening that features Peter Parker facing the overwhelming and horrific task of working at a fast food restaurant. Then an intriguing new hero appears on the scene - but is he really a good guy? He looks kind of like the Hood, if you ask me. Pete's relationship with Gwen Stacy is getting all hot and heavy; something bad happened to Johnny Storm; and the Kingpin is back, but a new villain shows up (is it Ultimate Electro?) and does something pretty stunning and awesome to him. It's an incredibly fun and action-packed first issue of what looks likely to be an exciting new comic. Which actually kind of pisses me off, because it's I really don't need a new series to collect.
Thumbs Up

Uncanny X-Men #514
Hey, Psylocke is back. And boy does she look stunning in that "wetsuit." Sadly Norm's Avengers and Emma's X-Men don't get to finish their fight. We're given a slightly better explanation for why Cloak and Dagger joined Emma's X-Men, which is nice. Dani Moonstar shows up in Vegas to make a deal with somebody, but I'm not sure who. I feel like maybe I'm supposed to know what's going on there from the clues I've been given, but I'm hoping I'm wrong, because I have no idea. It's good to see the real Wolverine show up and it's good to know Scott has sent him and some others on a mission to retrieve their people from prison (I was wondering when he was going to get to that). As for the last page, I have no idea what's going on there. I don't know who any of those people are or where they're going. And I'm pretty certain I'm supposed to know. Sigh.

I think it's time to drop this one again. I started collecting it again because of the whole Utopia thing, but I still really don't like Matt Fraction's very much, and I just don't care about Utopia anymore.
Thumbs Sideways

Wednesday Comics #6
Batman - Batman fights a guy! I'm not entirely sure who or why. Is he the assassin from before? I guess. Anyway, the art's good.

Kamandi - Speaking of good art, the art on this title continues to be amazingly beautiful. And the story is a fun and engaging adventure tale.

Superman - Looks like we're done watching Superman brood and something is actually going to happen now, as the buddies of the alien he beat up in the first issue seem to have shown up looking for revenge. Love the art on this one, too.

Deadman - Deadman has apparently died again, but at least he also got to meet some pretty ladies.

Green Lantern - We finally learn what Hal did to get himself kicked out of the astronaut program, and we get to see what part Dill played in it all. Interesting stuff. And now it looks like the flashback is over and we're going to get back into the action in the present. Fun.

Metamorpho - I just can't get a handle on this strip. Gaiman seems intent on trying every crazy idea he can think of with it. This time there's a fight with a snake on a ladder, the Metamorpho Fans of America intrude again, and then the rest of the strip is a Metamorpho-ized version of Snakes and Ladders. I appreciate the creativity on display here, but at the same time... it's just really weird.

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

Strange Adventures - Things take a really fascinating turn in this week's issue of this strip, as we find that Adam has returned to Earth, and to his own body - that of an old professor. Unable to find the chart of the Zeta-Beam's trajectory, he must remain on his home planet and move forward with his expedition to Machu Picchu. There are some fantastic images from the archaeological dig, and Adam begins to lose all sense of reality. Have all his adventures on Rann been a dream, and this is the dull reality? Or is his life on Earth the dream, and Rann the truth? Wonderful ideas + stunning imagery = great comics.

Supergirl - I actually rather like the latest episode of this strip, as it features an amusing modern interpretation of Aquaman (or is that Aqualad?). He's incredibly busy, dealing with one problem after another in the seas all over the Earth. He uses odd combinations of modern slang, and shells like cell phones (shell phones?).

Metal Men - I'm still not all that interested in this strip, but the addition of an evil giant robot does make it at least a little more attractive.

Wonder Woman - There are a couple of interesting things in this strip: a cool story about an ancient sword known as "The Red Death," and the introduction of the modern version of WW's buddy Etta, who gets to fight monsters with a lollipop - although that turns out to be a hallucination brought on by drugs, apparently. Despite these few interesting things, however, this strip continues to be cluttered, confused, and rather silly.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - Hey, it looks like something is finally about to happen in this strip! In a rather surprising turn of events, Rock gets cut free by a traitor! Maybe he can beat up some Nazis next time. Assuming he's up to it.

Flash Comics and Gorilla Grodd - Yes, Iris West has been replaced by Gorilla Grodd! That's a nice surprise. Flash escapes from the horrific trap he was thrown into at the end of last issue via a crazy awesome use of his super powers, then dashes back to meet up with two more Flashes, one of whom is only interested in making his dinner date. Meanwhile, Gorilla Grodd seems to be telling us the fascinating origin story of its titular character. Cool stuff!

The Demon and Catwoman - I thought this issue would be the big fight between the Demon and the witch, but it's just more backstory explaining their relationship. Thankfully it's pretty interesting backstory, and well illustrated.

Hawkman - I'm pleased to say that this continues to not suck, although it looks like it might be about to turn into Lost, which is a little disturbing.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), Hellboy (Not), Mark Millar (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Pixar (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Toy Story (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Monday, August 24, 2009 08:33 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 8/5. 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.

All Winners Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
"All Winners" - This first story (a new one by Karl Kesel with art by Steve Uy) takes a look at an interesting period in the history of the Marvel Universe. It's immediately after WWII and the All Winners Squad is still busy fighting threats to America. The Squad features the Human Torch and Toro, Captain America and Bucky, Miss America and Whizzer, and Namor. Except this Cap and Bucky are replacements for the now lost originals, and the new Cap, Jeff Mace, is having a hard time filling Steve Rogers' shoes. This story, like a lot of these special one-shots, once again stresses the fact that Marvel comic books exist in this world, too, but here they're sensationalized retellings of real events. Amusingly, Namor is not happy with the way he is portrayed in them. The tale itself offers a rather complex and intriguing portrait of these characters and takes them through a tough, emotional battle with literal ghosts out of their past. Even the villains are characterized as full, vaguely sympathetic human beings, with their own complex emotions and problems, and a tragic and moving story. It is rather wordy, and gets a bit corny at times, but seeing Namor give the new Cap his grudging respect is very powerful, and it's also great that we get a glimpse at the future, in the form of the plans of the Baxter Building lying on the table at the end.

"Winners All" - This is a reprint of an utterly ridiculous short text story by Stan Lee about what The Destroyer and The Whizzer did to earn their All Winners awards and get added to the All Winners team. It's typical Golden Age Stan Lee stuff: corny, silly, and really pretty bad.

"Captain America: The Four Trials of Justice" - Speaking of corny and silly, this reprint story sees Cap and Bucky randomly stumbling upon a group of Nazis who've secretly invaded America, taken over a resort, kidnapped all the people there, and are now trying to crush their freedoms, defined by the story as freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of worship, and freedom of speech. The plot is full of awkward, painful contrivances all designed to create situations wherein Cap and Bucky can defend these various freedoms. It's amusing and entertaining in its own special, Golden Age way, but also really quite ridiculous.
Thumbs Sideways

The Amazing Spider-Man #601
Seeing as how I rather enjoyed Amazing Spider-Man #600, and seeing as how this issue has a cute picture of MJ on the cover, and the main story is written by Mark Waid, I decided to pick it up. Mario Alberti provides the art for the main story, and does quite a nice job, but the tale itself is just okay. In the aftermath of the wild wedding party, Pete finds he's slept with his roommate (which of course ruins their relationship), but has also made plans with MJ, the details of which he can no longer remember. Meanwhile, Spider-Man has his own problems to take care of. It's a cute little story, but just not interesting enough to really grab me. The backup story is by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Joe Quesada himself. It's a rather moving and effective tale wherein Jessica Jones is finally able to explain to Peter Parker how much he meant to her growing up, and he finally understands. He also inspires her once again, perhaps into returning to the superhero life. The way Quesada draws Spider-Man's face - with the mask clinging to all Pete's facial features - is probably more realistic than the way it's usually drawn, but it looks really weird. Anyway, this is a time when I definitely enjoyed the backup feature more than the main feature, but I didn't love either enough to continue collecting this book.
Thumbs Sideways

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #27
Heh. I like the running gag of everybody confusing the word "spike" for the name "Spike." It's interesting to see what Oz has been up to, and how he's been managing his wolfiness. It's also funny seeing how Willow and him deal with meeting each other again after all this time. And I love how uncomfortable Giles is with the baby. It says, "GA!" to him and he responds, "Yes, hello, baby." I'm not sure how I feel about the overarching plot, though. I'm not really a fan of the idea of Willow and the Slayers all giving up their magic. I mean, magic is cool! It's through magic that they're able to effectively fight evil. How is it going to help anybody if the good guys can't use magic anymore?
Thumbs Up

Captain America Reborn #2
Poor Steve is still unstuck in time. I love the two-page splash of him leaping full-out through the shrapnel. It's interesting learning more about how Steve is experiencing this - that he's really a passenger in his own mind, unless he chooses to leap to the surface and take control. Although it's still a mystery exactly how much control he has. Is he able to influence what part of his life he jumps to next? He does manage to get to Erskine to ask him about time travel, but what the Doctor tells him just confirms for him that he can't take the chance of changing any of the events he's experiencing, for fear it will shatter the timeline. We get a sense of the real agony and frustration he must be feeling, having to watch over again the terribly tragedies of his life without being able to do anything about them. Meanwhile, there's an amusing interlude where Pym and Reed bicker mildly; Osborn offers Sin and Crossbones a job, and mentions that Red Skull was planning on moving his mind into Steven's body, which makes perfect sense; and then Osborn reveals to the world the (partial) truth about Sharon Carter's part in Steve's death, like the scumbag he is. I definitely enjoyed this issue more than the first one. It's exciting, intriguing, disturbing, and moving.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Zodiac #2
There's a really fascinating and funny scene in Johnny's hospital room where Pym and Ronin argue with each other about various things, including the meaning of the attack on Johnny, and the identity of the likely perpetrator. There's a surprisingly filthy and explicit sex scene between Zodiac and Death Reaper, followed by a stunning, brutal, and dramatic further attack on Johnny and his friends. Sue doesn't take it well. Our H.A.M.M.E.R. forensics operative is actually pretty close to figuring out what's really going on with these crimes, but Osborn isn't buying it and furthermore isn't even really interested. He thinks he's got everything under control and has a pretty good bead on things - until Galactus suddenly shows up!! Or does he? I like the shock on the clown's face when he wonders for a moment if Zodiac could possibly have even Galactus on his team. But that, and the giant robot attacking, is all just a diversion so Zodiac and friends can do something else, something which I can only imagine is even more horrific than what they've already done. Good times.

Still loving this series. Brilliant writing from Joe Casey, surprising and creative plot, and great art from Nathan Fox and colorist Jose Villarrubia.
Thumbs Up

Destroyer #5
It looks like Keene is finally going to go out of the world for good, but he manages to fight back even death itself, in the form of four skull-headed reapers. After wiping the floor with them, he says, "Don't bring four next time... bring ten." So bad-ass! In fact, he's done such a good job fighting back death, he seems to have made himself a little better. He's also succeeded in his other goal: bringing Turret back to the superhero life. But he's not Turret anymore: he's the new Destroyer. And a bad-ass Destroyer at that! His wife and the rest of his family are at peace with this decision, but they're still hoping the next generation won't be quite so good at fighting evil.

This is a strong, moving, warm, wryly funny conclusion to a truly fantastic miniseries.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #4
I'm a bit surprised the girl's still on the Human Flame's side after everything that's happened, but there you go. It's hilarious that Immortus has something called a Skelecopter. I already knew the Flame was really beyond the pale, but I was still slightly taken aback when he stabbed Miss Army Knife in the eyes with her own scissors. The rest of Immortus' army go out in equally gruesome and shocking ways. And then they all crash a monorail into an amusement park! It's horrific and awful... and totally fantastic. The ending is even better, as the Human Flame unwisely steps into a vault at S.T.A.R. labs, assuming it will contain something valuable and useful, only to find himself face to face with a terrible beast. "What the hell is that?" he asks. "That is a 26-dimensional hypergriffin," the title at the bottom of the page answers. Awesome. Can't wait till next issue! This series is so brilliant and hilarious and wrong.

In the back is a preview of the upcoming Magog miniseries that no one wanted. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't look very interesting. Also, I think they spelled the author's name wrong. I'm pretty sure it's "Keith" and not "Kieth."
Thumbs Up

Frankenstein's Womb
This rather odd black and white graphic novella, written by Warren Ellis for Apparat, opens in a vaguely similar way to the film Bride of Frankenstein. We meet Mary Wollestonecraft Godwin and her husband-to-be Percy Bysshe Shelley on their way to meet Lord Byron, accompanied by Mary's stepsister, Claire. Ellis' Shelley is a clever, sarcastic, funny, foul-mouthed bastard. During their journey, they come upon the supposedly haunted Castle Frankenstein and Mary decides she must go inside and take a quick look. Inside she has a very strange experience: she meets her own Creature, and he takes her on a tour, not just of the castle, but also of his life, her life, and the future that lies beyond both of their lives. The sense is that Mary's creation of Frankenstein, and Frankenstein's monster, is an act of destiny which brings about the birth of the future world. It's a bit corny and pretentious, frankly, but also eerie and touching and cleverly written. Some of the things Ellis is saying in here remind me very strongly of things Alan Moore says in From Hell. From Hell is definitely the better book, but this one is also interesting and effective in its own way.
Thumbs Sideways

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #1
At long last, Jason Aaron's new miniseries, which will supposedly bring his run on Ghost Rider to a big, fiery conclusion, has begun. The opening, which I'd read before as a preview in the back of another Marvel comic, is intriguing and well done. The idea of a breeding program to create the next Antichrist is always fun. I particularly enjoy the list of ideal parents for this enterprise: "prostitutes, sexual deviants, serial killers, psychopaths, cannibals, CEOs." The Daimon Hellstrom depicted here is quite a bit different, both visually and in terms of character, than the one I've seen recently in New Avengers and Marvel Divas, but he's also a fascinating guy. I also once again really enjoyed the scene where Johnny and the Caretaker raid the new age gift shop looking for answers. One of Zadkiel's men ends up being surprisingly talkative, and reveals some of the details of the angel's plans: wait to achieve omnipotence, then erase the Ghost Riders from existence, and thwart the biblical prophecies. The only thing standing between him and this goal is the Antichrist. Only the Antichrist can save the world from an evil angel! What a fantastic twist. And another funny sequence: when Johnny and the Caretaker check the places they think the most evil person on Earth would be most likely to go, and those places include Vegas, Hollywood, D.C., and Wall Street. Naturally the Antichrist turns out to be an investment banker going by the name Satan ("Actually, that's pronounced Shuh-tan. It's Czechoslovakian"). Ha! The ending is quite exciting: a trio of familiar Ghost Rider enemies team up to go after him again. It's hilarious seeing The Orb's medical chart ("massive eyeball trauma"), and The Orb with a giant band-aid on his eye. In other words, this is a fantastic start to what I hope will be an epic miniseries.

Helpfully, the backup feature in this miniseries is reprints of the much earlier miniseries that introduced the character of Daimon Hellstrom. I'm not too familiar with him, so I'm glad to get caught up on the background. The writing's not even that bad, either; it's a bit melodramatic, but okay.
Thumbs Up

Irredeemable #5
Every time I think the Plutonian has gone and done the most disturbing and creepy thing imaginable, he finds a way to one-up himself. This issue opens with him broadcasting to the entire world responses to things people have said about him in private. We get another intriguing flashback involving the Plutonian from a black superhero with electrical powers, who has a pretty funny backstory. But the really important and shocking stuff happens at the end of the comic. The Modeusbots claim to have located their originator, but in fact they've found the Plutonian himself, in his secret stronghold! What does this mean? Has the Plutonian gone crazy because he's somehow been infected or taken over by Modeus? And what important information has Bette Noir been hiding from everyone?

Man, I love this story! So creative, so intense, so thrilling, so disturbing! I can't wait to see where it's going to go next.
Thumbs Up

Muppet Robin Hood #3
This issue opens by finally introducing us to King Richard (it's the prawn guy!) and revealing the hilarious fact that King Richard and the Crusades is a band, and they're on tour in the Holy Lands. There's plenty more cleverness and hilarity, too. And the "mahna mahna" guy even makes a cameo as one of the other archers in the archery contest! Brilliant.
Thumbs Up

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #2
I already liked this from issue 1, but now it's getting really good. Eerie, atmospheric, full of intriguing mysteries and fantastic ideas. "You labor in service of angels," a spirit tells Edward, but, "do not be too quick to thank me for the news... Remember the fate of so many in that service." She also tells him to look out for Acheron. And then a giant demon comes in and starts eating people. It rules!!! Writing, art, color, story, characters - everything is top notch. Mignola has another winner here.
Thumbs Up

Star Trek: Alien Spotlight - Q
This reads quite a bit like a never-before-seen episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Q shows up again and decides to take over Picard's body, to show him that humans have it easy and he'll have no trouble at all doing Picard's job. But of course he has no end of trouble and eventually has to give in and let Picard take over. Q doesn't concede the point, of course, but he does admit that humans might be working harder than he thought. It's an okay issue with a cute premise, but kind of cheesy.
Thumbs Sideways

Star Wars: Dark Times - Blue Harvest #0
I actually already read this issue virtually on MySpace.com/DarkHorsePresents, but I enjoyed it so much I figured I might as well buy it and own a copy. Besides, there are also some neat sketches in the back. I think the fact that this book is coming out now means that this storyline is going to start back up again, so I'm looking forward to that.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #5
Batman - Alfred is doing his usual thing and using sarcastic comments to try to impart some good advice to Bruce. As usual Bruce is only half listening. He appears to be falling for the femme fatale. Big mistake!

Kamandi - More big, beautiful, epic art; exciting action; and a cliffhanger ending. Pure fun adventure comics.

Superman - It's pretty neat the way they integrate the present into the past here while telling Superman's origin story. I still kind of want more from this strip, but it's all right.

Deadman - Lovely art, exciting action - and could Deadman be dead... again??

Green Lantern - The Hal Jordan in this flashback seems like a bit of a hotheaded jerk. But then again, I guess Hal Jordan is a bit of a hotheaded jerk.

Metamorpho - This is definitely the weirdest episode in this strip so far. In a surreal turn of events, it turns out Mister Stagg has brought his entire cooking staff along with him on the dangerous adventure, and they nearly all fall victim to one of the temple's death traps, until the element people save the day (but ruin the dinner). Very goofy. Not sure how I feel about this strip. It's just so odd.

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

Strange Adventures - Pope's visuals are weird and beautiful as always, and the writing is fun, too. Great stuff.

Supergirl - Still lame.

Metal Men - Not much happens here; we just get a bit more backstory and learn a bit of the villain's motive. Just not a big fan of this strip. It's rather dull.

Wonder Woman - Repetitive, cluttered, and dumb.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. - Still nothing happening in this one. I really want to like it, but it's so boring!!

Flash Comics & Iris West - Grodd seems to have done something big and horrifying with the space-time rifts the Flash has been unwittingly leaving behind every time he runs around, and our hero looks like he might be done for. Meanwhile, in the other strip, the other Flash is quitting the hero game to save his relationship with Iris. It looks like the Flash is dead two times over! How will he make it out of this one?? I can't wait to find out.

The Demon and Catwoman - More flowery language and rather neat fantasy ideas set up a big showdown between the Demon and the witch.

Hawkman - I have to admit, this one is definitely getting better. This is a pretty fun issue in which Hawkman does a crazy thing to try to save a plane, but doesn't quite make it. And the teaser text says, "Next week: it gets worse!" Awesome!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Destroyer (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Frankenstein (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Thursday, August 13, 2009 12:27 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman - Still cluttered and dumb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post covers new releases from 7/22. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Trek: Spock - Reflections #1
This interesting new miniseries from IDW is set some time late in the Next Generation era (although presumably before the events of the recent movie prequel miniseries). It opens with Spock, having spent some time on Romulus as a teacher, leaving the planet to return to Earth, for reasons not yet explained. During the journey, a conversation with a rather pesky fellow passenger causes him to flash back to various moments throughout his past. A particularly fascinating scene sees him meeting with Captain Harriman, the man who took over the Enterprise B after the events of Star Trek: Generations. There are some fascinating emotions at play in the scene. Harriman, who was little more than a stereotype in the film, becomes a whole person in this book, with complex feelings of guilt and shame swirling in him, while Spock fights back his own set of complex emotions. Then we get to see another telling flashback, this time from Spock's childhood, developing his character further and illuminating the complicated relationship between him and his father. This is a surprisingly good comic, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes next.
Thumbs Up

Wednesday Comics #3
In the first two entries of the latest episode of Wednesday Comics, Batman listens in on an interesting conversation, while Kamandi meets up with another of his buddies and makes a startling discovery: a human girl! Superman, which took a dip in quality last week, is slightly better this week, as Clark decides to cure his ennui by flying back home to Smallville and hanging out with Ma and Pa. Deadman gets more interesting and more surreal as our title character falls through the swirling nightmare effect from Vertigo and into a flaming hell where he gains the solidity of the living again - although perhaps only for a brief time. I'm still surprised to be enjoying Green Lantern as much as I am. Hal has barely gotten through being fawned over by the crowd in the bar when he sees his buddy transform into a hideous alien on live TV and has to fly out again. It's great stuff. Metamorpho is following the same format as last week, with one big panel up top depicting all the action occurring simultaneously, and tiny panels down the bottom feature another amusing message from "The Metamorpho Fans of America." I could wish this one was moving along a little faster, but it's so pretty and so intriguing I'll give it a pass. As for Teen Titans... yep, still sucks. And Strange Adventures is still ridiculously awesome. The lush, beautiful art; the totally fun, over-the-top pulp sci-fi dialog - it's brilliant. The cutesy Supergirl and the bland, though unobjectionable, Metal Men both fail to interest me. And I just can't believe how poorly done Wonder Woman is. There are so many tiny panels, so tightly packed, that you practically need a magnifying glass to follow what's going on. And once you figure it out, you realize it wasn't worth the effort. Dull and dumb. I had high hopes for Sgt. Rock and Easy Co., but I'm starting to get a little frustrated with it. It really needs to start going somewhere soon. I feel like Rock has been getting beaten and Easy Company has been wandering randomly in caves forever. Meanwhile, the dynamic duo of Iris West and The Flash just keeps getting better. When Iris leaves both past Flash and future Flash again, they put their heads together and try to go even further into the past to give it another go, but find themselves instead zipping into the far future by mistake, and meeting yet another version of the Flash, who uses "Ether-Wiki" to fill them in on what's going to happen to Iris. It's totally brilliant. The real villain shows up in The Demon and Catwoman and Catwoman's name suddenly gets a bit more appropriate. Fun. Hawkman has gotten a bit better now that our titular character is fighting an alien, but it's still pretty clumsily written.

As usual, I find myself charmed by the overall experience of Wednesday Comics, even though some of its individual parts are less than great.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Captain Britain (Not), Comic books (Not), Duane Swierczynski (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Fables (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Hulk (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Legion of Super-Heroes (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Goon (Not), The Take (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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