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Monday, March 8, 2010 03:09 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 3/3, which was sadly the worst week for comics in recent memory. Beware spoilers! And bitterness!

New releases
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #33
It's an interesting moment when the vampire slayer realizes that, metaphorically at least, she has now become a vampire herself. But this is followed up by a patented Scooby gang pep talk from Xander, and Buffy's soon up and fighting again. There's a weird thing that only lasts a handful of panels where Andrew somehow gets his hands on a whole bunch of geeky gear and uses it to try to fight Twilight. I don't know where that came from or how it makes sense.

Of course, the big deal about this issue is that it includes the long-awaited reveal of Twilight's secret identity, a reveal that fails entirely to have any power or suspense because anybody who goes online has known the secret for weeks now, thanks to Dark Horse doing a really poor job on information control. Twilight's true identity originally leaked thanks to the cover art for a future issue hitting the internet too early. I'd forgive them that - who can keep stuff like that from leaking out these days? - except that they then assumed that everyone knew the secret, and started talking about it openly on Twitter and Facebook, thus ruining it for everyone else, including people like myself who hadn't even known anything about the leaked cover, and wouldn't have looked at it even if they had. Sigh.

But anyway, the point is, the reveal doesn't make a lot of sense, even in context. I don't see why this character would become a villain all of the sudden, and his explanation of why he let a bunch of innocent people die is not sufficient. I just don't see him ever doing the kinds of things that Twilight has done. Buffy's reaction to the reveal doesn't make any sense, either. I mean, she's made poor decisions as far as romance is concerned as long as we've known her, but to stop in the middle of a fight and just start having sex with someone who is essentially a mass murderer? Really? And what the hell is with her and Twilight glowing, and Twilight talking about them being some kind of fated pair, and Giles being all doom and gloom? Meltzer has some serious explaining to do in the next couple issues!
Thumbs Sideways

First Wave #1
All the prequels and previews of this series that I've seen so far have been crappy, but I decided to give this first issue a try anyway, maybe because there were so few other interesting books on the stands this week. Unsurprisingly, it's mediocre. There's way too much narration, none of which is terribly well written, and none of the subplots that get initiated here are really grabbing me. Boring characters, boring dialog, boring, boring, boring.
Thumbs Sideways

Girl Comics #1
This is the first of a three-issue anthology miniseries from Marvel consisting of short stories by all women comic book creators. It's all part of the company's new "Women of Marvel" initiative, highlighting and celebrating all the female talent in the field. It's a cool idea, but as with most anthology books, this one is really hit-and-miss - mostly miss. The introductory bit by Colleen Coover is cute and inspiring, but the Cabaret-style Nightcrawler story is a real yawner (even if the art is intriguing and unique). Trina Robbins' Venus short is perhaps even more dull. Interspersed with the stories are "spotlight" prose pieces which consist of short bios of particularly important women in the comics field. These are a nice idea, and are reasonably interesting. Valerie D'Orazio's Punisher story is pretty amusing, even if, as others have pointed out, the ending is a foregone conclusion from page one. The She-Hulk pin-up is nice. The goofy Doctor Octopus two-pager is probably my favorite story in here, because it's just pure cutesy fun. Robyn Furth and Agnes Garbowska's fairy tale-inspired Franklin & Valeria Richards' story is interminable, and packed full of completely unnecessary text. You should never need this many words to tell a story in a visual medium like comic books, especially when the words are this boring. "Head Space," which focuses on the complex Cyclops-Jean Grey-Wolverine love triangle, has a fascinatingly surreal story-telling format, but it's not saying anything we haven't already heard a million times before. I doubt I'll pick up another issue of this book, unless something really sticks out when I flip through it in the store.
Thumbs Sideways

Green Hornet #1
I realized after his latest Batman series that I really disliked the way Kevin Smith writes comics, but I was interested enough in this Green Hornet comic that I decided to give it a chance anyway. Mistake! It's terrible. Seriously. So formulaic and awful. All the characters speak that same Kevin Smith language we all know so well, but Smith is even less inspired here than usual, and is just churning out all the usual stereotypical junk. The jokes are incredibly cheesy and cliche and unfunny. The characters are all smug and unlikable. There's even a slacker whose girlfriend leaves him because he's so much of a lazy, uncaring jerk. It's pretty hard to blame her.

The comic is full of ads for the seemingly hundreds of other Green Hornet-related series that Dynamite is launching, but after reading this example of their work, I think I'll skip the rest.
Thumbs Down

Ultimate Avengers #5
It feels like I may have missed an issue of this, but maybe the mild confusion I'm feeling as to why all these people are where they are, and what it is exactly that they're talking about, has more to do with how long it's been since I read the previous issue. Anyway, the series is getting really... Millary now. I find that with pretty much all of Mark Millar's stuff, eventually it crosses a line and I stop liking it. It just gets too dark and thoughtless and disgusting and offensive and I lose my taste for it. I think this series might have hit that point for me now. The Ultimate Red Skull is just such a ridiculously awful creature, what with the baby-killing and the gang-raping. And there's a scene in here where poor Nerd Hulk vomits just because Millar thinks it'd be funny for that character to vomit and be shamed in front of the other characters. And you know what? Not funny. Then Millar makes fun of the French for no real good reason, and that's not particularly funny either; it's just a boring cliche. And there's plenty more lame dialog where that came from. Yeah, I think I'm done with this book.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Kevin Smith (Not), Mark Millar (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (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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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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