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Monday, February 28, 2011 01:17 PM
Taken, and the Future of Comics
 by Fëanor

You may or may not have noticed that I haven't posted a new episode of The Take in a long time. This time it's not just because I'm too lazy to write it! It's also because I gave up buying comic books about a month ago. It was a hobby that was taking up too much of my time, too much of my money, and too much space in my house.

That being said, I miss my comics. I miss them bad. And I'd really like to keep reading the better ones if it is at all feasible. I figure I have two options: buy the collections of the series I like best in trade paperback form when they finally get released that way, or switch to digital comics. Digital comics seem like a great option: they're cheaper, buying them doesn't require me to go on a long trip anywhere, reading them doesn't require me to carry them around or take care of them, and holding onto them doesn't require any physical space.

Here's the thing, though: I can't figure out digital comics at all. I'm Googling, I'm looking at FAQs, and I just can't figure these things out. Do all comics get released digitally at around the same time they get released in shops? If not, are they all going to get digitized eventually or am I out of luck if I want that one issue of that one series? Is there some central website I can go to and buy comics from every publisher, or do I need to subscribe to/buy from each publisher separately? Can I subscribe and grab what I want whenever, or do I need to buy the books one at a time? Can I read them online or do I need some special device? Why is it so hard to figure out the answers to these questions?

Anybody out there have any insights? I am pretty frustrated here.
Tagged (?): Comic books (Not), Meta (Not), Please Comment (Not), The Take (Not)
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Monday, September 13, 2010 03:49 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 9/1. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #36
Another jump back in time, and another attempt to explain Angel's recent actions. This time they do a pretty decent job. We also get to see how Angel and Spike dropped in from the IDW comic book universe. It was a pretty sudden and violent process! Next the book sets up the upcoming storyline - which will apparently involve returning to Sunnydale, fighting the Master again (he's still around??), and digging up something called the Seed of Wonder. Then it threatens us with a future storyline involving the universe that Buffy and Angel created and then abandoned when they had ultra-sex.

Meeeeh. I just don't know about Buffy anymore. I'm still annoyed by the resolution of the previous storyline, despite their attempts to explain it away. I'll probably stick around for now, though, if only to see what this Seed of Wonder is all about.
Thumbs Sideways

Hellboy: The Storm #3
Hellboy once again rejects his destiny - he's good at that! He gives up his army and his sword. I very much like the parallel to Arthurian mythology here, where Hellboy asks his loyal retainer to throw his sword into a pond or a river, because "that seems like the thing to do." She doesn't want to at first, but finally agrees. Then there's the image of the grail on the inn's sign post. Interestingly, Hellboy says after this is all over, he wants to go back to the Bureau, and also live in America with his new girlfriend. Cool! But Hellboy's got a lot of hard work ahead of him before that can happen. He has an interesting confrontation with the guy I take to be Merlin, who again offers him the army of Hell to command - but Hellboy made his choice as far as that's concerned a long time ago. Then Baba Yaga shows up again to make him a different offer: if she can have one of his eyes, she can get him past Nimue's army so he can face her one on one. But deals with Baba Yaga are never a good idea, and this one may very well have brought about Nimue's final and most terrible transformation - the one the beast warned Hellboy about an issue or two ago. By the end of this comic, it looks like she has become - against her will, even - what Hellboy refused to be. The seven Old Ones have awoken again! That is not good news.

This has been a fantastic series, and I'm excited and a little terrified to see what comes next.
Thumbs Up

Incorruptible #9
We learn more details about Alana Patel's past, and about her connection to Max Damage. But it turns out she might be more pissed at Jailbait than at Max. Which is bad, because the new, vulnerable Jailbait just landed right in front of her. Meanwhile, it looks like the white supremacists want revenge on Max in a big way. I know I keep saying this every month, but I'm really disappointed in this book anymore. The art is poor and inappropriate, and the writing is pretty weak. It's still a must-buy in my head, but I don't know how much longer that's going to be true if it keeps on this way. Especially if the next week it comes out, there are five other books I'd rather read.
Thumbs Sideways

Wolverine #1
Jason Aaron has a new ongoing Wolverine title! Which is something I would have been way more excited about back before I read his other Wolverine title and couldn't get into it at all. I decided to give this new one a try anyway, but sadly I don't think I'm going to be able to get into it, either. I did learn a couple of interesting things in this issue: Wolverine has a love interest, and she appears to be that reporter from the other Wolverine title Aaron was writing. Also, Mystique is alive again (not that I ever really expected her latest death to stick), and despite the way Wolverine treated her last time I read about them hanging out together, she's now helping him by saving his girlfriend. Huh. I would not have expected that. Anyway, the story involves some kind of evil presence inhabiting Wolverine's body and wandering about doing mischief on Earth while his soul is tortured in Hell. I guess it's kind of a vaguely intriguing premise? But mostly I find it boring and off-putting. It seems like all the comic book heroes are going to hell lately. Really, the whole book is cliches. Wolverine's life is finally settling down, and he's got a girlfriend, and things are looking up, so of course everything's going to go horribly wrong and a gang of killers is going to try to murder his girlfriend. The problem is, it's hard to care about Wolverine, because c'mon, he'll be fine, and it's even harder to care about his girlfriend, because she's just the generic comic book reporter girlfriend and I don't care about her at all. Maybe Aaron has more exciting things planned down the line in future issues, but I'm just not sure I'm willing to hang in there and find out.
Thumbs Sideways

X-Men: Smoke and Blood - Curse of the Mutants #1
You know what nobody's telling stories about lately? Vampires! Thank goodness Marvel is here to remedy that! Ha ha ha- oh, screw it. Anyway, apparently the latest X-Drama revolves around those mystical blood-sucking entities that one hears about so rarely these days, and this awkwardly titled one-shot is writer Simon Spurrier's contribution to the story. I follow Spurrier on Twitter (@sispurrier), and I've enjoyed his work in the past, so I thought I'd pick it up. The book is... okay. The vampire portrayed here is actually more like a Xenomorph from the Alien movies than your traditional be-caped seducer, and the story proceeds like one of those movies, with a small group of people trapped in a small area with the monster, being killed off one by one in true sci-fi/horror thriller fashion, despite all their technology. I'm not sure I quite follow the solution to the mystery of how the vampire works (when Emma asked, "What the $&#% just happened?" near the end, I sympathized with her a great deal), but that's okay. The dialog is clever to the point of sometimes being too clever - it occasionally totters towards feeling contrived and over-composed. But it's also legitimately funny and smart a reasonable portion of the time. Like I said, the book is okay.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Hellboy (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Simon Spurrier (Not), The Take (Not), Vampires (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010 03:26 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 8/25, plus a trade paperback from the library. Beware spoilers!

Back issues and old data
Batwoman: Elegy
This is a hardcover collection poppy was good enough to get out of the library for me. It collects material from Detective Comics #854-#860, the first story arc from that book where Batwoman was the main character. The writing is by Greg Rucka and the art is by J.H. Williams III. I reviewed Detective Comics #854 when it originally came out, and I was unimpressed. I dropped the book. But I kept hearing great things about Greg Rucka's Batwoman, and I wondered if maybe I should have given it more of a chance. Well, now I finally have, and I am officially upgrading my initial "unimpressed" reaction to "impressed." Kate Kane is a complex and fascinating character, flawed and broken, with a deep, dark backstory that slowly comes out during the course of this book. Her main enemies throughout are devotees of the religion of crime. But she finds she also has allies among those same devotees - one sect of the religion seeks to help her, while another seeks to destroy her. Both see her as the fulfillment of some sort of prophecy, and Gotham as a kind of Mecca. But the shattering revelation of the true identity of the religion's new leader sends Kate into a tailspin and digs up terrible memories from her past that she thought were buried for good.

What really brings the book to the next level is the wildly imaginative, incredibly beautiful, intricately constructed art of J.H. Williams III (which is made even more impressive thanks to the as-always fantastic colors of Dave Stewart). Seriously, this stuff is like a gauntlet thrown down, challenging every other artist to live up to its brilliance. It takes the traditional format and layout of comic book art, blows it apart, and puts it back together in an entirely new way. Early on I thought the mirroring trick he was using - where he positioned panels and characters in similar locations and poses across from each other on the page - was just a cool thing he was doing for coolness' sake, but later in the book I realized it was also conveying meaning - it was a subtle foreshadowing of the secret at the heart of the story. I mean, that's just crazy brilliant.

I might try to track down the next Batwoman story arc. Some research has revealed that Williams was dropped as artist for that arc, which is a shame, but I'd still be interested to see what happened to Kate next.
Thumbs Up

New releases
Astonishing X-Men #35
It's been a while since I laughed as much reading a comic as I did reading this comic. Oh my lord do I love the way Warren Ellis writes the X-Men - because he writes them as a pack of brilliant, bickering bad-asses. This issue opens with Cyclops setting a bunch of monsters on fire and then plowing the blackbird through an escape hatch that is way too small for it. The X-Men then burst out of the exploding craft with their metaphorical guns blazing. "X-Men are go," indeed. Then there's the scene where Armor and Wolverine do a fastball special, against Wolverine's will. Then finally the Big Bad is revealed, and he's pretty interesting. A "real" mutant coming face-to-face with our pretty, hero mutants, hating them for the reverse reason that normal people hated mutants. It's a fascinating concept which I imagine more could be done with in the future. It's a bit of an anticlimax when he just kind of backs down, but I'm not sure how else it could have ended, really. The final scene, when Logan punches him and everybody gets pissed, is just hilarious. "You say potato, I say crazy old man with a wheelchair of death!" Oh my lord. Thank you, Mr. Ellis.
Thumbs Up

Batman #702
Have I mentioned lately how much I love Grant Morrison? Because, damn I love Grant Morrison. This issue is the second part of "The Missing Chapter" of Batman R.I.P. It goes back over some of the central events of Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis, filling in some gaps and adding a new narrative track throughout that is basically The Last Will and Testament of Batman, spoken by him into a tape recorder in the distant past (his own future) in the hopes that somehow Superman, with his godlike powers, will eventually be able to reconstruct it (which, naturally, he does). This gives Morrison the chance to go into more detail about the magic bullet that killed Orion, how Batman turned it back on Orion's murderer, and what Darkseid did to him then. It's amazingly brilliant and imaginative stuff. The bullet, it turns out, isn't just any bullet - it's The Bullet. It's "bulletness" given form. It's every bullet ever. In fact, it's the bullet that killed Batman's parents. That image in the background of young Bruce standing over the graves of Martha and Thomas Wayne as Batman faces off against Darkseid with the gun in his hand? Wow.

Just as The Bullet is the Platonic Ideal of bullets, Darkseid is the Platonic Ideal of villains - The Wolf, The Dragon, The Tyrant. But how do you kill a myth? Answer: with a new myth - "a myth where Ultimate Evil turns its gaze on humanity and humanity gazes right back and says... 'Gotcha.'"

Which should be the moment of Batman's triumph! But Darkseid has something special in store for him: the Omega Sanction - "The death that gives and gives forever! Omega 'tailor-makes' an unbeatable 'life trap' just for you! It uses 'history' to do it!" Darkseid's strike alters all of time to create a trap for Batman from which even Batman can't escape, because his life itself is the trap. "Wounded by the Hunter, Darkseid's Dying Fall made the Hole in Things. The Hole in Things is Darkseid-shaped.... Time is the Omega Sanction." Holy shit. So what can Batman do now? "Don't forget. Survive." He tells himself, "I should have known when I chose to walk this path. It never ends."

That's Batman. That's who Batman is. The Hunter, the Survivor, fighting an endless war. A mortal man with the will and the guts and the smarts to strike down the God of Evil. Yes, yes, yes.
Thumbs Up

Captain America #609
Bucky is goaded by his enemy into going off half-cocked, running off alone, and falling into a sinister trap?! I didn't see that coming! But seriously, folks, even if the story structure's a little tired, this is still a reasonably effective and engaging tale, and I like the drama of the final showdown taking place on the island where Cap and Bucky were nearly killed by the original Baron Zemo all those years ago. Oh, and now for your Nomad backup story update: it's getting lame again.
Thumbs Sideways

Fringe: Tales From the Fringe #3
Both stories in this anthology title are good this month! The first one is sort of an origin story for Astrid; an invention for a class leads her to investigate an apparent murder which turns out to be more and less than it seemed. (Warning: big spoilers ahead.) I doubt the FBI actually goes to this much trouble to test if somebody has the potential to be an agent (if so, we have easier, cheaper, and less time-intensive options for assessing people's job fitness at the company where I work; call me, FBI, and I can hook you up with a sales rep!), but it's still a fun story, and it's great to see Astrid get the spotlight for once. The second story is sort of a high-speed heist, loaded with clever trickery, double-crosses, and brutal ultra-violence. And the nature of "the weapon" that everybody is fighting over is creepy indeed, and is made creepier by the fact that its nature and origin are not explained. Well done!
Thumbs Up

Gravel #20
"Bible Jack" is turning out to be a seriously formidable enemy. He hits Gravel really hard in this issue, taking away nearly everything he has, including his favorite pub! I mean, that's harsh. (Warning: big spoilers ahead.) I was surprised and a little disappointed to see all of the new characters that were slowly being developed and introduced over the past however many issues, and whom we'd barely gotten to know yet, just get wiped out in a handful of pages. I mean, what's up with that? Of course, there's always the chance Gravel's pulling some elaborate trick and they're actually all still alive, but I kind of doubt it. Anyway, I'm looking forward to the big showdown that will no doubt take place in the next issue.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Fringe (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Thursday, August 26, 2010 01:59 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 8/18, plus one or two back issues. Beware spoilers!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight - Riley
I didn't expect much from a one-shot about Riley (yuck), but this is surprisingly good. A large reason why is probably the fact that it's written by Jane Espenson, a talented lady who wrote a lot of the original Buffy TV episodes, and is continuing to write great television even as we speak (she's also got a pretty fun Twitter feed at @JaneEspenson). The issue fills us in on what Riley was doing before he joined up with Twilight, and also explains a little better exactly what Twilight's motives were and how it was that Riley ended up joining him. These explanations nearly fix the recent, terrible story arc by Brad Meltzer, and nearly make Angel's actions throughout all this make sense. Nearly. Anyway, it's fun, clever, funny, and effective.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #16
This issue of New Mutants doesn't actually involve the New Mutants at all! Instead, it focuses entirely on the group of soldiers who literally went to Hell and back, and spends most of its pages on flashbacks explaining what they were doing in Hell and what happened to them there. The final page surprise reveal is a bit of a cliche in comics, but the one at the end of this book is legitimately surprising. It's also not contrived; it advances the story in an interesting and unexpected way; and it introduces a bunch of new characters about whom I can't wait to find out more. This here is a crazy fantastic comic - chilling, thrilling, exciting, imaginative, and even funny. My favorite moment combines pretty much all of that: a new recruit who foolishly failed to follow the rules suddenly gets carried off by a demon and General Ulysses responds by saying, "Yep. That will happen."
Thumbs Up

Secret Avengers #3 & #4
I think I decided after I read the first issue of this book that I wouldn't read any more... but I came in under budget this week, and I was curious to see where the evil magic crown storyline would go, so... here we are. #3 opens with an unexpected flashback to the Wild West. Apparently the guy who runs the mysterious Shadow Council is pretty old! I'm curious to see more of the Wild West storyline, but we don't get back to it in these two issues. The backstory on the crowns turns out to be unbelievably epic, spanning all the way back to before the beginning of the universe as we know it, one-upping even the Celestials and Galactus in age and grandeur.

I have to say, I really enjoy the new Ant-Man as a character. Comic book characters, even the more interesting ones, are generally divided into the heroic good guys and the villainous bad guys, but here's a dude who's just a selfish coward trying to survive. He's pretty hilarious. His best moment is when he mans up and takes out a troop of suicide bombers by causing a nuclear chain reaction. He runs for it, accompanied by narrative boxes reading "Oh God Oh God Oh God," and when he successfully escapes, he screams, "YES! ALIVE!" Issue #4 also includes Nova-powered Steve Rogers, which is a crazy bad-ass concept. It's incredibly fun seeing him duke it out with a crown-possessed Nova. The story arc ends with Steve learning the bad news that Nick Fury is part of the Shadow Council. This should be interesting!
Thumbs Up

Spitfire #1
It's just a one-shot, but it's still pretty fun getting to watch Paul Cornell play with the MI:13 characters again. The focus here is mostly on Spitfire, obviously, as she feels out her new relationship with Blade, and learns how to live with being a vampire - or at least, a part vampire. It kind of cracked me up that the first page of the book - usually reserved for a short summary of what's been going on recently, so you can pick up the story easily - is covered with text from top to bottom. Spitfire's story is just that complicated! The issue itself has some cheesy dialog moments, but is overall entertaining, insightful, and funny.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), The Take (Not), Vampires (Not), X-Men (Not), Zeb Wells (Not)
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Friday, August 20, 2010 02:02 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

X-Men: Second Coming #2
This is the concluding part of the most recent X-Drama maxi-series - the one I was talking about earlier. There are four chapters in this book, one by Zeb Wells, one by Mike Carey, one by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, and one by Matt Fraction. They all deal with the aftermath of the events of "Second Coming" - which means another superhero funeral with lots of tearful speeches. Ugh. I'm so tired of that crap. There's also a ridiculous two-page spread of X-Force posing for the camera, courtesy the pencil of Greg Land. Oh, and naturally the Phoenix raises her ugly head again. Sigh. Sometimes the X-Men just make me tired.
Thumbs Down
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Darwyn Cooke (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Hellboy (Not), Hulk (Not), Iron Man (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), Scalped (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not), Zeb Wells (Not)
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010 11:07 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 6/23. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3
Blackbeard mistakes Bruce Wayne for The Black Pirate, despite the fact that it's obviously that other guy. Naturally they end up infiltrating the Bat-People's caves looking for treasure, and Bruce has to steer them through various traps, before finding past relics of his future self. "Whatever happens, Jack," Bruce says. "Never give up the fight." But years later, an older Jack says, "If I listen closely, I can still hear them now. The bells of the All-Over." Will Bruce really be the cause of apocalypse?? At the end of the issue we jump through time again and learn that next issue will apparently feature Jonah Hex versus a cowboy Batman. Awesome. This is a fun book, with Morrison getting to stick Batman in any time period he wants. It's also clever and eerie.
Thumbs Up

Fringe: Tales from the Fringe #1
I rather enjoyed the last series of Fringe comics, so naturally I picked up the first issue of this new series. Turns out it's another anthology book. The first story follows Peter in Iraq, before he became part of the Fringe gang, and reveals that he was really kind of a bastard. The second story is a weird time loop with shades of La Femme Nikita, in which a woman's glimpse of her future apparently causes that future to occur. Neither story is particularly bad, but neither is particularly imaginative or exciting, either.
Thumbs Sideways

Heralds #4
Luckily, Reed Richards has a black hole-stopping gun, so the problem from the end of last issue is quickly cleared up. Thanks, Reed Richards! Anyway, there's a bit more of an explanation as to why Frankie/Frances is the way she is (I guess the Silver Surfer made her a Herald of Galactus, and along with the power came part of the personality and self of previous Heralds?); there's some relationship drama; and then - uh oh, she's got the kid! Which is too bad, because I really like the way Valeria declares, "Popsicles. Let's go." But seriously, I'm sure she'll be fine. This issue is less interesting than the previous ones, as it's mostly a lot of screaming and melodrama, but it's still intriguing enough.
Thumbs Up

Incorruptible #7
Max's new buddy is going to get herself in trouble, dressing up in Jailbait's clothes like that. And what the real Jailbait's going to do now, I don't know. I was pretty bored with Max's fight with the white supremacist Plutonian supporters, but now that they've found his weakness and exploited it, things have gotten a little more interesting. Still don't like this art, though.
Thumbs Sideways

Joe the Barbarian #6
The metaphors get deeper as Joe finally makes his way to the Queen - his mother - who is still in mourning over the loss of the kingdom's great hero - Joe's father - and in serious denial about the war raging all around her. She wants to hole up in the castle where things are safe and ignore everyone and everything outside. Joe nearly embraces her melancholy paralysis, but then his friends seem to invade his world and drag him back to the fight. When all the heroes join them, it seems like things are looking up - but Joe is soon to come face to face with Lord Death himself. I have the feeling the last issue of this is going to be pretty shattering.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Fringe (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Mark Waid (Not), The Take (Not)
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Friday, July 2, 2010 11:30 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like the idea of using Legion against the enemy - dangerous but cool. And I like the art during the Legion sequences. But hey, dude, what the hell is with Rogue's costume? I know women superheroes tend to have ridiculous costumes, but jeez. Meanwhile, the mutants end up in a typical hopeless-looking last stand. A bit cliche, but reasonably well handled here. I also like the very ominous giant Sentinel thing that Wolverine and friends are fighting in the future. And how bad-ass Magneto is at the end. I'm not a fan of these big mutant storylines, but with the exception of a few cheesy sequences, Wells handles his part of it pretty well.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Mike Carey (Not), S.H.I.E.L.D. (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010 01:36 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 5/26. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2
Bruce finds himself in Puritan times fighting a giant Lovecraftian monster with a sword. Which, right there... I mean, let's just stop and consider that sentence. That's awesome. Anyway, he's rescued and nursed back to health by a witch woman who, it turns out, called the monster forth in the first place. She's of the Bat-People, and has a necklace with Wonder Woman and Superman's symbols on it - probably derived from the symbols Bruce himself painted on the cave wall in these parts all those ages ago. "My devils are the old lords of the land and the sky," she tells him. "Gods of the Wheel of Time and the Never-Ending World. And all the spaces beyond." Uh oh, that doesn't sound good. Meanwhile, the Justice League jumps to just before the end of the universe in the hopes that they can look back on the universe's timeline and find where Batman has ended up. Another great, mind-blowing Grant Morrison idea. We get to see the origin of the painting of "Brother Mordecai," which, if I remember correctly, hangs in Wayne Manor in the present. Bruce's time-jumping seems to be linked to eclipses for some reason. And then the big revelation: Bruce has somehow made it to the end of time and taken the identity of the archivist there, all so he can steal the Justice League's time sphere and get back to his own time. He ignores Superman's desperate warnings: "He took your memories, relied on your survival instinct... you've been booby-trapped! Darkseid turned you into a doomsday weapon and aimed you directly at the 21st century!" Yeah, okay, that's awesome. And it even sort of makes sense - Darkseid didn't kill Bruce, he turned him into a failsafe world-destroyer, just in case his original plot failed. There's also a creepy time-looping curse: Bruce manages to slay the "dragon" using just a sword (because he's just that bad-ass), but he can't save his witch-woman. She dies cursing her executioner, who just happens to be Nathaniel Wayne. "My curse on you and all your kin! Until the end of time!" She's unwittingly cursing the man she was desperate for them to save: Bruce Wayne. Who now finds himself thrown across time again, right into the hands of the pirate Blackbeard. Awesome.

I truly love this series. It's classic Morrison: tons of crazy awesome ideas thrown at you all at once. He tells you just enough for you to work out what's going on, then rushes onward.
Thumbs Up

Incorruptible #6
I think this was probably the worst issue of this comic yet, and I think it has a lot to do with new artist Horacio Domingues. His work is just childish and cartoony, and the expressions on the characters' faces are exaggerated and overly emotional. It doesn't suit the material at all. All that being said, the writing here isn't too good, either. There's a lot of overwrought, melodramatic, and cliche dialog, especially during Jailbait's suicide attempt. That last scene is pretty over-the-top, too. Hopefully things will pick back up with the next issue.
Thumbs Down

Secret Avengers #1
Not content with starting just one, gigantic, 25-member Avengers team, Steve Rogers has also launched a smaller, secret Avengers team to handle black ops missions. Oddly it includes some of the same members as the larger team. Could they make this more confusing? Anyway, the secret team's first mission sees them intercepting an alien artifact that puts them on a trail that leads to Mars, where an even more dangerous, companion artifact is awaiting them. Both artifacts seem to have the power to turn former allies into enemies. The story is intriguing and fun, but the dialog and art are surprisingly clumsy. I expect better writing from Ed Brubaker, and better art from Mike Deodato. Valkyrie's and Black Widow's outfits cling to them in ridiculous ways in the opening fight sequence, and there's a panel near the beginning where Steve Rogers is supposed to be smiling casually that's just horrific - it looks like he's making some kind of hideous death grimace. On top of all that, the Secret Avengers team is mostly composed of characters I don't care that much about. Sure, Steve Rogers, Beast, and Nova are cool, but Moon Knight, Sharon Carter, Black Widow, Valkyrie, and War Machine are all pretty dull. I'll hold off judgment on the (redeemable) Ant Man, as I'm not too familiar with him. Anyway, I'm not crazy about this issue, but I might stick with the series for now and see where the story goes.
Thumbs Sideways

The Terminator: 2029 #3
This is the last issue of this series! I didn't realize it was only going to be three issues long! Thankfully it's just the prelude to another three-issue miniseries, done by the same creative team, that continues the story, but in a different year: 1984. Hoo boy! It's nice to see Ben and Paige getting together, and it's cool how future-Reese convinces Ben he's telling the truth. It's also interesting that Ben can't see past his current happiness to what's really important, until that happiness is taken away. I feel like it's a little cheap to introduce Ben and Paige's relationship only to tear it apart in order to give Ben motivation to complete his mission, but... it's done relatively well, with some effective narration, and Paige did feel like a real person while she was around, so I'll allow it. I like the way the comic fills in gaps in the original story, showing us Reese volunteering for the mission to protect Sarah Connor. We even get to see John sending him back. But there's an extra and interesting new element added: the older, future Reese claims he woke up after the fight with the T-800 in the factory (which took place at the end of the first movie) and was then imprisoned and questioned by machines. How could that have happened? In the movie he seemed pretty clearly to have died. Is this a different timeline? Or when his body was taken away at the end of the movie, did someone intercept it and revive him? I'm interested to see how they'll explain this, and of course to see how they weave Ben's story into the story of the original movie.

Unfortunately, there is a rather large continuity error here. In the movie, Reese said the time travel equipment was destroyed as soon as he went through, but that doesn't happen here, and in fact no such plan is even mentioned; instead, after Reese is sent back, John just leaves the machine sitting there and Ben and future-Reese have no trouble sneaking in to use it again. Which doesn't even make sense. I mean, who'd leave a time machine just sitting around? It's a disappointing logic error in what's an otherwise strong story.
Thumbs Up

Thor #610
The cover of this comic is labeled "Siege: Epilogue," and indeed that's all this issue really is: an epilogue to Siege. There's a two-page spread that nicely summarizes the end of Siege using six panels, mostly primary colors, and a handful of short phrases. It's better than reading the real thing, actually! Then we get Balder brooding, and trying to give the throne back to Thor, who wisely refuses, so he can go on kicking ass as the Thor we know and love. There's also a subplot with this Kelda lady who I still can't quite figure out. Apparently she used to like some dumb-ass named Bill? And now they're separated forever? I don't really care. Anyway, Thor finally gets to have it out once and for all with his clone, and that's kind of fun. But really this issue is just cleaning up old plot lines so we can move on to new stuff in future issues, so it's kind of dull and disappointing.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Terminator (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Zack Whedon (Not)
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010 09:07 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 5/19. Beware spoilers!

New releases
The Avengers #1
Siege is over, and all the old Avengers books have been killed - which means it's time to relaunch the Avengers, with Brian Michael Bendis as writer and John Romita Jr. on pencils! We open far in the future with some young Avengers casually wasting a very angry villain. Then we jump back to the present where Steve Rogers is assembling his ridiculously huge Avengers team. Seriously, we're talking like 25 people here. That's out of control. One of the more interesting scenes sees the now totally dark and bad-ass Wonder Man refusing the call, and arguing that the Avengers were behind all the recent problems with the world, and it's time for them to go away. He's actually got a pretty good point. Of course, as is de rigueur at this point, as the new Avengers are assembling for the first time, a villain shows up to challenge them. But in this case he's less challenging them and more warning them that they need to stop their kids from ruining the future. ("What happens to us in the future? Do we become assholes or something?" "No, it's your kids, Marty! Something's got to be done about your kids!") The reveal that the big villain in the future is actually an old, white-haired Hulk is an intriguing surprise, but mostly this comic just feels tired and dull. Avengers assemble, blah blah blah, huge threat to the world in the future, blah blah blah, unexpected villain revealed, blah blah blah. I like Romita's art, but the sequence at Avengers headquarters where Bendis has the new team all gabbing at each other in patented Bendis-speak dialog is really pretty hard to take. I'm just tired of this guy as a writer. I don't think I need to read any more issues of this comic.
Thumbs Down

Enter the Heroic Age #1
The relaunch of the Avengers is part of a whole new wave of Marvel books called "The Heroic Age," and this is a one-shot preview sampler of all those books. First up is Avengers Academy, which is written by Christos Gage, and is thus predictably bad, with plenty of cheesy narration. Next is Jeff Parker's Atlas. I know everybody loves Jeff Parker, but for some reason I just can't get into his work, and the Agents of Atlas just don't do it for me; even with the robot and the talking monkey, I just find them boring. Black Widow I already tried and didn't like, and the few pages included here didn't change my mind. Hawkeye & Mockingbird looks like kind of a cute spy duo action book, with plenty of secrets and lies, but I don't know. It's too much like Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Last up is Jeff Parker's Thunderbolts. This looks like it's going to be about Luke Cage building a new Thunderbolts team out of the latest crop of captured supervillains, which is vaguely intriguing. But like I said, I'm not a big Parker fan, so I'll pass.

And that's it for that! Guess I'm not going to be reading anything in the Heroic Age! Another note: I feel like now that they've got Steve Rogers back they're overusing him a bit. If I'm not mistaken, he's a member of every new Avengers team, and has his fingers in the Thunderbolts and other organizations, too. When is the guy going to have time to sleep?
Thumbs Sideways

Galacta: Daughter of Galacuts #1
I'm not sure what possessed me to buy this one-shot. I guess it was just the ridiculousness of the concept: Galactus' teenage daughter, living incognito among us, protecting Earth from alien threats by eating them, and trying to avoid the temptation to eat the Earth herself. It's kind of a cute story, but good lord is this woman talky and repetitive.
Thumbs Sideways

Girl Comics #2
At the end of my review of Girl Comics #1 you'll find this sentence: "I doubt I'll pick up another issue of this book, unless something really sticks out when I flip through it in the store." Despite this claim, and despite the fact that nothing really did stick out when I flipped through #2 in the store, I bought it anyway. What can I say, it was a slow week. We open with another of Colleen Coover's cute, inspiring intros, then move on to a possibly even cuter story by Jill Thompson about Crystal of the Inhumans trying to give her teleporting dog a bath. Then Kathryn Immonen and Colleen Coover team up to give us a story about a superhero I had never heard of before named Molly Fitzgerald and her hair salon for superheroes. I know I'm overusing the word "cute," but... yeah. That one's cute, too. There's a pretty dull two-pager from Stephanie Buscema about Doctor Doom and Sue, then an amusing story about the superhero's natural temptation to do evil by Faith Erin Hicks. I particularly like the art on this one, and Cris Peter's colors. The two-pager featuring superhero classified ads is pretty unimaginative, and the Doctor Strange story is just kind of odd. Overall another anthology that's just okay. I don't know why I keep buying these!!
Thumbs Sideways

Joe the Barbarian #5
Argh! Morrison tugs my animal-loving heartstrings here, just like he did in We3, by putting Joe's pet mouse in deadly danger. He'd better be okay! Regardless, the fight between Jack and the dog, which takes place in both worlds, is really well done. Meanwhile, Joe finally gets around to calling his Mom, but unfortunately it doesn't look like help is going to come from that direction. Luckily the cavalry shows up in the last panel, although what kind of cavalry it is exactly is unclear. Another fun issue, although not as good as some others.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), The Take (Not)
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