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Monday, May 31, 2010 08:13 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 4/28, new releases from Free Comic Book Day, and also a bunch of old stuff the comic shop wanted to get rid of and therefore put up for grabs on Free Comic Book Day. It was quite a pile of books, and I've been a bit busy lately, so I'm afraid it took me longer to get through them and write them up than usual. I can't say when or if I'll be able to catch up on all the other books that came after these, either. But I'll do my best!

As usual, beware spoilers!

New releases
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #34
Wow. I was a little surprised at first when I started reading this Buffy arc by Brad Meltzer and it wasn't terrible, given how much I've disliked Meltzer's work in the past, but now his awfulness has finally reared its ugly head, and in spectacular fashion. Then again, I'm not sure how much of this I can really blame on him, as I assume the general shape of the story was already laid out for him by Joss and company, and it's mostly the story itself that's bad. I mean, Angel and Buffy having graphic sex for an entire comic? It's kind of gross. And what the hell are they doing having sex in the middle of everything anyway, when Buffy should by all rights be kicking Angel's ass, seeing as how he's been a villain committing MASS MURDER for the entire Season? And why the hell was Angel committing doing that anyway? I still need answers to these questions!! But instead they just throw a lot of really lame bullcrap at us about "the Universe" and how it has manipulated everyone and everything in some really hand-wavy fashion, and manufactured this entire plot line (in fact, very possibly the entire history of reality so far) just so that Buffy and Angel will have sex and thus elevate themselves to some new level of existence, destroying the old one in the process. That's lame. Seriously, seriously lame. It sounds like Angel actually had some inkling this is what was going to happen. But why would Angel ever be so selfish as to deliberately kill thousands of people and possibly destroy an entire universe just so he can get lucky with his ex and have some peace and quiet for a change? I just don't buy it.
Thumbs Down

Captain America #605
A fun and slightly sad conclusion to the Captain America vs. the Tea Party storyline, ending with a classic comic book fight on top of the Hoover Dam. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of crazy '50s Cap. (I didn't even bother reading the Nomad backup story; that shit is terrible.)
Thumbs Up

New Avengers #64
Now we get to see the events leading up to the Fall of Asgard from the perspective of The Hood. So I guess we're going to get to see the same events from the perspective of every single character in the Marvel Universe eventually. Sigh. Anyway, what we learn in this run-through is that Loki pulled a literal deus ex machina, took The Hood gang's power away from them, and gave it to the good guys. I'm not sure why that happened, or why I haven't already read about it in some other, more important comic book (like Siege #3 or something). It's a confusing twist, and I'm not sure what I'm supposed to feel when I look at the final panel of this comic, which is a picture of The Hood's girlfriend's gold mask with The Hood's face reflected in it. I can't say I find either of these characters all that interesting anymore. I mean, The Hood's story so far has been that he got magic power, and then he lost it, and then he got magic power again, and then he lost it again. Yawn.
Thumbs Sideways

Siege: Secret Warriors #1
This is a pretty cool one-shot revealing what Phobos, the God of Fear, did when he learned of the death of his father, Ares. Basically, he flips out, kills a lot of Secret Service agents, and then drops a really bitter, angry, well-written letter on the President's desk. In between, there is a truly hilarious and fantastic scene in which Nick Fury and Steve Rogers - the two bad-ass old campaigners - have a casual conversation about hanging out in the middle of the Siege of Asgard. I loved this scene so much I can't even tell you. It's ridiculous and warm and funny and hardcore all at once, and really wonderfully illuminates these two characters. Surprisingly good one-shot!
Thumbs Up

The Terminator: 2029 #2
We open with a gigantic firefight, and then we get to meet an interesting new faction of humanity: a lone wolf pack who don't follow John Connor, but just go roaming around the wilderness hunting machines. It's a different philosophy of the post-apocalypse than we've seen before, and brings up some interesting questions. Do you take the risk of settling down - building families and making connections - or do you go off on your own, avoid connections, and fend for yourself as best you can? The same conflict of philosophies is on display between Paige and Ben - Paige wants to shut herself off from everyone, because she's afraid to be hurt again and lose someone else who matters to her. But Ben is willing to take the risk. And finally Paige takes it with him. But then something unexpected interrupts them: the old man Reese saved from a machine outpost turns out to be a future version of himself, who asks for Ben by name! Woah. Clearly this Reese is from some other timeline than the one we know. Either that or he's just some crazy guy. Either way, I'm intrigued! This is good writing, and an exciting story.
Thumbs Up

Thor #609
Lots of exciting action and god-fighting in this one. Plus Loki gets some good lines: "I am Loki, the fire that burns. And why does the fire burn? I know not. But I am he." He admits to having fashioned the plot that led to the Fall of Asgard, but claims he didn't think it would go this far. Balder gets all bad-ass, and exiles Loki, but in fact it looks like that may have been part of Loki's plan all along. That tricky guy. There are some corny moments in this issue, but all-in-all it's pretty entertaining.
Thumbs Sideways

FCBD new releases
Bongo Comics Free-For-All!
Despite the title, which would seem to suggest that this is a sampler of various comic titles put out by Bongo, it's actually just a handful of Simpsons stories. They're all mildly amusing, with one or two decent gags, but there's none of the true comic brilliance from the show's heyday.
Thumbs Sideways

DC Kids Mega Sampler 2010
Yep, these are some DC kids comics. Nothing very exciting. I like Art Baltazar's exaggerated art style, and Batman has some fun lines about his desire to punch things in the final story, but that's about it.
Thumbs Sideways

Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom/Magnus: Robot Fighter
These are previews of two new titles from Dark Horse Comics, both written by Jim Shooter. The first is simply awful. Incredibly cheesy writing, totally lacking in subtlety, and a story that's entirely unimaginative. It's reminiscent of every superhero origin story ever, but the character is probably most similar to a really boring version of Doctor Manhattan. Robot Fighter is slightly more interesting, as it has a quirky sense of humor instead of just being painfully earnest. Plus, the story's not as dull and lacking in creativity as Doctor Solar; here we've got a human being who's somehow strong enough to fight rogue robots, but he also has a robot friend, and can interface with the robots in a limited way. That's not to say this is a really good comic; the relationship between the main character and the story's only woman is the classic contentious, they-hate-each-other, they-love-each-other dynamic. And the plot ends up being pretty dull. You can bet I won't be collecting these comics when they start asking you to pay for them.
Thumbs Down

Green Hornet
This book contains previews of most, if not all, of Dynamite's many Green Hornet-related titles. First up is part of Kevin Smith's awful Green Hornet book, which I already read and hated, so I skipped over that. Next up is Green Hornet: Year One, which has some nice art by Aaron Campbell, but pretty ho-hum dialog and story from Matt Wagner. Then there's The Green Hornet Strikes! There's not really enough of this one to get a good feel for it, and there's even less of Kato Origins and Kato (the former has color but no dialog; the latter is black and white and doesn't even have ink, let alone dialog). I doubt there's any reason to buy any of these. The last one, after all, is just a spin-off of Kevin Smith's story, focusing on the hot Kato with large boobs, so it's almost certainly awful.
Thumbs Down

This is just a book containing reprints of the first issue of each of Mark Waid's great new series. A good way to get into them for anybody who hasn't yet. Anybody want my copy?
Thumbs Up

Iron Man/Nova
It's Iron Man and Nova versus a team of super apes! Except one of the apes defects and helps them, in return for candy. Pretty cute and fun. In the back is a goofy Superhero Squad short about Iron Man trying to find a way to repair all the damage from Hulk's constant smashing, but Hulk points out that prevention would be the better course. Also kind of cute.
Thumbs Sideways

Iron Man/Thor
The opening image of this one - Thor standing with his hammer in front of a giant oncoming wave and ordering it to yield - is a really powerful one. But it's not the prelude to a surreal, philosophical comic. In fact the story is about some folks who have stolen one of Tony Stark's inventions and are using it to make the moon habitable and the Earth inhabitable. Iron Man and Thor team up to stop them. I'm kind of surprised these two are willing to work together, after the bad blood that's passed between them lately, but whatever. There's some fun banter, Romita provides his usual excellent artwork, and the story is reasonably exciting.
Thumbs Sideways

Kizoic Presents
This book has two Penguins of Madagascar stories on one side and two Shrek stories on the other. The one Shrek story about Donkey and Shrek getting sick and being quarantined together is oddly pointless and never goes anywhere, but the rest are all pretty standard kids' comic stories - mildly entertaining, but not very exciting, and not terribly imaginative either. I wanted to like the Penguins stories more than I did, since I enjoy the cartoon, but they're just okay.
Thumbs Sideways

The Library of American Comics
This is little more than a long ad for collections of old newspaper strips. It includes a bunch of samples of what the company has to offer, including really early Archie, Blondie, and Li'l Abner. Mostly it just convinced me that, yes, some comics do eventually become hopelessly dated.
Thumbs Sideways

Toy Story
It's disappointing to me that nearly every Toy Story story has the same format: a new toy arrives, and the other toys react to it with fear and suspicion, but usually end up embracing it in the end. This story is no exception. The only wrinkle is that this time the new toy is another Buzz Lightyear, which Andy receives by mistake, and which his Mom promises to exchange for a new, better toy. But the new Buzz gets switched with the old Buzz, and is about to be taken back to the store when the comic ends. The book has its moments, but there's nothing so exciting here that it makes me want to start collecting this series again.
Thumbs Sideways

War of the Supermen #0
I've been avoiding all the Superman titles lately because they're all being written by authors whose work I've disliked in the past. This free zero issue convinced me I've been making the right decision. It's just lots of cheesy, overwrought, melodramatic dialog and narration. Plus, Superman comes off as self-righteous and preachy. There's nobody in the book you can like or identify with. Even the villains just stand around and spout the standard villain cliches.
Thumbs Down

Worlds of Aspen 2010
I was not familiar with any Aspen comics before I looked at this sampler, but it seems clear now that all of their books are about boobs. There's some sad attempts at dialog and story attached to the boobs, but they're clearly an afterthought. The only exception is Dellec. The sadly extremely short preview for this book is actually pretty funny, as it involves a gang of big guys dressed as apes who call themselves The Kongs.
Thumbs Down

FCBD back issues and old data
Charlemagne #1
This is a book put out by a publishing company called Defiant in the early '90s. It's an absolutely awful story which opens up in the '70s with a young boy worrying about his soldier brother, who's overseas in Vietnam. He ends up getting over there somehow and trying to save his brother, only to fail at the last moment. Then he goes into a coma for many years and somehow develops super strength. I couldn't even read the entire thing, the dialog and narration were so poorly written; I just skimmed the last three quarters or so. It's melodramatic and overwrought and cheesy and just bad in every way that writing can be bad. The credits reveal that it was plotted by five different people working together, which is not a good sign; too many cooks in the kitchen, clearly. Apparently the actual writing was done by only one guy, though: D.G. Chichester. I'll have to make sure to avoid his work in the future - assuming it even comes up.
Thumbs Down

Fantastic Four Versus the X-Men #2
Fantastic Four Versus the X-Men #3

These are two issues from the middle of a four-issue miniseries published in the mid-'80s. They're written by Chris Claremont, so they're exceedingly over-narrated and seriously lacking in subtlety. Plus, Franklin Richards baby-speak dialog makes me want to punch somebody. That being said, it's a surprisingly effective story, which finds the X-Men so desperate to save Shadowcat from an odd medical condition that they are even willing to fight the Fantastic Four when Reed refuses to help them, and accept the assistance of Doctor Doom when he offers it. But the FF is going through its own issues, as it turns out Sue has recently discovered a book that appears to be Reed's diary, and which states plainly that he knew what would happen on the fateful flight that turned them all into superheroes (and Ben into a freakish monster), and that he planned it deliberately. The book is a lie, but that doesn't stop it from briefly tearing the FF apart. Despite how melodramatic the story gets, it never feels unbelievable, and Claremont treats the characters well. Maybe it's because I'm a new father and therefore vulnerable to this sort of thing, but the tender moment between Reed and Franklin put a lump in my throat. As a final note, it's hilarious how incredibly inaccurate and sensationalized the covers of each of these comics are. The scenes they depict have absolutely nothing to do with what actually happens inside the books.
Thumbs Up

Fantasy Masterpieces #2
This book, from January of 1980, finds an extremely emo Silver Surfer (the opening panel features him lying stretched out on his board with one arm flung over his eyes in classic Victorian-lady-with-the-vapors style) protecting the Earth from invisible alien invaders, despite the fact that the humans constantly misinterpret his actions and repay his selfless acts of kindness with only hatred and violence. The writing, because it's by Stan "The Man" Lee, is really rather ridiculous. But, because it's by Stan "The Man" Lee, it's also reasonably fun and entertaining.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredible Hulk #315
This book, from January 1986, actually documents a pretty important moment in the history of the Hulk, wherein Doc Samson manages to split the Hulk and Bruce Banner into two physically and mentally separate beings, only discovering after he's succeeded what a terrible and dangerous thing he's done. The writing and art are both by John Byrne, whose work I've enjoyed in the past, and he delivers a pretty entertaining comic here, although the opening metaphorical chase between Bruce and the Hulk is a bit overdone, and there's maybe a bit more exposition - and talking in general - than there really needs to be.
Thumbs Sideways

JLA: Paradise Lost #2
The middle issue of a three-part miniseries by Mark Millar, with art by Ariel Olivetti. I hardly need the first and third issues to understand the story, however, as it's a really old one about guardian angels who forsook their places in heaven for the love of mortal women, and another angel who's rebelling and plans to overthrow God. The fact that the Archangel Michael turns out to be a tattooed smoker is kind of amusing, and it's both entertaining and embarrassing to note that this was during the period where Superman didn't have the cape, and instead wore a ridiculous blue and white jumpsuit, and even had purple skin for some reason. This book also features one of the (apparently many) times that the Martian Manhunter died. It doesn't have a lot of that over-the-top, Millar charm, but he does get to show the evil angel burning some people alive and throwing a boat around, so there's that.
Thumbs Sideways

Will to Power #8
This is a short, 16-page book from the mid-'90s about a young, snot-nosed super team and their far more experienced boss facing off against a guy who appears to be a sort of Superman-gone-wild. We're clearly coming in at the middle of the story here, and what with that and the fact that there are so few pages, it's hard to get a feel even for who's meant to be the heroes and who's meant to be the villains. Luckily none of the characters are particularly interesting or fresh, so it doesn't really matter.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Fantastic Four (Not), Free Comic Book Day (Not), Green Hornet (Not), Hulk (Not), Iron Man (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Millar (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Nova (Not), Pixar (Not), Siege (Not), Simpsons (Not), Superman (Not), Terminator (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), X-Men (Not), Zack Whedon (Not)
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Saturday, June 16, 2007 03:37 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

This past Wednesday there was no movie night, so I didn't stay in the city, and therefore did not have the usual easy access to the city's comic book stores. I could have gone back to Hall of Heroes at Cherry Hill Mall to do my weekly book shopping, but I was highly disappointed by their selection (not to mention their staff and clientele) the last time I was there. Luckily, one of the nicer fellows at Hall of Heroes had made me aware some time ago that there was a Fat Jack's Comic Crypt out here in the wilds of Jersey, and that the store had the ability to find pretty much any book you were looking for. Some quick Googling revealed that this heavenly shop is essentially right around the corner from our condo. So that's where I headed Wednesday night.

And yea, did I find what I sought, and more! In fact, I could hardly suppress an evil cackle as my grasping clutches finally closed around the last two backissues that I had been searching for, lo these many weeks. In short, I completed my Eternals collection, and my Immortal Iron Fist collection. I also acquired everything else on my shopping list (refer to the previous post), except for Hulk: Planet Hulk, and Ex Machina volumes 4 and 5. Not because they didn't have those particular books (they did), but because the stack of books I'd put together was already quite large, and those books already had lots of big numbers on them after dollar signs, and because the Planet Hulk hardcover is a gigantic, and indeed hulking, book whose size and heft was ultimately frightening enough to dissuade me from its purchase.

Since then, I've already taken the time to finish reading the rest of the Eternals series, as well as all the other single issues I picked up this week. To start with, Eternals was quite good. I really love John Romita Jr.'s artistic style here; it reminds me a bit of Frank Miller's thick, blocky drawings of hulking beast-men - but prettier. The coloring on these books is also quite lovely. And then, of course, there's Gaiman's writing, which is quite stellar. Really the only thing that bugged me was the way the series ended - which was not an ending at all, really. But then again, that was the point; this was meant to be the reboot/rebirth of the Eternals series. As far as I know, no new Eternals book picked up where this seven-book intro left off, but then again this mini-series only just finished in February, so maybe they're still preparing the new book.

Anyway, I really liked the ideas in the story, of ancient races of super-powerful, immortal beings living among us, and space gods lurking on the edges of the universe, while one of them lies asleep, imprisoned and dreaming, in the Earth, awaiting his eventual awakening (*cough* Lovecraft! *cough*). I also liked the way Gaiman wove the story into the current over-arching events in the Marvel Universe - namely, the Civil War and superhero registration. It was good to see arrogant superpowered heroes like Iron Man get laid low, and to see this whole petty squabble put into perspective.

I also enjoyed Nova #3, a lot more than I thought I would. Admittedly, it swerves toward the melodramatic when covering the main character's family problems, but it kept my interest, and apparently the next bunch of issues are going to be about yet another gigantic intergalactic war which apparently involves cross-overs into other books, so I'll certainly stick around for that.

Sadly, the two books I was most looking forward to this week - World War Hulk #1 and Punisher War Journal #8 - really kind of disappointed me. I suppose WWH delivered everything I had a right to expect from it. Hulk shows up, gets Manhattan evacuated, and beats the crap out of Black Bolt and Iron Man while busting up the moon and the city of New York pretty spectacularly. But I guess I was really hoping, what with all the hype and everything, that it would really blow me away, and it just didn't. Still, I saw some smashing, and that was cool.

Punisher War Journal, meanwhile, was just kind of dull. The last couple of issues, they've been using that storytelling technique where they give you a quick glimpse of what's going on in the present, sort of in medias res, then flash back to explain how we got here. But they're still doing it again in this issue, and the technique is starting to wear pretty thin. (It also gets really confusing when you read the books out of order, but that one's on me.) But worst of all is the fact that pretty much nothing happens in this issue. We do get to see Frank designing his Captain America outfit, and we get to see him mouthing off at the Hatemonger, and we learn that his little sidekick was getting some action on the side. But that's about it. It looks like once again we'll have to wait until next issue for any real action or story. Sigh.

Another pretty lame book was Green Arrow #75. This is one I picked up simply because it claimed to be a final issue, and because it claimed to feature our hero proposing to his long-time love. And indeed it does look like that after this they're going to drop this book and instead do a Green Arrow origin book called Green Arrow: Year One (which I guess is supposed to be like Batman: Year One? Man, I thought Green Arrow was done biting off of Batman these days...). And indeed Ollie does propose to Black Canary - in the very last panel! We don't even get to see her answer - we have to go buy a Black Canary miniseries for that. It's a typical lame comic book publisher trick, but I'm not buying. I found this story rather dull and uninvolving, even if it did start with a huge fight, and include a very short cameo by the Justice League, and continue with some vaguely clever political intrigue.

Another book I picked up was Avengers Classic #1. This series was born from the desire to provide reprints of the original Avengers titles. This issue includes a reprint of Avengers #1, and follows that up with two clever and funny original stories set around the same time period. It was interesting to see the birth of the Avengers and to see how much has changed in the team, and how much has changed in terms of writing style. I've read worse female stereotyping than is here in the characterization of the Wasp - but this is pretty bad. The story itself is also rather clumsy. It involves Loki making the Hulk look like a dangerous threat in order to lure Thor back to where Loki is imprisoned in Asgard so the evil God can fight and destroy his brother. Unfortunately for Loki, the threat of the Hulk is met not just by Thor, but also by Iron Man, the Wasp, and Ant-Man (but not Captain America, to my surprise). It's only at the very end of the story - really, the last two panels - that it comes out that Hulk is not the true threat, and it's decided that they should form a team called the Avengers. This happens so suddenly and hurriedly that it's really rather ridiculous.

Which makes it even funnier that one of the new stories included in the book is a comical, postmodern one in which Stan Lee explains (yes, he actually appears in the comic) how they really decided to form the Avengers. (Essentially, Stan Lee talked them into it, by offering money.) The other original story tells how the second monthly meeting of the Avengers nearly got completely out of hand, until Wasp calmed all the boys down by stroking their out-of-control egos and secretly taking over the chairmanship of the team herself. This story is also quite clever and funny.

But all-in-all, I wasn't all that excited by this book, and in particular I found the reprint story to be rather dull and poorly written, so I won't be buying any more of these in the future.

Now that I write it out like this, it sounds like I had a pretty disappointing week, but actually I'm still quite pleased that I was able to complete by collections and get everything I wanted, and I did enjoy reading a number of these. Now all I have left to read are a handful of graphic novels, and then I'll be all ready to devour some new books next week...
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Comic books (Not), Hulk (Not), Nova (Not), Punisher (Not), The Take (Not), World War Hulk (Not)
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