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Wednesday, February 17, 2010 03:41 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 2/10. Beware spoilers!

New releases
B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #2
The sequence where Liz gets separated from the group is classic horror movie stuff. Extremely well done, and very creepy. And seeing Liz's torturer return is also unsettling, especially considering how much trouble they went through to get rid of him before. I don't feel like the way the Lobster's story is wrapped up here is very satisfying in terms of explaining why he popped up when he did and why and how his ghost did all the things it did, but none of that really matters that much in the face of how awesome that final page is. Is the Lobster's ghost finally at peace now? Well, no, not exactly. But he has found his own personal paradise: fighting an endless horde of Nazi ghosts for all eternity. Fantastic!
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #8
This issue jumps around in time a bit, showing us in more detail how Batwoman ended up in the pit with Batman, and how Eddie ended up on a train with a bomb strapped to him. It even flashes way back to Final Crisis and reveals where the evil insane Batman zombie came from. Then we get what we've been waiting for: Batman vs. Batman! Batwoman appears to die, but I'm pretty sure Batman was just helping her fake her own death for some reason. And now evil Batman is after Alfred and Damian! Oh no!

This title got a little lame for a few issues there, but this new story arc is really exciting, and it's loaded with fantastic ideas, fantastic characters, and fantastic dialog. In particular, I continue to love Morrison's Damian. Everybody else writes him as an annoying, arrogant brat, but Morrison writes him as a really entertaining, brilliant, bad-ass, arrogant brat.
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #10
Emma is such a nag in this issue! But the New Mutants themselves are wonderful. I love the way Wells writes their dialog and their interactions. Funny and very human. Plus, there's exciting action. I particularly like when Cannonball punches Sauron through the ship and then hops on deck to help his teammates like it was nothing. The plot device of the New Mutants getting their minds taken over by a villainous outside force is getting a bit old at this point (I mean, c'mon, we just did a story arc all about that), but whatever. I like the idea of Cyclops throwing his people into action and trying to sort out which of them could be a good future leader. All-in-all, a good standalone story.

In the back is a preview of the first issue of something called X-Factor Forever, which I'm guessing is analogous to X-Men Forever - somebody picking up an old storyline right where it left off years ago, as if none of the intervening continuity ever happened, and taking that story to its natural conclusion. The art is cute, especially the super-sexy interpretation of Marvel Girl, but there's not much else interesting here, and the exposition-filled thought bubbles referring back to all the unbelievable plot twists of old school X-Factor are pretty ridiculous. I'll pass.
Thumbs Up

S.W.O.R.D. #4
This is a fun, rollicking issue with plenty of amusing banter amongst our heroes, adventures with dumb rock aliens, and a scary subplot involving a different set of aliens, far more bloodthirsty and dangerous, who use that incredibly dangerous robot to help them take over the Peak. Gotta love the cliffhanger ending, and the hilarious and clever preview text: "TO BE CONCLUDED...! Possibly in the first two pages with Beast and Brand getting gunned down, leaving 20 pages of Drenx celebratory conga. Alternatively: ACTION!" I'm betting we're going to see the "ACTION!" myself.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #10
Our heroes mistakenly wander into a ghostly version of 1940 Stuttgart and get separated. They have a fascinating, enlightening, and deeply disturbing discussion with Josef Goebbels which ends in a bad way for Tommy. It's another tense, exciting, unsettling, thought-provoking issue full of imaginative ideas. This is truly a great comic.

In the back is a preview for a graphic novel by Peter Milligan called The Bronx Kill. It's supposed to be noir, but the preview is just a bunch of annoying people yammering at each other. Definitely not going to pick that up.
Thumbs Up

X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back #1
A miniseries about Pixie and her mutant teen girlfriends is not something I'd usually pick up (well, let's pretend it's not, anyway), but this one was written by Kathryn Immonen, and I've enjoyed her work in the past, so I nabbed a copy. But I'd forgotten how odd Immonen's writing is. This was definitely the most confusing comic I read this week. As near as I can make out, Pixie and her buddies have been imprisoned in an illusion where they think they're a bunch of normal girls attending a normal high school, but actually they're mutants surrounded by demons! I'm not sure if I'll pick up another issue of this. There are some interesting moments, but the basic story isn't very original, and I didn't really enjoy being vaguely confused the whole time.
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): B.P.R.D. (Not), Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), The Take (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009 04:43 PM
Best of the Double Nothings: Best Comics of 2009
 by Fëanor

  1. Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D - Along with All-Star Superman, this is Grant Morrison's ultimate Superman story. It also provides some beautiful and insightful commentary on stories in general.

  2. Final Crisis - Easily the best huge multiverse event miniseries ever. Epic, brilliant, and breath-takingly imaginative.

  3. The Unwritten - A beautiful and stunning commentary, not just on the Harry Potter series, but also on fiction in general, and its incredible power over reality itself.

  4. The Umbrella Academy: Dallas - If you thought the first Umbrella Academy miniseries, written by a rock star, was a fluke, the follow-up should convince you otherwise. If anything, it's more stunning, darkly funny, mind-blowing, and creative than the first.

  5. X-Men: Magneto - Testament - A supervillain origin story that turns into a devastating examination of the worst act of villainy ever committed in the real world. It's the rare comic book that I can confidently describe as "important," and this is one.

  6. Scalped - Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera's brutal crime noir thriller set on an Indian reservation continues to be one of the tensest, most exciting, and most intelligent books on the stands.

  7. Irredeemable - Mark Waid imagines a world whose "Superman" snaps one day and decides to do all the unthinkable, incredibly destructive, horrifically evil things that Superman would never do. The result is an extremely unsettling and engrossing story set in an exciting new universe.

  8. No Hero - In this series, Warren Ellis continues the examination of the superhuman that he began in Black Summer, and that he is currently still working through in Supergod (a series which failed to make this list for no other reason than the fact that only two issues have come out, so I didn't think I'd seen enough of it yet to include it). It's a dark, but rather painfully realistic, visualization of humanity, and of how the world might change if people could really have super powers.

  9. Comic Book Comics - A smart, engrossing, and extremely irreverent history of comic books cleverly and appropriately presented in comic book form. Fun!

  10. Criminal - Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips continue their incredibly impressive, artful, and entertaining crime noir series. One of the best parts is the essay in the back on other noir-related topics.
Tagged (?): Best of the Double Nothings (Not), Comic books (Not), Criminal (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Lists (Not), Scalped (Not), Superman (Not), Umbrella Academy (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009 03:51 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

Wow, it has been a looooooong time since I've posted one of these. I had been falling behind anyway, and then Nanowrimo happened, and I fell so much further behind that it became ridiculous. So I've decided to give up on the idea of catching up on all the comics I missed reviewing, and just pick up with the most recent week. Hope nobody minds!

This post covers some new releases from the week of 10/7 (because I happened to already have them written, so I figured I might as well post them), as well as new releases from the week of 12/3. Beware spoilers!

New releases (10/7)
Astonishing X-Men #31
Now this - this is a good X-Men comic. We start with alien fighting, then the whole team works together to save people in danger, and then there's a weird, creepy Sentinel attack! Also, amusing humor throughout.
Thumbs Up

Batman and Robin #5
The new artist is not as good as the old guy. Scarlet's backstory just makes her creepier. It's pretty disappointing to me that the new Red Hood is just... Jason Todd again. Boring! Once somebody pointed it out to me, I did get a bit of a chuckle out of the fact that there's a phone poll in support of Jason Todd in the book, considering that a phone poll is how it was decided he would be killed. Flamingo, meanwhile, is gross and disturbing.

Definitely not my favorite issue of this. Hoping for better soon.
Thumbs Sideways

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #29
Giant war! It's cute how Xander and Dawn teach the Slayers about guns. And now it turns out Oz & friends' hippie dippy crap about giving the magic to the Earth was a bit of a lie. In fact they were giving the magic to wrathful goddesses, whom they now call upon to save them. So yeah, getting rid of the magic was as bad an idea as it seemed. But calling on wrathful goddesses sounds like maybe an even worse idea. Hmm...
Thumbs Up

Captain America: Theater of War - Ghosts of My Country #1
Another in a series of Captain America: Theater of War one-shots. This one takes us through a series of important moments in the history of America, and each time a phrase is repeated, and Captain America's spirit is there. The book is alternately cheesy and effective. I can't quite decide how I feel about it.
Thumbs Sideways

Criminal: The Sinners #1
Hooray, Criminal is back! And so is Tracy Lawless. As usual he's got trouble closing in on him from every direction. Sleeping with the boss' wife? Really? And man, that's a bad job you got stuck with. I didn't expect kids to be the culprits!

I really enjoyed the interview with Darwyn Cooke in the back about the Parker books. Some great details on Cooke's adaptation process for The Hunter, and some really interesting insight into the story. And the appreciation of Sam Peckinpah's The Killer Elite was so convincing I immediately added the movie to my Netflix queue.
Thumbs Up

Dark Reign: Zodiac #3
The object of our villain/hero's immediate scheme is finally revealed, but it's really only the first part of a much larger plan to change the world. I'd love to see more of this story. Great writing and art. But man, that poor H.A.M.M.E.R. agent. He just had no luck.
Thumbs Up

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Run! #6
Pretty great ending for this series, and a poetic defeat for the Human Flame. He's trapped by his own lust for power, and his refusal to go back to the loser he used to be. Also, his stupidity. His stupidity definitely doesn't help. The bit with the cell phone pic is a nice touch.
Thumbs Up

Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #3
Big showdown between both Ghost Riders and their enemies. I love Trull! Also, the Gun Nuns. Still really enjoying the reprint backup story, too. Exciting plot, and Witch-woman is hot!
Thumbs Up

The Incredibles #1
As I suspected, our storyline focuses on the alien virus introduced in #0. Turns out it passes on super powers! Cool idea, and I love the silly henchmen. "Should you really be holding a baby when you're on fire?" Also, I instantly approve of any character named Ungorilla.
Thumbs Up

New releases (12/3)
Captain America: Theater of War - Prisoners of Duty #1
Another surprisingly good entry in this series of one-shots. Exciting action, coupled with a powerful statement about the cruelty of war.
Thumbs Up

Dark Avengers Annual #1
Finally we find out what the new Captain Marvel has been up to since he ran out on the Dark Avengers. Turns out he's been calling home for further instructions, and also flirting with a goth art student. Then at the end he gets a new power set and a new uniform. Some vaguely interesting ideas here, and I could see how somebody could now go interesting places with the Captain Marvel character. But the writing is also pretty cheesy, especially as far as the goth art student is concerned. And it's painfully obvious that nobody knows what to do with this Captain Marvel guy. New writers just keep changing the character completely so they can try something different with him. It's kind of sad.
Thumbs Sideways

The Incredibles #3
Reasonably fun issue. There's a huge, super-powered war that might have been too hard to do even in an animated movie. So that's cool. Still, I feel like something is missing here. There's just not a lot of life or energy or creativity in the dialog and the story. I might drop this book.
Thumbs Sideways

The Marvels Project #4
I was a little disappointed with this. The opening especially is really over-narrated, and it's pretty harsh how Brubaker casually dispatches The Ferret. It's a little tiresome reading yet another summary of Steve Roger's early life. Why not do something different with it this time? I mean, this is just a straight-up summary of the same events we all know by heart. John Steele is interesting, and I like how he meets up with Nick Fury and his guys; I imagine they'll get along well. But the way Brubaker just skips through Steele's interactions with the German townspeople seems a bit clumsy. I like seeing the assassination of Erskine from the perspective of the saboteur; that's interesting. But yeah, overall this is definitely not my favorite issue of this series.
Thumbs Sideways

Scalped #33
In case you were wondering, yes, Scalped is still awesome. I'm glad to see our hero seems to finally be pulling himself together and enacting some kind of plan, even if it involves teaming up with the ultimate scumbag, Diesel. Is Chief Red Crow's big plan to defuse the Hmong situation to just get beaten up? I'm not sure that's going to satisfy them...

In the back of the book is a preview for something called Luna Park. It's awful! So that's good to know.
Thumbs Up

Siege: The Cabal #1
This one-shot is meant to bridge the gap between Marvel's last big event (Dark Reign) and its next one (Siege). It involves Norman Osborn rather arbitrarily deciding to move on Asgard. He also has a violent argument with Doctor Doom over Namor. I don't really care for this comic. I think the problem is that I don't understand the characters' motivations. They just seem to be performing random acts in service of Bendis' plot. Also, the preview of Siege #1 is disappointing. It looks like Loki and Osborn are going to team up to create an inciting incident nearly identical to the one that started the Civil War, as an excuse for Osborn to move on Asgard. First of all, I don't even get why Osborn is going after Asgard. He has to know he can't take on a whole city full of Gods. Why not just let them be if they're not coming after him? And it's also really disappointing to me that Bendis is just going to reuse the same plot mechanic from Civil War. I mean, come on. That is lame.
Thumbs Sideways

Supergod #2
This series is amazing. The natural next step in Warren Ellis' examination of the concept of the superhuman. Now he's looking at the superhuman in relation to humanity's conception of religion - Superheroes as Gods. The problem is, once you've made a God, how do you control it? How do you understand it? And the answer is, you can't. This comic is loaded with amazing, mind-blowing ideas and incredibly dark humor.
Thumbs Up

Ultimate Spider-Man #5
I was really excited about this comic at first, but I'm starting to get tired of it. It's cute. The art's good. The story's okay. But it's not blowing me away anymore. And that Bendis dialog! It really starts to grate on you. I mean, how many books did I buy this week by Bendis? That guy is everywhere! Can't he just back off a little?
Thumbs Sideways
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Criminal (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Pixar (Not), Scalped (Not), Siege (Not), Spider-Man (Not), The Take (Not), Vampires (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Saturday, October 24, 2009 04:12 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Although the strips themselves were uneven, Wednesday Comics was a wonderful experiment and a great format in which to deliver comics. I hope they do something similar again in the future.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Comic books (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Greg Pak (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Mark Millar (Not), Monsters (Not), Monsters Inc. (Not), Muppets (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Pixar (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Monday, September 21, 2009 11:47 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Titans - Yep. Still sucks.

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

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

Metal Men - I still don't care.

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

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

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

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

Hawkman - Hawkman has an oddly and almost annoyingly protracted argument with a museum curator over whether the survivors of the plane crash should run from the T. Rex or not. He finally wins the argument by pointing out that, "I'm Hawkman, dammit!" Heh. He stole that from Batman. Anyway, despite the slightly irritating and drawn out back-and-forth between Hawkman and the curator, this is a fun episode, thanks in large part to the giant, epic panel at the bottom showing the T. Rex and Hawkman soaring into battle with each other.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Brian Michael Bendis (Not), Buffy (Not), Comic books (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Ultimate Comics (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Friday, August 28, 2009 11:57 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post covers new releases from 8/12. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post covers new releases from 8/5. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

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

Supergirl - Still lame.

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

Wonder Woman - Repetitive, cluttered, and dumb.

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

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

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

Hawkman - I have to admit, this one is definitely getting better. This is a pretty fun issue in which Hawkman does a crazy thing to try to save a plane, but doesn't quite make it. And the teaser text says, "Next week: it gets worse!" Awesome!
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Buffy (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dark Reign (Not), Destroyer (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Frankenstein (Not), Ghost Rider (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Muppets (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009 12:43 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As usual, I find myself charmed by the overall experience of Wednesday Comics, even though some of its individual parts are less than great.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Captain Britain (Not), Comic books (Not), Duane Swierczynski (Not), Eric Powell (Not), Fables (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Hulk (Not), Jack of Fables (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Legion of Super-Heroes (Not), Paul Cornell (Not), Pixar (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Trek (Not), The Goon (Not), The Take (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not), Wolverine (Not)
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Sunday, July 26, 2009 07:29 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from 7/15. These days I'm trying hard to omit the plot synopses, but I still might slip in a spoiler now and then, so be warned.

All Select Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
There are two new stories this time: a pretty poor Blonde Phantom murder mystery by Marc Guggenheim, with art by Javier Pulido, and a very strange and even rather disturbing parody story by Michael Kupperman called "Marvex the Super Robot." The reprints are two (I think the first two, and possibly the only two) Marvex the Super Robot stories from issues #3 and 4 of Daring Mystery Comics from April-May of 1940.

The Blonde Phantom story is called "Murder on Another Planet," but sadly the title is just a metaphor and no alien worlds are involved. Instead, we just see the Phantom getting back into her snazzy superhero outfit after many years out of it in order to solve the murder of her friend Michael Brayden. The tale is told mostly through noir-style narration; really it's more an illustrated short story than a comic book. The art is quite excellent, but sadly, the writing is cheesy, melodramatic, and overdone, particularly during the final sequence. Not so good.

Kupperman's Marvex story is absurd to the point of being almost frighteningly deranged, but it's only slightly more insane than the original Marvex stories of which it's a parody. I probably should have read the original stories first, then come back to Kupperman's story; perhaps it would have been slightly less disturbing that way. As it is, I have to say I found it more weird than funny, although I enjoy the art and the premise. Marvex's actual origin story comes next. It's a classic Golden Age story - a super-powered good guy versus gangsters who are trying to steal military secrets - but in this case the good guy is a robot, modeled after Earthlings by aliens from another dimension and created to be a slave to them. Only they seem to have mistakenly given him self-awareness, as immediately after being created he decides he doesn't like them and their plan of enslavement and promptly KILLS ALL OF THEM. Then we are presented with this brilliant piece of narration: "By some strange turn of events Marvex is blown out of the fifth dimension onto Earth." There's no time for pesky explanations! Let's just move things along. Later Marvex saves a woman from a fire and she sends him after the spies who stole her father's secret military plans. Marvex doesn't mince words with them, or pull any punches. He yanks one out of a speeding car by his hair, telling him, "You are no good! You die!" When the crook asks to be let go, Marvex hurls him into a nearby boulder, saying, "There! I let you go!" When he corners the mastermind behind the heist, Marvex throws him through the wall of an office, presumably to his death, as the office is clearly not on the first floor. When Marvex returns the plans to the woman, she says, "Oh, thank you! You are the only friend I have!" He responds, "But remember - we can never be more than friends." (Uh, I don't think she asked to be!) She asks, "Why not?" and in response he removes his shirt and says, "Because I am not human - I am Marvex the Super-Robot." A narration box at the bottom of the panel helpfully explains, "The Super-Robot quickly disrobes showing his metal body."

Wow. I mean... wow.

In the next story, despite the fact that it's the very next episode in the Marvex saga and came out only a month after the previous one, Marvex already has a different character design. His face is now less human and more obviously robotic, and he has odd white circles around his eyes. He also now speaks in huge bold letters at all times, as if he's constantly shouting at the top of his super-robotic lungs. He takes out some more gangsters for his blonde girlfriend, but when she tells him at the end of the story, "Marvex - you're the most wonderful man I know!" he insists, "I AM NOT A MAN - ONLY A MACHINE!" What is your deal, dude? Almost every robotic man throughout the history of science fiction has wanted desperately to be human, and has tried at all times to act like a human and be seen as a human. But Marvex insists at all times that he is a robot, so you'd better not try to have relations of any kind with him! His desire to not be touched by your fleshy appendages reminds me of Machine Man.

The last thing in the book is a short preview of issue #570 of Fantastic Four. Looks like this is the issue in which a new creative team takes over (Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham). The art is nice, the flashback is rather effective, and the fight with the weird human-powered machines is intriguing. Still, not sure I'm up for giving that series yet another try.
Thumbs Sideways

Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #2
Man, those poor little furry aliens sure have terrible luck! I enjoy the dark humor surrounding their adventures, and their fascinating backstory. I also love the epic knock-down, drag-out between Silver Surfer and Beta Ray Bill. Then Bill makes a terrible choice, and the consequences are dramatized in subtle and powerful fashion. This is such a great series! I'm also pleased that, as I'd hoped, they're continuing to run the reprints of Bill's origin story as a backup throughout. Interestingly enough, when Thor and Bill stop fighting long enough to realize they're on the same side, we don't move directly to them joining forces - instead they end up having another, even more brutal fight... to the death! It's thrilling stuff, and there's even an amusing interlude with Volstagg.
Thumbs Up

Blackest Night #1
Here it is at last, after all the hype and all the preludes: Blackest Night. And I have to say, I'm not really a fan. My main complaint is one I'm not used to making: I feel like it crosses lines that didn't need to be crossed. I didn't need to see the Black Hand sloppily licking Bruce Wayne's skull, accompanied by the sound effect "SLLK." I didn't need to revisit the infamous "girl in the fridge" scene. I didn't need to see Scar the evil Guardian bite another Guardian in the throat, tear his heart out of his chest, and eat it, and then follow that up by barfing out some disgusting black substance and encasing the rest of the Guardians in it. I didn't need to see Ralph and Sue Dibny come back to life so they could savagely beat Hawkman and Hawkgirl to death before ripping their hearts out.

Admittedly, maybe I would have accepted all this more readily if the comic were well written. But it most definitely is not. It's loaded with clumsy, melodramatic dialog and far too much painfully corny narration. It is the complete opposite of subtle.

I won't say the entire thing is garbage. There are some good ideas in here, and some powerful emotional moments, and Ivan Reis' art is quite excellent. I remain intrigued by the story, and yes, I will probably buy the next issue to find out what happens. But I sure hope it gets better!
Thumbs Down

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1
Despite the title, this book isn't really so much about Blackest Night. It's more a series of character portraits of people involved (in some cases rather tangentially) in the War of Light. There's the origin story of Saint Walker, which takes the form of a religious parable; a darkly funny story about Mongul; and a rather enigmatic tale about the mysterious Indigo Tribe. The first story is by Geoff Johns, with art by Jerry Ordway, and although it's a bit melodramatic and reminiscent of many a story before it (especially the Book of Job), it's surprisingly effective. I don't always like the work of Peter J. Tomasi, but his Mongul story is moving and clever; it's a look at the DCU inverted, from the villain's perspective. The final story, again by Geoff Johns, this time with art by Rags Morales, doesn't explain much about the Indigo Tribe, and it features a lot of them talking in rather irritating nonsense language, but it does reveal that they seem to be able to take in the powers of the other Lanterns and turn them back on their wielders. Where they stand in the conflict is also unclear; they end up killing a Green Lantern (perhaps it's more correct to say they put him out of his misery), but also attacking and scaring off a Yellow Lantern.

I didn't love this book - it's okay, not great - but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I was expecting it to be.
Thumbs Sideways

Captain America #601
This comic turned me off right away by actually printing "A VERY SPECIAL ISSUE OF CAPTAIN AMERICA" on the cover. Seriously, who does that? That's a bad cliche they used to use to decribe the episode of a TV show that's about sex or drug abuse, or an incurable disease. That's not something you say with complete sincerity about your own comic book in 2009.

The reason why the issue is so special is because the art was provided by comic legend Gene Colan. And indeed the art is reasonably impressive with interesting page/panel design and a real painterly look to it. But some of the character faces - especially, unfortunately, Captain America's - are oddly misshapen. And Brubaker really dropped the ball as far as the writing goes. The story is clumsily constructed, opening up in a frame that's already a flashback, set during the Civil War, which then flashes back again to 1945, and then a couple pages later flashes back yet again to Cap's many-times-retold origin story. A flashback within a flashback within a flashback? Come on! The story ends up being a silly, melodramatic thing about vampires during WWII. Which is kind of a cool idea, but it's been done. And the payoff as to who the vampires are, and what Cap has to do to finally stop them, is quite lame and cliche. The dialog throughout is pretty ridiculous and clunky, and the last panel, which features Bucky winking - winking! - as he talks about the horrors he and Cap have been through seems really inappropriate. It's a really disappointing comic and, as I said on Twitter after I finished reading it, the only thing "special" about it is that it's especially bad.
Thumbs Down

Dark Avengers #7
I was pretty surprised when, after I finished reading this comic, I turned it over and saw Matt Fraction's name on the cover. But... it's funny and clever! And I thought Brian Michael Bendis wrote this title! These comic book authors are always throwing me off. Anyway, one of the things I really enjoy about this comic are the clever descriptions Fraction slips into the narrative boxes introducing each character. Norman Osborn, for instance, is described as "Director of H.A.M.M.E.R. Slowly boiling cauldron of insanity." Mimic's box says, "Powers of the original five X-Men. Mimics other powers in proximity. Really happy to be here." Emma Frost's box reveals she's going by "Black Queen" now, which is rather silly, but okay. Cyclops, meanwhile, flies in on a jetpack to meet with Norman Osborn on Alcatraz, so his box says, "Leader of the X-Men. Owner of a jetpack." Heh. More fun character descriptions: Bullseye - "Psychotic killing machine. Bored." Ms. Marvel - "Team leader. Hooks up with everything that moves."

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the confrontation between Scott and Norman. Norman starts in on this big speech, and Scott just suddenly interrupts him with one word: "Surrender." It's the last thing anybody expects him to say. Osborn blows up on him: "Or... or what? Are you... are you insane? Hm?" It's pretty great. Plus it makes me think Scott's being cleverer here than I thought he was.

I also enjoy Bullseye ranting in the next scene. He complains about Wolverine ("Give me a break. How many teams can that guy be on?!?") and says he wants to get out there and fight. "And what about you, big guy?" he asks Ares. "You with me?" Ares responds with the only word he says in the entire scene: "Aye." (His box describes him as "Greek God of war. Orator." Pfft.) When Bullseye finally taunts Wolverine in person, he responds, "I would love - quite literally, love - to see you try, you ridiculous carny." Then, big fight!! Awesome. Meanwhile, Emma demands to know what's really happening to all the captured mutants. It's pretty funny seeing Norman and Dark Beast try to keep straight faces while lying to her about what they're doing. Finally, one of the more interesting character intro boxes describes Simon Trask as "Human Sentinel Zero." Oh really? This might explain this whole thing he's doing where he seems to be controlling people's minds and commanding them to destroy. That should be interesting!

I was totally down on this whole Utopia thing before, but I have to admit Fraction has turned me nearly completely around with this issue. I even like Luke Ross' art. I'll be damned.
Thumbs Up

Doctor Who #1
I've been a fan of Doctor Who since I was a kid, but for whatever reason I've mostly avoided the comic books. When I saw there was a new ongoing series starting, though, I knew I had to check it out. The first issue is written by Tony Lee with art by Al Davison and it stars the current Doctor from the BBC TV series in the title role. This time he's in Hollywood in 1926, hobnobbing with famous and soon-to-be-famous actors. Amusingly, whenever they ask his name, he gives the name of a different famous 20th century Hollywood actor. Inevitably he discovers there's an evil alien plot afoot that he has to stop, with the help of some contemporary folks, including the actor "Archie Maplin," who's clearly meant to be a stand-in for Charlie Chaplin (although why they didn't just use the real name instead of making up a fake one is a little confusing to me). The end features the Doctor in a classic silent movie predicament and is really quite clever and fun; I like how the panels on the penultimate page are drawn like train tracks, or like a strip of film. And the final page is wonderfully dramatic.

It's not a fantastic comic - it's actually rather silly and formulaic - but it's still pretty fun and I'm curious to see where it goes, so I'll most likely pick up the next issue.
Thumbs Sideways

Final Crisis: Aftermath - Escape #3
The surreal Prisoner-like adventures continue! Our "heroes" get together and try to figure things out, but it's like they're each having a different conversation all at the same time. Then the "bad guys" put some folks on a wheel and spin it to decide the fates of others, like in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. It's kind of cool. The story remains confusing in the extreme, however. I'll stick around to see if it actually resolves into something understandable.
Thumbs Sideways

Incognito #5
In this issue, lots of cool little secrets start to leak out about: the creepy, twisted relationship between Xander, his brother, and Ava Destruction (when they're about to hook up, Zack asks, "You don't think it'll be too weird?" and Ava says, "It fucking better be..."); the connection between the twins; the explanation for Ava's looks and the price she paid for them; a look at the mole the villains have placed amongst their enemies; where the twins came from, and that there's something about them that frightens the other villains; the origin of superpowers in this universe; just what "The Sleeper" is, and just what the villains plan to do with him. And hey, Lazarus looks a lot like The Hood! Although I guess he's supposed to be a Shadow analog.

Anyway, the point is, awesome issue!! This series is really picking up speed and adding all kinds of interesting new story elements. Fun, creative, exciting. And there's even an interesting essay in the back about Fu Manchu by Jess Nevins!
Thumbs Up

New Mutants #3
This issue starts off on the right foot with a kick-ass cover, featuring Dani Moonstar walking towards us and pointing a pistol directly at us, while completely festooned in a whole arsenal of other weaponry. I'm actually not sure if this is the standard cover or the alternate cover; I'm thinking standard, in which case it's by Adam Kubert & Justin Ponsor. Anyway, inside the book there's a great scene where Legion gets a brutal kick to the head, and then Sam makes the decision to leave Dani locked up to keep her safe, a decision which ends up putting her in more danger, which she does not appreciate, and which interestingly underlines the rift that's opened between the powered and depowered mutants. I like the scene where Legion suddenly becomes impossibly muscular, almost like in a Dragonball-style anime. At the same time he screams, "NOBODY LOVES ME!!!" Bobby responds, "I... I have no idea what to say to that." There's a creepy scene where one of the seemingly "good" personalities in Legion attacks the defenseless Dani, but is stopped in time. Then Illyana decides to enter Legion herself to try to save the missing girl. Sam points out she could lose herself forever in there, but she responds, "What makes you so sure, Sam, that I have a self to lose?" Okay, so she's still crazy, then. It looks like it might be time to call in the X-Men, but Dani says no, let's go after Legion ourselves - with guns! Meanwhile, inside Legion, Illyana throws caution to the wind and starts laying about with her soul sword with extreme prejudice. Very nice!

Definitely still loving Diogenes Neves' art and Zeb Wells' writing here. It's an exciting and intriguing story with a good mix of action, drama, and humor.
Thumbs Up

Scalped #30
This is the first part of a new story arc, and boy is it a doozie. It opens with the wise old lady telling Falls Down an old Cheyenne story about how the great white grandfather beaver of the North is always gnawing at the pole that holds up the Earth. Then she says, "Sometimes when I first wake up I feel like I can hear it." "Hear what?" he asks. "The gnawing," she answers, and that's also the title of the arc: "The Gnawing." Excellent.

Bad Horse ends up with Catcher in the back of his squad car, and they have an eerie coversation wherein Catcher drops some heavy info on Bad Horse, revealing that he knows all kinds of things he shouldn't. Then he says, "Wanbli." "What the fuck does that mean?" Bad Horse asks. "Eagle," Catcher says, pointing, and there ahead of them is an eagle, which crashes into the windshield, sending the car out of control. Bad Horse stumbles out and Catcher disappears. Another great scene!

But the next scene ramps things up even further, as Red Crow reveals to Bad Horse that not only does he know Nitz has a mole in his organization, he wants Bad Horse to find that mole! Delicious irony. Everything and everyone is pressing down on Bad Horse now. For both Nitz and Red Crow, this is his final test. Meanwhile, Red Crow reveals to the Hmongs what he's done to Brass. When their leader demands he put Brass on the phone, Red Crow does so - but then shoots Brass in the head. It's the greatest, most bad-ass scene of all time. I cackled with glee as I read it. But now a huge, bloody war seems inevitable.

Such a fantastic issue! Explosive and insane and transformative. Everything is coming to a head now. But then, it feels like that's happening in practically every issue of Scalped - like everything's always teetering on the edge of complete collapse. Which is why it's so good.
Thumbs Up

Sherlock Holmes #3
I love the way Holmes, dressed as an old guy, totally dismantles a rich guy's bodyguard. That's bad-ass. I don't quite get what's supposed to be happening in the scene where Holmes sneaks back into his house and knocks over a pie. Is he causing a distraction to keep the reporter from getting something important out of Mrs. Hudson? I'm not clear on that. Maybe it will make more sense in a future issue. Anyway, there's also an exciting assassination attempt that's thwarted by a quick-thinking Lestrade, whose name is apparently familiar to the Baron, which is a bit odd. Maybe that will also be explained later on. Meanwhile Watson tries to get some help from Mycroft, but is unsuccessful. Then Holmes himself goes to see Mycroft, looking for answers. It should be interesting to see how that turns out!

This is getting more and more intriguing. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.
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Star Trek: Crew #5
A science officer named Ensign Spock is introduced in this issue. Exciting! We also learn that our nameless main character has been constantly refusing promotions, and we learn at the end of the issue why: she wants to remain in the middle of the action, and not be held back by rules and regulations. In fact, she wants to be first officer! But before we get there, the Enterprise has an adventure chasing vanishing star systems, and is eventually sucked after one of them and into a vast emptiness. The story is actually pretty odd, over-the-top, and even depressing. Thanks to Spock's telepathic mind, they're able to learn that super-advanced, but oddly childish, entities in the future have been stealing star systems from the past in an attempt to stave off entropy and keep the universe from ending. But it's not doing any good, and the crew of the Enterprise is slowly dying from the effects of entropy themselves. Finally the future entities are talked into returning the ship and its crew to their own time, and giving up their vain attempts to stop the universe's ultimate destruction.

I can't say I really enjoyed this issue very much. It's more unbelievable even than your average Star Trek comic, and like I said, it's a bit more depressing than I really like. Still, it has some cool moments, and I believe we're now all set up for the concluding issue of this rather strong miniseries.
Thumbs Sideways

Wednesday Comics #2
I was a bit harsh on the first issue of Wednesday Comics in my last edition of The Take. The truth is, I love the format and the concept so much that I really enjoy reading even the weakest stories in it. We open up here once again with Azzarello's Batman, and it's a really well done little story. We meet the widow of the rich man killed in the last episode, and Bruce Wayne cleverly saves her life from an assassin's bullet in a really beautifully and cleverly drawn series of panels (compliments go to artist Risso). Meanwhile, Ryan Sook contributes more beautiful, classical art to Dave Gibbons' Kamandi, which continues with our title character meeting up with Prince Tuftan and fighting off some giant rats. Arcudi's Superman also has some fantastic art, this time from Lee Bermejo, but I'm not as happy with some of the writing here. Superman talks to his friend Batman about his unease over his confrontation with the mysterious alien last issue, but Batman is less than helpful, and Superman storms off all bitter and petulant. It's kind of lame, and I'm not sure I see the two of them having that kind of interaction. I don't think Bruce is that simplistic and brutal, and I don't think Clark is that sensitive. But maybe I'm being picky. We'll see where this one goes. I'm also still not a huge fan of Deadman. The story does get a little more intriguing when the goddess intervenes to warn Deadman off from his latest investigation. He defies her and leaps inside the body of the murderer anyway, only to find himself sucked into some kind of mysterious darkness. Hmm... Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy Busiek's Green Lantern! In this episode, we get to see the emerald guardian in action, fighting some dudes with jetpacks and laser guns, and then we cut over to an astronaut being transformed by some kind of space fungus on live TV. Nice! And the art is, as usual, classical and fun. Gaiman and Allred's Metamorpho uses an interesting stylistic conceit in this episode: all the action occurs simultaneously in one gigantic panel, just like in old paintings. Metamorpho asks if there will be dinosaurs in the hidden land they're visiting. His mad scientist boss says, "Possibly a couple," and he responds, "Neat." Fun! Also, across the bottom of the page is a fake message from the "Metamorpho Fans of America," all done up in old school Ben-day dot printing style, explaining that there have been other "element men" (and women!) throughout the history of comics. Good to know! Thanks, little guys!

I still don't like Sean Galloway's art on Teen Titans, but this episode is thankfully not as blandly abstract or melodramatic as the first one. Once again it's all narration, but this time it's from the perspective of Robin, whose voice is bitter, sarcastic, and slightly more interesting than Trident's. Still not great writing, though, and the story remains rather lame.

The second part of Paul Pope's Strange Adventures is just as beautiful, fun, and stylish as the first. He's hit just the right note with the language - it has that wonderful, bombastic, over-the-top, Silver Age kind of flavor to it, without being corny or lame. Adam nearly quotes Planet of the Apes in the fourth panel: "Get your paws off her, you-!" Later, he agrees to the big villain's demands in the hopes that he can turn things to his advantage later. Should be fun!

Part two of Supergirl is more of the same: she's still chasing the superpets, and the superpets are still making a mess of everything. It's cutesy and rather dull. Metal Men is also still kind of fun, but mostly just bland and silly. Wonder Woman is still squished and hurried. I don't understand why Ben Caldwell, when he was given the chance to use this extra-large, epic-sized format, broke his story into episodes that are so long and detailed, he had to squeeze them into a bunch of tiny little panels with so many words in them you can barely read them, and such small pictures you can barely see them. The story's not even that complex; I don't think it required so much detail to tell it. Weak.

Sgt. Rock continues with a bit of exposition and then a flashback that starts to explain how Rock got into this position. Not as exciting as the opening chapter, but now we're getting more into the story, and there's the promise of some serious Nazi beatings in the future.

This time around Iris West and Flash have switched places on the page, but it's still just one story that continues through each of them in turn. We start off by learning that Barry's vanishing act at the end of the last issue was him accidentally going back through time. It leads to him having a fight with himself over Iris' note, which is pretty interesting. Still definitely having fun with these two linked comics.

The Demon and Catwoman starts to get a little more interesting, as Selina gets sucked through a magic doorway, and the Demon mentions a witch whom he thinks is behind all of this. Hmm. The final story, Hawkman, is thankfully not narrated by birds this time, but there is still a lot of narration and it is still very clumsy and cheesy. It's loaded with exposition, and tells a story that's barely even believable. This is still the worst strip in the book.

But despite the many misses nestled among the hits, I still really enjoy Wednesday Comics.
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Tagged (?): Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Blackest Night (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Final Crisis (Not), Flash (Not), Geoff Johns (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), John Byrne (Not), Neil Gaiman (Not), Paul Pope (Not), Scalped (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Star Trek (Not), Superman (Not), The Take (Not), Wednesday Comics (Not)
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