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Friday, August 20, 2010 11:29 AM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

X-Men: Second Coming #2
This is the concluding part of the most recent X-Drama maxi-series - the one I was talking about earlier. There are four chapters in this book, one by Zeb Wells, one by Mike Carey, one by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, and one by Matt Fraction. They all deal with the aftermath of the events of "Second Coming" - which means another superhero funeral with lots of tearful speeches. Ugh. I'm so tired of that crap. There's also a ridiculous two-page spread of X-Force posing for the camera, courtesy the pencil of Greg Land. Oh, and naturally the Phoenix raises her ugly head again. Sigh. Sometimes the X-Men just make me tired.
Thumbs Down
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Comic books (Not), Darwyn Cooke (Not), Ed Brubaker (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Hellboy (Not), Hulk (Not), Iron Man (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), John Arcudi (Not), Kieron Gillen (Not), Mark Waid (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Mike Carey (Not), Mike Mignola (Not), Roger Langridge (Not), Scalped (Not), Spider-Man (Not), Star Wars (Not), The Take (Not), Thor (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), X-Men (Not), Zeb Wells (Not)
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010 03:44 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

This post covers new releases from the week of 4/21. Beware spoilers!

New releases
Captain America: Who Won't Wield the Shield #1
This is one of those weird, self-parodying, one-shot, anthology comics full of silly in-jokes that the comic creators themselves probably get a lot more of a kick out of than any reader could. Forbush Man - the main character of Marvel's parody comics from way back - takes the starring role in the frame story, assaulting some of Marvel's most popular and famous creators, who are skewered, and/or skewer themselves, in amusing fashion (it's even more amusing if you follow them on Twitter). They distract Forbush Man by showing him (and us) other parody comics. The first is a surreal, far out, drugged-up mashup of Doctor Strange and Captain America. It's certainly colorful, and occasionally funny, but mostly just odd. Next up is "The Golden Age Deadpool," which is a great concept, with plenty of fun art and plenty of ridiculously anachronistic hip-hop dialog from Deadpool, but which overall could have been executed better. Really the most brutal and effective self-parody in the book is the final page, which is a "Sleege" checklist that rips Marvel's publishing schedule, its characters, its storytelling, and all of its recent large-scale sagas in truly biting fashion.
Thumbs Sideways

Gravel #18
Gravel seems to have decided five people is enough to make a Minor Seven and he pulls all his recruits together for their first collective group meeting, where he sets some ground rules for them, gives them a general mission, and also takes them (and us) on a tour of his previous adventures. If Gravel were a TV show (which, oh my God, it totally should be), this would be the clip show episode. And as we all know, the clip show episode is a bit of a cop-out. Still, it's fun to get a quick reminder of all the crazy crap Gravel's been through, and to see it again through the eyes of his apprentices. Plus we get to learn more about what Gravel expects of his Minor Seven. Finally, near the end of the issue that crazy killer dude who's been trying to get Gravel's attention finally does, and our hero sets out on a new mission. Should be fun!
Thumbs Up

Joe the Barbarian #4
Joe meets a cult of wizards whose magic is really just half-understood bits of science and technology ("square root of eye of newt, over function of the cosine where EEE equals magic times the speed of all likelihood squared"). They think the fact that Joe has broken through into this reality is what's causing this reality to fall apart ("A door has been opened into the outer murk"). We end on a cliffhanger again as Joe seems to be simultaneously soaring down a cliff in an untested flying machine, pursued by monstrous agents of evil, and standing at the top of a flight of stairs in his house about to tumble down them. The magicians are a set of great, funny new characters, the story is well constructed and intriguing, the action is exciting, and the dialog is brilliant. Good times.
Thumbs Up

The Unwritten #12
Man, I love this comic. It is so, so good. I know I say that pretty much every month, but... wow. This issue is another one-shot, this time revealing what happens to those who piss off Wilson Taylor. Somehow he's trapped a couple of his enemies inside a children's story, which is sort of an amalgamation of all famous children's stories - Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit (the comic has almost the same opening line - "In a hole in the side of a hill, there lived a rabbit."), Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, etc. It might sound like a fun time, living life in a children's story, but Carey depicts it, in a darkly hilarious way, as a truly hellish existence. It's clear right away that the rabbit doesn't belong in this story, because he starts stabbing himself, and screaming "Pauly Bruckner!" which is presumably his own true name, that he is trying desperately to hang onto. It is so wonderfully, horribly funny when he emits streams of terrible curses at all the kindly forest creatures he meets. He probes the edges of the fantasy world, trying to find a way out, but the story just brings him right back to where he started. Then he hatches a plan to kill the story's very creator, with the idea that it will burst the bubble once and for all. But what he doesn't realize about children's stories is that there's a dark space at the heart of every one, and it's not empty.

What I'm saying is, this is another amazing issue, containing another wonderful ode to another wonderful genre of literature, and another insightful and funny deconstruction of said genre, which also simultaneously advances the overall storyline (if only incrementally), and certainly gives us a closer look at the dark side of Wilson Taylor. I love this comic to bits.
Thumbs Up
Tagged (?): Books (Not), Captain America (Not), Comic books (Not), Dr. Strange (Not), Grant Morrison (Not), Gravel (Not), Jason Aaron (Not), Matt Fraction (Not), Mike Carey (Not), The Take (Not), Tolkien (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wonderland (Not)
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Friday, September 18, 2009 11:36 PM
The Take
 by Fëanor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's great getting to read this fun, untold story from the past of the Incredibles. I also loved getting a look at some more of the supervillains in the Incredibles universe. Writers Mark Waid and Landry Walker deliver the characters we know and love having another exciting and funny adventure together, and artist Marcio Takara illustrates things perfectly. My only complaint is one of continuity. It was clear in the movie that the family had never fought together as a team until they did so on Syndrome's island. It was also clear that Violet had used her force field powers very rarely and really didn't know how to handle them. But this story has the four of them suiting up and going at it like old pros, and Violet creates a force field big enough and strong enough to contain her Dad and a whole bunch of angry supervillains. It just doesn't make sense. Still, overall I enjoyed this issue and I'm looking forward to more.
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The Muppet Show: The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson #2
We open with a recap of the previous issue being sung to us by a three-piece hillbilly band sitting on the stoop outside the theater. Next, the "mahna mahna" guy and his pair of "doo doo" backup singers show up and do pretty much the same song, except instead of "mahna mahna," the guy says, "Machu Picchu." It's a cute reference. And as I suspected, it turns out the guy in the leather jacket is not, in fact, Kermit, but an impersonator - he even pulls the mirror gag on Kermit. I love Scooter's page, where he does some detective work and comes to the conclusion that the hypnotist hanging around the theater is most likely an evil hypnotist. He also eventually figures out the identity of the impersonator: it's a toad named Kismet. But as it turns out, he's not as shifty as he seems. Or maybe he is! This continues to be a fun comic, with wonderful art by Roger Langridge.
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The New Avengers #56
Most of the Avengers do not take well to being de-powered. The one or two who didn't have any powers in the first place are just as fine as ever - but also just as de-powered as their buddies, and thus not much of a match against the big bads. But as it turns out, the Wrecking Crew and their buddy Doctor Jonas Harrow are targeting a different set of Avengers - Norman's! And what the hell do you know - their de-powering device even works on the Sentry! Not only that, they hack Norman's armor and tear it to pieces! Very impressive stuff. Two teams of Avengers on their knees. And meanwhile, Loki is helping Parker Robbins find a new source of power now that his Hood is no more.

A really thrilling and engaging issue with some really interesting and unexpected plot twists. Brian Michael Bendis must have written this one on one of his good days. Still, I might not have enjoyed it as much as I did if it weren't for the mind-bogglingly excellent art of Stuart Immonen, accompanied by Dave McCaig's beautiful colors. Great, great work.
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New Mutants #4
The first story arc comes to a satisfying conclusion in another fine issue of this series. It's really interesting seeing the uncomfortable interactions between the rest of the team and its de-powered member, Dani. Dani still wants to contribute, but Cannonball just wants her safely out of the way, and it makes for lots of tension and drama. Artist Diogenes Neves (with the help of colorist John Rauch) really kicks things up to the next level in this issue, especially in his depictions of Legion's mental landscape. I love the visual metaphors being used here, and the fantastic imagery. And the physical fight going on outside Legion's mindscape is nearly as thrilling and visually inventive. Meanwhile, writer Zeb Wells' deftly handles characters, dialog, and story with subtlety, realism, drama, and humor. I particularly like the final exchange between Cannonball and Cyclops. Cannonball: "I get the feeling that half of them think they could have done a better job, and one of them out-and-out hates me." Cyclops: "Heh. Welcome to my world."

I was afraid this series would start to let me down as the first story arc progressed, but it stuck to the same high level of quality in both writing and art from first issue to last. I'm very excited to see where this book goes next!
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Predator #2
The first issue of this series really bored me, and I was prepared to drop it if this issue was lame as well, but as it turns out things got a lot more interesting this time around. Our group of soldiers and mercenaries manages to take down one Predator, and it looks like one of their number (Thorpe) knows a lot more than he's letting on about the creatures. But their problems aren't over. Not only are human rebels shooting at them, there's also a whole gang of Predators picking them off one by one. But the really cool and interesting moment comes at the end, when we realize there's at least one Predator who's hunting the other Predators, and is thus sort of on their side. Woah. Yeah, okay, I'm hooked! For now.
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Scalped #31
Wow. Just, wow. Jason Aaron has been carefully building up a fistful of storylines over the past 30 issues, and now he's ratcheting up the tension in every single one of those storylines and building them all up to the breaking point. The overwhelming feeling is that the whole thing could bust open at any moment. Franklin might be about to solve not just the murder of the agents back in '75, but also Gina's murder. Bad Horse could be about to help Nitz nail Red Crow once and for all - if he doesn't get ratted out or killed first. Diesel is about to get out of jail and is planning to get revenge on Bad Horse - possibly by taking it out on Bad Horse's girlfriend. Meanwhile, the Hmongs are roaring into town with a load of guns in the trunk and war on their minds. Aaron is conducting a symphony here. It's brilliant how he's bringing this all together. And R.M. Guera's excellent art just adds another layer of drama and power. Comics at their finest.
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Sherlock Holmes #4
Another series that's really coming together is Dynamite's Sherlock Holmes. Last issue left me a bit confused and impatient, but this one explains away some of those confusing bits and adds some interesting new layers. It seems Holmes is a lot more in command of things than he seemed, and he may in fact have been manipulating the situation from the beginning. The entire outlines of his plan aren't clear yet, but what is clear is that he has a plan and that it's under way, and that's good enough for me. I'm quite content to sit back and watch it unfold, and confident that I'll be impressed by his genius when all is revealed in the end. It's a great feeling!
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Sinister Spider-Man #3
This series is so twisted and wrong. I love it. Pissed at a reporter, "Spider-Man" leaves a dead, half-digested, rabid squirrel on his desk along with a note reading "FROM YOUR F-N-SPIDER-MAN." Nice! Later he has a confrontation with the gang of freaks and geeks who want to "redeem" him. Things don't go well for the redeemers. In fact, Spider-Man does horrible, awful things to them. But he hands over only one to the police - the hilarious Doctor Manhattan parody. "I think he's magic or something? I dunno." Ha! Later, the poor armless Redeemer has to have someone else open an envelope for him - an envelope with which the Mayor can destroy Spider-Man. Theoretically. Should be fun to watch him try!
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Skrull Kill Krew #4
Even taking into account Sinister Spider-Man, I think I still have to give the title of most twisted and wrong comic this week to Skrull Kill Krew #4. Now that the Krew know what they really are (and how they got that way - apparently what was left of their humanity has died off, leaving only Skrull behind), some of them are feeling understandably confused about what they should do, and of two minds about what they've done. There's an odd moment where Ryder and his girl apparently get it on while each of them are shifted into the other's shape. Then it turns out the hippie guy has figured out how to become incorporeal or something? And also some of the Skrulls they killed were innocents, and now pretty much the entire native Skrull population has showed up to kill them in revenge. Most of the members of the Krew have learned nothing from this, and believe Skrulls should still be killed wherever they are found. Really, the major members of the Skrull Kill Krew are looking less and less like heroes and more and more like villains. It's creepy stuff. This issue feels a bit clumsily written, and some of the plot points don't make all that much sense, but it's definitely interesting and thought-provoking.
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Star Wars: Dark Times #14
After a long recess, the Blue Harvest storyline (not to mention Dark Times itself) finally continues. We get a fun peek at what Darth Vader is up to these days (it consists mainly of absentmindedly kicking ass in epic fashion while worrying about the Emperors plans), and then it's back to Dass Jennir, who is quickly discovering that his hot employer is not as good or as innocent as she seemed. Then again, Dass Jennir isn't as good or innocent as he used to be, either. He shows up at a mining platform where they're keeping slaves, and his droid looks around and says, "I'm going back to the ship. Let me know when you've killed them all." And indeed Jennir then proceeds to rather brutally and cold-bloodedly murder everybody. As the narration puts it: "As a Jedi, Jennir was a peacekeeper - protecting the innocent - supporting the laws of the Republic... but without laws - without the Republic - he will become a peacemaker - removing those who would harm the defenseless." He kills only bad guys, and frees a bunch of slaves, but still... sounds like you're on the path to the Dark Side there, Jennir! He's also rather cleverly setting the two gangs against each other, as I thought he would. Great action, a clever plot, and an interesting central character with a lot of depth and drama to him.
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Wednesday Comics #8
Batman - Batman makes a rare mistake, and the Commissioner is pretty pissed at him. It's an odd scene, and feels out of place in a Batman comic. It's hard to believe that Batman could still fall for a pretty face. Meanwhile, the true villain is finally revealed.

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Titans - Still sucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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