Friday, August 29, 2014

Moon Knight #1-6: From the Dead

I hope Warren Ellis got paid by the page and not by the word. Because he sure let Declan Shalvey do the heavy lifting in the first six issues of this relaunch. That isn’t to say that the stories are weak. In each and every case, there is a fun or exciting core concept that launches the issue. But the dialogue is continually sparse and there is little to no narration. This book is all about setting up an odd conflict, then seeing Shalvey put Moon Knight through his paces.

There isn’t really much of a reference that this is a Marvel comic, either. Black Spectre gets mentioned in one of the issues. A mutated SHIELD agent is an antagonist in another. And I think there are some references to the Avengers, but for the most part, this could be any character in any universe. That isn’t a bad thing. It just shows how easily Moon Knight could stand on his own. Frankly, reading these issues made me think that Marvel might want to get Moon Knight on the big screen. They might be able to do Batman better than Warner Bros!

Shalvey does great things in every issue. He experiments with page layouts, with backgrounds, and panels to create unique, exciting art on every page. His redesign of Moon Knight as a suit-wearing, limo riding professional is fantastic. He also makes sure to use occasional bits of history too, like the odd, bird-skull incarnation of Konshu that haunts Marc Spector throughout the series.

Six issues in, and Moon Knight is indeed primed to be set free. Ellis created a formula for success with his done-in-one approach. I don’t think Brian Wood will be able to match Ellis’ flair for odd and interesting ideas, but it will be interesting to see.

I’ll be dropping the book, as the creative team is what made this first run so GOOD. But I’ll keep up with the new creative team on Marvel Unlimited.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shazam HC

It is pretty much impossible for me to approach this title as if it is my first exposure to the Shazam character. I was a huge fan of Jerry Ordway’s Power of Shazam take back in the day, so Captain Marvel holds a place on my favorites list. Geoff Johns goes out of his way to modernize the concepts, and he does a decent job. It just doesn’t hold up against the Power of Shazam.

In the new 52, Billy Batson is a mean-spirited boy, who acts out to hide his pain and vulnerability. I really liked the updated take on Talky Tawny; the tiger’s zoo habitat is one of the last good memories that Billy has of his parents, so now he has personified the tiger into being his friend. Of course, when blessed with the power of Shazam… interesting things happen.

The wizard is recreated as an Australian Aborigine. The designs on all the figures of power are pretty impressive; I wish we could see more of those ancient wizards in action. The 7 deadly sins are all loose in the world too, and they do show up, causing chaos for a few pages. But they feel shoehorned into the story; there aren’t enough pages in this for them to get their due.

Johns doesn’t mess with Black Adam’s formula too much, which is a wise move. Still an arrogant jerk from ancient Egypt, Adam is a fantastic villain who ALMOST has a streak of nobility. Johns adds a pretty huge original sin into Adam’s origin, but even so, there are moments when it seems like you could almost reason with the guy. Fairness and justice are his motivation, after all.

Dr. Sivana starts off as a hale and hearty scientist in search of power, and ends up a weak genius with the ability to see magic. He never takes center stage, but clearly the seeds are planted for further stories. Seeing Sivana’s odd partner appear on the last page just bummed me out again, though. That character’s finest moment was in 52, and seeing his “first” appearance here just reminds me that the 52 series doesn’t count anymore.

Johns returns to a concept he used in Flashpoint, that Billy Batson has a large family of adopted brothers and sisters, all of whom can share the power of Shazam. Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Junior (now called Mary and King Shazam) are part of this group, but there are a few more kids getting power ups too. It is satisfying seeing the kids deal with school bullies and reunite with their adoptive parents (who are actually really good people, I’m happy to say).

Gary Frank’s art is great, as always. I don’t really care for the frayed hoods and cloaks that Shazam and Adam are sporting. It doesn’t seem necessary and blurs their classic look. But Mary Marvel, the other Marvel kids, Sivana, they all look great. I can also see some potential in the Shazam look with just a few tweaks. As always, Frank’s greatest strength is the facial expressions on his “actors.” There is never any doubt about the emotional state of any character.

In the end, this is a FAIR comic that doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. That said, it lays a solid groundwork for Shazam in the new 52. Billy at the end of this story is easily a character I could find myself rooting for in future appearances. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Uncanny Avengers #22

On first read, I really didn’t care for this comic. This has been many, many years coming. In some ways, Rick Remender planted the seeds for this story back in his Uncanny X-Force run years ago. After finishing the book for the first time, I was very disappointed that there was too much happening in one issue.

First, the introduction of Immortus’ Infinity Watch is so rushed that we barely get time to do more than see them. The characters are not well defined, and their impact on the overall story is quite limited due to their page count. I think I can recognize that they just add to the “feel” of the book through their appearance; this must be important if a whole other team shows up to help, right?

My second disappointment was the ease with which Sunfire and Havok took out the Apocalypse Twins. After reigning over the book as the top villains for over a year, they are dispatched in half a page because the story was coming to a close. It wasn’t very dramatic and even if Sunfire’s powers were amped up, it shouldn’t have been so easy to take out two supposed A-level villains.

I also feel that while Remender made every effort to get the reader to buy into the classic love affair between Havok and Wasp, I just never felt it. Their time together was in an alternate future that has since been erased. A future that some team members remember while others forget. It is too confusing to buy in to the emotions too strongly. I will say that Havok’s dialogue about his lost daughter Katie does ring true and does make the final battle with Kang seem a bit more personal. I’m still not sure how Havok punching Kang took out the A-level villain, but it did look cool and Kang had some fantastic smack talk.

I think Remender does a better job with the fallout of the long campaign than the execution. Multiple characters are left in an interesting place going forward.


The Sentry is resurrected and now thinks of himself as the guardian of humanity. You know he will pop up again, but will it be to help or cause trouble?

Rogue still has her energy absorption powers, I think, but more importantly, she seems to have bonded with Wonder Man. Only she can hear his voice, not a good thing for someone with her history with Ms. Marvel. I wonder if this is a way to re-set Rogue back to her best power set of strength, flight, and invulnerability.

Havok is sporting a melted face; at the least he’s going to need a new mask!

Sunfire died and returned in the same issue! Only now he’s a faceless mass of cosmic fire in human form, a true atomic knight. I hope that he gets back in his costume; I still say it is one of the best in all of comics.

The other Horsemen of Death, Daken and Grim Reaper, are returned to life too. Did Banshee make it? I can only hope. Remender put just about all the toys back where he found them at the close of this arc.

I haven’t mentioned the art yet, because while I may have had reservations about some of the story choices, the art is simply gorgeous. Daniel Acuna is one of my top favorites, and he lives up to that ranking in this issue. The battles are tremendous. The costumes and redesigns are top notch; classic and modern at the same time. Acuna actually makes the new Cap suit look good! And the emotion! The series of panels as Havok steels himself to take on Kang is a classic of comic-book acting. In this issue, Acuna proves he is a top talent.

So overall, this wasn’t quite worth the multiple year build up, but it still ranks as a GOOD comic. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Multiversity #1

Man, I am totally a sucker for the oddness of Grant Morrison. I can be down on the New 52, unengaged with the DCU as a whole, and here I am, thrilled to see the next chapter from DC’s mad scientist.

It doesn’t hurt that this book barely counts as a new 52 (if it does at all). The Superman on the cover is President Superman from another Earth. He teams up with characters like Dino Cop (Savage Dragon?) Captain Carrot, and Aquawoman. These aren’t the New 52 versions of anyone; these are just kick-butt new heroes and analogues. Best of all, it is very easy to find yourself rooting for this random group of champions as they stand against the darkness.

Final Crisis’ Nix Uotan shows up too, as the Superjudge. He’s got a definite super-hero vibe going, and it is impossible not to root for the guy as he saves another hero from the series’ villains. The Thunderer is a great new addition too, and he actually has a much easier time of it than our poor Nix.

The villains. Oh my, the villains. They are absolutely horrific, these cosmic-level threats to the entire omniverse. The Gentry are absolutely wonderful. Their dismissive text-speak is threatening and unique from the very first quote. “We want yu. We want yu 2 give up yr dreams. We want yu 2 abandon all hope. We want 2 make yu like us.” That’s a horrifying villain!

The designs by Ivan Reis are a mix of Lovecraft and Tom Mandrake, absolutely perfect for comic book antagonists. These guys look Shuma Gorath and other Doctor Strange villains rebuilt to face down the Justice League. I can’t understate Reis’ design for the different heroes too. In addition to the mixed up cosmic team from the Hall of Heroes, he also gets to introduce the “Avengers” of Earth 8. Even casual readers can recognize the analogues immediately, and of course, the Hawkeye one captured my attention first.

So one issue in, we’ve seen a couple Earths. Earth 7 is the Thunderer’s Earth, and it has already fallen to the Gentry. It seems Thunderer might be the only survivor.

Earth 23, home of President Superman, our point of view character and protagonist. He’s a cool hero, taking absolutely everything in stride. Nothing surprises him in this whole issue.

Earth 8 is ALMOST the same as 7. Home to the Major Comics style heroes, who are remarkably similar to the Avengers. (Lord Havok as Dr. Doom is pretty dang awesome.)

But the BEST thing about this EXCELLENT comic? That the narration boxes are screaming warnings and threats at the reader. Morrison is crazy, but man, he makes fantastic comics. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Batman: Zero Year

More like 10 years, amiright?

Oof. How long has this storyline been going on again? I finally got around to finishing off the conclusion to Zero Year, and to be honest, I’ve sort of forgotten that it is the flagship Batman comic. It isn’t that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are doing a bad job, but the title has been sitting off on its own, telling flashbacks. It has been off in the corner so long that I have had a hard time getting invested in what is going on!

My complaints about the book are pretty much in line with everyone else’s that I’ve seen online. I find it ludicrous that anyone would live in Gotham City after the Riddler flooded it and then turned it into a jungle hell. There is a page in this issue that states the city is totally back to normal in one month, which again, is insane. The local crews can’t re-blacktop a highway in a month. You expect me to believe that Gotham could be deforested and have its infrastructure back that fast? Assuming that Cataclysm, No Man’s Land, and all the other insane events still happened, Gotham has got to be the most dangerous place on Earth.

I also never really came around that this version of the Riddler was too much more dangerous or threatening that he is normally. I enjoyed the calcium-based villain, the dude with crazy bone spurs, but Riddler never seemed important enough to anchor the last 2 years of stories (or however long it has been).

And the pacing. Doesn’t it seem like James Gordon, Batman, Lucius Fox and those Navy SEALS have been traipsing around ruined Gotham for 6 months? Maybe it has been that long. It sure feels like it.

So Zero Year is done, and I’m thrilled. My subscription runs out in 2 issues, so Snyder has 2 issues to convince me to re-up for another year. With Peter Tomasi taking over Superman/Wonder Woman, it is going to take more than an AVERAGE, meandering Batman comic to get me to stick around. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Justice League Dark v3: The Death of Magic TPB

Somehow, Ray Fawkes and Jeff Lemire have turned Justice League Dark into one of the most entertaining books in the New 52. A bunch of the credit goes to the character shuffling that has put the lineup into a pretty good situation. As of trade #3, the team consists of awful team leader John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, Zatana, Deadman, Black Orchid, and Frankenstein.

Frankenstein is definitely my favorite of the bunch. His stoic attitude and head-on approach makes him a great contrast in a book focusing on unclearly powered magic characters. What exactly does Constantine do? What are the limits of Zatana’s spells? I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you that when a demon or monster shows up, Frankenstein will say something cool and chop its head off! That’s my kind of hero.

The first half of the collection has the team joining Tim Hunter in traveling to an odd world where magic is outlawed and science rules all. The villains aren’t very memorable on their own, but the well-realized nature of the world makes the story more interesting than it has a right to be. I found myself invested in the team as they were captured and experimented on by the science-dominated antagonists. I don’t know Tim Hunter from Adam, so that helps too. I have few if any pre-conceived notions about these characters from the old DCU continuity.

The second story focuses on the theft of the House of Mystery, Constantine’s home and the HQ for the Justice League Dark. We get some new 52 carnage as the world of magic goes insane, but I’m getting better as breezing over that stuff. The best part of this story, once again, is Frankenstein. He seems to really enjoy his work smashing monsters. The Flash guest-stars in this arc too, and he does fit in remarkably well. Barry gets a few caption boxes, and his sense of belonging with the JLD is a pretty great idea. I also like the weighty sense of responsibility that Madame Xanadu has to carry through her entire existence. Being an immortal really does seem pretty tough!

Mikel Janin and Graham Nolan continue to deliver a consistent look for the JLD. Flash’s bright colors and sleek look fits right in to the established tone of the book. Black Orchid and Amethyst are both nice additions (although Amethyst disappears pretty quickly); they both have “generic super-hero” looks about them. Really, with Frankenstein, Amethyst, and Orchid, this almost feels like the much-missed Shadowpact title I liked so much. 

Superheroes fighting magic. This GOOD comic keeps the concept humming.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Sixth Gun: Winter Wolves TPB

Man, how weird is it that Cullen Bunn is saving his best stuff for his independent title? Admittedly, I’m pretty far behind at this point; I haven’t read any Larfleeze, Deadpool, or Magneto. But I was disappointed in Fearless Defenders after really enjoying Sixth Gun and Captain America team-up, so seeing a return to form in this collection is a welcome sight.

This is a bit of a filler chapter, as the core cast is trapped worlds apart and they must reunite before moving on to the next chapter.

Drake Sinclair and Becky Montcrief find themselves in a pretty frightening world of winter where they are tormented by wolves and a wendigo spirit. Bunn plays the scene in a pretty neat way; after a bit of interaction, it is hard to see the Wendigo as the villain. He certainly seems to be more straightforward and trustworthy than Sinclair!

The supporting character all team up to face down the religious order of battle priests that showed up in the last collection. It is hard not to cheer for these guys. Gord Cantrell has a huge heart and is a wonderful point of view character; Asher Cobb is a smart zombie/giant, and Kirby Hale is the rascal with a heart. C’mon, who isn’t rooting for this guy’s redemption arc?

These are good archetypes that round out the party nicely. (And I still say there is hope for the now clay-golem Billjohn. He’s still sticking around!)

The book ends with Becky utilizing the power of her gun in a pretty awesome way. The scene really pops because of Brian Hurtt’s artwork. Everyone is so certain of a certain outcome, that when Becky escalates the scene, the reader is shocked just like the characters. It’s a well-done moment that really amps up Becky’s abilities and hopefully steers her into a leadership role. She’s no damsel in distress, but I look forward to her not being led from plot point to plot point by Sinclair.

This is a GOOD adventure comic, with no real superheroes to be found. Instead, you’ve got horror and western tropes mixing into a nice spiritual successor to Joe Landsdale and Tim Truman’s Jonah Hex series.