Wednesday, December 31, 2008

3 Year Old Reviews: Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #6

I liked it when the ants were talking to him. Why did Wasp look like not a Wasp, instead of the hero? It was pretty silly when Ant Man got small. Those ants helped him, when they saw a bad guy they just "snapped snapped snapped" didn't they? I really like it when the ants snapped. I think that kid thought that thing was a ball. I like how Ant Man made that face when the ants asked him to marry the gross ant. Ant Man's hat looks like an ant because it has an antenna. I think Ant Man was Wasp's wife. If I could make people happy or sad, I would make them happy. I was surprised Ant Man was super strong. Why would a bad guy fight a bad guy?

Immortal Iron Fist vol 2: The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven TPB

This was one of my most difficult drops when I switched over to trades. I loved the first 10 or so issues of this book and the wait for this trade was rough. Now that I've read it, man, this is possibly one of the best comics of 2008. The core idea of a tournament of immortal weapon-champions facing off is awesome. The opening bout may have been the strongest as Iron Fist faced off against Fat Cobra. Naming the moves remains one of the coolest things about this comic, and Fat Cobra's were awesome. All of the champions are cool, but Fat Cobra and Dog Brother #1 are probably my two favorites, but there is potential with all of them. Bride of the 9 Spiders is creepy though... Je je je je. Mr. Xao was a good villain, but he couldn't really deliver a confrontation at the end, since physically he didn't bring a lot to the table, but at that point, things were wrapping up anyway. I also dug the use of Yu-Ti as a title with mortal men able to pervert the message of K'un L'un. I can appreciate the use of the Heroes for Hire in the story, but I almost would have preferred to have their pages be used for more immortal weapon story since those new characters are so tremendous. In fact, I had planned on skipping the trades after Brubaker and Fraction left the book, but if I need to pick up book 4 to find out more about the Eighth Capital City and get more on the weapons, I may just stay with the title.

David Aja's art is awesome. The tournament moves looked fantastic. The Prince of Orphans powers looked quite awesome. His battle with the Steel Phoenix was intense, as was Steel Phoenix's brutal match with Tiger's Beautiful Daughter.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Invincible #57 & Astounding Wolfman #11

This little Kirkman 2 parter was pretty fun, but probably has more of an impact on Wolfman than on Invincible. Cecil convinces Invincible to take in Wolfman. In a nice turn, Invincible actually listens when Wolfman tries to explain himself. After taking Wolfman in to explain himself, the two of them go on the run again when Cecil claims he can't cover up Wolfman's past and use him. I thought the high point of the story was the confrontation with the Guardians of the Globe. The team seems a little hollow with its reduced lineup, but it was still pretty fun seeing Invincible mop the floor with them. Shapesmith has a pretty funny line about how he used to think Invincible was cool, which was pretty funny.

As a two parter, it was entertaining. I think it is more of an attempt to get new readers for the Wolfman title carrying over from Invincible. I probably won't stick around, but I did enjoy the little team up, and it is always nice seeing Invincible be a reasonable guy and talk it out with a new buddy. Nothing Earth-shaking, but entertaining enough.

The art on both was good, as always. Jason Howard (Wolfman) has a style that actually looks pretty good with Ryan Ottley's Invincible-verse. The Guardians looked a little on the young side, but other than that everyone looked good. While I won't seek out Wolfman issues, I'll definitely look out for neat teamup issues and grab those.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Jack of Fables vol 3: The Bad Prince TPB

I like this book, but it is really isn't as good as Fables. With each Fables trade, I'm pulled back into the story instantly, but when I read this I found myself a bit confused. I had totally forgotten the Lady Luck story from the first trade, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to remember more about Mr. Revise than I do. Mr. Revise and the Golden Boughs "retirement home" for fables is involved, but not as much as in the last stories. This book spends a lot of time showing what Revise can do. Jack of Fables is in fact a copy of Wicked John, his lookalike from Golden Boughs. Wicked John climbed the Beanstalk and many of the other stories we remember featuring Jack. But Revise has changed the story and put Jack in place. It is all a bit on the metaphysical side and kind of hard to understand exactly what is happening. The good news is our faithful narrator is in the same boat. He barely understands whats happening around him either. I am surprised I enjoyed this story as much as I did, considering most of it takes place on a riverbank. I'll need to read the next trade faster so I remember what is going on. Oh, the Halloween interlude issue was very strong and provides a great example of the short-sightedness we expect from Jack.

Tony Akins ' art is fine, but again, is not quite as good as Mark Buckingham on Fables.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

JLA: That Was Now, This Is Then TPB

I've been looking forward to the return of Roger Stern and John Byrne to a big-time story quite a bit, and I've been chomping at the bit to read their JLA Classified story in its collected trade. I was curious, could this hold up to the old books by these guys? I think it does... this trade tells the story of Titus, a foe who vexed the league in their early days and has now returned even more powerful. The story swaps back and forth between the classic watchtower team (J'onn, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Wally West, John Stewart, and the Atom... no Aquaman!) and the classic league lineup (Supes, Bats, WW, Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, J'onn, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Aquaman). Titus originally was a hairy almost New Gods looking demigod looking to prove himself by destroying the league. Now that he's back, it seems as if revenge is his motivator now. As the story unfolds, we end up with both the "present" and the flashback story climaxing at the same moment, which is a nice effect. I had worried that J'onn J'onzz wasn't going to be used that much, but he actually does quite a bit in the story. In fact, everyone gets their due, Atom gets some nice shrinking manuevers and Aquaman goes toe to toe (briefly) with the hugely powerful Titus. The story is a simple one as the heroes just dogpile on the villain, but the characterization throughout is well done. Green Arrow is pretty fun to read as he can't wait to pull his weight and blast some missiles into the fray. It is simple but pretty entertaining too. Nothing that will change your world, but I enjoyed the book.

John Byrne's art is always neat. He has an interesting take on Wonder Woman, making her a bit on the buff side for me, but she's definitely a powerhouse. Byrne's Superman is classic (which only makes sense). His Batman is great too. I've always loved his work, and it was great seeing him draw the icons of the DCU again. This is definitely worth picking up for folks who want a simple comic featuring lots of smashing. I like that kind of thing, so this book was fine by me.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Batman & the Outsiders: The Chrysalis TPB

This book is fine, I guess. I know too much about the editorial problems with this book, and it affected my review. Chuck Dixon could have had something really special with the original lineup, keeping Catwoman and Martian Manhunter on the team. Metamorpho is pretty interesting and Batman is always fun, but I'm not a huge fan of anyone else on the team. In fact, this whole book has such a changing lineup things aren't really decided at the end of the trade. Green Arrow and the Dibneys just joined in the last issue! This trade only covers 5 issues, so the Jardin story doesn't really feel resolved, but I understand there is another trade coming that should finish the story. I will say this trade scratched one itch I always have with Chuck Dixon's writing, he used some of his pet villains, Gunhawk and Gunbunny. I love how I can always count on Dixon using his own characters (I think Camarouge shows up too). I don't think he made up Militia though, I think he was a Beau Davis character. Another thing I like about Dixon is how he writes plot-based stories. He really can plug in just about anyone to his stories and they're always good.

Julian Lopez's art is really good througout. His Green Arrow looks awesome, and he even makes the conehead Martian Manhunter look almost ok. The book is high-action, and he handles that nicely too.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Punisher MAX: Valley Forge TPB

It really isn't fair for anyone else to try and write the Punisher. Garth Ennis absolutely nails his last Punisher MAX story. He tells the story of a Delta Force unit assigned to take out the Punisher. The crooked Generals sending the team know that Frank Castle would never take the life of an innocent soldier, and the story shows the extremes Castle takes to make sure his mission is not compromised. The Delta Force commandos get some fantastic development with their limited page time. Colonel Howe in particular is a fascinating character. He's the commanding officer for Delta, and regardless of how crooked his bosses are, he won't compromise the honor of the US Armed Forces. The trade is interspersed with excerpts from a fake Punisher biography. The book is the story of the Valley Forge Firebase in Viet Nam and the horrible battle that was its fall. That battle may just be where the Punisher was made. I forgot how well Ennis writes his war stories. The excerpts read like a real book, and Ennis story is riveting. There is so much well done in this story, I found myself stunned when I put it down. It's amazing to read Ennis at his best. He hates and loves America at the same time, it seems. His run on this book has been amazing, and his swan song is one of his best stories. When Ennis writes like this, I don't think there is anyone in comics better than he is.

Goran Parlov doesn't get to do his comedy like he did in the Barracuda stories, but his artwork carries the story well. The Delta guys look great, and the scenes where they tangle with the Punisher are really exciting. The fake photos of Viet Nam from the book look great too, they carry the story as well as real photographs would.


Merry Christmas everyone (all 5 of you!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What If? Newer Fantastic Four

They're not all bad in this crop of What Ifs. This one was written by Paul Tobin and puts up the Newer FF (now with Iron Man) up against Thanos while he used the Infinity Gauntlet. The book has some great bits, from Iron Man taking over some celestial armor, Wolverine being the smart guy of the book, and the great idea of having the FF just disregard Adam Warlock because they don't know him and don't respect him. In the original Infinity Gauntlet, Adam Warlock led the heroes against Thanos, but here the FF just dismiss Dr. Strange, Adam Warlock, and Silver Surfer because they don't like his plans or attitude. That's fun stuff. Wolverine is great in this, taking Mephisto's place at Thanos' side. Thanos also strips Banner out of the Hulk, to which Hulk replies "so what, I had a tapeworm." Good stuff all the way.

Patrick Scherberger's art is on the cartoony side, but it works in the story. It has a fun feel to it and the 90s era costumes on the characters look great. his Iron Man/Celestial armor is really quite neat.


What If? Fallen Son #1

Blech. There really wasn't too much to this story, other than the message that with Stark dead, the Marvel U would be much worse off than it is REALLY fast. The Skrulls would be undetected, Alexander Lukin would have taken over Stark and gotten the Iron Man armor, the Mighty Avengers would capture the New Avengers, and War Machine would be a jerk. Most of the issue is taken up with different characters being bummed out by Stark's death, so it isn't a very far-reaching story. In fact, the book concludes with Stark's funeral, so quite a bit must have happened pretty quickly in this story. I didn't care for Luke Cage gloating about Iron Man's death either, he even wished it could have been him who killed him. Putting stuff like that in a comic actually makes me like Cage less, what a stupid opinion. Tom Foster (Goliath III) is the guy who actually kills Stark, so I guess that pretty much means he is a villain. When editorial allows stories to go out like this, I do think it colors the perception of those characters in the main continuity. Marc Sumerak is usually an editor, not a writer, and I think he missed the mark in much of this comic. I would have liked seeing Cap leading some inspired Avengers or something, that would have been much more interesting.

Trevor Goring's art is interesting, kind of John Paul Leon-ish, or maybe Tommy Lee Edwards. It's heavy on the inks, so everything is gloomy, but that fit the material. His super-characters didn't look great, but on the right type of book (like Punisher or Moon Knight) he'd be fine. The barely there story didn't give him much to work with though.


What If? House of M

What if Wanda said "No more powers?" I'll tell you what, the story would be bad. The dialog in this was really bad. It was generic villain speak for most of it, numerous characters talking out of character, and a quick run down of killing characters. With a concept like no more powers, you could really have some neat stuff with the vigilante and tech-characters doing cool stuff in the Marvel U, instead this book climaxes with awful looking Iron Man suits on previously powered characters. This book totally missed the mark. As I was skipping over the last pages, I wondered, who wrote this? It was Brian Reed, the guy who does Ms. Marvel. As I've said before, he can come up with a high concept, but his actual execution is not my speed at all.

Paulo Pantalena handles the art. I know What Ifs are usually the first work for pencillers, and it shows here. This was not a good looking comic. Heads are too big, faces look odd, and man, just bad. Avoid this book. Don't get me started on the backup as the Runaways become the New Avengers. I couldn't even make myself read it.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Terror Titans #3

I must give Sean McKeever credit for one thing, I had been worried that bringing in Static as a pawn of the Clock King cheapened the character, but it seems that Virgil is one of the only guys to not be broken by the brainwashing of the Dark Side Club. So Static is still coming in pretty strong, now we'll see if he manages to beat Ravager. This issue on its own is ok. McKeever makes it look like Dreadbolt killed his Dad (another meaningless DCU death, check!) I have to say, I'm amazed at the body-count that McKeever has racked up since becoming exclusive to the DCU. I really don't care for the style of stories he's told with DC, and this issue is more of that. The angst is dialed up to 11 throughout, from the horrific origin of Persuader to the general bitchiness of Ravager. (I know Ravager is supposed to be a bitch, but man, Johns made her likable at least!) We also get to see the characters from Infinity Inc. show up for their brainwashing. A huge problem I have with this series is that it drastically lowers the cool factor of so many characters. How are we supposed to ever like these characters again when they are puttering around as brainwashed pawns with no fighting back? The new Star-Spangled Kid is the only character who is shown to resist at all. I also take issue with Clock King being portrayed as cooler and tougher than Desaad and the other new god supporting characters. Clock King is not cool enough to go over on those other villains.

Joe Bennett has a neat style. I've liked his DC art for awhile, and it is strong again here. It is a little pin-upy, but the storytelling is good. Static's DCU costume looks good on that final splash page. In fact, I'd say his art elevates the book a bit.


Cable #9

Man, Bishop is one bad dude. After spending a few issues explaining himself to the X-Men, he reveals that he in fact is just trying to get a weapon to destroy North America that they keep at their HQ. I'm not sure I understand the whole concept behind the book right now though. I guess Bishop is trying to make the world inhospitable so that Cable will only have a few spots in the future where he can hide the mutant messiah from Messiah Complex. Bishop reasons that if he succeeds in killing the child, that timeline will disappear and the deaths he causes won't "really" happen anyway. So is Bishop in that "alternate" timeline now? Is Cable's future just one of many, or what exactly is going on? I think this type of story would be fine more on the outskirts of the Marvel U, but by including the X-Men so heavily, it makes me very confused on what is happening. At this point, I think it would be easier to just bring Cable back to the present and tell the story in one time, but that goes against the core concept of the title. This story on its own, with Cable living in a future haven attacked by roach-men is entertaining. I like Cable's personality and the messiah is growing up into a fun kid-character too. On its own, good stuff, I'm just confused by Bishop's plan and what these alternate timelines mean. Duane Swirczynski writes this book too, but it is a lot more confusing than Iron Fist (time weirdness in both though... interesting).

Ariel Olivetti's artwork is an acquired taste. If you like his computery-looking huge dudes, there is more of that here. I like his X-Men too, with Wolverine's chops showing under his mask being a notable neat quirk. This book is skippable overall though, due to the confusion about how it fits in.


Immortal Iron Fist #15-20

There is actually potential here. I collected Fraction's run on this title in trade, and I've loved what I've read so far. Since then, I decided to give the new creators a chance. The story has been about a strange dragon-man from the 8th capital city of heaven who kills Iron Fists. Immediatley after they die, the dragon of K'un-Lun is vulnerable in its egg form, and this evil dude eats the egg. The story is that every Iron Fist before Orson Randall died at 33, and now it's Danny Rand's turn. He gets his butt kicked for much of the story, to the point he actually has to call in help from Power Man, the Daughters of the Dragon, and even the other immortal weapons. They all team up on Ch'in Lin, the evil dragon-dude, and don't have that much success. Iron Fist eventually triumphs by relying on only the fighting skills he had as an 8-year old, BEFORE he got his training and mastered the chi of the Iron Fist. I was impressed with that resolution, it was a real creative way to beat a villain who had gotten a LOT of build up. Swiryzinski is actually getting better as he goes along, I think. He is spending a lot more time on the relationship between Misty Knight and Danny Rand too, which is interesting. They are an interesting couple, but I kind of get the impression Misty is more into Danny than he is into her, but maybe that's just me.

Travel Foreman's pencils are fine, but the flashbacks by Russ Heath were superb. I'm loving that even with this new team, the title remains as much about the history of the Iron Fist as it always has. The book is decent, and well worth grabbing from a dollar bin or as a discounted trade.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Final Crisis: Revelations #4

Ugh, who cares? Vandal Savage is ruined by making him "Cain" with a totally extreme glowing tattoo on his face, the new Spectre spends the issue lying around, and the new angel of Mercy is the worst kind of character, the stand around and "can't act" kind. I usually like Huntress, but when she shows up here, I can't really care too much, since she doesn't do much besides act like she's Catholic. I'm also unclear on the anti-life equation that Spectre recites. Is he responsible for "evil winning" in the main book? I thought the whole world was already taken over (there are hordes of anti-life guys outside the church after all), and yet things got worse (I think) in this issue. I just don't see how this relates to the main title, and with no characters I'm crazy about, I don't much care.

Philip Tan's art is serviceable. But that redesign of Vandal Savage is AWFUL, so if he's responsible for that, he loses points big time. Since I hate the character redesign AND I'm confused by the story, this is not getting a great rating. Seriously, look at that cover! That's Vandal Savage! Terrible.


Green Arrow/Black Canary #15

It's hard to judge a new writer based on a flashback issue. Andrew Kreisberg takes over GA/BC this issue, and I'm can't really guess if I'll like his take or not. The two leads are characters that I've loved on the JLU cartoon, but in comics they've never really done it for me. So I WANT to like this comic, but after reading this first issue, it seems like Black Canary might be kind of incompetent. She lets a bozo new villain called "Dregz" get the drop on her, and GA has to help her get away. Then she uses her canary cry to take him out at the end of the issue, and as near as I can tell, her sonic scream blasts through a wall and injures some violin-lover in his apartment (Fiddler?). I'm not sure what the point of that is, unless we're supposed to think that Black Canary is careless, not really a message I'm too keen on. That accounts for about 6 or 7 pages of the comic, the rest is a recap of GA: Year One and the GA/BC comic so far. Then we get a couple pages as Speedy and Green Arrow II are written out of the book. I actually think writing them out is for the best, keep the focus on the leads and try to build them up.

Mike Norton's art is fine. I'd read he is trying to draw more in his "own style" and not copy Cliff Chiang as much, but I'm really not seeing too much a difference. He's fine, but not spectacular. There are some odd choices in this comic, as the selling point for a new creative team, I can't find much to bring me back next month. This book remains very skippable.


Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #2

What was the point of this? I guess we see the repercussions if the X-Men screw up their missions. The first story tells the story of Cyclops offing himself for his failing to stop an invasion of Sentinels through the Ghost Boxes. Ummmm... OK? The art makes this one pretty darn hard to follow. Clayton Crain is not a great storyteller, and I could barely tell what was happening. There are references to "ghosts" in the mansion, and I couldn't even tell which characters were ghosts and which were living characters. I could barely follow this.

The second story is better and more shocking. It basically reads like an 8-page version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and since I like post-apocalyptic stories as much as the next guy, it was decent. I'm not sure what the problem was that caused the end of the world, I assume it was meant to be ambiguous. Kaare Andrews draws this story, and the atmosphere is pretty strong throughout. I did like the use of Armor as the narrator. It was an interesting twist seeing Wolvie in a position of weakness rather than as the bad ass.

I didn't bother with the script pages, so this was a 3.99 book with 16 pages of story. Great value there... UGH. If you want to read a "What If" where the current writer tells you what happens if the heroes lose in his main title, then pick this up.

Average (Poor for the price)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Abe Sapien: The Drowning TPB

As will become obvious, I'm burning through as many trades as I can during this holiday season. I've got a box of unread trades, and I need to catch up. So expect a lot of trade reviews over the next 2 weeks.

On to Abe. Everyone knows what to expect from Mignola at this point, and this trade delivers. The trade opens with a neat little flashback of a old-time English agent stopping an evil cult using a magic dagger. The story then jumps to the 80s and Abe's first solo mission, where Dr. Bruttonholm is sending Abe and a small team of BPRD agents to recover both the dagger and the body of the cult-leader. As nothing is ever simple, the cultists rise from the dead as mummified beasties, and the BPRD flunkies are quickly dispatched. In fact, that is my one complaint about BPRD stories in general, I'd love to see a BPRD field agent or two who could actually survive. I guess Kate Spencer is sort of an agent like that, but it seems we need more. Abe quickly finds himself out of his element. He allies himself with a weird sea-witch in trying to stop the cult leader (a demon, of course) and his underlings. Abe is fairly competent throughout, but he almost wins through luck as much as skill. It is a nice glimpse into the formation of the #2 BPRD agent. I also think this reads better in trade, since not a lot happened over all, and waiting for the monthly it might have seemed slow.

The book is filled with great cutaway shots. Jason Shawn Alexander really has the look of a Hellboy-book down. Mention cattle mutilations? Insert a quick panel of a mutilated cow. Lepers? Cut from the main story to show some sick lepers. Mignola has always done things like that, and it looks great in this book.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

X-Men Legacy: Divided He Stands TPB

Mike Carey is rolling. I never really liked Professor X. He was creepy, bald, and had an ill-defined power that seemed to do whatever was necessary in that particular story. Cyclops was always a much better leader than the Prof. So here I am, enjoying the heck out of a trade that is essentially Charles Xavier reliving his past to redefine himself. It's good! The mystery of Almagordo, the military base where Charles and the Juggernaut grew up is an interesting one. Adding Mr. Sinister into the equation is pretty darn creepy. Exodus and the acolytes were well-written too, I found the disdain they held for their old leader Magneto to be fascinating. Now that he's a flat-scan, they have no time for him. As the book moves on, assassins show up trying to kill the Professor. Gambit shows up with a timely save, and then agrees to stick around and accompany him on his quest of rediscovery. What an interesting pair to have as your leads, Gambit and Professor X! The comic uses the history of the X-universe to great effect, with neat flashbacks to the Professor's greatest hits (and misses).

Scot Eaton draws the present portion of the book, with a cast of all-stars drawing the flashbacks. He does a great job with the acolytes in particular. We've got John Romita Jr., Brandon Peterson, Billy Tan, and more drawing these memories. The book looks great.


Crossed #2

Well the good news is I don't feel dirty after reading this one. Issue #1 had some absolutely horrific stuff in it, stuff that actually made me upset at Garth Ennis. This issue is a little more what I hoped for from his survival horror. Sure, it is "mature" and extra repulsive, but there is some good post-apocalyptic survival stuff in it too, which is what I had been looking for. We find out the Crossed maniacs can spread their evil by biting people, and we learn how smart they are. They are using... "tainted" bullets to spread the disease too. So the actual tainting is about as gross as you'd expect from Ennis with no limitations. The most fascinating aspect of the book is a night of the living dead scenario but with still living and passionately evil "infected." This book would not be everyone's cup of tea, it is WAY over the top. I'm not even sure I'll stick with it, Walking Dead is more my speed for this type of thing.

The art is competently done, but man, putting pencil to paper to draw some of the stuff in this comic. I don't see how that couldn't mess a person up. I'll probably stick to Ennis' Punisher and more mainstream work, I'm just too wimpy for this title. (For most Avatar books in general, probably, but I am tempted to try Christos Gage's new title.)


Friday, December 19, 2008

X-Men: Messiah Complex TPB

I'm going X-Men crazy again. Reading this trade, I felt 13 again. I used to LOVE the X-Men, the expansive cast, the awesome variety of villains, the sprawling history and universe. I think everyone can agree that feeling has been gone for awhile, but it came back with a vengeance in this story.

With mutants all but extinct following the Scarlet Witch's "No more mutants" proclamation, the X-Men go crazy when they find out there has been a new mutant birth in Alaska. As they race to find the baby, they run afoul of a TON of classic X-Foes. Mr. Sinister, the Marauders, Lady Deathstrike, the Purifiers, and a new villain Predator X are all out to get the baby too. Add in an X-traitor and some huge additions to the Marauders (Gambit, Sunfire, Exodus, Mystique, and the Acolytes) and this story had all the villains you can handle. The trade collects issues from Uncanny, X-Men, X-Factor, and New X-Men, and important players from each book get their moment to shine. Madrox and Layla Miller travel to the future, Logan gets to put together his new X-Force team of scrappers, and Cable puts himself through the ringer for the future of mutants. Cyclops turns into a tough guy here, but we can kind of see why, since he feels that after Professor X's betrayals, the survival of mutantkind is in his hands. Mike Carey seems to have a fantastic feel for the X-universe, his chapters stand out as some of the best in the trade. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the New X-Men chapters too, I didn't know who any of the characters were at first, but Surge and Rockslide both come through as strong characters I'd love to see more of.

This book had some fantastic fights in it too, the final confrontation with the Marauders was fantastic, with Humberto Ramos' pencils making the fight electric. Scot Eaton drew the X-Factor issues, and his grimy future of mutantkind was horrific. Chris Bachalo's art was clear, which is sometimes a problem for him. This book was well put together from top to bottom, with the X-editors doing a great job to keep the story flowing continuously across multiple titles. The pull quote on the trade says "The best X-crossover in decades." I agree.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

3-Year Old Reviews Tiny Titans #11

I liked it. The whole thing was good. Kroc didn't even fix the lightbulb, he just broke it! It's really strange they didn't go to the Titans' treehouse. I wanted to see Batgirl and Supergirl. I liked two people named Starfire, but people would get confused, probably. I liked the parts with Kid Flash best.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thunderbolts #127

I can safely say that Thunderbolts is now Marvel's best title. It's been excellent ever since Ellis took over, and the transition from him to Gage and now to Diggle has been seamless. Diggle wraps up the previous era of the Bolts with Bullseye, Moonstone, and Venom trying to take out Songbird. Instead of going out like a punk as I feared last month, Songbird is capable, tough, and smart throughout this issue. She takes the best the villains can throw at her and won't give up. As she's stabbed, punched, and blown up as the issue goes on, I was realizing what a great character she is, and how perfect her eventual fate is. Swordsman shows up here and gets a nice little scene, he remains a "tweener" for the book, possibly good, possibly evil. This is our last issue with the old cast, as they move over to Dark Avengers, and what an exit. The good guys captured or on the run, and the villains gloating and plotting. Great stuff. Diggle's characters are spot on too, his Moonstone dialog was perfect, and he did a great job capturing Bullseye's murderous ways too as he complains about the nanochain "MacGuffin" that has kept him in line. What puts this book over the top is the great characterization in the high-stakes environment. Since these aren't A-list character, it really feels like anything can happen.

Roberto De La Torre's art is getting better. His action in particular is looking great, and the gloomy atmosphere in this comic is palpable. When Venom crashes into the Zeus to grab Songbird, and he's about to eat her, man, that was a well put together scene! This is a great comic, and I think once Diggle gets his own cast next issue, it may get even better.


Mighty Avengers #20

When you release 8 pages of a comic online, don't fill the other 16 with splash pages. I suppose a few of those 16 were normal, but too many were just splash pages showing how Ms. Marvel is catching Hank Pym up on what he's missed (which is a lot!) I really didn't feel like I got my money's worth here. It is interesting that Hank Pym seems to be anti-reg (definitely anti-Tony). When he screams at Tony at the Wasp's funeral, man, it can't get any worse for Iron Man, can it? I did like Thor flying off with Hank, they've known each other a long time and are founding Avengers after all. Clint Barton going after Norman Osbourne was pretty great. If Clint is gonna be Hawkeye again, he may find his way back into my top 5 heroes list. I love the set up for Dark Avengers and New Avengers, but I'm afraid the 3.99 price tag means I will probably buy the eventual trades rather than monthlies.

Khoi Pham's (he's solicited, but it didn't look like him. Pagulayan?) artwork looked more defined than his SI tie-ins, so it seems when he has time his art will be nice and clear. His panel of Osbourne's smirking face while he gloats in Avengers Tower was particularly good.


Walking Dead #56

What a fantastic issue. After a string of merely solid books, Kirkman delivers another excellent issue of his post-apocalyptic zombie drama. We get a great confrontation between the leaders of the two old factions, as Rick and Abraham have yet another confrontation. The lines are clearly drawn between the two, they don't like each other. Abraham promises that if Rick ever pulls a gun on him again, he'll kill him. Rick replies that if he pulls a gun on him again, he won't hesitate to blow Abraham's brains out. The new tension runs throughout the issue, peaking when Abraham saves Rick from a roaming zombie. But we learn that Abraham has rage issues, and now that Rick has confronted him, Abraham is in danger of losing control. Abraham isn't sure if he followed Rick to kill him! Abraham is a tremendously interesting character since he doesn't want to lose control and kill Rick, he's horrified that he will. He isn't just a villain, since he's struggling with his dark side and uncontrollable rage. I'm loving the new relationships and drama of the book right now. It's back firing on all cylinders. The book is best when we've got human threats going with the zombie one, and we've got that again now.

Charlie Adlard's art is just the same as it always is, solid. The cast is looking more diverse now, which helps differentiate his characters more. The man draws good exploding brains too!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

X-Infernus #1

This comic is an acceptable exercise in mining good past stories to bring us an average new story. CB Cebulski has never written anything I've loved, but he does his research. He's got some nice ties to old Darkchylde stories, Sym and N'Astrich working with Magik was a nice touch. I like Pixie as a modern version of Magik too, with her innocence at risk (speaking of which, she looks VERY different here than she did in the FCBD special!) Nightcrawler deserves better than to be punked out like he is here, but I understand it isn't his story. Colossus needs a bigger part though, joining in the line of folks smashing Cyclops' desk isn't important enough in a story dedicated to saving his sister, but there is time to fix that. The new villain Witchfire has an interesting personality, I never get tired of rookie villains thinking they deserve a spot at the grown-ups table (with Mephisto, Blackheart, Hela, Dormammu, and more), but wasn't Witchfire a sorceress from Power Company? Doesn't DC have that name copyrighted?

Giusseppe Camuncoli draws the first issue, and I've always liked his style. He does big-jawed super-heroics, so that part of the story he handles well. His Magik is nowhere near as hot as the David Finch one on the cover, but I suppose that's to be expected. If you are a big X-Men or Magik fan, and want quantity over quality, this series is fine. But as I'm reading Brubaker and Carey's X-books, this just feels like filler.


Ms. Marvel #33

This should not be a hard comic to write. Ms. Marvel is the premiere woman-hero of the Marvel U and leader of the Avengers. She should be out smashing super-villains and doing Avenger-y things. Yet we are now at our second issue that is telling her story as a spy. I have no interest in this at all. The biggest problem is the book is really feeling like a poor copy of GL from DC. Carol Danvers should be doing her own thing, but I'm feeling like I've seen this all before, done better. Brian Reed has written stories I've liked for Ms. M. His MODOK story, the Civil War tie ins, even his Rogue arc were ok, but I feel he's missing the mark on this. He's introduced two new indistinguishable secret agent dudes in flashback (taking up most of the book). At the end of this issue, it seems everyone who is supposed to be dead in their spy circle is alive, and Harry Osbourne is to blame, so we're off into Dark Reign territory. How about a DR crossover with Ms. Marvel fighting some super villains? I just feel the lead is horribly miscast in this title.

Adriana Melo is a bit of a cheesecake style artist, I know I last saw his/her work on Birds of Prey. I'd like to see Ms. Marvel in costume a bit too. I want to like this comic. I want to collect it regularly. But I can't.


True Believers #1-5

Carey Bates wrote a lot of stories in the past, but he really brought this one up to the present in a fun way. The story featured weaponized wi-fi AND blogs described as a WMD, that's a topical series! This series followed Payback and her True Believer "truthers" as they uncovered the seedy side of the Marvel U, often coming up against established folks like Iron Man, SHIELD, and Mr. Fantastic. The series had some nice variety in the antagonists, when the TBs were exposing Mr. Fantastic, they actually turned around to help him clear himself of drunk driving. As Payback sought out her father's killer, the blame went from Hydra to SHIELD and finally ended up with someone she knew. The series did feature more of the "Stark is a facist" stuff that is so prevalent in Marvel (at least for now), but at least he seemed to be a well-meaning one most of the time. The series wraps up with he and Payback establishing some kind of relationship or truce, which was nice to see. I do think the rest of the cast will never be seen again. I can't remember their names and their powers were pretty generic. Only Payback with her electric-symbiote channeling her dead father is a truly unique addition to the Marvel U.

Paul Gulacy handles the art on every issue, and you should know already if you like him or not. Everyone has big eyes, the women have pointy chests, and everyone looks vaguely surprised. That said, his storytelling is solid, so I actually kind of like his art. I'd say this series is worth a value trade or a dollar bin purchase if you enjoy the periphery of the Marvel U. This feels like The Hood or that level of story, I'm sure someone will bring back these characters someday.


Monday, December 15, 2008

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

This looks fantastic. You should be excited.

Secret Six #4

I've always had a soft spot for Bane. I really became a DC fan in the 90s, so I was riveted when Bane broke Batman's back. I loved the one-shots that Chuck Dixon spent developing him, and I liked the Scott Beatty story in Gotham Knights where he could be Bruce Wayne's 1/2 brother. Long story short, I'm LOVING how Gail Simone is writing Bane. He's creepy and awkward yet trying to be honorable, just as he should be. Man. "You may have one ice cream, Scandal Savage. One." That's just great. I'm really hoping things don't end badly for Bane next issue, there is just too much story potential for him now.

Tarantula has been pretty cool too. In fact, I'm shocked to say I think the character interesting me the least these days is my old favorite Deadshot. He's still well written, but he's being outshone by all the great characterization around him. I can't remember the name of the new ally of the six, but she seems to be supplying some super-strength. She rips off King Shark's arm, which I think is a bit of a recurring thing for him at this point. The villain horde is looking pretty tough to beat, especially with Junior himself and the surprise returning character we get at the end. Junior's attempt at a confession was great, I found myself wondering if he was really going to try to repent for a moment, then realized he couldn't, or if this is a regular thing for him. Good stuff.

Nicola Scott just nails this book. This was a mostly talking issue, but the confusion on Scandal's face as she tries to puzzle out and later handle Bane was hilarious.

Excellent (but worried for Bane!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Invincible #56

Kirkman is keeping Invincible interesting. First of all, I'm amazed by the fast scheduling, it is great getting this book regularly. This issue we get back to Invincible and Atom Eve, a few hours after we left them. The book has some nice relationship stuff with Mark and Eve, but the main plot moves along nicely too. Oliver is trying to be his own hero and faces down another odd-ball supervillain. But even better, Oliver spots the floating camera that's been following them. So Angstrom Levy may be on borrowed time if the Grayson brothers are on to them. Good stuff. This was a middle-story issue, so there were no crazy developments, but it was still entertaining. Mark is forced to test the limits of his anger when dealing with an abusive dude, but he's so wracked with guilt, I think the clear message is that he won't let anger get the better of him like Oliver seems to. Oliver is still likable too, he means well, but he's not a normal kid either. Very unique dynamics in this book.

Ryan Ottley's art is always great. The design of the new villain is ridiculous but great, like so many of the Invincible villains.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Punisher MAX X-Mas Special #1

Let me give a very simple version of the plot.

3 wise hitmen from the East are trying to kill a mob baby, who is hiding in a racetrack stable. A hooker nicknamed "angel" tells her pimp, Shepherd, where to find them. Punisher is delivering the baby, and the wise men, the shepherd, and the actual parents are all criminals. Guess how this book ends? I will confess, the fate of the delivery-room babies does upset me a bit, but man, Punisher makes sure everyone involved gets what they deserve. Everyone!

Man, Jason Aaron is fantastic. He's written some great stuff in the past few months, and he's become one of my favorite writers this fast. I can't wait to check out his new Wolverine book.

Roland Boschi's art is on the muddy side. The world is a grimy, corrupt place even on Christmas. But he does a great job with the blood splatters and the headshots. His work reminds me a bit of Goran Parlov in a good way. The book had a real Punisher-feel to it because of that similarity. Really, it isn't that hard to make me love the Punisher.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Blue Beetle #33

Now that's how you write a team-up! Matt Sturges wowed me on Shadowpact, but his Blue Beetle work has been a little hit or miss. This issue is a hit. The Teen Titans head to El Paso to help BB deal with death threats at an immigrant rally. Things quickly get complicated as powered-up thugs attack the crowd and a few semis full of guns and drugs make a run to get into the USA. Peacemaker and Robin head over to handle the semis, and there is some nice super-hero banter between them. BB, Kid Devil and Wonder Girl focus on the thugs, and there are some nice charcter bits here too, like when Kid Devil considers going by "Diablo Rojo" from now on. I think the high point for me though is after both problems have been mopped up, Peacemaker is looking for someone to drink with "Isn't there one of you old enough to have a beer with me?" Kid Devil replies "I've got an ID that says I am." Nice stuff. Sturges nails the different character voices and turns this into a fun little issue. I'm still not happy we've got a new Dr. Polaris (I liked the old one) but really, this guy is almost the same guy, so I suppose it's ok.

Rafael Albuqurque does another smashing job on pencils. His work is a tad sketchy, but there is a real energy in his panel layouts. His facial expressions were amusing too, Wonder Girl's exasperation at her teammates looked great.


Reign in Hell #5

I've read a lot of comics. So it is really saying something for me to admit I have no idea what's going on in a comic. I've read every issue of Reign in Hell so far, and I have no clue what 1/2 the dialog is about. Pretty much everything Neron or Satannus says I don't get, and the only characters I do understand are the heroes who don't know what's going on. It seems that Blue Devil has reduced Etrigan to being a little demon, who then tore out BD's "human" soul. I'm not sure what that is about, but it seems Etrigan is avoiding Lobo. Lobo is on a rampage to find Neron, but when he spots Zatara's hell-bound soul, he beheads him. Zatanna gets upset by this and sends his essence to the abyss rather than the renderers. Meanwhile, Black Alice's powers have changed and she thinks someone in Hell is responsible. The backup story details Dr. Occult's dead wife's travails as she's been in Purgatory for years. In short, there is a ton going on, and I don't much understand. I think the part that makes me the angriest is that so many good characters (Zauriel, Ibis, Shadowpact, Etrigan, Lobo) are all being dragged into this chaotic story. I'm reasonably sure this will all be blown over soon though, so there is that.

Derenick's art is still solid, and Hell looks pretty good. I just don't understand what's going on in that location!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Batman #682

I'm sick so I'm making this one short. It seems Batman 681 wasn't really the end of RIP after all, as we get Batman showing up being mind-copied by Simyan and Mokkari from Final Crisis. It just confuses me more, I don't understand how RIP could get all that hype if the real story is going to play out in Final Crisis?

This issue shows us Batman's thoughts as he remembers his old days as a crimefighter. It is kind of fun seeing fun-Robin again, and Alfred is well written throughout. I don't have any clue what is going on with Batwoman though. I thought she was retconned away? I suppose I'm ok with her being brought back though, and with the incorporation of the wacky 60s adventures back into canon.

Lee Garbett pencils this issue, and he's very close to Tony Daniel in style. I guess I see why DC wanted a similar artist, but I would have thought they'd go with a bigger name. Oh, and Alex Ross' cover is pretty darn garish, huh?


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Final Crisis #5

"You have thoughtlessly gunned down a global megastar!" Grant Morrison writes the best freaking dialog. Final Crisis is just about everything I want in a DCU crossover. We see Shiloh Norman join up with Mr. Terrific at Checkmate HQ, we've got Frankenstein, Black Adam, and more taking on Kalibak and the other evil gods in the ruins of Bludhaven. I loved the reveal that there is a "leering old man" possessing Mary Marvel, so she is totally salvageable after this story (Baron Bedlam? Steppenwolf?) Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, and Guy Gardner are leading reinforcements to Earth as a dozen GLs are approaching the Earth. We also learn that Earth is collapsing into space-time following the death of the "devil-god" Darkseid. So weeks have collapsed into days, a great explanation for Morrison's penchant to skip over key plot actions. We do see the fallen Monitor again as he's captured with a man solving a rubik's cube that goes "Ping." My guess would be Metron, but I suppose Scott Free is a possibility? All levels of characters show up here, we get Black Condor, Hourman & Liberty Belle, Tempest, there are heroes resisting from all corners of the DCU. This issue is all action as the heroes line up for their last stand. But Darkseid now totally controls most of humanity, and now that he is no longer an avatar, but a present god, he threatens the universe. I'm not sure how the heroes can stop him.

JG Jones and Carlos Pacheco knock this thing out of the park. Pacheco is perfect to handle the super-combat, the heroes' assault on Bludhaven looks tremendous. Frankenstein leading the charge with Black Adam looked tremendous. Most of the New God material is drawn by JG Jones, and he keeps up the same haunting, horrific style he's had all along. The gods of Apokolips look SCARY. Simyan and Mokkari are especially disturbing. Darkseid looks great, and the scene where we find out his master plan is haunting.

I won't lie and say I understand everything happening in this issue, but I know I loved it. There's wall to wall action and the consequences for the heroes seem dire. The big moments like Black Adam vs. Mary Marvel are handled as well as the smal ones, like Wonder Woman staring at her mask, possibly about to break her anti-life programming. This is a well-put together comic. The ONLY thing holding it back at this point are the terrible delays.


Gigantic #1

Rick Remender's best work seems to be on these independent books. While I didn't care for his Booster Gold, I did enjoy Fear Agent, and his first few issues of The End League were entertaining before I lost interest due to delays. Here we are again with an independent book with a neat hook. The book opens as we learn the Earth is a stage set up by aliens, and humans are bio-engineered to provide entertainment for the universe. We're tribal, warlike, competitive, and stuck in an environment of all manner of threats. It's a fun idea, and the story really takes off when a giant robot (seemingly piloted by an Earthling?) shows up in San Francisco. He spends a few minutes stomping civilians and fighting alien handlers. They are all talking show-business while they destroy all these lives, but that conflict is clear in the robot's dialog. It's an original approach to the giant monster story, and it is certainly entertaining.

I don't recognize Eric Nguyen's name as the penciller, but his work is ok. It might be scanned straight from pencils, it has that soft feel. It seems like the creative team is having fun with this one. I think I'll probably pick up the rest of the issues at conventions this summer. It's almost worth just planning on the trade, I may do that depending on the price.


Flash #246

This issue moves away from most of the positives of the previous few issues, and really gets into the melancholy of the greater DCU. Linda West has been stung by Queen Bee's new bee-man flunky, and now she lies in JLA HQ near death. Wally brings the kids to stay with her, and they hang out with Lian, Arsenal's daughter. Wally races around trying to find a way to save her, and spends a lot of time rehashing the greatest hits of the last series of the Flash. I thought it appropriate that Arsenal continued his history as a moron, as he allows the Queen Bee to kidnap the West kids while he is supposed to be watching them. The guy is useless!

The issue ends with Wally reaching out to the silly new goateed Spectre, asking for him to save Linda. The Spectre promises it is Linda's time to die, but I don't believe it. I can't imagine that in this age of depressing comics, the powers that be at DC really think it is the right move to kill the Flash's wife. But what do I know. Alan Burnett's story is pretty by the numbers, but it is too long. This should have wrapped up an issue or two ago. With only one issue to go, this era of the Flash is ending with a whimper.

Carlo Barberi's art is fine, but not good enough to raise the quality of the issue.


Comic News Bits

  • This sucks. Geoff Johns is leaving JSA. I'm not sure I'll stick with the book, I suppose it depends on the creative team. Johns says he's focusing on Blackest Night, Flash, and Superman. I'd also be willing to bet there's a Legion of Super Heroes relaunch on the horizon.
  • We don't know much about Andy Diggle's new Thunderbolts plans, but we do have the lineup starting to form. Irredeemable Ant-Man, Ghost, Headsman, Paladin, Black Widow II are confirmed for now. The leading guesses for the last two are Scourge or Crossbones and Nuke. That's one helluva team! Don't drop this book, people!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

X-Men: Blinded by the Light TPB

I'm loving Mike Carey's take on the X-Men. This second trade features the dismantling of Rogue's strikeforce. We've got one corruption, multiple traitors, and Rogue herself still totally out of it. This whole trade is basically the Iceman and Cannonball show. It's neat seeing these two B-listers getting to headline a story. There's a fair amount of other X-Men (both classic and New), and it seems Carey is a big fan of White Queen, she does a lot. The story follows Rogue's strike team as they are ambushed by the Marauders. The classic Marauders are there, but they've added Sunfire, Random, Gambit, Exodus, and the acolytes, making them one heck of a team. It seems Random and Gambit are not pleased about working with Sinister, but they're doing it for some secret reason (probably Messiah Complex related). Carey spends a lot of time building up Iceman, both personally in his relationship with Mystique, and powers-wise as he amps Bobby's abilities through the roof. He's got to be a top 10 mutant now. I'm really pleased the X-books are so good. I'm way behind as I work through these trades, but it seems like it is a good time to be an X-fan.

Humberto Ramos isn't my favorite artist, his exaggerated features can be distracting. But there is no doubt his energy is off the charts. He draws great combat and sometimes his huge eyed faces really work to sell a dramatic moment. Mike Choi draws the epilogue, and I'm really impressed by his art. The detail is incredible. Mystique's red hair and blue skin look really fantastic, and Beast's lion form actually looks neat.


Deadpool #4

Let's face it, this book was up against some stiff competition. Cable & Deadpool was one of my favorite comics, and this one just isn't as good. I like the Deadpool character, but I'm not sure I like Daniel Way's take with Wade hearing multiple voices all the time. It would be hard to judge the series based on the first three issues that tied into Secret Invasion, which were harmless. Now that we're into an actual Deadpool story, it seems we're going to get a comedy-action book. I tend to think those work better as buddy stories (like with Cable perhaps?) This issue has Wade traveling to Europe to kill a zombie doctor and his plastic surgery subjects/zombies. He is assisted by a hunchback and works out of a spooky old castle. DP seems to be fairly dumb throughout, he is captured by the local cops and has to be rescued by other mercs, and then drinks a "bottled water" labeled "Poison." We're talking broad comedy here folks. The idea of plastic surgery leading to undead zombies is original, but nothing about it thrilled me.

Paco Medina's art is serviceable. He's not a spectacular artist, so actually, he's probably a perfect fit for this book.


Captain Britain & MI13 #7

I love this comic. I love how writer Paul Cornell is able to make it feel more "British" than Excalibur ever did. Captain Midlands does a lot of that himself, but the now-likeable Pete Wisdom is great too. Brit characters Blade and Spitfire get to spar some more, with Blade finally respecting "Lady J." I do hope her skeleton hand goes back to normal though, that is one weird deformity. Black Knight is getting some good development too. This issue features him fighting off the rage-inducing effects of the ebony blade, only to have Wisdom yell out at the end "That's not the ebony blade!" So Cornell is going to finally resolve the confusion with Black Panther carrying around the blade too, it seems. I'm thinking Black Knight's "rages" are going to be his own doing, not influened by the blade. That could be a neat development for one of my all-time faves to have to deal with, and it seems he will have Faiza around to help him deal with it. Their relationship is a fascinating one too, a knight who fought in the Crusades possibly getting in a relationship with a Muslim hero. Neat stuff. I wasn't as engrossed in the Cap Britain part of the plot as he imagines a life reunited with Meggan. I always wanted to like Cap more than I did, and I think his 80s era suit is his best, I'm not liking his modern look as much. Captain Britain may headline the book, but I think the title is carried on the rest of the cast. "Yer can't stop Captain Midlands!"

Leonard Kirk returns to pencil this issue, and it's nice to have him back. He's got the characters all down, and his Meggan looks fantastic. I don't care for Black Knight's bulbous helmet or jeans, but maybe he'll get back in his armor at some point. Blade looks great, this could finally be the time the great character from the movies gets similar treatment in the comics.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Transformers: All Hail Megatron #5

Another strong issue! There is still too much human-junk in this series, but author Shane Mccarthy is finally dealing more with robots than people. The issue reunites two factions of Autobots, as grizzly leader Kup gets his crew back in touch with the original bots. Kup's team seems to be Perceptor, Blaster, Blurr, Hot Rod, Springer, and a huge bot who I don't recognize. Kup initially accuses Jazz's contingent of slacking off in these dark days, but Jazz puts that to rest by dropping Springer and Blurr in a few seconds and pulling his gun on Kup before he can move. It was a nice sequence where my favorite Transformer got some respect! I love the focus on the "core" bots in this series. While Simon Furman did a great job with the sprawling cast in his issues, I must admit I didn't know who a lot of characters were. In All Hail Megatron, the scope is still fairly limited. While we are getting the Movie Autobots and obscure cons like Ratbat, it seems like the cast is a near match to the Transformers appearing in the early 40s of the Marvel series.

Guido Guidi's art looks great. He's done some small tweaks to the designs of the Autobots. He's given Blurr massive jets on his back that bulk up the character, and Perceptor has a small targeting lens over one eye. Neat tweaks modernize the characters without ruining their classic looks. Too bad the movie wasn't more like this. I'll probably pick up the book in monthly format now, since I don't want to buy issues that feature too many humans, but if this keeps up featuring mostly Transformers, I'll keep picking it up.


Avengers: The Initiative Special #1

This was a pretty sad little story. Long-time readers of The Initiative have known about new-hero Hardball's ties to Hyda, but just like his girlfriend Komodo, we all probably thought he had a good heart and was just in a rough spot. Hardball really shows his true colors this issue. We get some nice character moments with the Heavy Hitters and the Desert Stars, the heroes of Nevada and Arizona, with most of the time spent on Hardball and Komodo. I think the character intriguing me the most right now is Super Max, the Apache-Chief style growing hero who attempts to wrassle Zzzax in this issue (never a good idea). I'm wondering if this was written more by Christos Gage than Dan Slott, since we don't get a lot of Two Gun Kid, and I always thought he was a fave of Slott's. In any case, the book provides a neat glimpse in to the headquarters and operations of two of the Initiative teams. I'd love to see more of these.

However, the art is another story. I'm not a fan of Steve Uy's art. I don't like the soft pencil-look or the washed out colors we get here. All of the faces he draws are oddly puffy and small-eyed, to the point it detracts from the story. If series regular Stefano Caselli drew this, I could have easily bumped it up a grade. As it is, I kind of had to force myself to read it. So a decent story bogged down by art that isn't my style makes this comic nowhere near as good as a regular issue of the Initiative.


Young Liars #1-9

David Lapham is insane. Or I am. Either way, I don't entirely understand anything that happens in this comic, but I love it. The mad ideas, the almost random plot, Lapham is writing a book that any fan of Grant Morrison should check out. When this series started I feared it was just a gathering of stereotypes, but in the 9 issues so far, the characters have gone so bonkers I don't think you can say that anymore. The story is insane, with the Earth possibly invaded by spider-aliens, or not. Midget Pinkertons are searching for the missing daughter of a big box billionare pervert. The narrator had his equipment chopped off. I mean, this book is nuts! But good nuts! We may just be following a group of neurotic New Yorkers, or we could be watching a battle to save the world.

Young Liars should be the headliner of Vertigo. (Maybe #2 after Fables.) If you are looking for the madness of Preacher but not finding it, check this book out. I'm following it in trades and loving it! Honestly, I can barely do a description justice, that's how full of crazy and interesting ideas this title is. Be warned, there is a fair amount of mature material here, the perversion of the villains is pretty expansively portrayed.

Lapham's art is still kinetic and fascinating. I've loved his work since his Valiant days. He's one of the best writer-artists in the business, and I don't think anyone else could channel this crazy story the way he can.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Final Crisis: Resist #1

I'm kind of torn on this one. While I did enjoy it, especially the cool use of Cheetah and Mr. Terrific, this comic did also feature OMACs, which usually means an automatic fail. So I guess I'll mark it down as a pleasant surprise. The issue shows the last remnants of Checkmate (Mr. Terrific, Snapper Carr, Thinker, and Taleb Beni Khalid) as they try to fight back at Darkseid's takeover while trapped in a bunker at a Checkmate installation. I did enjoy the super-quick turnaround as the anti-life equation rippled through the ranks of the Checkmate operatives. Things seem really desperate at this point. I loved Cheetah hooking up with Snapper, that was a fun little pairing, and she's a neat character to have hanging out with the heroes of Final Crisis. I am a bit curious how the other DCU books will reflect the anti-meta particles in the air that shut down Snapper though, that seems pretty freaking powerful. I also don't really understand what is going on with the OMACs. Are they going to go back to killing metas? Or do they answer to Mr. Terrific? I was pretty unclear on exactly how that will shake out. I'm also wondering if we will ever see any repercussion of Mr. Terrific loosing all that malicious AI out into the DCU. Probably not, since Checkmate is cancelled. This is the way to wrap up that title though, not with the Chimera weirdness.

Why the heck don't we see more out of Ryan Sook? He's a great artist, and his work in this issue is stellar. His turned heroes look horrifying when viewed out of the bunker, and I also liked his take on Cheetah. Her facial expressions practically oozed personality.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

She-Hulk #35

Too bad that Peter David really got into his groove on this title so late. This story has been a fun one. She-Hulk and the Lady Liberators (Sue Storm, Thundra, Valkrie, and Jazinda) have travelled to an earthquake-ravaged country where the corrupt government won't hand out relief supplies. The heroines plan to distribute aid themselves until the Soviet Winter Guard arrive. We have the same Winter Guard as in War Machine (Red Guardian, Ursa Major, a new Darkstar, and Crimson Dynamo. No word on the others.) Just like in War Machine, after a few pages of beatdowns, the Guard changes sides and starts assisting She-Hulk in helping the ravaged population. The narration gets a bit heavy handed at times, and that slows down the issue a bit. I've never really taken to David's mopey She-Hulk, and we still have too much of it here. I've read how he was trying to make her work through her problems, but I just don't think the character is as fun when she's complaining and struggling to rationalize her every move. I enjoyed the super-brawling of this issue, but it could move faster. I think the inclusion of the other heroes is genius, She-Hulk comes close to her old fun-levels when interacting with these other characters, especially Thundra.

The story is solid, and better than the last few stories, but still not quite what I look for in a She-Hulk comic. (My perfect She-Hulk comic would be like the tiny prison story that Slott and Pelletier did at the end of their first volume. Super-bads and fun She-Hulk kicking butt.)

GG Studios handles the art again this issue, but last issue's penciller, Vincenzo Cucca is credited as an inker this time. A few panels really stick out that he spent a lot of time on, as the characters look the same as last month, but some the pages look a little less detailed. It seems Cucca likes Valkrie, as she usually is one of the most rendered characters every time she appears. In general, the art is a bit uneven in this one.


Iron Man: Director of SHIELD #35

Dang. Another fantastic issue. It is amusing reading this in the same sitting as the newest issue of She-Hulk, since both books feature the Winter Guard coming around and helping each series' protagonist. At least we're getting fairly consistent charicterization. Again, I don't know who the new Red Guardian or Darkstar are though, and what happened to Perun, Vostok, and Vanguard? And didn't they have a sorceress type on the team too?

This issue has more great War Machine action, with him using all sorts of weaponry to blow the Skrulls out of the sky. Suzi Endo is a pretty fun sidekick, and having her operate from orbit in a War Machine-based satellite is a pretty cool idea. The main thrust of this story is to drill in how Rhodey is a man of principles. As far as core concepts go, it's not Earth-shattering, but I think it is strong enough for me to follow him into his new ongoing series. Heck, I bought the awful 90s series where he was in the alien parasite armor, so of course I'll read his new one in his cool suit. As I've said before, I hope we get the gigantic evil War Machine showing up fairly soon. Christos Gage really set up Rhodey as a great hero in these few issues, these are some great Marvel comics.

Sean Chen's artwork is out of this world. He is one of my favorite artists to start with, but he draws Iron Man better than almost everyone else. I'd say only Bob Layton can give him a run for the money drawing shell-head (or War Machine, of course).


Friday, December 5, 2008

Nova #19

DnA keep writing comics just for me. I knew from the opening scene where the new Nova corps went after the freaking Serpent Society that I'd be pleased. Sure, I would have liked them to be a little tougher, but man, it was great just seeing them used! I do wonder at Black Mamba's appearance since I thought she had been working with the B.A.D. Girls and sort of turning good. In any case, the new Nova Corps gets some exposure this issue, and while none of them really stick out for me yet except, they do have some neat backgrounds. The young female dragon (Fin Fang Foom's cousin!) is probably the neatest idea in there. That's just fun! Darkhawk gets some more time to mope and compare himself to Nova, and he finds an envy-buddy in Richard's brother. It would be hard to measure up against a cosmic hero brother! I love the cliffhanger with an even more expanded corps. Is that the whole staff of Project Pegasus turned into heroes? Fun! I will also point out I can't wait for Dr. Necker to actually invent Death's Head. You know she's going to!

Wellington Alves' art is solid. He's no Paul Pelletier, but who is? He does a good job on Darkhawk especially, he looks pretty cool here. Just look at that list. Project Pegasus, Sepent Society, Darkhawk, Death's Head, Fin Fang Foom, add in Quasar and Director Gruenwald, and man, this is my perfect comic.


Dark Reign Solicits

There's a ton of Dark Reign material hitting the web, and I'm here to help you sort through it with what you really want to know.

Here's the ones I'm buying.

  • Mighty Avengers - written by Dan Slott with Khoi Pham on art will feature Iron Man, Hulk, Hank Pym, Jocasta, Hercules, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Stature. I predict this book will be awesome.
  • New Avengers - written by Brian Michael Bendis with Billy Tan on art will feature Winter Cap, Spidey, Wolverine, Ronin, Spider-Woman, and Ms. Marvel. That's a pretty good lineup, maybe we'll get Mockingbird too. I think this book actually has some potential, I'm buying it.
  • War Machine - written by Greg Pak with Leonardo Manco on art. The creative team says it all, plus he fights Ares in issue 3!
  • Avengers: The Initiative - written by Christos Gage with Humberto Ramos on art (at least to start). I don't know what's going on after the first story, but they fight Clor, so I have high hopes! I'm sure this will be excellent.
  • Thunderbolts - written by Andy Diggle with Roberto De La Torre on art, this will feature Black Widow II, The Ghost, and a host of bad ass looking characters doing something. I don't know much, but I know I'll collect it.
  • Agents of Atlas - written by Jeff Parker with art by Carlo Pagulayan, I'll be getting this in trade, just like the last Agents series. I'm hoping Parker can still do his own thing and not get too bogged down in the overall Marvel U.
  • Dark Avengers - written by Brian Michael Bendis with Mike Deodato on art, this seems to be Norman Osbourne's evil Avengers lineup. We've got a lot of mystery players, here's my take on who they are: Iron Patriot (Osbourne), Ms. Marvel (Moonstone), Wolverine (Daken), Spider-Man (Venom), Ares and Sentry. I love those two powerhouses being added to the team. If this is 2.99 an issue, I'll collect it.

I'll be passing on:
  • Deadpool - written by Daniel Way with Paco Medina on art, even with Bob, Agent of Hydra returning, I just can't do it. Way writes Origins...
  • Wolverine Origins - written by Daniel Way with Doug Braithwaite on art. Not a Way fan, sorry.
  • Ms. Marvel - written by Brian Reed with various artists, Carol will be out to get the CIA. I'll be passing because while Reed seems to have decent high concepts, I usually don't like his execution.
  • Secret Warriors - written by Jonathan Hickman w/ Bendis with Stefano Caselli on art. I'm passing because I think this will be 3.99, and I actually don't really like the real jerk Fury has turned into. I may be convinced to buy it by a 2.99 price tag and fantastic reviews.
  • Black Panther - written by Reggie Hudlin with Ken Lashley on art. Well, a female Black Panther would keep me away. As would Reggie Hudlin's writing. Lashley is decent but not great. I have many reasons to skip this.
  • Punisher - written by Rick Remender with Jerome Opena on art. I haven't loved Remender's work, and while I like the concept of Punisher trying to take out Osbourne's administration, I just don't care for the Punisher in the whole super-hero context.
So the final tally is
  • Monthlies: 5, maybe 6 (if Dark Avengers is 2.99)
  • Trades: 1
  • Skips: 6

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Secret Invasion #8

C'mon. Wasp gets ported out before she explodes? That is a tremendously returnable death! In fact, I'll be so certain of that, I won't even let myself be bummed about the death of a founding Avenger. Bendis sets up the story through a debrief with Norman Osbourne, who comes across as a charismatic jerk. He says the right things, but you just KNOW he's a slimebag. Most of the issue is merely mop-up duty as the various players get in their spots for Dark Reign, but that actually makes it one of the strongest issues in the series so far. Secret Invasion dragged on for FAR too long. Adding in the boring Avengers tie ins, and this was one hell of a drawn out snoozer. So on its own, Secret Invasion is a blunder. On its own, I give it a poor. Hell, there were too many pages in the early chapters devoted to Maria Hill and Agent Brand that should have gone to the Wasp and Norman Osbourne. They were central to this story, but we didn't know it for the first 6 months.

However, the Dark Reign idea is a good one, and it puts our heroes in underdog roles, where they fit in better. The core concepts for the Avengers titles look strong, and I like the return of various characters to the Marvel U with clean slates. Hank Pym can be a major player, Mockingbird is a great character to bring back, and even Dum Dum and the Contessa could end up improved if they are used correctly. The setup for the Marvel U is a nice one. The list of registered super-humans is now in the hands of the Green Goblin. That's an exciting idea! (I guess I was wrong to be pro-reg after all!)

Leinil Yu's art was fine. He works better with an inker, and you see it again here. His characters look fine. He's not my favorite artist, but he gets the job done. On its own, this issue only gets a Fair, because it concludes a horribly boring series. But it keeps the Fair rating because of where it leaves the Marvel Universe.