Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Sinestro takes on Mongul and while Mongul does put a real hurting on Sinestro, pinkie pulls out the win by establishing control over Mongul's many rings. I really liked that Sinestro didn't kill Mongul, since he didn't want him raised as a Black Lantern. He calmly tells Mongul that after the Blackest Night, he'll kill Mongul. It is interesting seeing the rainbow coalition forming up, especially since Sinestro demands that he's in charge. I kind of like this development of Sinestro and Abin Sur's backstory too, giving Abin a sister does add to the mythos nicely.
Doug Mahnke's art is fantastic as always. The Black Lanterns look horrific. And Hal was right; Carol does look good in purple. Mahnke's art doesn't clarify what those weird staffs are that the Indigo Lanterns are holding, but they do seem to be on-model.
What it boils down to is that Magog wants the team to function more like a special ops team, with training, psych evaluatations, and the like. He isn't down with using the JSA as a boarding house for any new hero using an old name. It's a great, reasonable argument that the arrogant King Chimera quickly backs up. The problem is, Chimera is an ass and the whole team doesn't like him, so Magog responds to his support with a wonderful line "Don't undermine my argument by agreeing with me." THIS Magog is much more likeable and is a cool leader; I like this guy a lot more than the one starring in the solo title. The plot churns along too, with Icicle stepping forward as a middle-man for the mysterious bad guy who hired the army of villains 2 issues ago. After Eclipso leaves, it looks like the new villain team consists of Icicle, Underhand, Homonculus, Blue Moon, Dr. Polaris, Atomic Skull, and Wild Huntsman. Those guys aren't household names, but they do make a pretty cool looking villain team.
The big news is on the closing page where the doctors have to give up and declare Mr. Terrific is dead. I don't believe it, but it does make for a dramatic closer.
Jesus Merino is still doing a wonderful job. He does 2 nice transitions that would fit in a TV show or film. In one scene, the panel swivels around the table showing different characters chiming in on a discussion. At the close of that scene, Power Girl states "here's what we learned" and the scene cuts to various villains spilling their guts.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
There isn't as much media grand-standing in this issue as there was in the one-shot, but that's ok, since the Web is more driven to seek revenge for his brother. I do hope those more vain tendencies do crop up again, that's what made the one-shot so interesting.
Roger Robinson is a fantastic artist. His dark pencils actually make that weird yellow and green suit look awesome. The action scenes are laid out very nicely and while the villains are generic now, I'm sure when given the chance any "name" villains will look great. Good stuff.
The Hangman backup was enjoyable too. John Rozum wisely continues using flashbacks to Civil War times to show the roots of the character, but quickly flashes to the present where Hangman is trying to scare some scumbags straight. I like that the Hangman isn't necessarily a killer, since he spends this whole issue just warning people to turn away from their evil ways.
As a whole, this Red Circle book is a strong package.
Bendis seems to have some affection for Jessica Drew. She spends most of the identity rolling thoughts around in her head, repeating things, and talking to Abigail Brand. There is a bit of combat at the end to liven things up, but for the most part this is a talker. I like the idea that Jessica Drew is messed up by the things that have happened to her, but I'm not sure that watching her kill Skrulls on the D-L is how to make her character more interesting. There isn't any type of set up for a supporting cast in this premiere issue, unless Abigail Brand will be coming around regularly, but I don't see that happening. So this relaunch probably isn't for me, although it may stay street level enough to play to Bendis' strengths. I fear it will play more to his weaknesses, like the plotting in Secret War.
I chose the Ross variant cover because what draws me to Spider-Woman is her 70s camp look and her bright appearance, she's a neat looking hero. But this dark take doesn't seem like it will carry the mood I'm looking for from the character.
Alex Maleev draws beautiful pictures that fit the story pretty well, but there are a lot of cutaways and artistic shots too. This is not "classic" storytelling by any means, but it is moody and pretty to look at.
Monday, September 28, 2009
This story doesn't really have anything new, that we didn't know before, but Johns is so into the little details that it can't help but be fun to see how Ma Kent got the idea for the super-suit, or see how Clark Kent first got his glasses. What I enjoyed the most was seeing how unhappy Clark was with these early developments, he really did want to be a normal boy and play football and kiss girls. The ongoing relationship with Lana Lang is an interesting one. I've never been a big fan, but there is something to be said seeing the blossoming relationship of Superman's first love. I'm digging most of the story here, but I'm still not a believer that putting Lex Luthor in Smallville helps either him or Superman. There is no need to tie them together as kids (although perhaps Johns will prove me wrong on that too). I'm also pleased to see Doomsday showing up as a calamaty that struck Krypton back in the day.
Gary Frank is one of my favorite artists because of the way he draws faces. His kids have a bit of a weird face thing going on here, they look too grown up. He does better with Lana than Clark, and his Lex Luthor is mighty odd looking (probably by design though). I can't wait for more super-characters to show up. So I'm sold, I'll definitely keep an eye out for the eventual trade.
Omni-Man and Allen the Alien continue in their mission to stop the expansion of the Viltrumite empire. Omni explains how the Viltrumites were wiped out and reduced to their current numbers and officially links up with the coalition. There are a few nice character bits as Omni-Man becomes assimilated into Allen's more normal life. I like the idea of a space-team forming up to fight the Viltrumites, and the newly resurrected Space Ranger looks like a great addition to the Invincible universe. There isn't a ton of plot movement here, but the character interaction makes up for it.
I've really become accustomed to Ryan Ottley's pencils on this book. Original penciller Cory Walker returns here, and he looks fine, but I love Ottley's so much that I'm looking forward to him coming back. Walker draws Allen the Alien a bit bulkier than Ottley. Walker does do a nice job on giving the masses of Viltrumites relatively unique looks and his designs for Omni Man and Allen in their COP uniforms are strong. However, the screaming little bug-man in space is the best panel of the issue.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Paul Dini spends most of this issue letting the reader get to know The Broker, the real-estate agent to the star-villains of Gotham City. Dini lays out a nice reason that there are so many giant typewriters and abandoned amusement parks in Gotham, back in its manufacturing boom; it was almost Vegas-like for entertainment. Now it's a cesspool of abandoned zoos and empty specialty shops. That's a darn cool idea. Dini really excels at these villain features, Broker is a scumbag, but even he has his limits. While setting up Mr. Zsasz in a meat-packing warehouse, he discovers that Zsasz is planning on some sort of gory show involving children. Zsasz's casual violence when one of the kids speaks up was chilling; Zsasz just says "one side" and stabs into a cage, pulling out a bloody knife when he's done. That's one cold dude.
I loved the idea that the Broker has given up info to Batman before. Dick Grayson (I need a quicker name for him as Batman. Maybe Nightbat or Batwing?) shows up demanding only the worst escapees from Arkham. He's willing to let some of the less-harmful villains slide for now so that he can nail the dangerous folks like Zsasz. Broker gives up the info, thinking about his own kids, and then takes a beating so that his clients will think Bats had to beat it out of him. The Broker is a fascinating and frankly likeable new character. I hope he's involved in the rest of this storyline.
Dustin Nguyen's work with Paul Dini has been strong since they teamed up, and this is no exception. His storytelling is clear and he does a nice job handling the variety of villains in the issue. His gloomy Gotham has a good, creepy feel to it.
The strong backup featuring Manhunter makes this one of the best values from DC these days. These two stories are well worth your $3.99.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Rikki Barnes is about a blank slate for me, but I find myself liking her and hoping she can turn her life around. Rikki is the Bucky of the Heroes Reborn Earth, now stuck on the core Marvel U Earth. She's trying to make her way with off-the-books jobs and forged documents. What interests me about her is that she has forged those documents to enroll in school and attempt to get to know the version of her brother on this new Earth. I predict her palling around with her brother may lead to some awkward moments, since he's unaware of why she's sticking so close, but it is an original idea to be sure.
After being warned away from Bucky-Cap by the Black Widow (whose black leather suit was giving a wedgie, I guess!) Rikki tries to go it alone and investigate some odd behavior at her school. When a disparate group of students from different social strata team up to shape up the school, Rikki follows them into the school basement, where she's knocked around by some kind of wolf-man. Bloodied and sort of in shock, she retreats to her apartment to find a Nomad costume on her bed. I expected a guest-star on that final splash page, after all, nothing legitimizes a limited series like a guest-star, but I was pleasantly surprised that Rikki might be going it alone for a bit. She's a fun hero with a strong, likable personality. I actually think she'd be a perfect new member for the Young Avengers after this mini.
David Baldeon does a nice job showing Rikki's different moods throughout the issue. She's mopey and depressed in her "normal" life. She's excited and giddy while operating as Bucky. And she's happy and hopeful while attending high-school. This was a better comic than I expected.
Friday, September 25, 2009
The main strength of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's writing is that they have made PG into a relatable character. She makes mistakes, she forgets parts of her costume, but she keeps trying. She's definitely not a quitter and she is headstrong, two admirable qualities that make her fun to read about. I could do without the constant boob-jokes, but it isn't a huge deal since that is one of her main draws. I'm not sold on her supporting cast at her company yet either, I'm just not that into those parts of the book. So I guess I'm lukewarm on the supporting cast and core plot, but I really like the take on the main character.
Amanda Connor is always fun. PG acts like a real person, and the pencils play a huge part in what makes PG seem so likeable. Connor is good at drawing animals too, as PG's cat has a clear personality while only getting a couple panels per month.
Starlord and his timelost crew get shunted to what is essentially the Earth of Killraven, an Orson Wells-inspired Earth where Martians have enslaved the human race. There's some weird aging going on, with everyone getting older or younger (except for Jack Flagg, who has some important destiny, it seems). The aging is played to good comedic effect, especially with the playful Cosmo the telekinetic dog. The bulk of the issue has the merged Guardian teams working against the Martians until the core cast is blinked out to another alternate Earth. I'm not sure if the Magus-ruled world at the end is the "main" timeline, but it certainly doesn't bode well for Starlord's crew.
This book is so much fun. This issue has it all, great guest-stars, classic villains, comedic interaction, and a strong cliffhanger. I've said it before, check out this comic.
Wes Craig's art is decent, but not quite as strong as the hyper-detail of Brad Walker. Craig does a good job too; I just prefer the regular penciller's take on these characters.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
After Prodigy and his Heavy Hitters (except Outback, a hilariously re-named Boomerang) secede from the Initiative, Norman Osborn is having none of it. He dispatches a few other villain-teams and a bunch of trainees out to destroy the Las Vegas based team. At the same time, Justice, Tigra, and the other Rebel Avengers are on the way to try and extract the Hitters from trouble. Prodigy gets the best moments in this. He's willing to take the rap for working for Osborn, even knowing that he was a villain. Prodigy had figured he could do good even while working for evil, but after finding out he was wrong, he's doing the right thing. There is a huge mass of villains called down on him, but he takes his lumps like a man, in full public eye, so that the public of the Marvel U sees how corrupt the Initiative has become. Things don't go smoothly though, as Taskmaster manages to shoot Night Thrasher II upside the head. The Rebel Avengers are forced to leave him behind. Now Osborn has a tempting offer concerning the original Night Thrasher. If Gage is planning on bringing back Thrash and Namorita, I will be one happy dude.
In an interesting revelation, Tigra sets up a few heroes with escape plans to get out of the country. I like that Tigra and Hank Pym (I still can't call him Wasp) are both working against the Dark Avengers, but separately so they can't compromise each other. Nice in-comic reasoning for a publishing decision.
Other developments in D-tier Marvel characters: Komodo is stripped of her powers. Constrictor, Penance, Hardball, and Butterball are media darlings and Osborn is milking it for all he can. The U-Foes and Force of Nature are both part of Osborn's hit squad. Justice and Ultragirl sort of break up. Debrii quits the Rebel Avengers. Obviously, this is one packed comic.
Rafa Sandoval is doing a great job with this enormous cast. He has a clean style that tells the story clearly, he's a good fit for the title.
What I like the most about this issue was actually just seeing Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl in action. These are top-tier heroes with classic powers, and I liked seeing them go up against villains that give them a run for their money. It seems like Superman is off in another book in a black suit and Superboy is just going on dates, so seeing these guys actually fight someone was really nice. Robinson also uses the emotion-spectrum idea to great effect. His use of strong, positive emotions for the leads makes them more heroic.
Eddy Barrows does a nice job on the gore and dessication of the Black Lanterns. He's more of a Teen Titans-style artist, so his teens look better than his adults, but he does a decent job on Supes.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The core storyline is a new drug that turns folks into berserk maniacs, affecting everyone from college students to cops. Naturally, the mystery villain who created the drug is the Scarecrow. I think it's a wise move to put Steph up against a big-time threat like this right away; it will help legitimize her if she can take him down. I'm getting a weird vibe from the monologues from both Steph and Barbara, because they both seem to be downplaying Steph's potential as Batgirl. She's not as smart as Barbara, she's not as strong a fighter as Cassandra Cain, and she's not as good a detective as any of the Batmen. So why is she the new Batgirl? Hopefully this first arc will show me why, but right now, it is convincing me of the opposite.
Lee Garbett is sort of like a scratchier Mike Norton. His storytelling is fine, but to be honest Phil Noto's pencils on the covers are so impressive I can't help but be let down by the interiors. Garbett's storytelling is decent, though, and his take on Scarecrow is pretty iconic and cool. I'm looking forward to seeing his take on the new Batgirl costume.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Drake heads off to the Middle East and discovers a cave painting of the bat symbol, clear evidence that Bruce was sent back in time rather than being killed (or so it seems to Drake, I'm not sure how he can be certain Bats didn't do that some other time he had to skip around in time). Having Drake start to appreciate having a posse, even if they are killers, then taking them away was a nice touch. I'm hoping The Widower is some kind of anti-hero, but since he reports to a group called the Council of Spiders, I'm pretty sure he'll end up being a bad guy.
Ramon Bachs' art is ok, but sometimes things seem out of focus, almost like he drew everything at a smaller size and had his pencils enlarged electronically. Perhaps that's a result of the coloring?
Here's the Newsarama complete solicits for December.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Matt Fraction has really painted a sad picture of Tony Stark in this story. The penultimate chapter of World's Most Wanted has Tony hiding out in the cave where he first created the Iron Man mk1. The big bulky armor looks old-fashioned, but still dang intimidating. I have to assume Stark has some plan that will put him over Osborn next issue, but at this point it looks like the original suit vs. the modern Iron Patriot armor that Osborn stole, and that's not going to be much of a contest. I love the time Fraction spends on HAMMER technician Walsh. The poor guy is ex-SHIELD and does retain some loyalty to Tony Stark. But he dutifully follows orders and has caught Stark slipping up numerous times over the past few issues. I love seeing Walsh wrestle with his conscience each issue, then break down and do the "easy" thing and follow orders. I hope this dude gets a heroic moment, which would be neat to see.
As expected, Pepper Potts was disguised as Madame Masque, but her plan goes further than that. After freeing Black Widow and Maria Hill, the Rescue armor inserts a virus into HAMMER's mainframes, and it seems this virus is also affecting the other Iron Man suits that Osborn has procured. Maybe we're in for a swarm of empty armors coming to bail out Tony next issue. At this point, Stark's supporting cast could make a strong argument that they should get armored ID's full time. War Machine and Rescue are easy, but with a little digging, I bet there could be a fleet of Iron Men out there.
Salvador LaRocca can handle the emotion and "acting" scenes, but I like the way he puts together his action sequences. The freeze-frame style worked well both in the crash and when Stark is ambushed by some local youth.
The Young Avengers' battle with Loki/Scarlet Witch is much more exciting, but really, we are robbed of any type of conclusion. I assume any resolution would have to take place in Thor's title, so I never really thought there was a point to seeing the YA take Loki on. Perhaps I'll be wrong, but right now, it seems that way. I enjoyed seeing Hawkeye interact with the YA, and actually pick up a bow again too. I like Dan Slott's sneaky way of using the real Hawkeye rather than terrible Ronin, just tear up the costume! Nicely done, I'd be willing to accept that in all appearances going forward. Even better, keep Hawkeye on the Mighty Avengers as Hawkeye, then let him slum over in New Avengers in the padded-man suit of Ronin. It was fun seeing how Hawkeye tested out his Scarlet Witch theory too, I wonder how he'll feel when he finds out he planted a kiss on Loki?
Hank Pym and Jocasta's weird relationship is still fun to read about, especially when you remember that Jocasta has Wasp's brain. I'm still holding out hope for a return for the Wasp (since her death served no purpose). I think the interaction there could be very, very interesting. Wasp's ex-husband hanging out, perhaps intimately, with a robot based on her. Very weird, and very comic-booky. I hope it happens.
Koi Pham's art continues to vary between scratchy and decent. I like the guy's art when he has time, but it seems like half his panels are rushed. I'm looking forward to seeing Sean Chen's tighter work in upcoming issues.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
DD has taken over the hand, and Osborn isn't happy about it. He quickly dispatches Bullseye to face off against his old foe, and I actually thought the juxtaposition was quite well done. Bullseye came raiding into a dark hideout with armed police (HAMMER) on his side, while DD is hiding out and being tested by a criminal group. This is a great indicator of just how upside-down the Marvel U is these days. Bullseye quickly moves the fight away so he can make a statement, and this relocation brings up one of my few complaints about the issue. I wanted more Black Tarantula and White Tiger! I love these two street-level heroes functioning as DD's henchmen, so I was bummed they got written out so quickly!
Bullseye adds to his almost Joker-ish body count by blowing up a building filled with protesters, all to get a rise out of DD. This works of course, but I've got to think that Bullseye didn't quite think things through. Every time DD goes down a darker path and let's himself go crazy, Bullseye usually gets a helluva beating. Not exactly a good plan, Bullseye! I can't wait to see where Diggle takes the ongoing series; there is a ton of potential in the current direction.
Billy Tan's art is serviceable, but I've never been a big fan. His art is fine, but I love the dark, gritty feel of Michael Lark's art so much, I'm ready to go back to the regular series.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The first villain for Ronnie Raymond in this batch was Typhoon. I've seen Typhoon before in other titles, but I liked just how messed up his origin is. This poor guy got lost under the sea in a submersible lab where he was transformed into an elemental. After returning to find he had been replaced as a husband and a father, he seeks revenge on those he blames for destroying his old life, including Dr. Martin Stein. There are some great sequences as the city is almost drowning (handled in a much better fashion than Ultimatum, I might add).
Next up was the Hyena, who happens to be the horribly-named sister of Ronnie's special lady Doreen. Summer Day suffers from the curse of Hyena, essentially a werewolf deal. She's spread the curse to her friend and doctor, and there is some mistaken identity hijinks as Firestorm attempts to halt the curse. He eventually stops the two Hyenas but not before he is infected with the curse himself. Ronnie and Dr. Stein can't split out of their now-furry form, so they head out to the Congo where a, ah, fairly stereotypical witch-doctor frees them from their curse.
The last couple issues in this stack have Dr. Stein's old assistant Multiplex return to torment Firestorm in an attempt to re-create the original accident that created Firestorm. I love the weird mix of origins with Firestorm, he's part Hulk and part Spider-Man. Multiplex is a kind of weakling, but since his genius is the real threat, the dupe-creating power is just kind of a bonus.
There's also a great fist-fight with nerd-rival Cliff Carmichael. Just like Peter Parker, Cliff is tougher than he appears and beats the snot out of Ronnie (although Ronnie was a tad out of it from other factors). I love that a guy so good in his heroic form has so many problems in his civilian ID.
The bulk of the art is by George Broderick, who has a nice classic style. I again find myself digging old 80s DC, an era I had written off. While I liked the first 7 issues more than this last stack, this is certainly good enough to keep me reading (and since I already bought through issue 60, I have to read them!) Any suggestions on other 80s DC books that hold up this well?
Friday, September 18, 2009
Dick Grayson and Damian have a few nice character moments, but for me the best scene of the issue is the introduction of a masked celebrity at a high-roller's dinner. Only in comics. Morrison's idea to have Scarlet twittering during her kills seems like an attempt to be topical, but I've seen it in 3 or 4 Joe Casey books at this point, so it wasn't all that quirky to see it again. I'm not sure if it is Jason Todd under the red hood, but I hope it is. His ranting and rehearsing as he prepares to address the public is one of the most interesting things I've seen him do since his ill-advised return.
Phillip Tan is no Frank Quitely. The art here, while competent enough, is a huge step down from the revelatory work Quitely delivered last issue. Scarlet's creepy scene with her doll-face is decently haunting, but it would be way more creepy if Tan could mimick the odd puffiness from the last few issues.
It doesn't take long for Rick's crew to track down the Hunters. There is a great little confrontation as Rick almost gives them a chance to explain themselves. There is no excuse for the cannibalism they are engaged in, but hearing the almost sane rationalizations from the Hunter leader is pretty fun. They guy isn't really about to convince anyone, but you can start to see why he believes it. The showdown goes down about as well as long-time readers can expect, I won't ruin it. I will say the closing line of "Maybe we'll have us a taste" is one heckuva way to close the book.
Charlie Adlard. You know what you're getting; strong emotional work and decent action sequences.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Steve Rogers is still bouncing around in time, and from what he says, it seems pretty random to me. He opens the issue trapped in ice and later re-experiences key moments from the Kree-Skrull War. Back in the present, the Avengers (well, really only the Falcon) stage a big rescue, attacking the Thunderbolts while they are transporting Winter Cap. Brubaker did a great job with only a few panels with the T-bolts. Ghost seems superior and condescending, Scourge seems brutal and over confident. Paladin seems laid back (that shot of him unconscious is great) and Ant-Man III seems desperate to be out of there. Ant-Man's actions are fantastic, a great glimpse at the character and how desperate he is. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Vision's message from Cap entails. Vision is another character getting valuable face-time in this series that he doesn't really get elsewhere these days.
I'm so amused by Bryan Hitch as I read this thing. It is so clear which panels interest him and which ones don't. The Namor splash, the awesome flashback to the Kree-Skrull War? Filled with Hitchy goodness. The new Thunderbolts or Hank Pym? Not quite as much time spent there, since they look a lot more Butch Guice-ish. Don't get me wrong, I like both pencillers, but man, it must have been amusing seeing this put together.
Johns brings the action again in the upsetting closing conflict. After Barry, Hal, and the Atom team up with the Jason Rusch Firestorm and Mera at JLA HQ, the Black Lanterns follow them there. Mera had just explained that emotional turmoil is like blood in the water for the Black Lanterns, so I guess the JLA wasn't quite as calm as they'd hoped. Ronnie Raymond does a bad, bad thing to Jason Rusch's gal Gehenna at the close of this issue. I don't see how Ronnie could be a sympathetic character at this point even if he gets resurrected. My theory is that Jason and Ronnie end up sharing the Firestorm body after Blackest Night, but that is going to be one tense, uncomfortable relationship now.
There is a bit of character-defining dialogue with Hal and Barry explaining how they see each other as both people and heroes, but frankly the discussion seemed a tad out of place while under siege from super-zombies. Jason or Mera should have told the two of them to kiss and make up, it wasn't the time for a heart-to-heart.
One other concern: based on the November solicits, it seems Wonder Woman is going to have a big part in the story at some point. I think by issue 3 all the main players should be on the board, so I'm not sure I approve of the choice to leave game-changing elements off the page for so long.
Ivan Reis' pencils are fantastic. I can't overstate how great everything looks and how well he's mixing super-hero epic with horror. This is quite the accomplishment.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The story opens up in Latveria, where NPC Nick Fury is leading Iron Man, Cap, Wolverine, and Spider-Man on an assault on Countess Barden's castle. Fury explains to the heroes that the Countess and the Tinkerer have been supplying the Marvel U's low-level bad guys for years. The heroes really seemed like they were uncomfortable with each other, so I'm not sure this is a continuity where these guys have served in the Avengers together. They didn't seem to know Fury too well either. This story is basically Brian Michael Bendis' Secret War mini. After taking out the Countess and destroying the castle, the heroes retire to Stark Tower to interact with heroes from the Marvel U, answer trivia questions, and go on training missions, all very much like Ultimate Alliance 1.
The main reason I play these comic games is to experience comics in a more interactive way. In just two hours, we got a fair amount of interaction with known characters.
- Villains included Electro, Scorcher, the Wizard, and the Tinkerer
- Heroes I encountered were Black Widow, Justice, Thor, and the previously mentioned Nick Fury
I played three characters as we moved through the levels:
- Iron Man - great powers, including some nice repulsor beams and flight. This will be a default for me
- Gambit - surprisingly fun, his card-throwing was very effective but his one-liners were awful
- Invisible Woman - I liked her Ult Alliance 1 power-set better, but she's still pretty tough. She can pick up heavy objects using her powers, a nice way for her to mimic super-strength
I didn't like the dialogue or voice acting as much in this installment as the previous one. A lot of the one-liners are cringe-worthy. The game-play is VERY easy, I think I only dropped once on the normal difficulty. The minions are repetetive, of course, but the game attempts to spice things up with the occasional odd objective or bonus item. The heals are pretty common and the specials are fun to mix and match depending on which characters are in use. The power sets are fun too, with most characters getting a distance power and an area of affect power, in addition to basic punches and strikes. Some folks can fly, or web-swing, or flip around like maniacs. There is some interaction with NPCs that affects the ongoing game. You can respond to NPCs in "Aggressive" or "Diplomatic" or similar fashions. I'm curious to see how that will affect your game play later on. All in all the controls were very intuitive, it can take me some time to master new games but I found myself moving around nicely very quickly.
I will definitely grab this game for my X-Box 360, but I'm not sure if I'll wait for the price to drop. I'm leaning towards picking it up soon. I'm ready to build my main team (I'm thinking Iron Man, Songbird, Iron Fist, and Cage or Juggernaut).
But Loeb's wholesale slaughter is just lazy. Drowning 3 X-Men off-panel is lazy. Describing the remote deaths of the Hellions is lazy. Using Dormammu and Hela in essentially their Marvel U interpretations is lazy. The deaths where Loeb actually showed more creativity went from effecting, like Magneto's snapping of Xavier's neck, to ridiculously unnecessary.
This series had the Blob eating Wasp's innards, Yellowjacket blown apart by a horde of suicide Madroxes, and Sabretooth ripping off Angel's wing before snapping his neck with a kick. Hell, even after Magneto was dealt with, Cyclops had his head blown off while making a speech? This was a hot mess. I mean, Thor taking Valkrie's place in Hel? What does that serve? This whole series felt like a bunch of barely controlled chaos. The heroes just run around and die for awhile, then take out Magneto when the series is about to end. There was no real rising action or normal story arc, just a bunch of choppy scenes followed by a "shock" ending.
There are too many pages spent dealing with the recovery of Nick Fury from the Squadron Surpeme universe too. I never understood why Fury's absence enabled Doom to kick things off by killing the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Hell, part of my problem with this series is that I never read Ultimates 3 or Ultimate Secret, so I felt like I didn't understand anyone's motivations. I've read a ton of Ultimate comics, but this didn't even have a consistent feel.
The choice to have Spider-Man disappear is an odd one too. What did it serve taking him out of the story? My only rationale is that sending him along on the strike mission would darken his character too much.
Avoid this. In fact, this might be so bad it will keep me away from Mark Millar's Ultimate Comics' Avengers. I mean, with Thor, Yellowjacket, Wasp, and so many more dead, why bother reading about the Avengers? Isn't it a 3 man team now (Hawkeye, Cap, and Iron Man).
David Finch's art was hyper-gory and dark. I will admit I'm amused at his hot ladies, especially the super-endowed Valkrie. I suppose I can't blame him for the story, and his gory panels looked shocking, there is no doubt. That panel of Blob eating Wasp is one I'll probably never forget.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Vicenc Villagrasa's art is pleasant and bright, and fits the material well. The ladies all have good individual looks and the guys look fabulous.
I don't know who Tim Gunn is, but he puts on some Iron Man armor in the backup. I think once again, I'm not the target audience. I did like his pithy comments towards the thugs as he smacked them around in the Iron Man suit, but I'm pretty sure I'm missing the joke.
I dig retro books quite a bit, but I guess retro-books homaging old Millie the Model books is where I have to draw the line! This was obviously poor for me, but I'm thinking if someone had different (as in accurate) expectations, perhaps they'd dig this one.
Poor (probably just me though!)
Lady Bullseye is an interesting new addition to DD's rogues, since she doesn't really bring anything new to the table. Elektra is probably a better fighter and we see in issue 500 that being at Bullseye's level of hand-to-hand combat isn't enough to seriously threaten DD (that was a great moment, by the way). I'd say the neatest thing about Lady B is that since she's a lawyer by day, she can challenge Matt Murdock just as effectively as she does DD.
Brubaker ends the arc with some interesting choices. Kingpin is back in his normal role as crime boss of New York. Lady B is off the scene. Milla is written out since she's off with her parents. All status quo stuff. But DD himself? That's where Brubaker throws the curveball. I love that it seems to be a new habit for the outgoing DD writer to leave the new guy in a tight spot. With Andy Diggle coming on, he's got to deal with DD being the new leader of the Hand. That's an evil organization, but DD is going to try to steer them towards good, with Tarantula and White Tiger "watching his back." That's a fantastic status quo, and it could lead to some neat interaction in upcoming stories. I'd love to see DD interact with the Agents of Atlas, since both now lead evil groups.
Overall, this was an interesting arc, but not one that I was on the edge of my seat to read. Perhaps it will hold up better when read in one sitting. It was well crafted, but it didn't have the frantic excitement of DD's time in prison or travels in Europe. I wasn't as emotionally invested since Milla was never really in danger, and the main players all kind of deserve the situation they find themselves in.
Michael Lark's art is wonderful. No one does gritty street action better; he's the perfect artist for this title. His "turned" Tarantula and Tiger looked fantastic; I even thought their body language seemed different while they were turned. His action scenes looked great too, with DD and Izo flying about kicking butt. In fact, the mood and storytelling with his pencils are good enough to elevate my grade to good, since I do want to re-read the entire arc to savor those pencils again.
Monday, September 14, 2009
I can't recommend cosmic Marvel highly enough. DnA's cohesive vision have made this entire branch of the Marvel U an integrated, intriguing place where anything can happen, yet the stories still retain a "classic" feel. These guys love classic characters and it shows in their handling of even side-characters like Maximus the Mad. (He's convinced he should be placed in charge of the Shi'ar. When the royal family is attacked, he comments "this never would have happened under my rule.")
Heck, the Imperial Guard and Gladiator are an "homage" to the Legion of Super-Heroes and Superboy, yet I'm digging the Marvel version more than DC these days.
Paul Pelletier's work is always so fun. Gladiator's black costume is strikingly cool. The Imperial Guard members look right, some dark, some shiny, he even gets their different textures right. I liked the mourning costumes for the Inhumans too, with Medusa's hanging facemask and Crystal's domino mask.
The Grendel/Devil we saw last issue gets released at the end of the issue, but I'm not sure how scared I should be of this guy. Is he an existing DC character? Is he new? Is he supposed to be the actual Devil? I'm sure the upcoming fight with this guy and Wonder Woman will be good. With Simone being so skilled at balancing her cast, I'm sure the fight with the prison bosses versus the Six will be satisfying too.
Nicola Scott does a nice job with the current action, as always, but she gets some neat flashbacks in this one too. Jeannette has an injury-inspired vision of the Six in silly Victorian costumes that is appropriately jarring. The glimpse into Scandal's childhood is upsetting too, where we see her 9-year old self beaten by thugs before Vandal Savage gives her the wrist-blades she uses so well. That's the moment when she became the hard woman we know.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The team quickly wraps up the mutant world storyline by setting up Phoenix against the White Queen. Sure, they are just fighting over Cyclops' affections, but I guess that is enough to break up the mutant alliance that was threatening that reality. Morph then kindly sends the team on a few day vacation on in an easy-going reality. When it is time to move on for their next mission, the team shows that they have been onto Blink as a plant for Morph. Parker lays out a neat situation where a team of the "founding" Exiles (Nocturne, Blink, Heather Hudson, and Morph) are working to repair the multiverse using the same crystal palace as used in the past series. I loved the connection to the previous volume of the series. Tying the broken timelines to trouble with Kang was a great idea. Parker even goes so far as to set up the idea that other Kangs are creating other teams of Exiles working at cross-purposes with the core cast. This really could have been a neat ongoing situation. I'm sad to see the title end, but with nice splash page showing the current lineup, at least it is possible these characters pop up somewhere.
Salva Espin brings the title home nicely. This title had a nice consistent feel throughout and I'm sad to see it go. If this becomes available in trade, it is worth checking out just for the fun alternate takes on each character.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The battle eventually takes the surviving spirits and Caretaker to the City of Bones in the Congo, where there is a terrific battle of the forces of good/vengeance against Danny and the Black Host, Zadkiel's evil angels. Through some manipulation using the great hellfire shotgun (from Spirits of Vengeance!) Danny wins, and the combined power of the Ghost Riders is beamed along to Zadkiel to assist him in tearing down the walls of heaven. After a couple pages, Danny pops back, collapsing on the ground in front of Blaze and Caretaker. Danny realizes he was on the wrong side, but he's devastated that it is too late, Zadkiel has already conquered heaven. Aaron is weaving an epic story about heaven while giving us a great personal conflict too. The sibling "rivalry" of the Ghost Riders is fascinating to see, I can't see how these two get along in the future, since I assume they will be going against Zadkiel soon. Zadkiel himself is a tad reminiscent of Asmodel, the Bull-Angel from Zauriel's JLA origin, but he's pretty darn scary on his own. I actually own a lot of Ghost Rider comics, since I loved Danny back in the 90s, only now with Aaron's take on the title do I find myself switching my allegiance and becoming a Johnny Blaze fan.
I like the recurrence of the Deputy from Aaron's first arc too. He's a bad guy now, which surprised me a bit, but I'm liking the idea that he may be the new Vengeance (another Spirits of Vengeance relic). Aaron is building up a nice little rogues gallery for ol flame-head.
Tan Eng Huat's artwork is so stylized that I think it actually hurts the story in places. He can handle the oddball stuff like flaming skulls, eye-ball heads, and speeding bikes, but his faces for normal folk look a bit odd. I'm looking forward to seeing Walking Dead's Tony Moore handle some art in the next trade.
The issue opens with a tense scene of combat as a unit commander takes his group into danger facing off against arms traffickers in Afghanistan. It ends with an ambush that kills most of the unit but leaves the leader mortally wounded and perfect for an experimental new procedure. After a few months, Joseph Higgins is reborn as the Shield, one of the first super-heroes to be an active part of the military. Higgins is an earnest patriot doing his duty. He's got a public ID to inspire his fellow soldiers and he's out there fighting for them until the Shield procedure drops in price to be available for more soldiers. There is some typical shady dialogue from Higgins' commanding officers, but for the most part I was pleased at the positive portrayal of the American military. In his Civil War tie-ins, the heavy-handed political statements were very common, but I think JMS may have dialed back his agenda a bit here. I love the idea of a public hero working in the military, I'd love to see him interact with other heroes like Magog. Another great character available (and previously drawn by Scott McDaniel) would be the Veteran.
Friday, September 11, 2009
- Kyle Rayner, exhibiting Will, Love, and Hope, reunites with Jade and plays along with her attempts to seduce him, but after realizing he can't get any answers from her, Kyle goes off and attacks her. Smart guy.
- Bzzd returns from the dead as the tiniest Black Lantern and starts slaughtering GLs. Guy Gardner eventually takes him out but it is a great man vs. fly conflict.
Salaak confronts the Alpha Lanterns and puts them in their place. With the Guardians out of it, Salaak is now in charge of the Corps. His first decision is to stop recruiting rookies into the horrific environment of Blackest Night.
- Krybb and a Star Sapphire (can't remember her name) are searching for Krybb's missing kids. Knowing how sick Tomasi can be, I'm worried.
- Soranik Natu and Princess Iolande show up in the GL infirmary to try and stop the Black Lanterns from taking out the weakened GLs. (This includes a great scene where the wounded GLs are trying their best to fight off their attackers.)
If that sounds action packed, that's because it is. There are tons of characters getting face time in this, I'm really impressed at how Tomasi is juggling this huge cast and still giving characters a chance to shine.
Patrick Gleason rocks this issue, as he always does. His take on Jade looks great, she's still sort of attractive even in her evil Black Lantern suit. I also never thought I'd be sad to see Bzzd come back, but I missed that little guy.
I had been excited at the prospect of these List specials, since they had a kind of similar tone as the old connected Annuals of the late 80s and early 90s. The prospect of seeing Norman Osborn face off against the Avengers was intriguing. I knew Clint Barton/Hawkeye/Ronin was supposed to have a big part too, and Bendis promised a big development with the character. So I naturally figured Clint might end up as Hawkeye again so I picked up this issue.
I hate Bendis' take on Clint Barton. Clint spends the issue rambling on with an ill-formed plan about how killing Osborn is the best option. How he doesn't need a real plan to do it. Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Clint's wife Mockingbird all try to talk him out of it, explaining that it is wrong for heroes to kill and that how a hero acts in the tough times defines what kind of hero he is. It's funny, because this is all stuff I've heard Clint say in the past when he was an actual heroic character. In this he's whiny, sneaky, and pouty. This character bears so little resemblance to the Hawkeye I like that I was actually cheering for Ares at the end of the issue. Hell, Clint brings along a bunch of guns and shoots Bullseye! Why bother having this be Hawkeye? This could be any generic gun-toting doofball. The issue closes with Clint knocked out and arrested, after trying to take on Ares and Norman Osborn. So let's add moronic to Clint's character traits. All the traits I liked about Hawkeye are gone, so really, I suppose I have to admit I don't like the character.
I did like that Clint was able to take out Bullseye, Venom, and Daken, and it was also cool seeing Bendis acknowledge the romantic history Clint shares with Moonstone. But that's about the extent of the good stuff. (The plot was pretty simple, obviously, Clint infiltrated Avengers Tower and got caught. That's really about it.)
Marko Djurdjevic does a nice job on the art, actually elevating the content with his pencils. I liked his take on Mockingbird's new costume especially. I bet he would have done a bang-up job on the real Hawkeye suit, don't you think?
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Another HUGE problem I have with this issue in particular is that Robinson has Prometheus kill off the Global Guardians. As I have stated many times, I hate it when authors kill off characters just to make their current bad guys seem more nefarious. The worst offense is killing characters that the author has never even written (like this case with the Guardians). Robinson spent zero effort developing those characters yet he has no problem killing them (off-panel) to make his story seem more important. My only hope is that since these deaths are all described by Prometheus in flashback, it is entirely possible Prometheus is lying and another writer can just explain this away as villainous boasting. This series is not good enough to be worthy of killing off any characters, even 3rd rate folks like the Guardians.
I mean, I love Prometheus and want him to take the stage as a top-tier villain. But not like this. "NOT LIKE THIS!" (I should start quoting Hawkeye more.)
Mauro Cascioli's art is dramatic, but he makes some terrible choices in this. There are two panels where most of the team is talking to Supergirl's breasts. I like his take on Congorilla and Captain Marvel Jr., but everyone looks like a drama queen. Everyone has single tears going down their faces or clenched teeth and fists. Ugh.
Kevin Van Hook's limited is focusing on the relationship between a group of "sibling" robots that include Red Tornado. While Red Tornado is the most famous, it seems T.O. Morrow actually built a water-based 'bot first; Red Torpedo. She turned on Morrow and forced him to deactivate her, but in her current state she's still sent out a call for help to the other elemental robots. I really enjoyed Van Hook's description of her voice as hot sounding. If you're building a robot, why not make her have a nice voice?
The other big 'bot we see here is Red Volcano, a bully who gets off on killing guards as he makes his way to T.O. Morrow's prison cell in Belle Reve. I'm not sure that's where he's supposed to be after 52, but I'm confused on the current status of much of the DCU these days. In any case, Morrow informs Volcano of Inferno, another elemental bot who is living in secret and may not even know he's a robot. The series has some neat ideas and we're certainly lucky there are so many elemental-related words that end with "o."
Jose Luis (didn't he used to have "Ryp" in his name?) does a decent job with the art. He's got the same style as Ed Benes so this issue looks like it was ripped from the pages of JLA. I'm not the biggest fan of this art style, but at least it is consistent for the modern interpretation of Red Tornado.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Gladiator's origin makes him seem more mundane, as does Blastaar's. I think these characters benefited from their mysterious pasts, and seeing their roots makes them a bit less interesting. Crystal's story has her facing off against generic terrorist and espousing her views that were already made clear in the core War of Kings mini. Lilandra has never really interested me as anything more than a supporting character, so I had to strain just to finish her chapter.
The art is fine throughout the issues, but the subject matter is so generic that there were no moments or characters worth going crazy over.
Mr. Pyg is a horrifying fat dude in a mask who rambles and threatens the tied-up Boy Wonder. There is a 3 page sequence where Pyg turns on some music and chubbily dances his way over to Robin, rambling and ranting totally insane dialogue the whole time. It is one of the most upsetting and captivating scenes I've read in months, if not years. It is precisely this type of insanity that makes Morrison the fantastic writer he is. Of course Batman and Robin prevail, but Morrison has more delights lined up for us since one of Mr. Pyg's dollies meets up with a new benefactor as the issue closes. A new Red Hood has arrived, and I'm sure he's going to be crazy. Morrison also delivers on the first scene in Batman RIP as Dick and Robin take out Le Bossu. Morrison is writing an epic here, folks, don't miss it.
Morrison's story wouldn't work as well without the unsettling visuals of Frank Quitely. Quitely delivers wondrous work that unsettles even as it entertains. This is just about the pinnacle of adult super-hero comics.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The shocking part of the issue hits when Warlock "ties reality to an unused future." That's some nice comic-science and it kicks off a startling chain of events. Phyla, as the champion of Death, kills Adam Warlock. Then Gamora avenges Adam by slaying Phyla. Then Adam Warlock rises as the Magus and kills Gamorra. Read that again, that's some packed pages! Now I'm sure that some or all of those characters will return, but damn, this is an exciting comic.
Brad Walker's detailed pencils are a fantastic fit for this title. His take on the Inhuman guest-stars is strong too. He draws pretty ladies, so Medusa and Crystal look great.
Sinestro gets a big flashback too, as we see his true love. Green Lantern Corps showed that Sinestro is Soranik Natu's father, and Johns shows us the mother this issue; Abin Sur's sister. So that makes Soranik the niece of Abin Sur. This is a big retcon, but at the same time it really binds Soranik into the GL mythos in a neat way. Johns and Peter Tomasi have made her into a central figure in GL continuity.
Doug Mahnke's art looks fantastic, as always. He seems to be having fun with the odd-looking Sinestro Corps and his splash page where LarFleeze sees all his victims return? That was just classic.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Daken continues using his powers to coax his Avengers allies into self-destructing. With Norman Osborn's plans working against the FF (and theirs against him), Daken just takes advantage of the chaos while ingratiating himself to both groups. Daken works well with all of the Dark Avengers players this issue. He creeps out Venom, he infuriates Ares, and he confuses Bullseye. Fun stuff. Way and Liu use the Fantastic Four well here too, with the Thing and Mr. Fantastic getting the best lines. Though it was nice seeing the Invisible Woman bop Osborn in the face when he leered at her.
Giuseppe Camuncoli's blocky, heroic characters look great in this setting. His art was the reason I gave this relaunch a chance, and I'm glad I did. Overall, this is a surprisingly entertaining book, one I'd recommend grabbing in trade when available.
Guillem March's art is still titillating and exploitative, but I found myself less bothered since he had to spend most of the issue drawing the guest-stars. He couldn't get by with pinups and cheesecake, and I think the issue looked better because of it. His take on Batman is pretty darn cool.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I liked that Jay Garrick, Stargirl, and Dr. Fate are enough to turn the tide of villains that seemed so powerful last issue. After setting up Blue Moon, Eclipso, and Dr. Polaris as the heavy hitters of the villains, I was amused to see them escape PG's team. I hope they show up again, they certainly could form the nucleus of a neat little villain crew. I hope Mr. Terrific is ok, he is a neat character and I don't want to see him out of action for too long. I'm liking the two new sidekick characters too; they add some much needed snark to the respectful halls of the JSA. Magog comes off as more of a jerk here than in his own book, but at the same time, it isn't surprising seeing him face off against Wildcat. I'm sure we won't get an actual fight, but I would actually have liked to see it!
Jesus Merino is firing on all cylinders here. He's a solid artist with a nice, classic style, I'm really happy he's getting the chance to headline a big title like JSA.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
After John's brother gets wrapped up in some trouble the Web can't get him out of, John re-dedicates himself to helping people who are truly unfortunate. It seems John Raymond will still get himself in the spotlight, but he's going to try to maximize the actual good he can accomplish. The Web is a character in the Booster Gold mold, and that's probably why I like him so much and I'm so interested in reading more about him.
Roger Robinson is one of my favorite under-rated artists, and his stuff looks fantastic here. The Web's terrible costume might have looked awful, but it actually looks neat rendered by Robinson. I'd read an ongoing with this creative team in a second.
The basic plot is that a fraternity of plotters and assassins called the Raptors is returning after centuries of exile to shape and guide the Shi'ar Empire. The first Raptor to return, Talon, seeks out his malfunctioning companion Razor. It seems that Razor's host has taken over the armored body they share. Razor, of course, is Darkhawk. After tricking Chris Powell into letting Razor take over, Powell uses his human-powered anger to retake control of his powered form. The middle chapters deal heavily with the metaphysical, other-dimensional stuff of Powell seizing his identity back. The most interesting parts hit in the closing chapter when Powell has to flee Gladiator and the Starjammers. While Razor was in control, he did a bad thing. He killed Empress Lilandra of the Shi'ar. So there are some powerful people mad at ol' Darkhawk these days. Darkhawk does get to take out the manipulative Talon, but the story ends with Darkhawk kind of on the run, the most wanted man in Marvel space. Powell swears to hunt down the other Raptor gems and destroy them, setting up a pretty strong ongoing story that could send Darkhawk all over the Marvel U. DnA's effort to turn Darkhawk into a lead character worked for me.
Wellinton Alves does a decent job on pencils. The Starjammers have such odd costumes; I'd love to see him draw the more classic takes on the characters. The central Raptor characters all look cool and unique, a difficult feat with such similar armors.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Augustin Padilla is a new name to me, but his work is fine. I love how IDW gives these types of artists a shot. They are not spectacular or ground-breaking, but they are solid storytellers who get the job done.
I actually broke down and bought the Tigra cover for this issue. I didn't have any of the 70th Anniversary covers, but I wanted to have at least one. It came down to this or Hank Pym and I decided Tigra looked cooler. Her subplot in this title is going to be a lot of fun, especially since it doesn't seem Gage is going to have her killing anyone. She'll hand out well-justified beat-downs instead.
Rafa Sandoval's art is nice and detailed. He handles the multitude of heroes and villains very nicely. His faces can still be a bit lumpy, but he's getting better each issue.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I guess Madame Masque defeated Pepper Potts in her Rescue armor last issue, because she turns over the armor to Norman Osborn, who adds it to his Iron Patriot armory. Of course, I suspect that Pepper Potts is actually dressed like Masque, and Masque is unconscious in the Rescue armor. Fraction has Tony right a nice little email filled with typos and mistakes where he expresses his concern for Maria Hill. Tony totally gives up the email code developed earlier in the story arc, and he signs his email with an uncharacteristic "Love, Tony." Stark is almost totally gone, folks. I'm betting we'll get some new armor after this story though, so I'm looking forward to that.
Salvador LaRocca does a great job with the talking heads, but I'd love to see him drawing more action. Even when HAMMER shows up to arrest Black Widow and Mariah Hill, there is very little conflict. There's a nice shot of Bucky Cap watching them get caught, so maybe this is a plan, but there is just about no fighting. Maybe we'll get more when Bucky Cap gets more involved next issue.