Monday, November 30, 2009

New Avengers #59

It has been a long running annoyance to me that Bendis' Avengers can rarely clean up their own messes and defeat their own enemies. The Avengers actually do achieve their goals here, rescuing Luke Cage from the clutches of HAMMER. Of course, the team (with a ton of members already) had to supplement their team with Doctor Voodoo, Iron Fist, Misty Knight, Hellcat, Valkyrie, DD, and Doctor Strange. I can appreciate the idea; that Cage has so many buddies that folks would come out of the woodwork to help. It's a nice idea, but it supports my other theory too.

Osborn gets to save a little face by keeping tabs on Cage, but overall, it is nice seeing the reunion as Cage gets back with his folks. As usual, this whole storyline has run a bit long, but there have been some solid character moments sprinkled in.

Stuart Immonen's art is what is selling me on this title. It is just gorgeous. HAMMER and their agents look shady and dangerous, while the heroes are set apart by both their posture and uniforms. He gets to draw a ton of heroes in this book and they all look great (particularly Doctor Voodoo and Hellcat - of course). This is a great looking book.

Fair

Secret Invasion: X-Men TPB

Hmm. This is my second trade of the San Fran-era X-Men, and this is the second time I've been under whelmed. Mike Carey does a nice job with some of the individual scenes, but there are just so many characters it seems like no one gets a real starring role. The closest thing to a lead would be Cyclops, who as always makes tough decisions and keeps his troops moving like an army. I loved the way he sent the X-Men out on assignment and just didn't worry if any of them were disguised Skrulls. He tells the team it doesn't do any good to second-guess each other, so just do your jobs.

Nightcrawler gets some page time as he struggles with an alien orb that is some sort of space-Bible or something. I know now that the orb represents God, not some oddball space alien deity, so that is a bit of a let-down, since I think a weirder influence might have been more interesting for the character. Beast navigates yet another moral quagmire as he provides Cyclops with a retooled legacy virus to wipe out all the local Skrulls. Having Cyclops tell Beast that he relies on him as a moral compass was a great touch. Overall though, the threats never seemed that dangerous and the stakes never seemed that high. Maybe this is one instance where reading the trade a year after the event robs the story of any driving force. Carey obviously knows his X-history and has the characterization down, but the overall plot here was rather mundane.

Cary Nord's pencils are always a treat, although he has a tendency to soften everything up quite a bit. I'm not sure he's the best fit for a massive X-crossover book.

Fair

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dark Avengers #11

I haven't read any DA issues in awhile, so I dropped in with this issue to see what's up. All in all, there is a lot of talking with little to no forward plot movement. I can appreciate Bendis' idea for this title, having the DA pretenders actually facing down villains so they have to act "good," but this is slow. There are a ton of pages spent on Agent Hand's back-story, and she's pretty generic. She is simply a disgruntled Fury employee. She seems to be a bigger whiner than anything else, according to the flashbacks. Perhaps her role in the current story will make her a bit more likeable.

Osborn gets some talking in with the Molecule Man, but nothing is really accomplished. I do find it interesting that in Osborn's fear, he sees Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Spidey, and Ares as people taking him down. Isn't Ares on his side? I did enjoy seeing MM and his imaginary friends stopping by to check in on each Dark Avenger and see how they had been dealt with. There isn't much panel time for the actual Avengers this issue; this is a villain-building chapter.

Mike Deodato's pencils are fine. I do appreciate how many times he managed to put the female characters in slinky poses. Molecule Man is a lot more imposing than I remember him being, but it actually makes him seem like a bigger threat as a villain, so I'm ok with that. Greg Horn handles some of the fantasy sequences. Its good "casting," the different style makes it seem like Osborn sees the world differently than everyone else.

Average

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Punisher #11

This comic doesn't really work, but not because of the story. Rick Remender has created a new sub-world of the Marvel U, a world of monsters. I love the opening scene on Monster Island; it is a testament to the skills of both Rememder and artist Tony Moore that I immediately sympathized with the fleeing monsters. Of course, seeing a bunch of samurai kill a mom-monster (momster?) and her kids will quickly set your allegiance on the side of the monsters. So the greater plot is that there is this horrifically dedicated crew of monster hunters out to destroy all monsters.

In an attempt to save the monster population, the Legion of Monsters (Werewolf-by-Night, Swamp Thing, Morbius, N'Kantu the Living Mummy, and more) have created a refuge for monsters in the morlock tunnels under NYC. The legion can fight, but they need a soldier to lead them against the monster hunters. And here's where things go wrong. Immediately after the Punisher was chopped up by Daken, his remains were snatched up by some mole men and brought to Morbius, who assembled the parts into Frankencastle. That's right, a Frankenstein version of the Punisher. Things go poorly when he goes berserk during the procedure and runs amok amongst the refugees. I loved seeing a few famous Marvel monsters mixed into the crowd. I don't remember all their names, but I'm certain I've seen some of these guys in old 60s monster books. This is a really neat idea for a story. But the Punisher doesn't fit. I understand Remender is going to try and contrast the Punisher's single-minded crusade for vengeance against a similarly motivated leader of the monster squad, but the use of monsters makes this a bad fit. There are two good ideas here, the monster story, and the dangers of single-minded goals, but they do not fit together well. I'll read through this story, because I really want to see what happens to the monsters, but I'll be pretending that this isn't the Punisher. If this comic featured the real Frankenstein in the same story, I'd probably give it an Excellent.

Tony Moore's work is wonderful, as always. He actually makes me worried about a family that resembles giant crayfish. Of course, the mom and dad crayfish are holding a little baby crayfish, so how could that not pull on your heartstrings. Moore's Morbius is quite cool looking, he seems fairly harmless and altruistic. I was getting more of a Beast-vibe off him than I usually do. I do wonder how does this fit in with ARMOR as seen in Marvel Zombies 3.

Good

Friday, November 27, 2009

Avengers: The Initiative #30

Well that Nightmare story sure wrapped up in a hurry. It's weird, but in this Dark Reign era, an old-school villain like Nightmare feels more like a distraction than a main event. Pretty much all the time Christos Gage spends on Nightmare was difficult to get through, since I wanted to see the Avengers Resistance take on the Initiative. Wisely, Gage wraps up the Nightmare story very quickly, giving closure to both Trauma and Speedball while still pimping Nightmare's appearance in the Doctor Voodoo series. Even with Nightmare muddling up the ongoing narrative, there are some nice character moments here. We find out who the Avengers' mole in the Initiative is (makes total sense, too). There are tons of personal nightmares for most of the regular cast, but Slapstick's hits closest to home; his nightmare is working in an office!

The best happening in this issue is that it seems like Gage has put Speedball's fractured psyche in a state where he might actually be a viable character again. The whole Penance idea was such an awful fit. I can't wait for that chapter to pass by, although it will be difficult making Speedball quite as much fun as he used to be. This is a step in the right direction though. I'll also make a prediction that the buzzing Night Thrasher II feels in his skull is not a good sign...

Jorge Molina fills in on art here, and he does a decent job keeping things consistent with regular artist Rafa Sandoval. Some panels look fantastic, with really expressive faces while other look a bit more rushed. He also tends to put his characters in odd poses (check out two panels in a row with Tigra pointing off at things).

Good

Invincible Iron Man #20

Ah Tony Stark, when written by Matt Fraction, you really do come across as a futurist. Stark predicted and planned for everything that has happened since Dark Reign started, and are any of us really surprised? A good half of this issue involves a hologram message from Stark talking to his allies. I love that he lays out all the options on how they can save them, but then gives them the chance to determine whether or not they want to bring him back. And best of all, Stark makes no apologies for the things he's done. Fraction does a great job balancing the attitude of a man who is never wrong with a guy who still wants his friends to like him. It's quite an accomplishment that so many pages of what is essentially a letter come across so powerfully.
There is some weird subplot running where Osborn is calling off the goons, having them leave Stark in a coma. (Note that Basilisk and Death Adder are both at the table. I guess some of the resurrected goons from Punisher are sticking around.) Madame Masque isn't cool with Tony getting off the hook and so she's pointing the Ghost in Stark's direction, but with the Ghost being one of the "better" good guys these days, I'm curious what he'll do. This next chapter of Stark's redemption looks like it should be pretty interesting with all these heroes and villains hanging around.

Salvador Larroca doesn't have a lot to work with this issue, drawing a lot of panels of a hologram. Through strong facial expressions, it still works, but I would like more action. Larroca's take on Death Adder is just weird, he has a beak! (This is new spelling for Larroca's name, right?)

Good

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Modern Warfare: Ghost #1

I usually love David Lapham's work, but he commits one of my biggest pet peeves in this premiere issue. The book opens with Ghost being interrogated in Russia. Ghost offers to spend the next few minutes telling his captors about the best special ops guy he knew (the "dead" SAS officer is actually Riley's previous identity). The story jumps to years past in Mexico, when Riley was working on busting a crime boss for the US Govt. Then the big problem. The story jumps back AGAIN to a previous point. So we've got a flashback within a flashback. It is lazy storytelling. This isn't that complicated a story so I don't think the convoluted timeline is necessary. Lapham also spends a lot of time with fairly generic banter amongst Riley's team. These guys aren't really important to CoD, so I wasn't that interested in what was happening. In fact, I'd argue that the comic doesn't really capture the frantic, high-stakes spirit of CoD: Modern Warfare 2. I want to see Ghost, MacTavish, Roach, and the rest kicking butt with high tech gear. I'm sure that is coming, most likely in the modern part of the story, but there is too much dancing around to get there.

Kevin West's pencils are clear enough, but everyone looks very similar. I do like the use of face-paint to give Riley his first death's head look. I would like a little more emphasis on guns and equipment. That's such an important part of the game, I think it should be more front and center in the comic.

Average

BTW: I'd give the new CoD an Excellent rating. It is tons of fun. If anyone wants to get on X-Box live, leave me a comment and we can exchange gamer tags.

Green Lantern #48

Happy Thanksgiving! Are you eating turkey? I'm reading comics!

Interesting. This cover is on the DC site, but I got a much more dramatic one at my store.

This Blackest Night 4.5. If someone were to miss this and still try to read the main series, they'd be missing an awful lot. Geoff Johns does a great job giving the leading lanterns individual voices. Larfleeze is still my favorite, he's just wonderfully greedy. Saint Walker plays an important role as peacekeeper in this weird group, and he works great in the part. He's pretty boring taken on his own, but I loved seeing him try to be accepting and "hopeful" with the savage Atrocitus and the greedy Larfleeze. The page with Walker and Atrocitus kneeling in the dust was the most powerful in the whole issue. Very strong work.

Atrocitus' rejection of Sinestro's alliance was classic too, I hated that red guy when he first showed up, but darn if he isn't growing on me during this crossover. Amazing what giving him some dialogue can do, rather than puking up acid-blood. I'm also worried about what the Guardians will be up to after Blackest Night; Hal sounds serious that he's done following orders.

Hal and Carol actually come off like an old couple here; they are constantly on the same wavelength while dealing with their horrific surroundings. Hal makes some good comments pointing out how ridiculous the rainbow corps is. It's never good when a writer pokes fun at their own concepts, but Johns does handle it well here.

Doug Mahnke's Larfleeze isn't quite as cool as Philip Tans' but it still works. It really isn't fair how great Mahnke is. He draws great heroes, ladies, and monsters. This is the perfect book for him.

Good

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blackest Night #5

Ok, we've got some plot movement! Blackest Night is clearly a GL story; I opened up this issue and was immediately confused on how the rainbow corps got together. So I closed the book and moved GL 48 to the top of my stack and everything became clear. This issue picks up with Barry Allen taking on Nekron, Scar, and the Black Hand. There are some great moments as Barry is in rough shape, outnumbered and outmatched, but Wally West arrives and lends a hand immediately. I dug Barry's acceptance of Wally as an equivalent Flash too, I'm starting to believe "my" Flash won't be totally sidelined after Blackest Night. Green Arrow, Black Canary, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Teen Titans arrive shortly after Wally does in a nice splash page. Along with Fire and Ice. Hoo boy, I don't like Fire or Ice's odds of making it out of this alive; they have fodder written on their foreheads.

Back in NYC, the JSA is still facing down Jean Loring and the slew of dead villains from the last few issues. There's an odd scene where Jean grabs the Atom and Mera and shrinks them all down into Atom Smasher's Black Lantern ring. I have no idea where this is going. I'm curious if this subplot will end up being important...

The Rainbow Corps arrives with some witty banter between Hal and Barry, as expected. There are numerous bits of dialogue and plot that pick up directly from GL #48; it would be impossible to read these separately. Black Hand gets nasty when he resurrects a Black Lantern Batman, although Bruce Wayne's name is in quotes, so I don't think it is the real guy. However, BH uses the emotional tie the heroes feel for Bruce to send black rings out to a ton of the heroes resurrected in recent years. Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Ice, Impulse, and more are immediately turned, with rings flying after Hal and Barry too. Things could get mighty ugly very quickly, there aren't going to be any headliners left to lead the good guys! After a slower previous issue, things were flying along again here. Johns knows what he's doing.

Ivan Reis draws great gristle. These zombies look horrific. His post-transformation Scar is spooky too, she goes from creepy to full on scary very quickly, wrapping her tongue around Wally's throat. Gross!

Good

One final thought: Where's my Martian Manhunter?????

Batgirl #4

This is the best issue of this new series so far. Stephanie Brown is fully into her role as Batgirl and firmly under the wing of Oracle as she gets trained up for the responsibility of being Batgirl. The best bit about this issue is the running joke about bantering with villains. On multiple occasions, Oracle mocks Batgirl's attempts to mock her foes, and we see she got that mocking from her Dad. Commissioner Gordon take a chance to poke fun at his new detective a couple times this issue, making this the most likeable deployment of the Gotham PD in quite some time. Bryan Q Miller skims over some low-level fighting and then quickly wraps up a showdown with Livewire (the Superman villainess). It's funny, because Batgirl gets a quick and easy win against this much more powerful foe, but it easily could have gone the other way if luck wasn't on her side. I'm still interested in seeing just how effective Stephanie will be as Batgirl. She's still seems to have more moxie than actual skill. I'm not as interested in the Oracle subplot, but I'm glad she's getting featured somewhere.

The two artists (Lee Garbett and Tim Levins) have very different styles. They're just lucky that the artists the work most resembles are both guys I like. Batgirl often looks like a Barry Kitson creation, and the Oracle sequences look like Yanick Paquette's work. But I like both of those other guys' work, so I'm not complaining.

Fair

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Punisher MAX #1

Garth Ennis picks up right where he left off, with... wait a second. Jason Aaron picks up right where Garth Ennis left off, with the Punisher as a force of nature. Aaron successfully copies Ennis' formula; that is, the villains are the real story. We read the Punisher (especially the MAX version) for revenge-fulfillment, so populating the pages with evil scum is part of the job, and watching Frank destroy them is the fun part. Aaron starts down that path here, with a bunch of bosses creating a fictional "kingpin" of crime to distract Frank from their normal operations. The interesting part is that the whole kingpin idea came from a leg-breaker named Wilson Fisk. Now, we know that Fisk ends up as the Kingpin in the mainstream Marvel U, and I can't wait to see how he comes to power in this MAX universe. Aaron makes the interesting choice to give Fisk a wife and son, immediately humanizing him. It's going to be harder to totally hate the guy if he is really as kind to his loved ones as he seems to be.

Steve Dillon captures the mix of ultra-violence and humor that is essential for a successful Punisher comic. There's a scene with a mobster's eyeballs popping out that is just classic. Slapping the MAX label on this title makes everything fair game. I'd never want to see the normal Marvel U Punisher pouring salt on the wounds of his torture subjects, but the MAX Punisher? He's a force of nature, not a person.

Good

Wonder Woman: The Circle TPB

I have always liked Wonder Woman, but rarely do I dig her comic. Gail Simone is one of my favorite authors, though, so I had high hopes for her run on the Amazon princess. I figured I'd like it. I did not figure that Themiscrya is guarded by giant sharks. Thank you, Gail Simone. :)
The run opens up with the status quo of Diana Prince working for the DEO and Sarge Steel. She's partnered up with Nemesis and when she's in her mortal form, Diana can't access her powers. I really like that Diana is trying to live a human life, but knowing you can always ring up your super-powers doesn't exactly put you in the shoes of a normal Joe. Heck, when Captain Nazi shows up, Diana's main reason she takes a beating for so long is so that Nemesis won't see her secret ID. Speaking of Nemesis, I had no idea that the budding romance between Wonder Woman and Nemesis was so realized. She actually gives him a courtship gift in this trade, really legitimizing their relationship.

There are two stories in this trade, and the Circle storyline is far more interesting than the backup involving Khunds and GLs. In the Circle, we meet the honor guard of Diana's mother. These four women are loyal to the point of obsession, ladies who took the security of the island so seriously that they saw the "birth" of Diana as a horrible threat to the Amazonian way of life. It's interesting, these ladies are clearly fanatics, but I can't help but feel bad for them. Simone does a great job of giving them a real argument, even if it is based on craziness. These four powerful Amazons end up mixing it up with Diana who is also facing down an army of neo-Nazis with Captain Nazi's power set. Diana cleans house, of course. The leader of the Circle ends up committing suicide rather than be taken, and I must admit, it is the most dramatic of ways to go; death by shark. The major fallout of this story is that WW vowed loyalty to a new deity of wind. Due to some outstanding rule set by the Greek gods, WW couldn't get back to Themiscrya, it seems. I don't really know anything about that, but I'm interested to see where her change of loyalty takes her.

I think the momentum of the Circle storyline is diverted a bit when Etta Candy (an old-time character, apparently) and WW are drafted into a galactic conflict. The story is ok, but I wasn't as invested as I was in the more personal story.

Terry Dodson handles much of the work in this trade, with Ron Randall and Bernard Chang each chipping in for certain chapters. Dodson's work is stunning, of course, and so the others suffer by comparison. The other artists are fine, of course, but it is tough to be compared to someone who can mix cheesecake and power as well as Dodson does. I'm thinking the package will look better once a consistent artist takes over in the next trade.

Fair

Monday, November 23, 2009

Moon Knight: Down South TPB


I'm just not that big a fan of Mike Benson's writing. This trade has multiple storylines that are perfect for the Moon Knight character, yet I'm just not that into them. Hell, this trade introduces one of the best high-concepts ever, luchadore brothers who are also hit men, but most of the execution leaves me cold.

With Moon Knight's alter ego "killed" by the Thunderbolts, Jake Lockley (another secret ID) has fled south to Mexico. While making ends meet in a fighting ring, Jake is approached by a local landowner who wants to hire Jake to get his daughter out of police custody. Jake takes the job, and busts the girl loose, but of course things aren't what they seem. The father is a drug-runner and his daughter was turning over evidence on him. Complicating matters is the Punisher, enjoying his time down South killing folks as he always does. There's also some sort of Aztec vigilante targeting this same mob. I love that the criminals botched the take-out of Moon Knight too, now there are three angry vigilantes after them. In an attempt to reclaim the daughter, the mob hires the Zapata Brothers, the aforementioned luchadores. Their debut is great; when fighting Moon Knight, they only fight him one-on-one, tagging each other in as if it were a match. That's classic! I actually dug most of the banter between the brothers, talking about Facebook and old high school friends. The repeated use of "bro" though, uch, so annoying by the end of the trade. I'm really glad Benson seemed to realize what he had with the Zapatas; they end up as allies by the end of the book.

Of course the good guys win (although the Aztec vigilante does most of the work). The legacy of this trade will be the Zapata Brothers, so in that regard, Benson did well. But as a Moon Knight story, this was fairly generic. I would have liked a little more interaction between MK and the Punisher, they always interact in neat ways, almost as acquaintances in the same profession, but there isn't much of that in this collection.

Jefte Palo's artwork is ok, but man, he draws hair very strangely. Jake Lockley has some sort of spikey thing on the front of his head that distracted me quite a bit. The crime lord's daughter is supposed to be stunning, but I'm not sure that came through in the art. Finally, the Zapata brothers looked ok, but compared to how dynamic they seemed on the covers, they could have been cooler.

Average

Invincible #68

Dinosaurus! Dinosaurus is strong! Dinosaurus is cruel! Dinosaurus cares about the environment and is very long-winded! Huh. I wasn't expecting that last one. Kirkman always loves giving his characters logical motivations, and giving a gigantic red dinosaur in metal pants a motivating concern for the environment certainly fits the bill. I'm happy the Guardians of the Globe (now led by Brit) showed up when they did or we might have lost our new villain already. This is a catch-up issue as we check in on Young Omni-Man (Oliver looking quite a bit older), the sequids (they are ready to invade!), and Conquest (Cecil made a big boo-boo keeping him alive). The relationship between Invincible and Atom Eve gets quite a few pages too, including a very uncomfortable talk between Eve's Dad and Invincible. Surely there aren't people like this still in the world, that guy was awful!

The big news of the issue is, of course, the cliffhanger. I'm not going to spoil it here, but it could lead the series in a very interesting direction depending on how Kirkman plays it. Ok, I'll give you a clue; we thought Kirkman was taking life from Eve, but he's actually doing the opposite...

Oh Ryan Ottley, how I missed your sharp, cartoony style and great character designs. Never leave us again.

Good

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Booster Gold #26

Hoo boy. As long-time readers of this blog (and my real friends) know, Blue Beetle/Ted Kord was my favorite hero in the DCU. I started reading during Invasion and was sucked into the fun and adventure in the JLI series. The main draw to that title was the friendship between Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. They were heroes like I would want to be. Having fun, doing the right thing, but still making time to be stupid and chase girls. So needless to say, when Ted Kord got his brains blown out, I was upset. In the aftermath, I felt like things skipped too far ahead and we never got the hero's funeral that is such an important part of comic deaths. Well here we are, years later, and Dan Jurgens finally delivers a great funeral.

Booster's anguish is portrayed perfectly, and the quick close-ups of the funeral attendees were a great touch. I also love that the ever loquacious Booster was unable to summon the strength to say anything at his best friend's funeral. Having current Booster watch the sad even again, then vow to be a better hero for his fallen friend was a masterful touch. Just when Booster makes that promise to himself, Ted comes back as a Black Lantern to twist the knife. The pacing in this is quite interesting. Supernova, Blue Beetle III/Jaime Reyes, and Skeets actually take on Ted first. I would have thought they'd do a tad better than they do, since Ted has no powers, but it is always nice seeing these dead characters get their due. But bringing in Booster for the upsetting cliffhanger is just a wonderful setup by Jurgens.

The art is great throughout. Mike Norton handles the Jaime Reyes sequences, which in this issue are incorporated into the main story. It makes sense and Norton's work fits with Jurgens' pencils seamlessly. The design for Ted's Black Lantern uniform looks fantastic too.

Surely this story is evidence that all these dead characters still have something to contribute. Can I hope that we'll see Ted, J'onn, and even more folks back in action after Blackest Night? Doing anything else would be cruel!

Excellent

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Deadpool #17

I wish I didn't like this issue. I've been ranting about how I'm sick of Deadpool, but I guess I'm really just sick of Deadpool in certain types of stories. Daniel Way wisely lets the X-Men take the lead in this story, with Cyclops and Domino taking the lead in trying to keep Deadpool under control. With DP set up as a comedic force of nature like this, it is hard not to like him. Mercury's father is still manipulating the media (at Norman Osborn's request) into thinking that the X-Men are evil and out to get him. Of course, they're not, except that Deadpool is. And Deadpool is wearing his brand-new X-Man costume! Domino uses some trickery (and flirting) to try and take DP out of action, but she balks when she thinks Cyclops wants DP killed. Of course, after she frees DP it turns out that was never the plan, but it is far too late. Deadpool is back on the hunt for the loudmouth deadbeat Dad. Way has a good handle of Domino, she's really likeable and is actually a perfect handler for Deadpool. Cyclops comes across as a control freak who doesn't realize who he's dealing with, which is actually probably pretty accurate.

This is the best Deadpool title on the stands, without a doubt. While most of the books are drowning in bad jokes at the expense of real characterization, Way is bringing us stories that actually add to Deadpool's mythos while still being true to Deadpool's silliness.

Paco Medina's cartoony style is still a great fit for the Deadpool joke material, and he's doing a surprisingly good job on the X-Men. They do lean a bit on the cartoony side, but their figures have a more classic comic look to them that helps sell the overall story. Nicely done.

Fair

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mighty Avengers #31

Dan Slott does a nice job wrapping up the Unspoken story. What impressed me the most was how well the story eventually intersected with the personal journeys of a few of the cast members. It was never clear to me before now, but this was a Quicksilver story. Pietro came in at the start of the story, and each time his supporting buds got taken out, he made it through. In fact, I found it fascinating that the last few heroes to make a stand against the Unspoken were Vision, Quicksilver, Radioactive Man, Hulkling and Scientific Beast. Only those few were able to shake off or resist the Terrigen mists and avoid being mutated into Alpha Primitives. There are some great moments in this finale; when Hawkeye and Bucky team up to get Stature aboard the Unspoken's ship while sacrificing themselves, Hercules describing his seduction of the ship itself, and even the last stand of Radioactive Man and Quicksilver. I didn't see it coming until the moment arrived, but having the Unspoken ramble on and on about his past to Hank Pym was genius. That moment where Pym realizes how annoying it is hear that kind of self-pity was great, and was a great lead-in to Pym's "owning" of his personal history in the closing pages. That taking of responsibility plays perfectly against Quicksilver's integration back into the Inhuman society. While Pym owns his own past and wants to move on, Quicksilver refuses to take any blame and tries to pass it off on skrulls. I love that while the Inhuman society as a whole buys it, Quicksilver's daughter does not. The most important person in Quicksilver's life (aside from his sister) knows what a fraud he is, and the dismay on his face at the issues end is great drama.

Sean Chen is a better fit for this title than Koi Pham. The action is much less sketchy and everything looks more classic. Chen has been around long enough that his Hercules, Tigra, and Pym are all spot on, and he quickly makes the other Avengers his own too. I do think the Unspoken's design ended up kind of boring. I don't think he has much staying power due to his lack of a memorable look.

Good

Realm of Kings #1

DnA can do no wrong with me. Their little corner of the Marvel U has become my favorite thing in comics, and it is not hard to see why. There is an initial meeting of the main movers involving Quasar, Nova, the Guardians, and Project Pegasus. These are the coolest parts of the Marvel U and they're all involved in the same story! The entire group is concerned with the Fault, the rip in space/time created during the War of Kings.

Quasar is confident that his energy form should keep him safe, so he volunteers to do a deep dive into the Fault and see what is on the other side. His energy form lasts for just a few seconds, as he pops out the other side of the Fault on a horrific alternate Earth. This world is populated by an evil version of the Avengers that seem to be powered and possessed by demonic entities. To be specific, the whole universe that spawned that alternate Earth is a mass of evil, shapeless beings. Lovecraftian horror at its finest (I think the Avengers even mention Ftagh, which is a Lovecraft quote, I believe). I honestly had no inkling that DnA would use this Fault story to introduce the outer beings that would fit in nicely in a Hellboy comic. So the best cosmic books around are about to get an injection of non-Euclidian horror. Awesome. There are a ton of neat bits thrown in about possessed heroes, scientific beings resisting the supernatural, and the reduced cast of the Guardians. There is so much going on, this really is an important launch point for a whole section of Marvel's cosmology.

Mahmud Asrar handles the Marvel U portions of the issue, while Leonardo Manco draws the horrific alternate universe. The thematic shift in pencils works perfectly. Manco's pencils in particular sell the horror wonderfully. His take on a universe filled with a gigantic, shapeless, and malevolent being is horrific.

Good

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Outsiders #24

I'm a trade-waiter for this title, so I'm jumping in the middle here for the Blackest Night crossover. I actually would have passed on this, except that my daughter really wanted a Star Sapphire ring.
So I guess the Outsiders are working on gathering up a bunch of the criminals who escaped from Arkham, and some of the team is actually transporting Killer Croc to be locked up. Half the team (Owlman, Metamorpho, and Geo-Force) is hanging out back at some bunker, where Terra shows up and starts manipulating Geo-Force's emotions. She's as cruel and clever as she's always been, even now that she's dead. She lays out a whole lot of emotional talk to get Geo-Force almost obsessed with helping her. Knowing how cruel she is, I feel bad for Geo-Force. He's a big dope who clearly doesn't know who he's dealing with. As always, seeing the color spectrum of the heroes is a real treat. Owlman is all yellow for fear, Geo-Force is all pink for love, and Metamorpho is a mix including green for willpower! Neat.

The other half of the team (Halo, Katana, and Creeper) are riding along with Croc when they are attacked by Katana's dead family. Peter Tomasi gets to write more creepy kids as the two boys go after Halo. She atomizes most of their bodies, but their disembodied hands still make it around her throat. Creepy! Katana is initially stunned, but she quickly overcomes her doubts and is ready to take on the animated corpses of her loved ones. I'm a little surprised at how quickly she comes to that conclusion; I'd think there would be more folks emotionally paralyzed by seeing their loved ones like this.

How about that Tom Mandrake cover? Why doesn't he get more super-hero work? Fernando Pasarin has a nice, clean style that reminds me of Jesus Merino on JSA. He's a great fit for a team book, and seeing this package has me excited for the upcoming Outsiders trades.

Good

Adventure Comics #4

I'm kind of torn on this issue. I'm really quite amused that Geoff Johns is going full-throttle on his Superboy Prime as an angry fanboy thing, but at the same time, not much actually happens here. The issue opens with Superboy Prime (who lives in "our" world) reading Adventure Comics #4 and complaining that he has been included in the Blackest Night crossover. That type of in your face fourth wall breaking is hard to come by, and seeing SBP rage at his local comic store is pretty funny. He's even reduced to scouring the internet for clues about what happens in issue 5. Unfortunately, Alex Luthor gets a black lantern ring and pops off to Earth Prime to rile up SBP and eat his heart. Alex has some great lines, the best ones being dead-on statements about what the fan community thinks about SBP. I also liked his observation about computers, that they are instruments that we use to "channel our rage." It's all a bit on the nose, but like I said, it is amusing. However, not much actually happens here. I do think this was worth picking up just for that sweet Blue Lantern ring though!

I'm confused on the Legion. Brainiac 5 and the Legion are shown in the main story to be in the process of excavating old comics that they can use to try and determine what happened hundreds of years ago. Brainy also mentions that Sun Boy and Element Lad are dead. Didn't I just read about Sun Boy last month, or am I misremembering? It also seems like the status quo is quite different in the backup story. I'm totally befuddled as to the timeline and what is happening. I must confess that I haven't read Legion of 3 Worlds though, maybe that clears it up.

Jerry Ordway is spot on, as always. He's got such a great blend of emotion and action in his pencils that I always love it when he gets to headline a book. Clayton Henry has a clean style that works great for super-stories too; his Dawnstar in particular is quite nice.

Fair

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marvel's February 2010 Solicits

Marvel's February solicits preview is now up over at Comicsplusblog. This is a really shallow month, it seems. Not a whole lot of new launches or even storylines wrapping up.

Uncanny X-Men: Manifest Destiny TPB

I usually save my comments on art until the last paragraph of my reviews, but in this case, my thoughts are so intertwined with my feelings about the art, I'm just mixing it all up right now.

Sometimes the art can elevate a project, making me more interested than I would have been otherwise. Greg Land's art on the Ultimate Power trade made me enjoy the final product more, since I had almost no interest in what happened to characters in the Ultimate universe. Then there are times when I find myself actually disengaged from a story due to the art. Like in this trade, where Greg Land's obvious tracing of adult stars makes women of every age and emotional state look like they're about to get hit with something. I mean, come on. In every other story about Pixie, she's a cute, earnest character who looks like a fairy. In this trade, she looks like a movie star taking great pleasure in her work. GREAT pleasure. These problems aren't even limited to the ladies. Cyclops looks absolutely ridiculous with his girly hair. Heck, I think I caught him and Angel doing the "Blue Steel" look from Zoolander.

It doesn't help that Matt Fraction is encouraging him. White Queen is way too trampy. I mean, I know what the character is like, but having Land draw her parading about in expensive underwear is like handing a criminal a loaded gun.

The frustrating thing is there are a lot of good ideas here. I love the concept that the X-Men are using Angel's fortune to make a fresh start in the accepting city of San Francisco. The X-Men as celebrities is a nice twist too. And was very amused at the Beast's heroic attempts to make the new HQ as "green" as possible. Those are all nice little updates to the mythos, and they work well. The first story is fun too, with an artificially powered Magneto animating some Sentinels and setting them loose on the X-Men. Terry Dodson handles some of these sequences and they look great. One of my favorite silly Marvel fixtures shows up, the High Evolutionary and he looks good too. Fraction's idea that the X-Men are one big army of mutants is a neat one, at one point when the main team can't take down a souped up Empath, Beast calls in the New Mutants as backup. There isn't really a reason the team wouldn't use the best options for each mission, so I like the scope creep of having any mutant pop up at any time.

The backups are from a variety of creative teams, and so they are of all different levels of quality. I'm a little bummed at the Colossus story. He used to be one of my favorite characters due to his powers, look, and personality, but now he's the sad sack of the X-Men. I know the guy has been through a lot, but it is hard to like him these days. I'd say coolness wise, Wolverine and Nightcrawler are stealing the show. And Pixie's personality does make her pretty likeable too.
I've already bought the next 2 or 3 Uncanny X-Men trades, so I'm hoping they are better than this one. I had high hopes but this ended up being fairly average. More classic art and this could have could have been a solid "Good."

Fair

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes TPB


These Superman trades take so darn long to ship, it really is too bad. I had really lost interest in most of the Superman books as I waited for the trade, but now that I finally get to read Geoff Johns' definitive take on the Legion, I find myself really digging it.

Superman is going about his business when he happens upon a Legion time-sphere. A message from Brainiac 5 fills in Supes that he's needed in the future to set the record straight on a few things, but when the trip goes wrong, Superman ends up arriving months after he was supposed to. He's already too late. And the sun is red.
There have been eras where I loved the legion (Giffen's 5 year later, DnA's Legion Lost) and eras where it has been just average (the zero hour relaunch and Waid's legion of teenagers). The common thread seems to be that I'm really interested in the dynamics of a huge crew of heroes, but only when they are the underdogs.

Johns plays it just right (for me) here, by the time Superman arrives in the future, Earth Man and his Justice League have the Legion on the run. I'm going show off my lack of Legion cred when I announce that I don't recognize any of the evil Justice League as former rejects of the Legion, but Johns brings me up to speed nicely. All these folks were rejected by the Legion back in the day, and really all the hate and cruelty they've fostered is just an attempt to prove they are worth something. The way Johns plays it, all the rejects have powers that actually seem worthwhile, even the lady with extra eyeballs. I really dug his take on the one reject who has the power to channel different auras of light. (Bonus points if you can guess that those colors now correspond to the rainbow lanterns of the current DCU.) Johns provides plenty of cameos and cool scenes for most of the Legion, but he wisely chooses to focus on a select few: Dawnstar, Wildfire, Colossal Boy, and Polar Boy. The dialogue does a nice job bouncing between earnest seriousness and camp recognizing the fun history of the Legion. The modern takes on the costumes helps, everyone is still wearing a version of their classic suit, but the cast is all so haggard and toughened up that it is clear "this ain't your father's legion."

Superman eventually comes through, relying on his goodness and strength of character more than his powers, just like all good Superman stories. There are a few great panels of the Justice League getting their comeuppance, which is an important part of every story. Supes' friendship with the Legion feels a tad forced, but I can respect the close bond Johns is attempting to set up. I really dug how closely Johns tied scenes here to his work on the current Superman: Secret Identity series. There are direct panels repeated in both stories. At this point, it is clear Johns has a plan. (One request though; could we get more Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl next time? They were my favorite part of the Zero Hour Legion.)

There are plenty of things I don't even get. I thought Chameleon Boy was a... boy, I'm not familiar with Chameleon Girl at all. Was Radiation Roy supposed to be someone I recognized, or just a general deviant? It is actually kind of funny, after reading comics for almost 30 years now, I rarely feel like I'm not getting the whole picture, but I felt like that here. Not that it stopped me from enjoying the trade. I think I can safely add Johns' take on the Legion to the list of eras that I like, rather than those that are just "there."

Gary Frank's pencils are always so nicely detailed. His faces are so expressive, very few can show emotions as well as his characters do. Sometimes his people can look at bit odd, for example, Night Girl looks like a bit of a kook in most of the panels she shows up in. That said, his updated costumes are really fun and I loved the design for Earth Man. We need more folks showing up in comics willing to rock the sideburns!

Good

DC Solicits for February 2010

Here is my normal feature on Comicsplusblog where I preview the new solicits. February actually looks kind of low key from DC this month, but I am excited about all my regulars at least. The classified bit for all the big Blackest Night books certainly doesn't help give us anything to be excited about.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Batman: The Widening Gyre #3

I'm confused on exactly when this series is taking place. Bruce Wayne is clearly still Batman, and Aquaman is beardless and acting "classic." Tim Drake is Robin. Silver St. Cloud has been gone for years. I've heard rumors that the new vigilante Baphomet will be getting an ongoing series, but how long has he been off the scene comic-time wise?

Kevin Smith is doing some neat stuff in this series. I really liked the Robin reveal while Cornelius Stirk had Batman captured. The pacing was dead-on and Robin's appearance actually made me chuckle. The follow-up conversation between the dynamic duo was pretty funny too. Bruce starts to take it easy as the book goes on, spending his days on a tropical island with Silver St. Cloud and then jetting back to Gotham to keep doing his thing. Batman and Baphomet finally get a chance to speak and Smith gives Baphomet a nice voice. The guy is a smart mouth and very confident. I loved Batman taking him down a peg asking if he was a "stoner." Awesome. I really liked how the issue closed; Aquaman looks in on Batman and Silver's happy times and then swims away. Aquaman is pleased to see the "ghoul" so happy. I like the friendship apparent in their interaction.

Walter Flanagan is still a bit inconsistent, but he's getting better. I really like how fun he makes Silver with her goofy and affectionate facial expressions. There are actually a fair amount of guest stars in this that look good too. I'm not sold on Baphomet's mask yet, it seems like it would be too easy to grab.

Fair

Gears of War #10

After a brief shootout, Marcus Fenix and Delta reach a truce with the survivors in the Locust-held city of Jilane. Joshua Ortega does a nice job keeping the world feeling consistent. Baird's dialogue in particular is so much like the game character that I can hear his voice. It's a great fit. I'm really liking Jayce too, he's the rookie Gear and he's not as hard as his teammates yet. In this issue he's trying to befriend some kids stuck in the city and he attracts the attention of one of the kids' women-warrior protectors. The survivors of the breeding camp are pretty cool too, I like the idea that they are tough enough to get respect from the Gears. Delta went to Jilane to find the source of a distress signal, and it turns out this band of survivors didn't broadcast it. They've been taking care of themselves and they seem tough and competent enough to do it.

Marcus takes Cole and Baird out into the city to find the source of the distress signal. In a weird scene, a blonde lady is sitting on the ground holding the transmitter. She reacts quite oddly to Marcus' questioning and when the team gets too close, she sends a new signal, summoning hordes of Locust. This issue was light on action, and I think it is a wise decision. Giving the characters (and readers) time to breathe allowed the characters to get some needed development and expanded the world nicely.

Liam Sharp remains the perfect artist for this book. His hulking Gears have been spot on from the start, but now he gets to draw Amazonian warriors who look just as intimidating. Neat stuff.

Good

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #2

Well. After I adored the first issue, this one wasn't anywhere near as good. Rick Remender opens the issue with Doctor Voodoo trapped in what I believe is Nightmare's dimension, pursued by some cool frog creatures. Where's the BPRD when you need them? Things got a bit confusing for me when the frog creatures started taking some of Voodoo's totems. I guess Voodoo decided to just leave? He heads back to New Orleans only to find it flooded and overrun with horrific monsters. The city is cut off from the rest of the country, so that explains the lack of Avengers fixing things up, but Voodoo is still able to team up with Damian Hellstrom. Only Hellstrom leads Voodoo to some sort of trap that invites Voodoo into NO. I'm not sure that any of the happenings in this issue ever leave Nightmare's dimension. Things don't really seem to be making sense. I'm not sure why else Hellstrom would act quite this evil.

Remender provides some nice character work in some flashbacks to Voodoo's childhood. Having the cruel ghosts of his parents be the narrators makes everything more upsetting. Voodoo seems to have had a rough time as a kid.

The art is a bit muddier here too. I can respect the dreamlike quality in the story, but it seems to go a bit far. I'm hoping this book picks back up next issue, but so far, it is not living up to the promise of the first issue.

Average

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ambush Bug: Year None #7

Uhhhh.

This didn't make sense to anyone else either, right?

Right?

Superman: Secret Origin #2

I'm really just not that interested in this version of the Legion. I know this is the classic take, but their involvement in this issue did absolutely nothing for me. In fact, the whole experience was pretty generic, with Superboy getting a quick team-up against generic thugs. The only interesting parts of this chapter were the bits featuring Lex Luthor. I enjoyed his and Clark's interaction in the library, and Johns is doing a good job showing just how much of a psychopath Luthor was from the start. I suppose it is interesting that Clark couldn't hang out with any Smallville kids, so the Legion was his only chance for real friends, but hasn't that been covered before?

All told though, there isn't much here. The lack of a strong antagonist in the story is hurting my interest.

Gary Frank is a great artist, but I'm not sure he's the right fit for a book with so many kids in it. The youth in this story look very weird, with odd proportions and weird expressions. But then again, I suppose that really is what it is like being a teenager, isn't it? Maybe he's getting it right after all.

Average

Friday, November 13, 2009

Deathlok #1

Deathlok wasn't in this, right? I didn't miss it? I guess this is a Marvel Knights book, which means it is out of continuity. The concept is pretty sound: what if war was treated like a football game? Charlie Huston has some great stuff in this, the standout being the announcers. They are so callous and obtuse that it is uncomfortable reading their dialogue. The callousness of society in this alternate future is just chilling. This one issue includes kill counts, doctors harvesting body parts from the living, fragging, and a ton of violent dismemberment and murder. So I guess it is a decent fit for the Deathlok concept, but really, I think I prefer the original take from the 80's issues of Captain America. Huston's Luther Manning is a decent guy, so decent I can't figure out how he got to be a part of the Roxxon Corp's band of mercs. It's hard to feel too bad for the guy when it seems he has signed off on the same brutality that eventually gets him put in the body of a cyborg.

I'm assuming Manning and his rival Mike Travers end up as battling cyborgs. Other than that, the real villain of this series may end up being the society as a whole.

Lan Medina does a nice job with the art. It is tough to balance out the running commentary with the art, but Medina makes it work. I will say I had a hard time determining who was who on the battlefield once combat started, but the dialogue kept things clear enough.

Fair

Jungle Action #11-14 (1974)


Look at that cover! BP looks great fighting off that horrific monster, huh?

Man, the Black Panther is one tough dude. I'm working my way through all these old Jungle Actions and while I knew I liked T'Challa, I'm really enjoying these 70's epics too. The best part about Don McGregor's take on BP is the interesting rogues gallery. In addition to Killmonger, who I already knew from Priest's great run, I'm learning about Sombre, King Cadaver, Venomm, Lord Karnaj, and more. I'm also enjoying the expanded cast of Wakandans. McGregor has a pretty big group of named supporting characters, both supporters of T'Challa and those who work for Killmonger.

BP is getting messed up in these issues. As he follows Killmonger into snowy mountains in Wakanda, he is knocked out and left to freeze in the cold. After a bloody fight against a pack of wolves, T'Challa has to force himself along in sub-zero temperatures to catch up with Killmonger. Unfortunately, the alien being Sombre manipulates the wild white apes into taking on BP too. He manages to kill their leader in an neat confrontation. T'Challa actually regrets killing the beast since it represents a part of his religious path. McGregor lays out the prose here, every single character talks a LOT. T'Challa's internal monologue gets tedious, but overall I'm digging the story.

Billy Graham's art is pretty enjoyable too. It's got a scratchy 70's style that works well on monsters like King Cadaver and the white apes. His BP is awesome, starting off sleek but getting more and more ragged as the elements wear down the hero.

Good

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Walking Dead #67

Maybe this time the gang has finally bumped into a group as reasonable as they are. Kirkman's band of survivors have had pretty bad luck with the survivors they've met so far. Although I suppose you could make the argument that the Governor and the Hunters were probably worse off for having met up with Rick's gang of killers. In any case, there someone new arrives at the close of this issue, and he seems to be clean-shaven, clean, and friendly. I'm hoping this is the story I thought Fear the Hunters might be, with a group of "nice" survivors shocked at the state of Rick's people. It will be a neat contrast to see. I can't wait to see who the real "good guys" are, especially after Rick's talk with Carl this issue.

Kirkman also delivers on his hints about the "scientist" Eugene. As we've all suspected, he isn't a government scientist with special insight into the zombies. His real origin is much more mundane. He's got a normal (and amusing) job and he's a good liar. That meant he had to play up his importance to survive a zombie world. It's an amusing reveal, although Abraham certainly makes Eugene pay for his lies. Abraham is rightfully wracked with guilt over the sacrifices he made to get Eugene to D.C. There are no deaths in this issue, but it is still a very satisfying read.

Charlie Adlard is as solid as always. He does a great job with that last page. The guy looks totally different from the scruffy, grubby normal cast.

Good

Batman & Robin #6

Ugh. I wonder how good this comic would be if I could understand what was happening? For all of his striking appeal on the cover, the Flamingo is a grunting brute who doesn't even speak as he takes on Gotham's protectors. The Red Hood and Scarlet have to do a lot of the heavy lifting against Flamingo, since they locked up Batwing and Robin last issue. The first few pages deal with the dynamic duo having to untie themselves before they are broadcast on a webcam in their underwear. That's a great bit, and I really do love a lot of elements of Grant Morrison's gonzo book. But the incomprehensible artwork really leeches a lot of the entertainment.

Eventually, Red Hood takes out Flamingo (possibly killing him, yeah right). What's cool is that Morrison addresses the whole "Gotham votes" idea where Red Hood wanted folks to decide if they preferred Batman or the Red Hood's methods. I guess Jim Gordon's stance is clear, he arrests Red Hood on the spot. The Hood has a great rant as he's taken away, basically claiming that Dick Grayson is keeping Bruce Wayne dead on purpose, so that Dick can finally get the spotlight. I really dug the emotional attack and seeing how quickly it broke through Dick Grayson's cool exterior. Scarlet does escape, and something happens with her mask, I think. But I'm not sure what happens at all.

There are a few beautiful panels mixed in, but for the most part this doesn't look good. It's really quite odd, a lot of the epilogue scenes with Batman and Gordon look really soft and moody, almost Simone Bianchi-ish. But the bulk of the issue is lumpy and oddly dark.

Average

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Green Lantern Corps #44

Wow. DC did a great job keeping the huge ending for this issue a secret. I'm not sure if this character is actually dead for real or not, but there is certainly a setup worthy of the next few issues now. I had been wondering what could make Guy Gardner become the newest Red Lantern, and the closing developments of this issue could certainly be enough to do it.

The bulk of the issue is classic action in the Peter Tomasi manner. That means tons of GLs get moments to shine even while starring on only a few pages. The creepiest Black Lanterns are showing up in this book, including the Corphans, the undead children of Corps members. Heh. That's a little over the top, but I won't complain. The battle is furious and fast paced, even after the Black Lanterns refocus on destroying the Oan power battery rather than the actual corps members. Now that Nekron has arrived, I guess the Black Lanterns aren't as focused on swelling their own numbers anymore.

In an attempt to stop them, my favorite GL cracks open an Alpha Lantern battery, setting off a huge explosion. It seems to atomize a large number of Black Lanterns, saving the battery for at least a few minutes. I really can't believe that this character is dead, but his ring does fly off to find a new bearer. I'm bummed, but really, at this point I've already seen Blue Beetle, Mr. Miracle, Barda, Martian Manhunter, and the Hawks get it, I really only have a couple pet characters left. And now I have one less.

Patrick Gleason rocks. He does a wonderful job with the creepy, blasted faces of the dead. His constructs are still top notch too, I loved Isamot and Vath on their gigantic canons just blasting away into legions of the undead.

Good

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Buck Rogers #2-5

Wow. I knew I liked Scott Beatty, his stories always have a good mix of characterization with brisk plotting, but I didn't expect to like Buck Rogers this much. This is a really fun, retro take on Buck Rogers. The sci-fi world Buck finds himself catapulted to is fascinating. Centuries ago, Earth launched DNA samples of the animals of Earth into space and in the intervening years, those samples have been used to genetically engineer intelligent animals that are out to harvest humans. For food. Not only that, their spaceships are gigantic floating abbattoirs powered by nuclear worms that eat liquefied flesh. That's gross, but also awesome. Buck is thrust into this mad future and he responds by taking charge, flirting with Wilma Deering, and shooting things with his atomizer pistol. There are some interesting politics going on with a few human traitors, and both of them survive this first arc by disguising their intentions. I'm also quite pleased at the mastermind species that leads the animal army. Let's just say the hulking, robotic form they wear does a good job making them more impressive than they normally are. I'm digging that Buck seems to have a soft touch too, when making his escape, he rescues some intelligent animal prisoners. I'm hoping that means we'll get some neat animal men joining the cast as good guys. I highly recommend this book to anyone who digs sci-fi action flicks.

Carlos Rafael is a real find. The futuristic space-ranger suits worn by Buck and Wilma look awesome, but he does just as fine a job on the retro suits they find in the trash. He does a nice job making the animal faces expressive too, which can be tough. Naturally, that means his humans are even more effective. This is a very professional package. Pick this up.

Good

Doom Patrol #4

Ah, I can't resist the Yellow Lantern ring. And so I picked up an issue I would normally pass on, Doom Patrol #4!

Keith Giffen does a nice job recapping the mid 80's Doom Patrol, making Celsius and Tempest actually seem like cool characters with legit adventures. I've read those comics and they weren't actually that good... There are some nice confrontations here, although I'm confused by Negative Woman's appearance. I thought that was Valeria Vostok who appeared (alive) in Checkmate recently. Is she dead? I like the idea of the Negative-being battle, but that did confuse me. Celsius takes out the Chief's legs, but I guess he wasn't using them anyway. Having Tempest be a fan of Elasti-Girl made their interaction a bit of morbid fun, and probably the second best confrontation of the issue. The best? No doubt the arrival of Robot Man's brainless corpse. What a horrific idea, that Robot Man isn't really Cliff Steele at all, but just a copy, leaving the real guy to rise as a Black Lantern.
The Metal Men backup had very little Metal Man action, most of the pages are taken up introducing us to the Clique, a new gang of female mannequin-robots. The Clique is a fun idea, but I've grown so fond of the bantering amongst the core cast that I missed it. The Metal Men don't get enough pages to lose most of them introducing a new opponent.
Justiano brings a very creepy tone to the book that is very appropriate. He does such a nice job with the main cast that I wouldn't mind him working on the book regularly. Kevin Maguire's Metal Men feature is as flawless as we've come to expect.
Fair

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dark Avengers: Ares #1

Dang, if Kieron Gillen isn't careful, he's going to become one of my favorite writers. I wasn't as impressed with his Phonogram series as everyone else, but dang if he's isn't great at writing the gods of the Marvel U. First Beta Ray Bill and now this.

Norman Osborn wants Ares to train a crew of Hammer soldiers. Osborn is curious what sort of soldier would survive and pass a course taught by the god of war. It's a great idea, and Gillen delivers on this fantastic premise. The soldiers are fun hard cases, standing up to Ares but still willing to learn from him. The complicated relationship between the teacher and his students is the core of the book. Ares is definitely one of those bullies who believes he is the only one who can push around his chosen targets. Anyone who messes with his troops will have to deal with him. There's also plenty of time spent establishing that Ares is more than the god of ancient combat. He's remained totally current and up-to-date in the most modern ways of killing. He even claims to know humans better than his godly kin. Ares is so larger than life and confident that you can't help but like him. He's one of the best characters in the Marvel U right now. You can't even call him a villain.

Manuel Garcia's art is heavy with shadows, at times things look almost Michael Lark-ish. But his style fits just fine with the action and violence in the script. The casual brutality of Ares is clear in both his body language and his actions. It's a great package.

Good

Blackest Night: Batman #1-3

I need to learn my lesson, but I won't. These ancillary Blackest Night tie-ins might be entertaining, but they really can't resolve anything. At best they'll be competent character pieces (like this one here) but for the most part, they aren't going to add to the narrative (last week's BN: Titans being an exception, I guess).

Very little actually happened here. Peter Tomasi had some nice moments with Batwing (not surprising, since he wrote Nightwing for the last 2 years), Red Robin, and Damian, but these three issues really amounted to dead bat-villains killing a lot of cops and chasing around the Wayne boys. I appreciate the clever escape to foil the heart-hunger of the Black Lanterns, but I can't help but think there wasn't actually much here. I will admit to really liking Dick Grayson as Batman. Nightwing was always one of my favorites back in the day, and I'm finding him a real treat as the new Bat-guy too.

Adrian Siyaf has a clean style that should get him more DC work. His storytelling is clean and still has a bit of the dynamism of an Ed Benes or Joe Bennett, he would fit right in the Titans stable of artists.

Fair

Sunday, November 8, 2009

War Machine #10

Is it me, or has it been a long time since the last issue of War Machine came out? In any case, this issue picks up with Norman Osborn having turned the Ultimo robot over to his side by reducing it to the intellect level of a child. Naturally, War Machine can't let such a powerful force of destruction fall into Osborn's hands, so he has his ally the Cybermancer zip away with the child-like machine so that she can teach it some morals. I'm amused at how quickly that element was removed from the story. I think Greg Pak needed to wrap things up for the upcoming cancellation of this title and needed to focus on the more exciting aspects of this story.

This is actually a good thing, since that means more War Machine vs. Norman Osborn. WM takes on Osborn and the two of them have a nice back and forth as the issue goes on as each temporarily gains the upper hand. While Osborn is occupied, WM's allies from the West Coast Avengers each make a mad dash to bring corrupt allies of Osborn's to justice. This was a pretty amusing sequence, from the hot-button issues that Pak chose to highlight to the reaction shot in the White House. Obama seems quite pleased at the Avengers' whirlwind approach to law enforcement. It is clear that Osborn is heading for a fall. He does manage to capture Rhodey, and moves quickly to put War Machine on trial. The final two issues of this series should be pretty cool as Rhodey stands trial for his heavy handed approach throughout this series.

Allan Jefferson returns to handle the art duties, and he does a nice job. He has a habit of drawing lumpy faces (particularly on Rhodes and Osborn) but I really dig his take on Wonder Man. The storytelling is clear and the pencils have a really light line-weight. I bet this was colored straight from pencils.

Fair

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Punisher #10

Obviously, I read this and the Dark Reign special in the wrong order. This issue wraps up the Hood-themed arc from the last few months. Punisher succeeds in killing off a couple more Hood-resurrected villains (I think Cyclone is one of them, I'm not sure about the other). I do like that Rick Remender has actually brought back a few of these villains to stay. At least Basilisk, Death Adder, and a few others seem to be back for good now. I won't complain about more costumed villains.

I will say I really don't like what Frank does this issue. The Hood uses his resurrecting trick on Frank's family. This is a great way to neutralize the Punisher, with his family back, what is there to be angry about? I was honestly shocked at Frank's reaction though. When he sees his family rise, he immediately has them set on fire and kills them again. How, how, how can he do this? Either he didn't want them used against him or he's ashamed of what he's become, I just can't rationalize that a man as pained as he is would dispatch his family so quickly. Even if Frank believed their return was tainted by the Hood and that their personalities were different, I can't believe anyone could do this so fast. The resurrected villains seemed to be themselves, so why would the Castles be any different? How are we supposed to view Frank after this? He's damaged beyond repair for me. I don't like what this story says about Frank, but it is pretty dramatic.

Tan Eng Huat has a fun style, but I'm not sure he's a great fit for the more "classic" elements of the story. His takes on Basilisk and Death Adder are just ugly. But the Hood and the supernatural stuff does look nice and spooky.

Fair

Friday, November 6, 2009

Secret Six #15

Sometimes you can come home again. John Ostrander returns to Deadshot for a nice little character piece, and he picks up right where he left off. Father Craemer even plays an important role in trying to help Deadshot deal with his current obsession with killing. Deadshot never minds killing, but now it is all he can think about. Deadshot and Craemer take a nice little walk down memory lane, hitting on Deadshot's past, both personal and "professional." I never knew that Deadshot made a brief (and fake) attempt at being a popular hero, but I always like seeing the contrast of Deadshot and Batman. Having Deadshot's current crisis of conscience relate to Batman's death is an interesting take on the situation. The best part is how Deadshot deals with it; he likes Craemer's analysis, and that's good enough for him, case closed. Craemer naturally wants to continue their counseling and get DS real help, but we all know that's not what Floyd Lawton wants.

Jim Caliafore's pencils are decent. There are some weird proportions at times, most obviously during Batman's big appearance; he has tiny arms. But he gets the point across.

Fair

Magog #3

This was the make-or-break issue of Magog for me, and Giffen's new series makes the cut, but barely. Magog's odd personality is starting to grow on me. He's a confident, aggressive hero that recognizes his limitations even as he blusters and powers through every interaction. Giffen spends a lot of time with the new villain Miasma this issue, and his background is so generic and uninteresting that our narrator Magog tunes out, so the reader doesn't have to suffer through all the rationalizations of a madman. It's a fun trick I don't think I've ever seen used before. I'm still not sold on the arms-dealer aspect of the story, I'm just not interested in it yet. But Miasma is a more approachable villain with clearer goals, so seeing Magog go up against him is pretty entertaining. I'd say this is the best issue yet.

Howard Porter's Magog is a hulking ape-man. His square nose and golden armor gives him a definite gladiator look, and I'm liking that Magog ditched the shoulder pad this issue too.

Fair

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Captain America: Reborn #4

This type of story should really have been told in an Avengers comic. Oh well. Ed Brubaker is finally bringing his Dead Cap epic to a close, and he's got an eye on Cap's history while he does it. Cap continues shifting throughout his history, and it seems to be wearing on him. Cap mentions that he "can't feel fatigue" which is an interesting (and useful) take on his super-soldier serum, but Cap's starting to get worn down emotionally. He's lucky that the Red Skull's plan is coming to fruition.

Hank Pym, Vision, and Reed Richards are trying to nail down exactly what the Skull and Arnim Zola are trying to do, but while they can only theorize, Sharon Carter is living it. Sharon is indeed the "anchor" for Cap, with his blood somehow tagged to hers. With surprisingly little fanfare, Zola and Dr. Doom yank Cap out of the past back to the present, but with an important change. The Red Skull is now in Cap's body. This really is excellent plotting; when Cap was killed, the Skull was still sharing a body with Alexander Lukin, so naturally his plan at the time was to take over Steve Rogers' body. When that failed, the Skull went about discrediting Cap using the 50s Cap, so he still followed much of his original plan, just using a proxy. Even better, it has long been established that the Skull is envious of the perfect specimen that is Captain America (heck, he lived in a Cap-clone body for awhile in the 90s). This is a great convergence of plot and continuity, I'm really pleased Brubaker is pulling it off.

Bryan Hitch spent more time on this issue. Most of the characters look like he drew them this time, allowing Butch Guice to tighten the pencils with his scratchy inks. The final page is a little in your face, but I love how strongly it gets across its point; Cap's back, but that's not a good thing.

Good

Blackest Night: Titans #3

Hmm. So Dove, powered by white light, is somehow able to destroy Black Lanterns? I wonder which other DC heroes will have this power? I'm suspecting Wonder Woman, although I could also see her being rage-powered. Dove succeeds in destroying Wildebeest, Pantha, Terry, the zombie baby, and the other minor dead Titans, leaving only Hawk, Tempest, and Terra to escape. If I had to guess, Tempest will be resurrected at the end of Blackest Night, but I bet the rest are gone for now.

J.T. Krul does a pretty good job with this story. He's got the voices of the Titans down, with his Beast Boy and Cyborg being standouts. The Black Lanterns are almost excessively cruel in this series and the hurtful things they spit out at the Titans are really pretty upsetting. And speaking of upsetting, how about Donna Troy first caving in her ex-husband's chest then crushing her zombie baby? That's some pretty intense stuff.

I haven't been this interested in the Titans in some time. That last panel where Donna can see the spectrum of her teammates was excellent. My fave, without a doubt, is the split of willpower and rage for Cyborg. He's a great character and I sure wouldn't want to mess with him after this issue.

I think Ed Benes ramped up the cheesecake again this issue. I noticed Starfire and both Wonder Girls made the most of every opportunity to show off their assets to the reader.

Good

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thunderbolts #137

Rick Remender doesn't capture the voices of the Tbolts exactly right in this fill-in. Ant-Man is a little stupider than he is normally, Paladin is a little more evil, and the Ghost isn't as hard to pin down; they're all pretty much bad guys. That said, I like the idea for the story here. Osborn is so mad at Luke Cage for betraying him that he has captured Iron Fist and has successfully brainwashed him into joining the Thunderbolts. After sending the team after Cage, there's a nice little sequence where Iron Fist has to cast off his programming to side with his best friend once again. Remender does a great job with the banter during the battles, his jargon-spouting Scourge was very enjoyable. I liked Ant-Man's predicament too. We don't see villains stuck in a heroes gut for most of an issue very often. I really dug how powerful Remender's Heroes for Hire were. Iron Fist kicked the crap out of just about everyone and Cage was unstoppable. They really came across as pillars of the Marvel U, which was fun to see.

The gore factor is pretty high here. When Osborn snatches Iron Fist, he kills a bunch of Rand employees and orders the death of even more. I understand the plot reasons these folks needed to be taken out, but man, I do question the need for such a high body count. I think the point could have come across without so much death. I think Remender and I have very different views on how much collateral damage is necessary to get a dramatic point across.

Mahmud Asrar did a good job keeping things looking consistent with the normal art in Thunderbolts. Ghost, Headsman, Scourge, and the Heroes for Hire looked exactly on model. Paladin's modern suit looked a bit off, but that seems to be difficult for a lot of artists.

Good

4-Year Old Review Tiny Titans #21

I like the alien pets. Silky and Poopu. I called Silky Plu Plu. I bet a bad guy has never joined a good guy club before. Bunnies are ok but not bunnies that are Marvel bunnies. Cyborg's robots are silly robots. I like the lightning bolt (on Captain Marvel Jr.) It is silly that all of the people are in the pet club. Most of the Titans are at the Pet Club. But some aren't. I like Mera. I thought she was a mermaid. I know who is at the JL Watchtower; Green Lantern, Flash, and Martian Manhunter. I don't like Martian Manhunter because he's just green. I don't like green. I like Green Lantern because he has a little white and a little black. Don't throw rocks. At all. Never ever ever ever. Not very good, Terra.

I like comics with my Daddy.

Great

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

G.I. Joe #10

EDITED TO FIX: I mis-labeled this as issue 9, it is actually issue 10. Whoops!

Ok, enough with the slow burn. I'm still digging Chuck Dixon's re-imagining of the GI Joe universe, but I'm ready for some real Cobra action. Much of this issue is spent building up a neat sci-fi HQ for Cobra in the Arctic, complete with mad scientist (in this case a more reasonably dressed Dr. Mindbender). I'm pleased to see Mindbender back, he was always a fantastic character in Hama's old Marvel books. I'm waiting with baited breath for him to start building a super-soldier with a serpent head-piece...
This issue has a nice action sequence as Snake Eyes takes on a Cobra trooper. It ends how we'd all expect, with Snake gutting the fool, but I was surprised how long it took Snake to seal the deal. That guy kept up with the Joes' #1 bad ass for a long time. I am happy that Mainframe and Snake are coming in from the cold, I just hope it isn't an orderly reunion. I'm ready to see some more Joes get involved in the firefight in Springfield.

One storyline is really suffering from a lack of momentum at this point; the main Joe force's investigation into Destro's castle is BORING. The reader has already seen everything that happened there, so I think we're getting too many pages showing us what we already know. I'd much prefer those pages be used to feature some more interesting Joes. (Speaking of which, two made-for-the-comic guys are bagged after their deaths last issue.) I'm ok with killing off unknowns, but why did Dixon kill off Grand Slam in his last issue of GI Joe Origins?

SL Gallant's tells the story nicely. I like his restrained, reasonable Mindbender. There's not a lot of feature time for the other Joes, but he does make that hand-to-hand combat really seem like it could go either way, as I said, surprising for a Snake Eyes fight.

Fair

Guardians of the Galaxy #19

Wow. If the deaths in this issue actually stick, this will be one hell of a bummer. DnA get right down to business, sending in Kang to correct the ages of Starlord's timelost team (leading to a nice comedic bit with Mantis, Cosmo, and Bug). Kang warns the team that should the Magus control the Fault (a tear in space-time) that the universe could end. Kang comes off fairly straight here, with a legion of Starhawks hanging around to back him up. Starlord and his crew rightfully don't trust him, but they accept a cosmic cube from him and jump back in time to stop Warlock's transformation into the Magus.

Things get nasty after that. Starlord's team jumps in right as Phyla attacks Warlock, so it seems like the deaths from the last few issues were undone. Then there's a vicious fight where more Guardians drop. I'm not sure who died and who survived, but it seems Phyla and Major Victory die for certain. I'm not sure about Mantis and Cosmo. They didn't look good. This cast is enormous, but man, I'd hate to see those great characters get whacked.

Wes Craig is ok, but his style isn't as dynamic as Brad Walker's. He actually does a nice job on the comedic stuff, but his action doesn't carry the same drama as Walker.

Good

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dark Reign: The List: Punisher #1

Wow. I certainly wasn't expecting that. I knew Rick Remender had an arc coming up with the Legion of Monsters, and the Punisher somehow filling in as Frankencastle, but I never, ever expected this was how we'd get there.

SPOILERS AHEAD:
The whole relaunch of the current Punisher title has been based around the Punisher making life miserable for Norman Osborn and his cabal. After siccing the Hood on the Punisher for a few months, to little benefit, Osborn decides to cut bait and bring in a more dangerous hunter. Enter Wolverine's son, Daken. After HAMMER troops soften up the Punisher, in comes Daken for the kill. Punisher does a decent job, and actually holds out for awhile against Wolverine Jr. but really, the fight is almost never in doubt. Daken is too powerful and too well matched against Castle's skill set, and so the fight ends with a Daken win. A definitive win. Daken calmly chops the Punisher to pieces, first slicing his head off, then his arms, then chunking him up from there. I mean, there is no legit way for the Punisher to ever come back as the same character. If he's a stictched up Frankenstein, he needs to stay that forever now. Remender has commented that we've got a "normal" Punisher in the MAX title, so I guess it makes sense to diversify, but wow. I was not expecting this.

So if you are a Punisher fan and want to see how the Marvel U version meets his violent end, pick this up. I honestly don't see how a pile of body parts can even come back as a character, but I guess we'll find out.

John Romita Jr., a classic Punisher artist, lends gravitas to the proceedings. This is an important chapter for Castle, and we get an important artist to draw it for us. I'm honestly in shock over this. It was well done, but man, how did this not get more hype?

Good

Justice Society of America #32

I knew it! Last month's cliffhanger declared that Mr. Terrific was dead on the operating table, but it seems that the JSA isn't ready to give up on Mr. T yet. Alan Scott kept his body in stasis to set up a powerful spell from Dr. Fate that may be able to save the ex-chairman. I didn't think they'd kill off such a fantastic character, so I'm happy we'll get the guy back. The team starts investigating the attack and it seems that King Chimera isn't as innocent as he seemed. I still think Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges are throwing out a red herring (I still think All-American Kid is not to be trusted). King Chimera is an elitist jerk, but I'm not convinced he's a killer. One improvement the new writers have made in this book is that they actually let Power Girl act like a team leader. She's tough and confident, and when she gives orders, people better listen. I loved Magog's "I thought you were on my side" when she starts issuing orders. It seems it would be more accurate to say he's on her side!

There isn't a lot of character development time here, but there is a cute little sequence with Hourman and Liberty Belle. When Liberty Belle questions why the bounty hunters aren't after Star Girl, Hourman comments "I don't suppose it's because she's so darn cute!" and Hourman's wife Liberty Belle responds "Oh nice. Not condescending at all." It's a funny scene that gives us a fun glimpse into their relationship.

Jesus Merino still impresses the heck out of me. He's got a great handle on the many costumes showing up here, and the detail is incredible. He takes the time to add in funny stuff like one of the dog-men waving at Blue Moon too, just a minor visual gag that adds to the book. I do think his Power Girl needs a bit longer hair, but she's still cool looking overall.

Good