Thursday, October 31, 2013

Superboy v2: Extraction HC

You wanna see something really scary?

Here it is.

I really tried, folks. I saw a few new 52 volume 2 collections listed on my library's website and decided to give them a shot. I think I made it 8 pages into this collection. I'm not even sure where to begin.

I'm not some crazy WildCATs or Gen 13 fan, but wow. I can't believe that Jim Lee is OK with his creations being sent this far off the mark. That is Warblade on the cover of the trade. Remember him? 90's topnot, looked as Image as possible? Now he looks like one of Cameron Hodge's smiley robots from the late 80's!

Grunge is a "Ravager," which evidently means that he's in some kill or be killed group that is trying to find the toughest young superhuman. I got a Terror Titans vibe from it, to be honest. I'm not sure what exactly was happening because I think the Legion of Super-Heroes were teaming up with Superboy, but I never saw them meet up. Seriously, the book goes from a one-on-one fight with a tech'ed up Grunge to a team-up with the Legion in bad costumes. I have no idea what happened.

I know I only read the first couple issues of Superboy with the relaunch, but surely I should be able to understand what is going on in a comic when I read it. Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco have done much better work than this, including some great mid-90's stories. But this, I couldn't even get through it.

RB Silva and Brett Booth don't exactly fit in the mold of the new 52 house art style, but the terrible costumes and re-designs make sure that the art is generic and uninspiring.

When I have to return a library book unread, that means it was EVIL!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Revival TPB

I’m not sure exactly what Tim Seeley is going for in his new Image series. Is it a long-form story of a changed world? This certainly has the world-building details I’d expect from that sort of story. There are all sorts of side-characters and mundane details that make his small Wisconsin town feel lived-in. But that doesn’t always lead to a riveting read every month.

Is it a horror story? Make no mistake; there were numerous times where I actually got chills at some of the horrific scenes in this story. The slaughter in barn was gory but effective, but I was a lot more scared at the haunting howls and mumblings of ghosts lost in the woods. But these moments aren’t exactly constant either.

This has got two elements that make for a good story. Good details and a strong, well-rounded setting. But it is lacking an antagonist. At the end of the first trade, I don’t really understand what our leads are fighting against. What exactly are the stakes? What happens if they fail at whatever it is they are doing? This lack of direction does dull my interest a bit.

Fortunately, Seeley has a strong cast to keep the reader invested. Dana Cypress is a local cop in charge of dealing with the “Revivers,” the recent dead who are coming back to life. Most of them seem fine; they are just back, as they always were. But some of them are definitely… off. And they are a little violent. So Dana’s got some work to do. Dana’s sister Martha is the other lead, indulging Seeley’s penchant for hot Goth chicks.

In summary, I’m getting a big TV show vibe from this one. I could easily see this coming on after Sleepy Hollow or a show like that. This lands back in the “Fair” territory of the old ranking system.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Red Hulk: Mayan Rule TPB

This is never quite as good as I hoped. Jeff Parker has done amazing things with Rulk, and I always love Dale Eaglesham’s artwork. And believe it or not, I actually read Alpha Flight before I read Avengers, so yeah, I’m a fan.

While Alpha does appear in this story, it never really turns into quite the mob of heroes I was hoping for. I suppose that is just the fault of my expectations. Alpha Flight and the guest-starring She-Hulks (other faves) are little more than victims and hostages for most of the story. This leaves most of the heroics to Red Hulk and Machine Man. They are the stars of the book, so I get it, but I can’t help but be a little disappointed.

But wow, what art. Parker’s Mayan gods are awesome, modern interpretations that make for fantastic villains. Dale Eaglesham brings them to life. They look absolutely tremendous, and each panel of smashing jumps off the page. I’m also amazed at Eaglesham’s ability to put human emotions on the faces of snake men and monkeys. Darn it. Flipping through, I’m bummed Eaglesham didn’t get to draw Alpha Flight more. His Snowbird is absolutely stunning!

In conclusion, this is a great conclusion to the Red Hulk series. It is fun, with new villains, good guest-stars, solid dialogue and great art. I don’t think wanting more is always a negative. Sometimes it just means you read a GOOD comic. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Batman #24

(or Batman: Zero Year part 1)

Batman is one of the few remnants on my DC sublist, and I don’t even get it at the comic store. I subscribe to this book when Tanga puts the mail-order subscriptions on sale, and I have to say, I think I’m making out like a bandit. The newest issue, the closing chapter in the “first phase” of Year Zero, cost $6.99.  I think I paid $8.99 or something like that for the whole year! At that price, I’ll read almost anything!

Fortunately, Scott Snyder has been very consistent on his Batman launch. This comic is still very entertaining. While some details have morphed around, this is still Batman as we know and love him. In fact, I don’t even mind this re-telling of Bats’ origin. I’ve experienced so many origins in comics and film that I seem to have no resistance left to seeing Batman get a new origin.

The opening arc of Zero Year focuses on the Red Hood gang. Led by an unhinged mystery-man in a red hood, we never figure out if this is still the man who becomes the Joker or not. That mystery has always worked well for the clown prince of crime, and Snyder doesn’t shy away from it. He does bulk up the supporting cast with a new uncle for Bruce Wayne, a lost business man who gets a character arc of his own. Edward Nigma and other future problems also show up; content in their mundane criminal lives until they are inspired by Batman?

Isn’t it odd that two of Snyder’s big storylines feature hordes of secret society members in masks? First the Court of Owls, now this…

Greg Capullo hasn’t missed many deadlines either. The book has maintained the same feel since issue one and that’s largely down to Capullo’s art. I really enjoy his take on the “original” bat suit. The red hoods sometimes look a bit odd, but that’s a small complaint.

Best of all, this book is filled with both action and words every month. There is always some sort of physical conflict, but Snyder gives each fight a sense of importance through narration. This is not usually a quick read.

Batman who feels like the character I know and love? That makes this a GOOD comic!

Friday, October 18, 2013

X-Treme X-Men v1: Xavier Must Die! TPB

I liked it the first few times. I loved Exiles. I loved Jeff Parker’s Exiles relaunch. (Didn’t care for Claremont’s run, but what the hey?) So I’m afraid the concept of the alternate reality X-Men hopping through time isn’t a new one. It takes a crackerjack lineup and a strong creative team to keep my interest in the concept now. This doesn't have the lineup, it has a decent writer, but the art is not impressive.

Greg Pak won me over years ago with his work on Hulk and Hercules. I haven’t liked his later work quite as much, and this is another near miss. Clearly he’s in love with Dazzler, who gets an amazing power upgrade for this series. Seriously, I think she could take on Magneto if everyone wrote her with this mastery of her light powers. She blasts desert rocks into magma at one point!

Emmaline Frost gets a few good lines, but she doesn’t have a huge impact on the book. Xaver’s floating head is a walking plot device. I can appreciate Howlett as a very different Wolverine, but I sort of feel like Pak is telegraphing his big secret. (I do like the use of Adamantine to lace his bones, though, that is a nice twist!) Kurt Waggoner is a nice kid, but every time he’s on panel I can’t help but think how much I prefer the real Nightcrawler. And I’m not sure, but is Dazzler’s crush Johnny Ito a stand-in for Pak? I hope so. If you are going to write comics, why not write in a Mary Sue?

So the point of the book is that the X-Men must travel through alternate realities killing evil versions of Charles Xavier. We start off in a weird, Olympus-type world where Thor, Storm, and the other surviving X-Men are gods to the surviving humans. It’s an odd setup. One where I’m not entirely certain I even understand the swerve. What exactly did that world’s Xavier gain from this situation?

The second story is a bit more straight forward. Xavier is a brute-force mind-controller in charge of an old West town populated by X-Men. Its fun seeing cowboy Cyclops and rail worker Colossus, but I can’t help but think that the objective in this arc was more to put Dazzler in more period costumes.

As a star-making vehicle for Dazzler, this almost works. I think that might have been a better tack to take, actually. The three or four member team of X-Treme X-Men never really seem to agree on a goal or even on the mission they are supposedly undertaking.

The art is OK. Stephen Segovia does a pretty decent Leinil Francis Yu impression, but the finishing touches on the faces and backgrounds is not there. Later, Paco Diaz takes over. I’d hazard a guess that Dazzler is his favorite character too. She looks great on every page, while the other characters sometimes don’t seem to have gotten quite as much attention.

This is a book for Dazzler fans. If you feel she’s never gotten her due, and want to see her lead a team and use her powers in new and innovative ways, you’ll dig this book. As someone who has no strong feelings about Dazzler at all, this book is EVIL. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Warriors Three (2011)

Why was I not informed about this series? Oh, I think I put it down due to that $3.99 price tag. Darn, I’m sad I missed this, but I’m glad I found it now. Covers by Amanda Conner? Story by Bill Willingham? Rock-solid super-hero art from Neil Edwards? This thing is a winner!
This mini takes place after Siege, while Asgard is located outside Broxton, Oklahoma.

AIM has messed with the affairs of gods when they broke Fenris wolf loose and taught him some new powers. I never figured Fenris for this much of a smack-talker, but he’s wonderful! Bill Willingham gives Fenris such an unexpected, entertaining personality, I wish we could see more of him. If a series is defined by its villain, this is a winner.

Willingham keeps the story tied to past tales of Asgard by constantly offering flashbacks of the Warriors Three in the past. Back when Hogan the Grim was instead known for his wonderful singing. These guys work so well together, the classic Henry V Shakespearean archetypes, I’m not surprised that Willingham handles them so well. Adding is a female AIM scientist livens things up nicely too. Fandrall has a hard time saying no.

Some series are based on plot, and while the plot is an interesting one, this is a series that works because of the interaction of the characters. The comfortable banter between these immortal adventurers is reason enough to pick up the series.

This is a little lost gem of a series, I highly recommend it to fans of Willingham or Thor’s backup players. Keep an eye out on Comixology, this is precisely the type of series you want to grab when it goes on sale.

This comic is Good!

Monday, October 14, 2013

DC's Villains Month (Part 2)

Let's take a look at weeks 3 and 4 of the much-loved Villains Month! Are you ready to make millions on your 3-D covers?

Cheetah #1
So I couldn't resist trying to grab an investment or two, and the choice was pretty easy when I saw that this issue is written by John Ostrander. Victor Ibanez's art is easy on the eyes too, he actually does a nice job keeping Cheetah from being too sexy, she's way too animalistic to please hormonal comic fans. Of course, being a master storyteller, Ostrander manages to set up interesting supporting characters, an entertaining backstory, and a decent protagonist all in one issue. The hero is Mark Shaw, Manhunter. (This is a whole different pet peeve, though, I hate how the DCnU gets to cash in the familiarity they decided was not worth keeping when they rebooted. If you liked Mark Shaw, why start over?) The gore is way over the top, but hey, if you want to read DC, that is what you are getting!

Oof. So basically, this comic consists of Scarecrow walking around talking to other villains, all in an effort to set up Gotham War. Unlike the Bane comic I review below, this doesn't have a lot of action on its own, and ends up very repetitious. For some reason, the sun is out, and Scarecrow is working for the Crime Syndicate. I can't say I really understand what is going on Peter Tomasi's story. Szymon Kudranski's artwork is too psychedelic for what ends up being a pretty talky story. If Scarecrow's fear gas was causing more hallucinations, I think the fit would have been better.

Dial E #1
 Now this is a joke, right? I’ve read Perdido Street Station, so I know China Mieville is bonkers, but this is just too much. This comic barely has the semblance of a plot. This is one page word gags, letting Mieville work with a bunch of artists to create ridiculous pun-based villains. Honestly, I can’t even review it. It’s a bunch of random nonsense! 

Bane #1
Oh Bane, I can’t quit you. You know who else I can’t quit? Batman artist Graham Nolan, who returns to re-tell Bane’s origin. I liked it better the first time, but I can’t complain that so much of Bane’s origin is left intact. I enjoyed his road to redemption in Gotham Knights, but there is no denying Bane’s appeal as a villain. I get the impression that Peter Tomasi was setting up his next miniseries more than servicing Forever Evil, but I’m skipping both, so it doesn’t matter. Other than the insane levels of ultraviolence, this is like a Batman comic I used to read.

For me, Villains Month boils down to this: if the creative teams matter, why weren't they on the covers? I hate to think that the cover is the most important part of these books, but is hard to argue with that feeling after seeing how DC handled their press over the past month. So enjoy it DC, I definitely bought more than my normal DCnU level of books in September. Even I can't resist those speculator gambles. But unfortunately, I didn't see anything to make me stay. 

Villains Month was EVIL! 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Avengers Arena v1: Kill or Die TPB

One of my biggest pet peeves in comics is when writers kill off other people’s characters. When a writer needs a big dramatic death, they need to kill characters that they themselves developed. It’s easy to throw some pre-existing favorites out to get killed in order to make your own creations seem cooler.
So this book is not really a good fit for me.


In fact, the only way I’m OK with this book at all is if this ends up as some sort of virtual reality or LMD situation. The book isn’t bad, but there is simply no excuse for killing off pre-existing characters so that Marvel can rip off the success of Battle Royale and the Hunger Games. 

And they aren’t even hiding it! The covers are straight-up homages!
I actually made it through this pretty easily, since the only favorite of mine who made the roster is Darkhawk. But I know that the Runaways and Avengers Academy do have fans. They certainly can’t be happy with how their favorites make out.

Dennis Hopeless does a nice job with the Braddock Academy, the super-school of England. Hopeless populates the school with Marvel-legacy students (like a Bloodstone and an Atlantean). I’m always impresses when creators can insert new characters into the universe, but make it feel like the character has been there all along. The Braddock Academy totally fits into that mold. Cullen Bloodstone is a likable kid, even if I don’t see what his powers are yet. And Anachronism is tailor-made to be a fan favorite too. A computer nerd swapped in the body of a barbarian? Perfect.

I also like the use of the Red Raven name for another throwaway victim. Again, no fans followed her adventures and feel shortchanged by her death.

So cheap death as a selling point is not going to win me over. That’s why I got this book from the library, not in the comic store. BUT, I’m going to have to take it all back if Dennis Hopeless ends up pulling a con and these characters are still alive. Because he does a really nice job writing this huge cast in character. Clearly the new Deathlocket character is his favorite, but he does a particularly nice job with the Runaways, Nico and Chase. They have that same sense of desperation that they do in their own comic.

Kev Walker’s art is solid, as always. Most of the backgrounds are pretty well populated, giving the new Murderworld a clear “feel” as a hostile location. Walker’s take on Arcade is pretty far out considering his old look, but again, if this is some sort of simulation, that is easily explained. Walker’s Darkhawk is more bulky than sleek, but that helmet looks tremendous. And Cammi’s space suit is very effective in making her more of a sci-fi character than a normal human would seem to be.

So I don’t know how to grade this one either. If this is a simulation, or the slain characters are actually alive, then this is GOOD. If Hopeless actually did have to resort to cheap kills to ramp up the drama, then this book is EVIL. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

DC's Villain Month (part I)

I suppose this is an unqualified win for DC Comics. Sales are up, demand is high. And good ol’ Timbotron, who hasn’t bought more than one or two DC books a month for a year, picked up a bunch more books.

Let’s take a look!

Two-Face #1
Peter Tomasi and Guillem March do a nice job delivering a Batman comic that almost feels timeless. I didn’t say “timeless classic,” but this is a perfectly acceptable villain feature piece. It is insanely violent, as most of Tomasi’s work usually is, but for this character, in this crossover, it is acceptable. I also liked the use of Tomasi’s oddball D-list villains as fodder. As I always say, if you made ‘em up, you can kill ‘em.

Joker #1
I’ve seen a lot of people bashing Andy Kubert and Andy Clarke’s random Joker tale, but I don’t see why. Insane levels of melodrama and and bat-crap insane high concept often work well in Batman stories. When Joker somehow raises a stolen gorilla to be a villain savant, I don’t’ know why anyone would bat an eye. It’s just another day in Gotham, right? The art is solid, the story preposterous. Totally acceptable.

Relic #1
First of all, I’m not interested in yet another terribly named new super-villain in the new 52. Second, I’m getting exhausted of the many, many, rainbow corps-themed villains in the DCnU. Relic is a survivor from another universe, one that had power staffs instead of power rings. I just can’t make myself care. The only thing this book has going for it is the use of Kirby’s Source Wall, but tying it to this new villain is a mistake. Robert Venditti is doing much more solid work over on X-O Manowar. Never in a million years would I have picked this out as Rags Morales on artwork. He used to be a fave, but this is DC House style all the way.

Harley Quinn #1
I’m pretty confused. Matt Kindt and Neil Googe go out of their way to show Harley getting all the parts of her new, extreme costume through beatings and assaults, but the victims are always shown alive. Yet at the climax of the story, Harley blows up a ton of school kids with booby-trapped handheld games. That’s pretty bloodthirsty, and honestly? There is zero chance that Harley can ever be used as a “tweener” character again after this. That’s full on evil, so no Gotham City Sirens or the like for her. I’ve missed Googe’s art, and it remains as expressive as always. The best part? These one-shots tie into some bigger crossover, right? This is the first time I’ve really seen the Forever Evil plot mentioned in a specific way. Until now, these have been random villain one-shots!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Mighty Avengers #1&2 (2013)

Marvel is lucky they are putting this out on a light week! I’m pretty much totally disenganged from Hickman’s Avengers, the cold, sterile approach of the Avengers world does nothing for me. Good thing that Al Ewing is writing an entirely different sort of book. It would be unfair to call these guys the “street-level” Avengers, instead, think of this as the team going on “regular” Avengers missions. The kind that the Avengers have always done in the past. I much prefer this rather than odd high-concepts or long discussions about space.

The team is pretty sparse so far, with Luke Cage, Spectrum, Superior Spider-Man, and Spider-Hero. I assume White Tiger, Power Man, She-Hulk and more will be joining shortly, but Ewing does a nice job with his thrown-together team. Even better, the new-to-me Blue Marvel immediately feels like a heavy hitter. This guy hangs out with Uatu! And he ranks world invasions on whether or not he actually needs to get involved! Marvel has always tried at Superman analogues, this time they may have succeeded. Blue Marvel has a ton of potential.

As for the mysterious Spider-Hero, I’m not sure who it is. S-H is a smart ass who uses ninja weapons. A possible future Ronin, I guess. It can’t be Shang-Chi, too silly. Could be Deadpool, but I assume the language would be in yellow and I don’t think DP knows Monica Rambeau. Starfox can fly. Black Knight uses a sword and isn’t this snarky. I’m not sure I’m ready to name a suspect yet…

Greg Land’s art is always polarizing, and again, he hits both sides of the spectrum. Monica Rambeau looks awful, nothing like she normally does. If you told me it was the Wasp in that costume, I’d believe it. The Spider Hero logo is clearly photoshopped or taped rather than drawn. But. At the end of issue 2, one of my all-time favorite Dr. Strange villains shows up. And he looks FANTASTIC!

This might be an Infinity crossover, but it stands on its own as a New York invasion story. I hope Ewing can keep it up, because if he can, this is going to be the Avengers title I keep buying.


Any comic that has Shuma Gorath in it is automatically GOOD!