Monday, September 29, 2014

Batman: Future's End #1

I’ve read some other bloggers’ reviews of the Future’s End one-shots; I’m sort of amused. I’ve bought and read two, and neither one seems to tie in to any sort of overarching story or plot at all. The main story has Earth 2, B-tier heroes, and Big Barda (!), but those elements are nowhere to be found here.

Ray Fawkes and Scott Snyder tell an interesting story. It is even more impressive considering how few voices are actually present in this issue. This comic features Batman, Alfred, and an artificial intelligence version of Lex Luthor. Oddly enough, my favorite voice in the comic is robo-Lex. His air of superiority and voice ring true with his dead-on deductions about anyone foolish enough to invade his sanctum. He even figures out who it is that could have made it this far. “Are you Batman?”

The core plot is very slight, with Batman trying to obtain some information to enable him to create clones. Batman wants to put his brain in a cloned body since his war-torn body has worn down over the years. Science fiction has trained me to believe that everyone should have an expiration date, so I think Batman might need to hand off his Gotham-guarding duties to one of his many protégés. The whole “must stay alive to protect my city” comes off as just a tad selfish. Honestly, this is as simple a plot as possible, the cloning tech is a macguffin and Bats spends every page in pursuit of it.

I’m unfamiliar with the artist, Aco, but his work is pretty solid. The heavy lines remind me of Tommy Lee Edwards, although Edwards has a better sense of “direction” and his figure work is stronger. Aco’s work looks “digital;” it has that layered look that digital art often displays. I think Batman is the right choice for the artist, I think his gritty style would be interesting to see on Green Arrow or Black Panther too.

This is a FAIR comic, a nice little done-in-one Bat-story that I can read on its own without sweating the greater DCU. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Gotham Episode 1: "Pilot"

So one episode in, and I’m already finding stuff to like and dislike in Fox’s cop series Gotham.

Let’s start off with my big concern. For a show that is supposed to be a police procedural, I’m concerned that there is going to be too much “spot the Batman villain” going on. After singing the praises of the references in Arrow earlier this week, how can I have this as a weakness in Gotham? For one thing, the references in Gotham are WAY more obvious. Catgirl/Selina Kyle is literally crawling through multiple scenes. Scenes where she really doesn’t seem to add much value other than “look, it’s Catwoman!”

This show is absolutely filled with future Bat-villains. Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and possibly the Joker. I’m hoping that the show can throttle back that excitement a bit. I don’t mind the foundation work for Batman’s mythos, but I want to see the show focus on what it does well.

So that brings me to the good stuff. The actual cop procedural portion of the program is pretty strong. Ben McKenzie is playing a young Detective James Gordon. What I love about McKenzie’s performance is that he’s already playing Gordon like an old man. Listen to his voice, his dialogue. Watch the way McKenzie has him interact. This is a young old man, a junior cop burdened with responsibility beyond his years. I think it is going to be fun seeing Gordon butt up against corruption and jerks in the Gotham PD.

Donal Logue is a longtime favorite of mine, so I was thrilled to see him as Detective Harvey Bullock. Make no mistake; Bullock is corrupt on this series. Gordon is clearly unwelcome, dragging him away from his comfort zone. What I like is that there is already a bit of light in Logue’s Bullock. He does the right thing a few times in this episode, giving me hope that Gordon is going to make this dirty cop just a bit cleaner. That is going to be neat to see.

I loved Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney. She’s a delight as the friendly but deadly mob boss with professional ties to both the mob and personal ties to the GCPD. Smith seems effortlessly comfortable in the role. Watching her switch her focus between a phone call, young Oswald Cobblepot, and our first “maybe Joker” is possibly the high point of the first episode.

Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot is quite possibly the worst villain so far. He’s a sadist, he’s disloyal, and he is pretty clearly a monster. Gordon has a tough choice concerning Cobblepot, and it sure seems like Gordon made the wrong call, judging by the closing scene of “Pilot.”

The rest of the supporting cast shows potential too. There is a sense of ridiculousness already with the use of the gimp-butcher who nearly puts an end to our heroes. I’m not at all sold on Renee Montoya and her interactions with Gordon’s fiancée Barbara. Montoya comes off as superior and a bit of a bully, which is a direction I hope they avoid for such a cool character in the comics.

As for Alfred and Batman? It already seems too forced. Frankly, I think the show would be stronger with less of the future Batman and more cops and robbers.

So there is GOOD potential here. The main two cops are a good team. The antagonists are either likable or I already love to hate them. I’ll definitely be back for episode 2. (And I might try to start writing reviews of this and Arrow as the seasons get into full swing.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Arrow Season 1


Many of my friends have been pressuring me to watch this show for months. I was avoiding it for a couple reasons. First of all, it is on the CW, and I don’t think I’ve ever watched a show on that network. Second of all, regular readers know I’m not too pleased with DC Comics these days. My interest in their monthly periodicals is at an all-time low, so I couldn’t see getting interested in a show featuring Green Arrow. Even worse, while I like Oliver Queen just fine, Connor Hawke has always been my preferred GA, so I didn’t think I’d be interested in the show at all.

It turns out; I do still like the DCU. A lot. From the obvious stuff; like Helena Bertinelli’s transformation into the Huntress. Or the near-constant comic book references (Ted Kord fundraisers, The Winick Building, etc.), this is a show made by folks who really know the comic book universe. There is still a little bit of comic book shame, of course. When presented with the name “Green Arrow,” Oliver Queen pronounces it “lame.” Instead, the series refers to him as The Hood. Count Vertigo and the Royal Flush gang are here, but in a made for TV way. Can’t get too silly now!

Show runner Marc Guggenheim has written some good comics, and boy, he’s making sure that this show proves that he knows his stuff. I could sit here and list characters, concepts, and settings from the comics, but honestly? For those of you who haven’t seen the show, I want you to see it yourselves.

Don’t get me wrong; this is still a CW show. Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen seems to have one contractually obligated shirtless scene per episode. I’m not even kidding. The guy works out, gets chained up, and gets all sweaty at least once a week, often on an insane piece of workout equipment called a salmon ladder. I didn’t even know such a thing existed, but man, Amell does. Most of the workout scenes and many of the fights are clearly Amell himself, not a stuntman. Props where it is due, that guy is as dedicated to staying in shape as a real vigilante. Even better, by the end of season 1 he seems to be pretty comfortable in the Hood’s shoes.

I watch shows for the action, but I am a sucker for good romantic triangles and relationships. While Katie Cassidy isn’t great as Laurel Lance, she gets better as the season goes on. Interestingly, Lance’s character is at its strongest once she’s not spending every week being grumpy with Oliver Queen. By the time Colin Donnell’s Tommy Merlyn makes the situation a true romantic triangle, I found myself interested in the outcome.

One fascinating thing about the show is the split of characters and worlds. The Hood is doing the vigilante thing with the help of some supporting characters (no spoilers). Meanwhile, Laurel, her Dad Detective Lance, and Tommy, along with the Queen family (sister Thea, father Walter, and mother Moira) are making Ollie Queen’s life complicated in a more CW kind of way. (Did I mention that Thea’s nickname is “Speedy?” Worth noting?) Almost the entire cast starts the season a bit wooden, with the show really feeling cheap and teen-soapy. That changes as the season goes on. As the characters really dig into their roles, things get a lot stronger (in both plot and acting).

In particular, David Ramsey as Oliver Queen’s bodyguard Diggle (get the reference?) is a delight as he gets to know Oliver as the season wears on. Ramsey has a great rapport with Amell. Their interaction lends a great buddy-movie quality to the proceedings as Diggle becomes a near-Alfred type buddy for Green Arrow. He’s the rare television invention that I would love to see in the comics.

The special effects vary wildly from episode to episode. If there is a motorcycle or car chase, you can guarantee that people are wearing helmets or keeping their faces out of the frame. Sometimes the explosions look a bit too CGI. At other times, the explosions and gunfire look very realistic. From episode 1 on, the effects of the Hood’s bow are top notch. The bowstring snaps like a gunshot and the darting arrows zip through the air in convincing fashion.

This is not fine television. This isn’t The Wire or even LOST. But it is a fun, pulpy super-hero show that remembers its roots while serving a modern TV audience. This show is GOOD!


I haven’t gone into detail, but man, I am very, very excited to see more Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke the Terminator. I’m confident I’ll see Deathstroke in Season 2! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wolverine: Killable TPB

I must admit to being a bit disappointed in this storyline. I generally like Paul Cornell’s stories. I adore Alan Davis’ artwork. But this Killable arc never really rises much higher than “OK.” I’m not sure if that is because of the dialogue, the boring villains, or the fact that the story seems better in idea than execution.

Wolverine without his healing factor is "Killable," and everyoen knows it. Friends and enemies are lining up to get a moment with Wolverine while he's down and out. Unfortunately, the villains behind Wolvie's weakened state never seem worthy of the "important" story arc we're getting. The side moments with existing Marvel characters are more compelling than the core plot. 

As the story rolls on, Wolverine teams up with Storm, Shadowcat, and Black Panther. That’s a pretty stellar group of guest-stars. Even better, Cornell does a wonderful job with Black Panther in particular. T’Challa is smart, reasonable, and totally a hero throughout a pretty rough situation in Wakanda.

SHIELD plays a pretty big part too, mainly through the eyes of Maria Hill, but I wasn’t totally invested in those sequences. I really like Director Hill, but I need some new Howling Commandos to root for too. It was great to see Dum Dum Duggan, Jimmy Woo, Jasper Sitwell, and Gabe Jones back in the day. If those guys aren’t options now, we need more named agents. The new Nick Fury is fine too; I like the idea of a super-agent Fury as the lead field op rather than the boss. But still… I need some more people to care about.

The main villains in the arc, well, the story-motivating villain, is the sentient mind-control sickness from the opening arc. They aren’t tremendously interesting to me. The lack of a clear visual for the infected along with the lack of any sort of “leader” makes it hard to get angry at them with focus. I was more annoyed that this faceless villain is going to get the credit for taking Wolverine down.

Sabretooth, Mystique, Silver Samurai, and Batroc(!) fare better. They are nice, visual threats that Wolverine and his friends can throw down with. I’m less clear on the powers of The Host, the illness controlling villainess who eventually takes out the sentient illness. I guess the non-visual, non-simple powers are confusing me once again. Just like mind powers, I just can’t wrap my head around the powers of someone who talks to illnesses.

Alan Davis’ artwork is wonderful, as always. His costumed heroes and villains look awesome (look at that Black Panther above!) The sets are usually nicely set up for action sequences, and I love the way his bystanders and innocents always have varieties of body types and facial features. Davis’ worlds are populated with “real” looking folks, it is a nice change. Plus, no one does big action better.

Unfortunately, the spectacular art can’t make up for the lackluster story. This is only an AVERAGE for me. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes #1

This is sort of a hard comic to review. As usual, Grant Morrison is biting off a huge task in his comic book work. This one issue has to set up a parallel Earth, complete with alternate history. It needs to establish a new world of super-heroes and villains. It needs to tie into the greater threat of the Gentry from Multiversity #1.

Heck, in addition to all of that set-up, we also need an actual story, complete with rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Morrison ALMOST pulls it off. The problem is, as near as I can tell, the story just abruptly stops in the middle of what I’d call the climax.

The Society of Super-Heroes, or S.O.S is a pretty easy to like group. Led by the enigmatic Doc Fate (sort of magic-powered pulp version), the Iron Munro-trained Atom, a very alien Abin Sur, a squad of Lady Blackhawks, and a fascinating Anthro the Immortal Man, the group covers a lot of bases. Abin Sur’s Green Lantern is pretty dang powerful, but the rest of the folks seem pretty grounded in pulp sensibility. 

Doc Fate gets a lot of dialogue, but Anthro seems to anchor the story a bit more. I was immediately interested in the Immortal Man’s long-view perspective and outlook. When he gives a piece of jewelry to one of the Blackhawks, he states he’ll just go get it back after its current home crumbles. That’s a long view!

The villains are ostensibly working for the Gentry, the main villains in the Multiversity series. Fate describes the situation involving Nix Uotan and the Gentry pretty well, although I’m never quite sure if the main story involves those weird creatures or not. Felix Faust is powered by their dark energies, but Vandal Savage, Parallax, Lady Shiva, and Blockbuster all seem to be motivated by their normal desires. At one point, Vandal Savage declares his desire to be pirates invading other Earths, “Prepare to board!”

Like everyone else, it is hard not to comment on the similarities between the invading parallel Earths in this story and the ongoing, multi-year marathon that Jonathan Hickman is writing over in Avengers. I certainly hope that this story runs a lot faster, though. I can’t stand the idea of waiting 5 years to see this one resolved too. As long as the story inches forward in each of these one-shots, I'm not going to complain too much.

In a story like this, with relatively few pages to establish an entire universe and continuity, there is a heavy burden on the art. Chris Sprouse is up to the task. The WWII-era pulp setting is clearly established from page 1 forward. The architecture, vehicles, and even the tone of the action (established in script, of course) sell the alternate reality. Sprouse’s character designs are great. The almost formal look to many of the characters (including Atom and Sinestro!) lends dated feeling to the proceedings that enhances the alternate universe concept.

$4.99. Dang. I didn’t even notice that at the shop. The book is 40 pages, so I just need to remember that this would have been a “prestige bookshelf” book back in the day. It is certainly GOOD enough content to justify the price.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Saga v3 TPB

I keep reading this book because Brian Vaughn is telling a compelling enough story that I’m interested in seeing where it goes. But my goodness, isn’t this the most popular book from Image these days? I know the title wins all kinds of awards. But man, it just feels so… manufactured. The sex scenes and Alana’s dirty talk dialogue are clearly there to try and grab attention; it feels juvenile. It reads like something a kid would write and hide from his or her parents.

With the months between my reading of volume 2 and 3, I got very confused about the sequence of events too. Things cleared up for me about halfway through. I find myself much more interested in Lying Cat, The Will, and Gwendolyn than I do in the core cast, though. The introduction of The Brand and the other associates in the bounty hunting world is pretty interesting.

I also love the inclusion of Marko’s mother as a core member of the cast. Not only does she add a fun point of view and source of conflict in the group, but she’s another accomplished fighter in a group that is quickly racking up quite the list of enemies.

I’m not totally bought into the parallel storyline of the journalists yet. They don’t seem particularly heroic, so I can’t imagine they are protagonists. Clearly, they aren’t antagonists. They seem like two likable dudes trying to do their jobs; I’m just puzzled why they are getting so many pages dedicated to them? If I had to guess, they are going to share Marko and Alana’s romance between the two warring societies, showing everyone that peace is possible. I think that’s an admirable place to take the narrative, but if the reporters are going to be the ones showing us this, I’m hoping for more guts and bravery from them soon.

Vaughn’s work has always had a certain level of… preachiness? Superiority? I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I get the feeling that Vaughn’s titles are very pleased with themselves. Now, the reader is included in that; “if you are cool and hip enough to get it and agree, then you are cool and hip too!” Perhaps I’m just reading into it, but I got the exact same feeling when I read Ex Machina. Like Vaughn’s other work, progressive ideas and hipster cred are mixed in with fantastic original ideas like Lying Cat and living tree spaceships.

Fiona Staples’ art is as impressive as ever. Her ability to elicit emotional responses from the reader for all sorts of insane aliens is amazing. Seriously, who doesn’t empathize with Lying Cat? Who doesn’t feel a twinge of pity for Prince Robot? I am amused at how many normal “Earth” animals are anthropomorphized into interesting aliens, but frankly, that just makes the sci-fi setting more relatable. This is solid work

This is a FAIR comic full of neat ideas and compelling characters. My only complaint is, for me, it seems to be trying too hard for hipster cred that it takes me out of the book a bit. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Secret Avengers v3: To Maim a Mockingbird TPB

So… this was basically nonsense, right? Nick Spencer comes back to try and put a bow on his volume of Secret Avengers, but I leave this title a very confused man.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to believe that Mockingbird/Bobbi Morse was actually a sleeper agent for AIM or not. So she was, and she turned good? Or she was always a SHIELD agent and AIM tried to trick her? I’m just not getting it. What was Mockingbird hoping to accomplish when she ditched her teammates?

More questions. What exactly happened to Taskmaster? I guess Mockingbird shot him in the head in a way that he would be able to survive? Isn’t that a bit preposterous? Why did Mentallo turn into a pile of worms from Slither and then swim into the ocean? Who in the world thought that was a good idea?

Even more questions: What was the purpose of putting all those villains in charge of AIM’s high council? Most of them never did anything! Why were there so many pages spent setting up MODOK’s eventual betrayal of the team if we don’t see the outcome?

I believe the answer to a lot of these questions is: Buy the next incarnation of Secret Avengers. I can promise one thing, I will not be buying the next incarnation of Secret Avengers. This book was horribly confusing, out of sequence, and full of poor choices about the Marvel Universe in general. The use of the killer team of Avengers muddies the heroic waters for characters like Hawkeye and Spider-Woman, and I fear there may be lasting damage done to characters like Mockingbird, Taskmaster, and Mentallo.

Butch Guice and Luke Ross are both solid artists. I’ve enjoyed their work for years, so it isn’t a surprise that the art is one of the strongest parts of the title. I wish the artistic identity could have been a bit more clearly defined. Sometimes this felt like a spy book, sometimes a super-hero title, and it never really decided what it wanted to be. The artists do such great work in low-powered titles; I think that might have been the way to go (especially Guice in street-level titles).

This POOR book is a mess. This is the type of book where the best thing we can do is just pretend it never happened. Let’s move along, shall we?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Birds of Prey v3: A Clash of Daggers TPB

Gail Simone and Duane Swiercynski use the third storyline as a way to swap the BoP roster around a bit. The book launched with Black Canary, Poison Ivy, Starling, Katana, and Batgirl. I’m not sure what happened with all those folks in the previous stories, as I only made it 2 or 3 issues in before I couldn’t read any more of the first trade. (Swiercynski has things moving along a little better here; while I never loved any particular issue, the story was fine.)

Back to the line-up! The first new member of the team is the mysterious “good” Talon introduced in Gail Simone’s Batgirl series. She’s fine, but it is pretty hard to get too attached to a totally mute character in a full facemask. I know people loved Cassandra Cain back in the day too, but I never really found a way to get interested in her either. (And it isn’t that they are women, I’m not a huge Snake Eyes fan either!) Later in the trade, we meet Condor, who is an affable doofus who seems to be a pretty decent guy. With his bird theme, simplistic view on crime and total lack of self-awareness, Condor is a pretty amusing addition to the team.

The storyline centers on Katana’s attempts to regain her sword from a mysterious clan of ninjas who are fond of daggers. None of the villains make for a very compelling central antagonist, which does weaken the conflict. Plus, the dagger clan totally resembles the Hand from Marvel comics, so I had to remind myself which universe I was reading about.  

So average villains plus a non-compelling storyline doesn’t leave the book too stacked with potential. That said, Swiercynski’s use of a few characters does make the book enjoyable to read. I really like Starling (I think she’s new to the new 52?), Black Canary’s power fluctuations are interesting, and it is amusing seeing Talon constantly wanting to kill her own teammates.

Admira Wijayadi, Daniel Sampere, Juan Jose Ryp, Vicente Cifuentes, and Romano Molenaar provide the art for these issues, leading me to believe there were some mad scrambles to meet deadlines. Only Ryp’s art really jumped out at me, with the intricate level of detail and gore that I’ve seen in his Avatar work. I actually think Ryp could be a pretty solid artist on a mainstream super hero book; the battle scenes were choreographed differently than I’m used to seeing.

This is an AVERAGE comic. But the good news is, I was able to finish the entire collection this time! And, I’d even read the next one! That’s a big step up for this book; one that exemplifies my feelings about the new 52 in general. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Miracleman: A Dream of Flying HC

I feel like I’m finally graduating. After 30+ years reading comics, I hadn’t finished one of the foundation courses of being a comics fan. I had never read Miracleman. I acquired some digital copies at one time, but I wanted to experience the series as intended, with the remastered colors and retouched artwork that Marvel was putting together. I’m glad I waited.

I think this was probably more ground-breaking when it came out in 1982. There are lots of now-common concepts worked into these pages. The self-seriousness, the need to put aside the silliness of past comic books, these were fresh concepts at that time. Now, I’m pretty used to them. The ultra-violence of mid-80’s comics is on display too. The innocent bystanders caught up in the battle between Miracleman and Kid Miracleman is savage and destructive, but it pales next to the average new 52 title.

That said, Alan Moore’s genius is here too. I can’t describe this as over-serious, because while there is a great deal of sadness and betrayal in this story, there is joy too. Michael Moran takes pure joy in his Miracleman form. His wife fluctuates between intrigued and spooked, a perfectly natural reaction.

I think my favorite sequence was Miracleman’s exploration of the secret bunker. The overlaid narration of government officials provides a linear timeline, while the reader experiences things in the order Miracleman does; out of sequence and almost random. I also appreciated the wrap-up with the cleaners.
I really like that Warpsmith, Miracleman’s odd, alien companion can co-star in a dangerous battle against a returning foe. It is a great glimpse that Miracleman will have allies in his battle against evil. Of course, it seems something bad will be happening to his wife too. Bummer.
The other Warpsmith stuff is fantastically alien. The Warpsmiths are so weird, I can barely figure out what’s going on in their story. I love it. The art, the strange dialogue, the alien-ness, it just feels like a British comic! Like Captain Britain or 2000AD. I hope Marvel continues including these associated chapters in future collections.

Alan Davis might by my #1 favorite artist, so of course, I love seeing these glimpses at his early work. His lines are a lot smoother and the figures aren’t quite the paragons that he draws today, but the seeds of his future greatness are there. But look at those Davis covers! Absolutely gorgeous. I’m not overly familiar with Garry Leach, but his opening chapters are excellent. His use of shadows and silhouettes is reminiscent of Brian Bolland (and that’s high praise from me). (Forgive me if I’m missing obvious connections or anything between the artists.)

So basically, yeah. This is deserving of its place in the comics stratosphere. It is a compelling, well-told story that might have been repeated a few times over the years, but man, this is a GOOD comic. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Green Lantern: New Guardians v2: Beyond Hope TPB

For all my complaints about the new 52, there are books that are trucking along MOSTLY ignoring the reboot and just telling stories. Most importantly, the better DC comics are telling NEW stories, not retelling old continuity tales with an R-rating and pretending it is genius.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a fantastic story. But Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham do present a nice, compact story featuring a DC guest-star (Blue Beetle), a good, powerful villain (the Reach) and a likable protagonist (Kyle Rayner). I’m actually a bit surprised at how well the New Guardians works as a concept. 

I didn’t read everything in the first trade, but if one comes in to this collection with the understanding that the team sort of likes each other, this really works. It’s hardest to buy from Arkillo, the yellow lantern, but even his loyalty to the team makes him a more interesting character.

Fatality benefits from this too. She’s running all over trying to help out here team. Seeing her in this neutral-almost-good role is pretty entertaining. It also shows how short the memory of comic book characters have to be. She killed a lot of GL’s back in the day!

Of course, Bleez is there partially as eye candy. And of course, I’m already rooting for Kyle’s influence to maybe turn her a bit towards the light. I’m not sure it will happen, but it adds a nice interpersonal relationship to the team dynamics. Kirkham has fun with Blue Beetle’s encounter with Bleez, too. What teenage boy wouldn’t have that reaction to getting pinned? Bleez’s disgusted reaction is perfect too.

So this ties in to the formation of the Blue Lanterns, the corruption of Ganthet, and Sayd’s agreement with Larfleeze. I know at least some of those things happened in the old continuity. It is just so confusing trying to figure out what counts and what doesn’t! We saw Alex’s “fridging” in a flashback, so we know that stuck, but man, not everything else could have happened. The Weaponer of Qward shows up too, also pointing back to the older stories (he’s an amusing hanger-on for the New Guardians).

Kirkham does a decent job with the pencils. He has a tendency to have the female characters falling out of their tops, but that is pretty common. Kyle’s hair looks even sillier than normal, I have to say. The crab-mask isn’t quite right either; it’s a bit too short. But the Reach look good, the Blue Lanterns look fantastic, and Kirkham really gets “acting” out of even the most alien figures.

This is a FAIR comic. I’m a huge Kyle Rayner fan and I didn’t love it, but it is certainly an adequate storyline. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Original Sin #1-8

So I’m having a bit of a hard time determining exactly what the point of Original Sin was, exactly.


So the big reveal is that Nick Fury has kept on aging since WWII, and that we’ve seen dozens of his LMDs over the years, rather than the actual dude himself. That’s a pretty big reveal, I suppose. We also found out that he’s been “the man on the wall” shooting big monsters and aliens if they get too close to our precious blue marble. As is usually the case with these huge reveals, it brings up a lot of questions better left unanswered. I assume Nick Fury vs. SHIELD never happened. Nick Fury’s blood donation of the Infinity Formula that saved Mockingbird? I guess she actually got a bag of robot blood? Works for me.

If I understand correctly, he selected a crew of possible replacements (that’s the Black Panther, Ant Man, White Queen, Gamorra, Moon Knight, Dr. Strange, Punisher, Winter Soldier team). As anyone who has read the solicits for next month’s comics knows, Winter Soldier is the lucky winner, getting a new series with the high concept that he will be shooting mysterious aliens and monsters in the head before they see him. I’m not sure how that will fill 20 pages a month, but I’m sure Marvel has a plan. Some of the pairings worked better than others, honestly. White Queen, Black Panther, Ant Man, and Dr. Strange made a surprisingly likable team. Moon Knight and Winter Soldier fit in nicely too. Gamorra, Punisher, and Rocket Raccoon never quite fit in as well, though.

As is often the case with these types of books, it is hard to nail down the stars. Black Panther’s team is the closest thing we’ve got, but most of the conclusion in issue #8 features the Avengers. It is disappointing we didn’t see more of them, because Jason Aaron does a really nice job with their voices, especially Captain America. Nick Fury’s interaction with Cap has to carry a lot of history and emotion, and Aaron manages to deliver exactly what is necessary. Again, my guess is that the main reason the Avengers featured so prominently is so that Thor could drop his hammer once he proved himself unworthy.

Aaron’s pet characters make out pretty well. Dr. Midas is seemingly killed, but his hand lives on, complete with the alchemical gold power that gave him his name. His daughter Oubillete can either become the new Dr. Midas, or just take on his empire. It’s a good new status quo for a villainess with potential. The Orb makes out a bit better. He’s still got an eyeball head, but now he has one of the Watcher’s eyes embedded in his chest. Maybe that will give Orb a few new powers too.

The central mystery, “Who shot the Watcher?” has two answers. The Orb shot out one eye. Nick Fury killed Uatu and took the other. I don’t exactly understand why. I guess Uatu was tired of watching? He says “I’ve seen too much” and basically commits suicide by cop with Nick Fury, but… the why eludes me a bit. Then there is the ending. There is a weird, one-eyed dude wandering around in some purple crystal gear, and I assume it is supposed to be Nick Fury. Or is it some other weird guy who was chained up in the Watcher’s home? Does it matter? Honestly, I’m not sure!

Mike Deodato’s art is pretty solid. His character work is very strong throughout. His Moon Knight and Black Panther are particularly cool. I would have liked a bit less bling on Dr. Strange and a few other guys that don’t need all those weird little chin straps and shoulder pads. I also thought some of the action scenes looked odd. Heroes and villains looked oddly shrunken, like colorforms placed on a background. Is that just me?

So this was 8 issues with mostly at $3.99, some at $4.99. It makes for an expensive read that was decent, but not great. Frankly, I wish Jason Aaron would have stayed on Wolverine & the X-Men a few more issues rather than this FAIR comic. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Batwoman v3: World's Finest TPB

I’m going to give you the short version. TLDR.

I’m being silly. I actually did read this trade, and there is some good stuff in here. But oh my gosh, there are SO MANY WORDS ON THE PAGES. Reading this book became work. I simply couldn’t read the overlapping internal monologues of Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Firehawk, Abbott, Medusa, Agent Chase, Director Bones… and my god, the list goes on and on. Seriously, do we really need deep motivations and thoughts from all these people? I couldn’t take it. By about two thirds of the way through I had to start skimming the caption boxes. I’m not sure if J.H. Williams or W. Haden Blackman is responsible for all this introspective prose, but somebody wants to write a book! The caption boxes often tell a different story than the art!

And I get it. J.H. Williams is an artistic genius. But sometimes his odd panel layouts don’t help. With no panel descriptions and double splash pages filled with different colored caption boxes, I had no idea what to read next. I think I’m a pretty experienced comic reader, yet I found myself totally lost more than once.

The core concept is a strong one. A mythological baddie has kidnapped children, so Batwoman seeks out Wonder Woman for some help. Since the villain fits into her wheelhouse, Diana agrees to lend a hand. Great idea. And the parts of the story with Batwoman trying to fit into Wondy’s world are really exciting. (Especially the tremendous sequence in the Amazonian prison.) In fact, the prison sequence is Williams’ best use of layouts and artistic design in the entire book. It is a fantastic scene.

But man, this story is surprisingly complicated. This is a book definitely written for the hardcore fans of Batwoman. I think I’ve read all her trades so far, but they haven’t made such an impression that I can remember all the details of what’s happening in this comic. Recurring villains don’t have quite the impact they should. Werewolves switching sides and becoming noble don’t have the drama that they should. Simply because I can’t remember who all these people are and what they did in comics that I read three years ago.

Because it is required, I’ll poke some holes in the new 52 timeline. Wasn’t AcroBat inspired by Batman? How can that be when he has an adult daughter but Batman has only been active 5 years? Who are Director Bones’ parents? I assume he was never on Infinity Inc., right? Somehow 52 still counted for this title? But not for other titles in the new 52? Blargh.

I guess I can give this an AVERAGE, but man, it almost falls off the cliff. There are too many neat ideas and wonderful scenes to hate this comic, but I can promise I’ll never read it again. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy TPB

So Grant Morrison really wanted to try to write a Garth Ennis story, huh? He even went so far as to get frequent Ennis collaborator Darick Robertson to give him a hand. The result? A violent, profanity-filled one-off story that would be in the lower tier of Ennis’ work. This book is a good reminder that people should stick to what they do best.

Nick Sax is such a dislikable character, I almost feel like Morrison is trying too hard. Heck, he’s described as a “c-word” on the opening page. The story is so predictable that anyone who has read a book before knows how Sax’s character arc is going to go. There isn’t really anything original enough about his descent into the gutter and eventual redemption to make it memorable.

I suppose the titular “Happy,” the unicorn/Pegasus horse that inspires Sax’s journey is a bit memorable. He’s a floating cartoon that only Sax can see, one that can help him cheat at cards and punch thugs’ teeth out. That contrast should maybe go a bit longer than it does. Maybe it is because I already knew the concept behind the series before starting it, but I never found the cartoon/violence mix to be that striking or amusing.

Morrison usually really shows off with his insane villains. But Mr. Blue isn’t memorable, and pervert Santa is too much of a cliché at this point to be impressive. It is another swing and a miss.
Robertson’s art is gritty and realistic, with cartoonish ultra-violence. He excels at it, of course, but again, there is something missing. The sheer joy of The Boys is missing. It seems like Robertson is going through the motions too.

If you want a POOR take on better comics, you can check this out. But I’d rather read Garth Ennis’ filthy book and Morrison’s mad and wild ideas in separate titles.