Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Well, you folks seem to like these capsule reviews, so I’ll try to keep up with them for awhile. So, here we go, capsule reviews of each new comic I read this week that I can recall (memory omissions always possible!). Also, I’m sure there will be some spoilers in the reviews.
Conan #31 – This is the last part of Mike Mignola’s guest-stint as the writer of Conan, and Mignola did a good job, I thought. When speaking of last week’s Conan mini-series, I mentioned how I like when Conan has someone to banter with – well, he has someone to banter with in this story, his former enemy, and it works really well, as the two adversaries are forced to team-up against their mutual enemy. Good dialogue and a lot of really neat supernatural action. Same old nice art by Cary Nord and Dave Stewart. This issue might be a bit hard to follow if you hadn’t read the first two, but I’ll still give a slight recommended for this one.
100 Bullets #75 – This was a very nice “done in one” story by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. I sometimes miss the straightforwardness of the “Here are 100 Bullets” conceit, and it’s used very nicely in this issue. This issue features, as a new twist to the basic “Here are 100 Bullets” idea, Lono doing a spiel that we don’t often see, which is someone saying, “Are you sure this is worth doing? Do you have it in you?” Risso’s art, as usual, is strong. The stars of the issue, though, are the disparate characters who weave in and out of the “main” story, yet carry enough enigmatic qualities so as to make themselves intriguing on their own, and Azzarello weaves them in beautifully. This issue is very much a mood piece, and Azzarello and Risso have worked on this title so long that creating this particular noir-y mood comes as almost second nature to them. In such a condensed form, it’s very appealing (as over a few issues, it can dissipate a bit, sorta like a beautiful sax solo fading the longer the note is held). Recommended.
52 #15 – This issue was balls. Most of it was devoted to Booster Gold’s “final battle,” which, as we see on the cover, is going to be his “death.” You automatically have to presume that Supernova is Booster Gold (as the Booster who came back in Infinite Crisis will likely turn out to be the second Booster in our timeline, so one dies in this issue, but the other becomes Supernova), to the point where I’d be very surprised if he ISN’T Booster Gold. Especially with Rip Hunter’s “It is all Booster’s fault” bit. If Booster is really dead in this issue – that plot is utterly meaningless – and I doubt that is the case. Shane Moll’s Doug Mahnke-esque (perhaps, as others have suggested, because of Mahnke inker, Tom Nguyen, doing the inks) art is strong for most of the issue, but seems to fall apart towards the end (rushed?). What I was most surpised by was the strong nature of the Question/Montoya story. I have not been enjoying that, but their bit in this issue was handled well. Sadly, though, when almost the entire issue is Booster Gold’s last battle – that is what I’m gonna have to judge the issue on, and that fight was balls. Jon Bognadove’s Steel origin bit was good – except for the last panel, which made me roll my eyes way too much. All in all, not recommended.
The Boys #1 – Click here for my review of it. Great Darick Robertson artwork, and enough interesting character work by Garth Ennis to make the book enjoyable. Recommended.
Catwoman #58 – This issue had two things involved in the plot that I did not like. One, as I’ve joked about previously, I really don’t like the idea of Selina’s baby being threatened – it’s such a fairly predictable event in comics. Two, I’d like to see Zatanna show up for a reason not having to do with mind-wipes (and yeah, the cover drawing of Zatanna is incredibly weak). However, the issue was handled well enough by writer Will Pfeifer that it was still a good issue. David Lopez continues his strong art on this book, but the key to this issue is Pfeifer’s writing, and it is quite good. I especially enjoyed the scenes with the police officers, particularly the flashback with Slam Bradley’s son. Good stuff. The idea of the mind-wipe not working seemed a bit odd, but it DID give us a really creepy ending, so that was nice. I would recommend it, with the previously mentioned reservations.
Deadman #1 – Click here for my review of it. I liked it. Good art by John Watkiss and the strongest story by Bruce Jones I’ve seen in awhile. Recommended.
Green Lantern Corps #3 – If this issue was drawn by Joe Staton and released in 1977, I don’t think it would feel all that out of place. Dave Gibbons’ is writing a really old-school style of story here, and I dug it, because I think Gibbons is a talented storyteller. I enjoy Patrick Gleason’s art, too, and it’s funny how his very contemporary art helps disguise just how old-fashioned this tale is. Faking a character’s death to trick the bad guy? CLASSIC – but I love it, as it’s a great routine. Also, the motivation behind the bad guy was pretty clever, I thought. Meanwhile, we get a couple of neat glimpses. One, Salakk showing that, while he can be very anal, there is a method to his prigness. Two, the Thanagar and Rannian Green Lantern partners continue to have an interesting dynamic going – this issue makes it even more interesting. Three, the set-up for the Guy Gardner spotlight looks like a lot of fun. I would say Recommended for this issue.
Hellblazer #223 – I thought Denise Mina had a strong opening arc, to the point where Hellblazer is now one of the books from DC and Marvel that I look forward to the most each month. This stand-alone issue is a bit of a drop-off, but not much of one. This issue involves Map, the magic guardian of London and a crazy bad guy who wants to hurt London. This being Hellblazer, you expect a certain characteristic with the villain, and Mina does a good job of changing our expectations. What Mina is REALLY good at is creating interesting characters with very little time, like she does this issue with the cab driver. Cristiano Cucina’s art was decent. All in all, I’d say slightly recommended.
Ion #5 - Either Tom Grindberg’s art has improved, or Greg Tocchini has just been absolutely dreadful in this series so far, because Grindberg’s artwork is like a sight for sore eyes in this issue. So, yeah, Grindberg’s pages are pretty good looking while Tocchini’s pages are not good looking. As for the story – I was not a fan. It reminded me a lot of the weaker issues of Rebirth, you know, the whole “explain stuff away” issues. Which is annoying, but it’s even MORE annoying here, because the stuff being explained are the events of previous issues of THIS title!! ANd it’s only issue #5, for crying out loud!! We should not have comics filled with explanatory dialogue for the events of the first issue or so of the same title! It is just waaay too silly. Hopefully, though, now that things are explained, we’ll get some good stories. For now, though, not recommended.
Manhunter #25 – This would have been a pretty good final issue, I think – although I wonder, was the Wonder Woman ending a part of the book when this was going to be the final issue of the series? The only problem with this issue is the same problem that plagues pretty much every single final issue not decided months in advance by the writer (like titles where the creator ends the book on his/her own) – and that is a certain level of, “Oh crap, we have to wrap EVERYthing up!” So that was a bit of a pain. By the by – I get the whole redemptive streak thing, and all, but really, and I don’t think we can blame anyone but the writer, Marc Andreyko, for this, as it was HE who wrote it – the whole “leaving her loaded weapon lying around with her kid over” thing has just gotten such little attention, when it is such a MAJOR deal. I bring it up because when I heard the “godmother” thing, all I could think was, “WHAT? You want THIS woman to be the godmother to your kid? She almost killed her OWN kid!!” And normally, I’d be able to say, “Well, I can’t blame this writer for the screw-ups of previous writers,” but in this case, it’s the same writer! And yes, people change, etc. But please, folks, let me know one thing – if you had a friend who left a loaded pistol at her house when her kid was visiting, and she was passed out due to exhaustation, and while she was sleeping, her kid picked up the gun and accidentally shot himself (but survived), really, would you EVER consider that friend responsible ever again, when it comes to children? And yes, I am spending way too much time on that one point, but what can I say, it really irked me at the time, and the whole godmother thing gave me major flashbacks to it. But yeah, in this issue, Andreyko had a lot to wrap up, and as a result, the issue feels a bit short of story – and really, this one is for the fans (except for the ending) of the book already. A sort of “thank you,” so it’s not meant for new readers. Javier Pina’s art has become really good on this title. He’s almost up to the level of the man he replaced, Jesus Saiz. Has Fernando Blanco always been finishing his pencils? Anyhow, I enjoyed the issue (with the aforementioned annoyance with the godmother thing), but I think I would slightly not recommend the issue, as you REALLY have to be down with the book to really enjoy this issue. But I think it WOULD pique your interest enough to pick up the next issue in December, which I presume will be a big jumping-on point.
Nightwing #123 – This issue was helped greatly by the addition of penciller Robert Teranishi to the book. It’s not that Teranishi is, like, the greatest artist in the world or anything, but he’s a good, solid artist – and for this title, “good” and “solid” just about qualifies for having Michael Golden drawing the book. Sadly, though, Bruce Jones continues to write the book pretty darn poorly. Jones gets credit for a strong opening to the issue, with a nice bit about the shared experiences of people who stay up late at night. However, the rest of the issue continues the storyline he’s been having already on this title – which are really quite lame. Especially this super-powered lady that Dick happened to end up sleeping with. Has that been addressed? No, right? That Dick’s one-night stand HAPPENS to turn out to have super powers? That hasn’t been addressed. So silly – almost as silly as the villains in this issue. The cliffhanger, though, is pretty good – as it appears that Dick might have to answer for the actions of Jason Todd as Nightwing. Interesting. Not Recommended!
Robin #153 – I get it – the Cassandra Cain becoming an evil villain is stupid. Really stupid. Like, “Oh my lord, who thought that that was a good idea?” stupid. Turning Wasp into a giant bug stupid. Daredevil getting a suit of armor stupid. Suffice to say – stupid. However, people have to get over it, because Adam Beechen is writing good comics here, and it would be a shame for it to be overlooked because he was the writer tasked to write the editorially-driven (and stupid) plot where Cassandra Cain becomes a sadistic sociopath. In this issue, Robin teams up with the current Captain Boomerang, son of the man who killed Robin’s father. The two team-up to catch up with a nuke that the Joker set off to explode on a timer years ago. To find it, they have to go through about a dozen super-villain headquarters in less than a day. It’s a rip roaring good time. I am not a huge fan of artist Freddie Williams II, but he does a good job with this issue, I believe. The dialogue between Robin and Boomerang is good, and the action is fast and furious. We even get a nice subplot bit where Tim Drake’s absences at school are being noticed by someone. Finally, this book has one of the coolest scenes with a bomb ticking down that you can see in a comic – I wanted to give Beechen a hug for the scene in question. So cool. So yeah, recommended – even if this is the comic that stupidly made Cassie Cain a villain.
Rokkin #2 - Man, the covers of these comics by Nick Bradshaw are really almost indecipherable. Although, while it is a bit annoying, you have to give Bradshaw some credit for going into so much detal on each panel. It’s just that I do not think he does a good enough job making the panels clear, choosing to spend the time he would spend doing that instead making the panels filled with tons of little drawings in each panel. As for the story, by Andy Hartnell, it opens pretty strong, with a nice set-up of the villain of the piece, and our hero’s re-introduction is handled well, as well. But then the concept of the book is introduced, and it’s pretty darn silly. The guy can become a being made out of rock. It’s pretty silly. The ending showed promise, though, with the introduction of a female mercenary. For now, though, not recommended.
Shadowpact #4 – This was a fun issue, spotlighting Blue Devil. What I don’t get, though, is why it is set before the first issue of Shadowpact. I didn’t notice anything in it that would preclude it from following the first issue. Anyhow, this issue shows us a typical day in the life of Blue Devil. Him interacting with his neighbors, him fighting villains, him being late for team meetings – all fun stuff, and writer Bill Willingham handles it very nicely, I think. Steve Scott does a pretty good job on the art (Wayne Faucher is the perfect choice to ink Scott). I love the bit where Blue Devil is used by his elderly neighbors for superhuman errands – and they reward him with food. Also, Blue Devil’s relative anonymity with the public is played for laughs quite nicely. Also, there are some interesting demons that are coming for Blue Devil, and Willingham has an intriguing dilemma, because of one of Blue Devil’s trident’s powers – which seemingly would end the fight quickly, so Willingham has to come up with a good reason for him NOT to use it. I think his reason is good. I would recommend this issue.
Testament #9 – I was less impressed with this second part of Down to Egypt as I was the first. Mainly because the parallels of the plot between this story and the story of Joseph (he of the technicolor dream coat) were just TOO much. I mean, it was like reading a dude building a “space ark” or something, contrasted with Noah building the ark. It took away from the story for me, which, I also might add, is not all THAT compelling to me. The issues of Testament I liked the best were the ones with the most natural human emotions at play. Last issue, for instance, in the origin of why Alec is working for the “bad guys,” that was real, true characterization. This issue seemed all kinda gonzo – stuff happening for the sake of the plot and the Bible parallels. I hope that next issue, when we see the fallout of Jake’s dog being captured with Jake’s chip implanted in it, will be some more human-related drama, but that wasn’t happening in this issue. Writer Douglas Rushkoff clearly CAN write normal interaction, I’d like to see it. Liam Sharp’s art is solid. I don’t want to mislead you, the story is not POOR or anything. I just found it lacking compared to the more fully realized prior issue (where we got human emotion, PLUS Bible parelles PLUS plot advancement). So, for this one issue, I would slightly not recommend it. But this series has been a lot of fun so far, so don’t let one “off” issue throw you!
Amazing Joy Buzzards #5 – It is too bad that we will have to wait until Volume 3 to see Dan Hipp again. Ah well, that should not take away from Doug Holgate. He did a good job filling in for Dan, it is just that Dan is such a big part of the Amazing Joy Buzzards’ mystique. This issue is the origin of El Campeon, and I think Mark Smith did a good job with a nice, laid-back story. Smith really evoked a certain storytelling mood with this tale of a poor farmer who is given a wish. The way the story reads, it really does feel like you’re hearing a fairy tale or a legend around the campfire. That’s a hard feeling to evoke, so I was quite impressed. The story itself is fairly slight, so I suppose I wouldn’t have minded a little more heft to the tale, but it was enjoyable. I would recommend this issue.
Ant #8 – With this issue, Mario Gully adds a writer, Joe Keatinge, to the book. It’s interesting – I think anyone who reads Ant would definitely recommend adding a writer to the book, but, surprisingly, the addition of a writer doesn’t seem to change the story at ALL. Perhaps because it is in the middle of a storyline. Maybe later we will see some changes. Anyhow, this issue continues in the theme of Ant, which is to remind folks of early 1990s Extreme Studios comics. Gully has a real Dan Fraga feel to his artwork, and the story is right in keeping with those early Extreme comics, like Supreme or Brigade. That is being a bit unfair to Ant, as this comic IS more enjoyable than those old comics, but not by much. The story isn’t BAD, it just is pretty generic, and the 90s T’n’A artwork by Gully doesn’t raise the story any bit. A superhero stripper? Classy. That being said, there WAS a pretty cool scene with a former hero whose power is similar to Forge of the X-Men. He cobbles together a device made up of a cellphone and a tooth. It was clever. Otherwise, not much to push here. Not recommended.
Casanova #3 – Another strong issue of Casanova, but less so than the first two issues. Gabriel BÃ¡ continues his expressive/outlandish artwork, and the story from Matt Fraction has real emotional resonance, but at the same time, the story feels a bit more disjointed than the first two issues, which seemed to me to have a much stronger central theme. This issue meandered a bit (which could be explained a bit, I suppose, by Fraction’s text piece in the back of the issue, where he explains how the issue came together during a trip), but the meandering, in and of itself, was interesting. I like the change of pace in the FEEL of the book, too, with this issue showing a less flippant side – demonstrating the result of having a “Damn the man” attitude. Clever stuff by Fraction. All in all, recommended. This is a very good comic book series.
Casefiles: Sam and Twitch #25 – Rodel Noora’s art was good, I thought. Wasn’t Greg Scott supposed to draw this, though? Anyhow, it was nice art. Very reminiscent of Paul Lee’s earlier art on this title. Is this the last issue of this series? If so, how creepy must that have been for Marc Andreyko? To write two 25th issue FINAL issues that came out the SAME day!! Luckily, Manhunter has been saved (and, like I said, I don’t know if this book HAS been cancelled or not). As to the issue, I was not impressed. It seemed fairly cliched, to be honest. And if you’re gonna do cliche (which isn’t awful, as cliches are often cliches BECAUSE they are so good), you have to make it interesting – and I don’t think that was done here. The whole “skeletons in the closet” reveal thing seems to have been a them for Casefiles, but a bit of a repetitive one. However, Andreyko gets MAJOR brownie points for the ending. What a great ending. Totally out of nowhere, but man, was that ending needed. What a great ending. Such a great ending that I almost want to recommend this comic, but then I realize that the ending is only that good because writers seem to think that the way to write Twitch was to have insanely awful things happen to him CONSTANTLY, so if they had not taken that odd route to BEGIN with, such an ending wouldn’t have been necessary. Anyhow, great ending – but not so good comic. Not recommended.
Fell #6 – It’s interesing how Fell has become sort of like Law & Order, in the whole “ripped from the headlines” aspect of the comic. However, in the case of Fell, it’s more like, “weird stories that get stuck in Warren Ellis’ head and inspire him to write a Fell story,” and man, is it effective. The news story (and it is so damn creepy that I won’t spoil it for you, it’s something you really need to see for yourself) is interesting in and of itself, but the highlight of the issue is the greatness of the issue’s three main characters – Fell, Mayko and Snowtown. Each one of them a multi-faceted character that we are interested in, and this issue shows all three of them in a very interesting light. I was most impressed, though, with the interaction of Fell and Mayko. Such a charming romance hasn’t been seen in a mainstream comic since….uh….since…..hmmm…..since….anyone? Ben Templesmith’s art is as stunning as usual. So yeah, gorgeous art – gorgeous story – gorgeous comic book. Highly recommended.
Girls #16 – Well, the big reveal in this issue is that one of the asshole characters actually acts sorta kinda sorta kinda, in a round about way rational at one point in the comic. Such behavior from a character in this book is quite notable, so let’s give Joshua and Jonathan Luna some credit for that. Mostly, though, characters continue to act unrealistically asshole-ish. The art of the Luna Brothers remains good, though. But yeah, except for a short interlude where three women face off against the women-killing titular creatures, these folks remain just terribly unlikeable characters to follow. Still not recommended.
Hunter/Killer #6 – I understand that he is the big name and all, and part of the sales appeal of Hunter/Killer IS his name, but really, Marc Silvestri’s art is not worth keeping this book so late, especially when it is a case like this one, where the next THREE issues were finished by Eric Basaldua while waiting for Silvestri to do this ONE. What makes that especially galling is that Eric Basaldua is one of the “hottest” artists Top Cow HAS, and yet they have not had a comic from him in QUITE some time, and why? Because he’s been drawing issues of Hunter/Killer that never show up because Silvestri can’t finish HIS issue. It’s just a big mess of a situation. In any event, the funny thing to me is that this issue is pretty good, and the worst thing about the issue is Silvestri’s art!! Silvestri has his strengths, and the events of this issue aren’t them. A super-powerful human is living as Sherriff in an idyllic town, but there’s something sinister going on,and the Sheriff goes to investigate. Except, I guess, for some of the gore, none of this plays to Silvestri’s strengths (which are mainly action and drawing “hot chicks”). Mark Waid has a pretty clever story here, though, as our protagonists screw up, and therefore are forced to keep a delicate charade going, or else all hell will break loose. It’s handled well, I thought. Except, of course, the last panel, with one of the most predictable “shock” endings I can recall off hand. It would have been MUCH more shocking if the last page DIDN’T happen, that’s how predictable it was. All in all, as poor as Silvestri’s art was, I think I will slightly recommend this issue. You’d be surprised at how interesting this issue was, even with Silvestri’s artwork.
Phonogram #1 – Click here for my review of it. This new comic, with art by Jamie McKelvie and story by Kieron Gillen, is filled with more than enough coolness to spice up a fairly standard plot. Recommended.
Retro Rocket #3 – Tony Bedard details a very interesting story in this issue, but I think artist Jason Orfalas lets him down a bit with the artwork. In the first two issues, Orfalas had a nice style of art, with a an almost “animation cel” look to it. He continues that style with this issue, except it looks almost deteriorated. In any event, the end result is unimpressive art. However, the story from Bedard is quite good. We learn more background of Retro (and it’s quite interesting stuff), and the whole lifestyle of being resistance fighters to a huge alien invasion. The alien he captures in the issue brings us quite a few intriguing discussions, and sets up the next (last?) issue quite nicely. All in all, while the art was worse, it wasn’t terrible, so with a strong story, I think I can safely recommend this comic.
Shadowhawk #14 – For the most part, I really enjoy Jim Valentino’s artwork. I think he has a nice, clean/crisp style. The only thing I took some issue with his art in this issue was somewhat of a surprise to me, as I do not recall this problem in any of his older art, and that is a slight problem with natural movements. When it’s superhero time? No problem. Flips, crouches, flying? All good. Two characters just talking to each other? Seems awkward. And the writing is quite awkward at times, as well, especially as Shadowhawk (who is a teen) meets a young ethically challenged teen girl, and they flirt. They quickly learn each other’s “codenames” and adopt them just as quickly, so we get dialogue like, “REBOUND! No!!!!!!” Fairly shlocky. The subplots are also pretty familiar (the character who blames the hero for the death of his brother so he wants powers to fight the hero), but well handled. All in all, it’s not a bad issue, but not that great either. I think I’ll give it a slight not recommended.
Civil War: X-Men #2 – It’s interesting, I really enjoyed a lot of Yanick Paquette’s design work in this issue, but quite often, the execution almost seemed rushed. Weird. In any event, this comic is basically The 198: Part Two, which is, well, actually quite annoying now that I think about it. You’re given a tie-in to Marvel’s biggest crossover, and you spend it following up your own mini-series? Seems kinda silly, especially as the new readers gained from Civil War won’t know WHAT the heck is going on with some of these characters. That being said, writer David Hine writes a very compelling scenario – which is that the mutants who were staying at the mansion for protection eventually figured it was too much like a prison, so they escaped (with help from Domino and Shatterstar). The original (surviving) X-Men go to help them before a team of mutants working FOR the government, led by Bishop, catch up with the escaped mutants. A problem with the 198 that is also a problem here, I think, is the motivations of these characters. Bishop, for instance, comes from a world where mutant-hunting Sentinels ruled North America – so he helps team up with…..mutant-hunting Sentinels?!? Huh?!! Just like how during the 198, Cyclops let the government INJECT MUTANTS WITH TRACKING DEVICES!!! How does this make sense?! Talk about outside writing – this is a huge example of it. “Why does Cyclops let them do that?” “Because.” “Why is Bishop working with them?” “Because.” That annoyed me, and ultimately, along with the continued plot advancement from ANOTHER mini-series, it was enough for me to not recommend this comic, although people who followed the 198 (like myself) will like this issue better.
Claws #1 – It’s strange, as I would think that Marvel would prefer to use Joseph Michael Linser on a bigger title, as he’s a pretty popular artist. Instead, they put him on this out-of-continuity (and if not specifically out of continuity, certainly not a book that is ever going to be referred to IN continuity) mini-series starring Wolverine and Black Cat. Weird. Still, at least the book is pretty fun, in an extremely slight way. Linser’s art works well, here, I thought. He gives the book a nice cartoon-y feel, which allows some of his T’n’A scenes with Black Cat come off as actually playful, rather than sad. Meanwhile, Gray and Palmiotti provide a fun, if extremely cliched plot – but the plot isn’t the key, it’s all the wacky moments on the way. In the end, I think the story is just tooo slight for me to recommend, so while it was fun, I’m gonna have to give it a slightly not recommended.
Ghost Rider #2 – My pal Cayman liked this issue a lot less than #1, but I found myself feeling the opposite. #1, I thought, seemed to feel like a bit of walking in place, while #2 at least had some forward movement with the plot. In this issue, Johnny Blaze is back on Earth, but he has accidentally brought the (a) devil with him along for the ride, so Johnny tries to do his best to stop the devil when he tries to do bad things. Along the way, Johnny meets a cute stranger who has a thing for dangerous men (and Johnny Blaze in particular). The art by Javier Saltares and Mark Texeira was quite strong, I thought. The scene facing off against the devil was interesting, and there was a good cliffhanger, with a nice hint that writer Daniel Way does have some sort of plan in mind (which seemed questionable at times in the first issue). I would slightly recommend this issue.
Iron Man #11 – There’s a scene in this issue where the evil mastermind is revealed, and GASP – it’s someone with ties to Iron Man’s radically revamped origin! Gasp!! Not HIM!! Warren Ellis JUST redid Iron Man’s origin, and now we’re redoing it AGAIN? This is beyond silly – and it would be slightly LESS silly if the changes were interesting or anything – but they’re not. They are weird and convoluted and not helping the story in the least bit. So that annoyed me greatly. Beyond that, though, writers Daniel and Charles Knauf have a pretty good story on their hands here. Iron Man is going around killing people, but Tony knows it isn’t him who’s doing it – or is he? We find out he’s being controlled, but by whom? There’s a cool fight with the Sentry in this issue, plus a nice cliffhanger ending. Patrick Zircher’s art is oddly loose – almost Scott Kolins-esque (which is pretty damn loose). All in all, the origin stuff was so cheesy and lame that the rest of the issue would have to be awesome for me to recommend it, and it was only “pretty good,” so I’m gonna say not recommended.
Marvel Adventurs: The Avengers #4 – This was a real treat. All of the villains we met in the first three issues come together in this issue to form a Masters of Evil and capture the Avengers. Once captured, the Avengers pretty much have to formulate a plan out of thin air, with NOTHING at their disposal except their wits. Luckily, they’re the good guys, so their plan works, but how it works is quite fun. Writer Jeff Parker is clearly having a lot of fun with this title, and this issue is one of the funnest yet. The interaction between the Leader, Ultron and Baron Zemo is priceless. A real comedy tour de force, while at the same time, never being SO outlandish that the story can’t work for younger readers as a straight action comic. Manuel Garcia does a good job on the artwork, but really, Parker’s script is key here. A much funner reading experience than the “real” Avengers. Highly recommended.
Mighty Marvel Western: Strange Westerns starrring the Black Rider #1 – These Marvel Western books have been a lot of fun (well, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Two-Gun Kid one, but otherwise), and this issue was no exception. Writer Steve Englehart, along with artist Marshall Rogers (hmm…I seem to recall them doing some work together in the past…nah, couldn’t be), writes a really interesting piece about a western outlaw (the Black Rider) who comes to late 19th Century New York City. What a cool idea, eh? New York City is clearly not the New York we know, but at the same time, it is a big departure for a guy from the West. Rogers’ art is strong, but Englehart’s story is the key. The way he works in the Black Rider’s origin was handled quite well, but the characterizations of the cast were just sparkling. And the guest-appearance by another classic Marvel character was a real hoot. The back-up story by Joe Lansdale and Rafa Garres was fun, if slight. The backups were interesting as well. Definitely recommended!
Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #7 – Man, this book rocks. Stuart Immonen’s art is excellent, but, for this issue in particular, writer Warren Ellis mixed humor and drama quite well. We had the early scenes with the group, as they all just engaged in humorous small talk (including the “I was Captain ____, Captain ____, etc.” take from The Captain that I really thought we’d see in issue, like #2 – not this late in the game!). However, while humorous, I think the talks also help illuminate their characterizations, and flesh them all out a bit. Later, though, when the group is in battle – Ellis changes gears and plays it serious, and it really works. Including the awesome “slow walk” two-page spread. MAN, do I love “slow walk” two-page spreads (and, as a Monica Rambeau fan, I love how awesome she is in the battle, and all the respect given to her – good stuff). Also, at the end, when the Mindless Ones are riding the skateboards, is that some sort of commentary on our culture? That we, as a culture, are mostly “mindless ones”? Because if so – WHAT A COOL IDEA! I definitely recommend this comic book.
Runaways #19 – During the last storyline, writer Brian K. Vaughan had this bit where Molly admits to “pretending to be dumb” or something like that. That seemed lame to me, as there was nothing really all that odd about Molly’s characterization, I didn’t think. Anyhow, I was worried she’d be much different in this issue, but she wasn’t – which was super cool, because I think Molly is a great character the way she is (I mean, I’m fine with her growing up and gradually maturing – but no “Yeah, that personality? All an act” stuff). Meanwhile, the rest of the issue, showing the characters dealing with Gerty’s death last issue, is handled extremely well. All the character’s reactions seem geniune, yet interesting, which is a nice trick to pull off. I enjoy Mike Norton’s art a lot, so I was pleased to see him as the fill-in artist. All in all, certainly worth a recommendation – nice art, good dialogue, and a whole lot of heart – well worth your time.
Sensational Spider-Man #29 - My problem with this issue comes down to this – Mark Raxton, the Molten Man, is threatened into agreeing to kill/hurt Spider-Man now that the bad guys know who Spider-Man is. The threat? That the bad guys will hurt a kid he’s been mentoring. Okay, so later in the issue, Mark (as presumably part of the plan) threatens his step-sister, Liz Allen. How does that make any sense?!?! Besides that huge logical leap, this issue was pretty fun. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is clearly having fun with the stories made available due to the reveal, and it shows. Granted, these are all stories that won’t be interesting/available in a couple of months, but hey, who thinks past a few months, right? Angel Medina’s art is a LOT more restrained than in his earlier issues, to the point where this is a fairly enjoyable issue. But not, I don’t think, enjoyable enough to recommend. Way too slight – way too reminscent of early 90s Spider-Man comics. Not recommended (but NOT a bad comic, really!).
Thunderbolts #105 – This issue ties into the Civil War. So, with all these new readers, what does writer Fabian Nicieza do? He spends most of the issue rehashing the events from Avengers/Thunderbolts – a mini-series that came out over two years ago, where Baron Zemo and Captain America were at a crux – could Captain America trust Baron Zemo? Could a Zemo ever really change his stripes? It’s an interesting story idea, just not one that I think made sense in a Civil War tie-in, where the “tie-ins” were minimal, at best. Although I did like Radioactive Man’s line about how the heroes should really be questioning themselves when they realize that they’re hunting down Captain America, for crying out loud! Solid art from Tom Grummett, but really, this issue was all about Zemo and Cap. I think it was interesting, but I’m the type of guy who knows all about these characters and their past histories, so it’s right in my wheelhouse. I don’t think others would find it as interesting, so I’m going to slightly not recommend it (and if you’re looking for a Civil War tie-in, I definitely don’t recommend it!).
Ultimate Fantastic Four #32 – When Mark Millar decides to cut loose, he sure can cut loose. And that’s what he does in this issue, where the relationship between Doctor Doom and Mr. Fantastic is highlit beautifully as Reed (trapped in Doom’s body after Doom forced a switch in return for saving Johnny Storm’s life) comes to New York to save the world. The action comes quickly, and it is interesting, high concept stuff. But the highlight of the issue is how Doom and Reed are constantly struggling with each other, even when the other isn’t in the room. It is quite well done by Millar, I thought. Especially Doom’s “sacrifice.” And the ending was the kind of optimistic, fun work you just don’t see from Millar that often. I really liked it. So much so that I didn’t even mind Land’s weird artwork. Definitely recommened.
Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #2 – Mike Carey has a very strong Annual, I think, with a mixture of Stuart Immonen telling a story of the Fantastic Four travelling to the Mole Man’s underground hideaway to save a group of young geniuses (former peers of the FF before they became their own team and sent to live in their own building) that the Mole Man has kidnapped to become the new founders of an underground civilization and Frazer Irving telling the Mole Man’s origin (and the ending, which was weird – how he went from doing JUST flashbacks to suddenly drawing some of the scenes you’d think Immonen would draw). Carey’s script is tight and funny, while Immonen and Irving (especially Irving) do a breathtaking job with the artwork. The new geniuses we meet are interesting sorts, especially their weird “leader.” The Fantastic Four’s adventures with Mole Man’s monsters were fun enough, but the key to the issue is Mole Man’s diaries. They are hilariously awesome. A job well done by Mike Carey. I would definitely recommend this issue.
Family Guy #2 – Matt Fleckenstein does a good job of mixing two stories, one, a fully realized “comic episode” of the show and the second, a framing sequence built around the conceit of Peter Griffen teaching people how to be good parents. However, the “episode” feature of the issue, dealing with illegal immigration, just seems like a watered down episode of the TV show – almost like a rejected one. Fleckenstein gets a lot of credit for making the comic FEEL like an episode of the TV show (which IS a hard trick to pull off, as seen in plenty of non-Ian Boothby Simpsons comics), it just doesn’t seem like that good of an episode. The framing sequence is better, especially as the set-up allows for Fleckenstein to just do random jokes every page, and whether they hit or miss, it is only one page and they move on to a new joke the next page. The artwork is done by about 13,539 artists (17, actually, but still – SEVENTEEN?!?! Damn!), so I can’t really point anything out about their work, except it SEEMS like the TV show artwork. All in all, for a good framing sequence and a weak main story, I don’t think I can recommend a seven dollar comic for that. So not recommended, but diehard Family Guy fans would definitely like this.
G.I. Joe: America’s Elite #14 – This issue is drawn by Runes of Ragnon artist Josh Medors, and I think it’s only a matter of time before we see Medors drawing some big name comic books. He has a really appealing mainstream style (doesn’t mean he is awesome or anything, just that he has a real mainstream appeal). In any event, while I think this series got off to a slow start, as of late, Joe Casey has been writing a real fun action comic with this title, on par with Larry Hama’s 80s run on G.I. Joe. There is a lot of action and interesting characters, while plenty of intriguing subplots mixed together. The only thing I have a complaint about is the whole “replace the President’s Cabinet with disguised bad guys” plot. Has there been a reason yet why not just replace the President, as well? I get that it is easier to replace the Chief of Staff than the President, but come on, once the Cabinet was replaced, it was just kinda silly to me to NOT replace the President, as well. Ah well, this issue was still a lot of fun, as the bad guys in the government have introduced the Phoenix Squad, a team that is supposed to replace the G.I. Joe squad in the anti-terrorism budget. The Guard think they’re good guys, but where will they stand when they are sent after the G.I. Joe squad? Casey has made it so we actually care about the answer. Recommended.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch #78 – I think, recently, writer Tania Del Rio had hit a bit of a wall with her excellent run as writer/artist on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The stories seem to have been treading water a bit the last few months. One of the strong aspects of Del Rio’s run was her willingness to actually have stuff HAPPEN. I was impressed by that. The last few months? Not so much has happened. This issue, though, was quite strong, and brought the book back to the “advancing the story” area, including an excellent use of plot framing, by using a really good writing trick. What Del Rio did here was establish a clear future plot point – next year, for when something will happen. By doing so, she clearly gives the impression of the book moving forward, but it gives her 11 future issues where she doesn’t have to worry so much about moving the plot along, because she has already told us that next year will be the big plot movement issue. Clever work. Anyhow, this issue was fun, especially with the way that Del Rio uses a lot of what I like most about her run – her willingness to have bad things happen and for people to act poorly. It is nice to see a kid-friendly comic that is open to the entire spectrum of human emotion, not just bland “feel good all the time” storytelling. Del Rio’s art looked a bit different this issue – I wonder if she’s trying out a new style. In any event, I would recommend this issue.
Simpsons Comics #121 – This was a fun idea that I think ended up meandering a bit too much. I think a more focused approach would have made this one a lot more enjoyable. Still, writer Ian Boothby has a fun basic idea, which is that Springfield does away with Daylight Savings Time, but a loophole in the law allows citizens to make up their own time, which has disasterous effects (like Flanders constantly resetting his clock so that mass does not end, or Jimbo moving his watch up a few years so he can legally buy beer.) As you can tell from the joke descriptions, some of the gags are a bit too out there. Phil Ortiz’s art is solid. The opening bit of the issue is really good, though, with some quite funny jokes with Mr. Burns and Smithers. The total package, though, is just too unfocused for me to really recommend it. Not recommended (but there was plenty of funny stuff in the issue).
The Transformers: Evolutions #2 Hearts of Steel – That’s how this book is listed in the indica, by the way. Who has the issue number BEFORE part of the title? How odd. Anyhoo, this is an interesting “high concept” idea from IDW, which is, what if the Transformers landed on Earth in the mid-19th century rather than the late 20th century? What machines would they become? Writer Chuck Dixon works in famous American characters, like John Henry and Mark Twain, but ultimately, this is about as slight of a story as they come. The artwork by Guido Guidi is strong (especially on the robots – a bit less so on the humans), but ultimately, there just isnt’ a whole lot here. Not recommended.
Well, that’s it! Sorry it took so long to post!
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