Thursday, July 24, 2008

Final Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 07/23/08

I managed to type up most of these reviews while I was supposed to be doing real work. I guess this is more constructive than the people that play solitaire all day.

I'll be posting my thoughts and review of the Dark Knight movie later this evening, so make sure to check back for that. Hit the jump and be sure to enjoy the reviews!



AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #15
Written by Dan Slott & Christos Gage
Art by Harvey Tolibao

Avengers: The Initiative #15 was surprisingly disjoint and read like they just mashed a couple of different stories together and slapped the Initiative logo on it.

We pick up on 3D Man from last issue, but that quickly shifts to Crusader after 3D Man, who's Skrull detecting goggles polarity was reversed by Crusader's Freedom Ring (the goggles, they do nothing!), flees Camp Hammond and ends up crashing due to the Starknet Skrull computer virus from Secret Invasion #1.

The goggles, they do nothing!  
Once the focus shifts to Crusader, we are given his origin from the Marvel Team-Up book which Robert Kirkman first introduced him in several years back. It's an interesting read, especially since maybe 3 or 4 people probably read the Marvel Team-Up issue he first appeared in.

However, just as we're settling into the Crusader storyline, we get another drastic shift to the Initiative's trip to New York that basically repeats what we already saw in Secret Invasion.

Finally, the art is yet another fill-in for Caselli. I love Caselli's style and the book wouldn't be the same without him, but they need to find a replacement for him that can handle the monthly chores while Caselli handles the occasional 2 or 3 issue arc. The other option is to get better fill-ins that can actually match Caselli's style.

Verdict - Check It.
I liked it, but the story doesn't flow very well and there's some repetition from stories we've already seen.


DAREDEVIL #109
Written by Greg Rucka & Ed Brubaker
Art by Michael Lark

I don't really get that cover. What does South America have to do with this story and why does Daredevil have a machinegun?

If these two creators were a Reese peanut butter cup, Rucka would be the chocolaty coating preventing Brubaker's peanut buttery goodness from overpowering our tastebuds.  
Cover image aside, Marvel needs to duct tape Rucka and Brubaker together and force them to keep writing Daredevil together. While Brubaker has had some high moments on his run, it's been fairly inconsistent. It's had more ups than downs, but the lows seemed to be coming more and more often the longer he was on the book. Rucka seems to be reigning in Brubaker and keep him on track. If these two creators were a Reese peanut butter cup, Rucka would be the chocolaty coating preventing Brubaker's peanut buttery goodness from overpowering our tastebuds. Mmm... Reese peanut butter cups.

With only one issue remaining on their Cruel & Intentional storyarc, Brubaker and Rucka hammer out most of the details about the murder mystery and why Big Ben Donovan is intentional taking the fall for it.

We don't have all of the details, but it appears Big Ben Donovan has been putting almost all of his money into his son's trust fund account ever since he and his wife separated and the reason he is taking the fall has something to do with the money he's put away for his son.

There's also the FBI, who've already attacked Dakota in an attempt to get her to drop this case, and Dakota's father, who has ties to the CIA, also warning her off of this case, claiming that it has to do with national security and threats against the country. We also see the FBI spying on Matt and his colleagues and reporting in that they are not giving up on the case and telling them to expect trouble.

This leads to Matt finding information on Eric Slaughter, an old crime boss that has set up a supposedly legit operation on the docks, while looking for information on past connections to the murders. Following his lead, he confronts Slaughter, who he confirms is lying about not knowing anything about Donovan, but it's too late for Daredevil as a helicopter with snipers, most likely FBI related, has him in their scopes as Slaughter laughs on.

Finally, the issue ends with Brubaker maiming another female supporting member, Dakota, who he's already had beaten and is still sporting the nasty bruise from that confrontation, with her being sniped in the shoulder while walking down town. With what he's done to Milla, Sharon Carter and, now, Dakota over the past year, I'm starting to see where some of the detractors of Brubaker's work are coming from with the misogynist complaints...

Verdict - Must Read. Rucka and Brubaker are in their element with this crime noir style murder mystery story and I'm loving every minute of it. Daredevil hasn't been this good since Devil in Cell Block D.


IMMORTAL IRON FIST #17
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Travel Foreman

I have an apology to make to Mr Swierczynski. I've done nothing but criticize him and his appointment as the new Iron Fist writer since it was announced. It was partly due to how poorly the new Cable series he was writing was doing and partly due to my being upset over Fraction, Brubaker and Aja all leaving Iron Fist at once.

This was an unfair stance on my part and Swierczynski proved me wrong with his debut issue on Iron Fist this week. He did an excellent job following up on one of the most critically acclaimed runs in recent memories and he deserves credit where credit is due for his attempt at filling those shoes.

However, as much as I found myself liking his first issue, despite my numerous misgivings coming into the issue, there were still some problems. Chiefly among those was the fact Swierczynski doesn't really do anything new here. Just about every single plot detail sprung out of what Fraction setup last month, right down to the crux of the issue and how Iron Fists have failed to live past the age of 33.

While he's doing a great job with what he's inherited, based on the weak flashback version of Iron Fist he created for this issue, I'm still not sold on whether or not he'll be able to stand on his own without Brubaker and Fraction's subplots holding up his stories.  
While he's doing a great job with what he's inherited, based on the weak flashback version of Iron Fist he created for this issue, I'm still not sold on whether or not he'll be able to stand on his own without Brubaker and Fraction's subplots holding up his stories.

Regarding the new artist, Travel Foreman, this was not the best work I've seen from him, but I enjoyed it more than other people seemed to. The final battle with Iron Fist and the mysterious Iron Fist killer from Ch'i-Lin, which I assume is the mysterious 8th Capital City setup at the end of the 7 Capital Cities storyline, was excellent, if a little muddied (maybe the inker?). Loved the giant dragon Iron Fist attack Danny pulled out, too.

Verdict - Check It. It's similar to Gage taking over for Ellis on this week's Thunderbolts. Swierczynski had huge shoes to fill and he did an admirable job, but there are some problems, which may or may not iron themselves out, that prevent this issue from reaching the heights that the previous creators took the book to.


INVINCIBLE #51
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Ryan Ottely

That big "Fifty 1st Issue" blurb just screams jumping on point for people without outright relaunching as a new number one. The problem with this is that this is about as accessible for new readers as a Claremont comic. There is no recap or explanation of past events or anything remotely new reader friendly here, which is a shame after the exceptional bit of marketing used on the cover.

Just because it wasn't accessible doesn't mean this issue wasn't good. Oh no, far from it. This was an excellent new direction for the title. I only bring up the new reader aspect because of how prominent the "1st Issue" on the title is. If you were looking to try out Invincible, I'd go grab the first couple of trades and work your way up to this one. You won't regret it.

So, what was so inaccessible for new readers in this issue? Well, we have a lot of relationships expanded upon, such as Mark and Eve's and even Eve and her ex, Rex-Splode's, who are back on friendly terms after their break-up. Even Invincible's mom gets in on the action.

Once we get into Mark's little brother, Oliver, and his being purple and super fast growing and all that, things start getting more and more complicated for new readers, but a logical progression for long time fans. I'm probably harping on this a lot more than I should be, but Kirkman brought this on himself with the way this cover is and how the issue is being marketed.

The original Invincible costume is one of the few unique and iconic costumes created since the Silver Age and it's a shame to see it retired after only 50 issues.  
Speaking of Oliver, he becomes Invincible's new sidekick, as the cover clearly shows, and takes on the name, Kid-Omni Man, a homage to their father. I loved the conversation between Mark and Oliver while discussing possible names and Mark finally breaking the news that their father did some pretty horrible things while on Earth was great.

I already discussed my thoughts about the new Invincible costume in the previews this week, but I already miss the classic yellow, blue and black. The original Invincible costume is one of the few unique and iconic costumes created since the Silver Age and it's a shame to see it retired after only 50 issues. Hopefully this black and blue version is only temporary and we'll see the original costume back in the near future.

Verdict - Must Read. Despite my misgivings on the marketing aspect of the book, Invincible still remains one of the best super hero comics on the market and consistently a Must Read title. I hope this quick follow up from issue 50 is a sign we'll be seeing this book return to its monthly scheduling again.


LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #44
Written by Jim Shooter
Art by Francis Manapul and Livesay

By all rights, I should really dislike how this issue turned out. All the conflicts Shooter had setup over the last few issues, such as Ultra Boy and Saturn Girl's team being pinned down and underseige by the Science Police, the UP's arresting of the Legion and the team's failed rescue of the replacement Legion team, just conveniently get wrapped up in very deus ex ways.

For instance, the mystery man that designed new costumes for the team and who has been hiding in the shadows for the past half a dozen issues turns out to be one of the rejected new members and appears to be near Brainiac-level intelligent and comes up with some random laws to help get the team off the hook from the UP.

This withdrawal by the UP also leads to Saturn Girl's team, who were being assaulted on all sides by the Science Police, being saved as their pursuers retreat and let them go.

Even with all of these contrived conclusions, I still found myself enjoying this issue and I'm not sure why. Even the art was sub-standard for this title and I can't find it in me to hate this comic.  
Finally, over with the captured Legion members, Invisible Kid shows up, defeats the alien leader and frees everyone. How did they get captured in the first place if they were able to defeat these guys so easily now?

However, even with all of these contrived conclusions, I still found myself enjoying this issue and I'm not sure why. Even the art was sub-standard for this title and I can't find it in me to hate this comic. I think many of these problems may have stemmed from the rumoured departure of Shooter and he may have been wrapping up his plots quicker than intended because of it.

Verdict - Check It. While all of the Legion's problems just magically disappear or get solved in this issue, I still found myself liking it for the characters. It's no Must Read, but it's far from an Avoid It, too.


NEW AVENGERS #43
Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Billy Tan

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this issue. It was still just another "filler" issue that goes into great detail to explain things that don't really need explaining, much like every Secret Invasion tie-in has done, but I really liked what Bendis did with the Captain America Skrull and his "origin" story.

I didn't particularly like how this issue began, though. Skrull Captain America starts attacking all of the Savage Land inhabitants and we get the typical, "maybe he really is Cap", speech based on how he's fighting.

This was all pretty much pointless, though, as Cap gets hit with two poison darts and starts foaming at the mouth before outright dying. I really don't see how this worked because one hit him in his chainmail costume and the other hit him right in the orbital bone, which should have just bounced off or barely did anything to him. Cap can metabolize any poison, too, making this a rather easy way to tell if he's the real Cap or not. Add in the fact he dies almost instantly from the dart and Spider-Man just lets them "test" the poison on him to see if he turns green or not and we're stretching the limits of my disbelief.

We've seen the naked rag on face ceremony a few times already, but, this time around, Bendis let's us in on how these Skrulls obtain the memories of their hosts, which makes this issue less of a filler than every other tie-in Bendis has done so far.  
However, this opening fight scene only served as a setup for the flashback to how this Skrull Captain America and all the other 70's heroes were created and ended up in the Savage Land. We've seen the naked rag on face ceremony a few times already, but, this time around, Bendis let's us in on how these Skrulls obtain the memories of their hosts, which makes this issue less of a filler than every other tie-in Bendis has done so far.

Apparently, they are using the brain scans of the Illuminati to obtain the memories and experiences of each hero and then use those, combined with their own data, to implant the new identites on each Skrull. The Priestess of the Mind is used at this point and helps to alter the memories to explain where the fakes have been. In this case, they use an old Skrull story with the Avengers and Fantastic Four and have it so that the Avengers didn't escape this battle and that is where all the 70's heroes on the ship in Secret Invasion came from and what their backstory was.

It was also interesting to see this Captain America Skrull having difficulty adjusting to his new state. This wasn't a cliched, "Cap's too pure and his memories turned the Skrull good", deal like with Captain Marvel's conflicted state. No, he just couldn't accept the fact he was a human and "pink" now and it was neat to see that the process wasn't perfect for everyone.

Verdict - Check It. There's still the fact this is a rather pointless story that didn't need to be told, but it was much more enjoyable than many of the other Secret Invasion tie-ins and I don't regret the purchase.


ROBIN #175
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Chris Batista and Cam Smith

People looking for a Batman RIP tie-in will be much happier with this issue of Robin compared to the previous Detective Comics non-tie-in.

I was a little surprised to see Fabian Nicieza was writing this issue because it was originally solicited as a Chuck Dixon story and was still listed as such on DC's website (which is never updated) as such. That's not a bad thing as Fabian does a fantastic job here and I could barely tell it was a new writer, but I thought Dixon's solicited issues were still going to be coming out despite his firing.

As I said, Fabian did a great job here, but it's still very much a setup issue. We don't get any major RIP revelations or even see anything major in regards to that.

What we do get, though, is a lot of 52 flashbacks to Nanda Parbat interspaced between Spoiler and Robin filling in people on what Batman RIP is about and how Tim is looking for the now insane and missing Batman.

The 52 flashbacks didn't reveal anything important, to my knowledge, but were still interesting reads and hardly filler. They do a nice job of fleshing out that aspect of Morrison's story, something Morrison, himself, seems to take for granted that readers know all about and remember.

Who else, but insane people, would dress up in ridiculous costumes and fight crime?  
The best part of the issue had to be the Spoiler and Robin scenes and I'm not saying this because I'm a Spoiler fan. There's a scene in here where Robin, acting serious and genuinely concerned, tells Spoiler that he thinks Batman has gone crazy. Spoiler just looks at Robin and bursts out laughing at the absurdity of what Tim just said. Of course they're all crazy she tells him. Who else, but insane people, would dress up in ridiculous costumes and fight crime?

Another highlight of the issue was Robin telling Spoiler that if it comes down to it that Batman has really gone insane, he'll take down Batman himself.

Verdict - Must Read. While there's no direct connection to Batman RIP, this issue is a perfect example of how tie-ins should be handled. It's clear it's related to RIP, but it doesn't intrude on the current Robin storylines and subplots.


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11 comments:

Andrenn said...

In regards to Invincible's new costume, I enjoy the color variation. It's nice when a character gets an update, as Spider-man did in the 80's. But like most character costume updates, I'm certain this will only last a while until Invincible gets back in his old costume. Though solicits for the next several issues seem to keep him in the new costume.

Robin #175 had me interested, as though I've dropped the main RIP storyline, I wouldn't mind reading a tie-in. I think Tim Drake is the best Robin since Grayson himself.

I just want to say this about NA #43...I really don't like Billy Tan's art, he worked much better on the X-books.

Brother129 said...

One question New Avengers raises....so is Mockingbird the real deal or what? Were real heroes mixed up with the fake ones or not??

blaker said...

i'd assumed from the cover and the story inside that slaughter was using the shipping yard operation he was running to slip guns and (based on the pill at the bottom of the cover) tylenol p.m. into the country.

it was a really awesome issue though, and it makes me want to dig out my whole run of daredevil and read it again though, and i've definatley got to go back and reread the firs story arc of new avengers b/c outside of knowing that they went to the savage land in the second issue, i don't recall a single thing about those issues.

on a side note, did you pick up superman 678? It was, surprisingly, much much better than 677. It's still not great by any means, but it's defintley falling into the getting better column.

the only real problem with the issue that i had was robinson told atlas's origin this issue, and the art for the origin was rendered in that was that's supposed to make it look like the old 4 color dot style of comics. which was a pretty cool and novel idea at first, but it's starting to become cliched now.

themaimedman said...

I was as suprised as you were that Iron Fist didn't outright suck, hopefully Mr Swierczynski is actually on a roll and not just getting good vibes from the Fraction/Brubaker run. (I mean Cable is REALLY bad)

Steven R. Stahl said...

According to the text page of MIGHTY AVENGERS #16 (IIRC), the ship contained Skrulls, no humans. Considering that it would be impossible for the Mockingbitd on the ship to be the real one anyway--it's not plausible now for any of the heroes on the ship to be human.

There are multiple contradictions and inconsistencies between the handling of the heroes in NA #43 and the handling of the spotlighted individuals in SI, from Black Bolt through Elektra (see comment #1 at http://marvelnoise.com/2008/07/review-new-avengers-43.html )

The whole Savage Land segment of SI seems to have been conceived to generate interest and speculation among fans, who would wonder, "Gee, would they really retcon the lives of multiple heroes?" The actual usefulness of the returnees to the Skrull invaders is secondary, if it's significant at all.

SRS

patrick said...

Superman was leaps and bounds better compared to last issue..also Two Face: Year One was a huge surprise for me and was much better than i assumed it would be, definitely give it a flip through Kirk

Christine said...

"I really don't see how this worked because one hit him in his chainmail costume and the other hit him right in the orbital bone, which should have just bounced off or barely did anything to him. Cap can metabolize any poison, too, making this a rather easy way to tell if he's the real Cap or not. Add in the fact he dies almost instantly from the dart and Spider-Man just lets them "test" the poison on him to see if he turns green or not and we're stretching the limits of my disbelief."

Sorry for actually quoting the whole thing, but as someone who takes a lot of heat for often pointing out that even comics should probably make sense more often than not, I just love that whole passage to bits.

Generally, I thought NA #43 was a pretty good issue, and I think it was the reviewer on Comics Bulletin who pointed out that Bendis seems to enjoy writing the Skrull side more than the human side. There may be something to that. On the other hand, Mighty Avengers #16 read like an entire drawn-out WTF to me and that was heavy on the Skrull perspective as well.

For anyone who wants to find out the fate of Dakota North in Daredevil #109, Bru has spilled the beans over HERE.

I always enjoy reading your reviews, Kirk. Solid job, as always! :)

Kirk Warren said...

@andrenn - I didn't mind Tan's art here. It was inconsistent, but when it was good, it was top notch (the Cap scenes seemed to be the ones he spent the most time on).


@brother129 - I think they implied everyone on the ship was a fake, but it's left open. Considering Bendis just ignored that entire plot point int he last issue of SI and we didnt even see Mockingbird or Hawkeye makes me think it's just a cheap "lool, who's a skrull" BS.


@blaker - Slaughter is connected to the FBI and government people. I'm guessing he's probably doing smuggling or illegal arms shipments of some kind for them to have free reign of the docks inthat area, but I'm sure we'll find out next month when the story concludes.


@themaimedman - Agreed on Cable and my outright surprise at how well Iron Fist ended up this month. It's not as good as Frubaker's (thank Comics Should Be Good guys for my use of this synonym for Brubaker and Fraction) was, but it's different enough and still good enough for me to keep picking up.


@steven r stahl - Agreed on the use of the 70's Skrulls. It's become abundantly clear that the only point of their existence is for the pointless action sequences and for the "who's a Skrull" and "Marvel's not really going to retcon this stuff are they?" factor.


@patrick - I took a look at the Two-Face Year One and it looked good, but there didn't seem to be too much new information there.

If you've read Long Halloween or other Two-Face origin / year one stuff, it looked more like a movie cash-in than a story that needed to be told, regardles sof whether it ended up good or not (note: this is based on only mildly flipping through / half reading it).

As for Superman, I, too, flipped through it and I liked the Kirby homage to Atlas' origin, but that's about all there was to the issue that I could see.

Why is the government actively trying to kill Superman? I can see maybe some insurance plans in case he goes rogue, but outrigh tsending Atlas to kill him? And why isn't Superman trying to talk to Atlas? He just starts punching him like a thug.


@christine - I don't mind the quotes. Makes it easier to see what you are referring to. Wish the commenting system at Blogger had some more phpbb-like or other commenting system features for easy bolding, quoting, etc.

Thanks for the Brubaker link. I didn't even read that panel based on the headline. Didn't know they talked so much about Bru's other books. I didn't think Dakota was dead, but good to see confirmation she'll be playing a bigger role in the future.

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