Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 07/02/08 - Updated

Slow week this time around, but I was quite surprised to find The Walking Dead #50 waiting for me at the shop. Hadn't even heard it was coming out this week and Diamond didn't have it on the list when I made up the previews earlier in the week. I'll probably update later tonight with one or two more reviews, but this initial wave should be a good start for everyone.

UPDATE - Added Manhunter #32 review.



ASTONISHING X-MEN #25
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Simone Bianchi

See that big #25 on the cover of this issue? That's meaningless. The entire issue pretty much ignores everything Whedon did with the exception of the introduction of Armor. There is no follow up to what just happened in Giant-Size Astonishing, there is no explanation as to why they are in San Francisco all of a sudden (assuming you haven't been reading anything except Astonishing), the characters sound completely different and the shift in focus of the book is drastic and comes out of nowhere when taken simply as "the next issue" of Astonishing X-Men. They really should have just restarted it with a new number one and / or title to differentiate Warren Ellis' run.

So, as someone who has dropped Uncanny X-Men and X-Men: Legacy and just about every other X-title post-Messiah Complex, it's kind of annoying to see the series shift so drastically and without any build up from the Whedon / Cassaday run, which just ended a month or so back.

Yes, I know they are moving to San Francisco and why they are moving there (or at least the general jist of it), but it doesn't mean we should start midstride with the team fully set up in a new base on the other side of the country with no explanation other than some offhand remark. The least they could have done was wait until Uncanny X-Men #500 came out so they could at least have had the new base and setting established properly.

So, ignoring all of that, how is the Ellis / Bianchi debut? Let's just say it's overly wordy, lacks the typical Ellis charm and doesn't know if it is trying to be an episode of Sienfeld or Star Trek.

On one hand, the team just talks about nothing, literally, for pages on end, whether it's Wolverine's sleeping habits or Armor's terrible name or just shooting the shit about whatever. On the other, Ellis jumps into some kind of murder mystery with a new breed of mutant involving a third chromosome (humans and mutants have two normally) and a trip around the world to some alien ship graveyard in Singapore to track the supposed killer.

It wasn't a bad issue, but it wasn't a good Astonishing X-Men issue or even a worthy follow up to Whedon and Cassaday's run. It was about as slow a burn as you can get and there wasn't a single memorable moment in the entire issue.

In regards to Bianchi's art, it was the same scratchy, over inked and muddied art that he had during his Wolverine arc with Jeph Loeb. If you're a fan of his style, it will be right up your alley, but I found it to be far too dark and expressionless compared to Cassaday's and it doesn't seem to fit the style or tone that Ellis is going for.

Verdict - Check It. I'm tempted to say Avoid It as nothing happens here. You could pick it up next issue and probably follow along with ease. I may be judging this too harshly. However, given the pedigree of this title and the quality of the new creative team, I expected far more than what was offered in this debut issue.


BATMAN #678
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea

Words cannot describe just how retarded this issue was. I consider myself a fairly well read individual and I can typically follow just about any comic or paperback story with relative ease.

That said, this...thing...didn't make a lick of sense. I think Dr Hurt pumped Batman full of drugs and dumped him in an alley in between what happened last issue and the start of this one. From there, Bruce walked around town with some imaginary friend, bought some drugs and then stitched up a new costume in an alley that looks like the Zur-En-Aarh Batman costume from the old Silver Age story that no one gave a crap about when it was originally published and no one outside of Grant Morrison has probably read since then. Oh, and Bat-Mite shows up at the end as Zur-En-Aarh Batman's sidekick.

We also saw the League of Villains hunting down Robin and Nightwing and find out Alfred was just beaten and tied up, not killed at the end of the last issue. Nightwing ended up getting taken out off panel, taken to Arkham or some other mental institute, pumped full of drugs and stuck in a padded cell while Robin was on the run from his pursuers.

Verdict - Avoid It. Seriously, this makes no sense, relies on Silver Age stories that have no place in current continuity with as little effort as Morrison has put into fleshing them out and does nothing to further the RIP storyline. At this point, I can't see how any amount of drugs or future issues could possibly make this story make any sense and it will most likely be retconned or forgotten the minute it ends.


MANHUNTER #32
Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Michael Gaydos

As hard as it is to believe, this issue blows last month's excellent issue out of the water. I'm going to chalk that up to the fact that the last issue served as a primer and quick introduction to Manhunter and her supporting cast and, with that out of the way, Andreyko was able to just go all out this issue and deliver one hell of a great story.

I think the thing I liked most about this issue is that it felt like I was reading a double sized issue. No, this wasn't a wall of text or anything ridiculous like that. It just felt like every page was jam packed with story and the pacing and build up was perfect.

Whether it was the brief "fight" with Blue Beetle, the chat with La Dama, the disagreement with Bones or the numerous other plot developments, it just felt like I was reading a trade compared to the decompression filled stories other books have been offering up as of late.

It's hard to even pick a favourite scene in this issue, but I'm going to have to go with the perfect depiction (outside of the non-scarab speak) of Blue Beetle and Kate Spencer's interaction with young Jaime. The Darkstar tech in Manhunter's costume and the Blue Beetle's scarab taking offense to it was a nice touch. Even the follow up scene with La Dama was spot on and I loved how Kate jumps at the offer for a drink of the expensive scotch. It was just something you never see any other "hero" doing and was perfectly in line with Kate's character.

The Joker subplot is still going this issue and I'm starting to have doubts that it's actually the Joker involved. It seems too methodical and un-Joker-like to set up Dylon like this issue did and I'm thinking this might be something more than what we're being lead to believe.

The chat with Bones was another highlight for me. He and Kate have great chemistry together and I love the way their chat plays out back and forth and it looks like we'll be seeing Amanda Waller, of Checkmate and Suicide Squad fame, showing up soon based on references made at the end of their conversation.

Verdict - Must Read. It's a real treat to pick up and read a book as good as Manhunter. I can't stress how highly I recommend this title. Do yourself a favour and pick up these first two issues of the return of this book.


THE WALKING DEAD #50
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard

It was a pleasant surprise I found The Walking Dead waiting for me at the shop today as Diamond didn't have it listed in its tentative release list for this week and I didn't even hear anything about it coming out until I got to the shop.

It's hard to believe a "zombie book" made it through fifty issues, especially when you consider it's entirely in black and white. That's just a testament to how good this title is and I look forward to, hopefully, another fifty or more issues of this series.

This issue continued to follow Rick and his son, Carl, in the aftermath of the Woodbury attack on the prison and the subsequent deaths of well over half the supporting cast in this book. In fact, we haven't seen any other possible survivors, aside from Rick and Carl, since then.

As far as Walking Dead issues go, this was another breather issue as we deal with Rick being shot and Carl looking after him. Kirkman does an incredible job showing us the effect this zombie infested world has had on young Carl and the lengths he must go to cope with the loss of his mother, baby sister, everyone and thing he knows and the fact his father is sick and possibly dying right in front of him.

Add a couple of zombies to the mix and it looked like the young boy was at his breaking point, especially when his father starts moaning and he's ready to shoot his father when he believes he has turned into a zombie.

Verdict - Must Read. It's a true character piece and one of the best looks at how people, especially children, are dealing with this world gone mad in this series and a nice change of pace from the action oriented No One is Safe arc.


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20 comments:

Eric said...

I am glad I decided to skip Ellis's AXM. About the numbering, the book was originally be called Astonishing X-Men: Second Stage and launch with a #1 issue but Marvel decided against it for some reason.

I enjoyed Batman even though I was completely lost which is kind of the reason why I liked, as strange as that sounds. Or it could be the Morrison junkie in me. I haven't quite decided yet.

about me! said...

As the only in-continuity X book I still read, I actually really enjoyed Ellis's start.
Batman though, I'm still up in the air. I love Batman, I love Morrison, so why am I only liking this? I think it has something to do with the art. This isn't a knock on Daniels, but he really does a disservice to the story. This arc needs something more like Bianchi's art.
I'm curious, have you been reading Terry Moore's new series "Echo"?

Cat said...

Dropped Astonishing from my pull today. Just not my type of x book. I like Bianchi's covers but his interiors really look....off. As for the story? Bleh.
@Kirk I've been collecting Walking Dead through trades only and after reading volume 8, I picked up issues 49 & 50 today. I can't wait 6 months between stories any longer!
Finally dropped Trinity today and replaced it with Manhunter (after reading your thoughts on it) Hopefully I like it :-)

@abut me! Echo is a pretty damn good book isn't it? I find myself more and more reading my Indy's off the top of the stack first. Another good one is The Sword

It ended up being another good size week for me because I picked up the 2 issues of Manhunter and walking Dead.
Anybody else pick up the new Amazing? Man! Paulo Siqueira has some really nice art! What else has he done?

Kirk Warren said...

@eric - Ya, I recall hearing about the Second Stage subtitle. While I'm not a big fan of the relaunches for #1 level sales like they used to do every other week in the 90's, I still think Astonishing should have went the Ultimates route if they were going to go this way.


@about me! - I've heard of Echo, but never really looked into it to find out what it was about. I'll have to go check wikipedia or look for some scans / previews to find out what its about.

@cat - Ya, Walking Dead is one of the few indy books I actually read in monthly format. Most of the others I can hold off for the much more enjoyable trade experience.

I read the first issue of The Sword and liked it, but it didn't really grab me enough to make me stick with it. I might have to give it another try one of these days or just get the trade.

About Paulo Siqueira, he's done Birds of Prey and some indy stuff, like Lady Death, but I don't know of any other mainstream stuff. Might be his first Marvel work.

Hikerman said...

Kirk, I disagree a little bit with you on your Batman R.I.P review. I think that Morrison is trying to tie-in all the really odd and weird stories from Batman's past, so in that respect, I really like the story. But I can understand your problems with the issue. It took me a couple of reads to kinda understand what was going on.

Eric said...

@Kirk, I guess Marvel decided the book had gone on too long to relaunch but I completely agree with you that it needed one.

zeromus said...

I will agree with you that this issue of Batman wasn't the most fantastic thing I've ever read (probably the weakest of Morrison's entire run, to be honest!), but I'm sensin' some nerd rage with the references to the Silver Age stuff. For those of us that haven't read those stories / didn't know about them until now, it just seems like Bruce is going batshit (zing!) and, well, it's totally working in that regard.

And no link to my R.I.P. guide? ;)

Thanks for another good batch of reviews.

Bill said...

@zeromus: It reads to me more like Morrison's going batshit. Or I am. Either way, I'm a sucker for continuing to pick it up.

Anonymous said...

Avoid it? You must be getting stupider.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you aren't a Lost fan, Kirk...haha...I for one am loving what Morrison is doing..just because you may not understand whats going on doesn't mean you can't have faith in the creator that this will work out in the end...I mean look what people said when Nolan picked Ledger for Joker..fanboys were enraged and now look where we are? Just have some faith that these are all intricately placed pieces to a perfect puzzle.

Kevin D. said...

Here is a site I found which references Zur-En-Arrh and the Bat-Radia and provides pages from the Batman issue that they first appeared in: http://community.livejournal.com/scans_daily/5789601.html

This may help the understanding of the new batman issue a little bit, but it's still confusing as hell.

andrewsaltz said...

AXM's dialog was fun to read, but the sheer amount of word bubbles was overwhelming. Is AXM and Uncanny working like the two Green Lantern books? A bit confusing.

Does the Batman series take place before Final Crisis?

Great site!

Kirk Warren said...

@hikerman - I hope I end up being wrong about it and Morrison brings this all together in one brilliant conclusion, but it's just way too out there for me right now.

@zeromus - Ahah, I forgot to link to that overview after reading the insanely trippy new issue. I'll drop a link to it later today.

@anonymous #2 - I was one of Morrison's biggest fans for hte first half or more of his run, but he didn't even throw me a lifeline to help keep my head above water with RIP. We'll see if he pull something together by the end of RIP.

@kevin d - I'm not sure if I posted some of the Zur En Arrh Batman on this site or not (I know I posted it somewhere, maybe random forum post), but that was one of the stories, along with Robin Dies at Dawn and a story with Thomas Wayne as the first Batman (I think) that Morrison is drawing heavily from.

Neither were classics or even well known Silver Age stories nad it just seems so random that he's relying so heavily on pre-Crisis stories that aren't supposed to even be cannon anymore and to use such obscure ones at that makes it all the odder in my eyes.

@andrew - I'm not sure what AXM's new role is, but with Whedon it was off in its own bubble and they ended up making it all happen pre-Messiah Complex over the span of a few days.

X-Men Legacy should be returning to the adjectiveless X-Men title in a little bit (I think it's a 12 issue stint or thereabouts as Legacy) and should become the Green Lantern Corps to Uncanny again.

I think AXM will continue to be in its own bubble, but the timeline has been moved up to post-Uncanny 500 and the San Francisco relocation. I don't think it will be mentioned or relate to any other titles and we should see all the characters in UXM still.


As for Batman, I have no idea where it takes place. I've heard people wondering if this all takes place during Final Crisis #2 when he gets the needles / helmt stuck on his head and others saying it's pre-FC, but I think it's just off on its own and isn't even trying to relate to FC.

Salieri said...

Morrison has said the next story after RIP will be a Final Crisis fallout tie-in, so we can presume either that RIP comes before FC and that FC spoils the ending, or that it happens after, and Doctor Hurt decided to take the opportunity after considering the severe messing-up done to the Bat by the Evil Gods.

By the by - I didn't notice this before, but you know in FC #2, where Bats mentions John Stewart's left hook? I didn't understand why, but then I realised that Bats saw the imprint made by John's ring in Kraken's palm as she held it up ("she's eating my mind"), implying to the reader that - while possessed by Granny - she was the one to attempt John's murder.

Salieri said...

Also? Morrison has stated that part of the purpose of RIP is to address that issue of Bruce Wayne, a single man, having gone through all these Silver Age wacky adventures - and yet still come out okay. To that extent, Morrison is basically bringing "The Goddamn Batman" down to a human level by letting him react the way a normal human would, had they been part of a terrible isolation experience AND hallucinated travelling to a different planet, AND...all his other adventures...to completely psychologically snap.

I'm actually more and more intrigued with every new issue of this - for instance, that Hurt could be implying that he's Batman's father (He's wearing the same costume as a Scarecrow-induced hallucination of Tom Wayne in 'Face The Face'). Or the sudden dilemma of Nightwing - Mister Ultra-Cool Fanboy's Messiah - helpless and frothing in Arkham Asylum, while Robin is left alone and bewildered.

In fact, last night's episode of the new Brit TV Series, "Criminal Justice", had the main character suffer a similar fate as Bats - betrayed by his confidantes and drugged-up by his enemies.

Plus, Bat-Mite. It's always wacky-funny when Bat-Mite turns up to lend a hand.

Pj Perez said...

If Marvel would stop letting all their creators run ramshod all over continuity, the Astonishing abrupt change would have never been an issue.

For every person that says continuity is just a hamper to good storytelling, there's an instance like this one. Or, you know, about half the "in-universe" titles on the market.

I mean, seriously, these companies shouldn't have to keep relaunching books under different titles with different numbering. It's ludicrous. Argh. Now you got me started, Kirk, you bastard.

That being said, I'm going home to read both AXM and Batman in a few minutes, so we'll see how much I agree or disagree in a bit ... :)

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