Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 07/16/08

Sorry for the lateness of the reviews. I usually try to have them out earlier, but some personal things came up and I didn't even get to read my books until just before I started writing these reviews an hour or so ago (well, I read and write, so not like I was writing for an hour =p).

It was another slow week, but we were treated to some great books, yet again. While I didn't review it, Sky Doll #3 was simply amazing and if you haven't been picking it up, I don't think you'll regret grabbing the eventual trade or hardcover.

Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge was a horrible Final Crisis tie-in, having almost nothing to do with said event. Thankfully it was an amazing comic nonetheless and a testament to Johns' talent. While

While not a comic book released this week, I was quite happy to pick up my copy of I Kill Giants #1 that I had to have re-ordered in. Well worth checking out if you are looking for a quirky, off the beaten path comic book. I'll leave today's reviews to this week's comics, but look for a review of this tomorrow.

It's late enough as it is, so I'll cut things short for now. Hit the jump for this week's Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews!

Written by Adam Beechen
Art by Jim Calafiore and Jonathan Glapion

I swear, DC just wants to troll its fanbase with books like this. Did they not get the memo about people not liking Adam Beechan nor his take on Batgirl the first time around? Suffice to say, this was not a good start to the "redemption" of Batgirl's character.

This issues only purpose was to summarize what's happened to Batgirl over the past couple of years - mainly Beechan and DC crapping all over the character. The only bits of new story consist of Batgirl telling us she wants to hunt down and kill her father, Cain, and Deathstroke for everything they've done to her.

The rest of the issue consists of Nightwing acting like a complete tool and starting a cliched super-hero fight with Batgirl before having it broken up by Batman and Robin. After that, we get page after page consisting of walls of text explaining Batgirl's backstory.

Verdict - Avoid It. I don't think anyone wants to be reminded of how badly this character has been treated recently. They should have spent the issue developing that little thing called the plot instead of wasting so many pages with recaps and pointless fight scenes that go nowhere.

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting

I want to praise this comic and gush about how great it was and the shock ending and everything that happened in between, but I can't help but think that this is also a prime example of what's been wrong with the title since Bucky took over as Captain America and that is the pacing.

It's as if Brubaker has these spectacular moments mapped out, such as the Cap vs Cap fight, but he's either being forced or has decided on his own to write for the trade, as they say, resulting in several issues where, while still enjoyable reads, we are subjected to what amounts to filler before we hit an issue, like this one, where it's non-stop balls to the wall action and story progression.

I'm sure most of these concerns would be moot if I was reading this in a trade or omnibus, but, on a month to month basis, this is quite disconcerting, to say the least.

Now, let me just dispell all that doom and gloom preamble by saying that I still love this book and there hasn't been a bad issue in the entire 40 issue run. It's more of a "you're hardest on the ones you love" type of deal where I want this book to be as good as it is in this month's offering every single month, which is probably asking a bit much of any book, even one as good as Captain America.

To talk about the actual book for a minute, this issue features the 1950's Captain America versus Bucky, in his shiny Cap costume, in a shocking fight that sees the Grand Director Cap laying a beat down on Bucky. It seems the Director is much stronger than I thought and Bucky even comments that he's faster and hits harder than Steve Rogers ever did. I have no experience with the 1950's version of Cap, so this came as a shock to me. I figured he was similar to Bucky since he lacked the Super Soldier serum.

Not only is the 50's Cap stronger and faster than Bucky, but he can take a licking and keep on ticking, as evidenced by him taking one of Bucky's bionic arm powered haymakers to the face and shrugging it off like it was nothing.

The only thing that saves Bucky is what appears to be a running theme in this title lately - mainly Dr Faustus' mental programming failing. The Grand Director believes this "fake" Captain America was responsible for killing Bucky and is out for revenge. However, when Bucky reveals who he is, the mental programming of Faustus' breaks down and the Red Skull is forced to recall the Director immediately, which results him the Director, disoriented by the mental lapse, sending Bucky flying off the building with a single punch. Fortunately, Bucky was saved by Falcon, who expected Bucky to disobey and confront this fake Cap.

The rest of the issue focused on Sharon Carter and her attempt to escape from the Red Skull - again. This time she has Sin as her hostage and plans to use her to voice activate the final set of doors and to help guarantee her freedom. Unfortunately for her, she's still not fully recovered from the drugs in her system and Sin manages to break free of her.

Sin pulls a Rambo-sized knife out in an attempt to take revenge on Carter. As expected, nothing came of it and Sharon quickly knocked it out of her hands as the two girls continued to grapple with each other. However, after a quick scene switch to the Red Skull and the Grand Director's mental breakdown, we are quickly informed that there's been a problem with Sin and Sharon Carter. As we cut back to the duo, the issue ends with Sharon lying on the floor with the knife stuck in her stomach and the Red Skull and his men scrambling to try and save her, most likely only for the Steve Rogers child she was carrying. Shocking? To me, it was almost as shocking as Captain America being killed back in Cap #25. This came out of nowhere and I hope Brubaker isn't resorting to a cheap "abortion" tactic to take care of the baby Cap subplot.

Verdict - Must Read. This issue was amazing in everyway and, despite my little tangent to start the review off, I cannot recommend this issue enough. It's issues like this that cause everyone to call Captain America one of the best books on the market.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Scott Kolins

Let me preface this review by confessing that I have never read Geoff Johns' critically acclaimed Flash run and, as such, I don't have the same love or understanding of the Rogues or the Flash mythos as other people. I am aware of the events and know the characters, but have little first hand experience with any of their stories.

Furthermore, I picked up Rogues' Revenge mainly for the Final Crisis tagline on the book. On that regard, this was a wasted purchase. There is a panel or two with Libra and the Rogues rejecting his offer to join the new Secret Society and that's about it for Final Crisis related material. Yes, that also means there was no Barry Allen featured in this issue either.

However, as a comic book, this was an excellent read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will happily be picking up the remaining issues of this storyline.

As odd as this sounds, Rogues' Revenge is about Flash's Rogues getting their revenge. The catch, however, is that it's not revenge on the Flash. After spending months on the run and trapped on the prison planet, as seen in Salvation Run, the Rogues are back on Earth (completely unexplained and no indication of how they escaped the JLA and JSA at the super villain protest in Final Crisis #1) and have had enough of the super villain game and have all decided to hang up their tights and retire.

Unfortunately for them, they see a news report that Inertia, who the reporter describes as the Rogues' leader, was mysteriously freed from his motionless prison in the Flash Museum and is currently at large. Captain Cold doesn't take this news well and, combined with the Rogues' displeasure over being used by Inertia to kill Bart Allen, he proclaims they will be breaking their number one rule and killing a speedster, in this case, Inertia.

The scene showing off Inertia's escape was intense and fairly graphic, showing Intertia tearing one officer's head clean off while telling another he is going to to rip his intenstines out and see how far they can stretch. For some reason, I don't think he's been rehabilitated. Intertia then goes off in search of Wally's children to do to them what he did to Bart.

However, before reaching Wally's house, Inertia is stopped by the person that freed him. At first, I thought it was going to be Barry Allen, but it ended up being Zoom, of all people, and he was carrying a Kid Flash costume and proclaiming that Inertia will be the next Kid Flash!?!

The good guy, if you can call him that, of this story seems like it will be Pied Piper, who's come across Trickster's will, which details a plethora of information on the Rogues', how their powers work, family members and so on. He gets in touch with the police and it looks like he will be hunting down the Rogues in an attempt to stop them to make up for he and Trickster failing to stop them when they killed Bart (yes, they are still trying to pass off that Trickster and Piper weren't involved in Bart's death). He doesn't seem to have the Anti-Life Equation, or a piece of it, like he did in Countdown, but it's still early and he looked more powerful than usual with his appearance at the police station.

Verdict - Must Read. It's rare to have a story told from the villain's perspective and Johns does an excellent job of getting someone like myself, with no previous experience with these characters, into each of the villains' heads. I feel like I understand each of their motivations and reasons for doing the things they do and I'm excited to see where this story goes from here. Shame there's almost no Final Crisis connection though...

Written by Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak
Art by Rafa Sandoval

Remember last issue's cliffhanger? No, not Hercules shacking up with Snowbird (although that was awesome). I'm talking about Kirby, Cho's coyote pup, being shown eerily watching Herc and Snowbird getting it on while being drawn with green "Skrull eyes".

Well, turns out Van Lente and Pak didn't want to beat around the bush with that subplot and the coyote is revealed as a Skrull from the outset with a brief flashback showing when Kirby was replaced and even a quick Skrull prophecy flashback to explain why they replaced the lowly mut (the Queen claimed the prophecy foretold of Earth's gods being undone by their lowliest companion, which is a coyote pup I guess).

After some awkward (and hilarious) morning after moments between Hercules and Snowbird, the Skrull Kirby makes his move and takes control of the God Squad's Godmobile (I so made that name up and you know you want a Godmobile now) and steers it off course, smashing it upon the Skrull gods' memorial of other races' fallen deities.

While no one is seriously injured in the sneak attack, it does destroy the Godmobile and results in Atum promptly biting the head off of Kirby, the Skrull Pup, killing the imposter, much to Cho's chagrin.

Before they can fight over who is or isn't a Skrull, the God Squad is attacked by the combined might of the absorbed pantheons from the world's that have fallen to the Skrulls already. Cho helps the team coordinate their attacks to great success, but they are clearly outnumbered and losing ground quickly.

Snowbird, unwilling to lose another team (most of Alpha Flight was killed a few years back), sacrifices herself by transforming into Neooqtoq the Ravager, the deadliest of the great beasts of the north. I have no clue if that existed before now, but she becomes a giant tentacle monster thingy that starts tearing everything in its path apart. The rest of the God Squad is forced to leave her behind or risk being killed by her as well. I'm not sure what happens after this, but she and all of their attackers start drifting away on some rock in the Dream Time and then just blink out of existence. Whether she's dead or not is a mystery for now.

With all of their obstacles out of the way, the God Squad approaches the Skrull gods' temple and are confronted by Kly'bn, God of the Skrulls. I didn't know if they were going to do this or not, but apparently this is the guy who loves everyone and to whom the Skrulls are all referring to when they say, "He loves you.". And here I thought the identity of "He" would be a big reveal for Secret Invasion. Maybe Incredible Hercules will be a more important tie-in than I thought?

Verdict - Must Read.
Lots of great moments, such as the dialogue between Snowbird and Hercules at the start, and some great action scenes along the way. Not sure how big a part of Secret Invasion this will end up being, but based on how great this title has been since Herc took it over, I don't think anyone will be complaining about this being a cash-in or cheap marketing tie-in.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Khoi Pham

I'll start off by saying, for what it was, I really enjoyed this issue. It consists, entirely, of Elektra (the real one) kicking the crap out of Super Skrulls, one after the other, as they attempt to subdue and replace her. However, that's all this issue was about and that is also this issue's biggest flaw.

If you were buying this issue to find out how and why Elektra was replaced by the Skrulls, you'll get the how part answered, but the why is still left quite vague. The only reason I can come up with after reading this issue is that they must have drawn names out of the hat and chose Elektra as the candidate to become a Skrull. She wasn't in control of the Hand at the time nor any other major crime organization and she had absolutely no value as an operative at the time other than she's died before.

It was also revealed that the Skrulls planned from the start for Skrull Elektra to die and be revealed as the first Skrull infiltrator to sow the seeds of distrust in the ranks of the New Avengers. It doesn't seem to make much sense, in my eyes, but it's Bendis' story, so let's go with it for now. Maybe they'll add some real reasoning behind it later on.

With all the "why's" out of the way, the actual "how" part of Elektra's replacement was just a series of "turn your brain off and enjoy" action sequences as Elektra makes fools out of the Skrull's new Super Skrull program by killing not one, not two, but three Super Skrulls on her own, all of which were ambushes and two whom attacked her at the same time. While this completely undersells how powerful these Skrulls are supposed to be (they can shapeshift their vital organs out of the way and all three were sporting multiple high end mutant powers), it was still incredibly entertaining to watch Elektra just unload on these bungling Skrull infiltrators.

Verdict - Check It.
It doesn't really add anything to the Secret Invasion story and just barely adds any new information on the Elektra replacement while undermining the entire Super Skrull threat, but it's still an entertaining read if you can turn off the brain for a little bit and just enjoy the action.

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Eric said...

Originally Rogues' Revenge was supposed to deal the fallout from Salvation Run so its kind of hard not to make it a Final Crisis tie-in if DC wanted to release it after Salvation Run. But lack on Final Crisis importance aside I really loved the issue. I have also never read any of Johns Flash so I loved the accessibility of the issue overall very good.

I didn't even like Might Avengers for the fight scene. I realize it is comics but how is Elektra supposed to take on and actually kill three well trained Super Skrulls? I get the absurd nature of the beast but that was just too absurd. Wolverine AND Echo couldn't even kill one or if they did they just barely did so. Complete waste of an issue.

IslandLiberal said...

Evil 50s Cap/The Grand Director has a sort of duplicate Super Soldier Serum that he cobbled together himself; the catch was that he didn't get the Vita Ray dose concurrent to the serum, which meant that he gained superhuman strength and speed, stronger than Steve, but he also went crazy.

Yee-ikes at that last page; hurry, Nazi Robot Doctor, let's see those medical skills.

Incredible Herc rocked, as expected; I've thought Kly'bn was "He" from the start (recallin an old Bendis interview, the Skrull chant was originally "As it is written" (which is what the Black Bolt-Skrull says in Illuminati #5), but, upon Pak and VL coming up with their "God Squad" arc, the "He loves you" thing was swapped in).

skafactor said...

Kirk need to read Johns' flash issues. I have lent these out to so many non comic friends and all have enjoyed them.
I have turned to them many a time when i am depressed by current story arcs (kirkman's UXM or UFF)

Bill said...

Good god, that Batgirl was the worst piece of crap I've read in a while. Couldn't they have come up with a creative way to give the backstory? Or stuck it in a marvel-style "Previously..." page? Having superheroes stand around and spout exposition is about the most boring thing you can possibly do.

Anonymous said...

Great reviews Kirk, just want to say, I'm going to be really pissed off if the baby in Sharon's womb is dead. It was one of the most interesting things going on in Cap for me.

Salieri said...

No matter how he was involved in the killing, Piper looked awesomely crazily cool in his appearance. I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes one of the good New Gods.

Harry said...

Elektra should have been revealed to be a skrull dating way back to when she was first resurrected. This was the perfect opportunity to fix the tarnishing of Miller's run that happened when they brought her back.

Kirk Warren said...

@eric - True, FC: RR does build directly from Salvation Run and Countdown related storylines. I suppose there are some ties to FC from that.

@islandliberal - I knew he was strong and went insane from the process, but I didn't know he was that much stronger.

About the Illuminati Black Bolt, I thought it was changed from "as it was written" due to it being from the bible or some other religious writings int he form of "as it is written, so let it be done" and they wanted to have something unique, so chagned it to the "he loves you" bit.

Still, I thought they might have someone or thing planned as a bigger threat for the heroes to unite against int he end.

@skafactor - I know, I know. My brother is always nagging on me to read them, too. I'm not sure why, but I just never get around to buying my own copies or even reading his for free. I'll have to remedy that in the future.

@bill - Tell me about it. There was that one page with the purple / orange / green image of Batgirl, Slade and Cain that was just one big huge wall of text and the page right after it was another huge wall of text that nearly made my eyes glaze over wtih boredom.

@anonymous - Agreed. I think it would be a disservice to the fans if they simply made her pregnant to have a shock "dead baby" scene.

@salieri - True, that. He actually looked like someone you'd be afraid of instead of the joke they made him out to be during Countdown. No other experience with the character, but I don't think he's ever been portrayed this way before, but it seems both plausible and natural at the same time after everythign he's been through.

@harry - Oh, that would have been interesting. They don't have the ability to really change anything major with these Skrull imposters, but something like Elektra wouldn't be a big deal and probably wouldn't cause too many ripples in stories or fandom.

However, I don't think they wanted to deal with all the potential continuity problems that her being a Skrull for the past 20 years or so would bring or Bendis and the rest of the Marvel staff just didn't think big enough in regards to her.

Kelson said...

The Pied Piper's portrayal here is in keeping with the way Geoff Johns portrayed him during his run on The Flash.

He was sort of a quirky occasional sidekick/foil to Wally under William Messner-Loebs and Mark Waid. When Geoff Johns took over, Mirror Master killed Piper's parents and framed him for it. (It was part of a long-running background thread in which the Rogues took out Wally's allies one by one.) He got more...intense while he was in prison. Even more so after his experience in Countdown.

Steven R. Stahl said...

Although I haven’t read MA #16 yet, I can surmise that Bendis picked Elektra because he’d written the character before, and because he’d wanted some pretext for the New Avengers to distrust each other. Substituting a Skrull for Elektra, as part of a plot to take over the world, makes no more sense than it did to consider the Hand, run by the Silver Samurai or anyone else, a world-class menace. Bendis’s efforts to retroactively tie old NA issues into SI have only convinced me that they weren’t written with SI in mind.


Re “Writing for the trade.”

It’s not uncommon to see writers using filler to pad issues of an arc to the required minimum, but filler is filler. If what’s going on is clearly extraneous to the plot, inconsequential action, or chitchat without a point, then it will read as badly within the TPB as it did in the multi-issue arc. If the reader of a novel has a problem with a sagging middle, he can quit reading, or jump to the ending and then backtrack a bit. One hopes no reader would run into multiple instances of filler in an arc, forcing him to jump from point to point to point within the book. After all, he’s paid for the pages he’s skipping.

BTW, perhaps the worst experience I’ve had reading a book happened with Stephen King’s CELL. I’d read over 100 pages of the novel before a sagging middle caused me to skip to the ending, whereupon I discovered that King apparently had no idea what digital-to-analog converters were, and didn’t know it was impossible for the human ear, much less the brain, to process digital signals. The premise was pure garbage.

That example of a blown premise is useful to have when evaluating the premise of a storyline.


Salieri said...

My only pre-Countdown experience was in "The Return Of Barry Allen" (the one with Reverse-Flash). 'Pathetic' doesn't quite sum it up.

Steven R. Stahl said...

The most notable thing about MIGHTY AVENGERS #16 was how the Super-Skrulls Elektra fought had green blood spurt out as they were stabbed. Green blood??! That goes to the heart of why the idea that impersonators being “undetectable” was a fraud from the beginning of “Secret Invasion” and has been ever since. Bendis wanted an atmosphere of paranoia but didn’t want the heroes to try to do anything about it, so he had various characters (falsely) say at the start that the Skrulls were undetectable, and has relied on those statements since then, even when his own stories scream that they’re not.

Then, if one has read NEW AVENGERS from the start, the idea that Skrull-Elektra was the one who hired Electro for the Raft breakout is utterly ridiculous; it fits with nothing that went on in the series, through the “Civil War” period, and only emphasizes that Bendis dropped the idea that the Raft inmates were being “stockpiled” after SI began, much like Spider-Man’s broken arm became a non-issue after NA #5. Inconvenient plot elements just disappear.


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