Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 07/23/08

Just a short update for the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews today featuring three reviews - Green Lantern Corps, Uncanny X-Men and Thunderbolts. I would have liked to have written up a few more, but I was off watching The Dark Knight this afternoon and used up all of my free time I usually dedicate to reading comics and writing reviews on that. I'll try to make up for it tomorrow with my detailed impressions of TDK movie and the rest of this week's reviews.

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason and Drew Geraci

Easily the best book of the week, Green Lantern Corps delivered the goods and then some with a Sinestro Corps War-like battle royal with Mongul that featured a shocking ending that I didn't see coming.

After quickly taking out the assembled Green Lantern Corps members last issue, Mongul orders Mother Mercy to feed the GLC's to her children and harvest the rings from their dead bodies when she is finished under the threat of extinction for her and her children if she does not comply.

Mother Mercy agrees, but secretly frees the GL's after Mongul leaves. We were treated to another glimpse at the GL's deepest fears, which was a great useage of the Mercies on Tomasi's part.

It was, quite possibly, one of the most badass things I've ever seen.  
After Mother Mercy frees the GLC's, they quickly hunt down Mongul resulting in a fight of epic proportions that ends with Bzzd, the diminutive insect Green Lantern, entering Mongul's body and tearing him apart from the inside, ending with him busting out through Mongul's eyeball! It was, quite possibly, one of the most badass things I've ever seen and will most definitely be showing up in the Moments of the Week on Friday.

I was, however, really disappointed Ion didn't do much considering how powerful he's supposed to be, but I'll chalk it up to him being weakened after being trapped by the Mercies for the past few issues.

With Mongul badly injured by Bzzd, the Green Lanterns send him flying into Mother Mercy's killing field where she begins feeding him to her children. His Sinestro Corps rings never fly away, implying he isn't dead, but the issue ended by showing most of his body submerged in the Mercy's digestive system and Mongul's severed arm lying next to him. Add in the fact Bzzd burst through his eyeball and I can't see how he survived this encounter, but if he survives digestion, he may show up as a Black Lantern later on.

Sadly, Bzzd, one of the more unique Green Lanterns, didn't survive the encounter, already weakened by the Black Mercies and encounter with Mongul last issue, and died shortly after his assault on Mongul. I didn't think I'd care about the little guy's death, but Tomasi did another great job handling the death of a character (see his treatment of Martian Manhunter in Requiem for another recent instance of this) and Bzzd's death scene was another powerful moment in this issue.

Finally, Bzzd's ring and the Sinestro Corps ring of Mongul's subordinate flew off to find a new host, both choosing Mother Mercy for the job. She (it?) cuts off her own tentacle and hands over the Sinestro ring to the Green Lanterns to take back to Oa, opting to become the newest member of the Green Lantern Corps. I'm not sure how this will work out because Bzzd was Mogo's partner and this will make two stationary Green Lanterns for one sector, one being a planet and the other confined to her planet. Maybe Mother Mercy will migrate to Mogo? Still, that sector is screwed in terms of GL support...

Verdict - Must Read. It's worth it just for the Mongul fight alone, but, once you add in the character moments and death of Bzzd and Mother Mercy joining the GLC, it makes this issue a must have for everyone.

Written by Christos Gage
Art by Fernando Blanco

Wow, Christos Gage brought his A game for this issue of Thunderbolts. After some less than stellar Tbolt one-shots during Ellis' run, I was beginning to think Gage just didn't get these characters and wasn't expecting anything to come from his follow up to Ellis' critically acclaimed run.

I'm glad I gave him the benefit of the doubt and picked this issue up because it was an all around great issue and, while not as off the wall and over the top as Ellis' run was, Gage still manages to channel a lot of the humour and team dynamics (or is that team disfunctions?) that made Ellis' so great.

For instance, this issue kicks off with the team attempting to take down Swarm, an old "Bee"-list Spider-Man villain, and Gage really nailed Norman Osborn's character on the Zeus, specifically in regards to his conversation with Moonstone and random Gwen Stacy fetish jokes.

While not as off the wall and over the top as Ellis' run was, Gage still manages to channel a lot of the humour and team dynamics that made Ellis' so great.  
Gage is also picking up on a lot of the plots he set up in his one-shots, such as the mentioning of Songbird's mother's death, Norman and Venom's arrangement and talks of Arnim Zola and Swordsman's chat about resurrecting his sister. Norman and Moonstone's questioning each other about Songbird's mother was interesting and I wonder if that will be explored in the future.

Overall, this opening sequence was a great introduction for everyone on the team and for any readers late to the party or just picking this title up for the Secret Invasion tie-ins.

Speaking of Secret Invasion, Swordsman's "sister" mysteriously showed up this issue and Gage plays it like she was resurrected by Arnim Zola. Norman doesn't particularly like this because he was using Strucker's sister as leverage to keep him in line and under his thumb. If this wasn't labelled a Secret Invasion tie-in, I almost would have believed this mystery return as it was a plausible explanation. However, it is an SI tie-in and, at this point in time, I can't see any other conclusion other than her being a Skrull.

Finally, the last few pages of this issue are dedicated to retelling the Captain Marvel attack on Thunderbolts Mountain and next month should pick up with the Norman / Cap fight. One new detail from the fight was Songbird's mentioning of Genis and Skrull Captain Marvel confusing her mentioning of his son with Hulkling, which was another nice nod to past continuity on Gage's part, referencing the Young Avengers Presents - Hulkling issue, something we don't see too often these days.

While Gage managed to knock the characterization of the Ellis Thunderbolts out of the park, the same can't be said for Fernando Blanco's art when compared to Mike Deodato's. He didn't do a terrible job here, but it's clearly no where near Deodato's level and a drastic dip in quality when compared to the past year's worth of art.

Verdict - Must Read. If you dropped this with Ellis and Deodato's departure or were leary of Gage's work after his lackluster one-shots, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how well this issue turned out and this is also far more than a simple Secret Invasion tie-in or filler issue.

Written by Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction
Art by Terry Dodson
Tracing by Greg Land

Well, this couldn't have turned out any worse than it did. I can't believe two of my favourite writers, who have co-written books together before, managed to put out one of the worst X-Men comics I've ever read. Okay, maybe not the worst, as it's hard to top Chuck Austen's run, but this wasn't that much better.

For starters, the team has moved to San Francisco, as we've all known was going to happen for a while and already saw in Astonishing X-Men a few weeks ago. However, there's no explanation for it other than they had to go out there for that hippy storyline Brubaker threw together.

We're also lead to believe that some random artist was able to buy three fully functional Sentinels, old school ones at that (not the Eva versions O*N*E* was sporting), and was able to import them into America and feature them in a highly publicized art exhibit? Where the hell was SHIELD or the FBI or any other local authority? I can't get on a plane with a bottle of water anymore and he's buying Sentinels at the dollar store. Do they just sell these Sentinels to anyone off the street? How the hell did an artist afford one, let alone three, of them?

It doesn't explain the fact this was a publicized event that allowed a civilian to set up three 20 meter tall walking death machines in downtown San Francisco.
Even if he purchased these on the black market or they were given to him for free, or any other contrived explanation you can think of, it doesn't explain the fact this was a publicized event that allowed a civilian to set up three 20 meter tall walking death machines in downtown San Francisco.

Let's ignore this ridiculous premise and skip to the actual event. Magneto, who was last seen depowered and portrayed like the Magneto we have always known in X-Men: Legacy, walks into the party in full costume, activates the Sentinels with his powers and proceeds to sic them on the unwitting X-Men who were in attendance to make sure nothing bad happens with these giant death machines on display.

This would be fine and dandy, as who doesn't like seeing Magneto and Sentinels and other classic X-Men villains in action, but the Magneto featured here is almost as retarded and out of character as Grant Morrison's drug using Hitler version in New X-Men, but nowhere near as entertaining or well written as Morrison's version.

Magneto isn't the only character written out of character as we've got Cyclops pulling pages out of Jeph Loeb's handbook with the always classy, "Suck it!" and the X-Men getting upset and joking about killing all of the human protestors upset over the Sentinels being used at the art showing.

Hell, Angel, who's the weakest X-Man by far, took one of the Sentinels out over San Francisco bay and destroyed it by himself, all off panel of course. He has no powers other than the ability to fly and the Sentinels were giving the heavy hitters some problems, yet he acts all cocky and ignores orders and requests for status updates while he goes off with the Sentinel in tow.

Later, Emma asks Scott if she can mindwipe a random party goer because he asked them for an autograph and Scott just jokes about not being able to tell anyways if they lobotimized him. Who are these assholes and what happened to the X-Men?

Cannonball, who hadn't been in the entire issue, shows up, slams into Magneto's back and ends the threat before disappearing just as quickly as he showed up.  
What was the point of this Sentinel and Magneto battle? Well, it let them have their fastball special and other cliched moments while Magneto ranted like a petulent child. In the end, Cannonball, who hadn't been in the entire issue, shows up, slams into Magneto's back and ends the threat before disappearing just as quickly as he showed up. It is revealed that Magneto was using a specially designed suit to mimic his old powers and that Cannonball just damaged it.

Speaking of which, this battle ended up being a distraction so that the High Evolutionary could go off and do something to the sleeping Celestial before teleporting away to show that it was he who created Magneto's new costume and the two were teaming up together to do something together to save mutantkind. Looks like they are ignoring everything that happened in Annihilation: Conquest in regards to the HE, too.

Remember all that talk about disbanding the X-Men and the mansion just being a death trap and target for mutant haters to easily find and kill mutants? It is completely ignored as Cyclops sets up the exact same thing over in San Fran, right down to putting the new digs on the outskirts of the city just like the former mansion. He even goes on to, with the aid of Emma, pyschically call every other mutant on Earth and tell them to come to San Francisco where they can all live in peace and be happy or some crap. Obviously, no one is going to attack them in SF like they did in New York. If they wanted to move the team to a new location, that's fine, but don't bullshit the readers with some made up reasons that are contradicted the minute they move.

Regarding the artwork, I was surprised at how well Land and the Dodsons meshed together. I was expecting drastic shifts in style throughout the issue, but, aside from the occasional porn face on Land's part, the art was surprisingly consistent and turned out much better than I expected. I still hate Land's work and can't stand the fact Marvel is giving him such a high profile gig, but this wasn't his worst showing ever either.

Verdict - Avoid It. It might work as a jumping on point for some new readers, but I sure as hell wouldn't recommend it to anyone and won't be coming back to check this book out again for a long, long time.

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Eric said...

Nice reviews. Are they longer than normally because they seem like it? Also, I like the quote thing you have going on. Finally, I'm glad I decided to trade wait UXM and now can skip it completely. Still, its disappointing to Fraction and Bru fail on that kind of level.

Kirk Warren said...

Hmm, I think the Uncanny review might be a little longer than usual, but they look about the same length as my regular reviews. Didn't check any word counts or anything. It might be the pull quotes taking up the extra space and giving the appearance of al onger review or maybe I just got a little long in the tooth with fewer reviews today.

Negadarkwing said...

On UXM...
Sounds like it's a case of some great creators on a book they just can't do well for some reason. We've all seen it before. You hear someone's going to go on a book and you figure, hey their always good. And then they just suck. Oh well.

ampersand said...

The whole time i was reading UXM, i was thinking "What the hell is Magneto doing?". I guess it makes sense if he was creating a distraction for the High Evolutionary to put on an act of his old self, but you figure that Magneto, being the old war horse he is (actually more powerful than ever before, as the comic mentioned), would have held off better without coming off as a caricature of himself.

Patrick said...

Can't wait to see what you think about TDK...I had a few minor nitpicks here and there, but nothing that kept it from being what i think the best comic book movie there is

Chris said...

I think you were a little too harsh on Uncanny. If you look at this issue as one big setup for the future and to get new readers into the title, than it is a good setup. For an anniversary issue with a lot of hype, than it was mediocre. I am convinced that Bru and Fraction will have this book in good form within the next couple of issues. Maybe this is just me being the optimist, or the fact that I've already paid for 12 issues of Uncanny to come in the mail, and want it to be good

Andrenn said...

I like your use of quotes, very cool and nice.

I will still avoid T-bolts, as for one, I think Gage works best with a partner, like Slott. While he does fine on his own, he works even better as a co-writer.

I'm not surprised to see Uncanny suck. As much as I love the Dodson's art, I think they'd be put to much better use on a more mainstream book, rather than the X-comics which exist in their own little world. I'd love to see them back on Spider-man, or maybe even Wolverine some day.

blaker said...

thunderbolts wasn't the only book that seemed to be lacking on the art this week. i think the artist on thunderbolts did a good job of trying to get the style of thunderbolts... but he just wasn't as clean as what i've come to expect for the title.

brave and the bold didn't fair much better... the eyes on hawkman's mask were downright creepy. and green arrow didn't even look like green arrow. i guess the argument could be made that was supposed to be the case because he'd been beaten all to hell by the minions of hell... but i stll spent most of the issue wondering who the disfigured hobbit was.

on a side note, did you pick up the liberty comics one shot? all the sales apparently went to the C.B.L.D.F. it was a pretty interesting read. that took a light hearted but serious look at censorship in comics. all in all, a good time...

Kirk Warren said...

@negadarkwing - Ya, I know what you mean. I've seen that happen before with other creators I like, but was still really hoping Fraction might be able to help get Brubaker's X-men up to par with his Cap or Iron Fist or Daredevil or Gohtam Central, etc.

@ampersand - That's exactly how I felt with Magneto's portrayal. One big WTF. Weirdest part was with him calling Cyke boy all the time and talking about whipping them all the time (has he ever beaten them in any of their encounters?) and that opening scene where he repeats himself a couple of times as if he was an actor trying to make up for someone missing their cue.

@patrick - I liked the moviea lot, but it had a lot of plotholes and I could nitpicka lot of stuff about it, too. Don't see where all this greatest movie ever or Oscar hype is coming from, but it's definitely one of the best comic book movies ever made. I'll post some more on it tomorrow though.

@chris - I'm probably harder on it because I care more about the book and the creators attached to it than something like Countdown, which just became a chore to berate week after week, or other issues I had problems with.

However, I think I'm a little bit justified in my negativity towards it. Just look at Magneto in this issue. This isa man that watched Genosha get massacred by Sentinels and has always tried to do whats best for mutantkind and now he's off taking over Sentinels and using them attack his fellow surviving mutants (well, techinically hes human now). It's like if he started using old nazi periphenalia despite being a holocaust survivor.

And if he was trying to benefit mutantkind, why didnt he just tell the X-Men, who he's been on "friendly" terms with since M-Day (they've spoken on occasion despite their bad blood, not best buds or anything), and see if they would help him out. Hell, how did he find the High Evolutionary, who was off in Annihilaton: Conquest and why is HE helping him if he outright refused to help Beast with the mutant problem already in Endangered Species? Might get answered later, but I doubt it.

In the end, Magneto came off as some corny Saturday morning cartoon cackling mad super villain and the X-Men act like a bunch of pompous jerks, joking about killing humans and acting superior to everyone.

Maybe I am being too harsh on the title, though, or maybe I'm looking at older stories and characterizations with rose coloured glasses, but I just couldn't agree with anything that happened here for more reasons than I'd can count and that carried over into my review.

I will agree that this is a great jumping on point for new readers with little sentinmental attachment for the characters.

@andrenn - Thanks, when I decided I would be quoting people in my What DC is Doing Wrong post, I looked up how to code that and set it up and really liked how it turned out. Going to try and use it more often similar to how it was used here.

I think Gage can work fine on his own and has done some great work, such as the WWH: X-Men tie in, which was so much better than it had any right to be as a cash-in type book, or some of his Wildstorm books. I think the problem is that he never settles down on one book, either by design or due to Marvel not giving him a monthly.

This issue of Tbotls had a lot of subplots and continuity (such as references to his one shots and Ellis' work and even some Fabian Tbolts stuff) that really drew me into the book.

I think it'll be interesting to see how his tenure on the title play sout, but it's a great start, especially with such big boots to fill with Ellis' departure.

@blaker - No, I didn't pick up the Liberty Comics one shot. This is the first I've even heard of it, to be honest.

As far as artwork is concerned, nothing will top X-Factor's art from last week, and I'm loathe to call it art, as it's an insult to artists everywhere.

Chris said...

Those are very valid points. Maybe I have too much faith in the writers that wrote the gems that are Captain America and Iron Fist. I'd like to think they will explain Magneto and The HE, but maybe they won't. Now that I look back on the issue, the characterization was off. I think I am less lenient toward these types of faults than you because I have only been reading comics for 2 years now, and I love the X-men and want that book to be good.

Ryan said...

Completely agree on GLC and Thunderbolts. I flipped through Uncanny and wasn't too impressed by it. "Going Green" was used a bit too much in my opinion and I'm as green as I can be.

Salieri said...

Liking the quotes.

I think perhaps one of the best lines in T-Bolts #122 was the one about Bullseye killing two million bees by hand. The image is strikingly silly, and it almost makes me want to see a Marvel "Amazons Attack".

Keith said...

Marvel Amazons Attack?

Cat said...

Was Uncanny #500 really written by 2 of my favorite writers? Really? I think they put the wrong issue out. Maybe it was an old one written by Chuck Austen. After a pretty good even with Messiah Complex, most of the x-books are crap. Well...I guess it's time to drop it. What a dissapointment.

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