Thursday, August 14, 2008

Final Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 08/13/08

There were just way too many books that came out this week to review every single one, so I'll be coming back tomorrow or the next day to finish up the four or five remaining reviews, but that doesn't stop you from enjoying this week's Final Crisis Comic Book Reviews! Hit the jump for a whole lot of tie-in reviews.

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Simone Bianchi

Wait for the trade is the best advice I can give in regards to Astonishing X-Men, especially considering the dubious quality of the current Ellis / Bianchi run.

Continuing from his debut issue last month, Ellis has the team fly to Chaparanga to, um, find a guy they've never seen and stop him from doing...stuff. Ya, that's about as well defined as this issue gets. I get the feeling the only reason Ellis chose this third world location was so he could have the Emma being a snob scene and no other particular reason.

Once the team arrives at their destination, they instantly find the villain on the only still floating space ship in this alien ship graveyard. Why isn't Hydra, SHIELD, AIM or any other organization here scavenging alien technology? Hell, if alien craft more advanced than anything on Earth was landing on our planet, there'd be wars fought over the salvaging rights. I know the Marvel Universe is a tad on the fantastic side of things, but I can't imagine any major corporation not being all over this, yet Ellis has children picking these things apart to sell for scraps.

The rest of the issue consists of a poorly introduced villain and his "fight" with the X-Men, which ends with him blowing his own head off with his fire based powers so the X-Men won't be able to read his mind and he speaks of a mysterious Annex that is coming.

Yes, that's all that happened and I'm not sure if I was supposed to feel shocked or amazed that the badguy blew his own head off or not. I had no connection to him and he barely had any dialogue or development, so I find it difficult to really care one way or the other.

While the new Fastball Special with Armor in Colossus' spot was funny, that's about the only good thing that came out of the stilted dialogue that plagued this issue . It's hard to believe this is an Ellis penned story with how generic and cliched everyone soudns.

Oh, and I liked the fact Ellis touched on the whole Cyclops turned murderer aspect of the X-Men when Storm wonders if she killed the villain after destroying the alien ship midway through the fight. It didn't change the fact Cyclops' current pro-murder stance makes no sense, but it was nice to see that some of the actual characters are noticing the change in character.

Verdict - Avoid It. It's not that bad, but I say avoid it because you should just wait for the trade. You aren't missing anything waiting, this will probably be delayed and it's just not good enough given the pedigree of the title's creators and pales in comparison to Whedon and Cassaday's run. Give it six issues and, if it's good, grab the trade.

Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Dan Jurgens

To be honest, Booster Gold didn't skip a beat with the change over from Johns and Katz to this Chuck Dixon two parter, which is a good thing in my opinion.

Picking up with the return of Booster's sister, we follow the team on their next time spanning adventure - this time dealing with another Batman related time anomoly.

Apparently, an old Detective Comics story featuerd a villain with time travel capabilities who could travel backwards in time and committed crimes as he went along, all ending with him retiring and becoming a philantropist who aided Thomas Wayne with donations and other such things that ultimately lead to Batman's origin. Somehow, during a crime using the Killer Moth as his muscle, Batgirl breaks his device and it requires the Time Masters' intervention to fix.

If everything went according to plan, this wouldn't be a Booster Gold book and, predictably, time doesn't get fixed with a simple fill-in as Killer Moth on Booster's part. While the device didn't get destroyed, Killer Moth gained a huge amount of street cred for taking down Batman (Booster took them out to prevent them from stopping the time travel villain) and it lead to a Gotham where evil rules and the Killer Moth is the "Batman" of villains with Penquin and others using a Moth-signal to call him and everything.

Cue the return to the past to fix time again. This time Booster's going to simply replace Batman instead of the Killer Moth, but things don't go well when Alfred "This is my boomstick" Pennyworth welcomes them all with his shotgun, leaving us with the promise of more Booster goodness next month.

Verdict - Check It. Dixon is a perfect follow up to Johns and Katz, which makes me sad he's been fired by DC. He would have made a great replacement for that team.

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Leonard Kirk

After several months of moments dominating the Moments of the Week, I finally got a hold of the second printings of this series and found out what all the hype was about and, boy, am I glad I did.

I'm not going to bother summarizing the previous issues, but the basic jist of this series is that the Skrulls have come to Britain and are waging war on the entire magic kingdom of Avalon.

To that end, they've killed just about every major magic entity in Avalon, 'killed' Captain Britain and have absorbed all the magical totems and artifacts for use by their Super Magic Skrull. I can't possibly due justice to how amazing this series has been and even if you are avoiding everything Secret Invasion related, I emplore you to give this a shot. I've never even read a comic with any of these characters in it before and I'm loving every page of these first four issues.

Getting back to this issue, Captain Britain returned last issue and claimed Excalibur, the last remaining magical item in Avalon. He promptly uses it to kick some Skrull ass before going toe to toe with the magic version Super Skrull.

"No more Skrulls." - Pete Wisdom  
Back in Avalon, Wisdom, Spitfire and Skrull John Lennon (he's a good Skrull that just likes to look like John Lennon) face the remaining Skrull troops, whom have captured them. John is killed for lipping off too much, but the rest are "saved" by the evil magic entities Wisdom was forced to release last issue to save Avalon and revive Captain Britain.

For releasing them, the evil entities owe Wisdom one boon and, in one of the best parodies ever, Wisdom proclaims, "No more Skrulls.", a statement I find myself shouting more and more often. This results in every single Skrull on the island of Britain and in Avalon being killed and any Skrulls who attempt to enter find themselves immediately fried with magic.

Verdict - Must Read. This seems to be the final Secret Invasion tie-in for this title and I hope it results in some boosted sales that keep this book on the shelves because it's a damn fine book and it's just been added to my pull list indefinitely.

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Bryan Hitch

Much like Ultimate Spider-Man, Millar's Fantastic Four is consistently good, but doesn't have that spark or excitement to push it above the current event du jour or flavour of the month books.

This month's issue continues the trend with another solid issue that won't send people running to make posts or sing praises, but should leave every reader happy and satisfied with their purchase.

What I really liked about this issue was the treatment of Human Torch. While he's regressed a little to the more traditional playboy, carefree attitude of his earlier years, Millar still handles the character extremely well and I loved how competent he was made to look compared to the relatively new Defenders team as it's like he's just playing with them as they attempt to capture him by surprise. I was a little confused how Johnny survived that car accident or the trip through the building though...

While we didn't get any info on Doc Banner / smart-Hulk or what the Defenders are up to, there's more mystery added to the capture of Dr Doom with their capturing of Johnny and the revelation that they have Galactus (!), too. Is it the real Galactus, is this Doc Banner from Marvel 1985 and that Galactus is from those Secret Wars era? I don't know, but it all seems to be connected to that Nu-Earth from the last arc and the recent revelation from Reed's old girlfriend, "Mrs Fantastic", that this Nu-Earth isn't for a mass exodus, but for a select few of the world's leaders and the rich.

Verdict - Must Read. It's easy to just write Fantastic Four off as that book you buy and enjoy every month, but take for granted, similar to how we view the always entertaining Ultimate Spider-Man. I'm tempted to give this a Check It, but I can't imagine dropping this in favour of any of the other Must Read's this week, so I can't see how it would be justified in putting a Check It here.

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Philip Tan, Jeff De Los Santos and Jonathan Glapion

Final Crisis: Revelations is an interesting tie-in. I'm not sure what it has to do with Final Crisis other than the Spectre failing to kill or enact vengence on Libra or why he's trying to kill the Question now, but I did enjoy this issue and want to find out more.

Sadly, the part I disliked the most in this issue was the killing of Dr Rapey McRape Rape. Sorry, I mean the killing of Dr Light. I just dislike the over the topness writers take with his absolute love of rape. Rapists don't act like this and it's like the writers feel they have to justify every evil thing he does by having him spout how much he loves rape while doing it.

Other than that, I'm kind of surprised they killed Dr Light off in the span of a page or two with little to no real reasoning or fanfare, especially after building him up as a credible villain who has appeared in every major event since Identity Crisis, even if he's a bit too reliant on the rape aspect for motivation.

Once Spectre kills Dr Light, he attempts to kill Libra, who, I assume, steals some of his power or is protected by Darkseid or something and is rendered immune to God's vengence. This doesn't stop Spectre from killing a bunch of random loser villains I've never even heard of that were soliciting Libra for help with the Teen Titans, but Libra was left unharmed.

Apparently, this inability to kill a real villain, one whom the Spectre claims has committed genocide (does killing one Martian count as genocide or is he referring to something in Libra's past?), drives the Spectre a little nuts and he decides he has to kill Renee Montoya, aka the Question.

The Question was shown with some Batman-level skills as she systematically takes down some thugs, who I assume are part of the whole Crime Bible deal (didn't keep up with her recent series of one shots) and is then confronted by the Spectre claiming she must die. Not sure how Spectre goes from failing to kill Libra to wanting to kill the Question, but we'll see if Rucka can justify it next month.

Verdict - Check It. One thing that has me a little cautious at recommending this issue is the fact it's $3.99 an issue and supposedly five issues long. That's a hefty price tag for a relatively light, storywise, issue and I'm unsure if it's worth paying $20+ for five issues of something that will probably be a $5 trade on Amazon in a few months, but I suppose that could be said for just about any story.

Written by Joe Pokaski
Art by Tom Raney

Generic and uninspired with little to nothing new to offer the readers and absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming War of Kings (at least, not yet).

There's nothing overly bad about this issue and it never treads into Countdown level of bad, but it's just the fact we're more than halfway through Secret Invasion and we're seeing the the Inhumans reactions to Black Bolt being revealed as a Skrull, the general paranoia and 'who do we trust' nonsense and all the other played out themes we've seen for the past year all being rehashed in this one issue.

It has some decent moments and is far from unreadable, but it's dreadfully forgettable and you'll quickly be picking up the next book in your stack and never think about this title again because nothing happens. Even with the potential behind Maximus being the new king is thrown away as he is decidedly sane and most are treating him like he's just the stupid new king that they have to make all the decisions for. He hasn't taken over or done anything with the Inhuman race and all I see is the wasted potential from the ending of Silent War.

Generic and uninspired with little to nothing new to offer the readers.  
In fact, they make mention of that series, but, aside from Maximus being free, it doesn't seem like that series happened. Shouldn't Black Bolt be in prison in the dungeon? How did he or the Skrull version escape and why doesn't anyone mention that? What happened to Maximus' mind control / submission of Medusa?

In the end, the Skrulls invade in the last page or two and, apparently, half the population of the Inhumans, one of the most secluded and guarded cultures imaginable, has been replaced by Skrulls as the invasion begins.

Verdict - Avoid It. While not bad, nothing happens and the story just spins its wheels for 22 pages. Your money is better spent elsewhere.

Written by Christopher Yost
Art by Takeshi Miyazawa

Another great outing from Yost and Miyazawa (I thought he stopped doing American comics and that's why he wasn't doing Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane anymore?). This issue, along with the first, reads like a great Runaways story guest starring the Young Avengers, making me almost wish Marvel had lined these two up to take over Runaways now that Whedon's finally off the book.

Not only is this a great teamup between both teams, it's doing great things with the fleshing out of Xavin's origin and the character's gained a new level of depth in these two issues alone.

And Xavin wasn't the only one getting some much needed depth added to his character. Hulkling, the other Skrull (well, half Skrull) was a getting some moral questions posed about his refusal to accept his place as Skrull royalty and is faced with the notion that he could have prevented this invasion if he had simply united the Skrull race with his return.

Verdict - Must Read. I'm not sure how much of an influence this will have on the actual Secret Invasion event (like, will Hulkling step up to stop it or not), but this is a great Runaways issue and the guest appearances by the Young Avengers are equally as appreciated. Definitely far more than a simple event cash grab.

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Doug Braithwaite

This issue features Beta Ray Bill taking up Thor's hammer and leading the Asgardians into battle against the Skrulls as Donald Blake goes off to help deliver a baby. I'm tempted to leave it at that, but I'm sure some people have never read Walt Simonson's legendary Thor run, so only have the rather embarrassing recent Beta Ray Bill appearances to judge just how great a character he is.

Thankfully, Matt Fraction is well versed in his Thor and has crafted a unique setup to send Beta Ray Bill back into action with Blake on the sidelines indefinitely, so I'm sure you'll all get to see some quality Bill stories for a change.

However, as good as this issue was, and it was damn good, it still falls under the guise of the "omg, Skrulls, we've never seen a shapeshifter before in our lives and now how do I trust with my beanie baby collection?" nonsense we've seen a hundred times now, typically two or three times a month for the past year, depending on New Avengers schedule, and this marks the third issue this week with the exact same themes (SI and SI: Inhumans being the other two) and that is the only complaint I can levy against this issue.

Also, this was pretty much all setup, just like the Inhumans tie-in, and the invasion and fighting is all promised to occur next issue. So, while this was a great read and Fraction shows a surprisingly strong grasp of the characters, especially since JMS has been the only one to write them since their return and only for a handful of issues at that.

Verdict - Check It. I want to give it a Must Read, but I just don't think it has any meat to this setup issue to warrant it. There is a lot of promise for next issue and I'm sure Fraction will be able to deliver.

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Cary Nord

I don't usually make mention of the artwork in a book unless it's exceptionally good, or bad, but Cary Nord really brought something unique to this title, which is rare for most comics these days, and I just had to comment on it.

The art is almost like a washed out water colour painting and, combined with the sharp, hardedged lines, it really stands out as something unique and different and I was really impressed by it. It isn't worth buying the issue over or anything drastic, but definitely added to my enjoyment of this issue.

I was actually surprised that this issue featured a much more proactive approach compared to most Secret Invasion tie-ins. Instead of the typical buildup and distrust followed by the actual invasion, we jump right into the thick of things with the X-Men kicking ass and taking names like a well oiled machine. This is what a team that trains in a Danger Room every day should look like.

It has the potential to be every bit as enjoyable as the WWH: X-Men battle royale without being a required read either.  
One thing I enjoyed was the focus on Skrull religion (no, simply having people state it's a holy war and saying he loves you 30 times an issue does not mean Bendis is focusing on their religion) and how Carey chose to use the overly religious Nightcrawler as a focal point for the deeper look into their religion. While he doesn't get too far with the orb that communicates with the Skrull gods, it shows promise for future issues of this mini-series and I think it has a lot of potential.

However, the drastic change in how the Skrulls are portrayed is also a detriment to this issue. These aren't the same Skrulls from over in Secret Invasion. They act differently, they dress differently and, aside from being green, you'd be hard pressed to find definitive similarities between the two versions of Skrulls. From the annointing of troops before battle to the focus on the religious and crusade like reasons behind their fight to other little nuansances, it just feels like I'm reading about a different Skrull invasion.

Verdict - Check It. It has the potential to be every bit as enjoyable as the WWH: X-Men battle royale without being a required read either. I was expecting this to be much worse than it turned out and I'll happily pick up the rest of this tie-in.

Related Posts


Eric said...

Glad to see that you picked up Captain Britain. It really is a great series.

About Revelations: The Spectre doesn't decide who he kills. He is the Spirit of God's Vengeance and so he kills whoever God decides he wants dead. After he told God to go to hell, God is forcing him to Montoya as a punishment. He has no control over that and I believe Rucka said that part of the story is the Spectre rebelling against that and regaining control of his destiny/fate.

Andrenn said...

I'm glad I dropped Astonishing X-men.

I also really enjoyed SI: Runaways/Young Avengers. It was a great read, but I expected no less of Yost.

Bobby Weenus said...

I don't know if its because I recently began reading comics again in the past few years (quit a little bit after the AoA/Onslaught debacles) but I don't think a lot of the SI titles are as bad as you think the are. Don't get me wrong, I agree that the storyline is moving painfully slow and that they are killing potential with pacing, but its still readable and I wouldn't avoid pretty much any of it.

The Batman RIP tie ins are without a doubt, some of the worst tie ins I've ever seen and if anything should be avoided, its the bulk of them.

dberes said...

"Genocide" means the killing of an entire group of people, so technically the Spectre is right, but yeah, it was a little silly.

To respond to bobby weenus, the R.I.P. tie-ins have all been very good, but they just don't really happen to tie into R.I.P. Big deal, DC wants to market the Bat books and get more money. Worse things have happened.

Krod said...

I haven't been able to find any X-Men I've liked save for Grant Morrison's stuff (and I still only give that a 6 of 10, but at least it was thoughtful and was written with sincerity). I was hoping Warren Ellis would provide something worthwhile, but have been leery because he doesn't write licensed properties with sincerity... if you keep reading it, I'd like to know if it makes a good short story as a collection.

Booster Gold has been a surprisingly good new series. I don't know the minutia of DC continuity, but it's never required that. It's been high quality episodic comics throughout Johns' writing, and it's a shame that Dixon isn't at DC to continue it. What a dumb move by DC.

Dixon's current Wildstorm series (2 issues of 6 so far) Storming Paradise has been great. It's an alternate history story about allied forces invading mainland Japan after our atomic bomb project fails (Oppenheimer accidentally blows up himself and the other scientists). You should check it out if you see it. Last week it was one of two sell-outs at the local comic shop here (along with Nightwing).

Bill said...

Ugh, my problem with Astonishing was the art. And it's a general... I dunno if it's an uncanny valley thing, but when the pictures are too photorealistic, the characters look like posed mannequins devoid of life. I have the same problem with Alex Ross and a few other guys... while it works fine for grand action scenes, I find it really distracting when they're just having a conversation.

Keith said...

I haven't read any Secret Invasion stuff yet, but from interviews with Mike Carey that I've read, it is a 'different' invasion. The Skrulls sent all their Super-Skrulls and elite commandos who know what they're doing to the places they knew they'd meet superheros. They weren't expecting to meet any resistance in San Fransisco, so they sent in grunts who can easily deal with normal humans, but can't be expected to take out guys like the X-Men. On the other hand, there are a lot of them landing in SF - its a quantity over quality invasion.

Parallax207 said...

I' starting to wonder why the SI: Runaways Young Avengers creative team isn't a better choice to take over the third volume of the runaways instead of Terry Moore.

Kirk Warren said...

@eric - Ya, CB&MI13 is amazing. Reallyd isappointed with myself for not picking this up sooner.

Good point on the Spectre. I just sort of lumped them into together as making the decisions and it didn't really click that God was sending him to kill Montoya in his petty little way.

@bobby weenus - Hmm, I thought I was overly positive for just about all of the SI tie-ins here. I know I was hard on the main event, but only Inhumans got anything overly negative said about it and the rest I actually recommended.

Even with Inhumans, I only really knocked it for ignoring the most recent Inhuman series and for simply repeating the same themes and story elements that came before.

The RIP "tie-ins" are terrible as tie-ins, but the actual issues are doing good on their own if you ignore the complete lack of RIP featured in them.

@dberes - Ya, I figured he meant the Martian race, but it just seemed a little odd to be keep mentioning genocide when all he did was kill one person. I still consider the White Martians as just like Asian or African American or what have you for humans, so I wouldn't say he wiped out an entire race with the numerous WM's still left alive.

@krod - You should give PAD's X-Factor a shot. While, the post-Messiah Complex stuff hasn't been his best work, everything pre-MC was amazing and you might like what you find.

Yost & Kyle's New X-Men run starting around Childhood's End was one of my favourite X-Men runs in a long time and I was a fan of Carey's Supernova arc, even if it was just a variation of the whole "next step in evolution" mutant villain that shows up every so many years in X-Men comics.

Might want to take a look at those if you haven't tried those yet.

@bill - I was hesitant to mention the art because I thought it was absolutely terrible and figured it was just me that wasn't liking it considering it was Bianchi. It's so muddy and disproportioned and the facial expressions are downright horrible.

Maybe it's just the inker or colourist responsible for that debacle?

@keith - Ya, they mention they didn't send any major Super Skrull army here (they do ahve a few though), but when I meant different, I meant just in the way they act.

Bendis' version is just a bunch of a cannonfodder with no personalities or motivations that randomly spout He Loves You every once in a while Carey's is like an actual holy army and we get personal views of the commanders and priests all talking about their conquest and the blessing of troops and so on.

I just found it completely contradicted Bendis' and everyoen elses version of the Skrulls, even though it was a much more interesting version.

@parallax207 - Yost (and Kyle) have already proven they have an excellent grasp of young heroes with New X-Men, so I'm not surprised to see him excelling with this mini, but I think Moore is a very competent writer, despite not having much mainstream work out there. I think you'll be surprised at how well he does on the book, but here's hoping Marvel falls back on Yost if Moore doesn't work out.

Krod said...

Wait, I take back what I said about there not being any X-Men that I've liked save for Morrison's. I also liked Millar's Ultimate X-Men even though, from what I read, I'm in the minority.

Isn't X-Factor just a superhero detective book that happens to have "mutants," a.k.a superheroes with lazy origins? Is there anything about it that really uses the mutant concept?

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