For today's reviews, I've done a mix of the regular format (lengthy summary/opinion) coupled with several bullet point pros and cons reviews. I'm not looking to change the format to these pros and cons permanently, but I may roll it out on bountiful weeks like this one in the future, so let me know what you think of it and I can try to make adjustments as we go along.
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Stefano Caselli
+ Caselli's art. He really hit this one out of the park, especially with the more graphic death scenes. His facial expressions were incredible, too. Almost at a Kevin Maguire level.
+ Skrull. Kill. Krew.
+ In response to why they still eat Skrulls when they don't need to in order to detect them, "...'cause we like the taste."
+ The Baron's Star Wars / living in a bunker comment.
+ Kimodo and the promise of more graduates showing up next issue.
- 3D Man origin recap, which we already had a few issues back, seemed redundant and unnecessary to the story.
- Repetition of the Skrull invasion of New York and the Initiative battle, which we've seen 3 or 4 times now in other books.
- Heroes are murdering Skrulls left and right. This is a SI complaint, but I just hate seeing heroes kill with such wanton abandon. These are aliens, yes, but heroes don't just blow heads off or watch people eat them and not say anything about it.
Verdict - Check It. It's a fun read with lots of action and great art. 3D Man is really growing on me and it was fun seeing Kimodo again.
BLUE BEETLE #30
Written by Matthew Sturges
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
+ Good grasp of the characters. Dialogue and interactions between each of the numerous supporting characters is fluid and make the new writer transition seem flawless.
+ Paco's family.
+ PACO'S FAMILY! Seriously, this was their first appearance in the series, to my knowledge, and it was awesome. It'll be in the Moments of the Week, so stay tuned.
+ The "Batman" segment at the start where Jaime tries to imitate Batman's sneaking up on Gordan routine with La Dama.
+ Deena's jealousy of the alien immigrant that's currently living with Paco.
- The main plot is, well, boring. I have no reason to care about these four super powered border crossers and the whole thing feels like a corny stereotype for the area - something I've never had reason to accuse this series of before.
- The fight with the four 'villain's' seemed forced for the sake of having some action and served no real story purpose that I could see.
- I really dislike the new scarab text that has shown up since Rogers left the title. It just feels wrong reading it.
Verdict - Check It. Kind of similar to how I felt about the recent Nightwing main story, Sturges first arc on Blue Beetle brings the goods for characterization and hits a lot of the right Blue Beetle notes, but the actual plot is a real stinker and counters just about all the positives he's brought to the book.
Written by Will Pfeifer
Art by David Lopez and Alvaro Lopez
+ Catwoman / Batman dynamic - this was just about the best representation of their complex love/hate relationship I have ever seen.
+ Their game of cat and mouse, as Batman chases Catwoman through the East End, was a fun ride which saw numerous changes in each character's mood and personality as they react to each new situation.
+ While it felt like Pfeifer was being forced to make Catwoman "bad" again, the story doesn't reflect this editorial mandate in the least and it follows a very logical and entertaining path to conclusion.
+ Selina's narration throughout the story, showing us her reactions to Batman and the things he does and says, was an excellent framing device.
+ Loved the final conclusion they went with as to why Selina gave up her baby and why she's been acting this way and how it relates to Bruce's motivation and drive to be Batman.
- It's the last issue of one of DC's most consistent and best titles and the only reason I can think of is so they can have her as a "villain" again.
Verdict - Must Read. If you have any interest in Batman and Catwoman and their complicated relationship, this is the issue for you. It's a done in one that boils down what makes their relationship click.
Written by Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka
Art by Michael Lark
+ While hospitalized, Dakota is relatively okay. Glad to see Brubaker didn't completely remove this entertaining character from the series.
+ While a tad rushed, the pieces of the puzzle all came together for a satisfying conclusion to this murder mystery.
+ Loved the opening fight scene. Usually, Daredevil is shown just taking everyone out. I liked how this showed the limitations of his powers in this environment and how he was smart enough to get out when he was in over his head.
+ Also loved how Matt tracked down Dakota's shooter. Another great use of his powers that doesn't fall into the unbelievable category that they sometimes get shown as.
- Conclusion to this storyline felt rushed. Would have benefitted from an extra issue or two, something I've rarely had the chance to say about Brubaker's decompressed and stretched out Daredevil run.
- The mystery serial killer, whom was talked about on end, was never seen and ended up being just a random thug being protected by some crooked anti-terrorist cops. Didn't expect Bullseye or anything, but he could have at least been shown on panel or being taken off to jail instead of us being promised he's going to be arrested.
- All they had was that damn dirty ape cover. Who's bright idea was it to print those abominations?
- Rucka's last co-written issue.
Verdict - Check It. While I loved this arc, this conclusion was just too rushed for my liking. With Lady Bullseye coming in next issue, it doesn't look like any follow up or epilogue is coming either. However, still a solid read that I doubt anyone will be upset with buying either.
IMMORTAL IRON FIST #18
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Travel Foreman
+ I like the idea behind every Iron Fist dying at the age of 33.
+ Heroes 4 Hire - I like how they continue to acknowledge the old H4H team and use them as supporting characaters in this book.
- I said I liked the idea behind dying at age 33. The actual execution - an alien-like super fighting monster guy - is not the kind of pulp-y, kung-fu action that I was expecting.
- The Misty Knight relationship, even with the past history between them, feels forced. The only lines they speak to each other are to remind us they are boyfriend and girlfriend all of a sudden.
- The flashback sequence lacks the same impact that the Brubaker and Fraction versions had. These feel forced in comparison and only served to show off more of the villain, who I dislike enough as it is.
- Really dislike how they make Orson Randall's heroin use into his way of hiding from the villain and cheating death. It cheapens the story of Orson's fall from grace of the impact it had and doesn't sync up with Orson's portrayal in the slightest.
Verdict - Check It. I'm at the tipping point as to whether I will be sticking with this series or not. It appears Swierczynski's only positives come from previously established plot points, all set up by the previous creative teams, and all the new plots are falling flat on their faces. I'll give it another issue or two before deciding if it's worth sticking with this, but the title looks to be flatlining fast.
Written by Mark Millar
Art by John Romita Jr
Over the top, Quintin Terrantino-esque blood and guts storytelling that grabs you by the balls and doesn't let you go for 22 pages of story is the best way to describe this story. Think Kill Bill with a swearing, katana wielding 10 year old (I think) little girl named Hit-Girl killing everyone in sight.
Oh, and the guy with the chainsaw? That's Big Daddy, either her actual father or just her super hero partner. He doesn't really do anything in this issue other than wait for Hit-Girl to finish killing all the gangbangers and help crush another mobster in a car compacter later in the issue.
On the Kick-Ass front, he can't believe what he's seeing with this little girl killing everyone and is ready to call it quits again after witnessing these gangland slayings and with these two pyschos still out on the loose.
We also get a little insight into how the "real world" mob are handling these so-called super heroes messing with thier operations and they are beginning to make preparations that I believe will lead to the scene from issue #1 with Kick-Ass strapped to the chair with the guys electrocuting / torturing him.
Verdict - Must Read. All-in-all, it was glorious over-the-top violence and I loved every minute of it. This isn't some deep plot and there's no real drama here, but the visceral action will grab you just the same.
MIGHTY AVENGERS #17
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Khoi Pham
Okay, I'm confused now. The preview cover says Mighty Avengers #17, it was on Marvel as the cover for this issue and a few other blogs and sites used this cover, but the one I ended up with was some hideous Hank Pym cover with a bunch of Skrulls pulling him away as a giant speech bubble takes up half the image. I want my Ares cover, damnit.
Sadly, the pain of this issue doesn't end with the change of covers. This issue is basically one big F-U to Hank Pym and any fans of the character. There should be a rule that if the creator hates a character, they shouldn't be allowed to write whatever the hell they want about them. Bendis did it with Tygra and he does it again here with Pym.
Basically, Bendis believes Hank Pym is so f--ked up that Skrulls can't even impersonate him without going crazy and losing their minds. Yes, this means that the Hank Pym Skrull has needed to be replaced on numerous occasions because he starts losing it, all thanks to Hank Pym being the biggest loser in the Marvel Universe, at least according to Bendis.
Bendis makes it abundantly clear that the only things he knows about Hank Pym are that he is a wife beater (one slap under dubious circumstances compared to much more henious in-character things by other heroes, yet Pym still gets this bullshit stigma piled on him) and he created Ultron.
This particular issue sees one such Hank Pym Skrull trying to get in touch with the Queen to tell her in some blatant Bendis-speak that the Skrulls can't win for various reasons, such as Thor being back and humans just being so kick-ass (my words), and Dum Dum Skrull ends up killing this Pym Skrull for being a waste of space and they bring in a new one.
Verdict - Avoid It. Unless you enjoy a pointless issue that only serves to show how much Bendis hates Hank Pym, there's no reason to pick this up.
NEW AVENGERS #44
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Billy Tan
I wasn't a fan of this issue for the simple fact the big deal about the Skrulls needing Reed Richards' "brain" for this invasion of Earth ended up being a huge copout that consisted of the Skrulls cloning perfect duplicates of Reed over and over and attempting to use imposter family members to get him to come up with a way for the Skrulls to invade undetected, which he eventually succeeds at.
What was the big secret he came up with? Well, after about 2 or 3 pages of scribbling some notes after his son Franklin (a Skrull) complained of being scared of Skrulls, Reed came up with this flawless method to remain undetected. The Skrulls walk in, kill the clone and then take the blood stained papers and do a little victory dance.
While I can live with the easy cloning methods and Reed somehow maintaining his intelligence and experiences while being rapidly grown to adulthood in perfect clones, the fact of the matter is, the Skrulls are using magic rituals to obtain the memories, personalities and undetectability they currently employ with those bloody facerags. What the hell does Reed Richards know about magic? He's all about science and can't even wrap his head around the concepts of magic. Does not compute for me unless the two pages of notes consisted of "Set up meeting with Dr Strange for tomorrow".
Verdict - Check It. Some people might be interested in the "revelation" of why the Skrulls needed Reed's brain to succeed, so I give this a Check It, but I thought this was just another pointless story with a flimsy, paperthin plot that barely explains what it sets out to, leaving more questions than answers.
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Wellinton Alves
This was a fairly pedestrian outing for Nova. It lacked that charm that makes this one of Marvel's best books. While never really doing anything wrong in this issue, it just pales in comparison to the recent Galactus / Silver Surfer storyline.
One thing that really confuses me is the lack of the Worldmind and the effect it has on Nova's use of the Novaforce. He never had the Worldmind prior to gaining the totality of the Novaforce and he was able to use his abilities without the need to go through several user interface menus to activate simple things, such as hand blasts or grav fields.
However, here, with how difficult Abnett & Lanning are making it for him to access his powers, I half expect Nova to have to call up a voice menu just to activate his ability to fly straight, let alone defend himself in anyway. I hope this ends up just being the Worldmind messing with Rich's head to teach him a lesson and he returns fairly soon.
As for the Secret Invasion tie-in, we get Skrulls setting a trap for Nova, since he is one of the most powerful humans alive with the Novaforce, and the Super Skrull ends up being one of them. It turns out he snuck in and took one of the Skrulls' places to find out what they were up to with the rumours of their renewed religious jihad beginning.
After the two mop up the Skrull cannonfodder (yay, more heroes (well, I guess Nova is the only hero here) killing!), Super Skrull explains the Secret Invasion in a nutshell, tells Nova of the invasion of Earth and the two go to help out. Once in Earth's orbit, they see the Skrull armada and are instantly attacked. But not before Super Skrull betrays Nova, apparently either trying to win favour with his people or the entire thing with helping Nova was a ruse to begin with. There is a third option, where he takes him into captivity to "save" him and never really betrayed him, which I see this ending up being.
Verdict - Check It. The Nova title seems to be on hold while we deal with the Secret Invasion tie-in, so no Worldmind development and no supporting cast of any kind being established, but it was good to see the Super Skrull again and the issue was still entertaining. An average Nova book is still a great book, but this isn't the best the series has to offer either.
SKAAR: SON OF HULK #3
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Ron Garney & Butch Guice
Sadly, this will be my last issue of Skaar: Son of Hulk. I gave it a fair shake, but it is not doing anything for me. Pak just seems all over the place with his story, as if he has too many stories to tell and needs an editor to rein him in and help him focus or he's worried about being cancelled and is trying to get to the "good stuff" without the proper amount of story development.
Either way, it makes for shoddy storytelling that jumps to each new plot point without any kind of forewarning or development of the previous material and gives the whole project a disjoint and jarring feel.
Take this issue, for a prime example. Skaar has been a mindless meathead the entire time, just randomly smashing and fighting since he first appeared without ever saying more than the odd grunt. All of a sudden, in response to Princess Omaka, who appeared out of nowhere last issue with little rhyme or reason behind her appearance, he starts speaking perfect English when confronted by the Wildebots.
Speaking of which, these Wildebots, which were mentioned quite a bit in Planet Hulk and were hyped up a lot in this series, too, show up en masse to confront Skaar and the others after all the noise and commotion of his fight with Axeman Bone. How powerful are these guys? Not very. In fact, they get taken out off panel in a jarring scene change to the next day with Skaar and the Princess, who stabbed him in the back of the head and tried to kill him the night before, are seen riding together all lovey dovey on their mount. Yeahbuwha-?
It doesn't help this series that Ron Garney has reverted to his henscratch-like drawing style, which he has used as of late (Wolverine: Get Mystique! notwithstanding). If he used his cleaner drawing style, I could almost justify sticking with the book for the pretty pictures (the interiors look nothing like that striking cover, which is by Garney, too), but nothing here even clicks with me.
Verdict - Avoid It. The Avoid It might sound harsh, as there are far worse books than Skaar, but it just lacks any kind of pull to make it even worth checking out, let alone sticking with for the long term and I'll be dropping it with this issue, justifying my Avoid It verdict.
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Steve McNiven
+ More of the same great alternate future action we've seen from the first few issues.
+ Steve McNiven - His art is spectacular. Words fail me in describing how great an artist he is and this issue is some of his strongest work to date, especially with respect to Logan and his reaction at the end of the issue to his having to save Hawkeye.
+ Kingpin - Wasn't expecting him to be, well, not Wilson Fisk. It was shocking to see him as a young punk that rose up to prominance in a very similar manner to the original Kingpin. This is the guy that killed Magneto, too. Wilson Fisk was never involved.
+ Spider-Bitch - While I don't like the name all that much, this character has a lot of personality and her intentions are far from altruistic - she's here to kill the Kingpin and take over his territory. And she succeeds in killing him, in case you were wondering.
+ Hawkeye is a badass. I loved his "genius" idea to just smash into the Kingpin's holding cells with the Spider Buggie and how he systematically takes out all of the guards. Great action all around.
- Looks like the whole, "I won't fight ever again", oath is ending mighty early for Logan. I was honestly prepared to see him only pop the claws at the very end of the story, after things got as bad as they possibly could. To see the cliffhanger promising him coming out of retirement next issue seems a bit premature, but hasn't happened yet, either.
Verdict - Must Read. Just sit back, buckle up and hang on as if a crazy blindman was driving this thrill ride of a story. It's going to be one hell of a fun time.
Written by Chris Yost & Craig Kyle
Art by Clayton Crain
+ Angel / Archangel hasn't been this interesting in years. I look forward to more Archangel and seeing how this new dual personality / powerset plays out in the future (not sure how it works, but he can transform back and forth between Angel and Archangel now. Doesn't seem like a conscious thing though.).
+ There will be blood. While some might consider it gratuitous violence, I think the style and tone of this book warrants the over-the-top nature Kyle and Yost are employing and as long as their is a story to back these killings up, I have no complaints with it.
+ Rahne and her father - I liked how this subplot played out, especially the ending with him being framed by Angel's wings, which triggered Rahne's 'kill Angel' programming. The fact she ate her own father is quite disturbing and the poor girl should be traumatized for a long time (about 2 issues comic time =p).
+ Bastion vs Wolverine - I liked how this fight played out. Bastion never seemed threatened by ol' snikt bub, but the casual way he decided to just leave due to Wolverine's increasing threat level and Logan's realization that Bastion has revived all of the X-Men's old villains was a great scene.
+ Who's Next? - I loved the hit list at the end. While I'm not a big fan of Cyclops' carefree attitude towards murder these days, I just thought this was a great, "well, we're done with Risman, who do you want to kill next?", scene with a lot of promise for future storylines.
- Disliked the flashback narrative. It robs the story of the immediancy and any threat the villains had by letting us know the heroes survive. All that's left is to go through the motions.
- Non-ending - For a the final part of this opening story, it wasn't a satisfying conclusion. There's still a lot of promise for future issues and this has more open subplots than a 90's X-Men title, so I was a little dismayed over the inability to provide any kind of worthwhile ending to the first storyarc. It just sort of peters out in a vague, "we fought, they died, not sure what happened", kind of way for the team based on Wolverine's narrative.
- What the hell was up with Magus and Eli? It just seemed like that whole betrayal came out of nowhere and didn't really add anything to the story for how much time was devoted to it.
Verdict - Check It. The first arc ended and, while not a major turning point or even a definitive ending to this arc, I'm still loving the new X-Force book and look forward to more of the same in the future.