Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 09/10/08

Hello again everyone! I know it's been a while and this isn't the regular day for reviews, but I hope that doesn't stop anyone (people still come here, right?) from enjoying the reviews.

Things have been hectic as of late, but I think the downtime has been a huge boost for me, from a motivation standponit. It gave me some much needed 'vacation' from blogging nearly every day for the past year and a bit.

To make up for the downtime, I'm going to try to whip up something special for you guys over the next week or two, as well as put up the Moments of the Week tomorrow, before getting back on track with your regularly scheduled programming on Monday.

I know you guys have been chomping at the bit with the lack of updates, so I'll cut this shot and let you get to the reviews. Enjoy!

Written by Dan Slott
Art by John Romitat Jr

New Ways To Die continues along with this issue. Last issue ended with Anti-Venom attempting to 'absorb' the radiation out of Spider-Man (the same radiation that gave him his powers).

Picking up right where that left off, Anti-Venom continues to suck the radiation out of Peter, but not before the Thunderbolts cleanup crew / nameless soldiers come in and collect Venom. This causes Anti-Venom to release Spider-Man, as he "wasn't finished" removing the symbiote from Venom.

There's some interesting reveals about Anti-Venom here. Apparently, it's not a symbiote or, at the very least, has no weaknesses like the original Venom or other symbiotes have. By this, I mean it is immune to both fire and sonics, as evidenced by the attacks by Songbird and Radioactive Man (he ignited the air with flames after super cooking it with radiation). Is he just a new breed / evolved form (I choose you Charizard!) of symbiote or is this something completely different, possibly created by Mr Negative? It'd be odd if it was so similar to a symbiote if it ends up not actually being one.

Another thing revealed about Anti-Venom is that it will not function like the Ultimate Venom symbiote. As we see in the current Ultimate Spider-Man storyline, whenever Ultimate Venom is near Ultimate Spider-Man, it causes Spidey pain and messes with his powers. Similarly, Anti-Venom, most likely due to sucking out Peter's radiation earlier in the issue, causes Spider-Man's powers to go haywire.

The other big happening this issue was the fight between Menace and Norman Osborn. Previous fights with Spider-Man had me thinking Menace was like the original Hobgoblin, in that he had the gear, but no super strength. He just didn't put up any kind of fight with Spider-Man on the physical level. However, this issue shows Menace can clearly take on Norman one on one in a fight (although Norman was definitely pulling his punches and measuring Menace up).

The fight didn't reveal much, but it's still hinting heavily towards Menace being Harry Osborn, but I'm sure that has to be a swerve. They even have Harry 'late' for his meeting with the Frontline crew, which he doesn't show up to until after the fight. I don't think I want Harry as a Goblin again, as it would defeat the purpose of bringing him back as Peter's friend again, but there's not really anyone else Menace could be at this point...

In the end, though, the story doesn't really go anywhere. We have fights, Anti-Venom sucked Peter's radiation out, which just adds a new weakness when fighting with him, and the Thunderbolts were jobbed out to Spidey and Anti-Venom. Granted, only Songbird and Radioactive Man were present (Venom was taken out last issue), but it still made them seem overly incompetent when those two are probably the most level headed and capable characters on the team.

One last thing of note was Norman finding Peter's webbed up camera after the battle. They find this camera with all these Spidey photos, figure out it has a homing chip to auto-focus on his chest emblem and the only possible solution they can come up with is that Peter Parker is fronting for Spider-Man's photos? No one believes Peter is Spider-Man? Does Mephisto's magic drop everyone's IQ 50 points, too?

Verdict - Check It. It's mindless fun and very little story. Sets up some interesting quirks with Anti-Venom (change that name already, jeez), but I don't see anything that screams 'must read' to me and I probably won't be sticking around after this storyline unless something drastic happens.

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Philip Tan, Jeff de los Santos and Jonathan Glapion

This issue took the train off the tracks for me. It just has far too many references to obscure stories I didn't read. I feel like I'm missing half the story here and I don't like that. There's referencing past stories, which is a nice addition, and then there's overly relying on past stories to the point of alienating new readers. I'm falling into that latter category on this one.

What is it I'm talking about? Well, just about everything with the Question is news to me, including her being the leader of some cult, a cult I have no clue about, talk of prophecies (Crime Bible maybe?) and most of her relationship with the Spectre's host, Crispus Allen.

For instance, I have no clue what's going on with this Spear of Destiny, the cult, why the Question is after them, where they came from, what they're after or who any of them are nor why I should care about them in the slightest. Are they new to this story? I ask because I've never heard of them, but I'm being treated like I should know all about them and feel like I'm out of the loop for not.

On the Spectre side of things, I still have no clue why he wants to kill Montoya. God, obviously, doesn't want him to kill her, as the Spirit of Mercy (who?) shows up and stops him from going through with it and Crispus doesn't want to kill Montoya, who he knew in his former life and made it known as such, and the only reason she's going to be killed is because she's the leader of some cult, which she's been fighting for a while and doesn't want any part of. So, I ask, what the hell is going on here? Why was he trying to kill her again? And is the Spirit of Mercy new? Should I know her?

Finally, the issue ties into Final Crisis by having the Anti-Life Equation induced people trying to assimilate Montoya, Spectre unable to do anything against them (protected the same as Libra according to Mercy), Vandall Savage being pierced by the Spear of Destiny and turning into Cain (yeahbuwha-?) and Montoya being teleported to where Batwoman was, who now has fangs and is controlled by the Anti-Life Equation.

Verdict - Avoid It. I'm tempted to say Check It, as this might make some sense to people that have read several obscure mini-series, but as one of the few tie-ins to a major event at DC and at a higher cover price than normal, this issue just does not cut it for me. There is some promise here, but I'm not sure if I want to stick it out to see it through to the end. The art, however, was excellent. Best part of the issue, by far.

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Luke Ross and Fabio Laguna

The eyeball stealing / Corps family killing murder mystery gets wrapped up pretty quickly and with little to no fanfare. I was expecting some big thing to come out of this attack on the Corps' families, but it ends up being a group of five identical siblings, calling themselves the Quintet and all members of the Sinestro Corps, who perpetrated the deed.

With the aid of plot device Lantern "I speak to the dead" Saarek, who was introduced last issue (technically, he first showed up in the GL/SC Secret Files), Kyle, Guy, Kilowog and Salaak track down and capture four of the Quintet, with the last member killing himself in lieu of being captured.

All this seemed to be a way to show off Saarek's 'talk to the dead' ability and the story felt like filler or an after thought - a mean's to an end, if you will. The only major developments to come out of this involved Kyle Rayner and the scarred, female Guardian.

Like last issue, Kyle continues with his morbid drawings. Last issue had a picture of a dead Green Lantern and this issue has him drawing a bleeding eyeball in the center of a the Green Lantern symbol. Still not sure what's going on here. Parallax influence from his battery?

On the Guardian side of things, the scarred Guardian continues to act on her own by recruiting Saarek to track down and speak with the Anti-Monitor's corpse. Is she trying to get rid of him, seeing him as a threat with his ability, or is there another reason for this? She's been shown with the Black Lantern Corps symbol in her eyes and has been acting quite insidious since being scarred by the Anti-Monitor, so I assume this is going to be some kind of act to further the Black Lantern agenda.

Verdict - Check It. Main story is rather uninspired work, but the subplots and foundation being layed for the Blackest Night are interesting.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Leinil Yu

"Yeah? Well, my God has a hammer." I think that might be the quote of the year.

Secret Invasion #6 is a lot like SI #4. It has a lot of talking heads and big promises that help hide the flaws in the issue. For instance, a large chunk of the issue dealt with the Skrulls announcing their victory on television, which they just did last issue. I assume it's supposed to indicate a passage of time, but it left me confused, seeing as the entire invasion feels like it takes place over the span of an afternoon.

Then there's the 'widescreen popcorn flick' action, all of which comes off as sound and fury and all that jazz, which is ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Take the Noh-Varr opening pages. I have no clue what's going on there. Did Noh-Varr attack Captain Marvel or is it random that he comes out of the flames? What is the point of those segments anyways?

Then there's the whole two page spread of New York destroyed. Who cares? We've seen that a million times. Hell, it's been destroyed every 6 months for the past 5 years, if not more. Civil War, WWH, New X-Men (Morrison version), Disassembled and dozens of other battles have done worse than this. Add in the retarded human's calling everyone fascists and it felt like a waste of space.

Despite these problems, I still found myself really liking this issue, but it mostly comes from the sense of anticipation for the final battle more than from the actual issue itself, much like the promise of Captain America and Thor joining the fray from issue four. The interaction between Cap and Thor was nice, but far too brief.

However, I don't see Bucky bantering with Thor, as Bendis is wont to do with every character he writes (banter that is). I just don't think he would joke about Thor and how he was supposed to be dead when questioned as to who he was since Thor had heard Steve Rogers died, but that's nitpicking at this point.

I'm a little confused at the Skrulls choice of tactics, though. Soon as the heroes' gathered in Central Park, why didn't they just nuke it from orbit? Done and done. No fuss, no muss. Oh, yeah, we need a big super battle to end this.

Last major 'reveal', if I read this write, is that Wasp is a sleeper Skrull. That kind of comes out of nowhere and the whole sleeper agent thing is coming off as very sloppy and lazy writing on Bendis' part. He could pick anyone out of a hat at this point and it makes sense with his contrived plot. There's no build up or hints towards any of these reveals and it's just shock value at this point.

Verdict - Check It. I was pretty negative throughout this review, but there's a lot wrong with Secret Invasion which warrants repeating, especially when this, and most every, issue is built on those negatives. If you've been enjoying the series up until now, you'll love this issue. If you['ve been having issues, like myself, this is an improvement over previous offerings, but there's very little actual story here and, even as setup, there's little of note happening. Heroes gather, Skrulls gather, fight next issue is all you need to know.

Written by Chris Yost
Art by Takeshi Miyazawa

With this final issue of the SI: Runaways / Young Avengers team-up, I think it's safe to say that it has been a resounding success.

While not an essential tie-in, by any means, this was a perfect team-up between two of my favourite teams and I think Yost did an excellent job with all of the characters, even if the story skewed more towards the Runaways than the Young Avengers.

The basic story for this mini-series is that a small Skrull platoon has discovered Hulkling, who is the prophesied uniter of their race and rightful ruler of the Skrull Empire, was alive and if the rest of the Skrull race found out about this, it could put the invasion, which is built on religious crusade-like fanaticisim, into jeopard if Hulkling claimed leadership and ordered them to stop.

As such, they've set out to do the sensible thing to stop - kill Hulkling - despite his not wanting to claim that roll as leader. This leads to the current predicament where Xavin, a Skrull on the Runaways team, is forced to fight his former teacher and mentor, who has come to kill Hulkling.

The final issue of this mini finishes up this fight, spotlights most members of both squads and is a must read for fans of either team. My favourite part of the issue has to be the continuation of Speed and Molly's relationship (no, not that kind of relationship sickos). They have a nice brother-sister dynamic and Molly's reaction to being dropped off at Mount Rushmore at the end of the issue was priceless.

However, this series was pretty much Xavin's story and they did a great job shedding light on the character. He was mostly just sort of there and I considered him mostly "Karolina's Skrull boy/girlfriend", since he was more like a setpiece than a character in the Runaways book, but this series made me appreciate the character a lot more.

Verdict - Must Read. Great fun for any Runaways or Young Avengers fan. No required knowledge of Secret Invasion, other than knowing Skrulls have invaded, is required.

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Cary Nord

Secret Invasion: X-men is shaping up to be a lot like WWH: X-Men, which is a good thing, in my opinion. Like most SI tie-ins, this isn't essential reading, but it's still a fun read watching the X-Men working together to fight back against the Skrulls.

The bulk of this issue deals with the X-Men mounting gorilla warfare hit and run tactics against the Skrulls, who have them outnumbered and outgunned with their Super Skrulls.

In fact, the only time we really go outside of these fights is for the Cyclops peptalk and for Nightcrawler's talks with "God" and these scenes serve to add some much needed fleshing out of the story to contrast the bulk of the action. Nightcrawler's scenes, in particular, are intersting when juxtaposed with his Catholic faith and I look forward to seeing more of these scenes in the remaining issues.

The only problems I have with this issue are the same as the first one - the Skrulls here, outside the Super Skrulls, are so different in the way they act compared to every other story. It's a small qualm and probably only something I'm really hung on, so I'll try not to harp on it too much in future issues. Things like the religious orb Nightcrawler has stolen and simple things, like the tactics being used and actions of the Skrulls compared to other issues, like Black Panther or Runaways / Young Avengers, etc.

Verdict - Check It. It's solid action, unique artstyle (although a little weaker with facial expressions this time around) and the X-Men being the competent team that's trained their whole lives for these types of situations make this a fun read. Definitely a must read for any Nightcrawler fan.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Butch Guice

Wow, after two subpar and lackluster first issues, I can't believe how much Bendis has turned Ultimate Origins around over the course of these last two issues. It's like a whole new event and these stories are actually interesting and worthwhile additions to that live up to the "Ultimate Origins" moniker.

This issue shows us how Nick Fury returned to the US military and began to make his new power base that would later lead to his appointment as the Director of SHIELD.

Basically, Fury roamed for a while after being subjected to the Super Soldier experiments. At first he blamed everyone else for his problems, but eventually accepted the fact he was the one that betrayed his country's trust and was off looting during the war. He then re-enlisted in the army and decided to be the best soldier he could be, which ended with him being injured and in the hospital, where we started the issue with him talking to Thunderbolt Ross.

Now that the military knew Fury was still alive, they set him up as the head of the new Project Rebirth program and allowed him to recruit whomever he wished in hopes of making a new Super Soldier serum.

That leads to the recruitment of several key characters from the Ultimate Universe, including Spider-Man's father, Richard Parker, a fresh out of college, Hank Pym, Bruce Banner and Sue and Johnny's father, Franklin Storm.

This team was given Nick Fury's blood and told to reverse engineer it. Franklin Storm eventually leaves the team along the way to work at the Baxter Building project, which was seen in the origin issues of Ultimate Fantastic Four's first arc.

From there, it's revealed Bruce Banner believes he has cracked the Super Soldier serum. While Fury has forbidden human testing of any kind, Hank Pym convinces Banner to test the serum. Pym wanted it tested on himself, but Banner decides to use it on himself first, just in case it fails.

As expected, this is the birth of the Hulk, years earlier than we were led to believe. Furthermore, this violent birth causes the death of both Richard and Mary Parker, who were on scene with their newborn son, Peter. Hulk actually reverted to Banner when he saw the baby, which was followed up with a kick in the face by Fury, demanding to know what the hell happened. Fury takes the baby Peter and tells him he's lucky he's so young since he'll never remember any of this.

The issue ends with the present day crisis of the weird obelisk objects appearing all over the world. One takes possession of Sue Storm and informs everyone that they are the Watchers and are here to, well, watch. What are they here to watch? Well, that invovevs "the coming devestation", which I imagine will have a lot to do with mutants based on the backstory we've been given about them so far. Maybe a climactic war between humans and mutants? Ultimate Registration Act? I know it's Ultimatum, but we've been given very little to go by for that story.

Oh, who am I kidding? Ultimatum's by Loeb, it'll be a murder mystery followed by random guest stars of the most popular characters in the universe all drawn by a super star artist and ends with some retarded twist that makes no sense. Why am I even hoping for more than that?

Verdict - Must Read. Ultimate Origins has turned itself around and I'm almost ready to call it the event of the year. That wouldn't take too much work at this point, but it's still been exceptionally good these last two issues.

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Cat said...

YAY! Kirk's back :-) Seriously though...glad you had a break and hope the house issues are clearing up. I agree about Ultimate Origins....I was ready to drop it after issue 2...glad I didn't.
On another note: Did anyone else pick up The Stand #1? what a great adaptation so far. Great Mike Perkins art too!

Anonymous said...

Interesting reviews as always, Kirk. On the Wasp being a sleeper skrull -- not sure I agree with you. If I recall correctly, in one of the Hank Pym issues of Mighty Avengers, it's revealed that he did something with his Wasp/Giant-Man formula. It's possible, if the posts in CBR and Newsarama are to be believed, that Jan is a "bomb" of some sort.

I think this plot point could be very interesting since it suggests that Jan could die at the end or whatever happens to Jan will have a bigger impact that any of us think.

Yost said...

Thanks for the kind words.

chris yost

Black Ice said...

Wow,an update and Yost stops by. Nice. I gonna have to pick up SI X-men and SI YA/Runaways.

Wasp being a skrull didn't come completely out of left field. Bendis kinda of hinted at it in Disassembled when she left slip to Wanda about her twins.

pat said...

i know some people don't like the "rehash" origin tales...but magneto testament was the best marvel book this week by far...on the DC side of things I loved Revelations..I also am a little confused like you Kirk, but it isn't affecting how awesome this story is going...I'm glad Savage is showing up as the big bad in this as Cain, guy never gets the credit he deserves

Rawnzilla said...

Hey Kirk, glad to see that you're back. I agree with what Cat said, you have to pick up The Stand #1.

Joe Quantum said...

i will apologize in advance for the length.

no you should not know who the Spirit of Mercy is cause shes completely new as in "FIRST APPEARANCE: FINAL CRISIS REVELATIONS #2". The cult stuff happened in the "Crime Bible" mini. Montoya was fighting the Cult of Crime throughout the mini and in a climatic battle with their leader the dude falls on some spikes and dies and she is basically forced to lead them because it is some kind of prophecy in the Crime Bible (The Parable of the Faceless) that shes supposed to lead them. you see, as she hunted them during the mini, they set about trying to corrupt her. they thought they succeeded when she "killed" their leader. The mini ends with them bowing down before her. And then we catch up with her in Revelations and it seems shes been busy since then.

also, i have a theory about the Vandal Savage/Cain thing. Vandal was a caveman who got irradiated by a "meteorite". Maybe the "meteorite" was really the Rock of Cain(tm), you know, the rock that Cain killed Abel with. And maybe it contained the essence of Cain or something and the Spear of Destiny released it. I'm like 95% sure this is the case. Alternately, maybe the cult needed a man with A LOT of murder to his name (52,000 years of it) and the Spear of Destiny was inexplicably infused with Cain's spirit.

also i'd also like to recommend the stand. its making me re-read the book and that thing is thicker than the bible. damn that Mike Perkins art is gorgeous, where has he been all my life?


Lazaraki said...

dont forget secret six

Cat said...

quote "damn that Mike Perkins art is gorgeous, where has he been all my life?" end quote.

He's been working on Captain America with Epting, before that drew (& co-created I believe) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang for was a nice short lived book.

Yash said...

You spelled "Guerilla" as Gorilla.

I usually don't nitpick but that one was funny.

Daniel Woburn said...

regarding Secret Invasion... has Bendis forgotten about Jessica and Luke's Skrull-eyed little baby? where's that gonna come into it?

Dru said...

If Venom's weaknesses are sound & fire, then does this mean Anti-Venom's weaknesses are cold & ... uh ... silence?

dberes said...

I thought Secret Invasion kind of blew this week. It's just one bit of wasted potential after another.

Andrenn said...

Great to see you back Kirk, I can understand the needs of a vacation for sure.

I agree with most of your reviews, minus the ASM one, I thought 571 was pretty bad and that it wasn't worth reading.

Loved Runaways/Young Avengers though.

Ethereal said...

Slow Week. I only picked up two books this week; Deadpool and Green Lantern Corps.

GLC was pretty good, I'm interested to see where the story is going.

Deadpool just makes me wish they had put him in X-Force, if not on the team then as a recurring character. I don't like the Secret Invasion tie-ins but I'll give the first arc a shot, otherwise I'm off it.

James said...

I'm not really sure why you're surprised that a story written by Greg Rucka, about characters Greg Rucka basically created, refers to stories they've been in. This is a story featuring the Question, who is basically a C-list character, of course Rucka is going to reference a story he wrote 6 months ago dealing with the exact same character.

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