Saturday, September 20, 2008

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 09/17/08

I know, I know. Another late edition of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews and I apologize. Almost anything I say now will come off as an excuse, but I've been having a rough go of it this week with personal stuff and I'm just going to leave it at that with an, "I'm sorry and I'll do my best to get things back on track next week."

This week was surprisingly good, even if we ignore the fact All-Star Superman, which always makes it a great week, came out. Books like Atomic Robo, The Walking Dead and several others I'll be reviewing tomorrow all dropped along with the books I've reviewed today and I was quite happy with all my purchases this week. Definitely one of those week's where it's good to be a comic fan.

Anyways, hit the jump for this week's reviews.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal

To start, what's up with the cover? I know most covers have nothing to do with the actual issue anymore these days, but this one takes the cake. His parents aren't in the issue outside a small cameo at the end, they don't go to visit them on the farm and it has absolutely nothing to do with the Brainiac story this issue continues. Wouldn't a cover with Metropolis in a bottle or, at least, Brainiac on it be a better choice?

Cover nonsense aside, this was another great issue from Johns and Frank. I'm really enjoying this Brainiac storyline, despite some small misgivings. If this is how good the build up to the New Krypton story is, I can't wait to see what they have in store for us in the months to come.

Speaking of misgivings, I still dislike the fact everyone acts like this is the first time they've ever run into Brainiac (or any version of him) and how they ignore the older Kandor and continuity without any explanation. I don't follow Superman titles on a regular basis, so if this happened a back during Infinite Crisis, a quick recap to let us know what the status quo was would have been nice.

The only other negatives I can think about for this issue pertain to the fight with Brainiac and how Superman bit his 'brain plug thingy' and it disabled him for a few minutes, which seems a bit stupid for someone/thing as intelligent as Brainiac to have as a weakness going into a fight, and how the Brainiac robots attacking Supergirl can manhandle her, but Lois and some Daily Planet staff can throw them off buildings while only being baseline humans. They're small things, but really pulled me out of the story when I came upon them and that makes them worth mentioning.

Otherwise, I really liked this issue and highly recommend it. Brainiac had some really great dialogue and, despite my dislike of his new muscle bound look, was a very credible threat to Superman in my eyes, which is a rare thing indeed.

One of the big revelations for the upcoming Superman event was the reveal that Supergirl's parents are alive in Kandor. I read a little bit of Supergirl's return to comics, but I thought her parents died in that, but they retcon that fairly easily here.

Finally, the biggest shocks of this issue come in the form of Metropolis being sucked up into a bottle and Brainiac firing a solar aggravator towards the Sun, which should wipe out Earth similar to how Brainiac destroyed a solar system in the opening parts of this storyline. Only thing odd about the solar aggravator is that he fired one that was nearly instant the last time and this one is going to take about an hour to reach our Sun...

Verdict - Must Read. Few small problems, but nothing deal breaking in this great issue. Highly recommended.

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant

I'm sure everyone's read the hype and press about how this issue is the greatest thing since hot pockets and I've only got one thing to say about that - nothing is greater than hot pockets. Er, I mean, it's all true (except the greater than hot pockets part).

This issue has it all - it caps off one of the greatest comic book series of all time, it wraps up the final trial of Superman in a climactic battle with Lex Luthor, it features the "death" of Superman and, unlike his Final Crisis work, Morrison's wild imagination is tempered with a passion and focus for this story that his other work simply lacks. In short, this was just another day at the office for All-Star Superman as every issue was like this.

However, in regards to this particular issue, I think many reviewers are confusing their feelings with the series, and this being the last issue and all, with the quality of this issue. Many are praising and talking about it being the greatest book ever when they are referring to the series as a whole much in the same way many great actors or directors receive awards at the end of their careers to make up for the fact they were snubbed in favour of the flavour of the month or for other reasons in their early years.

Was this issue good? Damn straight it was. Was it the best All-Star Superman issue yet and greatest comic of the past decade or ever, as many other reviewers are claiming? Far from it. I don't want to go into the reasons why it's not the greatest comic ever simply because it will give a negative overtone to a book that was simply amazing, but I just want to make it known that this is a great issue with some flaws. It's better than almost anything else you'll read this week and it has some jaw dropping moments, like Superman working inside the Sun or the final splash page, but it also has it's problems, such as the generally rushed pace of the story and rushed looking art as well as some major events that are handled so casually, such as the entire Solaris turning the Sun blue and the subsequent saving of it, that it's hard to praise this as the messiah of comic books like some others are wont to do.

However, do not let my desire to inform you that it is not the greatest comic ever dissuade or even remotely imply that this is a bad comic. We've got lots of high concepts, as you've come to expect from Morrison, as well as lots of great action and dialogue between Superman and Lex Luthor, a gravity gun and even a cameo by the Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? statue as well as some very heavy allusion to Morrison's DC One Million storyline, which the entire All-Star Superman series has been making references too. Morrison has made Superman relevant in a way that no other writer has managed and this is simply one of the best comics you could give to a fan or non-fan alike and I'm sure they'll enjoy it.

Verdict - Must Read. I could have bashed my head against the keyboard and put out some mangled review and I'd still expect you people to buy this book without the need for a review, but it had to be done. Buy this book!

Written by Dan Slott
Art by John Romita Jr

Amazing Spider-Man continues it's first major storyline since Brand New Day began and it continues to be decidedly average. I've said it in previous reviews of this storyline, but it bares repeating - if you like Brand New Day, you'll like this storyline, but if you dislike BND, this issue won't do anything to win you over.

It has it's moments and may do more for newer readers than me, but I just find it lacks any kind of emotional attachment for me. I can read it and I'm not annoyed nor do I hate it, but I wouldn't miss it if it wasn't on my read pile either.

As for the issue at hand, Bullseye leads a team of goons with 'smart bullets', which are designed to home in on Spidey's 'auto-focus target' embedded in his costume logo, which is there to help his camera auto-focus on the action better. These bullets, oddly enough, fire from guns, but then fly all over the place as they attempt to hit Spidey in the chest. Kind of hokey in hindsight, if you ask me, but Slott made it work in the comic and Spidey's spider-sense still managed to help him avoid any fatal hits.

Surprisingly, Anti-Venom came to Spider-Man's aid during this battle and even returned his missing camera, which he stole back from Norman and the Thunderbolts. I'm still not sure how to feel about Anti-Venom, though. He seems to be a one-shot character - here for this story, but no long time staying power. Maybe with the introduction of the new/returning Scorpion (more on this in a bit) will see Brock regain the symbiote and become Venom.

Another thing about Anti-Venom and the camera is that he now knows Peter has been taking his own pictures all this time and is Spider-Man. How did Brock come to this conclusion when the Thunderbolts all just assume Parker is a frontman for Spidey's pictures? I was hoping that was all Mephisto's doing, but it's clear that they are just being written as idiots now. Also, what's the point of wiping everyone's memories of his identity if they are just going to give it out to people all over again?

Meanwhile, Osborn is back in his Green Goblin costume, which Romita Jr does a fanastic job drawing, and is taking measures to get Venom back in the action and setting plans in motion to take out both Spider-Man and Anti-Venom.

To that end, he's used Freak, the drug addict / super adapting villain from earlier BND stories, as a test subject for making various cures and other research. Using a sample of Anti-Venom left over in Gargen's system, he pumps it into Freak, who immediately makes a super toxin to combat the new symbiote. Norman uses this to get Venom back in the action, along with a new costume to help shield the weakened symbiote. The costume? A new Scorpion armour. Things look to be building to a head for the next issue, but I suspect we'll get more hand holding until the final part.

Verdict - Check It. For how much was going on in this issue, it all felt like setup for the upcoming issues and I've yet to be wowed by a single issue of this event. It's not bad, but not great either.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Stefano Caselli

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this issue, especially with how shaky Bendis' writing has been throughout the Secret Invasion event. While I was expecting another issue of generic and interview quote laddened "Bendis speak" (where everyone speaks the exact same way, typically repeating things Bendis has said in interviews), I was shocked to find a story where Bendis put out some of his strongest dialogue in a long time.

Another surprise was Khoi Pham not doing the artwork. He was replaced with Stefan Caselli for some reason and, as a fan of Caselli's work, I'm more than happy with the switch. The story of this issue also relates a lot to Caselli's other gig, Avengers: The Initiative, where he draws various young heroes in training exercises as this issue deals with Fury training his Secret Warriors or Howling Commandos or whatever they're calling the group this week.

One of my favourite parts of the issue was the training between Fury and the super strong guy, Stonewall. This is a combat exercise and Fury takes him to school, despite Stonewall having super strength. It's just one of those cool moments that is kind of cliched for "training sessions", but never gets old.

The rest of the issue dealt with Fury sending the team on a mission to kidnap Maria Hill, whom he has lied to them about being a Skrull. The purpose of the mission, as we find out in the end, was to test Maria Hill, whom Fury wants to be a better head of SHIELD, and to test his own Secret Warrior team's abilities to see if they could pull off such a high risk op. The team succeeds, but it seems Fury's advice to Hill to start using Life Model Decoys was taken under consideration as the team only managed to grab an LMD of Hill, not the real deal.

Oddly enough, Druid, the magic user of the team, seemed to be having a lot of problems with his powers during the issue. He was visibly shaking and sweating and looked to be in a lot of pain, even post-op when they were interrogating the LMD. Combined with the tension between Fury and Hellfire, the resident hothead of the group, and it looks like a good setup for a mini-series or ongoing coming out of Secret Invasion and this issue alone has given me the confidence to pick up such a book.

Verdict - Must Read. Great action that did a lot to endear these new heroes to me and I actually look forward to reading more about them in the future.

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patrick said...

After this weeks batch, all I gotta say is Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns should just write/produce/direct the next superman flick...I don't think anyone knows Superman better than these two...Superman books have never been better

Andrenn said...

No worries about the delays Kirk, I've been there. Life takes it's toll and you can't always get around to the small things.

great batch of reviews. I was considering buying Mighty for the Caselli art alone, but I'm just waiting for the Secret Invasion Hardcovers which comes out in a few months.

Anonymous said...

"Another thing about Anti-Venom and the camera is that he now knows Peter has been taking his own pictures all this time and is Spider-Man."

Go back and read it again. Brock says he wasted time "hating Parker" when "all along, you were taking your own pictures"... the SAME conclusion Norman came to.

about me! said...

So Mephisto just made everyone ignorant?

Max said...

I'm not a Superman fan, but the massive praise for All Star has pretty much convinced to buy it when both trades are out. Got to be the most critically acclaimed book for the past few years along with Sinestro Corps War, right? Or are there other contenders?

matthew. said...

I agree with your conclusion on All-Star Superman. It's not the finest issue (that's number 10) but it is the final issue. So for reviewers to take stock of the entire series is completely acceptable considering that the final issue looks back on the entire series, including the major themes and images. Still, issue 10 is the best of the bunch, if not one of the best individual Superman stories ever.

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