Saturday, November 1, 2008

Final Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 10/29/08

Got caught up in Halloween related nonsense and didn't get a chance to put these out when I wanted, which is sad, seeing as we didn't get a single trick or treater this year. We don't usually get many near my place (most go to neighbourhoods with more houses and where they're closer together), but there's usually at least two or three kids.

Speaking of Halloween, anyone dress up as a comic related character? I've always been tempted to let my nerd cred show with a comic costume, but never followed through with one. If you've got a picture, drop a link and I'll post it tomorrow in the Moments of the Week.

Anyways, on with the reviews!

Written by Dan Slott & Chris Gage
Art by Stefano Caselli

I believe Avengers: The Initiative is falling victim of Secret Invasion's broad strokes, no room for characterization, something earlier issues had that made me care about the various D-listers appearing in this book, storytelling and it only serves to undermine everything Slott, Gage and Caselli, who doesn't actually draw this issue, have built.

For example, Thor Girl fights Ultragirl in this issue and the resulting fight has Thor Girl revealed as a Skrull infiltrator, killed and forgotten in the span of a few pages. This is a character that has been in the book for a fair length of time and was one I was enjoying. Aside from her sketchy origins, what with the Asgardians all 'dying' and her still kicking, she had shown no signs of Skrullification and was receiving some solid character development with Trauma that was thrown out the window for a shock reveal and killing.

In fact, most of the book dealt with the Skrull Kill Krew, along with a select group of random Initiative members, going from state to state killing the Skrull on each team, quickly dismantling the various teams that were setup before we even got a chance to get to know any of them, which is a lot of wasted time establishing them in the first place.

The saddest development was witnessing how far Cloud 9's fun loving, "I just want to fly", character has fallen since graduation. Here, she's hiding in cloud formations and sniping off enemies with adamantium tipped bullets without even batting an eye. I miss the old Cloud 9 and hope they find a way to fix her because she's broken and unlikeable at this point.

The remainder of the issue was devoted to moving people into position for their appearances in Secret Invasion, such as having most of the team converging on Central Park and meeting up with Nick Fury. The remaining members find out from Ant-Man that the Skrulls are going to use the Negative Zone portals connecting each Initiative base as a giant teleporter to phase out a huge chunk of landmass to the Negative Zone, which would result in the Earth's orbit shifting, if their invasion plans fail. Thus, they all set out to blow up the Negative Zone portals, which seems far more compelling than the actual conclusion to Secret Invasion is with the Wasp blowing up.

Verdict - Check It. There are flashes of the old Initiative book pre-SI tie-ins, but they are few and far between. With only one issue left of tie-ins, I wonder if the book will be able to keep me entertained long enough to stick it out for future stories.

Written by Greg Pak & Fred van Lente
Art by Clayton Henry

I think everyone has to buy this issue simply to see the image of Hercules smiling and giving Cho the thumbs up after he sees Cho in the bedchambers of one of the Amazons. I'm almost tempted to swap it into the banner image.

If funny images aren't enough to get you to buy a comic, it's probably a good thing that Incredible Hercules is one of Marvel's best titles at the moment and this issue continues that success.

First off, while we do get the promised Namor vs Herc fight, it's not as cliched as one might suspect and ends rather comically as Namora breaks the two up fairly quickly and explains the situation to Namor, who chastises Herc for not telling him sooner. Ah, Namor, clearly this isn't your fault. You're a simple fish person and never lose your cool.

From here, we find out Namor is looking for Poseidon, his god of worship, who has been kidnapped by the Amazons. They all team up to find both Poseidon and Cho, who's busy 'impressing' the Amazons with his intelligence, which leads to the aforementioned Herc thumbs up scene and Cho's "get lost, I'm trying to score here" sneer back at him.

One of the sadder moments of the issue dealt with Hercules flashback to his brief time with Hippolyta and the startling realization she was killed when Herc finds her head on a pike while looking for a way into the Amazon compound.

The issue ends with Namor, Herc and Namora converging on the captured Poseidon, who a random Amazon has chained up and a gun to his head. She threatens to kill the god if they step any closer,but I'm at a loss as to what Poseidon's power levels are or how it's possible to do this to a god like him. We'll have to wait and see next issue.

Verdict - Must Read. Lot of fun to read, great flashbacks fleshing out Herc's past and progressed the current plot. Can't ask for much more.

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Doug Braithwaite

Unlike the actual Thor series, the Secret Invasion counterpart is all about action and smashing things. For some, this is the kind of Thor they wanted out of JMS's run. For others, it's exactly what was wrong with past incarnations of the hero. Personally, while I enjoyed this mini-series, having it drop on the same week as JMS's series only served to excentuate the flaws in this book.

Continuing with the cliffhanger from last issue, Donald Blake has arrived on the scene to take over for the defeated Beta Ray Bill. He quickly takes up his hammer and the book turns into a generic action romp with the odd bit of narration to break up the monotony.

The way the issue is laid out doesn't do the book any favours. Like Secret Invasion, itself, this is made up of action scenes that look more like storyboards for a movie than something used to tell an actual story. They look like pin-ups and snapshots that need the silver screen and actors to flesh out instead of standing on their own for a comic book medium. It gives the book a "flip through it" type of feeling, whereby I don't even feel the need to read half the pages with so little dialogue and the widescreen action appeal to it.

It doesn't help that the story ends predictably with Thor saving the day, recovering Beta Ray Bill's hammer and the duo then taking the villain to task while the other Asgardians repel the invaders. There's no emotion here, no purpose and it feels like wasted money in the end.

Verdict - Avoid It. If you've been following this series already, this is more of the same and you won't be disappointed on that end. But, for everyone else, you didn't miss anything and you should spend your money elsewhere.

Written by James Robinson
Art by Renato Guedes and Jose Magalháes

The New Krypton storyline kicked off last week in a rather low-key opening issue. Picking up right where that special ended, one hundred thousand Kryptonians have taken up residence on Earth in the newly rebigulated (why, that's impossible!) city of Kandor, now located in the Arctic, near the Fortress of Solitude.

Obviously, the people of Earth have taken notice of several thousand Supermen flying around the world and taking in the sights and this issue gives us some insight into how these people are handling the situation.

Herein lies the first problem I had with this issue - why are people so shocked at this? They are acting like this is the first time they've seen people that can fly or aliens or super powered beings when the whole planet is crawling with them. You can't spit without hitting someone with powers in the DCU, yet Perry White is pulling the entire Daily Planet staff off their regular assignments to cover the Kryptonian story.

While this, in itself, isn't that big a deal, when the whole issue focuses on this fantastical reaction to their arrival, it makes it difficult for me to take the premise seriously.

The other problem I have with this issue is the same problem I had with earlier issues of Robinson's run - the dialogue. If you had no problem with the broken English and the continuous, "what a good boy", talk to Krypto from those earlier issues, you probably won't mind Perry White not knowing the difference between the Antarctic and Arctic nor the stiff dialogue between the JLA/JSA members and Superman nor any other dialogue from the issue. Personally, I can't believe this is the same person that wrote Starman and feel either Robinson or his editor, maybe both, are asleep at the wheel when these books get published.

In terms of the actual New Krypton story, this issue simply saw the Kryptonians assemble rather large selection of delegates to meet the president of the United States. Most of the issue was spent showing public reaction to the Kryptonian arrivals and a brief meeting with Superman and a few members of the JLA and JSA, where they expressed concerns over one hundred thousand Supermen showing up out of nowhere.

For the second issue of this event, I found having the focus almost exclusively from the human perspective a tad disappointing. It's been two issues of this story and the only Kryptonians we've met are Supergirl's parents. Sure, we see others flying around and taking up space, but we've yet to see anyone interesting or noteworthy or even potential villains from the group and it's turned this huge influx of Kryptonians and made it feel like only one or two showed up.

The only surprise of the issue came in the form of the final page. During the meeting between the president and the Kryptonian delegates (aka, Supergirl's parents), Doomsday comes crashing down into Metropolis, much to the shock of everyone. To be honest, Doomsday comes off as a one trick pony and, try as DC does, that never really changes. Since killing Superman, he's been routinely defeated and was taken out rather easily back in Infinite Crisis with two Supermen. With an entire army of Kryptonians, I can only see this being done in one or two pages next issue. As for who sent him, I'm guessing General Lane and Lex Luthor released him on Metropolis.

Verdict - Check It. I think the issue only serves to downplay the actual Kryptonians with its human perspective and Robinson's dialogue has continued to turn me off of his Superman. The issue was a decent continuation of the New Krypton storyline, but it lacks the impact and appeal of Johns' setup issues.

THOR #11
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Olivier Coipel

While many people were impressed by the Captain America tribute found in this issue, I found it unnecessary and much preferred the Loki and Baldur scenes in Asgard to it.

That's not to say the tribute was bad, but, at this point in time and with a new Captain America already out, combined with the numerous tributes we've seen throughout the past year, it almost feels like he's beating a dead horse, much like what Thor, himself, was trying to do to stop the media from exploiting Cap's death in this very issue.

However, it's hard to fault JMS for this as it is one of the better takes on Steve Rogers' death and much better than his strawman political diatrab against Iron Man over the Civil War debacle in earlier issues.

For me, though, the best parts of this issue dealt with Loki and Baldur as they watch the other Asgardians partake in a friendly game of capture the flag, red vs blue style. It served to further Loki's machinations (love that word, just say say it out loud, it's no wonder villains monologue) as he continues to manipulate Baldur while Thor is away.

Loki's bait this time dealt with the very war games the gods were playing. Playing devil's advocate, as usual, she discussed how Thor has turned Asgard into a gilded cage and, with the death of one of the Asgardians during a drunken brawl, sowed more discontent in the easily manipulated Baldur's mind. He's not going to be at Thor's throat anytime soon or challenging for the crown, but it's clear Loki has planted the seeds for this sort of situation in the future.

Verdict - Must Read. Thor continues to impress and, while some may find the slow pace tedious or the lack of action disconcerting, I'll take an Asgardian drama over random hammer smashings any day.

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William Goodman said...

I didn't get a chance to pick up Superman this week, but I am going to go back and get it. I totally agree with you on Avengers: The Initiative, I want it to hurry and get done with this SI arc.

Andrenn said...

I was my own creation for the TrT fun yet again this year, but am considering some kind of zombified villain for next year.

I've been considering getting into Thor, and this issue sounds great. But I think I'll wait until #600 whenever it comes out

Anonymous said...

i thought the panel with everyone seeing doomsday was excellent, humans and kryptonians scared excpet for agent liberty and the security officer chick in the center panel...and im sure johns and robinson have something up their sleeves with doomsday showing up

Ampersand said...

" I'm almost tempted to swap it into the banner image."

Do it!

mugiwara said...

I agree with you about Thor Girl. I am sad to find that the character I learned to like was a Skrull. But it would also be lame if only heroes nobody care about were replaced by Skrulls.

I liked Abby's characterisation in this issue. It's sad but very well done and resume all what Camp Hammond is about: a military institution which can kill people (MVP), break people (Armory), change people into cold blooded soldiers (Cloud 9) or into better persons (Hardball).
I think they should keep the Hard Boylen Abby for a while before redeeming here and make her into a hero instead of a soldier.

I am also sad to know that the next issue will be the last pencilled by Caselli before he left for Secret Warriors.
All the fil-in art on ATI has been pretty bad, and now that Ramos is stated to be the new regular penciler, I expect also bad regular art (Ramos is able to do the best as well as the worse, but seing his art on Runaways, I think he is in his 'worse period).

Rawnzilla said...

I dressed up as a Green Lantern.

I'm awesome.

Anonymous said...

Namorita died with the new warriors in the firstissue of civil war. Namora, "mother" of Namorita (well in fact Namorita was revealed to be an imperfect clone of Namora during Byrne's tenure on Namor, but I digress) is currently starring in Incredible Hercules.

Kirk Warren said...

@andrenn - I don't know if they'll switch it back to the original numbering again. They already did it once with issue 500, can't see them doing it again for cheap sales boost, especially with it sellign well as it is.

@mugiwara - I hadn't heard about Ramos coming on as the new artist. Not sure how I feel about that. Agree with you about his current output on Runaways. Would like to see the quality of some of his earlier work when he takes over this title.

@rawnzilla - Nice costume. Ill edit it into the MotW when I get a chance.

@anonymous - You're right. I got them mixed up. I'll be sure to double check next time and I'll fix those in the review.

Eric said...

I loved this week's Thor. It was the best book of the week for me. Rage of the Red Lanterns was good, but I think Thor beat it art and storywise. I think the Cap tribute was great. I understand there's a new Cap, but I don't think Steve Rogers should ever be forgotten, and it was nice to see Thor get some face time with Cap, since I think he got robbed of that during the Civil War.

Anonymous said...

I realize I'm probably in the minority, but to me, Bucky Barnes is not now and never will be Captain America. Thor is my pick of the week.

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