Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 10/08/08

Some very entertaining books came out this week and I was quite pleased with the entire lot of books I picked up. I was most surprised at how well the Ender's Game adaptation turned out and Action Comics and the Green Lantern titles came out in full force for DC.

On the Marvel side of things, they were pretty much non-existent this week, too. It's rather shocking that I'm usually buying a couple dozen Marvel titles a month and I've gotten two weeks in a row with little to nothing coming from them on my pull list.

Speaking of Marvel, the War of Kings comic book blog, not to be confused with the upcoming Marvel event, has a nice rundown of the current state of the X-titles for anyone wondering what's been going on in those titles since Messiah Complex. You can just follow the link if you've been looking for a quick recap on the X-universe.

Hit the jump for this week's initial batch of reviews and check back tomorrow for the rest.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal

The shock death I spoke about in the previews this week turned out to be a character I had placed on the 'can't be killed' list, much to my surprise. For those watching for spoilers, you might want to skip this review, as I'll be naming who it is later on, but it looks like an attempt to bring the comics in line with the movies with no, at this point in time, rhyme or reason behind the killing.

As the concluding chapter and big lead-in to the New Krypton storyline, this issue had a lot of things it had to accomplish, from freeing the Kryptonians and Metropolis from their bottled state to the defeat of Brainiac to the solicited big death and, finally, saving the Earth from a potential supernova and it only had 22 pages to work with to accomplish it.

For the sheer amount of stuff going on in this issue, I think Johns and Frank did an amazing job wrapping up so many subplots. However, I think, if you take the time to nitpick, there are quite a few plotholes that can be picked apart in the story that give me the impression this could have been stretched out over another issue or two for a more satisfying conclusion, something I don't usually say about comics in these decompression laddened times.

Despite some minor quibbles with the pacing, I really enjoyed everything with Brainiac in it and I hope this isn't the last we see of him (is he dead? In another body somewhere? "Deactivated"?). My favourite scene had to be after Superman lashed out at Brainiac with the heat vision and freed Supergirl.

As Brainiac comes back on panel, his face haggard and bleeding, his dialogue is just perfect in that cold and menacing way and I just keep picturing the JLA/JLU cartoon voice doing all the speech bubbles for him. Another great scene was when Superman takes him out of the ship and he's thrashing about in the swamp water, clearly suffering from some fear of germs and the lack of control he had in his ship. It just seemed like a perfect fit for his character and a fitting reaction with what we've seen of this new version.

I was, as I said, confused as to how Brainiac was defeated. He just stops moving and his glowing lights on his head go dark. Was he killed? Did he deactivate after being removed from his ship? Is this even Brainiac or a fake body like all the random robot versions Superman has defeated? He seemed so much stronger in previous issues, but just gets a couple of hits from Superman and then falls over "dead" at the end of this.

Speaking of dead, here's the big spoiler on who dies. In his final moments before passing out / dying, Brainiac reveals he knows where Superman lives and fires a missile at Ma and Pa Kent's home. This is all happening as Superman is freeing Metropolis and Kandor, which only requires they be removed from Brainiac's ship in order to be restored to full size (just a bit too convenient for my tastes). Jonathan sees the missile heading towards them and rushes to move Martha out of the way just in time.

However, the exertion took too much out of him and he has a stroke or heart attack while Superman places Kandor near the Fortress of Solitude. I was a little shocked that such a tiny missle, which didn't even destroy the house, just caused a fire, was sent to kill Superman's parents when he fired a supernova rocket at the Sun last issue. Think he could have splurged for a final attack on Superman's parents and maybe nuked Smallville or something? He did make fun of Earthlings weaponry earlier and than released the equivilent of a small gas fire on the house...

On the art side of things, Frank did an amazing job with the facial expressions for Superman as he rushed back to his dying father. In fact, he did an incredible job with everyone this issue, specifically with Brainiac and Superman's chat with Supergirl as she went off to stop the supernova missile.

Verdict - Must Read. There are a few minor quibbles and nitpicks that could be made about this issue, but it was just too good to really dwell on them for any length of time. Great story that has me genuinely excited for the Superman titles for the first time since, well, since he died, I suppose.

Written by Orson Scott Card
Adapted by Chris Yost
Art by Pasqual Ferry

As a preface to this review, I'm a big fan of the novel, Ender's Game, which this comic is attempting to adapt. As such, I was pretty leary about even picking this up in fear of it ruining what I considered to be one of my favourite novels.

Thankfully, this comic turned out to be both a faithful adaptation and a solid read and well worth the purchase. It's not perfect, by any means, and I'm not sure how well it stacks up for people that didn't read the novel, as a lot of descriptions and dialogue has been stripped out of these introductions, which probably makes some characters' motivations seem flimsy, like Peter's hatred towards his brother, and the use of some descriptors, like calling Ender a 'third', require new readers to infer what is meant by it with the lack of exposition.

However, as a novel reader, I really enjoyed seeing these characters in comic book form and I think they did a great job with this introduction chapter. They quickly introduce us to Ender, his brother, Peter, and sister, Valentine, and show us his daily life. Ender, a third child in a future where breeding is limited and a third is something you rarely, if ever see, is a brillaint child that was being groomed to be a potential commander of Earth's defenses against an alien aggressor.

The issue started off with him washing out of the program and having his monitor removed from the back of his neck. This was later revealed as a final test for Ender as the lack of the monitor that marked him as 'special' leads to bullies attacking him. The military wanted to see how Ender reacted to this situation and, after swiftly and decisively dealing with the bullies, it is revealed he passed this final test and would be heading to Battle School, ending our issue with him boarding a space ship for transport.

If you've read the novel, it quickly condenses much of the introductory chapters and gets us to the Battle School part of the story by issue's end. Again, for new readers, this may come off as rushed, as even I found it moved a bit too quick with so little room for exposition compared to the novel counterpart, but I still enjoyed the visual representation of the book I loved and think this will only help serve to inspire new readers to check out the novel.

Verdict - Check It. A very promising start to this adaptation and I was quite pleased with it. Very much looking forward to the next issue and Ender's arrival at Battle School.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert

While this was another great issue for the Secret Origin storyline, it felt like they left me hanging in terms of story. Where's the trip to Sinestro planet? Where's the continuation of Hal and Sinestro's relationship? Where's the big 'secret' part of this 'Secret Origin'? Sure, they added some new things that helped retcon / flesh out the things in his current stories and everything with the colour spectrums, but, honestly, I feel like we were just getting to the good part of the story and, apparently, it's over with this issue.

Picking up where we left off last month, the Guardians have forcibly recalled both Sinestro and Hal to Oa to reprimend for their actions on Earth. During these early days of his career, interactions with other Green Lanterns outside your sector is restricted everywhere except on Oa and the Guardians don't take to kindly to Sinestro's interactions with Hal.

This leads to the "introduction" of the Guardians to Hal in his rookie days and they are a much different breed of little blue men than the present day. They just felt much more distant and cold compared to the current day versions and it is revealed that they did not know that Ganthet had taken a name for himself and dispatched Sinestro to Earth. They also don't take kindly to Hal's insinuations that they, themselves, fear the colour impurity in the rings more than the actual Green Lanterns and that they even fear the GL's will revolt against them like the Manhunters did before them, as evidenced by their all yellow buildings and chambers, as if they don't want the GL's to be able to assault Oa.

It was a great little re-introduction for the Guardians in this origin story, but, as a concluding chapter to a secret origin, it lacked closure, as if there should have been more to the story. In fact, we end the issue with Sinestro telling Hal he's coming to his planet next time and he'll see him in a few months for evaluation. We even get a new prophecy of Sinestro's planet revolting against him due to his being off world, which is what happened in the original origin, and I was hoping to see the new reactions to these prophecies coming true. Sadly, we're all done here just as it was getting good.

Verdict - Check It. I want to give it a Must Read, but, unlike the last couple of issues, there's almost no new content related to the present day story. We see some foreshadowing of the Red Lanterns, but only for a panel or two and the rest is just some entertaining dialogue with the Guardians.

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Keith Gammage said...

Yeah, Marvel's scheduling just seems off this month, only one book I'm getting came out this week, and only one last week too, both mini-series. You'd think they'd try to spread out their most popular books so people go to the shop every week and have a better chance at picking up another book while they're there.

Cat said...

One awesome book from Marvel did come out....The Stand #2....great adapation. I also picked up my last Invincible Iron Man. It's a shame...I really miss the great Iron Man book that was being put out earlier this year.

Ampersand said...

Kirk, you should check out the new Deadpool series

Eric said...

Action Comics was a great issue. I'm pretty surprised at the shock regarding Pa Kent's death. It was really foreshadowed if you were paying attention. Didn't anybody wonder why last month's cover was Pa and Clark leaning against the fence, when there was nothing to do with that in the actual issue? I was not shocked, or even mildly surprised, but all in all a great issue and arc.

As far as Marvel, most of the books I picked up were literary adaptations and the Original Sin one shot which was half good half bad. They are pretty heavy the next few weeks with their stellar books.

Kirk Warren said...

@cat - I was never a big King fan. If you've seen Family Guy's joke about him where he just grabs a lampshade and talks about an evil lamp for his next novel and his publisher just says you aren't trying anymore, that's how I feel about most of his work. Nothing I've read from him really agrees with me, but I can see the appeal.

@ampersand - I flipped through the first one, but the jokes all fell flat for me and it just lacked what made the Cable & Deadpool (specifically the last year or so when it was just Deadpools book) so good. I might check back in on it in trade if I hear good things, though.

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