Thursday, October 16, 2008

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 10/15/08

I actually didn't get to the shop to pick up my books yesterday. Trust me, I was saddened by this as much as you were at not getting the reviews yesterday. Thankfully, this week was one of the best in recent memory, capped off with the incredible conclusion to Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge. Hit the jump for the first batch of reviews.

Written by Dan Slott
Art by John Romita Jr

If you've been following my reviews of, New Ways to Die, you'll know that I'm not enamoured with the whole Brand New Day concept nor this story, in particular. As I've said many times now, and this is more a problem with BND than the actual New Ways to Die storyline, I'm a big Spider-Man fan and have been an avid reader of these titles all my life and as much as I disliked the JMS era, it was still Spider-Man and felt relevant.

These BND stories feel like the John Byrne stuff Marvel tried back in the 90's - it's an unneeded rehashing of stories from the past with a "modern spin", but none of the Ultimate-style fun. I liked the Harry / Peter relationship. I liked the single Peter Parker. I liked the constant troubles and relationship problems he had. However, I liked those 15 years ago. Things have changed since then and it all feels forced and really pulls me out of any kind of story they try to tell, even those by talented creators like JRJr and Slott.

Getting back to the big conclusion to this storyline, it really fell flat for me. I thought we were going to get a Green Goblin fight, but it's just Spider-Man throwing Norman through a few walls, some innuendo about Harry and the bad things he's been up to at Oscorp (no real answers, though) and a quick cut to Venorpion (Peter's naming, not mine.) vs Anti-Venom (Marvel's naming, sadly. Peter laughed at it, too.).

In fact, the Anti-Venom / Venom fight was about as cliched as could be. That big, bad poison Norman cooked up last issue for Venom to use on Anti-Venom? Venom uses it and it 'kills' the Anti-Venom suit (we find out at the end that it Anti-Venom is just fine), but the symbiote won't let Mac Gargan kill Eddie because it still loves him. That's all. They just walk away from each other after that.

In the end, after Norman self-destructs the building, the Thunderbolts claim Spider-Man is dead to save face, Peter decides to lay low for a few days and everything is back to normal, for the most part. If I had to describe exactly how this made me feel, it was like Slott was going through the motions, giving us a fight for the sake of a fight, sending the Thunderbolts packing without any real resolution, copping out on the Anti-Venom / Venom fight and just banging out a rather boring ending to a very 90's-like event.

Verdict - Check It. While the review may come off as overly negative, many of my problems stem primarily from BND. This issue never strays into a definitive Avoid It territory, but it's never overly impressive either. JRJr's Green Goblin is still one of my favourite interpretations of the character. Some of his best recent work, to be honest.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by George PĂ©rez and Scott Koblish

While this is a much better outing than the Legion of Three Worlds history lesson that was issue one, this issue, in comparison, felt a lot more rushed. It was as if Johns, after having caught everyone up on the Legion characters, who they are and who all the major players are, forgot he had to setup the plot for the rest of the series and rushed everything into this issue so he could start moving next on. It felt like he crammed the first two issues of most storylines into this one after wasting the first issue.

Now, don't misunderstand me. This was still a great issue, by any standard. It has a lot of great moments and the meeting of the Brainiacs was exactly as I would have imagined it, but I think the rushed nature of this setup issue robs this issue of a lot of the impact it should have had, especiallyw ith some of the things that happened here.

To start off, we were quickly introduced to Random Legion Member #1032 (Mysa), who is being rescued by several Legion members introduced last issue, and Random Legion Bad Guy #2930 (Mordru), who has captured her. We're not told how or why she was captured, but I don't think it matters.

The Legion free Mysa and, as expected, Mordru shows up to stop them. This is all precursor to the introduction of the last Green Lantern in the universe, Rand Vidar. The small band of Legionnaires looked to be holding their own against Mordru until the entire Legion of Super Villains showed up. This should end badly for all involved, right? Not exactly...

Instead of the massacre we were all expecting, Mysa teleports the team back to Earth. Well, all except Green Lantern, who stayed behind to ensure their escape as he protected them during her spell. This leads to a nice introduction to the all the villains and Superboy Prime's past deeds as the ring recaps everything in brief sitreps for the last Green Lantern and the reader.

As expected, Prime hasn't forgotten his hatred of the GL's and, after several panels of what I consider filler / introductions for all the villains as we get shots of several of them using their powers one at a time on the GL, before Prime finally gets a hold of him and promptly kills the last Green Lantern.

After this, we get pages of the Legion attempting to contact the other two Legions using the lightning rod from the JSA/JLA/Legion team-up and the old crystal ball the JLA and JSA used to use to converse between Earth-1 and -2.

Meanwhile, Brainiac has several plans in motion as he sends one team off to retrieve the dead Rand Vidar's body and take it to Oa to meet a mysterious Daxamite (more on this later), another team to go back to the 21st century for some reason and yet another group to go intercept the Legion of Super Villains, who are on their way to Earth.

While all this is going on, Brainiac and the remaining Legion manage to contact and bring the other two Legions to this Earth, much to their confusion and my delight, as the various Brainiacs inevitably started bickering with each other.

Finally, we skip the retrieving of the dead body and pick up with the team tasked to going to Oa. After we see the ring of the deceased GL trying to find a suitable host and failing before returning to Oa (Mogo was destroyed, so no more ring guidance system), we catch up with this team as they confront the mystery Daxamite. As I'm sure everyone figured out by now, it turns out to be none other than our very own resident Daxamite, Sodam Yat, aka, Ion, who is now sporting a mohawk and a more Alan Moore GL Annual-like appearance and claiming to be the last Guardian of the Universe.

As you can see, a lot happened in this issue, almost all setup, and I even glossed over a lot of details and backstory parts to keep this brief (well, brief for me). I think the rushed feeling I get from this issue comes from the sudden shifts in focus with little buildup, like the sudden 'go get the dead body' scene to 'oh, we're at Oa now' with nothing in between, which many of the scene changes and plot developments experienced.

Further adding to this feeling is the artwork. Perez is often heralded for his ability to draw so many characters on panel without losing any of the detail, but this issue is far from his best in that regard. While they still have lots of characters on panel, the layouts seem to be designed solely for that purpose - to have lots of people on every page - with little rhyme or reason. The sudden shifts to single character fights, like when the Green Lantern takes down several of the villains one at a time, when you have dozens of people in the previous panel further compounds this problem with the art for me.

It's hard to describe in words, as many will see single pages with all this stuff happening on it and looking fine and wonder why I'm being so hard on it, but I think many of these "lots of people on panel" scenes hurt the story more than help it. The Legion vs Super Villains fight really suffers as we get this huge clash of the titans with the heroes severly outnumbered and the pages make it look like it's all one on one fights when Prime could tear everyone apart on his own. Add all these heavy hitters to the mix and it should have been a massacre, but Perez does his job of showing off everyone's powers individually and it hurts the epic scope of this threat and the fights come off as a generic super-heroes vs super villains brawl.

Verdict - Must Read. This has been a lengthy review as it is, but I just have to end this on a positive note, as this comes off as one big hate-on for this issue when that couldn't be any further from the truth. This is an excellent, yet flawed, issue. Thankfully, the good outweighs the bad by a large margin, but this review is for those that aren't buying this issue, for whatever reason, and I think they've read more than enough of the glowing reviews on other sites and are interested in knowing the flaws as well. For the rest of us that bought it, we just get to enjoy it and shake our heads at why they didn't.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Scott Kolins

Best issue this week, by far. I'm not sure what it is about Final Crisis' tie-ins, but they are almost all, universally, amazing and superior to the main event title in every way. While it's hard to compare a mini-series to a single issue, I'm tempted to say I enjoyed Rogues' Revenge more than the Martian Manhunter send off, Final Crisis: Requiem, and I was heralding that issue as the best issue of the year back when it came out.

In fact, the only negative thing I have to say about this issue is that it's the last one for this mini-series. Well, that and Kolins are makes everyone look like they're melting for some reason, but my point still stands - this is easily the best book this week and you do yourself a disservice not picking this series up. I'm not even sure if trade waiting is an acceptible excuse at this point, and that's something I never say about comics, especially pricier ones like these Final Crisis tie-ins.

Just what made this issue, and series, so good? Well, that would be the excellent characterization on Johns' part. As someone that has never followed the Flash outside of random appearances in other books or internet / wikipedia surfing, I can honestly say I love these characters and want to find out more about them after reading about them in this series. In fact, I've pushed the Johns Flash run up to the top of my wishlist for future trade / back issue purchases and will be going out of my way to read those issues after this. If that's not enough of a reason to give this series a shot, I'm not sure what will persuade you.

Basically, this issue wraps up the whole Zoom / Inertia subplot and sets up the Rogues, and Flash titles, for the upcoming Flash: Rebirth event sometime next year while also tying up all the loose ends concerning Libra and the Rogues' revenge on the Inertia for the whole killing Bart Allan fiasco.

Of course, these are all secondary to the fleshing out of the numerous Rogues and it's their personalities and interactions, of which I'd buy a Rogues title to read more of, that permeates every facet of the story. These other events are important and interesting in their own right, but, in my eyes, only serve to further expand upon and flesh out the Rogues.

Of all these plots the Zoom / Inertia subplot, in particular, ended rather abruptly with Inertia quickly mastering Zoom's use of time travel / speed and turning those powers against Zoom, reverting him to a cripple, before the Rogues, hot for his blood, show up and quickly, and definitively, kill him. I was actually hoping to see more of the Inertia / Zoom team and thought they'd make a good duo to combat the quickly expanding number of Flashes in the DCU, but, alas, it was not to be. Zoom being depowered was also a shock. I thought he'd be a big part of the Flash titles post-Rebirth, but he looks to be out of the picture for the foreseeable future.

Verdict - Must Read. I can't say enough good things about this title. Just a joy to read and it reminds me of why I read comics.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Dale Eaglesham

Did anyone else have to flip back through their copy and check to see if pages were ripped out? With so many sudden and abrupt changes in the flow of the story, from flip flopping on 'we don't fight each other' moments to brawling on the next page to Power Girl asking for help from Earth-2's Mr Terrific on one page to just suddenly being back on our Earth, with the Earth-2 JSA in pursuit, several pages later, the whole issue felt like it was having a seizure, spasming from plot point to plot point with no real connecting plotpoints or proper scene changes.

And I'm not joking when I asked if anyone else had to check for missing pages. I literally flipped back on more than one occasion to see if my copy was out of order or if I had missing pages. It was that jarring.

Ignoring these moments and looking at each individual section on its own merits and this is another solid issue of JSA. However, these small moments of congruity do not make up for the schizophrenic story telling and lack of cohesion on the whole. Let's take a look at some the things I did like about this issue.

First up is Magog. David Reid (Ya, I had to look his name up, too) is a much more interesting character post death and rebirth than he was in the previous half a dozen or so that he's appeared in prior to this. His talks with Kingdom Come Superman helped sell this sudden introduction of Magog into the mix and I really like this change, on the whole. I loved how they were justifying him not being a bad guy now with his feeding of a monkey at breakfast. Villains don't feed monkeys! Classic.

Starman was great, as always. I was afraid with the return of his sanity, he'd fade into obscurity, but everything he says and the way he is reacting so negatively to having his sanity back has only served to add to my like of his character. I'll miss Sloppy Joe Wednesdays though.

Finally, a Black Adam cameo is always a good thing in my books. At first I thought it was Gog making the mystery lightning bolt shaped field of Isis "pointing" Adam towards Khandaq, but I don't think it is now. It seems like Adam was in the opposite direction of where Gog was currently, so I don't think the flowers were grown in that desert area by him. Maybe Faust? Someone else? Does Isis have some control over herself now and is trying to help Adam find her?

These weren't the only good parts of the issue, but they were the ones that stood out the most. My biggest disappointment was how quickly sides were drawn between the heroes and how quick they were to fight each other. After a solid opening of everyone getting along and some allusions to a potential future conflict, it was disappointing to see Johns just go for the quick, no build up and cliched super-hero fight.

Verdict - Check It. I'm still enjoying the Gog storyline, but this is the weakest issue of JSA in a while.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Jackson Guice

I suppose I'll get this out of the way now. The Hulk and Captain America, both so prominantly displayed on the cover, do not appear in this issue. Not even a cameo. I know covers don't matter these days, but, come on, I can put up with a generic pose or promised fight that doesn't happen if the characters at least show up in the issue. I have no other words for how much I hate the sad state of the comic book cover these days.

Cover aside, this was another excellent issue of Ultimate Origin and I daresay this was the best event of the year, despite my misgivings over the first issue or two. As a lead-in to Ultimatum, this story did an excellent job of establishing the huge secrets concerning several key players in the Ultimate Universe, ranging from Nick Fury to mutants being man made to the establishment of Xavier and Magneto's relationship, and helped build these seemingly disconnected events into a coherent narrative and ended it with this issue's Watcher warning of impending destruction. As far as lead-ins go, this one did its job. I'm definitely interested in Ultimatum, even with Loeb at the helm. Scary, I know, but that's how good this series ended up.

Speaking of Watchers, this issue established who and what the Watchers are and they end up being similar to the Marvel 616 incarnations in that they simply watch other species and record specific events without ever taking action to prevent them. It's not explained if these are sentient beings or just robots created by someone else, but Uatu, the Watcher possessing and speaking through Sue Storm, after asking her permission (Such a polite alien. His mother would be so proud.), seems to be part of a hivemind or collective based on how he spoke of other Watchers but that's speculation on my part.

The Watcher outlines the pattern of destruction, which should invoke memories of previous issues and events from other Ultimate titles, and how they compare to other civilizations they've 'watched'. Their only conclusion is the destruction of this civilization being imminent and this is all played out in narrative as we're contrasted with images of what is surely going to be the spark that causes this destruction - the relationship between Xavier and Magneto and the falling out between them, as seen with the spear through the back of Charles Xavier, essentially crippling him, in the Savage Land.

While we've seen that before in Ultimate X-Men, this recap expanded upon it with the pyschic link between Xavier and Magneto established in previous issues of Origin. It seems Xavier tried to pyschically make Magneto see things his way and that caused the rift and skewering by Magneto. The dialogue / monologue by Magneto is definitely the highlight of the issue and, combined with the teaser poster of him with Thor's hammer, has me more excited about Ultimatum than I have any right to be, especially after seeing how Ultimates 3 turned out.

Ending the issue was the Watcher's appointing a herald to witness the destruction (or bring it about?) in the form of Rick Jones, who is now covered in a golden skin (Ultimate Adam Warlock?) and, I presume, having powers of some kind.

Verdict - Must Read. If you have even the slightest inkling of an interest in the Ultimate Universe, this is a must have by all accounts. Even without any interest in the Ultimate Universe I think this issue stands on its own as a great story.

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Andrenn said...

All I have to say about ASM #573 is that while I'm glad Anti-Venom is alive I hope Marvel actually uses the character for something useful and important later on. NWTD was an all right opening for the character and he had some good moments, but where marvel goes from here is critical. If they do what they did with Toxin, and leave the character up in the air for too long, people will stop caring and they'll never bring him back. If they jump too quick to make a mini-series then people will be burnt out of the character.

Quite a pickle Marvel has.

Anonymous said...

Good reviews kirk,

Geoff Johns is a sure hero isn';t he?

Legion and Rogues revenge were both knocked out of the park for me.

captain cold rocks

Ethereal said...

Both Final Crisis titles were great, especially Rogues Revenge, what a great ending. I'm even more excited about Flash: Rebirth now :P.

About Legion, it was a good issue. I didn't expect the Sodam Yat appearance, but it's nice. Not sure what to expect after this issue.

JSA had some very good dialogue between Magog and KC Superman. I loved it. I can see it all coming together from the dialogue between the two, and somehow I think the reason the KC storyline happened is because of something this Superman had said that another wouldn't have (Okay, I hate alternate realities too..) I liked the Black Adam tie-in part, I think it's a good use of Gog as an effect among other characters in the DCU.

Unfortunately Rage of the Red Lanterns is pushed back to the 29th (no idea why), so that's something I'll be looking forward to now.

I haven't read my two marvel titles yet (Guardians and Captain Britain) but I'm not as excited for them as I was for the DC books.

nu said...

bad news:

jwcraw said...

Before I finish the review for J.S. of A, I'd like to say that yes I thought that I might have skip a page once or twice. Glad I'm not the only one. Now back to the review.

abc said...

Any comments on the Colbert back-up story in ASM #573?

Kirk Warren said...

@nu - Ya, I saw that and commented on my Twitter, but it's disappointing to see another comic I enjoyed bite the dust. I imagine a few others will be on the chopping block with the slow season for sales coming up and the way the US economy is going.

@abc - I like Colbert's show, but the backup read like those Jay Leno guest appearance comics from several years back. I'd rather have a few cents knocked off the cost than pay for something inane like that.

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