Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 12/03/08

Long time no see guys. Apologies for the delays again, but there's not much I can do about it at this time. I actually started writing these a few days ago and woke up the first night to a face full of keyboard before realizing I just couldn't finish them then. I have most of the Moments of the Week done for last week and will post them tomorrow. I can't promise anything about the posting schedule at this time, but the holidays are coming up and I'll try to get things back in order during that time, so please bear with me a little longer. Hit the jump for the reviews.

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Lee Garbett

Has nothing to do with Batman RIP and it's as if that event didn't even occur. Instead, we're treated to 22 pages of flashbacks and recaps that seem designed to put random Silver Age stories back into modern day continuity, such as the old Batwoman.

This all comes to a head when we are shown that it is merely a dream state induced on Batman during his time in Final Crisis. The New Gods are simply trying to pick apart Batman's mind and find a way to clone an army with the same mental fortitude and tenacity that he possesses.

To be frank, I feel cheated of my money. In the particular Batman RIP issues I disliked, it at least felt like I was reading a Grant Morrison story and it had all the trappings of a imaginative and planned story. This lacks any of the subtleties of his previous work and is a straight forward recap / flashback story that does nothing for me. The Final Crisis additions at the end does nothing to change this and I'm honestly shocked to see that this is actually written by Grant Morrison. It feels like some cheap tie-in book that a D-list writer is forced to write for the money grab.

Verdict - Avoid It. Nothing noteworthy happens and there's nothing here that I can even remotely see as foreshadowing or setup for future storylines that would justify a read.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Dale Eaglesham and Nathan Massengill

I'm having a love / hate relationship with JSA and this Gog storyline. The dreadful two steps forward, one step back pacing in which Johns has been using has only made it worse.

Take this issue for an example. Based on what has been happening throughout this story and the current pacing, I imagined we'd be receiving some explanations as to Gog's machinations and what he's been doing. At the very least, I expected some fallout as to each of Gog's followers reaction to his 'kneel before Gog' request.

Instead, Johns kicks the story into overdrive in an attempt at a big finish and simply throws as many random Kingdom Come references in as possible, even going so far as to have Alan Scott suit up in his KC armour for no reason and having Gog turn the Flash into the KC Speed Force version.

If we look past all the nostolgia for Kingdom Come and the sudden final battle with Gog starting up out of nowhere, none of this really adds up from a story standpoint. It's like we went from A to D and skipped B and C on the way and the reader is expected to ignore the fact we went from build up to conclusion with no real middle ground, even after the slew of one-shots that added nothing major to the story.

Now, that's not to say I didn't enjoy this issue. I'm just puzzled over Johns' decisions. Perhaps the teaming up with Ross is resulting in the psychitsophrenic pacing. Citizen Steel is probably the best part of this issue. I was pleasantly surprised to see Steel outright refuse Gog in this issue. It was a great payoff to his constant waiting on Gog to bestow him with a 'miracle' from earlier in the storyline.

Also, while the fighting came out of nowhere, I liked the way in which Gog systematically 'took back' his miracles from each of the JSA members. Will these be permanent or merely temporary changes for each affected member, all of which had their miracles turned back many times over.

One thing that has me confused, though, is Gog's power level. He seems to be able to grant and remove these miracles at will, yet it appeared as if the JSA were actually hurting him and he was in danger at one point. Why doesn't he simply turn everyone into trees or kill them outright if he's that powerful? Why is he letting the JSA fight back at all? I'm hoping we'll see some form of explanation in regards to just how strong he is before the end of this storyline.

Verdict - Check It. While the storyline has its problems, it looks like it will be ending with a bang based on this issue.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Billy Tan

This issue actually had more impact than the actual ending of Secret Invasion. While I feel Bendis isn't up for the huge super hero events, these low key, street level stories are right up his alley. Add in his favourite pet characters, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, and it's sure to be a great read.

The crux of this story revolves around a flashback to Luke Cage telling he and Jessica's baby the story of when he first knew he was in love with Jessica and it ends up being a touching story about how Jessica helps Luke track down his father.

The catch is that Luke's father isn't missing so much as he is avoiding his son, who was at one point accused of murder and spent time in jail before going on to become a super hero, which his father isn't so fond of either.

In the end, nothing really comes of the story in regards to Luke's father, who's been traumatized by the loss of his first born son and the various allegations against Luke and his current lifestyle and doesn't want anything to do with his son anymore, but the developing relationship, at the time, between Luke and Jessica was great to see and the conclusion leads to a scene about how Luke doens't want to mess things up for his child.

As we all know by now, the ending to Secret Invasion saw Luke and Jessica's child kidnapped by the Skrull Jarvis and this issue ends on a similar, yet more powerful, in context, scene that made this one of my favourite SI tie-ins.

Verdict - Must Read. I'm not sure where they'll be going in relation to the missing baby story, but I really enjoyed this issue and recommend it to any fan of these characters or Bendis' more street level stories.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Leinil Francis Yu

There are just so many things I want to say about how bad this final chapter of Secret Invasion was that I'm not even sure where to begin. It is, by far, the worst conclusion to any story I have read. Wait, that's not right. That would imply this was a conclusion. This consists of past tense narrative telling us what happened, features the entire Skrull invasion being wrapped up in two to three pages and then ends with some Tony Stark bashing and a reveal of the Illuminaughty / Dark Reign bad guys. Saying this was a conclusion would be an insult to stories that have proper beginnings, middles and endings. You know, real stories.

I can just imagine going over the outline for this last issue and the only thing anyone talking about is the Dark Reign reveal at the end and completely ignoring the non-trivial dismissal of the entire goddamn plot we spent the past year or so beating around the bush about and building up as some kind of threat. It's like one big, "Screw you.", from Bendis and Marvel as they tell us they're done with the Skrulls and moving on to the next event and to please prepare our wallets to give them more money.

Honestly, you ask, it couldn't be that bad, could it? You all know I've been less than thrilled with Secret Invasion since it began. However, while I disliked the way the story was being told, I could at least understand why others could enjoy it. It had that big, widescreen popcorn summer movie feel going for it and there was constant action and twist and turns as Bendis broke out every Skrull / shapeshifter cliche possible for what most were expecting for a summer event.

He threw that all out the window with this issue. We spend half the issue with some past tense narration telling us how the Skrull invasion ended. That shocking 'Wasp is a ticking time bomb' ending from last issue was promptly kicked to the curb and ignored as Thor simply teleports her away to die somewhere off panel and then the heroes simply dog pile on top of Skrull Spider-Woman in an attempt to kill her. Yes, they all are out for blood and want to kill now. In the end, Norman Osborn is the one to get the killing blow on the Skrull Queen and thus ends the Skrull Invasion.

What about the Skrull armada and occupation of most of the Earth, you ask? Well, that gets taken care of in one or two pages and is simply explained away as the Skrulls falling apart when their leader, who has been in hiding and not commanding any troops for most of the invasion, dies. Thor and a few other big hitters went off into space and destroyed all their ships in the span of a few panels and the invasion was over.

Finally, with nothing left to do, Bendis moves on to blame everything on Tony Stark. First, he has Thor snub him, which I don't mind as it at least makes some sense in regards to their previous encounters. Next up, Bucky, who has a fairly good relationship with Tony, as seen in Captain America and the Knaufs written Iron Man, turns his back on Tony and leaves him hanging and, finally, the US government and the world turns on him as the USA disbands the United Nations run SHIELD, fires Tony, promises investigations into his time as director and promptly places all the blame for the Skrull invasion on Tony, despite SWORD being the extraterrestrial defense branch for the world and Tony having no control over the Skrull infested Initiative, which was run by the US government. Hate Iron Man all you want, but there are limits to how much you can beat a dead horse.

On top of all this, they appoint Norman Osborn as the new leader of the Thunderbolts Initiative, which will replace SHIELD, effectively giving the most batshit insane person on the planet, which everyone and their mother already knows, the most powerful position on Earth. The reason? He killed the Skrull Queen. Makes sense to me.

After revealing Norman's new seat of power, we are treated the lone highlight of this issue - the Dark Reign reveal. We knew most of these people going in based on the previews from past comicons, but the story telling potential after seeing this grouping is enough to get any comic fans blood pumping. This evil Illuminati grouping is revealed to be Norman Osborn, who appears to be the defacto leader of this group (the only thing I didn't agree about, especially with Dr Doom there), The Hood, Dr Doom, Namor, White Queen (she has the big X-Men logo on her chest in the ad / preview cover at the end, so I guess it's not the other White Queen like originally supposed), and Loki.

The Secret Invasion: Dark Reign special advertised at the end looks to answer all of our questions regarding this grouping and I hope it addresses Norman Osborn's presence with these other characters, as he's just some goof in a mask that fights and loses to Spider-Man every other week. Why Dr Doom or Loki or Namor or just about any of them would take orders from him or even tolerate his presence doesn't seem to make any sense to me. At best, they'd bring him in after finding out about his newfound position and still wouldn't have him as what appears to be the leader of the grouping as this narrative and brief introduction appears to do.

Verdict - Avoid It. If you've been online, you've seen the final page of this issue. That's all you need to know. Having the conclusion to your summer blockbuster told completely in flashback is the stupidest thing I've ever seen and robbed the story of any impact it could have had and flies completely in the face of the style and tone the rest of the series had. It's like they didn't even care anymore and wanted to end it and move on to Dark Reign instead of going through the paces of, you know, telling the story. Not even the most adamant Secret Invasion fan should be pleased with how this was arbitrarily swept under the rug.

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Kevin said...

your the first review, outside of mine, I read that actually says that this issue of Batman wasn't as great as a lot of people say it is due to having almost no connection to Batman RIP.

pat said...

Technically, it doesnt have anything to do with RIP, and nowhere does it say it does..This was meant to be a tribute issue to the legacy of Batman, while also tying into what is happening during Final Crisis, which I thought it did beautifully. Morrison's psychological take on The Joker and his many incarnations over the years is brilliant. I've made comparisons to Morrisons work to ABC's Lost...enjoy the rollercoaster and don't complain, because its impossible to predict where things are goin to go from here or how it will end

Black Ice said...

Good to see you back. No worries about the delays.

Bob said...

i actually quite enjoyed the characterisation in Batman 682, even if the story was a bit confusing

mind you, i'm still confused as to where Batman RIP fits in the timeline compared to Final Crisis

Bill said...

I generally like it when writers let the artists tell the story rather than explain everything outright, but every review I've read of Secret Invasion seems to have a different impression of what was happening to Janet and what Thor did to stop her.

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