Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 03/04/09

Wow, what a week. I haven't been this impressed with what I've brought home in a long time. I can't think of a single book that disappointed me on any level this week. I even went and picked up the Batman Gotham Gazette issue and it has me interested in Batman again for the first time in a long time.

Sadly, I only managed to review four books for you today. However, I'll be updating again tomorrow with the remainder of the reviews, so make sure to check back for that. On tap today, though, are reviews of Secret Warriors, War of Kings, Superman: World of New Krypton and Dark Reign: Fantastic Four. Enjoy!

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Sean Chen

While Hickman didn't blow me away with his interpretation of the Fantastic Four in this issue, he did wash away any doubt I had after the previews showcased what appeared to be nothing more than a cheap Stargate knock off.

In fact, by issue's end, I was quite surprised by how much I was enjoying the title. While I've been enjoying Millar and Hitch's current run on Fantastic Four, I believe Hickman definitely put the 'fantastic' back into the book.

The basic premise of this mini-series seems to revolve around the Fantastic Four recovering after the events of Secret Invasion. This includes rebuilding and refurnishing the Baxter Building, which doesn't go exactly as planned due to everyone, save Sue, taking breaks and doing their own things, whether it be Johnny and Ben chilling on the couch or Reed off tinkering in his makeshift lab, Hickman seemed to have everyone's personalities down pat.

Focusing on Reed for a moment, he's built 'the Bridge', which looks like a glorified Stargate. This is a bridge between dimensions and Reed was struck with the idea as a way of preventing future disasters by observing how other dimensions dealt with similar situations.

This, of course, doesn't go right and, once activated, ends up transporting half the team to an alternate Earth (or maybe moving the entire Fantastic Four building. Hard to tell at this point.).

Of note, I was surprised to see the Doombots from the Millar/Hitch run included in this issue. I liked them in that run, but just assumed they'd turn on the team or end up scrapped by the end of Millar's run.

Verdict - Check It. While I did enjoy this, there's that pesky $3.99 price tag and the fact this is almost entirely setup for the remainder of the series with few reasons for non-Fantastic Four fans to really jump in.

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Stefano Caselli

I'm going to start by saying I loved this follow up issue of Hickman's Secret Warriors. He didn't waste time beating around the bush or drag out the Hydra reveal and gave us concrete and solid information while systematically showing us the current steps Hydra has been taking to consolidate their power base.

It drew on every facet of Hyrda lore, from old Nick Fury vs Baron Strucker stories to the numerous 'leaders' or pretenders to the crown of Hydra, like Madame Hydra, Viper, etc and presented everything in a straightforward and clear format that, from my point of view, has made Hydra a credible world class threat for the first time ever and I loved every minute of it.

However, I can also see how some people could be confused over this issue or displeased with the supposed disrespect to comic book deaths with the numerous resurrections.

For starters, many assume Baron Strucker is dead post-Mark Millar's Wolverine: Enemy of the State storyline. However, he was revealed to be alive in New Thunderbolts shortly after that storyline wrapped up, making Hickman's use of the character perfectly acceptable to me. Similarly, the resurrection of Gorgon, who died in that same Enemy of the State storyline, didn't phase me in the least as he was brought back through established deus ex machina manners in the form of a Hand resurrection ceremony.

So, all in all, I have no problems with these supposed disregards for comic book character deaths, which have become absolutely meaningless at this point, and Hickman treated all of the characters with respect and used their current continuity or established means to revive them. At no point did it become hokey and I was thoroughly entertained at every point in this issue.

The shear length at which I've gone on about these resurrections probably overplays their importance, but I've seen complaints online about them and felt like addressing them in the review.

While we were treated to a few brief moments of the actual Secret Warriors team, my only disappointment with the issue was just that - the lack of development for the new team. What little we saw was great and I understand that we needed this issue to establish Hydra as a credible threat and expand upon their new role in the Marvel Universe, but I still wish we had seen another page or two of the actual team this early in the series.

Verdict - Must Read. I know I droned on about the resurrections in an attempt to dispel rumours and forum rumblings about them, but that doesn't mean this issue is bad. I loved every minute of this issue and it's cemented Secret Warriors on my pull list for the months to come.

Written by Greg Rucka & James Robinson
Art by Pete Woods

Okay, I know I said in the previews that I was kind of tired of the Superman titles with Johns and Frank gone and not really interested in the whole New Krypton arc up until now, but this issue finally delivered on all accounts and made me a believer in this storyline again.

For those out of the loop, Brainiac came back several months ago. This was the "real" Brainiac and all others we had seen up until now were labelled as robots or fakes. He had the real shrunken Kandor city on his ship. After Superman defeated Brainiac, Kandor was restored to it's rightful size. After some trials and tribulations on Earth, the Kryptonians moved the city off planet and created their own crystallized New Krypton planet, which now orbits opposite to Earth. World of New Krypton picks up after Earth has banned Kryptonians from Earth and Superman has left to join his people on New Krypton.

What immediately pleased me about this issue is that Superman was finally interacting with his fellow Kryptonians. Previously, he simply reacted to whatever crisis was going on at the time, whether Zod's followers killing some humans or Luthor and General Lane's sneak attack or what have you. This issue told me more about what the Kryptonians are like, what their society is currently like and gave that much needed attention to the people of New Krypton, who have mostly been treated as nameless, faceless cannonfodder up until now.

The only real complaint I have about the issue is that it took them so damn long to get to this point. Most of the things occuring in this issue should have happened in the first several issues of the New Krypton storyline. We have scenes with Kryptonians slamming into walls, having trouble flying and practicing using heat vision - all logical and things they should have been doing as soon as they found out they had powers.

My favourite part of the issue dealt with Superman's interactions with the General Zod lead Military Guild, which plays into the final page of the issue where Superman chooses his Kryptonian guild - the very same Zod controlled Military Guild. I was not expecting him to join up with the Kryptonian military nor was I expecting him to drop his Superman costume in favour of the imposing commander's military uniform he's shown sporting in the final page.

Verdict - Must Read. I'm not sure if I'll be following the other Superman titles, but I'm definitely sold on World of New Krypton. Excellent first issue that has sold me on the "world without Superman concept".

Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Paul Pelletier

If you've been under a rock for the past few years, both Marvel's and DC's cosmic universes have quickly become the best facets of both companies, delivering such hits as Annihilation and the Sinestro Corps War, respectively.

War of Kings follows in this tradition of cosmic goodness and is a comic that simply does not compromise. It takes the dial and cranks it up to eleven from the get go and never lets you catch your breathe as all out war breaks out between the Inhuman lead Kree and Vulcan lead Shi'ar Empire.

If you missed the Secret Invasion: War of Kings prelude issue to this event, it set the stage for this war by having the Inhumans, lead by their king, Black Bolt, hunt down the remaining Skrull armada for the kidnapping and replacement of Black Bolt prior to Secret Invasion. After killing every last one of them, the Inhumans moved onto the battered Kree homeworld, still recovering from the Phalanx occupation in Annihilation: Conquest, and promptly declared themselves the new rulers of the Kree.

Meanwhile, Vulcan was busy establishing himself as the leader of the Shi'ar Empire over in the X-Men's Rise & Fall of the Shi'ar Empire storyline, which was later followed up by the X-Men: Kingbreaker miniseries.

War of Kings kicks off just as these two super powers become aware of each other and Vulcan, mad with power and seeking to conquer the Kree and everyone else in his path, initiates an all out assault on the Kree Empire. The attack was designed to take place on the day of Ronan and the Inhuman Crystal's wedding day.

While the Shi'ar's Imperial Guard focused their attack on the Kree homeworld, Halla, the rest of the Shi'ar fleet is busy bombarding outer rim planets with nega-bombs, destructive and devastating weapons of mass destruction.

Paul Pelletier's artwork delivers in spades and is absolutely gorgeous throughout this issue, most noteably with the fight scenes on Halla between the Shi'ar Imperial Guard and Inhuman Elite Guard. The battle is brutal and fierce and both sides suffers casualties before the Imperial Guard withdraws with their prize - Lilandra, who had been seeking refugee from Vulcan with the Inhumans.

There were only two things I could complain about this issue. One was it ended and I'm going to have to wait 30 days for more of this storyline. The other is that Black Bolt was taken out of the fight and downplayed through a rather cheap plot device in the form of a character with noise dampening sonics.

While they didn't actually hurt Black Bolt, they were used to stun him momentarily while Gladiator took him to task as the rest of the battle raged on. The end of the issue showed that Black Bolt was relatively unharmed (looked fine other than a torn costume), but it was still disappointing to see him kept on the sidelines in this manner. Thankfully, there are several more issues left to see him cut loose and I'm sure there's a rematch planned between he and Gladiator.

Verdict - Must Read. Action, drama and the promise of more cosmic goodness from this event int he future - what more could you ask for?

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Andrenn said...

I must admit Secret Warriors #2 was an improvement for me. I am curious to see if issue 3 can sell me on it. nice review.

jonathan said...

so whats the reading order to fully get all the back story of war of the kings?

Kirk Warren said...

@Jonathan - The only issue I'd consider remotely 'required' for the backstory of War of Kings is the Secret Invasion: War of Kings one-shot that saw Black Bolt kill the Skrulls, engage some Shi'ar warbirds (Inhumans entered Shi'ar space to kill some Skrulls, got attacked, fought back, sparked Vulcan's attack) and then took over the Kree Empire.

It was a good issue, but you're filled in on everything you need to know with War of Kings #1.

As for the X-Men/Vulcan side of things, you just need to know the basics from Rise & Fall of the Shi'ar Empire and the recent Kingbreaker miniseries.

Basically, Vulcan is Scott and Alex Summer's brother, he's got insane and relatively undefined powers and took over the Shi'ar Empire. Havok took over the Starjammers when Vulcan killed their father and was eventually captured, along with the rest of the Starjammers. They broke out at the end of Kingbreaker and that's where we pick up their story at the start of WoK #1.

For mini-series attached to the project, WoK: Darkhawk is a 2 issue mini that started a month ago, but only seems to be attempting to redefine the Darkhawk character from Nova. Not sure how important it will be, but the first issue was relatively useless, only introducing Darkhawk to people and giving a basic origin for him. Other bookss attached are going to be online only from Marvel's digital store featuring Lilandra and a few others. Not sure if they'll matter.

Long and short of it - just buy War of Kings and you should be fine. Nova *might* tie in since the Nova Corps is supposed to get wiped out/ suffer heavy losses in their rookie outing in this event. Guardians of the Galaxy *might* tie in, too, but it's hard to say how much at this point.

Naymlap said...

I know you dropped it, but Daredevil was phenomenal. Aja's art... the characterization of Kingpin... just amazing.
There's also a line that kinda explains why Milla gets such crap treatment. She was doomed the moment Daredevil first met her.

Quantum said...

um, Dark Reign FF is 3 bucks, not 4.

I totally jumped on board with buying Daredevil, just cos of the cover, and David Aja on art cemented it. I must've been staring at that page (the steranko-esque silhouette) for ten minutes, and showed it to a bunch of people. it completely blew me away. I think I'll stick with it for the rest of the storyline, and beyond.

Kirk Warren said...

@Quantum - Mine says $3.99... Maybe I picked up a newsstand edition or something? Diamond has it listed at $2.99, too. Is Aja on the title full time now or just a fill in for Lark (think it was Lark)?

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