Thursday, March 26, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 03/25/09

Ran into problems yesterday and couldn't make it to the shop, but managed to get everything on my lunch break today and write up some reviews while 'working'. I ended up grabbing the X-Force/Cable: Messiah War Prologue and Dark Reign: Elektra on the recommendations of readers in the previews this week. Both were worthy purchases, but never really blew me away either.

Also took a peek at the Oracle miniseries and was disappointed to see Oracle not knowing what a Second Life-like online avatar was, complaining about her phantom leg pains and a character having their head blown off by a computer virus, so left that mess behind.

Nothing else really stood out to me this week, even from the stuff I picked up, so I'll let you guys just get right to the reviews.


CAPTAIN AMERICA #48
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Butch Guice

The Old Friends and Enemies storyline wraps up with this issue and I, for one, am happy to see it done. While it started out great with some Batroc the Leaper antics and the typical interwoven flashback scenes, the arc has really fizzled in the last issue or two and feels like it has been dragging on for far too long.

Almost as if sensing the same problems, Brubaker wraps up the story this month in a rather abrupt manner. Namor, who was captured last issue, was being infected with the Human Torch (WWII version, not the fantastic variety) virus and Bucky, also captured, was forced to watch on.

Brubaker simply brings in the cavalry, in the form of Black Widow, who busts Namor out of the tank and the group promptly disables their enemies as they attempt to detonate a bomb version of the virus used on Namor. In the end, both Professor Chin and the Man with No Face (was that his official name?) were killed off with little fight or resistence offered, thus ending the threat. Bucky takes the Human Torch's remains and he is given a proper burial for his services rendered in WWII.

I'm not sure what I was expecting to come of all this, but the entire 'threat from the past', in the form of Chin, was squandered and never really amounted to anything. Bucky tells us it was important, but it never actually felt important. For instance, the so-called virus was used on Namor and, in the end, it didn't even work on him. Why would the last minute 'mad scientist' moment really carry any weight if we've been shown the virus didn't do anything to the only person we were shown it being used on?

Even the fight sequences throughout this dealt with either Bucky fighting faceless goons or the badguys taking out the good guys offpanel, such as Namor's defeat last issue. The final confrontation amounted to Namor breaking the neck of the Man with No Face when he became tangible and was mourning the death of Chin, who I'm not even sure how died (I think Namor killed him with a backhand).

Verdict - Check It. All-in-all, I'm just glad this arc is over and we can move on. It had it's moments, most of them in the earlier chapters, but it really dragged its feet in these latter parts. However, a 'bad' Captain America issue is still better than most anything on the market, so take any complaints with a grain of salt.


DARK REIGN: ELEKTRA #1
Written by Zeb Wells
Art by Clay Mann

Picked this up based on reader suggestion in the Post-Crisis Previews this week and while not a perfect comic, by any means, I did walk away entertained and with a $3.99 price tag, it's nice knowing I didn't end hate it.

To be honest, the opening pages of this issue had me kind of scared (you can view previews of the issue here to see what I'm talking about). Elektra, the world's deadliest assassin, depending on who you ask, the person Tony Stark, ex-Director of SHIELD, was given the Skrull corpse of to kick off the whole 'who do you trust?' paranoia filled Secret Invasion and a former SHIELD employee is shown staggering around after coming out of the Skrull spaceship and the SHIELD grunts don't even know who she is, going so far as to call her, "maam".

From there, Iron Man goes on to claim Elektra was the first casualty of the Skrull invasion when he should know that Mockingbird just walked out of the same ship and was replaced way back when she died, which was much earlier than Elektra's abduction. Hell, Stark doesn't even have a full update at this point just who was or wasn't a Skrull and at what time they were replaced, yet is claiming Elektra is without a doubt the first casualty of the invasion and how he doesn't want a known world class assassin to die because of that. It just screamed wrong and set off a bunch of flags moving forward with this issue for me.

However, as I said in the opening paragraph, this issue was actually quite entertaining, opening griping aside, and the rest of the issue makes up for this sloppy opening sequence. The fallout of Secret Invasion that saw Norman Osborn rise to power is reflected in this issue with how Elektra goes from a reluctant guest of SHIELD to HAMMER's newest prisoner in the span of a few pages. Osborn's dialogue throughout the issue is very much in line with how he's currently being portrayed and a stark contrast to Elektra's mute behaviour.

Speaking of which, Elektra, whom this miniseries is about and named for, doesn't have a single line of dialogue, to my recollection, in this issue. It's rather odd, yet surprisingly fitting and commendable on Wells' part. I'm curious to know if this is due to the Skrull's experimentation on her, which was detailed through flashbacks on a digital 'though projector'-like object (not nearly as corny as it sounds), or of her own accord.

The bulk of this issue is actually spent going over Elektra's time in captivity with the Skrulls while Norman ominously watches over the proceedings before ending with Elektra's escape from the facility and this is where the lack of dialogue or even monologue on Elektra's part becomes a bit of a negative for the book. We have no idea what the main character is thinking nor what she intends to do moving forward. I imagine this is intentional in terms of wanting to keep readers in the dark, but also a tad frustrating when we're not given enough bread crumbs to follow along with.

Verdict - Check It. I liked this issue enough that I'll be coming back again for the second part, but I'm also unsure of how much staying power this will have or even how important this will be in regards to the rest of the Marvel Universe. I actually suspect this series will fall between the cracks when the upcoming diluge of Dark Reign miniseries start pouring onto the shelves.


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #12
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Wesley Craig

This issue was surprisingly better than the previous outing. Unfortunately, it still felt like Abnett and Lanning phoned this entire storyarc in while they focused on War of Kings and Nova. I'd like to believe the real reason for the subpar offerings the past few months is entirely due to the fact that Cosmo and Rocket Raccoon haven't been appearing.

In fact, where every other issue in the series weaved in and out of subplots between the various members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the current arc has been nothing but Drax and Phyla off on a dream adventure or being dead or something, making for some very dull adventures in comparison. And I actually like Drax and Phyla, so this isn't complaining about not seeing my favourite characters or anything. Just an uncharacteristically bad writing decision on DnA's part.

As I said, though, this issue is much better than the last one. For that, I'm thankful. But where the last issue was just piontless exposition and characters spouting off about their origins or general existentialism over their current dream states, this issue just piled on pointless action sequences and a really random guest appearance by Quasar before wrapping up the whole 'search for Moondragon' story with the unexplained return of said Moondragon.

Basically, Phyla gets fed to the Dragon of the Moon, Quasar and Drax beat up Maelstrom for a bit and then, without any reason or explanation, Phyla, in the new costume featured on the cover, cuts her way out of the dragon with her formerly dead girlfriend in tow. They then wake up on Titan, yell at Mentor for killing them and then Moondragon walks out of a cloning chamber alive and well.

In regards to Phyla's new costume, she apparently made a deal with the Dragon of the Moon for the safe return of Moondragon and is now the avatar of death. Based on Maelstrom's final words to his boss, Lord Oblivion, I'm unsure if this was all a ruse on Oblivion's part and Phyla now serves him or if it really was the Dragon of the Moon. Also, is that a reference to Thanos' old role as death's avatar? Will Drax be ripping her heart out anytime soon?

Verdict - Check It. This issue was far better than last month's issue, but just barely makes a passing grade to Check It status.


NOVA #23
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Wellinton Alves

This issue of Nova is actually part of a pseudo crossover with Guardians of the Galaxy. I use pseudo because it's not a typical continuation of story crossover. It's actually only a continuation of the Quasar subplot, which starts the issue in Nova, shunts over to Guardians for a few pages and then finishes up at the end of the issue in Nova.

And therein lies the start to the problems with this month's issue of Nova. Last month ended with us knowing Richard was dying from the lack of the Nova Force, which had mutated his biology to accomadate the huge amount of power he was wielding. This issue picked up with him moping in his brother's old room and Quasar's energy form checking in on him to see how he was holding up. He then disappears for 20 pages or so and shows up at the end to, as you can see from the cover, give Richard the quantum bands so he can become the new Quasar.

I have no problem with Richard becoming a short term Quasar to help get him back into space to track down the Worldmind, who took his new corps and left for Kree space and a guest spot in War of Kings. What I do have a problem with is the fact everything else in this issue, from the trip to Project Pegasus, where HAMMER was dismantling the first semblence of a supporting cast for Richard, to the needless subplot about Dr Necker being an AIM terrorist with a heart of gold, all felt completely unnecessary and pointless when compared to how important Quasar's involvement in this story was. Why did Quasar need to get shunted off to Guardians for the bulk of this issue? Why did we waste time going in circles for 20 pages before actually seeing him return and not just show the events of that story without doing a senseless crossover like this?

I bought both issues and I still think it was a ridiculous idea to chop up the story and fill in the blanks with circular fluff subplots. It's like they couldn't progress the story any further until War of Kings #2 comes out and just decided to tread water for the time being in both Nova and the Guardians issues this month.

Verdict - Check It. As disappointed as I was with how this 'crossover' turned out, Nova does become Quasar here, which is a pretty big plotpoint moving forward, so I'm giving it a Check It for that. Otherwise, it felt more like filler and, while not outright bad at any point, never felt like it justified the price of admission either.


X-FORCE/CABLE: MESSIAH WAR PROLOGUE #1
Written by Chris Yost & Craig Kyle
Art by Mike Choi

Based on suggestions from commenters, I decided to pick up the prologue issue of Messiah War and give it the once over review treatment for everyone's enjoyment. The prognosis? Honestly, hard to say. It felt more like a primer on everything Cable and X-Force related for the first half of the book before giving some new content that was simply introducing the main players and forging the Stryfe/Bishop alliance near the end and, in general, moving pawns around the board.

As I said, the issue spends most of its hefty pagecount recapping the events of Messiah Complex, the Cable ongoing and last week's X-Force issue that sent Wolverine and friends into the future. For those following either book, you may feel like you were ripped off with this $3.99 purchase. Anyone who hasn't been keeping up with those books should find the twenty or so pages dedicated to the recaps quite informative.

However, I believe this format was by design as Marvel probably realizes not many people are reading Cable and many haven't read a single issue pertaining to the fallout of the Messiah Complex event this story will be relying heavily on. Given that Cable and Hope, who is no longer a baby anymore, will be the central figures of this crossover, it stands to reason that the numerous fans that will jump on board for this event be told just what the heck he's been up to and why the baby is so much older now.

The remainder of the issue is actually quite entertaining. It was nice to see Elixir react to the forced time travel by Cyclops when his friends were in danger. Although, I was a tad disappointed no one else really showed any reaction to it, but Deadpool's appearance pretty much killed that fallout scene.

Speaking of which, Yost & Kyle, probably under orders to promote him for the upcoming Wolverine movie he'll appear in, introduced a future version of Deadpool to the cast and it's the funniest I've seen the character in a long time. I had been worried his inclusion would be forced and hamfisted, but it was actually quite natural and has me curious as to how he survived all these years.

In the end, the team made up with Deadpool and proceeded to track down Cable and Hope, who showed the team that they had stumbled into a trap. This scene was left ambiguous and only consisted of everyone on a hill overlooked a futuristic city and Wolverine cursing about it being setup by "him".

I'll get to my thoughts on this in a moment, but let's talk about the Bishop/Stryfe stuff first. The scenes with Bishop and Stryfe were labelled as "the near future" while everything else was given strict dates, like the year 2973 that X-Force teleported to. As such, I'm not sure when Bishop actually came in contact with Stryfe, as I assumed he was from Cable's timeline, which was stated as about 1000 years ahead of the 2973 year the team jumped to. However, Stryfe assumes Cable is dead, which I think is in relation to the present day time period, and still wants to kill Apocalypse, which is the bargaining chip Bishop is using to get Stryfe to help him.

So, getting back to the mystery 'him' that set the trap for X-Force and Cable, I'm thinking that Apocalypse is in control of the future at that point. This is bolstered by the fact that Apocalypse was featured in Stryfe's Strike Files in the back of the issue. However, with all the time travelling, it's really hard to get a grasp on who's where in time at this point and the way they depicted the scene for the trap and the follow up reveal that Bishop will be giving Stryfe Apocalypse in return for helping him implies to me that he's alive and kicking in the future. I wish they had taken a cue from Annihilation, Conquest and the War of King prologues and simply made the huge reveal clear instead of some cheap cut away gimmick that leaves it ambiguous.

Verdict - Check It. If you've been left out in the cold by not reading Cable or X-Force, this issue primarily sums up everything you need to know going in before giving a brief meet and greet between Cable and the X-Force people and will be a Must Read for you. For those that have been following along all this time, nothing really happens here and you may feel a bit cheated by how light on new material and plot progression this issue was. It was really a whole lot of scenes that didn't have to be shown to us and only served to frame flashback sequences. Worth checking, but won't impact your ability to understand the crossover if you simply skip it either.


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18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I haven't read Nova or Guardians yet (so that this comment for what it's worth), but it's probably not fair to call a Quasar appearance in Guardians random when you consider that Maelstrom & Lord Oblivion were the big baddies in Quasar's original series (around issues #24-25). They were surreptitiously responsible for the death of Wendell's father, and Maelstrom had literally crucified Quasar & even amputated his hands to get the Quantum Bands. Maybe the Guardians story didn't make this backstory clear?

Kirk Warren said...

It mentioned it in GotG (I already kenw about it though), but only in passing. It's more that Quasar hadnt appeared in a single issue of GotG up until then and didn't really seem to have any purpose being in the Guardian story outside of some ties to maelstrom. It would be similar to the Fantastic Four showing up to solve every single Dr Doom story regardless of the book or story involved.

In contrast, the Nova book featured Quasar's return and had been dealign with him for a while now and the two have much more recent history together dating back to the first Annihilationa nd rebirth of the Marvel cosmic characters.

In that regard, Quasar shows up on the first page or two, disappears without an explanation and then comes back in the last few pages with some babbling about being summoned by the bands and that he's now giving them to Richard witha small 'see gotg #12' note for readers. the main plotpoint for the Nova issue wasnt even featured in the issue and never really explained and the 15-20 pages of other story felt like filler while we waited for the ending splashpage of Nova in the Quasar costume.

So, it's not that Im upset that Quasar appeared in Guardians, as Phyla is/was the new Quasar and he did have backstory with Maelstrom, but it didnt seem like it was 'his story', so to speak. but it's mostly the NOva related parts of the 'crossover' that disappointed me in regards to Quasar.

Klep said...

The way I interpreted Tony's comments about Elektra being the first casualty of the war was that he was referring to Skrullektra being the first revealed skrull. That may or may not make it better.

As for people not recognizing Elektra, I don't think it's necessarily true that they didn't recognize her. They could have just been being polite and trying to help an injured woman until she attacked them, at which point they, naturally jittery from the war that only just finished, didn't know what to think. In fact, one of them specifically refers to her as Elektra.

I also think her not speaking at all the entire way through is fine. She doesn't need to reveal her motivation because her motivation is clear in the first couple pages: get away, escape, heal. For the moment, it doesn't need to be anything more than that.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I know it's a bit early for this, but if you can find some X-Infernus scans, I think there are some very "MOTW worthy" pannels.
A nice Mercury moment, a nice cameo from some demons, and a last page with a Slim Summers speach disgusting, stupid or hilarous (depends the way you take it) which sums very well how the New X-Men are treated in the X-books right now.

Kirk Warren said...

@Klep - I think the amount of text I used to convey the whole opening segments of the Elektra book, in hindsight, make it seem like a much bigger deal than it actually was. I just found it kind of odd seeing them act that way moreso than actually got pissed off or anything.

Agree on the mute part. especially the "for the moment" part. It worked great in this opening issue, but I was more thinking longterm for a miniseries. we need some answers eventually and I was just voicing some concerns about it.


@Anonymous - Ive seen the Mercury moment, but will have to look out for the Cyclops speech and any other candidates.

Ethereal said...

Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy were both much better. I'm happy to see Bucky back in the CA costume. With issue 600 coming up, and Brubaker getting off of every title ever, I'm hoping he has something big planned. Daredevil was alright, I'm really hoping Diggle can keep up with the pace once Brubaker leaves.

I liked Superman. All the scenes of Superman asking others to help, and seeing Mon-El in a Sci police costume was good stuff.

I didn't bother with Oracle or Gotham Gazette. Didn't recognize the creative team on Gazette, and I'm getting the feeling I'm going to be very upset with the Bat-family post battle for the cowl.

BobofBentleigh said...

Kirk, just a bit of context for this next question, I have not been reading the Spiderman series, and have been keeping up with the various Bendis Avengers titles. Do you know where OMD sits in the Avengers chronology? The scene at the table with Spidey and 'no masks at the table' threw me a bit

Not sure if you're still reading New Avengers, but was just wondering if you knew.

Also, can't agree more on how abrupt the ending to the Old Friend and Enemies story seemed.

Kirk Warren said...

@BobofBentleigh - I dont even think Marvel knows where OMD fits with anything, let alone whats up with the Avengers. But the official tagline is those stories happened and Spidey was an Avenger.

Matt Ampersand said...

Jessica Jones reaction to the reveal of Spidey is about 25 issues too late.

Nathan Aaron said...

Oh, Elektra DID HAVE one line in the entire issue. The classic page DEFINITELY destined to be one of this week's "Moment's In Comics" where she says "release prisoner." After spitting her loose tooth into Palladin's mouth, after he'd set up the computer command for her. That page ROCKED!

OH, and the screens weren't showing what had happened to her on the Skrull world; they were showing what she'd like to be doing to each person in the room. Attacking the doctor, slitting her throat, attacking Palladin; it was to give insight into Elektra's thoughts (which were always kill, kill, kill.) That's why the doctor said at one point "she's always jabbing my broken fingers into my eye sockets, and it's hard to watch." or something like that.

I thought it was a good start! I love the character, and I can't believe I read someone's review about how the colors were somber. To me, they looked DAYGLOW! Which is the opposite of what Elektra should be. Clay Mann's work on Daredevil (one issue) was excellent, and moody.) Not sure what Hollingsworth was doing with the colors here, he's not usually a dayglow kind of person.

Sharp said...

Hey Kirk, did you check out NA this week? It was actually quite good.

Kirk Warren said...

@Nathan - Ha, youre right. I forgot all about that one sentence she had. Mann's art was great too. very similar to Lark and other artists. wouldnt mind seeing him continue on other titles.

@sharp - I've decided to drop the title. New Avengers just hasn't appealed to me ina long, long time. As Matt said, the Jessica Jones reaction to Peter being Spider-Man is 25 issues too late (where was this reaction during Civil War or anytime prior to One More Day?).

Also, the whole unmasking in front of these Avengers makes no sense. He couldnt do it for Captain America, Iron Man and others he has all this respect for, yet does it in front of Mockingbird, who he doesnt know and has been alive again for 15 minutes, Spider-Woman, who is back from the dead/Skrull kidnapping and no one trusts and has alwasys been a character workign Hydra and SHIELd and other dubious connections, Ms Marvel, who has been with the Pro-Regs since the start of this whole debacle, and so on.

Simply put, I see no reason Spidey would unmask in this situation given everything he has done before and, in this case, the very people present in the room. Hell, I'd unmask for the Mighty Hank Pym team before this New Avengers squad.

Then there's the whole One More Day nonsense and how Spidey's best friends and people he's teamed up with all his life, Daredevil and Human torch, and who have helped him with the most difficult times in his life not knowing while a bunch of traitors and people he doesnt know from a hole in the wall get to know the biggest secret. Just didnt make sense nor interest me.

Finally, I'm done with the Hood. bendis has killed hte character and any interest I had with him by making him the Team Rocket of the New Avengers. He shows up every second issue and is promptly bitch slapped to the curb only to run away yelling, "Ill get you next time!". It's a running joke at this point and I'm tired of even seeing him. Just kill him off if you want to ignore every goddamn thing that made him unique from BKV's series and shoehorn him into a magic role that he doesnt even belong in.

Aaron Kimel said...

Come on, folks! Elektra has two lines! She has "Release prisoner", but, even cooler, she has "Vivisect her!" Sure, it's in tiny, whisper print, but look closely: it's there. And it's wonderful.

In response to Quasar's presence in GotG, I did not see it as an appearance because of Maelstrom, but because of the Quatum Bands. That seems a great deal more reasonable as an explanation for why he's there.

I still wish someone would stay dead though. Quasar died heroically against Annihilus: let him rest in peace.

Nathan Aaron said...

I'm really hoping Elektra ends up being good (I love that character!) But the second issue preview is up on Newsarama, and it doesn't look as good as this current issue, IMHO. I think that one recent issue of Daredevil (the first issue of the Lady Bullseye storyline) that Clay Mann did must have had a lot to do with the inker, cause you couldn't EVEN tell it wasn't Michael Lark until near the end. Then I went, hold on, something's not QUITE right with this? And checked the credits. But it was that close, and gorgeous. Elektra is nowhere near as beautiful. They should have kept him with the Daredevil inker. Then again, I'm always picky about my comics art.

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