Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 04/29/09

Managed to bang out a bunch of reviews for the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews early tonight for your reading pleasure. Reviewed just about everything on my pull list except Dark Avengers and Ms Marvel. DA was good and much in the same vein as previous issues while Ms Marvel was kind of a take it or leave it type of deal. Didn't outright hate it, but didn't love it either. I'll try to update tomorrow with proper reviews of both.

Of note for this week's reviews, I'll probably be called out on my take on Legion of 3 Worlds, but I'd just like to say in my defense that I loved the results given, but the execution and treatment of the other Legions is what really irked me about the entire thing. In fact, most of my complaints will probably sound like nitpicking, but there's just something about this issue that rubbed me the wrong way. I know I'm in the minority on this, though, so maybe one of my readers, who enjoyed the issue more than myself, can help me see the book from a different perspective.

More after the jump.

Written by Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction & Peter Milligan
Art by Adi Granov & Kyle Hotz

Dark Reign: The Cabal is an interesting story. While it's probably expected to compare this to the Illuminati specials, as this is basically the villains version of that 'team', it actually differs in execution compared to those 'retcon stories' that placed the Illuminati firmly in Marvel history.

Instead, the Dark Cabal issue is more of a character study for each member of the Cabal and spotlights reasons for members joining, showcases what they expect to gain from the association and, in Doom's case, shows off what they imagine the final outcome of their 'dark reign' will be.

With this in mind, the question then becomes, "is it any good?", to which I give a resounding, "Yes.", to. However, whether or not the entire issue is to your liking or not is debatable. To be honest, the only 'must read' story from the bunch is the Dr Doom one, which is an imaginary tale that shows us how Doom imagines things will end for this Dark Cabal - ie. with him and Namor killing or enslaving the rest of the members. In fact, Doom even has thoughts of killing Namor at the end of the sequence, much to my delight. My favourite part of this sequence was a tie between Dr Doom wearing the Hood's red cloak after killing him and Adi Granov's artwork, which was downright spectacular. Shame it was only an ~8 page story.

The remaining stories could, arguably, be described as forgettable. I enjoyed them, on a fundamental level, but none are going to be remembered or gushed over like the Dr Doom short.

Verdict - Check It. Great Doom short story, some interesting character studies for the rest of the Cabal, but nothing that reaches out and grabs you or that people will be talking about months later like the various Illuminati stories.

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

A little warning before continuing with this review - I do not share the more common and positive sentiments towards this issue. In fact, I'm sure most will vehemently disagree with me in regards to many of my complaints about this issue, but I just can't bring myself to praise it like many of the forum goers or other reviewers seem to be doing.

That said, my first complaint, which seems to lead to every other problem, is that this reads like fan fiction. It's pure wish fulfillment and mary sue writing with Johns' favourite characters and is riddled with contrived and ridiculous retcons throughout the issue. I felt like I was reading every random forum post about how someone would bring back so and so character and was shocked seeing such writing make it to print.

For starters, let's deal with Bart Allen/Kid Flash's return. It is a long winded, exposition filled explaination that didn't make a lick of sense in regards to how it explains his return, why he's younger or how he retrained his memories of being an adult. It amounts to Johns simply wanting a character he enjoyed back and doing it with no real plan or thought behind it.

The next resurrection for this issue was the much speculated return of Conner Kent, better known as Superboy, who died fighting Superboy Prime back in Infinite Crisis. How did he come back? Starman dug up Conner's body, stuck it in Superman's regeneration tank (the same one he used when he "died" fighting Doomsday) and left him in there for a 1000 years. Another Legion team went back in time and grabbed some Lex Luthor hair and used that to regenerate the human part of Conner's half-human, half-Kryptonian DNA.

While there's no major problem with this manner of resurrection (Although, we could say Superman wasn't technically dead, so was able to regenerate. Conner was dead dead and it shouldn't be possible), it does raise the question as to what the hell was the point of Starman's addled brain, the months of buildup and his job digging up graves or any other question regarding his trip to the past. Why didn't they just use the same team getting Luthor's hair to grab Conner's body and bury it at the Fortress of Solitude? What was so dangerous about the mission that Starman was required to be insane in order to accomplish? While I don't care about the science behind Conner's return, the events used to execute it should make some kind of sense and it comes off poorly written when you look beyond the results.

And this isn't me not wanting these characters revived. I actually love that both Superboy and Kid Flash are back. However, being happy they are back does not vindicate One More Day level of writing (okay, it's never that bad) nor does it give Johns a free pass to just write whatever the heck he wants in order to get his favourite characters back.

The manner in which these characters were resurrected doesn't even touch on the manner in which the various Legions are treated. The two non-Silver Age Legions seem to exist in this story for the sole purpose of a) making the Silver Age Legion look good and b) to serve as cannonfodder for the Legion of Supervillains and die ignominious deaths. They don't celebrate these other Legions so much as massacre them in throw away panels or grind them up against the fanboy mentality and analogue, Superboy Prime. It's really disconcerting seeing someone writing a book about these characters when it appears he obviously hates 2/3rds of the cast and only wants to write his versions, further adding to the fan fiction-like feeling of the writing.

This all culminates with the Time Trapper identity reveal at the end of the issue, which I pray is a joke or some fake out, as it reveals the infinitely patient and calculating Time Trapper as none other than Superboy "I'll kill you dead" Prime. It's a shock ending, alright, but it also makes no sense, much like the Cosmic Boy Time Trapper reveal from Zero Hour.

Verdict - Avoid It. Clearly, this issue and series is not aimed at me anymore. I love that Johns has revived Superboy and Kid Flash, but with so many time travel options available to them, they didn't have to be so hamfisted about these resurrections. It's like handwaving of details away so he can have his cake and eat it, too.

I'm sure people will disagree with me and I know I'll be in the minority in regards to this issue and fully accept that, but I just can't, in good faith, give this issue a passing grade nor get past my hang ups. Maybe someone can explain to me what I'm missing here that everyone else is gushing over?

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion

Similar to last issue, Green Lantern #40 excels in many areas, but seems to lack the same kind of flow and excitement that its sister title, Green Lantern Corps, has. It's like it's hitting key plot points, yet lacks the connective tissue that moves the characters from one scene to the next. There's also the ever growing "Hal Jordan is the bestest Green Lantern ever" vibe that's been permeating the title for the last few months, moreso than the typical Hal sentiment from Johns, to contend with.

The basic plot consists of the Guardians leading a small army of Green Lanterns to the previously off-limits Vega System to confront Larfleeze. Possibly confirming my suspicions, the Guardians compared Larfleeze to Parallax in terms of power and potential threat, implying that he is most likely possessed by whatever the orange emotional spectrum's entity is. Helps explain Larfleeze's power, how he easily dispatched the Controllers and why the Guardians made a deal with him in the first place.

Another Orange Lantern fact confirmed is that their corps is made up of copies of everyone Larfleeze kills. This is demonstrated by Controller constructs and, more directly, through the killing/eating of the Green Lantern Gretti, who's torn to pieces and has his body and ring consumed. This results in an orange ring message stating Gretti "belongs to Agent Orange" and shows him as an orange construct attacking John Stewert.

Yet another bit of information on the Orange Lanterns thrown our way was that the Green Lantern rings, and even the Guardians' powers, have no effect on the Orange Lanterns. Unlike the Red Lanterns, who drained the rings, the Orange Lanterns simply "absorb" the Green Lantern attacks. It's not confirmed if this empowers the Orange Lanterns or if it is simply ineffective against their spectrum.

The Hal Jordan segments, as I stated above, dragged this issue down for me. Just about everything to do with Hal, the Blue Lantern ring and Hal's complete lack of hope seemed forced and threw off the pace of the issue. I'm not sure why these Hal scenes have been annoying me so much lately, but I did enjoy the ring's response to Hal's hoping for world peace, so it wasn't all bad.

Another negative against this issue, which amounted to nothing more than moving people into position and setting up future conflicts (I suspect it will read much better in trade format, but that doesn't help me much now), was how short it felt. It featured a Tales of the Sinestro Corps-like backup, which spotlighted an Orange Lantern, that ate up the last four or five pages and it was really noticeable in terms of the length of story. I felt like the Agent Orange part of this issue was simply cut short to fit this in moreso than the backup feeling like the "extra" it should be.

Verdict - Check It. It's not so much that this is a bad issue, as it's still better than most comics on the market, but it's a noticeable dip in quality, mainly through the pacing and character driven moments, for the past few months when compared to previous Green Lantern issues. I'm typically harder on my favourite books when I feel they're dipping in quality than I am with genuinely bad or even average issues, so take any of my complaints with a grain of salt, too.

NOVA #24
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Andrea Di Vito

I predicted Nova would be my pick for book of the week in the previews, and it probably is, but it didn't deliver nearly as much as I was hoping for. Its claiming of the book of the week award says more for the quality, or lack thereof (well, there were good books, just nothing that screamed must read either), of the books that came out this week than it does about this issue of Nova.

That said, when this issue was good, it was damn good and my favourite parts involved the scenes dealing with our hero, Richard Rider, and his new Quasar powers. I loved the Nova/Worldmind dynamic Abnett and Lanning added to the Richard/Wendell Vaughn Quasar. It was just interesting seeing Wendell trying to fill space or rambling on or what have you as he tagged along inside Richard's head. Reminded me of how much I missed Worldmind inside Rich's head while still being unique and fun in its own right.

However, the treatment of the Nova Corps was where I had most of my problems in this issue. To start things off, I really disliked the old fashioned, overly wordy exposition used to fill in the reader on the current situation at the start of the issue. It never worked for me and felt like I had a recap page spread out over the course of three or four pages as Richard's brother painfully spelled out every little detail to the reader through his dialogue.

The biggest concern, though, was with the supposed Shi'ar Imperial Guard vs Nova Corps battle that previews, solicits and the cover all hint at. It does, technically, happen in this issue, but it's nowhere near as satisfying as I was expecting. It amounted to nothing more than the Nova Corps fighting some random Shi'ar soldiers, securing a random planet and then the Imperial Guard showing up. The Imperial Guard kill one or two Novas and then Nova Prime surrenders to Gladiator after one punch. I was expecting this bloodbath and an epic battle between the new Prime and Gladiator and was disappointed to see the sudden surrender.

The big reveal, if you can call it that, was that the Worldmind was, in fact, corrupted by Ego. I'm both relieved and disappointed with that development. On one hand, it means we can wash away the whole 'Worldmind's a dick' story and get Nova back into control once he frees him from Ego. But, on the other hand, it also feels like it was too obvious and the possession and reveal of Ego's control just comes on way too fast for it to have any impact and I get the feeling it was implemented just to get the Nova Corps into the War of Kings moreso than an actual story driven plot. We'll have to see how much control Ego had next month before I make a final judgement on this.

Verdict - Check It. While I talk a lot about the negatives of the issue, it was still quite entertaining. Just not perfect or up to the typical Nova standards. I'll still take a "bad" Nova issue over just about any other comic, so it's not a complete wash either.

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Eric Rupe said...

Sounds like Johns just used L3W to do rush through all of the crap he wanted to "fix" and didn't even bother with a real story. Hope the library gets it at some point because I lost interest in the book a long time ago and don't want to spend money to read it.

Also, I don't think you could have brought Bart back as an adult. He was only the Flash for like a year and he only fits in with the current, or former, group from Teen Titans so you would have to de-age but you couldn't have him not remember that he died so bringing him is going to be messy no matter what.

Randallw said...

I'll probably get Three Worlds today. It's an order, and I can't very well just tell them I don't want it anymore. Also, the whole might as well have the set now.

Anyway that set up you describe with the regenration tank sounds like Futurama where Bender goes back in time and returns by staying in the basement for 1000 years. Or when some JSA members went back to ancient Egypt and returned to the present day by going into stasis sarcophogi, and we learr Black Adam is to let them out. The same Black Adam who nevertheless fights them for years beforehand. Does this now mean for the next 1000 years of issues Superman can't use the tank as it'll be occupied.

Kevin said...

Got to agree with you with Green Lantern. Johns just seems to have a problem with pacing as we head closer to Blackest Night since he has to introduce and develop so many characters in such a short time frame.

Also while I like Hal he I hate that he is put above all Green Lanterns (in this book). While Hal is fun when he other characters like Kyle, John, Guy, or Kilowag to interact with once alone Hal is kind of a dull character that is starting to become a bit whinny

Kelson said...

I think I'd actually prefer it if they just handwaved away the various resurrections in Legion of Three Worlds. I'm tired of the "We're revising things, so we have to turn it into a big epic story!" approach.

One of my favorite stories about a major world-wide history alteration was in (IIRC) Astro City #1/2. The crisis itself was a 2-page splash spread in the middle of the book. The rest of the story was about its impact on one family that didn't even know what had happened.

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree about Lo3W, but, hey, that is what you said would happen.

Daryll B said...

Well as a fan of the Legionnaires / reboot Legion I am with you Kirk...My guys used as cannon fodder...greeeaaaaat...And you know what..I think I preferred anyone else as the time trapper (Glorith, Cosmic Boy) other than who Johns chose... I am just disappointed in this overall

Nova Corps decimated AGAIN...some interstellar police keeping force they are....but it is interesting to watch...

Doom's story almost makes up for the abomination of the Cabal representation in Mighty Avengers 24...ALMOST...

Anonymous said...

yeah I completely disagree kirk. The Legion of 3 world was friggin epic on every level. I loved every panel so much. This is why i read comics.

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