Friday, May 15, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 05/13/09

Reviews were a little delayed this week. Apologies again. On top of the other problems that originally delayed the reviews, when I sat down to write them tonight, my keyboard decided to have a calliption fit on me and I've basically had to mash the keys like an old school typewriter to get them to register. Quite annoying.

Anyways, as for this week's comics, there were some really, really, really good ones this week, particularly in regards to Secret Six, Green Lantern Corps and Captain Britain and MI13. Please don't try to make me pick between them, as I don't think I could honestly choose one over the other. They were all that good. Full reviews after the jump.

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Eddy Barrows and Ruy José

Greg Rucka has a few issues of Action Comics under his belt and, while I've been enjoying it, this issue continues the downward trend in terms of quality.

While it started with the promising theme of Flamebird and Nightwing tracking down escaped Phantom Zone prisoners, who have been planted on Earth as Kryptonian sleeper agents by Zod, everything since that first issue has moved the book further and further away from that initial premise. Last issue was nothing but one long fight sequence and this issue continues from there with nothing but the undoing of the damage Flamebird suffered from that fight.

Speaking of which, the manner in which they dealt with the kryptonite blade that Ursa sliced up Flamebird with was horribly handled. Lois Lane simply dials up Dr Hoshi, who is actually the female Dr Light from the JLA, and has her "operate" on the injured Flamebird. The operation consisted of Dr Light simply shooting Flamebird with some light and leaving her out on the balcony to soak up some sunlight.

While I don't particuarly care for the hokey genre cliche super hero powered fixer up hack job employed here, I was annoyed by the fact we were never told who Dr Hoshi was. It doesn't use her first name, she's not in costume and they never use her super-hero name either. I was left scratching my head as to who the hell Lois trusted enough to call in to help them and couldn't think of any recent Star Labs or Cadmus people that may have been introduced or other recurring guest stars and Hoshi is hardly the most well known character, even by her Dr Light moniker, let alone her secret identity.

I actually didn't realize it was her until she started blasting Flamebird with light, which then had me wondering why they didn't just tell us who the heck she was in the first place. I didn't go over every line of dialogue, but I'm pretty sure the only mention of Dr Light was a random one-off from a military grunt after she had finished up and was written out of the story. Poorly explained random plot devices like this feel cheap to me and I didn't expect someone like Rucka to resort to a crutch as weak as this.

Another oddity with this issue was the random tattooed girl working with General Lane. She seems important, but I'll be damned if I can place her and she's another case of no-name syndrome. She hasn't appeared before in Rucka's current run and I don't recall seeing her during the New Krypton arc that ran through the books prior to this World Without Superman theme.

Despite my beef with the whole 'Dr Light saves the day' washing away of everything that happened last issue, I was actually fairly impressed with what little else occurred in this issue. Everything with Ursa was handled well and the Bonny and Clyde-like Kryptonian couple at the end looks promising and should herald a return to the Phantom Zone plot the series started out with.

Verdict - Check It. There's nothing here that will entice you to pick up this book if you aren't already, but it should entertain those that already are. I just hope this comic starts picking up again or I may end up dropping it. Next issue will more than likely be the decider for me.

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Ardian Syaf with Leonard Kirk

I want to write a review for this book, but I simply can't figure out what to say other than it's amazing and you should be ashamed of yourself if you aren't reading it. Aside from issues with the art (you can clearly tell which sections were done "with Leonard Kirk" and which were not), I really can't think of a single bad thing to say about the issue, which, as hard as it may be to believe, makes it very difficult to write a review that doesn't come off as pure fanboy gushing, which I'm probably borderline pushing as it is.

Much like earlier issues, this one features the absurdly enjoyable concept of a racist Dracula, who lives on the Moon, launching an all out vampire invasion on England with blood bubble vampire missiles (literally vampires covered in blood launched at Earth), giant wooden sail boats/spaceships and any other unbelievable concept you can think of all mixed together. In all respects, this should be terrible and no editor in their right mind should have gave the green light to a concept like this, but it's so damn perfectly executed and the characters all make it seem so believable that you can't help but go along with it and it just makes the sheer ludicrousness of the plot all the better. It's like a focused and finely tuned Nextwave-like level of concepts that doesn't cross the line to full on comedy.

Oh, and as for this issue? The Dracula controlled Spitfire leads an all out assault on England and then slashes Faiza's throat out, Captain Britain is banished from England due to Dracula's magics, the entire team is killed, captured or missing in action and Dracula conquers England.

Verdict - Must Read. Few other comics feature so much action in one issue, let alone an entire arc. This arc has already been placed on my list for early candidates for Best Villain and Best Story and with good reason. Definitely a must read comic.

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Mark Brooks

Hmm, what to think, what to think? To be honest, I'm really not sure what to think of this issue. The concept has promise, I'll give it that. This is basically the Runaways crossed with the Young Avengers and Thunderbolts in that it's a bunch of teenagers on their own forming a new team comprised of "villains".

I use the term villains lightly, as I don't recognize anyone here outside of Enchantress, who I don't think is the actual Enchantress (she fakes her accent, horribly I might add, but looks the part and uses the name), and they are trying to be heroes. I think. At least, a few of them are definitely trying to be heroes. Characters like Big Zero, the size changing tattooed woman on the cover, is rascist and even kills a would-be thief with no remorse. This could be chalked up a character flaw and gray area killing alla the Punisher, but there's clearly no desire to "do good" as was seen with the team leader, Melter, who would be the guy with the Spider-Man shirt on the cover.

With such an ecclectic mix of non-traditional heroes, the issue makes for an interesting read, but gets held back by the need to introduce so many new characters, introduce the concept for the team and show off everyone's powers while, finally, setting up a conflict for future issues. In short, it feels rushed. We never get to sit down and find out who these new people are aside from a single page devoted to each, as seen in downtime after their first outing, halfway through the issue.

The only character that was remotely fleshed out was Melter, who is actually fairly interesting. He's Enchantress's boyfriend and the team leader and has a genuine desire to be a hero that makes what happens to him later in the issue all the better. As he attempted to help an old lady he accidently bumped into, she starts calling for help thinking he's a mugger and even maces him. Melter reacts by shielding his eyes and his powers flare up, which results in a liquified old lady and a not-so heroic action on his part, which leaves him freaked out as he heads back to their hideout.

While I would have liked to have gotten to know some of these characters during these opening issues, it looks like, based on the final page, that we'll be jumping straight into the action next month. As the team is debating their heroic nature and if they have the right to even call themselves Young Avengers, the actual Young Avengers team teleports in with some fisticuffs promised for next issue.

Verdict - Check It. It's a so-so first issue that doesn't immediately hook you, but there's something unique about the concept that appealed to me enough that I want to see what happens next.

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason and Rebecca Buchman

Peter Tomasi continues to deliver one of the best reading experiences on the market. Where other books, particularly the main Green Lantern title, drag in areas or become to focused on particular events or characters at the detriment of the story, Green Lantern Corps continues to be the total package.

Whether it's the drama between Sinestro and his newly revealed daughter, Soranik Natu, the pure chaos of the riot in the Sciencells of Oa or the mixture of drama and action of the conflict on Daxam, it just works. There are no wasted pages or decompressed filler nor is it a cluttered mess or underdeveloped in any way.

While I was, at first, a little disappointed that they chose the only other Korugan we've been introduced to, Natu, as Sinestro's daughter, I'm actually happy to say that this issue has washed away all doubt I had with the choice. Over the course of a few pages, Tomasi has developed their relationship to an extent I didn't think possible and I'm actually quite pleased with how it's worked out and look forward to seeing where they go with it in the future.

The riot on Oa was mostly a series of single panels showcasing the insanity that is breaking out and how the various Green Lanterns are handling it (or failing, in some cases). It was brief, but effective and keeps the riot fresh in the reader's mind until next issue, when I assume it will be dealt with in full now that the Sinestro's daughter subplot has wrapped up.

Finally, the remainder of the issue was devoted to a showdown between Mongul and Sodam Yat. It was a short, but powerful fight that saw the Black Lantern-aligned Guardian of the Universe, Scar, interferring with Sodam's ability to tap into the Ion power, thus limiting his effectiveness. What followed, once Sodam realized his inability to effectively use the Ion force, confused me a bit. He told his ring to drop his forcefields and just stood there and took a full force blast from Mongul. Surprisingly, he didn't die and just hopped back up, flew off into the red star and "blew up" in what appeared to be him turning the star yellow, which would then give him all of the Daxamites Superman-like powers and the ability to fight back against the Sinestro Corps. I assume Sodam will then regain his powers and be able to survive whatever he just did.

Verdict - Must Read. Aside from some confusion over just what happened to Sodam and why/how he blew up in the star, I have absolutely no complaints with the issue and it's nearly a pitch perfect comic and a formula others should look to for success in the future.

Written by Gail Simone
Art by Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood

In my eyes, this issue is so good that it single handedly makes the entire the debacle of an event, Battle for the Cowl, worthwhile. Simone understands each of these characters and what motivates them and watching Bane and Catman reacting to the news of Batman's death and their own round about way of acknowledging his impact on their lives was worth the price of admission alone. Throw in Ragdoll's hilarious portrayal of the boy/girl wonder and it's just icing on the cake.

The most difficult part of this review is actually narrowing down my favourite part of this issue. We've got moments with Bane and Catman debating the useage of the term of hero in relation to their stopping some child kidnappers (a scene that followed Bane having broken one man's back and snapped another's neck), Catman leaving Bane to deal with the crying child, to which Bane is woefully unprepared, and even throwbacks to the old Adam West Batman's television show with Bane, Catman and Ragdoll climbing up a wall.

In lieu of picking a single moment, such as those listed above, I'm going to go with the back and forth pyscho analyzing between Catman and Bane over each other's desire/denial about possibly replacing Batman and the begrudging respect/reverence they have for the man. That and the realization by Ragdoll that anything he says sounds sick and perverted, which was followed by his spouting of random words and sayings throughout the issue.

Verdict - Must Read. The plot is fairly straightforward, but the trip is worth it. Spot on characterizations and easily one of my favourite comics this year. Highly recommended.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen

There are flashes of what made Ultimate Spider-Man possibly the most consistent and possibly best ongoing comic of the past decade in this issue, but, alas, they are just that, flashes of what once was. It's obvious that Ultimatum has sucked most of the life out of this issue and I'm not even sure why it was delayed just for that event when nothing really happens other than Spider-Man and Hulk punching some imaginary monsters.

Imaginary monsters? What do I mean? Well, the whole explosion at Dr Strange's Soho apartment last issue gets picked up on here and amounts to some magic creature possessing Strange and causing Spider-Man and Hulk to see their own worst nightmares. It's never stated who it is, but Spider-Man has apparently run into it before and they talk about it a lot but never actually explain it, which rather annoyed me. It was very much like the recent video game tie-in Venom issues that failed to really explain the many things being referenced from the Ultimate Spider-Man game, which was several years old at that point.

The fight is just an extension of the mindless action that has plagued Ultimatum and hardly worth mentioning, to be honest. The few, brief character moments, however, were. The opening pages featured MJ verbally, and physically, lashing out at Kitty Pryde over her sending Peter out by himself in this madness. This results in Kitty shouting out that she feels the same way and loves Peter just as much as her in front of her current boyfriend, Moose. She cut herself off mid-sentence, but the damage was obviously done and I just wish we had been given 20 some pages of story on that instead of the nonsensical magic mind tricks we were subjected to.

Verdict - Check It. A few shining moments help redeem an otherwise forgettable issue that is quite unbefitting an end to the storied legacy of the Ultimate Spider-Man title.

Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Wellinton Alves

Much like last issue, the best parts of this one are when the main character isn't on screen. Chris Powell, formerly Darkhawk, is one of the least interesting characters I've ever had the misfortune of reading and he sucks the life out of every panel he's in. It's sad when I'm actually glad his armour and body were taken over by a member of an evil fraternity dedicated to sowing chaos and discontent throughout the universe just so I won't have to listen to his whining or put up with his crappy origin story and cliched internal battles with himself nonsense.

Annoyances over the main character aside, this issue is actually much better than the first one. With the reveal that the Fraternity of Raptors and Darkhawk suits are actually evil, Abnett and Lanning have added a nice twist to this storyline and it immediately started paying dividends with the duo of Talon and Darkhawk quickly taking out Catastrophus and claiming his Cosmic Control Rod for themselves.

Why didn't Catastrophus use the rod on the two Raptors? Well, he was actually using it to suppress Annihilus's growth and couldn't use it for himself without allowing Annihilus to awaken. That answers the question of whatever happened to Annihilus after he was reborn at the end of Annihilation. The two Raptors actually leave Annihilus alive as it will only further help their cause in the long run by having someone like Annihilus alive and in their debt.

Once the duo acquired the Cosmic Control Rod, they went on to request an audience with King Blastaar, who had taken up residence in Prison 42. Instead of using the rod themselves, they actually give it to Blastaar in good faith in hopes he'll aid their goals with regards to the War of Kings.

The remainder of the issue was devoted to Chris Powell, who was ousted from his Darkhawk armour and left in a limbo of sorts. DnA attempt to clear up his previous origin, which revolved around the Darkhawk armour being created by intergalactic mobsters and what not, by blaming it on Chris's mind not being able to handle the armour and datasong from the Fraternity and, thus, creating fake memories to help him cope.

I see what they attempted to do by going to the trouble of explaining his origin and retconning parts of it away, but I don't understand why they even bothered since the character is hardly well known or popular and barely qualifies as a Z-lister. For the amount of time they are spending on forcing the character into their storyline, they could have just as easily made a new one up and avoided the clutter and bullshit backstory and inner turmoil nonsense we've been subjected to so far.

Verdict - Check It. If I could gut the middle parts of this story dealing with Chris Powell's origin and innerself nonsense, I'd probably rate this issue an easy Must Read. Those parts are really dragging this miniseries down.

Written by Jason Aaron & Daniel Way
Art by Adam Kubert & Tommy Lee Edwards

This issue is broken up into two parts. One is by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert while the other is by Daniel Way and Tommy Lee Edwards. If you've been following along, you'll know I'm a fairly big Jason Aaron fanboy, especially in regards to his Wolverine work, but, surprisingly, Daniel Way's half of the book proved to be the stronger of the two.

But first, let's discuss Aaron and Kubert's first half of the book. It amounted to about a dozen or so pages featuring panels, layed out like a calendar, with the days of the week setting off each new panel. Each "day" featured Wolverine on a different team, such as the New Avengers or Uncanny X-Men, or off on a solo adventure, like a fight with Red Hulk or anything to do with Wolverine Origins, or even one of his numerous guest appearances/team-ups, such as with Spider-Man, Deadpool or Thor.

It was an interesting showcase of just how crazy Wolverine's life is and the absurdity of the number of books he appears in in any given month, but, in the end, that's all it is - a series of single panels showing random moments from other adventures. There's no story, no direction, no payoffs. Just one panel after another. The final page seems to promise an actual story to go with the dramatic irony of these "daily adventures", but, based on this single issue, I was fairly disappointed with it.

Thankfully (I can't believe I'm saying this), Daniel Way's half of the issue pulls its own weight and then some. It's a story from Logan's past with a biker gang and shows him meeting up with the again after 20 or 30 years. There's nothing really new here that will redefine Wolverine's character, but it's an entertaining read bolstered by Tommy Lee Edwards's art, which I'm a big fan of.

Verdict - Check It. I'm not sure why they broke both stories in half and slapped them together instead of just releasing them each in their own issue and I'm a tad disappointed with how the Aaron/Kubert half panned out, but I think I'm still satisfied with the purchase and, while not an absolute must read issue, think it's definitely worth checking out if either story or creator team interests you.

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BobofBentleigh said...

Have fun narrowing down the MOTW this week Kirk, in the interests of fairness you might need to leave the Secret Six moments to another post ;)

Andrenn said...

Nice Reviews Kirk, I myself absolutely loved Dark Reign Young Avengers. Can't wait for issue #2 next month. I thought Ultimate Spider-man was an okay read but...I dunno, it's just getting harder and harder to wade through the muck of Ultimatum.

Quantum said...

Did you pick up The Unwritten? It was a dollar, so it was worth trying. Very good book. FC Aftermath: Escape was fantastic. They said The Prisoner meets Saw and they weren't kidding. Haven't really seen any Saw-ness though.

Bill said...

I actually liked the calendar bit in Wolverine, and didn't care for the second half. Weird.

Matt Ampersand said...

For Ultimate Spider-Man, I believe what grabs hold of Doc is Ultimate Nightmare (not the mini-series, the ultimate version of the Nightmare we know from 616). The whole thing is a reference to an early, short plot back in Ult. Spidey around 60 or something. I can't remember it off the top of my head, but it involved Peter and MJ going on a date at a fancy retaurant, but in reality Spidey was back in Doc's house and he was just imagining the whole thing.

Jason D. Manger said...

You are correct in regards to Action, the only person that mentions Dr. Light by name is one of those shady military guys working for General Lane. The tattooed girl just showed up in a future solicit fro the Superman books so I'm guessing her role will increase, but Rucka and Robinson have done a good job keeping Lane's organization fairly secret.

Naymlap said...

No X-Factor this week?
It wasn't as amazing as some of the previous issues, but I think David is making good on his promise of keeping X-Factor a first-rate book.

ShadowWing Tronix said...

It's the games they're playing with Darkhawk's origin (not to mention otherwise ignoring half the series) that keeps me away from Ascention. I thought he was just fine the way Fingeroth left him at the end of the series.

mugiwara said...

I believe Kitty's BF is called Kong or Kevin. Moose is some lame character from Spider Girl.

As for Enchantress from Young Avengers, she may be the real deal but for some reason, still merged with her human host. That would explain why she is not in Thor.

Steven said...

Enchantress appeared in Thor: God-Sized Special #1, which takes place since the return of Asgard, and she was an adult then.

Max said...

As much fun as it is reading a trashing review, euphoric ones like three of these are just as enjoyable. Nice work, Kirk.

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