Thursday, May 21, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 05/20/09

The Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for this week feature a quick set of reviews for the three biggest books this week - Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3, Captain America #50 and, easily my pick of the week, Wolverine: Weapon X #2. I'll see about putting reviews up tomorrow for the other books from my previews earlier this week, but time constraints led to only a couple for the time being.

Getting away from the weekly comics for a minute, and in lieu of an announcement post since I figured it would be fitting to announce it here, we've recruited another member to the blog and that man is none other than Ryan "the Iowan" Schrodt, whom I'm sure many are familiar with from his now-two years straight running Weekly Review Power Rankings from the Newsarama comic book review sub-forum. I had originally asked Ryan to join me here at the Weekly Crisis back with the addition of Matt and Eric, but he asked for some time to think about it.

Well, the thinking is done and he's agreed to bring his weekly review column to the Weekly Crisis. This does not spell the end to my weekly reviews nor will it mean, for those followers of Ryan's, that his review format will change. I'm a huge fan of Ryan's reviews and he has a unique style that contrasts my own and also has his own set of books and opinions that often times differ from my own. We're just beginning the indoctrination, er, I mean helping Ryan with the transition to the blog and the various quirks with posting and formatting here, but you can expect to see his reviews and other posts appearing on the blog over the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

With that said, feel free to hit the jump and enjoy the reviews.

Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea

I really don't know how to go about reviewing this. It's a badddddd comic. Probably one of the worst comics I've ever read in terms of craftsmanship. To paraphrase another would-be Batman, it's "f***ing amateur".

Take a Countdown-like comic or even a writer you can't stand (Jeph Loeb for me) and you can see that they, at least, are capable of writing the story. There's the basic plot, you can see the execution and, usually, a logical flow of storytelling. There's none of that here or in the entire series, for that matter, and it's very hard to describe the exact points where you can see it without actually having you read it.

One easy thing to note is the lack of research, such as having great white sharks in a canal in the north Atlantic that would, at best, maybe see a small blue shark or other smaller shark species, just to have a scene with Two-Face throwing a guy into the water to get eaten. Another is the military operating on US soil and taking over a domestic area instead of a National Guard-like organization. This isn't disaster relief military use, but an overt attack against freaking Two-Face and the Penquin. You don't have blackhawks and squads of soldiers taking over for the police and attacking in a city like this and anyone with half a brain would realize this.

While those two simple examples probably seem like nitpicking, there are numerous little things like this that are just plain wrong throughout the issue and series on the whole. This doesn't even touch on the complete lack of any kind of plot or resolution to anything brought up. What little is there doesn't even make sense in context of any other appearance by the characters.

Take the two "deaths" from last issue for Tim Drake and Damian Wayne. Damian was shot in the chest and bleeding out, but obviously going to be rescued with Nightwing taking him back to Alfred for surgery. He's up and about with most of the damage explained away as the kevlar in his suit stopping most of the bullet damage and has his timid, cowering personality replaced with some "badass" version, which is still completley off compared to how Grant Morrison portrayed him.

Tim, on the otherhand, had a, based on the drawing, two meter long batarang stabbed into his chest with a huge splashpage cliffhanger to explain away and the reasoning used? The batarang shattered on the kevlar in Tim's costume and barely even nicked him. He only passed out due to some subconscious blood clotting technique Bruce taught him, but is still relatively whoozy from the attack.

As for Black Mask, who played a huge part in the opening two arcs, he shows up on one panel in shadows with his mask off and some books on the floor patting himself on the back and is never heard or seen from again. Looks like Hush for those wondering, but no explaination for his actions is given and there's no follow up or conclusion or reasoning to it either. Daniel just wanted to draw stuff blowing up.

Finally, the whole battle for the cowl amounts to what looked eerily similar to the end of Knightfall with the scene changes and spillover into public and even with former Robins being maimed before the "real" Batman stepped up to stop the fake one and even had the mind games about how far gone the fake one was and Nightwing reaching out for Jason Todd's hand to end the conflict. The only difference was Jason Todd didn't take Nightwing's hand and choose to fall into a river (note: Azrael Batman chose to leave his armour behind and come out into the light with Bruce if you are wondering what I am referring to).

While it's not what I'd call plagerism or anything remotely close (it's far too poorly executed or written to even foster the notion), it's blatantly obvious to anyone that has read the two stories that this cribs heavily from the setup and execution. The biggest difference between the two is Daniel tries to cram it all into a three parter while Knightfall was a good twenty parts or so.

Verdict - Avoid It. Only thing you need to know from this entire event is that Nightwing became Batman on the last page, Tim Drake will probably be out of commission for a while due to superficial wounds and Damian is the new Robin, all things you knew prior to the event.

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Luke Ross & Marcos Martin

While I enjoyed this issue a great deal (especially the Marcos Martin backup), it's difficult to be enthusiastic to what amounts to filler. It's also hard to praise since it's pretty damn hard to mess up a flashback tale like this. All you need to do is reference a few key moments in a character's history, add an origin / character history lesson to the backup and, bam, you've got the standard issue anniversary special. Nothing outright amazing, but also nothing you can technically fault either. It's just sort of there and not much you can criticize or praise other than taking a stance against these types of stories in general.

The first half of the issue was a series of Bucky Barnes birthday flashbacks, which showed him as a young army brat getting in trouble, time with Cap and the Invaders and culminating with a modern day surprise birthday party from the New Avengers team. It's a cute story that has some parts that will make you smile, but you'll instantly forget about it after you finish reading it and never really have a reason or desire to ever go back to it.

The backup story was just a recap of Captain America and Bucky's origins and how the current Captain America series and Bucky's return came about. It's pretty much a cliffnotes Wikipedia entry, but is saved by some remarkable artwork by Marcos Martin. The layouts he used for these pages were outstanding and almost make up for the relatively lowkey retrospect anniversary format they went with.

Verdict - Check It. If you hate these types of issues, it's an Avoid It. If you're unfamiliar with Captain America or the current series or just like these types of stories, it's a Must Read. I didn't hate it, but it wasn't exactly thrilling for a $3.99 price hike just because of the big number 50 on the cover.

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Ron Garney

Must read, must read, must read. If I had a rating higher than Must Read, this comic would be it. I may have to start rating comics on a scale of Avoid It to Wolverine: Weapon X #2 after reading this one.

While the first issue was a little slow paced, mostly setting up the plot and seeding the plotpoints for the rest of the storyline, issue two cranked it up to an eleven. This issue might just get some kind moment of the year award from me for the entire fight sequence between Wolverine and the two Blackguard black ops members that made up about half the issue.

From the setup with the two Blackguards taking Wolverine lightly, only to realize, too late, that he's right below them (amazing splashpage by Ron Garney) to Wolverine's gradual realization of their powers and how they're basically identical to him, and extremely well trained at that, to that final sequence with the three of them clashing together fading out into the jungle shot, it was a picture perfect sequence of events that had me with a Cheshire Cat grin on my face as I turned every page. It was like watching a movie with how well it flowed and I'm sure Garney, along with Jason Aaron's tight plotting, deserves a lot of credit for the effect.

However, this wasn't just one long action sequence of a comic. We also had a very entertaining opening sequence with the reporter introduced last issue and her fellow newspaper writers. Made me wish Aaron was writing a Daily Bugle book that just covered the staff and their interactions. Loved the poke at Wolverine's popularity through the over exposure line by the editor.

The issue ends with a promising, if fairly cliched, by Wolverine standards, ploy of Wolverine running off from the badguys, who's numbers had swelled as the rest of the Blackguard platoon joined the fary, with the standard down and out Hellfire Club-like ending that promises Wolverine clawing his way back after being overpowered in the opening. I don't fault Aaron for this as it was executed perfectly, but some may find the approach predictable. For me, though, the ride will be worth the parallels to previous stories, which are not nearly as overbearing or detrimental as this paragraph probably makes it appear.

Verdict - Must Read. I haven't had this much fun with a comic in a long, long time. While it's not a complete check your brain at the door type of story, it's still one hell of an action packed fun ride that will reminds anyone who reads it just why Wolverine is so popular.

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Mike Haynes said...

I didn't hate Battle for the Cowl, I just felt that it was very rushed and far too predictable. I completely forgot that Weapon X was coming out this week...

Damn. I'll have to go grab it tomorrow!

Marc said...

I loved Weapon X as well. I think it's the first Wolverine story in a long time to really understand the character, and it reminds me a lot of the Tieri/Chen run from several years ago.

Andrenn said...

Sad to see what a waste Battle for the Cowl was...still looking forward to Batmand and Robin a well as Streets of Gotham.

Gad to see Weapon X#2 was a good read.

The Phoenix King said...

Good to hear that Ryan's joining the crew, he definitely deserves it. Good luck to him!

Nice reviews all-round this week, Kirk, though of the three you did today, I only got the new Cap. For the most part, have to agree with you on it; it's a fun little read, and definitely appeals to a long-time Cap fan like me, but it's ultimately too fluffy to really hold its own. Good pencilwork though, and it's cool to see the Watchdogs again. Martin's art for the back-up feature was astonishing though, and helps soften the blow a bit of the $3.99 pricetag. I should have a more detailed review on my new blog by tonight or tomorrow.

And thanks for the heads-up about Wolverine: Weapon X. Damn, I really should have picked it up instead of Uncanny X-Men...Again, well done.

Matt Ampersand said...

I am glad that I didn't buy Battle for the Cowl. From what I hear, it has dissapointed pretty much everyone that bought it.

Bill said...

Not only was the BftC story dumb, some of the art was pretty awful too. In the panel with "the network," Huntress and Black Canary are doing the classic (and terrible) comic pose of staring at the reader while contorting their bodies for an ass-shot, but Huntress has no ass. Not like in an aesthetic way where she lacks my preferred ass-shape, but in an anatomical way where she appears to have no gluteal muscles and her thighs connect directly to her torso.

Jeremy said...

LOOOVED Weapon X. Its kinda hard to make good Wolverine books. Not only beacuse he's EVERYWHERE, but because he's pretty much unkillable. But instead of during the usaul(over-the-top opposition with inevtiable victory), Aaron figures the only thing that could beat Wolverine is...well a bunch of Wolverines. But he makes it really awesome, because the have guns that shoot cancer and laser claws.

Let me repeat that last part: GUNS THAT SHOOT CANCER AND LASER CLAWS. They even make a ZZNIKT sound effect.

So damn good.

Zdenko said...

Read Weapon X # 2 and while it was good, I woudn't say it was THAT good. But then again, neither of this weeks comics did impress me much.

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