Saturday, June 13, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 06/10/09

I ran into some difficulties earlier in the week, but I've managed to put together some weekend reviews for this edition of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews. On tap for your reading pleasure are reviews of Batman, Green Lantern Corps, Flash: Rebirth and Fantastic Four. As you've waited long enough for these reviews, I'll cut the spiel short and let you get right to them!

Written by Judd Winick
Art by Ed Benes and Rob Hunter

With the excellent debut issue of All Star Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, I decided to give Judd Winick's penned Batman title a shot and see how other writers handled Dick Grayson as Batman. I was, unfortunately, disappointed with what was on hand in this issue.

The biggest problem I had with Batman #687 was that it was nothing but a retread of Battle for the Cowl. It doesn't go about recapping the events of the Tony Daniel penned disaster of a story, but Dick is full of doubt, spends the entire issue (save the last page) fretting about whether he can live up to Bruce's standard or if he is worthy of being Batman and eventually comes to the same conclusion and ending as Battle for the Cowl did - he accepts the role and becomes Batman. If Battle for the Cowl had never come out, I might have a different opinion of this introspective issue, but it did and just ended not too long ago, making this nearly identical premise (albeit a lot better written than Battle was) a tad underwhelming.

Another problem with the issue was that it came after Batman and Robin. I wasn't expecting a Grant Morrison-level offering from Judd Winick and was actually fairly impressed with how he handled most of the characters in this issue, but Morrison came out on full throttle with Dick and Damian both in costume, fully setup in their new digs and gave us something new and exciting to play with. Winick just wallows in the pre-Dick as Batman status quo that we should be well past by now. It's like he didn't get the memo on what Morrison or even what Daniel was up to in Battle for the Cowl and went about his business writing this issue as if neither of their stories happened/were going to occur and it really nagged on me the entire time I was reading this. Every single plot point has already been solved, gone over or, otherwise, wrapped up in other books and seeing him retread them here just didn't cut it for me.

Verdict - Avoid It. If you skipped Battle for the Cowl, you might enjoy seeing Dick come to terms with becoming Batman more than I did, but for the rest of us, I think it's a weak first issue and not nearly enough to get me to come back again next month.

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Bryan Hitch

This issue was a rollercoaster ride for me. It started out with the "&$*% yeah, Dr Doom!" as we see Doom fighting back against his masters, but then nosedove into what I thought was going to be a generic future/aftermath of the fight with Doom having saved the Earth and then it's all crazy again when we see that the Marquis of Death actually gave Doom that perfect future so he could take it away from him before he kills him.

However, the best way to describe the issue is that it's Mark Millar writing the Fantastic Four. If you've read anything by Mark Millar, you'll see all the hallmarks of his work in this issue, from the Doom/Marquis fight to the random killings and big explosions, it's all there. Whether you like this issue will come down to whether you enjoy Millar's style of writing or not and, for me, I do (in most cases) and very much enjoyed this issue.

My favourite part was that the mischaracterization of Doom kneeling before his former master and basically looking like someone elses errand boy last issue was just Doom showing some respect for his former master and his fighting back to open the issue, on fire and all, was quite a spectacle and washed away that bad taste in my mouth.

Being a Mark Millar book, though, there had to be random killings and everyone in Latveria was the victim this time. Ya, it got blown up back in Mighty Avengers and again in the recent Dark Avengers, but the Marquis of Death basically nuked it here, killing all of its inhabitants. I'm sure it'll be back up and running again next week. There's also the non-death of Dr Doom whereby his master scoffs at Doom's numerous failures and then deposits a guy with a time machine in his armour in the past as shark food for his big killing blow. I think we can all see Doom being back by the end of this arc to finish off his former master, which undersells the dramatic effect of the whole "death".

Verdict - Check It. Enjoyable read, but Millar, for as much as I enjoy his works, is becoming a bit of a one trick pony in terms of storytelling. You're enjoyment of the issue will depend on how much you like or dislike Millar's other work.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ethan Van Sciver

Flash: Rebirth has been an exercise in patience. Issue one amounted to little more than everyone espouting how Barry Allen is the bestest best Flash ever while number two was the secret origin of the all mighty bowtie. Coming into issue three, I was a tad concerned over just where this story was going or if it would ever give me a good reason for the return of Barry in the first place.

While this issue didn't answer either of those concerns, it did fill in one of the key pieces of the puzzle for this story - the identity of the mystery villain, who turned out to be none other than the Reverse Flash, Eobard Thawne. I don't even want to try and figure out the logistics behind his return (Barry actually killed him after Thawne killed Iris Allen, who isn't dead either), but I am a little puzzled over just why he was chosen. Zoom, while being mostly Wally's evil mirror image, wears pretty much the same costume, is fairly well known, even by less knowledgable Flash fans like myself, and has similar time based powers (well, I assume Reverse Flash has some form of time based powers to explain the retcons to Barry's new grim past and his being alive and what not). There's updating or reviving old villains, but you shouldn't just kick others to the curb in favour of some Silver Age loving either. We also don't need every single hero to have a mirror image/evil doppleganger.

Mystery villain aside (he only appears on the last page anyways), the issue, for all the supposed speed of the characters and franchise, is painfully slow. It amounted to nothing but introspective "woe is me" Barry self-loathing over his return to the land of the living and most people, who are unfamiliar/have not read a comic with Barry before, have no reason to really care about all this moping he's doing and it's hard to sympathize with him over his situation when everyone and their mother came back to life in comics, especially in regards to the Flash family of characters (every Flash was dead at one point or another if I'm not mistaken). The emotional impact of him trying not to forget about Iris, whom we've seen in all of maybe two panels the entire series and, as far as I know, was last seen prior to Final Crisis trying, and succeeding, to help some villains kill their grandson, Bart Allen, is lost on me.

Verdict - Check It. I don't think this book is written for me or other readers like me. It's clearly being aimed at long time Flash fans who would appreciate the return of Barry and could draw on emotional baggage associated with his Silver Age stories to carry an otherwise unremarkable issue.

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

Green Lantern Corps #37 was another great issue from Tomasi and Gleason, but failed to live up to the previous parts of this current storyline. Where the past couple of issues weaved their ways through the numerous subplots and storylines currently being followed in this title with grace and style, this issue seems to stumble from subplot to subplot. While I still liked everything on offer from these plots, the bar was set rather high going in and, as a victim of its own success, the book fell a little short of past offerings. Now, doom and gloom of this opening paragraph out of the way, it's still a damn good issue and I doubt anyone will be upset with the purchase.

The most immediate item to come out of this issue was the follow up to last issue's Ion moment. Ion had gone off to Daxam's red star and it looked like he was going to use the Ion power to revert the star to a yellow stage. This issue opened up to confirm that he did, in fact, turn the red star yellow and, with it, the entire Daxam race are now Kryptonian-like in powers. However, Ion self narrates the opening and claims he died to save his people. We saw Blue Lanterns stop a star from going supernova, yet the full Ion force user dies in a star? Hmm...I suspect he'll be back after being super charged in the yellow star, but still a rather odd death for Ion, all things considered.

Also, contrary to the cover image, the Daxamites don't actually use their powers to strike back against the Sinestro Corps. Arisia takes most of the free Daxamites and starts a resistance group by training them in the use of their new powers. Seemed like a rather low key response with a planet full of Supermen and just didn't click with me.

Most of the issue was dedicated to the riot on Oa, which, as odd as it might sound, amounted to nothing more than a riot on Oa. There was no real character moments (few good one liners from Guy Gardner though), there was no explaination or even characterization for the Red Lantern, Vice, that started it all and there was, ultimately, nothing else to it other than some senseless carnage and maiming of villains. I didn't expect some major revelation behind it, but the Vice thing really annoyed me for some reason. I was curious as to the reasons behind the attack and if Atrocitus initiated it or if Vice has some free will of his own to carry it out (most Red Lanterns have been shown to be nothing but slaves to their rage and Atrocitus) and, finally, if there was a goal to it (distract the GLC while he attacks something else or what have you), but there was nothing. It was just a random riot on Oa with a few good moments mixed in, but no real purpose either.

Of note, Lyssa Drak, who was named Lyssa Drax here, sought out the Book of Parallax and stumbled onto Scar's hidden lair and her Black Lantern book. When she tried to claim it as her own, Scar snuck up on her and "pushed" her into the pages of the book. As Drak was one of my favourite Sinestro Corps members and I was so happy to see her back in action, I hope this isn't the end of her story and that we'll see more of her again in the future.

Finally, Scar, almost as if the book had taken control of her, deemed the time had come and began to destroy/remove the giant green lantern protective bubble around the planet Oa to end the issue. I'm not sure what purpose this will serve or how it will affect Oa or the Green Lanterns. I just assumed that was a fancy looking shield for the planet and not much else. Can't see how it will pose any major problems or how the Guardians won't be able to just erect a new one when they get back from the Vega system.

Oh, and conspicuous by its abscence, Sinestro and Natu make no appearances in this issue. After several great issues with Sinestro in them, it was as if Johns had given the word that he was using Sinestro for an attack on the Star Sapphires in Green Lantern and GLC wasn't allowed to use it anymore.

Verdict - Must Read. I know the opening of this review sounded like it might be a bad issue, but it was still very, very good, despite some minor issues with it. Still very much a must read book.

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Phillyradiogeek said...

I've heard it said that Batman #687 reads better before reading Batman and Robin #1. I'll take that advice when I get my books at the end of the month.

Sebastian said...

Well, I thought the Winick Batman was pretty good. Couldn't stand the art, but the writing was pretty depressing, so I enjoyed it. Of course I didn't like Battle for the Cowl, so the whole sweeping under the wrong and rehashing of the plot was okay by me. Not even a month and that mini is already retconned. As for the series as a whole, I'm reserving judgement until the next issue, which is the real start of the series, since this one was mostly just a retelling of the Cowl stuff for those who didn't read it. Still, I enoyed this issue and I expect I'll like the following ones as well.It's hard to compare this to Morrison, but not because one writer is better than the other. Winick is taking a more conventional, mroe natural, approach to the story, filling in the obviousblanks and establishing the new Batman as a DCU character. Morrison is just doing the Batman that ties into his own universe, a different mission entirely, continuing his previous run.I liked Morrison's B&R more, but a lot of that has to do with the momentum he's built up over 25 issues and Quitely's art. I am fully certain that Winick can bring a good A game, looking at his last run.

Aloysius said...

My interpretation was that the Riot did serve a purpose but to Scar and the Black Lanterns. She was the one who broke Vice's restraint allowing him to escape and through his rabidness create the rest of the riot. Which by doing so distracts the GL's and creates more corpses to become BL's.

btownlegend said...

Continuity hasn't worked since the eighties. Why even pretend it exists?

Klep said...

I think the knowledge that Doom will survive only undermines the dramatic effect if the dramatic effect you think it's serving is the idea that a character is dead. The way I look at it, it just heightens my anticipation and excitement for when Doom returns to teach the Marquis a lesson about hubris. The look on the Marquis' face when Doom stands victorious before him should be priceless.

JP said...

I was just wondering why you left out on of the best parts of "Green Lantern Corps," in which the Lantern Ash, (who we had just seen in the last "Green Lantern" Issue) battling the space vampires, finish the battle then meet the other lantern Scar sent to find the Anti-Monitor, (his name escapes me, but he is the one who can hear the dead).
To me, that scene established two key players in "Blackest Night;" one who has no fear of the darkness (ash) and one who can communicate with the dead.
Also this scene showed the great syergy between Tomasi and Johns as well as the ultra smooth build-up to Blackest Night.
I mean honestly, if "Countdown to Final Crisis" was half as smooth as the "Preclude to Blackest Night" in GL and GLC has been, "Final Crisis" would have been the event of the century.
But now, that honor goes to "Blackest Night" thanks to Tomasi and Johns.

Randallw said...

I don't know if Millar meant it but while I was trying to figure out the sudden jump into the future I leapt on the mention that Torch didn't like it to mean he was going to go back in time and sabotage Doom's victory.

Kirk Warren said...

@JP - I didn't really consider it the best part actually. That subplot is really dragging on to me and I'm getting the feeling they'll finally get to the end of the line and just get killed off to be the first Black Lanterns/reveal the big threat to readers. Aside from the two meeting up, nothing really happened between the two that warranted mentioning in my opinion.

Flip The Page said...

I can't help but see it as redundant to have Batman exist when Batman & Robin appears to be handling Grayson better. Not to mention it would avoid conflicts in how the character is handled. Perhaps that's just me though

Steven said...

Batman is Dick solo. That is a reasonable reason for it's existence.

My main problem is Damian. Didn't people pretty much hate and vote for the death of the last Robin to show pretty much the same personality. Do they seriously think people aren't going to get sick of reading about this little a-hole just as quickly?

The Dangster said...

I dislike a ton of Millar but when he gets into a sentimental and fun groove like 1985 and this run on Fantastic Four, he can shine.

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