Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 06/24/09

After the delay in last week's Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews, I wanted to make sure I got some reviews out for everyone on Wednesday this week. However, I only managed to get a handful of the dozen or so books I picked up this week reviewed, so I'll be updating tomorrow with the rest of them. Enjoy the reviews and catch you on the flip side.

Written by Paul Dini
Art by Guillem March

Gotham City Sirens is an odd book. There's a lot of promise with the concept of a book focusing on three of Batman's rogues gallery, all of which have been pre-existing relationships already established between them. Add Paul Dini, who's had plenty of experience with all three characters, even co-creating one of them, and it seems like a sure fire hit.

Sadly, the first issue of this new series was fairly disappointing and, quite frankly, forgettable. There's little on offer that stood out as vaguely interesting and even less that shows any promise for potential in the future.

If I had to compare this issue to another book, it would be just about anything from Chris Claremont's modern work. However, it's not due to the quality of writing, but moreso due to the fact this issue made it feel more like the book was a gift to Dini so that he can play with is pet characters off on his own, similar to Claremont's X-Men Forever.

The reason I feel this way is due to the characterizations, which felt almost paper thin, as if they were mere characitures of themselves. Take Harley Quinn, for an example, she sounded more like a DCU animated version than the one that had been in Countdown for the past year or so. Despite referencing current events, everyone felt that way to me - like they were stereotypical personalities for the characters moreso than the present day incarnations. Another example of this being a Dini pet book was the mandatory Zatanna cameo. While she was involved in Catwoman's recent heart problems with Hush, it still felt like she was forced into the book just to have her appear.

The final problem I had with this issue was that it felt like mere cheesecake, which probably isn't that surprising with the "diva" action promised in the solicits and a book starring three female villains. From Harley being dressed in some porn star schoolgirl outfit to Zatanna taking a dip in a jacuzzi, a lot of it just felt like it was designed around showing off the girls in the book. Add some new Z-list villain that nobody cared about and who took up the bulk of the issue and nothing really clicked for me here.

Verdict - Avoid It. Nothing to see here. Move along now.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion

Aside from some disappointment over the quick reversal of last issue's cliffhanger, I think this was possibly the strongest issue in the Agent Orange arc. Just seemed to have much better pacing and the flow between subplots, like the John Stewert/Fatality bit or the discovery of the Black Lantern, it all just clicked for me this month.

Now, to touch on that reversal of last month's cliffhanger, for those unawares, Larfleeze cut Hal Jordan's Blue Lantern ring hand off to conclude last issue. It was shocking and unexpected and full of dramatic irony with how Hal's been responsible for cutting off other Lanterns' hands in the past. However, Johns simply copped out on it and made it all a dream sequence for Larfleeze caued by the Blue Lantern ring showing him his hopes and dreams.

I'm probably nitpicking over this, as it's, sadly, a major part of periodicals to have these types of endings each month to drive reader interest, but it always bugs me when the cliffhanger is a complete lie, such as the recent Captain Britain and MI13 dream sequence victory for Dracula, which is almost identical in execution to this Green Lantern bait and switch. While we've seen the blue rings do this before with John Stewert, I think we can all agree this is much more blatant and serves only as shock value. I can only imagine how it will read in a trade where it's this huge reveal of his hand cut off followed by a "it's a dream" page.

Overly long winded nitpicking aside, the rest of the issue followed up on this quite well. Hal finally using his blue ring and creating his own Corps of willpower constructs, similar to Larfleeze's Orange Lantern Corps, were great and I look forward to seeing more on the Fatality/John Stewert "relationship". The Guardians making another deal with Larfleeze quickly blew up in their faces as he took the information given to him about the Blue Lantern homeworld and quickly set off to claim it and the rings as his own, just as Sayd and Ganthet were reruiting another new recruit (the one that received Hal's ring when it flew off maybe?). As the blue ring seemed to be quite effective against orange when Hal used it, I imagine it will be a fairly interesting fight between those two corps.

In regards to the quest for the Anti-Monitor's remains, Ash and Saarek both arrived on the Black Lantern homeworld, which their rings could not identified as its location was "classified". I assume Scar has it classified on everyone. What appears to be the first Black Lantern or possibly its "Guardian" emerged from the ground with two white/zombie pale coloured skinned arms flailing out screaming for flesh. Actually, the flesh speech bubble looked like a black lantern, similar to when other rings announce things, so maybe a Black Lantern ring was simply detecting/calling out for the flesh? Whatever it was, I wasn't actually expecting zombie flesh craving villains to make up the Black Lanterns, but I guess the whole dead rising from their graves thing should have gave that away...

Verdict - Must Read. Very solid outing for Green Lantern that did an excellent job of balancing the numerous subplots occuring in the book.

NOVA #26
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Andrea Di Vito

With Richard Rider back as the Nova Prime and that striking cover promising some pay back against the Shi'ar, I was expecting some high flying action from Nova this month. In that regard, I was disappointed, but that doesn't mean the issue was bad either. Far from it, in fact.

Abnett and Lanning took a much more logical approach to Nova's return by having him help with the extraction of the various Nova Centurions scattered about the numerous hot zones. There's a bit of clunky exposition during the opening of these scenes where they use several new recruits to verbally tell us what is going on, but otherwise it was a very well written sequence of events that culminated with Nova arriving on the planet where the former Nova Prime was captured and Richard discovers the platoon of troops were slaughtered by the Shi'ar - revealed by a rather large pile of empty and bloodied centurion helmets.

From there, we see the work of the Fraternity of Raptors (although they don't actually appear) with the Shi'ar waging war on the ceded territories of Ravenous. We find out Ravenous's forces have fought the Shi'ar to a standstill and this forced Vulcan to send Strontian, Gladiator's evil cousin, to assassinate Ravenous. Robbie Rider, Nova's brother and whom Richard was looking for, oddly enough shows up to save Ravenous, ending the issue with Strontian trapped in a forcefield of some kind. I doubt she's overly phased by this and we'll either see Robbie getting trounced next issue or Nova coming in for the save.

Verdict - Check It. While I quite enjoyed the issue, it was fairly laid back and straight forward in its execution and lacked any real tension or drama that would warrant a must read verdict. It's just sort of there and fans of the book will love it while those wondering what all the fuss is about the book will probably be left wondering, "that's it", if they jump in on this issue, so that's why it gets a check it from me.

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Ron Garney

After being blown away by the second issue of Wolverine: Weapon X, I probably had unreasonably high expectations going into this third outing. Despite not reaching those lofty expectations, the fact that this issue still managed to impress me speaks volumes for just how good this opening arc is shaping up.

Last issue was all about Wolverine finding and confronting Strikeforce X only to find out they were highly trained and could give as well as they could take and were easily on par with, if not better than, Wolverine in a straight up fight. Logan ended that issue by exercising the better part of valour and fleeing into the jungles of Columbia with the hopes of picking off his enemies one by one.

While we did get to see some of this cat and mouse play followed up in this issue, the bulk of it was actually devoted to fleshing out the backstory behind Strikeforce X, why they exist and who's funding them, which was mostly expressed through the investigative journalism of the new female supporting character introduced in this arc, Ms Garner. It all seems to be a corporate powerplay by a contracting firm called Blackguard to create elite mercenary squads and bribe congress to pass a bill to use them and mass produce more of their kind for dropping into war zones and what have you and seems to be a likely parallel for Blackwater and the US military with the comic book twist, of course.

This was all juxtaposed with Strikeforce X tracking Wolverine. The catch was where I expected Wolverine to systematically take down the entire platoon, Aaron opted to ignore the cliches and have the Strikeforce team be somewhat competent compared to most groups that just get taken apart one by one. While, yes, Logan does manage to capture one and critically injure another, the team actually holds up quite well and even outwits him at the very end when their captive escapes and even removes his own eye, which had a tracking chip Wolverine had planted in it. I was honestly shocked at how well they made this Strikeforce X, which could easily be a joke of a group in any other writer's hands, into a legitimate threat to Wolverine and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when they clash again next time.

Verdict - Must Read. I can't recall the last time a Wolverine comic was this good, but even the most staunch detractors of Wolverine will have to step up and take notice of this book if it continues to put out quality issues like these first three.

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Christopher Peterson said...

For Green Lantern you said, "The Guardians making another deal with Larfleeze quickly blew up in their faces as he took the information given to him about the Blue Lantern homeworld and quickly set off to claim it"

I disagree . . . I felt that the Guardians didn't care about the Blue Lanterns and see Ganthet and Sayd as traitors to the cause.

They probably believe that when Orange and Blue collide that if one destroys the other they will be in a better situation to control the galaxy through their GLC than ever before . . . This was a cold calculated betrayal on the part of the Guardians not a mistake.

Everything else was spot on.

Matt Ampersand said...

Weapon X was a great issue, but somewhat dissapointing, because I was expecting an all out action issue. Instead, I got a very smart written expose.

Flip The Page said...

Surprised you didn't go for Detective Comics #854 with your reviews. It's more than worth it and you were anticipating it a fair bit.

*tries to avoid plugging his own blog's over the top mini-review of the comic and fails*
Seriously I can't recommend it enough, so hopefully my plug will give an idea of how much I SHOULD recommend it XD

Ah and now I'm a shameless plugger. I'll take my leave.

Kirk Warren said...

@Flip The Page - I was going to, but I wanted to reread it again today after letting it sit a bit before writing it up. The other books I reviewed so far were easier quick write ups for me late last night, so went with what was working. I'll do the Detec (and abunch of others) later tonight, so be sure to check back. For reference, it was amazing, but I had some issues with her personality (tattoos, almost emo/goth-like, etc). Otherwise a must read. Willaims art was INSANE. They need to put him to work on some major project asap.

Tromeritus said...

Wolverine: Weapon X is getting really great buzz! I'm happy that it's written by Jason Aaron, but I'm personally just not willing to shell out $4 for those 20-22 pages (only Nova would ever hold that privilege). The eventual trade has my name on it, however.

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