Wednesday, August 19, 2009

UPDATED - Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 08/19/09

Just a light update for this edition of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews, featuring reviews for Batgirl #1, Streets of Gotham #3 and Wolverine: Weapon X #4.

I had planned to do a single post review with images for Daredevil #500, but couldn't find a single scan of anything outside the preview pages for it, so I decided to wait until tomorrow to hopefully find some scans for that book. It was a very, very good issue and I'm looking forward to Diggle's run after the conclusion to that issue.

As for the other comics I had pulled (Amazing Spider-Man, Atomic Robo & Superman/Batman), I'll update this post tomorrow with some Quick Shot Reviews, similar to last week's post. That said, hit the jump for the reviews!

UPDATE - Added Quick Shot Reviews for Amazing Spider-Man #603, Atomic Robo: Shadow from Beyond Time #4 & Superman/Batman #63. Daredevil #500 will get a spotlight review in its own post hopefully later today.

Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Lee Garbett and Trevor Scott

As DC's The Source blog was quick to point out, the new Batgirl is Stephanie Brown, aka Spoiler. I like seeing Spoiler get some recognition. It's not the most shocking reveal, but I'm glad DC didn't dick around with it or drag it out over the course of a six issue arc. In fact, they reveal the new Batgirl within the first five pages or so, just after a brief introductory bit of gratuitous violence.

One thing I liked about this reveal was that Bryan Miller clearly gets Stephanie's character. She's not Batgirl and she's still fairly green, at least in comparison to the other Bat-people. Both Batman and Robin both picked up on this not being the same Batgirl that led the League of Assassins and Outsiders, too, which was a nice touch. I especially liked the flashback sequences showing off Batgirl and Spoiler. This had hints of the original Batgirl series and the friendship these two had before all the drugs and leading of assassins and other nonsense DC put Cassandra through.

However, that good will was quickly scuttled with the reasons for Batgirl quitting. She claims with Bruce Wayne dead, it doesn't matter anymore and she's done, too. She promptly strips and tosses the costume at Spoiler before jumping off a rooftop and disappearing. Anyone that's read the original Batgirl series will know Cassandra specifically said she doesn't fight for Bruce or Batman, but that her motivation was for the symbol - for what Batman represents. The whole scene read like Miller was cut off midstream and told to get rid of Cassandra by editorial or that someone slipped the page in without his knowing.

With the reasons for Spoiler being Batgirl out of the way, Miller focused on Stephanie's civilian life. She's "quit" being Spoiler and claimed the Batgirl thing was a one time deal. She's living with her mother and is currently enrolled in university as well. It's a nice setup for an ongoing, assuming they continue to focus on Stephanie, of course.

Speaking of which, Barbara Gordan and Wendy Harris, the recently crippled ex-Teen Titan person that was in Oracle: The Cure, were in this issue. They are still playing up the 'woe is me' aspect of Barbara's handicap, one which she has never really shown before to my knowledge, at least not in the last decade or so. Now it's all about how she wishes she was out fighting crime instead of stuck at a computer and other such sentiments. Barbara showed up at Steph's house at the end of the issue with a stern look and a 'we need to talk' speech. Either she steps up as a mentor or demands Spoiler quit as Batgirl. With the silouhette cover for the November solicits looking like Misfit, I'm guessing she may quit or we'll have a team of Batgirls on the loose. Either that or a new costume.

Verdict - Check It. Mild complaints aside, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this issue. One of the stronger Batman Reborn relaunch issues. Wanted to see more on Cassie and why she quit, but will with hold judgement on that for a few issues as they establish this new status quo.

Written by Paul Dini
Art by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
Co-feature written by Marc Andreyko
Co-feature art by Georges Jeanty and Karl Story

Paul Dini having Thomas Elliot, aka Hush, impersonate the deceased Bruce Wayne and attempt to destroy him by basically giving away his entire fortune as the ultimate philantropist was a brilliant idea that sold me on this series with the reveal last issue.

This issue continues to play up that angle by showing the numerous donations and projects "Bruce" is dolling out money towards. My personal favourite was the purchase of the ACE Chemical Factory, rumoured birthplace of the Joker (depending on which origin we go with, he fell in the acid there), which is being remodelling into a card and novelty item company. The reporters all question the ability for such a venture to succeed, which Hush knows it won't - it will just waste more money, and Hush, in a confrontation with Batman and Robin even claims it's one big middle finger to the Wayne Legacy. Really, everything with Hush was easily my favourite parts of this issue, although the rest wasn't bad either, with one exception.

That exception, of course, is how Dick Grayson/Batman deals with Hush's impersonating of Bruce Wayne. He confronts him with a whole mess of other JLA'ers and friends and tells him, with Zatanna's magic, that Hush will have to get every dollar he spends approved by a board member, which would all be the JLA'ers magically disguised. He threatens him with this idea that the heroes will stop fighting crime and living their lives and baby sit Hush, which is ludicrous. Thankfully, it seems more of an initimidation tactic, but, still, Hush is a genius. I doubt he's one bit scared by this and it shouldn't deter him in the least.

On the non-Hush related positives, Zsasz was fleshed out quite a bit here. He's usually the one-dimensional villain rolled out for events or riots at Arkham and has very little personality outside he likes to kill. He still loves killing, of course, but Dini added some flair to him. I particularly liked the addition of Zsasz vision, as I'm calling it, where we see things through Zsasz's eyes, which ends up being every person on screen dead in various gruesome ways. Hopefully Dini doesn't just toss Zsasz to the side like he did with Firefly last issue after building him up in the first issue.

Penguin was another positive in this issue. I really liked Dini's interpretaton of him and how Hush's thoughts bled into Penguin's narrative. If Dini can seamlessly weave more of these types of interludes into the story, it could really take on a 'streets of gotham' type of perspective, which was the promised direction when the title was announced.

As for the Manhunter back-up, it was an eight page chase sequence. I enjoyed it, but it felt, well, light on content. If they collect these back-ups, yes, it will probably flow well with the rest, but, for whatever reason, I'm expecting a full 22-page story in these 8 page co-features. They don't have the ability to 'waste' pages on extended chase scenes in my opinion and should be opting to tell as much story as possible for the format they are given. In the end, it was a good sequence, but felt like fluff at the same time.

Verdict - Check It. Despite not liking how Batman and Robin handled Hush's usurping of Bruce Wayne's identity, this was still a very solid outing for Streets of Gotham.

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Ron Garney

If you hate Wolverine or can't fathom why he's as popular as he is, Wolverine: Weapon X is for you. It captures every single thing that makes Wolverine the best there is at what he does and combines it into a 22 page seat of your pants, action adventure story that just doesn't let you go. Add Ron Garney's pencils to the mix and you've got a detailed, cinematic style that elevates it beyond a simple action story to something to so much more.

As the story goes, a reporter, Alita Gardner, has made discoveries about Blackguard's past. Blackguard is the company that created these new Weapon X 'wannabe Wolverines' and is trying to sell them to the government. Wolverine and Marverick, former Weapon X members, didn't take kindly to this and are trying to put an end to them permanently. With their dirty secrets being uncovered, Blackguard is purging any upper management that could lead things back to the head honchos and Logan and Maverick are hot on their tale.

The issue picks up with both Maverick and Logan following different trails to get to the same spot - the location of the CEO and the new Weapon X super soldiers, who were laying low with all the heat on them until the government signs off on their weapons contract. I really enjoyed Marverick's section here as he interacts with a HAMMER agent. It showed that not all HAMMER personnel are evil people and many are just doing their jobs. I loved the comparison that Norman Osborn wasn't that much different from Tony Stark or Nick Fury or any other directors for behind the scenes dealings and trust worthiness. Most paint these HAMMER soldiers as bad guys with badges. Nice to see the another perspective.

With the location of the big bad found, both heroes meet up and plan to take them down. My only problem here was that the plan was rather, well, dumb. Logan gets on a motorcycle and drives at the armoured limo on the freeway which he then proceeds to dive through the windshield of claws first. It causes the limo to crash, but no one dies. It was an oddly reckless move that he should have known wouldn't yield results. On top of that, it left Maverick unable to get a clear shot at the target, too.

However, dumb planning aside (next time call Cyclops or something), it led to one of the most enjoyable action sequences I've ever seen between Wolverine and the leader of the new Weapon X group of super soldiers. They battle across the freeway, on top of trains, in the middle of the street and eventually grind to a hault when both see a bus full of school kids watching their fight. I'm not sure why, but it felt oddly appropriate that both retract their claws and move to a new location before fighting again. The brief reprieve also gave us some background on the super soldier that added to the final sequence of their fight, which ended with both combatants down, although Wolverine was the victor. The HAMMER troops from earlier come on the scene to clean up the mess.

While many will read this and just think it's a standard fight scene, you must see Ron Garney's layouts and pencils to do the sequence any real justice. It was just breath taking and, much like that jungle fight with two other wannabe Wolverines in previous issues, this felt like I was watching a movie in comic book form with how fluid and dynamic it was. Just top notch stuff.

On the Maverick side of things, he got stuck with chasing down the fleeing CEO, who was guarded by a single super soldier. Mav, thinking he has the upper hand, holds both at range with his guns, but is quickly taken out by the super soldier due to the shocking realization that their claws can actually be fired off like a projectile. While I felt bad for how quickly Maverick was taken out (he's definitely not dead), I thought this was ingenious and, like Maverick, never saw it coming.

Verdict - Must Read. Few comics are just plain fun from start to finish like this one was. It really does capture the essence of what makes Wolverine a great character and I'm not even someone that particularly cares for him in the first place. Garney deserves some kind of award for his work on these last few issues, too. Just stellar stuff.

Quick Shot Reviews

Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Robert Atkins & Stephan Roux

+ Chameleon is a better Peter Parker than Peter. Loved his analysis of Peter, which is probably how most people would view him without knowing he is Spider-Man.
+ Chameleon's jabs at Peter's friends and family were amazing. Loved the Gwen comment to MJ and how his puny remarks at the now crippled Flash.
+ Chameleon didn't hook up with Peter's cousins. I was sure they were going to go that route. Thankfully, they didn't.
- Peter survived being dipped in acid for an entire day by what looks like trapping himself in a web coccoon. He broke out of the acid bath at the end of the issue with webs all over him and only a few minor burns.
- That cover. Did no one look at that before they decided to go with it?
- For an arc called Red-Headed Stranger and hyped as the return of Mary Jane, there's very little Mary Jane and absolutely zero real Peter Parker/MJ interactions. Also, based on the way they skirted the issue of their relationship when Chameleon met MJ, it sounds like she doesn't know he's Spider-Man.

Verdict - Check It. I almost wish Chameleon could stay as Peter. He was quite entertaining in the role. I'd also hate to be Peter when he finds out about everything Chameleon did as him. That's going to be one bad day. However, ending to this arc looks like it will be a predictable conclusion. Will save judgement until next issue though.

Written by Brian Clevinger
Art by Scott Wegener

+ Dr Carl Sagan! I love how they've worked these (arguably) famous scientists and writers into the book, from the premise with Tesla and Edison to Hawking in earlier volumes and now with Sagan in this story. While they work even if you don't know who these people are, I do and absoultely love their inclusions.
+ Atomic Robo's last name is Tesla. That makes me laugh for some reason. He's also deathly afraid of bugs. To be fair, they can get inside a robot body and die and put bug guts everywhere.
+ SCIENCE! I love all the random pseudoscience in the book, such as 'zorth axis' and '5th cardinal directions'.
+ One of the funniest Atomic Robo's yet.
+ Wegener's little touches with the art. Things like Robo's 70's disco attire or wearing knee socks for his jungle outfit.

Verdict - Must Read. I can't think of a single bad thing to say about this issue. Perfect blend of comedy, action, SCIENCE! and plot progression that reminds me why I love this series so much.

Written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Art by Rafael Albuquerque

+ Grodd - Thought I was going to hate the talking gorilla story, but turned out to be a 'simulation' being run by Batman in the present. Actually liked this destopian future story.
+ Done-in-one. Not many done-in-one stories anymore. Loved the ease of entry and no need to know about anything else. It's just a fun story with no hang ups.
+ Albuquerque's art. The new Batman costume he had for the simulation was fantastic. Absolutely loved it. While I've seen his Batman and Superman in Blue Beetle, it was nice to see him get a chance to draw them in action here.
+ Didn't really notice, but that cover actually shows the first page of the comic, as if Grodd literally tore the front cover off. Was surprised seeing it when I turned the page. Good stuff.
- Simulation might be a turn off/cop out plot element for some people. I liked it, but it's the only really bad thing I can think of for the issue.
- For the scope of this simulation, it could have been stretched to two issues, maybe fleshing out how Grodd won a bit more or building up to the conclusion better, which felt rushed at the end.

Verdict - Check It. Many will be turned off by the 'out of continuity' or 'unimportant' nature of the story, others will dislike the simulation copout to Grodd's ruling the world, but I quite enjoyed this type of story. It was a tad short, but definitely worth the ride. Haven't checked solicits, but I wouldn't mind seeing a few more Batman worst case scenario simulations over the next few issues.

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Andrenn said...

I would give Streets of Gotham a 5 out of 5 myself (when I get to my reviews eventually, too tired to right now) but I agree that it did seem like a cheap idea to keep Hsuh on a leash. Also I'm excited to see Zsasz which is something I never thought i'd say. Usually I've hated the villain.

Sad to see it's not Casandra but Steph is a good choice too.

Klep said...

I saw scans of Cassandra giving up the costume, and it was really jarring. It was pretty obvious that she wasn't quitting because it was something her character would do (particularly given her known motivations for taking it up in the first place), but rather because editorial wanted to shove her out the door. I still don't understand why they feel the need to do that.

[Steph] You're quiet.
[Cass] I've been thinking. I quit.
[Steph] ... #$%&
[Me] ????

The Dangster said...

I dont think its the last we see of Hush. Also, Zsasz vision was awesome

Simon DelMonte said...

I think if they had called the new comic "Villains of Gotham," it would make more sense. Dini gets the bad guys (especially Hush), but seems a little unsure about how to handle Dick as Batman.

IslandLiberal said...

I had planned to do a single post review with images for Daredevil #500, but couldn't find a single scan of anything outside the preview pages for it

Chris said...

They both retracted their claws because of the school bus full of kids that was passing them. I guess they didn't want the kids to see the battle.

Henry said...

Carl Sagan was actually in an earlier Atomic Robo issue, the one where Robo went to Mars.

Kirk Warren said...

@IslandLiberal - I actually saw those, but couldnt find any of the Aja section or most of the rest of the 50 page or so main story. i've found a few today though, so will probably start on that review tonight.

@Henry - Huh, don't recall seeing him earlier. Ill have to dig out the old issues and see for myself.

The Dangster said...

NIIICE catch on Dr. Sagan! I love Robo's phobia of bugs.

David MIller said...

Upon close reading I think AMS actually hints that MJ does know Peter is Spider-Man. She calls Peter a narcissist for saying that Spider-Man was all anyone was talking about and also says "Sorry if I'm not as up on the activities of Spider-Man as I used to be" or some such.

It was a cleverly written scene that I didn't quite catch until looking at it a second time.

The Dangster said...

Anyone notice Robot Monster walking Robo's hallway in page one?

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