Friday, October 2, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 09/30/09

Before getting into this week's Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews, don't forget to check out the image filled reviews of Green Lantern #46 and Spider-Man: The Clone Saga #1, both of which I posted on Wednesday.   Today's reviews cover the rest of my pull list, including Thor, Marvel Divas, and Wolverine: Weapon X.  Hit the jump for these reviews and more!

THOR #603
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Marko Djurdjevic

The best way to describe Thor #603 is overwritten.  From the melodramatic, near soap opera-like, speeches of Kelda to the laboured, ego driven dialogue of Dr Doom and Loki to Thor's and Sif's long winded, over the top Shakespearean speeches that opened the issue, it all felt like Straczynski was trying too hard to write this issue.  Instead of letting Djurdjevic's beautiful artwork tell the story or show the emotions of characters, it read like he was trying to force it down our throats with bloated dialogue and grandiose speeches.

Another shortfall of this issue is the pacing.  It's been a carefully crafted and finely paced journey of discovery and wonder for Thor since JMS relaunched the book.  Every detail and plot was given room to breathe and you could savour each moment like a fine wine.  With only this issue and an oversized one-shot left on JMS's run, everything seems to be rushing to a conclusion to the detriment of the story.

For example, after the big production made of saving Sif last issue and the search for her over the past several issues, neither she nor Thor appear for more than a page or two this month.  In fact, they open the issue with the long winded, dialogue heavy conversation I mentioned in the opening of this review and that's the most we get on the topic.  From there, we have a minor comedic page of Sif in human clothes, the landlady confusing her for Donald Blake's prostitute and they're never heard from again.  I don't mind not having a focus on Thor every issue, but for what was a major subplot and someone Thor risked his life for to save when he reforged Mjolnir with his own life essence, I kind of expected some follow up beyond what we were given here, especially in light of how the rest of JMS's run has played out.

However, the problems with this issue go beyond mere pacing.  There's also oddities such as Bill's discovery of what Dr Doom and Loki are up to in Doom's lab.  After the pure melodrama of Kelda's conversation with Bill, which lacked the playful nature of their previous interactions and went on far too long here, Bill leaves to do, well, it's never explained what he was going to do.  He just takes his sword, heads off to Doom's castle, climbs a cliff and stumbles on Doom's lab, where Doom is busy playing mad scientist on a random Asgardian Loki brought for him to dissect.  Doom's "lab" is a random room on the exterior of the castle, has a half boarded up window and was, despite Bill climbing a cliff to reach it, right next to the road and castle entrance based on the flow of panels as Bill attempts to flee after being discovered by Loki.  Simply put, that's ridiculous.  Loki and Doom were shown in the depths of the castle in a secret lab earlier showing off their upgraded Doombots.  Now they are performing vivisections on Asgardians next to an open window in an area that can be viewed and screams can be heard by anyone that happens to be passing by?  The entire scene feels like it wasn't given much thought and just thrown together to get the plot moving for the upcoming giant-size conclusion.

While it may sound like I'm being overly negative about this issue, I don't think it's unfair criticism.  This is a book I regarded as one of the best on the shelves (or, at least whenever it came out *razzafrazzadelays*).  While the issue has it's share of the charms that made the rest of the series a delight to read, it's clearly a significant drop in quaity by comparison and simply being better than other comics on the shelves doesn't mean the book should be judged by lower standards or given a free pass.

On the positive side of things, Bill's last stand, as it were, was perfectly scripted and what we've come to expect from the series, as was the comedy stylings of Volstagg and his companions as they moved in and took over Bill's old diner .  Also, even though I disliked how drawn out the Loki and Doom conversations were, both are still entertaining to see playing off each other and Iloved the vivisection scene. 

Verdict - Buy It.  While there are problems with this issue that prevent it from being a must read in my eyes, it's still quite clearly a great comic; just not up to the lofty standards this series has set for itself. 

Quick Shot Reviews

Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Mike McKone & Adriana Melo

+ Really liked that opening page.  The two empty costumes embracing each other just gets across so much more than showing Spider-Man and Black Cat engaging in relations. 
+/- Art is good when McKone is handling it, but Melo's parts (maybe the inkers) are really jarring and pull me out of the issue.  Either the two should have collaborated more to add some consistency to the book or Marvel should have brought on someone with a similar style to McKone.
- Spider-Man's fine giving Black Cat some spider loving, but is petrified of showing her his face.  That's some creepy stalker/rapist-like mentality there.
- Did we need the room service to make up the bed joke?  Nothing like the thought of spider juice on the bed sheets to add some comedy to a book...
- Black Cat still reads like someone glossed over a few issues from the early 80's and is ignoring the other 20 years of stories.  The return of her bad luck powers makes no sense and the only reason for it seems to be for weak jokes of the "damn, I stepped in rat poop, Black Cat must be here somewhere" variety.  The powers never worked like they are being overly shown to do here either. 

Verdict - Avoid It.  A completely forgettable comic that is the poster boy of why I've been having trouble getting into the Brand New Day era of comics.  Was hoping it would follow the lead of the enjoyable Red-Headed Stranger arc and focus on new stories and growth of the characters.  Instead, it's a regression to the past.

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Tonci Zonjic

+ Tonci Zonjic is a fantastic artist who needs to be put on a monthly as soon as possible.  Daredevil or Thor seem like titles he'd be a good fit for (you may remember his fantastic Loki/Doom short in one of the Dark Reign one-shots).  However, there were times the inking or colouring felt off here. 
- Cancer.  Cancer! CANCER! Is this supposed to be a light hearted, character driven book or has it finally gone off the rails and is playing the cancer card as the driving force of the book?  If it's a cancer driven story, drop the ridiculous deal with the devil to magically remove the cancer subplot and stop with the other super heroics nonsense and tell the cancer story with some respect.
- Black Cat's return to crime/being a thief feels like editorial walked in and told them about the nonsense going on in Amazing Spider-Man.  It's still far better than what is going on with the regression in ASM, but really doesn't fit with this miniseries or what has been going on here.

Verdict - Avoid It.  I'm not really sure what to think of this issue or miniseries. It seems like it's lost all direction and has gone off the rails, wavering between a serious take on cancer, and how it can affect even super heroes, and the super hero version of Sex and the City. 

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Alessandro Vitti

+ Phobos vs Norman Osborn.  This confrontation was the highlight of the issue and an easy candidate for a moment of the week.
+ Same scene, but this time for the prideful fatherly look on Ares's face as his son takes down Norman.  
+ Druid's comments on young girls having body image problems in reference to Go-Go's recent loss of her arms during the last mission. Quake's reaction to it was great, too.  "Stop talking, Sebastion."
+ Love the crossover-but-not-a-crossover nature of this story.  Reading both this and Thunderbolts gives a better picture of the events, but neither is necessary to get the entire story.  Much better than the typical 'to be continued' way of forcing people to buy other books.
-  Having difficulty reconciling the current events in this book with what happened in the recent Dark Avengers when Ares confronts Fury over Phobos being on the team.  I suppose I could ignore Bendis's contribution, but I actually enjoyed the work he did with Ares, Phobos and Fury, so don't want to just disregard it. 
- Nick Fury is always an LMD.  Seriously, you can't fake out anyone with Fury being killed if, every single time, he's an LMD.  I'm of the mind that Fury doesn't even exist.  He was probably uploaded to a computer when SHIELD was created, died long ago, and simply uploads himself to LMDs all the time.
- Speaking of Fury, he doesn't get much face time.  As he's my favourite character and has been the focus of this series since the first issue, I'm a little disappointed he only showed up on a few pages.  Thankfully, he's getting the spotlight in The List one-shot next week, so I can forgive his taking an issue off. 
- Ares doesn't care that Norman claims he will kill his son?  Even Bendis managed to understand how much Ares cares for his son, yet Hickman has him stand by like some Yes Man as Norman claims he'll kill his boy?  Ares should have destroyed him on the spot.  Thankfully, previews for the The List - Secret Warriors show Ares helping Nick Fury break into Avengers Tower, giving me hope that inconsistency will be addressed.

Verdict - Check It. Despite the number of negatives on this quick shot review, I still enjoyed this issue quite a bit.  In fact, the negatives are mostly nitpicking on my part.  Not the best issue of Secret Warriors, but definitely a solid read worth checking out. 

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Ron Garney

+ Satisfying conclusion to The Adamantium Men that leaves room for a follow-up sometime down the road.
+ Side characters get some development here and are the making of a good supporting cast, or recurring characters at the least.  Looking forward to seeing more of the HAMMER agent and reporter.
+ Wolverine uses his head for a change.  While, yes, there's lots of action in this issue, it's not just senseless carnage or random fighting for the sake of fighting.  It's not a perfect plan and there's questions, such as where the heck Wolverine got the helicopter/gunship, but a satisfying conclusion nonetheless.
- Ron Garney's art, while good, felt rushed.  Backgrounds, particularly the water scenes, feel tacked on compared to earlier issues' jungle and urban scenes.
- Overwritten narration.  Logan never struck me as the verbiose or deep thinking narrator.  His speech on the murky depths of the ocean didn't fit with the character or tone of the story.  Not a complete distraction and, I'll admit, the narrated part where Wolverine holds one Strikeforce X member's head under water until he drowns was great, but, overall, I didn't think the narration worked.
- Felt a bit rushed.  Was looking forward to seeing more with Strikeforce X, learning about the people involved and how they reacted to Wolverine.  Instead, it's just a quick mop up sequence and epilogue.  Could have used one more issue for this storyline, something I rarely say in the decompressed age we live in. 

Verdict - Check It.  I'm quite pleased with Aaron's first arc on Weapon X and it's the first time in a long time that a Wolverine title has grabbed me like this one has.  While this issue is only a Check It, the arc as a whole is a Must Read.  Grab the trade if you've been on the fence about this series.  You won't regret it.

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Anonymous said...

Could not dissagree more on your ASM review.

Flip The Page said...

ASM is pretty awful nowadays (American Son was a good enoguh Dark Reign story, but I'm fairly sure there hasn't been anything noteworthy since the trifecta of Kraven's First Hunt, New Ways To Die and... That arc where hammerhead reappeared.

For Marvel's 'big series' it's kinda sad. Moreso because people are going mental over controversy that only really bears mild discussion.

On a much better note I loved Marvel Divas this week. It might just be because I'm the sort of idiot who loves cheesy drama but it's hitting all the right notes... Except the Black Cat stuff, which I'm with you on.

El Gostro said...

I ve long had this suspicion that Nick Fury and Doc Doom really are the same person.
Check,they are almost never together in a same area,they both seem to be living in some bunker on the other side of the known universe and everytime they are defeated it turned out to be an "LMD" or a "Doombot",they both always spearhead either a hero resistance or supervillain alliance...
Could it be the same character playing both sides of the marvel universe moral spectrum???

Matt Ampersand said...

Haha, the "Nick Fury is a fake computer program inside an LMD" theory appeared in Irredeemable Ant-Man.

Kevin T. said...

Hey don't forget, if Black Cat's "bad luck" wasn't "back," then they never would've gotten out of that encased gold! I thought that was a pretty clever way out.

I also think it's jarring that her continuity is getting fiddled with again, but at least there's an in-story reason? And maybe they retconned Kevin Smith's "The evil that men do"?

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