Saturday, October 31, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 10/28/09 Part 1 of 2

Looks like another weekend edition of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for everyone this week.  I actually forgot today was Halloween and only managed to bang out five reviews for tonight before prepping for the night's festivities.  The other half of this week's reviews will go up tomorrow for some more weekend reading material.  I imagine you're all waiting for the reviews, so I'll cut the chatter and let you get right at them.  Hit the jump for more!

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis

While the Green Lantern titles are firing on all cylinders, Blackest Night continues to tread water with the same regurgitated story for the fourth straight issue.  It reminds me of everything I disliked about Secret Invasion, which consisted of the same plot points every issue about who do you trust followed by random Skrull reveal and mindless violence.  On top of that, it also feels like the basic premise for the War of Light was blown up to accomadate editorial's desire for a big ticket event and Johns is simply phoning the main book in.

For a quick example of just how far off the tracks this Green Lantern based event has gone, no Green Lanterns or other corps appear in this issue.  Oh, wait, I guess we can get technical and say Alan Scott showed up, but even he admits to not being associated with the other Green Lanterns. 

In terms of content, you could read issue one and then skip to the last page reveal of Nekron returning and you would not have missed a single thing storywise.  This issue consisted of the JLA and the other Earth bound heroes fighting more and more Black Lanterns.  They say mean things to their loved ones and then, eventually, kill D-listers in gruesome, shock killings, which then leads to more Black Lanterns and more mean things.  It's exactly what we've been seeing since day one of this event and there's only so many splashpages and double spreads of Black Lantern reveals or brutal killings before it stops having any meaning whatsoever.  It's almost like some parody or statement on the way the comics industry treats death and events at this point. 

Despite all that, is this issue really that bad?  No, it has a lot of action and character moments that will probably appeal to the comic reading community at large in much the same way as Secret Invasion did.  It's a widescreen, summer blockbuster movie with lots of action and cool moments and is easy to get into.  I, personally, don't like this style of storytelling for events, but I also believe this was intentional, as if DC wasn't confident in Green Lantern and wanted something for everyone to get into, so had the story blown up to event proportions and put the focus on characters like the Flash, Mera, Firestorm and Atom instead of putting all this Green Lantern, rainbow room Power Ranger corps and prophecies in the mix that would bog new readers down.  It's frustrating to read as someone who has been following this story from the beginning, but hard to fault from DC's perspective.

One thing I've been enjoying with this macro view Blackest Night has taken is the expanded role of the Atom, Mera and Flash.  I'd prefer a Green Lantern and Sinestro centric focus for the book, but I can't say that I hate what Johns is doing with these three either.  It's a shame he won't be writing a JLA-like book when this is over that would continue to build those three as a foundation for a new team.  Would make much more sense than the Robinson penned team featuring the likes of Congorilla and Guardian.  It's also nice to see Atom not be a complete pyscho going around stomping people's brains in at a subatomic level like in Robinson's Cry for Justice miniseries.  This is a much better characterization of him on the whole.

And one final nitpick on my part before I go.  Nekron's arrival on Earth was a bit anticlimactic.  No, not the fact it was spoiled months in advance by DC in Previews.  Nekron was pretty much the safe bet by everyone's standard at that point, so I don't think it was nearly as bad as people make it out to be.  What I'm referring to is how he appeared.  After seeing the black rings charging up for the past several issues and dozen or so tie-ins, it was disappointing to see the 100% charge amount to a black lantern popping out of the ground and Nekron materializing out of the ground.  I was expecting him to tear open reality like in previous stories with the souls of the dead screaming out behind him and seeing the heroes in absolute despair as death came for them.  It amounted to an audiance of one with the Flash and Nekron wasn't even giant-sized like he used to be.  I like the new look Reis designed, but there was no presence to him.  It's like "oh, another zombie guy, joy" type of feeling.

Verdict - Check It.  To be honest, this is an event book you could probably skip and still enjoy the event just as much by reading the "tie-ins" that are Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps.  Blackest Night is still a good book and accomplishes what DC wants to do with it, but I think it's failing as a Green Lantern story.  This is more like a Blackest Night: DCU tie-in than the main event to me.  Take that one or two pages of Nekron's reveal out and you wouldn't think twice about calling it a tie-in.  That's pretty telling for the main event title for the event.

Written by Rick Remender
Art by John Romita Jr

While this is the first issue of Rick Remender's Punisher that I've read, I'd have to say that I'm a bit disappointed I've waited so long to pick it up, especially after featuring it in my Moments of the Week so often.  From just reading the narration, it's easy to tell he has a solid grasp of what makes Frank Castle tick.  It's a shame he had to go and kill him.

What?  By now, you should know I don't beat around the bush and, to be honest, it was inevitable that Norman Osborn would actually manage to kill someone on his 'list' and Frank was already set to become 'Frankencastle' in next month's Punisher, so it was pretty obvious this was coming here.

Ignoring the whole Frankencastle story for the time being, I really liked how this issue played out the final moments of the Punisher, or at least the one we know and love, in the 616 universe.  As I mentioned, the inner monologue Frank had was very good and I really enjoyed the final bit before he dies where he tells himself Maria (his wife) is waiting for him with arms open only to say it's a good lie.  He knows he's done bad things and won't see his family again in any perceived after life.

Another was the use of Daken.  It pretty much summed up why the Punisher does not work in the Marve Universe - he's just a man.  Going up against a near immortal, regenerating monster like Daken is not something you can do with guns or bombs or other "toys".  It's hard to tell a serious Punisher story without it being wishy washy on the whole killing policy or simply making the super powered heroes and villains out to be chumps.  It's why the MAX version has more appeal to me - not because it's "adult" or has swearing or blood or anything nonsensical and as a far from mature as you can get, but because it's Punisher grounded somewhat in reality.  He can be the Punisher in the MAX universe.  In the 616 universe, he should end up like the mince meat he became by the end of this issue in all but the rarest of cases when he encounters a sadistic super powered villain.  I'll probably receive flak for saying this, but to me this feels like the first true Punisher story I've read that's been set in the 616 universe.

One negative I have about the issue though was what I was actually viewing as a selling point coming in - John Romita Jr's art.  It didn't look right to me.  I've been a little disappointed with his recent output and the evolution of his style over the years (much more blockier, over inked and full of extreneous 'lines' on every object and face), but this didn't even measure up to his Kick-Ass work.  I'm not sure if he was a last minute addition to this or what, but it doesn't feel like his best work.  Still good, mind you, but I was expecting more from him.

Verdict - Buy It.  A surprisingly good read.  I'm not sure if I'll follow up on Frankencastle or not just yet, but the preview for it looked good and Remender impressed me here.  I may just put money towards the trade for the Punisher vs Hood stuff instead of following up on the Franken stuff, but we'll see.  However, this is a great, done in one that most should be easily able to pick up and enjoy.

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by JH Williams III
Co-feature art by Cully Hamner

I'm sorry, but I can't really can't talk about this issue without first raving about how great JH Williams is.  Again.   This is some of the best and most unique art you will see in a mainstream comic for a longtime to come.

The most obvious thing to point out was Williams's use of multiple styles, consisting of what he's been doing all along on Detective Comics and a faux-Silver Age look, which even has the muted colour pallete and standard panel composition compared to the present day scenes.  Recall the use of different artists in Fraction, Brubaker and Aja's Immortal Iron Fist for their flashbacks.  The difference between the art and panel composition was like night and day.  It was such a difference that I had to double check to make sure Williams didn't have someone filling in for the flashback pages.  At this point, it wouldn't be wrong to say I am buying this book solely for Willaims art and everything else was just gravy.

Thankfully, Rucka turned out a top notch origin story for Batwoman.  While it falls back on the cliche of loved ones dying to motivate a hero (well, we don't know if that is her actual motivation just yet, but it looks to be at this point), the emotion put into it and how shocking and real the ending came off really set this apart from the standard 'loved one dies' story.  Some really fantastic work that goes a long way to removing the 'lipstick lesbian' stigma attached to Batwoman at this point.

On the backup side of things, the first arc of the Question backups finished and I honestly don't care one bit.  I didn't even realize it was over.  It felt like the same thing happened every issue since it started with Renee sneaking in somewhere, getting caught and/or beat up before escaping no worse for wear.  I've tried to get into it, but there's no flow to it and I'm left apathetic to what is going on.  I dread when the Question takes over the main story part of Detective Comics in coming months.

Verdict - Must Read.  Ignoring the backup, which I view as merely a "free" extra, the Batwoman part of this issue was absolutely stunning and a must read by any definition of the word.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke
This issue gets a special merit for featuring an Ed Benes cover without an ass shot.  I know, will wonders never cease?  Despite the image to the left, I actually got the variant (or is that the variant?) by Mahnke that had Abin Sur and Hal and Sinestro on it, but I've already gotten off track of the review with all this cover talk. 

This was a very strong issue overall for Green Lantern and touched a lot of different bases, including the fight between the Green Lanterns and Red Lanterns on Ysmault, the long standing battle between the Orange Lantern constructs and the Blue Lanterns, who lacked a Green Lantern in proximity to let them use their rings, and finished up the whole Abin Sur/Hal/Sinestro reunion on Korugar.  To say it was a busy issue would be an understatement, but at no point did it feel rushed.  It was a tightly scripted and fast paced issue that weaved in an out of each storyline, staying long enough to make us care, but not dwelling on the little details either.

The main event for the book was the Hal Jordan vs Black Lantern Abin Sur and Sinestro vs Black Lantern Arin Sur match-ups on Korugar.  If you missed the recent issues of Green Lantern, you're forgiven for wondering just who Arin Sur is.  She is Abin's sister and Sinestro's deceased wife.  She was hunted down and killed because of Sinestro's subjugation of Korugar in the past.

To be frank, I was so hyped for the return of Abin Sur and expected revelations and other great interactions between him, Hal and Sinestro, but actually came away a tad disappointed.  I believe it was mostly due to his being paired up with Hal Jordan, who is about as interesting a character as watching paint dry.  Don't get me wrong, Green Lantern, the title, has been fantastic, but Hal, as a character, is cardboard and when it comes down to eliciting an emotional response from him, which is the point of the Black Lanterns, it makes for dull reads.

Thankfully, the bulk of the spotlight is on Sinestro, who is far more interesting and compelling to read about, especially with his expanded role in Blackest Night and the insight into what makes him tick, which was lacking in his more one dimenional villain role for Sinestro Corps War.  We never really saw why he wanted to do the things he did or any part of the man behind the villain.  Hell, the use of his first name by his deceased wife, which is Thaal for those wondering, added a whole new level of personal touch to the character which was further expounded upon by having the typically cold and always sure of himself Sinestro doubting and one of Johns's rare use of the emotional view by the Black Lanterns (something the tie-ins are determined to use on every damn page for some reason) showing Sinestro with love, compassion and fear while considering what Arin was saying said more than any amount of words could have.

The final moments after they defeat the two Black Lanterns with Sinestro quietly mourning his wife again and Hal asking who she was to Sinestro was probably my favourite moment of the issue.  Sinestro's response?  "Nobody".  Just some really powerful stuff with him that has been building since Peter Tomasi revealed Soranik Natu as Sinestro's daughter several months ago that has continued with Johns in Blackest Night. 

On the other side of the spectrum, Atrocitus met up with his old pals from the Five Inversions, all of whom he killed and used their blood to create the Red Lantern Corps.  This was the only scene in the issue where, in hindsight, I wished there was another page or so featuring the Inversions.  They've been mentioned so often, yet have only appeared in a handful of pages and with them finally "back", I was left wanting to see more of these mystery characters.  However, due to their being Black Lanterns and Atrocitus always being at peak rage levels, their short appearance and prompt heart ripping out scene (don't worry, Atrocitus is so awesome, he doesn't even need a heart to live) made perfect sense storywise and I couldn't fault them for being sort of in and out characters.

Over on the Blue Lantern homeworld, Indigo warps in Hal, Sinestro, Carol Ferris and herself to aid/recruit the Blue Lanterns.  As the Blue Lanterns required an active Green Lantern nearby to power their rings, they were getting trounced by the Orange Lantern constructs up until that point.  After all the time since this subplot started in Agent Orange, I was honestly expecting more.  From there it just went south quicker as Larfleeze was caught up dealing with the Black Lanterns and promptly pulled out the constructs in favour of running from the Black Lanterns, ending that long running conflict in the most anticlimactic fashion possible.  If the Larfleeze wasn't so damn entertaining, I'd have been a bit more disappointed than I ended up being with this subplot.

Regarding the art for this issue, Mahnke was hit and miss for me.  I believe it has more to do with the fact he has an army of inkers working on it than anything else.  It's great early on with Atrocitus and the fights on Korugar, but the Blue Lantern and Agent Orange parts look terrible in comparison, almost like they were colouring over unfinished pencils.

Verdict - Buy It.  A few hiccups here and there, but an otherwise rock solid read that hits all the right notes for me. 

Written by Various
Art by Clayton Crain and Ibraim Roberson

The X-Necrosha one-shot, while enjoyable, was not entirely what I expected.  It consisted of three different stories, which will be followed up on in the three different comics associated with the Necrosha event (New Mutants, X-Men Legacy and X-Force).

The problem I had with this format was that each story, while related to the greater whole, failed to really establish the event for me.  There was no jaw dropping climax or cliffhanger and nothing that really compels me to continue on or pick up each of these three titles.  While probably unfair, I was expecting this to be an Annihilation or War of Kings one-shot setup for the event that "changes everything" and turns these characters' worlds upside down.  What it amounted to was an incremental chapter in each titles' curent storyline.

On the X-Force side of things, Selene gets a lot of face time, but nothing is ever really established.  She's going to do something to Genosha, probably reviving everyone, had some revived Hellions attack Emma Frost on Utopia as some petty payback for a perceived slight and general hand waving gestures, but nothing ever materializes as a plot for the event to drive this story forward.  If all of Genosha had been revived and Selene's plan revealed in full, yes, that would be a compelling reason to keep reading and a good start.  If most of the X-Men were defeated and Utopia was left decimated in the opening salvo, yes, that would be a compelling.  What happened was just more beating around the bush and I'm left wondering when the event will start.  This didn't even whet my appetite for more.

With the New Mutants sidestory, Douglock/Cipher was given spotlight and shown cracking the security for all of Utopia that allows the Hellions and others to get in.  It's a short story that establishes who Doug Ramsey is and what his powerset is, but, like the X-Force story, doesn't really compel me to pick up New Mutants for any reason, though I've heard some really good things about the New Mutants follow up issue that also came out this week.

Finally,the X-Men Legacy story dealt with Destiny, who was revived by Selene in a recent X-Force issue.  She has the power to see the future and Selene wants to know if she wins.  Destiny claims Selene will be successful in her venture, but also states her powers are in flux with her revival.  There is then some astral projection or telepathic discussion with the New X-Man, Blindfold, who we're told, I believe for the first time, is Destiny's daughter, which makes sense given her powers.  Destiny whispered something to her that we're not allowed to hear, which is a copout in terms of storytelling and something that really annoys me when used in any medium.  Destiny then leaves Blindfold with this information only to immediately regret it in her cell, believing she made a mistake.  Not sure why she doesn't just contact her daughter again to clear it up though.  Really odd sequence of events to be honest that left me more confused and annoyed than interested. 

Verdict - Check It.  I'm tempted to say avoid this issue, but there is promise for this event and I'm still going to pick up the X-Force issues and varous one-shots related to it, but as a one-shot issue to kick off the event, this really did nothing for me and didn't sell me on a single storyline from the other titles.  If you have any interest in the event though, you may want to pick this up to see which of the stories intrigues you and decide on what you see here.

For the rest of this week's reviews, click here.

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Primewax said...

There are two events I've been waiting for for a while: Blackest Night and X-Necrosha. I was not up to date on Green Lantern, nor am I up to date on X-anything. I caught up on GL, and I'm glad I did because, while Blackest Night seems to be trudging along, the GL titles are pure excellence. However, nothing compels me to catch up on the X-books in the slightest for X-Necrosha. Your review of this issue, along with some others I've read, make me think I'm making the right decision. Guess I'll just re-read Onslaught.

Monch said...

Loved the List - Punisher. I agree that killing Frank made sense: he is only human and Orborn had too many resoruce and supes to take him down. It was just a matter of time...
Frank could only take so many bullets and broken bones before it was his end: he doens't have a freaking healing facotr like, say, Draken who besides that is a complete psycho and murderer. No way Frank was going to live after that battle. If he did, they might as well just give Frank his own healing factor and be done with it. Glad they didnt go this way. Windering about the whole FrankenCastle thing, could be really good or really really bad...

BN is just the same old thing, I'm not too familiar with thr DC universe as I read mostly Marvel and this event is making me care less about it.
I prefer the Green Lanterns books better, it does continue the whole War of Light concept that made me interested in the franchise in the first place

Flip The Page said...

got x-necrosha just for the new mutants material and can't say i'm disappointed. I mean I can actually say head held high that Zeb Wells is probably the best of the american writers at present

Pat said...

I thought the absolute moment of the week was seeing Atoms dead wife show up which caused the final blow (aka 100.0% for the black lanterns). Very powerful scene i thought.

brandon said...

That Punisher The List issue (and Punisher #10) were amazing. I'm just so torn about the Frankencastle idea. It just seems like it could be so dopey. I mean his head was cut OFF, but cut open. Decisions...

comic book reviews said...

I'm loving Detective Comics right now. Williams visuals are incredible.

The Dangster said...

THANK YOU. That's how I've been trying to say, the back up features are essentially free. I'm just glad we get the full 22 page story and the back up doesn't interfere.

I have to say, as much as I love Johns, most of his middle arc issues are boring and filler. I'm surprised at the lack of plot in Blackest Night. However I feel like we'll finally get somewhere now that Nekron is introduced.

I do have to give Johns credit for killing Damage considering the lengths he took fleshing him out from Final Crisis to Justice Society.

Radlum said...

The thing that weirds me out about the whole The List plot is that Norman is using his Avengers to take out those who threaten him; wasn't that the purpose of the Thunderbolts? I understand using Bullseye for Daredevil, but why not send Mr X or Nuke to kill the Punisher? (besides the whole being in the C-List thing)

ModernTenshi04 said...

Surprised you guys didn't pick up the Arkham Reborn mini. I was very impressed with the first issue, should prove to be very interesting.

smkedtky said...

X-NECROSHA and, subsequently, NEW MUTANTS were both great for me. Dough Ramsey/Cypher was always my favorite character as a kid as well as my first experience with comic book death. For his return, this storyline is worth it.

DR: LIST - PUNISHER was brutal. I'm not too sure about FRANKENCASTLE... but Remender has consistently delivered the goods with PUNISHER so I have to give it a fair shot. Still, the fact that it involves the search for some all-pwerful mystic relic (in the MU) leads me to believe that Frank will use it to restore himself by the end of the storyline.

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