Sunday, November 1, 2009

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

With so many books this week, we've got a double dose of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for you.  You can read yesterday's reviews by clicking here or hit the jump for the rest of the weekly reviews!

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Manual Garcia

Can I start by saying just how much I loved this issue?  Kieron Gillen impressed me with his indie work on Phonogram, but his work with Marvel, particularly some of my favourite characters with Ares and Beta Ray Bill, has completely blown me away.  This is someone that reads the source material and immediately understands what makes the character tick and begins crafting a story tailor made for them.

The premise behind this miniseries is that Norman Osborn has realized he is in control of a military-like force in the form of HAMMER as well as having the God of War on the payroll.  He puts two and two together and tasks Ares with training an elite group of HAMMER troops, which become known as his Shades.

It's an entertaining premise that leads to a lot of great drill sergent moments between Ares and his group of Shades, such as those featured in the Moments of the Week, or others that went unmentioned, such as his own men growing fed up with his "training" missions and tossing a bag of grenades in his face or the commradery that formed between Ares and his Shades, as evidenced by their discussions on whether or not Ares was stronger than Hercules. They all were great, but my favourite was probably Ares displaying his knowledge as the God of War, going over details of various weaponry before describing the human fist, which he then shows the useage of to one of his Shades with a sucker punch.

One thing I must mention is that this is not the meat head Ares that Brian Bendis writes every month.  He has aspects of that personality, which is the only part Bendis really focuses on, but he's also the goddamn God of War and is treated as such in this issue by Gillen.  It's a logical extension of the Ares: God of War miniseries from a few years back that reestablished Ares with his new look and update, which I highly recommend to anyone that hasn't read yet. 

While watching Ares playing drill sergent and, later, commrade in arms with his Shades, drinking, fighting and so on, a miniseries about it would be a little much.  Thankfully, with the setup completed in this issue, the Shades are given their first assignment thanks to a little message Hera delivers to her son, Ares.  She tells him that Phobos, of the Secret Warriors and Ares's son, was badly hurt and gives Ares his location.  There's mention of Ares entrusting Phobos to Nick Fury, but, like with the current Secret Warriors and Dark Avengers appearances, I'm still not sure how it all lines up as different writers tackle similar subject matter that do not appear to be related to one another, yet are all occuring concurrently.  Is this dealing with fallout of the upcoming conclusion to the God of War/God of Fear storyline in Secret Warriors? Is it just Hera messing with Ares?  The editors at Marvel need to sit down and talk to each other about these things because it's really disconcerting at this point.

Verdict - Buy It.  I'm going to hold off on a Must Read verdict until we see where the Phobos plot goes and how it lines up with other storylines first.  I'm also leaving the bar a little higher so that future issues have the ability to wow me even more than this opening salvo did.  I had so much fun reading this one, I can't wait for the next chapter. 

Written by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Art by Rodney Buchemi

+ Unlike Ultimate Comics Avengers and their new Spider-Man that can theoretically cause a man to commit suicide with a few exchanges, Cho actually does so in this issue.  Just when I was wondering how that would be possible, I see it in action in another comic on my pull list.  Funny how things like that happen.
+ Ambiguous Athena.  Is she a good guy?  A bad guy?  What is she grooming Cho for?  Just to be her champion?  To what end?  I love what's being done with her character by Pak and Van Lente.
+ Pythogoras Dupree ended up being more interesting than I could have imagined.  I like how he was rebelling against Athena, though don't agree with his killing off of other 'hyper mind' individuals, like he tried to do with Cho.  Also liked how this was tied into JMS's The Twelve with the Mastermind Excello connection.  Very nice touch.
- I have no complaints about this issue.

Verdict - Buy It.  The Amadeus Cho half of the Incredible Hercules more than carries its weight with the final chapter of the Pythogoras Dupree storyline.  Shocking ending that had a lot of emotion considering I don't particularly care for the Cho character and Dupree is relatively new.  While both Herc and Cho have proven to be capable on their own, I'm looking forward to seeing them meet up again after their time apart.  Great issue.  Buy it.

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Tonci Zonjic

Marvel Divas has come to an end and I'm not sure what to think.  I liked the characters used and how they reacted.  It was a bit of the cliched Sex and the City style catty dialogue at times, but, for the most part, I laughed at the jokes and random one-liners and enjoyed the characters just going about their daily lives as C-list female super heroes and all the baggage that entailed.

The reason I'm not sure what to think is that while I liked all those parts I listed above, they shoved the Firestar cancer subplot in and it sticks out like a sore thumb.  I'm not sure if it was always the premise of this book's plot or just an editorial mandate to give the project some unneeded "weight", but it does not mesh with the light hearted nature of the rest of the book and sending the divas off to fight Hellcat's ex-boyfriend, Damon Hellstrom, in Hell after she made a deal with him to cure Firestar's cancer, well, you can tell how ludicrous that sounds just after reading my description.

You don't apply super hero science and physics to such heavy real life problems without downplaying the significance of them.  They eventually solve the crisis in Hell and it's stated Hellstrom's "cure" was taken off the table, but it doesn't change the fact they had a perfectly fine story that didn't need the super hero theatrics to keep us entertained with.

Verdict - Check It.  Nowhere near the disaster everyone expected the series to be and I like the concept and friendships between these characters that was established, but the cancer subplot and subsequent trip to Hell and other nonsense really took me out of the story.  If they had kept it to the slice of life with the realistic portrayal of the cancer, yes, I'd be all over this and recommending it to everyone. 

Written by Howard Mackie & Tom DeFalco
Art by Todd Nauck

Okay, this issue caught me by surprise. I was expecting the Clone Saga redux to be repackaged as a standard event format with the entire thing taking place in roughly the same time frame,say a day or few weeks.  I had to do a double take reading this issue when I glossed over the opening lines saying it was several months since the last issue.

The confusion over the timing came to my attention when Ben Reilly was shown with blonde hair and working at the Daily Grind and talking about his cousin Peter and so on.  As someone who has read the Clone Saga, this is invoking the period after Ben became the one true Spider-Man.  You'll understand my confusion as the opening bits of the book showed him fighting Kaine as the Scarlet Spider. By the end of it, we also see they have yet to even meet the Jackal, too.

What this means is the book has made some major changes to the timelines and series of events that made up the original Clone Saga.  Seems the Jackal didn't appear nearly as quickly as he did in the original and something happened to make Ben believe he was deserving of a life of his own in New York, possibly due to Peter accepting him and being less grim and gritty compared to what he was like back in the original Clone Saga.

I loved picking out the parts of the story and where they came from as I enjoyed the Clone Saga, but the story itself was probably a bit too carefree in glossing over many of these details post-timeskip.  I'm not sure if they are trying to pick up new readers or if this is just throwing us diehard Clone Saga fans a bone, but if I'm having problems figuring out why Ben is now blonde haired and working in a coffee shop and what's happened since last issue, I'm sure people new to this storyline will be having the exact same problems.  I know they need to cover a lot of ground and I like the use of the cousin angle between Peter and Ben, but that's no excuse for cutting corners either.

As far as the whole story goes, this new iteration has taken steps to bring the Jackal into play.  They're still using the genetically modified version of Miles Warren with the trench coat and everything, but he seems to be far more Saturday morning cartoon villain than he was even at the height of Maximum Clonage. His masterplan seems to be to clone an army of Spider-Men and take over the world (yes, the world).  I was hoping they'd avoid that part of the story and streamline it to something a little more plausible.

On the art side of things, Todd Nuack is doing some fantastic work here.  Definitely the best I've ever seen from him.  It's not art that will get praised with the McNivens or Hitchs or what have you, but it's clean, tells the story and he handles the action particularly well.  You may not be buying the book for the art, but you shouldn't have any complaints about it either.

Verdict - Check It.  Not a fan of where they're going with the Jackal, as I thought that was where the slippery slope started in the original, and the time skip was a bit confusing piecing together at first, but I like how they've streamlined several aspects, particularly Ben's life and his cousin relationship with Peter. Good second effort overall.

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Carlos Pacheco

+ Tony Stark's brother is a dick.  He's pretty much the perfect Mark Millar written character.  An asshole with no morals and even though I was fully expecting him to be this way, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed his character.
+ Ultimate Captain America is still great fun to read, even when he's taking down his former allies.
+ "Spider-Man".  Not sure who the new Spider-Man that can drive someone to suicide in four exchanges is, but I'm intrigued by him.  That Scorpion clone from Ultimate Spider-Man?  Random evil character with Spider-Man-like powers playing the part for the public? 
- "Nerd-Hulk".  Gregory Stark cloned Bruce Banner's Hulk and somehow made a Hulk that retained his intelligence.  It looked ridiculous on the table with its brain exposed and it just feels out of place with the rest of this team.
- Nothing happened.  It read like the first issue of most team books these days with a non-stop recruitment/introduction to new members that took the Red Skull and Captain America subplots and caused any momentum they had to nose dive.  It can't be adrenaline filled action with Cap kicking people out of helicopters or driving motorcycles out of windows on every page, but there was zero plot progression here and no one really made a big enough splash in the limited time they had on screen to make up for it. 

Verdict - Check It.  I like Millar's Ultimates and this is him in his element.  If he had time to introduce characters in shorter bursts like he did in the original Ultimates, I think the problems with this issue in particular would not be as apparent, but I'm willing to overlook them for the time being since I enjoyed the issue on the whole. 

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Yanick Paquette

+ Unique story that takes the book in a completely different direction from the previous storyline.  The feeling that we know everything is "wrong" with Logan in the insane asylum (actually, he probably does belong there in hindsight) adds to the mystery of how he got there and what the goal of the people here is.  Very atmospheric and executed extremely well.
+ Loved the opening session with the 'good' doctor where Wolverine describes the things he can remember about his life, such as killing his father, being a soldier in multiple wars, fighting on the moon, marrying an indian princess, her dying and coming back again and other absurdities.  It's easy to see how he could be convinced of his insanity when no one in their right mind could fathom any of that being true. 
+ Yanick Paquette's art was top notch.  I had some doubts going in based on some of my experiences with his past work, but this was a completely different level from even his more recent Ultimate X-Men work. 
+ Dr Rottwell is easily the scariest person in this issue.  For the going away party of a longterm patient that was "cured", they let everyone dress up in masks.  He came to the part with a wedding dress and female mask on.

Verdict - Buy It.  Aaron plays his cards close to his chest in this opening issue to the new arc and we're only just starting to see the insanity behind this insane asylum.  Looking forward to seeing how this story progresses as we go on.

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Anonymous said...

And all marvel reviews, no less

Kirk Warren said...

@Anonymous - I reviewed all my DC purchases yesterday, all with favourable reviews, too. Marvel puts out more books, in the area of 20-30 more per month. It's inevitable that there will be more books from them on my pull list.

Flip The Page said...

I hate to say it but i think i won't even bother reading ultimate comics avengers anymore. I mean it's millar-quality (though I've been preferring what I've read of war heroes as of late) but it's also just... mediocre. Gregory Stark and Nick Fury can only go so far to entertain me...

smkedtky said...

The last 2 months, UC: AVENGERS has been dropped from my pull list only for me to end up buying it off the shelf when Wednesday rolls around. I, honestly, can't decide if I like this book or not (though, no matter what I think about the rest of the book, the War Machine/Transformers thing had the 12 year-old in me bouncing off the cool).

Mikey Donuts said...

Nerd Hulk? This is just terrible. Where are the Giant Men from previous Ultimate books? I would love to see these guys, a group of soldiers that can be grown to 100 feet tall ala Pym technologies? Wouldn't it be awesome for Fury to get into a battle and just say "Screw it, send Giant Battalion and stomp this problem."

Anonymous said...

blarg! much marvel.

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