Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 11/11/09

Remembrance Day put the kibosh on the Wednesday schedule this week, but the wait is more than worth it for another edition of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews. Green Lantern Corps is the talk of the town this week with easily one of the best single issues of a comic I've ever read. Seriously, get out there and buy a copy.  Oh, and spoilers below for it. However, it wasn't the only good comic this week.  Amazing Spider-Man had a solid showing with the Deadpool team-up, Punisher MAX debuted with a compelling take on the Kingpin and several other books were a cut above the norm.  Hit the jump for these reviews and more!

Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Eric Canete

Joe Kelly returns to Amazing Spider-Man with this issue and knocks one out of the park, something ASM has failed to do for a while - it's had good issues, just nothing outright great - with a guest appearance by Deadpool, a character he is famous for writing in the past. 

The premise for the issue is that Deadpool is hired by Kraven's wife and daughter (sidebar - do they even have names or are they simply defined by being Karven's family members? [yes, that's a sidebar joke, you'll understand if you read the issue] [no, I'm not using too many sidebars and, yes, that's another in-issue joke]) to occupy Spider-Man for the afternoon.

Why occupy instead of kill?  I'm not sure, but it has something to do with Madame Web's visions of the future and keeping Spider-Man from meeting up with Anti-Venom and Arana (holy crap, haven't seen her in ages), a female Spider-Man kind of character from the 90's that has a cult following (ie: me).  This will probably all tie into the upcoming Gauntlet storyline, but is only a minor subplot throughout the issue, which is dedicated to Spider-Man and Deadpool bouncing off each other verbally and physically in a Spy vs Spy type bit of craziness that ends with a 'Your Momma' joke-off.  Yes, it's as good as it sounds.  I think I knew the issue was going to be something special when Lady Stiltman first appears and the jokes that followed.

On the art side of things, it's a mixed bag.  Eric Canete has some real potential.  His art is kinetic with a real sense of motion and some dynamic layouts (you'd just have to see the Lady Stiltman splashpage for one example) that, again, has a lot of potential.  However, the art looks a bit unrefined with an almost sketch-like appearance.  It almost reminds me of an early Steve Skroce or Skottie Young in some ways and, while I personally enjoyed the unique style used, I admit that it might be off putting to some people.

Verdict - Buy It.  Very entertaining read that acts as both a done-in-one team up with Deadpool and progresses the overarching subplot with Kraven's family and the upcoming Gauntlet.  I just wish more issues could be like this one. 

Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Roberto De La Torre

Andy Diggle was handed the reins of Daredevil last issue, a book with quite the pedigree over the years with the likes of Brian Bendis, Kevin Smith and Ed Brubaker having handled the writing duties over the years, and with it, an exciting new direction for our resident horn head with Daredevil serving as the new leader of the Hand.

While this is a new status quo putting Daredevil out of his element, it's hard to write a hero acting as a villain believably.  Thankfully, Matt Murdock is a character with many different and varying shades of grey and Diggle is doing a wonderful balancing act keeping the character true to his roots while still leading this order of assassins.

His first issue on the title ended with Daredevil offering Master Izo as a sacrificial lamb to prove himself worthy as the new leader of the Hand.  I was expecting it to be a fake out cliffhanger ending and it turned out I was right as Izo was revealed to have 'lowered his heart rate' to induce a coma and fool the Hand into believing he was dead.  Matt's alligence is also shown to be on the side of the angels and that he supposedly has a plan of some sorts to take down the Hand from within.

While Izo's death and return was predictable, it was entertaining to read and helped alleviate any concerns about how far Matt had fallen  However, just when things were in danger of returning to a set routine, the crooked cops working for Norman Osborn subplot from the List one-shot popped back up and Daredevil has the Hand intervene.

What was shocking was the final pages where a crooked cop, ready to kill some drug dealers to frame as a cover up to steal the drugs, has his hand chopped off in an instant and we cut to Daredevil leading an army of Hand ninja into battle with a chilling and powerful cry of, "take them all", which brings us back to the varying shades of grey that make up Matt's character.

I honestly don't know how this will turn out, but is he going to use the Hand to kill these crooked cops?  Even that amputation of the hand (Oh, I get it now, it's the Hand cutting off a hand!) scene was skirting the supposed 'hero line'.  How far will Matt go? I don't know, but I definitely can't wait to find out what happens next.

Verdict - Buy It.  Andy Diggle & Roberto De La Torre are taking this book in a whole new direction and I'm just happy to be along for the ride.  Can't wait to see what happens next.

Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason

I honestly don't know where to begin with this review.  There are few issues in the past few years as good as this issue of Green Lantern Corps and this is easily the best issue of Blackest Night to date by a large margin.  In terms of Green Lantern comics, this easily ranks up there with the Sinestro Corps War Special and Green Lantern #25 in terms of impact and sheer OMGWTFBBQ! moments wrapped up in a compelling and tightly paced plot.

If I had to pick a favourite part of this issue, it would probably be Kilowog screaming at all of his fallen recruits, who had given up trying to kill him as the Black Lanterns all began focusing on the Central Power Battery.  It is easily the most powerfully written scene in a mainstream comic that I have read in recent memory and a defining moment for Kilowog that will be remembered for years to come.  Just the sight of him floating there, his voice trailing off as he states, "Lanterns die", over and over and the grim realization that he's failed so many was enough to make this issue one of the best of the year.

Another fantastic sequence of events was the afforementioned attack on the Central Power Battery.  Coinciding with the rings hitting 100%, the Black Lanterns all gave up on antagonizing or eliciting emotions from people and began focusing on the Central Power Battery.  I had made known my concerns about why they didn't just attack the battery from the get go and it was nice to see a concrete reasoning behind it.  Also, the rings all sounding off with a "DEVOUR WILL" chant over and over after hitting 100% was made all the better with the giant Black Lantern grim reaper construct attempting to destroy the battery.

From here, I could go on at length about the release of the Red Lantern Vice as a berserker-like weapon of mass destruction on the Black Lanterns or how fitting it was to see the Alpha Lantern's steadfast, hardline Guardian rules come back to bite the Green Lanterns in the ass, but I'm going to skip to the end and the shocking death that will more than likely lead to Guy Gardner's impending Red Lantern joining - that of Kyle Rayner.

Yes, Kyle Rayner actually dies in this issue.  There was no pre-hype, no early spoilers and no indication he was set to die in any way.  In fact, everyone pegged him as completely safe.  He and Guy had their niche in this book and the brother-like relationship was a highlight of the Green Lantern Corps title.  Kyle even had some great relationship building moments with Soranik Natu earlier in the issue that had me hoping to see more of it in the future.

Instead, he died saving the corps he helped rebuild with a heartfelt, "I love you.", to Soranik and a, "you've been like a brother", farewell to Guy before taking the fallen Alpha Lantern's core and detonating it in the middle of the Black Lantern's, ending that threat on Oa and saving the Central Power Battery.  I know it's hard to take a death seriously in an event like Blackest Night, which hinges on the dead coming back to haunt our heroes, but this hit me like a punch in the gut and Kyle was the character that first introduced me to Green Lantern comics.

Verdict - Must Read.  It's hard to believe Kyle iss dead, but it capped off a truly special issue of Green Lantern Corps that you absolutely, unequivocally, need to read.  Easily one of, if not the best single issue of the year and something you'll be kicking yourself over having not read. 

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Steve Dillon

Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon relaunch the critically acclaimed Garth Ennis Punisher MAX series with this issue and, as someone who has only dabbled in Ennis's Punisher (loved it whenever I read it, but never really stuck around for more than the odd arc for whatever reason), it's pretty much business as usual.

While, yes, Aaron brings in the Kingpin from the 616 universe and transplants him in the more grounded in reality MAX world, this is, for all intents and purposes, more of the same for Punisher MAX and that's a good thing.  There's no reason to really mess with a successful formula since Punisher works exceptionally well in this setting where he can do what he does best - punish villains and other would be dirtbags.

The catch with Aaron's relaunch is the addition of the Kingpin.  Kingpin doesn't just magically appear.  He's not the 'Kingpin of Crime' or sitting in his ivory tower.  In fact, Kingpin is just a street level thug/enforcer working for a mobster.  It reminds me of the Frank Miller Daredevil origin with Kingpin as the lieutenant feeding the boss information, doing the dirty work and so on.

 In this case, Fisk is actually conning his boss into convincing the other mob bosses to help create the so-called Kingpin of Crime as a wild goose chase for Punisher to try and track down with the intent that Fisk will eventually become that Kingpin in reality.  It's a clever twist that is enough to hook me for this first arc when I had the intention of going with the trades for this series.

Verdict - Buy It.  Solid debut issue that hooks you with a unique twist on a villain everyone is familiar with, but in a MAX setting. 

Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Kev Walker

As I suspected from the solicits for this issue, it really has nothing to do with the fault or major fallout from the War of Kings event.  It's merely a 'day in the life of Emperor Gladiator'.  I enjoyed it enough to stick with the series, but the branding led me to believe there would be more to this issue than there was and I'm unsure how many new readers will care to stick around after this issue.

The problem with the approach of this issue is that nothing happens.  Sure, Gladiator and the Imperial Guard put down some uprising on a random ship building world in the Shi'ar Empire, but it amounted to 'stuff blows up, no one cares'.  Seriously, someone on the Imperial Guard died, but I could not tell you who it was, what his powers were or even muster the energy to go double check and see who it was. The uprising on this random planet had no tension or drama to it.  It just sort of happens and gets resolved so fast that there's no reader attachment to it and the events lose all meaning.

In fact, the Imperial Guard is the big problem here as they are about as interesting to read as watching paint dry.  The only moments where there's any kind of interest popping up is when Gladiator is on panel.  He was fleshed out a great deal during War of Kings and I was genuinely interested in seeing more of him, his trials and tribulations as Emperor and where he took the Shi'ar Empire.  There was very little of this, though the brief appearance by Talon and his attempts to manipulate Gladiator were noteworthy.

Verdict - Check It.  Sadly, the future for this series seems to be more of the same with a decided focus on the rest of the Imperial Guard and Gladiator as a bit player.  This intro issue didn't really impress me enough to recommend this a great deal, but I'm giving it a Check It for the upcoming Fault expedition, our first in-depth look at just what it is and entails, and the possibility for more Talon and Gladiator offerings.  Fans of Nova and Guardians will enjoy this, but those on a budget can feel safe avoiding it and won't miss anything.

Written by Craig Kyle & Chris Yost
Art by Clayton Crain

X-Force #21 is a direct continuation of the X-Necrosha prologue issue and will leave anyone that hasn't read that yet in the dark as to just what is going on as this issue jumps right into the conclusion of the X-Force part of that prologue issue.

On the whole, I thought this issue did a much better job of amping up the tension and cranking up the dial a notch or two for this event in general, which just sort of sat there in the prologue and failed to engage me or overly sell me on this event in general.  

The biggest thing to occur in this issue is the cliffhanger, which sees Eli and Selene resurrecting the entire mutant population of Genosha in an instant.  I'll ignore the findings of Beast and how dead mutants shouldn't even technically be mutants anymore for the time being, as we don't know the full extent of what's going on with the techno organic virus they are using since this made for some great drama.  I really enjoyed the cuts between the various groups involved in this event, from Selene and company to Cyclops and even to Bastion's cold, calculating analysis of the event.

However, not everything was great in this issue.  The biggest complaint I have is with the art  I've been a pretty vocal fan of Clayton Crain in my reviews of issues of X-Force that he has drawn, but I can't help but feel this issue is some very sloppy work from him and see why some people dislike the CGI-like digital work he puts out.  This is some very muddy work that leaves you wondering just who the hell these blobs of digital ink people are and what is going on in each panel.  I'm a longtime X-reader with a predominant 80's/90's background on the characters, so everyone being used here is quite familiar to me with some of my favourite D-list characters coming back into play and I could barely tell who was who, which is saying a lot.

For example, the Hellions all look like generic, faceless blobs of purple and black.  I can't tell who is who without the little nameplates that accompany their first appearances. There are fight sequences where I really have no idea what happened and only a vague idea of who is who based on glowing visors or distinctive markings, like Vanisher's or Domino's tattoos and eye spots or Angel's wings.  There's one sequence where Angel/Death is taking on several hulking figures, there's some line motions and then everyone is a blob of blood and guts.  I can tell he used his wings, but had no idea who he was fighting or killed off.  Most of the issue was like this.

Another problem is the number of characters in play.  In something like Blackest Night, where they are also reviving dead characters to combat heroes, they have multiple series and lots of tie-ins to deal with the mass amount of what I'll call fan bait for seeing revived heroes and villains.  Here, it's like Yost and Kyle attempted to put every dead mutant possible in one issue and we are left with what looks like an endless parade of splash pages with half a dozen name plates and power descriptions for characters for page after page of the issue.  You see these people once or twice in the issue and quickly move on and forget about them as they introduce another one and another one and another one.

Verdict - Check It.  When the issue settles down and tells a consistent narrative for a sequence of events, such as the return of Banshee or the previously mentioned resurrection of Genosha, it's quite good and an organic series of events.  However, poor art and a constant parade of dead characters returning for a panel at a time hurts that momentum.

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Chris said...

I love reading the reviews for ASM this week on various sites, this was one of those issues that people either loved or hated.

Matt Ampersand said...

Reviving Genosha. Check.

Now all they have to do is reunite Cyclops with Jean and they will have really undone everything Grant Morrison did.

Seriously though, I hope all those undead mutants don't stick around after this.

Primewax said...

Just read ASM 611. Really enjoyed it as a Deadpool fan, but I can see where regular Spidey fans might find it a bit off-putting. This is solid Deadpool writing, however. I knda hate the fact that he gets around more than 90s Wolverine, but I'm glad they are actually using him now.

Kirk Warren said...

@Primewax - I don't mind when they use Wolverine or, I guess now, Deadpool when it's with purpose. This isn't just "oh, stick him in to sell issues". They went out of their way to put him with Kelly and let him have his way while still progressing storylines. Very organic instead of just "guest starring DEADPOOOL!!!!!".

Klep said...

It sounds like Realm of Kings is basically exactly what the title led me to believe it would be: examining the new status quo rather than being a major event in its own right. I haven't read it, but I find it hard to understand how you could say it's not about the major fallout from War of Kings and at the same time is about what life is now like for Emporer Gladiator. His ascension to the throne was one of the major effects of War of Kings, after all.

Kirk Warren said...

@Klep - It's just that Gladiator has maybe 2 or 3 panels of screen time where he has something to say. rest is just splashpage of him destroying a ship. It's mostly following the red shirt Imperial Guards that no one cares about.

Primewax said...


I definitely agree. If he has a purpose, then by all means, use him. I think this issue did just that. Deadpool is an acquired taste for some people, and issues like this one may not be the best jumping-on point for someone who doesn't follow him, but at least he's done right.

Aaron K said...

I share your concerns about Realm of Kings: IG, Kirk. Does anyone have a decent knowledge of who these IG guys are? Does anyone care? Perhaps DnA are attempting to do what they did so well in Annihilation: Conquest and Guardians of the Galaxy - reinvigorate characters no one really knows much about or has a vested interest in. But, as it stands, this issue was about a bunch of nobodies fighting on a planet I've never heard of for a cause that I don't care about and then bickering amongst themselves with almost universally annoying personalities (as opposed to the compelling GotG personalities). Not an auspicious start.

Having said that, I am still excited for and interested in the main Realm of Kings story and the Realm of Kings: Inhumans book. We'll see if that faith is rewarded next week.

Mike-El said...

I really loved seeing a Kelly Deadpool/Spider-Man team up finally. I've been waiting for it since the "Gumped" Deadpool Classic #11. I'm really glad he didn't try the multiple-personality inner dialogue too... not that I don't find it funny, but it felt kind of forced coming from Kelly in that short he did with Liefeld.

Out of curiosity, was that Arana or Mattie Franklin from that god-awful Gathering of Five thing?

Kirk Warren said...

@Mike-El - Mattie is at the end. Arana, Mattie and Anti-Venom were all supposed to meet up with Spider-Man at some point and got stopped by Deadpool's interferance. You can see her in the 'recap' page.

JP said...

Kirk, Great reviews.
100% agree with you on GLC, truely only of the best issues I have read, definately in the top 3 of the best Blackest Night books yet.
Besides the Kiliwog and Kyle scences, the most epic page was that Dark Matter construct trying to lift the central power battery out.

Also, just curious, I saw in the previews that you were considering getting the R.E.B.E.L.S. blackest night tie-in. Did you get it, and if so what did you think of it, and will we see the last page ending of that issue in your moments of the week?

Kirk Warren said...

@JP - I did pick up the REBELS issue, but ran out of time writing up the reviews. Im going to try and update it tomorrow with Batman and Robin, SWORD and REBELS reviews. I enjoyed the issue. Been following REBELS, just not reading it, so have an idea what's going on and it felt really organic with how it flowed into Blackest Night. Didnt get hung up on 'oh noes, my loved one is back and saying mean things, how is this possible' trap that other tie-ins seem to use as their entire premise for the tie-in. Loved the ending.

El Gostro said...

@ Kirk:

That is exactly what I said in Ryan's review article!
""Vril is the only guy to not pee himself in all the DC universe with "graaaah I m a zombie of your former enemy/loved one!""

Daryll B. said...

Glad I not the only one to wonder how if the 'no more mutants' mandate is still in effect, how the tech animated necro-x-corpses can use their powers?

Come on Vril with a power ring...what can be scarier?

I think I have softened as time has gone by about the Kyle sacrifice, but one thing I have not softened on is that it should have been in the main book. To kill him "offscreen" to the major DC Universe in an event feels like a slap to the face. Think about it. Once DC bumped this up to company-wide, the rules change. Ironically, I would not have had any issue if Kyle died in any of the GL events leading up to this. This...this irked me and felt like a 'redshirting' of Kyle's character.

Flip The Page said...

@daryll b. quick lesson in 'no more mutants'. it depowered 90% of all mutants (scarlet witch apparently meant 'not as many mutants'). this affected the dead mutants too. so the 10 million mutants on genosha turned into a solid million necro-muties.

at least that's what quesada's been saying (i think it was a cup o joe a few months back)

Daryll B. said...

Flip, I get that but ALL the necro mutants are able to access their powers. Shouldn't that be a select few, in retrospect, under those rules?

Flip The Page said...

but that's exactly it. i think the idea is that the only ones that are getting revived at all are the remaining few (who just HAPPEN to contain all the notable dead mutants). so it's flawed but the reasoning is relatively sound

Shayera said...

Well - I've read quite some of the stuff myself and even reviewed Green Lantern Corps #42 myself and at least written a short Review for X-Force #21.

I guess I'm not as forgiving as you are with both of these books. Green Lantern Corps, though, suffers mainly from the idea of stretching Blackest Night like a bubblegum, so that too little happens in each issue. Yeah, GLC #42 has huge-ass battles and it's all done well and so, but in the end the only true thing happening is the shocking end. And what was achieved by that? Was OAs central power battery really saved? And why did we need a full issue to see just that?
I'd rather say "Avoid it if you can" - but you probably won't be able to. Without this book you're missing a probably vital part of the story. And that annoys me the most. It's not good enough to really having to buy this book, but you want Blackest Night? You're gonna need it.

And with X-Force #21 my greatest problem is the art. It looks pretty, yes, but what the hell is going on? Also there is mostly wild action going on and that's mostly what we've seen before that in X-Force. Okay. It's NEcrosha action. And there is even this one panel, where Banshee struggles to regain his personality, but it is still too thin for me. Sorry. I'd recommend not reading this book, because it contains too little substance.

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