Thursday, December 3, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 12/03/09

This week's Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews is brought to you by the letter E for Event as all of the books reviewed in this first batch of reviews are event driven books, from Blackest Night: Flash and Wonder Woman to Siege: The Cabal, Dark Avengers Annual and Thor, all were event related in some way. You can read what I thought of each after the jump.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Scott Kolins

First things first, I suppose we should get the Flash: Rebirth comparisons out of the way.  As this is called Blackest Night: The Flash, as you should all be aware by now, "the Flash" is by default Barry Allen these days and, as Rebirth has not ended yet, it looks like he will continue to be the Flash for the foreseeable future.  If this issue is any indication of the future, I'm looking forward to it.

Yes, me, who has dropped Flash: Rebirth due to the extremely polarizing Saint Barry back patting from every character in the book, actually really enjoyed this.  What's odd is it's the same writer, Geoff Johns, handling this issue. 

For those wondering what the issue is about, it's a bit of a recap of Barry's return and the events of Rebirth, though there's nothing spoiled about the oft-delayed Rebirth's ending to my knowledge, and the rest handles the typical Blackest Night tie-in formula - people come back from the dead, do and say mean things and try to kill the hero.

What makes it work this time is that this is a more human Barry than the one shown in Rebirth.  Maybe it's due to the events of the delayed Rebirth or maybe just Johns getting familiar with the character, but Barry just seems more relatable as a character and not that guy whining about how crappy it is to be alive again like he did every other page in the opening Rebirth pages.  Add some great scenes with the Rogues and the character driven moments in the issue really worked.

Which brings me to the bad parts - this is still a stereotypical Blackest Night tie-in and no amount of work can really get around something we've seen in about twenty some odd books already.  It's the same formulaic story, this time with Reverse-Flash and Solovar, a talking gorilla Barry befriended before he died, playing the part of the dead person back and saying mean things to elicit an emotion.  I liked how Barry reacted to each, realizing what they are and trying to supress his emotions, but it doesn't change that it's the same story over and over again.

Verdict - Check It.  I liked the character work Johns did with Barry Allen here.  Much better than the work I've seen in Flash Rebirth. I could see myself reading a book about this Barry Allen.  However, that's not enough to warrant the same, repetitive Blackest Night formula for this story that every other tie-in has been based around. 


Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Nicola Scott

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman interested me for the simple reason Greg Rucka would be returning to the character and she had just be turned into a Black Lantern in last month's Blackest Night.  I was curious as to how that would tie into this book, but it seems this issue takes place before the last issue of Blackest Night, so I was a little disappointed on one count.

On the Rucka side of things, I enjoyed his return to Wonder Woman.  At least, when it wasn't giving off the "AMERCA %&^$ YEAH!!" vibe with the soldiers guarding the tomb.  I realize these people stand there all the time, even during hurricanes, and I also realize the reasons behind it.  But the fact it focused on the Honour Guard so much, even going to lengths to show how strong their will was in the face of such overwhelming odds with their aura colours from the Black Lantern vision, just doesn't seem to have any purpose in progressing the story.  Wonder Woman even takes time on several occasions, even in the midst of the entire cemetary being raised as Black Lanterns, to commend the guards on their bravery.  It's just a "this is how awesome our military is" feeling I get from it, but I'm also Canadian, so this is from an outsider's perspective.  I don't speak for all non-Americans either, so this is also my own coloured perspective of how it's portrayed.

When the issue got down to the brass tacks of things, it's basically the same story we've seen before with every other Blackest Night tie-in.  However, I really liked how Wonder Woman approached it and her reactions to the situation.  She's much more proactive than other people and doesn't simply sit around and react to the Black Lanterns. She took the fight to Maxwell Lord and put a stop to it quickly and efficiently.  That may be because of what happened in the last issue of Blackest Night, which the next issue promises we'll see more of with a Black Lantern Wonder Woman tagline.  So while it's the same premise, it plays out much differently than other books.  Or, maybe, it just speeds up the story, taking what other miniseries did in 3 issues and condensing it to one.  Either way, it worked for me.

Verdict - Check It.  Another Blackest Night tie-in, though I felt this was flawed due to an overt pro-American theme with the setting and inclusion of the Honour Guard soldiers as well as Wonder Woman's constant praising of them.  Your mileage may vary.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Chris Bachalo

Hmm, so conflicted.  I liked Marvel Boy when it came out.  Grant Morrison and JG Jones did something unique and exciting there in a time when everyone was stuck doing the same old thing and just trying to keep their head above water post-specluator crash of the industry.  It was not a standard 616 Marvel comic and was actually referred to as the secret first Ultimate comic by Joe Quesada at one point or another.

How does that lead to me being conflicted?  Well, Bendis hasn't exactly been kind to the Noh-Varr I first read about back in 2000 or there abouts.  It's really like night and day reading the Morrison version compared to Bendis's take on him.

That's not to say Bendis is wrong for doing what he is doing.  I just don't agree with it.  To me, he's taken a character and completely changed who he was at his core.  Noh-Varr isn't Captain Marvel.  He isn't trying to be Captain Marvel.  He isn't even from the same universe as our Captain Marvel.  Yet Bendis is trying to put his square peg in the round hole and, in doing so, has been forced to change the character drastically.

If I look at it from the viewpoint of this is a whole new character that is just using Noh-Varr's name and basic appeal, then, yes, I can see this as a decent issue propelling Noh-Varr into a Captain Marvel Jr-like role.  But, then again, the question of why arises.  We have Genis-Vell, we have Phyla-Vel, we had that Skrull Captain Marvel - why do we have to take a character that isn't Captain Marvel and who's only link to the Marvel legacy is that he is Kree in origin (though not the same as the Kree in the 616 universe) being forced into the role of a new Captain Marvel, right down to his own version of the Nega Bands and a Space Ghost rip off costume?  Noh-Varr had a unique appearance and, when fully armoured up, looked alien while still having the military/protector look to it.  Why not play with the very things that made him unique instead of pigeon holing him into Captain Marvel-lite?  Personally, I just can't look past that nagging detail.

Looking past the whole Noh-Varr character issue, the issue is well put together.  Bachelo does some nice work on art, especially with the Sentry vs Noh-Varr fight, though his (and I'm assuming it's his design) new costume for Noh-Varr really didn't do anything for me. 

The biggest thing to come out of this issue, though, was the reveal at the end.  I don't usually avoid talking about spoilers in reviews, as people typically want to know what happens and I don't like skirting the issue, but this spoils not only this issue but another miniseries, so I'll hold off until the moments of the week to discuss it.  Just know that the final page of this issue has more of an impact on the upcoming Siege storyline than the Siege: The Cabal one-shot that came out this week did and is something I'm looking forward to seeing more of real soon.

Verdict - Check It.  If you like what Bendis is doing with Noh-Varr or have no feelings one way or the other about the character from Marvel Boy, you'll probably rate this issue a little higher than I do.  It's a pretty solid effort from both Bendis and Bachelo, but I just can't look past what they've done with Noh-Varr.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Michael Lark

+ Michael Lark gets a big stage to shine on for a change and knocks it out of the park.  Glad to see him get the recognition he deserves and to see him do such a great job with it.
+ I was worried about how Bendis would handle Dr Doom for nothing.  He was great here, basically showing Osborn that no one is Doom's equal and Doom bows to no one.
- The conflicts between the Cabal members feel forced.  Even Osborn points out how he saved Doom's ass in Dark Avengers and even gave him a free pass out of a HAMMER jail cell and handed him the keys to his kingdom back, yet Doom is starting a fight with Osborn over calling a meeting and the fact Osborn is pissed that Namor and Emma betrayed the Cabal?  Dialogue-wise and how he struck back at Osborn, Doom was great, but the why for his doing this seemed lacking to me.
-  The mystery man that Norman Osborn has been using to keep everyone in line makes an appearance.  The problem?  He's a shadowy figure, even when fighting Dr Doom.  What the hell kind of copout is that?  The room is brightly lit, you can't be a shadowy figure in the middle of a fight.  He did destroy the Doombot Dr Doom in one hit though. He then disappears and doesn't save Osborn when Doom's Doombot initiatives its secret plan.  You can't have a mystery man and still have him doing overt things.  Either show it or don't use him at all.
- The second story deals with Loki and Osborn setting up a conflict with Asgard so they can invade.  They are going to do a Civil War 2 by forcing an Asgardian, in this case Volstagg, into a fight that would see a large number of civilian casualities, just like what happend with Speedball to kick off the SHRA.  It's disappointing to see the exact same flawed premise used yet again for a major event.  An assassination or some such might work in the real world, assuming other political or idelogical issues were boiling over already, but there's been no problems with Asgard shown so far, so a war on them because some super villains attacked an Asgardian and blew up a football stadium is not exactly compelling reason to declare war on a race of god-like immortal beings.  Just doesn't compute for me.

Verdict - Byrne It.  Give this a look at the shop or check a few scans in the upcoming Moments of the Week. There's nothing really to see here and all you need to know is the Cabal had a spat, Osborn and Loki caused a Civil War-like incident using Volstagg and some D-list villains and now we get another major event.  Lark's art and how Doom strikes back at Osborn are probably the only really good parts to this issue and not worth buying for.

THOR #604
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Billy Tan

+ Kieron Gillen's first issue on Thor is a worthy successor to JMS's and a very organic transition.  It's like we didn't skip a beat from last issue to this one.
+ Billy Tan's art is some of his best to date.  He seems to be mirroring Olivier Coipel's work a bit compared to his usual style and it really works for me.  There's some fantastic colouring here, too.
+ Gillen writes a fantastic Dr Doom.  I loved every bit of his dialogue and would kill to have him write a Dr Doom ongoing if it could always be like this.
+ That final page with Thor and Dr Doom was great and reminded me of the now classic Thor vs Ultron, "I would have words with thee", scene.  
- Some of the Asgardians are a bit overly theatrical in their dialogue.  It's not nearly as bad as some of the more wordy Ye Old English writing of the past, but ther'es the feeling that some of the dialogue is forced to sound more Shakespearean or regal than it need be.  Minor nitpick there and not something that is pandemic.

Verdict - Buy It.  Great first issue by Gillen.  I know he's only on for a brief arc here, but I look forward to future work on the book from him.  Tan's art was also a pleasant surprise.  Didn't expect it to be that good. 

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krakkaboom said...

Chris Bachalo is the artist on Dark Avengers Annual #1. I agree with your review. The new Noh-Varr outfit was pretty generic and really detracts from the character. I'm assuming that we'll be seeing more of Noh-Varr, especially having read Bendis' comments at the end of the issue. He's not exactly a mainstay, so changing his outfit now may make some readers say "who is this and why do we care?!".

M├ędard said...

I agree with your views on Dark Avengers Annual #1 and Siege: The Cabal.

I liked Marvel Boy a lot and don't like his change at all. His new costume is very generic, boring even, but him getting negabands I can live with.
Except that part, I did like the issue. Bachallo's art was fantastic and it had a decent pace.

Siege: The Cabal was one big let down.
Lark's art was nice, but defenantly wasn't his best. The story didn't tell anything new, well, except what the cover already tells us; Doom and Iron Patriot have a fight and are no more allies of each other. A story that could've been told in the regular series within 22 pages, or even within 10 pages.
The fact that Osborn and Loki are attempting to recreate the starting point of Civil War was lame, but it did have logic to it. It just isn't very original and felt also a bit too soon.

brandon said...

This may sound absurd but I actually liked Fall of the Hulks Alpha. Very cool way to weave some of the bad guys throughout Marvel's history.

Anonymous said...

Siege: The Cabal bothered me, as well. While I didn't think it was a bad story, didn't Marvel explicitly state that we'd find out who Osborn's enforcer is? Maybe I'm wrong.

And the second story wasn't even that, it was just the first several pages of Siege #1.

Nathan Aaron said...

As much as I'm not a fan of Chris Bachalo, he's MILES above Humberto Ramos as far as I'm concerned. LOL I thought the speech balloons in this issue were horrid. I mean, Bendis is hit or miss, but was I the only one that felt like during Sentry and Marvel Boy's fight it sounded like they were reading cue cards or something. Really odd writing.

And that new costume is HORRIBLE. I mean, he WISHES he had the Space Ghost costume, cause it would be so much better than that mess he's got now. Why not keep his old one, it rocked. Man, sometimes changing things just to change them is not the way to go.

I wanted to like this (but was going to skip it, until all the hype about the last page, and "the true reveal of the Sentry" which didn't happen. What we were shown we ALREADY knew!; and the new costume) but I sorta just wish I could get my $5. back. LOL

smkedtky said...

BLACKEST NIGHT: THE FLASH #1 - Scott Kollins should only draw THE FLASH and Flash related characters. Maybe it's because he works so well with Geoff Johns or that he drew a good portion of my favorite FLASH run, ever...his art just works here.

DARK AVENGERS: ANNUAL #1 - NohVarr was in comic limbo after MARVEL BOY concluded. I have no reason to complain about the way Bendis handles a character that nobody else wanted anything to do with (not even Grant Morrison, who never did the sequel to MARVEL BOY that he promised). Outside of the first YOUNG AVENGERS/RUNAWAYS limited, he hadn't been used once since his premiere (to the best of my knowledge). Bendis has a good track record of making forgotton/C-List characters entertaining. I'm willing to accept the new Marvel Boy/Captain Marvel and just enjoy the stories. Still, the way he went about getting the new NegaBands and, officially, becoming CapMarvel seemed a little forced.

SIEGE: THE CABAL - I've read this book several times before (at least twice). First, when it was NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI and, second, when it was DARK REIGN: THE CABAL. It seemed to follow the same formula as these books right down to the sketchy (noirish?) art style. Speaking of art...Lark's pencil's didn't do it for me. I've never been a fan but could, at least, appreciate his work. Here, everything just looked dull.

That's all I read, so far. I'll get to BN: WONDER WOMAN and my others tonight.

Primewax said...

I really, really liked Blackest Night: Flash. The art was great, and worked really well. Plus, Barry just straight up rocked it this issue.

Kirk Warren said...

@krakkaboom - I realized that as soon as I started reading comments today. I'm not sure why I put Ramos. It's even Bachelo in the credits just for the review. I'm going to chalk it up to how late it was when I was writing these. I've fixed it in the review. Thanks for pointing it out.

Kirk Warren said...

@smkedtky - With regards to Marvel Boy, as I briefly mentioned in the review, there are other Captain Marvel stand ins that are already established (well, dead now I guess) that could have easily been brought in to fill the role. Genis-Vel would have been a perfect return as his death was ambiguous and he is a much beloved and missed character that could have filled the new Captain Marvel Bendis so desperately wants to write.

Why take a new character with a unique personality and traits and transmute him into a role that other characters already fill, essentially changing the very fundamentals of what made Noh-Varr unique in the first place?

The Hood was a similar case of dusting off a new character created and forgotten, but he's been relatively well handled and followed up on. Sure, he's changed since his first appearance and I hate the fact he's the Team Rocket to the New Avengers, getting drubbed out every month, but he hasn't changed nearly as drastically as Noh-Varr has.

Go read Wolverine - THe List and see how Jason Aaron wrote Noh-Varr and compare him to the way Bendis writes him. It's hard to believe its the same character and a shame we wont see the one Aaron wrote again after this issue of DA: Annual.

smkedtky said...

@Kirk: I totally agree with you with regards to Noh-Var's personality being changed. I really enjoyed the Morrison's MARVEL BOY when it first came out (and WOLVERINE: THE LIST for that matter). I never said that he wasn't being handled differently...just that he wasn't being handled at all (prior to recent appearances). Yes, Bendis writes him differently but, much like the Hood, he was a character who fans were aware of (and in Marvel Boys case had a cult following) but were, pretty much left out in the cold by their creators and Marvel as a whole. Perhaps his time on Earth has softened him as much as Bendis' portrayal has. His limited series was a story of a brash, superior (in his own mind) being coming to a world of people below his station and acting accordingly. His people died and he was treated as an enemy from the begining. I would have loved to see a follow-up to this original story but, unfortunately, Morrison dropped out and it never happened. I don't find it hard to fathom that his experiences since MARVEL BOY have changed his views and softened his point of view. He's had a chance to see humanity from both sides now and he's trying to discover who he wants to be now. Maybe he won't like his new station and will revert to old habits. I'll do my best to enjoy it and see where it goes. I'd rather see his story continued than ignored completely.

Medard said...

@ smkedtky: Morrison did want to make a sequel to Marvel Boy and in fact pitched it to Marvel back when Bill Jemas was still the publisher. I read somewere (Lying in the Gutters?) that Jemas found the Marvel Boy sequel too "spacey" and that's why the plannend Marvel Boy sequel by Morrison never came to be. Sadly. :(

Dennis said...

Well the reason I can think of to change Noh-Varr into Captain Marvel, is that Marvel must contintually publish a Captain Marvel or their copyright will expire and DC will snatch it up. They were probably tired of bringing characters back from the dead, and didn't have any other use for Noh-Varr. Plus, this gives him a power-up and puts him more on the level of someone like Ares and Venom.

Daryll B. said...

Guys, you folks are better than me...I couldn't get past all the continuity gaffes within Flash Rebirth which has tainted my vision towards Barry. The book essentially felt like Rebirth 5.5 to me...

The WW tie in is the victim along with the Dark Avengers Annual of poor timing. The main story has progressed so far that I couldn't get into the idea points. Ironically to this point if I told you that the tie in mini series to BN that made the most sense to the greater event would be BN Titans; who would have believed that?

I guess I am in the minority again: I am a Genis fan. I have never liked Nor Varr being a part of the main 616 universe and this move does nothing for me. Although I have to agree, Aaron made the character relatable

Boys...Gotta love Frenchie!

Siege The Cabal...OK I think Bendis might be suffering event fatigue along with us. Issue felt totally recycled from oldideas in the past a la Morrison...Mebbe I have to rethink my stance on doing Siege so fast. Maybe Bendis and Marvel realized that they was no more gas left in this tank.

Anonymous said...

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman

I think you totally missed the point about Wonder Woman's reaction to those US soldiers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It wasn't about "America, @#$@#@ Yeah" or "I love the US military". It was an Amazon, who values duty and honor and commitment above all else, recognizing and appreciating those same values in mortal men. The telling lines were "You must withdraw, now", to which they responded, "No... We have a sacred oath". Then Wonder Woman said "I would not argue with that" because Wonder Woman and the Amazons are all about duty, commitment, sacrifice, and sacred oaths. I have no doubt she would have reacted the same way to such devoted members of any country's military.

Rucka nailed this, and I think you just missed his point.

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