Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 12/09/09

I had some computer related problems that prevented me from updating with reviews yesterday, but things are all straightened now and I'm happy to bring you your Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews.  Only managed to bang out reviews for Amazing Spider-Man, Secret Six, REBELS and the DCU Holiday Special, but I'm going to make an effort to get the rest of the reviews posted tomorrow before Ryan comes back with his Power Ranking reviews.  Hit the jump for the initial batch of reviews.

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Paul Azaceta

All this talk of revamping and powering up of Electro?  How he wasn't going to be a joke that Spider-Man webs up his fist and punches out anymore?  Ya, forget that. 

After, apparently, defeating Spider-Man last issue, Electro declared he wanted everyone to turn on as many electronic devices as possible since, well, uh, he's draining the power?  I don't know.  Electricity flows on the wires regardless of whether you have the power on.  If everyone was using more electrical devices, Electro would actually have less current to draw on, but I digress. 

Getting back to the topic of how Electro was to be powered up and webbed fists wouldn't work on him anymore, Spider-Man gets rescued by some firefighters, whips up a new batch of webbing and punches out Electro with a big webbed fist.  Electro, even powered up, is a complete joke.  No, I'm not joking.  Spider-Man literally whipped up a batch of webbing in Thinker's burning lab between panels, not even on screen, and shows up and puts Electro down in the span of a few pages.  Bravo, my already comically low opinion of Electro has now placed him with the z-list Spidey villains like the Gibbon, Slyde, and Spot. 

However, at least those villains have a comical charm.  Electro is just a joke. The saddest thing?  We have to put up with him again in the future as the Chameleon and Kraven's wife rescue him from the police for their upcoming Gauntlet story. 

Some other highlights in this issue include the Daily Bugle building being completely destroyed, Dexter Bennett being crippled during the fight with Spider-Man and Electro (I smell villain!) and me not caring one bit. 

Verdict - Avoid It.  Only good thing I can really say about this issue is that this story is over.  Oh, and the political meta nonsense from previous issues was toned down/restricted to the opening part of the story, so I guess that was good, too. 

Written by Scott Kolins, Sterling Gates, Amy Wolfram, Fred Van Lente, Jay Faerber, Beau Smith, David Tischman, Jay Torres and others
Art by Scott Kolins, Jeff Lemire, Daniel Liester and others

This year's DC Holiday Special was about what anyone would expect - a few good stories, one fantastic one and a handful of which you'll probably flip through without really paying too much attention towards. 

The one story I want to take the time to discuss, however, is the Billy Tucci Sgt Rock story.  It's about Sgt Rock and a German soldier running into each other on a snowy Christmas eve, both on their way back to their camps with some alcohol to celebrate with.  It's a cliched meeting in the snow where the two enemies share a moment, have a beer and show that the human side to a war, but I couldn't help but love it.  Tucci handled the art on this one, too, and his pencils looked fantastic and, combined with some amazing colouring, this short story more than made this issue worth the purchase for me.  Just a great little story.

Aother noteworthy tales included a Flash Family Christmas where we see Wally West going through the Flash paces of a Christmas, getting a tree from Colorado, delivering presents across the globe, struggling to get a gift for his kids and so on.  A cute little story that most will enjoy. 

The final short I want to talk about is the Martian Manhunter one, which was written by Fred Van Lente.  I was never a fan of everyone's favourite Martian prior to his death in Final Crisis, but really enjoyed this Christmas detective story with him and his discovery of his favourite snack, the double stuffed choco. 

While not every story was as endearing as the above three, I must say, the art was fantastic all around.  Typically, these types of comics are associated with being thrown together at the last minute or with some random, no-name artists.  From Peter Ngyuen's Batman story opening the book to Jonboy Meyers Beast Boy & Doom Patrol and everything in between, the issue was a real treat on the artistic side of things, offering up a unique and diverse selection of art tailored for each story.

Verdict - Check It.  These holiday specials are fun, but hardly essential for most comic fans.  This issue, in particular, has several good stories, but the vast majority are fun, yet forgettable.  I was coming in hoping for that one or two great stories that previous specials had and this one delivered on that end, so I was pleased with the purchase,but many will be turned off by the hefty pricetag.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #11
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Claude St. Aubin and Scott Hanna

I really enjoyed the first part of this Blackest Night tie-in for REBELS.  So much so that I was contemplating possibly sticking around based on the outcome of this issue.  Sadly, I doubt I will continue with the book as the wheels came off the wagon for this concluding chapter.

I think my biggest problem with this issue is that it tries to do too much.  Bedard clearly wants to get back to his Starro the Conqueror storyline, and I don't blame him for wanting to be done with the tie-in interrupting that storyline, but it leads to a rushed story that sees him putting everything back to where it's supposed to be in preparation for the next issue. 

To that end, it fails to really do anything it set out to.  It fails as a Blackest Night tie-in, effectively taking the threat and teleporting it away for someone else to deal with.  It fails as a hook for new readers to stick with REBELS since it never really touches on the Starro story nor does it do anything with the huge cast of characters, all of which are given barely a few lines with the exception of Vril Dox.  Finally, for the above reasons, it fails as a story, never telling an complete story from start to finish, only giving pieces of the Starro and an aborted Blackest Night tie-in. 

What do I mean by an aborted tie-in?  As I mentioned, the problem of the Black Lanterns is solved by simply making them someone else's problem.  It's a very Vril Dox kind of move, but lacks any kind of satisfying conclusion for someone coming in for the Blackest Night bits.  Vril's son, now working with Starro, builds a teleportation device so that Starro can leave the sector of space Vril has trapped them all in with his force fields.  To test the device, they go to check on their men tracking Vril, all of which were killed last issue by the Black Lanterns.  Their fight spills over to Vril's fight with his Black Lanter wife, Stealth, and, in the end, Vril simply tosses the Black Lanterns into the portal with Starro and I assume they are back on Starro's homeworld.  There's no planned continuation for this story, as far as I know, so I have to assume the Black Lanterns just die off or are taken care of somehow by Starro and his armies. 

Finally, the one actual intriguing thing that really sold me on the first issue of this tie-in was Vril becoming a Sinestro Corpsmen.  I loved how one of the new Sinestro recruits in this issue was cheering about how Vril was on "their side" now and a member of the Sinestro Corps.  He's such a good fit for it and I don't see why he couldn't have kept the ring a little longer.  He loses it by issue's end simply by ignoring Sinestro's "request" for all members to come to Korugar.  The ring leaves him for insubordination and he's back to being just Vril Dox. 

Verdict - Check It.  It finishes up what was a strong start last issue in a disappointing fashion, but I'm more upset with the wasted potential than the actual quality of the writing or art.  This could have been so much more, but it comes off as a rushed bandaid to get back to the main plot of the series. REBELS fans will probably love that, but I think the point of this tie-in was to convince others to continue buying it. This did not.

Written by Gail Simone
Art by Peter Nguyen

 Going to come right out and say it - I didn't have a clue who Black Alice was prior to this issue.  I had heard of her and knew she was magical in nature, but couldn't tell you if she was a villain, a hero, young, old, or what kind of specific power set she had.  My impression after reading her "try out" for the Secret Six in this issue?  I like her and think she'll be a good fit. 

My knowledge of Black Alice, or lack thereof, out of the way, this is a very strong issue from Simone and it hit a lot of the right notes in terms of why I love this book and consider it the best monthly on the stands right now. 

Additionally, with Nicola Scott, the regular penciller, off working on Blackest Night: Wonder Woman, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Peter Nguyen's art here.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but this was very similar in style and tone and, while I prefer Scott, Nguyen was a more than worthy replacement.

Getting back to Black Alice, she has the ability to channel any magic from any magic user she's been in contact with before, from Zatanna and Blue Devil to even the Spectre.  The catch is that the more powerful the magic she channels, the more difficult it is to control and it can cut out at any moment. 

She shows off many of these powers in a sort of try out for the Six in this issue, which sees Catman and Deadshot take her to a strip club in an attempt to get her to just leave them alone.  Alice witnessed Catman and Deadshot helping a father exact revenge on the man that killed his daughter earlier in the issue, the duo going so far as to explain the proper way to torture the killer, and took that as her motivation for joining.  She mentions her father being sick, as well, but little else was revealed about how she found them or came upon their side job at the start of the issue. 

To be honest, though, I don't know if I like Alice or simply how the others react to her.  From the comical indifference of Catman and Deadshot taking her to a strip club to Bane's taking in of another stray, the team's interactions with her were great.  Alice's character, though, is rather undefined and there's little to no motivation, which is odd since she has a lot of face time and even narrates in her diary near the end of the issue.  I have no real idea what her goals are, why she's there, how she found them or what her intentions are now that she's "on the team". 

Really, she comes off quite insane in her desire to join, but there's just the one panel explaining her father's sick and she needs money.  She looks as if she could have stolen any amount of money with her powers, yet is joining some of the most morally bankrupt people in the DCU and a team that finds themselves on the losing end of most jobs they take?  I'm confused, but hoping we find out more about her and her situation in the future.  Hopefully the Blackest Night tie-ins do not disrupt the title too much.

Verdict - Buy It.  Great issue with lots of fun moments, from the team's bonding time in the strip club to Ragdoll's reactions to being called "all kinda hot" and just how every one reacted to the new team member's sudden appearance.  I would have liked some more follow-up to Simone's last issue, where the Scandal was kicked off the team (she's still here, but not "active" as a Six member), but it's hard to complain when it's an issue as good as this one was.

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JP said...

Excellent reviews as always, although I am greatly dissappointed that you will not be sticking with R.E.B.E.L.S. beyond these tie-ins.

Your problems with this issue are valid, however I disagree with you on them actually weakening the story.

The inclusion of the Starro plot in a Blackest Night tie-in, was actually quite organic and furthered the the overreaching plot of the series quite wonderfully, as opposed to other tie-ins whose plots and stories were completely disrupted for a Blackest Night tie-in. Also, the ending with Dox teleporting the Black Lanterns and Starro alway to kill each other was not only completely in line with Dox's character, but was no different from how Doom Patrol's BN tie-in ended this week, (honestly, how elese are these BN tie-ins gonna end if they are not to spoil the end of the main series?).

Anyway, ranting aside (I am sorry if the previous statements were too long), I do hope you give R.E.B.E.L.S. another chance, if not next month because of that awesome promo trailer at the end of the issue, then perhaps in a couple of months when the Starro arc ends in early 2010.

This is really one of the true gems DC is publishing right now, and DC seems invested in trying to make it a success, both with the Blackest Night tie-in, as well as there being whispers of this series crossing over with JLA and quite possibley the "War of Supermen" event coming next year.

P.S.>>>I'm sure if this series continues, we will eventually see a Vril Dox vs. Sinestro battle royale.

Daniel Woburn said...

No love for Nation X #1? It was actually really good! Not like the Manifest Destiny series... all the vignettes in it were really good, they each had a point and *gasp* furthered a character's development. it's always nice to see some Mike Allred art as well!

Bill said...

As I recall from Birds of Prey, Black Alice is mostly just lonely and alienated, so she would choose something like the Secret Six over just robbing banks because of the chance to make friends or whatever.

Klep said...

I'll just echo what Bill said about Alice. Having read Simone's run on Birds of Prey, Black Alice's actions here seem pretty much in character. She's a lonely, isolated teenage girl. If she and Misfit had gotten along better she might have ended up staying with the Birds, but they didn't and she walked out.

Changri-la-di-la said...

I'm loving REBELS, the art will suffer when andy clark flies to batman&robin...but im staying anyway. my only concern its maybe the crossover thing...blackest night wasn't bad, but know, it sucks when the crossover eats all 2 months of story...

JP said...

Always happy to see a fellow R.E.B.E.L.S. lover. I agree that it sucks losing Andy Clarke to Batman and Robin, but I hope Claude St. Aubin stays on.

Crossovers usually do eat up story, however Berdard did have pretty big plot developments occur in Blackest Night in that Dox's forcefield is down, so Starro is free to conquer the galaxy, and Dox's son joining Starro has just made this war personal for Dox.

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