Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 01/27/10

A little late, but after a week from hell that kept me from blogging, I'm happy to say I've got a rather hefty set of reviews for your reading pleasure in this week's Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews.  I won't bore you with the details here, so hit the jump for the reviewy goodness!

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Marcos Martin

The current Mysterio arc failed to impress on the first outing.  The ease with which they brought back all of the formerly dead mobsters, including Silvermane, really grated on me and made it difficult to get into the story.  

This issue changes all that with the revelation that Mysterio is controlling the mob through the use of a Silvermane robot and some impressive theatrics and special effects.  I knew Mysterio was involved with the return of these mobsters, but did not expect the story to take that turn.  While it appears the mobsters' deaths were all faked by Mysterio, they being grunts compared to Silvermane, I can at least tolerate theirs compared to a named villain simply coming back in such a manner.  

Marcos Martin probably deserves most of the credit for this issue.  He's clearly born to draw Spider-Man as his pencils simply bring the character to life everytime he's on page.  The pages where Mysterio convinces Spider-Man he's killed some of these mobsters in the heat of battle are impressive, to say the least, and the reaction by Peter after the first one is "killed" when the sagging shoulders, unresponsive Spider-Man crouches over the body and can only mutter a few words of disbelief over killing someone would not have nearly the same impact under another artist.  His Mysterio is also inspired.  I love the new look, which is more of a streamlining than completely new costume.  

One of the things I like about this issue, though, is how Mysterio gets to Spider-Man.  However, I really would have loved to see the resolution to that not play out in the same issue.  Seeing Spider-Man with that hanging over his head, the doubts, fears and tentativeness as he enters every battle would have worked better over the span of a few issues.  

Instead, they go straight to the next battle as Spider-Man chases down "Silvermane" and is then confronted by another long thought dead mobster, Big Man, and his goons.  I like how they progress the plot, but it's just feeling a little rushed.  We're treated to another miscue by Spidey, orchestrated by Mysterio of course, as a web ball hits a random thug and his gun goes off, killing the rest of the gang.  Big Man survived, but Mysterio overplayed his hand by having Big Man revealed as another long dead character, this time Captain Stacy.  

If he had known Peter's personal history with Stacy or used any other character, it probably wouldn't have tipped Peter off, but this led to him realizing exactly who was behind the plot and he even calls out Mysterio, who he now knew would be watching from some hidden camera.  It's a great sequence, but, again, this all feels so rushed.  We have this great development that can lead to some interesting stories with Peter and his reacting to it, but it's resolved within a few pages with little time for even the reader to react to it.

Verdict - Check It.  A solid story with some flaws, but still an entertaining read that does not throw away the momentum of the past few months, in which Amazing Spider-Man has been absolutely, well, amazing. 

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Cameron Stewart

There's some rough edges and a bit of the 'channel zapping' narrative that turned people off of Final Crisis, but the pure fun and mix of Silver Age and modern sensibilities that made the opening arc of this series so enjoyable has returned to the title. 

We could attribute this change towards the new artist, Cameron Stewart, who does a remarkable job.  His art is clean and expressive and has an energy about it that just really meshed well with Grant Morrison's writing.

Another option is the change in setting.  We're out of Gotham and in a cleaner, nicer place - England to be precise - and that brought in Squire as Batman's "Robin" for this issue as Damian undergoes treatment for his paralyzation and is in the care of his mother, Talia al Ghul.  Batman and Squire track down one of Knight and Squire's villains in a fun, fast paced romp through the streets of England that really contrasted the differences between it and Gotham nicely.  Even at night, it's a bright city compared to the dingy Gotham and the story seemed to reflect that.

However, these positives fail to make up for the disjoint narrative.  We jump right into the thick of things with a continuation of last issue's cliffhanger of Dick entering the 'tomb of Batman' with a fantastic splashpage of Dick carrying Batman's corpse out of the tomb and then we just jump into the England adventure without so much as an explanation.  There's barely any bread crumbs for the reader to follow here and we just go along for the ride, which I'll admit was enjoyable though not what I was expecting, as they take down King Coal and his gang before heading off to a Lazerus Pit.  

Even there, where we'd expect things to get back to the whole resurrection of Batman, we're shown that we're missing all kinds of information with Knight already being there with Batman's body.  There's some glowing yellow people he's fighting, Batwoman shows up out of some box for no explicable reason and there's even some mix ups in the text placement that adds more to this general confusion.

Verdict - Check It.  I'm not saying this is Final Crisis-level of channel zapping or that you will not understand this comic.  It is, actually, quite a straight forward tale.  However, you will have to work for it and may even want to re-read it again just to make sure you got it all straight in your head.  Like all Grant Morrison stories, I think this will make for a much better trade read, though this is still a very good read.

Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Roberto De La Torre

+ I love, love, love the new status quo for Daredevil.  Andy Diggle has taken Daredevil out of his element and blurred the lines between so many different shades of grey that it's hard to tell if Matt is doing the right thing or not anymore and I don't think he even knows if he is or not anymore.  
+ Shadowland is coming.  We've heard hints of it in interviews and whispered breaths, but the first concrete mentions of it were in this issue and it appears to be a complex being build by Matt and the Hand on the location where Bullseye killed all those people in Hell's Kitchen to kick off this run.  What is it's purpose?  What is Matt planning?  Has he gone too far?  I don't know and can't wait to find out.
+ Speaking of going too far, we're told what happened to all of the police and HAMMER agents that were disappeared at the end of the fights with Daredevil and the Hand.  Seems Matt has been keeping them prisoner in the sewers, which was to be expected (no one honestly thought he had them killed).  However, they're on starvation rations and kept locked up like animals.  More blurring of the lines between good and evil.  These are crooked cops and bad people, but they don't deserve to be treated like this. How far is Matt taking this?  They'll be kept prisoner in the sublevels of the mysterious Shadowland when it is completed, but to what end game is Matt building?  I really can't wait to see more of this in the coming months.
+ Have to mention how fantastic a job Roberto De La Torre is doing on the art chores.  Like Lark and Maleev and the rest before him, his art is perfectly suited for Daredevil and I absolutely love his new Daredevil themed Hand outfits, which I think I mention everytime I review or talk about this title.
- I have no complaints about this issue.

Verdict - Must Read.  I missed Daredevil when I ended up boycotting Brubaker's run for his treatment of Matt's marriage and fridging of his wife.  It's great to be reading it again and Diggle is certainly making his mark on a series that has been defined by a veritable who's who list of writers before him.  

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Jock
Art by Cully Hamner

This marks the first official issue sans-J.H. Williams's art and my first chance to judge whether or not Greg Rucka's writing was being propped up by some of the prettiest art I've ever seen or if it was excellent in its own right.  That's not to say Jock is terrible, but he's no Willaims. 

In that regard, Rucka does a serviceable job here, though not his best effort. I like how Rucka is putting the detective back in Detective Comics since beginning the run and I'm enjoying the style of story he is telling here, which is a straight up serial killer story.  Both Batman and Batwoman are seperately on the trail of the newest psycho to hit Gotham.  His MO consists of cutting of different body parts off of random female victims and he appears to be assembling them into his dream girl.  

It's a pretty standard story, as far as the random serial killer goes, and something you may recall from a random CSI or Law & Order-like TV show.  Adding a Batman or Batwoman to the mix obviously changes things in terms of how a story like this goes, but it was pretty paint by numbers, to be honest.  I did enjoy how he contrasted the differences between Batman and Batwoman, showing both obtaining information differently and the ways each got put onto the trail of this killer.  

What I didn't like was how Batwoman was manhandled by the serial killer as well as the appearance of said killer.  We spent the last two arcs with this competent and fully trained Batwoman and it felt like I was reading about amateur super hero hour here with how easily she is taken down by the villain, who makes his escape in the chaos.  His appearance is the other point of contention, which was basically a guy dressed in a suit with knives covering just about every part of it.  Even his hair looked like three knives lining his bald head.  It was really out of place in an otherwise serious tale (or as serious as a tale about vigilantes dressed as bats fighting crime can be). 

Another problem was the conclusion.  Kate is onto the killers trail and goes looking for possible victims of his next attack.  She meets up with her cousin from earlier issues while scouting a campus and, predicatably, it is shown that the killer has chosen Kate's cousin as his next victim.  It's a cheap way to drum up suspense and drama and felt extremely forced that her cousin was picked in such a manner. 

Jock's art is completely different in style and tone to Williams's.  I like it and think he's an excellent replacement, though the title's appeal is definitely diminished without Willaims's on board. 

Verdict - Check It.  A good issue that continues to build up Batwoman.  Batman is starting to make appearances, but it still feels like Kate's book.  A bit of a paint-by-numbers, cookie-cutter plot, but I liked the detective parts of this story showing the contrasting methods of Batman and Batwoman. Solid effort all around.

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dale Eaglesham

Fantastic Four #575 marks the return of Dale Eaglesham to art duties and he was sorely missed.  Sadly, Jonathan Hickman seemed to put out his weakest issue of his run on the title to mark his return.  Simply put, this issue tries really hard to be Journey to the Center of the Earth, but fails due to the lack of space and how the story seems to just peter out into a rushed conclusion.  

The premise is simple enough - the Mole Man comes bursting into the Baxter Building requesting help and Reed and company are obliged to help.  It seems that the Moloids stumbled upon an ancient city created by the High Evolutionary and have devolved into smarter, human-like versions of themselves.  Yes, they make a point of telling us it is not evolvution, but devolution, despite how it made them smarter and human-like.

So, what's the problem with the Moloids being smarter and prettier?  They want to raise the city to the surface and claim their own nation.  They also are stealing other Moloids and forcing them into their city as well as casting away any children born through the union of devolved Moloids as they are retaining the evolved 'ugly' look combined with the intelligence of their parents.  
This is all rather standard fair for a Fantastic Four-like story, but gets the ball rolling so that Eaglesham can wow us with some very pretty visuals.  Alla the Journey to the Center of Earth reference above, we are treated to a variety of differing underground locales, from crystal caverns to water filled pools and even a glimpse of the dead body of Galactus from the future that Reed stashed underground.  Yes, that Galactus image, which spurred so much discussion, was merely a one-off image (at this point anyways, maybe it gets revisited later) that had nothing to do with the story.  

While the images were all pretty and Eaglesham builds and shows off this underground world, as I said, the story was rushed and these scenes were reduced to mere quarter panel shots in most cases while the rest of the page was filled with more and more excess exposition explaining the rather complicated backstory behind this new Moloid sanctuary.  In fact, the story rushes to a conclusion so quickly that even the Mole Man, who had been accompanying them, disappears off panel and is never seen from again about half way through the issue.

Verdict - Check It.  I want to like this issue, but the story really felt like it could have used a revision or less convoluted premise.  Hickman should have just let Eaglesham do all the heavy lifting and gave us a fantastic journey to the cente ro the Earth that led to this mysterious city instead of the long winded and overly complicated, pages-long and unsatisfactory explanation we were given. I'm hopeful that now that the central premise has been spoon fed to us that future issues following up on this will allow the story and art to flourish instead of hammering us over the head with more and more explanations for the premise.

Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker

+ This has been a true return to form for the Guardians of the Galaxy, who's title has been wavering between average and fantastic on a regular basis of late. 
+ "Hi, I'm Starlord.  I'm with the Guardians of the Galaxy.  I'd flash you my business card, but my hands are too full of guns."
+ Rocket Raccoon flies the Knowhere station, which is a decapitated Celestial head, through the Church of Universal Truths ships, using it as a giant, decapitated bullet.  He's a tactical genius.
+ Jack Flagg's "Guardians Go!" and string of alliterations afterwards was brilliant.
+ Drax had another break out issue with some great action and character moments.
+ Magus lives and is in control of the Church of Universal Truth.  Moondragon hints at the other Guardians still being alive (the ones that Magus killed), so there's hope that Cosmo is still alive.  Some other people died, but Cosmo is the only one anyone cares about and I am counting the days until his return.  Maybe he's Norman's secret weapon for Siege?
- I like Brad Walker's art, but he draws one horrible Drax.  Model him on Vin Diesel, not some green guy that had his face beat in with a shovel.
- While I like the cover, it is easily the most disturbing image I've seen in a long time.  Thank you for the nightmares!

Verdict - Must Read. This issue turns the dial up to eleven from the get go and doesn't let up until the very end.  A fantastic read that defines why everyone loves the Marvel cosmic titles.

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Stefano Caselli

+ Stefano Caselli's art has grown so much in the past few years.  My only complaint is that I wish he was drawing every issue of Secret Warriors.  He was missed during the last arc.
+ Speaking of growth, Gorgon's character has gone from two-dimensional Mary Sue to an intriguing character with a sense of depth to him over the course of this run.  The focus on him here was one of my favourite parts of the issue.
+ The other favourite part was the origin of the Hive, which is a sick and twisted display of cruelty by Baron Strucker in how he created the monstrosity.  
+ While I liked the God of War/God of Fear storyline, it felt out of place in the spy/espionage story being built by Hickman in the opening arc.  There was no Hydra or SHIELD and very few instances of Fury or the work he was doing with the Howling Commandos.  It's nice to see the series get back on track and following up on threads from earlier issues.  
+ Leviathan gets some basic backstory from Fury and I like what they bring to the table, though they feel a little out of place with the bug-like appearances compared to the human (save the Hive) based Hydra and ex-SHIELD members.
- Like last issue, this issue was filled with many seemingly unconnected plots.  It's almost like reading a loosely connected series of anthology stories instead of a continuous narrative.  Sure, these characters and events are tangently related, but we're not really seeing a proper flow between them and the cast is bloating with excess to the point we are not even seeing half the characters, particularly the Secret Warriors of which the book gets its name.  Even Nick Fury barely appears in this issue.  Really need to trim the fat. 
- Even the parts we do see the Secret Warriors seems pointless, especially the entire Yo-Yo/Stonewall subplot, which seems like it could have been completely omitted in favour of other, more pretinent scenes.  I like what Hickman is doing with those two characters, but we see so little of them that I find it difficult to care about them at times and just want to get back to Hydra or Nick Fury or the Howling Commando bits.

Verdict - Check It. I really enjoy this series, even despite its faults, but cannot overlook them in a review either.  I believe they may read better in a trade, but, as a monthly, these numerous converging plots feel bloated and unwieldly and leave me feeling a bit unsatisfied with how disjoint the story reads, which I likened to an anthology book with numerous barely related stories making up the issue. 

THOR #606
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Billy Tan

+ Hammer, meet face.  Very satisfying conclusion to the Dr Doom vs Thor fight. Loved the back and forth between Doom and Thor.  Look forward to future encounters between the two.
+ Balder was the real story of this issue. Loved his reaction and monologues as well as the final contemplations on how his people will remember him in the years to come.  
+ I thought Loki was going to be removed from Asgard and returned to out and out villain status, but am pleasantly surprised at how he's twisted everything to his advantage again.  
- Billy Tan's art seemed off compared to previous issues. It was more of a colouring or inking problem, I believe, but the combined efforts on art seemed lacking compared to the stunning previous issues, which were some of the best work I've seen from Tan in a long time.
- While not a Doombot, Doom is safely teleported away by Loki at the last possible moment of the fight.  He was all but defeated, so we did get a conclusion, and the failing of the Destroyer armour was explained by Balder's intrustions into Doom's lab, but there was a twinge of disappointment over Doom getting away so easily and just before his real punishment was about to be dished out. 

Verdict - Buy It. Considering how Gillen was forced to pick up the pieces of an aborted run by JMS, it's a testament to his ability that this arc turned out as good as it did and it manages to offer up a much more satisfying conclusion to the JMS era than JMS himself did while still being accessible to readers new and old alike.  Great issue, great arc, great fun all around. 

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Dennis said...

Does anyone happen to know what issues that dead Galactus is from?

Akylle said...

I'm glad they went with Jock on Detective Comics instead of getting someone to try and emulate Williams style. I have to admit though that the issue confused me a bit. Took me a while to realize the Batman parts were happening in the past.

Zdenko said...

I think the Dead Galactus is from the Millar's run, or could be from that Abraxas storyline from a few years back, didn't that one had a dead Galactus also?

M├ędard said...

I also found the latest Batman & Robin enjoyable but found myself a bit disoriented at times.

The text misplacements were a horrible mistake, one that is, thank God, not very common. Hopefully this will be corrected in the collected editions.

Phillyradiogeek said...

In Detective, Batwoman mentions that the ones protecting the Lazarus Pit are part of the Religion of Crime, which has been her archenemy for most of her existence the last couple of years, which helps explain her inclusion in Batman and Robin. Perhaps the next couple of issues will give more details of her involvement.

Nathan Aaron said...

I thought that issue of FF was really disappointing. It takes them forever to get down to the city; and then when they need to escape they just find a way out and POP through the ground to daylinght they go! But moreso, the ending was SO rushed; you're right "Oh, Thing gets better! Oh, the Mole Man just ran away. Oh, I don't have enough pages yet to tell the story? I'll just wrap it all up in one page of written word." Pages of written word are the biggest cheese outs of all, when it comes to comics, as far as I'm concerned. It's a comic!? I'm really close to dropping his run, unfortunately.

Kirk Warren said...

@Phillyradiogeek - I assume you mean Batman and Robin, not Detective, but, yes, they make a brief mention of the Religion of Crime as her involvement, but it really comes out of nowhere. It's all King Cole's men, who, from what I can tell, had nothing to do with rucka's Crime Bible work and there's no cult or other Batwoman-related happenings here. Hell, I dont even know if she was hiding int he box or kidnapped or what.

@Nathan Aaron - That last page of text describing what happened gave me a District 9 vibe and I kind of liked it, but forgot to mention it in the review. The rest of the issue? Just too rushed to really have any impact and so much exposition to get the premise across.

Aaron K said...

@Kirk - LOL! 12 hours earlier, I had written in the comments to Ryan's rankings that Brad Walker's Drax "always looks smashed by a rock". Great minds think alike!

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that 'Devolution' is an invalid term, there is literally no such thing. Organisms don't evolve in any direction, they just continually evolve, changing from one thing to the next in order to suit their environment. Hickman's an idiot if he calls what the Mole Men did anything more than simply speed-enhanced mutation.

Kirk Warren said...

@Anonymous - Devolution is a word. Princeton defines it as:

devolution (the process of declining from a higher to a lower level of effective power or vitality or essential quality)


devolution, devolvement (the delegation of authority (especially from a central to a regional government))

It's also a pretty common trope in comics and other Sci-fi media to have characters/creatures/other races returned to a previous level of evolution and referring to it as devolving as they are not doing it on their own in reaction to their environment. There are many problems with the issue, but the terminology used isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

However, you will never see that term referred to by any scientific expert on Evolutionary theory nor in any book on Biology. Both of your definitions of the word do NOT refer to biological organisms changing from their current phenotype to one held by their ancestors - an idea as ludicrous as it is impossible.

Ivan said...

Anon, I'll wait for your 15 pages rant on how getting bit by a radioactive spider would never give Peter Parker any superpowers. :P

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