Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Four reviews for you tonight with this edition of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews. We've got Amazing Spider-Man #625, which redeems itself after the headache inducing "Parkergate" from last week, Green Lantern Corps #46, Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1 and Siege #3. A quick note about the Siege review - it's not pretty and I couldn't discuss it without going off on a Comic Book Guy dissertation on what I thought was wrong with it and the event in general. I think my criticisms are valid, but it's definitely far from an even or balanced review. Hit the jump for this week's reviews.
Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Max Fiumara
Last week saw Peter Parker doctor a photograph and submit it in an effort to clear Jonah Jameson, who was being framed with false accusations of connections to the new Vulture. To be brief, I considered it possibly the worst issue of Spider-Man ever written and quite likely the most out of character thing Peter did (short of making a deal with the devil I suppose). How was the follow-up issue to that disaster? Surprisingly good.
However, I probably shouldn't have been surprised at how well this issue turned out. It was written by Joe Kelly with art by Max Fiumara and is a follow-up to their previous Rhino two-part story, which I enjoyed immensely.
What I like about this issue is that the story was put on the back burner for several issues. This bit of time to percolate and allow readers to digest the previous arc really helped in my opinion. If it had just been a quick three part story, it would have felt like the recent Mysterio arc, which, while good, suffered a bit due to rushing through the 'reveals' and other plots and never allowing Spider-Man or the reader to really care for what was happening, like Spidey "killing" someone or the "return" of Captain Stacy and other such reveals. The Rhino arc seems to flourish that much more with the small break afforded between this issue and the previous two.
The bulk of this issue deals with the new Rhino being fed some information on where he can find the old Rhino so that he can "take his skin" and earn the right to be the Rhino. This leads the requisite encounter, which Peter just happened to be dragged to by Norah, and a brief clash between the two Rhinos. Old Rhino tells New Rhino to meet him at the place he first became Rhino and the new guy takes off, his honour satisfied he'll get to kill the original and replace him.
This is where the story actually takes a unique turn. The original Rhino actually lies to the new Rhino. He tells Spider-Man he already said he was done and that he is not a liar as he goes on to enter the Witness Protection program. I enjoyed seeing the story take a unique turn that didn't require fisticuffs to resolve. Rhino was going to live happily ever after with his wife and we'd get a new Rhino to replace him - win-win.
Sadly, that didn't happen. Spidey sent the New Avengers to pick up the New Rhino at the fake out fight location he was told to meet at, but somehow - I'm not even sure how after reading it again - he knows it was a lie and that the Rhino is in police custody. New Rhino drops some hostages off a bridge to distract Spidey while he attacks Rhino's transport. This kills Rhino's wife and leads to his happy life ending and the required return to evil that comics requires. Not only did Rhino return to super villainy, but he actual blames Spider-Man for it all. It was a shame they spoiled what could have been a unique turn of events that showed some people can change.
It's not as bad as I make it out to be, though. I actually really enjoyed the execution and follow-up encounter with the new Rhino and, man, does Fiumara ever draw the hell out of Rhino, but the cause and reasons for the reversal was a bit sudden and cliched, even by comic book standards. "Bad guy tries to be good, someone messes it up, he has to go back to being bad again, despite how happy he was being good." They had an opportunity to do something different and threw it away.
Also, while I'd call this a great issue overall, it did try to address, or at least gloss over, the whole doctored photo and firing bit from last issue. Peter was on the unemployment line to kick off the issue and it seems they are calling this Parkergate for some reason. Regular people even recognized him on the street as the guy that doctored the photo. Was kind of odd as with how much crazy stuff goes on in the Marvel Universe, I'd figure a doctored photo ranks maybe a small blurb near the classifieds or some other obscure section. Would Peter faking a photo really be huge news when Asgard gets invaded or Galactus tries to eat the planet every other Tuesday? Some may be upset it was barely even addressed, but I was actually thankful they didn't really put a focus on it. It's a dumb story that shouldn't even have happened. Forget it and move on as quickly as possible is the best advice I can think of.
Verdict - Buy It. Very good issue marred by a few hiccups. Fiumara is an excellent artist and his image of the original Rhino back in action was amazing and worth the price of admission alone. The entire Rhino storyline, save the cause and reasons for his return to action, was top notch and, while I disagree with how they made him come back to crime, I still thoroughly enjoyed the issue and highly recommend it.
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason
I want to like this issue of Green Lantern Corps. No, that's wrong, I do like it. It's a very solid read with good art. I want to love it like I did the past few months of this stellar title, but just can't find any reason to get excited about anything that happened here.
What I think is the biggest problem with this issue is that Green Lantern Corps's story ended on Mogo during the Battle of Oa. We had everyone confronted by their dead loved ones, they said mean things to the heroes, we had epic moments, like Red Lantern Guy Gardner, Mogo socializing, and Kyle Rayner's death and rebirth, our heroes battled and triumphed over those Black Lanterns and saved the day and were primed to head back to Earth to kick Nekron's ass back into the abyss.
So, what happens in this issue that doesn't continue the trend of must read issues? Simply put, the cycle began all over again with a condensed rehash of the past six months of stories. Upon returning to Earth, our heroes are again confronted by dead loved ones - this time Ice and Alex DeWitt, who's comically inside a black fridge - and we get the same mean things meant to stir up emotions in the heroes, the same characters overcoming these emotions and defeating the threat and, again, a bunch of widescreen splashpages of the various Lanterns teaming up to take down the endless waves of Black Lanterns. In short, we read this story before and it was better then. This is the end of the event and we just went back to square one.
The one thing they did to progress the story of the event - the return of the Anti-Monitor and following up on the reveal of him powering the Black Lantern power battery - is taken care of in the span of a few pages, making a complete joke of the Anti-Monitor and forcing him back into the power battery, effectively removing a universe ending threat in a casual, Spectre-like manner. He was there for a cheap attempt at an "OH $%^#" moment. Looked awesome though and that rainbow, Dove filled bullet was pretty cool, but doesn't change the fact they are now jobbing the Anti-Monitor out every chance they get.
Verdict - Check It. Review aside, I didn't hate this issue. It's biggest flaw is the timing of the story and the general feeling that Tomasi already told his story, the Battle of Oa, and is now just killing time with the standard tie-in storyline all the Blackest Night tie-ins have been throwing together. Where it was an essential part of the story in previous months, it's merely a filler issue this time around.
Written by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Jeff Parker
Art by Reilly Brown & Ariel Olivetti
Herc died, Kirk cried and this is the required Requiem/Fallen Son/"This Hero Died, Buy a Recap of his History Out of Nostolgia" book. Wait a minute, this is a Hercules book. There's no way it's like that. Well, it is and it isn't.
In both life and death, Hercules is awesome. Other people's funerals consist of people crying, some sappy, overwritten euology and other sentimental crap. Herc's funeral consists of Thor talking about the time he and Hercules drank a bunch of Frost Giants under the table and then had sex with their women. This is followed up by all the women Hercules has been with coming forward to talk about how awesome he was in bed and his mastery of the Elven Tickler technique.
In short, it's everyone in the Marvel Universe talking about how awesome Herc is and it's everything you'd ever want from your own funeral and then some.
The lone bit of progression from the death of Hercules, plot wise, we see is in the form of Amadeus Cho calling out Athena for her part in Herc's death to which she then offers Cho leadership of the Olympus Group, which is vacant with the death of both Hera and Zeus. We'll have to wait until next month for Cho's answer.
After the first story came the Agent of ATLAS back-up. This was the first back-up that I really enjoyed from AoA. I just never got into AoA, despite trying on several occasions, but don't hate it or anything either. My like for this back-up was primarily due to their dealing with Hercules death and the distribution of his assets. This was done by Namora and the new Goddess of Love, Venus, at the request of Athena. Seems Herc has a lot of interesting assets, including a nudist colony, a sex toy company, 13 (yes, I know, only 13 was my first thought as well) breweries and a series of wineries as well as a tonne of Stark Industry stocks. They also go to the numerous homes and properties Herc owns, all occupied by the women he's met throughout the years. Some interesting insight into Hercules' personal life that we don't see that often. Funny, too.
Verdict - Buy It. While it IS one of those requiem issues we usually associate with a quick cash grab on the heels of a death, it's actually quite entertaining and one of the better Hercules issues in recent months, despite the main characters' absence.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Olivier Coipel
Sigh, at this point, I'm just going to outright say I don't like Siege and nothing that happens will change that. I'm practically biased from the outset and won't give it a chance to change that opinion. In fact, the only nice thing I can say at this point is the art is pretty. The sad part is I'll buy this event and the next one and the one after that because I'm the same reader both Marvel and DC have been preying on with the same tired stories for generations and I'm also the one complaining about them in most cases and that likely will not change until I quit reading comics altogether.
As you can imagine, I'm not thrilled with the book and this won't be a happy, by the numbers review. I liked parts of the book, like the Thor vs Sentry sections, but this review will mostly be nerd rage/list of things that, while small on their own, cumulatively annoy me about this story and most modern events in general. If you want a review telling you how awesome it is, probably best to hit up CBR or IGN at this point.
So, just why do I dislike this comic so much? Simply put, it's everything I view as wrong with comics. We've got a superthin plot that can't survive under the tiniest bit of scrutiny, a series of pin-up splashpages that look pretty as can be, but fail to tell a story, a story that consists of going from one big moment to the next with nothing really connecting it and every single moment looks as if the creators got together and threw out ideas for what they thought "looked cool" with no thought of consequence or reasons for happening.
Let's start with the opening pages. We've got a series of splashpages with narration over it. There's no story here, just pretty images. If you actually look at the images, you'll notice things like Captain America in a kneeling pose in midair throwing a shield with enough force to knock over the Iron Patriot, who is wearing one of the most technologically advanced armours capable of taking hits from Thor or the Hulk and Osborn himself has super strength exceeding that of Spider-Man. Cap knocks Osborn on his ass and takes him out of the fight for most of the issue with one shield toss.
I don't have to explain the absurdity of such an image, but it's not limited to just Cap. Ronin is in a Ninja Turtles jumping crossed swords pose with no one around him, one of the Secret Warriors is punching a cloud, Moonstone is taking a dumb in midair, and, well, you get the picture. It looks amazing and I'd want a copy for the wall, but there's no story here. The poses don't make sense in any context and you'd have to question the tactical knowledge of this group if their plan is to float down into the flight in a big group somehow (no one is telekinetic and barely any of them can fly, so not even sure what the heck is going on with the posing/falling motif) and bunch up so they could be easily taken out as a group.
Nitpicking, right? Just a cool splashpage, stop bitching, right? Every page is like this with few exceptions. Masters of Evil show up? Splashpage with people posing and shooting out starburst style from the center. Random battle scene? Characters pasted on top of each other. One page has Bucky shooting Cap in the back as they all charge at Iron Patriot. There are literally no other people in the way. Just Steve leading the charge with Bucky right behind him, gun firing at his back. One page has Iron Patriot shooting beams at Cap, then the next panel he's shown shooting straight upwards. The panel after that consists of a beam on a 45 degree angle hitting Ms. Marvel.
None of it makes any sense in terms of flow or storytelling. It's pretty as can be on first glance, but completely lacking in all other regards save the Thor vs Sentry sections, which I thought actually did a really good job of displaying the action.
This doesn't even address the fact that every single page consists of mystery clouds for backgrounds. It's either completely orange with dust clouds if it's in Asgard, blue with white clouds if it shows the sky or just pure white if they couldn't even be bothered to draw them. This has plagued the entire series and I didn't bother commenting on it for one reason or another, but I've finally had enough of it.
Up until now, it's just been one big ol' nitpick about art and the structure of event storytelling. Let's talk some actual faults in the story. First up, the President of the United States is shocked to see Osborn turn on him and his staff has no idea how to counter his going rogue. No idea at all. Their plans for countering Osborn going rogue consisted of calling Osborn to solve the problem. They are so inept, they are glad to see the wanted criminals, the Avengers, who up and attack their soldiers and destroying their various weapons and military vehicles.
So impressed with the Avengers return, they actually completely forsake the Initiative, calling it a failure on the spot, and cheer at the sight of Nick Fury, a man with more international warrants than anyone and the man they removed from Director of SHIELD because he started a war with Latveria. Hmm, the director of their super spy service started a war with another country filled with super powered individuals without the presidents orders. That sounds familiar. Hmm, what were they mad at Osborn for? Oh yeah, he started a war with another country without the president's approval. I love Fury as much as the next guy, but come on, both stories were even written by Brian Bendis. How the hell can he not see the irony here? How can he actually have them happy Fury is there?
Want some more fun times? Iron Man gets his old armour back. That's pretty cool and it looked amazing when drawn by Coipel. What's he do with the old duds? He hacks Osborn's armour and disables it on the spot, ending the threat then and there. I repeat, he hacked the modern, Extremis-styled armour with his old suitcase armour. In Fraction's Iron Man, Stark was on the run from Osborn for about 16 issues and didn't bother doing anything like that (he wasn't brain dead at the start of the arc or when Osborn took power and started using the suit). He's now using a crappier armour and managed to hack into it without the aid of Extremis or other measures.
Okay, comic book science, particularly when it comes to computers and "super hacking", is down right dumb and not worth fighting over or worrying about. Osborn is now armour-less. What's that on his face? Ah, he painted a goblin mask on his face. Brilliant. He invites all the media to watch him take Asgard, is a complete media whore that even the reporters in Siege: Embedded managed to ascertain the Iron Patriot being interviewed was fake due to not taking his face plate off, he expects to win this fight and knows that his helmet is likely to be removed at some point and he still paints his face with a goblin mask on it.
Let's ignore the fact that we've seen his faceplate up during combat (Dark Wolverine had him speaking with it up and no facepaint while Siege was going on for one example) and focus on the absurdity of this. You can't just blame stupidity on Osborn being insane. You can't just write an entire story that resolves itself by having the entire explanation as "LOL he's crazy". Osborn was suffering from dissociative identity disorder and likely some other mental issues. He was not straight jacket, Joker-level insane. He was not stupid. This is a man they set up as the ultimate behind the scenes benefactor of the Clone Saga, a man that in his original appearances tried to take control of the underworld of crime, a man that has been running HAMMER and the Dark Avengers and the Thunderbolts before that. A bit unhinged, but not drooling idiot insane nor downright stupid.
Another problem that arises is that the Avengers were all fighting the Hood's gang, HAMMER agents, the Dark Avengers and the entire Initiative (with some minor help from the Asgardians, whom only a few are a credible threat to any super heroes. Most are only average combatants by super hero standards). When everyone is ganging up on Osborn, not one super villain is seen. No one comes to help Osborn. The Sentry destroys Asgard and many heroes are thrown about during the commotion. Reporters, who were outside the military blockade filming from afar based on Embedded, are on scene getting close-ups of Osborn going insane with his goblin facepaint antics. The Sentry literaly took Asgard apart brick by brick. It was crazy destruction. The super powered villains, such as the U-Foes or Wrecking Crew, who are ridiculously overpowered and way out of the Avengers weight class at this point (Thor is off fighting Sentry, no one else is that strong), are no where to be found.
The entire sequence is written just to have Osborn revealed as a looney toon with his goblin face paint on and have it revealed to the world to vindicate the Avengers standpoint. No other thought was put into it other than that it would make a great reveal and imagery. It does not make sense in any capacity and the only response to the questioning of it is "don't have to explain it, Osborn is crazy". That is horrid storytelling.
To cap it all off, Osborn, who had been the driving force of stories throughout Dark Reign, the center piece and villain of the piece and foil of the heroes all year long, is then taken out by a single punch from Spider-Man as if he was a baseline human. Osborn is stronger than Spider-Man and has an insane healing factor. Spider-Man is close, but one punch take down of the villain and then a shifting of the event to the Sentry/Void makes no sense in terms of how to cap off the event. It's supposed to show that for all his power and armies, he's just a weak willed and minded individual, similar to how Dr Hurt was portrayed in Batman RIP, but it makes no sense when using someone like Norman Osborn.
Verdict - Avoid It. If you made it this far, you know I don't like this event and nothing anyone says will change that. Every little thing adds up to grate on me. I can see why people like it, I can see why they are enjoying it and I know many of my complaints are overblown and nitpicking/Comic Book Guy-level whining. I can't help it, but feel I've explained the majority of the things that bother me about this issue to the best of my ability and believe that they are valid complaints. Whether they bother you or not or if you put as much weight on them as I do is up to you. Personally, I just can't enjoy this issue or event on any level other than the superficial.