Thursday, March 25, 2010

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 03/24/10

A handful of comics, including the unexpected purchase of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's Nemesis #1, make up this week's Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews.  I won't bore you with the little details here, so hit the jump for the reviewy goodness.

Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Michael Gaydos

Two issues post-Parkergate and it's still as if Peter Parker didn't go out and doctor a photograph and submit it for publication.  I'm not sure how to react to this. I was just happy to forget it last issue with how terrible and out of character a story it was, but now it's just odd that they are moving forward as if it didn't happen.  It's as if the writers knew it was terrible and are intentionally glossing over it.  

Ignoring the fact they are ignoring Parkergate, this is another solid outing for Amazing Spider-Man.  It's not as good as the previous Rhino issue, but there are no glaring faults in it either.  Just a standard, safe issue of Spider-Man.  

Regarding the "new" female Scorpion, it was, in fact, Carmilla Black as I postulated in the previews this week.  She's sporting a new costume, at least to my knowledge, and is not a villain at this time.  They reference events from Avengers: The Initiative with the power cancelling S.P.I.N. tech, issues which I'm sure I've read, but then state she was given new powers due to being injected with it, resulting in her new tail extension and S.P.I.N. tech poison injections from said tail.  The costume is new, too.  Maybe I missed an issue or misremembered or maybe they just added this in behind the scenes, but it was odd seeing her and being told it was the same character when she's so radically different.

The premise of this story was that Peter followed one of his roommate's, Michelle, clients to an abandoned construction site based on the fact his spider-sense was going nuts when he met this person.  Turns out he was a bad guy (surprise!) and is working for the Hood.  The Hood wants to create a new Scorpion after acquiring Mac Gargan's (current Venom, old Scorpion) old costume from Norman Osborn.  Michelle's "friend" and dozens of other lackeys meet up and plan to fight it out for this costume.  The female Scorpion wants to steal this costume for, as we later find out, the Kraven family and meets up with Spidey during their seperate infiltrations.  She hits him with SPIN tech poison somehow (does his agility or spider-sense not work?) and fights ensue.  

Eventually, Spidey gets his powers back, Michelle shows up, he saves her as Peter and they reconcile as friends after months of her stereotypical 'bitchy roommate from a TV drama' personality.  Scorpion makes off with the old costume after Spidey lets her go (why, again?  Just because?).

On the art side of things, Gaydos does a great job here.  Very much in line with his Manhunter work and some of the better work I've seen from him in recent times (believe he's done a few average fill-in/one-shot issues on New Avengers, but might be confusing him with someone else).  

Verdict - Check It. Neither great nor terrible, this is a relatively straightforward Spider-Man story that, while has its flaws, is otherwise satisfying. 

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke

Like last week's Green Lantern Corps, this issue of Green Lantern feels like filler.  It's entertaining enough and offers some basic origins, and some first appearances, of the various corps' emotional entities (think Ion or Parallax), but the rest is just sound and fury.

To illustrate my point, the issue begins shortly after the end of Blackest Night #7.  Sinestro has just received the life entity/White Lantern ring and is primed to take down Nekron.  Instead, he just stands there waxing philosophical and describes the origins of the entities for their respective corps.  From there, we get some action, Sinestro "dies" and is reborn by the life entity and we end the issue with Sinestro posing and getting ready to fight Nekron.  No, I didn't make a mistake.  We are literally right back where we started the issue with no significant changes to the plot.  

So, I ask, is it more important that you enjoy the issue or that the story has some consequences?  Earlier issues were enjoyable and told meaningful stories that pushed this event forward while developing characters and subplots.  This issue, while still enjoyable to me, lacks any of those other things.  Outside of the brief entity related talk, it was like eating Chinese food - taste good and filled me up at first, but was left wanting more a few hours later.  

In fact, the only thing that really stuck with me post-reading was how much Johns continues to ram the John "I was in the Marines" Stewart retcon down our throats.  Every speech bubble from him seemed to have some kind of military reference and it was jarring and annoyed me to no end since, well, he was an architect up until Johns came on the book.  He's now completely defined by having been a Marine and possibly being the inspiration for Blackhawk Down based on previous issues when he was a well developed character before this.  It's similar to how Barry Allen is all about justice and being a cop with it now his sole motivation for being a hero over in Flash: Rebirth.  Just grates on me and almost forces me to rail against it with how it is being rammed down my throat.

However, Dough Mahnke did an outstanding job on the art here.  Some scenes aren't perfect, such as the later assault on the Black Lantern planet Xanshi scenes, but for the most part, I have no complaints with the art.  I really love Mahnke's Sinestro and Nekron and he draws most aliens that look, well, alien instead of palette swapped humans.  I'll probably attest the shaky scenes to the fact there is a veritable army of inkers on this issue, resulting in the discrepencies.

Verdict - Check It.  I doubt anyone will complain about this issue, as it is enjoyable, but it's also quite circular, ending where it began, and that makes it feel like filler to me.  Definitely worth checking out, but I don't think you'll be missing anything, storywise, if you skip it either.

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Steve McNiven

My shop owner must hate me since he recommended Nemesis to me.  I didn't even put it on my pull list, but he said "I'd love it" and, being the comic book buying drone that I am, took him up on the recommendation.  Even with this being, shockingly, only $2.99, I somehow feel ripped off.  

For starters, the biggest draw for me, personally, was Steve McNiven's artwork.  I'm a huge fan of his work, having followed him from Meridian to Marvel Knight's 4 and, later, Civil War and even Old Man Logan.  Millar was never the draw for any of the projects these two have worked together on, so it was up to McNiven to carry him.  Sadly, this is not his best effort.  

Actually, it's more of a group effort on the art, so I should make note of the colourist, Dave McCaig, and the fact McNiven appears to be inking his own work this time since there is no one credited as the inker.  On previous works, McNiven has paired with Dexter Vines and Mark Morales, among others.  Combined with the colouring choices, this lack of a proper inker has resulted in some really muted art that lacks any kind of pop or definition.  Nemesis is an obvious point of reference for this.  He's all white and the lack of any real inking to him makes him look like an unfinished piece of art.  The entire issue has the look of other artist's work coloured only using the flats - basic colours applied to sections of a work in a uniform hue.  These are later shaded and have other effects applied to them, but the flats lay down the basic colours of characters and other parts that make up the image.  Nemesis looks like they just applied flats and sent to press.

The colouring and inking isn't the only artistic flaw in McNiven's art. While stellar in the black and white previews, his art lacks something in the final offering, too.  It's good, but not on the same level as Civil War or even Old Man Logan.  Some faces are distorted or feature odd expressions and many backgrounds suffer the same fate as those seen in Siege - giant, billowing clouds taking up the entire background or it is filled with a solid or gradient colour, typically solid black in this case.  It's hard to blame it on lack of time either as this issue was originally scheduled for the first week of this month, meaning it was delayed before it released.  So, while still a cut above the run of the mill art and something few will complain about, it is a noticeable dip in quality in comparison to previous works on McNiven's part.

On the story side of things, Millar keeps up his part of the bargin.  The degree with which you will enjoy the story probably rests on your enjoyment of Millar's work in general, but, as someone who actually has enjoyed his work over the years (less and less as time has gone on it seems), I was far from impressed with this issue.

For starters, I don't care about any of the characters.  There's no motivations for anyone, no established backgrounds or nostolgia of Marvel or DC characters to fall back on and Millar makes no attempt to make us care about any of them.  Nemesis is still riding on the Heath Ledger Joker description as his only motivation and he lives up to it on some level with how he gets away with doing random acts of violence, like hijacking Air Force One or destroying skyscrapers, without anyone noticing his procurement of these explosive materials or the wiring of buildings and so on, much like how Joker could seemingly materialize hundreds of barrels of gasoline inside a hospital or two seperate ferries without anyone being the wiser. 

The foil for our protagonist, a Washington based super cop, is equally absurd.  We are told how great he is and how smart he is and how he's helped lower crime in his city by a staggering 60% somehow, but his lone act in this issue consisted of him displaying his "brilliance" by walking into a robbery scene and using a shotgun to blow away a couple of thieves that were holding hostages at gun point.  He's later told a super villain is coming to kill him - one that just finished destroying downtown Tokyo and has killed hundreds of people worldwide - and he just shrugs it off as if it's no big deal.

In short, both main characters are charicatures who seem to be designed solely with the idea of a summer blockbuster movie in mind, to which I admit they will likely be perfect fits.  In fact, this will be a great Die Hard 4 or Transformers-like popcorn flick.  It will have stuff blowing up, cool fight scenes, lots of swearing (and there is a lot of swearing here for those wondering) and it will likely entertain.  

However, this is a comic book.  It should not read like a movie storyboard pitch cut up and slapped between two covers.  It doesn't seem to use the medium it was presented on.  It's like a stop gap or tool for a director and reads as such to me.  I can just see Millar writing scenes with the intention of showing certain pages to movie execs and pitching it as a movie instead of him worrying about telling a story or the flow of a comic book.  

But it wasn't all bad.  Those opening pages with the Japanese cop and initial debut of Nemesis were pretty entertaining.  You can see the concept of the book started with that scene as it's the most developed one we get.  You get a sense as to what kind of personality Nemesis has and see the scope and tone of the project's beginning here.  It just all goes to hell pretty quickly after that promising start and ends in a rather absurd manner of Nemesis taking over Air Force One, flying it into a tunnel, somehow evacing the president and then ransoming him on live television - all in an attempt to bait this shoot first, ask questions later, shotgun wielding "super cop".  I can only ask, why bother when you've already taken out the President of the United States?  

Verdict - Wait for the Movie.  Or, at the very least, wait for the trade if you are still interested.  Like most Millar stories, this has a good premise and concept, but it lacks any kind of subtlty or execution.  Should make for an entertaining movie, but it's seriously lacking on the comic book side of things.

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adezzy131 said...

being that its still Women's Month, could we get a review of the return of Kitty Pryde?

brandon said...

You are giving GL too much credit.

This issue not only spun its wheels but it wasnt even all that entertaining doing it.

It's clear the creators ran this thing for 8 months with only about 5 months worth of story.

Considering this was the issue before the finale it was a massive disappointment.

Tossing Nekron out there and telling the reader he's powerful doesn't really make for good storytelling. It's as lazy and forced as the Stewart retcon and the jamming of Barry Allen into this event.

On the bright side I picked up Orc Stain and found it to be inventive and fun.

Anonymous said...

Millar is an awful writer.CBR gave this issue a 1star review/ Meh.

Kirk Warren said...

@adezzy131 - I'm not reading Uncanny at the moment, but Ryan will have a review of it later tonight, so check back then.

Nathan Aaron said...

You're looking for motivations and established backgrounds in a Millar comic? No no no! It's all about Boom-bang, Explosions, cursing, swearing, tastelessness, sex, and vapidness! THAT is Mark Millar. Mind you, I don't hate the guy. I just have to remind myself going into a book of his that is ALL you'll ever get. Nemesis I completely passed on.

I'm glad I'm not the only one that thought Green Lantern was eh. And (this is SO nitpicky fanboy LOL) but "Hey, we just blew up a planet, now all the pieces are falling to earth, so let's build a construct around Coast City (but obviously it must be around the entire WORLD, cause uh, duh) and then all the big chunks fall on the construct, and then uh, what do we do with them. We can't turn the construct off or they'll just keep on falling OFF the construct." Yeah, it's so ridiculous I'm complaining about this, but it bugged me for some reason. Sorta like when the Black Rock flew into the stone statue's FACE on Lost... but I digress. LOL

Ivan said...

Haha, "Wait for the movie" rating. Priceless.

Dickey said...

@brandon- Dear God do I agree with you on that statement about Nekron. If he had acted like some grand Machiavellian master up to this point maybe I could take it. But he's just stood around looking evil while his plan is clearly falling apart around him. Hopefully I enjoy the issue a little bit more than chinese food when I pick it up later today.

Anyone else notice that Millar played into the "He is racist!" complaints by having the first police chief he killed be an Asian guy? Why not make him Russian or Western European.

brandon said...

I read Nemesis and I have to positives: a) it was only $3 and b) its only four issues.

Millar could have easily gotten away with 8 issues of $4 books.

All things considered this could be a lot worse.

brandon said...

"two positives"

Nathan Aaron said...

PS - You're completely right with the there are WAYYYY too many inkers on Green Lantern statement. I truly hope this trend ends once Blackest Night is over. Because every issue lately that I open of Green Lantern starts out strong, art wise; and by the end I'm so offput by the art I can't even focus on the story. I mean, this issue had FIVE inkers, didn't it? (FOUR or five, I forget.)

By the end of this issue the pages were SO literally black I was happy they brought Sinestro back in just so I could SEE what was going on! LOL

Matt Ampersand said...

@adezzy131: Sorry, I haven't been reading Uncanny X-Men lately, so I can't comment on her return. Like Kirk said, I believe Ryan is going to be adding it to his Power Rankings, which should go up later tonight.

Scott Roberts said...

GL was really weak. Just makes me wish that they had kept it a GL and GLC cross-over only.

Radlum said...

GL was OK, but not as good as I expected, I guess they are saving Sinestro's scenes for Blackest Night. Also, where the hell is Driq? He just led John towards the center of Xanshi and then dissapeared, I was mildly annoyed by that.
Also, I honestly don't care for Mark Millar anymore. Ultimates 1 and 2 and Wolverine Enemy of the State/Agent of Shield may be some of the most entertaining stories I've read but since Ultimate Avengers and Nemesis I just don't care about his work

Allen G said...

I felt that GL was a massive letdown. I know that it's been mentioned a few other times in the DCU, but having Earth as the center of pretty much everything in the entire universe now is a bit silly. Other than that, considering this issue did nothing to further the story in any way, Blackest Night #8 is going to have about a dozen different stories to wrap up given the endings to the various Lantern and tie-in books.

As for Nemesis...well, I guess I was wrong when I thought Siege was the forerunner for worst comic of 2010 so far. I know it's just one issue in, but the whole thing is just ridiculous, and not in a good way.

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