Thursday, April 1, 2010
The fifth Wednesday of the month is typically pretty light for comics. Occasionally, we get a 5th week event or other themed books, but it looks more like they spaced things out this month and we end up with only a handful of books to read to end March. Blackest Night #8 is probably the most noteworthy for most people and I've got a review of that on tap. Other reviews include Roger Stern's return to Amazing Spider-Man with issue #627 and an excellent Inhuman story over in Fantastic Four #577. Hit the jump for the reviews!
Written by Roger Stern
Art by Lee Weeks
I've been looking forward to this issue ever since they announced Roger Stern and Lee Weeks were on board Amazing Spider-Man for a follow-up to the classic "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" story from the 80's. That story is one of the universally accepted 'all time greats' for Spider-Man and a personal favourite of mine as well. To say I was excited for this issue would be an understatement.
However, the problem with older creators returning to books to tell a follow-up to their glory day stories is that, typically, they suck. They either try too hard to be great or simply do not live up to the original. It's as if they are trying to tell an instant classic and fail to address the basics of storytelling.
Thankfully, this return to Amazing Spider-Man by Stern was a riveting opening salvo. Combined with Weeks' art, I was quite impressed with just about everything in this issue. Solid story, though there are a few hiccups I'll touch on in a bit, with great art and a relatable Peter Parker mixed with some fun Spider-Man scenes and an intriguing take on the Juggernaut theme.
I think my favourite part of the issue was just how much the story sucked me in. I just kept flipping pages over and over until the end and was left wanting more, but in a good way. Not the 'that's all I get for my $3?' way. It was a timeless Spider-Man story, too, which is how they should be told. Sure, we have some Brand New Day characters, like Carlie, floating around, but I could stick this issue in any order for my Spidey collection and it would read like just another adventure for Spider-Man. A really good adventure compared to much of his history, but a great, timeless Spidey story nonetheless.
Another thing I loved about the issue, which ties into my favourite part above, was the pacing. This was a well paced story. It just keeps building and build towards the end. There are some highs and lows sprinkled throughout, but all add to the ever increasing pace of the story until the final reveal of just who 'stopped' the Juggernaut at the end of the issue.
But with how much I enjoyed this issue, I have to admit, there were some minor flaws in it as well. For starters, the "oh no, who could ever do this to the Juggernaut?" plot has been done before. Many times before in fact. It's actually very similar to what happened during the whole Onslaught storyline from the 90's. I don't want to harp on this too much, as just about every super hero story can probably be traced to a previous story and most everything is a repeat of something else, but it just stuck out as an obvious cliche to have the 'unstoppable" Juggernuat stopped like this.
The other thing that bothered me was the fact Peter's being fired for doctoring photographs, in which J. Jonah Jameson states he will make sure Peter never works in publishing again, is not referenced in the least. In fact, Peter shows up at the Juggernaut's landing site with a press pass for Frontline and tells the police he's taking photos for said newspaper. Carlie mentions that his being fired when she tries to take him out for a lunch, but that's the extent of how that development was addressed. Again, I'm not sure how I feel about this. I think it was quite possibly the worst thing to ever be done to Peter Parker and would like to see it forgotten and/or retconned (let's blame Chameleon), but I'm also perplexed with how cavalier they are about it. It's like they wanted something to pitch to the media (Peter got fired in this bad economy!) and then had nothing else to say or do for that story.
Verdict - Buy It. Very strong opening issue to this storyline. Loved the art and story and highly recommend picking it up.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis
What do I say about Blackest Night #8 that I haven't said about previous issues in the series? This was supposed to be the final part of the story. The big finale. Everything should have come together and Johns and Reis should have wowed us with a jaw dropping conclusion. Instead, we got some hamfisted morals rammed down our throats, Hal Jordan hero worship, either rushed or sloppy art compared to earlier issues of this series, a Care Bear Stare and a bunch of unexplained resurrections.
Let's start with my biggest gripe about this issue - Hal Jordan is awesome. Wait, no he isn't. We're just supposed to buy into how great he is. For starters, he's quoting Latin poems to begin the issue in an attempt at being deep and oh so smart. It sounds so wrong coming from him I had to double check to see if someone else was doing the narrative.
From there, he goes on to mock Sinestro for failing as a White Lantern, takes the Entity himself and then starts bringing all his friends back to life in the form of White Lanterns before leading the charge against Nekron. What the hell was the point of making Sinestro the White Lantern and then spending an entire issue of Green Lantern - one in which the cover has a speech bubble stating "You were expecting someone else?", joke about how everyone expected Hal to be the White Lantern - and then come right back in Blackest Night and have him fail spectacularly against Nekron before Hal Jordan comes in to save the day? How is that even remotely good storytelling?
Speaking of Nekron, he's literally a phantom menace that never materialized in this event. Even here, at the very end of the story, he is never a credible threat or even something to fear for our heroes. He punks out Sinestro to kick things off, then Hal swoops in, there's some random Care Bear Stares from the numerous corps on hand (they couldn't take down the Black Lantern Battery this way, yet now it works on Nekron himself?) and then he just disappears after one blast because they resurrected Black Hand, his only tether to this world. Let me ask a quick question here - what happens when Black Hand dies again?
And to go along with the impotence of Nekron, what about the entire army of Black Lanterns? They were useless and show up on like two pages total for some splashpage and mass character images. Black Lantern Superman should have torn most of the DCU heroes apart, yet is shown throwing one punch the entire time since he was turned into a Black Lantern. They've got some of the biggest hitters in the DCU as Black Lanterns right now and they did nothing. The main threat, Nekron, did nothing. They all stood around while the same tired story of a hero dying and becoming a Black Lantern played out for 8 issues and then the event ends with a goddamn Care Bear Stare from a magic white entity that resurrected the characters the writer wants to play with in the future.
And now that we're on the topic of resurrections, those spoilers from earlier in the day turned out to be correct in reference to the people that were revived. Don't ask me how anyone was revived. The Entity (what they call the White Lantern entity) joins with Hal, they turn Superman, Impulse, Wonder Woman and the other 'reclaimed' Black Lantern heroes into White Lanterns, effectively resurrecting them again, and then go on to revive other arbitrary or pet characters of Geoff Johns. Most are either Silver Age originals, like Captain Boomerang, or the more recent characters Johns has put his mark on, such as Maxwell Lord or Osiris. Why are they revived? Because. Why these particular characters? Because. Why no Ted Kord Blue Beetle (or insert other favourite character not revived)? Because. In short, they are revived because they want them revived. And it also lets them make more White Lantern toys. Gotta milk this thing for all it's worth.
My final complaint, as anything else is really just nitpicking at this point, is the art. This is some subpar art if I ever saw it. Open up Blackest Night #1 and try and tell me this is anywhere near as good as that issue. There are roughly 40 pages to this issue. I think 5 panels - panels, not pages - have backgrounds. Every other panel consists of clouds of billowing dust and smoke or random cross hatches or gradient fills. The most stunning pages, such as the "LIVE" splashpage showing off the recently revived heroes, also suffer from this. Every page looks like a damn character sketch pasted onto the page with some clouds thrown in as a background. There are some pages with dozens of characters on them. This was used back in Sinestro Corps War to great effect. Here, they look like they are just trying to fill space. There's nothing awe inspiring or jaw dropping about it. It looks like they tried to fit as many characters on one page as they could with no real rhyme or reason behind the placement of anyone but the most forefront characters. In short, it's pretty looking at a glance, but is completely lacking on any kind of closer examination.
Verdict - Avoid It. I loved the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps issues of this event. They were extremely well done. This...thing...though? No, I can't recommend it. It's the antithesis of good storytelling and the equivilent of Michael Bay's Transformers movies. Some action and eye candy along the way, but an empty and vapid venture nonetheless.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dale Eaglesham
This issue was an unexpected surprise. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this was like a modern day Lee/Kirby story. Everything about the issue was what I expect from a Fantastic Four comic, from character reactions to world building to, well, it was just fantastic.
Want an example of what I'm talking about? The issue starts with something going down on the Moon. We're just chilling and talking over some tea and it leads to a casual, "who's up for a trip to the Moon?", from Reed and then, bam, we're in a rocket flying through space. It sounds pretty mundane for a super hero comic or something you see every day, but it just worked so well and, honestly, if you could, you'd be in your spaceship taking trips to the Moon every other day, too.
From there, the Fantastic Four meet up with four new races of Inhumans, each from a different part of the galaxy. This where all that world building talk from earlier comes in. In the span of a few pages, Hickman has completely sold me on these new races of Inhumans. They aren't replacements and are woven into the history with relative ease. They are simply other attempts by the Kree to create 'Inhumans' on different worlds in their attempt to find a cure for their evolutionary problems. These Universal Inhumans are made up of four tribes led by four queens, each of which is subserviant to their king, in this case, Black Bolt. They await his return from Hala, unaware that he has died fighting Vulcan. Their plans for the future? Reclaim their holy land of New Hala. What's New Hala? Oh, just Earth. No big deal.
I'd like to make note that the introductions of these new Inhumans was not just some random info dump or Wikipedia article aimed to fit them into continuity. They don't read like a retcon nor do they clash with any previous information to my knowledge. They are just a brilliant addition to the Inhuman mythos and I loved reading those last half a dozen pages or so that introduced and built up towards the New Hala reveal.
Also, while the recent Mole Man/Moloids story suffered from a rushed pace that seemed to leave little time to explore the vast underground worlds they were trying to show off, this issue read perfectly to me. I never felt like it was moving too fast or too slow and it didn't feel like I was having continuity porn fed to me to explain how these new Inhumans work nor did it feel like I was left wanting either.
Verdict - Buy It. Excellent issue and probably one of Hickman's strongest yet. Feels like what a Fantastic Four issue should be - cosmic adventure and exploring new races and worlds. One minute they're sipping tea, the next they are on a rocket to the Moon and meeting new alien races. Never feels forced or like they are shoehorning new races into the backstory.