Thursday, May 13, 2010
On tap for this edition of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews are reviews of Amazing Spider-Man, The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 and Siege #4. Hit the jump for the full reviews.
Written by Zeb Wells
Art by Chris Bachalo and Emma Rios
Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo (with some help on art from Emma Rios) have impressed me with their reintroduction of the Lizard and this issue is no exception. Last issue, we had a slow build up showing Curt Connors' job, his work with some lizards and the inner turmoil and gradual strengthening of the Lizard persona and eventual unleashing of the Lizard. It was engaging and, while a relatively standard rebirth for the Lizard, was well executed, leaving me waiting in anticipation to see what they did with the follow-up.
Well, the follow-up issue is here and, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, this issue was excellent as well. The Lizard is on the loose and Spider-Man finds out about it from Carlie, who stood him up on their date to do the whole CSI thing at Connor's lab, where the Lizard had killed half a dozen people. Spidey, knowing the Lizard hates Connor's son and has tried to kill him before, makes a bee line for Connor's son. He's in time to intercept the Lizard, but notices something amiss about the house they were outside and assumes the Lizard actually got to the boy before he could get there. He tags the Lizard with a Spider Tracer and lets him escape while he checks the house, only to find out 'a girl' took the boy instead.
The "girl" was Ana Kravinoff and she kidnapped the boy so she could sacrifice him to the Lizard. I actually had to re-read the sequence a couple of times because I couldn't believe they actually killed off the boy. The Lizard left Spidey when he picked up Connor's son's scent and proceeds to track him to the alley Ana stashed him in and then, to the protests of Connor's inner monologue and with a brief narration/fade away retelling Madame Web's prediction that Curt Connor's would die, the Lizard kills Connor's son.
I really enjoyed the execution of this scene. Now, many will likely wonder what's so different about this scene, which features a giant lizard man killing a small boy, and last week's Brightest Day hoopla over the child sex ring. For one, we never actually see the boy killed. It's clear that is what happens, but the scene is more about the "death" of Curt Connors than the death of his son. Connors is the Lizard, so doesn't really die, but after watching his son die through the Lizard's actions, the narration shows Connor's thought boxes torn in half and crumbling under the weight of the Lizard's actions and Ana and her brother, Alyosha, confirm the death of the boy and tell us the Lizard has been "made whole" through these actions. While killing children isn't exactly a nice action, it's tastefully done and not in our face. We don't have images of the Lizard tearing the boy apart or chewing on his bones. It's a fade away that is much more effective through the writing than it ever could be with the graphic depiction. The Brightest Day scene was not handled nearly as well as this and beat us over the head with senseless imagery.
Before ending, I have to make mention of Chris Bachalo's art. I have a love hate relationship with his work. There are times it fits perfectly the type of story being told and others where it's just so out of place. His work on Spider-Man in the Brand New Day era and this storyline in particular has been nothing short of spectacular. While Emma Rios handled a short prelude dealing with Kaine and Ana Kravinoff and was far from terrible work, my only complaint about this issue would be her artwork and how out of place it was in comparison. Give her an issue to herself and it would be fine, but it just didn't match up with the story being told nor come close to the style used by Chris Bachalo. A minor complaint since I did enjoy her work, but worth noting it is out of place at the same time.
Verdict - Buy It. Another fantastic reintroduction of one of Spidey's rogue gallery members and one of the best Lizard stories I've read in a long time.
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Sprouse
All you really need to know coming into this event is that Bruce Wayne was "killed" by Darkseid's Omega Effect in Final Crisis, which sent his body on a trip through time. This issue picks up shortly after the epilogue in Final Crisis showing Bruce Wayne in the past and laying Anthro, the First Boy (an old man at this point), to rest.
This first issue doesn't really go into the whys and wherefores of the situation, opting instead to just throw us into the perspective of the cavemen of this time period and their reactions to the 'bat god from the sky' among them. We can't even interpret what Bruce is saying throughout the issue as it's through the cavemen's perspectives and they don't understand English. It's effective and allows us to ignore the obvious questions we all have and focus more on the awesomeness that is Cave Batman and his kicking cro magnon ass at the dawn of man.
In this, the issue is pure fun. It's like an Elseworlds story mixed with some Silver Age fun and modern sensibilities towards storytelling. Batman is in the past and timeline be damned, he's going to kick Vandal Savage's immortal, caveman ass and dole out his own brand of justice, so just sit back and enjoy the show. To go into the details of the events would probably bore most as it's pretty much exactly what you'd expect of the immortal caveman Vandal Savage fighting a Batman trapped in that time period, but it's well written and well drawn and definitely worth experiencing for yourself.
On the 'return of Bruce Wayne' side of things, there's very little to work with to gauge what's happening. Superman shows up with a handful of heroes at the end of the issue using Booster Gold's time sphere. He states they found the cave paintings Bruce drew and claims that if Batman makes it back to the 21st century, "everyone dies" and that is the extent of information we get regarding what happens as Batman went all Quantum Leap on us and left for a new time period after defeating Vandal Savage.
From what I can tell, we don't have a Captain America: Reborn style "rebirth" for Bruce Wayne in the works. I believe this is the same Bruce we know each time, but it's implied he doesn't know or remember his past or what happened to him. As to why 'everyone will die', I can't honestly say. Is it New God related? Rebirth of Darkseid somehow? Virus from the past? Destroy the time stream type of shenanigans? Still too early for me to tell, but I'm definitely enjoying it so far.
However, there is one nitpick I have about the whole time travel thing. Superman comments about how they were too late to find Batman and that he'd left this time period. Why don't they just go back 10 minutes and find him midfight with Savage? They have the timesphere right there! Also, what about all that 'can't change time' stuff from Booster Gold's series? He couldn't save people in the past or stop major events like the crippling of Barbara Gordon. How would they stop/save Batman in the past then? Again, it's nitpicking. I was more surprised they actually enlisted Booster Gold's help since he's supposed to be completely anonymous and no one should know about his time travel super heroics than with the random inconsistencies of time travel itself.
Verdict - Must Read. Just a lot of fun to read. Few comics will put a smile on your face like this one did for me.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Olivier Coipel
By this point, you'll know of my reservations with Siege. I do not like the premise, I do not like the execution nor do I like how it's played out over the past three issues. With this final issue, I was hoping there would at least be some kind of conlusion to the past seven years worth of stories to warrant my sticking with the event (this was billed as seven years in the making remember).
Sadly, this final issue is as devoid of any merit as the previous three issues. The previous issue ended with Norman Osborn defeated in the span of a few pages and with the rise of the Void as the series' big bad that was to bring all the heroes together. He takes out the heroes in a single page, which forces Loki to use the Norn Stones, which he'd previously given to the Hood to power up his Masters of Evil, to save everybody.
Why does he do this? His internal monologue has him acting noble and saving everyone out of his own guilt for the events which have transpired. The real reasoning is found in Siege: Loki, which was a tie-in from a few weeks back and showed he had made deals with Mephisto, Hela and long dead tools of his grandfather Bor - all of which are not mentioned nor even hinted upon in this climactic conclusion to the battle with the Void. Loki, the architect of all this mayhem, simply becomes a good guy for no reason whatsoever. Even the events in Siege: Loki do not really make it clear that this is part of his intentions. I can't imagine him knowing the full extent of the Sentry's powers nor anticipate having to die by his hand with the use of the Norn Stones to revive and empower the fallen heroes. It's just bad storytelling to have the villain of the piece defeated because the other villain became a good guy with no explanation.
The Void is then assailed by the empowered heroes for a few pages, which amounted to a couple of lightning bolts and a few thrown shields by Captain America, before killing off Loki. Loki used the Norn Stones on the Void, yet they did nothing, which begs the question of how the Norn empowered heroes were in any way effective. It doesn't really matter either way since this was just a way to get a kill in to make Siege "matter". Nothing says big event without mindless deaths.
So, Loki became a good guy and Void killed him. What do our heroes do now that they are no longer powered up by the Norn Stones? They kill the Void by dropping a helicarrier on top of him. This completely defeats the Void and turns him into Bob Reynolds, who begs for everyone to kill him. They refuse, so he powers back up as the Void only to have Thor hit him with the hammer once and kill him. The end. I'm serious. That is how they defeat the Sentry/Void, the same guy that spent the last year in Dark Avengers pulling his best Kenny from South Park impersonation and died in just about every issue in the most outrageous manners, yet still returned no worse for wear every single time. He's had his head blown off, been imploded by a time travelling witch and even his molecules rearranged by the Molecule Man, yet came back from the dead each time. He even went toe to toe with the strongest Hulk encarnation ever in WWH and battled him to a stalemate using his 'good' persona. Here, he's defeated by having a helicarrier dropped on him and killed by a blow from Thor's non-Odinforce powered hammer. Words cannot describe the absurdity of this portrayal.
What makes this even worse is that they've established the way they could easily defeat the Sentry/Void while maintaining all credibility and with pre-existing characters introduced in the story. This character even had a reason for wanting to enter the fight and was built up over the first two issues as what I assumed to be the main reason for those earlier issues' events. The character? Phobos - the God of Fear and wielder of the god slaying katana, Grasscutter. He was kept out of the fight by Nick Fury for being a kid and watched his dad, Ares, killed by the Sentry on television during this event. I cannot fathom why they spent time on him, why they killed Ares, why they gave Phobos a Siege tie-in (Siege: Secret Warriors was focused entirely on him) or why they eventually decided it would be better that the Void be taken down by a freaking helicarrier exploding when they could have used something that made sense and was setup in earlier issues.
Well, if the entire Sentry/Void/Siege of Asgard made no sense, it at least set up the Heroic Age properly you ask? Sadly, no. There is no confrontation and/or reconciliation moments between Tony Stark, Thor or Steve Rogers. The entire premise of Civil War and the Super Hero Registration Act was washed away and, not learning anything from their past mistakes, they immediately strip down HAMMER and put a former criminal and terrorist - Steve Rogers this time - in charge of the world's defense and gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wants and to do things his way, just like they did with Norman Osborn. Hell, they even gave Iron Man his tower and armoury full of weapons of mass destruction back, despite the fact the government, not Norman Osborn, had branded him a criminal.
Verdict - Avoid It. Four poorly written issues with a rushed execution and a plethora of tie-ins just so they could retcon Civil War and all characterization for the Avengers to get them back to pre-Bendis era status quo. It's like One More Day except for the Avengers.