Thursday, July 29, 2010
I've got four reviews to hold you over for tonight's Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews. There's Action Comics, Green Lantern, Secret Avengers and the surprise pick of Wonder Woman. I hadn't planned to buy the comic, but was liking what I saw on the rack, so added it to the list. Hit the jump to see what I thought of it and the others!
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Pete Woods
This issue defines fun. It was pure, unadultered fun. Paul Cornell and Pete Woods take the tried and tested dream sequence/power trip formula as a vehicle for showing what makes Lex Luthor tick and turns it on its head with a mental battle of wits between Luthor and Mister Mind.
On top of this, Cornell adds a 4th wall breaking aspect to Mister Mind's attempts at controlling/dominating Luthor's mind with narrative directed at the reader (or doubling with the reader and a possible third party setting up the attack on Luthor, but primarily its for us). This simple technique really pulled me into the comic and had me smiling as everything moved in and out of various dream sequences. It gave me a feeling of control, like I was steering the direction of the story, despite just following along while reading.
Getting back to the focus on what makes Lex Luthor tick, the dream sequences boil down his character to the bare essentials. We can see the parallels between Luthor and Superman, how he perceives Superman and himself, how he views the people of the DCU and so on. It's a tour de force of Luthor's psyche in the span of 22-pages and up there as one of my favourite Lex Luthor stories ever. Some examples of these insights into Luthor's mind are his stealing fire from the gods, who look like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, in an ancient Greek setting or his Frankenstein monster sequence, which turns out to be him viewing himself as the monster. These were all entertaining dreams and when Lex and Mister Mind finally, the story just gets even better. Mister Mind in a cowboy costume is one of my Moments of the Week.
On the art side of things, Pete Wood killed on this issue. I never really considered him a great artist before this. Always thought of him as the average go-to guy for quick, solid art delivered in a timely manner. Never wowed me before. He really wowed me with this issue. Expressive, vibrant and clean art. He looked like he was having a ball drawing all these crazy dream sequences and it shows in the quality of the art. Great stuff.
Verdict - Must Read. A truly fun comic that captuers the essence of the classic Silver Age tales while maintaining modern sensibilities. A great insight into the character of Lex Luthor and how he perceives himself and the world around him.
Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Doug Mahnke
Larfleeze is writing a list of things he wants from Santa Claus in this issue. I think you know how this review is going to play out from here. I'll praise Larfleeze, ramble about how I want a Larfleeze Christmas Special, praise Doug Mahnke's art and tell you this is a Must Read comic. If you're happy with knowing that, read on. Otherwise, I'll just assume you went off to buy and/or read this issue.
So, yeah, Larfleeze. I'm having a tough time deciding if I like him or Dex-Starr more. I think Larfleeze has more development and face time in the actual comics than Dex-Starr, so he's got an edge over the rage filled, homocidal cat, but Dex-Starr is a cat. A rage filled cat. Tough call either way.
So, as you can expect, Johns putting the spotlight on Larfleeze was definitely the high point of this comic for me. We picked up the story with Hal Jordan down in North Branch, Minnesota investigating some local problem. We quickly find out it's Larfleeze and he's busy stealing everything not nailed down from the local towns people. As soon as Hal entered the forest and all you can see are Christmas tree lights adorning the trees, I nearly lost it. I had to put the book down I was smiling and giggling like a madman. The scene just got better and better as we find out Larfleeze is making a wish list for all the things he wants from Santa Claus and he and Hal Jordan get in a fight over whether or not Santa really exists and, well, it was just perfect in every way.
The discussion between the two quickly shifted to the entity that is contained within Larfleeze's power battery. Hal knew of it from his brief time as an Orange Lantern and wanted to find out how Larfleeze imprisoned the entity. They were cut off by Hector Hammond, who was freed by the mysterious Guardian-like being that's been shown collecting entities earlier in the issue. Hammond wants the Orange Lantern and a brief battle ensues before he literally eats the power battery and becomes possessed by the entity. Surprisingly, Ophidian, the avarice entity, possessed Hammond looked pretty damn awesome. I was a little worried that I'd be disappointed by Hammond's inclusion in this story, as I'm not overly fond of the character even when Johns has written him, but he was great from start to finish here.
The only other major happenings in this issue dealt with Saint Walker and the Question returning the remains of the original Question to Nanda Parbet after Charlie's body had been raised from its grave there as a Black Lantern during Blackest Night. I enjoyed the conversation between the two as they discussed the previous Question and what he meant to Montoya. The scene ended with the Hope entity, Adara, appearing in the skies above them.
If I had to complain about anything in this issue, though, I think it would have to be the power levels of Larfleeze. He's quickly turned into a bit of a joke character. He's still regarded as quite strong, but his constructs were being torn through by Hal Jordan earlier in the issue, despite Larfleeze's constructs supposedly being strongest against the green light, as shown in the Agent Orange arc, and Hector Hammond was able to take his power battery from him quite easily. Perhaps the constructs just acted of their own accord and only overpower Green Lanterns when Larfleeze is serious about it? It's a really minor thing, so barely worth even mentioning.
Another interesting tidbit was Larfleeze was shown sitting on a Sayd construct (she's the former Guardian of the Blue Lantern Corps that joined Larfleeze as a reward for him helping stop the Blackest Night). Hal questioned Sayd's whereabouts, but Larfleeze only says she's on an errand. Now, Lex Luthor was able to create his own orange constructs in Blackest Night, but Larfleeze has only used constructs of those people he has killed so far. Is his rather vague answer to Hal, combined with the Sayd construct, reason to believe she's dead? Or is it just what he says and she's off doing something else?
Verdict - Must Read. A Larfleeze centric issue that has him ranting about Santa Claus and making a wish list? How could this not be a Must Read? We even get to see the avarice entity in action. Great issue that continues a string of high quality, must read issues for Green Lantern.
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Mike Deodato
Secret Avengers kicked off with a great first issue that introduced the team in fun, action packed sequences and built up a lot of momentum with a great premise, lots of action and by not getting bogged down with the seemingly mandatorysix issue long team introduction story arc that most team books seem to regurgitate every time a new book or team is formed.
However, much of that momentum was lost with the second issue as the story floundered about and never really went anywhere. Our team was on Mars, they were looking for Nova like they were in issue one, and there was little in the way of plot progression. I'm sad to report that issue three suffers from the exact same problems as the second one did.
By this, I mean that the entire issue felt like filler. The plot did not progress, we have not learned anything new or pertinent to the plot and what little action we did get was pointless and of the variety that just felt like was there to give Deodato something different to draw or to try and satisfy readers. There were some implications towards life being on Mars prior to Earth, there being multiple Serpent Crowns used by the Martians and how some old Archons, creations of the Watchers, stopped the Martians from summoning ancient evil gods (I assume the serpent god Set) and how Nova, under the control of the crown he wears, was going to finish the job the Martians set out to do, but this was kind of what we already knew. The small bit of backstory/explaining we got didn't add anything to the story. Ancient evil possessive crown gonna summon some bad stuff. The whole Martian civilization thing wasn't really needed and only brought the story to a crawl for those brief exposition filled pages.
From an art standpoint, I feel like Mike Deodato is wasted here. This is two issues he's done nothing but draw people standing around or the odd page of Steve Rogers doing some flips while fighting generic foot soldiers. His art looks great, in that super hero posing way of his, but the story doesn't really lend itself to his art style at this point in time. Maybe if the team ever engages Nova or other super powered individuals or the plot progresses towards that end goal in some way, it might lend itself to his art style, but people standing around all issue is not what Deodato's art is best at conveying in my eyes.
Verdict - Avoid It. While this is not Rise of Arsenal or One More Day level of bad, nothing happens here. You could skip this issue entirely and come back next month without missing a beat. I feel like I've wasted time reading it, despite not hating it or finding anything outright offensive about it. That's not how you should feel about a book you spent $3.99 on, so it gets an Avoid It from me.
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Don Kramer
What did I think of J. Michael Straczynski's debut issue of Wonder Woman? How was the new status quo? To be honest, it was surprisingly good. I was not expecting to enjoy this as much as I did and I'm getting a bit of a JMS Thor vibe from this first issue. It's not quite the same as Thor, which had the benefit of years of downtime without an actual ongoing or living Thor in the Marvel Universe for him to rebuild from, but it's definitely got the same feel as it.
Much of this issue was dedicated to filling in the blanks of Wonder Woman's new origin. We find out what happened to Paradise Island and see how man came to their island and murdered Hippolyta and Wonder Woman being spirited away before the final battle. It's a solid premise and leaves a lot of questions. Who was the mystery man with the lasso of truth leading the men against the Amazons? Why does it burn his skin when he wrapped it around his arm? Is it another god? Ares? I hated the fact they used the cliched 'everything but this one character that is the focus of the entire flashback is perfectly visible' effect by having him completely blacked out, but I'm still quite intrigued by him and want to know why he did this or if he was merely an instrument of the gods that robbed the Amazons of their protection in this altered timeline.
As I mentioned, this issue reminded me of JMS's Thor. This is easily seen in the quest-like story of Wonder Woman attempting to find the remaining survivors of the Amazons that escaped Paradise Island before its destruction. Much like how Thor had to track down his fallen Asgardian brethren and free them from the human hosts they embodied, Wonder Woman is busy tracking down the other Amazons before they are hunted down and killed.
Along the way, we saw Wonder Woman's new powers in action. Well, not really 'new' so much as weakened. She can no longer fly and it was an entertaining sequence when she was informed she used to be able to fly in her old life. She's still quite durable as she was able to jump from a plane and survive the impact of a several hundred meter fall to the desert below. We didn't really see her do much else, so it's hard to gauge just how powerful she is.
Regarding the new costume, it was a nonfactor for me. It didn't negatively impact the story and isn't really deserving of all the negative attention it's received. I don't like the costume, personally, but I don't hate it or find it out of place in this new continuity they are building. It's clear it's only temporary as well since there were flashes of the 'old' Wonder Woman on several occasions and it's pretty obvious we'll eventually get to the bottom of this new continuity and fix everything at some point.
Verdict - Buy It. I didn't much care for the short preview of this story found in issue 600, but this was an entertaining read that has a lot of potential for future stories. Reminds me a lot of JMS's work on Thor, which is a good thing, and this is very reader friendly with the focus on a new continuity and different enough that if you've never enjoyed Wonder Woman before, this might be a good book to try out for a different interpretation.