Thursday, July 29, 2010

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 07/28/10

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. 

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Eric Rupe said...

"Hammond wants the Orange Lantern and a brief battle ensues before he literally eats the power battery and becomes possessed by the entity."

BAH! I say! BAH! I think the whole point of a greed corps should be that it is represented by one individual because, you know...that's the whole point! Larfleeze should have the only ring, the only battery, control the entity AND be his own Guardian. Anything other than that is kind of missing the point to me. And bad writing.

Then again, the love corps can basically are dressed like space strippers so it's not like this is unprecedented from Johns.

Lucho said...

Batman The Widening Gyre #6 by Kevin Smith was just amazing. Even the art was good.

This is one of the best Bat stories in years.

MisterSmith said...

Action Comics #891: I think I've found one of my new favorite series.
Secret Avengers #3: The way I see it, I think this issue seems to suffer from the typical penultimate slump. Nothing happens but setting up pieces for the big finale. These days the reader usually gets four issues before that point, but with this only being a 4 issue arc, we're getting that slump a bit earlier than usual. Let's hope it pays off, at least.
Wonder Woman #601: Should I have read some of the pre-JMS issues before jumping into this series? I feel like I liked what I read, but I genuinely have no idea what's going on.

Radlum said...

I was bored by the previous issues of GL, but this one made me hopeful again. While Larfreeze seems more like a joke character, the characterization (for him, Saint Walker and The Question) was quite good and I'm looking forward to the next issue; however, I still dislike that all the entities are somehow gathered in the US mainland.
Regarding SA, I liked it more than the previous issue, mainly because Brubaker had less characters to worry about, seriously, the guy couldn't write a team book to save his own life, this is the most dissapointing book to come out for the Heroic Age; I hope the next issues are slightly better or I'm dropping this after this arc.

Steven said...

I'm pretty sure that was Death herself that Mister Mind was speaking with.

Lex is looking for a Black ring which is connected to death. Despite what he said, Nekron is not death personified.

Death of the Endless is the real deal, she'll be appearing in a mere three issues. I think she has a little object lesson to teach Lex.

brandon said...

Can someone explain to me the scene between Saint Walker and that woman (Montoya?)? I was fairly lost. I know of the Question and Zsaz (Batman characters) but nothing else about them.

I assume something occured in some other book I'm not picking up like Brightest Day.

Kirk Warren said...

@Steven - I'm not sure if Death would be the one to mastermind attacks on someone. Shes never interferred with people like that before. It's a possibility though.

@bradon - The original Question's name usually goes by Vic Sage, but his real name is Charlie Victor Szasz. He's not related to or connected to the Batman villain named Zsasz.

The woman is Renee Montoya. During 52, she was helped by the original Question. Renee had lost her jump, was depressed and became an alcoholic. Question brought her to Namda Parbet and she was trained and eventually foudn out he had cancer. He died and she became the new Question. During Blackest Night, Charlie's body becamea Black Lantern. She and Saint Walker brought his corpse back to its resting place. This segues into the whole hope entity,w hich was located there.

Kirk Warren said...

@MisterSmith - I dont think you really need to know anything from the previous runs. It's possible it might eventually touch on it, but if you have just a passing knowledge of Wonder Woman, you should be fine. She comes from a race of Amazon women that lived on Paradise Island. Gods kept it hidden from 'man' for years and they lived peacefully until Wonder Woman set out originally. JMS turns it on its head by having the gods abandon the Amazons earlier in the timeline. We pick up in the present with the story. So far nothing has been referenced from past stories other than the skewed origin.

nf said...

The meeting of Lex and Mister Mind in the saloon is perhaps my favorite moment/panel of the year.

brandon said...

Thanks Kirk. I guess that scene went more over my head than I originally thought! Holy continuity Batman.

Sean said...

I think JMS intended his Wonder Woman run to start out by wiping the whole slate clean since, of the Big Three, she was considered to have the densest mythology/is the most difficult to get into (which I don't agree with; her origin is just as easy to get as Batman or Superman).

So far, I think JMS is doing a pretty good job with laying the groundwork for his run, and certainly did a better job with this debut than he did with Superman, though I'm really sure that the whole new-costume reality will be wiped out by the time WW gets her iconic costume back. This does feel a bit like his Thor run, which is a pretty good thing in my opinion since his run there was amazing.

Action Comics had a great issue this week; Paul Cornell definitely has a great handle on the characters and it's looking like Action Comics will be the best book in the Superman family of titles. Pete Woods' art surprised me since he wasn't this good back in the New Krypton saga. His rendering of Mister Mind was wonderful.

natureboyHH said...

Cornell deserves to be in a high-profile book like Action Comics. The cancellation of Captain Britain and MI:13 is really untimely, so I'm hoping his stay at DC books will be a long and productive one.

Anonymous said...

@Kirk: hey man I hated rise of arsenal and fall of GA but you have to give a chance to GA2 I just read it and can not believe that we are talking about the same JTKrul writer, this was not awesome but was a great improvement (blackest night green arrow levels).

I hope you can give it a chance, I think that Green arrow's new run is redeeming itself on a slowly basis.

THE GREAT ANONYMOUS (that there is ha!)

laura said...

@the great anonymous

your brave to post hear after what you said about sam loeb

thokstar said...

Out of curiosity, are any of the reviewers on this site taking a look at JL:GL? It's probably the second best of the Brightest Day titles, behind only the Flash (and not that far behind it; the gap between Flash and JL:GL is much smaller than the gap between JL:GL and whatever you consider the third strongest Brightest Day series.)

Yes, Winick is writing it. Strangely, his last couple of months of work has been much improved from where he was when he left GA/BC.

Kirk Warren said...

@thokstar - I read the first issue. It was alright. didn't really hook me and I wasn't really interested in following another biweekly (was following Brightest Day at the time and picking up ASM 3 times a month).

twobitspecialist said...

I picked up Secret Avengers. When I got to the end of the issue, I thought to myself, "That's it?!"

I hope the payoff is good. At least it was only a four-issue arc.

Anonymous said...

@Laura: I think you are confusing me with someone else who is using the same "The rgeat anonymous" than me. I usually come to this place to post but have never offended anyone but I took the silliest nickname to put to myself. Sorry for the inconvenicnces but I'm not that one (do not even know what he said about sam loeb but I guess it was nothing kind)

THE GREAT ANONYMOUS (who will change that nickname for something better)

Anonymous said...


twobitspecialist said...

By the way, I must have gotten a different variant cover for SA #3 because mine had a wrap-around cover by Marko Djurdjevic. That was great stuff, as always.

Daryll B. said...

Kirk, what you said about Secret Avengers #3 is what this latest Green Lantern did to the Agent Orange arc for me... Come on, Johns just de-valued Larfreeze's power set... However I do agree that Saint Walker's interactions with the DC Universe have been great...

I liked Secret Avengers mainly because it does feel like the Avengers... No Bendis out of role characterizations... just action and intrigue. To compare it to Rise of Arsenal and One More Day is harsh... I looked at it as an aside for those that wanted a lil more background... and it was nice to see Deodato draw cowboys again...

Aside from those can somebody help me out with this question: I thought the crossover of Second Coming was supposed to streamline the X-Men story? Uncanny and Legacy are impossible to read together and make sense of especially as to what exactly Rogue's role is according to Cyclops...

Justice League....HAHAHAHAHAHA... James *shakes head*

Kirk Warren said...

@Daryll B. - I said it wasnt bad in the way OMD or Rise of Arsenal were, but still gets an Avoid It because of the filler nature. I specifically went out of my way to make it known this isnt the same league of Avoid It as those types of books are.

@twobit - I just used the single page cover for the review since Id have to crop the wraparound cover or it would take up too much space and squish the title. Saved myself some work just grabbing hte variant instead for review purposes. I got the wraparound cover, too.

Daryll B. said...

Thanks for the clarification Kirk. I get where you are coming from was just with those 2 other books, there are certain stigmas attached..

Greg said...

I am catching up on GL and GLC, I've read Rebirth and Sinestro Corps, what are the trades between SCW and Blackest Night for GL and GLC? Based on Amazon there looks like 3 trades each for GL and GLC, correct? Do I need to read anything between Rebirth and Sinestro Corps to understand Blackest Night? Seems like I wasnt missing much just reading Rebirth.
While I havent read anything I am assuming if Agent Orange is the only member of the orange spectrum corps, and his battery holds all the light as well as the entity, he should be as powerful as the entire Green Lantern Corps right? I'm guessing how he is portrayed though, as not entirely evil, simply greedy, so he doesnt use the power to its full extent unless something he wants is threatened, whereas someont like Luthor who is both greedy and an evil bastard could do serious damage? Just my take on it, without having read anything.
And why does Ganthet need a ring? Wouldnt that be like giving the Human Torch a pocket lighter?

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