Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 08/04/10

How was everyone's weekend?  I managed to get out and see Inception and was blown away by it.  Great movie.  If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend setting aside a couple hours this week and seeing it while it's still in theatres.  Small talk aside, we've got comic reviews after the jump, so have at thee.

Written by Jonathan Maberry
Art by Scott Eaton

This issue marks the conclusion to Doomwar, a book that has typically dominated the Moments of the Week every week it has been released (couldn't find any scans for this issue or it would have been featured on several occasions this week as well).  In fact, I wasn't even following Black Panther and had no intention of picking this event up until I saw some of the fantastic moments in that first issue.  To say I've been anticipating the conclusion of this story would be an understatement.

So, how did the conclusion hold up?  To be honest, I'm conflicted.  On the one hand, the story is perfect up until the very last page or two.  Dr Doom's masterplan has come to fruitition, he's super powered and channelling all of the vibranium on Earth and we're all set for a climactic battle between the good guys and Doom.  We get that battle, it's going great and concludes with a true status quo shattering development for both Black Panther and the country of Wakanda.  What goes wrong, you ask?  The good guys basically tell Doom that since they stopped his evil plan and don't want to kill him or continue this war, he should go home and remember they can stop him again any time they want.  The end.  They don't take Doom into custody or have Doom make a last second escape or anything like that - they just leave him there with his army and plan stopped.

However, despite this one small misstep with the conclusion, I have to say, I really enjoyed this series.  I can't wait for the hardcover to come out as it's ranking up there with Annihilation as an event and story that just came out of nowhere and wowed me with every issue.  The art from Eaton was excellent as well.  Just a complete story that, while born from the Black Panther ongoing, has no real ties to continuity and can be read and enjoyed on its own merits.

My favourite part of this issue was the climax of the Doomwar.  T'Challa loses the physical confrontation with Dr Doom, who is now channelling the power of all the vibranium on Earth, including his improved armour, and is nearly unstoppable.  So T'Challa does the only thing left to him - he destroys all of the refined vibranium by using the new power source for Doom's vibranium based armour.  While we could say this is a bit deus ex in how convenient it resolves the plot, the part I enjoyed the most was the conversation from the build up to and aftermath of this action between Doom and T'Challa.

Doom made a point of telling it how it is - Wakanda has depended on the vibranium in every possible way, from their economy to military to their technology.  One great line was about how they would not even know what they could be without a simple metal rock from outerspace that has defined their entire culture for the past 10,000 years.  T'Challa agrees with him and it leads to the destruction of the vibranium (there's still some unrefined ore let in the remnants of the meteor in Wakanda, but even Reed Richards states there is not enough to sustain their economy, military or technology).  For the first time, I actually care about what is happening to Black Panther and the fictional country of Wakanda.  This is a huge development and something I want to see the fallout from.  How do they cope with this loss of heritage?  Do they open up to the world?  Does the world want to accept them now?  They've always been isolated and refused to share the vibranium with other countries.  I want to know what happens next.  That's a great ending to me.  If only they hadn't just walked away from Dr Doom (just a simple "I'll get you next time Gadget!" type villain escape would have sufficed if they didn't want to take Doom off the board of the Marvel Universe at large), this would have been perfect.

Verdict - Must Read.  There's some minor issues with the ending that prevent me from outright proclaiming this a perfect issue, but Doomwar entertained and is the early favourite for best event of the year.  It was epic in scope, self contained, filled with great character moments, and every issue delivered in spades.  No decompression, no filler or fluffing up of the story for the trade - just a well written and drawn comic that's been criminally ignored by the majority of comic fans.

Written by Gail Simone
Art by J. Calafiore

+ Fun, done-in-one Elseworlds-like story set in the Wild West with the cast of the Secret Six in western gun slinger roles.
+ Calafiore's art was excellent. Really took to the Wild West setting and delivered some great gun fights.
+ Still that delightfully twisted sense of humour present in this alternate setting.
+ Deadshot stole the show here with Jeannette.  Their encounter at the saloon and the fight with Deathstroke later in the issue were fantastic.
- What was the point of this?  I don't mind random one-shots like this, but we had a filler issue last month and now this one.  We were in the middle of a story with Catman and Bane was off with a new Secret Six team while the regulars dealt with that Catman story.  Where's the aftermath of what happened with Catman?  Where's Bane's team?  What happened to the Secret Six ongoing story?

Verdict - Check It.  Definitely a great read, but completely random and leaves readers hanging in regards to the main story that has been put on hold for two straight issues for what amount to filler issues.  Secret Six fans will still love this issue despite the filler nature of it, but that's about it.

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Alessandro Vitti

+ Excellent pacing between the present day Dugan and his recapping of the untold events that led to the destruction of the ex-SHIELD/HAMMER helicarriers in China. 
+ Like the previous issue, the Howling Commandos reunion scenes stole the show.  
+ Some interesting dialogue between Pierce, leader of one of the caterpillar teams, and Dum Dum Dugan regarding how Nick Fury is getting all of this information on Hydra's operations.  Vague references towards Leviathan and possible inside agents and a great conversation.  Shows both Dum Dum and Pierce aren't just common foot soldiers - they know there's more going on that they aren't privy to.
- While we found out a little more about the attack on the Hydra base, it was kind of disappointing to end this issue at the exact same spot as the last with the helicarriers coming under attack and crashing as they tried to escape.  
- Little bit of middle issue syndrome with the story mainly moving everyone into position for the climax.  Hard to really complain about it with this being the second of a three part story though.  For reference, this didn't feel like filler or a waste of an issue either.

Verdict - Buy It. Great read with few complaints. 

Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Billy Tan

I was quite happy with how Shadowland began.  The event read like an event with an easily accessible story that didn't waste time recapping past events and gave us several great moments.  It wasn't a perfect issue, but combined with the Daredevil tie-in, made for a complete experience.  The second issue of Shadowland continues with that theme, but I had some problems with it compared to the first issue.

The biggest concern is that Daredevil is being written a bit too 2-dimensional for my liking.  In the Daredevil title, he was shown as dealing with the struggle between his current direction as leader of The Hand and, post-Shadowland #1, with the killing of Bullseye.  Here he is more of a generic bad guy.  There isn't any real insight into his thought process and a lot of the scenes felt forced just to get Daredevil fighting with the Heroes 4 Hire + Spider-Man.  I still like the direction, but it doesn't read as well as the morally ambiguous line Andy Diggle had been stradling for Matt Murdock since he took over as leader of The Hand in the Daredevil title. 

As I mentioned, though, Shadowland proper reads exactly like a prototypical event book.  It hits many of the notes you'd expect from an event and doesn't bog you down with needless exposition or backstory.  In this regard, I think it works quite well as the spine of the event.  If the Daredevil ongoing continues to add the meaty bits for the regular Daredevil readers, I feel the event will more than deliver in the long run. 

Along with the flimsy villain portrayal for Daredevil in this issue, there was an odd bit with Kingpin summoning Ghost Rider.  Billy Tan draws an amazing Ghost Rider and it was definitely a great visual to see him in this issue, but the reasons for getting him into the event don't really work for me.  Ghost Rider is apparently an ancient enemy of The Hand and Kingpin stole a scroll from The Hand and used it to summon him.  Ghost Rider then heads out to fight The Hand.  His power set seems beyond the scope of the event and other characters as well.  I'm not sure how he will fit into the story other than as an excuse for rolling Ghost Rider out to dust him off after his ongoing ended and to add another tie-in to the rapidly expanding event.

Verdict - Check It.  Overall, this issue was fairly average.  I'm still enjoying it, but there are flaws that may hurt the event in the long run if they aren't corrected in future issues.  Things like Daredevil's weak motivation or the senseless fighting with other heroes - these make for an easy access event, but lack the depth and characterization necessary for an event of this size.  I'm hoping the ongoing Daredevil can continue to compliment this series as it did with the first issue last month. If not, this could fizzle out quickly.

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Christine Hanefalk said...

Regarding Shadowland, in the days that have passed since I first picked it up (and reviewed it here), I've come to realize that there might not be a way to do this story in a way that will be 100% satisfactory to Daredevil fans (I talk a little bit more about what I feel is lacking with the event in my in-depth review at The Other Murdock Papers).

We might get a good story out of it, but I'm not convinced it will be a good Daredevil story, simply for the reason that the basic concept itself is difficult for any writer to pull off.

The event format doesn't allow enough time to really get into Daredevil's head which means that we just have to cut directly to his being a generic villain with little explanation to back this up. The main Daredevil title picks up some of the slack here, but I'm not convinced yet, as a Daredevil fan, that this was the right direction for the character. The biggest flaw might be the basic premise of the story itself.

I'm generally a big fan of what Diggle has been doing on the title, particularly given that he's really only playing the hand he was dealt (no pun intended), and I think he's playing it well. Perhaps the problem lies with the idea of making Daredevil head of The Hand in the first place.

The "hero becomes a villain" story is hard to do without either compromising the story or the character. Whether Diggle can pull this off in the long run, as I hope he'll be able to, remains to be seen.

Klep said...

So I've seen that Misty does some fighting in Shadowland. Is there any acknowledgment of her pregnancy at all?

Naymlap said...

I agree with Christine. I think that part of the problem, though, is the tonal shift between Brubaker and Diggle. I got the feeling from the end of Brubaker's run that Daredevil could turn the Hand around, maybe not into a force of justice, but into something beyond a super-powered yakuza.
Diggle implies that the Hand is inherently evil and will corrupt anyone that comes into contact with it. The hand daiymo's picked Daredevil so they could turn him evil, not because he had the skill to be an exceptional leader. That would also explain why Kingpin was a second choice, because he's already pretty evil but a hell of a leader.
Maybe it's just me, but Brubaker's hand was a bit more interesting.

Anonymous said...

I kinda read Secret Six as the team being in some sort of "forced" reality, Matrix style. This was mainly due to the last few panels and Catman saying that they thought they might be heroes this time. We led me to conclude that the next issue would continue along this vein after a this issues set-up. Obviously I may be wrong.
However, that aside SS has continues to deliver issue after issue, something that the Justice League titles could learn from.

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