Saturday, May 14, 2011

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 05/11/11

Thought I'd finish up the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews to go along with the Flashpoint #1 review from Wednesday.  On tap is Batman, Inc, Journey into Mystery and FF.  Hit the jump to find out what I thought of each!

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Burnham

While I've enjoyed Batman, Inc up until now, this is the first issue that has wowed me and sold me on the concept.  The first two issues were good, but not good enough to sell me on the series or idea of Batman, Inc.  The last three issues were overly complicated and at the same time felt meaningless in the greater sense of the story.  This issue realizes all of the promise and sense of fun a world wide global league of Batmen promises and almost stands on its own as what I'd call the first true issue of Batman, Inc. 

The defining characteristic of this issue that sets it apart from previous issues is the sense of joy and fun you have while reading it.  One moment Alfred is saving Bruce Wayne from would be assailants, the next you have Batman trolling what looks like CBR's forums with multiple accounts spouting whacked out theories on Bruce Wayne being Batman, Batman having killed and replaced Bruce and so on.  From there, it just goes on to show off the relationship between Batman and his family, from Dick and Damian to Tim Drake and Cassandra Cain (yes, she shows up and is in a Bat costume again!) to even the Outsiders.  The issue is packed with great scenes like these. 

But the comic doesn't stop there.  There's a framing story with a criminal organization led by criminal, Joe Average, that is shut down by the Batman, Inc before their petty little schemes even begin and more recruiting by Batman as he begins to prepare his army for war with the mysterious Leviathan organization.  This issue doesn't waste a panel, let alone a page, in this issue in what is one of the most fulfilling and satisfying reads of a single issue in a long time.  You'll get your money's worth and then some for the $2.99 this issue costs. 

Brilliant splash page by Chris Burnham
On the art side of the equation, Chris Burnham is fantastic.  Very expressive for the talking scenes and dynamic when it comes to action.  Reminds me of Frank Quitely at times and that's some high praise in and of itself.  My favourite page in this issue has to be what he did with the final splashpage.  It's broken up into vertical boxes showing various members of Batman, Inc taking down criminals around the globe at the same time.  What makes the page so great is how it's drawn to look like it is all taking place in the same location, despite the fact bodies that connect in different panels are wearing different clothes or the backgrounds are different.  I've added an image of it to this review for reference since it's difficult for me to describe the effect.

Verdict - Must Read.  By far my favourite issue of Batman, Inc to date and I feel it is the first to capitalize on the promise and potential of the concept.  It almost reads like what should have been the first issue of this series with dozens of Batmen operatives in action, layers of intrigue, secret organizations, Batman building an army and so on.  On top of this, it's just plain fun to read. 

FF #3
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Steve Epting

This issue begins with Dr Doom hosting a symposium at the Baxter Building with several of Reed Richards most intelligent and dangerous enemies invited.  The topic of the symposium?  How to finally defeat Reed Richards.  That's just too good an introduction to an issue not to mention.  

Of course, there's obviously a reason for Doom hosting a symposium on how to defeat Reed Richards, one in which Reed, himself, attends.  Reed's daughter, Valeria, informs her father and everyone about how she had found Reed's Bridge machine and bringing back four other Reed Richards from other dimensions.  She goes on to inform us how they do not have the best of intentions and it becomes clear that the symposium is, in fact, designed with the intention of stopping said inter-dimensional Reeds and not our Reed.  

Once the symposium explains the situation, the scene quickly switches to the four Reeds and clues us into their plans.  They are busy attempting to find a way off our Earth so they can get back to their inter-dimensional duties before the Celestials showed up and tried to kill them back at the start of Hickman's Fantastic Four run.  Their plan, of course, only requires the possible destruction of our Earth and deals heavily with currying favours from the four cities Hickman has been building up (Universal Inhumans on the Moon, Old Atlanteans, Annihilus in the Negative Zone and the Moloids from the Forever City) throughout his run and it seems quite clear this will spark the upcoming war between them that has been hinted at for a while.  

All villains should hold a "how to kill X" symposium.
While I love what Hickman has been doing with his Fantastic Four and, now, FF and enjoyed this issue a great deal, it is not a perfect read.  Just as we are getting somewhere with the inter-dimensional Reeds, the issue just ends abruptly.  The entire issue feels like the middle of a story we stopped into with no real beginning or end - just a random part from a greater whole.  It's very much a made for the trade tale that will read far better in that format and of which I'm more than accustomed to with regards to Hickman's other works, particularly Secret Warriors and Shield, but it doesn't make it alright that this single issue reads awkwardly on its own in this manner. 

Steve Epting continues to shine on this book and is a major part of the appeal to me.  He's absolutely killing on FF and it's easily some of his best work.  Perhaps it's a new inker or colourist or just different tone for FF, but his art is a lot cleaner here than previous work, most notably his Captain America with Ed Brubaker.  Don't get me wrong, I loved his Cap work, but this is a step up in my eyes.

Verdict - Check It.  Hickman fans will love it and I do, but it's hard to really judge this type of story on a single issue basis when so much of it demands knowledge of his entire run on Fantastic Four and with so many disparate threads and plots moving in different directions and the story feeling very much like it was written entirely with the trade in mind. 

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Doug Braithwaite

Journey Into Mystery launched (relaunched?  returned?) last month with an actual journey of discovery for the recently returned Loki which was both entertaining and enthralling, but ended with the mirroring of events from Fear Itself with the Asgardians returning from Earth to Asgard proper.  Basically, great one shot/stand alone story exploring the new Loki, but difficult to gauge where Gillen was going to take the book and future issues. 

With this issue, it's clear Gillen is doing something akin to his Siege tie-ins in that Gillen is taking Loki on another behind the scenes journey with a major event as its backdrop.  Loki believes Odin is wrong in his sacrificing Earth to ensure Asgard's survival.  He journeys to the World Tree to meet with the the Norns in order to find out who The Serpent is and, after meeting with them, Loki returns with a tear filled face and new purpose - he will make sure something bad happens in the near future to ensure something even worse does not come to pass if the first, lesser evil does not occur. 

I liked that Loki sought out his brother, Thor, for his opinion on the matter before making his decision on what to do after meeting with the Norns.  Though the evils Loki attempts to prevent are never explicitly stated, it's clear he wishes to do as Thor would do to prevent it and, thus, his course is set and he will make sure this first evil occurs to prevent the greater one.  This is a different Loki than the one we knew before, though still a God of Mischief and silver tongued, and it was nice to see his respect and admiration for Thor driving his actions. 

Loki seeks Thor's counsel.
The character work is the best aspect of this issue and Gillen simply gets Loki and the other Asgardians.  From the interplay between Loki and Volstagg, who play off each other exceptionally well and of which I hope to see more of the two together in the future, to the general monologue/thought process of Loki, this is a very character driven story and those are typically my favourite kind of stories. 

Another thing I really enjoyed about this issue was what felt like a hint of Matt Fraction's Thor: Ages of Thunder found throughout with flashbacks to earlier days in Loki and Thor's lives.  In this case, it was Volstagg telling Loki the tale of how he tricked Thor into trying to break two stubborn goats, which became his steads, Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder. 

Artistically, Braithwaite is absolutely phenomenal here.  He's worked with Gillen on Thor before and this man was made for the fantastic worlds and adventures that surround the tales of Asgard Gillen weaves.  I look forward to seeing the return to Hel next issue and what Braithwaite does with that. 

Verdict - Must Read.  Gillen writing a book centered on Loki should be enough to sell you on this.  Add some of Braithwaite's best work for the art and a compelling story that can either stand on its own or work as a companion to the current Fear Itself event and you have an excellent comic you should be reading.

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CombatSpoon86 said...

Awesome reviews on all the books I picked up this week. I do agree Batman Inc. this month was their best issue so far too me. I do love how Bruce Wayne continues to spread rumors and doubts of identity on the blogs about Batman. FF was great as usual but I do think it would read great in trade format. Journey stills continues to be my favorite Thor book.

Nathan Aaron said...

Picked up Journey on a lark, and I've definitely added it to my pull box! Amazing work so far!

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