Saturday, May 28, 2011

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 05/25/11

Had some difficulty with Blogger 404'ing whenever I'd try to log in the last couple of days, but finally got it straightened out and can post my reviews.  On tap this week is the Green Lantern trio of books, the Daken Point One issue and Wolverine with a couple of quick shot reviews for FF, Venom and Secret Warriors.  Hit the jump and enjoy!

Written by Rob Williams
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli

I tried Daken: Dark Wolverine when it first launched and have followed it since, but only recently has it been picking up, primarily due to getting away from the Wolverine in Hell tie-in status and finally doing its own thing.  I like how he is treated in his own title (and the Dark Wolverine title before this).  The whole Machiavellian theme works with him and Rob Williams manages to be the first writer outside of Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu to actually write Daken in this manner, which is a welcome change from the Wolverine-lite everyone else at Marvel writes him as whenever he shows up.

If you are new to Daken or only have experience with him from Dark Avengers, these .1 issues Marvel has been publishing lately are supposed to act as jumping on points and stand alone issues to attract new readers which also serve to set up stories for the next year or so.   In that regard, this issue is hit and miss. 

The hit part is that it is a self-contained, done in one issue with a definite goal of setting up future stories.  There is no cliffhanger or major event that definitively sets up future stories, but Daken shores up his control on Madripoor, cuts ties to his father and vows to make major changes in his life moving forward.  You can see growth in the character and are interested in finding out where he goes from here and just what he intends to do in the future, despite no set goal or defined path laid out for those future stories.  So, this works as a great setup for future issues and jumping on point for upcoming stories.  That part is a definite hit.

Where it misses the mark is that the issue is written for people familiar with Daken and the current events in his title.  It doesn't explain who Daken is, what his powers are, what he's done or even something as simple as his recent rise to power in Madripoor.  You get a general idea that he's taken over Madripoor and there's a brief scene where Daken takes down the last resisting gang boss of the area, but the recent events of the book are left a mystery if you are not familiar or at least have read up on the events before jumping in.  As someone following the title, it's difficult for me to judge how hard it is for others to figure out just how much Daken has taken control of Madripoor, but with him doing grunt work hunting down this boss, it's probably not obvious he is basically king and rules everything.  No, not Kingpin level of crime control.  Actually behind the scenes running the entire area type of deal. 

Another thing that stands out is the reference to Patches that is left completely vague for anyone that is unfamiliar with Wolverine's storied past.  Basically, he came to Madripoor long ago, wore a patch and called himself Patches before cleaning up the place a bit.  As this was a major plot point in drawing the comparison between Patches and Daken and having the mob boss chastises him on how Daken can only chase after his father and leaves nothing but destruction in his wake, which directly leads to Daken's change in outlook and desire to create and be his own man by issue's end, some exposition or a brief bit of information on Patches would have been quite useful in what is supposed to be a reader friendly jumping on point.  I've read those issues and the very, very brief mention of Patches stands out as a gap in the story for how important it is in moving Daken forward, so I can only figure people possibly trying out the new issue might be a little clueless as to that particular key moment.

Despite this, I believe this was a very solid issue overall for the book.  Aside from an issue or two of taking over Madripoor, which were quite good, this is the first time the book has been able to stand on its own two feet and tell its own story.  It's gone from Wolverine tie-ins to a crossover with X-23 for most of its run and only been able to shine in brief moments between or during those stories.  Seeing Daken working all the angles, the various machinations and plans he has in motion and how he works people all playing out in a single issue without some tie-in story overtaking them is a welcome return to form and I look forward to seeing where he goes from here.

Of course, I can't help but mention Ron Garney's art before ending out the review.  He's been handling a lot of Wolverine with Jason Aaron over the past few years and I've raved about his work on that, so I was quite happy to see him taking a crack at Daken here.  I've seen his work a lot over the years and it's always good, but he seems to really come out guns blazing with Wolverine and, now, Daken.  Not sure if the characters or stories just appeal to him more than others or what, but I hope he continues working on these characters in the future since there's a clear distinction in his work when on these two compared to others. 

Verdict - Check It.  While a few hiccups in the reader friendly department, this issue does its job well in being accessible and is an excellent jumping on point for those interested in Daken or curious about seeing how differently, and most would agree better, he is written in his own title compared to other random Marvel title appearances.  Add great art and freedom from tie-ins and crossover stories and this is one of the best issues of the title to date.  Take a look if you have some extra cash, you might find a new book you never expected to grab you.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke

Despite a slow start that had me questioning how much of an event this would be, the War of the Green Lanterns continues to ramp up to Sinestro Corps War levels of action with this issue and we even learn what Krona's big master plan is, which I'll touch on in a bit.

This issue continued from Emerald Warriors #9 where Mogo was shown to be corrupted by Krona and the four Earth Green Lanterns split up, each wielding a different coloured ring now, to handle the major threats.  While Kyle and John went off to deal with Mogo, Hal and Guy were left with the task of removing Parallax from the central power battery.

Hal and Guy discover that Krona has infected the other Guardians and suffused them with the various emotional entities before leaving them to guard the central battery.  There's some great dialogue between Hal and Guy during the extended fight before Krona comes into play and puts an end to the battle.  It's interesting that the two were able to stand up to the emotional entity charged Guardians for as long as they did, but I'll chalk that up to the Guardians not being great fits for each entity limiting their abilities.  Otherwise it was a great fight and everyone got their money's worth on that one.

Once Krona breaks up the party, we get to cut to the Book of the Black and see what Sinestro has been up to during all this time.  Seems the Book of the Black, or possibly just Lyssa Drak's powers or channeling of the book, puts the other New Guardians in a dream-like state where their worst fears come to pass.  Sinestro's is being replaced by a Manhunter and failing as a Green Lantern, which he quickly overcomes with his willpower.  He then begins tearing through the pages of the book, straight into the other New Guardians' dream sequences, in search of Lyssa. 

I really enjoyed this sequence.  Johns writes a great Sinestro and I've often wished he had his own title or took more of a center focus in this book.  We got some great insight into Sinestro's mindset and through him, the other New Guardians.  Most noteworthy bit was when he entered Indigo's dream sequence and she did not go by that name.  In fact, she was a prisoner somewhere and full of anything but compassion as she attacks and tries to kill Sinestro while screaming about Abin Sur and how he was the one that imprisoned her.  Before he escapes the book, Krona again shows up and puts an end to the festivities, this time seemingly burning the page Sinestro is on and closing up the Book of the Black. 

Not to be relegated to simply de facto deus ex fight stopper status, Krona then reveals that his big plan is to replace to the Guardians of the Universe with those that have heart and full range of emotions.  You guessed it, Guy and Hal.  Krona dresses both up in Guardian robes and covers them in those bandages he had before the event began, which he states are 'evolving bandages that turned him into one of them (a Guardian)'.  This is a major turning point in the story and goes from destroying the corps/taking over generic plot into new territory (or at least more interesting). 

Everyone was hoping that with the post-Blackest Night screw ups on the Guardians' part (among other things) that the New Guardians storyline would lead to the Guardians deposed and either a Green Lantern led Guardians or assembly of the other new corps would become the Guardians of the Universe.  That didn't happen, obviously, and the smurfs continued to drop the ball and screw up everything leading into this event.  So having Krona go about making a new, emotion based set of Guardians is an interesting turn of events I didn't expect and something I was already partial towards the idea of.  I'm writing this review with hindsight of the other two follow-up chapters that came out this week, so I know how this goes from here and didn't expect this to succeed, but I am quite pleased with how Krona's plan is progressing and hope this sows the seeds for a new set of Guardians post-War of Green Lanterns.

On the art side of things, Doug Mahnke was good where he had to be this issue, but there's a definite dip in quality from his typical work.  The backgrounds are the first to go in most cases and end up washed out in clouds or just generic ring colours for most panels.  Where big scenes, particularly the fight sequences, are fantastic, the more transitional pages are a bit lacking in detail or look rushed.  Compared to other artists, it's still top notch, but holding him to his typically high standards, it's noticeable to me that there were some dips in quality throughout the issue.  Probably event fatigue and deadlines rushing him or wearing him down.  He is one of the few AAA artists that maintains a monthly schedule, so I'm willing to cut some slack here.

Verdict - Must Read.  Another great issue of Green Lantern.  The event is in full throttle now and really hitting its stride while still finding time for character moments, such as with Sinestro here, on top of the wall to wall action. 

Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Tyler Kirkham & Matt Banning

While technically the next chapter in War of the Green Lanterns, this issue is more of a concurrent story to this week's Green Lantern #66.  Where that issue followed Hal and Guy and their attempt to remove Parallax from the central battery, this issue follows Kyle and John as they try to slow down or stop Mogo, who has fallen under Krona's control and is mass recruiting new, infected Green Lanterns on a massive scale to fill out Krona's army.

Unlike this week's Green Lantern or Emerald Warriors, I actually found this issue fairly underwhelming with the lone exception being the big ending and what happens to Mogo.  There were no major character moments and the action felt lacking and directionless.  It was like the random infected Green Lanterns were thrown in just to fill space and pad out the issue more so than an actual fight. 

On the actual plot side of things, it's not much better.  The general idea is that Kyle and John are going to stop the rings Mogo is sending out before there's an entire universe of newly infected Green Lanterns swelling up Krona's army.  Pretty solid premise, but in execution it is severely lacking in both direction and intelligence.  The big plan starts out by consisting of John trying to put a big bubble over top of the hole the rings are shooting out of, which blows up in his face as they are too much to contain.  From there, they just wing it and try using the blue ring on Mogo's core and other pointless endeavors that clearly won't work.  It's like they were setting up for the inevitable conclusion in which they are forced to destroy Mogo.

There, however, Tony Bedard actually does a great job of executing the Mogo's destruction.  It felt incredibly forced in leading up to it, right down to cliche dialogue of Kyle ineffectually shouting no and how they can't possibly kill Mogo and there's always another way and John affirming it is the only way, but I did like how they brought in the Black Lantern impurities Mogo absorbed from Blackest Night and John's tapping into that "emotion" (yeah, yeah, death isn't emotion, let's not debate that now, ahaha) to use it to kill Mogo.  If Bedard had managed to build up to the actual kill as well as he wrote that part of the story, this could have been a memorable issue with some major impact.  Instead, it'll be a footnote and one image wonder when looked back upon.

Verdict - Check It.  Aside from the last bit with Mogo's death, you actually wouldn't miss too much if you skipped over this issue.  It's like a spiritual successor to the Battle of Mogo back in Sinestro Corps War, but this issue only worries about the ends justifying the means - aka Mogo's death.  It didn't really worry about having a story that builds up to it or justifies that killing.  Check It instead of Avoid It simply for the importance of that death and what it will mean in future issues and the future of the Green Lantern Corps.

Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin & Cam Smith

Completing the trio of Green Lantern titles released this week (my wallet can't take this!), Emerald Warriors pulls together the two separate stories from Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps and sets up the endgame for the War of the Green Lanterns

Picking up from the end of those two issues, we have Guy and Hal captured by Krona, who is attempting to turn both into Guardians with his evolving bandages.  Before this can happen, though, Mogo's death from the end of GLC causes a huge psychic backlash to all Green Lanterns and Guardians, including Krona.  Combined with Mogo's debris causing all kinds of destruction due to his proximity to Oa at the time, this allows Hal and Guy to escape and meet up with John and Kyle. 

I liked how these two storylines met up and it made for a logical escape, though the psychic feedback shouldn't have been ring dependent since that seems completely independent of the rings, but willing to overlook it.  The foursome meet up with Ganthet, who was captured and recovered quicker from the feedback than the others (another oddity given how weak he was after his capture, but let's roll with it) and leads the rainbow brigade of Earth based Lanterns to the central power battery to free Parallax. 

Here, the story takes a bit of a dip with a whole lot of dialogue and attempts at channeling emotions from all the spectrums as Hal and Guy don the two remaining rings from the New Guardians that were left over after they were imprisoned in the Book of the Black earlier in the event.  They need all the power of the emotional spectrum to dent the power battery and we need a lot of talking to get this across apparently, particularly with verbal announcements of being angry or in love or whatever ring they are using at the time.  Bit much, but thankfully only a small section of an otherwise great issue. 

On the action side of things, there's plenty to be found, particularly when the infected Green Lanterns attempt to stop them from breaching the battery.  Guy gets the best scenes after donning the Star Sapphire ring to go with his rage filled red ring, taking down multiple Green Lanterns, including Kilowog and then single-handedly breaking open the power battery, which releases Parallax and frees all of the other Green Lanterns from Krona's control. 

The only disappointing part of this is that they then immediately remove the other rings and go back to being Green Lanterns, despite the obvious benefits of having multiple coloured rings, particularly a blue ring to power up all the now on their side Green Lanterns.  Would have liked to see them at least dual wield the multiple rings instead of dumping them the instant they could.  I figured they'd at least be useful given how the issue ends after this with Krona and his entity controlled Guardians ready to take down the entire Green Lantern Corps. 

Verdict - Buy It.  Continues the story and sets up the endgame to War of the Green Lanterns while still being a excellent read on its own, a rarity in most penultimate chapters that are more about shuffling everyone into position for the conclusion than actually offering anything substantial. 

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Daniel Acuna

I've been fairly underwhelmed with the relaunch of Wolverine.  The entire demon possession/trip to Hell arc just has not been all that entertaining for me.   It's had its moments, but it just hasn't been the same as Jason Aaron's previous work with the character on the previous volume or Weapon X.  Until now.

With Wolverine back in his body and the demons and trip to Hell out of the way, the title has taken some significant steps forward.  Wolverine is out for revenge on those that sent him to Hell and starts with a Get Mystique-like tracking down of Mystique for some well earned payback.  As you may know, I absolutely loved Aaron's Get Mystique and the work he's done fleshing out Mystique and Logan's relationship in that and other stories.  So seeing more work in that vein here was a nice change of pace from the demon arc, despite owing its origins to that story. 

While the basic plot is Wolverine attempting to hunt down and kill Mystique, to avoid hitting all the same strides as past stories, Aaron mixes it up a bit by throwing the new character, Lord Deathstrike. into the mix.  Deathstrike is a hired assassin who has a fantastic introduction that is pure Jason Aaron.  Contracted to kill someone in China, he takes his employers to Argentina and fires a bullet through the ground and it comes out in China, killing his target.  The enigmatic Deathstrike has a variety of powers, many of which seem technological in origin, such as the ability to run along walls (feet light up, so probably something in his shoes), his mask's eyes lit up and he could see through the ceiling above him and a cellphone controlling his bullets (return, explode, etc for options after firing/hitting someone).  I'm not sure if he's a mutant or has powers or if it's all tech based, but the mute character made an impression in his relentless pursuit of Mystique in this issue and his presence helped set this fight apart and give it the same flair and excitement that the original Get Mystique had.

Unlike that Get Mystique story, Wolverine doesn't hold back once he finds Mystique.  Sure, he stabbed her and left her to rot in the desert in that story, but it was clearly not a kill and she'd be back at some point.  Here, he kills her dead, though her body is recovered and auctioned off at the end of the issue to what look like Hand ninja, so probably looking at a resurrection in the near future for those wondering if/when she'll ever be back.

Another thing that made me enjoy this issue more than earlier ones in the series was the art. Daniel Acuna is hit or miss with me.  Usually it comes down to the inking and colouring, which Acuna does himself.  Earlier issues just didn't click with me artistically.  Here, however, the art is cleaner and colours less washed out than usual.  Just looks much better to me.  His action sequences were perfectly executed as well with great panel transitions and he did wonders making the mute Lord Deathstrike pop on every panel he was in with expressive body language and clearly showing what was happening without need for dialogue on his part.

Verdict - Must Read.  Great, wall to wall action with Wolverine and Lord Deathstrike both racing for the kill on Mystique in the best issue of this volume of Wolverine to date.

Quick Shot Reviews

FF #4 - This book continues to be good, but has the typical Jonathan Hickman flair and 'this would be soooo much better in trade' feeling while reading.  The symposium on how to defeat Reed Richards continued on and I loved the moment with Dr Doom learning about what the alternate reality Reeds do to every Doom they encounter.  Things look to be picking up as well with how the Reeds make their move and begin the war in Old Atlantis. 

While I usually enjoy Barry Kitson's work, it simply doesn't feel right here, especially after how short a gap it was between his and Epting's work on FF #3 a few short weeks ago.  Just doesn't fit the style or tone the title has taken, despite being a capable effort.  Hopefully there won't be too many fill-ins on art.

Verdict - Check It.

Secret Warriors #27 - Another Hickman offering as Secret Warriors begins to wind out its run.  For some reason, this issue feels almost like an epilogue rather than the penultimate issue of his war between Nick Fury, Hydra and Leviathan.  Loved the conclusion to the Baron Strucker and Nick Fury situation, though it's a bit brisk and would have worked better as the conclusion to last issue rather than saved for the first page or two here.  

Was disappointed to see the bulk of Leviathan's forces mysteriously explode and that threat taken off the table without ever having really done anything.  Rest of issue was spent setting up some basic threads to be concluded in the next issue with the return of Daisy and Sebastian and some behind the scenes political maneuvering that I imagine will put Nick Fury back at SHIELD or other position of importance.  However, despite my love of the series, it feels like it's limping to the end at this point and Hickman is quickly wrapping up plot points that had been lovingly nurtured and developed up until now.

Verdict - Check It. 

Venom #3 - I haven't talked about this title or reviewed it since it came out, but it's been a surprisingly good book.  I never would have expected a book about Venom, where the premise is Flash Thompson doing covert military operations wearing the suit, to be one of my current favourite titles, but it is.  Loving what Rick Remender is doing here and the art has been great.  Even the fill in for this issue is top notch and maintains a consistent and great visual style.  The action has been superb and Venom hasn't been this much fun to read since he was first introduced.  

The introduction of Spider-Man to the story seems a bit premature though.  I hope he doesn't discover its Flash in the suit (the symbiote is currently in control/running wild, sparking the fight).  There's also the possibility that Spider-Man's actions to stop Venom result in Flash's current girlfriend Betty Brant's death, which could open up a lot of possibilities on where the series could go and how the Flash/Venom relationship could progress.  Easily mirrors early Eddie Brock motivations if it went in that direction and could be a villain turn for Flash or could be a 'hero fails' type of development a la Spider-Man's origin and failing Uncle Ben.  

All in all, fun title with lots of action, great art and probably something a lot of people have written off before even reading it. I know I did until was 'forced' to read it by a friend.  Give it a look.  You'll be surprised.

Verdict - Must Read.

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Nathan Aaron said...

Yay! Comments work again! Pertaining to your FF comment: "While Barry Kitson is the regular penciller, I'm surprised at how much better suited to the content I found Steve Epting's fill-in art on the last issue..." you actually have it backwards. Steve is the regular artist, while Barry is the fill-in (hallelujah!)

Kirk Warren said...

@Nathan - Thanks for pointing that out. I dont know how I got that confused. Could have sworn it was other way around when I wrote it. Will double check next time.

Anonymous said...

Have you checked out Xombi by DC? I think it is a great read with some very good art. If you like magic with a dose of wit you should give it a shot.

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