Kurt Christenson ** Timothy Mucci ** Johnny Gatts ** Brian Bannen ** Rick Lacy ** YOU!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Comic Reviews: Week of Feb. 24th

MARVEL:

Amazing Spider-Man #622:


I’ve said it before: The Gauntlet isn’t so much about Peter fighting his series of foes. It’s about the foes themselves. Fred Van Lente takes over the writing duties this week, and Spidey faces off with Morbius. This issue is less about Spidey and Morbius fighting (as is depicted on the cover) but more about Michael Morbius using Spidey’s blood to find a cure for his friend. The tale is only half the issue, but I was moved by it. This series has continuously impressed me, not for the punches thrown, but for the heart expressed. Dan Slott brought new life to a character declared dead after his marriage and the fallout from lazy writing and narrative corners. While I enjoyed Spidey finding out Black Cat sold the vial of his blood to Morbius, the conclusion was too quick. This seemed like a much deeper thread that Van Lente decided to end quickly. Either way, The Gauntlet chugs along with one more week under its belt. I enjoy the shift between longer three or four part stories and the shorter one (or in this case, half) part tales. The second half of this issue is a sappy tale about Flash Thompson, and while I bought into it, I still don’t feel it fits in with the theme of the series. Either way, I have to go back to Brand New Day and One More Day -- people thought the idea of retconning Spider-Man’s history with MJ was lazy (and it was), bit it’s opened up all the doors it closed, and given new life to the character. Next up, The Vulture with Tom Peyer and Mark Waid. Look for it this Wednesday.

Spider-Man: Clone Sage #6:

So, I guess Marvel’s original plan was to make Peter Parker the original Spider-Man anyway, or even if he wasn’t to say, “Who cares?! Spider-Man is interesting no matter what!” In this issue, we see why this isn’t true. Norman Osborne ends up sacrificing himself to save Peter Parker. This is the same Norman Osborne who, under the pen of Brian Michael Bendis, has made himself the most powerful character in the Marvel Universe, and that’s without having powers! And the ending left open the possibility for a Scarlet-Spider series which, I’m sure, would have fallen heavily on its face. If you’re interested in reading a good clone saga, see what Bendis did with Ultimate Spider-Man, issues 96-101. He rewrote the clone saga, still included the newer characters (like Kaine), but made the story neater. He took out all Jackal involvement all together and instead made Doctor Octopus the man behind the curtain. This story, however, failed to deliver. The conflict wrapped up four issues in, and left a few dangling threads to be tied up in its final two. I’m sure Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie had grand ideas with a re-envisioning of The Clone Saga. The end result, however, is the same. Spider-Man has not grown as a character; he’s still Spider-Man, and his life is peachy-keen. That’s not exactly the status quo changing promise fulfilled.

Ultimate Enemy #2:


My favorite part of this series so far? Spider-Woman. Every Marvel fan knows Bendis has a soft spot for Jessica Drew. A few years ago, he wrote a secret origin type series, and now he’s penning the digital comics Spider-Woman as well. She was a major player in Secret Invasion and New Avengers. She’s only in a few pages in this ish, but she seems very important to the story. As usual, Bendis loves destroying New York City, and this time the Baxter Building is his victim. And true to his word, this will affect the entire Ultimate U. Plus, Nick Fury (aka Samuel Jackson) returns! We haven’t gotten much explanation so far, but with Bendis, he usually delivers by punching his readers in the stomachs. Look for some answers in issue #3.

Dark Tower: Battle of Jericho Hill #4:


We’re four issues into a series with the word “Battle” in its title, and we still haven’t seen a goddamn battle! Chekhov’s gun is the belief that an element introduced in the story must become crucial to the plot at some point in time. We haven’t gotten that yet. Beyond the story telling, I’m becoming increasingly annoyed with Jae Lee’s art. It’s messy, vague, and uses colors like a first grader does with a box of crayons and a blank paper. I understand that’s his style, but it doesn’t work here. I was more distracted by the drawings of the characters -- the harsh lines on their faces and the sloppy curves of otherwise graceful parts of the human body -- that I can’t even look at the book again. It makes me nauseous. When I think back to how excited I was for this title, and to see how it’s been executed, I feel sadness and remorse. This could have been Marvel’s greatest achievement. Now? It’s no greater than any other simple one-shots or mini-series any comic company creates to fill a sales void.


DC:

Batman and Robin #9:


Grant Morrison closes the second chapter of his Batman and Robin series by having Dick Grayson come to same realization as Tim Drake: Bruce Wayne is alive and he needs to find him. The star of the issue, however, is Damien. He’s not necessarily smarter than his predecessors, but he is colder. The training from the league of assassins has taught him how to be a killer. The struggle he faces with Bruce’s rules seems to be his real dilemma, not so much out of care for his victims but because he’d rather not hear about it from his father or from Dick. Cameron Steward draws a nice sequence of panels where Dick and Batwoman beat the crap out of the Lazarus Pit Batman. Morrison is adept as weaving a tale, but this issue highlights his ability to show the strength of all of his characters. My conclusion at the end of this story? DC doesn’t need Bruce Wayne. The NEW Batman and Robin fill his shoes nicely.

Flash Rebirth #6:


This issue doesn’t have the feel of Johns’ other silver age character rejuvenation (Green Lantern). Perhaps because Hal’s death had such an impact in the DCU for years after, but Barry’s return isn’t as fulfilling. Johns’ wraps up the conflict halfway through the issue, using the remaining pages to set up future story threads. Flash Rebirth accomplishes it’s purpose, though -- Barry is back. I feel the Flash series will be better for someone looking to get into the story. Flash Rebirth is just the starting point.

Blackest Night #7:


Everyone assumed that at some point in the series, we would see a white lantern. It is, not surprisingly, the last person whom you’d expect. Johns seems to enjoy doling out the story in little bits, and while the series is going on eight issues, it doesn’t feel labored. If anything, it’s been a pleasure to read something so slow in it’s reveal. Johns has perfected his story telling art, finding the balance between action and exposition, humanity and grit. The changes he makes, however, are pretty far-reaching. Johns has changed the history of the DCU. I don’t know how fans will take this. It’s not an earth-shattering change, but it does alter everything we’ve known about Oa, the Guardians, and the beginning of the universe. It explains why Abin Sur crashed on Earth, and why four Green Lanterns share duties protecting it. Johns has actually created a story that links back to the Showcase #22 (Hal Jordan’s first appearance), and Green Lantern #1. Where most major events only link up to created conflicts, this one goes far enough back to pay homage to John Broome and Gil Kane. Now that Geoff Johns is the official creative director at DC, we can see the work he’s been doing for years. Blackest Night and Green Lantern continue to be DC’s crowning achievement.


MISC:

Irredeemable #11 (Boom -- Mark Waid, Peter Krause):

Waid delves back into the mythos he’s created for The Plutonian in this issue. While he moves back and forth between his main and secondary characters, the story still only remains interesting when he focuses on his good guy turned bad. For instance, we see the family that raised him has stopped speaking years ago. They only communicate through small white boards, writing each other short messages. Their rationale? If The Plutonian doesn’t hear their voices, he can’t find them. It’s pretty damn creepy. But we learn of a secret that holds the key to The Plutonian’s defeat. The heroes now have to get a hold of it before he gets a hold of them. I find that when Waid slows down with the story telling, goes back into the past, his tale finds its legs. The other characters aren’t very interesting. It’s their relationship to Tony that keeps me reading. How did they get involved with him? Why did they choose to team up? Why is he suddenly so crazy, and how do they defeat him? I think, in the end, this would have worked better has a mini-series because I don’t see this staying interesting much longer. A while back, I wrote about a DC title by Peter Tomasi called “The Mighty.” It dealt with a similar theme: a god-like hero who was anything but god-like. An invincible superhero with the morals of a monster. That series ended in twelve issues, the story crisp and tight-knit. When Irredeemable meanders, it loses its power. The question is, can Mark Waid make it clean again?

We Will Bury You #1 (IDW -- Brea Grant, Zane Austin Grant, and Kyle Strahm):

Our culture has become zombie saturated. Every year, it seems we get one new movie that deals with or introduces new types of Zombies. We Will Bury You follows the trend. Set in the 1920’s, Brea and Zane Grant introduce us to Mirah, the coy, trapped wife of Henri, a misogynistic asshole. Mirah has a secret, however. She’s a lesbian, and her lover, Fanya, sneaks into see her while she works (she dances with men for money -- basically a way they can grope her for a few minutes). In the midst of all of this is a zombie attack that’s hinted at early on in the comic, then revealed fully at the end. Kyle Strahm’s art lends itself nicely to the gritty feel of the issue. He draws crude lines on the faces of his characters, and these fit in with the chaotic atmosphere Brea and Zane create. The problem is we’ve read this before. A story set before, during, or after a Zombie apocalypse still has the same goal: survival. This doesn’t read as well as The Walking Dead because the characters aren’t as enthralling. Making Mirah a lesbian to her woman hating husband is only an eye roller at best. Having Fanya free her lover by bashing his head open with a typewriter is only appealing for the visual it gets on the page. Other than that, the story is weak for the fact that it relies heavily on preordained stereotypes and does nothing to add to the genre save for the time period. But that will get old soon enough.

Weekly World News #2 (IDW -- Chris Ryall and Alan Robinson):


I picked this up for the cover alone, a copy of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. The issue itself is not spectacular. The story moves nicely, changing pace every page or two so that I didn’t feel bogged down by some of the extraneous dialogue, and I laughed out loud at Alan Robinson’s drawings -- his character faces in particular bring out the dopiness in the story. For instance, we meet Ed Anger’s son who shoots at a wooden sign scrawled with three words written in messy red ink: Terrorist, Democrat, illegal Alien. His boy wears thick denim overalls, has a haircut like Richie Cunningham from Happy Days, and is missing his front two teeth. But the real treat is the annotations in the back of the comic. Chris Ryall has done his homework -- both with Weekly World News and general history. I wasn’t too impressed the first issue, but I’m warming to this now. It’s uninvolved, and pretty brainless to read. But that’s what makes it so fun.

Logan’s Run: Last Day #1 (BlueWater Comics -- Paul Salamoff and Daniel Gete):

Logan’s Run was a dystopian novel written in the late sixties. It dealt with human overpopulation and people being terminated on their final day at the age of 21. I’ve never read the book so I can’t speak about the mythology William F. Nolan originally created. I can, however, speak to the pacing of this issue: it’s spectacular. Paul Salamoff builds tension with the first four pages, then takes us back in time to show Logan’s birth and education. We see that he is remorseless and perfunctory, doesn’t question his orders. He’s also bad-ass. The slaughter of one of his classmates proves that. But Logan has a problem -- he’s falling in love with the love of one of the runners he kills. In the novel, Logan starts to see the side of the runners, then becomes a runner himself. I don’t see this story diverging much from the original idea, but it’ll be interesting to see how Paul Salamoff paces the reveal. Daniel Gete’s art is not to be ignored here. His sepia-toned past is the highlight of the issue.

3 comments:

  1. Ah! Looks like we both did We Will Bury You. I'm glad to see that you basically felt the same way I did though. I'm not sure if I'll go in for the second issue or not. I also agree with you on Batman & Robin...with a series as good as this, I'm starting to get nervous about B.Wayne returning. One thing's for damn sure: Damian better still be Robin, or at least a major character, cause Tim Drake = boring.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Paul J. SalamoffMarch 3, 2010 at 7:58 PM

    Hey Brian, I am the Writer of LOGAN'S RUN: LAST DAY. Thanks for the great review! I hope you stick with the series, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Really dug "VIKING". The story was very meat & potatoes, but the art... dear lord, that style is so gnarly, the way he shifts from illustrative to painterly, and the textures he employs. It would not be a shock to see a bunch of titles biting this style a year or two down the line. Can't wait to see what this team cooks up next!

    ReplyDelete