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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Comic Reviews: Week of March 10

MARVEL:

Amazing Spider-Man #624:

I wish I hadn’t seen the stupid solicit with a shot of J.J. Jameson yelling “You’re Fired” at Peter Parker because the end of this comic would have been a lot more meaningful. The crux of the situation hasn’t really revealed itself yet because we know Spidey is the lovable loser. He’s survived on less before, so I don’t see how this will have a major impact on the comic. However, Mark Waid writes this month’s issue, so I’m sure there’s a plan. The new Vulture is still on the loose, though, and while Adrien Tooms always made sure to be a thorn in Spider-Man’s side, the new Vulture is much worse. I’ve been continuously impressed by the Spidey team, and there’s not much more to say about this issue. Things are rockin’ over at Amazing Spider-Man. You should join the party.

Ultimate Spider-Man #8:
I forgot to mention Takeshi Miyazawa in my last Ultimate Spider-Man review, and I regret not doing so. While David LaFuente’s art was my biggest gripe, it seemed as if he was toning it down, or it was growing on me. Nevertheless, when I picked up the last issue, I was able to pay more attention the story and less to the character’s triangular noses and rosy cheeks. It didn’t dawn on me that Bendis was working with a new artist. Miyazawa spends most of this issue drawing shocked faces on the characters, not because anything particularly shocking happens -- except for the return of THE SERPENT SQUAD!! In the regular Marvel U, the Serpent Squad was a group of mercenaries that battled with Captain America. In the Ultimate U, it’s a group of four (very fine) women who first battled the Fantastic Four, and have now jumped over to Ultimate Spider-Man. The battle sequence in this issue is a blast to watch as the guys spend much of their time ogling the women. The end of the issue introduces a new character to the Ultimate Universe, one which I think will have fans excited for the future. Always a fun read, Ultimate Spider-Man continues to be a favorite of mine.


DC:

Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #1:

Because I’m so jaded by my previous interactions with Superman, I came to this comic expecting to hate it. Surprisingly, there’s a lot to like about Last Stand of New Krypton. It may be the addition of Sterling Gates to the writing crew, but the story felt more determined. There’s a greater sense of urgency here, possibly because there’s only three issues in the series, but it definitely made a difference. Time isn’t wasted on pointless dialogue and insignificant character development. Robinson and Gates get right to the point: Brainiac is back, and he wants his city. We get a visit from the Legion of Super-Heroes and an incarnation of Mon-El that we actually care about. Geoff Johns planted all these seeds, and it was up to DC to make them grow. The sad thing is, they wasted a year of our time getting to the point. I’m still skeptical, so I can’t fully endorse it. But it’s an improvement. And sometimes that’s enough.

Red Robin #10:

I had fun reading the back and forth between Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown. I’ve seen her in a few issues here and there, but Chris Yost, in a few pages, is able to sum up the relationship between Tim and Steph as if I’ve been reading it for years. They have some great banter, and Yost times the humor perfectly so that you may get a chuckle or two out of this issue. I like that Ra’s Al Ghul hasn’t met up with Tim yet because the tension building between the two adds to the depth of the story. I’d say Tim doesn’t stand a chance against the league of assassins, but the way Chris Yost writes him, he seems much more capable than we believe. The return of Bruce Wayne may be the worst thing to happen to this series.

Batman: The Widening Gyre #5:

I think DC poorly timed this series. While I enjoy the introduction of Baphomet, it’s more fun to read about Dick Grayson as Batman, Tim Drake as Red Robin, and Damien Wayne as Robin. Or maybe it’s the love story. Or maybe this was just Kevin Smith being given an opportunity to flex his Batman muscles (which he has in spades), but the story just falls flat. I enjoy some things about this issue, and despise others. The thing that bothers me most, I guess, is that this feels like just another mediocre story. One more issue to read and toss. Maybe the staying power will be greater than I’ve ever imagined, but so far, I’ve found this to be a pretty forgettable series.

Batman and Robin #10:
Sadly, this comic proclaims “THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE BEGINS HERE!” And it does. In Grant Morrison’s hands, this is one hell of a mystery. And I’m sure the answers are staring the readers right in the face. Alfred helps solve the first of many puzzles (which is always fun to see -- if anything, people don’t use Alfred enough!) and we learn that the league of assassins had a plan for Damien all along. I’m going to be sad to see this comic go when Batman returns. When I first read about Bruce Wayne having a son, I rolled my eyes until they bled. But I should have trusted Grant Morrison because this series continues to be one of the most interesting ones on the market. And you can’t argue with the beautiful covers by Frank Quietly.


MISC:

The Waking #1 (Zenescope -- Raven Gregory & Vic Drujiniu):
In a market saturated by Zombies, I expected The Waking to be one more hat thrown into the ring. After reading We Will Bury You, I got the feeling that people who enter the Zombie genre do so with only a vague understanding of what makes Zombies so much fun. The focus is always on a slow reveal, a lot of gore, and a character or two who is bewildered by his or her predicament and tries to make do with it until he or she can be reunited with a loved one. The Waking is not this book. In fact, I think it is the best new Zombie book on the market. In Superman, Christopher Reeve doesn’t make his blue and red tights appearance until around the seventy minute mark. In Batman Begins, Christian Bale doesn’t don the cowl and cape until the fifty-eight minute mark. The comparison here is this: both movies spend a good deal of time building the characters, forming connections to the audience before making the leap to hero-dom. The Waking follows the same formula in that we don’t see the first “Zombie” until THE LAST PAGE! So for twenty-four pages, we follow four detectives assigned to two different cases, both involving a random, and peculiar, murder. Using a third person narrator who directly address the reader, you feel pulled in to the story even without trying. At one point, Gregory writes “Pay Attention Here.” I found myself studying the page, looking for any clues as to what he might be referencing. Because in addition to zombies, we have a mystery on our hands as well. And this is what makes The Waking different: it’s stretching itself across genres, making a somewhat stagnant milieu fresh again. I find The Waking to be a very apt title because I feel as if there’s going to a waking (of sorts) when people read this and realize that everything does not always have to be typecast into one niche or another.

The Ghoul #1 (IDW -- Steve Niles & Bernie Wrightson):
I don’t know how I’ve managed to miss this. The Ghoul is written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson (Stephen King’s "Cycle of the Werewolf") and focuses on a seasoned detective who enlists the help of the FBSI (Federal Bureau of Supernatural Investigations). The Ghoul is exactly that -- an eight foot tall Frankenstein like creature who solves mysteries. He’s foul-mouthed and sarcastic, and immediately likable. Steven Niles has The Ghoul drop some pretty funny one-liners that had me laughing out loud, and Wrightson, who has a place in my heart for his work with Stephen King, beautifully emphasizes the size of the The Ghoul in comparison to his human counterpart, Klimpt. If the stories are as fun to write as they are to read, I think we’re in for a good haul. It seems as if Niles has opened the door for a myriad of ideas. With an FBSI, he can always dip into the well of Folklore and Mythology to come up with a creature to fill a post within the Bureau. I'm interested to see what's behind closed doors at the FBSI offices. Considering the brevity of some of the comics out there, it’s nice to pick one up that doesn’t ask too much of the reader, and lets him go away satisfied -- and looking over his shoulder at the darkness outside.

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