Sunday, September 11, 2005

Chris' Reviews 9/7, Pt. 2


OK, that was quick (company cocktail receptions, while dull, at least provide a chance to leave early). As promised, more reviews, and Massive Spoilers Ahoy!

HOUSE OF M #6

So, our newly-awakened heroes take a ride on a magic carpet (e.g. the SHIELD helicarrier) and discuss what's happened, what they have to do, what their hopes and dreams are...zzzzz...whoa! I'm up! Sorry about that! Um, and then they attack the House of M at a swank party and look for Professor X, whom they don't find immediately.

End.

This ENTIRE issue was filler, pure and simple. Sure, there's a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over what's happened while they're on the helicarrier, but it's either pointless or coming from the wrong characters. Examples include:
  • Luke Cage calling Jessica Jones only to hear an answering machine message that implies she's hooked up with another man. And then Cage says, "I don't know why I just did that." Luke, speaking for those of us reading this comic: we agree.
  • Spider-Man moping over whether or not MJ would be more successful without him, as she is in this altered reality. Then he mopes off somewhere. Mopey Parker. What happened to the pissed-off vengeful Spider-Man that I praised to the heavens last issue?
  • Jessica Drew (see a pattern here, New Avengers readers?) positing that maybe this is how things are meant to be. WTF?!? Because, you know, the next logical step in evolution is having a mutant witch bend reality because she went insane. Whatever.

In the midst of all this, there are actually two interesting bits. First, Cyclops tells everyone to basically go balls-out in the coming battle, forget heroics, and get the job done, which to me translates as "kill those mofos if you have to". Which is cool, and I would expect that from Cyclops. Two, Kitty Pryde brings up what I suspect is the point of the series, which is that when everything goes back to normal it might make things worse. Which, of course, it will.

Added to this are scenes of HOM-reality royalty (Queen Ororo, King Namor, T'Challa, Vic Von Doom) being introduced at Maggie's swank party. And no, those scenes don't serve any purpose either.

Finally, there's a cool splash page of most of the heroes (inexplicably sans Iron Man---more about that later) going in for the attack, Rogue literally taking the gloves off to beat up Namor, etc.

Two notes about the art: as I mentioned in the review for last ish, I'm getting tired of Coipel's art and I still have no explanation for this, as I can't find a lot of fault with it except that it seems generic. Also, D'Armata's covers for the whole series have just been bad. This is the flagship summer event featuring the whole Marvel Universe! Let's put some definition and hard lines and colors in there, buddy! Pastels and furrowed brows on mush faces do not a spectacle cover make!

Best Moment: Meh. I guess the splash page. Maybe? Ah, who knows.

Worst Moment: Just getting to the big brawl and then not showing it. Dammit, if issue 7 isn't one big grand superhero/villain bash-fest, I'm gonna be seriously pissed at myself for buying into this whole House of M craptacle.

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5. Pure filler and talky-talky, Bendisized even more than usual; this issue coasts on the inertia of the series as a whole, which, let me tell you, if there were more than two issues remaining, I would be dropping like a hot rock. As it is, I'm too close to the finish line to not see how it ends.


GUARDIAN #4

Jake threatens to quit, but the Guardian's owner (a.k.a. Baby Brain) tells him a story of the kid superteam (Newsboy Army) that encountered the Sheeda the last time they were here, and the dire consequences at stake. It's a big flashback/setup issue, folks, and damn if it doesn't work against all odds.

Morrison here weaves a chilling tale of innocence lost, in regards to the Newsboy Army; how these optimistic, naive adventuring kids were full of hope and fun, and how the Sheeda corrupted them and people they knew, and it really is creepy and...I said chilling earlier, right? OK, chilling. You really get a feel for these kids, and their fate is tragic.

While Jake may not be the most compelling character in comics, towards the end he truly becomes heroic, knowing the Sheeda invasion is imminent and resolving to do the right thing because it's the right thing, which we don't see a lot of in DC these days (I'm lookin' at you, JLA).

As a whole, Guardian has been the most mainstream-y of the Seven Soldiers miniseries, and that's OK. In the end, we're left rooting for the Guardian and the Newsboy Army to take Sheeda names and kick Sheeda ass, and although it's a setup for Seven Soldiers #1 (in April!), the overall quality of the series has been good enough to where I don't feel ripped off. I guess it did what it was meant to do, which is make me interested enough in the character to follow him in a regular series.

Also, Cameron Stewart's art (which I normally don't like and have decried in the past) really works well in this issue in particular for some reason. There are one or two gruesome panels that are definitely not meant for kids, unless they're budding optometrists with a fascination for vivisection. And the cover is a creative play on the fact that the Guardian nominally works for a newspaper. Nice work all around.

Best Moment: The really (I'll say it again) chilling page where we find out that post-Sheeda-i-zation, the Newsboy Army kids are either killed or become mass murderers, child molesters, alcoholics, or schizophrenic homeless people.

Worst Moment: It's still kind of weird to think that the Sheeda evil comes in the form of fairies riding mosquitoes, and I think less of myself for buying into it.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Solid ending to a solid series, but not a must-read either way. I thought overall it was fundamental, interesting superheroics with each issue, and a decent setup to the saga's end.


HOUSE OF M: IRON MAN #3

So, here we are. When we last left this series, Tony Stark and Johnny Storm(!) were in big Robotech suits, and had just learned that Hank Pym had set a bunch of virus bombs all over Chicago designed to kill mutants. Stark and Storm (now there's a concept for a team-up mini in the regular Marvel U that I'd be interested in) find the bombs, disable them, then Tony's dad Howard comes in and explains that the whole thing was set up to dimple monkey twice the pudding octopi for tango man.

What's that? That last sentence didn't make sense? Well, tough cookies, because neither did anything in this comic that happened after Howie showed up.

See, he wanted Tony to save the day so he could be a hero to sapien and mutant, I guess, and continue his work...doing what? I have no idea. I've read it three times and still can't decipher what Howard's motivations were other than hating mutants, and he's still a bastard to his son. Oh, and Magneto himself shows up here, melts Howie into lasagna, then faces down Tony. In a downright Hal Jordan-esque moment, Tony decides to destroy the last bomb rather than use it to kill Magneto.

In what universe is Tony Stark a big weenie instead of Iron Man? Answer: the House of M universe, apparently. The whole Tony/Howie scenes are meant to resonate with father/son themes, but other than "Howard Stark continually demeaned and insulted Tony until their last face-off", nothing comes across here. And there is absolutely no mention of Iron Man's actions in relation to the main House of M storyline, which, if I'm the good guys, I make damn sure that the guy who invented 99% of the badass weapon tech in the world knows from shit about what's going on and is on my side...but apparently Wolvie, Spider-Man and the X-Men can do without him. Whatever.

Oh, and there's a 4-page preview of Nick Fury's Howling Commandos at the end of this issue, which makes me want to read that series when it comes out.

It's over, and not a moment too soon. This has been bad from issue #1, and I hate the fact that I'm such an Iron Man homer that I bought this. Stupid House of M.

UPDATE: In yet another instance of how this comic hates me, all attempts at downloading the cover image for this post have been fruitless, due to technical problems. Stupid Iron Man: House of M.

Best Moment: The Vision Sentinels were actually a cool idea.

Worst Moment: I'm all for miniseries that don't require you to read the spin-off minis associated with it, but shouldn't the spin-off minis mention the MAIN STORYLINE somehow? If the rest of the Marvel U doesn't care about you, why should we?

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5. Fuck off, House of M Weenie Stark. I am so glad you're over with I might treat myself to the Armor Wars TPB even though I own the monthlies.


FELL #1

Richard Fell is a homicide detective reassigned to Snowtown, a crap city that no one cares about, that oozes sinister from every street corner, and solves a murder that happens right there in his new apartment building. Along the way, we meet a couple of Snowtown's (likely to be regular) characters, and in a very real sense, meet the city itself.

Wow.

This is a 16-page comic, but it reads like a 40-pager because Ellis and Ben Templesmith keep the focus so tight. The main character (Fell) doesn't have so many of the standard Ellis-isms we've come to expect; yeah, he's a loner, but he's not antisocial, is kinda optimistic, and genuinely wants to help. It's a nice change.

Other nice changes include:

  • A focused (there's that word again) story that's done-in-one and still satisfying
  • A couple of side characters that are genuinely interesting, like Mayko
  • Cool outside-the-story art panels, such as the shot of the city with hand-written Post-It notes indicating locations we've seen
  • A setup that could provide for a ton of different stories
  • The comic costs all of two bucks.
  • There's not supernatural shit going on here---it's just a murder of the people, by the people, and for the people. And this particular murder is based on a true story!

Ben Templesmith (another artist I could take or leave) does a great job here; the images are murky, but defined enough to where we can tell what's going on, and there's a whole mood to the city of Snowtown that infects its people, its architecture, and the whole story. Great job!

I had no idea what this whole enterprise was all about in the larger sense until Ellis' letter to the reader at the end of the issue. I'm freakin' delighted to see that each issue is designed to be a story in and of itself, featuring Fell, Snowtown, et al.; it's looking like it's going to be the comic equivalent of Law and Order, only with interesting characters and great visuals and cheap. I'm totally on board. Plus, as Ellis himself points out, 16 pages to work with means he doesn't have time to fuck around with drawing things out, so we can avoid the decompression pitfalls. Bravo, Ellis. Bravo.

(And no Jack Cross in sight! Yay! I'm sorry, that book was shit.)

Best Moment: The crappy ringtone that nobody uses. (Trust me, it works.)

Worst Moment: Fell comes off a little too Sherlock Holmes-y, with his instant evaluations of strangers, but hey; he's a detective, after all.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. Did I mention that this was two bucks? This is value, people, and it's a damn good detective story to boot. Buy this comic.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your HOM 6 review. I was just bitching to a friend about that issue today.

I won't buy another issue of Bendis "event" comics after HOM. Disassembled was poorly paced and HOM is unfocused. What the fuck was the point of the second issue?! It's so frustrating. 6 issues of setup, 2 for climax and epilogue. Ugh...

Fell was great though.

7:33 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Today I read Paul O'Brien's review of the X-Men annual from 1997 and guess what? Same plot as House of M. 38 pages.

Hmmm...

Defenders of this decompression nonsense say "oh, comics can't be told like Stan and Jack used to anymore" but that's from 1997! We're not talking archaic storytelling techniques here! Bendis and Marvel are wasting our time and money!

Bastards.

9:24 AM  
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