Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Chris' Reviews Double Feature: 9/28 and 10/5


What ho, reviews are here! Warning: this is a long post. I’ve got the comics from last week plus some stuff for this week, so let’s cut to the action! As always, Massive Spoilers Ahoy!

ULTIMATE IRON MAN #4

Tony and Jim Rhodes’ prep school basement fight with the bullies comes to a gruesome end, whereupon Tony, Rhodey and Rhodes’ sister (!) are whisked off to finish school in the Baxter Building School For Really Smart Kids The Government Wants To Exploit. Here we see that Tony’s half-brother and future archrival Obadiah Stane is also enrolled here. Stane then promptly kills two other children (alright, manipulates them into offing themselves), which spurs Tony into further development of the Iron Man armor, specifically the flying jets part. At this point, Tony’s somewhere around 16 years old, methinks.

Yet another really good issue as far as I’m concerned; the way Tony’s fledgling armor assembles and disassembles (no pun intended) itself is a neat idea, and the fact that Jim Rhodes’ and Tony’s friendship is given a decent background fills in an underdeveloped part of the Iron Man canon. And boy howdy, is that Obie Stane one little psycho! Card is clearly setting him up as the main antagonist for the next two series, and I look forward to seeing Tony repulsor-ray the living shit out of him one day. (Yes, repulsor ray can be used as a verb. Shut up.)

There are a few head-scratchers here, though, such as why Howie Stark suddenly feels the need to put Rhodes and his sister in the same Genius Baxter Building School as Tony, since they’re not geniuses, and the “we have to hide them because we know that Tony can regenerate his body even after his entire lower half has been incinerated” excuse…well…just read that again and explain to me how that makes sense.

I also didn’t like the death of children (never do), but the way it was presented here was skillfully done enough to make me feel sad and vengeance-filled at the same time, which dovetails nicely with Tony and Howie’s reactions. We see the ruthlessness and sense of purpose develop in Tony, and it hits all the right beats. Warning, though: damn little of this comic will resonate if you haven’t been following it from the beginning. Recommended.

Best Moment: Watching Tony wolf down a ton of food to allow his body to regenerate the muscles and flesh that was burned off. It’s a cute sight gag that you almost miss on the page. Also, the nanites assembling the armor was a cool touch.

Worst Moment: Dear God, Stane’s getting away with the murder of two kids and his reaction just makes you want to disembowel the little turd. Or at the very least, lock him in a room with copies of All-Star Batman and Robin.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. The Andy Kubert art is wonderful as per the usual, Tony develops more into the Iron Man we know he’s going to be (in the Ultimate Universe, anyway), and wheels are set in motion for the larger story arc. I’m totally on board, even though it is the Ultimate universe which means he ends up with the GoBot armor in the end.



THE OMAC PROJECT #6

So, Brutha Eye has unleashed a million or so OMACs on the world. Batman, TerminatorSasha, and the rest of all the superheroes in the world try to stop it. They succeed just halfway, which is how all these damn Infinite Crisis miniseries seem to be ending. A dozen or so heroes lure all the OMACs to one location, whereupon Bats transmits an EMP blast to disable them all and kill the OMAC virus. TerminatorSasha uploads a virus to Brutha Eye, who then takes about 200,000 OMACs and its ball and goes…off somewhere, I guess, but not before broadcasting to the world video footage of Wonder Woman killing Max Lord. And I think that TerminatorSasha reforms Checkmate using all the world’s government and hypersecret agencies or something.

Bleh.

This series was a hell of a lot more interesting when Max Lord was involved. At least we had a villain, not an excuse for some OMAC to pop up somewhere in a comic every time someone needed a filler issue, which I guess is the point of this series. Batman’s gambit---to lure every OMAC to one spot by concentrating all the superheroes in one place---doesn’t ring true, and here’s why.

You’re telling me that a computer programmed by Batman, Mr. Contingency Plan himself, Mr. Think One Move Ahead At All Times, Mr. Always Prepared, wouldn’t think that something like this was a TRAP? Come on! And the end where Max’s murder is shown to the world---there’s obviously going to be some huge public outcry against heroes, which will be stupid, because all anyone has to do is politely explain using video and audio footage exactly what went down and why it happened, and any sane populace will realize that having the capes-and-tights crowd on their side against the next Evil Alien Menace will be better than shunning them entirely.

Maybe that’s why I don’t like this comic: it’s got me tired of plots that haven’t even been published yet!

Best Moment: The splash page of maybe 10 or so heroes facing the OMAC onslaught is pretty. (Which brings up another point: for what was supposed to be this big Hero/OMAC face off, there were damn few heroes involved shown. It’s already been proven that one OMAC can pretty much slaughter 6 heroes at a time; why does a measly dozen capes warrant sending the whole army there? Yeesh.)

Worst Moment: The ending, where the good guys and bad guys split the difference and we’re left with nothing but a few dead heroes, TerminatorSasha, and some satellite with a couple hundred plot devices roaming the galaxy.

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5. Good Lord, this series was pointless. The only worthy moments took place in other comics (I’m lookin’ at you, Sacrifice).



NEW AVENGERS #11

This issue introduces us to…RONIN! The Most Super Duper New Hero We So Didn’t Need Because There Are Plenty Of Others Out There We Could Put In The Avengers But Bendis Wants To Milk The Identity Game For Three Issues So You’re Just Going To Love RONIN! And Like It.

So, the Silver Samurai has escaped to Japan, and the Avengers need to send someone familiar with the territory over to investigate. Cap tries to talk Daredevil into it, to no seeming avail, but Matt Murdock tells Cap he “knows someone” that could help. Daredevi---er, Ronin is shown investigating by beating up a bunch of ninjas, then leads all the ninjas straight back to the New Avengers, who are holed up in Tony “I’m so broke I have a tower in Japan” Stark’s Japanese corporate HQ.

Let’s get one thing straight. Despite Randy’s opinion, Ronin is not Howard Stern. In fact, despite the ways Bendis tries to make us think otherwise, there’s absolutely nothing here to convince me that it isn’t Daredevil. In fact, at one point Cap explains to Murdock how once upon a time Steve Rogers discarded the Cap identity, and became Nomad, a man without a country, a man….zzzz…whoa! Awake now, sorry.

Look, one of three things is going to happen here:
  1. Ronin in this story really is someone Murdock just knows, but after they either die or are incapacitated (as seems to happen at the end of this issue), Murdock will pick up the black suit and fight on as…RONIN!
  2. Ronin is already Murdock, who fights anonymously to protect other heroes from being associated with him and dons the black garb of….RONIN!
  3. Ronin is Elektra, which is so staggeringly stupid on so many levels that I can’t even bring myself to believe that she would assume the identity of….RONIN!

    Either way, it looks like we’re in for three issues of ninja fighting (which is cool), although Hydra seems to be involved somehow (which is boring). Granted, the Daredevi---er, RONIN! Fight scenes are decently action-y, but the rest of the book reads like My Dinner With Captain America. Which is Bendis, and I guess I just have to get used to it.

    Remember Kree-Skrull War? Wasn’t that cool? Sigh.

    Best Moment: Daredevi---er, RONIN! Getting plunked with about 150 shuriken at once.

    Worst Moment: The pains and clumsy misdirection Bendis goes to to make us think that Murdock isn’t RONIN! Nothing here that can’t be explained in a way that will make people think that this is far more clever than it actually is. That and Spider-Man’s “Oy! With the Madame Hydra!” line, which is…how do I put this…retarded.

    Comic Book Goodness: 2/5. I’m starting to believe that Brian Michael Bendis actually hates me personally. Is this really the same guy who writes Powers? Goldfish? Daredevil?



    DEFENDERS #3

    Dread Dormammu and Umar suck up Eternity’s power (well, Dormammu does---Umar ends up sucking something entirely different, and it’s exactly as gross as that sounds). Dormammu reshapes the universe in his image, which has fewer consequences than you might expect, we get way too many pages of Umar-Hulk foreplay, sex, and pillow talk (toldja), Dr. Strange and Namor escape and resolve to make things OK again, and Silver Surfer literally stands around and acts the idiot for four panels.

    I get that this is supposed to be a continuity-free humor piece. I get it. And the bit about Banner not being able to Hulk Out because he’s, erm, “spent”, garnered a chuckle. But please. The way I see it, this book was targeted at two audiences: 1) the people who legitimately are fans of the Defenders, and 2) the people who follow Giffen and DeMatteis hoping they’ll recreate the bwa-ha-ha magic from back in the day.

    I’m in audience 2, and I firmly believe this is a swing and a miss for these guys, no matter how much I wish it wasn’t. I sense a grand pulling of punches here --- the humor is off the mark, the snide remarks aren’t snide enough, and the plot isn’t strong enough to make up for it. At some point the decision should have been made to either make this a straight comedy book and dump the universe-conquering nonsense (which will piss off Audience #1), or stop reaching for the comedy and make this a real action-y superhero galactic romp (thereby letting down Audience #2).

    All I’m saying is that you’re in trouble when the Defenders logo on the cover is cooler than any of the pages inside. I don’t understand the generally positive reviews for this; my only explanation is that out of nostalgia and some weird kind of sympathy for the writers people are convincing themselves that this book is better than it actually is.

    There is a semi-interesting development at the end, which implies an Evil Bearded Alternate Universe Version of our heroes will make an appearance, which means (because I’m stupid) that I will read the next issue, because I’m a sucker for Evil Bearded Alternate Universe Versions.

    Best Moment: The Royal Sadist, as a character and a concept, is deserving of his own one-shot issue. I especially enjoyed seeing him refer to Namor as “fishy-pants”, because that’s how I refer to Namor…when, you know, I’m talking…to people…about comics…let’s move on.

    Worst Moment: Did I mention the Hulk-Umar Horizontal Bop that occurs here? Not only do you have to live with that image in your brain, we’re apparently supposed to believe that Banner thinks he can Hulk Out by saying magic words. Which might be funny, if it wasn’t ripping off a sequence from the first Spider-Man movie.

    Comic Book Goodness: 2/5. I can’t believe I’m going to buy another issue based on a clichéd Alternate Universe and a logo. I am such a moron.




JLA CLASSIFIED #12

So, the green parchment-y things the JLA members found were pieces of some Martian Death God’s resurrection spell or something, and the JLA confronts Prez Lex Luthor about it. Then, all hell breaks loose in Vegas, only it’s not the good alcohol-and-strippers kind of hell, it’s the alien robot monster kind.

Ignore the lame computer generated cover.

This is mostly Captain Exposition at work in this issue here. We get J’onn filling us in on the Martian Death God, Lex explaining that he was researching the parchment-y things for use as a weapon, et cetera. There’s also a weird trippy sequence in the middle of Oracle flashing back to the Joker shooting her that serves no purpose but is kind of eerie.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been really liking this story so far, but this issue falls a little flatter than the previous two because A) there’s no Lois Lane/Clark scenes, which usually crackle, B) there’s no grand superheroics, and C) there’s little characterization, unless you want to count Kyle calling the President a “butt-hat”. Twice.

Oh, and for some reason, Kyle’s wearing his Action Figure Battle Armor again here, even when he’s just standing around. I have no explanation for this.

I’m still on board for this series, and by all indications the pace is going to pick up again next issue.

Best Moment: “Which button sends in the girls?”

Worst Moment: There should be a rule in comics that when Martian Manhunter has to tell a story it happens off-panel. Seriously. This guy gets handed all the long-winded speeches in comics it seems like. For a moment I thought Bendis was writing, but MM didn’t reference American Idol, Burger King, or Fleetwood Mac, so I think we’re safe.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Still a solid story and nice team scenes, and for some reason I have faith in Ellis on this one. Good stuff.




RANN-THANAGAR WAR #6

My God, it’s over. I’m going to keep this one short (and a cheer goes up from the crowd). Good guys disintegrate Thanagarian Death God. Blackfire convinces Thanagar to keep up the war on Rann. Giant Space Thingy appears at the end.


What a mess.

Best Moment: It’s over! That, and the art. Reis has done superb detail work on every issue.

Worst Moment: The half-assed ending. We’re supposed to still care about this war? I’m starting to agree with others that Gibbons had a 12-issue idea squashed into 6 issues. Either way, you don’t need to read it.

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5. They killed Shayera for this?



MARVEL TEAM-UP #13

Ah, here’s the stuff. Good superhero stuff, a few funny lines, and nice art. Was that so hard?

Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, She-Hulk, Hulk, Wolverine, Nova, and Warbird gang up on Titannus, who pretty much beats the cookies out of them all. They capture his honey, who tells him to piss off, and then Titannus decapitates himself (hee!). Quasar takes said honey back to home planet, where she decks him and flies off. Turns out the whole thing was a ruse and that Honey’s home planet are going to declare war on Earth pretty soon here; Titannus was a patsy. SHIELD un-freezes Evil Tony Stark (from the first story arc) who explains what’s going on here and why everyone’s in trouble. And Titannus starts growing his head back.

Dammit, this was just fun, which is exactly why I read this comic. Again, I could have done without seeing the innocents get blasted to smithereens, but on balance this was a good return to form for Kirkman. Spidey gets a few legitimately funny scenes, the self-decapitation was a nice bit, and generally the whole thing worked. I also enjoyed the reference to Wolverine’s overexposure, with Titannus telling him “you overextended yourself. You can’t be everywhere at once, y’know.” Heh.

A few questions, though:

  • Is Warbird always this useless? I don’t remember her being this useless in the Avengers.
  • Is it me or does Paco Medina draw everyone with big noses?
  • Why does She-Hulk wear fingerless gloves? Why does anyone wear fingerless gloves? I mean, either you want gloves or you don’t. Go all the way or go home.

Best Moment: “Nova. Shut up.”

Worst Moment: Seeing the kids blasted to smithereens. It’s a nice set up for Hulking Out, but c’mon, you can do better than that.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. Again, not much to not like here. We get a nice twist regarding the impending invasion, lotso fighting, and funny lines. It’s exactly what’s advertised: Marvel Team-Up.



FELL #2

The second issue in this series is just as good (if not better) than the first, as Fell investigates the murder of a pregnant woman who had her fetus cut out of her. The clues lead back to a psychopath practicing ancient rituals with dead fetii (I can’t believe I just wrote that).

Another good done-in-one mystery, with the added bonus of developing Fell and Mayko as characters. And did I mention the creepy ice-cream eating nun in the Richard Nixon mask? Gravy, my friends. The nun is just gravy.

I praised the last issue highly, and will do the same here. I love the atmosphere, the art, and the characters. The value it provides for two bucks is unbeatable.

Again, Ellis gives us a nice three page text letter at the end explaining some of the ideas behind the series and the subject matter of this particular issue, which I found interesting. Bonus.

Still, the best part about this? There’s no obviously supernatural shit going on here. Sure, there’s magic rituals (that don’t work), talismans (that don’t work), and an occult-y feel in general (but it’s just a feeling), but the whole thing is still grounded in a depressing, low-income shit-city reality, which must be what living in Detroit feels like (I kid! I kid because I love! Kind of.). It’s a crime comic, and it the noir meets supernatural feel is one that grabs me.

Best Moment: “If you retrieve that piece of tomato from where it fell [in the corpse] and then put it in your mouth, I will shoot you.”

Worst Moment: Dozens of dead babies hanging from a ceiling was stomach-turning. What’s with all the kid-killing in comics?

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. Just pick up one issue and you’ll know whether this is your cup of tea or not. I say, more tea! For two bucks you can’t beat it.


BATMAN: GOTHAM COUNTY LINE #1

OK, here’s what got me to pick this up. Steve Niles on a Batman mini? Cool. Batman outside Gotham in the burbs? Check. Serial Killer? Alright, I’m in.

The lesson, as always: let Chris take the flyer on the 6-dollar Batman miniseries before you do.

Basically, Gordon asks Bats to investigate serial killings in the suburbs. Batman does so and tracks down the killer, who dies.

Then comes back as a zombie.

Alright, here’s the thing. Since Niles was involved, I was pretty sure zombies or vampires or werewolves were going to show up sooner or later, which is just fine. I’m just fine with a Batman Vs. A Serial Killin’ Zombie Miniseries.But.

This is going to be A Miniseries In Which Batman Re-Examines His Thoughts On Religion And The Afterlife. Which I don’t need, and neither do you, particularly if it’s going to be this ham-fisted. Take for example:

Telegraphing Faith Theme Point #1: In the midst of a fistfight with the Joker, Batman asks his enemy, “You, of all people, really believe the dead are waiting for us in another life?” In the middle of a fight, for cripes’ sake! It’s as jarring as if he just stopped fighting, and said, “You know, old boy, I’d be interested in your thoughts on Kant’s Moral Imperative Philosophy. Is free will really an illusion? Explain, old chap.”

Telegraphing Faith Theme Point #2: Bruce tries to google up “afterlife” but only wants factual information, of which Alfred informs him there is zero to be found on the Internet. Gee, do you think Bruce will try to reconcile his logical, scientific mind with something as faith-based as the supernatural? Could be! The Internet thing is hogwash, because in addition to the millions of pages out there that purport to have some factual references to world religions and maybe some afterlife experiences, there’s always crap in search results.

Other examples of mind-boggling wrongness include:

  • Batman flies into surburbia via a Rocketeer-esque jetpack. What, this was easier than the Batmobile? The Batplane? The Batcycle? I’m all for retro, but two martini shakers with flames coming out the end strapped to your back is lame, dude. You’re Batman! Show up in the car! People want to see the car!
  • At various points while “tracking down” the killer (which here means just following trails of bodies and getting bonked on the head repeatedly), Batman muses that the killer “knows I’m here” and “is setting a trap for me, predicting my every move”. No, Batman, he’s not. He’s killing people, true, but there’s nothing to indicate that this is personal or that the killer gives a rat’s ass who you are.
  • The Zombie Serial Killer at the end comes like a bolt from the blue, as he wrecks the ambulance carrying him and all the other people who were in the ambulance are suddenly zombies too. Huh?
  • This issue alone was six dollars. Not nearly enough value for six bucks. It's like the Anti-Fell.
  • The art is all over the map. Some scenes are appropriately gritty, others look like Koko the Gorilla signed an exclusive with DC.

    In short, I’m quite disappointed with this first ish, I have no interest in Batman learning a lesson about the afterlife (I’m more interested in him kicking the afterlife’s ass), there’s not much atmosphere to be had here since Bats ends up getting stabbed, shot, and bonked in the head way too much, and there are not one, but two scenes where Batman lunges to prevent someone’s death, fails, and screams “Noooooo!” Chances are I won’t get the last two issues of this.

    Best Moment: “I swear he calls more since he retired than when he was Commissioner.”

    Worst Moment: “Noooooo!”

    Comic Book Goodness: 2/5. Not nearly what I expected, and the Anvil of Deep Thoughts On The Afterlife is too heavy for me to bear.

    Whew! You made it through! Keep an eye out in the next day or two for a special feature we’re thinking about, and thanks for reading.

6 Comments:

Blogger kelvingreen said...

Long post, long reply...

Okay, so New Avengers. My review hasn't gone up yet, but everything you said, plus...

Why does Cap need to explain to DD this thing about other identities, given that DD has done the same thing himself (Laurent Levasseur, anyone)?
Why am I supposed to be excited by the outcome of a battle between the Avengers and some ninjas? I mean ninjas are cool, and this isn't a classic Avengers team, but still, it's the Avengers! Luke Cage is indestructible, Cap is the best fighter in the whole Marvel Universe, and all Iron Man needs to do is repulsor ray (nice verb) the buggers. It's no contest, and it's presented as a big cliffhanger. Yawn.
And yeah, what's all this crap about Stark not having any money, when he's got skyscrapers all over the shop?

Sigh...

As for JLA Classified, I seem to be the only person who liked Martian Bloke's role in this issue. Yeah he went on, and I zoned out a bit, but Ellis gave him some neat dialogue in there, and also made him come across as truly, well, alien, which is something you don't see too often. And that Joker sequence was really weird. My guess is that this was supposed to be a proper JLA arc back when they were doing the rotating creative teams thing (it's the right time period, setting wise), and so Ellis is setting up something that he (or another writer) could come back to later on, only Crisis 2 gets in the way, and the unused story arcs get shuffled off into a non-continuity title without the subplot pages getting taken out because that would require someone to pay attention.

Marvel Team-Up: Warbird isn't useless, no. She was a bit useless back in the first few Busiek issues of Avengers, but really developed later on and became a very strong character. Then of course Bendis doesn't want her, so she gets shuffled off into a civilian job, so I suppose you could say her skills are rusty because she hasn't been Avengerin' for a while...

I have no interest in Batman learning a lesson about the afterlife (I’m more interested in him kicking the afterlife’s ass)
I believe he did just that in JLA: Another Nail. And I love Kantian Discussin' Batman. You should totally write that up in full. Do a series of them.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Spencer Carnage said...

All I know, is that the Ronin isn't Daredevil. The Ronin's freaking cut dudes IN HALF. And don't give me this "I read Millar's Wolverine and all the hand ninjs were undead so its ok that DD kills them because they're already dead" criznap because not all Hand ninjas are undead. Err, uh, I think. At least I don't remember them being like that, but I might be wrong.

And what was up with Captain America being all "No killing... if possible." That just sucked.

2:26 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

I know you said not to mention it, but the last time we saw the Hand's ninjas was in Wolverine and DD ripped through them then with no qualms.

But either way, making guesses on Ronin's identity based on previous characterisations of Daredevil is a risky game with the continuity-blind Bendis.

4:15 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

So, Spencer I was thinking about what you said, and I think you've answered your own question.

Daredevil doesn't kill. Darede... I mean Ronin kills. Therefore Darede... I mean Ronin isn't Daredevil. Right?

But this is happening in the same comic in which Captain America (who thinks that Avengers shouldn't kill) allows Wolverine on the team to act, essentially, as an assassin.

You see what Bendis has done there? We all thought that Cap was against killing on moral grounds, that it was just plain wrong for Avengers to kill, whereas Bendis seems to think that what Cap's really thinking about is plausible deniability. It's not "Avengers don't kill because it's wrong" it's "Avengers don't kill because it might get traced back to us".

So by that reasoning, Darede... I mean Ronin can be a killer and still be Daredevil, because it's not killing that DD is against, but killing and not being able to get away with it. Another identity solves that problem nice and neatly.


Frankly, all else aside, it's that characterisation of Cap that marks Bendis' Avengers as shameless hackery.

9:59 PM  
Blogger David Campbell said...

I'm with Kelvin - Avengers vs ninjas? That's a two-panel fight, right there. If they were like, dinosaur zombie ninjas, then we could talk...

9:08 PM  
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