Thursday, December 15, 2005

Chris' Reviews 12/14, Part 1


What an odd comics week.

I have a lot to review, but it's not all new and it's certainly not all good, so we'll split this puppy into two parts. Either way: Massive Spoilers Ahoy!

BATMAN: GOTHAM COUNTY LINE

Issue #3 of 3 came out, and thus endeth Steve Niles' zombie-horror take on the Dark Knight. I was not at all shy about my dislike of the first issue (scroll way down off that link). The second issue was a muddled mess, in which Deadman shows up to confuse the hell out of Batman (and the reader) for about 10 pages, dead people come back to life, and ends with Batman facing a mob of angry zombies.

This issue is not nearly as incomprehensible as the second.

This issue actually kind of explains what the whole series has been doing --- kind of --- all along, which is, you know, a good thing and a bad thing. Basically the whole series has not been Batman fighting Zombies in suburbia. The whole series has been Batman fighting Zombies in an illusory world brought on by the killer from the first issue in an alternate timeline. For some reason. I'm not quite sure. Which explains (sorta) why Batman has spent 90% of this series running, running some more, failing to save people, and trading stupid quips with a zombie.

So basically, Batman has been hallucinating the whole thing and it took him three issues to figure out that the key to fighting illusions is to not believe in them.

Pretty stupid for a guy who regularly has to drop-kick the Scarecrow, huh?

In this final issue, we also see Deadman, Phantom Stranger (who threatens to elevate the whole enterprise just by nuking an acre full of zombies), Zombie Jason Todd (yup), and Bruce's Dead Parents.

And so at the end we're back where we started, with Batman meditating on the afterlife and flying around on a crappily-drawn jetpack.

Best Moment: Gotta be the Phantom Stranger's entrance. Why hasn't DC learned that Phantom Stranger = Automatically Cool?

Worst Moment: Realizing that the central conceit of the story had played me like a sucker. Also, remembering that I hadn't planned on actually getting the last two issues but never bothered to cancel my order.

Comic Book Goodness: 2/5 for the whole thing. Poor, poor value for 18 bucks all told. Other outstanding questions: why was the art so crappy? Why was it allegedly set in suburbia? Why couldn't someone have dropped a hint as to what was going on some time around issue 2? Why doesn't the Phantom Stranger have his own series?




ULTIMATE IRON MAN #5

The first miniseries of this maxiseries comes to an end, and boy howdy does it feel (and look) rushed.

I was REALLY enjoying this mini, but it trips up at the finish line in more than a few ways. Let me walk you through what happens in this comic:

  • Two pages of Jim Rhodes building a fist that will one day become Ultimate War Machine.
  • Tony (now 16-ish) has built a giant Iron Man robot and a couple of Iron Man suits with helmets that make them look like sad, sad monkeys. I'm not kidding.
  • Howard Stark suddenly gets creepily angry and proprietary over Tony's tech designs, to the point where he looks like he's about to hit his own kid, which was WAY out of character for this guy given what we've seen so far.
  • Some dudes break Stane out of prison then kill him. Howard is framed for murder and sent to jail and Tony takes over the company. This all happens in about six pages.
  • We learn that because Tony's entire body is made of brain tissue (I know, I know) alcohol relieves him of the screaming pain he lives with every day, which, curiously, we've never seen depicted.
  • At the end, Tony jumps in the Giant Iron Man Robot suit and blows up a ferry full of terrorists he psychically spies heading down the river. No, I'm not kidding.

By issue's end, we're meant to be wondering who framed Howard Stark (it's Stane's son and Tony's future rival Obadiah), whether Tony will be able to control his drinking (he drinks regularly in the Ultimates, so, um, no), and whether we'll actually see the other two promised miniseries (my money's against it).

And the whole alcohol thing pisses me off. Why can't Tony just be a human being with a weakness for drink? Why does there have to be a valid scientific reason for him liking alcohol?

Best Moment: After 4 issues, we finally get to see some armor! Too bad it has a face like a sad, sad monkey.

Worst Moment: The point about halfway through the issue where Mark Bagley takes over for Andy Kubert. HOLD ON! I actually like Bagley, but Kubert's been on the series the whole time, so it's a jarring change. Plus, Bagley's Teen Tony looks like Ultimate Peter Parker's twin brother. Not his fault, but still.

Comic Book Goodness: 2/5 for this issue, but 3/5 for the series as a whole. Worth reading for IM fans like myself, but it's basically an extended origin story that I'm not convinced Marvel will follow through on. Plus, it's Ultimate, so it's not like any of it matters anyway.

X-FACTOR #1

I believe I may have mentioned that I thought the Madrox limited series that came out last year was pretty good. And so, I purchased Peter David's relaunch of X-Factor, having read nothing of these characters in years except for that Madrox series.

I am pleased.

X-Factor Investigations, a detective agency run by, erm, X-Factor, has expanded thanks to Jamie's winning a TV game show prize of a million dollars. To that end, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, Siryn, and some French chick I've don't recognize are staffing the agency in Mutant Town.

In the inaugural issue, Rictor (who has lost his powers thanks to Brian Michael Bendis) wants to throw himself off a building and Jamie tries to talk him down. Since his dupes are displaying different attributes of his personality, he makes a few of them and then chooses the optimistic one to go talk Rictor off the ledge.

Meanwhile, Siryn gets a snitch killed, causes a suicide, and blames Strong Guy for it. And House of M plot device Layla Miller threatens to be a part of the ensemble, which is the only thing that scares me about this book.

Oh, and that dupe talking Rictor down? Turns out he's actually a manifestation of the spontaneous psychotic part of Jamie's personality, and just as he's got Rictor talked into not killing himself, he tosses him off the building.

That, my friends, is crazy good.

The art by Ryan Sook is as good as his stuff in Seven Soldiers: Zatanna, which is in itself quite good. I do miss Raimondi's art, though, if only because he depicted Jamie a bit older and world-weary.

This book was unexpectedly philosophical, dark, disturbing, and hilarious. I'm on board.

Best Moment: Realizing that the "dupe" had duped us. Har! Either that or the wonderfully funny back-and forth as Jamie and Rictor are having this deep soul-searching conversation while Wolfsbane is screaming curses and insults from the street below.

Worst Moment: Layla Miller? Get your dirty paws off this, Bendis!

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. Still retains the noir feel I liked so much in the miniseries, the characters are strong, the art's good, and a shocking last page --- geez, what the hell else do I want in a comic?

5 Comments:

Blogger Ragnell said...

Just trust Peter David. He can make Layla interesting.

Did you see his Supergirl? Whoa!

11:39 PM  
Blogger CalvinPitt said...

I was complaining about needing a good Marvel team book, as bendis is driving me up the wall on New Avengers, and friend at the store suggested this. I read the first issue, and I am intrigued. Maybe even more so because i've never given a crap about any of these characters before. So I'm gonna start picking it up.

9:09 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Come on! Post a picture of the Iron Sad Monkeys!

I'm still baffled at the idea of giving Tony Stark superpowers. It's completely against the point of the character, not to mention that we've not had a whiff of it in the main book. Ho hum.

X-Factor didn't do much for me, but I'll give it a couple more issues. It's certainly not bad, and it's much better than David's Spider-Man stuff so far.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

As you should know by now, that's Monet St. Croix. She was in Generation X for a while. I haven't seen her in some time. I can't even tell you her power, because her power SEEMS to be snottiness and a superior attitude towards the peons.

9:57 AM  
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