Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Chris' Reviews, 3/1: Review-A-Palooza!

Holy cow, true believers, I got a ton of new comics this week, and I'm pleased to report that despite some iffy art issues here and there, most of them ranged from good to excellent! Buckle up and get comfy, because this is gonna take awhile. Massive Spoilers Ahoy!

INFINITE CRISIS #5

Right up front, I'm not sure how I should feel about this comic. I mean, it's Infinite Crisis, which pretty much means that if I want a snowball's chance in hell of understanding a DC comic in the next two years that I have to read it. On the other hand, well...we'll get to the other hand in a minute. There's a lot that happens in here, but it comes off as a lot less resonant than I think was intended.

1. Batman gathers allies including Booster Gold and the new Blue Beetle to attack Brother Eye. Apparently Beetle is the only one who can find the cloaked satellite (which seems like conveniently placed plot hammering to me). Among Strike Force: Asshat are Hal Jordan and John Stewart, who have been strangely missing thus far.

2. Earth-2 Superman and Earth-2 Lois return to Earth-2, whereupon Lois promptly dies. Earth-1 Superman hears E2S' anguished cries and goes to help,and E2S starts beating hell out of him (since he blames E1S for everything anyway). In a very nice scene, there's an homage to the cover of Action Comics #1 that reproduces the Superman-lifting-the-car scene, only he's
hitting E1S right in the noggin with it. That was tres coolamente.

3. Donna Troy's Combat Whackers are still off in space fighting the Giant Luthor Hands, but we blessedly only get a page or two of that nonsense.

4. Earth-2 Wonder Woman appears to Earth-1 Wonder Woman and invites her for a ride in her invisible prop plane (no kidding) basically to tell Diana that she's forgotten her humanity and to not take herself so seriously. I think. The message was a bit garbled. The Golden Age reproduction panels were quite nice however.

5. Flash reappears and tells everybody that he couldn't keep Superboy Prime from returning. And, of course, on the last page, Superboy Prime reappears in Action Figure Battle Armor.

By the end of the comic, Nightwing and a Luthor-assisted Superboy join forces to team up, Superboy Prime is back and pissed, and Earth-2 Superman realizes that Alexander Luthor is behind all of this. Oh, and the multiverse is back.

You're either reading this or you're not, and this issue won't change your mind one way or another.

Best Moment: "For some reason I can't explain or understand, and probably never will...everything comes from Superman."---Alex Luthor explaining how Golden Age Supes is the key to his plot to find the Perfect Earth. This is the metatextual money shot in the book, and it's worth pausing to let the deeper meanings sink in. Then you realize that he's right, and it's a nice bit.

Worst Moment: The art in this book is all over the map, and ranges from good to god-awful. But that's what happens when you have five different artists working feverishly to finish a late issue.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5, par for the course for this series. This really needs to be over yesterday, though, since OYL titles have now hit.


FALLEN ANGEL #3

Wow. Just...wow. This issue combines two of the qualities I like most about good comics: answers to questions I have about the comic, and emotion-inducing moments. Too bad the art is still off, and it appears to be getting worse, which is never a good sign.

It's mainly Captain Exposition at work here, although we do get a meeting between Dr. Juris and his and Lee's son Jude, who considers whether to accept the role of Magistrate in Bete Noire. Lee shows up at the end and tells her son to leave...or she'll kill him.

This issue we learn that Lee is indeed a fallen angel. It's assumed she went batshit crazy after she saw a six-year-old girl with whom she had a special relationship get murdered by a psycho with an axe. I know I would.

It's told in flashback, and I found it alternately sweet (as we learn of the girl Lee watched over) and absolutely horrifying as we see her fate. It's not graphic, but it was enough to make me stop for a moment in revulsion. And in that moment that I read that, Peter David absolutely had me convinced that Lee's "fallen" status was well deserved and completely understandable, and I am now totally hooked on this comic and its shades of moral gray and questions about free will and destiny. I'm still not sure who's the goodies and the baddies here, and I love it.

Except the art. The art is just...wrong, somehow, and I'm not sure that there's a better word for it. It needs to be either completely photoreferenced or not at all, and right now it's sitting between the two in the most...distracting way possible. I think Tony Harris would be a better fit. (Though that's true for a good of 80% of comics.)

Best Moment: "You'd be amazed how little the degrees of sins, or the reasons for them, matter to the victim." ---Angel Malachi speaking to the supervillain he's just slept with. (Yup.)

Worst Moment: As we realize what's going to happen to Holly, dread turns to fear turns to horror, and ends in sadness. It's gut-wrenching.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. The only questions I have at this point are A) when's the next issue coming out?, and B) will going back and reading the DC series enrich my reading or will I being doing myself a disservice?


NEXTWAVE #2

Nextwave's battle against Fin Fang Foom continues in high-octane, splodey, gooey, boomy, action. This issue is even more self-promoting and over the top than the first one, and it's a ton of fun. It's also frequently hilarious as we get a better sense of the weird personalities that make up the team.

This is actually a funny comic, and I don't mean "funny" in the "that was an attempt at a joke, so I've got a smile on my face" funny, I mean "funny" as in "this comic just made me laugh out loud" funny, which is all too rare.

I'm actually having a hard time describing what happens here, because it's almost superhero free association --- this is a bickering, snarky, effective superteam and the entire atmosphere is so over the top that you can't help but smile and go along for the ride.

It's almost as if Guy Ritchie directed a superhero movie and they made a comic out of it.

Jake, you have steered me towards good comics many a time, but you are totally and completely wrong about this comic, my friend.

You should just read it. It's a blast.

Stuart Immonen's art is also kinetic and widescreen, which suits the comic perfectly, whether he's drawing the Captain breaking FFF's finger to save Boom Boom from being dropped in the monster's pants (yup) or FFF's stomach contents full of digesting humans before Machine Man goes Swiss Army and cuts out FFF's heart from the inside (double yup). Plus, the cover is one of my all-time favorites, ever.

Like I said, a blast.

Best Moment: Watching Nextwave come up with a plan and implement it was both fun and cool, which makes it the polar opposite of New Avengers, and if you didn't get at least a small kick out of Machine Man's "Death to fleshy ones!", then I will never understand you.

Worst Moment: "My robot brain needs beer. Also? I want to die." -- Machine Man, upon exiting Fin Fang Foom's corpse. Ewww.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. It's a weird combination of classic Marvel team angst, Silver Age action, pro wrestling-style self promotion and two parts self-aware snarkiness. I had more outright guilt-free FUN reading this than anything I've read in the last two months.


AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS #40

For all my bitching and moaning, I figured it would be at least sporting to give Busiek's new Aquaman at least a chance.

And you know what? I'm glad I did.

Really.

Because it's not a bad "first" issue. It basically presents Arthur Curry, son of a scientist and given water breathing and swimming via life-saving scientific experimentation (VERY Silver age, that), getting tossed into the ocean and saving Kilowog----erm, King Shark (although he and 'Wog clearly have the same voice coach) from a group of sea trolls, then meeting Gandalf----erm, Dweller in the Depths, being given Aquamanny-looking armor, and being told that he shall walk a hero's path to fulfill his destiny.

But the interesting part is that pre-IC Aquaman, he of the Mera and the dead son and the hook and the JLA, THAT Arthur Curry...is the one that the Dweller was expecting. And so the Dweller is terribly confused when this new Art Curry with the new origin and wrong backstory shows up in semi-accordance with the prophecies.

Once again, Busiek wins, because he's smart enough to give the reader a stand-in by way of the Dweller; he's got pretty much the same questions that I do about these "new" characters One Year Later.

Look, I was one of those who tagged it as "Busiek's Conan Underwater". And so far that's precisely what it is, since there's Conan-esque narration, low-tech fight scenes, an adventuring party, et al. But I'm willing to give this one another issue at least, because A) Kurt Busiek typically knows from shit about good comics, B) Butch Guice's art is suitably ethereal, and C) I wasn't reading Aquaman before this, and I'm not invested in the character enough to have philosophical issues with the new direction.

So yeah. Not bad, and a lot more honest about what's going on than I expected.

Best Moment: The explanation of how this guy is swimming around talking and fighting and who he thinks he is doesn't come until 3/4 of the way through the book, and when it does come it throws tantalizing puzzle pieces at us. This isn't a reboot, this is something either much better or much, much worse, but at least it should be interesting.

Worst Moment: Why does this Arthur Curry have black pits for eyes, where most of us have eyeballs? And why does King Shark sound like Kilowog?

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5 may seem like a copout, but this series could go either way and it's a much more interesting issue than I would have thought. Then again, I've never been an Aquafan, so they could make him an underwater pizza delivery guy and I'd probably give it at least two issues. I will also add that a big reason I'm taking a chance on it is Busiek; if you don't like him (and I'm not sure how that's even possible), you won't like this at all.


DETECTIVE COMICS #817

Batman makes his OYL debut in this, written by James Robinson. This review is real simple.

THE GOOD:

- Jim Gordon is back as commissioner
- Harvey Bullock is back on the force
- Batman appears and acts, at least, like Bruce Wayne
- Robin is here, with a new (crappy) costume, and I'm not sure who he is
- KGBeast dies in the first two pages
- Harvey Dent and Poison Ivy are involved
- Batman makes a funny
- The art is really nice, almost...I'm not sure how to describe it, someone help me out here. But I really liked it.

The BAD:

See? That was simple.

Best Moment: GORDON: "What will you do?"
BATMAN: "Get in somehow and stop her. (smiling) It's what I do, isn't it?"
ROBIN: "What WE do."

Yeah, I think we're gonna be alright here.

Worst Moment: Can't think of one offhand.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. Enough IC/52 hint-dropping to whet appetites, but stayed focused on a mystery and just has a lighter, more Batmann-y tone (though you certainly woudn't know it from the cover).

ALSO THIS WEEK:

JONAH HEX #5 - Excellent story, with a nice payoff at the end, but I didn't like Tony DeZuniga's art in too many places. Plus Hex looked just ugly instead of creepy/menacing most of the time.

X-FACTOR #4 - X-Factor wrap up their first case, with some nice moments from Monet and Siryn, and the feud with Singularity Investigations gets taken to a brutal new level. Still recommended, and Peter David is 2 for 2 so far this week.

ULTIMATES #10 - I know. I'm a big fat liar, but my inner completist couldn't not finish out season two. For what it's worth, it was mainly bad, boring, and intellectually dishonest filler, excepting a cool moment from Ultimate Tony Stark (who apparently has cancer? When did this happen?).

GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RECHARGE #5 of 5 - The limited series ends with a bang and sets the stage for the ongoing in June. I'm on record as being a huge fan of the paramilitary take on the Corps, so this series was, I thought, great. DC may have their next big female lead character in Soranik Natu, and I eagerly await the ongoing. Plus, I got goddamn fanboy uber-goosebumps when Guy Gardner led the Corps in reciting the Lantern Oath at the Central Power Battery. I am such a GL geek.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #18 - "League of Losers" wraps up in the fighty-fight-fight, and they win, which isn't all that surprising, but they (Darkhawk, Cloak, Speedball, Gravity, X-23, Terror Inc., Sleepwalker) appear to be stuck in the 2099 future now, which is fine by me. This is the end of the arc, and I'm surprised they left it that way. Kudos to Kirkman for not giving us the pat ending. Decent, not great, and I'm glad to move on to the next arc.

FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #5 - What a strange comic this was. Still not quite sure what the point was, but it was ultimately depressing and a lot less fun than I thought it would be. Gimmicky and ultimately a huge letdown. PAD's other two comics this week were a lot better.

Whew! Such comic goodness! What did y'all think?

6 Comments:

Blogger CalvinPitt said...

There was one thing that bugged me about Infinite Crisis. Well, one that REALLY bugged me. It seemed like issue #4 made this deal about how Nightwing was going to rally the troops because he hadn't been a complete prick like his mentor, so people would still listen to him.

So what happens? Batman is the one who ends up with an army of sorts (or at least a squad), and Nightwing's call to arms is answered by. . . Superboy.

Really? That's it? That's what Nightwing's maintaining of human relationships gets him? Wow.

I'm not even sure why it pisses me off. I'm not even a Nightwing fan. I think I was expecting Dick Grayson's Jump into the upper-echelon, and it's like that was just a joke.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Spencer Carnage said...

Tony admitted to having Cancer in issue....5? Its the reason why he does all this superhero bizness, apparently.

And Next Wave, well I am glad that I passed that up because, well.....Warren Ellis's humor only works when he's channeling it through Spider Jerusalem, because everything after that is just a pale imitation.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Why does your cover for Fallen Angel look different from mine? On the left side of the split on mine, Lee is in angelic mode, while on yours, she is not. Strange. Unless yours is what it used to look like. Double strange.

I like the art more than you do, by the way. As to your question about the DC series, if you're not having problems following the story, you don't really need them. They are very good, though, as stories, even though David is rushing things a lot more now than he did then. He was really taking his time, but there are some very nice issues. The biggest thing about them as it relates to this series is the relationship between Lee and Juris which resulted in Jude's conception.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Ragnell said...

Am I the only one who laughed at the emtatextual line-dropping in IC? I mean, it was like and "Of course it does you idiot" moment for me. And the way it sounded like he was dropping a mystery that the reader knew he could enver solve.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Thanks for the comments, all!

Calvin: There was actually a LOT of that sort of cognitive dissonance in IC #5 given what's come before. Your example is a great one; Superboy showing up in a healing tank courtesy of Lex was another one. My guess is the last-minute rewrites Dan DiDio talked about on Newsarama had something to do with it.

Spencer: I debated going through the first 9 issues of Ultimates again to see where the cancer came into play, then decided I'd rather put a yardstick through my eye. Sorry you disagree about Nextwave, tho.

Greg: My actual issue cover looks the same way you describe yours. Odd that IDW would have the image flipped on their website. Thanks for the advice on the DC series, too.

Ragnell: I didn't laugh out loud at Alex's mine as much as I did "Perfect Earth doesn't need a Superman" and "The one thing you haven't been for a very long time...is human". (Also, I thought that WW's Golden Age appearance was shoehorned in like they remembered at the last minute that there was a Golden Age WW.

8:43 PM  
Anonymous van Doom said...

Continue to disagree on The Ultimates, and it is a little hard to take you seriously when you aren't familiar with the plot. Put simply, it's supposed to be far different from the Avengers. So it's kinda silly to complain about those differences (i.e. Jarvis taking a shot to the brains).

And I guess Next Wave proves that humor really is different strokes for different folks, because I hated the first issue so much I ran from #2. As I wrote in the review for the first ish, it's too similar but not nearly as good as the New Invaders, and comes off as a weak imitation.
And the art looks like it belongs to a Fox Saturday morning cartoon.

4:21 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home