Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chris' Reviews 3/22 + 3/29


Holy repulsor rays, I've got 16 books to review between this week and last, with small ones for most of them because otherwise I'd be here for the next three days trying to come up with the umpteenth snarky line about Marvel's ignorance of established continuity. So you're going to get just one long review and a paragraph at best on the rest of 'em.

Oh, and note to Marvel: STOP WITH THE GODDAMN FOUR PAGES OF SQUADRON SUPREME PREVIEWS SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF MY DAMN COMIC.

Hold on tight, get comfy, and Massive Spoilers Ahoy!

NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI SPECIAL

Despite my misgivings, I actually had high hopes for this book --- Iron Man, Doc Strange, Black Bolt, Namor, Professor X and Reed Richards all secretly pulling the strings behind the Marvel U for the last 40 years? Engaged in some kind of secret pact or shadowy cabal? Skulduggery and puppet-mastering from behind the scenes? Yeah, who wouldn't like that premise?

Brian Michael Bendis, apparently.

So, these six heroes (Black Panther tells them thanks, but no thanks early on) decide that they'll um...meet in times of really, REALLY big crises, and share information. I guess they do this over the years --- we don't know, because we immediately flash forward from the initial meeting to last month's Hulk issue --- and one by one most of the group leaves, or fights with each other, and eventually they break up.

This may have been the dumbest comic I've read all month.

Five big reasons this sucked:

1. I had a real problem going from "initial meeting" to "one month ago". Where's the fun in that? What's supposed to make me believe that the group had ever met more than twice in 40 years? This premise would have been much more believable had we been given at least snippets of the Illuminati meetings over time; seeing them convene, say, during or after the Secret Wars or ::shudder:: Heroes Return, Maximum Security, or even, heck, House of M. Give us a little history, create a convincing backstory. The lack of one cut the legs out from under the whole premise for me.

2. Really bad characterization. Reed's going to lie to Sue the rest of his life because Namor's a dick? Dr. Strange saying "Never call on me again", taking his ball and going home because Iron Man and Richards think they should go along with the Superhero Registration Act? Tony Stark shooting the Hulk into space because SHIELD Director Hill (a person Bendis has taken great pains to establish that Stark neither likes nor respects in New Avengers) poses a rhetorical question about responsibility? Namor defending Hulk? Who are these people?

3. Ignorance of current Marvel events. I thought only a few people even knew about what happened with the House of M shenanigans. (At least, that's what we were led to believe.) But apparently somebody blabbed to Namor! Another example is Tony pointing out he's never killed anyone (someone didn't read this week's Iron Man). And it doesn't jibe with his testimony in ASM last week, either.

4. The art. I am sorry, it's just...eesh. This should be sinister and ominous. This is...not. Alex Maleev's pencilling is way too rough for me and it looks more like a bunch of rushed sketches that some poor bastard got stuck coloring at the last minute with some chalk. I don't read Daredevil regularly, so I haven't gotten accustomed to Maleev's style, but I really didn't care for it here. Of course, with the exception of a silly fight between King Dick Namor and Iron Man, he's not got much to draw but talking heads. It's like the Marvel Universe version of The McLaughlin Group.

5. The seven-page story at the end, where we see the incident that sparks the Superhero Registration Act, i.e. the New Warriors fight a bunch of C-listers and a school bus blows up a bunch of kids (apparently) and the surrounding suburban neighborhood. It was bad, too, mainly because of the characters involved. (On what planet do you let Speedball lead a team?)

A disjointed, hastily put together, half-baked mess.

Best Moment: Ugh. Don't start. This is one giant (and from what I can see, completely unnecessary) plot hammer.

Worst Moment: I'm going with the way Bendis writes the voices of Strange and Namor. They sound like any other person you'd ever meet, and they're devoid of personality here.

Comic Book Goodness: 0/5. If I'm giving a comic that gives Iron Man a lot of page time a 0/5 rating, you know it's got to be bad. Really, the key missing ingredient here was my first point above --- we're supposed to take this at face value, with no kind of history or evidence, and you just can't make a huge retcon of this nature that way.

And now, start the music: the marathon begins.

BATMAN #651: Jimmy Robinson's eight-parter continues here, as Batman and Robin take out Poison Ivy and her Evil Plants with...defoliant. (Now why didn't anyone else think of that?) It's charmingly old school Batman and Robin team-up action, with both getting to show off their skills. I also think the art is fantastic; Don Kramer and Keith Champagne have found a perfect tone for this story, I think. This issue isn't anything spectacular, but it's the little things that make the issue: Batman's ever-so-slight smiles, Robin perched on Gordon's filing cabinet, the opening sequence showingthe surprisingly diverse opinions of everyday Gothamites on Batman's absence and its consequences. Oh, and someone kills C-lister Magpie at the end. CBG: 3/5

NEW AVENGERS #17: Someone must have loaned Bendis a few Essential Avenger volumes, because in this issue he comes perilously close to getting a handle on the ever-elusive "chemistry" thing. The block patrol at the beginning strikes me as exactly the sort of thing this particular lineup would excel at, and it's a nice nod to the public stature of the Avengers. Tony telling Spider-Man to put his science brain to use and get out of the way of the big boys was a moment that rang true. And we get, in true Avengers fashion, a misunderstanding in the form of Ms. Marvel screwing up plans. It's not a great issue, not even a very good one, but it's the closest we've come so far to anything remotely resembling the Avengers, even if there is a whole page dedicated to Captain America trying to get the Sentry out of bed. I so wish I was kidding about that. CBG: 3/5.

HAWKGIRL #50: OK, so I find myself agreeing with others on this one. It's underwhelming, but there's potentially a very cool setup for some occult-y supernatural Lovecraftian goings-on for St. Roch, and I'm still giving Walt Simonson at least another two issues to see if it pans out. Plus, we get thought balloons! Yay! The problem here is Howard Chaykin, who apparently cannot conceive of a human face that doesn't have its teeth clenched. Seriously, every face in this comic makes the characters look like they're passing a kidney stone. I so miss Joe Bennett. This comic also seems less concerned with overarching OYL "mysteries" like, say Aquaman, Superman, or Green Lantern, and that's OK too. CBG: 2/5.

FANTASTIC FOUR #536: See Randy's review below. There's a mention (and photocopied page) from the Illuminati comic, but otherwise it's the FF vs. Doombots until Dr. Doom himself shows up looking for Thor's hammer. So yeah, the cover pretty much tells you all you need to know about this. Decent FF fight, as far as those go, but there's nothing here you haven't seen before. I knew I should have waited another issue to pick up my first FF comic in 20 years. CBG: 2/5.

FALLEN ANGEL #4: I really liked this issue. We see what Liandra did to bring about her "Fallen" status (torched a serial killer who escaped legal justice), get Malachi's admission that he's not working for the Boss anymore, and an absolutely heartbreaking last page. Toss in some rhetoric about free will, some improving art, and I am so glad I buy this comic. Consistently one of the best reads on the stands. CBG: 4/5.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #16: Syn and Crossbones go on an interstate killing spree. Cap and Sharon go looking for Bucky and find a creepy small town that he passed through recently, and manage to find some time to do a little Star-Spangled doinkin'. Oh, and on the last page the AIM Beekeepers bust in asking for Cap's help with something. Good issue, we need some more action (not that kind of action; get your mind out of the gutters) next issue, though. CBG: 3/5. Also, if you're wondering about Cap's last-page revelation regarding Bucky kissing someone and an old woman's picture at the end, then you'll want to read...

CAPTAIN AMERICA 65th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL : It's a Golden Age Cap story telling us how Cap, Bucky, Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos foiled the Red Skull's plan to reactivate some 15th-century genius inventor's Death Robot. Apparently, this is the mission where Bucky fell in love with the girl mentioned first in Cap #16, so that clears that issue up a little. The story is entirely inconsequential on the surface, with nothing really outstanding about it. The last two pages, set in modern-day Cap, show Lukin/Skull returning to the site of that golden age adventure, trying to excavate something else. We're not told what it is, but we're shown the image of that 15-century genius, and it's the spittin' image of one Victor Von Doom (or someone in his armor, anyway). Oh, and the art sucks. I think I just saved you all 4 bucks. CBG: 2/5.

GREEN LANTERN #10: Hal's OYL story involves him not giving a damn about international law, as we learn that A) He and two other pilots had a prisoner-of-war experience (details are still sketchy) about 5 months ago, B) He's been flaunting international treaties and policies because he's a Goddamn Green Lantern, and C) Someone's been trying to kill him by putting out supervillain contracts on him. It's pleasantly intriguing, with enough action and plot to keep me interested; it also doesn't play stupid games with the reader by withholding information about what's happened in the last year. Did I mention that apparently the Sinestro Corps is forming? (I shit you not. Yellow rings and everything.) CBG: 3/5.

X-MEN: DEADLY GENESIS #5 of 6: This series continues its decline, as this issue's only purpose is to show us what happened to Professor X after House of M. Answer: apparently, he's been drinking in Wales, he's not crippled any more, and he's no longer a telepath. Oh, and we finally get the X-Men, Gabe Summers, and Professor X in the same location, no doubt to set the stage for the big finale next issue. Ultimately disappointing issue, even with Emma Frost's Secret Life As A Stripper revealed in this issue's backup story. I'm not kidding about that. CBG: 2/5.

IRON GHOST #6 of 6: Chuck Dixon did a heckuva job on this series, but it should have ended one issue earlier, as this last issue shows us the Iron Ghost's motives in flashback for two pages but the rest of it (IG's murder-suicide of his final target) is a foregone conclusion. Still, overall the series is definitely worth checking out, especially if you like WWII comics or murder mysteries. CBG: 2/5.

IRON MAN: THE INEVITABLE #4 of 6: Another series that didn't live up to its initial promise, because it's taking too damn long for anything noteworthy to happen. There's still no sign of an overall plot, why it's called the "Inevitable", or a satisfying ending in sight. And sadly, this issue it even looks like Frazer Irving has lost interest. Which is a shame, because I am really digging his art, pink-themed though it may be. CBG: 1/5.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #530: Again, I surprisingly found myself enjoying this comic, as Tony and Peter head to D.C. to testify, there are some good pro and con arguments for the Superhero Registration Act, and the Titanium Man shows up. Go read CalvinPitt's in-depth analysis on this issue for some good thoughts, and so far this is the one Civil War tie-in book that's actually been worth the cover price. CBG: 3/5.

X-FACTOR #5: Filler, but creepy and moody filler. At least there's no mention of Civil War. Siryn gets taken hostage by an ex-mutant, tortured a little, then Rictor comes and saves the day, sort of. There are far worse books out there, but this isn't the touchdown that each issue of the series has been so far. CBG: 3/5.

IRON MAN #6: I'm going to have to revisit this, but for all the bitching and moaning I've done about Ellis' run, I liked this last issue a hell of a lot more than I was expecting to. It's a beautifully done fight scene, Tony Stark kills the bad guy (which jibes perfectly with how I think Tony is one of the few Marvel heroes that would be able to rationalize having to kill someone), and even a too-little-too-late philosophical point about the duality of Stark's choices in life. Hey, I'm just as surprised as you are that I liked this issue. We're still stuck with the goddamned stupid revision of his powers, and no way in hell should this series have taken 15 months for 6 issues, but still: this last ish was, as I say, pretty neat. CBG: 3/5.

Whew. I'm exhausted. I may go lazy and just do linkblogging tomorrow. Oh, crap, I just realized I left out 4 other comics I bought. Tomorrow, perhaps.

9 Comments:

Anonymous fin fang doom said...

Although I only caught the page of Illuminati printed in Fantastic Four, the position of Iron Man compared to that of Tony Stark in Amazing Spider-Man seemed really...strange. Is he really against it, or just putting on a show in ASM so the heroes that don't know about the Illuminati but know Tony is Iron Man get on his side?

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Wow - thats really disapointing regarding the Illuminati..:( I was looking forward to that one.
*runs off to read the other reviews

11:47 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Spot on about Illuminati, although the bit at the end is actually a preview of Civil War #1 (that's the main CW title, not the second one...oh god...), and the team is the New Warriors, who now do a COPS-esque reality tv show. Well, did.

Not sure about the art in Batman. Bats looks about fifty pounds heavier than he should be, especially around the neck.

Not Avengers. Yep. It's a pretty bad Avengers issue, but the key point is that it's the first of Bendis' run that feels like an Avengers comic, and that's worth something. I'm a bit worried by Bendis' tendency to write the female characters as the ones who fudge things up though. Wanda, Spider-Woman, Daredevi... I mean Ronin, and now Warbird/Ms Marvel. It's starting to look a bit one-sided.

With Hawkgirl, I kept thinking that they're trying to go for Mignola's style of storytelling, and not quite pulling it off. I expectted better from these creators.

Hang on. 15th Century genius. Looks like Doom. I know that it would be getting the dates wrong, but they're not tying Cap in with 1602 are they? That would be weird.

Did I mention that apparently the Sinestro Corps is forming?
I smell a bloated miniseries event. Corps vs Corps.

Xavier's in Wales? Wha? That's... underwhelming.

Yeah, I've long since given up doing more than just looking at the pictures in The Inevitable. There's only so many times I can see the same scenes of the girl in the virtual reality thing and Iron Man telling people that he's not Tony Stark. Bleh.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Fin Fang Doom: I get the feeling that in his heart of hearts, Tony doesn't like the act any more than anyone else, so he felt he had to at least try to convince them out of it.

Kelvin: quite right---I mistyped there and put New Mutants. I've updated the post and corrected it.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Mallet said...

I've been reading vol 3 Namor and I'm up to issue 22 and I have to say that though the first part was definetly off the second was ok.

Namor respects people who fight and despite what he acts like he genuinly cares for the safety of his allies. It's his honor basically and just like with Cap, Namor and Hulk go back a bit. I was actually happy he stood up to Tony, and that he basically said "I was wrong T'challa was right". He was the most rational thinking person there after panther left, even if he was a dick.

Which is sad because I don't think it was particularily on character to try and kill Stark so fast.

12:59 PM  
Blogger CalvinPitt said...

mallet: I figured Namor just wanted to slap Tony around a little bit. Remind him who he's messing with.

kelvin: I try and look at bendis treatment of the women in a positive note. They may be messing up, but at least they actually get to do something. The guys are stuck just standing around.

2:08 PM  
Blogger redlib said...

That's a lot o' reviews Chris! Although I have a stack of 30 I'm working through, the only crossover I have with you is Hawkgirl. I like Chaykin on Bite Club..but the kidney stone passing comment is true.
Plus, is a black lace see-through shirt, hot pants, and 4 inch heels meet the dress code for a museum job? That wouldn't fly at my library!

4:46 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Excellent point, Mr Pitt. It's not misogyny, it's keeping the ladies in gainful employment!

2:57 PM  
Blogger Julio Oliveira said...

I really like how the Black Panther instance on the Illuminati idea is actually a warning to reader: walk out now while you still can!

Awful.

8:40 AM  

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