Thursday, April 27, 2006

Chris' Reviews 4/26

I didn't end up getting the New Avengers Annual, because I saw it, looked at the cover and the price, and decided "No way in Hell am I paying four bucks for an extra issue of a comic I buy out of madness in the first place." This week I did get a whole bunch a' comics, though, so on with the reviewin'! Massive Spoilers Ahoy!

CHECKMATE #1

Greg Rucka's spy/politico series debuts with a nice Lee Bermejo cover and a lot of hoo-ha. There are two things going on here; first, Checkmate embarks on a mission to break into a Kobra (Hail! Naga! Naga!) Kompound to retrieve data. At the same time, Amanda Waller and Alan "One-Eye" Scott (the new White Queen and King, respectively) are trying to get the UN to sanction Checkmate as an organization going forward.

(By the way, why does Alan Scott only have one eye? Injury? Or has he gone piratey?)

Well, Checkmate kills a zooful of Kobras, gets the data which incriminates the Chinese, and then the Chinese end up vetoing the Checkmate resolution. The issue ends as Waller and Scott are told they have one week to disband the 'Mate.

But is it any good?

Yes and no. It's interesting to see the new Checkmate hierarchy, with Scott, Mr. Terrific, King Faraday, Sasha, et al. And the action was competent. But my GOD, does the chess lingo/motif get old about the 956th time you read, "Black King to Black Knight" or "White Queen to White Bishop", et bloody cetera. Seriously, that gets all kinds of annoying.

And the cast is large---maybe too large, unless Rucka plans to focus a bit. And isn't Checkmate supposed to be (relatively) secret? I could be wrong about that, but if so, it would seem odd that Alan and Amanda (they're so CUTE together!) would be seen grabbing a hot dog in full Checkmate regalia in broad daylight.

Also, Alan makes a point that they're the good guys and wants minimal loss of life. Which is funny, because the team pretty much slaughters everyone who gets in their way.

But there were some nice moments: Fire getting to use her powers in an interesting way, the UN gamesmanship, the idea that the Bishops are the information analysts for the Knights and Kings and Queens.

Best Moment: Finding out the Chinese are the culprits, when we've been led to believe all issue that it was the Cheese-Swilling Surrender Monkey French.

Worst Moment: I lost track of who was what chess piece early on, which didn't help matters when everyone was referred to by their piece. Really, can't we just show the org chart at the beginning of every issue and refer to everyone by name from now on?

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. It's like S.H.I.E.L.D....but with chess! Yup, that's pretty much it. Actually, more than anything, this made me want to dig out Chase and reread that. Man, Chase was good.


IRON MAN: THE INEVITABLE #5 (of 6)

Joe Casey goes even further off the reservation here as Iron Man spends most of the issue moping over the death of Maggie (the psychologist he hired to help Living Laser), has a strange and seemingly editorially forced conversation with Doc Samson about evolving and his Stupid New Powers™, then confronts Spymaster at the end.

The problem is that nothing's really happened in this series worth happening...there's a lot of talk about how hero v. villain fights are stupid, a pointless party scene, and Tony acting like this is the first time he's ever been responsible for someone's death. (He's a friggin' WEAPONS DESIGNER, fer cryin' out loud.)

Like I mentioned about the issue prior to this one, even Frazer Irving seems to have lost interest at this point, as this looks terribly rushed and many people are drawn way out of proportion. Then again, when you're tasked with drawing a page of Tony talking with New York Governor George Pataki, it's hard to bring your "A" game, I guess.

Best Moment: There's another sign that Tony isn't entirely happy with the current Avengers roster/purpose, so I'm hoping he'll be leaving soon. And yeah, that's like the weakest 2GBC "Best Moment" ever.

Worst Moment: Tony getting naked in front of Doc Samson to show off his Stupid New Powers™. That was a little weird. And icky. Let's not do that again, mmmmmkay?

Comic book Goodness: 1/5. Recommended only for those who have come this far AND are completists.


SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #4 (of 4)

Right then, so Frankie's working for S.H.A.D.E. after all (and interestingly, S.H.A.D.E. pops up in another book this week, too) and gets assigned to kill Nebula Man. He does (I think), then he gets assigned to go Sheeda-hunting.

At this point I'm not sure exactly what happens; my guess is that he realizes that he can't get to the Sheeda Queen in the present day because she's too well guarded, so he time travels a billion years in the future to get her there (where she's let her guard down because they apparently control the dying Earth) and bring her back. Which he does (I think).

This was confusing in several places, but I think I got the gist. But there were too many places where trying to figure out what was going on felt like actual work, and that's just not right. Doug Mahnke's art continues to shine, however, as it has on every issue of this series so far.

Best Moment: "Frankenstein to S.H.A.D.E. I need a new right arm."

Worst Moment: "Did he...wait, was that...but back here they...huh?" I muttered that phrase at least 5 times while reading this.

Comic Book Goodness: 2/5. Definitely not the insane thrill ride the first three issues were, but not wholly terrible and probably necessary to plot. (Although with Morrison, 'necessary to plot' doesn't always mean what you'd think it does.)


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #531

Peter continues his battle with Titanium Man, wins, makes a speech before the Registration Committee, has a talk with Tony Stark about the American Civil War, and falls asleep on the couch as news breaks of (Duh-Dun-DAAAH!) the Stamford Incident.

Oh, and we learn that Stark paid Titanium Man to try and kill him so he'd have evidence to use when fighting against registration. Doh! That Tony. He's so crafty.

All in all, a competent issue that lays some philosophical groundwork for Civil War, gets in a few good lines from Peter, has the requisite fight scene, some Rocky and Bullwinkle references, and MJ in the shower. Just another typical day at Marvel!

Oh, and I rather liked Tyler Kirkham's art. What else has he done?

So yeah, mostly plot hammering here to get us to Civil War, but not overly offensive, and there are some signs that Iron Man may not necessarily be pro-gubmint in the coming conflict. (I think.)

Best Moment: "Say 'Moose and Squirrel'. Just once."

Worst Moment: The Gettysburg Address-gazing in the middle of a fight? Kinda stupid. And heavy-handed.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Nothing particularly offensive here; it's a plot hammer with some philosophical battle lines drawn and a fight scene. I've seen worse.


VILLAINS UNITED: INFINITE CRISIS SPECIAL

Oh, MAN did I love this book!

Right, so the Society unleashes a large-scale prison break across the globe and lets thousands of supervillains and regular old criminals out; Oracle and Martian Manhunter must quickly organize the heroes who aren't off fighting the Infinite Crisis and stop them.

Meanwhile, the Secret Six pay off a debt to Green Arrow by capturing Scarecrow and Fortune, and tell the heroes of the Society's ultimate goal: to unleash Doomsday (the creature) and destroy Metropolis and the assembled heroes.

Top-to-bottom fantastic issue. There's actually not a whole lot of the Six in here (their commando mission is a minor, but key, plot). But there is indeed an assload of cool vignettes from the global prison break. We keep cutting to scenes around the world, then to the Society plotting all this, then to Oracle and J'Onn desperately attempting to raise a resistance before it gets out of hand. There is also the second mention of S.H.A.D.E. (from 7S) this week, so that's a little interesting.

In fact, I thought the real "star" of the story was Oracle. The way she musters up the courage and ability to try and rally the troops was really, really cool. And J'onn's telepathically linking every single hero on the planet was a tres coolamente splash page, with the line "We are every one of us, the Justice League." giving me goddamn goosebumps.

And the final big page and Oracle narration of the assembled heroes and villains fighting with Doomsday as the centerpiece? Money, baby. Money.

Best Moment: Wait a minute. The action and timeline in here actually takes place between IC #6 and IC #7? So it makes sense? Goddammit DC, bravo! Between that, Plastic Man's cameo and the pure heroics involved, this was freaking sweet.

Worst Moment: Lots of heroes and villains I didn't recognize in here, but that's bound to happen when the cast is the entire B thru F list of heroes and villains of the DCU.

Comic Book Goodness: 5/5. Action! Humor! Blockbuster cast! Relevance to current events! Heroics! Villainy! Buy this comic! Now, damn you! Now, I say!


X-FACTOR #6

First off, this is one of the greatest covers I've ever seen. Second, it's the Layla Miller show here, as she gets carted back to her orphanage, then Rahne and Madrox show up to steal her away. Layla explains that her powers are that of being able to tell when something should or shouldn't be happening...according to the way things are supposed to be...I guess...and that she knows how to do little things to alter the outcomes in very big ways. It's supposed to be analogous to chaos theory, butterfly effect and all that, but eh. It's a comic book, right?

Which is why she lets herself get carted back to the orphanage; she knew Siryn was going to be beaten to a pulp, and let it happen because it was supposed to. In the end, she comes to live with X-factor, and Strong Guy and Madrox give fair warning to Singularity Investigations that Siryn's beating won't go unavenged.

You know why I like this comic? It's all in the characters. Sure, we see a little Wolfsbane here, a little Multiple Man there, but these are incredibly realized people we're reading about, with real emotions and reactions. If you're not reading this, you're missing out. Especially recommended to those who couldn't give a rat's ass about Marvel's mutants in general.

Best Moment: "You and what army?"

Worst Moment: Look, I realize that they gave Rahne a short haircut to distinguish her from Siryn, but man...let it grow a little! And yes, I'm struggling.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. I'll be damned. Peter David turned Bendis' little House of M Plot Device into a viable, interesting, sympathetic character. And did I mention the Dell'Otto cover? Mmmmmmm.

ALSO THIS WEEK:

BATMAN #652 --- The plot thickens; Batman does more detecting, clears the air with Bullock (in what may have been the Conversation of the Week in comics), and we're told that Gordon and Bullock took down Commissioner Akins at some point in the Lost Year. Batman confronts Harvey Dent about the evidence pointing to him in the killings, Harv gets pissy, and...blows up his apartment? Whaaa? Oh, and Robin takes down Killer Moth! Interesting issue, more clues, and more questions. And just a great, great scene between Bruce and Bullock. Guest starring: Orca! Sort of. CBG: 3/5.

ANNIHILATION: RONAN #1 (of 4) --- Not as immediately happy with this as I had hoped, as it pretty much devotes an issue to telling us that Ronan, a Kree "Accuser", is wanted for treason on his homeworld and Ronan is trying to track down the witness who testified against him. Along the way, he dispenses justice Ronan-style! OK, but not terribly accessible, and there's zero mention made of the Annihilation plot, which I thought was odd. CBG: 2/5.

HAWKGIRL #51 --- Hopes are dwindling quickly here, as the second OYL issue advances the plot by zero percent, Chaykin still draws everyone with clenched teeth, there's a silly fight at the end, and the villain of the issue isn't even revealed before they disintegrate. Yeeesh. I'm giving this one more issue, but something needs to happen quick if they want me to stick around. Just rotten. At least we still get thought balloons. CBG: 0/5.

BATTLE FOR BLUDHAVEN #2 (of 6) --- OK, I think I'm starting to see what's going on here, as the Atomic Knights, Nuclear Legion, and Freedoms Ring are all plotting against each other and trying to harvest metahumans from Bludhaven. Meanwhile, turns out that Captain Atom is being held prisoner in the city as well! I liked what I saw here, but it's still got that really weird, indescribable 'vibe' that makes it read very, very old school. CBG: 3/5.

13 Comments:

Blogger Greg said...

Tyler Kirkham drew The Gift for Image for a while. Not very good - it looked like early 1990s Image! Is it less annoying in Spider-Man?

8:26 AM  
Anonymous SpiritGlyph said...

As far as I can guess, Alan Scott is wearing that stupid eyepatch because it makes him look like Nick Fury. It goes nicely with the shiny vinyl tunic with white trim, because as everybody knows, that's how real spies all dress. I've seen the head of the CIA in press conferences, and he usually wears suits.

Goddamn it, Rucka, SHIELD has too many elements of goofiness as it is. If you're going to riff off it, that's fine, but you're going to add such goofy elements to the mix like the incessant chess references or Amanda Waller in shiny vinyl, then your tone should reflect it. You seem to be playing this dead serious, which is hard to do with Cobra. You've got the silly trappings of James Bond or The Man from UNCLE, but the serious, ultrarealistic tone of a Tom Clancy novel. They don't work together. Pick one.

8:44 AM  
Blogger joncormier said...

Alan Scott has the eye patch in the latest JSA Classified issue as well. At least I remember him having it in that issue. I figured it was common knowledge that someone else could inform me about. It's probably in IC #7 or something.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous fuaak said...

Okay... So why is Father Time a bald, young, black guy in Frankenstein and a long-haired white old guy in BFB?

10:39 AM  
Blogger CalvinPitt said...

fuakk; my guess would be the one in Frankenstein died sometime during 52, and the old white guy is the NEW Father Time.

Or Morrison just doesn't give a shit about what Battle for Bludhaven and Freedom Fighters say. Nor should he.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Shane Bailey said...

Or Father Time gets a new body each year. Just guessing.

12:57 PM  
Blogger joncormier said...

If FT is like the Freedom's Ring then there's 10,000 more of him on ice in a warehouse somewhere.

EEE-OOOO-EEEE-OOO - damned geek alarm.

1:14 PM  
Blogger The Fortress Keeper said...

Super-geek time:

There's a scene in Bludhaven where Phantom Lady comments on Father Time's "new" look.

Maybe he regenerates like The Doctor.

I said this was "super-geek" time.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Peter Hensel said...

You're mad about Frankenstein. It's completelty AWESOME! How could that page turn with 1 BILLION YEARS LATER! not thrill you? Okay, it was more than typical Morrison plot crazyness akin to the Filth, but at least it followed a linear structure of Frankenstein attacking Neh-Buh-Loh, then going after the Sheeda Fairy. The plot flows linearly, just not the chronological order.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Peter: I didn't say I didn't like Frankenstein, just that this issue felt like actual work, to the point that it took me too far out of the story.

And no, I didn't think it wasn't anywhere near as enjoyable as the first three issues...mainly because it had to finally tie into the overarching Sheeda plot and set up the 7S #1 issue.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Thank you for your comments regarding Hawkgirl, Checkmate and the Not Avengers Annual. I was able to save that much on my car insurance too.

6:47 PM  
Anonymous carla said...

Tony getting naked in front of Doc Samson to show off his Stupid New Powers™.

*gavel sound* SOLD!

8:14 PM  

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