Friday, April 14, 2006

Chris' Reviews 4/5 + 4/12

And so, my friends, it is with a heavy heart that I declare the last two weeks in comics...meh. At best. There are a few hopeful signs, but not many. (Darn. And I so wanted this to be a light-snark review column this week.) As always, Massive Spoilers Ahoy!


Right, then, in the penultimate issue of what seems to be taking for-EV-er, we get to see Batman and his Merry Band of Heroes take down Brutha Eye, Alex Luthor smooshes all the different Earths into one "New Earth" kind of by accident, Superboy and Superboy-Prime get in a fight that kills at least one of them (Connor), and Superman, Supe-2 and WW stare blankly at everything.

Those are the big plot points here (Donna Troy's Combat Whackers are for the most part ignored, which seems appropriate to me). Let's look at them:

I didn't mind the Batman Commando Party stuff at all. And the fanboy nod to the multiple earths splash page was geekalicious. And hey, Phantom Stranger got some lines. But.

We will ignore the fact that Supes, Diana, and Old Man Superman are given nothing to do but stand around and yap with each other (which isn't that suprising, since that's ALL they've done this entire series, which makes me madder the more I think about it).

We will ignore the fact that there's a completely gratuitous scene of Black Adam putting his fist through Psycho Pirate's head, popping his eyeballs out the other side, and decapitating him.

We will ignore the fact that Alex Luthor's big plan --- to smoosh together the earths to find the "perfect" one makes zero sense in light of the fact that surely he knew that there were an infinite number of earths, and couldn't have thought that finding the right two to smoosh together would take maybe 5 minutes tops.

We will ignore the fact that Superboy-Prime, who thus far has displayed the intellect of a Post-It note, somehow managed to design Anti-Monitor armor that collects yellow sunlight.

We will ignore the fact that apparently there were 130 different pencilers and inkers on this book, which makes it a jarring experience just to turn the page.

We will ignore the fact that for some reason the Spectre looks NOTHING like Crispus Allen, which makes no sense to me either. They couldn't even keep his race? (And don't start with 'technically the Spectre isn't Crispus, he's another entity'. The Spectre should look at least in passing like his host.)

We will ignore the fact that Brutha Eye uses the word "eye" in sentences where normal folk would use the pronoun "I". And yes, that's all kinds of dumb.

We will ignore the fact that Aquaman has played zero part in helping in this crisis.

You know what? I've changed my mind. We're not going to ignore all that. This was bad.

Best Moment: I confess to enjoying the Mr. Terrific/Black Lightning scene immensely.

Worst Moment: Guh. I'm going with the fourth-wall-breaking "you" moment from Alex Luthor.

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5. It's had some admittedly great moments here and there, but the lateness and fill-in art KILLED the momentum, and already knowing what the status of most of these cats is OYL kind of renders the last two issues pointless, I think.


Batman realizes that the weapon used to kill Magpie and KGBeast is an old Two-Face special, Harvey Dent ruminates on the fact that Batman and Robin seem to be in peak crime-fightin' form, Batman enlists Jason Bard's help as his agent during the daytime, and someone whacks the Ventriloquist but good.

OK, I realize it's an 8-part story, so there are bound to be filler-esque exposition issues, but I was expecting more. That's OK. There's a nice Alfred scene where Batman finally gets called "Master Bruce", which puts to rest my "He STILL might not be Bruce Wayne" fears. And the scene where the Ventriloquist reaches out for the dummy's hand as they lay dying was
unexpectedly kind of sweet. I still am in the minority liking the art, but I do. A lot.

Oh, and who's Jason Bard? I get the feeling that I've seen him before, but I haven't picked up an in-continuity Batman comic in five years, so he's a mystery to me.

Best Moment: "Duh, Stubbles."

Worst Moment: I'm curious as to why the Bard sequence was a backup story instead of in the main book; but it's a minor nitpick.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. So we get a slow but necessary issue; here's hoping things pick up over in Batman. I still maintain that the best part of this is the fact that it's a back-to-basics detective Batman and Robin and Gordon and...yeah. Good stuff.


The much ballyhooed return of Marc Spector, as chronicled by Charlie Huston and drawn by David Finch, underwhelming.

Here's the thing: virtually the entire issue is a flashback to when Moon Knight beat up some hoods in a car, with present-day voiceover narration from Spector telling us about the good ol' days. Then we see that Spector is actually crippled, alcoholic, and quite possibly a drug addict and a miserable wreck who's alone.

We know he's alone because we see in flashback scenes of him alienating Frenchie (his pilot), hitting Marlene (his girlfriend and aide), and spitting on the statue of Khonshu (his patron god).
So, at this point instead of Marc Spector: Moon Knight, it's Marc Spector: Shithead. He's crying in his beer and wants to be a hero again, which is fine, except that I can't muster up much sympathy for this jerk as he's depicted here. Still, I have enough residual enthusiasm for the character (thanks, Randy!) to want to see what happens next, but it better not take too damn long to get there. (Geez, I'm cranky tonight.)

But I truly dug David Finch's art. That's gotta count for something.

Best Moment: Finch's art in the fight flashback, hands down. I'm a sucker for textured linework. Appropriately gritty, too.

Worst Moment: The next issue promises "Moon Knight vs. Bushman! You didn't think we'd make you wait?" A whole HELL of a lot of stuff needs to happen next issue for that fight to occur and remotely make any sense in the context we're given. I'm betting flashback again. Sigh.
Comic Book Goodness: 2/5. I know it's only the first issue. I'm getting waaaaay ahead of myself here, but I'm thinking that a more interesting story than "washed up hero redeems himself" would be "washed up hero descends into madness and comes out the other side a supervillain". That's right, I suggested making Moon Knight a villain (at least for awhile).


New Arthur, and Dweller visit the surface and can't find New Arthur's dad, then visit Atlantean Refugee City, where they meet Mera, Artie pisses off an Atlantean, challenges him to a duel, whoops his ass, then King Shark comes back and drags them off to the next adventure.

Those are the plot points. And they're entirely irrelevant.

What's relevant here is that we get a lay of the OYL seascape (fractured tribal fiefdoms, constantly at war with Mera in exile), an insight into the Dweller via his narration, and a nice show of our new hero's fighting prowess.

And yes, this issue is exhibit A in "People Vs. Kurt Busiek Turning Aquaman Into Conan", because the narration, the setting, everything...take it out of the water, and it's VERY Conan. But I don't care. In two issues we've learned more than we thought we did about Artie and the Dweller, and while he probably won't be joining the JLA anytime soon, I'm fascinated by this Arthur Curry and Friends.

Plus, it's Kurt Busiek (Hi, Kurt!), and we all know how I feel about that.

Best Moment: "I never SAID I was a hero. Never said I saved ANYONE. Never said I was AQUAMAN---and I never said anything about NOT killing you!"

Worst Moment: As much as I adore Guice's art, Arthur looks 35 years old when he's clearly meant to be much younger, and why the hell doesn't he have any eyes? Those empty black sockets are dang creepy.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Solid work, more pieces to the puzzle, primed for ass-kicking next issue. (And I never thought I'd say that about an issue where the ostensible plot is "swimming to Maine".)


It's 1991, and Wolverine and Jubilee try to steal a shard of Cosmic Cube from AIM, only to have it fall into the hands of the Mandarin, who's going to use it to make the Eleventh Ring Of The Mandarin. During the mission, Cable appears from the future to ensure that Wolverine lives through it. He does.

For a comic I usually really enjoy, this one let me down. For one thing, Cory Walker's on art, and the last time he did this (the Spider-Man/Invincible team-up issue) we had similar results, i.e. fugliness. Jake mentioned at the time that perhaps Walker just had a harder time drawing big corporate properties instead of creator-owned stuff. I don't know, but man this looked bad, which makes no sense to me because I've seen his Invincible stuff, and it looks great.

Also, the fact that this was set partially in 1991? Huge blown opportunity by Marvel to get one of those 90s artists to fill-in to enhance the kitsch factor.

And despite the fact that we get to see the Mandarin (yay!), this just isn't an exciting or particulary funny issue, unless you count the fact that Cable's robot servants in the future are named Scott, Hank and Jean, and his computer is the Professor. OK, that's a little bit funny.

Best Moment: I smiled a lot when I saw the Mandarin. I lurves me some Mandarin.

Worst Moment: Stinky art.

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5. Missed opportunity to have some fun with some old cliches, which is what I hope the rest of this arc will do.


So apparently after Chemo nuked Bludhaven, the gubmint moved in with the Force of July (ye GODS, that's a horrible name, even if it is a U.S.-themed superhero team) and established a wall to keep everyone out while disaster relief proceeded. One Year Later, the wall's still up, the relief funds have dried up, people want back in, and the Force of July is still trying to keep order in the city.

Meanwhile, there's a group of criminals calling themselves the Nuclear Legion trying to get something out of the city, another group of could-be heroes called the Atomic Knights hiding from the gubmint, superpowered angry ex-inhabitants stirring up trouble, and the Force of July trying to keep a lid on things for said gubmint.

Got all that? Good.

Now, who are these people?

Palmiotti and Gray hit us with a HUGE cast of characters, none of whom I'm even remotely familiar with, which made this more than a little confusing at times. (Feel free in the comments section to drop some knowledge on me about any of these folks.)

But the obvious parallels to Hurrican Katrina and New Orleans work well here, I think, and there's enough factions to wonder who the "good guys" truly are. Dan Jurgens didn't seem quite at home drawing the disaster-ridden cityscapes, but the art certainly wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination.

I realize that I'm fighting an uphill battle here because I've never bothered to invest any time in Bludhaven or its denizens up until now, so I may not be the target audience here. But I'm sufficiently intrigued to pick up the next issue, and hoping that more information (or some
characterization) is forthcoming.

Best Moment: I'll give them credit: for as goofy a name as "Force of July" is, at least they went whole hog and included a member named "Silent Majority". Now THAT'S commitment to a theme.

Worst Moment: Am I supposed to know who these folks are?

Comic Book Goodness: 2/5. About as accessible as the Pope on vacation. But the creative team and interesting premise will get me back for at least one more.


STAR WARS: REBELLION #1 -- Another #1 issue that introduces us to the main character (an Imperial officer who used to be friends with Luke back on Tatooine) but whom not a lot happens to, other than the fact that he decides to use his knowledge of Luke to help Darth Vader in the least surprising last-page reveal ever. Well, he does survive a pretty cool TIE Bomber crash. Maybe I'll get the next one, but all this did was make me want to read 80s Star Trek comics.

JONAH HEX #6 -- I thought that next to the Bat Lash issue this was the best of the series so far. Another done-in-one, with the added bonus of the bad guy not being the White Guy With A Moustache And Title! Also, welcome back Luke Ross; you were missed greatly. Nuns! Indians! Shady Characters! A Whole Lot Of Killin'! Plus, we get a little info on Hex's past! Best comic of the bunch I got. If you're waiting on the trade, stop; there's no reason you shouldn't be getting this on a monthly basis.

THE OMAC PROJECT: INFINITE CRISIS SPECIAL -- It's really Checkmate #0, and there's not an ounce of suspense here. Rucka does undo TerminatorSasha (kinda), but if you think that she's completely free of Brutha Eye's influence, then there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. Also, I thought this actually stood a chance of being something worthwhile as a character story, until Rucka had Sasha survive her suicide attack on Brutha Eye. A misstep, I think, as her sacrificing herself would have been much more poignant.

See you on Monday!


Blogger CalvinPitt said...

I'm with you on IC #6. It really made no sense to me that Superboy-Prime was smart enough to make modified Anti-Monitor armor that can collect yellow sunlight, but he's not smart enough to know the word "hypocrite", a word that even Conner Kent (not the sharpest tool in the now smashed shed) knew.

And I don't care if WhinyBoy-Prime had years to make it. I also know the word hypocrite, yet I'm reasonably sure I couldn't create a suit to absorb yellow sunlight if you gave me a century.

As for battle for Bludhaven. The main thing I got from it is that Palmiotti is setting up the team for his Freedom Fighters book. This is where the new squad will come from, all these radiation-enhanced people.

Which means that team's Ray won't be the same one they've had since before Zero Hour, which gives me another reason to hate DC.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Mjung said...

Jason Bard was featured in a series of back-up stories (which is why his story is a back-up probably) in Detective Comics. He normally teamed-up with Batgirl and hasn't been seen much since the strip ended, expet for a few issues early on in Birds of PRey.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous John said...

Here's everything you need to know about Jason Bard.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I wasn't quite sure why the Bard story was regulated to back-up, either. Strange.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Cove West said...

Yeah, who's idea was it to make Crispus-Spectre the spitting image of white Corrigan-Spectre? What's the point of using Cris if they're just gonna use the same ol' Spectre?

The thing that really got me scratching my head is the whole Superboy-on-a-red-sun-planet thing. Shouldn't Geoff Johns, longtime writer of THE FLASH and immediate successor to Mark Waid, know that the Speed Force doesn't work that way? You either enter the Force and become One with the Speed, or you bounce around the timestream like Max Mercury. It's not like a Flash Universe with planets one could exile an insane Kryptonian to.

Don't get me started about Bludhaven. When will DC learn not to drag the world of Batman into the world of the JLA? They have a hard enough time stretching the suspension of disbelief to allow Batman fighting Starro or Darkseid. But now you've got an entire city right next door to Gotham sitting in radiation from an exploded human nuke, dropped from a plane by a bad-guy team of metahumans and gods, which is led by an alternate-earth version of Lex Luthor's kid; a city patrolled by the Force of July and full of radiation-mutated superfreaks. And Batman...what, he goes on stopping purse snatchers while all this is going on? JUST LET GOTHAM (and environs) BE GOTHAM! It's a noir fantasyland of mafias, corrupt cops, burglars, and criminal lunatics, of Slam Bradley and Jim Gordon and a handful of normal-powered people dressed like rodents, cats, and birds; a place where Poison Ivy or Mr. Freeze can hold the whole city hostage, where Black Canary's sonic scream is about as super as the heroes get, and where the strongest guy in town is Killer Croc. Bludhaven WAS just a mini-Gotham where Batman could send his little army when things got too crowded. Now it's Coast City East.

I did like MOON KNIGHT, though. Has that "good Bendis" vibe. Not sure I can put up with many more issues of Drunk Crippled Angry Knight, but Huston has me for two more, at least. And Finch finally puts his skill to something meatier than 22 pages of pretty explosions.

1:04 AM  
Blogger redlib said...

I liked that you used the word 'penultimate'.
On the train yesterday, kept staring at the different IC panels thinking "wha' happened?". My brain as the multiverse Earths mashed together!

5:59 PM  
Blogger The Fortress Keeper said...

Jason Bard is awesome, and I have no problem with his adventures being relegated to the back of 'Tec. Brings back memories of the good old days of back-up stories...

Since I always preferred The Shroud to Moon Knight - at least when it comes to Batman clones - I'm perfectly comfortable seeing Marc Spector portrayed as a pathetic jerk.

Bludhaven - Bad names aside (now I can't snigger at Marvel's use of Freedom Ring ...), this may end up being a better Katrina commentary than Green Arrow.

IC - A lot of cool moments, not much of a story.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Thanks for the info on Jason Bard! I'm always game for a P.I. in comics, and Fortress Keeper's point about backup stories and the old-school charm they provide is well taken.

Cove West also makes a good point about this being Good Bendis-ish. Of course, as we all know by now, that's something of a double-edged sword. :-)

My theory on IC is now because of the lateness it's strictly connecting the dots at this point, at best. At worst, they're going to leave a lot of stuff unresolved and spin it as "leaving hooks for later writers to run with".


1:31 AM  
Anonymous Duncan said...

Cable's robots were always called that. Nicieza, I think...

'S not supposed to be funny, anyhow.

4:13 AM  
Blogger ego_maniac said...

I agree with IC #6,, for some reason I feel left down from all the hype they put on this crisis…. I mean, I think its way better then anything Marvel is putting out at the moment… But I don’t think the Big 3, Batman, Superman, and WW are that much involved like they made it out to be,,, this seems more like a 2nd generation fight,., with superboy, nightwing, etc….

And yes, why is the supermen, just standing around and whining??.....

Let’s hope that issue will resolve a lot of my questions and concerns….

7:48 PM  

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