Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Posts tagged “Paul Cornell

Review – Wolverine # 1 (2014)

rsz_wolverine-01-2014-marvel-comics

I want to readily admit that I did not read the last volume of Wolverine. I just sort of missed out on it while it was going on. When I saw that they were relaunching the book, along with a host of others I thought I would give it a try because aside from Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron I haven’t been following a Wolverine-centric title in a while. Paul Cornell is always a competent writer and I figured it might be interesting to see where his take on the character has wandered.

The book picks up with a depowered Wolverine, stripped of his immortality and made vulnerable to all manner of hurt and injury. He’s sporting some heavy armor to protect himself from the elements of danger that being a superhero will put him in and he’s npw teamed up with a shady character called “The Offer.” This guy from my deductions is some sort of Vito Corleone “makes you a deal you can’t refuse” sort of fellow and he has tasked Wolverine with breaking someone out of a highly guarded facility with the aid of a couple of other folks that I didn’t recognize offhand. The issue focuses mainly on this little mission but there is some flashback to Wolverine’s conversations with Storm regarding the loss of his healing factor that helps put us in Logan’s headspace a little more firmly, or so we are led to believe.

Wolverine is a character that has gone through a number of different looks, personas, and interpretations. Everyone seems to fall back on the outsider/wandering samurai motif but sometimes it is fun to explore other options. Here we get something more akin to the stories of when he was a mercenary. A rogue agent who hadn’t yet found his true affiliation. This time he has some true friends to guide him along, as a scene with Black Widow is particularly effective in showing how he plans to cope with his new situation. The thing that strikes me about this issue, and this iteration of Wolverine, is that the focus seems to be on telling a fun, action oriented story that focuses less on the mysteries of Logan’s past and how it currently affecting him. In fact, the book seems heavily focused on showing Wolverine as a blank slate and the primary directive of the narrative is driven from where he could go in the future.

The ending of the book is supposed to be a shocker but based on context clues within the issue we could have seen it coming. The resolution of that climax however, could go in any number of ways and I’m interested in seeing how Cornell moves forward on the book.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Weekly Comic Reviews

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

It’s that time again! And lucky for you this time the reviews are on time. I hope you appreciate how much effort goes into that because I really don’t feel like being analytical at 8:00 am on a Thursday morning. I’m doing this all for you. Really. Because I sure as hell am not getting paid to do this.

BATMAN AND ROBIN # 1

I’m apologetically pro-Damien. I think he’s one of the best things to come out of Grant Morrison’s Batman run. There’s something about him that sets him apart from all the other Robins and I would say that it’s mostly the fact that he’s what Jason Todd could have been. The whole “Sidekick with an attitude” thing works for some and doesn’t for others and Damien works. Now, I will admit that too much of his schtick can be tiresome. But the same can be said for any character. I love me some Deadpool but I got some serious DP burnout following the 87 series he had going on at once last year. Luckily, DC seems to realize that Damien provokes strong reactions and therefore uses him with a deal of finesse. What I mean by this is that usually his personality is either downplayed or dialed up depending on the context of the story. In this debut issue, he’s far more antagonistic than usual because we’re being reintroduced to his dynamic with Bruce. That level of mutual respect that we had seen in previous stories seems to have been scaled back because of this new timeline and as such we get some interesting character beats from both Bruce and Damien in regards to their views on the sentiment of death and the ethos of fighting crime.

Like some other books this week, it’s clear that some holdover elements from the old continuity will be front and center for certain characters. In this case, it’s the worldwide enterprise of Batman, Inc. The fact that Batman has only been around for five years in this continuity doesn’t seem to hinder that storyline at all. We’ve yet to see exactly what parts of Batman’s history are still relevant. I don’t know if Knightfall, No Man’s Land, Murderer/Fugitive, etc. have happened in this timeline but we do know that Damien is still around and Batman Inc is still happening around the globe. Again I have to point out how troublesome this is to new readers if that’s truly what DC is trying to draw in with this relaunch. Someone picking up Batman and Robin # 1 without a prior knowledge of Morrison’s work on the character might be a little perplexed as to when exactly Batman had a son and what the hell Batman, Inc. is. Fans of those particular storylines will not be let down however, as this is a pretty direct continuation of those themes in a similar sort of style.

Overall Rating: 3/5

DEMON KNIGHTS # 1

I’ll just go ahead and say upfront that this is my favorite title of the bunch so far and if you haven’t already you need to go buy a copy and read it right now. The rest of this review is just going to be me gushing over how amazing the book is and how lucky we as readers are to have someone like Paul Cornell writing a book like this. Seriously, if there is one thing that I have to applaud DC for in this whole stunt it’s giving good writers chances to work on books that otherwise would have never seen the light of day. There are a lot of people who are going to pick this up just because of its connection to the “new 52” and they’re going to find one of the most fun, well-written fantasy adventure comics to come along in a long damned time.

I’ve always been a fan of Etrigan. I think he’s one hell of a character and he really hasn’t been given his due in the last few years. That changes here and I think it’s mostly due to the fact that Cornell knows how to write him and that he is a character that works best when he has appropriate characters to bounce off of and he gets that here with Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage, and a whole host of medieval side-characters. The fact that this is set entirely in the middle-ages allows Cornell to go wild and do whatever he pleases without worrying about bumping up against someone else’s plans. The recent dust-up with Gail Simone being displeased about Batgirl’s appearance in Birds of Prey without her prior knowledge comes to mind. I don’t think anyone is going to try to appropriate anybody in Demon Knights anytime soon. There is an artistic freedom that comes with a book like this that I really can get behind.

Seriously, go buy the book. It’s the shining pinnacle of what this relaunch has to offer.

Overall Rating: 5/5

SUPERBOY # 1

This one is hard to review. It’s not a bad book. It’s actually quite an interesting read. It’s just so hard for me to disconnect this version of the character from the previous incarnation. Even more so than last week’s Green Arrow, not a whole lot of this book felt like what I would associate with Superboy. That having been said, what we’re presented with is a fresh take on the character. The scientific procedural element of the story is interesting and provides an excellent framework for progressing the issue. My only problem with the book has been that Superboy’s personality is defined by NOT having a personality. That can only last for so long before it becomes a chore to read through. I think that Scott Lobdell knows this, but he’s trying to match the character’s personality to the expected tropes of the genre he’s presenting the character in. He’s a clone, so he needs to be a blank slate at the beginning. That’s how these stories work. I think he’s trying to play with expectations a little bit and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes with it.

Superboy is a title that I’m cautiously optimistic about. The final page seems to indicate that this storyline somehow informs the new Teen Titans, which doesn’t look very interesting at all to me. I can’t really say for sure how much I’ll enjoy this past the first issue. I’ll just have to keep reading to find out.

Overall Rating: 3/5

SUICIDE SQUAD # 1

I am very tempted just to write *facepalm* and leave it at that. There really are no words to express how much I disliked this book. Anything not involving King Shark (he’s a shaaaaarrrk!) was pretty much terrible. Deadshot has lost his mustache and Amanda Waller is a young, thin slice of bland. This was just…well, a mess. I don’t imagine any other DC book has missed the mark as hard as this one has. Or let us hope, at least. I’d hate to see what could be worse than this slap in the face to what was once an amazing title.

I don’t want to sound like a cranky fanboy, but seriously…I just can’t imagine how anyone would find this interpretation of the title appealing. It’s generic, bland, and brings nothing new to the table while disregarding the elements of the characters involved that made them interesting in the first place. It’s just one big ball of missed opportunity, because these characters in their pre-reboot forms on the same team would have been interesting to see. Now? not so much.

Overall rating: 1/5

ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN # 1

So, controversy, huh? We’ve got an African-American/Hispanic Ultimate Spider-Man and that has some people angry and other people bored and other people happy as hell. Emotions! Does any of that have any bearing on how good the book is or isn’t? Not really. The initial PR stunt nature of the book is a bit disheartening because I think it might have been a little bit better received if it had come out of the box as a surprise. It’s actually a pretty decent book. It doesn’t feel like a continuation of the old series as much as it feels like an entirely new story where someone who isn’t Peter Parker somehow winds up getting spider-based powers. It’s got Bendis’ usual sense of story-flow, that is to say that it begins a bit slowly, but the slice-of-life soap-opera elements of Bendis’ writing were what made that book work so well in the early days.

I’m not going to call this one better or worse than the Parker years because it’s only been one issue and it’ll be another twenty-three or so until I’m able to see what sort of book this is really going to be. All we know right now is that Miles is going to have a little bit of a different power-set from Parker judging from that final page cliffhanger, and that he probably won’t have a costume until around issue six if Bendis keeps to his usual pace. But if everything between then and now is well written as it was back when he first launched USM, then I doubt we’ll really care.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

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And that’s our show everybody. Join us next week for another round of my telling you what you should do with your money. See you then.


DC Comics Announces Line-Wide Reboot

I know that this year has been a bit different when it comes to the content I’ve posted on the blog. After leaving my job at the comic shop back in December I had to make the painful decision to alter my comic buying habits to accommodate my new lifestyle. As such, I’ve been getting my comics from an online retailer, mailed out once a month and as such I haven’t had much luck posting real reviews on a timely basis. It’s just a sad byproduct of my current situation. Another byproduct has been the steady decline of my interest in the mainstream comics scene. I have, sadly, been dropping titles I once considered vital with each passing month and have instead been focusing on creator-owned work that manages to resonate with me more than anything that DC or Marvel sends down the chute every month.

I never thought I’d see the day that I’d say this but I may just be done with DC comics. Lately the only books that I can say I’ve enjoyed fully are Morrison’s Batman Inc., Palmiotti & Gray’s Jonah Hex, Cornell’s Action Comics and Gail Simone’s Secret Six. Roberson’s handling of the Superman book has also been admireable. But that’s five books out of a line that will see 52 titles jump started with a new # 1 issue.

Dan Didio was quotes in the USA Today article as saying:

In September, more than 50 more first issues will debut, introducing readers to stories that are grounded in each character’s specific legend but also reflect today’s real-world themes and events. Lee spearheaded the redesign of more than 50 costumes to make characters more identifiable and accessible to comic fans new and old.

“We looked at what was going on in the marketplace and felt we really want to inject new life in our characters and line,” says Dan DiDio, who co-publishes DC with Lee. “This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today’s audience.”

Fans around the internet have been in an uproar over this and I have to say that I understand where some of them are coming from, in light of this news coupled with the rumors that have been coming out that have not yet been substantiated such as Lois & Clark’s marriage being lost in the new continuity as well as several creative team changes that are less than exciting including a possible loss of Gail Simone from Birds of Prey. The last time that happened it sucked just about all the energy from the book and it was left to die a slow death. On the other hand Grant Morrison is rumored to be taking over the central Superman title and it is confirmed we will be getting a Justice League book written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee, in a move that clearly parallels Marvel’s decision to put Bendis on New Avengers several years ago.

The problem I have with the Justice League book being handled by Johns & Lee, aside from the fact that the creative team is almost begging for publishing delays, is that it seems like they’re aping Marvel’s formula several years after it has already gotten stale. Granted, DC could never make such a move any time after Marvel does anything similar because it’s either too soon or too late after the fact for it not to seem like a stunt or playing catch up. My philosophy when it comes to the DC v. Marvel debate comes down to the way Marvel treats its writers. They sell the writers in a way that makes them out to be superstars. Marvel presents their writers as the A-list. The cream of the crop. Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Dan Slott, Jason Aaron, Nick Spencer, et. al are sold as being equal commodities to the characters they write. DC does not seem to do the same for their writers outside of Morrison or Johns. They have a SMATTERING of amazing talent in people like Chris Roberson, Matt Sturges, Gail Simone, Paul Cornell, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, and so many others. But you don’t see DC publicizing them like walking gods of creativity the way Marvel does with their stable.

The whole line-wide reboot thing reads like a desperate stunt. DC loves to pull stunts. The repeated weekly series plan alone shows that. This stunt in particular will alienate a great deal of the fanbase and probably lose them for a good long time. They say that the point of all this is to garner new readers by eliminating the confusion surrounding certain characters and their continuity but they are failing to understand the simple reason why the comics market isn’t viable to younger readers and that’s that comic books are not cost effective to the consumer.

The article in USA today also mentions that beginning in September, DC comics will be going same-day release with digital and print copies. This is a major leap forward in the digital market but raises even more questions. Are the digital comics going to be significantly cheaper than the print counterparts? If DC wants to make me pay full price for a copy of the new Superman # 1 at $2.99 when I can get it from an online retailer for anywhere from a 10-40% discount, then what is the impetus for me to switch to digital? The price debate is probably the most important hurdle that the comics industry will have to face in the coming years. I bought a blu-ray movie yesterday for $8.99. That’s two plus hours of entertainment plus special features for roughly ten dollars with tax applied. A comic book is 20 pages of content for about $3.25 after taxes are applied and the best case scenario is usually a ten minute read-time if there’s actually any dense content to the book. If you’re trying to attract new readers, you have to give them more bang for their buck. I respect DC for trying to lower the cost of buying comics, but the content provided for the price is a huge turnoff to people who aren’t already hooked. Add to that the fact that comics aren’t readily available anywhere outside of specialized shops and you’ve got a major dilemma. All the continuity stunts in the world will not save you from that pitfall. Comics are being displayed at Barnes and Noble now, but I’ve seen that selection and it’s not very impressive and not too well organized.

I don’t want to sound like a doomsayer, foretelling the end of comics or anything like that. The industry will adapt and survive in some manner, because too much money stands to be lost if they don’t. But the logic that has gone into DC’s latest stunt boggles the mind of anyone who takes the time to look at it carefully. Perhaps this whole article will be rendered worthless when more information becomes available. I hope everything does work out for the best. I still have friends who work in the retail level of the industry, and all the writers and artists who I’ve developed a rapport with since developing this blog don’t deserve to see their chosen profession crumble because the companies don’t know how to adapt. All I can do is sit and wait and see if what DC has to offer is worth paying for.


Weekly Comic Reviews

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

This week I had more than a few papers due in more than a few classes so the reviews weren’t the first thing on my mind. I’m trying to better myself through education and whatnot. Anyhow, I did read quite a few books and some of them surprised me so I figured it’d be a waste not to get something posted.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #645 2.99
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN PRESENTS BLACK CAT #4 (OF 4) 3.99
BATMAN RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #5 (OF 6) 3.99
BOOSTER GOLD #37 2.99
DAKEN DARK WOLVERINE #2 2.99
GREEN LANTERN #58 (BRIGHTEST DAY) 2.99
HACK SLASH ANNUAL 2010 MURDER MESSIAH #1 CVR A (MR) 5.99
INCREDIBLE HULKS #614 3.99
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #31 2.99
JONAH HEX #60 2.99
KNIGHT & SQUIRE #1 (OF 6) 2.99
NEW AVENGERS #5 3.99
SECRET SIX #26 2.99
SHADOWLAND #4 (OF 5) SL 3.99
SHADOWLAND BLOOD ON STREETS #3 (OF 4) SL 3.99
SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY HC (MR) 19.99
SUPERIOR #1 (OF 6) (MR) 2.99
SUPERMAN #703 2.99
THOR #616 3.99
THOR MIGHTY AVENGER #5 2.99
TUROK # 1 3.50
X-MEN #4 3.99

Now let’s do this thing.

Is That A Goth Cinderella?HACK/SLASH ANNUAL 2010

Tim Seeley has me hooked on Hack/Slash. It’s a great book that is easily accessible if you’re willing to deal with the content and manages the kind of self-referential tone that a lot of books try to reach but can’t because they don’t know how to handle it. With this Annual, we get the bridge between the old Devil’s Due series and the new relaunch coming around at Image. It’s got a definite middle ground feeling to it, where I’m sure new readers could catch what was going on while long-time fans like myself are happy to see plot threads start to re-align after a four month mini-series that felt a little too much like wheel-spinning.

I seriously cannot wait for the upcoming relaunch. I hope that people will take a chance on the book and hop on when the new #1 issue comes out because Hack/Slash is one of those books that understands that comic books can be fun. It’s not a full on comedy book, and it’s not always serious. Which makes me happy because a lot of books nowadays cannot balance tone at all. It’s an art and Seeley should give lectures.

Also, whoever had the idea to have Six Sixx wear a Fastway shirt in the opening part of the book is my hero, because I freaking unabashedly love that band.

EXPLOSION!!!!INVINCIBLE IRON MAN # 31

Matt Fraction is writing the definitive run of Iron Man for the modern age. The world he is creating for Tony Stark here is one that builds not only off of Marvel’s rich history but off of the technological and political history of our own world. Fraction is saying something about technology and society that others have tried to in the book before but never found the right tone to make the story click. Here we’re getting an Iron Man that works on multiple levels. Stark’s unending quest for personal worth through altruism and progressive thought that has become the defining characteristic that pushes the narrative forward and it feels genuine. Tony Stark has truly become a multi-layered character in the last decade and Fraction is doing a good job of building Tony as a character while at the same time giving us the kind of story that we expect to read in an Iron Man comic.

 

 

'Ello Chaps!KNIGHT AND SQUIRE # 1

I’m just not British enough to like this book. I love me some Doctor Who and I thought Blackadder was hilarious, but even still, Cornell’s first issue of this mini-series went over my head like nobody’s business. I think that it could possibly be a great series for those who understand what happened. But that’s not me. I’m admitting this up front so that you know I can’t accurately criticise the book. It’s just the truth. I’m sorry.

The art was pretty though. So there’s always that. *sheepish grin*

 

 

 

 

Space MonkeysSUPERIOR # 1

I’ve been a massive detractor when it comes to Mark Millar. I really haven’t enjoyed anything he’s written since Ultimates 2 or thereabouts. He’s obviously capable of writing some amazing stuff, as I loved Red Son and his work on The Authority but his recent output hasn’t been in any way intriguing to me. Kickass was a solid concept made better when translated to film, Old Man Logan was inconsequential and Nemesis just doesn’t work for me.

With Superior, Millar finds his once impeccable knack for dialog and pathos that was so prevalent in his Red Son days. The story works with established superhero tropes but doesn’t seek to subvert them the way that Kickass or Nemesis do. Instead he shows that an interesting story can be told out of tried and true ideas and still feel fresh if you have a story worth telling. I didn’t think Millar had it in him to create sympathetic characters, or characters that didn’t feel paper thin for that matter. His recent work certainly wouldn’t indicate that as being the case. However he downright surprised me here.

I think this could be the strongest work he’s turned in for quite some time, though I doubt it will be his most popular because so far it’s a solid book but lacks the hyped up sensationalism that makes Millar’s books fanboy-bait. I hope people will look past the fact that there’s no forced incest or pre-pubescent female murderers and pick the book up knowing that it’s a glowing testament to the superhero genre.

Nothing Witty, The Book SucksSUPERMAN # 703

It’s hard for me to say this, as a Superman fan, but the current run of the title is just about the worst Superman stuff I’ve ever read. No middle ground to this anymore, it’s just steadily headed toward absolute horrendousness since the second JMS took over the title. And like 90% of bad Superman stories it comes from the writer just not getting what makes Superman work. Superman is not a thug who holds a stalker hundreds of feet in the air and threatens to drop him if the man doesn’t change his ways. That’s kind of what Batman does, but not Superman. Superman would talk to the guy and the mere experience of meeting Superman would cause him to re-evaluate his life and that person would go on to do great things.

Superman also doesn’t lecture Batman about saving ordinary folk. I’m sorry. I know Superman is on some sort of self-reflection kick, but he cannot reshape his entire worldview in three issues to the point where he can lecture Dick Grayson about staying grounded to reality.

I get that some people don’t like the fact that Superman isn’t edgy. But JMS doesn’t need to try to “fix” all of Superman’s percieved problems. He needs to take what works with the character and go from there, not write a character that barely resembles him in any way shape or form. For the love of God, let this little expirement wrap up soon so we can get back to the title just being mediocre instead of nearly unreadable garbage.

Wampum!TUROK # 1

My only experience with Turok comes from wasting several hours playing the N64 game back in the late nineties. That’s about it. I never read any of the classic comics or anything of that nature. I picked up the new series wondering what it was like and it felt fairly generic and tepid, so far as I could tell. It feels about the same as the other relaunched-through-Dark Horse properties like Magnus or Doctor Solar. There’s obviously some effort put into making a modern feel to a classic character but the story progression feels choppy and though I’ve never read Turok before in my life, a lot of this felt like a rehash of something I’d read before.

The series has potential to grow, obviously, as the character wouldn’t have warranted a relaunch if there wasn’t something worth exploring with the property. I just hope that the flow of the book gets a little smoother because it certainly felt rough around the edges throughout the course of the first issue.

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The End. I’m gonna go have a sandwich and watch all the crap I’ve DVR’d this week but haven’t had a chance to watch.


Weekly Comic Reviews

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

I’m not even gonna lie, folks. Yesterday I was on the verge of lashing out at anybody who looked at me the wrong way. Some people said some things that I felt were highly disrespectful, and then they followed up on that by asking me to go out of my way to do something that I am not actually able to do without significant time spent doing so. Why would I do this when I don’t get treated with any measure of respect in the course of my regular comings and goings? All I can say is that luckily the day was salvaged by a date with a beautiful girl and a stack of mostly excellent comics.

Yesterday was really the kind of day that comics were invented for. I was in a foul mood, the rain outside was just nasty, nothing was on TV; it was just a day meant to be ended laying on the couch reading about super powered people in bright costumes punching bad guys in the face. Honestly, yesterday would have been almost a total down note if it weren’t for my weekly pull.

ARRIVALS 6-30-2010
ACTION COMICS #890 3.99
ASTONISHING X-MEN #34 2.99
BATMAN BEYOND #1 (OF 6) 2.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA #607 HA 3.99
DEADPOOL TEAM-UP #892 2.99
DEATH OF DRACULA ONE-SHOT 3.99
FLASH #3 (BRIGHTEST DAY) 2.99
GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #13 2.99
HERALDS #5 (OF 5) 2.99
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN ANNUAL #1 4.99
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #46 (BRIGHTEST DAY) 3.99
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #40 2.99
SECRET AVENGERS #2 HA 3.99
THOR #611 HA 3.99
WONDER WOMAN #600 (NOTE PRICE) 4.99

And now that my personal bitching is out of the way, let’s do this shit.

Action # 890
ACTION COMICS # 890

Lex Luthor takes over the protagonist duties on Action Comics this week, with former Captain Britain and Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell taking the reigns and bringing us a story that spills directly out of Blackest Night, which most of my readers will recall me as christening a “steaming pile of Geoff John’s diaretic feces” or something similar. And while my feelings on that particularly shoddy mini-series haven’t changed, the fallout here with Luthor, whose power hungry ego was out of control before he got ahold of an orange ring, is actually intriguing and well plotted. I attribute this mostly to the fact that Luthor is one of the better multi-faceted villains DC has at their disposal. I mean, the Joker has a lot of different degrees of crazy he can go in, but he’s still going to be the Joker. With Lex we can get mad scientist Lex or evil industrialist Lex or actually-not-evil Lex, his lack of true definition isn’t a fault of the writers it’s a byproduct of his psyche as a character. Luthor truly does not know what he wants to be. Really, he just doesn’t want to be Superman, despite what Geoff Johns would have you believe.

This particular issue knocks it out of the park as far as I’m concerned. The story is obvious setup, where we learn of Luthor’s plan to quest for the rings (which sounds a little more Tolkien-esque than I thought when I typed that out). But while it’s definitely an issue meant to catch up readers who may be jumping on board as well as giving us a clear direction for where the title is headed, we also get Cornell’s Luthor clearly defined in the span of one issue. We know which Luthor we’re going to be getting. Cornell writes a very compelling Luthor, with his actions making complete sense in the context of who we’re dealing with. The way he treats Lois in this issue (probably my favorite aspect of the series thus far) is probably as good a gauge of character as we’ll ever see.

Oh, and the surprise reveal of the villain at the end made me squee, because he’s a personal favorite and I’ve been waiting for him to pop back up for a while now. But that’s just personal bias.

BB1
BATMAN BEYOND # 1

I only vaguely remember Batman Beyond as a show. I mean, I watched it because I was young and there wasn’t much else on but I didn’t latch onto it the way that I did with Batman The Animated Series. Chris Sims over at ComicsAlliance said that he enjoyed the show because it was basically Batman meshed with Spider-Man but set in the future. I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. The character is more Spidey than Bats most of the time, and I think that’s an interesting dynamic but it was never something that hooked me. I mean, if I want to watch Spider-Man I’ll go watch Spider-Man. Batman has a specific style and tone that I identify with and Batman Beyond didn’t really hit that note for me.

That having been said, I felt compelled to pick up the first issue of the mini-series because I’ll be damned if I’m not going to at least give it a fair shake to make me a convert. I won’t say that it has, but I think that is because a lot of what did make the show work in terms of style was lost when translated with it’s adaptation to a different medium. I think that regular fans will enjoy it more than I did because they’ll just be happy to see Terry McGinnis back in some form.

I will say that Beechen gets kudos for surprising me with the villain, if they do in fact go where they suggest at the end of the issue. He’s not my favorite villain by any means, in fact I hate the living hell out of the story that introduced him while a lot of people hold it up as some paragon of Batman lore, but given that this is an alternate reality maybe they can fix him in some small degree, although any progress made won’t resonate in the regular titles and so I’ll likely end up dissapointed either way. As you can tell, I am still harboring some residual pessimissm left over from yesterday.

DoD
DEATH OF DRACULA

Spoiler Alert – Dracula dies in this issue. Yeah, I know some people will actually complain that I mention that. Despite having the central premise of the book right there in the title. Though Marvel has thrown swerveballs at us in regards to titles and events and covers that bely my point, but this is my blog so deal with it.

Anyhow, all I have to say about this issue is that it is a damn fine little vampire story that follows the logic and style I prefer in my vampire fiction. I was hoping for a Blade cameo, but no such luck, this one is all about the fanged dudes. The clear definition that Gischler gives to the vampire sects is refreshing rather than having a catch-all group of undead with no real regard to locale or backstory. I particularly liked the hot dominatrix female vampire sect. (The fact that I almost typed that as “Sext” seals the deal. Hot vampires for the win. Good job Gisch!)

I have to appreciate Marvel’s recent revival of their vampire community. The upcoming trade reprints of Tomb of Dracula have me positively giddy as I can finally replace my Essentials. Cornell’s Vampire State arc of Captain Britain was phenomenal and every time I see a copy at the shop I get really angry that the book got cancelled because it truly was a gem. But luckily Marvel has good, talented writers like Gischler handling their vampires because they seem to understand what makes them work. Vampires are supposed to be creatures of horror. There is a lamentation in the book that humans don’t fear vampires the way they should, despite being creatures of fear by nature. And that’s the crux of this. There is a regal fearsomeness to the vampires presented in this issue. I want to thank Vic Gischler for righting the wrongs brought on by vampires like this:

Gayer Than 8 Guys Blowing 9 Guys

Yeah, seriously. Read Death of Dracula. It’s not lame.

IIMA 1
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN ANNUAL # 1

First, let me state how awesome it is that Matt Fraction was able to throw in a nod to Immortal Iron Fist in this annual. I think that was wicked awesome, especially for those of us who loved that book unconditionally. I will say that for the five bucks I paid to pick up this book, I got about as much content as your average trade paperback. Fraction knows how to give his readers bang for their buck, and here we got an interesting look at the life story of the Mandarin through the eyes of the director he shanghai’d to film his biopic. It’s filled with fabrications and lies mixed with fact. Kind of like a White House press conference (BA-ZING!).

It’s a hefty book, with a sprawling story that weaves itself around Iron Man without ever being about him. Which is both a good and a bad thing I suppose. I did like how Fraction essentially updated Tony’s origin to mirror the one in the film, with the terror sect from the first movie being utilized and the escape sequence recreated almost identically. We knew it was going to happen eventually, I’m just glad it was done in a way that was organic and didn’t feel forced. Like some stupid mini-series launched simply to cash in on the movie. I get tired of that. Quickly.

This annual has a lot going for it the way that Action Comics did. We get a character who is well known but not defined in any real manner. Fraction plays with that a bit to create a character who is defined by the smokescreen created by his own illusionary presence. The Mandarin is a villain who needed an issue like this to give us a reason to care about his existence. I can’t wait to see what Fraction does with the character in the pages of the book proper.

JLA 46
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA # 46

Christ on a cracker, Robinson. You’re killing me here.

JLA has turned into a solid gold turd. I mean, it started off pretty bad with Meltzer, and McDuffie’s run was a mediocre bore, but now it’s just a walking joke. Bagley’s pencils are great and all but they cannot salvage this dreck. It’s poorly written, poorly plotted, and doesn’t feel like a JLA book at all to me. There’s none of the gravitas of Morrison or Waid’s run, and none of the fun that was so prevalant in the cartoon. JLA is supposed to be big and bombastic, it’s supposed to be all that’s great about the DC characters in one book but instead I find myself reading this issue and wondering how anyone could enjoy it. It’s full of faux importance but everything rings hollow. If it weren’t crossing over with JSA, which I’m loving, I never would have put money down on this title. It’s sad to see how far Robinson has fallen since Starman, it really is.

Wonder Woman 600
WONDER WOMAN # 600

All anyone is talking about is that damned costume redesign. Which basically confirms my suspicions that Wonder Woman is more an image than a catalyst for stories. She’s a fetishized figure that hearkens to teenage masturbatory fantasies whose value as a character is largely ignored. I personally liked every little story in the book, with my favorite of course being the one by Amanda Conner, who may be the most talented working artist around. I mean, come on. You have Power Girl and Wonder Woman teaming up to punch a giant walking egg. Don’t tell me that’s not great!

But all the coverage of this milestone issue has been about the damned costume. It only appears for one of the five stories in the issue and that seems to be the only thing that every article I’ve read since the beginning of this week has focused on. Not the fact that Gail Simone teamed up with George Perez to tell a Wonder Woman story that builds on years of Diana’s legacy for a truly genuine story. One that demonstrates how just about every other female character in the DCU is beholden to Wonder Woman in some way, shape or form. Whether in the context of their existence in the mainstream DCU or in a meta-textual manner that references the way Diana trailblazed female heroes, that story spoke volumes. And it made the message while she was wearing the classic costume. If there is anything wrong with that costume it’s simply that George Perez can’t draw every issue of Wonder Woman as well as her every appearance in every DC book. Between Gail and George’s enormous talent, their worst work would be better than the best work of some other talented creators. I stand by that firmly.

Of the Trinity’s anniversary issues, this one was probably the strongest. There was a respect to the character that was lacking in Superman’s, like the point of Superman 700 was to expose the flaws of Superman and somehow right them. Which felt a little like arrogance on the part of Stracynski. With Wonder Woman, he’s also trying to revise her and bring her some place new. But he didn’t do it at the expense of saying “your personality is wrong, this shall be fixed.”

Still not sold on him as the ongoing writer, but this issue was solid. I just wish people could see the reason why.


Arc Review : Black Widow – Deadly Origin

It’s plain to see the logic behind releasing this mini-series when they did. Marvel has their tentpole film slated for a May release and it’s set to feature new characters who are bound to click with at least a portion of the general populous and one of those characters will assuredly be the Black Widow. A hot redhead in a tight bodysuit kicking all kinds of ass? Yeah, people will be hip to that.

And so this miniseries will be right there on shelves in Marvel’s Premiere format hardcover by the time the movie hits theaters, ready for anybody who might want a digestible series about the character readily available to them with little to no prior knowlege of the Marvel comics universe necessary for them to enjoy it.

Of course, at the same time, the new ongoing series will be hitting shelves and Marvel is hoping that some people cut their teeth on that title as well. Using the movie and this mini-series as a springboard to launch their foray into the world of monthly graphic literature. Will it actually work? I don’t know.

That having been said, the mini-series itself is pretty much everything you could want from the character. It’s scope is long and epic and integrates the character into every facet of the Marvel universe. She crosses paths with just about every major hero in the lineup and it didn’t feel like say, the Wolverine Origins film, where they were simply namedropping people left and right at random.

The great thing about this series is that it has a very classic feel to it. It’s sort of like a Fleming James Bond novel in it’s adherence to the spy-thriller genre. I take it that has a great deal to do with British writer Paul Cornell, who hasn’t written anything for Marvel yet that I didn’t enjoy on some level. He manages to make the book accessible to new readers while at the same time making the series seem integrated with what Brubaker has done with Captain America as well as with the overall tone of the Marvel Universe at large.

The art is simply amazing as well. And that’s saying something considering that there are different styles used to set the tone for different time periods in the Black Widow’s life. Her time spent as an Avenger looks and feels completely different than her time spent with Daredevil. It’s a stylistic choice that isn’t revolutionary, but it’s refreshing to see it done well, as so many times the effect isn’t a different tone but a jarring shift that seems out of place.

So would I recommend this book? Absolutely. And I give it high marks for being a book I can recommend not just to comic afficianados, but also to newbies. That’s no small accomplishment, as many have tried to do such a thing and fallen on their asses. Hard.