This Week’s Comics

I’m so far behind on new releases I may never catch up, but this promises to be a somewhat-light week.

  • AXE COP PRESIDENT O/T WORLD #1 – More Axe Cop can never be a bad thing.
  • DARK AVENGERS #178
  • FF #20
  • GOON #40
  • PROPHET #27 – I’ve officially dropped Prophet from my pull list.  It was new and innovative but I just couldn’t get into it.  That’s no slight on the creative team, I just found myself not enjoying it.
  • TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ONGOING #12 – I think this is where I drop TMNT, too.  It’s been real, and it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun, you know?
  •  X-TREME X-MEN #1  – The title X-Treme X-Men felt like a played-out hack move on Marvel’s part in 2001, when they used that hip, new moniker to give fresh up-and-comer Chris Claremont his time back in the X-Universe.  If they had named this book literally anything else I might have been intrigued, but there’s no reason to cling to this tired X-Treme adjective so I can’t help but feel I should just skip the entire exercise.

Well that was depressing.  Please, help a guy out.  Is there ANYTHING else good out this week?

Sunnytime Review Show

After something of a dry spell, it’s time to go in-depth with some recent releases.

I’ve been somewhat lamenting the loss of Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts lately, even before it morphed into Dark Avengers.  The frequency of releases just made me feel like it had been missing the characterization and craziness from the start of his run.  Picking up a few issues of Dark Avengers was pretty much Marvel’s last shot to keep it on my pull list.

DA is a direct continuation of T-Bolts, don’t get me wrong, but the title seems re-energized with the new name.  The real proof here is Thunderbolts Dark Avengers #176, where the team finally seems to be putting itself back together.  Perhaps the most striking aspect of this is the return of Man-Thing to the team, and a few great lines I won’t ruin here, but it seems like where the title goes astray most is when MT or Luke Cage aren’t around; they’re the ones who make the book most interesting for me.  Now that our favorite swamp-monster is back, perhaps I’ll be able to stick around for a while longer.

It wasn’t until I was writing my Previews column that I discovered Garth Ennis is writing the Shadow now, which is probably a good sign that Dynamite needs better PR.  I snagged issues Shadow #1-2 from my LCS and enjoyed them, but as introductory issues they fall flat.  I think Ennis makes the mistake of assuming that everyone knows The Shadow’s story already, but to a guy like me, who may have just seen the old Alec Baldwin movie and not know much else, at least a LITTLE bit of an introduction would be a good idea.

Still the book is a fun read, even if you’re a little puzzled.  There’s action, adventure, travel, mystery, and oh yeah, a guy with a couple pistols who blends into the darkness.  Ennis makes The Shadow  feels like an old serial, and it’s well worth picking up if you’re a longtime fan of the character or <ahem again> not so much.

In contrast, The Spider #1-2 makes an excellent introduction to a character I’ve never read before.  All the characters are laid out and introduced (in both issues!) and the mystery is clear and well-defined while the character interactions are complex but easy to follow.  The art by Colton Worley appears rotoscoped at it’s best (not a complaint, just my best attempt at a description), though inconsistent at worst, though whether that’s due to his work or the colorist’s is up for debate.  I found it to be a much stronger book than The Shadow, I’m surprised to say, although between them I’m just getting worked up for Chris Roberson and Alex Ross’s new Masks series, which will team up the Dynamite pulp licenses.

Meanwhile, over at Image comics I’ve come to a revelation: I’m a Spawn fan.  Oh, I didn’t set out to be, but I don’t know what else to call myself.  I check in with the book periodically just to see what’s up, hit up new issues, storylines, or creators when they start.  I don’t find myself picking up every issue, but since that’s essentially the same relationship I have with Superman, I guess I have to go ahead and declare myself a fan of the character.

Spawn #220 — the 20th anniversary issue, and friends, does that make ME feel awkward! — promised some surprises and some cool homages to the original Image lineup’s covers, but then Todd McFarlane really surprised me.  Just about everything in the book is different these days, from the man in the uniform, to the mission, to the powers.  McFarlane then did something I’ve never seen before: he performed a “cover” of Spawn #1.  In this instance, I don’t mean the outside page of a comic, but rather like a cover song.  You see it all the time in music, and occasionally in movies, but I’ve never seen it in comics.  And he did it right, too.  Rather than recycling the plot points (or even worse, the art) he had artist Szymon Kudranski do what in another situation would be called an homage, but for the entire book.  McFarlane wrote the story just as if it were the next issue so it would fit in place with the story they’re telling.

Does it work?  Well, if I hadn’t been somewhat up-to-date on the Jim Downing story I would have said no.  There’s too much back-story and continuity you have to been versed in for a new reader to jump in at this point.  But as an experiment or for a semi-regular reader?  Hell yeah it does.  I fear that we’ll see too many of these cover comics now that the idea is in the wild, but damn is it a great idea, well executed.

Lastly, it’s time to apologize to Erik Larsen.  <SPOILERS Supreme ahead!>  When I discussed Supreme #64 I mentioned my disappointment with the book, but scaled some of the first draft’s rhetoric down when I realized  I had mis-remembered a few key plot points, so it never really came across just how let down I was.  Original asshat Supreme depowered all the Alan Moore members of the Supremacy and it ended with Supreme flying off, ostensibly to soldier on with his own dickish adventures. 

I was happy enough to leave it there, a bad end to a great era, but then on a whim I read an interview Larsen gave to comicbook.com and this grabbed me:

“The Mean Supreme isn’t replacing the Moore Supreme. He is in addition to him. The idea here is that the surviving five will become something akin to the Hulkbusters in the old Hulk comics.”

So then it all clicked for me: Larsen ALSO considers Original Supreme the villain, and isn’t just discarding the Moore characters as I thought.  So I went ahead and picked up #65, still a bit wary, but I’m glad I did.  Larsen really does take the Moore stories as a jumping-off point for his and doesn’t just do away with them so he can move forward with his own.  He treats them as canon, and with that in mind suddenly the whole story feels more organic.  While I feel my misunderstanding is justifiable, I’m glad I came back and I’ll be keeping new Supreme on my pull list for a while longer.

 

Saturday Morning Comics

Good morning all, once again it’s time to settle in with a bowl of King Vitamin and peruse this week’s comics offerings. It’s a light week for me; there were only two books on my list. One was worth reviewing and one wasn’t, so I’m also looking at a book from last week that came in late for me.

Fantastic Four #608 story by Jonathan Hickman; art by Giuseppe Camuncoli (breakdowns) and Karl Kesel (finishes); published by Marvel Comics. Hickman’s time on the Fantastic Four books is quickly coming to an end. It looks like his final arc will deal with Wakanda. This issue has Reed and T’Challa traveling down into the depths of the Earth to enter the Wakandan/ Egyptian equivalent of Elysian Fields. They confront the Bast the cat faced goddess, and T’Challa is given a hard choice. Simulanteously Sue, T’Challa’s sister Shuri, and Storm go on a drug induced spirit quest to fight Anubis, Death.

On the one hand the Reed/T’Challa bit was strong. As a reader and fan of Reed Richards, it’s nice to be reminded that he has friends outside of his foursome. Mostly Reed is shown to have colleagues (Pym, Stark, McCoy, etc…). Hickman shows the relationship between Reed and T’Challa as friends first and colleagues second. It works.

The b-storyline with the women, while told in parallel to the a-story, feels rushed, hasty, and unnecessary. If the idea is to show that the women are as capable as the men, don’t magically end their arc on its seventh page as a result of something happening in the a-arc. That Hickman is running against a clock felt most obvious with this issue, and his usual careful pacing suffered for it.

Transformers: Regeneration One #81 story by Simon Furman; art by Andrew Wildman (p) and Stephen Baskerville (i); published by IDW. After 21 years, the original Marvel series picks up again. And boy does it pick up. This issue deals with the Wreckers and their difficulty finding a place in the new cybertronian order. If the last two pages don’t make you squeal with glee like a 14 year-old girl at a One Direction concert, you don’t remember the 1980’s.

For me, and many others, Wildman is THE transformers artist, and that hasn’t changed. Like Kevin Maguire, his strength comes from the emotions conveyed on his faces. Amazingly, he does this to equal effect with characters like Optimus Prime where 3/4 of the facial cues are covered by a faceplate.

The one thing that I’d like to see change on this title is the coloring. The computer coloring is too busy for me. There are too many different shades of color happening and not as much shading with inking. If you look at cover B, you’re reminded of how it used to be. For me, on Transformers, that’s how it should be.

 

THIS WEEK’S COVERS

For a movie that actually yells, “RISE,” Dark Knight Rises… doesn’t.

WARNING! WHAT FOLLOWS IS A REVIEW OF DARK KNIGHT RISES. IF YOU ARE AVOIDING SUCH THINGS, MOVE ALONG.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Like many people of my faith (those brothers and sisters of the bag and board who view Free Comic Book Day as a holy day of obligation), I spent last night/ this morning celebrating the release of the final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Batman cycle. The experience was underwhelming. Painfully underwhelming. For me this movie suffers from the unforgivable sin of mediocrity. This final installment of Nolan’s cycle does not live up to the promise of the other two. Yes it works thematically, but it isn’t nearly as well crafted. In spite of the movie being much more robust in the action department, I was actually bored. I was never bored during Batman Begins, and I hate origin movies with a purple passion.

So the movie is 2hrs and 45mins long, and the story is a bit of a mess. Nolan tries to give everyone a denoument. I mean everyone: Bruce Wayne/ Batman, Jim Gordon, Alfred, Lucius Fox, Selina Kyle, Marion Cotillard’s character, Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, and a couple of other characters introduced and wrapped up in this movie. Suffice it to say with so many characters (9+) receiving story arcs, there’s not a lot of Batman happening. Breaking it down, you end up with about two hours of an average hostage situation movie with 45 mins of Batman happening around it. Which brings me back to the old saw, I go to see a Batman movie because I want to see BATMAN. But I digress… If you’ve seen any of the Die Hard movies, Air Force One, or a movie where bad guys take plucky hostages, you’ll have no problems recognizing/predicting all of the story beats. Those 45 bat-minutes? If you read Batman comics in the 1990’s, you’ll have no problem recognizing/predicting the story beats.

Actually, source material is a major problem here. With The Dark Knight, Nolan, Nolan, and Goyer took a smattering of story and character beats from over 60 years of stories involving the Joker. That wealth of material allowed Nolan and company to create a story that was at once familiar and interestingly novel. Bane does not have 60 years of material to pull from. Basically he’s got one good Batman story, and as a movie maker you either tell it or you don’t.

Let’s talk about Bane. Tom Hardy’s Bane is the physically and mentally imposing frightful figure that he was during Knightfall. Hardy makes Bane a credible threat for any character that approaches him… until you hear him speak for more than a sentence’s worth of dialogue. The mask is the least of the worries here. Hardy’s vocal choice for the character is one part Sean Connery and two parts Yukon Cornelius all blended through an electronic Solo cup. It’s silly. I chuckled to myself during the movie when I realized that’s who Bane’s voice reminded me of.

I was also not expecting to think, “Well, that was dumb,” while watching a movie co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Dumb things happen or are said simply to progress the story. More than once something happened on screen, and I had to ask myself why whole committees of people considered that something to be good story-telling. In addition to dumb choices progressing the story, there are a couple of moments when Nolan and company try to be fanboy-clever rather than smart-clever. This is Nolan’s last word in the Bat-franchise, why is he now pandering to the fanboys? Worst of all, there are moments when we as an audience see something happen and then a character on screen tells us what just happened. Michael Bay does that sort of thing not Christopher Nolan.

Story arcs A – J, Bane’s voice, and the dumb little things all worked in concert to take me out of the movie watching experience. I could only rarely stop thinking about or feeling things that seem at odds with what the director wanted me to think or feel. After all of that, there are some strong points to the movie also.

Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne sets the new bar. This was probably true from the first movie, but we see more of him in this movie so it stands out more. He’s charming, disarmingly funny, and contemplative, but he’s also capable of garnering pathos. It’s enjoyable watching Bale play this character because he looks like he’s having fun.

Anne Hathaway was also outstanding as Selina Kyle. I never believed the alleged chemistry between Bruce Wayne and either of the Rachel Daweses. Based on what happened on screen it was inconceivable that Bruce would give up being Batman for Katie Holmes or Maggie Gyllenhaal. On the other hand, Anne Hathaway creates an interesting and imminently watchable chemistry with each character she interacts with, including both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Hathaway’s Selina Kyle should have been the romantic conflict/interest from movie one. The realization that we suffered through Holmes and Gyllenhaal instead of  Anne Hathaway slinking and kicking ass across the screen in the previous movies makes those excellent movies weaker in retrospect.

At the end of the day, if all you want to see is a summer explodey movie with people getting hit, this one’s not bad, it’s probably better than many. If you’re looking for the capstone to the first two smart and engaging movies, or even a good Batman movie, Dark Knight Rises isn’t it.

Ant Man Season One

Friend of the Blog Andrew is many things: Lover.  Raconteur.  Maker of fine custom wallets*.  Now we’re pleased that he can add one more thing to the list: Contributor.  With Matt making the move to Saturday mornings, we’re both very happy that Andrew will be helping us out on Thursdays.

*This is not a joke.

After months of begging and bribing, the guys are actually letting me write something!

One thing before we start. If you are at your local comic shop asking for the new Ant Man collection and they get all uppity and tell you that its not a collection but an original graphic novel, just leave. They will most likely be out of business in six months anyway…jerks.

Ant Man Season One

Writer: Tom Defalco

Artist: Horacio Domingues

$24.99

Pre-Conceived Notions: Ant Man is awesome. I have no idea why I think that or even if I have read any Ant Man-centric books before. Also, the cover is amazing.

SPOILERS ABOUND!

The first page is HANK PYM’S FIRST WIFE GETTING KILLED IN AN EXPLOSION! I DIDN”T EVEN KNOW HE HAD A FIRST WIFE! This tragedy causes my first problem with the book. Every three pages or so, Hank is questioning his sanity. Look, he’s unstable. We get it. But cramming it down our throats by mentioning how crazy or paranoid he is, is a little overkill. Show me why he’s a hero, not why he shouldn’t be one.

The villain is Elias Starr, or Egghead, who basically becomes an evil Ant Man, only with wasps. So…yeah. It would be like if Spider-Man had to fight a different kind of evil spider man, but one with tarantulas. And it’s about that interesting. It hits all the points you would expect (guy shrinks down, gets caught in spider web, fights spider, controls some bugs) but misses all the points that you would want, like heart or emotion.  Another problem with this is that Ant Man becomes Giant Man to fight giant bugs.  The book is called Ant Man, SO USE ANT MAN! To be fair, I have never read the early issues of Ant Man so he very well may have become Giant Man early on, but still…if you can’t tell an interesting story about a dude that turns himself small, then maybe you shouldn’t be writing a book about Ant Man.

The Good

  • This book does give a fair background story to the character.
  • I am a sucker for dudes fighting bugs.
  • I love when a collective of bugs form to spell out things (I get that from Looney Tunes)
  • Digital copy included!

The Bad

  • The art is too cartoony and seems unfinished.
  • There are a lot of modern day and meta references that took me out of the story (Facebook, Bernie Madoff, referring to Ant Man’s costume as “a reject from some cheesy summer blockbuster”, and the line “you may look like a comic book character…” in which they left out the ‘a’. I only mention that because if I’m paying $25.00 for something, I expect it to be edited properly.
  • The climax is confusing. I couldn’t tell who’s growing big and who’s shrinking down or even when they change size.

The Conclusion

I was really looking forward to this and it left me feeling…meh. It’s not a bad book, but it’s also not that good. The best you could hope for is paying someone who’s buying a hard copy of the book $5.00 for their digital download and reading it that way, then you might not feel so cheated.

Every Marvel Season One GN has been just a little worse than the one before it.  I hope that changes when Greg Pak and Emma Rios hit Doctor Strange and Fred Van Lente and Tom Fowler do Hulk, but we will have to wait to see.

Bane — Secrets!

I wasn’t trying to snap The Bat’s spine, just stretch him out a
little. He’s way too tense.

Secrets!

Shouldn’t Venom and I have been the villains in the
Spider-Man/Batman crossover?

Secrets!

The twist ending of the new movie? We never find out if the top
stops spinning.

Secrets!

The only Capital in this Bane is ‘B’!

Secrets!

Hey Rush Limbaugh, why didn’t you invite me on your show 20 years
ago when I first came out???

SECRETS!!!