Game Tape… End of an era

You may remember that I had some trouble a couple of years back with my comic shop closing. It’s happening again. Essentially with the beginning of the new year, I will become the many that get their books exclusively via an online retailer. Although I’m not sure which. This means a couple of things.

1. I’m scaling back on the books I pull (18 regular titles per month) because shipping costs will be a bitch. This scaling back will also allow for a bit more experimentation in the indie field since my pull list is more fluid and immediately controllable.

2. Game Tape will become a bit less regular and behind the times. I think I can swing every other week…and reviews will always be a week or so behind. It’ll also have to move days…not sure which. We’ll see. In lieu of new weekly books, on the off week’s I’ll do some TPB/GN reviews… or something.

In the mean time, enjoy some reviews of things I’ve read lately.

I’m calling shenanigans Jonathan Hickman and Fantastic Four #601. I sat through 3 nigh-interminable issues of Kree/ Inhuman babble for that resolution? Please tell me this is a small part of a bigger truly awesome plan. This was anti-climactic on the scale of Darth Maul. Is it possible that my Hickmania has been cured?

Nah, I just really hate Marvel space nonsense.

I really enjoyed the interactions between Spidey and a certain hot-head. I also giggled at the p’wning of Annihilus.

 

I’m quite happy with the way Cobra Civil War wrapped up. The choice of the new Commander was a good one that doesn’t really screw with the status quo too much. It’s the Pepsi choice (the choice of a new generation). On the other hand, Transformers is gone from the pull list. I kept finding myself really uninterested in what was happening.

Finally, I enjoyed the double-sized Batman Incorporated special and Jesse can enjoy it as well because it takes place in the DCU instead of the DCnU. It’s fun and it ends, but it’s the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end. It’s also got a sense of closure rather than being a build up to the next part. As usually, well done Mr. Morrison.

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Game Tape

This was a pretty good week. At least for me, issues ran from pretty good to not too shabby. So let’s see what we see.

Months and months ago, I dropped Green Lantern because I didn’t want to read a story pretending not to be Dragonball Z or The Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby Doo (ie a story where the characters are on an search for x, y, and z mcguffins over an indefinite period of time). Johns was shoe-horning a hamfisted plot over his  search for the dragonba…er…ghos…er avatars of the lantern power. This said, it may be a surprise that I really enjoy Paul Cornell’s Action Comics. Lex is essentially collecting Dragon Balls, but that’s all he’s doing, and he’s doing it shamelessly. Of course Cornell’s/ Luthor’s shamelessness is infinitely more fun to read about. Specific to this issue, Larfleeze shows up with one of the spheres and words are bandied regarding the nature of desire, power, and want. If you’re a fan of avarice and the color orange, the last two Larfleeze pages are worth the price of admission. We also get a clue as to who might be partially responsible for this business.

This week also saw a return of something that has not been true in almost a decade: I walked out of the shop with three X-books. In quick order, here are a few thoughts on each.

1. Age of X continues in X-Men Legacy  #245 this week. I’m still enjoying this look at dystopia. The X-writers have gone out of their way to create relationships and back stories for characters that we haven’t seen before. Rogue serves a unique and chilling purpose in Age of X that makes sense for her power set. It’s also fun to see Cannonball busting Cyclops’s chops like a drill sergeant to a buck private. The use of Wolverine in this issue and the previous installment of this crossover are also intriguing and well done. Finally, we get glimpses that suggest that readers should not be pulling for Magneto to win the day. Poor Kitty Pride.

2. X-Men #8 continues the teams trip back to New York. I was interested in seeing how the X-Men and Spidey might face Lizard. Now, not so much. It reads similarly to Gischler’s first arc. Find vampire and replace with lizard man. Find San Francisco and replace with New York. Find Cyclops and replace with Storm. Done. There is a mystery as to who is behind all of this reptili-mania (hint: it’s not Connors). If you haven’t picked up the book, go back and read the vampire arc. It’s better and surprisingly more novel even though it’s lacking cannons that shoot vampires from the moon.

3. Astonishing X-Men is back, and Daniel Way (of Wolverine, et al. fame) is at the helm. Like X-Men, this issue involves lizards. It also involves, a certain island, Mentallo and Japan. I don’t want to say much more, but I feel confident that Jesse will be picking up to book based on certain words in the previous two sentences…oh, there’s also a death in family, but it’s more of a plot point to get the mutants to Japan.

Which brings us to the “final” issue of Fantastic Four. Pardon me if I sound incredulous; twelve issues before a big 600th anniversary and they’re canceling the title? Right. That aside, the issue is enjoyable. It’s not really a memorial for Johnny; rather it shows how each member of the family deals with his death. Valeria’s reaction is chilling, while read has an  impotent moment with Anihilus. My favorite moment was watching Ben handle the loss. Hulk and Thor are there with shoulders to cry on in a way that made me a little teary. At the same time, Hickman (as always) is building a foundation. The back up story with Franklin and Spider-Man was decent too in spite of the annoying “Hey there little guy” voice that Peter uses when talking to Franklin. I hate that voice.

Finally, there’s Nick Spencer’s Iron-Man 2.0. It was okay. Yeah.

So all in all it was a good week to read comics. Hope you enjoyed your stack as much as I enjoyed mine.


Game Tape

As Jesse pointed out on Tuesday, there are a ton of books out this week worth looking at. Two books change the status quo for their characters. All progressed a larger plot. Some did this very well… some not so much. Here’s what we’re looking at.

I’d be an idiot not to talk about Fantastic Four #587. Is it worth they hype and the polybag? No. It’s a great issue… dare I say fantastic, but it’s no Superman #75. The black polybag is almost certainly meant to evoke the memory of that issue, yet it falls short on the emotional impact. Everything about the issue is set up and executed masterfully except for the death at the end. It seems like a formality: as though it’s a mile post that has to be passed on the way somewhere else. Maybe that’s how death should be viewed…

That said, I loved everything else about this issue. Galactus acts petulantly leaving his thread open and Sue pimp slaps someone. There’s no doubt it’s a big issue that changes much for the team. I’m looking forward to the next, and “last” issue.

Chaos War ended this week with issue #5. Big things change for Hercules, and Alpha Flight is back, but I was mostly left feeling, “so what?” That said, I am looking forward to the new series, Herc, in April. The interplay between Cho and Hercules is almost always worth the price of admission.

Age of X: Alpha was an interesting introduction to this new alternate reality. All the major mutant players are already gathered around Magneto at his Fortress X. So we don’t get any back story on the universe. We do meet a lot of characters, and we get to know origins of a few. We also get an explanation of why there’s not been a Wolverine in the promo images. If you read the communiques that CBR has been posting, you already know half the stories told here in this Tales of the Green Lantern Corps style book. I’m in for one more issue only because it’s an alternate reality X-Men. Here’s hoping the main story is stronger and better framed.

 

Finally, Action Comics was okay. Luthor (and readers) learns more about the spheres thanks to the Joker. It’s hinted strongly that someone is yanking Luthor’s chain, and it’s someone the Joker is frightened of. There are some nice Joker moments, but the issue falls a little flat. Still, there’s enough intrigue and interest to keep with the title. Cornell’s work is still solid here.

This issue is also the first to be missing it’s Jimmy Olsen back up. It is missed sorely.

Game Tape

No worries faithful readers, just because it’s a federal holiday here in the states does not mean that we neglected to read and review books this week. Four books worth commenting on this week; two are written by Paul Cornell.

Batman and Robin #17 marks the beginning of where I, like Jesse, was planning on dropping the title. I’ve stayed because of the merits of Action Comics and the Captain Britain stuff. With this issue, I honestly couldn’t tell you what happened. I read the damned thing twice and only felt marginally more clued in on the second read. There’s a villainess (I mean when you name her Una Nemo, does she really have another choice?)that may or may not control minds in a hive-mind sense. A body is discovered then something happens and something happens to lead Dick and Damian to a church. Strung-out looking people keep asking, “What are we missing?!” for my money, what we’re missing is cohesion. The only part that made much sense was a soliloquy by Alfred regarding Bruce Wayne’s relationships with women. Add to this the fairly generic 1998-esque art of Scott McDaniel, and you’ve got a book that needs to get better because name recognition is not enough to keep me interested.

On the other hand, I continue to enjoy Cornell’s Action Comics. Both baddies in this issue were well written and compelling. Although it was odd to see Vandal Savage set up as a dictator in an Eastern European country à la Doctor Doom. Nic Spencer’s Jimmy Olsen back-up story was also enjoyable as it concludes his romp with twenty-something space aliens in a clever and almost Silver Age fashion. At this point, I’d buy a Jimmy Olsen book written by Spencer. The guy’s got an interesting and fun take on the character.

To quote Hannibal from The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.” And that’s exactly what happens in Victor Gischler’s X-Men #7. I haven’t written much about this title because it is often standard X-Men vs. Vampire fare. Neil Gaiman couldn’t be more correct in stating that these creatures of the night need to be set on a shelf and forgotten for a while. Still, Gischler has managed to come up with some surprising moments: making a suicide bomber into a biological weapon was impressively imaginative. This issue is the penultimate issue of this arc, and it’s a doozy. I was reminded why I’ve always had a soft spot in my comic bookish heart for Cyclops. For all of his Claremontian monologuing, the guy is straight-up hardcore. Next issue Dracula comes to town, and it should be a rip-snorter of a finale.

The real treat of the week, as Jesse predicted on Monday, is Fantastic Four #585. There are a ton of oh-shit and daa-yumn moments in this one. When the book opens with Galactus, Devourer of Worlds floating above the Baxter building tersely telling Reed Richards to explain, and things escalate in crazy from there, you’ve got a heck of a good book on your hands. Little pieces from almost a year ago are now coming together. I’ve read some reviews complaining about Hickman’s slow story telling and his penchant for done-in-ones. Don’t you believe it.  Remember, this is a guy that admitted in Charlotte and several other interviews that he’s got flow charts and pages of graphic organizers to tell this story. Everything matters. Let me say that again: EVERYTHING MATTERS. True, it’s a slow boil, but it’s always been cooking something. The FF, and by proxy the reader, are feeling the heat now and it’s going to be real scorcher. I know Jesse and I talk about this book all the time. You have to believe us: it’s just that good. If you aren’t reading it, you clearly hate comics. There. I said it.

This Week’s Comics

We have another fairly healthy batch of comics this week. Let’s dive in.

  • AVENGERS & INFINITY GAUNTLET #3 (OF 4) – This book is a fun, light romp through the Infinity Gauntlet saga, and while I don’t know why some of the main characters were chosen (Ms. Marvel seems more like a creator pick rather than a kids’ favorite) it’s been a hoot.
  • BRUCE WAYNE THE ROAD HOME ORACLE #1 and BRUCE WAYNE THE ROAD HOME RAS AL GHUL #1 – So far I’ve only picked up one of these, and seeing as they all connect, I think I’ll wind up skipping these, too, unless they just look stellar.  At this point I’d be too lost to pick things up.
  • IMAGE FIRSTS DEAD AT 17 and HACK SLASH – More cheap intros into series that I’ve heard are great.  I’ll definitely be checking these out.
  • FANTASTIC FOUR #584 – As horrified as I was to hear that an issue of this would be polybagged (and the editorial reasons and excuses for why this time is different just ring false to me), Jonathan Hickman continues to take the team to fun and incredible places.
  • SPIDER-MAN VS VAMPIRES #1 – I’d be way more interested in this high concept if it didn’t feel like Marvel was hopping on a bandwagon years too late.  Like with Dazzler and disco.
  • THUNDERBOLTS #149 – Another great book, as it really feels like criminals are trying to walk the line and reform rather than hide in plain sight like the other iterations.  And Jeff Parker does a great job of making me like this book even though I hate the characters. (Come on, they’re villains!)

I did a great disservice forgetting where we were Batman and Robin with last week’s #15.  With the Joker holding Robin hostage and some eerie art by Irving Frasier, it didn’t take long to pick up where I left off,  Also, I finally made it to Knight and Squire #1 and absolutely loved it.  It embraced it’s British roots, and made some valuable meta-commentary about what makes British characters so different.  I can’t wait to read more.  This almost makes up for losing Captain Britain and MI-13.

That’s it for me.  What are YOU looking at?

Game Tape, Huzzah!

A second consecutive week of comics and Game Tape? I thought it a thing of the past too, brothers and sisters. Yet it is here waiting for you. Jump into the internet’s 35th least read weekly comic book review blog.

Agents of Atlas #5 was out this week. It marks the end of another Jeff Parker title. Forgive me for not reviewing it. Even writing this much has me a bit verklempt.

Having forgotten my copy of Fantastic Four last week, I fixed the error. This is one of those books that I’m always looking forward to when it comes out. Since Hickman took over writing chores, this title has made the climb to the top of the read pile; it’s that good. I see what Jesse means about Doom being a part of the family. I’d never thought of it that way, but it makes sense. I’ve also always been curious to see if a writer would further develop/exploit the connection between Doom and Valeria that Waid established in his run with the late great Wieringo. I’m glad Hickman is picking up that little thread. How many Galactus bodies are there floating around now?

While I haven’t yet read the whole thing, I object to IDW’s GI Joe: Cobra Special #2. On principle, I do not appreciate that we got 22 pages of comic story and 33 pages of prose that is actually a preview/sample from a new collection of prose GI Joe stories. It might be the best thing I’ve ever read, but it’s still a 33 page house ad. No… just no.

On the other hand, Action Comics #893 impressed and entertained on so many levels. All you need to know about the main story is encapsulated in a quote by Gorilla Grodd, “Kneel before Grodd! You have walked into my ambush! And I have brought my biggest combat spoon–to eat your tasty brains!!!” This is the brilliance of Paul Cornell, and brother if that don’t butter your popcorn, don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. I even enjoyed the second feature starring Jimmy Olsen.

Superman’s pal is one of those ideas I really love but have rarely liked past the Silver Age. Modern stories with Big O are rarely executed well. Most writers have him come off as either a doofus or a hipster. He a bit of both with some many other interesting layers. Nick Spencer has found these layers and crafted a character that is interesting to read. I tip my hat to Mr. Spencer for making me care about a story that featured Jimmy Olsen and was billed as being the “first comic book appearance of Chloe Sullivan of Smallville“…whatever. It’s a nice beginning for a story. I’m looking forward to seeing it resolved as much as I am seeing the resolution of the main Luthor story.

That’ll wrap it up for this light week. Except for two special shout outs.

H.D., long time supporter of Jesse related madness, celebrated a birthday this week. So happy birthday to you; I sang “O’ Dem Golden Slippers” in honor of the anniversary of the day of your birth.

Reader and frequent commenter, Saint Walker, also celebrated a birthday this week. For you, I shall sing “Camp Town Races.”

Game Tape

And now it’s time for another Game Tape… the continuing story of a comic buyer gone to the dogs. Or something like that.

This time around we’re going in alphabetical order…no good reason. No bad reason for that matter.

Action Comics #891 would have been much more enjoyable if I hadn’t seen “Inception” last week. Mr. Mind’s “son” plays a frantic DiCaprio here. Lex Luthor being who he is, the story ends as it has to, but there’s still the mysterious hand behind this manipulation. That’s not to say that the book is dull. Going through it was quite a bit of fun. The down side is that it feels like more should have happened than actually did.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love time travel stories. Time travel is the one scientific conceit that is guaranteed to get my engines going. Fantastic Four #581 fired on all four cylinders. A minor mystery is resolved and Reed goes to college. Thanks to his dad, he gets a heady education. Mr. Hickman, continue the good work.

Secret Avengers #3 was a little muddled. It’s a middle part issue that isn’t too bad, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly good either. The crown business is sort of making more sense, and they’ve thrown in alternate dimensional travel to boot. Anyway, I’m still enjoying this most of the new Avengers books. As a side note, alternate dimensional travel is not nearly as interesting as time travel for me…although theoretically they’re the same thing.

Speaking of the theoretical, I should theoretically be enjoying Thor: The Mighty Avenger. It’s written by Roger Langridge. In practice, it feels like a Year One story without much meat to it. It’s curious because there is no Donald Blake, but there’s a Thor and there’s a Jane Foster. On reflection, this is really more of a Jane Foster story. It’s just sort of boring; I certainly didn’t expect that from Langridge. The first issue was decent, but heartless. This week’s second issue drags down.


In the Also Ran category are Buzzard #2, Muppet Show #8, Batman, Return of Bruce Wayne #5, and Bill Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM!