Saturday Morning Comics

This week I’m settling down with a bowl of Cookie Crisp and taller than usual stack of comics. It’s a big week, and it’s a good week for comics. With that in mind, I’m going to keep most of the reviews brief.

The Muppets #2 story and art by Roger Langridge; published by Disney Comics (a Marvel imprint). With no color problems this go-round, the issue is much better. It’s summer and the Muppets take a crazy trip to the beach. What keeps this arc from being perfect are the damned covers. Kermit and Fozzie are horrible to look at here. Why? Why? Why?

Action Comics vol. 2 #12: written by Grant Morrison; art by Rags Morales, CAFU, Rick Bryant, Bob McLeod, and Andrew Hennessy; published by DC Comics. Yeoman’s work. After 12 issues we finally have a real clues as to the over arching conflict…and it involves the 5th Dimension.

 Love and Capes: What to Expect #1: by Thom Zahler; published by IDW. I’m so glad this is back. It’s still fun and a joy to read. As suggested at the end of the last arc and the title of this arc, we can expect a super birth by the end. It works well if you’ve never read any of the previous Love and Capes stories, but there’s an extra layer for those familiar with the world and the established character dynamics. Check it out; it’s clever with winks and nods to comicdom’s goofier moments.

Transformers: Regeneration One #82 story by Simon Furman; art by Andrew Wildman (p) and Stephen Baskerville (i); published by IDW. HOLY MOLEY! Hang on to your butts because Megatron is back and he’s more of a bad-ass than he’s been in a while. If your jaw was on the floor when we saw what he’s done to Earth in the last issue, this issue tops that.

Hypernaturals #1&2 written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; art by Andres Guinaldo, Brad Walker, and Mark Irwin; published by BOOM Studios. Easily the greatest thing about this week’s shipment. When I saw that DnA had a new superhero book out I thought I give it a shot. I was not disappointed. The great strength of these first two issues is that they are fast paced, yet everything necessary to understand the world and the characters is apparent within the first four pages of the issue. Unlike the team books of Distinguished Competition, we’ve got a whole team in issue one and we know the threat. The characters are familiar but interesting. Math is used like magic and a villain leaves his fingerprint on an entire planet.

I’m reticent to make a comparison because it will make the book sound misleadingly too derivative, but there are shades of the JLA, the Legion of Superheroes, and the Guardians of the Galaxy throughout this book. Maybe it’s more fair to say that DnA have taken the best BIG concepts and feelings from these three titles and woven them into an original and enjoyable work.

If you’re a fan DnA’s work on titles like Guardians of the Galaxy and Legion of Superheroes, or your a fan of good story telling where real stuff happens before the sixth issue, this is the book you need to be reading. It’s one of those books that will make you feel you as when the Earth was new.

In other news, Rasl is out this week with a final issue. I’m missing a couple of issues so I’ll get back to you on how it is. Also, I’m reading James Robinson’s Earth-2. It’s James Robinson; it’s the Justice Society; who are you to judge?

THIS WEEK’S COVERS

Game Tape

This week sees a couple of arcs ending as well as the beginning of the end for a guilty pleasure. So let’s go to the tape for the review…

The Boys #65

Man oh man, everything that The Boys  has been about is essentially revealed and wrapped with this issue. More so than most any other issue, this one is a splatter fest. But the readers now know everything. If you’ve been paying close attention, and I wasn’t, the reveal shouldn’t be a great shock. I was caught off guard, but I picked up pretty quickly. So it’s done right? Nope, Ennis is giving us one more arc to serve as a coda/ aftermath. Certain actions dictate that there will be Hell to pay.

With Action Comics vol. 2 #8 we see an end to the Brainiac arc. Three things to note here.

1. I love Morrison’s Lex Luthor. He is as much an embodiment of his times as Byrne’s version was in the 1980’s.

2. I’m guessing that this marks the end of Superman as crusader and street level hero. He’s got the suit, he’s got a space fortress, so there’s little chance he’ll be punching gangsters.

3. I’m intrigued by the dwarf that keeps showing up. Every time I see him I’m conflicted between believing he’s a new incarnation of Mr. Mxyzptlk and being convinced he’s something entirely new.

 

Wolverine and the X-Men #8 is again a fun read with Aaron’s great character moments. Beast is the focus and he is marvelous. Next month we’re being treated to an event tie-in… so… yeah.

That’ll wrap up this week. Check out last week’s edition if you’re curious about my thoughts on A vs. X #1. Turns out Diamond did ship early to some shops. It was Friday before they sent a message to those shops asking them to hold the books until this week. It’s nice see that they’re screwing over all parties involved in the comic distribution system. Maybe events like this will bring about some change.

Game Tape

This week was the biggest week I’ve had in a while, and there were things to actually write about too. Let’s see if I remember how it’s done shall we?

No sense in not starting with the 900 lbs. gorilla in the room. DC got it right. Action Comics #900 was  worth reading. The black sphere saga ends and Luthor gets everything he ever wanted. Of course you have to be careful what you wish for. With the main story, Cornell shows that he really understands what makes both Luthor and Superman tick. In addition, we’ve got a strong start to the upcoming Doomsday cross-over. The back-up stories were pretty well crafted, but mostly forgettable. I can only assume the Donner piece didn’t get an artist because it would ahve upped the page count. A shame, because it could have benefited from being fully fleshed out. One other thing that this anniversary issue should have included is a recognition of other characters that have debuted or been featured regularly in Action Comics. Where’s the Blackhawk story? Congo Bill? Zatara? Wild Dog? Sure it’s primarily Superman’s book, but with an anniversary this big, there needed to be recognition of the history. At least he’s not going to start walking across the country.

Onward and upward then. FF #2 continues to be Hickman being Hickman. Dialogue and character are strong and clever. The situation continues to be dire and interesting too. Specifically, we learn in this issue what sort of deal Valeria made with Dr. Doom back in the pages of Fantastic Four. This issue also highlights one of Hickman’s greatest strengths. The ability to tell a whole story in a single issue while dropping crumbs to be picked up later. Seriously, there’s no reason not to be reading this title.

Age of X ended this week also. On the whole the story wasn’t bad. The world created there was sufficiently different and interesting, and the mystery created by jumping in medias res was well sustained. If anything, it ended a little too quickly and neatly. Still, it did manage to be a decent alternate universe story. It’s also interesting to see that there are small repercussions to be felt in the aftermath. So not everything is returning to status quo. Checking out the trade or finding the issues on the cheap wouldn’t be a bad idea.

I did pick up the second issue of the Godzilla book. I really liked the first issue. This one felt a little too disjointed. I’m curious to see where this book is going. In spite of the death and destruction, I’m inclined to root for Godzilla, but I’m not sure why yet.

The three Avengers books we solid too. The two .1’s proved to be genuine in their desire to serve as starting points. In Avengers, we’re teased with a Spaceknight. We also see a MODOK with spider legs. To my mind, this is not an improvement on the floating chair design. Secret Avengers is a nice done-in-one that introduces readers to all of the main characters while giving Nick Spencer a chance to find his footing on the title. Not bad.

That’s a wrap for this week. Good solid reads all around with only minor missteps.

Game Tape

I didn’t post reviews last week because there wasn’t much to say that hadn’t been said before. I will say that FF #1 was a great solid start/ transition. Hickman continues to be a master at crafting stories that are interesting with enough material to feel full for an issue and enough mystery to pick up the next. So…. how was this week?

The winner of Wednesday is hands down Nick Spencer’s Jimmy Olsen #1. The amazing thing about this one shot is that half of it reprints Spencer’s back-up feature from Action Comics. The framing device was always a sort of week-in-the-life-of-Jimmy-Olsen, but we didn’t get the entire week until now. These adventures are distilled mad-cap. Spencer took the best parts of Silver Age Jimmy and gave it some modern character and zip. From 5th Dimensional madness to the Mobile Newsroom to plot to take over the internet the stories fly. If you missed these stories the first time around, the $5.99 cover price is worth it even the second time around.

No other books this week fared as well.

Cornell’s Action Comics #899 started out really well. His version of a battle of wits between Luthor and Brainic is not to be missed. Unfortunately, this takes up only half of the issue. The other half can best be explained in the phrase, “Come again?” or in the parlance of our times, “WTF?” There’s a Phantom Zone space god and a battle on the astral plane… uh….yeah.

Age of X: Universe is bizarre. It’s got that same feel uncomfortable squirmy feeling that Warren Ellis’ Ruins did. Everything and everyone you know is off kilter in a bad way. The only mostly recognizable person is Sue Storm as she chafes against some of the more extreme measures taken. Tony’s fate in this universe is fascinating and it’s hard to find Bruce tragic (which seems to be what they’re going for) given the Nazi/ Racial overtones of his work in this universe. No clues still as to how this world got so far off track. If you’re looking for something to drop a few bucks on this week, this book isn’t it.

When you’re talking infinity gems, one name probably pops in you head. It probably also isn’t Parker Robbins. In his talkiest issue yet, Bendis has Uatu the Watcher narrate/explain/ blather through the most recent issue of Avengers. I’d be okay with this type of narration if JRJR’s art didn’t SHOW US everything Uatu is explaining. Worst of all, Bendis through Uatu sings a tiresome refrain about how over his head Robbins a.k.a. the Hood is at this moment. He also ham-fistedly reminds us that others more accustom to the gems’ power are probably (read certainly) searching for the gems too. Which boringly telegraphs the last page. I’m officially dropping this book after the arc ends.

I also picked up the Godzilla book, but I imagine Jesse will have more to say about it than I ever could.

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: Another forced hiatus

It’s been a month since I reviewed books. I’m told that this is mostly due to incompetence and misunderstandings on the part of UPS. Books were shipped to Los Angeles instead of LA; boxes with tracking numbers disappeared and magically reappeared in Mississippi. Suffice it to say, my LCS has not been getting books regularly. I’ve been playing catch-as-catch-can trying to keep up on weekends. This was the first week in a while that I could walk in on a Wednesday and find new books. Not much out this week specifically though. Still, let’s take a look at the game tape and see how it turned out.

The last chapter in the current arc of Warren Ellis’ Astonishing X-Men is a major let down. After such an interesting and slow set-up with genetic monstrosities stolen from Beast’s secret files, the pay off wasn’t there. In all honesty, I should have seen this coming. Ellis has made it abundantly clear that he hates superheroes. He uses issue #35 to spew bile in the direction of the X-Men. Through the villain, Ellis rants for five pages (non-stop) about why the X-Men are hypocritical at worst and phony at best. It’s boring, and as Hannibal Tabu at CBR points out: the argument doesn’t make sense in a world where the Morlocks or guys like Beak have been X-Men. As offensive as the (lack of) story is the fact that nearly every other page is a house ad. Presumably this is part of the price we must pay for books to remain $2.99.

Batman #702 filled in more gaps between the fight with Dr. Hurt and Batman’s “death” at the hands of Darkseid.  Given Batman’s drugged and abused mental state at the time, we do not get a cohesive narrative. For the most part, think of it as getting deleted scenes from Final Crisis. It’s not bad, but outside of the the confrontation with Darkseid and the following pages, it’s nothing really new. At best it’s sort of… meh.

Action Comics #892 continues Lex’s lust driven journey for a black ring. The story isn’t so great here, but we get some cool ideas and some great character moments for Lex and a couple of his flunkies. Cornell makes this worth picking up.

Sadly, no Muppet books this week, and I still have not read the all ages Infinity Gauntlet series.

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!