Game Tape

FACT: nothing puts me to sleep faster than thinking, reading, or talking about the alien races in the Marvel Universe. Shi’ar = snooze… Brood = boring. That said, I really enjoyed Astonishing X-Men #38. Leaving aside team in Japan, we see a rescue mission to help out Beast and save some S.W.O.R.D. agents. Gage does a great job with characterization and plot. In spite of the Brood being the focus of the issue, everything was pitch perfect. This was the first time I’ve felt the book lived up to its superlative. Now’s a good jumping on point if you’re looking for one.

Oh Bendis… Avengers #13 is all over the place and certainly late to the party. The underwhelming majority of this book is talking heads. Sometimes they’re sort of almost telling or hinting at a narrative in the present. Other times it’s the past and irrelevant. The best parts of this issue were the Jarvis parts and the brief moment with the Red Hulk. On top of the talking heads, we had a rehash of the first few pages of Fear Itself #1. With issue 3 on the way, did we need to be reminded of the speech Tony delivered at the beginning of issue one? If you’re looking for Bendis circa 2000, brother, this is the issue for you.

In Brief:

Transformers #19 was written expressly for the 9 people who are fans of Wheelie. It wasn’t terrible, but for a start to a new story arc, it wasn’t great.

GI JOE: Real American Hero #166 is solid, but nothing new or remarkable, this making this brief review pointless.

GI JOE: Snake Eyes was well paced and fun considering that it takes place entirely on the side of a mountain.

This week’s Booster Gold ties in to Flashpoint in a tangential and boring way.

Thunderbolts: WOW.

Game Tape

Like Jesse said, it’s a light week, but it’s a strong week.

The last time I reviewed an issue of Action Comics was almost seven months ago. I dropped the book for reasons I explained at the time. The ONLY reason I’m picking it up again is because of Paul Cornell’s track record. This was certainly worth it. Everything makes sense… yes even the dinner scene with Lois that we’ve seen in previews… It’s also a skillful look at the inner workings of Lex Luthor’s mind. Cornell’s Luthor is a man who has had a conversion moment not unlike St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Fear not though, this is Lex Luthor so it’s not a “come to Jesus” conversion.  Conversation was interesting. Finally we had some action in a title called Action Comics. Best of all, there’s an awesome surprise guest at the end. Does it bother me that we’re still Superman less in this title? Yes. On the other hand an interesting Luthor is better than the weepy alternative. Well played, Mr. Cornell. I’ll be back next month.

Having now read two meh issues of Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis, I forgot how much I was enjoying the story in the actual book. When we last left our mutants, they were facing a threat that can only be described as nightmare genetics. Ideas stolen from the darker corners of Beast’s mind, and then twisted, tend to be frightening. So what makes this issue worth picking up? Quite a lot, but it’s not a stand alone issue. This picks up immediately where the last left off with plenty of weirdness and fighting. It’s also got especially strong dialogue by Warren Ellis. This is something he does well even when Ellis is average (as it has been recently) it’s still pretty good. However, this issue is Ellis at the height of his powers. We end with a glimpse of the arch-villain behind all of this although he’s not recognizable in and of himself, but he’s got some curiously familiar old school gear. We’re talking pre-1975 gear. I have thoughts, but I’ll keep them to myself. Anyway, this arc is really good. Story and art are really strong and we’re building toward something big and explodey.

Secret Avengers #2 continued the strength from last issue. People talked, things happened, and it didn’t drag. THINGS DIDN’T DRAG! There was a nice balance between plot exposition and happenings.

Muppet Show #7 wraps up the arc featuring Skeeter and the “chess” game between a nigh-omnipotent Statler and Waldorf. The issue focuses primarily on Fozzie and a fib. It’s a good ending to an arc that has focused on the varying ideas of family within the muppet world. This is also the last issue for Amy Mebberson on art. Jesse and I have both praised Mebberson’s style, but this issue highlights the fact that some Muppets are hard to draw well… no matter who you are. Fozzie is one of those rare Muppets. It’s about finding the right proportions between the top of the head and the brows. The proportion between the nose and the top of the mouth. Plus the “magic triangle.” It’s a lot to take in for one character. So good issue, but the really impressive bit was on the final page. Anybody who is going to pull out the La Choy Dragon deserves mega-geek cred.

Great week all around. Don’t miss this one.

Game Tape…the late edition

Wednesday has come and gone. The heroes have fought their battles and villains have hinted at things to come. Now it’s time to review the game tape…

This week was one of the best weeks for me in a long time.

I rediscovered two Jeff Parker penned issues and read a slew of things I had been looking forward to. It was a week of surprises: a true Festivus miracle!

First up is a book I kind of took a risk on: Mighty Avengers #32. After Jesse reminded me how much I love Dan Slott’s prose and seeing the preview pages on Newsarama, I figured I’d pad the light week with this one. Where else am I going to read the great line, “Let’s smite the hell out of something”? This issue is solid considering I’m not that keen on the whole idea of multiple Avengers teams working at a cross purpose with Osborne heading one of them. I’ve always liked Loki as an idea; here his grand game of chess plays out quite interestingly. The real strength was in something I thought would never happen: I liked Hank Pym. The guy’s been an Avenger since God was a kid, but he’s usually so whiny and self-doubty. If I want to read that, I’ll read 90’s Kyle Rayner or any Superman story from the last 5 years. Slott makes Pym interesting by making a self assured genius, refering to himself as “Scientist Supreme.” I may have to make a concerted effort to find Slott’s issues on the cheap in a few months or remember to get the trade.

Next up is Thunderbolts #138 and #139. I remember reading about these months ago, but forgot them in the mean time. Given my love of Secret Six, you would think this title would be a natural. Bad guys working toward agendas which sometimes workout in everyone’s best interest…intentionally or not. There just hasn’t been a writer on the title I’ve cared about… Warren Ellis aside. Walking down the wall of books though, I saw that this week’s book was written by Jeff Parker and featured the Agents of Atlas. Apparently so did the previous issue. It ties in nicely to the encounter with Osborne in Parker’s AoA title. The art here is sometimes over inked and difficult to tell what’s what…especially given that the action happens at night or in poorly lit areas. I was especially pleased to find that Parker’s light and breezy dialogue and pacing works just as well when bent toward a more twisted crowd. If you’re looking for something else to read this week, These two books might do the trick. Proving the old Serbian proverb, “You can never go wrong with Jeff Parker.”

This week’s Chimichanga is funny, sweet, and cute. As part of the week of surprises, I never thought I’d use two of those words in association with Eric Powell, the man who wrote Satan’s Sodomy Baby. Don’t worry though, there’s still some potty humor to be found. I’m looking forward to future issues.

Last surprise of the week was Astonishing X-Men. I was seriously considering dropping this title after the Ghost Boxes story arc. I just couldn’t get into it and didn’t want to spend the money on the one-shots. This arc is proving different. You still get the great Ellis ear for dialogue, and now you’ve got Phil Jimenez art. Instead of being more retread of the Bleed idea from Wildstorm, we’ve got a villain using parts of dead mutants to create bio-weapons. While this isn’t a new idea, it works so well here in X-Men. It’s fair to say that Beast and Cyclops are Ellis’ favorite characters here. He writes them so well and they’ve got the best lines. The team itself has finally come together well too. As usual though, the interplay between Brand and Beast is his best writing. This issue we see a different side of the relationship from the usual references to kinky animal-sex. A genuine concern and care is displayed in an odd sort of way. It’s also nice to see the whole team working as a well oiled machine. Sometimes writers forget that most of these characters have been training to fight and work as a team since they were teens. I could go on about this arc as a whole and Ellis’ writing, but that seems excessive so I’ll end. Thank you, Warren Ellis, for restoring my faith in 616 X-Men.