Game Tape

This week wasn’t the biggest week, but it was a good one. So get out your pad and get ready to take notes as we review…

We’ll begin with an ending. Lone Ranger ends this week with issue #25. The Cavendish Gang arc wrapped up finally, and it’s left wide open for future arcs. It’s a strong ending with no annoying loose ends. I have a sneaking suspicion that the movie in the works will rely heavily on this for story beats. As origins go, it’s a nice blend of character background and action. If you’re a fan of westerns, this one’s worth looking at in trades.

I was originally excited to see the X-Men going to Japan to fight the Mentallo-controlled denizens of Monster Island. I almost still am; it’s just that there was an awful lot of talking in Astonishing X-Men #37. The actual monster fighting was happening more in the background while people and mutants talked about fighting the monsters. The talking wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been a. confusingly clipped b. written off the beat of the art. The ethical debate at the end between Cyclops and Wolverine and the wake service that Armor attends highlight this problem. I’m feeling close to done with the X-Men in general and this title in specific.

X-Men #11 had a glaring chronological issue that I couldn’t stop thinking about. The story was tepid as it served as a coda to Jubilee’s experiences with the vampires. Pretty forgettable all around. We’ll see how the next arc goes before severing ties with the X franchise.

Batman Incorporated #7 is a good jumping on issue. Sure it refers to the last couple of issues continuing the long term thread of the Ooroboros threat. On the other hand, the threat has expanded in view starting with this issue as Bruce marshals his forces for this, as yet unseen, threat. We get a better look at several of the new players in the Batman Army including a new Ranger and a Batman of Africa. I’m wondering when Morrison will return to the Kathy Kane mystery… or is that being handled in the Batwoman book? At any rate, this book was worth looking at. The end was a hoot even though it was pretty well telegraphed.

In the broken record department, Hickman has not yet lost his touch. FF #3 is funny with it’s Symposium of Doom. But, it’s fantastically written in the aspects of tying the Parliament of Reeds with the events of the four new kingdoms. Right now, this is my absolute favorite book because of the way Hickman is structuring his stories and the foresight with which he’s planning things.

Game Tape

Since I’m going out of town next week, this is the last Game Tape of 2010. What a year it’s been too!

So what was out this week? Lots of good stuff from Marvel and an early Christmas surprise.

With the exception of Dr. Doom showing up to do something nefarious, Hickman throws almost everything imaginable at the Fantastic Four in issue 586. Sue doesn’t see the big picture. Namor’s actions are rationalized, Johnny and Ben face a negative situation, and Reed has a date with a hungry man. Someone dies next issue, and Hickman has been clever enough not to give it away. With the team split three ways, things look rough and feel as though stakes are high for everyone. Thank you again, Mr. Hickman, for the consistently outstanding work you’re doing on this book.

It’s also worth mentioning that the art team of Epting and Magyar keeps the pace. It’s reminiscent of Hitch and Neary or Butch Guice, but it maintains a distinct style. Gone is the freakishly muscular Reed too. All around this is a solid and well crafted title and this team deserves some critical recognition.

Despite the fact that Wonder Man was acting weird and erratic, and neither Tony Stark nor Thor seemed to care enough to ask why or investigate, Avengers #7 was the most enjoyable of this series. I know this was out last week or the week before, but I just picked it up. The Hood takes up the rest of this issue collecting the Infinity Gems. That alone is enough to keep me in for another arc. One minor complaint would be that the half of the team that isn’t Wolverine, Iron-Man, Thor, or No-Varr all have the same Spider-manesque voice. Nothing but snappy patter from Spidey, Bucky-Cap, Spider Woman, and Hawkeye. Sloppy.

Secret Avengers 8 continues to be solid, but not so impressive. I may drop this one monthly and get trades instead. It boils down to a pacing issue for me. Not enough seems to happen in an issue.

X-Men #6 was an outstanding coda to the vampire arc. I’m looking forward to next issue since it looks like no more vampires for a while…I say for a while because some threads are left loose. I’m still really digging Gischler’s Cyclops. It’s not many who can or should stare down Dracula himself, but it works. Cyclops hasn’t been this much fun to read in…ever. Thank you Mr. Gischler.

By the by, is there still an Astonishing? I don’t remember it being canned, but I can’t remember the last issue either.

The real treat this week was seeing that there’s another Gumby book out. I didn’t know this was coming out. What a great surprise! This is a four part mini-called Gumby’s Gang. The kick off books stars Pokey. It’s fun and everything you’d expect from a Gumby book. The only down side is that since it’s not written by Bob Burden, it lacks a little in the ape-shit insane department. It’s still pretty messed up crazy, but it’s not near the same level as a Golem-ized Gumby or the ghost of Johnny Cash. Still and all, it’s a nice round out to a week of winners.

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.