Thursday, December 28, 2006

Comic (and other) Reviews with minimal spoilers -- December 27th, 2006

Last reviews of 2006, how exciting! I hope everyone had a great Christmas. It was extra special in the Ferguson household this year but I'll leave it at that. ;) So only two comics to review this week, Astonishing X-Men #19 and The Great and Secret Show #8. On top of that I'll be adding a review of Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud and the "movie" An Inconvenient Truth (*gasp* I touch on something beyond on comics???).

Astonishing X-Men #19 -- It's getting harder and harder to review this series. It's great. Issue after issue I just love the work of Whedon and Cassaday. There may be points where I might linger over a panel and say "This isn't Cassaday's best panel" or kinda get taken out of the story by a glitch in the story or dialogue. Was I the only one who found it weird that Colossus was speaking in very broken English at times? I haven't seen anyone write him like that in a long time. Then again, I didn't really follow the X-Men too much. But despite any shortcomings the book may have, I still love every issue. All I can say is give me more!

The Great and Secret Show #8 -- Yeah, it seems like I've been repeating myself over and over on this series as well. Still solid art. Still the same quality of writing. That's a great thing for this comic as both have been well done but it's harder for the reviewer (ie. me). Some things still remain a problem for me like trying to keep track of things from month to month (especially if particular characters happen to go missing for an issue or two due to the story) but at this point, what can you do? Once the series is over I'll probably re-read it before delving into the sequel that Clive Barker wrote. So any Clive Barker fans may want to look up the TPB when it's out (I think the first 6 issues were already collected).

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud -- Yeah, it only took me 13 years to get around to reviewing it. :) Warning: This book is only for the comic enthusiast. Those who are currently content to just sit back and enjoy comics for what they are would be better off avoiding this. Those interested in creating comics on the other hand or those who are borderline obsessed with them, this should probably be a must read. The appreciation you get for comics, their history, and their future would be a blessing. Though you do need an open mind and maybe a little patience through some parts. But I think each chapter has a wealth of hidden tidbits that would help out any aspiring comic book creator and give enthusiasts a little bit more to chew on. You might find yourself having your brain open up to new ideas. Like me for instance, I've never been fond of most non-North American comics but as McCloud mentions ideas that came to North America from Japanese comics I had to admit my ignorance. And as he discusses some rationale behind cartoony characters existing along side more realistic ones and objects depicted as cartoony in one panel and realistic the next, it started to make a bit more sense to me. I still don't think I'll be rushing out to read more but at least my eyes and mind are a little more open now. It was definitely worth the time and money as this will stick with me for a long time. I can't wait to read the more recent "Making Comics" by McCloud.

An Inconvenient Truth -- Although I wanted to see this I never got around to seeing it in the theatre. For those that don't know about the movie/documentary, it's Al Gore talking about global warming. He has been travelling the world doing a talk about global warming and one day they decided to shoot it. But just to keep things interesting they intertwine the talk with little asides about Gore's childhood and why he's so interested in this topic. And in case anyone was wondering, I asked for this as a Christmas gift, it wasn't given to me by someone who felt I "really needed to see it". Avoiding the "controversial" message for a moment, as a documentary this movie is put together really well. The shifting from slide show to Al's personal life keeps the viewer invested in both the presentation and Mr Gore himself. And Gore comes across as an incredible public speaker, though it doesn't hurt that he really displays a passion for this. There was something that made me wince slightly though. I had thought that this documentary was advertised as something that didn't attack any US administration, past or present, yet there were a few times where I felt it did go after the current Bush administration. The problem being though that the current Bush administration opened the door with it's attacks on global warming. I only worry that once the mud-slinging begins the message is lost. And as for the message, I have to admit, I do believe the "current scientific consensus on climate change" which according to Wikipedia is " recent warming indicates a fairly stable long-term trend, that the trend is largely human caused, and that serious damage may result at some future date if steps are not taken to halt the trend." Though I also believe that even if that consensus is wrong that taking measures to curb green house gas emissions and pollution just makes sense and also wouldn't lead to the economic crisis that some would have you believe. So having said that, this movie moved me. I do take some steps already such as replacing light bulbs with more energy efficient ones and trying to keep the temperature in my condo cooler in the winter, warmer in the summer and I'll continue to do so with even more vigor. So the message appealed to me but I know it won't for a large number of people out there. I only hope that it continues to get people talking about global warming and maybe one day, we will actually start listening to each other as well. Because I feel that only then will we be able to do anything.

Oh yeah, for those who did see the movie in theatres the DVD has 30 extra minutes where Al Gore talks about more up to date publications, data, and events. If you enjoyed the movie then it's worth checking out. I guess the only problem is that just like all areas of research, our knowledge continues to grow. So like Gore needs to keep updating his slides, we probably need to keep updating this DVD.

In conclusion, if you had any inkling of seeing this film then I recommend you do so. If you're already preparing a scathing response to this review then it's probably not for you. And in the end, don't let it be the end all of the story. Keep an open mind, take the time to listen and better educate yourself, and never dismiss an idea.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Weekly Comic Reviews for Dec. 20th, 2006 -- SPOILERific

A busy week (by my standards) with 7 books and a Wizard Magazine (which I haven't read yet). And on top of that, my Chapters order came in yesterday consisting of two books by Scott McCloud about understanding and making comics and the TPB for Fray. I'll be posting my thoughts on the McCloud books when I get to read them. So let's jump right in:

She-Hulk 2 #14 -- I've been rather hard on this book as of late but this issue restored some of my faith in it. The downside of that though is that the book concentrated on Awesome Andy and She-Hulk was relegated to appearing in the first and last few pages of it. I've really liked what Slott has done with Awesome Andy, he's such a loveable character and the chalkboard he uses to communicate (explained in this issue) was a great touch. So from the solicitation and cover to this book I had some concern about what they were going to do with him. In the end, I'm sorry to see him go but I'm glad they added the switch ending. I also have to say that my jaw almost dropped when he seemingly held Mjolinor, if only for a brief moment. As for the art, it still wasn't great but it seemed to be less of an impact on this issue. Perhaps it's because it focussed on Andy, he's really not that hard to draw. And then there's the teaser for next issue, Clay Quartermain returns and drafts She-Hulk into SHIELD. I liked Clay in the Peter David run on the Hulk where he, Rick and Bruce/the Gray Hulk travelled around in a little van so it'll be nice to see Slott using this character (hopefully). So the series stays on my list for now.

Elephantmen #5 -- In this issue we jump back in time to the "rescue" of the Elephantmen. The solicitations seemed to focus a bit more on the fact that it was the first fight between Hip Flask and Obadiah Horn but that doesn't really do it justice. There was much more to this issue and much more to the "fight" than a simple slugfest. Starkings (the writer) really does a masterful job at interweaving events to highlight the individual characters that make up the Elephantmen. The fight isn't just a slugfest, it's a clash of ideals. And on top of that, we also get a few more plot details filled in from Hip Flask: Mystery City. Elephantmen has quickly moved up to the top of my pile as the book I look forward to the most.

New Avengers Illuminati #1 (of 5) -- I haven't been a big fan of the New Avengers or Civil War so I had a bad feeling going into this book. To be honest, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Although you have to wonder how a bigger fan of these characters feels about their portrayal. I mean really, they think they're just going to walk into the Skrull armada and walk away without so much as a boo from the Skrulls? And in the end, what did they accomplish? They might have delayed the next attack or they might have made things worse (now that the Skrulls have what they wanted, whatever that was). And they know it in the end too. It's really interesting to see how this super group of the supposedly top minds can make a mess of things while also being darn impressive (they did survive in the end after all) at the same time.

Lone Ranger #3 -- I got chills when the message is openned and the last line reads "Lone Ranger remains" (though why "remains" isn't capitalized when every other word in the message was is kinda funny). For fans of westerns or the Lone Ranger or just a good book should enjoy this series. My only complaint, there are a few times where things aren't made quite as clear as they could be. Part of it is the art, part of it might be something else. At the start of the book we see him chipping a hole in some wood and then pouring metal (his melted badge) into it. I was left wondering if the wood could actually work to forge a bullet like that but also, how he was able to dig up a bullet shaped hole was also weird (it looked like it could only make half a bullet). Then, when Tonto has him on the floor and asks him if he knows what happens to horse thieves there is a silent panel and then Tonto says "yeah, something like that". I found that part poorly done as it's not quite clear at first what's happening. As the panel is small it took me a minute to realize Tonto and the Ranger were looking over to something and then it took a minute to realize what that something was. But overall, these little details could be overlooked (and maybe improved in the future) as the story more than makes up for them.

Civil War Frontline #9 -- Now we move into the Civil War portion of the reviews. I can't stand picking up this book. I really can't. If I wasn't a completist who wanted some of the details of Civil War flushed out a bit more I'd stop buying it. To be honest, I might actually enjoy Civil War more if I did drop it. The female reporter leaves Cap after 5 minutes to go out on a date because she says the interview is going badly. EXCUSE ME??? This is Captain America, leader of the anti-registration heroes and currently locked in a bloody civil war with one of his best friends and she's just going to walk away from the interview? I don't care how bad the interview is, a reporter isn't just going to walk away from an exclusive like that. And it all comes back to that stupid note the senator passed her that seemingly turned her into a different character. Oh, and somehow Spidey is fine, still in his armour suit and helping Ben Eurich discover that Tony Stark has been using the Civil War as an opportunity to make a whole bunch of money. Maybe this happened before CW #5 but that seems weird as Ben mentions Spidey switching sides. Then we have Speedball being taken to a pretty sad prison that's being used to house criminals (I guess the prison in the negative zone is reserved for heroes only and now Speedball won't be going there). Of course they drag him within arms reach of the vilains (who for some reason is allowed to have metal hooks on his arms) and without going into all the other things that are just as stupid we have Speedball's new powers manifest and go kaboom. Gee, who'd a thought? Oh, that's right, I did. I guess that makes me smarter than that SHIELD chick, She-Hulk, and Reed Richards. I rock. SHIELD shows up and Speedball is sitting amongst the wreckage and says he's going to sign the registration. Next mini-story, Reed's looking for who helped Osborn undue the nanite stuff and Tony tells Reed he's known who the traitor was all along. The end. Yeah, that was useless. Although it also had a dog walking around in it. Next, Osborn is being interrogated about killing the Atlantean and claims it wasn't him. At least the cops acknowledge how things don't make sense (as he was able to get through security with a gun and stuff) but every time Osborn tries to explain his mouth goes all frothy. And a mystery figure comes in and takes Osborn away leaving the police in the dark. Seriously, how many dark mystery figures do we need in this series? I've lost track. I think the last issue is going to be a checklist so you can go back and see who everyone was.

Iron Man Captain America Casualties of War -- Taken alone this book wasn't bad (although slightly on the boring side). It had some nice flashbacks to the history Cap and Iron Man have. And if it wasn't for the pro-reg side torturing, killing, recruiting homicidal maniacs, silencing and manipulating the media, cloning, jailing for life without trial, yadda, yadda, yadda, I might be able to read it. But to be honest, Civil War's portrayal of the pro-reg side irks me so much. This book reminded me of why I'm just eager for Civil War to end so I can drop all these books.

Civil War Casualties of War -- Out of the Civil War books this week, I enjoyed this one the most. Just when you think Wilson Fisk is being left out of things, he shows just why he's the Kingpin. Though it's weird to see Stark as more of a stooge, answering to that SHIELD woman, in this book.

Fray (the trade paperback) -- Last but definitely not least, my review of Fray. Fray was a series written by Joss Whedon which tells the story of a Slayer in the future. I'm running short on time (too many reviews I tell ya) but this book is amazing. Simply amazing. I started reading it thinking that I'd stop about half way so I could go to bed but I just couldn't. I had to finish it. It's definitely not "Buffy in the future" as Fray's personality, situation, and environment all give a different tone to the story but it's amazing nonetheless. The art fits and is full of energy. The demons and creatures look amazing as does the city. There are some connections to Buffy (like this is actually the first appearance of the scythe that Buffy retrieves and uses during the last few episodes of the TV series) but nothing that would hurt a newbie to the universe. Everything is laid pretty cleanly. The only downside of the series is that even though it closes things up fairly well it still leaves me hanging, wanting more. And to date, I think there's only been one other short story featuring Fray. Darn it Joss, either stop writing all these amazing stories that leave us wanting more or write faster. Did I already mention my idea for cloning him?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Weekly comic reviews -- Nothing happening

No comics this week so no reviews. I might borrow my brother's copy of the recent Onslaught returns book (whatever it's called) this weekend so there may be that.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A farewell to Divine Leap

For those of you not in the know, Divine Leap was my attempt at doing a webcomic. I have been working on it and posting it on DrunkDuck for about 2 years now (I think) but I've decided to stop working on it. I've decided to post a message on DrunkDuck shortly outlining my decision and below is the first draft. I figured some of you may be interested in it as well. But the message I post on there won't have these pesky other images inserted. For the curious amongst you, before I finally decided not to continue with Chapter 2 I had begun working on some pages. None of the pages are finished, some are fairly close to being done while others need some fairly major correcting. But I figured what the heck, why not post them.

I had come up with the idea for the story to Divine Leap a long time ago and let it brew in my head for quite some time and even sketched out some character designs and a page or two. But for the longest time it never went beyond that. It wasn't until talking to my good bud Dave at the local comic shop about his webcomic that I decided to try my luck at actually putting Divine Leap on paper (or in this case, the web). So about two years ago my journey began.

Over the past two years I have become to appreciate even more the work that goes into every aspect of creating a comic book. From original concepts, to generating the story, to writing, to drawing, inking, lettering, etc, etc. I had to admit, it was much more work than I expected. And looking back at the beginning of this chapter I can really see how little I knew. Looking at the ending of the chapter, I see just how much I still need to learn.

So you might be wondering why I'm ending it here instead of continuing on. Well, it boils down to seeing it as a failure on my part. I'm currently looking at 6 users who have favourited it (at least one of which was a friend I kinda pressured into it), only 2 or 3 users who routinely comment on it, and a relatively small number of pageviews. So if I haven't generated more interest by the end of Chapter 1 I have to re-examine what I'm doing. While doing some of that re-examination I look at the weak artwork, the not-so-engaging storyline and dialogue, and the general amateurishness of the book. So instead of tredging on I think it might be best for me to put Divine Leap aside and move on to something else. Improve my skills in another way. Maybe one day I'll want to re-visit the life of Anthony and his quest to find Beatrice but not until I feel I can do it justice.

So in conclusion I'd like to thank all of you who have dropped by to read the book especially for those of you have left comments or votes, those were greatly appreciated. I'd also like to really thank those who took the time to give me critiques on the book either in the comments or in the forums. Feedback from people like mykill (not even sure he's still around) really gave me a sense of where I needed to improve. I'd like to think that I put at least some of their comments to good use. And the support from my friends who actually took the time to read the book like Carl, Jason, and Dave helped me get at least this far. I'm sure there are more to thank so basically if you're reading this, thank you.

So that's it for me for now. Hopefully I'll see you all again soon with something a bit more worthy of reading. Until then, take care of yourself.



PS. Oh yeah, in case anyone cares; No, that's not Beatrice in the bathtub.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Weekly comic reviews for December 6th, 2006 -- SPOILER FREE!!

Three books this week and I think I'll be able to keep spoilers to at least a minimum if not out altogether. This week had three books for me; Hulk, White Tiger, and American Splendor. So enough with the chit chat...

Hulk #101 -- Over all the story continues to be a good one but I don't find it being presented in the best possible way. For one thing I find the narrative choppy. There doesn't seem to be a flow to it and things just seem to happen abruptly throughout (stuff that shouldn't be happening abruptly that is). I like the regular artist on this book and he's consistent but the insertion of some Gary Frank pages seemed out of place. At first I thought those few pages weren't really well done but after looking more closely at them, it's not that they weren't well drawn but that they just didn't fit. Frank's Hulk looked more human-ish and more like his professor Hulk. The Hulk just prior to these pages (and afterwards) was more brutish looking, more of a monster, and bigger looking. If the Hulk appeared like that in two different comics I'd be okay with it. Having it in the same comic kinda took me out of it. And then there's the ship, the one the Hulk pulls out of the ground. It didn't look that big when Frank was drawing it but the next page it seemed huge. But I might have to double check that, I might have just missed a shot by Frank that showed how big it was. So all in all, it's a good story but it almost needs a cleanup to the storytelling.

White Tiger #2: The art is fairly solid in this book with a few little problems. Some times it's just that there seems to be a difference to the art from page to page. It's hard to explain but it's almost like there was more than one inker or something. Maybe there was, I didn't check the credits. Plus, twice now I've seen unexplained dangling feet. In the first issue there was a panel where she jumped down amongst a group of thugs and although you can see her amongst them you can also see someone from the waste down hanging from the top of the panel. Then in this book, it's the same thing. She drops down amongst the bad guys and you can see legs dangling above her. So I'm assuming it's the artist trying to draw multiples of her to show how quick she's moving but somewhere along the line the information is being missed because the legs don't match hers in colour and if you are doing that then you might want to make the snapshots of her faded (almost ghostly). The writing is pretty good as she explores her new powers and new costume and I'm starting to clue in a bit more about what's happening but there are still some hiccups. You could almost say that as a new superhero maybe that's the reason for it but there are times where the dialogue just seems to jump and I feel I missed something. As she jumps into the afore-mentioned fight she says something about the bad guy's driver (Cobra), then a few other people say stuff, then you have the bad guy say something about not needing "that Snake". As it's building to the fight I find I start to read a little faster but when I read that line I was wondering who he was talking to or about. Because the previous lines weren't really talking about anyone. I had to look further up to see what he was responding to. This kind of dialogue flow (or lack thereof) seemed to take me out of the moment. I think I said I was going to give this one more issue to test it out, I think it survived for another issue or two.

American Splendor #I don't know -- What can I say about this book that I haven't already said? It continues along the same lines of just telling simple stories from Harvey's life yet it's still addictive to read. Possibly because I see a lot of my own neurotic tendencies in Harvey. I think if I ever spent time with Harvey (which is weird for me to say) I'd probably go insane, feeding off his stress and how everything becomes an event until I snapped. Yet I enjoy reading about his life. I guess having that barrier helps. Yeah, not much else to say. The artists all bring their own personal touches to the story and it works. I really didn't think I'd be getting this much out of this series but I am.

Friday, December 01, 2006

No Comic Reviews for November 29th, 2006

Unfortunately I picked up no books this week so I have nothing to review. I did pick up another Wizard Hot To Draw book and I'm sure I'll be eager to vent about how most of it is reprinting the earlier books but I haven't gotten to read it yet. Yeah, I don't know why I keep buying those.

Knowing that I had no reviews to do I was preparing to rant about some of the comic fans who have reacted to the latest Civil War delays with more attacks on the penciller, Steve McNiven, but I think it might be best to let it go. Instead, I wish McNiven the best as he recovers from strep throat. Funny, I say that as if he's going to read it. :) And as for the delay, at least it's not on the same schedule as the Ultimates book. Or worse yet, Spider-Man/Black Cat.

So unless I finish that Wizard book or find something else to rant about, I'll see you all next week.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Extra comic review -- Hip Flask: Mystery City with SPOILERS

After my unsuccessful attempt at ordering this book through my friendly neighbourhood comic shop (hey Dave) I decided to give the Chapters website a try. And I had it in a couple days. Granted, it was slightly squished in the packaging but it arrived all the same. So with spoilers, here we go.

Hip Flask: Mystery City -- Hey, they turned Nick Fury into a zebra!!! Okay, maybe not but the eye patch on the zebra guy was pretty funny looking. Off the top of my head, I like how the characters keep taking exception to being called "Elephantmen" yet the writers almost force the readers to do it (they even titled the second book and the recent ongoing series as that). It makes me feel weird using that word knowing that the characters I'm referring to would object to me using it. And it's interesting thoughts like that that make these books (both Hip Flask and Elephantmen) worth reading. Yeah, the art in this book is beautiful. The scenic shots are breathtaking. The "elephantmen" are all amazingly drawn. Yadda yadda yadda. :) But I'm just so glad that I decided to give these books a try. My only two gripes are the time between issues (this series started in 2002 and the fourth book is advertised as coming out in 2007) and that maybe the story could benefit from having stronger female characters (it didn't help that the female character I felt had the best potential for being a strong character was shot and seemingly killed in this issue... What? I said there'd be spoilers).

Friday, November 24, 2006

Weekly Comic Reviews -- November 22, 2006

Three books plus a Wizard Magazine (which I won't be reviewing because I don't usually and I haven't read it yet). This week we have Civil War Frontline #8, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest #2, and Hip Flask: Unnatural Selection The Director's Cut. So let's get started shall we:

Civil War Frontline #8 -- Some of Jenkins' writing I've liked (Origin and a good chunk of his run on the Incredible Hulk) but other times I find I absolutely loathe it (such as Wolverine The End and the Hulk Annual where he had the Hulk trying to have sex with She-Hulk). This book is closer to the second category. We start off with Ben Urich talking to a police officer who seems to know way too much about how the villains are being used by the pro-registration side (right down to the technology they are using). And I don't mean he knows too much as in there might be more to it, he simply knows stuff that shouldn't be known (how the technology works, how someone is helping Green Goblin beat it, etc). Plus, it's a lot of pages of rehashing stuff the reader already knows. But then it goes downhill. The female reporter is introduced to a homeless man who has some information to show her but of course, it's Captain America in disguise. Putting aside the fact that Cap is supposed to be a little pre-occupied and really hurt (as shown in Civil War #5) and it seems odd for him to be hanging with homeless, that's not what irked me, what irked me was the dumb comments he made (while in disguise) about glass Coke bottles and watching baseball players that played before WW2. Either Cap is an idiot for not realizing he was making that mistake or he's an idiot for putting those clues out there intentionally even though he knows the woman should be under surveillance. Then we have She-Hulk being interrogated by the head SHIELD woman. The SHIELD woman threatens to have She-Hulk imprisonned because she suspect that Shulkie had something to do with what happened to Speedball (where he went all glowy and blew up). Her reasoning, She-Hulk was hurt when it happened and that doesn't make sense to her. That's her evidence? That She-Hulk has a cut lip and is temporarily blinded by the explosion? But what irks me is that when she outright says that she's threatening She-Hulk with life imprisonment and a host of other stuff, She-Hulk wilts like a daisy. The confident and normally straight talking She-Hulk who just recently stood up to Thanos (okay, it was a clone of Thanos but she didn't know that) now bows her head and accepts these kind of threats. And according to previews of She-Hulk she's actually going to start working for SHIELD (under the command of this woman). Way to take a proud heroic female character and turn her into someone who won't say "boo" when she's being mistreated. Then you have the SHIELD person leave to boss around Reed Richards. You see, Reed's treating Speedball for his gunshot wounds and for a bunch of identifiable masses or somethingorother that are growing inside him (which Reed also wants to identify). The SHIELD person orders him to stop so they can take Speedball back to prison. Her reasoning, she doesn't want Speedball getting special treatment. Ok, like getting a doctor to treat someone who was shot while in your custody is special treatment. And like it's a good idea to send someone who just exploded without any explanation and is now growing masses inside him that Reed Richards can't identify back into prison is just plain stupid. And of course Reed goes right along with it. Way to stick up for your patients doctor. The last story had the Atlantean ambassador come up for a press conference only to be shot by Norman Osborn (great security they have there, a homicidal maniac that they released and are now searching for can walk straight up through SHIELD agents and other superheroes while carrying a gun and no disguise). It was "meh". All in all, it was crappy writing and it belittled two major heroes making them act totally subservient to a woman who is obviously not one of the "good guys".

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest #2 -- It wasn't terrible but there really isn't too much in this book for me to get excited about. I'm not a big Avengers fan, especially the Avengers that are in this series, so a lot of it is lost on me. Heck, when I saw a woman with short slicked hair walking around in her underwear my first thought was that it was the Wasp, it wasn't until Hawkeye (who I mistook for Hank Pym as Hawkeye was also in his underwear) called her Natalia or whatever Black Widow's name is that it dawned on me. But other than that confusion (and a bad perspective job on one page that makes is look like Vision is a giant looking down at hobbit sized police) the art wasn't bad. But overall, I'm not really liking this book. I'll probably drop it.

Hip Flask: Unnatural Selection The Director's Cut -- I wish I could compare this book to the original "cut" but I didn't catch the differences (it's been a while since I read that book) so I can't. But it was nice to go back and read this issue now that I have a better feel for where the story was going. And that might be something to think about, perhaps this book could have been improved by having a brief scene showing the "Elephantmen" now (living amongst people) before going back to how they were made. Just so you know where the meat of the Elephantmen stories will take place. But overall, it was enjoyable to read yet again. It has some interesting ideas, some great visuals, and is an all around great book. Now if it didn't take a couple years between issues it would be great (but at least we have the Elephantmen series to keep us happy).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Comic Reviews for November 15th, 2006 -- SPOILERS!!!

I know, I was supposed to review 300. But I'm on vacation so I figured I'd just wait and do all the books at once. I'll save the rant (Civil War) until the end. So this week we have White Tiger #1, Civil War #5, Astonishing X-Men #18, The Great and Secret Show #7, and of course, Frank Miller's 300. And let's start there.

300 by Frank Miller -- As I was approaching the end of this book I started to say to myself over and over again that this would be so much better if Frank Miller hadn't done it. The story of the 300 Spartans is incredible on its own and doesn't need the Frank Miller tweaking that it gets here. Scenes that could be epic seem diminished while other scenes seem exaggerated, like much of Frank Miller's work. You could say that maybe he's ignoring the grand epic nature to focus on characterization but nope, I don't see that either. Few characters are even recognizable or last more than a page or two and I don't find any real character development in them. Besides which, I don't really find Miller to be all that great at developing characters (though to be honest, I didn't read his Daredevil stuff). There are some visuals that work and some parts of the story where you really get a feel for the importance of this story, then it seems to falter and trip over itself. I only hope the movie is better.

Astonishing X-Men #18 -- I knew the next story arc was supposed to start with the next issue so I kept wondering how they were going to tie everything up in this issue. Turns out, they don't. Courtesy of SWORD, everything (and everybody) is temporarily bundled up and taken to Breakworld to continue this arc into the next one. In typical Whedon fashion, you get action, you get laughs, you get tears (okay, maybe not tears), ... you know when you're picking up a Joss Whedon book you are getting the full Whedon. The ball of string, the beer, Cyclops' actions throughout, all top notch stuff. The art continues to be great. This is the X-Men that I have been wanting to read for the last however many years. I'm tired of gushing about this book, just read it.

The Great and Secret Show #7 -- Why do I keep doing this to myself? I really should wait until the series is done and read it all at once. Maybe wait until the Trade Paperback. The art is great. The writing is good (though I do wonder why we have to sit through the old guy recapping events for the woman, events we've already seen, I kinda started to gloss over that which is bad). But the story doesn't seem to work as a monthly (or however often it comes out) book (at least for me it doesn't). There's just too much going on, too many characters. I'm thinking that after I'm done with this series I should read the novel again. Then I'll be ready to tackle the sequel which I have had on my shelf for ages.

White Tiger #1 -- I have no clue why I picked this book up. I guess after spending some time reading the complaints about women in comics I decided that I should pick up a book with a female lead. The art was good but obviously Marvel's not using one of their top tier artists on this book. That might sound harsh but I don't mean it that way. It's good solid art. The story is a fine start, the usual adjusting to hero life (first night out mistakes, bad costume, being mistaken for a mutant, getting a costume, etc). It's going over some of the "realistic" aspects of being a superhero. But I did find myself swimming in details. There was a lot to absorb with the new characters and such, and I think there was an attempt at flashbacks that went over my head. It was good enough to try out a second issue but I hope I can catch on or it's going to lose me.

Civil War #5 (Let the rant begin) -- Finally! Finally, they give Iron Man his time to talk. To try and redeem himself. And they put Cap's morals to the test having him recruit the Punisher. Unfortunately, it's too little too late for me. If this series had been about "registering" and nothing more than that talk would have gone over a bit better. If we didn't have the destruction of habeus corpus, the silencing and manipulation of the media, the sentencing friends and allies to torture and death in the Negative Zone, the cloning of gods and then removing any rights and freedoms of that clone by making it obey any command you give it, recruiting homicidal maniacs to hunt down people, and all that other fun stuff, then I could see where Tony was going. But unfortunately, that ship has already sailed. He talks about the people being against heroes (although Marvel's world wasn't as pro-hero as it could have been, it seems like a stretch to say the support the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and others had disappeared so quickly and without notice), he and Reed seem to be encouraging that with their silencing and manipulation of the media in Frontline. He talks about needing to make a prison in the Negative Zone because Ryker's won't work, well that would make sense if superheroes had been using Rykers but time and time again the big brains in the Marvel Universe have created prisons to confine criminals that don't force mental breakdowns and suicides. But now that you need to confine friends and allies, you create this. And come on, bringing up the safety of Mary Jane and Aunt May, you might as well have been threatening them yourself. He talks about people inside the government and SHIELD forcing an even more evil agenda through if the registration didn't go through, and these are the people you're putting in control?

The book itself is a fun book to read and the art is great. But for me, it just doesn't fit. Marvel wanted to make waves at any cost and I think their heads swelled a little too much when they started thinking about shock moments they could thrown into the story even if it didn't fit. The registration should have been left at that, a registration. The draft, the prison in the Negative Zone, recruiting villains, and all that other fun stuff should have been a what if story that is meant to show what would happen if the registration was taken to the next level. People say DC went too dark with their characters (Identity Crisis) and had to pull back. Now it seems Marvel wants to one up them and personally, I'm hoping Superboy has it in him to punch through one more wall.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Comic Reviews for November 8th, 2006

It was a slow week for me with only one book coming out, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest II #1. But hopefully this weekend or early next week I'll be able to put up my review of Frank Miller's 300. But let's stick to the comic at hand:

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest II #1 -- I wasn't sure if I was going to collect this series or not but since I had put the first one on my list they put this one in and I figured why not give it a try. The first series was interesting so who knows. It continues the Avengers story from the first one, showing the behind the scenes stuff that the original Avengers series didn't. The stuff that happens in between their battles, the politics, and a lot of character stuff. At this point, the Vision has just been added to the team and there's some interesting stuff going on (the government getting involved, questioning Pym's leadership abilities, Cap and Thor off on their own, etc, etc). The writing of this book is good. The characterizations and the overall intrigue is cool. And it's neat how they interject it into the Avengers' history. And it's interesting that you really don't get much action yet it's still intense. The art is good and it's dynamic enough to keep you interested despite being mostly talking scenes. Though I had no clue who AIM was going after until someone said that the Super Adaptoid was hijacked (part of this is my lack of knowledge of Avengers history and the Super Adaptoid). So all in all it was an enjoyable book. Though to be honest, if it wasn't in my box I probably could have passed on it. But that would have meant nothing to read last night (other than 300 of course). :)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Comic reviews for November 1st, 2006 with SPOILERS

So, with one of my previous reviews being linked to on the Hip Flask website maybe someone can tell me why my copy of Mystery City hasn't come in yet. :) Anyway, I was pretty excited to see that they felt my review was worthy of being put up there but I'm also really happy to see them take an active role in seeking out what every day readers have to say about their books. So kudos to them!

On to this week's reviews, we have three to get to and not much time in my schedule so here goes.

Incredible Hulk #100 -- Yep, the Hulk finally gets his 100th issue (as opposed to having to settle for issue 100 of Tales to Astonish). Anyway, enough history. This book has two new stories and reprints some older issues. The first story continues with the Planet Hulk storyline. I've been pretty critical of the flow of the story but this issue didn't have as many glaring issues as previous ones. But after I was done reading it I just wondered was that really the big 100th issue? The problem is that this issue fits in well with the storyline but will be a disappointment for anyone expecting a big 100 extravaganza. But I can't be too critical of it, it serves its purpose of continuing to tell the Planet Hulk story and is a decent issue in itself. Then you have the second story and wow! Someone expecting a big Hulk blowout might be disappointed but I think fans of a more in depth Hulk story will be excited as all heck by this story. We have Amadeus Cho (a character I admittedly knew nothing about) deciding to track down the Hulk since he's been missing. This storyline does so much right, it brings in Hulk's history (I nearly gasped when I saw the name Waynesboro), it highlights the intelligence of Banner, it keeps the question of who is the monster, the Hulk or us, and I even liked how Reed Richards is portrayed in this story (him putting the blame of Goliath's death square on his own shoulders was a great start for this). The Hulk may have only been the string that holds this story together and he may have only appeared in quick flashbacks but this is a Hulk story. As for Gary Frank's artwork in this, you can really see how his work has changed since his Hulk days. In some ways for the better, in some ways, I'm not so sure because some of the shots of the Hulk made me long for his earlier Hulk work. But I think I'm being too critical, expecting something better even though what I see is top quality comic art. One nitpick, in the flashback to Secret Wars I think She-Hulk was wearing the wrong costume and was in worse shape than depicted in the flashback but oh well. :)

I haven't read through the reprints that are included in the book (of some really old Hulk issues) but after flipping through them it was interesting to see how times change. How Reed easily de-powered the Hulk back then or how he actually re-powered and freed him instead of allowing him to be sentenced to death. I'll have to read through these at some point. So overall, this book was well worth it. You have a decent regular Hulk issue, an amazing follow up story, and some classic stuff.

She-Hulk #13 -- First up, the art is pretty bad. I think it's the same artist because it seems to have the same problems as previous issues but I'm too lazy to make sure of that. There were just so many panels that made me cringe. One shot of She-Hulk had her lower body look like it disappeared, some shots had her taller than Thanos talking down to him while others had it reversed, Man Wolf/Star God's armoured top just blended in with his fur, and people's faces were constantly "smooshed". And this low quality art really hurt the story telling. Overall, this issue seemed rushed. It was kinda cool to go through Thanos' history and see some of the epic battles. But you knew it was a Thanos clone, it's always a Thanos clone. And sure enough, Thanos has been playing around with Starfox's mind (okay, that's slightly new for Thanos) and has made Starfox's powers out of his control. So he has to give them up in the end. Wow! That's pretty major. But overall this storyline just seemed to be dragging on at this point, I'm looking forward to the next issue (Awesome Andy!!!) and the "Planet Without a Hulk" stuff. Hopefully they get a better artist soon though.

American Splendor #3 -- This book continues to be interesting. It's just little stories about life but told in such a dynamic way you feel like you're reading something spectacular. Pekar really has a talent for telling a story. The only story that didn't work for me was the political discussion. He makes great points but with all the political talk that's been going on as of late I just couldn't bring myself to get into this one as much as the others. Maybe some other time I'd be more keen on it. Still, it's something interesting you might want to check out for yourself.

So that's it for this week.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Marvel Comics' Civil War and politics

I've been through a few "discussions" about Marvel's Civil War storyline and gone on a few rants. A lot of my ranting and raving has focussed on it purely as a comic storyline but during a disagreement I had with some fellow readers online it turned more and more political. For me to type up all the points raised would take too long but the point that has me the most upset at the moment is this...

The government's passing of the registration allows them to force any one they deem to be worthy to sign up. Signing up forces them to become agents of the government. Simply to refuse to sign up is enough to warrant your arrest (with force) and shipping you off without any legal recourse to the Negative Zone (a trip which could lead you to go insane and possibly kill yourself) until you either die or agree to sign. Also, they are free to detain anyone who they think might be withholding information for as long as they like again, without any legal recourse by that person (as they do with a journalist during the storyline).

Yes, it echoes much of what's going on in real life but taken to the next level I believe. After bringing up the issues of the government having the power to simply pick and choose any of its citizens to be put under their control and refusal to do so or simply being suspected of withholding any information relevant to someone they deem of interest puts you behind bars for life (or worse if you're one of the unlucky ones in the Negative Zone) the retort from the other side is "So, the real government does stuff like this all the time. This would be a good thing."

If that attitude doesn't make you worry then I guess I'm just not normal. I've argued with them and ranted until I was blue in the face and I think I'm done with it because they obviously won't see my side. But I just had to rant one more time. :)

Comic Reviews -- October 25th, 2006 -- Spoilers to a minimum

Only two reviews for this week but one of them is for the 6th digest of Runaway (titled "Parental Guidance"). The other is for Civil War: Choosing Sides. And we'll start there...

Civil War: Choosing Sides -- This book was inserted into the Civil War line up late and rushed through production though to be honest, it actually was done fairly well considering. It tells a few short stories about various characters that are somehow involved in Civil War (in varying degrees). But the stories are disjoint and for the most part open ended. Why? Because each of them (with the exception of the Howard the Duck story) is just a teaser for an upcoming series or storyline. Venom's story is a prelude to the revamped Thunderbolts (no big surprise). Ant-Man is for the Irredeemable Ant-Man (which has already started). USAgent... I'll leave that one for now. Iron Fist has his own series coming out. And they even throw a Guiding Light prelude into the mix. Individually, the stories weren't bad and the USAgent story had a few good points in it but it also raised some questions for me). The artwork was good in each. So all in all it wasn't necessarily a bad book but yeah, it did feel like just a promotional thing with previews of what's to come.

Runaways Volume 6: Parental Guidance -- It's been a little while since I read volume 5 (the downside to doing the digest/trade paperback thing) so it took me a minute to remind myself of where everyone's at. I gotta make this quick, work beckons. The art was solid. I really like how this artist deals with the different body types and such. The writing was great, the characters and story were excellent. My only gripe is probably with the digest format as some pages are dark and hard to make out in a smaller format. So I'm currently debating waiting for the next digest or moving to the monthly issues (especially with Whedon taking over). I'll probably still stick with the digests though.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Comic Reviews for October 18th, 2006 -- SPOILERS

Three books this week, Lone Ranger #2, Elephantmen #4, and 1602: Fantastick Four #2. So let's jump right into things.

Lone Ranger #2 -- I did myself the disservice of reading this book too quickly so I had to go back and read it again. The book almost lends itself to a quick read with just how quick the story seems to be moving along and jumping from scene to scene but you really should take the time to enjoy the many elements to the story. Art wise, I found a few panels lacking (most of them featuring the new villain) but overall it was good. And the story is a good one. A lot of interesting stuff going on both in front of the reader and just out of view of the reader. And Tonto, well he's obviously an improvement over the TV version. I can't wait to see more of his character. Overall, still really enjoying this series and eager to see where it goes from here.

Elephantmen #4 -- I've been complaining a lot about the book being cut in half and I was surprised when I got halfway through this book yet the story seemed to keep going. So despite having the double cover (one on the front, one on the back when you flip the book over) it was actually one story. Hip and Ebony are together in the hospital now but the story is mostly made up by the flashback scenes as Ebony talks to Miki (the cab driver from the previous issue). The major flashback involves the story of Tusk and his abuse. The writing and the artwork combine well to really make you feel for Tusk. And when Ebony talks about why Tusk has been kept alive (first by MAPPO and now by their liberators and the doctors) you really do feel for the guy. It was a moving story and a very good book to read.

1602: Fantastick Four #2 -- The weak link for this week's comics. Art-wise it was an improvement over the first issue. Story-wise as well. But I'm still not enjoying it. Sure, I chuckled when the "complex" method of making the ship go turned out to be Ben Grimm slaving away but all the other "jokes" (like Doom actually being the one that comes up with Shakespeare's St Crispin's Day speech or Reed and Sue insisting that his invention be called a "propelsor" instead of "propeller") just made me groan. As did much of the story. I find it weird as I usually like Peter David's work so much but this book is just missing the mark on so many levels for me. So this will definitely be the last issue I pick up.

Minor edit and a minor quibble about Fantastick Four, Sue's invisibility is mentioned twice I believe (once when Reed says that he doubts people would be able to find Sue in order to hang her and I believe Ben mentions how she was able to sneak onboard). They seem to be ignoring the fact that you can see her unborn baby. So it's not like she'd be impossible to spot, just look for a floating fetus.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Marvel Comics -- Civil War

Now that Carl has finally read issue 4 of Civil War I feel I can now talk about it more openly. The original storyline seemed to have people split. On the one side, the government is taking away people's civil liberties in the name of protecting its people. On the other side, you have people fighting to protect those civil liberties. Before the series started, I had several "conversations" with people online and offline about this idea. We're now just getting past the half way point (not including all those extra special issues that are going to be coming out after the Civil War series ends) so the story has been flushed out a bit more. Now I'm focussing mostly on the Civil War series itself as I don't read all the other tie in books.

The core of the story remains the same but I can see what has people in a frenzy and it doesn't seem to be that core. It's the actions of the characters. It's the plot devices that are used to push the story. And it's the shipping delays. Ignoring that last one, let's talk about the first two shall we. We'll start with the anti-registration characters that seem to be creating the most buzz:

Tony Stark/Iron Man: Almost seemed to be anti-registration at times in the beginning but quickly became the poster-boy for the pro side. Hired villains to push the registration through. Clearly manipulated anyone he could (*cough* Peter Parker *cough*) for his own agenda. Very quickly made it his mission to hunt down his "friends" and put them in prison. Released several psychotic killers from prison to help him hunt down those friends. And along with Reed he has had a hand in not only cloning Thor but taking away any rights that clone might have by making it a programmed operative (and of course the clone goes off and kills Goliath). And so on and so on.

Reed Richards/Mr Fantastic: Maybe he's being blinded by Tony Stark's charm but let's face it, Reed hasn't been coming off too well. Johnny is beat up and put into a coma. Reed's response "Well, I'm sure someone will contact me if there's a problem." Then he goes off to build a prison for his ex-friends in the negative zone knowing that travelling to the negative zone often leaves people mentally unstable to the point where they are a danger to themselves and others (and a few heroes have already committed suicide there). See above for the Thor clone debacle.

Hmm... that doesn't seem too good for the pro-registration side. But they are doing this for the greater good right? I mean, then we have the government and SHIELD being able to control and police the superheroes. It's not like the government and/or SHIELD have done anything bad is it? Such as:

- Possible connections to Nitro by supplying him with something boost his powers so that the next time he explodes he takes out more people (leading to the 600+ deaths).
- Blackmailing heroes (Wonderman for example) and forcing them to do what they want.
- Detaining journalists, manipulating the media, and trampling the first amendment to hide what they're doing (as seen in Frontline).
- Registering and detaining people who they deem as "unregistered combatants", a term they came up with to be as vague as possible so they could pretty much classify anyone they want as someone who needed to be registered and under their control.
- Orchestrating the death of several pro-registration heroes to make the anti-registration side look bad (Frontline again).
- Employing psychotic mass-murderers to hunt down unregistered combatants.

And a few other goodies. But wait, the anti-registration side must be doing a bunch of bad stuff too right?

Captain America for example, he's been a bit of an arsehole to people. He beat up (but didn't kill) a few SHIELD people (who had pulled guns on him and were told to subdue him). He's gone underground to fight a law he feels is unjust. And when Iron Man said he wanted to talk to Cap, Cap sucker punched him (after Iron Man had tricked Cap and his anti-reg team by faking an emergency).

Okay, but the other anti-reg heroes... ok, they don't really do too much. But let's look at the other two characters creating the talk, Spider-Man and Invisible Woman.

Spidey: Sees Tony Stark as a father figure and goes along with the pro-reg side. He unmasks infront of cameras to show his support. Then, after seeing the Thor clone and the prison he figures "oops, I made a mistake" and tries to switch. Kinda stinks for Aunt May and MJ now doesn't it? They don't have Tony and the Avengers to protect them anymore. You have to wonder if Peter really thought through the whole unmasking since the primary reason for it was their protection. But it was sad to see Peter go along with Tony. Marvel guys were using the term "father figure" and such but really, Peter has been a big boy for a while (and a married one at that, much to Joe Quesada's chagrin) and it's not like him to be so blinded like he was.

Invisible Woman: Again, after seeing the Thor-clone and prisons we have Sue decide "oops, I'm on the wrong side" so after a quick dinner and roll in the hay with Reed she's off to the anti-reg side. But wait, what about the kids? Oh, she'll just leave them with Reed. Now I've flip flopped on that last part (though I don't like to use that term, I prefer to say that I'm continually seeing this story element from different perspectives). The dinner and roll in the hay, that came off really stupid. Yeah, you call the man you love a murderer and a fascist but hey, let's make him happy for one more night? That's lame. But the kids, I've been thinking the most about. My problem, Reed as he's being portrayed here is not a good choice for who to look after the kids. But my first thought was that even with Reed being the jerk, you have to consider the Baxter Building was built to protect them and it's been shown recently that they need that physical protection. The downside (as Carl has pointed out to me because things are portrayed differently in the various books) is that "criminals" (heroes and villains alike) are being taken through there to go to the negative zone (again, this is not how it's shown in Frontline but I digress). So there goes the security of the Baxter Building.

But as I ponder it, the one thing I am most certain of is that the whole thing was horribly done. For Sue to say she's leaving the kids with Reed not because it's best for them but because she's using them in the hopes Reed will realize what an arse he's being and will realize he needs to look after them is a joke. No, it's beyond a joke, it's crap. Her letter and/or accompanying dialogue should have been about what was best for the children. If she came to the conclusion that leaving them in the Baxter Building (with Ben at this point in time) was best for them, then maybe you could argue with her logic but at least she wouldn't be using her own children as a weapon in this war (yes, I do see it that way).

So moving away from characters, let's look at events. Spider-Man unmasking, Invisible Woman leaving, Thor cloned, Goliath dead, ... what do these major events have to do with the main story about hero registration? Not much actually. Spider-Man's unmasking wasn't necessary as nobody required he do it, he just went ahead on his own. Invisible Woman leaving? I guess you could say that this is showing the fractures that can happen when people's beliefs come into play (though with all the stuff the FF has been through it makes you wonder how it could all unravel so easily here). Cloning Thor? The only thing I see this showing is just how bad the pro-registration side is (though the whole point of this story was supposed to be that neither side was in the wrong). Goliath dead? Well, he was only just recently brought back so it had to be for a reason. The only thing these things seem to show is how "evil" the pro-registration side is (again, Marvel claimed neither side would be in the wrong). So the real reason I think they're in there, the "wow" factor. The "I can't believe that just happened factor".

So that's what it's currently boiling down to for me. Marvel is taking a storyline that was supposed to be "brother versus brother in a fight with neither side being right or wrong" and seemingly turning it into "government is evil and has corrupted some heroes turning them evil but the glowing 'rebelion' is fighting them". And they're focus seems to be so much on what they can do to "shake things up" or make comic fans go "wow" that they are losing sight of that core story.

That's not to say that I haven't enjoyed bits and pieces of the series or that I'm giving up on it. I'm just not necessarily liking where the series is going and what eggs/characters it has to break on its way.

I have a lot more thoughts on the series but this rant is too long as it is. So I'll hold off on them for now. Perhaps once the series is done I'll be able to put them more into focus.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Comic Reviews for October 11th, 2006 SPOILERS

Only one book this week, Civil War Frontline #7. And since I got work to do, let's get right to it.

Civil War: Frontline #7 -- First, a recap of the issue. We begin with Ben Uerich's storyline, he's covering the Speedball visitting Congress story (which we know from the previous issue leads to Speedball being shot) but while he's doing so, the media is an uproar. It seems that Tony's recruitment of villains has been leaked and it's now the number one story. And then of course, Speedball is shot. Another story focusses on the other reporter who is being detained and questioned about her meeting with anti-registration heroes. A senator comes in, gives a story about how he's a military hero and attempts to convince the reporter the registration is a good thing and necessary. And the "kicker", he had passed her a note at the beginning and after she accuses him of trying to trick her she opens the note and it says something like "You'll accuse me of trying to trick you." Ooh!! He must be psychic. No, it was obvious she would accuse him of that. When that big reveal was done in the book I thought "What the heck??? That's the big 'oooh' moment??? That sucked!" And that makes her doubt herself? Ok, enough reviewing and back to recapping. We also have the story of Wonder Man who is found in a pile of wreckage surrounded by the Atlanteans that were shown in earlier issues. Flashback and we see that it was the Green Goblin who killed them all and took out Wonder Man (wow! Green Goblin is being shown some respect here for taking out these Atlanteans and Wonder Man in no time at all). By the way, I can't remember the order of the stories so I might be jumping around a bit. We get Speedball's story continue with him being treated on the steps and then loaded into an ambulance while he seems to be narrating a letter to his mother. Then the ambulance takes off without police escort (Hello! This is the guy you are accusing of killing over 600 people, at least give him an escort for his protection and for the people). In the ambulance a bunch of weird stuff happens (with She-Hulk riding along) that seems to be his powers kicking in again. The ambulance crashes. Jump to another setting where we see Osborn meeting with a shadowy figure who is giving him some serum (or something) to block out the nano-stuff that the pro-reg side has been using to keep tabs on him. They discuss some sort of plan and Osborn asks a bunch of questions about why they should trust each other. Then the shadowy figure's mouth is shown when he talks about betrayal from the last person they would suspect (could it be Reed Richards? Or Tony Stark? But I didn't see a mustache). And of course, we get the mirroring of the Green Goblin/Atlantean attack with a battle from history.

All in all, this book has so much potential. It delivers on so many key elements but then fails on others. I'm into each storyline and I'm really intrigued as to what's going on but the format is still bugging the crap out of me. With so many short stories and the jumping around in the timeline I'm trying to piece everything together (like the media going nuts about the villains being recruited yet the police are confused when Wonder Man says it was the Green Goblin in his storyline). And the note that the senator gave the reporter was just lame, lame, lame. I really wish this book was cleaned up a bit in those parts and then it would really good.

Oh, and for those who watched CSI last night. Why the heck did they resort to casting Kevin Federline? He ruined that show for me. Other than him, I really liked it but every scene he was in I cringed. No, it's not because he's Kevin Federline, it's because he has no acting ability.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

More reviews -- Marvel Zombies and Ultimate Avengers 2 DVD

Maybe I should have titled this blog "The Reviews of Darrell" because that's all I'm posting. Oh well, maybe one day there will be something else to post. Two extra reviews today, one for the Marvel Zombies hardcover collection and the Ultimate Avengers 2 DVD.

Marvel Zombies hardcover -- This series was hugely successful with several printings done of many of the issues that had sold out. And each new printing brought another cover from Arthur Suydam (more about that in a minute). The story was pretty good. It's a another dimension in the Marvel Universe where the heroes and villains have become zombified. They still retain their powers, intellect, etc, etc, but as their urge to eat increases their ability to reason goes down. And after eating, they become more "normal" (at least in personalities, not in body... except Banner who transforms from Zombie-Hulk to Zombie-Banner after eating). The story is actually more interesting than I expected with this twist. And it's what leads us to the Pym/Black Panther/Wasp storyline that could be seen as a more complex situation than you might expect from a book about zombies. Zombie-Spider-Man brings the humour (most of the laughs being directed "at" him in this case, whether it's from him ripping his own leg off and needing to be given rides everywhere they go or his post-feeding guilt rants that everyone is quickly getting tired of). The art is pretty solid. The zombies all seem to be drawn with much of their faces blackened out and their eyes and teeth almost glowing. It gives them a rather evil looking appearance while not trying to gross out the reader (there are other parts of the story that will do that). I was a little worried at first when I was reading the book and there were no covers shown between the issues. The covers were a big part of this book, they were just so good. They were zombified versions of famous covers and you can find them at the bottom of the wikipedia article here. Fortunately, they were all there at the back of the book in their full page glory and the originals were shown in thumbnails. So that was a nice touch. All in all, it was a fun series to read. My only let down was the ending but even that didn't seem to bug me that much.

Ultimate Avengers #2 -- I was rather disappointed in the first DVD they released. I thought it was okay but they missed on a few things (like the Hulk fight, in the previews it was shown to be more like the original Ultimates comic where they fight him in the city, at night, in rain, etc, for the DVD it was brightly daylight and amongst random rubble... that just didn't have the same effect as the Ultimates comic version). And when I saw the preview art for this one I thought Black Panther looked rather lame. So I was actually pleasantly surprised that they did a decent job with this one. It still has the kids cartoon feel to it at parts but in other parts they are still clearly making this for a more mature audience. Pym's story and his relationship with Wasp continued to be amongst the adult portions of the story. I had been warned beforehand not to buy this one looking for a lot of Hulk action but to be honest, I expected as much even before I was warned. The art and animation were nice. The special features were mixed, the clip discussing the Ultimates (featuring artist Bryan Hitch, writer Mark Millar, Editor in Chief Joe Quesada, amongst others) gave a bit more of the behind the scenes to not only the movie version but the comic itself (like the "France" line that led to a bit of a scuffle). The "outtakes" were a bit of a let down and consisted mostly of fart and "Stark's House of Ribs" jokes. But over all, I enjoyed it more than the first.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Comic Reviews for October 4th, 2006 -- SPOILERS

Not a bad week for me, I picked up three books. Incredible Hulk #99, American Splendor #2, and Elephantmen #3. So lets get right to it.

Incredible Hulk #99 -- The story is good, the art is nice looking, and the Hulk is the Hulk (Pak definitely seems to have a good grasp of the character) but (and I hate saying "but" here), there are some things that could be better. I'm sounding like a broken record here but the flow is off. Yet again I find myself going back and forth in the book trying to figure out what I missed. One minute the Hulk is standing with his ragtag team and the next he's a mile off in the middle of a field getting bombs dropped all around him. Fortunately, one of the characters actually points out that he's in the middle of the bombs or I'd never know it. Which leads me to the other example, sometimes the cheesy (and somewhat "classic" sounding) dialogue where a character describes what is happening can help. Having a character say "Wow! The Hulk has created a fissure big enough to swallow the spikes!" would have clarified things (although allowing for the scene to take up more than a small panel might have helped as well). As well, even though the story is good it almost seems to be moving too slowly. Part of this is because so far it's been very predictable. You knew the Red King would do something evil (like releasing the spikes on his own people) and the Lieutenant would turn on him when he did it. I kinda wish Banner would appear from time to time just to shake things up and make this a real Hulk story. So although Planet Hulk has been a nice little excursion for the Hulk, I won't be too sad to see it end.

Elephantmen #3 -- There are two stories in this book so I'll split the review a bit before coming back to the issue as a whole. First up, the Elephant in the Room storyline. It gives a bit more of a glimpse into the world, where animal poachers who are having a tougher time hunting endangered animals are taking it out on the "Elephantmen" (and one actual Elephant-man in particular in this storyline). I'm not a big fan of the art style in this story (reminds me of an exaggerated Jack Kirby style) but it gets the story across pretty well. And the story is pretty good and gives you a bit more insight into the Elephantmen and the issues they have to face (not only from outside but from inside themselves). So that story was good. The second story, titled A Good Look, has Hip (the hippo guy) unconscious and being looked after by a young woman after the fight from the last issue. And that's pretty much it. She babbles a bit, gets a little curious about Hip's ... size and tries to sneak a peek. Hip wakes up at this point and after a moment of embarrassment (which is drawn in a horrible almost anime style that looked totally out of place) she makes a few jokes to lighten up the mood. So yeah, there didn't really seem to be much there except an introduction to the woman. So it seemed to miss the mark slightly. Which brings me to the book as a whole. It's continuing to present two stories in each issue and leaving them entirely disjoint. The story that continues from the previous issue seems to be an afterthought while the other story actually seems to go somewhere (although it does resolve itself to some degree). I just wish this book was presented in a different format. Buying issue after issue of these appearant short stories just isn't my cup of tea even if it is an interesting idea in the big picture.

American Splendor #2 -- I really didn't know what I was getting myself into when I picked up issue 1 of this book and issue 2 was about the same. I mean, if someone had told me that this book was just a bunch of short stories about a guy fixing his toilet, picking up his step-daughter or signing an autograph for a fan at a convention I'd wonder what the point was. Yet somehow, it becomes an adventure more enthralling than many of the superhero stories I've read. Part of it is the way it's written and presented (the art isn't over the top stuff and it's done by several different artists, but for each artist it's simple and it works for the story) but the other part is Harvey. If these events were to happen in anyone else's life they'd be a footnote at best. With Harvey, the simplest things in life become something almost monumental. With the convention story, you're almost screaming at the autograph seeker to just take the bag he was offered. But I'm on the fence as to whether I'll be adding this to my list. As fun as it is to read I just have to watch how many books I'm buying. It'll be a tough decision.

So that's it for me. And unless my copy of Marvel Zombies shows up tonight I won't be having any "surprise" reviews.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Extra comic review

Yep, I said I'd be back to review Pride of Baghdad (and if I didn't say it, I meant to) so here goes. I finished reading it on Friday and spent the weekend thinking about what I was going to say in this review. The hype surrounding this book had it mentioned along side such landmark comics such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Dark Knight Returns, etc, etc. It's also going beyond those books by generating media attention from outside the comic world. So that left me thinking, did it deserve the hype? Is it really as good and as ground breaking as those other books? To be honest, those are tough questions to answer.

Before discussing those, let's just go with a straight on review. First up, the art. This book is beautiful. Period. The animals showed a good deal of realism while still allowing for artistic liberties to portray emotions. The backgrounds are simply amazing. It's simple storytelling. Nothing too dynamic or too difficult. Almost like they were gearing this book for people who might not be used to reading comics and would get lost in complex layouts and such. But there's enough dynamic elements to it that you don't get bored with face on shots or anything like that. As someone who dabbles in art myself, I really was amazed by this book on the art side of things. And in when it came to violence (which the book has its fair share of along with mature themes) the art really shocks the reader, as it should for scenes like this.

The writing and story (the meat of the book), when I finished reading this my first thought was "what is the author trying to say about the Iraq war?" Now maybe I missed the point of the book but my interpretation is that it's not quite as simple as that. There are so many themes brought up in this book that I think it would be a disservice to limit its scope to be a comment on a single event in our lives. It provokes so many thoughts and feelings about life that can't be ignored. The final line of the book invokes so much emotion and I can people interpreting it various ways. My interpretation? I think I'll keep that to myself for now. I'd prefer anyone reading it will come to their own conclusions without any bias from my review.

But it's also not the easiest book to read. I mean, it is a book containing talking lions. Lions who communicate and make plans with monkeys and antalope. And if you start to think of these lions as people they turn and do something very lionesque. So it requires an open mind on the reader's part to succeed.

So, did it deserve the hype? After thinking about it for a few days I'd have to go with yes, it did. Whether this book will have the impact on the comic book world that those previously mentioned books did remains to be seen but on its own, this book delivers. Tackling "real" issues like this book does is really nothing new for comics (see V for Vendetta for a quick and easy example although V uses fictional events whereas Pride is based on a true story) and is done often so in some ways, perhaps it doesn't warrant being seen as a "landmark" comic book. But on the other hand, there are elements of the book (the real events for example) that make this book even more important.

Does any of that make sense? Probably not. In the end, we'll have to wait and see what its place in comic book history will be. For now, this book goes down as one of the best graphic novels I've read.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Comic reviews WITH SPOILERS -- Sept. 27th, 2006

A busy week ("busy" for me at least) with four titles coming in: Civil War Frontline #6, She-Hulk #12, the Great and Secret Show (can't remember the issue number), and the Ultimates #12. I also picked up the the Pride of Baghdad hardcover but didn't get a chance to read it thanks to ball hockey last night. Every review will contain spoilers (the Civil War Frontline one will avoid spoiling Civil War #4 as Carl hasn't read that yet).

Ultimates #12: The guilty pleasure continues. In this issue you get to see the Aveng... oops, I mean Ultimates do what their regular continuity counterparts won't (unless you are reading Civil War). From the Hulk ripping the Abomination's arms off before putting his first down/through the Abomination's throat (is it still a "decapitation" if it's not the whole head that pops off?) to Quicksilver taking Hurricane past Mach 10 and watching her rip apart in a fight that took a few pages to show but only lasted the second or so that it took Hawkeye to fall to the ground (providing a really cool visual where you see them fighting at super speed while Hawkeye almost looks frozen). The violence is definitely upped for this issue and the gruesome level of detail is pretty amazing. But I do have two not so good things to say about this issue. The "Iron Man 6" armour? Meh. A big battle cruizer type ship with loads and loads of guns. Why they even call it "Iron Man 6" I'm not too sure. And the ending, it was cool on its own even though you knew it was coming (Thor disappears from his cell, Loki finally makes his presence known, you knew it was inevitable... though Scarlett Witch's line was another fanboy moment) but that's the second issue in this storyline (and the second issue in a row) that has ended with the cool return of one of the Ultimates. As Spielberg learned in test screenings of Jaws, there are only so many times you can do the surprise shark scene before people start to wise up and get bored. Fortunately for Millar, the Ultimates are all there now so there's nobody left to have show up in a triumphant return at the end of the next issue. Plus, I think the next issue is the last of his run (and this storyline).

She-Hulk #12 -- Uh oh. I gotta say that I'm not looking forward to this book as much as I once was. I've still found the art rather lacking. It started off ok and I had to double check to see if it was the same artist. Then all of a sudden faces became skewed like their heads were being pressed between two pains of glass and I knew it was the same artist. And I'm actually getting a little tired of the storyline. Every page that John Jameson/Man-wolf/wolf-god-whatever is on I just find myself getting bored and rather annoyed. At least his father had some personality, this guy is just a pain in the arse for me. And then we jump to the Starfox trial in mid-issue (which seemed really weird and didn't seem to flow at all). So Thanos shows up with the claim that Starfox is responsible for his love of Death and therefor made Thanos the mad-Titan that he is (making Starfox somewhat responsible for all of the death and destruction that Thanos has caused). Without going into details (like the fact that Starfox's powers aren't supposed to work on Thanos)this seems like another hoax of some kind. And we just got through that storyline an issue or two ago. And you know what? For a She-Hulk book it seems like this book is spending a lot of time going on about characters other than She-Hulk. I hate to say it but it's getting dangerously close to being taken off my monthly list.

Civil War Frontline #6 (Spoilers included but anything that would ruin Civil War #4 is left out) -- Urich confronts Tony after the Civil War #4 battle and questions him on the battle and the possibility that the Green Goblin was set loose by the pro-reg people. Tony's not impressed. The female reporter (can't remember her name) is detained and questioned (with Reed Richards being the man behind the mirror directing the questions). Reed is then seen talking to Speedball and offers to set up a chance for Speedball to meet with congress (where he is shot in a page that used Lee Harvey Oswald as its template). And Wonder Man discovers the Atlantean sleeper agent is just part of a somewhat more dangerous looking program. And of course we have the last little poem mirroring a historical event with the events in this storyline. All in all, not very impressive. The art, meh. It wasn't overly bad but I can't really say it was all that impressive either. The 4 stories in one book is still rather lame for me and the writing was rather off. There were times that I had to go back and double check to see if I had missed some narration or something. The characters start off with narration, then it stops for a few pages, then starts up again almost in mid thought and I'm wondering what I missed. And who's editting the Civil War books? The big event from Civil War #4 is depicted totally different in this book (and yes, it's kinda important to the effect of the event). I've also been told the prison is depicted differently in this book than in another book as well (which seems to make sense considering how lame it looks here). But then you have Reed Richards. Yet again we have him infringing on the reporter's rights. Then we have him setting up Speedball in what is obviously a possible death sentence (sending him out in the public after you've convinced the country he's responsible for 600 deaths). And throughout it all he's an @$$ who doesn't seem to care that his prison is making people go mental and kill themselves. And as for She-Hulk, she's the friggin' She-Hulk. She's always been opinionated and quick to take action. Yet here we have her as the background voice saying "something isn't right" over and over before getting pushed aside by "security" as Speedball is taken on the wrong path to congress. Regular prisoners get a bulletproof vest to protect them, you'd think she'd have some sort of force field put in place to protect her client here. And she's 7 foot tall mountain of female muscle, she doesn't get pushed aside so easily. Many of the pro-reg characters are being depicted as arrogant, pig-headed, and borderline evil while those who aren't seem just plain stupid. Yeah, as much as I'm trying to keep an open mind to Civil War I don't necessarily like how Marvel's pulling it off.

Great and Secret Show #??? -- This one will have to be shorter as it's almost time for lunch. Art wise I still like this book a lot. Story-wise, I'm getting lost. Characters are popping in and out that I can't keep track of. There were times where the story really didn't flow (one minute they're in a car with a guy, the next that guy is in a car with another guy, and the others are then seen going into talk to the Randall), I just get lost. I think from here on I'll be picking up the issues but not reading them until the series is done. It almost makes me wonder if I would have been better off waiting and hoping that there would be a Trade Paperback version that I could just read over one weekend.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Slipping in another comic review with Spoilers

After picking up the Runaways digests 3, 4 and 5 last week I finally got to read 4 and 5 over the weekend. So here's a quick review of the two of them:

The series continues to be a fun read. The reveal of the traitor in the 3rd digest didn't bother me as much as I expected to which was rather odd. I had thought I'd be upset knowing that one of the team betrayed the others and was obviously going to be leaving but when it was revealed I was surprised but not heart broken. I felt bad for the rest of the team though, especially Nico. Some things that kinda irked me a bit is just how bad every adult is made out to be in this book. Sure, I kinda get that this book is all about the children and how the adults constantly under estimate them and all that but you get Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man all looking absolutely ridiculous and very non-heroic. I was a little surprised at how quickly Cloak thought about going to the Runaways for help seeing as how long he's been around and how many other allies he's made but I guess the Runaways were on his mind anyways when he took that shot to the head. The latest addition to the team (another "child" of a villian) was an interesting storyline.

Art-wise I still prefer the original artist over the fill-in more manga style stuff. And the covers still look very nice (even if the odd one has a very different take on the female characters). So will I be picking it up regularly? Not yet. I'm still doing the digest thing. But how about when Whedon takes over? Not quite sure about that. I'll definitely be looking for a TPB or digest version but I'm not sure if I'm ready to add this to my monthly books just yet.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Random Links

Well, not quite "random" but no real though to them.

First up we have the top 50 comic covers from Marvel Comics of 2006 on IGN.

Annihilation #5 not making the cut seems like a travesty to me. But what I first thought of when looking at the list was how many covers featured women as the main subject. Not too many. Then take those and throw away the "sexy" or "funny" (or a combination of the two in the case of some She-Hulk covers) and what are you left with? Well, try it for yourself.

Next up we have a list of the top 10 most common passwords. Sure, a lot of us laughed during Spaceballs with the whole "combination being 12345" gag but how many people became a little uncomfortable thinking "Hey, that's my combination"? And how many of them switched it to 54321? But I guess that one thing you can take from this list is that a lot of people haven't seen Spaceballs or they didn't get the joke.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Weekly comics review - Sept 20th [No spoilers]

Since Carl hasn't received this week's comics yet I'll be avoiding spoilers. And man, it's going to be tough. Two books came out for me this week, Civil War #4 and Astonishing X-Men #17. I also picked up three more digests for Runaways (digests 3, 4, and 5) but I was only able to read one of them so far (I spent most of the evening at my brother's place last night). So what did I read first? I was leaning towards Astonishing but I knew that my brother wanted to talk about Civil War so I made sure to read that first. So on to the reviews:

Civil War #4: Just to get it out of the way, the art on this series has been pretty amazing. In saying so, I'm including the colouring as well (the neutral tones really bring a sense of seriousness to the story). The emotions, the action, it's all good. So I think Marvel picked the write people for the job there. Writing wise... Well I can see why people are upset but I can also see what is trying to be accomplished in the grand scheme of things at Marvel. In this series (maybe not so much in the other Civil War tie ins) the pro-registration side takes a serious beating in the eyes of the reader. You see a quick glimpse of "We're doing this for the right reasons" but it's quickly taken away by a scene where the reader can't help but think "You're doing THAT?" It's up to the reader to say to themselves "This is a war. These people see it as life or death and are doing what it takes to win this war." The problem is that you see what depths the pro-side is willing to go to when fighting their friends but the anti-registration side still seems to claim the moral high ground. And that's a tough pill for fans of the pro-reg. heroes to swallow (and somewhat rightfully so).

Astonishing X-Men #17: This one is going to be tough to review without spoiling scenes. Like the scene where Kitty [REMOVED AS IT WAS A SPOILER], I had goosebumps. The scene with childlike Logan [AGAIN, REMOVED AS IT WAS A SPOILER], you know I was [REACTION REMOVED AS IT MIGHT SPOIL THE [WHAT IT MIGHT SPOIL REMOVED AS IT MIGHT BE A SPOILER]]. And the last page with [REMOVED] holding [REMOVED] after [YOU GUESSED IT, REMOVED], I nearly [REMOVED, REMOVED, REMOVED]. Ok, moving on from the actual story, the art continues to be amazing. The scenes I mentioned above were all excellent, the childlike Logan scene ... [EMOTION REMOVED YET AGAIN][PUNCTUATION REMOVED... SPOILERISH]. The story, the dialogue, it's Joss. If there's a justification for human cloning, Joss is it. If we could just clone him we could lock all those clones up in a basement somewhere. Then we wouldn't have to wait so long for the next issue and his run could continue, or we'd be seeing the Serenity series sooner, or the Buffy series, or the Wonder Woman movie, or his Runaways run. You would have to keep the original locked safely away some where so he'd be available for more cloning because you don't want to start making copies of copies, they are never as good as the original (although still probably better than many of the writers out there). Yes, I'm stealing ideas and jokes from a Michael Keaton movie.

Runaways Digest #3: So we bring to a close our introductory storyline. I'm sorry to see some things go but it wraps up rather nicely. Vaughan doesn't seem to be too concerned about letting things/characters go. That's probably a perk of writing new characters that don't have millions of dollars of merchandise relying on them. The art is back to the original artist (which if you read my last reviews I said I preferred). The only downside is that with most things wrapped up so nicely this almost seems like a decent point to stop reading. You still have the characters to read about but the storyline seems pretty much ended. There doesn't seem to be anything dangling like most writers do (leave something to hook the reader into buying the next story). My only real gripe with it, the covers they show for the individual issues. They bug me. In the book the kids are cartoony but natural looking (ie. not the super wafer thin women you usually see in comic books). Gertrude isn't the prototypical thin comic book character. Molly is young (pre-pubescent) girl wearing children's clothes. Nico, again more natural looking than most comic book characters you see. Then the covers come out and Gertrude is your typical comic book thin young woman, Molly has aged and wearing midriff revealing clothes, and Nico is much more sexualized. It's too bad the covers can't show the characters as they appear in the book. But despite that little rant, I'm looking forward to reading digests 4 and 5 this weekend.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

In memory

Some time last night Thor, one of my brother's dogs, passed away. He had been battling a liver disease for some time now but it proved too much for him in the end. I can't really find the words at the moment but he'll be missed by all.

I wish I had better pictures to use as a tribute.

Thor and Loki in their early days.
Thor (on the right with the yellow/gold) and his brother Loki in their younger days.

Thor more recently
Thor in his adult years.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Comic Reviews for Sept. 13th

A rather slow week for me yet again. I really seem to be saying that a lot don't I. Anyways, the one book that came out for me was the Incredible Hulk but I also picked up the first 2 Runaways digests (I guess that's what they're called as they aren't full Trade Paperbacks, they're smaller like manga books). I was also looking to pick up the "Pride of Baghdad" book but I was too late. I had kinda ignored all the hype of this book until it got overwhelming and unfortunately my shop had sold out before I could pick one up. Fortunately, they've got some on re-order and hopefully I'll be picking it up in two weeks. So on to the reviews:

Incredible Hulk #98 -- So the Planet Hulk storyline continues to move along. We get two quick fights (both of which are interrupted), some back story for the Red King and the Lieutenant (which is a good thing), a glimpse at the "old power", and the usual comic book cliffhanger. I haven't been this happy about the Hulk book in quite a while. Even Peter David's return didn't feel as good to me as this does (though it did have its moments). But yet again, there's the "flow" issue. Maybe I'm the only one who feels it but it seems like every issue there's at least one place where I have to go back and forth to see if I'd missed something. Here, it's when the Hulk goes from leaving with the refugees to leading the army into the war. Miek's comment about the Hulk being made to fight (or whatever it was he said) seemed to be hanging and then poof, the Hulk's ready for battle. The reader gets no more motivation or thought process from the Hulk himself. So I kept going back to see if I'd missed something. But it's a minor issue considering how good this book has been.

Runaways (the first two digests) -- So after it was announced that Joss Whedon will be taking over this series I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. Plus, I'm thinking it will help to know the characters and such before I start picking up Whedon's run on it (yeah, I'm becoming more and more obsessed with Whedon's work). And I can see why Whedon seems to be the perfect choice for this book. It's almost too perfect. I mean you have a team of super kids coming to terms with life, their parents and their powers. You definitely don't need to use up the 6-degrees of separation to make the obvious connection. But enough about the future, let's get to the review. I really didn't think I'd enjoy this book as much as I did. When I first heard the premise I thought it was sort of interesting but could come off really cheesy and stupid if not done right. By the end of the first "issue" (by issue I mean actually comic issue, each digest contains 6 of them I think) I wasn't "hooked" but I was "interested". But when I got to the end of the first digest I caught myself actually feeling emotion when... well, I won't spoil it but there was a "No, tell me it's not true" moment. It was at that moment that I realized I was sucked in and didn't even realize it. I had made a connection to the characters. So I dove right into the second digest and by the end, I was cursing Vaughan (the writer) for playing with my emotions in this way. And as much as I want to know what happens next I have to avoid any spoilers because I want to read it for myself. So yes, this book deserves the hype storywise.

As for the art of Runaways, I was really worried. The first digest has a manga cover and I'm not a big manga fan. Fortunately (for me at least) although the art in the first digest is "simple" or "cartoonish" to some degree (for lack of a better way of describing it) it worked for the story and added to it instead of detracting from it. Even with what I refer to as "simple" or "caroonish" art you can see these kids in the real world and they'd fit right in. It wasn't until the last two issues in the second digest that the manga art came up and it became a little tougher for me. People's hair became even more cartoony, their faces began to get the dash effect (a bunch of lines going across their face) when they got mad, and such (fortunately nobody turned into a cartoon character though). Fortunately (again, for me) the original artist comes back for volume 3. I only wish I had picked it up already as I really want to read what happens next.

Edit: Almost forgot, the digest format of the Runaways is ok I guess. It's smaller but in a book like this it doesn't really hurt it much to be smaller (whereas something like Ultimates with their big battles would be hurt by it). The downside I found was that you had to really spread the book open (possibly breaking the spine) in order to read some of the dialogue that's put on the edge of the page. That was a little annoying.