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.