Friday, February 23, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews -- February 21st, 2007 MAJOR SPOILERS!!!

A fairly big week for me (by my standards of course) with 5 books out this week. I didn't even get a chance to read them all yet but I only have one to go. So this week we have Civil War #7, Elephantmen #7, She-Hulk #16, New Avengers Illuminati #2, and The Dark Tower #1 (a hold over from last week but after reading all the hype I decided to check it out). I haven't read the Dark Tower yet. By the time I got done the other 4 it was getting fairly late and I was having a tough time concentrating and after the first couple pages I realized I just wasn't able to give the book the attention it needed. So that review will have to wait. And because Civil War will most likely dominate my attention during these reviews I think I'll leave it until the end.

Elephantmen #7 -- In this issue the storyline veers off on a tangent a bit. We begin with Savannah (the young girl from the first issue of the series) trying to see her friend Ebony in the hospital (this is following his fight in issue 3) and she's taken to Hip instead (who has the idol he fought Elijah, the croc guy). Hip decides to tell little Savannah a pirate story. By the time the story is over, Savannah heads home (though not before Hip gives her the little doll that was inside the idol) and Obadiah learns that Hip beat Elijah and took the idol. And a picture of Hip with Sahara with Hip's comments about a broken heart leaves the reader knowing that things between Obadiah and Hip are intense and getting more so. So much happens in so few pages there but the most of the issue is the pirate story, Captain Stoneheart and the Truth Fairy. It's an enjoyable story with Captain Stoneheart resembling Hip (courtesy of Savannah's imagination) and again, the writing (the story, the dialogue, and the flow) is better than a lot of other stuff I've been reading. This is what happens when the writer(s) really focus on putting out a story that they care about and not focus on flash. My only real complaint, the pirate story was a little difficult to read at time, especially near the beginning. The two page splashes of art all jumbled together that seemed overly dark with narration spattered throughout made it a little more of a challenge. But as the story went on the narration text issue seemed to just be a blip at the beginning. The art remained pretty dark and fuzzy though. But all in all, this was my pick of the week.

She-Hulk #16 -- It's She-Hulk and Wolverine versus Wendigo as SHIELD (a UN force) squabbles with some Canadians about what to do with Wendigo. First up, the art. Seriously, the art really ruins so much for me. Now it's a little too cartoony for me but I can get over that but it's just not even good cartoony in my opinion. I'm reminded of one panel where She-Hulk just didn't look right. By this I mean she looked like that scene from Spaceballs where the guy has his head twisted around, this one it looked like She-Hulk was twisted at the waist and had her butt in front. The sad part is that I think it's actually improving but it's still nowhere near where it should be. Then you have She-Hulk deciding to fight the Wendigo in the snow in her sports bra and panties. Why go so minimal? It didn't make much sense. Though you also have to wonder about She-Hulk herself, as something seems to be going on there. She's seeing images of Jen Walters who now seems to indicate her and She-Hulk are becoming two different people (closer to Bruce and the Hulk) and She-Hulk's antics (sleeping with Quartermain and trying to seduce Wolverine here) leave you wondering. And the fight with Wendigo is decent but in some ways it just reminds me of the poor showing of Abomination from last issue. These sorts of story elements keep me coming back so I'm a little less inclined to drop this book than I was but seriously, the art needs to be changed.

New Avengers Illuminati #2 -- To get the easy part out of the way, the art was good. It was dynamic when it had to be, clearly illustrated the story, etc, etc. The storyline is that after realizing the Infinity Gems were out there unprotected, Reed figures they should assemble the full Infinity Gauntlet to ensure the gems are kept safe. Long story short, he assembles the gauntlet, Uatu shows up and expresses disappointment, Reed decides to have the Illuminati each take a gem and hide it, and Prof X seems to have some concern over Reed. It was an interesting story and I can understand Reed's concerns about the gems being out there but I question his wisdom at having the Illuminati hide them. He went through a lot just to get them himself so if he could put them back it might make sense. If someone had the power to get them from where they were, they probably have the ability to find and take them from where ever Iron Man will put his. In the end, doubt gets cast on Reed. Prof X doesn't seem to trust him, the others have their doubts, and you kinda wonder if he really did try to force the glove to blink itself out of existence. I kinda wonder why Prof X didn't look more deeply into Reed's mind early on but perhaps doing so might have caused more harm. All in all, it's not a bad series but perhaps I'm just tired of the new direction Marvel seems to be heading with their characters with all the deceit, the distrust, the manipulation, etc, etc.

Which leads us into...

Civil War #7 -- Let's start with the art because the discussion of the writing could drag on. I was critical of McNiven on the last issue but I think he made up for it here. It's pretty intense stuff and he conveys the action and emotion well. I might have liked a few more group shots so we can be reminded now and then of the scope of the battle but all in all, the art didn't disappoint in this issue (at least it didn't disappoint me, I know some people really dislike McNiven's art but I'll leave it at that). Looking just at this issue, we have a lot less dialogue so there's not much to gripe about there (except for something near the end of the book that I'll touch on later) and for the most part, the story in this issue alone is decent enough and I'll avoid giving the details as this review will probably be long as it is. Do I have a problem with Cap's surrender, sorta. When I read the original planning sheet and outline for CW 7 that Tom Brevoort put up on Newsarama ( I thought "Yeah, you know I could have accepted that ending if Tony was still someone Cap could trust." But then you have the "evil Tony" stuff most of which, I admit, happen in the tie ins (except for the cloning/cyborging Thor). The secret Negative Zone prison which may or may not be killing people or making them insane depending on whether the events portrayed in Frontline actually happened or are just a Marvel booboo. The controlling the media to further the hatred towards costumed heroes. The recruiting of villains and seemingly the ones who are most eager to kill someone. The registration not being held to just costumed vigilantes but anyone SHIELD deems of interest. And a bunch of other fun stuff that I've ranted about a time or two. Also, just look at how he acted towards Maria Hill at the end. He's there with the mother who's son was killed to start Civil War off and he decides to revel in Maria's mysery as he smuggly requests that the former director of SHIELD (who has been demoted so that he can take over the role) get them some coffee. Really? He's revelling in the situation even though in some books it was Maria that said she felt Tony was more up to the task of heading up SHIELD than she was. And he chooses this time to rub her nose in it and gloat about his own step up the ladder? At that point my opinion of Tony (and in turn every hero that followed him which amounts to most of the Marvel Universe) dropped again. And that's why I have a problem with Cap just up and saying, "Yeah, I give up." His fight against registration may not have been the right idea but his fight against Tony and some of the stuff going on beyond just registering seemed very justified to me.

And Civil War on the whole, this event was a mess. Quesada and others admitted from the start that this was a last minute change of plans and that showed. They were not prepared. Not only in the delays but there was no communication or strong company-wide focus. We have Frontline and other books portraying events one way and the main book (and Millar himself) contradicting these events. You get the Negative Zone prison depicted one way in some books (showing what should happen when one travels into the Negative Zone) and another way in other books (including the main book). You have the US government controlling SHIELD even though SHIELD is supposed to be a UN led operation. And events of the story get led not by the story itself or by the characters but because someone at Marvel thinks it would "shake things up" or because you want a cool visual (like wanting Thor in the series but not having him available so concocting a story where they create a clone/cyborg hybrid). Not to mention bringing back Captain Mar-Vell (I know I wasn't the only one what surprised when he appeared in CW #7 and not one person on the anti-reg side said "Hey, isn't that Captain Mar-Vell? The guy we grieved as he died?") and Namor's brief appearance in CW 7 are also proof of that. To be honest, it's almost like a pattern for Millar. I find much of his Ultimates stuff to be about doing that "cool shot" (like having two issues in a row end on the dramatic return of a character the rest of the team turned their backs on) but in this case I think others at Marvel are also responsible. And if they had concentrated on the story and kept that original ending in mind, I think it could have been a great series. But hey, Quesada's happy because he gets to gloat about how many copies it sold.

So there you have it, I still have one more issue of Frontline to read before Civil War is done (and it comes out next week) but for me, the series was a pretty solid miss. And the event on the whole has left a very bad taste in my mouth towards Marvel and especially towards Quesada and those that seem to be in his inner circle. So for the next few months I get to save up some money as I pass on all the post-Civil War stuff going on. Do I have high hopes for World War Hulk? To be honest, with Marvel the way it is I'm scared (and not in a good way) of what they'll do next.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews February 14, 2007 -- SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Only one book to review so this should be quick. :) Only Astonishing X-Men #20 and I'll make it quick. But be warned, I'm going to talk about the final page of the issue so there will be spoilers.

Astonishing X-Men #20 -- What can I say about this series that I haven't already said. I'm a Whedon fan so perhaps I'm slightly biased but this issue seemed particularly good. I have found Cassaday's art to miss the mark slightly in previous issues but that wasn't the case here. I found everything from the script to the final art pretty solid. I was enjoying it all and then that last page hit and some confusion set in. Ord was sent to Earth to stop the mutant responsible for Breakworld's eventual destruction and all he knew was that it was a mutant. Then the last page hits and we see Colossus' image in the stone wall. Thinking back in this issue, one of the Breakworld's inhabitants mentions to their ruler that people saw Colossus and mentions that people said he resembled the mutant in question (or maybe I mis-read that part and they only know that he resembled the mutant that the king was looking for but that doesn't seem to make much sense). So that raises the question, why did Ord only know that it was a mutant? Or was that all he was saying to the humans and is there more to Colossus' resurrection? I surely hope so because otherwise it seems odd that Ord would have been kept from seeing Colossus' image (albeit somewhat abstract but c'mon, even Ord would have been smart enough after seeing that and seeing Colossus that there was a connection, it even depicted his red and yellow costume). But then again, Ord seemed genuinely surprised previously when he was told that it was Colossus who would destroy Breakworld after Ord himself was the one to bring him back from the dead. So yeah, that part of the book is now eating away at me. And unfortunately it looks like I'll have to wait until May to figure it out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Okay, so I watched the Invincible Iron Man DVD as well as the Animated Hellboy one so I might as well do the reviews now. Some spoilers will follow.

Animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms -- This movie seemed to be made with a mix of styles. That doesn't really detract from it but I found the story seemed choppy in places and I wasn't sure if it was the "style" or what. But overall, the animation is good and the character designs are pretty cool. The voice talents are impressive. It was a great idea to carry over Ron Perlman, John Hurt and Selma Blair from the movie. I'm not sure why David Hyde Pearce wasn't back as the voice of Abe Sapien but Doug Jones (who played Abe physically in the movie) actually does a pretty good job himself. Peri Gilpin also does a fine job as Kate Corrigen (I hope they bring in Kate for the second Hellboy movie). The story is decent. Although it maybe comes across as a Saturday morning cartoon story, there's enough nods to something more (flashbacks to previous Hellboy adventures, characters that are more complex and have issues, and themes that maybe appeal slightly more to an older audience) that there's more to it than you might think. I wouldn't recommend rushing out to buy it unless you're a huge Hellboy fan but if you see it in a bargain bin of your local shop then you may want to consider picking it up for the 1-hour of Hellboy-fun you'll get from it.

Invincible Iron Man -- To be honest, I was disappointed in this one. First off, I'm not a big fan of mixing regular and computer animation, especially when it becomes noticeable. And here, I found it noticeable and distracting. But I found overall, the animation wasn't that great. Characters seemed wooden and didn't really move all that well. Some clips of a character walking made me cringe and think I'd seen better animation on pretty much any Saturday morning cartoon. And the first time I saw Tony Stark with 3/4 of his body being legs I was worried. Yet he seemed to be the only character I noticed having this problem. Story-wise, it's not a great story. They try to do enough twists and turns that it's not a total loss but it's lacking in several areas. Actually, one of my biggest pet peeves is that Tony's heart damage is pretty much useless here. The Iron Man suits are made before his injury so they aren't a lifeline for him (in the comic, one of the main functions of the suit in the beginning is to keep his heart going) and once he's given a device to fix it (not long after he's hurt) it never comes up again. And taking that connection of his heart and the suit away as well as introducing this heart injury and never touching on it later just seems off. Like they wanted to introduce the injury because it's in the comics but didn't know what to do with it. It was also somewhat disappointing that even though they briefly showed several suit designs (including nods to the Ultimate Iron Man suit, War Machine, and the Hulkbuster suit) he never uses a standard "Iron Man" suit in the movie. It's either his "underwater" suit or "volcano" suit (odd how out of all the suits that are shown he mentions this one earlier in the show and then ends up having to use it) or the make-shift suit he builds early in the movie. And the final "battle" with the "Mandarin" was just so predictable and anti-climactic that when it happens I just felt so let down to watch the movie hoping for a cool finale and getting nothing. So yeah, the story and writing just weren't on par with what I'd hoped for. And the voice talents are just sort of "meh". There just wasn't that much of a connection with them. So overall, I was disappointed with this one and would probably recommend skipping it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Weekly comic reviews for February 9th, 2007 -- SPOILERS

Well, I have a lot of reviews to get to including season 4 of 24 and not so much time right now so let's get right to it.

Incredible Hulk 103 -- The usual thing for me with this issue, the story overall is good but I just find the storytelling a little lacking. The art seems good taken individually but overall I find the flow off. It seems that we're rushing through parts of the story and it feels like I'm being dragged through the events at a fast pace. Yet in the end, the overall story almost seems to be dragging. Maybe that's from knowing that Hulk is already scheduled to come back to Earth and do some serious smashing. But overall, it's still on my recommended reading list. And this book has a few highlights like the re-emergence of Banner, the Hulk's true character shining through (Pak gets the Hulk, and I have a lot of respect for him for that), and the Hulk's wedding (yep, he's off the market ladies). A "lowlight" is Miek and the Brood sharing a "moment", but at least it leads to the discovery of the Hulk's ship and triggers Miek's plan on bringing back the "fun" Hulk (ie. the smashing Hulk). So the book ends with some promise of great times ahead.

White Tiger #4 -- I do find this book improving from issue to issue as the story gets more flushed out. And I had fewer problems with the art than the previous issues. But sometimes I just find it misses the mark. The storytelling sometimes seems "jumpy" as the reader is thrown from one scene to another at times with no resolution or warning. And the cameos, the Luke Cage one was okay as it made some sense but it was hard to take considering we've already had a few different cameos in this series. But then when Emma Frost seemingly appeared out of nowhere I was just left wondering what the heck she was doing there. Are these cameos part of something bigger or what? Because if they don't amount to something in the next two issues they'll just seem out of place. Also, I know my blog got linked on the writer's livejournal page as a negative review. Perhaps I do come off as somewhat negative of this series in my reviews but overall, I think this is a good series with a new character that shows a lot of potential. I just think the book could have been improved in some areas.

Lone Ranger #4 -- For me, this series seems to be losing its luster. I'm still pretty stoked about the whole Lone Ranger thing but the storytelling is starting to fall short for me. One example of something that isn't working for me is that the reader is often not given an establishing shot when the setting changes (a shot from further away to show the reader the setting). So many times through this series when we are taken to see Black Bart's scenes we see only him and not his surroundings or those he's talking to. At times this can set an interesting mood. When it's done too many times it takes me out of the story but I'm more of a visual guy anyways. So after reading this issue I felt a little let down for the first time. I think this book was originally supposed to be a 6 issue series and it was recently announced that they'll be going beyond that. I'm not so sure I will.

Tales of the Slayers TPB -- Not to be confused with the Tales of the Slayer books. This is a collection of a few short stories from the Buffy-verse about various Vampire Slayers. Some are written by Joss and one is done by Amber Benson. The book seems rather short considering and I was actually expecting a bit more to it but beyond that, it delivers. There are some really great stories of previous Slayers as well as another story about Fray, the future Slayer. Each one leaves me wanting to read more stories about these characters. Each one is so distinct and fleshed out in such a short time. It almost makes me laugh considering some comments recently posted by Paul Jenkins about having only 13 pages limitting what could be done when bringing back Captain Marvel. These stories show otherwise. Sure, some stories are a little predictable at times but even then, they're enjoyable to read through to the end. This book definitely gets me even more stoked for the upcoming Buffy season 8 comic.

Hellboy: The Black Wedding (also includes a second short story) -- I was warned that this book wasn't good and I think that warning was appropriate. Starting with the main story, it wasn't that good. It's not Hellboy from the comics, it's the animated Hellboy and I was okay with that but the story is lacking and drags on. The storytelling is choppy and seems rushed. And the art, which is based on the animated Hellboy so it's more cartoonish, is hit or miss. Some panels are okay, others just miss the mark entirely and are a bit of a mess. This book almost seems like something that you would rush out to be included free with the animated Hellboy DVD but even then I'd probably recommend passing on reading it. The second story (a short story involving a very young Hellboy) is a little bit more fun but it can't make up for the main story.

Hellboy: Phantom Limbs -- This was a 32 page comic that got slipped in to the DVD (which I haven't watched yet so you'll have to wait for that review). I actually found it to be a much better book than the Black Wedding. I was expecting something a little more general audience so some scenes kinda surprised me. But overall the story seemed better, the telling was clearer, and it was a nice treat to go along with the DVD. So I guess I should be happy it came with it rather than the Black Wedding.

24 season 4 -- Yikes! Who doesn't get tortured in this season? Guilty, innocent, somewhere in between, they all get tortured by Jack and/or his CTU allies. I'm sure there are a lot of interesting discussions out there about that part of the season so I'll avoid it for now. Overall, the intensity of the show continues throughout the season as you never know what's going to happen next. Who will live? Who will die? Who's good? Who's bad? It's all in the air. That's what I like most about this show, you attach to characters because there is a real sense of danger. You don't know if they're going to make it through the day or not. And of course, there are the characters that you want to smack upside the head for their stupidity or pig-headedness. But I definitely prefer watching this on DVD where I can watch it at my own pace and I don't have to wait for a week in between episodes. The main downside, the package and DVD menus do give stuff away. After seeing some characters on the packaging you know they'll be making an appearance. So when Jack says he calling the one person he trusts and you're supposed to be left wondering who that is DVD viewers have a very good idea of who it is. I'm looking forward to season 5 now and I'm still avoiding season 6 spoilers. But 24 is definitely on my recommended viewing list.

So that's it for me for now. Hopefully I'll have some more reviews to do shortly. I have The Life and Death of Captain Marvel and Marvels still to read and the animated Hellboy movie to watch. And the animated Invincible Iron Man movie will be added to my collection shortly.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Weekly comic book reviews -- January 31st, 2007 SPOILERS

Only two books up for review this week: Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham #1 (featuring Wolver-Ham) and Elephantmen #6. So let's get right to it...

Elephantmen #6 -- So we're back to the split book with this issue. After reading one story you flip the book over to read a second one. I'm not sure in what order they should be read or if it even matters. My first thought while reading the book was that the two stories could have been merged but after finishing it I don't think they could have been. It would have shifted focus too much and taken away from the impact of both. So in this instance, the split book didn't detract from the issue as much as previous splits (in my opinion at least). The shorter story, "The Last Thing I Remember", was a pretty disturbing flashback to Sahara's mother. Though in some ways I found this story a little hard to follow at the beginning that may have just been symbolic of the chaos of the moment as it seems to settle in as the story progresses (or I might just be reading too much into it). The story gives some more insight into Sahara and her early life which I won't go into. It's an emotional tale that almost seemed to end too quickly as you want more closure. Fortunately, you know this wasn't the end of the story as much of the continuation we've already seen in the Hip Flask books or previous Elephantmen issues. For the second story, "Abandoned by God", we have Obediah Horn (the Rhino) and Sahara doing an interview after announcing their plans to marry. I really enjoyed this story as you see the two very different personalities of Obediah and Sahara yet both seem to share a love for one another. When I decided to pick up this series just on a whim I had low expectations. I didn't expect to become so connected with the character and the story. But I've gushed enough about this series. Let's just say it's very high on my recommended reading list and leave it at that.

Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham (featuring Wolver-Ham) #1 -- And that will be the last time I type in that title (why I didn't just copy and paste is beyond me at the moment). This one is going to be a tough one to review. I mean, can you really critique a Spider-Ham book with a straight face? Well, I'm going to try. I remember collecting Spider-Ham's series as a young kid but to tell the truth, I can't remember much of the stories. It's not like I go back and re-read them. But this book wasn't what I was expecting. In this book Spider-Ham is on a quest to discover where his thought balloons have gone (they've been replaced with narrative boxes). For long time readers of comics you know this is reflective of Marvel because thought balloons have been replaced with narrative boxes in a majority of their books. And that was my first let down, it almost seemed like a story that the people working at Marvel thought was funny because they're in on the joke and deal with this sort of thing all the time. From the readers' perspective it just doesn't seem as funny. There are a few punchlines from the beginning centered around Civil War and the superhero "merchandising" act as opposed to the "registration" act. But then the book quickly goes to pin-ups. The pictures are pretty well done (the Wolver-Ham may be the weakest of the bunch for me) but they almost seem like a waste to just flip through a few pages of full page pin-ups. And then we get the "moral" of the story at the end. All in all, it actually seemed like a disappointment. I enjoyed the Civil War: Howard the Duck story more than this. But perhaps I was expecting too much.