Friday, May 25, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for May 23rd, 2007 -- SPOILERS

A whopping 3 books to review this week but I don't expect any to be as long winded as my Ultimates review from last week. And I haven't come up with my rating system quite yet, maybe by next week I'll have something creative. This week we have She-Hulk #18, Elephantmen #9, and The Spirit #6. So let's get to it.

She-Hulk #18 -- In an interview on Newsarama Dan Slott tried to convince readers that the issue was worth reading even though the delay meant the story was already spoiled by the Incredible Hulk #106. To some degree he may be right but with the big finale of She-Hulk being depowered by Iron Man already being revealed, the book just seemed to take a long time getting to a place we already knew it was going. Sure, there was a few things of interest like the Hulkbusters (sans She-Hulk) taking out the Leader. Seriously, this team of four individuals are taking out everyone who has given the Hulk a problem in the past, how sad is that? I've always hoped for writers to do more with the Leader but he continues to seem like just a joke. It makes me appreciate Peter David's run on the Hulk that much more. And getting nitpicky now, why did they need the U-Foes for their nano-technology? I had thought they were using gamma-powered individuals to develop it but the U-Foes are, like the FF, cosmic ray based. So it seems odd that they would hold the key to depowering gamma-powered people. But I guess She-Hulk line about needing "Hulk level threats" and developing a system to take them out (and the Hulk in particular) is supposed to cover that. Which seems odd, you would think a system to neutralize powers would be more based on how the powers act than on the person's "threat level". And why only Hulk foes then? Other characters and teams have taken on powerhouses. I guess the system is designed for the Hulk so it might make a bit of sense but in the same way, it seems rather forced. Oh yeah, and we get "Agent Beefcake" to counter "Agent Cheesecake" and take a wink at the double standard in comics... oops, I mean "SHIELD". I don't know what it is, whether it's trying to shove a bunch of World War Hulk stuff before the big story hits or Dan Slott trying to tie up as much as he can before he leaves the book but I just haven't been liking this series as much as of late. And the art just isn't helping. To be honest, I'd probably drop the series with this issue if I didn't know Slott was bringing things to an end and someone else was coming in. I'm eager to see who this someone is so I can decide if I want to keep going. But having said all that, She-Hulk's comments towards Tony and her comparing his actions to Dr Doom did make me feel at least somewhat good as was the pounding she gave him before being depowered. Almost forgot, the "Mission Accomplished" scene/banner, I did chuckle slightly but at the same time I kinda groaned. So in the end, I can't really recommend this book. Amazing how the mighty have fallen here.

Elephantmen #9 -- It seems like it's been a while since I last read an issue of this series. Again, we get the split book and again, we get two character-driven short stories. Now both are really well done. We have Hip on a grocery trip with his broken leg and it's a nice character piece. A few more details about MAPPO and the state of the world are outlined and taken on its own it's a nice little piece of storytelling with solid art. On the down side, it almost seems like this series is relying only on these. The narrative talking about how Hip was built for taking lives, the hardship he went through to be rehabilitated, and the extra "friendly" female acquaintance just seems to have been done already in this series. At this point I'd actually be happy with less "character" and more story. Fortunately, the conclusion of this mini-story seems to be the start of something and I'm kinda hoping it's not another character piece. The second story gives us an adventure of "The Silencer", a hitman sent out by Serengheti to take care of an ex-employee currently under police protection. A somewhat neat feature is that there's no dialogue to this story so it's just the art telling the story. Which matches the character. It's very short (and very quick to read considering the lack of dialogue) but you get a bit more of a sense of the character. Actually, it's done well enough that you can even sense a bit of Lieutenant Trench's character traits despite not actually getting the dialogue attached to him. So it was good little add on to a main story if the book had a main story. This issue still makes it to my recommended reading list but I can understand if some people are looking for a little more meat to the story.

The Spirit #6 -- We get another decent little story albeit a somewhat predictable one. It's weird for me, the characters are all distinct and interesting. The stories aren't really bad or anything. And the art, a somewhat cartoon style that matches the book well, is solid. But in the end, something is missing for me. It just doesn't feel very "fresh" or new. It's not a bad little story to read through but I guess I'm just too used to something different. As much as I like the characters, I'd like a little more character development of some sort. Instead, we get unique characters that will appear in this issue but we'll never see again. And I guess that's the downfall of each issue being a confined story, it's great for anyone who is interested in picking the series up at any point in time as nothing really relies on knowledge of the previous issue. But at the same time, it somewhat limits you that you can't develop something a bit more. I almost felt the same way when reading Eisner's original Spirit. The stories seemed interesting albeit done before. The problem there was that I was reading them as though they were written now when in fact, at the time the stories were written they were new and fresh for the world of comics. So it was a testament to the stories that they still seemed relevant. Here, it just seems they are going for that same feel and to some degree they are succeeding. But it's just not what I'm looking for. So unfortunately, this will be my last issue of the Spirit. I'd recommend reading it for yourself to see if it suits you but unfortunately, it just doesn't suit me.

Wow, it seems like a really down week or something with those reviews. Oh well, I'm still making my way through "From Hell" so there's always that.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for May 16th, 2007 -- Some SPOILERS

Another week goes by. Only the two books this week, Ultimates 2 #13 (finally) and The Great and Secret Show #12. Well, it's almost lunch time for me so let's get right to it.

Ultimates 2 #13 -- I can't do a review of this book without bringing up the lateness of it. The series has been known for its lateness but the last issue came out in September. I've seen (and been involved in) enough finger pointing already so I won't go into that again. But Marvel really needs to get it under control. Too many books are just way too late. Getting beyond that, let's get in to the details. Do we have the big epic battle that we need? Yep, though throughout I wondered where Iron Man and his big battle cruiser was in all this. He gets tacked on in the end but it's like Millar just forgot about him. Or maybe I forgot what happened in the last issue (it has been a while) and there's a reason he wasn't in on the fighting. But everyone else gets screen time at least, if not dialogue. Tony gets nothing until the fight is over. Do all the plot lines and questions get answered? Yep. Do the bad guys get what they deserve? Yep. Everything gets a nice little bow on it so the next creative team can take over and do what they like. In fact, the team even sheds its overbearing and borderline evil controlling ways by splitting from the US and SHIELD to become their own little superteam (funny how Millar puts all the heroes under the US and SHIELD in the regular universe and then comes up with logical reasons to split them here). So there's less worry about the series continuing to have a political tone to it and may get to be a superhero book after all. As for the art, in some parts it did feel rushed. I'm not 100% sold on Hitch's art. Sometimes I look at a page and go "Woah! What detail." And then I look at a page and see the Hulk's arm twisted in some way that would make him appear to be rubber or Captain America with skinny, weird looking arms. The battles are impressive (as is the 8 page foldout) in the grand scope but also seem rushed at times. Perhaps he needed more than 9 weeks or could have dialed down the level of detail. So the story comes to a fitting end and everything is ready for the next team. I'm kinda happy with that. So all in all, it was worth the read and maybe some of the wait.

The Great and Secret Show #12 -- The series comes to an end here. The best thing about this book, they include a few pages at the beginning that run down the major events and characters so far. I needed that refresher and it was well done. It was worth the $4 (or whatever it was) right there. Then the story reaches its epic conclusion and we get the usual epilogue and set up for the next chapter in the story. This issue continued to be as well done as every other issue in the series and the recap really helped me (I keep saying that don't I?). Just like the Ultimates, things are tied up nicely while setting you up for the next chapter/book. Though maybe one or two times things get a bit rushed through for the sake of finishing the story but it wasn't too bad, it wasn't Spider-Man 3 bad. :) The art continues to be a great match for the story. For the Clive Barker fans (those who have read the novel and those who haven't) this series really does the book justice. And by their thank you statement to Mr Barker it's clear that doing a good job of adapting it was their priority. Perhaps I should have waited and picked up the TPBs but either way, it's worth the read.

For future reviews I'm considering going with a rating system of some sort. I don't want to go in to detailed scoring or anything, just give it three possible scores like a thumb up if I think it's worth checking out, a thumb down if not, and maybe a sideways thumb for books that on the fence. But I'd rather not go with the thumb as it's been done too many times. I'll have to come up with something. And some books I might give multiple ratings for multiple groups of people. One example would be a rating for fans of a character or creator and one for the common fan. But enough rambling, it's just something I'm thinking about doing.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Weekly comic reviews for May 3rd, 2007 with SPOILERS

Woohoo! Today was a day of meetings for me. But enough about work, let's get down to business. One book to review today and it's Marvel Zombies: Dead Days. I considered doing a Spider-Man 3 review but I figured I'd put that in its own post. Hopefully I'll get that post done soon. :) I will say that I was a little turned off by George Lucas' comments towards it (calling it "silly" and "a silly movie"). But after sitting through the Star Wars prequels I figure Lucas' opinion of a movie really doesn't matter much to me. Though I do like how he selects the one big summer blockbuster that ILM didn't work on this year to criticize. Anyhow, on to the review...

Marvel Zombies: Dead Days #1 or 1 -- The Marvel Zombies stuff in general has been fun to read with twisted over the top violence and weird twists and turns that you just couldn't do with the regular universe version of the characters (unless you're Mark Millar and writing Civil War... ok, cheap shot). So the book definitely took some twists that I really didn't expect (such as who was responsible for aiding the Zombie Sentry to come to this universe) and Reed Richard's conclusion/decision. So it was interesting to read. But on the other hand, it was a lot of story crammed in to a one shot. And then trying to keep this story straight with what's happening in Army of Darkness/Marvel Zombies ("AoD/MZ" from here on as it's too long to type) while also hearing about what's happening over in Black Panther, well it's enough to make your head do 180's (get it? Zombies... spinning heads... okay, it's almost the weekend so stop criticizing me for lame jokes). But seriously, there's no way you can avoid trying to figure out the timeline as Thor is prominent in this book and not zombified (at least for most of the book) yet zombified in AoD/MZ. And Doom's appearance here as well. There's enough intertwining but it makes my head hurt trying to match it all up. Especially at the speed that this book goes. Honestly, they are rushing out so much zombie stuff to catch the wave that it's becoming more of a flood. There even seemed to be story elements that weren't really thought out all that well (such as why, if Tony built the portal thingmajig, did zombie-Reed take it back to his lab to try and fix it himself when Tony, you know, the guy who built it, was now zombified and probably would have been able to re-build it cause you know, he built it). As for the art, I'm not a huge fan of Phillips' work. His style does fit the zombie genre to some degree but the hero shots sometimes come off pretty weak or to be blunt, ugly. More so in this book than in the initial Marvel Zombies series (at least I found). So again, it seemed rushed to try and get it out in the market before the zombie love dies down ("zombie"... "dies down"... yeah, it's been a long week). Overall, if you like the zombie stuff then it's another fun read. If you don't, then you're probably better off skipping it. Though this could almost serve as a decent jumping on point if you're interested in checking it out.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Free Comic Day Reviews with some spoilers

Yeah, I'm a little late getting to these given that new comics come out today (and I'll be picking them up tomorrow, as usual) but here goes. I picked up three of the free comics and the last two issues of Runaways (now that I've caught up via the digests).

Runaways 25 and 26 -- Joss Whedon's run has begun and what better way to start than with the Kingpin and Punisher? Though it does seem confusing as I though the Kingpin was in jail and the Punisher was busy moping about the death of Captain America but I haven't really been following either character so who knows? Beyond that, Whedon's love of the characters is evident in that he doesn't miss a beat. Every character picks up just where they left off in storyline and in attitude. Perhaps you could argue that they've all seemed to have developed a quick whit to them and there's a few more clever remarks than before but I think adjustments always have to be made for a new writer. But the storyline picks up well minus the jump in story since last issue. You see, the reading order is Runaways 24, then Runaways saga (where they mention getting away from Iron Man and crew), and then Runaways 25. Unfortunately I read Runaways saga but figured the story was just a rehash, then Runaways 24 (in the digest), and now 25. So I forgot that they mentioned getting away from Iron Man and now I wondered how they got away (though I still kinda do). Ok, enough about my problems. The art is great in the book as well with the kids looking like kids (unlike how some covers portray them). And the highlight of the two issues has to be Molly's handling of Punisher. It's perfect for a kid with super strength who forgets that not everyone is super powered. Runaways continues to crawl it's way to the top of my reading list.

Free Comic Day Spider-Man -- Written by Dan Slott and drawn by Phil Jimenez (the rumoured team to take over Amazing Spider-Man this summer) this book is a fun story of Peter's responsibilities as Spider-Man and how it impacts the "little" things in life (like being there for Aunt May's birthday). On top of that, you get some fun interaction between the villains who take bets on whether the new guy/villain will beat Spidey or not. The writing is great for a free comic but might need a bit of a boost for Amazing (though with Slott's writing on She-Hulk I'm confident he can bring his game to the next level, it's his scheduling that may be a problem). And Jimenez's art is good for the most part though I'm not a big fan of going back to the McFarlane-esque swinging (Spidey bent over so far his feet are above his head). My gripe about this book is that I'm not sure where it fits in and in that way, it doesn't really serve to get new readers in. If they read this and think "Yeah, I want to read more Spider-Man" where do they go? It doesn't fit with any of the Spidey books that I know of. Maybe it's Marvel Adventures but it didn't really seem to be.

Free Comic Day Iron Man/Hulk Marvel Adventures -- Two fun little stories with these two Marvel heavy hitters. I was almost going to skip the Iron Man part due to my dislike of what they've done to the character in their main books but I finally got myself to read it. And you know, I actually kinda liked it. Both stories were pretty simple and not really anything new but they were still fun to read. It was nice to see both characters go back to what I felt was their cores. You had Iron Man, despite Tony being an arse, being a hero. And you had the Hulk in his usual scenario (blamed for something that's not his mess and saving the day). And you didn't have a grunting Hulk, he could actually talk to some degree. It almost makes me wonder if the kiddy books (the Marvel Adventures) are what I should be reading.

Lone Ranger/Battlestar Galactica -- Unfortunately I can't review the Battlestar Galactica portion of this book as I didn't read it. It didn't really make much sense to me to read it since I've never watched the new show and have no clue who anyone is. The Lone Ranger portion is okay though. It's a classic "Lone Ranger comes in to town and beats up the bad guys" sorta thing (which the comic has yet to get to) so it might be fun for some readers who may also be disappointed if they then pick up the book and find it much more mature. But at least they won't be surprised by the art as it's the same artist. Again, it's not a bad little tale, especially for a free comic. And it's not completely off from the series so it's not a bad piece of sales bait.

Overall, I'm impressed by just how much Free Comic Day is taking off. There are reports of some Free Comics being picked up rather quickly and in some cases it's not even the Spider-Man or mainstream stuff. The fact that the companies are actually getting decent talent to do new stories for it is a major plus. I prefer if they tie it in with an ongoing book so readers who enjoy the Free Comic can continue reading but I know that can also be tough. I'm looking forward to where they go from here.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for May 2nd, 2007 -- MINOR SPOILERS

It was a busy week for me in comics (relatively speaking) and I have a house warming to get to so I'll have to be a little brief. As for why these weren't posted yesterday, I went to see Spider-Man 3. That review will have to wait though. :) As for comics, we have Hulk #106, World War Hulk Prologue: World Breaker, Astonishing X-Men #21, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #3, Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness #3, Omega Flight #2, Dark Tower #4, and the seventh Runaways digest.

Hulk #106 -- Fortunately I read online that this book was to be read before the WWH Prologue. Unfortunately, it would have been nice to read the She-Hulk issue which precedes it but that was delayed until late May. And I'm a little disappointed that we already know what happens in it. Yet again, books coming out late and out of order but this time it happens right from the start. Hopefully Marvel can get their act together soon. Anyhow, Gary Frank is back to drawing the Hulk and boy what a difference in style since he last drew the book. His Hulk has definitely changed, not that we see much of the big green guy in this book as it's mostly Jen Walters (aka She-Hulk) that gets the screen time here. But it's a solid build up to World War Hulk. The characters are written well and everyone seems more in character than previous books. And we get a lot more character time than they provided in Civil War so you get to see exactly what's going on. It was a good issue and despite my reservations about the World War Hulk storyline, I'm starting to let down my guard.

World War Hulk Prologue: World Breaker -- Gary Frank returns to the Hulk in the regular series, Peter David returns to write this prologue. We get a little more Hulk here and even more Jen Walters/Doc Samson stuff. The discussion between these two was great. You see where Jen stands now with her dislike for the registration and how it's being done, trampling over everyone's civil rights and totally corrupt yet she's not eager to start breaking laws either. And it's interesting to see both sides putting their spins on stories. Samson painting the Hulk as the villain or monster in them, Jen painting him as the misunderstood hero. With all my griping about Civil War characterizations so far World War Hulk has been a total 180 for me. But then again, you have Pak and David writing the stuff so far and both have a very good grasp of the characters in question. And so far it's not being driven by tying together events that don't make sense just for the sake of sales. Let's hope it stays that way. Getting back to this book, I'm not a huge fan of the multiple artists but it's not so distracting in this book. Partly because the story already jumps from Hulk to past to Jen and all about so it doesn't seem so jarring for a different artist to jump in. And David does a tremendous job of tying the story together so it doesn't seem jarring either. It's a very solid start and has my hopes up for the remainder of the World War Hulk series. But this time, I'm avoiding some of the spin offs like Frontline.

Oops, forgot to review the other parts to the Prologue. The cartoon was kinda cute and did give readers a quick rundown of Planet Hulk (even if they did get some things wrong such as why he's coming back to Earth). But I'm not so sure it fit here. I mean, the story should be a serious one of what's going through everyone's mind, the rage the Hulk feels at what they've done to him, his wife, and his new friends. So maybe the cartoon approach right off the bat in the prologue wasn't the best strategy. As for the Amadeus Cho story, it's your typical "guy befriends the Hulk" kinda thing. But it's good to give readers a bit of a backstory since Cho is really an unknown for many of us. So it didn't seem so out of place here and was interesting to read at least.

Astonishing X-Men #21 -- Wow! This is going to be hard to say but this was a bit of a letdown for me. Maybe it's partly due to the lengthy wait and the anticipation but I just felt this book was a little bland. You had some more Wolverine one-liners and some interesting character moments but the story seemed to start dragging on at some point. And the issue kinda left me feeling like there should be something more to it. Having said that, it's still a much better book than most of what's out there and maybe it's just up against some other stiff competition this week with the World War Hulk stuff debuting but it didn't thrill me like previous issues of the series. Where as the series has usually been a 10 or at least a solid 9, this book may have dipped down to an 8.5.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #3 -- Yet more Whedon goodness. I'm starting to get past the whole "missing the actors" thing and getting used to the comic format for Buffy but I'm not beyond feeling joy at seeing the characters or finding out where they go next with their lives. A nice cameo by Joss in the dreamscape sequence by the way. This issue actually manages to avoid falling in to the "calm before the storm" which usually happens in the second last issue of a storyline but I still found myself eager for it to take that next step and get to the big finale. Some questions are answered, some remain, and some new questions pop up (exactly who did kiss Buffy for example). I can't wait for the next issue... And the one after that... And the one after that...

Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness #3 -- Well, my prediction for how Ash came through last issue's big finale was true. This issue continued the Army of Darkness/Marvel Zombies goodness with the usual fun oneliners, Ash being Ash, and zombies being zombies. The "Nextwave" stuff was a little lost on me but hey, I can understand that. The Runaways from the previous issue was probably lost somewhat on people who don't read that book. And I got the gist of it anyways. Some of the usual gripes for this book though, like Ash looking out of place in comparison to the other characters. And Thor holding Mjolnir when in the Marvel Zombies series he had a slab of concrete with a metal poll in it. I assumed it was because he could no longer wield Mjolnir after being zombified but maybe he just hasn't done anything yet to become unworthy and once he eats his first person or something, he loses that ability. The finale of this issue had me more stoked about the next issue than last issue's ending though.

Omega Flight #2 -- This book was a bit of a letdown for me. Since it's only a 5 issue series I had hoped that things would happen a little quicker than they are. Even at the end of this issue the team is just starting to meet each other and it's not even in a battle or anything. And as much as I liked the whole "you made the mess" stance to the US, repeating it along with any mention of "you clean it up" this many times starts to go from standing up to them to just being whiny and confrontational just for the heck of it. The art was a little off from last issue I felt. Things seemed a little bit more sloppy and overly dark or muddy at times. I thought it was kinda funny when she said they were looking for an American soldier yet for some reason the guy was drawn with a maple leaf on his helmet. And the number on his dog tag, 123456789, well I guess it's time to change the combination on my luggage. I think I might end up being happy that this was knocked down to a 5 issue series because this issue didn't instill confidence for the rest of it.

Dark Tower #4 -- This series seems to have its ups and downs. Now that we're done with all the new character introductions and such, maybe we can get down to business. And sure enough, we get more of the story developing here. I am wondering if the way they went about putting this book together was the proper way though. There are times where the art and writing just don't flow (like the art is larger and takes longer in comic time than it needs to while other times it's small and the writing takes longer and covers a bigger span than the artwork shows). The artwork itself didn't seem so distracting in this issue either. If this was an ongoing though, I'd have probably dropped it. As it's a limitted, I might as well finish it off. Not that it's terrible or anything, I just think it has lost a bit of its appeal on me.

Runaways volume 7 -- This was one of my favourite volumes of the bunch. The dialogue, the character interaction and development, the emotion, it's all top notch story telling. It had been a while since I had read the previous volume so I was worried I'd need a bit of time to get back into it but I was completely wrong. I fell right back where it left off and was connecting with each character in no time. The characters are different and unique. My emotions toward Chase were mixed, not with disliking the character but disliking what he was doing. And wow, what a way to end the run for Vaughan as Whedon takes over. This series is definitely high on my recommended reading list.

So that's it for me for now. I'm off to par-tay! :)