Friday, July 27, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for July 25th, 2007 -- SPOILERS

Well, it was a relatively busy week for me comics wise, or at least it was an expensive week. I picked up four regular books this week as well as Volume 2 of the Manga series, Monster. And then there was Wizard magazine. The unfortunate news is that I only had a chance to read the 4 regular books so the Monster review will have to wait.

And speaking of waiting, I'm heading off to Nova Scotia next week, Thursday to be exact. I'm hoping to pick up my comics on Wednesday after work but that might mean I won't have a chance to post my reviews of them. So if you don't hear from me next week you'll have to wait until the following week (it may be Friday, I don't get back until the following Thursday).

So back to the reviews of this week, I picked up The Incredible Hulk #108, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #5, Elephantmen #10, and Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen. Yeah, Tek Jansen came out a couple weeks back but I missed it so I had to wait for the re-order.

The Incredible Hulk #108 -- The theme for this week definitely seemed to be character pieces. With this issue we have Rick Jones (the Hulk's first "friend" or human contact) and Miek (the Hulk's first "friend" or contact on Sakaar) going over their respective personal histories and seeing how they mirror each other. There seem to be a few inconsistencies with the main World War Hulk title or maybe I'm just remembering it incorrectly. I am pretty tired so maybe it's best for me to wait and go over the books again before going through those. Taking this book on its own, I found it well drawn for the most part (it wasn't Gary Frank drawing it), well written, but a real slowdown from the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk pace that we seem to be becoming accustomed to with the Hulk books. And again, the Hulk does not really feature very prominently in this book, at least not in the present, most of the flashbacks have the Hulk but are more about Rick or Miek. We see how each wants to help the Hulk and how each one has a different approach to doing so. And in the end, they go their separate ways to achieve that. And also, we get to see a bit more about Miek. I was getting worried about his story but what he says and does in this issue actually makes me feel better. I know some people were really let down by this issue but not so much for me. But I guess I knew this wasn't going to be a continuation of the Hulk smash stuff that's going on everywhere else, this would be the behind the scenes character book. So yeah, it makes my recommended reading list. But non-Hulk fans may be disappointed. And Hulk fans may be a little turned off by another "let's have Rick Jones narrate his Hulk story again."

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #5 -- Something about this issue just seemed off to me. Perhaps I was just tired and the time shifting nature of it had my brain trying to do leaps when it just wanted to go to sleep. And perhaps I just need to re-read it (I know I did re-read a few pages as I went through it last night). But in the end, I just didn't connect with this Buffy stand-in as much as I probably should have. I kept having the feeling I was being taken out of her story and not really getting the full effect of it. Perhaps that was intentional, that we really don't know anything about her but then the snippets we do see are already too much. So maybe it wasn't about connecting with her and the last page is supposed to make that more clear, or maybe I'm just trying to hard to make up for what this issue seemed to lack for me. With the time shifting and a few choppy moments (suddenly she goes from standing in a cave to lying naked with a slug on her? Where did that come from?) I just felt that the story wasn't flowing as it should. I don't know what would have improved it, making it two issues instead of one, less time shifting and more character moments, or a better all around flow to it. I just don't know. Even the art, it was a fill in artist and I'm not a huge fan of Jeantry at times but I found his issues 1-4 slightly more solid than this artist and I'm looking forward to his return with issue 6 (the start of the Faith arc). So for me, the book just wasn't as good as it could have been. It's like I can see where they were going and I want to get out and push it along to get there but for me, it just didn't seem to have the legs. So, although I will be putting it on my recommended reading list it's mostly because it's a Buffy book and because if you work at it, you can get a very good story out of it. But I think it requires too much work on the reader's part to really deserve a place at the top of my list.

Elephantmen #10 -- How funny. I've been saying this book has maybe focused too much on character stories and sure enough, the latest issue comes out with the last two character pieces. And what do we get? Well after having two issues tease us with a comet landing on earth we get... a character piece about Obadiah Horn. We get more flashbacks to his Mappo days and such. We get more about his views on humans and where he fits (or doesn't fit). And in seeing those we view how he sees humans as living up to everything Mappo said about them (well, except for Sahara). Don't get me wrong, it's well written, it's nicely drawn, and it's nice to see more of Horn and what he stands for and all that but I'm still yearning for a bit more of an overall story to this series. And looking at the solicit for issue 11, it doesn't look like the series will be moving away as it looks like we'll get character stories about Nikken (scientist and creator of the Elephantmen) and Serengheti ("Businessman" who hates the Elephantmen) so I guess I should just get used to it. I still can't get myself to take it off my recommended reading list but be aware that those who have felt the series hasn't really been moving anywhere and is just overrun by character pieces, this issue is no different. It's a solid piece, but still just a piece and we have yet to be shown any of the bigger picture.

Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen #1 -- Moving away from the character pieces we'll now discuss Tek Jansen. People who don't watch the Colbert Report should probably just walk away now. Those who do watch the show probably know that Stephen Colbert plays a character on that show who in turn creates the character of Tek Jansen and written a book about him (not published) and had several animated shorts created. And now he has a 5-issue comic series. It's just goofball humour with in-jokes for all the sci-fi/comic/fantasy geeks out there. But it was enough to have me chuckling. You could almost hear Colbert's voice as you were reading Tek Jansen's lines. You could almost see his facial expressions. Though again, this is coming from someone who watches his show. The art is cartoonish to match the overall feel of the book and works well with it. Even the follow up story is a solid fun read. Though it's definitely for people with a certain sense of humour. I mean, if you don't chuckle as Tek Jansen boasts about his sexual exploits and thinks he's doing women a favour by sleeping with them (or just telling them he would sleep with him if he had the time) then maybe this isn't the book for you. Because that's what it's meant to be, it's the over the top Stephen Colbert character creating an even more over the top character in Tek Jansen. So yeah, it does make my recommended reading list but probably only for those who watch the Colbert Report or have at least seen a bit of Colbert and know/appreciate his humour.

So that's it for now. Perhaps I'll get the chance to post my review of Monster Volume 2 this weekend but I may be a little busy getting things ready for my vacation. WOOHOO! VACATION!!! :)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for July 18th, 2007 -- SPOILERS

This week was all Hulk for me with World War Hulk #2, World War Hulk: X-Men #2, and Marvel Adventures Hulk #1. So let's get down to business...

World War Hulk #2 -- In World War Hulk we have a series that correctly (in my mind) identifies the Hulk as a much more complex character than the simple one-dimensional "Hulk smash!" that so many people seem to see him as while at the same time, having a whole lot of Hulk smash! And I mean a whole lot. So let's get into the writing. This book actually features quite a few things that I had hoped would be touched upon in the first issue. The confirmation that Tony gave She-Hulk her powers back temporarily for this and others suspecting she may just be on the Hulk's side. She-Hulk attempting to talk to the Hulk and reasoning that if they don't throw the first punch then maybe they can avoid the typical fight. Pak is obviously a writer respects the Hulk's history and character and acknowledges it unlike some who I will not name who twist the Hulk around for their own reasons. The Hulk's eventual response to Jen shows just how much things are different this time though. So yeah, the writing is pretty darn good. Pak's pacing seems to be on (which is something I complained about in Planet Hulk) and everyone seems to be hitting on just the right note. As for the art, for the most part I marvel at Romita's work. The intensity, the emotion, the action,... he captures it all. Maybe it's not as detailed as some other big name artists out there but it's what comic book art is all about. But there are the odd panels that just shake me loose. I'm thinking of two in particular, one had Invisible Woman's arms so weirdly bent that it looked like maybe she absorbed Reed's powers and the other had the Invisible Woman turned in an awkward way and I was left wondering how her leg seemed separated from her body. I guess these kinds of things will happen considering but it was jarring nonetheless. And now, we move on to the ending. I've read a few posts and reviews where people felt let down by the end. I guess in some ways I can see what they're saying. The Hulk and his crew have taken out Black Bolt, Iron Man, the Avengers (Mighty and New), the Fantastic Four, and a bunch more so what are a bunch of puny humans going to do? But maybe it's just my Hulk fanatic side that says, this is General Ross. A man not to be taken lightly. And this is an army that should be equipped with weapons beyond anything we see in the real world. Heck, if you think about it, for most of his career Tony Stark has been a genius in a walking tank. Well the army has their own tanks and a lot of them. And Tony, Reed, and several others have all at one time or another provided technology to them. I guess what I'm saying is that the United States military shouldn't be taken so lightly. Heck, in many situations I'd put them up against SHIELD. SHIELD may have a lot of high tech stuff and a lot of trained agents but they still aren't really built for war, this is what the Army is all about. But maybe I'm just a Hulk fan trying to justify why Ross is still as relevant today as he was in the beginning. But I digress in order to get back to the review at hand. This is a series I recommend wholeheartedly. Though it also seems to be a series created for those who thought Civil War went too far with what they did with Tony, Reed, et al. Heck, I don't know how many times characters have admitted that the civil rights violations and such that Tony has been responsible for crossed the line from hero to something else. It makes me wonder where they're going to end up with all this. But again, I digress. :)

World War Hulk: X-Men #2 -- Well it's even more Hulk smash. And just like in World War Hulk, the Hulk is treated with respect in this issue. They don't turn him into a mindless brute. His desire to bring in Xavier even though Xavier wasn't directly involved in sending him into space is questionable, but what the Hulk has planned for the perpetrators is still only known to him so perhaps it's justified (at least in his mind). Despite Xavier's decision that what he and Illuminati did was wrong and that he should surrender and answer for it, this book still promised to have some real slobberknockers as the Hulk takes on some the elite X-Men who refuse to let Xavier surrender, from the Astonishing team to Juggernaut himself (albeit a much less powerful Juggernaut). And some X-fans may be disappointed as the Hulk makes his way through them all. But I liked it. Not only as a Hulk fan, but as a reader. To have the Hulk struggle too much against Wolverine would lessen the impact of his current rampage. If he made his way through Black Bolt, Iron Man, and whomever else only to be slowed down by Wolverine you'd start to wonder why the other heroes are having so much trouble with him. So having the Hulk pound his way through was probably the only way to go. And boy, does he pound his way through. He is more vicious than he's ever been as Colossus, Wolverine, and Juggernaut all now know. And as someone who has been getting a little tired of Wolverine (though not in Astonishing), it was a guilty pleasure to see him get absolutely pummelled. And for Juggernaut fans, well he hasn't been at his previous power levels for a while so at least you have that. :) But enough fan boy ranting, the writing is pretty spot on. The characters are well done. And the art is pretty darn good. It may have a weak panel or two but over all it's very solid. But you have to come in knowing that this isn't going to end well for the X-Men. The Hulk can't be stopped in a tie-in series after all. That has to wait until issue 5 of World War Hulk. It's not required reading for World War Hulk but it does make my recommended reading list. At least for those looking for a little more Hulk smash.

Marvel Adventures Hulk #1 -- It's Hulk for the kiddies. Marvel Adventures is Marvel's latest attempt at a kid friendly line (Marvel Age was their previous). And this book works for me. The art isn't stellar but it really doesn't have to be. It's solid enough even if the Hulk's appearance does seem to change a bit throughout the book. And even though it sometimes suffers from the same problems that the She-Hulk art does (characters kinda look like squished 2-D cardboard cutouts or something, which makes me wonder if the colouring or something else has a hand in it) it's decent enough for a kids book. And it fits as you don't really want the hyper-detailed over the top stuff. As for the story, it's just the Hulk origin with a bit of a twist. They take Peter David's idea for the bomb (having Banner create a bomb that will wipe out the weapons and such of an opposing army while leaving the people unharmed) and make Rick Jones an assistant. Nothing too out there. Oh, and they add a monkey (it was the test subject taht Rick decides to try and save). Overall, I think it was a decent attempt at a kid's friendly book and I hope it does well. So many comics of today are so geared towards the older audience and I think that's a bit of a shame as I'd like kids of today to have the opportunity to enjoy comics just as I did when I was young. And besides which, as the older generation gets older and moves on the comic companies will need someone to take their place. Though I guess there's also Manga. :) So yeah, for the younger audience or someone just looking to check out some simple comics, I'd recommend the Marvel Adventures books and Marvel Adventures Hulk in particular. For the older readers looking for something more mature, I'd say stay away.

So that's it for another week. And just in case anyone is curious for a Divine Leap update (which may be one person), I'm making progress. Don't ask for benchmarks ;) but it's moving along. I've posted 11 pages of Chapter 2 issue 1 (plus the cover) to drunkduck and that's really all I have "completed" at the moment. But I have up to page 7 (or maybe 8) of issue 2 drawn and inked so I just need to clean them up (erase the pencils), scan them in, do some touch ups (which I'm starting to do with the Tablet to get myself more accustomed to it), and letter them. I've been doing all that one page at a time as I post them. I keep looking back at the early stuff and thinking how crappy it looks. Though I'm also not 100% happy with how the recent stuff is turning out and I'm sure I'll look back some day and think of how crappy these pages look. But there is progress there as well.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for July 11th, 2007 -- SPOILERS

Well, two books for me this week so perhaps I should include reviews for "Lone Wolf and Cub Volume 1" and "Monster Volume 1", two manga journals I decided to check out. But first, it's Omega Flight #4 and GLI/Deadpool Summer Fun #1.

Omega Flight #4 -- Wow! It only took a couple minutes for me to read this book. Not much dialogue and what dialogue there is doesn't really seem to matter too much (other than maybe Arachne's daughter's little speach to get Michael Pointer into the fight). I guess the lack of dialogue isn't entirely bad as it's more of an action issue with the fighting going on but there wasn't all that much of interest to me in the fight either. And I didn't feel the art was strong enough to warrant a closer look. It's maybe not as bad as some of the previous issues but not great either. And there were a few times where it just felt the facial expressions didn't really seem to match the dialogue or grunting/moaning/whatever sounds the characters were supposedly making. And in some ways it felt like they were just trying to push the Canadian thing. Like the huge flag on the helicopter or Arachne's line of "Canadians only" while rescuing some civilians (which just seemed like a stupid line to me). I don't know what it is but I find Marvel just can't write a decent book that's not set in the US. As for the Gladiator costume, I almost got hints that maybe there is a reason behind keeping the Canadian look to Pointer's costume. That maybe they want him to portray Gladiator and hide from the Canadian people that he's not really Canadian. There wasn't anything official said in the book but that's something that seemed to creep into my head for some reason. Overall this may have been a strong issue in comparison to previous issues but still doesn't really make my recommended reading list.

GLI/Deadpool Summer Fun #1 -- In this one shot we get a few short stories that document the whacky adventures of the GLI and the man who becomes their first honourary member, Deadpool. Obviously, nothing in this book can be taken too seriously as they break the third wall and poke fun at Marvel's latest stories (Civil War is a somewhat favourite target). So continuity issues or storyline elements that don't fit 100% have to be ignored. Though it's hard to ignore how Pelletier draws Deadpool in his big unmasking scene given that other artists draw Deadpool unmasked and he looks nothing like that. I'm even trying to think right now, I think Pelletier even draws him halfway unmasked earlier in that story and he didn't look like that. So that seemed rather stupid. So over all it's a few funny short stories and good for a chuckle or two if you're into GLA/Deadpool kinda humour. And the multiple artists are all okay (though the first artist's rendition of Deadpool after Storm hits him with lightning wasn't great) and since it's all short stories having the various artists isn't an issue as it would be in other books. I'll say it doesn't make my recommended reading list but if you have a few bucks to spare and want some brainless chuckles you might want to check it out.

Lone Wolf and Cub Volume 1 -- This book was placed high in some "Recommended Manga" lists I saw on one of the forums I read and since I'm starting to dabble in Manga, I decided to check it out. Although the idea was interesting (a samurai turned assassin who travels with his infant son and even uses the son in his assassination plans) and the storytelling was well executed it just didn't connect with me. I'm not a big fan of the whole "ancient samurai" stories and I get lost easily when it comes to the different titles given to people (like the town leaders or people put in charge of the land and so on). The twists and turns, and the plots that the "Lone Wolf" comes up with and how he makes use of his son were all intriguing but I can't get past my personal issues. It kinda goes along with what people like Eisner or McCloud say in their books, for these stories to be effective you have to connect with a reader's interests and personal experiences. This book just didn't for me though I could definitely see it working for others. So I recommend checking it out with the notion that it didn't work for me.

Monster Volume 1 -- This book I was able to connect with a little more. It's set much more recently and oddly enough, starts off in the medical field setting. I say "oddly enough" because I've been in quite a few discussions recently about the medical field courtesy of a change in my job and of course, the movie by a certain film-maker that I won't name here because I don't really want people who are searching for blog entries about it to find this comic review post. In some ways the book is slow moving and by the end I almost felt that this is where the story should be after the first issue or "book", not the first volume. But fortunately for me, I'm reading it volume by volume. I couldn't imagine reading it a book at a time. But it's definitely a strong start to a possibly very intriguing story. I've ordered volume 2 to see where it goes from here as it has me intrigued and I'm curious to see where it goes from here. And maybe after reading that I'll have more to say on it. So I'm holding back on my decision whether to add this to my recommended reading list or not for now.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews -- July 4th, 2007 -- SPOILERS

Happy belated Canada Day and 4th of July!

Yeah, I picked up my books a day early this week and that's why the reviews are coming out today. I picked up three books this week (Runaways #27, Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness #5 of 5, and Dark Tower #6 of 7). I also picked up two manga volumes but haven't read them yet, they are Lone Wolf and Cub Volume 1 and Monster Volume 1. I guess I was in the buying mood thanks to my comic shop deciding to sell books at their US prices now instead of the Canadian ones. Woohoo!

Runaways #27 -- So we're back in time and figuring out the story as we go along. Now this book is written by Whedon so that all but guarantees that I'll love it, and the art is very impressive. But it's a weird feeling I had when reading this book. The only way I can describe it is that it seems there's a lot going on with so little happening. You have quite a few twists and turns and loads of characters and it's a lot to take in. I'm definitely going to have to give it another read but what I may do is wait until the storyline is over and re-read the entire thing. I guess in some ways I miss reading this series in its digest form where I get the 6 issues all at once and I can read and re-read them all at once. Having said that, the series and this issue in particular remain on my recommended reading list with solid writing, solid art, solid characters, and just an all around solid book.

Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness #5 of 5 -- So many limitted series' have been disappointing me as of late when it comes to the ending, including the original Marvel Zombies series, that I had pretty much prepared myself for disappointment. And maybe that low expectation led to me to be very happy with this issue, or maybe it was just a solid enough issue on its own. Again, we get multiple artists taking over the art on this and though it was distracting, it wasn't as bad as earlier issues. But it was a fun issue. Sure, it was all kinds of silly and was definitely pushing the envelope with the epilogue. But Doom kicks all sorts of butt in this issue, Dazzler is a moron (or at least has one moronic moment), and the Ash/Necronomicon stuff was gold for me. And the Wolverine/Hulk/Necronomicon punchline, I laughed. And that was the point, an entertaining and fun look at the world of Marvel Zombies. Definitely makes my recommended reading list though obviously, fun filled zombie stories aren't for everyone and the silly factor may rub some the wrong way.

Dark Tower #6 of 7 -- So, could all three issues actually get a passing grade from me this week? I've referred to the second last book of a series as typically being the calm before the storm but this one doesn't really seem to fit that. The storm is already starting in this issue. As much as I feel I'm missing out on pieces of the story and I need to do a double take to remind myself of what's actually going on, this issue was pretty solid piece of storytelling that's maybe not as hard to follow along as some of the previous issues. And the art has had its ups and downs in this series for me and this issue was an "up". I only hope the final issue is as good. So yeah, this issue does get to be on the recommended reading list for me though it probably doesn't matter, either you've been reading this series and have to read this issue or you aren't and this issue is not a jumping on point for anyone. As for the series as a whole, I'm not quite sure yet. I'll have an opinion on that when issue 7 comes out.

So that's it for another week. Thanks for reading.