Final Crisis #2 (***1/2)
This was a good issue, but more importantly, my enjoyment of the issue definitely ramped up compared to issue one. Whereas all these crazy story threads and obscure characters from the first issue generally left me cold despite how well written everything was, this time I was caught. And I wanted to know more about the New Gods (and as such, I will be accepting any and all kind donations of Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibuses and Seven Soldiers trades). As opposed to the first issue, where I didn’t care about these characters I at first didn’t recognize (although some background on Turpin was oddly filled in by watching Superman the Animated Series), I now have that hook that makes me actively want to seek out trades or back issues or wikipedia entries and so on. But it’s not perfect. Morrison spent way too much time on the Japanese superheroes, much in the same way that I think he spent way too much time on the Anthro scenes in issue one. The time traveling bullet to me sounds like the type of idea a couple of stoners thought up one night because it sounded “cool.” I could be completely wrong, and much of it might have to do with my reticence concerning time travel in general (it’s FANTASTIC when pulled off correctly. But that doesn’t happen too often), but I hope that when Grant really parses everything out that it doesn’t get too muddy. The fallen Monitor? Don’t care. So he’s basically Black Adam. Good for him. Morrison is not making me care. And for whatever reason, I’m not fully into the art. The backgrounds and settings are gorgeous, but something about his faces just seems a little off to me. Not enough to be completely distracting or anything, but it’s there. It’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t think twice about if I were completely entrenched in the book, but these little difficulties I’m having are making it stand out a bit more than it usually would. I liked the issue, and I really enjoy the general tone of dread that is permeating through every page of this book. I don’t know yet if I’m still fully on board, and it’s going to take A LOT for issue three to keep me interested in picking up the singles considering the month break that will be coming after its release. I think it’s a testament to Morrison’s writing style that he can keep me intrigued despite my misgivings concerning the plot. Oddly enough, I think this mini could be served better by having more tie ins, where we can get some outside information and back story concerning some of these slowly developing plot threads. Obviously, the in depth analysis has already been handled by my cohorts, so I think I’ll leave it at that.
Guardians of the Galaxy #2 (****1/2) (Spoilers in this one)
This book is some breezy, kick-ass fun. I’m liking the fact that the Universal Church of Truth is not going to be a one off thing, adding this extra layer of political intrigue that is bubbling underneath the surface. It somewhat reminds me of the way they’ve set up the Skrulls in Secret Invasion, in that these guys were wronged, and they’re going to hold a grudge. I also love the way that they’ve basically mirrored the early Avengers books with the reintroduction of Vance Astrovik. This is a perfect mirror to the resurfacing of Steve Rogers in Avengers #4. I mean, they thaw him out of ice with the shield and everything. So this is truly the cosmic Avengers. The wit from issue one is still there (“What does that taste like?” “Regret”), and they’re sticking with the interview debriefs, which I personally enjoy as a fan of the similar concept from The Order. And I love the way that they continued to play with the supposedly extraordinary importance of finding a name for their team, which is of course epitomized by who else but Rocket Raccoon, as he constantly needles the other team members on confirming that they were going with Guardians of the Galaxy as their name. No complaints here. This is some great cosmic goodness. And Vance Astrovik is probably a Skrull.
Thor: Reign of Blood (****1/2)
Here’s one of the things I really like about the two Thor one shots we’ve seen so far. In a way, it’s a kind of retconned characterization. We’ve got established characters in this Asgardian universe like Thor and Loki and Enchantress and so on, and what we’re getting here is the background for why these characters act the way they do in the present day. We know why Odin eventually felt the need to bind the soul (or whatever) of Thor to a human host, as the completely unchecked Thor is pretty darned selfish and generally dickish in his mannerisms. Ever wonder why Loki keeps trying to mess with the Asgardians? Sure, he’s the trickster god, but he’s constantly treated like garbage by everyone and everything in Asgard, so it follows that he would hold a bit of a grudge after eons of putting up with their shit. How did Enchantress go from a sweet and innocent Asgardian goddess whose main task was to pick golden apples to a Master of Evil? Well, the Asgardians don’t treat her very well either. It all comes back in the end, and that’s what I dig about this. You’ve got rock solid characterization, myth building and the added bonus of some frost giants getting cut in half and a giant monstrous blood golem thingie. Zircher’s been doing very good work in his two sections of the one shots so far, and you can tell that Fraction really enjoys playing the role of myth builder. I’ve always liked the notion of the pantheon of gods as opposed to the more monotheistic religions, because it’s somewhat difficult to build up a system of mythology around a single deity. It’s that otherworldly feel combined with the fact that these gods are flawed too and they can be jerks and very human in their overwhelming power. I guess that goes a long way to explain why Incredible Hercules and Thor are two of my favorite ongoings at the moment. This is a solid book. It’s certainly not required reading for most of the world, but for fans of Thor and the Asgardians, it’s a well designed piece of back story.
Echo #3 (*****)
I’m mostly doing this because Billy blames ME for forgetting to pick this up because I didn’t review it. Then I went back and reread the damn thing, and remembered why it’s easily the best issue of the very short run thus far, and the type of book that just takes a concept and blows it outward in multiple directions all at once. We begin with a pretty goddamned depressing scene of our heroine Julie visiting her sister in a mental institution. They have a conversation that is heartbreaking, frustrating and strangely foreboding at the same time. Good work with the lettering here to convey the different emotions involved in the scene, which is backed up by some solid expression work. We’ve also got some more fleshing out on the government and just what they’ve created, what it means and what they’re willing to do to get their property back. And some more character building scenes with Julie and her soon to be ex husband as we get another of the slightest glimpses of what the hell happened to Julie’s family that landed her sister in the looney bin and her husband in divorce court. It’s rough stuff, and you can tell it isn’t going to get any easier. Because Terry Moore gives us this ending that is absolutely batshit INSANE that kicks the door of possibility off its damned hinges and completely changes what little status quo we may or may not have managed to establish. I have NO CLUE where this book is going. And I love it. Must buy.