Desiato’s Rainy Sunday Reviews, Part 2

Angel: After the Fall #12 (****1/2)

Sons of bitches. I just dropped the damned book, and these bastards go and come out with an issue that’s really good. Perhaps I should have seen this coming. I am staring at a Murphy’s Law poster while I write this, after all. For every issue that didn’t capitalize on the potential of the characters or plot, you get something like this where everything clicks and you’re reading an excellent instance of a comic book. Every question brought up in the first eleven issues of this book is answered. It all fits too. The entire series turns a huge corner, and we now have more of a sense of where we’re headed and why. Franted, the art is still not to my liking, and Wesley is very much in the role of Dr. Exposition during much of the issue. There’s a lot of story to cover here. Maybe there might have been better ways to go about disseminating the necessary information, but the device used works, and only the most impatient reader would grow tired of the amount of text. This issue very well might have renewed my faith in IDW’s handing of Angel, and I might have to keep getting it, as much as it bewilders me to say that.

Invincible Iron Man #5 (****)

The ending of this book is right out of the book of comic cliffhanger cliche. It’s one of those little moments that makes you love the medium. The rest of the book is no slouch too. Fraction obviously has a handle on Zeke Stane, considering he created the character, but his use of tony Stark has been excellent as well. This truly is Iron Man the hero, and it’s practically the only place you can really get that right now (though I surmise that things will change post Secret Invasion). Obviously, this book is perfect for those that are coming in to the Iron Man books from the movie; the first storyline is basically the generational sequel to the Iron Monger storyline that was covered in its own way in the film. It’s good stuff. Fraction can definitely navigate his way through the mix of political intrigue and terrorism that is the cornerstone of Zeke Stane’s attacks on Starktech. The art is still a bit of a sore point, as it’s tough to completely suspend disbelief when Stane’s face is modeled after Brian Michael Bendis. But Larocca does draw the armor and the action well, so I can roll with the punches.

Green Lantern Corps #28 (****)

I do love these issues so very much. Between the Ringquest arc and the current Eye of the Beholder issues, Pete Tomasi has been doing an excellent job keeping the momentum leading into Blackest Night strong while Johns is wasting his time on Secret Origin. I am a bit surprised that Tomasi wrapped up this story in two issues, and there’s a bit of compression here in order to allow for the book to reach its conclusion. I think we probably could have benefitted from one more issue in order to flesh out the main villain of the piece. He’s introduced and captured all in the span of one issue, which gives the impression that we’re basically dealing with fodder. Sick and sadistic fodder with a pretty big body count, but fodder nonetheless. Still, there are a lot of good quiet moments with the Lanterns, and it’s a good installment of my favorite DC ongoing.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 18 (**)

I’m liking this arc less and less as it goes on. I’m not really enjoying the future Fray universe; it’s quite possible though that this is because I haven’t read the original Fray story. Still, the future moments aren’t sticking. The little dialogue quirks grate on me from time to time, and nothing about the story grabs me in a significant way. It’s a bit scattershot. I’m also not too jazzed about the present day story line with Dawn and Xander. It’s alright, but this issue just felt ephemeral. This isn’t a bad book or anything; it’s just not good.

Eternals #4 (****)

Still digging this book, and that’s predominantly because of the Makkari story line. The backstory of the Eternals, Celestials and Deviants was a highlight of Gaiman’s mini, and while the branched dialogue of the Celestial can be silly/unnecessary (see what I did there?) at times, the story being told is the big show. The other story lines going on are also entertaining, but Makkari’s world building and mythos establishing travels create that sense of wonder that hearkens right back to Kirby. It’s just another testament to the quality of the middle tier Marvel books. You’ve got the flashy Avengers books and Amazing Spider-Man and the X books, but right under the surface are books like this, the cosmic suite, Incredible Hercules, The Twelve and so on. It’s the main reason why I love Marvel as much as I do. And the Eternals are wicked cool characters that are becomiung deeply established in the Marvel U. The Knaufs are doing well and Acuna’s art does the job and brings forth the otherworldly feel that the Eternals should have as citizens of Earth that are wholly separate from humans.

Punisher War Journal #23 (**)

So the Jigsaw arc is finally over. It never really felt right outside of the penultimate issue. I do like the idea of GW Bridge and his merry band of hottie assassins. Plus, the Lady Punisher set up was a nice one. But Punisher and Jigsaw didn’t ever sound right, and when your two main characters are off base, it’s going to be tough to make things work. Let’s hope they get everything sussed out in time for the Secret Invasion tie in. If it’s anywhere as good as the World War Hulk issue, we could be in for a treat.

Desiato Reviews Some Indies

Antoine Sharpe: The Atheist #1 [Desperado] (****)

There are a couple reasons why I picked this book up. I keep hearing about this Phil Hester guy and how he’s awesome and everybody loves him, and I required empirical evidence. The book was also featured as a Indie Challenge on Comic Geek Speak (less than two weeks to the Super Show!). This, however, did not stop me from completely forgetting to buy via DCBS, so I made sure to pick it up at the store when I went to get Secret Invasion. Good book. It’s not the first book to feature the character (there was a four issue mini preceding it simply called “The Atheist,” but they ended up changing the name due to the general fervor and malcontent surrounding a word like “atheist”), but I didn’t feel lost at all in discovering who this titular character is. There’s a pretty simple and effective premise as work here. Antoine Sharpe is basically a skeptical detective that is called upon to investigate paranormal cases outside of the realm of standard private investigation work. He’s brought in to cut through the mumbo jumbo and see what’s actually going on here. This story begins with Mr. Sharpe being sent to a mountain town where wives have a tendency to disappear. We don’t get much of the mystery here yet as things are still being set up, but it’s a pure concept and has been executed well so far.

Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #1 [Red 5] (****)

Atomic Robo is a wisecracking robot that was built by Nikola Tesla. He was the star of an awesome five issue miniseries that I read earlier this year that was tons of fun and a sort of light, cheery throwback to the atomic age. I’ve been a fan of the sort of 1950’s retro cold war chic since I played Fallout oh so many years ago, and that first mini had a very similar feel. This one is set in World War Two, so it has a decidedly different aesthetic to it (which is not a bad thing, despite my preference toward the 50’s), but that doesn’t change the series overall to the point of making it read any differently. This issue reads fast, as Robo is parachuting in behind enemy lines to take out some German “laufpanzers” (walking tanks. Five years of German pays off!) that were made partially off the specs that created Robo himself. There are a lot of sparse and wordless panels, and the issue is mostly action, which is why I didn’t like it as much as some of the issues from the first mini, but there’s also an amusing little four page backup that retains that silly vibe. It’s a very good book and I would recommend picking it up, but I would definitely start with the first mini, which’ll be out in trade soon if it’s not on the shelves already.

Angel: After the Fall #11 [IDW] (*1/2)

Comic fans are often referred to as masochistic. We buy books we hate because we have a love for the characters or don’t want to interrupt the run (collector’s mentality). I’m in the camp of the former when it comes to Angel After the Fall. I love the characters, and I’m legitimately intrigued by the overall storyline and where the story is headed, but the writing is SO BAD and the art is SO BAD that the book is just painful to read. The art is completely inconsistent and rushed, and there are a couple instances of Lynch trying to crowbar in some pop culture referency Whedonisms that ring completely false. But the saddest thing about all of this is the fact that I’m probably going to keep buying the thing. And that really is masochism in action. Because they’re doing some cool things in the overall scheme. But that doesn’t stop the individual pieces of the story from being just awful and sad.

Spike: After the Fall #2 [IDW] (***)

Well this one actually got better. Who knew? It’s still not great, but it’s a lot better than its bigger brother right now. We continue to follow Spike as he moves toward the status quo that was set up early in Angel: After the Fall, and this issue specifically deals with Spike and Illyria coming face to face with the Lord of Beverly Hills, who’s not a nice customer. The art is still muddled, but the writing is a lot more bearable than what Lynch is doing on Angel. This book is showing signs of life, and it’s enough for me to buy into the next two issues.

Laziness Breeds a LIGHTNING ROUND!

But first…

Sky Doll #3 (****)

It’s not a full review, but I am not resizing a cover that is that gorgeous.

So we’ve reached the end of the first Marvel/Soleil reprint mini series. You know, I’m still not sure why I ordered the series in the first place. Maybe it was a light month, maybe it was the cover, but I’m glad I did (and my worries were allayed when I finally got the Soleil sampler and really dug the style and what they were showing in the preview). I think I do need to go back and reread this thing at some point. CB Cebulski adapted this from the original script written by Barbucci and Canepa, and as with all translations, it’s not perfect and can get a little clunky at times. It doesn’t help Mr. Cebulski’s task that this is a seriously complex story about religion, sexual politics, regular politics class stratification and censorship. It’s pretty heady stuff. I think Cebulski does more than an adequate job of translating despite a couple of moments here or there where the dialogue or word choice might read a little off or hollow. It certainly doesn’t ruin the story, but I think this issue is a bit harder to read than the first two, which makes sense considering how everything comes to a head. The art is still undeniably fantastic and expressive and imaginative in every way possible. This thing is worth a read simply for the art’s sake, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the story behind it. Not going into plot details because it’s going to be completely indecipherable for anyone that didn’t read the first two issues, but it all comes together in a very interesting and unexpected way. Some questions are raised and answered in cryptic ways, and the tension and mystery surrounding some of the set pieces is very engaging. I highly recommend that folks pick this up in the trade format.

AND NOW…THE LIGHTNING ROUND!!!!!

Incredible Hercules #119 (****1/2) – Still great. So many enjoyable moments in this series. I seem to say this every time a new issue comes out, but I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW GOOD THIS SERIES IS. Hercules is a hilarious and fantastically written character. His interactions with the rest of the God Squad are AWESOME. The art is AWESOME (especially the facial expressions). Hell, even the recap page is AWESOME. Woo hoo!

Captain Britain and MI:13 (*****) – This is now the best Secret Invasion book. Soooooooooo good. I love the way Captain Britain came back with a sort of Bucky Cap version of his costume. Awesome awesome awesome.

X-Factor #33 (*1/2) – This is certainly not the right issue to use as a starting point for X-Factor . The only X-Factor characters I’m truly familiar with (Quicksilver and Layla Miller) aren’t in the book right now, and Larry Stroman’s art does not help me from the perspective of a new book with characters I don’t know. Bad fit for me. Hoping the She Hulk issue will be an improvement.

Secret Invasion: Front Line #1 (***1/2) – Good start. I like the idea behind the Front Line books. Still haven’t read Civil War Front Line, but I enjoyed World War Hulk Front Line well enough, and this is pretty good time. No Sally Floyd though, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. Cover’s pretty neat too.

Mighty Avengers #16 (***1/2) – I dug it. Weakest of the Mighty Avengers issues, but I still like the slowly unfolding Skrull mythos that we’re seeing.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #16 (****) – This is a solid Buffy issue. I should probably read Fray.

Terry Moore’s Echo #4 (*****) – Awesome. I love the little world that Moore’s putting together around this story. This thing is big, and it’s just going to get bigger.

Invincible Iron Man #3 (****) – Another solid issue. I REALLY like Ezekiel Stane as a character. I love the way that he’s pissed off he has to make a suit for himself because he had to lower himself to Tony’s level.

Angel After the Fall #10 (**1/2) – If I weren’t getting this for a discount, there’s no way in hell I’d still be reading it. I think it’s going places, and I generally like it okay, and having Franco Urru off the book helps, but it’s still not worth four bucks.

Spike After the Fall #1 (**) – See my review for Angel. Except Urru’s on this one now. Lop off a half star for that.