SeventhSoldier Presents: The Christmas Haul!

 

So, rather than save my Christmas money*, I did what any sensible person would do – I bought comics!  Sure, I can’t pay rent for February, but I got some quality reading done in the meantime, so all is good, at least in my head.  Without further embarrassing personal detail, onwards!

 

Northlanders: Sven the Returned

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While the adherence to modern slang and language might be off-putting, it soon becomes subsumed in the tale of a stubborn Viking who just wants people to quit fucking with him.  Entertaining and violent, with just a touch of the dramatic, the first trade nevertheless fails to surpass the standard Viking revenge tale.  Still, the hint of promise shown within make me hopeful for future offerings.

Grade: B-

Scalped: Indian Country

 

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The hype from Jason Aaron’s reservation-life Native American noir is heavy, and this opening trade fails to deliver.  Standard art combines with a story that barely serves as more than an introduction to make a disappointing first volume.  There’s promise to be found in the filth the book revels in, but it takes some digging to find.

Grade: C-

Scapled: Casino Boogie 

 

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Scalped: Casino Boogie

The second trade, however, delivers in all the ways the first one didn’t.  Introducing new twists to the story, the book does it in a creative and entertaining way, each issue taking place over the span of the same day, but from a different point of view.  Here we finally get in deep with the various players on the reservation, and here we finally have a reason to care.  Count me among the converted.

Grade: B+

Phonogram: Rue Britannia

 

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I have trouble explaining how much I enjoyed this from relative newcomer Kieron Gillen.  Ultra-masculine Brit hipster David Kohl is forced to search for a dead goddess of Brit Pop music and find out just what it going on in the ether that’s causing him to change in drastic (to him and no one else) ways.  Even given my relative unfamiliarity with the bands and trends being mentioned, I nonetheless could relate to the sheer power music has in the lives of these people.  An intriguing story and a fascinating setting just a little to the left of our own work together with simple (but clean and gifted) art to provide a book well-worth your money.  A story about reinforcing why you love what you love, about coming to terms with it and its influence on your past.

Grade: A-

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wolves at the Gate

 

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The Whedonisms of the book are beginning to grate, and while it is still an undeniably enjoyable book, some of the particular thematic and writing tics of the book are wearing.  Nonetheless, the book continues to excel at humorous, heartwarming, heartbreaking relationships, and fans of the TV show will continue to enjoy the rapid-fire wit and excellent dialogue.

Grade: B-

Hellblazer: Joyride

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Andy Diggle, writer of The Losers and Green Arrow: Year One, seemed like an odd choice of writer to take over the Hellblazer writing chores after award-winning horror novelist Denise Mina, and Joyride is his first collection, a series of stories meant to bring John back from the brink where he’s been hovering through the last couple writers. The story is entertaining and suitably dark, a good set of arcs to set up what Diggle seems to hope to accomplish.  Expressive, dark art from Manco and strong ties to the recent Hellblazer run of Mike Carey combine to make a standard, but competent story.

Grade: B

Gotham Central: The Quick and the Dead

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The fourth trade in the Rucka/Brubaker masterpiece bringing a refreshing bit of realism to the gritty uber-epic Batman mythos, The Quick and the Dead might be the weakest trade in the series thus far… but given the strength of the characterization and dialogue, it still serves the series well, and shows time and again how Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya got where they are today.

Grade: B

Casanova: Luxuria

 

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Matt Fraction’s tiny little piece of insane pop action is well-introduced in this first volume.  While stylistic art takes a little adaptation to those of a more traditional bent, it nonetheless complements Fraction’s hyperkinetic action hero well. Fun fluff, well worth the shot for fans looking for a little something more from their action espionage comic books.

Grade: B

The Filth

 

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Yet another obscure entry from Grant Morrison, the Filth almost delights in being obtuse.  Filled with crazy, creative ideas, it boils down to a cranky old man who just wants to be alone with his cat in its dying days.  Weston had his work cut out for him, but he steps up to the task admirably and delivers on many of the absolutely horrifying concepts Morrison bandies about with creepy ease.  Absolutely not for everyone – not even for most people – the Filth nonetheless may offer some readers a glimpse into the darker side of Morrison’s work, that they might better understand where he’s coming from in the lighter works.

Grade: B

Young Liars: Daydream Believers

 

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The first disgusting trade of Young Liars is finally available, and well worth a gander.  Like Mike Carey’s so-so Faker, Liars focuses on disgust, betrayal and selfishness, but the refreshing blitz of Sadie, teamed with the self-loathing love of young Danny, make for far more compelling interactions.  The attitudes of the book may be a turn-off for many, and some bizarre stylistic choices in terms of background and dialogue can be confusing, but it is nonetheless worth a gander.

Grade: B+

Fables: War & Pieces

 

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Willingham’s epic seems to move in waves.  Alternating between stories with a great deal of creativity, heart and action all laced together with a healthy dollop of bastardized mythology and a series of stagnant set-up arcs with a lot of introduction and even more nothing-really.  So, it should be no surprise that after that strength of The Good Prince and Sons of Empire, War and Pieces reads as a perfunctory conclusion to the first major conflict in the Fables-verse.  An important book plot-wise with (as always) impressive art, War and Pieces is nonetheless another dry spot in the ongoing story.  Not bad, just not up to the standard the book set for itself.

Grade: B-

DMZ: On the Ground

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Brian Wood’s breakout hit about a the only on-location journalist at ground-zero of America’s second Civil War appears to be almost entirely a setting-building exercise that also happens to casually examine the horrors of war with which we are all pretty familiar.  Still, the excellent art provides a certain touch, and Wood’s story excels where many such stories fail in its compelling cast of supporting characters and slice-of-life stories, like the sniper romance.  Wood doesn’t let us revel in a single aspect of war atrocity on home soil, instead taking us through a series of small arcs to see the effect of the civil war and troop involvement in New York City itself.  Thanks to its easy familiarity with a cool cast, DMZ proves itself a consistently entertaining read with just a touch of the frighteningly familiar.

Grade: B+

 

 

 

*okay, admission time – it was actually just gift cards, so it wasn’t actually a waste, and some of these were bought before or after Christmas that I just never got around to reviewing.  I may begin to review some of my older trades as my pull list (and available cash) dwindles.

 

Foilball’s Review Roundup #51 – Read A Ton of Good Books Lately?

(Be advised, the following “Feature Review” space reserved for fanboyish fanboying.)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer #18 (*)

This cover is absurd. That is all.

Detective Comics #848 (*****)

Paul Dini, you monster. You took out her heart? OMFG!!!

Secret Six #1 (*****)

OH! I missed you girls so much!

Quick Hits:
100 Bullets #95 (*****): Heh. Irony. How ironic? (I mean, what can I say? Besides me and like five other guys, who else is still reading this bloated self-indulgent masterpiece?)
Anna Mercury #3 (***): This book feels like half a comic, or a web comic. For $3.99 it feels lazy.
The Authority #2 (***): Relaunch! Even with DnA, I’m still a lot o’ bit bored. I like the whole “World’s End” idea, but some of these titles are just BLAH! Where’s my Nemesis ongoing?
The Boys #18 (****): The thrilling conclusion to “I Tell You No Lie, G.I.”… thrilling really isn’t the word. The near-rape scene was disturbing and the park stuff was sweet… I don’t know, The Boys is complicated and so are my feelings about it… stop asking personal questions!
Criminal #5 (****): Dude, she is totally playing you! And! I’m hoping she isn’t, because if she is, then Brubaker is getting a tiny bit predictable.
Dreamwar #4 (***): This needed to be over already because I just don’t care anymore.
Final Crisis: Revelations #2 (***): OH! Emotions! Upheavals! Duty! Revenge! Mercy! …cliché? There was just too much hand-holding and feeling-sharing. BLAH! Spectre needs to kill more bad guys. Soonish.
Green Arrow and Black Canary #12 (*): IT’S OVER… my involvement!
Green Lantern #34 (***1/2): Mind wipes, all around!
I Kill Giants #2 (***): The art is interesting and the characters are… interesting, but I hope the hook for this series isn’t just “crazy girl makes friends”. Show me something, Joe Kelly, show me anything and I’ll love you forever.
Invincible #52 (****1/2): Bruce is right, this book rocks! It’s been rocking for two issues now, and it better keep rocking or I’m gonna have to start bashing Kirkman again!
Nightwing #148 (*): I’m no expert on bullet related injuries, but the logic in this issue just feels WRONG. Dick gets shot twice, loses two bodies worth of blood and within 24-hours is up and around like nothing happened?
Savage Dragon #137 (*): Why do I still support this book? It’s sooooooo Terry-Bull.
Wonder Woman #24 (****): Queen of Fables? BLAH. Dude, but those white gorillas are funny as ####! What a great addition to the supporting cast they’re turning out to be. Simone is a genius.
Young Liars #7 (****1/2): Even with the fever dreams, not as crazy as usual. But yes, this “Amy Racecar” stuff is cool and I’m looking forward to more.

Desiato’s Top Ten Monthlies!

From the perspective of purely focusing on ongoing titles, this list was surprisingly more difficult than I thought it would be. I read a lot of minis. So books like Atomic Robo or Comic Book Comics or the Inhumans stuff are not going to be on this list. I’ve done my best, and here’s what I came up with.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8

It’s enjoyable. It’s not necessarily deep in the way I think of other comics I enjoy, but a lot of that comes from it being adaptation material, and for whatever reason I have a lot of trouble thinking of these books as comics as such so much as they are simply vehicles to continue a story from a different medium. It doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the series (to my knowledge), but it basically creates a bit of a mental block that stops it from transcending a certain sense of mediocrity of vision.

9. Captain Britain and MI:13

It’s at number nine because we’ve only got four issues and it’s been a Secret Invasion book first and foremost, so we’re going to have to see what this series is capable of when it’s put out on its own and not piggybacking off a big event. I love it so far, and I haven’t had a single complaint, and I’m hoping the quality continues when the book strikes out on its own.

8. Avengers: The Initiative

This would be The Order. Hell, this should be The Order. They should have let Fraction keep going and then he would have been forced to drop Punisher to make room for Invincible Iron Man and everything would have been groovy. Avengers: Initiative isn’t as good or interesting or risky as The Order was, but it’s still an excellent book, and it’s the only place you can really get that sense of the post Civil War status quo (and I LOVE the post Civil War status quo). It’s still good stuff and it’s still got some interesting new characters, and it’s an important piece of the Marvel Universe.

7. Terry Moore’s Echo

I’ve never read Strangers in Paradise, so I started reading Echo more off the name recognition of Terry Moore than actually knowing or liking his work. Good decision for me. It’s a very good book, and we’ve got a ton of different angles from which to approach it. It’s a government conspiracy book. It’s a science fiction book. It’s a relationship book. It’s a fugitive chase scene book. It’s all of these things rolled into one. And it’s very good.

6. Green Lantern Corps

Since I started reading the GL books, I’ve enjoyed Green Lantern Corps demonstrably more than its single minded ongoing brother. I love the Green Lantern Corps as a concept, which is part of the reason why the solo title can wear a little thin on me from time to time. I’m not really interested in the one man so much as the sea of thousands.

5. The Immortal Iron Fist

I’ve only gotten one issue of the post Brubaker Fraction run, and it’s still good, so the title is still up here on the list of things I look forward to every month. It’s got a solid cast of characters and a good foundation of the Iron Fist mythology to use, and the writers have done an excellent job of making Danny Rand someone to care about. It’s good chop socky fun, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

4. New Avengers

Marvel’s flagship. With Bendis all in the mix of the big events since Secret War, everything of importance has a tendency to be seen through the lens of the New Avengers. That’s obviously quite the case now with Secret Invasion, but this has been an excellent book for pretty much the entirety of its run.

3. Thor

Straczynski’s book is huge and sprawling and yet focused and insular at the same time. I just reviewed issue ten, and I put most of my thoughts for the series as a whole into that review, so you can just go read that to see just why I love this book as much as I do.

2. The Incredible Hercules

So this is certainly the little book that could. Remember the cynicism and incredulity that came with the announcement that Hercules was replacing Hulk in this title? The assumptions that Hercules can’t sustain an ongoing and it would be cancelled in three months or revert back to a Hulk book faster than the blink of an eye. But it persists. And the reason it persists (other than getting the sales bump from tying into Secret Invasion and launching in the aftermath of World War Hulk) is that it’s REALLY DAMNED GOOD. This is the type of book that could legitimately hold on to the readers it gains from the event bumps because it’s so charming and well written and FUNNY and light and breezy goodness. Hercules and Amadeus Cho working your standard odd couple angle may not sound like the stuff of kings, but it is.

1. Nova/Guardians of the Galaxy

Is it a cheat? Probably. Don’t care. You know the implicit trust everyone has in Geoff Johns and all of his books? That’s how I feel about Abnett and Lanning. These guys have been working with Marvel cosmic since its grand rebirth during Annihilation (they wrote the Nova lead in mini) and through the Nova ongoing, Conquest and Guardians of the Galaxy, they have steered the ship of the new look Marvel cosmic. And it’s awesome. And they’re obviously doing well enough that they’ve been rewarded with exclusive contracts and the next World War Hulk sized event with War of Kings. My favorite writers taking on Black Bolt and the Inhumans? And possibly finding a way to make Vulcan interesting? Awesome. But let’s leave that on the side for now. Since I started collecting monthlies, I have not gotten more enjoyment out of any single series than Nova. And Guardians of the Galaxy is certainly no slouch either. So I’m combining number one to basically cover the DnAverse.

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.