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.

Saturday Night’s Alright for Mini Reviews

There are few advantages to having a heavily sedated social life (which will gladly no longer be the case come September), but it does afford me the opportunity to read some books from Friday’s DCBS shipment and throw down some reviews. I’ve decided for consistency’s sake (between the work of Billy and Bruce Castle, as well as the format of the Pull List podcast that is new to Realms Radio) to switch from letter grades to a five star system. So let’s get this started.

Sky Doll #’s 1 and 2 (****1/2)

I can’t remember what exactly compelled me to order Sky Doll. It got an extra discount for the first issue, and was only a three issue mini, and despite the $6 cover price, the standard 40% off the second and third issues definitely made it seem a lot more affordable. I ordered these prior to seeing anything about them beyond the cover, and was heartened when I read the preview from the free Soleil Sampler that shipped a few months back. Well now we’re two issues in and I feel comfortable enough to take a look at what we’ve seen so far. Some background: this is the first of the books translated and reprinted by the partnership of Marvel and French comics publisher Soleil. It follows the story of Noa, one of the titular Sky Dolls (who are basically religion-based sex robots) who manages to escape her fate and go on an adventure with two emissaries of the Lodovica papal regime. Lodovica is the twin sister of Agape, who has her own set of followers and has thus let to unrest and full out religious Civil War. I am very surprised and enthused by this book. I wasn’t expecting this kind of story, rife with religious persecution and oppression framed by the desire for spiritual freedom for one that was not designed for anything of the sort. There’s a lot more going on here, but that main theme is certainly enough to keep me interested. The six dollar price tag hurts, but each book is 44 pages with no ads, so that certainly helps to cushion the financial blow. But the main reason to pick these books up is Alessandro Barbucci, the artist of the series. This is a book of ceaseless imagination, from wild cityscapes to wild characters, and Barbucci fits so much character and uniqueness to all of it that you’re seeing a world created in front of you eyes. The writing is much deeper than I was necessarily expecting, but the real draw is the art. The whole package is incredibly intriguing and imaginative, and were it not for the $6 price tag, this would be an easy five star review. Still, if you have any desire to read something entrenched far outside the box, get this. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Booster Gold #10 (**)

As this arc comes to a close, it really wasn’t handled well at all. This is not the case of Geoff Johns alienating me via esoteric characters and past DC events (there’s some of that in the reunion of the JLI, but I could work with it to the point of not being actively distracted), but rather the case of Johns and Katz just not writing very good comics. One of the big mysteries for this arc is why John Carter (Booster’s father and one of the two wearers of the Supernova outfit) is a member of the Time Stealers (alongside the Black Beetle, Per Degaton and Despero)) despite being a complete failure and inveterate gambler in Booster’s timeline. Well, we find out what’s going on. And it lands with the unmistakable thump of being both illogical and convenient without having the emotional weight that a reveal should have. I was surprised, but disappointed. And then things kept going aggressively downhill. There were hints along the way of this issue that led me down a path that would have blown my mind and redeemed this story arc. It would have been more logical and far more interesting than what they decided to go with. As such, I officially no longer care about this series. They had me for a while, but there was always a sense of apathy behind it all after those wonderful first issues. I would heartily recommend the first trade to any DC fan, but only the hardcore Booster Gold fans need stray any further beyond those first six issues.

Nova #14 (*****)

Yep. This arc still kicks ass. And Wellington Alves is a pretty big reason for that. I love the way that he frames the Nova/Surfer fight from the scale perspective of Galactus, so they look like insignificant flies buzzing around his massive head. And I love the way that Galactus doesn’t say a damned word to anyone because he’s GODDAMNED GALACTUS and an eternal and essential cosmic being that has no time or concern to listen to the pleas of a flea like Richard Rider. And the way that Surfer is still completely ambivalent about being a herald again as he tries to find ways to complete his task without too much collateral damage or loss of life. Or the way that the Harrow was not forgotten, as has put our boy Nova into quite a predicament for the final issue of this arc. Or the way that the central conceit of Nova and the Worldmind bickering back and forth like some deranged buddy cop movie still hasn’t gotten old after all this time. Abnett and Lanning are writing one of the best books on the shelves right now, and this arc has been masterfully executed. This is an epic scale, and that’s what is necessary. And I love every second of it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #15 (*****)

I haven’t really reviewed Buffy very often. Don’t really know why, but I guess it’s never really struck me as a book that requires reviewing. That’s all changed with the current arc. Drew Goddard wrote the hell out of the last fpur issues, and the climax we hit here is some whacked out crazy fun that brings me right back to the television series. This is easily the best arc of a series of good arcs from Buffy 8, and it’s amazing how much these last couple issues (more so even than the ones written by Joss) have felt like the TV show. That wonderful mix of action, ludicrous situations, drama, humor. It’s all back. And it might end up lessening my enjoyment of future issues, because I seriously doubt the quality is going to remain this high. Ah well, might as well enjoy it while I can.

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer #15

So, where did we leave off? Oh yeah, this girl is so dead. Poor Xander. Ok, that’s sad and all, but this issue was still mostly about the funny. But before we get to that, I wanted to share the other dramatic moment of the issue.

Buffy takes a leap of faith for the love of her life. Yes, for Willow. Could you see Buffy jumping off a perfectly good skyscraper for anyone else? Like a boyfriend or random dude? I don’t think so. And then they both try to deny the love that has been festering for years. No way, both liars. See, this is how I read it. Both girls may not actually want to sleep with each other (which is still arguable), but they both want to be on each other’s list. And the only reason any of this gets brought up at all, is because Willow is still so insecure about their friendship. Buffy would never have initiated this conversation because Buffy is too self-centered and frankly, oblivious to all things not Buffy Summers. Man, I sound like such a bitch.

Anyway, let’s get to the funny. Mecha-Dawn! Love that this happened. Goddard is God. Also great, the conversation Dawn has with her robotic counterpart. This page kills. I was reading this book on the way home from the comic store (yes, while driving) and I nearly drove off the road when Mecha-Dawn said, “I cry a lot” and then Dawn replied, “That’s not true!”

The plot? Who cares. Willow does a spell and all is right in the world. Whatever. This book is not about plot, obviously! So, the best arc in the series just wrapped and I’m kind of bummed. How are they going to top this? Oh, Karl Moline is drawing the next issue… and Joss Whedon is writing it… and it’s about FRAY!

DING!

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #14

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The strength of this issue, and to be honest all of Drew Goddard’s issues, lies in the ways that it feels like a natural extension of the show.

The issue opens with the death of a slayer, a really horrific display and we are reminded that while many share the power, Buffy is still the first and thus the leader. While Buffy generally irritates me, I totally sympathize with her as she is shocked and yet she can’t be consumed with it because she has to deal with it. She has to cut her down and take her back to headquarters and figure out a way to keep more girls from dying. And of course she broods and thinks that she has to do everything herself and then here comes Willow to smack her and say, “Hey remember me? You’re friend with powers? Let me make you a blanket.”

I love the inclusion of Dracula in this storyline. This is such a great thread to pick up from previous seasons. At the time when he appeared in the show, it was really a great device to drive more of a wedge between Buffy and Capt. Cardboard but Goddard is totally exploiting the awesomeness of his power over Xander. Oh funny Xander. How I love you.

For the record, Billy thinks that Xander’s girlfriend looks like a guy and the more I look at the picture, the more I disagree. I think I tend to agree with Billy in person because it’s easier than dissent. However, I dissent here, on the intarwebs. She looks like a girl.

So the Big Bad wants to take back the power of the slayers…HA! And yet, I wonder…because obviously, eventually, they go away? Or they all die off? Or they don’t create more slayers? Or another slayer isn’t called? Because, I mean, Fray lives in a world with no slayers or something right? OOOH CONTINUITY AND FUTURENESS. I don’t even know.

Possibly my favorite aspect of this issue was the conversation between Buffy and Satsu. As I’ve said, Buffy annoys the hell out of me. She’s whiny and self-righteous and as far as Buffy-verse characters go, I don’t think she grew as much across seven seasons as other characters. That being said, Goddard is nailing the intricacies of her emotional retardedness. The girl is an emotional terrorist. She’s incapable of participating in a romantic relationship that isn’t a function of or a reaction against her power. (This all goes into my argument about why Buffy isn’t actually a new action hero but rather just the same old action hero played by a girl this time.) While it annoys me, I have truly appreciated the development of this “relationship” and Goddard’s faithfulness to Buffy’s dysfunction.

And now to contrast, some Xander sweetness. This too has been a nice reminder of things past. The “let’s get this out of the way” kiss was sweet. Oh Xander…will you ever learn to not be a spaz when you’re dealing with girls? No? Oh good. I wouldn’t know what to do with suave manly Xander. (Unfortunately, sweetness and light are not often rewarded in the Buffyverse so I think we know where this is headed.)

Alright, so Billy was complaining about Goddard ripping off himself in this issue and warned me that there was some Cloverfield action and so fine, maybe there is, but you know what? I’m okay with Giant Dawnie tramping through the streets of Tokyo. You know why? Because I’m tired of seeing her sitting in a barn like Alice in Wonderland after she ate that stupid cupcake and popped out the window with her black Mary-Jane’s. And I mean, Dawn hardly ever gets to help. And here she is helping…awkwardly. “Hi…or, I mean. Roar.” Ha. I just remember how completely awkward she was in that last season episode when she thought she might be a potential.

The final image is a sad one and I have to wonder if Xander will ever catch a break. At the same time, it rings true. This is just the sort of thing that would happen to him…and just the motivation that Buffy needs. While she’s nearly incapable of surrendering herself to a romantic relationship, she’s nothing if not fiercely loyal and protective of her friends. Things are not going to end well for our shapeshifting vampire friends.

And I’m excited to be truly excited about Season Eight again.