Catch-Up Mini-Reviews

Captain Britain and MI:13 #15

Britain

Thus ends one of Marvel’s strongest ongoing books.  Cornell and Kirk wind down their title with the massive “Vampire State” arc that should’ve been cheesy as hell but ended up being gripping, exciting and just downright fun.  The issue is packed with excellently written and drawn action set-pieces that build off of everything that’s come before to give the issue the emotional closure it needed without sacrificing the excitement.  Top quality work.

Grade: B+

Runaways #12

Runaway

Immonen still hasn’t brought the energy of her absolutely fantastic Patsy Walker: Hellcat mini to the title, but her second issue shows a small amount of improvement over the first.  Pichelli’s art renders everyone and everything in the title improbably pretty, if overly cartoonish, but she handles the issue’s dramatic moments quite well.  Nothing spectacular yet, but more than good enough to keep giving it a shot.

Grade: B-

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #3

Ink3

Ink continues to be the surprise of the Final Crisis Aftermath titles for me as it uses the conventions of the gritty crime drama to tell the story of a supervillain seeking redemption.  Wallace and Fiorentino make the tale a little more complicated than it needs to be by having Richards’ tattoos come to life, but the metaphor is apt: escaping a life of crime is already hard without having those closest to you trying to drag you back into it.  

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

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Captain Britain and MI:13 #14

Runaways #11

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #2

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #1

Review: Captain Britain and MI:13 #14

Captain Britain

Ah, good old Captain Britain and MI:13.  No matter what else is going wrong in the Marvel Universe, you’ll always be here to make it better, won’t you?  Well, unfortunately not – the book only has a short while left to live.  So, the question becomes: can Paul Cornell and co. give us a satisfying send-off to one of Marvel’s strongest titles?

This arc, titled “Vampire State” suggests that they can.  Dracula has been breeding an army of vampires on the moon and allying himself with all manner of supernatural menace before he begins to make his final move – conquering Britain in the name of his vampire army.  Despite the seemingly inherent camp in the premise, Cornell plays it straight and it pays off.  Rather than coming off as a post-ironic dig at a more innocent age, the issue suggests why the semi-realistic grim ‘n grit so often feels terribly false – this isn’t our world.  It’s one infinitely more scary, and infinitely more wonderful, and we see a little bit of both aspects in this issue.

After a quick turnaround from the seemingly doomed ending of last issue, we learn that our heroes at MI:13 have managed to pull one over on Dracula and buy themselves some time to fight back.  They use that time well, and Cornell brings us an action-packed issue with crisp, excellent art from Syaf and Kirk and and a parting ‘gift’ from Doctor Doom that sets up the issue to come and reminds us all why the good Doctor can be such an effective villain.

Captain Britain and MI:13 is far from flawless, but even at its worst, its an exciting book with solid characterization and fun, clever arcs – and this issue is far from the book’s worst.

Grade: B+

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Foilball’s Review Roundup #56 – Previously Reviewed by read/RANTERS!

Action Comics #869 (*****): Another solid chapter in the reinvention of Brainiac arc.

Bruce Castle (*****)
DC Lebeau (Liked it!)

All-Star Superman #12 (*****): So much needs to be said about this book, and I plan to, just as soon as I get my copies of the rest of the series back from Mandy. Expect a Series Review of this masterpiece by the end of the month.

Seventh Soldier (A+)
Bruce Castle (*****)

The Amazing Spider-Man #572 (****): On par with the rest of the arc, but not even close to the ultimate Bullseye vs Spider-Man fight that Slott promised us. Too much hype, dude.

Bruce Castle (****1/2)

Birds of Prey #122 (**): I didn’t read it so much as look at the pretty pictures… and vomit.

DC Lebeau (Hated it!)

Captain Britain and MI:13 #5 (****): Blade, you son of a bitch!

Seventh Soldier (B+)

Daredevil #111 (****): I like her. And I definitely liked this. Matt Murdock. What a bastard.

Bruce Castle (****)
DC Lebeau (Liked it!)

Fables #76 (***): Holy Lord, how much did I hate reading this issue of Fables? Sure, I know Willingham is a hardcore Republican, but some of the dialogue in this issue almost made my head explode. Really, Snow White? Is that how you justify all this death? And this cliché anti-tech speech? LAME. Also, no one talks like this on their cell phone. Can we stop writing crap like this? Please? Question: what does it say about me that I agree with Geppetto?

Desiato (***)

Hulk #6 (****1/2): AWESOME!!!

Bruce Castle (*****)

The Punisher #62 (***): Even without comparing this to Ennis’ take on the character, I would still hate it. And it’s not that I hate all other versions of the Punisher, because I think Fraction’s version is great (until the plot started to suck ass).

Bruce Castle (****)

Robin #178 (***1/2): Okay. Fine. Meh. BLAH. It wasn’t bad, how about that?

DC Lebeau (Liked it!)

Superman #680 (***): OH. MY, GOD. Could Superman be a bigger @$$hole? I do not like this book, but it’s not awful. Not yet.

DC Lebeau (Liked it!)

Ultimate Fantastic Four/Ultimate X-Men Annual #1 (**): Way worse than the last issue. UGH.

Bruce Castle (****)

Ultimate Spider-Man #126 (****): I liked it. Plus, it made me nostalgic for a time when Nick Fury ran S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Ultimates were badass.

Bruce Castle (***)

Uncanny X-Men #502 (**): STAB MY EYES!!!

Bruce Castle (**)

The Walking Dead #52 (***1/2): Okay, with a side of losing interest fast.

Bruce Castle (****)

War Heroes #2 (**): I thought about scanning the penis page… but that would be crude. Get it?

Bruce Castle (***1/2)

SeventhSoldier Reviews…COMICS!

All-Star Superman

Yesterday, All-Star Superman – otherwise known as Grant Morrison’s ASS – came to an end, finally.  With the stated objective of telling the definitive Superman story, Morrison and artist Frank Quitely set a rather high bar for themselves, setting up against such classics as Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and Alan Moore’s For the Man Who Has Everything and…uhhh…just, really, Alan Moore.  With the last issue on the stands, we can finally look back at the series and ask: Did All-Star Superman make a mistake by setting the bar so high?

Nope.

It cleared it.

Morrison and Quitely made sure to touch on as many aspects of the Superman mythos as humanly possible in a twelve issue series, with an issue featuring Lex Luthor, an issue about Jimmy Olson, a trip to the Bizarro Cubed Earth, and more.  Many comic fans who aren’t reading the series have derided All-Star Superman as a Silver Age throwback, completely missing the point – to provide a continuity-free retrospective on the history of Superman, be it Golden, Silver, or Modern.

The book isn’t flawless, of course.  The Bizarro two-parter can drag on, which is a shame given that it’s the only two-parter in the series, the rest of the book composed of a series of one-shots tied together by the central conceit of ‘How would Superman react if he knew he was going to die soon?’  But, beyond that, the book hits a variety of emotional highs and lows, has insane, epic action, and just in general manages to succeed.

It isn’t flawless, but looking back on the series as a whole, this is the only mainstream comic work that I imagine stands a chance of being mentioned in the same breath, 10 years from now, as Watchmen or The Sandman.

Grade: A+

Final Crisis: Revelations #2

Final Crisis: Revelations is a great many things.  It’s spiritual sequel to both Infinite Crisis and 52.  A direct sequel to The Five Books of Blood.  A tie-in to Final Crisis.  Under a lesser writer than Rucka, this might be too much material to work into a 5-issue series, but it does well. 

This issue is the first that feels like a ‘traditional’ tie-in, in the sense that it takes a standard character – The Question – and uses the current event to shake up that character’s status quo, introduce a new enemy based on the major event, etc….  The issue feels very traditional in many ways, but it’s still good.  The long-needed introduction of an element of balance to the Spectre occurs, a major reveal regarding one of DC’s older villains, and a reunion of sorts between Cris and Renee in their new roles all keep the action rolling, but it’s the emotional core of the issue that makes it great.  This is Rucka revisiting his old toybox, and it seems like he’s having a good time doing so.

The revelations of this issue all felt natural and needed, the action was engaging, and emotions ran high.  All around solid, but nothing spectacular.  A competent tie-in, and a strong issue on its own.

Grade: B+

Secret Six #1

Everyone’s already said most of what needs to be said, but Simone really nailed it, here.  The twisted humor and uncomfortable camaraderie of the Six are perfect, and the new villain is intriguing.  All-in-all, a solid start to this new series.  Hopefully, it’ll be around for a good little while.

Grade: A-

Captain Britain and MI:13 #5

For anyone wondering if the quality of Captain Britain would keep up once the Secret Invasion tie-in ended, the short answer is: “Hell Yes.”  Cornell and crew are now using the book to look at a variety of British heroes, so this issue sees cameos from more than one, of all calibers – from nobodies like Captain Midlands to bigger characters some people might not know were British, like Blade.  The issue is fun and engaging, but it’s still set-up, and it leaves off with a frankly ridiculous cliffhanger.

Oh, Blade.  You aren’t a team player.

Grade: B+

Foilball’s Review Roundup #50 – My Late Secret Invasion Reviews

The New Avengers #44 (****1/2): This was the much needed issue to explain how the Skrulls did what they did. But here’s the thing, I think it makes the Skrulls look too smart. Like, these guys got cloning down to a perfected science? Shapeshifters, genetic manipulators, interstellar space travel? Dude, how the hell can Earth win? They can’t. They really can’t. So now, after reading this issue, if Secret Invasion ends in any way that isn’t total victory for the Skrulls then it’ll just ring false to me.

The Mighty Avengers #17 (***1/2): This was an okay issue, but in no way a must-read. Hank Pym is hard to mimic… who cares? Unless… unless this means that the Skrull Pym over in the main title plans to betray his people. Interesting…

Avengers: The Initiative #16 (*****): OMG! This book was sweet! The Skrull Kill Krew was never this awesome! The art! The dialogue! This book was just too much fun! Can you guys imagine an event book written by Dan Slott? Poor Robert Kirkman, now I understand his bitterness. Marvel replaced him with Slott!

Black Panther #40 (*****): You know what this arc reminds me of? It reminds me of the very first arc of the series; the arc that made me love the Black Panther. It’s as if Aaron went back and read those first six issues, and nothing else, and then sat down and wrote this wonderful tie-in. It’s sad that it’s taken 30 odd issues to get the Panther title back to this level of good.

Captain Britain and MI13 #4 (*****): Finally got a copy… wow, this was good. Should I be watching Dr. Who? Also, I’m glad I read the Wisdom trade before picking up this series. Continuity is great when it works!

Guardians of the Galaxy #4 (*****): It took four issues, but they got me. I’m hooked. Something about the character dynamics this issue makes me feel like this is a book worth reading.

The Incredible Hercules #120 (*****): Herc rises to the occasion and beats up a god. Not much more to say than that. Also, it was brilliant!

Nova #16 (****): Indeed, this was one of the better issues of Nova, and I like how it tie-ins with Secret Invasion, but what bugs me is how horribly it seems to sync up with…

She-Hulk #32 (****): … so I guess Nova gets away then? As for She-Hulk, I’m still enjoying the new artist but as for the story, I’m kind of wishing this Skrull Pope guy would just go away. He’s annoying. And unnecessary.

Secret Invasion: The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (***): Meh, why did this even need to get published? And the title is total lies. It’s a story about Jackpot (jack-who?), not a story about Spider-Man. Waste.

Thunderbolts #123 (*****): Christos Gage, you are a master.

X-Factor #34 (*): Larry Stroman, you are not.

Bruce Castle Presents: Captain Britain and MI13 #1-4

Captain Britain and MI13 #1 (*****)

The Skrulls invade England! The result? Entertainment! Unless you’re new to comics, you’ll know that most first issues are just set-up. Yes they can be fun, but it’s mostly about information and getting the plot rolling. This however, is fun from the first page. A Skrull in the form of John Lennon? Severed Skrull body parts? Characters that introduce themselves with “Remember…the Black Knight”? A Skrull gets his neck (Where has that been?) bitten into? What does all of that equal? How about fun, fun, and more fun. Throw some Arthurian mythology and a surprise ending into the mix and you get a hell of a first issue!

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Captain Britain and MI13 #2 (****1/2)

I don’t know much about Paul Cornell or Leonard Kirk, but they’re writing a great book. Kirk’s visuals are stunning. Whether that is the Skrull armada, or a body reconstructing itself (That got a Matrix “whoa” from me), or the magical Skrull, his work is astonishing. Cornell has already fleshed out the characters and established the plot in two issues. In addition to that, he also provides plenty of surprises and pulse pounding action to have me craving more.

Captain Britain and MI13 #3 (****1/2)

Why? Why can’t the Secret Invasion series be this epic? There’s a genuine sense that the world is at stake. Not to mention all the fun fighting. Cornell and Kirk have accomplished so much in three issues. A character has even been killed and then came back and nothing feels rushed. I also enjoyed that the last page reveal was in a way, nine pages long. Action can get boring too, but if it’s done well like it’s done here, you get a fantastic read.

Captain Britain and MI13 #4 (****1/2)

I barely knew a thing about any of the characters in this book. Now, I care about all of them. Somehow, even with all the body parts flying through the air, green blood, and chaos, I’ve developed affection for these brits. We get the big showdown in this one, and yet this has less action in it than the last three issues. That’s unusual, but this book is unique. This has been a great first arc and I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #45 – Secret Invasion, Five Months In!

Captain Britain and MI13 #4 (-)

Well, funny story. It was in this week’s shipment, and I’m positive I read the first few pages… but when I went back to read the rest, it was gone. Apparently, my nephew slipped in, seized it, and then threw it down a well. I’ll pick up a replacement copy next Wednesday and I’m sure it’ll be great, but man, that boy needs to be taught a lesson on proper comic book etiquette, and I really don’t care that he’s only 15 months.

Secret Invasion: Frontline #2 (****1/2)

I can’t believe how good this is almost as much as I can’t believe how good Brian Reed is on this! For me, he’s accurately capturing what this invasion would really be like for the average citizen, something the main mini fails miserably at (Bendis’ idea of this is having random people shout “OH MY GOD” and then cut away). Reed’s also accomplishing this over in Ms. Marvel, the only other book to address this neglected dimension of the event. Surprise, surprise.

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1 (****)

This was a solid start to a four issue mini series that despite its crossover implications appears to be another great addition to the ongoing Inhumans epic. One minor quibble: is anyone else tired of the “push Tony Stark around” scene? How many more times do we need to see this? Okay, let me mention the art. IT WAS PURE EXCELLENCE! Now, the biggest complaint I had going into this story, was trying to figure out why after capturing him the Skrulls would keep someone as dangerous as Black Bolt alive. The plot of the mini centers around rescuing him, so if the writer couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation for this there was no way it could work. Well, he did, and it’s so obvious I feel stupid. DUH, the Skrulls built a weapon around him!

Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers #2 (****)

I liked this issue more than the last, mostly because the back story was succinctly told in only a couple of pages—and then we immediately jumped into the action. I’m not sure the Elektra Skrull being the most dangerous Skrull in the armada was a particularly inspired idea, it kind of takes away a little bit of the coolness of the original Skrull Elektra, but that’s a minor nitpick. I’m glad Yost took the time to show us the Runaways’ reaction to the death of the Vision… although, as we saw in Secret Invasion #5, he didn’t actually die. And yes, Old Lace eating Skrulls was pretty rad.

Secret Invasion: Thor #1 (**)

This… sucked, and not just because a book with the name “Thor” in the title won’t actually have Thor appear in it. Fraction, while grasping the style of ancient Asgard quite easily, is completely out of his element here. This is supposed to fit with JMS’ Thor? I don’t think so. This is the first tie-in to truly disappoint me.

Secret Invasion: X-Men #1 (****1/2)

I loved this comic almost as much as I loved the Black Panther tie-in. Why? Because finally, reasonable invasion type stuff happens that makes me feel the scope of this event! And! More POV from the invaders! THANK YOU!

Okay, now for some wordy semi-ranting. The more issues of Secret Invasion that I read, the closer I come to pinning down why I’m not enjoying the main mini series as much as most of the tie-ins. Here’s my theory: I think what we have here are two types of Secret Invasion comics:

Type 1) This is where a comic is written solely from the perspective of the invaded, the invaded being the super heroes and civilians of Planet Earth. This type of comic reads very fast because we don’t actually get readable Skrull dialogue from the writers. It’s all in Skrullanese! I’m so bored!! Faceless invaders are not scary, guys. Not in comic books anyway. See the main Secret Invasion mini and Ms. Marvel (although Ms. Marvel makes up for it in other ways) tie-ins for this type.

Type 2) This is where the comic is written from both the invaded and the invader perspectives. This is where the writer takes the time to explain the FUCKING motivations of the invaders. This is INTERESTING! This is GOOD writing. This is COMPLEX writing. This is adds LAYERS and SUBTEXT and makes the overall event and its ideas more agreeable. See Black Panther, SI: X-Men, SI: Runaways/Young Avengers, Captain Britain and MI13, SI: Fantastic Four, Mighty and New Avengers for this type.

I know Bendis has explained that you need to read Mighty and New Avengers to really understand Secret Invasion, or get the entire story, because frankly, it’s the only way to get the Skrull’s POV on shit. Fine. I accept that. But, I think the choice to almost completely cut out the Skrull POV from the main title and instead put most of that action in the Avengers books was a mistake. It’s too great a disconnect. Another misstep was the choice to not translate the Skrull dialogue immediately after issue #1. It was fine in the first issue of SI, but to continue to do that all the way ‘til issue #5 was bullshit, and felt all kinds of cheaty, or worse, lazy. So far, my favorite issue of SI was #4, the one where Skrull Spider-Woman makes her 4-5 pages speech to Tony Stark about what she plans to do to Earth. THIS is the subplot I’m interested in. I want the Skrull’s POV in the main book, damn it. Relegating that POV to the side or tie-in titles really rips the meat out of your story, Bendis. When you fail to establish empathy for the bad guy, you lose tons of conflict since the readers know exactly who to root for. In Black Panther, because Aaron took the time to introduce his Skulls, I’m kid of torn. I feel for the commander of the Skrulls and I kind of want him to earn his retirement. In X-Men, I relate to the Skrulls on a human level when I read the scene with the Soul Shepherd. Humanizing the invaders matters, because if you don’t, then I don’t care about them. And if I don’t care about them, then by extension, I care less about the invaded. “The heroes are only as good as the bad guys”. It’s cliché but it also happens to be true.

I’m not saying the Skrull POV needs to be evenly distributed throughout the three main books, but in my opinion, the SI mini needs more of it, if only just a little bit. I now believe that this could be one of my biggest complaints about this event, the others being decompression and pacing, but we’ve talked those to death so I’ll leave them be. Instead…

I do have another complaint that I’ll only briefly mention. I’ve hinted at this before, but I want to flesh it out more here. I don’t feel that the tie-ins to SI actually matter. Meaning, the events that take place in the majority of the tie-ins will have no bearing on the outcome of the main mini series. The tie-ins feel weightless. They’re really fun and awesome reads, but they don’t mean anything. It’s a continuity complaint, and I hate to make it, but this is an event that has been billed as all-encompassing, and yet I can’t help but feel disconnected from the main event every time I read one of the tie-ins, despite how well-written they are.

While serviceable the way it is, I feel that Secret Invasion had the potential to be more than just a “popcorn event” and that really disappoints me, not just as a Marvel Zombie, but as a lover of all things comics.

Review: Captain Britain and MI13 #1-4

Veteran Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell is dealing with the ramifications of the Secret Invasion in his homeland, Britain.  This is the final issue of the tie-in with Marvel’s current mega-event, and the book continues to astonish as how vastly superior it is to the event proper.  In four issues, Cornell dealt with the invasion of Britain AND Avalon, the release of Satannish, a magical devil, and Merlin, the death and rebirth of Britain’s greatest hero, and the forging of a brand new one.  By the end of this issue, heroes will have died, while new ones were born, and Great Britain has expelled the Skrulls in a brilliant little moment mocking? Marvel’s House of M from a few years back.

#4 isn’t the strongest issue in the series.  The dialogue is okay, the action is okay, the art is okay, but nothing about the issue truly stands-out.  In a hurry to complete the arc, the final issue definitely feels rushed, but while nothing stands out as great, there’s not a bad part to the book.  Cornell does a good job with his characters, he wraps this arc up, sets up future arcs, and establishes the super-heroic branch of MI13, which is a lot to ask of a single, normal sized issue.

Overall, the book accomplishes in 4 issues what Secret Invasion is using eight-plus-tie-ins to do, and does it better.  While the fairy-tale solution that concludes this book would never work in a mega-event crossover (oh, wait…), it’s more acceptable in this book given the context of the series.  It’s a fun action comic with potential for a lot of good arcs in the future.

Grade for #4: B

Grade for arc: B+

Foilball’s Review Roundup #38 – Somebody Call the WAH-ambulance!

100 Bullets #93 (****)

Finally! Something awesome happened that doesn’t require tons of back-story for the uninitiated to understand!!! Or, does it…

This is the minuteman.

This is the girl he wants to kill.

Here is the man who wishes to protect her.

This is his breathing machine.

This is the entrance to the panic room where girl and protector are hiding. That is the assassin approaching.

Now, this is what happens when you back old security protector guy in a corner.

…and, also this. OUCH, and yet very, very awesome!

What a fricking cliffhanger, right?? This was just a great little action issue and it was more than welcome. I’m hoping the final seven issues are this good or better.

Captain Britain and MI13 #3 (*****)

Three issues, Bendis! Three mother-effing issues!! Look at all the shit that Cornell has accomplished in three issues!!! Bendis, you hack.

That’s it. No need to beat a dead horse. Go away. Now.

The Incredible Hercules #119 (****1/2)

I love this book. LOOOOOOOOOOOVE IT. Besides all the awesome god action and the interesting way this book ties into the Secret Invasion event, this page  perfectly sums up why I love Hercules and also why I couldn’t give two shits about the Hulk anymore.

Quick Hits:
Amazing Spider-Man #565-566 (**1/2): Kraven’s daughter? Sister? Cousin? Who gives a shit? I like the switcheroo device, or mistaken identity as “they” say, between Vin and Peter. The art by Phil P. is excellent of course, but beyond that, I’m kind of bored with this idea. Part 3 needs to wow my socks off to salvage this arc in my eyes.
Brit #7 (**): Didn’t I cancel this book? This issue was fun, but it was basically your garden variety hero vs. hero misunderstanding plot. WHOA, how original. If not for the fairly well-done scene between Brit and his ex-wife, this issue has absolutely no value in any quantifiable form. Stop sending these to me, DCBS!!!
Cable #5 (*): Gets one star for the good art. Loses four for everything else.
Dreamwar #4 (**1/2): So, I was right. The DC characters were pulled from some kid’s dreams. They are not real people. Wow. Great reveal. At least the dialogue is good. Keith Giffen, what a master. Oh wait, the plot still blows.
Powers #29 (**): Um, what’s going? Honestly, I don’t know why I still read this book. It’s actually terrible. It’s tired and it’s terrible and it’s boring. Bendis is taking his sweet ass time with this “powers virus” bullshit. Hasn’t it been like 12 issues so far? Is anyone still reading this book? Why am I here!?!?! Maybe I’ll switch to trade. Maybe it reads better that way.
Wolfskin Annual #1 (*): Once again, completely forgettable. What is Ellis doing with this idea? Is he just writing a cheap Conan knock-off? Does he even have plans for this character? It must be nice to be able to scratch an artistic itch in public and have people pay you massive amounts of money for it. You know, like what Frank Miller did with The Dark Knight Strikes Again. But Ellis is a better writer so why is this shit so bad? This has got to be the most half-assed idea he’s written since, since… Strange Kiss (but I do like the Gravel character). I should stop buying these. They’re not even remotely good or entertaining. Why am I such an Ellis-whore?

Reviews: Wait, I’m Still Here?

Hello again.  Long-time no review.  I’ve been reading a lot of comics, though.  That, I have been doing.  Here are some of them.

Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge #1

FC: RR was up there with Legion of Three Worlds and Requiem as the minis I wasn’t particularly excited for.  I’m not a big fan of Geoff Johns at all.  Still, I enjoyed Rogue War alright from his Flash run, and the I have generally enjoyed his take on the Rogues in general.  Given all that they’ve been through lately, I thought it would be interesting to see how this has changed them all.

Rogues’ Revenge turned out to be pretty well-handled all around.  The art is average, but Johns’ characterization of the Rogues is rock-solid as always as we see them ready to retire, turning down the offer of Libra’s Secret Society in favor of retirement and a life outside the public eye.  An inciting event keeps them in costume, of course, and sets them on a collision course with Professor Zoom and Inertia and, I suspect, Wally and Barry.  The issue doesn’t have a lot of twists and turns, but it’s solid set-up for a mini-series, and I hope that the next issues live up to this one.  

Grade: B+

Madame Xanadu #1-2

Madame Xanadu is one of Vertigo’s newest books, the first using mainstream DC characters in quite some time, as it tells the origin of characters like Madame Xanadu, The Demon Etrigan, and (okay, not the origin, but early uses of) the Phantom Stranger.  The book, beginning at the twilight of Camelot, is okay – but nothing special.  And that’s the key phrase when describing the book so far.  Nothing special.  The art is solid, the writing is solid, the story is solid, but nothing stands out as particularly worth it, especially when we’ve already gotten a much more impressive ‘fall of Camelot’ in Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight.

Ultimately, the story tries to have a few twists.  Nimue – who we are led to believe will become Madame Xanadu – did not betray Merlin, but instead was a pawn in the evil, maniacal manipulations of a mad mage as he tried to gain immortality.  But the changes ring hollow, made, seemingly, to make us more sympathetic to Nimue.  And if you have to change the myth so completely to make us sympathetic to a character, why use that myth in the first place?  Beginning Madame Xanadu at the fall of Camelot was an interesting choice, but so far, not one that has had any sort of pay-off within the story.  I’m hoping it does in future issues, though, because Madame Xanadu only has one issue left to impress me.

Grade: B-

Captain Britain and MI:13 #1-3

Now THIS is what a tie-in should be like.  This has nothing to do with the main story – but it could.  If the heroes here fail, then it will completely change the main battlefield over in the American-based books.  This isn’t just an extension of that story – you don’t have to be reading this, there aren’t any HUGE REVEALS, and this isn’t where the back-story is.  It is, however, an entertaining and well-illustrated book dealing with interesting characters stuck in a terrible situation.

When it comes to Secret Invasion, for me, this is the place to be.  

Grade: B+

Ambush Bug: Year None #1

Ambush Bug is another Keith Giffen project created long ago to satirize the industry and long-since forgotten.  This book is Giffen’s way of mocking the recent grimness of the DC Universe, the pomp of their SUPER HUGE EVENTS, and certain trends in modern comics.  While parts of it are genuinely hilarious and clever satire of the industry – the main story of the issue is the murder of Jonni DC (DC’s oft-ignored kids line is called Johnny DC, and comics are becoming more and more violent), there are a number of small, clever touches, such as a few fourth wall breaking moments, Ambush Bug’s part in Identity Crisis, and just try and count how many dead women litter the pages of the comic.  But, in the end, it’s just trying too hard to be funny, going for the easy laugh as often as not.  It’s like modern Saturday Night Live – it strikes solid gold every so often, but you have to slog through the mediocrity to get there.

Grade: C+

Wonder Woman #22

The penultimate chapter in the current Wonder Woman arc, this one definitely picks up the pace as we finally meet Wonder Woman’s nemesis here, a extra-universal devil who has been demolishing planets and universes.  Stranded from her allies, betrayed, the arc features a few twists, but more than that, it features a few great moments between Stalker and Wonder Woman.  The issue is funny, exciting, and just a little dark.  All-around solid.

Grade: B+

The Immortal Iron Fist: The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven

All I can say is, David Aja might be one of the best artists in the industry today when it comes to action scenes, but he’s also a solid all-around talent, one well worth watching.  And teaming him up with Matt Fraction?  That’s a match made in heaven, as the first arc, The Last Iron Fist Story, proved.  This, the second arc on the series, isn’t quite as good as the first one, largely due to a sad lack of focus – and an even sadder lack of awesome ass-kickery.  I had hoped to see a little more of the tournament than we did, but what we got was solid gold, and the main story-line of a revolution in heaven was equally well-handled.

Easily, the weakest part of the trade was the Immortal Iron Fist Annual #1 put right in the middle.  While the story it contains is certainly important, the art was an extreme departure from Aja’s quality work that came off stiff and wooden – which certainly hurts action books.  The story was long, and while it’s always great to see Orson again, this was the weak link.

Still, when the cards are down, Immortal Iron Fist offers unparalleled action, great banter, amazing panel layout (you know it’s either really good or really bad when you have to stop and notice it), and an excellent supporting cast.  If any of you aren’t reading this, you should be.

Grade: A-