Top 5 Comics of August 2010

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Damn it. I’m late again. I read 27 comics in August, and these were the best.
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Review: Avengers The Initiative Special

I’ve been a bit hot and cold on Avengers: The Initiative over its run. Arcs like the World War Hulk mini tie in and Killed in Action were pretty much full on excellent, but a couple of the one off moments and the Secret Invasion tie-in haven’t been tickling me the way some of the other issues did. Not sure why I ordered the Special, as I’m always a bit wary about these one off $4 specials, but I’m pretty sure I read the solicit and it sounded legit (i.e. not a couple pages or half story and a bunch of reprints or rushed supplemental material. You hear me random Hulk specials and Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?). It came in my DCBS box yesterday (and a depressingly sad box that only had about eight books in it. Sad times), and I read it a few minutes ago. Had to start writing about it immediately while it’s still fresh in my mind, because I was very impressed by the quality of this book. Like the main series, this was co-written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage, with art by Steve Uy, who seems like I’ve seen his work before, though he doesn’t seem to have done work on the monthly as of yet. This is a story that is designed to not stand on its own, but instead to give a chance to step away from all the Skrully madness and focus on a couple of the characters from the first year of the book that have been lost in the shuffle. The main story brings us back to the relationship between Komodo and Hardball, and the backup is about Trauma. This is a 40 page book. And I’m not saying 40 page from the perspective that it’s 32 story pages. There are a full 40 pages of story here, which actually makes this thing a good value at $4 (considering the extra dollar gets you another 18 story pages). I may not have previously been aware of Steve Uy, but his art is relatively reminiscent of Caselli’s work. So the packaging is good. What about the story?

Remember that little one of splash of the Nevada and Arizona teams fighting Zzzax on a dam that showed up in one of the recent issues of the main book? That’s where this issue starts, as these new super teams (led by Gravity and Two Gun Kid) attempt to work together to try and take down that silly electromagnetic monster. Long story short, both teams get pretty well wrecked before Hardball and Komodo step in (Hardball operates out of Nevada, and Komodo is in Arizona), and proceed to use their combined powers to stop the threat. What follows is mostly a continuation of the Hardball/HYDRA storyline that we saw around the time of Killed in Action and the attack on Gauntlet, where we learn a bit of back story about Hardball and why he can’t seem to escape of the devious clutches of the particular HYDRA operative that has been using his services. Hardball finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place (HA! I kill me!), and is forced to make a decision between his family and the love of his life. Sure, it’s a bit of a cliched story point, but that doesn’t stop Gage and Slott from breathing new life into it via unlocking some of the back story of Komodo and Hardball. These are damaged people who aren’t exactly in the position to make good and well reasoned decisions when it comes to matters of the heart. Hardball loves his family. He obviously loves Komodo. And his life is on the line thanks to some good old fashioned HYDRA blackmailing. We get some espionage and back stabbing all around, which sets the stage for the final big battle of the story. But the crux of the story isn’t lost in all of the punching and explosions, and Hardball makes a hard choice (again! Boom!) that certainly heavily changes the status quo of his character. I’m trying to keep things vague (could you tell?), because I love the way that this story unfolds itself. It’s perfectly paced, keeping a nice ratio of action and quiet character moments, and the motives of Hardball make you completely buy what he does at the end of the story, despite the fact that it’s not exactly what you would expect. This story really reminds me of what I liked about The Initiative in that first year. We grew attached to these characters, and I’m glad to know that Slott and Gage have not forgotten and abandoned them (or at least given them more time than a quick cameo from Cloud 9 or something). This story feels like home. I hope that the creative team gets back to stories like this post Secret Invasion, and maybe leaves Camp Hammond behind for a bit to explore what happens to these characters in the real world.

The Trauma backup is shorter but no less good. I do like Trauma as a character, and I think the decision to turn him into a superhero therapist that helps them overcome their fears was a great choice for him. This backup is similar to the main story in that its thrust was to delve into Trauma’s back story. This is a quick eight pages about how much it sucks to have a power like that without the ability to control it. He alienates both friends and enemies in high school. He accidentally gets his mother committed. He has to hide from his family and is eventually forced to leave his home, at which point he has nowhere else to go but Camp Hammond. This backup mirrors the main story in another way, in that we’ve got a glimpse at the future of where this character can go in the future. There is one specifically excellent and haunting series of two panels that really pulls off what was needed to make you emphathize with Trauma (excellent work, Mr. Uy). Excellent work here again.

This book is more than worth the four bucks for fans of the series and the characters. It’s right up there with Swierczynski’s Orson Randall special as a wonderful one shot that features great work from everyone involved. Vigorous thumbs up over here.

Secret Invasion 12B: The Rest!

New Avengers #45 (**)

House of M was the first Marvel book I ever read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s safe to say that I was looking forward to this one, especially the way that the last three or four issues of New Avengers had the little “Next! House of M!” icon at the bottom of the last page. Well, we finally got it. However, I was kinda let down by this one. There was a moment earlier in the Avengers Secret Invasion tie-ins that mentioned three things the Skrulls needed to happen to ease the pressure on their invasion. They needed Nick Fury gone, they needed the mutants in check, and they needed the heroes not to trust each other. Of course, these three necessary components take the form of Secret War, House of M, and Civil War. So you have the presupposition that the Skrulls had something to do with these events. But really, they just got lucky. These events all happened in rapid succession and as far as we can tell, the advance scouts and sleeper agents just happened to be there when they happened. I know this does sorta feed into the notion that this does reinforce to the Skrulls that the invasion was in fact prophesized, and I know that retcons are a bit of a taboo for fans these days, especially when they’re done to events that happened so recently, but Bendis wrote Secret War and House of M. He’s been planning Secret Invasion since Avengers: Disassembled. So why not take the plunge and make the Skrulls more than bystanders? It’s his story! He can make it work. This book just seemed like a great missed opportunity. I find that saddening especially since Jim Cheung was on the art for this book and his gorgeous work was wasted on a middling book. This one was a misfire.

Mighty Avengers #18 (****)

I don’t have a lot to say about this one (you’ll notice a bit of a theme for that, but I’ll discuss that at the end of this article). I do love the way Bendis writes Nick Fury. Mighty Avengers 12 and 13 were really fun, and I’m glad they went back to this portion of the back story. Sure, it’s designed to further flesh out the characters before the launch of Secret Warriors, but it’s a good little one off story that also builds up Maria Hill a little further, which I always appreciate. All the Secret Warriors are fun characters. Bick Fury is the badass he should be. It’s just a great book, and it makes me excited for Secret Warriors, so it was a success from that perspective.

Avengers: The Initiative #17 (***1/2)

I like Eric O’Grady. I should probably read the Kirkman issues. I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this one either. The overt actions of the Skrulls were a little sill, but I like the way they’re smart enough to realize that they need to mkake sure Spider-Woman is protected. It’s also possible that the use of Jessica Drew dupes came as a response to Maria Hill’s little LMD ambush on the Helicarrier, which is a nice touch (if one that may be completely fabricated in my own mind). Plus you’ve got that little Mutant X semi reveal that was a bit weird. Sure seems to me that they’re trying to intimate that Mutant X is Jean Grey. Which means it’s probably Madelyn Pryor. Or someone else that has long, flowing red hair. That was a bit strange. This was a good, if middling, read.

Secret Invasion: Thor #2 (***)

I don’t get the same sense of energy in this book compared to the Fraction one shots. Obviously, it’s not going to read like the JMS book, and the Thor that we see in the JMS book is different from the Thor that we saw in those first two one shots, but that’s not the problem. Even still, this book just doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s Beta Ray Bill, but I don’t have a problem with the character or particularly how he’s written. I guess it might be the way Fraction cuts between the battle at Asgard and the child birth scenes in nearby Broxton, Oklahoma, but I don’t necessarily hate the device. Perhaps it’s the execution. I also wonder if I would like this more had the two Fraction/Zircher one shots not come out yet. They created a quality expectation for any Fraction penned Thor book, and these first two issues haven’t lived up to that. The third issue shows some potential promise with some possible Thor/Beta Ray Bill team-up action. Hoping this will pick up and turn into something worthwhile.

Deadpool #2 (****1/2)

Complete madness. Deadpool training Super Skrulls is a recipe for disaster. HILARIOUS disaster! We’ve got a lot of nice moments in the course of this book, including the realization that Deadpool’s DNA replication not only grants his impressive healing factor on these new Super Skrulls, but also his complete mental imbalance (and presumably his penchant for breaking the fourth wall). Deadpool wreaks havoc on the Skrulls and basically ruins an entire batch of Super Skrulls (who had already killed a completely separate batch of Super Skrulls as a “training exercise”) singlehandedly. Of course, we find out at the end that this was planned by Nick Fury from the beginning, and all is right with the world. The humor is still there and solidly done. Personally, I still prefer Nicieza’s humor over Way’s thus far, but he still brings the funny well enough. And it’s perfect acceptable for a Deadpool book. It’s a positive start to the series and I’m looking forward to the continuation of the book.

War Machine: Weapon of SHIELD #33 (***)

I’ve gotten a bunch of the Iron Man: Director of SHIELD issues, mostly for 25-50 cents apiece at various cons or Wild Pig sdales. Haven’t actually read any of them yet, but this one is a Secret Invasion book and War Machine has officially taken the title over, so it’s as good a time as any to start reading the book, especially considering the book is ending in a few scant months to be replaced b a Greg Pak War Machine book. So was it good? I guess. Christos Gage wrote this one, and it doesn’t exactly have the same flair that he puts into, oh…I don’t know…let’s say THUNDERBOLTS (Woo! Thunderbolts!). It’s a pretty good book; nothing about it is bad or painful, but it’s just okay. I didn’t get much out of this, and it’s one of the few tie-ins that didn’t add too much to the worldwide scope of Secret Invasion. Not necessary to be read, but it’s okay.

——-

So here’s the deal. I’m getting really burned out by the whole capsule review thing. Not really sure how to fix that, but I think I’m going to take some time to try and find a topic I can write about that isn’t a review or tied to any specific book. It’s been too long since the whole aborted look at the nature of various event structures to go back to that one (yeah, I know. Lame), so I’m really looking for something along the lines of the “In Defense of Civil War 7” article I wrote about six months back. Hopefully, the inspiration will strike me soon enough.

Secret Invasion Part 12A

Secret Invasion: Inhumans (****1/2)

I must say that Pokaski has a very good feel for these characters. Crystal making a gigantic stone Black Bolt golem to fight the Skrulls? Fantastic. All the Inhumans are written well in a believable fashion, and you still get the different sense of how this royal family acts in comparison to a standard superhero team. Loyalty above all else is the name of the game. So it’s not even a question that Gorgon would protect Maximus despite his hatred for the man. I should also mention that the Inhumans’ methods for torturing a captive Skrull in attempts to discern the location of Black Bolt was a perfectly ingenius way to go about their business. We’re continuing to learn of the overall plans of the Skrulls as relates to Mr. Boltagon, and it’s not going to be pretty. This is a great series so far, and Joe Pokaski eally does seem to have a future in print media.

Nova #17 (****1/2)

Nova has returned home. Most of the events of this issue take place at the home base of Project PEGASUS, wherein Richard Rider, his brother Robbie and Darkhawk try to beat back the Skrulls from intercepting some seriously dangerous tech. The three characters engage in quite a lot of wisecracking (including a nice shot at the cliche of heroes attacking each other before realizing they’re on the same side) and we’ve got the return (in a way) of the Xandarian Worldmind. But the best moment of the entire issues comes on the last page, where we have a big (from my perspective) return that makes perfect sense, considering that character originally met his end early on in the Nova book (hint, hint…It’s Quasar!). Great reveal that was truly well executed and logical, and it sets up a lot of interest for the rest of the arc and potentially beyond, provided that he’s going to stick around. I love this book. But you already knew that.

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (***1/2)

Drax gets his Wolverine in the sewers of the Hellfire Club moment here, as he skulks around eviscerating Luminals for a good portion of the book. This issue has a bit of middle chapter syndrome going on; things happen and the story continues to move, but not a lot of it grabbed me. The Drax stuff was fun, but as I mentioned, we’ve seen it before. A lot. There is a big reveal involving Cosmo that was a nice moment, and I did enjoy the way Adam Warlock discovered the traitorous dog with a nice continuation of the work being done in the Marvel Universe with the Eternals and the Celestials. I am also looking forward to the litany of “I told you sos” and overall smugness of Rocket Raccoon over the next couple issues once he finds out about Cosmo. This was a good issue, but nothing special.

Black Panther #41 (*****)

Well, there was certainly an unholy amount of badass in this three issue run. There are so many great moments in this issue, from the reveal of what was actually going on with Black Panther and Storm to the final fate of the Skrulls. But like the rest of the issues, the real star of the book is Commander K’vv, the man that is running the Wakandan portion of the invasion. There is a running theme in the book of K’vvr struggling to figure out how to write a letter to his wife, and the final portion of the book is set to the narrative of the letter itself (this is, of course, going on after his bloody and violent end at the hands of the protagonists) with these stark pages of dead Skrulls and blood alongside the cheering Wakandans. The way Aaron wrote these issues is very sympathetic to the Skrulls, despite the fact that they are the invading force and should really be the villains of the piece. It’s that little extra oomph that pushes this book over the top. The characterization of K’vvr is excellent, and the final letter is a very sobering series of panels. These are overall probably the best issues to come out of the Secret Invasion event. I probably liked the Hercules issues more, but they were not as accessible as what we have her. I recommend that everyone out there read these books. You will not be disappointed.

Thunderbolts #124 (*****)

I love what Christos Gage is doing with these characters. I should have started reading this book earlier. How long has it been this good? Every single person in this book and on this team is certifiably insane. And all of it is tempered by the strange sense of twisted honor that many of these characters feel. Many of them are legitimately trying to do good works, but have to deal with what simply boils down to mental illness, and at the same time, you’ve got characters like Bullseye and Venom right next to them that only care about killing and survival. The interactions between Norman Osborne and Moonstone are awesome. Songbird, Radioactive Man, the Swordsman duo, Penance, it’s all great. I don’t know if I have more fun reading any Marvel book other than Thunderbolts right now. Awesome stuff.

Foilball’s September Previews Order

100 BULLETS #97 (MR) JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #21
ACTION COMICS #871 MIGHTY AVENGERS #20
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #576-578 MOON KNIGHT #24
AUTHORITY #4 MS MARVEL #33
AVENGERS INITIATIVE #19 NEW AVENGERS #47
AVENGERS INITIATIVE SPECIAL NIGHTWING #150
AVENGERS INVADERS #6 NO HERO #3
BATMAN #682-683 NOVA #19
BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #13 PUNISHER #64 (MR)
BOYS #24 (MR) PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #25
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #20 ROBIN #180
CABLE #8 RUNAWAYS 3 #4
CAPTAIN AMERICA #44 SAVAGE DRAGON #142
CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI 13 #7 SECRET INVASION #8
DAREDEVIL #113 SECRET INVASION FRONT LINE #5
DEADPOOL #4 SECRET INVASION INHUMANS #4
DETECTIVE COMICS #850 SECRET INVASION X-MEN #4
DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #12 SECRET SIX #3
ETERNALS ANNUAL #1 SHE-HULK 2 #35
FABLES #78 (MR) SKAAR SON OF HULK #5
FANTASTIC FOUR #563 STORMWATCH PHD #16
FINAL CRISIS #6 SUPERMAN #682
FINAL CRISIS REVELATIONS #4 SUPERMAN BATMAN #54
FOOLKILLER WHITE ANGELS #5 THOR #12
GHOST RIDER #29 THOR: MAN OF WAR
GRAVEL #8 THUNDERBOLTS #126
GREEN LANTERN #36 TWELVE #9
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #30 ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #128
GUARDIANS OF GALAXY #7 ULTIMATE X-MEN #98
HULK #8 ULTIMATUM #1-2
I KILL GIANTS #5 UNCANNY X-MEN #504
INCREDIBLE HERCULES #123 WALKING DEAD #57 (MR)
INVINCIBLE #58 WILDCATS #5
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #7 WOLVERINE #69
IRON MAN DIRECTOR OF SHIELD #35 WOLVERINE ORIGINS #30
IRON MAN END WONDER WOMAN #26
JACK OF FABLES #28 (MR) X-FORCE #9
JSA KC SPECIAL MAGOG #1 X-MEN LEGACY #218
JSA KC SPECIAL SUPERMAN #1 YOUNG LIARS #9 (MR)
JSA KC SPECIAL THE KINGDOM #1

Well, the events are winding down… thank GOD. My wallet needs the break. Oh, but wait. Dark Avengers? Secret Warriors? DAMN YOU, MARVEL!!!

November Tidings: Let’s see then, what do we have to look forward to: final issue of Secret Invasion, second to last issue of Final Crisis, more Captain America, Batman RIP wrapping up, the Kingdom Come JSA story kicking into overdrive, my final-finally-super-done-with-it issues of both Punisher titles, Batman and the Outsiders and, maybe, Nightwing? Oh, and ULTIMATUM has arrived!!!

This is X-Men/Spider-Man #1 by Christos Gage & Mario Albert and it sounds awesome! I’ll be trade waiting, because I have an addiction, but that doesn’t mean you have to!

Reviews: Secret Invasion Part 10B: The Avengers

As of tomorrow I’m off to the Comic Geek Speak Super Show (woop woop!) for the rest of the weekend. I’ll write up a report of what I saw and got there, and I’m very much looking forward to bumming around with about 300-400 crazy comic geeks and 50+ artists and picking up the sketches I preordered of random Marvel Cosmic characters (Thanos, Lockjaw, Karnak, Ronan the Accuser, and AIR-WALKER!). Hopefully I’ll have time to put up the final SI tie in part Sunday night or Monday, but things are going to get super crazy and busy next week with the move, so I might not be heard from in a while.

New Avengers #44 (****1/2)

This is definitely a novel way to deal with the problem of how the Skrulls learned to become undetectable. We’ve known the mechanics of what is done for some time (well, those of us that are reading New and Mighty Avengers do at least), but it was never adequately explained how the Skrulls came up with the idea in the first place. Turns out that they didn’t. This is the furthest back in time we’ve gone since New Avengers: Illuminati #1. In fact, this seems to take place hours/days/weeks after the events of that book, where we find out that one of the things the Skrulls did to the Illuminati while they were captured was to perfect a way to create flawless clones of the six Illuminati members. Why would they do such a thing? It’s simple: they can interrogate Reed Richards without actually interrogating Reed Richards. The entire Illuminati makes their appearances here (well, technically none of them do, but you know what I mean), but Reed is at the center of things here, as the Skrulls attempt to attack his mind from various avenues and perspectives. Of course, they eventually crack him, and Reed rationally surmises how the Skrulls could potentially elude detection, which leads to the eventual invasion however many years down the line.

So this is really the first time in the history of Marvel comics that the Skrulls come off as actually smart. It’s important to keep that thread alive considering their less than stellar track record, because this is easily a situation that could fall into the realm of an unimpressive threat. A book like this is what is needed to reinforce the ideals at the core of Secret Invasion that these aren’t the kind of Skrulls that are going to be hypnotized into thinking they’re cows. This book also puts Reed Richards at the absolute center of the entire event, because he’s the cause of it all. His getting captured along with the rest of the Illuminati gave the Skrulls the ammunition they needed to get the ball rolling. But at the same time, it’s not perfect. The Skrulls were successful in completing their objective, but it sure took a couple tries to get it done, which further explicates the cracks in the armor that Bendis and the other Marvel writers have been seeding into this event from month four on. The plan may have been perfectly realized, but the execution hasn’t. Looking at what happened between the panels in Secret Invasion 5, it’s quite apparent that Reed not only knows the “how” that led to their improved cloaking abilities, but he also knows what they did to him to get there. Reed’s not going to be happy. These books are so layered and satisfying that I just can’t get enough.

Mighty Avengers #17 (***1/2)

It seems Hank Pym is Bendis’ anti-Hawkeye, as he’s been doing a lot of work in Mighty Avengers to attempt to redeem the poor bastard, and that continues here. There are two kinds of Skrull agents on Earth during this event. The first kind is completely stripped of any memories, emotions or feelings that tie them to being a Skrull to the point that they’re completely convinced that they are who they look like. This would be the model used for the folks that crashed in the Savage Land, and is mostly designed for diversionary purposes. The second variety it designed for the higher ups of the infiltration force, and they still retain their own thoughts and feelings through the transformation process, which allows them to carry out specific objectives that would be impossible had they gone completely undercover. Look at Queen Veranke/Spider Woman and Jarvis as examples of this kind of Skrull. Hank Pym is the latter version. But these agents still go through the process of having their DNA melded with that of their “host” (as it were), and in so doing, it’s impossible not to pick up on some of the physical and mental traits that come with the territory. And in this case, Hank Pym is just too smart for his own good.

It’s a good concept, but the book is a bit choppier than usual. I think the fight in the middle is a bit overlong, but the conversations that pepper the beginning and the end, and the slowly building mix of paranoia, fear and dementia that grips the Pym Skrull before he goes off the deep end are something special. So you’ve got the dual purpose of the Skrulls knowing that the replacement of Hank Pym undeniably necessary for the success of their plans combined with the various Pym Skrulls always figuring out that the plan isn’t going to work, and you’re left with chaos. I would have liked it more if it were structured differently, but it was still a solid story.

Avengers: The Initiative #16 (***)

I like 3-D Man. Not too fond of the Skrull Kill Krew at this point. We’ve only seen one issue, and they do go into the back story of the SKK (which is a bit of a problem in itself, as the events that led to the Skrull Kill Krew being formed didn’t exactly jive with the events of the Kree Skrull War so many years before it, but there might have been some kind of explanation at some other point), and I certainly understand why they’ve been pulled into the universe, but Slott and Gage don’t really give us a reason to care about them. I still like the writing, and Caselli’s art is more than adequate, but there was definitely a disconnect here that took me out of the story.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #44 – The Last Bits. Some Good, Some Not So Good…

Avengers: The Initiative #15 (****)

Wow, Crusader’s origin tale was almost as cool as Aaron’s characterization of the Skrull commander over in Black Panther. And the artist can really draw the shit out of those Skrulls. As for the story, again we get another good tie-in that adds more depth to shallow spine that is Secret Invasion mini series. One could almost just not read the mini and get the gist of the story primarily from the tie-ins. One could do that if one was so inclined… and I recommend it to those that have yet to jump into the Secret Invasion lake. Don’t wait for the trade, just read Black Panther or MI13 or any one of the countless other great tie-ins.

Wildcats #1 (****)

Picking up where Armageddon, Wildstorm Revelations and Number of the Beast left off, we have the relaunch of Wildcats. Cool. I always liked them, especially after Jim Lee left the book. He is stains. Anyway, despite not liking how they jump so far into the future (I read the Armageddon books, but why is Majestros evil again?), I still enjoyed this book. We got cannibals and cool explanations for powers and Grifter shooting shit and killer art and Black Ops back-up stories and angry god-like aliens… I mean, this shit is jam-packed. And we got Christos Gage writing more Wildstorm Universe characters. I think this is the Universe of characters he’s best at writing. Oh, did anyone else notice that the artist’s last name is Googe? Gage and Googe. Gage-Googe! GG!! Heh, I’m stupid. This book is not.

Quick Hits:
Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day – EXTRA! #1 (***1/2): It was fine, especially the Joe Kelly Hammerhead story, but what was the point of this? We couldn’t squeeze these into the regular title? I hate when publishers do shit like this. I think I only ordered it so I could complain. Hah.
Black Panther #38 (**): After the Jason Aaron Secret Invasion Arc, I am definitely dropping this book. Hudlin has lost the magic. He, in fact, lost the magic over two years ago and has yet to find it. So, I’m out.
Daredevil #109 (****1/2): Where has this book been? WHERE?! I could almost be just as happy with this book if they changed the title to “Dakota North”. Not kidding.
Reign In Hell #1 (***): Um, I ordered the first issue to see how it was… and I’m not impressed enough to pick up issue 2. I’ll wait for the trade, and if I hear good things, I’ll give it another shot.
New Warriors #14 (***1/2): This was actually okay. As annoying as theses characters are, I didn’t mind so much when Justice and the “real” New Warriors showed up to kick the “fake” Night Thrasher’s ass. Oh, and thank gosh it’s only a two-parter!
She-Hulk #31 (****): Where have they been keeping this artist? Vincenzo Lucca? He’s the stones! Okay, maybe his Darwin looks super lame, but She-Hulk looks rad! And the writing ain’t half bad either. Does this mean I have to add this book back to the pre-order list? Not quite yet. We’ll wait to see what else David has planned.
Skulls vs. Power Pack #1 (*): This sucked. Where’s mark Sumerak? Why didn’t I check for his name before ordering this crap? UGH.
Superman/Batman #50 (**1/2): This was too stupid. Too much retconning. Too much garbage that will never get referenced by Johns or Robinson. Now, if the story was better, then none of that would matter. But, it’s not, so it does.
Thor #10 (*****): Can JMS do no wrong on this book? Man, when Loki finally drops the hammer, it’s gonna be curtains for the Norse Gods all over again!
Ultimate X-Men #96 (*): Did I miss an issue or did this book feel like all kinds of jump cutty? Seriously, did we just fast forward past Northstar’s death? And then Jean’s in space fighting the Silver Surfer in a flashback? Huh-wha? Tell me I’m not the only one confused here? It felt like a compilation book, like the Spider-Man extra, like this issue was made up from parts of different future X-Men arcs… in essence, it sucked.
Wolverine: Origins #27 (*): “HE DOESN’T REMEMBER ANYTHING.”…seriously, Way? GAH! Daken has memory problems!! NO!!!

Foilball’s Review Roundup #42 – Wherein I Love Comics Again!

Green Lantern #33 (****1/2)

Very cool. It doesn’t bother me in the least that Johns is borrowing so much from The Trilogy (obv you should know what trilogy I’m speaking of), and he’s basically admitted as much in interviews. Spence, I know you want to jump in here and call me a hypocrite, but this is totally different than what Mark Millar is doing. First, Johns doesn’t hype the shit out of his work. Second, it’s really well-written. Talent really does mean that much. Anyway, okay, I do have some issues with this issue. First, is there going to be some kind of “mind-wipe” action in Sinestro and Jordan’s future? How come they don’t remember any of this? I can see the Guardians pulling this off to protect their secrets. In fact, if this does happen, it adds so much to an already mythic run and totally validates Johns’ need to tell this retconned origin story. Second, the ring-less fighting promised for next issue… um, why are we repeating ourselves? I’m hoping there’s a reason for this, and as always with Johns, I’m positive there is.

Ms. Marvel #29 (****1/2)

So, question: Has Brian Reed just been killing time in this book ‘til the “Invasion” or what? Is this why his SI tie-ins have been so awesome and the 10-15 issues preceding them had been such trash? Or, is Ms. Marvel finally reaching the climax of her “I want to be the best hero ever!” arc? I love the irony that being the best hero ever also means not being very heroic. Killing Skrulls, for example, even in times of war is still murder. Heroes don’t kill. I mean, Superman would find another way, right? I hope there are repercussions here. I hope someone in the Marvel Universe brings this up later. Like, do you guys remember the first couple of issues of the Kurt Busiek Avengers, when Carol got kicked off the team for killing someone? I want some drama, damn it! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. This book rocks! I just hope it’s also serving as the setup for even greater things to come.

Thunderbolts #122 (*****)

How does one follow up the epically fantastic Ellis run? I have no idea, but Gage is off to a great start. He somehow manages to maintain the tone established by Ellis, but at the same time injects enough of his own insanities into the characters to give us a little bit of the new, the fresh and the excitingly evil. Gage ain’t just aping Ellis; he totally owns this book! “Ellis who,” I found myself asking after finishing this issue. And it’s still ####ing funny!

Wolverine #67 (***)

Better than the last issue, mostly because the expo wasn’t so heavy-handed this time. Millar kind of relaxed a bit and let us enjoy the pairing of Hawkeye and pacifist Wolverine. Loved the Ghost Rider gang and loved the Hawkeye violence, but hell, I love violence in general, so that’s not saying much. The “Hammer Falls” thing is the most inspired idea in this arc so far. The teenage “Spider-Girl” wannabe is the least. I’ll finish the arc, because I’m a completist and I own every other issue of Wolverine, but I’m still waiting for that HUGE jaw-dropping moment. The fact that it hasn’t happened yet is encouraging, it means maybe Millar is saving it for the end, which would mark a change for him since in the past his endings have been the weakest parts of his stories. Oh, maybe a showdown with the Hulk? …also, yes, the art is amazing.

Quick Hits:
Astonishing X-Men #25 (*): I waited to read Uncanny X-Men #500 (in depth review to follow shortly) before reading this on the recommendation of the Pull List guys, I believe, and you know what? Didn’t help with the enjoyment, got to say. WOW. This book is terrible. First, the art: YOU CAN”T FUCKING SEE ANYTHING!!! It’s so dark! Second: WHO THE FUCK ARE THESE CHARACTERS!!! CSI X-Men is right. I’ll rant more about this when I do my UX:500 review, tomorrow or Saturday, because these books definitely go hand in hand in terms of quality. UGH.
Black Summer #7 (****): And it’s finally over. And I liked it. And I may have to re-read the entire thing again. It got a little preachy at the end, but it made sense. I like that Ellis remembered to answer the question he posed in the zero issue. And I agree with him. For a second there, I thought he’d gone off the deep-end and was advocating violent regime change. Thankfully he’s still only half-crazy and not full-on bonkers crazy.
Fantastic Four: Secret Invasion #3 (****1/2): This is exactly the type of mini I wanted (a story focusing on the interpersonal conflicts caused by the invasion) and it totally exceeded my expectations. I liked that it tried to reconcile old FF-Skrull continuity with new Bendis-Skrull continuity. This book was pitch-perfect in every single way except one: Lyja deciding to stay behind in the Negative Zone. This sounded like “Hey, Bendis says he doesn’t want to use Lyja in the main event, so get rid of her before the end of the mini.” That sucks, but at least they didn’t kill her. Anyone else wish RAS was still writing an ongoing FF book?
Invincible #51 (****): I like the new costume and direction, but I wish Kirkman would cut it out with all the fucking subplots. Like, tell a main plot once in a while, dude! The final page reveal was not shocking or unexpected. That guy is totally the resurrection type of villain. Oh, and for all the haters, I don’t know what your problem is with the coloring, I actually think it looks tons better.
Justice Society of America Annual #1 (****): I hate Earth 2, and yet… this was so good! OMG, why are there two Power Girls!?! OMG! Why is JSA so awesome?! OMG!!!
New Avengers #43 (****1/2): Out of all the New/Mighty flashback stories, this one has been the most satisfying so far. It gave us tangible answers about what’s currently going on in the SI mini. Like, all the dudes in the ship are Skrulls. Mystery solved. Mockingbird is a Skrull and she doesn’t know it! Drama! Bendis, you sick bastard! And you’re a liar. You said you were finished torturing Hawkeye, but dude, what happens when he finds out she ain’t who she says she is? Great drama, that’s what! Also, I liked that I was made to feel sorry for Cap-Skrull. Three-dimensional villains– Hooray!
Robin #175 (****): Other than losing a star for that terrible final page, the pose and dialogue made me cringe, I really liked this issue and I don’t think it portrays Robin out of character at all. Not at all. And, he finally voices his anger over what Stephanie did: the “I know you loved me and shit, and you would have liked to have known, but like, sorry I couldn’t be bothered to let you know I was still alive” crap. Yes, real human emotion has returned! I miss Dixon too, but Fabian appears to be an excellent second choice.

Review: Secret Invasion Tie Ins, Part 8

One disappointing book and a whole boatload of awesome fit into the eighth installment of Secret Invasion reviews.

New Avengers #42 (*****)

Awesome! Bendis takes one of the biggest questions of Secret Invasion (what the hell is the deal with the Skrull Ship from the Savage Land?) and explains it beautifully. It shows the dedication of the Skrulls, to the point that they’re basically using suicide bombers. The fact that all the Skrulls on the ship are completely and totally convinced that they are the real deal just adds to the madness and confusion, which is exactly why they were sent there in the first place. Skrully Cap refusing to acknowledge his true nature despite having already reverted back to his true form was some powerful stuff. We’ve also got the running background commentary from Spider-Man, and very few people today can write Spider-Man as well as Bendis. The work he has put into building up the Skrull invasion through slowly revealing their machinations and behind the scenes plotting adds an immense amount of enjoyment to the overall story. It’s very subtle and logical storytelling that is perfectly structured in every way.

Avengers: The Initiative #15 (****1/2)

I do enjoy the way that Slott and Gage write 3-D Man here. This is a guy that is certainly in a no win situation. He sees Skrulls as humans and humans as Skrulls, so of course he has no choice but to trust and confide in the exact folks that he shouldn’t. Of course, Crusader is a kind soul, and decides to switch sides and fight against the Skrulls (in a way that is very similar to the end of the Captain Marvel miniseries), and he’s got the added bonus of manipulating the Freedom Ring (made out of a piece of the cosmic cube) so he is one of the few people on Earth that can see through the Skrulls’ disguises. I like the way that the undercurrent of paranoia in the main Secret Invasion books is taken over by the OVERT paranoia of 3-D Man, who’s a guy that is breaking apart at the seams trying to figure out what to do with the false information presented to him. There’s another thing I really like about this (that ends up being a theme of this batch of books), but I’ll get to that during the She-Hulk review later.

Ms. Marvel #29 (****)

Ooooh, baby. I will concede that the first half or so of this book could be considered more of the same. More Ms. Marvel dealing with the Skrull attack on New York. More of her mistreating civilians in a time of war and panic. But she eventually moves on and tries to figure out what’s going on by buzzing by Stark Tower and eventually moving a group of citizens to the Raft for safe keeping, and this is where the issue turns. Something has been going on at the Raft. Whatever that something is, it’s pretty goddamned creepy. I won’t go into it because it’s really the type of glorious WHAT THE FUCK moment that really needs to be experienced freshly and first hand or you lose a lot of the moment. I have no clue what’s coming from the rest of this arc. I also have no clue how this jives with some of the events of Secret Invasion #4, but the timeline is a funny thing, so I’ll give it some more issues to suss itself out.

Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #3 (**)

Well that was…odd. The opening kid drawing pages were certainly strange, but I have no clue what the writer was thinking in writing the narrative from the perspective of Franklin. It doesn’t read particularly well, and it certainly doesn’t seem to mesh well with what I know of Franklin as a character. There were some good moments, and I like the way the resolved things with Lyja, but this book fell off a bit of a cliff here, and it’s certainly disappointing after the first two issues. Ah well.

Black Panther #39 (*****)

Hoo boy. This one’s a doozy. Hello, Jason Aaron. I’ve never actually read anything by you. Turns out, you’re a pretty sweet writer. Talk about EPIC. So apparently there are two things you don’t do in times of war. You don’t attempt to invade Russia in the winter, and YOU DO NOT FUCK WITH WAKANDA. We follow two different plot strains here, from Black Panther preparing the troops for war to the Skrull captain just trying to get through one more invasion so he can retire to a remote planet and be with his family. Turns out it’s not going to be that easy, as the Wakandans are more than capable of defending themselves. I’m quite impressed with the amount of characterization Aaron manages to give this Skrull captain in such a short period of time. Perhaps the fact that it’s a familiar character trope, but it’s impressive either way. I wouldn’t necessarily put it up there with Hercules or Captain Britain yet, but this was a fantastic read. This book also feeds into what I saw in Avengers: Initiative and She Hulk

Thunderbolts #122 (****)

I’ve never read Thunderbolts before. I think Gage does a great job of operating from the assumption that a lot of folks will be jumping on to Thunderbolts for this arc, so he uses the device of Norman Osborne and Moonstone giving the entire team a psych evaluation to introduce us to the team, one by one. And this is certainly a quirky cast of characters. They fight Swarm (yes, he of the random MTU Sinister Syndicate card), and their odd methods for defeating the enemy leads to the best line of any comic I’ve read so far this month (“Why do you think we haven’t been allowed to go after Daredevil? Or Luke Cage? Perhaps because we can’t stop a Nazi made of bees without eating him, while you hide like a shrieking schoolgirl because you ‘don’t like bugs’!!”). We move on for some pretty creepy shit involving Swordsman (that dude’s got issues. And to stand out like that in a book like this is impressive) leading into Captain Marvel busting stuff up, Secret Invasion #1 style. This is a really entertaining book with some seriously engaging and well defined characters. Good stuff.

She-Hulk #31 (****1/2)

Thank you, Peter David, for taking away the bad taste in my mouth that was X-Factor #33. This is a GREAT issue that introduces a seriously cool concept into the Skrull mythos. The Talisman as a character and as an idea is just super cool. This is some high concept shit that I did not see coming. But here’s what I love about this book that I loved about Black Panther and Avengers: The Initiative. We’re starting to see the chinks in the Skrull armor. 3-D Man can see Skrulls. Darwin has revealed the true nature of The Talisman. Black Panther discovered the Skrull agents in Wakanda and gave them what for before humiliating a Skrull invasion force. Captain Britain is turning the tides in England with the help of Excalibur. We’re starting to see just how the humans might be able to beat back the storm, and none of it is coming from the big guns. It’s the fringes where the Skrull forces are spread out and weak that we’re starting to see the cracks form that could eventually expand and take down the entire fleet. This is FANTASTIC storytelling by everyone at Marvel. You can tell that they’re unified and all working on the same massive puzzle, even if they’re confined to their own little corners. This is what happens when you get everyone on the same page but still give them room to tell their own stories.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #25

Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1 (*****)

I loved this book. Shit, everyone did. I’m so late with the review on this one that I’m not even going to bother with it. I just wanted to put it up at the top so that everyone would know how much I love this book. 2nd greatest X-Men run of all-time… and that’s only because Whedon built so much of his structure on the foundation that Grant Morrison laid. Yes, eat a dick Morrison haters… this run could not exist without Morrison’s run! HAH!

Avengers The Initiative #13 (****)

Better than Dan Slott’s run? Maybe! Gage just shines here. This bunch of lovable losers is even more lovable than the last. And more losery. Butterball is my favorite new character of the last year. He’s like the ultimate fanboy. I love Yellowjacket’s expression when Butterball asks him about Captain America. And then Prodigy’s coughing comment is laugh out loud funny. I even liked the 5-6 pages with Taskmaster explaining why Butterball was a washout from start to finish. This is great character writing, the kind of writing most writers don’t bother with anymore. Even guys like Bendis, who used to be so good at this type of stuff. Even though they send Butterball home in the end, I hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of him.

Robin #174 (****)

AndStephanie’s back. BOOYA! I think I’m happy about this, but I don’t feel happy. Batman, obviously knew all along (oh, then why the HELL didn’t he go look for her?) so his response was pretty blasé. But Tim, his awkwardness was pitch perfect. They’re doing a Robin/Spoiler special to explain all this shit and show how Tim’s dead ex coming back from the dead will affect him. I just hope Tim acts realistically in it. If I was Tim, I’d totally go off on this chick. How the hell could she live with herself? Fooling her mom and Tim, making them think she was dead all these years. UGH. The way this was handled kind of makes me hate Stephanie, but only a little.

Superman/Batman #48 (***1/2)

I’ve really been enjoying this run. Call me lame, but I also really like the character design for “All America Boy”. It’s Doomsday but with Kryptonite for bones and blood. Awesome. Why didn’t Dan Jurgens think of that? Chirst, but what an unfortunate name he’s got, right? But, aside from that bit of jank, the “K” arc has been good. Two issues to go till #50… are they canceling this book? Hope not, it’s just starting to get good again.

Quick Hits:
Batman and the Outsiders #7 (***): This issue left me empty. Nothing much happened in regards to the plot… it felt like a flimsy continuation of the last issue. More filler than forward momentum.
Green Lantern #31 (*****): WOW. That’s it. That’s the only way I can describe how much I love this book. So, this arc is around six issues in length? For me, that’s not long enough. I want more old school Lantern good times.
King-Size Hulk #1 (***1/2): Surprisingly good, I think. The Art Adams and Frank Cho art was killer and I didn’t even mind the Loeb stuff that much. Maybe that’s because there was actual WRITING in this book, unlike the main Hulk series. The retelling of the Abomination origin was also cool… hmm, wonder why they felt the need to include that one? Maybe it’s because Hulk Red is actually–
Justice League of America #21 (***): SIGHTINGS! Well, this is the book that explains how Manhunter met his end in Final Crisis #1. I don’t get it, this came out before FC#1, yet everyone was bitching about how there was no lead up to his death outside of FC. I guess there really isn’t anyone reading this book but me. HAH. Anyway, McDuffie seems to be repeating himself. The “secret chamber” thing reminded me of an episode of JLU. Did the Big Three seem out of character to anyone else?
Wolverine Origins #25 (**): Let Down. I was totally on board for this arc when it was just about Deadpool and Wolverine duking it out. Now, Way tries to make it about Daken? FUCK YOU. Wolverine’s explanations about his master plan left the story limp. Have I mentioned how much I HATE Daken? Seriously, does anyone like him? Stupid mohawk… and Bucky as Winter Soldier!?! How far behind is this book?
• X-Men: Legacy #212 (***): Professor X as detective with Gambit riding shotgun? Okay, I’ll bite for now. I’m kind of sick of Gambit, but maybe Carey is finally the one to make him cool again. I love plot twist toward the “Sinister” …too bad he died at the end of Messiah Complex, or, did he?
• Young Avengers Presents: Stature #5 (*): Very weak when compared with the rest of the series.

Review: The Man With No Name #1

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is in my Top 5 movies of all-time, so I came in with some seriously serious reservations about this book. But, I like Christos Gage, he’s the new “Matt Fraction!”, and I thought I’d give it a shot. What I found inside was a mixed bag. The art was adequate but not mind-blowing. The writing wasn’t mush better.

It’s very obvious that Gage is trying to connect this book to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. When I say connect, I mean that the first issue takes place somewhere between three days and three weeks after the credits roll. This could be interesting, but right now it’s just clunky. The connections: the Union is after Clint for blowing up that bridge right before the climax of GBU. Hmm, kind of weak, but I’ll go with ya’ Gage. Next, one of the padres from Tuco’s brother’s mission shows up dying of his wounds. The dying father begs Clint to save his mission from bandits. After giving it the due amount of consideration, Clint agrees… and I can here the “Kung Fu” music playing in my head.

This may be too much coincidence for me to handle. The problem with this is, there really is no continuity between the three “The Man With No Name” movies, save for Eastwood himself. The movies exist in their own worlds. Each new movie brings a new adventure with new characters. And now, in the span of a single issue, you want me to believe that Clint just happens to run into a character from one of those movies in the middle of the desert? If recycling old characters and plots from the GBU is all this series is really about, then why not just call it “The Gooder, the Badder and the Uglier”?

The Good: The dialogue was perfect when it was quick and snappy. I could actually hear Eastwood’s voice in my head when I read this. That was cool. Complaints about coincidence aside, I’m more than a little excited at the idea of seeing Tuco again, one of the most quotable movie characters of all-time.

The Bad: Here’s some other stuff that bothered me… Clint shooting up Union troops is something the movie character wouldn’t do. He’s an anti-hero, no doubt, but I don’t see him killing honest soldiers. There’s also way too much dialogue from Eastwood. But I understand Gage’s intent. Gage has Eastwood explain himself to a dead man in order for the reader to understand the thought process that went into Clint’s decision to help the padre’s mission. But you know, I think this page would read fine without the cheesy word balloons. We get it. We don’t need to be told…

The Ugly: And that brings me back to the art. If the art was better, Gage wouldn’t need to compensate with unnecessary dialogue. He could let the art breathe and speak for itself. The reader would still feel like he got his money’s worth and the writer wouldn’t have to cover boring art with balloons.

Please Gage, I hope this series doesn’t turn into some weird version of the “A Team” or “Kung Fu” with Eastwood traveling from town to town doing good deeds. What made Clint’s nameless character so special was that even when he was playing “The Good” he wasn’t the superficial white hat. He was a downright bastard at least half the time, just as “The Bad” and “The Ugly”, like Angle Eyes and Tuco, had their altruistic moments. The key to this series is balancing the “good” with the “bastard”. If Gage can do that, I’ll be quite surprised.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #2

Rating System:

5 Stars: WARNING: May Cause Head Explosion.
4 Stars: A first read!
3 Stars: Read it when you can.
2 Stars: Give it away when you’re done.
1 Star: BURN IT!

Gravel #1 (***1/2)

Gravel01 

Gravel is the story of William Gravel, Combat Magician. His previous exploits can be found in the various Strange Kiss/Killings trades by Warren Ellis and Mike Wolfer. The basic premise of the character and the ongoing series is this: There are 7 Major Magicians in England and there are 7 Minor Magician Detectives. Gravel is one of the Minor ones. Believing Gravel to be dead, a new magician was promoted to the Minor 7. Now, a rogue element within this fraternity is causing all kinds of havoc and conjuring up some nasty shit, like this. Is that a lizard penis? Anyway, I wanted to do a full review of this issue, but it’s basically just a lot of set-up and new reader stuff. This is fine. I’ve always loved the Gravel character, but hated what Ellis has done with him previously. Hated is a strong word, I guess I was disappointed that he hasn’t come up with anything more interesting than zombies and deep throat alien women. Okay, the body orchard idea was pretty cool. Anyway again, I’m super excited that we’re finally getting an ongoing Gravel book and Mike Wolfer isn’t doing the art (apologies to Wolfer). The first issue holds a ton of promise and I love the new artist. If you like SAS badasses mixed with magic, or you’re just an Ellis whore like me, Gravel may be right up your alley. Continue reading