Review: Immortal Weapons #2

Immortal Weapons

After Jason Aaron’s surprisingly excellent Immortal Weapons #1: Fat Cobra, I had extremely high hopes for the follow-up issue.  The format is novel: a brief, ongoing narrative, kin to DC’s current back-up features, links each issue, but each is otherwise a one-shot exploring a little-known character in the supporting cast of the Immortal Iron Fist.  Unfortunately, where Fat Cobra gave a sublimely melancholy look at the jovial martial artist, Bride of Nine Spiders settles into an awkward horror pastiche utterly lacking in martial arts… or in background on the still enigmatic character.

The Immortal Iron Fist was known as much for David Aja’s gorgeous martial arts fights as it was for Brubaker and Fraction’s pulp superhero extravaganza.  Some of that excellent design work and fluid art came through in Fat Cobra, particularly in Michael Lark’s brief segment.  Brereton, the sole artist on the main story, offers little of that personality to the book beyond stiff, awkward characters and a generic, if tolerable, rendition of any number of horror tropes.

Cullen Bunn’s story isn’t bad: the last time one of the Brides of Nine Spiders was on Earth, a single, living spider remained behind.  The creature proved to be immortal, and possessed mystic properties that, if used correctly, could summon and bind the Bride to Earth.  This, of course, does not go very well at all.  There’s little wrong with the premise, except that it isn’t a Bride of Nine Spiders story.  It isn’t even a story about the man who binds her to Earth.  It’s a story about a group of thieves stealing a mystical artifact, and that’s a good two steps away from where the action should be.

Swierczynski and Foreman’s back-up feature, continuing the story of Danny Rand and a troubled young student of his, fares better.  Though brief, the story gets to the point quickly, working overtime to complete the set-up started last issue.  Ending on a particularly chilling note, “The Caretakers” continues to set-up a potentially interesting story.

It isn’t fair to review something based on what you expected it to be.  I’m sure that there are many people who will enjoy Immortal Weapons #2: Bride of Nine Spiders.  Unfortunately, that story is in the wrong place, in a book marketed towards fans of pulp action and martial arts and purported to explore the backgrounds of these enigmatic new characters.  Bunn and Brereton don’t do bad work… they just don’t even remotely fit the title.

Grade: C

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Immortal Weapons #1: Fat Cobra

Review: Immortal Weapons #1

Weapons

I haven’t been keeping up with Immortal Iron Fist, post-Brubaker/Fraction/Aja.  I loved their run – it introduced me to Matt Fraction, who’s done impressive work all over the place now, and David Aja, who I still consider to be among the best artists working today when it comes to dynamic, exciting, downright cool-looking action scenes – but the high-cost of Marvel’s trades and the low-pay of minimum wage work meant that I have to stop reading some things, and when Fraction, Brubaker and Aja left, so did I.

Still, at the store on Wednesday, I noticed the absolutely gorgeous cover for Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra on the shelf, saw that Jason Aaron was the writer, and was intrigued enough to pick it up.  And I have to say, I’m glad I did.  Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra continues the Immortal Iron Fist tradition of having rock-solid spin-off minis and one-shots to flesh out the retro-pop pulp aesthetic of the setting and characters.

Fat Cobra, one of the Immortal Weapons we met in the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja arc “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven,” is a massive, surprisingly quick warrior and hedonist who has lived for over a hundred years, and his lifestyle has taken its toll: he remembers little of his past, if anything at all.  To that end, he hired a researcher to discover his glorious past and compile it all into a book.  And thus do we get to know Fat Cobra.

It’s hardly an original device, but as Aaron delves into the character, he shows us why it works well here – Fat Cobra is a proud, powerful man, but his origins are far from either.  Seeing the effect these discoveries have on him is almost as tragic as the story itself.  Despite all the inconsistencies in the quality of the art (there are 7 artists in the Fat Cobra portion alone), the story is simple and potent.

On top of that, Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra has an Immortal Iron Fist back-up by Duane Swierczynski, dealing with an errant pupil of Danny and Misty.  The back-up is brief and to-the-point, though clearly incomplete – it seems as though the back-ups of the Immortal Weapon stories will be the thread that ties the issues together.

Overall, this is an excellent first issue.  As an origin story of Fat Cobra, it is both effective and interesting, with a great deal of potential to lure in new readers.  Immortal Iron Fist has always been a book that combined larger-than-life stories with a pulp kung-fu sensibility, and Fat Cobra definitely continues that trend.  With 37 pages of excellent content, it’s worth a read.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Two Weeks of Reviews

Final Crisis: Revelations #3

 

Outside of Superman Beyond, Revelations is easily the strongest of the Final Crisis minis, and this issue keeps it coming hard.  We further see the damage done by the release of the Anti-Life Equation as Gotham is under siege by the Dark Faith – and among the mindless ranks of Anti-Life laying siege to the city is Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Bane, and Jim Gordon.

Things are bad in Gotham, and they get worse as we learn that the Radiant and the Spectre seem powerless in the face of Anti-Life…and as Cain comes calling.  The description sounds epic, but in fact, this is a deeply personal series.  Originally intended to be a ‘street level’ view of the Crisis, it quickly grew up and realized that, in the best books, there is no ‘street level’ and ‘cosmic’, there’s just a battle for the hearts and souls of mankind.

This book demonstrates that point excellently.  While there is the massive threat of Cain and his faith, perhaps the bigger problem is that of the three heroes, only The Question seems to have any answers, and their biggest gun, The Spectre, is paralyzed by rage and hate.  It’s a deeply personal book, a great reward to old fans of the characters, and an energetic and entertaining tie-in to Final Crisis.

Grade: A-

Secret Six #2

The first issue of Secret Six was an undeniable success.  This issue follows it up well, but isn’t quite as strong.  The Six are well under way in their mission, breaking into Alcatraz to free Tarantula, as Catman and Batman have a long-overdue confrontation…and enigmatic crime boss Junior lays an insane bounty on the heads of the Six.

The action was quite well done in this issue as Nicola Scott proves to be an undeniably effective artist on the title, but every panel of action is another panel we aren’t getting the Six’s twisted sense of humor.  Still, the action and the character pieces are well-balanced, and two issues in, the series remains strong.  Here’s to hoping the Six stick around.

Grade: B+

Wonder Woman #25

If you told me to choose a single word to define Gail’s run on Wonder Woman thus far, it would be ‘confused’.  Then I would hit you, because defining a year’s worth of comics in multiple arcs in a word is an absurd proposition, and you’re an idiot for asking me to do so.

That said, if nothing else, this issue fits that single word.  The Queen of Fables makes for a compelling villain and Gail obviously enjoys writing her, but I can’t help but feel that this arc would’ve greatly benefited from an extra issue, largely because, while the character moments are spot-on, the action is cluttered and hurried.

Still, any comic with lines like…

“Oh, go cook me a couple of orphans in a pie, you empty suitcase.”

and

“Please feel free to direct all your attorneys to my associates.

            “Where we will promptly consume them.”

“Where they will promptly consume them, precisely.”

can’t be all bad, can it?  Once again, the issue is filled with rock solid character moments held back by a slightly cluttered plotting and art.

Next issue, as a public service announcement, marks the beginning of the Rise of the Olympian storyline, kicking off Wonder Woman’s ‘event’ if I recall correctly.

(edit: it reads MUCH better the second time, in my opinion – Chang’s art, while gorgeous on many pages, detracted from some of the action scenes for me, but once beyond that, the book is definitely B+ worthy)

Grade: B

Green Lantern Corps #29

This issue kicks off the War of Light for the Green Lantern Corps title as we begin to meet the Zamorans – and as they go off recruiting.  Given that it kicks off the build-up to next years Big Event, it’s a little surprising as to just how little happens in the issue.

We see some fall-out from the attacks of the Quintet, but given that the Quintet was built up and taken down in two issues, it feels a little hollow.  Meanwhile, the scene with Mongul was tacky and the recruitment of Miri to the Zamorans wasn’t particularly well-handled, either.  Again and again, I can’t help but feel that they’re trying to do too much too quickly.  This title needs some room to breathe, and it isn’t getting it.

Perfectly average.  It doesn’t do a lot right, but it doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, either.

Grade: C

Vixen: Return of the Lion

 

 

Vixen: Return of the Lion is written by G. Willow Wilson, the scribe behind the current Air and the recent Cairo gets a mainstream gig here working on Vixen, one of the current line-up of the JLA.  In it, Vixen comes face-to-face with Intergang’s operations as she learns that they may have had a hand in the death of her family, all those years ago.

Very little happens in this issue – Vixen goes home, finds them terrorized by a gang, fights.  It’s a simple, but solid opener, and it’s helped along by the fact that the art, by Cafu, is absolutely fantastic.  The action shots, the character design, everything is extraordinarily well-handled. The story may be simple, but the art is fantastic.

Grade: B

The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California

 

This has already been reviewed fairly competently by others, but I had to throw my hat in the ring for a moment.  The art is fantastic – while the action scenes aren’t quite Aja good (what action scenes are?), it’s still stylistically excellent – and the story, while at least a smidge misogynistic, is faithful to noir conventions while remaining a bizarre occult martial arts masterpiece.  If you haven’t been reading any of the Immortal Iron Fist books, you’re doing it wrong.

And would it be inappropriate to ask why we haven’t had an Orson Randall card in VS yet?  

Grade: A

Desiato’s Top Ten Monthlies!

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

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8

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

9. Captain Britain and MI:13

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

8. Avengers: The Initiative

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

7. Terry Moore’s Echo

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

6. Green Lantern Corps

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

5. The Immortal Iron Fist

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

4. New Avengers

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

3. Thor

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

2. The Incredible Hercules

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

1. Nova/Guardians of the Galaxy

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