The Unread Canon 13: Ultimate Spiderman #1-13

Ultimate Spider-man #1

When Marvel’s Ultimate line first launched, I hated it with the passion that only a fanboy can muster to hate something they’ve never read.  I eventually got around to sampling many of the titles, and what I read, I hated.  That tarred my opinion of the entire line for a good long while.  From the crass big-screen action of The Ultimates (which I never finished but plan to soon) to the cartoony retreads of Ultimate X-Men, it just seemed like a waste.  Here we had a major publisher, probably the biggest monthly comics publisher in the world, and they were wasting their time and money doing gritty reboots of old stories rather than doing something interesting and innovative.

I similarly dismissed Ultimate Spider-Man, though, unlike the other core books of the Ultimate Universe, I’d never actually read a page of it.  But I knew everything I needed to know – Spider-Man hasn’t grown and changed enough that I felt he really needed to have his entire mythos retold bit by excruciatingly slow, decompressed bit.  But then, something happened.  General interest for the Ultimates waned.  Same thing with Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four and a variety of other titles.  But Ultimate Spider-Man grew more and more respectable as the years passed until it became essentially the centerpiece of the Ultimate line and, this past year, made our list of the Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2011.

Last year was the year I caught up with Ultimate Spider-Man.  This year is the year I write about it.

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Review: Justice League of America #38


I think that, when it comes to Read/RANT, I’m the resident James Robinson fan.  It isn’t easy these days.  Go back a few years, and there were few who would dispute Robinson as a top-notch creator.  Admittedly, many hadn’t heard of him, nor had they read the title that earned him such accolades… but that just meant they couldn’t really dispute the claim.  Now, however, Robinson has failed to produce a truly successful follow up to Starman, instead giving readers a string of mediocre-to-bad comics, from his uneven Superman to his downright laughable Justice League: Cry for Justice.  And yet, with many of Starman‘s fans, good will remains.  His newest, and arguably his highest profile book to date, hit yesterday as he takes over writing duties on Justice League of America with issue #38.

Unfortunately, there’s little of value in Justice League of America #38.  Robinson opens the issue with the death of Blue Jay, insults Young Justice on the following page, and then introduces Gypsy by having her brought in unconscious and thrown around by Despero.  It’s hard to describe that sequence of events without at least imagining that Robinson is slyly satirizing the recent trend to piss off fans of the critically-praised, beloved JLI and Young Justice, but he plays it so straight and with so little heart that it almost seems incidental to everything else.

Led by Vixen, a group of heroes battered by Prometheus in Justice League: Cry for Justice has gathered in the headquarters of the original Justice League to discuss the future of the group.  Vixen, Dr. Light, Plastic Man and Red Tornado can think of few reasons why the team should exist, let alone any world in which they could be the glue that holds it together, but a surprise attack by Despero unites the four injured heroes with Gypsy and Zatanna.  Together, they manage to fend off the attacker, and that’s when we get the real news: this is a “Blackest Night” tie-in.  Taking place at the exact same time as the events of Blackest Night #3, the newly-formed Justice League decides to crash the Hall of Justice and confront the now-undead villains, seemingly led by the malevolent Dr. Light.

Mark Bagley, recent superstar of DC’s Trinity, does a fine job on the art.  His style is extremely traditional – impossibly thin, curvy women and enormous, muscle-bound men – but that hardly hurts the issue.  The action segments flow smoothly and he keeps the dialogue-driven scenes running well, too, most notably because of Plastic Man, who looks increasingly as though he’s about to fall apart as the issue progresses.

This is a book that I very much wanted to like.  A Justice League comprised of Vixen, Zatanna, Plastic Man, Red Tornado, Gypsy and Kimiyo Hoshi is… well, that’s a pretty damn interesting team, and there are a lot of stories to be told.  Unfortunately, Robinson takes the easy way out – a whole lot of exposition broken up by a brief brawl with a bland baddie. The issue does not suggest that we will see the clever, character-driven action and well-constructed drama for which Robinson justly became a star.  Justice League of America looks to remain, at least for now, a book desperately struggling to find a voice, tone or interesting creative direction.

Grade: C-

– Cal Cleary


Foilball’s Review Roundup #32 – THE GROANERS!

“Ah, I’m so lazy this week.” – Billy Zonos

Instead of doing the usual coverage of my twice-monthly DCBS shipment, I thought I’d split my remaining reviews into separate Roundups divided by overall quality: The Groaners, The Mediocres and The Gooders. This, obviously, is The Groaners. For those that have read the following books, yes, I feel your pain. For those that have not, yes, you dodged a bullet and your wallet thanks you.

Anna Mercury #2 (**): OH MY GOD. This one is awful. Forget every nice thing I said about the first issue. This series reads likes it’s based on an idea that’s 10 years old. You got me, Ellis. Oh, you bastard.

Dreamwar #3 (**1/2): Things are not looking up. Finally, we get some kind of explanation… well, no. We get Superman crying after Batman is killed, “Hal… Ollie’s dead. Why didn’t it matter to us? What are we doing?” Yeah, I’d love the answer to that one too. Please? Thanks. Oh, wait… Zealot killed Batman:

Justice League of America #22 (*): One. I hate the Amazo story from the opening arc. Two. I still hate it. Three. Why does every woman that Benes draws look like a total whore? Four. Black Canary serves it up fresh. Wait, that was awesome! Five. Red Tornado… don’t care!!!

The Programme #12 (-): To be honest, I skimmed it and then read the end. Of what I read, I have no idea what this book was supposed to be about and I don’t really care to ever know.

Runaways #30 (*1/2): It could have been worse. If you skip the first 15 or 16 pages, the wrap-up is kind of nice. My favorite/best part of this travesty? Finding out just how fucked up Nico has become.

Amazing Spider-Man #563 (**1/2): Note to Bob Gale – Stop telling cheesy jokes. This has been a message from your readership.

Superman #677 (*): Um, is this supposed to be in continuity? Superman talks like a fucking idiot! Misogyny? Check. Naiveté? Check. I mean, shit. The guy talks about his dog like a 7-year old would. How lame is this? I thought Robinson was this huge talent? And who the heck is this lame-ass Atlas character? GAH! I didn’t think it could get worse than the Busiek Superman run, but this one has shown me the error of my ways.

Superman/Batman #49 (**1/2): I’m surprised how bad this was as compared to the other 5 parts of this story. The end just didn’t work for me. I don’t buy Lana Lang trying to poison the earth with Kryptonite in order to force Supes to leave, never mind the fact that she has been behind this plot the whole time. This is just ludicrous to me. This story is definitely out of continuity. I don’t see Johns or Robinson paying much attention to this particular change in the Clark/Lana dynamic. Oh, but I did like that final page (with Batman inside that vault filled with all types of Kryptonite): Yep, Bats is a douchebag.

Trinity #3-4 (**): This book is boring. And ugly. Bagley doing DC characters just doesn’t look right. As much as I hate doing it, I’m dropping this book. Maybe if the plot picks up later, I’ll jump back in. For now, I’m just gonna ignore it. Sit it out like my pal, Superman.

The Ultimates #4 (*): I don’t know what bugs me more? The awful plot or the “ripped straight from cheesy movie” dialogue? “Come with me if you want to live.” Really? REALLY?!?!

Uncanny X-Men #499 (**1/2): I loved the first 4 parts… this was a jumbled mess. The A and B plot did not sync up well, every cutaway was painful, and the revelation that the mysterious hippie woman was Mastermind’s daughter was actually a non-event. Meanwhile, back in Russia… their faces: priceless.

Wolverine #66 (*): MOST OVER-RATED BOOK OF THE YEAR. Everyone is literally jacking off into each other’s mouths over this one… I just don’t see it. This book is atrocious. So atrocious, someone needs to give it a red power ring. DING. I mean, BIG DEAL, Millar is adapting “Unforgiven” and using Wolverine to play the role of William Muny. I don’t care! Why!?!? Why is this a good idea? (And I like westerns…)

X-Men: Legacy #213 (**): Are we ready for some super-retcons? So, let me break this one down: Mr. Sinister has a machine that in the event of his death will transfer his essence into the body of Professor X? 

And on that note… I’ll post The Mediocres tomorrow, maybe. Hey, it’s the Fourth of July, I may be busy. Like, drinking and stuff.