Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1

run

Final Crisis was an epic series – say what you want about the quality, but the scope was undeniably enormous.  When it was announced that there would be a series of titles spinning out of it, I was reluctantly excited.  Though Escape made no sense and had a minor-league creative team at best, the other three had, I felt, some promise.  

Run!, the first of the four minis, does not live up to any of that promise.  Sturges has done some excellent work, most recently over in Blue Beetle, and his Vertigo titles have generally been fairly high quality, but Run! feels bland through and through, with none of the boundless creativity of Final Crisis, the wit demonstrated in Blue Beetle, or the darkly comic horror seen in House of Mystery… and the book desperately needs to be grounded in one of those.

Instead, it, much like last year’s Salvation Run, is a generic book about a villain in over his head.  It is by no means a bad book – the art by Freddie Williams II is great throughout, aptly illustrating just how much of a slob the Human Flame really is – but there just isn’t anything to get excited about.  It’s too slow for a balls-to-the-wall action book, but with no compelling drama to back it up and a purposely witless narrator telling us the story, the human element doesn’t work either.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! is a book that could’ve gone anywhere, and, faced with so many choices, couldn’t make up its mind.   Sturges is clearly a competent writer, but he just doesn’t seem to have a handle on villains just yet, and while there are a number of genuinely fun moments in the comic backed up by some solid art, there’s little that begs for five more issues.

Grade: C

Read/RANT

Review: Blue Beetle: Boundaries

blue-beetle

Under the pen of John Rogers, Blue Beetle quickly became THE super hero title on the shelves, at least in the hearts of critics and a small-but-loyal fanbase. No other title could match it in terms of the supporting cast, the dialogue, or the sheer sense of fun that never was never condescending and in no way sacrificing the build-up to its epic tone.  When it was announced that Rogers was leaving, fans were worried that it would devolve into gimmick and fridging.  First came the gimmick, with the all-Spanish issue that was still surprisingly pretty natural, and then, worries mounted – the writer behind the infamous Amazons Attack! was taking over.  However, he left after a pair of surprisingly heartfelt issues, bringing on Matthew Sturges.

Boundaries collects the bulk of Sturges’ run, and despite the fact that it deals with illegal immigration, it is a surprisingly solid follow-up to Rogers’ beloved run, hardly missing a beat when it comes to the kind of clever adventures and solid character moments fans have come to expect.  Sturges smartly decides against coming to any sort of moralistic resolution on the issue of illegal immigration, opting instead to bring up the vast complexities of the issue and allow the reader to make his own judgment while the action and dialogue continue on as usual.  Despite dealing with Issues, it isn’t an afterschool special.  It’s just an action comic about a teenage boy saving the world… WITH SCIENCE!

The art is largely by series regular Rafael Albuquerque, who has spent the whole series improving, and when they do bring in a replacement (Coejho) for two of the middle issues of the arc, his style fits well with the series as a whole.  Both artists are a little cartoony and a little too broad at times, but both artists capture the El Paso heat, the fluidity of the action sequences, and more – though neither manages to capture the fear and poverty of the worst parts of Mexico, and neither manages to instill any semblance of menace in the villains of the book.  

Blue Beetle is not a complex book, and never aspires to be so. Better yet, it deals with traditional superheroics without the wink and the nod, the ironic air of superiority that most ‘fun’ comics have.  The series started off slowly, but it built fast, and Boundaries should reassure the fans who weren’t on the monthly that Sturges was an excellent choice to send Jaime off in style.

Grade: A-

Foilball’s October Previews Order

ACTION COMICS #872
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #579-581
AVENGERS INITIATIVE #20
AVENGERS INVADERS #7
BATMAN #684
BOYS #25 (MR)
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #21
CABLE #9
CAPTAIN AMERICA #45
CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI 13 #8
DAREDEVIL #114
DARK REIGN NEW NATION
DEADPOOL #5
DETECTIVE COMICS #851
ETERNALS #6
FABLES #79 (MR)
FC LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #4
FC REVELATIONS #5 (OF 5)
FC SECRET FILES #1
FRANKENSTEINS WOMB GN (MR)
GHOST RIDER #30
GRAVEL #9
GREEN LANTERN #37
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #31
GUARDIANS OF GALAXY #8
HULK #9
INCOGNITO #1
INCREDIBLE HERCULES #124
INVINCIBLE #57 (RES)
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8
JACK OF FABLES #29 (MR)
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #22
MOON KNIGHT #25
MS MARVEL #34
NEW AVENGERS #48
NIGHTWING #151
NO HERO #4
NOVA #20
PUNISHER #65
PUNISHER X-MAS SPECIAL 2008
ROBIN #181
RUNAWAYS 3 #5
SAVAGE DRAGON #143
SECRET SIX #4
SHE-HULK 2 #36
SI DARK REIGN
SI REQUIEM #1
SKAAR SON OF HULK #6
SUPERGIRL #36
SUPERMAN #683
SUPERMAN BATMAN #55
THOR GOD SIZED #1
THUNDERBOLTS #127
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #129
ULTIMATE X-MEN #99
ULTIMATUM #3 (OF 5)
UNCANNY X-MEN #505 MD
WALKING DEAD #57 (RES) (MR)
WAR HEROES #5 (OF 6) (MR)
WAR MACHINE #1
WINTERMEN WINTER SPECIAL #1
WOLVERINE #70
WOLVERINE ORIGINS #31
WONDER WOMAN #27
X-FACTOR #38
X-FORCE #10
X-MEN LEGACY #219
YOUNG LIARS #10 (MR)

Wow, only 68 books? YAUS!

December’s Greetings: Let’s see, we got all the Secret Invasion wrap-up stuff with Dark Reign: New Nation, Secret Invasion: Dark Reign and Secret Invasion: Requiem. Cool. And Morrison’s finally going to explain some crap in the Final Crisis: Secret Files book. Also cool. Brubaker and Phillips are starting a new crime book, Incognito. Extra cool. I see that Wintermen will finally get wrapped up (lots of wrapping up, must be Christmas) with the Winter Special. Oh, and I finally get to read the new House of Mystery series as the first trade releases in December.

house-of-mystery-tp-vol-01-room-and-boredom

Review: Jack of Fables #26

If you’re STILL not reading Jack of Fables, here is what you’re missing:

• 4th Wall Breaking Exposition!
• Awkward Girls with Big Hair!
• Interesting conversations in the Men’s Room!
• The poetic musings of Babe the Blue Ox!
• Irony!
• Even More Irony!
• So much Irony that unless you’ve been following extra close you’ll have no idea what’s going on!
• Babe defying gravity!
• Big final page reveals!
• And some final words from the star of the show, Jack of the Tales!

There’s tons more AWESOME in every issue, but I think I’ve given you plenty to chew on for now. My favorite part? When Humpty-Dumpty tells the “do ya’ over easy” joke. Hilarious. Get it?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Top Ten: Comics That Work Best As Monthlies

Recently in the comments section of this post, I brazenly asserted that Batman, by Grant Morrison & Tony Daniel, fails as a monthly comic reading experience. Basically, I feel the plot is too convoluted or complex for easy monthly digestion, although I’m sure it’ll go down very easy in trade.

So, what makes a good monthly comic? A couple of things:

Comics that put “character” first!

Comics that tend to focus more on character than plot are inherently more readable as monthlies. When jumping into the middle of a six issue arc, its character that pulls you in and fills in the holes. With the exception of Fantastic Four, every comic on my list stars a single character.

“Done-in-One (or two)” Stories!

There’s no need to wait for the trade if each arc is only 1-2 issues long, right? Again, this type of story goes well with character writing. Since the plot isn’t required to sustain itself for 3-6 issues, it can be pared down and used primarily as a vehicle to reveal the titular hero’s character. Batman and Zatanna team up to stop the Joker!?! Reading that story you find that it’s not really about catching the Joker as much as it’s  about developing Bruce and Zatanna’s relationship. Also, without really sacrificing the overall plot, these “done-in-one” stories can be framed like TV episodes that when viewed over an entire season combine to reveal a hidden master plot. Think Buffy, Heroes, etc… As many of us know, it can be very intimidating for a new reader to jump onto a book with a long running story, so hiding the plot in this manner is a great way to eliminate that intimidation factor. It also allows the writer to integrate sub-plots with clearly defined conflicts into the background that can be slowly developed and brought to the forefront at a later date, as Mark Millar does in Fantastic Four.

Cliffhangers that punch you in the face!

I mean, does this one really need explanation? There are quite a few comics (many on this list) that use the “final page splash” to great effect in almost every single issue. The rush you get from experiencing these in a floppy is much different than when experiencing them in a trade. Actually, it doesn’t even come close.

Getting that “OMG I can’t wait for next month!” Soap Opera feeling!

Of the four I’ve listed here, I think this last one is probably the most important (although it is very closely related to the Cliffhanger thing). For me, it’s the most important factor in deciding whether or not to wait for the trade. I ask myself, as many of you probably do, “Can I go more than a month without reading about BLANK?!?” If you answer “NO!”, then you obviously have a great monthly in your hands!

With the pretentious explanations out of the way I present to you, in no particular order, my “Top Ten Comics That Work Best as Monthlies”:

ACTION COMICS by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

I could NEVER read this comic in trade; I just love the characters too much! And the cliffhangers are the epitome of punch you in the face. There haven’t been many done-in-ones in the Johns run, but that’s okay, since at least half the comics on this list barely utilize that comic book storytelling device. But Johns does love the sub-plots, wherein he writes some of the best (or, THE best) character moments in comics. CONS: More done-in-ones would be nice.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by “The Spidey Brain Trust”

With the exception of the current arc, “New Ways To Die”, Brand New Day has been nothing but 1-, 2-, and 3-issue arcs filled with character, character, character… the Soap Opera mojo has been strong. Because of the weekly shipping schedule, the Spidey team has been using the last page splash to great effect. CONS: Actually, maybe there are too many characters? Sometimes it gets confusing.

CAPTAIN AMERICA by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting & Luke Ross

All of the above? Without all the little Bucky character stuff, I would not be enjoying this book as much as I am. It’s funny, but to me, most issues of Captain America feel like single issue stories set in an epic tapestry whose true significance won’t be seen ‘til Brubaker ends his run. It’s one long, ongoing story that excites me month in and month out.

DEADPOOL by Daniel Way & Paco Medina

We’re two issues in and I’m in love. For now. Plot? What plot? If you’re looking for a story, you’re in the wrong place, duder. This is all about Deadpool. That’s it. Do you need to read issue one to understand issue two? Hell no! Enjoy the funny!

DETECTIVE COMICS by Paul Dini & Dustin Nguyen

Current master of the 1- or 2-part story (yeah, yeah, I know the RIP tie-in breaks the rules). Reading Detective for the last two years I remember more about Bruce sex life (obv lack thereof) than I do the details of any of the stories. And to me, that’s awesome writing. Dini has made Bruce likable. This is new, folks. Bruce Wayne as an actual character in comics? Not since pre-DKR, I would think, have we seen the identity of Bruce Wayne written as a real character. Ah no, I disagree with you, Morrison’s Wayne is a flimsy piece of cardboard. Maybe he had something at the beginning of his run, but fleshing out Batman’s alter ego took a back seat to RIP setup long ago, maybe around the time Adam Kubert left the book. Anyway, yes, Dini isn’t writing Batman, he’s writing Bruce Wayne as Batman. And there is a difference, and that difference is quite refreshing.

FANTASTIC FOUR by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch

The character stuff is lacking, but the sub-plots, cliffhangers and OMG moments make this a top of the stack must-read. Here’s a recent review that reads more negative than it actually is.

GRAVEL by Warren Ellis, Mike Wolfer & Raulo Caceres

The way the current arc is framed, it works wonderfully as a series of single issue stories filled with scenes exploring the character of William Gravel. Oh, you know what? Thank God Ellis finally got around to fleshing this guy out. Gravel started life as a boringly hollow SAS thug who starred in a series of idea-driven minis. In those minis, there was never anything particularly exciting or compelling about the Gravel character and the fact of the matter is, I probably only read them because they were written by Ellis. Now, under the watchful eye of Mike Wolfer, I really grown to like this guy and each month I can’t wait to read Gravel’s next adventure. Shocking. That’s good stuff, brother.

HULK by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness

Heh. I really do love this book. Honest. HA!

INVINCIBLE by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker

Ever since the #51 reboot, this book has been one of the most anticipated monthlies in my stack. LOVING IT… happy now, Bruce?

JACK OF FABLES by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham

Awesome title character? CHECK!
Outstanding sub-plots? CHECK!
Cliffhangers? CHECK!
SOAP OPERA?!? TRIPLE CHECK!!!

Foilball’s Review Roundup #49

Air #1 (-)

I can’t really review this book… I have no idea what happened!!! Somebody, anybody… please to explain!!!

The Amazing Spider-Man #568-569 (*****)

“New Ways To Be Awesome” is more like it! Dan Slott, what took you so long to land this gig? Your Spidey rocks! These first two parts did not disappoint, the Mark Waid Venom story in the back did, but that doesn’t detract in the least from the overall story. You could just not read it, or if you’re like me, immediately foget you did. DCBS was thoughtful enough to send me the variant covers for these issues, and usually I could care less, but I like this story so much if they don’t follow through on the variants for parts 3-6 I’m gonna be mighty sore!

Jack of Fables #25 (*****)

,

Yes, indeed, my good friend Prof Dresser… the funny is back! Although, I don’t think I buy Robin Page falling for Jack. It’s funny, but seems way out of left field, even with the labored 5-page explanation. However, I do like Priscilla Page finally growing her metaphorical balls. That was cool. The Book Burner? Kind of “meh” on that guy. But still, Jack’s final word balloon of the issue totally made up for it. Heh.

Superman/Batman #51 (****)

I just really loved the art. I loved the 5th dimensional impiness of the Lil’ Leaguers. This is another one of those books that works so well (now that Green and Johnson have taken over) BECAUSE it’s out of continuity… for the most part. It may not have the prestige of Action Comics, but it makes up for it with “Super Funtime Stories”. Isn’t that what comics should be?Yes, I think so.

Quick Hits:
• Action Comics #868 (*****): Another solid issue in the Gary Frank run. Brainic is frightening and cool. Finally.
• Daredevil #110 (*****): It’s hard to believe how mediocre this book used to be. Will the quality change survive Rucka’s departure? Never can tell.
• DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1 (*): A complete and utter waste of time. I wouldn’t have minded it if the story was even remotely cool or interesting. It wasn’t, so I did mind its terribleness. I minded it very much.
• Doktor Sleepless #8 (****): The quality of this story has steadily been on the rise. My favorite scene in this issue was when DS basically told his ex-gf that he was, in point of fact, not sane. I kept waiting for some hint that the good Doktor was still just playing the part of “Cartoon Mad Scientist”, but no such hints were forthcoming. Great choice, Ellis. I’m finally on board for the duration.
• Final Crisis: Rogue’s Revenge #2 (*****): WOW. Best. Comic villains take note, this is how you villain it up, dudes. I love this mini, but I’m glad it’s only three issues. Thanks, Johns.
• Gravel #4 (****1/2): Gravel continues to be the best title Ellis is writing and at the same time not writing.
• Justice League of America #24 (*): As of a month from now, this title is dropped. DO. NOT. CARE.
• Justice Society of America #18 (****):
This, on the other hand, could not be better. KUDOS.
• Robin #177 (***): I like the writing, but color me confused? RIP is still running, isn’t it? Red Robin isn’t Tim or Jason? Methinks lame.
• Superman #679 (***): The less “super” of the two Superman books. James Robinson, why do you suck? Is it a style choice? I just can’t get into this book, it feels like it’s trying to hard. The Lois/Clark conversation/pseudo spat and the “…avenger me!” line were ludicrous. Although, I did really like the final page, and I’m not even a dog-lover!
• Ultimate Spider-Man #125 (***): Bendis continues with this tale I could give two tugs of a… right, I didn’t play the game, but still, that doesn’t mean the comic has to be boring. Am I right?!?
• X-Force #6 (****): Everything we expected to happen happened… and then something unexpected happened to boot. Um, Rhane EATING her dad? There’s no way anyone expected that. If you disagree with me, you are made of lies.