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 Rainy Sunday Catch Up Reviews, Part 1

Crappy weather all over the Northeastern seaboard this weekend. It’s time to do some MAJOR catching up.

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

This is the best story to come out of the new Iron Fist mythos. It should be noted that I’m including the main Iron Fist series in that statement, which means that this book actually manages to outshine Fraction and Brubaker’s work on the character and the title. I never thought I’d find myself in a position to make a statement like that. But that’s how good this one shot is. Swierczynski takes the Orson Randall character and puts him exactly where he should be; a hot blooded noir tinged Hollywood at the end of the 1920’s. He proceeds to spin a yarn that effortlessly combines the Eastern sensibilities of the Iron Fist with the American culture of the early twentieth century. It’s a detective story in the good noir tradition, complete with everything kicked off by the voluptuous and mysterious woman coming out of nowhere to present her problems to the protagonist, who in turn can’t keep her our of his mind while he tries to focus on the task at hand. Of course, she’s not who she originally claims to be, and thus the mystery unfolds. Sure, it’s procedure, but things become procedure because they work. Which is not to say Swierczynski simply follows a script here and plays by the rules. Something as simple as naming the female lead Galatea (who is of course the name of the woman statue from the Greek Pygmallion myth) starts to pique the interest of the mind.

The most important part of any noirish book is the narration. It’s the only entrance you have into the story and the main character. The window into his thoughts. Duane is more than capable here, and his narrative captions move the story along swimmingly. The story itself twists and turns upon itself over and over as new details come to light and more characters enter the picture. You’ve also got that inevitable moment where the detective proves he’s a badass, which in this story is represented by Orson having a meeting with a film executive and using some pistachio shells to his advantage. Did we need to know Orson Randall is a badass? Not really; he is an Iron Fist after all, and the work done in the first arc of Immortal Iron Fist as well as the Fraction penned Green Mist of Death one shot certainly established the level of badassery at play when Orson Randall is around. In this case, however, Duane is specifically making sure that this book is perfectly accessible to anyone that might deign to pick it up. Truly, there’s not a whole lot of actual Iron Fist talk until later in the book, and Orson very rarely appears with his cowl early on. This is simply an awesome noir story that anyone can read. I gave it to one of my roommates that is a big noir fan, and while he may not have gotten as much out of it as those of us with a larger information base about the Iron Fist mythology, he still loved it.

The art is also excellent here, and the work of Giuseppe Camuncoli is very different than what we’ve become used to in the various and sundry Iron Fist books since the relaunch. It also follows the standard approach of using different art for different eras. With this being a standalone one shot, things work despite the different art style than what your average Iron Fist fan would be expecting. It more than gets the job done, and there are some beautiful sequences that show a strong grasp of sequential art. It enhances the story without being garish or jarring, and both halves of the book work in a wonderfully symbiotic fashion, which is exactly what you want from a comic.

This is a gorgeous book, and probably the best Marvel one shot I’ve ever read. If not for the mad power of Casanova #14, this book would be a strong candidate for my favorite single issue of the year. It’s super accessible, wonderfully written and wonderfully drawn. It is completely worth the four dollar cover price (which I did pay in full, as I managed to forget to order it from DCBS). EVERYONE should pick this book up, if not only to enjoy the story but to see a taste of what Duane Swierczynski is doing with Iron Fist post Fraction and Brubaker

Fables #76 (***)

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE FABLES SERIES. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

Still with me? Cool.

This kind of issue was probably necessary after the conclusion of War & Pieces. You had to have the moments that deal with Gepetto and his attempts to reacclimate himself with polite society after signing the Fabletown charter at the end of issue 75. And considering the art demands that faced Mark Buckingham during War & Pieces, it was as good of a time as any to spell him with pinch hitter Mike Allred. It’s also always been the case that the non-Buckingham issues have never been heavy on story progression. So we have a breath catching interlude to take care of things. This issue does not answer the question of “where is this series headed?” after the huge shake up of the Adversary being captured and brought into Fabletown, but that’s not something that had to be answered immediately. You have what is pretty much expected. Pinocchio and Beast take Gepetto out for a tour of the town, and the inhabitants of Fabletown aren’t exactly pleased with their newest resident. He is spit on, denied food, and generally reviled. No shock there. The only problem with this is the fact that it’s basically an auto pilot issue. Willingham doesn’t do anyhting big or spectacular, nor does he do a lot of character building that we haven’t seen before. The art is capable enough; this isn’t Mike Allred’s first go around in the Fables universe. It’s certainly a different style from Buckingham, and the only part of it that’s really jarring is Allred’s rendition of Pinocchio, which is completely different from Buckingham, even down to hair color. Even still, that’s not the kind of thing that’s going to ruin a book. All told, it’s an adequate installment of Fables. It’s not reaching for the stars and it’s not slumming. It’s just there.