Review: Demon Knights #4

 

Demon Knights #4, cover by Choi

Paul Cornell’s Demon Knights has all the elements of a comic book I’ll love.  It uses a whole host of new and lesser-known characters from some of the most fascinating parts of DC’s vast toybox.  It tells stories we haven’t seen in settings we rarely visit.  It has Shining Knight in it.  And yet, I’ve felt like I was being held at arm’s length, like Cornell wanted me to enjoy the book but not get too close.  After a very solid first issue, he followed it with two slow-moving issues that seemed to be rearranging pieces on the board, rather than telling a story.  Demon Knights #4 is a slight improvement over the last two, but it seems to me that Paul Cornell isn’t just writing for the trade; he’s writing, to steal a phrase from fellow contributor brucecastle, for the omnibus.  And when done well, as he does here, that can be very enjoyable indeed.

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What to Expect: Week 1 of the Relaunch

While lebeau continues to give you a fantastic title-by-title breakdown of the upcoming relaunch, I’m going to take a slightly different take on things.    With the full solicits revealed, release dates included, we now have a slightly better idea of what to expect come September.  So I’m going to break down the solicits by release date, talk a little bit about what I’m going to get – and what I’m going to skip – and why, so you’ll have an idea of what some of the books that will definitely see coverage here will be… and which of your favorites you can heartily mock me for skipping.

So, with that brief introduction, on to week one of the solicits, otherwise known as… September 7th.

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Catch-Up Mini-Reviews

Captain Britain and MI:13 #15

Britain

Thus ends one of Marvel’s strongest ongoing books.  Cornell and Kirk wind down their title with the massive “Vampire State” arc that should’ve been cheesy as hell but ended up being gripping, exciting and just downright fun.  The issue is packed with excellently written and drawn action set-pieces that build off of everything that’s come before to give the issue the emotional closure it needed without sacrificing the excitement.  Top quality work.

Grade: B+

Runaways #12

Runaway

Immonen still hasn’t brought the energy of her absolutely fantastic Patsy Walker: Hellcat mini to the title, but her second issue shows a small amount of improvement over the first.  Pichelli’s art renders everyone and everything in the title improbably pretty, if overly cartoonish, but she handles the issue’s dramatic moments quite well.  Nothing spectacular yet, but more than good enough to keep giving it a shot.

Grade: B-

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #3

Ink3

Ink continues to be the surprise of the Final Crisis Aftermath titles for me as it uses the conventions of the gritty crime drama to tell the story of a supervillain seeking redemption.  Wallace and Fiorentino make the tale a little more complicated than it needs to be by having Richards’ tattoos come to life, but the metaphor is apt: escaping a life of crime is already hard without having those closest to you trying to drag you back into it.  

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

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Captain Britain and MI:13 #14

Runaways #11

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #2

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #1

Review: Captain Britain and MI:13 #14

Captain Britain

Ah, good old Captain Britain and MI:13.  No matter what else is going wrong in the Marvel Universe, you’ll always be here to make it better, won’t you?  Well, unfortunately not – the book only has a short while left to live.  So, the question becomes: can Paul Cornell and co. give us a satisfying send-off to one of Marvel’s strongest titles?

This arc, titled “Vampire State” suggests that they can.  Dracula has been breeding an army of vampires on the moon and allying himself with all manner of supernatural menace before he begins to make his final move – conquering Britain in the name of his vampire army.  Despite the seemingly inherent camp in the premise, Cornell plays it straight and it pays off.  Rather than coming off as a post-ironic dig at a more innocent age, the issue suggests why the semi-realistic grim ‘n grit so often feels terribly false – this isn’t our world.  It’s one infinitely more scary, and infinitely more wonderful, and we see a little bit of both aspects in this issue.

After a quick turnaround from the seemingly doomed ending of last issue, we learn that our heroes at MI:13 have managed to pull one over on Dracula and buy themselves some time to fight back.  They use that time well, and Cornell brings us an action-packed issue with crisp, excellent art from Syaf and Kirk and and a parting ‘gift’ from Doctor Doom that sets up the issue to come and reminds us all why the good Doctor can be such an effective villain.

Captain Britain and MI:13 is far from flawless, but even at its worst, its an exciting book with solid characterization and fun, clever arcs – and this issue is far from the book’s worst.

Grade: B+

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SeventhSoldier Reviews…COMICS!

All-Star Superman

Yesterday, All-Star Superman – otherwise known as Grant Morrison’s ASS – came to an end, finally.  With the stated objective of telling the definitive Superman story, Morrison and artist Frank Quitely set a rather high bar for themselves, setting up against such classics as Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and Alan Moore’s For the Man Who Has Everything and…uhhh…just, really, Alan Moore.  With the last issue on the stands, we can finally look back at the series and ask: Did All-Star Superman make a mistake by setting the bar so high?

Nope.

It cleared it.

Morrison and Quitely made sure to touch on as many aspects of the Superman mythos as humanly possible in a twelve issue series, with an issue featuring Lex Luthor, an issue about Jimmy Olson, a trip to the Bizarro Cubed Earth, and more.  Many comic fans who aren’t reading the series have derided All-Star Superman as a Silver Age throwback, completely missing the point – to provide a continuity-free retrospective on the history of Superman, be it Golden, Silver, or Modern.

The book isn’t flawless, of course.  The Bizarro two-parter can drag on, which is a shame given that it’s the only two-parter in the series, the rest of the book composed of a series of one-shots tied together by the central conceit of ‘How would Superman react if he knew he was going to die soon?’  But, beyond that, the book hits a variety of emotional highs and lows, has insane, epic action, and just in general manages to succeed.

It isn’t flawless, but looking back on the series as a whole, this is the only mainstream comic work that I imagine stands a chance of being mentioned in the same breath, 10 years from now, as Watchmen or The Sandman.

Grade: A+

Final Crisis: Revelations #2

Final Crisis: Revelations is a great many things.  It’s spiritual sequel to both Infinite Crisis and 52.  A direct sequel to The Five Books of Blood.  A tie-in to Final Crisis.  Under a lesser writer than Rucka, this might be too much material to work into a 5-issue series, but it does well. 

This issue is the first that feels like a ‘traditional’ tie-in, in the sense that it takes a standard character – The Question – and uses the current event to shake up that character’s status quo, introduce a new enemy based on the major event, etc….  The issue feels very traditional in many ways, but it’s still good.  The long-needed introduction of an element of balance to the Spectre occurs, a major reveal regarding one of DC’s older villains, and a reunion of sorts between Cris and Renee in their new roles all keep the action rolling, but it’s the emotional core of the issue that makes it great.  This is Rucka revisiting his old toybox, and it seems like he’s having a good time doing so.

The revelations of this issue all felt natural and needed, the action was engaging, and emotions ran high.  All around solid, but nothing spectacular.  A competent tie-in, and a strong issue on its own.

Grade: B+

Secret Six #1

Everyone’s already said most of what needs to be said, but Simone really nailed it, here.  The twisted humor and uncomfortable camaraderie of the Six are perfect, and the new villain is intriguing.  All-in-all, a solid start to this new series.  Hopefully, it’ll be around for a good little while.

Grade: A-

Captain Britain and MI:13 #5

For anyone wondering if the quality of Captain Britain would keep up once the Secret Invasion tie-in ended, the short answer is: “Hell Yes.”  Cornell and crew are now using the book to look at a variety of British heroes, so this issue sees cameos from more than one, of all calibers – from nobodies like Captain Midlands to bigger characters some people might not know were British, like Blade.  The issue is fun and engaging, but it’s still set-up, and it leaves off with a frankly ridiculous cliffhanger.

Oh, Blade.  You aren’t a team player.

Grade: B+

Bruce Castle Presents: Captain Britain and MI13 #1-4

Captain Britain and MI13 #1 (*****)

The Skrulls invade England! The result? Entertainment! Unless you’re new to comics, you’ll know that most first issues are just set-up. Yes they can be fun, but it’s mostly about information and getting the plot rolling. This however, is fun from the first page. A Skrull in the form of John Lennon? Severed Skrull body parts? Characters that introduce themselves with “Remember…the Black Knight”? A Skrull gets his neck (Where has that been?) bitten into? What does all of that equal? How about fun, fun, and more fun. Throw some Arthurian mythology and a surprise ending into the mix and you get a hell of a first issue!

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Captain Britain and MI13 #2 (****1/2)

I don’t know much about Paul Cornell or Leonard Kirk, but they’re writing a great book. Kirk’s visuals are stunning. Whether that is the Skrull armada, or a body reconstructing itself (That got a Matrix “whoa” from me), or the magical Skrull, his work is astonishing. Cornell has already fleshed out the characters and established the plot in two issues. In addition to that, he also provides plenty of surprises and pulse pounding action to have me craving more.

Captain Britain and MI13 #3 (****1/2)

Why? Why can’t the Secret Invasion series be this epic? There’s a genuine sense that the world is at stake. Not to mention all the fun fighting. Cornell and Kirk have accomplished so much in three issues. A character has even been killed and then came back and nothing feels rushed. I also enjoyed that the last page reveal was in a way, nine pages long. Action can get boring too, but if it’s done well like it’s done here, you get a fantastic read.

Captain Britain and MI13 #4 (****1/2)

I barely knew a thing about any of the characters in this book. Now, I care about all of them. Somehow, even with all the body parts flying through the air, green blood, and chaos, I’ve developed affection for these brits. We get the big showdown in this one, and yet this has less action in it than the last three issues. That’s unusual, but this book is unique. This has been a great first arc and I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

Review: Captain Britain and MI13 #1-4

Veteran Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell is dealing with the ramifications of the Secret Invasion in his homeland, Britain.  This is the final issue of the tie-in with Marvel’s current mega-event, and the book continues to astonish as how vastly superior it is to the event proper.  In four issues, Cornell dealt with the invasion of Britain AND Avalon, the release of Satannish, a magical devil, and Merlin, the death and rebirth of Britain’s greatest hero, and the forging of a brand new one.  By the end of this issue, heroes will have died, while new ones were born, and Great Britain has expelled the Skrulls in a brilliant little moment mocking? Marvel’s House of M from a few years back.

#4 isn’t the strongest issue in the series.  The dialogue is okay, the action is okay, the art is okay, but nothing about the issue truly stands-out.  In a hurry to complete the arc, the final issue definitely feels rushed, but while nothing stands out as great, there’s not a bad part to the book.  Cornell does a good job with his characters, he wraps this arc up, sets up future arcs, and establishes the super-heroic branch of MI13, which is a lot to ask of a single, normal sized issue.

Overall, the book accomplishes in 4 issues what Secret Invasion is using eight-plus-tie-ins to do, and does it better.  While the fairy-tale solution that concludes this book would never work in a mega-event crossover (oh, wait…), it’s more acceptable in this book given the context of the series.  It’s a fun action comic with potential for a lot of good arcs in the future.

Grade for #4: B

Grade for arc: B+

Foilball’s Review Roundup #38 – Somebody Call the WAH-ambulance!

100 Bullets #93 (****)

Finally! Something awesome happened that doesn’t require tons of back-story for the uninitiated to understand!!! Or, does it…

This is the minuteman.

This is the girl he wants to kill.

Here is the man who wishes to protect her.

This is his breathing machine.

This is the entrance to the panic room where girl and protector are hiding. That is the assassin approaching.

Now, this is what happens when you back old security protector guy in a corner.

…and, also this. OUCH, and yet very, very awesome!

What a fricking cliffhanger, right?? This was just a great little action issue and it was more than welcome. I’m hoping the final seven issues are this good or better.

Captain Britain and MI13 #3 (*****)

Three issues, Bendis! Three mother-effing issues!! Look at all the shit that Cornell has accomplished in three issues!!! Bendis, you hack.

That’s it. No need to beat a dead horse. Go away. Now.

The Incredible Hercules #119 (****1/2)

I love this book. LOOOOOOOOOOOVE IT. Besides all the awesome god action and the interesting way this book ties into the Secret Invasion event, this page  perfectly sums up why I love Hercules and also why I couldn’t give two shits about the Hulk anymore.

Quick Hits:
Amazing Spider-Man #565-566 (**1/2): Kraven’s daughter? Sister? Cousin? Who gives a shit? I like the switcheroo device, or mistaken identity as “they” say, between Vin and Peter. The art by Phil P. is excellent of course, but beyond that, I’m kind of bored with this idea. Part 3 needs to wow my socks off to salvage this arc in my eyes.
Brit #7 (**): Didn’t I cancel this book? This issue was fun, but it was basically your garden variety hero vs. hero misunderstanding plot. WHOA, how original. If not for the fairly well-done scene between Brit and his ex-wife, this issue has absolutely no value in any quantifiable form. Stop sending these to me, DCBS!!!
Cable #5 (*): Gets one star for the good art. Loses four for everything else.
Dreamwar #4 (**1/2): So, I was right. The DC characters were pulled from some kid’s dreams. They are not real people. Wow. Great reveal. At least the dialogue is good. Keith Giffen, what a master. Oh wait, the plot still blows.
Powers #29 (**): Um, what’s going? Honestly, I don’t know why I still read this book. It’s actually terrible. It’s tired and it’s terrible and it’s boring. Bendis is taking his sweet ass time with this “powers virus” bullshit. Hasn’t it been like 12 issues so far? Is anyone still reading this book? Why am I here!?!?! Maybe I’ll switch to trade. Maybe it reads better that way.
Wolfskin Annual #1 (*): Once again, completely forgettable. What is Ellis doing with this idea? Is he just writing a cheap Conan knock-off? Does he even have plans for this character? It must be nice to be able to scratch an artistic itch in public and have people pay you massive amounts of money for it. You know, like what Frank Miller did with The Dark Knight Strikes Again. But Ellis is a better writer so why is this shit so bad? This has got to be the most half-assed idea he’s written since, since… Strange Kiss (but I do like the Gravel character). I should stop buying these. They’re not even remotely good or entertaining. Why am I such an Ellis-whore?