Review: Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1

DoctorVoodoo

I’ve always believed that Doctor Strange was Marvel’s most tragically underutilized character.  Where most are tied down to the continuity of a single universe, here we have a massively powerful being whose mere will is the only thing holding our universe together.  There were millions of stories that could be told with him, ranging from the dramatic to the horrific to the bizarrely surreal, but instead Marvel opted to constantly ignore his power and knowledge so that he would better fit into whatever mold they wanted him to fit into.  By the point Strange lost his mantle to Brother Voodoo, it was mostly a mercy.

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural takes some steps, at least, towards making the concept of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme relevant again.  Writer Rick Remender delivers a relatively solid issue of set-up introducing Earth’s new Sorcerer Supreme.  Mixing voodoo terminology, monsters and culture together with the loosely-defined comic book mysticism of Doctor Strange is an interesting choice, but one that Remender makes work throughout the issue.  The book’s biggest problem comes with Remender’s decision to completely forego anything like an explanation – having not read much Marvel lately, I had no idea when Voodoo got his doctorate, in what, or why… nor why Strange lost his mantle.  And, more importantly to this issue, what’s the importance of the floating-ghost maybe-sorcerer?

Palo’s art is, for the most part, excellent.  He handles the books multiple tones well, jumping ably between a horrific, voodoo-inspired monster and epic, dimensions spanning conflicts within a single issue.  His designs are solid and imaginative, and he works well with colorist Beaulieu to create a few particularly striking images without resorting to over-posed figures that look clumsily traced.  Perhaps his biggest flaw comes in his facial expressions: everyone in the issue looks either sad, angry, or transitioning from one to the other.

Overall, Doctor Voodoo, Avenger of the Supernatural is a promising opening issue.  It glosses over it’s two main conflicts far more quickly than they deserve, and it does a terrible job of informing the new reader – which is doubly surprising given that it’s the first issue of a new series – but it is for the most part a solid, enjoyable issue of comics.  The fact that Remender seems genuinely interested in mixing the epic mysticism of comic book magic with the earthy horror of voodoo bodes well for the book in terms of offering up fresh, inventive takes on characters and situations we’ve all seen before.  A promising, if slightly flawed, start.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Review: Dark Reign: The Cabal

Dark Reign Cabal

(**)

“Forgettable and useless.” Sounds harsh, but that’s the name of the game. I’m a Matt Fraction completionist, so that’s why I bought it. I’ll never read it again and I’ll forget about it in a month or so. It’s basically an advertisement for titles like Uncanny X-Men and Thor.

Now, does that mean that what is here is terrible? No. Marvel must have told the creators involved to write about whatever the hell they wanted. The five stories break down like this:

Doom wants to kill everybody.

A deeper look at Emma Frost (The Fraction tale, and probably my favorite).

The Hood is keeping a secret.

Namor is Solomon-esque.

Loki is trying to move in with Doom (That’s old news).

I’d only recommend this to hardcore fans of the creators or characters involved.

For more comic goodness, go here.

Bruce Castle Presents: Comic Tax

These are books I dread. I have to buy them, but they usually suck!

Uncanny X-Men #504

Uncanny X-Men #504 (***1/2)

Bring on the women! Bring on Terry and Rachael Dodson! Oh yeah! But in all seriousness, has Brubaker left this book? Is this is the end of Fracker?! I thought I read that Fraction was going to write the first three with Land and then Brubaker was going to write the next three with Dodson and so on. Brubaker and Fraction were credited writers are those first three issues, but Brubaker isn’t on there at all anymore. And come to think of it, Brubaker hasn’t talked about this book has he? Fraction seems to be doing all the interviews. So does anyone know what’s going on? Anyway, how was this issue? Let me break it down:

The Crap: Stop trying to be so original and edgy! Now you’re trying to gradually break up Scott and Emma?! You are not Morrison! Yes, Morrison’s run was awesome but let’s move on X writers! I won’t say that Morrison’s run is untouchable, but you certainly aren’t going to surpass him by building on or copying his stuff! Can’t Uncanny just be a lot of fun and leave the seriousness to Astonishing and even X-Force?

The Awesome: So many pretty women. Fraction definitely knows who his artists are. Terry and Rachael are masters of the cheesecake. I loved Scott’s mind. I would think his head would be boring but it was really intriguing. That Dr. Nemesis dude was pretty cool. And I will admit that the finale was interesting. I actually do care about what comes next.

Punisher War Journal #25

Punisher War Journal #25 (***1/2)

Wow this was actually good! Well, kind of. It finally has the Secret Invasion tag (It was absent last ish) which is funny because this one isn’t really about the Skrulls. Oh sure they’re there, but this story is really about Frank and Clarke. And I suppose that’s what Punisher War Journal was all about. With one issue left to go, we can finally realize that. Frank and Clarke hooked up in the first issue (I think) and they were buds. Then Frank killed Clarke’s girl due to that damn hate ray. So of course Clarke found out and amongst all the Skrull chaos this gets resolved, kind of. I did like this issue, but it’s a bit weird that probably the most important moment in the series takes place in a tie-in. Those new readers are going to be clueless. Anyway, this was a good issue that included emotionality, goofy Skrulls, and awesome sniper Skrulls. Even Chaykin did a good job, kind of. But that last page left a bad taste in my mouth. C’mon Fraction! One issue left! Make it good!

Ultimate Fantastic Four #58

Ultimate Fantastic Four #58 (***)

My God…UFF is readable again. Is that possible? I’m sorry Mike Carey fans but his run was horrible. Pokaski has the unenviable task of picking up the pieces and apparently dealing with the death of the series. Does that surprise anyone? Is anyone even reading this book anymore? Anyway, this is actually an Ultimatum tie-in, but you don’t need to read it. It’s just about what’s going on with Thing and Invisible Woman while Reed does his thing. Oh and Dr. Storm is dead I guess but Johnny is missing. Again, does that surprise anyone? Bottom line, this is an average issue and this series is really just waiting for the abattoir. But I do want to make one thing clear, Pokaski is a good writer. He makes the most of what he has and it will be interesting to see what he will do when he isn’t forced to write tie-ins.

Bruce Castle Presents: Skrulls! Zombies! Giant Lizards! Marvel Is A Scary Place!

Marvel Zombies 3 #1 (of 4)

Marvel Zombies 3 #1 (***)

Is anybody excited about this? Good old Marvel, they take a fun idea and beat us to death with it. Zombie covers! Skrull covers! Ape covers! Aren’t these awesome?! Arrggh! Anyway, Marvel Zombies 3 is the fourth mini-series (When will Marvel Zombies 8 come out?) about these super flesh-eaters. Kirkman and Phillips have left the building to make way for Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker. The new creators have an unenviable task. They have to not only deal with the aforementioned complaints of boredom, but this story also takes place in Earth-616 (the regular Marvel U for those who don’t know). Are you a fan of Jennifer Kale? Siege? The Conquistador? What about the Aquarian? Though I admire the respect for Steve Gerber, I doubt many kids (or anyone) will care about these characters. Part of, if not all, the fun of Marvel Zombies was seeing your favorite characters zombified, Captain America missing the top of his head for example. But because we’re in 616, you pretty much know nothing radical will occur. However, Lente and Walker make the best of what they have to work with. This issue is still filled with comedy, gore, and interesting twists and turns. The only problem is that you can get those same elements in other better comics. The series has lost its uniqueness. So, unless you’re a big fan of Machine Man, Jocasta, Morbius, or the creative team, you can probably skip this.

Punisher War Journal #24

Punisher War Journal #24 (***1/2)

What an odd cover. “Secret Invasion” is absent yet this issue is littered with Skrulls. All we see is this dark haunting Alex Maleev cover featuring Frank Castle in a cell. That is not what this issue is about at all. Entertainment is the name of the game here. After a bit of plot dealing with something that occurred earlier in this series, everything cuts loose. I’m talking Frank riding around in a vehicle decorated with Skrull skulls blowing everything green to kingdom come. This is old school sci-fi fun. Want more proof? How about a Super-Skrull that is part Kingpin part Hammerhead? Yep, that’s in here, the jerk even takes a chunk out of G. W. Bridge. Can’t I have one comic where someone doesn’t get bitten? If you’ve followed Punisher War Journal since the beginning, you’ll know that the series is strongest when it’s a tie-in. That’s true again here, but sadly it’s weaker than its predecessors. That’s because these issues contain so much action and with stuff blowing up, you want it to look pretty. Though Chaykin does a passable job, his art is still not my style at all. Still, if you’re in the mood for some fun that involves aliens and vigilantes instead of booze and broads pick this up!

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #44

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #44 (****1/2)

Does anyone over 8 read this comic? Well, I do have an excuse. This issue features the art of the talented Jonboy Meyers. I doubt the name sounds familiar, but here is some of his work. He recently did some back-ups in JLA as well. He rarely does interiors so I jumped at the chance to get my hands on this. I don’t care if this book is meant for kids. It’s nice to have a wholesome break between my gore. This issue was refreshing and fun. The art is amazing! We get to see multiple lizards, the Serpent Society, and Curt Connors Godzilla-style! There’s some humor in here too and what kid comic is complete without some good lessons? This book has it all!

Desiato’s Rainy Sunday Reviews, Part 2

Angel: After the Fall #12 (****1/2)

Sons of bitches. I just dropped the damned book, and these bastards go and come out with an issue that’s really good. Perhaps I should have seen this coming. I am staring at a Murphy’s Law poster while I write this, after all. For every issue that didn’t capitalize on the potential of the characters or plot, you get something like this where everything clicks and you’re reading an excellent instance of a comic book. Every question brought up in the first eleven issues of this book is answered. It all fits too. The entire series turns a huge corner, and we now have more of a sense of where we’re headed and why. Franted, the art is still not to my liking, and Wesley is very much in the role of Dr. Exposition during much of the issue. There’s a lot of story to cover here. Maybe there might have been better ways to go about disseminating the necessary information, but the device used works, and only the most impatient reader would grow tired of the amount of text. This issue very well might have renewed my faith in IDW’s handing of Angel, and I might have to keep getting it, as much as it bewilders me to say that.

Invincible Iron Man #5 (****)

The ending of this book is right out of the book of comic cliffhanger cliche. It’s one of those little moments that makes you love the medium. The rest of the book is no slouch too. Fraction obviously has a handle on Zeke Stane, considering he created the character, but his use of tony Stark has been excellent as well. This truly is Iron Man the hero, and it’s practically the only place you can really get that right now (though I surmise that things will change post Secret Invasion). Obviously, this book is perfect for those that are coming in to the Iron Man books from the movie; the first storyline is basically the generational sequel to the Iron Monger storyline that was covered in its own way in the film. It’s good stuff. Fraction can definitely navigate his way through the mix of political intrigue and terrorism that is the cornerstone of Zeke Stane’s attacks on Starktech. The art is still a bit of a sore point, as it’s tough to completely suspend disbelief when Stane’s face is modeled after Brian Michael Bendis. But Larocca does draw the armor and the action well, so I can roll with the punches.

Green Lantern Corps #28 (****)

I do love these issues so very much. Between the Ringquest arc and the current Eye of the Beholder issues, Pete Tomasi has been doing an excellent job keeping the momentum leading into Blackest Night strong while Johns is wasting his time on Secret Origin. I am a bit surprised that Tomasi wrapped up this story in two issues, and there’s a bit of compression here in order to allow for the book to reach its conclusion. I think we probably could have benefitted from one more issue in order to flesh out the main villain of the piece. He’s introduced and captured all in the span of one issue, which gives the impression that we’re basically dealing with fodder. Sick and sadistic fodder with a pretty big body count, but fodder nonetheless. Still, there are a lot of good quiet moments with the Lanterns, and it’s a good installment of my favorite DC ongoing.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 18 (**)

I’m liking this arc less and less as it goes on. I’m not really enjoying the future Fray universe; it’s quite possible though that this is because I haven’t read the original Fray story. Still, the future moments aren’t sticking. The little dialogue quirks grate on me from time to time, and nothing about the story grabs me in a significant way. It’s a bit scattershot. I’m also not too jazzed about the present day story line with Dawn and Xander. It’s alright, but this issue just felt ephemeral. This isn’t a bad book or anything; it’s just not good.

Eternals #4 (****)

Still digging this book, and that’s predominantly because of the Makkari story line. The backstory of the Eternals, Celestials and Deviants was a highlight of Gaiman’s mini, and while the branched dialogue of the Celestial can be silly/unnecessary (see what I did there?) at times, the story being told is the big show. The other story lines going on are also entertaining, but Makkari’s world building and mythos establishing travels create that sense of wonder that hearkens right back to Kirby. It’s just another testament to the quality of the middle tier Marvel books. You’ve got the flashy Avengers books and Amazing Spider-Man and the X books, but right under the surface are books like this, the cosmic suite, Incredible Hercules, The Twelve and so on. It’s the main reason why I love Marvel as much as I do. And the Eternals are wicked cool characters that are becomiung deeply established in the Marvel U. The Knaufs are doing well and Acuna’s art does the job and brings forth the otherworldly feel that the Eternals should have as citizens of Earth that are wholly separate from humans.

Punisher War Journal #23 (**)

So the Jigsaw arc is finally over. It never really felt right outside of the penultimate issue. I do like the idea of GW Bridge and his merry band of hottie assassins. Plus, the Lady Punisher set up was a nice one. But Punisher and Jigsaw didn’t ever sound right, and when your two main characters are off base, it’s going to be tough to make things work. Let’s hope they get everything sussed out in time for the Secret Invasion tie in. If it’s anywhere as good as the World War Hulk issue, we could be in for a treat.

Bruce Castle Presents: Need A Lantern To Read Your War Journal?

Green Lantern #34 (****)

Awesomeness aside, do you really need seven issues to retell an origin? Apparently Geoff Johns does. That’s my main complaint about this arc and since this is the sixth part, I’m starting to feel the length (six months is a long time!). However, we still get a lot of sweet action sequences beautifully drawn by Ivan Reis. Some cool gimmicks, like Hal overcoming the yellow impurity and a Kilowog construct (How can you not love that?), are also provided. The Carol Ferris stuff feels a bit like a superhero soap opera, but I mean that in the best possible way. I hope Hal and Carol do get together soon, like Johns seems to be building to, but then what about Cowgirl?! Sinestro and Hal’s rapport is written brilliantly and there are a few humorous moments in here. An observation: It seems that throughout this series, this issue and I’m sure next included, the Guardians are almost villainous. It seems that almost every action they take has negative consequences. We can understand and are almost sympathetic with Sinestro during the war. The Guardians’ rules seem extreme, which is again demonstrated in this issue. Is it possible that either A) the Guardians will become villains B) things will change a bit, like new Guardians or new rules or C) the Guardians will die (Johns already killed one right?). Anyway, this arc is starting to wear out its welcome, but it’s still a well-written, well-drawn, and entertaining origin story.

Large Cover of Punisher War Journal #23 (Monkey Variant)

Punisher War Journal #23 (*)

This rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve already mentioned several times about my disdain towards Chaykin’s art. Poor art does detract from my enjoyment, but you can still have a great comic with bad art. Sadly, the writing is poor too. This was supposed to be the ultimate Jigsaw story, but it reads like just another Jigsaw story. There’s some decent action in here, but I dislike the art so it’s not much of a plus. The finale was surprisingly poor. The characters seem extremely out of character, and not in a good way. The epilogue felt stale and idiotic, and is almost a set-up for Remender’s solo run I guess? This book has been sour for almost a year now. I’m going to stay until Fraction leaves. I thought he was off after this issue, but apparently I still have two SI tie-ins to deal with. On a positive note, this series shined during its previous tie-in issues. So, Fraction could still depart with a well-written bang. I have hope.

Desiato Reviews Badass Secondary Marvel Titles

The Twelve #7 (****1/2)

So this is the pitch of the series in a nutshell for those of you sad, silly, misguided fools that aren’t reading this book: “Hey Golden Age folks! You guys were heroes 60 years ago (though ‘heroes’ is probably a stretch), so we feel obligated to treat you as such now even though most of you are pretty lame! Oh, and the world has gone to complete shit and you’re going to live long lives of misery, depression and anguish because most of you are barely 30! And all of your families are dead! Aren’t you so glad we found you?” Even taking into account the ending of the issue (Chris Weston remains a master of facial expressions), this one wasn’t quite as emotionally devastating as the kick in the balls that was issue six. JMS still likes torturing his own characters, because we’re now seven issues in and NOTHING good has happened to any of them since their return to the living world. I think I’m getting the idea why many folks consider his Fantastic Four and Spider-Man runs (One More Day notwithstanding) subpar. It seems like big action stories aren’t exactly JMS’s strength. I’ve never gotten the chance to watch Babylon Five, but I’m pretty sure remembering that the show wasn’t designed to be a big action sci fi epic. And you look and what he’s doing here and on Thor; these aren’t action books. But they’re FANTASTIC and practically flawless examples of character work. You get on a big property like FF or Spidey, and you can’t necessarily get away with making it the type of book that JMS seems to excel at. But a book about forgotten Timely characters or a Thor relaunch, both of which are playing out like slow burning Greek tragedy? They’re great (makes you wonder what’s going to happen with Brave and the Bold). There isn’t even a question that this is the best mini series that will be put out this year. It blows Secret Invasion and Final Crisis out of the water. There is no more satisfying read on Earth right now than this book.

Invincible Iron Man #4 (***1/2)

You know, this book would probably be close to perfect if Larocca were a bit tighter with the art.  I’m not going to breach the subject of the pros and cons of aggressive photo referencing, but an inescapable problem does arise when Tony and Reed aren’t consistent from panel to panel and page to page. It futzes up the internal continuity of the book and sequential nature of the comics. It’s certainly not as bad as some of the other photo referencing that you’ll see, but it does have a tendency to bleed things together. And there’s always that sort of pseudo blurry Photoshoppy feel to it. Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the issue. I did. But I think the art foibles were more noticeable here than in previous issues. It’s a good thing that Fraction is generally writing the holy hell out of this book, because this could have been a turning point issue that could have tanked the series for me. Though I must say that the chess scene is a bit played out in the grand tradition of “two incredibly smart individuals play multiple games of chess at the same time while talking about everything but chess. Aren’t they smart?” scenes that I’ve seen in various movies/books/media. The punch line of the scene was cute, but it didn’t completely save the scene from slipping into cliché. I do think the book is still searching for a bit of an identity between the super heroey stuff and and the “Tony Stark is just this guy, you know?” moments, but we’ve only seen four issues so far, and I’m willing to give a book (especially one that’s got such a compelling foil like Zeke Stane) the time to find its legs.

Punisher War Journal #22 (****1/2)

Holy shit! It got good! Out of nowhere! Are we seeing the case that Remender and Fraction are finally starting to click? This book was so muddy for the first three issues, and once things started to sharpen from a plot perspective last issue, I started to see some signs of life. And this issue really got things going in a clear and concise way that is finally compelling and interesting and not at all clunky or awkward. Praise be to Fraction and Remender! Chaykin’s art isn’t exactly something I would go out of my way to search out, but I don’t actively hate it, and it has a hand in setting the mood of the story as a whole. I do quite enjoy GW Bridge and his band of merry female assassins, and the one Jigsaw appearance was pretty darned fun. It felt like a book with a focused purpose. This book has been given meaning again. They just might save this arc yet. We’ll have to see how this thing ends.

Bruce Castle Presents: Hulk vs. Punisher

Hulk #5 (****)

There isn’t a need to say much about this issue. Those who love it will still love it and those who hate it will still hate it. Like the book, it’s that simple. I’ve tried to look under the belly of this behemoth but there is no need. It’s just plain dumb fun with really pretty art and I’m one of the people that love it.

 

Punisher War Journal #22

Punisher War Journal #22 (***1/2)

This was the best issue out of this series that had Chaykin’s awful art. That’s not saying a whole lot but it’s something. Matt Fraction has written probably the most human Punisher. That’s not great, but I commend him for trying something new and making his Punisher unique like Ennis did. I liked this issue. There are twists and turns and the Wrecking Crew! I still have to complain about the art because it’s not my style and really detracts from my enjoyment. Another thing that bugs me is that this is supposed to be Jigsaw’s finest moment and he’s barely in it! He wasn’t in the last issue and he was only in two panels of this one. Anyway, this issue was much better than the last and I hope that continues.

Bruce Castle IS The Quickness

4 stars = Stop reading review and go buy now!!!!
3 and a half stars = Great issue and make room on your trade shelf someday soon
3 stars = Recommended and maybe even trade worthy
2 and a half stars = Recommended
2 stars= Not the best, not the worst, not recommended
1 and a half star = Terrible issue and vocalize your disgust at your next social event
1 star = Awful awful awful and you may want to consider dropping this title
0 stars = Next con you attend where the writer and/or artist are present you should throw this issue in their face

 

 

 

Punisher War Journal #21– I finally found out why this story has been bothering me so much. This has such a 90s feel to it which is a terrible awful thing. There is a reason why Ennis never messed with this stuff, why his first arc in the Max series ended with Punisher blowing Micro’s head off. I know it’s a bit unfair to compare this series to the Max run, especially when that run has been the best Punisher stuff ever, but unfortunately I just have to. But that’s what I finally realized while reading this issue, it has that awful 90s taste to it. It’s filled with scantily clad ninjas beating each other up with swords and blades. It’s got Jigsaw (actually Jigsaw wasn’t even in this issue which bothered me), who I know wasn’t created in the 90s, but he’s always had that kind of 90s feel to him in my mind. The issue also has Silver Sable, created in the 80s, but she still has that 90s feel as well. You’ve also got these three new ninja characters that seem like they could have been drawn by Liefeld himself. And speaking of, we also have Domino and G.W. Bridge in here that were created by Mr. 90s himself, Rob Liefeld. The 90s were a terrible decade for comics and Punisher himself was more unpopular than ever. Why in the hell would Fraction try to give a throwback to the worst time in the character’s history?! I suppose he maybe thought that they were interesting characters and concepts that were applied badly and he could do them better, I respect that and he does. But that doesn’t stop the fact that this story is the worst this book has ever been. There are still a few fun moments in here and look closely for a Colbert 08 poster. However, the horrible 90s feel and Chaykin art overshadow whatever good is in this comic. Not to mention the explanation of why Punisher hasn’t killed Jigsaw which seems unconvincing and even a bit trite. I hate not liking this comic.

1 and a half star

Walking Dead #50– It took two reads to finally appreciate this. When I first read it, I was majorly disappointed. I still am in a way, but then I realized a few things. I expected this to have the issue 50 feel to it, oversized with major events occurring inside. We don’t get that, but all the big stuff happened in 48. I also found this issue predictable at first, and in a way it is, but I finally realize what Kirkman was trying to say in this issue and he does do it well. Don’t expect an issue 50. Just expect another well written and well drawn Walking Dead adventure. One that continues the story of a father and son trapped in a post apocalyptic world with a terrible threat behind every corner. Oh and I love that variant and I’m glad I got my grubby hands on one.

4 stars

Astonishing X-Men #25– I read the first two trades of Astonishing X-Men but haven’t read the last two. I’m waiting for the hardcover. I was weary of reading this issue. It’s supposed to be a “jumping on point” for new readers, but they say that all the time and yet the story is still bogged down with continuity and the characters are reflecting on last arc’s events. There is none of that in this issue. About the only thing that tells you they’re in continuity is that M-Day still happened. Oh and the X-Men are in San Francisco now. That’s it, this has such a great first issue feel and is probably what all first issues should try to be. This has such an original and fresh feel to it. There are no glorious fight scenes with tough man dialogue, no last page reveal, just a lot of character study with a plot developing. I’m not a big fan of Bianchi’s art, but this is the best it’s ever looked. There are many genuinely hilarious moments, and though these are characters in the realm of fantasy, they seem real. This was a perfect first issue.

4 stars

Mini-Reviews: SeventhSoldier

 

All-Star Superman #10

“Neverending”

All-Star Superman is a strange amalgamation of Silver Age bizarreness with Modern Age art and storytelling conventions.  It proves that things like ‘power level’ don’t get in the way of a good story, because, believe me: Superman is at his absolutely most powerful here.  

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