Catch-Up Mini-Reviews

Detective Comics #856

Tec3

Greg Rucka’s story in Detective Comics isn’t particular deep.  It’s a relatively simple story, in fact: Batwoman learns that the new leader of the Religion of Crime is coming to Gotham, goes, confronts her.  It’s a pretty standard adventure comic, with Rucka’s usual capable plotting and dialogue.  In fact, the more concise, fun Question back-up in the book features slightly sharper writing thus far… but no one will confuse that for the better read.  Hamner continues to turn in clean, dynamic work on the Question back-up, while J.H. Williams III’s work on the main feature remains stellar.  The book is gorgeous and well-written, and consistently worth your time.

Grade: B+

Wonder Woman #35

Wonder Woman

Gail Simone finishes up this brief arc with a few revelations and a lot of aftermath left over from “Rise of the Olympian”, including some dark promises and new powers.  All of it sets up the next big story, but it’s done in one of the book’s most engaging, fun arcs Simone’s run has produced.  She goes a way too heavy on the fan-worship of Black Canary in a number of awkward, uncomfortable internal monologues from Wonder Woman, but the arc otherwise offers action with gorgeous, fluid art from Lopresti paired with a simple story setting up another major new chapter in Diana’s life.

Grade: A-

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #4

Ink4

Ink continues to be a pleasant surprise for me.  Fiorentino’s art, while occasionally muddy, is improving, and he’s demonstrated himself to be an apt choice to illustrate just how formidable the Tattooed Man can be.  Wallace’s story, meanwhile, generally maintains its pleasant mix of urban crime drama and superheroics, though the more action-oriented approach to this issue meant that it sacrificed a little bit of the drama in favor of the superheroics.  A late game plot twist took that shift a little too far, however, and the issue ends somewhere between the ridiculous and the parodic.

Grade: B+

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #4

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Dance finally pulls itself out of the slump the mini had been in and starts moving forward.  Though the last issue was of a high quality, the mini really wasn’t going much of anywhere.  With the team broken up, however, and the media blitz that had blinded them for the first few issues fading, Most Excellent Superbat finally has time to check up on his home country.  Not all is right in Japan, however, and he’s forced to get the team back together again.  Casey’s writing of these new teen heroes remains relatively sharp, while Chriscross’ cartoony art more than keeps up with the book’s humor and energy.  If only DC’s other teen heroes were even half so interesting right now…

Grade: B+

Incognito #6

Incogni

Brubaker and Phillips complete the first arc with the strongest, most exciting issue yet.  We learn even more about the origins of the Overkill brothers, learn about why Yuri was created, and see a massive showdown between Zack and his old allies.  All the action is well-illustrated by Sean Phillips in some of his most exciting fights yet.  The book is undeniably over the top, but it loves living up its pulp roots.  Though it’ll be quite some time before we get the next issue, the news isn’t all bad – the reason for the long delay is because Brubaker and Phillips will be returning to do a new arc on Criminal.

Grade: A

Runaways #13

Runaways

Immonen was responsible for last year’s manic, excellent Patsy Walker: Hellcat.  Unfortunately her Runaways, which finds her teamed with Sara Pichelli, lacks both the momentum and the cleverness of her debut work. Pichelli’s art is clean and cartoonish, giving the book a sense of energy, but it isn’t enough.  It isn’t enough, however.  After subpar runs from Whedon and Moore, Immonen and Pichelli needed to start their run off with a bang.  Unless the end of the arc offers up some pretty massive surprises, it’s safe to say that she’s failed to do so.

Grade: C

Doktor Sleepless #13

Sleepless

After a lengthy delay, the good Doktor returns.  Things are heating up in Heavenside, mostly according to the Doktor’s plans.  The issue reads like a montage of the city going to hell, and while it isn’t the most creative or compelling issue Ellis has turned in thus far, it is nonetheless immensely satisfying to see everything come to a head like this.  Rodriguez continues to improve as his design becomes more confident and his figures become less stiff.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Detective Comics #855

Doktor Sleepless #11

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #3

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #3

Incognito #6

Runaways #12

Wonder Woman #34

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

Read/RANT

Captain Britain and MI:13 #14

Runaways #11

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #2

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #1

Review: Runaways #11

Runaways

Confession time: despite being a hardcore Whedon fan and generally enjoying Moore, I haven’t read Runaways since BKV left the title a few years back.  When it premiered, it was one of the cleverest new titles on the shelves, and it hung onto that for a good little while.  I hadn’t heard enough good things about the book to get back on board, and so, for a long time, it lingered, a largely forgotten pop culture relic in the back of my brain.

When I heard that writer Kathryn Immonen was coming on the title… and that it had nothing to do with this Dark Reign nonsense… and that it was one of the few Marvel titles remaining at the crucial $2.99 price tag, I decided to jump back on board.  I miss my Marvel Universe, I’ve found, at least until I read anything that takes place in the mainstream setting.  Besides that, though, Immonen’s recent Patsy Walker: Hellcat was one of the most quirky, charming minis in recent memory, and I wanted to see what she could do with a slightly more high-profile title.

Runaways #11 is not without flaws, especially not to readers who’ve been away for awhile.  Little information is given on the new Runaway, Klara, and little personality, too.  Meanwhile, the death touted on the cover of the issue seems a bit too random, and the return doesn’t actually seem to happen.  And while Pichelli’s art is gorgeous, it is perhaps a little bit too much so – Chase looks like the platonic ideal of a boy band idol, just to give one example.

That said, those are mostly nit-picks.  Pichelli does  fabulous job with 99% of the issue, and her cartoony style is a joy to look at.  Immonen isn’t quite as quick as she was in Hellcat, but she still provides a solid opening issue, and her snappy style works well with Pichelli’s art.  The book is fun, different, and just a little confused, but it definitely makes me curious to see where they’ll go next issue.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Secret Invasion Part 9

Captain Britain should be coming in my shipment tomorrow, so that’ll have to be in my next set of reviews (I’m getting ELEVEN Secret Invasion books in my box tomorrow).

Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers #2 (***1/2)

It’s the little things in life you treasure, and that’s a lot of what I enjoy about the Secret Invasion books. No stone is left unturned. This book continues the thread of Hulkling and Xavin’s attempts to reconcile themselves with the invading Super Skrull forces in New York City. We don’t see a whole lot of new, so this book is mostly focused on character development with that bit of flavor tying into one of the main themes of the tension between the Skrull monarchy and the religious sect that is leading the invasion. It’s standard fare, but it’s still good.

Secret Invasion: Front Line #2 (****)

Front Line is such a fun idea. It’s almost a microcosm of what worked with Marvels. The Marvel Universe has always been a street level universe, so why wouldn’t they make a book like this for every event? It makes perfect sense. And considering the change in direction toward “Embrace Change” and the ads we’ve been seeing post issue five of SI, I can see this book becoming VERY important for the rest of the run. Brian Reed is writing it more than competently, and this feels like an essential component of the story to show us all sides of what’s going on here.

Secret Invasion: Thor #1 (***)

It was okay. But I do agree with Billy that this doesn’t jive enough with the JMS stuff. I’m glad they’re putting it here in a separate mini instead of crowbarring it into the actual Thor ongoing. So we’ve got a Thor series that’s about Beta Ray Bill with Donald Blake sans hammer helping out the people of the local town. There’s some nice narrative work, but it doesn’t have the same pop to it that Fraction’s one shots have had. There’s potential there, especially with the Stormbreaker wrinkle, and I hope it picks up a bit.

Secret Invasion: X-Men #1 (****1/2)

Now this was surprising to me. Very similar to Black Panther from the perspective that we’re jumping back and forth between the Skrull invasion forces and the X-Men. It furthers what I like about these books, giving the Skrulls more depth than simply being a faceless marauding force. It’s the difference between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Battlestar Galactica. We need those three dimension villains to allow us to latch onto something and not blindly root for the good guys. We’ve seen this here. We’ve seen it in Black Panther. We saw it in Secret Invasion 4. And it’s what makes the entire story compelling, just like with Front Line. I do like the way the X-Men caught the Skrulls by surprise due to some older intel and got the quick upper hand. But that’s not the end of the story. This book is much more about the Skrull invaders than the X-Men so far, which seems to be a smart move considering how muddy the X Continuity is right now. Solid read with some different art that catches the eye.

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.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #31 – More Secret Invasion Tie-Ins!

 

So far, to pretty much everyone’s surprise, the tie-ins to the main Secret Invasion mini-series have been made of pretty high caliber stuffs. Especially, in my opinion, MI-13 and the Fantastic Four spin-off mini. This last month’s crop of books, of which I will review quickly here today (and which Desiato already did over here), have been no different.

First, I fricking love these covers, especially the Mighty and New Avengers “homages.” They really help give them that “everything ties into everything else” feeling. Second… let’s skip ahead to the individual reviews:

• Avengers: The Initiative #14 (****): This was a great issue of The Initiative, and I guess that’s mostly due to the fact that Dan Slott came on to co-plot this baby. He handled the Pym flashbacks/reveals expertly and his use of the 3-D Man was retro but at the same time very, very cool. I hungrily await the next installment.

• Fantastic Four: Secret Invasion #2 (****): The Fantastic Four mini has to be the most surprising of all the tie-ins. Although Aguirre-Sacasa is uber-talented and has done a fantastic job with the FF in the past, I don’t think anyone was expecting this one to be the great read that it certainly is. I think the quality has to be chalked up to AS’s obvious affection for these characters. The way he writes “The Brief Loves of Johnny Storm” is evidence enough of this, not to mention the touching make-out scene in the Negative Zone. I don’t know about you guys, but I really felt for these two characters caught on opposite sides of this holy war. I’m hoping maybe Lyja and Johnny get their happy ending… although, with Millar on the main title, I won’t hold my breath.

• Ms. Marvel #28 (*****): I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but… Ms. Marvel is my favorite of the bunch. WOW. Finally! We get some action! Some suspense! This one was epically written! There are not enough exclamation points in the memory of mankind to express how much I loved this issue!!! Her attitudes on war, murder and purpose? Loving this shit!

• Runaways/Young Avengers: Secret Invasion #1 (****): I love how, in the absence of the series’ creator, Marvel is keeping the Young Avengers franchise alive. Just like the Young Avengers: Presents, this crossover fills that YA fix nicely. Also, thank God that awful Whedon arc is over so we can get back to enjoying good Runaways comics. As far as the issue’s plot, I’m glad we finally find out what it is those freaking Skrulls were saying to each other over in Secret Invasion #3, and… what Teddy and Xavin’s respective roles will be in SI.

• The Incredible Hercules #118 (****): Not much to say here, besides pointing out how impossibly well written this book continues to be. Oh, and how about that Snowbird/Hercules hook-up? JEEZ! Herc sure does get around! AND, OH… Skrully coyote!

• The Mighty Avengers #15 (*****): The sordid life of Henry Pym… you know what? EFF that! Janet is such a ####! She totally left his ass, so like, he’s totally in the right to sleep with the first student/Skrull infiltrator that happens by… like, good for him, except, you know, when he gets beat up and replaced by an alien invader. That was kind of bad. And probably his fault. But, whatever. Screw, Janet!

• The New Avengers #42 (****): Jim Cheung is godly on the art. GODHEAD. Also, special thanks to one Mr. Bendis. The pieces finally fit. Everything fits! She’s been a Skrull since before the breakout? WHA!?!? …awesome. Now, all he has to do is explain that Skrull that showed up in one panel of Disassembled. Then, I shall be satisfied. Maybe.

So, yeah. High quality shit right here. This shipment of books has totally restored my faith in this event. I think the main action of Secret Invasion won’t really happen in the main book till we pass the midway point. Bendis is slow-rolling the hell out of this one. Which, I’m okay with, as long as the payoff is huge. Not talking “No More Mutants” huge. I’m talking “Death of Captain America” huge. Know what I’m saying?

 

Review: Secret Invasion Tie-Ins!

That’s right. For the past two weeks, I received seven Secret Invasion books in my DCBS box. Let’s take a look (In the order that I read them).

The Incredible Hercules #118 (*****)

This book is still completely awesome. In this installment, we’ve got the God Squad (complete with collectible trading cards on the recap page with special Amadeus Cho rookie card) trying to find the lair of the Skrull Gods. In order to do so, they have to try and barter with Nightmare in order to receive a map that will lead them to their destination. Of course, Nightmare won’t just give it up, so we get to see montages of the various fears of the God Squad (including Amadeus Cho) until they are able to deceive Nightmare, steal the map and get the hell out of there before he uses the energy he received from absorbing their fears to take over the world. The banter is still awesome. The writing just sparkles at every turn. It’s genuinely funny, and I don’t see any way that people can’t be charmed by the Herc/Cho team up. They play so well off each other. This is a quality book month in and month out, and they’ve kicked it into high gear for Secret Invasion. Plus, considering the final splash page, the rest of this is probably going to be a hoot.

New Avengers #42 (****1/2)

The continuing saga of Jessica Drew brought to you from the perspective of nearly every major event since Bendis started generally steering the Marvel U. We get implications that the events of the Savage Land arc of New Avengers, House of M and Civil War were not only advantageous to the Skrulls, but possibly planned by the Skrulls. We also get a further continuation of the mythology behind this Skrull religion, as the act of fully immersing someone in a new identity takes the position of basically being a ritual, and a very cool one at that. Jimmy Chung also does a hell of a job on art chores (I LOVE that double page splash covering the background of Jessica Drew with her posing in the middle). This book is certainly covering the “secret” part of the Secret Invasion equation (while the main mini is much more of the “invasion” section), and I love the hell out of it. Secret societies, secret meetings, tons of conspiracy, tons of paranoia. And it all weaves its way beautifully through everything Bendis has been writing in the main Marvel U since Avengers Disassembled. Fantastic work.

Mighty Avengers #15 (****)

And the train keeps rolling. And Hank Pym’s skrully origin is revealed. And we get another bad ass ritual sequence. And we get some very cool art with Klaus Jansen and Tom Palmer working off John Romita Jr. breakdowns. It’s very reminiscent of JRJR and yet not at the same time. Groovy. I love the way the skrull constantly pumps Hank Pym for information (as well as other things…OH!) and makes it come off as the genuine gushing of a super hero groupie. And yet everything is for a specific purpose. These are all wonderful little puzzle pieces that are non essential to the main plot of Secret Invasion, but fill in that extra little bit of credibility that makes us really understand how the hell the Skrulls managed to pull this off so effortlessly. Plus, we’ve got a mention of the Beyonder, which is going to drive the people who think the Beyonder is behind all this up the wall. The only problem we have here is a bit of a timeline issue with New Avengers 42, which seems to feature Jessica Drew skrull talking to Hank Pym skrull, and that seems to take place before the events of Mighty 15 where he gets replaced. But it’s a minor continuity quibble, because I’m just enjoying the ride at this point.

Avengers: The Initiative #14 (****1/2)

Now THIS is fun. Slott’s back on co-writing duties for this issue (and I would assume the rest of the Secret Invasion arc, but I haven’t really been paying attention to the creator credits on solicits), and we’re dealing with the Skrull threat at Camp Hammond. Mostly from the perspective of 3-D Man, who is himself one of those altruistic Skrulls (similar to the Skrulls that pal around with She-Hulk, MI:13 and the Runaways…oh, and Hulkling), who is understandably trying to hide his identity in these trying times. Long story short, he finds out a way to see through the Skrull’s masking effects using a special pair of goggles, and proceeds to discover that EVERYONE at Camp Hammond is a Skrull. Of course, one assumes that this is not actually the case, and few if any of the people in the final double page spread are actually Skrulls, but it’s going to make for a fun little side story of one man against a world of people he thinks are guilty but are most likely innocent, and the hijinks that ensue. And nothing is more enjoyable than hijinks ensuing. The extra half star comes from that final splash, and the way 3-D Man’s yellow tinted goggles give off a sepia tone vibe and makes those last two pages look like some demented old-timey photo. Great stuff.

Ms. Marvel #28 (****)

Yes! I hoped this book would pick up once it got to the thick of things, and it surely did just that. First of all, Greg Horn is one of the best cover artists working today, and this issue is no exception. We join Secret Invasion already in progress with Ms. Marvel trying to deal with the armada attacking New York City. I mean, the book begins with a little twist on a very famous T.S. Eliot line (“This is the way the world ends. Not with a whimper…No…We should have known better than to think it would end with a whimper”) and I’m a big T.S. Eliot fan, so good on you Mr. Reed. And even better, we’re no longer bogged down with all the messiness from the last couple issues with the multiple Skrull Carol Danvers’ running around and too much of an emphasis on her interpersonal relationships. We’re full up on action now. And while not much actually happens in this book, it sure is staged well. We’ve got some nice story beats (the Skrulls react to Ms. Marvel’s power levels by shape shifting into defenseless innocents and blending in with the crowd) and good art. I don’t know if this book is as good as I rated it, but I think it’s such a step up from the last few issues that that probably had some influence on my score.

Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #2 (****)

I love the way they take the time at the beginning of the book to point out how many times Johnny Storm has been screwed over by members of the opposite sex. It’s one of those character moments that lets you understand the complete exasperation that Johnny deals with when he discovers that Lyja is the Skrull that infiltrated the Baxter Building. And I also like the way that Lyja realizes very quickly that she bit off far more than she can chew once the Baxter Building is attacked by all kinds of nasty inhabitants of the Negative Zone. Plus, we’ve got Annihilation Wave bugs! And a giant robot piloted by Franklin and Valeria! And the added bonus of the gang needing to rely on breaking some folks out of the Negative Zone prison for the next issue! This book is just pure fun, which is exactly what we should expect from a Fantastic Four book (Mark Millar, I’m looking in your direction). And Barry Kitson is still bringing the kind of awesomeness that makes me miss The Order. Nothing wrong with this book at all. It’s a bit on the flighty side, but still a solid read.

Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers #1 (****1/2)

Exactly what I wanted. More issues of dealing with the trust factors of someone on a team being a Skrull (this time we’re dealing with Zavin of the Runaways), but at its core, this book is all about Hulkling. Because all things told, he’s an extremely important character for this entire overall event. This guy is the true heir to the Skrull throne. And we get to see the continuation of what happens after he took both barrels to the face during Secret Invasion #3. Zavin, after pulling a card from the deck of Captain Skrull-Vell and pretending to play along with the Invasion in order to further his own agenda, realizes who Hulkling is, and the chase to rescue him ensues, played out in front of the backdrop of a lot of his friends getting hurt and possibly killed. It’s human drama (though none of those involved are actually, you know, human). And it’s pulse pounding. And put simply, it’s great. As someone who doesn’t know who any of the Runaways actually are, I was able to get character traits down right off the bat (thanks, Chris Yost!), which allowed me to follow the excellent story unimpeded.

I am SHOCKED at how good all of these tie ins have been so far. This is an incredibly rich tapestry that is billowing in the wind behind the somewhat straightforward and austere book that is the main title. Yes, the tie ins are generally of a higher quality than the actual Secret Invasion mini. But that doesn’t bother me one bit. Everything informs everything else, and we’re left with this living, breathing organism of an event that is very costly if you want to experience the whole thing, but completely well worth it. Phew! That was a lot of words.

Hardcover Review: Runaways Volume 3

The momentum of volume 2 propelled me gleefully into the third and last hardcover. The very first issue in the collection, #13, may be my favorite Runaways issue in the entire run. I’m a “Molly Mark”, there’s no use lying about it. She’s just too cute and funny not to be. This issue’s plot is very simple: Molly washes down a storm drain and is captured by the bad guy from “Oliver Twist”. He puts a magic collar on her and forces her to steal stuff for him. Molly’s like, “Oh noes!” So, she hatches an ingenious plan with her fellow “runaway slaves” to kick his ass and undue the magic spell he’s cast on all of them, especially the two Hispanic kids he’s turned to stone. Molly saves the day and finds her way home. It’s pretty awesome.

“Parental Guidance” is the next arc. In it, we get the origin story of the newest incarnation of The Pride and the return of Geoffrey Wilder, although it’s the 20 year old and childless version of him. Geoffrey takes over this new Pride, made up of Alex Wilder’s former WOW buddies, and uses them to get revenge on the Runaways. Obviously, Geoffrey does not succeed. Things that happened of consequence in this arc: More sexual tension between Nico and Chase, Chase sees Victor naked and admits that he’s jealous, Gert finds out about Nico and Chase, Old Lace almost east Nico, Molly gets kidnapped (OH NOES!), Gert breaks up with Chase, Geoffrey reinstates his deal with the Gibborim, Karolina and Xavin return, Xavin acts lame, the Runaways get their asses handed to them by the new Pride, victor turns into a giant Transformer, GERT IS KILLED BY GEOFFREY WILDER, with her dying breath Gert bequeaths Old Lace to Chase and tries to say “I love you” and fails. Wow, that’s a ton of plot/character development. I feel like it had more of that than any other arc in the series… but that’s misleading since almost every other arc pays off in this one. Good, great read.

In part 1 of “Dead Means Dead”, Nico sleeps with Victor and some dumb looking giant monster attacks the city. Wow, is Nico kind of a slut? Nah, she’s just trying to “find herself”, as silly as that sounds. And I like her with Victor… Chase is too busy being emo anyway. Also, nothing else happens. This was kind of a dead zone in the series. We had a fill-in artist and a lame “monster-of-the-week” villain. If there’s a weak spot in this collection, it’s this story.

The next arc makes up for it though with the return of series penciller, Adrian Alphona. “Live Fast” is about Chase getting his emotionally retarded antics under control. Somehow, it pops into Chase’s head that he can strike a deal of his own with the Gibborim. Chase’s deal: bring Gert back and I’ll give you an innocent soul to eat. They agree. But, as it turns out, the innocent soul Chase was offering… was his own. EMO ALERT!!! Along the way, he manages to kidnap Nico and steal her Staff of One.* In other sub-plottiness, Xavin disguises her/himself as Nico and tries to seduce Karolina. Um, not to trick her or anything, but because she knows how much Karolina loves Nico and she thought her girlfriend would get a kick out it. Xavin is officially the best boy/girlfriend of all time. Okay, to wrap up: Chase doesn’t kill himself, Gert doesn’t come back, Nico and Victor resolve some of their sexual tension and Iron Man shows up with some Cape-Killers at the end to arrest them all. Tony Stark is such an ASSHOLE. I don’t know how this fits with the rest of the Runaways stuff I’ve read. How do they get away from Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D.? Have I read the how already, but just forget?

Oh, and Alex Wilder is still alive. DUN… DUN… DUUUUUUH!!!

Bottom line time: This collected hardcover was great, as was volume 2. Volume 1, not so much… that was mostly bad. If I was recommending this to someone who knows a little bit about the Runaways already, I’d tell them to buy volume 2 and 3 and skip 1. If I was recommending this to someone who’s never heard of Runaways… 2 and 3, skip 1. Sorry, volume one sucked ass.

*Let’s be honest? This gimmick is wearing thin.

Hardcover Review: Runaways Volume 2

Wow, this was a breath of fresh air. Volume 2 felt like an entirely different book. The art was crisper, the writing was faster. This is the book I would have loved to put on my monthly pull list. This is the book I expected Volume 1 to be. Understandably, the difference in tone and pacing is largely attributed to the fact that Vaughan didn’t have to waste 18 issues explaining the origins of these teenage runaways. Volume 2 is X-2 to Volume 1’s X-Men. Of course, we still get a ton of “catch up” exposition in the first couple of issues, but that’s fine. That’s just how monthly comics are written.

The Victor Mancha/Victorious arc was one of the best in the series. Having some forgotten version of Ultron hatch a “silver age” style revenge plot was inspired. Also, let’s not forget to mention the introduction of Excelsior… a team of former teenage superheroes that starred in last year’s Loners. The only truly lame thing about this arc was having Rick Jones revealed as the mysterious benefactor. Man, I hate Rick Jones SO HARD.

Which brings us to the next arc: it was way less satisfying than the last. Xavin is a lot of bit lame. Sorry, Xavin fans. I liked the part where Karolina makes a move on Nico… as discussed in The Last Man reviews, girl on girl is HAWT. And the interplay between Molly and Victor was really cute. Ok, but seriously, Xavin just switching sexes is such bullshit. Obviously, he’s playing you girl! And man, after Karolina leaves, I love how heartbroken Nico is. She totes loves her in ways she is not ready to deal with.*

The final arc of the hardcover, East Coast/West Coast, was probably the best of the bunch, and the series so far. GUEST STARS GALORE!!! Cloak, as always, was the super-lame, but I couldn’t help feeling bad for him. Why didn’t any of his super buddies believe him? There’s no way Cloak beats on Dagger. That’s his girl, yo’! And even Luke Cage dogs him, especially when Cloak tries to play the race card. What else was awesome? Spider-Man cameos that make sense and are funny at the same time, that’s what! And pimp’s named “Pusher Man”! Priceless. Question? Did Chase really kill a carjacker and dump the body? Wicked if he did. Are Chase and Nico going to hook up? I’m reading the Whedon run, and I know he’s playing with the sexual tension, but his comics are so busy I barely remember what happened in the last issue. The best scene by far had to be Molly’s confrontation with the Avengers. Molly is the stone nuts! If I had a daughter, I would want her to be exactly like Molly. No jokes. EW, you know what was creepy? That priest guy that was helping Cloak. When he was all trying to give Molly something, I was wondering if Vaughan was going to take us into an after school special. Thank God he didn’t. The only thing that REALLY bugged me? I hate the way Vaughan writes Captain America. He made him suck. OH SHIT!!! Who are those kids at the end? The headless ones with a copy of The Abstract?!?

Overall, the dialogue was wittier than Volume 1. I laughed out loud a few times. And of course, Molly still gets all the best lines. Also, the characterizations were stronger, tighter. And surprisingly, I’m starting to like Gertrude. I have no idea what Vaughan changed, but I find her less annoying than before. Victor is welcome addition to the crew. And the developing soap opera-y love triangles were solid. If I had my way, Chase and Nico would totally hook up. Sorry Gert… go play with your not-a-raptor. The plots were fun! How novel. If reading Volume 1 was like homework, reading Volume 2 was summer vacation. I could not put it down. Did I mention how good the art was?

Okay, there were still some negatives. Brian K Vaughan, please stop trying to be Joss Whedon. Chase being the only guy in the “Scooby Gang” stinks of Xanderitis. The “Rogues Gallery” setup reeked of an episode of Buffy… you know the one. There was some other Whedon related content, but I didn’t take any notes and I can’t pin them down off the top of my head. I just remember that I yelled Whedon’s name, like a curse, a bunch of times while reading Volume 2.** Dude, Chase needs to do more than just drive the getaway car. Like, kill some more carjackers or Hobo Pirates. The bonus Free Comic Book Day issue in the back was utter shit. Way too much “please buy the monthly exposition”.

I’ll be back in a few days with a review of Volume 3, probably Thursday. Until then, buy Vs! and read comics.

*To quote a favorite Kevin Smith flick.***

**If someone wants to challenge me on this, I may just have to reread this Volume to prove my point. Or, I could just be lazy and ignore you.

***He always substitutes “flick” for movie or film in his interviews. It’s so throwback.