Bruce Castle Presents: Old Friends Fight Skrulls, Alternate Earths, and “Louie Louie”=Party Time!

Secret Invasion Thor #3 (of 3)

Secret Invasion: Thor #3 (***)

Misfire is a good word to describe this series. It was aimed correctly and it appeared to have the necessary ingredients to fire well, but could not. Fraction is an extremely capable writer and he’s proved himself with Thor in his fantastic one-shots released this year. But he just doesn’t deliver here. The series tries to be unique or exciting but it always seems to fail. Braithwaite is very capable as well. I was just reminded of that when I reread Justice. Sadly, I believe his art was hindered by Brian Reber’s colors. The book looks very muddled and at times it’s difficult to tell what’s going on and it seems to be because of the colors. This series is not terrible, but it’s not worth your money.

Astonishing X-Men Ghost Boxes #1 (of 2)

Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1 (***1/2)

I wonder if this mini was planned or if this was a last minute development to deal with Bianchi’s delays. Judging by the incredibly small page count of 16, I’d say the latter. The lack of pages is the biggest problem here. The bright side is that Ellis’ entire script along with all the naked (Or penciled, I just like saying naked) pages of this issue are included. I don’t think I’ve ever read an Ellis script and the naked art comes from Alan Davis and Adi Granov so that was a treat. But if you don’t care about that stuff, this issue is a bit of a hard sell. This comic is written well and it looks great, but I’m not sure how important it is (The 4 bucks bothers me too). But I don’t know this could be imperative information.

Boys #24 (cover A)

Boys #24 (***1/2)

Talk about great covers, this one is amazing! The pic doesn’t do it justice, but you can still see all the detail Robertson put into this. If you like Animal House (If you don’t, what’s wrong with you?), you’ll appreciate all the visual references. That’s pretty much all this issue was, comedy. The plot moved along a bit, but it was overshadowed by all the laughs. So, I’d say this was a pretty average Boys issue. That’s good, but not great. Still, the cover alone may be worth the price of admission. But if you don’t like that cover (Again, what’s wrong with you?), you can still enjoy the fart, masturbation and X-Men jokes.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #55 – A Secret Invasion in September

The New Avengers # 45 (****): The art plus explanations (can’t really say answers as I do not believe anyone was even asking these questions) makes this a solid read. Yes, “wasting” a page on the Queen vomiting in the toilet may have turned off some people, but I loved it. Vulnerability is always cool. I mean, this panel did wonders for Tony Stark.

The Mighty Avengers #18 (***): More Secret Warriors!!! I feel like I’ve read this story already, yeah? And the whole V for Vendetta/Alias/Every spy fiction fake torture sequence EV-VAR! thing was more than a lot a bit unnecessary in my not so humble opinion. Unlike the clone Reed Richards torture scene, I don’t think the scene in this book fooled anybody. Truth.

Avengers: The Initiative #17 (**): WOO! Wait, what am I so excited about? This was awful. The Queen doing her best “twirling moustache” routine at the end had me gagging on my own tongue, and then there’s that tossed in Star Wars reference… to one of the BAD ones? BLAH.

Black Panther #41 (*****): EPIC. And final. I’m glad we ended our relationship on a high note, T’challa. I would’ve been truly sad if your last arc had been balls. Although, I do wish the payoff for this arc had been that Storm was a Skrull the whole time. That may have saved the book for me.

Deadpool #2 (****1/2): Even better than the first issue, even with the predictable ending. BOOYA! Good Deadpool writing is back, baby!

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (****1/2): GARSH! When did this comic get so good? Out of all the anti-Skrull plans, I think I like Drax’s the best: ‘Kill ‘em all.’ Perfection. OH, NOES! Cosmo… a Skrull agent? Say it ain’t so, dawg!

Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #33 (***): ‘War Machine: Weapon of S.H.I.E.L.D.’? ALL IN, DUDERS! I even like the Transformers ending. DING. This first story was mediocre, but I’m looking forward to this new direction.

Ms. Marvel #31 (****1/2): Technically no longer tying in with Secret Invasion, instead dealing with the post-SI aftermath, the “Dark Reign”, whatever that is. Man, where has Reed been hiding this story? It was so good! Character building moments! Good times! No fight scenes! So, questions: Why does Carol want to kill Norman Osborn? Could he be responsible for this “Dark Reign”? Is it related to what’s happening over in Thunderbolts right now?

Nova # 17 (*): UGH, this was the opposite of awesome. DnA are really letting me down on this title. To be frank, it sucks. It’s boring. I’m bored. Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. is boring. Quasar is boring. Dick Ryder’s family life is boring. Darkhawk is boring. BORED FOREVER!!! The most interesting stuff in this issue deals with the Super Skrull fake betrayal, but that’s over by the first couple of pages and then the book quickly reverts back to its natural state: boringtowne.

She-Hulk #33 (****): What a difference the art makes. Same writer. Same shitty story. But somehow the fabulous art makes everything more interesting.

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #2 (****1/2): finally got my hands on this and I was not disappointed. Tom Raney rules.

Secret Invasion: The Amazing Spider-Man #2 (***): Better than the first issue? I don’t know. It was still UGH-inducing.

Secret Invasion: Thor #2 (**): UGH. This book is FAIL. Why even make this a mini? There were absolutely ZERO interesting plot turns before Thor shows up at the end. Just skip the two filler issues and make this a one-shot where Thor beats the shit out of a legion of Skrulls. DING.

Skrulls vs. Power Pack #3 (-): This books makes me cry.

Thunderbolts #124 (*****): …and THIS book makes me giggle like your little sister on weed. WHEEE!!!!

Bruce Castle Presents: Skrulls! Zombies! Werewolves! Which One Has The Best Comic?

Mighty Avengers #18 (****1/2)

Why?! Why isn’t Bendis always this good? This is the best Bendis comic I’ve read since Mighty Avengers #12. Is it a coincidence that the main character in both issues is Nick Fury? This comic was so much fun! Who knew Nick Fury training a bunch of D-Listers could be so awesome! I laughed out loud several times. In addition to Bendis’ enthralling writing, Stefano Caselli’s art is very easy on the eyes. Please stay away Khoi Pham! My only criticisms are that I wish Bendis would have the courage (or power) to execute what Nick Fury promises in the beginning of the issue. Also, I wish Bendis had more time to flesh out the characters a little. This leads to the conclusion of my review. Mr. Bendis, could you please write a new Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos series? There isn’t a single Skrull or costumed character in this issue and it’s remarkable!

Secret Invasion: Thor #2 (***1/2) SPOILERS!!!!

Is there anyway Asgardians fighting “Godkiller” Skrulls couldn’t be cool? Speaking of these “Godkillers”, you can add this story to the “Skrulls are going to win” evidence pile. The Skrulls have designed hundreds of creatures to fight Gods. They harness the power of Stormbreaker, Bill’s hammer that has all of the strengths of Mjolnir. Oh and they created a Super-Skrull that is genetically modified to mimic Thundra, Titania, Volcana, and Battleaxe that beats Beta Ray Bill! The Terrans are doomed! While the battle is raging, we also get to see what the people of Broxton are up to. This is the weak part of the issue. Donald Blake delivers a baby. Yes it’s well done, but I think it’s another “I just had a baby and I want to write about how cool it is” concept from Fraction. Oh and there’s another unnecessary scene with the Broxton volunteer firemen. I’m not a big fan of that stuff, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here. Braithwaite’s art is more than satisfactory. Fraction writes the action well and provides an ending that leaves me wanting more.

The Walking Dead #52 (****)

This is probably one of the issues that would support a reader’s want to read this series in trade. I’m sure several people will walk away saying “nothing happened”. The fact that this issue was late doesn’t help. Maybe it would be better if I waited for the trades, but I love these characters too much. And that’s what I took from this issue, lovely interactions. We get some gore too, don’t worry. In fact, that’s probably what a lot of people will love about the post-prison Walking Dead. More dead zombies! Another element that I think readers take for granted is Charlie Adlard’s art. Adlard, along with Cliff Rathburn, consistently perform well. In typical Kirkman fashion, the ending leaves me wanting more.

The Astounding Wolf-Man #8 (***)

What I said about Walking Dead in regards to the lateness and trade concept goes double for this issue. Since its conception, this series has been bimonthly. However, this was supposed to be the start of the book going monthly. This was due in July. All of that may not bother me, except that it took me about five minutes or less to read the issue. It’s still good, but because of the delay I can’t give this more than a mild recommendation. And I was so excited after last issue. Kirkman has stated several times that he’ll make an announcement soon about all his books going monthly for a long time. I find that a bit hard to believe considering his track record, but I still have hope. I mentioned earlier that this was a quick read. Of course that’s because there are several wordless panels. When you have an issue like this, the art is a huge factor. I’m happy to report that Jason Howard pulls it off. I’ve grown quite fond of his style as I’ve watched his improvement in this book. If you regularly read my reviews, you may recall my praise for the current colorist on Invincible, FCO Plascencia. Well, he’s on this book now too! So, the pictures are pretty and the story wouldn’t bug me at all in a trade, but reading it monthly is a bit frustrating.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #45 – Secret Invasion, Five Months In!

Captain Britain and MI13 #4 (-)

Well, funny story. It was in this week’s shipment, and I’m positive I read the first few pages… but when I went back to read the rest, it was gone. Apparently, my nephew slipped in, seized it, and then threw it down a well. I’ll pick up a replacement copy next Wednesday and I’m sure it’ll be great, but man, that boy needs to be taught a lesson on proper comic book etiquette, and I really don’t care that he’s only 15 months.

Secret Invasion: Frontline #2 (****1/2)

I can’t believe how good this is almost as much as I can’t believe how good Brian Reed is on this! For me, he’s accurately capturing what this invasion would really be like for the average citizen, something the main mini fails miserably at (Bendis’ idea of this is having random people shout “OH MY GOD” and then cut away). Reed’s also accomplishing this over in Ms. Marvel, the only other book to address this neglected dimension of the event. Surprise, surprise.

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1 (****)

This was a solid start to a four issue mini series that despite its crossover implications appears to be another great addition to the ongoing Inhumans epic. One minor quibble: is anyone else tired of the “push Tony Stark around” scene? How many more times do we need to see this? Okay, let me mention the art. IT WAS PURE EXCELLENCE! Now, the biggest complaint I had going into this story, was trying to figure out why after capturing him the Skrulls would keep someone as dangerous as Black Bolt alive. The plot of the mini centers around rescuing him, so if the writer couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation for this there was no way it could work. Well, he did, and it’s so obvious I feel stupid. DUH, the Skrulls built a weapon around him!

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

I liked this issue more than the last, mostly because the back story was succinctly told in only a couple of pages—and then we immediately jumped into the action. I’m not sure the Elektra Skrull being the most dangerous Skrull in the armada was a particularly inspired idea, it kind of takes away a little bit of the coolness of the original Skrull Elektra, but that’s a minor nitpick. I’m glad Yost took the time to show us the Runaways’ reaction to the death of the Vision… although, as we saw in Secret Invasion #5, he didn’t actually die. And yes, Old Lace eating Skrulls was pretty rad.

Secret Invasion: Thor #1 (**)

This… sucked, and not just because a book with the name “Thor” in the title won’t actually have Thor appear in it. Fraction, while grasping the style of ancient Asgard quite easily, is completely out of his element here. This is supposed to fit with JMS’ Thor? I don’t think so. This is the first tie-in to truly disappoint me.

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

I loved this comic almost as much as I loved the Black Panther tie-in. Why? Because finally, reasonable invasion type stuff happens that makes me feel the scope of this event! And! More POV from the invaders! THANK YOU!

Okay, now for some wordy semi-ranting. The more issues of Secret Invasion that I read, the closer I come to pinning down why I’m not enjoying the main mini series as much as most of the tie-ins. Here’s my theory: I think what we have here are two types of Secret Invasion comics:

Type 1) This is where a comic is written solely from the perspective of the invaded, the invaded being the super heroes and civilians of Planet Earth. This type of comic reads very fast because we don’t actually get readable Skrull dialogue from the writers. It’s all in Skrullanese! I’m so bored!! Faceless invaders are not scary, guys. Not in comic books anyway. See the main Secret Invasion mini and Ms. Marvel (although Ms. Marvel makes up for it in other ways) tie-ins for this type.

Type 2) This is where the comic is written from both the invaded and the invader perspectives. This is where the writer takes the time to explain the FUCKING motivations of the invaders. This is INTERESTING! This is GOOD writing. This is COMPLEX writing. This is adds LAYERS and SUBTEXT and makes the overall event and its ideas more agreeable. See Black Panther, SI: X-Men, SI: Runaways/Young Avengers, Captain Britain and MI13, SI: Fantastic Four, Mighty and New Avengers for this type.

I know Bendis has explained that you need to read Mighty and New Avengers to really understand Secret Invasion, or get the entire story, because frankly, it’s the only way to get the Skrull’s POV on shit. Fine. I accept that. But, I think the choice to almost completely cut out the Skrull POV from the main title and instead put most of that action in the Avengers books was a mistake. It’s too great a disconnect. Another misstep was the choice to not translate the Skrull dialogue immediately after issue #1. It was fine in the first issue of SI, but to continue to do that all the way ‘til issue #5 was bullshit, and felt all kinds of cheaty, or worse, lazy. So far, my favorite issue of SI was #4, the one where Skrull Spider-Woman makes her 4-5 pages speech to Tony Stark about what she plans to do to Earth. THIS is the subplot I’m interested in. I want the Skrull’s POV in the main book, damn it. Relegating that POV to the side or tie-in titles really rips the meat out of your story, Bendis. When you fail to establish empathy for the bad guy, you lose tons of conflict since the readers know exactly who to root for. In Black Panther, because Aaron took the time to introduce his Skulls, I’m kid of torn. I feel for the commander of the Skrulls and I kind of want him to earn his retirement. In X-Men, I relate to the Skrulls on a human level when I read the scene with the Soul Shepherd. Humanizing the invaders matters, because if you don’t, then I don’t care about them. And if I don’t care about them, then by extension, I care less about the invaded. “The heroes are only as good as the bad guys”. It’s cliché but it also happens to be true.

I’m not saying the Skrull POV needs to be evenly distributed throughout the three main books, but in my opinion, the SI mini needs more of it, if only just a little bit. I now believe that this could be one of my biggest complaints about this event, the others being decompression and pacing, but we’ve talked those to death so I’ll leave them be. Instead…

I do have another complaint that I’ll only briefly mention. I’ve hinted at this before, but I want to flesh it out more here. I don’t feel that the tie-ins to SI actually matter. Meaning, the events that take place in the majority of the tie-ins will have no bearing on the outcome of the main mini series. The tie-ins feel weightless. They’re really fun and awesome reads, but they don’t mean anything. It’s a continuity complaint, and I hate to make it, but this is an event that has been billed as all-encompassing, and yet I can’t help but feel disconnected from the main event every time I read one of the tie-ins, despite how well-written they are.

While serviceable the way it is, I feel that Secret Invasion had the potential to be more than just a “popcorn event” and that really disappoints me, not just as a Marvel Zombie, but as a lover of all things comics.

Bruce Castle’s 10 Books You Should Be Reading

Ok, I still have a lot more reviews to complete but I felt the urge to do this first. I picked up that second Ellis Thunderbolt HC this week and so I’ve been reading both of those in my spare time. I thought about how much I loved that run and that got me thinking about my favorite books on the shelves right now. So I thought I’d have some fun and put together this list. This is my top 10 current comics list. These are in alphabetical order.

All-Star Superman & Action Comics (tie)

I know I’m cheating already. Don’t worry. This is the only tie on the list. I only did this because All Star is ending in one issue and so after that finishes you can head on over to Action Comics. All Star Superman is one of the best Superman comics I’ve ever read. For those of you who think that Grant Morrison is too dark or too complicated or maybe even a bad writer, you really need to check this book out. It’s a silver age throwback, it’s creative, it’s funny, and it has a heart of gold. Action Comics also features some great Superman stories. Did you like the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies? If so, you should really check this book out. It really does capture a lot of the fun and spirit of those movies. Much like All Star Superman, this book is just plain good storytelling that’s always a pleasure to read. Both of these books treat the man of steel the way he should be treated.

Captain America

I’m sure I don’t even have to mention this book. Everyone seems to love it and with good cause. It’s been a hell of a ride. You can definitely tell that this title is handled with care. Brubaker has a plan and he sticks to it. That’s what has been so fascinating is that everything has a purpose and a reason. He ties things together that occurred thirty issues before. Brubaker brought back a character that had been dead for 60 years and then killed a character that had been loved for 60 years and wasn’t hated for it. Now that is talent.

Final Crisis

This book floored me. To me, it usually seems that almost every major event disappoints, but in only three issues this one has blown me away. It’s intriguing that even with the most veteran of comic readers, their vision always seems hindered while reading a comic. There are a lot of people who will just flip through a comic, admire the art, and briefly scan the dialogue. Things that would be obvious if seen on a screen come off as much more subtle in a comic. I myself have been guilty of this on occasion, but with Final Crisis it feels like my eyes are wide open. I love to just read this book over and over and notice little things here or there or to analyze a certain panels meaning. I’m sure most of you have already had this feeling with a comic before, but this was my comic that made me see the medium in a new and better light. But besides my personal rapport with this comic, I just feel that it’s really good. This is, in my opinion, the way an event comic should be.

Green Lantern

I originally wrote a long Wikipedia type write up about why I love this series. But you can read about that stuff from someone who knows about it more than I do, plus it’s kind of boring. Hal Jordan was a mistreated character. Sure he was an original member of the JLA and had a cool ring, but who cares he had no personality. But Geoff Johns has taken Hal to new heights. He made Hal a character you could actually care about. On top of that, he made the GL mythos more interesting than ever by introducing a new creative concept about multi-colored lantern rings. That and the Sinestro Corps War was a hell of a great event. Now, thanks to Geoff Johns, Hal Jordan is a true A-list hero and this is a top tier book.

Invincible

This is a book that made Robert Kirkman one of my favorite writers and it’s still running strong. This is always an enjoyable read. It blends familiar superhero ingredients together into a fresh and entertaining comic. So if you’re looking for a fun comic, give this one a try.

Invincible Iron Man

This is still a fairly new book, but I’m putting it on the list anyway. I’ve always been a fan of Iron Man. Sadly, if you’ve been following the Marvel universe for the last few years, you may know the kind of crap I’ve had to deal with. Iron Man has been treated like a villain for what seems like an eternity. Thankfully, Iron Man fans caught a brake this year with the release of the new Iron Man movie. Finally, the golden avenger got some love. In addition to that, he got a new title written by the very talented Matt Fraction. Much like the aforementioned Action Comics captures the spirit of the Superman movies, Invincible Iron Man is definately the book that has the same feel as the Iron Man movie. This is a great Iron Man book and a great comic in general and I hope that continues.

Justice Society of America

Unless you’ve been reading this comic, you’re probably questioning my reasons for putting this on the list. Who cares about the JSA? But that’s the magic of Geoff Johns. Just like he did with Hal Jordan, he makes you care about the JSA. The roster is fairly large right now, and yet Johns makes sure that every character gets some time in each issue. He does this in such a way that it doesn’t seem needless. You can tell there is a purpose. Along with the old members, new characters are also introduced. Some of these characters would be disastrous if handled improperly. Geoff Johns makes everything work in this comic, it’s truly amazing.

Secret Invasion: Thor

This is a bit of an odd pick. Especially considering only one issue has been released, but there is method to my madness. I wanted to give some kind of recommendation to Marvel’s current event, but sadly I haven’t been too impressed with it. The best thing to come out of Secret Invasion is the tie-ins. Some other good SI tie-ins include: Captain Britain and MI13, SI Inhumans, and SI X-Men. Also, I’m a big Thor fan and Matt Fraction has done a fantastic job writing the character with both this series and the Ages of Thunder one-shots. So basically this is kind of a shout out pick, shameful I know. But I really did enjoy this first issue and it promises to be pretty great.

The Walking Dead

This would be the other book that made Robert Kirkman one of my favorite writers. It’s always impressive when a book can still be so good after over 50 issues. But that’s what this is supposed to be, the zombie movie that doesn’t end. If you loved those old George Romero zombie movies, this is a must read. What’s also fascinating though, is that you don’t even have to love zombies to like this book. There are times when the zombies are nothing more than background. It’s about people dealing with a really horrible situation. The first trade is only ten bucks. You really should give it a try.

Young Liars

This is another odd pick. Again it’s fairly new, but that isn’t a bad thing. Young Liars is about as close to a roller coaster ride in comics form as you can get. It’s just so wild and thrilling. It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen next and something crazy happens in just about every issue. The only downside, and this is why I say it’s an odd pick, is because 6 issues have been released and already I’m amazed at how David Lapham can keep this pace up. I’m just worried he’ll make a false step, but until then I’m going to enjoy the incredible ride.

Wow! That took a lot longer than I thought and I wrote a lot more than I expected, but I love comics. I tried to keep a balance between Marvel, DC, and indie titles while still making sure these were books I love. Hopefully I’ll get someone to pick up one of these books. I also hope that I’ll inspire some people to give their own top lists. Thanks as always for reading!

Bruce Castle Presents: The Skrulls Get Around

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1 (****)

This book should have come out a lot sooner. That’s really the only complaint I have about this. The two main things that a tie-in has to be concerned about is one: have something to do with the event it ties into and two: spend at least a little time introducing the characters because you want to bring new readers into your story. I know little about the Inhumans. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of their books before so all I know is their names and a little about their powers. Not only did this issue tell me who the Inhumans are, it did so in a very creative way through stain glass windows. This gave Tom Raney the opportunity to show his prowess as an artist. His Kirby-esque rendering in those windows is an artistic treat. The characters are written wonderfully and we get to know all of them quickly. But this is still a tie-in, and when the Skrulls do show up they kick some ass in cinematic fashion. Due to the great work from the creative team, SI Inhumans is worth the price of admission.

Secret Invasion: Thor #1 (****1/2)

If you haven’t been reading Thor Ages of Thunder from Matt Fraction, you really need to do yourself a favor and pick up those two issues. I have a friend who has been reading Thor for almost 30 years and he feels that Fraction has written the best Thor since Walt Simonson’s legendary run. So I was both excited and a bit nervous reading this because his other two issues of Thor were so good. But thankfully, this doesn’t disappoint. I’ll give a quick shout out to Doug Braithwaite who does the art on this fine issue. He brings us breathtaking images and genuinely godlike portrayals that leave you breathless. We get to see some cool things we rarely see like Donald Blake’s duties as a Doctor and of course the return of Beta Ray Bill which shows Fraction’s obvious affection towards the aforementioned Simonson run. The action was absent in this issue, but there was plenty of material to keep you entertained and the last page leaves you wanting more.

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

This was a hell of a first issue. I’ll first mention what drew me to this issue was Nord’s art. I’m a big Conan fan and since he’s off that book I have to get his pretty art anyway I can. So when I saw this I thought: X-Men, Skrulls, Nord art, and a pretty Dodson cover, I’m there! In addition to the glorious Nord art, I had quite a lot of fun with this issue. So the Skrulls invade San Francisco because remember, California was near defenseless until recently. The Skrulls land and start slaughtering until the X-Men arrive!  A lot of action ensues. So this is fun and has stunning art. What was interesting though is how serious the Skrulls were. They acted like they came right out of some bloody war. They had Skrully priests blessing the troops with the commander saying “These soldiers are saints already”. Who is this Skrull commander? He’s a pretty crazy character. He even refers to the Skrull invasion as a crusade. Oh and he executes another Skrull for messing up. The only thing that keeps this issue from being the best out of these tie-ins is the absence of an aforementioned tie-in ingredient. This isn’t a book for new readers at all. But if you like the X-Men, gorgeous art, and some extremely intriguing Skrulls, pick this up!