Top 5 Best Comics of December 2010

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I read 19 comics in December, and these were the best.

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Mini-Reviews

Arkham Reborn #1 (of 3)

Arkham

With the popularity of the absolutely stellar Batman: Arkham Asylum and the recent relaunch of the Bat-franchise, it should come as no surprise that Gotham’s infamous Arkham Asylum would get its own miniseries.  After the mass breakout from the Asylum and subsequent explosion, Jeremiah Arkham, ancestor of the Asylum’s original designer, has taken it upon himself to continue the grand, bumbling legacy of the world’s only criminal institution with a revolving door.

Hine does a good job building the book slowly, despite the fact that the entire mini-series is only three issues long.  Here we meet Arkham’s new staff, specifically Jeremiah Arkham, who believes in curing Gotham’s madmen with love and respect; Alyce Sinner, sole survivor of a massive suicide cult and expert on the criminally insane; and Aaron Cash, now Arkham’s head of security and one of the tragic figures to come out of Dan Slott’s excellent Arkham Asylum: Living Hell.  Jeremiah has met with some small success in his bid to rehabilitate, but we know that the laws of comic book storytelling says that that can’t last – Dr. Sinner soon betrays him, revealing the Asylum’s dark, heinous underbelly in a bid to keep things crazy.

There’s nothing unpredictable here, but Hine does a good job setting the mood and introducing everyone, while artist Jeremy Haun turns in excellent work on all fronts, designing a few new characters and an all-new Arkham and still managing to craft a few extremely memorable images.  The pair seem well-suited, and while it seems that the entire mini’s purpose is to keep Arkham Asylum the same hellhole it has been these past few years, at least they seem to be having plenty of fun with it.

Grade: B+

Detective Comics #858

Tec858

Years after the character was introduced and months into her first solo title, “Go” marks our first foray into the origins of Kate Kane.  Growing up moving from military base to military base, Kate and Beth Kane really only had each other growing up.  A few issues back, it was hinted that something bad happened to her growing up, and now we see what that is: after earning a post in France, Mrs. Kane, Kate and Beth were kidnapped by terrorists during a security alert.  While Kate couldn’t see what was happening to her mother and sister, the aftermath certainly left an impression.

Rucka’s storytelling is far more solid here than in the previous arc, perhaps due to the shortened arc’s tighter focus.  Whatever the reason, the issue provides a quick, tragic glimpse of an origin that didn’t go at all where I thought it would, and was wrapped up in a single issue, leaving next month for the fallout.  J.H. Williams III makes an abrupt shift in style for the bulk of the issue, giving the flashback to Kate’s youth a vastly more structured layout and color-palette.  The contrast between the two time-periods is gorgeous and memorable, once again suggesting Williams as one of comics’ top talents.

The Question back-up finally wrapped up its opening arc with this issue.  The lack of room the story had, confined as it was to these back pages, took away from some of the suspense the story might’ve had if it had had more room to build up an atmosphere or throw us a plot twist or two, but it has nonetheless remained a consistently entertaining action comic, thanks in part to Rucka’s collaborator, Cully Hamner, whose layouts and art make it a joy to watch Renee in motion.

Between the issue’s two parts, Detective Comics features a pair of artists at the top of their games, anchored by strong writing of two fascinating new heroines.  It’s well-worth your time.

Grade: B+

Astro City: Astra Special #2 (of 2)

Astra2

Astro City: Astra Special concludes on a high note.  Anyone who has graduated college can relate to what Astra is going through as she continues to tell her boyfriend Matthew about the increasingly bizarre possibilities open to a young woman of her immense talents.  From mundane jobs with research institutes on Earth to a chance to untie, one world at a time, a series of realities knotted together by a madman’s destructive last act, Astra has, for the first time in her life, no idea what to do next.

While the other part of the book will probably resonate less with others, using a now-grown child heroine to look at and condemn our deranged obsession with celebrity culture largely works.  Though there are a few painful, relatively clunky moments, Busiek works hard to keep the emotions honest and keep it all part of Astra’s story.

Astro City: Astra Special combines Jack Kirby’s flare for bizarre cosmic world-building with a more grounded, human story.  Anderson’s pencils are much improved when he’s dealing with these larger-than-life concepts, and together the pair brings us a small-in-scope, massive-in-scale story about the pains of growing up.  It isn’t the most memorable Astro City story, but it’s honest and entertaining, and continues to flesh out the best setting in comics.

Grade: A-

Blackest Night: Superman #3 (of 3)

BNSuper

Blackest Night: Superman, which started out so much vastly stronger than the other “Blackest Night” related books, ends here more with a whimper than with a bang.  The book does have some interesting revelations about the weaknesses of the Black Lanterns, as well as an explanation for what New Krypton is up to throughout the event, but it amounts to little more than that, in the end.

Despite its failure to live up to its own eerie opening issue, Blackest Night: Superman #3 nonetheless offered solid action illustrated by Eddie Barrows doing what he’s most comfortable doing, with (perhaps sadly) the best writing Robinson’s been doing, lately.  Robinson continues to use the emotional spectrum’s color-coding to vastly more effect than the main mini to give us a neat, inside peak into the characters heads in otherwise wordless scenes, a trick that works especially well with Psycho Pirate in the mix.  Ultimately, Blackest Night: Superman isn’t bad.  It’s just forgettable.

Grade: B

Mini-Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Astro City: Astra Special #1

Blackest Night: Superman #2

Detective Comics #857

Review: Astro City: Astra Special #1

Astra

Kurt Busiek’s Astro City has been going on for a good long time now.  Busiek and series-regular artist Brent Anderson have used the titular city to examine every conceivable era and archetype of comic book characters.  From the heart-breaking look at the effects of a Crisis on the ordinary man in “The Nearness of You” to the means and motivations of an aging supervillain in “I’ll Show You All”; from using the superhero myth to examine reform for criminals in “The Tarnished Angel” to using it to display the beating America’s national identity took in the 70’s in “The Dark Ages”, Astro City has used its world to stay relevant in all the ways mainstream comics desperately wish they could.

Astra Furst is the daughter of Astro City‘s Fantastic Four analogues, the First Family.  Born of a union between her mother and the monstrous (reformed) son of one of the world’s greatest villains, Astra has grown up in the spotlight.  Last featured as a little girl sneaking away from the ultra-high tech compound on which she grew up so that she could attend a normal school, Astro City: Astra Special #1 now finds her graduating from college and facing all the challenges that come with it… and then some.

Brent Anderson’s pencils remain a little stiff and cartoonish, quite different from what has become the norm for mainstream comics, but his artistic sense and design is so pervasive to the setting that it’s hard to imagine it any other way.  Anderson’s weakest point here is in the facial expressions, but that hurts the book less than you’d think, and his strongest suit – creating a memorable sci-fi setting, costumes and imagery – is so vital to the book that the rest is easily forgivable.

Astra’s story is simple, but, as always, there’s more going on than meets the eye.  As a recent graduate without direction, I found Astra’s story especially relevant.  Does she join an up-and-coming superhero team?  She has invitations from think tanks, grad schools and massive corporations, but Astra thinks they’re more interested in her family name (and money) than in her brain.  She has an unlimited number of options, but no direction.

It’s a fun issue, and it does a fair job at appropriating the superhero myth to a couple different purposes – child celebrities growing up, and graduation, specifically.  Even without those themes hovering in the background, however, Astra Special #1 (of 2) offers the beginning of a quick, enjoyable adventure.  It isn’t perfect, but it lives up to Astro City‘s reputation of smart, engaging superhero stories.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Series Review: Planetary #8

Welcome to another installment of Billy & Mandy’s weekly series review of Planetary, the best book you’ve never read about the super hero genre! We’ll be reviewing each and every issue, beginning with #1 and plowing all the way through to #27, whenever the hell that bastard ships. If you’re just joining us, it’s not too late to get on the ground floor. You can find the previous installment here.

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! If you don’t want to be spoiled, please read the issue before continuing. Or, read it along with us! We welcome your comments and hope that you enjoy ours.

Mandy: Wait one second. Phone… okay, let’s go.

Billy: It’s so great to have you back this week!

Mandy: Hah. I know you missed me. Because I’m irreplaceable.

Billy: I mean, MANDEE-BOT did an okay job.

Mandy: Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

Billy: Speaking of last week’s article, what did you think of issue 7?

Mandy: UGG. I DIDN’T REREAD IT. DO I HAVE TO SAY INTELLIGENT THINGS?

Billy: Um, guess not. Give us a quick recap of #8…

Mandy: So in Issue 8, we find out the real reason behind all those Sci-Fi B-movies of the fifties and sixties, obviously a by-product of the government experimentation to test the limits of the human body. Oh Americans. Your ignorance has a flavor. I mean arrogance.

Billy: Ignorance was funnier.

Mandy: Because my ignorance has a flavor.

Billy: Tastes like burning. So, Planetary shows up in the middle of the desert at a city that isn’t on any maps to meet a girl that glows in the dark? WTF?

Mandy: Dream date, right?

Billy: Okay. Before we get into the dense exposition that this issue provides, I want to talk about my girlfriend Jakita. HOW HAWT IS SHE?

Mandy: SHE PUNCHED THAT ANT IN THE HEAD.

Billy: I KNOW! She ripped its leg off!

Mandy: I know. She really is that awesome… like from birth.

Billy: And she was all GETTING OFF ON IT!!!

Mandy: SHE WAS LIKE, “FLAT TIRE THIS, BITCH.”

Billy: YAUS!

Mandy: I mean, honestly. Dude, she swept the leg. I just rewatched Karate Kid the other day. How is that movie so awesome?

Billy: I don’t know. Seems impossible.

Mandy: I know that is your way of saying that movie is terrible and I am an idiot but I reject you. FYI.

Billy: Back to my fictional girlfriend: The full page spread of her leaping up at the three ants is in my Top 5 Planetary moments, btw.

Mandy: I’m sure it is. How sticky is your copy?

Billy: Okay, so Jakita is the supermans and stuff, but what about US Science City Zero? Once the glowy chick starts explaining about it, you kind of feel bad for feeling so good about Jakita’s asskicking. Like, total boner killer.

Mandy: Right. Because OBV, A PRODUCT OF GOVERNMENT MANIPULATION?

Billy: Dude, “women who slept with the wrong men…” Lucky you, huh?

Mandy: I KNOOOOOOOW! Wait, wow.

Billy: HAHAHAH.

Mandy: I would say “low blow” but you’ll turn that around on me too.

Billy: Dowling… did you expect Dowling? OBV Dowling at this point, right? Of course this guy is responsible for all the evil shit in the world.

Mandy: Yeah, that guy’s fingerprints are all up in the trainwrecks. Disaster is his calling card. That and dashing good looks.

Billy: That sounds like something MANDEE-BOT would say.

Mandy: Agreeance.

Billy: I like that he isn’t a Nazi. We Americans like to blame the Nazis for everything, but Ellis doesn’t let us get away with that here. “I just killed you and brought you back. Can you understand me?” What a dick.

Mandy: Yeah. I liked that though.

Billy: Yeah, it’s an appropriate question. She might have brain damage. You gotta check.

Mandy: Dude, she sort of got lucky. I mean, yeah, she got shot. That’s no fun…but she could have been turned into giant-assed marshmallow chick whose flesh is all…soft.

Billy: Ann Hark is still looking sexy as well, but now she’s all tainted by evil. Sad times, or, sexy times?

Mandy: EW. Yeah, um. You can have Jakita. Ann Hark is my Planetary series girl crush. Because of her hotness. The hot Asianness.

Billy: Dude, what is Dowling holding in the panel where he says she has a radioactive half-life of 50 years? I like to think it’s some gizmo from another experiment, as if he’s already moved on to something else. Glowy chick is a total afterthought.

Mandy: YES. Makes it even more pathetic.

Billy: I like how they explain the issue of going blind while invisible. It sets up how Ellis uses Kim Suskind, the Invisible woman later.
INVISIBLE MAN

Billy: ATOMIC DOGS! When I read that I could hear George Clinton in my head.

Mandy: OH MAN. I’m so glad you brought that up. Finally AN EXPLANATION FOR THAT AWFUL SONG. Blame America.

Mandy: DUDE. Amy Winehouse has crack-induced emphysema.

Billy: Bad beat for her, but what the hell does that have to do with George Clinton?

Mandy: Man. The crack. It kills.

Billy: Snowflake head was pretty cool too. I think more than half the reason Planetary is so balls good is because John Cassaday draws the SHIT out of it. A lesser artist and we may not even being doing these.

Mandy: Snowflake head made me sad. And he’s drooling on himself. And the overbite girl. I want to hug them all, and then take a shower.

Billy: What do you think of the line “…it was about seeing what they could get away with doing to us” as an explanation for City Zero’s existence?

Mandy: I think this speaks to the idea why the intelligentsia CAN NOT rule the weak. This is why humans cannot be trusted. No motive is pure. It isn’t about testing the limits of the human body, right? It’s about testing the limits of humans. THEY WON’T TELL US TO STOP.

Billy: Yeah, even when it’s implied that Hark wasn’t totally on board with his methods, it doesn’t change the fact that she is culpable.

Mandy: Yes. As a race, we will stand by and allow things to happen. I thought that was the most interesting line. I’m glad it was there because it made the most sense.

Billy: Going further, we know the Russians had these types of science cities and we know the Nazis and Japanese experimented on people… and although some like to deny it, we know that American doctors experimented on African Americans in the last century. So, question: Should it be obvious to anyone thinking with a logical mind that Americans probably had these types of science cities as well? We kind of have to come to this conclusion, right? Especially since after the War we employed so many ex-Nazis. Even if we weren’t before the war, we had to be after it, right?

Mandy: I have to be honest. It’s too horrifying to think about. 😦

Billy: Yeah, it is scary. Obviously, this is taking it to the extreme, it’s Science Fiction… not trying to say the US created a 60 foot woman or anything.

Mandy: I KNOW THAT. Silly.

Billy: Oh yeah, something else. US Science City Zero was what Dowling was doing before he got turned into Mr. Fantastic. That’s interesting. He’s been a bastard since the beginning.

Mandy: I know. Definitely not all that “fantastic”. TO BE QUITE HONEST.

Billy: Marvel Mr. Fantastic – it’s funny, but realistically, even Marvel’s Mr. Fantastic had to be involved in shit like this before getting into that experimental rocket in 1961 with Sue, Ben and Johnny. That’s why I love Planetary. It forces you to look at all these pulp characters in a whole new light, a whole new perspective. Distorting what we perceive to be reality and revealing the actual truth.

Mandy: Yes. And the more background we get, the more I question my distrust of Planetary. o yeah, it’s definitely keeping me interested. I can’t wait to get into issue 9.

Billy: This is another one of those plot threads that will keep coming up. Like at the end, how she hands it over to Planetary to go through the records. The discovery of City Zero is a big find for Planetary. Almost as big as Island Zero or Doc Brass’ base in the Appalachian mountains.

Mandy: I’m so glad that the Bot didn’t steal my job.

Billy: Well, we still got 20 issues to go… hey, the sad ending? Did it make you cry?

Mandy: Yes. Snow is a woobie. I hurt for him. And I’m still anxious to figure out where he was all that time…and what was he doing? And why doesn’t he remember his life?

Billy: Yeah, where the HELL was Snow to stop all this shit?!

Billy: I think Ellis is a master of the “closing line.”

Billy: “It as only half a life, but I wanted it” and “I’m so glad I met you.”

Mandy: Yeah. I’m actually surprised you like that he always does that.

Billy: I LOVE IT! Why wouldn’t I? It’s one of the best parts of the book.

Mandy: Well I think that. But you’re usually so against the melodramatic lines that like SUM UP A STORY.

Billy: But it’s not melodramatic and I’ll tell you why.

Mandy: Tell me.

Billy: Okay, if you have noticed, most issues of Planetary, except when they are expositioning, are actually quite sparse when it comes to dialogue. Characters barely say shit about shit, and even when they do it’s only to make a point that’s usually one sentence long. The sum up, like you say.

Mandy: Yes. Fair enough.

Billy: Melodrama is when the writer completely belabors the characterization and DRAMA of it all!

Mandy: I can already see where you’re going with this…

Billy: Nothing in Planetary screams of melodrama, not in the least, and that’s why it’s okay to have those kind of “to sum it all up” lines.

Mandy: Yes. I agree with you. FINE.

Billy: And furthermore, even when he’s summing it all up it’s usually the most subtle or subtexty line in the entire book.

Mandy: FINE. You win.

Billy: The “I’m so glad I met you” line has10 different ideas in it!

Mandy: I KNOW.

Billy: HAHAHAH… dude, how does this issue compare to the previous 7 for you?

Mandy: I think this one might have been my favorite? Because it was so straightforward.

Billy: Yeah, that is a fair assessment. I think it was my favorite of the first 8 as well. But dude, issue 9? THE BEST ISSUE OF PLANETARY EVER!

Mandy: I cannot wait.

Billy: Like, we could talk about that one issue for hours and still only scratch the surface. It has the most re-read value of the entire run.

Mandy: YOU KNOW WHAT I WILL DO WHILE I WAIT FOR IT? I will have INSTANT SHIA. HOT AND YUMMY. JUST ADD WATER.

Mandy: COME ON. THERE WAS A JOKE AND EVERYTHING.

Billy: Dude, you let me know when this gets old… so we can stop.

Mandy: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Join us next Monday for the most exciting, explosive and mysterious chapter of Planetary yet. If you haven’t read Planetary, you can pick up the trades at your local shop or order them online from Amazon.com at the following link:

Planetary Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories

Planetary Vol. 2: The Fourth Man

Series Review: Planetary #7

Welcome to another installment of Billy & Mandy’s weekly series review of Planetary, the best book you’ve never read about the super hero genre! We’ll be reviewing each and every issue, beginning with #1 and plowing all the way through to #27, whenever the hell that bastard ships. If you’re just joining us, it’s not too late to get on the ground floor. You can find the previous installment here.

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! If you don’t want to be spoiled, please read the issue before continuing. Or, read it along with us! We welcome your comments and hope that you enjoy ours.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately, Mandy couldn’t be with us today. She decided to be self-involved all last week with school, work, lame TV shows, boys… but, that doesn’t mean I’ll be flying solo. Joining me for this week’s episode is the fabulously fantastical MANDEE-BOT 2800. What the hell is a MANDEE-BOT 2800? The latest in science fiction made fact, is what the hell it is!

Billy: Hey MANDEE-BOT 2800, welcome to the Planetary Series Review!

MANDEE-BOT 2800: EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON.

Billy: Want to do a quick recap of this week’s issue for the audience?

MANDEE-BOT 2800: GET LOST.

Billy: Riiiight… okay, I guess it’s up to me.

Billy: This issue opens with a dreadful phone call. Jack Carter is dead. Jakita is sad. But, why?

MANDEE-BOT 2800: LOVE IS IMMORTAL

Billy: Jakita must really like London, aye?

MANDEE-BOT 2800: IT’S NOTHING LIKE WHERE YOU LIVE. AND NOTHING LIKE WHAT YOU IMAGINE.

Billy: Yeah… Jakita convinces the crew to head off to London for her old boyfriend Jack Carter’s funeral.

Billy: But still, who is Jack Carter?

MANDEE-BOT 2800: LIVE FAST. DIE NEVER.

Billy: FYI, Jack Carter equals John Constantine… with black hair.

Billy: I love how homeless Death and her brother look.

MANDEE-BOT 2800: IT’S WHERE ALL THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE LIVE.

Billy: If you hadn’t quite figure it out by the cover, this issue of Planetary concerns itself with the long and muddled publishing history of a well-known DC imprint: Vertigo.

MANDEE-BOT 2800: WHAT IS IT ABOUT DANGEROUS WOMEN?

Billy: I don’t know, I wasn’t in England during her “reign”, but from what I’ve studied, this sounds about right? What do you think MB?

MANDEE-BOT 2800: IN EVERY GENERATION, THERE IS A CHOSEN ONE. SHE ALONE SHALL STAND AGAINST THE VAMPIRES, DEMONS, AND FORCES OF DARKNESS.

Billy: Meh, I don’t think Planetary looks silly yet, and it’s been more than 10 years since the first issue. Not to say Ellis isn’t right. Some of the Vertigo concepts are pretty lame by today’s standards, but in this issue for instance, I think some of that is exacerbated by Cassaday’s purposely silly take on these characters.

MANDEE-BOT 2800: A LOOK AT FIVE FAMILIES LIVING IN A PROTECTED SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ENCLAVE, AND THE REAL-LIFE HOUSEWIVES WHO RESIDE IN ONE OF THE WEALTHIEST PLANNED COMMUNITIES IN THE COUNTRY.

Billy: Well, not to be totally derisive, Ellis has Jakita come to their rescue. She says, “England was a scary place. No wonder it produced a scary culture.” Fair. Kind of like the US today… oh, politics! Really though, I feel like you kind of can’t even talk about Planetary without talking about politics—

MANDEE-BOT 2800: ALL OF THEM HAVE A SECRET. ALL OF THEM ARE LOST.

Billy: Right! Anyway, next, Jakita tells us one of her creepiest stories about Jack Carter from the 80’s. About a time Jack saw a man that wasn’t there…

Billy: So, Jack strikes up a conversation with the “spook” and discovers that he’s no ghost at all. The invisible man explains that he’s this year’s metaphorical “Herod”, the guy from the bible that ordered all the babies killed in an attempt to kill Jesus. Herod tells Jack he’s off to kill some unborn that might be the second coming. Anyway, Jack’s heard enough.

Billy: Bam, just like that, Jack Carter curses the poor bastard.

MANDEE-BOT 2800: THE TRUTH WILL BE REVEALED.

Billy: MB, is there something wrong with your speech transcription software?

MANDEE-BOT 2800: THEY’RE NOT THE SURVIVORS THEY THINK THEY ARE.

Billy: Jakita, Snow and Drummer want to check out where Carter died… and lo and behold, Drummer smells the magic! The cheat codes for the world! I like that metaphor.

Billy: Drummer hacks the world and they discover that Jack Carter has faked his own death. That bastard! But who “fake” killed him?

MANDEE-BOT 2800: GET HOME BEFORE DARK.

MANDEE-BOT 2800: ON THIS ISLAND, SURVIVAL IS NOT A GAME.

Billy: Shit is getting way to meta right here! Self-reflexive reflections doubling back on themselves! My brain asplode! Like this guy’s guts…

Billy: Confused?

MANDEE-BOT 2800: WHERE NOTHING EVER CHANGED UNTIL ONE OUTSIDER CHANGED EVERYTHING.

Billy: Don’t be. Jack Carter faked his death in order to go underground. Okay, you can be confused now. Wait, I’ll let “Jack” explain it himself:

Billy: Wait a sec, isn’t that Spider Jerusalem?

MANDEE-BOT 2800: THE WAIT IS OVER.

Billy: Wow, way to rewrite continuity. See, I liked how this issue started out as a comment on pop culture from the 80’s to the 90’s… but I hate how it ended. Ellis, you self-serving bastard. Although the writing is superb, it’s probably my least favorite of any issue in this series. So, in the Planetary corner of the Multiverse, John Constantine and Spider Jerusalem are the same person. I guess that works for John as it only adds to his coolness, unfortunately, it has the exact opposite affect on Spider. UGH. What did you think MB?

MANDEE-BOT 2800: SHIA—

Billy: Shut it, MANDEE-BOT 2800!

Join us next Monday when Ellis and Cassaday take us on a trip through the seedy underbelly of the Cold War. If you haven’t read Planetary, you can pick up the trades at your local shop or order them online from Amazon.com at the following link:

Planetary Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories

Planetary Vol. 2: The Fourth Man

Series Review: Planetary #6

Welcome to another installment of Billy & Mandy’s weekly series review of Planetary, the best book you’ve never read about the super hero genre! We’ll be reviewing each and every issue, beginning with #1 and plowing all the way through to #27, whenever the hell that bastard ships. If you’re just joining us, it’s not too late to get on the ground floor. You can find the previous installment here.

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! If you don’t want to be spoiled, please read the issue before continuing. Or, read it along with us! We welcome your comments and hope that you enjoy ours.

Billy: Wasn’t it the FUCKING juice?

Mandy: IT WAS GOOD.

Billy: YES! Then do me a recap, fool!

Mandy: There are spacemen and then there are SPACEMEN. The SPACEMEN are doing some crazy shit and Planetary wants to shut it down.

Billy: Do you feel like this issue was a proper payoff for the last five issues of QUESTIONS QUESTIONS QUESTIONS!?!

Mandy: No. I didn’t. But I don’t think that can be helped. I think that’s what happens when you spend five issues asking questions. HOW CAN YOU PAY THAT OFF? I mean, the LOST finale was HUGE AND AWESOME this week but even it can never regain the ground it lost being lame for so long.

Billy: Well, this issue does kick the story into high gear.

Mandy: I agree.

Billy: Finally, we know who the “bad guys” are, right?

Mandy: YES.

Billy: Did you see the snowflake on the first page? In the eye?

Mandy: YESSSSSS!

Billy: SO AWESOME!

Mandy: Agreed.

Billy: Did any of the history stuff not make sense? The science stuff particularly?

Mandy: No. It made sense. I’m teh smart.

Billy: Did you notice Four Freedoms Plaza was a giant Obelisk?

Mandy: Yes!

Billy: OH MANZ!

Mandy: I know that word Obelisk from the final issue of Y:The Last Man. I LEARN THINGS FROM COMICS.

Billy: Are you starting to notice all the symbolism? The eyes, the triangles, etc… The snowflake.

Mandy: Yes. Definitely.

Billy: Anyway, I love the panel with the gun and Sputnik. Heh, just the though of that actually happening makes me giggle.

Billy: So, the plot, Snow and Jakita break into the FF Plaza and totally check out all the crazy shit inside, like…”The Subterrans”

Billy: The Gateway to the Negative Zone…

Billy: Which, to me, was such a great re-imagining of the classice Lee/Kirby idea. It’s not some fancy science stuff. No, it’s just this huge portrait on a wall that you can just WALK INTO! For those that don’t know, this entire issue (or entire series?) is the ultimate nod to the epic Lee/Kirby run on the Fantastic Four. The Subterrans = Moloids, The N-Zone portal, the way Leather burns away his beard is the same way Torch burned away the amnesiac Namor’s beard, etc, etc….

Mandy: That’s so ill. I liked that a lot. Dude, so I like how we very subtly learn that Jakita is indestructible. She gets TORE UP… and then he’s like, “Oh here, give her this Band-Aid.”

Billy: Yeah, she is very tough… I def want to ask her about Broken Earth – A.

Mandy: I bet you’d like to ask her about a lot of things.

Billy: So, we have Dowling (Mr. Fantastic), Greene (The Thing), Leather (Human Torch) and Suskind (Invisible Woman)… I like how Sue Storm is a Super Nazi. So, how do The Four, as they will come to be known, get their powers? They fly directly into the Snowflake, OBV!

Mandy: THEY TAKE THEM.

Billy: What happens to them!?!?! What are their powers?!?!?!

Mandy: Awesomeness?

Billy: We know Leather is like Torch, but he’s got this weird blue flame and he can phase through walls. He’s also super strong. We know this by the way he just “handles” Jakita. So basically, the Four are more than humans and they actually kind of fancy themselves gods. Question for you: if Leather is so powerful, why does he let Snow kick him in the balls?

Mandy: He wasn’t expecting it? He knows Snow. His guard was down… or, he likes it.

Billy: Or, he let him?

Mandy: Yeah, alright fine. I don’t know.

Billy: Leather kind of echoes the shit Brass was saying last issue, right? About who benefits from Snow’s amnesia? Does that make us trust Brass or Planetary less?

Mandy: I always trust Brass. He has a hot bod. I mean…I don’t trust Planetary. I just don’t trust them.

Billy: What do you think of the basic idea behind “The Four”? That idea being, “what if the Fantastic Four has gone the other way? What if their powers made them believe they were gods and that they used those powers not to help people, but to secretly rule the world?”

Mandy: I think that is most likely what would happen if people had superpowers, and I think it’s a comment on what the smartest and the most powerful people actually do in our society.

Billy: So controlling the world by denying it the wonders of modern science? Control by denial.

Mandy: It’s all about control, right?

Billy: HAH. I knew you’d say that, smartass.

Mandy: It’s why you love me.

Billy: So, this is it, this is what the rest of the series is about. These are the guys Snow has to take down/expose… what do you think?

Mandy: I think this would make a better movie than Fantastic Four. I like that we know who the bad guys are but we still don’t really know who we can trust.

Billy: Yeah, it’s awesome. We literally have no idea what’s going on for five issues and then Ellis finally spills, and now we have focus, but even more questions! And I love that we only really know one of the Four so far. I mean, we literally know nothing about the other three, arguably the more powerful members.

Mandy: Yes. I mean, I don’t think Snow is going to be kicking the Nazi in the balls. I’m just saying.

Billy: I feel like all the lost writers were taking notes.

Mandy: Hah.

Billy: What do you think of the pacing so far? I think a lesser writer would have made issue #6 the first issue. Do you think you would have liked this book more if #6 was issue #1?

Mandy: No. The questions and suspense have made the book for me.

Billy: Yeah, that’s what makes it such an epic read.

Mandy: So, one last question?

Mandy: Got milk?

Billy: Was that your question? You’re so stupid.

Join us next Monday when Ellis and Cassaday take Plaentary on a walk through the weird side. If you haven’t read Planetary, you can pick up the trades at your local shop or order them online from Amazon.com at the following link:

Planetary Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories

Series Review: Planetary #5

Welcome to another installment of Billy & Mandy’s weekly series review of Planetary, the best book you’ve never read about the super hero genre! We’ll be reviewing each and every issue, beginning with #1 and plowing all the way through to #27, whenever the hell that bastard ships. If you’re just joining us, it’s not too late to get on the ground floor. You can find the previous installment here.

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! If you don’t want to be spoiled, please read the issue before continuing. Or, read it along with us! We welcome your comments and hope that you enjoy ours.

 

Mandy: In Issue 5, we get a conversation between Mr. Sexypants Axel Brass and the coolest guy around, Elijah Snow. It seems these guys go way back and are possibly the same breed of awesome man? Snow tells Brass that he doesn’t necessarily trust the people that he works for and Brass has some advice if Snow is going to go hunting for the truth. BOOM. Briefest recap ever.

Billy: I feel like this series is so good, that we aren’t actually reviewing these books… we’re just kind of squeeing about the awesome.

Mandy: You just said squee.

Billy: So, anyway, lots of clues in this one. I guess we can kind of go page by page. Why doesn’t Snow know Brass? Or, why doesn’t Brass know Snow… or does he?

Mandy: Because they erased his memory? It seems like they were maybe contemporaries? Like Snow could have been there but he was caught up doing something else?

Billy: Of course, you had no idea who Jenny Sparks was… I should let you borrow the Stormwatch issues that came out before this series to give you an idea of what it means to know Jenny Sparks.

Mandy: She a ho?

Billy: HAH. No, I guess I made it sound that way though?

Mandy: Yeah, you did.

Billy: I love the silent panel after Brass says he could have handled being told the truth about it being 1999. It makes you want to snuggle him. John Cumberland, “The High”, is also from the same story as Jenny Sparks.

Mandy: So basically what you’re saying is that I was unprepared to fully comprehend this issue and that it’s your fault? Awesome. Good looking out, boss.

Billy: There are about three trades you need to read to prepare you for all the intrigue.

Mandy: I’M ALWAYS READY FOR INTRIGUE.

Billy: But not really, though. As a casual reader, the Jenny and High stuff doesn’t really factor into the main plot. I don’t think he ever mentions it again. I think it’s just there for us to understand how big the world of Planetary actually is.

Mandy: Well awesome.

Billy: What did you think of all the prose? Was that your favorite part? I love that there are characters called “The Murder Colonels”.

Mandy: Yes. I was just going to bring that up.

Billy: Well, bring it up then…

Mandy: Hey Billy, you know what I really want to talk about? The fact that Ellis incorporates pages of prose into the narrative structure of this issue…

Billy: HAHA. And why did you like it so much?

Mandy: OBV NO PICTURES, er, except when there were pictures. Also, Anna Hark = HOTNESS

Billy: How about Snow asking Brass about all this conspiracy shit? And Brass has been in a mountain for 50 years, so how the hell would he know, right? Or maybe, do you think Snow was sort of interrogating Brass in a round about way?

Mandy: Well, on the one hand, he’s the dumbness. I feel like he knows there are things that he should know but doesn’t. He always talks to people like he doesn’t trust anyone.

Billy: What did you think when Brass said all that jive about “secret agendas”?

Mandy: Right now, when he isn’t sure he can trust Jakita and Drums, I think he’s looking for answers without having to give too much.

Billy: Do you think he suspects Jakita as the 4th man? That would seem obvious based on his “I wonder” comment.

Mandy: I’m honestly not sure. I mean, how much of this stuff did you figure out the first time around?

Billy: I thought it might be Jakita… but that seemed too obvious. I don’t know. I’ve read this issue upwards of 10 times, so… but I do know that I did think Brass knew more than he was letting on.

Mandy: Yes. I definitely think so too.

Billy: Just by the way he asks all those questions in that one panel. He’s kind of guiding Snow, letting him know how to pursue his answers and stuff.

Mandy: And Brass… he knows more about Snow than Snow knows. Don’t you think so?

Billy: Yes, I think based solely on this issue, one could say Brass knows Snow… but he isn’t letting on. Oh hey, my favorite panel from the whole issue, and the one that is most memorable, is the one where we get a close-up shot of Brass, laying on the hillside and he says “Glories”.

Mandy: Because you love his face?

Billy: There’s just something about that word, how and when it’s delivered that just resonates with everything that is good and fun about comics.

Mandy: I can see that. The last panel of Snow made me sad though…

Billy: Yeah, the next page with the black and white image of Brass and friends gaying out about how awesome they are… and Snow is all emo. It’s like Snow totally missed the point of having powers.

Mandy: Yes. WHAT WAS HE BUSY DOING? I hope he was just exploiting his powers to get booze and girls.

Billy: Snow’s kind of like this messiah figure. Brass and Co. are like these false prophets, doing it for the glories and the girls, you know? And poor little Snow, he’s like Jesus, all sad and shit, because he’s the real deal and he knows it’s not about the glory, it’s about the horrible fucking pain that’s in store for him. I mean, why else does he wear white, if he isn’t the Christ figure?

Mandy: Hmm. Interesting idea.

Billy: What do you think the significance of the prose sections is? Ellis wouldn’t just toss that in there for the English majors, would he?

Mandy: It was like Easter eggs. Like you may have flipped past it on your first read.

Billy: I totally did. I knew they were important, but I had no clue why. I thought it might just have been kind of his way of showing their origin stories. Hey, based on the last 5 issues, what fictional book do you think those pages are excerpted from?

Mandy: Oh MAN. See, I knew I should have been paying attention.

Billy: Don’t worry, he lets you know where the pages are from. By the middle of the series, you’ll wish Ellis would publish the fictional book as a real book.

Mandy: I ALREADY WISH HE WOULD.

Billy: Dude, is Doc Brass sexier than ever, even with the clumpy legs?

Mandy: Dude, question!

Billy: NO, time’s up!

Join us next Monday when Ellis and Cassaday finally give us our first glimpse at the real horrors of the 20th Century. If you haven’t read Planetary, you can pick up the trades at your local shop or order them online from Amazon.com at the following link:

Planetary Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories

Series Review: Planetary #4

Welcome to another installment of Billy & Mandy’s weekly series review of Planetary, the best book you’ve never read about the super hero genre! We’ll be reviewing each and every issue, beginning with #1 and plowing all the way through to #27, whenever the hell that bastard ships. If you’re just joining us, it’s not too late to get on the ground floor. You can find the previous installment here.

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! If you don’t want to be spoiled, please read the issue before continuing. Or, read it along with us! We welcome your comments and hope that you enjoy ours.

Mandy: Are we going to do this or what?

Billy: I was about to say

Mandy: So the fourth issue opens with the best line ever. I’m going to start describing things by saying, “It’s like Satan farted.” A building has been vaporized… we’re not sure where or why but as the next couple pages unfold, we learn that it belongs to the Hark Corporation, that the guy with the best line in the series was “observing” the explosionating and that he’s reporting to Wilder, personal security assistant something or other to the head of the company.

Mandy: Later, in a phone call, we learn that the fireworks were courtesy of a terrorist group called “The Snowflake”. This is suspicious, obv. Then he, I think rescues a guy from an attack in an alleyway and it’s at that point, I think, that he stumbles across ground zero and realizes that there is something amiss. Unfortunately, this is also sort of where I got lost. So forgive me.

Billy: How did you get lost? Did you read the pages out of order?

Mandy: Yes, I read them. Moron. Anyway, he goes charging through the wreckage…towards something… and in the meantime we see that our friends from Planetary are there. Wilder… falls? Into this light thing or something? I’m not sure. The Drummer wasn’t expecting that and neither was I. Minutes pass and there is humorous joking between Jakita and The Drummer…and then our boy Wilder is expelled from the… um… lightshow?

Billy: I just laughed out loud and then Dylan started laughing… so, just know that we are both here laughing at you.

Mandy: I told you to do the recap. I told you I was confused. So now, he’s in the hospital and he tells the Planetary crew that while he was down there, he became part of a boat, WHAT? to reunite… um… something. He remembers everything, but I do not. IT’S THE SNOWFLAKE.

Billy: HAHA. I love the page with Drummer bouncing on the artifact and Jakita has to tell him to get off. So classic. I wish I owned that page.

Mandy: And then she’s HORRIFIED that she even has to say it. Like, “How is this my crew? How is this my life?”

Billy: What did you think of Axel Brass giving Wilder the once over? Too obvious?

Mandy: Well first of all, Axel Brass is a hot mess these days, is he not? He looks a lot better since they’ve cleaned him up, I’m just saying.

Billy: OK, really, I don’t get how you got lost? He’s obviously transported into a spaceship, right? You got that, right?

Mandy: Yes. I mean. I get it. And correct me if I’m wrong but there’s a blink, right, like a difference in time between where he was and planetary time, right?

Billy: Yes, I believe there was a difference in time.

Billy: Ok, so continuing on with the explanations… the Bleed is the space between dimensions and this “shiftship” was designed to “sail” in it. And the artifact that Wilder steps on and the Drummer jumps all over like a kindergartner is called a “travelstone”, they’re kind of like homing beacons.

Mandy: So are is the ship part of the mechanism to sort of maintain order between the universes?

Billy: What now?

Mandy: I’m not being confused very well… what’s the point of the transport things that travel in the bleed?

Billy: Well, what’s the point of ships that travel the seven seas? Same thing. Think of the Bleed as a massive, endless ocean.

Mandy: Yeah, okay. That makes sense.

Billy: So, the page with the ship crashing implies that this “accident” killed the dinosaurs? Cool, right?

Billy: Then the ship explains to Wilder that it needs human operators to fly. Then Wilder explains to Planetary that he needs to find six more people, willing to give up being human, to help him fly the shiftship back into the Bleed.

Mandy: And Jakita’s like NICE STORY. I WILL PUT IT IN MY SCRAP BOOK. And Snow’s like FUCK THAT. WE ARE HELPING.

Billy: Yeah. Jakita’s cold blooded, but I still wouldn’t kick her out of bed… though she’d probably kick my balls off, now that I think about it.

Billy: OH, I love Wilder’s origin story… there’s some nice “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” mixed in with some Captain Marvel. Pretty cool.

Billy: Just compare Marvel’s costume to Wilder’s.

Mandy: Okay. So this makes a little more sense.

Billy: Good, because this shiftship plays a huge role in the series, so you will see Wilder again… maybe three more times? Hey, are you asking yourself, “Where did the ship crash?”

Mandy: Yes.

Billy: I mean, they have to dig it up right? Them being archeologists and all.

Mandy: YES. GET A SHOVEL.

Billy: OMG! I have to cut this short, Dylan is being a monster right now!!! PUT THE COMICS DOWN!!! Oh, are you less confused? Did you have anymore questions?

Mandy: Why is he so hot?

Billy: …

Join us next Monday as we crack open one of the mysterious Planetary Guides and discover the glories and wonders of the 20th Century. If you haven’t read Planetary, you can pick up the trades at your local shop or order them online from Amazon.com at the following link:

Planetary Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories

Mega Review

So, it’s been awhile.  I keep compiling the books for the week until I reach the point where I am now, with a good 12 almost full reviews written up.  I know, madness.  But…here you go!  The first batch of ’em.

DC/Wildstorm: Dreamwar #1

I normally avoid crossovers.  Whether it’s the idiotic Marvel/DC crossover that had Storm beating Wonder Woman, Wolverine beating Lobo, or Aquaman beating Namor, or the lackluster Captain Atom: Armageddon, the fan-vote thing is rarely the way to go, and the threat is generally…well, uninteresting, to say the least.  Keith Giffen, famous for the critically-acclaimed JLI and Annihilation, takes a stab at this crossover miniseries between DC and Wildstorm.

In the first issue, we know precious little.  It’s all set-up.  It’s generally interesting, well-done set-up, but we still know nothing about why this is happening, why these people.  Of course, this being a crossover, this issue is largely fighting between heroes, because…errr…that’s what heroes do when the meet, I guess.  The notable exception, and the part that sold me on the book, is the JSA meeting the heroes of Tranquility.

As far as crossovers go, it’s definitely competent and definitely better than average.  But not by much, and while all the components work well together, ultimately it’s nothing more than a beginning to a series of seemingly meaningless, random fights.

Grade: C+

DC Universe #0

 

DC Universe isn’t going to be a long review…because it wasn’t really a comic.  It was an ad.  It was a good ad, I thought, but it was an ad nonetheless, dealing with important upcoming storylines.  Most of the ads were compelling three-page previews, though I doubt they sold anyone on anything they weren’t planning on getting already.

It’s greatest failure is that it’s a horrible jumping on book for new readers, and the 50 cent price tag meant that it SHOULD have been the perfect place.  Most of the previews required at least some prior knowledge of the books previewed to understand and appreciate them, meaning new readers would have just been lost and potentially put-off buying any of the books.

Still, it was an interesting experiment, fairly well-written and with exceptionally good art.  I view it as a set of trailers, and some of the trailers definitely whet my appetite for what’s to come for DC.

Oh, and Barry Allen’s back.  I’m sure someone is happy about that.

Grade: B

Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle #1 (of 3)

Jim Butcher has done pretty well for himself since starting The Dresden Files in 2000.  The series has become quite popular, coming out reliably every year.  Eventually, it spawned a TV show that was…let’s say, less than impressive, though it got better as it went on.  It has a pen and paper role-playing game coming out soon, and Butcher is working on a movie for when the film rights return to him in a few years.  And now, it’s crossed over to comics with this three-issue prequel to his first novel, Storm Front. 

As for how it was…it was good.  Not spectacular, but good.  A good amateur attempt on the part of Butcher, obviously unaccustomed to the restraints in dialogue space and panel description, it was none-the-less unspectacular.  Still, it will be interesting to note whether or not Butcher improves over the life of this three-issue series, given how much his novels have improved over their 8 year life.

The art, like the writing, is fine but unspectacular.  Ultimately, if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files, you won’t want to miss this competent prequel.  It may even bring in a few new fans to the series.  But this first issue is almost entirely set-up, and not the most compelling set-up I’ve ever read.

Grade: C+

Checkmate #25

Castling pt 3

I’ve been looking forward to this issue, and dreading it, for months, now.  On the one hand, it’s Rucka’s last issue, his finale!  On the other hand…it’s his last issue.  That’s depressing.  But, the first few parts of Castling have been excellently handled, so I was understandably excited for this last part of it.  However, this final issue is something of a let down.

It’s not bad.  But, you know what, Checkmate has, over the past 24 issues, proven that ‘not bad’ is not good enough as it has consistently provided the smartest, best superheroics on the shelves.  This issue was overly hurried to the point that it hurt the book. 

Scenes involving the Rooks weren’t always clear, either in art or in caption, and while the Rooks were definitely enormously competent, Rucka definitely did not have them live up to the hype as some of the most deadly weapons in the DC Universe when it came to covert ops.

Aside from some unclear panels, the art was some of the best of the series.  The action scenes especially were dynamically brutal while maintaining their sense of sci-fi madness. 

Overall, if you’ve been reading Rucka’s run, you’ll pick this up, but don’t go out of your way to find it.  It’s not a bad issue, and the rest of the Castling arc is well worth the read, but as Rucka’s farewell, it left me a little hollow.

Grade: B-

SPOILER

As an aside, what does it say about comics today that the huge, shocking twist at the end is that the Rooks did not murder the infants?

Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters TPB

The Thunderbolts had long lived in relative obscurity.  They had their fans, but they hadn’t been involved in anything important since their admittedly interesting inception back in the Onslaught era.  Civil War changed all that.

The Thunderbolts became a team of supervillains hired by the government to hunt down unregistered superheroes, and this controversial position has led to, I think, a lot of misconceptions about the point of the book, at least from what the first trade seems to suggest.

Because, if there’s one thing Warren Ellis does well in Thunderbolts, it’s making otherwise C-F list heroes into the rebel heroes many of us secretly wish we were.  They become more than just super-heroes – everyone is a super-hero, there’s little special about that.  Jack Flag becomes a hero.  American Eagle becomes an icon of Anti-Registration spirit.  This book, it seems, is the most anti-Registration book of all.

All is not well, however.  While Ellis does a great job with his portrayals of the problems of such a team working together, and displays heroism among both the Thunderbolts and their victims, I have a hard time buying that the American public is quite as stupid as they’re portrayed here (though, the Edward R. Murrow reference was classy as hell and helped remind me that this isn’t the first time that extreme fear in the hands of the wrong people has led to some…idiocy).  The extreme stupidity displayed by the average American in Civil War was hard enough to swallow, and Ellis doesn’t try to expound upon what drove people to change so much so fast.  In fact, Ellis asks us to further believe that people could forget Osborn’s past, Venom’s past, etc….

Perhaps the most telling moment for me is when the Thunderbolts, in their fight against Jack Flag, blow up a bunch of cars, seriously injuring him.  Their reasoning is that he mined them in a set-up for his last stand, but that’s asking us to stretch our imaginations an awful lot: he booby-trapped an area of the parking lot on the off chance the Thunderbolts would arrive and then detonated them precisely when it would hurt him most and help him least.  It’s not the only moment like that, but it is the one that most stuck out to me.

Ultimately, Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters is an interesting opening story-arc to a series that has a lot of potential, and the opening arc sets it up well, but there’s this nagging feeling throughout reading that this is yet another step too far, that, once again, I can’t quite suspect my disbelief that far when it comes to the beliefs of the everyday person.  I just can’t bend myself far enough to believe that the general Marvel Universe population is quite as stupid as Marvel seems to want us to believe they are.

Oh, and Penance is still the stupidest idea in the last 5 years of comic books.

Grade: B

Welcome to Tranquility, volume 1 TPB

Welcome to Tranquility is among Gail Simone’s best work to date, and is very among her worst sellers.  This first volume deals with the murder of Mr. Articulate, one of a great many characters Simone created specifically for this book, and the investigation that digs deep into the dirty secret of Earth’s mightiest and most revered hero.

Welcome to Tranquility is set in Tranquility, a retirement community for super-powered individuals.  Heroes and villains live in (mostly) peaceful retirement with their children and grandchildren, leaving old rivalries behind and just trying to survive.  Simone expertly crafts an entire world from nothing, giving us heroes of every Age – detectives, romances, war heroes, and genuine super-heroes.  Almost everyone is guaranteed to find a new character that suits their tastes.

The book is rarely bogged down from the sheer number of the characters introduced, but at times it certainly is.  The book tries to help with this by introducing occasional 1-3 page ‘old school’ comics, recounting the Golden Age adventures of one or two heroes who will be important to the story.  Those stories are a pleasure to read, and a great way to be introduced to some important characters.  More over, they are referenced in-story, as part of an entire super-hero culture Simone attempts to build.

Like many of Simone’s books, Welcome to Tranquility has a great deal of humor in the book, balanced by excellent characterization and just a smidge of tragedy.  While the first arc is a murder mystery, it’s not one that the book gives you any chance to solve before the story does, and that’s something that can definitely annoy some readers. 

The book also offers a slightly darker take on the Golden Age, portraying them all as real, flawed human beings, building them up as the iconic heroes we know from comics early days only to tear many of them down as we so often do now.

Welcome to Tranquility is worth a read if you’re interested in something new.  New characters, a new setting, all profiting off of comics rich history without worshipping it.

Grade: A-

That’s it for my reviews for the past couple weeks.  Coming soon?  Stormwatch PHD, Blue Beetle #26, and the novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, as well as what I pick up this Wednesday.

Series Review: Planetary #3

Welcome to another installment of Billy & Mandy’s weekly series review of Planetary, the best book you’ve never read about the super hero genre! We’ll be reviewing each and every issue, beginning at #1 all the way through to #27, whenever the hell that bastard ships. If you’re just joining us, it’s not too late to get on the ground floor. You can find last week’s review here.

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! If you don’t want to be spoiled, please read the issue before continuing. Or, read it along with us! We welcome your comments and hope that you enjoy ours.

Billy: Do me a recap fool!!!!!

Mandy: OKAY. SOUNDS GOOD. LET ME TURN THE LIGHT ON. I thought that this Planetary was a little confusing.

Billy: Why?

Mandy: Maybe I didn’t. I don’t know.

Billy: The plot is super simple: Hong Kong Action movie staring Chow Yun Fat.

Mandy: YEAH, NO BRAIN SHITBIRD. Except it was like Bones… that Snoop Dogg movie.

Billy: I’ve never seen that one.

Mandy: Alright. Here I go.

Billy: “Hong Kong is so kind to me.” I loved that 90% of the panels were “widescreen”.

Mandy: So we open on a street in Hong Kong. Some shady shit is going down – whores dying and drugs being selled. The bad guys are escaping but trouble’s afoot – the ghosty badged kind of trouble. Ghost cop shoots up the getaway car which the driver promptly drives into a phone poll. It’s very clear that the cop is a ghost and here are our friends from Planetary. They’ve witnessed the whole thing. Snow, for one, is quite amazed to learn that the Phantom Cop of Hong Kong that he’s heard about is REAL! WOOO. I mean, but seriously, Snow: are things still surprising you? And of course, The Drummer is just amazing… as usual.

Billy: Snow’s like Frodo in that way. Shit hasn’t gotten “real” yet.

Mandy: I KNOW. Forget the fact that he is himself REALLY OLD and yet NOT DEAD and also that he has POWERS. That is all normal but everything else is like OMG FREAKSHOW.

Billy: I love the way Cassaday rendered the ghost cop. Perfection. Well, there must be something wrong with his memory then, right?

Mandy: MAYBE! So the crew rolls up on Planetary headquarters in Hong Kong and we learn that Planetary is at least six years old. News to Jakita!

Billy: And we learn more about Drummer and Snow’s powers. What did you think of the “hard drive of souls”?

Mandy: Okay, so are we talking about it now? No longer requiring a whole recap of the issue?

Billy: We can just get into it here.

Mandy: That was the explosion from the earth, right?

Billy: Yeah.

Mandy: It confused me. That was the part that confused me.

Billy: What exactly confused you? Did you get that it was related to the snowflake from the first issue?

Mandy: Yeah, I did. I got that when The Drummer threw out that number. But the snowflake confused me too so this just added to my confusion.

Billy: Well, I’m sorry you’re so unreal dumb.

Mandy: Thanks.

Billy: So this issue is pretty straight forward with its themes: Vengeance and Purpose. How do you think that relates to our heroes?

Mandy: Well it’s funny… our heroes essentially have no idea who they work for and at this point, neither do we, so there’s always those questions: are they good guys or are they bad guys? Is there even such a thing? Will we ever know which is which?

Billy: It’s all on that page where he talks about how no one understands better than a betrayed Hong Kong Cop.

Mandy: Yeah. His purpose is vengeance because there is no greater power… no punishment or afterlife. I think that idea sort of points to but at the same time undercuts the very idea of Planetary. I don’t know if I’m explaining my thoughts correctly but at the end, when he says “Just us” and Drummer mishears it as “Justice”, I think that alludes to their internal conflict. In order to do what they do, they have to believe that what they are doing is right thing but at the same time, how can they be sure if they don’t know who they work for?

Billy: Yeah, it’s almost impossible to see now, and this issue seems like one of those throwaway episodes, but this issue is a very specific and clever metaphor for the purpose of the entire series and a brilliant foreshadow of Snow’s journey. Just keep it in mind as we move forward from here.

Mandy: I resisted the urge to think of it as a throw-away. You don’t throw away a line like “Justice”/”Just us” on a one-off with no point, right?

Billy: Yeah, definitely don’t do that.

Mandy: Haha. I’ll keep that in mind.

Billy: This is one of the best issues of the run too, almost because it’s so clean. Any other thoughts before we close it out? Or questions? UGH, I can’t really explain the hard drive to you because it would spoil a bunch of stuff for later.

Mandy: Yeah, don’t. We’ll get there and then I’ll be like OH YEAH.

Billy: Fair.

Mandy: One last thing. This post needs more Shia: http://www.xxxxx.com

Billy: Not posting that!

Mandy: BOOOOOO.

Join us next Monday as we uncover one of the most important elements in the Planetary mythology. If you haven’t read Planetary, you can pick up the trades at your local shop or order them online from Amazon.com at the following link:

Planetary Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories

Series Review: Planetary #2

Welcome to another installment of Billy & Mandy’s weekly series review of Planetary, the best book you’ve never read about the super hero genre! We’ll be reviewing each and every issue, beginning at #1 all the way through to #27, whenever the hell that bastard ships. If you’re just joining us, it’s not too late to get on the ground floor. You can find last week’s review of the preview issue here.

(Sorry about the lateness. We experienced technical issues that could not be helped.)

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! If you don’t want to be spoiled, please read the issue before continuing. Or, read it along with us! We welcome your comments and hope that you enjoy ours.

Billy: Give us a recap, luv.

Mandy: Alright. Can I just say before we start that these Japanese guys don’t look Japanese? The headbands helped though.

Billy: Yes they do. You are dumb

Mandy: Not in the first panel they don’t.

Billy: Now can I just say that “It does us good to have our genitals frozen into small blue dead things.” is the single greatest opening line every written?

Mandy: Agreed.

Billy: When I read that line ten years ago, it floored me. EPIC!

Mandy: It’s just because you like to talk about your balls.

Billy: Okay, you may proceed.

Mandy: The story opens with this grip of Japanese guys rolling hard on this island… there’s a clear leader and he’s going on like he’s the next Jim Jones. The “Master Storyteller” is ready for freedom… mental freedom, that is. Freedom that only comes with cold and isolation. At least one of his followers forgot to drink the Kool-Aid though; he’s in for taking over Japan but there is doubt in his eyes and we see that his instincts may be right on the money when we discover THE GIANT FLY that’s decaying just down the hill. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Mandy: Clearly this is a job for Planetary, an organization that has offices ALL OVER THE WORLD. Our three heroes (?) roll up on headquarters, manned by one crazy Japanese guy. The Drummers stirs up trouble as usual.

Billy: The Drummer with the pic machine thing was classic. I fell in love.

Mandy: So yeah, Snow… being the new guy… gets to learn along with the rest of us what our Japanese friends have also just learned. Island Zero is populated with MONSTERS WOOOO.

Billy: In regards to the “Master Storyteller”, since you’re a writer, do you ever fear the day you’ll go wild shit crazy and kidnap a bunch of students to some faraway island… and rape their minds?

Mandy: I am constantly conscious of the line that is inherent in trying to get my students to think without parading my own thoughts through the classroom. It’s a fine line. I try to steer clear.

Billy: So you do think about “mind rape”?

Mandy: Only in so far as I think about avoiding it.

Billy: Okay, continue with the recap, I’m going to run downstairs for some waffle toast.

Mandy: Back on the island, Sir Doubts-A-Lot is beginning to question the Master Storyteller. And with good reason as he admits that they are in HELL. I think all that really needs to be said is that Planetary knows that the Japanese have landed and they want to get them out of there before they realize the number of Big Bads that are roaming free… or were. They’re too late though and the boys have stumbled upon a rotting dinosaur, which Storyteller guy promptly decides is dinner. YUM YUM. Should go great with the Kool-Aid there, huh boss? However, his crew ain’t having it and we soon learn the cost of insurrection: kiss the cook or it’s head ‘splosion for you.

Billy: OMG you’re so clever!

Mandy: The military appears, apparently the keepers of the island. Storyteller’s not having that so he counters with nerve gas for everyone. A noble way to go. We learn more about Snow’s power: heat subtraction… or another scientific whatsit I’m going to have to look up. And then the story about the monsters… they’re all dead, or are they?

Billy: Speaking of learning about Snow and his powers… is this the first time we see Jakita display her super speed? I only ask because it’s so mixed up in my head.

Mandy: This is the first time.

Billy: She is like the Flash all of a sudden, did that throw you? I mean, she obviously had some kind of power right?

Mandy: Yes. I assumed. I was waiting to find about her powers.

Billy: Mothra!!! Gojira!!! I know you must have got the pop culture reference but did you care at all?

Mandy: Yes. Of course I got that stuff. And yeah, I was psyched because I got it.

Billy: For me, seeing the monsters from those movies appear in this book was kind of a shock. I know he set up in the first issue that he was going to be borrowing characters from other mediums, I just didn’t think the scope of the series would be so… BIG. It was a pleasant surprise. It was a pretty awesome revelation the first time I read it. And the cover is wonderfully misleading. It makes you think of Jurassic Park, not Godzilla.

Mandy: I think he needs to make it big. I think it has to extend beyond the comic universe because the questions that he is asking are real questions about power and its use and abuse.

Billy: The thing that I always loved about this issue is how little it actually relates to the overall conspiracy plot. It’s just Planetary being Planetary. Of course at the end, they do retrieve/steal a bunch of informations that will reappear later in the series, but for the most part, Ellis is kind of just defining this “Strange World”.

Mandy: Yes. That is exactly what I was going to say. Ugh.

Billy: What?

Mandy: Shut up so I can say some smart stuff. You’re stepping all over my knowledge.

Billy: Ok… GO!!! Say something insightful! While you’re thinking, ponder this: “It’s the fictional story of my life and I want you to tell it.”

Mandy: What I was going to say is this: I have the feeling that we’re not getting a lot of big picture stuff but that doesn’t mean Ellis is going to give us a bunch of mysteries with no answers. We’ll slowly start to see the powers of the Jakita, Snow, and The Drummer and see how they work. Also, we realize that this is definitely a STRANGE WORLD. So clearly, there is a purpose for Planetary, right? Because the world can’t know that there are monsters out there…

Billy: That was good, now you got me thinking.

Mandy: Also, obviously, Ellis gives us more of the ethics questions without really giving it to us. If there are monsters on an island in the middle of the sea, is it cool that the government or some smart agency to keep it from us?

Billy: Yeah, who’s responsible for these monsters? Who made them? Who unleashed them? These are the questions he’s jammed into our tiny brains. Who’s accountable? Who are we going to punish? Who’s face is getting kicked in? We’ll find out soon, in issue 6 actually. Ellis pulls back the curtain a little on the Big Bads.

Mandy: Good. I like answers.

Billy: There’s not much else to talk about here, other than it was a really fun read. Any other thoughts?

Mandy: Do you think there are monsters on a far off island, Billy?

Billy: I hope so. I hope they attack New York like Clover did in that movie and a bunch of yuppies die. Stupid Beth, shut up already you whiny ####!

Mandy: Also, how do you feel knowing that there are new pictures of Shia on the internet today and I’ll soon be putting them on your Myspace?

Billy: No comment.

Join us next Monday as we take on Hong Kong action movies in Planetary #3. If you haven’t read Planetary, you can pick up the trades at your local shop or order them online from Amazon.com at the following link:

Planetary Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories

Review: Dreamwar #1 & Number of the Beast #1

With all the Annihilating Conquests, Final Crises, Secret Invasions and Counting Down, it appears that a couple of summer events have gotten lost in the shuffle. Namely, DC/Wildstorm Dreamwar and Number of the Beast. So, I thought I’d shine a little light on the Wildstorm universe and its summer spectaculars.

First, Dreamwar. Confession: I had literally no idea what this thing was about when I ordered it. I saw Keith Giffen’s name and I was in. He is the man responsible for Annihilation and the revitalization of Marvel’s cosmic heroes… why not go in blind? But after reading the first issue, I still have no idea what the hell is going on! We get very little in the way of explanation. All we do know for sure is that the DCU heroes from the Silver Age (I think) have invaded the Wildstorm Universe. All the major Wildstorm U characters and teams are present: The Authority, Stormwatch, Mr. Majestic, The Wildcats, Gen 13… even the old fogies from Tranquility make an appearance. But still, no idea what the heck a “Dreamwar” is. Usually this would send me packing, but it’s Giffen so I’ll stick it out. I trust the man. I can’t really recommend this yet, but I can definitely give it a “wait and see.”

The next chapter in the biggest Wildstorm event since forever takes place over in Number of the Beast. The story continues from the “TBZ-Approved” Wildstorm Revelations mini, and before that, the Gage penned Armageddon one-shots. Armageddon and Revelations, especially Revelations, were good enough to get me to order this 8-part bi-weekly epic, so this mother-effer better deliver. I don’t really have an opinion on Scott Beatty’s writing one way or the other, but I love Chris Sprouse. It’s so nice to see him penciling again. Just like with Dreamwar, I’m a bit confused by the first issue. I think I’ve figured out that the characters in this book are forgotten heroes from the Golden Age, but I’m not sure how this relates to the current Wildstorm U. Are these character trapped inside some kind of “bubble world”, like the Weapon Plus facility from Morrison’s X-Men run? I don’t know. Is this an apocalypse for Wildstorm? I JUST DON’T KNOW… I could read up on it, hit the forums, but I kind of want to be surprised this time. Like, we already know so much about Secret Invasion and Final Crisis, it kind of spoils them. It’s like when a movie trailer shows you all the cool or funny parts and then you see the movie and you realize you just wasted 10 bucks because everything cool or funny was in the trailer, and trailers are free. But even with the confusion I liked it all the same. And as far as this “forgotten Golden Age heroes” fad goes, this book is tons better than Project Superpowers and almost as cool as The Twelve. I just really like these characters. And The High is back? AWESOME. I’m definitely sticking it out and look forward to the next bi-weekly installment. And as soon as I figure it out, I’ll clue ya’ll in. Promise.

We got ourselves two summer events from Wildstorm which makes three total from DC. If you’re sick of all the hype surrounding Secret Invasion and Final Crisis, you may want to give one of these events a shot. Especially Number of the Beast… it appears to have the most potential for awesome. And pick up Wildstorm Revelations when it trades, it’s definitely worth a look.

Series Review: Planetary #1

Welcome to the first edition of Billy & Mandy’s weekly series review of Planetary, the best book you’ve ever read about the super hero genre! Better than Dark Knight… better than Watchmen! Yeah, I said… CONTROVERSY!!! We’ll be reviewing each and every issue, beginning at #1, hitting all the spin-offs and even the sneak preview back-up story about the Hulk. We are well aware that the series’ final issue has yet to ship, but we figure that by the time we get to it, Cassaday should be just about finished with it.

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! If you don’t want to be spoiled, please read the issue before continuing. Or, read it along with us! We welcome your comments and hope that you enjoy ours. Continue reading

Foilball’s Review Roundup #2

Rating System:

5 Stars: WARNING: May Cause Head Explosion.
4 Stars: A first read!
3 Stars: Read it when you can.
2 Stars: Give it away when you’re done.
1 Star: BURN IT!

Gravel #1 (***1/2)

Gravel01 

Gravel is the story of William Gravel, Combat Magician. His previous exploits can be found in the various Strange Kiss/Killings trades by Warren Ellis and Mike Wolfer. The basic premise of the character and the ongoing series is this: There are 7 Major Magicians in England and there are 7 Minor Magician Detectives. Gravel is one of the Minor ones. Believing Gravel to be dead, a new magician was promoted to the Minor 7. Now, a rogue element within this fraternity is causing all kinds of havoc and conjuring up some nasty shit, like this. Is that a lizard penis? Anyway, I wanted to do a full review of this issue, but it’s basically just a lot of set-up and new reader stuff. This is fine. I’ve always loved the Gravel character, but hated what Ellis has done with him previously. Hated is a strong word, I guess I was disappointed that he hasn’t come up with anything more interesting than zombies and deep throat alien women. Okay, the body orchard idea was pretty cool. Anyway again, I’m super excited that we’re finally getting an ongoing Gravel book and Mike Wolfer isn’t doing the art (apologies to Wolfer). The first issue holds a ton of promise and I love the new artist. If you like SAS badasses mixed with magic, or you’re just an Ellis whore like me, Gravel may be right up your alley. Continue reading