Monthly Archives: April 2012

Comic Reviews: Daredevil and Aquaman!

COMIC REVIEWS!!!

 Daredevil #11


The mini crossover “The Omega Effect” comes to a close with the current issue of Daredevil, and while it doesn’t have quite the bang that I was expecting, it’s still a very solid ending for this entertaining story.

Spinning out of the events of last week’s Punisher (and The Avenging Spider-man a week before that), the issue finds ol’ Hornhead fighting off a horde of A.I.M., Hydra, and other nefarious agents of the Marvel Universe at Grand Central Station, while Punisher, Spider-man, and Punisher’s “sidekick” Rachel Cole-Alves attempt to help him. How did DD find himself in this predicament? Well, Cole decided to push Daredevil into the crowd of thugs, all so she could grab the Omega Drive that everyone is going after him for. For those just catching up, the Omega Drive contains information on every major crime group in the Marvel Universe, and is quite the hot item of the moment for the baddies.

After a quick assist from Spider-man, Daredevil leaves Punisher behind with the rest of the goons to chase after Cole, who has mysteriously vanished after pushing him into the mob. Confronting her in an abandoned warehouse, Daredevil tries his best to talk Cole out of using the drive to wipe out the crime gangs, telling her that killing all of these men won’t bring back her husband, who was murdered on Cole’s wedding day.  After a tense stand-off, Cole gives Daredevil the disk, but not after Punisher and Spidey’s fight with the numerous agents spills into the warehouse, allowing Cole to escape.

While I was expecting a little more action from this finale, I was still very happy with the end product. The character work here by Mark Waid is fantastic, and you can tell that Punisher writer Greg Rucka had a lot of say in this story, as Cole, who was introduced in Frank Castle’s book, really takes center stage here. Her confrontation with Daredevil is the highlight of the issue, and DD’s speech to her about the loss of her husband not justifying murder was fantastic. Marco Checchetto’s art is great as well. With his awesome action scenes and quieter moments, the art really stands out in this issue.

For those who haven’t been reading Daredevil or “The Omega Effect”, this issue probably won’t do much for you, but if you have been following the story, this issue is a satisfying conclusion to the storyline, and offers some great story points for characters not only in Daredevil, but in Punisher as well. With so many big events going around in Marvel, it’s good to see that the smaller ones are just as good, if not better, than the big guns.

Aquaman #8

The DC mandate of “making Aquaman a badass” continues with issue 8, which shines some light on “The Others”, a mysterious group of superhumans that Arthur Curry allied himself with before joining the Justice League.  Focusing primarily in flashback, this issue shows Aquaman and his former teammates hunting down Black Manta, who is also currently attacking these members in the present day. Geoff Johns continues to make Arthur Curry the baddest mofo around, even if he is a pretty big a-hole in the flashbacks of this book. We also finally get some reasoning behind Aquaman’s distrust of Shin, the marine biologist whom Curry sought in “The Trench” storyline at the beginning of the series.
As usual, Ivan Reis’ pencils are fantastic, and the character designs for the members of “The Others” are very cool, especially Prisoner, a character who I hope we see more of in future issues. Aquaman is one of the premiere new 52 books, how much more do I have to praise it until you believe me?

By The Power Of Greyskull! I……HAVE….A COOOMMICCC!!!!!

There was a lot of news to come out of Emerald City Comic Con, but it was a piece of news that came after it ended that got me excited the most:
This July, DC Comics will be printing a new Masters Of The Universe comic. Strange, I know, as He-Man and co. haven’t been relevant for years now (although the Cartoon Network relaunch from 2003 rules), but it doesn’t matter, because he’s back. And more importantly, this means Skeletor, the baddest villain ever, is back, and judging by the press release , he’s going to continue to be awesome.
The basic premise of this new MOTU six-issue mini is that Skeletor has won. Yes, the bad mofo with the awesome hideout finally has control over  Castle Greyskull, which in turn means that he now rules Eternia. To ensure his dominance over the realm, Skeletor casts a spell causing all of  the Masters to forget their past lives.  Prince Adam, now a farmer, has no idea of the power he possesses, and the fact that he can change the world around him.
 I may be the only person on the planet excited for this, but I don’t care, it’s happening, and maybe this will be the resurgence He-Man needs to get an awesome movie made out of it. I can’t explain my fascination with the world of Eternia, I wasn’t even born at the time Masters Of The Universe was a huge hit. I completely understand that the entire concept of He-Men is pretty ridiculous, and a blatant Conan The Barbarian rip-off.  Maybe it’s because I got an entire box of the toys when I was young at a yard sale, and played with them in their Castle Greyskull until many of them fell apart.  Or maybe it’s the designs of the characters and monsters that hooked me in. Sure, many of them have hilariously literal names (Man-E-Faces anyone?), but there are a lot of really awesome-looking villains in the MOTUuniverse.
Anyways, this summer DC Comics is making my wish come true. Thanks to James Robinson and Philip Tan, I’m not only getting a new Masters Of the Universe comic, but one where Skeletor has won as well.  It may be an out of left field choice, but it’s one I’ll gladly take.

Comic Reviews: Batman and Avengers vs. X-Men!

COMIC REVIEWS!!!

Batman #8

At this rate I’m officially beating a dead horse when I talk about Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s career-defining run on Batman. If you’re not reading it, there is something very, very wrong with you. This issue is the start of the “Night Of The Owls’ mini-event, which sees the mysterious Court Of Owls finally make their city-wide presence known to Bruce Wayne. Bringing the fight to Wayne Manor, the Court’s first steps to completely take over Gotham have started, which means that while the shit is hitting the fan for Bats, it makes for awesome reading for comic fans!

Taking place entirely at Wayne Manor, the issue finds Bruce Wayne recovering from his near-insanity inducing encounter with the Court Of Owls secret underground maze. Snyder and Capullo present a new viewpoint for the typically always-ready Batman, as he starts to come to grips with the fact that the city he always thought he knew is actually completely foreign to him. The fact that he feels a certain betrayal about it is a very cool hook, and hats off to Snyder for writing these scenes and dialogue  in a way that presents a new view for Bruce, but still ties into his typical characterization.

This issue isn’t all introspective contemplation though. The action comes quick and dirty in this issue, as one of the Court Of Owls’ Talon assassins enters Wayne Manor, leaving an injured Bruce to fight him off. The battle covers everything from a closet to the roof of the Manor (where many more Talons join the fray), to the recesses of the batcave, where Bruce has has Alfred place a distress call as he prepares for the Talons in the cave’s armory. As always, Greg Capullo’s art is stunning, spanning the quiet lulls of the opening to the insane fights as Bruce battles off an enemy that is seemingly everywhere. Capullo is a master of comic book pacing and fight layouts, and deserves all of the admiration he gets.

The thing that makes this issue so effective is the way that the Court of Owls Talon assassins are depicted. There is no doubt that these are extremely creepy and disturbing villains. Already the Court Of Owls has become a premiere rogue for Batman, even though this is their first outing. Snyder and Capullo have gone above and beyond in showing us how good comics can be. Anyone who expresses surprise at the fact that comics are still being made needs to be handed this run as proof that comics are not only awesome, but a legitimate storytelling medium as well. 

Also, as a bonus, we get a back-up story which covers the distress call that Alfred sends out. Written by Snyder and with art by Rafael Albuquerque, the back-up perfectly ties into the main story of the issue, and completely justifies the 3.99 price that the series now carries. Of course, Batman could be 7.99 and I would still recommend it wholeheartedly (don’t get any ideas though DC).

Avengers vs. X-Men #2

Yes, issue (or round) 2 of Avengers vs. X-Men is released today, and while it wastes no time getting into the rumblin’, the narration decisions made by Jason Aaron (who writes this issue) are a little…….different. 

Picking up immediately where the last issue left off, the X-Men are defending their home island of Utopia from The Avengers, who have arrived for Hope, the “mutant messiah” who also is believed to be the new host for the Phoenix Force, which is on a beeline for Earth. There are snippets of some cool fights here (which will be expanded on in the upcoming AvX tie-in miniseries), and John Romita, Jr.’s art isn’t too half bad, but Jason Aaron’s narrative choice for the issue leaves something to be desired. In an attempt to make these battles sound over the top and epic, it instead comes off a little corny and cheesy. Saying different variations of “this is the way the world ends” doesn’t really help drive your point home. In fact, it gets annoying after awhile. After a fairly strong start, Avengers vs. X-Men takes a little stumble in its second round. Hopefully this doesn’t prove to be a sign of the rest of the series to come.

Of Mice and Spider-Men

 For the past few years, Marvel has made many creative choices that they never said they would make: Bucky Barnes has been brought back to life, Wolverine’s origin has been revealed, and Jean Grey has stayed dead. Now we can add another “thing that was never going to happen but is now gonna happen”:

This summer, the regular “616” Marvel universe is going to collide with the Ultimate Marvel universe.

Now, this isn’t a universe wide event. This is just the meeting of two versions of Marvel’s flagship character, the one and only Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man.  Details are scarce at the moment, but the Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli five issue miniseries is already being called one of the “biggest stories in Marvel history”, according to editor in chief Axel Alonso, of course.  

This is a HUGE deal in more ways than one. Besides the fact that this summer will mark Spidey’s 50th anniversary, the meeting of these two universes is a really big deal, mainly because of the potential we have here. Now more than ever, the Ultimate universe is a major departure from the regular 616 universe. Reed Richards is a bad guy, the X-Men are barely recognizable to their “regular” counterparts, and most importantly, Peter Parker is DEAD. The sheer idea of the 616 Marvel Spidey meeting Miles Morales and learning that his counterpoint in the Ultimate universe is dead is really cool, not to mention the fact that Gwen Stacy not being worm food in the Ultimate universe should also cause some alarm from Parker.  

The Ultimate Marvel universe lost it’s appeal to me around the time of the second relaunch, but I’ve heard enough positive buzz around Ultimate Comics Spider-man that I’m going to pick up the first hardcover collection and go from there. One of the things that I first loved about the Ultimate universe was its willingness to differentiate itself from the Marvel universe that we all know and love. Granted, after the first year of the Ultimate Universe imprint many of the storylines started to fall into a theme of “who can we ultimize next?” and after the one-two punch travesty of Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum, I’m amazed as many people came back to the relaunch that did. I’m also amazed at the amount of people who came back for the most recent relaunch, which brings the Ultimate universe up to two relaunches in barely ten years. Yikes.   

However, Miles Morales is a step towards the Ultimate universe of old (feels weird saying that since it’s not THAT old), and there have been a lot of strides lately to make the Ultimate world different from its inspirations. There’s a lot of cool potential for the Spider-men of these two universes meeting for the first and hopefully only time. Knowing Marvel however, this will probably the first of many team-ups between the 616 universe and the Ultimate universe. Remember Marvel Zombies, and how cool and original that was? Then Marvel decided to do everything from four sequels to Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol?  If anything is guaranteed, it’s that Marvel NEVER learns from their past mistakes, and this is the start to a whole slew of Ultimate/616 crossovers.

Or who knows? Maybe another relaunch.

Comic Reviews: The Secret Service and Batgirl!

COMIC REVIEWS!!!!

The Secret Service #1 (of 7)

Mark Millar’s OTHER comic series that’s not called Supercrooks is out today, and teams him up with Matthew Vaughn (director of Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class) and the legendary Dave Gibbons of Watchmen. Telling a tale that a younger Millar pitched to Gibbons back in the 80s’, The Secret Service is a surprisingly funny look into the world of British spies and  in my opinion a better intro issue than Supercrooks.

Starting with a hilarious intro involving the kidnapping of Mark Hamill (yes, THAT Mark Hamill) and its out of nowhere conclusion involving the actor, a British spy, and a faulty parachute, the action moves to a London apartment, which is the home of Gary, a young punk whose primary hobbies are stealing cars, fighting with his deadbeat mom, and getting in trouble with the cops. After a joyride with a stolen car goes bad, Gary is placed into police custody, and his mom calls in his Uncle Jack to talk some sense into him. However, what Gary’s mom doesn’t know is that Jack is a member of the British Secret Service, and has other plans for Gary…..

Secret Service is a fantastic first issue. Mark Millar’s script is awesome, and is almost like a good guy version of Wanted. You can definitely tell that this is something that Millar has wanted to do for awhile now, there’s not a wasted moment or out-place piece of the issue. And Dave Gibbons. Man, what can be said about him that hasn’t already been said? The man is a legend, and it’s great to see that his style hasn’t dropped in quality since his days drawing Watchmen. Secret Service is a must-buy, and is one of the best books released this week.  Get it now before the movie adaptation (which I’m sure is coming soon).

Batgirl #8

Batgirl has been one of the most consistently entertaining books of the DC New 52. While I was one of the people who were (rightfully) skeptical of Barbara Gordon’s return to the cowl (and walking), I’ve been really impressed with writer Gail Simone’s take on the character.  Her take on Bab’s recovery from the wheelchair and return to being Batgirl is really interesting, and this issue (as well as the previous one) connect with the classic Batman tale The Killing Joke, with Barbara confronting one of the Joker’s henchmen who was with him the night he crippled her. Reliving this event, plus dealing with the return of her mother, has thrown Bab’s life into free fall at the moment, but when she decides to confront the thug and his boss, Grotesque, it shows us how strong of a female character she is. Simone is showing us with each issue that Barbara Gordon is a survivor, and this issue nails it.  Plus, as an added bonus, fans of Scott Snyder’s “The Black Mirror” storyline from Detective Comics last year will be in for a treat with the final page. 

"Augmented Reality" and YOU!

Marvel has finally unleashed Avengers vs. X-Men upon us nerds, and while I’ve already given my impressions of it here, I was really surprised by Marvel’s design choice with this issue. While this has no bearing on my favorable impressions of the issue, Marvels choice in how they are promoting their “Augmented Reality” iPad app is a very…unique one.  

If you’ve read the issue by now, you may have noticed some small (depending on the panel) “AR” logos that popped up at key points of the book. These logos are cues for one to load up the Marvel Augmented Reality app and “scan” the page of the book. Bleeding Cool has posted the results of a scan of the first page, and the only way I can describe it is it’s like watching a DVD with the director’s commentary turned on. From what I’ve learned from a co-worker of mine who owns an iPad, this is something that happens throughout the issue when you scan it. Some pages are animated, some have editorial notes, and others show you the panel as it goes from rough pencils to a finished, colored work.

While I guess this is an okay gimmick for the book, did Marvel really have to slap an “AR” logo onto every panel? Wouldn’t it have been more effective to put a little note at the beginning of the book, then saying “now what else can you find?” That way you could have fans read the story AGAIN and scan every page. It would be more of a surprise to see which panels would feature this “Augmented Reality” and which ones were left out.  Or maybe they just wanted to remind you of the bonus materials you would get to see if you were reading it digitally. I’m thinking the latter.

But back to these logos. How does John Romita, Jr. feel about this? While some of them are small, they’re essentially slapped right on top of his artwork. Sure he has a stellar relationship with Marvel, but if I was him I’d be a little miffed, especially since his art in this is a lot better after the debacle that was his Avengers run.  I wonder if this was a higher-up decision and if he was even made aware of what was going to happen in it. JRJR is a pretty huge name at Marvel, and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t at least run this idea by him before doing it.

I’m calling it now: Marvel’s Augmented Reality app will be gone by next year. Sure, it’s an interesting concept (if you own an iPad or other tablet device), and while it is cool to get some behind the scenes on certain issues, I still feel like this is a whole lot of work for something that is basically a digital pop up book.  While this is an interesting middle ground between print and digital comics, it’s still…off. I can’t explain it, and I don’t want to be like the typical comic geek that is against any and all change, but at the same time, this whole Augmented Reality thing just seems like a way to rub it in the faces of people who either don’t have an iPad/smartphone or those of us who still don’t want digital comics.  

Blast From The Past: The X-Men vs. The Avengers (1987)

For those of you who didn’t know, the upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event from Marvel isn’t the first time the two teams have tussled. Way back in 1987, the year of my birth, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Marvel’s Merry Mutants threw down in a knock-down drag out four-issue fight from writer Roger Stern and artist Mark Silvestri.  Well, maybe “knock-down” drag out isn’t the right word.  How about “get into an argument, team up to fight Soviet Super Soldiers, fight each other, and then come to a mutual understanding”?  

Doesn’t pack the same punch, does it? If anything, the 1987 X-Men vs. Avengers four-issue mini-series is a classic example of the superhero team-ups of days of yore, and it’s a time capsule of comic book storytelling from the 80s’. The dialogue is a little clunky, and the first pages of each issue play catch up for the reader, even though we’re being told the events of the story from a character’s point of view.

And what an event it is. Playing off numerous past Uncanny X-Men stories, the 80’s throw down finds pieces of Magneto’s old hideout Asteroid M plummeting to Earth. After the Avengers help prevent pieces of the debris from destroying an Ohio shopping mall, they discover that the debris is part of Asteroid M, Captain America and Co. decide to look into Magneto’s whereabouts to get some answers. Elsewhere, while relaxing with his new teammates, Magneto overhears of the debris crashing to Earth near Soviet Russia and his possible involvement, leading him to sneak away and find the debris for himself.  

Landing near the debris site, Magneto is confronted by the Avengers, then the X-Men (who had followed him there), and the Soviet Super-Soldiers, who consist of Crimson Dynamo, Darkstar, Vanguard, Ursa Major, and Titanium Man.  After the X-Men and Avengers do battle with the Soviet Super-Soldiers, the mutants head off with Magneto, and while they still don’t entirely believe that he isn’t trying to get the asteroid pieces back for nefarious reasons, they stand by him because of Professor X’s previous wishes. What follows for the next three issues is the members of The X-Men and Avengers fighting one another, then teaming up to fight the Soviet Super-Soldiers, and ultimately standing by as Magneto is brought to a U.N. trial for his actions prior to turning towards the side of “good”. 

Mind Control Helmet?

The X-Men vs. The Avengers, while failing to deliver on the fight aspect of the title, does bring up some interesting plot elements. Of course, it all happens in the final issue. With his life at stake, Magneto turns to his old helmet, which he recovered from the Asteroid M wreckage at one of its crash sites. After learning from Ms. Marvel (or Photon) that one of the judges plans on using Magneto’s execution after the trial to start a war between humans and mutants, Mags uses some sort of “circuitry” in his helmet that can influence others (something I swear was NEVER mentioned before), to dispel any anti-mutant feelings from the judge. After being released under the fact that he never signed the Geneva Convention or something, Magneto and the X-Men walk outside to a mob of anti-mutant protesters, all calling for his head. The final panel, with Magneto lamenting his decision, not thinking that his death would have actually HELPED mutants, is very cool, and gave some great insight into the character at that time.

Unfortunately much of the dialogue is pretty cheesy, especially coming from Captain America. Speaking of Cap, with the exception of Thor, you probably won’t recognize many of the Avengers that make up this team: Captain America, Thor, She-Hulk, Black Knight, Captain Marvel, and Dr. Druid. Yes, you read that right: Dr. Druid, the footie-pajama and cape-wearing mystic, who actually plays a pretty huge role in the plot of the story, acting as the Avenger’s inside man by probing the minds of the X-Men and hiding amongst them. The X-Men side is a little more recognizable, consisting of Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Magneto, Havok, and Dazzler, although it does make me wonder why there weren’t more characters from the team featured here. Although, this was from 1987, a time when the X-Men were about to enter the Australian outback and the events of “Inferno” were just about to take place.

Mark Silvestri handles the art duties, so while the story is a little lacking, the art sure isn’t. Every character here looks awesome, even the Dr. Druid. Wolverine’s throw down with Black Knight is pretty awesome, and Silvestri’s depiction of Magneto in his quieter moments is really detailed and evokes his inner conflictions with his past perfectly.

The X-Men vs. The Avengers is definitely a relic of its time, and it’s a safe bet that this week’s upcoming event of a similar name won’t be a rehash of the plot of this one. In fact, the only thing the two events share is the fact that Magneto is a member of the X-Men again. There’s no Cyclops to be seen, or two different X-Men teams. Even the Avengers of today are nothing like their 80’s counterparts.  If anything, The X-Men vs. The Avengers makes you appreciate the comic book storytelling that we have today, and regardless of whether or not the story lives up to the hype, that’s worth noting.

ALSO, as promised, the results from last week’s “Last Man Standing” bout between Boba Fett and The Punisher. In a stunning move (mostly because few people posted on the forums) the two combatants ended up in a TIE, both splitting the votes in the forums! Thanks to those of you who played!

Comic Reviews: Avengers vs. X-Men #1 and Danger Club #1!

COMIC REVIEWS!!!!

Avengers vs. X-Men #1

SPOILERS
It’s here. Marvel’s latest blockbuster summer event has arrived, and after all of the hype and lead-up, is it any good?

Yes. Yes it is. For  those who don’t know, Avengers vs. X-Men has been plotted by the Marvel “architects”, with each member taking on a different section of the 12 part miniseries. This first issue, and the three following it, are penned by Brian Michael Bendis. the Marvel mainstay lays the groundwork for what looks to be a (hopefully) epic confrontation between the two teams, and he doesn’t waste too much time getting everything thing in motion.

The issue starts with the Phoenix force destroying a planet on its way to Earth, then cuts to the Avengers meeting up at their NYC headquarters. After noticing a mysterious object hurtling through the skyline (which destroys a plane, the Empire State Building, and other inanimate objects), the Avengers discover that it’s Nova, who gives them this message before passing out:

“It’s coming.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Cyclops is putting Hope through a rigorous training routine. Since Cyclops believes that Hope is the saving grace of the mutant population, he believes that she needs to be able to fight without relying on her powers. However, as she becomes more frustrated, Hope lashes out, causing a mysterious fiery bird to erupt around her. Naturally, this intrigues Cyclops, who believes that Phoenix using Hope as a host will lead to a rebirth of the mutant population. Of course, Captain America thinks that the Phoenix is going to destroy the planet before it restarts the Earth and needs to be stopped. Cue the two meeting on the shores of Utopia, and……FIGHT!

John Romita, Jr. handles the art duties for these first few issues, and I can happily say that he’s much, MUCH better than he was on Avengers. There is nothing here that even remotely touches on the phone-in work he pulled on that title, which is good, because I think he is one of the best artists in the business.  His panels depiciting the destruction of New York city are really well done, even if some of them are ruined by Marvel’s stupid “AR” Augmented Reality tags that you can scan with your iPad. I get the point Marvel, no need to put it on EVERY PAGE.

But I digress. This is a very well-done start to the event. None of the characters act like they shouldn’t, the art is great, and for once, the plot actually gets going in the first act of a Bendis-written comic. We may not know how Avengers vs. X-Men is going to turn out, but this first issue holds promise.

Danger Club #1

I’ll admit I had no backstory behind this book at all. However, there is a lot of hype around the interwebs about it, and after Rich’s recommendation this afternoon, I decided to give Danger Club a try. And holy hell, I’m glad I did. Essentially an HBO version of “Teen Titans” (or Lord of The Flies with superpowers), Danger Club follows a team of sidekicks who must find their way through a world after Earth’s heroes went off planet and never returned. 3 months in, it’s not going well. A former Danger Club teammate named Apollo is gathering followers, and Danger Club members lead by Kid Vigilante aren’t going to allow this to happen. What follows is one of the best superhero fights of the year, and a stunning ending that definitely leaves you wanting more. Writer Landry Quinn Walker and artist Eric Jones’ previous collaborations included DC Kids titles like Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in 8th Grade and the Batman: The Brave and The Bold tie-in comic, but Danger Club is NOT something that should be given to young readers. Image has been on a roll lately with it’s new releases, and Danger Club continues that hot streak. Get this before it’s gone!