Review: Rapid-Fire Reviews 33 1/3 – The Smell of Fear
Oh say can you see…
By the dawn’s early light!
What so proudly we hail…
In the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose bright stripes and broad stars,
In the perilous night…
For the ramparts we watched,
And the rocket’s red glare!
Buncha bombs in the air!
Gave proof to the night!
That we still had our flag!
Oh say does that flag banner wave,
Over a-a-all that’s free!
And the home of the land…
And the land of the – FREE!
Previously, on Everything: Apparently, the casting call was for an ‘extra-fancy James Bond villain…’
Agents of Atlas #8: This comic starts with a mysterious (yet familiar) drifter being captured somewhere in Nevada, and taken to a mysterious medical facility in the desert. While this is going on, Derek Khanata is introduced to the inner circle of Atlas (and has to take a schvitz in a hot tub for image’s sake) as part of his new job, while the mysterious drifter turns out to be Bruce Banner, as I suspected he was all along, and turns big and green and starts smashing things. The Agents of Atlas get involved, only to find that the victims (The Hulk and a horde of genetically engineered monsters) are as difficult to handle as their tormentors. The mysterious Mr. Lao and Jimmy Woo have a meaningful conversation about Jimmy’s ex Suwan, and the issue ends with Jimmy confronting his lost love, now wreaking havoc as the Jade Claw. Even though I saw it coming, it’s pretty cool, and I am glad to see the Agents presented with a villain worthy of their combined power. Jeff Parker revels in the cool touches (an issue summary to the tune of the Brady Bunch theme, Jimmy’s old Edsel refitted as a flying interdimensional transport) and the art is nicely handled throughout. 4 stars.
Mighty Avengers #27: Oy. What is there to say about this issue? Well, to start with,it takes the two biggest jackasses in the Marvel Universe (Quicksilver and the U.S. Agent) sticks them in a plot which involves an extended flashback, introduces the latest “Greatest and Most Powerfullest Villain In History” for this month, and utterly fails to answer any of the intriguing questions raised by last issue’s Fantastic Four crossover. Hank Pym introduces his team to the new “Infinite Avengers Mansion,” a fourth-dimensional construct in theoretical space that has multiple doors to reality, while Stature tries to get closer to the woman who killed her father. China’s super-team is introduced and murdered in the space of 3 pages (Did Bendis co-plot this?) and U.S. Agent freaks out. The villain is a walking retcon, the art and coloring combine to a generally incomprehensible muddy mess, and the issue just shouts and shouts and shouts without saying anything much interesting. 1 star.
Batman and Robin #2: Alfred Pennyworth makes himself indispensable here, bringing up the important point to new Bats Dick Grayson that he, like Alfred, is a performer, and should consider his take on the Batman one of the “great roles,” like King Lear or James T. Kirk. The new Dynamic Duo meets Commissioner Gordon and clashes with the Circus of the Strange. Robin refuses to play nice, and ends up in the clutches of Mr. Pyg, while Batman II races to the rescue on a cool Bat-Quadcycle as we fade to black. Overall, Morrison and Quitely have kept my interest for a second month, never an easy prospect when you’re talking about Batman. With a new villain, a whole new set of toys, and new faces under bothmasks, there’s a lot of fresh ideas here, but Morrison manages to give us enough familiar territory to ground it all. I’m honestly impressed with how effortlessly this reinvents one of the oldest heroes around… 3.5 stars.
Booster Gold #22: A series that started out interesting has become an exercise in paradox and silliness, as Booster Gold goes back in time to fix a time paradox relating to a series of panels in Teen Titans #2 circa 1980. Booster ends up teaming with a neophyte Cyborg against Deathstroke the Terminator, his son Ravager, and a time travelling Black Beetle, but ends up left for dead with the seemingly deceased Teen Titans. When you’re using a minor plot point of a 30 year old book as your hook, you’d better be doing something interesting with it, and this book, sadly, doesn’t. The Blue Beetle backup story is better, as Jaime cleverly stops an army of killer robots, finally uncovers the tension between best friends Paco and Brenda, but ends up getting punched out by what seems to be a robot masquerading as a teenage girl. How embarassing is that? Combined score for both stories: 2.5 stars.
Brave And The Bold #25: Hardware and the Blue Beetle. The arch super-genius self-made man and the flippant fun-loving teen whose powers were given to him almost by sheer chance. Both armored, but completely opposite in their methods, and unlikely to be BFF’s, regardless of their calling plan. So, why does this issue make me want to read more about this team? Maybe it’s the way Blue slowly wins Hardware over, or the fact that Hardware FINALLY points out to Blue Beetle that La Damais playing him, or maybe it’s just the sarcastic interplay between them, but this was an entertaining story from start to finish. Hardware’s old nemesis SYSTEM raises it’s ugly head again, and the issue ends with the reveal of a new Gizmo (even though I wasn’t sure that the old one was fully dead yet, having been a zombie in recent issues of Birds of Prey) which seems to be a strange sort of reveal, given that neither character has any interactions with the OLD one. Doesn’t change the fact that this was fun. 4 stars.
Dark Reign – Lethal Legion #1 (of 3): What do The Grim Reaper, Nekra, The Absorbing Man, Mr Hyde, The Grey Gargoyle and Tiger Shark have in common? They’re all on the outs with Norman Osborn, and coincidentally have been through so many character iterations that they may or may not be recognizable. This book bears more than just a bit of resemblance to DC’sSecretSix title, only with a less lovable cast and less relatable art. I presume that this book is designed to help flesh out the whole ‘Dark Reign’ thingamagoogle, but I’m just not necessarily fully onboard withthe character mix here. The use of the Grim Reaper gives us a way into the Avengers (via his brother Wonder Man) which I presume will allow this group to achieve a “not heroes, but not exactly villains” status that the kids love so much, but overall this issue doesn’t promise much more than run down the strict premise of the book. That, combined with the resemblance to something DC already publishes left me more than a little disappointed. 1.5 stars.
Dark Reign – Young Avengers #1 (of 3): So, Marvel right now has a ton of characters sharing names, as well as characters who change identities more often than Stephen changes his socks. Now, with the Young Avengers already sharing several superhero names (notably ‘Hawkeye,’ ‘Patriot,’ and ‘Vision’) Marvel editorial thinks that we need a second team of heroes called the Young Avengers. This team, consisting of kids who are modelling themselves after the original Masters of Evil, include a possible goddess with a speech impediment, a giant racist, a robot who is SLEEPING with the giant racist, and a team leader who accidentally kills a woman that he intended to save. The art is cute, reminding me of Todd Nauck, and the book ends withthe inevitable confrontation between both Young Avengers teams. It’s pretty much by-the-numbers, and I am sad to say that I suspect this series will be completely forgotten in a year or two… 2 stars.
Doctor Who #1: The ongoing adventures of the Tenth Doctor begin here, apparently right after the events of the Season 30 (or is it Season 4?) finale, where Donna Noble is left on Earth. The Doctor ends up in 1926 Hollywood, visiting Archie Maplin (rhymes with ‘Chaplin’) and basically being clever. Identifying himself alternately as Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Michael Caine, Pee-Wee Herman of the British Press Corps (heh), and Harold Knowles, he encounters a strange little conspiracy by which a mysterious villain has been stealing the hopes and dreams of young actors to feed his esoteric appetites. Archie and the Doctor intervene, and the Doctor ends up tied to a railroad track. It’s always hard to capture the Doctor Who experience in comic books, especially with David Tennant’s version (so much of the character is in his facial expressions and speech pattern) but Tony Lee does an admirable job. The use of Maplin as historical analogue seems to be an unhappy compromise, but the character does manage to serve the purpose of the (currently missing) regular companions. I have to say I liked this somewhat more than Rodrigo, but wonder if it might have been somewhat more successful if they could have just said “Charlie Chaplin.” 3.5 stars.
Dynamo 5 #22: This issue picks up with Maddie Warner in mortal danger from Brain Drain (a creature with the transplanted brains of 5 scientists) and the D5 team is assembled to take him down. We get a brief glimpse of something going on at the Pentagon, the Dynamo 5′s half-sister Synergy steals a gun able to kill their seemingly-invulnerable father than gets it on with a priest, and Myriad’s drug addiction gets the better of him. Turns out that the “performance enhancer” he’s been popping is actually derivative of the Whiptail serum, and he transforms into a lizard hybrid creature. Still fun, with wonderful art by Mahmud Asrar, but doesn’t it seem like forever since the last issue of this book? 3.5 stars.
Final Crisis Aftermath – Escape #3 (0f 6): Tom Tresser’sadventures in Wonderland continue, with crossing timelines and confusing plotting here and there. A character who may (or may not) represent the Village’s #2 tries to explain what he knows about Electric City, but only makes things more confusing overall. Cameron Chase ends up in a torture chamber, Spy Smasher gets her mind erased, and the faceless agents of the GPA oversee everything. Before Chase gets killed in the name of something-or-other, Tressertakes her place on “The Wheel” and spins for a chance to escape. Nemesis manages to free Cameron Chase but ends up earning Death for himself. After 3 issues, the endless mysteries within puzzles within skinner boxes within bags of spanish peanuts are starting to wear thin. I’m hoping that we start to find out some of the secrets behind E.C. soon, and that the eventual reveleation of truth is as impressive as it has been arcane and sinister. 2.5 stars.
Final Crisis Aftermath – Run #3 (0f 6): The sad and pathetic life of Mike Miller, the Human Flame, continues, as he is forced to work for General Immortus, proving himself to be at least the most effective of the third-stringers in the General’s employ. He fights Clayface, teams up with Temptress, thinks she might love him, and barely keeps ahead of the oncoming Justice League… Well, Green Lantern John Stewart and Firestorm, anyway. Mike eventually tries to strike out on his own, fighting his own partners, and leaping out a window… after which he falls three stories and splatters on the concrete below. This series could be the DCU’s version of ‘The Sopranos,’ but it doesn’t quite pull off the execution. The art is good (though the cover stylings bear no resemblance to what’s inside) and the story does what it needs to, but Mike is at once too bland and too sleazy to be as lovable as Tony Soprano. 2.5 stars.
Green Lantern #43: Stephen already did a longer review of this issue, but I couldn’t resist throwing my two cents in on this thing: Holy. Crap. This issue transforms Black Hand from cliched Silver Age Survivor to full-scale psycho in just a few pages, and ups the ante in a very real way, as William Hand’s full backstory is finally shown in chronological order. The litany of the dead seen in this issue is a very frightening series of images, especially when you realize that the majority of the deaths shown have occurred in the last 5 years (our time). Doug Mahnke’s art is amazing here, showing every iota of desperation in Black Hand’s eyes, the grief as he chooses to kill his mother, and graphically shows the logical last step of his murder spree, turning Black Hand into the first of his Corps, almost the Ion/Parallax/Predator anthropomorphism of his battery’s necrotic power. It’s effective, it’s beautiful and it’s very disturbing from front to back. 4.5 stars.
Green Lantern Corps #38: The children of the White Lobe detonate a bomb in the central power battery of Oa, leaving the Corps somewhat adrift, unsure of their place in the world. Soranik Natudeals with revelations of her parentage, Arisia and the Daxamites beat the bajeezus out of Mongul Junior, and the Guardians return from the Vega System. Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner are horrified to discover that the Alpha Lanterns have taken all the prisoners from the Sciencell riots and are executing them, one by one. Both the EarthLanterns try to argue with the their bitsy blue bosses, but only end up teleported away. Ironically, their outburst saves the lives of Kanjor Ro and Bolphunga, two of the galaxy’s nastiest pieces of work. We end with the sight of thousands of Black Lantern power rings exploding into space, leading somewhere I’ve already reviewed. Best viewed as an indictment of the Guardians and a lesson about absolute power. 3 stars.
The Life and Times of Savior 28 #3: The continuing story of what happens when a warrior realizes the error of ways goes to an intriguingly weird place, as Savior 28 seeks out the daughter of his deceased ex-girlfriend. Since he never ages, Savior is still a young man while she is on the business end of fifty. Savior gets rebuffed and she tells him that maybe he should check out what’s going on throughout the rest of the world. He (of course) misunderstands and goes on a worldwide publicity tour, making a spectacle of himself in an attempt to try and figure out what to do now. A big fight with one of his old villains offers him a chance to try out his new “Give Peace A Chance” philosophy, but he reverts to old habits and not only attacks her, he KILLS her in front of a crowd of onlookers. Savior 28 ends up captured by several of his other foes, and ends the issue strapped ina Captain Pike chair at their mercy. I’m liking this series, reading as it does as a combination of Powers and Ex Machina with echoes of John Lennon’s 70′s antics throughout. Well written, well-drawn, quite good. 3.5 stars.
Nexus #101/102: Steve Rude relaunched Nexus two years ago with the intent of bringing it back to monthly status, but for some reason that didn’t happen. The twin plotlines intersect here, as Horatio Hellpopis forced to go to war with the followers of Elvon and additional attempts are made on the life of Horatio and Sundra Peale’s newborn son Harry. As soon as Horatio leaves Ylum for Earth, Sundra finds that someone has stolen the boy and killed her old friend and sometime lover Jil. The someone: Ursula XX Imada, estranged ex-wife of Nexus himself, who should know the power of a mother scorned. Sundra chokes the life out of Ursula with her BARE HANDS, (“I KNEW I’d have to kill you some day,” snarls the enraged Mrs. Peale) while Nexus engages the Elvonic fleet with his (admittedly fusion-powered) half-bare hands. The return of an old friend or two in the form of Judah the Hammer and the son of Kreed top off an issue that was far too long in the making. It’s a nice way to cap off the Nexus saga (for now) and is beautifully drawn throughout. 4 stars.
Skrull Kill Krew #3 (of 5): What started out promising has gone straight downhill from the beginning, with this issue resurrected Dice (a white racist whose Skrull genes have started him transforming into a black man) and Riot getting involved in a lesbian relationship with an undercover Skrull. Ryder acts tough, the 3-D Man gets treated like an idiot, two different Wolverine’s appear (and are killed) and it’s all kind of inessential. The issue ends with Ryder and his Krew getting the real story behind their origins: They’re not mutated humans, they’re actually Skrulls. Okay… That reveal has been floating around since issue one, by the way, it just took several issues for somebody to TELL Ryder. Pacing and plotting wound this issue, but the killshot comes when I realize that I’ve been given no reason to care whether Ryder is a monster or not (and I read and loved the original series.) There’s still time for a strong finish here, presuming that there’s an upshot to it all. Could be so much better… 2.5 stars.
Tales of The Sun Runners #3: When Pat Broderick left Firestorm, I had thought that we had seen the last of him, but apparently his exit was to work on this creator-owned title. The Eclipse version of this book ran 7 issues, and then resurfaced at Amazing Comics (an outfit whose output includes Ex-Mutants and Wabbit Wampage, which doesn’t give me a lot of confidence) withthe main character seemingly dead. With Broderick gone, the art is handled by Glen Johnson, who does a relatively good job. There are far too many characters flying about, and two new ones introduced in this issue, but I really have no idea what’s going on in this issue. Overall, it’s indicative of a lot of black and white indy titles lately: lots of love for the concept without a high level of sophistication involved… This series may not last past this issue unless something big happens 1.5 stars.
Transformers Spotlight – Metroplex: In a world of giant robots, it’s difficult to find a giant robot who is truly ridiculously giant. Devastator is big, sure. Omega Supreme is big enough to carry entire batallions of Autobots in his cargo-holds, but when you look for the giantest gianty giant of them all, you look no further than Metroplex (aka Autobot City, I believe.) This issue features the Throttlebots (led by Goldbug, who I thought was an older and wiser version of Bumblebee?) on the run from Sixshot, a Decepticon feared for his killing prowess. The Throttlebots have been assigned to protect something that they don’t know about, go on the run for reasons that they don’t understand, and end up being saved by Metroplex for reasons that the living city doesn’t share. Metroplex takes out Sixshot withasinglestomp, then runs off to protect his objective, which we don’t know anything about. The whole issue is a series of obscure moments, ending with a silly “Friday The 13th” shock tease. Previous issues of Spotlight have been awesome (including one with Sixshot) but this one neglects to give us enough to work with. 1.5 stars.
Wednesday Comics #2: The problem with any anthology is consistency. Will the various strips be of equal complexity and quality? Will the characters be equally entertaining? So many times, we see a book fall back on a known quantity, like the original incarnation of ‘Marvel Comics Presents’ featuring an X-Man in every single issue. What’s worse, though, is when a book completely comes apart, such as the eventual downward spiral and failure of Action Comics Weekly. This title seems to be off on the right foot, though, with a fascinating Azarello/Risso take on Batman, a cute Flash issue, an odd but compelling Hawkman, AmandaConnor’s wonderful art on the Supergirl strip, a very ‘Prince Valiant’ take on Kamandi, as well as truly stunning bits with The Metal Men (Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art), Sgt. Rock (JOE F’ing KUBERT!) and a compelling piece by Mike Allred featuring Metamorpho. All in all, there’s a lot of quality in this weekly series, though the nature of the anthology will eventually guarantee a stinker. The difficulty comes in the format (folded newsprint) and the price ($3.99.) It’s a fun read, but someone who reads this book for a whole year will spend over 200 bucks on a even-more-difficult-than-usual to store and maintain format… 3.5 stars.