Rapid Fire Reviews: The Next Generation
Or – “Sir, I Protest! I Am NOT A Merry Man!!!”
Once again, we’ve come to the situation where Stately Spoilers Manor contains far more comics than there are days to review ‘em, leading once again unto the Final Frontier… NUQNEH – NOOKNEHH! Phasers on summarize!
Previously, on Everything: Everything is the concept of all that exists. Every entity, physical body, and abstract object is part of everything. Everything is the opposite of nothing, though an alternative view considers “nothing” a part of everything.
New Avengers #55: The Hood’s gang and the New Avengers crack each others’ skulls, and the heroes barely escape with their lives. But, in a colossal show of bad form, they leave behind one of Tony Stark’s power-suppressors. The villains reverse engineer the machine, Captain America gets very irritated at having half a dozen people in his apartment ,(This is the story… of 11 strangers… picked to live in a house… and fight crime. The Real World – Avengers!) Peter Parker and Jessica Jones have a moment, and Clint Barton reveals his excellent plan: Kill Norman Osborn. Ummm… ‘Kay. Before the Avengers can hash it all out, though, they get a distress call that sends ‘em out into the streets, just in time to get their powers neutralized. The confusing part of the whole thing is that half these guys (Hawkeye, Mockingbird, NuCap) don’t even have powers to begin with. It’s a first chapter, and so it does what it does well, but I’d have liked more focus on the character moments and less lead-in to another high-concept six-issue arc. 2.5 stars.
Avengers: The Initiative #26: The New Avengers Resistance (the old New Warriors) go toe to toe with the U-Foes, now the official super-team of North Carolina. Norman Osborn also sets up the Force of Nature and Psionex as Initiative teams, and pulls out the Constrictor for a very calculated publicity stunt. Taskmaster and The Hood make an example of a minor thug named Vampiro (who I think is an Eternal?) and Night Thrasher clashes with Rage. Former Warrior Speedball (now the disco bondage freak called Penance) gets his already twisted mind twisted a bit further by Trauma, under Norman’s orders, and Butterball returns! Yay, Butterball! The whole think ends with a bit of turnabout by Tigra, who nabs a minor costumed jerk (one of the Brothers Grimm) and uses him to send a message to the Hood, beating Grimm on camera, much as the Hood tortured her months ago. All in all, it’s a strong issue from Christos Gage, and a long-overdue return to badassery from the legendary Were-Cat. 3.5 stars.
Blackest Night – Tales Of The Corps #1 (of 3): Here’s one that’s long overdue: A look at the state of the universe as we reach the brink of disaster. Ganthet, Sayd and the Blue Lantern Corps fight off an attack from Agent Orange, Saint Walker gets an origin story, we get an origin for Mongul (who most people forget is actually the SON of the Mongul who destroyed Coast City back in the day) and we get our first look at the Indigo Tribe, who my friend Jim remarked have an ODD sense of compassion. When a Green Lantern and a Sinestro Corpsman crash on their world, Indigo dispassionately takes out each of them by channeling their own energies against them. Both warriors are killed, and her tribe continues on their way. The art is well-handled, but ultimately there isn’t enough going on here to justify the cover price, offering little more than two flashbacks and a mysterious vignette for 4 bucks. 2 stars.
Captain Britain And MI:13 #15: The series that never seemed to get its feet beneath it goes out on its own veddy British terms, as Dracula’s plan goes awry, Captain Britain and Meggan are reunited, and MI:13 calls in the reserves, leading to the return of Dark Angel, Digitek, and even Death’s Head (who gets the line of the week with his quip, “Surprise appearance, yes?”) Blade stabs his erstwhile girlfriend’s son in the heart, Faiza outfences the Lord of the Vampires, and her father learns to accept a very British sense of compromise. We end with Blade and Spitfire back together, Meggan and Captain Britain flying off together, Faiza and the Black Knight together, and even Pet Wisdom driving off into the sunset. It’s a strong ending that makes me sad we couldn’t get another 10 issues out of this premise and the team. 3.5 stars.
Dark X-Men – The Beginning #2 (of 3): Another example of the new “Story Behind The Story” miniseries crossover, as we see Norman Osborn working his magic on Cloak and Dagger, convincing them to step up and join his new X-Men team (mostly because they have no choice.) Michael Pointer, Weapon Omega plays the Sentry (almost line for line, really) and drinks Norm’s Kool-Aid, but the real star of the issue for me is Daken. Far from buying whatever the heck Norman is selling, Daken plays along for his own purposes, refusing to let his hatred for his father color his actions. Not only that, Daken does something that very few people have done in recent months: Gets in the last word. “Enjoy the culture,” says Daken after correcting Norman in depth about the opera they’re watching. “I hear it’s what separates us from the savages.” That moment alone pushes this one higher than it probably would have been in and of itself, continuing a string of “Utopia” issues that hit the mark squarely. Who knew the X-Men could ever be really exciting again? 4 stars.
Dark Reign – Young Avengers #3 (of 5): I really don’t know what this series is all about, since we take a group of characters (the Young Avengers) that haven’t been in the spotlight for long enough that I almost forgot who some of them are, adds a SECOND team of teen heroes who share names with adult superhumans, and adds a skeevy giant neo-Nazi to the mix. The plot here has the Young Avengers interacting with and judging the new kids to see if they want to let them join, without realizing that they’re being played across the board. The kids make the entirely wise decision to reject Big Zero and Executioner, and Princess Python makes another guest appearance in which it becomes clear that the Executioner ain’t too bright. Too many characters, too much exposition, not enough payout. And how, exactly, does this have anything to do with Dark Reign? 1.5 stars.
Detective Comics #855: Batwoman continues to fascinate here, going toe to toe with Alice, who turns out to be barking mad. Being crazy don’t make her stupid, though, and she manages to poison Batwoman, who loses her wig in the escape, and proves she’s not nearly as faultless (and by extension, about twice as interesting) as Bruce Wayne has been in recent years. Going to ground, Batwoman ends up bringing Alice down on her father, along with a horde of monsters… As for the Question, she’s forced to punch her way through a horde of cannon-fodder to get more information on the missing Luisa, then uses subterfuge to sneak her way into the office of the man responsible before getting tasered. The good side of the new co-feature? Twice as many character slots to work with. The down side? Shorter stories, with TWO maddening cliffhangers per month. Still it’s a well-done issue, and the art is phenomenal on both halves of the book. 4 stars.
Final Crisis Aftermath – Dance #3 (of 6): Most Excellent Superbat and his team make their way to Dubai, where they find a neo-Nazi yuppie scum cult of unknown origin. Superbat continues to talk to ghosts who demand that he live up to her potential, and Atomic Lantern Boy meets a girl who looks just like his beloved Aquazon, while Aquazon macks on a kid who looks like HER crush Sonic Lightning Flash. Shy Crazy Lolita Canary gets the big moment, though, taking out the cultists in time for her team to fall apart due to multiple misunderstandings. Chris Cross does a good job on art, thought it’s somewhat hard to tell the real articles from the impersonators, and there’s not all that much in the way of plot here. Hopefully, this will allow the team to regroup and realize that heroism is more than a high Q rating. And if not, it’s still an interesting read. Has virtually nothing to do with Final Crisis, though. 3 stars.
glamourpuss #8: More fascinating analysis of classic art and the ridiculousness of women’s magazines in this issue, as we’re told a historical tale of how ‘Gone With The Wind’ writer Margaret Mitchell may have created the basics of a classic comic strip, while Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen look even creepier drawn by Dave Sim than they do in real life. The tone is arch and funny, the historical context is utterly riveting and the art is incredibly intricate and well-done. There’s a peculiar form of brilliance going on between these covers, not for the faint-hearted and certainly not for the casual superhero reader. If you’re a fan of Dave Sim’s, if you love comic strips and comics art, or if you’re just plain weird, this is definitely something worth picking up… (What’s most wonderful is the photorealistic representation of the dead-eyed models from Cosmopolitan and the other newsstand chick-lit publications, and the absolutely relentless skewering thereof…) 3 stars.
Guardians Of The Galaxy #16: Man, this book has a huge cast. Making things even more confusing is the appearance of the original Guardians of the Galaxy (Vance Astro, Yondu, Martinex and Charlie 27) whose far-flung future world is where our Guardians find themselves after trying to fix some sort of error in the timestream that causes their future to be endangered. Starhawk and Star-Lord bring their teams together to fight a Badoon invasion, but soon realize that they have no way home. Worse than that is the revelation that the universe is ending thanks to the present-day Guardians actions. They manage (just barely) to stop the destruction of the future, but in the end only end up destroying the entire timeline, and possibly themselves as well. The characters dominate this book, and Abnett and Lanning remind me why they worked so well on the Legion, handling a back-breaking character mix and space-faring adventure without ever letting us see ‘em sweat. 3.5 stars.
Hellblazer #257: John’s love potion does its job in spades, as his ex-girlfriend seems TOTALLY into him in ways that he never really considered (or, for that matter, really wanted.) Interacting with a demon dressed as a public school girl, Constantine tries hard to overcome his new addiction (to mystical skin… which is pretty much “ewww”) and gets totally busted by his girl and a handy dandy tox-screen. John admits his love for her, and she helps him to go cold turkey from magicskin, nursing him back to health, only to send him packing and get captured by demon girl. The art is weirdly engaging throughout the issue, and Peter Milligan does what Peter Milligan does best: makes your skin crawl in ways that you almost enjoy. It’s one of the most enjoyable arcs this book has had in several years… 3 stars.
Incredible Hercules #131: Hercules is forced to fight his own shade in the bowels of Hades (“Why do you persist in talking in old-timey Shakespeare talk? We’re from Greece… FROM TWO THOUSAND YEARS BEFORE SHAKESPEARE!”) while Amadeus Cho is reunited with his family, only to find that his baby sister ISN’T there, isn’t even dead at all. Through his own imperfect example, Herc manages to free Zeus, who wipes his own mind in the river Lethe and sent back to Earth as a mortal. The Terrific Twosome exit the afterlife, Amadeus makes an uncharacteristic attack on his friend “You’re a god. Quit blubbering and act like one.” He then walks away, hiding his own tears, for reasons unknown. It’s unclear to me WHY Cho is leaving, but it hits hard when he does, making me feel like MY best friend walked away from me. Very good work from Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, leading into next issue’s big Thor crossover thingy. 4 stars.
JSA Vs. Kobra – Engines Of Faith #2 (of 6): Power Girl and Mr. Terrific have another unpleasant conversation about the difference between superheroing and espionage, while Ariadne of the Kobra Cult makes her escape from Checkmate custody. The Justice Society traces her to Metropolis, and ends up at STAR Labs trying to figure out what would bring her to Superman’s hometown. They end up facing a horde of mind-controlled Kobra cultists and getting distracted from the real battle, allowing Ariadne to find their goal: the information on Lex Luthor’s superhuman creating “Everyman Project” from the long-lost days of 52. That oughtta go well. I’m glad that Eric Trautmann is able to continue the plot threads from the cancelled ‘Checkmate’ series, I just kinda wish that it had been in a more timely manner. Still, there’s enough going on here to keep me online and interested to see where this all ends up. 3 stars.
Justice League Of America #35: The new Justice League is long of awesome with Vixen, Firestorm, Doctor Light and a returning Red Tornado, but are surprised by the return of another alumnus: the ever-awesome pliable Plastic Man (who immediately has friction with Light, in some very well-handled characterization.) A new Royal Flush gang raises it’s ugly Kabuki painted faces, as the League experiences some growing pains, stepping all over one another to stop the villains. The Flushers turn out to be working for Amos Fortune, who is competing against crimelord Roulette in a living chess game. Roulette echoes the thoughts of many of the readers when she asks where Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are, but Fortune seemingly speaks for writer Len Wein when he says, “Luck of the draw, my dear. You’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt.” I like the personalities at play here, and Wein is an old favorite of mine, so I have high hopes for this arc, especially after the endless meandering Starbreaker saga of recent months. 3 stars.
The Last Days Of Animal Man #3 (of 6): Once again I started a series with high hopes and haven’t quite had them fulfilled, as Buddy Baker’s adventures in the not-so-distant future continue. His powers fading in and out, he checks in with his partners in the League of Titans (great name, that) who exhaust most, if not all, options to repower A-Man, including trying to use his kids DNA to reconstruct his biogenetic morpowhatsis. (Y’know, Green Ranger just asked Zordon nicely, and got to become the new White Ranger… Just a thought.) Prismatik and Bloodrage, the villains of the first couple issues, join forces in an ominous moment, and Buddy turns to Princess Koriandr for solace, only to end up making out like teenagers. Chris Batista is someone that I want to see on a regular monthly title, especially if he can keep up this level of excellence every 30 days, but the story has gotten a bit flabby in the middle for my tastes. Hopefully, Gerry Conway (another old-schooler back from wherever he’s gotten to) can pull off a boffo ending for all of this, maybe even tying into the contemporary timeline? 2 stars.
The Life And Times Of Savior 28 #4: Taken hostage last issue, Savior 28 is revealed to be not in the hands of his enemies, but his former teammates in the Superior Squad (isn’t that the group that Radioactive Man belongs to?) Tortured by his pals, Savior 28 tries to explain his new mindset, but they’re simply not buying it. He is then confronted by his former sidekick, The Daring Disciple (enjoying the biblical references, however thinly veiled they may be) who wants to know how he can consider it. Savior 28 is brought to the astonishing realization that he believes that people really CAN change, and the Disciple let’s him go. The superheroes having betrayed him, Savior makes his getaway with the help of two villains who spirit him away. We cut back to the present (all of this having taken place before 28’s assassination in the first issue) as the Daring Disciple considers that this is more than just Savior 28’s eulogy… It’s his own as well. JM DeMatteis is weaving a really fascinating tale here, and examination of superheroes in general, and the Superman archetype specifically with an eye towards the philosophical. It’s engaging and thought-provoking stuff. 3.5 stars.
No Hero #6 (of 7): Two words: Holy $&@ing $#!+. This issue starts with the newly minted Revere seemingly a patsy in the games of Carrick Masterton, and ends with not just a Vince McMahon twist to end all twists, but the most hilarious gross-out moment in perhaps all comic book history. The inner workings of the Front Line stand revealed, as Carrick explains that they are the secret masters of all reality, that they are rich, famous, unbelieveably powerful and their own biggest fans. Of course, even Carrick is surprised when the depths of Revere’s drug-induced (the FX-7 that gives them powers is a derivative of LSD, after all) new mind are laid bare. Carnage ensues, and the most likable characters in the book are killed (after first being revealed to be just as reprehensible as everyone else.) Warren Ellis breaks the urge to be a superhero down to its basest level here, but it makes perfect, horrible sense, and I couldn’t spoiler the simultaneous hilarious and horrifying ending, even if I could find the words to describe it. Just… read the thing. 4 stars.
Nova #27: The Human Rocket barrels helmet-first into a war zone to find his lost brother, only to get shot down by Blastaar of the Negative Zone, a former ally from the Annihilation Wars. Brother Robbie is forced to use every ounce of his Nova force and concentration to keep Strontian (Gladiator’s cousin, the Supergirl of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, very analogous to the Legion of Super-Heroes) down until the Cavalry arrives. Newly minted King Blastaar is willing to give Nova 15 minutes, but by the time he finds Robbie the ersatz Kara Zor-El has already taken down his brother. “How many MORE of you idiots have I got to kill?” she asks as Rich prepares to shove all the power of the Nova Prime right down her pointy-eared neck. Wait, how can her neck have… Nevermind. Suffice to say, he is going to punch her stridently, and at great length. A nice, tense story that reads fast and works well… 3.5 stars.
Power Girl #3: Captured, seemingly helpless, Power Girl utilizes one of the lesser known Kryptonian powers to escape, with her freeze breath creating a feedback through Ultra-Humanite’s equipment, and narrowly avoiding a brain transplant. She beats him down, and Ultra is doused in chemicals that mutate him into an even less human form. Pee Gee calls in her backup, her new gal pal Terra, and combines their tremendous powers to bring the island of Manhattan back down to Earth. Ultra is put under wraps quickly, and an exhausted Power Girl heads home to relax. Of course, that will be short-lived, as three alien party skanks are en route to Earth to use it as their latest hot spot (because the last one is nothing but cinders in airless space now. Uh oh…) Very well-drawn, if somewhat elementary in the plotting. Power Girl gets to be as clever and resourceful as her cousin, though, so that’s very nice. 3 stars.
The Red Circle – The Hangman #1: There’s a lot of familiarity in this issue, beginning with a Northern soldier in the Civil War, traveling through a deal with what may or may not be the devil, and crossing over into the present, as the now-immortal soldier has become a doctor, and tells his own story as fiction. Every night, he is possessed by the spirit of the Hangman, and fights crime. Elements of the Spectre, The Hulk, Johnny’s Blaze’s early Ghost Rider career, The Phantom and even the !mpact Comics version of another Red Circle character, The Black Hood, can be seen as influential on this one, and I don’t entirely know how I feel about that. The cover design is clean and looks pretty neat, but the interiors by Tom Derenick turn the Hangman into a hulking, stubbly Image Comics character circa 1993. The issue ends with a mysterious man being wheeled into the ER, leading into the second of the Red Circle one-shots. There’s potential here, but it feels a bit too quick, and more than a bit too familiar for my tastes. 1.5 stars.
Secret Warriors #6: I always say that I’ll give a new series six issues to bring me in for the long haul, and this one is the finishing touch for me. I’ve already had my issues with the non-use of the “caterpillars” that were introduced as the erstwhile focus of this book, as well as with the difficulty believing that SHIELD has always been a front for HYDRA (especially given the revelation some years ago that it was “always” a front for mysterious aliens from another planet that has now been completely retconned away.) Stonewall and Gorgon has an all-too-brief confrontation that could have made this work better for me, and the fight is cut short by strangeness as the villains take off for seemingly no reason at all, and we end with the revelation that the mysterious new Hydra girl in the Stryfe mask is actually Nick’s old flame the Contessa in disguise. Is she undercover or is she on the wrong side, now? It’s hard to tell, but we’ve seen six issues of feints and misdirection without getting much in the way of straight answers, which has brought me to the point where I’m going to be dropping the title from my list I don’t mind a book that doesn’t play fair with the answers, but you have to give us something to work with if the misinformation is to have any actual impact on the readers. 2.5 stars.
Teen Titans #73: Jailbreak! We open with a Wonder Girl/Miss Martian hug, as they attend the funeral of … someone. For the second straight issue, it’s not clear what’s going on here in the present, while in the past, Wonder Girl is trapped in a prison riot against some of the DCU’s nastiest nasties. Somewhere, the Calculator plots against the Titans in a strangely placed page, and then the team attacks (thanks to a a pep talk/come-to-Jesus rant from the new Aquagirl) and picks up Wonder Girl just in time to face the all-new Fearsome Five. Ravager’s co-feature puts Rose in a hospital bed, where she is given an ultimatum: no more epinephrine, or she will die. She ends up finding a good samaritan who wants to offer her a place to stay. A nice warm cabin that would be just perfect if it weren’t a huge honkin’ trap. Both stories were okay, but again, it’s seems as if they suffer somewhat from having to share space in the issue. 2 stars.
Thunderbolts #134: This issue heralds the return of the awesome team of Abe and Norbert, the Fixer and Mach IV of the old Thunderbolts team, as Songbird tracks down her old pals for help against Norman Osborn and the newbies who stole their team name. Mr. X beats the Headsman down with absolutely no effort at all, before the Black Widow shuts down their posturing, but not until after X steals one of Headsman’s favorite blades from him. With Abe and ‘Bert onboard, Songbird is one step closer to taking down the Thunderbolts, while Black Widow calls in to her real boss: Nick Fury. The team is sent after Songbird, and Black Widow is surprised to find that Scourge has been given field command, forcing her to break protocol and save Songbird herself, in the process revealing her identity: NATASHA ROMANOVA. It’s ironic really that this doesn’t help explain the story at all. See, Yelena Belova was just dead, Natasha has been on-panel in Captain America for the last several months, begging the question (once again) of when the hell this takes place in relation to the rest of the Marvel Universe. The reveals is intriguing, but the logistics of it all hurt my head and the overall story consistency. 3 stars.