Review: Rapid-Fire Reviews Battle Network 5 Operate Shooting Star!
Or – “Hey, Vent! You Ready To Move Out?”
When you read monthly comic books the way that I do, often times you get to the point where you feel like you know what’s coming, when every title feels like you’ve read it before. On the other hand, you have the odd experience where you read a title or issues that you KNOW you’ve read before, but you cannot for the life of you remember how it’s supposed to end. With over a hundred monthly titles coming out, sometimes you need to play catchup, you need to go where everybody knows your name to the land of the Rapid Fire Revieeeeewwww!
Previously, on Everything: It may seem paradoxical that two galaxies on opposite sides can be separated by 93 billion light years after only 13 billion years, since special relativity states that matter cannot be accelerated to exceed the speed of light in a localized region of space-time. However, according to general relativity, space can expand with no intrinsic limit on its rate; thus, two galaxies can separate more quickly than the speed of light if the space between them grows. According to the prevailing scientific model of the Universe, (known as the Big Bang) the Universe expanded from an extremely hot, dense phase called the Planck Epoch, in which all the matter and energy of the observable Universe was concentrated. Since the Planck Epoch, the Universe has been expanding to its present form, possibly with a brief period (less than 10ˆ’32 seconds) of cosmic inflation. Several independent experimental measurements support this theoretical expansion and, more generally, the Big Bang theory. Recent observations indicate that this expansion is accelerating because of the dark energy, and that most of the matter and energy in the Universe is fundamentally different from that observed on Earth and not directly observable. Sadly, the imprecision of current observations has hindered predictions of the ultimate fate of the Universe, but I predict there will be fountains of cheese as far as the eye can see…
New Avengers #57: Luke Cage’s Avengers and Norman Osborn’s Avengers have both been blindsided by the Hood’s group of four-time losers. Thanks to Jonas Harrow, the heroes are left depowered, until Iron Patriot makes a deal with the good doctor. The New Avengers’ fat is pulled outta the fire by Mockingbird (who HAS no powers to lose, though the same could be said for Ronin and Captain America, I thought) and they rush Luke to see the Night Nurse, as losing his abilities has left him with some sort of cardiac problem. Daken’s nose knows, unfortunately, and he tracks them as they go to ground. The team gets ambushed by the Dark Avengers, and Luke turns himself in, ostensibly because the bad guys can assist him. Before the former Power Man is in custody, though, he collapses in the street as we fade to black… The main thrust of the issue is on target, but it’s not nearly meaty enough for an entire issue all by itself. If this issue and the last were combined, I would probably have been considerably happier overall. There’s a cute moment where Spider-Man slaps Norman Osborn around, all the while saying that he wishes he were a better man so he wouldn’t enjoy it so much, but in the final analysis, there’s just not enough story to float the book. 2 stars.
Avengers – The Initiative #28: Now that the Initiative has been refitted to give new identities to old supervillains, the heroes of the various state-sponsored teams are having a hard time of it. Non-Stop (of Nevada’s Heavy Hitters) ends up being framed by her new partner Outback, aka Boomerang, for embezzling funds from the groups casino headquarters. Team leader Prodigy goes public with Boomer’s identity, and the whole team is forced to go on the run. Luckily for them, Tigra’s Avengers Resistance has been watching the entire newsfeed, and swoops in to save them all from the Dark Reign. Things get bad, Prodigy goes rogue, Night Thrasher takes a bullet in the head, and the entire Resistance is nearly compromised thanks to a wave of legally registered criminal $&*@heads. Debrii quits, and Trauma is having bad dreams about the moral ambiguity he’s chosen in order to keep the life he’s built for himself. His real father, the extradimensional demon known as Nightmare watches and laughs at his son’s discomfort, while Norman likewise enjoys reviving night Thrasher and showing him a clone of his dead brother, the first N.T. The little characters bits work better than the overall story (Butterball’s newfound fame brings a smile) but I’m still finding this book too scattered to be really enjoyable. 2.5 stars.
Booster Gold #24: Booster Gold and Skeets started out in interesting time-travel adventures, but the last few issues have been the equivalent of what Marvel’s ‘What If?’ comic became in the late 90’s: a trivia quiz. BG and his time-team save a really familiar (as in, I’m pretty sure we saw the same plot when Geoff Johns was writing the book) dystopian future from a menace from between the panels of New Teen Titans #2 from back in 1982, and all the character beats (Luthor working with the heroes, Green Arrow as last survivor, unexpected coupling of established characters) are familiar, and it’s all really a power grab by Black Beetle. In the much more satisfying Blue Beetle backup, Jaime and his friends and family go on a nature hike, and get ambushed by the aforementioned Black Beetle. He armors up, and they fight and fight, but a cheap shot at Jaime’s little sister by the Black Beetle causes our Blue Beetle to give in to his Scarab’s recent exhortations to respond with lethal force. The issue ends with a flipped out Jaime ready to rip out Blackie’s heart as his Scarab chants “KILL! KILL! KILL!” and the shrink tells them that they’re army material… The first half of the book is meh, the second half is shocking and well done, for a composite score of 3.5 stars.
Destroyer #5 (of 5): Keene Marlowe, the original Destroyer, has had a rough couple of days, with his daughter getting kidnapped, beating several of his old villains to death, and the impending threat of a catastrophic heart attack. That makes is doubly ironic (in the Alanis Morissette sense) when he dies in his sleep and heads into the afterlife. He is greeted by THREE skull-faced avatars of death, whom he quickly beats to death, or an approximation thereof. The last one accidentally threatens his family, and The Destroyer splatters his head across the pavement as well. He comes to, finding the paramedics in his bedroom, and tells his beloved wife that he’s back. His doctor confirms that his heart has improved, just a little bit, enough to where death isn’t an immediate inevitability anymore. His former partner, Turret, is now the new Destroyer, and his daughter grudgingly forgives him for keeping secret that her husband was really Turret. We end with Keene finally relaxing, enjoying his dotage with his wife and grandchildren, as the legacy of the Destroyer goes on. It’s a nice little end to a story that has been more about the man than the mask, and even though there probably won’t be any long-term consequences or Marvel Universe involvement, it’s enjoyable on it’s own merits. 3.5 stars.
Doom Patrol #2: Last issue was an interesting relaunch for the team, although it did have a little bit of the old Keith Giffen “I don’t wanna write this, let’s gun them down.” The Chief has questions, Veronica Cale and the crazies on Oolong Island are still walking loony tunes, a living Black Hole seems to have started taking over the minds of dozens of people. Elasti-Girl, Robotman and Negative Man get repeatedly shot, and the villain seems to be working for the greater good. The Metal Men co-feature is hysterical (the credits read “Keith Giffen thought up the plot, J.M. DeMatteis ignored it, and Kevin Maguire drew whatever he wanted”) as Gold and Platinum argue, Copper gets forgotten again, the satellite they’re trying to save gets destroyed, and basically all heck starts to break loose. At the end, a TV star who plays “Douglas, Robot Hunter” gets electrocuted and wakes up living the role. Both stories are kinda scattershot, but I enjoy the character interplay more than anything plot-related. The art on both features is pretty gorgeous, though, and the return of the Bwah-Ha-Ha team is nearly worth the price of admission all by itself. 3 stars.
Doctor Who #3: Lotsa continuity touches going on here, from the Shadow Proclamation putting the Doctor on trial, the Judoon keeping him in check, and Mister Finch of the Krillitane (from the episode ‘School Reunion’) as the prosecuting attorney. As with nearly every trial the Doctor has been involved in, it goes badly for him, with the JUDGE likening his actions to those of the Master, the Rani, and Morbius. “Utterly mad brain-in-a-goldfish-bowl Morbius?” cries an amazed Doctor at his accuser, but gets nothing in return. An assassination attempt on the Doc goes badly, and he is convicted and sent to prison. He is ordered to empty his pockets (which takes nearly a page unto itself) and put in a barge with an Ogron, a Sontaran and a Draconian, which he likens to the setup of a joke. When The Doctor introduces himself, one of his new companions grabs him and begins throttling the hell out of our hero. I suspect that next issue is going to be a Dirty Dozen-inspired “ragtag group of somethings” coming together to overcome their captors and find common ground thing, but as with everything Doctor-related, it’s all going to come down to the execution (no pun intended.) 3 stars.
Ex Machina #45: Mitch Hundred’s problems have been multiplying of late, and even his closest friends are acting at odds to his political goals. We start with a flashback of Mitch as The Great Machine delivering a baby in a stalled tram car, and cut to the present as Mitch tries to convince his chief of staff to run for his seat after he steps down. Dave and Mitch have a discussion about the morning-after pill, abortion, and “genital politics.” It’s a weird moment, followed by another weird moment as he meets with the Police Commissioner. She reminds him that she promised to take him down if he ever put on his costume again, but Mitchell distracts her by offering her the post of Homeland Security director. I don’t like the idea of the mayor lying as much as he does in this issue, and I really don’t like the actions of Suzanne Padilla. After an accident last issue left her possessed by an alien intelligence, Suzy shows up at the apartment of mayor’s intern January, beats the girl senseless and promises to kill everyone on the planet. This series is winding down, and the last couple of issues have felt a little bit padded, but this one manages to bring back the strange balance of real-world politics and super-hero conventions that brung it to the dance. 2.5 stars.
Final Crisis Aftermath – Dance #5 (of 6): The Super Young Team’s breakup last month is short-lived, as Most Excellent Superbat gets the band back together. Of course, they go on a talk show to talk about their return to action, and the spirit of Ultimon-Alpha puts in an appearance. This book has been an enjoyable mess for several issues, but this one finds a strange dichotomy in that having the heroes finally focusing on super-hero stuff takes a little bit of the fun out of it. The kids find that Sunfire Sunburst Rising Sun has been going wild in a not-yet-rebuilt-after-Final-Crisis Midway City, and arrive to try and take him down, but the wily veteran outsmarts them all (with the help of something riding shotgun in his brain.) Most Ex Bat finds out the truth: Rising Sun is possessed by MISTER MIND! The saddest part about the Final Crisis Aftermath series has been that even when they’ve been good, they’ve been pretty inessential, and that holds a bit true here, as well. Even with the coolness of the characters, Dance doesn’t quite put it all together in the end. 2 stars.
Green Lantern Corps #40: More dead folks from the far side of the Cadillac Desert arise, including Arisia’s lost parents, Kyle Rayner’s lost love Jade, and a horde of dead Green Lanterns. The Alpha Lanterns make a power play, trying to declare martial law on Oa, but get shut down with authority by Salakk, who gets his own major badass moment. “GET YOUR RED AND BLUE METAL ASSES OUT OF HERE AND DEFEND OA!” cries the six-armed Clarissi of the Corps before putting his Lanterns on a more stable war footing. Kyle Rayner has a wonderful moment of his own, letting Black Lantern Jade try to seduce him before telling her that the truth is, he knows she’s dead, and he just wants to destroy whomever is sullying her memory. Katma Tui rises, as does B’zzd, who very nearly takes out Guy Gardner by himself. The Lanterns are finally regrouping and responding to the cosmic threat, which I very much appreciate, even if the art here is (as it always is) pretty gruesome throughout. Kyle being forced to face the spectre of his legion of dead girlfriends is nicely handled, and Salakk taking command is a stand straight up and yell “Hell, yeah!” moment, old-school. The whole Blackest Night crossover has been nicely handled, and this issue is no exception. 3.5 stars.
House of Mystery #17: The inhabitants of the House continue their exile in the multiverse, and a cast member gets disemboweled on panel in the first two pages. We are treated to the story of the Poet, a very Vertigo story that takes place in an alternate Paris full of aliens, monsters, and bizarre circumstances. The dwindling cast of the House of Mystery tries to deal with their situation, mutual crushes, personal ephemera, and Harry (recently revealed to be nothing more than a personification of the house itself) continues to deteriorate. Instead of the usual “story within a story” method, Sturges and company intertwine their main plot with the Poet’s life story, ending with Poet leaping off the roof to his probable death. I have no idea what’s going on in this title anymore, and I hope that soon we’ll get past the interminable “space between” portion of the program. It’s a series that started with potential, and has found itself a victim of “Gilligan’s Island” syndrome, in a way, as we keep finding stranger and more esoteric ways of keeping the cast captive. 1.5 stars.
Hellblazer #258: John Constantine has been through some stuff in his life, from lung cancer to a complete loss of sanity to a friendship with a talking plant and back, so his series tends to be less predictable than many books. The latest arc, though, has shown the lengths to which he’ll go to keep a person he loves in his life, even stooping so low as to dose his girl with a love potion, which leads to her death in this issue. John continues his descent by mystically putting her body in stasis and making ANOTHER deal to try and get her back, digging up her corpse, and trying to raise her body. What he didn’t expect was to raise EVERY OTHER MEMBER of her family from the Avery family plot and getting yet another friend killed while STILL not bringing her back. The Phoebe storyline has cast John in a weird light as he struggles with his feelings and tries to make a woman love him. I don’t know if the whole overarching plot is working for me (especially when pal Chas tells John that he obviously loves her more than any other girl in the past, a total Mary Sue moment) but this issue is strong enough to earn 3.5 stars.
Incredible Hercules #135: Amadeus Cho has been captured by Pythagoras Dupree, the SIXTH smartest man in the world, and trapped in an illusiory world where he plays the role of the first man to call himself Mastermind Excello, taking on a mission to save Agent Sexton from the clutches of Hitler himself. The meta part comes when we see Pythagoras and Amadeus as children playing the Mastermind Excello role-playing-game (A shoutout to Rodrigo, perhaps?) and fighting the evil Doctor Japanazi. Amadeus’ character is killed, which should end his real existence, but he suddenly figures out the truth about the mythical “hypercomputer.” “You’re not trying to prevent me from FINDING [it,]” he suddenly realizes. “You’re trying to prevent me from realizing that that’s what I naturally am.” Agent Sexton arrives and helps him break free, remarking that he’s confident and heroic as opposed to his old arrogant, and Amadeus thinks of Hercules, saying he had a good teacher. As he comes back to reality, he even sees through Sexton’s facade, revealing her to be none other than Athena in disguise, indicating that she has been invested in his life for far longer than we suspected. A one-page epilogue shows May Parker of the FEAST organization coming to Herc’s crazy ex-wife Hebe with a proposition… It’s a very satisfying issue that makes Amadeus nearly as formidable as Hercules himself, and sets us up for their reunion in (I hope) the very near future… 4.5 stars.
Justice League of America #37: Superman and Wonder Woman again appear on the cover, but at least there’s a reason for it, as she-guest-stars, and he appears in flashback. That same flashback also explains why Vixen is so determined to keep the JLA working, as she promised Superman before he left for New Krypton that she wouldn’t let the fire die out. Plastic Man and Dr. Light make a fine team, Wonder Woman and Red Tornado crack skulls, and Firestorm and Vixen easily overcome Amos Fortune’s soldiers. The team even comes together at the end, in classic JLA fashion, to take the villains down together. Or try, as the baddies actually escape due to chicanery. Roulette delivers information to The Key, revealed to be working for a mysterious overlord, while Amos Fortune gets shot by a former lackey. Len Wein delivers a satisfying end to his arc, something that has been missing from a great many Justice League stories in this incarnation of the book. Next month’s debut of the Robinson/Bagley team should be interesting, but I hope it’s not another false start with big ideas that go nowhere. 3 stars.
The Life and Times of Savior 28 #5 (0f 5): The funeral of Savior 28 serves as the final statement on superheroics and politics, as Dennis McNulty (our narrator for the past four issues) tells of the last days of James Smith’s life. Working together with two of his greatest enemies, Savior 28 tries to build a better world, going before the United Nations to try and talk them into seeing things his way. It fails miserably (probably due to the super-criminals in full raiment standing on either side of him) and the spectre of his mental breakdown is brought forth to discredit him. We see how Dennis got the bullets that killed Savior (forged from the powerstone that gave him his abilities) and Savior 28 falls so far that he becomes nothing more than a punchline. That’s when we pick up the thread from the first issue, and see that the world declares sixty seconds of peace in Savior 28’s name, and Dennis takes the only way out that he can find. The epilogue brings it all home, though, and really shows what the what the series was all about from the beginning. It’s such a nice reveal that I refuse to spoiler it here, as J.M. DeMatteis hits all the right notes and really makes this book feel unique in a sea of costume heroic fiction. Nice work. 4 stars.
Marvel Comics Presents #175: Oddly, the book that seemingly was designed to showcase X-Men ends with nary a mutant insight. The anthology series ends on a weird note, with a futuristic “New Genix” series that starts with the stripped skull of Spider-Man and ends with a member having a hissy fit. Vengeance ends his battle with evil evangelists, and man is his design annoying and ugly The flip-side gives us the end of New Genix (a girl named Steel Raven shows up and single-handedly destroys the menace before the fadeout) and a Keith Giffen pencilled Lunatik story that’s just Lobo with different eye makeup. Honestly, the series lost it’s momentum right about the end of the Weapon X serial 100 or so issues ago, so it’s no surprise that this issue is the last. Still, there’s some interesting art and character design on display here, courtesy of Steve Lightle, and we may FINALLY be seeing the beginning of the end of the grim and gritty knockoff trend, as even a third-tier Ghost Rider and a dime-store Lobo couldn’t keep the speculators buying MCP long enough to hit 200. A weekly series is an achievement, and I can’t help but wonder what Keith Giffen might do with some high-level characters, and a whole universe to play with? I suppose we can only dream of that, though… 1.5 stars.
No Hero #7 (of 7): Last issue’s cliff-hanger was shocking in both the real sense and the comic book “look at THAT $#!+! sense, as new Front Line member Revere went gleefully insane, ripping out another man’s spine and using it as a substitute phallus. The last remaining superheroes are offed gruesomely (and he’s right, by the way, Smokestack Lightning and Fasthawk are terrible names) and Revere smashes his way to the citadel of Carrick Masterson. Turns out that the governments of the world haven’t been all that keen on a bunch of superheroes controlling world policy, and planted the new kid to trap Carrick in their web. The boy is technically a ward of the state, having been adopted at a young age by a serial killer who murdered his parents and kept him in a cage. Masterson is revealed to have taken the power enhancing FX7 drug himself, giving him the powers of immortality and invulnerability, but Revere gets around this by flying them both into space, where Masterson freezes solid and floats off and his own body bursts in a disgusting display of fluids. The final pages of the book reveal that all the powers of the world have made their moves in the absence of the Front Line, and war looms on all sides as the last two superhumans drift away into the atmosphere. It’s a powerful ending, albeit one with a sort of mixed message. Is the world better or worse off with heroes? Yes. Nicely done, but not for the squeamish. 3 stars.
Proof #23: The adventures of Proof in Victorian England conclude in this issue, as the final fate of Julia Pastrana and her son are revealed: stuffed and on display in a circus sideshow. Proof, then called Gulliver, is enraged, and gives up the only family that he’s known, while his “brother” Gilgamesh (who may be the same Sasquatch as the mysterious Mi Chen Po, but I’m not sure) takes out his revenge on Julia’s greed-fueled and short-sighted husband. The issue ends with Gilgamesh heading into the mountains and Proof into the woods, both fed up with life among the humans. At the end of the issue Proof even seems to be willing to once again consider romance, having finally come to terms with the spectre of Julia. It’s a very unusual issue of a very unusual series, and to quote Rodrigo: I liked it. The text piece at the end gives more detail into the life of the real Julia Pastrana, but the heart of this story isn’t that difficult to see. Proof’s unrequited love for a married woman evokes the best kind of parallel to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and Riley Rossmo’s art gets more complex and thought-provoking each issue. Very nice work. 4 stars.
Thunderbolts #135: The Black Widow has been on panel in Mighty Avengers, in Captain America, she has been all over the Marvel Universe is recent months, and was even captured by Norman Osborn’s goons an issue or two of Captain America:Reborn ago. Apparently, though, she’s also been masquerading as the SECOND Black Widow in the Thunderbolts. Presumably, she has developed Wolverine’s mutant power to be in five or six places at once, so long as there’s money in it. Natasha’s cover is blown here, however, and she hooks up with Melissa Gold, Songbird before going to ground with Nick Fury. This causes not only her own capture, but the capture of Songbird and Nick as well, leaving the former head of SHIELD in the hands of the current head of HAMMER, and Osborn’s trained pack of killers ready to take out Fury and company. The story ends with Norm placing a gun to Nick Fury’s head. “You’d better not miss,” growls the Colonel, and Ozzie obliges, putting three bullets in Nick’s head. No matter how gasp-inducing the last pages are, I cannot wrap my head around the premise of the book, and this one goes to pieces because of it. Star turns from the new Scourge and from Wolverine baddie Mr. X can’t save this one from a terminal case of “WTF?” 1.5 stars.
Uncanny X-Men #515: So, they’ve raised an island, and seceded from San Francisco, and they’ve moved a couple hundred Mutants out to their atoll. What now? There’s an interesting bit of business at the beginning of the issue with a few previously unknown (to me, at least) mutants that’s only slightly marred by the ever-present Greg Land pornface syndrome, and the first day of Utopia is likewise colored by the death of Dr. Takiguchi of the Beast’s science squad (who I remember from his days in the “Godzilla – King of the Monsters.”) Namor questions Cyclops’ plan, Cyclops meets with the mayor and admits to not HAVING a plan, The Beast holds a funeral, and Emma Frost has problems dealing with a piece of the Void trapped in her brain after dealing with The Sentry last issue. During my review of last issue, I opined that the writers were asking a lot of questions not dealt with, and they admit it here. The issue ends with an old friend arriving to reclaim his property. (Yes, it’s Magneto. Stop badgering me!) It’s an interesting issue overall, with the most promising bits coming in discussion between Cyclops and Professor X and in the acclimation of Namor to the mutant side of the Marvel Universe. 3 stars.