Review: Rapid-Fire Reviews – Stale Chocolate Edition!
Or – “I Decided To Trick Or Treat With My Kid Instead… Sorry.”
The MUSIC MEEEISSSSTERRRR! Sing the song that the world wants to heeeear! Man, I’ve had that stuck in my head for WEEKS, now. This particular RFR was meant to go up last week, just in time for the annual festival of half-price chocolate, but various things conspired to keep me from completing it until today. For those of you who can’t get enough comic review goodness, I’ve got the cowbell to slake your fever, and it’s time to ask ourselves, baby, what’s the word? In the words of the great philosopher Aloysius Bundy: “Let’s ROCK.”
Previously, on Everything: The conclusion of The War Games sees the capture of the Second Doctor by his people, the Time Lords, who put him on trial for interfering with the universe contrary to Time Lord policy. The Time Lords return his companions Jamie and Zoe to their own times and wipe their memories of their experiences with the Doctor bar their first adventure with him. They then sentence the Doctor to exile on Earth, as well as forcing him to regenerate. The first part of Spearhead from Space follows on from this, introducing the Third Doctor, who does not actually appear on screen at the end of The War Games, one of only two occasions (the other being the regeneration of the Eighth Doctor into the Ninth) that a regeneration has not been shown to completion on screen in one form or another. Patrick Troughton reprised his role as the Second Doctor in the anniversary stories The Three Doctors (1973) and The Five Doctors (1983). In the latter story, illusions of Jamie and Zoe are dismissed because the Second Doctor knows that the Time Lords wiped their memories and therefore Jamie should not have recognised Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. However, it is not explained how the Second Doctor could know of Jamie and Zoe’s memory wipe, since he was told of it only just before his forced regeneration and exile, and consequently there does not seem to be any time to fit in the events of The Five Doctors between his trial and Spearhead from Space. Conversely, if this Second Doctor came from a time before The War Games he would have had no knowledge of the memory wipe because, from his perspective it had yet to happen…
Ambush Bug – Year None #7 (of 6): No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. It’s been over a year since issue #5 of this series came out, and issue #6 (whatever it was) is apparently staying in DC’s vaults. Whether it was Dan Didio bashing, or just not very good, we get this wrap-up issue to close the books. We start with a page that purports to explains what happened to the missing issue, then leap right into things with a strange detective seeking out the missing Bug. Jonni DC is now a Black Lantern, and is no help at all, and much lampoonery of DC, the comics industry, big crossovers and Dan Didio ensue, some of it pointless, some of it merciless. There’s even a Twinkie ad parody, which makes me wonder how many of today’s readers even know what the hell they’re talking about. The kicker comes when Dan and Ambush Bug battle over possession of the most powerful relic in the world (the Editor’s blue pencil) and both of them are erased from the continuity. At the end of the issue, Ambush walks away into nothingness, opining that he’s better off not being a part of the DC Universe any more, and that the killing and maiming can go on without him. I can’t help but think it’s a meta-statement for Giffen’s thoughts on the current status, but that’s just me. In a word: Piquant. 2.5 stars.
Astro City – Astra Special #2 (of 2): Last time around, Astra Furst graduated college, became a queen, got chased by tabloids, and took her boyfriend home to meet the family. It went about as well as you expected that it might, with Matt alternately starstruck and horrified by what her life is really like. Astra and her beau travel into space to view something called “The Gordian Knot,” which consists of millions of universes all agglomerated together, existing in a strange quantum state of intermingling, thanks to Astra and her powers. Boyfriend is again goggle-eyed to see what’s really going on with his lady, and they end up on a planet where Astra is a revered mythological figure, the girl who saved the universe. They go flying together at an amusement park (wearing winged harnesses) and boyfriend creeps Astra AND me out by suggesting that they have sex in the flight vortex. Astra finally blows her cover, snapping at him and telling him that she KNOWS he’s working for one of the tabloids, selling her life a piece at a time. He was even willing to record her having sex with him for a cool million bucks. To her credit, she doesn’t par-boil him in his shoes, and he swears to not sell the information that he gathered. He lies, of course, and an embarrassed and angry Astra decides to take a job in the Gordian Knot, helping to reclaim more lost universes, and basically moving on with her life. In a word: Cathartic. 3 stars.
New Avengers #58: If any title has suffered during the Dark Reign, this book can run rings around it. From a long and involved Hood-worshiping arc that should have been about Doctor Strange to the endless use of a bunch of identifiable villains as an indistinguishable mass in place of giving them character, New Avengers has become more and more difficult to read each issue. Last time, Luke Cage had a heart attack, and the rest of the New Avengers went on the run from Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers, leading to Iron Patriot chasing down Ms. Marvel. Abandoning his team to try and make the big score, Norm gets nothing but a punch in the face and some harsh words from Carol about how she could have killed him. The Dark Avengers break into the Night Nurse’s office, to find her lounging about in a dress so short Jenna Jameson would blush, denying that she ever heard of the Avengers. There’s some fighty fighty in the sewers, Bucky shoots Ares RIGHTINNAFACE, and Jessica Jones blows a serious gasket to learn that her man is in custody. With the help of Jonas Harrow’s power drainer, Luke manages to get the surgery that he needs, while Norman watches and smirks. Ten bucks says there’s a bomb in Power Man’s chest when he wakes up. If the last four issues of this book were a two-parter, it’d be taut and suspenseful, but this feels bloated and streeeeeetchy. In a word: Unsatisfying. 1.5 stars.
Mighty Avengers #30: There was a time when Mighty Avengers was Tony Stark’s ideal government-sanctioned superteam, the defenders of the Republic while the Hippie Avengers hid out in Iron Fist’s apartment. Now, Mighty Avengers is led by Henry Pym, and like Hank, it’s inconsistent and has more backstory than the Buffy/Stargate/THUNDER Agents crossover fan fiction. The New Wasp grows up into the Macroverse, only to have a face to face chat with Eternity (of Doctor Strange fame) who tells him that he loves him and wants him to be a pro-golfer. No, wait, sorry, that’s what God told Johnny Caravella. No, Eternity tells Hank that he is the Scientist Supreme of universe, and punches him out, which I am taking as a shout-out to Major Spoilers’ favorite game show, CRAP! ON! YELLOWJACKET!!! While an all-star Avengers team (Young, Mighty, New and Initiative) comes together to fight off the menace of The Unspoken, former king of the Inhumans. Spider-Woman and Justice are turned into Alpha Primitives, and there is much fighty-fighty to be had. Hank arrives back from his trip to Valhalla in time to step in and go all John Wayne. When asked where he’s going, Hank grabs a giant science gun and drawls, “To save everything.” I want to love Slott, I want to love Pym, but there’s an element of Mary Sue to the new Wasp that bugs me. In a word: Scattered. 2 stars.
Avengers – The Initiative #29: Speaking of suffering during Dark Reign, d’ja ever wonder what happened to our pal Robbie Baldwin, aka Speedball aka Penance? You’re not alone. While Norman Osborn taunts the new Night Thrasher with a clone of his lost brother Dwayne, Tigra goes hardcore on the man called Razor-Fis (who appparently sleeps in a full mask and leather gimp suit. Go figger.) She beats the bajeezus out of him, in revenge for a similar beatdown she took months ago in New Avengers, and is suddenly interrupted by Komodo, who wants to join her resistance team. Robbie Baldwin continues his therapy sessions with Trauma, who continues Norman Osborn’s schedule of ritual abuse and denial of identity until he finally can’t stand to torture the poor crazy boy any longer. He confronts the Hood, who tries to kill him, but can’t since he’s an impotent joke of a character, even with his two big phallic handguns. Taskmaster wisely steps in and keep them from killing each other (but only because he wants to keep the paychecks comin’.) The Constrictor deals with fame and hero worship, Diamondback makes out with him (she has a history of kissing men in blue cowls, after all) and Penance gets a therapy kitten, whom he names Neils (making it clear that not all his memories are gone.) Night Thrasher betrays his teammates, and Penance ends up fighting his former New Warrior pals, while Trauma is possessed by his father, the demon called Nightmare. At least ONE of the Avengers titles delivered this month. In a word: Intriguing. 3.5 stars.
Booster Gold #25: The last several issues of Booster Gold have been odd ones, taking place as they do in between panels of Teen Titans #2 from 1984, and positing that the death of Robin leads to the end of the world as it denies history a new Batman. (Even in alternate realities, the DCU would fall apart without a caped crusader, apparently.) Booster faces Dick and Damian in the Bat-cave, and one of the most annoying pieces of dialogue in comics history makes a return as Batman says of Booster, “He’s Justice League.” (This meaningless trifle of movie tough-guy BS was the calling card of Ray Palmer, the Atom, when he led the Teen Titans back in the days right after Zero Hour, also written by Dan Jurgens, and it makes me want to hurl whenever I hear it.) Booster reveals that he has played tourist through time, claims he knows the secrets of the Kennedy Assassination, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the Titanic, even who the model for the Mona Lisa is. It’s a self-serving piece of trite dialogue that ends with him taking Batman back to see his lost parents one final time. In the second tale, Blue Beetle fights Black Beetle, and claims to be Jaime Reyes himself form the future. Jaime doesn’t believe him, and cuts the fight short to save his sister, wondering all the time what would have happened had he succumbed to his urge to kill Black Beetle. The second story works better than the first for me. In a word: Conflicted. 2 stars.
Buck Rogers #5: Hey, waitaminnut. This guy doesn’t look ANYTHING like Gil Gerard. This issue got the nod for a beautiful John Cassaday cover, but the interiors look entirely different. Carlos Rafael doesn’t do bad work, though, even if nobody can replicate Alex Ross designs except Alex Ross. Buck and Wilma and the Galactic Patrol face down an alien (?) menace called ‘The Pack,’ in orbit around Venus, and Rogers ends up leading the charge to save the innocents. Princess Ardala shows up, and as always, quickly ends up half-naked. Wilma and Buck share a moment, and the leader of the invincible alien force is revealed to be… a rat? Heh. Buck ends up sabotaging the ship, evacuating the survivors, but also saving Ardala, many animals who are prisoner in The Pack’s hold as well as some of the genetically engineered monsters that the aggressors use to do their fighting. “I can explain…” says Buck with a smile. It’s a little weird for me, especially since friends of mine have been watching the 1979 Buck Rogers episodes on DVD lately, but it’s a good story, not mired in endless loops of continuity or tied into an endless crossover involving zombies or corduroy hair. In a word: Spacey. 3.5 stars.
Captain Action #3.5: This issue is a fascinating one, as the editorial team behind Cap’s new book have chosen to go back and REDO the story from Captain Action #3 several months ago in order to fit into the new direction for the company and characters. I only jumped onboard Captain Action because of my love for the old Shooter/Kane/et al version of the book that came out from DC in 1968, but this is a pretty effective use of a classic character, even tying in some of the continuity from that first series. The issue ends with the original Captain Action back from the seemingly dead, and sets up the coming Season 2 of Moonstone’s C.A. title. I have to admit, it takes some stones to call a redo on an entire comic book, but I’ll be darned if it doesn’t work out in the end. There’s even time for some ‘Who’s Who’ profiles of the various evil superhumans who appear in the book, something I appreciate greatly. Given a book where the Superman character strongly resembles Bob Denver as Maynard G. Krebs, I’m quite pleased to be entertained and engaged. It even gives a more modern (“realistic,” though I’m not sure it’s any closer to reality) take on spycraft which is quite fun. In a word: Surprising. 3.5 stars.
Doctor Voodoo – Avenger of the Supernatural #2: While I gave a positive review to issue #1 of this new series, there have been some dissenting voices and opinions about Jericho Drumm’s new series and role. We open this issue seconds after the end of last ish, with Doctor Voodoo stranded in an alternate reality courtesy of Victor Von Doom. After getting whupped like the proverbial red-headed stepchild last time around, he continues getting beat down this time, running from demon frogs through a dreamscape that includes flashbacks to his own youth in Haiti. We see him protecting his brother, only to get a curse from someone who may or may not be a zombie himself. Doctor Voodoo finally makes it back home (as the evil demon Nightmare watches and savors his pain) to find that he’s been gone for WEEKS, that monsters have overwhelmed New Orleans, help is not coming, and brother Daniel has already put together the solution to the problem. Daimon Hellstrom arrives in time to tell the brothers Voodoo that his dad (Could it be… SATAAAAAN?) is behind their woes. Unfortunately, though, the Son of Satan has been possessed, allowing Nightmare to steal Doctor Voodoo’s staff of Legba and invade our reality. That’s two Nightmare appearances in as many weeks, by the by. This feels more like issue #17 than it does issue #2, throwing our hero into danger without a lot of context after only a perfunctory introduction to his new home and modus operandi in the premiere. I need more context than this before I can seriously love Jericho’s adventure. In a word: Disappointing. 2 stars.
Dark Wolverine #78: Several faithful Spoilerites have been flowing with praise for Daken’s starring role in Daddy’s old book (which, if nothing else, means one less gratuitous Logan appearance per month) and so I picked up this issue on a wild hair. The first misstep comes with the Greg Land (TOO… MUCH… PORNFACE!) cover, a second comes when the interior art is trying it’s very best to look just like Leinil Yu, right down to his trademark scratchy blood-red eye closeups. A viral video of Daken slaughtering someone in front of an old woman and her grandson puts Norman Osborn on spin control. He all-too-quickly discovers the source of the leak, a woman who (inexplicably) is trying on lingerie when she finds out that she’s going to be arrested by HAMMER, causing her to spend three pages sprinting in a stolen lacy bra and panties and eventually committing suicide. Norman’s response to Daken frightening an old woman is to mount an operation that ends up killing a dozen people, freeing Moses Magnum from prison (?) showcasing a white supremacist who calls himself Aryan, who is mercifully killed on panel. Magnum teams up with Cutthroat from old issues of Captain America, a freak called the Inquisitor and a weapons expert named Emily to do… something, but are startled at the end to find Logan Daken showing up to kill them. It’s all very cloak and dagger (No, not the X-Men) and incoherent, and sadly confirms my hypothesis that Daken is just Wolverine turned up to eleven. In a word: Huh? 1 star.
Doom Patrol #3: So, Larry, Cliff and Rita are back from the dead, and once again working for the Chief as his Doom Patrol. Some sort of living collapsar has made it’s way to Earth and is possessing various people on Oolong Island. The DP shows off some new tricks (Cliff has wireless internet in his brain) while the Chief forces Steve Dayton (codename: Mento, the Freshmaker) into doing his bidding, telepathically. The Black Hole Zombies realize that the team doesn’t have their best interests in mind, and telekinetically rips them apart, until Mento possesses Elasti-Woman and forces her to grow big enough to block the thing’s transmissions to it’s drones. The Chief parlays with them, while Rita realizes that her stalker ex-husband has been psychically tracking her, and she is NOT happy. In the Metal Men backup feature, Copper wakes up to find that she’s been abandoned by her peers (the running gag being that she’s boring and forgettable) and discovers that their next door neighbor is a TV star who believes that he truly is Douglas, Robot Fighter. Before anything happens, though, she scares him off, the other Metal Men return from the DMV (where Tin was trying to get a license (?!?) to drive) and wackiness ensues. Once again, the dual format does weird things, but both stories overcome the limitations of their packaging to give us a bit of fun. In a word: Bwah-ha-ha-HA!. 4 stars.
Ex Machina #46: Mayor Mitchell Hundred gets shot (in a flashback) and uses his mysterious green and purple frap-gun for the first time, chronologically speaking. Rather than “zorching” his quarry, it seems to open a portal to another dimension, causing the loony that he’s chasing to surrender. Flash forward to Mayor Hundred working on a controversial program to give out emergency contraception to New Yorkers, and having trouble balancing party lines and rhetoric with his need to make a difference. His intern, January, has been conscripted by Suzanne Padilla, a reporter who has been possessed by similar alien forces as Mitchell, to steal his frap-gun. Problem is, she got the WRONG frap-gun, as this one really is just a big ol’ taser. The issue ends with Mitch and Suzanne coming face to face, realizing that their powers don’t work on one another, and the reporter throwing the Mayor in the East River. We end with Hundred’s former friend Kremlin showing up at Mother Hundred’s doorstep, frantic that Suzanne and January have gone off the grid, only to find that she has a little something for protecting her home: the Macguffin Great Machine’s missing frap-gun. This series is always thought-provoking, but when it lulls, it really lulls hard. Mitch’s political stance is interesting, but for some reason, this issue doesn’t quite pull off it’s aim. In a word: Wordy. 2 stars.
Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #6 (of 6): Tom Tresser has found the center of the shrubbery maze, saved Number Six from death, and spent several months mapping out all of Electric City, save for a tiny area where the cameras apparently don’t reach. Making his way to the hidden part of the city, he finds Brother Eye, the head of the Global Peace Agency and the power behind OMAC (old-school, not translucent robot style.) Buddy Blank doesn’t really react well to the ol’ psychic one-two punch, and OMAC has an existential moment of his own before Tresser finds his way to the center of it all and sees Number One, metaphorically speaking: The Miracle Machine. Having seen the face of reality (and, oddly, finding it not to be a monkey in a hood) Tresser passes out and wakes up to find the Global Peace Agent who has been following him in his room. She unmasks to reveal the face of Cameron Chase, and explains that they want him to join the GPA. She smiles in a soothing manner, and tells him to close his eyes, as we fade to black. When something is meant to be mysterious, sometimes it ends up being just annoying, an this series comes close. I have a sneaking suspicion that the writers were working from a Grant Morrison plot that was designed to tie all the DCU’s sneaky types into one big world that references the Prisoner, Neil Gaiman’s Miracleman and James Bond in a big melange of seven-layer reference dip, but succeeded only in the melange part. At least it was a nice star turn for Nemesis. In a word: Trippy. 2.5 stars.
Final Crisis Aftermath – Dance #6 (0f 6): The Super Young Team’s role as a new version of the Jack Kirby-created Forever People is a strange and fascinating one, and very fitting, as none of the Forever People’s adventures really made all that much sense, either. Last issue ended with the team reuniting and the revelation that Rising Sun was possessed by none other than Mr. Mind. Now, the heroes face one of THEIR heroes in the ruins of what was once Midway City, home of Hawkman. The team uses their powers and acts heroically for once, with Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash and Big Atomic Lantern Boy handling the fighty-fighty, while Most Excellent Super-Bat, Shiny Happy Aquazon and Shy Crazy Lolita Canary shrink down and invade the mind of Rising Sun. They punch out the bug in the middle of his medulla oblongata, save the day, and barely escape death in the atomic fires of Rising Sun’s dying body. The secret crisis in Japan turns out to be nothing more than fear and xenophobia, and the kids return home to fight the good fight against giant monsters and such. “Super Young Team! Suspension of disbelief: OFF!” Another title that just REEKS of Morrison, at least ‘Dance’ manages to say something fun about superheroics, even if it’s not really something new. This book worked better for me because of Chris Cross’ art, and because the characters are so over-the-top that even THEY’RE in on the joke. In a word: Metatextual. 3 stars.
Flash Gordon #6: Hey, there’s no way I could say “Biddy biddy biddy, hey Buck!” without making sure to give a little love to the OTHER classic space ranger of comic strips gone by, can I? Stephen will probably give me heck about how late I am to this party, but it’s for the sake of journalistic balance. We open with a familiar moment, as Mingo City is under attack and all heck is breaking loose, thanks to the intervention of an alien called Flash (Ahhh-AHHHH!) The art looks remarkably like the work of J. Scott Campbell (in a good way) as Flash Gordon, who is apparently a CIA agent, and his partner Dale Arden, who is a half-dressed uber-hottie, turn the indigenous peoples against their dictator. Even Prince Baran of the Tree Men arrives, and Flash and Ming end up going hand-to-hand, Vultan leads the Hawkmen and eventually the merciless monster is overthrown. The team of Gordon and Arden end up partying with the Hawkmen, and we get a setup for a new Flash Gordon miniseries later this year. I have to say, I found this issue surprisingly good, even without the music of Queen, and I’d be willing to come back for the next mini from Ardden Entertainment. In a word: Ahh-AHHHH! 3 stars.
Green Lantern Corps #41: Dead Green Lanterns arrive from all quarters, and Iolande and Soranik Natu are quickly overrun by corpses with rings. Iolande quickly evacuates all the injured Lanterns to Mogo, while Soranik helps Kyle Rayner to fight off the Black Lantern perversion of his dead girlfriend, Jade. Arisia fights off the reanimated bodies of her dead family, while Kilowog leads the Lanterns in battle before getting broadsided by HIS drill sergeant, Black Lantern Ermey. Just when things look bleakest, things get even worse, as the dead children of Green Lanterns that were taken by Kryb come back from the dead. We end with a standoff, an Indigo Lantern in the house, and one of the most obvious editorial gaffes in recent history. A disgusting creature is “vile,” folks. A “vial” is where ya keep your heart medicine. That makes me angry. This book is all over the place this issue, and serves as little more than a series of vignettes to deepen the drama of the ongoing crossover, keeping things moving while the leaders of the various factions prepare to bring their color spectrums together to form the Ultra-Megazord Lantern. As placeholders go, it’s stylish and kinda creepy, and it’s good to see Kyle with a place in the universe. In a word: Braaaains. 2 stars.
Guardians of the Galaxy #19: Time, space and dimension have bent for the Guardians of the Galaxy, and they’ve finally found the source of the troubles: their partner Adam Warlock has gone around the bend and turned into the horrific Magus, leadin the Universal Church of Truth in their march across the galaxy. Their savior comes from a strange quarter in the form of Kang, the Conqueror who has some words for him: “You will come with me if you wish to survive this.” Heh. The Guardians are returned to their normal temporal states in Kang’s limbo (including a rather embarrassing moment for Mantis, whose clothes fell off when she turned into a baby.) Kang explains the rules of the game: Stop Adam the Magus before the belief engines of the Universal Church destroy them all. The teams return to the point from whence they came, moments before the Martyr tried to kill him in a previous issue. Star-Lord tries to talk Warlock out of destroying everything that is, and he easily dispatches them all, killing Martyr, Gamora, and Major Victory before Star-Lord overpowers Warlock and shoots him in the head. The remaining Guardians return home to Moondragon, whose telepathy has already told her the tragic events, including the death of her lover. It’s a very powerful, very moving end to it all, and leaves half the team in body bags. Finally, a Marvel book that doesn’t make me feel snarky and mean. In a word: Poignant. 4 stars.
Haunt #2: So, Robert Kirkman has been the big thing at Image for the last couple of years, and he challenged Todd McFarlane to come back to comics and create a title with him. This issue gives us the story of Father Daniel Kilgore (!) whose brother was apparently a super-spy for the government, and is now dead. I presume that this is covered in the first issue, but there’s no context at all here. They bond into a creature called Haunt, whom everyone has already observed looks very reminiscent of Spider-Man, right down the to the patterns formed by the dark and light portions of his costume approximating the red to blue patterns on Spidey’s. They leap out a window, kill some people, leap around like Spider-Man, shoot ectoplasm that seems pretty much to be webbing, and then they have to deal with murdering six people. Daniel calls “a cleaner” to pick up the bodies, and Father Daniel heads to his parish to try and get his life back. Of course, there’s more murder, a bad guy named Cobra, and a super secret underground government spy organization who want to talk to Kilgore as we fade to black. Ryan Ottley’s work is visible throughout, though the inking (McFarlane’s?) does it not justice. There are parts of the story here that might be interesting, but what we break down to is Brother Voodoo’s dead brother schtick, Spider-Man’s look and moves, a reprise of Invincible’s super-spy boss, and not a whole lot of clarity. In a word: Derivative. 1.5 stars.
Justice Society of America #32: It’s a locked room murder mystery, as The Flash, Power Girl, and Mr. America act like detectives, the villainous forces return and Alan Scott and Doctor Fate magically preserve Mr. Terrific’s body. Magog continues to buck the wisdom of the elder JSAers, and suspicions turn towards new kid King Chimaera. The team splinters as accusations and recriminations fly, and the bad stuff only ends when the coalition of super-villains arrives and starts smashing their way into the JSA brownstone. We end with Power Girl leaping into action, and a mysterious voice-over revealing that this is “the attack that killed the team… the final straw that broke the JSA for good.” Willingham delivers on a gripping suspense tale, but is undermined by the mighty powers of the Justice Society. The Magog worship is absolutely anathema to me, so I can’t get behind the apprehension that we’re going to see him leading the new JSA All-Stars team as ‘Force Works’ in the DC Universe… Either way, I’m hoping for a happy ending for Mr. Terrific, and still unsure of what this is all about. But this time, it’s kind of in a good way. In a word: Curious. 3 stars.
The Boys: Herogasm #6 (0f 6): This series is incredibly fragmented right now, with the first couple of issues seemingly a celebration of hedonism and the disgusting things that you could do sexually with super-powers, while the second half of the series shapes up to be a political thriller. The Boys finally see some action, against corrupt Secret Service agents, while the heroes split up and head back to their various homes. Homelander rages, The Female rips the engines off a plane in flight (“THERE’S SOMETHING ON THE WING!!!”) and a heroic Secret Service agent gets killed in action. We end with Mother’s Milk and Hughie taking his body home, and MM pointing out that a flag is a symbol, and not a cause unto itself. “More you wave it,” he observes, “less you think about what it means. Start wrappin’ $#!+ up in it, wear it like some kinda $@&$# suit?… It don’t mean nothin’ at all.” Other than avoiding scheduling issues, I can’t imagine why this couldn’t have been told as part and parcel of The Boys’ home title. It’s a weird ending to a weird series, but it at least gives us somethin’ other than misshapen monsters fornicating on panel to think about. In a word: Unusual. 2.5 stars.
Marvel Divas #4 (of 4): This book has also been weirdly schizophrenic, going from the fun-loving adventures of four gal pals in the city, and the life and death struggle of Firestar against breast cancer caused by her own powers. The good thing that it does is strengthen the connects of the heroes of the Marvel Universe, from the opening sequence of Danny Rand’s zen yoga class (filled with the superheroine elite) to the return of Hellcat’s ex-husband the Son of Stan. (I like that Daimon and Brother/Doctor Voodoo are both here and in D.V.’s own book shown to be wary associates, at best, with friend of a friend connections.) Monica Rambeau visits Brother Voodoo for pointers on how to follow Hellcat to Hell, and end up teleporting themselves into a tense moment, as Daimon ties Patsy to a chair and forces her to explain… why she left him out of her book. The other Divas arrive, just in time for Daimon to throw a tantrum, and Patsy to buy their way out of hell by promising two chapters in the paperback version of her story admitting that she’s still not completely over him. His pride assuaged, Daimon agrees to send them home, but warns that the help he gave Firestar will be reversed, and she’ll have to take her own chances against her cancer. Before anyone can speak, Firestar agrees, and they head for home. Happy endings for all, as Felicia gets her detective agency, Angelica gets a clean bill of health, and ends with a shot at the name of the book. Nice work overall, and an enjoyable, if inconsistent ride. In a word: Sassy. 4 stars.
Mayhem! #3 (of 3): Celebrity-written comics can be a real minefield to deal with, and Mayhem! is no exception, reminding me strongly of the first expansion wave of Image Comics, when everybody’s name was a synonym for ‘fight’ and we all had belt pouches enough to store walnuts for every squirrel that ever lived. We open with our hero in action, racing across town on a motorcycle through a gauntlet of villains. The art is okay, nothing spectacular, and the save is made by a sexy girl, obviously our hero’s love interest, or potential love interest. While she fights a girl who looks like a lost Crazy 88, he fights his way through a series of action movie rejects, including a four-armed Jason Voorhies looking wacko, and Baron Samedi from whichever James Bond movie that was. The action moves well, there are some nice “tough guy” dialogue and moments within, but all in all, it feels like a backdoor script for a big action movie. We end with our hero and the girlfriend killing the big bad (who looks remarkably like Robert Culp) with simultaneous shots innaface. Mayhem! and his girl escape into the night, and the book’s last words are “Not The End.” It’s riddled with cliches, but adequately drawn, and not nearly the disaster that a mean little part of me thought it could have been. In a word: Stunt-casted. 2 stars.
Nova #31: So, Rich Rider is back in the saddle, the War of Kings is over, he’s got an experienced Nova corpsman, a new headquarters, and his probationers are all learning the ropes of being a Centurion from the new guy. We start with a flashback to Rich and Darkhawk bonding after the events of Secret Invasion, and cut to the present, where Darkhawk is accused of murdering Lilandra, the majestrix of the Shi’ar empire. Rich tracks him down, and Nova and Darkhawk find that an impostor has been using Darkhawk armor (or one of them, he apparently has the ability to switch between various armors now) and there’s a group called the Society of Raptors out there. It’s fascinating to me that two guys who were supposed to be the next coming of Peter Parker have ended up in space fighting in giant wars and such. Hopefully, they won’t have to make a deal with Mephisto to forget this in a few years. The story ends with the entire planet on which they’re fighting blowing up, and Nova and Darkhawk probably dead. (Well, not probably, but all the supporting cast members think that they’re probably dead…) Abnett and Lanning deliver another entertaining script, even with the new Corpsman’s R. Lee Ermey impersonation. This book is still firing on all cylinders. In a word: Cosmic. 4 stars.
PS 238 #41: The little webcomic that could is back, as the junior Emerald Gauntlet (long a bit player) takes center stage here. Last issue, strange things happened regarding the E.G.’s power source, and Victoria Von Fogg has some ideas about why. His father is on hand, and both Emerald Gauntlet’s are necessary to save the day when they are transported back to the home planet of the aliens that power them. The origins of both Gauntlets are given, and Victoria and Kevin find that adults don’t listen, even when the kids have super-powers. Miss Von Fogg saves the day, and it is revealed that the Emerald Ones (the aliens) have long been at war with the homeworld of Atlas, whose son is one of the core members of the PS 238 cast, Captain Clarinet. This book is a wonderful take on super-heroes and superhero universes, and takes great glee in explaining quandaries of other comic book universes in entertaining and logical ways. Most impressive is the fact that they’ve been doing this for 41 issues in a climate where even the Big 2 can’t seem to make titles like nextwave or Agents of Atlas stick. The art is wonderful, and this book is on of the real joys of my comic pull list. In a word: Wonderful. 4 stars.
Super-Villain Team-Up #8: A book with Doctor Doom as the star? It’s a MADHOUSE… A MADHOUSE! We open with Doom on Hydrobase, surrounded by Namorita, Tamara, and hordes of green-skinned water-breathers, all wondering what has happened to Namor. Subby himself is on the run, accompanied by the Shroud, ending up in the Big Top of the Circus of Crime. Lost and aimless, they hook up with the Circus, and join them the next day when they parade through the streets of what I suspect is Latveria, only to witness Doctor Doom watching the proceedings. Namor realizes that since Doom isn’t dead, he is honor bound to serve the monarch, and sets out to give the game away. The Shroud ends up zapping him, but finds himself surrounded by armed guards. It’s interesting to see Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom as the protagonists of the story, instead of the traditional hero. The main shortcoming is the art, from a new kid named Giffen, providing an amalgam of Sal Buscema and Al Milgrom that never quite gels overall. Of course, for all I know, Giffen could end up being an elder statesman of comics in 30 years, Doom could be helping run the country, and Sub-Mariner could join the freakin’ X-Men. Naaaah… That’ll certainly never happen. That’s like saying The Green Goblin isn’t dead! In a word: Retro. 2.5 stars.
Teen Titans #76: Once again, the Teen Titans are in mortal danger, as the creature known as The Wyld is using their own powers against them. Raven lies unconscious, part of her brain EATEN, while Beast Boy tries very hard to lead the team, much to the dismay of actual team leader Wonder Girl. Beast Boy gives in to his beastial nature, and the creature outnumbers him, while Raven and Miss Martian team up to psionically drive away The Wyld, and most of the team wastes away in supporting roles. Most unfortunately, we get a blurb at the end that indicates that the story will be continued in issue 79, while the next two issues will be about Blackest Night. The Ravager backup story features Rose fighting her way through slavers to save girls being traded as commerce, which I believe is exactly the plot of the recent Question backup in Detective Comics. She is overpowered, poisoned and taken down by a man she recognizes as being as dangerous as her father, who wants to make her a super-soldier in his command. I hate to be mean, but given my harsh words for Avengers, I have to look at this book and wonder what in the hell is going on. We’ve got a nice cast, filled with interesting heroes, and it just won’t come together. In a word: Trainwreck. 1.5 stars.
Thunderbolts #136: There have been a couple of absolutely rock-stupid bad editorial decisions in recent months of this title that have undermined some nice character work and some decent storytelling overall. The Thunderbolts have captured Songbird and the Black Widow, and are preparing to execute them, when the Ghost, Paladin, Ant-Man and the Headsman turn on their partners. Mr. X easily overwhelms Paladin, while the new Scourge is revealed to be old-school Daredevil villain Nuke in a mask. The heroes escape, and The Ghost scrambles the memory of Scourge and Mr. X, the better to not get murdered. Widow and ‘Bird are nearly killed, until The Fixer and Mach V swoop in to save the day. The original Thunderbolts go to ground, and Norman Osborn pulls another card out of his hand: The REAL Yelena Belova, aka Black Widow II! Once again, wasn’t she blown up in New Avengers Annual #1? And doesn’t his having her body in cold storage mean that he should have known that Natasha wasn’t who she said to she was? Why would you let someone who is obviously a spy have access to what he let her access? There’s a lot here that doesn’t make sense, and the Thunderbolts title is slowly turning into Dark Avengers Lite. I like the character balance here, as well, and Mr. X is at least menacing, but there’s still enough rough edges that the book is difficult to really enjoy. In a word: Brutal. 4 stars.