Rapid-Fire Reviews And The Howling Commandoes!
Or – “April Showers Bring May Flowers, But Mayflowers Only Bring Religious Dissidents…”
Man, it has been a LOOOONG month of May. The comics industry seems intent on moving to $3.99 price points, The Eleventh Doctor got hit on, and Scarlett Johanssen looks great in skintight stretch fabrics. In any case, since another month has come and gone, and it’s a three-day weekend for many in the United States we’ve got time to look at a couple dozen things that have come out in recent weeks, Rapid-Fire Style!
Previously, on Everything: Audie Leon Murphy (June 20, 1925 – May 28, 1971) was the most decorated American soldier of World War II and a celebrated movie star for many years in the post-war era, appearing in 44 films. He also found some success as a country music composer. Murphy became the most decorated United States soldier of the war during his twenty-seven months in action in the European Theatre. He received the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest award for valor, along with 32 additional U.S. and foreign medals and citations,including five from France and one from Belgium. Murphy’s successful movie career included To Hell and Back (1955), based on his book of the same title (1949). He also starred in 39 Hollywood films. He died in a plane crash in 1971 and was interred, with full military honors, in Arlington National Cemetery, Audie Murphy’s grave site is the second-most visited grave at Arlington, after that of President John F. Kennedy. Audie Murphy was credited with destroying six tanks in addition to killing over 240 German soldiers and wounding and capturing many others. His principal U.S. decorations included the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars with Valor device, and three Purple Hearts (all for genuine combat wounds). Murphy participated in campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany, as denoted by his European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver battle star (denoting five campaigns), four bronze battle stars, plus a bronze arrowhead representing his two amphibious assault landings at Sicily and southern France. During the French Campaign, Murphy was awarded two Presidential Citations, one from the 3rd Inf, Division, and one from the 15th Inf. Regiment during the Holtzwihr action.
Adventure Comics #11/#514: As disappointed as I was that Mon-El wasn’t actually going to be a part of the new Justice League after all, this issue reminds me what I liked about the character in the first place. As in the Archie Legion, Mon has been destined to found many of the worlds of the 30th Century Legion, and this issue shows how it gets done. (Hint: Brainiac shrunk more cities than just Kandor.) It’s a nice look at what Mon-El really means to the Legion, and ends with him entering the Phantom Zone once more, only to get pulled out by Superboy in the 30th Century. There’s lots of continuity stuff in this issue, including the Espionage Squad preparing to return home, and Brainiac 5 face to face with Brainiac himself. I’m gladdened to see the LSH returning to this title, and the return to original series numbering isn’t a bad idea, either. (I maintain that they should have just done that from the beginnning, anyway…) There’s a lot of good stuff happening here, and it puts a nice cap on the Legion portion of the Superman titles for the last few years. If I were Rodrigo, I’d say “Aaaand I liked it!” 4 stars.
Age Of Heroes #1 (of 4): Anthologies are always a mixed bag, and this one is no exception The first story is a tale of Mayor Jonah Jameson that makes me sad. For my money, I always like the characterization of Jonah as a good man with a blind spot about Spider-Man rather than a costume-hating jerk, and this is definitely the latter…. The Doctor Voodoo story is cute, but saddens me that his own series got cancelled, showcasing Rick Remender’s way with dialogue and character, as well as deepening the relationship between Doctor Voodoo and his deceased brother Daniel. Third up is a one-shot tale wherein Commander Steve Rogers arrives to work alongside Captain Britain and MI:13, and ends up asking Britain to join the Avengers, much to the chagrin of his current boss, Pete Wisdom. The ending of the story is cute, but overall there’s not a lot going on with it. The whole gist of it all is to imply that a paradigm shift has happened in the Marvel Universe wherein people no longer fear costumes (unless they’re known to be mutants) and the Avengers are once again a paragon of heroism. Unfortunately for the readers, it’s a case where we need a bit more show and a bit less tell to get things going. 3 stars.
Atlas #1: Thank whatever fates control the comic book publishing industry that this book isn’t going the way of Doctor Voodoo, SWORD, and so many others… This book had me at “Hello,” as it returns the 3-D Man (one of the characters in the original What If story that birthed the Agents of Atlas years ago) to the fold, and gives us a mystery regarding his history with the Agents of Atlas. The first feature manages to rehab 3-D Man from his punking out at the hand of the Skrull Kill Krew at the end of Secret Invasion, even setting him up as a badass legacy hero, while the second feature gives us historical background and a 1950’s mission of the agents in their original guises (minus Namora, who was presumed dead at the time.) Jeff Parker’s work on this book is some of the best work Marvel has been putting out in years, delving in Marvel history without devolving into fanboy territory, and delivering nuanced grown-up characters with motivations that are esoteric yet understandable. Add to that some lovely art, and you’ve got yourself nothing but win. Here’s hoping that Atlas goes 100 issues this time around… 4 stars.
Avengers – The Initiative #35: An unusual bit of closure for the Marvel Universe here, as Diamondback, the Constrictor, Taskmaster, The New Warriors/Avengers Underground and most everyone who was ever in this series gets a nice closure. Even Hardball and Komodo get their moment in the sun here, closing up their romantic storyline as the new Heroic Age dawns. Tigra even gets a killer character moment where she defies her urge to gain revenge on The Hood and shows herself to be a better person than him. We even get a little Animal House closing credits segment at the end wherein we see what happened to characters like Batwing, Butterball and others. Over the run of the title, this book was the most consistent of the Avengers books (It was never outrageously brilliant, but it failed to hit the depths of Naked Ultron or a five-issue heart attack.) All in all, this book had to die not because of a lack of quality, but because of line-wide rebranding, which is sad, in a way. For me, this title was the best thing to come out of Civil War, other than the eventual rehabilitation of Iron Man into a workable character again… I am looking forward to what becomes of Avengers Academy, though. It’s a good ending to a decent book. 3 stars.
Mighty Avengers #36: Weird pacing, weird motivation, and weird story developments abound here, as Jocasta gets flesh legs (which makes me wonder what Hank had in mind, and what other flesh attachments he was going to give her) Ultron’s Oedipal subtext becomes text, and the team is left on the edge of the Siege crossover that started 4 months ago. After Dan Slott’s superb run on Avengers: The Intiative, I had high hopes for this book, but it never really lived up to them. The puzzling character choice was offputting, the storylines were quirky to the point of undermining the heroes, and Hank Pym went from an Inferiority Complex to Self-Aggrandizement in ten easy lessons. Of all the Avengers titles that are going away/relaunching, this is the one that I’ll probably miss the least, while wishing that it had gone somewhere else entirely. Most of this cast will still be around, though, so it’s really more like a gaming group made up of friends and coworkers going by the wayside than a real cancellation for me. Ultron needed more time to be credible, and Jocasta was just kinda creepy throughout the series, making this issue come apart quickly for me… 2 stars.
New Avengers #64: A whole issue set between panels of Siege #4, centered on the Hood and his band of three-time losers? Does the fun ever START? (Here’s a hint for character development: When you have guys who only show up in clumps of ten or twelve and never get named explicitly, you’ve got a problem, even if your lead is the most charismatic character ever.) The elevation of the Hood has always felt like a Mary Sue situation to me, and this issue does nothing to slow that assessment, as Hood ends up getting beaten like a government mule and hiding behind the skirts of Madame Masque. This leads into the New Avengers Finale one-shot, which I reviewed on a recent issue of hte podcast and liked a lot better. This being the actual last issue of New Avengers Volume 1 isn’t really obvious, even in the book itself, as it ends with a “To Be Continued.” It’s a whimper, rather than a bang, and even some lovely art by Mike McKone doesn’t pull the whole thing out of disaster terroitory, and there’s almost no real Siege crossover in this Siege crossover. Disappointing on multiple levels… 1.5 stars.
Booster Gold #32: Finally a book that doesn’t tie into Siege! Whew! Booster’s new creative team hits with a bang, as we see an adventure of B.G. in the 30th Century, hiding in the shadows of the Great Darkness Saga (30 odd years of Legion of Super-Heroes history ago.) Booster shines in characterization, and someone finally manages to balance Booster’s two personas (gloryhog buffoon and noble time warrior) without ignoring one or the other. Keith Giffen makes even the minor side-characters whom we’ll never see again interesting, and gets away with some bathroom humor that isn’t tasteless or juvenile. I like this new direction, and I hope to see more of thise sort of thing. With Booster getting grounded more squarely in the regular DCU with Generation Lost, this book runs the risk of becoming irrelevant, so I’m glad that they’ve got a killer team on board. Chris Batista’s art is pretty much second only to Kevin Maguire himself, and overall I’m really thrilled to see where this book goes in coming months. 4 stars.
DC Universe – Legacies #1 (of 10): It’s hard to do legacy stories well, because of the tendency to over-romanticize the past, and nowhere is that more obvious than this issue. When The Sandman and The Atom are the stars, you’re dealing with street-level justice that might not work so well with high-faluting metaphor and all like that. There’s more than a little disconcerting about this issue, but the art of Joe Kubert really helps to soften the blow overall. The backup tale tells the story of old-school DC character Scoop Scanlon, as he “proves” that the Spectre isn’t magical at all, just a charlatan with old magic tricks. I’m not sure what this series is meant to do, but I get the feeling that it may be the post-Crisis post-Final Crisis New Earth history of the DC Universe, as well as a big ol’ love letter to comic books past. I think my biggest complaint is the fact that in deciding to pick up this series, one makes a commitment to spend 40 dollars on tales that might end up being nothing more than new versions of the stories that we read right after Zero Hour that explained how everything now happened. If future issues keep up this quality and give me some overarching content to make it all worth the trouble, I’ll be good, but if we keep getting these kind of random tales, I don’t know if I’ll make it all the way to #10. Great art, but better production values than story values for me. 2.5 stars.
Doctor Who #10: The Tenth Doctor stars in tales that take place before he regenerated some time ago, in the kind of explanation that only a time travel book could really get away with. It’s nice to see the Tennant version in action, and the concept of clockwork angels in stasis due to the efforts of Victorian philosopher John Dee is pure DW historical fodder for me. I love Paul Grist’s covers, and I dig the interior art on this book. Much as with Turlough during the Fifth Doctor’s tenure, though, Matthew Finnegan’s possible duplicity as a companion is problematic. If he acts, the tension is gone, but if the tension goes too far, it comes apart in the long run. I’ve done a full review on the NEXT issue of this book, which furthers the plot, but the basic gist is that IDW has a nice series on their hands here. I hope that they do as well with the adventures of the Eleventh Doctor as they’ve done here. I’d love to see some work from these guys on previous Doctors, as well. Wouldn’t you love to see a Ninth Doctor and Rose miniseries? Write them! Yell at them! Tell them Matthew wants it, and Matthew is awesome and stuff! 3.5 stars.
Doom Patrol #10: Thte concept of a porcelain assassin is an amazing one, and it’s put to good use in an issue that is nonetheless full of WTF moments. Conrad Jost and the Animal/Vegetable/Mineral Man have a plan of some sort, and the Doom Patrol themselves are still not quite all there. I love the way this book has managed to take previous incarnations of the team and bring them all together in one place without destroying ‘em (Morrison’s DP was difficult to reconcile with the DCU Universe at ALL, much less seamlessly) and an assassination attempt on Garfield Logan is called off due to something that apparently happens in another title. There’s weird, and there’s very good weird, and this is the second kind. I do miss the Metal Men second feature, but am glad to have at least ONE title in my pull list DROP in price this month, given Marvel’s new $3.99 basic price point. I don’t know if you can jump on this title, which worries me for it’s longevity, but it’s kind of a fun ride anyway… 2 stars.
Ex Machina #49: The penultimate issue of Wildstorm’s political thriller has arrived, and it does something that I did NOT expect. The Great Machine finally goes back into action against Suzanne Padilla (a reporter who has been possessed by the same aliens that empowered Mitch to be the Great Machine in the first place) and ends up on the wrong end of his own security forces. It’s interesting, and the visuals in the strange alternate dimension are very Lovecraftian (good work from Tony Harris.) If you read this series closely, you know that it’s being narrated in PAST TENSE, and something bad seems to have happened to the protagonists in that future time frame, making me look forward to next issue and seeing what happens. It’s a really unconventional success story in comic history, but Ex Machina is one that I have greatly enjoyed over the last five years or so. It’d be nice to see an Absolute Edition of this book in the near future… 3.5 stars.
G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero #155 1/2: Given all the various attempts to relaunch this book since Marvel cancelled it, I can’t believe that it took this long for someone to decide that we could actually CONTINUE THE STORY of the book that was once the best selling comic book in the world. Larry Hama’s dark script gives us a story wherein the G.I. Joe team has been deactivated, and Cobra is free to move about the country, awakening sleeper agents throughout the world. There’s lots of nice character bits for the Baroness, Cobra Commander and Destro, and I suspect that the ongoing is going to be a pretty dark book for at least a while. Hama still delivers a decent story, and it’s nice to see the original Herb Trimpe art to G.I. Joe #1 in the background of this cover. I’m very interested in where this book is going, and I find that I want to read it more than the current IDW continuity title, which may be a good thing, or may just mean that I’m old. Hopefully they won’t be keeping things in a strict 1994 timeframe, and will use more than just the cartoon superstar Joes in the overall narrative. (I want Grand Slam and Flash, dangit!) 4 stars.
Girl Comics #2 (of 3): Girl Comics. The title itself is problematic for a book designed to showcase female talent and characters and (preumably) appeal to a female audience. The anthology nature of the book, as well as the Indy slant of many of the stories, make a package that feels a lot like we’re just throwing a bone to diversity. Jill Thompson’s Inhumans story is very well-drawn, but kind of frothy, Colleen Coover delivers loverly art on a Shamrock tale, while Christine Boylen delivers a Doctor Strange tale that’s the only real unqualified success of the book. In the final analysis, I figure it’s better than we have a mixed bag aimed at trying to diversify than no diversity at all, so I can’t fault this book for trying. If only we’d seen the characters on the beautifully rendered cover INSIDE the actual book? (And does anybody but me actually remember Shamrock, anyway?) 2.5 stars.
The Great Ten #7 (of 9): This series continues even as it turns into a lame duck, delivering an interesting look into the head of the Seven Deadly Brothers, martial artists who are actually one man, cursed by the gods for his hubris. It’s great character stuff with a little nod to the overarching plot about aliens dressed up as Chinese gods. I’m still a little bit concerned how a miniseries designed to showcase 10 origins in 10 issues is going to work out in 9, as well as whether or not these interesting concepts are ever going to show up again after this series is over. It seems like all of the characters affected by 52 (where these guys first appeared) are either back to their old status quo, dead, or no longer appearing in Detective Comics. I’d dearly love to see books like this come out at a time where the audience is still slavering for them, instead of waiting as long as we seem to these days. I don’t know if it’s the time it takes to produce comics these days, or scheduling woes, or what, but I suspect that this book would have sold a lot better in 2008 or so, when there was a lot of excitement around the shiny new DCU and the characters that were reviving it? Bygones… 2 stars.
Green Hornet #4: I was troubled by last issue’s insistance on mockin the Green Hornet’s iconic hat, and this time we open with a little bit more respect for the character as Kato explains to Britt Reid, Jr. what exactly his old man really did in the wee hours of morning back in the 1930’s. Kato and his daughter bustle the younger Reid onto the family jet to send him away, while the younger Kato (revealed to be named Mulan) takes on a room full of gangsters with ease. As the issue ends, a gun is placed to her head, while a gangster orders her to “drop her panties,” which is creepy enough. When Britt Jr. leaps through the skylight dressed as the Green Hornet, and thinks “The panties are officially dropped,” I’m once again annoyed about the tone of it all. The title is going well overall, and I hope that we can get the character back in the public consciousness again with the upcoming 3-D movie release, but I also want a more consistent tone in the book. The art is lovely, though, and John Cassaday’s cover kicks serious butt… 3.5 stars.
Hands Of The Dragon #1: “From the holocaust of an atomic explosion comes the toughest Kung Fu fighter of them all!” Comics are full of high-kicking heroes these days, with Iron Fist, Shang Chi, Richard Dragon, the Sons of The Tiger and others, and where there’s a trend, there’s Atlas to mine it. This is a stronger outing that some of their other books (notably better than Destructor or The Brute) with interesting art that reminds me of Ernie Colon (which is a very good thing.) We start with the origin of The Dragon (twin babies being carried by an old man to a monastery are irradiated by a leftover atomic bomb form WWII) and his brother The Cobra, then cut to the present day when the Dragon works as an anchorman for the local news. He finds proof that his brother is in town, and suits up to fight injustice. There’s a bad guy called “Doctor Nhu” in here, as well as some freaky tattoos, but overall it’s a vaguely forgettable story merging elements of Supreman’s secret identity with David Carradine in Kung Fu that might be worth a look depending on where it goes. Given Atlas’ tendency to rework a book completely by the third issue, who knows WHAT this could turn into? 1 star.
Hellblazer #267: John Constantine, like many comic characters, tends to get a brand new supporting cast every time the writer changes. It works better for him, though, in that he’s kind of alienating, and tends to end up with his friends dead or hating him by the end of any given story arc. Recent issues of the book have introduced a young lady named Epiphany who is into John, but whose father will kill anyone who hurts her. This issue starts with John seemingly having hurt her, and ends with him in an asylum. There’s a nice bit that references his previous stays in Ravenscar, and the issue ends with the promise of an old-school Vertigo star returning next issue, and madness. Add to this the fact that the cover looks like John is peeing all over London, and you’ve got an interesting book. The current run of Hellblazer has mined aspects of the book that we’re familiar with in new and different ways, which is hard to pull off once a book passes 250 issues… 3.5 stars.
Justice League of America #45: So, we’re setting up the big JLA/JSA crossover, which is fine, but we’re also bringing a new League together in the hopes of making it stick for once. Given that James Robinson’s Cry For Justice team never fully assembled, and the group that he wanted to use here ended up coming together once and never reuniting, it’s troublesome. This issue brings back Kara Zor-El (who has had runs with nearly all the big super-teams in the hopes of finding a place where she belongs, reminding us of why Marv and George killed her 35 years ago in the first place) and establishes that she shares a warm bond with Congorilla, who is really the only Leaguer that I feel a strong connection to at this point. The Starheart has gone wacko, and Green Lantern and Jade are feeling the pain. The issue ends with a mad, armored Alan Scott vowing to take over the world blah blah blah fishcakes. Apparently, the last couple of issues have been setup for the actual crossover which starts next month… So that’s annoying. The arts quite good, and the Supergirl cover is quite wonderful, which earns a few points. 2 stars.
Justice League – Generation Lost #1: DC continues their tendency to release a REALLY ugly cover with a lesser variant that I want, but don’t want to pay six or eight bucks to have. Tony Harris does wonderful work, but the cover of this issue has officially put the UGH in ugly. Interior art is prettier, though, as Maxwell Lord gathers what resources he can find, including gallons of blood and uses his powers to pull off the kind of trick the Devil wishes he could: channeling his powers to make everyone forget that he exists. The sole exceptions are Fire, Ice, Booster Gold and Captain Atom of Justice League International, who now have the responsibility to track down the villain that nobody even knows exists. It’s a really high-concept kinda hook and I hope that it actually goes somewhere. I’m not even clear if this is a limited or an ongoing series, but I hope that there’s more than just the Max plot going on here. Still, it’s a nice strong start, and the variant cover is really beautiful… 3 stars.
JSA All-Stars #6: The mysterious mystic girl who arrived last issue fights alongside the All-Stars in the alternate univers against Johnny Sorrow. Atom-Smasher’s nascent relationship with Stargirl goes by the wayside and things are really unclear overall. This issue also has some foreshadowing of the Blackest Night stories that happened 3 months ago, as next issue promises to deal with the death of Damage during that series. I’m a little bit irritable about this situation, as Damage’s current character arc came because he was considered to be fair game for crossover murder during Infinite Crisis, and now he’s a casualty of the current crossover. I really am bothered by this situation, mostly because of the resurrections that came at the end of Blackest Night smacking heavily of favoritism… Still, depending on how this is handled, it could be interesting in the long run, but my general feeling is that this arc has run about an issue too long without telling me what’s going on, and now that it’s over, I don’t entirely remember what happened to kick it off. 2 stars.
Heroic Age – Prince of Power #1 (of 4): Man, Humberto Ramos gets around, doesn’t he? The cover art doesn’t look anything like the interiors either. I supposed I can stop whining that whine, though… Hercules is gone, but not forgotten, and Amadeus Cho and Bruce Banner have dedicated nearly everything (to the tune of 634 billion dollars) to try and find him. There’s bad news there, as well as in Amadeus relationship with Delphyne the Gorgon, and some old-school Peter David continuity ends up with Amadeus framed and Thor angry. Add to that Athena’s meeting with her fellow all-fathers, and you’ve got a pretty interesting overall tale. I love what Pak and Van Lente have done with Incredible Hercules so far, and the setup for this series is interesting. I’m unsure as to what happens at the end of this mini, but I’m torn as to whether I want Hercules to come back this quickly or not. Either way, it’s a fun ride through portions of the Marvel Universe that don’t get a lot of of play lately, and it’s got an interesting cliffhanger ending. (Will a forcefield and adamantine mace survive the hammer of Thor?) 4 stars.
Thunderbolts #143: Norm-O’s Thunderbolts well and truly fall apart in this issue, as Mr. X gets his hands on the spear of Odin, and Paladin and Ant-Man are forced to show their true heroic colors. There are some telling moments in the book, showin exactly where the characters are in the pecking order (Mr. X is beaten bloody by Quicksilver, who moves fast enough to outrun X’s precognition) and most of the book involves the Mighty Avengers taking the team apart a little at a time. It’s another issues that takes place in the middle of the last issue of Siege, but at least this one gives us something meaty to chew on. The book ends with Ant-Man delivering the Headsman’s gear to Headsman’s brother, giving us the promise of a new version of an extremely minor character. What’s oddly compelling about it all is the methodical way that it unravels and the ending wherein Luke Cage and Jessica Jones set up the new iteration of the book next month. The only thing that I have to say about all of this is: Juggernaut? A hero? Again? This trick never works… 2 stars.
Wonder Woman #43: This issue explains how Wonder Woman’s aunt went into outer space years ago and been there ever since. Wonder Woman, Achilles, an armored white ape and others go into combat to protect the cityand we end with WW in battle with Theana, a genetically predispositioned soldier from spce who is also part Amazon. I’m a big supporter of Gail Simone’s writing, but recent issues of Wonder Woman haven’t really don anythin for me. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t know that seeing her fight her alien cousin from deep space is what I want to see in a Wonder Woman comic book. Nicola Scott delivers beautiful art throughout, especially on the giant Silver Serpent that attacks Washington, but overall it’s just kind of meh. It’s not even an issue that I feel particularly negative about, it’s just a general sort of miss. I feel bad that Gail is getting replaced by J. Michael Stracynski, but at the very least, it constitutes change for the amazing amazon… 2 stars.
Overall, it’s not a bad month, though I would have liked to see a few more “Hell, Yeah” moments and perhaps a couple fewer issues crossing over with Siege, but 3 out of 5 average isn’t a losing proposition for anyone…