WORLD WAR HULK #5
Writer: Greg Pak Artists: John Romita Jr. (pencils) & Klaus Janson (inks) Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugSooooooo…OK, where to start…
I gave WORLD WAR HULK #1 a glorious review a while back, touting it as an old school slugfest issue of the highest order. After reading that book, my ass hurt from sitting on the edge of my seat and I felt as if Marvel itself had taken a turn for the better in regards to their history of releasing over-hyped, decompressed, humdrum product. Writer Greg Pak wowed the socks off of me with the story and John Romita Jr. was in top form, creating some truly iconic and memorable scenes of the Hulk at his @$$-whupping-est.
Then issue two came and although it was a bit of a letdown after a good start, it still had enough thrills and smashes to satisfy this reader. But after issue two, something happened. And given what I know about Marvel, I should have known this would happen. Basically, with WWHULK, Marvel exploited and spread the story out way too thin. Two more issues of basically nothing going on were released all building up to some kind of resolution with issue five. Issues three and four read like filler and in the meantime, the rest of Marvel’s books went on as if nothing happened. Those books crossing over with this event quickly had their unnecessary crossover and then went back to business as usual. Even worse, other books proceeded as if the event hadn’t even happened at all. Both were detrimental to a storyline that was supposed to rock the Marvel Universe to its core. In the end, it didn’t.
The comics industry as a whole is going nuts with this crossover business. Did we really need to see a PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL or a HEROES FOR HIRE crossover? I read WWHULK proper but not GAMMA CORPS or FRONTLINE. In the end, it really didn’t matter because those characters never even participated in the series to my knowledge. Basically, WWHULK would have been a pretty fantastic story, had it been in Hulk’s monthly book; I could see it going down as one of the best non-Peter David/Hulk stories in the last twenty years. Instead, the Hulk’s monthly has been unreadable with a cast of losers and uninterestings and a directionless plot to boot, simply waiting for WWHULK to end before progressing in any interesting fashion.
So instead of a tightly woven, classic Hulk story, we get a drawn out, over-hyped, and disengaged-from-Marvel Universe-proper kind of story.
Plus as an added gripe, how ethnocentric can we get stating that this is a WORLD WAR when the events only happen in New York City? C’mon, folks. This may be CIVIL WAR HULK or HULK’S REVENGE: GAMMA BOOGALOO, but it sure wasn’t a WORLD WAR.
All of that said, I have to say that the final issue of WORLD WAR HULK went by too quickly and almost had too much happening within the single issue. This issue has the much anticipated standoff between the Hulk and the Sentry, the end of the Illuminati arena battle, a jaunt back to Sakaar (aka Planet Hulk) for a foreboding twist, a big development in the Hulk’s relationship with both Rick Jones and his Warbound, and a final showdown between Tony Stark and the Hulk resulting in a major status quo change for the Hulk himself. That’s an awful lot happening in one issue and especially frustrating since the last two issues of this series had so little going on. I’d much rather see the events of this issue drawn out a bit longer than see what happened in issue two through four again.
And that’s the whole problem. WORLD WAR HULK #5 was a very good issue. It delivered in both story and impact. Shit actually happened. “Holy Shit!” moments were brought forth a plenty. But since the momentum the series started with at the beginning ran out of steam so quickly due to delays and unnecessary crossovers, I’ll bet only a fraction of those excited about this at that time stuck around for the drawn out conclusion.
Imagine if Marvel had done this differently. What if WORLD WAR HULK were a contained, month-long crossover event with an issue released every week? Sure wed’ve had your obligatory crossovers, but at least the story would be tighter and there would be more of a chance for Marvel to cash in on the hype that surrounded the book at the beginning. Plus you’d know where this story fits in the grand scheme of things regarding Civil War, Initiative, Silent War, Secret Invasion, whatever, whatever, whatever…
Now something like this would take planning. Maybe it’d be a good idea to have all of the issues ready to rock before putting out issue one (a policy that is ludicrously never followed in the so-called professional realm of comic book distribution). It would take coordination of titles and the requirement of getting one’s shit together (which seems to be hard for both Marvel and DC these days…what am I talking about “these days,” this horse plop’s been happening for years). But in the end, you’d have an event worthy of the title. Something to be proud of.
And the real victim here is writer Greg Pak, who did a great job of setting this big event up and he really did knock the final issue out of the park with some very interesting moments as well as setting up the groundwork for plenty of future Hulk stories. You could tell Pak had fun working with the large cast and especially with sound identifiers (this issue is chock full of fun sounds like PHSKRCKRDDOOM! and KWAGLOOOOOM! and VJJJWOMMMWWWB! and don’t forget SCLROOCK! and finally the autobiographical GRGPAKK!). This issue was fun just sitting there trying to pronounce the sound identifiers and saying them aloud.
After reading this book, I just felt kind of sad that Marvel felt the need to spread this event out so thinly. This wasn’t an across the Marvel Universe crossover worthy event. It was a great Hulk story that was drawn out in issue length, in crossovers, and in the amount of time between issues. In the end, it wasn’t the Avengers or the Warbound or the Sentry or even the Hulk himself that took Banner down. Instead of telling a good story, the Marvel hype machine decided to kick into full gear and is the one who ended up dealing the final blow. I’m looking forward to reading more of the Hulk after this issue, but I sure wish that the bang that this series started out with hadn’t petered out with an exasperated whimper.
BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #1
Writer: Chuck Dixon Artist: Julian Lopez Inker: Bit Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoMixed feelings on this issue.
By now, everyone knows Chuck Dixon took the reins of this project when Tony Bedard could not. Dixon, of course, has impeccable credentials when it comes to Batman; not so much with the whole team dynamic.
But with the overall direction being covert ops (and not super-powered misfits) I like the feel of this book already, even knowing that Dixon will be making some roster changes in the very near future. This is a team that will discuss personal issues in their off-time, if at all, and not in the middle of a strategic insertion. This is the Dark-Ops arm of the Dark Knight. During Winick’s run, the Outsiders seemed stuck in neutral, like a Seinfeld marathon involving super-powers and punching. Lots of clever dialogue, but overall plots that I can’t seem to remember. Even the “One Year Later” premise was squandered, with all their undercover work quickly undone.
Hopefully, this run will be a little tighter.
As far as team members, Catwoman and Katana are a fun pair, both having earned Batman’s trust over the years. If Dixon so desired, he could work their relationship in several interesting ways without resorting to the overplayed “catfight” card.
Martian Manhunter seems the perfect combination of stealth and power, as is Metamorpho. And Grace…and Thunder…well, what exactly are they doing here? I don’t know, and I don’t think Dixon does, either.
Strengths: Lopez’s art -- I think he must be new, but if this is first comic book, I can’t wait to see where he is in a few years. Also, Batman as the team director – he’s more fascinating as a strategist than a fighter, so I like seeing this aspect. I’m sure a situation will come where he has to be onsite, getting his fists dirty. That’ll be nice too, but we get enough of that in his other books.
Nitpick: Grace calls herself an “Amazonian.” Uhn, wouldn’t that be “Amazon?” Her heritage is Amazonian. I know, nit picky, but…
Weaknesses: Katana being told by Catwoman not to kill. C’mon, didn’t I just say that Katana has earned Batman’s trust? Does she really need to be reminded not to kill?
Also – Thunder and Grace and Batman mentioning their “special” relationship. This scene is just all kinds of wrong. Are you really telling me that Batman, THE Batman, of all people, didn’t know that Grace and Thunder are an item? Everyone on the old team knew. And then, when Batman says something tactful about their “special” relationship, Thunder immediately goes ballistic and accuses him of being a pervert? Just because he may or may not know they’re gay? Verbal miscues all around.
Also – Batman tells Thunder “You’re here as a favor to your father.” And what kind of favor could Batman possibly be doing Thunder’s father (Black Lightning, who was on the original Outsiders team)?
*ring ring* “Batman here. Oh, hey Jeff. Your daughter? You’re asking if I could let her sit and watch our first mission? You want me to sort of rub it in her face that she’s not good enough to be on the team, even though her loose cannon girlfriend somehow is? Sure Jeff, I’ll do that as a favor to you.” Hmm…not getting it.
And to top it all off, I was hoping that, since the corporation that is being raided is Jardine Limited, we would be visiting the makers of the world’s BEST salsa (D.L. Jardine’s salsa that is.) Alas, though there is talk of big bad burritos, there is no mention of salsa. More disappointment.
This was not a bad issue. Since the whole dynamic is going to change over the next few issues, it bears watching, if only for Lopez’s excellent pencils. But don’t get your hopes up with this first issue.
Written by Ed Brubaker Art by Sean Phillips Published by Icon/Marvel Reviewed by Stones ThrowFirstly, apologies this review is late…but then if you’re in the know you’re probably reading CRIMINAL already, and if you’re not reading it, seriously, what’s up? There’s no denying CRIMINAL is one of the best put-together pamphlets at the moment. Brubaker and Phillips are turning out well-structured and perfectly realized installments of crime fiction and it’s one of the few books I actively look forward to whenever it decides to come out.
That said, I haven’t been as over the moon with this title as a lot of folks have. The first arc, “Coward”, struck me as following the path well-trodden a touch excessively, and from the moment the titular namby-pants Leo appeared, it was obvious where he would end up. While there was a good bit of fun on the way there, the last issue of that storyline contained no surprises and might as well have been filled in by the readers (Although Brubaker has pulled a twist in this arc by revealing Leo is still alive and will be the focus of future issues).
I get that CRIMINAL is about characters rather than plots, but the character of Leo, and the heist-gone-wrong plot, for that matter, had been seen a little too often to have too much of an effect on a story level, despite Brubaker’s skills in endearing the details to the reader. However, this second arc, “Lawless”, has seen Brubaker and Phillips’ creation move from simply telling good stories into a distinctive personality of its own. Tracy Lawless is still pretty much an archetype of crime fiction -- the tough guy who returns home with a bone to pick -- but there was an originality and depth in the way he was put across that made him stand out and enabled me to really feel this ex-military bad@$$ (as a character!). His story wasn’t pretty, but it sure was a great one to read, and Tracy’s history as an Iraq vet gave it a relevance and currency that the previous arc just didn’t have.
Suffice it to say, this issue contains its fair share of surprises and gripped me right to the end. In the right hands a revenge story is always fodder for an excellent tale, and this was it. That’s not to say it was without the occasional problem, though. The chronology-bending introduction of Tracy in issue six was for my money one of the best single issues of the year, and this here issue ten was another slam dunk, but in between there were one or two issues that didn’t do a whole lot more than simply further the plot, which is an occasional complaint I have with Brubaker despite his consistent ability to write quality comics. But really, there aren’t a whole lot of negatives I can find in a quality product like this. Sean Phillip’s art is immaculate as always (the dude can somehow make a car chase look interesting in the medium of comics, which by all rights should be impossible), and credit is also due to Val Staples’ color palette, which heightens the atmosphere without getting in the way of the lovely black and white art. And by the end, what looks like becoming this series’ theme of family being something you can’t escape is made clear in the bleakest way yet.
Well-rounded characters, good storytelling, quality art and lots of shooting -- how can you go wrong? You can’t, silly. The next few issues of CRIMINAL will be stand alone stories, and I highly recommend you take a look if you weren’t planning to already!
SALVATION RUN #1
Writer: Bill Willingham Artist: Sean Chen Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugAfter my rant from last week, one would think that I would never touch a DC book again. I guess all it took was a week for me to eat my words. Even though I decided to steer clear off all things COUNTDOWN since it is turning out to be a convoluted, over-stretched mess, I did pick up the first issue of SALVATION RUN, partially because I like Sean Chen as an artist and I found the concept to be pretty cool. Turns out I made the right decision to pick this one up.
Part NO ESCAPE, part SECRET WAR, part Negative Zone prison concocted for last year’s CIVIL WAR, this book tosses most of DC’s villains onto one distant planet to fend for themselves. Throughout recent issues of COUNTDOWN, the Suicide Squad has been rounding up all of the villains and shipped them off with nothing but the costumes on their backs to survive on a distant planet so that they would be out of the heroes’ hair for good. They have an opportunity to build their own society and take over an uninhabited world or destroy it; either way they are now not the problem of DC’s earth proper (whatever the hell number Earth that is…geez DC is confusing these days).
The premise is a surefire winner. You can’t lose pitting DC’s top baddies against one another. In this issue, Flash’s Rogues serve as our tour guides across this dangerous terrain with a second wave of villains including the Joker, coming in a few weeks later after the Rogues have already experienced the dangers of this new world. It’s fun to see the villains bang up against each other. As with every other villain team-up, they don’t get along. Part of the reason they are categorized as villains is due to the fact that they have poor social skills. Writer Bill Willingham seems to be having fun with these bad guys. There are bickerings and bravado-showings all over the place in this one, each taking into consideration the personality of each character. Willingham does a good job of balancing the characters and giving them their own voice. This story is definitely character driven, which is a relief given the fact that many times in group books, the plot often guides the story and characterization (or more accurately continuity-based characterization) is pushed aside in order to move the plot along. In this one, never is a character bent in order for the writer to take the plot in a certain way. Everyone seems to be acting accordingly and the plot moves along behind. Many of DC’s villains have been fleshed out pretty well, so these stories really kind of write themselves.
The only complaint I have about the story is the awkward flashback transitions. It is almost to the point of parody where someone says, “Remember what Rick Flagg said to us?” Then the scene immediately shifts to a flashback as Rick Flagg tells someone something. These flashbacks have the subtlety of a diddley-doo-diddly-doo-diddly-doo Wayne’s World skit.
Clumsy transitions aside, this is a strong first issue with a fun premise and a cast of characters that will most definitely prove to be loads of fun to watch. Sean Chen’s minimalistically shaded yet finely lined artwork makes me wonder why the guy doesn’t get more work. Chen does his thang and does it well here with some finely detailed environments, vividly placed panels, and fluidly moving characters. This is just a strong, strong effort that gives me more faith in Willingham after an unimpressive run on SHADOWPACT. Willingham’s work here is much more on par with his FABLES work than anything else he’s done. When the guy’s on, he’s on and with SALVATION RUN is about as on as you can get.
HOUSE OF M: AVENGERS #1
Writer: Christos N. Gage Artist: Mike Perkins Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoThis just makes my head hurt if just from a continuity standpoint. The title is telling the history of The Avengers in the House Of M reality from BEFORE the events in House Of M. A bit of important hair splitting here. I thought that Scarlett Witch remade the world into “House Of M” from the current time she was at. In other words, the timeline starts with the moment she remade the world with everyone having false memories of a fake “House Of M” history that never really happened. Only then this book would make no sense. Since the events pre-date the “House Of M” story that would mean I’m reading stuff that never happened except in the characters fake memories. So…I guess Scarlett Witch actually reached back in time and for real changed history, not just people’s memories of it? But then…the heroes still had their memories of the real history which she had caused to actually not happen. Ugh. I’m dizzy.
On top of that, the narration in the book itself has some wonky-time going on. At the start, Luke Cage’s narration is in the same timeframe as the story he’s telling. We’re hearing his thoughts as he walks around. Then he goes into a flashback. So his narration is still in the present over a story set in the past. Fine. Then we come back to the “present”. Only now the narration isn’t present tense, its past tense. Luke is now further ahead of the story and looking back. What the ^#% hell??? So I guess he was narrating in the “present”, then he took a break at some point. Maybe took a nap, a big crap, and a vacation to Hawaii, and THEN he picked up his narrating duties again. I’m making a big deal out of a small thing, but it pissed me off.
As to the story itself, it’s okay, but I’m not sure why I’m to care. We’re going back to tell House Of M stories NOW? Really? I barely cared when it was relevant. It is an interesting take on the Avengers concept, I like the characters involved but, still, I don’t care that much. I even enjoy good “What If” and alternate reality stories and this is a story idea even I don’t see a need for.
On a positive note, I did like the look and vibe of the art. In particular, the introduction of Willis made me go, “Hey, that’s cool.” First panel, he’s at a distance and looks like a regular guy. Then in the next shot we’re closer and you can see that he is actually covered in scales. Go back to the first picture and, by God those scales are in that first shot; just so fine you can miss them. Then you get to a shot that reveals he has lizard eyes. Go back to that first shot and, wow, that’s in there too just so subtle you can miss it. Sort of an artistic magic trick. That was nice. And aside from the shifting tense with the narrator, again, the story is well done. But due to the underlying premise behind the story, I’m not sure I really care about it.
TITANS EAST SPECIAL #1
Writer: Judd Winick Pencils: Ian Churchill Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoLet’s sum up before we even get started: this is a #1 for the sake of being a number one. There is no second issue (unless you count the upcoming TITANS #1) which is another number one. Cheap marketing ploys always start a book out on the wrong foot.
But the book won me over in a general sense. The first half highlights the family aspect of the Wolfman/Perez TEEN TITANS (this issue catches him between leg waxings, apparently…) It was cute and nostalgic, as I’m sure it was meant to be. The “Titans Together, Best Friends Forever!” or whatever they shouted at the end was, however, over the top, down one side and back up the other.
Then we launch into Cyborg singing the latest verse of “Glory Days” and again, the classic plot has merit: old team is unavailable, so one member of the old team assembles an unfamiliar team of unappreciated misfits that goes on to forge new legends. Gosh, I’ve loved that story ever since the first time I read it in GIANT SIZED X-MEN #1 (I wasn’t reading comics back when AVENGERS #16 came out).
And true to the cover blurb, something “happens” which will cause those classic Titans to reassemble. Someone dies. More than one someone, actually, and I don’t think I’m really spoiling here. C’mon, you knew it just like I did. You saw the cover and thought “angst inducing body count,” didn’t you? Relax, I don’t think quite everyone is dead, and I hope not, because I really like Dove and Anima.
Churchill’s pencils really save the day, at least from a visual standpoint. I’ve heard rumors that he was getting better, and I think it’s true. Check out the panel where Kid Flash steals Joker’s gun, for instance. Great shot, one you could only get in a comic book, and there’s a lot more of that. He’s not just a cheesecake artist anymore (though admittedly, there’s still plenty of eye candy. More on that in a minute).
So with regards to this book being a sort of TITANS #0, there’s much to like, much to look at…and much where one shrugs one’s shoulders, saying, “Why?”
As far as the story goes, I have (of course) a few complaints. I didn’t like the way that Vic was so dismissive about Power Boy’s “run-in” with Supergirl. You mean him kidnapping her? Him beating her up, not because he was a supervillain, but because he was her boyfriend? His possible attempted rape of her? That lil’ run in? Hmmm…
Also, Dawn Granger is Hawk’s older sister, not younger. I know this because I’ve been fascinated with this very well-written character since Karl and Barbara Kesel did such a great job with her way back when.
Of course, we have the required naked person in one Holly Granger taking a shower. Dawn even asks her why she had to shower if she was going to change into Hawk anyway. Holly gives an answer, but I know the real answer: story requirement. Winick’s writing requires at least one naked person, and Churchill’s pencils demand that person be female.
But if you get over the basic plot limitations, Winick moves the story itself along nicely. I’m probably going to get blasted by my peers, but the man can write some clever dialogue. I’ll even go so far as to say he’s gifted. But after reading this issue, I think I know why I sometimes have a problem with his writing.
I think Winick sells himself short. And that is making him predictable. Consider: most Winick comics have at least one naked person, a fair amount of sexual action or innuendo, maybe some bodily function humor, and some very clever dialogue regarding those items. It’s a formula that works for him, but most of it is fairly low-hanging fruit, and the sort of wittiness I always found funny—when I was in high school. But every joke doesn’t have to be about sex. After a while, it’s kind of grating.
For the casual reader, I’m sure it’s hilarious. For those of us who have been reading comics for many years, it borders on juvenile. In most cases, the dialogue moves the plot along. So many times, though, it feels like the plot is a device to move the dialogue.
And the sad thing is, Winick can really write some funny, poignant stories. For instance, I picked up BARRY WEEN a few years ago and read the arc where one of his friends is accidentally all grown up. Barry kept thinking he could pull a winner out of the situation some way, some how. It was well-written and funny. I laughed my way through most of the story, but when Barry’s face scrunched up at the end, momentarily overwhelmed by all that had happened, my face scrunched up a bit as well. Winick did that. He can write. But so often, he seems to take the easy shots. I would love to see him stretch himself again.
I haven’t picked up Winick’s BLACK CANARY/GREEN ARROW book this week (and I probably will) but I’m fairly certain of what I’ll get: at least one naked person, some clever dialogue that focuses on that fact, some more dialogue about sex or bodily functions…oh yeah, and a plot somewhere in there. Sigh. Knowing he can do so much better, though, makes me sadder than the wasted deaths of a handful of D-list characters.
OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #2
Writer: Jonathan Lethem Penciler: Farel Dalrymple Publisher: Marvel Comics... wait, seriously? Reviewed by Humphrey LeeRegardless of the actual content inside this issue of OMEGA here, I really have to take the time and space to give a big old verbal pat on the bat to the guys at Marvel who actually had the balls to produce this comic book. These days, I do well to avoid the sales charts because a) they make me baby-punching levels of angry and b) I guess they're not entirely accurate numbers-wise. But still, the placement of books is enough to let me in on what the industry wants and well, it's not pretty. Why are either of those relevant you ask? Because I don't have to look at any supercilious chart in order to know that this book can't be selling in the fucking slightest. I mean, come on, it has a writer that apparently is a biggish name novelist but I bet maybe one comic reader in a fucking thousand knows who he is (with me being one of the other 999) writing about a character that about the same ratio knows who HE is, with art that screams "Indie" (whatever that means these days), and no “World War Invasion Complex” banner in sight. Hell, I don't even think I'd be exaggerating (though I really am) to say more folks read this column by a bunch of guys who proudly call themselves @$$holes than they do OMEGA THE UNKNOWN. And honestly, that is a horrible shame, and now we move onto the how and the why. Ain't segueing grand?
The story thus far: Young Alexander has been a shut-in all his life, home-schooled by his parents who end up dying in a car accident on the way to his first day of school with real children his age. But its okay, they turned out to be robots anyway. And while laying in the hospital convalescing and trying to come to grips with this revelation, Alex is attacked by yet another ensemble of robotic beings only to be saved by our title hero, OMEGA THE UNKNOWN who has some connection to the bots, and apparently Alex (as shown when Alex exhibits some superpowers of his own; energy blasts from his hand that leave symbols in the form of Omega Symbols on his palms).
Admittedly, this second issue doesn't really resolve much in the main plot point there; what is up with Alex, his powers and his "family"? What this issue does do though is push the term "quirky" to the limits in a very good way. Most of it has to do with The Mink, a grandstanding celebrity supertype in a big fuchsia suit that comes into conflict with Omega as he watches over Alex in his new digs (these being the apartment of one of the nurses at his hospital, now taking care of the newfound orphan). What I like is that there's obviously a bigger story that Lethem is building to, but he doesn't seem to be in any hurry to get there. There's actually a steady pace to the scripting here, there's always something going on, but it also has this weird touch of lethargica that makes it all awkward and subdued, which actually kind of helps it overall because it also creates a sense of humor in the same vein, kind of like a Wes Anderson film. But there's all these elements at play here; The Robots, Omega's playing of guardian to the boy, the Mink, Alex's new home, and even some new ones introduced in this issue via an unusual interlude involving a researcher who receives a mysterious book about robotics that actually seems to be absorbed directly into his body over the course of three pages... No, I am not making this up.
All in all though, all these very unruly elements over the course of two issues have made OMEGA for me not necessarily one of the best things I'm reading right now, but definitely one high on the reading list simply because now I not only want to know what is going to happen next to these characters, but simply, what the hell kind of antics are going to commence as they occur and to see it through the "eyes" of Farel Dalrymple's pencils. The perfect accommodation for such unnatural storytelling, his multitude of smooth lines make up pictures that look very simplistic at first, but actually hold a lot of depth which I think is the perfect metaphor for this book so far, and for what it looks to become. We're only a fifth of the way through this Maxi-series, but if this stream of pure, unabashed creativity continues to flow forth from this book, this will definitely be one of the best, yet likely overlooked, titles of the year.
SIMON DARK #2
Written by “Wily” Steve Niles Art by Scott “Big Shot” Hampton Published by DC Reviewed by Stones “Throw me a Bone” Throw“Intriguing” is all I can say about this one. I’d love to recommend it further, but Niles and Hampton haven’t really done enough to fully impress me yet. I’d love to be singing their praises, but…I’ll start at the beginning.
While I can’t say I disagreed with the criticisms Ambush Bug voiced in his review of Simon’s first issue, I found myself really enjoying the debut of Steve Niles’ new creation. Sure, it was thin on the ground, but there was a solid hook and some good creepiness there and I found myself intrigued enough to come back for the next issue. Scott Hampton’s fantastic art, reminiscent of a more experimental Michael Lark, was the icing on the cake. If the quality is present I can make an allowance for the first issue being a little slow off the ground. I’d prefer if it didn’t happen, but characters have got to be established and the team needs to find their feet.
So I hit up Mr. Dark’s second appearance and upon closing the back cover, I’m disappointed to say the only change is in my interest levels. What was intriguing in the first issue starts to become annoying when there’s the same low level of story progression. This is one S-L-O-W book. It’s slower than a snail in a Nissan! It’s slower than the kid in my class at school who asked “what about recipes?” when learning about how only plants make their own food!
In this issue, Simon gets shot by some GCPD cops, is taken to the morgue, and then escapes. Meanwhile, those mysterious guys in suits (when they were introduced last issue I hoped for a moment that it was Bruce Wayne and Alfred! Showing a hero from a different perspective like that would have been pretty cool)…do some stuff. Compare this to last issue when…uh, you’ll have to remind me on that again. I’m there to be won round, boys, but you’re gonna have to work a bit harder.
I’m not accusing Mr. Niles of padding out his story or anything like that – there has been progression in both of the issues so far, just not all that much. The book could do with cutting down on the “beat” splash pages and giving us a little more for our trouble. It’s a new series starring a new character and I need to be given a reason to stick around on an unsold commodity, but two issues in the dial is still set to “mildly intriguing” rather than involving and the book isn’t quite doing it for me on the value for money ratio. Which is a shame, because Niles has a potentially strong concept (I’d love to see Batman, or some other aspects of Gotham in the setting of the wider DCU show up), an, um, intriguing main character with a great design, and a potentially involving mystery developing. Note the use of “potentially”.
I’m conflicted. On the one hand there’s a lot of quality here, and I dig the tone, but on the other it’s not exactly a full read. The character isn’t terribly original, and while some cool stuff looks like it’s unfurling, the creative team aren’t quite doing enough to convince me to stick around. If only there was some way to enjoy story and art without having to worry about single issue pacing problems…
Trade, I’m a-waiting!
CAPTAIN MARVEL #1
Writer: Brian Reed Artists: Lee Weeks (pencils) & Stefano Gaudiano (inks) Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugSome books don’t have a chance right from the starting gate. The resurrection of Captain Marvel was probably the worst idea to spring from CIVIL WAR and the issue that showcased that resurrection (CIVIL WAR: THE RETURN) was unanimously voted as the worst issue of year in last year’s @$$ie Awards. Mar-Vell’s return was ham-fistedly executed with the age-old “pulling the character out of the timestream to live life in between for a while” premise used as if it were an afterthought. Worse yet, after the awful re-introduction, Captain Mar-Vell wasn’t used at all in the CIVIL WAR storyline. He simply ceased to exist. Maybe Marvel realized their mistake and shelved this series. Maybe they paid attention to all of the negative words lobbed around about THE RETURN. Maybe they were just waiting until Captain Mar-Vell’s return fit into an upcoming storyline (more on that later). Or maybe they just wanted to wait a time until the stink of THE RETURN wasn’t so fresh in our collective brain-pans.
Who knows what the ad wizards at Marvel had in mind? But nevertheless, Captain Mar-Vell is back.
Now this ain’t Black Lady Captain Marvel, or the one with the starry face, or the one who hollers SHAZAM! and gets written poorly by Judd Winick. This is the Captain Marvel that probably none of you remember. Hell, I barely know the character and I’ve been reading comics over twenty years. Other than a few flashback issues of Peter David’s Genis CAPTAIN MARVEL series, the only Captain Marvel comic I remember reading was the graphic novel depicting his death.
So with little prior knowledge of the character, I tried to shove my rancor for THE RETURN aside and experience this new CAPTAIN MARVEL miniseries on it’s own merits.
Surprisingly, it was a decent first issue.
Yes, this issue suffers from the same malady that each and every Marvel first issue suffers from, namely the lack of our hero in costume throughout the entire issue until the astonishing final splash page where the guy on the cover shows up. My fury towards that type of comic crescendoed in my review of the first issue of FOOLKILLER, but my anger has subsided a bit. This issue at least does a good job of keeping the story entertaining despite the lack of panel-time for our hero.
The thing that made me look past that was mainly the interesting twists that ILLUMINATI writer Brian Reed adds such as a religion based on Kree culture emulating Mar-vell as a Christ-like figure and the quick disposal of 3rd tier villain the Cyclone at the Louvre. I especially liked Mar-Vell’s observations about how the Kree and Earthlings differ in their appreciation of art. There’s some meaty character work at play here and Reed proves himself to be formidable at filling an issue with enough stuff to make it feel relevant. This is often harder than it looks apparently, since even the biggest names in comics sometimes have difficulty doing that. Reed also understands build-up to big scenes and reveals. There’s a real knowledge of panel placement at play here that stood out to me as I read through this one a few times.
This panel placement excellence may have to do with the fact that rock-solid artist Lee Weeks is making Brian’s words come to life with the help of DAREDEVIL/GOTHAM CENTRAL’s Stefano Gaudiano’s inks. This is a grounded and much more reality based super hero tale. I liked the art, which at times looked a bit like a more refined John Romita Jr. or Dougie Braithwaite. Even if the story were awful, I’d stick around for the art alone.
What I didn’t like, though, was the obligatory Iron Man appearance. I understand that Iron Man is the lynchpin of the Marvel Universe right now, but if I have to read through another issue where Iron Man pops in panel for some quiet sittin’ and talkin’ time with the hero of the month, establishing said hero’s stance on the Civil War thing, I’m going to pull out what little hair I have left on my head.
But back to the positive side, this is one of the few comics that actually acknowledges the shit that has been happening over the last few years at Marvel actually exist. WORLD WAR HULK, CIVIL WAR, Spidey Unmasking, the Initiative are all touched upon and give this book a little weight. Although, the question does arise that if Captain Mar-Vell is so crazy powerful, why wasn’t he present to fight off the Hulk? Or to defend the Kree from the Phalanx in ANNIHILATION CONQUEST? Or duke it out with whomever in CIVIL WAR? Maybe some of these “where the hell were you/” questions will be answered in this miniseries. Who knows?
All in all, this was a pretty fun read. I know, you all may still be reeling from the stinkiness that was CIVIL WAR: THE RETURN. But I tried to shake off that stigma and dive in with a fresh mind and I’m glad I did. So should you guys. Before I go, I do have to toss out a theory that I’m pretty certain is going to turn out to be true. Given the fact that writer Brian Reed wrote THE ILLUMINATI and given the fact that Joey Q dropped the hint that seeds of the upcoming “Secret Invasion” storyline have been planted for a while and to look at characters who have returned out of the blue for clues to answer the “Who’s a Skrull?” question, I think it’s a safe bet that our Kree warrior with “holes in his memory” may turn out to have a green complexion, pointy ears, and a waffle chin by the time final issue five rolls around. Just a theory, but I’ll bet I’m right. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this book. It’s a pretty damn fine read and I think I’ll stick around to see if my theory pans out.
BIFF-BAM-POW! # 1
Created, written and Illustrated by: Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer Published by: Slave Labor Graphics Reviewed by: superheroEvan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer deliver a truly enjoyable comic book experience with the debut of their new book BIFF-BAM-POW! For those of you not in the know, Evan Dorkin is the creative genius behind MILK AND CHEESE and DORK, two of the comic books that were greatly responsible for introducing me to truly independent comics. Not only that but he helped me realize that comics could actually still be funny without being corny. Sarah Dyer’s comic book pedigree is just as impressive what with publishing her own comic book, ACTION GIRL, which was probably one of the first female friendly comic publications out there.
For those of you who’ve been exposed to Dorkin and Dyer’s work BIFF-BAM-POW! is really not all that new. Much like their other work it’s a series of different stories, each with its own wacky take on certain genre, BIFF-BAM-POW! being a riff on super-hero/sci-fi/action-adventure strips. If anything BIFF-BAM-POW! is a bit tamer than at least Dorkin’s work but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. As a matter of fact, it makes it a bit more accessible. Those of us who have loved the crazed irreverence of something like MILK AND CHEESE have something equally zany but just as wacky to show the young tikes in our lives. BIFF-BAM-POW! is a fun romp and actually has a very old school comics feel to it. It’s humorous without being crass and Dorkin’s illustrations are full of a vitality and crispness that really isn’t seen in many comics these days. It’s a style of comic that just isn’t around as much as it used to be, and if anything BIFF-BAM-POW! had me feeling a bit nostalgic for the way some comics used to be--or at least the way some kids entertainment used to be: funny but with a bit of an edge. And while Dorkin’s past works rode that edge and jumped over it, BIFF-BAM-POW! stays in very friendly territory. Don’t get me wrong, I miss gin swiggin’, street fightin’ dairy products as much as the next comic fan, but BIFF-BAM-POW! is a bit of a mellower outing that is still enjoyable even without all of the ultra-violence that some of Dorkin’s other strips indulged in. This is a terrific all ages romp that avoids being a bore and actually made me smile quite a bit.
It’s been too long since I’ve come across any of Dorkin and Dyer’s comic book work. It’s my understanding that both of them are busy working in the animation industry. Well, if that’s true I hope that it won’t be so long before we see another comic book from the both of them. I would hope that there’s a place for fun voices such as theirs in today’s marketplace and while I’m not sure if BIFF-BAM-POW! is going to have a follow up issue I’d sure love to see one.