Saturday, May 1, 2010

Greg's Comic Reviews: Week ot April 28, 2010

Welcome to Greg’s weekly comic reviews. At your request, we’ve changed the format slightly. Gone are the grades and in their place we are introducing a five-star rating system (☆☆☆☆☆). Black stars are good (). White stars are place holders () or no score. Replacing the “unreadable” category will be the toxic comics (no offense Britney) which will be indicated by a radioactive symbol ().

This was another HUGE week: 19 titles (11 Marvel, 6 DC/Wildstorm and 3 indies). Over half of them were four stars or better and there was only one really bad title. Second Coming continues to roll, while Siege takes its deliciously sweet time drawing to a conclusion. When all is said and done, Iron Man and a new Wildstorm Mini-series steal the (already impressive) show.


★★★★★ = Really, really good.

★★★★☆ = Better than average.

★★★☆☆ = Average.

★★☆☆☆ = Below average.

★☆☆☆☆ = Not good.

= Unreadable.

Breaking it Down

The Top Dog (Greg’s Top Pick of the Week)

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN # 25 ★★★★★ (w: Matt Fraction/a: Salvador Larocca) Ready for Iron Man-2? Can’t wait for your dose of Iron Action? This is your book! In true Fraction/Larocca fashion, Invincible Iron Man is more than just smashing and repulsors. It is a great jumping on point as Stark and company are picking up the pieces from the last story arc and return the series to the top of the comic world. As the team (and world) rebound from Tony’s fall from grace and complete mind-wipe, a new (old) enemy emerges to take advantage of Stark’s desperate times. While it may not exactly be a movie-tie in, Invincible Iron Man #25 unites many of the themes from the movie universe and the Marvel Universe. Forget Stark: Disassembled, the Invincible Iron Man is back!

The Good!

SIEGE: SECRET WARRIORS ONE SHOT ★★★★★ (w: Jonathan Hickman/a: Alessandro Vitti) Follow Alexander, the young son of the God of War, as he exacts his father’s last request! Go with Nick Fury and Steve Rogers into the pitched battlefield of Broxton, Oaklahoma! Siege: Secret Warriors is an excellent ancillary title to the Siege mini-series. Vitti’s artwork is good, even if his style is an inconsistent mix of Chaykin and JR jr. Siege and Second Coming are both winners, epic storylines with ancillary titles that are actually worth your $3.

X-FORCE # 26 ★★★★☆ (w: Craig Kyle & Chris Yost/a: Mike Choi) The Second Coming mini-series is phenomenal! Believe it or not true believers, an X-man dies in X-Force #26!!! Hype aside Second Coming is the best X-men story to hit the racks in the last decade. The “chase”-“on the run” excitement has been a really good way to make use of the myriad (and there is definitely at least one myriad) of X-characters and villains. The constant moving and re-locating has also been a great way to keep readers up-to-date and even go over some old material for folk who may have been gone for awhile (like me). One of the bright spots in X-Force #26 is Hope herself, she isn’t just a useless lump of anatomy being dragged around, she is actually written with personality and even fights back. It’s true, another X-man dies. Luckily for X-men that’s never a permanent disability.

ULTIMATE AVENGERS 2 # 1 ★★★★☆ (w: Mark Millar/a: Lenil Yu) The Punisher stars in the second assembling of Ultimate Nick Fury’s Avengers. Re-imaginings are the key to the Ultimate Universe and no one does it better than Mark Millar. If you were disappointed by the fairly pedestrian offering of Ultimate Avengers 1, this first issue goes in a completely different direction, re-imagining even more Marvel U heroes for the Avengers story. The only complaint is the Punisher himself. Going back a decade or so, it would have made more sense for Frank Castle to be wandering the Ultimate U without the trademark skull shirt. Having Castle in costume really epitomizes what has gone wrong with the Ultimate Universe since Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum. Still, this is a great beginning for what promises to be strong series by Millar/Yu.

GARRISON # 1 ★★★★☆ (w: Jeff Mariotte/a: Francesco Francavilla) is a hit! A hybrid of Clint Eastwood’s “man with no name” and a modern Tom Clancy thriller, starring someone with Punisher or Batman-like skills! There is plenty of action and a solid plot – a good beginning for this WildStorm mini. The story moves quickly, delivering efficient character (and universe) introductions, while telling an interesting story.

NEW AVENGERS # 64 ★★★★☆ (w: Brian Michael Bendis/ a: Mike McKone) The Siege of Asgard is the biggest thing in the Marvel Universe! See it from the Hood’s point of view and learn more about his deal with Loki, Norman Osborn and watch as the tide turns on the wanna-be criminal overlord. Regrettably the story actually spills a little bit past Siege #3, giving up a bit of a spoiler for the main Siege story. However, overall New Avengers #64 is Bendis at his best. This is a character driven story, centered on the Hood, that also happens to keep up with and even add to the epic Siege.

THOR # 609 ★★★★☆ (w: Kieron Gillen/a: Billy Tan & Bat/ Rich Elson). After Iron Man, Thor may be the next BIG thing. Even before Siege started, events in the Thor series have been building towards the Heroic Age. Thor #609 is a great jumping-on point. With no less than three Asgardian sub-plots woven through the issue it is difficult to even realize that Thor doesn’t actually make an appearance. The plot of Thor #609 revolves around Kelda (a female god who had a mortal connection to Broxton), Volstagg (who was at the center of Osborn’s machinations to ignite Siege), and Balder (who has been the Lord of Asgard for about a year now).

DETECTIVE COMICS # 864 ★★★★☆ (w: David Hine/ a: Jeremy Haun) continues the storylines that started back in the Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum one-shot and the Arkham Asylum mini-series; and then took a surprising turn into the even longer-running Black Mask story arc. Jeremiah Arkham is now a prisoner in the state-of-the-art facility that he designed, surrounded by hundreds of inmates who want him to pay for their suffering. But Jeremiah isn’t about to rollover and go quietly! After months of being Batwoman-centric, Batman returns to the center stage of Detective. Hine/Haun deliver a solid story, creating a new image for the bent and broken Arkham. The only problem the book has is the introduction which ties Arkham to Professor Hugo Strange and ret-cons an absolutely classic Batman story. No doubt, this had already been done and the intro is just a flashback, but it is wildly unnecessary. Why not tell a new story to intro characters (or build their history), like Arkham, why butcher the classics.?Time will never work in favor of storytelling in comic books.

CAPTAIN AMERICA # 605 ★★★★☆ (w: Ed Brubaker/a: Luke Ross) The “Two Americas” storyline reaches its explosive climax. The final Bucky-Cap versus Crazy-Cap battle is done well, but the Falcon steals the show. Bucky-Cap is quickly growing into carrying the Shield, without becoming a “Steve Rogers” clone. Establishing Bucky as his own character (Bucky/Winter Soldier/Barnes/etc.) was just the start. His inner monologue constantly reminds us of his intentions to live up to the image of his one-time mentor, while his actions are clearly his and not the ones Steve would have taken - even if the outcome is the same. The best Bucky-Cap story arc since he took the Shield wraps up very satisfying (and action-packed), while continuing the groundwork of setting Bucky-Cap up as THE Cap of the Heroic Age.


The (Green) Lanterns immortalize their fallen by creating a huge memorial tree. It’s supposed to last forever. I give it a year before it’s wrecked, sick or evil. If you skip the parts with the Lanterns from Earth, GLC #47 is a good epilogue for an otherwise abysmal Blackest Night. The attention paid to the alien Corpsmen who made GLC a great read before the whole Blackest Night fiasco is done with refreshing sincerity to the characters. Gleason’s artwork, especially with the alien Corpsmen (especially Kilowog, Salaak and Iron Man – I mean, Stel) is absolutely fantastic.

MIGHTY AVENGERS # 36 ★★★☆☆ (w: Dan Slott/a: Khoi Pham). Hank Pym, the Wasp (ugh) and the agents of G.R.A.M.P.A. face down the ultimate army of Ultrons! Trapped in “Pymverse”(the“Underverse), the Earth’s Scientist Supreme has to earn his chops virtually alone against his most fearsome creation and his 10 million Jocasta brides, while the rest of the disbanded Mighty Avengers answer Cap’s (Steve-Cap) call and muster in Broxton to defend the Seige of Asgard. Mighty #36 wraps up the series, as all the Avengers titles are coming to a close, so that they can be re-packaged and re-launched in a month or so. Of all the changes, perhaps canceling this series and breaking up this team (of Avengers and creators) may be the worst part of Siege/Heroic Age. Over the past six months or so, Mighty Avengers has been a lot of fun. Sometimes it was completely silly (Hank Pym, “the Wasp” is the “Scientist Supreme”?... sounds like someone who should be coming up with pizza combos), but the title did a good job of telling an interesting story month-to-month, while widely remaining outside of the going-ons in Dark Reign. Kudos to Slott & Pham on a series well done.

LAST DAYS of AMERICAN CRIME #2 ★★★☆☆ (w: Rick Remender/ a: Greg Tocchini) This book isn’t for everyone. It has graphic violence, nudity, vulgar language and a very hard to follow plot, interwoven into some very stylized artwork. Tocchini’s artwork is the real winner for me in this series. The first issue kicked off spectacularly and whether I just don’t recall or it was less intrusive, there seems to be about five times the text in LDAC#2 than there was in the first issue. Tocchini’s artwork is great, but between the coloring and the many lines of his style, it is almost painful to try to follow this much text and this much action all at once. On the other hand Last Days may be one of those series that it is best to read all the issues together instead of one at a time, especially with the long delay between releases. Still a good read, if not a bit hard to get through.

AMAZING SPIDERMAN # 629 ★★★☆☆ (w: Roger Stern/a: Lee Weeks). The “Someone can stop the Juggernaut” story arc wraps up a little moralistic and with a very obtuse use of the Captain Universe power imbued in a (not really surprising) host. Overall this story arc was one of the few real “misses” of the Gauntlet. However, the Zeb Wells/ Chris Bachalo Curt Conners (that’s right, the Lizard!) back-up feature is nicely done.

The Not-so Good

IRON MAN 2 - PUBLIC IDENTITY # 1 ★★☆☆☆ (w: Joe Casey/Justin Theroux/a: Barry Kitson & Ron Lim) is set in the Iron Man movie Universe, not the familiar Marvel U. That being typed, this story is designed to draw in readers fresh from the movie or the sequel, this two-part series actually takes place between the two films. Like the Star Trek: Nero series did for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, this series may provide some interesting background from the sequel next week, or it may wind up just one of those novelty movie comics.

The Bad

JUSTICE LEAGUE: RISE OF ARSENAL # 2 ★★☆☆☆ (w: J.T. Krul/a: Geraldo Borges). Unfortunately the Rise of Arsenal/Fall of Green Arrow has lost its charm. By now we already know what becomes of Green Arrow (have you seen the ads in all the DC books this month?) and that leaves us with the mire of Arsenal, which is turning out to be just another stretch at re-inventing one of the original Teen Titans to see if they can catch lightning in a bottle like they did with Wally West and Dick Grayson. Unfortunately, the problem is no matter how much the powers that be at DC try to imbue these once-great sidekicks (Wonder Girl, Aqualad, Speedy) with compelling backstorys, the fact comes back to these characters are never going to be more interesting than their mentors, unless the develop them as more stand-alone characters (see Wally West & Dick Grayson for example). The small three (Wonder Girl, Aqualad, and Speedy) have always been second-billing. Why Wally West (the Flash) and Dick Grayson (Nightwing and now Batman) have been able to stand on their own for so long, is that they had been strong characters that a lot of effort was put into to develop over time. These “quick fix” reinventions don’t work very well for Wonder Girl, Arsenal, Tempest, Troia, Red Arrow, “momma Troy”, Darkstar Troy, etc. nor do they stick. In fact, these “fixes” are part of the problem. Instead of taking the time to develop these “fixes” they get passed along or around until someone thinks of something better to do with them. Sadly, “better” is a seldom occurring, fleeting moment for the Small Three and Rise of Arsenal is going to wind up the same way.

THE WEB #8 ★★☆☆☆ (w: Matthew Sturges/a: Roger Robinson). Just go ahead and end the series already. The Web was a fresh idea, injected with some life by adding a connection to the Bat-Universe (Oracle) that has fallen unimaginatively flat. There is a limit to the suspension of disbelief. No one is going to be an Olympic level martial artist, track star, and boxer in the same Olympics. Just sayin’. And if there was such a person, they would have way more personal discipline than John Raymond. Simply to balance their time for practice they’d have to wake-up, eat, practice, rest, practice, rest, eat, practice… and then if this person did exist, they’d be on every single Wheaties box, Nike commercial, spokeman for… okay, seriously, the point is Sturges didn’t need to try to make Raymond super-athlete, but he does. In fact, just doing that really show that Sturges either didn’t like/get or pay any attention to the concept that JMS introduced with the Web. With that in mind, Sturges is trying to wrap up that long-running story arc and prep the Web for his role in the up-coming Crusaders series. Just go ahead and cancel the series now, before you make it any worse. For the record, the work JMS did and the first five or six issues of the Web were really good and this series and character could have been Booster Gold 2010, could have been a cool addition to the DC Universe (especially the Webhosts!) for years to come. And then…

FANTASTIC 4 # 578 (w: Jonahtan Hickman/a: Dale Eaglesham) is absolutely not worth your $3. Over the past three or four months, Hickman and Eaglesham have been starting (fairly uninteresting) story arcs and then leaving them, building up to… another uninteresting story. There really isn’t mug good about FF #578. The Human Torch acts like a moron (and he shouldn’t be), there’s too much Valeria, Reed Richards still looks like a linebacker and Herbie (`nuff said).

A good thing: “The Other Side of Zero” club is kind of a cool idea, in a mocking – ha ha readers will figure this out, but the Human Torch who has actually been to the Negative zone won’t. Oh well. It’s still kind of cool. Close enough to be the good thing.

The Reading Order







X-FORCE # 26 ★★★★☆



GARRISON # 1 ★★★★☆


THE WEB #8 ★★☆☆☆

THOR # 609 ★★★★☆


NEW AVENGERS # 64 ★★★★☆






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