Wednesday, December 31, 2008

CBR's Top 100 Books of 2008 Part Three (60-41)

CBR has posted the third part of its countdown of the top 100 books of 2008, and nothing from my top ten is in this bunch. But, since my taste is pretty good, it's not surprising that many of my picks may end up closer to the top, right? (I kid... sort of.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

CBR's Top 100 Books of 2008 Part Two (80-61)

The second part of the top 100 countdown over at CBR has been posted and three of my top ten (at the time) have made it: glamourpuss (#76), Captain America (#67), and Aetheric Mechanics (#64). So, check it out and, tomorrow, they will post the next twenty books.

Random Thoughts (Dec. 29 2008)

* Go read Tom Spurgeon's interview with Tucker Stone. It's long, but it's damn good stuff. In fact, he may have referred to me as a lunatic with regards to my positive-leaning review of Secret Invasion #8 (which, if he is referring to me at that point, he's completely correct in doing so--it's the one review I've done for CBR that I would go back and change, because I fucked up). The interview focuses on Stone's thoughts on "mainstream" comics and it's all very smart and very interesting.

* Where are all of the hardcore Rann-Thanagar Holy War fans bitching that I gave the final issue half a star in my CBR review? What's "funny" is that I will totally be buying Strange Adventures despite it almost certainly being just as bad as Holy War... Does that seem odd? It shouldn't since Jim Starlin is like Joe Casey in that I will buy anything he writes--although, I should add that I'll buy any of his cosmic work--if only to think about it and relate to the rest of his work. I mean, comparing Holy War to any of his Marvel cosmic work would be amazing. Why exactly is he unable to make the DC stuff work, while, at Marvel, he writes brilliant stuff? I think it has to do with having some core characters at Marvel like Warlock and Thanos that make up the foundation of every story, and not having the same type of characters at DC, but there's got to be more to it. Also, Starlin is doing some of the art in Strange Adventures. That's enough in and of itself. (By the way, I noticed in Marvel's March solitics, the second "Marvel Masterworks" hardcover featuring Adam Warlock is coming out and it contains Starlin's amazing run on the "book" (as it was over several titles) and is something you should definitely think about buying. I have reprints of those comics and I'm considering it.)

* I'm looking forward to this week's comics.

Monday, December 29, 2008

CBR's Top 100 Books of 2008 Part One (100-81)

Well, today, the first of five parts of CBR's Top 100 Books of 2008 has gone up and none of my top ten books have made the list yet. We'll see what happens over the next five days. In the mean time, enjoy books 100 through 81 and look for 80-61 tomorrow.

CBR Review: Rann-Thanagar Holy War #8

I recently reviewed Rann-Thanagar Holy War #8 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences that helped contribute to what my editor called setting "the new LOW bar for reviews of very very bad comics": "I would say that the best thing about this issue is that this series is over, but with Strange Adventures on the horizon, neither DC nor Starlin have gotten the message that it’s not that no one cares, it’s that anyone who did care has simply stopped."

You can read the rest HERE!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

CBR Review: What If? Spider-Man Back in Black #1

I recently reviewed What If? Spider-Man Back in Black (godawful title for a comic, by the way) for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following: "What comes through in this issue is intelligence and thought as Grant considered exactly how Peter Parker really would react to an event like this. Not how he would have to act to fit the constraints of the genre and editorial mandate, but how he would act. Some may disagree with Grant’s conclusions, but the final pages demonstrate that he thought everything through, including Parker’s obsession with responsibility. While revenge may drive the character here, he isn’t stupid and he doesn’t expect to walk away if he gets it."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I Bought Comics: The First Three Weeks of December 2008

[In which I deliver thoughts and musings on comic books which I have read, but have not reviewed for CBR. Not really reviews, so don't take them as such. Unless you want to. Okay?]

I haven't done this for a few weeks, which makes sense since at least half of what I get each week is for reviews, so letting it accumulate makes sense. I will be doing this in chronological and then alphabetical order. As well, included are two graphic novels I received for Christmas on Tuesday. Yeah, we did ours on Tuesday since both of my sister had to work today. It actually didn't change much since the actual date of Christmas is pretty arbitrary and doing it two days sooner isn't really all that different. It also meant that when I woke up this morning at quarter-to-nine, I'd slept in compared to my previous 24 Christmases. Weird.

Final Crisis #5

Well, Tim and I discussed this in a cross-blog Splash Page, so I'm not sure if there's much to add. I dug this issue quite a bit and it's fun to see how Morrison's overall plan is unfolding. Tim and I didn't discuss it, but I didn't find the art changes distracting or annoying in any way.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign

Didn't really impress me. It's nice to see that the villains weren't planning this, this is just Norman Osborn trying to make his life easier. I actually looked at New Avengers: Illuminati to compare/contrast and, wow, Alex Maleev's art sure has changed. Namor, in particular, suffers. His Osborn also has normal hair. What the hell? I'm actually not that enthused over "Dark Reign," but that's a pretty easy stance to take when you thought Iron Man was an asshole post-Civil War. I do like the reversal, but nothing I've read including the end of Secret Invasion, this and the most recent issues of the two Avengers books has convinced me that I should give a fuck. But, more on that towards the end.

Ghost Rider #30

This book loses me more with each passing issue. What began as a quirky grindhouse horror comic has become another book about various versions of the same character with a stupidly cliche villain that's playing the turncoat for a chump. The fall of this book in my esteem has been drastic and I'm very close to dropping it. What comes down to is, I'm bored when I read it. I don't care about the International Spirits of Vengeance, I don't care about a renegade angel, and I really just don't care about this book. I may give the run so-far a reread and let that decide its fate.

Hellblazer #250

Though I buy this book in trades, random one-off or two-part fill-in issues pop up from time to time and it's an excuse to pick up a floppy adventure of John Constantine to hold me over until the next trade comes out. This holiday/anniversary special isn't bad. It isn't great either, but rarely are these fill-in issues, especially when creators are limited to short stories. That said, who cares, it's good stuff. Brian Azzarello's story was witty and, thankfully, didn't tie into his run on the book. Peter Milligan takes over next issue and his story shows promise. I'm this close to picking up the book on a regular basis with Milligan on board. Really, this book is a great pairing of skilled writers and artists, and just a joy to read. Not the best thing ever, but good enough.

Invincible Iron Man #8

Salvador Larocca's art pisses me off. It's butt-fuck ugly in a lot of places as he doesn't know how to draw a damn face/head. Add to that a plot that I don't care about. The more I think about it, the more I find the idea of Norman Osborn in charge just because he got in the shot that killed the Skrull Queen, the more I find the whole idea a waste of my goddamn time. This book is back to being officially dropped.

Punisher: War Zone #2-3

I don't know if you've noticed this, but, over at CBR, there are six comic book reviewers. Now, I like a good "gimmick," so I thought "Six of us, six issues of a new Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon Punisher book... we should each review an issue!" I sent an e-mail to Augie (reviews editor and columnist) and he thought it was a good idea, but wondered if it could work (I did too), but I mentioned it to the gang and they liked the idea. What I find very interesting is that reviews for the first three issues are up and each of us has given our respective issue four stars out of a possible five. Now, if that isn't an indication of the level of quality that Ennis and Dillon are delivering, I don't know what is. And we're all different, us reviewers (the two closest in taste would probably be Tim and myself, I think)... yeah, this is a four-star series. It's as good as it can be. The goofier aspects both add and detract (not equally, but close enough), and it's weekly, so it reads very well. I like that Marvel is releasing this book that way and wish they'd line up various minis by high quality teams to release this way. DC has it's mediocre-to-utter-shit weekly book and Marvel can have its various weekly minis that are quite good.

New Avengers #48

Did anything actually happen in this issue? No? Didn't think so. With the price going up by a buck (a buck-twenty for Canadians thanks to the exchange rate) next issue, I think I'm done with this book. Again, the new line-up isn't really all that different and the new status quo doesn't wow me. There are two reasons why I'd keep buying this series:

1. Because I have all of Bendis's Avengers work to this point. And that reason has a pull, but not a good enough one. Really, it's not even close to good enough.

2. Because I want to see what happens with Danielle Cage. This reason is almost good enough. It's very close, because I've become attached to Luke and Jessica, but I can always pick up trades or find out what happens online. It's not worth nearly five bucks each month (exchange rate, you whiny Americans!).

I do believe I will buy the first issue of Dark Avengers to see what it's like, but, that may be the end of me and Brian Michael Bendis's Avengers work. But, in January, I'm thinking I might start a series of posts looking at his run(s) on the book(s). Fun.

The Little Man: Short Strips, 1980-1995

One of the two graphic novels I received for Christmas. I've been a fan of Chester Brown for a few years now, but this is only the third book of his I've gotten. I first picked up I Never Liked You back in my second year of undergrad and, then, Louis Riel in hardcover shortly after, but, since then... nothing. This collection is nice and ranges in quality, most of the strips only two or three pages. I always enjoy collections like this, because I enjoy seeing how a writer/artist/whatever changes and grows over the years... not just in style and technique, but in their subject matter of choice. Considering that my first exposure to Brown's work was I Never Liked You, it's not surprising that my favourite strips were "Helder" and "Showing 'Helder,'" both very autobiographical. I haven't read all of the notes yet, but plan to tonight. One sour note: after only one read-through, the binding has come unglued... pages haven't fallen out yet, but it's not that fun to have a book fall apart so quickly. Ah well, it will make seem more read if anyone should ever browse my collection and make it seem like I'm a bigger fan of Brown than I am.

The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard

Eddie Campbell's annual graphic novel was my second Christmas graphic novel (if only I'd thought to put the new ACME Novelty Library on my list!) and it's a very renjoyable read. One of the pleasures of each new Campbell OGN is how he presents it--in this one, he's chosen a square(-ish) layout, often divided in four with other bits above and below the "main" panels. It's a really nice way to present the story as well as other information... I actually wish he and Dan Best (his co-writer) had utilised that space even more. Of course, that they used it sparingly makes each use pack that much more of a punch and seem that much more important. The story itself is nice and engrossing, but I always try and appreciate Campbell's work on another level, if I can. It's always difficult for me since I'm more focused on words than pictures, even with comics, and have difficulty really appreciating what an artist is doing. This was one of the books that I thought may alter my top ten of 2008 list, and I'm not sure that it has yet for sure... definitely the top twenty. But, 2008 isn't over yet, so I'm not thinking about it too much. If you haven't, though, check this book out.

That does it. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CBR Review: Batman #683

I recently reviewed Batman #683 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "And, so, Grant Morrison’s run on Batman possibly comes to end. While the final page may say “Follow the Dark Knight to his last adventure in Final Crisis #6,” this issue does offer a satisfying conclusion to Morrison’s two years or so on the book and does fill in the gap between 'Batman R.I.P.' and Final Crisis, showing that Bruce Wayne was never thought dead... but he may just wind up that way soon."

You can read the rest HERE!

Monday, December 22, 2008

CBR Review: Thor #12

I recently advance reviewed Thor #12 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following spoiler-free sentences: "J. Michael Straczynski enjoys making you see events you think you know in a new way, to make his viewer or reader realize that things didn’t happen as they seemed, that things are far more complex than that. He added the Spider-totem elements in his Amazing Spider-Man run, played around with time travel in Babylon 5 and, now, reveals the true origin of Loki."

You can read the rest HERE!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: Full Moon Fever

[Another "lesser known" comic by Joe Casey which I will discuss and, then, ask and answer the question "Should it remain forgotten?"]

This graphic novel was published by AiT/Planet Lair in the early fall of 2005, if I recall correctly. I remember it being then, because I had a cold when I bought it (which affected my appreciation of it) and that cold nearly prevented me from heading to Toronto to see the White Stripes (yes, going to a concert and having to blow my nose every two minutes is not my idea of a good time). I didn't really dig this book when I first got it and hadn't read it again until yesterday. It does have one notable fact, though: Casey co-wrote it with Caleb Gerard. I can't think of another work that Casey co-wrote beyond "grey areas" like scripting over another writer's plot, using the "Marvel style" of writing, or collaborating on crossover events. But, none of those are really "co-writing" in the way that most people use the term. Scripting over another writer's plot is probably the closest, but since there's no agreement on the final results, it's more Casey finishing a job someone else began, whereas co-writing implies a certain level of collaboration and agreement on the final product that none of those other methods have.

The presence of a co-writer presents certain "difficulties" in judging/analysing this work, because it's not purely Casey's work... Then again, it doesn't really read like it. Full Moon Fever is rather mundane and straight forward for Casey. There's a space station on the moon and a team of plumbers have to go and fix some plumbing problems. Only, the ship can't land, because no one is answering their hails. When they do land, they find the place in shambles, eventually, discover bodies, and get killed off one by one by werewolves. There's nothing special about it at all. It's entertaining and well-done, but it's all high concept with few surprises and pretty much what you'd expect once you hear the high concept.

It begins with our main plumber, Zeke Kirby (who we later learn was once a solider, thereby giving him the right skills to survive) getting a birthday gift: a pen that writes in zero gravity that has (surprise, surprise) silver in it! It ends with the revelation that the plant being experimented upon's common name (since they're told the scientific classification) is wolfsbane. There are scenes concerning corporate sponsorship and bureaucratic bullshit that could be considered satirical, but are pretty tame and unoriginal. The dialogue is harsh and almost witty with none of the characters seeming to like one another.

The art by Damian Couceiro is serviceable and works decently well in black and white. He draws clearly, for the most part, and doesn't get in the way. His action scenes are dynamic and convey speed/movement better than a lot of superhero artists that are quite popular.

Should this book remain forgotten?

Probably not. As a piece of entertainment, it's a good popcorn flick. Something kind of brainless to just kick back and enjoy. It doesn't aspire to be anything more, so that's not an insult. It may bore anyone interested in Casey's more progressive concepts and ideas, but it's not bad by any stretch of the imagination. It's werewolves on the moon... not much else to say.

Friday, December 19, 2008

CBR Review: X-Files #2

I recently reviewed X-Files #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Okay, so I only gave the first issue of this series 1.5 stars in my review of it last month, but I wanted to give the book another chance since I would be buying it for my X-Files fan girlfriend -- who loved the first issue and still hasn’t gotten over my scathing review of it. I’m happy to report that the second issue is an improvement and a strong finish to the story."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Doktor Sleepless #10

I recently reviewed Doktor Sleepless #10 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Despite Ellis’ fascination with emerging technology, when it comes to his detectives, he always shuns advances in technology and embraces human intelligence. Singer is able to talk to the man and get him to open up, because of the things she observes about him, altering her approach to suit those needs. Much of her technique goes unsaid, simply presented to the reader. The interrogation of a suspect is about getting the knowledge through any means necessary and, sometimes, that means being polite. That Ellis keeps having his detectives act that way goes against the usual hard-nose-beat-it-out-of-them approach other fictional detectives invariably use."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

CBR Review: Thor God-Size Special #1

I recently reviewed Thor God-Size Special #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "After a trio of specials and a Secret Invasion tie-in, Matt Fraction concludes his year of Thor with a God-Size Special focusing on Skurge the Executioner and his place among the mythic gods of Asgard. While most comic readers no doubt remember Skurge as a member of the Masters of Evil, the Skurge focused upon here is the man who gave his left to defend a bridge from the hordes of Hela. Or, is it Skurge the poet? Or Skurge the cobbler? Or Skurge the old crone who lived near a well?"

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Mighty Avengers #20

I recently reviewed Mighty Avengers #20 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Cheung illustrates five pages recapping the events that occurred since Pym was replaced by the Skrulls, complete with a small reaction panel of Carol Danvers and Pym on each page. The larger images are quite good as Cheung does the montages well, not making them look cluttered. The choice to use a single image for the death of Captain America is quite smart. The reaction panels try to be original and dynamic with each event, but since each is Danvers and Pym in the back of a car, there’s only so many variations he can use."

You can read the rest HERE!

Joe Casey Comics: The Last Defenders #6

[Concluding my look at Joe Casey's The Last Defenders.]

And, so, we come to the end of our little journey. The Last Defenders have arrived, all that's left to do is actually form the team. Oh, wait... what?

The Last Defenders that have arrived are from the future and here to rescue Kyle Richmond, so he can form the team. Yandroth is surprised, but pleased, because their arrival means that his plans have worked: he's created the Last Defenders. What's interesting is that his threatening of Richmond is the final instigating factor in creating the group, an unintended effect. This seems to comment on the unexpected twists and turns a story can take despite the writer's intention. No matter how much you plot and plan, the story always has a life of its own. Yandroth is nonetheless impressed with the group, which builds on the original team's formula with slight tweaks.

She-Hulk replaces the Hulk as the "brute force" of the team. Hellstrom replaces Dr. Strange as the "occultist." Krang replaces Namor as the "water elemental." And this new Nighthawk replaces the Silver Surfer, and acts as leader. That the Silver Surfer is never mentioned seems a very odd omition on Casey's part. Nighthawk flies and so does the Surfer, giving them both an air theme, but, also, this new Nightawk's costume is also a silvery-greyish-blue in the wings. He looks like a cross between the Kyle Richmond Nighthawk and the Silver Surfer.

There's a lot of action here, which shows off these Last Defenders and they return to their proper time, leaving Richmond to be transported back through other means and to put together the team. This is where the book seems to have be flawed, for me, as the team is put together through a paradox: he assmbles these members only because he knows they're the team he assembles. There's no instigating factor. It's a flaw in the plot, but not in the subtext where the team is put together to satisfy the formula and for reasons unknown. Why do any superhero teams have the members they have? Is there ever a good reason beyond the whims of the writer? As well, it adds to the idea that this team was meant to be.

The team exists outside of the Initiative and is funded by Richmond, who shifts from the fan writer position to that of editor, a role he's more cut out for. He can oversee things, make sure the team/book remains true to its roots and history, while allowing Joaquin Pennyworth to become the new Nighthawk/writer. Pennyworth is more athletic and not as wowwed by superheroes, giving the group a fresh take since the team is made up mostly of non-superhero types--which also remains true to its roots. That Richmond funds the team and works outside of the Initiative is like forming his own publishing house or imprint (ala Marvel Knights).

The issue ends with Yandroth again as he watches the newly formed Last Defenders on their first mission. He explains that this was only the first step and that the team is reality's greatest hope, but also its greatest liability, and we'll see which it is.

Overall, this book managed to balance text and subtext in ways Casey hasn't really been able to do before. In some scenes, the subtext is far more apparent than the text, but that's also reversed in others. The best scenes work on both levels. The various pieces of metacommentary are rarely the main point of any scene, but still easily apparent.

The examination of the various types of superhero teams is also interesting. The first one was too power-heavy, unable to function as a team, because every character (save Nighthawk) had the same skillset. Imagine a baseball team with a great pitcher and then eight slow, power hitters in the field... it wouldn't work. The second iteration was just a team-up, not a full-fledged team and, thus, doesn't work. The third was a group brought together by money, which is a corrupt reason for a superhero team to exist. There was an irony in that issue with Richmond criticising Stark for losing sight of the purity in superheroics after Richmond did the very same thing. The final iteration of the team is a group of people brought together by a common purpose, to make new lives and, maybe, be better for the experience. Is there any better reason?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: The Last Defenders #5

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's The Last Defenders. The sixth and final post will go up tomorrow.]

What happens when the fan writer gets his shot at the bigtime and then he fails? Self-pity, of course. Now, this could be Casey thinking back to numerous assignments on which he "failed" (aka got fired) for various reasons and I wouldn't want to point to any of them specifically since I don't know how much actually applies to any of them specifically. When Kyle Richmond screams about not being able to make it work, it seems to be the frustration that Casey must have felt coming through, especially since, as we know, Richmond's failures this time were not his own doing. Oh, he might have been able to make the forced ideas work, but did any of us expect him to? Do we blame him because he's failed? No. No, last issue, he did what any angry person does: rebel and he was banned from doing what he loves most. To put in other terms, last issue, the fan writer spoke out about his problems with the company and they said "You can't write for us anymore. Ever." I can point to a few examples where that's happened (in some variation).

A lovely scene features She-Hulk telling off Tony Stark in an odd display of loyalty (although that doesn't really come up). It's almost like She-Hulk was an indie artist who only came to work on the book because her buddy asked and now the company is telling her to draw some other book, and she's not going to do what they ask. Just because she did a favour for a guy, doesn't mean she's beholden to Stark.

The rest of the issue has Yandroth confront Richmond and discuss how the original Defenders formula of the Hulk, Namor and Dr. Strange was flawed (note the lack of Silver Surfer... why?), and he's set about slowly creating the ultimate team. This involves taking Richmond into his past and revealing an encounter with Yandroth--again, nothing of real significance happens much like the flashback to Yandroth and Hellstrom in issue two, but it again demonstrates the power of the professional writer to go back and tweak continuity. He then sics weird versions of Hyperion, the Whizzer and Dr. Spectrum on Richmond, and the issue ends with the Last Defenders appearing: Nighthawk, She-Hulk, Hellstrom and Krang.

This issue is light on metacommentary despite the Yandroth scenes. Really, it's more text than subtext. Nothing wrong with that, though.

As the final page says: "NEXT: FINALLY... THE LAST DEFENDERS!"

Joe Casey Comics: The Last Defenders #4

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's The Last Defenders. New posts randomnly throughout the week.]

Shitty '90s Defenders run into problems as they encounter Krang who has taken over as the defender (no pun intended) of Atlantis. The exact details don't matter, but this encounter between Krang and Nighthawk is just another step towards the Last Defenders. As well, the Shitty '90s Defenders have to try and curb their natural insitincts to kill the bad guys, because heroes don't kill apparently. First, Nighthawk makes a comment and then, after the Mighty Avengers arrive, Wonder Man does as well.

Really, the focus of this issue is the confrontation with Tony Stark and his people. First, it's the Mighty Avengers who show up and ream out Nighthawk for this unauthorised display of superpowers. The Wasp says, "THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR ISN'T LIKE YOU. YOU'VE ALWAYS BEEN A TEAM PLAYER..." to which Nighthawk responds, "I GUESS IT DEPENDS ON THE TEAM, JAN. / GETS TOUGH TO TELL WHICH ONE I'M ON SOMETIMES." Nighthawk was the company fan writer, but, spurned, he's gone off on his own... which pisses off the company. He stays true to his principles, but finds them at odds with the powers-that-be.

As a result, Nighthawk is taken in before Stark and Gyrich, where he's stripped of his costume and superhero identity. While you would think this would be a time for some more of that metacommentary, the point shifts to commentary on Stark's "new world order" and 50-State Initiative with Nighthawk saying that Stark has "[...] MANAGED TO LEGISLATE SOMETHING THAT USED TO BE SO PURE... / ...YOU'VE LET YOURSELVES BECOME THREATENED BY IDEALISM." Wait, I think there just might be some metacommentary in there about the current state of comics, with pure superhero titles that are just about people dressing up in costumes and fighting crime being a rarity. Most titles are darker than that, or tie into larger plots, rarely are any so simple. There are some (and the quality of them is variable, of course), but in these attempts to make everything MATTER, the purity of the superhero book has been lost somehow. Nighthawk, the fan writer, sees this and places the blame on Stark's feet, the poster boy for Civil War.

Hellstrom visits his ex-wife, but all that's pointed at there is that Hellstrom is searching for something, some purpose.

Kyle Richmond visits Joaquin Pennyworth in the hospital and the meeting goes less than well, but there are similarities: both are damaged, both have lost their teams, both can no longer do what they love most.

A Yandroth scene shows that he made the company whose Atlantean mining operations spurned the "crisis" that made Nighthawk beak the rules move their plans up, another step in his plan to create the Last Defenders.

The issue ends with Hellstrom arriving at Richmond's apartment in a suit of armour (costume) and riding a chariot wanting to discuss Richmond's Defenders.

Next issue: the professional writer schools the fan writer.

Joe Casey Comics: The Last Defenders #3

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's The Last Defenders. New posts randomly throughout the week.]

The second iteration of the Defenders (The Dynamic Duo Defenders) in this series comes to a close this issue as Nighthawk and She-Hulk escape with SHIELD Agent Joaquin Pennyworth and blow up the Sons of the Serpent's base. The mission is a success, but also a temporary team-up more than anything.

This gives rise to the third incarnation, which sees Nighthawk hire three "heroes" to be on his Defenders: Paladin, Atlas and Junta. The only way to really describe this version of the team is "Shitty '90s Defenders" since the make-up seems to be the type of characters you'd see on a shitty '90s version of the team. A mercenary with a gun, a failed villain-turned-hero, and a Spanish rogue... all paid to be part of the team. Let me spoil things: yeah, this team doesn't work. We see that they're willing to use lethal force and, well, does anyone expect this group to work?

What is tougher to figure out is the commentary since this team violates Initiative rules. The publisher/editor says no more book and the fan writer keeps on going, but with shitty characters... The transparent influence of Marvel and DC characters on the creation of the Image characters? The monetary motivation points there as well, as do the means by which this team will accomplish its goal.

Elsewhere in the issue, Hellstrom talks with Dr. Strange and the connection between them is strengthened a little.

Yandroth also has a scene that is full of commentary. He drops lines like "[RICHMOND'S] COMMITMENT IS HIS GREATEST VULNERABILITY," referring to how easily he pushes Nighthawk into the direction he wants. The fan's dedication is something the professional writer can take advantage of and rely upon: if they're going to buy the book no matter what, you can do whatever you want.

He also discusses the formula in creating the Last Defenders, how it comes through trial and error... much like the formation of the team in this series as it goes through several iterations before landing on a final one.

The issue ends with the Shitty 90s Defenders's mission crossing paths with Krang, future member of the Last Defenders.

Next issue: Shitty 90s Defenders no more, and the editor/publisher bans the fan writer for life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

CBR Review: The Remnant #1

I recently reviewed The Remnant #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Given the talents involved, it’s not surprising that the first issue of The Remnant reads very much like the beginning of a movie or TV show thriller. The pace is quick and dives right into the plot, but still leaves room for a few little character-establishing scenes. Like some of the more mediocre thrillers, though, it’s a bit obvious and the attempts at characterization don’t actually go beyond the most superficial elements. It’s still pretty entertaining, though."

You can read the rest HERE!

Joe Casey Comics: The Last Defenders #2

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's The Last Defenders. New posts randomly over the next week.]

One mission/story in and the New Jersey Defenders has been discontinued/cancelled by Tony Stark. Now, as you'll recall, this team and line-up was his idea, but does he blame himself? No, no, no, he blames Nighthawk and the rest of the team. The blame placed on Nighthawk is especially bad, because the Defenders are his baby, he's the fan, and he tried his best to make it work under the guidelines provided--and even protested the idea--but it didn't... how is that his fault?

The team fought the Sons of the Serpent in Atlantic City, which caused a lot of damage when Quetzalcoatl is summoned. Now, the damage caused isn't actually that out of the ordinary, particularly for the Avengers (look at the first story in Mighty Avengers, for example), but, here, there's something not just wrong with it, there's something almost obscene about it. Now, I read the damage done here as the reaction of the readers to the new team: they hate it. They hate that it's Nighthawk and three people who don't "belong" in the Defenders. And, since this is a C-level team that relies on the hardcore fans, it cannot survive such a backlash the way the Avengers can. The Avengers can piss off fans and still sell huge, but the Defenders needs its fans.

Which is why Stark shutting it down is so hypocritical since the fault lies with him, not Nighthawk who wanted to give the fans what they wanted. He blames Nighthawk's lack of leadership, like a company blaming a writer for not making an editorially mandated book work despite the writer arguing that it's a mistake beforehand. Stark's dialogue here is revealing as he says, "IF WE CAN STAY AHEAD OF THE PRESS ON THIS FIASCO, WE MAY BE ABLE TO REVISIT THIS IDEA... / ...IN A YEAR OR SO. [/] NEEDLESS TO SAY, I THANK EACH OF YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. SORRY IT DIDN'T WORK OUT." Not only is his tone very casual, but the idea that they may just come back to the idea in a year or so speaks to the cyclical revamping of failed concepts that seem to happen every couple of years.

As well, in this opening scene is further commentary by the Blazing Skull that Nighthawk may just not be cut out to be a hero--almost suggesting that the fan shouldn't write, but but should edit. This is an idea I'll come back to towards the end of the series.

The second half of the issue has a fantastic scene between Hellstrom and Yandroth that accomplishes nothing except add a token flashback scene to give Hellstrom's eventual involvement in the team more weight. Here, Casey is obviously doing nothing more than taking the piss. Nothing of any significance is expressed, Yandroth just goes back in time and meets with Hellstrom, promising that, in a few decades, the meeting will have significance. This is a jab at the trend of constantly adding little flashback scenes in a character's past that tie into the current story, but do nothing else. Yandroth, as I said last time, is the professional writer and his job is to give these events more weight and signifance--what better way than to add an event to the character's past?

The issue ends with Nighthawk and She-Hulk forming the second iteration of the Defenders in this book, which I may as well call the Dynamic Duo Defenders. They infiltrate a Sons of the Serpent facility to rescue missing SHIELD agents, including Joaquin Pennyworth, who has some connection to Kyle Richmond--and little tolerance for superheroes. He is a professional and thinks people in costumes are idiots. Let's say that he also represents a certain segment of the writing community, but will find himself soon waist-deep in superheroes.

She-Hulk's role is less clear... perhaps the artist who believes in the fan writer's vision? Or maybe she has no real subtextual role. Her interplay with Nighthawk is a lot of banter, a lot of bickering. The Dynamic Duo Defenders is very much a team-up book ala Hawk & Dove or Green Arrow & Black Canary or something similar. A minimalist approach to the team full of sexual tension and two opposite personalities brought together for a common goal. Will it work out? No. Nice try, though.

Oh, and, as Matt pointed out in the comments and I was going to mention at some point, I want you to take note of the covers as each shifts from popular artist to popular artist until finally settling on a Jim Muniz cover when the Last Defenders come into being. There's a point to that, don't you think?

Next issue: the Dynamic Duo Defenders die and we get another version of the team. Three in three issues... hoo-ha.

Joe Casey Comics: The Last Defenders #1

[Beginning my six-part issue-by-issue look at Joe Casey's The Last Defenders. New posts will pop up over the next week, but I can't really indicate an exact schedule.]

On my most recent pass at my list of my favourite comics of 2008, The Last Defenders places at #20. It was a good series, but I think I liked it better than most because of my knowledge regarding Joe Casey and his interests. I don't know how fans of the Defenders enjoyed the book, because it really played around with the concept and barely featured anyone from previous incarnations of the group--and for good reason: those teams were failures. This series is not just about the Defenders, but about superhero teams as a whole and exploring what works and what doesn't. Really, the final answer isn't a satisfactory one, because the team put together by the end of the series hasn't been seen since... but, the journey is good enough.

As well, for the first two issues, Keith Giffen co-plots with Casey and also does art breakdowns for artist Jim Muniz--whose work I really enjoy on this book. He has a cartoony look that reminds me of Mike Wieringo, Ed McGuinness and Cully Hamner, which works well here. If I was better at discussing art, I'd do more compare/contrast stuff regarding the Giffen issues and the subsequent ones, seeing how layouts change. But, I'm pretty awful at discussing art usually, so... Also, my interest here is Casey's writing.

This issue introduces us to three characters who represent more than just themselves: Kyle "Nighthawk" Richmond, Tony "Iron Man" Stark, and Yandroth. Now, the ideas/people they represent beyond themselves aren't set in stone, but are more general than specific roles. But, hey, let's see how it works.

Nighthawk is the fan writer. He has his favourite version of the Defenders, wants to get a new team/book off the ground with the old favourites. That these characters failed numerous times before is no concern, because the love is there. In essence, he's a moron, but a good-hearted and well-meaning one.

Tony Stark is the heavy-handed editor/publisher. Despite not wanting to actually have any direct control over the new Defenders team/book, he has his own ideas of what it will be and they will be followed. He knows better and he is the boss. When the team/book later fails, it's not his fault because he wasn't actually the one following through on things.

Yandroth is the professional writer. He doesn't care about what the fans want, he has a plan and it is grand, overarching and involves both moving beyond the past and paying homage to the past. His team/book is designed to last while maintaing artistic integrity. He is convinced that his plan is the right one and uses larger themes and concepts instead of characters to determine the make-up of the team/book.

As I said, not everything each character does lines up with these interpretations, but these are, roughly, the roles they fill. What's interesting (and revealing) is that, by the end, Yandroth "wins" out over the others. Since it conforms to Joe Casey's plan, in many ways, Yandroth is Casey's stand-in--but so is Nighthawk since Casey is also a fan. This series has Casey fighting with himself over the best way to write a book like this and the writer wins out over the fan. Because, you know, he's a writer first and a fan second.

In these first two issues, the editor/publisher is given his chance to make things work as Tony Stark dictates the roster of the New Jersey Defenders to Nighthawk after Nighthawk submits a proposal for a new team(/book). That the team is located in New Jersey is a joke on a couple of levels. First, it indicates the team's lesser status to the Avengers who are New York's team, so the team continues to play second fiddle to the A-squard. Second, the inclusion of the word "new" in the team name plays off the title of the book, which is a response to books like New X-Men and New Avengers. Casey titles this book The Last Defenders, because, while it is the newest incarnation of the team, it is also meant to be the best, one that makes any further groups unnecessary. The "New Jersey Defenders" name is provided by Stark and also represents a critique of his "New Avengers," which was critiqued by fans for ignoring the traditional Avengers make-up in favour of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Sentry, Spider-Woman and Luke Cage... powerful members and pet favourites of the writer instead of "traditional" members. The make-up of the New Jersey Defenders is similar with the token "founder" member in Nighthawk (Captain America/Iron Man), and then She-Hulk (Luke Cage), Colossus (Wolverine) and the Blazing Skull (Sentry/Spider-Woman). It isn't anything like what you'd expect the Defenders to be, but Stark assures Richmond that it will work:


The team is actually designed to be a powerhouse team because of the proximity to New York, but Stark doesn't take personality into consideration, just the most superficial ideas of who these characters are.

There are other little gags or comments throughout the issue. When Nighthawk meets with Stark, Stark is in his armour, while Nighthawk is in a business suit. Various comments are made about how he's not dressed like a superhero and that the suit really wasn't necessary. Right there, we get that Richmond is far too involved with the idea to see it objectively, but also that Stark doesn't actually care that much beyond his own ideas.

When the team goes on its first mission, the Blazing Skull (a Golden Age hero formerly with the Invaders) yells, "DEFENDERS DEFENESTRATE!," an obvious jab at "Avengers assemble!"

In this issue, Casey also lays the groundwork for the eventual "Last Defenders" line-up by having Daimon Hellstrom rejected as a student of the Ancient One in favour of Stephen Strange, and Krang undergoing a procedure so he can breath air similar to Namor.

The issue ends with Yandroth making his first appearance, discussing how time is meaningless because he can see the entire picture (much like Casey) and that he will make sure the Last Defenders, the perfect version of the team, comes into being.

Next issue: the New Jersey Defenders suck.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Splash Page: Final Crisis #5 Part I

[Alright, Sequart is still down, so Tim and I thought we'd cross-post this week's Splash Page discussion on Final Crisis #5. Here is the first part.]

Tim Callahan: Two of our colleagues over at CBR reviewed Final Crisis #5, and while one raved about it, the other thought it was pretty terrible. How could one comic cause such different reactions? And where do you stand on the greatness/atrocity of Final Crisis #5?

Chad Nevett: I was surprised at the two differing reactions, but also enjoyed each take. While I personally loved this issue, I like seeing what people who disagree with me say, maybe make me see things from another perspective or shed light on aspects/flaws I didn't notice. That didn't happen in this case, because this has been my favorite issue yet as Morrison goes full-on insane with compressed storytelling that enters scenes late and leaves them early. I think we're beginning to see that the slow beginning was very purposeful as the story picks up speed and looks like it will soon go too fast, breeze through events too quickly... which Morrison is known to do at times, but I always love. There's a manic glee in these pages that I can't help but love. Chaos in full swing, Darkseid is everything, and Metron continues to work against him in subtle, secret ways... Lovely. This was a goddamn good comic.

On the other hand, I can see why some wouldn't like it since it is very briskly paced and demands you pay attention, makes various allusions to previous Morrison works and, in some ways, requires that you've read those other works. Which brings me to a question I can guess the answer to: Dan DiDio revealed that Morrison's Batman story really concludes in the pages of Final Crisis #6... does that bother you at all? Since this series and Morrison's work in general already requires a certain amount of foreknowledge and interconnectivity with the rest of his work, is this a problem (or even a surprise)?

TC: I'm not sure I understand what DiDio said about that, especially the part where he described the "reveal" Morrison talked about this summer actually showing up in Final Crisis #6, and that was "the plan all along." Okay, I understand him, I just don't really believe it, because Morrison was clearly talking about the end of "R.I.P." and now his words have been retconned, or something. But I have absolutely no problem if Batman's story concludes in Final Crisis #6, although it seems like a weird place to put it since Batman has played practically no role in the series thus far. He was quickly dispatched in issue #2 and has been locked inside the Lump contraption ever since. I'll reserve judgment until I see how it plays out, but if it does happen the way DiDio says, then it's not like I'd be offended. I read all of Morrison's comics, obviously, and I think everyone else should too.

Final Crisis #5 was also MY favorite issue thus far. I forgot how good this series has been, actually, since the delays have derailed it from my mind, but we've pretty much raved about each and every issue so far, and yet when I read this one, I thought, "wow, I'll have to rethink that Best Comics of 2008" list I've been working on. I didn't even consider Final Crisis in my Top 20 list, but after this issue, I think I have to.

Did you read Jog's review? I think he nailed what's so great about the issue (as he does so often in his reviews of things), but I'm interested in one of the comments on his blog, by "Kenny" who writes, "Every positive Final Crisis review reads like someone already in love with the material speaking to others in love with the material about all the stuff they love with no explanation of why. After every Final Crisis review, I come away more and more confused - what am I missing? What is so obviously good about Final Crisis that by me not immediately grasping it, no one can seemingly explain it?" Now I think Jog does a pretty good job of explaining what's good about issue #5, but I think we should try to speak to all the Kennys in audience. So, if you were at a convention and Kenny came up to you with these questions, and you had a stack of Final Crisis comics handy, what would you show him and talk to him about to explain what makes this series so good?

[What will my advice be? What other things will be discuss? Find out in the second part, over on Tim's blog!]

Friday, December 12, 2008

CBR Review: Young Liars #10

I recently reviewed Young Liars #10 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Ever wanted to read a comic book about a young woman who keeps the tiny arm of her miscarried fetus in a small box in her purse? Has David Lapham got good news for you with this 'flashback' issue of Young Liars! Yes, yes, yes, Lapham has once again zagged when you expected him to zig and delivers a wonderfully depressing and messed up story about the gang, particularly Cee Cee, back in spring/summer of 2007. To make things even better, he titled this issue 'Get Happy!'"

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

CBR Review: The Death-Defying 'Devil #1

I recently reviewed The Death-Defying 'Devil #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Since the goal is to throw into question the validity of the ‘Devil’s claim that he is who he appears to be, having him silent and a closed book throughout the issue works against that purpose. An enigmatic hero works, and so does a supposedly fake hero, but, together, the reader is lost at sea, because there’s no frame of reference to work with. How are we supposed to know, or care, if this is the real ‘Devil? Say that he isn’t and there’s no pay-off, because it’s just a silent guy in a costume."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

CBR Review: Captain Britain and MI:13 #8

I recently reviewed Captain Britain and MI:13 #8 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "How did this series actually get better in the past month? Somehow, Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk keep making each issue of Captain Britain and MI:13 better than the last, and I’m mystified at how they do it, because with each issue, I think that it can’t possibly get any better. Never have I been so happy to be wrong."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Punisher: War Zone #1

I recently reviewed Punisher: War Zone #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Garth Ennis. Steve Dillon. The Punisher. Do I really need to say anything else? No, really, do I? If those three elements get you excited, you’ll love Punisher: War Zone #1. If they don’t, you probably won’t. It’s as simple as that. Myself, I’ve been waiting for this with anticipation ever since it was announced all those months ago and it doesn’t disappoint."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Splash Page: Secret Invasion #8 Part II

There are technical problems with the site that normally hosts the Splash Page, so Tim Callahan and I thought we'd do one of those lovely cross-blog posts for this week. We're discussing Secret Invasion #8 and Tim already posted the first part of our conversation on his blog. Enjoy

CN: Some good points. I think the Osborn/Stark stuff didn't bother me because it seemed like a purposeful callback to Civil War where Stark rose in a quick fashion. Now, it wasn't done that well, but I can forgive Bendis if the intention was to mirror that. I just saw a preview of Secret Invasion: Dark Reign and it shows that the secret little cabal meeting is the first of its kind, so, at least, this hasn't been a mirror to the Illuminati all of these years that we're just now finding out about. Unless that turns out to be the case.

Noh-Varr's use in the book is odd and frustrating for me, as you know.

Mockingbird's return bothers me, because it would suggest that the Skrulls began this way, way, way back in the day, because she's been dead for quite some time. She's been dead far longer than this invasion seems to have been in the works. I almost seems like Bendis pissed off the Hawkeye fans and is now swinging a bit too far in the other direction. It's very convenient, especially after the interaction between Clint and the Skrull-Mockingbird, which could have had some longterm effects on him, but is totally undercut by this. I don't really understand the choice or how it begins to make sense. But, as Marvel is wont to tell us, we'd best keep reading.

How about the "Dark Reign" solicitations that have finally been released? Does anything there strike your fancy?

TC: I actually haven't seen them. I tend to ignore solicitations unless they are linked to by someone I read regularly. What should I know about?

CN: The only thing that caught my interest was the cover to New Avengers #50, which has the New Avengers fighting the Dark Avengers... except both teams have a Spider-Man, a Wolverine, a Hawkeye/Ronin, and a Ms. Marvel. And, for some reason, Noh-Varr (Dark Avengers) seems to be flying. Otherwise, I've looked through them rather extensively since my shop gave me the little free book containing them and, well, I can't say I'm that enthusiastic for anything. Fraction's take on Tony Stark being the most hated man in America, on the run from Osborn's H.A.M.M.E.R. could be interesting. And I will definitely be getting Secret Warriors, because Jonathan Hickman is writing that (with Bendis, but Hickman seems to be doing the heavy lifting) and I love his writing. Other than that... Secret Invasion: Dark Reign will be my tipping point. If Bendis can pull off some interesting and compelling things in that issue, I may check out New Avengers #48 and Dark Avengers #1. If not, it's been a nice ride with Bendis and the Avengers.

TC: I'll probably buy everything, because that's what I do, but even if I cut back, I think I'll stick with the Hickman book. I've heard him talk about the series, and Bendis doesn't seem involved at all, other than conceptually. It looks to be all Hickman, and I'm curious to see how he handles the Marvel Universe.

I still don't feel that "Dark Reign" is an earned situation, but if it leads to good stories it probably doesn't matter. Amazing Spider-Man has been excellent for the past few months, and that was the result of a completely bogus, unearned change in the status quo.

Getting back to Secret Invasion, I feel like the resolution was completely unsatisfying even though it was all explained fully (except the bit about all the Skrulls who weren't at the Central Park party). Last week, of course, brought the end of Grant Morrison's "Batman R.I.P." and because we have compared Morrison and Bendis before, I'm curious about what you think. Do you feel, as I do, that while Secret Invasion had a clearly defined resolution, it was somewhat (or totally) unsatisfying, and while "Batman R.I.P." had an ambiguous ending that was far less shocking than we were led to believe, it is somehow more satisfying?

CN: Hmm, good question. (After typing that sentence, I sat and thought about it for several minutes.) Yes, I'll agree. Despite our knowledge that Batman stories will keep on coming out, you can read the end of "Batman R.I.P." and it's an ending. Helicopter blows up, a new Batman and Robin are hinted at to take over, little Bruce Wayne is about to have his parents slaughtered... you need not read another Batman story after, because that is a complete story. Secret Invasion #8 is only partly a resolution to that story; had it ended at page 21 where Hulkling confronts some captured Skrulls who tell him that this was their last hope, it would feel like a complete issue in many ways. The Skrulls are defeated, everyone is happy, but there are some lingering ideas that could be followed up on, but you don't feel compelled to necessarily follow up on. After that, though, it's all setting up Norman Osborn and "Dark Reign," so that eliminates any sense of completeness and closure, making it unsatisfying as a story.

TC: And I think Secret Invasion is unsatisfying as an artistic whole too. Even with the ambiguity about Dr. Hurt's identity, which was frustrating only because it was promoted as something else entirely, Morrison's Batman run has been -- as I termed when I discussed Final Crisis -- a poetic exploration of the character. Secret Invasion has been a series of explanations about what happened. Morrison's Batman has been delving into the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his past. It has explored the schism between order and chaos, between logic and madness. What ideas was Bendis exploring in Secret Invasion, ultimately?

CN: You would think it would be an exploration of issues of trust at its core. "Who do you trust?" In a way, I think he did that... albeit in an odd manner. This final issue answered that question without any direct prompting and the answer is: someone you shouldn't trust. The fall of Tony Stark and the rise of Norman Osborn is an exercise in exploring the concept of trust, with Stark penalized by those who trusted him because... er, an invasion happened and it was stopped but screw him... wait, what? Anyway, Jessica Jones also trusted the wrong person and now her baby is missing. It almost seems that Bendis didn't want to simply explore that idea, but show what happens when you trust the wrong people. Nick Fury turns his back on his old allies, because he doesn't trust them anymore. Thor still doesn't trust Tony Stark, nor does the new Captain America... Of course, like everything else in this issue, we have to keep reading to see these ideas played out in any meaningful manner, which goes back to the incompleteness of the story.

TC: That's an interesting point -- the exploration of trust had more to it than just the issue of Skrull sleeper agents. Who do you trust? Norman Osborn, apparently.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Random Thoughts (Dec. 7 2008)

* The results of Greg Burgas's panels contest are in and I placed 14th out of 21 entries... ouch. I console myself with the knowledge that I was the only person to properly identify the page from Heroes Reborn: Masters of Evil #1 by Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard. Not surprising that I got it since I knew what it was at first glance, but no one else got it?

* Writing the advance review of Secret Invasion #8 was not nearly as fun as I hoped, because advance reviews are much more calculated and deliberate then regular reviews since the primary objective of discussing the comic is pushed aside a bit by the efforts to avoid spoilers--especially on a big book like this where spoilers is pretty much the substance of the comic. Talking about a comic in vagueries and hints isn't that fantastic, especially because I'm used to discussing comics in whatever way I choose here. Still, I did enjoy getting the chance to review that comic before everyone else. I almost wish I could have reviewed the "secret" "Dark Reign" solicitations... why didn't I think of that?

* Last night, I reread my essay on Marvel Boy after a discussion with Tim and it's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I've been saying for a while that I need to rewrite it, but I don't think I do... unless I wanted to add new thoughts, of course. Talking with Tim, rereading that essay, and seeing that Noh-Varr apparently shows up in Dark Avengers, I'm partly convinced that in a few years, I'll wind up writing a long piece called "How Brian Michael Bendis Ruined Noh-Varr (And Why)."

* A quick explanation on why I think Hurt is Satan: it goes beyond "Batman R.I.P." for one thing. The entire run is peppered with Satan references (including the obvious Batman #666 story) that, when taken as a whole, almost suggest that Hurt not being Satan doesn't fit with the rest of the run. But, I'll probably get into that sometime in late December/early January when I do a long post on Morrison's second "year" on the book to go with my post on his first "year." It will probably be titled "Breaking a Better Batman" or something like that.

* Still considering what my next Joe Casey series of posts will be. The Last Defenders is sitting atop a stack of comics, begging to be reread (I never read all six issues in one sitting), so maybe that will be it.

I Bought Comics: The Past Two Weeks (Nov/Dec) 2008

[Some quick reflections/thoughts/rants/bitchings on the comics I bought during the past two weeks, but did not review for CBR. Not actual reviews.]

Batman #681+682

Wow, people either love or hate the finale to "Batman RIP," don't they? It's horribly flawed in places, but I like the ambiguity... then again, I'm reading it as a Grant Morrison comic book first and a Batman comic book second. The debate over Hurt being Satan is odd, because if you read Morrison's run, it seems inescapable that Hurt is the devil... Hope was held out that this week's issue would clear up things, but it didn't, instead it's a summation of Morrison's approach to his run. It's like his run has been a chapter in a book, divided into sections, and now we've reached the conclusion where he sums up his main ideas... loverly.

The Boys #25

This is a seven-part story? Huh. Typically good. A few direct jabs at the X-Men, but nothing really impressive... or not impressive. I can't actually remember much about this issue, actually. What the fuck?

Captain America #44

I kind of read this comic on autopilot. It's good, it's worthwhile, but I know it will read much better when I devote a weekend to reading the whole run together. I do love how the art maintains a consistent look despite changing artists. I do think the book would benefit from a solid six-issue "story" that's just self-contained stories, though. Have the subplot revolve around James getting used to being Captain America, but show him taking on a lot of different adversaries, you know? After the huge story that was the death and birth of Captain America, you'd think a breather would be due. You'd think. I think.

Youngblood #6

What the fuck is with Joe Casey lately? Like Charlatan Ball, this book is a big disappointment. Ideas that seem clever, but never really come off as such. Characters that fall flat. A book that is thoroughly mediocre. I strangely look forward to analysing his current output years from now. Is this just a lull or a sign that things have gone south? Then again, Godland is still quite good, and The Last Defenders was one of the best deconstructions of the superhero team book I've ever read, but these two books... I wonder what Velocity will be like.

Okay, that was rather quick, but... that's how it goes.

Friday, December 05, 2008

CBR Review: Charlatan Ball #5

I recently reviewed Charlatan Ball #5 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "I am a big Joe Casey fan. I’ve hunted down obscure fill-in issues he’s penned (or just scripted), I’ve written extensively on his work, and, generally, devoted more time and energy to his work than any sane person should (aside from Casey himself). Yet even I am losing patience with Charlatan Ball, a series that seemed so promising -— until I actually read it."


CBR Review: Criminal Volume 2 #7

I recently reviewed Criminal Volume 2 #7 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "If there’s one thing that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do very well in Criminal, it’s deliver a strong, surprising ending. Things are never quite as they appear in the world of Criminal, usually with the final issue of a story illuminating some truths, while still maintaining a certain ambiguity. The finale to “Bad Night” is no exception."

You can read the rest HERE!

Edit: Also, the third paragraph should begin with the sentence "In a sense, Brubaker has produced a mystery here where last issue’s revelation that Detective Starr and Iris are working together isn't the big reveal." That's actually my mistake and I noticed it, checked my word document and, yeah, I screwed up. So, yeah, remember those four extra words when reading the review.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

CBR Review: New Avengers #47

I recently reviewed New Avengers #47 at CBR and, before I post my usual little snippet from the review, I've got to say something: that cover has nothing to do with the contents of the issue. Really, they couldn't actually try and match these Skrull takes on old covers with the content a little better? That's annoyed me quite a bit throughout this whole event, but this one really bugs me for some reason. Maybe it's because of what I write in my review, including sentences like: "A lot of the Secret Invasion tie-in issues of Mighty Avengers and New Avengers have felt really dragged out and hollow to me. They were, often, expansions of moments that didn’t warrant expanding or explanations of how a character was replaced by a Skrull, something which got old quickly. The best of the issues have provided genuine insight or emotional depth to the main book, like the issues explaining the creation of Nick Fury’s new Secret Warriors, or this issue, which focuses on Luke Cage’s family and how much it means to him."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Secret Invasion #8

I recently reviewed Secret Invasion #8 for CBR and, in the process, didn't spoil anything. Yeah, Canadians got their comics today, so we all know how it turns out, but since we're polite and kind people, we won't spoil for the rest of you. As well, in my review, I wrote the following sentences: "The greatest strength of this issue isn’t the shocking moments or the actual plot, but Bendis’s wonderful handling of the people who we have spent the better part of a year cheering on and hoping would pull through. This issue demonstrates that while Secret Invasion may have been motivated by external plot mechanisms, at the end of the day, it really comes down to the characters and how it affects them, what it means to them."

You can read the rest HERE!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Quick Thought: Tensions Between The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder

After watching the latest trailer for The Spirit, I got in the mood for some 21st century Frank Miller work since that Frank Miller is kind of insane--and very interesting/entertaining. For a while, I've been meaning to reread The Dark Knight Strikes Again since I've always loved that book. I know that's not a popular opinion in some circles, but, what, Miller was supposed to create a serious sequel to The Dark Knight Returns? Why would he do that? (It is great to see how certain interests are played out, but in different ways. The use of the media, for example, is not just different in content in the two series, but in the manner it's presented with more focused presentations in DKR and a more manic, scattered, overload style in DKSA...)

But, the real comparisons/groupings to be made here is of The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year, and of The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder... Partly for the time period in which each work was done, but mostly for stylistic/thematic purposes--and the ideas that interest Miller. (Also that Miller wrote and drew DKR and DKSA, but only wrote the follow-ups to each with DKSA acting as a sequel to DKR and ASBRTBW acting as a sequel to Year One. Also that the first group is quite serious while the second group is more fun and absurd... Mostly because the first two were so serious and wonderful, I think.)

Rereading The Dark Knight Strikes Again, I was struck by the portrayals of Hal Jordan and Dick Grayson, and how that may relate to All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder. In the former, Jordan is held in high esteem, while he's mocked in the latter. Grayson's role is reversed, with him being a joke in the former and the kid sidekick apple of Batman's eye in the latter. Does DKSA provide "spoilers," in a way, about the direction of ASBRTBW?

Just a quick thought. Although, at some point, I think I'd like to do a comparison between The Dark Knight Strikes Again and Kingdom Come since their approaches are oddly similar yet very, very different.