Monday, February 27, 2012

CBR Review: Secret Avengers #23

I recently reviewed Secret Avengers #23 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "One the best aspects of Warren Ellis’s six-issue stint on Secret Avengers were the string of artists he was paired with. It’s nice to see the book continue with gorgeous art under new writer Rick Remender. Gabriel Hardman first impressed on Atlas and again on Hulk. Paired with colorist Bettie Breitweiser, Hardman's art has never looked better. She brings the same pale, washed out look that’s made Captain America and Winter Soldier so distinctive here, almost making her style of coloring the official espionage-influenced color style at Marvel right now. It makes Secret Avengers a comic worth buying even if you don’t read the words."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Prophet #22

I recently reviewed Prophet #22 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Last issue's complete overhaul of Prophet as part of Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios relaunch met with almost overwhelming critical praise, setting a high bar for the follow-up installment. Issue #21 introduced protagonist John Prophet, who has awoken at some point in the future where the Earth is barely recognizable with a mission to undergo. In Prophet #22, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy give readers the next stage of his journey in a manner both advancing the story and serving as a self-contained mini-adventure."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sketch Reviews (February 22 2012)

I placed an order with Mile High Comics last week to complete my Starlin Dreadstar collection (when I did a reread in late 2010, I reread my dad's copies) and pick up a couple of things thanks to an awesome discount code and free stuff. They have a habit of saying "Hey, we got a bunch of X, so, if you order $20 or more, you can have it for free!" This time, it was the Jack Kirby Captain America: The Swine trade. So, with that on the way, I looked for the other two Kirby Captain America trades at my shop. They didn't have them. They did have two copies of The Swine. Of course.

Captain America & Bucky #627: Man, I don't care. I went from really, really enjoying this comic, what, two issues ago and, now, I plod my way through and wonder why I bother. It's just some story about some robot that thinks he's better than Captain America, but will soon find out that, no, he is fucking not. Did he not observe the fear and respect the Vision showed Cap in recent issues of Avengers? He knows the score. Even Francavilla's art doesn't do much for me here -- or, at least, it doesn't make me happy to drop some money on this. When he's going to do Daredevil or something? [**]

Deadpool MAX II #5: I spent the first half of this comic confused, because I didn't remember Deadpool getting captured last issue. I didn't particularly care either. This is not a comic where I focus too much on remembering plot details. Save that sort of thinking for the reread, son. Instead, I focus on how Inez is such a good copycat that her body becomes that of an old woman... and Kyle Baker draws a naked old lady who's really a naked young, hot lady. Or how this is my favourite Cable. One more issue left. And the plan is insane. [****1/4]

The Mighty Thor #11: Is it just me or is this evil plan pretty bad? It didn't take long for everyone to figure it out... I also love how ads for issue twelve promote it as the final battle between Thor and Tanarus despite there being no other battles. Sure, Thor has kicked the crap out of Ulik, but this is different! ...I think? Ah, probably not... [***1/2]

RASL #13: I love the two panels where Robert tells the doctor he doesn't know that he doesn't know him and to sit down... and then the doctor sits down. I don't know why, I just love them. [****]

Wolverine and the X-Men #6: As I mentioned regarding issue five... I really don't care about the plot. This issue had less 'hanging out' than the last few and, therefore, I cared less. Kid Gladiator amuses me, though. Quentin Quire... not so much. [***1/4]


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CBR Review: Wonder Woman #6

I recently reviewed Wonder Woman #6 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Part of what makes Azzarello's writing so excellent is his reliance on the reader never questioning why Wonder Woman and company would care who takes Zeus’s place. Obviously, minimalization of any collateral damage potentially spilling over into the mortal world is a plus, but a power struggle over the throne of Zeus isn’t an activity one would normally want to get involved. Yet, comic readers are conditioned to see characters inserting themselves into fantastic situations and Azzarello plays off that expectation wonderfully."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Avengers #22

I recently reviewed Avengers #22 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Under attack from Norman Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R., the Avengers have been defeated and captured except Vision and Quake. This issue sees the Avengers in captivity, their jailers delivering little speeches and inflicting moments of physical torture while accomplishing very little of note. There are a few nice moments such as the Red Hulk’s immune system attacking miniature H.A.M.M.E.R. agents inside his comatose body and Quake proving why she was handpicked as Nick Fury's protégé. Unfortunately, these standout moments are few and far in between. Most of the issue is simple plot advancements presented in a workmanlike fashion."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: New Avengers #21

I recently reviewed New Avengers #21 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "After last issue's confrontation with Norman Osborn and his new Dark Avengers, the Avengers retreat to regroup and find themselves confronted with Ragnarok, the clone of Thor who just won’t disappear. It’s another fight in New Avengers #21 -- but Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato's approach is different: it’s taken from turn-based role-playing games with Ragnarok as the final boss and Spider-Man as the player. Bendis's unique approach highlights the teamwork of the Avengers and tweaks the usual fight dynamic, making for an exciting read."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sketch Reviews (February 17 2012)

Yeah, I bought comics on Wednesday. Just hadn't gotten around to this post until now. Mostly because I spent all of Thursday blowing my nose every twelve seconds -- and, on days like that, the only thing I can stand to do is watch TV where blowing my nose doesn't actually interrupt anything. I watched around 20 episodes of King of the Hill. Awesome day. Aside from nose-blowing. (I'm about a third of the way into season three of King of the Hill after getting the first five seasons on DVD from Michelle's mom for Christmas and my birthday. As I said on Twitter, I think, on the whole, I prefer King of the Hill over The Simpsons. At its peak, The Simpsons was funnier, no doubt. King of the Hill is better at blending a lot of different elements consistently -- similar to what Parks and Recreation does compared to 30 Rock, say. Also, Pamela Adlon's voice acting of Bobby is some of the best voice acting ever done. Simply stunning stuff.)

Daredevil #9: One of the weakest issues yet -- which sounds negative, of course, but it was still a good issue. Conceptually, this issue had a good focus and some of the bits with Matt's radar was quite clever... it just doesn't connect with me. In the hands of a lesser artist, this issue probably would have fallen completely flat for me. Personal preference, I suppose. [***1/2]

Uncanny X-Men #7: Damn, Kieron Gillen wrote the hell out of this issue. Then again, I have a fondness for alien lifeforms that talk down to humans... Greg Land's art didn't bug too much most of the time. That's as good as it gets with him, isn't it? [***1/2]

Winter Soldier #2: When Bucky stands up and yells "Nobody move! This is a raid!" I laugh myself silly. It's just so fucking dumb. [***1/4]

Hellblazer: Phantom Pains: The one thing that I really liked about this trade was how Peter Milligan had John forget various spells at different times. He's an old bastard, he's losing his touch, and he will fuck up even more in the future... at least if his wife isn't there to save his ass. Now the wait for the next trade begins... [****]

Uncanny X-Force: Deathlok Nation: Three issues less than the Hellblazer trade and a buck more expensive. Fuck you, Marvel. This was fine. I'd read the 'point one' issue before and found it tedious here. The 'main story' (of three issues) was entertaining in its way. The Deathlok concept never really landed as well as intended and, goddamn, Esad Ribic's art is much better on The Ultimates with Dean White on colours. This is the necessary trade that bridges the first with the third and fourth... and judging from what people are saying about the comics after that, that will probably be where I get off this little ride. I did like the Fantomex Deathlok bit. (Also, the more we explore Fantomex as a character, the less interesting he is.) [***1/4]


Monday, February 13, 2012

Name Your Ending (Stolen from Tom Spurgeon)

In this week's Five for Friday, Tom Spurgeon asked for four issues that could have been the end of the series/character but weren't (for whatever reason) along with an explanation for one of your choices. I really liked the idea and wanted to expand upon my list with some new picks and explanations for all of them.

1. Dreadstar #31: The final issue that Jim Starlin wrote and illustrated. Vanth nearly died fighting the Lord High Papal and spends two years in a coma and wakes up to some big changes. The character is immortal, basically, so this seemed like a good place to end things. His life would always be a cycle of victories and losses...

2. The Authority #22: The Authority, having become bloated and corrupt in their own way are killed by the governments they pissed off and replaced with a group that will cater to the Powers that Be. That always seemed like an appropriate and fitting ending for the book that pushed the boundaries a little and had its share of controversies and would, eventually, die a death of slow mediocrity.

3. Transmetropolitan #24: Spider uses all of his power to help oust the Beast from power, but, in the process, put in someone worse. A downbeat ending, sure... Every time I reread Transmet, this always seems like a natural breaking point for the series and, had it ended there, it would have been disappointing... and appropriate to an extent.

4. Adventures of Superman #623: Superman reflects on his role, his marriage, and it ends with a moment of him recognising his effect on the world, and leaving his relationship with Lois ambiguous enough that you can interpret it as the end of their marriage or them reaffirming their love. (Also, assume that ever 'last issue' of a Joe Casey run gets its own pick...)

5. Fantastic Four #513: The Fantastic Four go to Heaven to bring the Thing back, meet Jack Kirby, and receive a drawing them older and happy...

6. Punishermax #22: Frank Castle is dead and I can't honestly think of another Punisher story that needs telling... or anything left to say with the character that hasn't been said.

7. Spectacular Spider-Man #229: Peter gives up being Spider-Man to be a husband and father, handing the mantle over to Ben Reilly. Peter finally gets to become an adult and Spider-Man still exists.

8. Hellblazer #215: John Constantine has doomed his sister to hell, ruined his friendship with his best friend, and then delivers the best sober 'drunk' speech ever to a bunch of magicians. It's a glorious 'fuck you' to magic and the life he's chosen... and you know it won't end there.

9. Batman and Robin #3: Bruce Wayne is dead, but Batman and Robin will never die...

10. Marshal Law #6: None of the follow-ups really said anything that this hadn't. They expanded on the character a little and made some funny jokes, and never hit nearly as hard as the finale to the mini-series.


CBR Review: Punishermax #22

I recently reviewed Punishermax #22 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "There’s a sense in the issue of Fury, and Aaron, struggling with the idea that there is no big meaning here. Any fancy words and moving speeches would maybe make people feel better or give some sense of closure, but they would be lies. In the wake of Castle’s burial, Fury’s narration sums it up perfectly: 'And the truth is, Frank... Truth is you murdered, suffered and died... All for nothing. You didn’t change the world, Frank, You didn’t even change New York City.' It’s a sentiment that flies in the face of what the death of a character like the Punisher should be, but it’s completely adherent to both Aaron’s run on the title and Ennis’s. Frank Castle is no hero, he’s a killer that just happens to kill bad people. There’s no meaning, there’s just that sad truth."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #6

I recently reviewed Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #6 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "After a four-issue opening story and last month’s crossover with O.M.A.C., issue six of Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. manages to pack in both the first part of a new story arc and a self-contained tale. The balancing act between the two is pulled off masterfully, shunting Frankenstein to a mission that only needs half an issue and allowing the beginning of the new story to come out of events at the Ant Farm without him. Both stories indulge Alberto Ponticelli’s twisted, strange art style, something that’s quickly becoming the best thing about the title."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Sketch Reviews (February 9 2012)

Fuck it...

Some Brief Thoughts on Before Watchmen (which aren't meant to be nuanced or deep, but quick summations of where I'm coming from after reading 28,000 arguments for why this is the worst, most evil thing to happen in comics since forever... but, please, present those arguments again in the comments and see how much I care)

I honestly have no problems with Before Watchmen. None. I don't see the moral problem. I don't see scabs or traitors or anything wrong. It's not because I'm cynical or apathetic or unsympathetic... it's because Alan Moore signed a contract. Did something unexpected happen? Yeah. Watchmen stayed in print. You know what that makes DC? Lucky. You know what that makes Moore? Wrong. It's not a moral issue, it's a matter of someone signing a bad deal and it biting them in the ass. Let's not all pretend like DC stole anything from the poor victim Alan Moore. Especially if you've gotten a copy of Watchmen after its initial print run, you hypocritical fucks. You kept the book in print.

There's much more to it, of course. I guess it comes down to how much you expected DC to rework a deal that wound up benefitting them greatly. Or how much you blame them for exploiting a deal that benefitted them greatly.

One thing I keep wondering about is what exactly people are fighting over. I mean, literally, what is there about Watchmen and its characters that's worth fighting over? What made Watchmen so special, such a great work? Was it the Charlton analogues? (And, make no mistake, 'analogue' is just another word for 'rip-off.' Don't pretend like it's not. Don't pretend like these characters are everso original and sprang fully formed from the mind of Moore. They're different enough, but come on... if you're going to start arguing bullshit technicalities to bolster that side of your argument, then I'll have to direct you back to the 'Moore signed the contract' part of what happened...) If it was just the characters, then, yeah, I guess it's all wrong. I was always under the impression that Watchmen was more than a bunch of analogues... more than anything in the plot... it was style, technique, and innovation -- a bunch of things that Moore doesn't (and can never) own. DC is publishing a bunch of books featuring analogues of characters they already own... it's like they own the empty shell that looks like a crab and are trying to make everyone think it's a crab. All I see are a bunch of people arguing over an empty shell.

And, just to add one more point to make people hate me: I did laugh at Moore's arguments against the idea of Watchmen prequels considering he's been pretty close to doing more work with the characters and the world in the past. I understand that the real argument is over whether or not it should be his say no matter what he thought in the past (and people can change their mind), but it really came off as a convenient shift in position. It's not so much that Watchmen doesn't need (or shouldn't have) prequels, it's fuck DC for doing them without him. Which, fair enough. I get his perspective... Everyone else? Keep arguing over your empty shell that he gave away willingly and you helped keep away from him. Me, I'm going to read (and hopefully enjoy) some comics by creators I think are talented.

(Also, go buy Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen featuring "The Smartest Man in the Morgue," an essay where I apply Raymond Chandler's "Twelve Notes on the Mystery Story" to Watchmen!)

Now, onto brief words on this week's comics (like anyone will care now...):

Batwoman #6: What do you do with a comic you were buying for the art when the artist isn't drawing it anymore? I like Amy Reeder's art... or, I have in the past. Here, it's got the added 'benefit' of two inkers who I'm not a fan of (Rob Hunter particularly has been an inker whose work I've loathed since seeing the job he did on Jim Starlin's pencils). The mediocre writing was a lot easier to stomach when it had JH Williams and Dave Stewart dressing up into something amazing. Somehow, the 'new 52' has started falling apart on me lately... This may have to be a book I buy every other arc. [**]

Captain America #8: Conceptually, an issue that didn't add much to the first two parts of this story. There are a couple of plot points worth seeing happen, but, for the most part, it's more of Cap dealing with his problem. I did really like the way he overcompensates and how that winds up biting him in the ass. And Alan Davis art! That opening fight scene is absolutely gorgeous. [***1/4]

Haunt #21: When I wondered a few weeks back if this issue had come out, I know now that it had not. Always nice when Diamond's own list is wrong, right? Anyway... Bickering and fighting dudes on motorcycles while a guy reads from his evil Bible? Joe Casey's brain is a fun place -- made even better by Nathan Fox's art. [****]

Journey into Mystery #634: Richard Elson's art looks different in this issue. Slicker, faker... maybe the colouring changed? I don't like it as much. Otherwise, an entertaining issue. The banter between Loki and Leah was funny -- and the way that Loki figured out Nightmare was trying to trick him was clever. [***1/2]

Secret Avengers #22: I really like Gabriel Hardman's art and I'm digging on Rick Remender's take on Captain Britain. The rest? Not as much. This story here didn't keep my interest at all. The villains come off as tedious -- there's nothing there for me to hate and nothing there for me to like... they just are. Unsure if I'll give this another issue or not. [**1/2]

The Unwritten #34: Goddamn, that's a great issue! The reversal of Tom's fortunes was genuinely surprising and the way he took down the members of the Cabal was shocking in its execution -- mostly because this was more organised and capable than we've seen these characters act yet. It's the perfect time for them to get their act together, of course. And, the cliffhanger has me genuinely excited to see what happens next. Tom and Pullman. Goddamn. [****]

Wolverin and the X-Men #5: A charming comic if there ever was one. There's a bit more plot to this issue than the fourth, but the things I liked best about last issue continue: namely, wonderful little character bits. Pieces of dialogue that just pop. Jason Aaron has zoned in on these characters to such an extent that I don't care about the plot. There doesn't need to be a plot as far as I'm concerned. I could read a comic about lunch in the cafeteria every month, I think, and find it wildly entertaining. Hell, the thing I liked least about this issue was the plot. A rare thing in comics. Nick Bradshaw's art is a bit hit or miss for me: it depends on the characters and, sometimes, the individual panel. His style tends to make characters look like children, which I find annoying -- at least for the adult characters in the book. There needs to be a better distinction between the students and teachers visually, I think. But, he absolutely nails stuff like Kid Gladiator sulking and Toad's surly annoyance. [****1/4]

Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha & Omega #2: Poor Quentin... girls aren't impressed by the way he's taken down Wolverine and made him run through his Construct. That's a shame. [***3/4]


Monday, February 06, 2012

CBR Review: The Defenders #3

I recently reviewed The Defenders #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The chaotic composition of The Defenders reaches new heights in issue three, to the point where it’s become apparent that the only ways to make sense of this book are in the micro and the macro. Focus on the small moments of scenes or panels or just lines of dialogue, while trying to see the broad strokes; everything in between will only get you turned around. And that’s a big part of what makes this comic so entertaining: that veering back and forth between the little things like Red She-Hulk appreciating her sword or the Silver Surfer figuring out what’s going on while no one else notices, and the large push of the series forward. Damn the logic and explanations."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Men of War #6

I recently reviewed Men of War #6 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The opening (and only multi-issue) story arc of Men of War comes to a close as writer Ivan Brandon departs the series. After two standalone issues, the series ends only to be replaced by G.I. Combat and it’s a wonder why it doesn’t simply end with this issue. The story focusing on Sgt. Rock and his detail’s mission-gone-wrong reaches a satisfying and appropriate conclusion here. When the ‘New 52’ launched, Men of War stood out as one of the few different comics in a sea of superheroes; it has shown itself to be complex and subtle in the story it has told. Fans of Brandon’s work on Doc Savage or Nemesis won’t be surprised by what he does in this book or the way that he does it."

You can read the rest HERE!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Team Hellions Podcast #35

On Thursday morning, I recorded a podcast with Kevin Hellions for his site. He does a weekly podcast and needed someone, so I jumped in. For an hour, we talk comics and wrestling, including my most detailed thoughts concerning Before Watchmen. Also, if you ever wanted to hear how I began writing for every site I write for, well, you're in luck.

You can listen to and download Team Hellions Podcast #35 HERE!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Sketch Reviews (February 2 2012)

Fun weeks for comics, no? I expand upon my Before Watchmen thoughts a bit in an upcoming podcast with Kevin Hellions that I recorded this morning, so I won't talk much about it. I will say that I'm going to buy the books -- and I will be doing a weekly discussion thing on the comics with Brian Cronin over at Comics Should be Good. So, depending on how much you like Brian and I, this isn't all bad, right? As for my announcement on Sunday, I don't have much to add. I don't think it's too difficult to figure out my reasons.

Action Comics #6: An odd detour. This feels like a recycled idea Morrison had for All-Star Superman if he'd done more of that after the first 12 issues. Not necessarily a bad thing and I can appreciate the idea of not advancing the 'main' story without the regular artist. Yet, this story doesn't feel like it was worth telling either. Some nice moments, sure. The point, though? [**1/2]

Animal Man #6: When comics do issues like this, people usually lose their mind with praise. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't. This issue, besides giving me some John Paul Leon art, seems rather pointless. "Hey, look, Buddy Baker starred in a really bad movie once!" That's about it. I can see the thematic relationship to what's going on in the main story, I just don't think that it adds anything. Like Action Comics, this seemed like the book was put on hold simply because the regular artist couldn't do the issue (or the entire issue). [**]

Avengers: X-Sanction #3: I really liked this issue. It's dumb fun. Cable killing the Avengers for no reason other than a future that may never happen. When the X-Men show up to stop him, I damn near went into a laughing fit over how ridiculous they all are. Cable as an old crazy man muttering to himself and trying to convince people of his twisted logic... I could read that every month. [***3/4]

The Boys #63: Jesus, Hughie... [****]

Fatale #2: I think I need to reread the first issue... [NR]

OMAC #6: It's not fair, but I read Kirby's OMAC series this week after getting the hardcover for my birthday and this series seems a lot less interesting by comparison. Especially with Scott Kolins providing art this issue. I did like Leilani dropping her act almost immediately. [***]

Uncanny X-Men #6: I get it, they're kind of like Xavier and Magneto! Actually, some solid, entertaining stuff. [***1/2]

I also got the Xombi trade. I've only read the first two issues, though. I'm liking it.


CBR Review: Winter Soldier #1

I recently reviewed Winter Soldier #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The hook of this series flows naturally out of the last stories featuring Barnes wearing Captain America's mask. Put on trial for his activities as the Winter Soldier and extradited to Russia, he learned that he can't escape his past. That he committed atrocities while under Russian control is irrelevant - Barnes still takes on the responsibility for his actions, especially with other Soviet programs possibly still in play that he has knowledge of. In this debut issue, Barnes and Natasha try to track down other 'Winter Soldiers' he trained, who have been lying dormant until activated. As an opening chapter, the comic makes for a nice mix of character-driven plot and noirish espionage that suits the characters perfectly."

You can read the rest HERE!