Week in Review: March 19, 2014

March 24, 2014

This week left me feeling really bummed about comic books, which is weird because I have been actually rather rejuvenated about comic books and the medium after watching this really sweet little youtube video about Frank Quitely (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IKI4ggCYoA). Sigh…

American Vampire: Second Cycle #1 (Vertigo)

I have always heard that American Vampire is a great book. Scott Snyder has certainly gotten a ton of people excited about Batman again, so I thought I would give this a shot. I really had a hard time getting into it honestly. I don’t know if it has to do with not really being familiar with this world, but I clearly need to have some previous knowledge before reading this book in order to understand it. I thought this would be a little more forgiving, but I just couldn’t get a feel for anything going on in this one. If you have read the earlier books you will probably love it, but if you haven’t, probably a solid borrow. BORROW

Winter Soldier #2 (Marvel)

This was a solid book. I was hoping we would actually see the Winter Soldier tracking the escaped party through the woods for an entire issue, but a good old-fashioned train ride is what we got. I’m still into it, and I have to say the actual storytelling that Boschi is able to tell with his panels is really fun. I like the variety and he is clearly aware of what he is doing. Also, bonus points for a villain that is clearly modeled after David Bowie. One annoying thing I am noticing is that the cover artist keeps giving the main character a mustache on the covers, where he doesn’t have any facial hair in the actual book. Let’s get that straightened out, yeah? BUY

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #117 (Dark Horse)

I feel bad reviewing this book because I really don’t care about B.P.R.D. at all, but James Harren’s interiors are really cool, and I’m glad to see him going all-out here. You know what you are going to get with this book. Monsters, guns, and guts. Need I say more? As a fan of Harren, I have to buy this book, but from an actual critical point of view, the story has me pretty lost as a newbie reading this book. BUY for the art, BORROW for the story.

Animal Man #29 (DC)

Once upon a time I read Animal Man with a great appreciation. I thought Lemire was bringing a great sentimentality that is sorely missing in so many mainstream comics, and Travel Foreman’s art was ground-breaking. Two years later, this run is coming to an end, and Foreman came back for half of the issue, with Lemire drawing the other half. First of all, as far as send-offs go, this issue reflects far too much on the run itself, recounting issues 1-28 through a child’s eyes. Sappy, heavy-handed, and frankly a letdown of an issue, I just felt like they made this one because they had to. Foreman’s art was oddly rushed looking, and it also felt like he didn’t really need to be a part of this story. I was more pissed off than anything after reading this issue, but it is an end of a chapter, so whatever. BORROW

Daredevil #1 (Marvel)

Waid and Samnee continue their Daredevil run, and while I don’t have anything against this Daredevil title, it certainly isn’t presenting me with much to really dig into. The art is great, and it’s not the worst thing I have read, it just feels like more of the same from Waid concerning Daredevil. In fact, it makes me miss Bendis’ run a little bit, which certainly kept escalating and upping the stakes. Waid’s run seems to have plateaued. I was hoping to hop on this bandwagon since I missed the first run a few years ago, but alas, this is one bandwagon I feel like I can afford to miss. BORROW

Thor: God of Thunder #20 (Marvel)

Galactus and Thor sharing a panel together on a desolate Earth, that’s really all I need at this point. There is this Captain Planet-vibe from the rest of the story, and sure, “Earth Awareness” and all that, but really, I just want to see Galactus and Thor throw down. That’s all you have to show my right now, Jason Aaron, and I am happy. We can get plot and story later…Just so long as there is a fight. BUY


Week In Review: March 6, 2014

March 7, 2014

I don’t know if I have EVER had a pull this big in my life. It was an absolute challenge to get through all of these, because most of them were somewhat demanding reads. A few of these may be from the previous week as well, but let’s kick it off with the Marvel books first.

Moon Knight #1 (Marvel)

Warren Ellis and I haven’t been acquainted in many years. I loved Nextwave, I loved Planetary, and for the most part Ellis hasn’t ever done anything I haven’t enjoyed. Moon Knight is a character I literally have never read a single issue of, I’ve never even really understood what he is supposed to be or why people seem to keep giving this character second chances. So can Ellis make me read a book about this character? The answer is yes, but it still feels really weird. Ellis has taken this character and reformed him, in much the same way Moore took the characters from Watchmen away from their origins and USED them to tell his own story. Moon Knight is fun, it’s moody, and it felt like a good read, but I still don’t know what we are getting into here. I am reminded of Madman in that there seems to be this juxtaposition of insanity versus heroics, so it feels familiar in that way. I wanted to not like it, but I’m too intrigued to stop reading at this point. BUY

Amazing X-Men #4 (Marvel)

If there is one thing that is evident from this title, it’s that Nightcrawler is an essential X-Man. To see him embraced by every one of his friends who thought he was dead (and he still is?) is very heart-warming and reminds me of better days in the X-Men when everyone seemed to like each other. It’s bittersweet for sure, but it makes me hope that someday the X-Universe will finally be a happy place again. Art is good, I think the story is moving along well enough to “mean” something. Get it. BUY

Uncanny X-Men #18 (Marvel)

I bought this issue ONLY because Marco Rudy did the art for this issue. His work on Marvel Knights: Spider-Man was very fresh and mind-boggling. This issue even came with a plea from Bendis to approach it with an open mind, comparing it to when Sienkiewicz took over New Mutants, and not freak out about the different approach Rudy brings to his pages. In a lot of ways, this issue delivered for me. Although I don’t read Uncanny X-Men regularly, the dialed in conversation between Cyclops and Kitty was nice, it was personal, and it helped me actually care about what these characters are going through. It doesn’t happen enough, but here it came out great. I won’t read Uncanny after this issue, but it was a fun little break. BUY

It’s weird to be reading more and more books that aren’t from the big 2. Here are some on my radar.

Starlight #1 (Image)

One of the better parts of last year’s Fury: My War Gone By written by Garth Ennis was Goran Parlov’s amazing artwork. Very nostalgic feeling, very simple line work, but very deliberate and evocative. I just really enjoyed his work and instantly became a fan. Mark Millar has written some good stuff, and you never know what you are going to get. But Starlight is such a subtle and patient  story, this makes for a great first issue. If you love Flash Gordon and pulp science-fiction heroes this will definitely be worth picking up. BUY

Pretty Deadly #1 (Image)

Kelly Sue DeConnick’s book came out a while ago, but I finally got my hand’s on the first issue. This read a lot like a Paul Pope book for me, largely due to the fantastic artwork by Emma Ríos. Ríos’ layouts and art is just so alive and electric, I loved every panel. DeConnick’s dialogue felt a little too Southern at times, but overall she has built an interesting world of magic(?) and violence. Her spin on the western is shaping up to be more than meets the eye, and I am definitely interested to know more. BUY

The Mercenary Sea #1 (Image)

This seems like one of those books that is coming from a first time writer in Kel Symons. While not his first writing gig, I wasn’t that surprised to find out Symons has done some cinematic production too. There is a really interesting approach to the art in this book that is both fascinating and disappointing at the same time. I love the page layouts, the colors, and the uses of depth of field that really make this book feel like a movie or something more realistic. The cutout, copy and paste artwork itself still feels a little flat and uninspired some of the time, but on the whole, it’s a successful look (I just wish it was more hand drawn, more obviously not using Adobe Illustrator). The book is very reminiscent of a larger film, and while some of the story points are a bit trendy, it was a book that left me wanting to read what comes next. BUY

Velvet #4

Velvet gives me a strong female hero who doesn’t make an issue of her being a strong female hero. In other words, it isn’t forced. I don’t need to be reminded that Velvet is an able woman who can take care of herself, in the same that I don’t need to be reminded that James Bond is a strong male. Brubaker SHOWS us that Velvet is a character who is simply doing what she needs to to survive and figure out the world she is living in. I’m glad the series is maintaining its level of intrigue, and it’s just solid from top to bottom. BUY

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #2 (Dynamite)

Turok is one of those books that really has nothing to lose, especially with readers like me. I don’t really know much about Turok beyond what my N64 game taught me, which wasn’t much. Turok as a character gets a little lost in this story sometimes, but at its core, it’s a fun book. Any time white people get their asses handed to them by people they are trying to kill, that’s a party. BORROW/BUY

Rover Red Charlie #4 (Avatar)

Ennis is pretty well-known for his satire and rather crude humor, so much so that when he does deliver sad and tearjerking stories, you kind of forget how good he is at that as well. I’ve heard firsthand reactions to this issue that made people cry, and it was certainly sad. A book about dogs in a sort of post-apocalypse makes readers cry. If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will. BUY

Veil #1 (Dark Horse)

Greg Rucka’s new book doesn’t give me that much to sink my teeth into. Literally a woman wakes up naked in the sewers and wanders about a cyber-punk type city, talking broken English (like Leeloo from the movie The Fifth Element) until she is almost attacked and then makes a bunch of guys kill themselves with the power of her mind. That’s all the pages give you, and honestly, that’s not enough to make me think this is the next big thing. The art wasn’t awful, but I think it was missing something that would have really delivered a better package. I might read the next one, but odds are against it. PASS

Trillium #7 (Vertigo)

Can this series just end already? Again, we deal with scenarios and setups that are all too familiar, both in general storytelling and within the story itself. This may be the only way that this story can progress with how it is set up, but it’s frustrating to feel like over 7 issues I still can’t sense any bit of urgency or threat to their love story. I believe this concludes in the next issue, but I just already know that it won’t deliver what I want. PASS

Week In Review: February 26, 2014

February 27, 2014

It’s a Remender-splosion week with 3 books by the man. I’m also going to change my grading system here, more akin to the Uncanny X-Cast’s method of Buy, Borrow, Pass.

Black Science #4 (Image)

Black Science is a book that I am still on the fence about if I am enjoying or not, but this issue certainly pushes it more into my “enjoyment” pile. My main issue with this series is that it has taken a while for me to really get to know the characters, and it sort of jumped right in. I think this can work, but it really took until #4 to suss out the details. For one thing, a character dies in this issue, which means I can focus on other characters more (even though the character who died was probably more interesting than some of the ones who survived). A lot of these characters aren’t really getting a lot of face time, and because there is so much running around and trying to not get killed, it’s hard for me to feel much allegiance yet. However, I do remain hopeful that this book will get better, so I will keep on keeping on here. BUY

Uncanny Avengers #17 (Marvel)

Ragnarok Now. What the hell did I just read?! Not in a “Ugh that was absolute garbage!” way, but in a “What could possibly come next?” way. Even though the events of this issue are clearly not going to permeate throughout the rest of the Marvel universe, the fact that Remender is going this far with this title, bending the rules and almost breaking so many of them, really makes me admire what is going on in this title. Usually, with alternate timelines and alternate universe and time travel in Marvel, it’s very easy to be dismissive and frankly uninvested, because you just know there is a way to “fix” things. And even though the stuff happening in this issue will clearly be “fixed” at some point, I honestly don’t know how Remender will do it, and it’s actually interesting. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but he has managed to get me intrigued in a Marvel story. Well done sir! BUY

Vandroid #1 (Dark Horse)

Tommy Lee Edwards is a very talented artist. I’ve long been a fan of his work on the mini 1985, and I think he has a great talent. His writing is being explored in this Vandroid title, and it falls a little short with me. That’s not to say it doesn’t have potential, but it feels a lot like Bruce Campbell’s The Man with the Screaming Brain from years ago; a failed indie film that pays a little too much homage where it needs to provide more originality. I get that Vandroid is a play on crappy 80’s synth-laiden sci-fi/horror movies you might find on cinephile’s “Top 100 Best Worst Movies” lists, but it doesn’t really take off in a way that leaves me wanting more. The plot is basically a Troma version of Robocop meets Terminator directed by a crappy John Carpenter wannabe, but with a little more camp. I might pick up the next issue just to see where it goes, but it’s definitely a weird book. I do appreciate the mythos they are trying to build, you should definitely check out their website for a fun little trailer and soundtrack snippet. BORROW

Guardians of the Galaxy #12 (Marvel)

Exactly two things happen in this book, which really should have been in the All-New X-Men book because the Guardians were barely in this one. One, young Scott has a moment with his dad, which yes (as the book itself addresses) we have already seen before. Two, Jean Grey begins her trial. This story is stupid. This story isn’t interesting. This story doesn’t need to exist. The cover of Gamorra and Jean beating up some guards of some sort (which doesn’t happen in the book, sorry) just drives home how absolutely ungrounded this arc is. It makes no sense and makes no effort to appeal to logic or reasoning. I love the art by both Pichelli and Immonen (blended almost seamlessly) but everything else here is treading water and has not impact on character or story. PASS

Deadly Class #2 (Image)

Where Black Science is obviously created and written by Rick Remender, Deadly Class seems to be more of the passion project at the moment. It just drips with obvious personal struggles and leftover teenage angst from Remender (and perhaps Wes Craig’s) high school past. This book actually READS, as in I feel like I have inspected every page and panel with time well spent. Most comics I feel cheated by, able to kind of blindly glaze over and pick up without investigating too much in the words or art. Deadly Class makes you have to sit down and focus, and that pays off. Beautiful art and coloring, obviously smart writing, and a soundtrack playlist at the end to boot (which I always loved about Rob Schrab’s Scud back in the day), Deadly Class deserves your attention. BUY

Week In Review: February 12, 2014

February 13, 2014

Thor: God of Thunder #19

I waited through that last arc for both Ribic to return to Thor (an absolute must) and for us to get out of the more fantasy-based universe and return to Earth. Both of these things happened here, but the story somehow fell a little flat. Thor courting a new “girlfriend” is fun, sure, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that the entire God-killer/God-bomb story was almost a fluke, as Thor just isn’t all that interesting in the modern age. His young and arrogant self is fun, and his surly older self is ripe for introspection, but his current era version is almost too plain, too controlled, too perfect. Thor needs to be conflicted, he needs to be challenged, but he is too much of a Superman at this point to be interesting. The art is beautiful as always with Ribic, and the last page was a knockout that got me drooling, but all in all I’m not sure how much faith I have left in this title. Grade: C+

All-New X-Men #23

Just a lot of treading water here. Waiting for the trial to begin, characters are meeting, not really doing all that much except joke and make looks at each other. Typical X-Men universe events, especially once they leave Earth. When will the Brood show up? Are we going to see the M’Kraan crystal? Who cares?? It’s great to see Immonen back here, but really it’s just more filler with no real punch behind it. I want out! Grade: C

Winter Soldier #1

This book straight up revisits the year 1966 when Shield and Nick Fury were in full swing. Spies, espionage, witness protection, and then you throw evil Bucky into the equation, it’s a great revisiting to classic comics with a twist. I was happy to see original Nicky here having a fun time with spying, I hope he sticks around. The premise that is setup by the end of this issue made me only wonder where Remender will take things next, and I trust he will do right. One of the few instances where I welcome double shipping, because I’m hungry for more. Grade: A

Marvel Knights X-Men #4

What Brahm Revel has been able to do in this stand-alone series is great. He’s trimmed down the characters to a minimal amount, able to focus on actually having the characters deal with the situations they find themselves in. It’s very personal and intimate, which you don’t normally get with the big two. There is a lot of dialogue here, the pages are slow and steady, and the pacing is spot on. Revel’s little run here really delivers want I want from an X-Men book right now, and I love the darker tone of the MK title and I hope he writes more Marvel stuff in the future. A definite up and comer here. Grade: B+


Week In Review: January 29, 2014

January 30, 2014

Black Science #3

The other day I decided Remender is one of my favorite writers working today. He isn’t afraid to take risks, to push his characters almost too far at times. Black Science exhibits a lot of that, and by the end of this issue he finally explains some of the actual “science” behind Black Science. It’s only being divulged in trickles, but the concepts and possibilities of this book are really cool and interesting. My main struggle with this book is that I am not sure who is narrating at times, which characters I should really be following. It seems like it’s a team book, but the narrative boxes aren’t assigned to an obvious person. I’m still not familiar with really anyone, what their names are, and there may be too many of them honestly. While I would probably scoff at an entire page breaking down each character, this is one of those instances where I would forgive a page telling me who is who. I’m still into this book’s premise and I trust Remender in knowing what he is doing, I just hope that it becomes a little more focused from here on out to make it easier to follow. Grade : B

Uncanny Avengers #16

God Remender is just unflinching in his assault on the Marvel Universe, isn’t he? Either he has a plan for all of the consequences of what he is doing here, or he is just trying to challenge Marvel to undo what he has done after he leaves. Another character bites the dust here, two of our heroes are disfigured, and life on Earth seems like it’s about to end. McNiven’s art is refreshing in this book, but it suffers from some symptoms of being rushed here and there. Remender once again shows why this is probably the best comic from Marvel right now. Thanks sir. Grade: A-

Thor: God of Thunder #18

Another single issue arc from this series between “volumes” and before Esad Ribic returns in issue #19 (about time!), this is another “young Thor” story where he learns a lesson. It’s nice to visit young Thor again, because he is probably more interesting than the current Thor, and there are some great comedic moments here, but as a single issue, it does move really fast, and the story seems kind of pointless if I am being honest. Mainly because the lesson Thor learned seems out of nowhere. My guess is this pertains to the next chapter in this series, but as a standalone issue, it’s too fast and not impactful enough to make me think “Oh, Thor has changed”. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great. Grade: B-

Guardians of the Galaxy #11/ #1

I’m sorry, but the Trial of Jean Grey is a total mess already for me. The gist of what this and All-New X-Men are presenting is that the Shi’ar Empire is putting Jean Grey on trial for her actions during the Dark Phoenix Saga. It’s just very illogical, and I just don’t appreciate the coming back to that major event in this way. Wouldn’t the Shi’ar have put her on trial on one of the many times she had come back to life before her younger self was brought into the present? Someone in this book even says “Yeah, but she hasn’t done that yet” and it’s brushed off. That’s a solid point, added to the fact that nothing can be done to change the past. The Jean Grey that was actually the Dark Phoenix is dead, twice. I feel like that makes any trial pretty moot at this point. And worst of all, this detracts from the actual Guardians comic itself, which is still pretty fun, witty, and somewhat refreshing given that I’m not familiar with them as characters or a team. Keep the Guardians out of this, get back to more intergalactic shenanigans please. Grade: Bummer (C+)

Week In Review: January 22, 2014

January 23, 2014

Only 4 this week, pickins are going to probably get even more slim as I may be dropping a few books soon. Them’s the ropes!

Deadly Class #1

Remender is one of those guys that I really enjoy. His work on Uncanny X-Force and now Uncanny Avengers remains some of what I would consider the best storytelling to come to Marvel in some time, and I have been eating up his other books as soon as I can. I wasn’t particularly in love with Black Science when it debuted, maybe because the science fiction elements seemed to actually clutter and distract from connecting with the characters. Deadly Class however, delivers exactly what I would expect from him. The pacing feels fast while also slow, very meticulous and well-planned, it feels like a much larger read than it actually is. Wes Craig’s artwork is something to behold, and I have a feeling he is just getting started. Give him five years, and he will be one of the best artists working today. The setting of 1987 seemed like a gimmick at first, but it also presents a world that is very fresh and alive, shedding the plagues of the modern day and returning to a less-cluttered world where characters are forced to actually interact with each other, rather than text or snapchat. Remender is building a world here that initially seems middle of the road conceptually (assassin school…really?), but after a very thorough reading, I very much look forward to the next issue and am holding this series to be my most sought-after of the year. Grade: A+

Avengers #24/#1 Rogue Planet

I was a huge fan of Hickman’s initial Avengers Marvel Now! run, but it slowly became too much of a monster to read, mainly tied with the huge events of Infinity and other typical Marvel flotsam and jetsam. This was a chance for me to dive back in to Hickman’s Avengers world again, and it was a pleasant swim. Ribic’s artwork was the big draw here, fueling my excitement for when he returns to Thor later this month. Hickman’s writing was typically grandiose, but it was also fairly succinct and although I doubt I will be reading Avengers going forward, this was certainly a nice little story that will undoubtedly lead to a much more annoying one down the line. Grade: B

All-New X-Men #22/#1

Every time I consider stopping reading All-New X-Men, Stuart Immonen pops back in and produces gorgeous pages that I am forced to read. Damn him. Bendis’ tendency to expand almost too much on what could otherwise be a very straightforward script showed through here, sadly, and I felt kind of like I had just read 24 pages of a simple 3 minute scene. It was frustrating because so much of Immonen’s artwork is just left without much writing behind it to give it weight. Amazing images, sure, but I’m growing tired of the considerable lack of focus. This is the beginning of a much larger story, and unfortunately it feels like it, and that story may be awesome and focus on characters again, but this title is starting to get to me just a little too much. Grade: B- (C+ without the art!)

Marvel Knights: X-Men #3

Marvel Knights delivers what I wish all mainstream superhero comics would do. Short and sweet stories handled by great teams of writers and artists. MK Spider-Man has been an absolute trip, and MK X-Men has been a fun “little” story to read, isolated from any other events going on in the Marvel universe. This story is literally in a backwater town in the South, it doesn’t get much smaller than that in terms of scale, which is refreshingly absent of space and time travelers or any threats to the world’s immediate safety. No, this is simply what EVERY X-Men book should be about, trying to prevent mutants from being prejudiced against and helping them understand their powers. It’s deceivingly simple, and it works so well, it makes me wonder why this aspect of mutants isn’t given more room to breathe. I like it as a contained, five-issue story, but it would also be so much better than any other mutant book if it were ongoing too. Grade: A-

Week In Review: August 14, 2013

August 17, 2013

Thor: God of Thunder #11

This title is still one of the best. The finale of the Godbomb plot line is a little confusing for me, a little too season finale of Doctor Who “magic dues ex machina” for my taste, but ultimately it serves fine for the finale. I don’t know how else you could end that story. While I have enjoyed the time-travelling insanity that was this story, I wonder what will come next. Hopefully Ribic stays on with Aaron for at least a few more issues, please don’t ruin the magic here Marvel.

Trillium #1

Jeff Lemire and I have a pretty sordid past. I first read his Animal Man and couldn’t applaud it enough, and although I had my problems with it, Sweet Tooth was definitely a title worth reading. Other than that, Lemire and I don’t really see eye-to-eye for some reason. Maybe part of that is that he seemed rather off-standish when I met him in person, maybe it’s that his work has a bit of pretense to it that can be a little sour-tasting, but Trillium seems to be an exciting new title. True, a lot of similarities between Trillium and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain spring to my mind (Mayan mythology, time-travel, love and death, etc.), but hopefully that is a symptom of introduction and doesn’t stay throughout the entire run on this mini. I will keep reading, but it did feel a little too familiar to me for me to really say I enjoyed it.

All-New X-men #15

Bendis is still messing with this really weird title, and the space-time continuum should be completely nuked because of how much stuff they are really messing with in this title, but oh well, Beast and Jean Grey are kissing so it’s cool, right? Seriously, this book just doesn’t give a f**k. It’s enjoyable, but it’s hard not to feel like someday everyone will wake up and say “What a weird dream!” or some other nonsensical ending with absolutely no impact or payoff in the Marvel U, but until then, I guess I will keep reading. Gotta remember though, Immonen isn’t penciling every issue, so watch out for that in the future (it’s hard to read without him).

Week in Review: July 24, 2013

July 25, 2013

Red Team #4

There is not enough Garth Ennis in my life after the end of his amazing Fury run from earlier this year, but Red Team fills at least some of the void left behind. As I become older and wiser (or at least I would like to hope), I seek out more and more dialogue and character driven stories. I don’t really need the imagery to blow me away, I need something more substantial. Ennis is one of the best writers out there, past and present, period. He’s had his ups and downs, which certainly deserve further investigation, but Red Team is definitely proving to be one under the “ups” category. While I am tiring a little bit wondering who is interrogating our red team, and every issue ends with “…and who would have thought, we would have gotten away with it, if only we had just done this one thing differently…”, but Ennis has made an interesting crew of characters and I am definitely enjoying the vigilante angle. Definitely worth checking out.

Uncanny Avengers #10

I really don’t know why, but this is seriously one of the better titles out there from Marvel right now. It pains me to continue reading this title with such fondness. Perhaps it is because it is a nice blend of old-school, character driven, team-books from my youth with the more contemporary and aggressive antics of modern comics, but this is pretty consistently impressing me. Just when I think I am going to check out, Remender pulls me back in. There were some things here and there that bugged me, but overall this title is just a fun one and Remender is giving me a lot of what I didn’t think I would enjoy, but certainly am excited to read this book every time.

Batman/Superman #2

The art of Jae Lee is pretty spectacularly on display here, and is truly the saving grace of this title. But does that mean it is actually good? It doesn’t quite feel that way. I was really confused the entire time reading, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t remember what had happened last issue either. On top of that, the recent news that a Batman/Superman movie is starting to ready it’s engines left a sour taste when reading this title. Art was great, as always from Lee, but overall, I may not pursue this one much beyond this issue. Sorry…

Comics in Review: June 12, 2013

June 12, 2013

Small haul today!

Superman Unchained #1

To appease to our resident Superman obsessive expert Chris Clow, I bought this issue with a grain of salt. I had followed Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing and Batman runs for the New 52 with very little staying power (Swamp Thing started out fine, but by the time Rotworld was in full effect, I had gotten tired of it, and Batman never really got its hooks in me), and to say Jim Lee is iconic goes without saying, but his style and skill hasn’t developed in years and he might even be getting worse at this point as hard as that may be to say or even comprehend.

As I have not been in the know of what/how/who Superman is in the New 52 really up to this point, this issue had me totally confused and desperately trying to understand any of the characters and events going on. I claim full ignorance here, but most of all, Lee’s ability to cram detail into every panel furthers the confusion and distraction from the words Snyder wrote. I left this feeling like I had just fast forwarded through a television episode and been asked to describe what the episode was about. I saw a lot of things, but couldn’t tell you one thing about it storywise. Needless to say, I will not be reading further, but I did try at least.

Guardians of the Galaxy #3

What is essentially “The Avengers…in Space!” didn’t really go very far in this issue. We have some further exposition on the intergalactic game of thrones/power struggle that may be going on, and it’s driven home that these Guardians function as a true team and seem pretty unstoppable when motivated. This is a fun read, and a fun title, but I can’t help but wonder if this is in fact going anywhere different than we have seen before in the pages of something like Invincible (the father/son dynamic more than anything). I might keep reading it, but I’m still not overly invested in it on the whole yet.

Thor #9

Thor continues to be one of the few good comics being produced right now (especially of the big two). The teaming up of Aaron and Ribic is a godsend, one that has maintained for 8 issues and as long as they work together, I will be reading this title. Again, Aaron keeps the story and characters tight and concise. This is a Thor title and it is about Thor. Period. It is grand in it’s environment, but focused in it’s purpose, which is so welcome as I can just read this and enjoy it without worrying about twenty different characters and a ton of background story or pre-existing circumstances. This is Thor vs. Gorr. This is what this title is about and it is what comics should be about. This is proper characterization, development, and world-building. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

July 6, 2012

After the ho-hum first entry of the eventual trilogy, Spider-Man 2 showed a greater promise when the buzz started of its production. It delivers a much better movie, this time shifting to Doctor Octopus and the complicated relationship between Peter and MJ. Spider-Man 2 is considered one of if not the best comic book movie we have in existence by many, so it’s difficult not to be hyper-critical of it’s strengths and flaws, and again, I openly admit to not thinking this installment is that great ahead of time.

The movie jumps right into everyday life for Peter Parker, who is rushing to deliver pizzas to keep his job. He is struggling financially and always late to class. He is so caught up in the rat race that his social life is gone, moonlighting as Spider-Man (y’know, great responsibility and all that) is a tiresome job that seems to be getting him nowhere and no respect. Yes these are hard times for Spidey.

Again, the film’s largest focus is on Peter and MJ’s relationship, which is challenged when she decides she wants to marry some chump we have never heard of and never will again. It’s a cheap shot, because she also seems to be hung up on Peter, who refuses to admit he loves her too, preferring to keep her safe from his enemies (who must be lining up to kill any and all people in Spider-Man’s life, right?). The seeds of their farce of a romance aren’t as blatant here and it seems like there is something between them, but I still cannot buy into it. Do women really go so far as to marry some random dude “just because”? The most endearing moment between them happens at the end as he saves her once more, and it’s rewarding more because I want it to be than it actually is, but it is still a fairly romantic and fun step for them.

Doctor Octopus is a more interesting villain than the Green Goblin (historically, Ock was Spider-Man’s number one enemy until Green Goblin upped his game in the comics), and his tentacles are fun to look at (although their practicality and execution have to be given suspension of disbelief due to size and functionality). Another instance of many in the movies where good-intentioned people become the villain in the end, a common occurrence in Spidey’s life. It’s unfortunate that Doc Ock’s motivations stem from a temporary insanity rather than a more intentional place. By the end of the movie, he wakes from his evil dream and switches back to good, which kind of defeats the purpose of him as a villain.

There is a point where Peter begins to lose his spider powers because he is depressed about MJ. It’s an okay idea which we have already seen in Superman II where the hero gives it all up for the girl, but it’s also somewhat self-defeating because we know it will all work out in the end. I am not sure how much I like a hero who is willing to just giving up his power, and the affects of his decision fluctuate in their impact on him as he survives a fall from the top of a building but hurts his arm when he tries to break a door down. I kind of understand it, but kind of don’t at the same time. Is this all mental? The boundaries and continuity of his power loss is hazy at best.

A highlight of the movie is the surgery room scene where Doc Ock’s tentacles wreak havoc on a handful of doctors. Again Raimi is able to slip in his own homage to himself that works extremely well, harkening to Evil Dead obsessives everywhere. The music drops and suddenly we are in a horror movie. There are some other tidbits of fun such as Bruce Campbell’s small but mighty role, but again, these moments beg audiences who love Evil Dead and Raimi’s other works to laugh and enjoy the nods rather than contributing to the mythos of Spider-Man. The part when J.J. Jameson finally seems to admit his guilt over defaming Spider-Man, only to switch back soon thereafter as Spider-Man returns to action is also pretty fun.

In retrospect there are a lot of warning signs in this movie, an indication of what would come later with Spider-Man 3. Raimi shifts this one into a more comedic and over-the-top place, with characters becoming almost caricatures, pushing them to the extremes of themselves and further away from a realistic tone to comedic and over-dramatic. They are all only driven by one motive, which is boring and too conventional (look at Harry Osborn who can only speak of his hatred for Spider-Man when he opens his mouth). The lack of depth to these characters would go over the edge in Spider-Man 3, but it’s fairly obvious here of things to come.

On the whole, this is easily the best of the Raimi trilogy, but even still it seems scattered and impractical. I would almost rather see an entire movie focusing on just Peter and MJ’s relationship (from scratch), having them deal exclusively with balancing life as a superhero, with the villain and other plot points shoved into the far background. Because this movie is a blockbuster, it seems afraid to do that, favoring the spectacle of elaborate sets and tried action over simple character pathos. There are flashes of humanity and empathy, but all in all the movie is just too one-dimensional to really entice me to care. The times Spider-Man 2 gets things right cannot hide the things they miss, despite the ratio being more favorable than any of the other installments. So it seems Spider-Man 2 just isn’t that great.

Final Grade: C+ (6.5 out of 10)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

July 4, 2012

Three Spider-Man movies have come and gone in the past 10 years, and I admittedly never enjoyed them as much as I hoped to. I can also admit that when they initially announced the reboot, I groaned “We have been there, we have done that. Why are they making this?” just like everyone else. Then I saw the first picture of the suit and Andrew Garfield in it…and I found myself anxiously awaiting for The Amazing Spider-Man since. As my interest grew and grew, the line was drawn in the sand amongst friends who were also excited for the new movie and those who felt it was a pointless and stupid reboot. Having finally seen it, I have chosen my side of the line.

Amazing would not be what it is without the original Spider-Man trilogy doing a lot of the legwork. Where the original trilogy familiarized audiences with a lot of Spider-Man’s universe, Amazing relies on that, leaving certain things unattended whilst exploring other territories. By rebooting the franchise, Amazing knows what and what not to do to get fans interested and keep them that way, fixing and tinkering with things that maybe didn’t work so well in the originals. Amazing is a 180-degree turn from it’s alternate-world brother, serving more akin to the Ultimate Spider-Man comics than the true Marvel series (much like Avengers movie was based more on the Ultimates). As this is a reboot, it works quite brilliantly.

The movie does suffer from a few things that are almost unavoidable in any comic book movie, starting with the most obvious build throughout the movie (back story, origin story, etc.), climaxing at the inevitable “hero vs. villain” at the top of a building. There are quite a few things in here we have seen countless times before; it wasn’t annoying or bothersome, just a little bit of a let down. The movie definitely lulls in a few places, and could have easily been 15 minutes shorter, but that also wasn’t a huge detractor. Unfortunately, the movie definitely suffers from the trailer giving away a lot of the climactic moments, so I wasn’t as blown away by any revelations or developments throughout. There are a few plot elements that come and go without any answers, but all in all they are fringe points and perhaps something that will be addressed in later installments (regardless of this movie’s success there will be more to come).

What works best?

  • Garfield as Peter Parker – brings a honed level of nerdy but lovable outcast to the role, and physically commands the screen once he dons the red and blue suit. Wiry, thin but strong, Garfield is the perfect Spidey, showing Peter as more innately heroic, but also perhaps more cocky and self-assured (almost to a fault), never losing the investment of the audience in him and his struggles to become a superhero. Tobey Maguire never felt like Peter Parker to me, he was too dopey and shy and he never delivered the wit that Spider-Man has. Garfield delivers every bit of attitude that Spidey should have.
  • Gwen Stacy as the love interest – Gwen’s storyline is a huge part of Marvel’s history, really marking a proverbial shift from the Silver Age to the Modern Age in comic books. As Peter’s first true love interest, her impact on his life is huge, and it was a missed opportunity to skip over her in the original trilogy. Emma Stone is a success in the role, and it will be very interesting to see where they go with their complicated relationship in the future.
  • The web shooters are mechanical – Peter’s prowess with technology while also showing his inventiveness is perfectly illustrated by going back to the comic book version of the shooters, foregoing the organic ones that Raimi created.
  • Web-slinging – He uses his webbing in a variety of ways, much more effectively than ever before. One of the cooler ideas has him crawling around the Lizard wrapping him up like a spider would his prey. The webbing is light and strong, and comes out fast and with purpose. When he swings across the city it feels more frantic, and much more real (he doesn’t float through the air, it’s actually rather “violent” the way he catches buildings to swing on).
  • The physicality of everything – Raimi’s take seemed much more whimsical and romantic, and rather light on some of the action scenes. Amazing just feels more grounded, more dynamic, stronger and faster. CGI all looks like CGI in every movie (it’s a part of life now), but it works very effectively here, really pushing Spidey into situations where he needs to use his agility and physicality to an extent we haven’t really seen before. Action sequences were not confusing and were actually interesting to watch and the physics of Spidey’s movements were spot on.
  • I don’t like that Stan Lee has a cameo in every Marvel movie, but this one was actually pretty good.
  • The suit – it’s a stronger design (despite how timeless Spidey’s suit is in the comics), a little more DIY, and definitely announces this is a new and different Spider-Man. It helps that Garfield fills it so perfectly and while it retains the kind of impossible construction of the past movies, this version makes more sense.

What didn’t work so well?

  • Flash Thompson – he makes a rather unconvincing turn from heel to bud, from kicking Peter in the stomach while he is down to trying to hug it out with him when his Uncle Ben dies. It’s a little too convenient and simple.
  • The missing parents – this movie hinted that there would be some revelations about Peter’s parents and why they abandoned him, and while the movie started looking that way, by the end that aspect becomes an afterthought. It didn’t seem too much of a focus for the story which had me asking why it was even brought up to begin with.
  • Why are there lizards all over New York just because the Lizard is in the sewers?
  • The origin of the suit –  Why a lucha libre inspired costume? It wasn’t a huge distraction but it was just kind of out of left field.
  • The overall story is a little flat, with nothing really new or interesting to present to a jaded audience having just seen The Avengers and any other blockbuster. At this point in the superhero game, these kinds of movies should be pushing us into different, unfamiliar territory.

While the negatives of this movie suffer from the same problems of any blockbuster where perhaps there is often more style than substance, Amazing certainly succeeds in many places that the originals didn’t. Amazing feels like a truer movie; it was tighter, more fit with more weight to it, packing punches with a gusto and liveliness the originals were always missing. The romance between Peter and Gwen was much more believable and dynamic than the one set-up between Peter and MJ before. Spider-Man is more snarky, more vibrant and alive, and most importantly, more enjoyable to watch.

After seeing The Amazing Spider-Man, discussing it amongst my friends and fellow nerds of varying degrees, the deciding factor of whether you will enjoy the reboot or not comes down to this: Those who loved the original trilogy, who can look to Raimi’s interpretation of the character and feel content with what he did (while also ignoring the unforgivably awful Spider-Man 3), will probably not enjoy this movie so much, claiming it’s too soon and too similar to the Raimi trilogy and thus pointless. To those who never liked the originals, who want something more and something different and something that will finally present them with a Spider-Man they can get behind, you need not look any further than The Amazing Spider-Man, because this is as good as you are going to get.

Final Grade B+ (8.4 out of 10 on the comic book movie scale)

Spider-Man (2002)

July 3, 2012

Let’s go back to when comic book movies were in their infancy, or at least in terms of building viable franchises from them. There was once a time when we had only had movies like Blade and X-Men coming out from Marvel, and they put a lot of eggs in the Spider-Man basket when it finally got made. I’m sure I saw it opening day and I remember definitely being into parts of it. When Spider-Man swings through the city on his webs for the first time, there was an undeniable rush, a thought of “Wow, we can finally do this in movies? Thank God”. The real comic book movie had arrived. In the year 2012, these comic book blockbusters are commonplace, but ten years ago this was new and exciting.

So watching Spider-Man today, what holds up and what doesn’t?

Once you get past the hammy voice over and crappy intro credits, The first 20 minutes are really where I wanted the movie to stay. Peter Parker in his element, being ridiculed and picked out as a real dork got me on his side. The sheer amount of bullying is baffling here, but it also kind of works in a way. I am still a little curious of the security in a place where deadly super-spiders are missing from cages, and I question just how smart Parker is if he doesn’t immediately go to a doctor after getting bit by one, but y’know, high schoolers will be high schoolers. The debut of Spider-Man at the wrestling match with Bonesaw (RIP Macho Man) is still fun and where you say “Ah-ha! This is why Raimi was selected to do this movie!”. Also the last fight between Goblin and Spidey is extremely physical and pretty sweet, and seems to be the innovator of the slow-down punches that have since flooded action movies (a la 300). Good stuff.

Unfortunately, that’s more or less the only stuff that really works in this movie. Now for the bad stuff.

I don’t buy Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. Yes, he is a dork and kinda nerdy, but he is even more so dopey. I can’t picture him staying up late doing his homework and building computers. I see him more as a “watching the Simpsons and pining over MJ with the lights off every night staring through his window” type of guy. His relationship with his aunt and uncle seems very forced and surface-level, where he is constantly coming and going exchanging hellos and goodbyes, with only the “great responsibility” speech tying it all together that he actually cares about his family (his behavior kind of becomes part of the story, but it makes me doubt that they were ever tight-knit). It’s more 1950’s than it is 2000’s.

The obvious focus of the entire trilogy is Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s relationship, which from the get go is flimsy at best. She literally ignores him throughout the entire first half of the movie, with these moments of “Hmm, there is that guy again, isn’t he my neighbor? Oh my ride is here, gotta go date the school bully and general shithead!”. It is unfortunate that her character is so one dimensional and it really seems like Peter could do better. We go from this to 5 months later (I estimate) where she desperately confesses her love for him. Excuse me? Where is this coming from? They meet each other like 4 times throughout the movie, in passing, catching up through stop-and-chats. They don’t hang out. They don’t e-mail each other. They barely know each other. It takes Green Goblin throwing her off a bridge for her to realize she loves the dweeb she barely knows? Come on. The foundation of their relationship is so weak, and that carries throughout the entire series as a result.

The Green Goblin is grossly misused here. He doesn’t really seem to have much of a beef with Spider-Man until the very end of the movie. His costume is ridiculous; he should not be acting through a mask. Have you seen Willem DeFoe? The guy looks like a goblin! Paint him green and there you go (salt in the wound seeing his SFX make-up test). His little side story seems like how kids might think an adult world is. The military is invested in flying gliders and goblin helmets? I guess so…

There are a few scenes that really get under my skin:

  1. The sleeping gas that Green Goblin uses on Spider-Man – What? First of all, I’ve seen better sleeping gas in the Adam West Batman movie than was used here. The gas is barely going towards Spidey’s face. Also, why tell him to sleep? Maybe because its so impractical of a “weapon” that Spider-Man was thinking “What the hell is that? What am I supposed to do here?”.
  2. The kid who almost gets killed by the balloon at the parade scene – Worst kid in the history of kids. The stupid awe-struck face of his, the wind blowing his hair back; Spidey should have left him be.
  3. Norman Osborn enters Peter’s room while Peter hides on the ceiling – When you enter a room, you don’t have a narrow tunnel of vision. You don’t enter a room and just see where your face is pointing.
  4. The attack on Aunt May by the Green Goblin – I honestly didn’t remember this scene at all, and it almost made me vomit whilst my mouth was agape. Unforgivable.

All in all this is a very safe movie. They don’t delve too deep into the mythology, they don’t push the audience too far, it’s an entry level movie that shows more potential than prowess. I certainly never say to anyone (other than to write these reviews) “Hey, let’s watch Spider-Man” because it really is just a ho-hum early entry in the history of blockbuster comic book movies. It was that time where comic book movies were insecure and made fun of themselves to compensate for the sheer ridiculous premise of super heroes (when he tries to figure out how to shoot his web by saying things like “Shazaam”, etc.) which are all fun and a cheap laugh, but it let’s the audience know “Hey, we aren’t taking it seriously either folks”. And you don’t have to. If you want a campy, fun, romp that just goes a steady 55 mph on a 55mph signed road, then hey, maybe you will like this one. Me? I can’t drive 55. I want more.

Final Grade: C- (5 out of 10)


March 22, 2012


Questions for Travel Foreman

March 1, 2012
  1. Where did you grow up?
  2. Who or what do you think your first artistic influences were growing up?
  3. When did you decide you wanted to be an illustrator? How did you pursue that as a career?
  4. Who are your biggest influences? In comics? In other art?
  5. Whose work are you enjoying the most right now in comics? Artists? Writers?
  6. Describe your own style. What are your biggest strengths? What do you hope to improve on?
  7. If you could draw any title from any period of time, what would it be?
  8. You seem to be somewhat off of the radar. Your twitter handle is literally a question mark. Do you think you shy away from the public? If so, why?
  9. Describe your experience with Animal Man. Did you enjoy working on the book? Do you wish to come back to the title one day? What has been your experience with it’s considerable success?
  10. What are you looking forward to doing with Birds of Prey? Are you apprehensive about working on it after Animal Man (are there expectations)?
  11. You have expressed not always enjoying working on certain titles, specifically Immortal Iron Fist. How do you approach working on a title you simply do not want to do? Do you look back on the work you produced then with a grain of salt, or are you proud of it? Why didn’t you want to work on that title?
  12. You once tweeted (so sorry to use that term) that you don’t do commissioned work, but if anyone sees a sketch they like, you will send it to them. Explain your thought process behind that.
  13. Do you attend cons? Will you in the future?
  14. After Birds of Prey, what would you like to be your next project?
  15. What is your workflow like when producing a page? Do you work sequentially or out of order? Thumbnail sketches? etc.
  16. Who would you love to work with?
  17. Do you read comic books? If so, what are you reading? Any recommendations?
  18. What equipment do you use when penciling?
  19. How much freedom do you get when drawing for Marvel or DC? What can and can’t you do as an artist while working for them? Have you ever had to drastically alter anything under those restrictions? What are the pros and cons of working under the bigger publishers?
  20. Outside of comics, what other things influence you and your art? Movies? Music? Sports? etc.
  21. When you aren’t drawing, what are you doing?
  22. If you could go back to your teenage self and give any advice, what would it be?
  23. Why do you do comic books? What interests you the most about it? If you weren’t an illustrator, what else would you be pursuing?
  24. You have some projects of your own in the works. What is the status with those and can you divulge any info about them?
  25. In ten years, where would you like to be in your career?

Animal Man #3

February 7, 2012

(SPECIAL NOTE: I forgot to post this back in November, so here it is, presented as it would have been back then.)

As we enter the third issue on all of the New 52’s in November, this is really the week that will make or break some titles. I have a handful of titles that I am really excited to read every month, at the top of that list is Animal Man. Does the third issue deliver? Most definitely.

I will say that this was the first issue that really exposed a weakness to me. As Animal Man and “Animal Girl” enter the Red, we are briefly introduced to the main plot of this arc. Unfortunately, it all felt a little rushed and glossed over. It seemed Lemire was trying to forget/re-write Animal Man’s origin without really showing it to us*. I don’t mind re-writing his origin, but I wish this one part was handled a little better and not crammed into a panel or two.

*I read an interview with Lemire about this “new origin” which is quite justified, but still, I think the execution was a bit rushed. Read the full interview here.

Despite that slight problem, the rest of the book is left unscathed, with the writing and art still top-notch. Foreman’s really given full creative freedom here, with liquid flesh and muscles and bones and teeth spanning panels and pages, they are as horrifying as they are beautiful. Beyond Animal Man, I would love to see him get into more horror titles, and really lay off the reigns and go full-bore into weird wacky stuff that he is so adept at.

The focus of this issue is on two parties; Animal Man and his daughter Maxine in the Red, and Ellen and Cliff in the real world. Both story lines keep things interesting and exciting. Ellen and Cliff’s little side quest leaves them alone and trying to survive an encounter with one of the Hunter’s Three, showing that Ellen doesn’t rely on Buddy to save her all of the time. In the Red, we really get a sense of how little Animal Man is aware of his powers and his place within the larger picture, and how much he has left to learn. There is a much higher purpose here that elevates everything in the book. Animal Man is shaping up to be a big player in the DCU.

I continue my claim that this title is setting the bar for all of the New 52, and despite a few missteps, this issue certainly maintains it’s position as a must-buy.

Rating: 9/10