(Click title to go directly to the review)
SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE #1
SUPREME POWER: HYPERION #1
DAY OF VENGEANCE #6
POLLY AND THE PIRATES #1
NEW AVENGERS #10
GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RECHARGE #1
BIG EYES FOR THE CAPE GUY presents: CANNON GOD EXAXXION: STAGE FOUR
@$$HOLE CASTING COUCH: G.I.JOE
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Kaare Andrews
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Dave Farabee
This ish: Wolverine Vs. The Holocaust!!!
If I’m a little crass in summing it up, it’s because I found the comic a little crass in reading it.
WOLVERINE #32 is Mark Millar’s last issue on WOLVERINE, a run I’ve found sporadically enjoyable, sporadically excessive in the Mark Millar tradition. His final issue’s a one-shot and a bid for seriousness in lieu of the usual escapist carnage. It even closes with a remembrance of the recently-deceased Will Eisner and how he ended up shaping the story. If that’s not a shot at respectability then I don’t know what is.
The story takes place in the Sobibor concentration camp in Poland in 1942, a camp where an estimated 250,000 Jews were executed. The story’s narrated by the camp’s commandant, newly arrived to restore discipline, correct “embarrassingly low” extermination rates, and replace the former commandant who committed suicide. The commandant talks because Wolverine remains silent throughout. This was Eisner’s contribution, from a conversation he had with Millar several years back, the idea being to stave off the escapist nature of the superhero genre for a story with such serious portent. In other words, no, “Bub, you just killed yer last Jew!” one-liners.
But a story tied into such an event – without a doubt the most vile act of the 20th century – must by its very nature invite close reading and critical scrutiny, and so one has to ask whether it’s enough to hit the mute button on Wolverine in writing about it. We’ll come back to that.
The tone of the story is that of a “Twilight Zone-ish” fable, largely focused on vengeance and surprisingly little on justice. The visuals are by artistic chameleon Kaare Andrews, best known for his astounding HULK covers a few years ago and a very cartoony run on ULTIMATE X-MEN. It’s the one part of the book I found very winning. Steeped in haunting, inky shadows, Andrews’ stunningly expressive linework only occasionally veers into weirdly comical exaggeration and is impressively complimented by colorist Jose Villarrubia’s dirty-snow palette. Millar had some great art at his command, of that there’s no doubt.
So the camp’s new commandant encounters Wolverine as seemingly just another prisoner, and though the story feels about as close to being “in continuity” as Straczynski’s 9-11 Spider-Man story, Wolverine’s oft-mutable backstory has depicted him as active in World War II. For whatever reason, Wolverine’s in the closest thing he has to an iconic civilian look - the white wife-beater undershirt – but more troubling to the commandant is the fact that he just won’t die. When Wolverine silently refuses to work, he’s shot twice in the kneecaps, once in the head, and dumped in the ovens. But he keeps appearing (I guess his shirt regenerates too), tormenting the commandant with his very appearance and appearing ghost-like outside his window. For his efforts, he’s shot again and again. And bayoneted. And beheaded. And sent to the gas chambers.
But he keeps coming back, and while the story contrives events such that no one but the commandant seems to catch on to Wolverine’s Lazarus act, the commandant slowly finds himself being driven to madness. Could Wolverine have even been the cause of the previous commandant’s suicide?
So there’s our hero: so effective that he single-handedly makes a Nazi death camp…a little less productive. In the real world, yes, even that would be a victory of sorts, however pyrrhic. But Millar’s not playing in the real world – he’s got the playground of the Marvel Universe at his disposal – and to loose Wolverine with the sole goal of tormenting a single Nazi even as Jews are dying all around him…I can’t see it as anything but pointlessly exploitational. In its way, it really IS as simplistic as older superhero yarns: “Take that you Ratzi!” The classic sock to the jaw, even if it takes the form of psychological torment, is given precedence over human life. We traditionally forgive writers having bad guys off innocent bystanders in the name of escapist melodrama, but the innocents of the Holocaust are simply too real, and died in too many numbers, for that to be the case this time.
And as if this wasn’t distasteful enough, Millar uses the issue as a venue for a round of anti-American hyperbole likely to sicken all but the most radical of leftists. Yes, he likens the climate of fascist Germany to that of post-9/11 America. Check out this narration from the commandant, brandishing codewords (emphasis mine) with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer:
“I took no pleasure in our camps or our preemptive strikes, but recognized that it was necessary to fight this terror abroad just as we had done for the security of our homeland. As I wrote in the Volkischer Beobachter, the Jews might have started this war when they brought down one of our finest buildings, but it’s the duty of all patriots to finish it.”Apparently it wasn’t crass enough to turn the Holocaust into just another setting for some Wolverine payback. Millar had to make a political statement too.
Incidentally, that “finest building” reference Millar was no doubt giddy to find as an analog to the Two Towers, has been presumed by many readers to be a reference to the Reichstag building which burned in 1933. The burning set the stage for a decree which suspended human rights and set the stage for the rise of the Nazi party. As more than one historically-minded reader has noted, however, the burning was blamed not on Jews but on Communists. Still, whatever works for Millar to politicize ol’ Wolvie’s adventures, eh?
The larger debate as to the appropriateness of bringing politics into corporate superhero comics isn’t one I’ll resolve here, and some level of political sentiment is obviously inevitable, but I certainly do wonder if writers might find some better venues for their tracts than the land of spandex. Or, Jesus, just some subtler uses of allegory! My mind keeps drifting back to a bit on THE DAILY SHOW where John Stewart went on a rant about politicians comparing everyone they don’t like to Hitler:
“To sum up, please stop calling people Hitler when you disagree with them. It demeans you, it demeans your opponent, and to be honest, it demeans Hitler. That guy worked too many years too hard to be that evil to have any Tom, Dick, or Harry say, ‘hey, you're being Hitler.’ No. You know who was Hitler? Hitler!!”Another problem with the story is that, try as it might for a sort of “whispered legend” approach, it can’t help but raise stupid superhero-geek questions: “How can Wolverine survive a beheading or cremation? He’s not that powerful.” “How can Wolverine be so inured to pain that he just takes all the violence heaped on him in silence?” “Why the hell DOESN’T Wolverine try to free the camp?” “When the camp commandant becomes aware that Wolverine might be one of the new wave of superhumans (and therefore not supernatural), why does he only then really lose it?”
Mark Millar probably doesn’t want these kinds of questions being asked, but I’ve seen ‘em all over message boards this last weekend – as close as I think we can get to actual proof that a WOLVERINE comic is a pretty crap place to try and spin a Holocaust legend. Wolverine’s just too specific a character for a legend about him to work. You can’t read it and not wonder why he’s acting less heroic than usual, not wonder why his powers are amped to absurd levels.
And here’s the final irony: Will Eisner, whose name is being served up as the validation of this poor concept, has a career that ultimately serves as the antithesis of it! Eisner first hit it big with THE SPIRIT, but as the series evolved, the lead character was often shunted out of the spotlight so Eisner could tell the kinds of stories he wanted to tell – stories of real people and hard life in the big city. Eisner would go on to spend the second half of his life telling such stories, but completely free from commercial hooks like a heroic lead in a mask. I wish Millar had paid attention to that growth in Eisner’s approach to serious storytelling when he was mulling over WOLVERINE #32, wish he had recognized what Eisner did decades ago:
Escapism and reality make for poor cousins.
SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE #1 (of 4)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Pasqual Ferry
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
Wow! Now that's what I'm talkin' bout. Grant Morrison just took that old, stale Fourth World stuff of Kirby's and gave it a shot of 21st century adrenaline. As much as I love and totally dig what Kirby did 30 years ago with his New Genesis and Apokolips characters, even I have to admit that since THE GREAT DARKNESS SAGA in LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES way back in the early 80s, the character of Darkseid particularly has been heavily overused. There have been tons of wasted attempts at making the Fourth World concept relevant post-Kirby. From my memory, I'll just recall a few to set the stage for why this new mini-series blows them all away. First, there was a FIRST-ISSUE SPECIAL called RETURN OF THE NEW GODS that spun off into a series highlighting some nice Don Newton art but bland as can be storytelling. MR. MIRACLE had a nice-looking series then with superb art by Marshall Rogers but no audience. The New Gods popped up in JLA at one point just in time for the artist Dick Dillon to die right in the middle of the multi-issue story opening the door for a young George Perez to illustrate his first JLA issue. But, again, not much interest in the characters. Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen were the first to make Darkseid cool as a post-Kirby villain in their multi-issue story called THE GREAT DARKNESS SAGA (available in trade collection for those who've never read it). Since that time, I can recall at least 2 different failed NEW GODS series, one mini-series and one failed ongoing series of THE FOREVER PEOPLE, at least one failed MR. MIRACLE series (or is that two?), a failed FOURTH WORLD series that spun out of the most recent NEW GODS, and ORION OF THE NEW GODS (the best of the bunch and should not have failed). The post-Crisis Superman continuity had a heavy Fourth World influence which means Darkseid has been way too prevalent in the Superman titles for way too long. Orion got shoehorned into the JLA for some inexplicable reason. Orion made a memorable appearance in KINGDOM COME, as did Scott Free/Mr. Miracle as the designer of the gulag. And during the slapstick JL years, Mr. Miracle was a member in good standing during all those silly shenanigans. In fact, that's where the whole Shilo Norman replacing Mr. Miracle storyline first emerged (if my memory is correct).
Which brings us to the new MISTER MIRACLE #1 that's part of Morrison's SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY interlocking epic. Morrison is an idea machine and DC seems grateful for his presence. Taking his nod from the DC Silver Age where Schwartz, Fox, Broom, and company were actively raiding past cancelled and failed concepts to rework and retool for a "modern" audience, Morrison is using his SSOV series as an opportunity to do the same for 21st century audiences. So far, I've been more a fan of the concept than the execution with ZATANNA being the only one that hooked me for all 4 issues. MISTER MIRACLE is a textbook on how to make an exciting first issue for a formerly stale character. Starting from the cover, with the allegorical imagery of MISTER MIRACLE as a crucified messiah archetype, Morrison veers the Fourth World concept out of the realm of the super-hero and into the realm of the mystical where the inhabitants of Apokolips more resemble purely evil demons than the cartoony and simplistic villains of the past. Likewise, the inhabitants of New Genesis are viewed more as physical incarnations of good...as, well...New Gods. The conflict between the New Gods and Darkseid is presented by Morrison on a literary level never achieved before. He even goes so far as to deemphasize the personification of Darkseid by avoiding the clever Kirby-ized name and relegating him more to a supernatural force of evil simply called....Dark Side. No little kids mispronouncing his name as DarkSEED this time around.
Artistically, Pasqual Ferry doesn't monkey around too much with the costuming. Mister Miracle's performance costume still looks like Mr. Miracle's garish yellow, red, and green monstrosity that I love. But he's taken those couple of extra steps to make it vibrant and new for the future. For example, he doesn't just leave the white-eyes look of Kirby but provides actual eyeholes so that we can see Shilo's eyes and even some of his skin around them. He also takes advantage of the coloring techniques and printing processes that were not around when Kirby first thunk up these guys to cause some of those Kirby design elements to literally glow. It gives Mister Miracle an otherworldly look as befits someone with ties to New Genesis. I was a real fan of the art throughout the story. Fantastic artist here and I'm sorry to read that he's already off the project.
Shilo Norman is not a bumbling fool played for comedic effect anymore. He is the world's greatest super escape artist. His confidence level is such that he confidently subjects himself to the forces of an artificially created black hole from which not even light can escape. But, then again, he's Mister Miracle. You figure it out. He's not like that poor Green Lantern over in GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RECHARGE whose body was literally pulled apart by the forces of the black hole he got caught in.
What's so cool about Shilo in this comic is how Morrison sets it up for us that Shilo may inexplicably be connected to the Fourth World in ways he never knew before. This is his first encounter with Metron, the Black Racer, and Granny Goodness. This is his first time to really hear about Darkseid. In other words, whatever experiences Shilo may have had with the JL and Scott Free in this continuity were so limited that these encounters with Gods and Demons totally freak the man out. As Mister Miracle, he's always in control of even the minutest detail of his life and his escapes. Now it seems all that he believed to be reality may be under the control of powers beyond his comprehension.
This first issue reads a lot like the first part of Nikos Kazantzakis' THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST where Jesus, fully man and fully deity, conducts his life as a man only and represses any memory he may have of his deity . . . until it becomes too much for him to deny anymore. That story is the tale of a man with an ultimate purpose, who is more than he wants or desires to be, and tries to run away from his destiny. He becomes haunted by visions of angels and the voice of God driving him to question his sanity. All the while he is also tempted by Satan with opportunities of wealth and power and sex. Of course, ultimately, there comes a point where Jesus accepts his destiny and boldly takes on his purpose. Satan is defeated because Jesus denies himself and sacrifices his life as a gift that saves the eternal souls of all who have and ever will accept it. Similarly, Shilo Norman is a man who has conducted himself without any conscious belief that there was anything more to him than what he knew. However, when he comes face to face with Metron he is told "Remember who you are! Be proud! And ride the thunderous Boom Lanes to New Genesis as once it was our home." Shilo was once an inhabitant of New Genesis? "We are absolute meaning! We are ultimate being! But we are lost. We need you." Shilo is the only one who can save the New Gods? Mother Box pings to him "That void in your soul is to be filled but you will have to be so strong to bear it." If Jesus was messiah to all mankind, Shilo seems called to be messiah to the New Gods.
Needless to say, Shilo's mind is blown away at all this. It's too much for him to take in. But he can't escape it. Even out on the town, he comes upon Granny Goodness and some of her girls. This time Granny's a creepy old black lady with a forked tongue. Furthering the demons/denizens of Apokolips parallels as now they seem to have more of that supernatural talent for taking on whatever form they please. Likewise, the Black Racer appears in a form unlike any he's taken before and this time he seems particularly menacing and helps put Shilo in imminent life-threatening danger as a cliffhanger for issue 2.
That's some heavy stuff for a soober-hero laff book.
SUPREME POWER: HYPERION #1
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Dan Jurgens
Inks: Klaus Janson
Publisher: Marvel MAX
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
I’ve been a big supporter of the SUPREME POWER series. I think it is pretty much the finest example of episodic graphic storytelling out there today. Not only does every issue tell a stand alone story, but that story adds to the larger tapestry that encompasses the SUPREME POWER U. J. Michael Straczynski (who, in my last review of SUPREME POWER, I took a bit of heat over by those picking nits for my tendency to refer to him as JMS…to which I shout out a big “Fuck you!” to, since writing the guy’s name over becomes redundant to me, makes my carpal tunnel syndrome work overtime, and takes away from valuable time searching for porn and new ways to take over the world on the internet) continues to fill every episode of this series full of interesting high concepts and wonderful character moments. SUPREME POWER is taking a brief hiatus before it is moved to the more all-ages friendly Marvel Knights line. In the meantime, though, JMS isn’t slacking off. While writer Daniel Way seems to be taking Nighthawk in an interesting direction in his own miniseries, JMS is focusing on Hyperion for a miniseries as well.
HYPERION #1 takes place minutes after SUPREME POWER #18 left off, narrated by an especially effective quote from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Hyperion is pondering life at the top of the world after creating a Grand Canyon-sized hole in the North Pole as a warning to the government to stop fucking with him. Meanwhile, the government just isn’t getting the message and they are gathering together a team of special powered people to confront Hype. Most of this issue introduces us to four new characters who look to be new Supreme Power-ed version of some familiar Squadron Supreme players. Those introduced are Arcanna (the Squadron’s Zatanna analog), The Shape (a version of Plastic Man), Nuke (a human nuclear reactor), and another guy who’s power is that he is the smartest man on the planet (don’t know if this guy is new or just someone I’ve forgotten from the old SQUADRON SUPREME series). This issue offers some really nice sequences involving the team’s powers. Arcanna’s “magic” powers are explained with a fascinating description of the Schroedinger’s Cat theory of physics regarding possibilities and perceptions of reality. JMS takes this heady subject matter and dissects it, making Arcanna’s magical powers seem digestible and logical in this story that is supposed to be taking place in “a world outside of our window.” This is a talent that JMS has excelled at throughout this series.
But as much as I liked Arcanna’s introduction in this issue, I can’t say that I can give this book a favorable review. You see, the first 18 issues of SUPREME POWER took it’s time introducing the readers to a cast of basically four main characters (Hyperion, Nighthawk, the Blur, and Doctor Spectrum) and two supporting female potential leads (Aquarian and Power Princess). The appeal to this series to me was the fact that it wasn’t about gathering a team of heroes together (although it was probably going to be leading to that). The story was more about the world around these people who have these amazing powers. It told a slow story that evolved and built up to a dramatic climax in last month’s final issue. I felt as if I knew these characters intimately and it allowed me to care about their well being and become heavily invested in the story of their lives. Now, in a single issue of HYPERION, four new major characters are just plopped into the readers’ laps. The Shape, who like Plastic Man used to be able to take the form of anything, is now simply a Blob-like character with invulnerability powers. Nuke, possibly the most tragic character, is only given a four panel backstory. And although Arcanna’s powers are described in detail, her character comes off as White Queen-lite. Now, I’m sure eventually, JMS will get to tell these character’s stories. I’m sure they will be interesting and compelling. But right now, after being completely enveloped in the slow progression of the SUPREME POWER series, to have four new characters gathered together and presented in such a two-dimensional style, I have to say that feel a bit ripped off and disappointed.
The art left me uninspired as well. I like Dan Jurgens’ art a whole lot better than I like his writing and in this issue especially, he seems to be trying to channel Gary Frank’s spectacular and clean artwork, but his characters seem a bit too stiff and some seem to be scrunched into the panel, like the final shot of the team of newbies descending on Hyperion. On top of that, the choice of Klaus Janson as inker kills any and all of the vibrancy that Frank conveyed in the ongoing series. Janson’s scratchy style has its place in comics, but just seems out of place in this book. His thick lines make Jurgen’s pencils seem even more amateurish. All in all, I respect these two artists for their contributions to comics, but their pairing just doesn’t seem like a good match together and with the overall tone of the story.
I was looking forward to this issue. I had heard that new characters were to be introduced and I couldn’t wait to see the new take on these old characters. But after reading this issue, I can’t say that I feel the same excitement I felt after reading the first issue of NIGHTHAWK a few weeks ago. The themes are pretty compelling, and it’s obvious JMS has a plan as to where this miniseries will go and how it will effect the ongoing, but the execution of the whole thing just seemed sloppy. Here’s hoping JMS and this team can pull it together by the time the new series starts.
DAY OF VENGEANCE #6 (of 6)
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Justiniano (penciller) and Walden Wong (inker)
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
Finally! This seemingly endless 6-month countdown to INFINITE CRISIS has gone on waaaaayyyyyy too long. Free advice: In the future, limit these kinds of lead-ins to no more than 4 months at the most. Please.
Anyway, here we are with the first of the IC countdown mini-series to hit the finish line. So, how was the, as that nifty Walt Simonson cover puts it, Last Stand Against the Evils of Magic?
It took two issues too long to tell the story, but the wrap-up here was pretty good. Lots of story bits get resolved, including taking care of Eclipso. Very smart idea, in fact it's so obvious that it's insane that nobody's ever thought about doing it before now. My hat's off to Detective Chimp and the Phantom Strangermouse for that one. I'm sure Eclipso will be back at some point, but right now, she's out of the picture and I couldn't be happier since I never even liked the old Eclipso and I like the Jean Loring-Eclipso even less. The other story bit that gets some serious resolution involves Shazam and the Spectre. The ultimate point of this series was apparently to set up (1) an ongoing battle of magic whereby, like Pandora's Box, the many ancient evils once contained within the Rock of Eternity by the power of Shazam are set free once again, and (2) introduce the Shadow Pact team of magically powered heroes committed to defeating and re-imprisoning these magical evils once again, which is not going to be easy or quick.
For those long timers who are fairly well-versed in the lore of Shazam!, the death of the wizard Shazam should not be any big surprise nor should it be shocking. Shazam is one of those characters who always seems to be interchangeably either dead or not dead in continuity depending upon who's writing. Believe me, this is not the first time I've seen the giant stone come crashing down and crushing the old wizard. But it sets up an interesting scenario as to what effect upon the Marvel Family the wizard's death might have. In past continuity, I don't believe Shazam's death has directly affected or diminished the Marvel Family's powers. However, a strong part of Jerry Ordway reboot many years ago was the sharing of power among the Marvel Family; a concept utilized earlier in this very series where the Enchantress channeled more and more power into Capt. Marvel in an attempt to take out the Spectre. In this issue, though, the Spectre speaks Shazam's name himself to turn Cap back into Billy against his will. Powerful stuff that magic. What interests me in this turn of events is whether this means that the entire Marvel Family may find themselves powerless as a result of the death of Shazam and destruction of the Rock of Eternity. If so, Billy's quest to regain the power could make for a good storyline. Furthermore, if this is the result, we could see Black Adam suddenly bereft of his Shazam-fueled powers as well, which could put him in quite a sticky situation as to his involvement with the Secret Society of Super-Villains and dictatorship of Khandaq.
The Spectre's devolution into utter madness has been the fuel driving this mini-series. It is truly unsettling to watch the "undying Spirit of Vengeance" as his rotted and distorted corpse of a body proclaims he shall "exist as long as there's a need for dark judgment and divine retribution." It truly appears that The Spectre has gone the route of Lucifer and through the events in this mini-series become a fallen angel. Power and his quest for power have driven him to the point of utter corruption. Surely the Divine has turned His back on The Spectre at this point. An angel of the Lord would not focus himself on "dark judgment" and proclaim "I AM power!" In that one proclamation, the Spectre claims to have attained equality with God, who is the "I Am that I Am" (the same blasphemy of which Jesus was accused). In this comic, the allegory seems to be that the Rock of Eternity serves as "Heaven;" Spectre as Lucifer; and Shazam as God. In the end, just as Lucifer's rebellion loosed evil spirits upon the earth, Spectre's rebellion does the same.
Overall, I was really pleased with this series. It was fun and impressive in its scope. The Shadow Pact is firmly established by the end: Jim Rook, the Nightmaster, Detective Chimp, The Enchantress, Nightshade, Black Alice, Blue Devil, and Ragman. I'm a big fan of the thought that went into the line-up, which mixes some of the most obscure Silver Age characters with Charlton crossover Nightshade and modern characters like Black Alice. Can't tell if the Phantom Stranger is going to be a part of this group, but I'd like to see him show up regularly if nothing else. It's such an eclectic grouping of characters that it would be difficult to just out-and-out dislike them. I said before that my big concern for this group of characters is that their stories will burn out too fast in an ongoing title, and I still have my concerns about that. However, if Willingham can hold onto the concept behind the Shadow Pact and be willing to let the team membership change as stories dictate, then it may be a sustainable title. My first recommendation would be kill that Ragman character and let some girl take over and call her Ragdoll or something. I also can't wait to see who picks up the Blue Beetle scarab that came crashing down in El Paso, Texas. Maybe that wonderful old Gerard Jones/Mike Parobeck character, El Diablo will take up the Beetle role? No way. Too obscure. Then again….
POLLY AND THE PIRATES #1 (of 6)
Ted Naifeh: Creator
Oni Press: Publisher
Vroom Socko: Scurvy Dog
Avast! I proclaim this book to be quality readin’. Any who don’t peer inside these luscious covers be havin’ an appointment with the briny dee-
What? Talk Like A Pirate Day was last week? And our gag reviews are never actually funny?
Sorry about that.
Anyway, this is a fun little book, centered on three little girls at a 17th century boarding school. Sarah’s the serious one, Anastasia is the adventurous one, and Polly… Polly is rather boring, to be honest. But that changes in a hurry when pirates kidnap one of the girls. Which one, and why, I’m not going to spill.
The first thing that struck me about this book was just how cute it looks. Polly and her friends look absolutely adorable, in a Love Is… kind of way. Then there are the pirates, whose hooked noses and wide mouths look like how P. Craig Russell would draw a gremlin.
What I like most about this book, however, is that it’s clearly a book for all ages. I don’t mean that there’s nothing objectionable about content that would be over the head of any six year old. I mean it in the literal sense; this is a story that can be read, understood and appreciated by anyone of any age. It may be the first comic I’ve come across since BONE that I can say that about.
I think I’ll be getting a few extra copies of this one for the kids in my neighborhood. If you’re looking for a comic to use as a gateway drug for youngsters, this one fits the bill.
NEW AVENGERS #10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Mark Morales & John Dell
Uh-oh, Ambush Bug’s reviewin’ another Bendis book…
I think it’s pretty clear by now that I am not Brian Michael Bendis’ biggest fan. I’ve reviewed his work numerous times, both seriously and not-so-seriously. Most of the stuff he writes just doesn’t do anything for me and I’ve made that pretty clear in my reviews. Usually, the reactions to these reviews have been pretty intense resulting in frantic page-long personal emails from the Bendii commanding that I sit on a spiked fence pole or something along those lines. I’ve been following HOUSE OF EHH and THE MOPING BLIND GUY FORMERLY KNOWN AS DAREDEVIL. These books have that Bendis feel. An overattention to the small stuff. Hyper-real dialogue that types out every beat and pause. And pacing that may not result in the most filling of reads. I think, too often, Bendis’s arcs run for too many issues, his plots are a bit too contrived, and his respect for the “show-don’t-tell” rule is, for the most part, thrown out the window.
There. That’s out of the way. I’ve said that schpiel in one way or another more times than I can count and I put that at the top because I don’t really want to focus on any of that in this review. Let’s move on to the issue at hand: NEW AVENGERS #10.
I’m digging Bendis’ NEW AVENGERS.
The recent three-issue arc, “The Sentry,” is much more focused than previous Bendis arcs which seem to be stretched out for trade. This story focuses on the anomaly that is The Sentry. Bendis swoops in, gets to the action, and resolves the problem. Sure issue #10 has quite a few panels of talking heads. Sure the action is superseded by debate between two characters, but I didn’t feel as if this arc was stretched out at all. I find it funny that Bendis so adamantly supports McKee’s three act screenplay model, yet he so often tells his stories in five or six issue arcs. Bendis should tell these shorter sized tales more often. They are much more effective.
My big beef with this issue (you knew it was coming ) is an ongoing theme that has been obvious since Bendis got his paws on this book. Plain and simple: Bendis writes the Avengers as ineffectual douches. Think about it folks. Not only did he destroy the original team only to rebuild it again with non-Avengers, but in every major battle so far, the Avengers have taken a back seat to the resolution of the story. Avengers face a bat-shit crazy Scarlet Witch in “Avengers Disassembled.” The Avengers fight for their lives. Who saves the day? Doctor Strange and Magneto. Neither of which are Avengers. In this current arc, the Sentry goes nuts. The Avengers battle an unbeatable foe. Who saves the day? Emma Frost, the White Queen. Not an Avenger. I can understand Bendis is trying to weave a large scale tapestry involving all of the major players in the Marvel U, but the name on the cover is NEW AVENGERS. How about they get some action in this book instead of being the grunts biding time until the big guns show up? The tagline of this book used to read: THE AVENGERS – EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES. But lately, a more fitting tagline is: THE AVENGERS – WE’LL HOLD YOUR PURSE WHILE YOU TRY THAT ON… All I’m saying is that while this “Sentry” arc had quite a bit of action and interesting moments in it, none of them were made by any of the Avengers.
I still like this series. There was a cool two line interaction between Iron Man and Cap in the end talking about fate. The “elite super hero club” meeting at the beginning and end of this arc was interesting, but can I ask why Black Bolt was there by himself? I mean, what the hell can he contribute to this meeting without Gorgon or Medusa acting as his voice? Let me channel my inner Bendis…
Namor provided appetizers to munch on while we discuss this Sentry business.
I brought kelp.
To me, kelp!
(They all try some.)
Doctor Strange’s astral form
Mmmm, nummy kelp.
What do you think of the kelp, Black Bolt?
(Black Bolt belches; blowing Xavier, Iron Man, and Namor to atoms, dissipating Doc Strange’s astral form, and filling up Reed Richards like a balloon and sending him sailing out past the third moon of Poppup.)
And why the hell was the meeting held in the first place when all of the people in the meeting were actually there when the action went down with the Sentry?
But aside from all of that and my usual problems with Bendis’ tendencies, the main flaw of this book was that while it was an interesting story, but it just wasn’t really an Avengers story. Here’s hoping Bendis starts writing The Avengers real soon.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RECHARGE #1 (of 5)
Writers: Geoff Johns & Dave Gibbons
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by Dave Farabee
The new GREEN LANTERN monthly is one of the few sanctuaries for lighter super-heroing as DC makes its current focus grim ‘n’ gritty redux, so of course I had to look into the new team book spinning off of it. For me, the Green Lantern Corps as a concept is one of those rare cases where creating multiple superheroes with the same power doesn’t diminish the original. Partially, I figure it’s the geographical separation. Traditionally Hal, Kyle, or John Stewart has stuck to earth and its surrounding space, with the other few thousand Lanterns operating light years away. And really, the concept of super powered space cops – each one powerful enough to take on galactic threats singly – is just too cool to pass up.
That said, on those occasions that Green Lanterns do congregate in numbers, the writers had better be on the ball in playing up the different personalities or they are gonna blur.
And that’s why RECHARGE #1 worked for me. In concept, it’s the classic “gathering” premise where heroes are plucked from their daily routines and brought together, and Green Lantern alumni Geoff Johns and Dave Gibbons insure that everyone gets a moment in the dramatic spotlight. Well, they do right after the opening sequence kills a Green Lantern off. Never hurts to establish the stakes and it sets the stage for the recurring scenes of semi-sentient Green Lantern rings seeking out new wearers.
The usual suspects are all represented of course: Hal, Kyle, Guy Gardner and Kilowog get early, telling scenes. Guy seems to steal ‘em all, though, verbally sparring with Hal and (hilariously) mooning Batman on the JLA’s Watchtower. What can I say? It makes no sense that his asshole-ishness would be tolerated by so many, but the dude’s an excellent foil. And Batman even has a great response: “Tell Guy he needs a shave.”
Doesn’t take long, though, for artist Patrick Gleason to get his real trial by fire: aliens and alien architecture! And he comes through quite nicely. Gleason’s art is hard to describe. Traditional, but a little exaggerated. Cleanly drawn but textural. Spotted blacks that remind me of Michael Golden and etched renderings of form that call to mind Kevin Nowlan.
Here’s a nice splash page of a Green Lantern being sucked into a black hole formed from a star’s collapse.
Here’s Guy Gardner annoying Hal Jordan.
I know I’m impressed. I’m always impressed by those artists able to latch onto a singular style while still paying homage to a bit of superhero traditionalism, and Gleason fits that bill. Hell, he’s the main reason I kept an eye on AQUAMAN for a year or two hoping the writing would rise to the level of his art. And he draws a mean Oa, stately-yet-creepy Guardians, and a suitably weird Kilowog (much thanks to Ethan Van Sciver for reinventing Kilowog as more creepy, less huggable).
Easily the most interesting of the new recruits is a female doctor from Korugar, the home planet of ultimate Lantern-baddie Sinestro and a place that’s none-too-friendly to Green Lantern machinations. Johns and Gibbons present her with a Faustian moment: when the ring comes for her, she’s hip deep in surgery with a near-death patient. In accepting the ring, she would suddenly gain the power to save him, but in doing so she accepts a weapon her people see as symbol of tyranny and pain. Melodramatic as hell, but why not? This is space opera at its most literal.
There’re also recruits from both sides of the current Rann/Thanagar War, one of those furry li’l squirrel aliens whose race Ch’p belonged to before a yellow truck ran him over (no lie), and longtime fans will surely geek out to hear talk of Mogo, the sentient Green Lantern planet. In a way I was hoping for an even more alien approach to the world of the Corps, something a little more grounded in sci-fi than space opera, but I have to admit that I see a lot of potential with the pieces arrayed on this board.
Kilowog, of course, is the drill instructor of the group, possibly to be aided and abetted by the kind of teacher who’d come to class drunk and sleep with his students: Guy Gardner. Kyle Raynor fans will be happy, too, as he continues to get respect, which I hear is very big in Green Lantern fan circles. The lot of ‘em mix it up with Green Lanterns new and old, and the feel is that of a police or military academy, pleasantly novel in the world of superheroes. Hands are shaken, sector numbers exchanged, reputations eyed with interest.
Aside from the recruitment drive for the Corps, the mystery at the heart of this mini is the murder that opened the book, apparently just one of many recent Lantern deaths. It’s outlined in a neat scene where the Guardians float like the cool, blue sensei-dudes they are over a projection of a trouble-filled galaxy. That scene, like many throughout the book, boasts swanky lighting and coloring effects that calls to mind the recent ADAM STRANGE mini. It really does seem that sci-fi comics are coming of age visually – no more planets textured with a few lines of hatching, no more scenes of space dotted with comets and “Kirby-crackle.” It’s damn refreshing.
Based on this first issue, I only have one or two mild concerns about the book. First, I’m not thrilled at the hints that it’ll tie into the upcoming INFINITE CRISIS mega-event. Inevitable for any DC book, I suppose, but wouldn’t it be nice if the Corps could restart on its own, with no ties to a crossover? And then I’m just a bit nervous about Dave Gibbons’ writing, which I’ve nearly always found terminally boring. Now here he’s teamed with Geoff Johns, and while I can’t guess at the division of labor, I do know that the dialogue feels very “on,” unlike Gibbons’ RANN/THANAGAR which quickly became a chore. So is the book strong now because of Johns’ influence? Will it weaken if he contributes less?
Can’t rightly say, but I wish the series well because it’s definitely one that I’d like to follow.
CANNON GOD EXAXXION: STAGE FOUR
Written and Illustrated by: Henichi Sonoda
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewed by: superhero
Anyone who’s into manga can find something to like in this series.
Honestly, CANNON GOD EXAXXION has enough of everything to please your average manga otaku. There’s aliens, giant robots, spaceships, armored hand to hand combat, teen angst, and enough fan-service (meaning partial or full female nudity) to keep the average fanboy happy for hours upon end. For the most part, CANNON GOD hits most of the right notes when it comes to the giant robot/teenager against the alien invader horde genre. It’s lighthearted and silly enough so that it doesn’t get bogged down in melodrama but provides enough kinetic action and stunning art so as to add that certain edge that many sci-fantasy fans crave.
For those who aren’t in the know, CANNON GOD EXAXXION tells the story of a future Earth that has become not so much invaded, as it is occupied by an extraterrestrial force. In this future, humans have become mostly second class citizens who are no longer in charge of their own fate or the fate of their planet. Humans are not overtly oppressed, but they are subtly pushed to the edges of their own society by a race that is in almost every way its superior. These aliens are called Riofaldians and when they showed up one day from out of the stars, the human race could do nothing but roll over and make room. Their technology was just too advanced for humans to put up any kind of a fight. The Riofaldians could destroy us and we knew it so the inhabitants of Earth decided, well, if you can’t beat ‘em…
But of course, like in every piece good piece of alien invader fiction, there are those who are not taking the occupation quietly. Enter Hoichi Kano and his grandfather. Hoichi is your average teenage boy who gets recruited by his genius grandfather to pilot the giant robot Exaxxion which grandpa has constructed using his own wily smarts as well as technology culled from the alien occupation force. Along with the Exaxxion, his grandfather’s squad of sexy female assistants and a tailor made buxom female android Hoichi begins to fight for the liberation of the planet Earth and the human race as a whole.
See what I mean? Silly. Yet, at the same time fun and engaging.
While the initial concept sounds a bit insipid, what keeps the story so interesting is the fantastic work from the series creator, Henichi Sonoda. Fans may remember Sonada’s work from the now classic manga series GUNSMITH CATS. Sonada injects this series with the same sort of energy, both through his detailed artwork and writing that he added throughout CATS. The action is constant, yet interlaced with bits of humor so as not to keep the narrative from getting too morose. The reason I use the term “morose” is because CANNON GOD isn’t your typical giant robot manga in that the scale and stakes tend to be much larger than most stories of this ilk. People, innocent civilians, actually die because of the Hoichi and Riofaldian engagements. But unlike many other books, instead of taking the easy route and going all grim and gritty, CGE takes the time to breathe and enjoy a bit of humor every once in a while. While large scale combat and its effects are never presented as humorous, there are enough light moments in between that don’t let you forget that what you’re reading is entertainment and should be enjoyed as such. It’s not meant to be taken seriously even if the hero’s actions do cause unintended destruction for the greater good of defeating his enemy.
As you can most probably tell, I’ve found CANNON GOD EXAXXION to be a pretty fun read. But with Volume (or Stage, as they like to call it) Four the story actually began to lag for me. With volumes one through three, I actually found myself really enjoying this series despite, or possibly because of, its more juvenile elements. In the first three volumes of the series, Sonoda had managed to keep the action moving and in the third he had actually taken the time to drop an interesting revelation about one of the main players in the story. In this fourth volume, however, the story becomes stalled because the whole focus of the book is on one giant robot fight. While some of it does play out rather well after a while it just seemed to feel like much of the book was turning into filler. With Stage Four, I actually became a bit bored with what was going on. It’s not that giant robot fights aren’t great but ONE giant robot fight that lasts more that two hundred pages…?
That’s a bit much even for me.
The one possible explanation could be that EXAXXION may have reached the point that many manga series get to in which the author obviously has nothing more to add to the story except for the ending. Meaning that the story’s logical conclusion is around the corner, but the author wants to add a bit more punch to his tale and really has nothing more to say. Therefore, the story begins to feel stretched out beyond its boundaries. It’s happened to other series I’ve read and it’s a shame. Hell, there are plenty of American comics that I often feel are treading water, but with manga, more often than not, a finite story is being presented. So it seems all the more wasteful to just add bits that don’t need to be there.
This isn’t to say that Stage Four of CANNON isn’t a good read. It is. It just isn’t as good as Stages One through Three. I obviously don’t expect anyone out there to just pick up this series starting with Stage Four, but if you do pick up EXAXXION and you enjoy it enough to get to volume four just be prepared for a bit of a let down. It’s not horrible, but it is the RETURN OF THE JEDI or GODFATHER PART THREE of the series in that, yes, it is part of the story, but it just happens to be the most disappointing part of the story.
Either way, volume four isn’t so bad that it’ll keep me away from volume five but the next chapter needs to be pretty darn good to keep me interested. If Henichi’s work on GUNSMITH CATS is any indication then the party’s probably not over for CANNON GOD EXAXXION by a long shot.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #10This is one of the few HOUSE OF M tie-in issues I’ve read and it’s far and away the best. Ed Brubaker proves once again that he deserves all the praise he’s received over the last few years. It’s a standalone issue detailing the life of Steve Rogers in the HOM universe. It’s similar to the one-shot devoted to Nomad a few issues ago in that it tells a sad, heartfelt tale of somebody who did the best he could but didn’t always have things go his way. This Cap stood up to Joe McCarthy, refusing to rat out his super powered friends, and ends up walking away from the costume forever. It’s a bold gesture, but one of debatable merit, and his life takes a different and more disappointing course. Brubaker’s got so much heart and talent that he overcomes the obstacles posed by this kind of crossover and turns in another great issue. This run on CAPTAIN AMERICA actually has me more excited about DAREDEVIL than I’ve been in years. Sleazy G
ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #1 - In the weakest of Marvel’s test-run of annuals via the Ultimate line, Mark Millar re-imagines the Inhumans with minimal changes and Jae Lee shows once again that he’s an immaculate designer who it just so happens can’t draw backgrounds to save his life. And really, what’s the point of showing off an exotic, hidden civilization if every panel is so shrouded in haze that it’s like those old video games where mist hid the computer’s inability to process detailed background polygons? Skip it. The Inhumans were cooler the first time. - Dave
RUNAWAYS #8I’ve been a supporter of this series from the beginning, but I’m getting a little nervous. Brian K. Vaughan started the original series with a strong and diverse cast of kids. As of this issue, though, we’ve just had the second member of the core group rotated out. I’m sure Vaughan is just introducing plot threads for future stories, but it’s a pretty big risk to keep getting rid of characters the readers like and replacing them with unknowns. I just hope it doesn’t cause a drop in readership because I’m still interested in seeing where the storylines are going. With any luck the threads will be picked up fairly soon and we’ll see the character who left this issue rejoin the rest of the gang. - Sleazy G
ROCKETO #2 - This book is a special kind of frustrating. Structurally, it’s nearly incoherent, following the life story and adventures of an explorer named Rocketo on a post-apocalyptic earth filled with monsters, robots, animal men, and all manner of visual spectacle. Problem is that the story isn’t told in the traditional sense, with time taken to establish characters and meaningful arcs, opting instead for a sort of highlight reel of moments where no instance of Rocketo’s life takes on greater meaning than the next. It’s about as dramatically interesting as reading a timeline - even if the timeline has events like “alien invasion” and “global cataclysm”, it’s still just a timeline. BUT…the art is amazing. With minimalist linework reminiscent of an even more pared-down Darwyn Cooke, form delineated by painterly swathes of vibrant color, it’s actually some of the finest comic art I’ve seen all year. (You can peek at a preview here.) So…I really can’t recommend this even remotely based on the story, but if you’re a true lover of the Toth/Kurtzman/Kirby/Caniff schools of comic art, ROCKETO weirdly becomes a must-have. How strange is that? - Dave
ULTIMATES 2 #8I’m all for creator-owned work, and I’m all for creators taking a break when they need it rather than burn out. That said, it’s a shame Mark Millar is going to be leaving so many big titles so soon. It feels like he’s really been bringing his A-game lately and he’s still got a couple more seasons left in him. ULTIMATES 2 has been far stronger than the first series, and this issue shows once again that while external forces can exert some influence, it’s always the internal tension that tears a team apart. Already feeling isolated and abandoned, Steve Rogers is now wanted for the murder of Hawkeye’s family. He’s tracked down by an enraged Nick Fury and beaten senseless by the Ultimates reserve forces, but it’s looking more and more like that damned hippie Thor was right all along. This series is really crackling, and with only four issues left I’m sad to see Millar’s leaving…especially considering the replacement team when he’s gone. “Reserve forces” indeed. Sleazy G
ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #23I don’t know who the cute Shirley Temple chick with the sexy mouth on the first page is, but I was disappointed to see she didn’t turn up in the rest of the issue. By the end of the issue, though, we get to find out that Sue’s mom is a stone fox, so it’s all good. Greg Land has obviously had a lot of fun drawing zombie analogues of Marvel U. mainstays, and the arc had some fun moments, but I’m hoping for something more substantial from the next storyline. I’m a little nervous about the upcoming miniseries set in this alternate world later this year, though—I’m not convinced at this point it’ll be substantial enough to get past the “whoa, cool!” stage. Sleazy G
Ten hut, maggots!!! Sgt. A. Bug reporting for duty. This week’s objective: Cast the best damn military toy/comic/cartoon ever. That’s right soldier, this week’s @$$hole Casting Couch is drafting…
For those of you just joining us, the Casting Couch is a place where a fanboy can be a fanboy. One of my favorite things to talk about is who should play what comic book character if adapted to the big screen. And it seems like I’m not the only one. I know there are a lot of comic book movies are being made these days, but there are plenty more properties that deserve the silver screen treatment.
Now more than ever, America needs to feel safe and protected from the thralls of tyranny. In these troubling times, when terrorism and anarchy lurk around every corner, a film about the best fighting force this great nation has to offer is not only needed, it’s necessary. I collected GI Joe figures, watched the cartoons, and read the comics when I was little. You collected GI Joe figures, watched the cartoons, and read the comics when you were little. We all collected GI Joe figures, watched the cartoons, and read the comics when we were little. Don’t deny it, puke stains! So fill a canteen full of nostalgia and gear up for the Official GI JOE Casting Couch now with swivel arm battle grip!
The enemy was defeated. The snakes slithered into hiding. The Joes retired and life in America was peaceful and good. But new intelligence suggests a resurgence in terrorist activity around the world and on American soil. With the country in fear of a new wave of COBRA terrorism, the Joes are taken out of retirement and put back in action, fighting the forces of evil and training the next generation of Joes. I’d cast older actors as the veteran Joes coming out of retirement and a younger bunch for the greenshirts in this ensemble movie. So let’s cast this summbitch! Hoo-ahh!!!
General Hawk was fighting COBRA when most of the Joes were still making pudding in their pj’s. He was the original GI JOE. We need an older, more wizened actor who could still kick @$$ if he had to. Veteran actor and tough guy, Robert Forster (JACKIE BROWN) looks like he could lead this team to victory.
General Hawk may call the shots, but Duke leads the team into battle. We need someone with an all-American boy demeanor and a chiseled jaw. The Captain America type. Someone like Aaron Eckhart (THE CORE, IN THE COMPANY OF MEN) to order these troops around on the field. This talented actor is yet to have a true breakout role and Duke may be it.
Stalker has seen it and done it all and snuck up on it all and filled it all full of bullets. We’d need an actor who is streetwise as well as military savvy to pull this one off. Sam Jackson, you say? Hell no. Delroy Lindo (THE HEIST, THE LAST CASTLE) is ten times tougher. This older actor would be perfect as a veteran Joe a bit too old for this shit and in charge of whupping the newbies into shape.
Who didn’t want to be Snake Eyes as a kid? He wore all black. He carried two swords and an Uzi. He never talked. He kicked the @$$hole off of anything that crossed his path, and got to boff Scarlett. Acting chops aren’t needed for this role, just sheer kick-assed-ness for this silent but deadly shadow warrior. You may know him as Darth Maul or Toad, the Headless Horseman, or the guy who keeps saying he’s going to be playing Iron Fist in a movie, but after this flick, Ray Park would always be known as Snake-Eyes.
Beautiful, sexy, deadly. No, I’m not talking about our own Harry Knowles. These words come to mind when I think of Scarlett. With her crossbow and throwing stars, this soldier-ette kicks the keister of COBRA and warms the heart of everyone’s favorite Joe, Snake-Eyes. Look at Kate Beckinsale (UNDERWORLD, VAN HELSING). Absolutely beautiful, but there’s a bit of danger behind those sparkling eyes. She’s one red dye job away from being Scarlett.
Say hello to my not-so-little frien’