|By Andrew Raub||Monday, 14 Mar 2011|
Apologies, ready readers! Real life has been getting in the way of our comic reviewing. We’ve overcome cross-country travels and unexpected work conferences to bring you quite a few reviews this week!
Impressions: Boo, the end of the Lex Luthor arc is next month. This series has been so much fun with Cornell and Woods at the helm, and it will be a shame to see it end. Cornell’s run has had a couple eh issues in it, but they’ve all been very entertaining, managing to be self contained in many ways but still playing into a larger story. This issue was a followup to the Blackest Night series, something I still haven’t read, but luckily didn’t require me to know much beyond who Larfleeze is and the fact that Lex was an Orange Lantern for a brief time. Here we see Lex being an evil bastard, proving he doesn’t care about his own people, and manipulating and tricking Larfleeze in order to defeat him. And at the end, we get to see who the final big villain is, setting the stage for a great finale. At this point, if you haven’t been following, it might be best to grab this in a trade, but it is worth a read for sure. -Zach
Impressions: One thing that will never cease to amuse me is when I buy a comic of a series I haven’t touched in ages and reflect on the last time I even bought the series. X-Men Legacy is, of course, X-Men Vol 2, which I followed pretty enthusiastically in the 90’s. But that was then, and it’s now been 15 years and a ridiculous amount of changes later since I last bothered with either core X-book. And I likely wouldn’t have bought this either, if it werent for an interesting “Age of X” alternate universe miniseries occuring in it and New Mutants for the next 2 months or so. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the amount of X-books and events (not unlike in the 90’s…), so I’ve been hesitant to really jump on board with anything aside from some of the less continuity heavy books. So Age of X, in essence, was a good opportunity to grab a short miniseries and see some interesting variations on some of my childhood favorite characters.
Age of X is a much different beast than its easiest comparison, Age of Apocalypse. While AoA was long, elaborate, and fairly straightforward, Age of X has been a fairly low key event that hasn’t explained much at all. This opening chapter gives you some brief hints at what is going on in the world around mutants right now, and it is rather dire and bleak, as they are pretty much outlawed and fighting to survive on their stronghold, Fortress X. Writer Mike Carey has been taking his time to tell the story he wants and this opening chapter in Legacy doesn’t really blow me away, but provides enough intrigue to keep picking up the other issues. His interpretation of some of the characters, such as Cyclops, Legion, Wolverine, Magneto, and Rogue are all interesting and mostly fresh takes that don’t seem completely out of character considering the situation that has been setup.
I found myself actually enjoying Rogue (here referred to as both Legacy and Reaper) and her powers, much to my surprise, as she’s never been particularly interesting to me. I also am greatly enjoying the flippant, reckless, and bitter Cyclops, who has no leadership in this comic, and is largely seen as an nearly uncontrollable wild card. And, let me say, thank the lord that Wolverine does not play a prominent role in this miniseries. He’s largely confined to a cameo role due to what happened to him in Age of X Alpha. I do like me some Wolverine, but Marvel’s shameless whoring of him into new teams and series and events lately just to scrape out a few extra bucks is pretty terrible (can anyone tell me why he needed to be in Shadowland? Anyone?).
Anyway, this issue is largely “a day in the life of mutantkind” until Kitty Pride shows up sneaking around outside the fortress and her appearance disturbs Legacy, as well as what she had with her: a camera full of seemingly blank pictures. Magneto apprehends Kitty and seals her up for questioning, which transitions into New Mutants, where we find Legacy going against Magneto’s orders so she can interrogate Kitty, and she begins to realize something is wrong. By the end of the issue, she’s on the run and Magneto wants her found dead or alive. Sweet. We also get a slightly better idea of the status quo of this alternate reality and what happened in this issue, and it sets the stage for some big stuff to start happening in the next chapter. -Zach
Verdict: So far, pretty good. The art hasn’t been anything too special but Mike Carey has done a good job telling the story he wants to tell at his own pace so far, and it doesn’t feel overambitious or overreaching like AoA often did.
Impressions: First new arc with Tony Daniel back at the helm is complete, and I think this is my last issue for awhile. While I admire Daniel’s writer/artist thing he has going here and the ambition behind it, this is the second arc I’ve given a chance to with him as writer and I just don’t think it’s my thing. And while I’m open to having my mind changed about the series in the future, I just couldn’t get terribly interested in this story. Sensei was a boring villain, Peacock wasn’t a terribly interesting character, and Catgirl seems like a silly, unnecessary [animal][person] in the Batman cast of characters, with a bonus awful pink outfit. The end of this Eye of the Beholder arc had a pretty predictable and vanilla ending, and then we get a new plot thread about what’s going on with the Riddler and who has Two Face’s coin. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Detective and Inc. have proven to be far more interesting of the Batman comics right now. -Zach
Impressions: Oh, so there’s that backup story that DC axed when they dropped pages and pricing. While this easily could have felt like a filler issue, since it’s just a backup tale collected into an issue, it’s actually a pretty cool followup/diversion from the end of the first Scott Snyder arc in last issue. While in reality it is just two people sitting in a diner, the parts with Gordon and his son are taut, tense, and really well written character moments between the two. Gordon’s rising anxiety coupled with his son’s creepiness, yet ultimate resolution to get help for his condition, makes for a great side story that I’m eager to read more about in the coming issues. And there are little touches that really make the entire scene, like James Jr. joking he killed the waitress and stuffed her in the bathroom stall in a bad attempt at a joke to lighten the mood, and then Gordon glancing over at the bathroom door periodically and getting more and more panicked as water begins to flow out from under the door. Was it a joke? As James continues to talk to his father about what’s going on with him, that little detail just continues to drive the entire scene and highlights perfectly how Gordon and the reader are feeling about him.
And, lest we think this is a sitting and talking issue, we also get Batman and Red Robin kicking in some heads, as Batman struggles to shake of the toxin he was exposed to last issue. This leads to some pretty trippy and crazy hallucination sequences, like a whale in the sea laughing at him and threatening to “eat him up!” Snyder continues to impress with his writing here, but the real star of this issue is artist Francesco Francavilla’s art. His rough style leaves a lasting mark on the book, and even his cover stands out on the comic stands. His use of muted and dark colors works really well with Snyder’s dark horror oriented take on Batman.
I also really dig how they took a backup story and managed to make it seem like the next logical step in the plot as its own standalone issue. While I think the plan was always to have the two connect, the subtle connections between the Batman stuff and the Gordon stuff start to come together at the end of the issue and we kinda see where Snyder is going. -Zach
Verdict: Probably the best Batman book out right now. Buy it.
Impressions: There’s something to be said for a writer when you read just a small sampling of his run on a series, and suddenly you feel compelling to buy them all up in short order. Such is what happened when I grabbed the last issue (with the gimmicky sealed bag), and was pleasantly surprised by the brief glimpse of the world that Jonathan Hickman had created for Fantastic Four, a comic I’ve never been particularly compelled to pick up. I proceeded to grab the reprints of the “Three” storyline, then the Heroic Age issues…and then the first part of his run, and so far all of it has impressed. He’s taken four characters that you are hard-pressed to make any lasting changes to without people getting in a tizzy (and yet, if you keep them the same…those same people don’t bother buying the book? Weird logic.) and he has amplified everything that is great about FF, infused a healthy dose of nostalgia, and even made a very big change in killing off one of the Four and essentially ending the book. And #588 is that end. Though I doubt we will never ever see a Fantastic Four book again, this serves as a great followup to “Three”, and is actually a (mostly) wordless issue, as we see a month of mourning following the Johnny’s death.
Sometimes wordless issue’s can be a bit shallow and just showcases for an artist, but you can see the influence of Hickman through, and the emotions and scenes shown are pretty much pitch perfect. From the opening with Thing’s helpless expression to Sue’s complete breakdown, to Valeria’s bitterness and anger, Franklin’s despondency, Thing’s raging grief battle with Thor and Hulk (which was so sad and heartbreaking), and Reed’s brooding and eventual determination to do what Hickman’s run started out with, the idea of “solving everything” so that something like what happened to Johnny can never happen again. There is a backup with Spidey and Franklin that does have words, and is a nice segue into the new FF series, but it is largely disposable. The real meat here is the rest of the book, and for silent issues, you really need an artist that can convey what is in the script. I know nothing about Nick Dragotta, but he just absolutely killed it in this issue. His work is so Kirby and so reminiscent of early issue of Fantastic Four that it’s pretty much impossible to hate. I loved Epting’s art throughout Three, but Dragotta was equally amazing in this issue. His Sue looks like she stepped out of 1962. All told, this is a perfect sendoff for this book and probably one of the best issues I’ve ever read of Fantastic Four. Hickman is one of the best writers Marvel has right now, and I’m eagerly looking forward to see what he can do with the new FF book. -Zach
Verdict: Outstanding. Great finale, and the best comic of the month for me.
Impressions: This issue was a nice followup to the previously reviewed 1-4 issues, as we see the team dealing with the fallout of their decision, and there’s a great (and surprising) character moment in a big argument between Wolverine (gruff commander of the team) and Deadpool (the voice of reason…buh?). But overall, this is a heavy Fantomex issue, finally giving me what I wanted, a better explanation of this character. There’s some crazy Deathlok shit going on that he’s investigating that I still don’t understand yet, but so far this book has me pretty much hooked. Rick Remender is doing great things with this book, and it’s become on of my favorites every month. Cover artist Esad Ribic gets a turn as the artist, and while I think he work is slightly better on the covers and I really dug the last artist, Jerome Opena, he brings a nice style of his own that is different but still works with the book. One thing is for sure, it’s definitely not as jarring as the artist change in the Wolverine book. But yeah, I recommend this one for sure. -Zach
Impressions: In short, I really like where Aaron is moving this story. We see that Cyclops has prepared contingencies to neutralize Wolverine early in the book and with Wolverine still unable to keep control of his body, most of this issue is a followup on the end of issue #5, where the X-Men are standing on the sidelines essentially debating if they need to destroy Wolverine before he rampages through Utopia (again) while the Ghost Riders are demon Logan’s punching bag. Unfortunately, they changed the artist for this arc, and I can’t say I really like Daniel Acuña’s work too much. It may be ok in a non-franchise book, but it just seems that there are a lot of off-model goofy faces and looks in the issue. The stuff in Wolverine’s head as he is battling for possession of his mind is actually pretty awesome looking, as Acuña’s demons are nasty and nightmarish, but unfortunately the story in his head hasn’t been that great of a subplot yet. We’ll see where this one goes, the series has been mostly good but uneven for one reason or another throughout so far. -Zach