Thursday, December 11, 2008

Comic Reviews for December 10th 2008

Major apologies for how late I am on any updates. The season is always a hectic one for me and I’ve been crazy busy. So here’s the game plan, first we have this weeks comics reviewed and following that over the next few days I’ll be doing reviews/Open Fire! Reviews to catch up on the last month or so of comics, along with last week’s batch.

Now before we get started, I have a quick announcement, for now, Collection Spotlight is bi-weekly. I can’t keep up with a weekly series like that right now, so for now, it’s bi-weekly. Expect it to come back next week and will follow this new schedule for a while until the busy storm calms. I’m really sorry about this, but again, really busy here.

So yeah, again apologies for the delays, everything should be running smoothly form now on! Hopefully…now onto the reviews!

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign

Written: Brian Michael Bendis

Art: Alex Maleev

Opening Comments: I was fairly excited for this, Bendis and Maleev both seem to bring out the best in each other and the Dark Reign concept is a fairly strong one. This one-shot is crucial for giving us the overall tone of Marvel’s latest status quo and really setting the grounds for the latest generation of stories.

So for that, I don’t think it was wrong to hold this issue to a higher standard then I usually do for comics, and expect more out of it then what we got.

Story Comments: The opening moments following Emma’s nightmare of Kitty’s death, and the Evil Illuminati’s gathering, was all right. I feel Bendis only handles a handful of the Marvel universe truly well. Everyone else just acts as he sees fit, not following past developments. That is never clearer then here when it comes to Namor and Loki.

Namor is the worst, which is odd when you consider how well he was written in 2007’s Illuminati mini. Loki is…definitely not quite as I’d hoped she’d be. She’s more the stereo typical bitch of a god here and though she has very few lines, those lines stick out like a sore thumb.

Speaking of sticking out where one does not belong, the Hood…I understand he is currently playing an important role in the Marvel Universe with his gatherings of several villains, but really, I’ve never once felt that he is deserving to be in league with Dr. Doom or Loki. His dialogue of course sticks out, he talks like an absolute idiot and it grates on my nerves 1 time too many. If he’s not saying a pointless curse word, he’s just sounding like an idiot in general. He’s an inexperienced villain newbie that Bendis picked out of a hat, and say what you want, he needs to get the hell away from the Evil Illuminati because he has no place there.

Then we have Dr. Doom, a character I feel Bendis has always excelled at and is a personal favorite character of mine. Bendis continues his streak, as Doom is great here, every line out of him is priceless and pure Doom. Though it’s not all perfect, Bendis still hits a high-note here.

Emma was all right, but really, there is little to say on her. I feel there was much needed explanation as to her previous alliances, and rather then at least giving us a taste, she just randomly shows up even if not wanting to be there. I found it odd, and again, it poorly stuck out to me.

Now we get to the meeting, I feel that this mixed bag of characters was handled poorly in that really Osborn dominates the conversation, but he doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He just gives a basic premise “behave and work under my tab and everything’s good” and that was it really. For how long this dragged out

Though it’s not poorly written ,some moments are nice, I felt Bendis really failed to capture these unique voices or really go anywhere with this. It was a short, simple and rather uninteresting read.

Though some of the promises as well bothered me. While I liked that Dr. Doom gets his home back and Namor and Emma are off the hook, Loki’s promise confused the hell out of me and The Hood and his gang registering was fairly stupid to me.

The revelation that Norman has a power player working for him was nice, though it’s obviously the Sentry, I think it makes more sense as far as where Osborn is going with this. The end of the meeting was all right, and I liked how Doom and Namor still don’t trust Osborn.

The scene in which Norman kills Swordsman was pointless and existed only to create false drama and a pointless death. Bendis completely misunderstands the character and makes him to be a half-witted jackass. It’s sad to see such a good character die so meaninglessly.

Overall, the storyline was all right, the good moments where there and it still wasn’t awful. But really, outside of some good moments, this one-shot failed to set Dark Reign for me and was highly disappointing.

Art Comments: Alex Maleev took some getting used to for me, but after a while, I came to appreciate and love his artwork. His work here though is…disappointing, to put it simple. I feel Maleev was experimenting a bit too much here as his style changes into a bit of an awkward one. It’s still good most of the time, but most notably The Hood and Namor look awful. Again, they poorly stick out and it’s saddening to see Maleev’s art like this. Still, the art is all right, nothing too special as far as what Maleev is capable of. Just all right.

Final Comments: Overall, SI: Dark Reign is a comic that has a lot going for it, a lot of potential but it never cashes in on it. It has a lot to offer, but more just gives us the bare of what it can and tells us to wait for more, which is very disappointing. Still, a good read and the art had some nice moments, so if you’re interested in it, check it out, if not, pass it.

3 out of 5

Check It

Witchblade #122

Written: Ron Marz

Art: Stjepan Sejic

Opening Comments: Witchblade is, as I mentioned prior, my favorite comic on the stands right now and this arc does not change that. Though I will admit, compared to the upcoming War between Sara and Dani, this feels more like a filler to hold our attention until then. Granted, filler is rarely this entertaining.

Story comments: the opening, continuing off of last issue where Sara and the reporter discovered a young group of Jewish kids making a golem to protect them was a good opening. Sara acts as she should and overall it was well written, it continues things moving nicely, but is somewhat pointless really.

The most interesting and, as far as characters are concerned, well done scene for me here was with Dani. 2 issues ago she became the head teacher of a dance studio and we pick up with her meeting up with her student Finch at a coffee house.

This moment, where Finch explains her past, her issues and her problems, I felt Marz really humanizes this moment and makes it feel very organic and it was incredibly well done in how sublte and realistic it was played out between these 2 characters, and the final moment where they kiss…well I don’t want to sound like an ass but…

I SO CALLED IT! HA! I was getting a lesbian vibe from this girl, and I was RIGHT! HA!

*straightens self* but uhm, moving beyond that little gloat moment, this scene was handled with care and appreciation for both characters by Marz and was done incredibly well. It really shined to me as a reader.

So we soon return to Sara and the crime of the Jewish Community murders. It’s strange, I find myself more torn over if Sara belongs there. She seems to be getting in the way, in that no matter what she does here, she’s being demonized by the figure head leader. Still, her reaction to the Jewish boys death was great, and it really hit the heart strings.

The ending was all right, it doesn’t really fit quite with the cover like it seems. Still, a nice cliff-hanger to a good issue.

Art Comments: Do I even have to say how amazing this artwork is? Even though there is little to no real action here, Sejic’s art just comes alive beautifully. Every panel is gorgeous to look at and it continues to be beautiful artwork even with some of the more gruesome images.

Final Comments: I felt last issue was a bit better, but this was still a fairly good issue. I would give it a Check It if not for the fact that it was nicely done, character work was excellent and Dani and Finch’s scene was brilliantly done on Marz’ part. So really, I gotta give it a Must Read, it was great.

4 out of 5

Must Read

Detective Comics #851

Written: Denny O’Neil

Art: Guillem March

Opening Comments: There are some things that, when you really think about it, are good to be excited about. Denny O’Neil returning to Batman is one of those things that every Bat-fan should be giddy about. The man is pure legend when it comes to the Dark Knight and his fanbase, so imagine my excitement to see him back for Last Rites. While I wasn’t 100% sure if he could pull it off, he absolutely blew me away with this amazingly well written issue.

Story Comments: The story in itself is split in two, really, we have our narrator going over her past and how it effects her current status, and how she ties to Gotham, and Nightwing going on to take down Two-Face and screwing up horribly. It’s a great contrast and how they tie together is perfect.

Millicent Mayne is our main character really, a woman who was deemed Gotham’s beautiful face and after a horrible scarring from a Two-Face impersonator who is out for old blood, she begins to feel a deeper connection to her city. I’m not sure how it works, but one could figure it a psychic thing in that she is now a part of Gotham, as if she feels it’s pain and anger. She hasn’t let her scarring cripple her or bring her to madness, but rather to better herself as it would seem.

The narration is absolutely great, not one box of narration is not worth reading and tells an amazing story. Most writers use narration to simply take up reading space and try to strengthen the length of a book, though the narration itself isn’t much or anything special and it drags on and is pointless for the reader. O’Neil doesn’t just nicely introduce this character, he makes her a great and well fleshed out character to the point that I hope she holds a stronger role in future storylines.

Though the overall plot of Two-Face is nice as well. Always a character I’ve enjoyed seeing, Harvey Dent is great here as O’Neil has a real knack for the character. The scene where Harvey flips the coin over to kill his impersonator was great. It wasn’t the annoying typical coin flip and quick death scene that so many writers have overdone with the character. It was personal, well done, and really stood out to me.

Nightwing was nicely done, and overall his actions all fit the character perfectly. The characters here where all great and, as one would expect form a legend as O’Neil, are handled well.

My only real complaint was the ending, it was fairly pointless to me. Nightwing is in hot water, nothing we’re unfamiliar with. I feel it was a poor attempt to keep me on the edge of my seat, and while I am, it’s to see more greatness from O’Neil, not over Nightwing.

Still, a great story by O’Neil, incredibly well written and overall, he does an amazing job here.

Art Comments: I’m not at all familiar with March or previous work that he’s done, but from what I’ve seen here, it’s impressive. The artwork here isn’t too special when you compare it to Dustin Nguyen or other strong Batman artists, but still, his art is very nice. It has a strong style to it and is told very well. He does a great job of adding to O’Neil’s great writing and overall the scenes are great, he captures strong emotion and his work here, overall, was great.

Final Comments: Overall, it was an incredible read, and the art here tells a good story. So I personally enjoyed the hell out of it, it was a great story for Last Rites and any Batman fan will appreciate O’Neil’s great storyline and character work here and the strong style of art works nicely as well. So to conclude, it was an incredible read.

5 out of 5

Must Have

Invincible #56

Written: Robert Kirkman

Art: Ryan Ottley

Opening Comments: Another favorite of mine right now, Kirkman is really hitting all the right notes with Invincible and while this issue continues that streak, unfortunately, it suffers from having too much on it’s plate to feel like a solid story.

Story Comments: The opening with Mark and Eve was nice, again, Kirkman really is doing a great job with the handling of their relationship. It’s not bullet proof of course, but what we’re getting here is very nicely done and this opening was more greatness from that mostly. Though I do admit, Oliver’s interruption wasn’t as funny as it seemed he was going for it.

Now the best scene, hands down, of this issue, was Invincible catching up with his old friend Amber. She starts talking about her father dying, and how recently her new boyfriend hit her. And when I say hit her, I don’t mean he smack her or he simply punched her, the bastard did some serious damage. It’s sickening.

Kirkman hits the perfect emotional note here. Invincible reacts just how I, and I’m sure a lot of other fans of the series, reacted, pissed off. Call me crazy if there’ some shit you don’t let slip by, and this is that for sure. His reaction is pure greatness, but for all the fuss the cover gives, making it seem like Invincible will indeed kill Amber’s ass-boyfriend, it was done and over within the span of a page or so, and I found that incredibly disappointing. A lot of emotional investment, and we get so little for it.

The scene with Kid-Omni-Man against the giant robot was nice. Nothing too special and it didn’t stand out too much, but it was nice seeing how Oliver works on his own.

Mark and Eve’s meeting up was, again, great. Though now I think I need to make the point that this issue was 3 different things that, while they merged nicely at the end, felt all random and out of place for telling a full story. It feels disjointed and randomly thrown together. And the ending doesn’t help much, as though it somewhat resolves the story of them being watched, at the same time, it was very random as far as an ending is concerned and really leaves off on a note that feels like there was more to tell.

The storyline was in no way poor here, but the way it was all thrown together really holds it back from being any better. So while I quite enjoyed this issue, at the same time, it was undeniably randomly put together and for that, a weaker issue.

Art Comments: I hate to say it, but it’s same good art same old. Ottley doesn’t get as many chances to shine or do much special as he has the last few issues. Outside of Amber’s wound, his art doesn’t stand out too much. Still, he capture emotion in his own great way and his art was still well done.

Final Comments: Another solid good issue of Invincible, though not as good as I was hoping for and the tension that the cover created wasn’t followed up well inside. Still, a good issue.

3 out of 5

Check It

Now I know I already reviewed issue #2 of Scarlet Veronica, I got to read an advanced copy weeks prior to it's release yesterday. But since it's out this week, I thought it fair to repost my review of it.

Scarlet Veronica #2

Written: Robert Barry, Joe Shaw, Jason Moody

Art: Jason Moody

Open Comments: Every so often I dip my head into the pool of Indy comics outside of Spawn and Invincible, and sometimes I find books I regret, other times I find treasures that I enjoy and can’t get enough of. Scarlet Veronica has easily became a little treasure with a strong pacing and good story and some wicked stylish art.

Story Comments: We start out right from where issue #1 left off where Veronica kicked a corpse back to his grave. From here we get an introduction to the next character of story….Death! Yes, Death is a character here. We’ve seen the image of Death personified in many, many, many comics before, and just like usual, the character of Death is great. I like how Death seems to not be the cut-throat “I know what to do so I just do it” kind of character, but that he takes in his surroundings and sees what is going on. This was a nice little addition and made the opening part to this issue nice.

We see a fairly clean done ending for just how Veronica has her powers, and I feel that there is a hint somewhere in the dialogue between her and Death that may foreshadow the series ending.

Overall this moment was nice and was a great opening for the comic. It was the only really talkative moment through the comic as following this is mostly high-paced action, as I’d hoped. And before I continue to the rest of the comic, I have to say there is a nice balance here. There is enough dialogue and character moments to further flesh out the character of Veronica, but the action here is solid stuff and very well done.

After a bit of back and forth with Veronica and her friend, we see the action set in and, what I won’t spoil how we get here, ends up with Scarlet Veronica going toe to toe with Santa Clause…well, a zombie dressed as old Saint Nicholas, at least. It’s one of those oddly ridiculous things that are funny and weird at the same time.

Throughout the action of Veronica taking on a few monstrous creatures, she has quick lines like “have I been naughty or Nice? Definitely Naughty” which are kind of funny and quick. With characters like Spider-man, stuff like this is easy to over-do in an attempt to be funny, but here with Scarlet Veronica, it doesn’t overdo it to the point of forced comedy that just irritates.

The action is quick and very nicely done, though I was a tad disappointed to see Veronica get knocked around, every new hero needs to get their feet sturdy before they can run so I’m hoping this isn’t a trend, as in a preview for what I’m guessing is issue #3, we see her kick some major monster ass.

The issue ends with a great cliff-hanger that has me excited for more of Veronica next month. Though I won’t spoil it like I usually do here, both as courtesy and because I really think that you should check this series out for yourself and see it for yourself. So to wrap up the story comments, great issue, great moments and solid action.

Art comments: Last time my complaints weren’t big but they where still there about the art. The art seemed to lean too much on easily done expressions and didn’t really convey a lot of emotion for that. But luckily it seems that is more remedied here. Sure, we still get the cheesy Manga face from time to time, but it’s nowhere near as big or even all that bad here.

Moody’s art style focuses much more this time on the heavy stylized work we saw bits and pieces of last issue, and the art dominates that way here in issue #2. Everything looks much wicked and like a lot more heart was put into it, though the art was fine last issue, I get the feeling that the artist had a real fun time drawing some of the scenes and expressions that we see here. Yes, there are some pretty good expressions, most of them coming form Veronica. Her wicked face by far looks the best.

To sum the art up, it’s damn good and the monsters look great, as does Veronica, and I look forward to seeing more of this art next month as well.

Final Comments: While I really did love this issue of Scarlet Veronica, there was something missing…that factor that just slams it in my head and keeps it there. To put it simple, it’s not quite at a Must Have level yet. Still, if anyone is interested, I recommend it for anyone who is a little tired of either the long running Marvel/DC comics or even long running Indy comics and looking for something fresh and exciting, Scarlet Veronica is definitely the perfect book right now for you.

4 Out of 5

Must Read

Savage Dragon #142

Written: Erik Larsen

Art: Erik Larsen

Opening Comments: Every comic can suffer from multiple plot issues, rarely is it something that merges nicely, and Savage Dragon suffers badly from too much to tell with too little time.

Story Comments: We have several things going on here, Megaman is after Dragon for killing Solar-man, Malcolm is still in Dimension X, crazy shit is going on for Dragon’s daughter, Dragon goes from thinking to being tossed like a punching bag, and in the middle of it all is a confusing mess of a story.

Though still, as random and poorly connected it all is, the writing isn’t bad. Larsen clearly loves these characters and telling their stories. But he’s really dug himself into a hole with all these different twisting plots.

Dragon himself is great here, he is the main focus mostly and I’m thankful for that as he is the best part of this messy issue. His fight with Megaman, while odd, was still very nicely done.

Chris Robinson was great, for the full 5 minutes we got him.

Though glossing over some other little moments, the comic’s ending is the main point to talk about. A woman named Helen tries to seduce Dragon, and he starts to give in a bit, though doesn’t full do so, until she freaks out, punches him and goes all monster like. Saying Dragon failed a test.

What now?

If this is seriously how Larsen ends the plot about Dragon searching for his wife, then wow, what a major cop-out. To have such a random moment of weakness have his wife go against him and never come back, that just…wow…as a fan of the series, the possibility alone is frustrating.

So honestly, it’s not bad, but I have to be fair here and for what we got here, it was written well but put together very poorly.

Art Comments: Larsen’s art is, as always great. The only thing that doesn’t really fit is Megaman. He looks like Solar Man without the cape and different colors really. Still, for how divided the story is, at least the art looks great.

Final Comments: While I personally, as a fan of this series, enjoyed it, I have to be serious and honest here and for what it was, Savage Dragon was poorly put together and for that, it greatly suffers and unless your reading the series, I don’t suggest you check this issue out.

2 out of 5

Pass It

And so ends our epic reviews. But the epic reviewing has only begun. Starting tomorrow through the weekend will be Open Fire Reviews that cover all the comics I’ve missed since the second week of November. So don’t go thinking I’ll disappear again, stick around soon for more reviews, and I just wanted to say, it’s great to be back.


Cat said...

Welcome back! I was worried another of my favorite comic review blogs was slowly disapearing. Nice reviews!
One comment...I think swordsman death by Norman was far from pointless. That has been building ever since Ellis took over Thunderbolts. It showed just how insane Osborn is.
I don't normailly read Detective but I'm a huge Nightwing. I may have to pick that up.

Greg said...

I also enjoyed Detective Comics. Of course I only picked it up because they put freakin' Two-Face in the issue. But it was a pretty fun read and can't wait to see how everything ties in in part 2. I also see you didn't read Nightwing which events took place before this issue. Two-Face and Dick have a warring of words where Two-Face gloats on being the one to toughen up Dick with a bat and also promises that he has many plans for our hero. But we all know Two-Face is the true hero of the story, correct? :)

Andrenn said...

@Cat: Thank you, I'm sorry for the delays, but everything should be all right for now.
I understand the Norman/Swordsman thing yes, but I felt Bendis used it to cash in on a cheap quick death, and that Swordsman was very out of character here.
Your welcome, I definitely suggest Detective #851 for sure if anyone is interested.

@Greg: I was tempted to pick up Nightwing ,but I simply figured one comic with him was enough. It sounds like it was well done. As for Two-Face playing hero, I could see him doing something along those lines come chapter 2 of Last Days of Gotham. With O'Neil, there are some things he could make work no matter what.