Spoiler Edition: 12/9 and 12/16 Reviews

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So, regular readers know that my (usually) weekly reviews are sans-spoilers, so you can get a feel for what to buy without having anything ruined for you. But the downside is not getting to discuss specific details of books, which is sometimes the most fun. So for a couple recent releases, I’m going to talk a little bit about what happened and how that affected my rating of the issue. So, spoiled/reviewed this week:

Booster Gold #27 (and bizarrely, I’m also going to spoil the end of the movie Shaun of the Dead)

Dark Avengers #12

Dark X-Men #2 (and #1)

Flash: Rebirth #5 (from Nov. 18, so a little late, but a needed rant)

Green Lantern Corps. #43 (and #42)

I’ll go in the above order and skip big spaces between each one, so if there’s just one or two books here you don’t want spoiled, you should be able to skip over them and read about the rest.

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Booster Gold #27

I gave this a 4/5 rating, which may have been just slightly generous, but I think it earned it. I thought I’d talk here about what I was really hoping would have happened that could have been even better.

So, in this issue (and #26), Booster comes face-to-face with his former best friend, Ted Kord, who’s been resurrected as a Black Lantern. For the most part, the story follows the exact same pattern as nearly all such Blackest Night tie-ins so far: the hero can’t believe his friend is back from the dead, he wants to believe there’s still the good part of that dead hero in there, but eventually he gets over it and finds a way to stop the Black Lantern. Honestly, it’s gotten to be a pretty predictable pattern. But Jurgens still pulled it off well; last issue, before meeting the Black Lantern Ted Kord, he had Booster visiting (via time travel) Ted’s funeral, giving us the emotional reaction via that memory, instead of just through the sudden jolt of seeing Ted out of the grave. And in this issue, Booster defeats Black Lantern Ted, alongside the new Blue Beetle, by using one of Ted’s inventions. By having the new BB guest star, Jurgens shows Ted’s legacy; by having Booster use Ted’s own genius to beat the evil that’s inhabiting Ted’s body, Jurgens gives us a moment that feels like Booster and Ted teaming up one last time, albeit in an unusual way. It’s a good story.

But it wasn’t what I was hoping for.

Think about this: how cool would it have been to see Ted come from the grave, possessed by the evil Black Lantern ring, but still not be able to fight Booster? That’s what I was hoping would happen: that the bonds of Blue and Gold’s friendship were so strong that even when Ted is all zombie-fied, his body still can’t play host to something that would hurt his friend. Essentially, it would be the end of Shaun of the Dead, a very good and funny movie. Shaun’s best friend gets bit by a zombie at the end, but when the crisis of the zombie attacks is all over, Shaun keeps his zombie friend in his shed out back and they still play video games together.

Now, I knew this wouldn’t actually happen; even if Jurgens wanted to try it, I doubt DC would have allowed it. Blackest Night has been continually reinforcing that these aren’t the actual dead heroes themselves, just their bodies inhabited by an evil that possesses all their memories. If Ted were allowed to actually fight off the influence of his Black Lantern ring, even in the context of his friendship with Booster, it would raise many questions about why other characters weren’t able to do the same.

So yeah, unrealistic and potentially problematic for the logic of the rest of the crossover, but I would have liked it. But maybe that’s just me.

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Dark Avengers #12

This issue, I gave my lowest rating ever, a 0.5/5, while admitting that I was biased because I didn’t like a plot development, but someone else might not have minded and even enjoyed the issue. It wasn’t necessarily that poorly written, but I’m just pissed because Bendis fucked with one of my favorite villains, the Molecule Man, just to prove a point about one of his characters.

Molecule Man (Owen Reese) is one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe, with the ability to manipulate any molecules however he wants (early in his history, he was limited to just inorganic molecules, but now he can do living molecules, as well). Theoretically, he could kick Galactus’s ass without breaking a sweat. He’s been put on the Beyonder’s level in the past. The only reason he’s not ruling the world/universe is because he’s not really that bad of a guy. He’s a little mentally imbalanced (though not a complete nutjob or psycho); usually, when he’s been defeated, it’s been through psychology, or through Reed Richards coming up with some crazy invention. In issue #11, Bendis seemed to “get” Owen really well. He wrote MM as dominant power-wise, but also as just wanting to be left alone by the intruding Dark Avengers. He even applied Owen’s power in a way I hadn’t seen before (but liked): rearranging the molecules in Norman Osborn’s brain to drive him crazy (crazier?) with severe nightmares/hallucinations. Yup, Bendis was doing well going into the story’s conclusion.

So naturally, in #12, Bendis killed Molecule Man. Yup, just like that. Victoria Hand, Norman’s right-hand woman in HAMMER, was going the psychology route to try to placate Owen, when Sentry suddenly shows up and fights MM, destroying him with relative ease. Sentry then remarks that he just learned he too can control molecules, and this power is the basis of his mysterious abilities.

Let me say this to start: Sentry is fucked up. I don’t really care for the character. He was a good idea at one time, but has become too much of a gimmick for Bendis. His power is seemingly limitless, though no one knows why, and he has all the baggage of being fairly insane as he struggles the dark side of his being, the Void. Every time the Dark Avengers fight, the villain seemingly kills Sentry (as Molecule Man also did in #11), but he quickly comes back. Bendis has been ramping up Sentry’s powers, and it’s pretty clear that the only reason Bendis brought Molecule Man in at all was to show how powerful Sentry is by having him take out one of the big baddies. The problem, in addition to what weak storytelling that is, is that now, almost no one short of a Celestial should be able to beat Sentry. The upcoming Siege (Norman’s invasion of Asgard, starting in January) ought to be a cinch: if Sentry is more powerful than Molecule Man, he’s more powerful than Thor, and probably Odin. Bam. Siege over.

But let’s go one step further: even if Sentry’s powers are greater than Owen’s, he just learned he could manipulate molecules, and then immediately took out the Molecule Man, who has been refining his control over the same power for years. I feel like experience should have meant something in that fight. Consider this: in the classic “Dark Phoenix” saga, Xavier successfully defeats the dark side of Phoenix’s persona during a telepathic battle; he says he was helped because he could feel Jean (later, retconned as just Phoenix’s “good” side) also helping fight against Dark Phoenix, but still, Phoenix is presumably infinitely more power than Xavier, but she was in the infancy of using her power, whereas Xavier was the most honed telepath in the world, if not the universe. By the same token, even if Sentry is stronger than Owen in his ability, Owen’s control of his powers should have made it at least a tough fight.

But whatever. Someone will eventually resurrect Molecule Man; I’m not sure he really even is capable of actually dying. And once Marvel finally takes the Avengers away from Bendis, chances are no other writer will even give a damn about Sentry. But for now, I’m just pissed. Imagine an X-Men writer taking a little-used character (or creating a new one) with vague powers, then having him/her kill Magneto with ease and casually say after the fight, “Turns out I have magnetic powers.” That’s essentially what Bendis did in Dark Avengers #12, only he can get away with it more easily because only a few people like myself are actually well-acquainted with, much less big fans of, Molecule Man. Whatever.

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Dark X-Men #1/2

I gave issue #2 a 3/5; #1 got a 3.5/5. There are some issues with how a couple of the characters are written, and the art is mediocre. But I won’t get into any of that. The only reason I really care about this mini? X-Man, Nate Grey, is back form the dead. I probably could have safely mentioned that in my non-spoiler review, since Nate appears on the cover of issue #2, but I thought I’d shy away from saying who the character returning from the dead is, to be safe.

Anyway, I really liked X-Man, so I’m pretty happy. I understand if people are naturally skeptical; characters die and come back so often that we sometimes get to the point where we would prefer if they just stayed dead. But I rarely mind a character coming back if his/her death seemed pointless (i.e., Wasp in Secret Invasion). And Nate’s death was pointless. Back in 2001, his book, X-Man, was canceled, so Marvel did what all comic companies have often done when a fringe character’s book gets canceled: kill the character off in the final issue. It’s a dumb practice; if the characters had enough of a following that you once thought they deserved their own title, then they probably have enough of a following that unless there’s a legit reason to have them die, you should keep them alive so they can potentially pop up in another book.

What’s more, Nate’s death in X-Man #75 is an easy one to bring him back from, largely because he didn’t really die. His final issue was a little bizarre and hard to explain. He faced an unnamed alien who arrived on earth to harvest energy for his own people by killing everyone on Earth. A small part of the alien was in the unconscious mind of everyone on the planet, so Nate couldn’t kill him; instead, he converted his considerable power into pure energy and overwhelmed the alien within the collective unconscious of the people. A part of him, too, would be in every person’s mind, albeit it as mindless energy without will or thought. But Marvel at least set the grounds for his return even then; as he explained to the alien how he was defeating him — that both of them would continue to exist as harmless energy that could no longer harvest or harm humanity — his final words were: “You and I are going to live forever.”

From that, it’s a pretty easy path to his return that we’re seeing in Dark X-Men. In #1, numerous people started saying “I am X-Man” as Nate’s consciousness started to slowly re-converge. He’s an omega-level mutant, perhaps the most powerful one in the world, so it seems logical enough that he could slowly re-form. He briefly was able to re-form physically at the end of #1, but in #2, he couldn’t hold it, and retreated back into the collective unconscious. But he’s about to re-form again, after learning in #2 what all has happened since his “death”: the Civil War, Osborn and Dark Reign, etc., and he seems to want to make Norman pay for ruining everything.

But the main reason I’m pumped about this is that Nate is just a really good character. He’s a refugee of the Age of Apocalypse timeline, and some people aren’t fans of him for that reason alone. AoA was fairly brilliant, and I know there are many who felt it cheapened that story to have multiple characters (X-Man, Dark Beast, Holocaust, not to mention the reality-hopping Blink) come back into our universe. However, I think in Nate’s case (and Blink’s), it worked. For one, we’ve heard many times about how powerful Cable would be if not for the techno-virus; in X-Man, we get to see that vast power actually realized. Nate developed a close relationship with a version of Madeline Pryor (Jean Grey’s clone), and we got to see a glimpse of the maternal bond Jean never fully developed with Cable. Nate and Franklin Richards were essentially deemed the two most potentially powerful mutants in the world when Onslaught tried to use their power to conquer humanity. And when Nate finally started to fulfill that vast potential, he became a “mutant shaman,” traveling around the world to help his kind. He was like a Bohemian Beyonder — a very cool dynamic.

And now, it looks like he’s about to be back. I don’t know what he’ll end up doing; I don’t see Marvel giving him his own book again, though I hope I’m wrong. The problem with writing someone like Nate is that he’s so powerful that it’s hard to come up with new and entertaining challenges for him. Most of the threats on his level are off-planet, but it would feel weird putting him in space. Maybe he’ll end up just guest starring in various X-books every now and then. But you know what? That’s fine. He doesn’t have to be a major character, and he doesn’t need a book in which to make regular appearances. A lot of great characters go through “limbo” phases when no one is using them. But just because you don’t have any present plans for a character doesn’t mean you just kill him off. Marvel looks to be correcting that mistake in Nate’s case, and I’m glad to see it.

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Flash: Rebirth #5 (of 6)

I don’t want to go on too long about this, but I do want to briefly take issue with Geoff Johns’ big twist in issue #5. As Barry Allen is fighting Zoom — Eobard Thawne, the original Reverse Flash and Barry’s greatest enemy — Zoom reveals that by the time Barry first fought Thawne, Zoom had gone through time and tormented Barry at every stage in his life. We get a montage of Thawne doing everything from making a boy Barry break a bone to the biggie, killing Barry’s mother and framing his father. Zoom goes so far as to say that he’s been behind nearly every bad thing that ever happened to Barry.

Um, ok, dramatic much? Is this revelation really necessary? Lia and I talked a while back about how she likes the way Johns writes the Flash Rogues, but hates that he always feels the need to do some major retcon on all of them. I have to agree with her here. Barry and Thawne have more than plenty of animosity between them already; it doesn’t need some dramatic, overstated revelation to ramp up the level of rivalry. Especially such an impractical one. I mean, really? Nearly every bad thing that happened to Barry before he became Flash was Zoom? The Reverse Flash went back in time and killed Barry’s mom? Why go there? What does that really add? It’s like deciding that Lex Luthor isn’t a big enough Superman villain, so we’ll reveal Lex actually is the one who destroyed Krypton. And let’s say he also raped Clark’s entire family, including Krypto the superdog.

It just doesn’t seem to make any sense, and I hated it.

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Green Lantern Corps. #43

This issue got a 5/5, though it probably should have been a 4.5. #42 also received a perfect score despite a few flaws. In that issue, the Black Lantern attack on Oa went to another level, and when it seemed the Black Lanterns were about to take the Green Lantern central battery, Kyle Rayner sacrificed himself to stop them, dying in an explosion of lantern power that took out hundreds, if not thousands, of Black Lanterns. It was a beautifully tragic moment. Kyle has had the worst luck in relationships ever (all his girlfriend die), and right after finding love again, with Soranik (a fellow Green Lantern, and Sinestro’s daughter), he makes the ultimate sacrifice to do what Green Lanterns always do: save the universe.

In this issue, Kyle’s best friend, Guy Gardner, freaked out over the death. Guy is a great GL himself, and has always been an emotional character. At at the sight of Kyle’s broken, lifeless body, he was so overcome by grief and rage that he became a Red Lantern, quickly going on an insane, bloody rampage against the Black Lanterns (and an annoying/disgusting Sinestro Corps. member named Kryb). If these emotional scenes were all the issue had, it still would have been great.

But that was not all. Soranik, also a talented surgeon, refused to accept Kyle’s death and performed desperate CPR while Kilowag and other GLs fought off Black Lantern rings that were trying to resurrect and zombie-fy Kyle. And with the help of a Star Sapphire member, who was moved by Kyle and Soranik’s love, she actually succeeded; and just like that, Kyle was back. It was a sweet moment, and it was only a short moment: immediately, he was vintage Kyle again, determined to save Guy from the consuming rage of being a Red Lantern.

I imagine some people will find this issue to have felt cheap: one issue after dramatically killing a big name, they immediately bring him back to life. I can understand such criticism, and under different circumstances, I might agree. However, I thought Peter J. Tomasi pulled it off exceptionally well. The death and quick resurrection could have felt like a “psych!” moment, but instead, I thought it felt like a natural story progression.

But mostly, I was glad to see it because I really do love Kyle Rayner. He is, and always will be, my favorite Green Lantern. When I started reading reading comics, he was the only Green Lantern, and he was damn good, too. I know many people will always view Hal Jordan as the quintessential Green Lantern, which is why he was brought back (and the Corps. too). And that’s fine. I didn’t like the idea of Hal’s return at first, but Johns has won me over with some great stories coming out of it. But I’m always going to feel like Kyle is my Green Lantern: the hero I will always prefer and root for. Despite the great character growth Kyle showed in Ron Marz’s Green Lantern, Grant Morrison’s JLA, and Judd Winick’s Green Lantern, some people could never accept Kyle as Hal’s equal. But the best thing about Kyle, and what those people don’t realize, is that he’s never needed to be the larger-than-life persona that Hal is. He’s the everyman, the underdog, the people’s champion.

When Hal came back, many of us assumed Kyle would be killed off or just fade away. Instead, GL Corps gave him and several others a chance to shine. If he had really died like he did in #42, I would have been fine with it. It was a hero’s death, well-written and honorable and in the midst of a crisis — not some convenient plot tool to make room for Hal, like I once feared. But bringing Kyle back, giving him life and the means to continue reaching his vast heroic potential? Well, that’s even better. This is an industry of heroes, and Kyle Rayner is one of the great ones. He’s found his niche, a place to grow and flourish and not worry about being under anyone’s shadow.

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5 Responses to “Spoiler Edition: 12/9 and 12/16 Reviews”

  1. gokitalo Says:

    I’ve only read the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men reviews so far, since those are the only ones I’m fairly sure I won’t buy. But I’ll get to the others in time!

    “He even applied Owen’s power in a way I hadn’t seen before (but liked): rearranging the molecules in Norman Osborn’s brain to drive him crazy (crazier?) with severe nightmares/hallucinations.”

    Clever!

    “Sentry then remarks that he just learned he too can control molecules, and this power is the basis of his mysterious abilities.”

    Oh come on! As if the Sentry weren’t powerful enough. Although I wonder if Bendis was inspired by a recent scientific paper that theoried Superman’s powers were all inertia-based:
    http://www.qwantz.com/fanart/superman.pdf

    However, inertia control and molecule control are still wildly different. The biggest complaint I’ve heard from fans when it comes to the Sentry is that writers seem to have trouble dealing with his sheer power. Unless there’s some kind of limit to the Sentry’s molecule manipulation powers, then Bendis has just increased the power problem substantially.

    Also, you make a pretty good point about the Sentry’s experience (your Dark Phoenix example was excellent). Although if Bendis takes this into account in future stories, this could prevent the Sentry from, say, instantly K.O.ing the Asgardians.

    Onto Dark X-Men… I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other over Nate Grey, but I think the way he’s being brought back is very cool (“I am Nate Grey”… chilling). I feel a little bad for him because I doubt Bendis will use him in “Siege,” but maybe he’ll get to engage in a scuffle with Osborn and co. in this series. Omni-path Nate Grey vs. molecule-controlling Sentry could be a fairly interesting fight, eh?

    One thing I spotted while slightly skimming the other reviews: you spelled Kyle’s last name with an “o.” It’s actually spelled with an “e”: “Rayner,” instead of “Raynor.” No worries, though, people make this mistake a lot.

  2. spiffyithaca Says:

    At first, I thought the addition of Sentry to the Avengers was fascinating. He was this ridiculously unstable and powerful being who could hurt the Avengers/the world as much as he can help them. But this is the type of shit that made me grow tired of him, because he became how Bendis freed himself after writing into a corner (if no one else can stop him, let’s throw Sentry at him after he’s been off masturbating to his wife and the Void).

    So, while I’ve never read anything with Molecule Man in myself, sad stuff, and lame stuff on the part of Bendis.

    Also, it’s sad that Flash and Captain America’s “returns” suck so bad

  3. davidry214 Says:

    Spelling fixed now; thanks Goki. I’m a little surprised you haven’t read Flash yet, but I’m glad now that I put it here, because I almost spoiled it in a regular topic since it’d been out a month.

    I think Spiffy hit the nail on the head with Sentry. Under the right circumstances, the idea of him on the team can (and has been) cool, but when his ridiculous power level starts to become a cop-out, then yeah, he’s more trouble than he’s worth. There are some logical ways Bendis could have kept Sentry around while avoiding this problem, but instead, he’s gone the opposite route, killing an established character to show what a badass his guy is.

    I can’t say I would mind at all if Nate Grey barely shows up in Siege. Given my currents feelings about Bendis, it might be a good thing if he doesn’t write Nate. He’d probably have the Sentry kill him, then announce after the fight that he just realized he was an omega-class telepath. But we’ll at least get X-Man through the rest of the Dark X-Men mini, and then who knows what after that. But like I said, it’s OK for now if he doesn’t have a regular book; at least he’s alive again.

    And yeah, it is too bad about Flash and Cap. But mostly, it’s surprising, considering the writers on each. Geoff Johns is the best Flash writer of at least the past decade, and ditto for Ed Brubaker with Cap. You would think both would deliver better on such big events.

  4. Gokitalo Says:

    I agree. But I have a feeling these are only temporary slumps. I mean, if you look at Blackest Night, it’s clear Geoff has the skills. I’m sure Ed will be back on his game with Cap now that Reborn is done (I heard the most recent issue was pretty good) and he can start the next part of his Cap epic, “Two Americas.”

    Finally had to read Flash a week or two ago. It’s… you know, it didn’t rub me the wrong way quite as much. I think it’s kind of silly that Thawne would actually take his time to go back and push Barry Allen down a flight of stairs or whatever, but going back in time to kill Barry’s mom? You can at least see why he’d do it. Naturally, he didn’t kill Barry because without Barry, you wouldn’t have a Reverse-Flash, but at least he got to hurt his archfoe in a major way. Which bad guys usually enjoy doing.

    That said, I don’t think killing off Barry’s mom was necessary from a writer’s perspective. I know Johns said he did it to show where Barry got his strict sense of justice, but I don’t think he had to “revise” established history to do it. I’m sure there are plenty of other moments in Barry’s youth where he could have fit that in without contradicting anything.

    The new Impulse is kind of cool, although I’m sad Jai’s powerless now. Also, much prefer Jesse Quick’s Liberty Belle costume over hew new, Johnny Quick-inspired one. And I think it’s kind of funny how Wally’s “new” costume is basically his early ’90s costume, white eyes, red shine and all. Or maybe this costume’s just a placeholder until they’re ready to reveal the new one…

  5. davidry214 Says:

    Well, the Zoom retcon is impractical for another reason: apparently, Thawne did all this stuff to Barry when he was a kid, early on in Thawne’s career. Why is he just now telling Barry about it? I mean, how many times have they fought, and how often has Thawne tried to find anything to torture Barry with? If he knew along that he’d murdered Barry’s mother, you wouldn’t think he’d just sit back and say, “Eh, I’ll tell him another time,” especially when any of their battles could have been the last.

    Agreed about Jesse Quick’s Liberty Belle costume being better. So far, she’s still using that one in JSA; hopefully, that’ll continue.

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