1/20/10 Reviews

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The somewhat triumphant return of weekly reviews. Keeping it brief this time around, still.

Reviewed this week:

Blackest Night: The Flash #2 (of 3)

Dark Avengers #13

Fables #92

Green Lantern Corps. #44

Incredible Hercules #140

Joe the Barbarian #1

Phantom Stranger #42

Uncanny X-Men #520

 

Dave’s Best of the Week Spotlight

Incredible Hercules #140

Written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente; art by Rodney Buchemi

RATING: 5/5

I’ve only been reading Hercules for a few months, and it’s already become one of my favorite books. Part 3 (the penultimate chapter) of “Assault on New Olympus” is the best issue I’ve read yet. Herc and Amadeus Cho have an undeniable chemistry that makes the book both hilarious and excitingly dramatic. Buchemi’s art is very solid. Catching up on the rest of this run is now my top trade priority.

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Quick Hits: The Rest of the Week

Fables #92

Written by Bill Willingham; art by David Lapham.

RATING: 4/5

On the whole, not Willingham’s best issue, as he kicked off the two-parter, “Out to the Ball Game.” The “Casey at the Bat” parody was not nearly as clever as it tried to be, and the Gobtown aftermath was more about setting up for next issue. But the great redemption for the issue was the Fly/Red interaction near the end, which was really spectacular, giving the fans what we’ve wanted for quite some time. Lapham’s art is quite good; regular artist Mark Buckingham is often spelled by a guest penciller for a short story here or there, and the Vertigo editors always do a great job of finding a fill-in guy with a style very similar to Buckingham’s.

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Green Lantern Corps #44

Written by Peter J. Tomasi; pencilled by Patrick Gleason.

RATING: 4/5

The second part of “Red Badge of Rage” delivered pretty well, as GL Corps is in the midst of its best stretch since I began reading the book. Gleason’s art is nothing special, and Tomasi’s dialogue problem resurface, as he struggles writing good dialogue during action sequences. But the good far outweighs the bad, with the very interesting Guy Gardner tension and especially the badass Mogo seeing a rare spotlight.

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Dark Avengers #13

Written by Brian Michael Bendis; art by Mike Deodato.

RATING: 3.5/5

The issue was billed as telling the secrets behind the Sentry, and I guess it half delivered. Bendis gives us the behind-the-scenes scoop on Sentry’s psyche, revealing the secrets of the Void. It was a little weird of an explanation, but appropriately dark and pretty good. But as for the secrets behind Sentry’s godlike power? Really no further explanation behind the standard Sentry origin story, and this issue gives the impression that that’s the only explanation we’ll ever get, which would be weak.

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The Phantom Stranger #42

Written by Peter J. Tomasi; pencilled by Adrian Syaf.

RATING: 3.5/5

This is the first of the “resurrected” titles — a series of Blackest Night tie-ins — that I’ve bought, and I enjoyed it. I’ve always been a fan of the Phantom Stranger, who I find fascinating in his mystery and power. Syaf’s pencils were excellent, and for the most part, the story was interesting. I did find the shift in focus from the Spectre to Deadman to be a little jarring and odd, and I’m not sure where this tie-in will fit in the larger scheme of things. But this issue did make me hope for Stranger getting more time in the spotlight soon.

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Uncanny X-Men #520

Written by Matt Fraction; pencilled by Greg Land.

RATING: 3/5

Definitely a mixed bag as “Nation X” continues. Magneto has surprisingly become one of the best characters in the book — particularly his interaction with Scott — as he continues in his most interesting direction in years. On the flip side, though, the Predator X plot plods along without inspiration, featuring a ridiculous augmentation of Wolverine’s abilities. Also, Greg Land is back on the art, which is a very bad thing.

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Blackest Night: The Flash #2 (of 3)

Written by Geoff Johns; art by Scott Kolins

RATING: 2.5/5

I’m afraid this issue has nothing you haven’t already seen over the past six months. Heroes fighting dead characters from their past, yadda yadda. The main miniseries has progressed beyond that formula, but most of the tie-ins have not. The highlight of the issue is a couple of the Rogues parts, particularly Captain Cold near the end. But even with the Rogues, I wouldn’t say Johns and Kolins are at the same level they reached during their Flash run or their reunion on Rogues’ Revenge during Final Crisis.

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Joe the Barbarian #1

Written by Grant Morrison; art by Sean Murphy.

RATING: 1.5/5

It’s an original Vertigo book by Grant Morrison, and the debut issue cost only $1, so it made sense to at least try this. Unfortunately, the first issue was just boring. Murphy’s art is very good and sets an appropriate mood, but the story doesn’t really grab you. I think I get the general idea, and it has some potential, but I’m undecided whether I’ll give it another shot. Morrison has been off his game the past couple years (I like Batman and Robin, but not as much as Goki does, yet), but Vertigo has been a good medium to him before. I don’t know; we’ll see.

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11 Responses to “1/20/10 Reviews”

  1. dillonmania Says:

    Blackest Night Flash: Needed moar zombie Rogues! I was most disappointed by the limited roles of BL Top, Trickster, and Raider, who got to say and do less than freakin’ Firestorm. Bah, I say; I’ve only been waiting to see them since Blackest Night was announced a year and a half ago!

    Anyway, otherwise I liked the issue.

  2. davidry214 Says:

    Holy crap, it’s a Lia sighting! PLEASE DON’T LEAVE US! It’s been a total sausage fest on the blog and message board lately.

    As for BN: Flash, the best parts by far were Cold and Glider, and the Mirror Masters fight was good. But all the parts with Flash himself were dull, IMO. Just more of the same zombie fighting that we’ve had for months, only I care less now.

  3. dillonmania Says:

    Heh sorry, I have a lousy memory and sometimes it just completely slips my mind to come by 😛 You guys should drop me an email if I vanish for a long period of time again.

    I think most people agree that the parts with the Flash were the weakest (at least, that’s the sentiment I’ve been seeing on the net). Personally, I skipped it until my second read-through because I was more interested in the Rogues scenes…not really a surprise there.

    And I did enjoy the Snart stuff and the Mirror Master stuff, but have a couple of complaints about the Snart scene: 1) Johns/Kolins redo some of the flashback panels for the THIRD time, and 2) I’m not crazy about the way Johns has reinterpreted Glider into a victim. If you’ve ever read her original appearances, she was a badass psycho bitch whose only goal in life was to inflict pain on Barry Allen, but if you’d only read the Johns stuff, you’d think she was (mostly) a dainty weak little girl who hero-worshipped her brother and needed him to protect her. This bugs me. Johns has repeatedly written that she wanted to be a Rogue to be like her brother, when originally she just wanted to work solo purely out of revenge for the Top’s death. She didn’t even get along with Cold half the time.

    Anyway, this is one of my many complaints about Johns’ retcons of the Rogues. He’s made a lot.

  4. davidry214 Says:

    I understand your frustration with Johns’ retcons, which he seems to do in nearly all his books. I bitched about one of his Rogues retcons recently:
    https://gokisgiving.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/spoiler-edition-129-and-1216-reviews/
    (Skip down to the Flash: Rebirth #5 section.)

    Having said that, the retcons didn’t bug me as much in this issue. For the Mirror Master stuff, I didn’t really even notice (which will often be the case for me, since I don’t know the Rogues remotely as well as you). As for Glider, it seemed almost as much like a plot device as a retcon. In this issue, she appeared to just want to say anything she could to evoke a reaction from Cold. But if that writing was more of a continuation of past charactizaton problems from Johns, then I see where you’re coming from.

    You should do a post on all your Rogues grievances. Make it nice and long; get all that anger out. Especially because Johns now checks our blog (things change when you go away for a while).

  5. dillonmania Says:

    Yeah, I’m definitely not a fan of the Prof-Zoom-killed-Barry’s-mom retcon at all. I could ramble for paragraphs on why it’s stupid and harmful to the Flashverse. The rest of his time-travelling troublemaking I can live with.

    I get that in this issue zombie Glider was trying to evoke a reaction from Cold, so I cut it a bit of slack here, but it’s part of a problematic writing/retcon trend that really bothers me. It’s also referenced in Rogues’ Revenge and the Cold solo issue in Flash #182. The funny thing is, Johns is even retconning his own stuff, because in his very first Flash story arc, he has Cold monologuing about how much his sister pissed him off and he’s glad she’s dead :> (he also says his dad didn’t drink much).

    Yes, I should write an essay on it…there are several Rogues-related topics I’ve been meaning to write essays on, but never get around to. A while ago I did a piece about Johns’ retcons to the Top:
    http://liabrown.livejournal.com/286424.html

  6. Gokitalo Says:

    I was totally working on a review post myself, but I only had it partly written on a sheet of paper. Now I can just sit back and not worry about it!

    I actually thought Blackest Night: Flash #2 was a step up over the previous issue. A lot more action, nice character bits (the Cold/Glider scene and the Mirror Master vs. Mirror Master fight) and clever twists (Top and Wizard’s secret plan, the last-minute appearance of you-know-who at the end). Wally also gets an awesome scene… and the original Capn B. shows up! True, the Rogues are doing the same zombie-fighting everyone else is doing, but I think what makes these encounters unique are the unique personalities at work. Captain Cold vs. Zombie Hawkman would’ve had a completely different dynamic than Captain Cold vs. Zombie Rainbow Glider, you know?

    I also dug Joe the Barbarian. The issue wasn’t very fast-paced, sure, but it was a very deliberate choice. We had to see Joe’s boring, empty existence before we can jump into the fantasy stuff, I think. Sean Murphy’ art was great; loved the detail and the unique camera angles he used to show the vast emptiness of Joe’s home/life. Plus it was fun picking out all the toys and posters!

    As for Geoff’s retcons… yeah, those can be a little aggravating sometimes. I might even argue his Flash retcons pale a bit to what he’s done over in Green Lantern, where he completely rewrote Hal’s and Black Hand’s origins. He’s doing this with Superman right now in Secret Origin, but to be fair, he’s far from the first.

  7. davidry214 Says:

    Well Goki, always feel free to post your own reviews, regardless of what I do. Hell, I’d appreciate it, even. I think it’d be great to have more perspectives than just mine and the shorter ones in the comments section.

    And Lia, great Top essay. The only part of that whole series of retcons that I really heard anything about was the reformed Rogues, because undoing their changes of heart has had such far-reaching implications. I don’t care much for Trickster anyway, and although the explanation was weak, I kinda like Heat Wave being a Rogue again (creating a nice trio at the head of the Rogues, with him, Cap Cold, and Wizard). But Piper particularly bothered me. And now he’s just kind of hanging out there, barely on the good side of the fence, until Johns makes his next change.

    Another interesting part of your Top essay: I knew, of course, that the Barry’s mom’s murder was a new addition. But within your essay, you mention a Johns issue where he even flashbacks to Barry’s dad and mom being at least middle-aged together. That makes me hate the new Zoom retcon all the more: Johns himself even acknowledged the old status quo, and now he’s doing such a major change? And like Goki mentioned, he’s done several very significant Green Lantern retcons, at least half of which have annoyed me (Parallax will always be the worst one). It’s very frustrating, because he really is an incredibly gifted writer: good story structure, a nice command of dialogue, and the ability to build up to and capture some great heroic moments. But at the same time, it’s like he’s schizophrenic, twitching around and meddling with the past, even his own stories, often for little or no discernible reason. I blame his editors at least as much as Johns himself; part of their job, supposedly, if to keep stories going down a linear, consistent path.

    And as for Joe the Barbarian, I still have to disagree. I’m fine with comics moving slowly and deliberately, if it’s for a reason. But the first issue of a new book needs to give you a little more to go on; if you had no idea what the book was going to be about, which I did not, would you really be that captivated? Over the course of twenty-some issues, we see a kid with a mundane life who likes to draw, then something weird and slightly hard to follow happens at the end. Murphy’s art sets a perfect mood, but at some point, the story itself needs to build at least a little. Otherwise, there’s not much reason to come back for a second issue. If this were some unknown writer instead of Grant Morrison, I doubt I’d even consider continuing much.

  8. spiffyithaca Says:

    I have a feeling that if it wasn’t Grant Morrison, not only would neither of you have read it, but if you had, neither of you would’ve given a shit about #2.

    But that’s Grant Morrison.

    Feel free to move on with your lives. I think I had a point there, but Justin Bieber came on itunes.

  9. spiffyithaca Says:

    And I’m psyched you love Incredible Herc, AA. I know I considered it every month and told you to do the same, but you were skeptical in the least (I think you made fun of me instead). This is the type of comic that sounds right in my wheelhouse. I love it’s made Hercules relevant. Fuck Steve Rogers, make him the leader of the Avengers.

    Yeah.

  10. davidry214 Says:

    Well, if you looked at the Hercules solit for April, you might see that’s unlikely. but still, a very good series; I’m going to try to get some of the trades.

  11. Weekly Recommendations for Feb. 17, 2010 « Eat More Comics Says:

    […] and I came away with very different views on the first issue of this Vertigo iniseries by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy.  It’ll fall […]

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