Wednesday, December 31, 2008

War Machine #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: War Machine #1, in a special pre-release review (the issue hits stands on Friday), about which I write the following sentences: "But even though the art fits the tone of the story, and even though the War-Machine-as-
Armed-Punisher concept is clearly established, that's really all there is in this first issue. It's quite possible that this series will take a turn in a new direction, since a hyper-violent War Machine seems like a pretty shallow basis for an ongoing series, but we don't get anything other than grim declarations and explosions in issue #1.

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gigantic #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Gigantic #2, about which I write the following sentences: "Its high concept 'Godzilla' meets 'Truman Show' approach -- the basic scenario is that the Earth was created as a reality show for aliens to watch, and they've injected a monster into the middle of it to boost ratings -- works well because it's simple and it's pretty damn cool. It's a concept that even my seven-year-old son can grasp, and he thoroughly enjoyed the first two issues as much as I did. But Rick Remender doesn't stop working after he's set the high concept loose. One of the things that makes this comic rise above the simplicity of its concept is that Remender includes evocative details that bring the concept to vivid, multi-colored life."

Read the entire review HERE.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Exotic Tastes for Comic Books

Apparently, I have wildly unorthodox tastes in comics (even though I think my tastes are approximately 90% mainstream and 10% quirky and 100% correct) because CBR just posted Part One of the big "Best 100 Comics of 2008" list, and two of my Top 10 picks didn't even crack the Top 90, which means, I suspect, that nobody else voted for them besides me.

Thus, we get a list in which Powr Mastrs (#98, and not for everyone, I'll admit) and Local (#91, and which is for everyone) get bested by the likes of Judd Winick's Green Arrow/Black Canary (#89) and Dwayne McDuffie's JLA (#88).

I wonder what will make the consensus Top 10?

I would assume All-Star Superman would make it, but based on this first batch I really have no idea what else will show up.

I wonder how high Secret Invasion will be. I'll place the over/under at #42. You?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Spirit Review: Frank Miller's Head is a Weapon

When the credits rolled at the end of The Spirit, and Television's Ryan Callahan (visiting for the Holidays from sunny California) handed me my jacket and prepared to leave the theater, I said, "Why leave now? This is the best part."

I was referring to the Frank Miller black-and-white illustrations that accompanied the credits, and I wasn't joking. His bold, blocky pen and ink drawings of the Spirit displayed the stark visual aesthetic that would have made a Frank Miller version of The Spirit worth sitting through for nearly two hours.

I'm on the Geoff Klock train of thought regarding this movie, by the way: there's no point even thinking of it as any kind of adaptation of Will Eisner's work. You basically have to approach it as a new creation by Frank Miller, and by taking that angle you don't have to worry about who's going to be rolling over in any graves.

Even by that standard -- even if you look at The Spirit as a cinematic culmination of the Frank Miller sensibility and nothing more -- this thing is a complete failure as a film.

And as a movie that anyone with a heart, mind, and/or soul would want to spend more than a handful of minutes with, it's an unwatchable disaster.

The Spirit is like Sin City mixed with Looney Tunes, minus the humor.

The Spirit is like those bootleg dvds of student film versions of Batman or Spider-Man stories, but with more inconsistent visual appeal.

The Spirit is the kind of movie that might anger you, physically, in nearly every scene.

The Spirit is Boondock Saints for comic book fans, except maybe even worse.

Did you ever see that fight scene that was screened at San Diego this summer? It was on YouTube for a while, though I can't find it now. It had Sam Jackson and Gabe Macht smacking each other around in a mud flat and it was embarassingly bad? The one with the toilet? That scene comes pretty early on in the film, and it sets the tone for what will be a pretty painful experience at the cinema.

One of the running gags in this movie involves the cloned minions of Sam Jackson's Octopus character. They always have names that end in "-os" and at first we get "Pathos" and "Ethos" and "Logos." They don't last all that long, but one of the perks of clone minions is their nearly endless supply (though a non-hilarious plot point is that the supply won't last forever), and so we get more minions later in the film. Like "Huevos" and "Rancheros" and let's not forget "Dildos." And, at the end, what else would we expect but "Adios" and "Amigos."

Yeah, that's the humor of this movie.

Sam Jackson does tear it up, at least. He is maniacal in all the right ways, like he's performing for a dinner theater crowd who isn't really paying attention. Probably because we're all so engrossed in Gabriel Macht's relentless voice-over about his city. The Spirit and "The City" have a special bond, or so the voice-over keeps telling us. It's a whole lot of meaningless talk -- more in the mold of All-Star Batman and Robin parody than in the mold of any kind of noirish precursors -- and the Spirit will just not shut up about how his city "provides" for him. Sometimes he even turns and addresses the camera, just in case we didn't get the winking tone of the rest of the movie. As bad as all the voice-overs are, at least we get to watch Sam Jackson have all the fun he didn't seem to have playing a Jedi.

In the middle of it all, we get glimpses of how this movie might have worked, maybe. The flashback funeral-for-Denny-Colt sequence shows a visual grace that's missing from most of the film (which, in general, alternates between cheap-looking stagecraft and random bits of Sin City moments for no particular reason). And when the resurrected Denny Colt visits Dolan (played by Dan Lauria -- the dad from The Wonder Years -- who is really goddamn great in the film, by the way), we see a sepia-toned Dolan through a screen door and a Spirit silhouette and the whole thing just works in a way that the rest of the film doesn't.

Sure, the girls are nice. Eva Mendes is beautiful and Miller decks her out in some costumes that show her off, and Scarlett Johansson is a goofy-hot right hand woman for the Octopus, and that's all well and good, but it doesn't make the movie into anything resembling a story worth caring about (emotionally, intellectually, or even aesthetically, really -- not for 103 minutes).

The plot doesn't even try to make sense, even by what we might derisively call "comic book logic" (though we should know better that to use that term, for a variety of reasons). In once scene, the Spirit recognizes Eva Mendes's Sand Seref by the shape of her photocopied ass, even though he hadn't seen her since she was a much, much thinner teenager. It's not a detective movie, I know, but it's not really anything else either.

What it is, ultimately, is a Frank Miller-gasm all over the silver screen. It's his familiar territory (harsh city life, lethal beauties, Nazi iconography, scatology, grimly prosaic narration, bombast) writ large. It is a fiercely Milleresque vision, at least. It doesn't seem the least bit compromised by studio interference, and it certainly doesn't feel like any other movie this year. But it's still not any good.

Miller famously abandoned his Hollywood hopes a couple of decades ago after the Robocop 2 fiasco, only to be lured back by the siren song of Robert Rodriguez's green screen. The thing is, the completely compromised, soulless Robocop 2 is probably a better movie than the uncompromised, soulless The Spirit.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Daredevil #114 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Daredevil #114, about which I write the following sentences: "The legal drama alternates with kung-fu action, as the Black Tarantula follows-up on a White Tiger situation from last issue. Black Tarantula? White Tiger? These are absurd characters -- second rate Daredevils and Black Panthers -- but Brubaker makes them a convincing (even essential) part of Matt Murdock's gritty world."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Christmas Gift to You: Top 10 Comics of 2008

The list you've been waiting for is here: My Top 10 Comics of 2008. Check out the newest installment of "When Words Collide" and find out what you should have been reading, the good stuff you've been reading, and what you completely disagree with. You'll never guess what my number one comic of the year is! Never!

The picture accompanying this post may or may not be a clue.

Hope your holidays are splendiferous!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Greatest Hits #4 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Greatest Hits #4, about which I write the following sentences: "This is a Vertigo superhero comic in the 21st century, so of course it takes a post-postmodern attitude toward the alien invasion. While a first generation superhero deconstruction would have shockingly revealed that the alien invasion was staged as a somewhat futile attempt to sustain the team's waning popularity, 'Greatest Hits' operates under the assumption that, yeah, the alien invasion was probably faked -- that's the word on the streets, and the missing bit of film footage from that adventure seems to indicate something shady went on aboard the mothership. But there are a lot of unanswered questions about the invasion, and we aren't sure how it will all play out in the end, thanks to the twist in the final few pages of issue #4."

Read the entire review HERE.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

DCU Holiday Special #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: DCU Holiday Special #1, about which I write the following sentences: "The rest of the comic is as inconsistent as the first third, with a decent Blue Beetle story followed by an overly pedantic Huntress tale teaching us not to make fun of people with disabilities. A Kevin Maguire-drawn Shaggy Man meets the JLA story is a lot of fun, but it's only a few pages amidst a mass of mediocrity."

Read the entire review HERE.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Supergirl #36 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Supergirl #36, about which I write the following sentences: "Gates has shown that such a Supergirl can still work today, even if the age we live in is far from innocent. What he's done is to establish Kara Zor-El as a good-hearted teenager first, and a superhero second. That isn't to say that we get pages and pages of Supergirl in street clothes, though Gates has found a way to give her a civilian identity. But even when she's in her superhero garb, she's a young woman trying to figure out her place in the world. The question of identity is implicit in the character of Superman -- is he Clark Kent dressing up as a hero, or is he a Kryptonian pretending to be Clark Kent? -- but the question isn't central to the character. It is central to the character of Supergirl. And it should be, because we don't need a younger, female copy of Superman. Her character serves a different narrative purpose, and the exploration of identity is the core of that."

Read the entire review HERE.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Have an Esoteric Christmas!

I'll be a little light on posting for the next week or so -- I'm going to try to post something every day still, but I did miss yesterday, and I might miss another day or two this week because I'm, you know, busy with the holidays like everyone else.

But here's a little something to bring holiday cheer into your heart. It's a little Christmas card sketch from my collaborator Simone Guglielmini poking a bit of fun at some monsters from a project we're working on right now.

Simone and I wish you all a very Esoteric Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ghost Rider #30 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Ghost Rider #30, about which I write the following sentences: "Aaron has established what he terms (in the letters page, at least) the 'Ghost Rider Survival Squad' -- the last remaining spirits of vengeance who stand united against the threat of Danny Ketch. I have to admit: Aaron trapped me into thinking that this comic was starting to fall into a rut. The first half of this issue is pretty straightforward spirit-of-vengeance-on-spirit-of-vengeance action. The bizarre look of the characters make it visually interesting, but there's not much more than an extended series of fight and flight scenes for the first dozen pages. But halfway through 'Ghost Rider' #30, Aaron and Huat reveal a new layer of meaning, and show a different side of the Ghost Rider mythology in spectacular fashion."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thunderbolts #127 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Thunderbolts #127, about which I write the following sentences: "Diggle and Roberto De La Torre have reinvigorated that dynamic, mostly by letting the characters unleash their inner rage, and by giving Moonstone the most vicious turns of all. Last issue, Moonstone vocalized fanboy rage in her devastating emotional attack on Penance (pointing out the pathetic absurdity of his new persona), and in this issue she is the puppet master pulling the strings on what remains of the Thunderbolts squad. Things are falling apart for Osborn's team, and Diggle and De La Torre revel in it."

Read the entire review HERE.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WWC: Top 20 Comics of 2008 -- #20-#11

My Best Comics of 2008 countdown begins today, with #20 through #11. What's on the list? What did I save for the Top 10 next week? How awesome is the All-New Orb? How many non-superhero comics will make the cut?

All these questions answered, partially, a little bit, kinda, in this week's "When Words Collide."

Because if I don't give you a "Best of" list, who will?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

WWC End of the Year Blowout!

So tomorrow's installment of "When Words Collide" is ready to run, and what was going to be my rundown of the Top 20 comics of 2008 expanded into a Two-Part(!) exploration of the Top 20 comics of 2008. So counting down starting tomorrow you'll get #20-#11, and then #10-#1 just in time for Christmas.

Let's see how well you know me: What's going to make my Top 20??? (Chad Nevett need not apply, since I already told him my Top 10 -- you can guess on the rest, though, Chad.)

Also, for my final column of the year, I'm going to highlight 15 Creators to Watch in '09, and though I already have a list of more than 15 in mind, I'm curious about who you think should make that list. What comic book writers or artists should have a breakout year (or continue to do brilliant work) in 2009? Let me know who I'm likely to forget.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wolverine, Batman, and Harry's Moustache

1. So Jason Aaron's writing a new Wolverine ongoing next year called "Wolverine: Weapon X"? And it will be to Wolverine what Fraction's "Invincible Iron Man" was to Iron Man? That sounds good to me. I will buy the heck out of it.

2. And now Rich Johnson reports that Grant Morrison WILL be returning to Batman, with Frank Quitely as the artist? I might possibly check out that series too.

3. But I've been reading my Lee/Romita-era "Spider-Man Masterworks" recently, and I have to say that though the current "Amazing Spider-Man" series kind of recalls the late phase of that era, it can't possibly recapture the spirit of that time until Harry Osborn grows back his "fu manchu" moustache. It was a pretty sweet look for him, and I think it's time to bring it back for a new generation.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Final Crisis #5 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE (Part II) is still undergoing reconstruction, so Chad Nevett and I have temporarily moved "The Splash Page" to our blogs. The first half of our Final Crisis #5 chat is at GraphiContent, and the second half is below:

Of course, I've read Jog's take. His blog is among my usual "just woke up and want to read what others have to say about comics" rounds. Your question is one I've been struggling with for a long time, way before Final Crisis: how to explain something is awesome. I'm awful at that, especially because I always find myself using the same descriptors as those who hated what I so dearly loved. When you both use the same words to describe opposite reactions, is there any way to actually communicate meaningfully about a work?

I honestly don't know what to tell the Kennys of the world. In previous columns, we've discussed the techniques that Morrison uses in this book, which is a compressed sort found in his JLA work (were these people complaining about not understand things then?) plus loads others. The more I think about it, the more I don't see what's so confusing about this series, or this issue, which is pretty damn straight forward in that most of it is the forces of Darkseid versus the heroes. As it continues, it gets simpler, because Morrison reveals more... my advice, actually, is, if you aren't following along by this point, give up. A horribly pessimistic message that shows an odd snobbish cynicism, but we're five issues in and if things aren't making sense, I'm not sure they ever will. Grant Morrison is not known for ending that nicely and neatly tell the reader exactly what it all means. He does wrap things up, but it's in the same manner in which he's told the entire story. So, yeah, I have no means of helping those still lost. Maybe that's why I didn't go into teaching. But, you did, Tim, so do you have any ideas?

TC: Damn you, Nevett and your discussion-akido. I don't think I can really help the Kennys of the world either, beyond explaining the things that we've already explained in previous installments of "The Splash Page," but here's a list of things that make Final Crisis good: The way Morrison pulls in all levels of the DCU, from the street-level to the cosmic; J. G. Jones's almost tactile sense of dread; Carlos Pacheco's fluid panel compositions; Morrison's slow unfolding of the evil followed by the rapid acceleration of Darkseid's takeover of the Earth; the bastions of superheroism forming a resistance; Hal Jordan with 24 hours to save the world; The Super-Young Team's dramatic entrance; Rubik's Cube as Mother Box; Corruption vs. innocence; The way we jump from scene to scene without banal explanation.

These are all things that make Final Crisis work so well, but as you say, these are some of the same things that people complain about. And our sense of reality is skewed, as you know, since we appreciate the fact that this series draws upon Morrison's other work. Does this series work at all as an independent piece of superhero fiction? I've always assumed so, but others disagree. Yet that final page of issue #5 seems like a good litmus test for any potential reader, past, present, or future. If you don't think Nix Uotan's new look on that final page looks exceptionally cool -- and implies more excitement and imagination to follow -- than you probably won't be in tune with this series.

CN: I can't speak to how well this book works on its own since, like you, I've read what's come before. I pick up on the various references to Morrison's runs on JLA, Seven Soldiers and Batman. Would I be lost without that foreknowledge? Nah, because this book isn't half as difficult as some say it is, but I wouldn't be "getting it" as much as I am either. But, what piece of fiction, particularly corporate shared-universe superhero fiction, doesn't rely on what came before and subtle allusions to communicate its ideas to the reader? Unlike other books, this one doesn't just reference other big events or the "main" titles, it references "obscure" things like Seven Soldiers that, yeah, you should have been reading, because it was damn good. However, I don't think the actual plot references previous works to an extent that it actively hinders reading. I think the techniques Morrison uses probably cause more problems than quick allusions.

For the record, I love Nix Uotan's new look. I was wondering when it was going to show up since I flipped through the Final Crisis Sketchbook last week. The Fifth World superhero/god has arrived! I really enjoyed the two pages before that with Darkseid taking over half of the world with a visual allusion to Marvel Boy #2 where Noh-Varr and Plexus took control of the minds of New Yorkers to defeat the final Bannerman... striking with one fist and such. See, I got that, but does not getting it hurt the scene? Not at all! I think people get too hung up on the idea that there is so much going on with fast cuts and short scenes that there must be tons of things shown elsewhere key to understanding what's going on when there aren't. There really are not. I can only think of one: Metron is the guy in the wheelchair who solves the Rubik's cube in 17 moves. I think that may be the only thing that having read previous Morrison work actually provides needed insight. The rest is pretty self-explanatory if you've read the previous four issues.

TC: I didn't remember that it was Metron in the chair when I read the issue, and it affected my reaction to the book not at all. When I later read online that it was the Metron from Morrison's Mister Miracle I just though, "oh, that's right." It is a bit confusing because a dialogue tag seems to be pointed in the wrong direction during the Rubik's Cube sequence, but whether you know about Metron is irrelevant to understanding the plot. The guy has solved the cube in an impossible way, he has broken free of spacetime. Things are unfolding. It's all good. Great, even.

X-Men/Spider-Man #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: X-Men/Spider-Man #2, about which I write the following sentences: "If this comic was nothing more than Alberti pin-ups, I'd probably still enthusiastically recommend it, but the story (as purposely formulaic as it is) is pretty good too. Each issue jumps to a different moment in the lives of these characters, and Mr. Sinister -- working behind the scenes (since the 1960s, by the looks of things, although it's obviously not meant to be 40 years ago in comic book continuity) -- is the thread that weaves each issue together. Gage does a nice job with the characterizations here. He doesn't give himself much to work with, as it's mostly just a big fight scene, but since the plot allows Alberti a chance to show his stuff, it's difficult to fault the comic for having too much action."

Read the entire review HERE.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Green Arrow/Black Canary #15 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Green Arrow/Black Canary #15, about which I write the following sentences: "Because this feels a lot like a Judd Winick-written comic, otherwise. It has the same awkward tonal shifts that characterized Winick's run, as Dinah makes jokes with a knife slicing into her throat, and as the word 'condom' deflates an otherwise sentimental moment. It has a moment of inexplicable violence (or implied consequences of violence) on the final page, just like the one this series began with. If I didn't see Kreisberg's name on the credits, I would have assumed it was the same writer as the previous fourteen issues."

Read the entire review HERE.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Detective Comics #851 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Detective Comics #851, about which I write the following sentences: "So Batman's M.I.A., and Nightwing is on the case. It's a Nightwing comic masquerading as a Batman story, and it offers nothing you couldn't get from an average issue of his own soon-to-be-cancelled series. O'Neil is an efficient storyteller, using narrative captions and dialogue to move the story along and explain everything along the way, but there's little thematic substance here. It's just another story about a Gotham City madman and a costumed vigilante on the prowl."

Read the entire review HERE.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Now, Get that Corpse Out of the Trunk and Come to Dinner

Fishtown's Kevin Colden has landed an "instant winner" on Zuda Comics, which means that there's no voting, there's no stuffing the ballot boxes, there's no spamming everyone on MySpace. His "I Rule the Night" will appear week in, week out, on, and guess what? It's good.

It's a deranged take on a post-Bruce Wayne Batman kind of mythos, with the names changed to protect the innocent (and guilty). It's superheroics the way Kevin Colden sees superheroics, which is not all that heroic (though still kinda super).

It's only eight pages so far, but it's a nice start to a series that I'll be sure to check out every Thursday.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1, about which I write the following sentences: "'Secret Invasion: Dark Reign' #1 is another example of a new genre spawned by Bendis a few years back, a genre I will dub 'superhero board room.' In superhero board room, a group of costumed characters get together and talk a lot. There's usually more distrust and doubt than effective collaboration. And because it's all based on dialogue, Bendis is in his element. Now, like the 'Illuminati' before it, "Secret Invasion: Dark Reign" #1 isn't all board room conversation, but the discussion around the table is its main reason for being, and it works pretty well. We learn what we need to learn and see how these relationships might play out in the coming year."

Read the entire review HERE.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When Words Collide: Best of 2008 Collected Editions

Thus, it begins.

My 2008 "Best of" lists, that is. In this week's "When Words Collide," I count down the Top 20 Collected Editions of 2008.

Why do it before the end of the year? (1) I've looked at the release schedule and I don't think anything else will dethrone these 20 in the next two weeks, and (2) You'll soon be absolutely bombarded with "Best of" lists -- they've already started to trickle out -- and that means it's time to act!

As the CBR blurb states, I have kind of an eclectic list. Not REALLY eclectic, as it's still Marvel/DC heavy, relatively speaking, but I do throw in a few choices that, while obvious to some, might make the mainstream crowd scratch their heads.

And since writing the list last week, I did read one other collected edition that might have had a chance to crack the Top 20: American Elf Vol. 3. But even that would have landed just outside the 20 best, so no worries -- the list is still accurate! Admit it, you were a little worried, right?

Anyway, enjoy the list and buy all the collected editions and read 'em up.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Splash Page Exclusive: Secret Invasion #8

A few technical problems prevented this week's "Splash Page" column from appearing at, so Chad and I decided to run it as a MAJOR, EARTH-SHATTERING, CROSS-BLOGGING EVENT! We discuss the finale of Secret Invasion. Part I is below, and Chad has posted Part II on his blog, which I link to at the bottom of our chat here. Enjoy!

Chad Nevett: The event years in the making has finally ended and I kind of dug the ending to the Skrull invasion, which, when you think about it, was a pretty awful invasion. My god, they were taken down rather quickly, weren't they? For a race of shapeshifters who can blend in and take over completely in secret, they were very out in the open and obvious. Probably why they lost. Silly aliens, don't you know not to mess with Norman Osborn, director of H.A.M.M.E.R.? Tony Stark does... and didn't the end of this issue seem like a purposeful throwback to the end of Civil War? There's plenty there, but what I really want to know is what you thought of this issue, Tim, so please share.

Tim Callahan: I was woefully disappointed, actually. The big conclusion was to describe what happened between issues? "So, yeah, after the Wasp went all spazzy, the fight got really good, and then Norman Osborn blasted the Skrull Queen, and boy, that was a good time, wasn't it?" I don't understand that narrative decision at all. The whole series built up to be the last stand of humanity (and mutantdom) against the Skrull army (which has COMPLETELY infiltrated the world's mass-media -- even Oprah!), and the last stand happens between issues and is then talked about at the beginning of this issue?

It's a baffling decision to me. (And I know there was a big fight last issue, but it was just guys showing up and punching eachother -- there was nothing special about it.)

But I guess Bendis finds people talking about epic battles to be more interesting than the epic battles themselves. That fits his modus operandi, but it doesn't make it any less weak of a climax/resolution.

And I still don't understand the in-story explanation for how the Skrulls were so quickly dispatched, either. They had spent years and years infiltrating every level of world government and media and superhero teams and secret agencies, and then that was somehow all resolved by shooting the Spider-Woman/Skrull Queen and then blowing up a few ships?

CN: Honestly, the Skrull defeat bothers me, too, and has me thinking that we'll see random Skrull sleeper agents show up in the future. Although, I will point out that just because Skrulls on TV looked like famous people, it doesn't mean they replaced those people... they are shapeshifters and one of the people in that two-page sequence was Tony Stark who we all know wasn't replaced by a Skrull. But, yeah, they were defeated rather easily, especially those fancy Super-Skrulls that combined the powers of various Marvel characters.
And, you know what, part of me really wished that the ending would be the Kree showing up in response to the messages Noh-Varr sent out, and they take over with Noh-Varr finally making good on his promise to remake Earth in the image of his home. But, then I'd be bitching about how Noh-Varr comes from an alternate reality where the Kree are millenia beyond where they are now and why would he want anything to do with any of these primative peoples who think crudely and only know small words...

To be fair, there are still Skrulls out there. JarviSkrull still has little Danielle Cage and who knows how many more are in hiding, waiting for their moment to strike?
What do you think of the rise of Norman Osborn and the fall of Tony Stark?

Before I get to your last question, I want to talk a bit more about Skrulls, because, really, we haven't had enough of them lately. Yeah, I realize that the mass Skrull broadcast doesn't imply that those people were actually replaced by Skrulls, but it does imply that Skrulls have infiltrated the media ranks at least to some extent, I think. I mean they could have just transmitted the signal from their Skrull ship, but the whole "Embrace Change" campaign (which even flooded into our world!) had to have been the work of some Skrull agents working from within. My point is that all the Skrulls weren't in Central Park or on board the space ships. So what about the rest of them? It's like declaring "Mission Accomplished" years and years before the battles stopped.

And since the Kree didn't show up at the end, what was the point of all the Noh-Varr stuff, then? Why even bother to use him as part of the series, I wonder.

So, getting back to your question, I think the rise of Norman Osborn and the fall of Tony Stark happened way too fast. I don't think it sets up Dark Reign all that well. I mean, it does it efficiently, true, but the whole very sudden "Stark's out. Osborn's in" approach just seemed unearned. It needed to be explored a bit more. Once again, if it was shown and not told about, it would have been more effective I think.

I'm still just really baffled by the way this final issue felt like a synopsis of some longer story that was never told, yet the previous issue of this series felt like they were just treading water. Why not pace the series to actually show the story Bendis wanted to tell, instead of a whole lot of nothing and then, quickly, "yeah, all this other stuff happened really fast, so we're just going to recap it with narration"? I think it's a terrible narrative choice for an event book and a terrible choice for any kind of story at all.

And what about Mockingbird showing up alive? How is that earned either? She just randomly happens to be alive?

CONTINUED AT GraphiContent!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Moon Knight: Silent Knight #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Moon Knight: Silent Knight #1, about which I write the following sentences: "This story is predicated on emotional moments and a tragic sense of loss, so I don't want to outline too many plot points which would undercut the thematic resonance, but the gist of the story is this: Moon Knight, haunted by Khonshu (who appears as a gruesome Christmas elf, much to Moon Knight's disdain), allows himself a moment of sentimentality, and more than a few people pay the price. It's an action comic that keeps almost all the action off-panel. We see the effects of the violence, but we don't see how it happens. And that's an approach that fits this story well. But, because of that choice, it doesn't quite have the visceral power of the Punisher holiday special. It's more subtle this way, though, and if you're looking for a quiet, meditative Moon Knight story, this is the one for you."

Read the entire review HERE.

Where Did You Go, George De Santis?

We got our Christmas tree yesterday, and to make room for it, I had to move the kids toy bins down into the basement, and to make room in the basement I had to organize things a bit. Anyway, I found a box of old books that were read to me when I was a child -- books I kind of forgot I even had, ones that kind of slipped through the parenthood cracks, because I could have been reading these books to my kids if I knew I still had these beat up old hardcovers in the basement.

I didn't really look through the books too closely, because I wanted to get that Christmas tree up and watered, but this book, The Littlest Snowman, immediately brought back a whole bunch of memories, and I knew I'd have to rescue it for bedtime reading last night.

I read it to my daughter, and she loved it! Although I couldn't remember the exact plot of the book, the images were vividly familiar, and I don't know how often I looked at this book as a child, but it sure made a lasting impression. To me, children's books should all look like this one, with its the ephemeral innocence of the George De Santis illustrations.

The story is a strange one, about a snowman who fills up on ice cream just so he can sacrifice himself to bring about a white Christmas. Oh, sorry, SPOILER! Anyway, the book is long out of print as far as I know, and I was so fascinated by the look of George De Santis's artwork, that I hopped online to find out more about him after my daughter went to bed. I couldn't find anything (other than a couple of other great-looking books that he illustrated). He's not famous enough to warrant critical attention, and he's kind of been forgotten by now. But critical revival of De Santis, I'm ready for you!

If I find out more about the guy, I'll let you know. Until then, here are some beautiful images from The Littlest Snowman:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Haunted Tank #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Haunted Tank #1, about which I write the following sentences: "Early on in the comic there's a great scene, hilariously illustrated by Henry Flint (whose work here looks better than I've ever seen it before -- and looks very different from the style he employed on 'Omega Men'), in which the ghost of General Jeb puts his hand on the white soldier (Johnson) assuming him to be the descendent he's supposed to help. When he realizes that the black soldier is the one bearing the name of Stuart, Jeb's eyes open wide, and he can only whimper, 'A mistake has been made,' in total confusion. The scene works wonderfully, and it deflates the pompous ghost General with perfection."

Read the entire review HERE.

Eric Nguyen's Eternals: Acuna No More

I mentioned the other day that Eternals #6 was a strong finish for the first story arc (which I hadn't liked that much until that finale), and that I was pretty much just buying the comic for the Acuna art. Now I understand that Acuna is off the book, and Eric Nguyen is the new artist (at least for the next three issues). Nguyen is an AWESOME choice. The first issue of Gigantic was one of the best-looking debuts I've seen in a long time, and I'll keep buying Eternals just for his art. I'm sure the series isn't long for this world anyway, but at least we'll end up with a bunch of pretty-looking issues before it dies.

But what's Daniel Acuna doing next? I see him listed on an upcoming Uncanny X-Men Annual, and I've heard that he might be doing some Iron Man with Fraction (which I would love to see). Anyone know anything about that or any other upcoming Acuna work?

Joe Gaultieri Called it in September

Just for the record, this is what Joe Gaultieri left as a comment from my Skrull-centric post of SEPTEMBER 21st, 2008: "I've heard a rumour that 'Dark Reign' refers to Norman Osborn being made the new head of SHIELD. After all, Stark can't very well be left in charge when a relience on Starktech was one reason the Skrulls managed as well as they have."

That rumor you heard was pretty spot on, eh Joe?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Punisher Max X-Mas Special #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Punisher Max X-Mas Special #1, about which I write the following sentences: "Aaron's surprisingly layered story -- it's not surprising for anyone who's been reading his work regularly, but might surprise those that picked up the comic based purely on the title and cover art -- works because the resonant subtext does not overwhelm the surface narrative. It reads as a great Frank Castle blood-and-guts tale, but it also has a meaningful connection to Christmas that goes beyond the tree trimmings and the red fluffy suit."

Read the entire review HERE.

X-Infernus #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: X-Infernus #1 about which I write the following sentences: "C. B. Cebulski has made 'X-Infernus' #1 accessible, dramatic, and fun. I've dipped in and out of some of the Illyana Rasputin in Hell (or Limbo, or whatever) stories over the past couple of decades, and they tend to be portentous and epically tragic. That's fine, but it often made the stories turgid and overly thick with Faustian drama. In 'X-Infernus,' Cebulski keeps the dramatic undertone, but there's a swift-moving quality to the pace of the comic that keeps it from getting bogged down in continuity quagmires or mythic-tragic solemnity."

Read the entire review HERE.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Eternals #6 and Terror Titans #3

I don't know if anyone else is reading these two comics, but even though I haven't liked Eternals much so far (but keep buying it because of the Acuna art), I found issue #6 to be quite a powerful resolution to the first story arc. It was worth hanging around for.

And the other comic is Terror Titans #3, which was also quite good, featuring some interesting bits of supervillain legacy and the first in-continuity DCU appearance (as far as I know) of Static! I don't know why I have an exclamation point there, but it seems important somehow.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

All the Scientists Are Running Around: Batman #682 Review

I'm not assigned to review Batman #682 for CBR, and now that "Batman R.I.P." is over, I'm not going to be doing any more annotations for Morrison's Batman run (and, let's be honest, my annotations had devolved into snarky commentary punctuated by the occasional moment of clarity, anyway).

But I'll talk about this issue anyway, not only because it has my favorite Alex Ross Batman cover, ever. Does anyone else love the day-glow cover as much as I do? It's such a brilliant contrast to the solemn covers of most of the "R.I.P." arc.

So after Morrison's ambiguous ending to "Batman R.I.P." in which he clearly revealed that Dr. Hurt, the leader of the Black Glove organization, was actually the Devil -- okay, it wasn't clear, and Hurt may not be the Devil at all, but it was whatever it was -- Morrison comes back a week later with an issue that is all fragmented memories and sense impressions.

It's not going to help you clear anything up, if the last issue left you with any questions.

Although, SPOILER, Batman is alive. Bet you didn't see that coming! Yup, it turns out that he's alive, and jacked into a Apokoliptic machine for something called "Final Crisis." I'm not sure what that is, but I think there used to be a comic book by that name that started coming out and then kinda stopped. I'll get back to you if I find out more.

Digression #1: Did y'all read the Mike Marts interview at IGN? I love Mike Marts. He does confirm that "that all signs are pointing towards Dr. Hurt not being Thomas Wayne." And he talks about Morrison's future (maybe) return on the book, possibly.

Anyway, back to issue #682. It is indeed a Final Crisis crossover issue, but since Batman pretty much spends Final Crisis out of commission, trapped in a contraption o' life-suckery -- or, as we find out, memory suckery. Because the bad guys want to build an army of Batmen, and they know that the secret to Batman's awesomeness lies not in his DNA, but in his mind.

So we get this issue, which is a "best of" episode -- a clip show -- filtered through Grant Morrison's include-and-transcend approach. This is Morrison running through the highlights of Batman's life, putting all the discordant bits into a single, highly fractured, narrative.

A key visual sequence that gives you a sense of Morrison's approach here: on page two, Alfred cleans up the infamous bat that flew through the infamous window from the infamous origin story. He scoops the smallish bat up with the dust pan and throws a much, much larger bat away with a shovel. It's the Bob Kane bat transforming into the Frank Miller bat in a three-panel sequence. It's a dream-like, highly impressionistic retelling of Batman's history, and we get different eras explored in single panels, and even alternate realities that we've never before seen. (Like when Alfred imagines the variations of Batmen that never were.)

Digression #2: I may not be doing annotations this time, but David Uzumeri is.

I don't know what to make of this issue. It's too incomplete on its own, and it's not even a coda for "Batman R.I.P." really. It's a Morrisonian symbolism issue, like the Rebis spotlight from Doom Patrol #54. In the Rebis issue, the visual cues tied into the symbolism of the alchemical marriage, and it ultimately provided a link which would send Rebis back to Earth, "healed" and ready for action. Maybe that's what's happening here, as Batman is psychically healing after the events of "R.I.P." But because he's Batman, he can only heal by overcoming an obstacle -- in this case, a Jack Kirby villain lodged in his psyche, pretending to be Alfred.

Does that imply that Alfred in Morrison's previous issues was something more that he seemed? Has "The Lump" been affecting Batman's mind for more than this issue? Was Morrison's entire run a bat-dream triggered by one of Darkseid's machines?

I really have no idea at this point, though I suspect there are no simple answers to any of those questions.

I would like to note, however, that the thing Batman is hooked up to on the final page looks suspiciously like a fiction suit.

X-Men Noir #1 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: X-Men Noir #1 about which I write the following sentences: "This comic has David Niven playing a role, and Adrian Brody as the 'Gambit' character -- albeit one with a tuxedo instead of a pink costume and trenchcoat. I'm sure I'm leaving out some other notable faces, but it's really very similar to the style Greg Land has used so egregiously since the post-CrossGen days. And Calero sometimes repeats the same exact panel multiple times on a page, without variation. I understand that it's an artistic choice, and it may indicate a passivity within a scene, but body language is an important part of storytelling, and having both characters in a scene sit in the same pose for panel after panel is a poor way to tell this particular story."

Read the entire review HERE.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

When Words Collide: Being Frank Castle

I guess it's Punisher Week over at CBR, what with all the ads and the press for the "War Zone" film. I didn't know that was going to happen, but I knew the Punisher was in my brain this week, after spending the Thanksgiving weekend cuddling up with the new Omnibus edition.

So you get me writing about Steven Grant and Mike Zeck. You get me writing about the highs and lows of the Punisher. And you get me writing about what Ennis and Dillon brought to the party. All this and more in this week's WWC: "Being Frank Castle."

Stuff I left out of the column:

1) I think Punisher works best in contrast with costumed superheroes. His style of vigilante justice works to play off the more "noble" moral codes of other heroes, but shows the cracks in their philosophies.

2) Ultimately, I like Fraction's work on Punisher War Journal more than Ennis's work on Punisher Max, mostly because of reason #1 but also because Ennis's five-issue arcs seem too long by half. (And there's a sameness in tone and an interchangeability in the bad guys.)

3) At San Diego, Ryan and I saw the world's sweetest-looking Punisher. Not "sweet" as in "cool," but "sweet" as in wholesome and nice. Not very Frank Castle-esque.

4) My dad once picked up one of the Mike Baron-written Punisher issues from early in the ongoing series. It was laying on the coffee table in the living room, and he started flipping through it, and then read the entire thing. He seemed to like it. It was the first comic book he'd ever read -- or the first one since he was a child. He asked, "are all comics like this now?" I said, "not really. Just this series." And then he never read another issue, or any other comic, again.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

You Would Think Otherwise, But...

You might think that Marvels: Eye of the Camera, the long-awaited sequel to Busiek and Ross's Marvels would be pretty good. Busiek returns as the writer, and artist Jay Anacleto is a capable enough painter. Marvels was a great series, right? Probably the best thing Alex Ross has ever been involved with?

Maybe, but Eye of the Camera is terrible. The art is too soft and airy, the regular humans look bland, the entire purpose of their existence lost without the glorious costumed heroes to contrast them with. The story is all the worst bits of Phil Sheldon mixed with a distinct lack of the "marvel"-lous. It's what Marvels could have been, in lesser hands. And it's apparently what Busiek produces when he works with someone who's not Alex Ross.

Augie liked the first issue a lot. I didn't. At all. After seeing an advance copy, I'm definitely not going to be picking it up at the shop this week, and as everyone knows, I buy EVERYTHING. So, if I'm skipping it, it can't be very good at all.

What I will be getting, though, is the Punisher Max X-Mas Special, which might end up being my favorite comic of the week. I read an advanced copy of this too, and I loved it.

If someone told me a year ago that I would prefer a Punisher Christmas one-shot to the Busiek-written sequel to Marvels, I would have thought they were silly. But, it turns out they were not silly at all. Punisher Max X-Mas is what it's all about. Eye of the Camera, not so much.

Did I mention that the Punisher comic is written by Jason Aaron? Yeah, it's good.

Speaking of the Punisher, I decided to write 3,000 words about the character for this week's "When Words Collide." And I don't even particularly like the Punisher.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Battlefields: The Night Witches #2 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Battlefields: The Night Witches #2 about which I write the following sentences: "In 'The Night Witches,' he tells the story of an all-female Russian air force squadron and their battle against German forces. The Night Witches themselves -- so named by the Germans -- are the focus of the story, but the only narrative captions in issue #2 are given to a reluctant German soldier who is tormented by his own leaders. Ennis does a lot of things well in this series, and one of the most prominent is his emphasis on characterization. This is a high-concept piece of historical fiction (women flying fighter planes in WWII!) but he doesn't oversimplify the situation or glorify anyone on either side. He shows the conflict within the ranks -- both Russian and German -- and allows both sides to show their troubling humanity. And yet, Ennis doesn't flinch from showing the savagery of war, either, and though the theme isn't as simple as 'war is hell,' there's an underlying acceptance that such a statement is true, and this is all a manifestation of that."

Read the entire review HERE.