Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Weekly Comic Round-Up (plus some notes)

So, I'm not doing real good at keeping this thing updated other than the Weekly Round-Ups, am I?

Well, in my defense, I'm trying to find a new job. I celebrated my birthday last week and my wife's birthday yesterday. I've also been driving between Columbus and Cincinnati in order to finally finish my skills tests in all eight of the weapons offered by the Society of American Fight Directors.

So, things have been busy.

But I know, I know. No excuses. You want me to make with the comic books!

52 Week Seven
Well, I said that Booster was eventually going to be smacked with a clue by four. I just didn't expect it to be quite this harsh. Or this sudden. Ralph tore him apart, as did the actor who played Booster's last supervillain.

Note to any future superheroes: If you're going to go to Metropolis to "replace" Superman, you have very big shoes to fill. If you fail in any way, shape or form, it will go very badly for you. If you are exposed as a fraud, it will go very, very badly for you. Booster managed to find this out within this issue.

We also got a glimpse of the future Batwoman, Kathy Kane. She and Montoya still have... let's just call them issues, shall we?

And Adam Strange, Animal Man and Starfire are still Lost in Space.

I repeat, I really like the fact that they're giving each story more time within the issue, and then letting the story drop for a week or two, as opposed to giving us two or three pages from each key story within 52.

Astonishing X-Men 15
Joss cheated. This isn't a new comic. This is a flashback to Uncanny X-Men 129, the first appearance of the Hellfire Club.

Ok, that's neither true nor fair, but he really did a wonderful job of evoking that sense. Especially the final panel with Kitty in the sewers. And the Hellfire club just did a wonderful job of taking the X-Men apart. I particularly liked watching Cassandra turn Wolverine into a little boy, and turning Henry McCoy into a literal beast.

The fight between Shaw and Colossus confused me, deeply. Surely Colossus remembers fighting Shaw? Piotyr isn't stupid, and his reaction to fighting the Black King shouldn't be to simply "hit him harder."

Still, another excellent issue from Whedon and company.

Captain America 19
The Skull now has Luskin wearing the mask? Oh, that's a damn shame. Poor Luskin. I don't think he gets to keep his body for much longer.

Lots of wonderful action in this book. Watching Cap, Union Jack and Spitfire take out the Master Man and his goons was just lots of fun. It pales next to the fun that was watching Cap and Union Jack get chewed out by MI-5, right up until Sharon showed up, but it was still fun.

I laughed to see Union Jack and Sharon get so close to stumbling across the Winter Soldier, especially since they were where they were because Cap and Spitfire wanted to be the ones to find Bucky.

I'm still not thrilled with the dark visuals in the comic. I understand that it makes Cap live in a grittier world, one where a well-placed gunshot can mean death, but I find it difficult to read. Maybe I'm just too used to brightly colored comics.

Giant-Size Hulk 1
The Giant-Sized Hulk comic has three different stories, of varrying quality. The first was an untold tale of The Champions.

(Seriously, did anyone ever really think this was a good idea? A superteam made of Ghost Rider, Angel, Iceman, Hercules, Nightstar and the Black Widow? It's like a lame version of the Defenders, who suffered from being inferior Avengers themselves.)

That said, the story was really good. It had the Hulk trying to save a life, and being attacked simply because he was there. The story of the Hulk's life, encapsulated right there. It also had some really good and humerous writing. I particularly liked Angel's reaction to being told to stop the Hulk, and Iceman's mocking of how the Hulk names his foes. "It's Angel, not Wing-Man. Ghost Rider, not Flame Head. And Iceman not... oh, wait." There was also a fun nod to Marvel's elastic continuity, with the confusion on Hercules's part about who the President is. "President Clinton? I thought it was President Carter."

The second story was just an internal confrontation between Banner and Hulk on Planet Hulk. We all know how I feel about Planet Hulk, so let's just leave it at that. Banner wants Hulk to leave, to go to the abandoned planet that Reed and the others tried to get him to in the first place. Hulk doesn't want to go. I agree with Reed.

The third story... well, the third story was something special indeed. It was a reprint of Peter David's excellent Hulk: The End. I hate to go into it here, because it deserves more space. Essentially, it deals with how Banner and the Hulk react to being the last things alive on Earth, following the final nuclear war. It's an absolutely chilling story. Go and read it, either here or the original printing if you can find it.

The Flash 1
So, following Infinite Crisis, this is the state of affairs for speedsters in the DCU:

Jay Garrick is still the Flash. His powers are typical metahuman abilities, making him superfast, but lacking the connection to the Speed Force.

The Speed Force is apparently gone. Gone, vanished, missing, not being tapped into by anyone.

And for some reason, Bart Allen returned from the Speed Force four years older, and with no superpowers. This has to be incredibly hard for him, since Bart was born and raised with his superspeed. He has no perspective of what it means to not have these abilities. It also means that he is four years older than Tim Drake, and Bart's other close friend, Conner Kent, is now dead.

We also meet two new characters. The first is Valerie Perez, an intern at STAR labs, investigating both Bart Allen and the disappearance of the Speed Force. She reminds me a great deal of Amanda Pay's Tina McGee from the television show. Not terribly surprising, since the creators of the series are involved with the comic now. We also get Bart's roommate, "The Griffin", who is trying to teach Bart how to party.

Of course, the Speed Force isn't actually gone. Bart now seems to have the Speed Force contained within himself. Interesting. They've definitely got me sticking around for more of this.

Justice 6
The Injustice Gang has taken the JLA apart. And it's even worse than simply defeting them. Because now everyone thinks the bad guys are heroes, because they're willing to use their powers to "help" mankind, while the JLA never did. (In a meaningful sense anyhow).

It's going to be a hard fight back. And the JLA is in trouble. The Atom was attacked in his hospital bed by Giganta, and remains injured. Hal was banished far into space, and has now converted himself to a series of electronic impulses inside of the ring. Batman was in the cave, controlled by Poison Ivy, and only has control of himself because of Wonder Woman's lasso. Wonder Woman herself is now scarred across her face.

And Superman just got thrown into the sun by Captain Marvel. At his own request.

With all of this going on, the fact that the Hawks have found that the Toyman is building an army of Braniacs is almost incidental.

It's only a so-so series in terms of story. But man it's pretty. And it's nice to see an adult version of the Superfriends, which is what Justice really is.

Last Planet Standing 4
Pass the popcorn, it's time to watch the end of the world.

Seriously, when things are so bad that the Avengers have to play clean up while the F5 call for the Silver Surfer, you know that it's time to ask yourself "Where are we going? And why am I in this handbasket?"

So, Reed finally figures out that Galactus isn't trying to simply eat the Earth. Oh no, he's going to create a new Big Bang. The disaster gets to the point where even the Revengers throw their hands in to help. After all, it's their world too.

Massive acts of heroism occur, of course. J2 manages to flip over tons of debris that threaten himself, Spider-Girl and numerous survivors. American Dream chanels Cap and gives the rallying speech to Spider-Girl, and the Vision tears himself apart in his effort to get through Galactus's force field.

But the real triumphant moment comes from the fight between Waverider and the Silver Surfer. The Surfer once more shows that he was the original of Galactus's heralds, and carries the experience to go with that power. He absorbs the power of Waverider, and heads to Earth to take Galactus on.

Only one more issue? I find this somewhat sad. But man, this has been one heck of a ride.

The New Avengers 20
I have to say, I was disapointed by this issue.

We've had great build-up to Civil War in other issues of this comic, as well as other books in the Marvel Universe. The character of Michael was intriguing, and his arrival at Genosha was spectacular.

But this just left me feeling flat. Xorn tried to send all the power of the depowered mutants into Magneto. Who didn't seem to want the power, while he was writing his memoirs.

Incidentally, as cool as it was in the movies, I didn't appreciate the repetition of the idea of "my human name" as opposed to "my real name." It worked in the film to encapsulate a deeper idea. In the comics, it just felt too simplistic.

And then the S.H.I.E.L.D. psi-agent blows up his head, the power dissapates, Magneto is captured, and Michael is left trying to figure out what to do.

It just was less than I'd grown to expect from this title. I suspect they got forced into a quick ending because of Civil War.

Shadowpact 2
So, I'd really like to learn more about this gang of murderous psychopaths. They interest the heck out of me. And I'm glad that someone commented on how similar they are to the members of the Shadowpact.

The individual battles were relatively uninspired. We now know that each member of this coven is more powerful then their corresponding member of the Shadowpact. Which means, of course, that in order for the Shadowpact to win they'll have to do something other than fight their direct opposites.

This, of course, will happen and the Shadowpact will save the day. The Blood Barrier will come down, and the Phantom Stranger will make sense of everything. I understand all of this.

What I'm interested in is finding out more about these people and why they are doing what they're doing. I've loved watching how they handle the hostages, and honestly am surprised we haven't seen more of it within comics.

Superman Returns Prequel 3
There was a fabulous series out awhile back called Lex Luthor: The Man of Steel.

Anyone else read it? Anyone?

I had some real serious flashbacks to that miniseries while reading this issue of the Prequel. The first issue of the prequel involved Krypton, and the second issue was all about Martha Kent.

This issue was about Luthor. Lex Luthor. Self made man. The most brilliant criminal mind of our age.

It's interesting watching as Singer tries to make Spacey's Luthor resemble the one we've grown used to from comics, Lois & Clark, the animated series and Smallville, but at the same time honor the Hackman portrayal from Superman: The Movie.

I think it works, but the only way to really know will be to see Superman Returns next week.

This issue is just about Luthor's release from jail, and the bitterness that can creep into a man's heart after five years. Spacey has a lot to draw from here. I can't wait to see how it translates to the big screen.

Swamp Thing 28
You're breaking my heart here guys.

I used to really, really like Swamp Thing.

The last twenty issues of the first series are still some of my favorite comics of all time.

So why am I left cold by the way the series is going? Is it that we took too long reconciling the Swamp Thing with Alec's mind and personality? Is it that it took too long to bring Abby and Tefe back?

Or maybe it's just the lack of interesting opposition. The Toad King just isn't exciting. He isn't epic enough.

Yeah, we now have the bits and pieces of the Floronic Man, now remolded into Woodrue. But... eh. I'm just not excited. And I want to be.

I'll give it another month. Let's see what happens when the Swamp Thing, Woodrue and the Toad King all end up in the same place. But if something exciting doesn't happen, I'm afraid that I'm finished with the series for awhile.

The Ultimates 2 11
Rarely does a comic book cover so accurately convey what the issue is about.

Oh, sure, it's a teaser. All we really see here is Cap's shield, Iron Man's armor and Thor's hammer. But those images together symbolize the Avengers. (Or in this case the Ultimates. Whatever.)

But the beatdown has ended. The Ultimates are ready to fight back. And fight back they shall.

Stark docks with his space station, and we'll see a new Iron Man armor next issue. Excellent.

Cap, Wasp, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are all ready to fight.

Loki is enjoying the mischief, but largely unable to directly act. The Black Widow has been taken out due to Stark's cleverness. The Ultron robots are under Pym's control, but they're inactive at the moment. Plus we can expect them to rebel against Pym.

But there are two really important things to note. Things that are very, very bad for our bad guys.

Thor is no longer in his cell. He may not have his belt or hammer, but he's free. Expect him to reclaim his powers in the next issue.

But most importantly of all. Bruce Banner has returned, and as we near the issue's end he deliberately endangers himself. The final page of this issue has a very angry Hulk ready to wreck havock.

It's a bad day to be a bad guy. That's all I'm saying. Remember, these are the Ultimates, not the Avengers. Bad things are about to happen.

I can't wait.

Just a heads up: Next week I will be attending the Origins game convention in Columbus, Ohio. As such, the weekly recap may not go up on Thursday.


Blogger Chana said...

well as wonderful as this blog is, it doesn't pay the bills so of course you want to concentrate on your real life. i hope you find a real great job that you are happy in. Happy Birthday to your wife. Hopefully she had a great day. if you could rewarded financially for every mile you drive, wow, that's alot of definetely have a full shcedule. hope it all works out and try not to burn out.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous os said...

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel is one of the few trades I own outside of my typical buys. Simply put, I think it's amazing. I may have to get my hands on these Superman Returns prequels.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous nico said...

So Jay has his powers, Bart doesn't, what's the status on Wally? How about Johnny and Jesse Quick and Max Mercury?

2:37 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Wally didn't come back from trapping Superboy-Prime in the Speed Force.

I don't know what the word is on the Quicks or Max. I presume that Jesse has her powers, since she is a metahuman in her own right. The others tapped into the Speed Force exclusively I believe, so they're probably SOL.

2:40 PM  

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