9.20.06 Reviews

Civil War #4 (Marvel): McNiven's art was worth the wait (except for that hideous last page), so everyone who cried about the delay should shush. When it's collected, they won't remember the lateness, but are the same folks who would then cry about the fill-in art. So there. An exceptionally taut action sequence highlighting the dissention between Cap and Tony, with a conversation that's like glass in my ears. It's so troubling, which is a credit to Millar's script effectively portraying two men from completely different worlds. Similar reaction to Daredevil (even though I *know* it's Iron Fist under there and not Matt) hitting Spider-Man. Daredevil and Spidey have been friends for so long, it's troubling to see even their alter-ego-images clash. Fun to see Hercules save the day with his noble loyalty to Cap, and him not being portrayed as the oafish drunkard typically played for laughs. When the chips are down and you find yourself in a street fight, would you rather have a brawler in your corner, or a brain? Falcon takes on a much needed leadership position in the absence of Cap and brilliantly directs Cable and Cloak in the field to teleport them the hell out of there. A brutal attack on Goliath leads several heroes (on both sides) to question the side they're on. A dramatic change of heart from Invisible Woman, as Sue creates a force bubble protecting the escape of the Secret Avengers. Her switch culminates with a gut-wrenching letter to Reed. Tony keeping a strand of Thor's hair to clone is creepy and a little reminiscent of Batman keeping "take-down" files on the JLA'ers. At the end of the day, it is still *just* a superhero comic, but superhero comics that attempt to discuss challenging social issues and still maintain this level of action and entertainment are rarely this good. I've seen a lot of backlash to this issue indicating that some of their actions don't ring true vis-a-vis established characterization, but having grown up a DC kid and not being fully steeped in years of Marvel continuity, I don't mind. Taken at face value, I think it's a rollicking good time. Grade A-.

Nextwave: Agents of HATE #8 (Marvel): Tabby can't spell her own name...? BWAHAHAHAHA! Priceless. Was Dirk Anger attempting suicide or was that just good ol' fashioned autoerotic asphyxiation...? BWAHAHAHAHA! Priceless. That's Elsa's origin...? BWAHAHAHAHA! Priceless. Grade B+.

X-Factor #11 (Marvel): This will probably sound remarkably similar to last issue's review. Inconsistent art at best, arguably crappy rendering in spots. Renato Arlem's pencils *could* grow on me, if they last longer than say... three issues. Looks like he used Jennifer Connelly as photo-reference for Monet(?). Roy Allen Martinez's pencils? Please... no more... no... more. Brilliant writing from Peter David, with an interesting denoument to the Guido cliffhanger from last issue. All in all, an uneven visual representation of some great characters and crafty dialogue. Grade B.

Astonishing X-Men #17 (Marvel): Ok, little help here. I feel like I missed an issue. Kitty and Pieter have a child? That's what was in the box? Was this a hallucination? Mind control? Reality? He's a robot? Was that a factual statement or meant metaphorically? Was that Scott? With a gun? Really? The Hellfire Club seems kinda' weaker than past incarnations, no? YeahbuWhat?! indeed. I like that Kitty is being treated as the principal character here. I like the cast, the villains, and there's no denying the beautiful pencils of Cassaday, I just feel like all those parts aren't playing very well together. This issue feels very awkward. Here's to hoping it will read better collected... Grade B.

Union Jack #1 (Marvel): While I understand it's a link to past incarnations, I'm a bit tired of seeing vampires, zombies, etc. everywhere. The blatant intro of a splash-page with UJ crashing through a window feels a little forced. How could the blokes in the chopper hear UJ speaking to them with the noise of a... you know, *chopper* drowning him out? The characters introduced have some nice potential, fight through some very stock archetypes, and juuust manage to become a little interesting. With all of those gripes out of the way, I did enjoy the grim nature of the slim pickings in the superhero scene in the UK. Mike Perkins' art is very pleasing to the eye and I think he has a particular talent for detailed backgrounds that lend depth to the scenes, which is a skill a lot of artists sort of ignore and gloss over today. Chris Gage's script has potential as well, and starts to border on some interesting social issues, like class distinction, and the overwhelming task of counter-terrorism as a constant game of playing catch up, predicting next moves with precious few resources. Also enjoyed Gages's text recap, which housed where it is, avoided bogging down the story, and helped those of us that didn't catch Union Jack's recent exploits in the Captain America arc. Grade B.

Dwight T. Albatross's The Goon Noir #1 (Dark Horse): This started exceptionally strong with a brilliantly sarcastic intro that's delivered completely deadpan. From there we jump to a beautifully penciled story from Mike Ploog with masterful dialogue from Patton Oswalt that really captures the "ear" of The Goon, in fact it's almost funnier than Eric Powell himself. Past that, the stories look nice enough, but start to read a little flat without the usual "snarkiness" these characters are capable of. Strong enough for me to pick up the next two issues, but undeniably uneven as most anthology style books are. Grade B-.

Checkmate #6 (DC): Still pretty strong in terms of intelligent and nuanced writing, but struck me as quite expository. Was that the influence of Defillippis and Weir? Not sure. But stuff like "Point is, The Wall's got somethin' on each of us, and she knows when to dangle it to get us jumpin'. Just remindin' everyone of why we're doing this" sort of screams just remindin' the reader of what's going on here. Also feels a little overly reliant on a random assortment of clowns making up this impromptu incarnation of Waller's Suicide Squad. I was really on board with Bronze Tiger, the UN deliberations, Sasha and Michael, and then... something happened. At the end of the day, I want to read Checkmate for some secret agent meta goodness, not the bloody Mirror-Master and his ilk. Wouldn't Rick Flag be a little less... ripped in the musculatory department after spending four years in a Quraci prison? And isn't Khandaq spelled like that (<-) and not "Kahndaq?" Grade B-.

The Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M #3 (Image/Desperado): Feels a bit difficult to enjoy when the last issue was, what? Six months ago? I like the way a familiar tale is being twisted and infused with dark cynicism and brutality, it's really fascinating to see these characters in this light, and I'm sure it will read better collected. I'm just wondering if I should reward the silliness of six month delays in between issues by buying it some day? I mean, really, it's only a four issue mini-series, if you can't put *that* out on time... Grade C+.

52: Week Twenty (DC): Probably the coolest cover yet in the 52 run; it enticingly displays the eclectic cast of Animan Man, Adam Strange, and Starfire. Past that, this issue is full of fish gods, interstellar carrion, Animal Man jumping around like Nightcrawler (those look like BAMF!s, not shooting fireballs or whatever the hell they were supposed to be), and some powerful eye balls. No real idea what the point of all that is. I thought the whole intent of 52 was to explain the new status quo in the DCU. Instead, it feels like we're creating more divergent plot threads to resolve. Curious to see Big Barda in the next issue and the backup stories continue to be decent. I'm quickly becoming accustomed to the fact that this title is going to run in the C-range until it concludes. Grade C-.


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