8.13.08 Reviews

Astonishing X-Men #26 (Marvel): I think that Simone Bianchi’s pencils have grown tremendously in the last couple of years. There’s a two page spread here of Chaparanga Beach that is really breathtaking. He makes it feel like a foreign, almost alien, environment right here in a lightly travelled corner of the world. What I appreciate the most about this title is the deliberate effort to make both geographic and philosophical change occur. I’m starting to really feel the distance between where these characters came from and where they’re in the process of going. When I hear lines like “We grew up, Ororo, these are the jobs we got,” I start to think that this is the first time we’ve really witnessed some of the X-characters as mature adults. Without Professor X, it’s as if Scott finally has arrived and is fulfilling the role that his entire life up until this point has been preparing him for. My only quibble is that I don’t know what Beast is doing on the cover, what’s that pose? And the real kicker, he’s nowhere to be found in the book anyway. I hate when that happens. Grade A.

The Lone Ranger #12 (Dynamite Entertainment): There is a subtle transformative moment here where I believe John ceases to be a mere boy seeking revenge and actually becomes the adult Lone Ranger. “I haven’t been myself lately. No, that’s not true. I don’t even know what that is anymore.” It’s this type of quiet and confident line which keeps me coming back to this title time and time again. There’s no bluster and fury, no overwrought melodrama. This is a relatively simple story being told that creeps confidently along, occasionally surprising us with brilliant and complex lines that reward readers who pay attention. Grade A-.

Captain Britain & MI-13 #4 (Marvel): Leonard Kirk’s pencils reach a level of nuance here that almost reminded me of early Sean Phillips with some of the facial details. This title still has a certain attitude-filled swagger to it that I enjoy, but it’s not to the level that the Pete Wisdom MAX series was from the same team. Here’s a good example. There’s a line in this book that read “And do you fancy, y’know, dinner later?” Now when you consider who this line is delivered from and to, you realize that in the old MAX book the line would have most likely read “And do you fancy a shag later?” It’s almost as if the… pause, “y’know,” pause… is a deliberate wink at the audience letting us know that yes, in the MAX line this line would have been a bit more dodgy and fun. Though I miss that, the book is still a sleeper that I hope more people are checking out. It moves effortlessly between sets and offers a feel that is actually perilous. Skrull John is indeed dead it seems, and I honestly was wondering if they’d really kill off the Black Knight. That combined with lines like “No more Skrulls” creates some genuine drama. Paul Cornell also provides an interesting convergence of creating a team that’s a third intelligence officers, a third superheroes, and a third friends. Grade A-.

Universal War One #2 (Marvel/Soleil): The art in this series boasts an impeccable level of detail, reminding me of Travis Charest. It really captures the feel of the Humanoids line and what I associate as a European aesthetic, which I enjoy. Considering the book’s price tag, I want to feel as if I’m getting my money’s worth. From a page count perspective, this holds true. But, that page count plays a little dense and heavy, has some challenging scientific principles, and comes off a bit too expository. We have many characters spouting out their motivations and clearly stating what they’re learning from the events around them. The core story remains interesting and plays in a cinematic way; I’ll be picking up the remaining issues. Grade B.

Transhuman #3 (Image): It feels like Jonathan Hickman is stretched too thin. He’s got a handful of books trickling out with unpredictable gaps in between issues. I remember liking Transhuman, but really have only a vague recollection of what’s going on here and who all of the players are. Ringuet’s usually enjoyable art looks blurry and out of focus here, almost to the point that I suspect a printing mishap, as if the inks, colors, and pencils were all somehow printed a few millimeters off of each other. Hickman still gives us some interesting ideas here, like the unique business models of the internet and sex toys, but they almost play like bullet points on a Power Point slide rather than a cohesive story. With just one issue to bring this all home, I’m cautiously optimistic that he can pull it off. Grade B.

Secret Invasion #5 (Marvel): Soooo… why leave us with the very overt Cap and Thor cliffhanger tease last issue if they’re nowhere to be found in this issue? Did they appear in any of the myriad crossovers? Is Marvel assuming I’m going to buy those? That’s silly, because I’m not. Soooo… I guess Nick Fury defeated all the Super Skrulls in Manhattan with uh… really big guns? This issue plays a little disjointed with a series of rough jump cuts. Another bit that pushed me out of the story was the revelation that Stephen Colbert, Paris Hilton, Magneto, The Pope, Barack Obama, Tom Cruise, Tiger Woods, Osama Bin Laden, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Doom, John McCain, Namor, and several others are Skrulls. Now, I don’t know if this is supposed to read as a literal interpretation of the Marvel Universe converging with our own, or is really just done as a tongue-in-cheek method of telling us that the Skrull Invasion is scarily pervasive and overwhelming – but either way, I found it very distracting. I thought there were two pretty cool character moments. Agent Brand delivering on her throw away line in Astonishing X-Men that she speaks a dozen off world languages, here conversing in Skrull while boasting that her Kree is better, culminating with the stirring line “Dr. Richards, my name is Agent Abigail Brand!” I also liked Maria Hill’s reveal that delivers on a seed planted some time ago by Fury about body doubles (not sure which book that was in, but I do recall reading it at the time), which culminates in a quirky code for the sudden and enjoyable self-destruct sequence of the Helicarrier. Bendis’ use of second tier supporting characters in major story moments is really fun, not to mention the symbolism of S.W.O.R.D. and S.H.I.E.L.D. uniting to kinda’ save the day. Where I believe it derailed was Reed saying he would use his brain to save the day and then just 4 pages later unveiling his Skrull Revealer Death Ray Thingamajig that he made in like 5 minutes simply because the plot demanded it in that moment. I know he’s a genius and all, but that sorta’ lacked credibility even by internal Marvel U logic, very deus ex machina. Is Bendis’ making some uber-commentary here that in the new age, the second string characters are better equipped to logically defend Earth and take on the hero mantle than their aged 1960’s counterparts? Perhaps, though I kinda’ doubt it was that calculated a statement. All in all, a couple interesting character bits bogged down by some obvious distractions and mis-steps on the storytelling logic side. I find it interesting that I began liking Secret Invasion toward the start of the series and my interest is now declining. It’s the exact opposite of Final Crisis, which I thought started weak, but is now picking up steam. Let’s just combine the two and have Final Invasion or Secret Crisis, maybe we’d get one kick-ass blockbuster and one so laughably atrocious tale that it would contain some inherent entertainment value, rather than the two mediocre ones we’re getting. Grade C-.

I also picked up;

Meathaus: SOS (NerdCore)


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