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Uncanny X-Force #4 – Review

by Rick Remender (writer), Jerome Opena (penciller)

The Story: The team break into Clan Akkaba’s ship, only to be confronted with the age-old question:  If you could kill an evil person when they were still just a child, would you?  By the end of the issue, the question gets answered.  With a bang.

What’s Good: This was a hell of a heavy week for the X-Titles as there were eight new releases on the shelves (nine if you count Deadpool).  I’ve no clue why Marvel felt it was a wise choice to glut the comic shop with more than 70% of the X-Men line in one day (actually, I’m pretty sure I know exactly why), but there is one benefit of reading X-title after X-title.  The best one stands out easily, and boy, is Uncanny X-Force the best X-Men comic out there or what?  You’ve got Deadpool feeding Archangel his own raw flesh in order to save his winged behind, you’ve got nods to past X-continuity with Apocalypse’s new Ship, you’ve got the BEST use of Archangel’s paralyzing neurotoxin feathers ever, and you’ve got a great final act in which the team is torn apart because of a tough choice that would give anyone pause.  Speaking of that final act, Archangel truly shines in that last confrontation with Apocalypse.  Not only do we get to hear him struggle with his inner dark side, but the confrontations he has with both the villain and Psylocke are rife with tension and emotion.  I really was on the edge of my seat.  (Well, edge of my bed, but you get what I’m saying.)

Fantomex gets the most of the spotlight this go-around, as Remender gives him awfully witty lines like, “Gads!  Evil fodder types eagerly spiriting towards certain demise.  How gauche.”  Awesome.  In addition to the great dialogue coming out of the (anti?) hero, we get some promising foreboding about the character’s intentions towards Psylocke and, of course, there’re those last few shocking pages of the story-arc.  Spoiler warning time.

(SPOILER WARNING)

I’m not terribly surprised that the “Will they or won’t they kill a kid?” dilemma came up.  It was pretty obvious that’s where the story was going from the beginning.  I’ve got to say, though, I did not expect Fantomex to be the one that pulled the trigger.  Honestly, I was never sure who the executioner would be or whether or not Apocalypse would even die.  In retrospect, it makes perfect sense, though.  This way the X-Men proper (Logan, Warren and Betsy) don’t get the blood of a child on their hands, and we avoid Deadpool either cracking a joke and ruining the gravitas of the moment or killing the kid and somehow becoming all tortured and brooding.  Of course it was Fantomex!  Also, I’m excited that this allows Remender to really dig in to Fantomex, a character that for all intents and purposes is his to do with as he pleases.  Wolverine and Deadpool have their own titles, and Angel and Psylocke are X-Men with ties to other titles, but Fantomex?  Pretty much all Remender’s. Oh, and that final silent page?  Pitch perfect ending.  Really.

As for the artwork?  One sentence.  Jerome Opena is a god.  (Okay, maybe not really, but wow, is he pretty freaking close!)  (Fine, two sentences.)
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Generation Hope #3 – Review

by Kieron Gillen (writer), Salvador Espin (penciller)

The Story: Hope and the Fi- er, Four Lights, in order to stop the X-Men from killing Kenji, decide to take him down themselves.  Hope sees a fiery bird, stands up to Cyke, turns into a giant monster (In Japan of all places!  The nerve!), and puts the smack down on the Big Not-So-Bad.  Then, she goes sleepy-time.

What’s Good: Well, the good news is this is definitely the best issue of Generation Hope to be released so far.  The bad news?  Well, that’s not saying much.  Gillen finally manages to shine the spotlight on our actual cast in this installment and not on the X-Men guest stars (Cyclops, Wolverine, & Rogue) that have been hogging it for the past two issues.  Hope receives some much needed development of character and personality as she’s forced by circumstances to stand for what she believes in, whether or not that falls in line with big daddy Cyclops’ train of thought.  I enjoyed most of these scenes (especially the one where Kenji realizes her motivation), despite the fact that they felt telegraphed and teetered on the edge of becoming inspirational.  (Kudos to Gillen for at least acknowledging this fact through a character’s dialogue.  “Captain who?”  That was a good one.)  There’s also a welcome moment reminding us of her connection to the Phoenix Force.  Hey, at least they didn’t forget about it, right?

All in all, this issue succeeds mainly because the first arc has come to an end.  Much like the X-23 title experienced unevenness because of it’s ties to the “Wolverine Goes to Hell” arc, this first trilogy of issues suffered from being something of an addendum to the “Five Lights” arc in Uncanny.  Now that it’s over, maybe we can do away with the adults and concentrate on what makes these kids interesting.
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Uncanny X-Force #3 – Review

by Rick Remender (Writer), Jerome Opena  (Penciller)

The Story: After a brief batch of origins for the Final Horsemen of Apocalypse, we watch our X-Force team as they simultaneously regain the upper hand against our villains and lick their wounds.  Apocalyp-kid struggles with ordering our heroes’ death, showing that he may not be all bad yet.  Oh, and Deadpool pitches a tent, Archangel eats junk food and Psylocke deals with a romantic suitor.  Really.

What’s Good: Remender opens the issue with one-page origins for each of the new Final Horsemen that were introduced in the previous issue and boy, is it a good idea.  One of my favorite things from the last installment was this new team of baddies and to immediately get the skinny on them here was something I didn’t know I wanted, but I’m really glad I got.  To make it even better, each of these new villains has an interesting tale to tell and as a result, this opening sequence doesn’t feel like an information dump but rather an entertaining aside.  Sticking with the villains for another minute, while it’s certainly not too surprising that the writer decided to have Apocalypse’s usual cold-bloodedness tempered by now residing in his younger, more innocent host, I don’t hate the move.  If anything, this adds a bit more drama and uncertainty to X-Force’s mission to assassinate him.  I’m sure the whole “Would you kill Hitler as a kid” dilemma will rear its ugly head and I’m trusting Remender to bring something new to the table in that respect.

In the heroes’ corner, the script allows for plenty of great moments in regards to our intrepid travelers.  Psylocke and Fantomex in particular get to enjoy quite a few ingenious moments, whether it’s Psylocke finding clever telepathic ways to give X-Force a respite from the pain they’re experiencing or using the love her presence inspires in the horseman War to find a way past his mental defenses.  Fantomex’s illusion casting was also a nice touch which made for plenty of surprise reversals, but I do have to confess to not remembering this ability of his from previous appearances.  Maybe I’ve just finally hit the limit of my comic book fact recall.  Actually, Remender and Opena deliver so many great little moments in this issue that I could be here all day giving them praise. I will however, make special mention of two more, though:  Deadpool’s character-centric tent gave me a good chuckle and Death’s perfectly devious attack on Wolverine via his adamantium skeleton gave me a good wince.  Throw in the badass cliffhanger and you have, well, a frankly near perfect issue.
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Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #5

by Peter Tomasi (Writer), Fernando Pasarin (Penciller)

The Story: Our Emerald Warriors clash with a group of mentally-controlled GL rookies convinced that they’re Sinestro Corps members.  After narrowly escaping the battle and suffering a shocking loss, Gardner’s secret pact with Atrocitus comes to light and we’re shown exactly what has driven him to make such a deal.

What’s Good: Fernando Pasarin delivers a strong body of work within these pages and does a great job of reminding me why I’ve always been a fan of his pencils in the first place.  Not only does he come through with some solid storytelling, but there are plenty of awesome visuals to be found here.  The Green Lantern symbol-inspired constructs the rookies use to imprison our heroes is wonderful little treat that I’m surprised I don’t remember seeing before.  Also, The final image with Gardner’s visions painted on the wall in blood is also an effective visual, although most of the characters are simply faceless figures.  That might be intentional, though, so I’m not going to complain about it too much.  The interesting and frankly, gross, way that Atrocitus communicates with Gardner is yet another inspired choice and makes for another nice visual.   On the scrip end, the villain’s forcing the rookies to commit suicide was suitably harsh and shocking and I could believe the reaction it elicited in Kilowog, he having been their drill sergeant.
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Uncanny X-Force #2 – Review

by Rick Remender (writer), Jerome Opena (penciller)

The Story: Problems arise when Archangel discovers that his teammates are worried about his allegiances and are, in fact, training to kill him if the need arises!  Meanwhile, the Clan Akkaba continues their indoctrination of the resurrected and reborn Apocalypse.  It all ends badly when the X-Force travels to the Blue Area of the Moon and tangles with the full force (pun intended) of the Final Horsemen!

Thoughts: There’s plenty to like about this second installment of the new X-Force title.  On many levels, I’d argue that it surpasses the first issue.  This time around, the issue is narrated by the resident female of the group: the telepathic, telekinetic, bathing-suit clad Psylocke and that fact successfully gives this chapter a nice bit of narration that grounds a lot of the events in the series.  Remender has given a level of humanity to Betsy that has been lacking from the character for years (Now, if we can only do something about her wardrobe.).  Her inner monologue about remembering the atrocities that Apocalypse will enact as a source of forward momentum for her in regards to their mission was nicely done.  Also, the reason Betsy joined and resumed her relationship with Angel was touching and made a good amount of sense, although I’m not sure I buy that  Kurt’s death would have caused such a reaction in her.  I don’t recall the two of them being particularly close over the years.  Nonetheless, it still resonates for me.  If anything, this second take at their relationship rings truer than it did when it was originally introduced during the Nicieza-scripted run.  It’s not only Psylocke that gets to benefit from the humanistic approach the writer has employed here.  Warren’s hurt reaction to the team’s training to murder him should he fall under Apocalypse’s control again was another very human moment and I felt not only his pain, but also Betsy’s when he realized the point of the exercise.  It hurts to feel betrayed, but it certainly hurts even more when you know that the people betraying you are right to do so.  As I mentioned in the review of the first issue, I’m very happy about the focus on the problem of Warren’s regression into the Archangel persona and form.  So much seemed to be going on in every arc of the previous volume of X-Force that the writers never got around to centering on the issue, but with the new raison d’être of killing Apocalypse, it’s organic to the plot and makes a lot of sense to have it come back around as a focal point of the story.  I have to confess that I do wish they’d give a little more airtime to Wolverine’s own past as a Horseman of Apocalypse, but I totally understand that not only would it dilute the Archangel element, but Logan’s dealings with the villain are the lesser of the two in terms of being intrinsic to the character.  There’s also a nice little moment to be found in the issue where Deadpool and Fantomex bond over their “superficial” reasons for joining X-Force.  It’s quick and nonchalant but it speaks volumes about their characters.
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X-Men Legacy #242 – Review

by Mike Carey (writer), Paul Davidson (penciller)

The Story: A small team of X-Men are chosen to aid the city of San Francisco in repairing the destruction left in the aftermath of Bastion’s attack on Utopia and the mutant community.  However, things don’t go as planned when underlying problems affecting both Hellion and Omega Sentinel lead them into a conflict that might spell disaster.

Thoughts: This issue feels about four months too late, which is a shame because it’s a rather good one.  It feels so late, in fact, that I’m convinced that this story and the previous arc, “Collision”, were switched in order for some reason.  Carey delivers the beginnings of an effective “breather” arc here (complete with baseball interlude) as we survey the damage done to, not only the city of San Francisco, but to one of the younger X-Men in the wake of “Second Coming”.  Hellion’s inner turmoil and rage at losing his hands and having them replaced with bionic ones is palpable and perfectly understandable.  Not only that, but considering his already volatile and sometimes selfish and arrogant personality, his violent reactions to being made to feel weak and at the mercy of others’ aid is fully expected.  His anger at the seeming contradiction of the X-Men being able to perform plenty of miraculous feats but not being able to give him new, flesh and blood hands also made a lot of sense to me and I’d be hard pressed to say that I wouldn’t feel the exact same way.  The writer also takes advantage of the same opportunity afforded to Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men title that allows him to pull various X-related characters into the story.  While Rogue and Magneto seem to be Carey’s version of Cyclops and Emma Frost for Legacy, it’s always fun to see new faces together such as Random, Omega Sentinel and Hope.
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Uncanny X-Men #530 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), Greg Land (penciller)

The Story: A dangerous flu virus has begun to infect the population of Utopia, forcing Cyclops to issue a quarantine of the island base.  The remaining mutants that were off-island at the time have decided to form a de facto team of X-Men to protect San Francisco for the duration, while Emma Frost, Fantomex and Kitty Pryde (also off-island) continue their clandestine mission to cover up Emma’s dirty little secret, a.k.a. Sebastian Shaw!  Also, the Collective Man makes a play for Chinatown and the Sublime Corporation create their own versions of the original five X-Men to capitalize upon the X-Men’s absence.

What’s Good: After the repetitive and bland previous story-arc, “The Five Lights”, Fraction has kicked into gear most of the sub-plots percolating in the background for the last few issues.  As a result, Uncanny X-Men starts off strong this month.  The actual “virus” events on the island are rife with suspense and I think Fraction was right to begin that scene and our introduction to the whole ordeal through the eyes of Anole.  Not only does it show him utilizing the large cast of characters afforded him, but also it puts a personal touch on the problem that pulls us in immediately.  I’m curious if this event will force Cyclops to take another look at the tactic of placing 95% of the mutant population so close together.  It’s full of negative possibilities, as we’ve seen recently in Second Coming as well, and even a man as stubborn as Scott Summers has to be open to the possibility that it’s a mistake.

Other things I’m happy to see in this issue:  The interesting combo of Angel, Northstar, Dazzler, Pixie and Storm as an X-team.  I hope we see more of them in this arc, although I’m nervous they’ll mainly be used to deal with the ersatz original X-Men also running around San Francisco.  The Collective Man sub-plot, touching upon a story element that Jason Aaron introduced back in his Wolverine: Manifest Destiny miniseries a couple of years ago, was also welcome.  At the time it promised to be a development with plenty of story potential, possibly opening up a chance to meet a Madripoor-like cast of characters.  However, it was quickly forgotten and a return to it makes me smile.
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Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #4 – Review

by Pete Tomasi (writer), Fernando Pasarin (penciller)

The Story: The Emerald Warriors gang make a pit stop on Daxam to check on the status of Sodam Yat, but are unsuccessful.  Moving on to Rakk, they free some slaves and kick a little ass in the process.  Meanwhile, the missing Yat organizes his own brand of uprising amongst his fellow Daxamites.

What’s Good: Tomasi smartly grabbed the most interesting batch of characters when he left the Green Lantern Corps title for Emerald Warriors.  The threesome of Guy Gardner, Arisia and Kilowog are full of such rich personalities that even reading about them simply flying through outer space is more entertaining than most other comics.  You throw in a wild card like Red Lantern Bleez and you have the recipe for something special, if handled correctly.  And Tomasi’s script and Pasarin’s pencils are certainly handling them correctly.  To add to the winning combination of characters, Sodam Yat is a welcome bonus.  The ongoing plot concerning Yat’s xenophobic planet, led by his mad father, has been one of the more interesting ones.  Despite the fact that it seemed to be somewhat forgotten during the Blackest Night event, it’s nice to see that it hasn’t been and I’m genuinely curious to see where it goes from here.  (Although, Yat’s “Peace Corps” branding is a bit too Woodstock for me.)
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Wolverine #3 – Review

Jason Aaron (writer), Renato Guedes & Michael Gaydos (pencillers)

The Story: The Devil continues to torture Wolverine’s soul in Hell in new and creative ways, using old foes such as Sabretooth and old friends such as Silver Samurai to push him closer and closer to the brink of defeat.  However, a small sliver of hope appears with Puck, dead Alpha Flight member.  Meanwhile, Mystique and Logan’s girlfriend, Marita, team up with the Ghost Riders and Hellstorm to hatch a rescue plan for everyone’s favorite canucklehead.

What’s Good: Aaron is beginning to ramp up his ‘Wolverine Goes to Hell’ storyline and the reading experience benefits greatly from the forward momentum found here.  From the solidifying of the rivalry between the Devil and Wolverine due to their battle of wills and how, according to Puck, that might be the key to Logan’s escape to Mystique’s motivations being (somewhat) illuminated, I’m finally feeling like we’re getting somewhere.  It’s also nice to see Melita get some character development and spotlight after months of being around in the periphery of the plot.  I’m hoping Aaron has some interesting plans about where to go with her relationship with Wolverine that doesn’t involve her dying or being driven away by his inner beast or some such.
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Avengers Academy #6 – Review

Christos Gage (writer), Mike McKone (penciller)

The Story: The revolving spotlight falls on Reptil this issue as Humberto is made Class Leader of the Academy, making a childhood dream of his come true.  But what happens when Reptil realizes that his dreams have been ruined by the secrets and lies that permeate not only the Academy’s mission statement but also the motivations and actions of his classmates?

What’s Good: “Reptil is lame.”  That was my first thought when I was done reading the special Avengers: The Initiative one-shot that introduced the character a couple of years ago.  A kid that can shape shift parts of his body into dinosaur parts kind of sounds interesting on paper maybe, but the execution did nothing for me.  When I saw that he was going to be on the roster of the Academy team, I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes.  This issue has changed my opinion immensely.  I still think the dinosaur powers thing, even with the upgrade of going “full Dinosaur”, is sort of blah.  However, Gage has managed to make me completely disregard that aspect of the character by centering on Reptil’s inner workings.

You’d think that the characters who are morally questionable would easily be the more intriguing, but positioning Reptil as the good kid trying to hold it all together, despite knowing that the people around him are doing bad things, has proven that assumption wrong.  Gage establishes the character’s motivations smartly, making it his dream since childhood to be an Avenger.  This not only adds an interesting layer to his place here, but it also gives his motivations about keeping the team together an added dimension.  He desperately doesn’t want to lose this good thing.  It’s an easily understood emotion that any reader can understand and makes the character that much more relatable.  Kudos, Gage. You made me like Reptil.  Who’d have thought?
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X-23 #2 – Review

by Marjorie Liu (writer), Will Conrad (artist)

The Story: X-23 awakens at a halfway house in San Francisco that has been set ablaze, surrounded by bodies.  More importantly, the evidence points to her being the murderer.  After returning to Utopia and spending a little time with Cyclops, Storm and Gambit, Hellverine shows up to taunt and attack our heroine.  One bleeding and dying Hellion later (That tends to happen to him often, doesn’t it?), X agrees to take a magical mystery tour within herself to prove that she has a soul.

What’s Good: It seems that Liu is beginning to find X-23 ‘s voice, which is pleasing to this reviewer.  I complained about her lack of consistency with the character’s previous appearances, but she’s definitely finding Laura’s voice, especially in the opening scene where we flashback to a happier time with Wolverine himself.  “I have heard that roller coasters make people scream and vomit…  I want to try it.”  Those lines alone were golden and reminded me of some of the better dialogue given to the character by her creator’s Craig Kyle and Chris Yost.  Liu also smartly establishes the duo’s familial relationship in this scene, making the betrayal towards the end of the book that much more emotionally potent.

I’m happy with the use of Gambit in this issue.  It’s nice to see another, less predictable X-Man paired up with X-23, just as Storm was somewhat in the last issue.  The choice of Gambit works even better as he’s been out of the spotlight of late in most of the X-titles.  I also enjoyed the manner in which the character was introduced into the story.  The use of the word “petite”, the coat and the fingerless gloves, all followed by a close-up of those crimson eyes tells you all you need to know.  It’s a nonchalant manner uncommon to comics and it works.
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Avengers Academy #5 – Reviw

by Christos Gage (writer), Jorge Molina (penciller)

The Story: Stryker recounts the events of the last few days, and his origin, to a silent Jocasta. The team gets a little hand-to-hand combat training from Steve Rogers himself.  A battle with Whirlwind on the streets of New York City inadvertently reveals the existence of the Academy to the public, but it turns out that it may not have been inadvertent at all.

What’s Good: Gage continues his successful formula of scripting on this title by centering on the character of Stryker, the lucky Academy student who gets the spotlight this month.  While not as successful as last month’s Mettle tale or the Finesse story, the character’s origin allowed for some interesting commentary on the current, fame-obsessed generation.  Turns out Stryker’s mother is the superhuman equivalent of a stage-mom, forcing and coercing Stryker into situations where his abilities will equal popularity and money for the two of them.  As a result, Stryker has become the arrogant, selfish teenager that he is, with quite a bit of duplicity thrown in but also a touch of sympathy for what he’s gone through.  His orchestrating the Whirlwind fight came as genuine surprise to me, and I’m glad that they seem to be setting up nearly all of the cast members as candidates to turn out to be the villain of the piece (or so Gage has hinted in interviews).  My money is on it ending up being the most innocent of the group when all is said and done, however.  The storytelling device of Stryker unloading the events of his week (including his trickery) on a distracted Jocasta was also a nice touch, and I can’t wait for that to turn out how I think it will.  Oh, and Mettle continues to get the best and funniest lines in (although Finesse gets a zinger in there).  He’s becoming the “Rockslide” of this group (New/Young X-Men fans will get the reference), which is awesome.
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Uncanny X-Force #1 – Review

by Rick Remender (writer), Jerome Opena (artist)

The Story: Wolverine and Archangel have assembled a new X-Force behind the X-Men’s backs, consisting of fellow X-Man Psylocke, merc with a mouth Deadpool and international thief Fantomex.  While on a mission, Deadpool discovers that one of the mutants’ deadliest adversaries, Apocalypse, has returned.  As the team battles his horseman, War, it’s revealed that not only has the villain come back to life, but he’s come back in a most unexpected way.

What’s Good: Remender goes the smart route with the script, introducing readers to the story in media res.  With the team already assembled and the raison d’être behind their grouping already discussed, we can jump right into one of their first adventures without any of that “getting the band together” nonsense that slows down so many first issues.  I’m happy that one of the more prominent sub-plots being focused on in this issue is Angel’s identity crisis.  It’s something that I’ve wanted more of in this title after his regression to the Archangel   persona in the previous series.  Having Psylocke help him out with this mental quandary is a nice decision and it gives her a legitimate reason for hanging around.  The decision to focus on Apocalypse is also a welcome direction for the book.  The presence of the old foe of the X-Men serves to give this title a singular agenda (at least for this arc) that not only makes sense to the members of this Black Ops X-squad, but to old-time readers as well.  The ageless villain has been an implacable and deadly foe in the past, so if anyone deserves to be taken out with extreme prejudice, it’s En Sabah Nur.  The twist of putting the baddie’s essence in the body of an innocent is also a nice twist that I’m sure will make some members of the team hesitate when, and if, they get the kill shot.
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First Impressions 9/29/10

First Impressions 9/29/10

The Terminator: 1984 #1


By Zack Whedon & Andy Macdonald
Price: $3.50

Brief Thoughts: Let’s get your question out of the way right now, why don’t we?  If you’re a Terminator fan, especially a fan of the first film (and who isn’t?) then you should pick this up.  Whedon’s script is a strong one, weaving in and out, before and after, the original film’s events in a way that never feels forced or like bullshit.  He even manages to fill in some blanks, bringing in several elements in reaction to the events surrounding Kyle Reese’s and Sarah Connor’s battle against the Terminator that make a lot of sense.  Macdonald wouldn’t have been my first choice of penciller for this type of comic, but I’d have been wrong, because he pulls it all off here.  Even his recreations of some of the key scenes of the first movie evoked just the right amount of nostalgia.  Apparently, this miniseries is a sequel to an earlier one by the same creative team.  I am, without a doubt, going to be picking that one up based on the strength of this one.  Great job all around.

Verdict: Give it a shot.

Valkyrie #1


By Brian J. L. Glass & Phil Winslade
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Well, that happened.  Glass and Winslade’s tale of how Valkyrie returned to life after dying during Thor’s part in the whole Avengers Disassembled event not only seems to be told much too late, but it’s not told in a particularly riveting manner either.  I’m no expert in the character’s history (and this issue didn’t really clear it up for me, either, despite trying), but couldn’t they have come up with a villain a little more imposing than Piledriver of the Wrecking Crew?  I mean, the Wrecking Crew are Marvel’s baddies that get pulled out whenever we need to see our heroes beat the crap out of someone, and that’s when they’re together!  This is just one of them.  Way to rob this story of any suspense whatsoever.  It is nice to see Winslade on art duties, though, as he’s been out of the spotlight for some time to my knowledge.  All told, this one-shot would have fallen flat even were it published when it would have been actually relevant.  Now?  Well, it’s forgettable at best.

Verdict: Save your dough.

Machete #0


By Rodriguez, Kaufman & Stuart Sayger
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Well, there is some fun to be had with this comic that features the star of the film out in theaters currently.  It’s the sort of fun you’d get out of a mid-90’s Image comic book, though, so it might not be for everyone.  There’s a lot of blood and dark, scratchy artwork as we follow Mexican police officer Daniel Lopez as he deals with his lazy, crooked partner and some drug runners who have been kidnapping and murdering young women.  I found myself wondering why Lopez, a.k.a. Machete, cared so much about doing his job, besides the fact that he’s a badass cop, which hurt my enjoyment a bit here.  I know that this is a send-up of Grindhouse films, but that unfortunately doesn’t really translate well in comic form.  As a result all we’re seemingly left with is another violent, one-dimensional comic book.

Verdict: Save your dough.
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Avengers Academy #4 – Review

by Christos Gage (writer), Mike McKone (penciller)

The Story:
The “Scared Straight” non-crossover with the Thunderbolts continues as three of the Academy recruits confront Norman Osborn and the rest of the Avengers (young and old alike) help the T-Bolts contain a prison riot on the The Raft.

What’s Good: There’s a lot to like in this month’s installment of Avengers Academy.  Gage’s script allows for plenty of powerful scenes that reinforce how strong a title this comic book has become since its debut and I’m nothing but pleased to see this trend continue.  Opening the issue with a flashback to Mettle’s recent past, showcasing how exactly he became the person he is today, was a smart decision.  Establishing the character’s mellow (a word used quite effectively throughout the issue) personality, only to see that laid back point of view rewarded with nothing but suffering, effectively brought what the students confronting Osborn must be feeling into focus.  They’ve all done nothing wrong in their eyes, yet their lives have been wrenched from them violently and they’ve all been condemned to struggle and, for some, an early death.  Of course they want to murder Osborn, not for being totally responsible for their current situations, but for playing a part and, well, just for being a tangible target.  It’s to the writer’s credit that despite how sympathetic he’s made our protagonists’ plight, he still manages to make Osborn come off as somewhat reasonable and convincing.  It’s really a standout scene and to say any more would ruin it, but Osborn really plays the part of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden insanely well .  There are plenty of other great moments to be enjoyed as well, from Quicksilver’s laugh out loud “Miss Daisy” comment to Hazmat’s bad-ass “I’ll give you cancer” retort.  Overall, Gage is slowly but surely establishing this book as a contender for the best Avengers title out there.  Some might scoff at that opinion, but if he continues on this path, I’m standing by it.
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Uncanny X-Men #528 – Review

by Matt Fraction (writer), Whilce Portacio (penciller)

The Story: Hope and Storm find another of the Five Lights and, well, if you’ve read the last two issues, then you can guess the rest.  Meanwhile, Emma conspires to remove Sebastian Shaw from Utopia unnoticed and Kitty disapproves of her plans.  Oh, and Namor argues with his subjects, Dazzler and Northstar beat up some people and Iceman works on the X-Men’s image.

What’s Good:
I’m happy to see some of the spotlight (although not much of it) fall on both Kitty Pryde and Iceman.  Both of these X-Men have suffered from a lack of focus recently and their presence is sorely missed.  And although Emma Frost does hog a good chunk of the plot here, it’s also a pleasure to see X-Men that aren’t Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine or Magneto get some face time, as well.  For a title that is repeatedly said to have a cast of hundreds and the freedom to rotate the spotlight generously, it sure has seemed that Fraction has opted to ignore that and just center on a core team of X-Men primarily.  So seeing some more of Dazzler, Northstar and Storm is a welcome change of pace.
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First Impressions 9/15/10

First Impressions 9/15/10

Thor: First Thunder #1


By Bryan J.L. Glass & Tan Eng Huat

Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Well, that was pretty unnecessary, wasn’t it? Glass and Huat basically re-tell the first appearance of everyone’s favorite God of Thunder with only minor changes.  It all comes off as pointless, unfortunately.  Getting to hear what Donald Blake was thinking when he finds his fabled walking stick and adding two hikers to the mix don’t warrant a re-telling.  And then you throw in a reprint of most of the actual first appearance of Thor in the back just to rub the point in?  I mean, really.

Verdict: Save your dough.

Red: Frank Special


By Gregory Noveck & Jason Masters

Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Noveck, working from a story by ‘Red’ screenwriters Jon & Erich Hoeber, tells a very enjoyable done-in-one action thriller that is paced quite briskly, never pausing long enough to allow any boredom to creep in.  Frank Moses, black ops CIA agent, is nothing new to fans of these types of stories, but his no-nonsense, somewhat paranoid personality is instantly likable and works well within the confines of this plot.  Masters’ art brings original Red artist, Cully Hamner, to mind in his simplicity and storytelling, and that’s a good thing.  All in all, this one-shot does what all the best one-shots should do: delivers a fast-paced, easy to follow , engaging story that doesn’t require any previous knowledge to enjoy it.  Well worth a purchase if you’re in the mood for a fun diversion on your trip home.

Verdict: Give it a shot.

Red: Joe Special

By  Doug Wagner & Bruno Redondo

Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Wagner delivers a smart and fast-paced action thriller that, while not quite as enjoyable as Noveck’s “Frank” one-shot, comes pretty damn close.  Jumping right into the tale from page 1, we’re introduced to CIA evaluator Joe who, on a trip to the Soviet Union, must race against time to save the lives of three of his best deep cover agents.  It’s an uncomplicated plot, one which eventually does reveal itself to be more than it seems, which simply serves to make it that much more of an interesting read.  Redondo’s art  isn’t really to my liking, but it tells the story well and serves its purpose.  Another solid movie tie-in, which is really a pleasant surprise.

Verdict: Give it a shot.

RED: Victoria Special


By Jon Hoeber & David Hahn

Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Haun’s artwork sells this entire issue.  His clean, simple lines made every page flow from one to the next effortlessly.  This is the sort of artist you want on your comic because it’s almost impossible to not get pulled into the story thanks to the visuals.  Jon Hoeber’s tale of MI6 sniper Victoria and how she falls in love with a KGB agent isn’t a bad one, but does suffer from feeling just a tad bit sexist.  This is the only one of the RED prequels that centers on a woman, and the plot of course has to revolve around a love story?  I mean, come on.  I’m not saying that’s what they had in mind when coming up with this issue, but I have a hard time not making the correlation myself.  Maybe I’m the sexist one?  Bah, whatever.  All I’m saying is that with Haun’s artwork and the characterization of Victoria, I’d have happily read something a bit more in keeping with the theme of the other one-shots.  Oh well, I’ll just stare at Haun’s superb artwork and get over it.

Verdict: Give it a shot.
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New Mutants #17 – Review

by, Zeb Wells (writer) Leonard Kirk (penciller)

The Story:
Just as Cannonball and Moonstar share an intimate moment, Magik shows up with a call to arms, dragging the team to Limbo to rescue kidnapped X-Man, Pixie.  Then they get their asses kicked.

What’s Good:
Wells has done a superb job keeping this title engaging and entertaining, and the reason he’s so successful is because he puts character first.  Not only do each of the cast members make realistic and believable decisions, but their personalities completely jibe with what has come before in previous stories by other creators.  Any other title would suffer from starring not one but three ‘back from the dead’ characters (Warlock, Magik & Cypher, in case you’re lacking a scorecard), mainly in the likelihood of annoying long-time fans with their presence.  But just as the likes of Ed Brubaker or Joss Whedon have done with characters like Bucky and Colossus, Wells has silenced most if not all of those naysayers by writing them with respect for who they are and how they’ve acted in the past.  As a result, this series feels like a natural extension of the New Mutants’ lives and not just a retread of older stories (or an affront to them).  This issue continues with that feeling, especially concerning the scene with Dani and Sam kissing.  Some might disagree, but this feels like an organic direction that their relationship would travel in, and I’m curious where it might take them and how it will affect the team dynamic.  There are plenty of other great moments in this issue that reiterate the strength of the script, from Warlock’s continued self-doubt to Illyana’s no-nonsense demeanor to the confrontation with the grown-up Inferno babies at the climax.  Wells is delivering solid issue after solid issue and is quietly making this the most dependable X-Title on the stands every month.
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X-23 #1 – Review

by Marjorie Liu (writer), Will Conrad (artist)

The Story: X-23, the teenaged and female clone of Wolverine, struggles with disapproving former teammates and her own conscience after her secret career as a member of the murderous X-Force is revealed.  As she begins to bond with senior X-Man Storm, she turns away just as quickly from former mentor Wolverine after suffering nightmares concerning a demonic version of the mutant.  Sensing the discontent within our protagonist, Cyclops assigns X-23 to a half-way house for former mutants where he hopes she’ll discover new ways to help people.

What’s Good: There are some great moments for fans of the franchise and the X-23 character to be found here.  Liu smartly mines X’s past relationships and previous status quo before launching her into a new adventure, which serves to remind us of why the character is in so much need of a change in her life and what she’s doing with it.  During the whole X-Force run, where X-23 was a major cast member, never once did I wonder how her former New X-Men classmates would react to the secrets she’d been keeping and the missions she was undertaking as Cyclops’ secret assassin.  Despite that lack of curiosity, I’m glad that Liu decided to answer the question regardless, because the students’ reactions served up a strong scene that made many nods to past continuity that made this reviewer very happy.  Not only did we get a nice confrontation between Surge and X, but a somewhat touching encounter with Hellion, and a laugh-out loud comment from the innocent Dust.  The writer shows, in this scene alone, that she’s done her homework, not only remembering X’s hinted at mutual attraction with Hellion, but also the fact that she and Dust were roommates back at Xavier’s.  The decision to involve Storm in the heroine’s life was also a nice, unexpected touch in the script.  Of the many X-Men hanging their hats on Utopia, Storm was the last one I’d assume to play a mentor role to X-23 but as their conversation continued, I realized that she was a perfect fit for the role.  I’m curious to see where this new relationship takes them.
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First Impressions 9/9/10

FIRST IMPRESSIONS 9/9/10

Invaders Now #1


By Christos Gage, Alex Ross & Caio Reis
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: The existence of this miniseries is at least warranted and organic, considering how many classic Invaders are now walking around the Marvel Universe, alive and well.  Gage and Ross do a decent job of explaining away why every former member of the team happens to be paired up with another at the same exact time, but overall this is a “get the gang back together” issue and the meat of the story is merely hinted at, leaving this introductory chapter feeling a little insubstantial.  Reis’ artwork is solid if not memorable, and overall the package is a decent outing from Marvel.  Too bad “decent” isn’t enough to equal a purchase these days.

Verdict: Save your dough.

Daken: Dark Wolverine #1


By Daniel Way, Marjorie Liu, and Giuseppe Camuncoli
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: The Dark Wolverine series has been coasting since the ending of the Dark Reign, and it seems with this reboot things might be starting to get back on track.  Way and Camuncoli have given their Machiavellian lead a new purpose, and while it’s certainly not much different than his previous raison d’être, it at least makes this series seem to have forward momentum.  Camuncoli really has proven, mainly by his absence, that any and all Daken stories suffer if he’s not handling the artwork.  The artist is a master at bringing out the subtle darkness present in the tone of the tale and within the title character, and Marvel should really do their damnedest to keep him on this book if they want it to continue selling.

Verdict: Give it a (tentative) shot.

Lucid #1


By Michael McMillian & Anna Wieszczyk
Price: $3.95

Brief Thoughts: There are some interesting ideas to be found in this story about magical agents working for the U.S. government, attempting to protect the world from inter-dimensional invasion.  However, the mangaesque artwork makes the whole affair seem very regular and uninteresting, betraying what could have been a sleeper hit.  Perhaps a more suitable artist, who can really bring the dark and mystical mood to the forefront, could be brought on for the next arc?  Or is it too late?  Let’s hope not.

Verdict: Save your dough.

Weird War Tales #1


By Various
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: There are three short tales to be found within, and while they each have their own merits, there’s not much to be said about any of them save Darwyn Cooke’s wickedly dark comedic piece about what all the former war heroes of history past and their brethren get up to after they die.  I found myself wishing for more when I found it was done, but that brevity may be part of its charm.  Either way, it’s well worth the price of admission alone.

Verdict: Give it a shot.

Shrek #1


By Various
Price: $3.95

Brief Thoughts: I watched the first Shrek film and it was enough to keep me away from the rest of them.  I suppose if you’re a Shrek fan this might be of interest to you, and while I personally found it to be boring, predictable, and not very funny, that is very likely due to my pre-existing bias against the franchise.  But, hey, I tried!

Verdict: Save your dough.

Transformers: Drift #1


By Shane McCarthy & Alex Milne
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Growing up on Transformers cartoons hasn’t necessarily led to a love of the current Transformers comics coming from IDW, but occasionally I’ll pick up an issue here and there.  Sometimes I’m happy I did so, and sometimes I’m not so pleased.  Drift #1 is not the best TF story I’ve read, but I was suitably entertained and I wouldn’t be against reading the next issue, although I probably won’t miss it if I don’t.  I do want to know why the heck are Transformers dressed as Jedis in this issue, though?  And who’s their tailor?

Verdict: Save your dough.

Punisher Max: Hot Rods of Death #1


By Charlie Huston & Shawn Martinborough
Price: $4.99

Brief Thoughts: Hot Rods of Death is a fun little Punisher piece where Frank Castle plays the part of the drifter being called in to save a town in deadly danger.  There’s not a lot new to be found here, but there is a solid level of enjoyment in watching everyone’s favorite vigilante kill bad men.  Huston handles the storytelling nicely, although there are the odd few pages that threatened to drown under their own wordiness.  Martinborough comes through on that end, though, and makes you forget those bumps on the road once you get to the glorious automobile carnage he has in store for you.  5 bucks for 32 pages is pushing it, sure, but heck, live a little.

Verdict: Give it a shot.

Domino Lady Noir #1


By Nancy Holder & Shawn Van Briesen
Price: $3.50

Brief Thoughts: When I sit down to read a comic book, my brain does certain things.  It silently readies itself to imbibe visual entertainment mixed with a healthy amount of text, but not too healthy an amount.  After all, nothing can kill the pacing of a comic like an overabundance of text.  So, it’s with great pain that I open a comic like Domino Lady Noir and find that it really isn’t a comic book in the traditional sense at all, but a short prose story accompanied by the odd illustration here and there.  If I wanted to read a prose story, I’d read a proper book, not this.  It’s practically tantamount to false advertising.  Am I being a bit harsh?  Probably.  Do I stand by this opinion?  Probably.

Verdict: Save your dough and buy a book.

Ratchet & Clank #1


By T.J. Fixman & Adam Archer
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: I’ve never played any of Sony’s Ratchet and Clank videogames, so I came into this comic with no expectations or preconceived notions of what it was about.  Having read it, while I don’t know that this would be my thing on a regular basis, it was certainly a lot of fun.  Fixman’s script brings the reader up to speed about our titular duo quickly enough and with little exposition, making it very easy to just sit back and enjoy the ride.  Archer’s artwork was perfect for the type of story being told, giving it a nicely animated look and telling the story well visually.  And, hey, robot sidekick!  A pleasant surprise.

Verdict: Give it a shot.

-Joe Lopez

Incredible Hulks #612 – Advance Review

by Greg Pak & Scott Reed (writers), Tom Raney & Brian Ching (artists)

The Story: The Hulks enjoy a family barbecue at the beach as Bruce Banner confronts his newly resurrected wife Betty in regards to their marriage.  This being a Hulk book, that equals Green Hulk vs. Red She-Hulk action!  Meanwhile, lost son of the Hulk, Hiro-Kala (Who’s going to be pretty peeved when he finds out everyone else in his family can turn into a Hulk except him.  What a gyp!) travels through space as he suffers revolt from his followers on all sides.

What’s Good:
I admire what Pak is attempting to do with this title.  The acclaimed writer has been put into a position where he not only has one Hulk at his disposal, but six, and he’s milking that storytelling opportunity for all it’s worth.  The title change, going from Incredible Hulk to Incredible HulkS, is more than just a gimmick.  Pak’s exploration of the concept of family and relationships continues here from his previous work on the Hulk titles.  If anything, that theme is stronger than ever thanks to so many actual members of Bruce Banner’s genetic family being present.  The Hulk’s Warbound in Planet Hulk and World War Hulk and the relationship between Skaar and Banner during the lead up to Fall of the Hulks were all studies in family dynamics and this new iteration of the title seems to be bringing that examination to a head.  If there were any doubt about Pak’s intentions, he even has the Hulk family enjoying a beach barbecue for crissakes!  That decision, and Banner’s relationship problems with his estranged ex-wife Betty (which of course turn into a Hulk vs. Hulk smackdown) both do a nice job of showing the positives and negatives to being surrounded by those you consider family.  I’m intrigued by the direction this title is taking, and while there’s always the danger that we’ll journey into Fantastic Four territory (I’ve never been a fan of the “family of super-heroes” concept), I trust Pak to take the tale of a clan of aggressive, super-strong Hulks to its logical conclusion.  Oh, and Tom Raney’s artwork?  Perfect for this new direction.  The man knows how to draw him some Hulks.  Nuff said.
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First Impressions 8/25/10

FIRST IMPRESSIONS 8/25/10

Science Dog Special #1


By Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker
Price: $3.50

Brief Thoughts: I’m conflicted about this comic.  On one hand, I enjoyed the fun, in-media-res introduction to the title character.  There’s a lot of fun to be had with the concept introduced here, and Science Dog alone is actually a likable protagonist.  The tone and style of adventure reminded me of Kirkman’s popular series, Invincible, which isn’t a bad thing.  On the other hand (and speaking of Invincible), the problem with this issue is that it not only ends on an unexpected cliffhanger (this being billed as a one-shot was a bit misleading), but said cliffhanger continues in an upcoming issue of Invincible, not Science Dog!  Fans of both might be fine with that, but the lack of warning or foreshadowing at the sudden turn of events makes me feel a little bit tricked into picking up a series I don’t usually buy.  That doesn’t affect the enjoyment to be had here, but it does sour it a bit.

Verdict: Give it a shot (but beware).

Dracula: The Company of Monsters #1


By Kurt Busiek, Daryl Gregory & Scott Godlewski
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: BOOM! never fails with their series to, if not knock it out of the park with their first issues, at least entice you enough to come back for seconds.  Busiek’s & Gregory’s Dracula series is intriguing.  The story tells of a modern day corporation that seeks to resurrect the most famous vampire of all, while we simultaneously get bits and pieces of Vlad Dracul’s life as emperor of Wallachia in the past.  It’s also interesting to note that this issue features absolutely no vampires whatsoever, showcasing Dracula before the transformation, and it still works.  Godlewski’s artwork is also rather nice.

Verdict: Give it a shot.

Star Wars: Blood Ties #1


By Tom Taylor & Chris Scalf
Price: $3.50

Brief Thoughts: Bobba Fett reminisces about how he was turned into the ultimate badass by his “father”, Jango Fett and while doing so, proves that there is still life left in the Star Wars universe of stories.  Taylor tells a pretty straightforward tale of father and son (or cloned and clonee) going on a mission together, and it’s that straightforwardness that sells it.  Funnily enough, just as you’re enjoying that action-packed simplemindedness, the tale takes a twisty turn and you’re loving that as well.  As good as Taylor’s script is, it’s Scalf’s painted artwork that makes this issue a must-buy.  It’s downright beautiful and every creature and alien who shows up is exceptionally visualized.  While Scalf does have some weaknesses when it comes to drawing actual human faces, he more than makes up for it with his renditions of the Fetts (with their helmets on) and their tech.  A completely unexpected surprise, this one.

Verdict: Give it a shot.  Definitely.
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X-Men Legacy #239 – Review

by Mike Carey (writer), Clay Mann (artist)

The Story: After a battle with some Sentinels, Rogue and Magneto continue to attempt to figure out the source of the strange weather storms occurring in Mumbai while Child of the Vault runaway Luz causes discord amongst Paras’ household.

What’s Good:
It’s always nice to read the X-titles these days and see how embraced the new, younger mutants are by the creators.  Originally the stars of such titles as New and Young X-Men, as well as the second volume of New Mutants, many fans of those casts ( myself included) worried that wonderful new creations such as Anole, X-23, Elixir and Prodigy would be forgotten in favor of returning the focus to tried and true X-Men like Wolverine and Cyclops.  Carey has managed to find a pleasant middle ground in his approach to the cast of this title by mixing and matching stalwarts such as Magneto, Colossus, Husk and Gambit with the students like Trance, Indra, and Bling.  Acting as an anchor to bring them all together is Rogue, now tasked with mentoring the next generation of mutantkind.  The writer seems to genuinely enjoy scripting our favorite Southern Belle, and it’s a joy to not only see where he takes her in the Marvel Universe, but also to watch as he adds some much needed updates to her status quo.  Magneto also benefits from Carey’s pen.  The former villain’s new role in the X-Men has been an intriguing one and I’m happy that this story has taken advantage of not only that role, but Magneto’s past romantic dalliance with Rogue.  It adds a nice variety to her love life, giving the readers a break from the never-ending “Will they or won’t they” relationship she has with Gambit. Oh, and that is a beautifully awesome cover by Leinil Yu.
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FIRST IMPRESSIONS 8/18/10

FIRST IMPRESSIONS 8/18/10

Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet #1


By Brian Clevinger, Lee Black & Brian Churilla
Price: $2.99

Brief Thoughts: I can only think of two reasons why anyone would buy this.  Either you’re too young to know of the existence of the original Infinity Gauntlet miniseries that this story is “based on” or you’re a parent who feels hesitant about letting your child read a story that deals heavily with the obsession of Death, so this watered down version seems to be a decent compromise.  Both reasons aren’t good enough to pay for this.  Category A should go to the store now and buy the TPB reprinting this awesome Marvel event of the 90’s.  Category B should just wait for their kid to be old enough so they can read the real deal.  Both groups will be happy they followed this advice.

Verdict: Save your dough.

Witchblade: Due Process #1


By Phil Smith & Alina Urusov
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Smith’s script about an innocent man whose been released from prison and returns to the outside changed for the worse has potential, but ultimately there’s not enough emotion to be found.  It feels like we’re just going through the motions from point A to point B.  Urosov’s artwork has the same potential but there’s too much stiffness present in her figures, which robs the story of a lot of its immediacy.  Close but no banana.

Verdict: Save your dough.

The Last Phantom #1


By Scott Beatty & Eduardo Ferigato
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Beatty’s soft reboot of the The Phantom starts to work just as it’s first chapter is ending, which is both frustrating and a relief.  One hand I’m just interested enough to take a gander at the next issue, but on the other hand, it really shouldn’t have taken so long for a first issue that’s likely reintroducing a franchise to new readers to become engaging.  Also, it’s beginning to become a cliché that any story where the protagonist is a wealthy businessman will inevitably find his business partner secretly betraying him and attempting to have him killed.  It’s getting stale, people.  All in all, this is starting to look a bit interesting, but it’s not there yet.

Verdict: Save your dough.

Shadowland: Power Man #1


By Fred Van Lente & Mahmud Asrar
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Well, that was a pleasant surprise.  I opened this issue fully expecting to have to slog through another lackluster Shadowland tie-in, but by the time I finished it, I found that I’d enjoyed the heck out of this.  Van Lente has created an interesting replacement for the Power Man mantle that manages to retain elements of the original while adding a youthful, fresh flavor into the mix. By adding the original Heroes for Hire into the mix, the legacy aspect of the character is solid as well.  Extra kudos for actually giving some personality to Hand Ninjas.  Asrar’s artwork was also a joy to look at.  I’m not surprised that Marvel has already green-lit a sequel miniseries to this.

Verdict: Give it a shot.

The Boys: Highland Laddie #1

By Garth Ennis, John McCrea & Keith Burns
Price: $3.99

Brief Thoughts: Man, I worship Garth Ennis.  His run on Hellblazer and Preacher are some of the most seminal stuff in the medium.  But this?  This is, well, not good.  Ennis pulls back the curtain a bit to reveal Wee Hughie’s past as he journey back to his home town and it’s no time at all until the writer falls back into the clichés of his writing.  Wacky and sexually insane characters talking in a pub as they compare tales and say shocking things abound.  It’s upsetting because it’s hit the point where it doesn’t even feel as if I’m reading an Ennis title as much as I’m reading someone doing a bad impersonation of an Ennis title.

Verdict: Save your dough.
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Hulk #24 – Review

by Jeph Loeb (writer), Ed Mcguinness (artist)

The Story: World War Hulks comes to a close as the Red Hulk faces off against the Green Hulk (who’s in his Planet Hulk incarnation) in a fist-fight to end all fist-fights!  Meanwhi– Er, wait. Nope, that’s it.

What’s Good:
Take as many digs at Loeb’s Hulk run as you want, but the one thing that cannot be disputed is that as long as McGuinness has been at the art reins, it’s been freaking beautiful.  McG is a “big” artist whose artwork thrives in splash and double splash page form, and while that mode of pencilling can sometimes be frowned upon, it works wonders here with this particular set of characters.  What is essentially   twenty something pages of punching, head-butting, and kicking just sings.  The weight and energy he throws down in every panel is palpable.  The artwork alone makes this issue a must-buy.  If they sold this in a non-Loeb edition with just “silent” artwork, I would be all over this.  Can we please get a Hulk series penciled by McGuinness and written by Greg Pak?  Pretty please?
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