Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reviews for Action Comics #1, Red Skull #3, Swamp Thing #1 and more

Some big names in DC finally make the appearance this week, and it's a very strong start to their revamp.  Marvel also had a strong week.  I don't think I was really disappointed by one comic this week, something that hasn't happened in a while.  Ok, enough out of me, lets get onto the reviews!

DC Comics
Action Comics #1:  As much as Justice League is the gateway to the new continuity, Action Comics is the real series we need to read.  It's a new take on their most classic character, and it's written by Grant Morrison.  DC needs this book to succeed.

Superman makes his grand entrance by stopping a corrupt businessman, named Glenmorgan.  Superman runs (not fly, since he can't yet) away.  Lex Luthor has a grand scheme to stop this "thing" as he calls it.  General Lane isn't happy with Superman, but seems to respect him.  Luthor lures Superman into a sleazy section of Metropolis to trap him in the buildings as Luthor nocks them down.  A tank appears as Superman is trying to save the citizens.  As a blimp appears overhead, Superman jumps on for a ride before the police come to take him away.  Clark heads back to his apartment where he talks to Jimmy Olson and Lois Lane on the phone.  The two are looking for an enforcer for Glenmorgan.  The train isn't suppose to be running though, and is set to crash.  Luthor made a deal with Glenmorgan to destroy the train.  Superman stops the train, but not before he is knocked out when the train hits the Daily Planet.

Much like Superman, the comic is faster than a speeding bullet.  It's a very fast read and a lot happens.  But kudos to Grant Morrison for making it feel fresh.  Morrison seems to have looked at Peter Parker for inspiration for this Superman.  He is cocky, spouts off a lot of one liners, and the police hate him.  It's refreshing to see our blue boy scout be imperfect.  Having Superman not be able to fly is an interesting twist.  But the plot has a couple of holes.  How does Clark know the train shouldn't be running?  It's a small hole but massive when you think about it.

Rags Morales pencils a great issue, but his body work needs some improvement.  During the scene with Clark Kent, he looks muscular one panel, and skinny the next, then muscular again.  His face work looks rather rushed as well.  I'm sure he will figure it out, as Morales is a talented artist.  The action scenes look great though, and the reader can really feel the momentum of the train flying through Metropolis.

Action Comics #1 gets 3.5/5.

DC Comics
Animal Man #1:  I'll be honest, I really didn't know who Animal Man was before.  Hell, in my post about which DC book will last the relaunch, I said this book wouldn't last a year.  I think I may be eating my words on this one.

The issue starts off with Buddy Baker reading an interview he just did with a magazine.  Buddy is staring in a new film, and has Oscar buzz written all over him.  Buddy then talks to his wife about what it means what will happen to his Animal Man life.  His daughter wants a dog, but can't, since it will mess with Animal Man's powers.  Clif, Buddy's son, tells him about a man taking kids hostage at a hospital.  Animal Man to the rescue.  Buddy stops the man, but sympathizes with him, as the man was distraught from his daughter dying of cancer.  After Animal Man saves the day, his eyes start bleeding.  He talks to a doctor, but everything seems fine.  Once home, Buddy has a bad nightmare about his daughter and her stuffed animal dog.  When Buddy awakes, he finds his daughter in the backyard.

Jeff Lemire is the king of cliff hangers this week, as I have read his Sweet Tooth #25 cliff hanger was great.  Animal Man's history is cleverly laid out in the interview, a welcomed change instead of tons of exposition.  It leaves Lemire to give the reader everything he needs to know about Buddy and his family.  Everyone has their own voice, and it's great to see a comic heroes family play an actual role, instead of being there for someone to kill.  While the part at Buddy's house is interesting, the hospital scene leaves something to be desired.  It's very cliched and runs on a little longer than it should.  More time should have been spent in the nightmare scenario, as I would have loved to read more about that.

Travel Foreman's art is a mixed bag.  There are some great looking scenes, especially the nightmare scene. But the action scene in the hospital looks odd.  Animal Man's body size fluctuates, with his arms rivaling Mr. Fantastic in length, then being the same size again.  I'll forgive that if we see more scenes like the last page, which is eerie.

Animal Man #1 gets 3.5/5.

DC Comics
Batgirl #1:  I didn't read the last volume, with Stephanie Brown as Batgirl.  I never read a bad thing about the volume, but I remember all fans being rather mad that Barbara Gordon is Batgirl now.  I must say though, Batgirl #1 is going to silence the haters.

There is a new villain in town called The Mirror.  While the villain is killing people, Barbara Gordon is getting ready to kick some home invasion ass.  After that, she moves into a new apartment with an activist for a room mate.  Barbara can suddenly walk, with the reason being called a miracle by Barbara.  The Mirror is going after his next victim at a hospital while Batgirl is on patrol, and she leaps into action.  When she arrives, The Mirror aims the gun right at her spine; the exact spot where the Joker shot her during the Killing Joke.  Paralyzed in fear, Batgirl can't stop The Mirror from pushing the patient out to the window.  The detective in the room accuses Batgirl of being in cahoots with The Mirror.

Gail Simon is one heck of a writer.  One of the daunting tasks of this new 52 is getting every reader up to date with each character.  Some are having trouble, but others, like Gail Simon, are using it to tell a great story.  Using the Killing Joke as a background for this arc is a great idea.  Simon presents Barbara's personality without missing a beat.  If someone asked me who Barbara Gordon is, I could easily tell you, just from reading this issue.  The idea of having Barbara's room mate be an activist will no doubt lead to some great humor.  The ending is a little surprising, as it's not that great of an ending.  We have seen this used way to many times in superhero comic books. I'm sure Simon will find a way to make it fresh and unique to Batgirl, but for now I'm not too impressed.

Ardian Syaf pencils a great looking issue.  I noticed one massive mistake though, was that the patient suddenly losses an eye.  The action flows well, and the opening couple of pages are gorgeous.  The reader can really see and feel the fright in Barbara's eyes when The Mirror points the gun at her spine.

Batgirl #1 gets 4/5.

Marvel Comics
FF #8:  FF was one of the best books Marvel was putting out, then the crappy Black Bolt side tracked all the momentum Jonathan Hickman built up.  The plot is back and so is the awesomeness.

Sue has a rather short talk with Nathan Richards, which is interrupted by Reed (the original one that is).  Sue sits out the ensuing battle, as she just got a concussion from her trip to Old Atlantis a few issues back.  The Inhumans are back on Earth to destroy the High Evolutionaries city.  The Reeds have planned this entire thing.  The Future Foundation, made up of Fantastic Four villains, get ready for battle.  The battle starts.  Medussa transports Mr. Fantastic and Spider-Man to an unknown location.  Dr. Doom gets the upper hand on one of the Reeds, but this is spoiled by Diablo, who lights Dr. Doom on fire.  While the battle is going on, Nathan Richards (son of Sue and Reed, not to be confused with Reed's dad) lets Valeria out of her room.

The issue works more like set up for future issues, which will no doubt come to a head in Fantastic Four #600 in a few months.  I wish more could have happened though.  It's an interesting read but doesn't move the plot along much.  It has some great character moments with Sue, dad Nathan, and Reed.  I'm glad Hickman picks up right where he left off, I just wish I didn't have to wait three months to get to this point.  The ending is cliched, but very surprising.  Given how smart all these villains are, it didn't even occur to me that this could happen.  Or that they would be stupid enough to do that.

Steve Epting is back on pencils, and boy did I miss him.  Barry Kitson is a great penciler, but I miss seeing Epting pencil Marvel's first family.  Sue's stare at the beginning of the issue cuts through the reader, and is one of the best uses of eyes I have seen in a comic in a very long while.  The action scenes look great and the final panel is something that should be made into a poster.

FF #8 gets 4/5.

  Marvel Comics
Moon Knight #5:  Much like Daredevil, Bendis' Moon Knight will read great in a trade paperback.  It can be hard for some to read single issues, but issues like this should keep people attracted to the single issues.

Moon Knight has to decide; should he or shouldn't he save Echo from the police.  For that matter, what should he do about the police.  He decides to run and leaves Echo.  She can handle herself though.  The three amigos in Moon Knight's head have a lot to say about that though.  Most of them agree that she see is insanely attractive, especially after she wrangles herself free from the police.  She drives down the street, where Moon Knight is gliding to meet her.  He gets in the car and they escape the police.  Once they are out, Spector makes a move on Echo.  Echo then proceeds to kick his ass.  Spector meets up with Buck.  The police are interrogating a man named Tick Tock, a low on the totem pole villain.  Moon Knight has something up his sleeve for this guy.

Not a lot happens in this issue, but it's still really fun to read.  Bendis is slowly finding Moon Knight's voice and giving him more dialogue.  I'd still like to see the three heads disappear for an issue and see how Moon Knight does on his own.  How would he react in a situation without them helping.  Give him a concussion or something.  I don't know, I'm just spitballing.  The exchange between Echo and Moon Knight is hilarious and just adds to the already weird feel that this book is becoming more known for.  Again, I'd like to see more of just Moon Knight dialogue.  I realize the three talking heads are kind of him, but I'd like to hear Marc Spector.

Alex Maleev makes some great choices on art.  Making Moon Knight stand out amongst the dirt and grime of LA looks amazing.  And the second that Spector takes off the Moon Knight outfit, he starts to blend in with the dirty background.  The fight between Moon Knight and Echo is gritty and looks great.

Moon Knight #5 gets 4/5.

Image Comics
Morning Glories #12:  Glad to see that this series is back on a monthly schedule.  Nick Spencer delivers one of the better issues of this series.

After a lengthy drive to the school, we meet the a guidance counselor at Morning Glories Academy, and her name is Ms. Hodge.  The kids of the academy seem to love her.  Ms. Hodge is not pleased though.  Our favorite students seem to have made her upset.  She meets all the students individually, finding out more about them.  Zoe is given a gun, Jun dismisses her, Jade is given pills to calm her down, Casey and Ike are ignored, and Hunter is shown that his future is a blank slate.  Casey is then given a great choice.

Nick Spencer made the character issues very interesting, but I was always wanting more about the mystery of the school itself.  This was exacerbated by the book not shipping on schedule for the past few months.  This issue not only gives us some big hints as to where the school is located, but that not all the faculty are against the students.  It's nice to have someone straddle the line of both sides, and will no doubt make Ms. Hodge that much more interesting of a character.  Nick Spencer also writes some great lines, especially Ms. Hodge's lines to Zoe.  The ending is a nice nod to when the series was all mystery, and I'm really looking forward to that angle coming back.

I have read a lot of criticism about Joe Eisma on art, and I really don't see why.  His art flows well, especially where we see the same panel multiple times and can see the changes in the scene.  It makes the series read like a TV show, much like LOST.  His lines do have a pointy quality though.  There are some times when characters look more boxy than they seem.

Morning Glories #12 gets 4/5

Marvel Comics
New Avengers Annual #1:  It's that time of year again where Annuals start coming out.  And instead of a nice, self contained story, we are getting another big crossover story.  I miss the simpler days, when Annuals were just ONE story.

Simon Williams, aka Wonderman, has brought together a team to take down the Avengers, named the Revengers.  Simon blames a lot on the Avengers, including the Dark Avengers, Civil War, Scarlet Witch, and other things.  Wonderman takes his team to the New Avengers Mansion and attacks the team.  A massive battle ensues.  The Mansion falls on top of the New Avengers.  The Revengers stand triumphant, and look next to Avengers tower.

New Avengers Annual #1 could be described as a popcorn comic.  Lots of flash but not a lot of substance. Bendis creates a great scenario on paper, but he doesn't give Simon enough depth for revenge.  Also, he seems to be using the Avengers tactic (creating a team), when he keeps saying it doesn't work.  His team of D-listers shouldn't have toppled the Avengers anyway.  The New Avengers made some massive gaffs that a team of this caliber wouldn't make.  I was kind of hoping there would be an interesting fight between Spider-Man and Anti-Venom.  But alas, nothing.   The fight is fun to read though, with some funny dialogue.  I'm certain that this team will get their butts handed to them in Avengers Annual #1.  I'm hoping Bendis will be able to find a dramatic depth for Simon.

Side note, I thought Avengers Tower was destroyed in Hulk recently?  I saw it go down in a recent issue of New Avengers as well.  This must take place after Fear Itself, but I'm not certain.

One good thing about this issue being a popcorn comic, is that it works in Gabriele Dell'otto.  His pencils look great, even almost painted.  He should stick to pencils more often, as his painting style can get a little muddy and confusing.  Mostly during panel transition.

New Avengers Annual #1 gets 3.5/5.

Marvel Comics
The Punisher #3:  THE PUNISHER SPEAKS!  Ok it was only one word.

The new Vulture grabs the Punisher and takes him for a ride.  Frank has other plans though, and attacks with a knife.  Repeatedly.  A fellow New Yorker tweets the fight, and Nora, getting a hair cut, bursts to go find Frank and the Vulture.  Detective Clemons and Bolt find the dead gangster that Frank was about to kill when they see Frank and the Vulture spinning about in the sky.  Frank gets the upper hand on the Vulture and stabs him in the chest, but not before the Vulture takes one of Franks eyes (or he appears too). Frank survives the fall, somehow.  The lone survivor of the wedding massacre, Sergeant Alves, seems to be more like the Punisher than we first thought.

This issue pushes Frank into the super powered part of the Marvel Universe.  While some wish he wasn't there, he will have to be eventually.  It's nice to have Frank dabble in fights with the supes, as it shows how powerful Frank is.  Greg Rucka also starts down a great path with the comparison of the wife and Frank.  Part of me wonders if her and Frank will team up, much like Microchip and Henry, or if they will be competing forces.  The permanent addition of Nora Roberts is also a nice touch.  No doubt her following Frank will have affects on her relationships in the Spider-Man books.  And the Punisher speaks.

Marco Chicchetto pencils and dirty and gritty book.  The fight is filled with blood, which for some reason flows like water.  The fight solidifies the final few scenes, with everyone wondering how Frank did survive.  

The Punisher #3 gets 4.5/5.

Marvel Comics
Red Skull: Incarnate #3:  This is one evil book.  It makes me care about the Red Skull.

The Nazis are slowly taking over Germany.  Johan Schmidt is working for a crime boss in Berlin, doing small jobs for him here and there.  Many see the Nazis as bullies, not actual contenders to run the country.  A Communist party is slowly making a stance amongst the people, although Hitler and his thugs are taking care of them for the most part.  One of these Communists is Dieter, a boy we saw back in #1.  Schmidt thinks Dieter to be weak, and his thoughts become true as the Nazi party spreads.  Nazis eventually kill Dieter, with Schmidt watching from a window.  The final page reveals something readers have been expecting.

One of the best things that can be said about Greg Pak's amazing story is how the reader has come to feel for the Skull.  We see what has turned him wrong and we wish that wasn't happening to him.  The Red Skull was just a boy who had a few bad things that turned him down a wrong path.  This is especially true when you think that every reader knew from the onset that this boy WILL be the most brutal villain in the Marvel Universe.  There is a bit more exposition at the end that I would have liked, but it didn't detract from the flow of the comic.  #3 acts as the turning point in the series.

Mirko Colak's art has been stellar on this series.  I do miss the slightly painted qualities that came up during the first few issues, but the sparing use makes them that much more dramatic when used.  There are a few odd facial movements in the crowd scenes, but never amongst the main cast.

Red Skull: Incarnate #3 gets 4.5/5.

DC Comics
Swamp Thing #1:  This had to be the strongest of the new 52 so far.  And I have a very strong feeling it will be once is all said and done.

Around the world, numerous species of birds, bats, and fish are dying off with no explanation.  This catches the attention of Superman, Batman, and Aquaman.  Alec Holland, meanwhile, is working on a construction yard, talking to himself about how plants feel.  He also thinks about how he use to be a scientist and how he created a serum to help plants.  He got frustrated, threw the serum into the swamp behind him.  There was an accident and he ran into that swamp, waking up as Swamp Thing. Superman comes to pay him a visit, asking him why all the animals are dying.  Superman figured since Alec Holland use to be Swamp Thing, that he might know.  Holland rebuffs him, and Superman flies off.  While he is sleeping, plants take over Holland's hotel room.  Swamp Thing appears to stop Holland from destroying the serum again.  Something appears in the desert, creating flies that breaks peoples necks and makes their heads turn 180 degrees. made up of dead animal bones, mostly a mastodon found at a local dig.

Scott Snyder does the undeniably hard task of getting new readers up to speed with Swamp Thing (myself included) and not missing a beat.  In usual Snyder fashion, he creates a big metaphor with other knowledge and the story.  The plant angle is fantastic to read, and gives us the inside knowledge and experience that Swamp Thing knows without being boring or being in some out of place action scene.  Snyder's nameless villain is truly terrifying, in that we have no clue what it is.  It has shown us a terrible power and will be a force of nature that only another force of nature can handle.

Yanic Paquette pencils his best issue ever.  His work on Batman Inc. was great, but his is on a whole other level.  The villain looks positively terrifying.  This is one of those scenes that could have gone without sound effect words, and I could have felt the necks crack of the victims.  Swamp Thing look simply stunning.  I'd love to copy the final page and turn it into a poster.

I originally gave Swamp Thing #1 a 4.5, but after a reread, I have to give it better.

Swamp Thing #1 gets 5/5.

Marvel Comics
Wolverine #15:  Jason Aaron always writes a great Wolverine with one and done stories.  Look at Wolverine: Weapon X #16 for a great example of this.  This issue is fantastic as well.

Wolverine just learned that the last five people he killed were his children.  He is dragging them one by one, in their coffin, to the burial site of their biological mother, so that they can be buried with family.  Logan gets drunk so that he can try and forget, and hallucinates while drunk.  He sees Daken, Dog, his father, who is carrying the head of Sabertooth.  In actuality, these people are just townsfolk.  Logan gives Melita a call, telling her that he can't be Wolverine anymore.  She tries to quickly talk him out of it, but Logan isn't having any of it.  He then proceeds to keep jumping off a cliff, trying to cause himself as much pain as possible.

This issue cuts to the core at why Logan is such an amazing character in the right hands.  He hates himself and can't do anything about it besides some mild pain.  Many think it's hard to relate to Logan since he can barely be hurt.  In actuality he his pain keeps coming back for years to come, and that can be a while when you are approaching two hundred years old.  The storyline that Aaron is using here has been told time and time again, but it still feels fresh.  It makes me very excited about the future of this series.

Goran Sudzuka's art is simply brilliant.  His lines works well with the story.  I'm becoming more and more a fan of comics not using special effect words, leaving the stunning art work to do the job.  The reader can really feel the sorrow in Logan's eyes and how numb he is as he keeps jumping off the cliff.

Wolverine #15 gets 5/5.

I got Avengers #16 and The Mighty Thor #5 a little late, so I couldn't write a full review.

Avengers #16 gets 3/5
The Mighty Thor #5 gets 4.5/5.

Next week is looking good, as Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 starts up, and Fear Itself gets that much closer to ending.  See you next week!

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