Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Uncanny X-Men #531

“Quarantine” part two by Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen, and artist Greg Land.  Per Cyclops’ orders, no one is allowed in or out of Utopia after a strain of HX-N1 (the mutant swine flu?) spreads over the island infecting mutant after mutant and causing the carriers not only to manifest acute symptoms but also to lose their powers.

Dr. Rao takes Scott on a tour across the infirmary to show him the devastating impact the virus is having on everyone; even Namor in the middle of his royal stubbornness is bedridden and unable to attend to his duties.  Also, for the 1100th time Wolverine is suffering from adamantium poisoning due to the loss of his healing factor.

A small cadre that was off the island when the outbreak occurred is now representing the team:  Angel, Northstar, Dazzler, Pixie, and Storm are sent by Cyclops on a mission to Chinatown after Logan’s delirious plea.  While this is happening, the CEO of the Sublime Corporation, the man known only as Lobe, sends his own team of X-Men wannabes to Chinatown as part of a P.R. stunt.  At the same time, in Utopia, Dr. Rao injects herself with a lethal dose of HX-N1 to determine whether the disease is harmful to humans.

Fraction and Gillen make an attempt to give some deserved attention to characters other than Wolverine, Cyclops, and Emma, although with minimal success.  Storm and her team get less than four pages, while the hogs get about 13 pages of story.  We learn more of Emma’s past with Sebastian Shaw; a theme that has been used and abused to death the last couple of years.  The pointlessness of this plot is ridiculous: unknown to everyone else, Shaw was a prisoner of Emma’s in Utopia; now he’s free, so it’s like he was never there in the first place because no one knew about it in the first place… what?

Lobe plans to make humans addicted to some compound that turns them into mutants, the new cool thing to be.  This has been done before; during Morrison’s run, mutants were becoming addicted to “kick” which enhanced their powers, and was also Sublime’s creation.  Another thing that has been done before? A virus that attacked mutants and had the potential to infect humans, Legacy Virus anyone?  And how many times have we had a fake team of X-Men mimicking the original five? The most recent incarnation was known as the Dark X-Men.

Storm, Angel, Dazzler, Northstar, and Pixie

The art.  I know that Greg Land’s pencils are an extremely polarizing subject, I am in the “dislike” pole; those ecstasy expressions drive me insane.  It is hard to appreciate the inks or the colors when the pencils are so irritating, but my perception is that they are good.

Things that I liked about this issue: the one page spread of Storm and her team landing in Chinatown, the courage that Dr. Rao showed by injecting herself -I really can’t guess whether she is going to get infected or not- and Dazzler’s line “Hey, not old-fashioned. Not retro. This is classic X-Men.”  If only that were true.  That line coming out of Alison’s lips definitely has significance, being that she is the one who is always defined by fans as retro.  I hope it’s symbolic of more attention for the beautiful songbird.

Overall, the second chapter of “Quarantine” is a mediocre issue at best; I see a tiny spark of hope that the rest of the team will get more attention, but only next issue will tell.  I plan on getting it, and then we’ll see.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Green Lantern Corps #55

“The Weaponer” part three by Tony Bedard and artist Tyler Kirkham.  Green Lantern Kyle Ryner has recruited the help of the Honor Guard to help him rescue Soranik Natu who is a prisoner of the Weaponer in Qward.

Made an outcast by his own people for forging Sinestro’s yellow ring and bringing misery to Qward, the Weaponer seeks revenge against he who used to be the greatest Green Lantern.  To that end, the qwardian has kidnapped Soranik, Sinestro’s daughter; unfortunately for him, his quarry does not care for Lantern Natu and has refused to come to her rescue.

Honor guard members Ganthet, Boodikka, John Stewart, and Hannu attack the Weaponer but are quickly defeated because their contender is in possession of a powerful white ring construct Deadman left behind during his short fight against the Anti-Monitor in the pages of Brightest Day.

Is during this defeat that Ganthet starts vomiting blood, from which an image of Atrocitus forms mirroring the event that took place in “Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors”.  The former guardian is forced to explain to his companions the pact he and Guy Gardner made with the leader of the Red Lanterns.  By then, Kyle has rescued Soranik and the pair joins the fight just in time to witness the arrival of the Thunderers on one side, and the Sinestro Corps minus their leader on the other.  Things are heating up!

Variant Cover by Patrick Gleason
This Weaponer character is very interesting, because even though he is playing the role of the “bad guy” in this story, he is not truly a villain; circumstances and bad choices led him where he is now: hated by his own people and surrounded by enemies, tons of enemies, except the one he is truly after.  Also, his use of the white ring construct is different to what we have seen other rings bearers do.  He could easily become an important figure in the Green Lantern mythos.

As I had mentioned in my last review of “Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors”, the revelation of the pact with Atrocitus was handled much better here, which is ironic since said pact is the foundation of that title, not this one.  My only grudge with the current state of things in this series is the relationship between Kyle and Soranik; I don’t find it believable, and puts Kyle in a bad light given that both his former sweethearts Donna Troy and Jade are back in world of the living.

I like Tyler Kirkham’s art, although it is a little rough on the edges; I am sure that if he continues penciling this title, we’ll see great things from this artist by the time the “War of the Green Lanterns” arrives.  Also, the inks by Batt and the colors by Nei Rufino bring much more life and definition to the story.

Overall, the third chapter of “The Weaponer” is a good story with great art, nice fight sequences, a very informative twist of events, and a cliffhanger that will leave you wondering “Oh man! What’s going to happen next?”

Monday, December 27, 2010

X-Men (2010) #6

“Curse of the Mutants” conclusion by Victor Gischler and artist Paco Medina.  The final battle between Xarus and his forces against the X-Men and their bizarre ally Dracula.  The true King of vampires faces his treacherous son while the heroic mutants make their way into Xarus’ lair.

The fight between father and son ends with Dracula defeating Xarus as expected, and with the X-Men breaking through the hordes of vampires; no surprise here.  The only question mark for me was how the awkward situation with Blade was going to play out, and we get an answer: Cyclops does the jackass thing he’s been doing lately.

Also as expected, the X-Men rescue Jubilee who stays in her vampire state.  Since Marvel had already told us for the past couple of months through its solicits what was going to happen to her, her fate was not news to anybody.

This is the disappointing final chapter of a disappointing inaugural arc for the new mutant title.  This is not 1991’s X-Men #1-6 which took the X-Men to the stratosphere; this is another outlet for the Wolverine/Emma Frost/Cyclops overexposure strategy that Marvel has imposed for the last several years crossed with a poor attempt at exploiting the “Twilight” craze that has invaded pop culture; six issues and several tie-ins of no consequence where the X-Men are not the stars.

Once again Marvel made Wolverine the central character of yet another series with the White Queen and Cyclops being the only other characters who got significant roles.  Storm should have had the spotlight being that she is the one with a direct connection to Dracula; sadly, the only attention she received was in the Storm/Gambit one-shot, and even there Logan, Scott, and Emma stole screen time.  This could have been published as a Wolverine title with a little bubble on the side “guest starring the X-Men”.

"How bad is it?  That bad!"

Remember that badly thought teaser that came out a few months ago? “How bad is it?  That Bad!  X-Men: Curse of the Mutants”.  Oh boy, how true that turned out to be.  The only salvageable thing was Paco Medina’s art, which was very clean and neat; but also the best example that you may have the best artist in the world, if the story is bad, then the whole thing sucks.

Overall, “Curse of the mutants” is a predictable, poorly planned story that shows how low the bar has dropped for a franchise that used to be the most important and most revenue generating for Marvel.  For those of you who decide to continue collecting the series, expect to see more Wolverine/Emma/Cyclops and guest Spider Man in the next arc.  As far as I am concerned, I am dropping this title.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Larfleeze Christmas Special Update

I hope that by now you have already checked my review of this great Christmas Special by DC.  Today I wanted to bring you a follow up.  A member of the CBR Forums, DrthTater, actually went ahead and followed the Larfleeze Orange Lantern Cookies recipe, and this is the result:

Larfleeze Orange Lantern Cookies

As soon as I saw this I figured I had to post it right away.  Great job DrthTater, I hope this offering was enough for Guardian Santa Claus to bring you all the gifts in your list!

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #5

“Last Will” part five by Peter J. Tomasi and artist Fernando Pasarin.  Guy and his companions are ambushed by a cadre of Green Lantern Rookies who are under the hypnotic influence of Zardor, and believe Gardner and the others to be members of the Sinestro Corps.

Realizing that only through pain the rookies will be able to snap out of their trance, the Emerald Warriors quickly turn the tables on their attackers.  Unfortunately, before they could be sent to Oa for observation, the trainees commit mass suicide by mental command of Zardor.

Once again we see Kilowog’s compassionate and gentle side, while it is Arisia who consoles him.  Tomasi continues showing a different angle of Kilowog’s personality, one that handled properly, could end up giving us a “Master Yoda” kind of character for the Green Lantern Corps; after all, we cannot expect any of the Guardians to ever become that with all their dirty secrets and refusal to feel emotion.

We had been promised a big revelation on this issue, and we got it -sort of.-  Guy starts vomiting blood again, but this time Atrocitus is manifested out of the red exposing Guy’s secret, so Mr. Gardner has no other option but to tell Kilowog and Arisia the truth about the pact he and Ganthet made with the leader of the Red Lanterns.

When you take into consideration that the pact with Atrocitus is the premise of this entire series, the revelation becomes kind of a let down, and there is nothing about it that we don’t already know either through other titles or the teaser from issue #1.  Even the way in which it was presented was uninteresting.  Actually, if you take a look at "Green Lantern Corps #55", where a similar situation happens with Ganthet, we have the same revelation presented in a much better way.

Fernando Pasarin’s pencils are great in this issue; much better than the iffy number four.  This time around, there is no rushed art, there is a lot of detail, and his spread in pages two and three is majestic. Randy Mayor and Gabe Eltreb’s colors once again enhance Pasarin’s art and take it one step forward.  Sadly, what should have been the strongest point of the issue fell short, the revelation was a let down in the art department as well.

The issue ends with Guy telling his friends that no matter what he does, his premonition is coming true, but here is where I ask: five issues and what has Guy done?  When you think about it, so far he has just made it to the unknown sectors, and that’s about it.  Another problem I see is that you definitely need to read the other Green Lantern titles to understand what is going on here.  I am okay with that because I am enjoying all three series, but for someone who is on a budget or only likes Guy Gardner, this is not good news.

Overall, part five of “Last Will”, although a solid issue, it does not deliver after what had been promised to be a big unveiling, and the cracks are starting to show on a series that is becoming too dependent on other titles, and where little progress has been made story wise.  So far, Guy's adventure could have easily been a subplot in one of the other two GL titles.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Secret Avengers #8

“Eyes of the Dragon” Part 3 by Ed Brubaker and artist Mike Deodator Jr.  Steve Rogers’ black ops team continues fighting the Shadow Council and the Hai-Dai while trying to protect Shang-Chi, who has become a target of the villainous organizations.

After two direct -and failed- attempts to retrieve Shang-Chi for their evil purposes, the Hai-Dai and the Shadow Council bring in their big guns, who go a different way about it and concoct a very simple but effective plan.  The Secret Avengers get played when Max Fury and John Steele stage a massacre in Hong Kong to distract Earth’s Mightiest while they go after Sharon Carter, who will be later used to be traded for the Master of Kung-Fu.

And that’s pretty much it.  I like this title a lot, but it is such a short read.  I despise decompressed storytelling and find it to be an excuse for uncreative writing.  A story that used to take three issues to be told ten years ago, now is told by Marvel in an eight-issue limited series, four one-shots, a companion “Front Line” series, a “The Confession” special, two-parter tie-ins in twelve or thirteen ongoing titles, and all of it ends up being just the lead-in to the following year’s big event.  That said, I want to clarify that the writing in this series is not bad, it is just that not a lot happens from one issue to the next.

Readers may be confused by the presence of characters like John Steele and the Prince of Orphans, but I am willing to give Brubaker the benefit of the doubt and believe that soon we will learn who they are and where they come from (these characters actually go a long way back -the 40’s to be more precise- and have been recently reintroduced to current continuity in titles such as Iron Fist), just like he did with Max Fury.

My only exposition to Shang-Chi was back when he was a guest of the X-Men in “Games of Deceit and Death” (X-Men 62-64), and I wasn’t too impressed; however, I like him much more now, and he would be a great addition to the Secret Avengers.

The Secret Avengers Current Cast (minus War Machine)
Mike Deodato Jr. is one of my favorite artists; to me, he can do no wrong, and his art just gets better and better with time.  He is not afraid of illustrating the action from unusual angles and the result is just breathtaking.  My favorite scene in this issue is when Steve Rogers runs towards the Quinjet as it explodes; what a shot!  He is also one of the few who can make the now cat-like Beast look impressive instead of like a joke.

Overall, this third installment of “Eyes of the Dragon” was an issue full of action and you truly get the black ops feeling the series is intended to have.  The art is amazing, and the story is kind of moving along.  My only wish is that we could get more story in one issue; I am not asking for the story to move faster, just for more things to happen in one issue.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Larfleeze Christmas Special #1

Orange you glad it’s Christmas?” by Geoff Johns and Brett Booth.  It had already been hinted during the current Green Lantern arc “The New Guardians” that Agent Orange a.k.a. Larfleeze was becoming fascinated by that strange Earth custom known as “Christmas”, and being the embodiment of avarice, he was not going to miss the opportunity of writing the longest wish list ever known.

Sadly for Larfleeze, the Guardian known as Santa Claus did not visit him, despite the fact that he built a cabin with a chimney, put up a tree with lights and ornaments, and even baked some yummy cookies –recipe included.-

In this Christmas special, Larfleeze goes after Santa Claus in an attempt to make him give him all the things he wanted; after all, he has been a good boy -mostly- but instead, the Orange Lantern has a revelation that might change forever the way we see this character.

I had already mentioned once how much I dislike comical relief in comic books (oh, the irony); but this story uses humor to actually teach Larfleeze -and us- a lesson.  Geoff Johns did a splendid job putting together this Christmas tale; I like the fact that it didn’t come out of nowhere; as pointed out before, issues of Green Lantern had already touched on the subject.  It is hilarious how Larfleeze refuses to believe that Santa isn’t real, and that it is all a conspiracy against him.  The end was a little of a bummer, but I guess that was the point of it all, still, the writing was amazing.

Variant by Brett Booth
I have loved Brett Booth’s pencils ever since a brief stint he had in the “Heroes Reborn: Fantastic Four” maxi-series, and I am really happy to see him working for DC; I hope this becomes a long association.  His art is very detailed, and his interpretation of Larfleeze is perfect.  Andrew Dalhouse’s colors are great as well; orange can become very overbearing after a while, but that was not the case here. 

Overall Orange you glad it’s Christmas?” is one of the most refreshing comics of 2010; the storytelling is so fun, and all those little extras (the cookies recipe, the labyrinth, the Christmas ornament) make of it almost an activity book. There is also a bonus backup story featuring Glomulus -one of Larfleeze’s constructs- by Art Baltazar and Franco.  The Larfleeze Christmas Special is a must have in your comic book collection, more than anything else, because of its originality.  Happy Holidays everybody!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Brightest Day #16

“Short Fuse” written by Geoff John and Peter Tomasi, art by Ivan Reis and Scott Clark & Joe Prado.  This installment of “Brightest Day” focuses on Aquaman and Firestorm.  Arthur has brought Jackson and his parents to the Aquacave to hide them from Manta and the mercenaries from Xebel.  I was very excited to see the concept of the Aquacave brought back to modern continuity; it is one more step that Johns is taking into reconstructing Aquaman and his world, and I cannot be happier about it.

In the meantime, members of the Justice League and Society try to figure out what is going on with Firestorm and how to help Ronnie and Jason with their predicament.  While this is happening, Deathstorm continues torturing Professor Stein and Alvin Rusch, Jason’s father.

Aquaman and Jackson learn more about the youngster’s past via a recording left by Mera years ago when she had just met Arthur and switched from evil to goodie two-shoes.  We also learn that even though all the people from Xebel can manipulate water, Mera is probably the most powerful one, being able to create entire constructs, while the others can only make small weapons.  Thank you Geoff for developing the character of Mera, even in absentia.

"Brightest Day" #16 is officially the issue in which the new Aqualad debuts, and the potential this character has is truly immense.  The issue ends with Jason and Ronnie getting into an argument despite having been warned by Professor Stein of not ever doing so, and you don’t want to know what happens next… well, I am sure you do, but you need to see it yourself.

I was glad to see Aquaman again in "Brightest Day" after what seemed to be a very long absence, and getting all the pieces in place before the upcoming Aquawar for which I cannot wait.  I am still very intrigued about Deathstorm, is he really a Black Lantern or something else? And why can he lift the white lantern when no one else could?

Variant Cover by Ivan Reis
One of the things I like most about "Brightest Day" is the way the art duties were assigned; rather than having alternating artists doing a whole issue, each penciler is dedicated to a specific storyline.  Ivan Reis continues to reign with the Aquaman and Deadman sequences; hands down he is the best artist of 2010.  Clark and Prado also do a good job with Firestorm and especially with Deathstorm.

We are getting closer to the end of this series, and it doesn’t look like ten issues are going to be enough to tie it all together; we have the Deadman, Aquaman, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, J’onn J’onns, Hawk, and Firestorm storylines here, while the stories of Boomerang, Reverse Flash, Jade, Maxwell Lord, and Osiris are playing out in other titles.  My concern is that many of the plots are not going to have enough closure and are just going to be left hanging around to be solved at a later time; particularly Hawkman and Hawkgirl, I don’t see that storyline going anywhere.

Overall “Short Fuse” was a great issue, and one that I am sure will be known in the future as the one where one of the greatest characters of the DC Universe made his first apparition, so you just cannot miss it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Uncanny X-Force #3

“The Apocalypse Solution” chapter three, by Rick Remender and artist Jerome Opeña.  At the end of last issue, X-Force had been defeated by the Final Horsemen of Apocalypse; this incarnation of the minions of the Dark Lord seemed as if taken out of a major motion picture.  I was really impressed by the new concept for these Horsemen, and couldn’t wait for what was going to happen next; then their origins were presented, and I started to get a little turned off.

Horseman Death has powers that should have made him Pestilence instead; Famine’s abilities did not make much sense -even for a comic book-, and War is just a man-child.  Many will agree with me, however, that the “best new villain” award goes to Horseman Ichisumi and her creepy mutant power.  Let’s hope we’ll see more of her beyond this arc.

Most of the issue is dedicated to the second round of the fight between X-Force and Apocalypse’s servants, but this time the tables turn thanks to Fantomex a Psylocke, who use their powers to create illusions and make the Horsemen think they were winning.  What a poor way out of a predicament.  Maybe superheroes should plot against bad guys by making them think they have won, or making them fall in love with them and be done with it, instant world peace!

Uncanny X-Force is my first real exposure to Deadpool; I have tried my best for years to stay clear of that character since comical relief is not my thing, and while I was perfectly fine with Wade on the first two issues, this chapter is where I went “this is why I have stayed away from him!” The tent, the soda, the chips, and all the non-sense talk were making me cringe.

Variant cover by Marko Djurdjevic
The issue ends with Psylocke coming face-to-face with Apocalypse, now incarnated in the body of an innocent child.  Will Ms. Braddock do what needs to be done in order to save the world from lots of pain and suffering?

I like the role Psylocke has taken on; not the team leader, yet the one in charge, just like she was at the end of the Australia era in X-Men.  Archangel should have had a more active role since he is the one most directly affected by Apocalypse’s actions, but his lightning keeps being stolen.  Fantomex is much better used here than in Uncanny X-Men, and little by little he is becoming a favorite.  As for Deadpool and Wolverine, well, they are used just to sell more copies.

Jerome Opeña’s art and Dean White’s colors are a great combination, and perfect for this title; just the right amounts of darkness and coldness to create the ideal atmosphere.  The painted covers by Esad Ribic have not made justice to the interiors, and should be replaced with work by the actual artists.

Overall, this third installment of “The Apocalypse Solution” is not as good as the previous two; more thought should have been put into the background of the Horsemen and a more creative way out of the fight should have been used.  The issue still has some very strong points, though, and if the story regains strength in chapter four, then it is worth picking it up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Green Lantern #60

“Fear Factor” by Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke.  The search for the emotional entities continues, and for Green Lantern this is a good news/bad news situation.  The good news, he found the fear entity Parallax; the bad news, it has possessed his best friend Barry Allen a.k.a. The Flash.

Few people know Hal Jordan as well as Barry Allen does, and this is something that Parallax and Geoff Johns take advantage of, and even though their battle is as physical as it can get, it is certainly clear that the real fight is a psychological one.

The mysterious creature collecting the entities also makes its presence known, and not even the combined powers of several ring bearers and two other emotional entities are enough to contain the little creeper.  By the end of the issue, we learn the true identity of this little freak and you are going to love it.

In this issue we can see how much Hal has grown and been able to move on from his possession by Parallax.  Just a few years ago -our time- the fear entity had become the ultimate Green Lantern villain, the one that seemed unbeatable; but Hal Jordan is past that, and he even gets to use a little “Hector Projector” psychology on Parallax itself.

Green Lantern vs. a Parallax possessed Flash

My only critique is with the sequence between Sinestro and Atrocitus; it seemed out of place, and for those who don’t follow Green Lantern Corps, a complete “huh?”.  A caption box with “*See current issues of GLC” would have helped.

The Flash (1st series) 282
I have to confess that Doug Mahnke’s art is not my favorite, at least for such a high profile title; however, I also have to say that his pencils are getting better and better with each issue.  Now, here is an advice for DC:  Please lock Rod Reis in a perpetual contract!  I absolutely loved the colors in this story; they were so vibrant and brought so much life to the art.  When I turned to page two I almost peed my pants; that spread was beautiful and immediately brought memories of my first Flash comic ever, issue 282, which I have conveniently attached to this review for your reference. (That was Zoom, by the way, not Flash)

Overall, “Fear Factor” was an excellent issue. The cover by Gary Frank was amazing (the issue is also available with a variant cover by Frank Quitely as part of the DC 75th anniversary), a "catch me up” summary in the first page, Flash’s guest appearance, lots of action and character development, great art, and a cliffhanger and revelation that omens nothing but danger for the entire DC Universe.  What are you waiting for? Go and get it now!  I said go!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Psylocke: Kill Matsu'o

What you need to know:  In a nutshell, British mutant Psylocke and the ninja assassin Kwannon underwent an involuntary transformation years ago that resulted in their swapping bodies.  Eventually, Kwannon -in Psylocke’s original body- died a victim of the Legacy Virus (X-Men 31-32), but in a twisted plan to fight the X-Men, Madelyne Pryor brought the body back to life and captured Psylocke (Uncanny X-Men: Sisterhood)

“Kill Matsu’o” is a story by Chris Yost and artist Harvey Tolibao; a fast paced adventure that contains action, mystery, twists, and character development.  Finally free from the manipulations of Madelyne Pryor, back in her home dimension, among friends, and in her Asian body, Elisabeth Braddock a.k.a. Psylocke still had one uncomfortable task at hand: lay her original British body back to rest.

Psylocke travels to Japan in order to proceed with the burial, but is received by Hand ninjas whose despicable mission takes Elisabeth Braddock down a path of revenge against Matsu’o Tsurayaba, Kwannon’s former lover and the one responsible for the transformation both women went through so long ago.

From there, the story is an unstoppable ride full of fights, displays of power, familiar faces, and unexpected twists; still, there is enough space to go inside the mutant telepath’s soul as she reflects about what her life has been.

Chris Yost did his homework by researching Psylocke’s past, the events that brought her where she is today, and the relationships she has built along the way, which is something I appreciate; not many writers take the time to do this.  The entire story is narrated from Betsy’s point of view, which adds to characterization without wasting page space that is better used in the action sequences.

I had not paid attention to Harvey Tolibao’s work previously, but after this, I was very impressed.  His pencils are detailed and consistent, and for a story that has ninjas left and right, the visuals are very fluid and dynamic.  The inks by Neary and Florea are not the best, but what I liked the most about the art was the coloring by Arreola, Ramos and Reber; their use of the cold and warm colors, as well as the pink for Psylocke’s power effects were amazing.

If I have a complaint about this story, is the unnecessary self pity that Betsy showed a couple of times.  At the end of X-Men #32 (1994) it was clear she had made her peace with who she was “in mind, and yes, in body”; so the story would have worked just as well without the whining and the whole deathwishing thing.  I wasn’t too happy with Wolverine’s inclusion either; it drives me crazy seeing him everywhere; but at least there was a reason for him to be there, and not just because.  And to be nitpicky, there was an error when showing Kwannon’s death in a flashback; can you tell what it is?

This trade paperback also includes a reprint of Uncanny X-Men 256-258 by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee, where Psylocke goes from being a British telepath to an Asian ninja assassin.  I wish that X-Men 31-32 had also been included so new readers may have a better understanding of the character’s transformation.  Overall, “Psylocke: Kill Matsu’o” is a very entertaining read, with beautiful art, and is a must have for X-Men and Psylocke fans.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Avengers #7

The Avengers #7 (no title for the story) by Brian Michael Bendis and artist John Romita Jr.  The second arc of this series –also no title, although solicits named it “I am an Avenger!”- starts with a depowered Parker Robbins a.k.a. The Hood climbing the mountains where the Inhuman city of Attilan temporarily sat on.  His goal, to find one of the infinity gems; which he quickly and very conveniently obtains despite his claims.

While this is happening, Thor and Iron Man try to reason with fellow Avenger Wonder Man, who has insisted since the beginning of this series that the team should have never been put back together, but does not explain why; he just babbles that the team must be shut down.  Whether this thing Wonder Man has going on also applies to the other Avengers teams is not clear, but it is becoming annoying having him acting crazy and not explaining why he wants the team disbanded.

In the meantime, The Hood has used his new toy to enter the Baxter Building and steal a second infinity gem.  Next, the gems teleport Robbins to the desert where the Red Hulk (a plot running thin nowadays) just happens to be.  The Hood then attacks the Red Hulk and beats him with ease thanks to the power of the gems.

Back in Avengers Tower, Noh-Varr (Protector) is introducing the team to his girlfriend, when the Red Hulk crashes in through the window with his butt kicked.

The Red Hulk getting served by The Hood

I have really tried to give this title the benefit of the doubt only because I like the team lineup (minus Wolverine and Protector), but so far it has been a disappointment.  Regarding this issue in particular, I have problems with all the sequences.  The casualness with which Robbins acquires the gems is laughable, the Wonder Man situation has been used before and is almost a cliché, and the overexposure of the Red Hulk now bleeding into the Avengers makes me think that it is mandatory at Marvel that in order for a comic to be published, it must include an apparition by Wolverine, Red Hulk, Emma Frost, or Deadpool.

I have always found John Romita Jr’s art to be “beautiful in its ugliness”, but in this series there is almost none of the former and too much of the latter. To be fair, it could also be the inks by Janson and Palmer or the colors by White, Mounts & Beredo, but the art is just not clicking with me.  Check his work in recent issues of Spider Man, or his Eternals miniseries from a few years ago and you’ll see a difference.

After seven issues, this title does not seem to be going anywhere, and having to pay $3.99 a pop (which is not justifiable just because there are eight extra pages of “oral history” and recycled art), it seems like it’s time to let go; I will let issue #8 be the deciding factor.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #4

“No mercy” by Peter Tomasi and artist Fernando Pasarin.  In this fourth installment of “Last will”, Guy Gardner and his companions reach Daxam while searching for Sodam Yat.  After a brief squabble with the new president prime of the planet, the group obtains information about the whereabouts of the missing Sodam.  Arisia attacking friends and enemies alike during this sequence seemed out of character, especially considering this was one of those times when Guy actually did not deserve a punch; he has a specific mission, and the stop in Daxam was just as a favor to Arisia.

In the meantime, Sodam Yat and some Daxamites make camp in another planet; once there, the former Ion has an epiphany that makes him see his “true” mission, and by the looks of it, it involves the creation of his own corps.  We already have seven different corps, plus the Black Lanterns, the White Lanterns, and the Alpha Lanterns; adding another corps to the list might be a tad overkill.

Back to Guy and his friends, the group enters the unknown sectors where they quickly get in another altercation, this time with slavers.  Guy’s tactic to obtain information from one of the slavers was poorly executed and made no sense; however, it is interesting to see how he is still under the influence of the red, and Bleez’s presence just contributes to it.  Bleez is a character to watch, from her debut in “Rage of the Red Lanterns” she has had the potential to become a big player; let’s hope we see more development soon. 

Kilowog, is taking on the role of conscience of the group; we can see how he was not just a drill sergeant back on Oa, but also in some ways an ethics professor.  The issue ends with the team being attacked by other Green Lanterns while on their way to the planet Kralok.

Guy Gardner, Kilowog, Arisia, and Bleez by Fernando Pasarin

Fernando Pasarin’s art does not look as great as it did in the first three issues; it seems rushed and not as clean and neat, but it is heightened with Randy Mayor and Gabe Eltreb’s colors, they make a great job adding ambiance to the different locations.

Overall, “No mercy” is the weakest of the first four issues of the series. The detour of our heroes in Daxam not only delayed them from their mission, but also made the story lose momentum.  The Sodam Yat subplot seems unnecessary, and the mystery of the pact with Atrocitus –the premise of this series- is not even mentioned.  Not a bad issue by any means, just not that good.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Flash #7

“What goes around comes around” by Geoff Johns and artist Scott Kolins.  This issue retells Captain Boomerang’s origin as part of Johns’ already known “Rogue Profile” stories.  Only Geoff Johns could make me care for a story in which the flagship character only appears in two panels, in a flashback, and still find it exciting.

The issue alternates between Boomerang’s past as a child in Australia and his present as he tries to break into Iron Heights penitentiary –that’s right, break into, not out of.-  As the story progresses, we learn how Digger Harkness comes to the States and eventually becomes Boomerang, while in the present, using the powers granted to him after his resurrection at the end of “Blackest Night”, he finally arrives to his objective: the cell holding Eobard Thawne a.k.a. Reverse Flash.

We learn Boomerang’s motivations to become a villain, and how important The Rogues are in his life.  The rivalry between The Rogues and The Reverse Flash is also highlighted here, which makes Boomerang’s actions even more disconcerting as he frees Thawne from his prison in exchange for a glimpse of his future.  Reverse Flash, as always, is creepy and scary, but here even more so.  The issue ends with The Rogues confronting Boomerang for the big no-no he just made and Reverse Flash –note how the name Zoom is not used- escaping Iron Heights.

Variant cover by Darwyn Cooke
Boomerang’s past, present, and future are touched on elegantly by Johns.  Scott Kolins was the perfect artist for this story, since he and Geoff Johns go a long way back, and much of his work is tied to The Flash.  This new style of his –seen also in current issues of Justice Society of America- is refreshing, and not a departure from regular artist Francis Manapul.  Coloring by Brian Buccellato shows a distinctive contrast between the almost sepia tones used for the flashback scenes, and the darker, shadowy sequences in Iron Heights.  The color effects in the scene with Reverse Flash were also impressive.

Overall, “What goes around comes around” was a great, entertaining read, and considering that The Flash does not actually appear in it, a very well done issue.  Mind you, I am not a friend of comics where the stellar character appears only in the last page or not at all, it makes me feel cheated; so my complimenting this story is a big deal.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Coming Soon...

This blog will contain reviews of new releases by DC Comics and Marvel Comics, collections (hardcovers and paperbacks), and merchandise. Be on the lookout for the discussion of previews, solicitations, and retrospectives as well. From DC you will see reviews on titles such as Justice League, Justice Society, Green Lantern, Flash, Brightest Day, and others. From Marvel you will find reviews on the X-Men and Avengers families of titles.

These reviews are written from the point of view of a reader, an avid comic book fan, someone who gets money out of pocket to read the titles and therefore expects a quality product; not from the point of view of a critic, a paid reviewer, or someone with writer delusions. You will see honest reviews, some may seem silly, some may seem angry, some may seem nitpicky, and some too forgiving.

Opinions and comments are always welcome; actually they are encouraged. You don't have to agree with me, you just have to be respectful when expressing your views; however, if you act like a troll, expect to be treated the same way. Ideas, feedback, and suggestions are also appreciated.