Weekly Comic Review for 3/26/08

Countdown to Final Crisis 5

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W: Paul Dini & Adam Beechen

A: Jim Starlin

Oh, Countdown…you really have no idea what you’re doing, do you? Sure, you seem like you do–you have since the start–but, with each weekly issue, it becomes clearer that there was never a clear plan for this series. Maybe this is punishment for when I walked away from the far-superior 52 after the first six issues (I had money troubles at the time, or else I wouldn’t have). Or, maybe this is another way for the gods to force me to question my unerring loyalty (a lot of what keeps me coming back is faith in Paul Dini). Fortunately, my realization that Countdown has been a pointless, meandering narrative comes with four issues remaining.

What went wrong? Maybe it’s my own mistake, but I got the impression that the Multiverse would be a much larger part of Countdown. It would almost make sense: 52 was about its return and Countdown would explore it. Which, to be fair, it did. A bit. But the build-up of tension between Monarch, the Monitors, and the Challengers just sort of fizzled, didn’t it? The whole “Search for Ray Palmer” thing was successful. But, it was also kind of anti-climactic. Then we got the last few issues, which basically told the story of how the post-apocalyptic Earth of Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth came to be (hint: it has to do with that super-virus in Karate Kid). Now that’s over, and the series moves on to yet another story before everything wraps up.

A lot of people were giving DC a hard time about this series. I stood up for it. I didn’t think it was just a huge marketing ploy, an attempt to cash in on the success (and brilliance) of 52. But, now I’m starting to think that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

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Daredevil #106

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W: Ed Brubaker

A: Paul Azaceta

I’ve never been a huge fan of Michael Lark’s art in Daredevil. It was nice to look at, sure; but, sometimes it didn’t flow that well for me. That made the whole “visual narrative medium” thing a tad bit tricky. But, the work that Paul Azaceta (B.P.R.D.: 1946) did in issue #106 is incredible. Azaceta is quickly climbing towards the top of my list of favorite artists. His work on B.P.R.D. is amazing. The art he provided for this issue of Daredevil is twenty times better. It’s too bad that Azaceta is just a one-issue fill-in artist. I’d love to see him work on Daredevil full-time.

Now, as for the story itself, even though Brubaker does another smash-up job, I feel like he’s just walking down the same street that Daredevil has been down so many times before. So guilt-ridden that he’s let someone he loves down (in this case, it’s his wife Milla, who’s in an asylum after a run-in with Mister Fear), Matt goes off the rails. Hiding behind the red mask of Daredevil, Matt takes his frustrations out on the criminal element of Hell’s Kitchen. Seeing what’s happening, Matt’s friends (Foggie, Ben, Dakota) try to throw together an intervention–which, of course, has absolutely no effect. What saves this over-used plot is Brubaker’s writing, but it’s still something that we’ve all seen way too many times before.

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Green Lantern #29

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W: Geoff Johns

A: Ivan Reis

Under normal circumstances, I don’t like when comics take time out of their normal monthly circulation to retell a character’s origin. I dislike it even more when it’s a well-known character. We do not need whole issues devoted to retelling the origins of Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man. We get it, okay? That being said, this month’s Green Lantern–which promises to provide a “Secret Origin”–isn’t that bad.

Rather than wasting our time with telling us (for about the millionth time) how Hal gets his power ring, Johns starts from the beginning. He shows us Hal’s childhood and his father’s death. We see the dynamics at play between Hal’s widowed mother and her three sons. Johns focuses on Hal’s disregard for his mother’s fears when he joined the Air Force on his 18th birthday. We see how the three brothers were torn apart by Hal’s decision and the death of their mother some years later. And, because Geoff Johns loves us, he gives us a little scene where Hal’s fly-boy buddies get into a bar fight with a group of Marines, including John Stewart.

The last page provides (what I assume to be) a new tidbit of information. Abin Sur, the Lantern who will pass his ring on to Hal, is investigating the prophecy of “The Blackest Night”–the promised sequel to the Sinestro Corps. War storyline. If I’m not wrong, Johns is saying that his investigations into the prophecy are what led to Sur’s death. That, from where I sit, is new.

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Ultimate Fantastic Four #52

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W: Mike Carey

A: Tyler Kirkham

I think there’s a problem when an issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four features more action involving the Ultimates than the Fantastic Four. Okay, maybe it was fun to watch Thanos and Thor trade barbs during battle–it seems that these two have met before in the distant past–but that was it. With Johnny and Sue gone all emo while under Thanos’s control and Reed supposedly turned to stone, you’d think that we would at least get a little Grimm action. Unfortunately, Ben is off with Thanos’s creepy daughter, a set-up that has a few moments, but not many.

Overall, Ultimate Fantastic Four is starting to drop the ball more often than not.

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Ultimate Human #3 (of 4)

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W: Warren Ellis

A: Cary Nord

And, this week’s award for the most misleading cover goes to…I hate these envelopes…they never open like they’re supposed…Ultimate Human #3! Sure, cover artists take a lot of liberties, and I’m okay with that. But, not only don’t Hulk and Iron Man slug it out in this issue, they aren’t even in the issue. Tony and Bruce show up on the last two pages, but no Hulk…no Iron Man.

What do we get? We get a slow, unnecessary narrative about Peter Wisdom (a.k.a. Ultimate Peter Wisdom, a.k.a. Ultimate Leader). Remember all that stuff we’d learned about Wisdom in the last two issues–about how he was a spook with British Intelligence; how he had his own ideas for creating enhanced humans for the UK; how his swollen noodle was a result of being forced to test his theories on himself–well, I hope you liked it, because this issue tells us about them all over again. Normally, I like stories about MI: 6. I’ve read Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country, and can usually tell my D-Ops from my D-Int. Unfortunately, Ellis is no Rucka. And Ultimate Human is no Queen and Country.

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Ultimate Spider-Man #120

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W: Brian Michael Bendis

A: Stuart Immonen

In a week that saw the release of four Ultimate titles from Marvel (seriously, guys, well-frakkin-done!), it should come as no surprise that Ultimate Spider-Man blows them all away. After writing 120 issues, Bendis is showing no signs of slowing down. He understands the web-head as much as anyone (maybe even more than Stan Lee, himself). Combine that with Immonen’s clean and simple art, and you’ve got a winner (I still prefer Mark Bagley’s art, but Immonen was a good replacement).

With is friend Liz recently discovering her mutant powers, Peter Parker finds himself forced to not only deal with her understandable freak-out, but also the sudden arrival of Magneto. Of course, with Magneto popping up, it was only a matter of time before the X-Men stop by. Bendis’s X-Men team is the team that should always be in Ultimate X-Men–Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Iceman, and Wolverine (okay, I’d add Beast and Kitty Pryde, too)–and Immonen’s take on them is amazing. I especially dig how he draws Wolverine and Nightcrawler.

After Bendis throws a few curveballs at us–Liz’s uncle Frank (the mutant) isn’t actually her uncle, he’s her father (and, also, The Blob!)–Peter reveals his secret identity to Liz, showing that she’s not alone in this, she has friends and some of them really understand what she’s going through. Liz decides to head off to Xavier’s school to learn how to control her powers (because in Ultimate Spider-Man, the X-Men are still awesome).

Again, Bendis takes something from Spidey’s past that’s not that cool (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends) and turns it into an entertaining story.

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Ultimate X-Men #92

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W: Robert Kirkman

A: Salvador Larroca

Time travel. Apocalypse. Xavier’s “not dead.” Multi-character slugfests.

Yeah, it’s a lame as it sounds. As awesome as Bendis and Immonen made the X-Men in Ultimate Spider-Man, it all becomes moot in their own title. Kirkman’s “90s Love” has gone far enough. Apocalypse can be cool (I give you X-Men: Evolution), but too often writers–even good ones–don’t really know how to deal with him. Kirkman’s Apocalypse had potential. The key word here is “had.” What killed this potential? Well, that whole “I didn’t kill Xavier, I simply took him to the future” bullshit didn’t help. Neither did having Xavier return to the present wearing Onslaught-y armor. Hello 90s!

I find it ironic that the issue ends with the return of Phoenix. Phoenix–the engine behind one of the best storylines in X-Men history–appears to face an opponent who is synonymous with some of the worst X-Men storylines.

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Quote of the Week:

“Now you sound like a tool.”–Liz Allan to Peter Parker, after he gives her the “with great power comes great responsibility” speech, in Ultimate Spider-Man #120.

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2 responses to “Weekly Comic Review for 3/26/08

  1. Damn! You hit the nitro button…you got prolific today. Interesting stuff…even for a guy like myself that hasn’t read comics for well over a decade with any regularity.

  2. Thanks. These reviews were actually the reason I started this whole blog-stravaganza.

    Since you haven’t read comics in about a decade, let me fill you in. It’s later that day…

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