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Somebody’s First Comic Book: Stormwatch (1993 Series) #22

May 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

TITLE: Wildstorm Rising Chapter 9

Story: Ron Marz
Pencils: Renato Arlem
Inks: Robert Jones
Color: Monica Bennett
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Barry Windsor-Smith
Publisher: Image Comics/Wildstorm

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Absolutely nothing. Never heard of these guys, and that guy on the cover is going to give my children nightmares.

IMPRESSIONS: As I open up this book, I’m immediately struck by both a positive and a negative. Positive: a “roll call” page. I can tell everybody’s name! Negative:  a woman with an extremely improbable anatomy lunging herself right at me and telling me I’m not going any further. Really, that’s what she says, “You go no further!”

Oh. I guess she’s talking to the skull-mask guy, because on the next page she and a bunch of other “Stormwatchers” are fighting him. Not too bad, so far. Looks like they’re the good guys and Skullface (“Helspont,” somebody calls him) is the bad guy.

Another woman with an improbable anatomy is worried about the situation, and especially about the involvement of someone called “WildC.A.T.S. and Wetworks.” So they’re bad guys too? And the dude with the huge horns… he’s putting obstacles in Helspont’s path. So “Lord Defile” is one of the good guys?

We’ve got a couple of guys in capes and a girl with goggles digging out what is said to be a “crash site.” Oh, and apparently the “WildC.A.T.S.” are here. Bad guys, right? I guess I shouldn’t be too critical of this, seeing as it is “Chapter 9,” but it’s being sold separately. Would it be too much to ask that we get a little hint as to just who all these characters are?

The book ends with everybody digging up a spaceship, but it’s apparently the wrong one. It’s a “Kherubim Ship,” which – based on the really big, bold lettering Goggle Girl uses to announce it, I’m assuming is a bad thing.

I’m totally confused. I don’t know whose these people are, why they’re fighting each other, or what makes the spaceship so important. I mean, sure, in the real world finding a spaceship would be cool. But this is a book full of flying people, a guy with a flaming skull for a head, and girls built like Malibu Barbie. Is a spaceship really that big a deal?

GRADE: D

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Fables #18

May 31, 2010 Leave a comment

October 25, 2003

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Barleycorn Brides

Bigby gives Flycatcher a peek into the history of Fabletown’s smallest residents.

Writer: Bill Willingham
Art: Linda Medley
Colors: Daniel Vozzo
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Shelly Bond
Cover Art: James Jean
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo

As he has done before, Bill Willingham takes a break between major Fables story arcs to give us a glimpse into the backstory of this series. As before, it’s a nice break, but it doesn’t have quite the same impact as the arc stories. Still – even just an okay issue of Fables is heads and shoulders above most other books on the stands.

Bigby Wolf narrates this tales of the people of Lilliput (the town from Gulliver’s Travels, reminding us that Willingham relies on both literature andfolklore for his inspiration) and how a few of their refugees escaped the Adversary and made it to Fabletown. Unfortunately, they were missing something rather important when they got there. When a solution to their problem shows up in the form of another well-known Fable, two brave souls embark on an adventure back to the homeland to find the one thing that can save the Lilliputians from extinction.

This is a clever little tale, although readers still reeling from the conclusion of the last issue will be disappointed to learn that the Snow White/Bigby storyline isn’t advanced at all in this issue. On the other hand, the backstory we get is wonderful – we get a sensation of exactly how long the struggle against the Adversary went on… it wasn’t a quick campaign, but something that plagued generations of Fables before they made their way to the mundane world. We also get a glimpse into the Fabletown of centuries past, a place that I rather hope Willingham gets around to visiting again.

Linda Medley is an unusual choice to fill in for this issue’s artwork, but a good one. While her style is markedly different from the previous Fables tales, evoking the style she employs in her own Castle Waiting, it’s very clean and tells the story well. If she does more issues, she’ll be a welcome addition to the rotating team.

All in all, a very nice story… but one that leaves you anxious for the return to the story arc. If you haven’t been on the Fables bandwagon before now, this is a place you can get on without getting lost… but understand, this issue doesn’t quite show off entirely how good this title usually is.

Rating: 8/10

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (2001 Series) #23

May 31, 2010 Leave a comment

November 15, 2003

Quick Rating: Good
Title: The Last Stand Part Two

G.I. Joe regroups as Serpentor makes his play to retake Cobra.

Writer: Josh Blaylock with Brandon Jerwa
Pencils: Brandon Badeaux & Tim Seeley with Mike Norton
Inks: Andrew Pepoy
Colors: Brett R. Smith of Color Fusion with Ben Hunzecker
Letters: Dreamer Design
Cover Art: Brandon Badeaux, Andrew Pepoy & Hi-Fi (Cover A); Tim Seeley, Andrew Pepoy (Cover B)
Publisher: Image Comics/Devil’s Due Studios

Review: While not quite as good as the opening issue in this story arc, this book does pretty good as the second act in a high-powered action tale. Serpentor’s return last issue took the team by surprise, tearing them apart and taking a few members down for good. (The interesting thing about the G.I. Joe comic books, as opposed to the TV show, has always been that in the comics, people can die.)

Faced with this resurrected threat, Hawk re-activates every G.I. Joe, summoning them to battle. This was perhaps my favorite scene in the book, giving me a nice chill of anticipation, hoping that next issue we’ll be treated to a scene like Kurt Busiek’s Avengers #1 – one massive assembly of heroes coming together to take out the common threat.

The scenes with Serpentor explaining his evil scheme, what he’s been up to since he was “killed,” felt a bit cliché – it was like the scene in every James Bond movie where the villain has to explain his master plan just in case the audience hasn’t pieced it together yet. It was quite satisfying, however, to see threads left over from Jerwa’s recent G.I. Joe: Frontline arc start to pay off. Blaylock has really been great at guiding the Joes into the 21st century, but with him leaving, I am quite relieved to know he’s got a capable successor.

The artwork suffers a bit. Ordinarily with three pencilers on an issue I would think that their styles simply don’t mesh, but I really can’t tell where one penciler ends and the next one takes up. It all looks a bit rushed, a bit sloppy. Not quite as clean as it usually does. And darn it, I still really, really hate Serpentor’s new armor. It looks like it belongs on an early-90s X-Men villain rather than the leader of a deadly, evil militia.

This isn’t a good place to come in if you haven’t been reading the title – a brief recap at the beginning can probably bring you up to speed if you’re even vaguely familiar with the G.I. Joe property, but who likes walking in a half-hour after the movie started?

If you’ve been reading the book all along, this is a solid installment, that gives promise of a slam-bang second half.

Rating: 7/10

The Legion #25

May 31, 2010 Leave a comment

October 25, 2003

Quick Rating: Excellent
Title: Foundations

On the anniversary of its founding, members of the Legion of Super-Heroes take time to remember their past, even as several elements that will play into their future are set into motion.

Writer: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Robin Riggs, Chip Wallace and Doug Hazlewood
Colors: Sno Cone
Additional Art: Eric Wight, Tony Harris, Tom Feister, Dave Cockrum, Al Milgrom and Paul Rivoche
Letters: Jared Fletcher
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: Tony Harris and Tom Feister
Publisher: DC Comics

As a longtime Legion fan, this issue was like a visit with old friends to me. It is Founder’s Day, the Legion’s anniversary, and this issue follows several segments of the team as different storylines unfold. Saturn Girl takes a group of new Legion cadets through a retelling of the team’s past (a lot of fun for those of us who remember the old-fashioned tales of “Legion Auditions”), while other members make startling discoveries about some of their fallen teammates, and a team exploring deep space makes the most startling discovery of all.

Abnett and Lanning have been doing a spectacular job on this title for several years now, pruning a lot of the dense elements that may have scared people off. In this issue, it almost feels as though they’ve finished setting up the pieces just the way they want them and now they’re ready to really cut loose and tell their own tales. This is a perfect jumping-on point for anyone who has never read a Legion comic before – the story fills you in on all the historical points of the team you need to know, and several new elements are introduced in this issue that will certainly set the stage for the Legion for the foreseeable future.

Chris Batista has really come into his own on this title, and some of the additional art is also quite nice, particularly Tony Harris and Tom Feister’s outer space sequences. The only weak point, artistically, is Dave Cockrum’s segment, which tells the history of the fallen Legion founder, Livewire. The layouts and anatomy are a little clunky at times, and it looks a bit off.

Overall, if you’ve ever wanted to try Legion, this is the time to do it.

Rating: 9/10

Captain America (2002 Series) #26

May 31, 2010 1 comment

May 16, 2004

Quick Rating: Average
Title: The Bucky Issue

Captain America reflects on life with his old partner, Bucky.

Writer: Robert Morales
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend & Al Vey
Colors: Brian Reber
Letters: Randy Gentile
Editor: Axel Alonso
Cover Art: Dave Johnson
Publisher: Marvel Knights

When a potential plane crash reminds Captain America of the demise of his old partner, he steps up to save the aircraft, remembering Bucky’s life on the way down. I’ve been a fan of Captain America for about as long as I’ve been reading comic books, so this issue was more than a little repetitive. It’s an okay done-in-one issue, and probably a good character study for someone who isn’t really familiar with Captain America, but for anyone who’s read the series for any length of time, there’s really nothing in here that we haven’t seen a thousand times before. Bucky was brave. Bucky was tough. Bucky was a great kid. But Bucky’s been dead for 60 years. Why are we reflecting on his death again?

Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that there’s anything bad in this issue, there’s just nothing new. It feels very much like a filler, and what’s worse, it’s a filler we’ve seen hundreds of times since Cap got thawed out.

Chris Bachalo’s art did impress me, however. He’s got a very good take on Captain America, detailing the chain mail of his uniform, the bulky stature that makes him stand heads and shoulders above most superheroes, and the plane crash in the issue looks great as well.

Dave Johnson’s cover is fine as well, but it suffers from Marvel cover-itis – in other words, it’s a generic pin up with absolutely no relevance or connection to the issue.

With this title shifting back to the regular Marvel line when the Avengers reboot happens, I hope it manages to find a new identity. The Marvel Knights relaunch started out great, but lost its place the minute John Ney Rieber left the book, and it hasn’t been able to reclaim it since. The title is more or less marking time until the new creative team comes on. Hopefully they’ll find something a bit more original to do with one of Marvel’s greatest heroes.

Rating: 5/10

(2010 note: There’s some serious irony in this review, when you look at what’s gone on in Captain America for the past six years, isn’t there?)

Archenemies #1

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment

April 23, 2006

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: The Two Wrongs

What happens when a hero and his arch-enemy… are roommates?

Writer: Drew Melbourne
Pencils: Yvel Guichet
Inks: Joe Rubinstein
WWR Art: D.J. Coffman
Colors: Rick Hultbrunner
Letters: Jim Keplinger
Editor: Philip Simon
Cover Art: Yvel Guichet
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse doesn’t really do a lot of superhero comics (since the demise of their Dark Horse Heroes line, at least), so when they put something out, you know it’ll be worth looking into. Archenemies is definitely an unusual take on the genre. Comedic, offbeat takes on superheroes are all over the place right now, but this is definitely an angle I haven’t seen before. Vincent, a would-be supervillain called Underlord, holes himself up in his apartment while controlling his robotic minions in a heated battle with his greatest enemy, Star Fighter, all the while avoiding the messes left around the apartment by his roommate, Ethan. Vincent has no idea, however, that Ethan is Star Fighter, and Ethan similarly is clueless about the identity of his arch-enemy.

Vincent and Ethan are just as antagonistic towards each other in their civilian identities as they are in their super-forms. Ethan is the sort of sloppy, party-hearty roommate that drives you nuts, while Vincent is the sort of uptight, joyless snobs of a roommate that… well… drives you nuts. The two extremes are a nice, funny contrast.

Ethan, to his credit, tries to make amends after mistaking a would-be super-lackey interview session for something else entirely, but Vincent (in true supervillain fashion) is busy planning his wrath instead, especially once a party of Ethan’s throws things totally out of hand. Melbourne has whipped up some funny characters, and while neither of them are startlingly original, casting the archetypes against one another makes for an amusing read.

Guichet and Rubinstein do a very good job on the artwork, handling the super-aspects and the mundane aspects with equal aplomb. Rick Hultbrunner’s colors add an extra dimension to the story, showing a marked contrast between Ethan and Vincent’s worlds, and as those worlds are literally right next to each other, the mixture is quite entertaining.

The book also gets points for daring to have word balloons on the cover. In a day where too many comics are afraid to give us a cover that have anything to do with the plot, this book goes in the polar opposite direction. Not only do we get dialogue, but the word balloons actually serve to make the cover the first two panels of the story!

We also have a one-page back-up strip, “World Worst Roommates” by Melbourne and D.J. Coffman, where we see Melbourne’s own roommate clashes. Funny stuff with a funny punchline – no idea how much of it is true, but it made me laugh.

Overall, this book really is a lot of fun – silly, clever and likely to go highly unnoticed. Go out and read it, guys.

Rating: 8/10

Saw Rebirth #1

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment

October 26, 2006

Quick Rating: Fair
Title: Rebirth

The birth of the killer called Jigsaw.

Story: R. Eric Lieb
Script: Kris Oprisko
Art: Renato Guedes
Colors: Weberson Santiago
Letters: Tom B. Long
Editor: Chris Ryall
Publisher: IDW Publishing

I still haven’t seen Saw II, and I’m undecided as to whether I’ll see Saw III, but the first Saw was one of the best, most original horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. The brilliant thing about Saw is that the “killer” isn’t, technically, a killer. He doesn’t kill anyone. He places his victims in elaborate traps where they either wind up killing themselves or each other, or otherwise commit horrible acts, in order to save their own lives. Once, Jigsaw was a simple desk jockey, a cubicle dweller whose live plummeted when he was diagnosed with a fatal form of cancer. As he watched those around him squandering their lives, as he realized exactly how he had squandered his own, he pledged to use his life teaching others to appreciate theirs. Not really a bad goal, at that, but the way he decided to go about it is absolutely terrifying.

The only real problem with this special is that is doesn’t really give us much new information to go on. The first movie more or less gave us the story of Jigsaw (if you were smart enough to piece it together). This comic basically illustrates the story we already knew – a few more details here or there, but nothing earth-shattering.

Renato Guedes handles the artwork, and he does a great job. He employs a dark, dismal style that fits the tone of the story to perfection. In a few scenes, he even drops in the Jigsaw “puppet” pretty randomly, making it all the creepier.

Die-hard fans of the Saw franchise may appreciate this slightly more in-depth look at their favorite killer, but if you’re just a casual fan, it’s pretty much old news.

Rating: 6/10