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Uncle Scrooge #337

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

December 24, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Can I Bring Anything? and other stories

It’s Uncle Scrooge’s turn to host the New Year’s Eve Party – can Duckburg’s most notorious miser throw the bash of the year?

Writers: Kari Korhonen, Don Rosa, Per Erik Hedman, L. Jensen, C. Spencer & William Van Horn
Art: Kari Korhonen, Don Rosa, Jose Colomer Fonts, Manrique & William Van Horn
Colors: Egmont, Scott Rockwell, Susan Daigle-Leach & Marie Javins
Letters: Susie Lee, Jon Babcock, Willi Schubert, Travis Seitler & William Van Horn
Editor: Arnold T. Blumberg
Cover Art: Daniel Branca
Publisher: Gemstone Comics

Only in an anthology title like this one will they devote lead stories to Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s in different issues all in the same year. The lead story in this issue is Kari Korhonen’s “Can I Bring Anything?” After years of mooching off his relatives, it’s Uncle Scrooge’s turn to host the annual New Year’s Eve Party. His frugalness is threatening to get the better of him until he strikes upon a brilliant plan – merely call up his guests and allow their own generosity to let them offer a dish or two to take the burden off his own pocketbook. Things are going fine until Donald Duck stumbles on his scheme and he’s forced to throw the biggest bash in the city to save face. It’s a cute story, one that’s a lot of fun, and quite in-character.

Next up is Don Rosa’s “Trash or Treasure.” Donald cleans out an old storage closet of Scrooge’s and accidentally throws out a precious treasure. They race off to try to retrieve it from the garbage, only to find that it’s already fallen into the hands of the Beagle Boys. This is a great romp – almost an extended chase scene, that all snowballs down to a great little twist at the end.

In “Auction Island” by Per Erik Hedman and Jose Colomer Fonts, Scrooge brings his four nephews with him to investigate a new “adventure island” he’s considering buying for his travel agency. Scrooge and Donald leave Huey, Dewey and Louie behind as they go off to explore the island, but the three Junior Woodchucks strike out on their own – and good thing too, because their uncles get themselves in way over their heads.

Jensen, Spencer and Manrique serve up “A Day at the Office,” one of the better stories this issue. Gyro Gearloose’s newest invention is a computerized pill that will allow anyone who swallows one to teleport and swap places with anyone else who’s swallowed one. Scrooge sees instant savings in travel expenses, but things get messy when a mishap lands one of the pills in the hands of the nefarious Beagle Boys.

Finally, William Van Horn supplies the Gyro solo story “Same Old Stuff.” When one of his inventions catches the attention of an alien from outer space, the extra terrestrial comes down and challenges Gyro to see which is the better inventor. It’s a cute tale, but rather predictable, with sort of a sappy ending.

While not the best issue of Uncle Scrooge, this was a pretty good one, and the Korhonen, Rosa and Jensen/Spencer story make it worth the price of admission.

Rating: 7/10

Ex Machina #1

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

June 12, 2004

Quick Rating: Average
Title: The Pilot

The world’s first superhero runs for political office… how will the world handle it?

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils: Tony Harris
Inks: Tom Feister
Colors: J.D. Mettler
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Cover Art: Tony Harris & Tom Feister
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm Signature Series

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict this title will become a critical darling the instant the first issue hits the stands, but frankly, it just leaves me feeling kind of flat. I’m a huge fan of Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man, but I’m never a fan of “soapbox” entertainment – not in television, not in movies, and not in comic books, and this title runs dangerously close to that line.

Mitchell Hundred has the startling power to talk to and control machines. He used this ability for a year as a masked superhero before deciding that any good he was doing was negligible. Hoping to do more good, Hundred unmasked and ran for – and won – the mayorship of New York City. This book bounces around quite a lot in time, from his childhood to some indistinct point in the future where he’s telling his story of tragedy and woe to an unseen off-panel companion. We see, at various points along the timeline, an assassination attempt, a blackmail attempt and the remnants of what may either be Mitchell’s greatest triumph or greatest failure, depending on your perspective.

Vaughan’s stories frequently take on political overtones, but this story draws the lines too starkly, verging on the preachy at some points. He also pulls in one of his now-infamous last-page twists, one that completely took me by surprise, but that’s mostly because the image you see is so striking, so startling for people in our real world that it takes advantage of a visceral gut reaction you can’t help but have. It’s either very clever or very tasteless, and frankly I can’t decide which it is at this point.

Helping this series along is some great art by Tony Harris and Tom Feister. They’ve been doing a lot of fantastic cover and interior art together over the past few years, from titles ranging from Fantastic Four to The Legion, and in this issue they paint a very realistic portrait of a superhero with Mitchell’s unique ability. Their designs are, for the most part, very utilitarian, very functional, and that’s what this book requires.

I’m not sold on this series, but I don’t hate it. I have no doubt that a large number of Vaughan’s fans will jump right into this issue and enjoy it. When you get right down to it, it may simply turn out to be a story that’s just not for me.

Rating: 5/10

Avengers/Thunderbolts #3

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

April 30, 2004

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Nerves

Iron Man continues his infiltration of the Thunderbolts… but does Moonstone suspect something’s up?

Writers: Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Tom Grummett
Inks: Gary Erskine
Colors: Brian Reber
Letters: Albert Deschesne
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Cover Art: Barry Kitson
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Last issue, as the Avengers grew more suspicious of Baron Zemo’s intentions with the Thunderbolts, they disguised Iron Man as the old villain Cobalt Man and sent him in as a mole. This issue, Moonstone begins to poke holes through his disguise. Meanwhile, Hawkeye begins to learn that perhaps neither of his teams have been entirely honest with him.

Ever since the previous series ended (effectively with issue #75, before it became the supervillain “Fight Club” farce), Thunderbolts fans have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Songbird, Atlas… even Moonstone were characters we believed could truly reform. But Baron Zemo? Could such a villain, not to mention the son of such a villain, who has plagued Captain America for so many years… could he really reform, or has he got something else up his sleeve. That seems to be one of the questions this miniseries is intended to answer, and it’s one of the most fascinating character studies I’ve seen in comics in years. Like the best issues of the Thunderbolts series, this story is about characters on the edge, walking the line between hero and villain, trying to decide what they really are and what they’re going to be.

Tom Grummett pinch-hits for Barry Kitson on the art chores in this issue, and as he did on his recent Teen Titans run, he continues to show why he’s one of the most underappreciated pencillers in the business. Grummett draws strong heroes, dynamic poses and great action sequences. Bonus points go to the whole creative team for including one of the best ideas from Busiek’s run on Avengers – the holographic globe-scanning apparatus that the team ostensibly uses to search for threats, but that doesn’t get used often enough in my opinion.

This is shaping up to be a great miniseries for fans of both properties who have been disappointed in how they’ve been treated lately. We already know Avengers is in for a renaissance in a few months. Hopefully this mini will inspire Marvel to give the Thunderbolts the same.

Rating: 8/10

Tom Strong #25

December 30, 2010 Leave a comment

February 23, 2004

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Tom Strong’s Pal Wally Willoughby

Meet Wally Willoughby! Be his pal! Just don’t pick on him, if you want to keep the universe in one piece.

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: John Paul Leon
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Scott Dunbier
Cover Art: Chris Sprouse
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm/America’s Best

Wow, why hasn’t anybody ever told me about this comic book before? Geoff Johns writing an old-fashioned sci-fi/adventure comic book with wacky heroes and wackier villains? If this issue is indicative of Tom Strong as a whole, I may just have a new must-read title.

Without having read any issue of Tom Strong (and very little ABC at all) before, this issue was amazingly accessible, as it draws on the sort of classic storytelling that made the silver age of comics and science fiction so great. Meet poor Wally Willoughby, a luckless young man who wants nothing more than to come to Millenium City and meet his hero, Tom Strong. Problem is, due to a strange quirk of nature, when Wally gets upset, bad things happen to people.

Johns writes a great old-fashioned tale with old-fashioned but refreshingly new characters. This isn’t a deep issue or an in-depth tale, but this is a great done-in-one issue that puts a big goofy grin on the face of anyone enamored of this sort of story.

Although John Paul Leon isn’t the first name I would think of for a silly silver age story, he does a good job with this issue. He shifts from a more realistic style to the cartoonish look indicative of the Strongmen of America with the greatest of ease. Even preposterous elements like a Gorilla in a plaid vest and a giant statue of Tom Strong tearing up the city all mesh very well. And a one-panel gag about the city zoo is just laugh-out-loud funny.

This is one of the most singularly gleeful comic books I have read in a very long time. It’s nice to be reminded once in a while that not everything has to be moody and depressing. Sometimes it’s enough to just have fun.

Rating: 8/10

Black Panther (2005 Series) #27

December 30, 2010 Leave a comment

May 6, 2007

Quick Rating: Fair
Title: Two Plus Two Part Two
Rating: T+

An invader in the Baxter Building sends the new Fantastic Four on another adventure through space!

Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Pencils: Francis Portela
Inks: Victor Olazaba
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Cory Petit
Editor: Axel Alonso
Cover Art: Niko Henrichon
Publisher: Marvel Comics

For the time being, at least, it seems as though Black Panther is no longer a solo title, but instead the second ongoing Fantastic Four monthly. This issue picks up right on the heels of Fantastic Four #546 (which hasn’t come out yet, which drives me nuts), and features the team returning from a deep space adventure with a few new guests in tow. Their downtime is short-lived, however, as a new invader into the Baxter Building sends the team on another adventure through time and space.

People who read Black Panther for street-level action and political intrigue will be sorely disappointed, but fans who followed the character from Fantastic Four will have more to celebrate. This issue is low on the talking heads and high on the sci-fi action, as the FF battles their alien adversary, winding up on a world that has become all too familiar in the past year or so.

The story wasn’t too bad – it read very much like a lighthearted, adventurous issue of Fantastic Four… but is that what readers of Black Panther are picking up this comic book hoping to read? It seems like a sort of betrayal of the regular fanbase to shift gears for this series so dramatically.

Francis Portela’s artwork is a mixed bag. His portrayal of the aliens and the general weirdness of the FF’s world – Ben Grimm, for example – is serviceable, but lacks a certain depth and richness to make it feel like we’re looking at a fully realized world. The rather muted color palette contributes to this as well – this look is fine for a regular issue of Black Panther, but for the high-flying, cosmic adventures of the Fantastic Four, you want something more vivid, more colorful.

This was actually a stronger issue than I expected, but it’s just okay overall – and I have a feeling that people who have been reading the Black Panther’s adventures for some time may be less satisfied than I am.

Rating: 6/10

CSI: Dying in the Gutters #5

December 30, 2010 Leave a comment

January 13, 2007

Quick Rating: Good

Rick Johnston’s killer is found!

Writer: Steven Grant
Art: Stephen Mooney
Colors: Ronda Pattison
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Editor: Chris Ryall
Cover Art: CBS Photo/Robert Voets
Publisher: IDW Publishing

With their killing scenario finally completed, the CSI agents manage to narrow down their list of murder suspects considerably. Rick Johnston’s killer have planned to kill Joe Quesada, and when they find the “why,” they’ll piece together the “who.”

I have to give Steven Grant credit – he managed to give the killer in this case a motivation that really cracked me up, but not in a way that made the series itself seem like a joke. It’s more a case of the writer using some real-life threads to construct a relatively believable scenario. Rather than conjuring up some contrived in-story motivation for one of the several comic pros who – proving themselves to be pretty good sports – lent their likenesses to this story, he instead used actual events to decide why someone might want to kill Quesada, and it makes sense in the sort of twisted, TV-killer logic. (Note: I am in no way impugning the creator revealed to be a “killer” in this issue. I’m just sayin’, is all.)

The artwork, again, is another matter. I feel like a broken record when I say like this, but I think it’s a mistake for people drawing TV and movie adaptation comics to try to give us realistic portrayals of the actors. Craft your own style, make them caricatures of themselves. When the portrayal is too realistic, the poses feel forced and the facial expressions become exaggerated, as if they were culled straight from a posed photograph. That’s what happened with the art in this book – it’s a casualty of the form. I have no doubt Mooney is capable of some great work, this is just a case of an artist trying too hard.

Fortunately, the story elevates the artwork, and in the end, this miniseries really was a lot of fun. CSI fans may be left scratching their heads a bit, as the final reveal really is contingent upon a person’s knowledge of comic book minutia of the last few years, but for those in the know, it really gives the reader a smile.

Rating: 7/10

I Hate Gallant Girl #1

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

November 15, 2008

I Hate Gallant Girl #1 (Image Comics/Shadowline)
By Kat Cahill, Jim Valentino & Seth Damoose

Every ten years, a pageant selects a new young woman to bear the mantle of Gallant Girl. Renee Tempte has wanted to win the pageant her whole life, but despite having the skills for the job, she loses to a prettier, less effective girl. To add insult to injury, when she’s given the chance to prove herself in action, the people who choose Gallant Girl make her an offer that she’ll want to refuse. This is a really strong first issue. Kat Cahill has conjured up a really unique character with a story that a lot of girls will find relateable. The action here is good, and the fact that Renee finds an ally helps propel the story nicely. Seth Damoose is a good choice for this series. His style has the sort of clean, animated look that is popular in indie superheroes these days, and he’s still very dynamic with his action. Great first issue.
Rating: 8/10