Monday, November 17, 2014

Rant-Review Mayhem Part 3: Marvel and DC

So, We Have Reached the End
We now of course come to the top dogs, the major players, the, "Big two." I am of course talking about Marvel and DC. While I have expressed more and more irritation with these entities for seeming to put out nothing quite new or great, there are of course still newer titles that look promising and some comics I still greatly enjoy. Then again, of the four comics that have been around awhile which I review, three are in fact cancelled due to low sales--with me actually reviewing the concluding issue of one. Perhaps there is a message there, in that the smaller and quirkier titles I enjoy seem to be the ones the ubiquitous force known as, "The market," chooses to reject in favor of the, "Same ol', same ol,'"of repetitive events and pointless relaunches. Well, having already gotten us off to such a cheery start in this final segment I suppose we should proceed to the reviews now.

Why Does Almost Everything I Love Die/Get Cancelled?
Thunderbolts #32
The 32nd issue of "Thunderbolts," is also its last, which sucks because I liked this comic even when a lot of people didn't, and loved it when it started to really get its groove going around when Charles Soule came on the book as the writer with issue #11 and did a great job for a bit until Ben Acker and Ben Blacker took over writing duties to see the book to this, its current end. This issue brings things full-circle, taking the team back to the island nation they had their first mission on at the start of the series and basically restores everyone's status quo to how things were before they joined the team--e.g. off doing their own things. The comic has a bit of meta moment where some characters point out to General Ross/the Red Hulk his idea for this team never was going to last as they were just characters that shouldn't work together--it's strange and almost feels like the old story of the fox declaring the grapes he's unable to reach as probably being sour. Regardless of that weird moment, this comic ends the series in a way that is moderately enjoyable and a bit funny in a dark and cynical way. It's too bad, but at least most of the characters who made up the team are doing fine in their own solo books or other team-comics (Venom left awhile ago to join-up with the "Guardians of the Galaxy" comic of all things). At least this got in 32 solid issues.
3 out of 5 stars.

All-New X-Factor #15
Remember how I said pointless re-launches bother me? Well, this comic is an example of how Marvel took a moderately successful and long-running series written by Peter David, the "X-Factor" that launched shortly after "House of M" and went a number of years, and proceeded to re-launch it for little reason, with the result being much lower sales that resulted in it being cancelled. I know the 16th issue is out already but I haven't picked it up yet, and therefore I am reviewing this one. I may not even read any more issues until the final 20th one comes out and I can gorge myself on the last four whilst sobbing as if I were downing a pint of "Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream." What, you think you have the right to judge how I spend my weekends?

Anyways, how was this issue itself? As always, a pleasure, if a bit hindered by the fact that it sort-of ties into all this "Axis" business which I have almost no interest in reading. It isn't officially a tie-in although when first solicited it in fact was. Therefore, I suppose this means this issue and however many after it that involve "Axis" won't appear in the "Axis"-related trade paperbacks, but this clearly was written with that event in mind, as it features the team trying to maintain calm throughout the Washington D.C. area whilst everyone freaks out due to the mind-altering powers of the evil Red Skull. Basically, we get another really good issue of the X-Factor team, but a tad hobbled by its kinda-sorta tying into "Axis". This makes for a comic that is still solid, but not quite at the level of other issues. Still, it's an easy...
3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #16
The penultimate issue of this series, depressingly. For awhile it was a bit of a running joke how everyone thought it would, "Get the axe," but somehow kept surviving, with solicits for some issues even proudly exclaiming, "Still not cancelled!" Well, with issue #17 this title is indeed over, and its a shame as this is yet another entry that showcases the talents of Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber wondrously. The artwork has moments that remind of "Acme Novelty Library" in their creative design, and to compare someone's artwork to Chris Ware is high praise, no doubt. That isn't to say Lieber's stuff doesn't stand on its own as a glorious piece of work, because it does, with its peppy style complimenting the fact that this comic is absolutely hilarious. Besides being hilarious, it also is super-clever, always introducing a new twist almost every issue in the series to a point where you aren't sure whom you can trust--which is sort-of the point as when it comes to this team, ain't any of them particularly trustworthy.

This has been one of the consistently best titles Marvel has put out (except for that weird two-issue break that didn't tie-in to the normal going-ons with a different writer whose name escapes me) and it is a shame to see it go. Spencer clearly is building up to something quite huge though and I for one am extremely eager to see what the conclusion will hold for our, "Sinister Six," which actually only has ever had five members. It'll be some quality stuff, I bet.
5 out of 5 stars.

Superior Iron Man #1
A newly-debuted title spinning out of the events of Marvel's earlier-mentioned latest event, "Axis," I picked up "Superior Iron Man" with some trepidation as I haven't been reading, "Axis," but hoped that the talents of writer Tom Taylor (whom writes another comic I love and review below) would overcome any hurdles being related to an event this comic would have, and possibly even utilize the events of, "Axis," in a way that results in an even better comic--the heroes are having their moral, "axis," twisted a bit, or something I believe? Well, having read this issue I can say that this stands on its own pretty well in regards to any events, but as just a comic is...okay, I suppose?

Basically we have Tony Stark, but as a bit more of a jerk than usual, being all self-interested and creating an app for the phones in San Francisco that lets people look gorgeous thanks to a modified version of Extremis (that virus that helped him out in the comics and was a part of "Iron Man 3"). The twist is how Stark is planning to charge them one hundred dollars a day for the privilege of looking and feeling good after a brief trial-period. This doesn't sit right with Pepper Potts and leads to her colluding with a mysterious figure at the end of the book. It's a pretty basic first-issue in that it simply establishes the initial idea (Tony Stark is being an ass), introduces some characters (Pepper Potts, oh, and Daredevil shows up because I think he's in San Francisco now too in his comic) and introduces a, "Hook," in the form of the aforementioned mysterious figure. This results in a comic that is perfectly fine but a bit by-the-numbers except for how it makes it clear that despite the book being named for him we aren't supposed to be rooting for the newly Superior Iron Man so much as all the folk who want to take this unpleasant version of Tony Stark down a peg. So yeah, it's okay.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Injustice: Year Three #2
Another comic by Tom Taylor, and one of the incredibly small number of DC comics I'm still reading. I also greatly have enjoyed this series throughout its seasons and in a miraculous twist others have loved it enough that its sold to a degree that it isn't cancelled! I know, isn't that crazy how a mainstream book I love is actually doing okay in the market? That said, this issue continues the trend of carefully walking the high-wire of discussing the serious topic of Superman-gone-mad but also working in some funny moments--Harvey Bullock pointing out how awkward he feels as a regular cop standing in the room with people such as a talking Chimp who also is a detective is one example. If I were to have any complaints it would be that Constantine so far in this "Year Three" of "Injustice" has been written moderately well, but just never feels as authentic as the one we know from the Vertigo days when he could swear up a storm instead of just referring to Superman as a, "Motherlover." At least he still says, "Bollocks," and has his nasty habit of smoking, making him feel somewhat familiar. Still, that issue aside, this is a great comic that quite frankly has grown into something even better than the enjoyably off-the-wall video-game.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Concluding Comments
It may be depressing to see many of the mainstream titles I like end-up cancelled, but the occasional successful title that also happens to be good (such as "Injustice") allows me to not fully give-up hope. Plus, as my earlier rant-reviews of various independent publishers and Image have shown, there are still plenty of wonderful books out there to be found with companies who could be argued as possibly more willing to take creative risks. In the end I suppose as these reviews illustrate, all you can do is try new things out, support what you love, and hope enough other people like it too for it to keep coming out. Such is life.

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