Friday, August 31, 2012

Let's Review Some DC Comic's "Elseworlds" Collections For No Reason Other Than I Feel Like It

You know what might be fun? Reviewing some of those "DC Comics Presents," books, focusing on three that deal with Elseworlds tales/stories out of continuity.

Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham
The new release has, "DC Comics Presents " plastered across the top.
I like Doug Moench a lot when it comes to his work on Moon Knight. Those early issues by him that I've read in some Marvel Essential's collections are phenomenal stuff (and even cooler in the black-and-white in the manner Essentials collections are printed as). This comic is about a world where Catwoman is a crime-fighter and a mysterious Batman shows up and starts committing crimes. It is not Moench's best work, but is perfectly passable. Jim Balent does his usual style--meaning we get females drawn in a cheesecake fashion (which is meh) and intriguing panel layouts. Yes, Balent may make his females look wayyyyy over-sexualized, but the man has a masterful grasp of the page and how to present art. Just look at how these panels are split up:
Yeah, both females have highly exaggerated breasts, but the way the thrown ring is shown, and Catwoman bursts through the's striking. I often wonder how good a comic we could get if we took an artist who wasn't as over-the-top but paired him with Balent when it came to page break-downs.

The idea of a heroic Catwoman with all the sexiness in the comic turned up to the maximum level allowable in a non-mature-readers-way is cute and all, but the whole thing with Batman being evil, marrying her, and then suddenly deciding to kill her because he knows her secret identity but she doesn't know his is all done in an obvious way that's more dull than silly. I still enjoyed this more than a fair amount of other comics out there though, so it's all good. Whether that says this is actually quite good or too many of today's comics are terrible...I don't know.
3 out of 5 stars.

Batman: Gotham Noir
This too has "DC Comics Presents" across the top, kind of ruining the dark tone.
Let's review something else with Batman. Why? Well, because I feel like doing so, and this is no ordinary Batman comic. Yes, this has the amazing team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips--the dynamic duo behind such masterworks as, "Sleeper," "Criminal," "Incognito," and, "Fatale." They do a lot of stuff together, because they seem so in-sync that any story they work on is just great.

This story is basically about a good cop in the form of Jim Gordon solving a mystery while a strange man who seems inhuman, almost as if a bat, creeps around the edges of the story, affecting change where needed. This is really a story about Gordon that features Batman on the periphery, but when ol' Batty does appear he seems so intimidating and scary that the minimal use of him in the story is highly effective. Plus Batman is drawn in such a weird way, it's frightening.

This is by not as amazing as some of Brubaker and Philips other work, but still greatly enjoyable and definitely worth a read.
4 out of 5 stars.

Elseworlds 100-Page Spectacular

This collects a variety of fun and short Elseworld's tales including one that was controversial in DC's eyes some years ago about young Superman being babysat and causing all sorts of trouble. Apparently DC wasn't too big on a baby in a microwave--even if the rays couldn't hurt him. There is that fun story though, a cute, "Behind the Music" type bit, a Paul Pope Batman in WWII, and other good stuff. The only story I really hated was, "Dark Knight of the Golden Kingdom," which has pretty art by Ariel Olivetti (and its drawn, not his current painted-style!) but the most stupid story ever that tries to be all dramatic but comes of as just...lame. Oh well, they can't all be winners, and I did love that baby-Superman.
I enjoyed this collection, even if the stories could be hit-and-miss. It was still mostly an entertaining read however, and as I am always a fan of Elseworld's stuff you know I can't be too upset to get 100 pages of alternate-universe goodness.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

There we go, get to reading!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Oh Dear, AVX May Actually Do What I Feared

In my opinion piece about Avengers Versus X-Men and its numerous problems I ended my article by saying, 
"I mean, worst-case scenario they bring Jean Grey back or something equally stupid." Then website Bleeding Cool shows me this new teaser image for the last issue in the mini-series:
If that turns out to be Jean Grey....then wow., and I don't mean that in a positive way. I thought the re-launch was, "Marvel NOW," as in fresh new ideas, not literally digging up old ones from their metaphorical grave.

I'm Still Not Buying "Before Watchmen"

I'm still not buying "Before Watchmen," but from what I've seen through flipping through the books at my comic-shop...yuck.

The Rorschach comic by Azzarello and Bermejo is pretty but mainly be a hokey revenge-fantasy where you cheer for our, "hero," instead of a tragic tale about the horribly broken man he actually is, "Nite Owl," has pretty art thanks to the Kuberts but the writing is god-awful (Straczynski, what happened to you?), and "Ozymandis," has some of the most amazing art ever thanks to Jae Lee paired with a story that reads as if it were terrible fan-fiction--"My girlfriend is dead, I'll become the greatest super-hero ever and avenge her like a cliche instead of being the intriguing character I was in Alan Moore's story!" Oh,  and the Dr. Manhattan comic (also by Straczynski) seems to completely miss the point of the character and pretty much be telling a, "What if this happened instead in Watchmen's history?" story. It also gets Schrodinger's physics theories terribly wrong, as is pointed out in this article which reviews some other, much better, comics along with the travesty that is, "Dr. Manhattan."

As for all the other comics, "The Comedian," is just sort of...there, I haven't given Silk Spectre a once-over, and Minutemen seems to be the least offensive to my tastes of the current crop of books. Did I overlook any of the other books that have come out yet? I may have, but they are just so forgettable.

Oh yeah, in awhile we also get two issues focused on bit-character Moloch because...well, I don't know why. It's written by the man producing the worst,  "Before Watchmen," comics (Straczynski strikes again!) and illustrated by the talented Risso. Why are good artists doing this travesty?

I was against, "Before Watchmen," on ethical grounds, and now I can't even say it is succeeding as story-telling as the tales are basically just diluting, "Watchmen," through either trying to over-explain things that didn't need to be discussed, altering the original story in harmful ways, or just basically being mediocre. It's just sad, frankly, and pretty much what I expected this series to be. It will never be cannon for me when it comes to Watchmen. Just some random stories with characters from the main series, really, nothing more.

The worst part is...these comics are apparently selling quite well. So much for ethics.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rant-Reviews--The Victories, AVX #10, and the End of Butcher Baker

Let's discuss the first issue of a comic, a series nearing its end (thank God), and one that has now just finished with some drama behind the scenes.

The Meat of The Article
The Victories #1
This series has billed itself as being the raunchiest super-heroes since, "The Boys," started up. I mean, there are sex puns and dirty jokes, but I wouldn't say this was particularly raunchy as much as it was kind of juvenile. The plot is a basic one about a hero (Faustus) who doesn't kill, fighting an anti-hero/villain (The Jackal) who does. The two saving graces of the comic seem to be:

1. When we see Faustus out of costume and learn how much he hates himself which is slightly interesting--plus he is aware his jokes are terrible and he does them more as a way to guard his true feelings (paging Spider-Man). 
2. Michael Avon Oeming makes art that sure is pretty to look at. Seriously, his style of presentation is both at once cartoony and gritty with a dash of real creepiness.

Too much of the comic is spent with Faustus fighting the Jackal and engaging in the standard, "You don't go far enough/Shut up I don't kill," banter before things start to get more interesting at the end. Oeming's stuff is just so pretty that I may give this another issue, however.
3 out of 5 stars (2 for the plot and 4 for the art makes 3).

Avengers Versus X-Men #10
Annnnd my complaints I discussed in a previous post are reinforced by this issue. We now are down to two heroes with the power of the Phoenix (Scott Summers AKA Cyclops and Emma Frost AKA That Chick With Psychic Powers Who Can Turn Into Diamond) and they are pretty much just pure villains. Cyclops outright says he is willing to be a monster if it means saving the mutant race and Emma has gotten to a point where she makes the X-Men kneel before her and think thoughts of, "adoration," lest they suffer her wrath. 

Also, Hope gets the ability to fight the Phoenix-powered baddies by absorbing the powers of a non-mutant somehow because...well, because the plot pretty much demands that by now we get a turning point where The Avengers start a comeback (and pretty much outright announce this is a turning point in the story, natch). The art still looks good thanks to Adam Kubert (whom interestingly I recently learned is a very unpleasant person, unlike his brother Andy and sadly-recently-passed father, Joe), but the story is just getting worse and worse. I'm in too deep now to drop the comic and kind of want to see how they wrap this monstrosity up, but lord knows I'm not enjoying myself that much reading this.
1.5 out of 5 stars.

Butcher Baker, The Righetous Maker #8
Well, apparently this series is done as of this new issue, the eighth. Whether the main reason is it was always planned that way or has happened because writer Joe Casey and artist Mike Huddleston now apparently really don't care for each other is up to interpretation. The comic itself and its end-matter paint a picture of this series having been intended to conclude with this issue, but who knows if that was always the plan...or became the format once the long delays occurred for the comic. Whatever the case I doubt we will be seeing any collaborations between the two gentlemen in the foreseeable future. Which is a shame as I have genuinely enjoyed this series.

Yes, this is over-the-top in the extreme--it is for sure, "audacious," as Casey says in the back-matter. Plus, the artwork by Huddleston is just so gorgeous that Casey could have written something miserable and I still would have enjoyed this. Instead we get a strange super-hero tale of a man who is washed-up but fighting off his last opponents because all he pretty much knows how to do is fight. It's a funny and absurd series that ends in a way that is quite fitting for our protagonist. Butcher Baker has been like a surreal trip into a world where the hero is the epitome of manliness and the villains are not just violent, they are monstrous. Yes, here everything is cranked to 11 and the crazy-art compliments the insanity quite well.

This has been a comic that didn't disappoint--which is what I expected from someone as consistently pleasing-to-my-tastes as Casey. Between his great writing and amazing art by Huddleston I can say I was glad I was there to read Butcher Baker from its strange start to its equally crazy end. It's just too bad we won't be getting any more.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

One comic had great art but a subpar story, another had quite good art with a terrible story, and the last had stellar art with a very enjoyable story. Sometimes with comics you get wonderful writing with terrible art--heck, that's usually what happens--but in this case it's the art that's good and the writing that sometimes suffers. It's an interesting world we live in.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

You Know What's Been A Consistently Great Comic? X-Factor

An Awesome Tale

The current run of, "X-Factor," has continuously impressed me since it first started in the aftermath of that House of M business (and technically a bit before it as the, "Madrox," mini-series led directly into the series). It has survived a re-numbering because of how when it hit issue #50 the next one became #200, the culling of other comics hasn't affected it, and Peter David has continued to craft a complex tale, weaving in and out members of the cast as needed--or as Marvel editorial demands, such as when it needs a certain character for some other comic. Despite everything that could work against it this comic just had another great issue with #242 and maintains its ability to be wonderful.

I loved David's introduction of Damian Tryp who disappeared in the 12th issue only to reappear once the series hit its 40s to reveal a time-travel story-line that wasn't making sense due to various characters' motivations being unclear was intentionally that way, as he was orchestrating everything--seriously, that reveal made me squeal with joy. I am amazed how he took a character such as Darwin who was kind of lame if with a cool power and turned him into first an interesting fellow, and now a death-machine since his battles with a Norse God (yeah, it's a little complicated). Then of course he revealed that the long-hinted at gay relationship between Rictor and Shatterstar did exist, and now the series has two characters who are fully-formed and interesting people whom are also gay--not dominated by that aspect when it comes to telling stories about them.

Those above examples are just three of the numerous great things David has done (I didn't even mention how he took the character of Layla Miller and turned her from a plot macguffin into a fascinating individual). I truly love, "X-Factor," and the way David let's the characters grow and change, such as Strong Guy going from a sweet gentle-giant to a creepy and literally soulless soon-to-be-villain--if the plot turn out the way it's been foreshadowed. This is just such awesome stuff.

The series has suffered art-wise at times, with some really good artists and some bad-to-terrible ones. Luckily, since Leonard Kirk came on awhile ago the comic has had a much more consistent look that also compliments the story-telling. Oh, and speaking of story-telling did I forget to discuss how this comic also can be hilarious?

Yes, so often comics are busy being super-dark and gritty that no humor sneaks in. David doesn't do that, letting the jokes fly. He never over-does it, however, letting the important moments of the plot still play a major role when it's time to be serious.

I always say if I could get only one comic, it would be, "X-Factor". This is why I pray it isn't destroyed in the upcoming Marvel NOW! re-launch. Hopefully this book will be one of the titles that keeps its numbering and continues on (like Daredevil apparently will be) or this series again has a renumbering but continues on the same even if it has a #1 by the title.

"X-Factor," you are superb.

This Is The Newest Rant--I Still Can't Tie A Tie

Confession time, I have no clue how to do a tie. I either have someone do it for me or use clip-on ties. Yeah, pity me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rob Liefeld is Burning All Bridges and Being A Huge Jerk In The Process; Has Lost All My Respect

A Village Idiot Is Born.
Remember how I once said Rob Liefeld may create things I don't like but is actually a really nice guy? Well, I'm going to have to take that back. If you're asking why, just check around the internet. Liefeld has left DC--which is no big deal, a fair amount of creators seem to be leaving certain books there or even the company; its what he did next that makes him awful.
This man went from being nice in my opinion to a terrible person in the span of  a few days.
I mean, other people who stopped work with DC or certain projects for the company expressed frustration about how they had editorial interference (George Perez on his Superman book), or quit the company because of ethical concerns (Chris Roberson, who as of saying he was quitting DC was told, "Oh yeah? You can't quit, you're fired!). These people were still somewhat courteous and did not actually set out to insult anyone. Liefeld did the opposite of being gracious.

First off, Liefeld thought he should get in front of any, "spin," DC could do about his leaving them by telling what he felt was the true story of his quitting. He used twitter to talk about editorial interference and say how it was making him crazy. Okay, the company may not like someone revealing this much but it's all pretty mild so far.

But then Liefeld went on to use his tweets to call an editor he worked with someone suffering from a certain small body part (the penis/"dick" as Liefeld put it). Wow, that's pretty rude.

And then after someone asked well-known Marvel employee Tom Brevoort if with Liefeld free from DC they would be interested in hiring him, Brevoort responded, "After that Twitter flame-out, I can't say I'd be in a hurry to get onto that train." That's when things got really ugly. Liefeld took this as a personal insult and proceeded to call Tom Brevoort a, "Loser fat-ass," who is just mad he isn't Marvel's Editor-In-Chief, and should get back to, "Mixing and matching Avengers and X-Men."

To top everything off,  Liefeld insulted the artist who illustrated his writing on, "Hawkman," calling the illustrations, "Crap." Although Liefeld then deleted that post, seeming to have decided of all the things he said that was going too far. Yeah, you can't insult your artist but saying an editor has a small penis and calling someone else a fat-ass is perfectly okay.

Liefeld has officially lost whatever respect I had for him. I used to think he was someone with an art style I didn't always care for, but such a positive mood and friendly personality that he was still a cool guy. I don't believe that anymore, I think that Liefeld is a mean and unpleasant man whose work from now on I refuse to buy. That doesn't include the new "Extreme" comics that are really good as those are just taking some of his ideas and making great comics without him involved. However, if he writes something or draws it...yeah no thanks.

Apparently Liefeld wasn't finished, going on to have a huge twitter-fight with Scott Snyder about Snyder's work on Batman. Liefeld seems to have lost his mind.

A Few Cool Kickstarter Campaigns For Games

Game Time!
I've been perusing Kickstarter as I enjoy doing and have found 3 games that I think look neat. Two are physical board-and-card games, one is a video-game. We've got one about super-heroes (you know I love my heroes), a sci-fi computer game, and a cool-looking game about running a vineyard, of all things. Let's talk about the most unique one (wine-making) first.

Viticulture: The Strategic Game of Winemaking
Check them out here.
I stumbled upon this one as I was looking at games and Kickstarter pointed out the folk behind this are  located in St. Louis of all places! Now, Missouri is a bit lacking in famous vineyards so it is wise of them to have the game take place in Tuscany.

You have workers and other characters who help with your vineyard and the game goes through seasons so it won't get dull. It's a quicker game, taking just 45-60 minutes to play (something I like) and I was especially intrigued by this bit:

"In many board games--especially Euro-style games, the category Viticulture falls into--your opponents can ruin your strategy, or even your day. We want people to walk away from Viticulture feeling great, so we made sure that there is healthy competition and conflict in the game without any of the cut-throatedness that can ruin someone's gaming experience."

I like the idea of a board game that has you working hard against someone, but won't have those instances where someone goes and ruins all the hard work you did in one fell swoop. I don't know too much about wine, but I do know I enjoy good board games and this looks like one worth playing. I've backed it and you can too--getting the game for just $35.00, quite a good price for a physical game with all is assorted parts.

Planetary Annihilation

Check them out here.
If you know the Total Annihilation series of games, this should be a bit familiar as it is inspired by said series. It's a real-time-strategy (RTS) game with its intriguing hook being how you are engaging in interplanetary warfare. The idea of working on multiple planets to achieve my universe-dominating goals just sounds so intriguing, and who doesn't love a good fight between sci-fi ships and robots?

The game is also mod-friendly which I know lots of people look for in their computer-games and its take on the RTS genre looks promising. You can fund this Kickstarter with nothing more than an Andrew Jackson (20 dollar bill) and get a copy of the game for your PC or MAC--quite the steal.

Heroes of Metro City--A Super-Powered Deck Building Game

Check them out here.
I love comic books, and I love super-heroes, and I enjoy games a lot. That makes this Kickstarter quite appealing to someone with my tendencies. You draw cards and make particular moves with other players whilst fighting off baddies. I love anything that lets me play at being a super-hero so there is no question I want to check this out.

As for funding it, for just one dollar you can gain the ability to print our your own versions of the cards and such, enabling you to basically, "print and play," which is quite cool. If you're like me and want the actual items and the snazzy box they come in you're going to need to spring for at least the $50.00 option. It isn't cheap or exorbitant, so that's okay. Plus, for various higher donations you can get extra stuff like future expansion packs or Kickstarter exclusive cards. I'd say it looks like some good fun.

Those be the Games
All of these look quite promising and should be good fun when they come out. If you like one in particular why not go and fund it? I would/did!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Film Friday--I Finally Get Around to Reviewing Dark Knight Rises

I Never Did Review The New Batman Movie, Did I?
It's been out forever, made a ton of money, and still is in theaters for all of you who want to enjoy repeat viewings or if you're one of the 5 people in the world who haven't seen it yet. Yes, I'm talking about, "Dark Knight Rises," if my post's title and header didn't tip you off to that fact. First I'll give you my absolutely spoiler-free review and then discuss the movie in-depth, giving away everything. Okay? Let's do this.

My Completely Spoiler-Free Review
I enjoyed the movie despite some annoying flaws; it's worth seeing.

My Movie-Revealing Review
Okay then, let's get into the nitty-gritty of what works in this and what doesn't. I saw this as part of one of those big trilogy-screenings that theaters such as the AMC I attended did. Therefore, I got to see, "Batman Begins" and, "Dark Knight," again before the midnight premiere of, "Rises." This helps me come to the conclusion that Dark Knight is indeed one of the best super-hero movies--if not movies in general--that have been made. "Rises," is better than, "Begins," but also actually ties into the first movie a lot with all of its guild of assassins business and such. Whereas, "Dark Knight," could really be viewed as just its own masterpiece of a stand-alone movie, "Rises," cannot exist without, "Begins," and some of the key plot elements of, "Dark Knight," mainly Harvey Dent's/Two Face's death being blamed on Batman.

It makes sense to tie everything back together, but it comes off a bit as an attempt to have way too much of an, "This series is an epic multi-movie event," feel instead of just being its own superior movie. That's okay though, I suppose. What I cannot get over is how much I hate Bane's voice. Bane is a huge force of nature to be reckoned with, he shouldn't have a high-pitched & Sean Connery-esque voice. Also, was there any doubt Marion Cotillard would turn out to be a bad-guy? Yes, you keep waiting for the reveal, and waiting, almost to a point where you think, "Hey, maybe she isn't going to turn out to be a villain!" but sure enough the so-called twist comes and we learn she's Talia, the daughter of Ras Al Ghul/Liam Neeson (who puts in a good-if-brief appearance as a hallucination of Bruce Wayne).

Bane, he would be intimidating if not for his voice.
Bane isolating the city and letting it go insane is a cool element, though the movie comes off as really against Occupy Wall Street even if Nolan wrote this before that was a thing. The sad rich people have all their stuff taken away from them and the dirty poor folk make everything a mess until the police are freed from the tunnel they are trapped in and enforce order--yah for police beating up people! Some say this view is wrong as Bane is lying when he says how he is there to give power the people--after all he plans to blow the whole city up anyways. What, so you're saying Bane's lying makes the movie pro-Occupy Wall Street? Um yeah, no. Even if Bane plans to blow the city up, it still is clear this film is more on the side of order and everyone being in their place--which is odd as, "Dark Knight," actually tried to show how the fascism of Batman wasn't too different from the controlling-everyone-by-fear aspects of The Joker. Here though, it's made clear how Bane could not be more different from Batman with his nightmarish upbringing (which we later learn is a lie and is Talia's story, so what of Bane's supposed history is true?), kill-happy nature, and evil ways.

Oh, and let's not forget Selina/Catwoman, whom is never actually called that in the movie, but c'mon, she's Catwoman! Anne Hathaway starts out as a sexy fiend who seems to be either bisexual or a lesbian, but by the end of the movie she seems to be, "cured," of her, "wrong," sexuality and now is a good little straight housewife to Bruce Wayne--who it turns out did escape that atomic explosion thanks to the auto-pilot in his Batplane that is constantly mentioned to foreshadow Wayne's escape. Hathaway is slinky, she doesn't ascribe to society's rules with her sexuality, stealing from the rich, and otherwise being against the norm. By the end of the movie she's now just a good-girl who is with Wayne though. Talk about a heteronormative ending.
Hathaway's character goes from subversive to a tamed kitten in the course of the film.
Also, please don't give me that line about how the movie's conclusion is ambiguous. Alfred is not imagining that he sees Bruce Wayne with Selina in the cafe that the movie ham-fistedly foreshadows even worse than the auto-pilot. He does see Bruce Wayne and the movie gives us the happy ending of Batman being able to retire with a pretty lady. You do think Bruce would try to alter his appearance some as people would probably see him and go, "That guy looks like the famous dead billionaire, how odd." That's being nit-picky though.

So far I'm being awfully hard on the movie, but I did in fact quite like it. The story of Bruce Wayne coming back from defeat is good and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is awesome even if he seems to be one of the many people who suddenly are able to figure out Bruce Wayne is Batman (seriously, his identity is either known by or revealed to a lot of people). The action set-pieces are awesome and nothing beats that football field collapsing in a way even more impressive than the previews for the film hinted. I liked so much of the movie, but the flaws in it just bugged me enough to go on about them at length because I feel like this is a really good film that is so close to being as much the masterpiece as, "Dark Knight," but can't quite pull it off due to its many plot issues, weird social and political messages, and Bane's terrible voice.
Levitt is great in this movie, ever since, "Brick," I've had mad respect for the man.
The story is still strong enough that I can't be too mad, and Nolan remains as much the master of cinema as he has been with amazingly done fight scenes, dramatic moments, and a strong complimentary score by Hans Zimmer that some complain is a bit too overbearing but I think is just perfect. Yes, I'm not easy on this film, but it's because I care about it and it has all these aforementioned elements that I really did like.

Overall, despite the complaints I've expressed, this really was a good film, if not one as great as, "Dark Knight." I've only seen it once at that midnight premiere but I definitely want to see it again. It's a good end to the series and whether this tale will continue on with John Blake (whom we learn at the end is really named Robin, nicely done there, Nolan) assuming the role of the Batman, or they will try to reboot the universe in anticipation of a supposed eventual Justice League movie is the new question on people's minds. Whatever happens, I'll always be glad that Nolan came along and showed that you can make deep, thoughtful movies about something people occasionally think of as disposable and childish entertainment. Nolan's take on the super-hero movies has been superb and it is sad he doesn't want to do anything else with Batman--as he has had to make clear sternly in countless interviews, but I also do understand his wanting to move on to new things.

So yeah, "Dark Knight Rises," a really good movie, but not the greatest ever.
4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Problem With Avengers Versus X-Men-A Long Post of Observations and Complaints

Avengers Versus X-Men. AVX. That comic which is horribly broken in a number of ways. Yes, this series goes by many names. It also went from slightly promising but dull, to interesting but walking a fine line, to just being not good.

First, let's be clear that the artists are not to blame. Yes, with each, "Act," change (i.e. every few issues) the artist shifts for the series. John Romita Jr. did his usual thing and did it quite well, and Adam Kubert (who has my sympathies for his father's recent passing) has turned in snazzy stuff. Plus Oliver Coipel always is a delight to look at (his drawings, not the man--though he isn't ugly or anything). Yes, this has been one fine-looking comic. The problem is the writing.
Copiel is an amazing artist.
I've been able to overlook continuity issues that can occur when you have a book taking place over many cross-overs. I understand when you are writing a comic by committee with 5 people working together on the overall plot and (taking over individual issues) things will get messed up For example, Hope will claim she spent her life training for the Phoenix in one comic, such as AVX #7 as Paul O'Brien helpfully points out. Meanwhile those following the comic realize she didn't have a clue about the Phoenix until recently when it was mentioned to her by Mister Sinister in Uncanny X-Men. Perhaps because Kieron Gillen writes Uncanny but not this event he was unable to update the other 5 guys (Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jason Aaron, Jonthan Hickman, and Matt Fraction for those who are curious and wanted to see them listed in alphabetical order by first name), but who knows?

I've been able to even ignore the fact that the X-Men wanting the Phoenix to come to earth because they think it will help them instead of utterly destroying them like it has all the other planets comes off as kind of crazy when put in context--when it comes to breaking down the flaws behind the very idea of the story Tim O'Neil does a spectacular job. Yes, I was even able to ignore the glaring problem of much of the plot itself.
What I won't ignore, what I can't ignore, is how the comic has just become a one-sided good versus evil story with most of the X-Men as bad guys that has little plot reason for it besides, "The Phoenix is making them act weird."

When this series first started you could say if you sided with the X-Men or the Avengers. There were parties at comic shops for whichever side people chose with pins and the like. Some stores had cake. It looked like this was going to be a fairly even fight with everyone getting a say. Then the series started and it was boring. Everyone was standing around arguing about how the Phoenix was dangerous and because Hope somehow (it's never really been explained well, at least to my knowledge) has a link to the Phoenix she needs to be protected by the Avengers or something. This is an idea the X-Men who live on the Utopia island don't like, so Cyclops starts fighting Captain America and blah blah blah until we somehow end up on the moon.
 Then in the middle of the series five X-Men got the power of the Phoenix and went to work changing the world. That's a clever fake-out, but you have to be careful to not make these all-powerful beings look like bad guys. Guess what happened?

Yes, things were slightly interesting as the X-Men started to make the world better...but then they started hunting down Avengers and putting them in weird and terrible prisons. Then the X-Men started going into people's houses and ripping their minds apart with psychic powers because the people had wronged mutants decades ago. Oh, and THEN some of the Phoenix Five (though the number keeps dropping as when one is defeated the others gain their power, but do you really care?) essentially tried to kill Spider-Man. The X-Men basically became fascistic jerks.
Do as I say, or else!
From telling everyone they now run the world to the aforementioned prisons, mind-destroying, and otherwise cruel behavior, the X-Men who side with the Phoenix are now bad guys. There are the X-Men who agree with Wolverine that this whole scenario is bonkers and these X-Men are clearly the good guys along with the  poor, beat-up Avengers.

I would say this comic has the same problem as Marvel's Civil War event, in that you are clearly supposed to agree with one side--but then again in Civil War we agreed with Captain America even though Tony Stark was really the one who was right if one were honest about it. Stark was just being a...well, fascistic jerk. He was cold and mean about the whole registering-heroes-identities business, but he had a point. In this case the X-Men aren't even really right in any way however. Yes, they are making the world better from a standpoint of how they are fixing worldly problems such as hunger or energy crises along with bringing peace...but they are "giving" us this peace by enforcing their terrifying rule and any benefit they provide to people comes with the caveat that you have to be blindly obedient.
Complain about the Phoenix-powered X-Men and you end up here.
Avengers Versus X-Men has as of the ninth issue become something that I doubt issues #10-12 can fix. That, "something," is a comic that mutilates all fan-affection for the X-Men by painting them as monsters and expecting us to be excited for the new Marvel NOW re-launch where we get to see how everyone learned their lesson and now X-Men get to be on Avengers teams--because hey, it's not like tons of X-Men have been on Avengers teams before!

 Basically we are being told, "That whole Schism event we did? Let's make it moot!" along with, "You like the X-Men, so how about we call them Avengers in an attempt to get all that Avengers money from anything with that title supposedly selling better than anything with an X-logo!" Seriously though, this reeks of an attempt to boost X-Men sales by giving them the, "Avengers," insignia after resetting their developments of late through some drastic means such as the Phoenix.
This is what happens when you put the word, "Avengers," on an X-Men book and throw in some normal humans.
Marvel has been vocal about how while they are re-launching many books and introducing new ones, this isn't a reboot. All the previous stories still stand, history is as it was, etc. etc. The thing is, the way all these X-Men are being built as some world-ending threat the only way to really make them work now in any future stories is to essentially reboot them. Get rid of schism, eliminate the whole, "having their own island nation," idea, and bring them back to being a plucky few genetically-different individuals who protect a world that hates and fears them.

The shift to the classic-style X-Men started with the fallout from House of M where mutants were made into very limited numbers just like the old days. The Schism event with Wolverine and Cyclops having a beak-up in their friendship and views on mutants changed things up a little, but with those Phoenix-powered X-Men looming over everything its becoming clear that this is a deck-clearing exercise for the X-Men that other comics are going to take advantage of by hopping on the Marvel NOW bandwagon along with Cyclops (unless they kill him off or something), Wolverine, and the rest of the X-gang.

Perhaps this re-launch will be great and the mess that is AVX will just have been the birthing pains. That's my hope at least, because right now we've got little more than underdog Avengers and dictator X-Men. I mean, worst-case scenario they bring Jean Grey back or something equally stupid.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Joe Kubert Has Passed.

Joseph Kubert was born in 1926. He has died now in 2012 He was an amazing force in the comics field. There are obituaries in various places that can say both more than me, and word things better. All I can say is I'm saddened by the news. Every time one of the people who helped give rise to the comics we know and love today dies its always sad.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rant-Reviews: Three 1st Issues and a Conclusion

Today we've got the twisted, "Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, equally dark,  "Harvest," and the incredibly enjoyable, "Hawkeye," all with their first issues. Also, the conclusion of RASL with issue #15 has come out. Is everything good? Generally, with occasional complaints.

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #1
In some ways this comic is unpleasant. It takes Deadpool, normally known for his jokes and light-hearted nature which hides his insecurities, and makes him into a cold-blooded killing machine when a villain's attempts to brainwash him go horribly awry. It's violent, dark, and a bit depressing with some pitch-black humor to fit the tone. The thing is though, I think it is also kind of interesting. It's been hinted before that if Deadpool, "Got his shit together," he would be possibly the most dangerous person in the Marvel Universe. He's a trained assassin who cannot be killed by any normal means, he's just distracted by his own shenanigans so he can't be bothered to excel at what he was made for--namely, killing. Writer Cullen Bunn understood this.

This comic points out that once the happy-go-lucky thoughts in his head are pushed out of the way that one dark bit in his mind that just wants to serve his initial purpose of killing can speak up and result in Deadpool being one of the most dangerous beings ever in existence. Therefore, this doesn't really work as a comedy comic as any jokes are just so dark you're more disturbed than amused. As a study of the psychology of a monster who for so long tried to be normal person but had that evil deep-down in him waiting to be set loose, this is pretty good. If you're coming for the usual Deadpool jokes you'll be sorely disappointed, but if you want something a bit more evil this may just work for you.
3 out of 5 stars. 

Harvest #1
The biggest complaint I probably have for this comic is its tendency to jump around in time can get a bit confusing, and I had to re-read certain bits to figure out which character did what and why. Also, this issue is a lot of set-up, only hinting in the opening of the main plot of this series--namely how an ex black-market surgeon is taking out body-parts rich people had paid to get at the expense of others. However, the bleak tone, beautiful artwork, and hints of hallucinations make this comic about organ-harvesting an intriguing little number. I just hope the mini-series can keep the twisted tone going throughout the rest of the issues and that the story picks up a bit more. Then again, if it keeps looking this good I may not mind.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Hawkeye #1
All over the internet people are singing the praises of this comic, even if it in some ways is ripping of Batman: Year One and older Daredevil comics with its stylistic choices and design. The comic is basically about what Hawkeye does when he's not with the Avengers, and that consists of him just being a mostly normal dude with a good heart. The story is expertly designed; it's funny when it needs to be and serious at times too, and boy if David Aja doesn't provide great art. Matt Fraction was the writer on this and he can be so incredibly good ("Casanova", "Iron Fist" with Ed Brubaker co-writing) or terribly bad (Fear Itself) that you never know what you're going to get from him. Thankfully, we received this.

This comic is probably the best launch of a Marvel comic since Daredevil came out swinging awhile ago with Mark Waid and other talented artists at the helm. That comic and Hawkeye both show that if you can get top-notching writing and art together you will get something that doesn't only read well, but looks beautiful too. The sad thing is that this is a comic about Hawkeye, so the odds of it actually becoming a massive hit are kind of small no matter how much good press this gets. Still though, utterly awesome stuff
5 out of 5 stars.

RASL #15
In this concluding issue of the series we get some crazy twists, finally learn what "RASL" means, and get lots of well-drawn fighting along with more surreal sci-fi talk. The ending is a bit ambiguous but that makes sense for a series as odd as this: Something not quite sci-fi, adventure, or romance, but all of the above plus more. I've enjoyed this series, and it will read very well collected into one big trade as I anticipate it will be at some point. It's neat stuff.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

That's what I've got for you, I hope you savored it like a fine wine or a box of Chicken Rings from White Castle. Either works really.