Monthly archives: August, 2008

Astonishing X-Men under Ellis is … actually not as bad as I thought

I’ve written a couple posts about some issues I have with Warren Ellis, specifically his taking over of Astonishing X-Men. When the news came out last year, I posted about it, saying:

But here’s the thing. His writing is dense. Not just “dense” dense. Unreadable dense, the kind where fourth or fifth time is a charm trying to read something like “Global Frequency.” On an accessibility scale, Ellis is somewhere around Alan Moore writing in ancient languages.

So I was leary. Very leary. I even expressed this at the end of Whedon’s run, saying:

Warren Ellis and Simon Bianchi’s run has a “regular” schedule on the Marvel website. But I’ve got some issues with it going in. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, the storytelling and execution step up to the plate, and actually bother to respect fans enough to not get sidetracked by other projects. If this is going to be Marvel’s quintessential X-book, then they should treat it as such – not some long-form vanity project, but a book able to sustain a deadline and keep fans caring about the storyline within.

So yeah. As the only X-book I still read (that pains me to say on some “I have three long boxes of X-Men” level), I had fears and hopes. After picking up the first two issues while waiting for an Amtrak train, I have to say that I’m actually really excited for this run.

This may be vaguely spoilerish, so if you don’t want to read this part, don’t.

Secret Invasion Is Boring, Stinks

secret invasion 5This summer, I’ve only been paying attention to three “event” comic series, and, so far, all three of them are really letting me down. It’s no secret that I’ve really disliked Final Crisis, but I’ve also been fairly annoyed with Batman R.I.P. The art in both of those has been pretty stellar, but Grant Morrison’s writing has been a mixed bag, and, for the most part, fairly weird to the point of being bad. I kind of like R.I.P, in spite of the bad writing, just because it’s at least building to something, and I’ve remained interested in seeing how it plays out. And, hey, at least it’s only affecting, like, twenty characters rather than six billion.

The third crossover I’ve been following is Marvel’s Secret Invasion, and, after a fantastic debut issue, this thing has been one big letdown followed by another.

The fifth issue came out today, so if you haven’t read it, just hold off on reading this review for a little while, because from here on out, there will be spoilers. In this issue, the good guys finally do some ass-kicking, after Mr. Fantastic is freed and comes back to Earth with a big gun that reveals who is and isn’t a Skrull. Most notably, Tony Stark is not a Skrull, and Spider-Woman was. Plus, the Skrulls reveal that they’re taking our planet over as part of their empire in order to save us from ourselves. Okay, Chris Jericho.

Sounds pretty decent, right? Well, it is, and it isn’t. I guess my biggest gripe is that, while I was reading this thing, I kept wondering how many damn times we’re going to have to sit through the same stupid conversation where everybody acts paranoid and talks about who may or may not be a Skrull.

The only interesting twist is that it’s revealed that some of these Skrull infiltrators (maybe all of them?) actually think they’re the superhero counterparts they’re posing as. The stuff with Captain Marvel, for instance, is really intriguing.

Another thing that I found kind of yawn-inducing is that Agent Brand and Maria Hill were able to trick an entire squadron of Skrulls to take out one of the main ships in their fleet and the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier, respectively, single-handed. Right. So you’re telling me these Skrulls were able to pull off one of the most elaborate, intricate plans to bring Earth to its knees, yet they’re fooled by a woman who speaks Skrull like a “drunken baby” and a robot decoy? Yeah, that makes sense.

I don’t want to say that nothing’s happening in this series, because, clearly, stuff is happening; it just feels like there’s a whole lot of filler and jibber-jab for the majority of each issue and then one or two big twists.

Oh well. At least I know what’s going on in this series, and it’s not complete freaked-out gobbledygook, like Final Crisis. Yes, the story about a race of little green shape-shifters invading Earth from the inside out is more believable and less ridiculous than Final Crisis. Now that’s saying something.

Trinity #10

10In the lead: The JLA realize the missing people from last isssue are being taken by the Crime Syndicate to the Anti-Matter Earth to work as slaves, and decide to mount a rescue operation. Meanwhile, the evil Trinity sends one of their thugs to steal something from STAR Labs.

In the back-up: Nightwing and Robin fight a talking gorilla in a metal corset. Wait a minute…Nightwing and Robin fight a talking gorilla in a metal corset? Okay, just had to make sure I meant that. Then the two go and vists Jason Blood (somtimes known as Etrigan the Demon), who tells them more about the power of the trinity in magic.

My take: This is getting good.

I liked the distraction of the Crime Syndicate in the lead story and hope it turns out to be just that, a distraction. Not everything in this series needs to be related to the Trinity plot. In fact, it makes sense that some of it wouldn’t. It’s not like all the other bad guys are going to stand aside and say “It’s Morgaine Le Fey’s turn now.” Supervillains don’t take turns.

And while the lead and the Trinity are focusing on something else, the back-up is the perfect place to keep the overall series arc flowing nicely. Just because Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are busy defending innocents doesn’t mean the evil Trinity is taking a vacation. They’re still working on their master plan, and who’s better than Nightwing, Robin and Oracle to keep an eye on it? Hey, those three are just like their own little Trinity. Neat.

Anyway, the best parts of this issue are best discussed as…

Things to keep an eye on: Superman’s acting a little weird. The guy’s really angry that the Crime Syndicate is abducting people…and I mean really angry. Like super-angry. Like acting-completely-out-of-character angry. Like so-angry-the-other-characters-realize-he’s-acting-out-of-character angry. And now that I think about it, Batman not realizing right away that he’d come into contacts with the Howlers before is pretty out of character. So is Wonder Woman going shopping while the boys fight crime. The entire Trinity is freaking out; is this the evil Trinity’s doing? (more…)

Book of Doom: Final Crisis #3

Man, Final Crisis just isn’t going to get any better, is it? We’re about halfway through now, and the third issue was just as poorly paced and written as the first one. As you may have been able to tell from the past few days of posts, the other guys here have similar feelings.

Final Crisis 3So what are my biggest complaints?

“You. No longer. As in, employed at this outlet.”

Excuse me, Mr. Morrison, but absolutely no one on the face of the Earth talks like that. No, Buffy the Vampire Slayer doesn’t count as a person. Is all this “Monitor living as a mortal” stuff even necessary? I’m not a moron. I’m going to remember what’s happened four issues from now when the Mortal Monitor stuff starts to come into play. Don’t just throw a page of wasted space into every issue to remind me about the guy.

“It’s a little known fact that death can’t travel faster than the speed of light.”

Boy, that just doesn’t make any sense at all. So maybe that black skier guy can’t travel faster than the speed of light, but as far as I’m aware he’s only the grim reaper for the New Gods. But didn’t Barry Allen waste away into nothing during Crisis on Infinite Earths? Didn’t several people have visions of that happening? You can’t just say, “Barry Allen never died,” because he did. And I’ve got the sneaking suspicion that this isn’t going to turn out to be Barry anyway.

“I guess Superman has problems of his own, Jim. I have to stay with my wife.”

I never remember Superman being quite this selfish before. Superman’s not the kind of guy to choose his wife over millions of innocents. And can someone please explain to me how Superman’s heat vision could possibly be keeping Lois’ heart beating? Last time I checked, your nervous system doesn’t work by sending intense heat to your muscles to tell them what to do.

“Article X? The draft for superheroes?”

Ooh! A superhero draft! No one’s ever thought about doing that! It’s not like Marvel’s big crossover from 2007 wasn’t based on that same concept or anything. But aside from the unoriginality, the idea is ridiculous on its face. (more…)

Where Were You…?

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Where Were You…?

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Where Were You…?

where were you

Trinity #9

9In the lead: Wonder Woman tries to rescue civilians at a mall bombing committed by new villain Swashbuckler, which is all an elaborate plan to steal Etta Candy’s ID card for Morgaine Le Fey. Meanwhile, Batman tries to fight off the werewolves that attacked him last issue. At the Department of Metahuman Affairs (also known as SHIELD), Sarge Steel briefs Diana Prince on some strange mass disappearances of populations around the globe. With the help of Nightwing and Robin, Batman learns that the werewolves are called Howlers and their branding discs are Arthurian in nature. Wonder Woman is told that Earth-3’s Crime Syndicate is responsible for the disappearances and calls in the JLA for back-up.

In the back-up: Oracle leads Nightwing, Huntress, Robin and the Outsiders in the investigation surrounding the Trinity. Nightwing encounters Swashbuckler, who tries to steal Nightwing’s mask and fails. Then Swashbuckler helps The Trans-Volitional Man break into Arkham Asylum and steal the Joker’s laugh.

My take: That’s more like it. The last two weeks of Trinity pretty much sucked. There was absolutely no action, and the exposition was incredibly boring. This week had a good blend of each, and the exposition actually moved the story forward quite a bit.

I found it strange that the book opened with Wonder Woman and the mall bombing. It seems like the bombing should have happened last week as a cliffhanger for this week. That definitely would have given WW something to do last issue instead of just going shopping. The entire sequence, from explosion to resolution, only took up two pages. Even adding one panel last week would have made the sequence seem more important.


Podcast of Doom (transcript):
Wolverine #67, Green Lantern #33 and more!

[SFX: Intro Music]

JIM DOOM: Hello and welcome to the latest Podcast of Doom. I’m Jim Doom, and with me as usual is Doom DeLuise. Want to talk about Wolverine?

DOOM DELUISE: That movie hasn’t come out yet.

[sound of audience laughter]

JD: Wolverine issue 67.

DD: Oh. [more laughter] Ok, sure.

JD: You told me you liked it, after hating part 1 last month, but it was for some weird reason. What did you like about this that you didn’t like about last month?

DD: Two things. “They broke me, bub,” and Thor’s hammer.

Let me explain.

JD: Please do.

DD: Last issue, they implied that Wolverine hung up his spurs because something so terrible happened that he could never pop his claws again. That’s a decently cool concept, even though we all know the entire story-arc is leading to the point where he’ll pop his claws again; however, when he admits that he finally got broken, and they show the scene where he’s being attacked by Omega Red and Mr. Sinister, it just pumped me up.

I want to know exactly what happened, and I’m excited to see where this is going.

Book of Doom: JSA Annual #1

I stopped reading Justice Society of America a few months ago as this Kingdom Come storyline was starting but just seeming to spin its wheels. I had some room left in my quota this week, though, so I decided to grab this.

I snuck a peak at the last issue of JSA, in which Gog has apparently been curing and assisting everyone. He identifies Power Girl as being lost, so he sends her home. So this issue opens with Power Girl returning to Earth-2 and getting reacquainted with everyone.

Geoff Johns made some interesting choices that I’m going to have to think about more to really decide how I feel about them. One of those is that everyone on Earth-2 knows about the Crisis and seems to understand it on a cosmic level. Superman, Powergirl and Lois left to go battle when “the skies turned red” and never returned. So the premise here appears to be that when 52 universes were restored, not only were these universes ones that existed before the Crisis, but they were restored back to the point of the Crisis. So the Crisis happened, but then apparently everything was fine the next day.

Selfishly I like this, because I’ve always liked the JSA, and I really liked the Justice Society stuff from the ’70s, which is where this seems to draw most of its continuity. I love the idea that they just started fleshing out the missing years of this continuity that had basically been stalled since the ’40s. Critically, though, considering what a huge deal it was that one or two people remembered the Crisis just a few years ago, I don’t like how the past few years have seen nearly every character referring to this reality-altering and history-rewriting event like it was a classic Super Bowl or something.

Another big choice Johns made with this story is in having characters acknowledge that New Earth and Earth-1 are not the same thing. New Earth may have characters that were based on characters from Earth-1 and Earth-2 (and others), but it is not made up of those actual beings. This topic came up a lot several years ago when we were all getting excited for Infinite Crisis, and basically the same logical conclusion was reached, but it’s nice to see it in print.

The obvious next step from that acknowledgment is of course that Earth-1 should still exist too — in its pre-Crisis state. There doesn’t really seem to be any point having New Earth, Earth-1 and Earth-2, so I’m wondering if this isn’t all a setup for some more earths to get wiped out down the road.

All of this speculation could very easily be wiped out by the ending of the issue, in which someone claiming to be the “real” Power Girl shows up and starts beating up the Power Girl we know. It seems to me there are three likely explanations for this: