Archive for January, 2012

Time and Time Again

Secret Avengers #20

The latest Secret Avengers op has gone bad, leaving Steve Rogers, Sharon Carter, and War Machine dead, and Black Widow using an untested “escape hatch” teleporter to escape to… five years in the past? Turns out the “escape hatch” is a wrist-mounted time machine with a few serious limitations — events that have already happened still have to happen, so she can’t just timejump to five minutes before the end of the mission and wipe out the bad guys. This leads to a great deal of jumping back and forth through time, learning about how time travel works, financing a genius to get him to build a wrist-mounted time machine, getting weapons engineers to build weapons that won’t actually kill her teammates and making sure those weapons are in the hands of the bad guys. But will all this time travel actually save the Secret Avengers?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This was actually the first of Warren Ellis’ “Secret Avengers” comics that really felt like a Warren Ellis comic. It’s high concept, packed full of action, and insanely complicated, but it’s still very, very human. I loved all the scenes with Count Khronus and Kongo, especially the art shifts that accompanied their first appearance.

Static Shock #5

Static escapes from the watery grave Piranha threw him into. The Slate Gang loses their security contract with the criminal organization, and Piranha takes it over on a probationary basis. The crooks say they can’t find any civilian identity for Static — not even Virgil Hawkins has the same DNA. And they kidnap Virgil’s sister, Sharon — or one of them, since they’re perfect clones. Guilotina tries to make friends with Sharon, and Static tries to track down where Piranha is taking Sharon.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Too much confusion. Why can’t the bad guys tell that Static is Virgil Hawkins, and if they don’t think he’s Static, why do they kidnap his sister? What’s with the threatening note left for Virgil at home? About the only part of this that I enjoyed was the retelling of Static’s origin. Other than that, wow, what a colossal mess.

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Nobody Tosses a Dwarf!

Dungeons & Dragons #14

Khal the dwarven paladin has been accidentally struck down by his girlfriend Danni’s crossbow in the midst of an attack by the monstrously creepy foulspawn. But never fear — once the foulspawn are repelled, it’s revealed that a few crossbow bolts are no match for good dwarven armor. Danni has been stuck down here with a small group of dwarf explorers, thanks to the foulspawn, the kruthiks, and other monsters. Adric Fell and the rest of the adventurers check out the temple and find a clock — a very, very large clock, counting down to some sort of probably awful cosmic event. Further exploration reveals some Escher stairs and a possible way out. Unfortunately, they also discover that most of the dwarves are actually already dead, and Danni’s companions are… something else. And when they reveal to Danni that they know this, Danni goes a leeeetle bit berserk. Could things get worse? Yeah, once the foulspawns’ master finally shows up, things can get worse.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding stuff — amazing suspense, revelations, and cliffhangers, great dialogue, and a few really hilarious situations. This is really good stuff — I hope more of you are reading this.

Avengers Academy #24

Reptil has been mindswapped with his future self, who’s working against the best interests of the Academy because he’s trying to preserve his version of the future. And he’s willing to help Hybrid, an alien monster who’s part mutant, part Dire Wraith, and all evil. Reptil’s future can only happen if Hybrid kills half the students, and Reptil gets busy sending students and teachers into Hybrid’s room at the Academy. Will White Tiger be able to resist Hybrid’s mental powers, or are all the students doomed?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’d never heard of Hybrid before, which seems a bit strange ’cause he seems like a really excellent villain. What I really like about this issue is that, even as the main storyline is going on, we still get some character details on White Tiger and even a couple of the background characters.

iZombie #21

Gwen has been captured — if captured is really the right word — by the Dead Presidents, a bunch of monsters who work for the government. Agent Kennedy — a zombie like Gwen — gives Gwen a brain smoothie ’cause it’d been a while since she had gotten to eat any brains. Galatea — half Dr. Frankenstein, half Frankenstein’s monster — conspires with Kovsky, a disembodied brain in a coffee maker, and his zombie servant. Spot finds himself captured by a leopard woman — who is actually Amon’s shapeshifted leopard — and he discovers that they have some really bad plans for him. As the Dead Presidents prepare to move against Galatea, they get an offer of assistance from the normally hostile Fossor Corporation. Can they be trusted?

Verdict: Thumbs up. What did I love the most about this? J. Bone takes over art chores for one issue and produces something that looks like a more cartoonish Darwyn Cooke. It’s an amazing change of pace for this comic, even if it’s just temporary, and it makes me wish Bone got more comics work.

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Friday Night Fights: Western Whuppin’s!

Okay, it’s the first weekend after the holidays. The best thing about the first weekend after the holidays is that it’s the first one in weeks that hasn’t included an extra dose of holiday stress. So we actually get to enjoy this one a bit more. So let’s jump right into things with some good old-fashioned… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from August 1968’s Showcase #76 by Sergio Aragones and Nick Cardy, with the first appearance of dandified Western anti-hero Bat Lash:

And that’s that! See y’all back here on Monday!

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Look for the Union Label

The Goon #37

What we have here is not the typical funny, gross “Goon” story. This one is pretty dead serious.

Creator Eric Powell is a well-known liberal, but he’s also a big fan of unions. He takes a huge chunk of this story from the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, where 146 people died in a fire that was made worse by nearly no safety regulations or systems. No one was ever punished for the disaster, but it helped lead to much stronger regulations protecting workers — something which Powell has surely noticed are in danger of being rolled back in the interest of enriching the “job creators” who never seem to create any jobs.

In this particular story, the sweatshop is called the Pentagram Girdle Factory, and it has tons of similarities to the historical sweatshop — nearly no safety precautions, fire marshals persuaded to look the other way, owners who turn a tidy profit off of the disaster thanks to insurance payouts, locked exits, trapped workers flinging themselves from the upper stories of the building, horrified onlookers powerless to help. After the surviving workers organize to demand better working conditions, the factory owner sends strikebreakers to beat down the protestors. But after the union goes to the Goon for help, the tide turns. The owner turns to the Zombie Master to use black magic to help him, but the Goon still beats down the bad guys. But is there any way to really hold the real villains responsible? Only in the comics, unfortunately…

Verdict: Thumbs up. An awesome change-of-pace — both educational and topical — with the great art and writing we’ve come to expect from Powell. I didn’t even realize this issue was coming out this week, but it’s definitely a great issue, though — if you haven’t gotten it, go pick it up.

The Defenders #2

Dr. Strange, Namor, the Silver Surfer, Iron Fist, and the Red She-Hulk are on the trail of Nul the World-Breaker, which recently possessed the Hulk and turned him into a tool of the Asgardian god of fear. They’ve tracked it to Wundagore Mountain, but find themselves under attack by the forces of Prester John. Iron Fist heals himself from a bullet wound to the chest, but the team soon finds itself outmatched by Prester John’s bizarre hyper-technology. Red She-Hulk eventually frees the heroes by getting Dr. Strange to scare her into turning back into Betty Ross, but is there any way to keep Nul away — and once he makes it the Prester John’s time machine, will anything be able to stop the destruction of the universe?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of action and lots of great dialogue and personality work. Lots of team comics can only handle characterization for one or two characters per issue, so the fact that this one can handle it for everyone is definitely a good thing. The only sore spot for me is that I still didn’t really understand what Prester John’s scheme involved…

Justice League International #5

The giant Signal Men robots are slowly destroying the Earth while Peraxxus harvests the planet’s minerals while his ship shoots down anything trying to reach him to stop him. So the JLI has to make it from inside the planet’s crust into orbit, all without snarking each other to death. Godiva worries about her ability to work on a cosmic level when her only power is prehensile hair, Guy Gardner complains about everyone. August General in Iron and Rocket Red start to respect each other, and Vixen tells Batman to quit being such an ass. Can the team stop Peraxxus? And even if they can, will they be able to survive the trip back down to Earth?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Better than I was expecting. I do think the dialogue is often very, very awkward, but I’m glad to see some personality development going on. I’m also fairly well impressed with the artwork and designs. None of the female characters has a silly costume, and when was the last time you could say that about a DC team comic? I’m also pretty happy with Aaron Lopresti’s work on the characters’ body language.

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Switchblade Runner

Well, lookit what happened to me. I got too busy with Christmas and New Year’s travels and activities, and I completely ran out of time to go pick up last week’s new comics. So I’ve got no new comics to review.

First thing that means is I’m going to end up getting two or three weeks’ worth of comics this Wednesday, and that’s far, far too many for me to get reviewed without going nuts. So I probably won’t even try to review all of ’em — I’m just going to pick the ones that end up being the best and getting them done — or maybe just the worst. We’ll see what my mood is like, hey?

Second, I’m gonna have to review some non-comics today and Wednesday. Luckily, I’ve got something lined up I’ve been wanting to review for a couple weeks…

Switchblade Goddess by Lucy A. Snyder

I’ve already reviewed the first two novels in Lucy A. Snyder’s Jessie Shimmer trilogy, so it makes sense to get the third one reviewed here, too. This new book kicks off almost immediately after the end of the previous one — Jessie, with her magic stone eye and magic hellfire arm, has temporarily stopped the diabolical soul harvester Miko — that’s the clothing-bereft knife-slinger on the cover above — but Miko’s not down for the count, and Jessie needs to figure out a way to stop her, rescue the people whose souls she’s stolen, save her lover Cooper and her familiar Pal, and still escape the wrath of the magical and highly powerful Virtus Regnum. Can she do it? Maybe, but it won’t be easy, and it sure as heck won’t be painless.

This book takes on a much more global flavor, thanks to Jessie and Cooper discovering some portals that let them travel almost anywhere they want to. So we get to follow Jessie’s adventures on a tropical island, in the Louisiana swamps, at a ritzy European castle — and after spending the previous book mostly stuck in a little dead-end Texas town, that’s definitely a welcome change, just so we can see what other kinds of magical chaos can erupt in all these other settings. But a lot of the action here takes place inside Jessie’s mind, because after a certain point, any time Jessie falls asleep, Miko gets to torture her — as in not-for-the-squeamish flaying-you-alive torture. Luckily, it’s all in Jessie’s head, so there’s no physical damage — but the mental and emotional scars do some serious damage. And to top it all off, Miko also wants to sleep with Jessie and induct her as her loyal lieutenant — and Jessie would probably prefer the flaying-alive stuff instead.

This book is a great deal darker than the previous one (which was a lot darker than the first book in the series, too, come to think of it) — there’s uncomfortably graphic torture, barely-consensual sex, terrors and betrayals that strike at the emotional heart of anyone who’s ever been in a relationship. Large swaths of the plot are more cringingly terrifying than anything you’ll find in mainstream horror novels.

I think where this book — and the entire series, actually — really shines is in its characters. Not just the main characters, not just Jessie, Cooper, Pal, the Warlock, and Miko, but minor characters and walk-on parts often have some really fun, vibrant personalities that make you wish there were other novels that would follow what else these people were up to. Snyder clearly loves creating cool characters, whether they’re major roles or cameos, and dangit, I love reading that kind of stuff.

This isn’t something you can just pick up blind — if you wanna really enjoy this book, you’re gonna have to read “Spellbent” and “Shotgun Sorceress” first. But that ain’t too rough a requirement — all three books are just eight bucks apiece, and it sure wouldn’t hurt you to read all three in the trilogy.

I loved this book. Go pick it up.

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