Archive for Defenders

City of Owls

Batman #8

The Court of Owls has sent out hordes of Talon agents — combat-trained assassins who can revive themselves as long as their blood isn’t too cold. A bunch of them attack Bruce Wayne in Wayne Manor, but he and Alfred manage to fight most of them off. Unfortunately, they’re also targeting almost 40 public officials throughout Gotham City. So Batman mobilizes the rest of the Bat-family — Damian Wayne, Nightwing, Red Robin, Batgirl, the Birds of Prey, and — ugh — the Red Hood — to help out in the crisis.

Verdict: Thumbs up. But not a real enthusiastic one. The action is excellent, and the rest of the plot is fine. But it’s still just an introductory issue for the upcoming “Night of the Owls” crossover.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – The Long Death #3

Johann Kraus failed in his attempt to kill Ben Daimio when he lost the magic knife that was supposed to do that job. Daimio actually has the knife and tries to commit suicide with it, but can’t follow through. He seeks out the wendigo — a good man trapped in the body of a supernatural killing machine — but can there be a winner in a battle between two seemingly immortal monsters?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent work all around — action, drama, and horror, with great art and writing. And the loss of one long-time character is handled pretty well.

The Defenders #5

The Atlanteans have discovered a giant door containing an image of the miraculous machine that the Defenders have obtained. Namor, Dr. Strange, Red She-Hulk, and the Silver Surfer investigate, and after the Surfer blows the door open, they discover a dead, armored giant with a huge, antique submarine rammed through his chest — and they’re attacked by squid-faced women who’ve been imprisoned in the tomb for hundreds of years. After they run the squid-women off, they investigate the submarine — and discover that it’s the Nautilus. And that Captain Nemo may have been Namor’s father…

Verdict: Thumbs down. It’s not just that this is a dull, confusing story, with weak action, mediocre dialog, and sketchy art. It’s that I suspect Matt Fraction is trying for all he’s worth to write a Grant Morrison story. And he just don’t have the chops. Honestly, I think I’m done with this title. I ain’t made o’ money…

Today’s Cool Links:

  • I bet some of y’all are fans of “PhD Comics,” right? Well, they’ve got a live-action movie, believe it or not…
  • Former Lubbockite Micah Ian Wright wants to get back into comics after he blew it all with a fake biography.
  • Speaking of Lubbock cartoonists, here are some Lubbockites making a webcomic about… knitting? Yeah, a bit off-the-beaten-path, but it’s still pretty good.
  • iZombie writer Chris Roberson has had enough of DC’s shenanigans.
  • John Scalzi discovers there’s something on the wing of the plane — and that there’s a serious iPad artist out there making monsters.

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Noir Pigs

Fatale #3

We start with a flash-forward back to the modern day where Nicolas Lash has had a leg amputated after a car accident where a mysterious woman named Josephine helped him escape from some murderous thugs. He learns that the home of Hank Raines, his late godfather, has been ransacked, and his godfather’s secret novel is bizarre almost to the point of incoherence. His research into Raines’ life soon leads Lash to horrifying news…

And at that point, we jump back to the 1950s, where crooked cop Walt Booker is getting bawled out by his supervisor because he’s been busted taking bribes under the table. Booker discovers that his former lover, Jo, who he’s just sold out to supernatural hitmen in exchange for a cure for his cancer, has skipped out on him, and if he can’t find her soon, something worse than cancer is going to kill him. And Raines is hanging out with Jo, and she takes him for a walk to an old boarded-up house where she claims she once died — and where they’re accosted by a cultist who wants to kill them both. How will they survive, and what horrible things are on the horizon?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding art and great retro-noir storytelling. And the supernatural/horror elements are starting to creep up there in significance, too. It’ll be interesting to see how this noir-horror stuff works out…

Justice League International #7

The UN has been bombed in an attack designed to strike at the JLI. Much of the team is injured — Fire is in a coma, Ice’s legs have been shattered, Vixen may never walk again. Booster, Batman, Guy Gardner, August General, and Godiva try to rescue as many people as they can, but things are pretty bad, and there’s an enemy out there waiting to ambush them.

Verdict: Ehh, I dunno. The writing is overall pretty good, even though the dialogue is, as always, a bit clunky. I’ve got issues with the idea that so many female characters are in the hospital with serious injuries — looks a lot like they’re getting fridged, at least temporarily, to give Booster and Guy something to angst about. There’s too dang much angst in the New 52 already — why can’t there be a team comic dedicated to good old fashioned superheroics?

The Defenders #4

This issue focuses almost entirely on Dr. Strange and Molly, his one-night-stand from the first issue. She’s a grad student working on her thesis, and she needs a book from Strange’s library to complete her research. Strange loans it to her, and an unscrupulous magician finds out about it and manages to slip his lucky magic coin into the book, allowing him to astrally project himself into any house containing the coin. He tries to blackmail Strange into letting him have access to anything in his house that he wants — but smart people don’t try to blackmail Dr. Strange. Meanwhile, Strange has been studying the magical machine that the team took from Wundagore Mountain last issue and inadvertently wishes an old girlfriend named Martha back to life.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The last issue was not very good, but this one is a lot better focusing on just a few people and their weird semi-magical relationship issues. I’m a bit bummed that apparently neither Molly nor Martha had last names. That’s really the sort of thing that should be mentioned — if they’ve been mentioned before, you can’t expect the readers to just remember that sort of trivia, and if they’ve never had last names… well, you should give ’em last names, ya know? It’s just good character work.

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Turing Point

Atomic Robo: The Ghost of Station X #5

In the finale of the latest storyline, Atomic Robo has had himself packaged up and shipped to Hashima Island, Japan, the source of the conspiracy against Robo and the Action Scientists of Tesladyne. It’s the same location that his former employees Louis and Martin and the British secret agent, the Sparrow, have traveled to so they can find a house that was mysteriously, um, housenapped. When they find the house, Robo goes in to look around and finds an artificial intelligence that calls itself Alan, after its creator, Alan Turing. Well, Turing was a nice guy — surely the Alan AI is nice, too? Nope. Alan wants to blast off of Earth to become the ultimate space-computer, and he plans to destroy the planet in the process. Can Robo fight off a computer that controls a vast underground complex in time to save the Earth?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Talky — but if you can’t handle comic-book science talk from computer minds built by Nikola Tesla and Alan Turing, you really shouldn’t handle comic books. Good fun, good humor, good action, and high stakes.

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #2

Newspaper reporter Cindy Tynan has been saved from gangster Arnie Wald’s goons by Lobster Johnson, and he has her in hiding to keep her safe. Of course, Tynan isn’t real happy about that, but Lobster won’t let her go free until he knows Wald is out of business — and dead — permanently. Tynan is able to clue the crimefighter in on one of Wald’s hideouts, and though Lobster takes out Wald’s goons, the mobster gets away. And when he gets back to New York, he goes about finding some mystical protection…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent art, fantastic action. Don’t know what else I can say — it’s good stuff, so if you love supernatural-themed pulp, this is something you may like.

Batgirl #6

Batgirl has to fight a mind-controlled Bruce Wayne, but she starts to suspect he’s faking the mind control — partly because he isn’t fighting as well as Batgirl knows he can, and partly because Batman can resist any mind control. Gretel makes her escape when Babs engineers an excuse for Wayne to break free of her mental powers, then we get Gretel’s origin story — she used to be a reporter named Lisly Bonner who was trying to expose a mobster, but when her secret was exposed, she got shot and dumped in the bay. But the brain injury awakened psychic powers which she’s using to get revenge on the mobsters who attacked her. Batgirl is able to figure out her secret and she sets up a trap for Gretel — but will she and Bruce Wayne end up getting killed when Gretel takes over the minds of the Gotham police?

Verdict: I have to thumbs this one down. I didn’t mind most of it, but it lost me early on with a couple of game-breakers. First, I don’t buy the idea that Batman can actually resist all mental attacks — he’s got a lot of willpower, yeah, but I don’t buy that he can completely shrug off a telepathic attack so easily. Second, Gretel even says she was in Bruce Wayne’s mind — either she was telling the truth and never realized that she couldn’t control him, or she was lying and knew she wasn’t controlling him, and then stuck around to risk capture. And we also got no explanation for the weird fugue state that Gretel went into during last issue. On top of all that, I’m just really not digging Barbara Gordon’s subplots — I don’t care beans about her estranged mother, and I don’t buy that this obsessed cop would keep pursuing Batgirl when Commissioner Gordon had already told her she didn’t have a case.

The Defenders #3

Dr. Strange, Namor, the Silver Surfer, Iron Fist, and Red She-Hulk are underneath Wundagore Mountain hoping to stop Nul, the Breaker of Worlds from busting up a machine that will destroy the universe. They also have to stop Prester John from trying to escape the universe before everything goes kablooey. Can they pull all that off by themselves?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Here’s the problem with this — if the Defenders had never shown up at all, the end result of this would all be the same. The machine’s guardian would’ve banished Nul whether or not they showed up. And Prester John would’ve gone flying his big spaceship around without really doing any harm, but now the Surfer messed up his trajectory, and… I don’t really see the point. The art is nice, but these guys just ran around for three issues and accomplished nothing. You get better results from the Inferior Five.

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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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Playing Defense

The Defenders #1

“The Defenders” has always seemed like a weird series — never a sales leader, never remarked upon much within the Marvel Universe itself, mainly kept going as a tribute to fan nostalgia. Don’t know if that’ll change this time, but Marvel has resurrected the title again, this time with Matt Fraction as the writer and Terry Dodson handling the art chores.

We start out with a vast number of bad omens and badly-timed coincidences plaguing the planet, while Dr. Strange wraps up a quickly regretted one-night-stand with a coed. He divines some vague sense of bad things on the horizon just before he gets a visit from the Hulk — not a raging monster this time, the Hulk is fairly calm and intelligent these days. They quickly assemble the classic Defenders team — Dr. Strange, the Hulk, Namor, and the Silver Surfer — and the Hulk tells them he wants the hammer that turned him into Nul, Breaker of Worlds during the “Fear Itself” crossover destroyed. Only problem is that Hulk refuses to come along to help — he doesn’t want it taking him over again. So the rest of the Defenders go recruiting…

After adding Betty Ross, the Hulk’s ex-wife and current Red She-Hulk, and Iron Fist to their roster, the team tracks Nul to Wundagore Mountain, home of the High Evolutionary. About the time they make it to Wundagore, something blows their plane out of the sky, and Iron Fist gets shot in the chest. This is not an auspicious beginning for the group, is it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice characterization and dialogue for everyone, though I deeply dislike the Silver Surfer’s extremely pale word balloons. I love the art, but that’s to be expected for anything done by Terry Dodson. Looking forward to future issues of this one.

Justice League International #4

The JLI has been subdued by underground gremlins underneath the giant robot Sentrymen, and Guy Gardner stumbles onto the mastermind behind all the chaos, an interstellar despot called Peraxxus. He reveals to the team that he intends to use the Sentrymen to smash the Earth into bits so he can harvest the mineral wealth of the planet. The team manages to escape confinement, but will they be able to stop Peraxxus or keep him from destroying the world?

Verdict: I believe I’ll thumbs this one down. The thing that bugged me all the way through this issue is that everyone worries over and over that if the JLI fails, there’s no one to stop the end of the world. But gee, shouldn’t the regular Justice League, the one with Superman and Wonder Woman and the Flash and Green Lantern, have stepped in and wrapped this all up by now?

Static Shock #4

Okay, I said I was done with this one, but I keep seeing preview covers that make me want to read it, and I keep feeling like there are some very interesting things going on here, so I guess I’m sticking with it for a while longer.

Static gets stuck fighting someone called Guillotina who works for the mob boss Piranha. He wants a mad scientist called Doctor Nemo to create an army of metahumans to fight Static. Meanwhile, we learn some of the secrets of Piranha’s lieutenant, a Joker lookalike called the Pale Man, and we get a few more insights into the problem of Virgil Hawkins’ sister, Sharon, whose clone is so similar to her that no one is able to tell them apart.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Mainly because there’s so much superhero stuff going on — and not nearly enough focus on the stuff that’s really interesting: Sharon and her clone, the Pale Man’s background, and the mystery of who Guillotina is. The subplots here are vastly more interesting than the main plot.

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Something Stinks

As soon as I saw this cover, I knew I’d have to post it, just for frequent commenter Swampy, who I know loves both the Hulk and catastrophically crude flatulence jokes.

Yes indeed, Hulk can’t fight gas, just as he can’t fight his love of convenience store burritos. And Darkhawk Nighthawk looks like he bore the full brunt of that backblast…

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