Monday, December 31, 2012

Eliza Dushku sends me a signed photo…or…goodbye 2012

As I say goodbye to 2012, I’ve been fighting bronchitis for about a week. I have good days and bad days but what’s important is that I’m on vacation from work so I’m not missing it.

A few months  ago, posted about an opportunity to support the post production of ElizaDushku’s untitled Albania documentary. I jumped at the opportunity to support something from one of my favorite actresses and get a cool reward at the same time. And I got part of the cool reward in the mail today: an autographed photo and an autographed Dushku family recipe for “Byrek.”

I was really excited to get it! I’m not well enough to go out tonight but I ended 2012 with an autographed photo of Eliza Dushku to enjoy today and a new recipe to try in the new year.

Thanks for a good year 2012. I hope 2013 will be just as kind.

Marvel NOW review: Avengers Assemble #9-10, Avengers #1-2, Avengers Arena #1-2, A+X #1-2, Cable and X-Force #1-2

Avengers Assemble #9-10 by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Stefano Caselli

Avengers Assemble is one of Marvel’s best books on the stands. It’s a fun, simple book that doesn’t get weighed down by continuity. Issue nine, Tony and Bruce have a disagreement about their views on technology. When a camp in Antarctica can’t be reached after their head scientist goes missing, Tony and Bruce make a bet that each can locate the missing scientist first. Tony takes Thor with them while Bruce recruits Spider-Woman. When the teams get to the camp however, they find mysterious monsters and the bodies of the remaining scientists.

GOOD: There’s a lot of humor in issue nine either stemming from each man’s failed attempts to convince a fellow Avenger to join their team or from the rest of the team monitoring their progress. I like Captain America’s confrontation with the main bad guy on a plane and Captain Marvel saving him at the last minute. It’s just a fun two issues.

BAD: Nothing I can think of.

Avengers #1-2 by Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena, and Dean White

When the Avengers get to Mars to stop Ex Nihlo and his crew from destroying the Earth as we know it, they are easily captured in Captain America sent back to Earth to warn them that change is coming. So Captain America does something that he and Tony have been talking about, making the Avengers roster larger. Now Captain America is going to return to Mars with reinforcements.

GOOD: I like seeing the reactions the team members had to being recruited – especially Sam and Roberto’s. I like seeing how the team comes together and I like the unique mix of characters. For a post-Avengers vs X-Men issue, I like that we don’t have to mention it. But I can’t help to think about the first time the new X-Men got together to fight Krakatoa because at the end of issue one the Avengers are all tangled up in vines.

BAD: I don’t know if it was the coloring or the artwork but it looked odd. It takes two issues to get the new team together and we don’t get to see them in action at all. With two issues to get into the action we also don’t get to see the new team members bond.

IN CONCLUSION: Not a great title. I didn’t enjoy Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Fantastic Four and I don’t think I’m going to enjoy his run on the Avengers either. Maybe I’ll check back in and a few issues to see if it’s any better, but for now I’ll stick to Avengers Assemble.

Avengers Arena #1-2 by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker, and Frank Martin

Arcade has kidnapped 16 teenagers from the Avengers Academy, the Braddock Academy, and from their homes to participate in the new Murder World based on “a couple kids’ books” he read in prison. The rules are simple: last man standing in an environment surrounded by force fields, festooned with booby-traps, and it’s every participant for themselves. The heroes try to stop him but Arcade proves to be too powerful for them. To prove that he means business he decides to take the first life and kills Mettle in front of Hazmat.

GOOD: Arcade has always been elaborate with his games so it makes perfect sense that he might put the young heroes in a Hunger Games – type scenario. It’s also a very cool way to do something like the Hunger Games in the Marvel Universe. And taking Mettle out at the end of the first issue was a great way to tell the reader that no one is off-limits.

BAD: In the other Avengers’ titles, no one is looking for the kids. I don’t know where this issue fits into continuity but that bothered me. Also after the great setup of issue one, we have to sit through the origin of another character who may or may not make it to the end of the series. Also for a bunch of teenagers were also heroes, they aren’t exactly acting like it. I know that the writer is trying to go for an atmosphere of fear and distrust and teenagers are probably the perfect target for it, but I don’t like how quick they were to divide up and get paranoid.

IN CONCLUSION: A nice idea but there aren’t enough characters that I care about participating with the exception of maybe Darkhawk, X-23, Hazmat, and Reptil. It’s not enough to bring me back for third issue. And considering how long one year takes in the Marvel Universe, it could be a long time before we see the end of 30 days.

A+X #1-2

A+X is a title that presents two stories per issue. It is meant to show one Avenger bonding with one X-Man.

Captain America & Cable by Dan Slott & Ron Garney

Cable jumps into the past to stop Trask from altering the timeline by building Sentinels for the Nazis.

The Incredible Hulk & Wolverine by Jeph Leob & Dale Keown

Wolverine and the Hulk are arguing over the last piece of cake when Maestro and Old Man Logan jump back into the past looking for the Red Hulk.

Black Widow & Rogue by Chris Bachalo & Tim Townsend

On a rare day off, Black Widow is forced to take on a Sentinel with Rogue’s help.

Iron Man & Kitty Pryde by Peter David & Mike Del Mundo

Resilient is looking to hire Kitty Pryde but she accidentally unleashes a squad of Brood. When the Brood get ahold of some of Iron Man’s armor and Kitty phases through it, stopping the Brood and destroying the armor, Iron Man realizes that having her around, “would be like Superman having a piece of kryptonite around.”

GOOD: It’s a nice way to reinforce the new status quo by showing Avengers and X-Men working together. The Black Widow and Rogue story was the only diamond in the rock pile of stories. I liked the creative use of Rogue’s power to use Black Widow’s sniping ability with her permission. It was a very cool team up. The Cable and Captain America story was really good, but if it really happened in continuity Captain America would have remembered Cable the first time they met so it’s a fluffy story and not really substantive. The artwork from all except the Kitty Pryde and Iron Man story was great.

BAD: I already covered the Captain America story being too fluffy. The Wolverine and Hulk story had no context for me who hadn’t read the Old Man Logan story. So unless that was the beginning of an upcoming storyline, that story didn’t mean much. And as far as the Kitty and Iron Man story, despite the fact that she is “kryptonite” to him, Kitty is brilliant and would be an asset to a company and with all of her X-Men training would be an asset to the Avengers. But here’s my question: Tony trusts Bruce but Kitty is a liability? The artwork in the Kitty Pryde and Iron Man story looked too cartoon-like for me.

IN CONCLUSION: This is another Avengers/X-Men book but doesn’t add anything to the overall books. I understand the AvX books that this is modeled after did add background to the Avengers vs X-Men miniseries but this book is all over the place in terms of tone and continuity. I would be more interested in seeing this type of interaction in a book like Peter David’s X-Factor where this mix of characters is getting to know one another while beating up bad guys.

Cable and X-Force #1-2 by Dennis Hopeless & Salvador Larroca

Hope and cable are reunited as X-Force embarks on their newest mission but they have to do it fast because cable is dying (again).

GOOD: Finally Hope is interesting again. She’s every bit as tough and resilient as Cable taught her to be.

BAD: I don’t know what X-Force’s mission is. And Cable dying is extremely boring at this point – he’s been dying since the day he was created. With the exception of Domino and Colossus, there’s no one on the team I care about. Domino I just find interesting but Colossus has been less interesting since telling his sister that he would kill her if he ever saw her again. And did I mention that title seems pointless?

IN CONCLUSION: A good Cable story is rare and I didn’t think this title would be great but I gave it a try. I will be back for the next issue.

Captain America #1-2 by Rick Remender, John Romita, Klaus Janson, and Dean White

Captain America and Sharon investigate the subway car traveling in ancient line abandon decades ago when he is captured and transported to Dimension Z by Arnim Zola. A year later Captain America and the baby he saved, Arnim Zola’s son, are trying to survive in an environment that is constantly trying to kill them.

GOOD: This is a very interesting story and of course John Romita’s art is fantastic.

BAD: I don’t notify by a story in which Captain America is marooned in Dimension Z for a year. Also, he doesn’t seem too worried about the humans that were also in the subway car.

IN CONCLUSION: If Captain America has been taking care of a child for a year I expect that to have real consequences once he rejoins the mainstream Marvel Universe. It would be great if he and Sharon adopted the boy as they were talking about marriage in the first issue. Though I am pretty sick of all the little-kid bad-guy clones floating around - the Fantastic Four have one, the X-Men have one, and now Captain America has his very own.

This is a pretty good book if only for the reason that I’m interested in the consequences of this adventure and the impact protecting or losing the kid will have on him. I’m also interested in seeing Captain America and Sharon take it to the next level. I might be back for the third issue.

Fantastic Four #1-2 by Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley, Mark Farmer, and Paul Mounts

Reed Richards’ body is breaking apart at a molecular level. What’s worse is that he suspects the rest of the teams bodies might be doing the same. With no known cure the solution seems obvious: explore unknown universes looking for the cure. Reed sells this to the team as a one-year family vacation with Franklin and Valeria and keeps them in the dark about his condition.

GOOD: Each teammate find their own replacements while they go on vacation (which was only supposed to be for four minutes). Those conversations were a lot of fun to watch. Finally a title with just the six family members and not the Army of supporting cast we’ve also had to read about.

BAD: So let’s see… Cable, Beast, Peter Parker, and the Fantastic Four are dying? I can already see my vote for most overused storyline of 2012. I understand why he doesn’t tell the rest of the family spare them and the kids from worrying. I just wish he was just taking a vacation with the kids for a year without looking for some kind of cure.

IN CONCLUSION: The added specter of death doesn’t do anything to up the ante in this title. Like I said, dying has been played with a lot this year. If it was just the team and the kids’s exploring new universes for a year it would be a fresh storyline but adding the search for a cure in makes the story feel less important. Of course it is Reed Richards, and he’s a pretty impersonal person (he created Mombots to take care of Franklin and Valeria when he and Sue are not there) so I completely see him being more interested in exploring and spending time with his family. After the last few years of storylines it would’ve been nice to have seen a more cheerful beginning.

FF  #1-2 by Matt Fraction, Michael & Laura Allred

Reed Richards calculated that the year they spent exploring would only feel like four minutes in the real world. So the Fantastic Four found people who could take their place for the four minutes they were gone. But something obviously went wrong with Reed’s plan so Antman, She Hulk, Medusa, and Torch’s popstar girlfriend, Darla Deering will have to be the Fantastic Four longer than they’d planned.

GOOD: We get to see the original FF team’s conversations with the new team from a different angle. I like that Antman has a strong negative reaction to taking care of kids after losing his daughter and the thought of taking care of the children at the Future Foundation for even four minutes is unthinkable. I like that he’s now in a position where he has to take care of them so that should be very interesting to watch. I also like the selection of Johnny’s popstar girlfriend as one of the team who suits up in a Thing-like suit of armor.

BAD: Some people are really big fans of Michael Allred’s artwork but I’m not. If I only had to put up with it for an issue I would let it go but it looks like he’ll be the regular artist. And when some version of the Human Torch comes out of the portal and obliterates it behind him, suggesting that the rest of the team is dead, I think I yawned.

IN CONCLUSION: With some version of the Human Torch alive, there’s no need for Darla Deering to be on the team and, honestly, reading more about her on the team would’ve been really interesting. And the whole, “Reed is dying,” “the Fantastic Four are dead,” stuff is old and used up. In the Marvel Universe – no body = no death. And even when there is a body, there’s always a way to bring the character back to life. There isn’t enough interest in either new Fantastic Four title to pick up a third issue. I just want a writer to tap what makes that team truly great which is that they are a family that has a real life outside of being superheroes and how much fun that can be.
The covers to Avengers #1, 2, 3

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Back in the Day: “Tales of the Gold Monkey” review

In 1981, Steven Spielberg gave us Raiders of the Lost Ark. In 1982, ABC Television gave us Tales of the Gold Monkey. I was a huge fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was only nine years old when Tales of the Gold Monkey started airing. Back in 1982, if you saw something at the movies or something on television there wasn’t the option of going to a video store and renting it or buying it. You pretty much had to wait until it aired again as a rerun or until it got to syndication.

So it’s been 30 years since I’ve seen Tales of the Gold Monkey and it’s been out on DVD for a while now. I thought about buying it when it first came out but it was very expensive. I put it on my Netflix queue and it’s been sitting there for a few years. Recently has lowered the price of the series so I decided to queue it up at Netflix and give it a shot.

With most old shows that you watched when you were a kid, you tend to think they’re very good shows until you see them again as an adult. So I just finished watching the two-part pilot episode, and I’m ready to see more.

For those of you not familiar with the show, it takes place in the South Pacific in 1938. It features Stephan Collins as Jake Cutter, a freelance pilot living on Boragora with his dog Jack and his mechanic Corky. In the first episode Jake meets Sarah Stickney White who appears to be a damsel in distress but turns out to be an American spy. Because it’s set in the South Pacific and bears a very close resemblance to Raiders of the Lost Ark, they don’t shy away from (at least it looks like) homages to the first Indiana Jones movie and to Casablanca.

GOOD: Jake Cutter and his dog, Jack, have a very interesting relationship. Even 30 years later I remembered that one bark meant “no” and two barks meant yes. Stephen Collins is a convincing action star and I’m not sure why he didn’t get a lot of opportunities to show that on the big screen. It reminds me of Nathan Fillion who was extremely powerful as the captain in Firefly but is now relegated to a show where he’s not an action hero. It would be great to see either one of them in roles where they got to punch people in the face on a regular basis. Also I’d forgotten how good Corky was. As Jake’s mechanic, they both served together in the military and Corky had saved Jake’s life. But clearly Corky isn’t good at remembering things or controlling his drinking so while Corky fixes the plane Jake takes care of him.

There’s a fantastic appearance from Jonathan Hillerman who plays Fritz. He and the show’s main German spy, who is posing as the minister in town, disagree about who is in charge and Fritz stands in front of a painting of Adolf Hitler and takes off his hat. While they never directly say he is Hitler, the resemblance is uncanny.

In one of the discussions about the legend of the Gold Monkey, they mention a number of the things that Hitler is looking for including the Lost Ark of the Covenant which was a nice Raiders of the Lost Ark reference.

BAD: This is an 80’s show the way I remember them: crappy special-effects and despite the gunfire no one ever gets hit. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just something I wanted to point out. Sarah Stickney White comes off as the damsel in distress until it’s revealed that she’s an American spy and then she still comes off as the damsel in distress. I’ve read a couple of articles about how Buffy the Vampire Slayer ushered in the era of strong female characters. And I quietly disagreed though I had no proof and thought about old shows like Battlestar Galactica and Tales of the Gold Monkey. In the first episode she gets tied to a tree and when something threatens her she screams for help. I know it was 1982, but even Amy Allen in the A-Team never screamed at any sign of danger. I don’t know she was weak character because it was 1982 or because it was set in 1938.

Also the villains might have scared me as a kid, but as an adult they’re pretty silly. Especially the German soldier who hires Princess Kogi to help him find the Gold Monkey and spends the episode looking terrified of things.

IN CONCLUSION: I don’t know if this series holds up compared to my memory but it’s still a lot of fun to watch. I’m good to give the rest of the episodes a shot and see if it’s worth adding this series to my collection. If you haven’t seen it and you are a big Indiana Jones fan you should give it a look.

Amazing Spider-Man #699 – 700 Review

Amazing Spider-Man #699 – 700 by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos

A few weeks ago I reviewed Amazing Spider-Man #698. Back then I was excited about the possibility of his friends and colleagues figuring out what had happened and restoring him. But #699 – 700 put the nail in that coffin. While the two issues are Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus’ most intense fight in their long history a new era is ushered in.

GOOD: The stakes have never been higher. With Doctor Octopus parading around as Peter Parker, the real Peter Parker worries that he can hurt one of his friends or worse, his family. How Peter, trapped in Doctor Octopus’ failing body, held in a prison under the sea breaks free to take on his old enemy one more time was great. Peter Parker dies but does outsmart his enemy one last time by using the mind link Otto used to swap minds to make Doctor Octopus not just relive but experience firsthand all of Peter struggles. In that moment Doctor Octopus dedicates himself to being Spider-Man. I did like how each man was starting to act like the other as though the brains inside those bodies were asserting their original personalities.

BAD: While the storytelling is brilliant and Dan Slott has done a lot to put his mark on Peter Parker in the Spider-Man title in general, he may have painted himself into a corner with this one. Peter’s death, and the affirmation of it him in heaven, seems like a permanent state. The fans have already had a really bad reaction to this news. Dan Slott has gotten death threats. While I think it’s super stupid to make death threats to a writer… I get it. I was around when it turned out a clone was the real Peter Parker and then the writers quickly reversed that and when enough time passed, they brought the clone back as the Scarlet Spider.

But I think Peter Parker isn’t going to be the only casualty this time. Just like with the clone storyline, I think the readers will leave in droves. For Spider-Man, Marvel NOW begins with the fans’ betrayal. At least that’s how the readers will see it. Peter Parker is dead and no one knows it and we don’t get any chance to say goodbye or grieve with his family and friends. Instead his life is simply been hijacked by his greatest enemy and no matter how well he does as Spider-Man people may never catch on to the fact he’s not the real Peter Parker. At least in the Ultimate title, we got to see the grieving and watch the family and friends say goodbye – but here someone simply takes over.

Yes eventually some writer will find a way to bring Peter Parker back but the issue seems to indicate that his soul is in heaven which means that it is at peace. One of the only frames of reference I have for this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer once died and was brought back to life but the transition from heaven to life was painful and jarring. Or some writer could just suggest that Peter was always in his own body but cut off from his mind so he didn’t truly die. I don’t know where soul goes in the Marvel Universe or if brain swapping also means soul swapping, but somehow Peter’s soul also inhabited Doctor Octopus’ body. So if a writer suggests that, it dishonors Peter’s soul going to heaven.

And I’m a little disappointed in the supporting cast. Back in issue 698, Captain America asks Spider-Man if you’ll be okay and he says he won’t give Doctor Octopus a second thought. In hindsight I’m surprised no one questioned him on that comment or even traded a look. I’m disappointed that he talked out of character couple of times to Mary Jane and she never caught on. In a world that includes aliens, gods, and a liberal amount of mind control, Mary Jane never thinks to herself, “Something is very wrong with Peter.” Also, I understand Peter’s plan but he could’ve guided the robot straight to the media and simply announced, “Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus’ minds have been switched.” At least he could have done that as a backup plan. That way, at least the thought would be on his friends as well as the Avengers’ radar.

I’m probably going to get the first two issues of Superior Spider-Man because I ordered them before I knew that this was going to be Peter Parker’s final issue. But after that? I don’t think I’m coming back until Peter Parker is Spider-Man again. But who knows? It could turn out to be an interesting ride but it still doesn’t take sting out of Peter Parker’s death.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

“Back in the Day” review: Uncanny X-Men #205

Uncanny X-Men #205 (May 1986)

Thanks to Spiral’s Body Shop, Yuriko has been transformed into the living weapon, Lady Deathstrike. With a few cybernetic mercenaries at her side, she unleashes her new abilities on Wolverine. Injured and disoriented in the South Street Seaport during a blizzard, he runs into an ally who will help him stave off a berserker rage and claim victory:five-year old Katie Power, also known as Energizer of Power Pack. Katie becomes separated from the woman (Teacher? The story never says) taking her to see a choir when the mercenaries run through knocking the woman down during a blizzard.

Wolverine has been hurt so bad he’s reverted to an animal state so Katie has to keep him out of Lady Deathstrike and her mercenaries’ grasp long enough to get his mind back. Thanks to Katie and his healing factor, Wolverine snaps out of it and takes the fight to his enemies.

Back when Chris Claremont was writing the X-Men, he focused on character-driven stories and this issue is a good example of that. He takes time to define Lady Deathstrike and her mission before putting her into action. Katie Power's inner and outer dialogue is as detailed and random as you'd expect from a 5-year-old but he also shows the side of her that belongs to a superhero. With Wolverine, he shows him doing what he does best while relating to and protecting Katie from seeing it. Then there's the confrontation between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike where they argue their differences. Three distinct characters (Lady Deathstrike, Katie Power, and Wolverine) and Chris Claremont does a wonderful job with all three.

Barry Windsor-Smith did the pencils, inks, and color for the entire book. Sometimes I have a problem with the cover showing something that doesn't actually happen on the inside. But in this case, the cover of what it may have looked like (this book was before the Weapon X mini series in Marvel Comics Presents) when Wolverine got his adamantium mirrors the first few pages of the book where Lady Deathstrike and her mercenaries are getting their cybernetics added. This reminds readers that Wolverine has been through what they've gone through and that the fight is more or less even. Once Wolverine regains his mind and takes the fight to the enemies, the action panels convey all the skill and savagery Wolverine brings to a fight and doesn't pull punches. The gorgeous action scenes that Windsor-Smith draws are hard not to stare at.

The Wolverine/Katie talk at the end of the book is one of the best Wolverine moments. He's known for straight talk and he doesn't lie but he softens the delivery for her benefit and is able to impart some wisdom at the same time. When this issue came out there was no Wolverine series so a solo adventure was rare. This one issue adventure serves to introduce a powerful new foe, show Wolverine doing what he does best, and show the unlikely bonding between Katie and Wolverine.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: Phantom Stranger, Talon, Sword of Sorcery, and Team 7

Phantom Stranger #1-2 by Dan Didio, Brent Anderson, and Philip Tan

The Phantom Stranger is a powerful supernatural force paying penance for his past by obeying a voice that commands him “to perform reprehensible acts in the name of the greater good.” He’s trying to serve that penance while maintaining a life with his wife and kids but with enemies like Trigon, Pandora, Belial, and the Haunted Highwayman, he has to remain ever vigilant.

Good: I think this is Raven’s first appearance in the new DCU. She is run through the wringer before being tricked and captured by Trigon. I know Raven will pop up again fully trained, escape, and deeply disturbed – but she’ll still be the hero we will get to know again. I can’t wait to see more Raven.

Bad: The Phantom Stranger seems directionless. He just does what the voice tells him. He doesn’t seem to have any passion in his personal life or as The Phantom Stranger. It’s hard to get close to a character who projects indifference. Pandora’s part was hard to read too – no clue why the box is important to her and no reason to care about it. And I know there are a lot of die-hard Brent Anderson fans and the art seemed to match the mood of the book, but I don’t like it very much. I won’t be back for #3.

Talon #0-1 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Guillem March

Calvin Rose was trained as a Talon and sent out into the world as the Court of Owl’s weapon. When he refuses to kill an innocent woman and her child, he has to stay on the run. But one of the Court of Owl’s Talons has caught up to him. So Calvin Rose is going to do the one thing he thought he’d never do – return to Gotham City. It seems like a safe bet since Batman has scattered the organization but he survives another Talon attack and ends up with an ally who wants to take the Court of Owls down as badly as he does.

Good: This is one of the best new character origins in the new DCU. After #0 I was interested but after #1 I was invested in this character. It helps that there is a tie to a recent Batman storyline that I enjoyed. In the DCU there are a lot of new bad guys for the heroes to fight but the Court of Owls has been a fearsome foe and there are a lot of people watching Calvin kill a previous Talon including a small child who wants to watch – who knows who that child became. The art and the writing were great also. I’ll be back for #2.

Bad: Nothing. A great start to a fascinating new character.

Sword of Sorcery featuring Amethyst #0-1 by Christy Marx, Tony Bedard, Aaron Lopresti, and Jesus Saiz

Amy Winston is an outcast in school because she and her mother move from town to town in a trailer while training her to handle a sword. But all of the training comes in handy because on Amy’s 17th birthday, her mother takes her home to Gemworld. Not only did Amy never know Genworld existed, she didn’t know she had an Aunt who wants both of them dead, and she didn’t know she was a Princess.

Good: Amethyst (aka Amy) is a strongly written character. A strong mother/daughter book without the usual angst-ridden dialogue that comes from that kind of story. Amy follows without a lot of resistance and her mother leads without preaching. Lopresti’s artwork is gorgeous and perfect for the story. I’ll be back for #2.

Bad: The Beowolf story didn’t seem to set anything up and after two issues I’m still not real sure what’s going on or why the future is so messed up.

Team 7 #0-1 by Justin Jordan, Jesus Merino, Norm Rapmund, and Rob Hunter

Dinah Drake, Kurt Lance, Alex Fairchild, Amanda Waller, Dean Higgins, Slade Wilson, Cole Cash, James Bronson, and Summer Ramos are Team 7, a group put together for the purpose of trying to curb or control super-humans. The team is formed and on their first mission they break into a prison floating five thousand feet above the earth only to find the inhabitants being controlled by Eclipso. Will the team act like a team long enough to turn the odds?

Good: I loved the original WildStorm title because it teamed some of the most popular characters together and gave them a bond that carried over into the other titles. I’m a big fan of the new incarnation for a few reasons.

1)      Dinah Drake, Kurt Lance, Alex Fairchild, Amanda Waller, Dean Higgins, Slade Wilson, Cole Cash, James Bronson, and Summer Ramos together. Some of the characters are new to the DCU and others have never been linked before. We get to meet Dinah and Kurt before the two are married and Dinah has to kill him. Alex Fairchild’s daughter, Caitlin, is a powerhouse member of The Ravagers.
2)      The Grifter title felt a little lonely. Since being introduced it seemed like he was alone against the world. Now we find he had people he could probably call on for a favor. Now it will be interesting to see Grifter come across Black Canary for the first time post Team 7.
3)      The new DCU’s history has been unclear and laying this layer down helps to not only introduce the new characters, gives the characters we already know an interesting back story, and it helps blend the WildStorm Universe into the DCU.
4)      John Lynch formed the team and he’s behind something called the Majestic Project. Can this lead to the debut of the WildStorm Universe’s Majestic? I think it will (the foreshadowing is NOT subtle there).
5)      It will be interesting to see if the new characters survive being on the team and what becomes of them in the present day DCU.
6)      The writing and the art are really good and fit the title very well.

Bad: Some of the “putting the team together” scenes are kind of lame (I’m looking at you James Bronson) and not a lot of them show those members at their best.

I’ll definitely be back for #2.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Marvel NOW! Review: Iron Man #1-2 and Deadpool #1-2

Iron Man #1-2 by Kieron Gillen, Greg Land, and Jay Leisten

Maya Hansen was forced to recreate Extremis for AIM but she managed to escape and get a warning out to Tony Stark. Knowing how dangerous the technology is, he sets out to destroy it. Fortunately, Tony has a new suit of armor and a traveling armory that customizes his armor at will.

Good: It’s Tony doing what he does best – overpowering the competition with his brains and his technology. The dialogue is good and I like when he finds a way to destroy Extremis in issue #2, robbing the bad guys of a prolonged fight. Although I did like the way the bad guys used their own armor to enhance their martial arts abilities.

Bad: I don’t know Tony’s relationship with Maya Hansen but her death didn’t do much to Tony. Will anyone miss her? And Iron Man going after people who are using his technology is a recycled plot but could be fresh for people who haven’t been reading Iron Man off and on for about 25 years.

Deadpool #1-2 by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn, and Tony Moore

Someone is resurrecting dead presidents so they can get the country back on track but the resurrected presidents want to return the country to its former glory by killing all of the living. SHIELD can’t risk another embarrassing photo of Captain America accidentally decapitating a president so they turn someone the public already views as a scumbag: Deadpool. But Deadpool isn’t subtle and he leaves a trail of destruction wherever he goes.

Good: The premise is really pretty clever and the adventure is fun, funny, and action packed. The stuff in the zoo is the best – it’s hilarious.

Bad: I’m not a big Deadpool fan but the adventure is tailor made for him so no complaints here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Quick Reviews: All New X-Men #1-2, Amazing Spider-Man #698, and more *SPOILERS*

All-New X-Men #1-2 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen
Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Magneto are wanted by the government and gathering new mutants. The X-Men are faced with increased government scrutiny but can’t go after them for fear of creating a mutant civil war.

Best decides to bring the original team back through time to talk sense into Scott. The original team’s arrival rips open old wounds while exposing the original team to a future they were working hard to prevent. But Beast wants to set everything right because the next stage of his mutation is killing him.

Good: No one but Brian Michael Bendis can have two issues with almost no action be two of the best issues of X-Men I’ve read in years. Having the original X-Men in the current title doesn’t just challenge the characters but, as a reader, it forced me to think about everything the characters have been through. The chaos is entertaining and bittersweet to watch. It’s easily one of the best titles Marvel has put out in years.

Bad: Beast dying is a little over the top. I’m tired of X-Men dying to generate drama. Still, his dying might have been the only reason he’d ever bring the original team to the present.

Freelancers #1 by Ian Brill, and Joshua Covey
Cassie and Val were raised in an orphanage that taught them kung-fu so they’d be able to take care of themselves in the real world. Now they’re mercenaries who have agents who pair them with rich benefactors who need things done.

Good: It’s an interesting idea.

Bad: Everything else.

Amazing Spider-Man #698 by Dan Slott and Richard Elson
Spider-Man has been kicking Doctor Octopus’ butt for decades. So what chance does a dying Doc Ock have of getting the final victory over his enemy? It turns out that he’ll not only get the final victory and cheat death, but he’ll also kill Peter Parker and take over his life.

Good: The issue reads like a typical issue of Spider-Man until he visits his old enemy Doc Ock. That’s when the reader discovers that Ock has been in Spidey’s body for a while and that Peter Parker is trapped in Ock’s body when he dies.

Bad: Ock in Spidey’s body? I can’t wait for people to figure it out and restore Peter Parker back to his body where he’ll have to undo all the damage Ock does to his life.

Green Lantern #14 by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, and Christian Alamy
The Justice League have to determine if Baz is wrongly accused or not but Baz’s Green Lantern ring isn’t going to make it easy to catch him because it seems to have a mind of its own.

Good: Hilarious dialogue and great action. Using the ring to create a lot of cars to cover his escape is a good idea.

Bad: This is the first time I’ve read about Baz but Power Girl had a story about a guy who tries to save a crashing plane when he’s mistaken for a terrorist so it feels a little stale for subject matter. Why does a new Arab-American character always have to be mistaken as a terrorist first?

Batman #14 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion
The Joker is out for revenge (what else is new) and after all of Batman’s friends and allies. Unfortunately that includes Alfred.

Good: Most good Joker stories are horror stories and this is no exception. The writing and the art are sharp and the Joker is unpredictable.

Bad: With the stakes this high and the story arc promises a lot of damage, the only solution that makes sense is killing the Joker. Things have been going that way for years and there’s only so many times he can do the kind of fatal, irreparable damage without paying the ultimate price.