26
Aug
10

big red ramblings: 001

Greetings and salutations. Yes, I Have Issues fans, it is none other than I, Big Red 13, aka Shaun Kronenfeld, welcoming you to the first edition of my new blog/column/what have you, Big Red Ramblings. After months of wheedling, threats, and outright begging, I have broken Thomas’ spirit to the point where he has foolishly agreed to allow me to start up the written delights that lay before you. So how is this going to work, you may be asking yourself. Simple. I plan, time permitting, to post a new Rambling ever Mon, Wed, and Fri for your enjoyment. Generally Wed posts will be reviews of some of the various new comics that have come out this week, while the other two days posts will consist of more a eclectic array of Geeky discussions, possibly involving everything from movies to TV to video games. Hopefully you will enjoy the posts that are to come in the weeks ahead, or at the very least will not find them so painful you feel suicide is the only way to escape the memory of what you have just read. Cause I hate it when that happens. Lose more readers that way, you know. 🙂 Anywho let us get started with this week’s comics reviews. I actually had considered reviewing every single comic I read this week, but upon seeing how long the 1st 3rd had gone, I decided to spare you. You are welcome. Enjoy and thanks for reading.

Action Comics #892
Written by PAUL CORNELL
Co-feature written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art by PETE WOODS
Co-feature art by PIER GALLO
Cover by DAVID FINCH and JOE WEEMS
“DC 75TH Anniversary” Variant cover by IVAN REIS and OCLAIR ALBERT
40 pages, $3.99

While not quite as strong as the last issue (and really a western themed Mr. Mind induced Lex Luthor hallucination was always going to be difficult to follow up) the fun yet always evil adventures of Lex Luthor and creepy Lois-bot continue apace with the overall quality that readers of this Paul Cornell/Pete Woods series have come to expect. Honestly he makes an ongoing Lex Luthor comic look so easy, it can lead a person to wonder why its taken this long to happen. This issue brings fan favorite Deathstroke in for some shenanigans but its really the villain who makes his entrance at issue’s end that gets me excited. As a certain episode of Justice League Unlimited proved, Lex and this villain can make for really fun opponents and I am sure under Cornell’s capable hands this will continue to prove true. The Superboy tease included as a back-up was OK, and features a last page appearance by possibly my favorite DC character, but its choice of in media res storytelling does it little favor. Still it does not hurt the overall strength of this title to badly. Whether a long time DC fanboy or a complete Superman newb, this comic will entertain and delight with its twisted look into the life and mind of DC’s most famous, and arguably, compelling villain.
Story: 4 – Very Good Art: 5 – Excellent

Amazing Spider-Man Presents American Son #4 (OF 4)
Written by BRIAN REED
Drawn and Inked by PHILIPPE BRIONES
Colored by JEROMY COX
Lettered by DAVID M. A. LANPHEAR
Cover by MARKO DJURDJEVIC
32 pages, $3.99

Look Marvel I thought we had deal. You never mention Gabriel Stacy, the horribly conceived (in every sense of the word) love child of Gwen Stacy and *sigh* Norman Osborn who 1st appeared in Sins Past (possibly the only story capable of giving One More Day competition for coveted ‘Worst Spidey Story of All Time’ award), again and we, the fans, will not rise up as one and burn your offices to the ground. Anyway, as this mini draws thankfully to a close, we are left with one giant mess that hopefully we be brushed aside and forgotten about as possible. From the awkward dialogue to the cliche plot developments (oh look another Osborn developing a split personality, how original), this comic is not even bad enough to be entertaining but instead settles for boringly mediocre. This feels like a sub-plot that managed to escape Amazing only to be dumped in radioactive goo (aka Gabriel) and mutated horribly as a result. It says nothing paticulalry new or interesting about any of the characters and the barely adequate art adds nothing to the affair. Bland and utterly missable.
Story: 2 – Average Art: 2 – Average

Avengers #4
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
Pencils by JOHN ROMITA JR.
Colored by DEAN WHITE
Lettered by NEUROTIC CARTOONIST, INC
Cover by JOHN ROMITA JR.
32 pages, $3.99

This is not the best Bendis written Avengers book, that honor belonging to either Prime or New, but it still remains a solid, well done read. Now I am big John Romita JR fan, but I have to admit that the last few issues of this series where not the best showcases of his work. For whatever reason, whether new inking or more time, the art takes a real upswing in this issue, especially when Romita is called on to do several of those ‘everybody and their uncle’ two page spreads that remain a favorite of both mine and, judging by his previous work, George Perez. This issue its the writing that takes a hit, with neither the stand out character banter of new or the strong character work of Prime. There are moments of both, quality moments at that, but they tend to get drowned out in the overall chaos. What the writing does do well is capture the chaotic nature of the time travel insanity that the current storyline is focused around. Let us be honest, Bendis’ biggest weakness as a writer has always been when he is force to deal with the kind of over the top epicness (patent pending Scott Pilgrim) that is the hallmark of Superhero comics. He is getting better though, with each major event or action driven storyline he has done being better than the last. Which is where Avengers comes in. To me, this seems the big where Bendis has decided to just cut loose and get as crazy he will be allowed to get in a mainstream comic book. Some growing pains are to be expected, and let’s be clear, even at its worst, Avengers #4 is miles away from anything resembling a bad comic. It’s just that Bendis is currently setting the Avengers bar higher in his other books, which causes this one to suffer by comparison.
Story: 4 – Very Good Art: 4 – Very Good

Batman #702
Written by GRANT MORRISON
Art and cover by TONY DANIEL
32 pages, $2.99

Ugh. What a waste of valuable paper. This ‘lost chapter’ of Batman R.I.P. does indeed deserved the moniker of that ‘event’ since, like both RIP and its immediate follow up Battle for the Cowl, it turns out to be mostly time-marking filler. Only in the last few pages of this issue, the concluding part of a 2 issue storyline, does this comic rise above being a redundant call back to Final Crisis. Did we really need so many pages that simply re-ran events from FC, especially since the often featured little or no changes from the originals? Similarly while Tony Daniel has some great art throughout the comic, it does little to add anything new or interesting to long since familiar moments. As for those aforementioned last few pages, they are the best part of this story and do indeed add both greater depth and clarity to the overall ‘Return of Bruce Wayne’ mini-event. I would argue that Morrison could have easily featured this material, which deals primarily with some familiar heroes listening to a final recording Batman made before he faced Darkseid, in the opening issue of the Time Hunters mini (yes I know Jurgens is writing that but Morrison could have easily penned a quick prologue) or in one of the present day interlude scenes that have featured in issues of the RoBW mini. At the very least he could have condensed this story into 1 issue without sacrificing anything of real import. With only so many comics available to feature Dick as Batman, why have we wasted 2 on this?
Story: 2 – Average Art: 4 – Very Good

Black Widow #5
Written by MARJORIE LIU
Pencils, inks, and colors by DANIEL ACUNA
Lettered by NATHAN PIEKOS
Cover by DANIEL ACUNA
32 pages, $2.99

Black Widow ended last issues seemingly betrayed by her closest friends and captured by the enemies who framed her as a traitor to the super-hero community at large. This issue opens with her naked, bound to a chair (only her restraints keeping the ‘naughty bits’ tastefully out of view), and about to be interrogated by these very same enemies. How she gets out of this mess, and the fact that she does is no real spoiler, is a rather clever bit of business that leads directly into her final confrontation with the true mastermind behind all her recent problems. This confrontation serves to bring the 1st story arc of this ongoing series to a strong, if somewhat flawed, close. One major problem lays with the actual identity of the villain who serves as the arcs ultimate antagonist. While I was familiar with this character, he remains a fairly obscure figure, one who I doubt the greater majority of the comics reading public has ever heard of. The comic does little to really explain who he is or his overall connection to Black Widow, especially strange in light of how previous issues of this story have featured extensive flashbacks to various important moments in her long life. Still, as a whole this has been a strong opening arc, going a long way to justify, creatively if not financially, the viability of Natasha anchoring her own ongoing solo title. Of course, the fact that the entire creative team is changing next issue means I cannot guarantee the continued quality of this comic. Fans of espionage laced super-heroics and/or strong female leads are highly recommended to check out the pending first trade of this so far excellent series.
Story: 4 – Very Good Art: 3 – Good

Captain America #609
Written by ED BRUBAKER & SEAN MCKEEVER
Pencils by BUTCH GUICE & FILIPE DANIEL MORENO DE ANDRADE
Inks by RICHARD MAGYAR & FILIPE DANIEL MORENO DE ANDRADE
Colored by DEAN WHITE & CHRISTOPHER SOTOMAYOR
Lettered by NEUROTIC CARTOONIST, INC
Cover by MARKO DJURDJEVIC
40 pages, $3.99

So far the current storyline, featuring Baron Zemo confronting the new Captain America for the first time, is the strongest this title has been in a while. This issue continues that trend. The writing is spot on, featuring a strong mix of action beats and emotional character moments, while the art expertly tells the tale. Everything builds to a note perfect cliffhanger that positively drips with potential for a strong, and possibly gut wrenching, finale. Also of note, the Nomad back-up has its strongest installment so far. If you dropped off this book a while back, this is a great time to get back on board.
Story: 4 – Very Good Art: 4 – Very Good

Deadpool Team-Up #890
Written by JAMES ASMUS
Pencils by MICAH J. GUNNELL
Inks by ROBERT STULL
Letters by JEFF ECKLEBERRY
Cover by HUMBERTO RAMOS
32 pages, $2.99

This issue continues along like the majority of this series has: amusing yet ultimately disposable. Certainly this is one of the better Deadpool titles available on the market right now, the simple fact remains, Deadpool has become ridiculously, hideously overexposed. If you have somehow managed to avoid becoming completely sick of the Merc with a Mouth, then you could do far worse than this usually done in one series. Fans of Nextwave should especially take note of the fact that this month’s issue features everybody’s second favorite drunken robot (sorry Aaron I am afraid Bender still trumps you) Machine Man. It has some decent laughs to be sure, but your life will hardly be incomplete if you decide to save yourself the $2.99.
Story: 2 – Average Art: 3 – Good

Detective Comics #868
Written by DAVID HINE
Art by SCOTT MCDANIEL and ANDY OWENS
Cover by PETER NGUYEN
40 pages, $3.99

Now THIS is more like it. First off the bat (no pun intended), I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the gorgeous Scott McDaniel art. His wild, cartoony style really captures the growing madness that is overtaking Gotham throughout this issue. The central plot, which sees an gang of Joker impostors high on a diluted steroid like version Joker venom clashing with a growing army of heavily armed and lethally inclined Batman impostors, requires a lot of variations of the classic Batman and Joker designs. McDaniel comes through on this need with flying colors. Every impostor, of which dozens on both sides are seen, has a wonderful unique look to them, while still maintaining the believability of thrown together outfits created by a bunch of amateurs. The story, while not quite reaching the heights that the art achieves, is a strong one even if it remains somewhat predictable at times. This issue also finally reveals the origins of the impostor Joker and is a suitably chilling and believable one. Admittedly this issue could just as easily feature Bruce as Batman without anyone being able to tell the difference. Yet to me this seems less a flaw and more a sign of the classic quality Batman story that this multiparter is shaping up to be. One final note, and in no way should this be interpreted as a complaint, it is impossible not to draw connections between the Jokerz gang of Batman Beyond and the Joker impostors in this issue. For whatever reason, Batman Beyond has been a growing presence at DC lately been and I suspect that is at least in part where the origins of this storyline lay. Do not be surprised if by the time this arc closes out, the gang of Joker imposters has become a permanent fixture in Gotham City.
Story: 4 – Very Good Art: 5 – Excellent

Fantastic Four #582
Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Pencils by NEIL EDWARDS
Inks by SCOTT HANNA
Colored by PAUL MOUNTS
Lettered by NEUROTIC CARTOONIST, INC
Cover by ALAN DAVIS
32 Pages, $2.99

What a crazy, wild ride of an issue this is. I have greatly enjoyed Hickman’s run on FF from the beginning, but I have to admit the first parts of this storyline did not quite grab me in the same way. To be sure, the idea of Reed Richards’ time traveling father, Nathaniel Richards (whose time travel antics have actually been a long established part of the characters history and not a Hickman retcon as some people have been complaining lately), showing up to recruit him, Ben, and Doom during their college years for a mission involving a murderous alternate Nathaniel who has killed all the other Nathaniel’s that existed in the multi-verse, is wonderfully wonky in typical FF, and Hickman for that matter, style. Yet for whatever reason, the execution up till now has left me a little cold. This issue however makes it clear that instead of being a random diversion, this story is really a direct prologue for Hickman’s pending epic storyline titled ‘3’. This fact, combined with the return of the strong character work that has been prevailing throughout Hickman’s run and a few neat plot twists, help to salvage the story. The art is also very well done, even if never achieving the legendary heights of soon to be departing regular artist Englesham. Whenever problems I may have had with aspects of this particular storyline, I remain a devout fan of Hickman on FF and anticipate with great expectation his next issue.
Story: 5 – Excellent Art: 4 – Very Good

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