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Review of Avengers: The Initiative 15 (4 stars) July 31, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My review can be found here.

Quick spoilers: The Initiative is called into action to help fight the Skrulls in NYC. Crusader relates the story of how he came to Earth and chose humans over his own people. While in battle, Crusader instinctively kills one of his oldest Skrull friends. While he regrets his rash action, he now fully considers himself human.

-LOTRKing

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Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 63 (June 1967) July 28, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

Sweet, two weeks in a row of Stan and Jack goodness (don’t blame me for this week, it was chosen randomly). Unlike our last venture into the Silver Age of comics (or the Marvel Age, as Stan would have called it), this one is, for the most part, entertaining. FF 63 features the first appearance of Blastaar. I’ve heard of this character, but fittingly enough this was my first time actually seeing him in a comic. First off, I appreciate the many contributions that Jack Kirby made to the world of comic book art, and I usually thoroughly enjoy his work, but what was up with his tendency to make villains hairy? Blastaar is no different as he looks like a purple gorilla. Mehh, oh well. Blastaar’s apish look and Sandman’s goofy costume aside, he maintained his wonderful storytelling abilities, as well as his signature looks for each of the Four.

Stan Lee’s story appears to be a continuation of the previous issue (which I haven’t read) as the issue starts out with a bang (quite literally) with the recently-escaped-from-the-Negative-Zone Blastaar attacking the Baxter Building. Somehow, the Sandman has also found him, and is serving as his guide on Earth. (I’m assuming he is doing this in exchange for spoils or something.) After knocking Reed unconscious, Blastaar moves through the streets of Manhattan, and eventually Johnny and Crystal, who are sharing a date, run into him. The rest of the issue is mostly a big fight scene between the pair of Blastaar and Sandman against the Fantastic Four and Crystal. During this fight, we mostly get cool displays of powers from all the parties involved, and in the end, it is Reed’s smarts (along with one of his inventions and help from the rest of the Four) that saves the day. So while this issue may not be important in the grand scheme of things with the exception of being the first appearance of an N-Zone baddie, it was a good example of an entertaining Silver Age book. So if you ever get the opportunity to read it, go ahead, but no need to go out of your way to find it.

Next week: Amazing Spider-Man 222

-LOTRKing

(Another) IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT July 26, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Other Random Stuff.
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As it turns out, through a long story (which I will not relate) I am NOT moving at the end of this month, and may not be moving at all. As such, Casual Saturdays will return next week (when they were supposed to return anyway). As for linking to my WCBR reviews, I have decided to continue doing that. Why? Well, between this blog and WCBR I’ve found that all of my free time is being taken up by comics. Much as I love comics, I really need to use some of my free time for other things. That said, you’ll notice the new feature I’ve employed over the last week while linking to WCBR, namely “Quick Spoilers.” These are for those of you who read my reviews for opinions of content AND spoilers of the issue. Since WCBR does not allow spoilers, this will still enable you to read a review and find out the highlights of this issue. Also, keep in mind that I won’t be doing this for every issue I review, I’m going to try to go 50/50 between fresh reviews here and links to WCBR.

Thanks for your understanding. Also, if anyone has any questions or suggestions for improvements you want to see to this blog, please leave a comment below or email me: email.LOTRKing@gmail.com

-LOTRKing

Review of Uncanny X-Men 500 (3 stars) July 25, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

My review can be found here (first one posted).

Quick spoilers: The X-Men have relocated to San Francisco. A collector there has purchased decommissioned Sentinels and is displaying them as “art.” The X-Men investigate and Magneto, seemingly re-powered, attacks and reactivates the Sentinels. The X-Men defeat him and realize he was only wearing a high-tech suit to give him power. Magneto escapes and discusses these events with a secret, sinister cabal. Scott and Emma send a telepathic message that San Francisco is now a safe-haven for mutants and their allies and that all are welcome at the new X-base.

-LOTRKing

Review of Amazing Spider-Man 566 (4 stars) July 24, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My review can be found here (the first one posted).

Quick spoilers: Kraven has mistaken Vin for Spider-Man, she drugs him to enhance his “abilities” and challenges him to a hunt. Peter discovers his suit missing and since Vin is late, he suspects that Vin has found his suit and gone to turn him in. Peter borrows a suit from Daredevil, and finds out what has happened to Vin. As he goes to save him, he sees Vermin, the two fight and Pete is rendered unconscious.

-LOTRKing

Review of Mighty Avengers 16 (2.5 stars) July 23, 2008

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Overall rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

We only learn two things this issue. Skrullektra was the darkened person in New Avengers #1 who hired Electro, and Skrullektra’s death in New Avengers #31 was likely part of the plan, and not accidental. Aside from these, the almost-entire story features Elektra versus various Super-Skrulls. She kills most of them, but one is finally able to kill her by sneaking up on her after she is fatigued from the multiple battles. That’s it. She fights, she kills, she gets killed. The end. All those who were hoping that Elektra was safe somewhere in a Skrullian prison will be saddened. To the rest of us that don’t care, this issue won’t mean much. Luckily, Khoi Pham is an expert at visual storytelling (even if his faces look a little weird), otherwise this would be a burden to read. If you haven’t already bought this, you might as well not waste $3 and leave it on the shelf.

It really annoys me that Bendis is using Mighty and New Avengers to tell back stories from his Secret Invasion, simply because he is in charge of these two titles. Usually, the stories within have little or nothing to do with the Mighty or New Avengers, so why put them in their books? He could have easily condensed everything so far into shorter back stories and thrown them in special edition Secret Invasion tie-ins. Many of Marvel’s other current books are featuring stories that take place before SI (Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Captain America, X-Men, etc), why couldn’t we have had some more Avengers stories until SI was over? *sigh* As cool as the event is in its main title, I’ll be glad when it is over so MA and NA can go back to the teams they are about.

-LOTRKing

Review of Captain America 40 (4.5 stars) July 22, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

My review can be found here.

Quick spoilers: New Cap (James) and Bad Cap (Grand Director) finally fight. James looks to be beaten but is able to escape. Skull, Faustus, and Zola observe this fight and are pleased with their Cap’s skill. Sharon attempts to escape with Sin hostage, but Sin frees herself and they fight. This ends with Sin stabbing Sharon in the belly…

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of The Silver Surfer Graphic Novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (1978) July 21, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing normally reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history. In this special edition, he has not chosen rondomly and will be reviewing a rare non-canon graphic novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

For those who know nothing about this graphic novel (I didn’t until reading it), it is a retelling of the Silver Surfer character by his two creators. Instead of throwing him into the Marvel Universe populated with superheroes, they tried to introduce him to the “real” world. Did they succeed? I’d say so. While this book may be a bit dated, it is definitely a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby tale. Stan Lee maintains his slightly quirky writing and occasionally flawed logic, yet he hits the soul of the Silver Surfer perfectly. Like his two part Silver Surfer: Parable tale of the eighties (I’ll get around to doing that on Flashback one of these days) this is an introspective and interesting look at humanity from the eyes of a noble non-human character.

Like his original appearance in the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer is here the herald of Galactus, devourer of worlds. After finding Earth, he realizes that it is much like his old home Zenn-La, which causes him to regain much of his conscience. Refusing to allow Galactus to destroy a world populated by such a young and thriving race, he confronts Galactus and after an almost-futile battle, Galactus spares Earth, but exiles Norrin there. As Norrin learns about his new home and its natives, we get the earlier mentioned look and the good and bad aspects of humanity.

Aside from our own morals and foibles, it is through Galactus that Lee tries to define what exactly establishes good from evil, if the two even exist at all. Eventually, Galactus realizes that he needs the Silver Surfer, and the usually neutral entity must examine both his good and evil qualities as he decides what will make the Silver Surfer return to him. What follows in an entertaining and poignant story which ultimately ends in the Silver Surfer making a large sacrifice on behalf of humanity.

It must also be mentioned that while the comic book art of the seventies is nothing like today, Jack Kirby is nonetheless an impressive visual storyteller. Whether it is emotion, action, or even just scenery, it is easy to see why he was considered one of the greats of his time. Together, the story and art make this an enjoyable philosophical read. If you are a fan of the Silver Surfer, Stan Lee, or Jack Kirby and you can ever find it for a decent price, I’d highly recommend getting it.

Next week: Fantastic Four 63

-LOTRKing

Batmania: Batman Meets Marvel and Other Silliness July 19, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Stuff.
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Yesterday’s release of The Dark Knight has inspired me to present the following material.

First off, a absolutely hilarious video examining all the hype surrounding the release of Dark Knight:

Second, a short story I posted a few months ago (the original post can be found here) starring Batman … in the Marvel Universe! And yes, it is humorous also (at least it made me laugh, but I’m easily amused, and my humor seems to impress me the most. Arrogant? Or Narcisisstic? You decide.)
Anywhooz, for those too lazy to click on the above link, here is the post in its entirety:

So the other day, I was bored, and I had some time on my hands. These two are never a good combination. I ended up writing a script whose main purpose was to make fun of Batman. Eventually it evolved to make fun of everyone featured. So, like any good blogger, I decided to post it here. To those who get angered easily, please keep in mind that I stereotyped EVERY character involved, in fact I stereotyped them on purpose. So yes, I realize these are not very good representations of the characters, so please don’t get mad at me if your favorite character was not represented well. That said, let’s have some fun, and dig into this thing.

RANDOM PERSON 1: Look!
RP2: In the sky!
RP3: What the heck is it?
BATMAN: Why it’s the Bat Signal, of course!
RP1: The what?
BATMAN: The Bat Signal! It signals that Batman is needed to help fight crime!
RP2: Who the heck is Batman?
BATMAN: Why I am, of course!
RP3: Are you registered with the SHRA?
BATMAN: Holiday Hooby-Whatey?
*enter IRON MAN*
IRON MAN: Costumed vigilante! You are commanded to cease what you are doing and present proof of Initiative Membership!
*BATMAN reaches to Bat Belt*
BATMAN: All I have is this. *hands card to IRON MAN*
IRON MAN: What is this? This isn’t an Initiative license!
BATMAN: Why it’s the Bat Card of course!
IRON MAN: This isn’t Government Issue, where did you get it?
BATMAN: From my Bat Belt of course! The source of any item I ever need!
IRON MAN: I’m sorry, this won’t do, I’ll have to escort you to the 42 Negative Zone Prison!
*enter SPIDER-MAN*
SPIDER-MAN: Black Panther! Your skin! You’ve pulled a Michael Jackson! (At least you still have your nose!)
IRON MAN: This isn’t Black Panther, you idiot, it’s …. erm… Catman!
BATMAN: Batman!
IRON MAN: Whatever. Nonetheless, unless you sign the SHRA and submit to training, I will have no choice but to incarcerate you. Spidey, that goes for you to!
SPIDER-MAN: Not unless I take him with me to the secret hideout of the New Avengers!
IRON MAN: Dude, I read New Avengers Annual 2, you don’t have a secret hideout. It was destroyed when the Hood’s gang attacked, and Dr. Strange, your most powerful member, has quit, so unless you have an invisible army with you, I’m taking you both in.
SPIDER-MAN: Ha! You’ll never be able to take me and him at the same time! I’ll get away, and you’ll never find me, because you don’t know my secret identity anymore! So nyahh!
IRON MAN: Of course I do you’re ….. wait a minute, who are you? I know we used to be friends, but I suddenly can’t remember your name! It’s like someone retconned everything that has happened to you over the last several years!
SPIDER-MAN: Yup, it got retconned along with my marriage, my best friend’s death, and my sense of responsibility. Now I’m a jobless loser, who’s never been married, and still lives at home, while whining about how poor I am, and borrowing money from my dead best friend who isn’t dead any more!
BATMAN: I hate to interrupt, but that story sucks way too much to be believed. Are you sure you just didn’t have my pal Superman just use one of his infinite amount of powers, and erase his memory?
SPIDER-MAN: Of course not! The writers of my story are convinced that it was one of the best stories ever written!
BATMAN: *to himself* They must have somehow stolen some Bat Weed from my Bat Belt, to delude themselves like that!
IRON MAN: What was that?
BATMAN: Nothing.
IRON MAN: Whatever. Now I am taking you both in, you have two choices, you can come quietly or–
*DR STRANGE materializes out of nowhere*
DR STRANGE: Not so fast!
BATMAN: Who are you?
DR STRANGE: By the Vishanti! You know not who I am? I am Dr. Strange!
BATMAN: What a Strange name! *everyone groans at the horrible joke* And what can you do?
DR STRANGE: Magic!
BATMAN: Oh! A magician, eh? I once played one of those. Except it wasn’t really me, rather the same actor who played me in a movie (did I mention I have 5 movies? How many do you losers have?) and was also in a movie called–
DR STRANGE: No, real magic.
BATMAN: There’s no such thing, it’s just your lame excuse for not wanting to explain how you –
DR STRANGE: By the Sons of Satannish, you shall become a goat! *BATMAN turns into a goat, then turns back* Not so lame now, am I?
BATMAN: *who still has a goatee* Ha! At least everything I can do is of my own creation!
IRON MAN: *silently* Computer, record the following discussion for records of SHRA identification. *out loud* And what can you do?
BATMAN: Why, I have no powers, but I can still kick your butts any day, with all of the handy dandy utilities on my Bat Belt!
IRON MAN: Ha, all I would need to do is fry you with my –
BATMAN: Before you could even finish, I would disable your armor with my Bat EMP Emitter.
IRON MAN: Ha! I can detect EMPs before they happen, and shut down my systems before they happen!
BATMAN: Then I would simply use it in conjunction with my Bat Block Iron Man’s EMP Detector Machine, also conveniently found on my Bat Belt! And I could take out your buddies here with my Bat Webbing Dissolver, and my Bat Magic Blocker! Then, if I got hungry, I could have some Bat Spam!
RANDOM BRITISH WOMAN: I DON’T LIKE SPAM!!!
IRON MAN: How could you possibly have those items, especially since you didn’t believe in magic up until a few minutes ago?
BATMAN: My Bat Belt is equipped with everything I could possibly need (all of which I invented) and it is still extraordinarily light!
SPIDER-MAN: That’s impossible! And you think my story sounded stupid? At least I didn’t have Deluded Creators!
IRON MAN: I’ve had enough of this, I’m going to take you both in and get some help, and – wait a minute, Dr. Strange, what exactly are you doing here? I thought you took vacation time at a very inopportune moment in order meditate, and do other boring things, to fix you’re magic skills!
DR STRANGE: You’re right! I don’t know what I’m doing here. It must have just been one of those moments where I appear out of nowhere to fix a situation that I wasn’t even involved with in the first place! You’re on your own Spider-Man; I’ve got boring magic fixing stuff to do. *DR STRANGE vanishes into the air*
IRON MAN: Good, now that he’s gone, I’m calling in the reinforcements. Sentry! Your presence is required immediately!
*The SENTRY flies in*
SENTRY: Hi guys! I’m CRAZY!
BATMAN: That’sssss ……. nice.
SENTRY: How can I help you Iron Man? (I’m CRAZY!)
IRON MAN: Well, I need to arrest these two, but I can’t detain both at the same time, so I need you to –
SENTRY: No need to say more! (I’m CRAZY!) I’ll just fly this guy into the Sun, and you’ll have Spidey all to yourself! (I’m CRAZY!)
*SENTRY grabs BATMAN and flies off into space*
IRON MAN: No wait! *but it is too late* Alas poor Batman, we barely knew him! Batman has passed on! He is no more! He has ceased to be! He’s expired and gone to meet his maker! Bereft of life, he rests in peace! If he wasn’t thrown into the Sun, he’d be pushing up daisies! His metabolic processes are now history! He’s sleeping with the fishes and has gone to Davy Jones’ locker! He’s kicked the bucket, he’s shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the bleeding choir invisible! This is an ex-Batman!
*SENTRY comes zooming back into the atmosphere*
SENTRY: Well, that was easy! (I’m CRAZY!)
BATMAN: I’m not dead yet, I’m getting better!
IRON MAN: AAAAAAAAIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE! How are you still here?
BATMAN: Simple, once I heard he was going to fly me into the Sun, I simply pushed the Bat Cloning Button on my Bat Belt. He only flew my Bat Clone into the Sun.
SPIDER-MAN: I once had a clone, and then he thought he was me and I was him, and everybody hated it, and it has never been referred to since.
*awkward silence*
BATMAN: OK then.
SENTRY: I’m CRAZY!
IRON MAN: Batman, you could become a nuisance here really quick!
SPIDER-MAN: I’ve got an idea how to get rid of him! Oi! Mephisto!
*MEPHISTO appears*
MEPHISTO: Yes?
SPIDER-MAN: I’m ready to make another deal; you wanna retcon this Batman guy out of existence for me?
MEPHISTO: Of course, but the price will be that all that has happened in the last few minutes will also be retconned away too.
IRON MAN: You mean anyone who read this will have wasted their precious time by reading something that never happened?
MEPHISTO: That is correct.
SENTRY: I’m CRAZY!
SPIDER-MAN: I can live with that! Do it!
MEPHISTO: OK, but before I do, I want to tell you something that will make a small part of your souls suffer, even if you won’t remember. I’m going to tell you something very important, that you will now never know because I will erase having told you. Iron Man: YOU are the Skrull!
IRON MAN: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….. (SENTRY: I’m CRAZY!) …..OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…… *all fades into darkness*
MEPHISTO: *laughs evilly* HA HA HA HA HA! I love doing that. *MEPHISTO pulls off his face, which is revealed to only be a mask, JOE QUESADA is revealed to be underneath*
JOE QUESADA: Ah, nothing like the smell of a good retconning in the morning!

END.

😉

-LOTRKing

Review of Astonishing X-Men 25 (4 stars) July 18, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Having not read any of Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run, and having only read Uncanny from Messiah Complex forward, I jumped onto this issue as a fairly new X-reader. I’ll be the first to admit, this one issue was better than the entire recent “hippie” arc of Uncanny. Given, not a lot happens, but we get a great deal of characterization. I’ve never been a huge mutant fan; I’ll take a good old-fashioned scientific-accident-spawned superhero any day. But if this series doesn’t finally make me an admirer of our evolutionary replacements, I don’t know what will.

Most of the issue is composed of “hi, I’m this character,” but Ellis does this in a way that is so intriguing, that it is hard to explain what makes it so good. He also establishes the new status quo by introducing several of the new San Francisco elements, such as a new HQ, a new X-Jet, and the X-Men’s working relationship with the SFPD (along with some cool “civilian uniforms” in the process). Of course, sealing the deal is the introduction of a new sci-fi murder mystery. Essentially, someone has been trying to artificially induce mutations after the events of M-Day by giving people a third set of chromosomes (humans and mutants only have two sets) which contain the X-gene. Now, one of these “artificial mutants” has murdered another and is attempting to leave the planet.

Throw in the beautiful artwork by Simone and Simone (Bianchi and Peruzzi that is) and this becomes a thoroughly entertaining issue. Bianchi’s pencils not only maintain a lifelike look, but his characters exude emotion. Most good comic book artists can convey a lot of emotion in the character’s faces, but Bianchi uses the whole body for this task. Further pleasing the eye, Peruzzi’s colors maintain an almost painted portrait look; fellow artists such as Marko Djurdjevic and Esad Ribic come to mind when looking at Peruzzi’s work. The only real complaint I have is about the various X-vehicles, as they all look a bit too alien. (Heck, if I saw one of those flying around, I’d think we been invaded by extraterrestrials from a bad sci-fi movie.) Still, this is something I’m willing to put up with in lieu of their other high-quality work.

This is an all-around perfect jumping point. Anyone who needs an excuse to start reading an X-title: this is it.

-LOTRKing