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Review of New Avengers 45 (3 stars) September 30, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Well, even if this issue didn’t turn out to be all that important, at least it was pretty entertaining. The story was hyped to seem as though there would be some big reveal involving House of M and the Skrull invasion. While the Skrulls were trying to get things back to normal just as much as “we” were, this finally gave us the perspective of seeing Skrulls at their weakest. Even the mighty Empress Veranke had a breakdown as she woke up to find an already alien world transformed around her. Of course, this scene also showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that Veranke truly did take the place of Spider-Woman. In the back of my head, I suspected that perhaps Jessica Drew was somehow able to stop the switch and act as a “double agent” only pretending to be Veranke. (C’mon, we all know Jessica would be the only person able to pull this off.)

Really the only thing I was left wondering was how the Skrulls were able to sense the change, and didn’t believe everything was continuing as normal. Perhaps their altered “Super-Skrull” DNA somehow protected them? I don’t know.

Aside from seeing Skrulls at their weakest, the best part of this issue was definitely Jim Cheung’s art (well, most of it). His scenery, facial expression, and action were all brilliant. His only real flaw is the actual faces. He can convey emotion rather well, but many characters had similar looking faces, even amongst men and women.

As reality returns to normal, the Skrulls on Earth finally learn of the Annihilation wave, and the destruction it has caused. Having only read parts of Annihilation myself, I don’t know how much of it may have directly affected the invasion, but I do know that countless worlds were destroyed, many of which were controlled by the Skrulls. If anything, I’d like to see Bendis give us an issue showing more of the ramifications of the Wave on the Invasion. Until then, we have next issue to look forward to, which presumably will show how the Hood uses his distinct methods to fight the Invasion.

-LOTRKing

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Flashback: Review of Uncanny X-Men 128 (December 1979) September 29, 2008

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As an ending of a storyarc, this wasn’t a bad issue to jump on at. Coming during Chris Claremont’s legendary run, this story pits the X-Men against the incredibly powerful Proteus. Proteus, a mutant and son of Moira MacTaggert, is an energetic being with the ability to warp reality and the necessity to regularly change “host bodies,” leaving the former host dead in the process. In this issue, he has captured his mother, and his current host is that of his father, and he has been chased by the X-Men to Edinburgh.

The beginning deals mostly with the X-Men fighting him, while he literally makes the city come alive and attack them. This causes the X-Men a dilemma, as they try to protect themselves, the civilians, and rescue Moira. John Byrne does a terrific job illustrating the many strange scenarios that Proteus causes, which makes up for much of the fight banter, most of which is a little dated or just plain cheesy.

The best part (both in terms of story and art) comes at the climax. The X-Men have driven Proteus to the outskirts of the city, and they finally attack him head on. After a being brutally attacked Cyclops, Havok, and Phoenix (which leaves all three weakened), he retreats to a castle where Colossus takes him on alone. As the exertion has caused the death of his host, Proteus is left in his true energy form, which has a weakness for metal. (I don’t quite get this part, the story didn’t explain it too well. I’m not sure if his weakness was better explained in an earlier issue, or if this was just bad storytelling.) Anyway, Peter is somehow able to scatter his molecules in his organic metal state.

So, aside from a slightly confusing ending, this wasn’t too bad. I certainly wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to find this story, but if you do find it, and you’ve got some time on your hands, you’ll get a good deal of entertainment.

Next week: Silver Surfer 36 (Volume 3)

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: Where Things Stand… September 27, 2008

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Wow, three months goes by fast! Let’s once again take a look at where things stand in the Marvel Universe.

Secret Invasion – It’s rapidly approaching its end, and six issues, three big Skrull reveals, and countless tie-ins later, it is a great story, while at the same time being a little unsatisfying. For the most part, I have enjoyed the goings-on in the main series, but many of the tie-ins have been disappointing. While this has almost as many tie-ins as Civil War did, Civil War was much better at being able to carry the story of each particular character or group of characters coping with the SHRA. In this case, most tie-ins simply feature a character or group of characters participating in an issues-long brawl with the Skrulls. As epic as this story has been, I will be happy when it is over.

Fantastic Four – I’ve loved Millar’s take on the FF, even if it is a little slow at times, but it seems that many do not share my enthusiasm. Sure, his take on the individual members may not be completely orthodox, but this departure from the norm has been what has made most of it fun. So while I’ll enjoy his sixteen issue run, I wouldn’t want him to take the helm for the next several years. (And I do hope they find someone great to do so, FF really does need a shot in the arm that will carry it forward.) In the meantime, regardless whether or not you are a fan of Millar’s handling of the team, you should definitely check out the Fantastic Four: True Story mini-series that is going on. The story might be slightly absurd, but I’m loving every minute of it. I’ve reviewed the first two issues of it at WCBR here and here, and I’ll soon post the link here to my review of the third.

Silver Surfer – We haven’t seen hide nor hair (that is, if he had hair) of him since Nova 15, and as far as I know, it looks to stay that way. I really wish Marvel would do another mini. 😦 (Or, heck, even an ongoing!) But, with the “War of Kings” that’s supposed to tear through Marvel’s cosmic line next year, maybe they’ll find a place to tell a story about good old Norrin. Until then, I plan to write a review of one of my favorite Surfer tales, Silver Surfer: Requiem for WCBR sometime this week, and I’ll post a link here when it is available.

Amazing Spider-Man – It sure has come a long way from the atrocious One More Day fiasco. New Ways to Die has been every bit the fantastic story we were promised it would be and while I’m still upset with the dissolution of the marriage, I won’t lie that I’m looking forward to what the “Braintrust” will bring us next. Especially the courtroom story hinted at in the “Extra!” one shot a while back. Also, the first issue of ASM Family was decent, and I was disappointed at first when it sounded as though they wouldn’t be including further “Mr. and Mrs. Spider-Man” stories, but the solicits for future issues makes it appear they will. Expect reactions to issue two in two weeks.

New Avengers – This title is severely lacking from its title characters, namely the Avengers. I’ve not hidden my dislike for the fact that Bendis is using these two books he’s in charge of to write Secret Invasion back-up tales (some of which haven’t even been that important) despite the fact that they rarely involve the Avengers. I really wish he’d done a Secret Invasion: Origins mini-series for these stories, or something of the like, and just given us more Avengers adventures. Though I won’t lie, rumors running around of the possible upcoming fourth Avengers ongoing (Dark Avengers) has me excited.

Mighty Avengers – See above.

Avengers: The Initiative – Where its two “Avengers brethren” have suffered from “Secret Invasion overdose,” Avengers: The Initiative has flourished. Dan Slott and Christos Gage continue to put out spectacular, character driven stories proving that you can pull characters from the “nobody’s ever heard of these random Marvel superheroes” list, and still have one of the best comic books on the market. Yes, I still miss Cloud 9, my favorite character to come out of this series, but team Slott and Gage haven’t steered us wrong yet, and I’m sure we’ll see her before too long.

Captain America – With Ed Brubaker’s long awaited conclusion to the “Death of the Dream” “mega-arc” that came out this week, Brubaker proves that he can leave you satisfied and begging for more at the same time. With almost complete resolution on the good guy side of the equation, and almost none on the bad guy side, Brubaker has made me a permanent fan of Captain America. Don’t expect to see this series leaving my must-read list anytime soon.

Thor – This, in my opinion, is still probably the best comic book series on the market. J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel continue to give us this slow-churning epic infused with humor and suspense. What is Loki’s true plan? What does it have to do with Dr. Doom? How does she intend to gain the allegiance of Balder, one of Thor’s longest friends? How will her actions affect Midgard? When JMS’ run on Thor is finally over (which I hope never happens), this will likely be one of my favorite graphic format stories told. (This honor currently belongs to Bone by Jeff Smith, and yes, I have read Watchmen, I still think Bone is better.)

Invincible Iron Man – One year ago, I never would have guessed that I’d be reading an Iron Man series. I loathed him for his actions during Civil War and, along with many fans and much of the actual Marvel Universe, blamed him for Captain America’s death. My appreciation for him, unknowingly, actually began when I started reading Avengers: The Initiative. As I began to see more and more the benefits of the SHRA, I began to understand Tony’s actions. I didn’t necessarily like him, but I no longer hated him. Then, of course, the Iron Man movie came out. I was completely blown away. I needed more Tony Stark, and I needed it IMMEDIATELY. Luckily, Marvel was wise enough to start a new Invincible Iron Man ongoing series just days after the release of the movie. And, luckier still, the series has maintained much of the flavor of the movie. IIM has become one of my favorite monthly reads, and one that I recommend to everyone I talk to who loved the movie (especially non-comic book readers, what better way to introduce them to the medium?)

Uncanny X-Men – With the authors of the already legendary Captain America series and the breakaway Invincible Iron Man ongoing at the helm of the world’s best selling super-team, this should have been an easy success. Unfortunately, something has gone wrong. Ever since Messiah Complex, Uncanny has taken a turn for the mediocre. Luckily, it had the beautiful artwork of Mike Choi to make us survive through the awful hippie story. Now we’re just getting an ever-increasing focus on the ever-increasingly annoying character Pixie, as rendered by the horrible artist Greg Land. I don’t know what needs to happen to fix this title, but Brubaker and Fraction but figure it out fast. (And firing Greg Land from the comic book medium would be a good start, especially when he pulls off crap like this.)

Astonishing X-Men – Who’d’ve guessed that this series would still be plagued with delays after the departure of Whedon and Cassaday? I dunno, but with the upcoming Ender’s Game comic book adaptation (discussed below), I’ve decided to drop this in favor of that. Don’t get me wrong, the story seems interesting enough, and the artwork is wonderful, but I feel this isn’t really an essential part of my reading list. I will, however, still review issues of this from time to time on WCBR.

Ender’s Game – Finally. One of my all-time-favorite novels is getting the comic book treatment. I’ve never looked forward to the release of a comic book as much as I am Ender’s Game #1 on October 8th. If you’ve never read the book, first off, shame on you! But secondly, you definitely better read the comic, because it’s gonna be epic! In fact, next week, Casual Saturdays will be all about why you should read it, so if you aren’t planning to, you better check back then!

So what do you guys think of the Marvel Universe as it is now? Share your thoughts if you feel like it.

-LOTRKing

Review of Avengers: The Initiative 17 (4 stars) September 26, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First off, sorry for not having a review yesterday. First I had computer troubles, then I had troubles here at home, then I had distractions (accursed Facebook!), and then I had to go to work. Anyway, I STILL haven’t gotten any comics in the mail, so there wouldn’t have been a review today anyway. With that out of the way, let’s get on to the review.

Starting off at Camp Hammond, the Shadow Initiative (of which Trauma is now a member) is finally summoned to take down the on-base threat. They discover that Ant-Man is also remaining on base, and begin to plan how to take care of the Skrull threat. Like every team, they go through some paranoia about Skrull infiltrators, but they eventually figure out that everyone is (probably) who they say they are. However, along the way, we get some hints about Mutant Zero’s identity, and it’s looking more and more likely that she is Jean Grey. I won’t say I’m surprised, but it will be interesting to see what affect this has on the “X-books,” if any.

Meanwhile, the Kill Krew saves Hardball, and he and Komodo are reunited (if I actually cared about those two characters, I might have been happy; when are we gonna see Cloud 9 again?) as they then move on to Utah. After taking out the Skrull on that team, they are given a great asset to their mission: Devil Slayer has joined them. I’ve seen him in a grand total of one issue before this, but I’m eager to see him in action again. And hopefully, with the help of his teleporting cloak, the Krew will make it to Montana (the home of Cloud 9, for the forgetful ones out there) much sooner.

Lastly, the big battle between the Shadow Initiative and the Skrulls has its fair share of surprises (and some great art by Tolibao, I’m very happy that he has taken over art chores when Caselli can’t do it, instead of Uy), but, of course, ends with the Skrulls pwning and capturing our heroes (at least they aren’t dead)! This issue took a slight change in direction in that it was more about the story than the characters, but still managed to be thoroughly enjoyable, and I’m sure we’ll get more focus on the characters once Secret Invasion is over.

-LOTRKing

Now this is just getting ridiculous! September 24, 2008

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I feel like a broken record: once again, nothing new to review. 😦 However, I CAN guarantee a review tomorrow because I am heading out to my local comic shop to pick up Avengers: The Initiative today. (This is the first time ever that I’ve been glad that you can’t subscribe to this title!)

Be back tomorrow!

-LOTRKing

Review of Secret Invasion: Thor 2 (3.5 stars) September 23, 2008

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Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Yup, you guessed it! Marvel Subscriptions is still in the middle of an EPIC FAIL. So until said failure ends, here is yet another link to WCBR review of mine. (Trust me, I’m just as tired of this as you are!)

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Silver Surfer 6 (Volume 1, June 1969) September 22, 2008

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Ever since reading an adaptation of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells in elementary school, I’ve been a fan of apocalyptic future tales. There’ve been a lot of great ones, and a lot of, well, not-so-great ones, but this issue most definitely ranks with the former, and serves as some of the best Silver Age material that Stan Lee has to offer.

The story begins with Norrin, once again, lamenting his exile on Earth and missing Shalla-Bal (they do seem to enjoy using this a lot). He has an epiphany and realizes that if he travels far enough into the future, he may find a time when Galactus’ barrier no longer exists. When he does so, he finds a devastating sight: Earth is completely barren. Saddened at the loss of his adopted home, he returns to his true home only to discover that Zenn-La has experienced a similar fate.

Eventually he learns that nearly all life in the universe has been obliterated by a being known as the Overlord. As the two meet, we get another philosophical tale from Stan Lee as he examines the importance of life. Eventually, the Silver Surfer is able to escape the Overlord and change time, but not before once again appreciating all the universe has to offer. I’m trying not to give too much of the story away, but suffice to say, this should definitely go on your list of old comics to look up.

Next week: Uncanny X-Men 128

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: My Spicy Chili Recipe September 20, 2008

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Today I thought I’d share my own award winning (fine print: this won the award for spiciest chili at a chili cook-off using the “even spicier” variant recipe mentioned at the bottom of the recipe) Spicy Chili Recipe. Enjoy!

Staples’ Spicy Chili

• 1 lb ground beef
• ¼ cup dehydrated onions or fresh chopped onions
• 2 16 oz cans pinto beans
• 1 16 oz can red beans
• 1 16 oz can kidney beans
• 1 16 oz can diced tomatoes or petite diced tomatoes
• ½ package of chili seasoning
• 3 cups tomato sauce
• 1 cup water
• ½ tsp salt
• ¼ – ½ tsp pepper
• ½ tsp seasoned salt
• ½ tsp ground chipotle chili pepper
• ½ tsp ground cumin
• ½ tbsp ground cayenne pepper
• Optional: grated cheese
• Optional: crackers

Brown the beef and onions, afterwards, rinse the mixture in a colander. Next, rinse all of the beans in a colander. Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a large saucepan or crock pot. If in a saucepan, cook covered 20 – 30 min on medium heat. If in a crock pot, slow cook for several hours, exact time varying depending on temperature. Serve hot, add cheese and/or crackers to individual bowls as desired. For even spicier chili, use 1 tsp of chipotle chili pepper and 1 tbsp of cayenne pepper. For meatier chili, use 1 ½ pounds of ground beef.

-LOTRKing

Yarr! It Be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! September 19, 2008

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Ahoy me mateys! Unfortunately those scallywags at Marvel Subscriptions be delaying me shipment once more, so there’ll be no review today! Arr! However, this be yer reminder to talk like a pirate all day long, or ye shall be forced to walk the plank! If ye be not back tomorrow for Casual Saturdays, ye’ll be given the black spot!

-Captain LOTRBeard

Don’t look at me! September 18, 2008

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Still no comics in the mail! Hey, it’s not my fault! Unfortunately, I’m out of recent reviews of mine to link to at WCBR. So until my postal carrier delivers me some comic book goodness, there are still plenty of great reviews not written by me (this, perhaps, is what makes them so great 😉 ) at Weekly Comic Book Review.

Here’s hoping there’s a review tomorrow! (And you guys probably aren’t going to be too happy when I say that there will be no “Casual Saturdays” this week either! Oops! Cat’s out of the bag now! Gosh, what a lazy week!)

-LOTRKing