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Flashback: Review of Silver Surfer 36 (April 1990) October 7, 2008

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When I saw that this was the randomly chosen issue for this week, I laughed. This is one of the rare instances where I actually have read the issue, and while it is certainly far from the ordinary, this is what makes it memorable. It has a seemingly normal opening; the Surfer is being watched by a mysterious figure as he travels to Earth to meet with the Avengers. While there, he discusses with Captain America the story of the being called Thanos. We learn of his past goals of ultimate destruction, and how near he came to attaining it. Surfer explains that Thanos has returned once more, and is plotting again, and Captain America advises him to go to Titan to discover more information.

While starting on a somber tone, the issue quickly “lightens up” as Norrin, en route to Titan, discovers his mysterious watcher: the Impossible Man. This issue was my first introduction to the Impossible Man (I’ve since read his first appearance in FF), but I found impossible not to like this zany character. Much of the issue is simply him trying to get Norrin to appreciate a sense of humor. And while his attempts seem futile, Impossible Man finally gets Norrin to at the very least see the value of humor, even if he doesn’t actually use it. (Or does he? The last two lines made me laugh the most.)

Of course, it helps that Ron Lim’s art really fits the tone of the book. He is able to both capture the nobility of the Surfer, and the crazy antics of Impossible Man. Somehow, he manages to allow the overall look to be both serious and cartoony. While this issue was undoubtedly a filler at its time of publication, it managed to be something rare: a filler that was thoroughly entertaining in its own right. I definitely recommend reading this if you ever get the chance.

Next week: Avengers 324

-LOTRKing

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Casual Saturdays: Why You Should Read the Ender’s Game Comic Book October 4, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Comic Book Stuff, Other Random Stuff.
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First off, the details: Ender’s Game is one of the most beloved science-fiction novels of our time. Written by Orson Scott Card and first published as a novel in 1985, Ender’s Game tells the story of a future in which we have been attacked by an alien race known as the Formics (often called “Buggers” for their insect-like appearance). While we defeated the first wave of their ships, the leaders of Earth knew that they would return in decades with a full attack force. So, they have begun to take the brightest children on Earth, and train them in a Battle School. Ender is one of these children, and perhaps the brightest of them all, but can he find a way to stop the Buggers, when no one else has? Ender’s Game: Battle School will be a comic book mini-series from Marvel Comics. Issue #1 goes on sale on Wednesday October 8th. Sellouts may occur, so you may want to pick up your copy soon. To find a comic book store need you, call 1-888-COMICBOOK

For those who’ve read the novel, but don’t normally read comics: If you’ve read the novel, I’m assuming you’ve liked it. (And if you didn’t, there’s something wrong with you.) Surely you’ve heard that an Ender’s Game movie is in the works, but currently, not too much is occurring, because filmmakers are having a hard time transitioning it from book to movie. Since comics are essentially half-way in between books and movies, a successful comic book could show Hollywood that Ender’s Game can indeed be translated to the visual medium. So, if nothing else, reading the comic may be supporting the development of the movie.

Of course, that is not the only nor the best reason to read the comic book. The primary reason, is simply that it will be an adaptation of one of sci-fi’s best novels. If you would go to see the Ender’s Game movie, why wouldn’t you read the comic book? Like a movie, the comic will help bring the novel to life by adding visuals and “sound effects.” Of course, you may also be persuaded to read it from the praise that Orson Scott Card (who is not writing the comic) has given it here.

For those who read comics, but haven’t read the novel: first off, shame on you! You consider yourself a sci-fi fan, and you haven’t read Ender’s Game? Well, here’s your chance to find out why this book is so highly regarded. If you’re like me when it comes to comics, and usually enjoy traditional superhero tales best, you’ll be glad to learn that there is much to appreciate in the story of Ender’s Game. No, there aren’t any characters in capes and tights running around trying to stop a super-villain from destroying the city, but many similar elements can be found.

Ender is an outcast amongst his peers, and doesn’t really want to participate in “saving the world,” he just wants to grow up like a normal kid. He lives in a future where the Earth was devastated by Formic attacks, and all the world has been united in preparing to defeat the Formics when they return. In Battle School, he overcomes great odds to quickly rise as one of the best students. And for those who enjoy a little “secret identity” intrigue, there is the Earth-side story (assuming they keep this plot thread in the comic) of “Locke and Demosthenes” and how they use their “abilities” to help change the world.

For those who’ve read the novel and read comics: If you aren’t already planning on reading this, you need to take a moment right now and ask yourself why.

-LOTRKing

Review of Fantastic Four 560 (4 stars) October 3, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

With this issue, we get a rather interesting twist. It turns out that the New Defenders are actually from the future. While this plot device has been used countless times, their reason for coming back in time isn’t one you see too often: they haven’t come back to change the past and “save the future,” nor have they come to conquer primitive beings to recreate a world under their rule. Instead, with the Earth dying, the New Defenders are simply refugees trying to build a time machine big enough to bring people from the future back. But for an as yet unexplained reason, they need Johnny, Doom, and Galactus to power the machine.

Hitch delivers more of his great artwork, and some of the best scenes are that of the future. Between the views of utter devastation, and the massive spread of the heroes of the future, the opening pages are a treat for the eyes. One could look at the “heroes page” for minutes, simply to discover who in the future has been influenced by past heroes, and also figuring who future heroes were influenced by.

The second half of the issue focuses on an attack on the Baxter Building (and the rest of the FF) by none other than … the nanny, Tabitha Denevue! (Never trust the nanny.) She disables the FF quickly, and we learn two things about her: one, she is the leader of the New Defenders, and two, she is Susan Richards from 500 years in the future. … Don’t ask me to explain how Sue lived to be 500 years old, I’m sure (I hope) that Millar has an adequate explanation. But at least I may have finally figured out what will be the cause of the “death of the Invisible Woman.” Earlier in the issue, Doom swears to kill whoever it was who plotted his capture. When he discovers that it is a future version of Sue, he may simply kill the “current Sue” to prevent it from happening. Or I could be completely wrong, at least we’ll see next issue. (And hopefully Millar will do something to surprise us. I mean, why give away the ending of an arc by making it the title? Hopefully, Sue’s death will not be the biggest event to occur.)

-LOTRKing

Review of Uncanny X-Men 502 (2.5 stars) October 2, 2008

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Overall rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

More near-mediocrity from Fraction and Brubaker, and more crap from Land is the best way to describe this issue. Let’s start with the true crap first, namely, Land’s art. Now, I know I’ve linked to this before, but Land’s tracing and recycling isn’t the only thing that makes him a bad artist. There’re also occurrences such as these:

Big, beefy, muscular men are part of the genre, and I’ve come to accept that. But what the crap is up with Logan’s arm? It’s already muscular-looking enough, why did Land have to include what looks like a tumor growing out of where his elbow bends? Seriously, that doesn’t make any sense anatomically at all. That big bulge spreads over where his elbow bends? How does he even bend it? Here is another “weird body incidence:”

Likewise, I’ve also come to accept that well-endowed, impossibly skinny women are part of the genre, but her torso being thicker than her hips? That’s not even the “perfect hourglass figure,” that’s an upside-down pear figure! (I’m not even going to comment on her annoying info box and dialogue in this panel.) Add to these the crazy looking smiles that almost everyone wears and the fact that the “Red Queen” is probably the most ridiculous looking villainess I’ve seen, and you’ve got some grade-A Land-crap.

Luckily the story isn’t horrible. We make some more discoveries about the Hellfire cult, we get a decent fight, and the majority of the character interactions are amusing. (I’m glad that Fraction and Brubaker have decided to include the camaraderie and humor that they have, it’s truly what is keeping this title afloat at the moment.) The only part that I dislike is pretty much any scene featuring Pixie. She’s annoyed me ever since the Free Comic Book Day issue starring her, and now, she seems to star in Uncanny as well. This book would be so much better if she just left the team. (Well, maybe.)

Mehh, I realize this may sound a bit harsh as a review. This issue really wasn’t that bad. But everyone once in a while, you’ve gotta vent, and this was the opportunity I chose. If you aren’t already reading Uncanny, I can’t honestly recommend picking it up, but for those of us who are, at least there’s worse things we could be reading, and besides, we only have to endure Land for another issue or two.

-LOTRKing

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

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

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

Review of Ultimate X-Men/Fantastic Four Annual 2008 (3.5 stars) September 17, 2008

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Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Still no comics in the mail yesterday, here’s hoping there’s something new today. Until then, here’s a review of a good two-part “Ultimate” story. (Well, a review of part one anyway.)

-LOTRKing

Review of Secret Invasion: Inhumans 2 (4 stars) September 16, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

No comics for me in the mail yesterday, so you guys get more WCBR linkage. Hopefully I’ll get something today (and I hope it’s ASM). If not, expect more linkage tomorrow! So for now, here is my review of SI:Inhumans 2. So far, this has been a great series, and anyone like who doesn’t know much about the Inhumans (like me), nor why they should care about them should pick this series up (or get it as a trade), because this really has me wanting to look into Inhuman history.

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 285 (December 1985) September 15, 2008

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If this issue serves as any evidence, it is not hard to see why John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four is considered legendary. In this standalone issue, “Hero,” the Human Torch gets a stark contrast to Peter Parker’s “The Boy Who Collected Spider-Man” tale. The beginning of the story focuses on a boy named Tommy who idolizes the Human Torch. At school this boy is bullied, and his parents seem to have little time for him at home. The only thing that he seems to live is to follow the adventures of Johnny Storm. When a neighbor leaves out a tank of experimental fuel and asks Tommy to put it away, he cautions him not to spill any because it could turn him into “a real Human Torch.”

A few weeks later, Johnny is approached by a doctor who says that a dying boy would love to meet him in his final moments. As Johnny meets him, we learn that this boy is Tommy, and is suffering from third degree burns because he wanted to be “just like his hero.” As Johnny tries to cope with a death that he believed he caused, he is visited by the Beyonder (this is a Secret Wars II tie-in after all), who shows him that all Tommy ever lived for was the Torch, and that the rest of his life was only sad and pathetic. According to the Beyonder, he did not die because of Johnny, he lived because of Johnny.

I do not know if I really agree with this statement. Is it better that he had a shorter life full of suffering, or would it have been right for him to continue on with a chance to improve his life? I cannot truly say if I enjoyed this issue, but I must say, it does introduce some interesting philosophical questions. If you’re looking for a single story, not concerning traditional superheroics, but something that’ll leave you thinking for quite a while afterwards, this is certainly one to look into.

Next week: Silver Surfer 6 (Volume 1)

-LOTRKing