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Review of Amazing Spider-Man 567 (4 stars) August 12, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Let’s get the big stuff out of the way first. SPOILER WARNING: the new Kraven is … *drumroll* … the original Kraven’s daughter. Mehh, nothing too surprising, and it makes perfect sense. The only thing I want to know, didn’t the son of Kraven make more than one appearance? Whatever happened to him, and does he have the same mother as this new Kraven? In the mail page, Steve Wacker promises that we will get an answer eventually (I sure hope so!) and we are promised that this arc will have big ramifications later. If nothing else, the Braintrust does a remarkably good job at letting a story build up for a long time. I can think of at least four or five running plot threads that could lead into an entire storyarc, and probably will eventually. This, of course, is exactly how a good Spider-Man run should be (see the 70s and 80s for examples). Did I just compliment Brand New Day? Maybe. But I still want the marriage back.

The other disappointment of this issue came after Spidey rescued Vin and later attempted to explain why there was a Spider-Man costume in Vin’s apartment. He said he planted such costumes as decoys to lead people off the trail of his secret identity when people came to close to the truth. Sure, Vin may not have suspicions about Pete anymore, but couldn’t he have thought of a much better solution to the problem? I mean, Vin already hates him, did he have to go and make Spider-Man look like a total scumbag? I dunno, this part just bothers me since it seemed like a rather drastic method to secure one’s secret identity.

Despite these complaints, most of the issue was thoroughly enjoyable. Vermin finally seems like an interesting character again. Guggenheim shows his mastery of providing dialogue for an extended fight scene. And Phil Jimenez is a genius. In my eyes, Jimenez is the definitive Spider-Man artist. I can’t describe what makes him so good, but every time I see him draw Spider-Man, it brings a smile to my face. Marvel needs to utilize him as much as possible. This arc has definitely been the best so far since the reboot, even if the ending was somewhat of a let down. Still, having said that, I’m eagerly awaiting the New Ways to Die that next week will bring!

-LOTRKing

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Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 378 (July 1993) May 26, 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.

As mentioned here, welcome to the first round of Flashback! Though this was my first time reading the issue, I am somewhat familiar with what was going at this point in history. Johnny had recently accidentally burned much of Empire State University in a fight with villains (if I recall, this is one of several instances in Marvel history where something similar to the SHRA was almost introduced) and is currently on trial for his actions. This issue also has guest stars galore, including Spider-Man (who was going through Maximum Carnage), Silver Sable (where has she been anyway, anyone know the last time she popped up?), Sandman (back when he was good and worked for Silver Sable), Daredevil, and the Avengers.

This issue opens in the middle of an intense fight between the FF (along with Lyja, who apparently is pregnant with Johnny’s baby. I knew that they were once married, but I never realized that she got pregnant. I’m assuming that she went the way of MJ and had a miscarriage?) and a group of villains (I’m assuming the current incarnation of the Frightful Four, as the only villain I recognized was Klaw) taking place in the middle of the court room. The issue evolves as the battle moves from the court to the city streets, and the majority of the story is devoted to it as the fight becomes more intense and life-threatening. Spider-Man and Daredevil (who were present in the court room as their alter egos) quickly join the fight, and finally when it looks like our heroes may be defeated, the Avengers arrive. The Avengers at this time consisted of Vision, Crystal (the only two I recognized), Thunderstrike (who looked a lot like Thor, not sure if Thor changed his name or if he was a copycat), Sersi, and Black Knight. Upon their arrival, the Frightful Four realize they are extremely out numbered and one of their members opens an extradimensional portal to ensure their escape. The last thing we see is that Ben’s former girlfriend Sharon Ventura, then going by the moniker Ms. Marvel (I’m assuming Carol was Warbird at this time), is captured by agents of Dr. Doom (who was supposedly dead at this time, so I’m assuming this was the shocking reveal of “he’s still alive”) and is transformed into a hideous monster, which is the cliffhanger of the issue. I’m also assuming that this was the beginning of her transformation into “She-Thing,” but I could be wrong. (Lots of assumptions on my part.)

Overall I get mixed feelings from the issue. The fight scene was a lot of fun, and the art was very well done. Luckily, it was early enough in the nineties that the art was not yet bleeding with color and over-the-top indistinct action. Likewise, I loved all the guest appearances, it almost felt more like “Marvel Team-Up” than Fantastic Four. However, most of the dialogue in the thought bubbles was cheesy and narrative and sometimes downright childish. Had I read this when it came out, I probably would have loved it (given, I was about a year away from learning how to read when this came out, so I couldn’t really have done this), but since I’m not five years old, the dialogue just didn’t entertain. So if want to read an issue that took place in a somewhat important time in Marvel history, that had several fun guest appearances, a good fight scene, and a rare example of enjoyable nineties art, take a look at this, just try your best to bear with the dialogue.

Next week: Amazing Spider-Man 340

-LOTRKing

Casual Saturdays: Superhero Films Ranked May 24, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Casual Days, Comic Book Stuff, Other Random Stuff.
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Following yesterday’s trend of announcements, here is a new one for today: since next week will see the season finale of LOST, and therefore my weekly LOST comment column, I’m starting another new weekly column to replace it (in addition to the Flashback column already mentioned). It will take place on Saturdays starting this week and is entitled “Casual Saturdays.” Here I will make use of the “and Other Random Stuff” title of my blog to take off my comics reviewers gloves for a while and talk about, well, other random stuff. So yes, this blog may actually end up sounding like a blog! 😉

Today’s topic doesn’t stray too far from the world of comics, as it is a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. You’ll recall that in my review of Iron Man I mentioned that it just may be the best superhero film I’ve yet seen, though I’d have to see it a few more times before I decided for sure. Well, now that I’ve seen it six times (long story short: I work at a movie theatre and get free movies if I accompany the guest, and I have several friends/relatives that wanted to see it) I think I can safely say that it is indeed my favorite superhero film yet, and just to give you a since of who it ranks with, I’ve decided to list my ten top favorite superhero films:

1. Iron Man
2. X2: X-Men United
3. Spider-Man 2
4. Spider-Man
5. Batman Begins
6. X-Men
7. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (it counts!)
8. X-Men 3: The Last Stand
9. Hellboy
10. Doctor Strange (yes, the animated one!)
With honorable mentions Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Daredevil and the absolute worst being Elektra and Hulk.

Of course, with three awesome superhero films yet to come out this summer, as well as Marvel’s astounding recent announcement, this list will likely look radically different in a few years. And if you want to spark an interesting discussion, leave a comment on what your top ten hero flicks are.

Next week: something having nothing to do with comics! I promise!

-LOTRKing

Review of Ayre Force – Graphic Novel (4 stars) – And Other Matters May 23, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Cool story: so a few weeks ago I was contacted by an agent of Bodog, an international media company, and asked to write an advance review for their upcoming (and first so far) graphic novel, Ayre Force. After checking out what the book was about, I agreed. I was soon sent the free copy and took a few days to read and review it. When I asked why my site was chosen as one of the reviewers, I was told that I was found through Google’s blog search, which rewards blogs that are both frequently updated and frequently read, which means I owe a portion of that to you guys! So thanks for reading! 😉 As for the actual review, I asked if I would be allowed to post it instead on WCBR, since it gets more reads, and would therefore likely be more beneficial to the publisher. Nonetheless, since you guys are in part what got me this opportunity, I want to make sure you know about it, so a link to this review is here. (You were supposed to click that. No really read it, then come back, that’s why tabbed browsing was invented. No seriously, this will still be here, go read the review first.) Back now? Good. Now that you’ve already been given the purchase link once, I’ll bombard you with it again: http://ayreforce.bodoglife.com

So why do I want to buy it? No, its not because I got a free book and now feel obligated to promote it. As I mentioned in the review, it really was a great read with tons of action. No, the reason I want you to buy it is for another reason mentioned in the review: all proceeds go to fighting animal cruelty, mostly bear bile farming. So, for $20, not only do you get an action-packed novel, you also get to participate in the same deeds that the book’s heroes are (though in a less cool way).

And now for the “and other matters” portion. Announcement: starting Monday (and following on Mondays thereafter) there’ll be a new column entitled “Flashback.” The inspiration for “Flashback” came from two sources: one, from Comics Daily’s Dusting Off weekly column, and two from my recent purchase of some of GitCorp’s Complete Collection DVD-ROMs but not having time to read them. So what will Flashback be? Once a week, I will use a random number generator to select a random back issue of Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, or Uncanny X-Men, which I will then read and review. With the exception of ASM, I will never have read these issues before, so much of the review will be me trying to make sense of the issue, and trying to place it in Marvel history. I will not be giving these issues stars for two reasons, one trying to review a potentially decades old comic by modern standards just isn’t fair, and two, because I will not have read the preceding story, it will be hard to judge its place, especially if I get confused. So check back on Monday for confusion, babbling, and old-schoolness!

-LOTRKing

Review of Captain America 38 (4 stars) May 22, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Well, it appears that the newly awakened mystery man is indeed Captain America. Just not the one you think, he is the Captain America from the 50s, the Grand Director, altered to look like Steve Rogers and kept in stasis for the last several years. I have to say, this is a brilliant move of Brubaker’s part, one that is unexpected, but at the same time makes sense and doesn’t seem to be pulled out of nowhere. It was even slightly hinted at early in his run when we saw the return of the 50s Bucky, Jack Monroe. After we learn the secrets of “Cap’s” return, we see that Sharon is recaptured.

We then see that Senator Woodman, who secretly works for the Red Skull, is doing fairly well for a third party candidate with twenty percent of voters considering voting for him. Faustus complains to the Skull that these numbers are not high enough, but the Skull assures him it will be taken care of. I know that the Red Skull always has a master devious plan, but I wonder, how does he plan to ensure that Woodman wins the election? Fixing the numbers? That would be a tough task, even for him. Personally, I think he plans to take the other candidates out of the race, perhaps assassinating one and shaming the other? No matter what his plan, as always in will be entertaining to see it unfold and see how Captain America stops it.

Next, we get the first team up of James as Cap and the Falcon as they attempt to take down one of Zola’s complexes. This is where all the action of the issue is, and it is great to see that James has indeed gotten the hang of using the shield. Zola, wanting to ensure that he is not captured, transfers himself to another computer, and self destructs the entire complex, with James and Sam just barely getting away in time.

The last thing we see is that Faustus is manipulating the Grand Director to kill James, because he is “an impostor” Captain America (G.D. believes he is the true Cap) and even worse, because he killed his partner Jack Monroe aka Bucky (which is true, though it was done while James was the Winter Soldier, so it’s not really his fault.) All in all, this was a satisfying issue, and I can’t wait until the two Caps come face to face (as is likely to happen next time.)

-LOTRKing

Review of Mighty Avengers 14 (4 stars) May 21, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Sentry, but only when he is done right (which is why I loved World War Hulk). Lately, Bendis has just been using him as a big Deus Ex Machina, so I’ve been rather annoyed, but finally my faith has been (somewhat) restored. The story opens with a Sentry flashback to before the “forgetting” showing Bob’s first run in with the Skrulls who at this time were launching an attack on the Baxter Building. Bob stops them and is injured in the explosion, later to be saved by Reed. We then jump ahead to before the Civil War where Skrull-Jarvis collects information about the Sentry and presents it to the other Skrulls who debate what they should do about him. After a while, they come to the conclusion that there really is nothing to do, and they just have to hope that his insanity will keep him out of their plans.

Finally, the story jumps to the battle being fought in Secret Invasion 2 where the Skrull-Vision morphs into the Void to essentially scare Bob away. Bob is so frightened at the thought that he is causing the Skrull invasion that he flies to the rings of Saturn just to be alone. A lot of people may take this as a sign of weakness and “wussiness” and be annoyed, but I see this as another great example of his character. To me, the Sentry is an extreme example of what a Marvel character could be. Back in the days of Stan Lee, he tried to make Marvel characters more interesting by giving them flaws, how much more flawed and interesting can you get that by making potentially the most powerful person on the planet extremely mentally unbalanced? We didn’t know the Scarlet Witch was crazy, her actions seemingly came out of no where, but in the case of Bob, we know he’s insane and that he’s a ticking time bomb. As the Skrulls note, Tony does not know what to do with Bob, so he’s doing his best to make sure that he never reaches a “Disassembled” level threat. Call me crazy (pun intended), but I find this extremely compelling.

The very last thing we see is the Skrull attack in New York as a Super-Skrull invades the Watchtower and is about to attack Lindy when a shadowed caped figure flies in and beats the crap out of the Skrull. It is then revealed that the Void has returned, he claims he is here to do that which Bob cannot, and he intends to protect Lindy. It looks as though the Void may actually do something good for a change, and with any luck we may see him help to turn the tides in Secret Invasion.

-LOTRKing

Review of Fantastic Four 557 (4.5 stars) May 20, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

With this issue, Millar and Hitch have brought their first FF run to a satisfying close. It opens with Sue rescuing Ben from the ocean with a force field bubble, before we quickly see that CAP continues to cause destruction and evacuations around the globe. Then, we are treated to an insanely awesome piece of art as we see a full page view of Reed’s Anti-Galactus suit (so cleverly foreshadowed in FF 554). As a side note, I love Reed’s reason for the similar look to Galactus (“it looks cool”). Reed uses the suit as bait for CAP, who “bites” and tests his hunch that he is also on CAP’s “do not harm” list. Reed, as always, is right and beats the crap out of CAP. This scene is made all the more awesome by Hitch’s aforementioned phenomenal artwork. Truthfully, I can think of several artists that I like more than Hitch, but Anti-G’s “pwning” of CAP was by far some of my favorite artwork yet to appear in FF.

In the aftermath, we see that the world’s governments are going to cover up the destruction, as they still believe that the Earth Trust’s work is essential. Personally, this was the only thing the disappointed me in this issue is that we didn’t get more resolution of this plot thread. (Plus I really want my theory about Earth Trust being sinister to be right!) Hopefully, this will be resolved later in the Millar/Hitch run.

Next, Alyssa tries to convince Reed that they both married the wrong people and once again tries to woo him but Reed explains that while Sue may not be his intellectual equal, he still loves her, and Alyssa can never change that. The story then transitions to Reed and Sue’s anniversary dinner as Reed reveals that the reason he had to travel to the other end of the universe two issues ago was to obtain a microgalaxy to fashion his own ring for Sue. He further reveals that the location of their dinner is in a restaurant right by where the first re-met as adults. Sue’s gift is only “Bob Dylan’s new CD,” but they both understand and enjoy each others gifts. Stuff like this (along with the following the scene involving Johnny and a certain seductive super-villainess) proves that Millar simply “gets” the characters of the FF, and shows why his writing is so strong.

In the final scene, we meet a potential new nanny for Franklin and Valeria (call me paranoid, but I suspect there is something wrong with the nanny too!) before Doom barges in and commands that Richards be found immediately. Being a huge Doom fan, I’m eager to see what trouble may have befallen him to require Reed’s help so soon. His prescence here leaves a bit of a question though, the footnote on the intro page explains that this takes place after Mighty Avengers 11, in which Doom is placed in jail. Doom escapes in Secret Invasion 1, but the arc cannot take place during Secret Invasion (otherwise the Baxter Building would be in the Negative Zone), so does this take place after SI? If so, are we meant to assume that the real Spider-Woman was fighting alongside our heroes? This really does throw somewhat of a wrench into continuity, so if Millar made sure to throw that footnote in, I’m hoping we’ll get some explanation of where this fits chronologically later. Nonetheless, this issue was extremely enjoyable and a great ending to the first arc.

-LOTRKing

Review of The Twelve 5 (3.5 stars) May 19, 2008

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Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

While not as spectacular as the last few issues, this one still remained entertaining. It begins at a diner as we finally learn the origin of the Witness, while a little cheesy, it maintains the 1940s flavor of all the other origin stories, and gives a lot of insight into his character. It then shows him “witness” the death of an old Auschwitz guard as he is hit by a bus. The next scene further complicates the tensions between Dynamic Man and Captain Wonder, and it takes Fiery Mask to prevent an all out brawl between the two (which would have been fun to watch, too bad he had to step it! 😉 )

Next, it looks as though we may finally get some progression in Electro’s story, as the government is trying to get more information about him from the creator’s daughter, and she is reluctant to give it. I still think Electro will go haywire and be the one to start attacking the rest of the Twelve, so perhaps the government will try to figure out his workings alone, and only make things worse.

We then get a somewhat cheesy from Blue Blade as he auditions for his own television show, but the cheesiness was acceptable simply because that is what his character is (which is why no one likes him). This scene is also one of the two that shows the vast differences between today and the 40s. The other shows Captain Wonder attempting to give a motivational speech to high-schoolers, only to give them irrelevant information. Dynamic Man talks to him afterward, and we finally learn the reason why he is being such a jerk: he cannot handle this new world either, so he keeps busy saving lives to keep his mind off of what a horror this new world is, and has encouraged Captain Wonder to do the same, in order to help put his mind at ease.

The very last thing we see is that Laughing Mask’s registered guns have presented him with a problem: apparently back in the 40s he killed a mobster and his present immunity does not apply to past crimes, so he is arrested. This is certainly something I did not see coming, but it continues with the theme of how the past continues to affect the lives of the Twelve. So while this issue was mainly just more of the same, the characters, writing, and art still manage to be interesting and we will hopefully get more development next time.

-LOTRKing

Review of Invincible Iron Man 1 (4 stars) May 17, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

As I mentioned here (second one down), this series serves one purpose, to bring in all the new Iron Man fans from the movie and to keep them reading. And as I far as I am concerned, it worked perfectly. The story opens in Africa, maintaining the international feel of the movie, with a suicide bombing by three boys who appear to have biologically integrated Iron Man technology. Iron Man soon finds out about the attack (at a very “inopportune” time for himself and a lady) and puts S.H.I.E.L.D. into full investigation mode. He learns that A.G.M. (an A.I.M. splinter group) may have information and assembles a strike team.

Meanwhile, we see that Ezekiel Stane, son of Obadiah (another great nod to the movie), has “upgraded” his own body with cybernetic implants and that he has found a way decrease the amount of caloric energy that his body expends on basic functions. He uses this newfound power to slaughter a board of executives from a tobacco company and escapes by jumping out the window. Later, he meets up with his girlfriend and accomplice, named Sasha, and it is revealed that he was behind the attack in Africa. So far, he looks to be a very interesting villain: younger, more advanced, and possibly even smarter than Stark. This allows the issue to play perfectly as a companion to the movie and almost feels as though it could be the sequel (if not for the continuity differences between the two).

Finally, we see Stark contact Rhodes, who thinks the attack may have been armor-related. Tony, fearing the worst, is in denial and he examines his list of other “armored” people in the Marvel U and knows that none could have done this. We then get a quick and humorous scene between Pepper and Tony before Tony attacks the A.G.M. group and finally learns that the attack was indeed from an armor more powerful than his own. As I said, there are so many instances where Fraction remains conscious of the new readers from the movie while maintaining an extremely entertaining story, that it is impossible not to like this issue. Likewise, Larroca’s art is perfect for the story and maintains a very cinematic feel throughout. This was all around a spectacular issue, if you loved the movie, you should pick this up, no knowledge of Iron Man’s previous history required.

-LOTRKing

Review of Secret Invasion 2 (4 stars) May 15, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

While not as “revealing” as last issue, this one still certainly entertained. It starts with the “real” Avengers facing the Skrull ship heroes, each side just as confused as the other. It isn’t long before fighting ensues, and the battle is quickly interrupted by a T-Rex (Darn Savage Land dinosaurs, always complicatin’ things! 😉 ) which causes everyone to disperse. Among this chaos, Ms. Marvel is able to take Iron Man away to safety in an abandoned Savage Land lab, where he plans to start from scratch and recreate a less computer-dependant armor to attack the Skrulls. (Skrull-Buster Armor, anyone?) He also commands Carol to leave him, and rally whoever is left on the mainland that can be trusted. This leads me to think there will be three rounds of “cavalry” to help defeat the Skrulls. First, there’ll be Carol and whoever she rounds up, next will Nick Fury and his new team, and lastly we’ll get Skrull-Buster Iron Man.

Our last scenes from the Savage Land show that Skrull-Ship Hawkeye and Spider-Man (who are now dead) were definitely Skrulls. “Real” Wolverine attempts to kill Mockingbird, but Clint stops him after she shares a fact that only the real Mockingbird could have known. This pretty much confirms at least some of the people on the Skrull ship were real. The final scene of the issue shows the Skrulls invading NYC, and out of the ship comes at least a dozen awesome looking Super-Skrulls (with Wolverine/Colossus/Cyclops being the coolest of the bunch).

I realize that’s a pretty short summary, but this issue was really more action than story. Don’t get me wrong, the action was definitely entertaining, but I really wish the plot would have progressed more. Hopefully we’ll get more next issue. Yu’s art is certainly getting better, I can actually tell what is going on in the action scenes, and as mentioned earlier, the Super-Skrulls were amazing. Who knows, I may end up finally liking his art. (*Gasp!*) The only thing that annoyed about this issue was Skrull-Ship Cage’s constant use of the phrase “Word!” Unless they are trying to give him modern lingo to prove that he is a Skrull, he shouldn’t be using that phrase. (Indeed, Bendis seems to overuse that phrase in everything he writes, he really needs a new catchphrase.)

-LOTRKing