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Casual Saturdays: To Return Next Month July 5, 2008

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As mentioned in this announcement, Casual Saturdays will return next month. Until then, here is a new announcement: seeing as I’ve dropped The Twelve (I’ll get the second TPB for 7-12), I’m picking up Astonishing X-Men. I hadn’t originally planned to pick up anything when dropping it, but after reading AXM 25, and being told that despite Uncanny’s lengthy history Astonishing is now the flagship X-title, and since I’m not a huge X-fan and probably should be given my rabidly devoted Marvelism, I’m picking it up. Expect a review of 25 either next week, or the week after. And just to throw in another link, here is a comic book industry “report card” to which I contributed.

-LOTRKing

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Review of The Twelve 6 (3.5 stars) June 26, 2008

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Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This series really seems to be slowing down, the last few issues have all been the same thing: we learn more about the characters, but nothing major happens. While these characters are extremely interesting, and Straczynski is to be praised for bringing life to one-dimensional sixty-year-old characters, I really wish he advance the story just a bit more. Consider for a moment that this series is half over. We still do not have a villain, no further information has been given on Blue Blade’s foreshadowed death, and Electro is still inactive. So far, this has been all foreshadowing and no “come to pass”ing. If this were LOST, it’d be like getting to the season finale of season three, but knowing nothing more than what had been learned in season one. (In other words, it would have taken three seasons just to open “the hatch.”)

Nonetheless, these characters still save the series from falling apart, because they are so darn fascinating. In this one issue, we see the strength and resilience of Laughing Mask as he fearlessly faces the horrors of prison. We learn the reason that Black Widow isn’t interested in Phantom Reporter may not have to do with her “line of work,” but rather she may not “like boys.” Conversely, Dynamic Man who dropped more than one hint that he may “like boys” stumbles into a gay bar and is extremely offended when its patrons get a bit too playful. We see more foreshadowing as Master Mind Excello calls Phantom Reporter and warns of something ominous on the horizon. Captain Wonder still has yet to cope with his situation, and is lost in his work. Blue Blade’s television acts are being panned. And perhaps the most interesting of all, we finally learn that Rockman’s origin is not how he told it, rather he lived in a mining town which saw a tragedy, killing all of its inhabitants, except him because he gained his powers in the process. The loss of his beloved wife and daughter drove him mad, and caused him to believe his earlier told tale of “Abyssia.” I also have to comment here, in addition to Weston’s continually astounding artwork, I loved how every frame in Rockman’s “true” origin story echoed the artwork from his “imaginary” origin story. Finally, at the very end, Phantom Reporter, experiencing writer’s block for the first time, and frustrated with the fact that he has no powers, decides to once again fight crime and prove himself.

So as you can see, we get more extremely good characterization. I just wish Straczynski would hurry up and move the story forward, and the upcoming publishing delays don’t improve my mood. I’m fairly certain that I’ll just wait to get the last six issues as a TPB. So if you don’t see a review of issue seven here in August, you’ll know why. However, I will continue to review this series at WCBR, regardless of whether or not I continue to buy the individual issues. My recommendation: to anyone who absolutely loves this series, keep picking it up. To anyone who feels it is slowing down, like myself, pick up this issue and wait for 7-12 in TPB. To anyone who is interested in this series, but is not yet reading it, buy 1-6 in TPB when it comes out in September, and 7-12 in TPB when the series is over.

-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 The Twelve 4 (4 stars) April 4, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Next to something as huge as Secret Invasion, it might be easy to forget that anything else came out this week, especially when it might be tucked into its own little corner of the Marvel Universe (unless one of the Twelve have been replaced by a Skrull! 😐 )The Twelve may also have fallen into the overlooked territory because so far, the actual story hasn’t really gone anywhere. Regardless of this, I’m still loving this series, mainly because of the characters. In fact, the characters are what this story is all about, which is exactly what old school, Stan Lee Marvel was all about: let the characters be the main story, and throw the rest of the story in around them. So, while this may not be the most action packed book at your comic store, it is certainly one of the more interesting ones.

The story starts with Master Mind Excello, who is still suffering from severe headaches from all the background electromagnetic radiation that we have floating around today, and he decides that he needs to build his own house with a lead lining to shield his brain. The cool part is that he is going to do this with money that he has saved in a rolling trust fund “just in case” he ever ended up in the future. (Now that’s planning ahead!) In the event of the departure, the rest of the Twelve decide to throw him a going away party, but before this actual party happens, we check in on a few of the other members.

The Laughing Mask has gone back to crime fighting, and some police officers stop by to question him about his activity, and to register his guns, and he willingly complies. (See, the SHRA ain’t that bad if you just comply. 😉 ) The police also tell the Phantom Reporter of a grisly scene they happened upon the previous night which, unbeknownst to them, but beknownst (if that’s a word) to us, was caused by the Black Widow. (Up until now, I just felt sorry for her situation, now after one of the most graphic panels I’ve seen in a comic, she’s starting to really creep me out.)

Blue Blade is still trying to get a job in show biz, but he is looking for a partner, and approaches Rockman. Rockman ends up telling his “origin story” to Blue Blade, and it ends up to be a rather interesting story. The only thing I wonder is how it fits into Marvel continuity. How is it the Mole Man never stumbled upon Abyssia? Are the “Evil One” and Mole Man related at all? And of course the obvious question, where do they get their light from? Course, I’m not really blaming this on JMS, as he has to work with the actual stories from 60+ years ago, and so far he has kept the stuff from the 40s from being cheesy, and that in and of itself is an accomplishment.

The story finally moves on to the party, and as Dynamic Man enters, he questions why everyone is still moping around instead of fighting evil. Phantom Reporter argues that not everyone can recover from shock quickly, and notes that they are not as “perfect” as Dynamic Man. This leads to an altercation between the two, before Captain Wonder steps in and breaks up the fight before it can really start. Dynamic Man brings in Electro, so that the gathering can be “complete,” and then departs. It is here also hinted that Blue Blade may use Electro as his “sidekick” (further leading me to believe that Electro is the one that goes on the murderous rampage). As the party ends, we learn that the Witness is also Jewish and that Phantom Reporter once more fails to “hit it off” with Black Widow.

In an ending “montage scene” that seems to have become commonplace for this series, we see Excello leaving, Dynamic Man still patrolling for crime, Black Widow at a heavy metal concert (okay, this part confused me, anyone have any ideas what is going on here?), Rockman still pounding the ground, Mister E crying himself to sleep, Laughing Mask’s guns getting registered, and Phantom Reporter finally writing his article using an old school typewriter. (When do you think someone will show him how to use a computer? 😉 ) The issue ends with a copy of his article on heroism. Reading through this article, did anyone else get the feeling that Phantom Reporter wants to die? He noted that a hero was someone who gives up his life others, and later says that he wants to be hero. To me, that sounds like he wants to lose his life to a cause. (Lieutenant Dan, anyone?)

Overall, another great issue, Straczynski’s writing is flawless, and Weston’s art is the perfect look for this book. I can’t wait to see what will happen to these characters next!

Please leave comments!

-LOTRKing

Where things stand….. March 22, 2008

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Well, last week when I said I’d have comments for two weeks straight, I figured in the review for New Avengers 39, which I still haven’t gotten. (Durn Marvel subs!) So, I figured that this would be a good time to have a “wrap up” post for the past two weeks by just taking a quick look at where I think things stand in the Marvel Universe.

Fantastic Four: The Millar/Hitch team isn’t quite as insanely awesome as I thought it would be, but it is still good so far, and early in the run, so I still have very high hopes for this team. I also think that despite their legit appearance, the Earth Trust is a sinister group.

Silver Surfer: The last we saw of him was in the Silver Surfer: In Thy Name mini, and he is apparently going to play a big role in an upcoming arc of Nova, so I will likely pick that up (just for that arc). However, I still really think he deserves his own ongoing! So, next time you write another One More Day protest letter to Marvel, be sure to include as a side note that you want an ongoing Silver Surfer! (I know I will! 😉 )

Amazing Spider-Man: …..still hasn’t gone back. 😦 (It is going to take awhile of course for them to undo their mistake, and I realize this, I’ve just never been patient. 😉 ) I won’t lie though, I’ve read through a few of the recent issues, and some of them aren’t bad, but even if they were insanely awesome, the marriage was one of my favorite parts of the series, and it will never feel the same without it. They can keep this retconned “Brand New World” if they want, just bring back the marriage. They don’t even have to restore the previous marriage, just have them get married again! (Okay, getting off my soapbox now.)

Mighty Avengers: Looking at some other people’s reactions, it seemed that most people enjoyed the last issue more than I (though I still thought it was a good issue, just not the best), and more people it seems are going to give this series a second chance and/or jump on the boat. Good! I’m loving this series right now, and I think it has enormous potential. So until the Sentry goes crazy and causes Mighty Avengers Disassembled, Make Mine Mighty! 😉

Captain America: Brubaker is a genius. ‘Nuff said.

New Avengers: As mentioned earlier, I still don’t have the new issue. The last few issues have been good as single issues, but overall the story is a little slow, obviously once we hit Secret Invasion the story will pick up, but if I didn’t know that, this title might have been in danger of being dropped. I’ll wait and see. (Besides, as mentioned above, Mighty is better.) Edit: I just found out that right before NA39 was supposed to be released, its publication date was pushed back two weeks, so it will now come out this Wednesday. I should have a review for it sometime this week.

Avengers: The Initiative: I’m still catching up, and am currently on issue 9, and so far this series is awesome! It could easily be the best ongoing that Marvel is putting out! (That’s right: Thor and Captain America have a rival!) As soon as I finished 9, I was sad that I didn’t pick up 10 while at my LCS last time, now I have to wait another week and a half! Garg! I’m glad that I didn’t pick up this series sooner, because I couldn’t imagine having to wait a month for issue 10! (And now I feel like an old school Marvel mag for ending every sentence with an exclamation point! Next thing you know, I’ll be advertising for the M.M.M.S.!)

Uncanny X-Men: Brubaker’s genius isn’t quite apparent here, but the storyline is still interesting, and I’m going to continue it. Besides, issue 500 is surely going to do something insanely awesome, so I can’t wait to see what happens!

Daredevil: See description for Captain America.

Thor: I still haven’t got issue 7, but so far this series has been great, and is definitely one of Marvel’s top titles. J. Michael Straczynski is a godsend for Thor (pun totally intended), and I hope he continues to write this for a very long time, as Thor has become one of my favorite characters.

The Twelve: While not as good as Thor, this series is certainly intriguing; JMS really knows how to spin a good yarn. I still think Electro is going to play a huge part in the future, and he may in fact be the Blue Blade’s killer. As always we’ll wait and see…..

Well, as soon as I get and read New Avengers 39 and Thor 7, I’ll be sure to post a review, so check back here often! And please leave comments!

-LOTRKing

Review of The Twelve 3 (4 stars) March 13, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This was an interesting issue, as it continued to explore the characters, and showed everyone, at least once, what was happening with them. Instead of going through the story from beginning to end, I’m going to look at each of the characters. That is because this is what this issue (and this series) is about: the Twelve and how they are adapting to modern life, and (in some cases) modern superheroism. When we first see the Phantom Reporter, he is still at a loss of what to do with his new life. He has no powers, so he doesn’t feel he can add to the modern world of crime fighting, his writing skills are sixty plus years out of date, and the only woman he is interested in happens to be extremely creepy, and potentially lethal (but oh so beautifully forlorn, that I understand his feelings). His life does improve slightly by the end of the issue, as he is offered a job writing editorials for the Daily Bugle.

We only see Rockman for one panel this issue, and he is exactly where we left him last time: pitifully hoping for his “long lost civilization” to find him. Fiery Mask, however, we see a good deal of, and we also get his origin story. This story involving zombies and a mad scientist may sound cheesy now, but it sounds exactly like something that might be pulled from the 40s (I’m not sure if this is his real origin story, or if JMS made it up, but either way, it fits well for the character). He also interferes in a gang fight outside of the bar he’s in. This interference remains unresolved, and I’m assuming we’ll see what happens in the next issue. We also see the Witness at the bar with Fiery Mask, though we still as yet have little insight to his character because, as he admits, he “does not speak often.”

Master Mind Excello appears to be going through near torture as all the EM waves we have bouncing around today are interfering with his advanced brain. I’m beginning to wonder if he may be the Blue Blade’s killer, since he is no longer able to see his destiny, it may drive him insane (just a guess 😉 ).

We see that Captain Wonder is still at the cemetery mourning. Mister E is the real heart of this issue, and serves as the tragic counterbalance to Captain Wonder from last issue. Where Cap had a wonderful home life, and returned to find that he had lost it all, we learn that Mister E was not the best father, and was willing to desert his true self to become what he wanted to be. He also has to deal with this as he re-meets the wife and son he left sixty years prior. More kudos to Straczynski for showing more of the differences between the 40s and today. Last issue we learned the Dynamic Man was racist, and we saw how that affected him, and this issue we learn that Mister E was Jewish, and was ashamed of it, and tried to hide it amidst the abundant anti-Semitic feelings of the 40s.

As mentioned earlier, Black Widow is still as beautifully sad as she has been since waking in the present, and we find out that she collects souls for some as yet unnamed demon. While this is likely the source of her depression, I’m hoping we may get a look into what prompted her to make a deal with a devil, and maybe (probably the romantic in me) I hope we see Phantom Reporter heroically helping her to get out of this servitude.

We get evidence in this issue that Laughing Mask may not be completely together in his head, as he talks about the good old days to Electro (still not functioning), right before he goes off to do something that prompts much laughing on his part. Once again, I believe we will see exactly what he does next issue.

Blue Blade and Dynamic Man seem to be the ones who love the present the most. Blue Blade is in contact with an agent, and can’t wait to be famous for what he is, a man from the past, and a hero. Dynamic Man seems to be only in the here and now, with no care for the past, and no thought for his future. He seems to only want to be a superhero. Is this nobility, or insanity on his part? Time will tell…..

So once again, we get great writing and characterization from Straczynski. Some people may complain that there has been no action yet, and that it has been focused completely on the characters. One, the characters are so darned interesting, and so well written, that I enjoy reading about them. Two, with the mini cliffhangers with Fiery Mask and Laughing Mask, I don’t think we’ll have to wait much longer for some action…..

Please leave comments!

-LOTRKing

Review of The Twelve 2 (4 stars) February 10, 2008

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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Well, I have to admit, I was wrong; Blue Blade is dead. But I was also right: Phantom Reporter did not shoot him, nor did anyone else I think. The only blood seems to be dripping from his mouth, indicating poison, perhaps? Certainly not indicating being shot, but that mystery will have to wait for another issue, as we return to the present…

I have to admit, I love Straczynski’s dialogue; his is probably the best in the business. Each little word bubble gives us a great insight into each character, and this scene also gives us a humorous look of how men (and woman) of the 40s react to today. I especially loved the “jetpack” comment, and I want to know that too! Where is my jetpack? 😉 Also, in this scene Claire acts fairly suspicious and gloomy, and hints are made that Phantom Reporter and Claire might get together (of course the main character would get the girl, who didn’t see that coming?)

We then get a look at The Twelve’s new house (call me crazy, but does anyone think that the exterior looks kind of like Avengers Mansion?) and we get an ominous little speech from Dynamic Man. Anyone else think DM had an evil look on his face in the close up? DM gets my vote for the one to turn against his own. (And while we are on the topic of predictions, I also think that Laughing Mask may not entirely be mentally stable, and will be the first to crack).

Following this, we get an exceedingly sad scene in the graveyard with Captain Wonder. Surely, all of the Twelve have friends and family that they miss, but no one seems to have lost more than Cap. While some may see his depression as a harbinger of him snapping mentally, I think it will be what will give him strength; I think we will see a lot of nobility from Cap before this series is over. To help break the somber tone of the book: enter Electro! OK, so we get the point that we should find this robot to be extremely creepy, now I just can’t wait to see what crazy things will ensue from his presence, maybe next issue…

We then see a bit of Dynamic Man in action, and the presenting of a problem that I completely forgot that these heroes may have to deal with: racism. I completely forgot that the 40s were a much more racist age, I mean, I knew it, but I guess I didn’t think about it. It will be interesting to see how this will play out, and what other characters besides DM are racist. I also take DM’s racism as another sign that he may not have the best intentions at heart.

After this, we get a brief scene with Claire talking to ….. who? First off, kudos to Weston for making this demon character, whoever he/she/it may be, look really old school, his art here and throughout the book is definitely keeping with the spirit of making this seem very much from the Golden Age, while retaining a modern flavor. After this, we are presented the second character we should have pity for: Rockman. Is he insane? Or is he really what he claims to be? Either way, you can’t help echo Phantom Reporter’s sentiments for the guy.

Overall, a great issue, this is a series that I highly recommend, a perfect way for comic readers to be exposed to Golden Age type stories, while still remaining in the modern age of comics that we all know and love. This series is also great for comics noobs because it requires virtually no knowledge (so far at least) of previous Marvel continuity. For that very reason, this also makes this a great read for mainly or only DCers (I’m told that they apparently exist). So in short: Read this series! It gives you a great appreciation for comic history! Great for any comic reader who wants to visit comics when they were in their infant form, and for those who want a taste of something fresh in their modern day comics! (Now that I’m done sounding like an infomercial host, I’ll move on to my ending…)

Check back next week for reviews of Fantastic Four 554, Daredevil 104, and New Avengers 38!

And please leave comments!

-LOTRKing

Review of The Twelve 1 (4 stars) January 12, 2008

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Overall rating: (4 out of 5 stars)

This was a pretty darn good issue, especially for the being the first in a series, and the first to feature these characters in over sixty years. The art was great, it was very old-school looking, which of course fit the theme and tone of the book.

The story itself was also quite good, and it definitely had that “old-school 40s feel,” especially with the Phantom Reporter’s narration, it kind of sounded like one of those “private eye” narrations that are so overdone in comedies, but it actually sounded good this time. The introductions of the various characters were short enough not to take up to much of the story, but long enough for us to get a feel of who they are. One thing I’m wondering about the intros, what is the deal with Electro? P.R. mentioned more than once that he was creeped-out by the robot, and twice throughout the issue, we have single panels that feature only the offline robot. Obviously, Electro will reboot at some point in time, (there is no point in him being in this series otherwise), but what trouble we he bring when this happens? Who will be controlling him? Time will tell I suppose… Another character I wonder about is Rockman, we are quickly told that he may not be completely “together” and that his “civilization” might not exist, but what if it does? Might he be part of the group of underdwellers that are later taken over by Mole Man?

Moving on to the present, I have to completely agree with the general, reviving these heroes is one of the best ways to put some new blood (or would that be old blood?) into the superhero community. From a story point of view, this is going to be really interesting, as we practically get to see a “Captain America” situation all over again, only with twelve people this time, and written in the modern day, not the sixties. That alone will promise to make this a very good series. Just a quick insert, I loved the quick comedic scene with “I’ve never seen you without your mask before,” followed by P.R. using a makeshift napkin mask. That really felt like something that could have come straight out of a 40s comic book.

My comment on the ending: Never fear Blue Blade fans! (If there are any). He is not dead! Don’t believe me? Take a close look at the final page, and you will see that two very important things are definitely missing. One, examine the Blue Blade’s clothing very closely. Do you see any bullet holes anywhere? Two, examine the ground surrounding him, do you see any blood anywhere? I thought not. No bullet hole, no blood, ergo, not dead, or at least, not shot anyway. If he is dead, it wasn’t from P.R.’s gun, or any gun for that matter.

Check back next week for reviews of Thor 2, Amazing Spider-Man 547, Daredevil Annual 2007, and (hopefully) Mighty Avengers 7!

-LOTRKing