December 22, 2008

Holiday break reviews

I haven't consumed these all over the holiday break, but I'm reviewing them now anyway...mostly so I can take the stack back to the library and all...let's start with the comics...

Fantastic Four: The Beginning of the End - I usually stick to the Ultimate FF when I do my reading, but every now and again a cover piques my interest. Doctor Doom in full on evil genius mode on the cover, hand in maniacal beckoning pose drew me in.

This volume has two story arcs, the first of which is the more entertaining. We open with Doom returning from forty years in the future with Namor and Black Panther as his witnesses to stop Reed Richards from making a decision that is about to destroy the Earth. Distrust and fighting ensue, and then we find out that Doom hasn't been quite truthful - because the future FF come back to stop the future Doom from stopping the present Richards. Time paradoxes and fighting and discussing ensue. In the end, Richards' post-Civil War thoughtfulness hatches a new plan, the cryptically named "Plan 101".

The tale's a fun bit of old-school comic storytelling with big action scenes, time travel, and a maniacal bad guy. It's good times. The second tale isn't as much fun, but it's not a bad one, showing the other side of the FF team, the family, the always-there-for-each-other group.

Worth checking out and reading through...

Superman: The Third Kryptonian - Last son of Krypton.

Last one...

No more...

Well, except for the ones in the phantom zone - we met them in the recently-published Last Son.

And except for Supergirl - who came back a couple of years ago in Superman/Batman.

Or the ones in Kandor - but they're shrunken and tucked away somewhere in a bottle. (At least they are until the upcoming restoration of Kandor storyline/crossover.)

And now except for The Third Kryptonian who's been living on Earth but hiding from Superman and the bounty hunter looking to kill all Kryptonians.

I dig the relationships between Supes, Lois, and Chris - their adoptive and sadly temporary Kryptonian son - and that plays a large part in this arc, but I had no interest in the revelation of another Kryptonian hanging out on Earth and using Superman as cover in case the bad guy showed up.

The artwork seemed sloppy and was far too cartoonish for my tastes, and the two single issues that close the book - focusing on the relationships between Supes and Jonathon Kent (who looks to have de-aged about twenty years between the two issues) felt forced and flat to me.

Leave this one in the dustbin, folks.

There are dissenting opinions, however...and I agree with one aspect of Collected Edition's review - I like the bringing together of all the Superman titles into a single direction. I just didn't care for this story arc.

JSA Presents: Green Lantern - Three stories are collected here in a single volume, and as far as I ca tell, there isn't a single thread holding the three stories together - two from the JSA Classified and one from a stand-alone Brightest Day, Blackest Night single issue.

The initial story - Brightest Day, Blackest Night - is far and away the find here as it revisits some of Alan Scott's early days as Green Lantern - bringing together a fairly well all of the tropes from the Green Lantern (JSA-era) mythos. It's a fairly standard GL fights Nazi spy/scientists in the swamp where Solomon Grundy was born story. There's nothing new here and probably a bit more than there should be as story has more than enough characters for an ongoing series rather than just a quick one shot - the JSA pops in for a scene th en pops right back out as does olde GL sidekick Doby Dickles.

But the artwork is a revelation - painted by John K Snyder. The painted pages are gorgeous, almost possessed with a glow and light whenever Snyder bring GL into the frame, and the impressionistic style lends the right nostalgic note to the images of Green Lantern and his cast.

The second tale - from JSA Classified #25 - sees a more modern Green Lantern - the same character decades past the previous tale's early days - forced to bring an old adversary out of retirement at the insistence of a governmental agency's (S.H.A.D.E. - in a SHIELD pastiche) need to explain how their recovered weapon got stolen.

The tone of the artwork is drastically darker, showing a GL who is a lot more experienced, darker, almost jaded, who finds himself backed into a corner and forced to go back on a promise that he made years before. The balance with the lead-off tale is almost shocking but even more effective and with wonderfully matched artwork.

The third story is - in contrast to the artwork from the first two and the story from the second - bland. The two-parter from JSA Classified #32 & 33 is standard, unspectacular fare. It's a standard, lame tale of yet another Vandal Savage plot to take over the world.

Look at the first the second...and just close the book before the third...

DMZ: The hidden War - DMZ's fifth collection brings together six issues, each of which focuses on one of the characters that we've met through the series's run. This collection shifts the focus from Mattie, the embedded reporter and main character of the series, to the people living around him whose lives have been thoroughly thrown into disarray with the ongoing civil war.

This collection would make for an excellent jumping on point for anyone who hasn't been reading DMZ since the beginning as little background is needed and each story provides a quick synopsis of how these characters relate to Mattie's world. Each story is self-contained and allows us a glimpse into the street level - and below in some cases - lives in the DMZ.

Nothing in this volume dissuades me from saying that this is one of the best comic series around and one that every comic reader should be reading.

Get it...start from the beginning or from here...but read it...

For Your Consideration - Christopher Guest's schtick - the sketchily outlined, largely ad-libbed mockumentary - has run its course.

This is Spinal Tap was absolute genius.

Waiting for Guffman was funny.

Best in Show was the high point.

Mighty Wind was cute but not lesser.

For Your Consideration is boring.

It's a series of unfunny jokes from actors about actors and movie making in general.

This is a film made only for the people making the film, and I'm guessing they found it hilarious.

I didn't.

Fables: War and Pieces - If DMZ isn't the finest ongoing series in comics, Fables just might be, and here we get the culmination of everything that the series has been building toward for the past half dozen years: WAR.

The series began with an enclave of refugees living helplessly and scared in New York, driven away from The Homelands by The Adversary in whose frightful shadow they continued to live even though they were a world away from him. As the series has moved forward, the tone of those refugees has shifted from helplessness to war-ready as they have spent the past few volumes preparing for an invasion of The Homelands - making alliances with the Baghdad Fables, training their people at military camps around the US, and letting Flycatcher mount the first serious insurrection into The Homelands with his kingdom of Haven.

In this arc, however, they reveal all of their preparations and launch their three-pronged attack on The Adversary/Emperor's forces via modern, conventional (read: guns) and magical attacks. We get two issues of final preparations as Boy Blue offers to ferry any Fable from The Farm to Haven and reveals his feelings to Rose Red and then Cinderella reveals her modern nature as super spy (with hundreds of years of training and preparation, as she points out) recovering a package of high importance for the Fables of Fabletown.

Then, in the third issue, the war begins in earnest. There are initial forays and guerrilla attacks as well as deeply laid secret plans, and then there are the actual battles. Weirdly, the battles themselves are the least interesting parts of the story. After seventy issues of build up, the final ease with which the Fables take back The Homelands - for which they have, admittedly laid amazingly intricate plans - was a bit disappointing. On a monthly read, this war might have been more drawn out, more dramatic, but in a collected format, the quickness - three issues and very few setbacks for the Fables side - seemed abrupt and a bit disappointing.

The wrap up of this arc, however, in which the Fables realize that they have destroyed the only authority in their homelands and now have to take the place of that authority leaves them - and the author - with an entirely new list of challenges, ones that may shift the focus of this analogous story from Israel to Iraq.

Check these reviews if you want to know more...

Watching the Watchmen - It was in my hands at the library before I even registered what it was. New Watchmen Book?!?! - grab it!!!

Turns out there was no reason to grab it.

It's a book of a lot - a huge amount - a massive amount - of the original artwork for the series as well as about ten pages of text about the process of making Watchmen from Dave Gibbons and Chip Kidd (the artist and colorist of the original series). Alan Moore - notoriously on unfriendly terms with DC - doesn't offer anything new, and neither Gibbons's or Kidd's remembrances add much of anything to the enjoyment of the series itself.

Treat this like you would a director's commentary track on a DVD. If you enjoy those and want to know every bit of Watchmen-related minutia, you'll enjoy this.

I found it boring.

More reviews another day, folks...gotta get this one posted...


Mr. Echt said...

Most of the Watchmen merchandise looks very shoddy, but it's surprising that a book by Dave Gibbons would be that unremarkable.

PHSChemGuy said...

It's Gibbons's original artwork. For me, that's boring. For a lot of people, it may be like manna from heaven.