A box of Cheeze Makes for a Fun Weekend

Last week, I placed a “hefty” order with Amazon.com.  I would venture to say that 90% of was pure “cheeze” entertainment.  Movies and TV shows on DVD, that while never going to win any awards (at least none to be proud of!), were staples of Staurday and Sunday afternoon fare back in the day.  Kids today are spoiled with the various movie channels, genre specific channels, and the advent of home videos that the joy that many of us felt, lounging in front of the TV (it was analog-RIP, and we only had the over the air channels), on a weekend afternoon, watching absolutely rotten movies and TV shows.  Heck, ABC even had Friday Night Movies as a regular feature.  But all that has been consigned to the dust bins of history, and the nostalgia of us that remember.

So, as I said, I placed an order with Amazon, dropping a small wad on some of those cheezey movies and shows of my youth.  OK, so not all of it was cheeze.  I did get the first season of NCIS, so I’ll exclude that from this commentary.  But the rest of it was pure Saturday morning and afternoon fare.  Some it was “retro,” dating to the early to mid 1970’s, a bit from the 80’s, and a bit that is “modern.”

For “conniseurs” of such fare, I highly reccomend looking for the “Midnight Movies Double Features.”  I picked up two of these, at a very reasonable price ($8-$9 each).  The first was one I had wanted for a long time.  I kept passing it over for quite a while, but since I could not find it locally anymore, I broke down and ordered it through Amazon.  This is the “Midnight Movies Double Feature” of “The Land that Time Forgot,” and “The People that Time Forgot.”

I first saw these on a Saturday afternoon, probably sometime around 1979 or 1980.  I think local channel WRGB 6 showed them.  “Land” is based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs story.  In short, it’s about the survivors of a torpedoed merchant ship who are picked up by a German U-Boat in 1916, and find themselves on an island where evolution works in a very different fashion.  The big star of the movie is Doug McClure.  Fans of the Simpsons may find the name tantalizingly familiar, and with good reason.  The Simpson’s character “Troy McClure” is a combination of Doug McClure and Troy Donoghue, two “heart throbs” of the late 1960’s early 1970’s. Fans of “classic” Dr.Who will notice one Anthony Ainley, aka The Master, in this movie as well.

This is far form Academy Award winning film making.  And that’s a good thing.  It’s a fun action adventure movie.  It doesn’t try to be anything other that faithful to the original source material.  The same can be said for the sequel, “The People That Time Forgot.”  The sequel does have a late in the film appearance of McClure, but the main star is Patrick Wayne (son of John Wayne) and Sarah Douglass (later to appear as the evil queen in Conan the Destroyer).  Both films can be considred “period pieces,” given that the original ERB stories were written at the end of WW1, and reflect that era wonderfully.

The other “Midnight Double Feature” I picked up has “War Gods of the Deep” and “At the Earth’s Core.”  “At the Earth’s Core” is another Doug McClure vehicle, this one also having Peter Cushing and Catherine Munro.  This is another movie based on an Edgar Rice Burrough’s story.  It’s a straight forward Victorian science fiction story, much like many of ERB’s contemporaries like Jules Verne.  Simple story line is a Victorian era scientist and his assistant build a giant drilling machine and travel to a strange land beneath the Earth’s crust.  Just like any of the various versions of “Jouney to the Center of the Earth,” it has the same basic premise, and a few anachronisms.  Even so, it’s another fun bit of esacpism, a good way to kill a couple of hours without feeling cheated.

“War Gods of the Deep” is a Vincent Price movie.  Unlike the previous three films, this one is loosely based on a poem by Edgar Allen Poe (City in the Sea).  It is also known as “The City Under the Sea” and “The City in the Sea.”  The film also features Tab Hunter, another one of those pretty boy actors of the “beach bingo” era.  The film has a slight Lovecraftian over tone, with an under water city, and merman type slaves.  Anyone who has played the video game “Bioshock” will see more than a passing resemblance to many of the settings and characters.  In many ways, this is a fairly typical Vincent Price piece.  Price plays a tyrannical, megalomaniacal ruler of the under water city, whose own ambitions eventually lead to his downfall.

What needs to be remembered in all four of these films is when they were made.  The most recent is from 1976, 33 years ago now (ouch!).  So one must keep that in mind when viewing, as the special effects and such are definitively dated.  However, once you get beyond that (which is a problem for many younger viewers), one will find some find performances, excellent cinematography, and quality writing.  If you are a fan of action adventure movies, and not just the shooting and explosion packed films made since the 80’s, then definitely drop the $15-$20 for these two double feature movie packs.

This brings me up to a staple of Saturday morning viewing in the mid-70’s, Land of the Lost.  Oh this is terrible TV is so many ways, yet is thoroughly enjoyable none the less.  Yes, I know, the effects are horrible, the green screen work is lousy, and all too apparent.  The stop motion animation is not even up to Ray Harryhousen standards.  The acting is B-List at best, and dinner theater at worst.  Yet the actual stories, the writing is rather good.  It’s a shame to a degree that such visions were never properly realized on screen.

Anyone who grew up in the 70’s will remember this series, as long as they had access to a TV on a Saturday morning.  Park Ranger Rick Marshall and his daughter Holly, and son Will are trapped in another dimension, brought there while rafting.  The show lasted three seasons, and a total of 43 episodes.  The show wandered from prehistoric creatures (all those dinosaurs), to dimensional time travelling (Enik, The Marshalls, and various “guests”), to high end Science Fiction (the pylons, weather control, etc).  This was another creation of Sid and Marty Krofft, also known for creating HR Puffnstuff.

OK, I fully and freely admit that I got this one purely for nostalgia’s sake.  So far I’ve watched the first disc of season 1.  It’s both as bad, and as wonderful as I remember it being.  Perhaps that’s just the rose colored glasses of youthful memories coloring my perceptions, but what the heck.  If anything, I appreciate the writing far more than I ever did as a child.  The effects are truly, painfully dated, and on the cheap.  Yet is has this wonderful Dr.Who quality to it, though I must say that Dr.Who and the BBC did it all better, and on a tighter budget.  Even so, I found it quite relaxing to lie on the couch  and watch this.

I did not however, get the lunch box set.  I just got the regular boxed set of all three seasons.  I just couldn’t justify the extra cash for the lunch box edition.  Not to mention I’d have no place to put it.  😉  I’m gathering that these sets have been released to coincide with the motion picture version about to come out.  Previously, the seasons had been available, but only as individual sets.  I do not plan on going to see the movie version.  Why?  One, it’s a Will Ferrell movie.  I don’t care for anything in which he stars.  They tend to be terribly unfunny.  Ferrell is best as a supporting actor, not a lead.  Second, I just can’t get past the idea of Holly getting the hots for Rick.  Eeeewwwww.  I don’t care if in the movie she’s not his daughter but an admirer.  I have been forever poisoned by the original series characters, so all I can see is an incestuous relationship, even if it isn’t.

I also found a great deal on all three seasons of Tripping the Rift.  This animated series had a good run on the SciFi channel on cable a few years back.  This humorous animated series follows the crew of the Jupiter 42 on its escapades across the universe.  They go from one one misadventure to another.  This is a fairly humorous send up of just about every SciFi show ever made.  Obviously swipes at Star Trek and Star Wars abound, along with far more subtle, and not so subtle references to many other SciFi classics and not so classics.

This is definitely an adult oriented series.  Between the language and overt sexual references and banter, and graphic, though cartoon violence, this cannot be reccomended for anyone under the age of 14.  Even so, I still find this to be a fun romp through space.  It is witty and incisive in its writing, and in the voice acting,  It’s pretty much all CGI, and that is very clear.  But it works extremely well for this series.  Dorph Bobo alone is worth the price of admission.

So, I should be more than set for entertainment for a while.

Wii Game Review- The Force Unleashed **UPDATED**

It’s been a long time since I bought and played a Star Wars game.  The last one I bought and played I think was Force Commander, which was mediocre.  I was hemming and hawing over getting this game.  I wanted something new to play, but was hesitant to take the plunge.  As of right now, I’m glad I did.

I’ve got about 5 hours of game play in at the moment.  So far, things have been pretty good, and highly entertaining.  The story is fairly simple, and pure Star Wars.  You play as Darth Vader’s “secret apprentice,” tasked with aiding Vader in his attempt to over throw the Emperor.  The initial story arc has you running errands for Vader (eliminating troublesome rogue Jedi), and facing several trials.  Star Wars fans, or even just those familiar with the movies, will recognize many of the locations, from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant to Kashyyk, and several movie characters make appearances (Shaak-Ti, Bail Organa, and of course Vader and the Emperor). 

Now, I’m quite sure that the game is more visually stunning on the PS3 or on a XBox, but I doubt it has quite the same game play.  On the Wii, the game is of average graphic quality.  It’s solid, but definitely not “next gen.”  Even so, it is more than adequate for the game.  But you shouldn’t be getting this game on the Wii for the graphics.

The best reason to get The Force Unleahed on the Wii is for the game play.  I had my doubts and worries about how well the Wiimote and nunchuk would work with the game.  I shouldn’t have worried.  This game works etremely well with the Wiimote and nunchuk set up, and is probably better for game play than a PS3 or Xbox controller.  You move using the joystick on the nunchuk, and use the Wiimote for swinging your lightsaber.  Yes, you do need to swing the Wiimote like you would a sword.  Be warned, this can get very tiring on your arm, especially when surrounded by 15-20 stormtroopers.

Force powers are also better suited IMO to the Wiimote-nunchuk set up.  Some powers, like Force Push, rely on you “pushing” the Wiimote or the nunchuk forward.  This would be very much unlike the set up on a PS3 or Xbox controller, where all your actions, combat or force powers, would just be a series of button mashes.  Even “complex” powers are not that difficult to execute, as you use at most 2 buttons and some sort of movement with the controller set up.  If anything, with the Wiimote, many of these will seem “natural,” as the use of a button in combination with a movement makes a degree of “sense.” 

The game has no levels per se.  Instead, you find “power ups” that will increase your force and health bars.  Higher levels of force powers are unlocked as you progress in the game, as are skills like “blaster fire blocking.”  As you eliminate enemies, you gain advancement points, which can be spent to upgrade your force powers to higher levels.  You also can’t die in game.  Or at least not that  I’ve found.  If you get “killed,” you get resurrected and lose a percentage of your accumalted advancement points.  Some enemies will be respawned as well, or if in a boss fight, the boss will regain some of it’s lost health. 

On teh whole, this is not a “instant classic” of a game.  But when it comes to Jedi based games, this one is hard to beat, especially on the Wii.  The lightsabre fights alone are fun with the Wiimote, swing madly and cursing your opponent.  The “finishing moves” that can be triggered in Boss fights are at times extremely enjoyable to watch, once triggered, such as crushing an AT-ST with the force into a ball of scrap.  Combine this with the very easy and natural way of activating force powers, and this becomes very addictive very fast.  The sections between boss fights can get a bit tedious and repetetive, but so far, the boss fights have more than made up for it (if I never see another Rancor again, I will be very happy).   There is a multiplayer (2 player IIRC), Duel Mode, but I have yet to do anything with that.  Other than having unlocked several characters for use with Duel Mode, I’m unsure how it works.

8/10

**UPDATE**

I’ve now finished the game.  Well, at least the first time through.  It only took about 10-11 hours to complete.  That was a bit disappointing, given how engaging the story line was, and how much fun it was to play.  Even so, I am playing through the game again, this time with all the costumes and force powers I’ve unlocked.  This is making all those early missions (so far) much easier.  And there is something entertaining about rampaging through levels as a super powerful Jedi.

Blu-Ray Movies

Well, I now have 14 Blu-ray movies.  A variety of current and past releases.  Since getting my PS3, and purchasaing movies on Blu-ray, it has become apparent that some movies definitely benefit from the blu-ray treatment, while others gain nothing, or in a few cases, lose something.

So let’s take a movie by movie review of what I’ve got so far…

The Fifth Element:  This one should be the poster child for Blu-Ray.  I saw this in the theatres when it came out.  I bought it on DVD.  I got it on Blu-Ray for Christmas.  As my brother said, “It looks better on Blu-Ray than it did in the theatre.”  And I have to agree.  Pop this one in on a Blu-Ray player, with a surround sound system, on a good sized HDTV, and you will see what we mean.  The effects are supremely sharp, and some of the flight scenes will induce a sense of motion sickness if you’re prone to it.  This is a must have for anyone with a Blu-Ray player and HDTV.

Blazing Saddles:  This Mel Brooks classic is one of those movies that just doesn’t get much from being on Blu-Ray.  Perhpas in part because the original print is not all that, the video portion isn’t any sharper or more defined.  The sound is improved over standard DVD though, but this is not a rush out and get movie for Blu-Ray.  The one aspect worth having is the specials, including the pilot episode of the still born TV series.

Blade Runner (5 disc collection):  This is another candidate for being a Blu-Ray poster child.  Ridley Scott’s film-noir SciFi masterpiece does benefit from being on Blu-Ray, especially his “final cut” version.  The earlier prints don’t gain all that much, from the theatrical version to the later edits, but are improved over the DVD versions, and light years over the now ancient VHS version.  The Final Cut is truly impressive, as Ridley Scott went back over the movie once again, and enhanced not only the print quality, but the effects, and the sound has been reworked.  No self respecting Blu-Ray owner should be with out this one.

Kingdom of Heaven:  Another entry from Ridley Scott.  While not on a par with Blade Runner (or Alien), this is a solid movie, and does gain from being on Blu-Ray.  Due to the movie having a lot of dark settings, a good amount of detail is lost on standard format.  The Blu-Ray format, combined with an HDTV, brings out all the glorious details of this historical drama.  Not one for the squeamish, the blood spatter in the fight scenes is very graphic, it’s amazing exactly how much detail is captured.  If you add in surround sound, you get a very immersive experience.

Justice League: The New Frontier:  Animated features, especially those done in “traditional,” that is non-cgi animation, could be problematic on Blu-Ray.  Older titles, just about anything not made since 2000, may actually “degrade” in Blu-Ray, as the lack of detail in the animation will show more readily in this format.  That said, new releases like New Frontier, done with current animation techniques lose nothing.  The real benefit to be had here will be in the Blu-Ray disc’s increased capacity, which can be filled up with all sorts of special features.

30 Days of Night:  Much like “Kingdom of Heaven,” it’s all about the details.  As this movie is very dark, standard definition DVD’s just can’t bring out all the details that abound in this one.  This was a very refreshing vampire movie, where the vampires are monsters, and not some emo-Eurotrash.  Blu-Ray brings out the monstrous appearances of the vampires, and the setting details are amazing.  As ana example, look at the details of the attic where the survivors hide.

Spiderman 3:  This was the first movie we got on Blu-Ray.  It was simply incredible, and hooked me on the Blu-Ray format.  Just the opening credits alone on this one are worth watching in Blu-Ray.  The effects are definitely sharper in Blu-Ray, from the Sandman’s transformation to the Venom suit.  A definite must buy for Blu-Ray owners.

Pirates of the Carribean 3: At World’s End:  Just about any current release movie with lots of CGI effects greatly benefit on Blu-Ray.  Pirates is no different.  Every thing is sharper, with all the details coming through.  This really shines through in scenes where the ambient lighting is dark, like caves and cabins.  If you like this series, then this should be on your get list, along with the first two.

The Brother’s Grimm:  We got this one on a whim, having not previously seen it.  Over all it’s not bad, and has a lot that gets enhanced from being on Blu-Ray.  This one has a lot of CGI special effects, that come through in very impressive fashion in HD format.  If you want to see what modern CGI effects can achieve, and not have to pay too close attention to the movie, then this is a good candidate.  If you can get it for $20 or less, it’s worth while.

Superman-The Movie:  I thought this one would be better on Blu-ray than on standard defintion.  I was wrong.  If anything, being on Blu-Ray makes this one seem dated.  It’s still a good movie, but the effects look lesser with enhanced resolution.  Fans are better served by watching the standard DVD version on an upconverting DVD player.

Goodfellas:  Really, there wasn’t much to be enhanced here.  Yet somehow, the over all effect is improved.  I can’t put any specifics as to why though.  Yes, the picture is sharper, the sound is improved, but it doesn’t show through.  Not like the movies with special effects.  Comparing this to the regular DVD edition, and you can see improvement, moticable improvement.  But this is not a showcase title.  Even so, worth getting if you like it.  You will not be disappointed.

The Departed:  This is one of the best movies I have seen in a very long while.  It’s Scorcese’s best since perhaps “Taxi Driver.”  Again, it’s in the details where Blu-Ray improves things.  All the little things that get lost in lesser formats are easily seen in Blu-Ray, from Matt Damon’s aprtment to the tenements, to Jack Nicholson’s hide outs.  While the movie itself blew me away, watching this in Blu-Ray really blew me away. 

Dragonball Z-Broly:  I haven’t watched this one.  But my wife and duaghter have.  They were suitably impressed with it over standard DVD, even in upconvert players.  From what I’ve been told, the biggest thing was getting used to the surround sound format, not present on the standard DVD releases.  The other advantage here is that both movies fit on 1 disc, as opposed to two regular DVDs.

Black Hawk Down:  Continuing with my mini Ridley Scott film fest (by accident I assure you), comes a more recent entry.  Based on the actual events that happened in Somalia, this one is a must see IMO.  The cast is terrific (Josh Hartnett, Orlando Bloom, Tom Sizemore, Ewan Macgreggor), the sets spectacular, the cinematography superb, sound, effects, it all adds up.  Blu-Ray really brings it all together in a way that surpasses the standard DVD release.  Pop this one in, turn on the surround sound, and turn off the lights.  It will be one heck of a ride.

I’m now looking forward to seeing several other things on Blu-Ray.  The Star Wars movies top the list of course.  Star Trek is not far behind, more so with the reworked special effects on the original series, and the movies.  I’d love see to the old Disney SciFi film “The Black Hole” on Blu-Ray.  I have it on regular DVD, and it does not look dated at all.  A reork of it for Blu-Ray would be awesome.  Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy should also be impressive in Blu-Ray.  The wealth of details to be seen should become outstanding on Blu-ray.  Recent releases such as “Iron Man” are also going to be “must haves” for me on Blu-Ray.

 

New Comics Review (10-30-07)

That time once again true believers!  A decent number of issues this time around, plus  a couple of trades.  And as usual, just a bit behind the curve…

Countdown #28, 27: This series has a bit more of a focus since Paul Dini assumed chief writing duties.  We get a bit of a tour with Jimmy Olsen going bonkers, the reappearance of the junior reporters, and his recruitment to help track down the killer of the New Gods.  Plus a bit of a refresher for the Ray Palmer search team in Universe 8.  Back ups on the origins of Trickster, Pied Piper, and Two Face. 

Green Lantern Corps #17:  The Sinestro War hits Earth.  With the Lanterns now having the ability to use lethal force, the tide turns against the Sinestro Corps.  The Antimonitor makes a move, and there’s a new Ion in town.  The writings of Dave Gibbons on this title, and Geoff Johns on the regular GL title, are producing one of the best story arc seen in any title from any publisher in a long time.

Tales of the Sinestro Corps- Superman-Prime:  Another one shot tie in to the Sinestro Corps War.  Like the previous one shots, this more about back story recap than it is “new” material.  Still, this one does explain a few oddities that have arisen, such as why is Superman/Superboy Prime wearing armor, and who and when and how he was broken out of his red sun jail.  While solidly written by Geoff Johns, and with the usual high quality art work, this one is far from a necessity.  More casual readers may want to wait for the inevitable TBP of these issues.

Green Arrow-Year One #6:  It’s finally over.  As much as I like Ollie Queen, this series went on a but too long.  What they spent six issues covering, could have been done in 4 or 5, without missing out on anything.  While a solid updated retelling of GA’s origin, the series really didn’t add much of anything to the mythos of Green Arrow.  If you missed out on the earlier issues, don’t rush out to get them.  Wait for the TBP.

Justice League of America #14:  Dwayne McDuffie’s run continues as the JLA fall prey to Luthor’s Injustice League.  There are some really great moments in this issue, but first time readers may find themselves a bit lost.  So far I’m enjoying the ride that McDuffie is taking us on, as it has some refreshing villain moments.  If you do get this, make sure you get issue #13, and the JLA Wedding Special as well, so you have the complete begining of the story.

The Flash #233:  More fun and games with the Wild West family.  I’m not sure where Mark Waid is going with this story.  There’s something still that’s not being said, even after an “intervention” by the JLA (with an almost obligatory cheap-shot at Batman).  Though I’d prefer to have Barry Allen back as the Flash, I can settle for Wally West, and Mark Waid writing it.

Brave and the Bold #7:  Wonder Woman and Power Girl “team up” for this issue.  This one is a bit different for a BnB issue, in that it involves a lot of character interaction, as opposed to just plain old action.  The Book of Destiny and the Challengers of the Unknown make an appearance, which seems like it will be a regular ongoing aspect of the title.  Mark Waid and George Perez have put together an interesting tale, even if it is one many fans won’t like, mostly because of the talkitiveness of the two main characters.

Gotham Underground #1:  First issue of a nine issue miniseries.  This series has some potential, but this first issue is a bit slow IMO.  Covering the struggle for control of Gotham’s mafia families, the series could become a fun and wild ride through the underbelly of Batman’s home town.  Bat’s does appear in his Matches Malone cover, but acts more as the marrator/observer of the events in the story.  J. Calafiore does some incredible art here, and writer Frank Tieri could make a serious splash if the story realizes its potential.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #2:  The Jonah Hex team of Palmiotti and Gray turn their attentions to a C-List super team in this 8 issue miniseries.  It’s obvious that they want to make a statement with this issue, in the way they handle Stormy Knight (aka Phantom Lady), and her problems.  It’s not a bad job, but too obviously influenced by current events in Hollywood (Lohan, Spears, etc).  Had they been just a bit subtler, it could have been a truly atounding issue.  Instead it is “merely” very good.

Shadowpact #18:  With the team split between the “normal world” and the Shadowlands, each group is beset by problems.  Sturges and Derenick put together another fun issue, more so if you like your supers a bit more “off beat.”  Some entertaining references to be found in this issue, for those that know what they’re looking at. 

Checkmate #19:  Waller goes on the offensive, and all sorts of dirty laundry is about to get aired.  Greg Rucka does a solid job of scripting a cloak and dagger, covert ops super hero story.  This one is building fast to some sort of dramatic conclusion, one which will decide for ever the fate of Checkmate, and who will control it.

Foolkiller #1:  A new MAX miniseries from Marvel.  This one is not for the kids.  Heck, some of this isn’t even for adults.  Lan Media does an excellent job on the art, which at times manages to carry the story.  But the acripting of Gregg Hurwitz leaves me scratching my head.  I found much of this first issue to be terribly inconsistent, ranging from poignant to the gratuitous.  Some scenes and references, while sensible in terms of story, became over the top, too excessive for the needs or flow of the story.  It all becomes too much for the reader, and not in such a way that you would empathize with the protagonist, but just don’t want to read anymore.  Let’s see what happens with issue #2.

Avengers Classic #5:  Still a great read, even if it’s from 1964.  I should just copy and paste a few phrases from previous reviews I’ve done of this title, as it really doesn’t change much.  A back up story from Macon Blair and Jorge Lucas features Cap, Bucky, Thor, Bastogne, and a really big bad wolf. 

Wolverine Origins #18:  More memories of Logan and Cap in WW2.  While I enjoy Daniel Way’s scripts on this, Steve Dillon’s art just doesn’t work right for the story.  It gives it all too clean, and cartoony a feel, especially for what are some very serious scripts.  *RETCON ALERT*  OK, I must take exception to a bit of retcon in this issue.  There is one scene where Logan is talking to Sgt. Fury, and gives Fury the “idea of SHIELD.”  Codswallop I say!  Nick Fury was brought into SHIELD from the CIA after SHIELD was formed, to be its director, as anyone who has read Strange Tales #135 can attest to.  Otherwise, it’s solid read.

Moon Knight #13:  Marc gets his vigilante’s liscense.  Not since the original series has anyone had quite as good a handle on the character of MK as Charlie Huston.  Not only does he nail the various psychoses of Marc Spector, but the impact of that on his closest associates.  What does distract me though is the art, which I find to be a bit too monochromatic at times, and too black washed at others.  I understand the need and want o have “gritty” art to match the story, but this is too much.  So much so that it becomes difficult to make out what is supposed to be happening in a given panel. 

Captain America #31:  Yes I’m still reading this, and no I still haven’t forgiven them for the cowardly assassination of Cap.  But what Brubaker is doing with the “side kicks,” Sharon Carter, Falcon, and Bucky is a very entertaining read.  And if you ever hear that these stories could only happen with Cap dead, it’s a lie.  Steve Epting’s art lends itself well to the subject matter, and enhances the over all story telling.  A worth while read still.

The Last Fantastic Four Story:  Stan Lee returns to scripting the Fantastic Four.  This one shot details the last adventire of the Fantastic Four as a team, at least on Earth.  Stan takes his intimate knowledge of the characters, and treats this story as it should be treated.  While a bit pricey for a single issue, the quality not only of the story, but of Romita jr’s art, makes it worth while to pick up.  In addition, there are several pages of initial script with edits by Tom Brevoort.  This was not a smart thing for Brevoort to do IMO.  The edits are less than inspiring, and at times seem to almost want to destroy the story.  The telling line is “Stan didn’t seem to have any major objections.”  Uh-huh, sure.  Depends on what you define as “major,” or if he paid any attention at all to what Stan said. 

Army>at<Love #8:  Still one of the better staire pieces out there.  But I think that writer Rock Veitch is starting to wander away from what made the previous issues such great reads.  While the story line is political in nature, it’s starting to become political.  It’s starying to get caught up in too much of the political shenanigans, and drifting away from the main hustle and flow of the initial story arc.  Even so, the scripts in conjunction with Gary Erskine’s art does craft a very entertaining read for adults (and adults only mind you!), that traverses a number of hot topics.

Lone Ranger #9:  I have read on some of the message boards that some people find this incarnation of the Lone Ranger to be “too dark.”  I don’t.  I find it to be more in tune with actual history, and gets away from the stereotypes, all while maintaining the core aspects of the characters.  If all you want is Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, you won’t be getting it anytime soon.  Along with Jonah Hex and Loveless, this is one of the best Western comics to found. 

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #21:  The end of the Arkanian story arc.  Since this series began, I have enjoyed it immensely.  More so probably because it takes place so far into the past of Star Wars, a past that has only been sketched out previously.  The scripts and the art just scream Star Wars to me, and I eagerly await each new issue.

Star Wars: Dark Times #6:  The other SW title I get on a regular basis.  Much like KOTOR, this series fills in previously blank gaps.  DT covers the period between Episodes III and IV.  Instead of focusing on “big names,” even those regular characters in the Dark Horse comics, we get to see relatively unknown characters become the protagonists.  Issue 6 starts a new story arc, focusing on a “new” Jedi master on the run.  Harrison and Ross create a very compelling story start, giving you enough satisfying action, and a good cliff hanger lead for the next issue.

DMZ #24:  Having completed several major story arc revolving around our intrepid reporter Matty, Brian Wood now takes us into the lives of some of the other characters in the Zone.  If ifnd this to be a good point at which to switch gears a bit, and give us a bit more insight into the “regular folks” that live in the DMZ that is NYC.  One of the best written comics out there, though may not appeal to those who only prefer super heroes.

Conan #45:  Kurt Busiek returns to script the story Siege at Venarium.  Second only to Roy Thomas when it comes to scripting Conan comics, Kurt Busiek does his usual masterful job with this issue.  While not a follow on to the “Rogues in the House” arc, it does fit in with the general themes presented so far.  This is a great starting point for new readers, as it begins a new story arc, and provides a background story of Conan.

I also picked up two TBPs as well.  First up is Cerebus: Church and State I.  Having finally finished reading High Society, I got the next installment.  I really had forgotten what great reads the Cerebus books are.  Probably because I get more of the jokes now.  Still, for what you get, and the quality you getm the $20-25 price tag is worth it.

I also picked up a TBP collection of Green Arrow/Black Canary stories.  This collection features a variety of writers, from Denny O’Neill, to Mike Grell, to Kevin Smith, to Alan Moore. Building on the recent wedding arc, this trade is aptly titled “For Better or Worse,” and naturally covers the various trials and tribulations beween GA and BC before Dinah finally said yes to Ollie. For fans who want a quick overview of thier troubled past, or those who missed out on it the first time, this is a worthy pick up.  Plus you get a good cross section of major DC writers from the past 30+ years.

New Comics Review (10-13-07)

Once again, two weeks have passed since my last sojourn to the Local Comic Shop (LCS).  Fall has finally arrived here in Upstate NY, witha cold rain earlier, and temperatures hovering in the low 40’s.  So here I sit, watching Arizona come back against Colorado, a hot cuppa by my side.  Let’s get to it!

*EDIT*  I missed three issues, which are tagged on at the end..

Countdown #30, 29:  We get the Palmer search party visiting Earth-15 and Earth-8, along with more fall out from the Wedding Crashers and the Flash Rogues.  Back up stories are the origins of General Zod and the Penguin.  Paul Dini (Duck Dodgers TV series, Batman) has taken over chief writing duties now, and while the pace is still a bit slow, is building up the ground work for the upcoming “Great Crisis.”  Kieth Giffen directs the art superbly.

The Search for Ray Palmer-Crime Society: More or less a summary of the life of The Jokester, a hero of Earth-3.  The Jokester, a heroic version of the Joker, is the father of Duela Dent, killed off by the Monitors a while back.  Not sure there was much point to this, but it’s still a nice bit of back story to this alternate Earth.  Sean McKeever could have done a better job of making the story relevant, more than just as back story.  Jamal Igle does solid pencils on this book.  Worth while only for completists or those unfamiliar with Earth-3 (like me).

Black Adam #3:  I really like what Peter Tomasi (writer) and Doug Mahnke (art) are doing with Teth-Adam.  This is one of the DCU’s “big guns” that is getting an in story revamp, a revamp with logical beginings, consequences, and endings.  Story wise, this one picks up the action a bit, and gets some more pieces in place.  The fight between Black Adam and Hawkman is worth while, more so with the banter back and forth.  A solid miniseries so far, and I eagerly await the next installment, more so after the end page of this issue.

Tales of the Sinestro Corps-Cyborg Superman:  Much like the Parallax one shot before, this is primarily for those who aren’t familiar with Hank Henshaw.  The summary is good, but there aren’t any real revelations to be found.  The last 7 pages are what current readers will be interested in, as it fills in some small gaps in Sinestro’s invasion of Earth.  The art carries the slower moments of this issue, and Patrick Blaine deserves credit here.

Green Lantern Corps #16:  Sinestro War part 7.  The defense of Mogo continues, as the Guardians contemplate changes (already alluded to).  Some bits and pieces of the “prophecy of the drakest night” are leaked, but not enough to get a real handle on it.  Dave Gibbons has done an excellent job of giving depth and character to the non-Earth based Lanterns, and making them have importance.  The art of Patrick Gleason and Angel Unzuetta works well with the story line, but gets a bit inconsistent at times.  Still one of the best reads out there today.

Green Lantern #24:  Geoff Johns continues to amaze me.  Dove tailing off the end of GLC #16, Sinestro invades Earth.  All four of the Earth Lanterns appear, and take a page from Chuck Norris’ movie characters.  Ivan Reis’s art compliments John’s story telling nicely.  This is perhaps the best read out there, as I can’t think of any other title that carries me along like this one.

Green Arrow/Black Canary #1:  Well, following the fall out from the wedding, and more importantly, the wedding night, we have a conundrum.  Now, the basic twist was obvious, but not the second one.  I’m not sure Judd Winnick (writer) has a good grasp of the other DCU characters (particularly Hal Jordan), but he has done well with GA before.  Cliff Chiang’s art is good, not great, but I did enjoy the Golden/Silver Age homage spread on the first two pages.  This title may need a change of writers before too long, but the story itself intrigues me for now.

Booster Gold #3:  Guest appearance by Jonah Hex, and a couple of others.  Geoff Johns continues to make good with B-Lister Booster.  This is the most surpisingly good series to debut in a long time.  I’m not sure how well this series will carry on after the next crisis, but for now it’s a fun ride.

Suicide Squad #2:  Lt. Flag is trapped in Skartaris with Rustam, while Amanda Waller gets pissy about Gen. Eiling.  I’m both curious and dreading to see how John Ostrander handles the world of Skartaris.  I was a huge fan of “The Warlord” back in the day when Mike Grell was scripting it and doing a lot of the art.  What was done after he left was less than stellar IMO, and the recent try at a revamp just fell flat.  Still, it should be an interesting journey to see how Rick Flag gets brought back into continuity and how he will be changed.

Wonder Woman #13:  This issue is a tich inconsistent, and certainly a bit of an uneven read.  J.Torres’ script wanders a bit at times, and lacks a degree of cohesion making it seem slap dashed together.  Julian Lopez’s art works well for me, though he could do a bit better job on WW’s Diana Prince persona images.  New story arc should begin with issue 14, so I’m more than willing to see what Torres can do with a fresh start, rather than tying up a few more loose ends.

Simon Dark #1:  I’m not sure that this character is “ready for prime time.”  I feel that he’s better suited to a back up role in the Batman titles rather than his own series.  Steve Hiles does a solid job with the script, but he doesn’t have a whole lot to work with.  Scott Hampton’s art style lends itself very well to the subject matter, if a bit too dark for my tastes, as some details and impact get lost on the “grittyness.”  This is primarily a back story issue, with a bit of story set up, so I’ll get #2, just to see if it’s going anywhere.

Batman Confidential #10:  The conclusion of the origin of the Joker.  I know I’m in something of a minority that actually like this title, but it just appeals to me.  I like how Michael Green handles the characters, from the major players to the bystanders.  Denys Cowan’s art at times distracts me, as it often has an “unfinished” or “rough” look to it.  Now this may be due to John Floyd’s inks, but I suspect it’s Cowan mainly responsible.  Still a good read.

Jonah Hex #24:  I’ve said it before, but the team of Palmiotti and Gray do an excellent job with this title.  This is the “Special Halloween Issue,” with guest stars Bat Lash and El Diablo (with a cover date of December 07!).  While a bit of a deparure from the usual Jonah Hex fare, it’s still very much a Hex tale.  A great read for any fan of Westerns.

The Vinyl Underground #1:  I forget in what issue I read the preview for this.  Heck, it might have been in Previews catalog.  Still, I was intrigued by this brief snippet I read to pick up the first issue.  If anyone reading has seen the BBC series Torchwood on TV, this comic is in that vein.  Si Spencer scripts an odd but entertaining story, giving us all the basic background info on the characters, but without stunting the pace or having an actual story basis.  Simon Gane’s art lends itself very well to Spencer’s script.  It has a very 2000AD feel to the story and art, so much so I wouldn’t have been surprised to find this in one of 2000AD’s publications.  Much like Vertigo’s DMZ title, this one is off the beaten path a bit, and that makes it all the more interesting.

Star Wars-Dark Times #5:  A dual prupose issue, where one story arc comes to an end, and another is set up to begin.  As this is one of two SW titles I get (Knights of the Old Republic the other), I rate it highly.  This series is filling in some of the gaps between Episode III and A New Hope, some not all, at least so far.  My one hope is that they will use other characters from the DH lines that “survived” the end of the Clone Wars, as some of them are extremely well written.

Conan #44:  The conclusion of the Rogues in the House story arc.  While Kurt Busiek wrote this title so well, it was a bit unfair for his follow up Timothy Truman.  Truman IMO has done a more than good job with the character of Conan.  While not in the same league as Busiek or Roy Thomas, it’s not that far off.  Cary Nord’s style I find captures just the right “pulp fantasy” feel for the title.  Outside of GL and GLC, this is the best title to get.

Drafted- Preview, #1,2:  I picked up the preview and the first two issues (#2 just came out) based on some message board posts.  I was not disappointed.  Something of a dpearture for Devil’s Due Publishing (DDP), as it’s an original series, not a liscensed property, like GI Joe, Sheena, or Transformers.  Mark Powers creates a very engaging story line, one where you don’t need the preview to get what’s going on.  Chris Lie’s art is a perfect fit for this title, giving it a solid modern and relaistic feel.  Gonna have to add this to my pull list next time.

New Avengers #35:  Uhhhh, I’m lost I think here.  Last time I read NA, it was about finding out that Elektra was a Skrull, and what to do about it.  Now it’s suddenly about a new criminal syndicate, and ends with symbiotes over running NYC.  This is just more evidence of crappy editing at Marvel, and near complete disregard for continuity.  Brian Bendis completely loses me with this issue, and coupled with Lenil Yu’s art, was a near disaster IMO.  This was one of the redeeming titles for Marvel for me, but this issue sucked.  Bad.  *EDIT* This is actually issue #35, as I apparently missed #34, which I did get and is reviewed below.  BTW, It didn’t help much…

Ghost Rider #16: OK, here’s a title that’s redeeming for Marvel.  Since the relauch of GR, and Johnny Blaze as GR, I’ve enjoyed this little thrill ride.  Daniel Way handles the character and story line well, limiting involvement with other Marvel characters and story arcs.  A smart move with all the continuity problems abounding in various Marvel titles.  The latest additions to the story look to play a major role in upcoming story arcs.  If you like tales of redemption, and of “fighting fire with fire,” pick this series up.

Wolverine Annual (07):  A solid Wolverine story, even if he isn’t the main focus.  This story by Greg Hurwitz gives us Logan at both his best and his worst, with out the usual crap that has become associated with Wolverine.  Marcelo Frusin’s art works extremely well, a sort of blend of the old “Marvel Way” and “edgier” styles of today.  If you want to see Wolverine as he should be, pick this one up, more so if you remember Wolverine in the 70’s and 80’s.

World War Hulk: Frontline #5:  This issue is a bit slower than previous ones.  I still find it to be the most enjoyable tie series to either Civil War or World War Hulk.  While this issue gets a bit more personal, the secondary story of Danny Granville is a bit more poignant, wrapping up the mystery of ARCH-E.  The usual back up of “War is Heck,” an homage to Fred Hembeck’s strips, is humorous as usual.  I still fear that this title, which should be an ongoing series, will have all its potential wasted.

Civil War Chronicles #4:  Reprints Civil War Frontline #5, Fantastic Four #538, Civil War #3.  The best reason to get this series is if you missed any of the tie in from other titles (such as FF), and/or want to read the “complete” story in chronological order.  I thought that CW was mediocre when it came out, though it is a bit better in “order” with the tie in issues all together.  Worth while if you missed the original series.

 Judge Dredd Megazone #263:  Being the only 2000AD publication I can get (with out spending a huge chunk of cash), this is my Judge Dredd fix.  Of course you get more than just the comics in this mag, with interviews and reviews.  This magazine has more in common with Heavy Metal than it does with traditional comics.  Still, you get a good sampling of 2000AD characters and creators.  If you have ever been curious about our English cousins and what they can create, or want to see where guys like Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, and Carlos Ezquierra got their starts, grab a copy.  It may seem a bit pricey, but it’ll be worth while.

*EDIT* Three additional reviews..

New Avengers #34:  The above review was actually for #35.  Even with getting issue #34, it didn’t change my thoughts on #35.  It would have been far better if these two issues had been reversed, so that the villain’s story came first.  If anything, this reinforces my point about crappy editing and editorial control.

Captain America: The Chosen #2:   I have very little idea where this story is supposed to fit into the Marvel U.  Then again, continuity is more by accident than plan at Marvel right now.  Even so, this is an intriguing story, one which may have a profund effect on the Marvel U, or it could just end up being some sort of political diatribe in six issues.  I’m hoping that we’re just getting a look at the next Cap.  But so far the art by Mitch Breitweiser is solid, in tune with the older styles of the 70’s and 80’s, not overly stylized, and realistic enough to connect with.  David Morrell’s story is good to this point, but everything will hinge on how it all ends up.

Wolverine Origins #17:  Continuing the story of Cap and Logan back in WW2, while Logan reminisces at Cap’s memorial.  A different artist would have made these tales a bit more emphatic.  Not that Steve Dillon’s art is bad, just that it doesn’t convey the right tone or feel for the subject matter.  Daniel Way scripts a good, if apocryphal story, but buys in too much to the whole mind meddling too much, and again, tends to ignore established continuity and story lines (ie Nick Fury).

No trades or collections this time around.  I’ll probably get volume 3 of Cerebus my next visit, as I should be done with volume 2 by then.  Volume 4 of the 52 collection should also be out by then as well.  So until next time…

New Comics Review (9-29-07)

Woo hoo!  More or less on time for this effort.  Amazing what having no social engagements can do for stuff like this!

Countdown #32,31:  The weekly series continues.  All sorts of fun vignettes to enjoy here.  From various party crashers, to the ongoing stroies of Mary Marvel, Jimmy Olsen, and the Flash Rogues.  I’m some what amazed that DC has been able to keep the pace on this going, more so after 52, their first weekly series.  This is a testament to the writers and editors, who have to be on very strict deadlines.

Countdown to Adventure #2:  More fallout from the space faring tro’s journey home.  Animal Man, Starfire, and Adam Strange must continue to confront things they thought in their past.  The Monarch and Forerunner story arc continues as well, further defining and expanding the Multiverse of the DCU, this time they meet up with JLAxis.

52 Aftermath-The Four Horsemen #2:  The four Apokalyptian entities beging to fully adjust to their new surroundings, and taking over Bialya.  Wonder Woman joins Supes and Bats in the desert, while Snapper Carr listens in.  Not sure if this will tie in with the next crisis, or if it’s just to tie up a loose end from 52.  An intriguing read so far.

Green Arrow and Black Canary-Wedding Special:  So the “day” has finally arrived.  The best page is the collection of other heroes and heroines making their “predictions” on how long it will last, or merely expressing their disbelief that it was happening at all.  A big prelude to Green Arrow/Black Canary #1, the end of this issue is obviusly the set up for the new series.  And what a whopper it is! 

Tales of the Sinestro Corps-Parallax:  Or, What goes on inside Kyle Rayner’s head.  The combination of Ron Marz (writer) and Adrianna Melo (pencils) work well in presenting a very dialogue heavy story.  While not a critical or key issue in the Sinestro War story arc, it is enlightening in many ways.  A solid read if a bit more back story dependent than usual.

Green Arrow-Year One #5:  Ollie goes on the offensive against China White and her thugs.  I still think this series was dragged on an issue or two too long, with one issue to go.  Still, it’s a good read, more so for those who aren’t familiar with Oliver Queen and Green Arrow. 

Justice League of America #13: Dwayne McDuffie gets into his run on the series full swing with this issue.  For anyone who ever watched “Superfriends” on TV, or the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series on TV, this series will have appeal to you.  Be warned, this is not your fondly remembered “Legion of Doom.”  Lex has a plan, and has gathered useful villains to aid him, not just the common dregs. 

Countdown to Mystery #1: Finally we get to find out what happened to the Helemt of Fate, and who will become the new Dr.Fate!  This issue is primarily set up, but it does recap several previous related one shots and scenes from 52, so is worth it for that alone, mroe so if you missed those earlier issues.  There are a couple of interesting twists as well to be found here. 

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #1:  The begining of a new 8 issue miniseries featuring the iconic Uncle Sam and his band of heroes.  I’m unclear as to where the creative team of Palmiotti and Gray (Jonah Hex) are taking this.  Issue #2 should hopefully clear up some things and get to the heart of the story.

Wonder Woman Annual (2007):  A wrap up to the Amazon’s Attack story arc.  While a good read, it’s not all that.  The second story, titled appropriately enough “Backstory” is also good, but not spectacular.  Allan Heinberg does an OK job on the scripts, but it just lacks a certain degree of oomph the series needs. 

Flash #232:  More of the “Wild Wests.”  While Mark Waid’s writing is up to par, there’s something about Daniel Arcuna’s art that bugs me.  It’s not the pencils and inks, but the colors that get me.  While the watercolor look may be ok once in a while, on a regular basis I find it distracting.  The cover work is solid, but the panels leave me wanting.

Shadowpact #17:  DC’s “premier” mystic team face more challenges and adjustments as the new age of magic settles into form.  The new story arc opens with new faces signing up, at least for now.  Matt Sturges does a solid script, and because he’s using the Phantom Stranger as his narrator, he gets bonus points.  Doug Brathwiate’s art is solid, but I think he’s trying to be too much like Alex Ross with the painted look.  Not that he pales in comparison or anything, just that I’d like too see something a bit more defining from him.

Checkmate #18:  Shake ups inside Checkmate begin here.  Waller and Faraday may have just bitten off more than they bargained for.  I like Greg Rucka’s style of writing for this series, as it brings out more of the characters while maintaining the action level at an acceptable pace.  Joe Bennett compliments Rucks with his pencils, giving Checkmate the right “feel.”

The Spirit #10:  I so love this series, it’s one I eagerly look forward to.  Darwyn Cooke and J.Bone have such a solid handle on Eisner’s character, that it compares very well with Eisner’s original works.  The two current creators pull very few, if any punches, and this issue is no exception, taking on “talk TV” and TV pundits.  This one is definitely wortha pick up, just for the satire and parodies, even if you never get another issue.

All Star Batman and Robin #7:  The latest from creators Frank Miller and Jim Lee.  While I have enjoyed Miller’s take on the Dark Knight, sometimes his takes on other characters can be a bit too jarring.  I’m not sure I’m sold on his take on Black Canary, or any of the other DC characters.  Still, the focus is on Bats and Robin, which Miller handles very well.  And naturally, Jim Lee’s art is among the industry’s best.

Star Wars- Knights of the Old Republic #20:  Now that the band is more or less back together, things heat up on the Arkanian flag ship.  John Jackson Miller does an admirable job in not only holding tru to Star Wars “canon,” but does an excellent job in expanding that lore.  Any SW fan who is interested in the “before times” of the SW universe would find this series extremely enjoyable, as I do.

Army>at<Love #7:  Rick Veitch has found a solid satyrical story, and characters galore to populate it.  Right from issue 1, this series has been thought provoking, and just a little strange at times.  Still, for those looking for a “mature” (it does get juvenile at points), and intellectually thought provoking read, pick this one up. 

The Programme #3:  A very interesting series, bringing recent history and current events together with a super science twist.  Peter Milligan does a superb job of scripting the series, and CP Smith’s art is right in tune with the subject matter.  However, they need a new colorist for this series, as the almost monochrome panel colors are not carrying the story or the art properly.  A new colorist and this title will reach a wider audience.

Scalped #9:  This series is a gritty look not only at the sitiation on Native American “Reservations,” but into small time organized crime as well.  I do wish I had more knowledge of the spiritual and mystical aspects of the story, as I know I’m missing something here.  The team of Jason Aaron (scripts), and RM Guera (art) are producing one of the better series on the market today.  Though if you only like superheros, this will not be a title for you.

Avengers Classic #4:  Reprinting Avengers #4, the Return of Captain America.  As I’ve said previously, this series is worth the reprint alone.  Dwayne McDuffie scripts a solid back up story revolving around Cap and Gabe Jones, but Micahel Oeming’s art is not worthy of the script, characters, or anything else.  The hyper-stylized art actually adversely effects the story, distracting from a solid script and plotting.

Captain America #30:  If there weren’t so many continuity problems with Marvel, this would be an even better story than it is (even if it’s predicated on Cap dying!).  Ed Brubaker is growing on me as a writer, but I’m not over the death of Cap just yet.  Still, the story lines of the Falcon, Sharon Carter, and Bucky are intriguing enough to keep me reading.  Now if we can just get rid of Brevoort and Quesada, and start over, things will be just swell!

Sub-Mariner #4: Again, forgetting continuity problems, this one is a fun read.  Watching Namor take out Venom (or is it Carnage?  I forget), was worth while, as was our aquatic Prince meeting up with Sue Storm again.  With two issues left in this miniseries, it’s building up to a very hectic and dramatic ending.

Avengers- The Initiative #6:  I was going to drop this title, but some message board posts encouraged me to pick it up anyway.  I may just see this current story thorugh if it ends quickly enough.  If it drags out too long, I’ll drop it anyway,and read the boards for the conclusion.  I just don’t care for the characters, or the main story, but this little attempted murder mystery may hold me for a few more issues.

World War Hulk-Frontline #4:  The best WWH tie in, just as it was the best tie in to Civil War.  I really wish Marvel would make this title a regular ongoing series, as it has so much potential and terrific characters.  Between the Frontline staffers and the Costume Division back up stories, this is perhaps the best read of any Marvel title, not just in terms of being a WWH tie in.

World War Hulk #4:  The end is almost here.  And  I think I’m more than ready for it to end.  This would probably have been better, much like Civil War, if Marvel wouldn’t be so political, and obviusly so in the scripts and plots.  This is not going to end well, though teh Sentry’s overcoming his agoraphobia to enter the fray amy have some hope of a solid ending.

World War Hulk-Gamma Corps #3: Ummm, yeah.  What’s the purpose of this series again?  It’s not that the scripts or art are bad, they’re pretty good, but you can’t make peanutbutter pancakes out of sludge.  The whole concept of this series is fatally flawed, and it’s just not carrying through.  Would have been better served as a back up story in the main WWH title, or in the regular Hulk title.

Civil War Chronicles #3:  This one reprints Frontline #2-4.  For getting in essence three issues for $4.99 (where each individual one cost $2.99), it is a bit of a deal.  And if you missed CW when it first ran, these are excellent pick ups.

Penance-Relentless:  This one may be coming out a bit too late to properly gel with the end of Civil War, but it’s not a bad read.  I’m not sold on the Thunderbolts (Marvel’s answer to the Suicide Squad), and I’m definitely not feeling Norman Osbourne as the head of it.  But the journey of Robbie Baldwin (formerly of the New Warriors) is intriguing, and I’m curious to see how it plays out.

Mystic Arcan-Scarlet Witch:  I really couldn’t care less about the Ian McNee story.  I get these for the stories featuring the title characters (previously Magik and Black Knight).  The Scarlet Witch story is an interesting bit of retcon to continuity, but enjoyable none the less.  Plus it’s nice to see C-List villains like Damballah back on the scene.

Judge Dredd Megazine Meg 262:  I’m surprised that the 2000AD writers didn’t sneak in a Messerschmit reference in this issue.  Or if they did, I missed it.  As this is the only Brit comic magazine I can get currently on a regular basis, I look forward to it when it comes in.  As an anthology magazine, with stories from a variety of writers, artists, and featuring various characters, it offers up a wider variety of stuff than traditional comics.  In addition, you get a different take on some industry related things, such as movies, and different takes on other writers and artists.  This issue is interesting in that it has a brief bio of Garth Ennis, as well as a bit of history on British comics.

No new TBPs or collections this time around.  I have yet to finish reading Cerebus-High Society, so once I’m done with that, I’ll get the next volume.  Also the LCS didn’t have volume 3 of the 52 TPBs, so I’ll be cruising for that as well.

New Comics Review (9-7-07)

As usual, a week late.  But this time I had “legitimate” excuses!  The Scottish Games at the Altamont Fiar Grounds was over the holiday weekend, which was followed by work, and getting my daughter ready for a new school year.  This instalment does not include this weeks releases, which I won’t be getting until next week. 

Countdown #36, 35: OK, I admit it.  This series is dragging a bit.  But what did you expect from a weekly series?  The Mary Marvel story line is coming into focus, as is the search for Ray Palmer.  Back ups on the origins of Parallax and Deathstroke are nice summaries.

Countdown to Adventure #1: Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire return in an eight issue miniseries.  This Adam Beechen scripted series starts off well enough IMO.  There’s a lot of set up in this issue, but the Monarch and Forerunner story line gives plenty of action.  The team up of the three heroes from 52 should be interesting and how it ties in with the upcoming “Final Crisis.”

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #1: The four super baddies created on Oolong Island by the assembly of evil geniuses return to Khandaq and Bialya.  Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman begin their investigations, with a very uncomfortable Bruce Wayne needing a save.  This six issue series should have plenty to offer, more so with Kieth Giffen scripting.

Amazons Attack! #6:  The conclusion of the Amazon war.  The allied Amazons and Banta get a raw deal here, but not undeservedly.  Athena delivers a harsh sentence upon her “failed” subjects.  The last two pages of this issue make it all worth while, and leave us wondering about a whole slew of other issues.  What’s in those two pages you ask?  Buy it and find out.  I won’t spoil the surprise!

Wonder Woman #12: WW returns to her Diana Prince, agent of DMA, persona, following her saving Nemesis from the Stygian Hornets.  J. Torres takes over scripting duties from Jodi Picault who had a terriffic run.  The issue is a bit slow, but is more about tying up some loose ends from other story arcs, such as where is Sarge Steel.

Five of a Kind: Wonder Woman and Grace: I picked up the rest of the “try outs” for Batman’s new Outsider team, after reading the Martian Manhunter-Thunder issue.  These are interesting one shots, as each issue is a test for one or more characters.  Some pass, some fail.  This has been well handled, especially from an editorial POV, as each issue has a different writer.  This issue ties up a loose end from the Amazon war, and we get a bit of insight not only into Wonder Woman, but Grace as well.

Five of a Kind: Nightwing and Captain Boomerang jr: This one had had a slightly unexpected ending.  The big thing here is what Batman does, or more to the point, doesn’t do.  A tie in story from the Crisis Aftermath series Battle for Bludhaven, leaves Nightwing in an unenvuable position. 

Five of a Kind: Katana and Shazam: Talk about harsh testing processes.  Poor Katana has to die to even get to the test!  This issue has a bit more set up for the future than others, which featured more back story tie ins, and loose ends from older stories. 

Five of a Kind: Metamorpho and Aquaman:  OK, let’s be clear about something.  While this issue features Aquaman, it is not Arthur Curry.  I’m not up on my Aquaman lore, so I have no idea who this kid is, and like Batman says, “You are no Aquaman.”  I find all of this a titch confusing, as I know that the “real” Aquaman is somehow involved in this.  Add to this the whole secretive thing that Batman has going (at Nightwing’s request), leaves me wondering just what is not being said.  Guess I’ll have to start reading the Outsiders now..

Green Lantern Corps #15: Another installment in the best story arc out there, the Sinestro War.  The planet sized GL, Mogo, is besieged, and the Corps is riding to the rescue.  This issue is non-stop action from beging to end.  From the battle for Mogo, to the chambers of the Guardians, to the “Lost Lanterns” on Qward, it’s a doozey of a roller coaster.  Dave Gibbons does a masterful job of pacing the action, and leaving us wanting more.

Birds of Prey #109: I don’t get this title, but was curious because the cover featured Green Arrow, and was about Dinah’s decision whether or not to accept GA’s proposal of marriage.  It’s quite obvious that I’m missing alot from the other stories involved, but that’s OK, as I won’t be adding this one to my pull list.

Green Arrow: Year One #4:  I think that this series is being dragged out a bit too much.  While slated for 6 issues, it could have been done in four.  This issue more than the others is not advancing the story all that much, and a lot of it could have been cut out.  Even though the depth of story is nice and all, there’s just too much extraneous stuff, such as fever/drug dreams, and some unnecessary conversation.  For most people I’d say wait for the TBP of this to come out.

Batman Annual #26: Another issue I picked up on a whim.  This one features Ra’s Al Ghul, who it appears will be making a comeback.  It’s clear to me that this is setting up the return of The Demon’s Head in the regulat Batman and Detective issues, but provides some interesting background info on Ra’s Al Ghul.  I just hope they handle it all in the right manner.

The Spirit #9:  I really enjoy Darwyn Cooke’s handling of this series.  It’s such an enjoyable read that I eagerly look forward to new isseues.  J. Bone’s art perfectly compliments the Cooke scripts, and gives it the perfect feel and pacing.  This issue goes back into the past and origin of our intrepid hero, and much like a 30’s serial, leaves us with a good cliff hanger of an ending.

Vampirella Quarterly Summer 2007 #1: It’s probably been 15-20 years sinceI picked up a copy of Vampirella of any sort.  I admit I got suckered in by the cover by Segovia, which had Vampi and the Blood Red Queen in skimpy outfits diving through a window.  Even so, it’s not a bad story IMO.  Now, as I’m way out of touch on current story lines, I expected to be lost on much of what was going on.  Not really I discovered.  Sure, some of the character set up and interaction was dependent upon previous issues, but not so much that it either wasn’t explained or readilly obvious.  I think I’ll have to check out what’s up with these titles..

Conan #43: Rogues in the House part 3.  While Timothy Truman’s run has not been as incredible as Kurt Busiek’s, it has been solid, and continues with this issue.  Though certainly slow at times, the story advances well enough, and the art, by Tomas Giorello, is again a seemless compliment to the script.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #19: The band gets back together.  Everything that has been going on, from Zayne’s flight from the Jedi, to Camper’s history converges on Adascorp’s flag ship.  The tandem of John Jackson Miller (scripts) and Bong Dazo (art) have carried this title well.  I find it has the right Star Wars feel to it, but set in a much earlier time than the movies. 

World War Hulk: X-Men #3: The conclusion of this miniseries.  I’m almost sorry I bothered with it.  The previous two issue at least had some solid fight scenes, and carried themselves with the moral stands by both the Hulk and the X-Men.  The ending of this series left a lot to be desired.  This is so obviously a Straczynski inspired ending, that it all but ruined the entire storyline.  But at least, unlike most Straczynski endings, this one made a degree of sense.

Avengers: The Initiative #5: I think I’ll be dropping this title very soon.  Dan Slott’s scripts are all over the place.  It’s not just from issue to issue, but like in this one, from page to page.  Continuity at Marvel is dead.

World War Hulk: Gamma Files: A waste of money for anyone familiar with the main characters involved in the WWH story line.  For those who are either fairly new to Marvel comics (less than 10 years), or those who only just started reading Marvel comics, this is a worthwhile pick up for the background information.  Other than that, it’s a money grab aimed at completists.

World War Hulk: Gamma Corps #2: Somehow I missed #1, not that it matters much.  The basic concept is that a bunch of normal people who lives have been adversely effected by the Hulk, are given super powers and teamed together to take him out.  Your basic revenge story.  And it’s not all that engaging honestly.  The characters are stereotypical, from the mother who lost a child to the child who was born with defects due to the Hulk, to the ex-con to the preacher turned vigilante.  It’s a weak story line, with weak characters and weak execution.  Of all the WWH miniseries’, this one has to be the worst of the lot by far.

In addition to these regular issues, I grabbed two trades as well.  First off is the DC/2000AD publication of Judge Dredd: Judgment Day.  This collection of John Wagner and Garth Ennis storied from 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine is one of Ennis’ better works.  I have yet to sit down and read this one, as I’ve been reading my other trade pick up.  In addition to my Judge Dredd fix, I decided to get Cerebus Vol. 1.  This TBP reprints Cerebus the Aardvark #1-25 from Dave Sim and Aardvark-Vanaheim.  For those unfamiliar with the Earth-pig born Cerebus, it’s part parody, part satire, part commentary, and a whole lot of fun to read.  Take your typical aardvark, anthropomorphize him, give him the personality of Conan, and set him loose in a world that features cities run by rip offs of Groucho Marx, Red Sonja, Margaret Thatcher, and the Pope.  Add in a touch of Monty Python, Dave Allen, and Roger Corman, mix well, and publish.  Such is the recipe for one of independent comics icons.

Hopefully, I’ll not be as late next time!