Dr Manolis Vamvounbis writes: In which I bitch and moan about comics on a weekly basis, in broken english and syntax. Noone is safe! Follow my daily rantings on @theComicsGreek.
FEATURED REVIEW: FEAR ITSELF #7 (OF 7)
After 6 issues of various amped-up B-list villains failing to instill any sense of menace or fear, some B-list (B for Bendis) Avengers overreacting to the non-threat as if it was Galactus or any other real credible opponent than Titania and Attuma with hammers and light-up bras, poor Bucky getting maimed like a noob, Cap totting some guns in non-bereavement, the Gods being jackasses and Tony Stark boozing it and hammering away in Asgard for what seemed like an eternity, the final battle is upon us!
…and then it’s over.
The Avengers don their new TRON-tastic Power Ranger armors, they throw a few punches around, defeat the previously undefeateable world-threatening villains in what seems like three panels while Thor puts a sword through the previously unconquerable mega-villain (whose name I already have trouble remembering). Oh, and he dies too. Because it’s an event, and Thor hasn’t been dead for, oh, 5 years and in the absence of plot or scope we are really really desperate for a decent-sized body count.
So, let’s backtrack. In Civil War Thor was dead but Cap was alive. Then Cap died and Thor came back for Secret Invasion and there was Cap Jr and then Cap himself came back too. Now Cap Jr dies and Thor dies again but Cap is fine. Did we just go around in a death loop?
Apart from the simplistic plot and lack of actual action pay-off, the greatest disappointment stemmed from not delivering on its most basic promise. Showing a world thrown into desperation, engulfed in fear. Not in any believable way at least.
Funnily enough, most of the satellite minis and tie-ins had no such problem with that decree. AVENGERS ACADEMY and UNCANNY X-MEN especially, along with YOUTH IN REVOLT and even HOME FRONT were excellent reads. They delivered on the action, in otherworldly locations or with really imaginative battle choreographies, they convincingly built up the villains as world-class threats and showed the heroes and the world at the end of their rope, in a truly unbearable and end-of-the-world war environment. The characters were dealt with impossible choices, and they were left mentally and physically scarred. Everything the main event should have been. Not disposable. 3/10
JUSTICE LEAGUE #2
Superman versus Batman versus Green Lantern versus the Flash. You know, that old ‘heroes meet, have a misunderstanding and duke it out’ trope? Second issue in a row. I think next issue all the boys are gonna meet Wonder Woman for the first time and fight her as well. And then all together against the new bad-ass Aquaman in issue 4.
I wouldn’t have minded the lack of any sort of actual explanation for the drawn-out brawl here if it was even remotely interesting. If you actually pay attention to it, it’s Batman and GL in a green bubble trying to avoid Superman’s super-punches, followed by Flash being very fast and avoiding Superman’s super-punches. If Superman, in his early days / weakened state, is already so powerful that none of the other heroes united can even stand a chance against him, what is the point of them banding together at all?
What I did enjoy were the quiet moments of interaction where Johns really shines. All the little details like GL calling Flash on his work phone, their chatter, letting their secret identities slip, the heroes trying to figure out each other, their common grounds and their differences. The sense of these early days of the Age of Superheroes, the first team-ups, the innocence and suspicion, it’s all there and it’s picture-perfect. 6/10
In case you were wondering, YES, during the 30 days since we last checked in with Catwoman she is STILL rolling around the catnip with Batman making nasties. She then proceeds to attend YET ANOTHER Wayne fundraiser where she gets to make out unknowingly make out with Bruce Wayne some more, both as Selina Kyle in disguise AND as Catwoman.
Winnick is having a great time with the whole costumes as fetish thing. In two issues we’ve seen Catwoman fucking Batman, Selina Kyle flirting with Bruce Wayne and Catwoman kissing Bruce Wayne…
Which segues beautifully into everyone’s favourite ongoing feature:
THE WEEKLY BRUCE WAYNE WHORE WATCH!
That’s like the fifth Wayne fundraiser in 2 months, and the 15th? 20th girl he’s put the moves on.
The issue ends with a startling scene that skirts between brilliant and cheap exploitation, and it certainly changes the way we’re going to be approaching the series. I was in real shock when I was turning those final pages, Judd Winnick has really managed to keep a fine balance with this series so far, between the camp n’ fluffy and the sexy n’ dangerous, and he now crosses over into the darker areas of crime noir. Catwoman is one of the most surprising titles of the relaunch. Who knew! 8/10
I’ll try to keep my rant over the needless and frankly insulting renumbering stint Marvel is pulling brief. The final issue of Uncanny X-Men? With THAT crappy Greg Land cover? With an actual ad for Uncanny X-Men #1 (with an even crappier cover) “shipping next month”? Insulting.
The actual issue? Not that bad. Mister Sinister goes INSANELY meta, recapping the recent events in Schism and the events of the issue itself with a sort of behind-the-scenes commentary, and literally revamping (a Regenesis? ;) ) himself genetically to get himself up to date with the times (and living up to the potential for backstage mwahaha arch-villainy that he exhibited in those excellent first seasons of the 90s X-Men cartoon).
In the main drive of the story, Kieron Gillen channels his best Scott Lobdell (yes, it’s a compliment), driving home the real impact of the Schism in the best possible way with the farewell between Cyclops and Iceman and the boxing away of the X-Men’s history. Is it a bit on the nose? Well, sure, what with the actual book saying ‘Uncanny X-Men’ and the unexplainable sun-marks behind the picture frames on the walls of the Utopia compound that has barely been lived in for a year or so, since the events of X-Men/Avengers crossover. But he has to work with what he’s been dealt, and he does so most impressively! 7/10
30 DAYS OF NIGHT #1
Sam Kieth toning down the level of detail in his artwork ( I presume to approach Templesmith’s signature style for the series) backfires and gives us an issue that is a bit of a mess visually. Still, Sam Kieth’s mess is better than 50% of the art out there. I won’t even pretend I care about the plot here, it somehow involves a website about the Barrow vampires receiving a deluge of SNAIL mail letters?!? Really? On a typewriter? Do these still exist outside Sims Social? 4/10
Last month I could NOT see what allthe fuss was about with Snyder’s Batman #1. For me it was just all over the place and quite boring and badly drawn. THIS month tho, wow. Back-to-back amazing action sequences that outshine anything we’ve ever seen in the hollywood Bat-movies, Gotham City and its history and architecture as a real character in the story, a very convincing voice for Bruce Wayne/Batman that doesn’t fall into the common traps and Greg Capullo at the top of his game, working with Snyder as a perfectly in-tune machine. 9/10
Do you guys have ANY idea how painful it usually is to be a comic-reading Greek? The sheer amount of sappy toga-wearing, sandals-sporting, white bearded and curly haired Greek Gods we have to endure on TV, cinema and comics, it’s insane!
Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s reimagining of the cast of the Greek mythology as the villains and supporting cast of the new WW book is fresh and innovative, steering clear of all the existing stereotypes just like their approach of the mythological soap opera tropes from a real-world perspective. This book is a wonder to behold. Plus, SO pretty! 10/10
Xenoholics Anonymous, an unfortunate name for an AAA-type support group for alien abductee survivors (or are they?). These unfortunate but fascinating characters, each with their own hilarious psychoses and dark secrets, suddenly find themselves in a situation where Earth is REALLY visited by aliens. An out-of-this-planet fun romp with dark twisty humour and adorable cartoony artwork. 7/10
Katana is in the house! and it makes all the difference in the world. It’s an insanely creepy ninja who keeps muttering to her sword which she believes holds the soul of her late husband. What’s not to love? Jesus Saiz is still one of the strongest artists of the reboot and he really excells at giving emotion and personality to each of the leading ladies here and capturing the energy and motion of the action. Another title that has greatly improved with its second issue. 8/10
… which contains two of the downright stupidest scenes in any comic this month.
One, Captain Atom freaking out when he accidentally falls in synch with the tweets being sent about him and the #CaptainAtom world trending topic. That last bit is REALLY stretching my suspension of disbelief and the limits of science fiction.
But then in a later scene, Captain Atom actually goes inside the brain of a kid suffering from cancer and literally BEATS cancer to a pulp with his rays or whatever. Nope, seriously. Just like that. No gray area, no build-up, just curing cancer, all in a day’s work. Makes that Sterling Gates and that Peter David look like such fools now for how they dealt with the superheroes’ powerlessness against the staggering real-world problems and incurable diseases. They just didn’t have superheroes as awesome as Captain Atom.
Abominable and unreadable but so much fun to pick apart. 2/10
Two months, 52 books each month, yet this is the first time a superhero has stepped on an airplane without it blowing up or getting boarded by terrorists. That’s why we love you Nightwing dude! You might suck at this keeping innocents alive thing, you might spend the entire issue fighting the most forgettable villain this side of Green Arrow (Saiko Killer? really now), but you still get a free pass for your sheer hotness and being the DC equivalent of Ryan Gosling.
P.S. Congrats on joining the DC mile-high club! 5/10
ULTIMATE COMICS HAWKEYE #3 (OF 4)
Shouldn’t this be considered cheating? You’re writing a title about Ultimate Hawkeye (mission Impossible Tom Cruise with nothing but a bow and arrow), you pit him up against a gazillion super-powered chinese soldiers atop a floating city, all the odds are stuck against him, how could he possibly escape etc etc… and then you go on and drop the FREAKIN’ ULTIMATE HULK on the scene to bail him out! Plus Jean Grey, whatshisface Vulture guy and black ops special SHIELD agent 14-year old Liz Allen/Firestar.
Huh? Wasn’t the whole point of Ultimate Fallout and the past year of Ultimate Spidey that Fury wasn’t going to endanger any more untrained teenagers on his crazy missions? But he then goes on and enlists an actual schoolmate of Peter Parker’s? I trust Hickman to have more sense of the characters’ personal continuity to ast least address this in future issues. 4/10
Fight! Fight! Fight! Not much happens apart from some fun GL action, the succesful continuing textbook-perfect setting up of this new threat as the MOST. DANGEROUS. THING. EVER. and lots and lots of pretty pretty Fernando Pasarin art. 6/10
P.S. how insanely cute are these alien monkey creatures? Merchandise plushies NOW please.
Deadman, the superheroic ghost tries to gain entry to a private exclusive and very occult nightclub to get a peek at his life book, but keeps falling into a series of escalating hilarious accidents. Great mix of the usual HBO-style paranormal drama with farsical slapstic. 8/10
Supergirl versus Superman on (or through) the Great Wall of China. Was this even briefer than the last issue? The action and intensity of an 8-page backup feature stretched out over 20 pages. Next issue: Supergirl Sneezes! 20 pages! $2.99! 5/10
P.S. in the span of two months Superman has fought: Supergirl, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, some teeth, a train and just one lousy ZZAAAXX-ripoff villain. WTF?
Lobdell keeps up the fun and quirkiness and the zany teen drama angst of the first issue. I really dig the way the characters interact, the lingering awkwardness of last issue’s sex scene, the laid-back nature of the narration and the general cool / anything goes nature of the starring threesome’s adventures. 7/10
The most embarassing thing to ever happen to a fledgling superhero? Discuss!
(the actual issue is an improvement over last issue’s tedious setup, featuring some fun action and Jamie’s hilarious bickering with his alien parasite beetle 6/10 )
It never ceases to amaze me how Marvel has artists of the caliber and talent of Mike Mayhew and Pablo Raimondi and they have them working on entertaining yet disposable little stories like these Marvel Comics Presents wannabe anthologies. Meanwhile Billy Tan and Greg Land are free to roam on their greatest selling titles and specials. The conclusion to Speedball’s touching confrontation with the Stamford survivors and Amadeus Cho’s fun adventures with Spider-Girl, X-23 and Thunderstrike. 6/10
DEADPOOL MAX II #1
Two great comics masters like David Lapham and Kyle Baker reunite and create something as rushed-looking and banal as this? The mind boggles. Deadpool and Hydra Bob against organized religion and terrorists. Several fun little silly moments, but nothing truly memorable. 4/10
The Grey’s Anatomy of superhero comics. A detective/superhero procedural with a focus on the interpersonal, romantic and sexual drama of the mutant employees of X-Factor Investigations. Peter David still juggles with a lot of long-running threads from up to 5 years ago, but the recent #224.1 was indeed a great and fascinating jump-on point, subtly filling in all the necessary gaps. Hopefully he’s going to put all the recent Asgardian nonsense and team-up craze behind him and keep playing to the book’s real strength, its characters. 9/10
Nope, still nothing on the story front. But Francis Portella, the artist, is SUCH a great discovery. Great, bold, larger than life character designs and compositions, a fresh modern mix of styles and influences from Arthur Adams, Chris Bachalo, Frank Quitely and early Gary Frank. Hopefully DC has sense enough to keep this one at all costs. 5/10 (10/10 for the art)
STAR TREK / LEGION OF SUPERHEROES #1 (OF 6)
How do you manage to spend the entire issue just to get the two teams/crews on the same planet without them meeting, and still fail to properly introduce any of the two casts Or an interesting premise? That’s a rhetorical question btw, the answer will only waste your hard-earned money. 1/10
KEY OF Z #1
Oh, look, it’s another Zombie comic! With the exciting twist of being set in the Big Apple! How do they keep coming up with these fresh ideas? I’ll admit, the tedious exposition and stilted dialogues made me lost interest in the words of the book after the first few pages, but I kept on poring through the beautiful husky beary art inside, by Aaron Kuder. Cute yet burly. Woof! 4/10
From best to worst, the week’s rankings:
WONDER WOMAN #2 10
BATMAN #2 9
X-FACTOR #226 9
CATWOMAN #2 8
BIRDS OF PREY #2 8
DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS: DEADMAN #2 8
XENOHOLICS #1 7
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #2 7
UNCANNY X-MEN #544 7
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #2 6
JUSTICE LEAGUE #2 6
BLUE BEETLE #2 6
FEAR ITSELF HOME FRONT #7 6
NIGHTWING #2 5
SUPERGIRL #2 5
LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #2 5
KEY OF Z #1 4
ULTIMATE COMICS HAWKEYE #3 4
DEADPOOL MAX 2 #1 4
30 DAYS OF NIGHT #1 4
FEAR ITSELF #7 3
CAPTAIN ATOM #2 2
STAR TREK LEGION OF SUPERHEROES #1 1
10 Fun Facts about Dr Manolis Vamvounis:
-Yes, he’s a real doctor. Of science.
-He’s all Greek. and TALL.
-He’s 30, single and very available.
-He has been reading comics for more than 25 years.
-He has been writing about comics for just over 10 years.
-He really loves it when you call him names.
-It’s his birthday this week, so don’t overdo it.
-He’s currently addicted to Lana Del Rey on iTunes and Worst Week on TV
-He would also really love some more twitter followers (@theComicsGreek wink wink)
-Yes, he’s that shameless.