Posted tagged ‘comics’

Review: Essential Sub-Mariner Vol.1

June 7, 2010

I’ve been waiting years for Marvel to get around to releases this book.  The Sub-Mariner is the last of their silver age super-hero titles to have gone without an affordable edition in print.  For that alone I’ve been wanting this to complete the collection, but also I always loved the character of Namor, probably the most pompous figure in comics, and a lot of fun because of that.

But sadly I think I see why Marvel was hesitant to bring these back.  As it turns out, there are exactly two types of Namor stories.

  1. Namor has a misunderstanding with the human race and nearly declares war
  2. Someone tries to claim the throne of Atlantis from Namor

Now, this collection has stories from 35 issues, granted most of these are only 12 pages long, but still, these schticks get old pretty quickly.  And it doesn’t help that there’s a fairly glaring problem with the art as well that I just can’t get past, even with greats such as Bill Everett, Gene Colan, and John Buscema at work.  

Namely, no one can seem to remember that Atlantis is actually underwater!  Why does the city have paved roads!?!  Why are robes in fashion and why don’t they float!?!  Why is Dorma’s hair perfectly styled, only to appear wet when she’s out of the water!?!  You get the idea.

There are a few decent issues here, and in small doses the stories can be fun, but as a whole, not one of Marvel’s better efforts.

Review: Scalped: the Gnawing

June 3, 2010

I’ve raved about Scalped a few times here and now I’m starting to run out of new ways to praise it.  It’s the best crime comic written today, and quite possibly the best ever.

The Gnawing is the latest tale, in which undercover agent Dash Bad Horse is tasked by Chief Red Crow to find the rat in his organization.  And if that isn’t bad enough Dash also has to attempt to keep a witness to a murder perpetrated by Red Crow alive long enough to testify.  And Red Crow has his own problems after inciting a war with his casino’s financiers.

The ensuing conflict is one of the most brutal stories I’ve ever read.  This is an epic tragedy, with no happy endings.  In fact, the saddest part of the book is the news that a character is pregnant and that the pain and suffering endured by everyone in the story is about to be extended into another generation.  It’s heartbreaking and ingenious writing that somehow made a great book get even better.

Review: Secret Six: Depths

June 2, 2010

The newest collection of Gail Simone’s twisted super-villain series, Secret Six, is the first misstep she’s taken since writing the first mini-series featuring the characters.  Her grasp of the characters is as strong as ever, and the first two issues in this collection, which are both one-off tales, are excellent.  However, the main story in this volume is a ill-conceived team-up with Wonder Woman, which pretty much just exists because Simone was also writing that book at the time.

The Six are hired by a group who has forced a band of Amazons into slave labor in order to construct the world’s greatest prison.  What exactly the six are hired to do, is never really explained, nor is it explained why the would be warden has made a deal with Grendel.  Then there’s the problem that Wonder Woman and the Six don’t mesh together at all.  Oh and there’s also that this makes back to back stories in which the Six turn on one another and then somehow make up afterwards.

The book’s almost worth it for the first issue, being the most awkward date comic in history, but the rest is just a mess.

Review: Annihilation

May 26, 2010

Annihilation was Marvel’s quite successful take at reviving their cosmic characters.  The cosmic branch of the Marvel Universe had been languishing for years under the weight of Jim Starlin’s legacy.  Starlin wrote epics of Godlike beings with nebulous powers who would battle across the stars while espousing cryptic philosophies.  His approach came to its head in the Infinity Gauntlet, a fairly legendary mini-series in the Marvel cannon, which everyone else to tackle this world has sought to emulate, never with much success.

Now the Gauntlet was published back in ’91, making it well past overdue for Marvel to try something radical, which is where Annihilation comes in.  It’s an event, comprising 7 mini-series, with 29 issues, and collected in 3 volumes.  The structure of this sort of thing is slightly odd, with 1 issue to launch the story, a big mini-series to wrap it up, and a bunch of more character focused minis between that serve to spotlight a pretty damn eclectic group of characters.  The Silver Surfer is there because there has to be one big name cosmic hero, but then there are stories for Super-villains Ronan the Accuser and Super Skrull, former teen pseudo-cosmic hero Nova, and one for a completely revamped Drax the Destroyer.

Their stories all bring them into conflict with the Annihilation Wave, an enormous army lead by the classic Fantastic Four villain Annihilus (a.k.a. the living death that walks).  Now I’ve always liked Annihilus for some reason, despite the fact that he’s hardly the most well-rounded villain, being someone who simply wants to kill everyone so he can be the last living thing in the Universe.  But as far as evil cosmic menaces go, that’s pretty good, and its kind of nice to see him actually trying to follow through on his goals after being around for 40 years or so.

So with that what we have he is a good old-fashioned space war, but maybe the best one ever portrayed in comics.  Worlds are destroyed, heroes fall, and in nearly every issue the status quo of the universe is changed.  And when it’s all over, Marvel cosmic is left a much more interesting place, not to mention one that’s proven to be able to sustain a few ongoing series for the first time in an age.

Review: The Unknown

May 19, 2010

The Unknown is the start of another high concept mystery series by editor-in-chief Mark Waid.  And much like Potter’s Field, which I reviewed last week, it’s a great idea for a series, that’s just in need of a slightly greater case to make it work, hopefully in the inevitable volume 2.

The Unknown focusing on Cat Allingham, a Sherlock Holmes by way of Warren Ellis figure with an insatiable need to prove how the world functions.  Only problem is she has an inoperable brain tumor that will kill her within six months, and which is tormenting her with constant hallucination, making her deductive skills useless.  Thus she is forced to rely on James Doyle, an ex-bouncer with a knack for picking up on the tells of those around him.

This book chronicles their first case together, as well as the start of Cat’s obsession with investigating the possibility of an afterlife.  The object of their case is a scale developed by a pair of quantum physicists that may be precise enough to measure the existence of the soul.

The story doesn’t really provide any answers however, which shouldn’t really be surprising given the title.  This proves to be a mystery story about mysteries and not about solving them, which is an approach I like a great deal.  All in all a decent start to this series and I expect great things in the future.

Review: The Bronx Kill

May 13, 2010

The Bronx Kill is Peter Milligan’s best comic in years, as well as being one of his most atypical.  He’s done some truly phenomenal books in the past (The Extremist, X-Statix, Shade the Changing Man) and has been writing a pretty good Hellblazer run for the past year, but generally he’s fallen flat every time he’s attempted a slightly more mainstream story (such as his runs on X-Men and Elektra).

So now we have a fairly low key missing wife story this is absolutely brilliant.  Martin Keane is an author whose sophomore novel was just released to scathing reviews.  But he has a new one in the works that has absolutely nothing to do with the family of policemen he comes from, or his grandmother that walked out on the family, or his great-grandfather who was murdered in the Bronx Kill for that matter.  He has spent his whole life trying to distance himself from his family’s legacy, and now he finds that its become his main source of inspiration despite his attempts to combat it.  Then when Martin’s wife vanishes one night he gets pulled into his family history even further, especially once he becomes the chief suspect.

Milligan here has created the first book that really justifies Vertigo’s new line of crime comics.  It’s also one of the best pieces of modern noir I’ve encountered.

Review: Potter’s Field

May 11, 2010

Potter’s Field is the coolest idea for a crime story I’ve come across in a while.  The title refers to the cemetery in New York used for unidentified bodies, and it fills up with around 125 corpses a week according to the intro.  Enter John Doe, a vigilante detective whose determined to give each grave its proper name, and more often than not resolve a few loose ends from their lives.

It’s the best thing I’ve seen from Mark Waid in ages, and it’s really nice to return to the mystery genre, which he hasn’t really touched on since his days at Crossgen (unless you count his Elongated Man bits from 52).  And being a big ideas sort of writer, Waid writes fairly unique crime stories that focus squarely on those ideas.  

Potter’s Field works well for that, but Waid does lay it on a bit thick at time.  Besides having a protagonist named John Doe, there are also cases here involving identical twins and identity thieves.  I’m hoping as he tells more stories with this character he’ll stop adhering to his theme so strongly.  But either way, this is a very promising start.