Posted tagged ‘Ed Brubaker’

Review: Captain America: Reborn

May 6, 2010

After 50 issues (of which the title character has been dead for the last 2 years worth) Ed Brubaker has brought things to a conclusion in Reborn.  It’s not a bad summation to the story (or of Captain America’s history for that matter), and it does accomplish its main goal of resurrecting Cap without resorting to too large of a deus ex machina, but it does have a pretty major plot flaw.

So, two years ago, Captain America was shot and killed by girlfriend who was being controlled by minions of the Red Skull at the time.  As it turns out what actually happened was that Cap became unstuck in time (slaughterhouse-five style) thanks to Dr. Doom’s time platform (which to be fair, had been introduced into the story before then).  And now in this book the Red Skull has launched his master plan, to bring Cap back to the present and take control of his body.

As master plans go, not so original.  And furthermore, this doesn’t really make sense as it was established pretty well in here that Cap’s time traveling was an accident because the time platform was broken.  So, after all this time Brubaker’s master plan for the Skull was this, despite tons of villainous monologuing from both the Skull and his allies about how nefarious his plan was and how people would be astonished when it was unveiled.  Yeah, not so much.

But looking past that flaw, the story’s pretty good in a widescreen action way, which isn’t a surprise with Bryan Hitch on art duties.  The man is the #1 go to guy for illustrating enormous super hero battles, and Brubaker gives him plenty to work with here.  And it does make for a pretty satisfying ending, but it is also a bit at odds with the more intricately plotted sort of espionage stories that Brubaker had been telling up until now.  Brubaker can do better, but Cap still remains one of Marvel’s best books.

Review: Captain America: Road to Reborn

May 3, 2010

Ed Brubaker treads water a bit in this volume of the ongoing series.  I suspect a lot of that is publisher interferance though, and Brubaker makes the most of the situation, but it is what it is.

The problem is a pair of scheduling debacles.  First of all there’s the slightly contrived back-to-back anniversary issues.  This volume collects issue 50 of the current series, and which point Marvel reset the numbering to its original system, giving us issue 600.  So we have an issue dedicated to the history of Bucky (the current Captain America), and one dedicated to remembering the death of the previous one.  Both are good, but both are also filler.

Scheduling problem two, Marvel decided to take the next major story arc, in which the original Captain America returns from the dead, and pull it out into its own mini-series in an attempt to boost its prominence.  This move left the series with an extra issue to be used up, so more filler it is.  This time its an unused annual Marvel had lying around that has become Cap 601.  The issue is really meant to be a tribute to Gene Colan, one of the legends of the industry.  And on that level it works, letting the Dean come back to draw a double sized issue of Cap battling vampires, elements from two of his signature comics.  And his art is as wonderful as it ever was (although he could make do with a better colorist).  However, this is also the third issue in a row that doesn’t advance the story, and enough’s enough.

I’m being pretty harsh here I realize, and none of these comics are bad issues.  But you can pretty much skip this whole book and not notice a thing, and that’s got to matter.

Review: Immortal Iron Fist: Escape From the Eighth City

February 1, 2010

And another title bits the dust.  This time around it’s the Immortal Iron Fist.  The comic began in a blaze of glory thanks to the team of Fraction, Brubaker, and Aja, quickly becoming the best book Marvel was publishing.  But then the title was passed on to Dwayne Swierczynski and Travel Foreman, who did an able job of continuing the story, but pretty much failed to add anything to it.

Which brings me to Escape from the Eight City, a disapointingly formulaic story.  In issue 1 Iron Fist and his fellow Immortal Weapons go to Hell; in issue 2 they’re tortured for a bit, n issue 3 they break free, and in issue 4 they go home…the end.  

Fortunately Swierczynski has the opportunity to tack on a coda before the axe fell on the comic and he goes out on a high note, although one with some slightly dodgy art.  He fits an awful lot of character development into 22 pages and leaves the series at both a nice ending point, and a great place for other writer’s to pick up on the story elsewhere.  But for now the story is over, and maybe it was time.

Review: Captain America: the Man with No Face

July 27, 2009

The latest Captain America collection from Ed Brubaker and company is sadly the weakest in the series to date.  Fortunately it’s still a pretty good superhero tale, just a generic one that doesn’t further the overall plot a bit.  This story solely exists to provide Bucky Barnes one story to shine in as Cap between taking on the role in the Death of Captain America epic and having to presumably give it up in the wake of the current Reborn story.

The tale takes Cap, Black Widow, and guest star Namor to China to confront some lose ends from Cap’s days as the Winter Soldier, namely the villain from the title (who can only be a knock off of the long deceased Daredevil villain, Deathstalker).  Brubaker also finds a way to bring in and salvage perennial joke villain, Batroc the Leaper.  Now I’ve always liked Batroc and it’s great to see that all it took to make him a more serious was to make it so he actually spoke French, eensted of talking like zis.

This isn’t a bad book by any means, it’s just that you can skip this 6 issues and be none the wiser.

Review: The Death of Captain America Vol.3

April 20, 2009

Happy government workers in Mass. get an extra day off day (a.k.a. Patriot’s Day).  It seemed appropriate to finally finally finish up the Death of Captain America today.  Not that these issues actualy wrap anything up.  At story’s end Cap is still dead and most of the villains are still at large.  But what this book does is cement Bucky in place as the new Captain America.

Since taking over the book Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have maintained the book’s quality without missing a beat.  Many reviewers have noted that the book has been so constant that it’s become difficult to review.  We’re nearly 50 issues into what is essentially a single story arc now with no end in site, but nothing feels like it’s padded and the tale certainly isn’t dragging on.  

This is just a massive superhero epic unlike anything else being written at the moment.

Review: The Immortal Iron Fist Vol.4

March 31, 2009

It’s almost enough simply to say that Iron Fist is still worth buying with the latest volume, the first without the amazing creative team of Brubaker, Fraction, and Aja.  I cannot think of another instance in which an incoming team had bigger shoes to fill.  And fortunately Dwayne Swierczynski, Travel Foreman and Russ Heath manage to come in without missing a beat.

It helps that the incoming and outgoing teams clearly worked together to make the transition as smooth as possible.  The story here seemlessly flows out of what came before, showing Iron Fist’s battle with the creature who has murdered each of his ancestors in their 33rd year.  But more importantly, Swierczynski actually maintains the sensibilities of the previous writers, continuing to include the pulp-inflected flashbacks that made the early issues of the series so distinctive.

So I’m still happy to report that the title remains one one Marvel’s best, and the lead in to the next story in which the Immortal Weapons go to Hell makes it look like that standard is going to continue.

Review: The Immortal Iron Fist Vol.3

October 25, 2008

The book marks the end of one of the best collaborations in the history of Marvel comics.  Together Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja have managed to take a b-list 70’s character and elevate him to greatness.

Volume 3, collects a series of stand alone tales under the title, the Book of the Iron Fist.  These stories are focused on the history of the Immortal Iron Fist, so named because the title is transfered to a new inheritor upon each Iron Fist’s death.  The first story tells the history of Wu Ao-Shi, the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay, who was the only woman to have been the Iron Fist.  Next up is Bei Bang-Wen, who used his skills to defend China from the British in 1860.

But the real highlight of this book is Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death, which is worth the cover price alone.  Orson Randall, the previous Iron Fist to Danny Rand, has appeared throughout the series as the last of the pulp adventurers, which gives the creative team tons to play with.  The issue contains four chapters from throughout Orson’s career, with the presence of the John Aman (a recently revived character that can be traced back to 1939) as the connecting thread.  But really the book is just a chance to tell a bunch of stories the likes of which are rarely seen nowadays.  Nick Dragotta & Mike Allread illustrate the first portion dealing with a stage magician, followed by legendary artist Russ Heath for a western tale, then it’s Lewis LaRosa for a brief battle with Frankenstein, and finally Mitch Breitweiser for the redemption of the Prince of Orphans.  This issue was my favorite story to be published last year and it’s an enormous shame that Matt Fraction will not be writing another like it anytime soon.

Which brings me to the final story here, which wraps up the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja run on the series and serves to hand it off to the next creative team.  It’s a great touch that Marvel decided to collect the series in such a way that the stories about the character’s history are bookended by one dealing with his future.  It’s a nice story, but a very odd note for the creative team to end on.  One which only makes sense when you read the follow-up by Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman, which thankfully has maintained both the high standard for this series so far and its pulp leanings.

Keeping Current with Comics

August 30, 2008

Yesterday I tried to remove whatever collection development credentials people thought I had.  But I did say that the one area of particular expertise I might actually possess is in comics.  So I figured I’d take a shot and do a batch of brief write ups on current comics libraries should be aware of.

Secret Invasion: For the past decade at least the Summer has been the time for large scale comics events and crossovers.  Actually for the past few years the events have all kind of blended together to the extent that some fans are complaining of event overload.  Secret Invasion is Marvel’s entry this year, and it concerns an alien invasion of shape shifters who have been posing undetected as some of Marvel’s most well known characters (in some cases for quite some time).  The book has received decent reviews overall and I’ve been enjoying it, but there are accessibility issues for those who haven’t been following the last few years worth of Marvel stories.  In the end it will probably prove more significant for the effect it has on the Marvel line to come than for the story itself.

Final Crisis: Final Crisis is DC’s answer to Secret Invasion.  It’s being marketed as the day evil won.  The writer on this one is Grant Morrison, a personal favorite but someone who’s more eccentric writing tendencies don’t always lead to clearly told stories.  Final Crisis has also suffered from poor editorial control (the story did not match up with many of the details from the books that led into it, including the death of a major character).  Again I fear it’s going to become essential reading because of its effects (notably the return of the Silver-Age Flash, Barry Allen) and not because of its own merits.

Final Crisis: the Legion of Three Worlds: The Legion of Three Worlds is a pseudo-spin-off of Final Crisis (because the worlds Final Crisis are in the title), and so far it’s shaping up to be far superior to its parent book.  The story, crafted by the workhorse Geoff Johns and drawn by George Perez at the top of his game, is an attempt to redefine the Legion of Superheroes, one of DC’s best loved but most muddled books.  Early reviews have uniformly praised the book and it is becoming a series I am greatly looking forward to the ending of.

Green Lantern: Another Geoff Johns book.  Johns relaunched Green Lantern a number of years ago now, bringing back classic ring bearer Hal Jordan and focusing on crafting a true mythology for the character.  Having succeeded at his initial goals he has worked to steadily up the ante on the action in the story.  Last year he gave us the Sinestro Corps War, in which a Universe wide battle broke out involving most of the villains from the biggest events in DC history.  Since that time he’s been steadily building to The Blackest Night, a story which probably has more buzz going for it than anything in comics at the moment (including the 2 current events).  Keep an eye out for it.

Batman: RIP: In a similar bit of character redefinition, Grant Morrison has been steadily working on a deconstructionist take on Batman for awhile now.  His run has met with mixed reviews so far, albeit with a few standouts to date (the League of Heroes collaboration with J.H. Williams was one of my favorite comics last year).  But the culmination of his approach to the character is in the current story arch, in which Bruce Wayne suffers a massive psychological break and all of the events that led to the creation of the Batman are thoroughly reexamined.  It’s been a riveting story and it seems pretty certain that the Batman coming out of it will be different than the one that went in to it.

The Punisher: Garth Ennis has just wrapped up what has been by far the best take on the Punisher in the character’s history.  Make no mistakes this is an adult comic, in which the Punisher is portrayed as a near mythical force of nature.  It it grim, it is tightly plotted, the art is gorgeous, and it left me never wanting to read another Punisher comic because everything else can’t help but come across as a disappointment after this.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8: Exactly what it sounds like.  Joss Whedon has reassembled a large portion of his writing staff from the classic show along with a number of comics writers with tv writing experience and has crafting a follow up season.  And it’s really good.  If you were a fan of the show or know someone who was make sure to pick up this book as it has lost none of what made the Buffy great to begin with.

The Umbrella Academy: Easily the most enjoyable comic last year.  My Chemical Romance’s front man Gerard Way has crafted an entirely original take on superhero comics (or is that dysfunctional family stories).  The art from Gabriel Ba is perfectly suited to the material (I don’t know of anyone else who could nail something like a robot zombie Gustave Eifle with such wild abandon).  The sequel launches next year.

Criminal: Criminal is a show case for Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips to tell the sort of crime stories they love.  Besides the story each issue (which have consistently been the most well crafted comic of each month) the comics contain a wealth of interviews, reviews, and letter columns concerning the history of the crime genre.  The book is nearly as good as a reference resource as it is for the stories.

Collections: The last few years have been a great time for collected editions.  Bookstores and libraries have opened up to nicely bound editions and the major publishers have been doing a great job of dusting off their back catalogs.  A few archival projects are of particular note.  DC has been republishing some great hardcover editions of James Robinson’s Starman, Grant Morrison’s JLA, and everything Jack Kirby did for them in the 70’s (The Fourth World Omnibus’ have a place of honor on my bookshelves).  Some other recent highlight are Image’s collections of Mike Allred’s Madman, Oni’s new editions of Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country, and another personal favorite, Marvel’s recently released omnibus edition of Howard the Duck (which really is an essential read, albeit a pricey one).