Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Quick Super-Hero Reviews

Astonishing X-Men; JLA Classified; Superman/Batman; Avengers; Batman; Detective Comics

Astonishing X-Men #6
by Joss Whedon & John Cassady
Joss's initial arc comes to a conclusion, with a good deal of hitting and a good deal of talking, as some things are explained while others (like Ord's motivation) are not. And Whedon doesn't skip on the denouments, giving a bit of closure to the arc while setting things up for the next one. One might suspect that this series has been built around a few spectacular moments--such as the fantastic two-page spread in this issue that leaves long-time fanboys (like me) with a big smile--strung together with clever dialog and a bit of plot. But really, is that so wrong? Much has been made over the seeming regression of the X-books to their pre-Morrison days, but while Whedon is certainly invoking the spirit of the good ol' Claremont/Byrne days, except for the costumes he hasn't done anything to contradict what Morrison set up (unlike Claremont & Austen, who have completely undermined the central Xorn/Magneto conflict). Whedon is taking what Morrison left and going in the direction that he wants to go. And I, for one, am willing to go with him.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

JLA: Classified #1
by Grant Morrison, Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines
Only Morrison would start a new series featuring the JLA with only one JLA'er in the whole thing. Yet it still feels like a JLA story, opening with a chaotic fight between the Global Guardians Ultramarines and Gorilla Grodd (a villain who it seems that McGuinness was born to draw). Batman (Morrison's ultimate JLA'er) shows up near the end, digging into his 'sci-fi closet,' a wonderful metaphor for the past Batman tales which modern writer pretend don't exist, but in which Morrison obviously revels. It's high-concept JLA fun. And next issue: Robot JLA!
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Superman/Batman #13
by Jeph Loeb & Michael Turner
I really don't understand the amount of venom that's being heaped upon this title. Yes, Loeb's narration can get grating at times and Turner's artwork is rather stylized, but it delivers exactly what it promises: big fights and over-the-top emotion. And yes, the plot falls apart if you look at it too closely, but this is a book that needs to be enjoyed on a surface level, riding across the tops of the waves. I certainly appreciate it more than the faux importance of Azzarello's Superman or Austen's brainless Action Comics. And let me give a special shout-out to Peter Steigerwald, who turns in one of the best super-hero coloring jobs I've seen in a while.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Avengers #503
by Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch & Danny Miki
I don't have a problem with Dr. Strange showing up to be Exposition Guy, and the reveal of who is behind the Disassembly of the Avengers makes sense in the context of the story that's been presented to us. There was no cheating here; the clues were left and many things make more sense now in hindsight (including the odd coloring choice I complained about in the last issue). What I do have a problem with is that after delivering the exposition, Dr. Strange sticks around and solves the problem as well. It's a Deus ex Machina of the worst kind. This is the Avengers after all, and story-wise the Avengers have to solve their own crisis, or it's just a cop out.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Batman #633
by Bill Willingham, Kinsun, Aaron Sowd, Rodney Ramos & Adam DeKraker
It's been no secret that I haven't cared much for "War Games," and this conclusion to the long, overwrought story does little to change my mind. The handling of Spoiler leaves me especially pissed off. Heaven forbid we have a strong teenage female character as a hero; no, better to have her act like an idiot, abuse her and then kill her off. All of the hype around the female Robin a few months ago now seems exploitive in its vindictive glee, a big f-you to anyone who was pulled in because of that, or who has been following the character for years. The lone bright spot here is the art by Kinsun, who brings an energy to the explosive fight scenes and renders the deathbed scene with a quiet dignity.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

Detective Comics #800
by Anderson Gabrych, Pete Woods, Cam Smith & Drew Geraci; David Lapham
Gabrych uses this issue to set up the new status quo in Gotham: Everyone besides Batman and Catwoman leave, with Batman at odds with the GCPD and Catwoman pissed at him for not being open with his feelings (but really, what does she expect?) Black Mask now controls the Gotham underworld, and seems to be mixing things up to keep both Bats and the cops off-balance. As a denoument to "War Games" it works well, but it seems a bit of a waste for a big anniversary issue. What really drew me to this was the back-up story by Lapham, a prelude to his run on this title which starts next issue and which I've really been looking forward to. But man, I really hope that it turns out better than this, eight disconnected pointless pages...
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

No comments: