Saturday, July 24, 2010

Superman Versus The Terminator: Death to the Future Review

Superman Versus The Terminator: Death to the Future
Dark Horse Comics/DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
96 pages
ISBN 9781569714768

Contributors: Alan Grant, Steve Pugh, and David Stewart

Reprints: Superman Versus The Terminator: Death to the Future #1-4 (of 4)

Synopsis: In the modern day Sarah and young John Connor are passing through Metropolis when they are attacked by a Terminator.  Superman intervenes and rescues them, but the Terminators remains are discovered by the Cyborg.  He wants to help bring about the future where the machines rule and mankind is destroyed. 

Meanwhile more Terminators with increasingly enhanced weaponry are appearing in the present.  During a battle Superman is transported to the future where he meets Steel, who has joined up with John Connor's forces.  Superman and Steel take on Skynet to save the human race. 

In the past, Superboy and Supergirl battle a seemingly endless flow of Terminators.  They enlist Lex Luthor's help and he actually agrees because he *shock* gives a crap about humanity! 

Pros: Nice painted covers by Pugh

Cons: Story is weak, no real sense of danger (no characters die), surprisingly boring

Mike Tells It Straight: This crossover fails miserably.  Alan Grant wrote a lot of really mediocre Batman stories and he drops the ball here too.  The Terminators are pathetic and Superman/boy/girl dispath them with ease.  I can't believe Grant missed the opportunity to kill off major characters (like the Justice League or even Superman's supporting cast) in a time-travel story where you can change the present and reverse all the deaths.  I have to believe the editors and corporate gave him strict guidelines forcing him to write this terrible story.  He even left it open for a sequel.  "Death to the Sequel!"

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Mighty Avengers: Secret Invasion Book 2 Review

Mighty Avengers: Secret Invasion Book 2
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
120 pages
ISBN 9780785136507

Contributors: Brian Michael Bendis, Khoi Pham, Danny Miki, Stefano Caselli, Carlo Pagulayan, Lee Weeks, Jim Cheung, and Marko Djurdjevic

Reprints: Mighty Avengers #16-20

Synopsis: The first Skrull impostor to be revealed was Elektra, but how was one of the deadliest women on Earth replaced by an alien shape-shifter?

The Skrull impersonators are genetically linked to their subjects and the imprinting is so strong that their personalities are in danger of being submerged with the dominant, "heroic" personalities.  See what happens when "Hank Pym" goes native.

Nick Fury sends his new team on their first mission - to kidnap Maria Hill, the acting director of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Noh-Varr is a dimension-displaced Kree soldier stranded on Earth and imprisoned for threatening to take over the planet.  He's vasting advanced in mind, body, and technology.  He encounters the "Skrull" Captain Marvel who rebels from the invading armada after identifying with the imprinted personality of the original Mahr-Vell.

The Avengers and superhero community bid farewell to The Wasp.

Pros: More backstory on Secret Invasion, nice covers by Djurdjevic

Cons: Art is less good than previous book, stories are less compelling

Mike Tells It Straight: The Secret Invasion backstory continues, but is less intriguing in this volume than the previous one.  It seems like all the secrets are out and these issues are just filler.  Even the Wasp farewell seems like filler (especially with the full splash pages recounting earlier crossovers).  I guess if you've come this far into the storyline there's no turning back.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Mighty Avengers: Secret Invasion Book 1 Review

Mighty Avengers: Secret Invasion Book 1
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
112 pages
ISBN 9780785130109

Contributors: Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Khoi Pham, Danny Miki, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer, and Marko Djurdjevic

Reprints: Mighty Avengers #12-15

Synopsis: Nick Fury dropped off the grid after being fired for his "Secret War".  He has been covertly operating ever since and brings together a team of powerful individuals loyal only to him.  What relation do his activities have with the Skrull invasion? 

The Skrulls have observed The Sentry and believe they can counteract his interference.  Can it really be so simple?  Witness the next evolution in The Sentry's life.

Hank Pym (Ant Man, Giant Man, Yellowjacket) is revealed to be a Skrull in Secret Invasion, but how and when was he replaced?

Pros: Cool "Skrull" takes on classic Marvel covers, good art, fills in a lot of backstory on Secret Invasion and especially Nick Fury

Cons: Short - only four issues long

Mike Tells It Straight: Consider this book Secret Warriors #0 as it explains why and where Nick Fury has been since he went underground.  The material is compelling and worthwhile reading if you're into the whole Secret Invasion and Avengers storylines.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Secret Invasion Review

Secret Invasion
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
248 pages
ISBN 9780785132974

Contributors: Brian Michael Bendis, Leinil Yu, Mark Morales, Laura Martin, Chris Eliopoulos, and Gabriele Dell'Otto

Reprints: Secret Invasion #1-8

Synopsis: They've been living among us and plotting our downfall for years.  Skrulls are shape-shifting aliens skilled in the ways of subterfuge and deceit.  They believe Earth is their next homeworld after their original planet was eaten by Galactus.  Capitalizing on the destabilized superhero community following the events of Civil War and World War Hulk the Skrulls launch a full-scale invasion. 

The enemy can be anyone and no one knows who to trust - the stakes are the entire planet.  How can the fractured superhero community stand a chance and who will be revealed as a Skrull? 

Who do you trust?

Pros: Nice art by Yu (a lot of characters to draw), great storyline and build-up by Bendis, cool covers by Dell'Otto, includes all the variant covers in the extras section, excellent setup for the next big storyline (Dark Reign), a few awesome scenes (takedown of Reed Richards is really graphic, long-lost heroes emerging from the Skrull spaceship, return of the kidnapped heroes), founding Avenger dies (yeah, she'll be back), reuniting of the core Avengers (Cap, Thor, Iron Man) after Disassembled storyline

Cons: Bendis' dialogue always has issues where he completely misses a character's speech pattern (they're not all from New York), Yu's art has it's own issues (funky poses/anatomy, women), Skrull armada seems pretty big and the only fighting is in New York?, a lot of details get overlooked because events are fully revealed in tie-in books, never really got the Skrull's religious angle (whole "He loves you." line)

Mike Tells It Straight: Secret Invasion is a decent universe-spanning crossover event which has legitimate origins and spins the Marvel Universe into an interesting direction at its conclusion (Dark Reign).  Compared to recent crossovers its not as good as Civil War (really, what crossover can beat an ending where Captain America dies?), but far better than World War Hulk and House of M.  Pretty much essential reading for Marvel fans, fast-paced and entertaining. 

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fantastic Four: The Beginning of the End Review

Fantastic Four: The Beginning of the End
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
120 pages
ISBN 9780785125549

Contributors: Dwayne McDuffie, Paul Pelletier, Karl Kesel, Tom Grummett, Paul Mounts, Michael Turner and Steve McNiven

Reprints: Fantastic Four #525-526, 551-553

Synopsis: Dr. Doom travels 75 years into the past (to our present) in order to confront Reed Richards and stop him from implementing a plan to solve humankind's problems.  He foretells future disaster when Reed's benevolent plan ruins the Four's lives and brings Reed himself to madness.  Doom has brought two allies with him to convince the FF of his news and reveals one of Reed's secrets.  It doesn't take long for the future FF to arrive and will they be the evil versions of themselves Doom warns?

A second tale involves a mysterious building's plumbing turned to gold.  Who else could be responsible except the alchemical master Diablo?  He wishes for the FF's help to fulfill his dream of returning to the past and righting the wrongs done to him during the Spanish Inquisition. 

Pros: Covers by Turner and McNiven are decent

Cons: Grummett's Thing rendition is terrible, Johnny Storm's reason for having a multitude of short-term relationships made sense until I remembered he married a Skrull version of Alicia Masters (who never caught on fire during *ahem* whoopie)

Mike Tells It Straight: A pair of forgettable tales mashed together to fill out a trade paperback.  McDuffie's story is entertaining, but he plays fast and loose with the plot (as usual).  Kesel's Diablo story seems to veer into a totally different and less interesting direction.  Get this only if you're an FF completist.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Spider-Man: The Other: Evolve or Die Hardcover Review

Spider-Man: The Other: Evolve or Die
Marvel Comics
Oversized Hardcover
288 pages
ISBN 9780785121886

Contributors: J. Michael Straczynski, Peter David, Reginald Hudlin, Mike Wieringo, Pat Lee, Mike Deodato Jr., Karl Kesel, Paul Mounts, and Joe Quesada

Reprints: Amazing Spider-Man #525-528; Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1-4; Marve Knights Spider-Man #19-22

Synopsis: Spider-Man has joined the New Avengers and moved his family into Stark Towers to keep them safe.  Life was supposed to be better, but somehow the old Parker luck has a way of turning up.  Now Peter is distracted by unsettling dreams and making stupid mistakes while in costume.

Re-enter Morlun, an enemy thought dead and returned to dog Spider-Man's heels with the intent to destroy him.  In his unfocused state will he be able to stand up to a seemingly unbeatable foe?  It gets ugly and Spider-Man must reach deep within himself to triumph, but at the cost of his humanity?  We've seen the man, but what is The Other? 

Pros: Intriguing idea by Straczynski to give Spider-Man more spider-powers and expand his origin, great cover by Quesada based on Vitruvian Man by DaVinci, includes all the variant covers by Wieringo

Cons: Three different artists with clashing styles (Wieringo/cartoon, Lee/anime, Deodato/realistic-ish), another lame villain in Tracer, Morlun character is totally wasted

Mike Tells It Straight: Straczynski's idea plays out better in theory than execution as this story has some flaws.  The artists working on the Spider-books at the time were too different and each chapter transition jars the reader with a conflicting visual style.  Morlun's character is completely thrown away after being established in a previous storyline as a major threat.  Overall I think The Other is a worthy entry to the Spider-Man mythos and finally gives Spider-Man a creepy twist (he's part spider after all).  Unfortunately, the story is more hype than substance, but it all gets retconned away after One More Day.   

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The World's Greatest Super-Heroes Hardcover Review

The World's Greatest Super-Heroes
DC Comics
Oversized Hardcover - Slipcased
396 pages
$49.99 (2005) $29.99 SC (2010)
ISBN 761941241661

Contributors: Alex Ross, Paul Dini, Todd Klein, and forward by Chipp Kidd

Reprints: Superman: Peace on Earth; Batman: War on Crime; Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth; Shazam!: Power of Hope; JLA: Secret Origins; JLA: Liberty and Justice

Synopsis: Chronicled here are tales of four individual heroes facing the most difficult, unsolved problems of humanity. 
  • Superman vows to feed the hungry across the globe for one single day
  • Batman fights an unending war on crime and tries to make more than a temporary difference
  • Captain Marvel grants the wishes of the patients in a hospital's childrens' ward: from terminal patients to those suffering domestic abuse
  • Wonder Woman tries to fulfill her duties as ambassador to man's world, but feels ineffectual and is not being taken seriously
Finally, the Justice League rushes to stop a dangerous alien plague from devastating the entire population of Earth, while dealing with the fear and mistrust of a world on the brink of panic. 

Pros: Alex Ross' art is stunning in these often full-page splash presentations, Dini's take on super-heroes tackling real-world problems perfectly melds with Ross' realistic artwork, the Justice League has never looked so good, origin spreads for each character are fantastic, great sketchbook section with notes, pull-out pinups, quality slipcase edition (like an absolute edition)

Cons: Story often takes a back-seat to the art, outside of regular DCU events, title of edition is vague

Mike Tells It Straight: Fans of Alex Ross are in for a real treat with this collected edition.  I held off on buying the individual oversized graphic novels due to the abnormal size and feeling they would get damaged amidst my collection.  Good thing because this book is gorgeous, well constructed, and fits perfectly with my absolute editions.  I like the premise of super-heroes trying to solve real-world problems (haven't we all thought about this at one point?) although the stories were a bit sterile and somewhat bland.  The art more than makes up for anything the story lacks.  This book is one of those rare genre-defying pieces anyone can truly enjoy - from your grandfather to your toddler. 

TO BUY and Recommendations: