Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Pulse Vol. 3 Fear Trade Paperback Review

The Pulse Vol. 3 - Fear
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
144 pages
$14.99 (2006)
ISBN 9780785119517

Contributors: Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Olivier Coipel, Jose Villarrubia, June Chung, Richard Isanove, Drew Geraci, Drew Hennessy, John Livesay, Mike Mayhew, Rick Magyar, Danny Miki, Mark Morales, Mike Perkins, and Tim Townsend

Reprints: The Pulse #11-14 (of 14); New Avengers Annual #1

Synopsis: Jessica Jones is a former superhero who gave up the life after a severely traumatizing experience and never looked back...or so we thought.  She eventually started Alias Investigations and worked as a private investigator while continually beating herself up with alcohol and cigarettes.  On a particularly drunken night she slept with close friend Luke Cage and ended up pregnant with his baby.  The two grew closer and have become a loving pair of expectant parents.  Jessica quit the somewhat dangerous PI work to become a consultant for J. Jonah Jameson's Daily Bugle newspaper and work with Ben Urich on the fledgling superhero section. 

Now Jessica is a nervous soon-to-be-mother with a million questions.  Will the baby come out all right since she has superpowers from an accident with radioactive material?  She gets advice from the ultimate super-mom - Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman!  Just in time apparently as the baby decides to be born. 

It's Jessica vs. the health care system when she shows up at a hospital and tells them she has superpowers.  Of course her doctor is nowhere to be found (they have a funny way of doing that when you're trying to deliver your baby!) and only Luke Cage's new teammates can help -- AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

The team includes at least one doctor, but he's a little Strange (mwah-ha-ha).  What happens when the media shows up and JJJ demands the exclusive story he was promised when Jessica first began working for him?  Meanwhile Ben Urich uncovers the forgotten hero-turned-homeless - D-Man!

Jessica recounts the first time she met Luke Cage and Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) during a second brief stint as a superhero (told ya!).  Meanwhile the two new parents get hitched and it's a deadly affair as the recently croaked Yelena Bulova (aka Black Widow II) comes calling for revenge.  She's been souped up by AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) and is powerful enough to take on the whole team.  Will Jessica and Luke's wedding be ruined?
The progression of Jessica Jones' life
Pros: Michael Gaydos is back!, Bendis writes Jessica really well, major events happen, the annual was an action-packed slugfest

Cons: Coipel's art was a bit cartoony, Jessica's wedding vows were kinda corny, D-Man story interlaced with Jessica's labor felt like a non-sequitur, the trade shouldn't have been titled "Fear", covers by Mayhew weren't as good (I didn't like his rendition of Jessica)

Mike Tells It Straight: We finally get Bendis and Gaydos reunited after the end of Alias just to have The Pulse end.  These two definitely had a good thing going and it should never have been messed with.  This final volume was bittersweet, but overall a good read and puts a nice cap on the JJ saga with the birth/wedding.  She becomes a supporting character in New Avengers after this, but Bendis writes it so I'm hoping she'll still be treated properly. 

Bottom line - Alias was a great series and Jessica was the star.  In The Pulse she was relegated to cast member and finally became the star again, but too late.  This series could never quite hit the same high notes as its Marvel MAX (mature readers imprint) predecessor.  Nevertheless this book is an absolute must-read for fans of Jessica Jones and worth checking out.  Farewell!

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Girls Complete Collection Deluxe Hardcover Review

Image Comics
Oversized Hardcover
624 pages
$99.99 (2007)
$49.99 (2011) Complete TPB
$14.99 (2005) 1: Conception TPB
$14.99 (2006) 2: Emergence TPB
$14.99 (2006) 3: Survival TPB
$14.99 (2007) 4: Extinction TPB
ISBN 9781582408262

Contributors: Jonathan Luna and Joshua Luna

Reprints: Girls #1-24 (of 24)

Synopsis: Ethan Daniels is trapped in a small town.  He works at the Teenie Weenie Mart, his ex-girlfriend is hooking up with the town cop, and his life is about to change.  He nearly runs down a beautiful, naked girl on his way home one night after publicly humiliating himself at the one, local bar (where his ex bartends, sheesh).  The girl seems dazed and he brings her home in order to help her.  Can he resist the temptation of this beautiful girl even though she is willing enough?  Hardly. 

Here kitty, kitty, kitty!  Good kitty!
This girl is not what she seems and soon there is a catastrophe of bizarrely epic proportions endangering the entire community of Pennystown.  More girls appear and escalating danger comes with them.  Something of questionable appearance is found in a cornfield and people go missing.  The mystery deepens as both the men and women of the town become each others' only hope and worst enemies. 

Can the people of Pennystown survive the coming of the girls?  Which side are you on?

Pros: Simple and clean art, good colors, good writing and especially dialogue, absolutely beautiful hardcover collection w/slipcase, tons of extras, it's for mature audiences - lots of naked girls running around and plenty of swearing, great characterization and interactions, some funny moments and interesting action (not that kind of action, pervert!)

Cons: Simplistic and a bit shallow (i.e. stereotypical), some minor plot holes, not compelling for repeat readings, the nudity is very subdued and not in-your-face enough, art is subtle not flashy, drags on at times with heavy dialogue

Mike Tells It Straight: What's not to like about a collection of naked girls?  Not much as it turns out.  The Luna brothers have become well known for creating good content (Spider-Woman: Origin, The Sword, Ultra) and Girls was a great read.  Each issue had a cliffhanger/reveal which kept the pace exciting.  I was expecting a lot more sci-fi, but the story really focused on the character interactions (which were damn funny most of the time).  
That looks kinda fun

I heartily recommend this story if you're looking for somethng outside of the superhero genre and enjoy a television show like Lost.  The only major drawback to this edition is the price.  It's expensive and while the art looked great in the larger format, it wasn't really necessary.  The extras were nice, but I'm not planning to read it again anytime soon. 

The individual trade paperbacks  or the recent softcover complete collection are way more affordable and I suggest picking those up instead of the deluxe hardcover - unless you prefer the way it looks on your shelf next to your editions of Ultra and The Sword.  Whatever your preference, check it out and I'm definitely planning to track down more work by the Lunas. 

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Pulse Vol. 2 Secret War Trade Paperback Review

The Pulse Vol. 2 - Secret War
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
96 pages
$11.99 (2005)
ISBN 9780785114789

Contributors: Brian Michael Bendis, Brent Anderson, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Pete Pantazis, Cory Petit, and covers by Mike Mayhew

Reprints: The Pulse #6-9

Synopsis: Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are the victims of a brutal attack which leaves both in the hospital. Nick Fury shows up at the hospital and reveals Luke took part in a covert espionage action which has run afoul.  Luke goes missing and Jessica must desperately claw for clues to his whereabouts.  She utilizes every resource available, but superheroes are notoriously bad at returning voicemail messages. 

Can her friends at the Daily Bugle help when Fury is considered an off-limits subject?  Jessica has no one to turn to until a trio of Hydra agents pick her up and offer her aid.  Will she sell her soul to save Luke and the baby?

Pros: Great covers by Mayhew, Bendis continues to deliver good dialogue and plot, no more Mark Bagley from the first story arc, Lark's art was really good (he drew the last half of this collection) and reminiscent of Gaydos from Alias, Jessica gives J. Jonah Jameson a piece of her mind, Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) gives Jessica a piece of his mind
Cons: Anderson's art was better than Bagley's, but too dark, this story is a tie-in to Secret War and you get the feeling the major action is happening elsewhere, no MAX rating (Marvel's mature content imprint) and no swearing/explicit content

Mike Tells It Straight: We finally get a Jessica Jones story arc in The Pulse, but it's a one-off, side story to Secret War.  I loved Alias and the previous story arc (The Pulse: Thin Air) didn't have enough Jessica Jones in it for my taste (although it was still a great story). 

This time we get enough Jessica Jones, but no real explanation of the events causing vast turmoil to descend upon her life.  Instead we spend four issues in the dark and then get a small amount of clarity at the very end.  The art style by Anderson and Lark is dark and moody, which emphasizes the fog poor Jessica is in throughout the story. 

Bendis writes a successful tale if his objective was to highlight the confusion of Jessica during the spillover of events from Secret War.  If you haven't read Alias or Secret War then this may be difficult to follow.  Otherwise it was a passable entry into the saga of Jessica Jones' life and brings back the focus to our favorite flawed, former superheroine.  I still miss her abundant profanity, but we're back on track to the Alias days.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Pulse Vol. 1 Thin Air Trade Paperback Review

The Pulse Vol. 1 - Thin Air
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
120 pages
$13.99 (2004)
ISBN 9780785113324

Contributors: Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, Scott Hanna, Brian Reber, Frank D'Armata, Cory Petit, and cover by Mike Mayhew

Reprints: The Pulse #1-5

Synopsis: The next chapter in the life of Jessica Jones unfolds!  She and Luke Cage have been together since the shocking revelation that Jessica is pregnant with his baby.  In an effort to keep herself out of harm's way during the pregnancy, Jessica has shut down Alias Investigations and is starting a new job with the Daily Bugle. 

J. Jonah Jameson has finally admitted his hard line, anti-superhero propaganda is not winning new readers.  He wants to create a superhero news section with Ben Urich (award-winning writer, but out of favor since he refused to reveal Daredevil's secret identity) and featuring Jessica Jones as a research consultant.  Jessica helped JJJ when his foster daughter went missing and has earned a microscopic soft spot in his petrified heart. 
This ain't half bad!

The first story Jones and Urich cover is one that cuts right to the heart of the Daily Bugle newspaper as one of their own is found murdered.  The suspect is believed to have super powers and the new reporting team have their work cut out finding the killer.  What happens when Jessica's new job puts her right back in harm's way?

Pros: Nice covers by Mayhew, great dialogue and story by Bendis, good art by Bagley who ain't no stranger to any of these characters (he drew flashback sequences in Alias)

Cons: I prefer Gaydos' art from Alias (the first series starring Jessica Jones) vs. Bagley's art on this one, Bendis/Bagley use an excessive amount of double-page dialogue spreads utilizing repeat/copied panels (i.e. Jessica's same head shot five times with different dialogue) in the first few issues, Alias had a MAX rating (for mature audiences) while this series doesn't = it's not the same Jessica Jones without the cussing!

Mike Tells It Straight: I loved Alias and really dug Bendis' portrayal of Jessica Jones.  When that series ended and this one started up I had to check it out.  Going into this reading with a lot of expectations I was both let down and thrilled at the same time.  Let me explain - Alias was a Marvel MAX book with a lot (I mean a lot) of cussing, smoking, and mature themes.  It was a hoot!  Then Bendis and Marvel decided to pull the plug in favor of this Daily Bugle centered book without the mature rating so they could feature all of the mainstream Marvel heroes without tarnishing their images with 'mature content' situations.  Complete BS IMHO. 

Wherefore art thou Jessica Jones?

Jessica Jones' character is lessened by her treatment in this series - she was the star of Alias, but is just another member of the cast here.  She doesn't swear, doesn't smoke (obviously with the pregnancy and all), and is not the true focus of the series.  Bagley's art didn't do her or Luke Cage justice (too cartoony).  It was a let down.  BUT...

The story was phenomenal - the Daily Bugle cast: J. Jonah Jameson, Ben Urich, Robbie Robertson et al were incredibly well-portrayed.  Bendis paced it really well and gave us a cliffhanger at the end of every issue.  Major events happened in the lives of Urich, Spider-Man, and a specific villain.  Bagley's art was perfect for these characters.  It was a book that changed the status quo and I loved it. 

In conclusion, the Alias fans will be disappointed by this book, but take solace - it's still a great read.  Yes, despite the ridiculous double-page, multiple-head-shot, and dialogue-ridden pages - Bendis delivers!

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Annihilation Book Three Hardcover Review

Annihilation Vol. 3
Marvel Comics
Oversized Hardcover
304 pages
$29.99 (2007)
$24.99 (2007)
ISBN 9780785125136

Contributors: Christos Gage, Guiseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini, June Chung, Cory Petit, Scott Kolins, Keith Giffen, Stuart Moore, Andrea DiVito, Paul Mounts, Laura Villari, and Mike McKone

Reprints: Annihilation #1-6 (of 6), Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus #1-2 (of 2), Annihilation: Nova Corps Files

Synopsis: The Annihilation Wave has broken through from the Negative Zone to our universe and destroys everything in its path.  None are safe as Annihilus, long-time foe of the Fantastic Four and possessor of the Cosmic Control Rod, unleashes his ruthless armada to scour the cosmos of life.

Someone call for exterminators!?
Xandar and the Nova Corps fell within the first few days of the Wave's attack and Nova is the sole survivor, housing the entire power of the Nova Force and Worldmind within his body.  He leads a resistance army called the United Front against the Wave with little to no success.  Aided by a reborn Drax the Destroyer, Peter Quill the former Star-Lord, Gamora, several former Heralds of Galactus, Ronan the Accuser, and the Super-Skrull - Nova fights a desperate and ultimately futile battle.  The shattered Skrull Empire has been decimated and the Kree are next in line for obliteration.

Annihilus now holds the Quantum Bands and is close to harnessing cosmic power with the help of Thanos.  The pair of despots seek to imprison Galactus with the help of two Proemial Gods, Tenebrous and Aegis.  Moondragon is captured by Thanos setting Drax on a collision course with his destiny to kill the mad Titan.  The universe stands on the brink of annihilation - can the heroes prevail and who will fall next?

Did anyone get the number of that Annihilation Wave?

Four post-Annihilation stories starring the Heralds of Galactus:
  • Finally released by Annihilus' control-parasites Terrax, Paibok the Power Skrull, and the Delinquent make planet-fall on a world controlled by the Space Parasite - can they resist his power in their weakened state?
  • Stardust reincorporates after the devastating events of the Annihilation War and is confronted by the last remnants of its former life.  The Ethereal creature gets one last chance at redemption
  • Firelord hunts down members of the Centurions for their war crimes.  He encounters a group seeking atonement by opposing their former allies.  Will his fiery anger blind him to their attempt or can he forgive those forced into the service of Annihilus?
  • The two Proemial Gods, Tenebrous and Aegis plan to reorder the universe to fit their warped views.  The Silver Surfer battles them amid the wreckage of the K'yln at the Universal Crunch, but he is hopelessly outmatched - can he survive fighting the gods who defeated his master?
    Stardust, Terrax, Galactus, Firelord and the Silver Surfer
Pros: Awesome covers by Dell'Otto (probably the highlight of the whole series), major cosmic events happen, spectacular finale, art by DiVito was decent, battle between Thanos and Drax

Cons: Interior art didn't blow me away, Proemial Gods were wasted on the Surfer story, Nova Corps files felt like a lot of filler

 Mike Tells It Straight: This final collection of the Annihilation saga brought back the excitement I felt from the first volume.  We get more intergalactic war, major plot twists, and an exciting finale.  The final battle between Drax and Thanos was a shocker, Galactus plays a big role in the saga, and Marvel successfully revamps their cosmic heroes. 

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.

I enjoyed this crossover as much as Civil War although it was very different.  The real story was Nova's journey from being a green rookie to cosmic powerhouse and savior of the universe.  His character is very alike to Spider-Man's - regular kid gets superpowers and learns their importance.  Nova matured in this series and I'm looking forward to his further adventures in the sequel - Annihilation: Conquest.

The saga suffers from the typical modern storytelling decompression technique - good for selling more comic books, but it bogs down the reader.  The whole thing could have been told in twelve issues, but it was still a good read.  You won't find better cosmic action from Marvel in the modern era - check out this book (especially for those of you disappointed by volume two - it gets better).

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Midnight Nation Hardcover Review

Midnight Nation
Image Comics - Top Cow
Oversized Hardcover
304 pages
$100.00 (2009)
$24.99 (2003) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781607060406

Contributors: J. Michael Straczynski, Gary Frank, Jason Gorder, Jay Leisten, Jonathan Sibal, Michael Zulli, Avalon Studios, Dan Kemp, Matt Milla, Justin Ponsor, Dennis Heisler, Robin Spehar, and Dreamer Design

Reprints: Midnight Nation #1/2, 1-12 (of 12)

Synopsis: Lt. David Grey works homicide for the LAPD and he's seen it all until one particularly brutal murder investigation brings him face-to-face with supernatural horror.  He is attacked and injured by a group of strange, demonic half-men under the control of a mysterious figure.  Awakening in a hospital bed he sees people around him have faded to translucent half-ghosts and no longer register his presence.  Incredibly disturbed by this phenomena David is approached by a woman who seems to know what has happened to him.  
Always look both ways before crossing the street

She explains he has lost his soul and must make a journey to New York City in order to get it back or eventually become one of the "Walkers" - the demonic half-men who accosted him.  Laurel is a guide of sorts and tells him about the place between the cracks of the regular world - only abandoned people or objects are real. 

The two make the long journey from Los Angeles to New York by foot and have strange encounters along the way.  They are besieged by Walkers at every turn and David experiences the constant hopelessness of those on the other side.  Part of his nature is now that of a Walker and it surfaces more frequently He and Laurel become closer as he gets closer to confronting "The Other Guy".  Laurel is not what she seems and neither is the choice David must ultimately make once his soul is within reach.  Will he regain his soul and what happens to Laurel? 
"The Other Guy" rules New York

Pros: Decent concept, art by Frank is excellent and super-clean, Laurel is hot, beautiful hardcover edition, tons of extras including, sketchbook, script, and all the covers

Cons: Really expensive, relatively quick read, some minor plot holes, predictable and a bit preachy at the end

Mike Tells It Straight: Straczynski crafts a tale of hardship, loyalty, sacrifice, and ultimately hope.  His story is simple and straightforward with Frank providing wonderfully clean art.  Borrowing from Christianity we are painted a picture of the subtle battle between heaven and hell.  I enjoyed the characters and plot, but felt it became predictable by the end.  That being said, simple is often better than complicated (which can lead to being convoluted).  Not your traditional comic and no superheroes to be found which is a nice change.    
Laurel = hot

Now let's talk about the price - $100 is way too much for this book.  I know it's a lush, hardcover edition, but the story is not classic enough to warrant this hefty price tag.  Top Cow offers compendium editions of Witchblade, The Darkness, and even Tomb Raider with fifty issues at $100.  It's ludicrous to pay this much.  The story is pretty good, but the hardcover edition is too expensive.  Pick up the trade paperback and take a walk on the dark side.

TO BUY and Recommendations: