IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 10.3.12!

Detective Comics #13
Duck and Cover
IQ Test (Back-up)
Writer: John Layman
Artist: Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke

Isn’t life funny? W.D. Prescott spent the week in Vegas celebrating his birthday (Happy Birthday, Will!) with family and friends (What is this thing called “vacation”? Never heard of it.) and Jose got so incensed with the AVX craptacular that here I am, reviewing 7 comics– and a second John Layman book in as many weeks. Well, I may not have broken bread with the co-creator of Chew, but I’ve read all his comics… So I’m ready to go.

Layman may not know this (yet) but it always seems when DC hires a new writer for a Batman book, the publisher always tells the “new guy” he can write a story about the Penguin or the Riddler. Why? Come on, you know why. Because none of the other writers are using these villains, since nobody thinks a match-up between The Bat and either of these two lightweights is much of a… Match-up. Layman’s no idiot. He understands this. There’s no physical confrontation worth creating here. The days of Batman falling for a shiv suddenly poking from the Penguin’s umbrella (or noxious gas coming from same) are long gone. If Batman does battle anyone connected to the Penguin, it won’t include the fishy little person himself… It’ll be with a bunch of nameless goons.

So Layman doesn’t even go there. At all.

He makes the competition/battle between the two foes much more personal… By turning his first Detective Comics story into a cat-and-mouse game as Batman is suddenly confronted with several crimes occurring in rapid succession in Gotham City. In a situation that actually requires detective work, Batman figures out what’s happening. Now he just has to determine why it’s happening and who’s behind it. In what should be a template for all future Caped Crusader writers, Bats doesn’t come to his conclusions until just before the end of the story– when Layman springs another surprise. It’s a mystery, see? And it takes a detective who understands a series of actions to solve it.

Layman also writes the back-up story. And I’m not going to tell you a thing about it. I don’t want to give anything away. OK, I’m a reviewer– so I will tell you this: Batman appears in the tale via flashback only, but it’s still like he’s in every panel for all ten pages. Confused? Sorry… But you really should read it. In a first for the New 52, I enjoyed the back-up story as much as the main one. I even liked both artists as well. Jason Fabok has a little Paul Gulacy in his art and Andy Clarke’s artistic strengths were perfectly matched to the insular feel of the second story.

I haven’t read any of Tony Daniel’s New 52 Detective yet (Layman’s predecessor on the title)… But from what I hear, that’s a good thing. I urge everyone to go buy this book. Layman takes the Penguin to a personal area of greed and insecurity few, if any, have ever had the balls to explore. To do this– and still write an action-packed comic– means we’ve got nothing but greatness to come.

Not that they’re competing, of course– but I think DC just found a guy highly acclaimed Bat writer Scott Snyder is going to have to share his perch with. – Ian MacMillan

Avengers vs X-Men #12
Round 12
Story: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Adam Kubert

While the “success” of Marvel’s Civil War crossover helped pave the way for useless event after useless event after useless event after useless event by the publisher– it was really 2005’s House of M that started the hideous trend that gave birth to Civil War in the first place. That noted, X-Men vs Avengers is the perfect bookend to 7 years of recycled ideas and horrendous stories that have pretty much all but ruined the once great Marvel Comics.

Back in 2005, Brian Michael Bendis was just beginning his tenure on the Avengers titles when word came down from then Marvel EiC Joe Quesada to get rid of the vast majority of mutants in the Marvel U (apparently because there were just too many of them). Bendis was tasked in making this happen. Make no mistake, House of M was born out of a corporate mandate— not from a creative idea. It was also the first event where decompression became the official “How to Tell a Story the Marvel Way”. Eight issues– which felt both bloated and anemic at the same time– told a story which realistically could have been completed in three comics.

Over the years, Marvel has repeated this plodding storytelling process– all while raising prices on all of their major titles “because they could”, dropping page counts on comics without telling anyone in advance, stuffed a majority of overpriced #1 issues with (what has become known as) “wiki-padding” and began to ramp up insane amounts of variant covers throughout their entire line as a way to artificially inflate sales.

Needless to say, Marvel has seemingly become very good at inventing some shady business practices, unafraid to nickel and dime their most loyal of customers. Years filled with this trial and error, all culminate with the Avengers vs X-Men event, AVX.

If I had actually paid all the money and put in all the time required to read this entire event, I truly believe the ending of AVX #12 would’ve made me quit reading comics. And while I say that kinda jokingly, I have no doubt there are people who will quit reading Marvel Comics because of this book. It’s a phenomenon I’ve heard of and watched happen more than once– and it is more common than you think. Event fatigue is a very real problem and comes from fans feeling like they’ve been burned by a company one too many times. And if you were one of the people who felt let down by the anticlimactic ending of this comic (which I’ll get to in a bit), I’m pretty sure the fact that you paid $4.99 for the experience didn’t help.

Yup, this is classic Marvel: Charging you a buck more for the last issue of a limited series because of… What? You’ve already bought every issue of the series so far and you’re not going to buy this one? It’s a little more insulting considering there was also a #0 Issue related to this event that cost $3.99. You would think the company would’ve been content with gouging that extra 4 bucks out of you, but nope… They want more. To be fair, there were extra pages to this last issue. But when you realize how much of the creative space was consumed by unneeded splash pages, double splash pages and numerous pages with only 2 or 3 panels– you can’t help but feel like a chump. The issue did not need to be extra-sized.

As for how the series ended, I get the feeling that since the vast majority of Marvel events have been criticized for ending in more a whimper than a bang, that the Architects went out of their way to make this one definitely end with a whimper. But you know what? That’s par for the course for this boring, cliché-ridden comic book.

Example: There’s this whole sequence where Tony Stark is trying to figure out how to beat The Phoenix Force currently residing in Cyclops (Scott Summers). Tony believes Hope and Scarlet Witch are the key to it all, and goes on and on about how these two mutants must be the key because they represent some sort of yin and yang relationship. Why? Truthfully, I have no fucking idea why.

This entire comic doesn’t let little things like “details” or “plausibility” get in the way. Yin and Yang is a concept which, of course, is based in spirituality– not science. So when Wolverine brings this point up to Iron Man, Stark says, “It’s a radical new idea. A rather breathtaking discovery if I do say so myself. I call it ‘Faith’.”

I believe Stark’s whole “revelation” happens for two reasons– the first being Jason Aaron scripted this issue, and he feels the need to shoehorn some bullshit about “Faith” in almost every damn comic script he writes. Secondly, having Tony Stark, a man of science, discover faith is such a shittastically brilliant and original idea… I wonder why it hasn’t been done to death in all literature and film. Oh wait…

As for how this story’s ending? Hope becomes possessed by the Phoenix and does a decent job of controlling it– for a bit. Then Scarlet Witch tells Hope she wasn’t possessed by the Phoenix so she could wield its powers but because Hope is the only one with the strength to let it go. This is another awesome bit of originality. I hope all you aspiring writers are taking notes so you too, one day, can hack it up like the best of them. But I digress…

After that sickening speech, Wanda and Hope hold hands and say the words, “No More Phoenix.” Ha. Get it? This works because Wanda started the Marvel Comics sucking thingy when she said “No More Mutants”. The Phoenix leaves Hope’s body and disperses into people all around the world… Turning them into mutants. Isn’t that just god damn poetic?

Then there’s this bit at the end between Captain America and Scott Summers. Cyclops is now in prison because he did some bad things, like killing Professor X (yawn) while possessed by the Phoenix– and now he must pay for his crimes and stuff. During this whole scene Cap does his best righteous prick impression. (How any fans can still care about this guy, I have no idea.) So now, the complete destruction of Cyclops– which began a few years ago– is now complete. Fans of Scott Summers will now know the pain fans of Spider-Man have endured for years.

You know what’s kinda funny about the whole “Bringing Back Mutants” angle? Bendis got rid of most of them in House of M because Joey Q wanted him to. And at the time, why should Bendis care about that? After all, he was taking charge of the Avengers family of books. So why would he care if he was writing a story putting massive constraints on the X-Men creators… It’s not like Bendis needed to deal with any of that. But now, 7 years later, Bendis IS taking over as head X-Men writer… And all of a sudden he’s got the entire Mutant Toy Box back. Weird, huh? – Jose Melendez

Daredevil: End of Days #1 (of 8)
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis,
David Mack
Pencils: Klaus Janson
Finished Art/Paintings: Bill Sienkiewicz

It’s not like a Brian Michael Bendis series needs a black mark from me before I start reading it, but this mini/maxi/what-the-hell-ever you call an 8-issue series already has a big strike: I loathe future set stories detailing the death of a superhero. My ire has nothing to do with Bendis. I just believe the world is filled with enough death and misery as it is… And I don’t think heroes should die in fiction.

Ever.

Some supporting characters, OK. Heroes created specifically as cannon fodder, OK. But not the hero heroes– the really heroic men and women. My attraction to comics (and other forms of entertainment) was fueled by this belief… And for years, no one dared kill “my” heroes. Then DC offed Superman to spectacular sales in 1992 and Paramount killed Captain Kirk in ’94… And all hell started to break loose. I pity fans who’ve only discovered comics in the last decade or so. Death and rebirth are handed out in current comics faster than DC can cancel a New 52 book … And it’s a real shame.

The sum effect is death has no meaning in mainstream comics anymore. I know it. You know it. Apparently the only people who don’t know it are publishers like Marvel Comics… Because here I sit, reviewing a comic called Daredevil End of Days.

Man, the ghost of Frank Miller hangs heavy over this series… Overwhelmingly so. After an opening splash, there are two pages with “normal” layouts– then FOUR double-page spreads in a row. The first double is a splash showing Daredevil’s murder. (Spoiler? Come on… Read the title of the comic I’m reviewing!) The second two-page effort is a wide shot of the Daily Bugle’s desolate Editorial Room, complete with several televisions blaring the death footage. There’s also lots of heavy-handed captions from Ben Urich… The most banally introspective, self-possessed reporter ever created in any medium.

The next four pages though– those are lifted directly from Miller’s Dark Knight Returns Two 2-page spreads with little, itty-bitty boxes showing various NYC people reacting to DD’s death. This 4-page sequence couldn’t have been more Miller if the man wrote and drew it himself… But there it is anyway. Except– and it’s a big exception– I stopped counting how many times I was offended by the horribly stereotypical characters Bendis and Mack concocted for these reaction sequences.

Sorry. I didn’t have my calculator nearby and it was hard trying to count that high.

The only thing remotely entertaining (to me, at least) were the panels where Ben started to write the story of Matt Murdock’s death. Ben begins the account relating everything to himself… Then starts over when he reminds himself the story isn’t about himself. Now that was funny! Somebody finally had the cojones to punch a hole in Urich’s bubble of pomposity. But, alas, two panels do not make a great comic. Sadly, the rest smacks of Frank Miller too. Of course, Janson and Sienkiewicz’ art is delicious (if hurried in spots). And the story actually reads pretty well, as long as you’ve never heard of or read a comic book written by Miller in his prime.

I really thought maybe Bendis returned to character he used to write (very well) because he truly wanted to be the one to end Daredevil’s story… Because he still had something to say about the Hell’s Kitchen hero. (Hope springs eternal for all kinds of idiots like me.) But if this drawn-out first issue is any indication… There’s not much here that hasn’t been done before and done better. I can’t imagine how they are going to fill SEVEN more issues with this reworked crap. But if I know the Father of Modern Comic Book Decompression like I think I do… Numerous double-page splashes filled with Miller reaction shots later… It’ll be a breeze.

I’ll let Family Guy’s Stewie have the last words. – Ian MacMillan

Action Comics #13
The Ghost in the Fortress of Solitude
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Travel Foreman

I want to buy and read a Superman monthly title, I really do. The Man of Steel is pretty much the reason comics exist… And when done well, Superman is a great character to read. But for whatever reason, it is never done well enough to keep me around. Lord knows I’ve tried.

I was very hopeful for Action Comics at the beginning of the New 52. A long time had passed since Morrison had written All-Star Superman and I truly believe that’s the last time a Superman book was executed really well. (Paul Cornell had a great run on Action Comics, but it had Lex Luthor as the main character– so that doesn’t count.) I can’t really think of anyone else’s Superman I’ve cared for in years. Since I can remember almost every series I’ve ever really enjoyed, I think it’s safe for me to say all Superman comics have been forgettable since Morrison wrote All-Star. So I was ready to read a Superman book again… And it was hopeful at the beginning but I could quickly tell, again, this wasn’t my kind of comic– so I dropped it.

Yet there I was, looking through this week’s new comics list– needing to pick the books I’m going to review this week. As Jose motioned in the Who’s Getting What? column, this week’s titles looked pretty much like junk. I figured this was as good a time as any to check back and give Action the old college try– hoping the comic had improved.

So I open it up, pleased to see Travel Foreman on art. Since I haven’t been reading the title, I don’t know if he’s on Action long-term or if he’s just doing this one book. Either way, his unique style is always interesting. There’s a big difference between this comic and how Foreman recently drew Animal Man, but you can still tell it’s his work.

So what did I get for my time, trouble and money? Morrison and Foreman showing their version of Krypton and the Phantom Zone. (I wonder how many times these two places have been depicted differently by various creators in hundreds of comics throughout the years?) It’s a simple story about the Phantom Zone and its’ first resident… And the super-powered pup Krypto? We see the first prisoner get sent to the Zone, mightily cutting his chances for parole– especially when Krypton blows up shortly after. Now the guy’s stuck there a lot longer than expected and ends up becoming this Mummy-like villain out to get Jor-El’s son. Somehow he tricks Superman into taking his place in the Phantom Zone. The rest of the comic is Superman escaping and saving the day with a little help from Krypto. We also get a Phantom Stranger cameo.

There was nothing too exciting, nothing terribly new, no real innovation. All I got was another mediocre Superman comic to add to my ever-growing stack of mediocre Superman comics.

Apparently this issue is also supposed to be a Halloween story. Morrison starts off by telling us it’s Halloween, then writes a comic where nothing remotely “Halloweenie” happens. Oh, I guess the bad guy is kind of a Mummy– so maybe that’s as close as we’re gonna get to scary. As stupid as this may make me sound, that really pissed me off.  Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and if you’re going to make a point of telling me I’m about to read a Halloween Issue, then make it worth my while.

Who knows? Maybe Halloween is different in Scotland.

And hey, maybe you’ve never read a Superman comic. Maybe you really, really love really, really white dogs. Maybe you must have every comic the Phantom Stranger appears in. But if you don’t have something this specific driving you, do yourself a huge favor and skip this book. – Tom Devine

Spaceknights #1 (Issues #1 & #2)
Ebon Tidings
Dishonor
Writer: Jim Starlin
Artists: Chris Batista, Chip Wallace

When I was a little kid, I suddenly saw this Marvel comic on an old spinner rack at a comic shop. It was called ROM Spaceknight and featured this shiny silver robot-looking guy (based on a Parker Bros. action toy) I’d never heard of… And had a dynamic cover drawn by a young guy named Frank Miller. The Spaceknight’s pose was cool enough. He had this huge gun dramatically arched toward the sky. You have to remember this was way before the rise of the 90s version of Image Comics, so I hadn’t seen that many huge guns before. (Maybe just a few insanely big Kirby creations toted around here and there by Reed Richards and the like.) Anyway, I bought the comic… And to this day, ROM is probably my favorite licensed series published by Marvel, right up there with Conan The Barbarian.

Yes, I thought Bill Mantlo was a comic writing god. (Still do.)

Cut to October 3rd, 2012: I see this book called Spaceknights #1 looking at me from my iPad. It’s published by Marvel. It looks like ROM, so I buy it… Only to find out the Jim Starlin created series was originally printed in 2000. BAM! Suckered in by the ol’ Marvel Marketing Magic– again. If this review doesn’t prove I am basing my comic picks on little or no information and that I’m trying to review books almost every other site is running from– nothing will.

It could all have been a helluva lot worse. This was a Jim Starlin book after all and he was the perfect pick for a space opera like this… Especially since Marvel no longer held the rights to call the book ROM and were obviously too cheap to pay a token license fee to use it again. Funny thing, ROM is in the book’s preamble… But only briefly (and not ever in his Spaceknight suit). He is now known on his home planet of Galador as Artour and he’s sired two sons and Oh Yeah, he’s apparently dead. Licensing problem solved!

I can’t really blame Marvel for all this. Mantlo’s Dire Wraiths were actually very cool, extremely mean villains and the comic outlasted the actual toy it was based on by several years. So why not try to grab some cash off  Bill’s hard work almost 15 years later? Then try to grab more cash from me about 11 years after that? (Does any of this really surprise you… It’s Marvel!)

Something else that shouldn’t surprise you at all: How out of it I am. I’m reading this thing and I’m at least 15 pages in before I start to wonder if this might be a reprint of an older comic. The colors are all 90s garish and the lettering looks hand-done. After I hit Issue #2 in the same download, I realize something must be up. So I go flipping back to the Comixology info page at the beginning of the comic and see that, indeed, the book was originally published in 2000.

Batista’s Spaceknights art is very expressive, with a great otherworldly quality. Starlin’s story is also engaging, full of palace intrigue, espionage and action. While not his best work by far– it is based on ROM Spaceknight… So I liked it. It was actually very fun going back to Galador again– even if ROM was nowhere in sight. I buy older hardcover and trade reprint collections all the time… So why not purchase these comics? Marvel has been known to reprint short series like this in two issue at a time format and charge a heck of a lot more than $3.99 per copy.

Given that fact, this is a bargain. Kids will especially like all the bright and shiny armor. – Ian MacMillan

Bloodstrike #31
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Francheco Gaston

Here’s what I know: As a writer Tim Seeley is a master of the absurd, the ballsy, the throwaway pop culture reference. He knows current comics, comics history and he understands how to take almost any premise or character and turn them into a high-octane blast of entertaining action and farce. And if you look sideways, you’ll notice he’s figured out some way to also throw lots of character development into almost every story too.

High praise, indeed… But Seeley’s work is worth every bit of it.

What’s been fun: Watching Seeley’s craftmanship mature and become more refined as he grows older. His independent horror/action book Hack/Slash was better than good when it started… Good enough to survive the nightmare debacle that was Devil’s Due Publishing to surprise and thrive at Image. I was very happy to see Seeley get work at Marvel as both writer and penciler recently… And just as sad that he’s not doing more for them– as Marvel’s comics desperately need a creator mindset like Seeley’s. (Course, having followed the writer/artist for a couple of years on Twitter, he might be creating all the mainstream work he wants now.)

What’s 100% amazingly insane: The number of Rob Liefeld comics I am now reading– Prophet, Glory and now, Bloodstrike. But don’t misconstrue this as a Rob love-fest. Liefeld’s not writing or drawing any of these books. Instead, indie talents with completely different visions are creating the fantastic stories currently found within these titles.

Of the three, Seeley’s adheres most to the superhero underpinnings of the original series. But make no mistake, it’s Seeley’s vision on these pages– nobody else’s. Bloodstrike is filled with all kinds of great small moments… Like the excellent sequence at the beginning with Cabbot Stone and Agent Milne. In three short pages, I discovered where Cabbot has been and what he thinks of the 21st Century. It’s an honest, touching and funny conversation that Seeley somehow weaves a reference to “that Kardashian woman” into. When the mission finally interrupts their convo, I wanted it to go on for three more pages– at least.

After I finished reading the talk, I read it again. It was like a master class in how to fill in a character’s back story without making the audience feel it was force-fed to them with a big-ass expository spoon. Francheco Gaston’s line work is simple, yet filled with vitality and just enough detail. It reminded me of very much of Jonathan Luna (Girls, The Sword) and that’s a very good thing.

In the end, if you’re feeling less than charitable toward Liefeld’s recent widely criticized efforts on DC’s New 52 comics… You need to drive those thoughts out of your mind. Bloodstrike may have been created by Liefeld– but its’ latest incarnation is a Tim Seeley comic book. – Ian MacMillan

AVX Vs #6
Writers: Virtually Everyone at Marvel
Artists: Virtually Everyone at Marvel

You know when you go to your LCS and you’re trying to buy your weekly comics and get out fast… But the two guys in the line ahead of you are taking forever because they are arguing about who would win in a fight: Iron Man or Magneto? This makes your lunch break run long and you have to stay later to make up the work… And then your wife’s mad when you get home late too… All this because two knucklehead Marvel Zombies in front of you didn’t have an answer to their stupid question. Well, this series is strictly designed to put an end to those arguments.

The AVX Vs mini-series is the companion series to the Avengers vs X-men maxi-series. (Doesn’t that last statement just wrap Marvel up in pretty little box?) The whole series is centered on “Who would win?” battle scenarios, as they pit one member of the X-Men versus one member of the Avengers. In this issue, we get NINE fights with tons of different characters– everyone from Scarlet Witch vs Hope to Domino vs Red Hulk. Having 9 separate battles in one issue, you can tell the creators were really trying to have fun.

One of the things I really like about this comic: Its ability to poke fun at itself the whole time. There are lots of jokes about how these events are just silly and cracks about how outlandish superhero comics can be. It also starts out by telling you that even though this is apart of the AVX event, this book is  just supposed to be fun. In other words, don’t worry about the event nonsense… Time to fight!

This comic book has an anthology style, giving lots of creators one or two pages– just enough to make the reader laugh. My favorite face-off was Squirrel Girl vs Pixie. They fight by playing Heroclix— pitting the Avengers vs the X-Men. After the two finish playing, the Thing walks in and snatches the figures away from them– explaining they are actually the Puppet Master’s toys. The two young women look at each other in shock, realizing they just caused the whole AVX event by playing Heroclix. Dan Slott wrote that short and he did it very well. (Maybe he should just stick to one-page comics.)

Another good short is a one-page verbal argument between Captain America and Cyclops— making fun of each other because they are both so boring. It had some wild, sketchy art that fit perfectly. And here’s a shocker: Bendis wrote it and it was good.

This book was a playful, fun fluff-piece… Very different from what I was expecting. – Tom Devine

AVX Vs #6
Scarlet Witch vs Hope
Writer (Main Story): Kieron Gillen
Artist (Main Story): Jim Cheung

I was actually going to take a look at a different comic for my second review this week but changed my mind at the last second. After I finished reading Avengers vs X-Men #12, I saw a full-page ad touting 3 other comics that a person who just wasted $5 on a comic might want to check out. One part of the ad was for Uncanny Avengers #1, which ships in a few days. I guess this book is here to let people know that if you recover in time from the swift kick to your genitals that AVX #12 just dealt to you, you have the opportunity to buy the #1 Issue of a new series borne from the same shit you just finished reading… You know, in case you want to attempt to make sense of all the idiocy that took place in the event that just ended, which you also wasted your money on. Another part of the ad was devoted to a comic named AVX: Consequences #1. I guess giving Marvel $55 minimum for the AVX series was not enough to get you the full story. You now get the privilege to pay for the “aftermath.” Lucky you. BUT the last part of the ad is what caught my eye. It was for AVX Vs #6.

I had almost forgotten about this cash grab– which ran parallel to AVX. See, AVX Vs is a mini-series within the AVX event featuring nothing but the fights that couldn’t possibly be properly shown in the regular AVX series. Let’s say there’s one panel in an AVX comic where Thor and Pixie get into a fight. I bet you thought since you paid money to buy that issue, you were entitled to see that fight in its entirety. Silly fanboy… That’s what AVX Vs is for. It extends a fight that took place in only a few panels in AVX to around 10 pages in AVX Vs. Kinda confusing and stupid, ain’t it?

Anyway, since I was already on board this shit train– I figured I might as well ride it till the end of the line. That’s the long explanation of why your are not getting a review of John Layman’s Detective Comics from me. This is what’s called “Taking one for the team.” Or it could just be a complete waste of a review. Either/or. I’ll let you pick.

So, AVX Vs #6. When I opened the book, this is what greeted me:

Halfway through this spiel, I was ready to tap out. That right there is Marvel Editorial’s attempt at humor. I’m sorry, but the only people who I believe would find this the least bit funny are kool-aid drinking Marvel Zombies or brain-dead idiots who think that The Big Bang Theory is the height of hilarity. (In case you were wondering, those are two groups of people you shouldn’t associate with.) And you wonder why a majority of the people think comics are still written for kids. Here you go. This ridiculous, unfunny opening is one of the reasons why. (And Jeph Loeb comics are another.)

I get what Marvel is TRYING to do. They’re attempting to be cool and hip… But why? They are only making matters worse by putting this in a comic whose existence is already a joke. This is Marvel laughing at YOU for giving them $4 for a waste of paper. But hold on, it gets worse. A lot worse.

In that little editorial Q & A, I’m told I do not need to read any other comic in order to enjoy AVX Vs #6. Continuity, shmontinuity. No need for that here. But when I get to the very first page of actual story, I see this blurb at the bottom of the page:

Um… What?!? Why do I need to know this if continuity doesn’t matter here? JUST LET ME READ THIS SHITTY COMIC IN PEACE WITHOUT HAVING OTHER BOOKS SHOVED DOWN MY THROAT, OK?!?

Ahem… Sorry about that, but I found that Editorial Note quite annoying– not to mention condescending. But seriously, if this is supposedly a self-contained story, why then tell me it isn’t? Oh, I know. It’s probably so I will give you more of my money (that blurb is an advertisement) and so I can also understand the CONTEXT in which this fight is taking place… Because without context, the fight would come off as completely meaningless and shallow. Too late for that… Since, once again, this is a hero-fighting-hero thing. I don’t get why Marvel Editorial has such a hard on for making their heroes fight each other. Could it be because they killed all their best villains and the ones they are stuck with now are shit? Could be.

Want to see another example of this not being a continuity free comic? I hope you said, “Yes!” because here it is:

I really am at a loss for words here. How is this Editorial Note supposed to make sense to anybody who has NOT read the AVX limited series? The answer is: IT DOESN’T! This is a direct reference to the AVX series I mentioned above. You can’t have it both ways Marvel. This is obviously an editor trying to be clever. Contradicting your own statement of “No continuity needed” in order to enjoy this comic is doing you no favors. In fact, it makes you look like douchebags, bros.

Almost all these “Editorial Notes” are more attempts of Marvel Editorial trying to be funny. The comic is littered with them. It’s bad enough they are terrible– but they take up a lot more physical space than they should in many panels. Here are a couple more examples of Marvel Editors trying to be “funny”:

Oh, did you not find them funny because you have no idea what context they were used in? Tough Shit. Guess you gotta buy the main event book now.

Believe it or not, I’ve only reviewed the first half of the book so far. I promise I’m not going to spend as much time on the second– even though it is much more offensive.

After the 10 page Hope vs Scarlet Witch story is complete (which I must say was probably the easiest fucking paycheck Kieron Gillen ever collected in his life), the rest of the comic is filled with eight 1 to 2 page fights which take place somewhere during the AVX series. Except that they really don’t– because they are all written with tongue firmly planted in cheek and the humor is just as bad as the stuff in that front page editorial.

To pull this kind of thing in the last issue of a mini-series is deplorable. Up to this point, the AVX Vs mini was written seriously– with the exception of the annoying “AVX Fun Facts” in every issue. This comic was $3.99 for 20 pages of art and half the book is treated as yet another joke. And just in case you missed me saying it the first time: Marvel is laughing at you– not with you.

I know full well I’m coming off as a wet blanket here but there is no excuse for pulling this bait and switch and filling half this book with humor strips that don’t coincide with the comic they are all supposed to coincide with. Again, you already bought the first 5 issues of this mini, so Marvel is thinking you’ll just eat this shit too and like it.

The only way they will stop pulling these stunts is if you stop giving them your money. It’s never too late to realize we’re nothing but dollar signs to Marvel Comics. – Jose Melendez

G.I. Combat #5
Featuring The Haunted Tank
Mettle
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Howard Chaykin

The Unknown Soldier (back-up)
Writers: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Staz Johnson

You ever read a comic and think, “I have no idea what just happened here… But I like it!” That’s exactly how I felt after reading The Haunted Tank story in DC’s G.I. Combat. I swear I bought this book the “old school” way–  based solely on the cover… Like I just walked into a comic shop and made an impulse buy. I had no idea who was writing or drawing either feature inside– or even if there were two different stories in the book. I just saw “G.I. Combat” and “Haunted Tank” and I hit the Comixology PURCHASE button.

Imagine how wonderfully giddy I was to see three of my favorite comic scripters– Peter J. Tomasi, main story; Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti on the back-up– writing this book. And jeez… Howard Chaykin on main story art? What kind of warped time-machine did I just step into? I don’t know but it was sweet… From the first page to the last.

The main story, Mettle, had a WTF?! feeling for 20 pages. I literally felt like a kid (and wished I still was one) while reading it. Tomasi writes a far-out tale that literally could have been from a 70s comic (in a great way) and Chaykin’s art is as good as ever… Maybe better– since it really seems tailor-made to take advantage of all the current bells and whistles available to comic artists in this digital age. Some of Chaykin’s art actually looked 3D on my iPad— and if I know Howard (the ultimate draftsman), this was completely intentional.

Gray and Palmiotti’s Unknown Soldier back-up was thick with plot and action… And felt much longer than its 10-page length (again, in a great way). It was as solid as any DC back-up has been since the inception of the New 52… Possibly the best so far. (I only say “possibly” because I haven’t read all the back-up stories in every new DC comic yet.) The story never felt rushed or truncated… And actually had a great beginning and middle– ending with a perfect cliffhanger. Staz Johnson’s art was fantastic as well. I give the writers my utmost respect because they attack The Unknown Soldier with a verve and relish– with no hesitation… Especially coming on the heels of Vertigo’s recent long-running, highly praised (if poor selling) version of the character.

There’s no grim ‘n gritty on display anywhere in this comic. Just lunacy and well thought out action. Can I get a “Hallelujah”? Hallelujah! Damn, this comic is amazingly good. So good, I’m going to buy the next issue just to read it… And I NEVER buy individual comic book issues– except to review! Eat this rating, comic book decompressionists! – Ian MacMillan

Worlds Finest #5
Starring Huntress and Power Girl
Three Midnights, Far From Home
Writer: Paul Levitz
Artists: George Perez, Scott Koblish,
Jerry Ordway, Wes Craig, Serge Lapointe

I’m gonna cut to the chase: The art in this book is pretty darn good… At times. By far, the art is the best part of the issue.

Here’s a quick concept recap: Huntress and Power Girl are both from Earth 2 but they get sucked into Earth 1 (stop smirking, fanboys) and are now attempting to find their way back. Even the best comic book writer is going to have a tough time creating a great story with that premise.

Paul Levitz has done some really good work in comics– this just isn’t part of that legacy.  There are holes in this story you could drive a semi through– like Power Girl not being used to living in the strange world of Earth 1, yet she’s already been here 5 years?! Woman needs to get out more.

This issue is also broken into two different stories, one primarily featuring Huntress, and the other (as the comic’s title suggests) with Power Girl. There is absolutely no connection between the two tales, which makes the whole issue feel very disjointed. It didn’t help that both stories ended poorly. I was reading each and all of a sudden they were done… Leaving me feeling like there really should have been a couple more story pages to make sense of this confusing mess.

The worst part of this entire issue? Anytime Power Girl is in a scene, someone’s blasting off her clothes. At the beginning, Huntress blasts a hole in PG’s shirt– which conveniently happens to be near her huge boobs. Later, Power Girl goes to an underground particle collider to investigate a way back to Earth 2… Then she has to power her way through a mountain to escape. As she breaks free from the craggy rocks, she’s lost all her clothes– except her bra and panties. Isn’t that convenient?

Is this what DC thinks we want from a Power Girl comic? Step up DC and stop publishing this garbage. For a short time, Power Girl was DC’s best book. Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray kicked ass on every issue. To see Power Girl treated with such little care, kind of drives me crazy.

This comic book is absolute garbage. – Tom Devine

Minimum Carnage Alpha
Writers: Cullen Bunn, Christopher Yost
Artists: Lan Medina, Karl Kesel,
Cam Smith, Walden Wong

Little background: I’ve gotten all smoochy over Cullen Bunn’s The Sixth Gun a couple of times in my Insideman’s Pull List™ column and even almost offered to marry Bunn in my review of his Venom comics a few weeks back.

What you don’t know: In my passionate pursuit of reviewing comics that few (if any) critics are talking about, I purchased Christopher Yost’s Scarlet Spider #9 (you know, the “Spider-Man” comic that revels in having “All of the Power” but “None of the Responsibility”) several weeks ago and didn’t care for it– at all. But since I had already given the digital finger to several books in that particular Capsule Reviews column, I gave the comic a pass and didn’t review it… Primarily since it was Part 3 of a four-part story and I hadn’t read the previous two issues of the arc.

Reading this Venom/Scarlet Spider one-shot mash-up (it leads into a crossover between the two titles), I now definitively understand why I didn’t like Scarlet Spider and loved Venom: One of them is good and the other, basically… Sucks.

I hate reviewing these two-writer comics when I like one story and dislike the other… Primarily because if he should happen to read this review– I don’t want Bunn feeling bad for me not caring for Yost’s contributions to the book… And if they are buddies (and not just two writers shoved together by Marvel Editorial), I don’t want Bunn thinking I’m beating up on his friend and/or writing partner. None of this is personal. I’m just a critic reviewing a comic.

And… Here I go anyway. Yeesh.

The book is easy to review separately– since there’s a definitive Venom story and a definitive Scarlet Spider story. So that’s what I’m gonna do.

Bunn’s Venom tale reminded me of his other Venom comics I reviewed (even if Lan Medina’s pencils here are nowhere near as good on Thony Silas’ work on the regular Venom series). The story is solid, with good character depth and a great sense when to spring the action. As before, Bunn’s dialogue is crisp and realistic. He is able to tell his part of the story– about escaped serial killer Carnage (Cletus Kasady)– without the excessive blood and guts that make me feel like taking a long shower afterwards. Bunn is even able to work a shocking tidbit (at least to Flash Thompson) about the symbiote/human bond into the story.

Yost’s contribution here, like his Scarlet Spider #9, was not so great. I don’t get Kaine— he’s supposed to be this clone/anti-hero that gave up his life of “violence and villainy” (those words came directly from the “Players” page at the beginning of the book) after Spider-Man cured him. Except the only edge Kaine has is that he waits ten minutes to suit up after being made aware of a raging fire and he half-ass threatens people when they dare call him a hero for doing heroic things. Yawn.

Now that I think about it, I really shouldn’t be blaming Yost for the lameness that is the Scarlet Spider character. He totally comes off as just another Marvel Ca$h Grab… With the hook being he can act all naughty because he’s a clone of Peter Parkernot Peter Parker himself. Except, since he looks like Peter Parker and has the word “Spider” in his “hero name”, Marvel doesn’t want Kaine to act like too much of a badass… Cause, ya know, what if the idiots reading all these Spidey Comics can’t tell the difference?!?

Anyway, while Yost’s story had more action than Bunn’s– it still suffered from having a weaker, less developed hero and more Cletus Kasady. The Scarlet Spider part also seemed to be the section of the book that required the hiring of so many inkers– as the art suddenly became very uneven in parts.

Given everything going on here, I’m not going to pass judgment just yet. I give Bunn another “A” for effort, Yost a “B-” for doing what he can with a crap hero and Marvel an “F” for apparently requiring so many revisions in the Scarlet Spider story that it literally looked like artist Lan Medina suffered from a split penciler personality disorder. – Ian MacMillan

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25 Responses to IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 10.3.12!

  1. J. says:

    The only Superman books I have liked for the last few years were some of Geoff Johns’ Action Comics run starring the Legion. I thought they were well done. It was one of the last good things he ever wrote. Have you read those, Tom?

    • Locusmortis says:

      Cornell’s action was pretty good but thats probably because it was all about Luthor. Morrison’s action has been a fucking snoozefest, I may not always like every Morrison comic but this is the first one that I’ve ever felt that he’s been phoning it in every month.

    • Blanchard says:

      When I was thinking about other superman stories from the last ten years that I really liked, I could only think of Superman: Birthright and All-star Superman. I hope I’m forgetting about a couple stories cause that is a sad list.

    • I haven’t because I usually stay away from Legion stuff, I will have to give it a read.

  2. Locusmortis says:

    Everything I hear about Avengers vs X-Men makes me glad I’m not reading it. Still after Jose’s review I feel like getting a Dark Phoenix omnibus and shoving it down Aaron’s oesophagus sideways, that way maybe he’ll actually absorb how to write about the Phoenix force. I’d also like to shove every Kirby, Englehart, Gruenwald, Waid and Brubaker (pre-Captain America reborn natch!) comic down his throat so he could find out how to write Captain America properly..

  3. Insideman says:

    I don’t know about anybody else but I think we were all very generous in not SLAMMING that damn “Arrow” ad across the top of DC’s covers. I knew it was coming (Green Lantern movie, anyone?)… And I don’t know why, but I thought it would be less garish.

    Makes Marvel’s “Includes a FREE Download” cover blurb almost seem like a Da Vinci.

    • Locusmortis says:

      I think DC’s “trade dress” is so bad these days that nobody notices another bit of awfulness on top. Although its not nearly as bad as the Rise of Arsenal trade dress from a couple of years ago….yeeeeeesh!

    • tomstewdevine says:

      I really hate those banners, and the thing is, it’s not going to get any additional viewers. The person at the comic shop looking at new comics one week before the show begins, probably already knows about Arrow, or is mindful enough to get the message in the full-page add in everyone of those books.

      • Insideman says:

        You’re exactly right, Tom. Excessive advertising, especially on collectibles… Often turns people off. But it’s a WB show about a WB/DC Hero… So you can’t tell people anything. Since I don’t buy singles, I don’t know how many ads they’ve run inside the comics… But you’re right– a full page ad in every issue, every month (since the CW Network picked up the pilot for series) would more than suffice.

  4. NicktheStick says:

    As usual, good column guys!

    Just two notes:

    1) I liked Layman’s Detective, but I almost liked that back up more than the main story. Which is something that does not happen to often. Going to keep reading this one for a bit more.

    2) While I didn’t read AvX, I actually know at least one (thinking there is more…) guy that is going to boycott Marvel because of this event. He is a die hard X-Men guy, and is disgusted with the whole series and said that until many of the major players are gone from Marvel, he will not be reading Marvel books. Now he may or may not follow through with it, but it just proves that there is backlash from this event.

    • tomstewdevine says:

      Nice to hear about the backup, after Ian’s review on Detective, I think I will give it a shot.

    • Insideman says:

      Nick, I could see how you would like the back-up more.

      I thought it was great. I was amazed I picked two comics with great back-ups this week… Since all the others have been abysmal so far.

  5. wwayne says:

    Thanks for giving some attention to one of the most ignored New 52 series. Each month I find 10 reviews of titles like Batman and Robin and 0 of others like G.I. Combat, and this makes you understand how precious your contribution is.
    I’m so glad to see David Mack back on Daredevil. He has already been the writer of Daredevil’s regular series for a short period (1999 – 2000), and each issue he wrote at those times is simply wonderful.
    Chris Batista drew one of my favorite comic book series ever, Steel. When it closed, it was one of my biggest pains as a comic reader, along with the closures of Generation X and Gotham Central.
    I still remember how shocked I was, when I found out Gotham Central was about to close: a DC staff member told me that at a convention, and I simply couldn’t believe it. I felt the need to sit and to think about the reason why a so wonderful and critically acclaimed series had been cut. The answer never came.

  6. tomstewdevine says:

    Great reviews boys, My favorite is Jose’s AvX #6. Nice work Ian on reviewing comics that were not even close to my radar.

  7. IronMuskrat says:

    Great reviews! Although some of those capsules are getting big, like Su07 big! (yes, I googled the capsule size chart just to find out the name of a large capsule)But that’s a good thing, cause I love me some reviews.

    The best thing about the whole AvX deal is it gives Jose a chance to power up over 9000 and lay a beat down on Marvel. I mean really, the only way Jose review could have gotten better is if Mark Millar was involed in some way and we could see Jose hit SSJ3 in his review.

    I’m still a bit interested in the whole Spaceknight comic, but I had no idea it’s been around since 2000ish, is it still $3.99? If it is, that seems a little unfair.

    The GI Combat: Haunted Tank sounds pretty cool. It’s funny cause back in my old army days we had some old 113’s in our scout troop, they had been shot up in Vietnam and repaired(not very well). It was kid of creepy rolling in a ACP that someone had probley died in, and there was some strange stuff that happen in them as well. But that’s a story for another day.

    Again, great reviews guys!

    • Insideman says:

      IM,

      Per the size of the reviews: To make things easier, Jose writes his reviews in a separate post using the WordPress software… So all I have to do is copy/paste his reviews into the main body of the column. When he called to tell me his AVX Vs #6 review had extra graphics… I thought, “Uh, oh.”

      Spaceknights was apparently a six issue series in 2000-2001. Marvel is releasing 2 issues per comic at $3.99. Like I said in the review, I’ve seen them charge $5.99 and up for similar reprints like this… So I was actually surprised to get two comics for that price.

      Per GI Combat: I am happy this review has gotten so much response! It really was an unexpectedly great comic. As far as the tanks go, your experience sounds crazy (would love to hear about it sometime)… But were they HAUNTED and did they appear in the sky and ram through helicopters?

      That’s just some of the lunacy Tomasi came up with. 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words!

  8. M. Fewko says:

    The only way they will stop pulling these stunts is if you stop giving them your money. It’s never too late to realize we’re nothing but dollar signs to Marvel Comics. – Jose Melendez

    Comments like that are what got me into Jose and Elliot’s reviews back in the CCW days, and I’m happy to see all you guys are still fearlessly review the big titles in the industry.

  9. Locusmortis says:

    I’m glad to see someone reviewing Worlds Finest as that was something I was curious about. I really enjoyed Paul Levitz’s Legion and Adventure before the nu52 but his Legion title after the reboot was garbage, it seems like since the reboot he’s just lost interest or something.

    • Insideman says:

      I actually liked WF #0 but I think it was the Kevin Maguire art that put it in the favorable column.

      As per Paul having possibly lost interest, I’m guessing his leaving came with a contract to write two or three titles– like DeFalco had with Marvel. And since DC has turned into the anti-thesis of the publisher he ran not to long ago, I can’t blame him for not seeming like he gives a shit. He’s gotta be exasperated by a lot of these nonsensical, often idiotic changes.

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