IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 10.24.12!

FF#23
Run
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta

This is the final installment of Jonathan Hickman’s long run on Fantastic Four. The FF have always been favorite characters of mine and I have read a lot of Fantastic Four comics. Please keep this fact in mind when I say I consider Hickman’s stories to be the greatest long run of any writer on the Fantastic Four comic… EVER.

Sorry John Byrne, you’ve just been dethroned.

A lot of things happened during Hickman’s run (beginning back in October 2009), but the biggest change occurred within Reed and Sue Richards’ son Franklin. Hickman has turned Franklin into possibly the most powerful person in the Marvel U. Everything comes full circle with this issue, as we’re treated to some one-on-one time between Franklin and his future self– chatting about life. Future Franklin creates a doorway to a pocket dimension where the young Franklin can unleash his world-building power.

Franklin and his best friend Leech are constantly coming up with story ideas… They write them down and collect them all in a hat. In this story, they combine all their ideas and watch them come to life all at once in Franklin’s pocket dimension. Franklin and Leech make their way through Vampire School Teachers, Space Chickens, Vegetarian Werewolves and much more craziness only a young child’s mind could conjure up. In the middle of these adventures, they take a “Snack Break” and Future Franklin gets deep with young Franklin regarding his relationship with his sister Valeria. Sometimes Franklin feels down because he isn’t as smart as his little sister… And Future Franklin explains that no matter how smart she is– intelligence is nothing without imagination.

I really liked this idea. Valeria is too smart for her own good– and she really needs a “yin” to her “yang”. I also love that Franklin is this “yin”. It makes sense that no matter how smart someone is, it’s all for naught if they don’t have an imagination to direct their intelligence. Franklin is so innocent and young at heart– the complete opposite of bitter Valeria who yearns to be an adult.

Having these two grow so much as characters since the beginning of the run is seriously stellar storytelling. You know something’s good when you barely realize it’s taking place. With all that’s been going on in the FF comics– from the Human Torch “dying” and coming back, the War of the 3 Cities, and every other major plot point… I almost didn’t realize that Hickman’s FF story is basically about Franklin and Val– and what the future holds for them.

It’s really bittersweet to have Hickman’s long run come to an end. Yes, there have been things to complain about, but I think most have been editorial-based. Sure, I wish they never renumbered the comic in the middle of the run. Sure, I would’ve liked to see the run without any poly bagged comics… And yes, I think telling the story in two different series was unnecessary. Bi-monthly shipping also made for some really weak single issues. But even with all that, it was well worth it to experience such a truly epic story… And to have a clear beginning, middle and end to the series. That’s a rare thing in the American Comic Book Industry.

Overall this was a great last issue of a series that dared to be different. Thank you, Hickman and Crew– you did a Fantastic Job. – Tom Devine

Bravest Warriors #1
Bravest Warriors (Main)
Lazer Sunday (Back-Up)
Writers: Joey Comeau, Ryan Pequin
Artists: Mike Holmes, Ryan Pequin

A month ago I reviewed Adventure Time. While I found that comic was just as good as the show, I discovered the one drawback with it– I couldn’t just jump right into the story like I can with any episode of the TV series. When I learned that Pendleton Ward’s new cartoon was coming out soon (I think it’s going to be a YouTube series) and that a comic based on that series was premiering this week– I had to check out Bravest Warriors.

It was an interesting experience.

On the surface, I found it was just as good as Adventure Time— without being derivative of that show. But I also felt like it was missing something. The only thing I could find to explain this feeling: There was no cartoon to currently draw experience from. I tried to think of all the media tie-in comic books I know about and I realized that, up until this point– no one has ever tried to launch a tie-in comic before the show it’s tied to has premiered.

Even if you’ve never watched, played or read the project a tie-in comic is tied to– you rarely ever check out such a book devoid of any cultural reference. Friends tell you about it, you see a clip on YouTube, you read a beaming review… Something (or somebody) gives you direct and/or indirect information on what to expect. For me (and I think possibly a number of people), this was a rare instance of having nothing to refer to when experiencing a licensed property. (Adventure Time doesn’t cut it as reference either– since the only thing the two comics share is the creators’ sense of humor.) As a consequence, when I read Bravest Warriors I realized I was having a tough time finding the voice of the characters.

To go on a bit of a Screen Burntangent– cartoons are unique in that almost every emotion and action is conveyed purely by the voices. Most of the time the voice tracks are recorded before one line is drawn, so the actors have to perform the scripts like told radio plays– where action is inferred by the way the lines are read. This also develops the personality of the character, as the actor’s intonation makes or breaks a performance. When I read Adventure Time, I had all the voices from the show in my head– helping to flesh out the words and images in the comic. With Bravest Warriors, I had nothing to go on. The humor of the script and the art were all great, but without the essential knowledge of why the characters act the way they do (or how they sounded), I was left feeling like the comic hadn’t reached its full potential.

Hey, don’t blame me. I’m not the one who promoted and published this book as a cartoon tie-in before the cartoon saw release.

With all that said, don’t think I’m telling you to pass this book over. Quite the opposite. If you never got into the Adventure Time craze, this would a perfect book to let you experience what is great about that show– but in a completely different way.

I’ve read a few reviews that say Bravest Warriors is not as childish as Adventure Time– but I disagree. It is accessible to both older kids and adults the same way Adventure Time is… But there is also no cartoon series on the Cartoon Network, so kids aren’t raving and mimicking it 24/7. As a vehicle to spoof all the tropes of science fiction in all mediums, I’m sure there will be many adults willing to give BW a try. It still employs a teenage cast causing teenage shenanigans… And most importantly, it’s fun. – W.D. Prescott

Punisher War Zone #1
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico

The last Greg Rucka Marvel book I read was Punisher #1. I wasn’t very impressed by it so I didn’t bother keeping up with the series. In the interim, I heard I may have missed out on what had become a decent comic. A few months ago, Rucka announced he’d pretty much had it with working for Marvel and that his Punisher series was ending… Which, technically, it now has (with Issue #16).

I thought I’d give Rucka’s Punisher another shot by reading the writer’s last Marvel story in Punisher War Journal. (I like telling IMJ Capsule Reviews™ readers these little back stories… So you know why I choose to review certain comics. Hopefully, it helps you understand better where my views are coming from when I praise– or shit– on a book.)

While reading Punisher War Zone #1, I quickly realized this comic is really just Punisher #17because I had no idea what is going on. Sure, I did read the pitiful excuse of a recap page, but it didn’t help.

You know what I’m describing– the first page of certain Marvel comics that mimic a front page from the Daily Bugle? Those really are the worst. I do like Marvel’s recap pages when they come in the form of an info dump… Because they give me the back story I NEED in order to somewhat understand the story I am about to read. These Daily Bugle recap pages are a needless exercise in letting an editor (or assistant editor) try to be a writer. Recaps in the form of a newspaper articles only give me about 1/3 the info I usually get from an info dump recap. (I wish Marvel would keep Steve Wacker’s bullshit editorial ideas out of any comic not titled The Amazing Spider-Man.)

I am ragging on this recap page so much because, if this comic is not called Punisher #17 and is in fact a #1 issue to a new mini-series… You’d think Marvel would want to give readers, possibly even NEW readers, all the information they needed to you know in order to maybe kinda enjoy the issue at hand. Anyway, the recap I get tells me all about some woman who got arrested helping the Punisher and stuff. That’s all well and good– but the fact this character didn’t even appear in the comic is a bit baffling. There is mention of her… But why waste so much of the recap on a character’s story that’s not even going to be dealt with in the issue I’m holding in my hands?

If she shows up in issue #2, then that would be the place to recap her story. Instead, all I got out of this recap (that was of any use) is that Frank Castle may– or may not– have inadvertently killed a bunch of people, including some cops… And he’s now on the lam.

The beginning of the comic deals with Spider-Man reading the same recap page… Err… I mean, the same front page of the Daily Bugle I just did (again, so goddamn clever) and he goes to hunt down Frank. Then Spidey and the Punisher have a fight in a car park that lasts almost to the mid-point of the issue. Spider-Man is all like, “You’ve gone too far this time, Frank. I need to take you in… Blah, blah, blah…”

Haven’t we all been through this already– for decades? Why is it, like clockwork, Marvel always sees the need to revisit this exact same plot line? It has been done to death. There always seems to come a day when the Punisher goes too damn far and all the superheroes that populate the Marvel Universe decide they need to put an end to it. I know that Rucka is trying to put his own spin on this story, but still…

I also want to point out that during the Spidey/Punisher fisticuffs, Mr. Parker acts like a raging asshole. This either comes from hanging out with the Avengers too long or having Dan Slott as your main writer for years. (Take your pick.) I did enjoy that– while Spider-Douche was talking up a storm and taking such pleasure in knocking the shit out of Castle– Frank barely says a word. Right there I could see Rucka giving me a hint of the Punisher I like. Frank really doesn’t need to say anything, does he? He knows Peter would never understand or believe what is really going on.

I do need to mention that there was a time when Peter would have let Frank explain his side of the story… But that Peter Parker has been dead for years.

The last half of the issue deals with Spidey running back to Avengers Tower to tattle on Frank. He tells the Avengers they ALL need to put an end to the Punisher’s shenanigans. This is where Greg Rucka really started to win me over. His portrayal of the Avengers (Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Logan, Natasha Romanoff and Peter Parker) as pompous and self-absorbed assholes is priceless. I also got a nice chuckle when Peter tells the team they to have to bring Castle in because, “The man is a mass murderer!”… While Wolverine stands there as a prime example of a perfectly acceptable mass murderer.

Double standards much, Avengers?

This now leads me to my favorite part of the issue… And I say that not with a hint of my usual sarcasm. At the meeting explaining “How the Avengful Pricks Need To Layeth a Smack Down on the Punisher” there is this exchange between Steve Rogers and Logan:

Steve: Logan? You have a problem with this?

Logan: Difference between you and me, maybe. You believe in the best Captain… Me, I believe some people deserve to die.

That conversation is then quickly followed by this scene– while the Punisher stocks up at one of his safe houses:

That right there? That’s how you write Wolverine. That small scene is the best thing I have seen in a Marvel comic not called X-Factor in a long time… And it is all because Greg Rucka knows what these characters are about. As I mentioned before, I wish this conversation could have taken place between Peter Parker and Frank too– but it works out even better with Logan, I think.

Despite the horrid recap page and only knowing roughly about half of what was going on, I think I really want to read the rest of this series now. I want to see Rucka’s Punisher put the smug Avengers in their place. I want to see how Rucka punishes everything that’s currently wrong with Marvel Comics. I believe it’s kinda perfect that the writer who delivered one of the most satisfying stories I have read in a recent Marvel book is also the same writer that Marvel drove away because he didn’t like where they were forcing his work to go.

It’s also only fair that I bring up the comic was $2.99– which was also the same price of the Punisher monthly. Marvel has been known for ending a series in order to continue the story in a mini-series that is priced $1 more per issue– like they did with Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider. If I’m going to give them shit for gouging customers, I feel I should also point out when they don’t… Which, now that I think about it, is pretty fucked up that I even have to draw attention to the distinction. – Jose Melendez

The Unwritten #42
Live Like Lazarus
By Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Every time I finish an issue of The Unwritten, I am simply amazed.

This book is almost high art. It never compromises in thinking the reader can’t follow what’s going on, so we never get unnecessary dialog or anything that takes away from the world that has been built. It’s an ongoing story like no other currently published.

When this comic began, I thought it was going to be some kind of Harry Potter spoof, as the main characters are similar to the 3 main characters in J.K. Rowling’s Potter novels. Inside this comic’s world, Tommy Taylor is the fictional star character of the best-selling novel series of all time (kind of like Harry Potter). It also happens the son of the author of these books is also named Tom Taylor— who is the main character of The Unwritten. The world of The Unwritten is based on these “fictional” stories and the power they have held throughout history. Tom Taylor’s own unique story has intertwined itself with literature in a very literal sense… And by that, I mean Tom can actually physically enter fictional stories.

Our three main characters– Tom, Rich and Lizzie– have been through so much recently, I actually thought the series was going to end. Thank God I was wrong. We just got past some really huge revelations and now we find all three characters separated. (We’re even being led to believe Lizzie is dead.) In this issue, Lizzie is attempting to escape the literary version of Hades and is finally able to get a message to Tom that she needs help. Lizzie and Tom have built a very strange relationship, but it’s very clear the love each other. Tom spends the majority of the comic attempting to figure how he can enter the World of Literature and save Lizzie.

The world created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross is just so interesting. It involves a timeless organization that keeps tabs on the power in the world… And that power comes from which books are read and which continue to be popular. This secret group will go to any means necessary to make sure the public isn’t aware of any of this. In a world powered by literature, all books are connected. Tommy’s father worked for this secret organization early in his life, but soon realized he needed to break the stranglehold they had over the world… And laid clues throughout both the real world and the literature worlds for Tommy and Lizzie to find– so they could try to change the balance of power.

You can tell that Carey and Gross put a lot of thought into each issue. Currently, they are resetting major touchstones in the comic. This is a great comic, explaining where all the main characters currently are– but also having fun with some new characters recently introduced. Having me talk about The Unwritten doesn’t come close to doing justice to the concept. I truly think it’s something that has to be experienced… And I recommend this comic to anyone who likes smart writing. I got to talk with Peter Gross at this year’s Spring-Con in St Paul, Minnesota. It was so fun to speak with him about the book. He’s so passionate about where the story’s going… And his enthusiasm really shows when you read the comic.

The Unwritten will go down in history as one of the greatest comic book series of all time. Don’t believe me? Just wait and see. – Tom Devine

Extermination #5
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: V Ken Marion

This is a warning to all comic book publishers:

If you say a comic is a “great jumping on point”, you have to expect people will buy your book without knowing anything about the story or history behind it. Just starting a new arc isn’t (usually) a great jumping on point for a series. You must be sure to explain the situations, the characters and the world they live in to new readers– for any individual issue of a continuing comic series to be considered a “jumping on point”.

I understand part of this problem comes from Marvel (and DC– before the New 52)… Two big publishers that promoted “jumping on points” routinely– primarily in attempts to lure more comic fans back to their longer running series (which feature decades of rich– and sometimes confusing– back story). But seriously, if you are Boom! Studios and you are publishing a book like Extermination you have to know that a comic with only 4 issues has none of the cultural touchstones that a book like The Invincible Iron Man has.

To say I was confused while reading Extermination– that’s me being nice. It’s not the fault of scripter Simon Spurrier— unless he’s the one who told Boom! to promote this issue as the perfect place for new readers to start following the comic. I sincerely doubt this happened– primarily because this story reads like any Issue #5 or any current on-going comic series. It might be a new story arc (or sub-arc)… I have no clue, since the story didn’t even bother to have a title. The comic does explore the hero and his relationship to his arch-nemesis… But other than that info, your guess is as good as mine to what was actually going on in this book. Are we in some sort of post-apoc setting? Who are the heroes and villains? Is this even Earth? Who are these aliens and where did they come from? Why are they shipping people in trains made of electricity? I feel these are just a few of the very basic questions any “jumping on point” issue should handle.

It’s a shame, really. As I’m reading the issue out of context, I have the distinct feeling if I had read the other four issues prior, this might have easily been a 3 Star book– maybe even a 3.5 Star comic.

We have to stand up to the false promotion that plagues most comic book publishers. Every publisher wants more people reading their books. I get that. With Image Comics being the only company publishing a plethora of new series each month, companies have to figure out how to get people to read their already established, ongoing series. Calling issues like this a “jumping on point” only emphasizes the idea that established comics are too hard to get into unless you’ve been reading them from the start. And publishing a book with this type of promotion– and not having it fulfill the promise– only pushes new customers away.

Please comic publishers, go read all the comics from the 30s to the 70s to see how to create comics that anyone can jump into at anytime. Either that– or be content to rest on the current comic fan base you’ve got… And hope your readers have children and pass along their love for comics– so you’ll still have customers one day. – W.D. Prescott

Wolverine MAX #1
Permanent Rage
Writer: Jason Starr
Artists: Roland Boschi,
Conner Willumson

Hey, do you remember that really fucking horrible comic series called Wolverine: The Best There Is? It was the one sporting a HUGE label on the cover which read, “Parental Advisory: Not for Kids!”… And had no problems showing a nude Logan decapitating and disemboweling people… But, for some strange reason, also chose to black out any “questionable” language in the word balloons (such as “ass”). That was the comic I said should’ve been a MAX series.

Ya, that thing was one real piece of shit.

Two years later, Marvel has now published an actual Wolverine MAX series… And Holy Fuck! It wastes no time in giving its fucking readers what Wolverine: The Best There Is should have. It only takes one page for this fucking title to shoot some sweet profanity bukake all over the faces of every sad, pathetic Marvel Zombie reading it. Three panels in, Logan even utters the word “Fuckin'”. But wait, Zombies! I hope you didn’t get your rocks off just yet, because the 2nd panel of the 2nd page also has Wolvie saying the “Fuck” word again. Jesus fuck, Marvel. Thank you for getting the only reason to have a Wolverine MAX title out-of-the-way right off the bat.

Sadly though, Marvel blew its MAX load a little too quick. See, this comic is pretty much awful. How so? Well, let me ask you something… Have you ever seen any of the following in a Wolverine comic?

Wolverine loses his legs. Shocking!
Wolverine loses his memory and has no idea who he is.
Daaaayymmm!
Wolverine is in Japan! Again!
Wolverine meets Victor Creed for the first time! Again!
Holy shitballs!
Wolverine disembowels a shark! OK, I haven’t seen that
before– so, YEAAAAAAAHHHHH!

There is nothing new here… At all. Nothing that hasn’t been told a thousand times before. But hey, if you get off having Wolverine say “Fuck” and watching him disemboweling sharks– then I think you should totally buy this. But if you actually like “mature” labeled comics whose stories are not mature in the most juvenile of ways– then I suggest you look elsewhere.

Wolverine MAX really seems to be another Wolverine: The Best There Is in the making… Except this time, actual profanity will be spoken… And, if you’re lucky, you might see Wolvie’s dong one day too. – Jose Melendez

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14 Responses to IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 10.24.12!

  1. Insideman says:

    Jose, quick question per your Wolverine MAX review… How many Fucks could a Wolverine Fuck if a Wolverine could Fuck Fucks?

  2. Insideman says:

    Tommy- Great review of Hickman’s FF run. I think I have read maybe 9 comics in the run so far and I don’t share ANY of your enthusiasm… But that doesn’t mean I won’t. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the Hardcovers with an eye toward the overall picture now.

    And regardless of whether I end up agreeing you or not– I am truly happy you found a mainstream comic you enjoyed so much.

    • tomstewdevine says:

      Thanks Ian, there are plenty of people that didn’t like it. I just totally disagree with them. 🙂 I hope when you read the whole thing that you like it, or at least see why some people do.

      • Insideman says:

        I think my problem was partially the art and the decompression. But like I said, I’ve only read 9 or so issues so far.

        And I almost always see why people like most of the stuff I don’t. That’s what makes the world healthy: Freedom of Choice. I know we can seem overbearing on IMJ sometimes– but in truth, we’re just always trying to give our undiluted (READ: NOT PAID FOR) opinions. And I do hope I like Hickman’s FF better as I go along.

        Your review has clued me into a few things I’ll definitely be looking for and looking differently at. Thanks!

  3. wwayne says:

    My favorite story arcs:
    Amazing Spider Man # 226 – 227 (March – April 1982)
    Daredevil # 227 – 233 (February – August 1986)
    Venom: Sinner Takes All # 1 – 5 (August – December 1995)
    Batman: The Long Halloween # 1 – 13 (December 1996 – December 1997)
    X – Men: Children of the Atom # 1 – 6 (November 1999 – September 2000)
    Punisher Vol. 3 # 1 – 12 (April 2000 – March 2001)
    Daredevil: Yellow # 1 – 6 (August 2001 – January 2002)
    Fury Vol. 2 # 1 – 6 (November 2001 – April 2002)
    Kingpin: Thug # 1 – 7 (August 2003 – February 2004)
    Titans Vol 3: Fractured (August 2009 – April 2010)

    My favorite single issues:
    Redemption (Daredevil # 200) November 1983
    The Deadliest Night of My Life (Daredevil # 208) July 1984
    Badlands (Daredevil # 219) June 1985
    Fog (Daredevil # 220) July 1985
    Batman: Seduction of the Gun February 1993
    Bad Company (Steel # 3) April 1994
    The Meaning of Life (Shadow of the Bat # 72) March 1998
    A Night to Remember (Generation X # 57) November 1999
    Murdock’s Law (Daredevil Vol. 2 # 9) December 1999
    Ladies’ Night (The Brave and the Bold Vol. 3 # 33) June 2010

    Of course I didn’t consider expected titles like The Dark Knight Returns or Batman Year One, because they are graphic novels, not story arcs. What do you think about it?

  4. J. says:

    “I consider Hickman’s stories to be the greatest long run of any writer on the Fantastic Four comic… EVER.”

    I can’t explain to you just how much reading those words wounded my soul. It also gave my inner child a swift knee to the nuts.

    Sorry but unless Hickman’s run involved a time sled named Rosebud II it is not even close to being one one the best runs ever in FF.

  5. tomstewdevine says:

    Haha, call me the soul crusher.

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