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From the Hoss’ Mouth 12/20/06

A really big week, and not just because of the amount of titles released but because of the overall quality.  This week finds reviews for Civil War: Casualties of War, War Crimes, Iron Man, Checkmate, Teen Titans, She-Hulk, Secret Six, Legends of the Dark Knight and a host of others.

Full Reviews:

Civil War: Iron Man Captain America: Casualties of War
Written by: Christos N. Gage
Penciller: Jeremy Haun

Two men enter…one man leaves.  Not really but those covers sure lead you to believe that’s what’s going to happen.  This issue is a gap filler and a good one at that.  Iron Man and Captain America secretly meet at the Avenger’s Mansion ruins (Hello Home Owner’s Association?) to discuss the finer points of war and brotherhood.  They talk and talk and finally talk some more covering everything from their last big battle and the death of Goliath all the way back to their very first battle (a case of mistaken identity).  Along the way they curtail their arguments to include past actions such as Galactic Storm and Iron under the Influence creating a rich little montage that both parties use to try and convince the other that their current actions aren’t so different from the misdeeds of the past.  For the most part the brunt of these past grievances lies heavily on Stark as Cap manages to make some excellent points about Stark’s moral elitism.  On the flip side Tony’s views are finally explained in detail, and he even provides historical context to justify them (without heavy retcons mind you).  I can already see those devil horns shrinking.  Both are stubborn men and although they may physically look the same age, the generation gap between them is so wide that neither is capable of fully understanding the beliefs of the other.  Diplomacy be damned.  Two men, two friends, unable to agree on what’s best for the community they both helped create. 

It’s not like I was expecting some end all be all compromise here, but no headway is made to convince either side that they just might be wrong after all.  Ultimately the reader’s left with a sense that they’re both wrong, which would also mean they’re both right though with the tone of the war so far it’s a lot easier to expound the negatives than the positives. 

For a book of mostly talking heads I really enjoyed this one.  I think Gage did an excellent job of explaining the beliefs of both sides of the conflict, even if none of it mattered in the end.  This isn’t so much a heated debate as it two friends simply trying to reconnect and with everything at stake I think most of you will highly enjoy this meeting of the minds.

There are some less than perfect things going on here though.  For a book focused on the rhyme and reason behind the actions of both chief protagonists it sure has come out late in the event.  Why didn’t this one come out after issue 2, 3, or 4 of the main series?  Surely explaining the methods behind the madness is a good thing to do early in an event, before the cries of mischaracterization can begin.  Too little too late perhaps?  Next, the fight at the end is forced and heavy handed.  I still can’t for the life of me figure out why it was there except to justify the cover(s).  Perhaps editorial was just sick of showing Cap getting beat down so they felt the need to prove that Stark, without the armor, ain’t so tough.  Please.  Everything about this meeting was Civil (pun intended), why break that down into childish fighting at the end, especially when everyone involved including the reader knows it will all amount to nothing.  On the bright side it does end awkwardly as if both realize what fools they are.

Mr. Haun does a stellar job on the art.  His backgrounds aren’t so good but he’s able to get a firm grasp on both these characters and shift between the historical retellings and the present seamlessly.  If I had to characterize it I’d say his art reminds me of a toned down McNiven, which is not a bad thing if you’re asked to draw a title under this context.

Verdict:  Had enough demonizing of the Pro-Reg side?  Or maybe you’re unable to grasp why Cap’s being so damn stubborn?  This one will help.  A necessary book in any Civil War collection.  Be warned though, this one carries a $3.99 price tag as well as two alternate covers.

Quick Reviews:

Secret Six #6:  Finally after much delay the conclusion is here.  My favorite team of villainous outcasts confronts Vandal Savage.  This one’s ripe with the usual Gail humor that I delight in and also manages to further the Mad Hatter’s characterization more than anyone has in years.  Deadshot’s got some great lines as does Catman and the action is fluid and fast paced.  My two complaints are that Vandal as the overarching villain was a bit weak in the end and that not enough of the Psycho/Hatter fight was shown. I mean come on, when’s the next time we’re ever going to see a fight like this, give me a bit more than one panel.  The ending is a thing of beauty, allowing for further plotlines down the road if DC decides to continue this series and I sincerely hope they do.

Verdict:  A wonderful series through and through.  If you haven’t already been keeping up then you should definitely get the inevitable trade or better yet go grab those back issues and experience the insanity for yourself.

Iron Man #14: Iron Man gets double the books to show what he’s all about this week, and in my opinion it’s long overdue.  The 2nd meeting between the two titans is kind of redundant, especially considering the same plot device was handled this very same week but on the bright side this one ends a whole lot differently.  Not only does Shellhead dispatch the Anti-Reg heroes like rookies, but the whole ambush tactic really makes Cap look like a jackass.  ZING!  On top of that Sue follows Stark (honestly with how jacked up his power levels are lately, how did he not see her?) to rub salt in his wounds about the fate of his best friend.  DOUBLE ZING!  Way to go Cap’s team!  The moral dilemma with Hogan reaches it’s apex as Stark makes one of the most difficult decisions of his life…or does he, it’s left so vague we’ll never be sure unless they tell us.  Drama so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Verdict: Best Iron Man issue yet?  Yeah I think so.  A solid issue in what has lately been one of Marvel’s better series.

Checkmate #9:  I love this book.  Every time I see it on the diamond shipping list I get a little tingle in the nerd portion of my brain.  This time it’s Checkmate versus Sarge Steel and the Department of Metahuman Affairs.  There’s even bonus cameo use of Shadowpact to pull off a clever ruse.  Classy!  That’s not all though, Mr. Terrific chooses his new Bishop and it’s someone you’d never expect.  I was taken by complete surprise here but when you get down to it, it makes perfect sense and is an excellent choice that’s going to allow for the possibility of some neat plotlines later. 

Verdict: Espionage and politics at their finest.  The underbelly of the DCU socio-politico structure begins and ends with this book making it a perfect choice for those who like a little intrigue mixed in with their super heroics.

She-Hulk #14: Almost entirely Awesome Andy and it’s awesome.  A long overdue story tracing the origins of everyone’s favorite adaptable android from his creation to his redemption including his joining of Shulkie’s law firm and his current problems of love.  Despite being big and blockheaded there’s an enormous amount of emotion being dealt out here for a character whose facial expressions only consist of two changing indented lines.  Slott chares a lot in common with Geoff Johns this week as both writers manage to take sorely underused characters and turn them into pots of gold.  Standout stuff with an incredible Greg Horn cover to boot.

Verdict: Able to take on the powers of anyone.  Andy’s newest ability is to steal the show.

Teen Titans #42: Speaking of standout character development.  The mystery behind Kid Devil is finally revealed complete with all the fire and brimstone you’d expect for the most demonic of Titans.  Not only is this book a touching origin story but also one of trust lost and consequences to come.  Kid Devil finds that the role of the hero is not an easy job to fill and along the way his potential is developed so that if you weren’t already watching him you will be.  This is a kid that one day might shake up the Titans as well as the whole DCU.  My sole compliant with this story is the art.  I like that the book’s coming out on schedule now but I don’t like the rotating artists and in particular the choice for this one.  It’s easy to overlook though as the story’s solid.

Verdict: Character Development 101, hosted by Dan Slott and Geoff Johns, coming to a Comic Con panel near you.

Civil War: War Crimes:  Tieri shines here as he explores the incarcerated Kingpin’s role in Civil War.  Interestingly told by a second party, Fisk’s “liaison”, this book rattles through a short lesson on how to get your way even when you’re behind bars.  Steeped in gangster myth, the Kingpin wishes to do a little good in the War, but for which side and more importantly at what cost?  Another interesting facet of this book is that I believe it’s the third attempt this week at making Cap look bad.  Well I guess to make the sides seem more even in regards to fandom it’s a lot easier to make Cap look foolish than to make Stark look the part of the hero.  A somewhat predictable ending yet one that holds up and proves to be vastly entertaining. 

Verdict: Another great tie-in to add to the list.  It’s a shame the regular series couldn’t be as interesting as the tie-ins are this week.

The Loser of the Week:

Legends of the Dark Knight: The key to picking the loser of the week is the word why?  The trick is to ask the question: why was this book published?  Then sit and ponder for a bit.  If you’re unable to come up with an answer, well then you know you’ve got a winner on your hands.  Legends sees Batman fight a crazed murderous Otaku.  Why?  Exactly.

Verdict: Waste of money.

The Rundown:

Notable Notables a.k.a. the “Must Buys” for this week:

Birds of Prey: The new birds come together and get out of a tight spot.  Excellent showcase of the new status quo.

Fantastic Four: The Thing goes to France for a good old fashioned superhero romp with a French super team.  A lot more fun than I thought it would be.

Civil War: War Crimes: Covered

Teen Titans: Covered

She-Hulk: Covered

Checkmate: Covered

Iron Man: Covered

Secret Six: Covered

Civil War: Casualties of War: Iron Man Captain America: Covered

The Good:

Aquaman: The conclusion to “Blood in the Water” and a decent ending to the last tale we’ll see for a while with the former Aquaman.

Catwoman: The baby daddy mystery is all wrapped in a nice but completely forgettable conclusion.

Shadowpact: A great issue detailing Ragman’s powers and more importantly what he thinks of them.

Ion: The return of Tangent Comics.

Cable & Deadpool: A lot more serious than funny.

Civil War: Frontline: Embedded misfires on its character assassination of Cap.  The Accused shows us who the mysterious “new” Thunderbolt is.  Sleeper Cell proves to be the winner of the lot.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man: Spidey’s friends both defend and harm him, meanwhile the Vulture gets an interesting background sideplot.

Ms. Marvel: Boy was I wrong, the Rogue appearance does get put to good use, even though I think she came off a little more inexperienced than I thought she should.

New Avengers: I’m not sure what to say here so I’ll just leave it at: Bendis, and you can take that for what you will.

New Avengers: Illuminati: Why is New Avengers in the title? A reckless move backfires on the brightest minds humanity has to offer (and honestly something they should have seen coming) but the subsequent team revival is a lot of fun.

Sensational Spider-Man: Last issue was MJ coming to terms with their new life, here it’s May.  A pretty solid feature and between this and FNSM all aspects of Pete’s life are covered.

Thunderbolts: The beginning of the end.  I’m excited and disappointed.  A change for the better…we’ll have to wait and see.

X-Men: First Class: An interesting mutant team-up featuring Dr. Strange.  Overall pretty good though I would have liked to see more of the good doctor.

52 Week 33: Any week now they’re gonna wrap up some of these plotlines….

Fables: A fun Christmas story featuring the biggest Myth of all.

Hellblazer: The empathy engine nears its conclusion and Chaz finds out what it’s like to get in John’s head.  Solid stuff.

The Filler:

Legends of the Dark Knight: Covered

Deadman: My benefit of the doubt is just about gone.

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