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From the Hoss’ Mouth 05/16/07

The reviews are back for another week.  This time out Uncanny, Storm Shadow, Fallen Son, Flash, and Action Comics get the full service treatment.  Simmo also stops by to bring us a review for one of my favorite Spider-Man stories ever: Kraven’s Last Hunt aka Fearful Symmetry, so be sure and check that out if you can.

Full Review:

Uncanny X-Men #486
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Billy Tan

This issue of Uncanny is the grand finale of the 12 part “Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire” arc.  It’s been a long time coming and now that it’s here it hits with a thud instead of a bang.

This is Brubaker’s second attempt at writing a long X-Men epic and just like his first one “Deadly Genesis” this one featured his new creation Vulcan as the big bad.  There are a lot of similarities between this story and Deadly Genesis.  They both started very strong.  Brubaker does an excellent job of giving each of his characters an individual voice.  He uses new characters and themes while rooting them firmly in the continuity of old to lend them relevancy to older readers.  Lastly, he also spends copious amounts of pages setting up an epic battle that never actually materializes.

That last comparison is what really kills his x-stories for me.  I think that perhaps if he didn’t go through so much trouble setting everything up then perhaps I wouldn’t be so let down.  In hindsight, what was really the point of freeing the imprisoned Shi’ar general?  What about Korvus?  He didn’t really do anything at all. The M’Kraan crystal… not such a big deal when you can just jump right out of it.  Finally, D’Ken was tossed to the wayside all too quickly.  In fact, I think Darwin was the only character who did anything of note in this series.  It’s not that Bru can’t write an ending either.  In fact in his other books, there are always a lot of sweeping changes and long lasting developments.  Here it seems that this entire 12 issue arc was mainly to simply pull off a small status quo change in the X-Men ranks and ditch a few less popular characters in space.  Which, because of Bru’s past work, leads me to believe that maybe editorial had a heavy hand in these developments.  I also have to say that despite a noble effort, Brubaker still hasn’t sold me on the Vulcan character.  Vulcan’s had two big stories to set himself up as a mainstay big villain and yet I’m still not seeing anything but another forced character retconned into continuity. Despite my whining about the lack of a satisfying conclusion I did have fun reading this arc.  As I mentioned earlier, Brubaker does a great job of handling these characters.  Even though there were no significant developments ultimately, I was never once bored with the story and I enjoyed the action sequences greatly. 

Billy Tan did an excellent job on pencils throughout this book.  His panels are exciting, his characters big, and the action is fresh.  My one complaint is that he tends to stretch the torsos of all his characters out, but this is a minor nitpick and as a whole his work is very exciting.

Verdict: If you’re looking for the X-Men to burst out of their status quo bubble, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. 

Quick Reviews:

Storm Shadow #1 – I really wanted to like this book.  It has one of my favorite Cobra baddies and it’s written by Joe all-star Larry Hama.  Unfortunately it’s a muddled and uninteresting read.  With no recap page for new readers, I was unsure if the plot was supposed to be advancing so quickly over ground treaded elsewhere or if this is just one of those times in which the writer tells what’s actually going on after a few issues of mystery developments.  In either case I’m lost and my current reading of the regular Joe title is of no help either.  The art on the other hand is slick and lacks any sort of scene as confusing as the actual plot.  In fact, I’d really like to see a few more fight sequences handled by the artist Mark Robinson as I think he does a great job.

Verdict: Without a roadmap I just don’t know which direction I’m headed with this one.

Fallen Son: Captain America – This was my favorite of the Fallen Son issues so far.  It also conveniently fits right in with the recent developments of New Avengers and the Ronin character, but that’s not what’s great about this book.  This issue spotlights Clint Barton as a he goes to discuss the demise of Steve Rogers with Tony Stark.  What I really found interesting was the subtle approach to legacies.  On the one hand you have Clint Barton who firmly believes after this issue that there is no Captain America without Steve Rogers.  On the other hand you have Tony Stark who believes the costumed legacy, not the man, is what’s truly important.  To top off this great juxtaposition, we also get to watch Clint, in a rather interesting fashion, pass down his own legacy to the new Hawkeye, Kate Bishop.  Great book and a great story concept, particularly for the Marvel Universe where legacy characters are a rarity.  If that’s not enough for you this book also features superb JRJR artwork.

Verdict: A great pickup for anyone. Highly recommended.

The Flash #12 – Ever since Guggenheim has taken over, I’ve really enjoyed this book.  Despite inheriting bad story concepts from the previous writing duo, Guggenheim has succeeded in making them work here.  He’s taken the Inertia character and Valerie Perez and woven them seamlessly into a really exciting story that encompasses most if not all of the Rogues.  I really have to commend a writer who’s able to turn such lemon plot points into some really tasty comic lemonade.  Tony Daniel helps the story along by delivering some exciting art throughout.  It’s not incredibly detailed but it gets the job done and keeps the frenetic pace of the story moving at a high velocity.

Verdict: This book has experienced a solid turn around under Guggenheim and if next issue’s solicit holds true, there’s big changes coming soon so grab this one while you can.

The Loser of the Week:

Action Comics #849 – It pains me dearly to write this but Fabian Nicieza managed to bore me to tears not once but twice this week.  Deadpool’s quick quips saved his pal Cable from being the Loser this week, but poor Superman has no one to rescue him.  This issue thankfully concludes the Redemption arc, which was pretty ridiculous in the end.  To sum up: a small town preacher has faith powers and he passes them on to some young guy in his congregation who then goes and murders a bunch of guys who murdered missionaries.  Actually, that sounds kind of exciting, but trust me it’s not.  In fact it goes nowhere and ends with a deeply unsatisfying ending that will make you regret every cent spent on this issue.

Verdict: Pass.

Trade Off:
By: Simmo

Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt

Plot: Peter Parker has finally experienced what should be the happiest moments of his life. His wedding to Mary-Jane Watson, and their honeymoon. Yet something is gnawing at him. The recent death of old friend Ned Leeds has Spider-Man thinking thoughts of mortality. And when Kraven the Hunter returns, Spider-Man’s mortality is brought into sharp focus. Never before this time has Spider-Man been so close to total and utter defeat…and succumbed!

Background: Every Marvel Zombie should own a copy of this trade. Hands down, it is probably the single best Spider-Man story-arc published. Reprinting Web of Spider-Man #32-33, Amazing Spider-Man #293-294, and Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132, this arc was an attempt by then editor Jim Owsley (AKA Christopher Priest) to tie the 3 Spider books much more tightly together. The writing by J.M. DeMatteis is masterful. Kraven is spooky in his obsessiveness, and Spider-Man’s desperation is palpable. The artwork by Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod is one of the finest team-ups the comics industry has ever seen. Every single panel is rendered beautifully and cinematically, dark and detailed. The first page of Chapter 4 is surely one of the most astonishing and bravest uses of white space in a comic. My copy of this book is the original publication, from 1995, and includes some nice little extras (I’m not sure if these have been included in later editions). I’m not talking about some throwaway sketches or the like, which don’t do much for me at all. The Man, Stan Lee, gives us an introduction that is amazing for the sheer excitement it incites. Glenn Herdling and Jim Salicrup provide an epilogue about the how’s and why’s of the arc itself.

PROs:
The writing is top notch, and so very very tight. The art is wow. Just wow. Flash and real, and the storytelling is faultless. Kraven, no longer the goon in a tiger-skin, here he has absolute menace. The character had absolutely no-where to go after this book (in more ways than one). The total package with the intro and epilogue are nice touches too.

CONs:
Just one, because in my edition, the covers aren’t reprinted, which is a very minor quibble indeed.

The FINAL ASSESSMENT: A+. Almost a perfect Marvel book. And what could very easily be the whole storyline for the next Spidey film.

Roundup:

The Great:

B.P.R.D – As if there was any question.  Great series so far and the big plus is that there’s finally some development made in Daimio’s background.

X-Factor – A perfect book that goes a long way in developing the Quicksilver subplot.

The Average:

Batman – I really think Morrison’s reaching a bit too far here.  I don’t mind the chronic lateness provided that the issue delivers when it does come out.  In this case it’s just average superhero fare.

Aquaman – A step up from the usual Aquaman issues, and for once I don’t regret the purchase.

Catwoman – Lots of action and drama with great artwork.  Now if we could just get Holly out of the damn cat suit already.

Checkmate – I find I liked this book a lot more when Winick wasn’t involved.  It’s still a pretty good read just because of the great character dynamics, but the plot itself is falling fast.

Countdown 50 – The motivations and details of the Jimmy Olsen plot frighten and confuse me.  Otherwise the rest is great.

Moonknight – The Punisher subplot is all too sweet but it’s over far too quickly, leaving us with a less than stellar main plot.

Justice League of America – Bordering on average and great, if I had no JSA issues to compare it to it would easily get a great ranking.  As it stands though, Johns is writing the stronger of this x-over’s issues and as such it takes a lot of wind out of Meltzer’s sails.

The Mighty Avengers – The Pymmy/Tigra interaction sold me on this book. Plus the Sentry finds a use.  Sadly this book also reminds me why thought balloons were abandoned in the first place.

The Filler:

Supergirl – I feel like I just went through this exact same story with Superman/Batman. 

Cable & Deadpool – Not even Bob Agent of Hydra’s card playing tics can save this one.  To sum up: Cable goes for a walk.

Exiles – It took way too long for this arc to finish and Reed’s little last minute deus ex machina cheapened any credibility this story had going for it.

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