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From the Hoss’ Mouth 06/27/07

A shorter review week this week but it’s not due to lack of quality on the racks.  I managed to squeeze out two full reviews for both the Sinestro Corps and X-Men 200 64 page giant-sized specials.  Let me just save you some trouble, you’ll want both.  So go get them.

Also this week, we witness the premiere review of our new DC trade reviewer, Snowglare, who replaces Pendragon Concepts… is there a trade reviewer curse… I dunno, but at any rate you don’t want to miss Snowglare’s review of "Formerly Known as the Justice League".  That book is hilarious and if you read the review you’ll know why.

Full Reviews:

Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver

This will be the easiest review I’ve ever done.  It’s simple, go buy this book. Done.  Well… I guess I can discuss it a little more.  This comic simply kicks ass.  I know some of you may shy away from these little events and x-overs and with good reason as most of them disappoint.  Not this one, at least not so far, every bit of hype and praise shoveled upon it is well deserved.

Now for the Marvel folk out there, I’m telling you that honestly you will enjoy this too.  In particular the Annihilation fans.  Like big space battles? Well this one has a doozy and all you really need to know in advance is that Green Guys = Good, Yellow Guys = Bad.  For those who have kept up prepare to be stunned, nay shocked to check out the last page reveal.  In fact there’s quite a few reveals in this one and they just keep building as the story goes on.

For the specifics, this is a story about fear, and oh what a powerful emotion it can be.  Sinestro and his corps are genuinely frightening, which is something that’s very difficult to achieve in comic form.  Not to mention that the central character, Sinestro, is a pink egghead with a pencil stache.  Normally not scary.  Here he’s terrifying.  He actually has this sort of Hitler aura around him that just frightens the $%^& out of me.  But that’s not all; just wait until you get to the nice big splash page of the entire Sinestro Corps.  It’s like a freak show of nightmares.  If you don’t appreciate him already that’s the page where you will learn to love Van Sciver, the guy’s a genius of creepiness.  So back to the story, Sinestro declares war on the Green Lantern Corps with his own Corps.  They fight in a most brutal fashion with giant monsters, snipers, and even an acorn.  Meanwhile Sinestro kidnaps Kyle Rayner and mentally breaks him down in a depressing and terrifying manner.  Van Sciver’s art hits home here.  Kyle’s broken mentally and then the physical manifestation of the Ion force is ripped out of him.  What’s going to fill the hole?  Why Parallax, the polar opposite of the Ion force. The rest of the book I’d feel bad for revealing so I won’t, but rest assured that this story kicks ass all the way through even to the backup story.

Van Sciver and Johns, there’s really not much to say except that this book is about as close to perfect as you can come.  Comics like this one are the reason why I read comics in the first place.  My two nitpicks are that there is a really distracting throw away line by Kyle at a very key point and that this book costs $4.99.  The price wouldn’t have upset me had I not also bought X-Men 200 this very same week for $3.99.  Both are 64 pages and both have awesome backups and great stories plus the X-Men book has a cool gatefold cover.  I liked the Sinestro Corps more than X-Men but still paying a dollar more for the exact same format is a bit… annoying.  This fault of course lies with DC and not the book itself, which again is near perfectly executed.

Verdict: Highest possible recommendation even for you Marvel Zombies. Read it, you’ll love it.

X-Men 200
Writer: Mike Carey
Pencilers: Chris Bachalo and Humberto Ramos

I’d like to start this review by saying what a great week it was for comics in that we got two of these giant size specials and both kicked a lot of ass.  This particular special kicks off the Endangered Species arc begun by the previous one shot primer.  Unlike said primer though this book has got action in spades.  Riptide assassinations, Cajun fights, dead Cables (fingers crossed), Malic(e)ious e-mail trojans, illusions, backstabbing, mother on daughter violence, ice capades sex, and well even more good stuff.  Seriously there’s a hell of a lot going on here and it’s all happening very fast which for an extra sized story works great.  Normally I feel Carey has the tendency to move too fast, especially when paired with Bachalo, but when you give the man 64 pages he covers all the little details and keeps the frenetic pace making for a quick paced action book of pure comic goodness.

The rhyme or reason of these new Maruaders isn’t clear yet but if you happen to be an X-Fan I’m sure you’re geeking out about the return of all these characters.  Carey delves deep into the original Marauders and pulls together a new team that not only looks cool but appears to operate with deadly efficiency as well as all around sneakiness.  I mean they had not one but two moles in the X-Men for crying out loud… three if you count Gambit.  Crazy stuff in a crazy book.  As for the plot, it’s relatively simple.  It’s just like any other day in X-Land.  Everyone’s just humming along, in this case trying to help Rogue before she loses her sanity… when whammo all hell breaks loose and the X-Men are besieged on all sides by a bunch of crazy mutants.  Even Cable who’s all alone trying to fix Providence finds himself attacked by Gambit (back to his old self) and Sunfire (still in his badass AoA outfit).  The mutant messiah doesn’t weasel out of this one and neither do the rest of the X-Men as this new group of Marauders have been planning this attack for quite some time.

My one sole complaint about this issue is the art.  I really feel that the serious themes of this one could have benefited from a less cartoony art style.  Bachalo and Ramos perform to their usual standards but it’s their styles that hold this one back.  I just can’t take moments like Iceman/Mystique very seriously when Mystique’s got sausage fingers and Drake looks like he belongs in Dragonball Z.  Just not my thing at all.

On the big up plus side, compared to it’s counterpart the Sinestro Corps, this one has a gatefold cover, limited character gallery, and is a dollar cheaper.  Not bad… not bad at all.  It also contains a backup story that essentially recaps House of M and then hits with a big reveal at the end.

Verdict: Worth every penny of that $3.99, grab it and don’t delay.

Trade Off
By Snowglare

Formerly Known as the Justice League

Plot: Maxwell Lord forms a new team from the remnants of Justice League International, recruiting Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Captain Atom, Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, L-Ron, and by accident, newcomer Mary Marvel. The team has a run-in with a local group of Harvard students cum street toughs, are forced into gladiatorial battle for the amusement (and profit) of bloodthirsty villains, and get a visit from a certain intergalactic barterer. But the plot only serves as a framing device for an endless string of jokes and a wealth of character interaction. First and foremost, this is a funnybook. Prepare to be exhilarated.

Background: In 1987, Keith Giffen (plots), J.M. DeMatteis (scripts), and Kevin Maguire (pencils) began a new era for the Justice League. The focus shifted from action to humor, from America to the world, and from alien demigods like Superman to more relatable, vulnerable, flawed characters like Blue Beetle. Character development was king, and many of the players involved underwent dramatic changes. Major Disaster became a hero. Guy Gardner became more than a one-dimensional jerk. Fire, then known as Green Flame, went from breathing fire to consisting of it, gaining the more impressive (and useful) Human Torch powerset.

The era ended, and the Justice League marched on. The Big Seven returned, the focus swung back to America, and action reigned supreme. But, although most were no longer in the League, the era’s mainstays were still about. It was time for Maxwell Lord, architect of Justice League International, to bring the team back. It was time to reunite the men who started it all, Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire. It was time… for Formerly Known as the Justice League. This trade collects the six issue miniseries of the same name, and includes an introduction to the book by the characters themselves.

Pros: It’s funny. And fun. The Super Buddies are more a dysfunctional family than a team, with all that that entails. Booster is a kept man, Ralph Dibny is a four, Beetle has matured. Some of the jokes fall flat, but the hits more than make up for the misses. Each issue is jampacked with dialogue, giving you plenty of bang (or rather, bwahaha) for your buck. The art is some of the best in the business; Maguire excels at drawing talking heads with a myriad of expressions. It’s a delight watching characters’ faces contort to show emotion, mouths twisting, brows furrowing. I’ve heard it said that Japanese manga/anime artists like to draw characters with oversized eyes to aid in expressing emotion, but frankly, that’s going about it all wrong. Wrinkles are where it’s at. Maguire understands that, and fills this book with more wrinkles than adult swim at the community pool.

Cons: It’s talky. Action scenes are few and far between, which is a shame since the ones we get are excellent. During the confrontation with the E Street Bloodsuckers, there’s some misattributed dialogue and a mix-up between writer and artist that makes the battle’s conclusion needlessly confusing. The portrayal of certain characters doesn’t mesh with how they act in other books. Wonder Woman, for instance, is no more than a caricature in her brief appearance. That’s always been a problem with Giffen/DeMatteis stories; the characters’ respectability is more often than not sacrificed in the name of humor. It’s rather a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too situation, though. Who respects the characters played by Groucho Marx, or Charlie Chaplin, or countless other comedians? And yet we love them for making us laugh. Love and respect would be nice, but one is pretty good, and if you look hard enough you’ll find more than a few reasons to respect even the lowliest of the Super Buddies. Well, not G’Nort, but everyone else. Honest! Maybe.

Overall: Batman thinks it’s hilarious, and who am I to argue with Batman? Knowledge of the old JLI’s adventures helps, but it’s not necessary to enjoy the book. All you need is a healthy sense of humor.

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