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From the Hoss’ Mouth 07/18/07

Ah, the problem with life is that there’s never enough time for what’s really important.  That being, of course, the comic reviews. Well I’m back and a little rusty but I have covered everything I wanted to cover and hopefully you’ll enjoy my efforts.  Up front is every single World War Hulk tie-in this week with the main title taking the center stage. Next up is JLA, All Flash, Shazam, and of course the oh so popular Loser of the Week.  Thanks for looking!

Spotlight book:

World War Hulk #2
Writer: Greg Pak
Pencils: JRJR

Two issues in and unless something tragic happens, this is the series that will cement Greg Pak as one of the greatest Hulk writers ever.  It’s got all the elements of your perfect Hulk story.  The first of which is smashing.  It’s still very early in this event and Hulk has already tore through Iron Man, a good chunk of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Blackbolt, and most of the mainstream X-Men.  And this series isn’t even halfway done yet.   The next thing a good Hulk story needs is the monster element.  The Hulk is a monster, he’s dangerous, and that comes across loud and clear in this story.  He’s got a giant freaky spaceship, a small squad of badass warrior aliens, he’s green, and he scares the hell out of every hero in this story and the important part is that they let you know it.  Reed’s fear is palpable as is Strange’s and if these superheroes are afraid then what image does that send to the rest of us.  The last and final thing a good Hulk story needs is the role of the tragic hero.  World War Hulk has that but with a twist.  Normally the tragic hero is Banner cursed to bear his monstrous burden, or even the Hulk who is just a misunderstood monster wanting to be left alone.  What makes World War Hulk special is that there is no Banner to worry about and the Hulk isn’t some misunderstood monster.  No this time he’s just been brutally wronged.  His kingdom, citizens, and family have been murdered and stolen. Now he wants the revenge that is rightfully his.  The only problem is he’ll destroy whole cities to get it.  Tragic indeed.

This issue and in particular this event has so far been pretty damn good.  There’s been some misses, like this week’s Ghost Rider for example, but for the most part Marvel looks to have a winner on its hands.  This particular issue clocks in at $3.99 has 40 pages, fancy cardstock covers, 2 pages for letters, and a checklist.  Not bad in the extras department but most of the extra cost comes in the form of the additional story pages.  As for the story specifics, well it’s really pretty simple.  Hulk goes form fight to fight, in this issue that’s the Avengers & Pals to the Fantastic Four to… Rick Jones (yeah that’s right) to Hercules’ crew, which connects back to the storyline in “Incredible Hulk” I believe.  In between those battles are a few masterfully crafted bits of exposition from the other heroes, the media, Rick Jones, and random civilians.

Another thing this book has going for it is that JRJR is a master of battle sequences and fight scenes.  He may be boxy but his setups are perfect and his action is well very actiony.  Edge of your seat comic reading.

Verdict: A highly recommended series and event!

Further Hulk-outs this week:

World War Hulk – X-Men: Dear lord, this book has just as much action in it as does the regular World War Hulk title. The whole AXM team gets the butts handed to them and not in the most pleasant of ways.  That’s not to say they don’t put up a fight, no they give it all they’ve got, it’s just that the Hulk is well… the Hulk.

Verdict: Definitely a useful and fun tie-in.

Avengers – The Initiative: This one doesn’t have the action of the X-Men series but it does have lots of intrigue and drama.  In particular its continuity ties with the nanobots and Pym who possibly knows about the Hulk exile and maybe even the Illuminati makes this one fairly relevant.

Verdict: A tie-in that actually ties in to the main story, definitely worth a look at the very least despite the lack of Hulk.

World War Hulk – Front Line: Same old Front Line from Civil War and with the way that story ended, I’m having trouble stomaching Miss Floyd.  The man on the street angle is handled better and quicker in the main title.  For the action fans stick with the main series because you’re not going to miss anything here.

Verdict: Does what it sets out to do, but I find that mission not worth the $2.99. On the plus side I Korg’s dialogue is amusing.

Ghost Rider – No point except to leech off the big event name.  Ghost Rider and Hulk fight but there is no closure, the action is not as planned or exciting as in the other titles, and it lacks all the relevancy of other books like the World War Hulk – X-Men tie-in.

Verdict: Completely passable, don’t waste your time.

 

Quick Reviews:

Justice League of America #11: Let me start off this review by saying that the major problem with this book is that it was released this week instead of last week.  This one’s about Vixen and Red Arrow who have been crushed in a building and thrown in a river (all off panel) by Dr. Polaris.  The whole story amounts to a lot of “pull yourself together” “be strong” “you can do this” “I’m scared” “I can’t see” claustrophobia talk.  Kind of like what we saw in the recent Nightwing issue where he was stuck in a coffin for all 22 pages.  On the plus side it is very gripping and the gimmicky ending is actually pretty cool.  On the downside it features 2 B-list at best characters and pretty much goes nowhere except that they do in fact get out alive… like we all thought they would.  Don’t let me talk you out of this one though, it is very good.  It’s just that you should definitely read this book BEFORE World War Hulk and not after, because the slow and meticulous build-up Meltzer puts in this book is really great but it will also kill any adrenaline rush you’ve got going from all the smashing. 

Verdict: A nice and unique story for a Justice League title, but remember to separate out your DC and Marvel books as you read them this week.

All Flash #1: I wasn’t expecting this kind of crap at all.  Let me begin by saying this book features Karl Kerschl on some of the interiors and this guy was simply made to draw the Flash.  He is a fantastic Flash artist.  Now with the negatives, this issue features the recently returned Wally in such a frenzied and out of character state that he zooms through the highways causing car accidents, breaking windows, and also makes one big mean tornado.  I know Wally’s pissed at Inertia, but this level of collateral damage, wanton destruction, and all around carelessness is just something I don’t want to see with Wally’s return.  It reminded me a whole lot of the opening from “The Boys #1” where A-Train splatters Wee Hughie’s girlfriend in a similar display of collateral destruction.  To top it all off Wally punishes Inertia, who is a huge psychopath but still just a kid, in a manner that is crueler than death.  He even says that it is in fact worse than death.  I’m glad Wally’s back but I don’t want him being judge, jury, and executioner… on another note this is exactly why the Martian Manhunter needs to be in the Justice League so that our human heroes don’t actually lose their humanity.

Verdict: Near anger inducing, on the bright side it is also skippable as no important details are even discussed such as where Wally’s been, etc.

Shazam – The Monster Society of Evil #4: A work of comic art.  All the fantastic simpleness of the earlier generations of comics shoved into a beautiful story that will please any modern day comics fan.  This book has great art, good humor, a simple charm, and a childhood innocence that is sure to take your mind of whatever’s troubling you.  If you want a comic that can fill you with nostalgia as well as provide the perfect escapist hideaway then this is the book for you.  In this final issue, Billy discovers the true evil behind the big robots, saves his sister, and then smashes those robots Golden Age style. The downside is that this is the last issue.  I’m sure there will be an absolute edition on its way but for the time being there’s not a lot of books out there that so perfectly capture the golden age comics style in their original incarnations.  A shame too as the chronically late Trials of Shazam and less than stellar Countdown both feature a breaking down of the Marvel family into darker, modern day reimaginings that are pretty much the polar opposite of this title.  Time to wake up DC, this is the Shazam that I want.

Verdict: Expensive in that it’s a $5.99 “mini-trade” but it is worth every penny.

Loser of the Week:

Aquaman #54: The book that screams cancellation.  I’m not sure what keeps this book afloat (pun intended) but it certainly can’t be the sales.  Everyone I’ve talked to has been in firm agreement that even on its best days, it still sucks.  This issue’s bright side is the shiny Dodsons cover.  Outside of that it’s a cartooney jumbled mess who’s last page reveal makes me nauseous as it features a favorite villain of mine, who I just know will get ruined.

Verdict: I’m going with blargh, or possibly blech.  No, no, no blargh was right after all. As Optimus would say:  "My bad".

Rounding ‘em up:

The Must-Buys:

Captain America #28: Who’d have thought Cap had such great villains.  I love Sin, honestly I do.  You will too after you read this book.

New X-Men #40: Pretty Damn good stuff, even if I am a bit Rockslide biased and he gets a new outfit so to speak.  This book has a fun story rooted deep in the X-lore of old and oddly enough delivers on a few quandaries I had regarding Pixie and Anole.  Also I’m of the opinion that Skottie Young was born to handle the art on this title.

Action Comics #852: Drawn by a Fwoosher. Nuff said!

Birds of Prey #108: One huge spread shot made this book a sight to behold.  Wonderful ending to Gail’s incredible run.  McKeever’s got some big shoes to fill.  Also of note is that Nicola Scott is awesome.

The Average:

Mystic Arcana: Black Knight #1: On the level of the previous Mystic Arcana (which was Magik) which is to say that it’s got some bright spots but is really only a buy if you like the characters involved.

The Order #1: You had me at Matt Fraction.  The most divergent super-hero team book around.  Somewhat reminiscent of the old X-Statix in that the team has the media circus angle here too and cashes in on the paparazzi/TMZ/E! News craze of celebrity shenanigans.

Thunderbolts – Desperate Measures #1: Americop is crazy.  Norman Osborn is crazy.  Bullseye’s in a motorcycle with Emo Speedball in the sidecar.  That’s pretty much all you need to sell me on this one. Fun, violent, and crazy.

Countdown #41: I think I might enjoy this title more if I didn’t compare it to 52, which is honestly far superior.  It’s still too early to judge this one but I’ll try anyways: ehhh not so good.

Checkmate #16: Too much romance, not enough espionage… or Thinker.

MODOK’S 11 #1: Pretty damn fun for a first issue.

Brave and the Bold #6: Legion/Batman and a little bit of luck lords.  This series has been class pretty much throughout.

Catwoman #69: I love Bruce and Selina gatherings, but the Amazons Attack! aspect sucks all the greatness out.

Black Canary #2: Paulo Siqueria is a damn fine artist and this book is a ton of fun too, though I wish it dealt more with the Black Canary/Green Arrow cliffhanger and less with Sin.

Wolverine Origins Annual #1: An alright story but what really got me with this one was Kaare Andrews incredible art.  Also of note are the gritty page designs with a look so old you can practically smell the dust and decay.  Cool stuff. If Andrews replaced Dillon on the regular title, we’d see a lot less of Origins in the “Loser of the Week” category.

Superman/Batman #38: What the hell was the point of Darkseid tripping? That was just well… dumb. The rest of the plot was equally WTF.  But I do like Dustin Nguyen’s merging of old school and new school sensibilities.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #22: A shame this book’s ending as PAD really had Spidey nailed in my opinion.  Plus this one has his supporting cast and honestly that just might be my favorite part of any Spidey tale.

Annihilation Conquest – Quasar #1: Both Wraith and Quasar have been good but not up to the level of the Prologue.  That’s somewhat disappointing but at the same time this one is just beginning and there’s a whole lot of time to turn it around.

Ghost Rider – Trail of Tears #6: Without Clayton Crain this book would have been crap. With Clayton Crain this book is worth picking up just for ogling the pictures, because they are damn pretty.

The Crap:

Amazons Attack! #4: A reveal that everyone saw coming, and no one cares about.  Also I don’t think it’s possible for this story to feel anymore forced and at the same time irrelevant to the rest of the DCU.

Robin #164: A super team of villainy so lame that no one can even identify them coupled with a popped collar, pink lacoste wearing, tennis jock side plot that’s even more lame.

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