Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Comic Reviews for October 20, 2004

Fantastic Four 525 – Fourtitude, Part 3”
By Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo, and Karl Kesel
The Story: In order to save countless worlds from Galactus, the alien Zius has decreed: Sue Richards must die!
The Good: Well, that was definitely not the ending I expected. Waid comes up with an original solution for this story that opens a whole bunch of new possibilities. What I like best about it, though, is that it comes as no shock at all in retrospect. It flows from the natural actions the character would take. Waid’s shown time and again that he has a great handle on this team, and, well, here’s another instance.
Another plus is that he wastes no time moving right along from this story into the next one. Other writers might have switched gears and made us wait a few storylines while this played out as a subplot, but instead we move from one bad situation into another. If there’s anything this book shouldn’t be, it’s slow. The frenetic pace of things keeps in tradition with the greatest creative teams on the title’s history.
‘Ringo’s art worked great for me this issue. The expressions of the characters, the shots of celebrating New Yorkers, and the sheer grandeur of the finale just bowled me over. His work’s been top-notch since this run started.
The Bad: Not Waid’s fault, but the January solicits released yesterday sort of spoiled the ending here, which ruined the surprise.
Is there any reason other than sales that this had to be tied in to “Avengers Disassembled?” No.
The Quote: “Sue… Forgive me.”
The Final Word: A great conclusion to this arc and kick-off to the next.
The Grade: A

MadroX 2 (of 5) – “The Chicago Whey”
By Peter David, Pablo Raimondi, and Drew Hennessy
The Story: While Jamie retraces his dead dupe’s steps in the Windy City, the staff back home deal with a bizarre case of infidelity. Also, somebody knows the Prime Madrox survived, and isn’t happy.
The Good: PAD’s been on a noir kick lately, and I’m liking where it takes him. The combination of this character with the hardboiled elements of the genre actually works. It’s helped, of course, by an interesting new take on the character of Multiple Man, but also by the art. There’s a thin layer of grime on everything, part of it due to the style of the pencils and part to the muted blues in the coloring. It establishes the tone in the first panel and keeps the reader grounded in the noir mentality. The self-referentialism doesn’t hurt either.
Fortunately, the book isn’t without the trademark humor, either. From Jamie’s bickering dupes to the absurd case Rahne and Guido get stuck with to the dark, dark, dark humor of our mystery assassin, there’s plenty to chuckle at, and then feel bad for chuckling at.
The Bad: PAD tends a bit more towards the self-referential sometimes than I care for. There’s a gag like that on page three that doesn’t really work for that reason.
The Quote: “Now… what would Bogie do?”
The Final Word: Fans of the character, or those just looking for something different from a mutant book, will be rewarded by this one. I’d buy an ongoing.
The Grade: A

Uncanny X-Men 451 – “Impediments”
By Chris Claremont, Alan Davis, and Mark Farmer
The Story: It’s a three-way fight between the X-Men, X-23, and the Bacchae.
The Good: Well, Alan Davis. Can’t go wrong with that. He’s just as good now as he was fifteen years ago, if not better. I particularly like all the ways he’s playing with Marvel Girl’s tattoo.
The characterization is solid, of course; Claremont created most of these characters and does the definitive version of all of them, so everyone fits to a tee. There’s also good story flow; things move along at a nice pace. And while the text is wordy as usual, none of it’s needless.
The Bad: The ending didn’t really work for me. Geech is just… dumb, and the whole murder-mystery/kidnapping is swept under the rug in favor of… well, pretty much just a fight scene. I know Claremont was in a corner, what with the crap from NYX and all, but really, this just doesn’t cut it.
The Quote: You’re fast. I’m faster. You got claws… welcome to the club.”
The Final Word: Not horrible, but definitely subpar for this team. I’d like to believe that’s mostly editorial’s fault.
The Grade: B-

Identity Crisis 5 – “Father’s Day”
By Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, and Mike Bair
Cover by Michael Turner
The Story: The heroes start hitting harder in their search for the killer, as the next target comes under fire.
The Good: Well, when he’s not driving fans of the satellite era batty with retcons, Meltzer tells a tight thriller. The last half of the book in particular is a great piece of suspense work. We all knew coming who was going to get whacked, but enough twists are thrown into the how of it to make it engaging and a little bit terrifying. I felt this hit a lot more than I did the previous ones.
It’s also good to see us finally getting some payoff in regards to the mystery. After four issues of mostly stalling, there are some real definite leads here, and while nothing concrete is in place, things are being wrapped up.
Say what you want about Meltzer’s story, but Rags Morales deserves nothing but praise for his art chores on this series. His style is perfect for this story: Grand enough for superheroes, but with enough of an edge for a seedy murder mystery.
I like what happens with the Atom.
The Bad: People say the death here was because Tim Drake needed some tragedy in his background. Well, as I recall, his mom was killed by terrorists either before or shortly after he became Robin, so did he really need this too? Besides, I’ve always liked that he didn’t have the darkness of the rest of the Bat-Family. The last thing I want to see is for this kid to turn into a carbon copy of Bruce Wayne.
Somehow, I can’t buy that Sue Dibny’s autopsy has taken four or five days. Supposedly, they have to call in a bunch of metahuman specialists, but it seems like Meltzer is just dragging it out so he can coincide this revelation with the unmasking of the killer next issue.
Firestorm’s death is stupid and pointless.
The Quote: “I’m proud of you, son.”
The Final Word: It’s not without flaws, but this is the most solid issue yet. Shame most people didn’t stick around past issue 2.
The Grade: B

Teen Titans 17 – “Big Brothers and Sisters (Titans Tomorrow, Part 1)”
By Geoff Johns, Mike McKone, and Marlo Alquiza
The Story: On their way home from the 31st century, the Titans make a pit stop ten years in the future. Their counterparts are less than thrilled.
The Good: This chapter raises a lot of questions, but they all lead to what looks like a great next two issues. Johns wastes no time letting us know that the grown-up Titans are a less than favorable lot. It’s some nasty stuff, but it makes for good reading. I particularly like the development with Animal Man (the future Beast Boy, for those of you keeping score).
This being a time travel story, we get a lot of neat future moments, including allusions to two upcoming new recruits.
We also get another good Robin/Superboy moment. I really like the levels Johns has added to the relationship between these two.
McKone and Alquiza turn in another fine job on the art chores; my only regret is that they aren’t on the book full-time. The designs for the future Titans are really neat, and if I’m right, we’ll be seeing some more before this arc is through.
The Bad: So, just whose daughter is the villainess in the opening? The first page says one thing, her look says another, and her name says a third. I don’t like being confused this early in the story, especially on matters that seem to be irrelevant to the plot.
There’s another damn promotional insert jammed into the middle of this issue. I know it pays the bills, but still, it’s annoying.
The Quote: “What would ever make me want to be Batman?”
The Final Word: A great first part, and the ending’s a classic twist.
The Grade: B+

Voltron 10 – “Warpath, Conclusion”
By Dan Jolley, Alitha Martinez, and Clint Hilinski
“Lowman 77723”
by Mark Waid, Clement Sauve, and David Messino
Cover by Clement Sauve and Blond
The Story: A big ol’ space fight between Voltron, a Drule battle cruiser, Lotor and Sven, and five Robeasts. Plus, part one of a backup feature exploring the origins of Voltron and King Zarkon.
The Good: The best part about this series has always been the reenergized myth-building Jolley has brought to the concept. We get another part of that here, as a concept is introduced that opens up a lot of potential for the future, and goes away towards explaining some stranger elements of the series so far. The great thing is, it totally works; it’s the sort of revelation that makes you smack your head and go, “Well, duh!”
The Sven arc also draws to a close for now, and the parallels to what happened to the character in the TV show made me smile. It’s obvious that his story isn’t over for the long run, but this is a good place to end it for now, and I look forward to seeing him again down the line.
There’s plenty of great space opera action here too, including some great battle sequences and another hardcore badass moment for Keith. He was always my favorite of the team since way back when, and I’ve loved how he’s been fleshed out. The art is a lot of fun too, continuing the mix of anime-style and big computerized space crap.
The backup is mostly preamble, but I like the idea that we’re going to see more of how Zarkon became the bigwig we all know him as today. A definitive origin for Voltron doesn’t suck, either.
The Bad: The Merla plotline comes to what looks like an unsatisfying end. Of course, it’s left so damn ambiguous, I’m not really sure what happened to her or Haggar. I suppose it’ll make sense next issue, but it ought to right now.
The Quote: “I… didn’t know Voltron could do that.” “Makes two of us.”
The Final Word: I like this book better than I liked the show, and this issue is for the most part a great example of why.
The Grade: B+

Transformers: War Within 2 – “The Age of Wrath, part 2”
By Simon Furman, Joe Ng, and Fero Poblete
The Story: With his clone army, Megatron has finally conquered Cybertron. Optimus Prime is still missing and presumed destroyed. The Autobots have lost… haven’t they?
The Good: Ha. What a killer ending. Furman, still a genius when it comes to the Transformers, not only lifts this book out of the endless cloud of despair he instills in the beginning, but brings in some of my all-time favorite characters in doing so. The Autobot cast for this series encompasses what, for me, was the nucleus of my toy collection back in the day. So that’s all good.
I have to give him credit, though. While the beginning is so damn depressing, it works so well when juxtaposed with the ending. I particularly like how the dark wash to the coloring lifts once the cavalry arrives on scene, and is replaced by clean, classic brights. It’s so pronounced, it had to be in the original script.
I’m also liking where the overall story is going. The last War Within series suffered in that we never had any clear idea of what The Fallen was up to, or how it related to the other plot of the factioned Transformers. This story looks to be much more cohesive.
I’ve got to give credit to Mssrs. Ng and Poblete for turning in just the sort of TF art I’ve come to expect from Dreamwave. As always, the pre-Earth designs for the cast are one of the most fun parts of the series. Kudos also go to the coloring team for pulling off that tone job so well.
The Bad: In places, I got the various clones mixed up with Ultra Magnus, since there’s a vague similarity in the upper torso design, and the art’s so damn dark.
The Quote: “Well, here we are again, Autobots… just another day in Paradise.”
The Final Word: All hail Simon Furman, Grand Master of Cybertron.
The Grade: A

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