Thursday, December 02, 2004

Reviews for 12-1-04

Fallen Angel 18 – “HurlyBurly, Conclusion”
By Peter David and David Lopez
The Story: The truth about Bete Noire, and the fate of the Fallen Angel’s child, are revealed.
The Good: After last issue, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It looked like Lee’s baby was dead, the Heirarchy was pissed, and Juris was merely caught in the crossfire. This story turns all those assumptions on their heads, providing a satisfying conclusion to the arc that’s been building, in small ways, since issue one.
The big revelation is, of course, the true nature of Bete Noire. It falls under that category, one David occupies often, of ideas that make me smack my forehead and exclaim, “Why didn’t I think of that?” (This, by the way, is why I don’t read comics on the subway.) It also allows us some new insights into Juris’ character, and opens up some nasty story possibilities for the future. On that front, this is a very well-done piece of storytelling.
And, at the end, we have a reason to care about Lee, both her actions and what happens to her. I’ve said before it was something this title lacked, but stuck with it because of assurances from Mr. David that it would all make sense in the end. My faith was well-placed.
Lopez’s visuals work very well. Most of the action of this issue is quiet and understated, but there’s a couple moments (both involving Shadow Boxer, as it turns out) where he gets a chance to show off his action chops. The work is brutal, but effective.
The Bad: No one is reading this book. There’s a two-issue reprieve from cancellation beginning in March, and possibly another trade collection down the line, but if you people don’t get off your butts and support this book, we’re going to lose yet another original and different book, and that’s something this industry can’t afford right now.
The Quote: “Sins of the bloody father, eh?”
The Final Word: The best title you didn’t read this week, period.
The Grade: A

Uncanny X-Men 453 – “Cardinal Betrayal (Chasing Hellfire, Part 2)”
By Chris Claremont and Andy Park
Cover by Greg Land
The Story: Split up and cast to different sides of the world, Storm’s team discovers what the Hellfire Club’s up to, and it’s not what anyone expected.
The Good: For the most part, the issue works. I’m like Storm, in that I don’t fully trust the Club’s new position as Xavier-style altruists, but as a fan of Thunderbolts, it’s fun to see the villains-playing-hero dynamic from the side of the other heroes for a change. The twist with Sunspot throws in some extra tension, which is always good.
As is so often the case with Claremont, the little moments in this issue are the most satisfying. Nightcrawler and Wolverine’s moment in the café is amusing and touching, and a great example of what made Claremont the definitive X-Writer in the first place. High marks for that bit.
The Bad: I really don’t buy Bishop’s new powers. They may be only new to me, Claremont having introduced them in the previous X-Treme X-Men title, but they’re still way too plot-devicey, and make very little sense from a mutation standpoint. It’s all too convoluted.
The stuff with White Queen and Rachel is merely holding material. It’s necessary, but I wish there’d been something to move that plot along further.
The Quote: “What is it with X-Men? We’ll tackle Magneto or even Galactus without a second thought, but heaven forbid any of us, man or woman, can ask someone out on a flamin’ date!”
The Final Word: Except for the gimmicky opening, a solid issue.
The Grade: B

Exiles 55 – “Bump in the Night, part 1”
By Tony Bedard and Jim Calafiore
The Story: Trapped on a Manhattan transformed by Kulan Gath’s sorcery, how will the team regain their memories and accomplish their mission in this timeline?
The Good: Well, the old Kulan Gath storyline is still one of my favorite stories from Claremont’s old Uncanny run, so I was a happy camper going into this story. The great twist Bedard comes up with to sweeten the deal, well, that’s just icing on the cake. Bedard proves again that he knows how to exploit this book’s unique concept to its fullest extent, giving us one of the best setups this book has seen since Judd Winick left.
There’s a lot of references to 70’s Marvel horror in this one. It fits the tone well, and as someone who’s gained an appreciation for it through the Essential Tomb of Dracula connections, it’s a continuity bonus, too.
Calafiore fills in admirably for Mizuki Sakakibara on the art details. He gets to have a lot of fun with the medieval designs, and the result is one cool fantasy story.
The Bad: Since this particular concept is so far removed from the usual Marvel fare, and since the root story is nearly two decades old, it would have been nice if Marvel had included a little note on where and when the original Kulan Gath story was published, if only to satisfy curious new readers.
The Quote: “I could watch you three rip each other up all morning, but now is not the time for blood sport.”
The Final Word: A good mix of quirk and classic Marvel storytelling, which is pretty much par for the course with this writer.
The Grade: B+

Transformers Generation One 10 “The Route of All Evil”
By James McDonough, Adam Patyk, and Don Figueroa
The Story: Megatron returns to Earth, which isn’t at all good for Starscream.
The Good: Don Figueroa’s giant robots are a beauty to behold, as usual. The big fight scene in this issue definitely pleases.
The characterizations are all solid, right from the TV series. It’s obvious there’s a great deal of care being put into this by the creators, which is a good thing. Of particular note is Megatron, who is thankfully moved from beyond the one-dimensional schmuck he was in the cartoon to a more believable villain. The writers follow the cardinal rule that no one in the cast, not even the bad guy, thinks of himself as evil. Since this is essentially a superhero comic where the superheroes are giant robots, having a good villain is all the more important.
The Bad: There’s just too much going on here. Every time I start to get into the fight between Bruticus and Predaking, or Megatron’s gloating at Starscream, the gears switch to something else. No less than three subplots are basically place-held here, and yet another is introduced at the end. Where is all this going? Right now, nowhere. There’s buildup, but no payoff. It’d serve in trade format, but the serial release demands more from each installment.
And then you have to throw in the hoopla concerning McDonough and Patyk’s recent withdrawal from Dreamwave. Knowing the writers aren’t going to finish their story, and also that they may very well have been screwed over by the people you’re giving your money to in order to read it, doesn’t add to the enjoyment at all.
The Quote: “Your power is almost impressive. Almost.”
The Final Word: This title is just not living up to the legend of its name.
The Grade: C

Transformers The War Within 3 - “The Age of Wrath, part 3”
By Simon Furman and Joe Ng
The Story: The resistance’s plan to utilize the captured drone trooper doesn’t quite go as planned.
The Good: Okay, yeah, that makes sense. Furman wastes no time in revealing what the resistance is up to, and it’s totally logical. It’s more setup than follow-through, but the climax shows promise for the next issue. Furman’s at his best when he gets to mythologizing about the TF’s universe, and we’re sure to get plenty of that next time.
And in the meantime, we get a nice fight scene. As I said in my last review of this title, the principals here are of special import to me, having made up the bulk of my TF toy collection in my younger days. (I was nuts to let those go to the garage sale. I hope they’re doing well, wherever they are.) Finding out more about who they are as characters in official continuity is a lot of fun, which I suppose is the root of this whole nostalgia thing. And hey, nice development with the drone troop. It’s an idea I’ve seen a few places before, but I wasn’t expecting it here, and it makes him enough of a threat for the fight to carry the issue.
The Bad: In places, the art is shadowy and indistinct, which makes the fight a bit hard to follow. I know they’re going for a tone here, but there’s still considerations of readability.
The Quote: “Turbomasters, er… try not to touch anything.”
The Final Word: Now this is what a solid TF series looks like.
The grade: B+

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