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The ’90s Revsited: Captain America #12

90s_revisited

captain_america_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 4 of 4: Let It Be

Story: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Joe Bennett, Ed Benes
Inks: Homage Studios
Colors: Nathan Lumm & Wildstorm FX
Letters: RS & Comicraft/Albert Deschesne
Editors: Mike Heisler & Mike Rockwitz
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

Here we are with Captain America #12. An "anniversary" issue, double-sized (and extra-priced for its time), yet it is "only" $2.99…cheaper than something HALF its size even twenty years later. This is chapter 4 of the 4-part Heroes Reunited arc that spanned Fantastic Four (1996) #12, Avengers (1996) #12, Iron Man (1996) #12, and this issue.

We open on Rikki Barnes–a girl that’s apparently been Cap’s partner of late, a new "Bucky"–as she discovers a mess of a break-in at her grandparents’ house. This turns out to be Dr. Doom, who goes on about her being some chronal anomaly that shouldn’t exist. Captain America arrives and saves her, confronting Doom, as things start to come out. The Fantastic Four are currently battling Terrax in Central Park (presumably from where Fantastic Four (1996) #11 had left off…or one of the #11s); there are other heralds as well, and the FF WILL perish. Doom has already seen the Earth destroyed three times, and now his time-travel device is damaged and can’t be counted on for a fourth trip. Galactus prepares to consume the Earth after his heralds soften things up a bit…and only by trusting Doom and the information he brings to the table can the heroes hope to prevail. While the "Knights of the Atomic Round Table" work on a solution and build on Banner’s idea that they find a way to "overload" Galactus, Rikki ponders her place and the personal idea of how she’s not supposed to even exist. The Silver Surfer arrives and tries to get her to convince the others to evacuate what people they CAN from Earth before its destruction. When he flies off, she manages to grab his board; Cap gives chase and pleads with her to let go (mirroring what we know of his facing the original loss of Bucky in WWII). Galactus blasts her, apparently perturbed that a human would dare to touch the Surfer, and thus something that belongs to Galactus. Of course, this becomes some poignant bit that makes the whole thing PERSONAL for the heroes, prompting them to want all the more to take down Galactus (as if the entire WORLD being at stake wasn’t enough). So, too, does the Silver Surfer join in, seeing the injury of one human where he was ok with billions being not just injured–but killed. The Surfer becomes the key, bearing the heroes’ devices and artifacts, betraying Galactus, and though he dies, Galactus is destroyed as well. Doom refuses to stay with the heroes even in friendship; and a brief epilogue, Cap meets James Barnes and Peggy Carter Barnes, with Fury explaining that he knew them but can’t be told how/when…and as Cap prepares to take off, The Watcher talks about how all this has been only one of many tales of heroes reborn.

I felt like more than the previous three chapters of this story, this one had a lot of "splash pages" and "double-page splashes" and such…a bit of a "cheat" regarding the page count, propping that up to a higher count but not really increasing the "value" of the amount of story contained in the pages. The art itself is quite good, and I enjoyed it…once again, despite multiple pencilers I didn’t notice any overt, clear shift from one to another…I simply read the issue, followed the story, and nothing wonky or weird jumped out screaming "this is a different visual style here from that last panel/page" or such. One can do a heckuva lot worse than to have Ed Benes art in an issue…and for my not noticing any stand-out difference, I’d have to say that at least here, the same goes for Joe Bennett.

heroes_reunited_04

The cover is part of a 4-part image…something I’ve pointed out in the previous chapters’ write-ups; and something I far, far, FAR prefer to contemporary practices that would see something like this done all on one single issue, forcing one to buy 4 copies of just one issue to get the full image. Here, the buyer is rewarded: buy all 4 chapters of Heroes Reunited, get this bigger 4-piece image.

Story-wise, this was a mixed issue for me. It felt a bit choppy and bigger on ideas while constrained by space: we have a bit of "subplot" of Rikki contemplating her existence just because a supervillain claims she shouldn’t exist…and there’s not much room for that to really be explored and all–for the character, for Cap, for anyone. For the story essentially picking back up with the Fantastic Four facing Terrax, it seems like we get to a resolution with Galactus being destroyed a little too easily and conveniently; though we have the "shorthand" of being able to just be SHOWN different heroes facing different heralds, and "assuming" that (if one’s read the previous three chapters of Heroes Reunited) we’ve already seen the action/details, we don’t have those details actually within this issue itself. It also hasn’t entirely felt like we’ve had any real focus on Doom gathering pieces of information through the previous chapters in a way to fit stuff…more like he gleaned a bit of extra info from SHIELD in the Iron Man issue and now put it to use (though we don’t really get clued in on the exact data).

As a whole, though…this caps off the four part story with Doom bringing what’s needed after several failed attempts, that allows the heroes to destroy Galactus withOUT destroying Earth. We get a rather arbitrary/sudden turn of the Silver Surfer for this being a new iteration of his seeing the heroes, rather than a continuation. But the issue ultimately stands somewhat alone; one gets context of what’s gone on, so you don’t NEED TO have read the previous chapters. You’ll just "get" more out of this issue if you have, and appreciate the overall story a bit more, I think.

I guess I feel like this is like far too many epic stories: the setup in the first chapter can be great and full of potential…but fails ultimately to live up to the potential in MY mind. That we get an epic story on this scale in only 4 issues (though they’re the size of 8 regular-sized issues) with no other tie-ins and such is something that would be completely "impossible" today, and so even a "choppy" issue is preferable to avoid umpteen tie-ins and expanded chapters and such.

I’d bought this originally when it was a brand-new issue; but the copy I read this time is one I got from a quarter-bin; and certainly is well worth the 25 cents if only for the amount of time it took to just READ the issue (even WITH double-page splashes!). And to get all 4 issues of this Heroes Reunited arc for $1, for the reading experience, I definitely enjoyed this stuff…maybe a little more for the art than story, but I hadn’t realized quite how much this story had stuck with me, of seeing the heroes lose–die–multiple times before achieving victory.

There were 13th issues for all four series, as another 4-part story, with the Marvel characters and this Heroes Reborn universe merged with the then-Wildstorm Universe; and then there was the 4-issue Heroes Return mini-series that bridged the characters from these series back to new series in the main/actual Marvel Universe.

But on the whole, this story served to "end" this iteration of the series, and works well enough on its own to be well worth reading for a bargain price (25 cents, 50 cents, $1-ish). I’d say if you find it for 25-50 cents it’s definitely worth reading Captain America #12 on its own; but it’s best read along with the other #12s, and a real treat for $1 or less an issue (making for a reading experience 8 times as long as a contemporary regular Marvel issue for the same price as the contemporary issue!)

captain_america_(1996)_0012_blogtrailer

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Fatal Attractions Revisited: Excalibur #71

Crossing Swords

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencilers: Ken Lashley, Darick Robertson, Matthew Ryan
Inkers: Cam Smith, Randy Elliot, Randy Emberlin, Mark Nelson
Letterers: Bill Oakley, Pat Brosseau, Dave Sharpe
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Cover: Joe Madureira and Joe Bennett
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: November, 1993
Cover Price: 3.95

After Nightcrawler confronts one of the Acolytes and–thanks to Kitty–narrowly avoids killing him, the X-Men burst into things, “recruiting” the remanants of Excalibur’s help in a particular task: they want to “fix” Colossus. After an injury he’d suffered, he was unable to revert to human form, and they figure that’s the cause of his ‘defecting’ to Magneto’s camp. If they can heal him, surely that’ll fix him and any brain issue, and he’ll return to them.

The various characters react to stuff–some for, some against. While they do, Cable shows up for Colossus, and winds up confronting Phoenix (Rachel Grey) in a less than pleasant battle. Once Colossus arrives (thinking Kitty wants to return to Avalon with him), the “trap” is sprung and the plan revealed. Though Colossus declares he does not want the help of the X-Men, they “help” anyway, and his ability to shift back and forth between human and metal forms is restored. Though he has a touching moment with Kitty, he still opts to return to Avalon with the Acolytes.

Finally, as all of this has been going on, an idea has been building for Nightcrawler, and he decides that with the “old team” basically no more, he’ll have a “new team,” a new Excalibur, that will operate at Muir Isle with Moira.

After rereading X-Men 25 and Wolverine 75, this issue was a bit of a letdown. I’m probably least-aware of ’90s Excalibur of all the X-teams of the time, at least prior to Age of Apocalypse. Reading this, I had a vague sense of deja vu, that I’d read this before. Yet I can’t honestly say with certainty that I’d read the issue any time before reading it for this posting. I know t was at least a few years after the fact that I even acquired the issue for the first time (whether before or after college I don’t even know at this point). For quite awhile, Fatal Attractions (for me) ended with Wolverine 75.

Story-wise, this is a transition issue–we go from whatever recent stuff’s gone down with Excalibur to the end of the issue setting the stage for a whole new team. And in the middle of it we have Cyclops, Jean, and Professor X thrown in–familiar faces that made this issue seem much more an X-Men issue than it would have otherwise, which also ties it into the events of Fatal Attractions in general. It’s also kind of odd having the sense of continuity that there is here–but then, this was back when such things were important to stories and “families” of titles and not some loose option seen as detrimental to the nature of “the story.”

Visually, the issue is a bit uneven with multiple artists–though it’s not terribly detrimental to the issue. It seems like the various scenes had an artist, so there’s some internal consistency that way. I really like the look of Colossus costume in this issue–one page has a nearly full image of him, and it’s one of the best depictions of the character I can recall ever seeing.

It seems the two main things to come out of this issue are the “new” Excalibur team and Colossus is no longer confined to his metallic form. If you didn’t know he’d been injured, that’s probably not a huge plot point (before this read-through, I never would’ve been able to tell you where or when that little problem was dealt with–I’d once been aware that he was so injured, but never really thought about it much or cared to find out its resolution). That this is the beginning of a new Excalibur team has me interested in seeing that team; if this were a new issue, I’d definitely be back for the next. As-is looking at this nearly twenty years after it came out…I could simply track down the next few issues to read.

This is probably the “simplest” of the covers…it’s bright and colorful, but somehow not exactly my cup of tea, so to speak. The hologram of Nightcrawler is–like the others in this series–not bad, though at least on the copy I read, felt like I have to look at it somewhat from an angle to really get the best 3D effect.

So ended the official 30th Anniversary “event” for the X-Men. I loosely followed the X-books here and there over the next year-plus; it wasn’t until the end of 1994 with Legion Quest and then the Age of Apocalypse that I began a run of following the entire X-Universe.

52 Week #18 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Dismantled

Black Adam attempts to bestow an honor on The Question and Montoya, while the Shadowpact and Ralph attend to the helmet of Dr. Fate…and as an ‘afterthought,’ Booster gets a funeral.

52week18Writers: Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid
Layouts: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Rob Stull
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editors: Jann Jones and Harvey Richards
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

I’m not terribly thrilled with the choppiness on these issues–it sometimes seems like the story "jumps" a bit, and given the format/size of the issues, there’s not much room for "smooth transitions" exactly…and I can see where one would totally benefit from reading several weeks’ issues in a row. Even for a comic that’s out each week, a "previously" page would certainly come in handy. Viewing this series as a massive tv series (2-3 seasons in one, by giving new episodes for 52 weeks) makes for a good way of looking at it–with some episodes having a focus on one theme, others focusing on a specific character or largely on just a specific character. But even weekly shows often show a few clips of what happened "Previously, on __________."

Noticing the art seems to me to come largely from reading others’ thoughts the last several months, about there not being "top-tier talent" on the art for this series–I honestly don’t mind the so-called "second-stringers" on art–as usual, I’m not offended by the art, the characters are all recognizeable, and it’s clear what’s going on panel-to-panel, really. There’s nothing in the art that totally jumps out at me or blows me away–but I for one am definitely satisfied with said art.

We’re basically 1/3 through the story now, and starting to get some handy payoff to plots that’ve been building throughout. Ralph Dibny seems to be getting around quite a bit, when he does show up. Here he’s interacting with the Shadowpact, as they attend to the helmet of Dr. Fate, and the liquified previous user (who, I suppose, was previously established somewhere, but the name means nothing to me). I’m definitely interested in Ralph’s story, a lot more than I would’ve thought a few weeks ago–but between his dealings with the Connor-Cult and now the helmet…I’m interested in where these writers take the character.

This issue also gives us a look into the aftermath of the Question and Montoya’s actions at the Black Adam/Isis wedding and the impact things are having on them–especially Montoya. I don’t remember much detail from anything I read of her in the first One Year Later, except that she apparently dealt with some traumatic stuff in the missing year–this looks to be at least one of those events.

We also get to see the crap-fest that is Booster’s funeral. Apparently the pall bearers are of some "classic" significance to long-time readers; I didn’t recognize any visually or by name–but I suppose that’s as much the point as not. I don’t like the way Booster’s been portrayed in much of this series–but one has to admit, at least, that even in the funeral situation–there’s a consistency to this particular portrayal.

There’s a glimmer of potential as to the future found in this issue, and if you’ve seen the cover to next week’s issue online, you should have a pretty good idea of what’s coming.

Overall…this issue’s a bit of "same old, same old" as far as this series is concerned–the story moves forward, the art gets the visuals across to complement the story, and there’ll be an issue next week.

If you’re following the series anyway, it’s worth keeping up. If you’ve not been drawn in yet…I don’t think this issue’s gonna do much to change your mind.

The Origin of the Question
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Joe Bennett
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Asst. Edits: Harvey Richards
Edits: Stephen Wacker

I’m still not entirely thrilled with these origins…the visuals can be cool, but the way I, for one, am wired, I see panels laid out and I want a story, more of a narrative than just fade-in/fade-out flashes with a little bit of text in captions.

The highlight for me of this particular origin is that it’s a character I am not terribly familiar with, so it at least has some new information for me–or at least, confirms stuff I’d sorta picked up without realizing it.
While I’d prefer a couple extra story pages to this sort of "origin," 1. I could see these making for a nice special issue in themselves, as a collection of all these "origin backups" once the series concludes. Perhaps as Who’s Who of 52 or some such. and 2. even though not highly detailed, they at least would allow someone to be able to say "Hey, I recognize that guy..!"

If you’ve enjoyed these 2-pagers, this should be no exception.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

52 Week #4 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Dances With Monsters

Renee Montoya and The Question do their thing, work is done to find the missing heroes-in-space, Booster and Fire discuss Booster’s current attitude and actions, John Irons contemplates what Steel means, and Ralph speaks with Cassie and her ‘cult.’

52week04Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Joe Bennett
Inks: Jack Jadson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editors: Jann Jones & Harvey Richards
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

History of the DCU Part 3
Story & Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Art Thibert
Colors: Guy Major & Jeromy Cox
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Edits: Berganza, Cohen & Schaefer

This issue fills us in on the fourth week of the first month following the conclusion to Infinite Crisis. Several of the core plotlines are at least touched on in this issue. Renee Montoya finds herself entirely bored and frustrated at a pointless surveillance job–a job that keeps getting interrupted by The Question.

Some astronauts–I think they’re astronauts–get a glimpse of hope at finding the heroes lost in space during the crisis. Additionally, Booster and Fire discuss the way Booster’s going about his hero-ing, as Fire comments on Booster’s initial reaction to the loss of Ted last year.
Ralph Dibny speaks with Cassie and her ‘cult’ as she’s promised him answers and the possibility of seeing a certain lost loved one. The final plot touched on this issue is John Henry Irons as he contemplates what he’s done by having rushed into the hero gig without thinking–what creating Steel has done in his life and others’ as well–and leads us into what might be a bit of a change for the character.

In a way, it feels like there’s not a LOT that happens in this issue–but with no less than five simultaneous, ongoing stories all being told, that’s to be expected. The scene transitions feel a bit choppy–not entirely interruptive, but at least a couple times I found myself flipping back a page to see what day I was on, and then was surprised when the main story ended, not having registered that it was the end of the week. In a sense, it might be fairly easy to be taken out of the story considering the week ends ‘conveniently’ at a cliffhanger.

Despite the aforementioned choppiness, I didn’t feel like I was reading multiple stories by distinct writers–which I feel is a good thing, given that this is overall a singular story of the events ocurring during the "missing year." The writing in and of itself is good, and conveys the sort of slice-of-life scenes of these characters.

The artwork is good–nothing much negative to say about it, really. Visually, characters are all recognizeable and distinct, and I didn’t catch myself at any scenes wondering who a character was because of artistic interpretations of familiar characters. The art may not be singularly distinct and recognizeable specifically (the way, say, Alex Ross artwork might be)–but it is clear and clean, and gets across what needs to be conveyed visually in the story, and that is the main concern.

The only story point that really jumped out at me offhand was Steel’s–I’m not certain, but I think we’re seeing where his history has been modified somewhat, possibly undoing stuff from several years ago. And frankly, I’m ok with such modification, as I wasn’t thrilled with said events as they originally unfolded at the end of Superman: The Man of Steel.

The backup I’m not as thrilled with. This week’s four-pager informs us (yet again?) that Donna Troy remembers and/or has access to memories and knowledge of the multiverse, pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths as well as post-, and everything up to present. We’re reminded THAT there was a multiverse, that there was a crisis, and that sacrifices were made that rocked everyone deeply. For this reader, at least, it feels like nothing new that wasn’t covered in Infinite Crisis. Additionally, it feels like the framing of this history is a bit of a detraction, robbing the history/story of precious panels to keep reminding us of Donna Troy (but then, perhaps that comes from my envisioning it as a singular story, how it will read when all the chapters are read back-to-back rather than a week apart?)

Taken as a whole, I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this format. While it’s not perfect (and I can’t quite put my finger on anything that WOULD make it perfect), I’m enjoying it thus far. Of course, 4 issues down leaves us with another 48 issues to go… This ride’s just beginning, and DC‘s got me hooked for the present.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Teen Titans #77 [Review]

A Family Affair

Writer: J.T. Krul
Pencils: Joe Bennett
Inks: Jack Jadson & Ruy Jose
Colors: Rod Reis
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Bennett, Jadson, & Reis
Asst. Editor: Rex Ogle
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics

This seems like another one of those stand-alone stories that–while it takes a couple issues in the actual title could work just as well as its own double-issue mini-series. Come to think of it, this would do better to be Blackest Night: Deathstroke the Terminator moreso than an issue of Teen Titans.

Deathstroke faces his still-living daughter who he has tried to help in his own way, though she still hates him for perceived LACK of caring from her point of view. The two are menaced by Black Lantern versions of Grant and Wintergreen–Deathstroke’s son and former close ally/advisor respectively. Fighting ensues, and someone else shows up at the end who fits quite well into the mix.

Overall, this was a solid issue–the writing worked well, as we’re able to “get” where the various characters are coming from. Though I’m not terribly familiar with them all, there is PLENTY of context to fill one in, making this a very accessible issue even if one has never read the title before (I think the last issue of the title I’d read was the final pre-One-Year-Later issue).

The art is good as well…no real complaint there. The only thing that really jumped out at me was that there were a couple of points where Deathstroke reminded me very much of Deadpool, only with a different costume.

This doesn’t seem to have ongoing threads as if the title were interrupted, so it seems likely that regular readers of Teen Titans could safely skip this if trying to avoid Blackest Night. By the same token, one following Blackest Night ought to be safe picking this up without being mired in the ongoing story.

I don’t think I even knew this issue was going to be a tie-in until I saw it listed as such on Diamond’s list of this week’s comics and again seeing it for myself in the store. It’s a $3.99 book, but seems to have foregone its cofeature to give the Blackest Night stuff more pages. This is well worthwhile overall, but doesn’t seem essential. It plays out the impact of Blackest Night on these characters, but does not itself seem to have anything of influence back to Blackest Night.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

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