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The ’90s Revisited: The Phoenix Resurrection – Revelations

90s_revisited

phoenix_resurrection_revelationsRevelations

Writers: Ian Edginton & Dan Abnett
Pencillers: Kevin West, John Royle, Randy Green, Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Tom Wegrzyn, Philip Moy, Rick Ketcham, Jeff Whiting
Letterers: Vickie Williams, Patrick Owsley
Color Design: Mike Tuccinard, Robert Alvord
Interior Color: Malibu Color
Asst. Editor: Scott Bernstein
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

This issue was a bit of a challenge to read. In it, much as I hold very fond memories of the Ultraverse, this really drives home the notion that my fond memories precede the Black September event, that they come from the "original" Ultraverse, before it "rebooted" into a "Marvel-Lite" imprint sorta thing. And just looking at the credits, if only from a 2018 standpoint, this reeks of non-priority to the publisher. I recognize several names that SHOULD have meant this was an excellent issue–especially seeing Dan Abnett‘s name as a writer. But when you have two writers, four different pencillers and 4 different inkers, two different letterers, two different colorists…this screams "piecemeal" and generic incoherence.

Story-wise, we basically have these characters from two different universes spouting off at each other, commiserating generically over stuff (the X-Men recognize Black Knight, for one and he them). But once again, there doesn’t seem to be any real INDIVIDUALITY to any of the characters. Night Man shows up outta nowhere and Wolverine welcomes him as if totally expected…just pieces being moved around the board, so to speak. And then for as big a threat as the Phoenix is supposed to be, everyone winds up just throwing their powers or fists at it to drive it through a portal back into its own (the X-Men’s!) universe, and the problem’s solved? If it’s a threat here, surely it’s a threat there…

We get "big" story beats in stuff like Rex Mundi’s "Alternate"–somehow because he–in this universe–did such a perfect job of cloning himself, the Phoenix–brought into this universe from another–subdivides itself to match. We "see" Mantra, and get a moment of her seeing/thinking she’s been "warned" about Topaz, but why does she get the look she does? But there’s zero explanation as to who/what she is, or the relationship…and if nothing’s going to be expounded on, why include it to begin with?

Probably another problem with this comes with reading it now in 2018, after 15+ years of being conditioned to 6-issue (minimum, mostly) story-arcs and year-long mega-crossover-events and the like. As something spanning two teams from two universes, plus so many ancillary characters from one, with a huge, cosmic, universe-threatening entity…it just seems impossible for anything to be done justice. Something like this really WOULD be fairly justified to have AT LEAST one full issue apiece for each of the Ultraverse titles, a couple "main" issues for everyone, and even an X-Men tie-in or few. Not full 3-4-6-issue arcs per title, but at least a few more full-length issues. Everything crammed into just a couple issues after just a couple pages per title…it’s rushed, and sloppy, and overall just generic and mostly incoherent.

As I’ve read these, I’ve become all the more convinced that the beauty and depth and such of the Ultraverse–the "heart" of the Ultraverse–is definitely in its first couple years, its run of titles when they were actually their own thing, before being wholly given over to Marvel and all that.

I had a hard time getting through this issue–I think it took me at least three times situating myself with it to read to get through the whole thing. Where often that would seem a compliment to a well-done, dense comic proving its 2018 "value" of a $4 cover price, this happened for lack of engagement and interest. Really, I forced myself through the issue simply to have read it (and now typing all this, which is far from my favorite sort of review/write-up!)

The cover-art, and the CONCEPT is sound; and the idea of some crossover between the X-Men and most of the Ultraverse, and their facing the Phoenix Force, and it having counterpart/ties within the Ultraverse isn’t all that bad. But this execution of it all is not much to my liking, and really feels like the sort of thing I’d say one is better off passing on. Of course, if you find it in a 25-cent bin–the whole ‘event’, anyway–it might be worth $1 or so to get all four issues; but I’d encourage one to seek out older Ultraverse stuff if you’re just interested in "trying" an Ultraverse title.

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General Mills Presents: Justice League (2017) #2 [Review]

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0002Dark Reflections

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciller: Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Bob Wiacek and Scott Hanna
Colorist: Rex Lokus
Letterer: Comicraft
Cover Artist: Scott Koblish
Cover Colorist: Val Staples
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Steve Buccellato
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Design Director: Larry Berry

This is the "second" issue of four being made available to the public "blindly" via insertion into specially-marked boxes of General Mills cereal. Though the issues ARE numbered, the first issue and this one do not seem to draw on each other or lead into the other with any singular story, so the numbers are–I’m pretty confident in saying–there to stimulate collectors’ OCD to collect ’em all.

This issue focuses on Batman, though it guest-stars the rest of the Justice League.

Batman arrives home after a "typical" night out. After talking with Alfred and having a flashback to his youth where his parents were still around, Bruce catches a glimpse of a reflection in the mirror that is most certainly not him looking back! Turns out that Mirror Master (one of Flash’s Rogues) has expanded his reach (with the unintentional assistance of Flash himself) to vex the entire Justice League. Using mirrors as gateways, interdimensional counterparts of our heroes are brought through, and the heroes square off with them. While everyone tangles with their mirrored counterparts, Batman (through recalling an incident from his youth) develops a plan to deal with this threat and stop Mirror Master.

Nicieza and Leonardi are a couple more names that I’m definitely familiar with, though I’m far moreso with the former than latter. I’m honestly impressed at the way this issue–and this round of GM Justice League as a whole–has the talent and appearances of something much bigger and less generic than "just" cereal-box comics. At the same time, unfortunately (by seeming necessity) these ARE rather smaller and more generic than non-cereal counterparts.

The story itself is fairly basic, drawing on some basic tropes of comics in general…particularly the lead-in with Batman having just gotten back from a night out, talking about the off-panel adventure, remembering something from his childhood while his parents were alive, and that conveniently being relevant to the current story at hand. Yet, while that may come off as a negative…it fits perfectly into what these comics can and might be–someone’s first. These days, it’s not hard to imagine that there are countless staunch fans of even "obscure" comic book characters…yet said fans may never have actually experienced a comic book! So while these are overdone, overly-familiar things to me as a nearly-30-years comics reader, they may well be someone’s first exposure and be at least some small part of their journey into comics.

The story elements overall do not particularly contradict what I know of the characters, and particularly Batman in this case, though this definitely comes detached from the nuances of recent continuity that I’m familiar with. My biggest eye-opener is the notion of the characters nonchalantly hauling the moon out of its orbit with zero repercussions to the Earth. Perfect for a comic like this, maybe, but epic event-level stuff in general continuity.

Visually, if the pages were "regular" sized and I didn’t see a cover, I wouldn’t really know this was "just" some cereal-box comic…it has "established talent," and does not look like some generic thing. The art is quite good in and of itself, though as with a lot of comic book art, its primary drawback is simply in not being by one of a handful of my favorite comic artists. Once again, these characters look like they’re right out of early-2017 full-size DC comics, down to Batman’s current gold-outlined black bat symbol. Superman’s look is about to be out of date, but fits well into the past ten or so months’ worth of DC Rebirth.

As with the first issue, this was an ok read with good art. It’s a cereal comic and certainly worth reading, but it in no way affects continuity nor particularly draws from it. You might appreciate this more if you’re NOT up on current comics, as you may be less likely to do hard comparisons. I wouldn’t go out of the way to hunt this down, but if you like the cereal and it’s in the box, definitely give it a read-through!

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Convergence – Batman: Shadow of the Bat #2 [Review]

convergence_batmanshadowofthebat002Home is the Sailor

Words: Larry Hama
Pencils: Rick Leonardi
Inks: Dan Green
Colors: Elmer Santos
Lettering: Steve Wands
Cover: Philip Tan, Elmer Santos
Assistant Editors: Holzherr & Kraiger
Editor: Marie Javins
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Batman and Azbats…er…Azrael, vs. Wetworks, for the fate of the city? Yeah, but I don’t even know WHICH city they’re in from this. The previous issue was several weeks ago and this one lacks anything to bring one up to speed. Sure, it’s ONLY the 2nd issue of two, but…really? So the Batmen fight Wetworks while befriending a woman and her son as the notion of getting the Wetworks team to slow down long enough for a teamup to be proposed, to endeavor to save BOTH cities. And while both cities are still around at the end of the issue, there’s no truly definitive ending.

We get the "conclusion" of a story that is NOT a conclusion. At best it’s the first act in a larger arc…but there’s no To Be Continued note, no "continued in Convergence #7," no "for the final fate of BOTH CITIES, check out Convergence #8 on sale in TWO WEEKS!" note, just some ridiculous, cliché stopping point because we’re out of pages.

And I really feel like I should have gone with my initial instinct and left this thing on the shelf. But in a fairly rare instance of it happening, the cover sold me, just by its weird coloring, and the title logo…and the strength of the previous issue’s cover (which I liked SO MUCH that I made it my phone’s lock screen, so have been seeing it several times a day for the past month or so).

I was further sold, again, by Hama‘s name on the cover…though sadly, that (and the interior credits) are the only place I have anything to truly suggest to me that Hama‘s even involved. Nothing about this "feels" like some kind of GI Joe thing, nothing reminds me of 1993-ish Wolverine, and nothing about this otherwise screams "I’m by Larry Hama!" to me.

I blame that not on Hama, but on the lack of room for anything to truly develop. And having soured CONSIDERABLY on Convergence in general since its start, having allowed myself some general enjoyment of Marvel’s version of stuff in Secret Wars, this just pales all the more as an issue.

This felt paced to be the opening of a larger story, and if this were a six-issue arc, it would seem on track to be a good story overall, having spent the first issue (re)introducing us to Zero Hour-era Batman and Azrael and setting up the Wetworks fight; this issue gave us the actual fight and leaves us with the two groups seeming about to team up; leaving several issues to show them interacting and preparing a plan; putting the plan into action and the plan going awry; an issue to refocus or have some significant change to the Batmen at least, and lead into some cataclysmic or miraculous event for one/both of the cities and a possible lead-back into some core event series.

So in a way, this is like a 6-issue mini getting canned after only 2 issues; or checking out a couple episodes of some tv show, being somewhat interested, but then told "oh, no, they just never put any more episodes out" or some such.

I’m irked at the length (technically, the lack thereof); irked at the Deathstroke "preview," that I don’t care about especially for not caring about the title or character, I’m irked at the $3.99 cover price vs. $2.99; and I’m irked that I bought this thing at all as a single issue.

This totally feels like it’s something destined for bargain bins; whether dollar bins or cheaper I don’t know. The entirety of Convergence does, for that matter. I’d bought the Superman #2 issue last week and now this; I’m wrestling with OCD on the STEEL issue as well as the handful of other #2s still pending. Consciously I know I should wait for the bargain bin appearances, but there’s part of me that just HAS TO "experience" what’s happening real-time with some of these ‘key’ issues, that is not content to just sit back and get it second-hand.

As long as you’re not feeling that way, I’d say this issue is totally skippable and inconsequential…to whatever the main story has gotten to and in general. There’s no #3 and no new #1 for Batman: Shadow of the Bat that I am aware of; no new pending title debuting starring Jean-Paul Valley, any incarnation of Azrael, or a Zero Hour era Batman, so…if the cover doesn’t suck you in or some other sentimentality grab you, wait for the bargain bins or an attractive collected volume that includes this.

Superman #712 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

AVP: Three World War #2 [Review]

Three World War

Script: Randy Stradley
Pencils: Rick Leonardi
Inks: Mark Pennington
Colors: Wes Dzioba
Lettering: Blambot!
Cover art: Raymond Swanland
Book Design: Lia Ribacchi
Associate Editor: Samantha Robertson
Editor: Chris Warner
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

I’ve read a lot of Dark Horse‘s Alien comics, and enjoyed those via the Omnibus volumes. I’ve yet to read much in the way of the Predator stuff, though I’m somewhat familiar with the Predator side of things from the first movie, and both of the AVP films…and a couple of novelizations of Aliens vs. Predator stories from the mid-1990s.

This issue picks up with a bunch of military people heading toward a world where Predators are present (and apparently Aliens as well), and as their guide/advisor, they have the woman who was for a time accepted amongst the Predators, who warns them of how to behave and react around the Predators if they want to stay alive. Where the title comes in–Three World War–seems to be the Aliens, the Predators, and Earthmen. Once the military arrives where the Predators are, the woman leaps into mortal combat with one, apparently following tradition by which one earns the right to speak to the Predators and be taken seriously.

The story itself seems fairly shallow, and one has to make a lot of leaps in following the action and plot, as there’s virtually no context or real sense of history given…if I wasn’t already familiar with the properties, this would seem entirely new and unconnected.

The art is where the strength of the issue lies, as the design and coloring blend for an end result that looks very much like a comic book–as it should, since this is one–and yet, also comes across as something like an adaptation of a screenplay, carrying a lot of weight of story by showing things rather than narration or exposition laying things out. The visuals seem fairly simple and not all that detailed…but these would work fairly well if this were to be an animated tv production.

As seems to be the case with most blends of these two properties, the story tends to be more about the Predators or otherwise those dealing with the Aliens, and the Aliens become a plot device…which I have no problem with. However, one really needs to either be a fan of or not mind reading about the Predators to enjoy this, as the Aliens get virtually zero presence here, and no real development…they’re just kinda there.

All in all, a solid enough issue. There seems to be more unrealized potential here than what’s already unfolded, and the book could do with a recap page (I couldn’t summarize the plot of the previous issue offhand without laying out some serious B.S.). But if you’re a fan of these properties, this is definitely worth a look-see, and if you don’t mind a highly visual-driven reading experience, this is a good series to check out. I do think this will ultimately read best as a collected volume, rather than in single issues with 6-some weeks between issues.

Story: 4/10
Art: 6/10
Overall: 5/10

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