Thursday, September 11, 2014

Comics Capsule Reviews

Grendel vs. The Shadow #1
- BOOK OF THE WEEK: Grendel vs. The Shadow #1: Matt Wagner is doing some masterful work in recent comics. This book is a legendary meeting between Wagner’s own creation Hunter Rose, the novelist/businessman/ anti-hero/criminal known as Grendel, and one of my favorite pulp heroes, the Shadow. Hunter Rose terrorized major cities in the 1980s, the Shadow operates in the pulpy noir days of the 1930s. Wagner navigates around this conundrum without too much hoopla; Rose reads an antique scroll out loud and is unexpectedly transferred back in time. Isn’t that always the way? Other characters might find this disorienting or have a panic attack. Not Grendel. He sees it as an opportunity. He immediately begins an operation to murder and terrorize local organized crime gangs in order to take over as the head crime boss. This of course brings him to the attention of the Shadow, who finds a new challenge in this unique and brilliant tactician. The book ends as the Shadow, .45s blazing, confronts Grendel in person for the first time high atop a skyscraper.
It’s fun to see an irresistible force meet an immovable object. Grendel exists to seize power and affluence, mostly via murder and intimidation. The Shadow exists to shoot people like that in the head. Their confrontation next issue will be the stuff of legends.
Rating: ****½ out of 5 stars

Original Sin #8
- Original Sin #8: [SPOILERS] Marvel’s latest big event maxiseries wraps up with a whimper. This is not their greatest work. The Watcher is dead, killed by Nick Fury. Fury is the new Watcher (I think), Tim (Dum Dum) Dugan is dead. Marvel is a bit weak on creating things, but they love to tear things down and kill classic characters. Bucky is now some kind of cosmic protector whose job is to stand on meteors and shoot bad guys on other planets (or something). During the series, deep, dark secrets were supposed to be revealed about Marvel heroes. This is just another way Marvel can say their heroes are bad guys at heart. I think that’s how they think they can relate to younger readers today. “Hey, everyone is evil, am I right? People are animals who respond to their base urges, why should Marvel heroes strive for anything better?” Original Sin leaves a new status quo in the Marvel Universe that Marvel has been working toward for about a decade. Their heroes are not heroes, they’re no better than the villains they fight. And Axel Foley (the guy who runs Marvel, whatever his name is) is proud of that fact. Perhaps I’m being unfair—after all, I am not the audience for these books. The art was good.
Rating:  * out of 5 stars
Southern Bastards #4
- Southern Bastards #4: The first storyline of this intense crime book wraps up with some surprising twists that turn the storyline on its head. After more than 40 years, Earl Tubb has returned home to Alabama. Being a hardhead with more guts than sense, he challenges Coach Boss, the local crime lord. After Coach Boss puts the kid next door to Earl in the hospital to teach Earl a lesson, Earl goes down to the diner to settle things once and for all. The results are a bit unexpected and lead to an enormous cliffhanger. Apparently Earl’s soldier daughter will be joining the cast next issue. She has her work cut out for her.
The creative team of writer Jason Aaron and artist Jason Latour (both southern bastards themselves) are doing some stellar work here. The book is violent, real and is sometimes tough to read. Whether the work will ultimately be rewarding remains to be determined, but so far so good.
Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Ex-Con #1
- Ex-Con #1: Crime writer Duane Swierczynski opens the story of Cody Pomeray, a California grifter at the end of his string of good luck. Cody has what one of his doctors called “color synesthesia”—his perception of others is linked to colors. He sees greed as a green halo around someone’s head, jealously as pink, weakness as orange, lust as red. This allows him to read people pretty well, until it doesn’t. Arrested during his latest scam, Cody does his first state prison stay. Saved from a beating by one of the prison leaders named Pope, Cody is asked to do him a favor when he is released. Four years later, soon after his release, Pope’s representative comes around to collect. And this favor looks to be more dangerous than anything he faced in prison.
An intriguing first issue. Cody’s color perceptions seemed to stop in prison; will they return now that he is out? What is the full extent of Pope’s requested favor? Does Cody have any redeeming qualities? I look forward to finding out.
Rating: ***½ out of 5 stars
All New X-Men #31
- All New X-Men #31: The X-Men’s mutant hunting device Cerebro finds another powerful mutant. After some typical but not unpleasant bickering, the X-Men fly out to investigate. They find Carmen, a new mutant who can zap things to different dimensions. When confronted by said X-Men, Carmen, frightened out of her wits, zaps most of them all over several universes.
Bendis tells a fun story, I generally like what he is doing with the X-Men. However, this will be my last issue of All New X-Men. The splash page cliffhanger at the end of the book features Ultimate Spider-Man, a character I find to be a politically correct bore. Bendis falls in love with his own ideas sometimes, and that Ultimate nonsense doesn’t belong anywhere really, much less in the original Marvel Universe. The Ultimate books, characters, costumes, concepts and stories are unequivocally awful. Former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada said it best himself; when asked if the Ultimate and regular universes would ever officially cross over, he said “[he'd] rather close down one universe than have them cross over because it meant they were officially out of ideas.”
I agree. Quesada said it himself: Marvel is now officially out of ideas. I wouldn’t read an Ultimate book (even the name of the line is presumptuous and grating) if someone gave me one. I’m certainly not paying $3.99 for the privilege. Bye, All New X-Men!
Rating: Book: *** out of 5 stars.
Last Page: 0 out of 5 stars

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