Serials for 9-28-11: Wonder Woman, Captain America

Wonder Woman #1 (Sep. 2011)
by Azzarello, Chiang

Azarello and Chiang bring in a new Wonder Woman for 2011! They don't bother to tell any origins about her, and just dive right into a story about the gods. As it turns out, Zeus has gone missing and Apollo tries to figure out where he's went. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman has to protect this human named Zola from a pair of minotaurs. You get the idea that something's amiss in the Greek pantheon, and Wonder Woman and Zola will get caught in the middle of it. The plot is real sharp and the pacing is pretty good for a first issue. J. Caleb Mozzocco has an excellent review on the issue, saying that it's a good comic book, but it's a bit too gory to appeal to everyone. I think the issue is accessible to new, non-comic book readers. It's just that I certainly wouldn't hand it to any small child. Yikes.

There's a great scene where Wondy's on the floor, and a minotaur's about to stamp her. She flips up and grabs him in a leglock, and headbutts him into submission! YEAHHHH. Count me down for issue 2.

Captain America #2 and #3 (Aug., Sep. 2011)
by Ed Brubaker, Steve McNiven, Justin Ponsor

This is a comic book's comic book. Flip through any page of the book and you'll find the subtle emotional beats in the characters, or a dynamic panel of Captain America punching a dude in the face. He does it in every issue, but it never gets old! It's sheer fun to just look at the pages, and that's how any comic book should be. Issue 3 has one of my favorite sequences. The Ameridroid, a giant android in the form of Cap'n America with the consciousness of a mad Nazi scientist attacks Cap and Sharon. Taken by surprise, Sharon throws Cap his shield.



I am not above inserting sound effects. That is how much I adore this title. There's so much life in each panel, and it'll be a shame to see McNiven and Ponsor leave after issue 5. They don't get paid enough.

Plot-wise, each issue moves the story along inch by inch, with always an action sequence to spice things up. Slowly you see a ghost from Cap's past, making these small, calculated attacks on him, and slowly - you see his plan working! By the end of issue 3, we're hangin' on a cliff as to Cap's fate! It's great super-comics.

Serials for 9-22-11: Red Lanterns, Captain America #'s 1

Can this be? The return of weekly reviews? I've taken up the habit again, so let's see how long this'll last.

Red Lanterns #1
 by Peter Milligan, Ed Benes and Rob Hunter

There's not much of a story here. Atrocitus messes up some dudes in space for harassing his cat, then he monologues about the massacre of his people and the waning of his rrrrrrrrage. Very little new information is given here. Oh, there's this pair of brothers on Earth who get into an argument about their grandpa getting beat up, and one gets annnggrrryyyy. For a corps. about rrrrrrage, this comic fails to evoke any emotion out of me. Gone is the blood prophet Atrocitus, replaced by some self-reflective dude with a family. It's clear that Milligan has a direction with these dudes, but it's not coming up quick enough for me. This is the kind of comic only comic readers would read, and even then, us crumb-bums will complain about it.

Captain America #1
by Ed Brubaker, Steve McNiven and Mark Morales

This thing was made in July to capitalize on the film hype. And it works. After 3 or so pages of Cap's whole deal, we're invited to a funeral, at which an assassin takes a shot at Steve Rogers' friend. The ordeal brings up a few ghosts from the past and it turns out to be Jimmy Jupiter, a teleporter. Spy thriller meets comic book here, and the art team of McNiven/Morales sells it. Each line has a purpose, the paneling is incredibly dynamic. Action scenes are beautiful and Cap's shield has never looked better. There's a shot where Cap throws it into a van, coming out the other side to hit two agents as well. Amazing. The funny book has a dreadful price tag of 3.99, but I've alleviated it by subscribing with Marvel. Highly recommended, whether you read comics or not.

Library trades for 9-19-11: The adventures of Magneagle and Tortavier

Check out this wicked splash from Spectacular Spider-Man #1. The symbiote's separated from its host, and it's taken on the form to beat down Spider-Man. Notice the "ribs" on its side -- that's actually Venom's symbol, given shape on his back. How cool is that?

My local library's come through with a last few of my holds, and I couldn't help but share them
with you.

Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1 (2004)
by Paul Jenkins, Humberto Ramos, Wayne Faucher

Collecting the first five issues of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Jenkins spins a mystery in NYC over the "vampire killer," a being that kills New Yorkers by attacking their adrenal gland. Given the big dude on the cover, it's pretty obvious who it is, so Spidey has to struggle to help NY cops figure it out while Eddie Brock struggles against his own demons. In the issues, the story is Peter's as much as it's Eddie's. I think it's paced pretty long for how it ends, but important changes are made to Eddie Brock (DUDE HAS CANCER), and it's handled tastefully. Ramos on pencils is highly stylized, but fun when you get used to them. As a Spider-Man fan, I think this is an important piece of comic book, but as a regular person, it's passable.

Marvel Fairy Tales

by C.B. Cebulski and friends

This thing totally came out of left field! And it's awesome! Each issue collected tells an individual story, mashing the Marvel Universe with classic fairy tales, ie: She-Hulk as Dorothy with her companions Captain America (cowardly lion), Iron Man (tin man) and Thor (scarecrow). Being immersed in comics as I am, it was a hoot figuring out which character from the fairy tale is which character from the Marvel U. I imagine it'd be the same for fairy tale readers too, so this would be a great book for casual readers. The trade collects all four of the Avengers Fairy Tales miniseries, but only issue 1 of Spider-Man Fairy Tales and issue 2 of X-Men Fairy Tales. It turns out that the X-men one's my favorite.

The story's from Cebulski and Kyle Baker, based on the African tale, "The Friendship of the Tortoise and Eagle." At first read I had no idea who the tortoise and the eagle were supposed to be, just that the tortoise had a big "X" on his shell, and the eagle had these weird marks on his face, kinda like a helmet. A helmet. . . to keep out telepaths. Only after staring at the first page for a while did I get it - and it was like BAM! It's a whole new story! The two are Magneto and Xavier!

Here's a summary: Eagle's family was brutally slaughtered in the camps of Auschwitz, so he bears a great deal of demons in him. Compassionate tortoise, loved by his family but ultimately shunned for his red "X," sacrifices himself to save his family from eagle's attacks. The two bond over their loneliness, but after eagle murders in order to save turtle, he can't bear to stay friends, for fear that he'll lose control. Turtle refuses to quit and vows to help eagle keep his demons at bay. Angered by Turtle's efforts, eagle grabs turtle and drops him from a mountain, cracking his shell and literally breaking his legs turning him into a paraplegic.

For serious.

Turtle says "Arrgghhh! My legs..."

The folktale illustrates this tragic relationship between eagle and turtle, and it's incredibly compelling to me. In light of the X-Men film this summer, it goes even deeper. Here're these two different people, completely different backgrounds, yet they work together and combine their talents for the greater good. Who doesn't want to see them win? Why can't they win? Why can't eagle be friends with tortoise???

What really made this stand out from the others was the art. The other stories had a dozen characters to introduce, and a lot more dialogue bubbles. Having only two characters, the art is allowed to breathe, and you can tell so much from tortoise's eyes. Comic books are visual and this thing is a feast for the eyes. Check out eagle's fury:


Ahhhh I'm terrible.

"Wow that's really hard."
that's what she said
 "Do you really think you can go all day long?"

 "Well you always left me satisfied and smiling, so. . ."

that's what she said

courtesy World War Hulk #3, brought to you by Greg Pak and Jon Romita Jr.

Trades for 9-12: Batman & Robin, Essential Fantastic Four

Dial your bat-phones back a year or three, and you'll remember that Batman - Bruce Wayne - died, in Grant Morrison's Final Crisis. After a big hubbub in "Battle for the Cowl," Dick Grayson (the first Robin) took the cape along with Damian Wayne, who became the fourth Robin. Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn tells the first six issues of their story with Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Philip Tan. Frank Quitely does art duties for the first three issues and Philip Tan does the next story. The first arc revolves around Dick and Damian stopping a carnival-inspired gang of criminals from waging germ warfare on Gotham City. The big draw of this arc is. . . the drawings. Frank Quitely practically inks sex right on the page. Who is insane enough to draw in so many drops of water in a single panel? And when the Batmobile boosts off on the road, who draws the smoke clouds behind it, literally saying FWSHHHHH and still looking like smoke clouds? The guy is amazing. Following him, the second arc drawn by Tan looks way sloppier but follows the escalation of supercrime and a new dynamic duo to replace Batmam & Robin. It's great stuff. If you haven't read 'em, don't miss 'em!

This summer I went to sunny Los Angeles to visit my sister, and I spent a day at UCLA. You know what happens: I went straight to their library and cozied up with a few comic trades, one of which was The Best of the Fantastic Four, vol. 1. I'd already collected all 27 issues of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's Marvel Knights 4 and thought I'd had enough of Comics's Greatest Family, but when I came back home, I guess not! My local library had Essential Fantastic Four vol. 1 (first print!!!), collecting the first 20 issues of The Fantastic Four from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, as well as the 1963 annual. It took me a full 3 weeks to complete it and I loved every minute.

Stan was just starting as a comic book monkey, and it's such a joy to see his whimsy and imagination in comic books. Take Doctor Doom for example. In his first appearance, he kidnaps Sue Storm and forces all the others - not to grovel before him, but to straight up travel back in time and steal Blackbeard's treasure! They do it and successfully board Blackbeard's ship and, because the three took up pirates' disguises, the Thing is so huge and burly that the pirates mistake him for Blackbeard himself! They freakin' travel in time and make history in one issue! Then, when Doc Doom finds a way to magnetically lift the Baxter Building into space, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner saves them, and the good Doctor Doom is left hurtling into space! But it doesn't stop there! He finds a civilization so advanced in space that they have no need for war - so he freakin' conquers them and uses their technology to go back to Earth and destroy the four! And I don't care if the trades are in black and white! Jack "King" Kirby draws the heck out of it!

I feel like the last half of the book is more overwritten than the first. It is no fun to read a comic in black and white, when the pages are 9 panels a page! But it's always a hoot to see what they'll come up with next. I've read quite a few Essentials with my free time, and The Fantastic Four aren't the typical super-comics, even though it spawned a new era for them. The comic's not about a new villain a month, but about a family with kooky powers who explore all sorts of weird places in the name of - imagination.
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