Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rapid Reviews Round Two

And another week of Rapid Reviews. This week is interesting in that two of the books (while still entertaining) were a bit of a let down, given the premise, and the other was an interesting examination of the notion of a superhero team. First off we have...
Invincible: The Viltrumite War (Volume 14 of the standard TPBs).

For those that aren't regular readers of Invincible, this book is probably not going to be a great starting point. Unless you like lots of blood and violence. Still Interested? This volume covers the inevitable fight between the Coalition of Planets (featuring the titular Invincible) and the remainder of the Viltrumite Empire. Amazon claim it's worth $14 USD for 196 pages. So, yes, there's a lot of fighting, yes Invincible get's nearly killed a couple more times (seriously the guy cannot fight Viltrumites to save himself), and yes the war ends in the one volume. With a truce. Really? I get how that's the rational and adult way that conflicts end, and I get that without the Viltrumite menace hovering away, it's hard to make this book much more than a modernised version of early Stan Lee Steve Ditko Spider-man stories, but really? A truce? That's like if at almost any point during Dragon Ball-Z Goku and <insert villain here> ended the fight be having a cup of tea. Not quite what was called for.
Robert Kirkman's writing is still fine and dandy, and Ryan Ottley's art is still delightful, but the ending did leave me flat. As did the ongoing theme of Invincile getting the crap beaten out of him before going back for more.
Recommendation: Not an introductory volume for Invincible, but worth the money for those already reading.

Next up...
JLA: Tower of Babel
Or put another way "What If Batman Had Plans To Defeat The JLA, And Ra's Al Ghul Used Them?". This book is, in my mind, one of the best concepts ever, but not properly executed. It is completely believable that Batman would have such plans. It's completely believable that they could fall into the wrong hands. The resulting fall out is also believable. The book fails on two counts. First, I find it hard to believe that Ra's would succeed in all the early stages and still fail in his plans (which, had he succeeded, would have been no real problem with another Crisis just around the corner at the time this was published). Second, it just seemed like it was a "cool" story that didn't have a lot of depth and weight to it. Some people will lay the blame at the conglomeration of writers (Mark Waid, Dan Curtis Johnson Christopher Priest, and John Ostrander) while ignoring the concept of editors asking for meat on the bones which comes at the cost of the artists' (Howard Porter, Steve Scott, Mark Pajarillo, Pablo Raimondi, Eric Battle, and Ken Lashley) over use of splash pages/panels to tell a denser story (I'm sure if I ever wrote an editorial, that'd be target number one). That still doesn't address the first problem though. How is it that Ra's continually comes up with ways to almost take over the world, but falls short every time? It's like he needs to have a specialist that sees these plans to completion for him.
All that aside, it's a pretty book, and a good story. Good thing Amazon marketplace sellers don't charge too much for a copy (though as this was a present, I can't comment on exact prices) of this 160 page tome.
Recommendation: While it may not be an entry point to the JLA, it's a good book for anyone that's got a couple JLA tales under their belt. If you were to read Infinite Crisis, this book's probably more relevant than many of the lead in mini-series were. I'll also point out that while it's not really graphic in the violence, it's quite brutal in terms of the idea at the root of it all.

Finally this week, it's worth following up Tower of Babel with...
JLA: Divided We Fall
Which takes place directly after Tower of Babel. Mark Waid is writing by himself this time, and we do get more depth (so yes, having half a dozen writers doesn't help things necessarily). Art is split across Bryan Hitch, J.H. Williams III, Phil Jiminez, Javier Saltares, Ty Templeton, Doug Mahnke, Mike S. Miller and Mark Pajarillo. Again, this was a present, though allegedly reasonably priced for the 208 pages. After Batman being voted out of the JLA, the team is clearly having a crisis of confidence as a group, and individually. The first half of the book is showing how they don't work as a team any more, and the second half shows how they don't work as individuals via (somewhat heavy handedly) Alien stuff happening that splits each member of the team into their civilian identity and their superhero persona (except Wonder Woman and Aquaman who at this point do not have separate identities).
The heroes win the day (and reunite themselves and the team), however it's a close run thing, and the divisions of personalities is not necessarily what people might expect.
To be honest the "team divided" story had to be dealt with somehow following Tower of Babel, but it could easily have been resolved via 10 volumes of Bendis dialogue style, instead f having actual action occur. And that's impossible to fault. The writing is good, the art is clear, and the story is reasonably compelling.
Recommendation: Not essential reading by any means. Adds nothing to anyone's understanding of the modern JLA, but does give a look at what makes the a super-team tick, and also worth a read if you bothered to shell out for Tower of Babel.

Next week, I'll go back to a more standard review with something that initially looked like it would be a titanic slog to read, but rapidly became a pleasurable experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment