Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rapid Reviews Round Three

More rapid reviewing from another week of reading more comics than I really ought to be able to. Not because I'm time poor, more because the comics are content poor. Or at least some are.

So to our first contender. Surrounded by much hype this year, bearer of a reset button, and with a premise as sturdy as a paper dove...
As George Takei would say, "Oh Myyyy!" This story was unnecessary in the biggest possible way. Sure I'm lite-on with my DC history, (particularly modern DC), but this was the core of a company wide crossover that had (wait for it) no real impact on continuity. Oh sure it allowed the reboot/reset/relaunch/whatever that was the New 52, but it didn't add anything to continuity. In fact, I'm pretty sure that it contradicts the effects of time travel as depicted in other areas of the DCU. Booster Gold can't really change time, but Barry Allen can? How? Why? It's not really explained. I can only assume that what Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert dished up in this 176 page offering was the Crisis that Grant Morrison ought to have delivered with Final Crisis. Now I realise that thus far I've spent the entire review complaining about this being little more than a reset button, but honestly there's not much else to it.
No body retcons Morrison. Nobody.
The art is nice to look at, and the dialog is fine, but the story itself is so short. And it's made shorter with the cameos needed to tie in the tie-ins. Plus it doesn't matter what people look like, they are (in many cases) fundamentally not the characters we care about. From Thomas Wayne as Batman to out of character Wonder Woman. Those this book is likely aimed at (long term fans) should be struggling to connect with the characters the "know".
The biggest slap in the face is that at the end f it all, the story retcons itself out of existence. That's right, the story you spend $12 USD (if you get it now from Amazon) on purchasing, and about 30 minutes reading, wraps up so well that it never happened. Almost. A lot of comparisons were made between this and the Age of Apocalypse from Marvel back in the 1990s and it's an obvious comparison. The difference is that this is really more like House of M in terms of impact, depth, and time to read. If that's so, we'll be getting new Flashpoint stories for another 2-3 years yet.

Recommendation: Pass. Or read it in the 5 minutes it takes someone else to get the shrink-wrap off your copy of the New 52 omnibus without damaging it.

Clearly didn't like that one... so how about something that I really shouldn't like. Something like...
The Complete Ben Reilly Epic Book 2
If this doesn't trigger 1990s flashbacks,
go ahead and pick it up.
Yep, I panned the last volume of this when I reviewed it, but in for a penny, or something like that. Now while the last instalment sucked terribly due to lack of plot advancement or character development (combined with some truly reprehensible "art"), this one is actually enjoyable and readable. Which is high praise, comparatively. I'd love to tell you a page count, or an Amazon cost, but Amazon seem intent on pretending this didn't exist, which funnily enough, up until a couple years ago, is exactly the position Marvel had taken. We get the conclusion to the terrible VR Scarlet Spider in the real world story, some more New Warriors stuff, A sensible Spider-man and Human Torch story, Spider-man and Punisher teaming up against Tombstone, a couple of Venom plots, and Spidey vs Mysterio. As before, there's a swathe of writers and artists (Tom DeFalco, Evan Skolnick, Dan Jurgens, Todd Dezago, Howard Mackie, Tom Lyle, Glenn Greenburg, Sholly Fisch, Larry Hama, Mark Bagely, Patrick Zircher, Sal Buscema, John Romita Jr, Tom Morgan, Dick Giordano, Mike Harris, Mike Manley, Shawn McManus, Joe Bennet, Paris Karounos, Kevin Maguire, Bob Brown, Josh Hood, Tom Grindberg, and Joe St. Pierre) working on the range of Spider-man titles from the time. As before some of the art is better than others (Joe Bennet seems to think that Spidey and Punisher are about the same size as Colossus), and some of the stories are laughable. The good thing is that the amount of "woe is me I thought I was a clone" stuff drops off, and the development of Ben as a character really kicks off. If you were interested in reading about Ben Reilly as Spider-man I'd pick up the first couple of Clone Saga books, then skip to this point. It should be enough to get you up to speed for the new Scarlett Spider series (the less I say about that, the better).

Recommendation: Good read for Spidey fans, Reilly fans, and 1990s fans,. If you want great work, it's not here, but there's a least some solid work.

So maybe the 1990s is your favourite era. And maybe you like The Avengers. And cosmic stuff involving the Kree, Skrulls, or Shiar. You do? Great. Try reading...
Operation Galactic Storm (Volumes 1 and 2)
They're Avengers? Okay then.
It's so nice to have something good to say about a book, and it's also very nice to read something that's not finished in a couple of hours.
Operation Galactic Storm is a tale from the other time there were multiple Avengers teams (East and West), and deals with The Avengers (first the West Coast team, then both) getting caught up in an intergalactic war involving the Kree and the Shiar (mainly - there's a little bit of Skrullishness) by way of a Rick Jones abduction./ At its core, this is a story about the horrible things people rationalise as acceptable in times of war, and how people from different backgrounds, and at different points in their lives act when faced with the atrocities of war. For example Thor (Eric Masterson, not Donald Blake) is a relative novice and his lack of prior experience leads him to vacillate wildly from outraged violence to subdued humanitarian, while Captain America resolutely claims the need to stop the war without casualties. Interestingly, there's some very familiar riffs throughout this story: Cap vs Iron Man on a a moral battlefield, Hawkeye not feeling he's been afforded enough respect, Wonder Man and Vision as two sides of the same coin, and Cap doubting his ability to lead The Avengers. These are things we've seen repeatedly over time, and that they're all brought to the fore during what was a showcase cross-over event is evidence that a cross-over can be done properly.
There's really only two things to complain about here: that the story was split over two volumes, and that the What If stories in the second volume are so appalling. The split makes sense in that the editions I have are paperback. Going to a single volume would have resulted in a book where the spine breaks after one reading. The other alternative is to go to a hardcover/omnibus which raises costs, and reduces the likelihood of  reprint. The What If stories... are a demonstration of all that was wrong with the concept. The concept (What If The Avengers Los Operation Galactic Storm?) is not that compelling unless you really have a lot of time (see Flashpoint review above), the art is not that great, and at times it's completely unclear what the hell is happening.
Again, they're Avengers?
The art in the actual story is excellent, clear, and reminds me why I rate the art from the 1980s and 1990s so far above the art from the modern era: splash pages that do nothing to advance plot are at a minimum, dialog is consistently applied, rather than a page or two of people looking at each other menacingly, etc, and most importantly for me panels are separated from each other by a border at minimum, if not with whitespace.
The list of contributors (writers and artists) is extensive, but not over the top (Bob Harras, Tom DeFalco, Mark Gruenwald, Gerard Jones, Len Kaminski, Roy Thomas, Dann Thomas, Greg Capullo, Steve Epting, JEff Johnson, Stephen B. Jones, Rik Levins, Dave Ross, Paul Ryan, Rurik Tyler, Paul Olliffe, Craig Brasfield, John Czop, Darren Auck, and Dave Simmons).

Recommendation: Pick it up. Both volumes. Read it. Then read a modern "event" book (either of the big two will have something for you). Then sit back and wonder why "events" are so awful these days. You don't need to be an Avengers fan, and you don't need to be too worried about continuity (this is so far back it really isn't referenced).

Whew, big lot of books out of the way. Next week I'll do another batch review, but we'll focus on the one title.
Whaddya mean your girlfriend won't read The Boys?

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