Monday, January 30, 2012

UnnecessaryLand, and the Four Poorsmen.

Awful isn't a strong enough word.
True story. I could have pitched this exact story given three things: a word processor, a guidebook to some of Marvel's least lights, and a rage fired sense of irony to prove that Marvel crossover stories are garbage. If I had, and it'd been accepted, I'd have dropped comics then and there. Instead, I paid a very small sum (probably the $15 Amazon seems to want)to read someone else do more or less the job I'd have done. Andy Diggle, this one's for you.
Set up required for this story is simple: Daredevil has been given control of the hand, and believes he's turning them good. Turns out he has it wrong. Marvel's street level heroes get upset and plan to take him out - if possible.

Throw in an obligatory death or two (in this case Bullseye and DD himself - sort of) and you have the genesis of the kind of idea any cheesed off fanboy can come up with. So what's wrong with that, apart from publishing it? That the way it's done, the Marvel Heroes are complicit in DD's mad shenanigans. They all hear things about people going missing, and they all suspect something's of. But they wait until after DD has flipped out and killed Bullseye (which, PS, any sane person would have done decades ago) before stepping into action. And it's not just the crazies like Moonknight and Wolverine. It's Spider-man. And Iron Fist. And Luke Cage. As well as Cap, Iron Man, and Thor agreeing with that course of actions. So Spider-man who, for the record, ought to have killed Norman Osborne decades ago is willing to give DD the benefit of the very slender doubt? BS! Even crazy angry Spidey from the mid 90s would have done something. So, no, I didn't like the story. And that MAtt Murdock is already back to being DD just ices this cake.

The art was fine. Nothing spectacular, but fine. Billy Tan is a solid artist, and doesn't deserve to be tipped on in this review.

Overall I'd pass on this. It's an irrelevant and unnecessary story that muddies the waters on a number of characters, and really just paved the way for the Kingpin to return to the top of the criminal world in Marvel's New York.

Remember those things Black Adam killed?
Not so much.
And with such a short review, I'll give you another book to avoid: 52 Aftermath - The Four Horsemen. If you have $20 that you really don't need, please, let me know about it, and don't buy this book. This book is  meant to follow up on the end of 52 to deal with the Four Horsemen coming back. This time, rather than a supremely pissed off Black Adam, it's up to Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman to tackle the four horsemen. As usual, Batman has a plan, and as usual, he's not sharing. Problem is, that while he's in the "not sharing" part of the plan, he just seems idiotic and petulant. Which doesn't really sit right with me.
Pat Olliffe's art is serviceable, and at no time transcends that. Keith Giffen's script is lamentable, and seems phoned in.
Any number of moments ought to be questioned, and any o them ought to have been reworked. Asking people to pay for this is insulting.

Overall I'd pass on this too. It's unnecessary, added nothing to the characters or universe, and dealt with villains that weren't ever going to become popular enough to see much use, and had already been killed. On top of that, I'm not sure if this even happened in the current DC Universe. I'm trying to work out some of the continuity there, and think it may already be a little wonky.

So next time.... something massive?
I used to have free time, like you.
Then I took The New 52 Omnibus to the knee.

THIS! IS! 300!

I think this really tells you what the story is about.
Thinking back on it, any level of forethought would have seen this as my 300th review. Instead forethought sees this as an easy review to do before a vacation. In any case, Frank Miller's retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae is very interesting, and is a very clear guideline for the movie adaptation (no, not Charlton Heston's 300 Spartans). Amazon seem to want about $20 for it, but the wise shopper watches for a cheaper price (I got mine during the Black Friday sales at Things From another World).

On the topic of the content, it's wonderful. Sure, historical accuracy isn't a high point, but the story is a ripper. I'm not sure how it would have worked as a comic series (and I'm sure it would be committing many of the sins I fell modern comics revolve around), but as a collected edition, in A3 size paper, it looks great, and reads well. The art, yes, is in Frank Miller's style. If that isn't your taste, it might not be as visually pleasing, but it's still clear what is happening, and thus easy to read.
The story is, in essence, the track of King Leonidas as the destined leader of the Spartans, in a war he has been told he cannot win against the Persians. Yes, with nudity and gratuitous violence. Yes, with a hint of love, and a dash of tragedy, but that's god writing, isn't it? Overdo nothing your audience doesn't crave, go heavy on what it wants, and leave something to think about.
In all honesty there's two flaws with this book: it's awkward to put on the shelf with the rest of your comics, and it's more or less been made redundant by the release of the film. If not for the film, I'd honestly consider this a gateway book for a lot of people. It has appeal for young males. It has appeal for people interested in historical things (even if it does work them up with inaccuracies). It probably won't appeal to women, though it has (obviously now) got an action movie appeal about it. All of that is useless, when someone can watch it in awesome Blu Ray quality in their home theatre.

So how do I rate this. I clearly love it. I did read it once before seeing the movie, so maybe that clouds my judgement. It is well written, and well illustrated. It's also a complete story, with no prior knowledge required, or (until Xerxes is released) any need to read anything else, so there's no additional investment required. But I still can't get past that whole idea that the movie almost made it irrelevant to anyone not already reading comics.

Bottom line: this is a must for comic fans. If loved the movie, you'll love this. For people not already reading comics, and that haven't seen the movie (and can be convinced to read it first), it's a good first step. For anyone else, I can't see the point or the value. You know the story, you don't want to read comics, so you pass. And it's your loss.

Next Time I'll probably have some very glib, very flippant things to say about this. Though that'd be about all to say, really...
This mark, it is too easy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


There's a parental advisory sticker over
Ninjette's crotch on my copy...
Empowered. Not really anything about becoming empowered, or equal rights, or anything like that. It's important to state that right up front, because if you think this book is at all about "serious" issues, you're in for a rude shock. And Adam Warren wants you to keep reading. Amazon just want you to give them about $13 USD.

Empowered tells the story of, well, Empowered: a laughable super-heroine who gains her powers from a terribly useless super-suit. Useless how? The suit provides powers as long as it's intact. As in not in any way damaged. Meaning that 90% of the time it's less useful than a lycra bicycle get up. So, yes, Empowered gets her ass handed to her on a regular basis. And that brings us to another core part of this book: bondage, and sex jokes. If that's not got you hooked so far, there's also profanity, romance, comedy, a 4th Wall made of tissue paper, and generally high levels of entertainment.

In all honesty, this book is probably a "better" (read: more accessible) version of Garth Ennis' The Boys. It has the core elements of The Boys with far less gore, and obvious malice. It's still not a book for the young kids, but I guess if they're headed that way, they might as well enjoy themselves.

Typical Empowered action. But normally
there'd be a gag. And less mockney accents.
While the ongoing book as a whole is thoroughly enjoyable, Volume One (apart from a great starting point),  introduces the core Empowered cast in a clear narrative, with wonderful Manga stylings. We meet Empowered, the super-heroine with low self esteem, body image issues, a raging sexual appetite, and almost no luck. Her boyfriend by the end of the book, Thug Boy is a generally agreeable former henchman  for hire to super villains. Her new gal pal Ninjette is a drunken ninja chick that seems to do very little of anything apart from loafing. Her Super Homey's teammates (a collection of generally lame super hero tropes) are essentially used to highlight the hopelessness of Empowered's super-hero attempts. And of course, the Caged Demonwolf - an intergalactic overlord trapped in equally intergalactic bondage gear and left to suffer the indignities of life on Empowered's coffee table.

The content is riveting, the illustrations are great, and best of all, the stories are short and succinct while building overarching plot threads. Possibly the best part of the book, though, is the writing itself. I imagine that if Aaron Sorkin were sat down to write a comic book (and give a deadline) he'd turn out the dialogue we get here. It's roughly that good.

I highly recommend this book for more or less anyone that's not under 15, or a prude.

Next time, we dine in hell.
Geraaaaard Butler Freeee!