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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Help support this site!

With the demise of Borders, I have lost my primary method of purchasing new graphic novels/trade paperbacks in my are at a considerable discount. The continuation of my reviews has always been based on my actual collection, and I have now read through everything.

I do have a large selection of trades that are waiting for me to actually write reviews for, but nothing new after that. At the rate of 1 review per week, I will have no new content for this blog after the new year.

Here's where you can help out...

I have signed-up for the affiliate program at Lone Star Comics. If you go there via the link below and make a purchase, a percentage of your purchase will come to me in the form of store credit that I can use to purchase more trades.

I appreciate any help you can offer, and I hope to continue to make this blog worth reading for years to come.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Vol. 3: Wolves at the Gate

Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Vol. 3: Wolves at the Gate

ISBN: 9781595821652

Price: $15.95

Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2008

Artist: Georges Jeanty

Writer: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard

Collects: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 #11-15

Rating: 3/5

When the gang’s Highland sanctuary is invaded by a troupe of annoyingly chic Asian vampires who appear to have nailed Count Dracula’s abilities to shapeshift, they head for Japan with the aid of Nosferatu himself. Cue culture clashes and Eastern-tinted mysticism. Drew Goddard, who has written for the Buffy: the Vampire Slayer show, Alias and Lost, writes this stuff better than either Whedon or Vaughan. His knack for Buffy’s trademark tongue-in-cheek humor is spot on, and frequently laugh-out-loud; Wolves at the Gate had me chuckling more than the two previous volumes combined.

Without a doubt the series’ most impressive aspect so far has been its constituency. Both Goddard and Brian K. Vaughan have carried on from Whedon superlatively, and a visual stability has been provided by Georges Jeanty’s colorful art, used for all but one issue. A giant-sized Dawn’s Godzilla inspired assault on Tokyo really emphasizes how the creative team have taken ideas that may not have initially worked – or at least been too alien to primarily appreciate – and brashly run with them until they did. The return of camp Dracula, and his relationship with his former Renfield, Xander, is also handled in a humorously, occasionally touching way and escapes the nostalgic clinginess that the previous villain reappearances have suffered from.

As with No Future for You, Joss Whedon writes but one side episode here, ‘A beautiful Sunset’, in which Buffy has her first encounter with season 8’s enigmatic big bad Twilight, and in true Whedon tradition gets the crap kicked out of her. Though Twilight is still a little too mysterious to be intriguing, Whedon does pull a hilarious parody on the enigmatic villain unmasking that used to fill the final page of almost every superhero comic in the mid-nineties, particularly Liefeld era New Mutants and X-force.

Unfortunately, the series sudden improvement in quality will be overshadowed by the titular vampire slayers sudden and inexplicable lesbian relationship with the cutesy Satsu. Though it might verge on homophobic to argue that Willow and Andrew already fill the series’ gay character quota, Buffy’s sudden shift in sexual preference does not fit in with anything that has been suggested prior. Whether her relationship with Satsu will move beyond the realm of fanboy fantasy is yet to be seen, but for the first time since Angel got canned, it is safe to say that the Buffyverse has risen defiantly from its grave.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Vol. 2: No Future for You

Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Vol. 2: No Future for You

ISBN: 9781593079635

Price: $15.95

Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2008

Artist: Georges Jeanty

Writer: Joss Whedon, Brian K. Vaughan

Collects: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 #6-10

Rating: 2/5

Many fans will have already bewailed Whedon’s departure from scripting duties just 5 issues into the series (though he returns for issue 10), but his replacement, Y: The Last Man and Lost scribe Brian K. Vaughan is as suitable a host as we could possibly hope for. Vaughan’s dialogue isn’t as witty as Whedon’s; he often pushes the pop culture references a little too far. Nor does he write women nearly as well. He can however, pace a far better, and as a result No Future For You is a far more directed, absorbing read than Whedon’s initial fight fest.

Slayer gone bad-then-good-again Faith takes precedence this time around. Still wanted for the murder of Deputy Mayor Allan Finch way back in season three of the show, she’s now split from Robin Wood and resumed her usual self-loathing. When Rupert Giles offers her safe passage from America in exchange for an assassination job, she accepts. The mark in question is the ridiculously named Lady Genevieve Savidge, a spoilt English aristocratic Slayer who has fallen under the influence of Irish warlock Roden. Genevieve is like Paris Hilton mixed with Princess Di, and more unhinged than both put together. I doubt Vaughan has ever been to England; his idea of us Brits follows the hackneyed foxhunting, tea-sipping well-to-do stereotype that much of the world enjoys portraying. Not totally unlike Giles or Wesley, then, I guess. But then I’m a peasant who rarely leaves my home – where I’m from, a trench coat sporting, chain smoking scumbag like John Constantine is closer to the mark.

But for a brief glimpse of his shiny black boots, The Long Way Home did not so much introduce as hint vaguely at the new Big Bad, Twilight. He only appears for a single page here, to provide the usual villainous mastermind monologue, complete with the obligatory chess analogy cliché. Despite looking like a little like a Power Ranger in a flak jacket and trench coat, Twilight has cast an impressive shadow over the proceedings so far, but it remains to be seen if his plans are any deeper, or more inspired, than the routine destruction of humankind.

Whedon’s contribution, ‘Anywhere But Here’ trails somewhat pathetically behind Vaughan’s central plot. I should offer a short synopsis, but after rereading the issue a second time I still had nary a clue what was going on… but then I am a moron. Willow has gone through some changes since the show’s closure, and seems to have been allocated the dual role of perpetual exposition uttering techie type – magic-babble, if you will – and resident deus ex machina. In just ten issues her powers have saved everyone twice over. Though this is a natural progression from themes introduced in the television show, having a near omnipotent ally at hand has cheapened every conflict so far.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Secret Invasion

Title: Secret Invasion

ISBN: 9780785132974

Price: $29.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2009

Artist: Leinil Francis Yu

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Collects: Secret Invasion #1-8

Rating: 2/5

The Marvel Universe is a wonderfully eclectic creative landscape. For every cinema-friendly hero such as Spider-man, Daredevil or Silver Surfer there’s a Howard the Duck, Shang-Chi or Man-thing; delightful oddball creations that jar with the modern, “serious” Marvel landscape. Skulking uncomfortably within that latter group are the Skrulls, little green men with baboon-ass chins and a tendency to shape-shift.

Not that the Skrulls are necessarily a terrible concept (they work fine in the colorful pages of Fantastic Four), but their hitting the Marvel Universe so shortly after the Civil War event with an alien invasion leaves me with the same sense of apathy I get from watching a news presenter informing me of a terrorist strike before moving merrily on to the day’s sport.

The problem is that so little effort is put into the doppelgangers once they are exposed. Grant Morrison’s JLA2 was told from the perspective of the alternate Earth Justice League, and almost gave its central villains a sense of nobility. Here there is little room for character development, and any attempt at characterization or allegory is lost somewhere between Spider-man’s tirade of stupid remarks and the endless squabbles between superheroes and their retro counterparts.

Bendis struggles with his enormous cast, but who wouldn’t? At times the book reads like a ‘Who’s Who of the MU’. Leinil Yu’s art is always great, and some of his double spreads are the Marvel equivalent of Where’s Waldo?/Wally?… and perhaps this book will be enjoyed most by those new to characters such as Ms. Marvel or Elektra, and desiring a reasonable primer.

Though Secret Invasion is far too condensed to allow for any degree of depth, I did enjoy how that the Skrulls were ultimately portrayed, with their treatment of Earth resting someplace between that of the Roman Empire and a planet of desperate refugees… who happen to have shape-shifting abilities and big, big guns. Strangely enough, our heroes may refuse to kill scum like Bullseye or Venom, but have no problem mercifully murdering the homeless aliens.

There’s little positive to say about Secret Invasion other than that it serves as a bridge between the excellent Civil War event and the, at time of writing, equally brilliant Dark Reign, which will wisely be spread over various titles without the limited series to tie them together. As a way of shaking the Marvel universe up, and passing the power from Stark, S.H.I.E.L.D. and company to Norman Osborn’s cabal of villains, Secret Invasion simply serves its purpose.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Infinite Crisis

Title: Infinite Crisis

ISBN: 9781401210601

Price: $17.99

Publisher/Year: DC, 2008
Artist: Phil Jimenez, George Perez, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis, Andy Lanning

Writer: Geoff Johns

Collects: Infinite Crisis #1-7

Rating: 3/5

If you’re superhero mad, you’ve probably been following the Countdown to Infinite Crisis series with glee. If not, and you’ve got superhero money burning a hole in your pocket, go ahead and buy those first: this is a book that requires financial commitment.

Having said that, whether purchasing all the books is completely necessary is somewhat debatable. Identity Crisis is a must, as are The OMAC Project and Villains United. Rann-Thanagar War and Day of Vengeance are perhaps less so, except that they help carry the concept that this is a universe-wide event and not just about Earth or the material plane.

After all the preludes though, this is the main event. We won’t spoil it for you by going into too much detail, but an evil villain is hoping to create a perfect earth for himself by bringing back the infinite Earths that were supposedly sorted out in the last crisis, and literally and violently blending them until he finds the right mix. Heroes and villains from different Earths end up in one almighty ruck, as others try and sort the mess out.

Infinite Crisis – Superman. Perhaps one of the most interesting elements of the series as a whole, and this book in particular, is the bloody carnage. DC Comics clearly has enough characters on its books to shed a great swathe of them and Infinite Crisis is the vehicle to do it in. Heads get lopped off, weapons pierce chests, people explode and heroes that many will recognize join the ranks of the deceased. There’s no pussy-footing around with weak punches and asylums for the criminally insane: extreme force is sanctioned and used.

It’s a little hard to work out what has been achieved at the end of all this. Yes, it’s a ripping yarn, but barely one so very special that’s worth devoting hundreds of pages to. In fact, it’s more like a money pit – once you’ve started down the road of the story, possibly with the quite good OMAC Project, you’ve committed to a path that you may feel you don’t particularly want to abandon.

Superhero nuts, by all means, quench your thirst at this font of superhero worship. If you’re indifferent and perhaps just a bit curious about the fuss, it might be worth turning away now. There are better graphic novels out there you could be investing this amount of money and reading time on.

Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I

 Title: Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State Volume I ISBN: 0919359094 Price: $ Publisher/Year: Aardvark-Vanheim, 1987 Artist: Gerhard Writer: ...