Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wolverine Origins Vol. 1 Born in Blood Trade Paperback Review

Wolverine: Origins Vol. 1 - Born in Blood
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
128 pages
ISBN 9780785122876

Contributors: Daniel Way, Steve Dillon, Joe Quesada, Michael Turner, Dan Kemp, and Richard Isanove

Reprints: Wolverine: Origins #1-5

Synopsis: Wolverine has regained his lost memories and finally remembers he wants revenge!  He goes straight to the top and stages a daring infiltration of the White House, but his presence triggers a Shiva robot to intervene.  Wolverine has made someone nervous and they reactivate Nuke to take him down. 

The two battle, but it's really a one-sided contest.  We get a glimpse into Wolverine's involvement in Nuke's origin.  Captain America shows up to halt his rampage along with several X-Men.  Emma Frost is among them and probes Wolverine's mind revealing a startling secret -- he has a son!

Pros: Covers by Quesada (except the flag-face one), Way's plot twists, Captain America vs. Wolverine, includes all the variant covers

Cons: No-prize alert -- Way writes Cyclops' optic beams as hot, but they're not (unless it just got retconned), Dillon's art doesn't mesh well with flamboyant superheroics

Mike Tells It Straight: The return of Wolverine's memories reestablished one of the character's most endearing traits from his early days -- that of the failed samurai filled with shame and regret.  Way writes a complex story, but Dillon's art is too straightforward.  The chance to see Wolverine's sordid past may be too much to pass up.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Punisher War Journal Vol. 3 Hunter/Hunted Review

Punisher War Journal Vol. 3 - Hunter/Hunted
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
152 pages
ISBN 9780785126645

Contributors: Matt Fraction, Ariel Olivetti, Cory Walker, Dave Stewart, Scott Wegener, and Howard Chaykin

Reprints: Punisher War Journal (2007) #12-17

Synopsis: World War Hulk lands in NYC with the Punisher goes head-to-head with an alien badass.  Stuart gears him up with some serious toys to even the playing field. 

Kraven's son has assumed his father's legacy and gone a step further -- he's caging animal-themed heroes and villains to create his own warped menagerie.  Frank goes in search of the Rhino and ends up being the hunted.

The Gibbon survived the Punisher's bombing at Stilt-Man's wake from issue #4 and vows revenge.  He's building up the nerve to take down the Punisher, but is he really hardcore enough to make the attempt?

Stuart "Rampage" Clarke is approached by his ex-wife -- Sunset Bain.  Sound familiar?  She's a major tech player in future-themed stories and a thorn in Tony Stark's side in the present.  Stuart helped rebuild the War Machine armor and send it after Iron Man, but now the armor has resurfaced and Bain wants it.  She'll do anything to manipulate her former lover into doing her dirty work. 

Pros: Fraction's script work, Chaykin's art

Cons: Four different artists with completely different styles

Mike Tells It Straight: Fraction's writing goes up a notch as he offers us four very different stories.  He shows a lot of range by mixing humor with extreme violence.  His Punisher remains a decidedly sillier incarnation of the character, but it's a fun ride regardless.  The Rampage/Sunset Bain story by Chaykin is by far the best of the four.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Punisher War Journal Vol. 2 Goin' Out West Review

Punisher War Journal Vol. 2 - Goin' Out West
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
168 pages
ISBN 9780785126362

Contributors: Matt Fraction, Ariel Olivetti, and Leandro Fernandez

Reprints: Punisher War Journal (2007) #5-11

Synopsis: The world reels at the news of Captain America's assassination.  Frank Castle heads to the US-Mexican border to investigate a deadly militia terrorizing immigrants on both sides.  He discovers the Hate-Monger has designed a Captain America-inspired uniform and Frank designs his own to honor the fallen Steve Rogers.  Severely outnumbered does the new "Captain America" stand a chance?

Meanwhile G.W. Bridge is still hot on the Punisher's trail.  A certain Winter Soldier with ties to the original Captain America investigates the rumors of a new Cap.

Pros: Olivetti's art evolves a bit as he includes more real-world photographs, Fraction does a good job pacing the story, one page of sketchbook material

Cons: Art by Fernandez is pathetic on issue #11, Punisher interacting with other heroes/villains still doesn't quite work

Mike Tells It Straight: Fraction milks the idea of the Punisher becoming the next Captain America surprisingly well here.  His Punisher takes a slightly more serious turn in this storyline.  It's a somewhat enjoyable read and a lot of effort obviously went into it, but ultimately it's just another "Frank Castle infiltrates a gang/militia to take it down from the inside" story.  Pass.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Punisher War Journal Vol. 1 Civil War Hardcover Review

Punisher War Journal Vol. 1 - Civil War
Marvel Comics
144 pages
ISBN 9780785127758

Contributors: Matt Fraction, Ariel Olivetti, Mike Deodato, Dean White, and Rain Beredo

Reprints: Punisher War Journal (2007) #1-4 and #1 black-and-white edition

Synopsis: The Punisher's war on crime crosses paths with the superhero civil war.  G.W. Bridge is out of retirement and helping SHIELD take down Frank Castle.  Meanwhile Castle puts the finishing move on Stilt-Man and hooks up with the newest "Micro" - former villain Stuart "Rampage" Clarke.  He's got a mad-on for everything Tony Stark and is only too willing to help.  Now outfitted with anti-SHIELD devices the Punisher is back in business.  He quickly gets a seat at Captain America's table after saving Spider-Man's life, but how long can the Punisher's methods be ignored by Cap?

Next the wake for Stilt-Man is held and all the villains in New York show up to pay their respects (or hit on his widow).  What better time for the Punisher to make a hit of his own?

Pros: Good art by Olivetti and Deodato, interesting story by Fraction which fits seamlessly into the Civil War crossover, stories are fun and irreverent, but completely deadly, sketchbook

Cons: Punisher existing with lame villains lessens him, black-and-white edition - who really cares?, price tag is expensive for only four unique issues (paperback is probably cheaper)

Mike Tells It Straight: Fraction writes a decent Punisher, but the stories here are much tamer than the MAX version by Ennis.  Here we have Frank running around killing losers dressed in Halloween costumes and interacting with heroes dressed much the same way.  He's still ruthless, but there's a humor and juvenile fun to it all.  If you want an entertaining, but slightly less serious Punisher then you're in the right place.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

DC/Marvel Crossover Classics IV Review

DC/Marvel: Crossover Classics Vol. 4
DC Comics/Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
224 pages
ISBN 761941240213

Contributors: Ron Marz, Darryl Banks, Terry Austin, Chris Eliopoulos, John Byrne, Rick Taylor, J.M. DeMatteis, Graham Nolan, Karl Kesel, John Costanza, Dan Jurgens, Art Thibert, Greg Wright, Bill Oakley, Alex Ross, and Ed McGuinness

Reprints: Green Lantern/Silver Surfer: Unholy Alliances, Darkseid/Galactus: The Hunger, Batman & Spider-Man, and Superman/Fantastic Four

Synopsis: Collecting another round of DC/Marvel crossovers:
  • The Silver Surfer encounters a planet destroyed by the Cyborg [Superman].  They battle and Parallax appears to help defeat the threat.  On Earth Kyle Rayner fights Terrax and is aided by Thanos.  Both heroes are convinced to lend their power to the new strangers for a seemingly beneficial end.  We know both Parallax and Thanos are the last entities in the universe who should receive more power, but our naive heroes must learn the hard way!
  • Galactus the Devourer selects Apokolips for his next feast!  Darkseid defends his home from the most fearsome attacker yet.  How will he repel an undeniable force in the universe and will New Genesis allow their destruction?  The Silver Surfer heralds his master's arrival and Orion joins the fray for a showdown we never thought we'd see!
  • Ra's Al Ghul continues his plan for worldwide purification in order to save the human race from itself.  His daughter Talia visits New York to enlist the cooperation of the Kingpin of Crime.  Batman follows and quickly meets up with our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  Talia informs Wilson Fisk of The Demon's next target - NYC!  Ra's offers the one thing Fisk cannot refuse - a cure for his wife Vanessa's cancer.  The Caped Crusader and Spidey join forces for the second time to save the city.
  • Galactus observes the final moments of a dying planet along with the tiny spacecraft carrying the sole survivor rocketing toward Earth.  The survivor is Superman and in the present time he discovers a link between the death of Krypton and the World Devourer.  He travels across dimensions to visit the Fantastic Four.  The Cyborg Superman tags along and assaults the Four in order to gain access to the wonderful technology of Galactus.  When the real thing appears on Earth he chooses a new herald -- Superman!  Can the FF possibly defeat a cosmic-powered Superman in thrall to Galactus
Pros: Byrne's work on Darkseid/Galactus, painted cover by Alex Ross over Jurgens' pencils on Superman/FF, inks by Thibert

Cons: Weak cover by McGuinness, art by Banks/Nolan/Jurgens

Mike Tells It Straight: Four separate tales with varying degrees of quality.  An absolute classic is the Byrne tale of Galactus attempting to devour Apokolips -- his obvious love and understanding of the characters shines through in every page.  The other three stories are not very well crafted or memorable.  Only the Superman/FF story has any redeeming qualities with Supes becoming herald to Galactus and the Ross cover.  If price is an issue or you're looking for quality stories - just buy the one-shot by Byrne and skip the rest.

TO BUY and Recommendations: