Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Darkness Compendium Vol. 1 Review

The Darkness Compendium Vol. 1
Image Comics - Top Cow
Softcover Trade Paperback
1280 pages
$59.99 ($99.99 hardcover edition)
ISBN 9781582406435

Contributors: Marc Silvestri, Garth Ennis, Paul Jenkins, Joe Benitez, Dale Keown, Michael Turner, David Finch, Billy Tan, Whilce Portacio, David Wohl, Malachy Coney, Randy Queen, Matt "Batt" Banning, Brian Haberlin, Steve Firchow, Dennis Heisler, Cedric Nocon, Richard Isanove, Stephen Platt, Christina Z, Clarence Lansang, Joe Weems, Jonathan Livesay, Ken Lashley, Scott Lobdell, Keu Cha, Brian Ching, Clayton Crain, Mark Pajarillo, Brett Booth, Sal Regla, and Mark Texeira

Reprints: The Darkness (1996) Prelude, #1/2, 1-40 (of 40); Tales of the Darkness #1/2, 1-4 (of 4); The Darkness: Wanted Dead; The Darkness/Witchblade #1/2; The Darkness (2002) #1

Synopsis: Jackie Estacado is your typical hot-blooded mob hitman - he's made, good at his job, drives the flashy cars, and beds a different woman every night.  His childhood friend, Jenny tends bar at an upscale club, but secretly harbors feelings for him.  On his 21st birthday, Jackie inherits the Darkness power, an elemental force of evil and granting the bearer near-limitless power in the shadows. 

The power comes at a price as Jackie discovers he will drop dead the instant he impregnates a woman and the offspring will similarly be granted the power when they come of age.  Many groups and individuals are interested in Jackie for their own reasons: the Angelus is the exact opposite of the Darkness and seeks his destruction, the Witchblade is a cross between both forces, the Vatican sends their enforcer the Magdalena to eradicate the Darkness, the Brotherhood of Darkness led by Sonatine wish to control the Darkness bearer, and Jackie's Uncle Frankie is disgusted by his nephew's strange power, but can't help exploiting it.  Only one person has been a constant and means something in Jackie's life, but can he keep Jenny safe amid the insanity that rules the Darkness?
Pros: Beautifully dark art by some of the best artists in the field, great colors, more bang for your buck with the entire first series + peripheral Tales, high-quality paper (makes it heavy!), great extras including all the variant covers and pinups

Cons: Massive 'phonebook' style trade paperbacks suffer from being too heavy and fragile to read - mine quickly developed curling on the cover and a crack down the middle, Witchblade crossover issues are not included

Mike Tells It Straight: I love these compendium (omnibus) editions, but if you're going to buy one then splurge on the hardcover edition.  The paperbacks are too big and heavy for their own good.  My copy almost broke in half while I was reading it - a small spine split which became progressively worse until pages began to detach themselves.

This book is more about the pretty pictures and action than plot despite the involvement of Garth Ennis.  He writes the first arc, but then ghosts and we get a revolving door of new creative teams.  Frequent writer and artist changes cause the story to become convoluted and unfocused.  All the characters are shallow and extremely single-note, but the pictures are pretty, oh so pretty. 

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Iron Man: Doomquest Premiere Hardcover Review

Iron Man: Doomquest
Marvel Comics
Hardcover - Premiere Edition
144 pages
$19.99 (2008)
ISBN 9780785128342

Contributors: David Michelinie, Bob Layton, and John Romita Jr.

Reprints: Iron Man #149-150, 249-250

Synopsis: Two powerful men encased in armor collide in a most unexpected way.  Dr. Doom seeks to save the soul of his mother and attempts to master the arcane arts from sorcerers throughout time.  He must assemble a time machine and steals vital parts from Stark Industries.  Iron Man confronts Doom and they are thrown into the past - to the time of King Arthur!  Iron Man joins Arthur and Doom sides with Morgan Le Fey to learn her secrets.  Good triumphs in the battle causing Le Fey to flee and the two foes must form an uneasy alliance in order to return to their proper time.

Fast forward several years when both Iron Man and Doom investigate a mysterious artifact that appears before them.  They are mystically transported to the year 2093 where Merlin enlists their aid to save the realm once more.  Arthur has been resurrected, but into the body of a child and unable to confront the doomsday weapon threatening the world.  Tony Stark battles his misguided descendant Arnos Stark, while Doom faces his future self - an evil being more machine than man. 

Pros: Beautiful hardcover edition, introduction by David Michelinie, interesting match-up between two armored super-scientists

Cons: Not much extras - just an unused cover and cover to original trade paperback, only four issues, art is just decent

Mike Tells It Straight: These two Stark/Doom confrontations are classic Marvel reading.  Although the characters of Arthur, Merlin, and Morgan Le Fey are only plot devices with little to no action.  The Marvel Premiere Editions are absolutely gorgeous - great paper and covers.  Both stories are a bit corny at times (in the past Le Fey raises an army of the dead a la Army of Darkness - in the future Iron Man buys his parts at Radio Shack), but they deliver on the characterization of both leads.  The battle with Iron Man 2093 and Doom's interaction with his possible future self are worthy.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spider-Man: Breakout Review

Spider-Man: Breakout
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
120 pages
ISBN 9780785118077

Contributors: Tony Bedard, Manuel Garcia, Raul Fernandez, Cory Petit, Chris Sotomayor, and Mike Deodato

Reprints: Spider-Man: Breakout #1-5 (of 5)

Synopsis: Two years ago at the Vault an escape plan was thwarted by Rozalyn Backus, program administrator, setting Crossfire and Vector of the U-Foes at odds.  Fast forward to the present and the massive breakout at the Raft during New Avengers #1 dumps a slew of escaped criminals into New York.  Two groups led by Crossfire and Vector are on a collision course to get revenge on Backus.

Spider-Man helped Captain America during the initial breakout and heads into the city alone to pursue more criminals.  Can he possibly stop the two groups from getting their revenge and how many innocent bystanders will be caught in the crossfire?

Pros: Bedard gives the villains more personality and sets up a complex story

Cons: Art is a little inconsistent, lots of characters and not many explanations, New Avengers #1 is essential to understanding what is fully going on here

Mike Tells It Straight: This book is barely a side story to the first New Avengers arc and doesn't expand on those events in the slightest.  Continuity relevance aside we get a deep look into the motivations of the villains in this story - a welcome trend in recent years.  Spidey barely even registers here as the criminals take center stage and the ending is a bit unsatisfying.  Interesting, but not highly recommended.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

X-Force and Spider-Man: Sabotage Review

X-Force and Spider-Man: Sabotage
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
64 pages
ISBN 071486012054

Contributors: Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Fabian Nicieza, Chris Eliopoulos, Greg Wright, Joe Rosas, and Brian Murray

Reprints: X-Force (1991) #3-4, Spider-Man (1990) #16

Synopsis: Black Tom Cassidy kidnaps and blackmails some billionaire executives into freeing the Juggernaut from another dimension.  Then X-Force and Spider-Man show up to get their asses kicked.  Cable shoots Black Tom, Juggernaut loses his helmet, and Deadpool teleports the two baddies away. 

Pros: Um, yeah...McFarlane's art is somewhat more detailed and slightly less disproportionate

Cons: Where do I start?  Oh yeah, Rob Liefeld's art, Rob Liefeld's writing, Rob Liefeld was involved in this, two of the issues are sideways which actually kinda sucks

Mike Tells It Straight: Oh no he di-unt!  Oh yes, I this terrible affront to the world of comic-dom.  Let's take a quick hot tub time-machine ride back to the early 90s for a minute (which is how long it took to read this story).  Back when art eclipsed stories and a talent-less comic artist could rise to famedom (and land a Levi's commercial) on hype alone.  Enter the bubble world of Rob Liefeld (and Todd McFarlane, although his bubble survived longer before bursting horribly along with the bloated action figure toy market in the late 90s).  The writing is terrible and the plot makes no sense - at no point is it revealed what Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy are doing.  They just take some hostages then get in a fight with X-Force and Spider-Man.  They then escape and everyone leaves.  Nothing of any real value happens here.  Never read this story - promise me!

All Rob Liefeld haters and enthusiasts must read this article to truly understand:

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Barnes and Noble FINAL Update

The FINAL update on the Barnes & Noble price glitch does not have a happy ending.  Only one "live" book remained of my pre-orders - X-Men: Inferno Crossovers hardcover (MSRP $75.00) originally scheduled to ship in June 2010, but pushed back to August. 

B&N charged my card (approx. $12) on file in June ten days prior to the original expected release date - then refunded it when the date was moved to August.  Ten days before the August release date B&N did the same thing, but this time the card on file didn't go through (it was linked to my Paypal account which didn't have any funds in it at the time).  They subsequently emailed to inform me my pre-order was cancelled.  Noooooo! 

The B&N price glitch had a higher markdown ratio compared to the Amazon glitch (69% vs. 60%), but the books received weren't as high on my want-list.  It was still a historic event and I was better prepared (more savvy) after the Amazon incident.  Respect to the Bleeding Cool website for making the B&N glitch news available for this fan to capitalize on.   

Camelot 3000 Review

Camelot 3000
DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
312 pages
ISBN 0930289307

Contributors: Mike Barr, Brian Bolland, Terry Austin, Bruce Patterson, John Costanza, and Tatjana Wood

Reprints: Camelot 3000 #1-12 (of 12)

Synopsis: King Arthur is prophesied to return when England needs him most.  Well, the Earth is being invaded by aliens in the year 3000 and its pretty good time for him to come back.  The governments of Earth are pathetically crippled by bureaucracy and unable to rally against the invaders.  It looks like the planet is doomed until young Tom Prentice awakens King Arthur under Glastonbury Tor.  Soon Arthur retrieves Merlin from Stonehenge and Excalibur from the Lady in the Lake (now the Lady in a Nuclear Coolant Bath).  They unite the reincarnated Knights of the Roundtable.

Things are different with the Knights as their reincarnations take odd turns - Guinevere is American military commander Joan Acton, Lancelot is French industrialist Jules Futrelle, Galahad is a Japanese bushido samurai, Percival is transformed into a monstrous Neo-Man, Kay is a degenerate gambler, Gawain is a South African family man, and Tristan is a woman about to be married.

Arthur returns to save the land, but all is not as it seems.  Given a second chance can Lancelot and Guinevere contain their love for one another?  What link with Arthur does the aliens' strange master have and how can the Knights stand against the power of the Holy Grail wielded by a reincarnated Modred?  Tristan rails against being reincarnated as a woman - will he betray the Knights to regain his manhood and be reunited with Isolde? 

Pros: Quirky take on the King Arthur legend, bold story at the time with Sir Tristan's gender-bending ordeal, girl-girl action with Tristan/Isolde (and Tristan constantly being pursued by a horny Tom Prentice)

Cons: Bolland's art is much better when he self-inks and doesn't come across as very polished here, aliens are pretty pathetic, story is not terribly sophisticated, Lancelot/Guinevere/Arthur love triangle is tired

Mike Tells It Straight:  This series broke new ground back in the 80s with direct market availability, high-quality paper, and became the first maxi-series. It was a finite story, outside of regular DC continuity, and intended for mature readers (no Comics Code Authority seal of approval).  Arthurian legend was heavily researched by Barr for the story - a mix of mythology, science fiction, and politics. 

Being first at anything doesn't guarantee greatness and this book is a prime example of it.  The story comes across a bit corny and cliched, while Bolland's art is ruined by the inkers.  I must give Barr credit for having gay (lesbian) subject matter with the female Tristan and Isolde.  Overall not a high recommendation and has become a bit dated

2008 saw the release of a luscious hardcover edition of Camelot 3000, which is an absolute must-have for fans of this series.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Alan Moore: Wild Worlds Review

Alan Moore: Wild Worlds
DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
320 pages
ISBN 9781401213794

Contributors: Alan Moore, Scott Clark, Sal Regla, Carlos D'Anda, Richard Friend, Olyoptics, Al Rio, Michael Lopez, Adam Hughes, Mike Heisler, Jim Baikie, Alex Sinclair, and Travis Charest

Reprints: Spawn/WildC.A.T.S #1-4 (of 4), Voodoo #1-4 (of 4), Deathblow: By-Blows #1-3 (of 3), Wildstorm Spotlight #1, and WildC.A.T.S #50

Synopsis: Five different tales by Alan Moore including:
  1. Spawn/WildC.A.T.S - Future WildC.A.T.S Zealot and Grifter arrive in the past and attempt to assassinate Spawn.  Zealot is unable to fulfill the mission at the last minute and a new plan is hatched.  Spawn accompanies the current WildC.A.T.S into the future to stop his future self who has killed/stolen the Malebolgia's powers and enslaved the planet.  What fate has befallen our heroes future selves along with the rest of the superhero community?  Can the C.A.T.S and Spawn stop a nightmare from happening?
  2. Voodoo leaves the WildC.A.T.S and moves to New Orleans where she gets a a stripper!  She falls into the otherworldly battle of opposing deities and an evil dead preacher trying to claw his way back to life.  
  3. Deathblow - On a bizarre planet-scape a woman hatches from a bio-egg and finds a set of dog tags with the name Genevieve Cray #08 on them.  She encounters a cyborg named Klaus who tries to kill her and then a boy named John-Joe Cray.  They find several other Crays hatched from bio-eggs with their heads cut off.  Who is behind the murders and where/who are they?  Michael Cray (Deathblow) of Team 7 died at the end of Fire From Heaven and what is her link to him?  The answer will surprise you.
  4. Majestic endures to the end of time where entropy claims the universe.  He lives out the final time with a strange and ever-dwindling group of immortals.  All organic life has perished, the stars have gone cold, and darkness is all.  What awaits at the end of the universe?
  5. The new WildC.A.T.S are gabbing at Halo headquarters when the building attacks them in the form of Maul.  They realize it's Mr. White who has bonded with the building.  Majestic whips up a gizmo to detach White's molecules from the structure and they call it a day.
Pros: Travis Charest's art is superb, Majestic story is really unique and interesting, Deathblow and Voodoo stories were decent

Cons: Art was a mixed bag, Al Rio was still a bad clone of Jeff Campbell (Gen13)

Mike Tells It Straight: Alan Moore is an amazing writer, but these stories run a wide range of quality and interest.  Spawn/WildC.A.T.S was essentially terrible due to the fact the characters had no depth and there was no time to develop them over the course of four issues.  Voodoo was a decent story, but the original artist Michael Lopez dropped out of the project halfway through and his replacement's (Al Rio's) art was radically different (and bad).  Deathblow was an off-beat story with an interesting twist ending (it would be funny to see Genevieve Cray resurface at some point).  Majestic's tale was a real winner due to it's quirkiness (he ends up at the end of time with a vampire queen and a sentient syphilis virus as his only companions).  The new WildC.A.T.S by Charest are always good.  Overall I would rate this non-essential reading and steer you toward Alan Moore's Complete WildC.A.T.S instead (it does include the new WildC.A.T.S story).

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born Hardcover Review

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born
Marvel Comics
240 pages
ISBN 9780785121442

Contributors: Peter David, Robin Furth, Jae Lee, Richard Isanove, foreword by Ralph Macchio, and afterword by Stephen King

Reprints: The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1-7 (of 7)

Synopsis: Roland is the youngest to ever pass the test and become a gunslinger in Gilead on Mid-World, a land that is moving on and the last refuge of civilization.  The lands are in danger of falling to "the Good Man", an evil man named John Farson.  Roland and two companions are sent to Hambry in order to gauge the allegiance of the town.

They discover the town leaders have switched sides and the trio are targets of the Big Coffin Hunters, assassins working for Farson.  Roland falls in love with Susan Delgado, a girl promised as a concubine to the mayor of Hambry whose wife cannot bear child.  The ka-tet must play out their tragic destinies in this first chapter of The Dark Tower prequel. 

Pros: Great story, amazing art by Lee, wonderful colors by Isanove, tons of extras including sketchbook, variant covers, pinups, and more

Cons: Lee's art can be a little stiff at times, a lot of splash pages and unrendered backgrounds (filled with pretty colors)

Mike Tells It Straight: This first The Dark Tower graphic novel presents a retelling of the events in The Gunslinger and Wizard and Glass concerning Roland's coming of age and the fall of his homeland, Gilead.  The art is somber with beautifully rich colors and lending itself perfectly to the story.  A wonderful fantasy masterpiece running to a tragic conclusion.  Highly recommended, thankee-sai.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spider-Man's Tangled Web Vol. 3 Review

Spider-Man's Tangled Web Vol. 3
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
160 pages
ISBN 9780785109518

Contributors: Zeb Wells, Duncan Fegredo, Ron Zimmerman, Sean Phillips, Steve Buccellato, Brian Azzarello, Scott Levy, Guiseppe Camuncoli, Paul Pope, Daniel Way, Jason Pearson, and Leandro Fernandez

Reprints: Spider-Man's Tangled Web #12-17

Synopsis: Five different stories featuring five different creative teams:
  1. I was a Teenage Frog-Man - Leap Frog is out of prison and turning over a new leaf, but his son can't take the embarrassment of having a loser former super-villain for a father.  The kids at high school are constantly making fun of him until he takes matters into his own hands - and becomes the new Frog-Man!
  2. Double Shots - A group villains get together at a super-villain bar and tell stories of their battles with Spidey.  Kraven (the son) and the Vulture tell their stories until Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) trumps then all with his story
  3. The Last Shoot - We get the story of Crusher Hogan before the fateful night he challenged all comers and wound up against a masked teenager who would become Spider-Man
  4. The Collaborator - A teenage girl idolizes Spider-Man and gets yelled at by her dad.  She sneaks out and witnesses a new super-villain battle the cops until Spider-Man shows up.  Then she realizes who the new super-villain is - her dad!
  5. Heartbreaker - Tombstone has a bum ticker and gets sent to prison where he's in danger of having a heart attack at any moment.  The Kangaroo takes a special dislike to him and he may never make it out of prison alive
Pros: Cover to issue #12 of the Frog-Man story was easily the best of the entire series, excellent set of writers, the Kangaroo's Aussie accent is hilarious

Cons: Art can be a bit rough, but works with the gritty crime angle to the stories

Mike Tells It Straight: This third volume of Tangled Web explores the darker side of the street by focusing on Spidey's villains.  It's a refreshing set of gritty stories with surprising appeal and much better than the second (even the first) volume.

TO BUY and Recommendations: