Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Ultra: Seven Days

Review Ultra Seven Days Joshua Luna Jonathan Luna Brothers Image Cover trade paperback tpb comic book miniseriesWriter: Joshua Luna
Artist: Jonathan Luna
Collects: Ultra #1-8 (2004-05)
Published: Image, 2005; $17.95

As I read the first few pages of Ultra: Seven Days, my initial reaction was this: “Sex and the City, meet superheroes. Superheroes, meet Sex and the City.”

It wasn’t exactly a fair comparison – I’ve never seen an entire episode of Sex and the City, so I don’t know for sure whether this book is really the superhero equivalent. However, its premise, at least at first, seemed very similar to my impression of what Sex and the City is about, in that both the show and this comic book focus on a trio of women who spend their time looking for love and spouting raunchy one-liners at each other. The main difference in Ultra, it seemed, is that those women happen to be superheroes.

The book begins by introducing us to Pearl Penalosa, the superheroine also known as Ultra. Out for a night on the town with her two best friends, known in costume as Aphrodite and Cowgirl, Pearl stops to see a fortune-teller who predicts that she will find true love within the next seven days. Skeptical at first, Pearl eventually starts to believe her fortune may come true – perhaps largely out of desperation, since she’s had little luck with men since breaking up with her superhero boyfriend several years earlier.

You can probably see the parallels to Sex and the City already. As the story progresses, though, it moves away from those initial similarities fairly significantly. In fact, it probably has more in common with America’s real-life obsession with Hollywood than anything else. You see, in the world of Ultra, superheroes are celebrities. They appear on magazine covers and billboards, they advertise lingerie and cigarettes, and their romantic lives are front-page news on tabloids across the country. They even have a highly competitive, annual superhero award show which, much like the Oscars and the Golden Globes in real life, draws just as much attention for what its participants are wearing as for their actual achievements.

The parallels to real-world celebrity culture are fairly obvious, but they’re also quite funny in their utter ridiculousness. More importantly, they don’t steal the spotlight from Pearl’s emotional conflicts – which, by contrast, the book treats very seriously. To say much more about the plot would be to spoil much of the pleasure that comes from actually reading the book, but rest assured, it’s a very satisfying and unpredictable journey from beginning to end.

Ultra is the first comic book written and drawn by the brothers Jonathan and Joshua Luna, who have since gone on to much wider popularity for their series Girls, The Sword, and a handful of other titles. Based on the fact that Ultra was their first published work, I was expecting it to be pretty rough around the edges. As it turns out, it’s one of the best surprises I’ve had reading comics in the last year. The art is simple, but sleek, polished, and pleasing to the eye. The dialogue is tight and witty, and I love the way that the Luna brothers resist what could very easily have been a run-of-the-mill, conventional ending.

In the end, my initial reaction towards this book was wrong, and I’m glad. I honestly hope some of you who read this review will take the same chance on Ultra that I did – I think you may be just as pleasantly surprised.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It’s Not Quite a Review, But...

Marvel Trade Paperback Timeline TPB Punisher Intruder Mike Baron Bill Reinhold Linda Lessmann Marvel Cover hardcover hc original graphic novel ogn comic bookI know I said I would be posting two reviews a week for January, but alas, I just don’t think that second review is going to happen this week. But just to make it up to you, I’ve posted yet another big update to the Marvel TPB Timeline! This one isn’t as noticeable as previous ones at first glance, since I haven’t added any new years to the timeline. Instead, I’ve added TONS of books that were missing for 1984-2004 – and while I didn’t count how many there were, I think it’s safe to say that there are over two hundred new books in the timeline. Heck, a couple dozen books were added featuring the Punisher alone!

Some other titles that have been added include Squadron Supreme, Star Comics, The ‘Nam, Women of Marvel, the New Universe books, JLA/Avengers, various inter-company crossovers, more anthology and “Best of” trades and hardcovers, a handful of upcoming trades, and well over a hundred original graphic novels. I’ve added new links and information about out-of-print versions of many trades and OGNs, and I’ve also updated and corrected the annotations for too many books to even begin to list. I owe a big debt to Ian at Trade Reading Order for his help in pointing out several resources that contained details on many of the books I was missing.

The next step is to go through the years 1984-2004 one last time to add a few other things I missed (I should add some information on the original Age of Apocalypse and Onslaught trades, for example). Once that’s through, the updates should come a bit more fast and furious. The next update will finish up the 1980s by adding the first few years of the decade, as well as add some post-“Avengers Disassembled” material, probably up to the “House of M” crossover.

As always, if you have thoughts or suggestions (and especially if you spot any errors!), feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Iron Man/Captain America

Review Iron Man Captain America Jim Cheung Stan Lee Mark Waid Denny O'Neil David Michelinie Mark Gruenwald Roy Thomas Dann Thomas James Robinson Kurt Busiek Roger Stern Don Heck Ron Garney Luke McDonnell Mark Bright Bob Layton Kieron Dwyer Jim Valentino Colin MacNeil Patrick Zircher Tales of Suspense Sentinel of Liberty Civil War Iron Man versus Captain America Marvel Cover trade paperback tpb comic bookWriters: Stan Lee, Mark Waid, Denny O’Neil, David Michelinie, Mark Gruenwald, Roy Thomas, Dann Thomas, James Robinson, Kurt Busiek, and Roger Stern
Artists: Don Heck, Ron Garney, Luke McDonnell, Mark Bright, Bob Layton, Kieron Dwyer, Jim Valentino, Colin MacNeil, and Patrick Zircher
Collects: Tales of Suspense #58, Iron Man #172 & 228, Captain America #341 & Annual #9, Tales of Suspense #1, Iron Man and Captain America Annual 1998, Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #5-6
Published: Marvel, 2010; $24.99

With such a boring title, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that Iron Man/Captain America is probably a pretty run-of-the-mill book. As it turns out, though, it’s actually pretty unique as far as “best of” collections go, in that it maintains a specific theme across the entire book beyond simply “stories that happen to feature the characters in the title.” While not every story is exactly perfect, this does make for a nice, unified reading experience overall.

We start off with an early Iron Man tale by Stan Lee and Don Heck, in which a case of mistaken identity (involving Kraven the Hunter and the Chameleon, apparently on loan from the Spider-Man comics) leads Iron Man and Captain America to duke it out in a construction site. This issue is classic Marvel at its best, with solid action scenes by Heck and some nice character drama involving Iron Man supporting characters Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan. While it’s been reprinted plenty of times elsewhere, its inclusion here is more than welcome.

Next, we jump forward nearly fifty years (in terms of publication date, that is) to a two-part story from Mark Waid’s Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty series. It actually takes place shortly after Captain America is discovered by the Avengers, though, which explains why it’s positioned here in the book. In essence, this is meant to be the characters’ first non-Avengers team-up and the real start of their friendship. It begins with Iron Man assuming that Captain America has lost his edge after being trapped in ice for so long; however, Cap is the one to save the day when alien robots take control of Tony’s mind and send him on a rampage through New York City.

The next two issues come from a period of Marvel history that I’m not quite as familiar with, especially when it comes to the Avengers’ corner of the universe. The first story, reprinted from a Denny O’Neil-written issue from 1983, actually features Jim Rhodes as Iron Man – at this point, Tony’s alcoholism had apparently so consumed him that his friends deemed him too much of a risk to allow him to continue suiting up. Even Captain America is in the dark as to who’s under the helmet, which makes their interactions all the more interesting as the two heroes scour some of NYC’s seedier locales for a drunken Tony.

The second issue, written in 1988 by David Michelinie (with art by Mark Bright and Bob Layton), sees Tony back on his feet as Iron Man, but facing even greater problems than his own inner demons. Terrorists have somehow gotten hold of his Iron Man technology, and in an effort to prevent even more of it from falling into the wrong hands, he resolves to take out the Guardsmen, a group that guards a super-villain prison using Stark technology. Personally, I don’t understand why he didn’t just try talking to the people who run the prison and come up with some alternative security measures, rather than waging all-out war on the security guards and accidentally freeing a handful of super-villains in the process.

Captain America doesn’t see the logic in Tony’s plan either, and the two friends end up coming to literal blows over it. A short follow-up written by Mark Gruenwald, originally published as a back-up story in Captain America #341 sees Cap trying to arrest Iron Man for his actions and coming up empty-handed when Tony flees his own apartment. Between this and the other ‘80s stories, I get the impression that Tony Stark spent most of that decade being a grade-A jerk.

Another story, taken from Captain America Annual #9 and written by Roy and Dann Thomas, is the first part of “The Terminus Factor,” a plotline that ran across several different characters’ Annual issues in 1990. The other four parts aren’t collected here, but if the first part is any indication, that’s probably a good thing. The story is about Cap dealing with a town that turns into a horde of zombies after eating bad trout at a fish-fry – among them, Iron Man. Yes, that’s really the plot: zombies and a fish-fry. There’s even a bear that turns into a zombie after eating one of the fish. The less said about that, the better, I think…

The next story, by far the longest in the book in terms of page count (though it’s a pretty quick read), comes from one of those standalone original graphic novels that Marvel seemed overly fond of putting out in the 1990s. Written by James Robinson (who at the time was just beginning his legendary run on Starman), it’s a fairly boring story about Captain America and Iron Man teaming up to fight an old enemy from Cap’s WWII days who plans to assassinate a Japanese politician. Since this is the ‘90s, there’s also a generic cyborg assassin who fails to come off as even slightly menacing.

I actually found this story to be a pretty annoying read since Robinson writes almost exclusively in one-word or two-word sentences. I get that he wanted the dialogue to be “punchy” or “powerful” or whatever, but after a while I just felt like I was reading a comic about cavemen in robot suits. The artwork is standard fare for these OGNs, in that it’s much more stylized and elaborate than the story warrants. Colin MacNeil is a good artist, to be sure, but his painterly style in this comic just seems self-indulgent when paired with Robinson’s mediocre script. Still, I guess it’s nice to see the OGN reprinted here, since it’s not worthy of its own trade and I can’t think of anywhere much better to put it.

The final issue collected in Iron Man/Captain America is the characters’ joint Annual issue from 1998, which is plotted by Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern and scripted by Mark Waid. Whereas the 1990 Captain America Annual was substandard (and zombie-filled) fare, this one hits the mark dead-on. It’s also quite important in terms of Marvel continuity, as it’s the issue where Iron Man essentially wipes the knowledge of his secret identity from every mind on the planet.

Cap is predictably angry when the truth comes out, leading him into a major moral dilemma when he’s faced with a similar situation during the characters’ fight with MODOK later in the issue. This story marked the first time in Iron Man/Captain America that I could actually see some logic to Tony’s argument, although in the end I still had to side with Cap. The art in this issue is by Patrick Zircher, who brings the same clean (if not entirely remarkable) style he did to Iron Man: Deadly Solutions.

I think Iron Man/Captain America was published in large part to be a vehicle for this last story – since Marvel seems intent on collecting the two characters’ solo series from 1998 onwards, this was an important issue that had to be placed somewhere, and putting it here prevents Marvel from having to collect it twice. While I don’t think too much knowledge of either solo series is required to enjoy this particular issue, I would recommend reading it if you’re following the other late-‘90s collected editions for either character, since the 1998 Annual is unlikely to be reprinted elsewhere.

What I like about this trade is that it’s about more than just the characters’ partnership through the years – in fact, it’s more concerned with the fact that Tony Stark is constantly putting that relationship to the test with his actions. With such a specific theme, it’s hard to see why Marvel didn’t slap some kind of subtitle on the book to separate it from the pack a bit (even if it was a completely lame one…a little individuality never hurts). I also can’t help but wonder why the editors of the book didn’t choose issues that portray Iron Man in a better light, but I’m not complaining; the stories they did choose, with only a few exceptions, tell a surprisingly cohesive story, one worth a look by fans of either character.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: Simpsons Comics Extravaganza

Review Simpsons Comics Extravaganza Matt Groening Steve Vance Cindy Vance Bill Morrison Dan Castellaneta Deb Lacusta Tim Bavington Sondra Roy Phil Ortiz Homer Simpson Bart Simpson Lisa Simpson Marge Simpson Bongo Comics Cover trade paperback tpb comic bookWriters: Steve Vance, Cindy Vance, Bill Morrison, Dan Castellaneta, and Deb Lacusta
Artists: Steve Vance, Bill Morrison, Tim Bavington, and Sondra Roy
Collects: Simpsons Comics #1-4 (1993-94)
Published: Bongo Comics, 1994; $11.95

I am a huge Simpsons fan. Heck, I’ve probably seen more episodes of The Simpsons than I’ve read Wolverine comics – and as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’ve read more Wolverine comics than any other person alive. As much as I like the show, though, I never really gave the comics a chance before reading this trade. I always assumed that the comics were made by people with little or no relationship with the people who make the show, and that the stories in the comics were of the more childish, slapstick variety that the show itself has devolved into since the late 1990s. And since the trades don’t have volume numbers, I also assumed that they were poorly organized and/or didn’t reprint the comics in any kind of order – not that I thought there would be an ongoing story or anything like that, but I’m a stickler for reading things in publication order whenever possible.

Well, you know what they say about assuming. In fact, I was wrong about Simpsons Comics on pretty much all counts. The comics are published, as it turns out, by Bongo Comics, a company formed by Steve Vance, Bill Morrison, and show creator Matt Groening for the specific purpose of making comics based on The Simpsons. (They’ve since expanded to doing Futurama comics as well.) Furthermore, the comics have actually been collected very systematically in trade form, even if there aren’t specific volume numbers.

Review Simpsons Comics Extravaganza Matt Groening Steve Vance Cindy Vance Phil Ortiz Tim Bavington Bill Morrison Bart Simpson Milhouse Van Houten Homer Simpson Lenny Carl Bongo Comics Cover trade paperback tpb comic bookVance (along with his wife Cindy, who serves as co-plotter) writes the world of Springfield far better than I would ever have expected from any format other than the actual show. He really nails each character’s voice, so much so that I could actually hear the show’s cast in my head as I was reading. Nearly every significant supporting character makes an appearance too, from Principal Skinner to Sideshow Bob. Some of the stories in this trade, which collects the first four issues of Simpsons Comics, are actually just as entertaining as some of the better episodes of the show. Much like the TV writers, Vance makes full use of his knowledge of popular culture by crafting plots that make intricate reference to Cool Hand Luke, The Maltese Falcon, and other great films, novels, and comics.

This makes for a very self-aware comic book, one filled with in-jokes pertaining to the medium. This comes through most clearly in the short back-up stories at the end of each issue, which serve as intelligent parodies of other comic book genres. There’s a 1950s-style romance story, for example, in which Marge believes Homer is cheating on her with her sister Selma. There’s also a spot-on EC horror send-up starring Homer as “the Collector,” a self-centered man who hoards – what else? – comic books!

Review Simpsons Comics Extravaganza Matt Groening Dan Castellaneta Deb Lacusta Bill Morrison Steve Vance Cindy Vance Tim Bavington Krusty the Clown Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. SHIELD Jim Steranko Homage Bongo Comics Cover trade paperback tpb comic bookThe best of these parodies is “Krusty, Agent of K.L.O.W.N.”, a parody of Jim Steranko’s popular 1960s Nick Fury series, which I found absolutely hilarious. Interestingly enough, it’s written by Dan Castellaneta (who voices Homer, Grampa, Krusty, and other characters on the show) and his wife Deb Lacusta. Rather than try to explain what makes the story so great, I’ll just let you take a look for yourself at the scan to the left, which should bring a smile to anyone with a fondness for comic book history. (If the reference doesn't ring a bell, take a look here!)

There’s not a lot to say about the art in Simpsons Comics Extravaganza (though I’ll try anyway), since it looks exactly as you would expect it to look – that is, each panel essentially looks like a freeze-frame from the show. Vance does the layouts for almost every story, with the finished art being completed by either Bill Morrison or Tim Bavington, or both, depending on the story. The only exception is the “The Collector,” which features art by Sondra Roy. The art looks pretty consistent throughout the book, though, no matter who’s credited for the story in question.

I’m really happy that I gave the Simpsons comic book a chance, and if you’re a fan of the show, I would highly recommend checking it out. It’s surprisingly intelligent, and while it may not reach the heights of some of the TV series’ best episodes, it’s still very funny and well worth the affordable cover price.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: The Chronicles of Conan, Vol. 2: Rogues in the House and Other Stories

Review The Chronicles of Conan Volume Two Rogues in the House and Other Stories Roy Thomas Barry Windsor-Smith Robert E. Howard Conan the Barbarian Marvel Dark Horse Cover trade paperback tpb comic bookWriter: Roy Thomas
Artist: Barry Windsor-Smith
Collects: Conan the Barbarian #9-13 & 16 (Marvel, 1971-72)
Published: Dark Horse, 2003; $15.95

At the end of my review of the first Chronicles of Conan trade, I worried that, going forward, the story-telling patterns I was beginning to notice could potentially grow stale within a few issues. Luckily, my fears weren’t at all justified in that respect. This second trade in Dark Horse’s effort to collect the original Marvel series from beginning to end is everything I could ask for story-wise, although it has some crippling issues in terms of presentation (more on that later).

In Rogues in the House and Other Stories, writer Roy Thomas continues to use Robert E. Howard’s original Conan prose stories as the primary basis for the comics. However, he also adds a great deal of his own flavor by filling in the chronological gaps with stories of his own, as well as with adaptations of Howard stories which originally didn’t feature Conan at all. As with the first volume, Thomas’s stories fit so nicely into the Conan mythos that it’s hard to tell which stories are his and which are Howard’s (at least for those of us without a huge reservoir of Conan knowledge).

Each issue could theoretically be read on its own without much confusion, but Thomas’s attention to chronology is beginning to make for a very interesting overarching plot. That’s what I liked most about this book – seeing the story progress and the character of Conan develop from issue to issue. A significant portion of this trade takes place in the same city and features an impressive number of recurring characters, with one adventure leading directly into the next.

The highlight of the book is the double-sized story “Rogues in the House,” in which Conan must find his way out of a monster-filled, booby-trapped palace along with the city’s corrupt ruler and the leader of the ruler’s rebel opposition. It’s really interesting to see Conan forced to interact with characters so unlike himself (without fighting them, that is), and for a few minutes the story almost made me wish I could see how Conan would fare on a superhero team like the Avengers or the Justice League, as ridiculous as that may sound.

There isn’t a bad story in the book, to be honest, but among my other favorites are “The Garden of Fear” and “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter.” In the former, Conan must rescue his female companion Jenna (who joined up with Conan at the end of the first trade) from a winged, man-like creature in a tower surrounded by deadly, man-eating flowers – and he ultimately does so, with the help of a pack of woolly mammoths. In the latter (which is based on one of the few original Conan stories I’ve actually read), Conan is the last man standing at the end of a vicious battle, and when he sees a beautiful young woman, he begins to chase her through the frozen wasteland – but is she real, or just a figment of Conan’s battle-wearied imagination?

As you might have picked up, there’s a surprising amount of variety to the stories in this trade. Unfortunately, all of that is rendered almost moot by the patently awful job that Dark Horse has done in “restoring” these comics. Honestly, in all the time that I’ve spent reading comics over the years, this is one of the very worst treatments of older material I have ever seen in a collected edition. First of all, the original colors have been thrown completely out the window – instead, digital colorists have applied a repulsive “airbrush” style to Barry Windsor-Smith’s artwork, complete with pedestrian-looking color gradients that could only ever be created with a computer program like Photoshop. The result is a book that looks nothing like any comic would actually have looked in the 1970s – nor, for that matter, how any sane person with the gift of sight would color a book today.

Furthermore, Dark Horse’s colorists didn’t even follow the original color guidelines. Clothing, hair color, backgrounds, etc. – almost everything has had its color changed for this collection, without any explanation. They’ve even changed the thin black lines that Windsor-Smith occasionally drew on his characters to indicate streaming blood to a bright, garish red hue – something that never would have been acceptable in a Code-approved comic book at the time of Conan’s original publication. Nonsense like that not only betrays the original integrity of these comics, but it’s somewhat insulting to the reader. I appreciate the trouble, Dark Horse, but I really don’t need to see bright-red blood spraying everywhere like a Mortal Kombat game in order to understand that this comic has violence in it.

Worst of all, the colorists have inexplicably decided to actually erase portions of Windsor-Smith’s linework. It’s most obvious in the “Rogues in the House” issue, but it occurs throughout the rest of the volume as well. It absolutely baffles me to see such a heinous job done with the presentation side of this book, especially when the colorists who worked on the first trade were perfectly adequate and respectful of the source material. I hope future volumes in this series will return to that first batch of colorists, because if I find out that any more of them feature the work of this coloring team, this will be the last book in the series that I read.

There’s no denying that the stories in this volume are excellent, but this is one case where the abhorrent art reproduction simply can’t be ignored. As much as it pains me to tell anyone to pass up these great stories, the truth of the matter is that I think anyone truly interested should wait until Dark Horse gives this collection a properly re-colored second printing.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review: Deadpool Classic, Vol. 3

Review Deadpool Classic Volume 3 Joe Kelly Walter McDaniel Marvel Cover trade paperback tpb comic bookWriters: Joe Kelly, Stan Lee
Artists: Ed McGuinness, Shannon Denton, Pete Woods, Walter McDaniel, and John Romita Sr.
Collects: Deadpool #9-17 (1997-98) and Amazing Spider-Man #47 (1967)
Published: Marvel, 2009; $29.99

It’s taken three volumes now, but I think my patience with the Deadpool Classic series is finally starting to wear a little thin. The main reason for my frustration is that while writer Joe Kelly clearly has an idea of where he wants to take the story, he doesn’t seem to know how to properly get there. This book takes us up through the 17th issue of Deadpool’s ongoing series – a point by which I think it’s reasonable to have expected the main plot to have progressed a lot more than it actually has. Unfortunately, the nine issues collected here do little aside from meander as Kelly seemingly goes out of his way to portray Deadpool as a genuinely unlikeable human being.

Picking up on one of the main plot threads from the previous volume, Deadpool Classic, Vol. 3 concerns itself mostly with the main character’s struggle to determine whether he’s ultimately a hero or a villain. While the folks at intergalactic law firm Landau, Luckman & Lake maintain that he’s some sort of “chosen one” meant to restore balance to the universe and whatnot, Deadpool’s actions consistently speak to the contrary. This was the case in Vol. 2 as well, but at least in that book I got the sense that Deadpool legitimately wanted to become one of the “good guys.” Here, he talks a lot about wanting to change for Siryn, the woman he loves (who only appears in one issue, sadly – I think she’s a great character), but doesn’t seem to be motivated by much else – least of all, his conscience. In fact, he spends so much time being self-centered and actively resisting LL&L’s attempts to help him be a hero that I had a hard time believing he really wants to change at all.

Overall, I think I get what Kelly is trying to do. He’s trying to bring Deadpool to such a low point that the only way for him to go is up – thus justifying his eventual shift from anti-hero to hero. (Of course, at the rate the story is going right now, I can’t imagine that shift taking place for at least another two volumes, and even then I don’t expect for it to last long.) The thing is, Deadpool was already brought to a sufficient low by his fight with Typhoid Mary at the end of Vol. 2 – the fact that he acts like a jerk for most of this volume doesn’t get him any lower, it just forces us to wallow along with Deadpool in a weird state of limbo created by the character’s alternating feelings of denial and self-pity.

In other words, Kelly isn’t actually developing the character or his situation at all here; instead, he brings Deadpool to his lowest point and then spends nine issues rubbing the reader’s face in it. The worst part comes when Deadpool locks up Blind Al and Weasel, his only friends, in a torture chamber for absolutely no reason. (Even more troubling is that when Deadpool finally offers an apology four issues later, Kelly apparently means for the reader to accept it.) Kelly still (annoyingly) doesn’t reveal the exact nature of Deadpool’s relationship with Al, an old woman he’s been keeping prisoner since the series’ first issue. I think we’re supposed to be amused at the bizarre Stockholm syndrome thing going on between the two, but at this point it’s really just creeping me out.

And maybe it’s just that I’ve read too much Deadpool lately, but the character’s sense of humor (at least, the way Joe Kelly writes it) has become just plain annoying to me. It’s extremely repetitive, for one thing – I counted at least three jokes involving the word “duodenum” in this volume alone, and just as many involving people having their butts “kicked so hard they can taste their breakfast.” I imagine I would have had a much easier time enjoying the dialogue if not for seeing the same verbal tics repeated over and over.

The one highlight of this book is a double-sized issue in which Deadpool travels back in time and uses an image inducer to impersonate Peter Parker throughout the events of the classic Amazing Spider-Man #47 (which is reprinted in its entirety here as well). Artist Pete Woods does a good job of imitating John Romita’s style for the scenes taking place in the past, and of inserting Deadpool into a number of actual Romita-drawn panels taken from the original comic. Plus, the framing story features the Great Lakes Avengers (who call themselves the Lightning Rods here, after the Thunderbolts), a group that never fails to amuse me.

Aside from Woods, the art in this book is handled by a variety of artists. Ed McGuinness only draws the first issue, but he’s followed by Shannon Denton, whose style is very similar. The final four issues are drawn by Walter McDaniel, whose style is more realistic and less manga-influenced than either McGuinness’s or Denton’s; I had never come across his work before, but it’s very similar to what Bryan Hitch was up to in the late ’90s. All of the artists featured are a decent fit for the book, even if none of them are mind-blowingly great.

Despite the time-travel issue and the artwork, though, this book failed to impress me on the whole. The series has slipped into a formula that, while not intrinsically bad, has grown pretty tiresome as a result of its being dragged out for so long. I’m not writing the series off entirely, since I think it could reclaim some of its former glory if it gets out of its current rut and Deadpool finally embraces his “destiny” to become a hero. Still, it’s got a pretty steep mountain to climb to make me forget this disappointing volume.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Monday, January 3, 2011

Streams of Consciousness – New Year's Edition!

Muppet Show Comic Book Roger Langridge Boom! StudiosHappy New Year! Having reached the end of our first calendar year here at With Great Power, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone who’s been reading, commenting, and following the blog – especially over the last few months, which I know have been a little touch-and-go at times. My New Year’s resolution is to get things back on track with a regular reviewing schedule, starting this week. And to make up for the infrequency of my posting over the last two months, I’ll be posting two reviews each week in January! On top of that, you can expect a major update to the Marvel Trade Paperback Timeline in the near future as well.

The beginning of 2011 also provides a nice chance to look back at my own reading and blogging habits over the last year. It would be difficult for me to do a “year’s best” list in the traditional sense because, taking a look at my posts since starting the blog in March, I really didn’t read many comics published in 2010. So instead, I’ll just ramble on for a bit – and if the lack of a “top ten” or any other kind of formal structure causes you to tune out, I’ll understand!

It’s been over two full years now since I left the world of single issues behind, and since then (especially in this last year), my focus has been on reading the kinds of comics that I never felt I had the time for as a weekly comic buyer – that is, a lot more historical material and independent titles. This has been reflected to some extent on the blog in my reviews of books like The Doom Patrol Archives, Tarzan: The Jesse Marsh Years, The Muppet Show, and Monkey vs. Robot, but given the choice, I usually stuck to reviews of superhero titles.

This year I’m hoping to be a little more balanced, although I’ll still probably review more superhero comics simply because I’d like to one day have reviews posted for the vast majority of the books on the Marvel timeline. I know it’s a tall order, but I feel like someone should do it, and since no one else has attempted anything like it for the Marvel Universe yet, I figure I might as well give it a shot.

Aside from working on the timeline, there are a few other blog-related things I’m looking forward to in 2011. At some point (probably during the summer), I’d like to try a creator-themed month focusing on the work of one particular comic book writer or artist. I’m also planning to post at least a couple reviews of comics-related non-fiction – I read a lot of it, so it would only make sense to start writing about it from time to time. I had fun doing something different with my review of the movie Creepshow back in October, so I’m looking forward to expanding my horizons even more this year.

Deadpool HYDRA Pop Marvel comic bookWell, I think that’s about it for now. As always, feel free to leave me a comment – hearing your thoughts is what reminds me that people actually care about this blog and that I’m not just tossing words into the void! See you tomorrow for the first of this week’s reviews, featuring a character who has already made his presence known several times on this blog... Can you guess who? :)