Monday, October 3, 2011

Reviews: Avengers/ X-Men- Maximum Security; Sebastian Bach- Kicking & Screaming

AVENGERS/ X-MEN: MAXIMUM SECURITY(Marvel, 2010; Softcover)
Collects Avengers No. 35, Bishop: The Last X-Man No. 15, Captain America No. 36, Gambit No. 23, Iron Man No. 35, Maximum Security Nos. 1-3, Maximum Security: Dangerous Planet, Thor No. 30, Uncanny X-Men No. 387, X-Men No. 107, X-Men Unlimited No. 29 and selections from Iron Man No. 34 (cover dates October, 2000- January, 2001).
Writers: Kurt Busiek and Chris Claremont, etc.
Artists: Jerry Ordway, Salvador Larroca, John Romita, Jr, Paul Ryan, etc.
The first thing that I thought when I was reading this book was “Man, this is good, but it sure does feel awfully familiar.” I went and did a quick check in my Comic Book Collection file, and lo and behold, I had read five of the thirteen issues in this book in the Avengers Assemble Vol. 4 hardcover a few years ago. So while there is some double dipping going on here, I am glad to get the complete crossover in one handy package.
Marvel circa 2000 was not yet plagued by decompression, so the issues took more than five minutes each to read. I was shocked by how dense of a read many of these issues were. I do miss the second party narrative in modern comic books, as it provides lots of characterization and adds nuances that enhance the story beyond pictures and dialogue. Many modern comic books miss this point and that is why you have talking head picture flip books these days.
Not everything here is gold, though. Take the Bishop and Gambit issues, for example. Both of these characters are just horrible, with Bishop being so kewl and X-treme!!! that it makes me sick. If you shoot him, he becomes more powerful. It's impossible to hurt him, because he is so powerful. It's also impossible for me to like him because he is so powerful. As for Gambit, well, he just totally sucks. The whole Cajun accent is annoying to read on paper. The fact that his origin makes little to no sense. The fact that he “kinetically charges” things but prefers to use playing cards to hurl at enemies is asinine. He hurls them way farther than the finest baseball pitcher could. They are playing cards. If you threw them, they might make it a few feet. Why wouldn't he employ, say, a baseball or something that one can actually throw far? Oh wait I know, it's because he has red eyes. Why? Because red eyes are kewl. These '90s X-characters are abysmal.
Writers who avoid decompression are not always good, either. In the X-Men Unlimited issue collected here, Writer Joe Pruett's dialogue and narrative are laughably pitiful, almost as much as Brett Booth, Sal Regla and Sandu Florea's “artwork”. Other hall of shame inductees in this book are “artists” Alina Martinez and Rob Hunter (Iron Man #35) and Yanick Paquette (Gambit).
The core series is gold, with Writer Kurt Busiek and Artist Jerry Ordway doing a fantastic job. John Romita, Jr. does an amazing-as-usual job on The Avengers.
The only other gripe that I have is the redesigned USAgent costume. It looks like a cheap Judge Dredd knockoff, right down to the eagle shield. This look was fortunately short-lived and didn't detract from the reading experience too much.
The OCD zone- While the book doesn't appear to be thick, it in truth does has a hefty page count due to the thinner paper. It's not too thin, though, and it holds the colors well. The nice thing about collections that are comprised of material from the digital age is that there is no linework loss, no restoration required. Everything is ready to go, plug and play, and everything is as perfect as it was on it's original publication.

Sebastian Bach/ Kicking & Screaming (Frontiers, 2011)
The first two Skid Row albums are guilty pleasures of mine. They were not so guilty pleasures when I was 15 going on 16, but at age 38 here in 2011, well, the guilt kind of starts to creep in. I should have put this sort of stuff out to pasture many moons ago, but I indulge my repressed inner-adolescent on my commute to and fro by cranking stuff like this in my car on occasion. You know what? This does what it says on the tin. Nice, crunchy, lovably dated and oblivious to modern trends of any kind, this is borderline decadent for old-schoolers like myself. I like pretty much every song on the album. Bach's voice sounds great, except for on the title track, where he sounds like he's gargling glass. In other words, he sounds like Axl Rose. Bach offers no apologies for playing Heavy Metal, and I offer no apologies for my indulgence either. Fun stuff for those who don't always have to take themselves so seriously.

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