Friday, July 31, 2009

Originally posted on my myspace blog on 3/8 & 3/18/2009

Something that has been annoying me lately is the use of ... as dialogue in a word balloon as a reply. What's next, BFF? LOL? I am sick and tired of net-speak infiltrating our language and our culture, and have decided to rebel! From here on out, I will try to write like Charles Dickens and talk like an actor in a William Shakespeare play. Or not.

X-MEN: DIVIDED WE STAND (Marvel, 2008)

Collects X-Men: Divided We Stand Nos. 1, 2 and X-Men: Messiah Complex- Mutant Files (cover dates June-July, 2008)

This was a complete waste of time and money. A bunch of character sketches that do nothing but fill out pages, coupled with Handbook pages equals a must-miss trade paperback event primer. I am going to be doing some serious pruning on the X-titles, as this is getting ridiculous.


Collects X-Men: Legacy Nos. 208-212 (cover dates April- July, 2008)

This title is one that will be spared the ax, though, as it has solid storytelling by Mike Carey. *SPOILERS AHEAD* I am enjoying that Bishop is considered a renegade, as he sucks and should be killed by a Super Skrull or something. I am disliking the whole 'insert Sinister here' part of Professor X's origin. Why is it that they are interspersing him into everyone's backstory? (see Colossus: Bloodline mini-series for more suckiness) The return of Gambit is most unwelcome, as I can't stand him, either! Aside from those sticking points, I enjoyed this book.

WATCHMEN (DC, Fifteenth Printing, 2005)

Collects Watchmen Nos. 1-12 (cover dates September, 1986- October, 1987)

I had to re-read this again before the movie came out.

JACK KIRBY'S THE DEMON (DC, 2008; Hardcover)

Collects The Demon Nos. 1-16 (cover sates September, 1972- January, 1974)

This series is from the Distinguished Competition, but the only thing in this series that ties it into the main DC Universe is that it takes place in Gotham City. The best character in this series besides Etrigan the Demon is Witchboy. This series is a real treat for Kirby fans, seeing him do countless monsters and ramping up action sequences like there’ s no tomorrow. Some of Kirby's human faces are hammy looking, but his monsters, machinery, and most importantly, his action sequences are second to none for the era. This is a very fast-paced read, and while the stories seem sometimes rushed with no regard to ongoing plotlines, this has a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants vibe that is exhilarating. 

I really enjoy these early '70s Horror titles, as they fall somewhere between a pseudo-Super Hero comic and pseudo-Occult/Horror. It seems to me that people were very interested in Horror at this time. Maybe it was because of the Charles Manson cult murders, or the tension in the world at the time, but there were tons of movies (Rosemary's Baby) and music (Black Sabbath) where the emphasis was on the macabre. Now this book as a book is a conflicting thing, so here are Pros and Cons.

Pros: The book is light, due to the thin paper. The paper has a no gloss look to it. The colors are close to the original comic books due to this paper. The book is Made in the USA.

Cons: This is a $50 MSRP book, and as such, should have higher quality coated paper stock. The book clocks in at 383 pages, so it would have a much lower page count at that price point, but that is a trade-off that I would have been willing to make. I prefer my hardcovers to be as high end as possible, with the finest paper and binding. The binding in this book is glued, which is total, utter garbage. Hardcovers should all have sewn binding, especially books that cater to the niche that I am in: High end collected edition fans. No casual fan is going to plunk down the kind of coin that a book like this attracts at this price point, so DC should have just slapped a $75 price tag on it and used better paper. This paper feels like it will yellow and turn brittle with age, but I don't have a DeLorean and thus cannot travel to the future to verify this claim. This paper feels chinsy, almost like toilet paper when compared to the paper used in Marvel Masterworks, EC Archives, Dark Horse Archives, and even DC Archives. I'll admit that I have become spoiled by the quality of said books, but those books all have 220-300 pages in the ballpark of this book's MSRP ($50-60) and thus are the yardstick by which I measure quality book production. In closing, this is a fantastic read chock full of Kirby goodness that is marred by the paper and binding. If such things don't bother you and you are not a collected edition snob like myself, then pick this up.


Collects Uncanny X-Men Nos. 495-499 (cover dates April- August, 2008)

Ed Brubaker’s winning streak on this title continues, aided and abetted by Michael Choi’s gorgeous artwork (495-498). This has a very old-school vibe, with the team being split into two and the separate stories intertwined. I really dislike the notion of Emma Frost still being on the team. They have had plenty of opportunities to have her be evil again*, but to no avail.

(* To the civilians, Emma Frost was the White Queen of the Hellfire Club back in the late ‘70s, and was evil until Grant Morrison’s run. He also brought in such craptastic ideas as secondary mutations.) Aside from that pet peeve of mine, Brubaker’s run has been solid gold.


Collects X-Factor (Vol. 3) Nos. 28-32 and X-Factor: The Quick and the Dead (cover dates April- August, 2008)

Solid writing by Peter David and excellent artwork by Pablo Raimondi (Issues 29, 30 and 32) makes this a must-read title. It's nice to actually see the team fight a villain! I won't say who; it'll spoil the reveal. The end of Issue 32 sees the team relocate to Detroit. There's even a drawing of the old train depot. One nice thing about being superheroes in Detroit: if they do damage to buildings, no one would notice. This series has been on something of a simmer, and I would like to see things kicked up a notch or two. It's possible that Peter David is setting up one Helluva payoff, so I guess we'll have to wait and see.

X-FORCE VOL. 1: ANGELS & DEMONS (Marvel, 2008; Hardcover)

Collects X-Force (Vol. 3) Nos. 1-6 (cover dates April- October, 2008)

This is one mo-fo over the top series aimed at the video game crowd. Clayton Crain's beautiful artwork and digital painting make this an eye candy feast. Writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost dredge up many ghosts of X-Men past from the rogue's gallery that would have been off left dead. The black-ops angle doesn't really do much for me, but as long as Clayton Crain hangs around so will I.


Collects Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer Nos. 1-6 (cover dates March, 2007- January, 2008)

I snagged this badboy oversized, slipcased, built-in bookmark, limited to one printing, high-end hardcover which had been mocking me on the high shelf at Big Ben’s for the last 6 months back in December. This is almost more of an art book than a comic book, with it's luxurious sewn binding and super high quality paper. It's a tall book, being the exact same height as the EC Library sets of yore. This was a decent read with great artwork. I like the whole D&D/LOTR/medieval thing, and monsters also don't suck. The Frazetta paintings in the back of the book are simply amazing. Frazetta is the best fantasy painter bar none.


Collects X-Men: Legacy Nos. 213-216, X-Men: Odd Men Out, and X-Men: The Unlikely Saga of Xavier, Magneto, and Stan (cover dates August-November, 2008)

Mike Carey is a solid enough writer, and Scot Eaton is a solid enough artist, so why is this series on such shaky ground? Mild spoilers ahead... Gambit and Sebastian Shaw are fighting side by side...ughh. I like Sebastian Shaw, a/k/a The Black King of the Hellfire Club, but to see him fight with a hero makes me sick, even if it suits his own purposes. Sinister is featured throughout this arc, battling with Xavier in Xavier's mind. Lots of backflashes and ret-cons* here. Rogue appears in her garish '90s costume why?? Mystique is briefly shown, although I am not sure if she is evil again or not. During the Claremont/ Byrne heyday she was the leader of the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and was awesome. I am really leaning towards dropping this title. I dropped the X-Men during the Silvestri era in '89/90, and didn't come back until 2003. Thank to trade paperbacks, I have caught up on most of what had transpired during my sabbatical, and have come to the conclusion that there are more bad X-Men comics than there are good ones. Morrison's run was OK, Astonishing X-Men was brilliant, the Claremont/ Davis Uncanny run a few years ago was good, Brubaker's run has been great, and X-treme X-Men started out strong but fell short in the long run. Other than that, it's buyer beware. the continuity has become so convoluted that a re-boot is in order. Odd Men Out is an inventory story from the '90s by Roger Stern and the late, great Dave Cockrum that is largely forgettable. Some things sit on the shelf for a reason. The Unlikely Saga of Xavier, Magneto, and Stan completely sucked.

*Ret-con stands for retroactive continuity, where they change an occurrence that was once cosndiered canon and then make it appear to have never happened, or even worse, insert things into canon that more often than not shouldn't be inserted.

X-MEN: ORIGINAL SIN (Marvel, 2009; Hardcover)

Collects Wolverine: Origins Nos. 28-30, X-Men: Legacy Nos. 217, 218 and X-Men: Original Sin (cover dates November, 2008- January, 2009)

Oh my. This is quite a train wreck in terms of continuity, at least if this is supposed to be the main Marvel Universe. Writers Daniel Way and Mike Carey, along with artists Mike Deodato and Scot Eaton, all turn in solid writing and solid art. The problem is in the abundant ret-cons. Why are they trying to turn Professor X into such an asshole? I liked it better when he was uber-noble. They've taken a few questionable things that he did in the past, inserted tons of things that never (until now) happened, and voila...instant bastard! Why can't they leave this stuff to the Ultimate line or a What If...? story? These guys are all talented and could deliver great stuff if they weren't so intent on destroying the X-Men, and that is the biggest sin of all.

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