Single Combat 11/23/10 – DOUBLE SIZED SPECTACULAR!

Posted on November 23, 2010. Filed under: Reviews |

By Erik Lewis, Lead Blogger
Warren Taylor, Feature Blogger
Jeff Monk, Feature Blogger

Well, we missed last week mostly due to a rogue dentist appointment, which had your intrepid reviewer incapacitated for most of the day, but I’m no slouch, so this week we’re back and better than ever!  We’ll be taking you through two weeks in print, so sit back, grab a drink, and come along for the ride!  As always, I pick up my comics at Comics and Paperbacks Plus in Palmyra, PA.  You can find them on Facebook here or here, or you can stop in if you find yourself in Central Pennsylvania. You can also follow me on Twitter, just to see what I think of my books as I read them!  Here’s what I got for the week of 11/10/10:

Amazing Spider-Man #648
Ant-Man & Wasp #1
Atomic Robo: The Deadly Art of Science #1
Chaos War: Thor #1
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #3
Thor #617
Avengers Prime #4
New Avengers #6
B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth: New World #4
The Unwritten #19
The Thanos Imperative #6
Hellblazer: City of Demons #3
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #4
I Am An Avenger #3
The Incredible Hulks #616
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1
Invaders Now! #3
Red Robin #17
Iron Man: Rapture #1
Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow #3
Thor: For Asgard #4
Knight and Squire #2
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6

Here’s what I got for the week of 11/17/10

Hulk #27
Hellblazer #273
Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil #1
Batman: the Return #1
X-Factor #211
DC Universe Legacies #7
Highland Laddie #4
The Flash #6
Osborn #1
Green Lantern #59
Thor: First Thunder #3
Zatanna #7
Chaos War: Chaos King #1
Superman #705
Superior #2
Thunderbolts #150
Batman #704
Haunt #11
Batman Incorporated #1
Chaos War: Dead Avengers #1
The Avengers #7

And here’s what we thought:

The Unwritten #19

DC/Vertigo, $2.99

Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Chris Chuckry, Pornsak Pichetshote

Review by Warren Taylor

What makes the Unwritten series such a great book for fellow literophiles is its differing uses of many literary conventions. Two issues ago we saw the Many Lives of Lizzie Hexam as a choose your own adventure story and it’s that kind of knack for storytelling that help makes the series unique.

While a cohesive whole, issue 19 is divided into many smaller segments. They are all part of one continuing story, but they get their own special treatment, because at the top of each scene is a heading to label the event taking place. We don’t really need these labels to tell us what’s going on, but their incorporation gives everything we’re seeing the feeling one might have when reading a play. In these smaller segments we see Tom, Lizzie and Savoy investigate the secret truths behind Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ while the ruthless Pullman seeks the help of a new villain, the puppeteer Rausch.
What’s great about the Unwritten series is that it’s not losing any steam. There’s such a big idea within these pages and there is always a lot going on for both sides of this meta-literary conflict, but here we are 19 issues later and we still only gets bits and pieces of the larger story. While this may be frustrating in other books, it’s one of Unwritten’s biggest strengths. We get just enough to fill in a little back story, answer a few questions and help explain some of what’s going on, but in doing so, it only raises further questions while remaining interesting and without getting bogged down in loose ends. Slower story telling like this may actually put off certain readers from collecting the comic on a monthly basis; opting to read it in trades instead.

Within the pages of issue 19, Tom is starting to rely on magic in the real world. If that weren’t enough, the book is worth picking up for the one page story segment, ‘The Commission’, alone. It’s merely a conversation that Pullman and Rausch are having in a garden, but there are so many references to past misdeeds and inferences to potential new ones, that that single page is a set up for great things to come.

The team of Carey and Gross continue to deliver solid issues in this great series and number 19 is no exception. Their excellent story telling on top of the phenomenal covers by Yuko Shimizu help fill the void that comic book landmarks ‘Sandman’ and ‘Lucifer’ have left behind.

Volstagg’s Beard 4/5




Chaos War: Thor #1

Marvel Comics, $3.99

J.M. Dematteis, Brian Ching, Rick Ketcham, Rob Schwager, Mark Paniccia

Review by Erik Lewis

Ahh, Chaos War, another mini-event that I’ve fallen prey to, which makes Marvel 3 for 3 with this comic reader, hooking me with World War Hulks, Shadowland, and this one.  This particular title is one of the tie-ins, featuring, as the cover would indicate, Thor.  Thor’s in the main title, but this book does a good job of taking a look at Thor’s involvement in a different way.  Dematteis layers a lot of religious imagery early on in the book, which actually had me wondering about the Marvel Universe in general.  I understand that they might not want to get into specifics, but a lot of different belief systems, from Norse to Egyptian to Japanese to Greek/Roman, but never do they touch on the Judeo-christian god, and that bothers me a little bit, especially since the Distinguished Competition definitely takes a stance on that belief system.  Nevertheless, what we have here is a story that starts off as Thor fighting an amalgamation of alien gods, similar to the Chaos King himself, yet separate, that calls itself Glory.  The fight is good, and the aftermath is a little touching, with Donald Blake experiencing a little bit of amnesia and instead of jumping back into the fight as Thor, he helps a grieving widow get past some things.  It’s a nice story, but I have a big problem with it: it seems set apart from the main Chaos War story.  I understand that as a tie-in it has to be a little bit apart, but to me it seems to take the events of Chaos War as a starting point and the basis for the creation of a villain for Thor, but rather than use them to further the main story, it just takes the main story and kind of forgets it’s there.  For example, the Chaos King has taken out Nightmare and put a lot of mortals into a dream state, so why aren’t Donald Blake and Becca Steinhardt a part of that?  What makes them special?  It’s little things like that that may seem like nitpicking, but it’s those same little things that can separate a decent story from a great one.  As for the art, it’s fittingly grand at parts and seems down to earth at other appropriate parts.  It’s nothing too terribly special, but it does what needs to be done, and for that I can find no fault.

Ollie’s Beard 3/5




Red Robin #17

DC Comics, $2.99

Fabian Nicieza, Marcus To, Ray McCarthy, Sean Ryan

Review by Erik Lewis

First off, let me just say that I think this is one of the stronger Bat family books right now, and that includes the Grant Morrison books.  Tim Drake is defined best as a character who knows what it takes to accomplish his goals and isn’t above doing something that might seem morally questionable to outsiders as long as he feels that it’s the right thing to do.  I like that Tim, at the beginning of the book, is working on his list still and doing the necessary detective work to find out what he should do about Lynx.  The conclusion he reaches, as is teased by the cover, is that he should break her out of the police custody that he put her in, and he does so.  This leads to a fantastic rooftop confrontation that calls to mind the early Batman/Catwoman dynamic, which is a comparison that’s made not only implicitly but also explicitly.  After giving her back her gear, which Tim had repaired, she goes on her way, which leads to yet another rooftop confrontation, this one between Tim and Bruce.  It’s nice to see these characters interacting again, and it’s nice to see the relationship that they have is as strong as ever.  This part of the book has one of my favorite images from Red Robin, Tim and Bruce hugging, giving off a father and son vibe.  The issue sees Tim cross a few major things off his list, namely item 4, figure out who to do it with, and item 1, figure out where to live.  It’s a nice touch that Tim purchased the old theater in Crime Alley to use as the base of his operations, seeing as how it’s a location so vital to the Batman mythos.  It shows that he’s as dedicated to Bruce’s mission as Bruce is, I think.  Overall, the book is a good read, even if it is just tying up some loose threads from previous issues.

Ollie’s Beard 3/5




Ant-Man & Wasp #1

Marvel Comics, $3.99

Tim Seeley, Victor Olazaba, Val Staples, Jordan D. White

Review by Erik Lewis

I spent a lot of time earlier this year reading Dan Slott’s The Initiative and Mighty Avengers books from the last few years, mostly because I was able to pick them up for cheap at a convention, but through the process of reading those, and also through Secret Avengers a little bit earlier this year, I’ve really come to love Eric O’Grady as the Iredeemable Ant-Man, so much so, in fact, that I even purchased his trade at full price to get more O’Grady.  In a line of Ant-Man characters, he’s perhaps the least likable, but probably the most human, and that’s one thing that I like.  Seeley nails O’Grady on the first try.  While saying that, though, the book comes across as a little bit unnecessary, but that may just be the first issue trying to find legs and establish a hook.  Seeley does pretty well writing the supporting characters, like Black Fox, even if his turn is a little surprising to me, and he does a great job of making Hank Pym seem caring if detached and a little above every other character.  To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t actually sold on this issue until the very last page, 3 panels from the end.  What finally won me over was seeing O’Grady make his case for why he should come along, that he’s a man trying to rebuild his legacy and make up for his past, a sequence which Seeley captures perfectly, in that in a quiet panel of reflection, Pym sees in O’Grady a little bit of himself.  It’s that moment, that realization that everyone deserves a second chance to rebuild their legacy that makes the issue worth reading and makes me excited to see what comes next in this story.

Volstagg’s Beard 4/5




T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1

DC Comics, $3.99

Nick Spencer, Cafu, Bit, Wil Moss

Review by Erik Lewis

I’d heard some buzz about T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents over the internet and through previews and it sounded fairly intriguing to me, so I thought I would pick it up.  Aside from being the biggest abuser of the acronym system this side of S.H.I.E.L.D., the book is fairly solid.  The premise seems to be one of intrigue and espionage with legacy characters showcasing new designs for established names and power-sets, as well as new people taking on those names and power sets.  While there’s a bit of unnecessary time-jumping in the beginning, the time-jumping serves to lay the basis for the characters, give you a feel for what to expect from the book, and give some much-needed action.  it seems that T.H.U.N.D.E.R. is a global agency that handles global threats with a superhuman response team, which we see get taken apart in the opening pages, laying the groundwork for “The Salesman” to recruit a whole new team to utilize the costumes and powers that the agency can provide.  The setup for the mission is also a little complicated, featuring what I believe is a triple-cross with Spider having one of their agents pose as someone who looks like their agent(but who isn’t their agent) so that he could infiltrate T.H.U.N.D.E.R. to be assigned to a mission to rescue a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. from Spider custody, just so that he could then return the aforementioned agent to Spider custody.  If it sounds needlessly complicated, that’s because it is.  In fact, I’m ready to award this book the Inception Award for most complicated storyline in a comic.  Anyway, complications aside, the book is a decent read, and I’m interested to see where it goes.

Batroc’s Beard 2/5




The Thanos Imperative #6

Marvel Comics, $3.99

Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Miguel Sepulveda, Jay David Ramos, Bill Rosemann

Review by Erik Lewis

Wow, what a way to end a series.  I can understand now why Guardians of the Galaxy was put on hold for this miniseries event, and I can only hope that they are able to bring it back in some fashion afterward.  It’s really hard to write a review about this one without spoiling anything, but I feel like the set up at the end of the last issue was handled brilliantly here, redeeming Thanos’ actions in my eyes.  The threat of the Cancerverse(still a ridiculous name, by the way) is dealt with finally, and Nova and Star Lord are instrumental in seeing that the regular Marvel Universe isn’t taken out, while the other Guardians of the Galaxy, the Kree champions, the Negative Zone people, the Inhumans, the galactic Abstracts and such are instrumental on the outside of the rift.  After all is said and done, those outside of the rift hold a funeral ceremony for those lost during the course of the battle, and it’s all very touching.  It’s safe to say that Galactic Marvel comics are not going to be the same, and while it was a fun read, it’s going to be difficult to come back from some of the changes that Abnett and Lanning have brought about here.  Sepulveda’s art works perfectly for the story, and Ramos’ colors work to bring the right tone to everything.  If you’re even a small fan of Galactic Marvel, whether you like the Silver Surfer, Galactus, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Beta Ray Bill, the Inhumans, or whatever, you owe it to yourself to track down this series.

Volstagg’s Beard 4/5




X-Men #5

Marvel Comics, $3.99

Victor Gischler, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, Marte Gracia

Review by Jeff Monk

Hey! Do you like the X-Men? Do you like vampires? Then you’re going to love the latest volume of X-Men’s first arc, “The Curse of the Mutants!” *end sarcasm* Well…maybe not, actually.  I apologize for the frankly derisive opening to this review, but I honestly believe that perhaps that’s all that was presented as the initial pitch for this story.  Since this is part 5 of 6, I’ll quickly catch anyone up on what has transpired so far: Dracula was dead and his son, Xarus, decided it was a prime time to unit the sects of vampires and stage an assault on the X-Men’s current residence – Utopia.  The vampires released a virus in public that infected many people, including the recently-depowered Jubilee.  She became a vampire and decided to go hang with Xarus. As this is a vampire book in the Marvel U, it was only a matter of time before Blade showed up. Once he did, the Daywalker was not too thrilled with Cyclops’ plan to resurrect Dracula, but Cyclops does what Cyclops wants and so the mutants brought the true King of Vampires back to un-life. The plan was to allow Dracula to take care of Xarus on his own terms, and that indeed appears to be what will happen in the final issue of this arc. At the opening of this issue, Xarus has launched his attack on the mutants’ island home, including his secret weapon against the X-Men, the newly-vampirized Wolverine.  Most scenes are action heavy, with “tough-skin” defenders including Colossus and Emma Frost fighting the vampire horde by land, Archangel ruling the skies, and Namor fighting off a group of underwater vampires.  Paco Medina does a good job framing the action and as the battle is taking place at night, I like the way the inker and colorist used shadow and reflective surfaces to convey the lighting effects.  Victor Gischler has some neat ideas in play here as well, including Husk using her wooden appendages to stake a vampire through the heart, and my favorite – a priest blessing Iceman (hint: ice is frozen water)! Although the dialogue is improved over previous issues, I still cannot stand the way Gischler writes Emma Frost or Wolverine.  And also, unfortunately, his plot is very predictable. At this point I think “nanobots” can serve as an explanation for anything in comics. My final gripe with this book is the price: it costs $3.99 and there are 22 pages of actual comic content and even taking my time it took about 10 minutes to read. In the words of Mr. Horse, “No sir, I don’t like it.” I don’t think this book is terrible by any means; I am enjoying the art, and even though the plot is completely mundane, at this point I’m invested and will continuing buying to see the story to its resolution. I just wish I would get more content for the steep price tag.

Batroc’s Beard 2/5




The Flash #6

DC Comics, $2.99

Geoff Johns, Francis Manapul, Adam Schlagman, Eddie Berganza

Review by Erik Lewis

When we last left The Flash, we had the Top threatening Iris’ life and setting up the Flash to be captured by the Renegades and taken to the 25th century, as well as the Rogues attacking the city which the Flash needed to stop.  It’s a classic “war on many fronts” scenario, and Johns does a decent job of resolving all the threads, seeing the Flash through to the 25th century to face the crimes he’s accused of, then moving on to his confrontation with the Top, and finally to handle the Rogues and the Mirror Master’s giant “Break In Case of Flash” mirror.  Altogether, the stories weave nicely together, with the Top being responsible for exploiting some bigger problems unfolding that seem to be related to both Wonder Woman and the Return of Bruce Wayne stories that are happening in continuity, but not actually being responsible for a break in the Renegades’ data source, so it will be interesting to see more of the Renegades in the future and how they deal with that anomaly.  In this issue, we also get to see some of the seeds that Johns mentioned at NYCC, which I talked about in my panel wrap up, including Flash Point and Hot Pursuit, who looks to be a very cool addition to the DCU Speedster family.  The art in this book continues to be spectacular, with Manapul’s pencils adding a feeling of speed to the overall narrative, which should be essential for a Flash book.  If you’ve missed the first arc, the next issue would be a perfect place to jump on, and I’m sure they’ll have this issue and the 5 before it collected before too long.

Odin’s Beard 5/5




The Avengers #7

Marvel Comics, $3.99

Brian Michael Bendis, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Dean White, Tom Brevoort

Review by Erik Lewis

After all the hype that this issue received at NYCC, I was pretty excited to read it, and the fact that it featured Red Hulk is something that I was actually kind of looking forward to, considering the fact that I like the character when he’s not written by Loeb, so naturally this book was the first thing I pulled out of my bag after coming back from the comic shop.  Turns out the circumstances by which our red friend is joining the team include the Infinity Gems, which I love, and our good friend Parker Robbins, AKA The Hood.  It makes sense that he would be hunting down an alternative means to have power, but I’m a little confused.  I thought he was captured by the New Avengers in Finale, although that may have just been Count Nefaria.  Anyway, in this particular issue, Parker gains control of the Reality and Power gems, which are enough for him to punch Rulk directly into Avengers Tower, where the Avengers are gathering for a party to welcome Protector to the team.  All in all, it’s a decent setup, and it’s nice to see someone actually going after and collecting each individual Infinity Gem, since in the past it’s just shown up on the gauntlet and someone or other has used it to try and become god.  Romita’s art is better than I usually think it is in this issue, which is to say that I actually kind of like it.  I think it goes well, and the color team uses some good color choices and effects, especially for gem-powered actions.  Not a bad issue, all things considered, but not the game-changer that I was promised, I feel.

Ollie’s Beard 3/5




Superman #705

DC Comics, $2.99

J. Michael Straczynski, Eddy Barrows, Wellington Diaz, J.P. Mayer, Matt Idelson

Review by Erik Lewis

The Grounded story arc of Superman continues after a brief break from the main story to focus on Lois Lane, and the story it tells in this does a good job of illustrating why Superman is doing what he’s doing.  I like the idealism that he’s showing, but I can’t help but wonder what he’s missing out on while walking across the country.  We get to see a main story that has Superman being confronted in his dreams by the rainbow kryptonite-empowered lady that we saw 2 or 3 issues ago, with real-world ramifications for their showdown, and Superman is just starting to get an indication of who she is and what she can do, so it’s nice to see that story being told.  There’s a moment when Superman is walking through the park where people come up to him and tell him that he should stop what he’s doing because people could get hurt, which is a real concern that Superman has and is probably what someone in the real world would do in this situation.  We also have a subplot involving a kid who’s a victim of abuse, and Superman coming to his rescue.  The lesson of that story is that it shouldn’t take a superhero to stop the cycle of abuse, just a parent or teacher or any adult, really, with a watchful eye to report and stop the abuse.  While it’s a good message, it comes across a little bit too much like an after school special for my taste.  I think the message could have been left to come to the reader naturally instead of having it spelled out for the reader.  The issue looks pretty nice, as the art duties are handled very well.  I couldn’t ask for a better artist for this.  It’s a so-so book, though.  I’ll be interested to see where it wraps up when this arc is done.

Ollie’s Beard 3/5




Osborn #1

Marvel Comics, $3.99

Kelly Sue DeConnick, Warren Ellis, Emma Rios, Jamie McKelvie, Alejandro Arbona

Review by Erik Lewis

DeConnick takes the aftermath of Siege, as far as Norman Osborn is concerned, and creates an interesting story.  What we have here is the beginning of an explanation for the tattoos that we’ve seen in Big Time and that were offered to coincide with the release of this book.  The book starts with Norman in prison, where he’s learning to be patient.  We then find out that since the siege on Asgard, he’s been held prisoner without being formally charged.  Three people, Senators or Congressmen or something like that, debate on what to do with him before deciding to send him to a private detention facility, which just happens to be populated by 4 other supervillains, including Kingmaker, Xirdal, The Toxic Doxie, and The Decapitator, all of whom are outside of my comic book expertise.  A sunny bunch, I think they’ll make a good running crew for Norman.  I can only imagine what’s in store for the rest of the series, but this set the stage for what will follow.  The book also features a decent-sized backup story written by Warren Ellis, one of my favorite writers, to set up The Toxic Doxie’s back story and powers.  Seems she experimented with “genetic plugins” that allow her to modify herself and others, and tells the story of her rise to her powers and her revenge on those who tried to stop her.  the art for the main feature leaves a little to be desired, meaning specifically that I don’t like the way that artist draws faces, but McKelvie’s artwork on the second story is fantastic and probably my favorite out of all the artists I saw all this week.

Volstagg’s Beard 4/5




Zatanna #7

DC Comics, $2.99

Adam Beechen, Chad Hardin, Wayne Faucher, Joey Cavalieri

Review by Erik Lewis

Zatanna is one of the most consistently good comics that I get on a regular basis.  One of the things that I like about it is that it’s not bound by a format, and as an ongoing can really move forward telling just about any story it wants without having to move towards a definite goal.  Sure, the first two stories were 3-issue arcs, but this issue is a one-shot about Zatanna’s visit to Los Angeles, where she’s helping set up a museum of magic.  One idea that this issue brings up is the idea that all of the magic users in the DC Universe leave an impression on the items and clothing that they use a lot, and that those impressions, given enough strength, can band together and act on their own.  Such is the case when the impressions left on a turban by one of Zatara’s magician friends forces together the will of a bunch of lesser artifacts and starts going on a Spectre-like spree of vengeance throughout town.  Where he makes his mistake, however, is including a pair of sunglasses once owned by Zatara, which allows Zatanna an opening to dispel the magics holding everything in place.  Good work with the story, and the art for Zatanna is always just as solid as the writing, and this issue is no exception to that.  This book, reasonably priced at $2.99, is one of the best things the industry is putting out right now, so if you haven’t already started getting it, I suggest you either track down this issue and the ones before it, or look for the next issue that comes out, as that should be as good a jumping-on point as this one.

Odin’s Beard 5/5




And that’s it for this week.  Make sure to check out the Ragin’ Ravens podcast this week(we’re working to get that added to iTunes too!) and the other weekly features we do!  As always, feel free to drop me a line in the comments if there’s anything I missed.

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