Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekly Roundup - July 25

Welcome to the weekly roundup where I describe each of my pulled books in one paragraph or less!

Last week did not see a Weekly Roundup, and for that I profusely apologize. Again, my only excuse is that I am a terrible, terrible person. However! Today is a new day, and these comics are some new comics, and we must rejoice in that. My rejoicing comes in the form of blurbs.

Aquaman #11: The story builds toward a confrontation between Aquaman and Black Manta while random Others continue to be superfluous. 

Avengers #28: Red Hulk changes his role from tank to assassin and attempts to cut off the Phoenix Five’s head, Cyclops. An interesting look at General Ross apart from his Red Hulk persona.

Batman: The Dark Knight #11: Batman again tries to interrogate a little girl and finds that it is quite different from getting information from thugs.

FF #20: Good, but not as good as previous issues. It strangely lacks the charm that marks the series.

The Flash #11: Barry Allen pulls a Clark Kent and fakes his death to get a better street level view of Central City. Rumblings among the Rogues hint at big things in the future.

Green Lantern #11: Black Hand has a heart-chilling reunion with his family. Dude is creeeeeeepy.

Justice League Dark #11: The dark league continues to battle Felix Faust for the tesseract. Dark hints about dark things to come are darkly dropped by dark villains dark dark dark.

Superman #11: This book is a lead-in to Kryptonian vs. Predator. That thing is totally the predator, right? It looks just like the predator.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #12: The fight we’ve all been waiting for finally arrives: Turtles vs. Shredder. Pick of the week? Pick of the week.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries #6: Casey Jones: A very heartfelt story that solidifies Casey’s character as an upstanding dude.

Stay tuned next week for more blurbs!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Review

Christopher Nolan's finale to his take on the Batman mythos is a giant, unwieldy thing, and it is for that reason amongst many others that I adore it. I've always felt like Nolan has an epic vision for these movies that is more reminiscent of David Lean than Frank Miller and with this chapter that opinion is forever cemented in my mind. This is Nolan doing Lawrence of Arabia with established comic book properties. Just like Lean's historical epic we have a battered, broken hero who rises, then falls and is again reborn as the man he needs to become to defeat a tremendous force.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Weekly Roundup - July 11

Welcome to the weekly roundup where I describe each of my pulled books in one paragraph or less!

Every month, this particular week--the one marked by the month’s second Wednesday--never fails to deliver. The books are all solid, and many fly high above the standard. This month’s second Wednesday books are no exception. Writing blurbs for bad books can be fun, but this edition shows that good book blurbs are rewarding as well.

Batgirl #11: The current plot is great, do not misunderstand, but the build up to the return of Barbara’s brother James is the most exciting part of this issue. The future holds good things.

Batman #11: Concluding the amazing Court of Owls saga, the eleventh issue of New 52 Batman satisfies. Batman and his alleged brother Lincoln March battle high in the Gotham skies. Many plot threads are put to rest while others are left open for future exploration by other writers.

Batman & Robin #11: Damian makes good on his threats to humiliate the other Robins. Meanwhile, a group of individuals under the command of the mysterious Terminus seek revenge on Batman by attacking innocents in his name, making the Bat a symbol of fear for the upstanding citizens of Gotham as well as the criminals. Tomasi is becoming a pretty awesome writer.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #2: Darwin Cook’s brilliantly written and beautifully drawn expose on Watchmen’s Minutemen continues to dazzle with its second issue. A rift develops in the team between those who care about crime fighting and those who care only for the fame and publicity associated with heroism. The cracks begin to show even as the group first comes together under a unified banner.

Demon Knights #11: The heroes are granted their deepest desires by a mysterious light, yet those desires are not without consequences. Zombie King Arthur is the only one who can save the Demon Knights in this issue.

New Avengers #28: Bleak. Hopeless. Destitute. Do not read this book if you are looking for encouragement or inspiration.

The Shade #10: Frazier Iriving continues to add an eerie touch to the Shade series while Robinson once more dazzles with his almost poetic dialog. Also giant glowing Egyptian gods. There are those too.

Spider-Men #3: Peter Parker and Miles Morales take on Mysterio’s Ultimate universe avatar. Is there witty dialog? There is witty dialog.

Superboy #11: Superboy robs a bank because he does not understand anything. He also gets a tattoo. What a rebel.

Swamp Thing #11: The battle between the Green and the Rot continues as Snyder leads the story into the upcoming Rot World crossover. The intricate tapestry woven by Snyder and Lemire finally begins to come together in a direct way.

Be sure to tune in next week for blurbs about Justice League, AvX, Wonder Woman, and more!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tales from the Long Box: Is Marvel Winning the Comic Book Wars?

Every week Seth goes into his back issue bins, picks out a single issue, story arc, or creative run, pours through it and then writes about it. He calls it Tales from the Long Box. Though old and now either retconned out of existence or made irrelevant by the latest event, these books still share something in common... they're bagged, boarded, and a part of comics history.

Is Marvel Winning the Comic Book Wars?

On the most recent episode of our podcast (out now) we were sent an e-mail by faithful listener Michael/@Ctcher asking us if we believed, like him, that Marvel is currently the better company. He mentioned the depth of Marvel's character roster as well as their stable of creative talent. Paul and I got into it a little bit on the show but I felt I had more to say on the subject. So here is me saying more on the subject.

For my part, the importance is always placed on the creators. Sure I love Batman but plenty of bad writers have written awful Batman stories. This was a lesson I learned when I first started reading comics regularly. It all comes down to the creators. When you look at the big guns at Marvel, names like Hickman, Bendis, Fraction, Brubaker, Aaron, Loeb (regardless of how you feel about his work, he's still a big draw for many people), Zeb Wells, Waid... I could go on. At DC you have Johns, Morrison, Lemire, Snyder... I guess you could toss Gail Simone in there but she's only writing one title currently. This isn't to say there aren't more solid writers at either company; there are. But these are the guys who will sell a comic based on name recognition alone.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Paul's Picks - July 11, 2012

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And now for his much-anticipated pick-of-the-week...

Wow. I have to start off by saying, I'm sorry. That is, I'm sorry to all of you faithful readers who have come back to my column on multiple occasions to read my weekly pick, only to find that there has been complete silence on my end over the last month or so. And while Seth and I owe much thanks to Mr. Allen Boone for keeping the blog going with his always-entertaining "Weekly Roundup," there is a Pick-shaped hole in the content we've been providing you on the blog. I'm in the craziest part of summer, and responsibilities from the real world have kept me tied up to the extent that I haven't been able to make time for Paul's Picks...

But never fear, the drought has ended! While we Ancillary Characters have certainly been keeping everyone up to date with our weekly podcast, – which KILLED IT in downloads last month! Thanks everyone – we will hopefully be bringing you a consistent, quality output of comic-related goodies going forward. I'm back with a vengeance, and I'm here to deliver a pick alongside a review for the one book that has made the biggest impression on me so far this summer, if not since the beginning of the year. And that title is...

Uncanny X-Force Review

Recently someone on a forum I visit asked what sort of books a reader interested in Deadpool should read. I started writing a response, and although I only intended to write a paragraph or two, I somehow churned out the Uncanny X-Force review found below. I decided to post it here since 1) I did not get to discuss it in the podcast very much due to having not finished it yet and 2) I would hate to write such material and not use it in a more public venue. I post it unedited, so please excuse the more casual tone. 

I am woefully and inadequately prepared to answer your question, for I likewise am new to Deadpool. Indeed, I am new to Marvel in general. Lately I've been putting effort into remedying the situation, however. I started subscribing to a few monthly Marvel books, and I've been reading many of the trades collecting landmark Marvel events and arcs from the past, much as I did with DC so many years ago. Slowly I am starting to gain a knowledge and appreciation of the massive universe--rather, the universes, the multiverse--created and owned by Marvel.

Unfortunately, I have not read any exclusively Deadpool stories. I've seen him as a minor character a time or two, but I've never read a book in which he is the star. However, I can recommend one series in which he plays a prominent role: The Uncanny X-Force. This is a team book, and Deadpool is a member of that team. He is center stage for much of the series. He often shares that stage with others, but make no mistake, you will get a lot of exposure to Deadpool here.

The premise of The Uncanny X-Force is that the team, the X-Force, does the work that good guys like the X-Men and the Avengers do not want to handle. They get their hands dirty--indeed, they taint their very souls, all in the name of the greater good.

The team consists of Wolverine, Deadpool, Fantomex, Psylock, and Angel. Do not feel obligated to know these characters beforehand. They are all given proper introductions. When I read the series, I was only familiar with Wolverine. The villain of the series varies over time, but the evil Clan Akkaba--a cult dedicated to the resurrection of Apocalypse, a Darkseid-esque Big Bad in the Marvel universe--is involved for much of the story.

The tone of the book is pretty dark. The heroes all have tainted histories, and the villains are of the darkest evil. Further, the plot is not a simple black and white morality tale. The X-Force deals with situations "real" heroes don't want to handle because there isn't a solution apart from vile actions. This book makes you think, "What should they do?" and later, "Did they do the right thing?" It's a refreshing break from the clearly defined morality generally found in super hero stories.

The mood of the story is nicely balanced. It's grim and dark overall, but Deadpool manages to add a generous helping of humor when appropriate. I laughed out loud at several points. At the same time, the plot can be incredibly sad. Few comic books have made me cry. The Uncanny X-Force has the unique stance of making me cry twice.

The Uncanny X-Force is one of the best comic books available. The story, the writing, and the art are near perfect. It is a must read for fans of Marvel, Wolverine, Deadpool, the X-Men, and awesome things in general. I highly recommend it.

The arcs I mentioned above are collected in four trades:
Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Solution
Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 2: Deathlok Nation
Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 3: The Dark Angel Saga Book 1
Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 4: The Dark Angel Saga Book 2

The Dark Angel Saga is nothing short of amazing, and The Apocalypse Solution is fantastic. Deathlok Nation is good, too, and it's necessary to carry you into the Dark Angel Saga. There's a couple of books afterward, too, but I haven't read them yet.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Weekly Roundup - July 4

Welcome to the weekly roundup where I describe each of my pulled books in one paragraph or less!

This edition is actually for the comics that came out last Wednesday. I apologize for the late column. I would make excuses, but it all comes down to me being a terrible, terrible person. But! I will strive to have a Roundup for this week’s comics out this weekend. Or maybe sooner? Who knows! Now on to the blurbs.

Action Comics #11: Superman has an identity crisis and becomes a fireman. Meanwhile, the backup tells a quaint little tale from the life and times of an average Metropolis visitor.

Animal Man #11: It’s Buddy Baker vs. Buddy Baker in the conclusion to the long-running “Extinction is Forever” arc. Animal Man gains new powers and a new body from the Red and battles the body he had previously lost to the Rot. 

Avengers vs X-Men Round 7: The Phoenix Five raise the stakes and prove that they are serious about the “No More Avengers” mantra. This series finally appears to be having some serious repercussions in the Marvel universe.

Before Watchmen Ozymandias #1: Before Watchmen retells the story of Adrian Veidt’s transformation into Ozymandia with great detail. Wordy and unexciting, this book is saved from mediocrity by fantastic writing and art.

Detective Comics #11: Meh.

Dial H #3: Revelations! After a couple of issues with nice character development, the third book focuses on expanding the larger plot. It is confusing and poorly paced.

Earth-2 #3: The third issue is still focusing on the origin stories of the Earth-2 Flash and Green Lantern. Three issues is too long. The reveal at the end makes this book worthwhile, however.

Justice League International #11: This book remains in my pull list only because it is easier to wait for it to cancel than to take it off manually. It’s almost finished! Yay!

And thus concludes another exciting edition of the Weekly Roundup. Stay tuned this week for more bodacious blurbs! Earlier ancillary time, same ancillary blog!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Weekly Roundup - June 27

Welcome to the weekly roundup where I describe each of my pulled books in one paragraph or less!

This week I found my folder overflowing with new books to read. DC let loose such heavy hitters as Justice League and Batman Incorporated, while Marvel presented the latest book in their Spider-Men event. Meanwhile, IDW stole the show with Splinter’s performance in the latest TMNT. 

Aquaman #10: Arthur Curry’s sinister past is brought to light as Mera bullies a scrawny scientist into spilling some sick gossip. Black Manta’s reason for hating Aquaman is finally revealed.

Batman Incorporated #2: Grant Morrison sings The Ballad of Talia al Ghul, recounting her rise from an ambitious young lady to the most powerful assassin in the world. This issue serves as a nice recap of the events leading up to the current run of Batman Incorporated. Bat Cow is notably--and sadly--absent.

Batman: The Dark Knight #10: With Greg Hurwitz newly at the helm, this book is the first good issue of the series. Awesome moments abound as Batman investigates the abduction of young children. Action, suspense, poetry--there’s a lot to love here.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1: J. Michael Straczynski gives us a look at Watchmen’s whiniest character. The issue covers a lot of ground, but the pacing is superb.

The Flash #10: The Weather Wizard is introduced to the New 52. Good book. Not much else to say.

Justice League #10: The Villain’s Journey continues. David Graves shows his power and raises the stakes against the League. Meanwhile, Black Adam makes a frighteningly awesome appearance in the SHAZAM! backup. Also, tall Sivana looks just plain weird.

Justice League Dark #10: Constantine is a jerk, but we all love him anyway.

Spider-Men #2: A lot of talk in this book, but that’s okay. I can listen to Bendis’ Peter Parker banter all day.

Superman #10: Superman saves the day with the power of caring! This book is dumb.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #11: The words “dope,” “fly,” and “sick nasty” do not even begin to describe this book. Splinter kicks Foot tail while the turtles take on some local street toughs. Several pages of this issue would look amazing as a poster. Every issue brings something great to the table, and this week’s offering is no different. Like the Papa Johns guy, it delivers.

Stay tuned next week for my thoughts on Action, Detective, AvX, and more!