Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Comic Cavalcade: Siege #2 and More

Hey kids, welcome back to the latest episode of New Comic Cavalcade. You may recall that last month, we reviewed Siege #1, Warlord #10 and the Blackest Night tie-in Weird Western tales #71. So how far have things progressed in the course of a month? We're about to find out, because it's time for reviews (with spoilers) of Siege #2, Warlord #11 and the Blackest night tie-in Starman #81. Yes, I have been buying other comics, but I also value continuity. So, let's go to the comics, why don't we?

Siege #2
By Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Copiel

Last month, I complained about the lack of footnotes or any other kind of context, which proved confusing considering the comics that were supposed to set up Siege were in many cases yet to be released. Now, a month later, I can safely say that... well, some of them have come out. I'm still not sure how Thor or the Asgardians ended up back in Oklahoma, but I guess we'll just chalk it up to magic (the magic of editorial screwups) and move on.

So how does the actual issue measure up? Well, it's by Bendis. That's not necessarily meant as a dig, but this issue even more than last seems very Bendis, meaning that like many of his bigger stories there's a lot of surface flash and dazzle that may distract readers from the shaky foundations. Basically, half of the story focuses on Sentry going into full Miracle Kid mode and tearing Ares in half with his bare hands in a giant two page spread that consists almost entirely of a huge splash of blood and flying internal organs. Subtlety is apparently not high on Copiel's to-do list and as a long time fan I could only imagine the kind of infarct this sequence would have caused Jim Shooter.

As usual, though, that's the big problem with Bendis: the comic is cool enough assuming you've never actually read any Marvel comics before. If you have, you might start asking pesky questions like, how can Taskmaster easily take on Asgardian warriors? That sort of thing, of course, is increasingly irrelvent in light of the fact that Bendis places massive plot importance on characters such as Sentry, Daken and Phobos -- in other words, on newer characters whose sudden primacy in the MU is sure to drain much of the drama of the story for older readers, who are probably stuck somewhere between "who are these people?" and "why do I care about any of them?" I will give Bendis some props for turning Sentry into pretty much a grade-A supervillain, which I hope sticks after the end of Siege as it's basically the only justification for his pimping over the last several years that would seem reasonable to me. But as a whole, while there's plenty of pretty action to look at, this comic is still way to much flash (and gore) and not enough substance.

My Grades: It's entertaining enough. But so are cat themed youtube clips, and those aren't actually good either. C.

Starman #81
by James Robinson and Fernando Dagnino

And here, after more than a decade, is a new issue of Starman. Before we get into the issue itself, let me say again that I think this is maybe the greatest event tie-in idea ever, resurrecting entire titles as zombies to go along with the zombie storyline. It's genius. Of course, as we saw last month with Weird Western Tales, it's kind of hard to write a story that's actually relevant in one of these one shots, but heading into Starman #81 I was curious to see if Robinson could pull it off, especially considering the widespread negative reviews he's been receiving lately for stuff like Cry for Justice.

I'm happy to report that no negative review is needed for Starman #81. With this story, Robinson manages to stay true to himself and the series (to the point where, as promised, Jack Knight still remains retired in the happily ever after and doesn't appear in this issue) while still providing both a solid tie-in to Blackest Night as well as a coda to Starman that's actually relevant to the characters. In this case (since Jack remains off limits) those characters as The Shade and his erstwhile love interest Hope O'Dare, who are confronted by the reanimated corpse of Jack's brother Will, who was killed in Starman #0 way back when the series launched.

The fact that this attack take splace right as Shade and Hope are in the middle of having one of those awkward relationship-defining conversations that couples sometimes have means that unlike Weird Western, this comic is elevated beyond a simple zombie shoot out with in-jokes for fans of the defunct property. Actual advancement and development takes place, meaning that instead of being an empty (if cool) exercise, this comic can safely takes it's place right after Starman #80 as a worthy addendum to the series as a whole. Not a half bad trick to pull off.

My Grades: The art by Dagnino is solid, even though it doesn't quite match up to Tony Harris, and the story likewise fits right in. The only real downside is that you will wish Starman was still being published. A-.

Warlord #11
by Mike Grell

And, of course, the Warlord doomsday clock hits eleven this month. The good news is that Grell is back doing the art again, and any time you get a dose of Grell art it's a good day. Even better, the storyline, which revolves around yet another rebirth for arch-enemy Deimos (I believe this is his 6th go-round, though I would have to double check to be sure), looks like it may also provide a resolution to the long-running subplot about Warlord's son Tinder, who Warlord mistakenly believes he killed long ago (way back in the original Warlord #21 from 1979). Personally, I would say that 31 years is more than enough time to work out a plotline, so I for one will be really happy if this finally gets resolved (for those not familiar with the comic, the person Warlord killed was actually a clone of his son, while the real son has been hanging around as a supporting character in an ongoing subplot ever since, both parties unaware of their familiar connection).

So that's good. And this issue is okay, though it still suffers a bit from data dump syndrome, as we get several more pages devoted to going over Warlord's backstory, this time in the form of explaining the whole Deimos-Tinder-clone thingy. But there's some nice action drawn by Grell and the prospect of a resolution has me excited.

Unfortunately, I have a strange feeling that this also is a swan song for the title. There's nothing in the book specifically stating this, but the fact that Grell is back on art and finally tackling the Tinder plot suggests that DC may be giving him a chance to wrap up his dangling threads before they pull the plug. I hope I'm wrong, as I would like to see this comic finally take on some new material instead of just recapping the last 40 years of publications for new readers, but this could be the end.

My Grades:
Looks great, but even with all the action in this issue it still plods along. Travis Morgan is actually starting to seem as old as his 84 years. B-.