Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Rootin' Tootin' Good Time

Fear Agent #27
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Tony Moore
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Fear Agent is a fast paced, randomly trippy, often funny, usually gross, but always entertaining sci-fi adventure. Our hero is Texan Heath Huston. You normally find him flying around outer space in his small rocket with a computerized female companion (who's usually the more level-headed one) and guzzling whatever booze he can get his hands on.

He's out in space because a war came to Earth. The Tetaldians and Dressites are fighting over the fundamental differences in their beliefs and cultures. They wipeout most of the Earth's population causing the remaining humans to scatter. Those left behind are then devoured by the biological weapon of the Dressites - Feeders (big nasty creatures who are all mouth).

The early stories were published by Image Comics before being moved to Dark Horse. In the early stories, we learn that Heath's wife Charlotte is dead along with the rest of his family, but we aren't told much of anything else other than that he's been out in space for 10 years. We do know that he calls himself the "last of the Fear Agents" and his reputation allows for him to take jobs as a bounty hunter ridding other worlds of dangerous beasts.

What we don't know is how it all got started. What is a Fear Agent? How far into the future does this take place? Is Heath the only human left?

As the arcs continue, we get answers to those questions. One surprising answer is that this takes place in the relative present. Heath doesn't have a laser gun and spaceship because we've advanced that far, he has those things because humans stole the technology from the invaders. We also find out that Heath has committed an act of genocide that has him more or less exiled from the remaining human population.

I strongly recommend this title to anyone who is a fan of good, old-fashioned, honest science fiction. Rick Remender can write to this genre very well. The aliens are original, but without much backstory into any one alien in particular, aren't written hastily or half assed. The stories are deep even if Heath is a purposely shallow man with a deep, rich backstory. He's constantly throwing in elements of horror and even a little bit of that Western style action.

Issue #27 is an end to an arc with an ending that is unsettling. Has all that Heath done been a lie? Is he being played by one of the sides that invaded Earth? All will be revealed in the next arc that Remender has labeled the "last story of the last Fear Agent". It appears that after 4 years, Heath Huston may be rocketing into the sunset. That makes me really sad because this was one book (when it actually came out and not late) that never disappointed me and always made me want more.

Quick, go to and see if you can find some of the trades for sale! I promise you will not be disappointed.

Thank you for reading. I will be back this upcoming weekend with a retro review of the classic mini-series The Escapists. Next week, I'll be off to the 2009 Chicago ComicCon, but I will be writing some reviews from my hotel room!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It Isn't Easy Being Green

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #3
Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artists: Chris Samnee and Mike Mayhew
Publisher: DC Comics

Rating: 3 Stars

This companion series to the mega-event The Blackest Night was designed to give you some nice little vignettes about the other lantern groups that have popped up over the past couple years. Each of the first two issues had three stories, each focusing on one of the new colors of emotion.

Despite only giving you a short story about each of the main characters, the stories were interesting and fun. For those of us who have been curious about the "Indigo Tribe", we finally got to see them do something, even if we couldn't understand what they were saying. We also got to see a new Red Lantern who had a really cool, and sad backstory. And, perhaps my favorite story, a giant being that posed as a god going from planet to planet commanding the treasures of each civilization in exchange for their lives. This being finally meets a world whose most valuable possessions were their children. Deciding he had no need for the little ones, he leaves them behind and moves on. Unfortunately, he runs into Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern, and his story comes to an end after being absorbed by a power greater than his own.

Issue #3 brings us only two new stories: a story about fan-favorite Kilowog's early days and the rise of another popular character from Green Lantern Corps, Arisia Rrab. Kilowog's story delves into why he's such a tough-ass with the new recruits he trains. Turns out he was ridden hard by his drill sargent, Lantern "Ermy" (you guessed it, a guy who acts and looks like R. Lee Ermy from Full Metal Jacket). But behind all that tough exterior, Ermy does this because he wants his recruits to be able to live long enough to save innocents from death and destruction. Nothing else will do. From that, we learn why Kilowog is so tough on everyone else. If he isn't hard on them, the recruits couldn't hope to survive a day as a Green Lantern.

The story of Arisia is more about living every day to become a Lantern. Her father is a great Lantern and his father was as well. It's all about a family commitment to helping those who can't help themselves. It's very similar to why real people follow their fathers, mothers, grandparents into the military, firefighting or the police force. It's not about the risk, it's about the commitment and duty to protecting the innocent.

Both stories are nice, but not really something that couldn't be told in either GL series. The third part of this issue is a "director commentary" version of the Free Comic Book Day Blackest Night #0. For those who couldn't get their hands on the issue back in May, it's nice to now be able to see it, but for the people who did get the issue, we're paying for something we've already got. Okay, there are comments describing the thought or origin behind certain scenes, but not much more than anything seen before.

So, in conclusion, this was a bit disappointing after the first two issues. I kinda like how the cover has a Star Sapphire, Indigo and the main baddie in the Red Lantern Corps, and none of them appear in this issue - they are just the third part of the mural-esque cover art of the whole series.

Green Lantern fans will still like this book. I liked this book, but I was a little disappointed that the mini-series kinda came to a whimpering end after first two awesome issues.

Thank you for reading. I'll have my review of Fear Agent tomorrow and over the weekend, I'll put up my first "retro" review!

Someone Avenge My Boredom!

The New Avengers #55
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Rating: 2 Stars

This is killing me. As big of an Avengers fan as I am, this is literally killing me.

Where do I begin?

A few years ago, Brian Michael Bendis came on board to write The Avengers and launched a huge story that brought about the end of that series. A few months later, he brought together a new team and they were thrust into the middle of a conspiracy of pretty cool proportions. Things seemed to be pretty secure in the world of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes".

Then came the Civil War. Still, as the team chose sides, things were in good shape. Even with the issues that dealt with the backstory to Secret Invasion, where the team was for the most part absent, we got some good stuff. But since the end of the Skrull attack in Secret Invasion, this book has gone from "eh" to "borrrring".

Now, I do understand the way Bendis writes. He likes some "street-level realism". He spends page after page after page devoted to dialog and witting banter between characters - the big page waster this month was Peter Parker moaning and groaning over revealing his identity to his teammates. Here's some more of that "wit":

Ronin and Spider-Woman: "Blah blah blah, we're buddies!"
Captain America: "I want to talk about this thing we did at the start of this comic where we actually did something action-oriented..."
Ronin and Spider-Woman: "Blah blah blah, aren't we so witty?!?"
Captain America: "Seriously, douches... We actually did something action-oriented on page 1 through about 4. Can we talk about this shit?"
Luke Cage: "I got a call from some budies of ours that if you didn't read the last arc, you'd have no effin' clue what the hell I'm talkin' about, yo. These buds are grateful, blah blah, blah. I'm an angry black man, but showing some real heart about these other dudes."
Ms. Marvel: "Yay! We kinda won that one! I'm a ditzy blonde with big tits." (That is almost the real dialog, so WTF kind of writing is that line?!?!?!? How can you defend your female character writing, Bendis? Really, I want to hear how you're going to defend it.)
Captain America: "I give up."

Me too, Bucky. Me too.

Remember when the Avengers, the freaking AVENGERS, used to fight dudes like Kang the Conqueror, Ultron, and The Masters of Evil? Yeah me too. I miss those days. Now, we got this asshat named "The Hood". He's some skinny "badass" who's possessed by a demon. I think he can literally eat people. But what does he carry around? Two guns all street-gang style. He's got this entire gang of all sorts of villains. Some of them are the Wrecking Crew. Yeah, those guys that by themselves can hang with the real Avengers.

So, the Hood (an unclever character with an unclever name) runs all the crime in some way in some place. He seems to have these dudes under his thumb, but I bet... I effin' BET... If everyone gangs up on him, it wouldn't be much of a fight. Hell, any two members of the Wrecking Crew could really stick it to him pretty good with their ASGARDIAN ENHANCED WEAPONS. When did these guys get so weak? Why does anyone give two shits about the Hood?

Please Brian... PLEASE hand this book over to Ed Brubaker or Mark Millar. Either do that or figure out how to stop making the Avengers as boring as the X-Men. The whole reason why I never got into the X-Men was because there were like 42 X-Men related titles on the shelves in any given month. Let's count how many Avengers titles there are:

The New Avengers
The Mighty Avengers
The Avengers: Initiative
The Young Avengers: Dark Reign
The Dark Avengers
The Avengers Go to the Supermarket
The Avengers Comedy Hour
The All Singing, All Dancing Avengers
The Avengers Sit Around and Speak Bad Dialog

Okay, okay. Almost half of those aren't real, but for real, yo... Marvel, you're totally watering down your flagship title. Let's get some real bad guys for the Avengers to fight. Let's get some actual intelligent dialog for the women. Let's stop making Luke Cage a stereotypical angry black man.


Oh yeah, the last few pages did have the team fighting some guy that they don't even know his name (a real z-lister) and they screw up and all end up knocked out on the street. Awesome.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Trial of the (19th) Century

Sherlock Holmes #3
Writers: Leah Moore and John Reppion
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

In the first two issues of Sherlock Holmes (also known as The Trial of Sherlock Holmes), the world's greatest detective has been caught with a smoking gun in hand while standing over the lifeless corpse of a friend, arrested and escaped from jail. Issue #3 finds Holmes on the run and undercover. Meanwhile, Dr. Watson has to do something that he's not entirely comfortable with - solving a murder without Holmes.

For any passing fan of Sherlock Holmes this is a well-crafted mystery that is very much in the spirit and charm of the original world of Holmes. For me, I've always been attracted to stories that take place in Victorian England (for example, I am still trying to get over the loss of Ruse). But I think the main attraction to this mini series is the character of Sherlock Holmes himself. He's a man who's always on top of the mystery, and at least 500 steps ahead of the police and the criminal.

In this story, Holmes is clueless. All signs point to him being a murderer. Even he cannot account for why he was holding a gun next to a bloodied gunshot victim. So far, Holmes is just trying to escape incarceration. He believes he's innocent, but has no proof. That's where Watson has to step up his game. We're getting an idea of how well connected the dynamic duo is in the city and within the police force. We even have a scene in which Watson meets the Queen.

There's also a sense of dread. Many wonder what will happen if another murder happens and Holmes isn't there to help solve the crime. What if he is guilty? Could he be masquerading as a decent and intelligent man while actually being a homicidal maniac? How many of his crimes did he cover up by sending others to jail?

This mini-series is a great example of how good comics can be. It doesn't have to be all capes and spandex. You can create stories with superheroes that aren't flying around or running at super-speed. Obviously, it doesn't hurt to have the great Alan Moore's daughter's name printed on the inside cover. The first three issues have been fantastic from front to back and a great literary escape. I highly recommend either tracking down the first three issues and finish out the mini, or waiting for the trade to hit the shelves and give this one a shot. Anyone in the mood for a good old fashioned mystery will not be disappointed.

Thanks for reading. I'll be back with reviews from these book that hit the stands on July 29th: The New Avengers #55, Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #3, and Fear Agent #27!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Happy 600 Spidey!

The Amazing Spider-Man #600
Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Peter Parker has joined the 600 Club. You have to give it to Marvel, they know how to celebrate! With over 100 pages of original stories, this issue certainly has a justified $5 price tag. More on that a little later.

The main story centers on an ailing Doctor Octopus. After years of having his ass handed to him, his body has decided to quit healing itself. So, he's essentially left to be a brilliant brain inside a dead body. So, he does what anyone with four shiny, new appendages stuck to his body, he decides to make his last year on Earth worth something and starts to make some big plans.

But some things, like comic characters, die hard. Even though he wants to do something great for the citizens of New York City, he can't seem to ignore Spider-Man (who, of course, is trying to spoil the plans). Even upon learning that his former love, dear old Aunt May, is going to be married to Jonah Jameson, Sr. (J.J.J.'s father) in a matter of days, he decides to mess that all up. Why? Because he's nuts.

As I mentioned, this couldn't come at a worse time for ol' Petey. He's got important marriage stuff to do and he can't let May down. So, he gets some help from his pal, Johnny Storm. They save the day, showing no emotion toward Doc Ock's condition (which I find kinda weird), and Peter gets to his Aunt's wedding. He even brings some arm candy - his new roommate, Michele. When the bouquet is tossed, it's caught by comics' top tier last page leading lady - Mary Jane Watson.

From there, we get some nice little 4 or 5 page quickie stories that delve into more about who Spider-Man is and what his legacy is. In particular, the little story about Peter growing up and his relationship with Uncle Ben was really nice. The final story sets up the next year, or so, of Spider-Man.

I definitely appreciate there being some actual original stuff in a bulky Marvel comic, but I'm not sure I really need much of it. I guess what I'm saying is that I kinda would rather pay $4 for a comic than $5 any day. How often have we seen a big ol' thick book from Marvel only for it to be two-thirds reprint or completely useless stuff I can find on Wikipedia?

These days, I don't know what to think of the Spider-Man book. It reached it's high over the past decade while J. Michael Straczynski was writing the book. We got some new characters that were interesting and not just punching bag for Spidey and some great stories involving those characters. I'm not in the boat with the majority of comics people who thought his final arc, "One More Day", was crappy or anger-inducing. Spidey needed some new stuff going on in his life - especially after unmasking himself in the Civil War event.

Moving forward from that, "Brand New Day" was kinda weird. It felt like the series was thrown back to the 1970s and the stories were hit and miss. I like the writer, Dan Slott, but I'm not sure I liked the editorial decision to suddenly plop this storyline in the middle of the current state of the Marvel U. Normally, I can say for certain that I do or don't like something, but with Marvel, I'm riding a lot more fence than I'd like to. Maybe with MJ coming back to Pete's life, the book can get over the hump of what happened at the end of "One More Day".

Thanks for reading. I'll be back in a few days with Leah Moore and John Reppion's Sherlock Holmes #3.

DC's Dead Rise to Mess With Some Lanterns

Blackest Night #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics

Rating: 5 Stars

Two years ago, we were given a brief glimpse of "The War of Light" and the Oan prophecy of "The Blackest Night" at the end of the extremely engrossing and exciting The Sinestro Corps War. Then, for months, Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have been building the excitement around DC's new mega event in the pages of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. We've slowly been introduced to a whole galaxy of new Corps that all wield one of the colors of the emotional spectrum, and now, it's all come to a head. The Blackest Night has begun.

Now, for a quick recap... In the pages of Green Lantern #43, we were shown the tragic back story of William Hand. A man fascinated with death since he was a young boy. His father ran a funeral home and his brothers didn't understand him. He would grow up to be one of Green Lantern's villains, The Black Hand, after being given a device that absorbs the energy of a power ring and allows him to manipulate it in return.

After hearing a voice from beyond that tells him how "hungry" it is, he returns home and slaughters his family. He then turns his own weapon against himself and literally blows his brains out. Scar, a Guardian of the Universe (who has been acting a little funny ever since he/she/it was burned by the Anti-Monitor in the climax of The Sinestro Corps War), comes to the scene and presents the corpse with a black power ring. William Hand is resurrected as the first Black Lantern.

Blackest Night #1 opens with Hand in a graveyard in Gotham City. He has dug up Bruce Wayne's skull which he will carry with him like some sort of morbid trophy. After a recap of who has been killed over the years in the DC Universe, we move to two people who have recently escaped the clutches of death - Hal Jordan and Barry Allen.

Hal and Barry are old friends. Johns does an excellent job showing their long relationship without having to force it down our throats. In fact, their relationship, and the importance of the early scenes with the two of them working together, serve as a theme for this first issue. Emotions are running high and what better way to fuel that than love? The love of two old friends, of mother and son (Clark and Martha Kent), of queen and loyal subject (Mera and Tempest), of two reincarnated souls unable to bridge a gap they are destined to cross (Hawkman and Hawkgirl).

Love seems to be at the center of this first issue. Barry's reaction to Hal showing him all those who have died since Barry was killed in the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths is of deep sadness. These were his closest of friends and his partners in crime fighting. Ray Palmer desperately seeking someone to help him visit his ex-wife's grave to pay respects. Despite all Jean Loring did in Indentity Crisis, Ray still loves her and is terribly conflicted about his feelings.

Then, we have Carter and Kendra. Hawkman and Hawgirl have a way of dying, being reincarnated and finding each other. Their love is ages old. Unfortunately, things aren't working this time (not to mention they were apparently killed only not to be killed in the incredibly frustrating Final Crisis, but nevermind that right now). Carter is angry that they aren't together as they have have been. Many pages are spent on Carter trying to convince Kendra that they should be lovers. Ultimately, the Hawks are confronted by DC's greatest, and most tragic, lovers, Ralph and Sue Dibney. Ralph and Sue are Black Lanterns now and they plan to increase the army of the dead in a shocking conclusion to the first issue.

This is Geoff Johns as this best. He knows how to make us care about what's going on around the characters. He also knows how to make the characters interesting beyond anything they have been before. I remember when he wroked on my all-time favorite series, The Avengers. He made Jack of Hearts and the second Ant-Man, two nearly forgotten Marvel characters, relevant and interesting again. He's definitely put his stamp on The Flash's rogue gallery and he's done it again with Black Hand. This story is interesting and well-timed.

I think we're all in for big surprises with this event. I don't think anyone saw how much love would play a factor in the story as a whole. We haven't even seen the reaction Mera will have to the resurrected Aquaman or John Stewart's eventual showdown with his deceased love, Katma Tui, but I'm fairly certain the intensity will be driven by love. I really think most of us in comic fandom just thought, "We're going to see some dead people come back and there will be some tough scenes with the living people and some big fights will go down and it will be awesome." I don't think we were quite prepared for the awesome we've already gotten.

Speaking of awesome, check out issue #1's money shot...

I could stare at that shot for a long time and never get tired of it.

Thanks for reading. I'll be back soon with a review of Amazing Spider-Man #600!