Thursday, February 17, 2011

Triumphant Thursday Reviews! Featuring: Thunderbolts #153, Superman/Batman #81, and Uncanny X-force #5

Thanks for joining us for Thursday's reviews!  Today, we've got a trio of terrific titles for your titillation.

Thunderbolts #153 Writer: Jeff Parker Artist: Kev Walker

Ever since the Heroic Age revamp of the team, this book has been hitting on all cylinders.  Parker has molded this Thunderbolts into possibly the best team book in the market.  Nearly every member of the team has been given a moment to shine while providing plenty of fist-pumping "HELL YEAH" moments.  This issue is no different in any regard.  Continuing the plot from last issue, Hyperion has taken out most of the team to facilitate his escape and the monsters they were sent after are rampaging through the city they were trying to protect.  Picking up from there, Juggernaut and Ghost quickly getting  the team back together and functioning again with Juggy rescuing the two from drowning and Ghost (gleefully I might add) administers mouth to mouth to resuscitate the women.  Juggs then goes to confront Hyperion, leading to a real slobberknocker of a fight.  Cain takes on the overconfident Hyperion, trading blows and generally holding his own against the wannabe Superman.  Parker captures Marko's spirit perfectly here, making him brawl with some intelligence and just a bit of smugness ("I spit in the wind too").  Walker's art and creative page compositions help the reader feel every blow traded between the two.  This goes for a few pages until Ghost swoops in and activates Hyperion's nanites, weakening him considerably.  This leads to an utterly brilliant last page where, with Hyperion lying broken, bloody and begging for mercy, Man-thing gets his sweet revenge.  Definite "HELL YEAH" moment there.  Elsewhere, Luke, Mach V, and Songbird seem to be the only ones who care about saving the city.  The resolution to that comes easily enough, once Ghost discovers the parasites and instructs Songbird how to disable them.  Parasites disabled, the monsters head home to menace society another day.  All things considered, this book is just fun.  It throws its protagonists into delicious situations, stirs them up, and sees how they find a way to work together to claw their way out of it.  Of course, being villains, they rarely choose the honorable way of doing so, but that's half the fun.  With a rumored second team on the way, I can't wait to see where Parker is taking this title next and I am just as anxious to see how gorgeously Walker renders it. Speaking of Walker, his creative use of panels is top notch, grinding up the action and guiding the reader's eye along with ease.  To sum it up, this out and out blast of an issue earns Thunderbolts #153 a...

Juggs is ready to dish out a beatdown

Superman/Batman #81 Writer: Cullen Bunn Artist: ChrisCross

Now, I must first confess that I don't particularly care about either Superman or Batman.  Don't hate them, but don't like them either.  So why did I pick up Superman/Batman #81?  Cullen Bunn, the man behind the outrageously fun series Sixth Gun, is writing this four-part story titled "Sorceror Kings".  Diving into the issue, this isn't really a Superman or Batman story, but a Shadowpact story where the magical cabal happens to run into the titular heroes every few pages or so.  Definitely not what I expected, but the issue didn't suffer one bit for it.  The story starts off as Phantom Stranger has sent Warlock's Daughter, Blue Devil, and Ragman chasing after another possible lead surrounding his sense of an impending apocalypse.  There, they run across a stranger dress in knight armor, fighting off a supernatural invasion by demonic creatures.  Shadowpact joins in the fight, staving off the creatures, but not before the stranger is killed.  Curious to find out who their comrade-in-arms was, they take off his armor to reveal... Superman! Yes, Superman in knight armor, utilizing magic and beating back demons with a sword.  It's an intriguing setup, drawing you in with its otherworld-ness and strange surroundings.  Shadowpact is naturally curious and asks our Big Blue if he knows anything about it.  Suddenly, magical Batman swoops in and abducts Supes out from under the heroes' noses to bring him to their time.  Yes, time.  Turns out these magical versions of our favorite heroes are from the future, not an alternate reality or dimension.  It's a fun twist, one that gives the plot a bit more weight and urgency than just another dimension hopping tale. The only problem is that Bunn makes Shadowpact look a bit ill-prepared and ill-equipped to handle the type of threat they should be prime for.  I know this is a a Superman/Batman book and not a Shadowpact one, but it was a little annoying to see them constantly upstaged by magical Batman in all his wizard glory.  Although, I must admit that I am quite fond of the alternate costumes and am eager to see what Bunn and ChrisCross have cooked up for the other marquis DC characters.  Of what we have seen, Superman's armor is especially well done, looking a bit like Da Vinci's armor from Hickman's S.H.I.E.L.D.  ChrisCross' art is serviceable to the story, but is dragged down by some flat coloring.  It's possible this was an intended to make the bright magic sequences pop a bit more, but if that was the intention, it drags the rest of the book down.  I would love to see what Laura Martin or Christina Strain could do with these pencils and this story.  All in all, this story is very fun ride, but it needs to get beyond its initial (strong) hook and while the pencils are dragged down by subpar coloring, it does very little to take down the story's overall quality.  I give it an...
Meet magical Supes.  Love the armor design.
Uncanny X-Force Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Esad Ribic

I don't know how Remender manages it, but he is a magnet for outstanding artists.  From Jerome Opeña to Tony Moore to this issue's artist Esad Ribic, it seems quality artists are just tripping over themselves for the chance to make Remender's comics into visual feasts.  Also, the story ain't half bad either.  Again, we have a split focus issue.  One focus is on the team, sans Fantomex, coming to terms with what happened at the end of last issue.  It's very telling when Deadpool is the most morally conflicted member on the team and it's a brilliant bit of character work by Remender to include it in the issue.  Whereas other writers seems content to have Deadpool be a happy-go-lucky goofball, Remender is knocking it out of the park by portraying Deadpool as a very human individual, hiding his wanting to help make the world better with a mask of goof and mercenary attitude.  Indeed, there's a great scene where Wolverine shoves Wade's objections back in his face accusing him of not having any ground to stand on as he's only doing it for the money.  The look of shock and disbelief in Wolverine's face as Warren reveals that Deadpool hasn't cashed a single check from his X-force pay is a powerful moment and one that Ribic handles with great ability.  Over in the Fantomex part of the story, things are getting a bit weird.  Referencing back to Morrison's New X-men run and the recent List special, Fantomex checks in on how things are going at the World, the super-soldier factory responsible for continuing the Weapon X program.  There he discovers something is amiss inside the facility, but unable to confirm anything, he exits the facility (via a shrink/grow ray stolen from none other than Doctor Doom) to talk with his "Mother."  Remender has a great handle on Fantomex throughout the whole issue and it's pretty clear that Remender is having a blast writing the Frenchman.  His Fantomex is a bit of a conflicted individual, seemingly unsure of what to feel in a situation, trying to calculate how he should appear at all times.  It's quite fascinating to watch Remender pick apart the illusionist to try and find out what really makes him tick.  Moving on, Fantomex is chatting with his "Mother" when a horde of superhero Deathloks attack.  It's a bit similar to Jason Aaron's recent storyline in Wolverine: Weapon X in terms of setup, but the inclusion of heroes like Spider-man and Captain America as Deathloks give it enough of a twist to stand apart.  Ribic illustrates these action sequences gorgeously, oozing both detail and natural movement throughout the action.  I really could just stare at some of these panels all day.  The art and the story here are almost second-to-none, with only the slightest bit of excessive hand-wringing bringing it down.  This superb issue gets a...

Ribic's pencils are utterly breathtaking

Agree, disagree?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. I'm such a HUGE fan of the Thunderbolts right now. This most recent iteration of the team has been a revelation, and exactly what the book needed after that horrible 'Dark Reign' arc.

    I never thought I'd be an ardent fan of that book, but it's become one of my most looked forward to books of the month by this point. I hope this creative team never leaves.