Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wondrous Wednesday Reviews: Fantastic Four #588, Amazing Spider-man #655, and Action Comics #898

Well, what a wonderfully woeful week where words wreak weepy ways.  That kinda worked.  But in all non-alliterative seriousness, today's floppy review pile was a bit of a downer with not one, but two comics focusing on the aftermath of a character death in the previous issue.  The other features Larfleeze, possibly the most amusing new character of the decade.  So, without further ado about strange dichotomies, I present to you this week's reviews of Fantastic Four #588, Amazing Spider-man #655, and Action Comics #898

Fantastic Four #588 Writer: Jonathan Hickman Artists: Nick Dragotta & Mark Brooks

After last month's sublime finale to "Three," Hickman takes a step back to analyze the impact of Johnny's death on each of the surviving members of the family.  Rather than the traditional overlong funeral sequence with heart-tugging eulogy that summarizes the hero's impact, Hickman instead opts for an almost entirely silent issue that examines the lives of each of the surviving FF over the next month and how they deal with their grief in their own unique ways.  The beginning of the issue is an excellent sequence, detailing the Avengers finally showing up, too late to do anything.  They rush in, ready to do battle, only to slump over in moral defeat when they realize it's too late for them to do anything.  Compounding the sadness, Sue finally arrives home, and unable to process what's happen, is nearly catatonic with grief.  There's a brilliant series of panels where, a few days after Johnny's death, Reed attempts to comfort a still very distraught Sue but Sue refuses to allow Reed to come near her or comfort her, erecting both a physical and emotional force field between her and her husband.  Dragotta draws this sequence (and this whole issue really) with incredible care, adding little touches like the heavy dark circles around Sue's eyes and Reed stretching his fingers all the way around Sue's force field in an attempt to try and comfort his wife.  Reed's spotlight sequence is a great moment as well, with him threatening Annihilus through the portal with the Ultimate Nullifier.  Annihilus' reaction is priceless, with the comic book equivalent of: "You mad?"  I'll admit it was a rage-inducing moment for me the first time through, and further cemented Annihilus among my favorite Marvel villains.  Eventually, Reed decides it's not worth it to wipe out the innocent, and instead closes the portal dejectedly. Next, Hickman has us check in on Doom for the first time in far too long after that juicy exchange between Doom and Valeria at the beginning of "Three."  I'm not familiar with this Kristoff character being brought in as ruler, but Wikipedia tells me he's Doom's adopted son.  Could be interesting.  He certainly looks menacing enough, reminding me of the shiftship pilot in Planetary.  Valeria's response is quite chilling.  Initially trying to figure out a proper replacement for Johnny, she insteads starts over and writes a single objective on the board: KILL ANNIHILUS.  The art and direction here clearly communicate the rage Valeria feels, but her response might be some foreboding of her future dealings with good old Uncle Doom.  Next is Thing's sequence.  Possibly hit the hardest of all the Four, Thor and Hulk help Thing deal with his rage and get some of his pent-up anger out.  During the scene, Hulk just stands there, taking Thing's furious punches, not hitting back.  The level of friendship on display here is fantastic, with Thor and Hulk being uniquely suited for this sort of therapy.  I won't ruin the last page reveal, but it's a fun one and one that has the possibility of tying in with Hickman's equally sublime work on SHIELD.  Being as this is a mostly silent issue, the emotion and power of each sequence would not have anywhere near the same impact without Dragotta's expressive art and inking.  Mounts does an admirable job with colors too, adding little red tinges to Thing's eyes among other things to highlight the level of care they both put in.  Another thing I have to commend Hickman on is the creative use of powers as a way of showing grief.  Allowing Sue to erect a force field between her and Reed while having Thing punch it out in the desert is an inspired bit of writing that really helps set this apart from other funeral issues.  There's a backup here with some nice Mark Brooks art, that seems to set up Spidey's inclusion in the FF with him helping young Franklin cope with the death of his uncle by relating his experience with the death of Uncle Ben.  It's a cute, sweet story with a little bit of levity and a nice way to close out the Fantastic Four series (Because we all know it will never ever no never return amirite?).  Anyways, this was one of the best, if not the best grieving issue I have had the pleasure of reading.  I give this near perfect issue of Fantastic Four a 9.7/10.
Not going to cover up this powerful
scene with a score. Dragotta and Mounts
do superb work here.

Amazing Spider-man #655 Writer: Dan Slott  Artist: Marcos Martin

Incredibly poignant cover
After reading this issue, I was immediately presented with two problems.  First, I just don't buy that Marla's death would affect Spidey this much.  She's JJJJ's wife, but aside from getting Pete his current job at Horizon, she just hasn't had that much interaction with him recently.  Second, WHY ISN'T THIS THE .1 ISSUE?  Last issue, while still very enjoyable, was really more of a Venom 0.1 as Pete showed in only couple of panels.  This issue, in contrast, gives an excellent overview of Pete's life, the whole time giving us some classically-styled Spidey art that really shines (especially the dream sequence).  This comic also starts off with a rather lengthy silent part, the first 10 pages not containing a shred of dialogue.  It works best here when focusing on the impact the events are having on Jonah.  After #654's great character moment where he finally owns up his mistakes and refuses to blame Spidey for his wife's death, the shock and loss on the man's face is ably handled by Martin.  However, the real treat is what comes next.  Not completely buying the premise aside, the book enters a very trippy, extremely well-written dream sequence where Slott has Spidey address his past failures head-on leading to some very creepy moments (a talking Gwen with her neck snapped) and some incredibly poignant moments (the realization that we're all equal once we've passed away).  He really works through the core of just who Spidey is.  However, the true star of this part is Martin's art.  I'm not the biggest fan of Martin's art, but when he nails it, he REALLY nails it.  And boy does he ever kill it on this dream sequence.  His layouts and perspective shifts are unlike anything I've ever seen in a comic, with my favorite being a 2 page MC Escher inspired spread.    Martin's use of shadow and Vincente's superb colors make this surreal dream a real Ditko-esque trip.  Really, the comic's easily worth picking up for these parts alone.  Eventually, this series of pure fantasy must come to an end and as Pete awakes, he makes the solemn promise that from that day on "No one dies."  It's a bit of an unrealistic statement to make, but it's an excellent way for Slott to show Pete needing to vent.  Of course, what does Slott do next?  He introduces the newest villain to Spidey's rogues gallery with Massacre, an amoral homicidal pyschopath.  We only get one page to look at the fiend, but I unfortunately have to say that his look is pretty bland.  While Slott's script for this issue was solid (aside from a shaky premise), it's really Martin and Vincente's art that really elevate this book to a...
Martin's classical stylings work very
well with this particular script.

Action Comics #898  Writer: Paul Cornell  Artist: Pete Woods

After those two issues of doom and gloom, you can't imagine the relief I felt when I saw Cornell's immensely fun and enjoyable Action Comics sitting next on my read pile.  Since Cornell came on board and Lex took over the book from the Big Blue Boy Scout, the book has pulled me in and never let me go.  Lex's tour of dealing with a who's who of DC villains continues here as he faces off against Larfleeze.  As those who have been following the "Black Ring" storyline know, Luthor has been searching for spheres of Black Lantern energy residue as he knows activating them will grant him some kind of power.  Perhaps fortunately for Luthor, Larfleeze seeks him out wanting Luthor to help him use the Blank Lantern energy sphere he found to get more stuff.  Predictably, they clash, with Luthor temporarily overcome with the desire to regain the Orange Lantern ring.  I absolutely love that while Cornell has made Luthor the protagonist of this comic, he has in no way made him a "hero."  The man is still villainous to the core and it is delicious to read such characterization in a major book.  It's exemplified here with Luthor willing to kill one of his top men in order to deny Larfleeze a hostage.  And he does it with a smirk on his face.  Speaking of faces, the trend of no two DC artists drawing Larfleeze's face continues here with Woods giving the creature some mysterious backwards horns.  It's almost become a running gag by this point.  Moving on, Luthor (predictably) outwits Larfleeze, sending him through the activated white lantern sphere to exit out another one in the Arctic.  In a very funny twist, Larfleeze hates the experience of going through the portal so much that he decides he doesn't want it any more.  Realizing, he doesn't want something, Larfleeze is suddenly very thankful to Luthor for the experience.  Yes, Cornell cooks up an ending that leaves Lex victorious while Larfleeze is thankful for his defeat.  Wrapping up, we get to find out just who has been in control of Robo-Lois this entire time.  It's not terribly surprising, but its a fun twist in that Robo-Lois has been cooperating against her will, hopefully indicating that she'll stay on past this arc.  While Cornell's outrageously fun script is the star of the show here, Pete Woods is no slouch either.  Larfleeze-related difficulties aside, Woods gives us great action scenes, wonderful smirks (and there are smirks aplenty), and wonderful detail in each and every panel.  This book is non-stop fun making this issue worthy of an...

They really love each other to bits.

Alright readers, what did you guys read this week  Thoughts, questions, propaganda?

1 comment:

  1. Chris Evans Leather Jacket

    Nice fantastic 4,I appreciate the techniques and fire of chris evans