Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mild-Mannered Monday Reviews: Captain America and Crossbones, Xombi #1, and Hulk #30.1

Another day, another three reviews.  This week we've got a villain spotlight, a resurgence of an old Milestone character, and the intro of a brand new Red Hulk villain.

Captain America and Crossbones Writer: William Harms  Artist: Declan Shalvey

Tocchini has been
playing some Call of
Duty methinks.
Perhaps there's something wrong with me, but I absolutely love stories that feature the villain.  We don't get to see stories from the bad guy's perspective so books like Secret Six, Thunderbolts, and Dark Reign: Zodiac are always welcome in my eyes.  Also, I really enjoyed Shalvey's art in his fill-in issues of Thunderbolts so picking up this Crossbones special was pretty much a no-brainer.  This issue also marked the first time I've read anything by William Harms.  Looking at his bibliography, he's done some video game work and a few one-shots, but it's always fun to read new talent.  Overall the story is decent.  A mysterious man shows up to Crossbones' cell and offers him a job doing dirty work for the government.  Subsequently, he's dropped into an island that suffering from a case of "everyone seems to be dead."  There, he receives his mission "Take out a kid."  It's a very dark choice but an excellent premise for a comic starring the man who (sort-of) murdered Captain America. It is unfortunate for the art here that a very odd choice of rain is used (looks a lot more like snow).  It obscures the art way too much and distracts heavily from the proceedings.  I think either the artist or the colorist was trying something new, but in this case it didn't really work out.  Fortunately, Crossbones clues into the fact that something is not right at all on this island and heads to a nuclear power plant where the rain goes away and Shalvey's pencils are allowed room to breathe.  There, he finds out just what's going on.  To put it simply, demonic werewolves have killed nearly everyone who hasn't bunkered down for safety in the plant.  He also finds out that this kid that he's sent to take out is actually the only person to not be turned into a monster after being attacked by the creature.  While the subject matter here is dark, Harms infuses a little humor here by claiming to be an American superhero just trying to help out but "Iron Man didn't fully brief" him.  The unmitigated gall of the man is astounding.  The people there expect him to help and Crossbones even seems to feel a bit of pity on the kid he's been sent after.  Fortunately for my love of villainy, Crossbones escapes the plant in possibly the most heinous way possible, killing the man who helped him understand the situation and letting a horde of demonic beasts through their defenses to presumably kill everyone left alive on the island.  It's a delicious bit of evil.  Having been pulled out and riding back on a helicopter, Harms decides to remind the readers that while Crossbones is an evil son of a bitch, he's still human and not without compassion and mercy.  Even if his version of mercy is throwing the kid to his death from a  helicopter to prevent him from becoming a lab experiment.  Overall, its a fun one shot that really should just be called "Crossbones" as Cap only shows up in a flashback to his assassination.  My only real complaint about it is that it takes a bit too long for Crossbones to talk it out with the people at the power plant, but that's a relatively minor complaint.  Harms seems to have a good grip on the character and I'm reminded that I kind of miss the psycho on Thunderbolts.  Shalvey's art, distracting rain element aside, is great as always and he brings his own brand of kinetic action to the table which suits this story just fine.  He also has some very good supernatural sensibilities that would make me kill to see him take on a project in the Hellboy/BPRD universe (His demon-wolves were a fun enemy to see and I love his use of shadow).  I'm certainly hoping that this isn't the last we see of Crossbones or this creative team for a good while.  I'm also going to be checking out some of Harms' past comic work to see if it holds out to this very fun standard and hopefully I'll see a new favorite.  In the end, it's maybe a bit too disposable of a story, but I give Captain America and Crossbones a solid...

Crossbones grades the kid's quality of life prior to having "pity" on him.

Xombi #1 Writer: John Rozum  Artist: Frazer Irving

Irving's art is a delight
The first of the Milestone revivals from DC since it bought the company, Xombi is a very weird book.  Possibly one of the oddest books I've ever read.  Most of the time, I give out fairly detailed plot spoilers, but I'm going to keep it simple for this one.  A man who has nanomachines all throughout that turn him into some sort of techno-zombie must stop a man who has a nigh unstoppable Mr. Hyde complex.  Along the way, we might some delightfully named Catholic supernunsChew.  Unfortunately, not much is done with characterization.  I kind of felt that I was being popped in the middle of an existing story-arc and I had missed part of the plot.  While I met David Kim, the titular Xombi, I still feel like I have very little idea about what kind of person he is.  I know he's coming to grips with his condition, but beyond that there's not a whole lot of characterization done in favor of hurrying the bizarre plot along.  This is fine in the middle of an arc, but on a debut issue and in the relaunch of a comics universe, it's difficult for new readers such as myself to follow the character interactions.  The art for this series is tremendous though.  I don't know who could have possibly been a better pick for the series other than Frazer Irving.  Hopefully he can stick to schedule and stays on for longer than the DC-standard three issues as I would love to see more of the unique art he brings to the table and this book.  Irving still struggles a teensy bit with action scenes, but his scene work here is much stronger and clearer than his unfortunately shoddy action in Batman and Robin and I found myself enjoying his art quite a bit more in comparison.  While this isn't a great debut issue for the book, the wonderfully bizarre universe Rozum is building and Irving's very apropos and moody art are going to make sure that I stick around for a few issues.  Overall, I give this unique book a...

Here, David Kim attempts to fight off a snow angel with a lamp while covering his eyes.  I told you it was weird.

Hulk #30.1 Writer: Jeff Parker Artist: Gabriel Hardman

Nice classic Hulk-style
I haven't been the biggest fan of Marvel's execution of its ".1" initiative.  While intended to be jumping on points for their respective series, most of the .1s have been one and done series that have little in terms of ties to the series overall arc.  Quality aside, as most of them have been pretty good stories, the issues have generally been a complete failure in attaining their objective.  That's why it comes a such a relief to me that I find Hulk #30.1 to be the first to actually be the first to complete its mission and complete it well.  This opening salvo introduces a brand new villain for Red Hulk (Former Gen. Thunderbolt Ross) and also marks the start of Ross' very own rogues gallery.  This new villain is the newly appointed General Fortean who, in a delightful twist, was once Ross' second in command.  He's adopted his former mentor's anti-Hulk mentality and opted to pursue the Red Hulk in a badly informed attempt to take revenge for Ross' apparent murder by the Red Hulk and honor his memory.  In case you just joined the series, this was obviously a very successful ruse by Ross to obscure his identity and keep his military legacy intact despite his attempts to stage a coup and take the White House by force.  The idea surrounding Fortean, giving Ross his own Thunderbolt Ross to deal with, puts Red Hulk in the unfortunate position of having to deal with a very determined enemy who will have no mercy on his enemy and has a personal stake in their conflict.  He is essentially fighting himself.  Throughout the story, Ross shows a ton of empathy for his former underling and realizes he needs to stop Fortean before this vendetta becomes a lifelong obsession and destroys his life and Ross did to himself chasing the Hulk.  The two eventually come to blows, but Fortean deploys a creative MacGuffin that prevents Ross from ever reverting to human form again, lest he die.  It's a great story decision and allows Parker to break Ross away from the rest of the Hulk family and attempt to continue his rehabilitation of the character and get him on his own two feet.  Parker also does a great job in setting up Fortean.  He's a very intelligent and driven antagonist, laying clever traps and having all sorts of contingency plans in place to take down the "strongest there is."  He's a very scary villain and one that looks to present quite a challenge for Ross in the future.  Ah, I almost forgot to mention the art.  Hardman continues to knock it out of the park with his fabulously detailed pencils.  I've noticed Hardman mention some harsh criticism of his work on his Twitter feed, but the guy must have to spend hours Googling comic reviews to come across these guys.  It's hard to comprehend how you could not enjoy his illustrations.  The action scenes are fantastically fluid and dynamic while his dialogue scenes convey the proper emotions with aplomb.   Parker and Hardman have a history of making comics magic together and Hulk #30.1 is no exception to the rule.  Definitely pick this one up if you've been on the fence about this series.  It's an excellent intro and representation of what to expect of the series while easily demonstrating why it deserves a...

Fortean has tech that would probably level a city if used in the battlefield.


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