Amazing Spider-Man #600 (Marvel Comics)
by various creators
I don’t follow this series closely, but I figured five bucks for this much original material was a solid value. I was right. Some of the stories — especially the main Spidey vs. Doc Ock feature — are merely standard super-hero fare. While they try to do something new with the characters (again, especially with Doc Ock), what we really get are rehashes of super-hero genre conventions (though they’re competent rehashes nonetheless).
But there are some hidden gems in this comic book. May and JJJ Sr.’s wedding is sweet and touching and funny, for example. The real star of the book is Mark Waid’s story about Peter’s relationship with his Uncle Ben. Yes, it’s predictable, but it’s incredibly heartfelt; it’ll tug at yer heart-strings, I tells ya. Colleen Doran also provides some realistic art, devoid of super-hero style, which suits the tone of the down-to-earth script.
John Romita Jr.’s art for the main story is lovely, of course. After all this time, he knows how to handle the title character just as well as his father. The coloring is a bit murky at times, though. Stan Lee’s goofy story about Spidey seeking therapy and breaking the fourth wall in the process is cute but inconsequential. Surprisingly, Lee seems to present Spidey as though he’s a Silver Age DC character, not a Marvel icon. Martin’s art matches the silliness of the script, but given the strength of his previous Spidey work, his talents seem wasted here. Marc Guggenheim’s story strikes me as the product of poor editing, as it’s redundant, given that similar subject matter is addressed in the main story. The final five-page story is written by Joe Kelly, and it focuses on Madame Web. It sets up a new storyline, but it really tells us nothing. His script doesn’t even bother to explain who Madame Web is and how she’s connected to the title character.
While this issue is a mixed bag (again, which is par for the course with many anthology comics), it’s definitely worth the price of admission for the strong bits alone. I’m guessing one of its goals, however, was to hook more new readers on the title. While I enjoyed it, it didn’t make me want to add Amazing Spidey to my pull list. 7/10
Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #5 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, George Perez & Scott Koblish
Fans of big super-hero events will no doubt have enjoyed this issue (and this series) given the multitude of characters that grace these pages, and for them to be rendered by George Perez, the king of super-hero crowd scenes, is a real treat. There are so many Legionnaires running around this issue that it’s pretty dizzying, but fortunately, the plot tends to focus on a handful of key players. Mind you, this is far from an accessible script. If one isn’t versed not only in Legion lore but such titles as Teen titans, Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis, one will likely be a little lost in the story. Mind you, this series isn’t exactly crafted with the new or casual reader in mind. This is for the hardcore fan.
That makes Johns’s creative choices regarding Superboy-Prime all the more curious and interesting. As I read this issue, it struck me that Johns was writing the corrupt Superboy as a child having a tantrum; every bit of his dialogue indicated that. Once the reader reaches the end of the issue, it’s clear what Johns is saying: that Superboy-Prime represents every childish, whining, sheltered fanboy who’s ever dissected the minutiae of continuity and complained endlessly about the comics he so obsessively follows. This has been suggested of Prime’s character in the past, but never have creators been so overt about the message. I have to admit that I enjoyed the metatextual comment, so perfectly represented in the art by Perez’s choice to use the roughest of sketch lines to depict the character’s fading form at the story’s climax. 6/10
Green Lantern #44 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen & Rodney Ramos
I reviewed the previous issue of this series earlier this month, noting that I enjoyed what was billed as a prelude to DC’s Blackest Night event book. That crossover is rooted in Green Lantern storylines from the past few years, so DC has billed the two ongoing GL titles as more essential chapters of the event than other tie-in books. If this issue is any indication, the GL tie-ins will be far from essential reading. In fact, this wasn’t even a satisfying read. Johns expands the confrontation between Black Lantern J’Onn J’Onzz and his two former teammates, GL and the Flash (as seen in Blackest Night #1). Basically, this issue is an extended fight, depicting the conflict between a now-corrupted, undead Martian Manhunter and his former friends. That would be fine, but Johns offers no resolution to even that conflict. The fight is ongoing by the time one reaches the end of this issue, leaving the reader to discover the outcome in Blackest Night again. It’s quite frustrating. Furthermore, Johns doesn’t provide enough backstory for the reader to appreciate John Stewart’s and Fatality’s roles in the plot.
I was also disappointed to find that the strength of Doug Mahnke’s meticulous and creepy style that we saw in the previous issue isn’t reflected as well in this new episode. The reason is pretty clear: four inkers (including Mahnke himself) contribute to this issue, leading me to believe the finished art was cobbled together in a rush. It certainly looks that way on a few pages. There are inconsistencies among pages as different inkers contribute, and it’s distracting. 5/10
The Muppet Show: The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Roger Langridge
I absolutely adored Roger Langridge’s first Muppet Show limited series (which only ended last month, so it’s great to see Boom! is maintaining a regular schedule for the property), but when the title of this followup series was announced, I was a little worried that the writer/artist was taking a new tack that might not be as strong as what we saw from him before. Now, there is something a bit different about his approach here, as he begins a plotline that’s going to run through the entire four-part run. But that treasure story doesn’t interfere with Langridge’s ability to capture the heart and soul of the original Muppet Show. This issue is full of entertaining sketches, just like the original TV program, and the writer/artist continues to demonstrate that he really gets these characters. He stays true to these characters even while he tries to do something new with them (notably with Animal this time around).
As he did with the first issue of the previous series, Langridge includes a Swedish Chef sketch in this one, and that single page of the book was more than enough to make this comic book a memorable reading experience. The Chef’s dialogue — complete with that weird language/accent represented perfectly — had me giggling like an idiot, just as I did the first time I read the writer/artist’s take on this classic character. It’s reached the point now that my wife dreads my discovery of a new Chef segment, as I sit in my chair and read the dialogue aloud, laughing myself stupid. I can pay no humor comic a higher compliment. 8/10
Project Superpowers: Chapter Two #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
by Jim Krueger, Alex Ross, Edgar Salazar & Doug Klauba
The creators behind this comic book deserve credit for at least delivering an accessible script here, which is no meant feat given the expansive nature of the cast and the year’s worth of plot (from the first Project Superpowers title and a multitude of spinoffs) that preceded this new chapter. The profile pages in the back of the book serve as a nice guide to the various players in the drama as well. I really love the resurrection of these colorful Golden Age, public-domain characters, and Krueger and Ross have managed to adapt them well for use in a modern super-hero yarn. Unfortunately, after reading this issue, I was also struck by the fact that the story is proceeding at a snail’s pace. It’s been months since the Green Lama and friends have “attacked” New York, and since then, everything seems to have been at a standstill.
Edgar Salazar’s art boasts a pseudo-realistic super-hero style that suits the darker, conspiracy-theory tone of the story fairly well. There really aren’t any visuals in this issue that pop, that really grab the reader. The colors are quite dark as well, and understandably so. Still, given that these characters represent a different time and culture in America (both in the context of the story and metatextually), it’s a shame that’s not reflected a bit more visually with some brighter colors. Doug Klauba’s art for the two-page ‘Devil origin in the back of the issue is more striking, but it’s also very much in keeping with Alex Ross’s style. Unfortunately, it also fails to provide any extra information about the supposedly new incarnation of the Golden Age hero. 4/10
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