Monday, May 9, 2011

Back in the Saddle: Funnybooksinreviewarego!!

So it's been a busy coupla weeks 'round here on the nerd farm, and I'm not gonna lie to you: it's still pretty damn busy. But not so busy that I can't strap in for some quick reviews this week...

Invincible Iron Man #503
by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

Fraction delivers a really nice wrap-up to his battle of wills between Tony Stark and Otto Octavius this time around, with Stark finally giving in and begging Doc Ock to stop the timer on the nuclear device he's holding over New York's head. Which, as it turns out, isn't acually a bomb at all. Ock lied, and Stark fell for it. But in a situation eerily similar to the dark future we saw in issue 500, Stark caved. He caved, and called Octavius "master" to save lives. Which is, of course, the real difference between Stark and the other arrogant geniuses Fraction's compared and contrasted him with over his long tenure on the title. He may have sat back and laughed at the ignorant masses with Madame Masque in his younger days, but when the chips are down, Stark will do anything, including debase himself, to save them.

On the flip side, Fraction does cheat on the conclusion of his Pepper vs Electro and Sandman battle, allowing the bad guys to slip away without any real explanation to make room for a few pages of "Fear Itself" crossover. But the character work that precedes that spandex plot cop-out far outweighs any disappointment I might have felt. This was good work, made better in light of the long-term writing. Or, in other words, it's exactly what I look for in franchise work-for-hire super hero comics.

Grade: A-

Fables #104
by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha

Oy. My happiness with the current Super Team arc lessens with each passing issue. Any time this book goes "meta" and starts discussing the fictional underpinnings of the magic that connects the Fable Homelands with the Mundy World, my eyes glaze over. So this continual discussion of super hero tropes, and how they have to balance the team correctly to make the magic work properly, just makes me want to stop reading. And that's not even mentioning how much I despise fucking Brock Blueheart, the talking animal Boy Blue cultist that also makes me want to stop reading, every time he walks on-screen. It's all far too cute for my taste, and the promise of it being followed by another saccharine story about Bufkin the talking monkey in Oz does very little to make me want to keep buying.

It's enough to make me think that Fables has finally jumped the shark. Frankly, if it weren't for the on-going Mr. Dark story, and the possibility of the North Wind killing one of Bigby and Snow's insufferable brats, I'd probably be dropping this book like a hot rock right about now. But as it is... I'll stick it out a while longer.

Grade: C

The Sixth Gun #11
by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt

The action-packed conclusion to the New Orleans story arc follows the usual Sixth Gun pattern for me: lots of cool ideas backed up by some ultra-mega OK storytelling. Nothing to write home about, but fun.

Grade: B

FF #2
by Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, and Rick Magyar

Another thing I like about this book: it feels dangerous. Sue and Ben are feeling alienated by the new Future Foundation set-up, as Reed surrounds himself with big brains and they're increasingly removed from the decision-making process around the Baxter Building. I mean... Even Spider-Man has more input than them on the Doom situation, and his seat's barely warm!

And speaking of the Doom situation... I also admire Hickman's willingness to move forward. One issue, and Doom's brain is already restored! Unlike some other recent quick plot movements in Marvel books, though, I don't feel cheated by it. Granted, the initial deal between he and Valeria was made some issues back, and this issue explores the idea of restoring the brain entertainingly. I mean, there's two full pages of identical panels with Valeria repeatedly suggesting a "backup" brain while Doom sits silently! Is he so far gone that he's not responding, or is he sifting through which of his various back-up brains would be best-suited to the situation? Either way, I loved the sequence, and liked the issue as a whole.

Grade: B+

The Mighty Thor #1
by Matt Fraction, Olivier Coipel, and Mark Morales

It feels like Matt Fraction is finally done with the overture to his Thor run. The transition from where he found the book to where he wanted it to be is over, and now we're getting on with the larger themes we can expect in the long-term. Those themes include family and redemption, explored through the relationships between Thor, Odin, and Loki. But Fraction's also exploring the mostly-unexplored (in Thor comics, at least) idea of not only what it means to be a god, but to worship one, as well. While I was never a fan of the Broxton, Oklahoma, setting for the series, I'm glad now that Fraction hasn't completely abandoned it, either. Because this issue's story thread of a Broxton preacher helping his congregation wrestle with their (Christian) faith while living in the shadow of the World Tree is some fine writing, the sort of honest, unbiased look at religion you don't often see in popular entertainment.

Of course, considering that Galactus is on his way, bringing with him a whole other level of godliness and a whole new set of questions and challenges... I shudder to think of what these characters are about to go through. Why is Galactus coming? Well, it's not entirely clear yet, but I think it has something to do with Odin sending Thor down to retrieve the seed of the World Tree. Which, you know, sounds like quite the bon-bon for a creature like the Big G...

Grade: B+

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