CMRO Update (10/31/2011)

Happy Halloween!

Added

Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #523.1 Review

by Nick Walden, CMRO Contributing Writer

Black Panther: The Man Without Fear

Issue #523.1

Written by David Liss, Art by Jefte Palo

Published: November 2011

Take one part Daredevil, one part Punisher, and one part Black Panther – shaken not stirred. Drop the new creation into Hell’s Kitchen and you have the new storyline for Black Panther. So far it has been awesome with a capital “A”!

The Black Panther comic was getting to be a bit tired with him being a king and constantly spouting off about the people and what not. In a nice 180 twist we now have a Black Panther minus his powers taking care of Daredevil’s stomping grounds to prove himself. I love the storyline by Liss here. He is going dark and brooding with some serious attitude. This story unfolds nicely as Panther has to track down a killer. We move from scene to scene crisply with a good mix of dialogue and action. I like the characters he has brought in to the storyline.

Art on this comic is first rate. It has a classic Punisher/Daredevil feel. I absolutely love the way Panther is drawn. He towers over people and is built like a brick house, but more like a powerful athlete than the impossible musculature some characters are given. The costume is a nice hybrid of the Panther tights with a flack vest and utility pouches strapped on (Punisher-esq). The color work is good with a lot of dark scenes but a great mix of tones and shades to keep each panel well defined.

Two thumbs up for this book! I was a fan from the first page and can’t wait to get my hands on the next issue. For those who like a good story and heroes that fit the ‘angry’ and ‘no super powers’ mold this is definitely a comic to pick up!

Incredible Hulk #97 (Planet Hulk) Review

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

The Incredible Hulk

Issue #97

Written by Greg Pak, Art by Aaron Lopresti

Published: October 2006

Anybody who has seen the Planet Hulk animated feature knows well the wish-fulfillment part of the comic arc it was based upon – the Hulk, exiled from his home world, makes a new home for himself on the planet Sakaar. His strength and savagery win him the day against all foes, and he finally finds a world that accepts him not as a monster but as a hero. I imagine that more people have seen that animated feature than read the comics it was based on, and if such a person were to go from watching Planet Hulk to reading the original tale, the opening would look very familiar. Through the first act of the story, we see the Hulk as a wish fulfillment device, smashing everything that gets in his way and seeming to make no moral missteps. But, as we delve deeper into Planet Hulk: Anarchy, we see that things are getting a little less black and white than the animated film made them seem.

This is not a knock on the animated feature, which is an excellent film. However, that movie made some necessary simplifications to the story that the comics as an ongoing medium didn’t need to. In part one of Anarchy, we saw a darkening of the story as the Hulk and his friends rescued more slaves but also destroyed an entire village in retaliation. In The Incredible Hulk #97, which marks part two of this segment of Planet Hulk, we continue to see more moral complexity come into play as anger gives way to vengeance, which may eventually lead to self-destruction. No, we’re not talking about the Hulk here, but rather his first friend on Sakaar, Miek the Unhived.

For the Hulk’s part, he continues to be a wish fulfillment in action. Despite the fact that he has the Red King’s trusted Lieutenant following on his heels, the Hulk’s might and tenacity allow him to bypass every obstacle. He rampages through Sakaar freeing slaves by the dozens. He returns to the Maw, the gladiatorial pit where he was sent to die, and manhandles those who imprisoned him. Even when a monster capable of swallowing the Hulk in one bite attacks, the Hulk merely breaks the creature’s slave disk and domesticates it on the spot. He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s mad. He’s capable of anything, and that’s really one of the core appeals of the character. But how good can the story be if the main character makes winning look this easy?

The answer is explored in the Hulk’s effects on his companions. Miek, who already faced his share of demons last issue, continues to grow darker as a character as he struggles to protect his newly found brothers and sisters – the last remnants of a dying hive. Miek seems to have taken the Hulk’s advice of, “Never stop making them pay” to heart, and has gone from being the plucky comic relief to an increasingly aggressive and violent character.

Way back at the beginning of the Hulk’s existence, he was less a hero and more a menace. In his first appearance, he seems to want to kill his sidekick Rick Jones. At least twice in the character’s original six-issue run, he stated that he wanted to take over the world. Miek is that kind of character now – not plotting world conquest, but with that same type of unfocused anger. But while the Hulk had benevolent influences to help temper his rage such as Rick Jones and Betty Ross, Miek only has the Hulk himself to look up to. And while the Hulk might be more of a good guy these days, he still speaks in a language of rage and violence. What will that effect be on Miek, who is himself consumed with rage at the oppression and soon-to-be extinction of his race?

The Hulk himself knows what he is. Leading his army of freed slaves to the steppes of Sakaar, the issue ends with him deciding to disappear and be alone forever. After all, the Hulk has always wanted to be left alone, hasn’t he? When his companions try to get him to stay and fight against the Red King, the Hulk responds with this: “I know exactly what I am. And if you have any brains at all, you’ll shut the hell up and let me walk away… before I kill your whole stupid planet.”

And there’s the difference between the Hulk of now and the Hulk of then. The modern Hulk has been through many, many losses. He knows the pain that rage can bring, even though rage is essentially what he is. But one person won’t let him walk away: Miek himself, who has now morphed into a larger and stronger creature, referred to by his bug companions as “Hero King Miek.” Miek refuses to let the Hulk go into the steppes quietly, setting up our cliffhanger as it looks like the Hulk and his newly powered-up friend are about to face off against each other in battle.

While last issue had a darkening of themes, this issue really weaves the wish fulfillment aspect of the Hulk together well with the more serious consequences of our hero’s actions. For half of the issue, we see the Hulk rampaging along, smashing those who have done him wrong, and turning his rage into something good and productive. But in between those over-the-top action sequences, something darker is beginning to surface. It’s here in Planet Hulk: Anarchy that the saga takes on a whole new dimension, and we’ll see how those themes continue to grow when the Hulk goes to war not only with Miek but with another major player in this saga next issue.

Felicia Hardy – The Black Cat Issue #1 Review

by Lindsay Young, CMRO Contributing Writer

Felicia Hardy: The Black Cat

Issue #1

Written by Joey Cavalieri & Terry Kavanagh, Art by Andrew Wildman

Published: July 1994

I have to admit my bias here. I love Felicia Hardy, whether she’s fighting Spider-man or fighting with Spider-man. She’s one of my favourite comic book characters ever. So whenever I go into a Black Cat story, I’m both excited and wary, because I’ll be the first to admit that there have been some pretty awkward interpretations of her over the years.

This one falls somewhere in the middle for me. It’s just so very 90s, and as a result the whole thing is very tell-y. Characters describe what they’re doing as they do it, offer stilted exposition to one another, and generally don’t have much in the way of natural dialogue. (“Electro-claws let me rip [your weapons] in half!” is my favourite one).

The art is pretty standard for the 90s, with very muscular characters and squinty character expressions. As someone who admittedly has never been a fan of this style, there’s not much to look at here. Characters stand in awkward poses, muscles outlines in exquisite detail beneath their suits, and women with giant hair that could block out the sun. It’s just very out-dated.

The story itself is alright – Felicia is restless, looking for someone to talk to after having just broken up with her boyfriend, and stumbles upon Spidey during a fight. There’s some fun action, and as the story progresses and Felicia accepts a job, it does pick up. It’s not as exciting or intriguing right off the bat as Black Cat stories can be, but it’s also got its own charms.

The best I can say about this first of four issues is that it’s a fun nostalgia trip. Overall, though, there are better Black Cat stories out there, and a newbie to the character might want to start with something a little more compelling.

Ultimate Hawkeye #1 Review

by Dylan Duarte, CMRO Contributing Writer

Ultimate Hawkeye

Issue #1

Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Rafa Sandoval

Published: October 2011

 Out of all the Avengers, Hawkeye seems to get the least respect. Well, I shouldn’t say all of the Avengers, because that’s a seemingly never-ending list, but Hawkeye has always been at the forefront of the team, and yet has never amassed the popularity of his teammates. There could be multiple reasons for that or it could just be while the rest of the Avengers are flaunting their superpowers, he’s shooting arrows. That being said, heroes like Batman and The Punisher are proof that not having superpowers doesn’t send you straight to the bargain bin. Unfortunately, headlining a boring comic just might.

I wanted to like Hawkeye, I really did. His lack of powers make him something of an underdog, which is always appealing. Plus, I just think archery is rad. But there are just so few interesting elements to Ultimate Hawkeye that it became a chore to get through. The overarching plot isn’t terrible – Thai scientists want to wipe out the X-Gene so that they can then monopolize genetically-engineered mutants – but it’s told in such boring fashion. Eight pages are dedicated to exposition surrounding what is ridiculously called “The Plan,” showing images of people on planes, scientists in labs, test subjects being injected, etc. I understand that comics are a visual medium and the last thing a reader wants is a massive block of text, but if the writing itself isn’t engaging, spreading it out isn’t going to fix that. To be fair, there is one exciting moment in those eight pages, but that’s also one exciting moment in a third of the issue.

And outside of those eight pages, it doesn’t get much better. With so much focus on The Plan, we don’t see nearly as much of Hawkeye as we should. When danger goes down, we root for Hawkeye out of obligation to root for the good guy, but considering that he’s just portrayed as Captain America with a few jokes, there’s no real connection there.

With the exposition out of the way, I’m cautiously optimistic about the second issue, but this series certainly didn’t start off with a bang.

Catwoman #2 Review

by Lindsay Young, CMRO Contributing Writer

Catwoman

Issue #2

Written by Judd Winick, Art by Guillem March

Published: December 2011

Despite having some reservations about the now-infamous first issue of DC’s new Catwoman, I found myself enjoying this second one. Maybe it’s the whip-quick pacing or Selina’s gutsy, somewhat-damaged personality, but despite being constantly made aware of her breasts, I have more good things to say than bad about Catwoman this time around.

Issue #2 picks up after Batman and Catwoman have sex, and Catwoman doesn’t stick around long to enjoy the afterglow. She’s off in a matter of pages to steal a prized painting and get revenge on the Russian mobster we met last issue. The pacing is so quick, and it’s a lot of fun to follow Selina as she leaps around on building tops and infiltrates Bruce Wayne’s fundraiser party in disguise.

It’s interesting that Selena seems to be constantly running from Bruce, whether he’s Batman or Bruce Wayne. The interaction between her and Bruce at the party is fun and flirty, especially when we know that Bruce knows who she is and is just putting on the dumb playboy act. It’s clear they’re going to circle each other for a while, and I’m intrigued to see how it plays out (although with that ending, I’m expecting some Batman-to-the-rescue in issue 3).

There’s an interesting dynamic in the inner monologue – sometimes Selina is playful and sexually aggressive, other times she’s vulnerable and lonely. Sometimes the dialogue borders on cheesy or try-hard, but there are some moments – particularly near the end – that are genuinely affecting.

The art is quite lovely too, with deep colours, interesting angles and lots of detail in the expression. There’s a good sense of movement in this issue, which makes the fighting scenes really pop.

I’m still nervous for the future, but there’s a lot to enjoy about Catwoman #2.

CMRO Update (10/28/2011)

Added

Incredible Hulk #96 (Planet Hulk)

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

The Incredible Hulk

Issue #96

Written by Greg Pak, Art by Aaron Lopresti

Published: Aug.u 2006

“They followed the Green Scar and his monsters out of slavery…and into the Twisted Wood. And now,
in the cold and the dark, they wonder…how wise was that?”

So begins The Incredible Hulk #96, which continues our journey through the Planet Hulk saga. The story so far: after being exiled from Earth, the Hulk found himself playing out Russel Crowe’s part in Gladiator, serving as a slave on an alien world and then fighting his way to freedom, ultimately escaping with a large number of fellow slaves.

Through Planet Hulk: Exile and its companion, Giant Size Hulk #1, we’ve been dealing with simple pleasures – namely, the Hulk smashing big alien monsters while fantasizing about doing the same to the heroes back on Earth who exiled him. With this first issue of Planet Hulk: Anarchy, things start to get a bit more serious. That’s a big strength of comics – very few other media can get away with a plot involving a giant green irradiated man being exiled into space and fighting alien monsters alongside bug-people, a stone man from Saturn, and a magic-wielding priest. No other medium to my knowledge can take that opening and then turn it into a deep exploration of anger, revenge, and the effects of both.

This issue opens with the Hulk showing off his brains in addition to his brawn. While the slaves he’s freed debate as to whether he is a hero or monster, one slave runs off and sends a message to the Red King, who promptly orders the area bombed in hopes of killing the Hulk (known to Sakaarians as the Green Scar for the scar on his face he gained in battle with the Red King). However, the Hulk has outmaneuvered his hunters, and the only people who get bombed are the Hulk, his stone ally Korg, and the Red King’s loyalist – and only the latter happens to be bomb-resistant.

The majority of the issue focuses on the race as the Hulk tries to help the slaves escape their pursuers. Leading the hunt for the Hulk is the Red King’s Lieutenant, so far only referred to as “Oldstrong,” who shows herself to be as cunning and deadly as the Hulk. She attempts the same misdirection ploy on the Hulk, trying to lure him into a trap with murdered villagers serving as the bait, and the Hulk nearly falls for it. Thankfully, he has allies of his own, such as the shadow priest Hiroim, who stops the Hulk from rushing in headlong. The game of cat and mouse adds an interesting twist to a typical Hulk story, since our green goliath can’t just smash everything while he has others to protect. It also establishes the Oldstrong as a worthy adversary, but one who might not be as evil as she seems – the dead villagers she used had already been slaughtered by a corrupt governor, meaning that, while she is certainly opportunistic, her kill count as far as innocents go is currently zero.

Moving on with the adventure, the Hulk and his companions once again play the role of heroes, saving a village from a group of wildebots (wild mechanical beasts, serving as another opportunity to show how much work has gone into making Sakaar unique, interesting, and deadly). Hailed as heroes, things nonetheless take a darker turn when we discover that the leader of this village also happens to be the person directly responsible for killing Miek’s tribe, making him an enemy of the Hulk’s bug man friend and by extension the entire Warbound. In trying to give advice about what to do, the Hulk delivers what will soon become arc words: “I’d never stop making them pay.”

These words lead Miek to face his family’s killer in a fight to the death. It’s not quite as straightforward as one would expect, though. Before the head of the village enters the battle, we learn that he has a son of his own, and we see him act as a benevolent father. So maybe he’s not such a bad guy? Well, during the fight, we find out a hard lesson that people – even pink people – have both good and bad in them. On the one hand, the village’s Headman has killed Miek’s family. On the other hand, he is apparently a good father. But, as the fight goes on, we find out that not all of Miek’s family is dead – some have been kept by the Headman and used as slaves.

And once again, we see the rage of the Hulk and his companions on display. They save the slaves, but burn the village to the ground before leaving. On this last point, I do have to give some criticism of the layout, as the aftermath of the village’s destruction is left until the last page and the exact scale of the damage isn’t caught right off the bat. I think this story had a little too much in it and could have benefited from just one more page to really show off the aftermath of the damage done by the Hulk and his Warbound. To be fair, though, we do get one salient point here: buildings have been destroyed, but no deaths are shown. The role of the Hulk as somebody who rarely kills is very important both here and in the upcoming World War Hulk.

Despite the last page quibble, this story is yet another strong offering from Greg Pak and Carlo Pagulayan. More importantly, we’re starting to see the first hints that Planet Hulk is more than just a romp through alien gladiatorial arenas. Not that the Hulk smashing aliens is a bad thing, but there’s a reason why Planet Hulk is beloved by Hulk fans and not just another quickly forgotten event. How will this meditation on rage end? Is the Hulk a hero, a monster, or somewhere in between? The answers will continue to be explored as we delve further into Planet Hulk.

CMRO Update (10/26/2011)

Added

The New Avengers #16.1 (Osborn Rises) Review

by Nick Walden, CMRO Contributing Writer

The New Avengers

Issue #16.1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Neal Adams, Tom Palmer, & Paul Mounts

Published: October 2011

Wow. Just wow. This is by far one of the best books I have read in a while. To start, I am a big fan of the current Avengers line-up. The mix of a few previous Avengers along with the Thing, Spiderman, Wolverine, and the rest just has so many diverse and great personalities. So far Bendis has taken full advantage with his hero banter.

I was amazed with the artwork in this issue. Neal Adams is just incredible and some of his scenes are the best I have ever laid eyes on. The inks were done well providing a lot of contrast that made images stand out and ‘pop’ where needed. Action, stand-still, and during conversations were all wonderfully filled with rich detail for every character in the panel.

This plot line is great. I really enjoyed the way the story is going and making Norman Osborn into such a huge character. With his mental issues and genius it looks like this story can go so many ways. Bendis had everything flowing well and kept the entire team involved nicely. The action was fast paced and really I could not turn the pages fast enough. Now I am eagerly awaiting the next book and am a bit sadthat it will take another 30 days to get to the next chapter of this adventure.