There are three essentials for my summer vacation; relaxation, napping, and comic books. Fortunately for you, I just talk about comic books here. My Summer Reading series continues with reviews of Iron Man, Punisher, Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil, X-Men Legacy, Squadron Supreme, Captain America: Reborn, The End League, Star Wars Legacy and Knights of the Old Republic. About half of the books hit, whereas the other half missed. Find out who performed above and below expectations by reading on!
Captain America: Reborn #1
I haven't been keeping up with Captain America at all. I know he was killed a few years ago in the Civil War crossover. I know he's coming back. What do I care, right? A few of the Bad Genious guys were talking about this issue the other day and the method for Captain America's return just sounded so incredulous and out there that i just had to read it to believe it. They were correct; Captain America was hit with some type of magic bullet that made him unstuck in time. This was a pretty big "WTF" moment for me too. From all accounts, Brubaker's run has been pretty grounded. This magically delicious approach to bringing Captain America back just feels wrong. The issue was decent enough, but the series as a whole is not worth keeping up with for $3.99 a pop.
Daredevil's life continues to reflect some Bizarro-esque emo song. We find Matt Murdoch whinny here (suprise, surprise) as his alliance with Kingpin becomes stickier than he planned (surprise, surprise). I feel a strong sense of deja vu that all of this has happened before. I think Kingpin has become a "no-fly zone" for Daredevil writers for at least another 100 issues. Every Kingpin story has seemingly been done before. These Daredevil and Kingpin stories practically write themselves now and that's not a good thing. Wilson Fisk is being used in the upcoming PunisherMax series. Let's hope Jason Aaron finds a better way to use the Kingpin character because at this point he's pretty much a time killer.
Invincible Iron Man #14
With this issue, the "World's Most Wanted" story has stayed past its welcome. How long can we read about Tony being on the run? How long can we watch Norman Osborne harass the no ironclad Pepper Potts? How many Iron Man costumes does Tony Stark having lying around to wear now? Don't get me wrong, this title is expertly written. Of the titles I've read from Matt Fraction, this has been consistently his best. Salvador Larroca's art is superb as well, much improved over his days in the X-Universe. However, this Dark Reign business in general just seems to be chugging along with no end in sight. I can see Fraction scratching his head as he comes up with new ways to to make Tony run due to some editorial mandate stating that Iron Man has to continue to be on the run while Dark Reign plays out for the rest of the calendar year. The "hero on the run" story has been done quite a bit in the last few years and this offers nothing new to the concept.
The Hood really has it out for poor ol' Frank. Can't a vigilante just kill the bad guys and be done with it? Apparently not. The Hood resurrects a whole gaggle of d-list villains with the charge of taking out Frank Castle, your friendly neighborhood Punisher. Reading a comic where Punisher is forced to take out d-listers is not really my idea of a great Punisher comic book. I'm sure someone, somewhere, is excited by all these crap villains being resurrected. I hope the one Basilisk fan out there creamed his jeans. But for the rest of us, plowing through the d-lister source book provided at the end of this issue was just torture. I'm sure Frank will come up with all sorts of inventive ways to blow away these chumps, but why does it matter? The Hood can presumably just bring them back again. Kind of makes you wish for the golden days of Frank acing crack dealers, doesn't it? Like Iron Man, the writing here is solid and the art is great. But I just want something more, something better for Punisher. Garth Ennis brought about a revitalization of the character. It seems that goodwill is going to be gambled away on the hope that people want to read about Punisher interacting with people who wear capes and funny tights. Anyone who read Punisher under Ennis know that's just not the case.
Squadron Supreme #12
My prediction a few weeks ago about this series ending on a thud was correct. There was so much potential here for a good story, but that was all wasted. The original Squadron Supreme, the characters we all cared about, are pretty much ignored for much of this issue. Instead, we get to revisit the lame characters Chaykin created in the first six issues that no one, and I do mean no one, cares about. Those characters that do remain become powerless, rendering this universe pretty much dead for the foreseeable future. To add insult to injury, Ultimate Nick Fury is still trapped in this universe with no real resolution as to how he gets out. I hope Ultimatum will provide a satisfactory answer. In teh final analysis, this series just served to highlight the failure of Marvel and J. Michael Straczynski to get their act together and publish a decent end to this series. An ending that these characters deserved.
Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem #1
I promise this won't turn into my usual anti-Ultimatum rant. Of all the issues to come out of Ultimatum, this first issue of the two planned Spider-Man Requiem was the best thus far. Granted, this issue was a flashback issue featuring a fun story where Spider-Man helps Tony Stark out when Hydra decides to bust into his office building. As per usual, Bendis was on his A-game with this character. For all of the perceived faults Bendis has in his writing, there's no denying an electricity when he writes this title character. It's evident to the reader that he enjoys writing Ultimate Spider-Man stories and that the character works best when not involved with soul-crushing crossovers like Ultimatum. Bagley and Immonen also turn in great art for this issue. It's sad to think that Ultimate Spider-Man may be MIA from his own title in the coming months, but if the creative team can get back into the groove, Ultimate Spider-Man will once again become the premier Ultimate title.
X-Men Legacy #225
Mike Carey expertly puts an an end to the long Xavier Legacy arc. I've enjoyed this titles Xavier-centric focus in the last couple of years. Mike Carey has made Legacy one of the more thoughtful and well written X-books while exploring the theme of Xavier's redemption. This issue works as a lovely conclusion to that and offers a hint as to where the series will go from here. Xavier shows he's no louse by evenhandedly invading the Acolytes' hangout and defeating them without much of a fight. Professor Xavier is kind of a lame character, but Carey reinvented him as a brainy powerhouse who is not to be trifled with. It is my hope that this isn't the last we see of Professor Xavier in this type of context. I would hate to see him float back to his old digs of being the dead weight of the X-universe. As this chapter closes on Legacy and the Rogue chapter begins, one can't help but feel a sense of wonder at what Carey has accomplished. Kudos to Mike Carey. I hope we'll see more great stuff out of this title in its second chapter.
The End League #8
Damn. This book is still ending, isn't it? With every issue that comes out of this title, I want more. There's just so much going on in this title that it can't possibly end next issue. It just can't. Clones of Astonishman have captured Soldier American and Blur Gil and are attempting to find the Hammer of Thor. A team of heroes rush to get the Hammer of Thor before the Smiling Man picks it up. Alas, it appears that all engines are go for the final issue in #9. The pace of the storytelling is picking up, which is fine, but I hope everything gets a satisfactory conclusion next issue. There are a lot of plot lines floating out there. How can they possibly be wrapped up without leaving the reader feeling cheated? I don't think Remender can do it. So, um, Mr. Remender, please come back as soon as possible to this book as soon as possible. Please?
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic#42
The moment many KoTOR fans have been waiting for finally arrived in this issue. The rogue Jedi Knight Revan, who eventually adds the title of "Darth" out front, makes his appearance here. We get a small, but important origin story for Revan here as related to the reader and Zayne's gang by future Sith Lord Malak. There is a killer fight here between Malak and Mandalorian Rohlan that has been boiling up for a while. The gears of war are4 just getting started, and with appearances by Revan and Malak here, the reader gets a sense that things are about to go from bad to worse for our fair adventurers. Miller turns in a solid, action-packed script that many fans have been begging for since the first issue of the series. There's no hyperbole involved there either; go back and read the earliest letter columns to find people begging for Revan to show up. I think this appearance will only ramp up demands for more Revan, especially as the video game Star Wars: The Old Republic promises to not finish the story set up in KoTOR's 1 & 2.
Star Wars Legacy #37
Legacy continues to be not only one of the best ongoing Star Wars titles out now, but ranks amongst the best ever published. Why? This issue exemplifies all that is right with Legacy and all that works with a good Star Wars story. Cade Skywalker continues to walk the fine line between scoundrel and hero, mixing equal parts of Han Solo and Anakin Skywalker seamlessly. We find Cade leading the crew of the Mynock on a mission to rob Imperials. We also find ample amounts of intrigue within the remnants of the Empire. While the galaxy at large does not know the true fate of Darth Krayt, buzz around the Empire has all the Moffs in a tizzy. Add in the appearance of Bounty Hunters at the end, and you have a fun read for any Star wars fan. It's a simple equation; Skywalker + scruffy looking scoundrels + Bounty Hunters + Sith + Imperial Forces = great Star Wars story. Legacy has great writing from John Ostrander that is backed up by consistently great art from Jan Duursema. These two creators are woefully ignored when it comes to "great" modern comic book runs.