Summer Reading, pt. 5

by Brandon

The penultimate article of my summer reading series has arrived! That lusty picture to the left isn't here just to fit our monthly T&A quotient! No sir, we have more taste than that around these parts.

My monthly shipment of new comics arrived Monday afternoon and I was stoked to read up on all the things I'd seen floating around the vast Internet the past few weeks. The first things I read were my Marvel titles. I'm a shameless Marvel Zombie, I can admit to that, but I would be a liar if I didn't say that some of the Marvel books I have been reading have been a little lackluster lately.

But was I disappointed or elated this month? Read on.

The Invincible Iron Man #15
What can I say about the "World's Most Wanted" arc that I haven't already said? The plodding storyline continues on into part 8. I don't mind a longer story if there is actually a story to tell. But Invincible Iron Man has become a book where Tony Stark is on the run... and that's pretty much it. This story could have easily been condensed down, but because it has to fit within the framework of the Dark Reign non-event event, we get a seemingly unending stream of escapes and near-misses. Tony Stark may be losing his mind, but I'm losing my patience. Do something here, Fraction. Anything. Please?

Frank Castle: The Punisher #72
Most of the Punisher Max arcs are serious and grounded in a harsh reality that is hard to take at times. But Garth Ennis wisely broke up the intensity every now and then with a humorous arc. Victor Gischler deftly follows in Ennis' footsteps here by giving the reader fun, yet characteristically violent romp with Frank Castle in "Welcome to the Bayou." Stylistically, this reminds me of the film 2,000 Maniacs on some level. There isn't a supernatural angle working here, but the idea of Podunk rednecks in the Louisiana Bayou trapping outsiders for their own nefarious purposes is ridiculous and entertaining all at once. There are several laugh out loud lines here, surprisingly delivered by Frank Castle. Goran Parlov, Punisher Max veteran artists, provides complimentary art to the outlandish send up. The appearance of the gangbanger in the back of Frank's car at the end of the issue is sure to throw a new wrench into the hectic story. This book is highly recommended if you want to find a solid book with dark humor.

Punisher #7
D-listers unite! Ah... Rick Remender apparently has plans to turn Frank into Frankenstein in his upcoming "Rest in Pieces" arc, but for now readers have to settle for Frank icing the D-List All-Stars the Hood has assembled to take out Punisher. The thing that makes Punisher work so well in the Marvel Universe is that he was very different from your average costumed bear. He didn't deal with the fantastical all that much despite it being right next door. He was detached from the spandex set, but had a purpose. I just don't see that purpose coming out of this incarnation of Punisher. Frank Castle gunning after the D-Lister All-Stars just doesn't seem right or appropriate for the character. This just doesn't feel right. If the preview images are any indication, that feeling of trepidation is going to stick around for a little while.

Ultimatum #5
Speaking of feelings of trepidation, the final issue of Ultimatum finally hit the shelves last week. The verdict? Ugh. To be fair, it was a lot better than I expected. Though it seemed like half the book's pages were splash-pages (I wish I were exaggerating), Loeb has set up an interesting environment for the post-Ultimatum Ultimate universe. Let's all just forget the fact that he had to commit character genocide in order to establish this setting, but it worked. Mutants are on the run and heroes everywhere are dead. A vacuum has been created story wise and that can be fertile ground for storytelling in the near future. But was it worth it? Loeb has been criticized up and down, and rightly so, for his wholesale butchering of the Ultimate Universe. There are too many cooks in the kitchen now and with any luck he will be exiting out through the back. With Millar, Bendis, and Ellis at the helm for the Ultimate Comics relaunch, perhaps fans can expect better and brighter days ahead for the Ultimate Universe.

Ultimatum Spider-Man Requiem #2
The story here was solid, but like the previous issue, it seemed more like a rejected story from the regular run. J. Jonah Jameson was a great choice for narrating this story, but the narration doesn't have the weight it should have. Hulk meets Spider-Man, they fight, and Hulk shows a human side. You can find a thousand Hulk stories out there like this. Why was this one so special? Because Spider-Man was there? Because a busload of kids got saved? Come on. Ultimate Spider-Man can do better than this. Maybe it will in the future, but for now these last few issues of volume one have done nothing to add to the great stories that came before it.

X-Force #17
This beginning of this issue disappointed me some. Messiah War was more dud than stud, and here we get transported back to the climax of the previous arc t wrap things up there. It was a bit confusing for me to remember what had happened a few months prior to this and why I should care. The Leper Queen climax wasn't even a climax... it just kind of ended.To quote the actual book, "boom." I'm not terribly impressed with that particular framing device, but I'll live. At least I hope I do. Things get messy quick for the team when they get back. The pace of the book is frantic and that works well within the scope of what is going on at the UN and on the streets. Any hope of this team being kept a little secret has to be vanishing fast if the pages of this issue are any proof. By the end of the issue, this title was back into my good graces with its action and frenetic pacing.

X-Men Legacy #226
This issue marks the beginning of a new era for X-men Legacy. Rogue's team barely has a chance to breathe before being thrust into the actions of the Utopia crossover. Though the issue wasn't a bad read, it seemed like Rogue, Danger, and Gambit spent the entire issues putting out little fires instead of actually focusing on the main blaze. Like Elvis, Jesus, and Santa Claus, they were just everywhere. It was like Mike Carey got ADD during the writing of this crossover. There is a lot going on around town, I'm sure, but a more focused approach could help flesh out this book. And this book has been very focused in the past year.

Uncanny X-Men #513
I'm not going to mince words here; I think Fraction got moved to the big leagues a bit too quickly with Uncanny X-Men. I know I've mentioned it before, but Uncanny X-Men should scream UNCANNY EFFIN' X-MEN! This does not scream that. This barely whimpers it. This issue finds the uncanny X-Men wacthing the action... on television. What? This is UNCANNY EFFIN' X-MEN! Where's the larger than life action? Instead, we get a lot of scenes with mutants we don't give a rat's ass about. Adam X? What rock did they find that loser under? Trust me, we x-fans don't give a shit about Adam X. I know I was kind of hoping his ass would get handed to him by someone big like Ares. Maybe his head will get smashed in or ripped in half. I don't know, but it would be cool. Let's work on that, guys.

I'll be back in a few days with the final article on my summer reading habits. I'll be reviewing the most recent issues of Fables, Savage Dragon, Batman & Robin, Detective Comics, the various Star Wars titles, and Conan. Until then...