This Week's Stack - 6/17/09 Part II: ... the rest of it.

I meant to post this days ago, so to you, the nonexistent reader... I apologize.

Anyhoo...

Ultimate Spider-Man Requiem #1:




Ultimatum... there are so many things I could say about Ultimatum. Even more for Jeph Loeb's Ultimate stuff. But that would take up so much time and space that I'm just going to stow it. For now...

So, onto the issue at hand (literally). The premise of USM Requiem, in short, is that J. Jonah Jameson is back at the Daily Bugle offices after the Ultimatum Wave (why are they calling it that?) has subsided a bit. When last we saw him, he was watching in awe as Spider-man was saving people from drowning. JJJ realizes what a colossal d-bag he's been and decides to write a story about how Spidey is really a hero.

So that's the set-up. However, things diverge from there. Ben Urich gives him a zip-drive that has all of the stories of Spider-man being a hero (how convienient...), which he says he keeps on his person at all times. This guy has issues. I'm not going to go into the question of where he keeps it, because the point is that Jameson looks at the files and sees one about a terrorist threat against Tony Stark. And so he reads...

Now this is where things get annoying. The segment was a story about how Hydra attacks Tony Stark and Spider-Man saves him. Nothing too complicated. But that is the problem. This is Ultimate Spider-Man REQUIEM. Requiem means a serivce or mass to mourn the dead. Now a silly tale about Hydra and Spidey and Iron Man is fine, but ultimately, it didn't show anything significant about Peter Parker. I mean, Spidey doesn't even do that much. He punches a couple Hydra guys, but Tony saves the day (not going to tell you how, but it's nothing special). There was no real character development, except for maybe Tony. The whole story didn't even feel that exciting. 

Now, this story has some of Mark Bagley's unused art. It was nice seeing his stuff back in an issue of USM, but there were quite a few things that I didn't like. First off, Tony's suits were not like his Ultimate Armor. At. All. There were about six different sets of armor that appeared, and all of them were identical to 616 suits.

Not only did they rip off his current armor, they took his crappy 90's stuff too!

That was really annoying to see. In the same vein, Madame Hydra looked almost identical to her mainstream counterpart. The Hyra

Madame Hydra ends up looking a lot like.. Madame Hydra!

agents had maks that covered their entire faces and had a different design, but other that that and some body armor (that many of them seemed to mysteriously lose as the issue progressed...) they looked pretty much the same. That was really disappointing.

My guess is that this story was written and drawn a long time ago, when the UU was first starting out. That would explain a lot of the inconsistencies with the art and plot. This made it feel more like an issue of another "loose-canon" series (get it?), "Ultimate Marvel Team-Up". Remeber the Fantastic Four issue? It was cringeworthy. But even if you look past the art, there is nothing much to see. In the end, it just seemed to me like an opportunity for Bendis (who don't get me wrong, I love dearly!) to throw in some old Bagley art just for sentimentality (I don't think he would do it soley for sales). 

One other funny thing I want to add. There's a panel at the end of a page where the person's dialogue is carried over to the next page, cutting them off. However, between the two, there is an ad, so it ends up looking like this:



When the Thing says it... you know you're f&%@ed.




Story - 2.5/5: The opening segment was a good set-up; the Iron Man story would have been OK in a regualr issue, but didn't fit in this story. It was cut for a reason.

Art - 3/5: Mark Bagley is a great artist, but the discrepancies with the Ultimate Universe and similarities to the Mainstream Universe were irritating, and took away from the plot.

 
 FINAL VERDICT:

Pick it up if you were reading the series already.

The ending (which is back in the present) sets up for the next issue, which should be good. If you weren't already reading Ultimate Spider-Man, don't bother.






Next up...


Red Robin #1





I know this came out weeks ago, but I'm just getting it now. Before I start with the review, I want to say something. SPOILER. As in alert. I'm not talking about Stephanie Brown. If you really don't know who Red Robin is, and you want to find out for yourself, then don't keep reading. I'll put this convenient photo to fill the space:






 

IT'S TIM!!!

Now that I got that off my chest, let us continue, shall we?
Batman is just about the only DC character that I read consistently. I have most of the prominent stories in TPB, and I've been reading since RIP (which was really confusing, and I'll have to read again sometime). I bought the three issues of Battle for the Cowl, which I thought was good, not great. Probably would have been better with Grant Morrison, but Tony Daniels did a good enough job. In the end, we have the new Batman and Robin, who are starring in the new series by Morrison, aptly titled "Batman and Robin". 

But where does this leave Tim Drake? Well, he departs from the Bat-family, for a reason I won't reveal, and sets out to look for Bruce Wayne. Now, he can't dress up as Robin anymore, because someone else has that title. So he decides to use the mantle of Red Robin. Tim is in a dark place right now, and he is willing to cross lines that he wouldn't before. He mentions severe beatings and breaking limbs and appendages, so he is not one to be messed with. This makes sense, because you look at the former Red Robins, and you see Jason Todd, who is a psychopathic freakazoid, and Ulysses Armstrong, who I admittedly don't know much about, other than the fact that he is also a crazy villain guy. If people in the DCU already know Red Robin's reputation, then they will recognize that, whoever is under the mask is not going to be very nice. And that's part of it. This is a chance for Tim to start anew, with a clean slate. Nobody knows who he is, and he won't have to worry about following Batman's orders or fighting his villains. He doesn't even need to fight crime, because his primary objective is to find Bruce. Now, if you know what happened to Bruce, then you know that that will be a pretty... impossible task, but Tim doesn't know this, and we're not sure if he's even thinking rationally.

 

  Story - 4/5: I'm very intruiged by this series, and I can't wait to see where Tim's globetrotting search takes him. The internal monologue is pretty good, and the concept is great. Plus, it's a departure from the Bat-family, meaning that he's is on his own, without having to deal with the issues in Gotham, but not getting any help either.

Art -  3.5/5: The art isn't fantastic, but it isn't the worst I've ever seen. I've never seen this artist before, but I think the art is perfectly fine for the story. I have nothing in particular to say about it.

FINAL VERDICT:

PICK THIS UP! Especially if you are reading the Batman series already. One of the things I don't like aobut DC is that they don't have recap pages, so it's hard to jump into a series like this. But all you need to know is that Bruce is presumed dead, and that there is a new Batman and Robin.



And last but not least...


Spider-Man: The SHORT Halloween!





When I first heard about this, I was afraid that with two (moderate?) celebrities writing it, it was bound to be bad. I was wrong, and I am happy to admit it. The premise is that it's Halloween and Spider-Man (who is dazed from a fight with an amateur villain) and a drunk guy dressed as him are both passed out in an alley. Confusion ensues.
Now, I'm not saying that the writing is absolutely flawless. This is (as far as I know) Meyers and Hader's first foray into writing comics. Of course it's not going to be perfect. But it's good enough. The plot is a humorous, but it's not Deadpool. It shouldn't be wacky and a laughs every page. The humor has to be a bit subtler, which gives the issue more heart. The villain in question, Fumes, who is part of a group named "the Furious Five" (they haven't seen Kung Fu Panda!), brings a lot of the funny parts, when he is pondering whether having "killed" Spider-man is a good tihng or a bad thing:

"Okay... I may have just killed Spider-man. Is this good or bad? On one hand, I would be the guy who killed Spider-Man... very cool. On the other had, the Punisher might track me down and kill me... very uncool."

There's one minor continuity error: The drunk guy's girlfriend says, "I looked under his mask and it's not Ronnie!" In the issue where he was in the negative zone with the FF, didn't it show that if someone pulls off his mask, they see nothing? I didn't read the issue, but if that's the case, then that was a mistake. Unless it's because Peter can't think straight.

Story - 4/5: The plot is cohesive, and while it is nothing epic or life-chnging, it's entertaining. Nothing more, nothing less.

Art - 4/5: I wasn't familiar with Kevin Maguire (almost called him Kevin O'Neill there) before this, but I had heard a lot of praise for him when the issue was announced. The art was great for this story, the guy seems to be able to nail certain expressions for situations well.

FINAL VERDICT:

PICK UP THIS ISSUE!

If you want to read a good story that has a light-hearted feel to it, without having to deal with too much continuity, then read this.

 

Thank you, I'll be sure to review the next few issues I read, just for you imaginary reader!




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This Week's Stack - Week of 6/17/09 Part 1: Captain America #600



This is the first (of hopefully many) blog posts for me. So I hope that the all two of you who are reading this (Wishful tihnking? Prove me wrong!) enjoy.
So now to the reviewing. First off,

Captain America #600:


Before I get started on the issue, I just want to say that I'm happy I was able to get my mitts on this. I had heard about it selling out at Diamond and it being released on Monday (wish I had known that beforehand...), so I was a bit nervous about having to wait until today to get it. So as I walked into the shop with my heart beating out of my chest (a bit over-dramatic) and rounded the... I think I'll skip to the end. Anyway, I saw the gorgeous Alex Ross cover and was really happy. Both covers were good, but no one can top Ross. Until he retires. Then, Djurjevic will reign! MWAHAHAHAHA!!!

Also, I have to admit, I have not been reading that much Captain America recently. Between me no buying the individual issues, Marvel having gaping holes in their Digital Comics, and the TPB's often taking a second place to others, I just haven't been reading them. I basically know what's been going on, though. I read everything about Winter Soldier and the assasination and stuff, so I knew what the story was going in (Red Skull in Arnim Zola's body was a surprise though...). But if you don't know anything about his death and "Bucky Cap" (I had it first Spidey!), then you should do two things:

1) Bake you rock a nice cake. It gets annoyed sometimes, having you living under it and all.

2) Pick up this issue! Even if you are completely clueless, it fills you in on the way. You get the events of his death pieced together by the media outlets and the inner monologues of the main characters (Thank God they can't get over their grief and move on!). In all seriousness, you don't have to be reading the series to know what's going down in the issue. Heck, if you don't know Steve Rogers, it gives you a nice little "history of" on the first two pages (courtesy of cut and pastes pages from Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross's smash hit, "Marvels"!)

So enough back-up, onto the actual issue! In the issue, there are a few different stories, so I'll split 'em up.


Hmm... Look familiar?
Origin
: This was the aforementioned copy and pasted art from "Marvels" page (to be fair, not all of it was copied). Upon further inspection, I actually found out that it was a page copied from a Captain America comic from 2002, which had copied art from "Marvels" from 1994. Hm. As I said before, it gives you a good summary of the history of Steve Rodgers, the original, true and, quite literally, blue Captain America from him becoming a super-soldier to being thawed years later. It serves it's purpose, basically as a fill-in page for new readers. 

Story: 3/5 - It wasn't anything shocking or new, but it didn't really need to be.

Art : 4.5/5 - It's Alex Freakin' Ross!   


One Year After: This takes place on the one year anniversary of Cap's death. It starts out as a news report talking about Cap's history from wwII to his death (a bit redundant), and then looks at it from the point of view of Sharon Carter (Steve's former squeeze), the creepy guy from the 50's who got surgery to look like Steve so he could be Cap (this was all but a clever retcon), Rikki Barnes (Bucky from Counter-Earth), Crossbones (the man who shot Cap), the New Avengers (who are trying to decide whether or not to go to the Cap Memorial, and whether they should be in costume), Red Skull, and then the New Avengers again, who are watching Norman Osborn being a colossal d-bag... once again.

The highlights of this story are the Sharon Carter and Rikki Barnes segments. In Sharon's, she figures out that her memories of shooting Steve were not complete. She remembers the gun being different, and she tracks it down. It turns out that it is actually a high-tech burrito frier that... nah, I'm just screwing with ya. This is probably the only part of the issue that will actually tie into the Captain America Reborn mini-series next month, and it should prove interesting. Rikki, who I admittedly know next to nothing about, is trying to find Bucky so that she can be his partner. To do this, she tracks down Patriot of the Young Avengers (wait... what?). I'm not going to divulge much into what happens, in case you want to read it. 

Story:  3.5/ 5 -  All of the stories were at least decent. And at their best, left me wanting to see what comes out of them. 

Art: 3.5/5 - Most of the art was great, especially Sharon Carter's story (sorry I can't tell who it is). My only complaints are Patriot's constipated face when he's yelling at Rikki, along with a "milk mustache" that magically appeared on his face in one panel. Howard Chaykin's art was a bit of a drawback too. It's not that I don't like it, it's just that in an issue with art that is more life-like, his seems a bit out of place. 
UURRRRGGHHH!!!!


Got Milk?

When you have stuff like this...
... Mr. Happy here kinda ruins the mood.













In Memoriam
: I didn't know much about Bernie Rosenthal, or Steve during that period in general (though I did know that he, like Collosus, is a bruiser with a soft, artistic side... need to get that fixed right quick!), but now I do. Whether I want to is another question. It was a fine story about how charcters who just kind of faded away into comic book limbo can be used every once and a while for filler in a giant-sized issue years later...  

Story: 3/5 - It made me care for the forgotten characters of the 80's. At least for five minutes.

Art: 3/5 - Again, for an issue with such high quality, realistic art, this felt a wee bit out of place. When you take all that away, I liked it.



The Persistence of Memorbilia:  I gotta say, I really enjoyed this story. It's about the value of child-like awe and inspiration over the adult desire to screw over anyone for a quick buck. Guess who wins?

Story: 4/5 - While it may not have anything to do with the Reborn mini-series, it was a story that had heart. Then ending will leave you with that warm, fuzzy feeling inside that people talk about. And it's written by none other than MARK WAID, so you know it's worth reading. 

 Art: 4/5 - This artist's stuff reminded me a bit of that of Bryan Hitch and Mike Perkins, at least for the first two pages. After that, it seemed to lose some of the detail, but it was still very good stuff. 

Red Skull's Deadly Revenge!:   This was a fantastic story. It really shows us -- I can't do this. This was a really corny issue from the early forties, and I just can't BS you guys.  Basically, what happens is that the Red Skull breaks out of jail, and rather than return to Germany where he will be protected by his country and can plot for the war, he decides to set up shop right next to an army base. Why, you ask? So he can dress up as a Frech guy (who doesn't want to wear pants) and practice his archery, duh!
Well that's subtle.


After he's done with that, he calls up some of his criminal homies (one of which is disabled),
Oh the irony!
murders one of them, and tells them that they're going on a crime-spree!
















Cap quickly finds him, and while he is beating the handicapped, Bucky gets shot. By an arrow.
Before there was Spider-sense, there was... Peripheral Vision!!! Too bad poor Bucky doesn't have it.

 


















Meanwhile, Cap gets spanked by ol' Skully. who takes his costume, which he then uses to impersonate Cap (he hides his skully parts with, you guessed it, the shield) and steal state secrets. I'll let you read the thrilling conclusion yourself. Or not. 
"I'm sorry officer, I have a hickie!"











Story: 2.5/5 - 
It wasn't a great story, but it was at least readable. Red Skull kind of came off as a goofball, but you could see Stan Lee's style starting to form, which was cool. 





Art: 1.5/5 -
The art was laughable. When you look at "The Spirit", which was first published two years before this, you still see a clear difference. The people may look a bit cartoony, but at least they have some reasonable porprotions. Another problem was consistency. Red Skull's shirt kept changing from having the Japanese "Rising Sun" flag on his chest, to the swastika.

Red Skull is an equal opportunity type of guy when it comes to propaganda.










Then there was the issue of his teeth and gumline going from red to white. And finally, the outer ring of Cap's shield constantly changed from red to blue. I understand that it's just the way comic strips were back then, but it's still pretty hokey.



Now here's the conundrum: Which one is the mistake? And is that Ultimate Cap in the second one?
























My Bulletin Board

: This was a blurb written by Joe Simon about how the shield changed from a spade-like shape to the circular one, and how Jack Kirby kept messing that, among other things, up. As a result he put up a bulletin board with what the character's costumes looked like, the proportions to other characters, and how the new shield works. Unforntunately, he says that a lot of these were vandalized, so we won't be seeing these in an auction any time soon. It was an interesting insight into the comic industry back in the good (as in "Goodman") old days. 


In total...

Story: 3.4/5

Art: 3/5 
(I'm discounting "Red Skull's Deadly Revenge!")

FINAL VERDICT:

PICK THIS UP!
Despite the fact that these are not fantastic scores, this is definitely worth reading. The best of it is really entertaining, and the rest is nowhere near bad enough to deter you. Plus, it's a really good lead-in to the sure to be exciting "Captain America: Reborn". And if for no other reason, keep this as a collector. It's a milesstone issue, and has already sold out, so it'll be hard to find soon. 

I'll post the other three comics I read tomorrow.

 





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