Thursday, August 23, 2007

Snap Judgements - Halo: Uprising, Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, Blue Beetle, Thunderbolts, Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious

Video Games Make Bad Comics... Don't They? - Halo: Uprising #1

First, a Geekanerd confession. I've only played Halo once, for fifteen minutes, and I sucked at it. So I'm not sure exactly what was running through my head when I picked this book up. Well, I do know what was running through my head: "Either this will be great because it's Bendis/Maleev, who are a great team, or it will suck which won't be so bad because then I get to tell all those Xbiotches their precious series sucks Covenant Needlers." Well, I don't get to say anything to the Xboxers because their series has made its second transformation to the comic book format quite well.

The first issue is bookended with some slightly stale Master Chief action (Maleev has always been better with mood than with action), but the gooey center follows a hotel concierge and a hotel guest escaping from the alien invasion. The writing really reminded me of Bendis' old crime fiction stuff, like Goldfish or some of his short work for Negative Burn. There's a down on his luck nobody who's gotta step up and be somebody, and he's mixing it up with a sexy lady who can handle a gun. Except this time there's Covenant soldiers instead of hackney mobster types. And just when you start to think that the poor bastard is out of his element and should just hide under a table, it becomes apparent that he's about to get a lot more pivotal in the whole dealy-o.

That all being said, it's still a comic book based on a first person shooter, and that can't be good, right?

Great Characters + Bendis in Top Form - Some Silly Covenant Jokes = A-

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #1, Blue Beetle #18, Thunderbolts #116, and Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious #1 after the jump...

Mice-i-cles - Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #1

Well, it's finally here - the second series of the little book that blew everyone away with its artistry, its epic action, and of course its formidable cuteness factor. Mice with swords! What's not to like? The beginning of the Guard's winter storyline takes a slow approach - after a minor scuffle with a predator, heavy-hitter Saxon remarks, "No swordplay?" Readers may share his disappointment, although that's not so say this book doesn't deliver on the other fronts that made his title so highly regarded.

We join the characters immersed in a bitter winter, and Petersen's familiar small-scale woodland is now rendered in white, purple and blue. A sunrise towards the end of the issue is the visual high point; the sun shines through the frozen thicket in thin splashes of orange, the contrast against the snow is masterful. The scenes featuring the familiar guardsmice works better than the expositionary conversation delivered by the governing characters, but small touches (such seeing the mice keep beetles as trained pets) make every scene worth a second reading. The issue ends with a bang, and indicates why Petersen has frequently referred this second series as a "survival story". It's gonna be a long winter.

Beautiful Snowscapes + An Expanding Universe - A Slightly Slow Start = B+

In With The In-Crowd - Blue Beetle #18

Writer John Rogers is the best at what he does. And what he does is write quickly-paced comics packed with snappy teen dialogue that should impress even the most discriminating Whedon fan. In Blue Beetle #18, Rogers gets to introduce his greenhorn hero to the popular kids - the Teen Titans. Rogers' take on Robin & Co has them sounding smarter and more distinctive than they do on the pages of their own book, and the dynamic between the hardcore Titan heroes and the easily overwhelmed Beetle Bunch offers up more than it's fair share of LOLs.

The story sticks to the standard team-up format - first the heroes fight each other (Jaimie doesn't recognize the Teen Titans?! They live like four states away from Texas!) , then they band together to fight a big baddie. The bad guy is pretty much inconsequential, since the story is in the team-up. Unfortunately, the bad guy is Lobo, and Fans of the Man may be disappointed to see his antics are upstaged by the wonderful chemistry between the two bands of very different heroes. Jaimie and his friends look at the Titans with outsider's eyes, and can't resist asking a few very meta questions, such as why Supergirl would choose to fly around in a skirt.

The only thing that keeps this ish from getting a full fledged A+ is the first few pages. Drawn by David Baldeon and San Davis, the art suffers from a serious case of clonitis - you'd think that between two artists they'd be able to give each character a different face, but sadly it didn't work out that way. Still, this is just an early bump in the road on a trip to Funsville.

Cracklin' Dialogue - Tim Drake and Jaime Are Twins + Mexican Space Launch = A

It's Not Easy Being Mean - Thunderbolts #116

Yaawn. It seems like this book is only exciting every other issue. Last week we saw an amazing fight where Venom ate someone's arm and Bullseye got his ass handed to him. This week we just get some leftover, heated-up plot rehash. Artist Mike Deodato Jr. makes an admirable attempt to distract from the tedium by constantly drawing Moonstone in a sultry close-up, but that doesn't change the fact that all these conversations in Osbourne's office are boring. Or maybe it changes the fact a little. But not enough.

Speedball fans may be interested/horrified to see how low the former hero has been brought, and he has the issue's "big moment" - but even that seems like a lot of noise without much punch. The only part of this book that really got my attention was a surprisingly angsty Venom - nothing brings on the existential torment like the realizing everyone now thinks of you as a cannibalistic space monster.

Office Conversation - Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing + Venom Angst = C

The Title Is So Bad - Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious #1

Ask me if I love Lobo...
Yes! I adore Lobo, thanks for asking!
Ask me what my favorite Lobo story is...
Lobo's Back! Thanks for asking!
Ask me what my least favorite Lobo story is...
Any of the one-trillion crossover stories that all suck because every single one of them [that I've ever read -ed.] loses sight of the absurdity that makes Lobo a fun character. I'll even go one step further and say that if Keith Giffen ain't writin' it and Simon Bisley ain't drawin' it then it's taking place in the normal DC Universe and it isn't worth reading. Lobo's world is pulsating and alive and disgusting and perverse and violent and colorful. The DC Universe is... Well, it is what it is. Part of what makes Lobo Lobo is he truly is The Main Man of his universe. Everyone cowers in fear from the notorious bastich, and those that don't soon get their insides fed to them. Thanks for asking!

Now, after years of pretending the character was dead to me, I allowed myself to hope that Sam Keith could capture Lobo as well as the Holy Giffen/Bisley team. And he does! Visually. In other respects, not so much. As I mentioned before, the trouble with a Lobo/Superhero crossover story is that they come from two different worlds and it's very hard to be true to both. This story has Batman being his moody self but also trying to be a little silly, and Lobo being his silly self but also trying to be a little moody. The result is a muddy middleground where nobody's anything. Least of all interesting. Which is a goddamn shame because this book looks SO GOOD! Keith has the cartoony grit that Lobo's world demands, and there are some truly killer pages in here.

Thrilling Keith Art - Underwhelming Keith Story - Not My Lobo = C+

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