Sunday, December 12, 2004

Shazam, it's the return of the revenge of the son of Quick Comics Reviews!

New Avengers #1
Writer Brian Michael Bendis' "Avengers Disassembled" storyline was one of the weakest, most poorly plotted major comic events in some time -- a real shame because I dig most of Bendis' work, and his take on the comic superteam legacy of the Avengers seemed promising. Now that he's "taken apart" the old 500-issue run of "Avengers," here's the first issue of his "New" Avengers with artist David Finch. It'll be an "All-Star" team from the looks of it, with non-Avengers such as Spider-Man and Wolverine added to the lineup. But adding overexposed characters to the team doesn't make it "Avengers," really. There's some good set-up in this issue, with nice use of an old "Spider-Man" villain to trigger a massive jailbreak, and some solid character moments. The plot feels tighter than the sloppy "Disassembled" arc, even if we don't know where it'll end up yet. But, one hang-up for me is that it's just not "Avengers." It's "Bendis Team-Up," and reads like a crossover between his "Daredevil," "Secret War," "Alias" and other books. Maybe that will change over future issues as characters like Iron Man and Wolverine come aboard, but I just feel like the very creative element that made the Avengers last for 40+ years is something Bendis doesn't quite know how to recreate. A better comic than "Disassembled," surely, but still nowhere near most of Bendis' other work for me. Grade: B-

JLA Classified #1
Shee-oot, this is ice cool. Grant Morrison's writing run on the Justice League in the 1990s was one of the things that got me excited about comics again, all cerebral cyber-action and four-color madness. Grant's JLA lives in a world constantly about to explode or be invaded, with the JLA the last line of defense, unflappable and ten steps far ahead of all of us. Now Grant's back with this three-part story that includes all the things that make him one of my favorite comics writers -- a spiraling sense of invention, technobabble galore and a sheer sense of fun. The Justice League's gone missing in a "infant universe," leaving Batman alone with some third-string heroes to battle a plot to destroy mankind. How can you not love a comic that features world-conquering gorillas, trips to Pluto, Batman in a flying saucer and nebula-men? What's great, though, is like most of Grant's JLA run he plays it straight -- there's no winking done here. This is Superheroland -- this is what happens there. If half of the superhero comics out there were done with this kind of lunatic cool, the world would be made of spandex. Only bummer is this storyline's only 3 issues long. Grade: A-

Amazing Spider-Man #514
I realized the other day that I've been collecting "Amazing Spider-Man" on and off for nearly 300 issues, or more than 20 years. Ye gods. Guess I'm an addict. But the "off" times, for me, have usually been because a piss-poor writer or plotline has taken over the book (Spider-Clone saga, I'm looking at you). Right now, I'm on the fence. Writer J. Michael Stracyznski has been wearing thin for me the past year or so, and I'm mostly buying out of habit. JMS started strong several years back with a series of dynamic, original storylines that brought a nice element of mystery to the title. But lately, JMS has been coasting, putting too much emphasis on lame villains and mystical plotlines that've gotten old. Now this latest storyline, "Sins Past," has riled up some of the old guard fans for how it takes a character who's been dead in the comics for 30 years, Peter Parker's old girlfriend Gwen Stacy, and revealed the hithero-unknown children she had with Spider-Man's foe the Green Goblin. Reaction to the story has ranged from disgust to rage online; mainly, I'm just disappointed because it's such a poorly told story, with terrible plot holes and completely uninvolving emotionally. This issue concludes the storyline, with Gwen's previously-unknown children (who, because it is a comic book, have superpowers and accelerated aging so they appear to be in their early 20s) finishing a vendetta against Spider-Man orchestrated by the Goblin. A good story might have been told from these basic elements, perhaps. But it ain't here. We've got clich├ęd scenes of Spider-Man battling yet another Green Goblin wanna-be, saving a Gwen Stacy look-alike, and basically a story that relies heavily on ancient, far better stories rather than creating anything new. If I never see another scene re-enacting the death of Gwen Stacy on the Brooklyn Bridge 31 years ago, I'll be a happy man. It's lazy pastiche masquerading as homage. I'm about ready to kick the "Amazing" habit again until JMS is off this book and gives a fresh writer a shot.Grade: C-

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