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Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 4/16/08: Captain America, Countdown, X-Factor, Flash and more!

Written by: The CinCitizens


ImageWeek after week, every Wednesday, there is a sudden influx of content in the comic book world. It's CC2K's job to sift through the garbage to find the gold. Every week we'll be bringing you reviews on the widest range of books possible. This week: Captain America, Catwoman, Batman and the Outsiders, X-Factor, Noble Causes and more!


Amazing Spider-Man #557 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – Zeb Wells
Artist – Chris Bachalo
Inks – Townsend, Irwin, Faucher, Mendoza and Vey
Colors – Antonio Fabela & Chris Bachalo
Letters – Cory Petit

After four full months on thrice-monthly Spider-Man, they have yet to have a late issue, which is great for all involved.  If my understanding is correct, this is the end of the "Brand New Day" banner as the book will now flow into more natural storytelling without forcing every creative team to have three issues at a time.  It’s normally not the first thing I notice about a book, but the coloring on this issue is nothing short of astonishing.  Everything is rendered so well and helps the pencils and inks out so much that this issue would have been tremendously underachieving otherwise.  With very complicated characters on screen and a lot of jumping around, the art looks very crisp and clean.

Chris experiments more with the panel layouts and it really pays off.  The storytelling is easy to follow with only one panel in the entire book that may take a bit to figure out what it is.  While that means this isn’t perfect, it’s better than the previous two issues.  Specifically, there is one two page layout that at first looks confusing, but the way the story melds with the panels and jumps through panels is very inventive and had me really taken off guard by how well it worked.

This, like the first issue of this arc, is another action heavy story.  So the characterization and dialogue suffer from having so little screen time.  There are a few good bits of interaction with Spider-Man and his main villain, but the rest is pretty much forgettable.  It makes me sad to say, but again this book is a bit lopsided towards the art despite the story.  It’s still fun to read, but until those two work well together, it won’t be great.

4.0 out of 5.



ImageAvengers: The Initiative #11 Review by Tom Lynch
Writers – Dan Slott & Christos N. Gage
Artist – Stefano Caselli
Colors – Daniele Rudoni
Letters – Joe Caramagna

Everything about the latest arc of this book has been a bit odd.  It really took until part 3 to understand what the hell what going on and now we’re at the final part 4.  This issue is packed.  It’s very fast paced and intense throughout.  Plenty of action is available while still being able to have most every important character from the book have their own part to play.  The story gets very suspenseful, but there’s a specific plot point towards the end that takes a lot away from it and left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

The book does have a great look to it and everything is colored in a way that reflects the dark nature of the story.  The shading is also very powerful and helps a lot with the depth of the art and it looks great having the light land realistically on everyone.  The panel layout is standard stuff, which is slightly disappointing given the eccentric nature of the story.  Like the previous three issues, this one falls a bit below the usual standard that this book started out with and I’m thankful to have this one done and over.

2.0 out of 5.




ImageBatman and the Outsiders #6 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Chuck Dixon
Pencils – Carlos Rodriguez
Inks – Bit
Colors – Marta Martinez
Letters – Sal Cipriano
Cover – Dougie Braithwaite & Brian Reber

Somewhere between the absurd issues that seem to be haphazardly connecting this storyline, I have gained some more respect for Chuck Dixon.  It's not that I have ever thought him to be anything other than a decent writer, but to be honest, I thought the second through fourth issues in this series seemed to be a bit lacking.  They fit together only barely, the plot seemed unimportant and even a bit trite, the characters weren't working; Batman and the Outsiders had begun to run the gamut of disappointments.  The fifth issue came along, and things finally seemed to move better.  The team became more defined, the characters earned some personality and the story of that single issue seemed to hold together better than the series up until that point.

Well all that glue that #5 slapped on the series has been worn away again with #6.  It's not that issue #6 is bad at all… it's really not.  Basically, all that #5 repaired has once more been ruined.  Without giving anything away, as one out our Outsiders puts it, "[the shit] really hits the fan."  There's a lot going on, and without Rodriguez's art and Dixon's writing, this ship would be sunk.  Sure, it was the plot devised by Dixon that got us here, but the dialog by Dixon has been adequate enough to pull it all together the sixth time around.

Maybe that's the best way to describe #6… "adequate."  Sure.  Batman and the Outsiders #6 does an adequate job of entertaining while throwing enough at the plot to force it into shambles again.  So now we have an adequate issue that will have to be pulled together again with the seventh.  Is #7 up to the job?  Find out next month.

3.5 out of 5.



ImageCaptain America #36 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Ed Brubaker
Artist – Steve Epting
Colors – Frank D’Armata
Letters – Joe Caramagna

No longer is Cap’s death going to have to drag and drag, because it looks as if he’s still alive! How exciting! Another Marvel zombie that’s not actually a Marvel Zombie graces the pages of one of its’ biggest books. It’s unfortunate that it had to be in such a good issue, as well, beginning with a cover featuring an ever so subtly placed Nick Nolte. An interesting flashback with Red Skull, triumphantly sulking during the end of World War II as any good Nazi should starts the book off with a bang, only to bring it back to the present day where he and Faustus discuss exposition.

Brubaker, despite being a talented storyteller, can’t seem to avoid stepping in painful bear traps. To even bring a character like Hawkeye, who himself was just resurrected nonsensically and unnecessarily, into an issue of Captain America dealing with its’ own existential crisis points more and more to one assuming the worst about Steve Rogers. Unfortunately, the worst in this case is that Steve Rogers is actually still alive, and Marvel can’t keep characters dead.  One may wonder, however, is he a Skrull? Possibly. This simple question shows the value of Secret Invasion and its’ vast goldmine of possibilities. However, it’s been stated by the writer of that series numerous times that neither Tony Stark nor Steve Rogers are Skrulls. He has been vague about those statements in recent discussion, so buttering up impatient readers seems a small possibility, but unfortunately it’s difficult to trust that level of creativity existing. This book and its’ current state makes it so.

The book is actually good. The story, Tony Stark’s involvement, and an attempt at corrupting the U.S. government (even more) have nice, simple political undertones and carry redeemable quality. Originality is present this issue as well, with a fantastic dream sequence at the end humorously diving into the mind of Bucky, struggling with an underlying pain as he speaks with Steve, waking in a panic. Comic book surrealism is few and far in between, so when it’s inserted it’s exciting. The current American hero is certainly having a duality problem, as if he doesn’t consider himself to be the real Cap, so why should anyone else? Self conflict, evil, and corruption of power, all of these aspects would be fine; great even, without the inclusion of any kind of clone, resurrected, or blow up Steve Rogers. Why, then, does Marvel deem it necessary to do this? If he’s a Skrull, however, they can do whatever they want and I’ll shut up, because that’s awesome.

3.0 out of 5.


ImageCatwoman #78 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Will Pfeifer
Pencils – David Lopez
Inks – Alvaro Lopez
Colors – Jeromy Cox
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher

With the announcement of DC canceling my favorite of their books, Catwoman, you can imagine that I'm just a LITTLE disgruntled at the moment. Okay, more than a little. I'm absolutely completely fucking pissed. In any case, this is a review of the stellar issue #78, and not a rant about how clueless a big publisher is yet again.

With Selina still stuck on the Hell Planet as a result of Salvation Run, this issue sees her reluctantly team up with known adversaries, Hammer and Sickle, in order for her to gain some protection for herself. Of course, this is Catwoman, and nothing ever works out like she plans. This issue kicks off a new story arc, "The Long Road Home", and introduces a new aspect to the story, back on Earth: Slam Bradley's ongoing investigation to find Selina that turns into him stumbling upon the discovery that all of the world's madmen have suddenly disappeared. Slam Bradley is an incredibly underrated character (as is Catwoman, apparantly), and seeing him get more on panel time is a treat.

The Lopez's art is a treat as always, giving us simple but effective layouts, cinematic close ups and exciting action. There is one problem with color consistency, that due to the continuous quality of this book I will assume was done on purpose – just not effectively. During the start of Slam's investigation, colorist Jeromy Cox gives the panels a sepia hue that suggests a noir-style feel of an old PI movie, which is supported by Slam's running monologue. My issue is that the hue is dropped at a certain point, and the consistency is thrown. The point that it is dropped is indeed more effective without it, because of it's action-oriented panels, but why only have it for a couple of pages? It can't be for the cause of flashback, because it's all in the present. Regardless, it's a small problem that is largely overshadowed by the many pluses of the issue.

Oh yeah, and you get another amazing Adam Hughes cover.

4.0 out of 5.



ImageCountdown to Final Crisis #2 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer(s) – Paul Dini with Sean McKeever
Artist – Scott Kolins
Colors – Tom Chu
Letters – Travis Lanham
Cover – Adam Kubert with Edgar Delgado

I realized while reading this second to last issue of Countdown that I discovered what this series' real problem is: It should have been a monthly 12-issue maxi-series. Everything that has happened over the past year could have no doubt been successfully condensed into 12 issues, but DC I guess felt that with the success of 52 they needed to continue the weekly book trend. All said, it failed, but at least this issue is successful on many fronts.

Issue #2 finally sees some sort of pay off with all of these events that we've been chugging along with for 50 issues. Namely, the face-off with Darkseid. With a special guest appearance from Orion, we are treated to a truly pleasing visual presentation of (spoiler!) Darkseid's final battle. Scott Kolins' work comes to life as this battle rages, the lines become thick and heavy, and the characters drunk with fury. It's impressive for any comic, let alone a weekly one. Tom Chu's colors suddenly become highly saturated as Orion and Darkseid clash amidst raging fires. Seriously, I was taken by complete surprise at how much I enjoyed this issue.

That said, the script is still weak, as usual, with sporadic terrible dialogue and failed quips. However, there are also some very intriguing lines contained within the main feature as well as the back-up origin of Darkseid by Scott Beatty – regarding the Fifth World and the slight suggestion of the Fifth World's "New" New Gods being some familiar characters. Of course, it's all speculation at this point, but this issue definitely is successful in generating excitement for Final Crisis, even if the past 50 issues have, for the most part, been an incredible waste of time.

3.5 out of 5.




ImageThe Flash #239 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Tom Peyer
Pencils – Freddie E. Williams II
Colors – Tanya & Richard Horie
Letters – Travis Lanham
Cover – Freddie E. Williams II

The last issue of The Flash left me feeling great about the direction in which Tom Peyer was taking the series.  The Flash was finally filled with emotion, he had a home and a family and his kids actually fought with him.  The issue had some amazing art by Williams, and the story arc opened up so well that the book actually became one of my most wanted over the course of the previous month.  The Flash is great again with Peyer at the helm, issue #239 is no exception.

The second bout in the arc pits older Flash and younger Flash against each other in a rather emotional manner, even Wally West can't smart-ass his way out of the conflict.  The money issues for Wally are no different.  Peyer even manages to pull in the amazing concept of powered up citizens living everyday lives within the DC universe.  As cool as that three page section is, the issue itself moves back to West and his dealings rather quickly.

Like I said, Peyer is doing some pretty great things with this Flash.  So if you've been looking for a chance to jump onto the series, now's as good a time as any to start reading The Flash.  Each issue has the standard catch-up page at the beginning, but we're only looking at two issues of arc depth, so….  Pick this one up, it's a great superhero book and you'll love it in Peyer's able hands.

4.5 out of 5.




ImageGotham Underground #7 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Frank Tieri
Pencils – J. Calafiore
Inks – Jack Purcell with Mark McKenna
Colors – Brian Reber
Letters – Sal Cipriano

If you've read past reviews and weekly wrap-ups, you know the love that I have for this series. That's why it was severely disappointing to pick up this issue and be, well, disappointed. I guess I should have seen it coming, but the cliffhanger that was exciting last issue turned out to be misleading. Duh. But, I just thought that Tieri might defy expectations and do something different. With issue #7, I'm discovering that things might not be as original as they once seemed to be. I'm fairly certain that the outcome of this story will resort to the status quo, ultimately providing readers with an amusing, but pointless, tale.

Issue #7 is yet another "everyone fights" issue that writers seem to love. Granted, the big battle here is relatively small scale, with characters that are but a distraction for the real plot of the story, so it's not as though the outcome of said battle is going to determine the ending of the story. Calafiore's art is perfectly competent, but the content in this issue seems less suited to his strengths. Previous issues set in jails and what not proved to be perfect for Calafiore's jagged art style, but the big fight scenes here seem a bit out of place.

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing in this issue is the weakness of Tieri's usually strong script. This issue sees an overabundance of exposition, something that was previously left to the artwork. That said, the dialogue is good enough to maintain amusement even while simply moving the plot along. When writing a book chock full of villains, it's difficult to successfully give each of them a specific voice, but Tieri does it here with ease. Granted, he's got the Batman's rogues to work with – some of the most colorful in comics – but he manages to get each of their styles and dialects down without them ever blending into each other, even when they share the same panel.

I'm looking forward to seeing this series through to conclusion; I can only hope that expectations are defied to give birth to a truly underrated mini-series: one of the few  good things to come from Countdown.

2.5 out of 5.



ImageGrimm Fairy Tales #26 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer(s) – Linda Ly & Raven Gregory
Pencils – Claudio Sepulveda
Colors – Nei Ruffino
Letters – Alphabet Studios
Design – David Seidman
Cover – Eric Basaldua/ Nei Ruffino

“But the truth was revealed, and I finally did see…that the cold blue sea…was as empty as me.” Deep. Very deep. It seems that the book has enough to reach even the loneliest soul with its relatability and angst. It has always read like a book that is geared towards girls who must follow their boyfriends into comic book stores and think super heroes are stupid. In this case, then, many female readers could be affected on an emotional level and possibly draw personal comparisons to feeling used by assholes like Prince Eric or whatever his name is in this version of Steve the quarterback. Never would I think, however, that it could affect me in such a way and on such a personal level as seeing Ariel get ripped in half and finished off by a couple of huge fucking sharks.

I have always hated The Little Mermaid. It’s the lone Disney film that has no redeeming qualities for boys, as most of their animated movies do. For example, Robin Hood has male and female characters, a love story and action to boot, keeping 6 and 7 year old girls and boys happy. I can remember being in first grade, hearing the votes for what the movie of the week should be and cringing at the idea that I would have to be watching a fat, ugly sea witch and a pussy prince uselessly run around in a world of singing crabs, never truly standing out as the villains and male leads of other films. Everyone can sing along to “Just Can’t Wait to be King” together, but only one half of the classroom can enjoy “Kiss the Girl,” and it’s not the half with a penis. Grimm Fairy Tales has thus re-invented the story in such a way that I didn’t think was imaginable. Not only does the foolish girl on both sides of the story lose out to an unnamed hussy, but she pays for being in love with such an asshole in the first place. And it’s glorious. I refuse to spoil how both girls end up, but I will simply say that I was so blown away by Ariel’s death that I didn’t even realize it happened and had to turn the page back to re-read.

I would simply like to say thanks to Linda Ly and Raven Gregory. They have done something I’ve never even imaginably hoped for. Criticisms for the issue only lie in the fact that of course, Prince Eric is still a pussy, and it would’ve been nice to have a giant panel of the two sharks (who I will call Dylan and Cole) as opposed to a disgusting, squid looking sea witch, but sea witches always get in the way of everything. Otherwise, this is an exciting must for anyone whose ever been turned down by a girl in love with a loser, or someone whose hated a girl-geared Disney like me. Rejoice!

4.0 out of 5.



ImageNoble Causes #32 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – Jay Faerber
Artist – Yildiray Cinar
Colors – Ron Riley
Letters – Charles Pritchett

Finally this issue came out.  It seems like forever that the ad in Dynamo 5 told me that this was a perfect jumping on point for new readers.  As it turns out, the ad was right.  Right up front we get a glimpse of all the principle characters and a peak into their interactions as a crazy extended family.  There are a lot of members with really odd connections, but having them all together and with handy captions along the way, it’s really easy to get into what’s happening.  While it does a good job of introductions, there isn’t much of a plot to speak of until the last two pages.  It almost feels like this should have been a zero issue to show who everyone is.

Cinar does a good job on art, but some of the inks look scratchy and a bit rushed.  It sticks out on pages where the line work is very clean aside from one panel.  The art has a bit of an old school feel that works for the book as it’s main characters are pretty easily put into the usual archetypes.  The panel layouts and borders change pretty drastically throughout the book and give it a very fast paced feel even though there isn’t much happening.  It’s all very easy to follow. 

In all, the art and story do work together very well to present a coherent story.  I can’t imagine what this is like for someone reading all along with almost nothing happening here but recap.  It has a great hook at the end that will have me coming back for more next month, but this issue alone is a bit of an odd step.

3.0 out of 5.



ImageRobin #173 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Chuck Dixon
Pencils – Chris Batista
Inks – Cam Smith with Rick Ketcham
Colors – Guy Major
Letters – Sal Cipriano
Cover – Freddie E. Williams II

I'm going to start here with the issue itself, then I'll move on to some key plot points that probably deserve some attention.  The pacing of this Robin arc is great; credit Dixon for doing enough in one issue to both satisfy me and keep me salivating for the next.  Us readers have been left with some subtle mysteries that deserve wrapping up with the next issue… what the hell is the Penguin up to, what do those seemingly dirty cops want, and is this really Spoiler (more on that below)?

If that third point meant absolutely nothing to you, then you probably never kept up on the Batman continuity through "War Games".  Well, to arm the knowledge bomb Dixon may want to drop on you with the next issue, I'm going to let you know who Spoiler is and exactly why you should give a damn.  The current Robin, Tim Drake, retired a few years back.  Bats sought out a replacement and found the first in-continuity female Robin to replace him.  Stephanie Brown proved to be a little too conceded and head strong for the job, so Batman gave her a swift kick to the curb.  While trying to earn her place, during the "War Games" arc, Stephanie was killed.  Robin has dated her before, Batman feels responsible (doesn't he always) and the fans feel cheated because Steph doesn't even have a memorial in the Bat Cave.  So… that's why you should care.

But I don't yet.  Dixon's going to either pull the curtain back on a facade or reveal the most elaborate faked death ever… which is he capable of?  I don't know.  I'll just say that Robin #173 was pretty good, but #174 will be brimming with knotted off loose ends.  And that's where this stands:  how sloppy will the next issue be?  But in terms of continuity, issue #173 is well paced, entertaining and action-packed.  Dixon is handling Robin's character just fine, but I won't rule on his ability with this arc until next issue; the conclusion.

4.0 out of 5.



ImageX-Factor #30 Review by Tom Lynch
Writer – Peter David
Pencils – Valentine De Landro
Inks -: Andrew Hennessy
Colors – Jeremy Cox
Letters – Cory Petit

That’s right people, Arcade is back!  He was always such a fun villain to have around and it’s good to see him coming back in a grand way.  While he’s mostly up to his old tricks, the execution of his plan is different enough from old stories to feel very fresh.  There is a good bit of monologue running through the book, but there are also enough spaces where the art is given a chance to breathe and tell the story.  As usual, there are some great moments of comic relief that fit within the story and come off as real.  Characterizations are all spot on and the few interactions are great.  That’s a very good thing because this is a very character driven issue.  Since most everyone is split up, they all need to carry their own sections of the story.

The art has a great realistic feel that works well with the “street level” type story that’s being told.  And that put up against the insane background that Arcade has put everyone is makes for a nice contrast.  Everything is very well rendered with great backgrounds and the coloring on the city has a very suburban feel to it.  X-Factor has become such a consistently good book that it’s hard to come up with new ways to say it’s basically the best X book on the shelves.

4.0 out of 5.



ImageX-Men: Divided We Stand #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer(s) – "Danger Room": Mike Carey, "Home": Craig Kyle & Chris Yost, "Blend In": Skottie Young, "Belong": Chris Yost, "Migas": Matt Fraction
Artist(s) – "Danger Room": Brandon Peterson, "Home": Sana Takeda, "Blend In": Skottie Young, "Belong": David LaFuente, "Migas": Jamie McKelvie

Colors – "Danger Room": Justin Ponsor, "Blend In": Jean-Francois Beaulieu, "Belong", "Migas": GURUeF

Letters – Corey Petot 

 A short, sweet review for a book far longer. A two part series chronicling life for ex-X-Men, this book is essentially a pass over unless you are an X-Men fan or looking for some variety. Solid artistic styling is forced to be ignored because of lame stories. Save for a good story about a mutant with rock or rhinoceros skin or something that I’m unfamiliar with and a great story involving Nightcrawler, a Catholic priest and no child molestation, everything else is fairly bland. All non X-Men fans steer clear, and anyone looking for something involving story on a grander scale should also ignore it. This seems to be just a quick moneymaker, almost an advertisement for the books these characters normally appear in.

 2.0 out of 5.