Sunday, March 18, 2007

300 Spartans, Spider-Man 3, Spider-Girl 6 and Three Other FBW Comic Book Picks

As luck would have it, FanBoyWonder and Mrs. FBW enjoyed a diversionary trip to the cinema this weekend to see 300, based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name.

We never read 300 the graphic novel but the movie was pretty cool—all of the gory war violence mixed with a dash of naked chickness that the arm-chair alpha male could ask for.

It was a tad much for Mrs. FBW, however so we’ll be paying for it down the line by going to see a chick movie.

As an aside, we should note our admiration of British character actor Vincent Regan who played the Spartan Captain. A couple of years ago, we saw him in a very cheesy ABC mini-series on ancient Rome called Empire where he played an out of shape Marc Antony who was more clownish than cunning (though we suspect that was not intended). What a difference a couple of years and a personal trainer makes. Had we not seen his name in the credits, we wouldn’t have recognized him.

If you haven’t caught 300 yet, it’s a good one to see in the theatre but it’s a buddy movie, not a wife/date film. Ignore our warning and you’ll end up going to a chick flick too—don’t let our sacrifice be in vein. (Love you honey!)

Also, we saw the trailer for the upcoming Spider-Man 3 with the kid from That ‘70s Show as Eddie Brock/Venom and the black costume. It looked good. While we had liked but not loved the first two Spidey films, this third one definitely looks like it has some heat to it. Opens May 4.

Now on to FBW’s picks for the week of March 14.

Amazing Spider-Girl #6

The Upshot from Marvel Comics: The Black Tarantula lays a trap, Mad Dog takes aim and Spider-Girl battles the Hobgoblin for the life of a counterfeit web-stunner! Plus: Mayday Parker also confronts her parents and finally answers the question, “Whatever happened to the daughter of Spider-Man?”

This is quickly becoming one of our favorite monthly titles and it’s a pleasant reminder of just how fun the Marvel Universe used to be. It’s also extremely reader friendly, complete with a recap of related events from previous issues on page 1—not unlike how many television shows do it.

For months since Spider-Girl’s re-launch, we had been looking forward to a big face off between Spider-Girl and the Hobgoblin but writer Tom DeFalco deftly gives the reader a taste that turns out to be only a skirmish yet he doesn’t leave us feeling cheated.

We love how May was forced into costume after Hobgoblin kidnapped “Spider-Girl” at a comic expo, lamenting along the way that her web-shooters are dry and she’s more afraid to ask her dad to mix her up another batch of webbing than she is to fight one of her father’s toughest enemies without her primary weapon.

The Hobgoblin was always our favorite Spidey villain back in the day. Unlike the original Green Goblin, who was crazy, Hobgoblin is just plain mean, with some a healthy side of megalomania.

The art by Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema is just as good as their Spidey stuff back in the day—maybe even better. No deadline issues with these seasoned pros.

DeFalco and Frenz are plotting things out at a healthy pace but if there was anything to take issue with it would be DeFalco’s dialogue which is hokey at times. This is especially evident in scenes at May’s high school—it just reads like a middle-aged man trying to write a teenage girl. Hokey but it's not a deal breaker.

May’s conversation at the end with her parents is the payoff. She confesses she has gone back on her pledge to give up being Spider-Girl—although it does strike us as either credibility stretching or willful blindness on Peter’s part that he didn’t have a clue.

May acknowledges her parents’ concern and she says she’ll abide by their wishes if they want her to stop web-swinging—until she’s 18, then she will answer her calling and follow in her father’s footsteps. Good for her.

This character and this book has heart—too bad Spider-Girl is detached from the rest of the Marvel Universe.

Green Lantern Corps #10

The Upshot from DC Comics: It's Lantern against Lantern as Guy Gardner butts with his fellow Corpsmen! On Korugar, Soranik Natu comes under attack by government forces and on Mogo shadows gather.

Regular GLC writer Dave Gibbons returns while also dividing up the art chores with Patrick Gleason and Christian Alamy.

As much as we like Green Lantern Guy Gardner, especially following his newly restored respectability, a legitimate criticism has been made that Green Lantern Corps has become a Guy Gardner book co-staring 7,199 other Green Lanterns.

We see how Gibbons is using Guy as the reader’s point-of-view character. As an honor guard Lantern, he troubleshoots where needed. Yet it would be nice to see the much under-used Green Lantern John Stewart get some face time too.

We are definitely enjoying Gibbons’ continued development of Green Lantern Natu. She’s quickly becoming the most compelling character in the GLC.

As a native of Korugar —the renegade Green Lantern Sinestro’s home planet—Natu became an outcast the moment she accepted a Green Lantern’s ring. But as physician, Natu uses her ring driven by her medical knowledge and will power to heal.

Driven from her hospital practice, she is seeing patients in the slums of Korugar, working to redeem the Green Lantern name one patient at a time.

We really hope that Natu will play a prominent part in the upcoming Sinestro Corps storyline.

Teen Titans #44

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 2 of the "Titans East" storyline explodes as the two Titan teams clash!

As we’ve noted, we had dropped this book recently (as it turns out for just an issue) until we heard that Geoff Johns was leaving the book. We opted to give it another chance under new writer Adam Beechen, who co-wrote this issue as part of the editorial hand-off between writers.

We like Johns overall but frankly we were relieved that he was dropping this book from his already overbooked writing schedule.

While he has an obvious knowledge and reverence for Titans history, to our mind he’s never been able to fully translate his admiration for the original Titans—Robin/Nightwing, Wonder Girl/Troia, Kid Flash/Flash—to the new generation of namesakes.

To give him full credit, Johns did re-launch the Teen Titans franchise where a number of previous re-launches failed by thinking outside the box and with the help of the at the time successful Cartoon Network series.

But his take on the Titans all seemed very clinical and by the numbers. It could be a generational thing—FBW was introduced to and grew up with the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans and no-one else will ever hold a candle to them.

This is not to say he could do no right on this book. Far from it. Johns single handedly re-invented the clone Superboy from a mouthy punk in a leather jacket and a bad 90s haircut to a lost soul and clone of both Superman and Lex Luthor—with a bad 2000s haircut.

He also made Bart Allen, the former Impulse, likeable by maturing him a bit and having Bart adopt the Kid Flash identity and embrace his family’s legacy.

Ironically, we didn’t realize how much both of these characters made up the heart of the team until they were lost in the wake of Infinite Crisis.

As for the merits of issue 44 itself, we’re afraid it was more by the numbers than really compelling. We’ve seen the team vs. team story done a millions times and Johns does bring anything new here. In fact, he loses ground in the one-dimensional way he portrays Slade Wilson/Deathstroke.

Once this story arc plays out and Adam Beechen takes over on his own, we’ll read his first story arc and then decide whether to say or to go again.

52 Week 45

The Upshot from DC Comics: In the month to come, death and destruction will reign supreme in the DCU. Storylines will intersect with horrifying results, a main character will die, another will do something he hasn't done in years, and one will fall from grace. A war is coming, and the end is near.

This issue, like the series has been a mixed bag for us. Black Adam is really the most compelling character featured during this series but only now, 45 weeks later, do we really feel like the surface has been scratched to fleshing out his character.

Likewise, as the impending World War 3 quickly builds, we can’t help but feel this series only really started last week with the other storylines just plain marking time.

As Black Adam goes on a grief-induced rampage (literally) destroying the nations attacked his country and killed his wife and surrogate son, a lot of the potential of this storyline has yet to be and we fear will not be realized.

As monarch of Kahndaq, comparing Black Adam to a real-life someone like Hugo Chavez is not so far out of line—Hugo Chavez with Superman-level powers. Adam’s rampage has shaken the world and we assume will be a big part toward launching World War 3.

Yet, as 52 is taking place during the missing year, until recently in the DCU post-One Year Later, there’s been little sense that WW3 even happened, to say nothing of that it had a huge impact—perhaps because the writers hadn’t decided on a WW3 at the beginning of OYL.

Meaning they’ve been making it up as they go along, and it shows. At this point, we’ll just ride out 52 and then decide if DC’s next weekly, year-long series Countdown is worth our attention.


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