Tim Stevens' Reviews

Opinions on the Work of People Far More Talented Than I

Apparently something big happened at Marvel this week that has everyone up in arms. Huh. Imagine that.

Civil War #2

Published by: Marvel
Writer: Mark Millar
Penciler: Steve McNiven
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colorist: Morry Hollowell

Ahh…so this is what everyone is on about. Captain America wears glasses and hits a SHIELD agent out of a moving vehicle this issue!

That’s not it?

What is it then? We’ve get a great looking chase scene with Patriot (from Young Avengers). That can’t be it. Then we have Reed Richards being weird about a disc marked 42 (ahh, the McGuffin, no big Marvel event is complete without it). That’s no great revelation there. Then, we’ve got Spider-Man revealing his identity to the public. God knows people can’t be talking about—

Wait a sec…


Spider-Man just told everyone he’s Peter Parker?! Oh, this can’t be a good idea.

Or is it?

Well for me, no its not. I tend to be fairly anti-“maintain the status quo”, but this (now defunct) aspect of Spidey’s status quo…it made sense to me. Peter is familiar with the ever shifting vagaries of life and public opinion. He should know that a.) he won’t always be an Avenger or Tony Stark’s errand boy and b.) at some point, the public will move away from being all “booooooooo superheroes”. Actually scratch the “should” there. He would know that.

But, be that as it may, sometimes a character needs a good “out of character” moment to push him in a great new direction. And if this was that, I could probably be cool with it. But…I don’t think it is. I think that, with this, Marvel has officially made Spider-Man the Superman of their company. That is, the flagship character that, paradoxically, no one has enough confidence in to write anything but epics for him. Marvel is in a permanent state of “oh my god, what if they stop paying attention to him!” Thus, we jump from Clone Saga to The Gathering of Five to the Death of Mary Jane to Peter: Homeless to The Return of Mary Jane to The Spider Totem Story to…well, you get the idea (plus, I’m not even out of 2001 yet…this could take awhile). Yet, the most popular Spider-Man book on the shelves over the past five years is Ultimate Spider-Man. Which does 6 issue arcs, but does not do “epics”, really. The closest they’ve come is the Death of Gwen Stacy which felt a bit like an afterthought to the Carnage story and Secret Six which was just lousy. Coincidence?

Anyway, as a Spidey fan it is frustrating that they won’t trust me to pick a Spider-Man book done well unless it features some sort of moment that “will change EVERYTHING!!!” That’s what bugs me about the unmasking. Not that it was done, but that it is yet another “epic” moment that will be immediately cast aside upon the arrival of the next “epic” moment.

The most unfortunate thing about this…I am enjoying Civil War. I don’t necessarily “believe” it all and I can see it going off the rails in a spectacularly horrible way before all is said and done, but so far I am liking this all encompassing slowly building sense of dread that the book is cultivating. McNiven’s art is also quite easy on the eyes.

Grade (ignoring the “unmasking”): B

Squadron Supreme 4

“Blood and Sand”
Published by: Marvel Knights
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciler: Gary Frank
Inker: Jonathan Sibal
Colorist: Chris Sotomayor

Goodness, this is another book that has folks angry. And why? Well, Hyperion is really Peter Parker.

Ahh, I kid (and why do I get the feeling that joke is going to quickly become the “crack the internet in half” of the next couple of weeks?). Seriously though, it’s rape. Specifically, Inertia’s.

I’ll say now as I’ve said before I have no issue with rape being in comics. If we have people beating each other half to death, beating each other to death, shooting one another, threatening to blow up countries and blowing up countries in comics, there is no reason why rape should be declared the sacred cow of crime and never spoken of or committed in the world of comics.

That said, JMS makes it damn hard to support his decision to use it here. It’s as if he couldn’t quite wrap his mind around Inertia so instead he just played “Spin the Wheel of Clichés” for a few moments. The spinner at various points landed on “dead mother”, “revenge/vengeance”, “abusive father”, and “guilt over hidden gifts” and JMS threw all together, stirred ’em around, and voila, a character was born.

Clichés, in and of themselves, are not evil. They can actually be great places to start a character. But you have to move beyond them. They can be a foundation, they can’t be the whole house. Here, they’re the whole house.

Grade: D

52 Week 6

“China Syndrome”
Published by: DC
Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdows: Keith Giffen
Penciller: Joe Bennett
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Alex Sinclair

It is seven weeks into DC’s bold experiment in real time storytelling and I still feel like they are working tirelessly on getting their ducks in a row. This sort of endless setup makes sense in “real life” but in serialized storytelling it can grow frustrating.

At this point, I’m happy to say that 52 still has not reached that point. That’s not to say I recommend it hold this pattern of endless setup, but it can probably survive a few more weeks of it unscathed.

What does hurt the book a bit is the alternating focus. It is necessary given the number of plotlines already gestating, but that does not stop week’s like this from happening; weeks where the storylines I am most interested in (Renee and The Question, Ralph Dibny) are not heard from and storylines I don’t care about (Booster Gold) are given 90% of the spotlight.

So while I think this issue was up to par with the previous ones and I enjoyed some things (the Iron Man looking Manthrax, the mystery of the missing geniuses, the Great Ten), I have a lower opinion of it because it just did not engage me.

Grade: C

Checkmate 3

“The Game of Kings” Part 3
Published by: DC
Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Cliff Richards
Inkers: Bob Wiacek & Steve Bird
Colorists: Tanya & Richard Horie

Saiz is missed, but otherwise, this is another strong issue of Checkmate. Thus, I am confident enough to proclaim issue #1 an aberration and this level of quality the “real thing” for this title.

The Chinese are given a little more depth here as their reasons for voting against Checkmate are not generically “we are an evil nation” but rather a form of diplomacy and meant to fend off American attempts to embarrass them. Mr. Terrific is shown to be out of his depth in at least one thing besides faith, politics, as he realizes too late that everyone involved in the organization is not about just being the altruistic good guys, and Alan Scott and Amanda Waller show they are both very effective at protecting themselves in very different ways.

The big strike against it? Now even Alan is rocking that Green Lantern hologram/badge thingee. ENOUGH! He’s not even a Corps member, there’s no reason for him to be doing that.

As you can tell from the nitpick though, overall, this is a solid success.

Grade: B

Superman 653

“Up in the Sky”
Published by: DC
Writer: Kurt Busiek & Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson

For the second issue in a row, “Up, Up, and Away!” fails to deliver on the promise that the beginning of the storyline had. That promise? Keeping my interested in the ongoing adventures of Superman.

It is not bad, really. It’s just…flat to me. Superman goes head to head against Lex who is “wearing” some sort of giant Kryptonian crystal space ship. The thing is built for adaptation so, for once, it seems Lex is Superman’s physical equal. Metropolis and Superman take a beating until Superman sacrifices himself to stop Luthor’s mad plan.

First, I am tired of Superman needed to sacrifice himself all the time. But whatever…I get that that’s just who he is.

What was really problematic to me was the lack of drama. Metropolis is being ripped apart by these crystal tanks. Superman is being bombarded by Kryptonite rays. Lex is talking about killing everyone in the city. The city is cut off from the rest of the world by a force field so there are no reinforcements coming. It should be nail biting. The only time it comes close though is when Jimmy Olsen steps up to protect Superman (with a trash can lid of all things) and almost loses his arm for his troubles. Even that moment of intensity only lasts a panel.

Still, if you are a Superman fight, inherently, you’ll probably dig this. Johns and Busiek seem to “get” him and the narration proves that. They also have a good feel for the supporting cast who continue to earn MVP status by providing just the right amount of support. Not too much, not too little.

The book does score one great moment in my count, too. As Superman and Lex Luthor finally meet face to face, Luthor says an extremely Luthor line as Superman muses on where they are heading. It happens on the last two pages and fits together just perfectly. I may not love everything else in this book, but that alone is keeping me around for next issue.

Grade: C

American Virgin 4

“Head” Part 4 of 4
Published by: Vertigo
Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Penciller: Becky Cloonan
Inkers: Jim Rugg
Colorists: Brian Miller

Confession time: I have no idea where this book is going. Literally zero.

And that makes me very happy.

Keep it up Steven. Keep it up Becky. Keep it up Jim, and Brian, and all the rest. You got me. I’m hooked.

Grade: B

Ex Machina Special 2

“Life and Death” Part 2 of 2
Published by: Wildstorm
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciller: Chris Sprouse
Inker: Karl Story
Colorist: JD Mettler

Did we need a “special” for this? No.

Do I mind? No.

I’m not one for looking a gift horse in the mouth and this is one heck of a gift.

It continues and completes the story of Hundred’s (short lived…maybe) nemesis who can talk to the animals like Hundred talks to machines. That’s the surface stuff. The real story though concerns Hundred coming face to face with a challenge to his ideals and not being able to maintain them. It’s great stuff and, dare I say, even better than the parent title has been as of late. If you drifted from Ex Machina, this two issue mini should definitely bring you back.

Grade: A