Iain's Anti-Nexus Reviews

Ugh.

I was due to get a lot of books this week but the not-at-all-mentally-challenged business post hasn’t delivered them yet. Even though it says they were delivered on their website. Even though the “more info” part of the page says there was a card left because nobody was in. Even though there is a distinct lack of card in the flat. So, yes, that has been emphatically helpful of them and not even slightly annoying at all, no, really, I just could not be happier. Thank you ever so much, may I have another?

But.

I have books to review anyway, thanks to popping into the shop during the week and picking up a few books – one that I had forgotten to pre-order and two that I had heard good things about. SUPERMAN #654 was on the spontaneous shopping list as well but unfortunately they were sold out of it, so for once I find myself in the strange position of actively encouraging DC to reprint a comic.

Or I could download it…

[N.B. COMICS NEXUS DOES NOT ENCOURAGE ILLEGAL DOWNLOADING OF COMICS AND DARON IS COMING ROUND TO YOUR PLACE TO PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE WHILE YOU SLEEP IF YOU DO, K?]

Plus, since we’re gearing up for the Comics Nexus equivalent of Infinite Crisis (although really it’s more of a Zero Hour; perhaps a mere War Games even), it’s probably a really good idea if I don’t take the week off and get on with some reviews.

So let’s get started…

GIANT-SIZE HULK
Published by Marvel

You get three bangs for your buck in this book. First up is:

“Green Pieces”
Written by Peter David
Penciled by Juan Santacruz
Inked by Raul Fernandez
Coloured by Studio F
Lettered by Randy Gentile
Edited by Mark Paniccia

Firstly, it should be noted by all and sundry that the letterer has one of the great names available to us on this planet. Not quite as good as Bubba Cheech, which in turn is second only to Ivana C. Allcox (yes, really), but still worthy of attention.

Anyway, this story is your typical tale of the Hulk being hastily confronted by some other heroes, in this case The Champions, while actually trying to do something good. You can probably figure out the beats before you even pick the book up. The heroes gather, Banner is spotted, Hulk turns up, there’s a fight scene, there’s the reveal and then the heroes are left to reflect on their behaviour and how Hulk might not really be all that bad. Long-time Champions fans will no doubt get a kick out of seeing the classic line-up again, with Hercules getting most of the limelight, and it does have the added benefit of firmly taking place in continuity (there’s even an editorial caption telling you it is set after CHAMPIONS #16). In an especially neat bit of dialogue Hercules can’t remember whether the name of the President they saved was Carter or Clinton, which neatly and simply moves the timeframe into a more suitable context.

So far, so competent.

“Banner War”
Written by Greg Pak
Penciled by Aaron Lopresti
Inked by Danny Miki
Coloured by Sotocolor
Lettered by Randy Gentile
Edited by Mark Paniccia

Plenty of work for Mr Randy Gentile, I see. Good to know.

This is a tie-in to the PLANET HULK event, which I have been quite happily ignoring along with ANNIHILATION and CIVIL WAR and anything else vaguely ‘epic’. Call it post-Crisis crossover fatigue syndrome. By all accounts the event seems to have been met with favour by most Hulk fans, who are probably still trying to rinse out that introspective and convoluted Bruce Jones smell by losing themselves in a lot of action scenes and Hulk Smashing. Can’t really complain about giving the target audience what they want, although it’s highly doubtful that any of the audience bar the most John McClane of the die-hards would want to go out of their way to read this story. Following on from the previous tale’s stock-plot, this one has the oft-used “Banner talks to Hulk while Hulk sleeps” theme. It’s livened up somewhat by revisiting the Jarella plot in Hulk’s subconscious dream sequence, as well as a rather amusing sequence featuring the New Avengers – where Iron Man feels the pain of Ultimate Wolverine.

The return of Banner is teased at the end, of course, but Pak is more concerned about establishing the fact that Hulk is more comfortable on Sakaar than he ever could be on Earth. So, anybody have odds on him returning before Civil War wraps up?

And, at last:

“Hulk: The End – ‘The Last Titan'”
Written by Peter David
Art by Dale Keown
Inked by Joe Weems
Coloured by Dan Kemp
Lettered by John Workman
Edited by Bobbie Chase & Tom Brevoort

This is the reason I wanted to buy this book.

First published in 2002, HULK: THE END passed me by at the time but has since earned itself a reputation for being perhaps the definitive take on the Banner/Hulk conflict and providing a genuinely moving sense of closure to the character; one that for obvious reasons will never be achieved by the ongoing title.

So, is that reputation justified?

Absolutely.

This is as close to perfect as any comic could hope to come. What has hampered similar projects like the sprawling X-MEN: THE END and the better-off-dead mess that was WOLVERINE: THE END was the tendency to dismiss the core themes of their characters in order to merely tell yet another “What If?” story. Thankfully, as Garth Ennis did with his stellar PUNISHER: THE END, David is not as short-sighted or as selfish as that. For this fitting epitaph to Hulk, he quite rightly takes the character’s Atomic Age origin as his starting point and goes from there. The post-apocalypse, post-nuclear setting is not exactly original but boy is it fitting, and captured perfectly by Keown – the eerie remnants of the memorial garden to the other Marvel heroes is particularly noteworthy. Hulk escaped the bombs and the anarchy by going into hibernation. Now he and/or Banner are the only people left other than the cockroaches, which are actually turned into a credible threat here. Banner reflects on the nature of Hulk and his role in the grander scheme of things (known only to us as the Marvel Universe), laments his inability to die due to Hulk’s constant anger and unwavering belief that weakness must be avoided at all costs, and travels the land in a thoroughly introspective mode that would render the impact neutered in a less capable writer than David, whose words are compelling and riveting.

Even better, the nature of the story allows there to be a final winner between Banner and Hulk at long last. But, naturally, not even the winner can avoid losing…

So, that was GIANT SIZED HULK. The two new stories are solid but rather hollow, though if you haven’t got a copy of David’s classic tale and can’t find one in the long boxes, you should absolutely buy this.

Grade: A

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #0
“Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”
Written by Brad Meltzer
Art by Absolutely Everybody, Ever Ever
Published by DC

Uh-oh, they’re doing it again.

When DC went post-Crisis in the ’80s, the Justice League became the greatest sitcom-drama the superhero genre has ever seen. When they went post-Crisis in the ’90s, the Justice League eventually straightened-up into the JLA, which subsequently cut loose in a thoroughly Grant Morrison manner – even with Electron Blue Superman. Now they are post-Crisis in the ’00s (I refuse to use the term ‘noughties’; it’s insipid) and the Justice League is becoming… what? Well, we don’t really know yet. Issue #1 ships next month and hopefully has more information than issue #0, which is insular to an almost insulting degree.

The hook here is that we are ‘treated’ to a quick recap of the history of the Justice League, the origins of which have been retconned again to rely on Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as the foundation on which the team can be built. Each scene, from the opener in the Batcave with an Adam West costume and the Giant Penny to the One Year Later gathering as they mull over who to invite to the League now, is drawn by a different artist. Unlike SUPERMAN/BATMAN #26, there isn’t a listing of who drew what, which is a strange oversight on DC’s part. It makes it hard to know who to blame for Wonder Woman’s incredibly shrinking costume. Come on guys, she’s mean to be a feminine icon, put down your penis and draw her with a realistic chest and a more substantial costume than a thong.

The main problem, however, is that Meltzer does not make it at all clear what is happening in these flashbacks. The ‘trinity’ will talk about certain events but for the most part we don’t actually see them or know why they are meant to be important. Unless you already have a sound grasp on Justice League history there are very few of these scenes that will be easily understood. For a #0 issue designed to entice new readers to try out the upcoming series, this is horribly backwards of DC. Also, while the conversation between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson at Donna Troy’s wedding (nicked from NEW TEEN TITANS #50 and well worth picking up) is a fantastic summation of their relationship, trying to explain the background of that wedding and its aftermath is far more trouble than its worth. And let’s not even get started on the ‘future’ scenes, which are a thorough waste of paper.

Furthermore, this all depends on how much stock you put into the idea of the fabled ‘trinity’. The fans have made Superman and Batman into icons, lifting them above the rest of the DCU characters, including Wonder Woman, no matter how much they try to convince us otherwise. Actually incorporating this idea into the fabric of the DCU itself seems rather foolish. It’s hard to imagine Superman ranting on his secret blog about how much better he is than all those other losers, let alone him turning around to that grumpy, lazy playboy from Gotham and that woman who just lost her entire race and deciding to allow them to be his equals. Really, if they want to go down this road the only destination is a DCU where no Justice League is necessary because Superman can handle 9 out of 10 crises by his lonesome self. And what would be the point of that?

So why is J’onn J’onzz not the one reforming the League?

Grade: D

SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #28
“My Science Teacher is Spider-Man!!”
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Clayton Crain
Lettered by Joe Caramanga
Edited by Warren Simons
Published by Marvel

Another letterer with another top-notch name. They should spread the wealth a bit!

If you’re not contemplating raising even a half-smile at the title of this story then, well, go out to the doctor and see if you can placed on the waiting list for a humour transplant. The rest of us can’t help you; we’re pre-occupied with our piqued interest.

I’ve made my feelings about Civil War well-known by now, so I won’t go into that again. However, it is good to know that Spider-Man’s unmasking can be utilised in as charming a manner as Aguirre-Sacasa does in this issue. It’s reminiscent of Paul Jenkins’ overlooked stint on PETER PARKER, SPIDER-MAN, which begat SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, which begat FRIENDLY NEIGHBOURHOOD SPIDER-MAN, not to be confused with MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN, which begat SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN (stop renaming things!!), in which Jenkins would incorporate the general public of the Marvel Universe into the web-slinger’s path, directly or indirectly but almost always to great effect.

This is the story of one of Peter Parker’s students, Jordan Harrison. He is a good student, a bit awkward and gangly, and rapidly becoming a science nerd. His real interest is in marine biology, particularly molluscs, and he is rather concerned about Mr Parker’s frequent absences and even speaks with him about it, letting him know how much he is depending on his classes. Mr Parker reassures him that he will do everything he can in order to get Jordan the necessary grades for entry on the University of Miami course he wants to take. There’s a girl, as there always is. Her name is Madeline Daniels and she is Jordan’s lab partner in biology. Jordan dreams of her until he wakes up early to get some studying done before school.

You can see how Peter Parker would want to help this kid especially.

Mollusks include octopi, in case you didn’t know.

So what happens to Jordan when his teacher turns up on the news, revealing himself to be Spider-Man? Will he be able to pass his classes and get to college? Will he be able to speak to Jordan outside of the biology lab? Will he get to see Mr Parker in action?

These are the possibilities raised by the unmasking. It feels fresh and invigorating to see the public responding to this new era for Spider-Man, particularly the pupils at his school. Although everything has changed and, in the long-term, it might not be for the best or for good, it is at least reassuring to know that there are writers out there who can spin good stories from this tangled web.

Grade: B

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