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Rick Remender’s Run on Secret Avengers – Avengers vs. X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Thor: The Dark World towards the end of next month, we’ll be looking at some Thor and Avenger-related comics throughout September. Check back weekly for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

Secret Avengers manages one of the strongest tie-ins to Avengers vs. X-Men. I will confess that I am not normally a fan of comic book event tie-ins. They tend to distract from on-going narratives crafted by long-term writers in order to assure a cynical short-term sales boost. At worst, they can feel like vacuous filler, comics full of nonsense that are impossible to decipher unless you’re reading the giant crossover of the month. Both Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man lost a lot of momentum thanks to crossovers.

On the other hand, I’ll concede that good writers can shrewdly use crossovers to tell their own stories. Perhaps the most obvious example is Alan Moore’s wonderful Swamp Thing tie-in to Crisis on Infinite Earths – stories that can be read (and be quite entertaining) on their own terms, without requiring the reader to constantly flick back or forth. Kieron Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men tie-in to Avengers vs. X-Men manages to retain its own identity and tell its own story, and Rick Remender’s Secret Avengers makes a valiant attempt.

Into the fire...

Into the fire…

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Grant Morrison & Ian Gibson’s Avengers – Steed & Mrs. Peel (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Thor: The Dark World towards the end of next month, we’ll be looking at some Thor and Avenger-related comics throughout September. Check back weekly for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

I feel a little bit cheeky describing this as “Grant Morrison’s Avengers.” After all, it’s this sort of confusion that led Disney to somewhat clumsily try to rebrand last year’s Avengers as Marvel’s Avengers Assemble in Ireland and the UK, afraid that easily-confused cinema-goers might be confused by the absence of the character my better half describes as “umbrella man”, while those more emersed in classic Britannia will recognise him as John Steed.

In fact, the comic was actually branded as Steed and Ms. Peel to avoid confusion, both in the original 1990 Eclipse miniseries and in the recent BOOM! studios reissue. That said, while legal matters prevent the release of a comic called “The Avengers”, BOOM! have hardly been shy about the original television show, with advertisements for Mark Waid’s recent revival teasing “the original Avengers” and “the original Hell Fire Club.” (Which is a little misleading itself, since the Hell Fire Club is actually a much older (real life) institution. Ah well.)

Still, Morrison and Gibson’s Steed & Mrs. Peel is a delightfully fun romp very much in the style of the original show. It is, by no means, the smartest or most essential of Morrison’s work – but it’s still clever and betrays an obvious affection for the source material.

Wheel of misfortune...

Wheel of misfortune…

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Judd Winick’s Run on Batman & Robin – Streets Run Red (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

Today we’re taking a look at three of the authors who followed Grant Morrison’s groundbreaking Batman & Robin run. And, rounding off our day of reviews, is Judd Winick’s three-issue arc.

I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed at how DC editorial handled Batman & Robin after Morrison departed. In hindsight, it’s apparent that they were waiting until the high-profile post-Flashpoint DCnU to relaunch the title with its new creative team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, but that still means there were ten issues between the end of Morrison’s run and the proper start of Tomasi and Gleason’s. While using fill-in writers and artists might have seemed logical, I can’t help but feel like there should have been tighter editorial control of the book.

While Paul Cornell and Tomasi both maintained some association with Morrison’s well-loved run, Judd Winick uses the title to tell a three-issue story arc that doesn’t necessarily fit. Instead, this three issue story-arc feels like it should have been a miniseries or featured in an anthology title, fitting more easily within the character continuity of Winick’s resurrected Jason Todd than within any framework of Batman & Robin.

All good for the Hood?

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Paul Cornell’s Run on Batman & Robin – The Sum of Her Parts (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

Today we’re taking a look at three of the authors who followed Grant Morrison’s groundbreaking Batman & Robin run. We’ll start with Paul Cornell.

I’m going to be entirely honest here. I am very disappointed that Paul Cornell hasn’t really got a shot at an on-going Batman book. The author has been something of a rising star at DC comics for what seems like years, and recently provided the best Superman run in recent memory with his wonderful Lex Luthor story in Action Comics. He’s a writer who is astutely aware of the genre conventions, while being shrewd enough to exploit them to his advantage. He writes distinctly “comic book!” comic books, but without following the standard plot patterns just for the sake of adhering to formula. His three-issue Batman & Robin fill-in arc might not be his best work, or the best work on the title, but I do admire Cornell’s willingness to provide a compelling criticism of the Batman mythos instead of merely offering a generic paint-by-numbers treading-water adventure. Even if it doesn’t quite stick the landing, Cornell’s story is certainly ambitious.

Drilling it into them…

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Tony Daniel’s Run on Batman – Battle for the Cowl, Life After Death & Eye of the Beholder (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

Tony Daniel’s Batman is a decently entertaining book, one that has clearly been put together with a great deal of skill and care by an artist and writer who seems to be not only enjoying himself, but keen to learn on the job. Handed the unenviable task of writing Battle for the Cowl, the three-issue miniseries designed to link Grant Morrison’s Batman run to his Batman & Robin run, Daniel was given an assignment that would make even a seasoned writer blush with uncertainty – tasked with writing connective tissue between two densely-layered Grant Morrison series, it’s hard to imagine a writer who would have managed anything that much better than the somewhat limp mess that Daniel produced. Still, DC was keen enough to grant the artist not only on-going art chores on the Batman series (rapidly approaching its seven-hundredth issue), but also to let him write it. While it’s hardly the most iconic or memorable tenure on a Batman-related title, it does have a number of charming and somewhat redeeming features. The most impressive one is that Daniel seems willing to learn and to improve as he goes.

Some men just want to see the world burn…

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Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated: The Deluxe Edition (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

Criminals used to be afraid because they didn’t know where Batman was. Things are different now. Thanks to Batman Incorporated, I can tell you exactly where Batman is. Batman is everywhere.

– Bruce Wayne, Batman Incorporated #6

I’ll admit to warming to Grant Morrison’s gigantic Batman epic. Sure, I don’t think it ranks with All-Star Superman or New X-Men or even Seven Soldiers as the very best of the writer’s mainstream work. It’s still immensely fun comics. I’ll concede that I’m still only lukewarm on his initial continuity-heavy Batman run, but the combination of his Batman & Robin and his Return of Bruce Wayne were some of the most entertaining comics produced by a major comic book company in the past few years. (Certainly the only other mainstream book that could match Morrison’s energy was Paul Cornell’s severely underrated Action Comics run.) While Batman Incorporated never quite reaches those same pulpy highs, it is a massively entertaining and very astute pulp narrative featuring one of the most enduring pop culture creations of the twentieth century.

Batman and his Amazing Friends…

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Grant Morrison and Mark Millar’s Run on the Flash – Emergency Stop & the Human Race

This January, I’m going to take a look at some of DC’s biggest “events.” I’ll be starting with the most recent one, Flashpoint, but – in the spirit of the character – we’re going to have a marathon run through Flash stories before we get there. Check back daily this week for more Flash-ified goodness… We’ll start with a tie-in to last month’s theme, with the time Grant Morrison wrote The Flash.

Wally, you are definitely spending too much time around Scottish people!

– Linda bends the fourth wall. Quite frankly (or should that be “Frank Quitely”, referencing Morrison’s long-term collaborator?), I’m surprised it’s still standing by the end of the run.

If you believe everything you read, it was actually Mark Waid’s landmark run on The Flash that inspired Grant Morrison to write Justice League in the first place, a run currently being collected in nice deluxe hardbacks. So, when Mark Waid took a year off from the title to pursue his own interests – including the graphic novel The Life Story of the Flash and JLA: Year One – perhaps comics’ most mind-bending Scotsman would make a logical choice to replace him on a character who has always had a bit of a surrealist bent. And Grant Morrison brought a friend with him – Mark Millar, now better known as the writer of Kick-Ass and The Ultimates, but who originally started out with a string of partnerships with Morrison through the nineties involving a prologue to Justice League and Aztek, along with many others. Their collaborations aren’t exactly looked back upon as comic book gold – despite the fact that the two of them, working separately, have redefined the superhero genre – but their year-long fill-in gap on The Flash is irrelevant and charmingly fun. Nothing more (unless you’re a continuity nut – in which case the pair tease several essential Flash concepts) and certainly nothing less (unless your comic book tastes don’t run towards the “wacky” end of the spectrum).

Chased by a shadow...

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