I can't stop reviewing things! More trades from E-Bay and maybe a movie, why not?

Courteousy of Wayne Quackenbush, Rhode Island's finest purveyor of discount trade paperbacks, are more cheap collected comics I've deemed fit to review for the whole internerd's benefit. This time, it's a couple of oddball miniseries. I'd call them Oddball Comics, but I don't have an exclamation point at the end of my name. As an aside, I'd be providing links, but for some reason Word Press isn't cooperating.Ares, God of War- I'll admit it; I bought this mainly on impulse. I'm a big fan of the video game series God of War, and while I did not expect this to be at all like this, those games have at least piqued my interest in alternative takes on the Greek Pantheon. While this isn't quite on the level of that masterpiece of interactive entertainment, I was suprised by how much I liked it.

This is totally in Michael Avon Oeming's wheelhouse, mind you. The guy cut his teeth as a writer, at least at Marvel, renewing Thor's trademark for a few years (after killing him off back during Disassembled), before JMS got to bring him back so people could get angry at him over Hurrican Katrina. He's got experience writing mythological superhero stories, although in this case, he's writing more of a mythological anti-hero story. His version of Ares pretty much hates everyone and everything, except for his son; if he had his way, he'd just as soon decapitate dear old dad Zeus and his boorish half brother Hercules than look at them. Personally, I happen to like that in a protagonist. He is pretty reminiscent of the GOF video game's protagonist, Kratos, right down to his tendency to bellow threats and cause massive carnage. The only real difference is his love for his son.

That's what really set this book apart for me. Despite all the blood and thunder involved in a war between the Greek Pantheon and the Japanese God of Evil, at its heart this book is really about the love of a father for his son. It's actually a really sappy book under all the godly family drama and decapitations, and that endeared it to me. I'm not exactly sure how this guy could be a member of the Avengers, much less on the same team with the Wasp and Tigra, but I have to say I'd really like to see Oeming continue his adventures in a solo book, or at least do something else in this vein with the Greek Pantheon. Despite having slept through most of Homer's epics during high school, I found his take on them really interesting.

Travel Foreman and Derek Fridolfs provide the art. It's-- interesting. It reminds me a bit of Frank Quitely, with its economy of lines and efficient use of space and multiple panels. He's not in Quitely's league, but it's attractive, fluid work, aided beautifully by Len O'Grady's work on colors. It certainly not the visual style I expected on this kind of book, but it's very nice nonetheless.

Bullet Points- J. Michael Straczynski takes a lot of crap online, and not just for having one of the hardest names to spell in all of comics (although that must have something to do with it). I liked the first couple of years of his Amazing Spider-Man, when he was teamed up with John Romita Jr. Some time after JR Jr. left came Sins Past. Now, I've never read the actual story, but much like Identity Crisis, all the chewing of fat (and wringing of hands, and grinding of teeth) has made me pretty much never want to. Nothing else JMS has done since in his Marvel tenure, from his revamp of Dr. Strange to his runs on Fantastic Four and Thor, have really caught my eye either.

This book, however, was too much for me to pass up. What If? was one of my favorite comics as a kid, despite the fact that my favorites like Spidey and Nightcrawler tended to die brutually in every issue. Ever since, I've had a fascination with alternative reality stories. Throw in Tommy Lee Edwards' beautiful art, with it's sharp colors, bold blacks, and golden age dymanism, and I was sold. Well, at least when I found it for $5.

Make no mistake, Edwards art is worth the price of admission alone (especially if you can find it cheap). It's gorgeous stuff; I was especially fond of his renditions of the Hulk and Iron Man, but damn near everything looks good; even the purple Spider-Man costume he puts on Bruce Banner at one point.

Yeah, I said Bruce Banner. Because, you see, the whole story hinges on whether you can believe that, because Dr. Erskine (the guy who created the Super Soldier Syrum, for those less informed in Marvel lore) was killed 24 hours before he was in Captain America's origin, that logically leads to Captain America becoming Iron Man and Peter Parker becoming the Hulk. Also, Reed Richards winds up leading SHIELD and wearing an eye patch. Yeah, don't ask.

If you can just get in the spirit of the thing and go with it, it more or less works. Peter Parker as a juvenile delinquent (because Uncle Ben gets caught in the crossfire of Erskine's assassination and May is apparently a crappy single surrogate parent) is the kind of hoary cliche that gets trotted out a lot in these kinds of stories, but it still resonates, especially because deep down, he's still the same guy (which leads to the pretty emotional climax of the story).

That said, there are some bits that challenge even my overly generous suspension of disbelief (I can but Dr. Strange getting adamantium bones to cure his hands, but he'd get claws, too? Seriously), and between Straczynski's tendency to make everything so deathly serious (all the narration about bullets gets old quick) doesn't help leaven things. 

That said, if you're like me and you have a soft spot for alternate realities stories and gorgeous art, this worth a look. It's just long enough to make for a satisfyingly compact story, but not too long that it wears out its welcome (although it does come close some times). I'd reccomend going second hand, but if your comics budget can make room in your comics budget for a $13.99 What If? story with beautiful art, then by all means, go that route. 

X-Men 3: The Last Stand- Finally watched this on Tivo the other night. Along with Superman Returns, it was one of last year's big superhero movies. Also, along with Superman Returns, I had not been looking particularly forward to watching it.

That said, I enjoyed it a lot. Sure, it's more of a popcorn movie under Bret Rattner's direction than it was under Bryan Singer, but I don't consider that a bad thing. Sure, it totally nerd pandered to me by casting Kelsey Grammar as the Beast and finally giving Kitty Pryde her big screen debut (I was okay with the actress, more or less, save for the fact that she was a damned mouth breather). But I thought it kept the tone of the first two movies more or less intact, and did a good job of balancing the need to tie things up to make it a satisfying trilogy while still leaving the door open for the expected spin offs.

It wasn't the Dark Phoenix movie a lot of people (myself included) expected, and the change in the ending to that plot line sacrificed the most emotionally resonant part of that masterpiece. I also found the ending a little more upbeat than seemed appropriate, all things considered. Wolverine's contended smile didn't seem to match up to what he'd been through, and if nothing else, his driving off in to the sunset would have set up the inevitable solo movie much better.

That said, I thought they did a better job of "mashing up" a bunch of disperate comics storylines for the screen; better than something like Daredevil, at least, although that's faint praise. At the very least, given how damn miserable (I'd dare say emo) X-Men stories tend to be, it was nice to see them get a happy ending, even if it didn't ring entirely true, and really, I'd rather go with my heart than my head on this one.

Maybe it was because I had really low expectations, but I liked this movie a lot. It felt like a finale, which is one of the advantages these franchises have on the silver screen; they can end on a high note, more or less. Not even Morrison's X-Men quite got that (especially after they pretty much gutted his entire run before the ink had dried on his last issue); certainly not Claremont (although his stubborn persistance in sticking around, despite the fact that he surely can't have much left to say with the characters, isn't helping there). The end of Rogue's story arc, for instance, is something that they will probably never do in the comics (although at least the comic Rogue has cool superpowers). So, yeah, I liked this movie a lot. I'm still very leary of Superman Returns, though. It doesn't help that I'm not as gay for Richard Donner's movies as Bryan Singer is, so a three hour love letter doesn't exactly sound like my thing.*

*Saying Singer's gay for something isn't an epithet, is it? I mean, I didn't mean it like that; I meant to indicate that he was overly fond of those films, not that there was anything wrong with his homosexuality. Or his desire to have sex with Richard Donner's Superman movies, if that's the case. Hey, I'm totally tolerant! I will tolerate anything you want to do! As long as it's not to me! Most of the time. Like Liz Lemon, my shoes are at least bi-curious.

Ahem; I might as well leave that potentially divisive phrase up; maybe Chris Butcher will link to us to spotlight our fear of penises again! That's always fun!

Dawn of X Fallen Angels 01 cover
Fallen Angels #1 Takes Dawn of X to Meditative, Psychological Heights

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