GIANT MONSTERS. I love them. From King Kong to Frankenfish. From Godzilla to Zarkorr the Invader. From Gorgo, Konga, and sock-puppet Reptilicus to Fin Fang Foom, Goom, and Googam. So, today, the giant monsters join the TOT cover rotation. Sometimes I'll use my opening comments to discuss comics, sometimes movies...and what better way to kick things off than with the king of the monsters? You know who I mean.
GODZILLA: FINAL WARS is the Big G's 28th movie and, according to some reports, his last. Don't believe it. Oh, he may take some time off, but, as this movie shows, he's still got plenty of fight left in him.
Most of the recent Godzilla movies exist in their own special continuity. In this one, Godzilla hasn't been a threat for years, buried under Antarctic ice. Other monsters are still around, but Earth's new race of mutant warriors keep them from annihilating the rest of us. Enter the Xilians.
The aliens pretend to come in peace. They teleport all of the remaining monsters off our world and promise to help make Earth a paradise. What they really want is to use the monsters to destroy our civilization. They take control of most of the mutants - they essentially made them - and unleash the monsters.
The remaining defense forces turn to the only "weapon" left in Earth's arsenal. Freeing Godzilla from his icy captivity, they use him to keep the other monsters at bay while they take the fight to the Xilians. The back-and-forth action made me dizzy, but it paid off in the end. I don't want to give that end away, but it left me wishing the next Godzilla movie picks up from this one. So many possibilities.
Reaction to GODZILLA: FINAL WARS has been mixed. Cognizant of the production's dual status as Godzilla's 50th anniversary outing and the likely last Godzilla movie for many years, the film makers seem to have tried to please everyone. Virtually every monster in their repertoire - even the dumb ones - makes an appearance in the movie. The human stories are surprisingly well-developed, despite scenery-chewing from heroes and villains alike. Actors from other Godzilla films appear in this one. There is even some of the too-cute comedy generally associated with appearances of Minya, the son of Godzilla. The attempt to include so many elements does impact the movie negatively, but it also makes it more of a celebration of Godzilla's impressive half-century run.
GODZILLA: FINAL WARS might not be a great movie, but it's most definitely one heck of a party. It gets my earnest recommendation, as well as four out of five Tonys.
INFINITE CRISIS COUNSELING
The week of November 16, 2005 was a surprisingly lean one for DCU titles. There were just six issues within the IC time frame and one of those - CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON #2 - wasn't set in the DCU proper. Two more issues were set in Batman's past and a volume collecting the first few issues of the new LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES title was, of course, set in the distant future. Finally, ALL STAR SUPERMAN took place within its own special continuity. Madman that I am, I read them all...and even backtracked to read earlier issues of GREEN LANTERN and SUPERGIRL.
A hour after I read ALL STAR SUPERMAN #1 [$2.99], I slapped my forehead and exclaimed, "Grant Morrison is doing his take on one of my favorite Superman stories!" The people in the checkout line at the grocery store all backed away from me.
Maybe Morrison and artist Frank Quitely aren't doing a take on "The Last Days of Superman" [SUPERMAN #156; October, 1962], but it feels like that to me. After an incredible battle on and about the sun, Superman's now-even-more-super-charged cells are dying. I got the sense he plans to address some unfinished business in his life before he departs this mortal coil.
This first issue has the classic Superman I know from the era of Mort Weisinger and Curt Swan, but it's all got this "wow" factor beyond even those imaginative comic books. It's one of the finest Superman stories I've ever read and that earns this issue the full five out of five Tonys.
BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN #1 [$2.99] kicks off Matt Wagner's multi-issue retelling of Bat's first encounter with Professor Hugo Strange. In the original, the encounter ended with Batman strafing the monster men with machine gun fire. I'm curious to see if that happens in this retelling, given current continuity claims that Batman never uses guns.
Writer/artist Wagner sets a nice pulp magazine tone from his iconic cover shot of Batman to the crime-fighting and mad-doctoring of the story itself. There are society swells and gorgeous women, gangsters and goons, and the barest glimpse of Strange's terrifying monster men. Even if you don't like the current Batman, there are still good Batman comics being published.
BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN #1 gets four Tonys.
In BATMAN: JOURNEY INTO KNIGHT #4 [$2.50], writer Andy Helfer throws some intriguing twists into his 12-issue tale of the early Batman. I'm more optimistic that there really are a dozen issues of story here.
Helfer makes Bruce Wayne as interesting a character as Batman. He shows us Batman's skill as a detective, something often ignored in current continuity. This continues to be a cracking good story and one well served by artist Tan Eng Huat.
BATMAN: JOURNEY INTO KNIGHT #4 earns four Tonys.
BIRDS OF PREY #88 [$2.50] continues the build-up to what I'm thinking will be a pivotal IC battle between Barbara Gordon and the Calculator. In the meantime, the Birds go shopping, Black Canary teams up with Green Arrow, and the Huntress takes over a mob in her civilian identity. The shopping scene is funny and human. The mob scene is thrilling. As for the Green Arrow and Black Canary scene, Gail Simone may be the only DCU writer who can have a character see the good in Green Arrow without that character seem like an idiot. I don't have a whole lot of use for Green Arrow these days, but, if any DCU writer could turn that around, I think it would be Simone. I'd give her the gig in a heartbeat.
BIRDS OF PREY #88 picks up four Tonys.
My original plan was to bypass CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON in my IC reviews on the basis that it doesn't take place in the DCU. Two things changed me mind: the nagging feeling that Captain Atom may still play a major role in INFINITE CRISIS and my appreciation of writer Will Pfeifer's other work.
CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON #2 [$2.99] is more friendly to newer readers than the previous issue; the Wildcats' roll call on an early page and some exposition in various scenes made me feel I was being met halfway. I don't like Atom's new costume, but I did appreciate how well Pfeifer portrayed the hero's alienation and loneliness at being trapped in a universe not his own. The art on this series is not appealing, but, overall, I thought enough of this issue to give it a respectable three out of five Tonys.
GREEN ARROW #56 [$2.50] is another okay-but-not-outstanding super-hero comic book, just like the previous issue. There's lots of action, very little plot, a character scene for the new Speedy, and Doctor Light acting like the murderous, slobbering madman he's become. He was more interesting as a loser, but that ship has well and truly sailed. The writing here is tolerable, but not worthy of the Ron Garney/Bill Reinhold art. For an "okay" comic book, three Tonys sounds right.
GREEN LANTERN #5 [$2.99] was the issue released in this week we're covering, but I also read the earlier issues of the relaunch. My comments are surprisingly sparse:
I like Hal Jordan, something I thought might be a hard sell. I like the General and Hal's brother, but other supporting players haven't moved me one way or another. There is a lot of neat super-hero stuff going on - the Manhunters, Hector Hammond, the scarier-than-before Shark, the mysterious aliens and their experiments in evolution - but it seems like too many things going on all at once. The writing is very good and so's the art. I thought I'd have more to say about GL, but that's pretty much it.
Save for this. Why does this comic book cost half-a-buck more than GREEN ARROW? I think GREEN LANTERN is a better book than GA, but, though I want to give GL the higher rating, I can't figure out why it needs to cost more than the other title. That mystery nags me. Until I work it out, the best rating I can give GREEN LANTERN is three Tonys.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: TEENAGE REVOLUTION [$14.99] reprints the first six issues of the rebooted series by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson and a prologue that appeared in TEEN TITANS/LEGION SPECIAL #1. The premise of the reboot is that, in the nigh-perfect future, super-powered teens have embraced activism and joined together to fight stagnation in "a society that has forgotten how to change." They defy rigid authority in the name of progress and also protect innocents from the dangers - the growing dangers - which exist even in this alleged utopia. It's the 1960s in 30th-century drag and I love it. Maybe these kids won't sell out the dream the way so many of my generation did.
Waid takes pains to give even the newest readers all the info they need to enjoy these great stories. Kitson's art is among the best in comics. The heroes have their flaws, but they are heroes. The villains? Well, without giving anything away, the main villain ranks among the most frightening and monstrous villains I have ever seen in the pages of comic books.
MANHUNTER #16 [$2.50] leads me to believe this series is best read in the trade paperback or several issues at a time. I didn't much care for the previous issue - a series of vignettes on parts of Manhunter's battle suit - but liked the collection of the first few issues very much. With this issue, I'm back to wondering who's who and why are they doing this or that. In addition, the art was rather bland.
When I dig through my boxes of recent unread comics to catch up on LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, I should do the same for MANHUNTER. In the meantime, MANHUNTER #16 gets but one Tony.
SUPERGIRL #1-3 [$2.99 each] are like unto a tour of the DCU's super-teams. Kara visits the Justice Society, the Teen Titans, and the Outsiders in search of answers to her new life on Earth. Jeph Loeb's handling of the title character is outstanding; I like her and I want to see her succeed. Plus he gets major props for making me laugh with this Supergirl reflection:
"Her father is Black Lightning. Now, that I get. He's black. He shoots lightning out of his hands."
I laughed so hard that I'm willing to overlook the fact that Black Lightning can shoot lightning out of pretty much any part of his body that he wants to. There's a reason he avoids beer, beans, and spicy foods.
The Ian Churchill/Norm Rapmund art is definitely eye-catching, but I could have done with fewer enormous panels and more story in these issues. The story that is there - three issues and running - is entertaining, but it's not bowling me over. Also, as with GREEN LANTERN, I have to question why these issues cost half-a-buck more than other DCU super-hero titles.
SUPERGIRL #1-3 earn solid threes across the board, but I think the character has the potential to do better.
That wraps up another week of INFINITE CRISIS COUNSELING.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back Monday with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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