Matt vs. Capsule Reviews! And Only One Will Walk Away!

July 16, 2015


So these first few weeks, I’m kind of trying to figure out what the best approach is here. Last week’s post decided to turn itself into a lovenote to the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League, which … well, fair enough. Who am I to stand in the way of a piece of writing taking on whatever form it feels is most natural, right? YOU DO YOU, BLOG POST.

But this week I’m going to try on the old-fashioned capsule review format and see how it feels. It won’t just be books from this week (although I’ve got a couple of those in here), and there’s really no rhyme or reason to which books I’m including beyond “comics that made me think of something to say.” And, full disclosure, some of these were received as review copies while others were purchased with my own cash, so that probably influences my opinions as well.

Anyway! Enough preamble! After the jump, capsule review type things!

Justice League #42 is a weird book. Well, “weird” is probably the wrong word, as it’s a pretty straightforward superhero story in the 2015 Geoff Johns mode.  Which is to say that it hits all the right beats, contains a couple of solid action sequences, and is at worst a breezy, readable comic.


But there was something missing from this one. I’m not nearly the KirbyHead that Jeff and Graeme are, but I did just read the entire Walt Simonson Orion Omnibus, and there’s some ineffable element of Kirbyness that’s just missing from this incarnation of Darkseid.  (Actually, it’s probably not “ineffable” — Jeff and Graeme and a bunch of other critics could probably sum it up pretty quickly. But it’s ineffable to me, so pbbbbbtttt.)

It’s something mythopoeic, I think, some kind of Kirby-ish gravitas that’s missing, and the result is a Darkseid who feels much less like a New God and much more like a comic book supervillain. Maybe it’ll all come together in the later issues — and I’m certainly willing to check and see, because the last page here is simultaneously so awesomely stupid and so stupidly awesome that I genuinely want to see where Johns and company are gonna go with it.

I feel like I owe Green Lantern: Lost Army #2 an honest readthrough, since I kept using the Green Lantern books as examples of DC YOU! books that were leaving me cold last week — at a minimum, I feel like I should figure out why. Lost Army, as near as I can figure out, is sort of the continuation of the ongoing space-opera Green Lantern saga, with all the different colored rings and the endless lost batteries and, I dunno, people possessed by otters made out of emotion or whatever. And I think if you were still into that, this would probably seem pretty good. I lost track of the whole Green Lantern emotional spectrum mythos a couple of issues into Blackest Night, and nothing here made me want to come back in. I’m old and jaded and yell at clouds about how I just want to see Green Lantern as an outer space police procedural, so … it’s not you, Lost Army, it’s me.


Over at Marvel, the Secret Wars tie-ins are kind of baffling me, even as I generally enjoy the main series. Some of them feel like they’d be much better served as straight What If…? stories without the weird plot gymnastics to loop in the patchwork world and the borders between kingdoms and the god Doom, while others make all that stuff an integral element of their stories. The net result is an enormous deluge of books that are notionally tied together by a cover logo but often have very little in common. Far more of the tie-ins have left me cold than have intrigued me, but this week brought at least one good one from each type.


Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1, by Al Ewing, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Wil Quintana steers straight into the Battleworld skid. It is directly about people remembering their pre-Battleworld lives, and Doom setting two of the kingdoms against one another, and — like most of Ewing’s work — it is a gleefully entertaining read. It pivots off a clever what-if branchpoint from the original Marvel Universe, contains a pleasingly eclectic mix of characters (and gives them each a distinctive voice), and then takes a sharp swerve two-thirds of the way through into a thinly-veiled cross-company crossover that plays right into Ewing’s strengths.

Alan Davis’s work has an oddly sketchy look in places that didn’t totally work for me, but Davis at 80% is still better than a lot of what’s out there. This was an unexpected delight in the neverending sea of Secret Wars stuff.

If Captain Britain is quirky and fun and eclectic, Where Monsters Dwell #3 is Garth Ennis at his Garth Ennisiest, Garth Ennissing it  up all over the place. This is Ennis in his notoriously spotty “madcap comedy” mode, a screwball buddy comedy (maybe?) starring a macho 1920s man’s man and a flapper socialite with “sapphic tendencies” who have survived their encounter with dinosaurs only to be captured by a tribe of beautiful, scantily-clad women. If you have ever read or even heard about a Garth Ennis comic before, you can imagine the mature, even-handed way in which this plays out. I was willing to roll with it — I have a lot of time for Ennis’s work, and he’s reunited here with artist Russ Braun, who did a hell of a job with the back half of Ennis’s The Boys — but it isn’t hard for me to imagine other people getting annoyed with the whole endeavor.

You can actually feel him resisting the temptation to use a "cunning linguists" joke here.

You can actually feel Ennis resisting the temptation to use a “cunning linguists” joke here.

What’s really bizarre about the book, though, is just how little it has to do with Secret Wars. I’d’ve thought that a book like this would be an easier sell as a completely standalone limited series; it seems like the Secret Wars branding is just going to disappoint people looking for more of God Doom’s Game of Thrones fan-fiction while also chasing away people who might just want to read another mildly problematic macho-culture-send-up post-WW1 comedy from Ennis and Braun. (NOTE: I will feel really dumb when the cliffhanger is resolved by a cowboy zombie Ultron and steampunk Rick Jones or something.)

Anyway, this gets the same “you’ll like this if you like this sort of thing” as Green Lantern: Lost Army did, except that I actually like this sort of thing.

I was apprehensive about Invader Zim #1, from Oni Press. I loved the cartoon years ago — that was my gateway to Jhonen Vasquez’s comics work — and this project just SCREAMED “you can’t go home again.” But … it’s kind of great? Again, assuming you like this sort of thing.

But if you do … man, it is remarkable how effectively Vasquez (writing here with art by Aaron Alexovich, Megan Lawton, and Simon “Hutt” Troussellier) finds the voices of the characters again. (Literally — I could hear the voice actors in my head as I read the comic, and the voice cast is even credited alongside the creative team in the comic itself.)


I can’t claim that I’ve been sitting around waiting for Zim to come back to TV (or to comics, or podcasts, or … anywhere, really), and I had largely forgotten how much I enjoyed Vasquez’s comics work in general, but reading this book was like running into an old friend at, like, a farmer’s market(? or somewhere? where do people run into other people?) and realizing that, hey, that guy was pretty okay, and maybe you should even keep in touch moving forward.

That was not a good simile. I’m sorry. I’ll do better next week, maybe.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

8 comments on “Matt vs. Capsule Reviews! And Only One Will Walk Away!

  1. Michael C. Jul 16, 2015

    So I was hoping having to pick up another Secret Wars tie in (I’ve sampled Inferno, A-Force, and Marvel Zombies and like ,em enough to want to stick with ’em) but dammit if you didn’t just sell me on Captain Britain & the Mighty Defenders. I was already tempted due to the great things I hear about Al Ewing, my unwavering love for She-Hulk, and The fact that I tend to buy most anything Alan Davis draws. Sooooo yeah I need this book.

    Speaking of Al Ewing, I hope to read his recent run of Captain America & the Mighty Defenders on marvel unlimited. Anything else of his you recommend?

    I’m still tempted to check out Lost Army but it’s mostly because the art looks so good. I too dropped out if the GL universe years ago but I’d love to get back because I’ve always loved that part of the DCU.

    • Matt Terl Jul 16, 2015

      I’ve really enjoyed honestly everything I’ve read by Al Ewing. Of the many, many things I’ve gotten from this podcast over the years, that’s one of the most across-the-board successful. This is all stuff that I want to expand on in longer form in a post, but there’s something about his writing that makes his books very, very readable to me. He reminds me of Christopher Priest (which is some of the highest praise I can give) in the way he incorporates genuinely funny moments into the narrative without necessarily turning his books into outright comedy. (The Spider Hero flashback embedded above is actually a pretty good example.) But so far he’s kept his writing more accessible than Priest did, and much less inclined to get wrapped into a weird self-referentialist knot midway through. (Hi, Black Panther!)

      His Loki is very good, but benefits greatly if you’ve read the entire Kieron Gillen odyssey with the character (a random Siege one-shot + Journey Into Mystery + Young Avengers + probably some other stuff that I’m too lazy to look up right now). His spot one-shots — some Age of Ultron crossovers, some random Infinity crossovers — are not only good, but remarkably readable out of context of their events. And I really liked his run on Jennifer Blood, although that’s (obviously) not gonna turn up on Marvel Unlimited. But Mighty Avengers is the place to start. It’s got the energy and looseness of Marvel circa 1986 (think early West Coast Avengers or circa-Secret-Wars-II Power Man/Iron Fist), but done with a wholly modern voice and sensibility. It’s even good enough to overcome Greg Land’s artwork.

      Basically he’s one of the best things Marvel’s got going right now, and is approaching the point where I’ll try literally anything that’s got his name on it.

      • Wow, thanks for all of that, Matt. That’s incredibly helpful. Do you know what else Ewing is writing currently, or is slated to write in the All-New, All-Different Marvel thingy (I honestly can’t be bothered to remember the name they’re using now) coming up this fall? Because now not only do I want to try his Might Defenders run but I want to keep tabs on what he’s up. I too love Priest, so you definitely piqued my interest. Plus saying it has the energy and looseness of Marvel circa 1986 doesn’t hurt. I’m in!

        So much to read, so little time.

        And I just reread my initial comment and yet again it shows how using my iPad to comment is the best way to ensure that my posts are riddled with typos and missing words. I love the thing but damn does it make me look sloppy.

        Looking forward to your next batch of reviews. This is a great addition to the site!

        • Dasbender Jul 19, 2015

          As back issues go, check out Avengers Assemble (2012) 14 and 15. They’re two stand-alone “Age of Ultron” tie-ins, the former featuring Black Widow and the latter featuring Captain Britain, and both were excellent. Much better than two throwaway event tie-ins had any right to be.

          I’m torn regarding Ewing’s all-new all-different Marvel relaunches. I believe he’s doing Contest of Champions, New Avengers, and Ultimates. Ultimates I’m 100% onboard, since it looks like it’s continuing his threads with Monica Rambeau and Blue Marvel from Mighty Avengers and promising big bombastic superhero stories (I’m hoping for Morrison JLA level). New Avengers and Contest of Champions are tougher sells for me. I’m not sure I understand either pitch. New Avengers looks like renamed Young Avengers fighting AIM? And Contest of Champions is… I don’t know what.

          Al, if you’re reading please point us to a proper representation of what to expect with your new titles. You haven’t let me down yet, but I’ve got to be REALLY selective on buying new paper editions since I already own too many physical comics and have a Marvel Unlimited subscription. So my print purchases have been pretty slim between the big 2 publishers.

          • Thanks for the help with Ewing’s previous work, Dasbender. And with this line:

            I’ve got to be REALLY selective on buying new paper editions since I already own too many physical comics and have a Marvel Unlimited subscription. So my print purchases have been pretty slim between the big 2 publishers.

            It’s as if you took the words right out of my mouth. I make a couple trips to my LCS each month and have a very small pull list at the moment, but since I recently started feeling like my physical comics (both in issues and trade papers and hardcovers) were starting to crowd me out of my own house, along with now using the Marvel Unlimited app, I’ve become even more aware of how I need to start cutting back on buying monthlies. So my pull is down to six books currently, two of which are ending in a month or a few months (Secret Wars being that one). So I think by fall, around the new Marvel relaunch, I’ll try to cut another title or two from my current list and maybe add one or two new books from Marvel and DC, or maybe just keep the pull extremely lean with only 3-4 comics per month on it. Decisions, decisions…

            This would make a good topic for discussion one day on the podcast (if you’ve done this already, forgive me, I’m fairly new to this site). Faced with so many options now – monthly hard copies, collected editions, or digital – how do we navigate those buying decisions. It’s actually been stressful for me of late. There are so many comics I’m dying to read – both old and new stuff – but I’m constantly conflicted about how I should go about it because I’m concerned with cost of comics, how much time I actually have to read them, and where the hell am I going to store them in my increasingly tiny house (we welcomed twins into the family late last year, so my wife and I are now inundated with baby stuff. Everywhere). And now that I have the MU app – which I love so far – I’m seriously wondering if I should stop Marvel single issues and trades altogether and just wait the six months or so it takes to pop up on the app.

  2. Brendan Jul 17, 2015

    Zim was very good, wasn’t it? Nice unexpected joy, especially with some disappointing cartoon comics out there. It’s great Vasquez is on, and it is awesome that the voice actors were credited too.

  3. I like your reviewing style. The “capsules” flowed from one to another really well. For covering a lot of books, it’s a good way to do it.

    I also think that Captain Britain and the Defenders deserves extra praise for the absolute stroke of genius “What If” scenario that Ewing devises at the beginning– that Yinsen becomes Iron Man and Tony sacrifices himself to the terrorists. It single-handedly resolves all the problems I have with Iron Man as an adult painfully aware of the military-industrial complex, by giving the science hero role to a man who was just into humanitarian medical technology, as opposed to a war profiteer crying crocodile tears over the fact that his super-suit and super-fame are funded in dead children. It also is a great way to diversify the character, by giving the role to a Chinese (Middle Eastern in the movie?) man who’s also a bit older than we usually see our superheroes. Even though Yinsen doesn’t survive the issue, his daughter does, and I’m praying that one of the two gets a spin-off a la Spider-Gwen.

    And if I’m really dreaming, a movie with Shaun Toub as Iron Man, and Robert Downey Jr.’s character dying a sorely deserved death.