Thursday, April 17, 2014

She Hulks (Marvel)

As I've said before, She Hulk is my favourite Marvel comics character. Not that that's saying a whole lot, since the collective amount of Marvel I've read that isn't Nikki Doyle's Wild Thing (Avoid!) is nothing but She-Hulk, but still. She's a great character-entertaining, funny, and tough as all hell! (On a tangent, Thank God that SH movie starring Brigitte Nielsen never got off the ground! *phew* Dodged a bullet there!)

She Hulks is a 2010 miniseries about Jennifer Walters and Lyra, the two femme Hulks, who must track down and capture the remaining members of The Intelligencia, a group of supervillains who the Hulks all took down shortly before the events of this miniseries. Meanwhile, when not beating the tar outta bad guys, Lyra must contend with a new challenge for her-high school...

The issues of this series feel very short and don't tell/show a lot , but I don't mind here, as this is one large story, rather than a regular episodic series. Could it do with expanding and extra length? Absolutely, but it's definitely not bad.

The miniseries is pretty funny althroughout, and there are many humorous caption boxes, whether they be random, or helping keep the reader up to speed at the start of new issues.

Jennifer Walters fares ok in this series. She's funny here and there, and she's indeed badass, but she doesn't get any character here. She just kicks a lot of supervillain ass.

By the way, at the end of Issue #1. There's a biography on Jen Walters, and when it starts, on the right side of the comic, I thought, 'Oh, neat! They have a page of history and backstory on She-Hulk!'...And then I turned the page! In total, there's five pages completely COVERED in ultra small text! So much backstory shown!...And yes, this is a good thing.

One minor complaint with her character here is with the artwork in a certain respect. The series doesn't show Jen in her human form enough, so when it does, it throws you off for a second until you realize who you're looking at.

Lyra is an interesting character from what little we know of her going into this (if you're new to Marvel/She Hulk, that is). Her past in the post-apocalyptic alternate 23rd Century is intriguing, and makes for a character with a personality and temperament befitting of the moniker Savage She Hulk. And her interactions with other people are frequently hilarious, or at the very least, funny.

Both Bruce Banner and the Hulk have short appearances here and there, and they're fine when onscreen. Banner doesn't leave a big impression, but he's decent for a minor-ish character.

The villains are pretty barebones. They're fun to read, and The Wizard gets plenty to do*, but there's no real plot or character to them here. They're just bad guys who the She Hulks have to take down.

*Speaking of, the way he escapes from his cell at a certain point is very confusing and poorly explained.

The school bitch clique is pretty annoying, and thankfully they're mostly only present in Issue #1. Member Amelia fares a little bit better, but she doesn't appear a lot. If this was an ongoing series, I'd be interested to see how her story continues from the downer ending.

And therein lies my biggest problem with this miniseries-the ending itself. What the hell happened?! Did the writing team watch Beaches, and wrote the script for Issue #4's ending while they were still crying, because She Hulks ends in an oddly downbeat way, especially for such a lighthearted series. And it doesn't make a whole lot of sense why 'they' all suddenly feel 'like they do' towards the 'certain character'. If anything, they should be hating the 'certain villain' responsible for everything at the 'occasion'.

There's no denouement either. Issue #4, and with it the whole series just stops after the brief climax. I have no idea if this was always intended to be a miniseries, or if it just wasn't popular enough to break into being a regular series. Maybe it's the latter, and the reason there's no conclusion is that there was supposed to be an issue 5 and beyond.

Another issue is that it feels like this series starts off abruptly in media res. Unless you're a Marvel Comics addict who's read everything, you won't know who these characters are, have no idea who the Intelligencia are, or why we should care. Given the complete lack of backstory, it seems like She Hulks is more of a treat for regular diehard readers, rather than people who've just jumped into Marvel.

Also, some might dislike the copious amounts of cheesecake (mostly in the first issue). I don't mind it for the most part, because I am a Man, but there is some though that just make me shake my head and go "Dudes, this is too much". One such moment is when Jen is wearing a bra that her boobs are totally busting out of, which just makes things look silly, and another is on the cover of Issue #2. Thankfully it's never even close to being as bad as the examples of cheesecake that set things like The Hawkeye Initiative* into motion. No Scott Lobdell's Starfire or Jim Balent's Catwoman here.

*The Hawkeye Initiative: Fan-arts online of comic book covers with all the absurdly sexualised woman replaced by Hawkeye, right down to the poses, with visible buttcrack lines, ultra-revealing clothes, and spine-bending positions.

The art is all great here. No complaints.

She Hulks is a good read, and I do recommend it, although given that these all feel like one issue sliced up into four parts, I guess I'd recommend waiting for a special on Comixology before purchasing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bloodshot #6 and #7 (Classic Valiant)

Say, do you know who Ninjak is? No? Good, then you're in the same damn boat as I am with this Bloodshot two-parter!

Secret shipments of the Weaponeer arms manufacturing organization are being stolen by Cinder and Glyder (ouch! That's so stupid it hurts to type!), a Harbinger duo who are covering up the thefts by destroying the planes carrying them (which is really depressing!). Meanwhile, in England, MI-6 guy Nevile Alcott sends his new agent Bloodshot on his first mission-find the people responsible for the disasters. He'll have to hurry though, because Weaponeer leader Ninjak is also on the hunt...

First things first, the characters...

Recurring character Malcolm appears again, and the series finally mentions who he even is. Oh thanks, I was really curious to know who he is...six issues in! Geez, a little freakin' late on the uptake, assholes?! And a tabloid photographer? Really?! His occupation in previous issues seemed a lot more underground.

If you're unfamiliar with Colin King, then you're screwed. Nowadays you can go to Comicvine, and there you can see all the individual comic issues characters appear in, but back in 1993 when this came out, you knew nothing unless you happened to have read those particular Valiant issues.

Long story I don't know short, Colin King is Ninjak, a ninja with a stupid name who runs a gun-running organisation. Ninjak's a good guy, yet what he does in this issue is pretty deplorable. An employee, Alicia Guerrero wants to quit Weaponeer, and Ninjak tails her, then GHB mind-rapes her by erasing her memory and sending her back to work! What an asshole! "No-one quits the Weaponeer!". Uh, why, It's just an underground arms manufacturer, not SPECTRE! How the hell are we supposed to like Ninjak, and want him to spotlight his own series when he's this wretched a character?

Also, all Weaponeer employees wear identical white suits. Well no wonder Alicia wanted to quit! She didn't get allowed a gun despite who she was working for, what she was transporting, and what'd been happening recently, and to top that, she has to dress in the most conspicuous outfit this side of Colin Baker. Hell, when Ninjak hides the comatose body of Cinder, he 'radically' changes getups-"You'll be good as new...and so will I", he says. The scene would hold more weight if King's new disguise wasn't literally just a panama hat and a jacket that doesn't cover his original clothes at all!

Ninjak's dialogue when running Bloodshot with his collapsible* sword through isn't badass like I'm sure it's meant to be, but instead makes him sound like an uncool wannabe, like he's one of the Orphans from The Warriors.

*The person who wrote this didn't know a goddamn thing about swords, did they.

There's nothing to Bee L this storyline. He's just here to slightly move what little story there is here along. He doesn't even do all that much besides fall out of a plane like an idiot, talk to Ninjak, and get held hostage. He does have the best scene in the whole series by far though! When he sees Ninjak for the first time, his reaction is "A ninja?!...Out here?!" BWAHAHAHAHAHAH! I love the fact that Bloodshot isn't surprised in the slightest that he's encountering a ninja, but that he's seeing one in South America. 'But ninjas never go to Mexicoland!' I can imagine him thinking.

There's one really confusing moment at the start of #6, where Neville mentions how Bloodshot's had experience with Weaponeer before. Bee L's had previous contact with the Weaponeer organisation? When?! For now, I'll give this comic the benefit of the doubt and assume it was sometime in Eternal Warrior...At least, that's what I thought until I actually took the liberty of verifying that, and no, this encounter is completely offscreen, and has never been mentioned until now.

There's one really nonsensical moment near the end, where an evil commando guy drills Bloodshot with machine-gun fire...then takes him hostage to draw out Ninjak! Yeah, bullets aren't a big deal for Bloodshot, but this guy doesn't know who he is! 'Come out, Ninjak, for I have the corpse of your associate hostage as leverage! Mwuhahaha!'

The art is good here, but it's never portraying anything worth reading. And the layout in the issues is screwed in places, with numerous pages with too small panels and massive a amount of extra white spaces. Also, the art also seems to regularly forget which of Bloodshet's legs was broken in the fall from the plane. And there's the cover to #6, which spoils its ending!

One minor thing. There seem to be a few little Valiant callbacks, from a character named Lydia, and unless it's a coincidence, the bird earrings on Glyder and the way some birds are drawn seem to be Harbinger Foundation symbol easter eggs.

Another minor thing is #6's over-the-top title of Death at 10,000 Feet! complete with exclamation mark and goofy font, like it's trying to be a Golden/Silver Age comic.

Now finally, onto the plot. #6 fails to tell a complete story in one issue, and doesn't even succeed in telling enough to feel like a complete issue. It's pathetic, especially since a complete twenty page comic story is absolutely possible. I could do it in my damn sleep! And once #7 flies by, you realize you've just wasted four dollars and 30 minutes of your life on a story that's told nothing, as it's never revealed who the villains even are, who they're working for, or what they want. THIS IS BAD STORYTELLING! And Cinder and Glyder die offscreen in a really abrupt fashion, then the plot just stops. It's like the writer stopped caring about the story and just wanted to end things asap.

*Liefeldian: Referring to Rob Liefeld, co-founder and frequent illustrator and writer of Image Comics back in the 90's, when it was worst company standing. Most of the comics produced by Image were nothing action series' about nothing characters with grotesque muscle illustrations and HUGE GUNS which they fired to the MAXI-EXTREME while GRIMACING ALL THE TIME because SMILIN'S FOR CHUMPS!.

It's with a heavy heart that I say, Bloodshot is nothing more than a Liefeldian* character. While that didn't seem to be the case at first, it is. He has heaps of muscles, belts, punches, guns, is kill-happy against bad guys, has an Image-y name, has zero character, gets zero character development, etc. God, if only someone else wrote for this series, someone who knew how to write! Thankfully that role was filled by Acclaim, starting in '97. Say what you will about Acclaim (God knows I have), but their comics were damn good! Aaand now I'm suddenly depressed about the incredibly insane mismanagement that Acclaim suffered...

Bloodshot #4 and #5 (Classic Valiant)

This two-parter of Valiant Comics series Bloodshot is almost interesting, due to its portrayal of legacy, but ultimately ends up failing pretty badly!...

After a date with girlfriend Maria, Bloodshot is offered a job in British Intelligence by his friend Gilad (the immortal Eternal Warrior). Before he can think about it, Bloodshot receives a message from the mafia, who have kidnapped his sister-a sister he didn't even know existed. The mafia, afraid of what more Bloodshot could do do them, want his life in exchange for his sister's...

And all the while, there's a future story with Rai (a future Valiant hero with Bloodshot's special blood) intertwined, and boy is it pointless! It has literally nothing to do with the events going on with Bloodshot other than Gilad being present at both events (which hardly makes it necessary, as this is Bloodshot, not Gilad's own series Eternal Warrior!), and two vaguely similar hostage situations. All this future storyline ends up doing is making the proper storyline feel way too short. Bloodshot goes to the meeting with the mob, and stuff happens for a little bit before he anticlimactically kills Cannelli. And no, I don't feel bad about spoiling this main villain's death, because it's so inconsequential that you won't even realize he's meant to be dead! (And anyway, Canelli's only had ten panels of paneltime in this whole series at the very most!). And speaking of anticlimaxes, that's what Bloodshot finding out the truth of his identity is.

The future storyline is a real nothing read too. It has an extremely paper-thin plot, and accomplishes nothing. There's one really disorienting moment where on the right side page, the comic is in the present, in mid-scene, then you turn the page over and HOLYSHIT!THEFUTURE!, coming right outta freakin' nowhere!

Gilad's exchanges with Bloodshot are all good. Their friendship is an alright aspect of this portion of the series, and the best part of this story. As for Maria, this is the last time we ever see her, unfortunately, for reasons I'll explain when I get to Issue #8.

Not all to do with Gilad is good though. He's about to make his case to the mob about why they should spare Bloodshot and the two parties can form a truce...and the story promptly skips all of Gilad's defense, and cuts to him finishing up, and Carboni going "You deliver your case well!". SHOW, DON'T TELL!

The villains are lacklustre. They have no character to them at all in this series-Canelli and Carboni are just bad guy mobsters, and they exit the series way before they get any kind of story, or development. The villains in the future section fare a bit better. Despite their stupid name, the Malevs are decent, but their use of the word 'meat' for humans gets old very quickly.

The artwork's all good, and the covers decent. But there are a few pages where the panels area bit too small, and there's too much surrounding blank space. Nowhere near to the degree of XO Man-O-War #1, or issues #6 and #7 of Bloodshot though. In one scene, Future Gilad keeps calling a guy 'Old Man', despite the character being young (and no, it's not a joke, or play on words or anything). And during the future storyline, when it cuts from Future-Gilad to Rai, the page has the caption 4002, which is unnecessary, as we already know it's in 4002! We've been reading of that time period for five pages now, the first of which already told us the date!

One really annoying thing is that the last panel in a scene before it cuts to the future storyline, and the first panel when it cuts back are both the same picture! They're drawn a TIIIIINY bit differently, but same angle, same characters, same poses, etc. And worst of all, these panels both take up most of their respective pages! What a waste!

By the way, a question for all the gun enthusiasts out there-Is having a wider bore a good thing for a gun, or is it a stupid thing that'll blow your hand off? I'm curious if the writers actually did their research well.

This double issue is so small that there's very little more I can talk about. Short answer, don't bother!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The H.A.R.D. Corps #1 and #2 (Classic Valiant)

A corporate strike team empowered with the abilities of mutants known as Harbingers are tasked with taking out installations over the globe of multi-billionare Toyo Harada, a malevolent Harbinger who wants to take over the world. Together, Gunslinger, Hammerhead, Shakespeare, Superstar, and Flatline are...The HARD Corps!...

Lo and behold, my favourite of all Valiant comics! Though this is one series that did get off to a bit off a bumpy start.

The story in Issue #1 is decent. It starts off starts off in the thick of a battle, with what the HARD Corps do best, and once that's over, potential new recruit Sam Kim is briefed on what the Corps is, who its personnel are, and what its enemies are, and then more action-y stuff occurs. There's not exactly a deep story being told this time round, but it's definitely serviceable (and tells enough for its short length). Just not as great as future issues of this series.

The characters aren't very well developed here. They're not just faceless goons, and it at least gets across Shakespeare's personality a bit, but otherwise, we don't find out much. Sam Kim is introduced here, and the artwork for him is very different to what he looks like in all following issues. I suppose he could be construed as looking like a racist caricature here, so it was changed accordingly.



Then there's short-lived team member Maniac-As the kind of guy who, while in a battle, fires his machine gun randomly in the air screaming "DEATH FROM ABOVE!!!", he sure lives up to his namesake. He's cannon fodder, not hugely developed, and barely lasts seven pages. This isn't his first appearance though, as he was with the team during their first appearance, in other Valiant Comics series Harbinger. I haven't read those issues, so I'm not sure how his character was there.

The artwork, while decent, is pretty cluttered at times. At its worst, there are times where you can't tell where the characters are, or what exactly is happening. Thankfully this issue is only present in the first few pages. This issue is definitely more liney than later issues, though that's not a bad thing here, as the artwork is good.

This issue makes good use of splash pages. It uses two, and neither of them deprive the story of much-needed panels, and both are effective in what they convey (although the first one only partially in that respect, as the artwork there is a bit hard to gauge).

Issue #2 feels like it should have been compressed to ten/fifteen pages, and added to #1, to make it one complete story, because there's no real story being told here other than 'The Harbinger Foundation are attacking the HARD Corps, and the team get vengeance for Maniac on Big Boy'. It wouldn't be too bad if these issues were released, say, a week apart from each-other, but comic issues are released monthly, so HARD Corps wasted two months on a pretty nothing story. That must have been pretty annoying if you were reading these when they came out! Thankfully HARD Corps gets better, and is able to tell entertaining, complete, stories, with plenty of character development to boot!

The only real stupid part of either of the two issues is when, in the fight with powerful Harbinger Big Boy, Shakespeare is in his fatal grip, but has invulnerability on. He's fine-ish, but to use the power he needs to take down Big Boy, he needs to have invulnerability switched off first. What's stupid is that he waits 'till after his invulnerability is switched off until he tells Softcore* which power he wants next! Dumbass!

*She's the mission control, who's also responsible for the activation/deactivation of the team's powers, which can only be used one at a time.

Also, the medical team who revive Sam for HARD Corps refer to it as a cartel. What?! No it's not! And even if it is, that is not the word you want to use when the person you're trying to recruit is a cop!

One last thing, I'm frankly surprised that neither police, or government agents have suspicions about the Harbinger Foundation, given its propensity of getting invaded in broad daylight by heavily armed strike teams. It also doesn't even make sense for there to be a Harbinger Foundation anymore after all the damage the HARD Corps have and will inflict. Soon enough, villain Toya Harada's gonna be a penniless bum, selling recycled bottles to fund his schemes for world domination.

I recommend HARD Corps Issues #1 and #2 if you want to read everything the series has to offer, but my personal recommendation is to just start with #3, as it's where things start getting great, and it works as a first issue too.

XO Man-O-War #2 (Classic Valiant)

Gifted with the uber-powerful XO Man-O-War armour, Visigoth barbarian Aric of Dacia takes his quest for revenge out against the evil spider aliens and their front, Orb Industries. Meanwhile, genetically engineered spider alien-human hybrid Lydia has plans of her own...

...Or not, since she's basically never seen again after this issue.

This story is nothing, just like the previous issue, and of course, par for the course for bad Valiant writing, Aric defeats and takes over Orb Industries in issue friggin' 2! Jesus, what is wrong with Valiant?! It either keeps villains around forever, or it rushes plot points so quickly they're resolved light years before they should have been!

There's still zero character to Aric. He's just an unlikeable brute who's got a nice set of spreads. There's no plot besides "Evil spider aliens! Must kill!", and so far, he hasn't even noticed that he's not in his own time anymore, let alone have we gotten the drama and character development that should entail! Not that there's any development to be had from that revelation, as we never even saw Aric in his own time.

The Visigoth is an idiot too, as when Ken is taken by an alien patrol, Aric immediately assumes he's is dead, despite it obvious he's just been captured, and Aric could easily fly over and rescue him. And there's this...

Our main character is lazy, dumb, unlikeable (it only gets worse from here on), and each page is covered in his narration! He will not shut the fuck up!

This story here is so rough that the start is plain confusing, as it just...starts. We have no idea where Aric is, or what's been happening in-between #1. It's just opens up with him...somewhere, in the middle of fighting...something.

The only positive to this issue besides the artwork (minus the still unappealing Ken) is that thankfully Aric only says 'Ho!' once, instead of saying it about ten times a freakin' issue, as is the norm.

The cover is good, although it completely spoils the ending! Plus, it gets the death of one of the main villains wrong.

Just with XO #1, I don't recommend this tedious dreck in the slightest...

XO Man-O-War #1 (Classic Valiant)

In my big Valiant Comics post, I said that from the Comixology previews I'd read, I thought that series XO Man-O-War looked boring, but a few months ago, I started thinking about the series, and I couldn't remember why I assumed it would be boring, so I decided to give it a chance.
It turns out my first assumption was entirely correct.

Aric of Dacia is a Visigoth barbarian from 402 AD, who is taken prisoner by spider aliens. Some time later, on the alien spaceship, he manages to break out of his cell and makes his way to an armoury, where he equips a strange suit of armour, which proves to be extremely powerful. He uses what he dubs the good skin to decimate the aliens and blasts his way out of the ship, heading for Earth. However, it doesn't take long for the aliens to try and reclaim their most prized weapon...

There is one slight pressing question in all of this...Who the fuck is Aric?!

Seriously, the damn issue just starts, mid-story, with Aric having already been long since kidnapped from...Visigothia or wherever they came from, and he's already escaped from wherever he was kept prisoner on the ship. I'd say it's like going into a movie partway through, but hell, if it's a good enough movie, you'll be able to tell what's happening easily enough. Here, we know nothing, so not only are we confused, but we don't even know why we should care. This is a huge problem Jim Shooter has, as several of his series' start of mid-story, like there was a fire at Valiant's archives, and he hastily renamed all #3 issues as #1. If it wasn't for the #0 issues that came out years later, we'd know nothing about his characters.

Aside from that, the story is all action, little plot. There are some evil aliens who are evil, and a guy in a suit of laser armour who has a 'slight disagreement' with them.

There's no character here either. Aric speaks walls of text, yet we get nothing of his character, or history. He's just a guy who narrates a lot (extremely repetitively too!). Some people praise this series for being original, with its concept of a barbarian in a nigh-powerful Iron Man type suit, but it's hardly worth praise when we don't even know who the damn guy is!

As for the series' main supporting character Ken Clarkson, he comes out of nowhere, we have no idea who he is, and we barely know why he's embroiled in all of this. Here, he's just apparently a random tourist who sees a huge naked man (Aric) and decides to take him in, groom him, take him on a plane to another country, etc, for seemingly no reason, which Aric doesn't object to in the slightest because? It's revealed he's working for the spider aliens (against his will), sort-of, but even that is underwitten to the point of laziness, and has more and more plot holes about it over the next issue.

The writing is pretty nothing, but its worst crime is the repetition. If you want a fun drinking game that'll be a challenge, but at the very least won't kill you, then take a shot each time Aric says 'Ho', 'Die', 'This is a good skin', and 'hard-skin'.

The artwork is good, minus the unappealingly drawn Ken, but there are placement issues that are completely unacceptable. The panels in some pages, one in particular, are very small, and the white space outside is massive. And speaking of placement, this issue completely squanders its extended 30 page length.

I don't recommend this comic at all! The only reason I'm not pissed at myself for having bought it is that I can make a review of it that people will hopefully find amusing.