Funnybook Babylon

April 9, 2010

Avenging the Week, pt. 1 – The Origin Story

Do not imagine yourself a caretaker of any tradition, an enforcer of any party standards, a warrior in an ideological battle, a corrections officer of any kind. Never, never try to put the author “in his place,” making him a pawn in a contest with other reviewers. Review the book, not the reputation. Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast. Better to praise and share than blame and ban. The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end.

-John Updike

Hello. The quotation above is reflective of what I’d like to do with this column. It’s an idealized view of criticism that I plan to strive for in this this column. I expect to fail on a pretty regular basis, but it’s always important to have a goal. The plan? A weekly review and potpourri/linkblogging with commentary column. Warning: Spoilers below.

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September 23, 2009

FBBP #113 – The Trouble with Norman

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , , , — Joseph Mastantuono @ 8:00 am

With Dark Reign entering a new phase with the release of the first Dark Reign: The List one-shots, the gang looks at Marvel’s recent experiments with telling One Big Story, from Civil War to today. Of special interest in Norman Osborn: is he the Green Goblin, Super-Cheney, or the second coming of Hitler? Marvel’s stable of writers seem to hold different opinions, and we explore them all.

September 22, 2009

Pull List Reviews for September 16th

Daredevil: The ListDark Reign: The List – Daredevil
by Andy Diggle & Billy Tan

Bad art can ruin even the best of stories, but lesser known is its ability to obscure mediocre writing. Billy Tan’s art in this issue is bad: it’s static during action sequences featuring ninjas, masked superhero gymnastics and government agents rappelling from the roof. Tan’s talking sequences fail to display any emotion besides tension. As a result, at first glance, this art is terrible enough to hide a weak effort from Andy Diggle.

I wish Diggle had exercised some restraint here since the book’s “everything is rotten from the core” vibe already wears out its welcome by the time the corrupt judge shows up six pages in. When we finally see Norman Osborn, he is exhaling pure evil. It’s not as if Daredevil hasn’t tangled with some sinister dudes before, but the moral conflicts and ethical backsliding that had been the bedrock of Bendis and Brubaker’s Daredevil runs begin to feel less complex when Murdock is trying to take down the next Hitler.

Diggle’s overplaying of the systemic corruption moves Daredevil from a troubled man trying to straighten up a clan of killer evil ninjas to the leader of a band of freedom fighters. Regardless of if Murdock succeeds here, his goal becomes noble enough to the reader that he will be redeemed in their eyes. This isn’t Diggle’s intent and this will push Matt away from the tipping point that has been teased since the title was relaunched back in 1999. It’s a shame since there was just so much farther he could have fallen.

-by Pedro Tejeda

Dark Avengers #9Dark Avengers #9
by Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Deodato, and Rain Beredo

In a week with a Grant Morrison Batman comic and a new volume of Pluto, somehow I think I enjoyed these 22 pages the most. Bendis’s recent work has gotten slagged on a lot – sometimes deservedly – but I think this is a solid crystallization of everything that makes his style work: Character, Character, Character. The cover promises Ares versus Fury in a glocks-versus-battle-ax contest to the death, and I’m glad the cover lied because the mature conversation inside is so, so, so much better. Then Bendis drops a shock ending bomb on you, one he’s clearly been waiting to drop forever, and one that works pretty well at eliciting an “OH SHIT!” from almost anybody invested in the Marvel status quo right now.

But Bendis isn’t even really the main reason. Mike Deodato fucking shines on this comic, with interesting but clear panel layouts, especially in the middle section. This guy has really evolved from a tits ‘n muscles artist in the ’90s to a guy who, despite his propensity for swaying hips, constantly tries to make his panel layouts interesting (and still clear) – check out the “Ares smash!” two-page spread to see what I mean. He’s good with balls-out action and talking heads (as displayed near the end with the Dark Avengers just chillin’ and chattin’), versatile enough to move from the everyday to the extraordinary and make it seem like it’s in the same world. I’m willing to take his (increasingly rarer) propensities towards T&A in stride as long as he keeps turning in superb storytelling like this.

– by David Uzumeri

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1
“Shock & Awe Chapter 1”
by Gregg Hurwitz & Jerome Opena

I haven’t paid attention to the Moon Knight book for years, and viewed him as a third-rate Batman suffering from mental illness. But sometimes a comic doesn’t have to be original to be entertaining. We’ve all become familiar with the use of the super-hero narrative to explore identity and mental illness. Not only that, but the story of a lone man who must do battle with a crazed totalitarian state is older than John Galt. So what sets Vengeance of the Moon Knight apart from the crowd? The art. Gregg Hurwitz turns in a competent script, but Jerome Opena transforms what could have been a banal book into an entertaining romp.

The first issue sets the status quo – Moon Knight is a hero who is in the midst of an identity crisis. Will he be the restrained old-school hero who avoids unnecessary violence or a brutal vigilante close to the edge? We see MK elegantly dispatch armed bank robbers and escape from the authorities with ease in the first half of the book, which unfolds like a slick action movie filled with bright colors and unambiguous victories. In the second half, we begin to see the cracks in the facade – the criminals from Heat have been replaced with the degenerates in Taxi Driver, Moon Knight’s resolve is tested, and his instability becomes more apparent: the voices in his head/ghosts that haunt him become clearer. There are shadows everywhere, and triumph is replaced with temptation. An atmosphere of fear lurks in the background, with the visage of Norman Osborn staring at us from billboards and video screens. And that’s without even looking at the words.

– by Jamaal Thomas

August 11, 2009

FBBP #108 – The World’s Greatest?

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , , , , — Chris Eckert @ 5:42 pm

Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Fantastic Four was meant to return “The World’s Greatest Comics Magazine” to a position worthy of such a lofty byline. The book’s sales didn’t reflect a return to glory — their first issue was the only one to crack the Top Ten, and by the end of their run it was selling less than Dwayne McDuffie and Paul Pelletier’s lead-in issues.

But none of that should matter to people not holding stock in Marvel. The real question is, was it a good read? This week we review Millar and Hitch’s full sixteen issue run. We also take a brief survey of Jonathan Hickman’s forays into the Marvel Universe, as he prepares to take over Fantastic Four later this month.
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December 23, 2008

Remember That Secret Invasion Comic?

I know I’ve been hip deep in the Distinguished Competition’s “summer” event for a while, and I apologize to the House of Ideas. (I won’t even bring up everybody else; I’m still a goddamn troglodyte making my way through 100 Rooms in the first Maggie the Mechanic trade, so please speak to me in short sentences with easy words, I’m a bit slow.)

So – Secret Invasion! The epic culmination of Brian Michael Bendis’s years-long epic, building since Secret War and possibly all the way back to Alias! I remember being pretty goddamn excited when the first issue hit, and thinking it was a pretty great detonator for a summer crossover. Hell, I liked it to the point where I wrote an article about some of the Internet reaction to it that made Kevin Church hate me forever. I remember saying, and I can pretty thoroughly regret this now, “I have no idea how Final Crisis can possibly match this level of high-octane excitement.”

Why was I excited? Because what Bendis promised, and what I really, honestly expected to receive, was (I mean, he had eight issues to do this!) a fairly decent and smart balance of high-octane superheroic mass violence and reflection on what happens when our planet is invaded by a bunch of dudes who thoroughly believe they are correct and just and don’t come anywhere close to sharing a moral or ethical worldview with us.
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September 28, 2008

New New Avengers Lineup Leaked! Spoilers!

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 10:12 pm

Yeah, apparently the full roster and cover for the post-Secret Invasion New Avengers has been leaked thanks to what I assume is the Dynamic Forces section of Previews.

Kevin Huxford, eat your heart out. (I know I said I hated spoilers, but this lineup makes me so excited I can’t contain myself.)

LO! BELOW! (more…)

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