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Is It Wednesday Yet?

11 May 2010 Here we are again with another installment of your favorite comic book review series. As always, the reviews are free of spoilers, so read on without fear of having your experience ruined!

Our grading scale is simple:

Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.

Madame Xanadu #22
Publisher: DC Comics / Vertigo
Released: 28 April 2010
Writer: Matt Wagner
Penciler: Amy Reeder Hadley
Inker: Richard Friend
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover: Amy Reeder Hadley
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Damien Wilkens
Due to Damien quitting the planet Earth last week, Earth-2.net has pooled its resources and used advanced time jumping technology to find a suitable replacement for this review. They went all the way back to 1994 and pulled a young Damien out of his fourth grade class. He was then given Madame Xanadu to read and was forced to write a book report.

Madame Xanadu: A Book Report
by Damien Wilkens
Ms. Shultz's 4th Grade Class

Madame Xanadu is a comic book. It's about a lady that needs to find a thing. To help her find the thing she has a friend with a hat. He also has a coat. That's all he does.

Her sister is mean. She looks like Rita from Power Rangers. She doesn't wear pants. I don't know why. Sometimes there are other people and they talk about stuff. The guy in the hat is there sometimes. I don't like him. The mean lady blows people up, but the guy in the hat just stands there. The nice lady is stupid, too. She just follows the guy in the hat around and yells sometimes.

The mean lady lives in an old movie theater. She can blow people up but can't afford pants. I think I would be angry too if I had no pants.

I don't know what the story is about. There are people looking for old weapons. The mean lady sits in her chair and blows people up when they don't find the weapons. They don't tell you why she needs weapons when she can make fire and turn people into servants.

The art is very pretty. Sometimes the people in the book look weird but that's okay. I don't know why they stand and point when they yell at each other. Okay, maybe the art is not that pretty. It's okay.

I did not like the book that much, but it had some good stuff. I hope the mean lady blows up the guy in the hat. In conclusion, I would flip through this book at the store and then buy some pogs. If anyone has seen my Goosebumps slammer, please put it back in my desk.

Thank you.

Mighty Avengers #36
Publisher: Marvel
Released: 28 April 2010
Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Khoi Pham
Inkers: Craig Yeung and David Meikis
Colorits: John Rauch
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Cover: Khoi Pham
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Desmond Reddick
Since receiving my books for review, I have spent the last few days wondering what I've done. Have I ignored an important e-mail? Did I say something to piss him off when we were recording a podcast together? Did I accidentally hit the kill switch on every redhead he's ever had a crush on? Tell me, what have I done to incur the boss' wrath so mightily that I have to read and write about a Dan Slott comic book?

This isn't just a Dan Slott book; this is an event tie-in; an event I couldn't give two shits about. Not even one shit. Oh joy.

For what I've done, Michael, I'm sorry.

In this issue, some of the Mighty Avengers are in Oklahoma doing something to do with Siege, and the rest of them are in the Underspace (below the Microverse for those of you who care) and in Avengers Mansion maybe? These Avengers are facing Ultron in the biggest threat they've ever faced, yadda yadda yadda. Also, there are two people with guns who look like Royal Flush Gang rejects. Not knowing who those characters are was the most interesting part of this book.

So, I have read worse books by Dan Slott. I really have. In fact, this isn't the most terribly written book I've read for Is It Wednesday Yet? in the past couple weeks. But it is completely inconsequential. Slott takes the easy out for an Avengers battle by having Hank Pym the "Scientist Supreme" face down Ultron in his ultimate form: Ultron Pym. Yay.

If I recall correctly, Mighty Avengers started off with a battle against Ultron, and while I dropped it after the first arc, it was still much more enjoyable than this. I'm not too sure what it is to be honest, but it felt like there were actual stakes then. Not here though. There's too much meaningless technobabble, and too much posturing to actually establish any kind of threat. The way they beat Ultron is also exceedingly ridiculous. In fact, it may be the most ridiculous thing I've ever read in a comic. And not in a good way.

Thank you, Dan Slott. Thank you for ensuring me that I'm not alone in my hatred of your work. Throughout the world, I'm visualizing the readers of Mighty Avengers all saying to themselves, "This is the stupidest piece of shit I've ever read in my life." Thankfully, I'm shielded from that anti-intellectual onslaught because I've actually read worse by Slott. Hmm... anti-intellectual onSlott. I like it.

Also, there's art. And it's alright.

Fuck this babychest piece of garbage. Fuck it 'til it's dead, build it back into a machine hybrid, marry it off to another robot, and send it off into space so no one ever has to stumble upon this perfect example of why the world will never take comics seriously.

New Avengers #64
Publisher: Marvel
Released: 28 April 2010
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike McKone
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: RS & Comicraft's Albert Deschesne
Cover: Stuart Immonen
Cover price: $3.99

Review: Sean Lemberg
Seems like it's been quite a while since Luke Cage's New Avengers were proactive about something, doesn't it? Truth is, they've been in a purely reactive mindset since the end of Civil War, due in no small part to their official label as an unlawful tribe of state enemies. The team's activities in Siege don't appear to buck that trend; they're getting tired of being pushed around and they've welcomed Steve Rogers back into the fold, but they're still just following the action instead of instigating it.

Let's be straight about this: Norman Osborn in power has never worked quite as well without Brian Michael Bendis there to put the words in his mouth. Bendis has a knack with this guy, the rare ability to deliver a truly convincing con artist. As a reader, you're never quite sure if you admire him or despise him, an uncertainty that's reflected on the faces and actions of those he meets on the page. Watching Norman wheel and deal effortlessly with some of the biggest badasses in the Marvel U during his stint in power has been a real pleasure, like seeing an artisan in his prime. And of course, it wouldn't be nearly as entertaining without the constant threat of his doublespeak finally coming around to bite him in the ass. It's taken for granted that eventually Osborn is going to talk himself into the hole that will ultimately unravel him, and the lingering chance that this con could be his last makes every conversation an interesting one. That is, with Bendis around to put the right words into his mouth.

If you've enjoyed that kind of material as much as I have, the first half of this issue will be cruising right up your alley. The back-end is geared more towards the fan of gluttonous slugfests and shiny public displays of nondescript superpowers. As I'm sure you can tell from my tone, I found that material a bit less interesting. But hey, I guess there's a little taste of something for everybody, assuming they don't demand a lot of Avengers in their New Avengers. While I largely enjoyed the focus on Osborn and The Hood this month, it did feel a bit odd to see Cage, Ronin, and the headlining team treated as little more than accessories to fill out the background in a few panels.

On the visual side, Mike McKone covers all the bases fairly well, although he lacks the punching power to take over an important splash page. He doesn't benefit from any comparisons to Stuart Immonen, the preceding regular penciler, but he's also far from the worst artist to offer a take on the series. McKone shows nice versatility this month, shifting from the subtleties of a lengthy, dramatic conversation between Osborn and The Hood to a busy, frenzied action scene in the space between two panels. His characters have depth and stand apart, often showing a strange blend of Tony Harris and Leinil Yu. And although his action scenes are sometimes too busy to comprehend, I think that's more an issue of Bendis forcing too much into a single panel than any fault of McKone's.

New Avengers #64 is primarily here to sweep up a few lingering plot points from the primary Siege crossover, and on that front it's fairly successful. The next installment in the lead characters' lives, however, it is not. While I enjoyed a good part of this issue, I couldn't help but wonder if it was material better suited to a one-shot or miniseries because it's less an Avengers book and more an installment of The Hood Digest. Flip through it; if you're ready to leave Siege behind, you'll be better off waiting until the forthcoming relaunch. Otherwise, this should provide a tidy sense of closure.

The Terminator: 2029 #2
Publisher: Dark Horse
Released: 28 April 2010
Writer: Zack Whedon
Artist: Andy MacDonald
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Letterer: Nate Piekos
Cover: Massimo Carnevale
Cover price: $3.50

Review: Desmond Reddick
I don't like Joss Whedon. I said it. He's not some geek messiah; in fact, I think he has a lot of trouble with story and character. Besides a few episodes of Firefly and his run on Astonishing X-Men, I've barely been able to stand him. So imagine my epic eye roll when I opened the cover to issue one of this series and discovered his baby brother was lowered into a molten metal pool of nepotism and given the writing chores of this licensed book.

Then imagine my eyes rolling around inside my head when I loved it.

This issue picks up where that one left off, obviously. We follow Kyle Reese before he's gone back in time to rescue Sarah Connor. In it, a component of the resistance to the machine overlords has fled their compromised stronghold and is overrun by an army of T-800s (the Schwarzenegger ones). They are then rescued by a far more militant group of resistance fighters, and perhaps it's out of the frying pan and into the fire.

This, while technically a prequel, is not only worthy of the series, it is by far the most interesting story to follow the first film. This is the movie we've wanted to see since that film: the resistance in a war against the machines. Add to that the real drama of some of the last humans alive fighting for control of the world, and you have maybe the most potent story in the series yet.

The ending is enough to blow your mind, which makes it a possible tie-in to that first film in the most imaginable way you could think of. I adored the story, but the ending made it astonishing. This is by far the best licensed comic I have read in a long time, maybe ever.

Andy MacDonald's art is absolutely perfect for this book. I'm not too familiar with his work, but after seeing it here, I want to be. His gritty and yet realistically cartoonish look is the perfect mix of Steve Rolston and Jock. He makes lovemaking and military combat with a squadron of robot exoskeletons fit perfectly in the same world, which makes him the right candidate for the Terminator franchise.

Whether you are a fan of the Terminator films or not (I count myself a fan of only the first film), this is an impressive post-apocalyptic tale of human survival in a world where the machines have already won. This is fun, intense, and thought-provoking. Buy it.

Thunderbolts #143
Publisher: Marvel
Released: 28 April 2010
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: Comicraft's Albert Deschesne
Cover: Adi Granov
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Damien Wilkens
After several failed attempts to reenter the time stream, the team at Earth-2.net has located the present-day Damien in a base on the moon. They sent him Thunderbolts #143 in an effort to quell his boredom. He sent them back the following review, several crude photographs, and what is believed to be an explosive.

Fuck you guys.

Seriously, this is the best you could do? Do you want me to lose my mind? You know, more so?

Well, I have nothing better to do up here, so I might as well review it.

So the Thunderbolts are on Asgard and have been tasked with finding the Spear of Odin (McGuffin #7673 in your textbooks). Now, you won't believe this, but the team ends up fighting each other to get to it. Oh, and the Mighty Avengers are there. We've now hit complete jobber overload. Perhaps you're thinking I'm being a bit harsh here. In that case, I'm begging you to name more than two members of either team off the top of your head. Hell, I just reviewed Thunderbolts a few months ago and all I can remember is Ant-Man. But that's alright, since next issue they're changing the roster. Again. While the idea of the Luke Cage-led Thunderbolts has potential, it's ultimately meaningless to this issue, which only serves to clean up a bunch of loose ends and trash a bunch of characters that never meant anything in the first place. Call me crazy, but I don't think we're going to see Grizzly or Scourge again any time soon.

Really, the main issue here isn't so much the story as the setting. Yeah, Siege is going on and nearly every Marvel book needs to focus on that event. The problem is that no one could possibly care what the Thunderbolts are doing in the midst of Siege, even regular readers of Thunderbolts. Even worse, the book gives you no reason to care. Nothing anyone does here has a bearing on anything that's bound to happen in the remainder of the event, and the whole thing only serves one purpose: to take your three dollars.

The art is weird. It's not ugly, per se, but the heavy inks and muted palette make for a very dull experience, even in the face of what could be some pretty cool action. No one looks quite right, either, but considering my issues with Marvel artwork as a whole, I'm not entirely sure what "right" is anymore.

Even at the "reduced" price of $2.99, this isn't worth your money. Skip this book and find something else to do with your time. Hell, the only reason I read this is because it's boring as hell up here. Really, the whole "jumping around at low gravity" thing sounds fun at first, but it gets old quick, and there's not much else. Do you know what they have for entertainment on the fucking moon? Pogs. This is where we sent all of them. What kind of losers played with those things anyway?

Wonder Woman #43
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 28 April 2010
Writer: Gail Simone
Pencilers: Nicola Scott and Fernando Dagnino
Inkers: Doug Hazlewood, Wayne Faucher, Brad Anderson, and Bit
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover: Nicola Scott
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Sean Lemberg
When a pillaging alien race descends on Washington, anxious to transform the entire human race into little more than rocket fuel, somebody should probably stand up and say something. Thankfully, Wonder Woman is around to serve just that kind of purpose, because I'm not really sure how I'd want to begin such a conversation. Turns out the Amazonian princess has more than just a passing interest in this particular invading fleet, seeing as how she's discovered a distant relative at its helm and all.

Gail Simone tells a good story this month, smoothly and effortlessly shifting the plot from past to present, narrator to narrator, without feeling overly reckless or jarring. Jumping in mid-storyline as I did, I can't say there weren't a few moments that had me scratching my head, but Simone generally takes it easy on unfamiliar audiences. The author isn't short on creativity, either, with virtually every new page carrying its own original concept. An army of female alien warriors on this page, a massive aluminum serpent on the next; no threat is too unbelievable or absurd.

But therein lies my problem with this issue. Despite the wealth of opposing forces, precise attacks, and competing problems, I never took any of them as a serious threat. Diana doesn't, either; she's always wearing that stern, confident disposition, with nary a dash of concern or surprise registering on her face. While on the one hand, that kind of poise is what made her one of DC's heaviest hitters, on the other it gives the impression that no threat is particularly serious and the conclusion of this little skirmish has already been determined. Stoicism is important in a strong lead, but a bit of concern and shock shouldn't be out of the picture. Simone spins an elegant plot, sprinkled with a few hints about Diana's lineage, but it serves as little more than a showcase for the writer's imagination. I was looking for something with a bit of permanence, but at the end of the day all I got was a return to the status quo with an ever-so-minor nugget of info about Wondie's extended family.

Nicola Scott and Fernando Dagnino divvy up the visual duties fairly evenly, with a small army of inkers around to provide backup. The two have different enough styles as it is without those added influences giving the impression that we're looking at a quilt spun by a dozen different artists, a handicap that ultimately damages the issue. I can understand the needs of a major publisher monthly deadlines to meet and all but is it really worth the sacrifice in quality to meet the requirements of quantity?

Despite the new obstacles distributed with nearly every page, I never shook the opinion that this issue was just treading water. The lack of substance with each new threat gave the impression that Diana was merely assembling a checklist and working her way from top to bottom, and I don't especially care to see her polish that off and chuck it into the nearest wastebasket. It's worth a flip through but not much more.


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The Edge of Forever 37
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