In an effort to get some more content onto this blog that isn't me banging on about how I'm very slowly writing a novel, I'm introducing a new feature for Fridays. The plan is to do capsule reviews of every piece of media I finished during the previous week, starting with the one I enjoyed the least and working my up to the one I enjoyed the most. Longtime readers of any of my blogs will be rolling there eyes right now, because I've never been good at maintaining a schedule. I make no promises, but here is the first extra-sized installment, covering the last fortnight.
Painkiller Jane: The 22 Brides #1-3 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Juan Santacruz: This feature is getting off to a bad start, with some truly terrible comics. Painkiller Jane has been around since the mid-90s, but this is my first time reading one of her comics. As far as I can tell, she's an ex-cop with a healing factor, an attitude, and a tendency to remove her clothing on-panel. She has a bunch of female helpers, all interchangeable, and just as likely to grace the reader with their nudity for no discernible story purpose. The murder-mystery plot is meandering, and rather than resolve it the finale veers off so the characters can talk about their emotions at length. This mini gets the distinction of being at the bottom of my first lot of capsules; it might be a while before I encounter something worse than this.
Axis: Carnage #1-3 by Rick Spears and Alexander Lozano: Serial-killer Carnage has been turned good by events in the main Axis series (see below for an explanation), and this mini deals with his attempts at being good. Mostly this involves him stopping crimes with extreme violence. There's some absurdist fun to be had here, but the story never quite decides whether to play Carnage's transformation for laughs or for drama, and as a result it feels rather muddled.
Axis: Revolutions #1-4 by lots of folks: Yes, it's Axis again. Axis: Revolutions is the obligatory anthology book that we always get during a Marvel event, and it suffers from the usual problems. The majority of the stories are barely stories at all, and the creators don't get much interesting material out of the flipped heroes and villains. The highlights are Simon Spurrier's 'Doctor Strange' story and Kevin Maurer's 'Thor' story, both of which play the situation for laughs. Howard Chaykin turns in a pretty good story about the resistance movement in Latveria. The rest are decent, if forgettable, except for an Iceman tale by John Barber that us outright baffling. I wouldn't be upset if these anthologies went away forever.
Avengers & X-Men: Axis #1-9 by Rick Remender, Andy Kubert, Lienil Yu, Jim Cheung and Terry Dodson: The curse of the Marvel event continues. Rick Remender is a very good writer, but like so many before him he's turned in a pretty bad event comic. It's bizarrely paced, with the crux of the event (where goodies become baddies, and vice-versa) not coming until almost halfway through, and some events that ought to be significant done in an almost throwaway fashion. And honestly, the inverted heroes and villains aren't interesting enough to hang a story of this scope on. It's issue after issue of sound, fury, and characters acting out of character.
WWE Raw episodes 1129 and 1130: The undercard and the mid-card are a shambles, but the performers at the top are still able to make for a watchable show. Brock Lesnar can keep calling people 'baby' forever, as far as I'm concerned, and Seth Rollins has rapidly become the most valuable guy on the roster.
WWE Raw episode 1131: The storm sweeping across the northeastern USA meant that the WWE couldn't travel, so instead of the regular live show we got highlights from the Royal Rumble and a bunch of pre-taped interviews hyping the Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns match coming up at Wrestlemania. The format was novel, Brock Lesnar excelled at being a thuggish bully, and Paul Heyman did a masterful job at making this match seem like a big deal. I wouldn't want it to be like this every week, but as a one-off I really liked it. Best of all, I could fast-forward through most of the show and was done in half-an-hour.
She by H. Rider Haggard: It took me three months to finish this book, which says something. It's not that it was bad, or that I hated it, but it never really grabbed me. It's most striking feature is the character of 'She' herself, the immortal Ayesha, who is a genuinely captivating figure. Sadly, the book takes too long to get to her, and when it does it spends a load of chapters stalling and delaying her meeting with Leo, her reincarnated lover. I can see why this was popular at the time, but for a dude from 2015 (even one so attuned to ye olden books as I am) this couldn't hold my interest.
Mighty Avengers #1-14 by Al Ewing and mostly Greg Land: You know, it was nice to read some comics that weren't a part of Axis. The premise here is that Luke Cage puts together a team of Avengers that operates out of Harlem, supposedly to help whoever comes to them with a problem. The team just happens to be mostly black and Hispanic characters, which is no doubt a calculated move by Marvel, but not an unwelcome one. The result is a fun, straightforward super-hero book that manages to be traditional without feeling retro. I'll have to keep an eye out for more stuff by Al Ewing, because he's rather good.
Axis: Hobgoblin #1-3 by Kevin Shinick and Javier Rodriquez: In the entirety of the Axis event, this is the one story that really succeeds. After having his alignment flipped, the formerly villainous Hobgoblin becomes a self-help guru leading a cult of low-level super-heroes. It's clever, funny, and far better than it had any right to be.
WWE Royal Rumble 2014: If there's one thing I love, it's a good wrestling train-wreck. The Royal Rumble is one of the most important events of the year for WWE, as the winner goes on to main-event Wrestlemania and thus becomes one of the central figures in storylines going forward. This year the winner was Roman Reigns, a large Samoan fellow with, shall we say, more looks than wrestling talent. He's been reasonably popular over the last year, but this event was in Philadelphia, a city of notoriously hardcore wrestling fans, and let's just say that they were not pleased with the result. It's obvious that the WWE want Reigns to be the next big thing, and just as obvious that the hardcore fanbase doesn't, at least not yet. I'm super-interested to see where this goes.
Oh yeah, there was also a triple-threat match between Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Seth Rollins that was amazing. Brock came out looking unstoppable, and Seth Rollins put in the star-making performance of his career. Amazing.
The Wolverine: This could have been a really good movie, but ultimately it came undone at the end, dragged down by the wild tonal clashes between its action thriller elements, and its superhero elements. The more grounded elements, with Logan's character arc and the focus on Japanese family crime worked rather well, while the more fantastical elements really jarred me out of the movie. I liked what was there enough to place it second, but there's plenty of stuff I wish wasn't there (I'm looking right at you, Viper, and your stupid robot).
Young Avengers #1-15 by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie: This is a series that shouts its young adult metaphors from the rooftops, and revels in everything that is great (and not so great) about being a teenager. The art is slick and stylish, the writing crackles, and the whole thing is just a bundle of fun. I usually hate teen superhero books, but I bloody loved this one.