House Rules! Week of 07/26/06

By: Thomas "HouseT" Houston

I'm back. Again. For the first time since the last time. But hopefully it won't be the last time.

On Deck: ASM #534, Birds of Prey #96, Shadowpact #3, Avengers/Power Pack #4

I'm going to drop my old format for the time being. With any luck, I'll go back to some full summaries soon.

Amazing Spider-Man #534

"The War at Home Part 3(of 6)"

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Ron Garney/Bill Reinhold

Note-a-Quote: "Route C. Oh, no... this can't be good." -Peter Parker

The Skinny: In the aftermath of a major battle between both sides of the Superhero Registration Act, Peter Parker swallows his reservations and prepares to help protect a convoy of captured heroes during a move to a more secure facility. But Peter's reservations are tested even more when he's forced to face off one on one with Captain America.

My Take: Peter Parker with mixed feelings? That kind of thing never happens. But kidding aside, this issue continues the current theme of Peter having his reservations about what he's doing. The irony of him being so in doubt while on the "right" side of the law becomes more apparent as the issue continues.

On one hand, we have Peter continuing to lose trust in Tony Stark. I have a little trouble believing this for two reasons. First, Peter registers doubt when Tony seems to know about Peter's spider sense. According to Peter, his spider sense is a closely guarded secret that only he, Aunt May, and Mary Jane know about. And Venom. And Doc Ock. And Mysterio, and Green Goblin, and any of a number of heroes, villains, dying children, and civilians that just happened to be standing around when he's mentioned it. Mind you, I'll be the first to admit that I always thought that it was stupid for Peter to go blabbing about how he had a danger sense, but it's equally bad form to suddenly write it as if its some closely guarded or relatively unknown fact. I can think of no less than 20 pieces of information about other heroes that are more obscure than that. Even if it wasn't directly stated, anyone who had been around him long enough would be able to figure out he has to have some kind of mojo working for him.

Secondly, I don't think that it would take this specific incident to make Peter think of checking the suit for monitoring equipment. Even if Peter trusted Tony one hundred percent, I still think that Peter would be inclined to do some tinkering on his own. If nothing else, Peter's scientific nature would have made him check things out. It's far more plausible than the incident that's presented here.

On the alternate side of things, we have Peter facing off with Steve Rogers. This encounter reads much better than the aforementioned conversation with Tony if only because Steve stays more in character. His brief talk and offer to Peter to switch sides came off as sincere and something that Captain America would be inclined to do. That said, it still feels odd for Steve and Peter to go to honest to gosh fisticuffs over the matter. Sure, Steve and Tony punching each other around I totally get. But for these two to fight seems horribly unnatural.

At any rate, we're left at the end with the obligatory stalemate as Cap disengages to go help the rest of his team. Peter, of course, is left with more doubt than he had when he started, and we are left with yet another reminder that Spider-Man is smack dab in the middle of this Civil War story line.

Because multiple banners and variant covers isn't enough to get the point across.

But this issue does at least address that several members of the Civil War have their own internal conflicts in the matter, something that the main title continues to ignore. I'd rather have had a bit more solid of a story, but I can live with this one.

Story: 6/10 (It nurses a few flaws, but it's still a good story.)
Art: 6/10 (Just what is Ben Grimm doing in that panel? Seriously, should we know?)
Overall: 6/10

Bird of Prey # 96

"Headhunt! Part One: Through the Shards of a Looking Glass"

Writer: Gail Simone
Art: Paulo Sequira/Robin Riggs

Note-a-Quote: "You did not have my permission to enter my home. You have five seconds to leave here alive." -Black Alice

The Skinny: The Birds spend some downtime reflecting on fallen hero Ted Kord, but there's no rest for the weary. The Society has their sights set on recruiting Black Alice, so Oracle dispatches the team to intercept them while she handles another matter.

Talia, however, has other plans in mind, and convinces Black Alice that the Birds of Prey are coming to get her. So Alice does what Alice does best and borrows a little Amazon muscle to slap them around. And since the BoP are lacking any serious muscle, it goes about as well as you'd expect for them.

Meanwhile in Gotham City, a couple out for an evening stroll run into a trio of thugs with bad intentions. The couple lucks out, though, as the trio is taken down by... Batgirl? Is this what Barbara meant by having another matter to tend to? Is old Babs bacj in the saddle again? Is this some imposter, or is a new hero on the Bat-roster? And more importantly, just how much cybersex is "a little"? The answers, sadly, will have to wait for another time.

My Take: First, let me say that it was great to have a section of the book dedicated to the late Ted Kord, so let me take my own moment to reflect on his greatness.

Here's to you, Ted Kord. Inventor, Philosopher, Humaintarian, Cyber-humper. Because he totally cyber-did it with Barbara. And you know she has to be good at it, because she's freakin' Oracle. If you can hack a Pentagon database in under .5 seconds, you gots to be good with the cyber-loving. Even a little cyber necking would be hot.

I put too much thought into it, didn't I? Let's move on.

There seems to be a recurring theme here with the Birds getting outmatched. Last time it was Prometheus, and now it's Black Alice. I remember the good old days when the team would actually face people they could take down. Then again, it's all about the journey.

Black Alice does indeed have anger issues, but you have to "wonder" (ho, ho, punny!) why she's getting so bent out of shape about a few heroes showing up. Presumably, someone's done something in the past year to make her already agitated state worse. It doesn't seem like any of the Acts of Vengeance business should have warped her that much, and it would be nice to find out just why she has a chip on her shoulder.

That aside, this is a good issue with some well balanced story elements. As was mentioned before, the team taking the time to pay respects to Ted Kord. In fact, it was just nice seeing the team spend a relaxing morning together. Although the whole thing almost got offset by Sin and her love of pancakes. Too delicious, indeed.

But the issue leaves just enough points in limbo to drag you back next month. Between wondering just what Alice will do next and just what the mystery of Batgirl is, there's a lot of things to look forward to.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 7/10 (A solid issue with a nice set of cliffhangers.)

Shadowpact #3

"The (Short) Year of Living Dangerously"

Writer: Bill Willingham
Art: Cory Walker

Note-a-Quote: "A year? But that means I just went a year without paying rent on my place." -Blue Devil

The Skinny: After having been captured last issue, the Shadowpact manage to escape their respective captors and make short work of the Pentacle. Relatviely short work, since the spell mojo that Enchantress has to work to break the evil seal over the town they're trapped in robs all of the occupants of one year of their lives. On the plus side, a real world year has passed while they were imprisoned, too. Isn't magic fun?

My Take: Am I the only one disturbed by how efficient the Shadowpact is when they apply themselves? Seriously, it appears that as long as they all work as one collective group, there isn't much they can't do. It's a nice dynamic to have for the team, especially since their purpose seems to be to face the unthinkable (or something equally dramatic sounding).

The Shadowpact also takes the lead in the "Best OYL Jump" category. I wasn't sure how they were going to resolve them being stuck there for a whole year. Committing a super-team to a small town for a year was going to be a pretty bold move, not to mention incredibly limiting when it came to venue selection ("Next month, they'll fight evil in the red barn. The month after that, the blue one...") Although part of me does feel sorry for all of those poor mages outside that had to spend a full year watching a funky red bubble for no good reason. Oh, well. It's the thought that counts.

Although there is one down side to the way things were handled. The Shadowpact may have come off as looking too powerful. Much like the Big 7 and Pantheon incarnations of the JLA, if you get the impression that the group that's assembled can handle anything, you have to keep coming up with bigger and crazier threats to make it interesting.

Much like those other teams, though, the Shadowpact is chock full of entertaining personalities to keep things interesting. Just the fact that their diverse makeup is chock full of moral ambiguity makes for heated discussions within the group. Enchantress' willingness to kill combined with the other's resolve in allowing it to happen lends itself to the gray area that the team seems to operate in. And we really do need more people operating in gray areas. Gray leaning towards good, of course.

Story: 6/10 (Felt either forced or rushed, but otherwise a good story.)
Art: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

Avengers/Power Pack: Assemble! #4(of 4)

"Conquered! Part 2: Pack to the Future"

Writer: Marc Sumerak
Art: GuriHiru

Note-a-Quote: "For a guy who's traveled to both ends of the timestream, you'd think Kang would have figured out that keeping his enemies frozen in time like trophies would come back to haunt him." -Jack Power

The Skinny: Say you're a megalomaniacal time travelling conqueror from future. You manage to spring back to our present, overcome the Avengers, and conquer the world. All that's left is to find something to do with those pesky, yet persistent kids they call Power Pack. Do you:

A) Obliterate them flat out.
B) Travel further back in time to kill their parents and erase them from existence.
C) Send them to the future, where they can run into future versions of themselves, free the Avengers, then travel back in time to ruin your ****.

Kang, being the cookie cutter villain that he is wont to be at times, elects for the third and most entertaining option. But if it makes him feel any better, he probably couldn't have obliterated them if he tried.

My Take: Avengers/Power Pack has been a surprisingly great title. There have been a variety of appearances by hero and villain alike, and even an underlying story line that has continued throughout each of the individual stories. This final issue outlines the kids trip to an alternate future where Kang has taken over the world.

First of all, the kids from both times are characterized well. From the cool composure of the future Power Pack to the ever present immaturity of the present team, everyone falls into place in a way that makes them feel like they're connected. Which makes sense, since they are just one big family. And speaking of family, the group has a nice series of heartwarming moments (even though kid Jack and Katie will claim they were more disgusted by them than touched).

The art is bright and colorful, and even the grown up heroes and villains look like they fit in with the kids' four color world. And for a story about four kids, there certainly is a hearty helping of action thrown around the book. Not that I'm complaining.

Avengers/Power Pack is proof positive that an all ages title can well scripted, intelligent, and still remain undeniably fun. This last issue may have been the best of them all. Hopefully, the world's youngest super team will keep getting a spotlight. With any luck, it will be as favorable as this one.

Story: 9/10 (An well paced action packed story with lots of character elements tossed in.)
Art: 9/10 (As refreshingly upbeat as the story it's attached to.)
Overall: 9/10 (But darned if I'm not scarred for life. Future Julie was how old? Rrowr!)

So that's that. Hang in there, hang loose, hang tough, or hang whatever you can without breaking any laws.


Blogger Az said...

((Spoilers ahead))

Shadowpact in #3 didn't appear very strong at all... still the same pack of mismatched losers bound by nothing but chance.

However, I did like the issue and it's resolution... and I believe only 3 mages stood on watch duty. =(

(Phantom Stranger delegated... the bastard)

Anyways, it was good to see Chimp doing something besides comedy and I really hated Karnevil. In the end, everything was solved with Nightshade's power that conveniently aced all but 3 (Strega, White Rabbit and Karnevil)

The only reason they escaped was because of White Rabbit's twisted sense of honor... and Enchantress was quite the clever vixen throughout it all, though I wish Cunningham would have taken more time to explain the costume changes for NS and Enchantress back in #1.

I also wish I knew if and when they explained, what happened to NS after/during the DoV Special Infinite Crisis One-Shot when she was kidnapped at the end... seriously, what happened to her?

7:17 PM  

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