Friday, November 30, 2012

REVIEW: TEEN TITANS #14

(w) Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza
(p) Ale Garza

"The Origin of Wonder Girl" has been my favorite arc of Teen Titans so far, mostly because it's the first story to actually resemble a 'putting the team together' aesthetic. While this should have happened in the first...you know...arc...it didn't because it was constantly being overshadowed by N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and the perceived deep integration with Superboy. Now, readers are finally getting some back story on the members of the Teen Titans, starting with Wonder Girl and the Silent Armor.

Last month, I explained how much I enjoyed Fabian Nicieza's writing for Teen Titans #13 and that if things kept going the way they were, TT could really grow into one of DC's best series. And while last issue took two steps forward, TT#14 takes one step back by moving Nicieza from sole scripting duties to being a co-writer with Scott Lobdell. It's a little frustrating to see Lobdell's spin on an arc that I've loved up to this point. Thankfully, it seems Nicieza put the nix on frequent thought balloons and stiff inner dialogue, though, so it's not nearly as painful to read as some of Lobdell's earlier issues.

A large chunk of Teen Titans #14 is focused on the team members themselves, which is a far cry from Lobdell's plot-only writing style. Solstice gets a visit from a mysterious phantom-esque character named Lance who claims to be able to alter metagenes and help Kiran regain her human appearance. I found myself wondering if this was Kurt Lance from Team 7, then a small editors note mentioned I should check out Birds of Prey for some insight into Lance's identity. Meanwhile, Red Robin and Superboy have to accept that Wonder Girl is going to live with the Silent Armor, something that casts a pall across the three of them, while the rest of the team jokes about their sour attitudes.

The final pages of the issue lead directly into next month's "Death of the Family" tie-in issue. Teen Titans is slowly, but surely, getting better. N.O.W.H.E.R.E., Harvest, and "The Culling" were all meant to be factors that would add to the Teen Titans mythology and lend meaning to the creation of the team. Instead, Lobdell botched the entire storyline early on, never fixed it, and now has to dig his way up toward a better book. It's working, but each month I find myself worrying that the title will dip back to it's former platitudes.

GRADE
7.5/10

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #14

(w) Jeff Lemire
(p) Graham Nolan and Vitor Drujiniu

Often, comic book writers will waste little time in moving from one story arc to the next. One of the best examples of this phenomenon was Brian Michael Bendis' run on Ultimate Spider-Man, a series that saw a young Peter Parker battling one foe after the other for quite some time. Eventually, Bendis started to add side stories and smaller arcs, but for the most part, his structure of constant action stayed true. Jeff Lemire, on the other hand, seems to be taking the opposite approach to Justice League Dark, a series that he pulled up from being a rather weak 'New 52' title to being one of the best. Justice League Dark #14 is the interlude between the recently-completed "War for the Books of Magic" and the upcoming "The Death of Magic" that will find the JLD searching for Zatanna and Tim Hunter, as well as weathering a war between the Trinity of Sin....Trinity War, anybody?

Justice League Dark #14 is split into two narratives that each contain vital information going forward for the team and the series, et al. First, we focus on John Constantine, Deadman, and Steve Trevor as they attempt to understand how the Books of Magic aren't magic-based at all. Meanwhile, Black Orchid has convinced both Amethyst and Frankenstein to explore the House of Mystery with her. The narrative of JLD#14 isn't particularly amazing or outstanding, but it conveys what's happening and for an issue that's supposed to bridge to story arcs, that's all it really needs to do. Yes, we do get some character development -- Constantine's anger at the prospect of not having Zatanna back for a long, long time -- but that's not the point of "Enter the House of Mystery". 

Rather, for Constantine, Deadman, and Trevor, the point is finding two missing people, while the reason for Black Orchid, Frankenstein, and Amethyst's journey comes to a head near the end of the issue when Orchid finds a room filled with personal and private information about many of the world's operating super-people. This is probably the best sequence of the issue, as Black Orchid scans over Constantine's notes about the Justice League, Stormwatch, and various other heroes, revealing some information we already knew ("The Rot is Rising" and "New GL: Terrorist or worse?") along with a lot we didn't know ("Frankenstein: Connection to the Rot? Possible 'cure' for it?", "Cyborg: Red Room!", and "Adam One: Is he the Big M?").

Overall, Justice League Dark #14 is a bridge issue that suffers only because it's the starting point for a lot of plot going forward, meaning it's an issue filled with questions with positively no answers. And even then, there's something exciting about being given a whole load of new mysteries to ponder as we wait for the next issue. Jeff Lemire is writing one hell of a series and I'll be sad to see him leave once he takes on Green Arrow in a few months.


GRADE
8/10

Thursday, November 29, 2012

REVIEW: UNCANNY AVENGERS #2

(w) Rick Remender
(p) John Cassaday

Well it's been long enough! Eight weeks after it's debut, Uncanny Avengers is back with it's second issue, and this one's a doozie. Rick Remender and John Cassaday aren't making any compromises with this series, as evidenced by the repeated delays for this issue so Cassaday could make sure the art was up to his high standards. Uncanny Avengers #2 is split into three 'acts' to better convey the large amount of new information being presented. And while this format can feel a tad disjointed from time to time, it all goes toward Remender's bigger picture.

First up are Captain America, Wolverine, and Thor helping with the relief effort in Manhattan after the devastating attack by Avalanche in the first issue. While Avalanche's attack wasn't even close to being the real focal point of UA #1, the ramifications of a mutant attack resulting in hundreds of dead humans are terrifying. Basically, 'Act I' sets the stage for why Uncanny Avengers have come together -- now that Charles Xavier is dead, it seems that his dream of peaceful co-habitation between humans and mutants is slowly dying as well. It's a poignant scene that shows two sides of a desperate situation. Captain America sees this as crucial time frame for the human race to establish a better relationship with the mutant community. For Wolverine, Steve Rogers' "mutant community" doesn't exist and having Havok -- a mutant and brother to international criminal Cyclops -- lead an Avengers response to mutant attacks is a terrible idea. Both perspectives have their merits, but a small, two-panel sequence between a thankful man and Havok himself is enough to prove the Uncanny Avengers are needed now more than ever.

The second part of the issue focuses on Rogue and the Scarlet Witch being held prisoner by the maniacal Red Skull, while 'Act III' brings these two ladies together to close out the issue. While Red Skull did appear at the very end of Uncanny Avengers #1, there wasn't much information regarding his motives or master plan. Here, we get a much more fleshed out Red Skull who explains himself without sounding like he's lecturing 150 bored college freshmen in a beginner's biology class. It's simple, really. Red Skull had his consciousness preserved and downloaded into a cloned body -- circa 1942 -- so he could reawaken 70 years later when "the world had forgotten me and my perceived atrocities." Now, seeing the state of the world with mutants running around, Red Skull has taken the Nazi idealism of purity and strength and applied it to humanity at large which means "mutants are the ultimate invading foreigners." I'm actually surprised no one has ever taken this direction with the Red Skull, but that's kind of what 'Marvel NOW!' is all about, right? Before, most of the dealings of the Avengers stayed relatively separate from the world of the X-Men. But now, classic Avengers villains are getting in on X-Men territory, and the results are bone-chillingly awesome.

In the end, Uncanny Avengers #2 is a more compelling issue than the first, and that's extremely hard to do in the modern comic landscape. Red Skull has always been a rather menacing character, but it's usually at arms length -- he's generally reserved for flashback issues or as a totem for other villains. Fortunately, Rick Remender takes Red Skull to frightening new heights, making him not only one of the most formidable villains in years, but also one of the most powerful in the Marvel Universe. The team itself is slow to actually getting together, but that's what an opening arc is all about, right?

GRADE
9/10

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

FEATURED REVIEW: FF #1

(w) Matt Fraction
(p) Mike Allred

Basically, FF is the spiritual successor to Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's X-Statix. So, if you're a fan of meta-humor and satire, you're going to love Matt Fraction's quirky, off-handed take on the Future Foundation. As we learned a few weeks ago in Fantastic Four #1, Marvel's First Family is taking a pan-dimensional vacation that will take them away from Earth (and our space-time continuum) for a year, though it will only really be about four minutes of real time. And, as Reed Richards says, the Fantastic Four "do[es] not leave the Earth unprotected," so they decide to recruit temporary replacements. And thus, FF #1 is all about preparation -- the Fantastic Four getting ready for their trip, the replacement heroes being briefed on their responsibilities, and the audience getting a first-person account of the Future Foundation and it's members as an effective jumping-on point for new readers.

FF #1 is not a comic book that will WOW and AMAZE most. Though it's quirky in setting, the story of the Fantastic Four finding their replacements is subtle and given depth by emotional ramifications. Scott Lang, the recently resurrected former Ant-Man, is the first to be scouted by Reed. Fraction doesn't beat around the bush concerning the reason Lang was chosen to be the temporary head of the Future Foundation -- he's a father who lost his daughter and could probably use some direction. Scott sees it as somewhat presumptuous after the death of Cassie at the hands of Doctor Doom. "I don't want anything to do with those kids Reed!" Scott explains to Reed in a rather kurt manner. "You need to respect that and open that door and let me go home!" For Scott, the pain is too fresh and being asked to be take responsibility for an whole group of kids is like a big slap in the face. Fraction does an amazing job conveying the intense conversation between the two men, and Mike Allred's phenomenal artwork only helps to push the point across -- when Scott is in utter anguish, the entire panel shifts perspective.

Of course, this series wouldn't last long if the main character wasn't on board, so Reed comes clean and admits that he chose Scott because it would be good for him. Ant-Man definitely hasn't been seen much since Avengers: The Children's Crusade, wherein Cassie Lang was murdered, so it's not a far stretch to assume he's been wasting away in grief and self-pity for a few months. Reed sees this and thinks being around kids will not only help Scott, but it will provide the members of the Future Foundation with a new role model and paternal figure. It's a win-win situation in Reed's mind.

Fraction and Allred have struck some gold with this series. Fraction's relatable, grounded writing coupled with Allred's signature art style is a match made in heaven and this first issue is the evidence. There's a lot to love about FF #1, but unfortunately, a lot of that comes from knowing who these characters are and what's happened to them. Fraction does an apt job covering his bases when it comes to integral backstory, but it's still FF, which is named after the Future Foundation, which is an offshoot of the Fantastic Four, who wont actually be in the series at all in an issue or two -- it's a bit wonky. Other than that, FF #1 is a fantastic issue that has left me wanting more...now...seriously.


GRADE
9.5/10

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

THE WEEK (NOV 28-DEC 4, 2012)


FEATURED REVIEW
FF #1
(w) Matt Fraction
(p) Mike Allred
This has got to be my most anticipated 'Marvel NOW!' series besides Young Avengers. It feels like Matt Fraction and Mike Allred are creating a book that's going to be something extremely special in this day and age. Don't miss it.

Reviews
Aquaman #14
(w) Geoff Johns
(p) Pete Woods
It's the aftermath of "The Others" and an unofficial prelude to next the upcoming "Throne of Atlantis" crossover with Justice League. The effects of Black Manta and Aquaman's face-off will be covered, I'm sure, and Ocean Master is making his 'New 52' debut!

Justice League Dark #14
(w) Jeff Lemire
(p) Lee Garbett
The conclusion of "War for the Books of Magic" brought Frankenstein and Amethyst into the fold as new members of the JLD. Jeff Lemire will "pick up the pieces" from the encounter with Nick Necro and get the next exciting arc going!


Superman #14
(w) Scott Lobdell
(p) Kenneth Rocafort
Being a 'Superman' event, technically, I guess I should have assumed we wouldn't get a bulk of the "H'el on Earth" story until an actual issue of Superman. Hopefully, Scott Lobdell can shed some light onto the machinations of H'el...please.


Teen Titans #14
(w) Scott Lobdell
(p) Ale Garza
Red Robin is missing -- presumably due to the events of "Death of the Family" -- so the Titans head to Gotham to look for him. Good idea, right? Nope.

Thor: God of Thunder #2
(w) Jason Aaron
(p) Esad Ribic
Jason Aaron continues his absolutely amazing new run with Thor: God of Thunder and the menace of the God Butcher. Esad Ribic's art seriously adds a whole new level of depth to the story, and Aaron's haunting tale of three eras is riveting.


Uncanny Avengers #2
(w) Rick Remender
(p) John Cassaday
It's been eight weeks since Uncanny Avengers #1, which is a little disconcerting. This is Marvel's new flagship series, and it's second issue was nearly a month late. Fortunately, Rick Remender and John Cassaday is a team I -- and many, many other fans -- am willing to wait for. Early reviews are putting this issue on a pedestal, so hopefully it lives up to the hype.

Extra! Extra!

All-New X-Men #2
(w) Brian Michael Bendis
(p) Stuart Immonen

Batman Incorporated #5
(w) Grant Morrison
(p) Chris Burnham

Batman: The Dark Knight #14
(w) Gregg Hurwitz
(p) David Finch

The Flash #14
(w) Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
(p) Francis Manapul

Red Lanterns #14
(w) Peter Milligan
(p) Miguel Sepulveda

Monday, November 26, 2012

EXTRA! EXTRA! (NOV 21-27, 2012)

Iron Man #2
(w) Kieron Gillen
(p) Greg Land

I'm a bit less enamored with Iron Man #2 as I was with Kieron Gillen's first issue, which looked at Tony Stark under a harsher light of reality and set up a potentially expansive storyline. Unfortunately, Gillen falters a bit this time with his overblown Arthurian references that had little to do with what was actually going on and proved more of a hindrance to the story. This new Extremis storyline, again, has the potential to take Iron Man to awesome new places as a character, but unless Gillen turns it back to the philosophical edge it had in the first issue, Iron Man is going to suffer. I'm hopeful, though, because Gillen has a history of building stories up to immense proportions.

GRADE: 7/10

Supergirl #14
(w) Mike Johnson
(p) Mahmud Asrar

I was severely disappointed in last week's Superboy #14 for providing literally no back story for the currently happening "H'el on Earth" crossover, though Mike Johnson's second solo issue, Supergirl #14, adds a lot of exposition to a situation that was getting frustratingly thin. H'el seems to be a loyalist to the House of El of which Superman and Supergirl are members, though he believes that Earth is a hindrance to going back in time and saving Krypton from it's demise. It's a bit convoluted, but that's alright at this point in the story -- giving readers bits and pieces of the overall narrative works well as Johnson reveals H'el to be the creep he appears to be with the added twist of being surprisingly eloquent and empathetic. The other big bit of information involves Superboy himself, as H'el has deemed Kon an abomination worthy only of a swift death, something which Supergirl sympathizes, but can't help but feel is wrong.

GRADE: 8/10


Wonder Woman #14
(w) Brian Azzarello
(p) Tony Akins

There's a lot going on in Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman, and I'm loving ever minute of it -- Wonder Woman is trying to convince her psychotic half-sister, Siracca, to become an ally in the fight against Apollo and Hermes, the children of Zeus are still bickering about how they should proceed in their era of rule, and the Big Bad Dad has managed to make it out of his 7,000 year-long purgatory. Azzarello obviously has big plans for Diana, and this issue feels like an organic shift into a new era for Wonder Woman that's obviously going to include the gods of New Genesis weighing in on the current situation concerning Mt. Olympus. Wonder Woman #14 cements this series not only as one of the best 'New 52' titles published each month, but it also shows how much love Azzarello has for the characters he's responsible for. Wonder Woman, as a character, has gone through a lot of controversy over the years in regards to the quality of her stories, the general mythology that surrounds the Amazonians, and her place as DC's biggest female character, so it's nice to see Azzarello really taking her seriously and turning Wonder Woman into one of DC's most critically lauded series.

GRADE: 8.5/10

Saturday, November 24, 2012

REVIEW: GREEN LANTERN - NEW GUARDIANS #14

(w) Tony Bedard
(p) Aaron Kuder

What a waste of an issue.

Tony Bedard's plans for Green Lantern: New Guardians in this "Rise of the Third Army" crossover have, thus far, left this critic sorely disappointed. Kyle Rayner is on a quest to master all the colors of the emotional spectrum. It's been a short voyage, one in which Bedard has been heavily compressing into one color per issue, and the result is a deeply fractured and undefined arc that doesn't really force Kyle to grow as a character even though that's what he's doing month to month.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #14 features Arkillo as the last representative of the Sinestro Corps, the last being with a yellow power ring in all the universe. And he can't get it to work. I know Arkillo's inner demons have been a focus of Bedard's story for quite some time now, but it's beginning to be a drag on the overall narrative process -- it's pretty annoying when Bedard forces a sequence about Arkillo just to show how pathetic the Yellow Lantern has become.

This issue, as well as all the issues dealing with Kyle's journey, have felt extremely rushed. Kyle mastered compassion seemingly before we even meet back up with him at the beginning of the issue, and finding his fear felt like it took no time at all, with absolutely no help from Arkillo. No, it is Kyle's ring that tells him he's got to give in and just accept the less desirable emotions as part of the spectrum and part of his journey, no matter what. Then, he's a Yellow Lantern! What? What's Kyle scared of? Sure, he gives some examples, but he's always been concerned and afraid of these things, so they can't really count if Bedard is talking about feeling more fear in order to break past Kyle's natural GL training and turn him into a Yellow Lantern.

Tony Bedard is losing his grip on Green Lantern: New Guardians issue by issue. Maybe he's putting more effort into his other series, but Kyle Rayner and his Rainbow Brigade have suffered for it exponentially. Each month now, I feel like the series is getting worse, and that's upsetting. Kyle Rayner has always been my favorite Green Lantern. I've come to accept that fans and editors alike don't seem to want Kyle in the spotlight, but to reduce him to some confused epic hero who's journey isn't all that hard is just depressing.

GRADE
5/10

Friday, November 23, 2012

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE #14

(w) Geoff Johns
(p) Tony S. Daniel

Justice League #14 brings the conclusion to "The Secret of the Cheetah", last month wherein Wonder Woman's best friend, Barbara Minerva, was possessed by the Amazonian goddess of the hunt and driven crazy by the power. I'd never read too much that included Cheetah in the pre-'New 52' days (probably saw her in crossovers, etc.), but I can't imagine she was anywhere near as cool as Geoff Johns' reinterpretation -- it's like going from tofurkey to a honest-to-goodness Thanksgiving bird! This month, we discover how Barbara Minerva's actions are more nefarious than we previously believed.

At the end of JL#13, Cheetah sank her teeth into Superman and turned him into a rabid man-cheetah bent on taking down his comrades. This is a cool plot development -- the Cheetah is either as strong or stronger than the Man of Steel -- but it's not given the opportunity to go anywhere before the League discovers the Cheetah's weakness and uses it on Clark. The appearance of the ancient tribe who worships the Cheetah as the goddess of the hunt isn't interesting enough. Sure, they've got a lot of insight on the Cheetah as a deity, Barbara Minerva's intentions, and how to save Superman's life, but it all comes at the cost of too much expository monologue. 

Instead of making this story arc a bit more fluid and organic -- perhaps with a full issue of cheetah-controlled Superman hunting the League members -- "The Secret of the Cheetah" feels rushed and compressed. Promotional material form DC states that the "road to 'Trinity War' is paved through Justice League #14'. With nothing else to go on, I can't really say what that connection might be. Then again, Johns is a master as subtle build-up to explosive results, so there's a big possibility I'll be reading "Trinity War" next year, and I'll come back to JL#14 only to see something I'll tell myself should have been obvious.

GRADE
7.8/10

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

REVIEW: HAWKEYE #4

(w) Matt Fraction
(p) Javier Pulido

After three extraordinary issues, Matt Fraction missteps a bit with Hawkeye #4. The purposeful flow and nuanced dialogue that's defined the series thus far is sadly in short supply, instead replaced with a lot of internal monologue from Clint Barton. This perspective is hard to pull off in general, but Fraction manages to temper Clint's thoughts with deliberate and fast-paced storytelling that gets our cast of characters into quite a predicament.

The eponymous item from "The Tape" has gone missing from S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, and it's contents will spell disaster for Hawkeye, S.H.I.E.L.D. and by proxy the U.S. government, as well as the President. It's an amazing set-up that sees Clint tasked to the island of Madripoor to bid for the tape in an auction against a slew of villains intent on procuring and exploiting it for their own gains. Unfortunately, most of Clint's journey to a proverbial Babel proves interesting only from arms-length. Internal monologue is supposed to make readers feel more connected to the character thinking, but in this issue, it almost has the opposite effect -- it removes the reader from what's going on. Mostly, it's due to Fraction's narrative flow that takes Clint from one place to another in the span of a panel or two, so his thoughts feel disjointed and lacking in purpose. Like I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed the overall plot and structural elements of the issue, but Clint's thoughts sometimes overshadowed the narrative, and that's when this issue was at it's weakest.

The final pages of Hawkeye #4 include some epic foreshadowing to next month's conclusion of "The Tape", including the contents of the tape, those bidding for it in Madripoor, and a scheme to secure the information no matter what. It's thrilling. It's action-packed. It's Matt Fraction's Hawkeye, and you should be reading it. Even if this issue was a bit weaker than the others.

GRADE
7.5/10

REVIEW: THE INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #1

(w) Mark Waid
(p) Lenil Yu

Almost two years after dragging Daredevil out of the darkness Frank Miller established for the character over a decade ago, Mark Waid has done it again. Indestructible Hulk #1 reaffirms Waid's place as one of the comic book industry's brightest talents by giving readers a fresh, relatable, and grounded approach to the Marvel's Not-So-Jolly Green Giant. Basically since the inception of the character, Bruce Banner has been at war with his less tempered side. It's a plot device that drops in and out of being the focus of Hulk stories, but that inner anguish is always present.

Not anymore.

Bruce has discovered that his gamma radiation-induced condition is incurable. That might not seem like a big revelation at first read, but it means so, so much. Finding a cure for the Hulk has really been Bruce's driving force for decades. He spends his time and resources constantly attempting to fix himself. It was a noble endeavor; the Hulk "has caused immeasurable damage and heartache over the years". Bruce was basically attempting to eliminate a seemingly uncontrollable entity living inside him, and it never worked out. Like an alcoholic finally admitting to themselves that they have a problem and need help, Bruce approaches S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill (which seems to be the only way she's referred to, line-wide) about a job.

Bruce explains that he needs to "use Banner time more productively. Invent things. Fix things. Improve things." Waid evokes Avengers vs. X-Men -- how it was Tony Stark that saved the day with his genius intellect, and how Hulk helped by smashing and causing a distraction. Bruce waxes poetic about how Stark and Reed Richards will be remembered as visionary master intellects. Bruce, on the other hand, "will be lucky if [his] tombstone doesn't simply say 'Hulk Smash.'" After years of running from his problems and trying to cure himself, Bruce is ready to accept who he is and start contributing to the scientific community in a far more hands-on role.

The final part of Bruce's turn-around involves the Hulk. Bruce wants to work for Maria Hill because S.H.I.E.L.D. is the only entity that could effectively use the Hulk as an aimed weapon as opposed to a chaotic force of nature. "Stop thinking of Hulk as a bomb. Think of him as a canon," Waid eloquently puts it, pretty much nailing it on the head.

Mark Waid's Bruce Banner is far more reasonable and responsible than previous iterations. Even at his calmest, Bruce used to only have a one track mind. Under Waid's hand, Bruce is more relatable and makes more sense on a logistical level -- it always bothered me how a man of staunch science could work for decades to no avail without accepting a certain truth of things. Waid understands this principle, applies it liberally, and it works. Like Matt Fraction, Mark Waid is a phenomenal emotional writer. For scientists, though, emotion can often be expressed through their work, and Bruce hasn't done any work outside himself for a long time. For too long, Bruce has been a tormented soul searching for something that isn't there. That's been done. In the 'Marvel NOW!' era, he's is going to be a force of good, and a darn good one at that.

GRADE
9/10

FEATURED REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA #1

(w) Rick Remender
(p) John Romita Jr.

Over the last eight years, Ed Brubaker's phenomenal take on the Sentinel of Liberty has been a golden standard for how to interpret a character that had become somewhat superfluous in the modern era of comic books (think Superman circa 1980). Steve Rogers' alter-ego stood for ideals and beliefs that were in short supply in the early 21st century, yet Brubaker managed to find a place for the spiritual successor of the American Spirit amidst growing dissonance the world over.

Now, Rick Remender is at the helm, and he's bringing a whole new Cap' to 'Marvel NOW!'

Remender's been focusing a lot of his efforts recently on team-based titles such as Uncanny X-Force, Secret Avengers, and the new Uncanny Avengers. It wouldn't be out of the ordinary he had a little trouble tackling a solo series. Fortunately, Remender is not one to rest on his laurels, and Captain America #1 is some of the most fun I've had with the Captain in quite some time. Not to downplay Brubaker's talent, but the 'secret agent' direction of his run was less 'fun' than it was captivating and intriguing. Remender, however, is reminding readers that Steve Rogers is a person, not just a symbol or an idea.

Personifying Captain America wasn't high on Brubaker's priority list during his tenure with Steve Rogers -- the Captain's uniform and mindset rarely went missing over the past eight years (not counting when Steve wasn't Captain America anymore), which made it difficult to consider Rogers as a normal person instead of an Energizer Superhero who never stops. Here in Captain America #1, Remender starts things off with a look at Steve Rogers' childhood in a scene that could be called 'ground zero' for Rogers' general attitude of perseverance and dedication. It's a sequence that makes you cringe and feel confidence at the same time...it's something I've never seen done before.

Next, after a quick bout with C-list villain Green Skull (an eco-terrorist bent on over-vegetating the Earth and kill all humans), Rogers meets up with his girlfriend, S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison Sharon Carter. Remender deftly handles the transition from battlefield solider to romantic knucklehead by making the sequence as unsubtle as possible. In Captain America's world, he can parachute into the middle of Manhattan and hand of an international terrorist over to the NYPD, he can just show up in his spectacle of a uniform to meet his love interest, and he can become Steve Rogers at the drop of a hat.

Of course, the main promotional pull for Captain America has been the shift in narrative tone from 'super spy' to 'sci-fi adventure', and it's not quite as big of a jump as most would expect. Before Brubaker made Rogers the character he is today, Captain America used to fight aliens and invaders from parallel dimensions and the such. Remender is bringing the Captain back to this paradigm. Arnim Zola has also been heavily promoted as integral to the first arc of Remender's Captain America. What hasn't been touted as much, is the connection between Zola and Dimension Z, the parallel world that Rogers gets sucked into while on a routine fact-gathering mission. Near the end of Captain America #1, Zola reveals that it's HIS dimension called Zolandia. At least, that's what I took away from the scene. How or why this dimension is called Zolandia is still anyone's guess, but at this point, it doesn't matter. Many writers have difficulty introducing new plot elements without it seeming unfinished or broken (see Green Arrow #14 out a few weeks ago), but Remender manages to pull it off with style.

Rick Remender has a lot of ideas for Captain America. In one issue, he's taken Steve Rogers out of the gritty darkness of the spy game, thrown readers some integral and telling character history, and introduced a whole new chapter in the Captain's life. He's stuck in an alternate dimension that's populated by Arnim Zola's mutated creatures and he's got no way to get back home. John Romita Jr's pencilling gets mixed reviews, usually, but here, it's spot on and works perfectly with Remender's more cheeky style. I've never read Captain America on a regular basis. Captain America #1 by Rick Remender is going to change that.

GRADE
9.5/10

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

THE WEEK (NOV 21-27, 2012)

FEATURED REVIEW
Captain America #1
(w) Rick Remender
(p) John Romita Jr.
After a long (<8 years) and fruitful run from the amazing Ed Brubaker, Rick Remender is taking over writing duties for Captain America, and he's starting out big. Cap' will forgo a lot of the 'spy intrigue' of the Brubaker era in place of sci-fi 'weird science' stories. Plus, John Romita Jr. is one of Marvel's biggest guns.

DC Universe Presents #14
(w) Marc Andreyko
(p) Robson Rocha
I wholly enjoyed the first part of "Black Lightning and Blue Devil", especially Marc Andreyko's interesting take on the relationship between these two characters. 

Green Lantern: New Guardians #14
(w) Tony Bedard
(p) Aaron Kuder
Kyle Rayner continues his quest, this month, to master all the colors of the emotional spectrum. Last time, Atrocitus managed to push the most peaceful Green Lantern into a rage-filled rampage. How will Arkillo teach Kyle about fear this month?

Hawkeye #4
(w) Matt Fraction
(p) David Aja
Instead of focusing on all the 'Marvel NOW!' stuff, executives should be figuring out any way possible to get Hawkeye on a more regular schedule. As in twice a month. This is by and far my favorite series from Marvel right now. It's amazing. Read it.

Indestructible Hulk #1
(w) Mark Waid
(p) Lenil Yu
Normally, I don't like Hulk that much. I've never really found anything much interesting about a character who's just whiny when he's a human and angry when he's Hulk. Hopefully, Mark Waid can work the same magic he did with Daredevil and turn the Hulk into one of Marvel's most nuanced heroes. Also, Lenil Yu is a fantastic artist.

Justice League #14
(w) Geoff Johns
(p) Tony S. Daniel
Apparently, "the road to 'Trinity War' goes through Justice League #14", as some promos have put it. Either way, "The Secret of the Cheetah" made the villainous Cheetah more interesting and fun than she's been in ages, so I'm down to finish up this little mini-arc.

Supergirl #14
(w) Mike Johnson
(p) Mahmud Asrar
Last week's "H'el on Earth" crossover issue, Superboy #14, was a travesty. Hopefully, Mike Johnson can right the ship and get this Superman Family crossover going the right direction. Though, last month's issue without Michael Green co-writing was the weakest issue of the series to date, so i don't know.

Extra! Extra!
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #4 of 4
(w) Darwyn Cooke
(p) Amanda Conner

Iron Man #2
(w) Kieron Gillen
(p) Greg Land

Journey Into Mystery #646
(w) Kathryn Immonen
(p) Valerio Schiti

Wonder Woman #14
(w) Brian Azzarello
(p) Tony Akins

EXTRA! EXTRA! (NOV 14-20, 2012)

Batgirl #14
(w) Gail Simone
(p) Ed Benes

While last month's "Death of the Family" prologue issue of Batgirl barely contained any Joker references, Batgirl #14 more than makes up for it by throwing Barbara right smack-dab in the middle of the Joker's terrifying schemes. Gail Simone's writing improves significantly this month from last as Barbara's terror and fear over the return of the Joker is positively palpable -- the mysterious caller leading Batgirl to the Joker definitely adds to the air of darkness and horror. Simone is actually tackling two plot lines here, as DC's February solicitations touted the return of James Gordon Jr, Barbara's insane brother who is revealed to the sadistic caller who manipulated Barbara into the Joker's clutches. Not only are we getting Joker-related "Family" drama, but we also get actual family drama between Barbara and her brother -- I'm seriously considering re-subscribing to Batgirl.

GRADE: 8/10

Batman and Robin #14
(w) Peter J. Tomasi
(p) Patrick Gleason

I don't know what Batman and Robin is doing anymore -- after a positively fun first arc featuring an old-yet-new villain tied to Bruce Wayne's past, Peter J. Tomasi has struggled to find solid footing with the series since, and it's starting to get annoying. Of course, Tomasi is very good about making sure each issue he writes includes some relationship-building sequence between Bruce and Damian, but when that emotional journey overshadows the actual plot right in the middle of a generally hectic sequence, then it doesn't work well anymore. And while "Death of the Family" doesn't start up in B&R until next month, the Joker is shoehorned into being the villain behind the 'zombie' outbreak in Gotham, for some reason. It doesn't make a lot of sense, making it feel like DC editorial keeps pushing Tomasi around until they get what they want from each issue.

GRADE: 6.5/10

Thor: God of Thunder #1
(w) Jason Aaron
(p) Esad Ribic

Jason Aaron's take on Thor Odinson is yet another instance where 'Marvel NOW!' has gone against the grain of my usual comic preferences -- Thor: God of Thunder #1 is the most fun I've had with Thor ever. By looking in on Thor at three different points of his life, Aaron is giving readers a much deeper understanding of the Asgardian god that's been missing from the character for years in the name of plot development (see Siege). Also, Thor's in space for the Present Day sequence, and that's just awesome in and of itself. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Thor: God of Thunder, and how invested I am in Jason Aaron's dark and twisted tale of the God Butcher.

GRADE: 8.5/10

REVIEW: GREEN LANTERN CORPS #14

(w) Peter J. Tomasi
(p) Fernando Pasarin

The Guardians are really, really sick and twisted. Seriously -- these little blue guys have, in the past, suppressed ancient omens about the Blackest Night, hidden the secret of Parallax in the Green Lantern central battery, basically massacred an entire sector with their Manhunter androids, created the terrifyingly omniscient Alpha Lanterns, and now, they've built themselves a new army to destroy the Green Lantern Corps and all other free will across the universe. These plot points are worth reiterating because of all four GL titles offered by DC's 'New 52', only Green Lantern Corps has been getting deep into "Rise of the Third Army". Over in the eponymous series, Simon Baz is still coming into his own as a Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner is off recruiting new New Guardians or some such, and Atrocitus is jump beginning to understand what these Third Army soliders can do. Green Lantern Corps #14 gets personal as the Guardians' scheming to de-power Guy Gardner come to a head.

John Stewart has been sent off to rebuild Mogo using a baseball-sized chunk of the former planet as a sort of diving rod to help in collecting more pieces of the planet-sized Green Lantern. Unfortunately, Star Sapphire Fatality shows up sporting some mysterious connection to the chunk of Mogo! Right now, John's side quest isn't very interesting, thus Peter J. Tomasi doesn't seem to be writing it as such. Sure, Fatality shows up, but that's where John's side of the story ends this month, so there's no sort of resolution or even explanation. Over in Guyland, the Guardians are pretty pissed at him for abandoning a peace delegation transport after learning one of his oldest and deadliest enemies was on the loose. But in reality, it was the Guardians themselves who freed the murdering enemy of Guy, and they were the ones who made him massacre the peace delegation to embarrass and discredit Guy. It's all very sinister, and obviously part of something bigger.

Guy and John have been going down their separate, yet intertwining paths for months now -- it would be nice to see them side by side to take on the Third Army, but the events at this issue's end have me worried for the future of the Corps. 


GRADE
8/10

Friday, November 16, 2012

REVIEW: SUPERBOY #14

(w) Tom DeFalco
(p) RB Silva

Alright. Here's the situation -- the 'New 52' Superboy has become so dull and drab for me that I'm pretty much done with it. I've been holding onto the Boy of Steel's series because, to be frank, I used to really like Superboy as a character. His origin and personal motivations were so much different and unique from almost any other hero in the DC or Marvel universe. Once upon a time, Superboy had to learn how he fit into the world by actually trying to fit in, he used to want more from life than just satisfaction in proving emotional misgivings. These days, Superboy has been reduced to the comparable importance of a stage prop -- there's no personality behind his vacant eyes, no longer does he want to be a functioning member of society, and his overall attitude is just unbecoming.

I've commented before about Superboy's seemingly erratic judgements between right and wrong. In Superboy #14, Kon-El finally manages to be the biggest dick he can be by whining about not having any friends or close relationships, then bluntly pushing away those attempting to be the friends he needs. After accosting Jocelyn Lure -- a woman claiming to be from the future, come back to look out for Superboy -- Superboy ditches her (for reasons that might be completely justifiable, but I'll never know because that whole story happens in Legion Lost, which I don't read...thanks, DC) and flies off to his apartment where he finds fellow Teen Titan Bunker waiting for him. Instead of being a normal person, Superboy immediately accuses Miguel of breaking and entering. The least insufferable Teen Titan kindly reminds his asshole teammate that they had plans to hang out and that it was, in fact, Superboy who had made the gaffe by forgetting.

And I haven't even mentioned H'el yet.

Thus far, the only time we've seen the (I assume) rogue Kryptonian is at the end of Superman #13, which was a prologue to the "H'el on Earth" event. There, H'el is only on the last page, and he doesn't even interact with Superman or Supergirl. Here, in Superboy #14, Tom DeFalco apparently assumes we all just know who H'el is, why he's doing what he's doing, and what he can do powers-wise. Seriously, I have no idea how DC or any of the creative teams working on "H'el on Earth" could possibly think it was alright to just throw readers into the deep end like this. Granted, the fight between Superboy and H'el is awesome, but there's no context to it, so it's just frustratingly confusing. I couldn't help but wonder the entire time how this all came to be. How did H'el find Superboy? Does this issue take place before, after, or concurrently to Superman #13? Why does H'el seem to have green TK powers, but keeps on insulting Superboy and his TK powers? Why were the Teen Titans even included in this issue if H'el was just going to wipe them away with a single attack?

This is an issue of comics embroiled in the non-explained. That's a ridiculous, weird sentence because it's the only way I can think to express how terrible Superboy #14 was by the end. I keep holding out, hoping that Superboy will improve, that it will become something greater than a sad excuse for a story about a sad clone. 'Sad Clone' sounds like a witty, off-beat, and zany mini-series by Grant Morrison, not the theme to a series about Superboy.

GRADE
3/10

REVIEW: X-MEN LEGACY #1

(w) Simon Spurrier
(p) Tan Eng Huat

Legion hasn't been too front-and-center in recent years. He's a somewhat obscure character whose powers aren't very easy to explain. His stories tend to be heavily steeped in philosophical quandaries. His hair looks ridiculous.

X-Men Legacy #1 is an issue that I believe will surprise many, many critics and fans alike. Unlike the title's previous incarnation -- which was basically just another X-Men team book in a very ho-hum lineup -- this 'Marvel NOW!' version focuses squarely on Professor Xavier's estranged and mentally unstable son, David Haller. David's 'Legion' moniker comes from his mutant power -- the ability to absorb a person's essence as an alternate personality and access said person's superhuman/mutant powers -- as does his extreme psychosis. The thing is, stories about David's instability have been told for years, decades even. It's old news, and Simon Spurrier knows this.

Instead of making David a victimized villain once again, Spurrier has decided to redeem the irredeemable mutant nutjob through spiritual and emotional journeying. Think of it as one part Red Hood and The Outlaws-esque redemption story, one part China Mieville's Dial H zaniness, and just a dash of Invincible-like daddy issues -- you've got Spurrier's X-Men Legacy. It sounds ridiculous, but the fact is that this issue is really, really good.

David has been undergoing spiritual therapy at a psychic retirement community in the Indian Himalayas. This setting alone was enough to make me realize this wasn't going to be just any run of the mill X-Men book. This series is going to be something special in the X-Men world: a solo book that's not about Wolverine. Yes, I know there are some solo series for other mutants of the Marvel U...but are there? Really? Or does Wolverine basically have a monopoly on solo adventures? David Haller is far more interesting that Logan, at this point, and every page of X-Men Legacy #1 reinforces that notion. Add to that a wholly personified interpretation of David's brain keeping his multiple personalities prisoner, and you've got one solid comic book, regardless of it's inclinations toward the Children of the Atom. 

The best part of the issue is when David senses his father's death at the hands of Scott Summers Dark Phoenix (at the end of Avengers vs. X-Men, true believers!) and basically erupts with emotion. I don't want to spoil the fun, but suffice it to say, I've already called my LCS and put X-Men Legacy on my subscription list. There are a lot of cool new ideas coming out of 'Marvel NOW!', and X-Men Legacy is at the fringe of it all, looking in and taking metaphorical approaches to literal problems. It's fantastic.

GRADE
9.5/10

Thursday, November 15, 2012

REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR #1

(w) Matt Fraction
(p) Mark Bagley

I've never been a big fan of the Fantastic Four. They've always existed in a weird middle ground for me -- somewhere between science-based adventure books and superhero-filled action titles. For some, the mixture of pulp and 'weird science' is a welcome alternative to comic books that provide only one or the other...not me. I don't 'gel' with the Fantastic Four, though I've tried for years to figure out why. Turns out it's the writing.

Fantastic Four #1 is just good fun. After a few years of concept-heavy storytelling from the masterful Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction brings his signature style to Marvel's first family. The issue starts off with a "One Year From Now" full-page spread featuring what looks to be a de-Thing'ed Ben Grimm, then we're thrown 2 million years into the past where Reed Richards gets seriously injured for the first time since the accident that gave him his body-stretching ability. It's all very bombastic and 'in your face', which would normally go against Fraction's more subtle nature, but at it's core, this story is about something universal, something we can all relate to -- family.

Recognizing their need to balance life as a family and as super-powered heroes, Reed convinces Susan, Ben, and Johnny Storm to take a year-long vacation (with, "Less action. More adventure," as Reed puts it) in a vessel that can travel through all space and time. The catch is, Franklin and his older sister Valeria will be accompanying the team. The young Franklin Richards indirectly drives Fraction's story, as his distressed emotional state during his parents' absence leads Reed to develop one of the team's old ships into a multi-dimensional classroom wherein Franklin and Valeria can learn from first-hand experience as they jet off through worlds and times unknown. Oh, and because it's a time machine, too, they'll just return minutes after they've left even though it'll feel like a year for Richards & Company. It's a high-concept idea that comes in an extremely easy to swallow form.

After reading Marvel NOW! Point One, I was mainly just interested in reading Fraction's FF, but after this debut issue of Fantastic Four, I will most certainly be following the adventures of Marvel's first family as they steal away through the multiverse in search of adventure and knowledge. If nothing else, 'Marvel NOW!' is most assuredly bucking my usual preferences, which was kind of the point in the first place, right?


GRADE
8/10

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

REVIEW: BATMAN #14


(w) Scott Snyder
(p) Greg Capullo


And here I thought "The Court of Owls" was a big story. Silly me. "Death of the Family" gets expanded big time this week in Batman #14 (and in Batgirl #14). Scott Snyder reveals, with this issue, how well he knows both Batman and the Joker. Obviously, the Joker's absence from the 'New 52's first year was purposeful, but Snyder isn't letting the cat out of the bag all at once. But unlike the Clown Prince of Crime of the past, "Death of the Family" feels like it's going to be chaos with a meaning.

Joker is a villain who has always been unpredictable. So what's the best way to make a terminally unpredictable character even more unhinged? Make him do something Batman can see coming. Last month, Harley Quinn orchestrated a scenario to drown Batman in the same chemicals that turned the Joker into a psychopath. Bruce picks up on the hint and realizes that Joker is recreating their old encounters. Fans and critics alike have been debating for years whether Batman's crusade is effective, if he's actually making a difference in Gotham City, or simply abetting more crime. This is what speaks to Snyder's ability with the Dark Knight -- drudging up the past is the best way to get under Batman's skin, and Joker knows it.

Batman #14 is a stellar issue from beginning to end. Never before has Bruce's 'extended family' been such a focal point of a Batman story to such a degree. Obviously, Alfred Pennyworth was taken from Wayne Manor at the end of Batman #13, and Jim Gordon gets hit his month with a blood-thinning poison. Even without the big reveal at the end, I would highly recommend this issue. The final pages, though, change everything for Batman and the Joker. Scott Snyder is leading the march on a new era for Batman and his allies, and it's going to be a frightening, sadistic, horrifying, absolutely entertaining road.


GRADE
9/10

REVIEW: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #9

(w) Kelly Sue DeConnick
(p) Stefano Caselli

Well, I'll be damned if Avengers Assemble #9 isn't the best 'Marvel NOW!' title I've read yet. I should have guessed -- being married to Matt Fraction and all -- that Kelly Sue DeConnick would bring a much different approach to the Avengers than we've seen in the past eight years with Bendis at the helm. Instead of nonstop adventures and constant threats against humanity and the Avengers themselves, DeConnick has opted to give readers a look at the Avengers when they're not avenging as much, and it's one of the most refreshing takes on a current team that I've read in a while.

Only a few pages of Avengers Assemble #9 include any fighting, and it's against an unknown, grey group of enemies that doesn't yet have a purpose. Other than that short foray at the end, DeConnick takes the time to flesh out these characters she's just been given. We get to see how Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are polar opposites when it comes to their processes and world views, but almost the same concerning their scientific intellect. It's this dynamic between these two characters that provides the catalyst for a friendly competition between Tony and his partner Thor, and Bruce with Spider-Woman. Both teams will scout out a science lab gone silent after their lead scientist went missing, and the first one to complete the mission gets "bragging rights, then! Whoever wins gets the satisfaction of having the other recognize their point of view and general superiority."

DeConnick is similar to her husband in her ability to write amazingly grounded dialogue. There's no Shakespearean flair here or flowery vernacular. Even Thor's natural high dialect is toned down under DeConnick's hand. And I'll reiterate how refreshing it is to read these characters in a light that's not completely blood-soaked and desperate. Steve Rogers? I can't remember the last time I saw him in an issue out of costume. I was not expecting to like the 'Marvel NOW!' imprinted Avengers Assemble as much as I have. DeConnick's work on Captain Marvel has been phenomenal, but I was worried that her witty reparte would be lost in a team-based series. Fortunately, I stand corrected.


GRADE
9.5/10

FEATURED REVIEW: ALL-NEW X-MEN #1


(w) Brian Michael Bendis
(p) Stuart Immonen

I'm going to say what a lot of people won't -- this debut issue didn't not live up to its hype. Let's call this series what it really is: Brian Michael Bendis presents The X-Men. What's worried me about 'Marvel NOW!' is how the idea of the initiative is coming before the actual stories. All-New X-Men #1 by Brian Michael Bendis has me concerned for the X-Men family of books going forward. While the narrative is sound, and the idea of the original five X-Men travelling to our present sounds really fun, it always feels like there's something missing from this issue.

A big part of my coldness toward All-New X-Men #1 is that I've never totally and completely gone the way of Bendis' writing style. As a focused and plot-inspired writer, Bendis tends to extrapolate his stories to their most detailed and prolonged form. If A+X is an example of how short and concise a comic book story can be, Bendis is the exact polar opposite. The entirety of Bendis' 160 issue run on Ultimate Spider-Man turned out to encompass one year of comic book time compared to the ten years it took to get to issue #160. That's nice and all, but it really becomes a problem when Bendis' stories have to connect to other series and events.

All-New X-Men #1 is a mixed bag. All the writing is good, it's just disjointed. Instead of focusing on the plot that's been teased over the past four months, Bendis basically turns this issue into X-Men Point One -- a series of vignettes designed to give readers a 'status quo' of the various X-Men post-"Avengers vs. X-Men". 

That's not what I bought into.

Like I said earlier, Bendis tells good stories that have emotional centers and have lasting ramifications on the characters he writes, but I was led to believe this was a book about the original five X-Men, not an issue split into three sections that loosely begin a series of events. It's a by-product of Bendis' style; the use of so many characters precipitates the need for multiple storylines that will eventually connect. I'm all for layered storytelling and intricate narrative, but not in the first issue of a headlining title. If I were a new reader looking to jump back into the world of the X-Men and this is where I started, I would be completely lost.

Over the past few months, editors and creative teams have been making it a point to explain how starting with 'Marvel NOW!' books didn't require knowledge of previous events, though it would be more entertaining if you do. This is not the case with All-New X-Men #1, an issue so deeply embroiled in the fallout from "Avengers vs. X-Men" that without having read it, you'd never understand why Beast and the X-Men are trying to hunt down Cyclops. There's no true explanation, and even if there were, the story as Bendis is telling it is too dependent on prior events to be effective as a conduit for new readers.

All-New X-Men #1 is a double-edged sword. On one hand, I'm completely taken by Brian Michael Bendis' stellar writing and potential for this series, but on the other hand, I'm largely disappointed in how this issue was structured and executed. There must have been a more gracious, elegant way to introduce all the plot that's stuffed into this issue, but Bendis and Marvel managed to publish one of the least straightforward versions of that plot.

GRADE
7/10

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

THE WEEK (NOV 14-20, 2012)


FEATURED REVIEW
All-New X-Men #1
(w) Brian Michael Bendis
(p) Stuart Immonen
Brian Michael Bendis' tenure on X-Men books starts here with All-New X-Men #1, chronicling the time-displaced original five X-Men as they come to the present and learn to cope with the world post-AvX. BMB did wonders for the Avengers, so hopefully he can do the same with the X-Men.

Batman #14
(w) Scott Snyder
(p) Greg Capullo
"Death of the Family" continues this month as the Joker attacks Alfred! Already, "DotF" seems like it's going to involve Joker pushing all of Batman's biggest buttons. It's all deliciously sadistic. Scott Snyder is absolutely tearing it up with Batman.

Fantastic Four #1
(w) Matt Fraction
(p) Mark Bagley
Matt Fraction is one of Marvel's best writers currently, and his FF prologue story in Marvel NOW! Point One promised amazing things from Marvel's first family and their substitutes. Also, Mark Bagley is just a phenomenal artist.

Green Lantern Corps #14
(w) Peter J. Tomasi
(p) Fernando Pasarin
Another of DC's events continues this week with "Rise of the Third Army" in Green Lantern Corps #14. So far, only GLC and Red Lanterns have come face-to-face with actual Third Army drones, so I'm excited to see where this issue goes.


The Phantom Stranger #2
(w) Dan Didio
(p) Brent Anderson
I'm definitely in the minority in my love of Dan Didio's The Phantom Stranger. It's a campy book through and through, and Didio doesn't shy away from this premise. This month, Pandora makes a guest appearance!

Superboy #14
(w) Tom DeFalco
(p) RB Silva
"H'el on Earth" starts here! We got to see H'el briefly at the end of Superman #13, and now he's center stage to take on the Boy of Steel! We know -- through various back-stories and #0's -- that Krypton once had a clone problem. How will that play into H'el's interactions with Superboy?

X-Men Legacy #1
(w) Si Spurrier
(p) Tan Eng Huat
Destined to be the black sheep to Bendis' All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, Si Spurrier's X-Men Legacy will focus on the late Professor Xavier's son, David, and his uncontrollable, reality-altering powers.

Extra! Extra!
Batgirl #14
(w) Gail Simone
(p) Ed Benes

Demon Knights #14
(w) Paul Cornell
(p) Bernard Chang

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #14
(w) Matt Kindt
(p) Alberto Ponticelli

Thor: God of Thunder #1
(w) Jason Aaron
(p) Esad Ribic

X-Treme X-Men #6
(w) Greg Pak
(p) Paco Diaz

Monday, November 12, 2012

REVIEW: GREEN LANTERN #14


(w) Geoff Johns
(p) Doug Mahnke

This week, "Rise of the Third Army" continues in Green Lantern #14 as Simon Baz comes face to face with the Justice League. He's been deemed a suspected terrorist already, and now that he's got a Green Lantern ring on his finger, he's just a super-powered suspected terrorist. The first thing you're thinking is, "They get into a fight, right? Superman or Batman misinterprets something, and a construct gets thrown out, then it's just a big brawl, right?" Wrong. Simon knows he can't take on the entirety of the Justice League, and he doesn't plan to. Simon's self-awareness points to Geoff Johns' increasing efforts to make the newest Green Lantern a bit more relatable and realistic. Johns understands how cliched superhero meetings have become in recent years, so this first confrontation between Simon and JL is less about a show of force and more about a show of wits.

Simon attempts to remove his ring and give it to the Justice League when the spectral energies of Sinestro and Hal Jordan burst forth in an explosion of green energy to protest. This is where Johns could have gone the easy route and made all these heroes gang up on Simon Baz. Instead, Simon subconsciously uses the ring to build himself a getaway car, then twenty getaway cars to throw the League off his trail. Sure, the Flash and Superman are probably fast enough to have found Baz in the chaos of everything, but that's not what this story is about -- it's about Simon thinking outside the box and how that type of thinking has been absent from mainstream superhero comics for quite some time.

Johns also takes some time to build mythology through sequences featuring the Guardians conversing with the still-mysterious First Lantern, Black Hand's imprisonment in the Chamber of Shadows, and the Third Army ravaging the universe in the name of peace and order. I'm enjoying Simon Baz's personal voyage as he comes to terms with being a Green Lantern and what that means in the greater scheme of his life. And while there hasn't been a lot of crossover with the Third Army proper, Johns is obviously building to something that will test Simon as a GL and as a person.

GRADE
8.5/10