Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Age of Ultron #10AI Review

(w) Mark Waid
(a) Andre Araujo

Age of Ultron #10AI is less about being an epilogue to Age of Ultron as it is about being a requiem of Hank Pym's life. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it just feels out of place as a bookend of a series about time travel, warlord robots, and the breaking of the multiverse. Yes, the documented time is technically after all of that happens, thus it sits at the end, but nothing about this issue screams cohesive. Not even Mark Waid's stellar writing can make it feel right.

Now, Waid's writing is spot-on here. I've nothing to complain about on that front. If this was a one-shot called Pym or even Avengers A.I. #0.1, I'd be satisfied, but none of what happens fits into the themes of Age of Ultron. Brian Michael Bendis' opus to the dangers of time travel was about taking responsibility for damaging the fabric of space and time and, eventually, suffering the consequences. Age of Ultron #10AI is about Hank Pym freeing himself from responsibility to do whatever he wanted, which led to Ultron in the first place. In many ways, this issue feels regressive, like Pym didn't learn anything from this horrific event.

I want to stress that Waid writes a good issue here, it's just the context in which Marvel decided it should go just doesn't make sense. Most of the Avengers have seen an alternate timeline or two, including Hank Pym who has always been at the forefront of science. Why now, after all these years, are the visions of a destitute future haunting him? The easy answer is that the "Age of Ultron" was his fault. But the better answer is that there isn't a sensible answer because it's not logical. (Again) Pym is man of science who understands the nature of the multiverse and that, in the end, he prevented the nightmares of Ultron from ever actualizing in the first place. Certainly a man dedicated to science could understand and reconcile the non-happening of something bad?

Apparently not.

Mark Waid's look into Hank Pym's history is intriguing and gives a lot of context for the character's decisions and actions over the years. Pym feels like a more fleshed out hero now, and that's always a good thing. If Marvel had published this in a better fashion, it would have been a home run. As a final send-off for Age of Ultron, if feels cheap and overbearing, preachy and depressing. In the end, it's worth reading for Waid's writing alone.

GRADE
7/10

Spotlight: Batman/Superman #1

(w) Greg Pak
(a) Jae Lee and Ben Oliver


** SPOILERS ABOUND! **


Batman/Superman #1 is already being touted as the best #1 since the initial 'New 52' relaunch in September 2011. I'm inclined to agree. You'd be hard pressed to find another debut issue in the lineup that has as much grace, style, and readability as Batman/Superman #1. The creative pairing of Greg Pak and Jae Lee is an instant success and is simply stunning to behold. What really makes this issue shine, though, is how new it actually feels. Batman/Superman has been marketed as a series chronicling the early days of both the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel, and this initial arc is about the duo's first meeting.

The whole "first meeting" thing has been done on a number of occasions, in various mediums, but there's one major element that connects all these depictions: how each character feels about the other. Batman always just considered Superman an overly optimistic boy scout-type who had the luxury of trusting people because he was a demigod, while Superman saw Batman as a depressed loner who relied too heavily on fear and anger to drive his mission. Pak's Batman/Superman #1 basically throws out the old handbook and gives these two major players an entirely new relationship.

But a lot is different in the 'New 52', which means Batman and Superman's relationship must be based on something different. In the old universe, both men knew of the other prior to meeting, which gave them to chance to develop preconceived notions about one another. Batman/Superman #1 begins in a time when Clark was still sporting the tee shirt and jeans costume, and Batman was still an urban myth. The term 'superhero' hasn't been coined yet because it's not a reality yet. This is the world where Batman and Superman meet for the first time; not with a population that knows and accepts what superheroes are and mean.

Both men, interestingly enough, become defensive in the face of the unknown. 

For Batman, Superman represents the culmination of what he cannot learn: superhuman abilities. There is no tactical compensation for super speed and a punch that can crush a semi truck, only quick thinking and dumb luck. Bruce immediately assumes the worst and defends himself against an alien he's sure is intent on destroying him. Batman's response wonderfully conveys the type of paranoia and over-analysis he's known for, but it also reminds us how foreign and frightening a seemingly invulnerable man must seem to a mortal man.

Superman, on the other hand, becomes aggressive when he misinterprets Batman as a criminal attempting to murder a child. He's "fought bullies, mobsters, and neo-Nazis", but Batman is the first real monster, "a murderer dressed up as a bat." Clark's ability to sense heart rates distinguishes Batman's as the most calm, the most collected, the most like a murderer when everyone else is scared out of their minds. The nature of Superman's abilities and his relative inexperience at this stage in his career both lend to his snap judgement about Batman's intentions.

Jae Lee's artwork really seals the deal. Few artists can truly depict emotion through body language, yet Lee makes it look easy. The way Batman's body crunches in when Superman slaps him away, Clark's stance as he incinerates a TV set falling directly above him, the way the children in the opening scene interact -- all of these ar examples of how Lee's amazing art lends to the storytelling.

Batman/Superman #1 is a triumph. This is the right book at the right time with the right creative team. Though Ben Oliver hands the artwork for the last seven pages, Lee's influence on the tone throughout is evident. Greg Pak has such a handle on both characters, their inspirations, their passions, their fears, and their impulses as young men. This is the series that I didn't even know I wanted, and now I would write a strongly worded letter to DC if they said I couldn't have it anymore.

GRADE
10/10

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Week in Revue (June 26 - July 2, 2013)

------- Spotlight
Batman/Superman #1
(w) Greg Pak
(a) Jae Lee

------- DC Reviews
The Flash #21
(w) Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
(a) Francis Manapul

Justice League #21 
(w) Geoff Johns
(a) Gary Frank
CHECK OUT THIS REVIEW ON DC COMICS NEWS!

Justice League of America #21
(w) Geoff Johns
(a) David Finch
CHECK OUT THIS REVIEW ON DC COMICS NEWS!

------- Marvel Reviews
Age of Ultron #10A.I.
(w) Mark Waid
(a) Andre Araujo

X-Men #2
(w) Brian Wood
(a) Olivier Coipel

Young Avengers #6
(w) Kieron Gillen
(a) Kate Brown

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wonder Woman #21 Review

(w) Brian Azzarello
(a) Cliff Chiang


** SPOILERS, BECAUSE WHY NOT? **


I love Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman. I could go on and on about how both men have dedicated themselves to this series and how the artwork -- at this point -- is as much of what makes Wonder Woman as great as the writing, but that would be boring and completely theoretical concerning DC's editorial decisions and the company's value on punctuality over quality of product. So we'll skip that.

This series, overall, has been pushing the boundaries of the idea of divinity in the DC universe, giving the Greek gods a less elegant, more pragmatic look and tone. Even down to the fact that they call themselves by their English names -- War instead of Ares, Hell instead of Hades, etc. Deities are as flawed as mortals (just look at most ancient mythology and religious beliefs), and Wonder Woman is very much the natural evolution of that idea, that gods and goddesses walk amongst humans and manipulate their lives on a very personal level.

Wonder Woman #21 is a transition issue from beginning to end. Azzarello has been creeping up to this moment for months; the epic showdown between Zeus' First Born and Diana's posse. While the fight itself isn't incredibly epic, the repercussions are astounding. The ongoing narrative very much feels like it's reached the end of it's second act. Act I featured Diana facing off against Hell for the fate of Zola's baby. Much like Star Wars: A New Hope, Diana tackles an enemy that seems impossible for a cause that's just and righteous. 

Act II has been about the power struggle on Mount Olympus and the coming of Zeus' First Born child. The Unnamed One is all grown up (well, thousands of years old, actually) and mad as hell that he's been locked in the center of the planet for a few millennia. Much like The Empire Strikes Back, darkness begins to fall over Diana and her allies with the coming of the New God Orion and his decree that a scion of Zeus would destroy the universe. Oh, and Apollo wrestled control of Olympus from Hera and made her mortal in the process. Things are at an all time low for the gang in Wonder Woman

Like I said, Wonder Woman #21 is the final part of Act II; Diana faces off against the Firs Born, Orion shows up to lay the smackdown at Diana's side, and everything changes with the press of a boomtube button. After Orion smuggles Diana, Zola, Hera, and the baby through an interdimensional portal, back to his home of New Genesis, we are left wondering what becomes of the First Born back on Earth. His power is immense, so, to believe that Lennox's sacrifice to close to boom tube meant the First Born's death would be premature. Unless Diana can go back, evil will defeat good and the First Born will take control of Olympus. 

So I find myself wanting Diana to get back to Earth as quickly as possible to handle her brother. But also NEW GODS!!! Azzarello and Chiang are bringing back Jack Kirby's New Gods, which is phenomenal, and also means major changes for how deities are portrayed in the DC universe, and how the different pantheons correlate.

GRADE
9/10

Uncanny Avengers #9 Review

(w) Rick Remender
(a) Daniel Acuna

It's quite obvious to me that Rogue and Scarlet Witch's argument represented the real-life arguments online after the release of Uncanny Avengers #5. In that issue, Remender intended to convey the idea that people shouldn't be judged by their race, gender, sexual orientation, or mutation. This was misinterpreted by many as advocating for assimilation instead of diversity. Remender's meltdown on Twitter was widely circulated, and he apologized shortly after, but Uncanny Avengers #9 is where he really gets to let it all out.


** SPOILERS AHEAD! **


At the beginning of the sequence, I assumed Scarlet Witch's argument defending Havok would come out on top. Fortunately, Remender keeps things balanced and allows Rogue to have her own opinion without it sounding condescending. Both women make valid points about what was said by Alex at the press conference, and neither budges from their point of view. If this sounds familiar, it's because this is how most people are, in general. Debate is all well and good, but not often are individuals swayed from their established notions.

As far as the story itself is concerned, Uncanny Avengers #9 advances the narrative for the Apocalypse Twins by setting in motion their plan to annihilate all human life on the planet and start fresh on a new mutant world. Remender is doing an excellent job weaving is grand narrative about Apocalypse -- which began with Uncanny X-Force -- into the world of the Avengers. Wolverine's hard choices have come back to haunt him and now threaten to divide the team when they need to be united the most. Insecurities bubble up, bitter truths are spoken, and everything the team stands for begins to break down.

Uncanny Avengers #9 is an excellent issue. From a long-form perspective, Remender's casting choices have been truly excellent in bringing diversity and balance to the title's tone. It feels like human-mutant relations in the Marvel universe may never be completely peaceful, and the Avengers Unity Team is beginning to internalize this feeling more and more.

GRADE
8/10

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Green Lantern: New Guardians #21 Review

(w) Justin Jordan
(p) Bradley Walker
(i) Andrew Hennessy

Kyle Rayner is my favorite Green Lantern. Well, he's a White Lantern now. But all the same, Kyle is my absolute favorite ring-slinger around. There are a lot of different reasons, but the one that relates to my feelings about Green Lantern: New Guardians #21 is Kyle's personality. Not since Ron Marz and Judd Winnick has Kyle sounded so much like himself. The former of those writers created Kyle, and the latter carried the character through some of the most difficult situations in his Lantern career. 

Both Marz and Winnick understood just how 'matter of fact' Kyle is, and they conveyed that consistently. Since Geoff Johns took over the GL franchise, Kyle has had a largely reduced role, even in titles like Green Lantern Corps. When the 'New 52' started, GL: New Guardians looked promising, but it soon became evident that it would be just another Lantern book used to bolster the main title.

Justin Jordan proves this will not be the case. He has successfully found Kyle's voice again and it's just so awesome. That's really as eloquently as I can put it because I'm just so thrilled that Kyle is back. It saddens me that Kyle has somewhat given up on having a normal life, but that's what the story demands, and the packing sequence in his apartment is so grounded and personal that it almost makes it worth it.


On the subject of the Templar Guardians, it's quite obvious that these new guys were cut from the same, self-righteous cloth. The difference is that the Templars go about their mission with selflessness while the now-dead old Guardians were swept up in their own arrogance. So it's understandable that Kyle -- along with the rest of the universe, it seems -- is skeptical of the Templars' intentions.

Justin Jordan has an amazing hold on any character he gets his hands on. Just look at The Strange Tale of and The Legend of Luther Strode, as well as his recent work on Superboy, a series he saved from the deep pit of darkness it found itself within. Green Lantern: New Guardians #21 provides an excellent introduction to the Justin Jordan era of the title, and it's going to be epic. Not to mention that the title 'New Guardians' now finally makes sense.

GRADE
9/10

Spotlight: Age of Ultron #10

(w) Brian Michael Bendis
(a) Alex Maleev; Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary; Butch Guice; Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco & Roger Bonet with Tom Palmer; David Marquez, Joe Quesada

This is what disappointment truly feels like.

I defended Age of Ultron in nearly every review I wrote about the series. And while it has indeed been a fun and generally enjoyable ride, Age of Ultron #10 simply fizzles out where it should have been explosive. And one vague, surreal explosion doesn't count after nine issues of build-up.


** SPOILERS AHEAD. THOUGH, YOU PROBABLY READ A LOT OF THIS ONLINE ALREADY. **


Why do I not like Age of Ultron #10? Let me count the ways. One: there are far too many artists on this issue. Two: introducing Angela in the final pages is such an obvious grab for money that I nearly slammed by laptop's screen shut in frustration. Three: this issue is the epitome of anticlimactic.

There are ten different artists credited to Age of Ultron #10 with no guide as to who has drawn what. Sure, I've got some idea based on what I've seen in other books, but overall, it's extremely jarring to see one issue go through so many different styles. Now, Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, and Carlos Pacheco were featured throughout issues one through nine, but that was for a reason. Hitch drew the original timeline, Peterson drew the 'Age of Iron Man' segments, and Carlos Pacheco tackled the sequences set in the past of the Marvel universe. There were three distinct styles for three distinct parts of the story, and generally, it worked well. The only reason that I can imagine Marvel had for employing so many artists was the nature of the story's conclusion. And even if they did -- which is highly unlikely -- the experiment was not worth it because it looks bad.

Angela, Angela, Angela. Everyone is so excited about Angela, and it turns out her presence in the issue amounts to little more than a cameo. Now it makes sense how Bendis was able to "write" a special new part for the character. I phrased it like that not because I believe Bendis can't write, but because it's not a real sequence. Angela's appearance is just her inner monologue with a two-page spread by Joe Quesada as the backdrop. That's not enough. That's just pandering. And I'm sure there are those out there who loved seeing Angela on those final pages. But if you're unfamiliar with the character, this 'epic conclusion' is just confusing.

Which brings us to the fact that Age of Ultron #10 is the most anticlimactic ending to an event Marvel has produced since...well at least before House of M. The biggest revelation we get is that the multiverse is now bleeding into itself, meaning various universes will cross over with relative ease. While this is a big change in status quo, there's only one single splash page that's interesting. The rest is panning images of space and bright lights. It might be menacing and mysterious, yes, but these are the final pages of Age of Ultron

The big battle we get is basically a reprint of Avengers #12.1 from two years ago, and though it ends differently here than it did before, it's just a big letdown. Alright, sure; the Avengers defeated Ultron before he ever started his apocalyptic invasion of Earth. But we knew that was going to happen. What we needed here was something bigger to keep the momentum going now that the event is over. Unfortunately, Marvel thought giving us one glimpse of Galactus and a spread of Angela would do the trick. And even though the crossover nerd in me did summersaults when I saw Miles Morales facing down Galactus 616, it was a fleeting emotion because the only real reason it was included was for that specific reaction, not because it had anything to do with Age of Ultron.

Age of Ultron wasn't a huge failure. Bryan Hitch's artwork for the first five issues was fantastic, Carlos Pacheco's style fit the 1960s sequences perfectly, and the goal of the entire narrative was achieved by the end of Age of Ultron #10. Brian Michael Bendis set out to create an grand story about the dangers of abusing technology we don't understand. Unfortunately, this sentiment becomes hollow when the lesson isn't learned. Wolverine isn't punished for basically unraveling all of time and space, while Hank Pym believes he can correct the errors in Ultron's programming instead of understanding that creating and manipulating consciousness -- biological or artificial -- isn't right. So what was the point? 

Bendis threw the biggest players in the Marvel universe through the ringer for no reason. The characters don't truly grow because they haven't learned from their mistakes, which makes it all the more obvious that the true endgame of Age of Ultron was to allow Marvel to dig into it's plethora of fan-favorite characters with far more ease. This might sound harmless at first, but it means the characters were simply props throughout this event. All the tie-ins, all the deaths; none of it technically matters. And that's a problem. As an event, Age of Ultron was mediocre. As the final issue Age of Ultron #10 was completely lackluster.

GRADE
5/10

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Week in Revue (June 19-25, 2013)

------- Spotlight
Age of Ultron #10 of 10
(w) Brian Michael Bendis
(a) Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco, et al.

------- DC Reviews
Green Lantern: New Guardians #21
(w) Justin Jordan
(a) Bradley Walker and Andrew Hennessy

Wonder Woman #21
(w) Brian Azzarello
(a) Cliff Chiang

------- Marvel Reviews
Captain Marvel #13
(w) Kelly Sue DeConnick
(a) Amanda Conner

Uncanny Avengers #9
(w) Rick Remender
(a) Daniel Acuna

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Guardians of the Galaxy #3 Review

(w) Brian Michael Bendis
(a) Steve McNiven and Sara Pichelli

Though it started slow, I've really been digging Guardians of the Galaxy. Brian Michael Bendis is at his best writing epic, team-based stories, and this series checks off both those boxes. Man fans of the previous iterations of the Guardians were upset with the way Bendis basically ignored a lot of what came before in exchange for his own vision of the franchise. I never read any Guardians stories before this, so all I have to go on are these three issues (and the #0.1).

Guardians of the Galaxy #3 finds the team in the clutches of mean old King J-Son, Peter Quill's father and the ruler of the Spartax Empire. It's been pretty obvious since issue one that J-Son has some sort of scheme a-brewin due to his general withholding nature, the very existence of the galactic council he seems to lead, and the overall vagueness of everything he says. I'd be more frustrated with how enigmatic J-Son and his agenda are if I wasn't as familiar with Bendis' work as I am.

Other than that, the narrative is exciting and fast-paced without feeling rushed. Bendis is at his best writing teams. His work on the Avengers franchise is more than enough evidence to this fact. Guardians of the Galaxy #3 really conveys just how legendary this team of heroes is, though many consider them menaces and pirates. Basically, this series allows for Bendis to use all his favorite tropes in one place: pomp and grandeur, deriving conflict and character development from emotional resonance, the proverbial "David vs. Goliath", divisive interpretations of consequential happenings. All of this stuff can be seen in Guardians of the Galaxy #3. Bendis graduated from the Earth's Mightiest Heroes to the defenders of the entire galaxy.

GRADE
8/10

Friday, June 14, 2013

Batman #21 Review (Zero Year, Part 1)

(w) Scott Snyder
(p) Greg Capullo
(i) Danny Miki

Let's get this out of the way right up front: this issue is amazing. Not only does it perfectly set up the entire storyline that's set to last for the next calendar year, but it also introduces a host of new elements to Batman's 'New 52' history. It's a tight race this week for which of Scott Snyder's books -- Superman Unchained #1 or Batman #21 -- is comes out on top. I'm in the Batman camp this time.

I'd like to address an issue I've been seeing online since "Zero Year" was announced, and that now is becoming more prevalent. Many people are upset that Snyder is taking Batman into the past for an entire year's worth of issues. This criticism is two-pronged: the arc is too long, and it's firmly set in the past instead of progressing Batman's current-day adventures. On both counts I'm not convinced.

The allegation that "Zero Year" -- at 11 issues, but taking a full year due to the break in September for Villains Month -- will be too long seems silly at this point in Snyder's career writing Batman. His initial arc on Batman for the 'New 52' was technically also 11 issues in length, though it's considered two arcs. "Death of the Family" may have been only five issues in Batman, but the numerous tie-in issues gave the core narrative a larger breadth than it normally could have achieved by itself. At this point, I trust Scott Snyder to deliver something incredible. And on a purely logistical level, the title page says "Zero Year - Secret City: Part One" alluding to the idea that this mega-arc will be broken into more manageable segments.

On the gripe with Snyder focusing on Batman's past instead of his current day exploits is just redundant. First of all, Batman has been framing the Batman family of titles for most of the 'New 52', if not directly than at least through Snyder's characterization of Batman staying mostly consistent across all the titles he's featured within. Second, Batman is the solo star of two other series -- Detective Comics and Batman: The Dark Knight -- as well as having his name in an additional two others -- Batman and Robin and Batman, Incorporated. All of these titles will be telling current day stories (save for November, from some rumors I've seen online), so why can't Snyder delve into the past? One of the major complaints about the 'New 52', in general, is the lack of information regarding the five to six years between the first appearance of Superman in Metropolis and what's going on in the current day. For the next year, we get to see just that.

Batman: Year One was bout Batman's relationship with Jim Gordon. "Zero Year" is about Bruce Wayne becoming Batman. It's a simple concept that bears a lot of weight because with the condensed nature of the 'New 52', this is the year of Batman's career when he establishes his rogues gallery. Yes, there seems to be a central antagonist here at the starting point, but it would be folly to assume Snyder will only stick to one villain for eleven issues that spans a year of Batman's life.

GRADE
10/10

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Spotlight: Superman Unchained #1

(w) Scott Snyder
(p) Jim Lee
(i) Scott Williams

Was it that hard to produce a non-Grant Morrison Superman book, DC?

Superman Unchained is exactly what I've been wanting from Superman in the 'New 52'. Now, I loved Morrison's run on Action Comics, but it was a high-concept story that was difficult to follow month to month. Then there's the eponymous series that was mishandled from day one, only to be given to Scott Lobdell who has managed to drive the title even more into the ground than it already was. Letting Scott Snyder take a crack at the Man of Steel was a great decision that has resulted in the single greatest Superman issue of the 'New 52'.


** SPOILERS AHEAD! **


My favorite part of Superman Unchained #1 is when Clark is reentering Earth's atmosphere while attempting to divert a falling satellite from crashing into a populated area. While speeding toward Earth, Superman experiences the same sensation of free falling as he did when he was a boy jumping from a silo into a giant stack of hay. It's not the most bombastic or exciting part of Superman Unchained #1, but it's extremely important to the Superman mythos, in general.

Many writers attempt to humanize Superman through the use of the character's inner psychological conflicts. Since Clark is a god among men, a lot of good storytelling comes from analyzing just how he handles himself beyond fighting villains or stopping alien invasions. Superman: For Tomorrow was one of the most successful examples of this kind of narrative. But then it became commonplace. It felt like Superman's emotional turmoil was becoming the focus instead of the lining that gave meaning to Clark's actions.

Snyder's decision to make Clark reminisce about his life in Smallville is meaningful because it rarely ever happens. Sure, there are flashbacks to random moments here and there, and the Kents are always at the forefront of Clark's thoughts, but specifics have been few and far between. The story of the Colder Jump shows Superman's humanity. And not through the lens of holding back his strength or doling out sage advice to mere humans, but through being human himself. Everyone has triggers that set memories into motion -- Superman's are just a little larger than life. For all the times Clark talks about Smallville, it's great to finally experience a real connection to the Man of Steel's life as just a Man.

This scene is one example of Snyder employing a theme that basically juxtaposes the ordinary against the extraordinary. Clark is remembering life in Smallville at the same time he's literally moving a building-sized satellite through our planet's atmosphere. The theme continues into Superman's conversation with Lex Luthor, which takes place in a helicopter that Clark is holding upside down. Both Clark and Lex speak to each other like they're sipping tea at a Parisian cafe even though one is an alien Jesus figure and the other is a hyper-intelligent sociopath bent on destroying Superman. By the end, it's clear that the theme has been present throughout the issue. More or less, Superman Unchained #1 gives readers a good, basic view of what Superman does day to day. Clark never breaks a sweat, his voice never falters, and his step never misses. An extraordinary life is simply life to Superman.

Superman Unchained #1 is what readers have been waiting for: a true flagship title for the Man of Steel. Scott Snyder so fantastically taps into what makes Superman great that I actually found myself disappointed that the issue was over and that there wasn't any more to read. If Snyder can do with Superman what he's done with Batman in terms of overall character development, Superman Unchained is set to be one of the best series of the 'New 52.'

GRADE
9.5/10

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Week in Revue (June 12-18, 2013)

------- Spotlight
Superman Unchained #1
(w) Scott Snyder
(a) Jim Lee

------- DC Reviews
Batman #21
(w) Scott Snyder
(w) Greg Capullo

Green Lantern Corps #21
(w) Robert Vendetti and Van Jensen
(a) Bernard Chang

------- Marvel Reviews
Guardians of the Galaxy #3
(w) Brian Michael Bendis
(a) Steve McNiven and Sara Pichelli

Thor: God of Thunder #9
(w) Jason Aaron
(a) Esad Ribic

Monday, June 10, 2013

Green Arrow #21 Review

(w) Jeff Lemire
(p) Andrea Sorrentino

"The Kill Machine" finishes up this month with not a bang, but a subtle whimper. I want to like Jeff Lemire's run on Green Arrow, I really do. And there are elements that I think are very strong, but Green Arrow #21's attempt to expand the mythos of Oliver Queen actually backfired and made the character a whole lot less charming. Since Ollie technically defeated Komodo last issue, this issue is mostly about tying up all the loose ends Lemire has left dangling.


** SPOILERS AHEAD **

First and foremost is how Ollie and his father are connected to the island where Ollie first learned to shoot a bow. Magus -- Lemire's 'deus ex machina' that's been popping up from time to time to lend a helpful story about the past -- finally decides to lay out the cards for Ollie and explain everything. Turns out Richard Queen and Simon LaCroix were friends once, but LaCroix murdered Queen. The reason? I'm not entirely sure. Magus explains that, "...LaCroix was everything your father wished you would be. He made him his protege in both business and his quest for the arrow. And then LaCroix killed him for it." Doesn't make too much sense to me: to murder the man who gives you opportunities unbounded. But that brings me to my second point.

THE CLAN OF THE ARROW?!?!?!?

Years ago, then-Marvel writer J. Michael Straczynski attempted to explain that Spider-Man was just the current avatar of the Spider God who had bestowed the power of the spider to various humans throughout history. It was a stupid and pointless endeavor that only succeeded in cheapening the character's rich narrative history, betrayed the core concept that anyone can rise up to a hero, and generally mucked up Spidey's continuity so much that everyone basically just doesn't talk about it anymore. It was a ridiculous attempt to give more meaning to a hero who didn't need some deeper meaning to his powers. It was completely unnecessary.

This is the feeling I'm getting from this whole 'weapon clans' concept Lemire is introducing. Basically, Oliver Queen was always destined to pick up a bow and become one of the most formidable and talented archers in the world because there is an ancient Arrow Clan of which is family was part of. I understand that part of the 'New 52' is actually making some things new, but this is the kind of change that makes fans angry.

Oliver Queen used to be about helping the less fortunate because he felt a sense of responsibility due to his being born into wealth. He took it upon himself to learn and grow as a person and become something better than he was before. And for a few issues, Lemire was beginning to lean toward this direction with the character after 16 issues of Ollie being a total ass and a pale ghost of his former self. Instead, Lemire decided to make Green Arrow just another hero who was 'destined' to become a hero instead of reinforcing Ollie as an example of peoples' ability to do better.

This just doesn't feel fun anymore. It feels forced. Not everything in a comic book universe has to be tied to fate, destiny, or past events. Sometimes, heroes arise because they need to and not because their great-great-grand uncle was cursed by an evil warlock for generations or somesuch like that. I like Lemire's dialogue; it's quality work and the all characters feel organic. I also love Andrea Sorrentino's artwork. It's honestly just the story that's turning me off of Green Arrow now.


GRADE
6.8/10

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Earth 2 #13 Review

(w) James Robinson
(p) Yildiray Cinar
(i) Rob Hunter

James Robinson gave himself a big task with Earth 2. I phrase it like this because Robinson was the one with the concept from the beginning and he's written every issue so far. It's quite obvious the man has epic plans for this series. It's a true shame he'll be leaving the series after issue 16. But that's another rant altogether.

Earth 2 #13 introduces Captain Steel, a character most modern readers probably don't know. And that's okay, because Robinson gives us such a fantastically comprehensive look at Hank Heywood and what he means to the ongoing narrative. What's most interesting about him, though, is not his powers or his origin story (though both are fun), but rather his personality. 


** SPOILERS AHEAD **


Steel is less man than metal after his father saved his life from a degenerative bone disorder by injecting him with living metals that rebuilt most of what was dying inside his body. It's nice to focus on all the amazing things Captain Steel can do now that he's not restricted by conventional human weaknesses, but the real change in Heywood was psychological. And it all comes down to a single panel.

Unlike the rest of the wonders featured in Earth 2 so far, Captain Steel is a "lone ranger" of sorts. Though he's associated with the World Army and he follows commands to a tee, it's not because he wants to. He doesn't have the passion or the sense of duty that any of the other wonders possess. The living metal that saved his life also striped him of whatever emotional ability he once had. Now, he's just a husk of a man who does what he does "because what else is there? But I do not care." It's an extremely powerful sentence that shows a different side to the concept of a superhero. Captain Steel is still just as heroic, brave, and just as the other wonders, but his motivations are nonexistent, which is fascinating when you think how that basically never happens in modern comic books.

I am very sad that James Robinson is leaving Earth 2 because we're now getting to the point in the series where all the various bits and pieces we've been getting over the past year will finally start coming together. He's taking old ideas and totally revamping them in a way that even the rest of the 'New 52' can't top.

GRADE
9/10

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Spotlight: Green Lantern #21

(w) Robert Vendetti
(a) Billy Tan

After a grand send-off with Green Lantern #20, Geoff Johns has passed the series on to Robert Vendetti. Johns was with the franchise for almost ten years. He poured a lot of his time, energy, passion, and love into that title. In this modern age of comic books, it's very rare for a writer to stay with a 'Big Two' character for more than a few years, and that's an impressive run. Other than Brian Michael Bendis (and Robert Kirkman, if we're looking at indie labels as well), Johns is one of the only writers whose guided a single title for so long. This can also be perceived as a negative; one writer means one vision means one style. I love Geoff Johns' work, but it's definitely time for a new voice to be heard.

That voice is, as I mentioned above, Robert Vendetti. When i first heard the announcement, I didn't know what to think because I had no idea who Robert Vendetti was. Would this mysterious new writer be able to match Johns' quality while still doing things his own way? Then I read Valiant's X-O Manowar and I was completely at ease. At it's core, Green Lantern is a sci-fi story. Vendetti's work for Valiant is a clear and extremely strong example of how good he is at writing science fiction. This revitalized X-O Manowar is one of the most compelling ongoing series I read every month. By the time I caught up to the current issue, I knew Vendetti was going to make Green Lantern his own.

And thus he has.

Green Lantern #21 is not only a phenomenal opening salvo from Vendetti, it's one of the most refreshing GL stories in a while. Johns' work was solid and fun to read, but after a while, story after story dealing with the Guardians' mistakes again started getting stale. With a new status quo, Vendetti is able to shape Green Lantern into a much leaner version of it's former self. Johns packed on the pounds with loads of mythos, characters, expanding history, and overall pomp. Vendetti aims to trim down the franchise into something more manageable to the more casual reader. It's not dumbed down by any means, simply elegant in a way that could have proven difficult in the Johns era when it wasn't uncommon for two or three other-colored Lanterns to show up and get into something.


** SPOILERS AHEAD **


Yes, Larfleeze and Kyle Rayner (now a White Lantern) are both featured in Green Lantern #21. The difference here is that, 1.) Larfleeze isn't attacking Oa because of some prophecy or really anything to do with the emotional spectrum, and, 2.) Kyle Rayner is more or less a Green Lantern anyway. The point is that near the end, much of Johns work seemed to rely on the concept and plot device-ness of the emotional spectrum instead of building it. Here, Vendetti uses two other colors, but it's because they're part of the mythos he's working with, not something he's actively creating.

This isn't to say that Vendetti is just going to rest on the work of Johns. Quite the opposite, in fact. While we don't know yet who or what is going to be the next real adversary for the Green Lantern Corps, what we do know is that Vendetti isn't looking to just jump into another massive, intergalactic crisis. Throughout Green Lantern #21, we see elements of world building, but on a much more subtle level than usual. 

Vendetti is framing his initial arc upon the rebuilding of the GLC after the events of "Wrath of the First Lantern." Things are at an all-time low, and Hal Jordan has suddenly been shouldered with leading the entire Corps when the newly-freed Templar Guardians decide they've been away from the rest of the universe for too long and, thus, must depart Oa to grow and become worthy of leading their Corps. It's a surprisingly simple, yet highly effective way to lay the groundwork for new stories. 

Now that the terrible secrets of the original Guardians have all been revealed and all the awful prophecies have played out, it's time for a new direction for Green Lantern. Robert Vendetti is just the man to do it, and Green Lantern #21 is stellar.

GRADE
9.5/10

The Week in Revue (June 5-11, 2013)

------- Spotlight
Green Lantern #21
(w) Robert Vendetti
(a) Billy Tan

------- DC Reviews
Earth 2 #13
(w) James Robinson
(a) Yildiray Cinar

The Movement #2
(w) Gail Simone
(a) Freddy Williams II

------- Marvel Reviews
Age of Ultron #9 of 10
(w) Brian Michael Bendis
(a) Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco

Hawkeye #11
(w) Matt Fraction
(a) David Aja

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Earth 2 Annual #1 Review

(w) James Robinson
(p) Cafu and Julius Gopez
(i) Cafu and Cam Smith

What should have been a knock out of the park for James Robinson turned out to be a rather wishy-washy issue with very little connecting the various elements. Earth 2 Annual #1 was advertised in a big way because it would include the first appearance from Earth 2's brand-new Batman. And that's pretty much the only element of the issue promoted. Which is unfortunate because the new Batman bit was easily the weakest part of the issue. 

I like that Robinson has the freedom to do almost whatever he wants on this title (which makes his recent departure announcement all the more frustrating), and creating a whole new Batman is interesting for this world. What I don't like is how little we know. We get to see the new Bats in the field. We see him helping other wonders from the shadows. We ever get some of his thoughts. But that's it. There's nothing explaining his motives, who he is, how he became to agile and strong, where he got a Batman suit and what his expectations are for being a masked vigilante. I wouldn't have a problem with all of these unanswered questions if the new Bats wasn't plastered on the cover like it's all about him.

The World Army aspect of Earth 2 hasn't been focused on much, simply because Robinson was playing with Green Lantern, Flash, and Hawkgirl. Earth 2 Annual #1 goes more in-depth with the WA's going-ons, and even introduces a brand new wonder that's sure to be part of the Justice Society whenever that gets around to forming.

The real problem with Earth 2 Annual #1 is how disjointed it feels. Yes, it's supposed to act as an "interlude" in between arcs here, but the drastic shift of focus from the pre-JSA to the wonders employed by the World Army is too abrupt with absolutely no transition. Usually, this isn't a big problem. Here, though, since Robinson is building the entire world, he's got to make the world more cohesive. Right now, we have a lot of different elements that may or may not fit together.

I like Earth 2 Annual #1. It's a fun read. Regular readers of the series will appreciate how much James Robinson is pouring into Earth 2 from all angles. That being said, it's really only for regular readers.

GRADE
7/10

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spotlight: X-Men #1

(w) Brian Wood
(p/i) Olivier Coipel
(i) Mark Morales

I don't know what I was expecting.

Honestly.

I had absolutely no idea how to feel about Brian Wood's all-female relaunch of X-Men. Well, I had one. I felt (and still feel) that it should be titled X-Women. But that's beside the point.

X-Men #1 is a surprisingly awesome book. It starts out slow, and unless your generally familiar with the X-Men lore as of late...and into the 1990s, you might have a harder time jumping on. But that's to be expected in this modern age of continuity and time travel travesties. Wood has assembled all the most bad-ass female X-Men for a squad whose mission is to stop the destruction of all life in the universe.

While it doesn't sound like a terribly original plot, the threat itself that really drives this title. John Sublime was created by Grant Morrison during his run on New X-Men. He's the embodiment of a sentient bacteria that's been infecting living things since the beginning of life on Earth. Though he became somewhat buried amongst Morrison's numerous high-concept ideas for the X-Men at the time, Sublime represented a deep-seeded fear of someone or something having control over us as humans. He was a powerful character, not only literally, but also literarily.


**SPOILERS, HOOOOO!!!!!!!!!**


And now we learn Sublime has a sister.

Unfortunately, she's not like her terrestrial brother who chose to nurture life on Earth. Sublime reveals that their ancient, bacteria-level, primordial war resulted in his choosing Earth and casting his sister out into space to fend for herself and hope for evolution. And now she's all grown up and angry as hell.

Wood's focus on family comes through with this brother/sister relationship, as well as through Jubilation Lee's return to Westchester County to seek help from the X-Men. Though I detest narration boxes, Wood employs them well here with Jubilee, keeping it light and fast-moving to avoid lingering on something too long and sounding corny.

Jubilee has been out of the picture long enough for Wood to bring her back without having to do much by the way of quick character development. It's not like she's Wolverine and Wood's got to establish that this is, in fact, Wolverine by making him say "Bub" and look menacing while discussing an ethically impossible scenario. This is Jubilee, a character whose been out of rotation for a long time and needs to be treated accordingly. Fortunately, Wood does this by keeping her panel time relatively small. Though the infant she carries is the focal point of the issue, we don't get an intimate look at Jubilee. She's been away for a reason and now, she's wary of returning.

I LOVE Olivier Coipel's artwork. There's not much more to say there.

These days, I find myself enjoying stuff I often scoff at when reading solicitations. It's a bad habit I'm trying to drop, but it's also a testament to how early previews sometimes skew opinions before the book has a chance to really make it's own case. I made a choice to invest myself in #1's when I got back into comics with the 'New 52' and Avengers vs. X-Men. I did this so the comic could prove itself without my preconceived notions getting in the way. X-Men #1 makes my case.

GRADE
9/10

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Week in Revue (May 29-June 4, 2013)

It's a fifth week, so things are a bit slow. I'll only be covering three issues here on The Comic Book Revue this week, as I've started splitting my time between this blog, my work for Pop Matters, and reviews for DC Comics News, which is a BRAND NEW site dedicated to all things DC Comics.

Also, make sure to check out The Comic Book Revue later this week for a...drumroll please...A PODCAST! That's right: I'll be taking the plunge and recording my first ever podcast about various comics, news, and happenings. More information will come as I figure it out :/

------- Spotlight
X-Men #1
(w) Brian Wood
(a) Olivier Coipel

OLIVIER COIPEL IN AN ONGOING SERIES! YEEESSSSS!!!!!!

------- DC Reviews
Earth 2 Annual #1
(w) James Robinson
(a) Yildiray Cinar, CAFU, and Julius Gopez

LET'S MEET THE NEW BATMAN OF EARTH 2!

------- Marvel Reviews
Captain America #7
(w) Rick Remender
(w) John Romita Jr.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Justice League Dark #20

(w) Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes
(a) Mikel Janin and Vicente Cifuentes


** SPOILERS ABOUND **


Last month's "WTF" edict demanded that each title in the 'New 52' drop some big revelation or surprise somewhere in their April issue. For the most part, writers were able to organically integrate this concept into their current narrative. But for some, it felt very forced. Like Earth 2 #11's inclusion of Mister Miracle even though he wasn't actually part of the story at all. Or how the revelation that Eclipso was behind the scheme to destroy House Amethyst in Sword of Sorcery #7 was a surprise to no one who actually read the series. 

Justice League Dark #19 guest starred not only Swamp Thing -- which made sense, as Swampy is a Dark-themed character -- but also The Flash. Unfortunately, it was all of a one-page spread. This was an instance where the "WTF" moment felt very forced, like editorial knew Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes were gearing up to use Flash in Justice League Dark #20, and just wanted to make #19 all the more attention-grabbing, just for sales. But that's all just my own beef with DC higher management.

Justice League Dark #20 is a fantastic issue. I wasn't expecting it not to be, as Lemire and Fawkes have been delivering amazing issue after amazing issue for months now. I'm always just a bit skeptical of guest appearances that seem too good to be true; like Flash working with the JLD.

Barry Allen is unique in the 'New 52' as one of the only characters who is written so consistently across every title he's featured in -- the Flash is always his good-natured, generous, laid-back self, whichever book you're reading. That's rare these days as many writers simply use guest appearances as a plot device instead of deriving real character relationships from the experience. Barry isn't there just to be fast: He provides a significantly different perspective on how to be a hero. Even after John Constantine berates him in front of everyone else, he still stands up for the surly mage when his compatriots turn against him.

If you're not reading Justice League Dark, you should be. I know that's a cliche thing to say in comic book reviews, but hear me out. It checks off a lot of boxes on the "who would like this?" list. It's a supernatural series (1). It includes well-known heroes like Constantine, Deadman, and Zatanna (2). It's consistently one of the best titles DC publishes each month (3). It's an integral part of this summer's "Trinity War" crossover (4). Mikel Janin's artwork is superb (5). That's five good reasons to read this book.

GRADE
9/10

Teen Titans #20

Where does one find such a stylish bucket to wear?
(w) Scott Lobdell     (a) Eddy Barrows and Patrick Zircher

Scott Lobdell never ceases to confound me.

Why is Red Robin on the cover wearing a weird bucket helmet and acting like a super villain? Maybe it would make sense if RR was acting out of character for more than a single panel per issue. I think Lobdell truly believes that the readers of Teen Titans understand what's going on from issue to issue, so he doesn't feel the need to actually explain things like Red Robin being an enemy on the cover. Or why Psimon is around at all

Now, the cover being a total misdirect is somewhat forgivable because that's simply an industry-wide problem, not specifically a Lobdell one. But the cover conveys the idea that Red Robin is not himself, that there's someone or something pulling the strings of his mind and, thus, manipulating the Titans in some way. As I mentioned earlier, prior issues have reduced this confusing (yet seemingly important) plot string to a single panel, hoping readers wont forget very forgettable events. Teen Titans #20, however, features Red Robin on the cover, standing over a defeated team of Titans, and sporting some retro-looking, glowing red eyes.


Is there any insight to this change in RR? At all?

No.

None.

About one third of the way in, Lobdell decides it's time we all learned about Trigon and his family of demons by way of a shoehorned history lesson from Trigon himself...talking to his sons. Doesn't sound too odd, does it? Except that why would Trigon be explaining his life and intentions to his OWN CHILDREN!?!?!?!?! There's no reason for ol' six-eyes to wax poetic to his own kin because they already know who he is. I feel like I shouldn't even need to say these things, like Lobdell is purposely going out of his way to make this comic book series nigh unreadable.

Teen Titans #20 is a joke. It's just another issue in this series that depresses me. I think back to the days when Geoff Johns wrote Teen Titans, and I wonder what that Superboy and Wonder Girl would think of their aimless 'New 52' counterparts. Lobdell has eroded almost anything that made these characters likable, sacrificing any modicum of relatability in the name of ridiculous plot advancement.

GRADE
3/10

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Young Avengers #5

(w) Kieron Gillen     (a) Jamie McKelvie

Origin stories tend to either be very, very cool, or very, very lame. I don't know why, nor do I pretend to understand why. It just seems to happen that way.

Even before this conclusion issue, it was evident that Kieron Gillen's team of Young Avengers was a whole different beast from Alan Heinberg's from back in the day. And I was prepared for that. I was ready for my favorite franchise to look and feel completely unique from what I'd come to love. But I'd read Phonogram so again, I knew I was in for something different. I wasn't, however, ready for just how awesome it could be. 

Gillen's opening arc for the second volume of Young Avengers is one of the most intriguing and interesting takes on the "getting the band together" comic book trope I've ever read. These characters are teenagers and they act like it. What kids are voluntarily putting their lives on the line instead of being glued to their cell phones and tablets? Well, if any would, it would be the ones who are superheroes. Gillen understands that normal teenage behavior doesn't go away when the superheroics kick in. These kids are always thinking about who they are and what they want, just like any other normal kid, The difference is that the Young Avengers have to juggle interdimensional monstrosities.


** SPOILERS AHEAD **

These kids don't want to be a team. This simple fact is what makes this vision of the Young Avengers so appealing -- by the end of Young Avengers #5, the only reason they all decide to stay together is to physically prevent an otherworldly invasion. It's not because they all necessarily like each other. In fact, everyone hates Loki mostly, and Miss America doesn't trust anyone else. Just like normal teenagers, their relationships are complicated. And just like eighteen-year-olds in real life, they have to recognize when to grow and step up to the challenge. This is as good at time as any.

GRADE
9.5/10

Spotlight: The Green Team - Teen Trillionaires #1

(w) Art Baltazar and Franco     (a) Ig Guara and JP Mayer

When DC announced The Movement and The Green Team as two sides of the socioeconomic coin it was intriguing, but also felt forced and dependent on the current economic climate. Dating yourself to a certain timeframe is never a good idea. I'm sure you can go back through DC issues in the early 90s and find all sorts of examples of how that's true. Fortunately, these two titles seem less invested in the economic instability so much as they're focused on how social hierarchy affects the superhero community.

The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires #1 gives readers a well-paced and detailed look at just what this campy, small concept from the 1970s has evolved into now that it's set in the inflated 21st century. I did not imagine I would enjoy this series at all.

The Movement was alright, but had a messy first issue, and while I'm not some Robin Hood character, I just could not see myself getting into a book like The Green Team that glorified extreme wealth to such a degree. Fortunately, Art Baltazar and Franco deliver a story that's about character development, creating a solid premise, and showing skeptics like me why this might just be the next great DC title.

Reader proxy characters are meant to mirror the audience's own lack of knowledge while reading a comic book. Prince Mohammed Qahtanii fills that role pretty blatantly, but it's clumsy because the whole situation is clumsy. Mo -- as he's referred to throughout the issue, and, I'm guessing, going forward -- is reaching out. He's trying to make a name for himself outside his father's considerable shadow by attending a Green Team PoxPo (Pop-Up Expo) to find the next best technology to take home and prove he's worthy to follow in his father's steps and rule. 

Most of us aren't royalty with our paternal relationships on the line, but any new reader is just like Mo in that we're reaching out. For Mo, it's to the PoxPo, for readers, it's The Green Team #1. We're taking a chance on something that sounds ridiculous and extravagant at first glance, but becomes more enticing and interesting the more we learn. Prince Mo as a metaphor for the reader works because he asks all the right questions and has the same flaws as any other kid his age; he likes to tweet. Not all readers of The Green Team #1 are going to be teenage social media machines, but it still grounds Mo as an organic character who I'm genuinely interested in reading about.


** SPOILERS AHEAD **


The basic concept is that the Green Team, led by mega-trillionaire Commodore Murphy, is a group of young, super-rich teenagers from all walks of wealth who come together to find the most advanced and cutting-edge technology available, buy it, fund it, and reap the rewards. Seems simple, right?

But it's not this premise, per se, that makes The Green Team #1 work so well. More, it's how Baltazar and Franco find the effects of such a concept and how it affects those involved. Murphy and his other Team are in a unique position that requires unique ways of thinking about how they live their lives (not ethically, but logistically). In fact, all of these mega-wealthy teenagers are forced to find new ways to be the Green Team all the time because they are what is desirable: youth and wealth. The Team is the extremity of this trope.

The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires #1 is an awesome issue. It's fun, it's intriguing, it's solid. Baltazar and Franco have found an amazing way to tell this story without every single character sounding completely pretentious, which is a feat. Ig Guara's artwork is a welcome addition after his brief absence after the cancellation of Blue Beetle. This is a buy. Never thought I'd say it, but it's a buy.

GRADE
9/10

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Week in Revue (May 22-28, 2013)

------- Spotlight
The Green Team #1
(w) Art Baltazar and Franco     (a) Ig Guara
THE FOIL TO GAIL SIMONE'S THE MOVEMENT, THIS SERIES FEATURES THE SUPER-RICH TEENAGERS WHO INHABIT THE DCnU!

------- DC Reviews
Justice League Dark #20
(w) Jeff Lemire     (a) Mikel Janin
HOW DO THE JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, THE FLASH, AND SWAMP THING ALL CONNECT? ONLY JEFF LEMIRE KNOWS!

Teen Titans #20
(w) Scott Lobdell     (a) Eddy Barrows)
WILL SCOTT LOBDELL ACTUALLY DELIVER A SEMI-COGENT ISSUES THIS MONTH? I'M NOT HOLDING MY BREATH!

------- Marvel Reviews
Uncanny Avengers #8AU
(w) Rick Remender     (a) Andy Kubert
THE "AGE OF ULTRON" TIE-IN FEATURING KANG AND THE APOCALYPSE TWINS!

Young Avengers #5
(w) Kieron Gillen     (a) Jaime McKelvie
THE FINAL ISSUE OF KIERON GILLEN'S FIRST AMAZING ARC!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Iron Man #10

(w) Kieron Gillen     (a) Dale Eaglesham

Kieron Gillen is no stranger to long-form narrative. Just take a look at his run on Journey Into Mystery and how each arc grew from the last and influenced the next, like a novel with it's many chapters. One would think this is how most comic books are written, but it tends to be a lot more difficult than it sounds. Iron Man didn't start out as strong as everyone hoped it would, but six issues in, Gillen upped the ante by sending Tony Stark into deep space where he faced the consequences of his attempt at destroying the Phoenix Force in Avengers vs. X-Men.

"The Secret Origin of Tony Stark" doesn't aim to retell Iron Man's origins. Quite the contrary, in fact. Working inside the strict parameters of comic book universe continuity seems to be Gillen's inspirational constraint. It's one of the elements of the comic book industry that makes it so amazing, that a creator 40 years removed from the character's origin can still add something to said origin, have it make sense, and make it totally awesome.


** SPOILERS AHEAD **


Iron Man #10 plays out like a 60s spy thriller as Howard Stark assembles a team to steal the one thing all his power, money, resources, connections, and intelligence can't get him: hope for his already dying prenatal child. If it seems a bit dark, then Gillen has done his job. Tony's always had a medically spotty history, but this pushes that concept to a whole new level. The fact that alien technology plays a part in this plan means Tony's life was influenced by technology before he ever left his mother's womb. I really like the team Howard assembles, but I wonder just how Gillen plans on using them as the story moves forward.

Overall, I found Iron Man #10 to be intriguing. It's the first official part of "Secret Origin", and it reveals quite a bit about the story leading up to Tony's birth, but nothing is intersecting yet. It's like one of those new puzzles without edges that are just that much harder to start piecing together, but are so much more satisfying when completed.


GRADE
8/10

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Nightwing #20

(w) Kyle Higgins     (a) Brett Booth

Last month, I gushed about how much I enjoyed the new direction for Nightwing. Moving Dick Grayson away from the Bat family was a stroke of genius so simple, it's a wonder it hasn't been done before (I'm not counting Bludhaven, which was right next door to Gotham). Nightwing #20 extrapolates on all the plot lines set up in the last issue.

One of the best parts about Dick moving to Chicago is that he's no longer being bankrolled by Bruce Wayne. It always bugged me that Nightwing so badly wanted to be his own hero -- with a separate name, sister city, the works -- yet he continued to accept financial support from Batman. I understand the logistical reasoning behind the decision, but it belied the concept of independence Dick was going for. Here, Kyle Higgins truly throws Nightwing out on his own. He's subletting a room in an apartment whose normal resident decides to stick around, a situation many people are all too familiar with. It's story elements like this that make Nightwing #20 a treat; Dick's civilian life needs just as much focus right now as his superhero side.

On the Nightwing side of things, Dick finally comes mask to mask with the Prankster, who is a far more menacing villain that I originally anticipated. Cyber crime and pranks don't sound too intimidating, but when it's paired with social responsibility, there's a charm to the Prankster's criminal tendencies. I really do like how Higgins is framing the Prankster as a champion of the disenfranchised, not because those kind of 'villains' don't exist, but because he's presenting it in a much more original fashion. The Prankster isn't some mercenary street general looking for a revolution. He's a sophisticated analyst who sees weaknesses and exploits them one at a time, bringing down his enemies through computer hacking and blackmail designed to cause emotional and professional damage.

Nightwing is getting better and better the more it's not focused on Bat family issues. Kyle Higgins is proving that Dick Grayson can stand as his own hero without having to live in Batman's proverbial shadow. He's an anomalous character because, unlike Jason Todd, Tim Drake, or Damian Wayne, Dick was able to properly process Bruce's teachings and heroic lifestyle. While the other three Robins mostly retained the darkness and bitterness, Dick stayed positive and is still the most optimistic member of the Bat family.


GRADE
9/10