mini Reviews (Feb 20-26, 2013)

———- mini DC reviews


Green Lantern Corps #17
(w) Peter J. Tomasi     (a) Fernando Pasarin


“Wrath of the First Lantern” continues in Green Lantern Corps #17 with Volthoom (the eponymous First Lantern) seeking out various colored Lanterns from which to leech emotional energy. Already, this follow-up to “Rise of the Third Army” feels long in the tooth — a person who has the potential to literally reshape the entire fabric of the universe is spending his time poking around the lives of mere mortals? “Wrath of the First Lantern” needs to be about more than just exposing our protagonists’ emotional frailty because that’s basically all “Rise of the Third Army” was about, and that turned out pretty unsatisfactory. It’s unfortunate that, even with a new crossover to pump it up, Green Lantern Corps #17 is simply forgettable.

GRADE: 6/10

Green Lantern: New Guardians #17
(w) Tony Bedard     (a) Aaron Kuder


Green Lantern: New Guardians #17 is the third and final GL family title this week to step up to the plate and attempt to make “Wrath of the First Lantern” interesting, and it’s also the third to fail. Volthoom, at this point, isn’t a very menacing villain because all he does is toy with peoples emotions to gain strength — and GL:NG #17 proves that he’s not even very good at that. Kyle Rayner has mastered all the emotional spectrum and his now a White Lantern, which gives him an edge when Volthoom flips reality at a whim, but there’s no sense of high stakes. Much like “Rise of the Third Army”, it’s frustrating to see so much going on with so little explanation, and being forced to wait for a payoff again with “Wrath of the First Lantern” is already annoying.

GRADE: 6/10


———- mini Marvel reviews

Avengers #6
(w) Jonathan Hickman     (a) Adam Kubert


Again, Jonathan Hickman surprises and astonishes with Avengers #6, which finally answers the question, “Who is Captain Universe?” The ‘deus ex machina’ of Hickman’s first arc, “Avengers World”, was a normal human who somehow became the living embodiment of the entire universe who was able to stop the misguided Ex Nihilo and Abyss from wrongly destroying earth — with no real explanation until now. Hickman promised a huge, epic, grand narrative that would interweave with New Avengers, and the advent of Captain Universe brings those plans one step closer to fruition. If you’re not reading Avengers, you should be; simple as that.

GRADE: 9/10


The Superior Spider-Man #4
(w) Dan Slott     (a) Giuseppe Camuncoli

The Superior Spider-Man continues to be one of Marvel’s best series due in no small part to Dan Slott’s impecable grasp on Otto Octavius — the more we see of Otto as Spider-Man, the more we get to know the real motives and thoughts of a man who has been a villain for 50 years. The biggest complaint about SSM so far has been the use of ‘Ghost Jedi Peter’ — Peter Parker’s phantom consciousness still tied to his body — and The Superior Spider-Man #4 answers those concerns by dialing back Ghost Peter’s appearances allowing Otto to be himself. Though, Peter’s emotional bias against Otto (as well as Otto doing anything differently than Peter did as Spider-Man) is starting to make him sound like a twat for constantly getting grossly upset over Otto’s way of doing things. And while it’s all been relative fun and games for Otto so far, the return of the cold-hearted Massacre promises a challenge that not even the Superior Spider-Man is prepared to face.

GRADE: 8/10
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Nova #1

(w) Jeph Loeb     (a) Ed McGuinness

As a comic book reader who never took the plunge into Marvel’s cosmic line in the past, the character Nova is still relatively new to me. I have a basic understanding of the mythos: there’s a Nova Corps not dissimilar from DC’s Green Lantern Corps, there are multiple character’s who have gone by the title Nova, and Richard Rider is by and far the most popular of those characters. Other than that, it’s all Greek to me, as they say.

From this starting point, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness’ Nova #1 is a blast. Loeb’s balance of space action and rural American life is stark as it is believable in a world where a giant green man can demolish mountains and gods live in Oklahoma. And McGuinness’ classic art style shines throughout these pages, juxtaposing Sam Alexander’s mundane existence in Carefree, Arizona against his father’s stories of weird space adventures with the Black Novas that may or may not be true.

The negativity I’ve seen toward this series seems rooted mainly in one thing: fandom. Richard Rider is considered the best Nova in Marvel’s history, and he’s been shelved for a new take on a classic franchise and that irks people. Another point of contention has been Jeph Loeb’s explanation that this new, teenaged Nova is based on his own late son; part homage and part inspiration for the stubbornly loyal yet loving Sam Alexander. The complaint is that Loeb should process his grief elsewhere and let Richard Rider be Nova once again. The simple response to that is: us readers don’t get to decide how writers are influenced or inspired. 

Instead of pining for the old, why not try and embrace the new? Loeb has introduced a whole new, secret branch of the Nova Corps! That should be an exciting prospect for anyone interested in Marvel’s cosmic line because it means new stories and new ideas.

GRADE
8/10

Thor: God of Thunder #5

(w) Jason Aaron     (a) Esad Ribic

Thor’s history is thick with Norse mythology, Asgardian legends, and a whole lot of general complexity that comes with tales about gods. Unless you’re inclined to that type of storytelling and ready to do some backpedaling to understand what’s happening, it can be frustratingly difficult to pick apart the obscurities that hold Thor’s narrative world together. And each time Thor dies, only to get a new ongoing series, it complicates things even further.

I was skeptical of Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder back when it was originally announced. I was not a fan of Aaron’s run on The Incredible Hulk, and I was lukewarm, at best, to Wolverine and The X-Men (I’ve since come around on this front). Similarly, I never in the past was particularly fond of Thor, nor did I seek out his comics. Imagine my surprise when I was completely and totally addicted to Thor: GoT after reading the first issue. This months Thor: God of Thunder #5 wraps up “The God Butcher”, Aaron and Ribic’s seminal opening salvo that introduces readers to Gorr the God Butcher, the most deadly and vicious foe Thor has ever faced.

Aaron’s structure for “The God Butcher” has focused on Thor in three different points in his life, each of which feature a run-in with Gorr and his unfeeling Black Berserkers. The best part about this arc has been how little it relies on previous mythology to propel the story. As I mentioned before, nearly all of Thor’s adventures in the past have focused on his ties to Asgard and everything that comes with being part of the royal family. Here, Aaron begins building his own set of rules by which to play, and the result is one of the most engaging and introspective tales about the God of Thunder in quite some time that’s also completely new reader-friendly.

Gorr’s quest to rid the universe of gods reaches it’s next phase this month as the God Butcher secures the final elements necessary to design something capable of enabling him to “explore new horizons of deicide.” This isn’t the end of the story — rather, it’s more like the end of the first act. Gorr has left a murderous trail of blood across the stars and even that’s not enough for him, a being whose singular desire is to see “a godless age”. Only total elimination will suffice.

Thor: God of Thunder #5 is an excellent conclusion to a great opening chapter for a character lost in his own world for far too long. Jason Aaron is bringing a storytelling style and creative direction that gives new life to Thor, making him a more relatable character while simultaneously taking him beyond anything he’s encountered before. There are a lot of good series that resulted from the ‘Marvel NOW!’ creative team switch-ups. Jason Aaron and Thor is turning out to be one of the best.

GRADE
9/10

Captain America #4

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

**MILD SPOILERS THROUGHOUT**

It boggles my mind when people tell me they don’t like Rick Remender’s Captain America. I get that many Cap fans these days are so because of Ed Brubaker’s phenomenal run, and I understand the reluctance to get behind a new volume of Captain America that takes the character in the complete opposite direction. What I can’t understand is the complete dismissal of the title simply because it doesn’t follow the spy thriller format Brubaker made so popular. For the first time in a long time, Captain America is confronting problems he doesn’t know how to solve. Even when things looked hopeless, Steve Rogers could always count on his training, his tactical genius, and his overall sense of justice to see him to victory. In Dimension Z, none of these things matter.

Much like how the previous issue leapt a year into the future, Captain America #4 throws readers for a loop by leaping another 11. That full black page with the stark, white “Eleven Years Later” really packs a punch as an issue opener. I let out a rather fawning “Whoa!” to the surprise of my wife sitting beside me. She commented about how rare it was for me to get so into a comic book like that, to exclaim out of sheer excitement.


The revelation at the end of issue three saw Steve Rogers infected by some sort of techno-biological virus that produced Arnim Zola’s visage on Steve’s stomach, similar to Zola’s real face on his own body. So not only has Cap been stuck in a dimension where none of his previous experience helps him in any way, but he’s also had a evil consciousness of Arnim Zola chipping away at his soul for over ten years While it’s a bit weird that Steve is able to hide a glowing blue face on his torso from his adopted son, Ian, for over a decade, it’s more about the idea that hiding this horrible truth represents: Steve is dedicated to protecting Ian from his horrible past.

Remender fleshes out Steve and Ian’s relationship this issue, mostly because Ian is finally old enough to have a personality of his own instead of being a precious weight for the Captain as he navigated Zolandia. Now, Cap is training Ian to use the shield, trying to instill good values in the boy, and always looking for a way back to Earth. An in-tact map of the land gives the boys some home in returning home, but that hope raises the bigger issue for Ian: what is home? Now firmly in his early teens, Ian wants to know more than Cap is telling him, and the idea of returning to Earth isn’t as desirable to him as it is to Steve, who’s actually been there.

Captain America #4 isn’t what I expected, but it’s everything I wanted. Rick Remender’s trademark long-form approach to storytelling means Steve Roger’s sojourn to Zolandia isn’t going to end any time soon. The first four issues of this series have been a marathon of steadily building up the emotional investment, creating a psycho-weird (a term I just created because no other seemed to describe Dimension Z well enough) reality that tests Cap at every turn, and raises the stakes for Steve and Ian in terms of their relationship and their mission to escape the influence of Zola. Yes, this Captain America is completely different than anything Ed Brubaker wrote in his seminal run. But if you step away from the continuity and just read Remender’s Cap as-is, it’s one of the most exhilarating, powerful titles to come out of the ‘Marvel NOW!’ initiative.

GRADE
9/10

Spotlight: Justice League of America #1

(w) Geoff Johns     (a) David Finch

A lot of fans were upset with Geoff Johns’ first issue of Justice League back in September 2011, with the main point of contention being that only a fraction of the League actually makes an appearance. It was Johns’ attempt to decompress the origin story of the League, and it met with varied reactions. It seems like DC’s Chief Creative Officer took a few pointers from that experience with Justice League #1 to help craft his approach to Justice League of America #1, a debut issue that hits all the right narrative beats, looks absolutely phenomenal, and feels like a natural next step for the ‘New 52’ universe after a year and a half of world building. Unlike nearly every other title from DC currently the characters, setting, and tone of this series all result from what we’ve been reading over the past 18 months instead of being blindly introduced to revamped or new characters. Here, with Justice League of America #1, the reader readily understands why this team is being formed beyond the context given in the issue — we’ve seen the hints being dropped, the growing animosity within the superhero community, the world-shaking events that eventually had to lead somewhere.

My biggest surprise with Justice League of America #1 was honestly the art. My personal opinion on David Finch’s art is like roller coaster, and I’ve not been happy with his work on Batman: The Dark Knight. But for some reason, Finch’s pencils for JLA #1 are simply stunning as the artist finds an incredible balance between his desire to express realism and going all-out for a fun pulp look. Seriously, never have I been more satisfied with David Finch’s artwork than in these pages.

This JLA is a totally different beast than it’s pre-‘New 52’ iteration. In the past, the term ‘Justice League of America’ was more or less the de-facto name for the team that now — in the ‘New 52’ — simply goes by Justice League. The nature of DC’s line-wide relaunch meant giving old ideas new life under a new framework. A.R.G.U.S. — the superhero relations branch of the US government — has a rather tenuous relationship with the League proper, so Amanda Waller decides to put together her own team of super powered individuals dedicated to protecting and serving the United States of America. While it’s not dissimilar from Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. assembling a group of extraordinary persons, that’s about the extent of the similarities. The JLA is a government-sanctioned team, but knowing Geoff Johns, that’s going to complicate things more than make them smoother.

Justice League of America #1 plays out like a ‘zero issue’ without the pretensions of being a ‘zero issue’. We get introductions to the major players (sans Simon Baz, for some reason) and well paced exposition that doesn’t feel overbearing. Steve Trevor makes his first major appearance in a while, and it’s mostly to be a surly curmudgeon. Nothing Waller says makes him happy, and everything seems like the worst idea in the world. I get that Trevor is still a bit jaded by how his relationship with the Justice League ended, but Johns is writing him like a jerk who’s looking for something to complain about. Trevor’s weird pessimistic comments aside, the various sequences focusing on recruits for the JLA are surprisingly fun and don’t feel like rehashes — we know all these characters already (except for Vibe, who I’ll get to in a moment), so it’s impressive to see Johns bring something new to the table for each one of them.

The US government is finally waking up to the reality that super powered people are now the norm and they’re doing something about it — if you can’t beat them, join them. Team 7 (it seems) and the Justice League International were both failed attempts at taking a sanctioned stance against super-crime, and the JLA is a kind-of spiritual successor to those two ideas. Waller’s team incorporates the public transparency of the JLI while employing dubious personalities who can get the job done. By the end of the issue, Johns has a firm direction in place for the world’s newest super team, and it will pit them against one of the previous JLA’s oldest and most ruthless enemies. Also, there’s a single panel that makes a great case for a superhero schism being the focal point of the upcoming “Trinity War”.

Justice League of America #1 is a joy to read. Geoff Johns has written on damn fine story that’s already got me excited for the second issue. This series is the first one to grow organically out of the ‘New 52’. Talon is similar for being a byproduct of the events in Batman, but Calvin Rose is a new character that readers are still getting to know, which makes it just as much an effort to invest in as any other ‘New 52’ title. JLA #1 features heroes and villains that have already made a name for themselves in the DCnU and now, we get to see them work together. Basically, if you like any of these characters, you’re going to like Justice League of America #1.

GRADE
9/10

The Week (Feb 20-26, 2013)

——- Spotlight

Justice League of America #1
(w) Geoff Johns     (a) David Finch

——- DC Reviews
Green Lantern #17
(w) Geoff Johns     (a) Doug Mahnke

Justice League #17
(w) Geoff Johns     (a) Ivan Reis & Joe Prado
———- mini DC reviews
Green Lantern Corps #17
(w) Peter J. Tomasi     (a) Fernando Pasarin

Green Lantern: New Guardians #17
(w) Tony Bedard     (a) Aaron Kuder

Wonder Woman #17
(w) Brian Azzarello     (a) Tony Akins

——- Marvel Reviews
Captain America #4
(w) Rick Remender     (a) John Romita Jr.

Nova #1
(w) Jeph Loeb     (a) Ed McGuinness

Thor: God of Thunder #5
(w) Jason Aaron     (a) Esad Ribic

———- mini Marvel reviews
Avengers #6
(w) Jonathan Hickman     (a) Adam Kubert

Indestructible Hulk #4
(w) Mark Waid     (a) Leinil Yu

The Superior Spider-Man #4
(w) Dan Slott     (a) Ryan Stegman

Review: Demon Knights #17

(w) Robert Vendetti
(a) Bernard Chang

Demon Knights has been in a unique position since it debuted with the ‘New 52’. It’s not a top seller, it features a group of characters that are either more obscure or brand new, and it’s set in Medieval times. Under normal circumstances, this title would have been cancelled months and months ago. Fortunately for us readers, stellar writing coupled with an intimate look at the history of the ‘New 52’ has made Demon Knights a must-read title more months than not.

Robert Vendetti continues his run in Demon Knights #17 which sees an incomplete team tracking down their missing pieces. To stop the evil vampire Cain from taking the Amazon island of Themyscira — and thus the whole world with the power of Amazonian vampires — Al-Jabr has tasked Exoristos, Shining Knight Sir Ystin, and the Horsewoman with finding Jason Blood and his demonic alter-ego, Etrigan. It’s a classic “get the gang back together” scenario, except it involves confronting one of their old allies, Vandal Savage, who keeps Blood as a prisoner and tortures him on a daily basis. Vendetti’s characterizations of the Demon’s Knights stay true to Paul Cornell’s stellar interpretations, but he also adds a new layer of mystery that comes from not knowing what they’ve all been up to over the past 30 years. It’s there, in the little one-offs and asides, that Vendetti truly captures the feeling of removal from these characters’ ongoing tales. Obviously, we’ll learn more as the story continues, but it’s nice seeing old friends interact in new ways as a result of something we can all relate to: the passage of time.

As the ‘New 52’ moves forward, cohesion amongst titles has become an extremely important aspect of the storytelling process. Seeing Cain and his vampire horde traveling through Medieval Europe adds more credence and meaning to the events of I, Vampire, and we’ve already seen Etrigan pop up in Stormwatch. Robert Vendetti has stated that he’s got a long-term game plan in place for the series, and Demon Knights #17 is another great example of how the setting for this title allows for fantastic storytelling because of it’s distance from the rest of the DCnU.

GRADE
9/10