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
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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

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.

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

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