Saturday, July 5, 2014

Reviews for the Week of 7/2/14

Some "Guy's" Review

Hola, people of Earth! It's Friday, so that means another episode of "Comics, Comics, etc..." has gone up, and now it's time for our significantly less amusing written reviews! Wooh! I don't know about the others, but for me, this was a good week in comics. A couple disappointments to be sure, but overall I was certainly a happy reader. Hopefully your pull list treated you as kindly as mine did me! But enough with the pleasantries-- you're here for the reviews. Les do!

ACTION COMICS #33: Greg Pak, Aaron Kuder

  • GREAT- Smallville was my only real interaction with Lana Lang prior to this series, and I've got to say-- she's a bad***. She's effectively supplanted Lois Lane in the New 52 as Clark's super-awesome human friend. She's brilliant, fearless, clever, and never backs down, even in the face of powers that extraordinarily outclass her. I hope Lana continues on in her role as Clark's partner throughout Pak's run, and I hope the other Superman writers (Soule and Johns) take notice of her and make frequent use of her character.
  • GOOD- Aaron Kuder's art sometimes comes across as a tad bit cartoon-y (and a number of characters look psychotic when they grin), but for the most part I absolutely love it. In my opinion, it corresponds perfectly with Pak's more optimistic, leap-before-you-look Superman/Clark Kent. The events in each issue feel like they could easily be translated into a new Superman television show. Storywise, Clark's continued battle against and attempts to control the Doomsday virus kept me smiling and rooting all the way. I am unabashedly a Supes fan, so seeing him remain ever-vigilant against becoming a villain while simultaneously accepting that the "Doom" part of him is really pulling at my heartstrings. I just want the big guy to be okay already!
  • BAD- Only a couple of nit-picky things. Kara's statement regarding how humanity should feel toward her and Kal (I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with smorship) felt a bit out of character, even for a red-ring influenced gal.  Also, why has it taken everyone this long to realize Braniac is using Lois as a meat puppet? I realize Superdoom is a much more pressing matter than an oddly-behaved Lois, but still. Also, I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but this issue felt like it easily could have been half of an issue. A lot happened in the issue, but the plot barely pushed forward.
  • AWFUL- Nothing.
  • SCORE- 7/10

All New X-Factor #10: Peter David, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Lee Loughridge

  • GREAT- Marvel continues to bring the laughs and the awkward camaraderie with All New X-Factor. The team is about as dysfunctional as they come-- what else would you expect from a team housing Magneto's lesser well-adapted children--but they've got heart to spare. Di Giandomenico's sketchy, action-oriented art vividly coloured by Loughridge and David's fast-paced, quippy writing are a proverbial one-two punch to the senses. It doesn't hurt that some of my favorite mutants (Quicksilver, Polaris, Gambit and Doug/Cypher) are on the roster and getting the time they deserve, and that I can read X-Factor without needing to read the rest of the X-verse (even though I am anywho). And while this issue had all of the aforementioned boons, it had another one as well: the newly created mutant Georgia. Georgia's sheltered innocence makes for humorous interactions with the others and her ominously named supervillain father Memento Mori. Additionally, watching her struggle through her first unfortunate-even-by-mutant-standards exposure to the real world is gut-wrenching. 
  • GOOD- Momento Mori's not-so-illegal brand of supervillainy is pretty amusing and his powers, while ill-defined so far, seem pretty terrifying. I know I already mentioned David's phenomena writing, but I'd like to highlight the use of pop culture references in the issue.  Stark Trek and James Bond in one issue? Classy.
  • BAD- Nothing was bad really. I t was a good all around issue.
  • AWFUL- Psssh. Nothing.
  • SCORE- 7.5/10

Batman Eternal #13:  Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, Tim Seeley, Mikel Janin, Guillermo Ortego

  • GREAT- Oh Lieutenant Bard, you sly dog. I hopefully suspected last week that the writers weren't going with a straightforward "capture the hero to get him inside" plot, and instead crafted a quite ingenious way for the honest cops on the GCPD to work in tandem with the Batman while appearing to work against him. Seriously genius. Equally engrossing was the emphasis on Stephanie Brown's tragic circumstances and (on a much lesser scale) Harper's continued meddling in Batfamily affairs; it's great to see the ladies getting equal time as the new Lieutenant. Given the hardship poor Stephanie is overcoming she'll have a bat-badge in no time(ish).
  • GOOD- What in the name of Scott Synder is happening in Gotham? Unlike DC's other weekly title (which has admittedly gotten better this week) I am captivated by this mystery. Villains keep popping up like daisies, characters are parading around the globe for answers, and although we're no closer to knowing who or what is orchestrating this madness, or if Gotham is just going through it's usual bursts of inexplicable and depressing turmoil, the journey is pretty entertaining. Also, Jim Gordon Jr. is scary. Even in small spurts. He's just so crazy.
  • BAD- Cluemaster. Cluemaster seems surprisingly bad and dastardly for a man named Cluemaster.
  • AWFUL- AHA. Nothing again.
  • SCORE- 8/10

Batman/Superman #12: Greg Pak, Tom Raney, Ken Lashley, Jaime Mendoza

  • GREAT- Eh... Pak's ability to write Superman is still top notch.
  • GOOD- For a greater portion of the Batman/Superman series I've been aggravated with the way Pak writes Batman. As opposed to Snyder's nuanced, human and bat Bruce Wayne, Pak's Batman has been almost entirely a cynical, unhelpful jerk. I realize that this is, in part, due to being a series that largely takes place in an unspecified time prior to the current time of other Superman and Batman books. Luckily, as the last couple of issues tread more into the recent realm of events, Pak's Batman has mellowed out a bit and is actually somewhat agreeable. Hooray! This humanity is especially accentuated by Batman's heroic and damning act halfway through the issue, an act which he attributes to being something Clark would have done. Attaboy.
  • BAD- I wasn't crazy about the art. It wasn't bad, but it was rather unremarkable, especially when compared to the amazingly-talented Jae Lee's work on other issues in the series.
  • AWFUL- What was the point of this issue? I realize these interactions with Earth 2 are paving the way for the future war between the two Earth's, but ultimately this issue felt like nothing but filler. Batman and Superman's actions are ultimately inconsequential, and the villain ultimately negates even their memory of the event? Or is their memory altogether? We'll see next issue. But seriously, with Superdoom happening concurrently in the other Superman related titles, you would think that the focus would be on that or on the fallout, not on a story that lacks a definitive time period or any ramifications. 
  • SCORE- 6/10

Black Widow #8: Nathan Edmunson, Phil Noto

  • GREAT- THIS SERIES IS SO GOOD. I was not a Black Widow fan (a trait you may notice about a decent number of series I am currently enamoured with). Prior to Scarlett Johansson's portrayal of the character in the Avengers I knew basically nothing about her and didn't really care to remedy that. Her appearances in Winter Soldier, Hawkeye and Avengers increased my interest in her, and now, with the glorious revelation this series has been, I am officially interested. Edmunson's adventure-of-the-week type plotlines littered with allusions to Natasha's personal issues and demons, manifested via Noto's superb, classy and sophisticated art are just divine. Seriously, the series has been so expertly crafted that you would think their union on this title was a godsend from Apollo himself. This issue proceeds like clockwork, dishing out the adventure, the conflict, the raw emotion, the startling reveal and the Winter Soldier at exactly the right moment and right length of time (well, I could have used more Winter Soldier, but that's a personal issue). And I mean, poor Isaiah! He's Natasha's rock, but I suppose there's only so long that you can be the emotional and financial rock for someone like the Black Widow before that catches up to you. 
  • GOOD- Luck trying to avoid picking up this series.
  • BAD- *whispers* not enough Bucky... Okay, it's not really an issue, I just miss the Winter Soldier having his own ongoing title.
  • AWFUL- No.
  • SCORE- I know I said 8.5/10 in my video review, but after some consideration I've decided to boost it to a 9/10.

Earth 2 #25: Tom Taylor, Nicola Scott, Trevor Scott

  • GREAT- Earth 2 Flash is slowly becoming my new favorite Flash. It pains me to say it (please don't cry Manapul and Buccellato's Barry Allen...) but he feels like the hero I've been missing in my forays into the DC world. He's effectively a mash up of classic Flash/Spiderman/Nightwing/Human Torch humor with humility and determination! Seeing him tap into an impressive new ability and then shrug it off only moments later brought a smile to my face. If Earth 2 is anything right, and it's doing a lot right, it's truly excelling at creating heroes who I'm invested in. Whether it's Dr. Fate accepting the insanity-breaking side effects of using the fate helmet or Val-Zod finally stepping up to the heavy burden of being the new Superman, the reader has been given the chance to watch relatively ordinary people make their lives extraordinary, despite the fact that doing so could potentially result in a painful demise. Also, watching as a genuine trust and rapport builds between the wonders of Earth 2 (specifically Flash and Hawkwoman) is especially endearing.
  • GOOD- We haven't forgotten about Marella. It may have been brief, but she stormed in and out like a boss. Also, and I apologize for more Superman fanboying, but witnessing the little bit of Clark that can't help but burrow its way through the mind control being inflicted upon him was as amazing as it was depressing to see how powerless he is against his controller. Ugh!
  • BAD- Green Lantern. I like the guy, I do. He's a good guy. But he can't seem to decide whether or not he's awesome or useless. He consistently performs miraculous feats and engages in an amazing level of trash talking, but then is pathetically defeated, only to rise up again and doing something infinitely more awesome. What are his power levels? What the what?
  • AWFUL- Waiting for the showdown between the Supermans in the next issue!
  • SCORE- 8.5/10

Green Arrow #33: Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino

  • GREAT- The Emerald Archer has been pressed into a diamond by the creative team of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. I can honestly say that there are only one or two other comics in my pull list that even come close to engaging the reader in the way Green Arrow does. And while I credit is obviously due in boatloads to Jeff Lemire's fragile Ollie, always having to face the demons of his irresponsible youth and desperate to avoid the mistakes of his past, the true hero of this tale is Sorrentino's art. From the fracturing of panels to replicate Count Vertigo's nauseous ability to the contrasting of red, black, and white to convey explosive actions and violence, Sorrentino's art isn't just eye candy, it's a visual smorgasbord.  Seriously folks, I'm having eyegasms right now as I look over the issue so I can write this review. I might need to take a nap before I finish...Alright, now that I'm rested, on to what else makes this issue brilliant. The focus on Arrow's past and how it drives him to push away others isn't a novel concept, but one so uniquely conveyed that it hardly feels like a cliche. Ollie's peripheral characters continue to be strong characters easily rivaling some of the other Leaguer's supporting casts, and the potentially fatal fate lined up for two of them left me truly concerned. Additionally, Gotham may be the city known for Gang war, but Seattle seems to be giving her a run for her money.
  • GOOD- Emiko is back! I would file this under great but I knew she would reunite with Ollie, but I wasn't expecting it to be so soon!
  • BAD- While Richard Dragon is certainly a frightening and formidable foe, I've always had a bit of an issue with villains whose backstory is "my parent was a villain that you, the hero, defeated and I admired your strength, but instead of becoming a hero, which seems like the logical choice for emulation, I only want to take away the lesson that might is right and be a better villain than ma or pa." It just seems so backwards. I'm sure this seems like an entirely logical train of thought for some people, but it is utterly beyond me.
  • SCORE- 9.5/10

Legendary Star-Lord #1: Sam Humphries, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, David Curiel

  • GREAT- I like Star Lord. Admittedly, I haven't had much interaction with the character aside from Bendis' current run on Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt's flippant representation in the commercials for Guardians of the Galaxy and the bits and pieces of wikipedia'd information about the War of Kings storyline. Regardless, he has a very Han Solo, charming, devil-may-care, do the right thing because type personality (you may remember I expressed my affinity for this type of character from my review of Flash Gordon last week), and I am excited to see where his solo adventures taken him, especially given his stated vendetta against a certain purple villain. Also, the surprise reveal at the end of the issue was pretty interesting. Why have we not heard about this character before? What does this mean for Mr. Quill? Will they be allies...or enemies? Waaaaah? (I'm guessing the later, giving Peter's relationship with other citizens of Spartax...)
  • GOOD- The art is great. Star Lord is exactly the handsome devil he should be; hell, everyone in this issue is good looking! Medina's art in this issue comes close to the masterful art of Immonen or Pichelli.
  • BAD- The first issue is a fairly by-the-book story, replete with orphanage, mistaken misdeeds and a heartwarming ending involving help the aforementioned orphanage. It's an excellently executed issue, but it certainly feels like we've seen this issue plenty of times before. Even so, I'm very excited to see more of Star Lord's travels.
  • SCORE- 7/10

Lazarus #9: Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Santi Arcas

  • GREAT- For the most part, I read comics because they're great fun and practically limitless in scope-- the comic book medium is less restricted in many ways than other mediums, like HBO or Starz but in literary form. Things like men made of silver traveling through the galaxy searching for their own humanity? Sure thing. A book about a convicted criminal who finds pills that give him super powers? Yes, please. But while this freedom leads itself naturally to flights of wild fancy and great fantasy tales, occasionally some genius team-- like Greg Rucka and Michael Lark-- creates an enrapturing tale that is gripping, like fantasy, but is frighteningly representative of what our world could and very well may become. Economic depravity, corporate greed, the privatization of the military and human augmentation may be the trappings of a post-apocalyptic tale, but they're issues that are already prevalent in society today. Michael and Casey's families ("serfs" we have been following for the last couple of issues) lived in a state of poverty that is not at all foreign to me, and the basis upon which they are admitted into the family--worth, merit-- is painfully reflective of the power the wealthy exert. The Carlyle family, who would fit easily amongst the Houses of Westeros, exude both the best and the worst characteristics of those with power--flippancy towards the lives of those beneath them, a desire to increase the well-being of others inasmuch as they can benefit by doing so, and the importance of protecting themselves above all else. The world itself is a bleak look into our future if those with influence and power, consumed by greed, continue to stress the planet's resources without concern. Honestly, I don't think my review can do justice to this series. Just go out and read it. Gripping, well-fleshed out characters, a world with history and relevancy for days, and, as every reader loves, the promise of more turmoil and hardship. What more do you need?
  • GOOD- That's all
  • BAD- I have
  • AWFUL- to say about that.
  • SCORE-  10/10

Rocket Raccoon #1: Skottie Young

  • GREAT- You've heard me wax lyrical about a number of artists on this review page so far, but allow me the pleasure of doing so once more. If you've not seen some of the amazingly-talented Skottie Young's amazingly adorable art, you my friend, are living like Clark Kent deprived of the yellow rays of the sun. There is a reason that Marvel has enlisted this gentleman to do a variant cover of basically every major comic launched in Marvel NOW. His art is cartoony and stylized to the utmost, but to say it looks like the art from a children's book is only true insomuch as it replicates that unbridled excitement and imagination a child's mind can create. It matches perfectly with Rocket's zany, loud-mouthed, frantic energy. Rocket, in my humble opinion, has never looked better.
  • GOOD-  The story is a lot of fun. A LOT OF FUN. Wrestling matches, a league of evil-exes-style group, and the mystery of Rocket's origin are all stitched seamlessly together.
  • BAD- Rocket's a little misogynistic for my taste. That's part of his character, sure, but his "you're smart and pretty" cover up when he was ignoring his date was kind of bothersome. But again, that's the character, and it seems that it's exactly that kind of behavior that has put him in the crosshairs of one of the antagonists in this series, so that's awesome. 
  • AWFUL-I haven't read Young's Oz series, and he isn't drawing a million other series. What the heck? Also, I don't have all of his Marvel NOW variant covers. Grrr.
  • SCORE- 8/10

Southern Bastards #3: Jason Aaron, Jason Latour

  • GREAT- When I watched my first episode of Friday Night Lights alongside my girlfriend, I was in complete and utter shock. "How," I remember thinking, "can she find this in the least bit interesting? I mean, who cares about football or crappy southern towns this much?" Of course, the statement was hypocritical; I had already developed quite an affinity for True Blood's Bon Temps which, although lacking a complete love of football, did have the crappy little southern town act down pat. But the more episodes of Friday Night Lights I watched, the more interested I was (much to my chagrin and my girlfriend's amusement). When you see something like that, something raw and simple almost in it's ability to convey the seemingly true, if not dramatized, lives of people, it's hard to look away. Southern Bastards captures that rawness, captures that authenticity, captures that danger, and ramps it up to 11, y'all. Because ultimately what matters isn't how Coach Boss came to control this small southern town of Craw County, or what Dusty did to deserve being beaten half to death, or what Earl did in the years prior to his return. What matters is Earl's hatred for his father paired against his inability to stop himself from becoming just like him. What matters is the Wizard-of-Oz-like hold Coach Boss has over the town that causes seemingly good people to turn a blind eye to terrible, wanton violence. What matters is poor Tad and the message Coach Boss' men are leaving on him. What matters is what should matter most in any good story: the people. And the Jasons understand people. I can't recommend this series highly enough. Please, go read it.
  • BAD- THIS.
  • SCORE- 10/10
Phew! Thank you for slogging through that. You're good people. I like you. I hope it's mutual. Please, let me know. I promise I can take it. Okay. Love you, bye.

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