Red Hood and the Outlaws #16
Death of the Family: Family Matters!
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Timothy Green II
Inker: Wayne Faucher
Letterer: Travis Lanham
20 pages, $2.99
Wow, this was a hard book to slog through! I’ve read plenty of shitty Crossover/Tie-in comics in my day, but Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 is right up there with the worst of Marvel’s Dark Reign Tie-ins– and those were some truly bad comics.
I sincerely don’t even know what this book’s premise is anymore. It used to be about Red Hood and Speedy kickin’ ass with a mysterious Starfire. In truth, I haven’t read the comic since Issue #5, but I don’t think that’s the problem. Wonder Girl and Kid Flash (and some other woman I don’t know) are now part of the “Outlaws”. They’ve all joined Speedy and seem to be looking for Jason Todd and Robin.
In truth, who really cares what this book’s about? I know the “writer”, Scott Lobdell, doesn’t. He just got an email from DC Editorial telling him this issue needed to tie in the Bat Books “Death in the Family” crossover. The email probably had a few plot points from that story inside and then Lobdell wrote this shitty comic around the editorial mandate. So, do I blame Lobdell for this issue sucking so hard? Yes, I do. He had the opportunity to create something worth reading, but decided to tread water for a full issue… Just so his tie-in wouldn’t ruin anything in the main story taking place in Batman.
More importantly, I also blame DC Comics and their shit of an Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras. The guy is spewing out books like it’s 1994… And he needs to realize the storylines and sales boom of the 90s did more harm than good to the comic industry. Stop with endless crossovers already! Stop pulling creators off books before they even get a chance to shine (or develop a real story) and stop with these insane editorial mandates. Let creators write good stories on their own, not just something that fits with 25 other books in the line.
These are all things IMJ Contributors and Commenters say all the time, so I know I’m already preaching to the choir… But goddamn, I hope someone is listening at the DC offices. I stood behind the New 52– I even read the first 5 issues of every New 52 title for an old episode of our A Comic Book Look™ TV show. DC, you’ve messed up with all this editorial tampering, and now it’s time to make a change and let creators have more control.
As bad as this issue’s script is, the art is worse. The penciler and inker better be brand fuckin’ new because this mess was almost unbearable to look at. Timothy Green II uses every overplayed superhero pose in the book and the backgrounds are terrible. There is plenty of panel-to-panel action that makes no sense whatsoever. The colors are pretty good and make up for a lot of the mistakes made by the other artists. (Thank god I have one good thing to say about this horrible ordeal of a comic.)
Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 is a BAD comic book. Do NOT buy it. – Tom Devine
Saucer Country #11
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artists: Mirko Colak, Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Giulia Brusco, Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Sal Sipriano
20 pages, $2.99
Fair warning: I may get on my soap box at any time during this review– since its common knowledge this fine series is cancelled.
There are very few comics I eagerly await every month, and Saucer Country is one of those rare gems. It has everything working for it: Great writing, art and coloring. It’s easy to jump into the story at any point– offering a classic Vertigo-style tale. I wish I understood why people weren’t buying this book, especially when comics like Thief of Thieves are doing well enough.
Watching this book go down is like witnessing the death of subtlety in the comic industry… And I think a lot of people mistake subtlety for story decompression. Take this issue’s story: I can see the “average” comic fan not enjoying it because they’ll read it and think “nothing happens.” I use that phrase a lot in my reviews– primarily because decompression is a disease currently plaguing the entire comic book industry. But if the “average” comic fan reads Saucer Country #11 and thinks nothing happened here– they are so wrong.
This last in a series of one-shot stories shows the first time Mike (one of the book’s main characters) has an experience with UFO implications. Throughout Saucer Country, creator Paul Cornell has painted a palette of possibilities within the mythology of UFOs. This story– showing how Mike and his sister discover fairies are real– is the execution of Cornell’s ideas… Repeating some of the series’ central themes.
So far, this is Saucer Country’s best issue. There is more going on in this one-shot story than many multiple issue arcs of fan favorite series. IMJ Critics want great story and art. In other words, we want great comics. Saucer Country is all that– and more. I promised myself I wasn’t going to turn this review into a plea to save the series… But I did want to alert you to a great comic– while we still have it. – W.D. Prescott
Young Avengers #1
Style > Substance
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $2.99
Even though I read Young Avengers #1 a couple of days ago– and then reread it again yesterday– I am still not quite certain how I feel about it. I was surely looking forward to reading it before Wednesday. (YA was the only story in the Marvel Point-One #1– released months ago– I enjoyed.) I may have also built it up too much in my head… Given my anticipation to read the new comic. But then again, when was the last time any of you saw me get super excited for much of anything? It happens… Just rarely.
Since this is a new #1 issue, I’m putting aside any knowledge of the Point 1 story– and will review this as a completely standalone #1 issue. I don’t expect anyone to go back and pay for the Point One comic just to read a prelude to Young Avengers #1. (Though I have a feeling Marvel would love it if gullible fans did just that.)
Writer Kieron Gillen breaks up the story into 3 segments, with each starring two of the main characters. The first deals with Kate Bishop and Noh-Varr. The scene begins after the two have had sex– and they’re now in casual conversation phase. Through the dialogue we learn Noh-Varr used to be called Marvel Boy and he is an ex-Avenger. Unfortunately for any NEW READER, we are not told who Kate Bishop is. She does refer to herself as a “super-hero who has no powers” but that’s the extent of it. I feel the “whole not getting into the superhero side” is intentional on Gillen’s part– as he wants readers to see who Kate is as a person. (Kind of what Mark Waid did in last week’s Daredevil #22 with Matt Murdock.)
There’s a lot of personality oozing from both these characters and the scene is charming– in an innocent way. Then toward the end of the segment, they are attacked by Skrulls and Kate steps up and takes control of the situation. It’s all done very well and makes for a good start to the issue. Unfortunately, this is as good as the book gets.
The next segment focuses on Wiccan and Hulkling– introducing them while they are having an argument. Both characters come off as whiny and overly melodramatic. At one point, Hulking even starts to cry. I totally get these characters are teenagers in a relationship, but there has to be a better way to introduce them. I rolled my eyes at one specific moment during their spat and that is not something I should be doing while experiencing an honest, personal interchange between two people, fictional or real. Yes, the Hulking/Wiccan segment does balance itself out toward the end– but I also wish Gillen had handled the entire scene with more grace and finesse.
The last two characters introduced are Loki and Miss America. I don’t want to get into the story specifics too much, but here’s the gist: Loki foresees that Wiccan is about to do something not so good. Loki teleports onto Wiccan’s apartment rooftop and gets ready to cast a spell in an attempt to stop the young hero. Then Miss America shows up (out of nowhere) and, for some reason, feels the need to stop Loki’s spell-casting. No reason is given for Miss America being there, on that exact rooftop. No reason is given for why she wants to stop Loki. No reason is given for why she starts fighting with him. The whole interaction feels forced and makes little to no sense. I guess Gillen felt the need to work Miss America into the story somehow… But it all comes off as sorta lazy.
I think that’s my problem with this comic: It all moves too fast. We get to know the characters a bit but the whole thing feels rushed. The cliffhanger ending is set up by a plot point the takes place three pages before the book ends. And since the cliffhanger is heavily foreshadowed– when it actually happens, all I could think was, “Is that it?”
By the end of Young Avengers #1, I felt like I’d only read half a comic book. But hey, the art did look nice– thanks to Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton and Matthew Wilson… So there’s that. I’m also left wondering if Gillen meant for the title of this story to be a critique of the issue as a whole. Because at the end of the day, that’s exactly how I feel about it. – Jose Melendez
Young Avengers #1
Style > Substance
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
21 pages, $2.99
If Marvel still bothered to put volume numbers on their comics, then this would be Volume 2 of the Young Avengers. The original Young Avengers series– written by Allen Heinberg and penciled by Jimmy Cheung— ran 12 issues and I really enjoyed it… Especially since Brian Michael Bendis was ruining the main Avengers series at the time.
Young Avengers Volume 1 was refreshing– melding action and soap opera in a similar way to classic 80s Marvel comics, while retaining a contemporary edge. This run was followed by a 9 issue maxi-series called Avengers: The Children’s Crusade… I bought the first 4 issues of that before I dropped Marvel Comics altogether, but this was also one of the few quality books published by Marvel in the last few years.
History lesson over with: I just wanted to establish this title’s relatively brief publication history, emphasizing that Heinberg and Cheung had created a comic with its own distinct flavour– while still managing to slot into Marvel continuity perfectly.
This new volume of Young Avengers is written by Kieron Gillen— also the writer of Image’s Phonogram + Uncanny X-Men and Journey Into Mystery for Marvel. Art is by Jamie McKelvie (who worked with Gillen on Phonogram) and Mike Norton— who has worked on recent Image titles like Revival and It Girl & The Atomics.
The story’s title, Style over Substance, is rather what this issue felt like. The art on the whole is very good indeed but the story barely amounts to anything but a few introductory fragments– without much actual substance. We start with Kate Bishop waking up in Noh-Varr’s (aka Marvel Boy, Protector, etc.) bed, on a spaceship orbiting Earth. Apparently, between The Children’s Crusade and this series– Kate has turned into a bit of a slag. Gillen then has Hulkling impersonating Spider-Man to beat up some thugs… Loki and Miss America fighting on top of Hulkling and Wiccan’s apartment building… Then Hulkling and Wiccan have a lovers’ tiff and make up… All while Hulkling’s mother is resurrected from an alternate dimension.
Described like this, it sounds like a lot happened in this issue. In reality, not much did. All these little vignettes could have easily been compressed into half an issue– but Gillen decides to dawdle on the soap opera elements. Hulkling and Wiccan (aka lovers Billy and Teddy) take up the bulk of the story and are clearly the nexus around which this group and comic are going to revolve. The argument between Billy and Teddy over Teddy continuing to act like a superhero– despite promising Billy he wouldn’t– struck me as being rather trite and unconvincing. Billy’s forgiving Teddy also seemed a bit too easy. In the space of two minutes, they went from angry and distraught to blissful and kissy. It just seemed like something dragged out of a sappy kiddie soap opera.
The cliffhanger ending of the book was pretty lame as well. When I got to it, my reaction was, “Is that it… You’re finishing on that?” A first issue really needs to have a stronger finish than the one Gillen’s Young Avengers #1 serves up.
The letters page notes by Gillen emphasise the feeling of “hipster douchiness” that I felt was running through the book. It’s as if Gillen thinks he’s Grant Morrison Part 2 and is a bit too good to be slumming it in superhero books.
The art by McKelvie and Norton was attractive. McKelvie has a nice clean line, sort of like a cross between 80s-era Moebius and 90s-era Steve Dillon… Although the characters in the talky scenes tend to look very stiff and mannequin-like. The art shines in the action scenes– particularly in the double-page spread where a Skrull Commando Team boards Noh-varr’s ship. It’s a very dynamic and exciting sequence. (If only more of the book was like this.) Another multi-panel double-page spread later in the book– featuring Miss America fighting Loki– was also excellent. I hadn’t really expected McKelvie and Norton to excel at action, but they really showed this is their forté. I only wish they’d been given more chances to strut their stuff. The colouring by Matthew Wilson is very good, especially in the aforementioned action scenes. Lettering by Clayton Cowles was solid.
I think that Young Avengers has some promise, but the pacing needs to be tightened up and McKelvie and Norton have to be let off the leash a bit more.
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Mike Norton
Colorist: Mark Englert
22 pages, $2.99
I recently caught up on reading Revival. (I originally started with Issue #4 and was completely lost.) I lucked out with my order for this issue– as I was also able to purchase Issues #1-#3 as well. Having them all, I made sure to read all the books before reading this month’s issue. Funny enough, if you are new to this series– you don’t need to the previous comics to enjoy this particular issue.
The first five issues of Revival weave a very complex tale. That creator Tim Seeley can make a comfortable opening for new readers in Issue #6– without boring “regular” readers with several moments of repetition– is a clear testament to his great writing ability. And while all the info you need to enjoy the story is in the comics– I believe the moments where Seeley holds back information (to power the suspense inherent in the story) does, at times, affect how much readers fully comprehend.
This purposeful lack of info isn’t serious enough to call it a fault, but it is something to remember when reading and attempting to understand Revival.
I do kinda wish the main characters in Issue #6 showed a little more growth… As this story focuses more on the secondary characters. Dana Cypress and her sister Em had so much going on in the first 5 issues of Revival, I almost wish the one interaction they did have in this comic hadn’t happened. Their one scene just made me miss them even more for the rest of the story. (You need to remember this commentary is coming from a reader already deeply invested in the two women and their story.)
The art does exactly what it needs to do. There are a couple of great moments, like the full-page panel of Em– where the stitches on her sweatshirt mirror the scars on her body… Or the sequence of panels at the end of the comic. (No spoilers here!)
If you haven’t been reading the series, Issue #6 is a great place to start. Revival is a great noir story that keeps you guessing if it is supernatural or science fiction– or both. – W.D. Prescott
Winter Soldier #14
Black Widow Hunt Part 5
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Butch Guice
Inker: Brian Thies
Colorists: Jordie Bellaire,
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
$2.99, 20 pages
Ed Brubaker ends his long association with Captain America and Bucky with Winter Soldier #14. Since the writer has had multi-year runs with both characters, it only seems natural he would want to go out with a “bang”. Wanting to see that bang made me pick up this issue, and it’s the reason I also wanted to review this comic. Well… Not only is there NO BANG in Winter Soldier #14– there is barely any FIZZLE.
Brubaker is a great writer, one of the best of our time. His Captain America run will go down as a classic. The only problem– he hung around way too long. If he’d made Cap’s Death Issue his last Captain America comic, Brubaker’s efforts on the book would have been hailed as EPIC… Something worthy of legend. Instead, he just kept writing– cashing those fat Marvel paychecks… And when Brubaker eventually brought Cap back from limbo-land, his Captain America comics never approached the same quality level again.
I know this is Winter Soldier and not Captain America, but Bucky was Captain America for the last 2 years– so that is why I’m classifying this comic as a part of Brubaker’s Cap run. In Winter Soldier #14, Captain America, Wolverine and Bucky are trying to track down the Black Widow. (She’s been reprogrammed by the Russians to become an assassin.)
Right off the top, I want to say I like Butch Guice’s art in this book. Only a few panels look rushed, and the overall tone is handled very well. Storytelling techniques are tight and the flow is great. The fifth page of the book really sticks out as a beautiful artistic accomplishment: It’s broken down into four widescreen panels, following Bucky as he reminisces about the love he shares with the Black Widow. The two middle panels are silhouette shots of the couple in the snow and the top and bottom panels flow perfectly to bring you into the page… And then back out.
At this point, I was completely on board with this comic. Brubaker is bringing serious emotions and Guice is nailing all the visuals in the script. Naturally, I had high hopes for the rest of the book too.
But instead of expanding on his great set up, Brubaker switches to a 6 page sequence of the Black Widow dancing around bullets from Bucky’s gun… All while Bucky is obviously attempting not to hit her. SIX PAGES of damn pointless action. Since this is the big send off for Brubaker’s 10-year run with Captain America and Bucky… I figured I would get some kind of closure– but that was not the case. The good guys do capture the Black Widow… During a rain storm… In a cemetery… But she still doesn’t have her memory, the bad guy is still alive (probably already devising a way out of his jail cell)– and then, the book ends.
Nothing more on Bucky and where he will go. Nothing about Cap. Brubaker just passes the torch to the next guy like it’s no big deal… Leaving the new writer to figure out what happens next.
When I consider the entire comic, I can’t shake the feeling Brubaker is no longer interested in any of it. No big ending from the excellent writer here, just another bland Captain America story about rescuing a fellow superhero. Thank god for that really good Page 5, or this book would have had nothing to offer.
– Tom Devine
Justice League #16
Main: Throne of Atlantis Chapter 3: Friends and Enemy
Back Up: Shazam Chapter 9
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Gary Frank
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
30 pages, $3.99
Hey, check it out! The Justice League are fighting with themselves yet again on the cover of their comic book. I guess that’s a fair representation of the title itself, since this is all they ever seem to do. I’ve only read a handful of New 52 Justice League issues, but they have either fought, argued and/or yelled at each other in every single one. How can anyone not get tired of this?
I keep coming back to this comic, thinking (at some point) things will get better. They certainly need to. The last two issues I reviewed both got Zero Star Ratings from me– so the only place left to go is up… Right? Well, Justice League #16 is better than any of the previous issues I have read and reviewed… But not by much.
I swear, every character in this book is so goddamn ANGRY all the time. I’ve never seen so many scowls and grimaces in a comic… And that includes all of the Judge Dredd books I’ve read over the years. Since I haven’t really noticed anything resembling “justice” in this comic, I do think a more appropriate title would be “The League of Insanely Over-Sensitive Dudes, a Crazy Chick and a Cyborg.” Yes, my title is a bit juvenile, but it tells you everything you need to know about what you’ll find inside. And you know what? IF it were called “The League of Insanely Over-Sensitive Dudes, a Crazy Chick and a Cyborg”, I would feel inclined to give every issue a 5 Star rating just for the title… Because what the fuck else could I expect from it?
Still, Justice League #16 is the best issue of the series to date… And here are the reasons why:
– I already know, at some point, Justice League members are going to punch each other in the face– so it doesn’t really bother me anymore when they do. If anything, this story is staying the course with the already established rules of the series.
– Ivan Reis’ art is better than anything that either Jim Lee or Tony Daniel have produced for this title. Not a difficult thing to achieve, but still– I want to give credit where credit is due.
– Geoff Johns’ child-like power-fantasy scribblings did not insult me. And by “me” I mean, “As a literate person of average intellect.” I mention this because every issue before this has made me feel more dumb and ashamed (than I usually do) after reading a shitty comic.
– There was absolutely none of the Wonder Woman/Superman Twilight relationship BS to be found. That automatically earned this book an extra Star rating.
– Cyborg behaved like the hero he is. I am also now convinced he is the only tolerable character in this comic. See? Things ARE looking up.
– The issue was all action, so it did not allow for page after page after page of the Justice League yelling at each other while pointing accusatory fingers at their fellow teammates.
On the whole, I would have given this totally average comic a 3 star rating… But then I read the Shazam back-up. I found that story completely laughable– with the writing committing the double sin of being both shallow and quite terrible. I should have known Johns wouldn’t let me finish the issue without giving me at least one eye-roll inducing moment. – Jose Melendez
Judge Dredd #3
Main: We’ve Got You Now
Back-Up: Naked City
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artists: Nelson Daniel, Langdon Foss
Colorist: Ronda Pattinson
Letterer: Shawn Lee
22 pages, $3.99
When I heard IDW was about to publish Judge Dredd comics in the US, I have to admit my expectations were not high. Three issues into the new series, my initial expectations have not been exceeded either… In fact, far from it.
This issue, like the first two also written by Duane Swierczynski— shows the man just does not get Judge Dredd. Honestly, given what I’ve seen– I don’t think he ever will. Not that many writers really understand how to write Dredd. Creator John Wagner is far and away the best and there are a few newer writers who are fairly “OK”– like Al Ewing, Michael Carroll and Gordon Rennie. Why IDW didn’t hire any of these scripters is beyond me, since even their mediocre stuff would be better than what’s being published in this comic.
There have been so many instances in the first 3 issues where something happens that just wouldn’t happen in Mega-City 1… I could write a whole column just about them! I’ll save you from that tedium though, and just describe two examples from this particular issue. On the first page, a rich socialite is kidnapped and every Judge in the sector drops what they’re doing and goes on the search for him– after a “Trump Alert” is flashed on signs inside and outside every building and on every roadway. That’s just ridiculous– a single Judge or two (at the most) would be tasked to this case and they would begin an investigation. Judges like Dredd do NOT show favouritism toward the richer citizens. The second instance occurs when the Judges are tasked to facilitate ransom payments to the kidnappers– with Dredd as the bagman. With this, I felt like I was reading the plot from a bad episode of TJ Hooker. As I read along, my mind was screaming, “THAT JUST WOULDN’T HAPPEN!”
I’ve been reading Judge Dredd in 2000AD for about 30 years now– and this IDW series wouldn’t rate very highly at all in comparison. It’s not as bad as the Mark Millar Dredd stuff, but that’s damning Swierczynski’s work with faint praise. IDW, for whatever reason, has decided to go with their own continuity separate from the UK. Aside from Dredd and Anderson, they’ve gone with an entirely new supporting cast. They’ve even changed the title of the Chief Judge to Chief Justice. Why bother doing that?
As for Dredd, he lacks the commanding presence and solidity that he easily possesses in 2000AD. He also seems unusually subservient to the Chief Justice. In the UK, he would firmly insist on how lame the Chief Justice’s plan is. In fact, the two act as if they are friends– which (again) would absolutely NEVER happen.
It could be argued that perhaps I’m so ingrained in the 2000AD continuity that I’m not looking at this series with fresh eyes… But my reaction to that thought would be this: Even as a brand new series, IDW’s Judge Dredd just isn’t very good.
The art by Nelson Daniel isn’t awful… It’s just mundane and pedestrian. I know of a couple of dozen experienced 2000AD artists IDW could have hired instead to do a better job. Daniel is simply not able to convey the immensity of Mega-City 1 (the word MEGA is in the name for a reason). His backgrounds, for the most part, are hazy and murky. The artist also uses a lot of screentone (those little black dots) to denote shading– which seems like an incongruous artistic choice (most likely a shortcut). He’s also not helped by the rather murky colours deployed in the comic.
The second story, Naked City, is also written by Swierczynski… And is the first part of a backup story revolving around Judge Tarjay– who’s part of the supporting cast from the main story. For some unknown reason, Tarjay finds himself to be a wanted man and has to go on the run. I found this story to also be unconvincing… But at least the art on this segment is much better. I am not familiar with Langdon Foss, but his style reminds me a little of Frank Quitely— with a bit of grit thrown in. The backgrounds were better than Daniel’s attempts, but still not quite up to the standards of 2000AD.
The colours were better in this backup segment too– even though they were by the same colourist that worked on the first story. There is much more contrast between light and dark, which really worked better.
This is the last issue of this comic I will buy. I just can’t justify spending $3.99 on this book when I’m served weekly doses of 2000AD Dredd that are far superior. I’m going to award the comic One Star– only because it’s not quite as dreadful as the first two issues. – Locusmortis
Uncanny X-Force #1
Let It Bleed
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artists: Ron Garney, Danny Miki
Colorists: Marte Gracia, Israel Gonzalez
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
20 pages, $3.99
As loyal IMJ Capsule Reviews™ readers know, I haven’t been a big fan of most Marvel NOW! offerings… Especially when it comes to their $3.99 comics. So imagine my surprise when I finished Uncanny X-Force #1… And wanted to read the next issue.
Being out of the X-Men Universe for so long, this comic was not easy to get into– at first. The introduction of Psylocke at the beginning seemed weird. But I have to give scripter Sam Humphries props for explaining virtually everything in his story in a natural way. Humphries allowed me to reconnect with these characters and it all helped the story… And I found myself completely drawn into the world Humphries was creating.
There’s some great art here too… The one page panel where Puck introduces himself to Betsy is amazing. Amazingly, there were only a couple of times where it was glaringly noticeable two artistic teams were working on the comic. I think the colorists really are the unsung heroes here– helping to tie the two styles together. I especially enjoyed the flashback scene with Wolverine– where everything was in grey tone except for the light coming through the window.
The one problem I did have with the story came with the last few pages introducing Bishop and Fantomex. Both characters felt tacked onto the story– not integrated. I started originally reading X-Men when Bishop was introduced, so I didn’t have as much problem with his introduction as I did with Fantomex’s three pages. They felt very confusing, since I have no idea who Fantomex is and what is going on here.
That was the only weak point for me… But as I said, I’ve been away for a while and the whole Fantomex sequence probably makes perfect sense to others.
– W.D. Prescott