New Avengers #22
We Are Not Brothers
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Kev Walker
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
20 Pages, $3.99
The last five issues of Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers have all been magnificent, so I am a bit sad that Issue #22 is somewhat of a downer.
The book is filled by one lengthy, tense discussion between Namor and Black Panther– showcasing a heavy, yet believable, conflict between the two men. These two hate each other, and it’s quite palpable here. (This is the kind of antagonism where words hurt more than punches.) Ultimately though, after the enormity of the horror previously committed by the entire team, showing such petty detestation feels like a mild nosedive quality-wise.
Make no mistake: The comic is still a good, interesting read– but this story is more like a band-aid, a breather of sort, before the next arc. It also sadly features extremely decompressed storytelling too. I would wager Hickman decided to wait for regular artist Valerio Schiti to come back from a one-month hiatus before getting back to business. (Kev Walker’s work is, indeed, far from satisfying.)
Still, New Avengers stays a flamboyant choice– thanks to its subtle and thought-provoking themes. Hickman’s run (so far) has been setting up a debate on the very nature of heroism. The bonds (or lack thereof) between being human and being a hero are explored. Should a hero be an example of virtue… Someone who leads by respecting the same rules he preaches? Or should a hero be more like a king, a superior being who leads by perpetrating horrible but necessary actions that the rest of the world fails to carry out?
These questions are more than important, and are actually very modern… Especially when a beacon of hope like Superman is portrayed in Man of Steel as a senseless killer. Has our civilization shifted its values? Is murdering a morally correct answer now? The way we portray our heroes, be they fictional or not, echoes in the real world. Think of the Guantanamo Detention Camp… Think of the US drones bombing dozens of villages and cities in Iraq now. Is this the world we chose? Is violence and torture acceptable?
And if it is, then is there some price to pay… Or do we just stain our souls forever as we wander headlong down this violent path? Marvel heroes kill and lie and hurt people. Compared to DC heroes who always “find another way”, are Marvel’s heralds still worth a damn? Did they sell too much of their souls to save anyone– even themselves?
The success of Hickman’s initiative lies not in the questions the writer poses, but rather in the fact no definitive answer is given. There’s a lot to pick from what is exposed. Different characters consider themselves morally right with radically opposed solutions and behaviours. Choosing which moral compass is the best is for each one of us to decide.
That’s what I enjoy most in New Avengers– it forces you to take a good look at fictional situations that have actual significance in real life. Thankfully, even today, heroes can still teach us to be better people. – Simon J. O’Connor
Rocket Raccoon #2
A Chasing Tale Part 2
Writer/Artist: Skottie Young
Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letterer: Jeff Eckleberry
20 Pages, $3.99
Hot on the heels of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie comes Rocket Raccoon #2– featuring everybody’s favorite foul-mouthed, gun-toting misfit. This series focuses on the solo adventures of Rocket (with a nice side-helping of Groot), and it’s as fun as you could imagine it be.
While the story is fairly basic, this comic has a good number of fine character moments. Rocket’s past is starting to catch up with him (he’s supposedly the last of his species) and it appears that a lot (and I do mean a lot) of his ex-girlfriends (and other women he’s wronged) have decided to team up and kill him. The plot: Someone who looks like Rocket has been framing the raccoon for murder. Rocket turns himself in and goes to prison.
There’s a good number of laugh out loud moments peppered throughout the book. There’s also a nice scene inside the prison where Rocket explains his feeling about being the last of his kind, and it works. But as soon as the comic starts to feel too dramatic (or starts to take itself too seriously), writer/artist Scottie Young dives right into the humor. The balance works really well, with all the prisoners’ dialogue striking me as funny. Groot is incorporated brilliantly as well… In a way that made me say, “I should’ve seen this coming, but I didn’t.” Young definitely falls into the category of artists who not only draw well, but write well.
The line work is fantastic as it is quirky. I’ve never seen art that makes me go, “Awww, that’s adorable!” so quickly. (Check out Young’s “Baby Marvel” variant covers– in any of IMJ’s recent Rate the Covers! posts– to get a sense of what I’m describing.) His art is perfect for a comic that has its tongue so firmly in cheek. It absolutely adds to the fun– and while it’s very cartoony, it never feels off. Even though some things look odd when you really study them (like how Rocket’s legs are basically drawn like twigs), they don’t look awkward when you just sit back and just allow yourself to enjoy the comic. There’s a two-page spread (showcasing Rocket’s prison escape) that’s really great too. I spent several minutes mesmerized by those two pages… Young’s style and creative sense demands you look at every last detail. This comic is definitely jam-packed with action and info, but flows well enough that you never feel overwhelmed.
The coloring is also aces. I was so worried the coloring might be muddy, but it’s actually the exact opposite. It’s bright and makes Young’s art pop, allowing you to see all the details tucked away in the pencils.
The only 2 things working against Rocket Raccoon #2? The not-so-awesome cover price and the rather simplistic story. I could have gone with a few less overused story tropes too, such as: Prison breaks, angry ex-girlfriends wanting revenge, being framed for murder, etc. But the comic is so entertaining, they really don’t matter much.
If you enjoyed the Guardians of the Galaxy movie and want an introduction to these characters– without being bogged down by a bunch of continuity and backstory– this series is an excellent introduction to the GotG Universe.
– Aaron Evans
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artists: Mikel Janin, Guillermo Ortego, Juan Castro
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Carlos M Mangual
20 pages, $2.99
Grayson #2 is my first time embarking on an adventure with the infamous Robin/Nightwing/Dick Grayson, and I had a pretty good time. The premier issue of the comic was exciting, vibrant and bursting with thrill and espionage… And while this second issue is a bit messy, it maintained the tempo. Dick is one of the mainstream DC heroes who has no superpowers to speak of but thrives on physicality, wit and his connections to both the underbelly of crime and vigilantism. Even though the public thinks he’s dead and gone, Dick has managed to find himself in extreme circumstances– juggling a “James Bond-esque” career with his Gotham-based contacts.
This is definitely not a comic to skim, as it’s very dialogue and exposition heavy. The result is stimulating at times– but can also provide sensory overload. (In truth, the comic might require a slow read or even a second read.) I most enjoyed the very detailed, realistic artwork found on both the cover and in the story.
The plot comes in second, but if I’m being blunt– the characters don’t rank high in appeal either. Nightwing is your very typical alpha male, and his character sticks with Robin’s classic juvenile sense of confidence. His cohort Dr Poppy Ashemoore is a welcome jolt of womanly energy– exuding both incredible strength and confident femininity. Her presence (and apparent maturity) thankfully helps bring Nightwing (and the story’s ego)– down a few pegs too.
– Danielle Young
Legendary Star Lord #2
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artists: Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $3.99
The biggest problem for this comic book? It has a lot of pressure to be as fun as the latest Marvel Cinematic Blockbuster. (Which, in all honesty, isn’t fair to the creative team.) Then again, I wouldn’t have even considered reviewing or purchasing this title if it weren’t for the movie… And, as of writing this review, I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy twice– so Legendary Star Lord #2 better be good.
It’s difficult not to compare the two Marvel worlds at the moment, but I’ll do my best – even if I’m still hearing Chris Pratt’s voice and the specific inflections when I read the comic. (Sometimes it actually works and makes the title more enjoyable.) Nevertheless, this is a four-colour story and should be taken on its own merits.
This title is still in its infancy, allowing us to learn about the character along with everyone else. I wasn’t a fan of the last Sam Humphries book I reviewed, but his work is much improved this time around. I’m guessing this is the main reason: He isn’t dealing with a team book, leaving him to focus on the conflict between Star Lord and Victoria. There are some other players involved, but they’re mostly used to help shepherd the story of the (half) brother and sister connecting. Not having to focus on a bunch of other characters showcases Humphries strengths: Character-driven stories that help define and flesh out the fictional beings we quickly come to love so dearly.
The only major misstep I found was Humphries’ reference to Thanos. The mention of the Galaxy Destroyer seemed forced. I like a little mystery in any story I read, and almost instantly dropping the bad guy into the dialogue destroyed any of the cryptic reasoning behind Star Lord’s actions. I’m not saying Thanos is the problem here, just that this tidbit of information could have come up more naturally. Furthermore, it could have made for a good secret for readers to try to figure out– with tiny hints dropped throughout the story.
Today’s comic books seem to lack patience. There’s a huge disconnect between decompression and allowing plot threads to run through multiple story arcs. Thankfully, this particular issue felt complete– leaving the cliffhanger ending as something to come back to in the future. There simply isn’t enough Chris Claremont in comic book storytelling anymore. (The veteran X-Men writer was a master at picking up a particular plot point and turning it into a full-blown story 10– or even 20– issues down the road.)
I really enjoyed Paco Medina’s layouts and pencils. The biggest compliment I can give him? He doesn’t waste space. That might not sound like much, but it is definitely high praise. His layouts are fun and work well with the flow of the narrative. Most of this comic is talking heads, something Medina does well given his careful balance between cartoony and realistic expressions. The one action sequence also brings a welcome fluidity, something that’s missing from the “talky-talk” panels.
The battle between artful simplicity and being overly detailed is always tricky… But with the help of Juan Vlasco (inker) and David Curiel (colourist), the entire art team seems to work through this problem with skill and accuracy. Most scenes don’t need to be overly complicated, but it’s nice to have some extra art details every once in a while– especially in space… As the various stars and gas clouds breathe a bit more life into this comic book.
If I wasn’t already buying so many comics, I would willingly add Legendary Star Lord to my pull-list in order to give it a fair shot. But my comic reading plate is already much too full, so something has to really blow me away to get me to omit something else from my monthly list. This comic is good… But it’s not that good. – Nick Furi
The Amazing Spider-Man #4
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Humberto Ramos,
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
20 pages, $3.99
Not too long ago, I reviewed The Amazing Spider-Man #1— pretty much because Marvel finally brought back Peter Parker… And I wanted to see how badly they would fuck it all up. Me being me, I naturally found quite a lot of idiocy contained in that comic… But what kinda bothered me the most were the retcons made to Spidey’s origin story– the worst being that someone other than Puny Parker was also bitten by the radioactive spider. Amazing Spider-Man #4 deals with this particular tomfoolery– and I was curious to see how it played out. So, ya, you’re all getting one more Spider-Man review from me… But this may be my last one for a while– since I’m totally done wasting my time on Dan Slott’s awful version of the Wall Crawler.
So let’s get the important thing out of the way quickly: The girl (who calls herself ‘Silk’… ugh) has spider-esque powers that are, with the exception of strength, pretty much on par with Peter’s abilities. I should also add that Silk’s “costume” is the worst creation I’ve seen in a while. It’s as if artist Humberto Ramos put all of 5 seconds’ thought into its creation– leading me to believe the character may not be around for very long. Then again, this is 21st Century Marvel Comics– where no one seems to have the balls to “own up” to their creative mistakes… So I can see Slott trying to pull a “Bendis” by keeping the character around as long as he can, just because he “created” her.
One last thing I will mention about Silk: It’s not bad enough this character even exists… But Slott’s retcon adds her to the immensely shitty J. Michael Straczynski Ezekiel/Morlun/Totem storyline– which, in turn, adds another layer of stink to this “extra spider-person” concept. The funniest part about Slott’s mentioning the Totem storyline? The editor’s note written to let current readers know exactly when all this bullshit supposedly took place:
Let me be clear here– this editor’s note refers to a collected graphic novel reprint— not any specific issue of a Spider-Man comic book. I take two different meanings from this note: 1) Marvel’s future endgame (as far printing physical comics) is trade paperbacks (we’ve all known this for a long time, but this really sort of cements that fact)… And 2) Marvel’s constant rebooting of their titles has fucked up their comic book numbering system so much– it’s beyond repair. To be honest with you, I’m just surprised there was any editor’s note at all– seeing how Marvel is all about living in the NOW! these days… And couldn’t care less about their characters’ histories or comic book continuity anymore.
And while I am off on a tangent, I might as well continue to not really review this issue… Because, really, it’s just the same old shit Slott’s been passing off as a Spider-Man story for years– and this issue is just as bad as every other Spidey comic I’ve ever read by the man. He’s definitely one of the Top 3 Worst Spider-Man Writers of all time.
Anyway, Amazing Spider-Man #4 is also my first exposure to Marvel’s current Original Sin crossover event. I’m assuming (by it’s very concept) that almost every character who’s featured in this crossover is getting some sort of retcon (not just Spidey). I don’t know… But making up a lot of shit that never happened to characters– just to create a new crossover extravaganza for the masses– seems a tad lazy to me.
So let me clue all the present day Marvel goons in on something they’re obviously forgetting: Marvel has one of the richest histories in all of comics. You don’t need to continuously make up stupid stories while shitting all over your past. Because when you do, you get a ridiculous looking character running around your universe using one of The Watcher’s eyeballs (which is kinda gross and idiotic) to fuck shit up.
At the end of the day, if you’re letting characters gouge out poor Uatu’s eyes just so you can attempt to sell more of your stale funny books– it makes your company that much more of a creative blackhole… You know, kinda like today’s DC Comics. – Jose Melendez
Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor #1
Revolutions of Terror
Writer: Nick Abadzis
Artists: Elena Casagrande,
Colorist: Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings,
22 pages, $3.99
I’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who on TV lately. (Both the classic episodes and the newer seasons.) Two things made clear to me while I watched the show: 1) I highly enjoy it, and 2) David Tennant, the 10th Doctor, is my favorite Doctor. So when I heard there was a new comic book series featuring some all-new adventures of the 10th Doctor, I had to check it out.
This comic is published by Titan, a company I am not familiar with at all. Given that, I was expecting the book to be just another mediocre comic based on an established TV show. If you’ve read comics for a while– especially most of the licensed comics being published today– you know exactly what I’m talking about… But to my surprise, I got something much better.
I’ve heard that most, if not all, of the creative talent behind these new Doctor Who comics have done good work for England’s premiere comic magazine 2000AD– which is smart, considering how both properties are very British. (That’s not a knock. I love most British comics.) But I was surprised again– as the comic didn’t feel “British” at all– which makes sense, since this particular story is set in New York and heavily features a Hispanic family. (Who, I’m happy to say, are not cardboard stereotypes… Every family member feels very authentic from their very first moments.)
The Doctor, of course, is appropriately British. It’s very easy to read his lines with Tennant’s accent ringing in the back of your head. The techno-babble also sounds accurate to the show. The Doctor wasn’t in the comic as much as I was expecting, as writer Nick Abadzis used the available space to establish the family. I’m okay with that, especially since the bad guy and set-up for the threat both had a great Doctor Who feel as well.
The Doctor and his companion do meet up towards the end, so I can only expect the story to roll forward from here. It’s also not completely clear where exactly this tale falls in the 10th Doctor’s timeline. I’m guessing it’s towards the end of this Doctor’s run, since he mentions Donna Noble. Happily, the story is good enough that you can just forget about such things.
The art was surprisingly good as well. (I say surprisingly only because I’m not familiar with Elena Casagrande’s work.) Her art did exactly what it needed to do: Illustrate the script and tell a great graphic story. It also captures a nice likeness of the 10th Doctor, while still looking like sequential art. (Sadly, Casagrande’s line work does start to look rushed at the end… But the story was quick-paced– so I didn’t find it too distracting.) The coloring also blends nicely with the pencils– enhancing the work, without drawing too much attention to itself.
So, is this comic going to be a game-changer for the 10th Doctor (and his mythos)? Probably not. But is this a fun story, very reminiscent of a Tennant episode of Doctor Who? Definitely. If you’re a fan of the show and want more Who in your life… Even if you’ve never read a comic before, I’d check this one out. If you’ve never watched Doctor Who, but enjoy fun comics, I’d also check it out. The $4 cover price isn’t cheap, but it’s still a fun ride. After all, the Doctor can go anywhere and do just about anything. – Aaron Evans
Zero Year: Savage City
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo, Dany Miki
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
34 pages, $4.99
I don’t know if I’ve ever made it known, but like a ton of people out there… Batman is one of my favourite superheroes. (Don’t worry, Booster Gold, you still hold a dear place in my heart.) But since the Bat is so popular, I think many of us tend to give his lesser quality stories a bit of a pass. But even as a loyal fan, I have to point out it gets tiresome reading mediocre story after mediocre story… And unfortunately, I’m still glad I dropped the Batman comic at the beginning of Zero Year storyline.
Truthfully, I’ve only read the conclusion to this prolonged arc that’s plagued Batman fans for an entire year. The inane decompression– and DC’s insane need for writer Scott Snyder to write a giant epic– has got to stop. It seems like Snyder has jumped headfirst into long-form storytelling instead of wading in, slowly building to the blockbuster he desperately yearns to write… And, along the way, he’s completely jettisoned the form he brought to his outstanding work on Detective Comics (The Black Mirror story arc) that made him a fan favourite.
This insistence on creating grandiose tales (to fit neatly into an overpriced deluxe hardcover) is definitely a plague on the comic book industry. I can’t believe we used to complain about 6-issue story arcs… With these 12-issue tales making things even more ridiculous. Spending a year on a single character/narrative makes this Batman comic little more than an overblown maxi-series. (While an extended saga like Crisis on Infinite Earths– featuring many characters and sub-plots, actually deserved the extended format.) It so bloated, it pains me to imagine what readers must have gone through just to reach Batman #33.
The way the Zero Year arc was marketed, I can’t help but think of it as one entity– so it’s hard to judge it all on the merits of this one issue. Yet it is the conclusion to a long-winded tale, so it better be entertaining… But it feels like a weak finale instead– especially for a yearlong event. The idea was ambitious (I’ll give Snyder that), but I never got the sense of grandeur a story like this deserves. Instead, it felt more like the end of a short four-issue story.
Just so you know, I do realize this is a comic book– and much of what makes these four-colour stories amazing is happy coincidence. But even I couldn’t suspend my disbelief for all of it. There was one moment that was too “comic-booky” even for a comic book. Furthermore, it featured actions that were completely out of character for the Caped Crusader. And you can’t blame these developments on “It’s Bruce’s first year, he’s still learning”… If anything, that makes what happened come off even worse.
With all my gripes, you’d think I’d be done complaining… But I haven’t even gotten to the thing that bugged me the most: The Riddler doesn’t really get a chance to show off. Maybe my expectations were too high (the Riddler is my favourite Batman villain), or maybe when presented with the idea of TWELVE riddles, I wanted Snyder to see it through. In any case, I clearly wasn’t satisfied. It did appear to be a close call for Batman at the end, but when he had his chance to defeat the Riddler– it all seemed a bit too easy for such an exaggerated tale.
I could further explain why Batman #33 isn’t worth FIVE dollars… Or how the comic’s only redeeming factor is the amazing work from the art talent attached. But I fear my review is becoming just as bombastic as Zero Year. Most damning, I’m tired of talking about Batman… And honestly, that makes me sadder than anything I just read. – Nick Furi
Star Spangled War Stories
Featuring G.I. Zombie
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray
Artist & Colorist: Scott Hampton
Letterer: Rob Leigh
20 pages, $2.99
I must admit, this comic is a blessing in disguise. From the surprising twist at the start to very lively and interesting dialogues– everything’s perfect. Its appreciable amount of story compression would give Bendis a heart attack: Lots of plot and action are thrown in from beginning to end.
From a crazy and imaginative beginning, to a funnily stupid cliffhanger, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray do it again. Turning shit concepts into gold is becoming more and more their trademark.
One bad thing though: Given their recent track record, I doubt DC Comics will give this new series more than 8 issues before cancelling it. Ah well… With a little luck, this will be enough time for the writing team to turn their story into a classically mad, fun tale that only this duo can deliver so effectively.
– Simon J. O’Connor
The Secret Lives of Dead Men Part One
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
24 pages, $3.50
I’ve mentioned before about how reviewing a mediocre comic is one of the most thankless jobs around. The apathy mediocrity induces in me makes it more than a little difficult to write about it. Shit comics, on the other hand, are quite easy (and admittedly fun) to criticize. (Some of my longest rants have come at the expense of crappy titles.)
But when I read an amazingly good comic… At times, I’m really at a loss for words. The greatness sorta speaks for itself and nothing I say is going to change that. At most, all I can hope to do is hope my review brings the book to the attention of someone who may have overlooked it.
Velvet is one such great comic book. It’s so goddamn good, where would I even start? By creating Velvet Templeton, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have introduced us to one of the most interesting characters in recent years. Brubaker brings his mastery of noir– adds some James Bond and Miss Moneypenny– and it all makes for a very, very compelling read. Steve Epting contributes some of the best art of his career… And his work is every bit as important and vital as the writing. Amazing, since it’s becoming such a rarity to see every contribution to a comic being essential to its greatness.
If just one thing was off, Velvet would become just another comic on the already overstuffed racks… And I think we can all agree we’ve got more than enough mediocre comics to choose from.
This issue is the beginning of a new story arc and makes for a great jumping on point. New readers are given most of the previous plot points up front, easily catching them up on the story. For existing readers, the story continues to develop at a perfect pace and concludes with a cliffhanger– making the wait for the next issue that much more unbearable.
I should also add the comic’s first trade paperback collection was released several weeks ago. It reprints the first 5 issues and costs a paltry $9.99. That’s only 2 bucks an issue– and it’s a fucking steal. Seriously, if you haven’t given Velvet a shot yet, please do so. It’s important to support quality work and this title more than deserves your attention.
And hey, if you don’t like it… The trade is cheap enough to pass on to a fellow comic book reader (or, more importantly, you could give it to someone who has never given comics a go). – Jose Melendez
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Victor Ibanez
Colorist: Ruth Redmond
Letterer: Cory Petit
20 pages, $3.99
I haven’t read Greg Pak’s Action Comics run yet. It’s supposed to be good… But from the different issues I’ve read, I think he’s a moronic hack.
Yup, you better get ready for an extra layer of hate, folks! There won’t be any niceties here and I sure as hell won’t try to manufacture a silver lining. I absolutely hated reading this comic– it was a waste of my time and doesn’t deserve mercy.
So yeah, Storm #1 is basically a huge pile of shit. Nothing happens. It’s a done-in-one story filled with boring exposition and awful clichés. There’s no depth to any of it, nor any ambition to create something new or thought-provoking. It’s the same “Muties got to fight racism” theme Marvel Comics has been force-feeding its readers for decades now. Storm has a back and forth with some godforsaken country to help its population– and that’s that. If my description doesn’t sound exciting, then you just got the gist of the story.
Hell, I prefer the plague that is Tony Daniel’s run on DC’s New 52 Detective Comics to this crap. (And if you know comic books at all, you know the line I just crossed by writing that.) Where Pak is fine with absolute emptiness, at least Daniel goes full crazy on his silly concepts, silver-age style.
I can’t recommend lazy writing and such a lack of passion. Quality-wise, this might deserve a one out of five, but I’m giving it a big fat zero.
– Simon J. O’Connor