Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Comic Book Reviews - April 4, 2018

A short week? Thank God. Last week almost throttled me. So, what do we have this week? A new creative team for my favorite super hero, a super dope Susan Storm, and the struggle for one kid's soul in a world of the soulless. But, the most prominent theme of all of them: nobody is actually in their home city! What a time.

Green Arrow #39

Writers: Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly / Artist: Marcio Takara / Colors: Marcelo Maiolo / Letters: Deron Bennett

With Benjamin Percy and his coalition of artists taking their well-earned leave of the book, we must now look toward a new creative team, arc, and voice for Green Arrow. And while it isn't as great as the stuff from early "Rebirth," it's certainly not as egregious as when the Arrow creative team took over for Percy's first shot at the character during "DCYou." It's not great, but it has a lot to work with and we're still only in a first issue that has a TON going on in it.

I think the biggest obstacle this comic has to leap over is that it's piggybacking off a story that not a lot of people, myself included, read. The premise for this issue--that being a wartorn country is trying to rebuild but is plagued by constant fighting and poverty--stems from Deathstroke Annual #2, and having not read it, I feel as if there are quite a few things we should know beforehand. It's probably not a great idea to have a Green Arrow comic that's been pretty off on its own for the majority of the run suddenly shift gears and relate to the fallout of a Deathstroke comic when Deathstroke has appeared few times in his "Rebirth" era.

One of the other weird facets is how Oliver blames himself for Vakhar's destruction at Deathstroke's hand. He constantly mentions that if he'd just killed Slade in one of their many encounters, this never would have happened, and he claims that he should be shouldering as much of the blame on himself as others. Again, having not read that comic, I don't know if Slade actually did any of this (since I thought his recent stuff has him being more of an anti-hero and not a crime-lord like he's depicted here) or if this was someone else pretending to be Slade, maybe one of his kids or something. It's just very odd that Oliver would put shoulder this blame as if he were the one causing all of the destruction. It'd be one thing if he found out that Queen Industries had somehow been involved with arming a rebel force that laid waste to the city.

Two other oddities constantly appeared throughout the comic: the dialogue and the character of Jonesy. Almost this entire comic is spoken in Arabic; translated, obviously, but that also means Oliver spends most of this comic speaking fluent Arabic. When did he pick that up? How did he pick that up? We know he was a notoriously bad student in school and never focused, and the island is always being depicted as being in the southeastern parts of Asia, not near an Arabic country. So unless he has some sort of translator chip or something, it's unclear how he can speak Arabic.

The character of Jonesy is an issue because Jonesy isn't a character. He lasts a single page and has maybe two lines of dialogue, and when he dies, Oliver takes his death like he would Henry Fyff's or Naomi's (the woman from the New 52 era, who became Red Dart). But, who is this guy? Did he know Oliver? Did he know someone in Vakhar? He constantly refers to Jonesy in his narration but we have no idea who this guy is or why we should care.

Oh yeah, the narrations. At first I took issue with it since it was basically like reading out of a novel, with Oliver describing his thoughts or senses in a moment, but as the comic went on it started to drift as well and it became quite evident later that this narration was being written as a letter to Dinah, explaining why he left Star City to go on this mission on behalf, possibly, for the Justice League.

The best part of the book is the art, done by Marcio Takara. It's tough to compare to the slate of artists that the book has seen recently and Takara's art definitely fits the tone and style that this story is being told in. I was worried that the art would take a serious dip in quality, but for what the story is, the art is good. In general, too, I like the art and can see it being used in something like Deathstroke, where things are a little grittier and down-to-Earth. 

So yeah, not the strongest start to Green Arrow, but I've seen far worse and there are interesting elements introduced, like the villain of Nothing as well as how the heck Oliver is going to untangle this nasty web he's found himself in. It was the little things that just nipped at my mind while I kept reading that really threw me off. 

Marvel 2-in-1 #5

Writer: Chip Zdarsky / Artist: Valerio Schiti / Colors: Frank Martin / Letters: VC's Joe Caramagna

I've been saying it since this comic started and you know what, I'll say it again: Chip Zdarsky is absolutely PERFECT for this story and for the Fantastic Four. This is my favorite comic Marvel is publishing and I look forward to each issue more with each passing month. It's just so much fun. While this issue ramps up the character drama as well as the stakes a lot, it also goes a long way of developing not just our Human Torch and Thing, but also the alternate Earth's Susan Storm and Reed Richards, who are marvelous additions to this story. Seeing what this Reed Richards does in this issue is both incredibly inspiring by the end as well as shows why the Fantastic Four, when shown properly, are really incredible characters.

I also love the art of this issue to a ridiculous amount. Valerio Schiti is really showing off in this issue and I regret ragging on him for a bit of a downer third issue because his art here is stupendous. He has such great emotion and detail on close-up shots; I was blown away by the first page alone. He gave such great detail to Thing, Human Torch, and Beast and plays with shadows so well too, without saying anything, annunciate the growing frustration and rage within Ben Grimm as he hears about what this Reed Richards has not done for this Earth.

Frank Martin's colors are a bit drowned out here; it's weird, everything has this light blue filter to it that does give it a feel of being on another Earth, but also makes the characters very bright in a non-interesting way. It contrasts with the bleaker tone of this story, but it's not done to any great effect. It does get better when a certain character shows up because it breaks up the scenes of just various shades of blues; plus that character's arrival is absolutely amazing and I actually gasped when he showed up. It's not a *huge* shock to anyone reading the book, but the narrative possibilities exploded before my very eyes and it was just so cool.

This issue also ends in a very interesting place for a pair of characters that aren't hinted at much throughout the series and are strangely together, for some reason. It leaves things on a good cliffhanger for what's to come and promises a lot for the next issue, which is gearing up to be a major confrontation between the estranged Fantastic Four of two Earths and a world-ending threat.

Definitely check this series out, it's incredible. 

Superman #44

Writers: Patrick Gleason & Peter J. Tomasi / Pencils: Doug Mahnke / Inks: Jaime Mendoza & Doug Mahnke / Colors: Wil Quintana / Letters: Rob Leigh

I'm perplexed by this issue of Superman. It's just...weird. I thought I had the hang of how the Bizzaros speak, but, after this issue, I'm not too sure. I have faith that Gleason and Tomasi know what's going on, but, that doesn't mean I do. There's also a ton going on in this issue between a lot of characters that makes things very muddled, and sort of takes away from what should have been a much more powerful ending. I think this story works best when the scope is focused primarily on the quadrilateral relationship between Superman, Bizzaro, Superboy, and Boyzarro. Introducing all the others just makes it seem a bit much, it stretches things out way too thin.

The ending for this issue is pretty bleak, too, but I have faith that next issue, the final issue for Superman before Brian Michael Bendis takes over in July, will wrap things up in a heartwarming way. This arc can really only go in one direction, and it's fairly obvious where that'll be headed, so I just hope the road there isn't too complicated.

Maybe that's the way to describe this issue: complicated. Too much going on for what's really a simple story at heart: a father unable to connect with his family. It's a simple but compelling idea when done in a manner that keeps things tight and focused, and doesn't bounce around to all the other Bizzaro versions of various characters. That sort of thing is good for an arc where Superman and Superboy are trapped on Bizarro-world, not one where they're in a struggle for Boyzarro's soul.

Doug Mahnke's art here also didn't do much for me. It's decent enough, but, I kind of wish they'd stuck with the same team they had at the beginning of the arc, with Gleason staying on art duties. The colors by Wil Quintana are also just fine.

This issue is just okay, which is a shame seeing as it is the penultimate chapter for this Superman saga. Again, I have hope for the end, but this issue didn't do much to keep my excitement at where it was before. 

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