Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Comic Book Reviews - May 16, 2018


Avengers #2

Writer: Jason Aaron / Artist: Ed McGuinness / Inks: Mark Morales with Jay Leisten / Colors: David Curiel / Letters: VC's Cory Petit

If Avengers: Infinity War is the big summer blockbuster for the movies, then it's really seeming like Avengers in comic form is going to be the same. Our "mysterious" narrator, going on and on about why certain members were selected or what they can contribute, serves both as someone that's catching up new readers as well as a hype man for the team yet to fully come together. This issue doesn't have a whole lot more in terms of plot; we don't find out why the Final Host is here, how they got here, why Celestials are still falling, or what, really, can be done about it. We actually don't even see Black Panther or Dr. Strange at all, but we get 1000% more She-Hulk, so I'm not going to complain.

The action in this issue is fantastic and Jason Aaron does a spectacular job with each character's voice and their quips. It's so nice to just see the Big Three Avengers coming back together again and fighting the good fight, and getting some good laughs in for the audience along the way. It's also refreshing to see Tony and Carol (Captain Marvel) not bickering about previous disagreements, given what's at stake. In fact, I'm wondering if Marvel Editorial wants all of that thrown to the wayside so we can focus on a more positive, friendly relationship between the two.

I am a little thrown off by She-Hulk's deal, and that's probably because I haven't been keeping up with the character since Civil War II and whatever presence she had in the excellent Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat! comic from two years ago. Still, what she gets to do is pretty fun, and very unexpected. Also, it's an interaction I'm hard-pressed to think of seeing beforehand, and it's outcome has me quite curious.

Ed McGuinness draws this book just as well as last time, although we, unfortunately, have a few unflattering shots of She-Hulk as she Hulks-out. They're brief and a lot of his other stuff is otherwise great, like character designs and expressions, but those few panels felt quite out of place. This book, though, feels a lot more like it's about the colors and the flashiness to it. Like a movie, it's a book that relies on spectacle, so getting the vibrancy of the characters right is pivotal. Thankfully, the duo of Morales and Leisten nail it.

Sometimes when I flip through I see odd coloring choices, but I realize that it's quite realistic choices. She-Hulk, for example, has a darker shade of green away from fire, but pressed up against it, it's more of the regular Hulk-green we're used to. They also make good use of background colors to accentuate both the characters in the forefront as well as the action going on, so we have what we want to see delivered to us without anything to get in the way.

This comic hasn't surprised me in terms of quality, bu in terms of just how fun it is. This is what a superhero team book should feel like, and it's knocking that right out of the park. Definitely check it out if you're looking for some classic Avengers shenanigans. 

Gideon Falls #3

Writer: Jeff Lemire / Artist: Andrea Sorrentino / Colors: Dave Stewart / Letters: Steve Wands

I was a little surprised to find myself grabbing this book off the shelf at the comic book store today since it hasn't really grabbed me up to this point, but after this issue? I'm definitely in for a few more, at least through the arc. The mystery has really piled on here, and it's mostly because of how the characters are interacting with the town of Gideon Falls as well as how Gideon Falls is finally reflecting onto Norton and Father Fred (and hey, I know their names, so that's progress). Both subplots finally feel just as relevant as one another, and they definitely seem to be on a collision course with one another given where we left off after the last issue, which gets quick, and meaningful, resolution.

I like how our two main characters are met by two different kinds of skeptical people: there's Father Fred's sheriff friend, and then Dr. Xu. The Sheriff is just a straight-shooter: she believes what she sees, and she's just out to help the good folk of town. Dr. Xu? She's a woman of logic, and something as odd as a black barn suddenly appearing MUST have a scientific reason behind it. Both play toward the anxieties of Fred and Norton in interesting ways; for Fred, he finds it so odd that something as convoluted as what happened with the previous priest can be so easily brushed aside, and for Norton, it all but confirms his suspicions.

Sorrentino's art-style really shines here. It's done all like if it were drawn off of some sort of wooden surface. The coloring by Dave Stewart plays off in a similar fashion, but Sorrentino's ability to drawn character expressions and bring emphasis to certain parts of the frame really grab the reader's attention. The double-page spread that introduces us to Norton this issue is certainly something, and took me a while to get through, but only because there were quite a few intricacies to the plan. By that same token, this level of detail can be a bit distracting from what's going on, so I have to catch my bearings. Thankfully, though, the story is a bit slowed down this time as we focus on character interactions, and when it picks up, the art becomes more stylized and intricate to match this.

As I said at the beginning, the mystery of what's going down at Gideon Falls has really caught my attention now, and for the first time this series, I'm quite anxious to see what happens in the next issue! 

Justice League: No Justice #2

Writers: Scott Synder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson / Artists: Francis Manapul & Marcus To / Colors: Hi-Fi / Letters:  Andworld Design 

Not to say there was nowhere to go but up from last issue, but comparing the two makes it definitely seem like so. This is probably going to be a much easier binge-read once it's all said and done, since we're getting information thrown at us really quick and some of it seems superfluous, like filler just to pad time. We get a few more panels of anxious Damian, which is annoying and probably pointless foreshadowing since, yeah, no duh the villains are probably up to something. So, when reading through it super fast, it won't seem like much in the grand scheme.

We get a lot more time dedicated to the adventures of Amanda Waller this time, only this time, she's joined by a certain emerald archer. And no, my enjoyment of the issue didn't ONLY go up because Green Arrow plays a major supporting role...although I do enjoy the explanation of how every other superhero in the world besides him and Supergirl seem to be missing (be it with Brainiac or just straight-up missing). It makes a good bit of sense, and puts a lot more pressure on GA, Waller, and possibly here Task Force XI of psychics. I do also enjoy what Waller has to go through this issue; for someone always dabbling with dangerous things, she sure does get away with a lot. Now? Not so much.

This issue finally splits the four teams up into their respective energy signatures. And while they try to explain how some of these got mixed and matched, the only ones that make some semblance of sense are Team Entropy and Team Wonder (aka the magic team). Entropy is the one comprised of the villains (minus Starro, which is odd) and Wonder, as I said, has mostly magic users. Grouping all the magic users makes a ton of sense for wonder, and having the villains on Team Entropy, obviously, makes sense. But why is Harley Quinn on Team Wisdom and not Martian Manhunter? And why is that team called "Team Wonder?" That roster seems the most random of all, so, I guess they had to call them something.

In fact, why is Harley Quinn there at all? Marketing?

The comic is at its most interesting when the teams are split apart and the main members of the JLA are trying to sort everyone out, as that's when we get the most character dynamic and interaction, as everyone has something to say and banter is thrown about all willy-nilly.

Art duties are split this time between Manapul and To, though it seems to be quite skewed in To's direction, as Manapul seems responsible only for the Team Wonder stuff while To takes on everything else. Is it good art? Of course. Is it noticeable when they change? Of course. To's style is much heavier than Manapul's, so when his characters have more flourish than detail, it's going to stand out. Both are just fine for the book and in a quick read, you may not notice it all that much.

Unlike Avengers, this comic's colors don't stand out that much. Part of that is because of the fact that they all have to wear the same purple that Brainiac assigned them, but it also may just be on the colorist. I mean, several colors seem quite muted all the time, like Deathstroke and Lex Luthor's outfits. The colors really only stand out for Team Wonder or Team Wisdom, but that's because they're so jarring in difference with the others or the background.

This issue was a marked improvement over the last, even if the art did take a bit of a step-down. Hopefully as the action picks up next week we can get it back to what it was last week. 

Superman Special #1

Writer: Patrick Gleason & Peter J. Tomasi, Mark Russell, Ian Flynn / Artist: Scott Godwelski, Bryan Hitch, Kaare Andrews / Colors: Gabe Eltaeb, Alex Sinclair, Kaare Andrews / Letters: Rob Leigh, Tom Napolitano

This is it! The final "Superman" comic before the Brian Michael Bendis era begins. Here we see the final bit of Gleason and Tomasi on the character together, as well as two more creative teams taking their crack at Superman, with much less effect than Gleason and Tomasi. Does that mean they're bad? No sir.

This issue is much better than Action Comics Special #1, in my opinion, and most of it rides on the first story, the one that the main cover teases, which sees Jon and Clark return to Dinosaur Island in a followup to a story early on in the "Rebirth" era. I've never actually read that story, but this issue does more than enough to compensate for that and got me emotionally invested in Captain Storm and what he's been dealing with on that island since then. This comic may not be as standalone as Action Comics Special #1 in that regard, but I think this story is just all-around better than the ones we got there. It's a wonderful Superman story that also plays to the human elements of the character, demonstrated through Clark, Jon, and even Captain Storm. I was kind of hoping we'd get the entire issue as this one story, but, it was perfect as it was.

The second story, by Mark Russell and drawn by Bryan Hitch, is also quite good. It shows Superman in an exhausted state having to save Metropolis from a spooky undersea monster and save people from a burning building. It's pretty exciting, and Russell and Hitch do an excellent job of showing the strain it's putting on Clark, while also including flashbacks to when he was a younger man and leaning some key lessons from Pa Kent. Those flashbacks are reflected well in the comic and by the end it's a really good story on never giving up, believing in yourself, and believing in a hope for a better tomorrow not just for yourself, but for everyone.

The final story, where Atomic Skull joins the police force, is one about redemption, and Ian Flynn does a superb job of getting Atomic Skull to come off as a three-dimensional character seeking redemption. While he blames Superman for some of what's happened to him, like turning to a path of villainy, he also recognizes that he needs to get back on the path to good on his own. He and Superman have a very interesting dynamic as a result, and it makes for a very intriguing short story featuring one of the most unlikely of Superman villains.

It's this type of writing for Superman, the style that introduces and keeps up with the human element, that makes me want to read more comics featuring the Big Blue Boy Scout. I can only hope that this latest era of Superman will influence the future and we can continue to see him, and the world around him, evolve. 

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