Reviews for 10-10-13

10-10-13

YOUNG AVENGERS #10 (Marvel, 2013) – This issue opens with an utterly awesome scene in which Mother eats the caption box. I’ve read a lot of comics that did bizarre stuff with lettering, but I’ve never seen a character eat the lettering before. The rest of the issue is also quite strong; it makes Mother’s and Loki’s ultimate goals significantly clearer, and it ends on a highly suspenseful cliffhanger. I got kind of sick of Mother after the first few issues of this series, but this issue depicts her as quite an effective villain. Grade: A

ARCHIE #620 (Archie, 2011) – I read this last night when I was utterly exhausted and I wanted to read some kind of a comic book, but didn’t have the energy for anything more intellectually challenging. This issue includes four different stories – unlike most of the recent Archie comics I’ve read, which tend to have just one – and none of them is particularly funny or interesting. Grade: C-

HELLBOY: THE FURY #2 (Dark Horse, 2011) – I like Hellboy but I haven’t been following it or its spinoff titles regularly. I hope to remedy that sooner or later. This issue is difficult to understand without having read #1; I have no idea who Hellboy is fighting or why, or who all the other characters are. The primary appeal of the story is Hellboy’s witty dialogue and his nonchalant attitude toward the bizarre monsters he fights. The artwork is by Duncan Fegredo, who imitates Mike Mignola’s style to such an extent that I had to check to make sure it wasn’t Mignola. Grade: B

ALL-STAR COMICS #72 (DC, 1978) – Paul Levitz was, along with Steve Englehart, the best writer at DC in the late ‘70s. His stories, especially his Huntress backups in Wonder Woman, were ahead of their time in the depth of their characterization and in their positive portrayal of female characters. His stuff also had a youthful vigor to it – he was only 22 when this issue was written. (Unfortunately, Paul’s recent work has been behind his time, not ahead of it; during the two decades when he wasn’t writing comics full-time, the craft of superhero comics writing moved on and he didn’t move with it.) Having said all of that, I have to add that I don’t like Paul’s All-Star Comics nearly as much as the rest of his early work. It’s often lacking in excitement, and the only characters in it that I really like are Huntress and Power Girl. This specific issue is also kind of painful to read, in that it depicts the JSA being beaten rather easily by the Thorn, hardly an impressive villain. Grade: B/B-

JSA #40 (DC, 2002) – I generally like this series. It showcased the positive aspects of Geoff Johns’s writing, including his effective plotting and his ability to come up with creative variations on old premises. Also, it mostly lacked the excessive violence that plagues most current DC comics, and Johns and Goyer’s characters behaved like genuine heroes, unlike most current DC characters. All of this is evident to some degree in JSA #40, but the trouble with this issue is that the ending falls flat: Goyer and Johns set up a tense situation and then resolve it unsatisfyingly. The villain of the issue threatens to kill a class of elementary school kids unless Dr. Mid-Nite saves his grandfather’s life. Dr. Mid-Nite is unable to do so, but the kids succeed in talking him down, essentially by acting cute. I found this implausible because up to that point, Goyer and Johns had been presenting the villain as a complete fanatic. Also, unfortunately, it’s hard to read this story without being reminded of comparable real-life situations that did not end nearly as well. Grade: B

SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #240 (DC, 1978) – The Legion of Super-Heroes is my absolute favorite comic book and my single biggest fandom, but this is precisely why I haven’t been reading it lately. I can’t read it without thinking about how furious I am with DC for running the franchise into the ground. At the moment there are no prospects for a new Legion series, and even if DC did revive the Legion, it would probably suck anyway given DC’s awful editorial policy and poor talent pool. Instead of frustrating myself by dwelling on this, I’d rather forget about it and read something else, hence why SLSH #240 is the first Legion comic I’ve read since I started this series of reviews.

So yeah, now that that’s out of the way: SLSH #240 is an uneven issue, hampered by the fact that Paul Levitz wrote the script but not the dialogue, and yet there’s some interesting stuff in it. The first story is mostly a series of action sequences, but it does spotlight Phantom Girl, probably my favorite Legionnaire. The backup story focuses on Dawnstar, a new character at the time, and is significant for the development for her character: it includes both a flashback to her origin and some of the earliest hints of her star-crossed love affair with Wildfire. Dawnstar’s behavior in this story is rather disgraceful; she ignores the importance of teamwork and acts like she’s better than her fellow Legionnaires. However, by depicting her in this way Paul develops her character further by revealing her flaws, and of course she learns better in the end. Because of its focus on character development, this story helps to remind me why I love the Legion so much. It also has some nice art by James Sherman, who two issues later produced one of the best-drawn DC comics of the decade. There is one bizarre sequence in this story where Dawnstar and Laurel appear to be sharing a bed, as discussed here. Grade: A-

YOUNG AVENGERS #9 (Marvel, 2013) – I actually forgot to read this the day it came out, and then never went back to it. This is a very effective piece of storytelling, especially the ending where Billy and Teddy break up. I’m still having trouble following the plot, and I have absolutely no idea what Loki is up to; I suppose this is partly deliberate on Kieron’s part. Grade: A-

FATALE #16 (Image, 2013) – Another A-list series that would have been published by Vertigo (like earlier works by the same creative team) if DC hadn’t driven its creators away. I read the third Fatale trade paperback last week – I’m not reviewing it here because these reviews are focusing on comic books. I thought it was a very well-crafted piece of work, but I don’t think it particularly appeals to me. I’m not particularly fond of either Lovecraftian horror or noir fiction. This issue is more or less the same thing as the stories collected in the trade: a horror story about a woman who drives men crazy. I appreciate the craftsmanship that went into this, but it doesn’t really strike a chord with me. Grade: B+/A-

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