Other reviews

12-12-13

THE THANOS IMPERATIVE #3 (Marvel, 2010) – This was an average chapter of a forgettable crossover story, but there were a couple things in it that stuck out in my mind. First, this issue reveals that the Cancerverse is an alternative Marvel universe that diverged when Captain Mar-Vell, instead of dying, performed a ritual that destroyed Death and released the many-angled ones (i.e. Lovecraftian Great Old Ones). This scene is kind of interesting as a tribute to “The Death of Captain Marvel.” It indicates that for Abnett and Lanning, that story was a key moment in the history of the Marvel Universe, in that it’s the only superhero death that was never reversed. The other kind of cool moment is a scene where Nova picks a small but powerful strike force to achieve some sort of mission or other, and in a panel that spans two pages, we see that the team consists of him, Quasar, Beta Ray Bill, Gladiator, Silver Surfer and Ronan. There is a certain sort of primal fanboy pleasure created by seeing so many incredibly powerful characters together. Grade: B-

WONDER WOMAN #601 (DC, 2010) – This is the first issue of a new run, but J. Michael Straczynski does a terrible job of introducing us to his version of Diana. He starts off by introducing some premises that make no sense at all: Themiscyra has been conquered by unidentified soldiers, Hippolyta is dead, and Diana has been living in Man’s World since childhood. This is not an alternate continuity, this is the result of someone deliberately changing the past of the mainstream DC Universe. But JMS does not tell us this until halfway through the issue, and so I spent the first half of this comic wondering what the hell was going on and how this could possibly be reconciled with the situation at the end of Gail’s run. The rest of the issue is just a bunch of boring action sequences. JMS had one brief moment of glory with his run on Spider-Man, but his career as a comic book writer is effectively over now, and stories like this are the reason why. Grade: D

BATMAN AND ROBIN #12 (DC, 2010) – Another highly confusing comic, but here at least it was because I hadn’t read the previous issues, not because the story didn’t make sense. This issue is mostly plot, but there is one rather poignant scene where Damian rejects his mother’s influence and she declares him an enemy of the house of al Ghul, to which he replies, “I hope I can be a worthy one, Mother.” Damian is my favorite thing about this series; I am not a big fan of the overly confusing plot. The big revelation at the end of this issue is that Oberon Sexton is really the Joker, but this had little impact on me since I don’t remember who Oberon Sexton even is. Grade: B+

SAGA #16 (Image, 2013) – This is the best monthly comic at the moment and I expect it to win a second consecutive Eisner award for Best Continuing Series. Issue 15 was a hard act to follow, but this one is almost as good. I squeed pretty hard at the panel where everyone is sitting and reading, including Alanna who is sitting on a giant stack of books, and the caption says “if most of your childhood didn’t look exactly like this, I feel sorry for you.” D. Oswald Heist’s comments about children’s books at the bottom of that page are almost as brilliant. I don’t think anything else in that issue rises to the same level, but Klara and Oswald’s budding relationship is adorable and I liked how Gwendolen cleverly uses Lying Cat to counter the effects of the hallucinogenic food. Oh, and the superhero-based reality show is a nice piece of satire. Overall, I can’t think why anyone wouldn’t be buying this comic. Grade: A+

FF #14 (Marvel, 2013) – This was already the cutest Marvel comic since they stopped doing Power Pack and Pet Avengers miniseries, but it’s gotten even cuter in the last two issues, probably because of the loss of Matt Fraction’s moderating influence. There is just so much adorable stuff here – Artie and Leech’s little tiger, Darla hugging the Moloid kids goodbye, Alex getting a group hug after admitting his betrayal, etc. The cuteness does turn into creepiness at one point when Bentley bores a hole in the bathhouse wall (and I wonder if it’s significant that Alex is made uncomfortable by this). There is also some quite clever storytelling here, and some effective character development, especially for Hank and Darla. The last page is impressive, but the quotation from Kipling is too explicitly religious for my tastes. Grade: A-

THREE #2 (Image, 2013) – This series is of course explicitly intended as a rebuttal to 300 and I’m not sure it’s become anything more than that yet. However, Kieron is doing a nice job of creating a counter-300. In the second half of the issue, he effectively depicts Sparta as a decadent, declining culture, and responds to Miller’s homophobic references to Athenians as “boy-lovers” by reminding us that the Spartans practiced pederasty too. The first half of the issue contains too much brutal violence for my tastes, although I suppose that’s also part of Kieron’s rhetorical strategy. I think that for this series to be more effective on its own merits rather than just by comparison to 300, Kieron needs to make us care more about the three Helot protagonists. Grade: A

YOUNG AVENGERS #11 (Marvel, 2013) – This series has rightly been called “Tumblr bait” (http://www.avclub.com/article/iyoung-avengers-i8-and-the-rise-of-the-tumblrheroe-100791), and it’s clearly exploiting Loki’s current massive popularity. But like the above Onion article argues, this is not a bad thing. Over the past decade Marvel and DC have mostly neglected Internet fandom and have shown little awareness of Internet culture (besides that one scene in Prince of Power where Bast turns into a lolcat). This series represents Marvel’s most explicit acknowledgement that communities like Tumblr and scans_daily exist and that Internet meme culture is a thing. Importantly, these types of Internet fan communities are much less male-dominated than comics fandom as a whole, and the use of Internet culture is a great way for this series to appeal to women, who are a prominent part of the audience for this series in particular. Anecdotally, I know at least one female fan who loved Heinberg’s Young Avengers and PAD’s Young Justice, but who got so turned off by the prevailing atmosphere at Marvel and DC that she stopped reading comic books altogether. This current Young Avengers series is a sign that Marvel takes this type of reader seriously and is interested in expanding its audience.

I have little to say about this issue specifically, but it maintains this series’s usual high level of quality. I love the page with the web diagram of all the teen heroes. Marvel has enough kid heroes that they could actually do a Legion of Super-Heroes-style series with a rotating cast of about 30 characters. They ought to do that and get Christos Gage to write it.  Grade: A

YOUNG AVENGERS #12 – The comments above apply to this issue too. I guess the big revelation here is that Leah is Loki’s guilty conscience, but that wasn’t clear to me until I read the next issue. Grade: A

ATOMIC ROBO: THE SAVAGE SWORD OF DR. DINOSAUR #2 (Red 5, 2013) – I’m ashamed I haven’t been reading this series more regularly. Like Groo, Atomic Robo is basically the same joke every issue, but it’s a funny joke that allows for a lot of variation. The funniest thing in this issue is Dr. Dinosaur, who, again like Groo, is totally oblivious to how stupid he is. There is also some genuine tension here, though. I don’t quite understand what’s going on with Tesladyne Island and Majestic 12, but it’s exciting. Grade: A

HAWKEYE #14 (Marvel, 2013) – I still don’t understand how this series fits into Young Avengers continuity, and a cursory Google search suggests that no one else understands this either. I find it hard to believe that Kate is having intergalactic interdimensional adventures at the same time that she’s broke and living in a trailer. Other than that, the story in this issue was adorable. Kate is so charmingly inept, and the two men she’s working for are a lovely couple. I guess the guy she meets in the supermarket is supposed to be Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe; this story may have been more meaningful if I had known anything about this character besides his name. I’m curious to see how this story develops. Grade: A

BATMAN AND ROBIN #13 (DC, 2010) – Another difficult issue, this one begins with a flashback scene in which Thomas Wayne pays to have his wife killed, then turns into some sort of anti-Batman. How this fits into continuity is not made clear, and the rest of the issue is taken up with Dick and Damian’s attempts to stop the Joker’s latest plot. At least that part of the issue is well-written and exciting, and Frazer Irving’s artwork is brilliant. His artwork has improved since his previous collaboration with Morrison on Seven Soldiers: Klarion, which was already impressive. Grade: B+

BATMAN AND ROBIN #14 (DC, 2010) – Much like the previous issue, except that this one is a bunch of action sequences. Looking at it again after about a week, I find that I don’t remember much about it. Grade: B

ATOMIC ROBO: THE SAVAGE SWORD OF DR. DINOSAUR #3 (Red 5, 2013) – Most of the comments on the previous issue apply to this one as well. This issue is interesting because of its sympathetic portrayal of the faceless underworld inhabitants, and because again, the events taking place on the surface, involving an invasion of Tesladyne Island, are genuinely exciting. There’s one particularly striking page where one of the Tesladyne Island defenders asks another one “Robo’s not even here. What do we do?” and the reply is simply “We hold the line.” I have yet to see such a serious moment in this comic. Grade: A

WARLORD #27 (DC, 1979) – I think this series was Mike Grell’s earliest work as a writer/artist, and while the artwork is impressive, especially the giant two-page splashes, Grell’s inexperience as a writer is clear. His writing lacks the mature, reflective, gently mocking tone of later works like Green Arrow and Jon Sable. For example, in this issue Morgan relives his past lives and discovers he was all of the following: an Atlantean nobleman, a gladiator, Sir Lancelot, D’Artagnan, Jim Bowie, and Crazy Horse. Now, first, this violates the rule of show, don’t tell. If Grell wants us to believe that Morgan is just as great a hero as his past selves, then he needs to prove this by showing Morgan doing heroic things. Second, it seems rather improbable that all of Morgan’s past incarnations were great warriors, rather than slaves or peasants or victims of infant mortality, like most people in premodern times. In later works, Grell did a much more graceful and subtle job of comparing his protagonists to great heroes of the past. Grade: C-

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