Comic Book Reviews 4/20/16

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Martian Manhunter #11
As Mars and Earth pass the 11th hour before their collision, the various parts of J’onn must embrace their Martian sides to save the inhabitants of both planets.
As Pearl says early in this issue, things in this story have blown past the boundaries of human concepts, and the remaining human parts of Martian Manhunter have to start thinking like Martians. Pearl has to give up her human form in order to take over a mecha-city of human refugees, while Daryl has to remember how to shape-shift in order to defeat Ma’alefa’ak.
At this point in the story things are really beginning to drag, and it really sucks all the tension out of things. However, I do appreciate all the David Bowie references in this issue.


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Action Comics #51
Superman finds Supergirl to tell her the news of his death and give her a new responsibility and a new gift. Meanwhile, the mysterious other Superman starts making trouble at the Daily Planet, and the purpose of the attack from last week’s Batman/Superman is revealed.
The meeting between Kal and Kara is the least emotionally charged of this story so far, and because it’s the majority of the book, this issue overall isn’t as powerful as the previous two. However, the strength of those last issues, plus the tiny bit of new info on the villain side of things keeps things intriguing enough for me to keep reading.

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Superman: Lois and Clark #7
Jon discovers his parents, Clark has a score to settle with reality TV, and both he and Lois have some ‘splainin’ to do.
It took seven issues, but we finally get to the part of the story where Lois and Clark tell their son about their past. It would be more meaningful if it hadn’t been a foregone conclusion, and also brought up and resolved within a few pages. The moment also feels like a big pause in the rest of the story threads, interrupting the intergang plot. We also get some more explanation of the alien villains that the previous issues have teased.
Also, a coloring error gives a superman toy red underpants again, which made me smile.

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Superman: American Alien #6

In this issue of what’s becoming one of my all-time favorite Superman stories, Clark’s friends from Smallville take a trip to Metropolis to catch up with the now Man of Steel. And, as Metropolis is in the grip of Superman-Mania, his friends help Clark figure out his new place in the world not just as a hero, but as a symbol.

What continues to be great about this book is that we’re seeing a Superman under construction, and in this issue in particular, we see one that needs guidance from his friends. This Clark is Superman for all the right reasons, but needs an outside perspective to help him realize the impact he’s having on the world by making them believe that a man can fly. That we see the seeds of ideas like the Justice League come from his friends’ mouth help remind us how important that human perspective is to the Superman character.

This issue also has the best organic inclusion of the “It’s a bird, it’s a plane…” thing I’ve seen in comics, and I like all the little touches with dating Lois, this series’ version of Jimmy Olsen, and the Metropolis monorail cars having the same interior as an older version of New York Subway cars.

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Clean Room #7

In a flashback, Astrid hitchhikes to visit Anika, another woman abducted and scarred by the alien demon things. In the present, Anika’s entire right-half is atrophied or burned, but she is being kept alive by Astrid for mysterious reasons. Elsewhere, Chloe is visited by a Detective who has also heard horror stories linked to Astrid Mueller. And later, Astrid gets a surprise visitor inside the Clean Room.

Clean Room continues to be the most disturbing comic in my pull, and an easy recommendation for any fan of horror. The imagery in this issue is intensely graphic, involving grossly scarred bodies and even a human dissection. But what this book is doing really well is blurring the lines around Astrid herself, making her out as someone who had to sacrifice her own humanity for the greater good, and asking whether her ends justify her means.

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Surviving Megalopolis #4

An opening scene with Southern Belle seducing/threatening a recently revived Overlord(!) is the most we get of the Supers from this issue of Megalopolis. The big set-piece comes from Crimson Shadow and Mina interrupting the kidnapping of an innocent person for sacrifice by the Padlock people, while the rescue squad watches from a distance. Meanwhile, Ethan and Rain reach the bottom of the hole that turned the city’s heroes evil.

Besides getting closer to the mystery at the heart of Megalopolis, this issue creates a really cool conflict between the main rescue squad, and Mina and the Crimson Shadow, who they don’t know are secretly good-guys. The end of this issue is also setting up some really cool and interesting things as the squad reaches their goal, and I can’t wait to see how all these different plot-lines come crashing together.

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Welcome Back #7

After being chased by a mob of sequels, Tessa, Mali, and Lorena make plans to leave the country and flea to Tessa’s childhood home. And it turns out that Tessa is a daughter of a former President of South Africa. But despite the surface-level royal treatment, Tessa’s mom, an Atlas, now wants both of them dead.

Besides the above A-plot, this issue also continues dropping neat world-building breadcrumbs, such as Tessa and Mali having inspired dissent among other sequels who are beginning to question the war; and further connecting the start of the war itself to Tessa and Mali’s previous lives.

But beneath all the high-concept sci-fi stuff, Welcome Back doesn’t forget that it’s a Romeo and Juliet story, and one where the characters being Lesbians is just as thematically relevant to their love being forbidden as the whole war thing.

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Red Sonja #4

Hunted by the Black Talons/Sonja wannabes, Sonja and Midyan quest for an orator, Lyna, to fight back against Savas’ propaganda. Once found by her hunters, Sonja faces the Doppelgangers and faces some heavy sacrifices.

What this issue does really well is cement how Savas’ power comes from his propaganda war and elimination of free speech. Sonja’s pivot in strategy to finding and orator, and that the main fight of the issue takes place in a burning pantheon to multiple gods all speaks to the destruction of other cultures having to be fought through diverse voices as well as through arms. However, this all still feels too familiar to other Sonja stories, with the theme not changing that Sonja is still really only good for stabbing.

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James Bond #6

The finale to Vargr is as action-packed as you’d expect of any other 007 story, but the admittedly well done action sequence here – Bond breaking into the Vargr in order to blow it up – is wordless, making it light on plot and weight. It is a great action sequence though, that has fun with panel layouts and lots of gore as Bond shoots and punches his way through the Vargr as he sets up explosives. And the few words in this book are used very well, with Bond’s support nonchalantly allowing Bond to disobey M’s orders, and the villain responding in the perfect way to his ship going down. As comic endings go, this one is tight and cheeky, but I wish it was a little deeper.

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Karnak #3

Where Ellis’ Bond is laconic, his Karnak is verbose. Infact, Karnak seems to have only two modes of speech: waxing philosophic, or one-liners; both of which are used fantastically in an opening monologue where he goes from discussing ontology to making Coulson pay for his bar tab.

Plot-wise, the book concerns Karnak and SHIELD making their way to the Chapel of the Single Shadow in order to rescue the boy who Karnak suspects is more powerful than previously believed.

Karnak is one of the better Marvel books, and occupies a unique tone in their line-up thanks to Ellis’ very specific influences and reference pools. The art too, is fantastic, and the new art team of Roland Boschi and Dan Brown know how to play with light and shadow instead of just making everything dark, and things have a sketchy texture without feeling loose. I’m really enjoying it and hope this team stays on for more than a single arc.

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Starbrand and Nightmask #5

On top of having to deal with Libra, an agent of cosmic balance coming after Adam and himself, Kevin also has to struggle against his hangover. Meanwhile, the Starbrand of Kree makes itself known.

I’m still really liking this book’s balance of great cosmic power and a typical college setting. Kevin and Adam are such fun, albeit not the most original, characters to follow around. This issue takes them to the college gym, which opens lots of flirting opportunity for the boys, and seeing Adam being flirted with, by both guys and girls was enjoyable to read.

Not the most groundbreaking book, but fun all the same, and I still really like how it’s treating Imani as a legitimate character and love interest instead of just a handicapped person who the other characters pity.

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Hawkeye #6

The final issue of Lemire and Perez’s run on Hawkeye ends the story on more of a sentimental whimper than a bang. The end of Kate’s flashbacks tell how she escapes the Matador and meets Clint for the first time, while in the present, the two Hawkeyes deal with a few remaining Hydra agents before finally saving those kids. And then there’s that whole issue of the rift between Clint and Kate…

All in all, it was a good run of Hawkeye, with some good emotional beats, but never reached the high bar of humanity, humor, and action set by Fraction and Aja.

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Captain Marvel #4

Facing two Kree-Hunter ships full of aliens looking to destroy Captain Marvel, Alpha Flight, and Earth itself; Carol has to find a way to get her powers back at any cost, and then deal with the much better armed and armored enemy ships.

This feels like an issue where nothing happens. Carol does end up getting her powers back, but there’s no progress gained or lost relating to the whole alien threat plot. At the beginning of the book they’re slowly approaching, and it’s exactly the same by the end. Even moments that are supposed to feel big, like the team refusing to abandon Carol against her own orders, feel flat.

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Howard the Duck #6

The crossover with Squirrel Girl provides some great fuel for one of the more hilarious issues of Howard the Duck yet. Following from last issue, Howard, Squirrel Girl, and other humanoid-animals/animal-humans of the Marvel universe has to escape a Most Dangerous Game scenario organized by a crazy cosplay billionaire. This involves Squirrel Girl trying to boost Kraven the Hunter’s morale as he goes from hunter to hunted, and Howard discovering how to beat cosplay with cosplay. This issue is full of great character jokes, and even continues the alt-text between Chip and Ryan from the previous Squirrel Girl issue.

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Power Man and Iron Fist #3

Three issues in, and this continues to be one of the most fun books Marvel has. After a quick recap of events by Luke and Danny to Jessica Jones, the heroes for hire try to find Jennie to get back the Supersoul stone. Meanwhile, Jennie and Mariah are hitting up and robbing Tombstone’s businesses; and Tombstone’s henchmen are still tailing Luke and Danny.

This is a joyride of a book, and its humor is on point. The biggest joke in this issue involves Danny and Luke having to go to a second sorcerer to find out about the Supersoul stone after Dr. Strange dismisses the whole thing as beneath him for being “street magic.” It’s the sort of set-up that plays with Luke’s blackspoitation roots without distracting from the story to make it all about the racial elements. And that’s far from the only joke in the book either.

Power Man and Iron Fist is a treasure of a book that’s a lot more than dumb fun.

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