Comic Reviews 7/6/16

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Green Arrow #2

Two issues in and this run on Green Arrow seems to be filled with good, if old, ideas and bad execution. The end of this issue returns to one of the best known and fondly remembered periods of Green Arrow, but how it got there through this issue, and most of the previous one makes it seem that this isn’t a book that wants to put Ollie through a whole bunch of shit so he can learn something, but because the writer feels that this Ollie needs to be punished for some reason he hasn’t yet made clear.

It also feels as though the creative team didn’t understand what people liked about the Rebirth issue, because they’ve still thrown all those elements to the wayside. Black Canary is still sidelined, Ollie isn’t happy enough to be a swashbuckling quipster, and they’ve all but thrown out Ollie’s SJW/socialist streak.

Now that the book has finally seemed to reach the new starting line it wanted to set for itself, I’ll give it one more issue to see if they can start putting all the fun stuff back in.

 

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Superman #2

Superman takes Jon out on a field trip to the arctic to learn how to use his powers to help people, but a simple mission to help a stalled submarine start moving again gets more complicated when a giant octopus attacks the sub and Superman needs Jon to help him.

This book has a nice blend of big action and smaller family moments. After the attack at the arctic they return home where Clark talks to Lois about how he’s trying to do his best to keep Jon from becoming confused by his new powers, and Jon has a talk with his new friend, Kathy, also about his powers. I’m still loving watching Clark trying to be the best father he can be, and in this issue, dipping into his over-protective side.

I’m also really liking the coloring in this book. The backgrounds during the action scenes are darker blues and blacks which make the vivid blues and reds of Superman’s costume really pop out.

 

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Batman #2

This was a rough issue, and probably the first one written by Tom King that I didn’t positively like. After a strong opening scene with Batman appearing out of a puff of smoke to take out a raging Solomon Grundy that was giving the new supers Gotham and Gotham Girl some trouble, this issue begins to feel disjointed and like it’s lost something about Batman.

This Batman feels unprepared. One scene has Bruce talking about what would happen if he were to die as though it was the first time he considered his own mortality, while another has him say that he doesn’t trust Alfred. Alfred. And if this Bruce is so paranoid as to not trust ALFRED, then why haven’t we seen him do any digging into the new superheroes, and even giving them the benefit of the doubt?

Adding to that, despite being on the cover two times in a row, Gotham and Gotham Girl are still only barely characters. Also, the issue’s setting up of a major villain lacks much coherence or menace, resulting mainly in head-scratching.

The issue does manage to end on a fun note, with Batman pulling the disappearing act on Gotham and Gotham Girl for the first time, leaving Gordon to explain that “Yeah. He does that.”

 

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Justice League: Rebirth #1

I wasn’t a fan of Bryan Hitch’s first go at a Justice League book with JLA, but I decided to give this one a try and…also didn’t like it. Inner monologues and character dialogues are somehow both purple and stilted, and besides that, many of the characters read the same. The world-threatening monster in this issue is physically huge but has little weight within the story. The big damn heroes moment at the end of the issue is rushed and doesn’t actually make any sense given what’s set up earlier on, and the actual final page is a freeze frame from a bad movie. The art too, is ugly and muddy. I really just didn’t like anything about this one.

 

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Future Quest #2

Another great, exciting issue for this brand new super-team.

This one begins with another flashback, to planet Amzot, where Space Ghost and the Herculoids are fighting, and beating, Omnikron the world-eater before it self-destructs, teleporting itself to another world, and taking Space Ghost and his crew, and most of the Herculoids with him to Earth.

In the present, Jonny, Haj, and Ty find the wreckage of Space Ghost’s ship and his sidekick, Jan unconscious. But before they can properly rescue her, the group is ambushed by FEAR, only to be saved when a certain hero swoops in.

Future Quest is juggling a lot of characters and different worlds, and somehow managing to keep it all straight and understandable. Its action scenes show off what all these disparate characters all bring to the table; and their interactions with each-other don’t fall into the trite traps of distrust and misunderstandings. It still feels like we haven’t really started, but the book is careful to give us everything in slow enough doses to keeps things interesting, not confusing.

 

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Moon Knight #4

Having finally escaped from the mental institution, Moon Knight and his group aren’t finding the streets of New York much more hospitable. And by the end of the issue, Marc and Marlene begin towards the pyramid in the middle of the city alone.

With only one more issue left in the arc, the biggest question in the story as of yet has been solved, but we’re still a ways from a resolution. This issue is actually a kind of breather before the finale, with Marc having the chance to say his farewells to certain characters before whatever happens next happens. Think of it as that room full of potions before a big boss battle in a video-game. The brief air time between jumping out of the frying pan and landing in the fire.

 

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Silver Surfer #5

Following the events of the previous few issues, Silver Surfer is celebrated as the world’s greatest hero, gaining citizenship in every country. Even the Olympics decide to swap the 1st and 2nd place medals! But despite the world’s adulation, Norrin is having an identity crisis after having erased his entire culture, and seeks out the one being who might remember it.

Despite some fun jokes and references; (Slott manages to get a sly jab at his employer in the book when a kid mentions his disappointment in the lack of new Fantastic Four stories.), there isn’t much of an actual story in this issue. It’s empty calories sandwiched between two milestone celebrations.

 

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Amazing Spider-Man #15

Mary Jane suits up to rescue Iron Man, Spider-Man, and every other Marvel hero from Regent, and it’s AWESOME! And it’s not one of those things that they show on the cover of a comic when it only happens in the last two pages of the story; MJ is the new Iron Spider by the second page! Of course, she’s not the only one in this book with something to do. Spider-Man and Iron Man also get their shots in on Regent, and that’s still not the grand denouement.

If this issue were the last act of a movie, entire theaters would be full of people standing up and clapping for 20 straight minutes.

 

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Spidey #8

The most incredible thing about Spidey so far isn’t that there hasn’t been a single bad issue yet, or how each issue is a great self-contained Spider-Man story, but how each issue could be the perfect first issue for anyone looking to get into Spider-Man – and this issue might be the best yet.

Peter’s not-date with Gwen Stacy is interrupted when Electro siphons all the electricity in Manhattan to take down Spider-Man. Spidey and Electro duke it out a bit, Peter has an in-costume run in with Gwen, and eventually comes up with a plan to defeat the much stronger Electro.

In 22 pages, Spidey delivers the origin story, Peter’s Nerd/Hero dichotomy, the quipping, Parker Luck, and every other core element of Spider-Man.

 

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Invincible Iron Man #11

A disappointing ending to a disappointing arc. There’s no pay-off, no big climax, just an ending. The best part of the book is the single spread with the Iron-Black Girl. Book dropped. Maybe I’ll hop back on when Riri becomes the new Iron Man.  

 

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Sam Wilson: Captain America #11

Yesterday, the news of the murder of Alton Sterling, a black man in Baton Rouge by a couple of cops grabbed the national spotlight. His crime? Selling bootleg CDs. Early this morning, Philando Castile was also shot and killed by cops over a broken taillight. Alton and Philando join Michael Brown, Freddie Grey, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, John Crawford, and hundreds of other black people to have died as a direct result of police brutality in recent years in the United States.

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I bring up this extremely topical piece of news because so does this comic. Sam is trying to decide how to react to the string of brutalized arrests made by the Americops, a private police force started by an oil tycoon (an easy stand-in for the Koch brothers), made legal by a Texas Senator (take your pick of actual US Republican elected officials), and propagandized by a radio host (Rush Limbaugh, FOX News in general). Even this issue’s short distraction into Civil War II ties back to these current events – Sam decides to join Iron Man’s side because he recognizes Carol’s as a type of profiling.

The reason this comic works is because it isn’t shying away or abstracting this subject matter, it’s facing it blatantly and boldly. Nick Spenser is making his Captain America about America at this exact moment, with all of its political issues at the forefront. The scenario, dialogue, and character actions in this book are all too believable because, unfortunately, so much of it is real.

 

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Strange Attractors #2

Two issues in, and Strange Attractors is one of the strangest, coolest books I’ve ever read. That it’s all about my favorite city in the world doesn’t hurt it either.

Issue two finds Heller helping Doc Brownfield with his “work” around Manhattan, which seems to consist entirely of random acts of chaos, from spilling a bucket of paint outside Grand Central Terminal to gathering all the garbage in the city and putting it in one place. Heller considers quitting until Brownfield shows him the point of these odd jobs.

The second story, which shows Brownfield “fixing” the city from the 70’s also follows how his efforts have profoundly affected a single resident of the city over 30 years. And this story is as heartbreaking as the main story is mind-bending.

Strange Attractors is about how the city functions, and how a small change in one place has a rippling effect on everything else. Brownfield has shades of mad genius, he’s the only one that can see these complex relationships, but even his math is not completely objective, he’s not an omniscient or omnibenevolent guardian. He’s the best of Jane Jacobs and the worst of Robert Moses.

The art also perfectly captures a New York summer, conveying how the heat and light are extreme enough almost to begin to bleach the city.
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Paper Girls #7

All I should really have to say to get you to pick up this book is that it features a giant tardigrade fight. But if you need more…

Stuck in 2016 with adult-Erin, the girls decide to split up. Erin goes with her older self to an abandoned shopping mall marked on the Apple-device, while Tiffany and Mac look for their adult selves to see if they can help.

What really sells this time-travel adventure is how well Brian K. Vaughn points out the idiosyncrasies of contemporary life. Whether it’s someone trying to hail a cab only to find out it’s an Uber and they can’t be picked up; or a couple girls reacting to seeing a Hillary campaign sign and get excited over the possibility of a woman president.

This one also has a mention of police violence towards black people by way of a character’s T-shirt early on, so…yeah. Big issues. 

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