Comic Reviews 8/10/16

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Spider-Man #16

With his father-in-law and one of his employees in the hospital, Peter Parker turns to a miraculous but mysterious experimental procedure to save their lives.

This is the beginning of a very risky experiment by the Spider-Man team; revisiting one of the most infamous Spider-Man stories – The Clone Saga. But this is also a very good first issue, setting up a lot of the board without sacrificing the strength of this single issue.

One of my favorite things is how Slott keeps on finding new ways to contextualize the Spider-Man character. Quipping while rescuing employees from a burning chemical factory keeps them calm. Peter’s power as CEO of his company makes him feel responsible for going above and beyond for his employees.

And even though this story seems to be reusing a lot of the elements of the first clone saga – mainly a villain and uh, clones – it’s doing its own thing with the actual plot. And just comparing first issues, doing something much better.

 

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Daredevil #10

After turning a criminal chase into a quick tour of the Upper East Side, Matt spends some time at the DA’s office, and later gets called into look at a crime scene by Blindspot.

This is a slower issue of Daredevil following the last one’s big chase. A good chunk of time has Matt sitting in chairs either reading cases or watching Blindspot jump and flip around him. This gives Matt time to reflect on how his life has changed since coming back to New York, and gives us a nice calm before things ramp up in the last scene.

 

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Black Panther #5

Coates continues using this series to wax political, but also manages to move the plot forward quite a bit in this issue.

T’Challa starts taking out small bands of terrorists, but unable to measure his progress, organizes a meeting of the world’s best counter-revolutionary minds (many of whom work under dictators, of course) to help him figure out how to squash his rebellion.

Now that T’Challa has finally taken some meaningful action against the rebels, all the monologue about the whys and whether he should have a platform to be meaningful within the plot. T’Challa’s meeting with the right-hands of dictators about how to establish his rule are contrasted very well with Shuri learning about Wakanda’s first kings from her mother in the Djalia; creating a kind of debate between ruling through force and ruling through popular sovereignty. And seeing what T’Challa actually does with the advice he’s given gives the monarch a great character moment at the end of the issue, followed by an even better lead into the next issue.

Turns out when he wants to, Coates can really spin a yarn. And while the new penciler on the book, Chris Spouse, has a less – let’s say distinctive – style, it’s still clean, kinetic, and fits the characters.

 

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The Vision #10

The Visions are placed under house arrest by the Avengers, and mourn their dead.

In a weird way, this issue brings things back to basics, with the book being about how the Visions do a normal human thing – mourning, in this case – isn’t normal anymore. Virginia repeats the last word of every sentence like a skipping record. Vision’s usual lack of emotion in this issue reads like a father still in shock, slowly moving through the Kubler-Ross model. And then there’s the big scene where Vision and Viv prey together, the nadir of the series’ uncanny valley so far.

It’s a book of small yet massive moments, one not of robots not being human enough, but of them being too human and not understanding that some things can’t be rationalized.

 

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The Flash #4

The Flash gets used to the idea of teaching the other speedsters, and with Meena, chases down a lead on what caused the speed force storm and who Godspeed might be under the mask.

Another solid issue of The Flash; what I really like about this book is how Barry is one of the few happy superheroes. Sure, he’s wound up and feels the burden of his responsibilities, but he also enjoys being the Flash. He enjoys teaching the new speedsters, he enjoys having partners, he enjoys using his powers to take down villains and monsters.

The plot of this book is pretty typical; Flash finds a villain and has to run around it really fast to defeat it, but the tone of the book – if not fresh – is at least fresh faced and fun.

 

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Wonder Woman #4

As a retelling of her origin story, Wonder Woman #4 plays things pretty safe, not really messing with the formula. If anything, it’s even gentler than it has been recently. The Amazons decide to send Steve back with an escort without much argument, and without the idea of killing him ever coming up.

The most fun parts of this book are the quick explanations of why Diana’s costume looks like the American Flag and has an eagle emblem on the chest, how the invisible jet came to be, and showing Diana’s first time deflecting bullets. But for the most part, this is just a really solid retread of the standard origin story, complimented with gorgeous art by Nikola Scott and Romulo Fajardo Jr.

 

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Action Comics #961

Superman leaves Luthor to take care of Metropolis, and Wonder Woman to take care of his family, while he takes on Doomsday alone.

Outside the city, this Doomsday fight loses a lot of its weight. It’s still cool seeing Superman and Wonder Woman tag team him, and Jon and Lois are still there, but a lot of the drama stayed back in Metropolis. Once it’s just Supes vs. Doomsday again, it is neat to see Superman try and fight smarter not harder, and still have a tough time doing it – but I’m honestly kind of glad for the deus ex machina at the end of the book, if only so the plot can finally resume.

 

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Detective Comics #938

It’s the big climactic fight between the Bat-team and the Colony, and it’s everything you could really ask for. Orphan is the best at punching dudes. Red Robin and Spoiler are the best at hacking dudes. Clayface is an ass-kicking multitool. Batwoman utterly rejects her father. And Batman…brings up the rear. There are other Batman books, he’s had some cool moments in this one already, so it’s great that this series really does focus on the rest of the team.

This is the pay-off to four issues of the team being chased into a corner – we finally see their claws. The issue is cinematically paced, correctly assuming that we don’t have to see every action these characters take to understand that they’re all working simultaneously, and only shows us the good stuff from each of their own objectives – skipping to the best parts, showing us the effects of their awesomeness and letting us fill in the process.

 

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New Super-Man #2

China’s new Super-Man meets China’s new Bat-Man and Wonder Woman, and after a scuffle where Keenan loses his powers, the trio go on their first mission together to rescue an engineer from a supervillain.

The first act of this issue gives us a good look at what the Chinese Bat-Man and Wonder Woman can do, and surprise surprise, it’s pretty much the same as the American versions. They’re personalities are slightly altered though. Chinese Bat-Man is more of an over-confident nerd, and Chinese Wonder Woman…seems a bit haughty, maybe? We only really see her interact with Kong, who immediately tries hitting on her, so haughty might not be a fair first impression.

The rest of the book is nothing great. Keenan continues to be unlikable through the whole thing, although the book also keeps him pretty inactive until the last couple pages. He does become more interesting in those last few pages though, as his inner hero appears once again, and the final page twist is delightfully in character and provides a cool problem for the next issues. Was thinking of dropping it, but I’ll give it another issue, at least.

 

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All-Star Batman #1

Scott Snyder is back on Batman, and he’s bringing John Romita Jr. and a number of other artists along for the ride.

Already, this is a very different Batman than his previous run on the character. Batman is taking Two-Face on a road trip, 500 miles from Gotham to the place where Two-Face can be defeated for good. But Batman has a bounty on his head: the fortunes of the top three crime families in Gotham, and an assurance from Two-Face that he won’t bring your darkest secrets to light.

This Batman feels looser, lighter, more like Dick than Bruce now that he’s outside Gotham. Almost the entire issue is Batman getting shoved from one villain to the next, thinking on his feet to defeat them one-by-one. This appears to be a Batman with a whole bunch of plan-B’s, but no plan-A. Along with most of the action taking place in daylight, this gives the book a refreshing take on the Dark Knight.

Romita Jr’s art can be very hit-and-miss, but in this issue, it’s a hit. Every character, action, and color is big and bold enough for his style to really pop off the page; and along with some of the coloring and effects – the book has a kind of western, kind of Tarantino feel to it.

There’s still some classic Snyder in this story if you know where to look – see: villains talking about the subtext as text – but overall, this is a very different, and very fun take on a Batman story.

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