Comic Reviews 10/5/16

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Champions #1

Fed up with the Civil Wars and their reluctance to clean up their own messes, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, and Nova quit the Avengers to start their own super team, and recruit Hulk and Viv to join them as Champions.

Because of comic time, these characters might have technically slipped into Gen-Z, but Kamala and crew were created as the Millennial’s superhero, compared to the Superman/Batman/Steve Rogers of the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomer Spider-Man/Iron Man/etc; and Waid writes this super team to behave by the radically idealistic politics associated with their generation. There’s a lot to be read from Kamala’s impetus to starting the team being the older Avengers not cleaning up their own mess, to be sure.

The focus on staying to clean up the places they fight in is the lesser of the qualities that really seem to separate this team from their elders though, the greater quality being thier proactivity. What struck out at me was that twice in this issue, the younger heroes put themselves in the position to help others, some might say recklessly. Amadeus Cho doesn’t wait for permission to enter a collapsing mine to free the miners, and the team asks Viv to find them the biggest crime they could stop, leading them to a human trafficker. They’re not patrolling or waiting for crime to make itself known so they can respond to it, they’re active about finding it. This proactivity also shows up in the team’s mission to actually change society, rather than just protect it.

On the art side of things, I always enjoy Ramos’ work, and Olazaba’s inks and Delgado’s colors give the book a type of grit that I hadn’t seen in Ramos’ Spider-Man work, but fits the tone and sight bitterness of the characters in this series.

This isn’t the best #1 that Marvel’s done, but I think it nailed the thematic and tonal elements of its conceit, and I’m excited to read more.

 

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Cage! #1

Genndy Tartakovsky made his name in 90’s/00’s cartoons with Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls, and that influence is more than abundant in Cage!

Tartakovsky’s big, bold, super exaggerated characters charge and bounce through his 1977’s New York. Luke Cage himself is a brickhouse – at least two feet taller than pretty much every other character and solid as steel. Characters and physics in this book behave a lot more like an animated cartoon than a traditional comic, like a character being pulled through the bars of a jail-cell and losing his clothes in the process, and character’s necks getting huge under the strain of heavy lifting or emoting. I also couldn’t help but read every narration box in the voice of The Powerpuff Girls’ narrator.

Cage! is a lot of fun, especially for anyone familiar with Tarakovsky’s cartoon work.

 

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Spidey #11

As usual, Peter Parker isn’t having a great day. Peter’s reward for tutoring Flash Thompson is for Flash to spill coffee all over Pete’s test and catch Gwen’s eye instead of Peter. Things look up when Spidey sees an opportunity to help out the Avengers and Fantastic Four fight Galactus, but before he can reach that fight, he’s interrupted by Scorpion.

I just found out that the next issue of Spidey is also the last, and I’m feeling down about it. This series – this issue included – has been one of the best runs and purest distillations of the high-school age Spider-Man character, completely nailing Peter’s wit-with-mask, nerd-without personality, and telling some great self-contained stories.

Spidey’s fight with Scorpion is great, as Scorpion continually strikes with his tail, pulling Spidey back into the fight and away from Galactus. Scorpion’s origin story is even very succinctly told as part of a splash page that uses the nodes on his tail as panels.

But my favorite part of this issue is a short montage, before the Scorpion fight, of Spidey helping people around the city, from rescuing someone from a car crash to giving a kid a band-aid, and getting no respect. It’s four panels of Spidey at his Spidey-ist, and it’s great stuff.

 

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Amazing Spider-Man #19

Jay is on the edge of this mortal coil, and it’s all up to Peter whether or not to treat him with NewU. But Peter might not be there in time to make the call when a crane collapse keeps him from the hospital. Things start bad in this issue…and get worse.

This is an issue on a timer, one that’s slyly set up in the first act and runs out of time by the third. And when it does, boy are there consequences. You’d think the tension would run out when the clock does too, but no.

Peter is not going into Dead No More on a good note, but all the pieces are on the board and in position for a really good story.

 

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Superman #8

While working on a science experiment in the Fortress of Solitude, Superman, Superboy, and Krypto get transported to Dinosaur Island!

That’s it, and that’s enough! Superman, Superboy, and Krypto fightin’ some dinos. In this issues it’s just a big ancient fish and some pterosaurs, but there’s sure to be more in store. I’m still loving the superdad/son relationship, and there are a few good scenes here where it shines, like when they come across the remains of a WWII era American tank crew.

This issue is dedicated to Darwyn Cooke, who wrote an amazing Dinosaur Island scene in New Frontier. Hopefully this arc carries the torch. So far, so good.

 

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Green Arrow #8

We catch up with Ollie two days into being stranded on another island following the Seventh Circle arc but luckily, Dinah’s there too! So is Diggle, but he doesn’t have the chance to regroup with the others before he gets attacked by a bear. And of course, Ollie, Dinah, and Diggle aren’t the only ones on this island…

Other than Diggle’s one scene, this issue is surprisingly upbeat considering the plot. Ollie and Dinah find each-other pretty early on in the issue, and spend most of their time flirting and making out.

What I really enjoyed about this issue was that, despite having two attractive characters just mackin’ on each other through the issue, it’s all way more sweet than it is sexy. Theirs isn’t a perfect relationship, but this issue makes it clear that Ollie and Dinah are really good for, and care deeply for each other.

This is pretty much as close to a beach vacation episode I’ve ever seen from a superhero comic (after Hellcat), and it works.

 

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Batman #8 + Nightwing #6 (Night of the Monster Men #4/#5)

Batman and Batwoman continue to fight the dragon rampaging through Gotham, while Spoiler and Orphan burn the fungi turning the Gothamites against them and each other. And a monsterfied Nightwing and Gotham Girl are just the tip of the iceberg of new threats.

What really pushes this arc over the top is the monster designs. My favorite is monsterfied Nightwing, who becomes increasingly like a giant feathered bat, but monsterfied Gotham Girl, and the fungus monster also are just amazing looking monsters.

The thrill of watching the Bat-family fight kaiju still hasn’t worn off, and being that there’s only one issue left – and that these issues tease a giant mech – I don’t think it will. In fact, taking out the Joker or someone after this might feel like a let-down.

 

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Shade the Changing Girl #1

Like Doom Patrol, this entry under the Young Animal imprint is weird, but it also feels like it’s trying too hard, which results in some very purple prose and some hard to follow story details.

As far as basics, the new shade is a bird-alien from the planet Meta named Loma who steals the M-vest from a museum and finds herself in the body of a previously comatose high-school girl.

The art is best described as psychedelic, and while it’s super pretty to look at, it’s never really made clear how much of what we see is being registered by the other characters in the book. As of now I’m assuming the reality-warping powers of the M-vest are making it so everybody in-universe experiences the reality-warping as completely normal because it’s their reality being re-written.

The issue is a bit too loose overall, but I appreciate that its giving a seemingly sincere attempt at a poetic type of weirdness, so I’ll give it a couple more issues to see if it goes anywhere.

 

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Clean Room #12

This series continues to disturb. Chloe, Killian and Duncan use the Clean Room to go into Spark’s past and see how he was before he was exorcized. Meanwhile, Astrid prevents the takeover of her company by Mr. Wenuka.

The scenes with Astrid are relatively calm, it’s mainly a teleconference. Meanwhile, Spark’s memories are straight out of The Exorcist. And that sort of imagery is just as horrible in comic form. With that in mind, it’s amazing how cute Davis-Hunt can manage to make Spark in one or two panels; it’s all in the eyes, really.

 

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Strange Attractors #5

New York City comes together to save itself from a terrorist attack.

I don’t know how many of you were in New York in the months after 9/11, but what I remember is being eight years old and in the third grade, and everything feeling…pretty normal. Days after the worst terror attack in US history, and New York was, as far as I could tell, back to normal. I went back to school, my parents went back to work, and besides some TV channels not working, nothing changed. Well, everything changed, I just wasn’t old enough to know it. But I think that fact speaks to the resiliency of New York.

I mean, I still have emotional scars. For literally years after 9/11 I couldn’t look at any tall building in the skyline and not imagine what it would look like with black smoke pouring out. But I also always knew that the city was stronger than anything anyone could crash into it. Much to my chagrin at the time, the worst terror attack in US history couldn’t keep me out of school for a whole week.

That’s what Strange Attractors reminds me of. That I was lucky enough to grow up in the best city in the world. That even though the city has tons of every type of issue, and something as simple as sitting on a train can be a frustrating experience, I can’t imagine myself being happy anywhere else.

 

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Paper Girls #10

The army from the future goes further in their lengths to capture the paper girls, and the paper girls have to choose between going with Future-Erin or finding another way out of 2016.

This arc ends with another jump in time and the girls unsure of who to trust. This is probably the most vulnerable we’ve seen Mac yet, which is the most notable part of this issue. We also get some farewells between the girls and Older-Erin, which finally gives Older-Erin the chance to give her younger self advice – something I think we’d all do given the opportunity. The setting change at the end of the book is also very refreshing, due mainly to a change in color palette from pinks and oranges to bright blues and greens. It leaves the book on a nice fresh note, it’s nice. And of course, the last page presents a juicy new mystery to ponder until the next arc.

 

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The Killer Inside Me #2

“It was like pounding a pumpkin. Hard at first and then suddenly it all went soft. It all gave away.”

That was the line that sold me on this book. It’s one of those perfect analogies, one that describes something so specifically and sensory that you feel it greater than you understand it. I can hear what this sounds like and feel it on my fist. It’s a string of words that clicks something in your imagination and unlocks an uncannily familiar physical sensation. And this one in particular is so deliciously creepy.

This is a good book about a bad man. Lou Ford opens the issue with a double homicide and spends the rest of it shaking the cops off his scent. Of course he’s not getting caught yet, but how he manages to eke out past suspicion is where the psychopathic fun comes from.

 

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James Bond 007 #10

After capturing and “interrogating” one of the Eidolon agents, Bond and MI6 discover the identity of two of the four undercover agents, and have all the proof they need to get the security commissioner to look into a SPECTRE infiltration of MI5. But the meeting between the leaders of MI5, MI6, and the commissioner doesn’t go entirely as planned.

This issue begins on a shootout, ends in a Mexican stand-off, has a torture scene, and still manages to have comedic moments. The tension in the final scene is palpable as you’re just waiting for one of the characters there to finally overplay their hand, and when they do, it raises the stakes instead of breaking them.

 

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Shipwreck #1

A man who supposedly died in an experimental aircraft test wonders into a diner with an inspector looking for him and a surprise in the kitchen.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is Ellis on a slow burn. Lots of seemingly symbolic, ominus imagery here, wonderfully drawn by Phil Hester, inked by Eric Gapstur, and colored by Mark Englert in a stark and jagged style. Our main character has one very burned arm and attracts flocks of crows that swirl overhead. The diner is full of spiders that the inspector easily ignored, and a man is being served in the kitchen.

It’s an intriguing first issue, one that’s obscurity is very deliberate, and will probably take a few more issues to get around to explaining the basics. But the pay-off in Ellis’ books have always been worth the set-up.

 

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Green Valley #1

The four legendary knights of Kelodia are welcomed home with a feast from defeating the Barbarian King and his hoard and protecting their castle. At least two of the knights are waning past their prime, and Bertwald is looking to finally settle down and marry his Amalia. The feast becomes an impromptu bachelor party and then everything goes to shit.

As much as this is a story about medieval fantasy knights, this is also shaping up to be a story about male bonds. Starting with the opening pages, the knights never stop ribbing and teasing each other just as you’d expect from old friends. Ralphus is envious of Bertwald’s finding someone who understands him and wonders if they’ll have one last great quest together. Unfortunately, it looks like they will.

If you don’t like Landis’ style of dialogue from his films or Superman: American Alien, this won’t change your mind on him. His style is very colloquial, which doesn’t quite feel like it fits coming out of the mouths of medieval fantasy knights, but you get used to it.

The art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, inked by Cliff Rathburn, and colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu is gorgeous. It’s detailed enough to show off individual painful looking bee-stings, but doesn’t wed itself entirely to realism which lets the characters wear big emotions.

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