Comic Reviews 11/23/16

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AD: After Death #1

Jonah Cooke’s first memory is of a trip to Florida with his family when he was a child. Near the end of that trip, his mother fainted for the first time. Jonah has lived through the discovery of the cure for death, and hundreds of years later, ends his work on a dairy farm to begin working with a giant audio telescope, looking for life on a dead planet. Jonah also has a plan, the end of everything.

AD: After Death is like nothing else in comics right now. It’s very prose heavy, at times looking more like a Roald Dahl book for adults rather than a comic book – a comparison helped by Jeff Lemire’s art looking not unlike that of Quentin Blake’s. But for all its prose, and the winding tale it tells, not a word is wasted in this over-sized first issue. The story weaves between Cooke’s childhood in the 80’s, the year 825 AD (After Death), and for a few pages, “Now.” Each setting is very distinct, with the childhood moments being told very much as memories from a journal, the 825AD scenes feeling more like a normal sci-fi book, and the single “Now” sequence feeling alien to the rest of the issue.

Most of the narrative is devoted to Cooke’s childhood, and Snyder uses it to write some of the most engaging prose of his career. I may be a little bias with that; not just because I’m a huge fan of Snyder’s previous work, but because like Cooke, I have experience worrying about my mother, and with anxiety and/or depression. And the way that Snyder has articulated many of those feelings and emotions, it feels as though he peaked into my head and wrote down some of my own memories and other things that go on in there. There’s nothing quite 1-to-1, like I felt with Kill or be Killed, but so much of it rings true. And it isn’t just the visual elements of this story that brings it over the line into poetry territory at moments. Synder’s writing here is emotive and expressive in ways prose typically isn’t, using metaphors to paint pictures of the non-sensory experiences of life.

Right now, on the plot side of things, the book is unfocused. While we get a lot of Jonah’s backstory, we have no clue about his motivations for anything he does in the more recent parts of the issue. We’re introduced to this world after death, and are given some ideas to its mechanics, but there is still a lot that the series has to make sense of to us. There clearly is a plot, inasmuch as Jonah Cooke has a plan, we just don’t know what it is yet.

When it was first announced, AD: After Death was supposed to be a single graphic novel, and the way this first issue ends without establishing most of its plot, it still kind of feels like maybe it was written as a single text. However, what we do have is phenomenal; two of today’s best comic talents working together, both in rare form.

 

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Action Comics #968

It seems even DC is getting into the Civil War II crossovers.

Superman and Lex continue fighting the God-Slayer and Zade, both of whom are very formidable. Eventually, Lois, Clark, and Jon get involved and informed about why the God-Slayer is out for Lex. By the end of the issue, Superman has to make a choice: save Lex under presumed innocence, or let the God-Slayer kill him to prevent a possible genocide.

True to its title, this book has way more action than plot, and if it weren’t for the last two pages of this issue, we’d be in pretty much the exact same place the last issue left us.

Because the fighting in this issue doesn’t really do anything to advance the plot or develop characters, it’s hard to feel like this issue does anything besides spin its tires, relying on some admittedly very well illustrated fight scenes to placate us.

This plot is hackneyed, but given that it involves a supposedly reformed Lex Luthor, I’m up to see it play out one more time. I just hope the book eventually gets on with it.

 

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Wonder Woman #11

Etta Candy discovers the traitor in her group, and Diana and Steve return to Themyscria, where things aren’t how either remember.

Things are getting very interesting for Wonder Woman. That’s all I feel I can say without spoilers. It should go without saying, but this issue really does signal big changes for Wonder Woman’s current canon in the DCU as she’s made aware of just how badly Flashpoint and Rebirth messed up everything for her. This would be the point in the story where Diana would meet Grant Morrison if he were writing the book.

I’m very excited to see what happens next.

 

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The Flash #11

Flash and Iris go looking for Wally, and run into the Shade – the human Shade – who explains why he’s returned to Central City. He needs Flash to save him from his own shadows.

I really enjoy the metaphor this issue develops for the Shade and his powers, that his shadows are performative manifestations of his own insecurities, and that he needs the Flash’s unyielding optimism to help combat them. It leans hard into the Flash as a symbol of inspiration, which is right up in my wheelhouse.

 

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Teen Titans #2

Damian tries to tell the other Teen Titans of the threat that’s hunting them – The Demon’s Fist – but they’re understandably having a little trouble trusting him. That gets a little easier when The Demon’s Fist attacks, and the new Teen Titans have to fight for their lives.

The mirror-match thing that this book is doing is starting to feel a bit too played out in DC books recently, although having their mirrors being so much more coordinated than the Teen Titans does give them a good excuse to start acting like a team. Also beginning to feel a little overdone is Damian wrestling with his two bloodlines, but again, it’s as good excuse as any for the other Titans to be suspicious of their kidnapper…besides, you know, that he kidnapped them.

In any case, taken on its own, Teen Titans is a very solid book that’s balancing its plot with action beats that help develop its characters and story instead of just take up space.

 

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Deathstroke #7

This is another of those mixed up, multiple plot-line issues of Deathstroke, this time told as sequential “___ hours ago” segments from different perspectives and all over the globe. Joey takes up the mantle of Dr. Ikon. Deathstroke refuses a job from his ex-wife, and instead goes on a mission that involves breaking into a criminal billionaire’s private aircraft carrier. And Superman is hired by the US government to take down Deathstroke.

That this issue’s subtitle is “Conclusion: Part 1” makes me a little nervous. How many parts is this conclusion going to be? How many individual plot-threads are going to be tied together? Especially concerning is that there are still so many mysteries, like what Joey’s endgame is, or what Deathstroke is doing on the aircraft carrier, or what Adeline really wants.

The character stuff is as good as it’s ever been, with a Mr. and Ms. Smith-like fight between Deathstroke and Adeline in her kitchen where the two argue about old marital issues alongside international assassination, as a highlight. I just wish I knew what was really going on.

 

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Six Pack and Dogwelder #4

Dogwelder learns about the history and legacy of the Dogwelders and how they came to be, and the rest of Section Eight waits for the next sign.

I really enjoy how invested this series became in the myth of the Dogwelder, constructing a whole history of pervious Dogwelders and an origin myth for this actual joke of a character. There are certain jokes in this book, like Constantine’s relentless potty-mouth, that are beginning to have diminishing returns; but I think you really have to admire this series’ commitment to being a complete piss-take of DC books in general.

 

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Civil War II #7

Ulysses finds himself on the world of Old Man Logan, where he runs into the Wolverine, and learns how the world ended. Meanwhile, Miles stands in front of the Capitol Building, where Ulysses predicted he would kill Steve Rogers, and Steve Rogers, Captain Marvel, and Iron Man follow.

Ugh. Just, ugh. The bit with Ulysses looks to be asking a question that doesn’t at all change anything about the plot of this book as it was already going, making it completely unnecessary. Meanwhile, everything else in this issue is just waiting for characters to show up. This is a story that could have been told in four issues, that’s now been extended to eight!

This story is infuriating.

 

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Cage! #2

Cage wakes up in a wooden crate on a boat off the coast of a jungle. He breaks out of the box, jumps overboard, and followed by two cat-people, escapes into the jungle. And then things get trippy.

This issue, like the last one, is just so fun to look at. It looks animated in ways that no other comic does, having a clear influence from Tartakovsky’s experience in cartoons. All the characters are just so expressive, and all the colors and contrasts are the highest key. It’s the sort of book that takes a page and a half to show a character running out of breath, and yet doesn’t feel like it’s wasting any of its time because that one action is juiced for all its worth.

And the end of this issue has a few full page splashes of Cage tripping on jungle flowers that go fully into a psychedelic style before switching to early-Fleischer style cartooning that are completely astounding and wonderful.

To reiterate, Cage! is simply a really fun book to see.

 

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Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #13

Finding out she may be the smartest person on Earth has gone to Lunella’s head, and understandably, she’s a little bothered that, given her status, she still has to follow the rules given to her by her parents and school and other superheroes. But, even for Lunella, being the smartest person in the world and wanting to be a hero doesn’t translate to how to use your powers to save the world. And then Lunella as a weird dream.

I like what they’re setting up with this book now, how Lunella can be both the world’s smartest person, but still a child. She doesn’t immediately become sober or humbled by the responsibility, instead, treating it like a badge that gives her special privileges.

Also, minor spoilers, but seeing an old Devil Dinosaur gave me lots of feels.

 

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The Ultimates 2 #1

The Ultimates had been recommended to be a couple times before, and seeing this in solicits, I thought it would be the best time to jump aboard. I wasn’t wrong, and neither were the people recommending the book to me.

The Ultimates is a team consisting of Captain Marvel, Spectrum, Blue Marvel, and Black Panther, and exist to protect us from universally existential threats like Thanos and Galactus. But, during Civil War II, they dissolved. Now, they have to reform to protect all of existence from a threat originating from outside of it.

This is a book with big stakes, and characters that feel like they’re feeling the full weight of their responsibility, and actually have the skills and powers needed to carry it. They’re characters with experience making the right choice when every answer is the wrong one, and have lived with the deaths of many on their conscience. They’re the good guys at a cost.

I’m sold, and I’m expecting the biggest stories out of the Marvel Universe from this book.

 

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Snotgirl #4

Lottie reconnects with Coolgirl after finding out she’s not dead, and then goes to a doctor to get approved to test a new allergy drug. Then she has to face Normgirl at another party after ruining her last one, and finally, she finally meets Detective John Cho.

This story is at a weird point where I’m not sure what the story is anymore. There’s still the mystery of what happened that night where Lottie thinks Coolgirl died, but the book really doesn’t seemed concerned about that anymore. I’m not sure what this book is concerned with, really, as all of the characters are defined by their superficiality.

The end ties things back into the main dramatic question, but everything before that feels a bit like waking through a haze.

 

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