Comic Reviews 12/28/16

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Love is Love

Love is Love is not the sort of project a person reviews, or even recommends so much as reward. This is exactly the sort of thing we should ask of our artists, to come together and respond to tragedy by creating something that shows our strength and solidarity.

A collaboration between hundreds of writers and artists, Love is Love is dedicated to the victims of the Pulse mass-shooting from earlier this year, and all the proceeds are being donated to the Equality Florida Institute. Each of the artists involved in this book, from LGBTQ+ comic talent like Mark Andreyko, James Tynion IV, and Justin Hall, to their straight allies including Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, and Grant Morrison, to other famous creators including J.K Rowling, wrote heartfelt short pieces honoring the victims of the June 12th tragedy, calling for tolerance and gun control, and showing that everybody, including Superman, Batman, and Harry Potter stands against the hate that the shooter embodied.

The stories are short, most of them only one page long, and run the gamut from autobiography to stories from that night, to well wishes, and small sweet moments.

Love is Love is the comics community answering a higher calling of art; the call to heal, the call to inspire, the call to show how strong our culture and our community is in the face of violent adversity. The least we can do as the comics-buying audience is support that sort of outreach.

 

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Civil War II #8

Civil War II has been a story that stalled, repeated itself, pulled fights entirely out of nowhere, and generally was just a no good very bad event book. At least it ends with a bang.

All the heroes descend on the capitol building to watch the fight between Captain Marvel and Iron Man, and Ulysses shows all of them the futures.

It’s explosive, but it’s a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. It’s change with insurance of certainty. Not just because of schedule slip which means we’ve already read some of the fallout, but Bendis wrote ways back for everything.

For all its pomp and circumstance of a status-quo changing crossover event, Civil War II ends in fireworks.

 

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Captain America: Steve Rogers #8

Steve helps Alpha Flight and SHIELD prevent a wave of Chitauri from reaching Earth, but when a second, much bigger, wave approaches, yet get an unexpected assist from the new Quasar.

And in the past, a young Steve and Helmut eavesdrop on Hydra leadership as they decide which side of WWII to ally with.

This issue’s cover really embodies this story so far, as Steve seems to easily make pawns out of every other power in the Marvel Earth. When the new Quasar unexpectedly appears on the board, he deftly manages to use her appearance as a knife to twist into Maria Hill and Captain Marvel’s sides, and a way to further his own goals. Rogers continues to shape Steve Rogers into Marvel’s most interesting and capable villain.

And, never one to ignore political metaphors, there are shades of Vichy France to be read from the flashback sequences which are unfortunately, super relevant to the American political climate.

 

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Black Panther #9

Brain Stelfreeze returns to Black Panther as Ta-Nehisi brings the book to what he does best: scenes of people sitting around talking politics and philosophy. That may sound a little sarcastic, and there is a part of me that wants to criticize Coates for bringing the plot back to first gear, but he’s just so good at this sort of dialogue that I really can’t.

There’s one line early in this issue, “A philosopher brandishes an impractical morality, while a king preaches an immoral practicality” that sounds like it should be carved into marble in Greek somewhere in some ancient Greek ruin. Coates writes this dialogue with such weight that it really feels like the future of a country depends on the rhetoric of these handful of people in rooms, and if they can find a way to balance their morality with their ambitions and what they believe needs to be done. And there’s still a great dramatic question underlying the whole book, which is, can Black Panther win the moral victory as well as the military one? What’s worth compromising on more, morals or safety?

Black Panther reminds us that being deliberate sometimes means going slow, and that that’s worth it.

 

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Deathstroke #9

Deathstroke, too, returns to this volume’s roots as a confusing series following multiple leads all over the world and in different timelines.

In the present, Joseph returns to his office from a hero-working lunch to find a Dr. Villain at his door, here to meet Joe’s father. Rose is in Vietnam where she meets someone who knows her Hmong name. And Deathstroke is in a super-max prison, getting interrogated by someone from his past. And in a flashback, we find out what that past is, involving a bounty in Serbia and a familiar sword.

The big issue with this issue is that Joe and Rose’s stories feel too disparate to matter compared to Deathstroke’s. The issue is as well written as it always is, and once we get into the flashback and things become linear for the last third of the book, things really get good, but before that, it just feels all over the place. It also seems like we’re getting a bit of a Deathstoke origin story here, which I can get behind, but feels like it’s kind of coming out of nowhere among all the present drama.

 

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The Flash #13

A cute little Christmas one-shot. Wally patrols the city as Kid Flash, making sure no crimes interrupt his Aunt Iris’ date with Barry Allen, and a run in with Tar Pit gives Wally an opportunity to embrace the Christmas spirit. Meanwhile, on their date, Iris and Barry discuss what’s kept them from working out in the past.

Like I said, it’s a cute little feel-good kind of story; a little late for Christmas, but doesn’t suffer that much for it. And despite being a one-shot, showing Wally’s first real lone patrol and a new development in the Barry/Iris relationship feels like real steps forward plot/character-wise.

The Rogues return next week, and I can’t wait to see how this creative team handles this run’s first big Flash vs. Rogues story.

 

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Wonder Woman #13

After finding out that what she thought was Themyscira was a lie, Diana snapped, leaving herself and Steve trapped on an island in the middle of the Black Sea. Etta Candy and the rest of Steve’s allies have been scattered by their enemies, leaving Steve having to fend for himself and Diana when those same enemies come for them on the island.

This issue is incredibly intense, showing us Diana at her most vulnerable, and Steve having to protect them both without any resources. Through the entire issue, we get narration from a letter Steve writes Diana after the events of this issue, telling her exactly why he’s done what he needed to do by the end. It’s sad seeing how out of it Diana’s become, but reassuring to see the length Steve goes to protect her when she needs it. And the issue ends with Diana facing something I don’t think she ever has before, setting up some interesting things.

 

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Sixpack and Dogwelder #5

Sirius A and Sirius B – the dog stars – are about to undergo a shift that would destroy the planet, and Dogwelder and the rest of the Section 8 are the only ones who can stop it. But to do so, they have to hijack a NASA rocket ship.

The best thing this issue has going for it really is that dog-star pun, and how it immediately breaks Dogwelder out of his existential ennui. This series has never been particularly subtle, but this issue feels too obvious. The jokes are more on-their-face references that don’t really bother to make a punchline out of things. Surprisingly, Sixpack’s big emotional scene also works pretty well, despite being a completely different tone from everything else.

Overall, this issue is the least satirical one of Section 8 so far, but on the bright-side, the series is ending right as it’s about to overstay it’s welcome. Let’s hope the final issue recovers from this bit of a stumble.

 

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Dark Knight III: The Master Race #7

The world reacts to the aftermath of the fight against the Kryptonians. Superman races to save Bruce’s life. Batgirl and the Commissioner discuss if what they did was worth all the death and destruction. Gotham reacts to the death of Batman. The Kryptonians plan one last desperate attack against Superman.

It’s actually weird how this single issue feels so much like a refutation of everything The Dark Knight Returns is held up as being. It’s quiet and contemplative, with characters discussing which side of history they’ll end up on – if they’ve behaved badly or sacrificed too much. We see a Superman behaving as, well, as Superman, carrying a dying Bruce in his arms. And near the end of the issue, something happens that radically changes the status-quo of who we know this version of Batman to be.

It’s not a great single issue, but in relation to the Dark Knight canon, this issue is remarkable.

 

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All-Star Batman #5

Batman, Duke, and Two-Face escape KGBeast and finally reach the boarding-home where Harvey hid the cure, but there’s one last surprise, one more choice, for Bruce to make before this is over. Meanwhile, the police have found a secret passageway behind the grandfather clock at Wayne Manor, and Alfred has one phone call to convince Bruce to drop everything to save his secret.

The ending to All-Star Batman’s first arc really drives home how different this book’s tone is from almost every other Batman book. This is a pure roadhouse action movie finale, and going over a waterfall is the least of Batman’s worries. As he tends to do, Snyder talks almost straight to the audience about what the ending of this arc means, and the morale we’re supposed to take from it, which feels almost doubly out of place in this story because of those tonal differences.

But other than that, Snyder and Romita Jr. keep the tone consistently over the top. Batman gets into two muddy fights in the rain. Alfred’s call to Bruce dips into melodrama, and there’s one fake-out involving the police that got the same reaction from me as when James Bond stops the countdown to the nuke from going off at 0:07 at the end of Goldfinger – that weird comic relief.

Judging by solicits, we’re getting a series of one-shots from this series next, each with different artists, and I hope that Snyder keeps on experimenting as well with genre in tone in those as well has he did in this first arc.

 

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AD: After Death #2

In the year 830AD, Jonah receives a transmission from Forager Base, from people who should not exist on the surface of a dead planet. And in flashbacks we learn how Jonah grew up to become a successful thief, and how he got the assignment to steal the cure for death.

The plot begins to really solidify in this issue, in both timelines. In 830AD, we find out that the story takes place in a world high above a poison Earth, and that Jonah resents participating in the events that caused the world to change, and is determined to find any survivors down there. And before the cure, we find out who Jonah became after the death of his mother, how he became the person to steal death.

It’s difficult to discuss this story briefly because so much of what makes it amazing is in the specifics. It’s the shape of Snyder’s prose and the small anecdotes he writes along the story. It’s how he goes into just enough detail about how Jonah plans and conducts a heist entirely through a computer to make you feel like you could plan one yourself without getting bogged down in technobabble. It’s how he turns the book into a story about 70’s astronauts for four pages and even though it’s an aside, it makes the story so much richer. It’s how he describes the types of emotions that can quietly eat you up from the inside out without ever revealing their name.

AD: After Death makes me want to read a Scott Snyder novel. It’s proof positive of his powers in prose, not just comic book storytelling. At times, the story can feel a little meandering, but it’s richer for taking the scenic route through the plot, a plot that is still full of intrigue and propulsion. I feel that Synder is too young for this to be his opus, but it’s definitely a high-point.

 

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James Bond #12

Birdwhistle has one last debriefing with Parliament before she’s done with this whole mess, but Hawkwood gives chase one last time, and Bond has to stop him.

This issue is one last solid action sequence from Ellis and Masters. A foot-chase turns into a car chase turns into a fistfight and eventually settles into a short discussion and ends on a Bond one-liner. It feels a bit like a full issue epilogue considering most of the plot was settled last issue, but it’s still a fun read unto itself.

 

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Snotgirl #5

Lottie ends the year by trying to forgive Charlene and enjoy herself at a New Years Eve party. But when Coolgirl shows up, things start to go in a bad direction.

The best and worst part of this issue is that it makes this entire first arc feel like a prologue, like we’ve spent five issues just scratching the surface. It’s great because the book now has so much more potential that I never suspected, but bad because it makes me feel like the last five issues were a bit of a meandering waste. Once again, there are so many more questions than answers! It’s as infuriating as it is intriguing!

I’ll keep on reading, because the book is amazing, and all the hooks for the next volume are killer, but like, what’s the actual story going to be now, because it feels like it’s just starting!?

 

 

Saga #41 was scheduled to come out today, but because of a printing error, was recalled. The reprint should come out next week.

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