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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Comic Thoughts for the Week of 5/22/13

After a few weeks of being bogged down with multiple television and film reviews, I finally was able to sit down with my comics and get caught up.  This week was fairly DC heavy as I picked up 10 issues, including the big finale to Geoff Johns' 9 year long Green Lantern saga, two Justice League titles, and even gave The Flash another go. I also picked up both Avengers books that came out this week and perhaps the best single issue I've read this year. As always, spoilers are a go!
Green Lantern # 20  Grade: B
While we discussed the issue pretty extensively on this week's GeekRex podcast, the issue itself was a nice wrapup of a fairly disappointing set of crossovers for the title. While Johns' run on GL was brilliant and exciting through his initial "Star Wars" phase, where Rebirth was his "A New Hope", Sinestro Corps War as "Empire Strikes Back", and Blackest Night as "Return of the Jedi", the steam began to run out on his work pre New 52 with the overlong and redundant War of the Green Lanterns. Once the title was relaunched with
Sinestro in as the co-lead with Hal, Johns was able to resume the area that was his greatest strength, the relationship between these two central characters. This momentum only lasted about 12 issues before the title began to struggle with a poorly sketched out Simon Baz as its new lead and a leaden storyline. This final issue finally brings the action that the book has been missing for the past half year. With revelations occurring each page practically, the story barely has any room to breathe, but the excitement is at least present with Sinestro and Hal retaking center stage. The concept of Hal's "two resurrections" being the bookend for the framing tale being told to the young Lantern at the opening and close of the story was well conceived as was the lovely epilogue that is a terrifically satisfying ending. It's the middle that gets a bit muddy, particularly the way in which Volthoom (a terribly fleshed out villain) is dismissed, and the handling of Necron is the definition of something that sounded cool as an idea but the ease in which he's whisked away is ridiculous. It's an issue that is full of alot of sound and fury, but feels like an empty confection once you get to its admittedly affecting closing pages. I appreciate the extra pages given to the close, but everything before it was such filler that the issue's events simply don't land other than as an action-filled attempt at closing everything down on the run. I do look forward to Robert Venditti's first issue next month, which at least will feel like the start of an actual "New 52" run on the title rather than the weird half-relaunch readers received a year and a half ago.

Young Avengers Grade: C-
Kieron Gillen. I think we need to break up. While I love the art on this book, it's painfully clear to me that you're more interested in appealing to your Tumblr crowd and less to a reader like me who enjoyed (albeit with some caveats) your run on Journey into Mystery. Sure, you occasionally write some funny dialogue and you still have a wonderful knack for Kid Loki. The moments where Kid Loki was dealing with his own internal dialogue were fun, and your handling of panel layout is brilliant, though that may be more Jamie McKelvie's doing than yours. Your stories simply don't move, and when they do it's done in such a painfully "hip" way that I can't help but roll my eyes. You're trying too hard for "feels" and not compelling storytelling. This issue was the last straw for me I think, though that art is certainly hard to say no to. Though much like your Journey into Mystery run, I know how this is going to end, with me decrying your lack of long term planning and coming up disappointed by the end. I think I'll be proactive this go-round rather than fall for your tricks again. 

Avengers #12  Grade: B+
This entire run, I've decried the fact that there hasn't been much character development throughout the series via Jonathan Hickman's extremely cold and impersonal writing style. With this issue, Secret Avengers writer Nick Spencer comes on board for scripting duties to assist Hickman while he plots out the "Infinity" crossover event, and the change is pretty apparent right off the bat. Right away, we get lovely little bits of interaction between Thor and Hyperion, and another set of hilarious lines from Doc Ock-Spidey. I still despise Captain Universe as a concept and as the prime mover of everything that's occurring within the story-arc, but the appearance of the High Evolutionary in the final page is a welcome appearance. Considering Ex Nihilo's overall aim, it'll be interesting to see if these two villains come to blows with their somewhat similar aims. The High Evolutionary also plays well to Hickman's strengths, so I'm hoping this title is now on the up-swing. Needless to say, Specer's addition has been a positive one thus far.

The Flash #20  Grade: B
I haven't been picking up The Flash regularly, I gave the initial 12 or so issues a go and while I loved the art and some of the concepts that were introduced, particularly Turbine, I struggled with the overall flow of the storytelling. I couldn't escape the feeling that Manapul and Buccaletto, despite some incredibly inventive visuals, were stuck in very 80s and 90s style of dialogue that just felt too stilted generally. I decided to give this issue a try, as the Reverse Flash has always been my favorite of the Flash's Rogues Gallery. On the whole, the book feels alot crisper now that it seems like Manapul has found his voice a bit. I was still fairly lost on who a few of the key characters were (the random friends with speed force powers), but they feel more like leftovers from the previous arc moreso than anything that is building here. The art continues to wow me and everything at least feels like there's a solid plan in place. I've yet to be completely bowled over by this series but the team's conception of the Reverse Flash is enough to keep me checking out next month's issue.

Mind MGMT #11  Grade: A
I'm not sure I've ever been less than impressed by this series, and frankly it's another winner. This issue focuses mainly on Duncan and how he got involved in Mind MGMT which is then followed by the team storming Shangri-La. Of greater interest though, the back-up, which portends a potentially very shocking revelation for Meru. I had to begun to wonder why there was such an intense focus on "Hulk", but if the revelation is that he was Meru's lover before the Eraser got ahold of her holds true (you never REALLY know with this series) than Matt Kindt just completely threw me for a loop, which in comics is frankly hard to do when you've read for as long as I have. I also recently picked up his original graphic novel "Red Handed", which I look forward to reading and reviewing in greater detail. This is, without a doubt, my book of the week.

As for the rest....

Nowhere Men #5  Grade: C+
Eh... boring frankly....all the wait time between issues may have affected my memory of what occurred in previous issues, but things are starting to feel incredibly tired.

Batman Incorporated #11  Grade: C+
I've long wanted to see less of Bruce and more of the Batmen of Many Nations concept in the pages of this title. The idea of the focus on the Batman of Japan is certainly a welcome one, unfortunately Chris Burnham (who fills-in on plot this issue for Grant Morrison, and is his regular artistic partner on the series) gives an iffy script with some nice visual ingenuity but it all kind of winds up in "so what?" territory. It's a valiant effort though, and I hope that the Batman Incorporated special that he's spearheading after the series ends in a few months will have better storytelling (and frankly, better art) to go with its smart concept.

Justice League #20  Grade: B+
Justice League Dark #20  Grade: B+
I'm enjoying the synergy being produced by the three Justice League titles, as Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire are finally at the point where they can lead into the (much delayed) Trinity War crossover. Justice League had much worse art, but I think its story continues the upward momentum that the title has been afforded since the Throne of Atlantis crossover, particularly the fun twist ending that plays with the cross-continuity the three titles hold together. JL Dark has been slightly on the mend since the perpetual snoozer arc "The Death of Magic" but last issue as well as this month's offering have produced a wonderful antagonism with Dr. Destin, who makes for a perfect foil against the team. This title also has a twist, that while not as satisfying, may have longer term ramifications for the ongoing history of the DCU as the idea of Dr. Destiny as Madame Xanadu's child is a dramatic departure from any other portrayal of the character. Also, Mikel Janin has to be pointed out as the MVP of the book, as he's been since its inception. In all, two very solid titles that are on the upward curve.

Daredevil #26 Grade: A
There's good books, there are great books, and then there are runs that potentially legendary. While I hate to get into hyperbole, I think Mark Waid's work on Daredevil is quickly approaching that area. It's never the most flashy of their titles, and it rarely grabs the headlines, but it is by far Marvel's most consistent book and has yet to have a bad issue. No other title being produced today can make that claim (even the much vaunted Hawkeye). This issue has two incredible elements going for it, #1. the reveal of the mystery villain that has been stalking Matt Murdock and making his life a living hell, #2. a touching story about Foggy Nelson speaking to a Ward full of children living with cancer. While the latter's rich emotional content speaks for itself (and with a writer like Waid who stock and trade is emotion, little has to be said), the former finally brings a major Daredevil adversary back into the fold but in a much different capacity. To be short, Bullseye is back, but completely incapacitated and living in an iron lung. With his weaker body, he had to sharpen his mind, and everything that has occurred in the book since Waid came on board is his doing. It's a great concept, because normally Bullseye has just been the hired muscle that has an affinity for hurting Murdock, now he's the big boss in a sense. It was a hell of a reversal, and I'm glad that Waid was able to make lemonade out of the rotten lemons handed to him by Andy Diggle's less than stellar run on the title. I also loved the visual metaphor for the circles of hell that led him to Bullseye, as well as the impending doom that Ikari continues to wreak on Matt. Amazing stuff, and much like Mind MGMT, if you're not reading this book, you're doing comics wrong.

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