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Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 3


For Comics Released June 19, 2013

Hello everyone, and welcome to a new edition of The Splash Page!  The viewership for this little comics review article that could gets a little bit better with each volume, so I'm sure this one will be no different!  As mentioned, I'm hoping to make this article a regular Thursday thing and that is finally starting today!  This week was a very big week for me.  I almost got about 10 titles in my pull, but was able to trim it down to 8.  Once again it was a much heavier Marvel week than it was DC.  I'm not sure what the reason for that really is, but I think it has something to do with the fact that Marvel has so few books that publish only monthly.  Most of the Marvel books I pick up are bi-weekly, making it very expensive to keep up with some of these series.  DC, on the other hand, has pretty much just monthly books, making it often feel like forever since I have read an issue (anyone else feel that way?).  But anyway, in order to cut down on the number of Marvel books reviewed in this article, I've decided to make both of our spotlight issues for the week Marvel books.  Eventually I want to highlight more DC, Vertigo, etc., but with this week being so big, it behooved me to just put the spotlight on Marvel.  Anyway, to check out some reviews for comics which released this week, you can find them here.

Marvel

Fantastic Four #9
Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Mark Bagley

Continuing some plot threads left in previous months, this issue explores whether or not Ben Grimm could have been responsible for Victor Von Doom's transformation to Doctor Doom.  In theory, this is a rather fascinating concept.  Dr. Doom is easily one of the best villains in the Marvel Universe and Fraction has a decent handle on him, so adding a guilt trip for Ben over this could be intriguing.  Unfortunately, the issue isn't as brilliant in practice.  There are quite a few positives about this issue.  The Dooms from other universes surrounding this one moment in time and calling it their Nativity was humorous as well as brilliant.  Perhaps the best part of the issue is the way Fraction works with the friendship of Reed and Ben.  Ben's belief that the entire existence of the Fantastic Four is penance for his inadvertently creating Dr. Doom is immensely interesting and well done.  Where this issue gets a little less interesting is in the multitude of questions asked by Reed and Ben's meddling with time in this issue.  Not only is the "4 Years Ago" at the beginning of the issue rather confusing (albeit the 4 could have been for Fantastic Four), but it would seem Dr. Doom's origin was single-handedly altered in this issue and no one seems to care.  Fraction comes from an interesting place in Reed's belief that "Doom is inevitable," but you would think such blatant disregard for the space-time continuum would be addressed better.  Rating: B+

Thunderbolts #11
Written by Daniel Way, Art by Phil Noto

It has taken quite a while for this latest story arc in Thunderbolts to get interesting, but this issue is where things finally get juicy.  While this entire arc has not been nearly as good as what Daniel Way has done before, he hits his stride big time with this issue.  This entire arc has been a weird hodge podge of villainry: Orestez Natchios, Crimson Dynamos, etc.  With Elektra's brother being the primary antagonist of this arc, it seems a little disappointing that Elektra received almost no development aside from a silent moment with the Punisher at the end of the issue.  Even then, it seems hard to take Elektra's bloody hands as proof that Orestez is gone for good.  Where Way really does a great job in this issue is with the action and the development of the Leader.  The Leader has been a part of the Thunderbolts for quite a while and now we finally understand a little bit why he has been acting so strange and submissive (although, to his credit, the Red Hulk is pretty scary).  It would seem the Leader is about to turn the tables on the Thunderbolts, causing yet another upheaval among this team that already has a hard time sticking together.  Although it really says a lot for this series that, even when Daniel Way is not writing his best, he still is able to write this team in a way that is engaging.  Noto's art is good, but this series is still not a beacon of great art by any means.  Rating: A-

Ultimate Comics: Spider-man #24
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Dave Marquez

As you can surmise from the cover, this issue of Ultimate Spider-man largely features Cloak and Dagger, highlighting their origins in the Ultimate Universe while also showing their attempt at stopping a vigilante.  One of the biggest pluses about reading this series is that Bendis writes it with more heart for his characters than he does any other book at Marvel.  Even an issue that does not feature Miles for very long is just as emotionally impacting as the things that develop Miles as a character.  If you didn't already love Cloak and Dagger, prepare to fall in love with them as Bendis gives them an origin that is incredibly heartfelt and tragic.  It's a great thing to see a comic highlight an interracial couple in this day and age, let alone one that is interesting.  Though their connection starts out a little cliche for a comic about teenagers, Tandy and Ty instantly form a relationship that is incredibly well-written.  Roxxon seems to have a lot to answer for as it is not only connected to the recent re-appearance of Venom, but also is hiring presumed dead mad scientists from the Marvel U to experiment with giving humans super powers.  The only major negative for this issue is that Miles' brief appearance and chat with Gwen Stacy seem to prove that, as per usual, "Spider-man No More" will not be lasting very long.  It's a shame Bendis is returning Miles' to the costume so quickly, but it's easy to have faith he will make it believable.  In the mean time, this issue is up there with some of the best this series has done thus far.  Rating: A+


DC

Batman and Batgirl #21
Written by Peter J. Tomasi, Art by Cliff Richards

Tomasi continues his story here of Bruce making his way through the stages of grief in the wake of Damian's death.  Although this is technically the issue that is to be dealing with the bargaining step, it feels more like we are still dealing with anger as that is the only emotion Batman has here.  Not since Batman Noel has this reviewer read a Batman story where the character was so utterly unlikable.  Though Batman continues to do good things, he is very stand-offish to the people who care most about him.  This issue spends very little time developing Batman, though, instead focusing on Batgirl.  By doing so, Tomasi makes the issue very fascinating for those of us who are not currently reading Batgirl, but one cannot help but wonder if any of this feels like a repeat for Batgirl readers.  In the wake of "Death of the Family" and Damian's death, Batgirl seems to be inching towards giving up the cowl for good, already attempting to get rid of the bat emblem on her chest.  The writing is actually quite nice in this issue, with Batgirl using these conflicted emotions to help Batman deal with his.  A pivotal scene in the Batcave seems to put a nice little bow on all the stages of grief we have seen thus far, though two stages still remain.  This is not the best chapter of this arc, but it is definitely written better than the Red Hood issue.  Only major negative is that Cliff Richards' art is terrible.  Rating: A-

Wonder Woman #21
Written by Brian Azzarello, Art by Cliff Chiang

It feels like we have been dealing with this story of children of the gods for quite some time.  Well, we have, actually.  Since the first issue to be exact, and, while we have certainly gotten some amazing issues along the way, this entire over-arching story is beginning to lose its welcome.  Fortunately things come to a head in this issue as everyone wants to try and stop the First Born, with Wonder Woman and Lennox being the only somewhat successful combatants.  Much like Jason Aaron's latest issue of Thor, Wonder Woman largely features a set of action scenes this issue, with very little story and character development in-between.  Although the action is quite nice in this issue, there is a bit of a tired feel to it all as the action is an incessant use of "okay, who gets to try and punch the First Born now?"  When Orion shows up, Azzarello's writing improves just a little bit, but it does nothing to stop the action.  The banter between Orion and Wonder Woman is very well done, and Chiang's art makes a sequence inside Orion's Boom Tube absolutely stunning.  None of this makes up for an issue that, while good, just feels like a way to further extend this already stretched-thin plot.  The appearance of New Genesis at the end may be a delight to long-time DC fans, but will not mean much to those who came in with the New 52.  Rating: B+


Vertigo

Fables #130
Written by Bill Willingham, Art by Barry Kitson

One of the things that makes Fables such an interesting comic is that, with so many characters in its wheelhouse, the comic can afford to take a break in some issues to focus on lesser characters, even sometimes experimenting with genres.  We see this once again as this issue focuses on Junebug, the daughter of two of Gepetto's wooden people (now turned human).  After the previous issue's disheartening death of Bigby Wolf, it was a surprise just how delightful and filled with joy this issue could be in the face of such grief.  Willingham brilliantly tells a stand alone story with Junebug, while also slightly developing the overall Fables story by showing the other Fables move into the newly changed Castle Dark.  Junebug is written about like you would expect a little girl, but she is a determined, independent young lady who serves as just another prime example of the strong female characters this comic continually churns out.  As the cover suggests, giant rats play a role in this issue and it makes for some of the funnier moments to read.  Bill Willingham has said this issue contains a preview of a few things to come, so we have perhaps not seen the last of the giant rats living somewhere in castle.  Barry Kitson's art does an excellent job of blending with a style now common for the series, hopefully we will see him back in the near future.  Rating: A


Spotlight Issues

For this week's spotlight issues, as previously mentioned, I decided to focus on two Marvel titles that I have reviewed quite a bit here on Geek Rex.  The first one, as expected, is the latest issue of Superior Spider-man.  I am probably in the minority in that I have really enjoyed this comic so far, but I am also willing to admit that it is beginning to waver quite a bit.  Does the series begin to pick back up with this issue?  You'll have to read my review to find out.  Our second spotlight issue of this week is New Avengers.  This is perhaps the only Avengers title currently running at Marvel that you need read, and my review will tell you why!



Thank you for taking the time to read this volume of The Splash Page!  As always, if there are any comics you feel I should give some more attention to, or any comics you feel were reviewed unfairly, feel free to leave a comment below!  See you next week!
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