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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 4

For Comics Released June 26, 2013

Well, it finally happened.  After over a month of each week having a vastly larger amount of Marvel books in my pull, I finally had a week that was more DC heavy!  As you'll see below, this was a very big week for DC, while Marvel's selection was absolutely puny.  Welcome, everyone, to our fourth volume of The Splash Page!  I hope you guys are still enjoying this little comics review article as I have some pretty neat surprises in store for you this week.  One of the main reasons I came up with the idea of The Splash Page was to not only give more attention to the comics I have had to ignore in my time at Geek Rex, but also as a way to promote awesome indie comics which may be unfamiliar to some of you.  In order to fully cover that indie scope just a bit better, I have enlisted the help of Geek Rex owner and fellow writer Kyle Pinion to provide two reviews for this volume!  Hopefully you enjoy what he has to tell you about Hawkeye and Mind MGMT as those are two series he has been trying to sell me on for quite some time now.  This is also a very special volume in that THREE new series started this week!  That's right, below, you'll find reviews for three number one issues, one of them among the spotlight issues for the week!  If the review for the issue intrigues you at all, this means you can pick up that comic TODAY without having to worry about catching up!  So, without further ado, let's take a look at some comics!


Guardians of the Galaxy #4
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Sara Pichelli

After the previous issue of this series spent so much time focusing on adventure and story, this issue feels incredibly more laid back.  For one, this is perhaps the most comedic issue of this run thus far as every single member of the team except for Gamora has a somewhat funny moment.  The key word in that being somewhat as part of the issue is quite funny, but the rest feels like just a tad too much.  It would be nice to see Bendis give Rocket Raccoon just a little bit of depth as, currently , he has been nothing more than the comedic relief on the title.  When the Guardians aren't celebrating their recent escape in a bar, this issue puts the focus on lone female member Gamora.  Because Gamora is the only female member of the team, this is a very lop-sided issue in terms of strong female roles.  Gamora is the daughter of Thanos, something which is even brought up with this issue, so one would assume she would be able to handle herself just a little bit better than what we get here.  For starters, this character who has been, thus far, a strong, independent female who has made herself a more than necessary member of the Guardians becomes just the next woman to sleep with Tony Stark.  While the plot of Gamora having a bounty on her head is certainly an interesting one, it is a shame that Bendis turns her into a damsel in distress for the Guardians to save.  This is an entertaining issue with some stellar art from Sara Pichelli, but the treatment of Gamora as a woman is very troubling.  Rating: B+

Hawkeye #11
Written by Matt Fraction, Art by David Aja

The long awaited, long delayed Pizza Dog issue is finally upon us.  In this particular tale, we get to see some recent events strictly through the eyes of Clint's dog "Lucky".  Instead of the typical thought/dialogue balloons, what we get is stylized pictures and face recognition to represent Lucky's impressions of the on-going narrative.  No character's name is known to Lucky, but he has his own context clues that allow him to be able to differentiate Clint from any of the other neighbors within the apartment building.  What's amazing about this issue is that despite the "fill-in" nature that most comic writers go for when trying a more experimental issue like this, there are essential plot details that move the story forward.  By the issue's conclusion, a huge status quo change has taken effect and we don't even know why it happened since poor Lucky can't understand human language except for every other word like "good boy" and "pizza".  What I enjoyed most about Fraction's writing here is that the issue plays out like a standard hero/noir-like tale, even with a femme fatale and day dream revenge sequence except all in a way that a dog might perceive it.  It's a charming issue, with gorgeous David Aja art and it continues to prove that Hawkeye is by far one of the most inventive titles of the superhero genre.  Rating: A


The Flash #21
Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, Art by Francis Manapul

The Flash has never been a standout book in The New 52.  While it has, at times, been an incredibly solid comic, it has just never been able to reach that pinnacle of must read material.  This issue, while not changing that, does put one foot forward in the right direction.  Continuing his investigation of the deaths of people who have come into contact with The Speed Force, the Flash tracks down the only lead he has: Kid Flash.  What follows is an issue which is actually quite a bit of fun, even if the end of that road does feel like too much of a divergence from the pressing matters at hand.  Spending almost all of his time on the pages of Teen Titans, this is the first time the Flash and Kid Flash have met in The New 52.  No more being a side kick for Kid Flash.  Instead, Manapul and Buccellato write the character pretty well as a stuck up teenager with some sort of secret to hide.  What this secret is, despite the cover's main selling point, is not really expanded upon much in the issue other than that Kid Flash is possibly from the future.  This is a solid enough issue, but it is one which will likely make most readers impatient as Reverse Flash is once again limited to a one page appearance.  If the first encounter with Reverse Flash is done well, and if the comic would quit beating around the bush, this could end up being the best story in The Flash thus far.  Rating: A-

Justice League #21
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Gary Frank

The moment we have all been waiting for is finally here!  Geoff Johns' Shazam back-ups have been running in Justice League for over a year and now we have the climax of Billy Batson's fight with Black Adam.  If you have for some reason not been reading the Shazam back-ups, you may want to skip this issue as it makes very little effort to catch new readers up on what has been going on.  This alienation of potential new readers could be seen as a detriment, but for those of us who have been looking forward to this very issue for some time, this issue is just about everything we had been asking for.  Much like what Johns does in every other issue of Justice League, the story is a bit minimal (everything has been set up for quite some time, of course) and the action takes center stage.  While the focus of this action may be on Black Adam and Shazam, there are plenty of surprises along the way that make this one of Justice League's better issues.  Where Johns really excels with this issue, however, is where the Shazam back-ups have always excelled: when they remember that Billy Batson is just a kid.  Getting to see Shazam act as if a pre-teen is inside his body is not only incredibly funny, but it also adds a lot of heart to the story.  It has been a blast getting to see Billy develop as a character.  Rumors seem to point towards Shazam getting his own series in the very near future, and that series could not get here soon enough.  In this issue Johns is able to tie up most of the hanging threads thus far in the series in a nice little bow, allowing for Trinity War to take center stage next month.  Rating: A+

Larfleeze #1
Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis, Art by Scott Kolins

Out of all the characters Geoff Johns added to the Green Lantern mythos, and out of all of those characters which could have gotten their own series, it seems quite odd that Larfleeze was chosen for a new on-going comic.  Nevertheless, everyone's favorite Orange Lantern is going off on his own (sort of) with a much-hyped creative team behind the helm.  After the loss of all of his treasure, Larfleeze is on the verge of suicide, but not before he can tell his life story one more time to his "butler" Stargrave.  For the most part, this is an issue which is relatively friendly for new readers.  Although it is doubtful that many will venture to pick up this series who are not steeped in Green Lantern lore, there are some small moments which may be better understood if one has a working knowledge of Geoff Johns' recently completed run.  Larfleeze's origin story is one that has its tragic moments, but all of that is over-shadowed by the over the top comedy which pervades this comic.  This will undoubtedly be the funniest book you read this week (or this month), and it is easily the most comedic book currently being published at DC.  That element alone makes this comic unique among the other Lantern books, which will surely be a great strength as the series continues.  Scott Kolins' art, while taking some getting used to, works exceedingly well with the writing of Giffen and Dematteis.  While this is not the best comic this week, it just may be the most different.  Rating: B

Dark Horse

Mind MGMT #12
Written and Drawn by Matt Kindt

This is a nearly impossible book to review without spoiling it outright.  So I'll sum it up by saying, the entire series has been turned on its head with this issue as the truth around Meru's origins have finally been revealed in a nearly Keyser Soze-esque fashion.  Matt Kindt continues to mastermind (no pun intended) a story that has more twist and turns than any comic I've read this year, providing both scripting and art duties. Kindt's watercolor efforts aren't necessarily for all, and might be a turnoff at first, but once you roll into his dream-like landscape you'll be swept away by the book that I've often referred to as "Inception in comic book form."  It has tremendous action, a satisfying emotional climax, and even puts the reader in the shoes of its protagonists.  There's a particularly wonderful segment where Meru is asked what it would be like to experience history completely from an objective standpoint and the reader is able to experience what that might just be like.  There are few comics as ambitious as this.  Mind MGMT's second arc "The Futurist" is comic book art, and I can't wait to re-read it in the context of everything I know now.  Rating: A+


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #23
Written by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz, Art by Mateus Santolouco

TMNT has been a comic which has, frankly, faltered quite a bit for the past few months.  The recent storyline involving Krang and the Fugitoid was mediocre at best, annoying at worst, and was paired with some of the worst art this series has ever seen.  Last month's issue was a step in the right direction, and this issue continues to head that way with the second chapter of City Fall.  The Turtles continue to search for the kidnapped Leonardo, who is in the hands of the Foot, and Shredder has a plan which may undo everything the Turtles have accomplished.  Everything in this issue involving the Turtles and Splinter feels a bit like a re-hash.  One of the TMNT going missing is not new in the history of this franchise and is even something which was done with Raphael in the opening arc of this series.  On the Casey side of things, it was nice to see that the writers were willing to bring a character to the point of death, but April and Angel's conversation surrounding these scenes feels expository and really slows down the moment of the issue.  Where this issue really excels is in everything involving Shredder and Leonardo.  Kitsune's conditioning of the lead turtle takes us through an alternate version of this series, with some throwbacks to the varied artwork we have seen, and what we arrive at in the present is incredibly exciting.  Not only is this the best issue of TMNT in a long time, but City Fall may be the best story this comic has ever done.  Rating: A


Lazarus #1
Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Michael Lark

One of the three new series to start this week, Lazarus just may be the most exciting.  Greg Rucka is a more than talented writer who has gathered a loyal fanbase over the years, a fanbase which was chomping at the bit for a new indie comic from him.  Lazarus tells the story of girl named Forever who is charged with the duty of protecting her family in a future where money, power, and family are of the utmost importance.  In its concept, Lazarus is an immensely fascinating read.  Just the few sentences we get at the beginning of this issue are enough to make one's mind run wild at the possibilities in story.  That is what easily sets this comic apart from another new series from Image titled East of West, Lazarus has a ton of untapped story-telling possibilities.  In short, it is incredibly easy to see this comic going through several hundred issues without repeating itself.  Not only does the story of this comic leave a lot of intrigue, but its main character represents something that is desperately needed in comics these days.  Forever is a skilled assassin, armed with the technological means to bring herself back from any injuries she receives (even fatal ones).  She is a strong-willed female character that, by the very nature of her position in the family, means that men and women alike owe her a certain amount of respect.  It is refreshing to see Rucka put this type of character front and center in this comic.  Lazarus is easily THE comic you should pick up this week and may remain a must read for the foreseeable future.  Rating: A+

Spotlight Issues

As mentioned, this week was a very heavy DC pull for me.  I ended up getting five DC books.  So, in the interest of diversity for The Splash Page, I decided that both of the Spotlight Issues for this week would come from DC.  I hope that, one day, I will have a week that is a bit more even in Marvel and DC, allowing for the Spotlight Reviews to be just as varied and diverse as The Splash Page.  Our first Spotlight Issue is the third brand new series to begin this week: Batman/Superman #1.  This comic, written by Grek Pak with art by Jae Lee, tells the story of how DC's most iconic superheroes met in the New 52.  If nothing else, this issue is worth the buy for the art alone.  Check out my review for more!  With the second Spotlight Review, I decided to go back to Justice League of America due to the severely underplayed death of Catwoman in the previous issue.  Is JLA just as great as its sister Justice League this month?  Find out in my review!

  • Batman/Superman #1: Review
  • Justice League of America #5: Review
Thanks again for taking the time to read this volume of The Splash Page!  I am more than confident in believing this is not only our longest, but our best volume yet.  So please, if you like what you see, share this with your fellow nerds.  A special thanks again to Kyle Pinion for contributing the reviews for Hawkeye and Mind MGMT.  As always, if there is a comic you think I should cover or if you feel a comic was not reviewed correctly, please feel more than free to leave a comment!  See you next week!
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