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Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 6

For Comics Released July 10, 2013

Hello, everyone, and welcome to an all new volume of The Splash Page!  I hope everyone has had a great week so far.  With it being the first week after a holiday, it seems things are steadily getting back to normal, and that includes this week's comics!  My pull this week was significantly larger, and, frankly, there was a lot more to be excited about this week than there was the previous.  I'm pretty excited for you guys to see the reviews for some of this week's comics as I have finally achieved perfect balance in my comics pull.  Yes, as you'll see below, there is a perfectly even amount of comics from Marvel, DC, and Image!  July is really starting to heat up as we creep closer and closer to San Diego Comic Con.  The always much hyped comic book, movie, and television convention starts next Thursday, July 18.  You may want to keep your eyes on GeekRex that week as there will undoubtedly be some very cool things with The Splash Page involving SDCC.  Anyway, let's dive into this weeks comics.  Below you'll find reviews for huge new story arcs, continuing stories, and even a brand new comic series you must pick up.  Enjoy!

Marvel

Astonishing X-men #64
Written by Marjorie Liu, Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Throughout its run, Astonishing X-men has been a series which has largely kept to itself, rarely venturing out of its own story to crossover into other X-books.  Usually this has been something which has worked to the comic's advantage, but this issue proves how there can be some drawbacks to the isolation.  With this issue we see Bobby Drake's power continue to grow, covering the entire world with ice.  This is a concept which creates some beautiful visuals, and allows for us to truly see the scope of Bobby's powers, but it is a story that lacks a sense of any real threat as, obviously, no other comic in the Marvel universe is dealing with a world covered in ice.  Though it would probably be a step too far for other comics to do a story that is so uniquely tied to this book Marjorie Liu has made her own, it does feel a bit weird to have a story with such a large scope have absolutely no effect on any other comic.  We finally get an explanation here as to why Bobby has been acting so unlike himself.  It is an explanation that is certainly plausible, but likely to confuse any new readers who did not catch the recent crossover between Astonishing X-men, Age of Apocalypse, and X-treme X-men.  This has thus far been an interesting story that seeks to examine the X-men's resident class clown, but it is one that does not have as much emotional depth as one would think.  A scene between Bobby and his father feels more like a re-hash of ideas present in the film X2 than anything else.  Liu should probably have stuck more to the idea of Bobby's ex-girlfriends dealing with this, but this is a solid penultimate chapter to this arc.  Walta's art continues to be great.  Rating: A-

Superior Spider-man #13
Written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage, Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli

It may surprise you to see Superior Spider-man relegated to the mini-review and not given the spotlight treatment.  The reason for that is simple: this is a comic which is beginning to lose much of its novelty.  With this issue we have the conclusion of the rather under-whelming arc No Escape, with the Superior Spider-man chasing down the Spider Slayer to end all of this once and for all.  What follows is an issue which shows just how unlikable a character Spider-man has become with Doc Ock in his body.  When Peter's Ghost was around, there was at least something to keep Otto tied to some sort of moral compass, but he has now become a full on anti-hero, with no heart whatsoever.  It is the type of character that could easily become grating to readers, and, as we have seen, many comic fans continue to be upset with the way this series is headed.  Once again we have Otto taking a life, and it is still rather shocking to have a panel of Spider-man outright murdering someone.  It would seem transferring your consciousness to Spider-man is not an entirely original idea as we find out here that the Spider Slayer wishes to do the same thing.  This makes for a moment which, if Dan Slott had had someone other than just the Spider Slayer in hearing range, would have been a game-changing moment for this comic.  Instead, this moment passes by largely unnoticed, but that does not mean this issue comes without its surprises.  The status quo is changed yet again here and it is, frankly, a plot device which Dan Slott needs to abandon.  Hopefully the new status quo set up at the end of this issue will make Slott comfortable for more than just three issues.  Camuncoli's art is decent, but his Lizard looks awful.  Rating: C+


DC

Batman #22
Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Greg Capullo

After getting off to a strong start, Zero Year continues.  With this issue, we see Bruce Wayne struggle with whether or not he wants to "resurrect" his identity as the heir to Wayne Enterprises.  This is a story which provides the major backbone for this issue, and it makes for some very nice character moments.  Although we know that Alfred and Bruce will eventually come to understand one another, it is still nice to see the early arguments between the two over Bruce's war on crime.  Alfred makes some excellent points, and the argument ends in a very emotional way, making for some great development between the two.  Where Scott Snyder really gives us some great character moments is in a night time meetup between Bruce Wayne and Edward Nygma in Gotham's Museum of Natural History.  It is a scene which easily steals the thunder from anything else that happens in this issue.  As it is not the first time we have seen a pre-Riddler Edward Nygma, Snyder adds a few touches to the character that look to make his transition into the devious villain all the more smooth.  Before the two even meet as Batman and the Riddler, Bruce is already solving Nygma's little word games, and it makes for an exciting scene.  When it comes to action, this issue also delivers in an opening scene that demonstrates how the Red Hood Gang may be the most fascinating villain Snyder has written in this comic since the Court of Owls.  This issue makes no attempt to hide who the leader of this gang will most likely become, but it is still fun to see.  So far Zero Year's greatest strength is in its more Bruce Wayne-centric approach, making for a refreshing take on Batman's origin.  Rating: A+

Superman Unchained #2
Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Jim Lee

Superman Unchained is back, and this time at a much appreciated lower price tag.  While the debut issue of this series felt a bit rough in some places, this issue does feel like an improvement overall.  That being said, there is a lot happening in this issue, and not all of it is amazing.  Superman continues his investigation of the mysterious events involving the falling satellite in the previous issue, seeking the help of Batman to find out who left a rather large hand print on the side of said satellite.  This is a scene which is written very well, but its purpose in the main issue feels rather extraneous.  Sure, it gives Jim Lee the opportunity to draw a beautiful picture of the Bat Cave, but this sequence ultimately feels like a service to those new readers who may be a bit leery about reading a Superman comic, so Batman was tossed in to add some familiarity.  Scott Snyder obviously knows how to write Batman, so there is no real flaws with the writing, but the information learned in the scene does not feel like something for which Batman was explicitly needed to give.  Snyder's writing of Clark Kent still feels like Superman wearing glasses, so this reviewer still has to hold out hope that we will get something to improve that.  Thus far, Superman Unchained feels like a comic that is doing a lot of plate-spinning with General Lane and his mysterious workings, the terrorist group Ascension, and Lex Luthor all vying for the spot of primary antagonist.  Superman is going to be keeping himself busy in this comic, so thankfully he is at the mercy of a writer who has a great understanding of how he works, and an artist that makes his heroics look positively stunning.  Rating: A-


Image

East of West #4
Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Nick Dragotta

Death's arrival at New Shanghai comes to a bloody conflict in this issue.  Thus far, East of West has been a comic which has focused primarily on the threat of Death, and what his vengeance will do to this alternate Earth.  With this issue, we get to see just why Death's wife, Xiaolian, is just as much, if not more of a threat than Death himself.  Much of this issue involves fighting, but it is all accompanied with monologue from New Shanghai's leader Mao, watching everything his family has built come crashing down around him.  One of the things that has made this such a fascinating comic is the alternate timeline it has established for itself.  We get some details on how that timeline has treated the Chinese, showing that Mao I (presumably Mao Zedong) fled with his people to the New World to establish a foothold in a country which was tearing itself apart.  Although Mao and his empire appeared threatening in the previous issue, this establishment of his legacy seems meaningless when it becomes quite clear that Death is much stronger than anything Mao can throw at him.  It is almost startling how violent this issue is.  There may not be visuals on the level of what we have been seeing in Saga, but there is certainly enough gory deeds done by both Death and Xiaolian to make both of them imposing characters.  Nick Dragotta's art really gets to shine in this issue, showing off just how beautiful this book can be.  What this comic is still sorely lacking is a sense of longevity.  Once Death finds what he is seeking and comes into conflict with his fellow horsemen, what will be left for this comic to explore?  One can hope Jonathan Hickman provides some answers to that end very soon.  Rating: A-

Ghosted #1
Written by Joshua Williamson, Art by Goran Sudzuka

Imagine a heist story where the rough leader assembles a ragtag gang to steal something that they are not even sure how to properly steal.  Now imagine that the object they are seeking isn't an object, but something more.  That is the story we get in yet another new series from Image titled Ghosted.  Jackson T. Winters is a prisoner who used to make a name for himself organizing large scale robberies until things turned sour.  After being broken out of prison, Jackson is recruited by a wealthy man who specializes in collecting supernatural items, and he wants Jackson to get him the one thing his collection is missing: a ghost.  Yes, you read that last sentence correctly.  What follows is a comic which combines humor, the paranormal, and just a dash of Ocean's Eleven to create a story that is absolutely crazy in concept, but works exceedingly well.  Writer Joshua Williamson gives us a first issue that is not perfect, but it does enough things here that are absolutely great, that any short-comings can be forgiven.  Perhaps where this issue falters the most is in its pacing.  This issue movies very fast from one scene to the next, with little room to do anything more than grasp the basic concept before being thrown to the next scene.  If this comic had an extra 5-10 pages to play with, the pacing might feel a bit more smooth.  Where this comic really succeeds is in its unique idea and its characterization.  Jackson feels like the most well-rounded character thus far in terms of development, but the team he puts together to capture this ghost is populated with characters that are sure to be great.  A lot of questions remain after this first issue, but Williamson has created a world with an almost infinite number of story possibilities.  Goran Sudzuka's art goes very well with the concept of this comic, especially when we get a taste of the ghosts.  Put this comic on your pull list as it is sure to be a must read before it's all over.  Rating: A


Spotlight Issue

So we have come to the end of yet another volume of The Splash Page.  I feel that, as this is the most balanced volume we have had yet, even with the double dose of Scott Snyder in the DC section.  I am honestly quite proud at the way The Splash Page is continuously evolving, especially in the coverage of indie comics.  Let me tell you, both Ghosted and East of West earned their A's, they are both great books.  Everyone reading comics should have their eye on the great things being done over at Image.  This week's Spotlight Issue is a rather obvious choice.  For months now, we have been continuously teased with a coming conflict between the Justice League, the Justice League of America, and the Justice League Dark.  Dubbed Trinity War, DC's much hyped crossover finally began this week in the pages of Justice League.  Be sure to read my review to find out why this may be the best story DC has done since The New 52 began.



Thanks again for taking the time to browse this little comics review article.  If you like what you see here, please don't hesitate to share this with your comic-loving friends!  As always, if there are any comics you would like to see covered, or any you feel were reviewed unfairly, let me know in the comments!  See you next week!
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