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Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 8

For Comics Released July 24, 2013

Greetings, everyone, and welcome to yet another edition of The Splash Page!  Before moving on, I just wanted to say a quick thank you to those of you who checked out my SDCC Edition of The Splash Page.  It was easily the highest viewed Splash Page article yet, and I hope this trend can only continue!  With SDCC now out of the way, we can finally ease back into a normal groove of comics each week.  Unfortunately for me, that normal groove means yet another very large pull.  I suppose I am just going to have to realize that the hope of having a small pull each week is something of the past if I want to keep up with all of the awesome comics that come out each week.  Once again I have been able to achieve somewhat perfect balance in my pulls from Marvel and DC.  With a little trickery in choosing my Spotlight Issue for this week, you will see below an even amount of Marvel and DC books, with one Image title thrown in.  I know my coverage of indie comics is not as extensive as it could be, but I also know most people reading comics buy superhero books, so I guess I'm covering all demographics.  But anyway, enough of my rambling, let's talk this week's comics!


Hunger #1 (of 4)
Written by Joshua Fialkov, Art by Leonard Kirk

In case you have not read or heard about the ending of recent Marvel crossover Age of Ultron, you may find the premise of this first issue a bit confusing.  At the end of Age of Ultron, a splinter in the space-time continuum occurred, sending the Galactus of the 616 Marvel U into the Ultimate Universe.  What makes this a potentially confusing read for some fans is that there is absolutely nothing in the story of the issue itself to indicate to new readers that this is the Ultimate Universe. The story of Hunger focuses on the Ultimate version of Rick Jones, who, in the main Marvel Universe, has mostly been known by fans as the Hulk's best friend.  This Rick Jones, however, is gifted with more purpose as he has been given the power cosmic by the Watcher to help protect the universe.  When Rick is teleported by the Watcher to the middle of a Kree/Chitauri battle, he witnesses a conflict with the hive mind known as Gah Lak Tus, followed by the arrival of a much more intimidating being.  Fialkov writes this comic with a lot of humor, and this humor helps to make the sheer scope of this first issue feel a lot more intimate.  Leonard Kirk's art is nice and gets quite a few opportunities to shine in a number of splash pages.  It is rumored that this story is the beginning of the end of the Ultimate Universe, and not much is done here to quell those fears.  A nice start to something that feels massive in scope, but a bit more clarity next time would be appreciated.  Rating: B+

New Avengers #8
Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Mike Deodato

All of this month, Hickman has been giving us a prelude to next month's crossover Infinity.  The first two prelude issues took place in Hickman's Avengers, but now things have moved to New Avengers.  In this issue, we see a continuation of the previous in that we see the Illuminati on their own, dealing with their own varied issues.  At first these stories seem quite disparate: Iron Man and Reed Richards dealing with Avengers business, impending war between Wakanda and Atlantis, and some private business among the Inhumans.  But then, Hickman is able to tie almost all of these plot threads into one Gordian Knot of a story.  Frankly, there is A LOT that happens here, and it is definitely an issue which benefits from multiple readings.  There is a moment at the beginning of this issue which seems to flow a little better if one has been reading Avengers as well, but it is a minor bump in the road when it comes to the overall story.  What is most interesting to see, however, is the way Hickman ties in not only Infinity, but also upcoming Marvel event Inhumanity as well.  The Inhumans have always been a bit of a niche group when it comes to comic readers, but Hickman does an intriguing job of setting up their future struggles here, something which is actually being written by Matt Fraction.  This is another issue which focuses more on character development, but there is some progression in story that is so subtle that, by issue's end, you get the feeling that things may have been irreversibly altered.  Rating: A

Superior Spider-man #14
Written by Dan Slott, Art by Humberto Ramos

You may remember a recent Spider-man crossover involving Punisher and Daredevil called Shadowland.  It would seem whatever the outcome of that crossover was, it left a lot of loose ends as Dan Slott attempts to tie up any remaining threads related to the event.  Once again the status quo has changed in Superior Spider-man, but this time it seems to come with just a bit more gravity.  Spider-man has yet another brand new costume, one which looks oddly similar to the one Miles Morales has sported in Ultimate Spider-man for the past two years.  Not only is the costume new, but now Otto has his own army of minions and giant spider robots to help him in his war on crime.  His latest target?  Shadowland: the crown jewel of the Kingpin's criminal empire.  For much of its history, Superior Spider-man has spent time featuring C and D level Spider-man villains, so it is a nice change up to see this issue feature such a classic foe like the Kingpin.  As can be expected, Otto's surprise attack is quite effective.  We have seen the Superior Spider-man take on organized crime in New York for a while, but now he is no longer alone in that war.  Although the giant spider robots are quite cheesy, one cannot help but wonder when Otto's conquering will end now that he has a large army with a seemingly limitless supply of weapons.  This is an issue which is an improvement over the No Escape storyline, but it does not do much to make Otto a likable character.  It seems the constant shifting of status quos is Slott's admission that the title is stale and he has to constantly change it to make it interesting.  Ramos' art is nice for the most part, but confusing in some of the larger action sequences.  Rating: B-


Constantine #5 (Trinity War Tie-In)
Written by Ray Fawkes, Art by Renato Guedes

Just because this comic is the first one from DC alphabetically this week, do not take this as a sign that it should be read first.  If you have been following the event Trinity War, you should definitely read Justice League Dark first this week, then come back to Constantine.  Stepping out of the pages of the most recent chapter of Trinity War, Constantine and Billy Batson head to the The Joint bar, where Constantine has promised to give Billy some information.  What information you ask?  Namely that Constantine feels Shazam's power is too strong, that it would be best if Billy Batson stays out of the upcoming fight.  In many ways, this issue takes advantage of the fact that it is a tie-in very well.  You certainly get numerous elements in the plot which pertain to Trinity War, but it is also an issue which falls in line with everything currently going on in Constantine.  For that reason alone, this inevitably means that parts of this issue are going to be confusing for readers like this reviewer who have not been reading this series at all.  Thankfully, such moments are primarily at the very beginning and the very end, the majority of this issue focuses on Constantine's attempts to figure out the mystery behind Shazam.  This is an issue which gives us something we thought we never wanted: Constantine using Shazam's powers, something which happens in a magical way that is actually quite funny.  While this tie-in does not necessarily do much to advance Trinity War's story, it does give us a decent issue with some small hints as to Shazam's role in the rest of the crossover.  Rating: B

The Flash #22
Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, Art by Francis Manapul

For some time now, The Flash has been beating around the bush a bit in its latest arc, featuring Barry Allen tracking down the murders of victims of the Speed Force at the hands of the Reverse Flash.  Fortunately, this issue takes Barry's investigation back home, with much of the story taking place in Central City/Keystone City.  With only two people from the Speed Force left, the Flash takes Iris West into protective custody while he attempts to track down the culprit of these murders.  This issue by far feels the most focused out of all of the Reverse Flash issues thus far.  Perhaps it is due to the more stable location, but it could be the fact that it feels like time is running out for the Flash, but this issue makes for a great read.  One of the biggest mysteries surrounding this arc is the identity of the new Reverse Flash.  While we do not know the answer to that question just yet, this issue does make a few moves to try and throw us off track.  Manapul and Buccellato have yet to really make this series stand out in any way, but this is an issue that makes a good first step in that direction.  We finally get to see the Reverse Flash for longer than just a page, and we also get a clear establishment that he is going to be an incredibly difficult for the Flash.  Manapul's art provides a beautiful rendering of this issue that, for the first time in a long while, leaves the reader clamoring for more Flash.  Rating: A

Justice League Dark #22
Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Mikel Janin

Trinity War makes its way into the pages of Justice League Dark in this issue, but that does not mean that team pulls all of the focus.  With this issue we have the first chapter of Trinity War not written by Geoff Johns, which could have been cause for concern as passing the torch to Jeff Lemire could have caused a slight bump in the road.  Thankfully, the transition is one which is done quite smoothly.  Thus far, all three chapters of Trinity War have been written in a way which feels like it is its own series, and not something featured in three different comic books.  It is a testament to the writing of both Johns and Lemire, and, what makes this particular chapter even better, Lemire and Janin do a much better job than what we saw in Justice League of America last week.  This chapter of the epic crossover features the teams splitting on their theories over what caused Superman to murder Doctor Light.  All of the teams become mixed, splitting off into three factions: Superman and the Question's group decide to seek out a potential super villain who was in Kahndaq when the murder took place, Wonder Woman's group leaves in search of Pandora's Box, and Batman and the Phantom Stranger's group seek to stop Wonder Woman and company.  This division creates some interesting tension among the three teams that is a nice change-up from simply having everyone stay on their respective sides (in other words, it feels a bit more realistic).  The split also allows for the more thematic use of the word trinity to come into play.  While this issue feels like more set-up for the second half of the crossover, at least it is set-up that is exciting.  Rating: A


Lazarus #2
Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Michael Lark

Last month's debut issue of Lazarus was a bit of surprise hit.  Not that it should be too big of a surprise that Greg Rucka can write a good comic, but perhaps what was surprising was just how great Lazarus really was.  Now we have the next chapter of Rucka's dystopic society, and things only continue to be great.  After an attack on their property by rival family Morray, the Carlyle family decides to have a little meeting about how they should respond to the theft of their property.  What this allows for Rucka to do is to show us not only who each member of the Carlyle family is, but much of the interpersonal drama which exists between them.  Some of this drama is the usual sorts of sibling rivalry and disagreement over what is best for the family as a whole, while some of it is a bit more shocking/taboo such as the veiled accusations of incest which are thrown out.  In many ways this issue comes off as more of an episode of Days of Our Lives than anything else.  As Soap Opera-esque as this issue is at times, it never feels like it is too overly dramatic.  The development of each of the members of this family in just this issue makes them to be characters with a lot of depth which could be explore more later on.  Where this issue really gets intriguing is in its treatment of Forever, who we get hints that she may not be who she (and we) thinks she is.  In many ways it feels like Rucka is not only setting up the next few issues, but possibly the next year of issues in all of the tension established here.  In other words, this comic continues to produce a lot of excitement in its reader.  Rating: A+

Spotlight Issue

With the end of yet another volume of The Splash Page, we have come to the part of the article where I recommend one issue which stands out above the rest.  Usually my choice in Spotlight Issue is a result of the comic in question being of spectacular quality, but most of the time it is also due to the book having something about it which I feel warrants more extensive criticism than its peers for the week.  It is partly for that reason that I have chosen this week's Spotlight Issue, but it is also a choice with ties to last weekend's San Diego Comic Con.  In one of the most surprising announcements of the con, WB confirmed that the sequel to Man of Steel would see Superman teaming up with Batman.  From that announcement, I figured it would be best if I took yet another close look at recent New 52 series Batman/Superman.  Was this issue able to continue setting the bar high after its debut?  Find out in my review!
Thanks again for taking the time to read this week's Splash Page.  As always, if there is a comic you feel was reviewed unfairly, or a comic you would like to see covered here, please do not hesitate to leave a comment.  See you next week!
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