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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 11

For Comics Released August 14, 2013

Welcome to Volume 11 of The Splash Page!  As you have undoubtedly noticed, there has been one major change to The Splash Page with this edition: a NEW logo!  While I certainly enjoyed the very first logo I designed for this article, I felt it was time for just a little bit of a change up.  Hopefully you enjoy this relatively minor change as much as I do, I think it adds a breath of fresh air to this already awesome article.  So, with comics this week, I came home with a pretty massive pull.  Unfortunately, I don't see this changing any time soon as September looks to be another huge month of comics.  Not only did this week see the return of a certain indie comic that I love as well as Trinity War, but it was also a week which marked the beginning of Marvel's newest crossover event.  Without further ado, let's take a look at how all of these comics and more turned out!


Astonishing X-men #65
Written by Marjorie Liu, Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Bobby Drake has always been the resident class clown since his debut with the original X-men back in 1963.  With this recent arc in Astonishing X-men, we have been able to see a different side of Bobby, a Bobby driven by the pure essence of Apocalypse to fully utilize his powers, covering the world in ice.  This arc sees its closure with this issue, and it is one which deals heavily on the character development side of things (as can be expected).  When it comes to the action of this comic, unfortunately there is not much done here that has probably been done more effectively in numerous X-men comics from the past decade alone.  Although, at the end of the day, Marjorie Liu's run is not one which will be remembered for its action sequences.  If this run is remembered for anything other than just the issue where Northstar got married, it will be for the great work Liu has done developing these characters.  The focus here, obviously, is on looking at Bobby's character and why, even when separated from the Apocalypse Seed, he still feels the need to use the utmost extent of his powers.  As has been the case throughout this arc, the development that is most interesting is that of the women in Bobby's life, as this offers a less whiny version of the situation.  The final pages offer a startling revelation about Bobby's character that could have been a worthwhile bit of development, but it feels utterly devoid of stakes due to the fact that this comic is ending in October.  Hopefully someone picks up this interesting story thread.  Rating: A-

Fantastic Four #11
Written by Matt Fraction and Christopher Sebela, Art by Mark Bagley

Matt Fraction's opening story about the Fantastic Four travelling through space and time to find a cure for their strange illness is still dragging on with this issue.  This time around, Reed allows his daughter Valeria to pick where they should travel next: a planet in the future with the technology and brain power to possibly cure them.  It is an answer which seems so blatantly obvious that one wonders why Fraction wasted eleven issues beating around the bush.  As with every trip to a new place in this arc, however, things go awry.  The group is separated: Reed, Valeria, and Johnny are sent to the further future courtesy of a time bomb, and Sue, Ben, and Franklin are left to deal with an attack from steampunk time terrorists.  Yes, you read that ridiculous sentence correctly.  Not only do the time terrorists make for a pathetic excuse to use steampunk tropes, but they never come off as a serious threat aside from a throwaway line from Franklin that they could ruin the space-time continuum.  This seems unlikely, though, as the past eleven issues have seen this family meddling with time with 0 repercussions.  Ultimately, this entire arc has been going on for far too long, with each issue seemingly showing more and more apathy from Fraction.  An issue that is too wrapped up in its own ridiculous science with a tie-in to FF that will be utterly confusing to those only reading this book, it's time for Fantastic Four to be given over to a writer who actually cares about these characters.  Rating: C+

Thor: God of Thunder #11
Written by Jason Aaron, Art by Esad Ribic

Speaking of opening story arcs in comics that have probably been going on for too long, we have finally come to the final issue of Thor: God of Thunder involving Gorr the God Butcher.  While there have been one or two bumps along the road, ultimately this has been a comic which has surpassed practically anything else Marvel is currently publishing.  All of that is due to a fantastic story by Aaron with even better art from Ribic, and it comes to its conclusion in a mostly fine manner.  After igniting the Godbomb in the previous issue, Avenger Thor is the last line of defense in stopping the destruction of all of the gods.  This is not an issue that takes up too much time developing these characters and this story, which is fine.  It is entirely an issue dedicated to stopping Gorr in the an awesome way, then wrapping up everything with the neatest bow possible.  In terms of the defeat of Gorr, it is a sequence which is written well, but drawn masterfully.  It is a stunning thing to behold, but it would not come with nearly as much power if Aaron had not taken the time to set this all up so well.  While Thor's method of defeating Gorr makes for stunning visuals, it comes with a result that feels a tad lazy.  In its closure, however, this story ends on a bit of a religious connotation that leaves the reader with some interesting things to ponder.  Not many comic writers can end a good story well, but Jason Aaron pulls it off in a way that leaves one anticipating more great stories in this comic.  Rating: A


Batman #23
Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Greg Capullo

Scott Snyder's new take on Batman's origin continues here with the next chapter of Zero Year!  Thus far, what has really made this origin story feel unique to any other iteration of this tale is that it has come from the perspective of Bruce Wayne instead of Batman.  With this issue, it seems Snyder is doing away with that a little bit as things begin in a rather explosive manner as we see the Red Hood gang attacking Bruce and beginning to burn down Wayne Manor.  It must be some sort of rite of passage in a Batman story in that, in order to completely become Batman, Bruce must have his house burned down.  Somewhat unoriginal plot device aside, this is a decent opening to the issue as it allows further insight in to the leader of the Red Hood Gang.  While it is still fairly obvious who this character will end up becoming, Snyder gives him an interesting connection to Bruce.  Bruce is figuratively killed in this issue, brought back to the moment where his parents were murdered, and it only allows for Bruce's transition to become all the more easy.  This issue features a good scene with Edward Nygma, but all of the focus in this comic is getting Bruce to that iconic scene that is the linchpin to his origin: the bat flying through the window.  Not looking to step too much on the toes of what was done before, Snyder reinterprets this scene in a way that not only makes narrative sense with what has been done in Zero Year, but also feels just a tad more natural than the established origin.  The back-up in this issue is decent, but not anything we have never been told about Batman before.  Rating: B+

Justice League of America #7
Written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire, Art by Doug Mahnke

After a two week hiatus, Trinity War returns this week with the next chapter of this somewhat messy crossover.  The intermingled groups are still split up performing their necessary tasks: Wonder Woman and company find Pandora, Superman and company find Doctor Psycho, and everyone else receives a warning from the Phantom Stranger.  It is a story which still feels very much all over the place, but, thankfully, much of what is going on is interesting.  Wonder Woman's agenda and motivations still feel a little muddled.  It has been established that Pandora is seeking someone of good heart and mind to open the box, so her choice in candidate seems a bit odd (no spoilers, but, trust me, it's a weird choice) and it is a decision made with seemingly no motivation.  Superman's group perhaps gets the most interesting plot thread as well as the most development.  Perhaps it is time Johns quit digging the bottom of the barrel for villains to use.  Although creepy as Doctor Psycho is in this issue, the name is still utterly stupid.  A revelation is made here about the JLA, but it is a moment that feels bone dry of emotion, something that is a bit of a letdown for this particular revelation.  Batman's group is barely in this issue, and it makes for the first moment in this crossover where one feels guilted into having to pick up one of the tie-ins.  Thankfully the art is pretty solid here as this story, while entertaining/engaging, has not gotten back to the superb quality of the first issue.  Rating: A-


East of West #5
Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Nick Dragotta

Thus far in its short history, East of West has done a good job of giving an interesting setting, exciting characters, and a pretty engaging story.  One thing the comic has not done thus far, however, is give us a bit of direction as to where it could go beyond its initial story arc.  That finally changes in this issue.  Since her debut, Xiaolian has been an interesting character with an equally mysterious past.  This month, some of that past is expanded upon as we get some explanation on why her and Death became husband and wife.  For the first few issues of this series, Death was this character Hickman had seemingly wanted us to fear, showing us time and again just how intimidating a horseman he really was.  Once Xiaolian appeared, however, it has been interesting to see the ways Hickman has reversed typical male and female roles, making Death the more subservient character when around his wife.  As with many marriages, this one is consummated with the arrival of a child, although having a child with one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is probably not the best of ideas.  This is where the book really begins to lay down seeds for the potential of future stories, tying in a framing narrative from this issue.  The child of Death and Xiaolian is a character who will determine the fate of mankind, but not before a bunch of people try to control or kill him first.  With this move, Hickman is finally able to get this book to cross the threshold of an exciting read, giving this book a direction to head towards for potentially numerous issues.  As long as Hickman and Dragotta are putting this book out, it will be a must read.  Rating: A+

Ghosted #2
Written by Joshua Williamson, Art by Goran Sudzuka

In its debut issue, Ghosted was a fun, supernatural comic that was a bit unevenly paced, but came with an Ocean's Eleven meets Ghost Hunters vibe that was hard to resist.  Here we get the second chapter of this series, where Jackson and his ragtag group investigate the Trask Mansion for signs of ghosts.  This is where writer Joshua Williamson really has a lot of fun with his readers, teasing them a bit with some of the common tropes of haunted houses: pictures that move as you walk past, secret rooms hidden in libraries, and ghosts which almost touch you before you can turn around.  These are not uncommon plot devices, but they are executed quite well here.  Even when one is expecting a portrait's head to turn or a ghost to grab someone, Williamson uses these old tricks to amp up the tension in a lot of fun ways.  Although this issue definitely has a serious nature to some parts, particularly the final pages, this mostly feels like it will be a downright fun comic with more than a few bumps to startle you.  Something that is much appreciated as a reader with this issue is that Williamson does not put all of his cards on the table.  One of the other big draws for this comic so far is the beautiful art.  The character designs and more human moments definitely look nice, but where Sudzuka's work really shines is in the more supernatural elements, particularly a scene where the door to that secret room is open.  A solid issue that improves upon what was already a strong debut.  Readers will be bursting with anticipation for what is to come.  Rating: A

Saga #13
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, Art by Fiona Staples

After a VERY long hiatus, the much-hyped science fiction comic Saga has made its triumphant return!  Hopefully, if you were not reading this comic to begin with, you took the time to catch up while the series was on break.  When we last saw our heroes Marko and Alana, they were hiding in an author's attic, avoiding the ever-present authorities who have been chasing them down since this whole saga (pun intended) began.  This issue takes things back a bit, showing us how Marko and Alana made it to this strange new planet and the dangers they encountered there.  Such a move on Vaughan's part is the wisest, narratively speaking, as it allows for the reader to become acquainted with this world again after such a long break, but there will doubtless be many who are upset that we did not immediately rush back into the tense situation we were left with.  Narrative back-tracking aside, this feels like a very business as usual issue of Saga, which, if you have thoroughly enjoyed this comic as much as this reviewer, that is not a huge problem.  In some ways, the long break allowed for a bit of reflection on the state of this title, and it makes this return issue a bit of a let down in that one cannot help but wonder how many more times we are going to see these characters arrive on a dangerous planet.  Saga has thus far been a great comic, but one cannot help but notice the bit of repetition in narrative beats.  Vaughan has developed so many of these characters so well, however, that it is hard to fault him too much just yet.  Fiona Staples' art also continues to be stunning and it's great to have it back.  Rating: A-

Spotlight Issue

So, we have made it to the end of another volume of The Splash Page.  I know that this was yet another long edition, but I am very glad that this one featured just as many indie titles as Marvel!  Hopefully this is something which will only be able to continue.  For this week's Spotlight Issue, I decided it would be worth taking a closer look at the debut issue of Marvel's latest crossover event: Infinity.  This is the first Marvel event I have been excited about for quite some time, so check out my review to see how it all turned out.

  • Infinity #1: Review coming soon!

Thanks again for checking out The Splash Page!  If there are any comics you feel were reviewed unfairly, or any you would like to see covered on here, please do not hesitate to leave a comment!  Also, tell me what you think of the new logo!  Should it stay or go?  Come back to GeekRex next Thursday for more comic reviews!
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