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Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 9

For Comics Released July 31, 2013

Welcome, all, to the latest volume of The Splash Page!  With it being the fifth Wednesday of a month, that usually means one thing: small pulls.  That was at least the story for me this week as I had an incredibly small amount of comics waiting for me at the LCS (Local Comic Shop).  Although my wallet cannot say it knew the difference as DC released several annuals this week, and I picked up two of them, each fetching a $4.99 price tag.  As you'll see below, unfortunately that five bucks may have been best spent elsewhere on both titles.  Yes, this will be a very bare bones edition of The Splash Page, but I have asked fellow writer and site owner Kyle Pinion to contribute one review today.  As I don't read Batman Incorporated, I thought it would be a good idea to get Kyle's thoughts on the milestone issue.  This is a week with quite a few underwhelming titles, as you'll see, so hopefully things step up for next week (Volume 10!).  Now, let's talk some comics.


Guardians of the Galaxy #5
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Sara Pichelli

This is an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy which expands on two things: events which took place in the previous issue and the events of recent crossover Age of Ultron.  For those not in the know, the end of Age of Ultron dealt with the fabric of space-time coming unraveled, with Galactus being sent to the Ultimate Universe, and a new character named Angela entering the main Marvel U.  Angela is a character who originally appeared in the pages of Spawn. Created by Neil Gaiman, this issue sees Angela's arrival into the Marvel U and her first encounter with the Guardians (Gaiman is acting as a consultant on all of Angela's dialogue). All you really have to know is that she is bad news.  As odd as her appearance is, she does not really do much in this issue.  Some development is made in the wake of Tony hooking up with Gamora, and, while it makes for a fun scene between Tony and Rocket, it really does not feel like a character moment with any more substance than a high school drama (complete with awkward hand-waving on Tony's end).  Peter Quill receives much of the development this issue, dealing with the fact that he experienced the rift in space-time as it occurred, causing him to seek out the advice of someone so surprising that it makes the anticipation of the next issue soar through the roof.  Although this is not an amazing issue in story or character development, this continues to be a very fun and engaging comic with stellar art by Sara Pichelli.  Rating: A


Batman Incorporated #13
Written by Grant Morrison, Art by Chris Burnham

The highly anticipated conclusion to Grant Morrison's 7 year long Batman epic finally came to a close this week, and considering the week it was released in (with two borderline unreadable Batman annuals released) it proves just how far above the game Morrison is over most everyone else. This final chapter is basically Batman vs. Talia in a final showdown to decide the fate of Gotham while also interspersed with interrogation between Gordon and Bruce Wayne regarding his involvement in the chaos that has enveloped the city. This issue brings two important plot threads full circle for Morrison's run: not only does it return to the first issue's scene of Gordon arresting Bruce and providing payoff there (while also hinting that Gordon may know more than he lets on), but it also fully sets in that this particular chapter of Batman Inc is a return to the more personal Bruce-Talia antagonism of Morrison's very first "Batman and Son" arc from back in 2006. Morrison does some interesting work here, tying together Pre-New 52 plot threads with a bit more of the current status quo, even tossing in a Zero Year reference, one of only two times I can think of that Batman Inc has referenced an outside event in current Batman comics written by another writer. Not only does the issue contain a changing of the guard type feel to Scott Snyder and co., but it also leaves some nice dangling plot threads for whomever decides to pick them up (knowing Morrison's history there, that means probably no one for a number of years). I was particularly a big fan of the end twist that could have ramifications for not only Batwoman, but DC's more covert-ops side of things, as well as an on-going plan for Ra's Al Ghul going forward.  Rating: A

The Flash Annual #2
Written by Brian Buccellato, Art by Sami Basri

Although the current arc of The Flash is dealing with a new Reverse Flash, this annual takes a break from that story to give us a slightly different tale.  The Flash and Green Lantern have always been portrayed as pretty close friends, even if they have not ever shared a comic book series.  Perhaps it is because both of them are the more light-hearted/sarcastic members of the Justice League, their personalities mesh much more easily.  With this annual we get a closer look at the inner-workings of that friendship.  When Barry and Hal are transported to another planet and reminded of a debt, Barry recalls the first time he met Green Lantern.  There are a few things about this issue which actually work quite nicely.  For the most part, the banter between Green Lantern and Flash works very well.  With this being their first meeting in the New 52, Buccellato does a good job of taking us back to that period where superheroes were a new thing.  The circumstances which lead to the meeting and first team-up of the two characters are plotted quite well.  When things arrive back to the present, we get a decent fight where Barry actually takes control of Hal's ring for a short time.  It is an issue that is nothing more than a fluff piece, making one wonder if time would have been better spent giving an origin of the Reverse Flash or something more relevant.  Sami Basri is a decent artist, but proves that Francis Manapul has a gift with drawing this comic.  Overall a decent diversion, but nothing of true substance.  The annual also features a back-up with mediocre writing by Nicole Dubuc and underwhelming art by Cully Hamner.  Rating: C+


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #24
Written by Tom Waltz, Art by Mateus Santolouco

The best story arc to hit TMNT in a long time continues with the latest chapter of City Fall.  Reluctantly joining forces with Old Hob, the turtles and Splinter race to find Leonardo, but Shredder and the Foot have a surprise for the group that threatens to tear their family apart.  I mentioned that this is the best story arc to happen in TMNT in a long time, and it is true.  From the get go this is an arc that his felt refreshing and filled to the brim with stakes, all done with that classic Ninja Turtles flair.  It does not hurt that Mateus Santolouco is easily the best artist this comic has ever had, and one can only hope that his time on this book does not end when this story is over.  City Fall finally begins to live up to its namesake this month as Shredder reveals to Splinter and the turtles that the Foot have been sweeping across New York, causing chaos and doing other ninja-like things.  Although this moment is a very minor aspect of the story, it at least helps to add a sense of scope to an arc that, thus far, seemed a bit oddly titled.  Much of this issue centers around the reveal of the brand new, brain-washed Leonardo, who now finds himself believing Shredder to be his master and Splinter and his brothers his enemy.  While Leonardo's outfit for this is a bit more ornate than initially hinted at (just a black mask would have been much more subtle), Waltz and Santolouco do an excellent job of portraying the turtle as a war machine of sorts for the Foot.  This is simply an incredibly entertaining arc that really shows the true potential of this series.  As City Fall barrels onward, one cannot help but feel that the effects of this arc will be long-reaching.  Rating: A-


Collider #1
Written by Simon Oliver, Art by Robbi Rodriguez

This is an exciting time to be a fan of the good work going on over at Vertigo.  New series Collider is the first step in a bit of refurbishment to the Vertigo line-up, and it is also a potential on-going series.  Through our lives, we have lived with a set of certainties such as death and taxes, but there are some we have taken for granted like gravity.  Collider tells the story of how, in the future, not even seemingly stable concepts like up and down can stay constant, with fluctuations in physics around the world being so commonplace that the US has been forced to create a new government agency: the Federal Bureau of Physics (FBP).  Adam Hardy, the primary protagonist of this series, works for the FBP, where his job, as seen in this issue, is to fix the (seemingly) minor hiccups in physics which occur.  As Adam is quick to find out, however, physics may be unraveling much faster than anyone anticipated.  There is much about this debut issue, particularly in its concept, which makes it perfect for the medium it is presented in.  In terms of writing and story, however, writer Simon Oliver presents here some seemingly archetype characters in somewhat cliche situations, but he works with the advantage of an interesting idea.  Some things in this issue, even with multiple readings, still seem a bit confusing, but even the characters don't understand everything going on, so perhaps it will be okay.  Robbi Rodriguez' art and Rico Renzi's colors are just as intriguing as the main idea driving the series and are easily the highlight of the issue.  In a summer that has seen a lot of debut issues, this may be one of the more memorable ideas, but not one of the better debuts.  Rating: B+

Spotlight Issue

So, we have (quickly) reached the end of yet another volume of The Splash Page.  As mentioned, this was a very small pull for me this week.  While there are some series which certainly entertained me this week and kept my attention, I can't say there was anything which blew me away.  This is especially true for this week's Spotlight Issue.  With two annuals coming out of DC this week, I decided I would reserve one of them for the Spotlight treatment: Batman.  The first Batman annual to come out was an incredible twist on Mr. Freeze that also helped to explain a more mystifying element of the Court of Owls storyline.  This annual...did not really do any of those things.  Read my review to find out where things went wrong.

Thanks again for taking the time to read this week's volume of The Splash Page.  A special thanks to Kyle Pinion for contributing the review for Batman Incorporated, look for more comments from Kyle on Grant Morrison's Batman run in the very near future!  As always, if there is a comic you feel was reviewed unfairly, or one you feel I should cover, please feel more than free to leave a comment.  See you next week!
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