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Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 17

For Comics Released September 25, 2013

Welcome, all, to the latest volume of The Splash Page!  Sorry that this one is coming to you quite a bit later than usual.  Not only has this been an incredibly busy week, but, as you'll see below, September went out with yet another HUGE pull from the comic shop.  There's quite a bit waiting for you below, including the final issues of Villains Month.  Will DC's latest gimmick end on a high note or flounder?  Only one way to find out!


Avengers #20
Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Leinil Francis Yu

As Infinity barrels onward, Jonathan Hickman gives us just a bit more details on the Builders side of things after the events of Infinity #3.  Thus far in Infinity, the conflict with the Builders has by far been the least interesting (especially when compared with everything going on on Earth), but Hickman puts a few interesting twists on this story to make this an intriguing read.  After successfully attacking and splitting up the fleet of Builder ships, Captain America, the Avengers, and the Galactic Council must decide what their next move will be.  Some tense discussion follows, but the Galactic Council begrudgingly agrees to listen to Captain America's plan: try and reason with the Builders.  Since the Builders have yet to really seem like the negotiating type, this suggestion is met with quite a bit of scrutiny, but it seems like the first time Hickman has really let Captain America's personality and background come into play.  Of course the man who vividly remembers what America was like in the 1940's would like to simply try and talk things out with their enemies.  The Builders are still a bit of a dry, boring group compared to the ongoing barrage of Thanos and company back on Earth, but Hickman does something here which puts a turn on this boredom: he makes the Builders seem just as desperate as the Avengers.  This twist is enough to pique interest, but this is still an issue which feels too bogged down in exposition to flow as well as Infinity or New Avengers.  Hickman sets up an interesting segue into Infinity #4 in the final pages of this issue that stirs quite a bit of excitement.  Rating: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy #6
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Sara Pichelli and Olivier Coipel

Seemingly never able to keep a regular release schedule, Guardians of the Galaxy finally returns after about a month and a half since its previous issue.  The story being told here is very much so a continuation of what we had previously seen.  Angela has made her way into the Marvel Universe, an appearance which has caught the eye of Uatu the Watcher just as Angela goes into battle against the Guardians of the Galaxy.  Meanwhile, Star Lord continues his meeting with Thanos, where some discoveries are made about what has happened on Earth and the fate which awaits the people of that planet.  While it could possibly be that it has been so long since an issue of Guardians has been released, there is quite a bit about this issue which feels a bit underwhelming.  When considering the issue as a whole, there is not really much new information which Bendis puts forth that we did not already know.  Angela is a mute bad-ass who is a perfect match for Gamora, something which has apparently never happened before, and she takes on the other Guardians with a strength and swiftness which makes her a huge threat.  In case you weren't sure if her presence was a bad thing, though, Bendis brings in Uatu to flat out tell you.  Thanks, Brian, seeing Groot be decapitated wasn't a good enough hint!.  Star Lord's discussion with Thanos (obviously before the events of Infinity) is the most interesting aspect of the issue again, but that does not mean anything discussed feels new.  Pichelli and Coipel deliver some fantastic art, so at least that makes a somewhat muddled issue worth trudging through.  Rating: B-

Ultimate Comics: Spider-man #27
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Dave Marquez

After reading this week's Guardians of the Galaxy, it was easy to feel a bit trepidatious about reading another Bendis title...even one which is usually always good like Ultimate Spider-man.  Fortunately, things fair a bit better with Miles Morales than the Guardians, but only by so much.  Continuing from last month's cliffhanger, this issue sees Miles and Spider-Woman squaring off against Taskmaster, a mutant who can absorb and use the powers of others, who has been sent by Roxxon to take out the two heroes.  Almost every single page of this issue is filled with one action sequence after another.  Though it is all centered around this one roof where everything is happening, it is still a bit disappointing that, considering how close we are to this series/universe coming to an end, an entire issue is devoted to one scene.  Upon further consideration, however, there is quite a bit that makes this issue worthwhile.  For one, Bendis' writing is much sharper here than it is in this week's Guardians.  Following the perspective of both Miles and Spider-Woman throughout the fight, Bendis does a great job of using their respective voices to both give commentary as well as reflect on Miles' return to being Spider-man.  Although Miles faces more than a few bumps along the road in this fight, he suddenly begins to realize that perhaps it was a bad decision to hang up the mask...being a superhero is what he is meant to be.  It is this introspection which tugs at a few final heartstrings as this comic prepares to take its final bow.  That, coupled with the upcoming conflict with over-arching villain Roxxon make this issue worth it...even if the story is not moved forward very much at all.  Rating: A-


Black Adam #1 (Justice League of America #7.4)
Written by Sterling Gates, Art by Edgar Salazar

Since his death back in the pages of Justice League, not a lot has been done about Shazam's arch-nemesis Black Adam aside from his ashes being scattered in his homeland of Kahndaq, propelling the Justice Leagues into Trinity War.  This did not stop Black Adam from making a very random appearance in Forever Evil #1 earlier this month, confusing many who had assumed the character was still dead.  As Villains Month comes to a close, however, we finally get our answer of how Black Adam was so randomly alive at the Secret Society's gathering.  This is an issue which not only details the return of this villain, but it turns Black Adam's story on its head to the point where the lines between hero and villain become quite blurred.  Geoff Johns receives a story credit for this issue, but Sterling Gates writes this book with a lot of heart.  There are a few things about this issue we have seen done before: a Middle Eastern woman is struggling with her brother blindly joining a terrorist organization.  Where things get a bit strange, then, is in the fact that this aforementioned terrorist group believes that the one true protector of Kahndaq is none other than Black Adam.  As can be expected, the deceased villain is brought back with the very same magic which gives him his power, but this is a protector who does not desire followers...or leaders.  This is a one-shot issue which barely features its villain, but there are so many well-written moments that this is easily forgiven.  Black Adam definitely comes with a few moral ambiguities, but this issue will most definitely leave you wondering if this villain just may be the hero that puts an end to the Crime Syndicate.  Rating: A+

Doomsday #1 (Batman/Superman #3.1)
Written by Greg Pak, Art by Brett Booth

When Villains Month was originally announced, there were quite a few odd choices here and there, but perhaps one which stuck out the most was that Doomsday would be receiving his own one shot issue.  The monstrous super villain's most notable claim to fame is, of course, his being responsible for the death of Superman back during the 1990's.  With the reboot of the New 52, however, many of the comics were propelled into universes which, in story, had only known of superheroes for about five years.  Though it had never been outright addressed, DC more or less confirmed that, in those five years, the Death and Return of Superman happened.  If one was hoping that perhaps this rather hefty question mark in continuity would be addressed in easily the most perfect issue to do so, they will definitely finish this issue disappointed.  Like many of the more boring Villains Month issues, Doomsday takes a look at more of an origin story for the character, particularly his connection to the planet Krypton.  What ensues is a comic which gives us a somewhat muddled account of Doomsday's once attack on the Planet Krypton, his defeat at the hands of General Zod, and then a fairy tale of sorts predicting the Death of Superman told to a young Supergirl.  Greg Pak has proven himself to be a gifted writer on more than one occasion, and, while this is certainly a very well-written issue, that does not mean it really answers a ton of questions about what is going on.  Truly what we have here is an issue which tells about half of an interesting story, leaving out some of the more juicy details.  It is all rendered by mediocre art by Brett Booth.  Rating: B

First Born #1 (Wonder Woman #23.2)
Written by Brian Azzarello, Art by Aco

After last month's Wonder Woman ended with an incredibly startling status quo change, things take a step back here to get a closer look on the villain of the previous arc: the First Born.  For starters, we have a very rare Villains Month issue in this comic in that Brian Azzarello, who has been writing Wonder Woman since the New 52 began, is responsible for writing this issue.  One of the hallmarks of this rebooted Wonder Woman book has been Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang's brilliant re-imaginings of the gods of Greek mythology as well as the mythos surrounding Diana herself, which all come together to create a comic unlike anything else DC is currently publishing.  Although Chiang is not drawing this issue, that does not really matter in the long run as artist Aco clearly has a handle on how this comic usually looks and feels, making this issue even more so feel like a taste of the familiar amongst the sea of unfamiliar that is Villains Month.  When it comes to story, this is where things could have potentially gotten a bit upsetting: once again we have another Villains Month issue that is an origin.  As not much was known about the First Born as he stampeded into the pages of Wonder Woman, not much has been known about the characters early days, making at least the idea of this issue a worthwhile read.  In this comic, Azzarello weaves a tale of sadness, rejection, and the overall desire for attention that makes the First Born a classic mythological character in his own right.  By issue's end, one realizes that the changes to Wonder Woman's character are not the only big story moves coming to the comic very soon.  Rating: A

Secret Society #1 (Justice League #23.4)
Written by Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates, Art by Szymon Kudranski

Since their appearance in the pages of Justice League of America, the Secret Society of Super Villains has been a continuous source of mystery and intrigue.  Do not expect this to be an issue which focuses on Alfred of Earth-Three as he assists the Crime Syndicate, however, as this is an issue which takes a slightly different approach.  Taking place just before the Outsider left Earth-Three in pursuit of greener pastures for the Crime Syndicate, this issue tells the story of Owlman and Alfred's last encounter with the villain we "know" as the Joker.  What this issue mostly entails is an incredibly engrossing re-imagining of the Batman mythos.  Alfred and Thomas (not Bruce) are partners in this war on crime, a war which has become too much for the young Dick Grayson (going by the alter ego of Talon in this world).  All of this drama centers around the Joker's role in a pivotal event in Dick's life, leading Owlman and Alfred on a path that will change both of their lives forever.  On a very basic level, it is very easy to appreciate this issue for its twisted interpretation of a story and characters we know so well.  When one takes the time to consider this issue further, however, this becomes more than just a simple case of "oh, evil Batman's world is like this," but instead makes one realize that Owlman is not an evil version of Batman, but one that simply takes Batman's tactics to the next logical step.  It is with moments and issues like this where Johns really succeeds as a writer, making this reviewer desperately want an Earth-Three comic.  Rating: A+

Sinestro #1 (Green Lantern #23.4)
Written by Matt Kindt, Art by Dale Eaglesham

Few villains have received a more intriguing treatment in the New 52 than Sinestro.  With the reboot, the once head of the Sinestro Corps had been brought back among the ranks of the Green Lantern Corps, a decision that would make for a solid end to Geoff Johns' run on the title.  When the time came to give Sinestro his own one shot then, Matt Kindt was given the task of finding a way to tell a story about a character which Johns had already given a definitive path to walk.  What the results of this matter are, then, is Kindt simply giving use yet another origin story amongst the mediocrity of such endeavors during the rest of Villains Month.  It is worth mentioning, though, that this issue is not nearly as cringe-worthy as Solomon Grundy #1 (also by Kindt), but that does not mean this issue is any more interesting.  With this issue, Matt Kindt gives us the somewhat retooled origin of Sinestro in the New 52.  The story used to frame this origin is that a strange being has, until recently, been responsible for keeping up with SInestro's history with the Book of Parallax.  Throughout the issue, Kindt's writing rarely feels like anything above a glorified Wikipedia entry.  In fact, one almost wonders if Kindt simply scrolled through SInestro's Wiki, jotted a few notes down, and then cranked down this rather boring issue.  Kindt even goes to the extent to remind us what has happened to Sinestro since the New 52 began, information which would feel utterly redundant to anyone who is caught up on Green Lantern.  Dale Eaglesham does a decent job of art, but this issue does absolutely nothing to make itself stand out.  Rating: C-


The Powerpuff Girls #1
Written and Drawn by Troy Little 

Okay, I'll let you guys in on a little secret...I am a HUGE fan of The Powerpuff Girls.  As a kid, some part of me just knew there was something great.  As an adult who now owns the entire series on DVD, I can appreciate even more so the humor that creator Craig McCracken injected into this series.  Now, 8 years after the original cartoon came to an end, the Powerpuff Girls are back in this new comic from IDW!  Written and drawn by Troy Little, this is a comic which very much so keeps the look and feel of the series, so much so that it is very difficult to read this comic without hearing the characters' voices in your head.  Little decides to take the approach of this comic being just another episode (or at least part of one), ignoring the 8 year gap and instead diving right into the story.  Although the Powerpuff Girls have a rather diverse and popular rogues gallery, this issue only features the most known/used: Mojo Jojo.  Though Little does one or two neat things with Mojo, particularly in this issue's final pages, he most definitely feels like the one character who does not fully reach the level of his television counterpart.  In other words, Mojo's unique style of speaking does not translate well to comics.  The rest of this issue deals with the girls fighting a new villain on a golf course, and it all comes with much of the humor the original series was known for.  There aren't too many "adults only" jokes here, but this is a comic packed to the brim with enough nostalgia that any 90's kid will have a good time reading.  Rating: A

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #26
Written by Tom Waltz, Art by Mateus Sanolouco

The latest arc in TMNT, City Fall, continues onward with this issue.  Though this has, thus far, been a much more well-written arc than what we have seen recently on this title, this is a story which has been moving at a rather brisk pace.  That aspect changes here as City Fall stumbles a bit as things slow down to seemingly set-up the rest of the arc.  Much of this issue deals with Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael moving around the city, looking to find allies in their upcoming war against the Foot.  Meanwhile, the Foot turn up the heat against the Savate for control of New York, and Splinter begrudgingly helps Old Hob to secure something which could once again change this war.  Although we get to see a bit more of the new Leonardo in this issue, something which is coupled with a pretty fantastic action sequence, this is very much so an issue which feels like it is taking its time.  One can hope that this slowing down is something which is only a brief problem.  With this being City Fall's fifth issue, this is a good arch which could easily turn mediocre if it does not begin to move towards some sort of satisfying climax with the next issue.  Another minor complaint which could be lodged is that, for an arc which has the fate of all of NYC in the balance, there is not a ton done here to show us the effect these brewing gang wars are having on the city.  Also, the very exciting tease done at the end of the previous issue is not brought up one bit.  This is still a well-written comic on Waltz' part, and Santolouco's art continues to be great, but patience may begin to war thin if some sort of end to this tunnel does not begin to seem in sight.  Rating: A-


East of West #6
Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Nick Dragotta

Now that its first arc has come to an end, the true lasting power of East of West is put to the test as the book attempts to move on to something new.  With this comic, Hickman has created an incredibly intriguing world that blends a number of genres, but has not done too much to really capitalize on too many of the things which make this world interesting, instead opting for an opening arc that felt more intimate than expansive.  That all changes here as this issue gives us the story of how the law was and has been kept in this world where any semblance of law, order, and justice seem to have been thrown out the window.  For the first time in its brief history, this is a story which very much so embraces the Western vibe which this comic has seemed to hint at before.  A brief glance at this cover very much so gives off that Western vibe, but a closer look shows exactly what Hickman is doing within the comic itself: putting a science fiction twist on genre tropes in a way which is immensely engaging.  As is to be expected in Western stories, this issue deals with the idea of a corrupt government and what the responsibility is of this group to its people and vice versa.  There is a bit about this issue which feels a tad expected, particularly with the idea of Texas Rangers taking the law into their own hands to dispense justice.  It may not be a particularly fresh story idea, but Hickman peppers in a few interesting bits of originality.  Where this comic really sells its concept is in Nick Dragotta's art, which has been consistently stellar each month.  Rating: A

Saga #14
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, Art by Fiona Staples

They often say that you cannot truly appreciate something until it is gone.  That may be the case for some things, but it is actually quite easy to appreciate the fantastic work Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples do with each issue of Saga.  It has perhaps been mentioned before in reviews for this book on here that something that makes Saga such an endearing read is that, most of the time, it actually ignores its more mystical/science fiction elements in favor of a more human story that one may find just about anywhere.  Such a story-telling move would not be possible if not for the compelling characters which Vaughan writes.  This is a comic with a cast you can truly make a connection with, and that is not something which applies exclusively to Marko and Alana, but to just about every single character who appears in this book.  Saga has become such an endearing character piece in its short time that it almost feels like a great TV show that you only get to see an episode from once a month.  Perhaps the biggest drawback with this issue is that things are still being built towards the cliffhanger ending of issue 12.  Alana and Marko get to finally meet their favorite author, but this is a meeting which comes with more than a few unexpected surprises.  Where this issue really excels, though, is in its recent focus on The Will and Sophia (formerly Slave Girl), two characters who one could easily find themselves rooting for just as much as our dual protagonists.  Character development is firing at all cylinders with this issue, but it is about time the story begin to get some love too.  Rating: A

Thank you for taking the time to check out this week's volume of The Splash Page!  Now that Villains Month has finally come to an end, one can hope that perhaps the weekly pull will not be quite as massive, saving a lot more money.  Be sure to come back later this week for Volume 18, where we will see whether October can be at least a bit stronger than September.

If there are any comics you would like to see covered on here, or any you feel were reviewed unfairly, please do not hesitate to leave a comment!
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