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Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 18

For Comics Released October 2, 2013

Welcome, all, to the latest volume of The Splash Page!  As I made my weekly trip to the comic shop this past Wednesday, there was a lot to be very excited about.  For one, it's now October and, with Halloween being my favorite holiday, I always find myself in a perpetual state of excitement as the weather cools down.  Another reason to be excited?  Villains Month is finally over!  While I certainly enjoyed quite a few of my Villains Month reads, it was nice to be able to settle down, get rid of a gimmick, and return to the stories each of my DC comics were trying to tell.  Not to mention, it was a nice bonus to see my pull get just a bit smaller as a result.  Below you'll find a lot of great things and a few not so great things with reviews from me and two from Harper Harris!  Don't take my word for it, though, check it out for yourself!


Hunger #3
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Art by Leonard Kirk

The beginning of the end of the Ultimate Marvel Universe continues with the penultimate issue of Hunger.  It has been well over a month since the previous issue of this series, but writer Joshua Fialkov does a good job of getting the reader back up to speed rather quickly.  Although, admittedly, it is not too difficult to be reminded of what was going on when your story is essentially this: Galactus is bad, and absolutely nothing appears to be stopping his path of destruction.  Joined last issue by the Silver Surfer, Rick Jones finds himself at a loss of how to deal with the continuously worsening threat of Galactus as Earth becomes threatened.  The duo is joined by the Ultimate version of Captain Marvel, a Kree warrior who seeks to destroy Gah Lak Tus in an effort to gain retribution for his people's creation of the swarm.  Throughout the first two issues of this series, Fialkov did an excellent job of making the stakes so massive that it felt like the only possible outcome of this event would be the destruction of the Ultimate Universe.  Such quick expansion does a bit of a disservice in this issue as it feels like not much is really done with the stakes.  Galactus is still a huge threat, but nothing happens here that surprises as much as what we had initially seen.  Fialkov attempts to give this story a brief emotional arc with his writing of Rick Jones, but it is a focal point which centers around the Death of Spider-man, an event with much more weight to it than what we see here.  Hunger entertains, but it is shallow in many respects.  Rating: B

Iron Man #16
Written by Kieron Gillen, Art by Carlo Pagulayan

Finally, after far too many months of boring plot twists and somewhat interesting story moves ruined by mediocre writing and art, Kieron Gillen finishes off The Secret Origin of Tony Stark with this issue.  Thus far, Gillen has done an almost outright atrocious job of writing Iron Man, and, in many ways, this issue is a shining example of the mediocrity which has plagued this book since it relaunched.  After the sudden "death" of robot 451, Tony finds himself having to find a way to escape the Godkiller robot before it launches itself into another dimension.  What this essentially boils down to is a lot of exposition between Tony and his newest A.I. P.E.P.P.E.R. while Tony attempts to look for a solution.  It is a problem which works itself rather quickly, with everything wrapping up with quite an unorganized bow about halfway through the issue.  The rest of the comic gives us a flash forward of a few months, a cameo from the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the long awaited return of Tony Stark to the planet Earth.  In theory, Gillen's idea to put Tony Stark in space for a while was not a bad thing by any means.  Where things hit a snag, then, was in the fact that Gillen could simply never come up with an engaging enough story for Tony.  Tony's return to Earth brings a slight promise that maybe, just maybe, this comic can start to improve a bit.  If the plotholes and downright awful art by Pagulayan in this issue is a sign of things to come, however, there is not much reason to believe this comic will get any better now that Tony is home.  Rating: C

Thunderbolts #16
Written by Charles Soule, Art by Jefte Palo

Charles Soule's run on Thunderbolts continues with this issue, and things only continue be on the rise with this title.  While this reviewer certainly enjoyed almost everything Daniel Way was doing on the title, Soule has added just the right mix of characterization, humor, and fascinating plot to make this title once again on of Marvel's better reads.  Artist Jefte Palo has also helped in this transition.  It is very difficult to describe Palo's art style, but it definitely gives this comic a very quirky, indie-like feel.  Palo over-exaggerates his characters and settings, but it all works in a very weird way due to the over the top nature of a team such as this.  There are many who will probably not care for what Palo is doing on this book, but, for this that can appreciate his different style, he turns Thunderbolts from good read to must-read.  Although this issue definitely has its moments which tie-in to Infinity, the story focuses more on what Soule wants to do with this team, making this issue more of an accurate preview of what things will be like when not tied to a crossover.  As the main story of this comic is dealing with the Punisher's desire to take out yet another mob family, it allows for some pretty humorous commentary on how some of the lower tier villains of the Marvel Universe react whenever these continuous alien invasions take place.  Soule does not pepper in as many intriguing/far-reaching elements as we got in the previous issue, but this is definitely a solid comic with some stellar art.  Rating: A-


Batman Black and White #2
Various writers and artists

[Guest Review]: Have I mentioned before how much I love out-of-continuity Batman stories?  Only two issues in and this anthology series already has me hooked and craving more.  In this issue, we start with a surprisingly well written Didio story drawn in beautiful B&W by J.G. Jones involving Manbat, a great twist in narration, and one “who’s the real monster” moment.  Next is probably the highlight of the book, an absolutely breathtaking story written and drawn by Rafael Grampá.  His signature scratchy, cartoonish style works wonders in Gotham and creates one of the creepiest, most fascinating Jokers in recent memory.  This one’s got a lot of depth to it narratively as well, and the scenes of Batman fighting Joker’s goons, complete with hand-drawn sound effects, are stunning.  I won’t spoil the ending, but this story alone is worth the cover price!  Rafael Aluquerque writes and draws the next story, showing Batman in the afterlife.  Great art and an appearance by Deadman make this one a blast to read.  Jeff Lemire and Alex Nino’s story about a Gotham plunged into an unnatural winter doesn’t flow as well as the others, but is an enjoyable read nonetheless.  Lastly is a story by Michael Uslan and Dave Bullock that is played out as a silent movie reel.  The story is simple and not particularly noteworthy, but the classic, smooth B&W art that recalls the golden age of cinema is something I could get used to.  Every once and a while you get a stinker among the stories, but with five to choose from, there’s always at least one gem among them.  This month’s issue is more than worth the $4.99 price tag; I highly recommend it!  Rating: A

Earth 2 #16
Written by James Robinson, Art by Nikola Scott

As a result of the seemingly ever-shifting creative teams over at DC Comics as well as the ever-present struggles of DC's editors and their writers, this issue marks the end of James Robinson's run on Earth 2.  Throughout this run, Robinson has been able to make the characters of the Justice Society of America become completely renewed in light of the New 52, and he has done so in a way which is more than approachable for readers like this reviewer who knew nothing about the characters going in.  From the bold first issue of this series to this finale, Robinson has given us plenty of exciting twists and turns along the way.  In its latest issues, however, Robinson had seemed to become somewhat lazy in his writing, favoring large action and an increasingly larger cast in favor of the more intimate character development which marked the former part of the run.  With his final issue, Robinson puts all of the focus on the outcome of the World Army's war with Steppenwolf, and shows us that he has one last trick up his sleeve before leaving the title.  In terms of action, this is a very well-choreographed issue, with every emotional beat packing a walloping punch of despair.  Although Robinson certainly finishes the story he was working on, this does not necessarily mean things have been wrapped up in a nice little bow.  Instead, Robinson leaves new writer Tom Taylor with a massive set of puzzle pieces to pick up and put together into a run which will make any sense in the wake of this explosive finale.  At least we will still have Nicola Scott's artwork to ease the transition.  Rating: A-

Forever Evil #2
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by David Finch

While the rest of the DC Universe gets back to normal after the distraction of Villains Month, Forever Evil returns to update us on what the Crime Syndicate is up to now that they have established control.  A few details from various Villains Month issues   In the wake of the Justice League's apparent demise, the Teen Titans decide to stand up to the Crime Syndicate, a mission that just may spell their doom.  It is difficult to read this comic and not feel like one is still experiencing a culmination of so many things which have been hinted at or built up to in the New 52, even events which may not relate to a book one is currently reading.  Geoff Johns pulls back the scale a bit with this issue, allowing for a story that does not feel so wide-sweeping or overwhelming. With the focus this issue primarily on the Crime Syndicate, we finally get a chance to slow down and begin to get to know these characters.  As can be expected, this is a team which comes with its own set of problems, but they are a group that is so utterly powerful and intimidating, it is difficult to believe that such petty personal problems would tear them apart.  One can hope that Geoff Johns would not choose to go down such an obvious road.  The other half of this issue details the beginnings of a resistance to the Crime Syndicate in the form of Lex Luthor and the arrival of an iconic DC character in a very exciting way.  A more focused story, coupled with more than a few exciting plot twists make for an event that continues to be great.  Rating: A+

Green Lantern #24
Written by Robert Venditti, Art by Billy Tan

Last month, Robert Venditti gave us one of the more seemingly important Villains Month issues in the form of Relic #1.  The reason for that being that the issue gave us the origin for a brand new villain who, beginning in this issue, has his sights set on the anyone with the power to control the emotional spectrum.  This is the beginning of Lights Out, the latest crossover of all the Green Lantern titles.  Thankfully, though this does mean buying a lot of extra issues, it is a crossover which will only last through the month of October.  Another positive?  So far, this is actually a pretty interesting story.  Relic's origins gave the character an interesting background, but this is an issue where we finally get to see him do something worthwhile.  Believing that the emotional spectrum is a finite amount of energy that the various Lanterns are wasting, Relic seeks to take back this energy...beginning with Oa.  Although Venditti certainly makes it very obvious very quickly that this is an event which is wide in scale, it is hard to not at least in part see this as Hal Jordan's first true test as the new leader of the Green Lantern Corps.  This will most definitely be a test for everyone involved as Venditti begins this event with a bang, not the whimper that some crossovers can have at first.  Lights Out may be an event which only lasts one month, but this issue's final pages prove that this is going to be a story with aftershocks that reach much further.  Rating: A


Lazarus #4
Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Michael Lark

[Guest Review]: As you might have read in my What Should I Be Reading article a little while back, I am really enjoying Lazarus.  Well, this week’s new issue didn’t let me down!  This month we get a fairly action oriented issue in which Forever and Joacquim fight off the soldiers of the Carlyle family, having been betrayed by her incestuous brother and sister.  The action scenes, much like the beautiful cover, are violent but elegant, and are choreographed in a way that makes you feel the fight in a way few other creators can accomplish.  The plot continues to thicken with Johanna turns against her brother Jonah and makes it seem the betrayal is all his.  This issue seems to end the opening arc as the final page reveals a fact that has been hinted at throughout the beginning of the series.  We continue to get mystery, action, family dynamics, and, of course, the wonderfully fascinating lead character of Forever.  The pencils and colors by Lark and Arcas are stunningly gorgeous, as always.  This is very quickly approaching Saga levels of fan-love from me!  Rating: A


Fairest #20
Written by Sean E Williams, Art by Stephen Sadowski

After months of time spent in the Fable land of Indu, The Return of the Maharaja comes to an end here as Sean E Williams gives us the last stand of Prince Charming and the somewhat mysterious Nalayani.  After their return from the Land of the Dead, Prince Charming finds himself facing off against the likes of Singh, the man whom Charming replaced as Maharaja.  As can be expected, Singh feels cheated out of a title that is rightfully his and will do anything to make sure that Charming does not hold on to it.  What this makes for is an issue which, frankly, does a good job of reminding one how gifted Charming is at combat, something we have been told quite a bit throughout Fables but not seen too often.  Writer Sean E Williams certainly knows how to put the charm in Charming, but this is a brief, yet brutal conflict which Charming engages with against Singh.  If you have been keeping up with the recent reviews of Fairest here at GeekRex, you may recall that this reviewer has been a bit upset that Charming has received so much more focus than Nalayani lately in a comic which is supposed to be female-centered.  This does not change too much here, but, after the antagonist is dealt with, we are allowed a moment of reflection on just what makes Nalayani so different.  Sure, Charming has been with a number of strong, independent women, but Nalayani is the first who has never fallen completely for Charming's...well..charms.  It makes for a new character who will be exciting to see in the future, and a conclusion which will undoubtedly have a huge effect on Fables moving forward.  Rating: A

Once again we come to the end of yet another volume of The Splash Page!  Come back next week for reviews of the latest chapter of Infinity, the next chapter of Zero Year, and some great indie comics (including the always great Ghosted!).

As always, if there are any comics you would like to see covered here, or any you feel were reviewed unfairly, do not hesitate to leave a comment!  See you next week!
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