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Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 19

For Comics Released October 9, 2013

Welcome, all, to the latest volume of The Splash Page!  October is off in full swing, and, though my pull felt small this week, I cannot say my wallet noticed the difference.  More on that below, but I have to say that this just may be the highest reviewed week we have had with The Splash Page.  Almost everything this week got an A!  I promise you that, though a lot of things do get A's here on The Splash Page, it is not a grade which is given lightly.  You can know for sure that, if something gets an A+, it is something you better have in your pull too.  With that in mind, keep scrolling to find out just what you need to be reading in comics.


Astonishing X-men #68
Written by Marjorie Liu, Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Although Marvel has a plethora of characters with their own solo books, most of Marvel's comics are split between two factions: the Avengers and the X-men.  Choosing which comics from either of these families often comes with a dedication to, at least once a year, buying several issues of another comic you do not read due to some silly crossover.  During its brief history, Astonishing X-men was one of the few X-books to avoid this nonsense for the most part.  Though it is set in the current Marvel Universe and occasionally mentions things going on in the greater world, Astonishing is largely a title which keeps to itself, making it an attractive read to those who love the X-men, but don't feel like picking up 30 comics to keep up with one story.  Unfortunately, this issue marks the end of Astonishing X-men in favor of a new direction for the X-books; one that, of course, seems primed to set up more crossovers.  Beginning in 2004 with a 2 year run  by Joss Whedon, Astonishing X-men has had a short, but intriguing history that, even if it did not always live up to its namesake, was almost always an enjoyable read.  This issue also marks the end of a fantastic run by writer Marjorie Liu, a run which includes, among other things, Marvel Comics' first gay wedding.  We close out our time with this team with a largely Warbird focused issue.  The Shi-ar warrior shows us how she has struggled with realizing she can be more than just one thing in life and how her family with the X-men has helped in that transition.  A beautiful finale to a comic which is ending far too soon.  Rating: A+

Infinity #4
Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Jerome Opena

It feels like it has been a little while since we have seen anything from Infinity, but, after a palatable cliffhanger at the end of the last issue of Avengers, many fans founds themselves chomping at the bit for this issue.  This issue begins with the Avengers and the Galactic Council seemingly at a loss.  Though they currently have the upper hand against the Builders, it is continuously becoming obvious that this may not be a war they can win, leading to the decision that perhaps it may be best they surrender.  While you will not find any spoilers for how this negotiation goes, know that it is a more than satisfying scene featuring the god of Thunder, and it is a storytelling move on Hickman's part that finally makes everything involved with the Builders interesting.  Beforehand, the parts with the Builders were decent, but ultimately fell flat.  After this issue, it can safely be said that there's not one aspect of Infinity that is not great.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, the city of New York finds itself dealing with the aftermath of Black Bolt's first attack on Thanos, a move which proves to be causing a lot more than just crashing Attilan.  Though this seems like a very obvious segue into the upcoming event Inhumanity, leave it to Hickman to make this once uninteresting idea seem like a fascinating concept which feels like a natural result of the events of this story (something Marvel is generally less than successful with).  Thanos' son Thane takes center stage by the end of this issue, leaving the Earth side of this event just as exciting as what's going on in space.  All of this is gorgeously rendered by Opena's art.  Rating: A+

Thor: God of Thunder #14
Written by Jason Aaron, Art by Ron Garney

Continuing a story with Malekith the Dark Elf, this issue of Thor: God of Thunder shows the more political as well as the barbarous side of the Nine Realms.  After his epic, nearly year long opening arc on this title, it seemed like it would be a difficult task for writer Jason Aaron to make his next story feel remotely as large in scope.  Although, thus far, this story has not fully reached the scope of what we were seeing with Gorr the god butcher, Aaron does an excellent job of giving this story weight by trying in all of the Nine Realms.  Thor is a character who is no stranger to being a member of a team.  When he is not fighting alongside the Avengers, Thor often finds himself with Lady Sif and the Warriors Three.  With this issue, Thor is placed on yet another team: the League of Realms.  Essentially, the League is a group of representatives of various parts of the Nine Realms with one goal in mind: find and stop Malekith before he can commit more atrocious acts.  At first, the introduction of these characters feels like something more at home in Lord of the Rings than anything Jason Aaron has done on this title thus far.  As we get to know the various members of this team, however, it is clear that they have each been written with that quirkiness and humor which now seem standard in any of Aaron's writing.  It is in Aaron's gifts of writing banter between Thor and anyone he is with that adds that needed level of excitement to a not so novel idea.  Though this story has not yet taken off like the previous, Aaron and artist Ron Garney are putting together something which is at least very entertaining.  Rating: A-


Batman #24
Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Greg Capullo

After the distraction of Villains Month, Zero Year returns in the pages of Batman with a MASSIVE double-sized issue.  Call it a money grab, call it Scott Snyder wanting to make sure we catch up on two months of story, call it whatever you want.  The real question surrounding such a large issue is whether the entirety would justify the $7 (yes, seven) price tag.  Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes.  Thus far, Zero Year has had more than a few interesting concepts which Snyder has worked with, but overall it all just felt like Snyder paying homage to the number of Batman origin stories which had come before, namely Frank Miller's Batman Year One.  Though Snyder had adapted and reinterpreted these moments for the New 52 in fascinating ways, the story as a whole had ultimately felt like half of a story Snyder wanted to tell and half of a story Snyder HAD to tell.  With this issue, the latter half of that obligation finally feels thrown out the window and Scott Snyder tells this story with a sense of freedom and payoff that is riveting.  In one issue, Snyder proves once again why Batman  is one of the best titles DC Comics currently publishes.  This is by far the most exciting, engaging, and thrilling Batman issue since the brilliant Court of Owls arc.  All of the payoff and resulting build up to the next half of Zero Year are executed brilliantly by Snyder and artist Greg Capullo.  Certainly, there are aspects of this issue which are a tad too predictable, but seeing Snyder and Capullo finally make this origin story their own more than makes up for a lack of surprise.  Rating: A+

Green Lantern Corps #24
Written by Van Jensen and Robert Venditti, Art by Bernard Chang

Lights Out, the latest in a long line of recent Green Lantern crossovers continues with this issue.  With the previous issue, Robert Venditti brought us more than a few surprises, one of the most notable being that Relic is actually a being who is incredibly tall.  Seeking to absorb all of the emotional spectrum energy before it is completely drained from the universe, Relic continues his attack on Oa.  Venditti did not hesitate to start Lights Out with a bang, and Ven Jensen helps to continue that sense of continued desperation and tragedy here.  With Hal Jordan feeling conflicted as to what his responsibilities as leader are when Oa is literally falling apart, John Stewart steps up with a small group of Green Lanterns to make one final stand against Relic so that Hal and everyone else might escape.  It is very odd that it is not in Green Lantern, but Green Lantern Corps where the huge responsibilities placed upon Hal when made the leader of the Corps finally feel real, giving this issue a huge sense of stakes.  Thematically, there is not too much different here compared to the previous issue: like most big crossover villains, Relic does not seem to be capable of defeat at any avenue.  Still, this makes for an issue where the desperation hits very close to home and an ending which just may leave a lot of people talking.  But, with so much event fatigue in the Green Lantern books, it is entirely possible people will not even care about the big twist at this issue's end.  Rating: B+

Superman/Wonder Woman #1
Written by Charles Soule, Art by Tony S. Daniel

In one of their many controversial moves since the New 52 began, DC's decision to make Superman and Wonder Woman a couple was met with a very mixed reaction.  Fortunately for us as readers, this means a new comic series from two of perhaps the most exciting creators in comics right now.  Writer Charles Soule is making big strides at both Marvel and DC, so it was incredibly easy to look forward to what he would do with DC's newest power couple (literally and figuratively).  Though Superman and Wonder Woman have been together for a few months, not much has been able to be done to expand upon this relationship as the two were only able to be together in the pages of Justice League.  With that in mind, Superman/Wonder Woman seems only the most natural storytelling choice in order to give this relationship some more depth.  And depth is given plentifully in this issue.  As can be expected, not even Superman and Wonder Woman are the happiest of couples, with Diana feeling very confused as to why Clark does not wish to be open about their relationship.  Soule brings in some interesting set-up here in how this romantic relationship will work, but he is also quick to show us how wonderfully these two work together.  You also cannot talk about how great this issue is without mentioning the stunning artwork of Tony S. Daniel, which instantly becomes a huge selling point.  Bad news comic fans hoping not to spend more money than they already do: there's another new comic book that you have got to add to your pull.  Rating: A+

Archie Comics

Afterlife with Archie #1
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Art by Francesco Francavilla

[Guest Review]: This sounds crazy.  It IS crazy.  But it is so totally awesome.  Anyone that saw Francavilla’s fantastic covers for the quirky crossover Archie meets KISS will tell you that he’s got a fantastic grip on these characters and their world, regardless of the weird twists thrown his way.  In this highly anticipated series, the tragic death of Jughead’s dog Hot Dog, combined with a little necromancy by Sabrina (the Teenage Witch) bring about what may be the grisly end of Riverdale.  While I’m not a regular reader, all of the Archie comics I’ve read in the past few years have been surprisingly fresh and funny, and this one is much more modern than many might suspect; there are a few references to current TV shows (Jughead is, of course, a fan of Man vs. Food), and Veronica’s costume conundrum (sexy witch or sexy gypsy?) bring a light contemporary touch to these golden age characters.  But lets get to the nitty gritty here: the zombies.  Francavilla’s art is nothing short of stunning.  The zombies are grotesque and classic, and the acting of the characters’ faces portray a sense of foreboding that a lesser artists couldn’t capture.  We also get his signature pumpkin oranges and light purples, which just happen to go perfectly with this macabre Halloween tale, bringing a moodiness that blends the Archieverse characters with classic horror superbly.  This is an absolute must-get to start your October off right!  Rating: A+


Ghosted #4
Written by Joshua Williamson, Art by Goran Sudzuka

As Ghosted enters its fourth issue, the hype and praise surrounding this little indie series that could continues to grow.  With more and more people grabbing on to this comic with each issue, the pressure continues to mount for writer Joshua Williamson.  Fortunately, as we see in this issue, Williamson is more than prepared to meet that pressure head-on.  At first, this comic seemed like a fun little creepy story with a great sense of humor.  Though that humor is certainly there at the start of this issue, things embrace the horror side big time by issue's end.  Still unsure of how exactly to capture a ghost, Jackson Winters settles on the idea of having someone become possessed by one and simply exorcising them later (this opens up the issue for plenty of funny references to The Exorcist).  Although this plan sounds like one of the worst ideas ever, there is no real time to come up with something better as one of the members of the team becomes possessed and another mysteriously disappears.  Williamson does a fantastic job of making this Ghosted's creepiest issue to date, with the scares amplified all the way up to 11.  But then things take an even further turn for the worse.  As the plot continues to twist and turn, night falls and, as we all know, that is when the paranormal activity amps up even more.  Williamson and artist Goran Sudzuka use the night setting to immediately set in motion a series of increasingly shocking events that leave the reader feeling absolutely breathless by the final page.  Rating: A

The Walking Dead #115
Written by Robert Kirkman, Art by Charlie Adlard

[Guest Review]: Anybody walking into their LCBS this week probably noticed a &%!#-load of Walking Dead comics on the shelf.  It’s another big milestone for the series, the 10th year anniversary.  Besides the great covers showcasing major events in the series’ gruesome history, this new issue kicks off a 12-issue event that will be double shipping for the next couple of months.  So needless to say, there’s a lot of hype about this one.  I would say that it more or less lives up to it--All Out War is on, and this issue kicks it off in a fine way.  We see most of the major players getting prepared for the big day.  In typical TWD fashion, we see the personal build up, but we as readers aren’t privy to the entire plan, which keeps the suspense high.  The ‘twist’ on the final page isn’t really a big one, not worthy of such a milestone, but the issue overall puts the book in a very interesting place, and one that feels new and different but at the same time inevitable to the story.  This event brings on new inker Stefano Gaudiano to the team, and although the difference isn’t huge, he’s got a great handle on Adlard’s pencils.  As a Walking Dead fan, I would recommend you pick this up as well as the 10th Anniversary edition of issue #1, colored by Dave Stewart and jam packed with awesome behind the scenes info.  Between the two, you’ll be craving more--and you’ll get it in just two weeks!  Rating: B+


The Private Eye #4
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, Art by Marcos Martin

[Guest Review]: Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s pay-what-you-want, DRM-free digital comic doesn’t quite come out regularly, but it is more than worth the wait.  The story continues to offer a fascinating look into the unique future that these creators have crafted, showing us now that libraries offer the last stronghold of private information, and it is guarded like Fort Knox.  So what do our detective heroes do?  Why, break in of course!  This issue has some of the fantastic, dynamic action that made the first issue burst onto the scene as the main characters try to outrace the Press (the law enforcers in this world), leading to a ghastly ending which also hints at a bigger conspiracy at hand.  This book has all the elements of a great mystery and an insightful science fiction tale, but I don’t know that BKV could pull it off without the wonderful art of Martin.  His shockingly bright colors, cool character designs, and perfectly paced panel work really make this book, and as a typically physical comic reader, I’m continually impressed with how well these PDFs flow.  We’re roughly halfway through according to the creators, and with the issues coming out in such a free form format you have no excuse for not buying every issue at $3.99 (if you can) and devouring it all at once--you won’t be disappointed! Available anytime at panelsyndicate.com.  Rating: A+

There you have it, folks, that tops things off for this week's Splash Page!  This week just may have our biggest selection of indie books in a while, so a huge thanks to Harper Harris for contributing those reviews!  Be sure to check things out next week as we get several tie-ins to Infinity, and DC continues to get back into the swing of things.

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