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Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 20

For Comics Released October 30, 2013

Hello, dear readers!  Long time, no see.  I took a brief little two week break from The Splash Page: 1. because I was sick, and 2. I went on an AWESOME trip to Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights.  But you're not here to read about all that, you want to know about some comics!  Well, I cannot think of a better volume to come back with than number 20.  It feels absolutely crazy that this little review article has been going for 20 weeks now, and I am so proud of the way it continues to evolve.  Nevertheless, this was a pretty average-sized pull week, but very heavy on the Marvel side.  See how it all turned out below!


Avengers #22
Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Leinil Francis Yu

In case you have not been doing so already with this event, it is best that you read this issue of Avengers after you have read Infinity #5, otherwise you may be a bit confused as to what is going on here.  As the Avengers head towards Earth to stop the might of Thanos, some of the team's members take the time to rally together, mustering all of their might before taking on this last, big challenge.  Throughout this event, Avengers has generally been the weakest of the Hickman-written tie-in comics.  The main reason for this has been that, because the conflict with the Builders being generally uninteresting, the comic often fell prey to spurts of boredom and apathy.  With the Avengers now making their way towards the more engaging plot thread of this event, one would hope that perhaps Avengers could make a turn around and become an interesting tie-in as Infinity comes to a close.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  Without the boring, meandering Builders plot to delve into, Hickman instead decides to briefly explore various relationships among the characters on this far too large Avengers roster and how they are feeling after the events of Infinity thus far.  This is not necessarily an unwise decision, but, if someone has not been reading Hickman's Avengers, most of this issue comes with a litany of questions regarding who is on the page and why one should even care.  This issue also points out a glaring weakness in some of Hickman's comic writing: the man can weave a great story, but his character development is generally sparse and pointless.  Yu gives some good art, but this is still a weak tie-in.  Rating: B

Guardians of the Galaxy #8
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Francesco Francavilla

As can be expected, Guardians of the Galaxy finally makes its way into the story of Infinity with this issue.  When you have a team with so many ties to Thanos, it seemed inevitable that this comic would eventually have to play some role in the crossover event.  Fortunately, what we have here is one of the better tie-ins to this event.  Guardians of the Galaxy doesn't try to make some large statement about the over-arching story Jonathan Hickman is trying to tell.  Instead, Bendis weaves his way into a very small corner of the overall event, making the flow of this issue feel completely natural from what has come before.  For reasons still unknown, Peter Quill finds himself having to think hard about whether or not he should stop Thanos from taking over Earth, something which meets the ire of Gamora.  When another mission, something still related to stopping Thanos, comes to light, however, the Guardians able to jump in to help out a desperate S.W.O.R.D.  In terms of story, much of this issue feels like just about everything we have come to expect from Bendis' brief run on this title thus far.  Great character moments, intriguing action pieces, and a fun sense of humor continue through this issue.  What is perhaps most standout about this entire tie-in is the art.  Francesco Francavilla guest illustrates this issue, and he does so in a way that makes Guardians of the Galaxy downright immaculate.  Sara Pichelli and Steve McNiven have done great work on this book, but Francavilla gives this issue an exciting, indie feel that would be great to see more of down the line.  Rating: A

Infinity #5
Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver

The penultimate chapter of Infinity arrives, but, unlike a few of the previous chapters, there is not a ton of action taking place here.  Much in the style of the earlier issues of this event book, writer Jonathan Hickman uses seemingly every page of this issue to set up the finale to his crossover event.  Now that the Avengers have seemingly defeated the last of the Builders, beings all across the universe are noticing (and rallying behind) Earth's mightiest heroes.  As has always been the expected outcome, however, eventually the Avengers hear of what has been going on on Earth throughout this story, and there is where the issue takes a turn for the somewhat more interesting.  In previous issues, Hickman had set up a series of incredibly high stakes involving Thanos and his takeover of Earth including, but not limited to, the mad titan finding the Illumanti's secret stash of world-destroying bombs.  Though these stakes are still present in this issue, none of it really seems to matter as Hickman is so consumed with his quest for meticulous set-up and exposition.  Such story-telling measures were appreciated at the start of this event, but we only have one issue left of this story....one would assume something a bit more meaningful would take place here than the Avengers getting ready to jump to hyperspace.  Infinity is still a well-written book with gorgeous art by Opena, but the fact still remains that this is an issue which pumps hard on the brakes, making things more than a bit jarring.  Rating: A-

Superior Spider-man #20
Written by Dan Slott, Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli

In the previous issue of Superior Spider-man, Dan Slott surprised this jaded reader by bringing in a solid story with more than a few implications of what may be coming in the very near future (get those "Welcome Back, Peter!" banners ready).  With this issue, things tend to return to the more normal, beat around the bush approach Slott uses to write many of his issues.  One gets the idea, nowadays, that perhaps Superior Spider-man will be a more effective read as a whole, once Slott's entire story comes to light.  At the moment, however, this is a comic which ventures between borderline unreadable and only mildly interesting from issue to issue.  This issue focuses more on the Peter Parker side of Otto's life.  Don't let the cover fool you, Black Cat is present for less than 5 pages with, you guessed it, yet another hint that she will play a larger role later on.  Slott does a humorous job of showing what Otto thinks of the relationship Spider-man and Black Cat usually have, but it is such a fleeting moment that it becomes instantly forgettable.  Dan Slott should be given some credit, though, for working his way towards an interesting moment in this whole Peter Parker getting his doctorate storyline.  Nevertheless, this is still an issue which features more and more set-up, including the appearance of yet another D-level Spider-man villain Slott plans on using next issue.  With so much build up taking place in this comic, it is becoming increasingly clear that Dan Slott may never be able to properly capitalize on it all.  One can hope they are wrong about this.  At least Camuncoli's art is nice.  Rating: C+


Green Lantern Annual #2
Written by Robert Venditti, Art by Sean Chen

Putting a cap on perhaps the shortest Green Lantern crossover ever, Robert Venditti's first event book in Green Lantern ends as Lights Out comes to a conclusion in this annual.  Lights Out started on a very bold note, with Venditti seemingly being unafraid to take away everything the Green Lantern Corps held most dear.  As the story continued, things slowed down just a bit, but the threat of Relic and the hints of Kyle Rayner joining his side were enough to keep one coming back for more.  The penultimate chapter of this story, which took place in Red Lanterns, was more than a little disappointing, delivering a chapter that felt like nothing really happened whatsoever.  Now it all comes to an end here as the Green and Red Lanterns join together to take on Relic before he can deplete their reservoir of light energy forever.  With Venditti back in the writer's chair, this story gets a bit of its fire back, but it all comes to a conclusion that feels a bit too neatly tied up.  Relic, a villain who seemed so intriguing at the start, quickly fizzled out to become more of a prop than any sort of instigator of this story, especially once Kyle joined him.  Sean Chen delivers some nice artwork, and it is all done on a scale that looks very large, but Lights Out ultimately fades away as one of the more forgettable storylines in recent years.  This is saying a lot considering Oa was destroyed in this story.  Venditti puts some hints as to where his continued run on Green Lantern could go from here, but none of this ends on any sort of note that makes it feel worth the effort.  Rating: B-


The Powerpuff Girls #2
Written and Drawn by Troy Little 

Last month's debut issue of The Powerpuff Girls was a true walk down memory lane, with so much nostalgia for the animated series flooding from the page that it became all too easy to read each character's dialogue with the proper voice.  While the first issue was certainly enjoyable, it did not feel like the comic was going to really do anything beyond feeling like an ordinary episode of the show.  Though that feeling still lingers in this issue, writer and artist Troy Little does just a little bit more here to make the leap from television to comic book feel more natural.  The story being told here could easily be seen making up a half hour special episode, but it is slightly easier to have faith here that Little will do something which makes better use of this medium.  After being administered Antidote X, Mojo Jojo is no more, but the always devious Him is watching, and he could not be more jealous that Townsville's greatest threat is getting a second chance.  For starters, the one thing this issue has that gives it an edge over the previous is that, finally, we get to see more than just one of the Powerpuff Girls' classic villains.  The girls have one of the better rogues galleries when it comes to superheroes, and it is very exciting to see the way Little weaves them all together into this plot.  Perhaps it is because his art looks exactly like the series or because his writing is so sharp, but Little once again makes this an issue where it is easy to read everything in the characters' voices.  The humor isn't exactly the same, but the heart, characters and story are definitely still present in this transition.  Rating: A

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #27
Written by Tom Waltz, Art by Mateus Santolouco

Continuing perhaps its greatest story to date, TMNT adds yet another exciting chapter to City Fall with this issue.  With the previous issue, the strain of this story lasting so long with no large action was beginning to be felt, but writer Tom Waltz fixes any problems on that end here.  Shredder and the Foot Clan have completely taken over New York City and called for a meeting of the remaining gangs.  For the turtles and Splinter, this means yet another chance to try and get Leonardo back.  For the reader, this means the seeming set-up and ensuing payoff of the large battle this arc has seemingly built up to.  Tom Waltz has written this arc very meticulously, making sure that every little detail which has been built up since issue one pays off in exactly the correct fashion, but perhaps the biggest complaint that could be made on that end is that he appears to be abandoning this idea of an evil Leonardo very quickly.  Leo's return to normal was inevitable, but one could have hoped Waltz would take advantage of the exciting premise just a little bit longer.  Easily the most talked about moment of this issue will be the final page, which features the appearance of two very long-awaited characters for this series.  Their appearance alone is enough to make a die-hard TMNT fan desperate to read the next issue.  As City Fall seems geared to wrap up soon, one does realize the fatal flaw of this story: for a story which is about the takeover of NYC, very little has been done to show this.  Hopefully Waltz will improve this, but, if not, at least fans can revel in the fact that so much build up is finally being paid off.  Rating: A


Saga #15
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, Art by Fiona Staples

When reading through your pull of comics each week, it can be easy to feel like everything melds into one memory of the same comic.  This happens quite often when one reads a lot of superhero stories.  One comic that always stands out on its own, though, is Saga, and it is an absolute joy to read every issue.  This month's issue is no different.  It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes Saga so special.  Is it the characters?  The writing?  The stunning artwork, coloring, and lettering?  Perhaps it is a blend of each of these things, but definitely one great strength this series has is Brian K. Vaughan's ability to take this rich, strange world and weave the most commonplace of stories.  In this case, commonplace is meant to be a compliment.  Instead of trying to over-complicate things, Vaughan tells the story he wants to tell...it just so happens to be set in a world where people with horns don't like people with wings, and people with televisions for heads have high military rankings.  This issue perhaps demonstrates this idea quite clearly as half of the issue's plot involves our heroes playing a board game, while the other half involves a more serious story with Bounty Hunter the Will and his new found "family".  The former of these stories feels very close to being a typical storyline for a television series, but Vaughan makes these characters so damn likable it's hard to fault the comic too much with a more generic story.  In its latter story, this issue throws in a late plot twist that reminds one of another thing that makes Saga a great comic: you never want to put it down.  Rating: A+

There you have it, folks, thanks for joining us for the first twenty volumes of The Splash Page!  Be sure to join us next week as hopefully my DC pull gets a little bit bigger and exciting new indie titles like East of West and Ghosted come out with new issues.

If there are any comics you feel were reviewed unfairly, or any you would like to see reviewed on here, do no hesitate to leave us a comment!
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