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Monday, November 18, 2013

The Splash Page Volume 21


For Comics released November 13, 2013

Hey guys!  Harper here filling in with a bit of a truncated edition of the Splash Page for your review-reading pleasure!  I didn't have a huge pull this week, but some interesting titles nonetheless.  I tried to spread the reviews from the very popular to the not-quite-so-well-known with stuff from DC, Marvel, and IDW.  Let us know what you think--am I way off about Zero Year, too harsh on All-New X-Men's new turn, or too drunk on Doctor Who excitement to objectively review its comic?



IDW


 Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #11
Written by Scott & David Tipton, Art by Matthew Dow Smith

    I haven’t reviewed this series before, but this issue seemed worth mentioning.  This series from IDW is in celebration of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, and in typical DW fashion involves multiple doctors--all of them, in fact!  Each issue stars a different iteration of the Doctor and one of his companions.  The earlier issues were all standalone stories of varying quality, with one common thread: in the end, the companion mysteriously disappears.  In the past couple issues, we have discovered who is behind this nefarious plot and the series has gotten much more interesting (don’t worry--I won’t spoil it!).  The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) takes the offensive and goes after the villain.  Much time-hopping ensues, and some of the key moral conflicts of DW rise to the surface: what does the Doctor get from his companions?  Is he really improving their lives when he must inevitably leave them to their short, earthbound existence?  This issue has some nice art as well with Matthew Dow Smith doing a nice job of what seems a bit like IDW’s house style with Michael Walsh’s thick line work and a particularly fun page with dozens of past companions frozen in cryogenic tubes.  In great DW tradition, it leaves the Doctor in a seemingly inescapable moral dilemma with no easy answer.  With excitement building for the 50th Anniversary Special next weekend, this did a good job of filling that void and getting me ready for the big day.  Not my favorite read this week, and I wouldn’t suggest it unless you’re already a Doctor Who fan, but it was fun sci-fi that very well captured the character of Matt Smith’s Doctor!    Rating: A-

DC

Batman #25
Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Greg Capullo

    When Zero Year was announced, I had to groan a bit under my excitement.  While the Batman title has been stellar under Snyder, his long form stories (Court/Night of the Owls, Rotworld) always seem to run 3-4 issues long.  I’m happy to say that were five issues into Zero Year, and I’m so glad that the end is nowhere in sight.  The story has been totally compelling, and is a unique origin story while paying clever tribute to the great origin tales of yesteryear.  The thing that particularly struck me in this issue is how varied this story is.  Unlike the Owls arc, which focused on essentially one villain for a very long time, this story has introduced the Riddler to the New 52, created a new version of Red Hood (and his Gang), and in #25 gives us the new Doctor Death, Batman’s first supervillain from Detective Comics #29.  I absolutely love the callback, and the way all of these threads have been weaved together has been pretty fun.  Capullo is in pretty high form here as well, focusing on some gruesome corpses left by Doctor Death.  What has really caught my eye with the art in this arc has been the coloring by FCO Plascencia, which is utterly fantastic and unlike any typical Batman story.  while most are mired in the shadowy blacks and greys, this story has been a visual feast of reds and oranges which immediately breathes some youthful life into Batman’s early days.  The issue starts with a fun action piece featuring the first Batmobile and moves into detective territory with the mystery of Doctor Death, and so covers both of this creative teams talents.  Snyder and Capullo can continue on this storyline (and this series) for as long as they want as far as I’m concerned!     Rating: A+

Superman/Wonder Woman #2
Written by Charles Soule, Art by Tony S. Daniel


    Who else opened this after reading last week’s Batman/Superman and groaned immediately seeing the horizontal first page?  An odd way to start the issue.  Although I’m not the biggest Tony S. Daniel fan, I’ll admit that he’s doing a great job of combining the mythos of both superheroes in a way that doesn’t yet feel unnatural; his style is bringing Doomsday and Apollo into the same issue, which is a feat I didn’t think anyone could pull off, given the unique style and set-apart-ness of Wonder Woman’s solo series.  Doomsday is a pretty boring threat, but I like the implication that the Phantom Zone may be breaking, leading to hundreds of Kryptonian monsters and criminals being unleashed on Earth.  The highlight of this issue is in Superman’s first interactions with Wonder Woman’s divine family.  He passes Hephaestus’s test of might and stands up to Apollo’s bullying to the delight of Strife.  While it could reek of the strongman standing up for the damsel in distress, it focuses more on Wonder Woman enjoying Superman teaching her brother a lesson.  This issue more or less lives up to the promise of being a sort of teamup/romance book in that it’s got these two heroes working together to prepare for a threat neither could face alone, but in the process there is a lot of relationship-building.  There are some storytelling issues, however, and there are a few spots that sucked me out of the story because I was trying to figure out what happened in between the panels.  The team of Soule and Daniel needs a bit of work, but their doing a decent job in the meantime--certainly better than I would have guessed when the series was announced.      Rating: B+

Marvel

All-New X-Men #18
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Stuart Immonen

    With Battle of the Atom over and done with, this book moves on to follow that event’s non sequitur ending: Kitty Pryde leaves the Jean Grey School (AKA Wolverine & the X-Men) for conspicuously cooked up reasons and takes the time-displaced original X-Men with her.  She takes them to Cyclops’s group, the Uncanny X-Men, whose “school” is in the old Weapon X compound.  There are a handful of the great character moments that this book is famous for--young Jean Grey getting picked on by the Stepford Cuckoos, young Beast calling Magneto’s communication system “cute,” and Jean continuing to flirt around with her young cohorts--but in this case is drowned out by the crazy amount of speech bubbles that populates every page.  And those bubbles cover up such pretty Stuart Immonen art, who continues to capture the unique facial expressions of even more characters.  That’s pretty typical of Bendis though, but that’s not the only problem here.  The characterization of Scott Summers post-AVX just drives me nuts, and although I like a lot of the characters on his team, the whole dark Cyclops, psuedo-terrorist group dynamic just does nothing for me compared to the fun, borderline cartoonish adventures in Wolverine & the X-Men and (before this issue) All-New X-Men.  This comes to a head when the original X-Men get absolutely ridiculous costumes for no reason whatsoever.  We’ve had these excellent 60’s costumes for 17 issues, and now suddenly they have to look like the most generic superteam to grace the pages of a DC/Marvel book since about 1993.  I’ll give it another couple issues since I’ve loved this book up until now, but this issue took a real turn for the stupid that I just can’t ignore!      Rating: C+


That's it for now: some pleasant surprises, and unexpected turns for the worse.  Until next week, dear readers!
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