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Friday, February 28, 2014

The Splash Page, Vol. 32

Reviews for the Week of 2/26/14

DC Comics
Superman: Lois Lane #1 (of 1)
Written by Marguerite Bennett,
Art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Meghan Hetrick, Ig Guara, Diogenes Neves
with Guillermo Datego, Ruy Jose, Marc Deering, Hi-Fi

[Cal]: I've long believed that one of the biggest mistakes of the New 52 was not having a Lois Lane investigative series ready to go. Now, courtesy of Marguerite Bennett and an extensive art team, we have a one shot - a sloppy, vaguely silly one-shot, sure, but one that's fundamentally sound in its conception.  Lois' sister shows up after watching her roommate (girlfriend?) get abducted by men in ski-masks, and begs Lois for help finding her.  The plot spirals quickly into super-powered shenanigans involving a designer drug that transforms users, which never really comes together in any sort of meaningful way.  There's some nice stuff around the margins, and many of the artists are talented, but the whole thing still feels sloppier than I'd like.  An exploration of Lois' past could be compelling; an investigation into drugs in Metropolis or sci-fi-inspired gangs could be interesting; someone from Lois' past coming back and needing help is a classic trope.  But the three types of stories don't combine terribly well, making this a story that feels somehow both shallow and flabby.  There are a lot of great ideas here, but Bennett needs more focus to make them worth reading.  Rating: C+

Batman/Superman #8
Written by Greg Pak, Art by Jae Lee

[Kyle]: Batman/Superman, much like its sister Superman/Wonder Woman team-up title, has for the duration of its run reeked of editorial mandate. That's not to say there hasn't been quality storytelling in certain doses in the book, such as the initial few issues that featured strong Jae Lee art and the novelty of our main Earth heroes meeting their Earth 2 counterparts. But, the installments preceding this week's issue were an utter slog of "a Batman fights Superman story under the control of Mongul's machinations". With Issue 8, we return to the Earth 2 plotline with Batman and Superman meeting Power Girl and Huntress, and Jae Lee back on art duties. The pairing of Batman and Huntress has some especially nice moments, where they're both attempting one-up one another, and then go undercover to Kaizen Gamorra's (of Stormwatch/The Authority fame) hideout to find out why Power Girl is undergoing such radical power fluctuations. Unfortunately its this Power Girl plot-line that's the actual center piece of the story, and it feels a good deal blander than it probably should with Superman and Power Girl's interactions amounting to really very little. By the end of the story, it's unclear what even happened due to the art, which is perhaps by design given that this is DC's attempt to get you buy its low-selling World's Finest book where the story is continued. Half a good book isn't enough of a selling point for that purchase to occur. Sadly, this crossover is continuing into next month as well, and might very well push Batman/Superman off my pull list. I could go in for a Batman/Huntress book though with this team especially, but Pak's wonderful handling of Superman in Action Comics just seems alot more clumsy and forced here. Rating: C+

Marvel Comics
Fantastic Four #1
Written by James Robinson, Art by Leonard Kirk with Karl Kesel & Jesus Aburtov

[Cal]: We can all agree, right: Reed Richards should really invest in some sort of... technology. The sort that can take a closed door and make it impossible to open.  Let's call it a, idunno, 'lock'?  Sure. 'Lock'.  Sarcasm aside, that was the silliest moment in what was otherwise a serviceable issue.  While in many ways, Starman posited James Robinson as the ideal writer for the Fantastic Four, like so much of his work lately, there's something vital missing.  There's grandiose super-powered action in the form of a fairly rote battle with Fin Fang Foom early on, a low-point for the issue that is basically just 'generic action sequence #7', but I do like some of the more character centric stuff.  I just wish there was more of it.  Between the opening pages' portentous flash-forward (a device that should be outlawed in comics for the next 10 years), the lengthy battle in the middle, and a the book's silly closing cliffhanger, there's precious little here that stands out.  Leonard Kirk's art is generally quite good, and the art team did some good work crafting solid, eye-catching layouts, but that's really all the issue has going for it.  It's not bad, it's just disappointing.   Rating: C

Uncanny Avengers #17
Written by Rick Remender, Art by Steve McNiven
[Harper]: Remender has silently built a massive story here that rivals (and may have beat, if UA had more consistent art) his Dark Angel Saga in Uncanny X-Force, and this issue that concludes it has the right gravitas: many have fallen, but the fate of Earth lies on three battlefields.  First is Thor fighting Eimin, the remaining Apocalypse Twin, for his enchanted god-slaying axe, with which he might be able to stop Exitar, the executioner celestial.  Second is Wasp and Captain America fighting a reanimated Grim Reaper to destroy a tachyon dam that is keeping future heroes from coming back in time to help, while third is pretty much the rest of the Avengers fighting to keep a massive force field intact to buy Thor some time.  The stakes feel high, but the focus is still on the characters, and Remender continues to have a great grip on what makes each character unique.  What I've always loved about his writing is that he is able to bring together many bits of Marvel history as well as current continuity to further his own story in an organic way, and the fact that this issue feels almost like a crossover with Aaron's Thor: God of Thunder makes it all the more satisfying.  While this sort of cosmic story might benefit more from art like Esad Ribic's on the aforementioned series, McNiven does a great job portraying the action here with a crisp, satisfying line.  It's hard to say whether this stuck the landing of this year long story, but only because I feel like it's not really over yet.  Like all great comics, one era seems to have wrapped up while seamlessly leading into something mysterious that begs the reader to get the next issue.  Rating: A


The Wake #6
Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Sean Murphy

[Harper]: This is an interesting one, as it starts up what feels like a whole new comic book.  While issues 1-5 covered the present, when a race of violent creatures was discovered at the bottom of the ocean, now we jump forward 200 years to find a world drastically changed by these creatures, the "mers" as they are called: Earth's waters have drastically risen, and humans are being forced ever inland, edging closer to extinction every year.  We now follow Leeward, a lone woman in this world, as she sells severed mer heads on the black market and searches for mythical radio broadcasts that prophecy says will bring about the death of the mers.  Snyder does an excellent job explaining the world in this bold and surprising jump to the future, but more importantly makes it fascinating and exciting.  We know just enough about Leeward's personality to make her a charismatic lead, but there's enough mystery to keep me hooked.  Murphy knocks it out of the park here too, creating maps and other expository fun bits that are both informative and aesthetically nice, and his action sequences are excellent as well.  Overall, this was likely the best issue of the series, and it ends with a surprise that has me drooling for more.  This is one case where I almost wish they had gotten through the first half of their story in two issues rather than five!  Rating: A+
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