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Friday, March 14, 2014

The Splash Page, Vol. 34

Comic Reviews for the Week of March 12, 2014!

DC Comics
Batman #29
Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Greg Capullo

[Shane]: After taking a break for a month to explore future stories, Batman returns to Zero Year with an action packed double-sized issue. Finishing off the second arc of the year-long event, this issue sees Batman and Gordon attempting to stop the Riddler from completely taking over Gotham, but both men face continuously worsening situations.  So far, Zero Year has been one of the best stories this comic has done since it began.  Many have been offended by the re-writing of Frank Miller's origin for the character, but Scott Snyder has continued to prove with each issue that this is a story worth being told.  If nothing else, Zero Year has proved that the Riddler is a character worth taking seriously.  Not taking up too many pages of this issue, Snyder makes Riddler more of a puppet master-type of character, somewhat silently pulling the strings as Gotham collapses into chaos around him.  It makes Nygma a much more intimidating character than perhaps he has ever been, immensely building the excitement for how the final arc of Zero Year will wrap it all up.  What easily shines as the greatest thing about this issue, however, is the art.  We here at GeekRex have always put a lot of praise towards the work Greg Capullo has been doing on this comic, but he literally and figuratively hits it out of the stratosphere with this issue.  Every single panel comes off as a painstakingly detailed effort on Capullo's part.  Not only does the man get to recreate one of the most iconic Batman images of all time, but there are numerous panels in this issue which may become just as legendary.  Batman has remained a must read since the New 52 began, but this may be the first issue where the excellent writing is completely overshadowed by the magnificent artwork.  Rating: A+

Superman/Wonder Woman #6
Written by Charles Soule, Art by Tony S. Daniel

[Shane]: When Superman/Wonder Woman was initially announced, many approached the idea of the series with a lot of trepidation.  Although most were happy to see Wonder Woman getting another series, one not associated with a large superhero team, there were more than a few who found the couple's relationship a bit too much to bear.  As the series has progressed, we have seen some aspects of the relationship of DC's power couple explored, but they have never really felt like a true couple.  This issue changes all of that.  Leave it to Superman and Wonder Woman to wait until they are about to fight two of their toughest foes to date for them to finally talk about their relationship.  They are definitely different than most couples, but it is more the similarities the couples share to real relationships that helps make this comic interesting.  By the end of this issue, one can be confident that Superman and Wonder Woman truly do care for one another (they even have their own Empire Strikes Back moment).  In terms of story, Charles Soule also finally does something which has been a long time coming.  Throughout the series thus far, Superman and Wonder Woman have transitioned from fighting one hero's villain to another's.  With this issue, Soule finally melds both worlds, creating a dual threat that makes the future of this book very exciting.  As always, this issue is accompanied with some gorgeous art from Tony S. Daniel.  Hopefully Daniel stays with Soule throughout his run on this title as it would be difficult to see anyone else drawing this couple so well.  Rating: A+

Image Comics

Stray Bullets: Killers #1
Written and Drawn by David Lapham

[Harper]: To be totally fair, I was a huge fan of the original series; for a long time, it was my favorite comic of all-time. In that eight year gap, I haven't read too many crime comics, and now I see it's because I was waiting for the return of the best. This week saw issue 41 of the original series–essentially just an issue to quickly wrap up what Lapham is calling the first volume, Hi-Jinks and Derring Do–but more excitingly, a brand new series that stars some of the recurring characters but is the beginning of a whole new story. Killers has all the elements that made Stray Bullets such an addictively fantastic series: the line between childhood innocence and puberty being blurred; great humor and dialogue; shocking violence and scary escalation; morally gray characters, both new and old; and a view of the dark underbelly of the American suburb that is both intriguing and terrifying. It is smartly paced as Lapham more or less sticks to an eight-panel grid, which allows for dramatic flair when the layouts vary. The story, which starts with young boys passing around dirty drawings and probing each other for their knowledge of boobs, quickly becomes dark as a stripper is recognized by a family friend and then mysteriously dies. In the meantime, Eli, the main young boy, gets entwined with the dangerous Spanish Scott, a charming gangster who quotes Star Wars and commits murder almost in the same breath. It's a great start that reads like a gut-wrenching uncomfortable situation, like being at a party when someone suddenly pulls out a gun. I forgot how much I missed this suburban crime masterpiece, and I'm so glad Image has brought David and Maria Lapham onboard to continue their story. Highly recommended, and so far very approachable for those unfamiliar with the original! Rating: A+

Marvel Comics

All-New X-men #24
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Stuart Immonen

[Shane]: Whenever a comic becomes a part of a crossover you don't really feel like reading, it is always a bit of a blessing when that crossover doesn't last very long.  Such is the case for The Trial of Jean Grey.  It does not feel like a very long time ago that this X-men and Guardians meet-up started, but here we are with only one chapter left to go.  This issue sees Jean Grey's trial begin in earnest while the Guardians, Starjammers, and X-men come up with a plan to rescue their comrade.  If one is coming into this crossover as a fan of All-New X-men, perhaps this story will seem more rewarding.  Bendis has done a decent enough job of constructing this plot, and it certainly has a lot to offer those looking for some kind of reaction from cosmic Marvel to Jean Grey returning.  For those of us who went into this as readers of Guardians of the Galaxy, this is all starting to feel like a waste of time...especially with the presence of the Starjammers (which, as solicitations have shown, is leading towards a Cyclops solo book).  The Guardians serve absolutely no purpose to this series.  It feels like almost any cosmic group could have been inserted into this story, and perhaps it would have better suited Bendis' needs to have the Starjammers be the only group to help the X-men.  But, no.  Bendis just could not resist the temptation to force readers to buy both of the books he currently writes (for the 616 universe, that is).  Stuart Immonen provides some good art, and the story does flow smoothly, but, thus far, it is not feeling worth the time and money for strict fans of Guardians.  Rating: B

Secret Avengers #1
Written by Ales Kot, Art by Michael Walsh

[Harper]: Coming off his popular creator-owned series at Image, Zero, Kot brings to this property a very different take than the previous two incarnations. Remender's was epic in scale and very sci-fi; Spencer's took a more spy-based approach; Kot's takes more cues from Hawkeye than it does from anything else. The story covers three interconnecting events: Maria Hill and M.O.D.O.K. are on full lockdown at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters as it is under attack; Agents Coulson and Fury are fighting The Fury, a life-exterminating cybiote, in a space station; and Spider-Woman and Black Widow's relaxing day at the spa/gun range gets interrupted by a nude Hawkeye with A.I.M. agents in hot pursuit. The story is fun and fast-paced, and Walsh does a great job portraying both the action and the humor with an indie style and impressive layouts that read much faster than their many panels would suggest. Most obvious, as mentioned earlier, is the use of humor very reminiscent of Fraction's Hawkeye. About 75% of the time, it works very well–it's quite funny, and takes playful jests at some comic tropes ("Yes, there are two [Nick Furies]. Get over it."; is Hawkeye ever not in a "bad" situation?). While it was a very enjoyable read that I plan on continuing to pick up, the clever humor was just a bit much. It's not that any of it was badly written, but…there's just so much of it. Hopefully it's just a way to draw new readers into a relatively new (or at least not wildly popular) property, and it will be toned down a bit in future issues. All in all, that was a pretty minor complaint. If you're looking for big, fun action of all kinds and a thick layer of indie humor and art, this book is most certainly for you. Rating: A-

Fantastic Four #2
Written by James Robinson, Art by Leonard Kirk

[Kyle]: Cal took a look at last month's debut issue by the new Fantastic Four creative team, his opinion was about in line with mine. The book was solid, but nothing to really "wow" me as a reader. Fantastic Four has struggled as a book since Jonathan Hickman's big "Four Cities/Council of Reeds" storyline came to a close. Matt Fraction had a nice take, but the execution never really came together, and his heart was clearly in his partnership with Mike Allred on FF. Robinson, with his knack for strong dialogue and inter-family dynamics, would seem a perfect fit for Marvel's first family, in theory. Issue 2, I'm sad to say, feels clumsier than the first, which at least provided a framing narrative that pulled in my initial interest in what may be coming. Sadly, it's another faceless threat and alot of dull action, with Leonard Kirk's normally reliable art being unable to salvage anything. Even Robinson's dialogue feels off here, particularly for Johnny Storm and Franklin Richards. The only moment of intrigue here is when Franklin reveals that the monsters have a connection to the old Heroes Reborn universe. Is this a stealth criticism of the New 52? Probably not, but at least that would be enough to keep me tuned in. Sadly, Issue 2, as breezy as it reads, just felt fairly disposable. Rating: C-

Superior Spider-man #29
Written by Christos Gage, Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli

[Shane]: Superior Spider-man continues to barrel towards its inevitable conclusion as we reach the third chapter of Goblin Nation, and Dan Slott and Christos Gage are pulling out all the stops.  After so many issues and over a year of build up, Goblin Nation definitely gets a lot points for this comic finally getting something that feels like payoff.  The story of this issue is pretty simple: everything Otto Octavius worked hard to build as himself and Spider-man is torn completely apart by the Green Goblin.  At every turn, not only are the stakes raised, but just one more piece of this carefully crafted puzzle begins to fall apart.  Otto, MJ, Spider-man 2099, J. Jonah Jameson, and so many others are having such a huge role to play in this that it seems the effects of this storyline are going to reach quite far into Amazing Spider-man if they are to have any kind of acceptable resolution.  That being said, thinking of where this story is leading is where things begin to disappoint.  If Superior Spider-man were ending with issue 31 with absolutely no promise of Peter's return, Dan Slott may have been met with even more hate, but, considering where Goblin Nation is headed, it may have been a conclusion which would have made Superior Spider-man a pretty great achievement.  With the return of Peter Parker being the imminent conclusion of this story, however, it does not feel like Slott or Gage are doing very much to put that into place.  Only two issues remain in this series, and, while Goblin Nation has certainly been a fun read, it is hard to shake the fear that Superior Spider-man is about to received a very rushed ending.  On the plus side, Camuncoli provides a splash page in this issue that is both creepy and beautiful.  Rating: A-
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