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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Splash Page, Vol. 39


Reviews for Comics Released April 16, 2014

DC Comics


 Batman Eternal #2
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art by Jason Fabok

[Harper]: If you read my review last week, you know that I did not find DC's first weekly book to be all that compelling or believable. I'm glad to say that this issue was a step in the right direction. Gordon is now in Jail as many of his friends try to understand what could have possible happened. We get a bit of a gathering-of-the-team part, which was fun, and the concern for Gordon was believable. They've already washed away what seemed to be the obvious answer to the problem (that Pyg's gas had caused Gordon to hallucinate) and in a smart move introduced some interesting characters to the mix: the Spectre shows up as Jim Corrigan in a very well done scene, and the puppeteer behind these events is revealed. I won't spoil it here, but suffice to say it's an old crime figure from the Batman universe. I'm not sure how I feel about it, which is how I feel about a lot of the New 52's history: some stories bring in these classic characters for the first time in the New 52 and assume that they still have the same impact and history that they did in the old continuity, but who knows. I know it isn't Snyder or Tynion's fault necessarily, but wiping the slate clean and then using the first reappearance of an old character who has strong ties to specific pre-New 52 stories just doesn't make a lot of sense. That being said, it's a character from one of my favorite Batman stories, so I'm still on the fence about it. Fabok is doing a decent job as workhorse for this series, but I hope we get some change up soon. I'm still not 100% sold on spending $12 a month on this one, but I'm willing to give the first month a chance after this issue. Rating: B+


Batman #30
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo

[Kyle]: "Zero Year" is a fascinating beast. On the month to month read, it feels like it's taking far to long to get where it needs to go, as you might expect of any 11 part origin story. Then again, it's also hard to shake the thought that "Zero Year" will read phenomenally in one sitting when all is said and done. The reason for this dichotomy? "Zero Year" has been a stunning read so far, with each individual chapter ratcheting up the trials of Bruce Wayne to an utter fever pitch. Starting from the organized crime of the Red Hood Gang, to the Gotham Black-Out, to Dr. Death, to Super-Storm Renee, to now an almost post-apocalyptic landscape. We haven't seen this kind of escalation of events since "No Man's Land" if not The Dark Knight Returns. This latest installment begins the third act of the arc entitled "Savage City". Gotham is a disaster zone, overrun with plant life and held hostage by The Riddler thanks to his utilization of Pamela Isley's formula. While the citizens are forced to play a city-wide game of riddles with Edward Nygma each day, Batman and Gordon are the lone underground opposition. It's quite the block-buster premise, and Snyder, never one to shy away from big-screen action (see The Wake) really just nails that The Last of Us meets 1984-style tone. Though the real attraction, as has always been the case for this arc in particular, is the wonderful artistic chemistry of Capullo-Miki-Plascencia, whose Gotham continues to be a candy-coated, punk rock wonderland. The colors are utterly stunning, and Capullo's draftsmanship is a real wonder to behold. While there's not alot to be said for DC Comics lately, Snyder's Batman (along with Azzarello and Chiang's Wonder Woman) continues to be a source of great excitement. Rating: A

Sinestro #1
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Dale Eaglesham w/ Jason Wright

[Cal]:  Books featuring outright villains don't tend to go over well with audiences.  Personally, I suspect it's the empathy factor, the way people have a hard time understanding characters who are more 'cool' than 'recognizably human'.  In that way, choosing Cullen Bunn to write DC's newest ongoing book, which follows the fascistic murderer in charge of a legion of angry, galaxy-spanning fear-monsters, was a smart choice - Bunn made his name on Fearless Defenders, fairly warm ensemble adventure book.  Unfortunately, he strands Sinestro on his own for a good chunk of the beginning of the book, nonsensically philosophizing in captions while he wrestles cats.  Artist Dale Eaglesham and colorist Jason Wright do reasonably fine work, which is about the kindest thing I can say about the art on most DC books these days.  Both are talented, but neither stands out, and at times I felt like Eaglesham's sometimes-heavy inks were muddying the bright Lantern color palette.  Sinestro #1 isn't bad, but it spends its entire first issue setting up a premise that should have been a given on page 1, which leaves the story feeling half-formed.  Hardcore Green Lantern fans will probably find something to like, I suppose, but there's little enough here that even they might find themselves bored.  Rating: C-

Marvel Comics


Hulk #1
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Mark Bagley

[Kyle]: It seems like for much of his comics history, no one can really get Hulk right. Sure, we had the one great 11 year long Peter David run, but since then? Not a lot has impressed beyond one seminal Greg Pak storyline. People often wonder why Hulk movies never seem to get the character right, but alot of that may have its roots in the fact that comic scribes have struggled with the character for years on end, trying to find take after take that might catch on with buyers. Perhaps writers feel the Jekyll and Hyde/"Glorified Werewolf" story that is Bruce Banner's journey is a bit played out, or really only works in small doses. It's to Mark Waid's credit that he continues to try and find an angle that may refresh the character in the minds of readers. His previous run on The Indestructible Hulk started quite well, with Banner becoming SHIELD's WMD and all-purpose head scientist at the same time, but fell into tedium about halfway through its 20 issue run. With the newly relaunched Hulk title, Waid picks up from the cliff-hanger of the previous volume, with Bruce Banner on the operating table for the bullets lodged in the back of his head, and a new POV character (his surgeon) acting as an audience surrogate. The issue is built around two key concepts: the central mystery as to "who shot Bruce Banner?" and being a solid jumping-on point for new readers. Unfortunately neither makes for a terribly engaging read, and Bagley's art is as bland as ever. The biggest negative of the book is that the character that we spend our time getting to know just isn't terribly interesting, nor does he have a perspective that sheds any kind of new light on the Hulk. When your central figure is an outright bore, it drags the proceedings down quite a bit, as does a pretty silly character reveal 2/3rds of the way through the title. The final page leads to an intriguing possibility, and perhaps the actual "run" will begin there. But as it stands on its own, Hulk #1 is a misfire when it really needed to hit a homerun. Rating: C


Thor: God of Thunder #21
Written by Jason Aaron, Art by Esad Ribic

[Shane]:  It's always funny to see that Thor: God of Thunder and Wonder Woman often come out on the same week.  For those of us who thoroughly enjoy both comics, it makes for some interesting reading as one transitions between Greek and Norse gods.  It also doesn't hurt that both comics are some of the best current titles of their respective companies.  This issue gives us the middle part of Jason Aaron's latest Thor epic, which splits the narrative between the present struggle of Thor versus Roxxon and the far future, where King Thor battles Old Galactus.  The latter of these conflicts bookends the story, and it is frankly a battle which grows more epic in scale with each issue.  It is an absolutely brutal battle which ensues, and none of it would be nearly as effective without Esad Ribic's gorgeous artwork.  Galactus delivers some huge blows in this fight, including punching Thor all the way through the Earth and to the moon, but Thor throws quite a few large punches as well.  It is almost to the point that one wonders why Galactus was ever a Fantastic Four villain.  Clearly Thor is the character he should have been fighting all these years.  Back in the present, the story flashes forward three weeks to allow for whatever Jonathan Hickman is doing in Avengers to take place.  Thor finds that Asgard's current home of Broxton, Oklahoma has been completely taken over by Roxxon, and the god of thunder reacts as one might expect.  Up to this point, the Roxxon story was good, but not nearly as engaging as what is happening with King Thor and Galactus.  This issue changes things around quite a bit, making both narratives fascinating.  Jason Aaron does an excellent job of giving us some great action pieces, but also showing that Thor can't just hammer his way out of any situation.  If you are not reading this comic for whatever reason, we have another arc on our hands that will seriously question your poor comic reading choices.  Get this book.  NOW.  Rating: A+

Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #3
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Roland Boschi

[Harper]: I've included the covers for most of this series in my Best Covers of the Week articles, and this is one case in which you can judge a book by it's awesome cover. The story continues with Ran Shen struggling to flee Europe with two German scientists who are wanted by both the Russians and Hydra, and this is where the battle gets bloody. This is a very action-heavy issue, and the action is pretty excellent. It's intense and the pacing kept me engaged and genuinely excited as Shen and the femme fatale-ish half of the German pair fight to stay alive through threat after threat. Remender has created a very compelling character in Mila, who is fairly sympathetic in these circumstances despite the fact that she's a (former) Nazi. But the real star in this issue is Boschi, who just really killed it on the art front: the action is great, but the tone and feel of the book is just so wonderfully of-a-different-time. This reads just like a Hitchcockian spy thriller, but with lots of interesting ties to the history of the Marvel Universe. This issue was maybe the best so far, and at the midway point this is poised to be a really fantastic mini-series! Rating: A+

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