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Friday, April 25, 2014

The Splash Page, Vol. 40

Comics Reviews for the Week of April 23, 2014!

DC Comics
Justice League United #0
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Mike McKone

[Kyle]: First things first, the world probably needed another Justice League book like it needed another World War. But, a funny thing happened in regard to Justice League United (formerly known as Justice League Canada, though this first arc carries that title): it's quite good. Stripped of the grim and gritty Geoff Johns Justice League tropes, and embracing the more ramshackle atmosphere of the old Justice League International, Lemire seems to have a winner on his hands. The cast consists of Green Arrow, Animal Man (both of which Lemire has written the ongoing adventures of) Supergirl, Martian Manhunter, Stargirl, a not yet superhero Adam Strange, and a new Canadian Cree superhero named Equinox. They're not a team yet, as this chapter has a getting the band together feel, with the former JLA members coming together with a few newbies at the behest of Strange, but by issue's end that's basically secured, particularly given their mission to find Strange's wife Alanna and the last page reveal of her whereabouts. Lemire is showing off a fabulous strain of humor here that we don't get much of a chance to see from him, except in very small doses during his run on Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE; but that, along with a attractive mix of Cree mysticism, interstellar conflict, and a brighter tone and look than the majority of what is coming out of the New 52 right now (thanks to some perfectly fitting McKone art) makes this the Justice League team worth watching. It's been forever, but we finally have a JL title that clearly has passion behind it...maybe the first time since Morrison. Rating: A

Image Comics

Ghosted #9
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Davide Gianfelice

[Shane]: You may remember some reviews of the little comic known as Ghosted being posted on this site during the comic's first story arc.  Originally slated to be a mini-series, Ghosted brought a unique take on both the haunted house AND heist genre.  Once the comic grew from mini-series to ongoing, however, Ghosted stumbled just a bit.  It seemed hard for writer Joshua Williamson to find his footing after coming up with what was such a self-contained story.  Fortunately, this is the issue where things begin to look up.  Trapped in the jungle surrounded by possessed animals, Jackson once again finds himself in another sticky situation involving the paranormal.  One of the things that makes this comic such a fun read is when Williamson works in unison with his artist to be creative with the scares.  We haven't seen too much of that since this comic moved beyond its first arc, but some significant strides are made here.  Native American tradition is rife with tales which could be boiled down to ghost stories, and Williamson does a great job of really delving deep into that idea in this issue.  In future arcs, it will be exciting to see how this comic can play with the ghost stories of various cultures as well as those beyond just your simple haunted house.  What this issue does exceedingly well is develop the character of Jackson.  With each passing issue we get more of an idea of why this guy was chosen to hunt ghosts as well as what makes him tick, making him a much more intricate character than the sly ladies man we saw at first.  Ghosted isn't back to where it was just yet, but this issue gives a lot of hope that the comic is on its way back to greatness.  Rating: B+

Marvel Comics

Elektra #1
Written by W. Haden Blackman
Art by Michael Del Mundo with Marco D'Alfonso

[Cal]: Elektra is, first and foremost, gorgeous.  W. Haden Blackman, fresh off working on DC's Batwoman, has not just brought the innovative paneling that often made Batwoman so lovely, he's also scored another major artistic coup, this time in the form of Michael Del Mundo. Del Mundo's art is dreamy and evocative, with muted colors and elaborate panels that seem to meet halfway between Werther Dell'Edera and Black Widow's Phil Noto.  But while Del Mundo is a clear (and almost immediate) star here, Blackman is no slouch himself.  Elektra #1 lacks the over-complexity that defined (and often damaged) Batwoman... and, perhaps coincidentally, have often made Elektra such a needlessly complicated mess of a character.  Indeed, the first arc set up here is a simple chase story, with Elektra hunting a legendary assassin to protect him before a brutal madman named Bloody Lips finds him first.  While I have my problems with some of Blackman's choices here (we spend far more time with Bloody Lips than is strictly necessary, and too little with Elektra herself), this is a simple story well told.  And again, holy shit, that art...  Rating: A-

Guardians of the Galaxy #14
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Andy Lanning, and Dan Abnett
Art by Nick Bradshaw, Jason Masters, Todd Nauck, Phil Jimenez, and Gerardo Sandoval

[Shane]: What happens when you're a D-level comic with a cult following that is constantly cancelled, restarted, and rebooted every couple of decades?  It takes you 45 years to get to your 100th issue.  Someone thank Marvel Studios for turning Guardians of the Galaxy into a movie or else it might have taken even longer for the title reach this prestigious landmark.  The main story of this issue sees the Guardians FINALLY returning to their own storyline after a useless crossover with the X-men and some tie-ins to Infinity.  Peter Quill awakens to find that half of the Guardians are missing as he, Rocket, and Groot come under attack from Peter's ever persistent father.  In some ways, it was a bit of relief reading this issue as Bendis can really weave a good Guardians story when he isn't shoe-horning them into something else.  Peter and his father have been at odds with each other throughout this run, and it finally comes to a head here, and in a way that makes things genuinely seem helpless (even with a certain character showing up on the last page).  Sara Pichelli is sorely missed in this issue as Nick Bradshaw's work ranges from good to poor in the span of just this issue.  The biggest change-up people will notice here is the presence of Venom.  Why is he there?  Your guess is as good as mine since Bendis says we will not find out until the Guardians of the Galaxy issue released on Free Comic Book Day (first Saturday in May).  While Bendis gets points for leading this Venom story in an interesting direction, it is utterly stupid that he is making readers wait for a plot point that seems quite important to why this story is even happening.  To help celebrate 100 issues of the series, Marvel brings back 2008 Guardians writers Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett to pen two back-up stories.  Lanning's deals with Groot's time on Planet X, which is an okay little story with not a ton of depth (other than revealing why Groot will eventually take so kindly to Rocket).  Abnett pens a much more fascinating story which sees some of the original 1969 Guardians return and sets up an exciting potential plot thread that Bendis better get back to.  Rating: A-

Original Sin #0
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Jim Cheung and Paco Medina
with Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego, Dave Meikis, Juan Viasco,
and Justin Ponsor
[Cal]: What do the Watchers want?  Who are they, aside from giant baby-headed men who live in space and watch us having sex?  While a number of books have dealt with this question in the past, none of them were event books, so they barely count.  Now, we have Original Sin #0, which features a space cop who looks like he is 11 years old delving into the storied history of the Watchers, and the tragedy that made them what they are today.  Waid does a good job at laying out the series' fundamental hook, and while it's fairly standard stuff (and it doesn't hang together with much thought), it serves, at least, as a decent into to the upcoming event.  It's a much stronger Nova story, however, giving the Sam Alexander the spotlight - and some closure on an issue that has haunted him for years.  Jim Cheung and an inexplicably massive host of inkers imbue the book with a great deal of energy, which fits the upbeat new Nova's brief action scenes well, but they don't do a great job at selling the look or feel of the Watcher's home.  Original Sin #0 lacks the character-driven flair that makes much of Waid's work such a joy, but as a prequel to Jason Aaron's big event, it works reasonably well.  Rating: B-

Thunderbolts #25
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Paco Diaz

[Shane]: Charles Soule's spectacular run on Thunderbolts is unfortunately coming to an end shortly, but not before he can throw quite a few plot twists our way for the new writers to work with.  The team's latest adventure finds them in a dangerous jungle, filled to the brim with all sorts of bizarre creatures.  Oh, and, naturally, there's a secret temple hiding an artifact that Red Hulk wants his hands on.  While this set-up does lead Soule to walk down some familiar Indiana Jones-esque territory, the man definitely throws quite a few curveballs in this issue, starting with the unexpected death of one of the team's members.  No spoilers, but mark this as the first time in over a year this reader has audibly gasped at something which happened in a comic.  The surprises continue as the Thunderbolts make their way to the temple, with an ending to this issue that makes one wonder how on Earth Soule will end this story.  It is truly exciting to see Soule develop the Red Leader and his continued attempts at sabotaging the rest of the team.  A big conflict is coming with that character, and it better happen sooner rather than later.  Perhaps what makes this comic so exciting is that Soule does such a good job of making it feel like any member of this team is expendable.  That heightened sense of danger along with Soule's pitch-perfect humor make this a more than enjoyable read.  Paco Diaz, while not as good as some of the other artists we have seen on this title, does a knockout job on art when he needs to, helping to make this issue all the more fun.  Rating: A
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