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Friday, June 6, 2014

The Splash Page, Vol. 45

Comic Reviews for the Week of June 4, 2014

DC Comics

The New 52: Futures End #5
Written by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen, Art by Jesus Merino

[Shane]: DC continues its weekly look five years into the future in the latest issue of the just okay Futures End.  If you read last week's review of this comic, you know that the main issue with this book is that it is riddled with far too much exposition and very little character development.  That improves slightly this week.  For our split narrative for this issue we see Mr. Terrific launching a new piece of technology, Firestorm finally being separated, Grifter finding out his new assignment, and Constantine showing up out of the blue.  Although he is an oddly written character, the set up thus far for Mr. Terrific as the primary antagonist of this series is very interesting.  He is more or less a Steve Jobs type figure with superhero outfits, presenting the world with technology that would sound utterly creepy if it weren't presented so flashily.  Grifter is still boring and his story continues to be boring, making one wonder why we are supposed to even like this character or care about him at all.  Ronnie and Jason finally being separated from the Firestorm matrix is our only real moment of character development in this issue.  While it is an exchange that is written quite well, it is unfortunate that our first real taste of character development came from quite possibly the most annoying conflict thus far.  Ronnie has some legitimate complaints, but both men come off as whiny brats.  If this book were monthly it would undoubtedly be getting lower scores as the plot for this thing moves at a snail's pace.  Without the juggling of so many plot threads, it may be possible to get some more development.  The book has already forgotten about Batman Beyond, maybe it can do the same for some other characters.  Jesus Merino's art is good at being just mediocre enough to make the comic readable.  Futures End continues to be just entertaining enough to make it worth the weekly purchase, but has yet to become a must read by any means.  Rating: B-

Dynamite Entertainment

Vampirella #1
Written by Nancy Collins, Art by Patrick Berkenkotter
[Cal]: Vampirella has become a surprisingly iconic comics figure, one of the cast of old horror hosts of creepy anthology comics who eventually got enough recognition to begin starring in the stories themselves.  And yet, despite having been around pretty consistently in comics since 1969 (2014 is her 45th anniversary, making her a longer-running character than Wolverine), she really hasn't broken out into the public consciousness for a good long while, at least outside of her costume.  For this, her 45th anniversary, horror novelist Nancy Collins decided to revive the character with a long walk down her storied past, beginning with this week's Vampirella #1.  Collins smartly structures the issue as a stealth origin story meant to get new readers up to speed, as Ella begins to investigate a cult kidnapping that bears a striking resemblance to her own kidnapping, sacrifice, and eventual return to power.  The broad strokes of the story are clever and Collins ends the issue with what seems like an exciting new hook for the story, but this first issue feels surprisingly clumsy in its execution.  Maybe it's the art, which is solid but unremarkable in its figure work and largely lacking in its sense of kineticism, pacing, and layout?  Maybe it's the rushed nature of the story, which is all plot incident but gives us nothing to hold onto with regards to Ella herself?  Whatever the problem, it holds Vampirella #1 back from being a stronger debut along the lines of other recent Dynamite relaunches like Magnus: Robot Fighter or Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult.  It's not bad, it's just shallower than I'd like.  Rating: C

Image Comics

Nailbiter #2
Written by Joshua Williamson, Art by Mike Henderson

[Shane]: Last month saw the debut of the stunning new Image series Nailbiter, a series which immediately jumped very high on my list of must read indie comics.  This month we get to see the next chapter of the story, and it does not disappoint.  After having a chat with serial killer Nailbiter Warren, Finch and Crane do not get too far into the investigation of Finch's missing partner Carroll before find themselves in the midst of a fire and, unsurprisingly, a couple of dead bodies.  Nailbiter Warren just may be one of the best horror comics characters in a very long time.  Writer Joshua Williamson has completely outdone himself.  Not only does Warren have a very creepy MO as a killer, but he is a fascinatingly creepy character on his own.  The scenes with Warren leave you begging for more as this just may be the most well written character in the comic.  Although that is not to say that everyone else is poorly written, but more speaks to just how much of a standout character Warren really is.  Williamson seems to write this issue knowing many may draw comparisons to Hannibal Lecter both in terms of plot and characters, so he is quick to get rid of any of that speculation.  It's really nice to see Nailbiter separate itself from other members of its genre, making it an even more unique read.  While the characters are dynamic, the story is also immensely engaging.  As a lover of Williamson's other horror comic, Ghosted, Nailbiter may have a story which is even more exciting to see unfold.  Mike Henderson does a fantastic job on art, really giving this book the look that it needs.  Hopefully Henderson remains the artist on this book as it would be very hard to imagine someone else drawing it and the book still having the same charm.  Nailbiter remains strong after a must-read first issue.  Image seems to have another hit on its hands.  Rating: A+

Marvel Comics

Original Sin #3
Written by Jason Aaron, Art by Mike Deodato

[Harper]: As with most events, the promise and excitement of the first issue tends to drain away in one way or another, and unfortunately this is the case with this issue. Here we continue to follow the split-off teams as they follow vaguely related trails, but the impetus of the title of the event as well as all the spin offs kicks off as well: The Orb somehow uses The Watcher's eye to reveal secrets, seemingly only to those in close proximity and seemingly only to the person who the secret affects. There's little rhyme or reason to the rules of it, and the page where it happens reads like an advertisement since we already know the gist of all these secrets based on the coming tie-ins. The real surprise comes with Winter Soldier being pinpointed as suspect number one for the murder of The Watcher and some kind of living planet, not to mention the shockingly violent final pages in which he kills one of the primary players in this story. In all honesty, I was much more interested in the cosmic murder than the revealing of secrets from the get go–the revelations seem like a cheap way to turn an interesting concept into a whatchamacallit moment that spawns dozens of tie-ins–but the turn of the Winter Soldier is a bizarre and unsatisfying twist, at least so far. While I found the layouts interesting in the first half of the book with the geometric patterns dividing up the panels, Deodato is less consistent about it as the issue goes on, and I wouldn't have even guessed this was Aaron writing it. While the first issue was unique and exciting and had a real mark of Aaron's style, it's more or less nowhere to be found here. Here be plot, and little else. Hopefully it will gather some more character steam as it goes, but this event has dropped pretty dramatically on my list. Rating: C+

Moon Knight #4
Written by Warren Ellis, Art by Declan Shalvey

[Kyle]: I never thought I'd be saddened by the creative changes on a Moon Knight title, but here we are. With Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey announcing that their run on the book will end with Issue 6, we see the writing on the wall for one of the more unique titles to come out of All New Marvel Now (along with Loki: Agent of Asgard, Secret Avengers, and Black Widow). In many ways, Moon Knight reads a good deal like Ellis' work on Planetary, with done in one type stories that paint an overall world without the sometimes cumbersome feel of the "writing for the trade" arc. Each issue of the series thus far has focused on a different aspect of Marc Spector, be it the detective, the superhero, or the mystic. Issue 4 delves a bit deeper into the latter two, as Spector is hired by a sleep therapist to investigate the cause of his patients having the same dream. Spector then delves into the dreamworld, shedding his all-white detective garb for the superhero accoutrement typically associated with Moon Knight. Ellis and Shalvey paint a bizzarely lush mush-room like dream world that wouldn't be out of place in Brandon Graham's Prophet, and while the end twist to the story can be seen as predictable, the way it gets there is definably within Ellis' unique oeuvre. This is by far Shalvey's best work on the title, and the creative team flexes enough creative muscle here, you'd be forgiven if you thought you were reading a Ditko-esque Doctor Strange story instead of the early 90's toss-off that is Moon Knight generally. This all too brief run is really something special, touching on many different genres. I'm certain I won't be sticking around given my lack of interest in the new creative team, but at least for a short six months, Warren Ellis brought of a little of his Wildstorm Magic to Marvel. Rating: A
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