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Friday, June 27, 2014

The Splash Page, Vol. 48


Comics Reviews for the Week of 6/25/2014

Editor's Note: This is our 48th and Final Edition of The Splash Page. Going forward, we'll be instead providing a weekly consumer guide to comics before they're released (each Tuesday of the month) and future comics reviews will be focused on full arcs and graphic novels to provide deeper analysis of comics that are worthy of discussion.

Thanks so much for your support of The Splash Page!


Alternative Comics


Ritual Three: Vile Decay
Written and Drawn by Malachi Ward

 

[Harper]: I'm always on the lookout for unique reading experiences, and while searching for great covers I have certainly found on in Ritual Three: Vile Decay. I hadn't heard of the series, which comes out very sparsely, but was drawn in by the extremely detailed and gorgeous cover. Oddly enough, the book deserves a physical description first: it's a good bit wider than your average American comic book, and is printed on high quality thick canvas paper, and is done completely with pinks and purples. The story follows an old woman who is warning her grandson of the wicked ways of the world, intertwined with a look at her rebellious past. While it feels simple on the surface, the story surprises with a few science fiction turns, and narratively it is quite complex. There are some great scarcely used comic book storytelling techniques that draw your attention away from the dialogue and more towards the cartooning, letting you contemplate the characters rather than tell you their life stories. The art is the real star here though, with absolutely jaw dropping pencils. The art ranges from fairly undemanding cartooning to incredibly detailed background architecture made up of thousands of ultra thin, smooth lines. It's a real visual treat, and a conceptually challenging read, and for that I would highly recommend! Rating: A


DC Comics

Superman #32
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by John Romita, Jr. with Klaus Janson & Laura Martin

[Cal]: Geoff Johns and John Romita are both unequivocally comics superstars, to the point where ads for the book did not tout new characters or big events, but pretty much just their names next to a picture of Superman.  Johns' run on Action Comics with Gary Frank is still held in inexplicably high esteem, and Romita has never worked for DC, which made their team-up on one of DC’s biggest books a big story.  Unfortunately, neither does much to distinguish the book from the generic slog that has been the bulk of Superman’s New 52 output (Morrison’s Action excepted; maybe Pak’s, as well, though he’s been so tied up in crossovers I have no interest in it’s hard to say).  Superman is an angry punch-machine too distant from his humanity who the world just doesn’t care about as much anymore, and Johns commits the cardinal sin of confusing ‘good’ with ‘dull and stupid’ when it comes too his characterization.  Romita is a solid choice as an artist for the title, with a reasonably strong sense of design and lively, energetic artwork, but the pacing here is awful, the action slow and banal.  The story, in which Superman meets another dimension’s version of him, is mostly okay, though it’s a familiar enough scenario by now – being a big part of what Morrison did on Action two years back – that Johns and Romita probably should have presented some idea beyond that.  The parts of Superman #32 that give me any hope for the title are the brief interludes with supporting characters – Lois bar-hopping, Jimmy trying to get in touch with the parents who abandoned him – but Johns and Romita don’t display any particular interest in Clark Kent here, which makes this a disappointingly impersonal beat-‘em-up.  Rating: C-


Image Comics


Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta
Written by Robert Kirkman, Art by Paul Azaceta


[Harper]: There's been a lot of hype here, as there often is when Kirkman decides to put out a new book, and since I'm still a pretty big fan of The Walking Dead, I decided to give it a shot. It primarily follows Kyle, a man who at first seems like your typical loser: his apartment is a trash heap, he lives alone and likes it that way. Intertwining with this is the story of a young boy who is possessed by a demon, who begins eating his own finger and attacking his mother. These tales meet when the town reverend asks if Kyle can help him, since he has a "gift". We learn through vague flashbacks that Kyle has been haunted by demonic possession his entire life; both his mother and his wife had been taken over by evil beings, the latter of which cost him custody of his child. Kyle is drawn into this new exorcism and discovers that his blood is the key to burning the demon out of the child, and now is questioning what he is and why these things have plagued him. I love the art; Azaceta on pencils and Elizabeth Breitweiser on colors look quite nice, and they do a fantastic job on both facial expressions and setting a very creepy mood for the book. I have a few minor quibbles with the writing, mainly in that it took me a bit to realize what was going on in the beginning…the line between Kyle's flashbacks and the present day possession is pretty blurred, which may be a valid stylistic choice but took me out of the story because I was a bit confused. I also think that the story itself is not terribly interesting at this point, and leaves me wondering why Kyle is just now deciding to investigate these things that have clearly destroyed his life. But perhaps that sounds harsher than I mean it; I think that with a lesser art team (and letterer–Rus Wooton did a phenomenal job of using a unique text style that works very well with the story) it would be far less enjoyable, but as things stand it's worth a read. Only time will tell how the book will turn out 5, 10, or 15 issues down the line, but for now, $2.99 for these 44 pages is well worth it. Rating: B +



Marvel Comics


The Amazing Spider-man #3
Written by Dan Slott, Art by Humberto Ramos

[Shane]: It is a bit odd to see Amazing Spider-man go back to being a monthly book (for the time being).  While this issue has a few exciting bits to offer, it also shows the biggest downside to Slott's longtime run with this character.  Black Cat, still upset about her brief encounter with the Superior Spider-man, has returned to seek her revenge on the Spider for ruining what she saw as a perfect life.  It's nice to see Slott capitalize on this story, especially considering that Black Cat was only in Superior Spider-man for maybe four pages (who'd have thought an entire arc could come from that?).  Black Cat can be an interesting character when she is not written as a Catwoman rip-off, unfortunately Slott does not do much to make her that captivating.  But that's not the problem with Slott's writing, the problem is the man's continued references to an ever increasing series of events.  While the issue stands fine on its own without that context, it's hard to not feel like Slott is pressuring his readers to go buy more of his Spider-man comics to fully understand the references.  This would be okay if this were issue 701, but it's not.  It's issue #3.  With undoubtedly a lot of new readers, there needs to be more of a fresh start in this comic rather than dealing with so much baggage from what came before.  Fortunately, the Original Sin tie in that begins next month looks to help move this book along that path.  Also on the good side, Humberto Ramos really gives this book a classic Spidey feel, which helps to make this an enjoyable read.  Rating: B

Original Sin #3.1: Hulk vs. Iron Man #1
Written by Mark Waid (Story by Waid and Keiron Gillen), Art by Mark Bagley

[Shane]: Original Sin tie-ins continue to pour in as Marvel's latest summer event barrels onward.  Thankfully, for this series, both Hulk and Iron Man will be taking a hiatus while both writers come together to tell this story.  After the Orb unleashed his "Truth Bomb," Tony Stark and Bruce Banner both realized a connection the two share to Banner's transformation into the Hulk, one that looks very bad for Tony.  Even though Mark Waid said is run on Hulk ended with issue 4, it's hard to not see this as the final cap on his time with the monster.  Waid gives us some details on the early days of Tony and Bruce's relationship, with a lot of heavy influence from the Marvel Cinematic Universe ("science bros" is mentioned, perhaps the worst sentence in the entire comic).  Though this is a story about the Hulk, it is all told from the perspective of Tony, and, man, does Waid know how to write Tony Stark.  Kieron Gillen has been doing an adequate job with the character, but Waid does an excellent job of capturing Tony's attitude combined with deep-rooted personal regret.  That characterization is what really helps this tie-in to feel like a very natural story, and not just something to further Marvel's latest event. Mark Bagley's art is a little jarring to behold at first after such a stunning cover from J.G. Jones, but Bagley proves that he was meant to be drawing the Hulk, providing us with one very stunning splash page early on.  It is very easy to see the inevitable trade paperback of this story being worthy of a spot on your shelf, hopefully Waid does not do anything to mess that up.  Rating: A


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