Monthly Archives: December 2012

Quick Critiques – Dec. 15, 2012

Variant coverVariant coverAvengers Arena #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Dennis Hopeless & Kev Walker

When the concept for this series was announced, there was a swift, negative reaction, and I can understand. The notion of a random group of characters being brought together for a homicidal battle royale is an uninspired and rather derivative concept (which writer Dennis Hopeless acknowledges in the script with a reference to the book that inspires Arcade’s choice). Of course, the controversy was likely part of the plan for this book from the start; it’s why I decided to read the comic in the first place. I likely wouldn’t have given it a second look otherwise. Ultimately, the problem with the writing here doesn’t lie with the focus on killing characters. Instead, it’s the fact it just doesn’t make much sense given the context in which it’s set. The notion that 16 young heroes — including wards of the Avengers — could go missing and there’d be no chance of the elder heroes of the Marvel Universe to find them is too big a pill to swallow. I also have little idea who most of these young heroes are, and therefore, I don’t feel as invested in their fate.

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Pop Goes the World

Human Bomb #1
“Chapter One: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know”
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist/Cover artist: Jerry Ordway
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Editor: Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’ve a huge fan of legacy characters, especially when it comes to DC’s Golden Age super-heroes (or “mystery men,” as they’ve been called). My favorite storyline from Roy Thomas’s All-Star Squadron was the one in which he revealed the “untold” origin of the Freedom Fighters, which included the original Human Bomb. That being said, DC has apparently tasked writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray to retool and reinvent the Freedom Fighters characters for the 21st century (for the second time, as they penned a couple of Freedom Fighters series in the years right before DC’s New 52 relaunch). As is the case with Earth 2, DC has apparently decided to sever its Golden Age properties’ ties to the Second World War, and from a nostalgic perspective, I find that disappointing. While I was interested to see what Palmiotti and Gray were doing with these concepts with a series of limited series, I figured I’d wait to see what the word online about such comics as The Ray and Phantom Lady. If the buzz was positive, I’d seek out the collected editions. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of chatter about them, and since I think the Human Bomb concept is a cool one, I decided to check out this first issue. While it’s devoid of any connection to the preceding spins on the character, the writers have crafted an interesting story that manages to overcome some significant challenges posed by the subject matter that didn’t exist when it was created in the 1940s.

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Mission to Mars

Variant coverAvengers #1
“Avengers World”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Jerome Opeña
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Dustin Weaver (regular)/Steve McNiven, Esad Ribic, Skottie Young & Mark Brooks (variants)
Editors: Tom Brevoort & Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Writer Jonathan (The Manhattan Projects) Hickman brings his sensibilities and talents — both in terms of content and design — to the mainstream Marvel Universe. Sure, he had a much-lauded stint on Fantastic Four, but now he’s working on the publisher’s flagship property. His style isn’t a perfect fit for the Avengers, but it’s interesting nonetheless. And what’s more, it’s definitely a radical deviation from how the title team has been portrayed in recent years. Hickman starts things off with an event-sized plot that seems to unfold apart from the rest of the shared continuity. It’s refreshing to see not all cosmic-level storylines being spread out over the entire line of Marvel super-hero comics. The end result is a story that’s big in scope, but since it’s not crossing over everywhere, the focus seems to be on storytelling over marketing.

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Now With More Pulp

Masks #1
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Alex Ross
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: Ross, Jae Lee, Francesco Francavilla & Ardian Syaf
Editor: Joe Rybandt
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Dynamite Entertainment has slowly been resurrecting classic pulp/adventure heroes that pre-date the super-hero genre, and it’s built a decent stable of titles in that niche. With Masks, their go-to guy Alex Ross brings them together in what’s a fairly typical super-hero team book, penned by Chris Roberson (which took me by surprise, given his declaration about creator ownership some time ago). The first issue looks great; it was fun to delve back into Ross’s painted artwork, which we don’t see gracing the interiors of comics that much these days. While it was fun seeing these like characters interacting with and reacting to one another, it’s a fairly ordinary, formulaic story about a group of heroes meeting and joining forces. Unfortunately, the plot that sees them come together is ridiculously over the top, ham-fisted and rather difficult to accept as a premise.

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