Monthly Archives: June 2013

Waste Management

Variant coverLazarus #1
“Family, Part One”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Michael Lark
Colors: Santi Arcas
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I haven’t been watching advance solicitations as of late. Often, new titles will turn up on the shelves of my local comic shop and take me by surprise. “I can’t believe So And So had a new book out and I didn’t know” or “Wow, that comic is out already? I thought it was months away.” I was vaguely aware of the approaching release of Lazarus #1, but I had absolutely no idea what it was about, and I honestly, I didn’t care. It was a new comic by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, creators whose past works I’ve enjoyed, notably their previous collaboration on Gotham Central. I was eager to sample a new creator-owned work from them, and the notion they might disappoint never entered my mind. And they didn’t disappoint, but they did take me off-guard. I was expecting something else, something more grounded, something more rooted in or at least connected to the crime genre, given their previous projects. But Lazarus is, if described in broad terms, a science-fiction book, or, more specifically, a dystopian book. It’s certainly a smart book, and it has some strong messages.

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Ultron Legacy

Age of Ultron #6Age of Ultron #1Age of Ultron #s 1-10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco, Alex Maleev, Butch Guice, David Marquez & Joe Quesada
Inks: Paul Neary, Brandon Peterson, Roger Martinez, Roger Bonet, Alex Maleev, Butch Guice, Tom Palmer, David Marquez & Joe Quesada
Colors: Paul Mounts, Jose Villarrubia & Richard Isanove
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US per issue

I’ve made a point of avoiding big super-hero event books in recent years, and given that DC hasn’t really done one since launching its New 52 line two years ago, that means I’ve steered clear of Marvel’s big event books. I ended up reading the first two issues of Age of Ultron, though, because my local retailer offered them for a buck apiece a few months after their release, and I borrowed the remainder of the series, mainly because I was interested in writing about the book rather than seeing how things turned out. One of the biggest complaints about these event books is how they ultimately don’t matter in the long run, how they promise big, sweeping, universe-altering changes, but those are undone or reversed in short order. Well, Age of Ultron takes that approach to the extreme, hitting a cosmic reset button in the final issue. The events of this apocalyptic and time-travel story really don’t matter. They serve to set up other stories and characters in Marvel’s line of titles that didn’t need this particular catalyst. Ultimately, it’s a waste of time and money. And it suffers from the same flaw so many people are complaining about in regards to the recently released Man of Steel movie: there’s nothing fun about it.

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Stained Steel

Man of Steel
Actors: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Christopher Meloni, Richard Schiff, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix & Ayelet Zurer
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer & Christopher Nolan
Studios: Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures
Rating: PG-13

Reaction to the new Man of Steel movie online has been rather divided, from what I can see. Some viewers have applauded it, while others have criticized it for its excesses. Having viewed it in 2D in a rather sparsely attended Friday matinée, I can see validity in both points of view. On one point, I think all would be able to agree that Man of Steel is definitely a spectacle, a huge special-effects extravaganza. In many ways, it’s a tale of two movies, clearly striving to appeal to as wide an audience of blockbuster movies as humanly possible. Ultimately, I appreciated the movie for how it offers an unconventional and unexpected new take on the title character. I love to be surprised, and to come away from a Superman origin flick surprised is something I would have thought to be next to impossible. One flaw with the film is how, in its effort to achieve maturity and legitimacy, it’s failed to leave much room for any sense of fun or joy.

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Quick Critiques – June 15, 2013

Variant coverBatman #21 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo & Rafael Albuquerque

Because apparently, I’ve created the impression I pan Marvel and DC super-hero comics so I can impress “hipsters”, I thought I’d share some thoughts about this new story arc in DC’s main Batman title. I was quite disappointed in Superman Unchained, not only due to the art, but surprisingly due to being let down by Snyder’s plot. Fortunately, it appears that was an aberration, because his new take on Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming the Batman here is fantastic. As he did with the Court of Owls, Snyder is building a new mythology and history for Gotham City, and he’s doing so by incorporating and reinventing some familiar characters and concepts. In Batman: Earth One, writer Geoff Johns explored the maternal branches of Bruce Wayne’s family tree by transforming Martha Wayne into a member of the Arkham clan. Here, Snyder does something similar, making her maiden name Kane and giving some of those tree limbs a bit of rot. The opening scene, set six months ahead of the main action, just after Bruce took on the Batman persona, hints at an ambitious story arc, one that promises to be much more over-the-top and tumultuous than what we’ve seen before. I look forward to it. The backup story is solidly executed. It should appeal to the Fast and the Furious fans out there, but peppered in the high-octane, high-speed action is a clever and peppy script that barrels ahead as quickly as the car the protagonist is driving throughout the sequence.

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This Unchained Melody Is Out of Tune

Variant coverVariant coverSuperman Unchained #1
“The Leap”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Jim Lee & Dustin Nguyen
Inks: Scott Williams
Colors: Alex Sinclair & John Kalisz
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams (regular edition)/Brett Booth & Norm Rapmund; Bruce Timm; Dan Jurgens & Rapmund; Dave Johnson; Jerry Ordway; Jose Luis Garcia Lopez; Lee Bermejo; and Neal Adams (variants)
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

The manager at my local comic shop today noted instead of a $5 Jim Lee comic book, I could pick up Gerard Way’s new comic or maybe something more offbeat such as Boom!’s new Six-Gun Gorilla. While I’m interested in those comics, I told him I saw it as spending five bucks on a new Scott Snyder comic, and I pointed to the strength of his work on Batman and, more recently, The Wake. He acknowledged Snyder’s name was a better reason for buying a comic book than Lee’s. But damn, I should have listened to him. I definitely could have done better with my fin than this exercise in excess and confusion.

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Knock knock

Astro City #1
“Through Open Doors, Part One”
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artist: Alex Ross
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price $3.99 US

The 1990s wasn’t a good time in the world of comics — and to be specific, in super-hero comics. It was an era that emphasized style over substance. It was an era that celebrated dazzle over storytelling. It was an era of gimmick covers, countless crossovers and a bunch of new publishers and imprints, all chasing the speculator craze. A lot of money was made from short-term gains leading to long-term losses of readers and black marks on an entire genre. On the other hand, the 1990s also gave rise to Astro City (or as it was originally and appropriately known, Kurt Busiek’s Astro City). Busiek’s title was and remains a celebration of comics and the people who crafted icons for us. It’s also a deconstruction of super-hero archetypes, and it offers some strong social commentary. But ultimately, what makes Astro City work, what makes it such an engaging read and what’s allowed it to last for almost two decades (yes, you read that right) is the strong character work Busiek brings to each and every issue.

And it’s back. That’s awesome.

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Quick Critiques – June 2, 2013

The Bounce #1 (Image Comics)
by Joe Casey & David Messina

I haven’t read any promotional material about or reaction to The Bounce, so I have no idea if it’s a reworked pitch for Marvel’s Speedball character, but it certainly reads like one. To be fair, though, that’s mainly due to the specific power set of the main character here, so I feel a bit bad about dismissing the origin of this story as something originally designed for another character. I mean, if the lead hero had invisibility powers, I wouldn’t have blown it off as a failed and retooled Invisible Woman proposal. Either way, the storytelling here stands up fine on its own; nothing feels lacking as a result of it being set outside an established shared super-hero continuity. But there is a problem: the hero isn’t terribly likable. The broad concept of a pothead super-hero might have worked as a purely comedic satire, but Casey plays it straight here. As a result, I found it hard to get behind Jasper. There are a couple of intriguing concepts, but by the end of the story, I wasn’t all that interested in what happens next. And when it comes to episodic fiction, getting the reader care about that is key.

David Messina’s artwork tells the story clearly — except when it doesn’t, but that’s OK, because there’s a psychedelic component that comes into play at the end of the issue. Overall, though, he boasts a fairly generic super-hero style. Beyond the apparent influences in his work (I see touches reminiscent of such artists as Terry Dodson and Bryan Hitch here), there’s nothing all that distinct to be found here. The designs for the superhuman characters are rather ho-hum as well. The Bounce is OK, but it’s also quite forgettable. 6/10

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