Avengers #6 (Marvel Comics)
by Brian Michael Bendis, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer
I have to admit that Marvel has done an excellent job with its Avengers line, even with the recent retooling and relaunching of a number of Avengers-related titles, including this one. It was clear from the start that this Avengers title was meant to harken back to the more cosmic adventures of the team from the 1970s and ’80s, and Bendis succeeded in that regard. While I enjoyed the arc when it began, this concluding chapter proved to be thoroughly frustrating. At times, I had no idea what was going on. I also realized that I had no idea who a featured character — the woman over the future Hulk’s shoulder on the cover — was. What I could piece together is that the arc ended as it began, and nothing really happened in the end. This was a setup for a larger story down the line, it seems, and six issues at $3.99 US a pop seems like a lot for a prologue. I’ve also come to dislike Marvel Boy/Noh-Varr’s role in the story. He’s an easy plot device for a time-travel story, nothing more, and to that end, Bendis transforms him into far too powerful a figure. It’s a shame that in the process, he wasn’t transformed into a more interesting figure. Judging from a single panel in this comic, Bendis has also engineered circumstances that bring Killraven into mainstream Marvel continuity, though I can’t imagine why this was a necessary development.
There’s no denying the strength of John Romita Jr. as an artist, but the linework in this issue is incredibly rough. It looks a bit rushed in appearance, but I can’t tell if that’s due to the pencilling/breakdowns or the inking. Furthermore, the thick, squat design for the future Ultron is ugly but not as intimidating as the creators likely intended, and I’ve never found Noh-Varr’s generic look throughout this story arc to be eye-catching or effective at all. 3/10
Captain America #611 (Marvel Comics)
by Ed Brubaker & Daniel Acuna/by Sean McKeever & Filipe Andrade
Writer Ed Brubaker transformed Marvel’s stiff patriotic hero into a key figure in the centre of a riveting espionage drama that kept me and scores of other readers coming back month after month for some deliciously dark storytelling that still managed to include plenty of old-school references to classic Cap stories. However, since the original Captain America’s return from the dead and the decision to leave his one-time sidekick in the title role, this series has moved away from that spy-genre riff that was such a draw and has embraced a more traditional super-hero tone. It’s solid storytelling in that genre, for the most part, but there’s little fresh or exciting happening in these pages. The first chapter of this new story arc moves along at a frustratingly slow pace. Why dedicate so much time having the characters decide if the new Cap will stand trial when the title of the story arc is “The Trial of Captain America”? Acuna’s artwork is attractive. I’ve always enjoyed the softness of his style mixed with the moodiness he instills in his characters. Still, I wonder if it was the right choice for this comic book. There’s a cartoony quality to the characters’ faces that doesn’t quite work with the subject matter.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Nomad backup feature when it first debuted in this title. the story of a girl without a world trying to find her place in a new one made for interesting storytelling. Unfortunately, that focus isn’t really to be found in this generic, unexplained teamup story. Rikki’s inferiority complex in the Black Widow’s shadow is understandable but quickly gets old. I also didn’t care for Filipe Andrade’s work for this story. One of the key elements in a Nomad story is an emphasis on her youth, and one doesn’t get a sense of the character’s tender age from the visuals here. The Humberto Ramos influence is apparent, but the lacking backgrounds and spastic action just didn’t do anything for me. 5/10
Justice Society of America #44 (DC Comics)
by Marc Guggenheim & Scott Kolins
I’m a big fan of DC’s Golden Age super-hero characters; have been ever since I first glimpsed them in the pages of Justice League of America comics in the 1970s. I’m also a big fan of Scott Kolins’ artwork; have been ever since I first glimpsed it in the pages of The Flash several years ago. Given those facts, one would expect that I was the perfect audience for this new stint on Justice Society of America. I dropped the title from my regular reading list shortly after the Willigham/Sturges/Merino run began, so when Marc Guggenheim and Kolins were announced as the new creative team, I figured it was time to reconnect with these characters. Unfortunately, the structure of this script is puzzling. The generic superhuman terrorist villain isn’t all that interesting, and the notion that only the JSA would tackle a threat as potent as this one just doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of the DC Universe. Watching the heroes get their butts kicked page after page got a bit tiresome, and the twist at the end of the issue that sees one of the heroes being blamed for a villain’s actions didn’t make much sense either. The first page — which sees a political element creep into the book — intrigued me, but it’s based on the flawed notion that an electorate can force someone into office against his or her will.
Kolins’ artwork is a lot of fun. Obviously, I have a soft spot for his interpretation of any incarnation of the Flash, and his take on the Golden Age Green Lantern here is as sharp as his past endeavors with the character. I don’t much care for the designs for the seemingly unstoppable villain and one of the heroes — Lightning — but to be fair to him, the latter design (Alex Ross’ work, I believe) is something he was saddled with. Still, it would be nice if he could tweak or fully redesign Lightning; her look is stiff and a bit plain. I love how Mike Atiyeh’s colors add glows to the linework. Kolins has endeavored to establish a dark atmosphere here, but the colors add an eerie quality that adds to the tension. 5/10
Superboy #1 (DC Comics)
by Jeff Lemire & Pier Gallo
I really enjoyed Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul’s stint on the Superboy feature in the relaunched Adventure Comics a few months ago and was disappointed that it didn’t last all that long. When it was announced that Jeff Lemire, DC’s up-and-coming go-to guy, was writing a new ongoing title picking up where Johns left off, I was definitely interested. Lemire has captured the same down-to-earth, coming-of-age feel that made the Adventure run fun to read. There’s something oddly and pleasantly… wholesome about this take on the modern Superboy that seems truly unique in this day and age. Cast aside is the bawdy, loud escapades of a teen super-hero with no real limits on his freedom, and in its place is this earnest new direction that manages to parallel the simple charm of classic Superboy stories from decades ago. Now, the premise has its flaws. That no one seems to question why a small town in Kansas is attracting so much superhuman weirdness threatens to push the reader’s suspension of disbelief beyond its limit, for example. But the traditional fun and morality of this teen super-hero tale wins me over.
Pier Gallo’s artwork works with the tone of the script. There’s a bright, open and light tone at play that serves the story well. The title character boasts a youthful look, and that’s even moreso the case with Simon Valentine, the curiously oddball best-friend character who may or may not turn out to be the Lex Luthor to Superboy’s Superman. Gallo’s style actually put me in mind of the work of such artists as Jon McCrea and Steve Pugh, and I couldn’t help but wonder if his usual approach is darker in tone than what we see here. I also noted with interest that this book is colored by Jamie Grant, who’s perhaps better known as Frank Quitely collaborator on All-Star Superman. The colors are appropriately bright, and I like the subtle hints of texture he brings to such elements as skin tone and cloud clusters. 7/10
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