The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1 (DC Comics/Johnny DC imprint)
by J. Torres & Chynna Clugston
When I pre-ordered this comic book, I hadn’t yet seen an episode of the new Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon upon which this new comic series is based. I managed to catch the first episode just last week (though as yet, no Canadian channel has picked it up, as far as I know), and it’s fortunate that I did. J. Torres’s script retells the events of the first episode of the TV show from different points of view. Though I like the storytelling method, one really has to be familiar with the plot ahead of time in order to get at what Torres is doing. It’s a shame there’s not a strong visual cue to distinguish between the divergent viewpoints as well. Nevertheless, Torres manages not only to convey the same personalities we’ve seen in the cartoon, but to add to them and flesh the characters out more clearly. I can see why Torres opts to retell the story of the show’s pilot, as it introduces the core concept of adding a young Superman to the team lineup. Still, I felt a little cheated; I wanted a new story, not a rehashing what’s already been presented on the tube. I expect future issues will deliver in that regard, though.
Chynna Clugston’s art captures the designs and style of the TV show adeptly, but I was thrilled to discover that her own unique, energetic and appealing style wasn’t overwhelmed and engulfed by the strict guides of the cartoon. When I watched the pilot episode of the cartoon, one of the characters I was the least taken with was Triplicate Girl, but Clugston’s take on her brought more personality and style to the character. Guy Major’s colors bring an appropriate level of energy and brightness to the mix, but the lower grade of the paper dulls them somewhat, making for a flatter, slightly darker look. 6/10
Living Statues (self-published)
by Emily Blair
This slice-of-life one-shot is the result of the creator’s winning of a Xeric Foundation grant, and it’s just the type of fare for the grant was designed. Writer/artist Emily Blair takes the reader to Florence, Italy, to meet an art-history teacher from America who’s leading his teenage students on an excursion to see some of the greatest works of art in the world. The book’s title refers not only to the mime artists/street performers who pretend to be famous statues, but to the main character, Mr. Martin, himself. Actually, the meaning of the title reveals itself far too early and far too overtly for my tastes, but the strong, characterization-focused story held my interest and overcame the less-than-subtle theme. Actually, the information Martin presents about the various works of art and historical events was quite interesting. Martin is the villain of his own story, wallowing in a world of annoyances, awkwardness and self-pity. The hero of the piece is actually one of the “living statues,” a performer who quickly recognizes Martin as the miserable soul he truly is.
Blair’s artwork seems to be based on sculpting negative space into more traditional linework (the name of the method escapes me at the moment). She’s apparently following in the footsteps of Eric (Flood!) Drooker here, but she uses the same method to achieve a realistic, detailed effect. The stony architecture and artwork of Florence comes to life in these pages. Blair’s eye for anatomy is quite good, and the darkness of her artwork helps to bring out the downtrodden mood of the main character. 7/10
Note: This comic book is slated for release in July. For more information, visit Blair’s website at scenerychewer.com.
Marvel Adventures The Avengers #12 (Marvel Comics)
by Jeff Parker, Juan Santacruz & Paul Fernandez
I’m not a regular reader of this younger-readers’ series, but writer Jeff Parker does know how to get me to take notice of certain issues. This self-contained yarn — in which Ego the Living Planet causes problems with his amorous advances toward our homeworld — is absolutely hilarious. The ridiculous plot point is actually quite simple but quite clever, and Parker makes the concept all the more amusing by transforming Ego into an intergalactic “playa.” Parker’s not satisfied to just let the premise do all the work for him. He goes a little further and provides contrasts in the heroes’ actions, and the heroes’ recognition of that turnabout works in the context of the dialogue. Parker also does well to give the lesser-powered characters something to do in this cosmic-level story. In mainstream Marvel continuity, encounters between Wolverine and the Hulk pretty much always lead to over-the-top violence, but Parker’s turned that dynamic into a great rivalry.
Juan Santacruz boasts a standard but solid super-hero style, but he does a great job of conveying the immensity of Ego while including the silliness that’s at the heart of the story. Given the comedic tone of this story, though, I can’t help but wonder if someone with a more cartoony, exaggerated style might have been able to bring out the humor even more. The color, by Impacto Studios, is appropriately bright and reinforces the energetic and cosmic elements of the action. The MODOK issue of this series sold out quickly, a surprising development for a title in the Marvel Adventures line. I expect this issue will follow suit as well, so seek it out while you have the chance. 8/10
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle 99c Special (Devil’s Due Publishing)
by Robert Rodi & Steven Cummings
This special 99-cent teaser comic is a solid promotional tool for Devil’s Due Publishing; with this book, the publisher is definitely competing against the much larger DC and Marvel outfits, and any leg up will be valuable for it. Writer Robert Rodi delivers an accessible script that offers a new, modern status quo for the revived title character. She’s envisioned here as an environmental terrorist of sorts in a fictional South American setting. The backdrop offers a lot of interesting potential, from the politics of a dictatorship to the excesses one would normally associate with U.S., celebrity-obsessed culture. Despite those more refined elements, one just can’t get past the fact that the title character is designed as gratuitous eye candy first and a heroine second. And while the setting and circumstances are explained, Sheena’s origin and personality are not. Is she a wild woman? A Western woman who’s adopted a feral facade? While the character isn’t fleshed out all that well, the property’s history is thanks to an essay by Timothy Straud in the back of this issue. It was easily the most interesting aspect of the book, but then, I have an interest in comics history.
Deadshot and Pantheon High artist Steven Cummings’s art was actually a bit disappointing. I found the heavy manga influence to be distracting and in conflict with the classic, pulp feel for which the book strives. Cummings’s style has change radically since he illustrated Deadshot, and I was surprised to learn the same artist handled that title and this one. Apparently, an artist by the name of Matt Merhoff, whose style is more in keeping with what I expected, will take over the art chores for the series itself. 5/10