Posted by Don MacPherson on December 20th, 2010
Avengers Academy #7 (Marvel Comics)
by Christos Gage, tom Raney, Dave Meikis & Scott Hanna
Whoops! Someone forgot to tell the production artist/editor who assembled the page one recap/credits page that Tom Raney was filling in as the penciller for this issue (Mike McKone, the regular penciller on the series, is credited instead), though it’s listed right on the cover. Raney’s a talented super-hero genre penciller, and he does well with these characters and especially with the larger scope of the plot. He handles the cosmic elements, from the theoretical form of the original Wasp to the trick Giant-Man pulls to defeat the villain. I especially enjoyed the bright colors. Though there’s a melancholy tone in several scenes, colorists Jeromy Cox and Andrew Crossley keep things feeling fun and light.
I wish the story was as enjoyable as the artwork, though. The convoluted fate of the Wasp is difficult to follow and swallow, as is the seemingly impossible nature of the solution that Hank Pym proposes. In fact, Gage portrays Pym as far too powerful throughout the issue. By the end of the issue, he’s elevated to a divine status, and it’s just too much. The awkward nature of the character’s conversation with Tigra is too strained to believe, and the villain’s appearance in the story is forced and the threat he poses is predictable. He escapes from his prison just because the plot requires it of him; no plausible explanation is given. I realize that Gage is trying to explore Pym’s character, but far too much history and oddball, incredible super-hero elements get in the way. Furthermore, it felt odd for the focus to shift away from the young, new characters to one that’s been around for 50 years. Furthermore, Pym is the co-star of his own limited series right now — Ant-Man and the Wasp — so it seems odd that a turning point such as this for the character would be explored in this title as opposed to that one. 5/10
Birds of Prey #7 (DC Comics)
by Gail Simone Adrian Syaf & Vincente Cifuentes
I’ve always enjoyed writer Gail Simone’s work, and that includes her lengthy run on the previous Birds of Prey series. When the title was relaunched with Simone at the helm once again, I was pleased, but I dropped the book after the first issue as I found Ed Benes’ artwork to be far too gratuitous and distracting. He seemed far too focused on the characters’ shapes over the actual story. This issue marks the beginning of a new story arc, linked to the Batman Inc. concept in the other Batman titles, and it’s illustrated by a different artist, so I opted to give the book another try. The art still doesn’t satisfy; I found the inks to be way too heavy, and the action doesn’t flow smoothly at all.
The plot — which seems to be dedicated to providing Oracle/Barbara Gordon with a new start — makes sense. Her character is strongest when operating in secret, so a plan to convince the superhuman world that she’s gone works in context. Still, Oracle has proven to be such a smart and novel character over the years, I don’t care for the notion that it might come to some sort of end of that it’ll be altered significantly. What’s really disappointing is the focus on the rest of the team at a strip club. It doesn’t add anything to these characters. Furthermore, Hawk and Dove’s role in the book still doesn’t work for me. The supernatural, even cosmic nature of their powers seems like a poor fit with the more street-level qualities of the other team members. It doesn’t look as though I’ll be sticking with the book (again), but at least I can still get a monthly dose of Simone’s strong writing in Secret Six. 4/10
Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #1 (Archaia Entertainment)
by David Petersen
This first issue doesn’t really get the plot going. Instead, it introduces the reader to the two protagonists, long lost relatives, one of whom has sought the other out in order to tend to some family business. The nature of that business isn’t clear, and I can’t wait to find out where Petersen is taking these intriguing, stoic figures. He really gives the audience a strong sense of who these two mice are. Celanawe is a loner, clearly more comfortable being alone with his thoughts. What drives him is duty, so he’s fine when that duty calls on him to train others or join them on missions. Em is a lone soul as well, but in a slightly different manner. She clearly has found fulfillment in kinship with animals, and there’s a tenderness and trusting quality in her that sets her apart from her driven and tough cousin. I’m always amazed at how admirable almost all of the characters populating the world of Petersen’s Mouse Guard are.
While I enjoy his writing, there’s no denying that Petersen’s greatest strength as a storyteller stems from his richly textured artwork. He has an incredible eye for nature. Though his mice behave in a human manner, they always look like mice. There’s a simple, soft approach in the backdrops and landscapes that make for an interesting contrast with the rich detail of the various animals. Petersen with a talent in the industry without equal, and it’s wonderful to see that he’s apparently got no shortage of Mouse Guard stories to tell. 10/10
Starborn #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Chris Roberson & Khary Randolph
I liked the first issue of Soldier Zero #1, the first of the Stan Lee-helmed super-hero books from Boom! Studios, so I’ve been meaning to catch up on my reading and check out some of the other offerings. One of the things I liked most about Soldier Zero was the grounded characterization and a refreshing take on how one man viewed and dealt with his recent disability. Unfortunately, Starborn is devoid of that kind of down-to-earth element. the main character is quite unrelatable; he’s defined completely by his creative drive and connection to what he thinks is a piece of science-fiction he wrote. There’s a slightly Matrix-like riff in the plotting, but it’s in an over-the-top, ham-fisted manner as opposed to the mind-bending, philosophical bent of the first movie. I really don’t care about the main character by the end of the issue or the plight in which he finds himself, and his naivete about the road to becoming a published author is implausible.
Randolph’s exaggerated style, highly reminiscent of that of Humberto Ramos, is a good choice for the subject matter in that it mirrors the extreme nature of the plot and premise. His angular approach doesn’t make the human characters look all that human, but it does convey the weird and alien nature of the villains effectively. I did find the artist’s mix of firm, angular lines and fluid swoops to depict the shapeshifter’s powers to be somewhat eye-catching. Mitch Gerads’ colors really pop throughout the book as well. 3/10
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