Posted by Don MacPherson on February 15th, 2011
DCU: Legacies #9 (DC Comics)
by Len Wein, Jesus Saiz, Bill Sienkiewicz, Scott Kolins & Karl Story
When this series debuted last year, I was truly thrilled with the traditional approach to super-hero storytelling and the use of a grounded narrator, reminiscent of Kurt Busiek’s protagonist in Marvels. I’ve also enjoyed the use of different art teams for each issue. Unfortunately, the last couple of issues — which focused on the death of Superman and the “breaking of the Bat” storylines — stemmed from that event-driven, early ’90s kewl vibe that just doesn’t represent the best of what DC has had to offer over the years. Obviously, I knew it was coming, but I didn’t enjoy them. On the plus side, writer Len Wein does a good job of revisiting a couple of lesser-remembered events: Final Night and Day of Judgment. Connected by Hal Jordan’s quest for redemption, Wein’s recap here reminded me of the fun I had reading those comics more than a decade ago. Jesus Saiz’s art captures the doom-and-gloom atmosphere of Final Night nicely as well.
The backup story — featuring Wein’s effort to sum up the super-hero legacies connected to ancient Egypt (weird timing, given the real-world events of the past few weeks) — was a surprise, and not a pleasant one. I think this is the first of the backup features in this series that proved to be a big disappointment. It’s almost unreadable. It seems as though either the captions are out of order or the panels. There’s no flow to the visuals, and Wein’s script tries to link characters that really don’t have any connection. 6/10
Ultimate Captain America #2 (Marvel Comics)
by Jason Aaron & Ron Garney
The creators offer a solid super-hero story here, capturing the more impulsive, headstrong personality of the Ultimate incarnation of Captain America pretty well. Unfortunately, the story never really rises beyond the level of a standard genre yarn. The first issue of the series held out the hope that writer Jason Aaron would be exploring something of a symbolic comparison of the Second World War and the Vietnam War, and their divergent impacts on American culture. Unfortunately, that promise has yet to be kept. The element of international politics is set aside in this issue as well. Ultimately, the smarter aspects of the script that drew me in last month aren’t to be found here. Furthermore, the “surprise” that takes the title character off-guard was far too easy to see coming. As a result, Cap doesn’t come off nearly as perceptive and savvy as he should.
The Mike Zeck influence on artist Ron Garney’s work is apparent throughout this issue. There’s a lot of energy and intensity in just about every panel, and Garney’s simpler, slightly exaggerated style certainly suits this action-oriented script. While the visuals are capable and tell the story clearly, I was nevertheless a bit disappointed because the interior art doesn’t reflect the iconic cover. Garney and colorist Jason Keith’s cover image, an homage to Apocalypse Now, seems to hint at darker, more challenging fare than what we find inside this comic’s pages. While the interior artwork is fun and energetic, I wish there had been something that reflected the moody, edgy cover. 6/10
The Walking Dead #81 (Image Comics)
by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard
I was quite taken aback by the fact that things in the protagonists’ new home have destabilized so quickly. Sure, conflicts arose quickly among the new and longer-term members of this post-apocalyptic community, but I had anticipated that the book would focus more on those internal conflicts for some time. It seems like Rick and his group just arrived in this haven, and suddenly, it’s all being threatened. And that’s one of the strengths of this series. Kirkman never allows his characters a moment’s rest, it seems, and by extension, the audience never knows what to expect either. Kirkman has demonstrated his willingness to take out key characters, and he continues to do so here. Perhaps the greatest appeal of The Walking Dead is the fact that the status quo is shaken up so regularly, which regularly brings new life to this story set in a world of the dead. And despite this being the second part of a story arc, the script is surprisingly accessible. Kirkman works necessary exposition into the script without being obvious about it. It’s a smart move, as there are always new readers delving into this property in various formats (and media).
Adlard makes such incredible use of shadow, always maintaining an air of tension throughout the book. Even during tender moments between characters, there’s a darkness that’s ever-present, a constant reminder of the horror that awaits them only a few steps away. This is a pretty action-oriented issue, but it goes beyond the usual zombie-killing conflicts that are par for the course in this series. More complex sequences — such as a risky trip between buildings and an effort to reinforce a wall — are clearly and capably presented despite some of the unusual angles or other challenges. Furthermore, given how the cast of characters expanded significant recently, I’m impressed with the diversity of designs. At no point did I confuse one character for another, and Adlard doesn’t have the benefit of colorful costumes or capes to differentiate among them. 8/10
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