Avengers: The Children’s Crusade – Young Avengers #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Allan Heinberg, Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
What the–? I’ve been reading and enjoying Avengers: The Children’s Crusade (which is essentially writer Allan Heinberg and artist Jim Cheung’s followup to their fun Young Avengers series from a few years ago), but I had no idea there was going to be a one-shot tying into that limited series. and honestly, there’s no good reason that this comic book shouldn’t just have been the latest issue in that series. It serves as a solid introduction to the Young Avengers (which seems several months late, doesn’t it, given that The Children’s Crusade has been underway for a while now?). It’s not a vital chapter in that story, which might be why it was published separately. Still, this felt a little like an attempt to milk another few bucks out of Marvel’s marketplace. My local comics retailer had put this comic in my account because I was down for the main series, but I was also set to put it back on the shelf.
And then I saw that Alan Davis was responsible for the artwork.
Despite my qualms about the necessity for the script or yet another No. 1 issue/one-shot separate from the main limited series, there can be no doubt that the artwork is fantastic. Davis’ designs for some of the adult versions of the Young Avengers are striking, tweaking classic designs in a way that brings a fresh quality to them while honoring the work of Marvel’s Silver and Bronze Age legends. The revival of some forgotten character designs (such as the Byrne-era Vision and the M2 Stinger) was a treat as well. Davis’ portrayal of the classic Sinister Six was a blast as well. The only respect in which he came up a little short is that the youthful characters in the flashback scene don’t look nearly as youthful as they should. 6/10
Brightest Day #22 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Scott Clark, Ivan Reis & Joe Prado
Overall, Brightest Day has proven to be a fun read that makes the most out of B- and C-list DC characters. I’ve been drawn in by the mystery of the White Lantern, and I’ve been intrigued by the new directions the writers have provided for several of the characters (notably Aquaman, Deadman and the Martian Manhunter). There’s only been one consistently weak element in this series, and that’s been the Firestorm segments. Unfortunately, this issue is made up entirely of a chapter from the Firestorm plot thread. Pitting him solo against a group of Black Lanterns and the Anti-Monitor made the antagonists seem like much less of a threat than they’ve been depicted as being in the past, and it made the hero’s actions difficult to accept. With only two issues left to go in the series, the vague nature of what happened between the Anti-Monitor and the White Lantern was frustrating as well. If I have no idea what happened in this series, I’m basically left with the impression that nothing really happened at all, save for a tidy new status quo for Firestorm that was essentially established when the series first got underway.
Another reason that the Firestorm sequences in this series have been so off-putting is due to the art. It’s not that Scott Clark’s dark, angular style — which seems to be clearly influenced by that of Jae Lee — doesn’t have its strengths. It just doesn’t fit the character and this series all that well. For the most part, this is a traditional super-hero comic, and Clark’s style isn’t traditional. Furthermore, it’s inconsistent with the work of the other series’ artists (as is clearly apparent when Ivan Reis and Joe Prado take over the linework duties in the last few pages of this issue). Clark also takes some unfortunate shortcuts when it comes to several characters. He handles the Anti-Monitor’s meticulous detailed design well enough, but it’s incredibly hard to make out any of the Black Lanterns other than the (horribly named) Deathstorm. 5/10
Insurrection v3.6 #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Blake Masters, Michael Alan Nelson & Michael Penick
I didn’t think I was going to like this comic book at all. Based on the cover art, I figured I’d be delving into another action-driven, post-apocalyptic, science-fiction series from Boom! with chaotic, pseudo-painted artwork, a la Shrapnel or Freedom Formula. To my surprise, I found a sci-fi script featuring some well-realized characters and a story driven by inner conflicts rather than action sequences. The two main characters — the first self-aware robot soldier serving humanity and a maverick human administrator out to prove himself to the world — parallel one another in that they’re unlike their peers, but by the issue’s end, it’s clear that the automaton (or “Aut”) known as Tim is a much more caring and honorable figure in the story. I’m a little confused how Tim’s questioning, sentient nature sets him apart when the other Auts in his platoon seem just as capable of independent thought and emotion, but the strength of the characterization is enough to get me to overlook that confusion for now. Another source of confusion stemmed from the fact that the script doesn’t provide enough clear exposition to fully explain the socio-political situation on the planet Sparta (I assume it’s a planet, anyway). The narration starts off with some early on, but then the reader is distracted by the revelation that the human-looking soldiers are really machines.
Artist Michael Penick’s artwork is done in a traditional comic-book style. It’s really something of an old-school approach. Overall, his linework reminds me of the art of Eduardo Barreto, but there’s also a bright, crisp quality to the comic art that puts me in mind of classic DC science-fiction comics of the 1960s. Other influences are apparent as well, notably a design sense that’s reminiscent of Star Wars. Overall, his clear, solid storytelling is appealing, and I’d love to see more of it in the near future. 7/10
Ruse #1 (Marvel Comics/Crossgen imprint)
by Mark Waid & Mirco Pierfederici
Of the various titles set in the Crossgen shared, sigil-themed universe from a decade ago, Ruse was one of the strongest but also one of the most out-of-place books in that continuity context. The superhuman and cosmic elements never felt right in the Victorian mystery title; it felt as though the Crossgen brand (literally) was forced on the book. There’s nary of hint of those super-powered elements in this revival, and my hope is that it remains that way. Mark Waid’s characters capture the sort of arrogance, Holmesian mystery solving and unadulterated adventure that made the original title so appealing. Those unfamiliar with Ruse might be interested to note that this book reads like a comic-book incarnation of the Robert Downey-starring, big-screen incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. The repartee between the overconfident Simon Archerd and his unbelievably patient partner Emma Bishop is delightful, and the savvy with which Waid crafts the mysteries and solves them in his script is impressive.
While I was pleased to see that original series artist Butch Guice provided the cover artwork for this new comic book, I was disappointed that he wasn’t contributing to the interiors. Of course, that disappointment was fleeting, as artist Mirco Pierfederici delivers some stunning visuals that are actually in keeping with the original visual tone of the property. At the same time, he’s not just trying to mimic Guice’s style here. He takes a softer approach to the characters’ skin tones, for example. I also enjoyed the darker, muted tones he employs for the colors, capturing the Victorian era nicely. I also appreciated how he conveys the scope of Archerd’s expansive home and headquarters. This was a fun read, and I’m pleased Marvel opted to price it at $2.99 US. More often than not these days, I take a pass on new, regular-sized comics priced beyond the $3 point. 7/10
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