Green Lantern #65 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Mick Gray & Tom Ngyuen
The concept of the Lanterns of Many Colors is the gift that keeps on giving to DC Comics. Seeing four Green Lanterns wearing rings of different colors is a lot of fun for readers who are familiar with these characters. Johns offers up an accessible script here, which is really saying something. There’s a lot of DC history — both decades old and recent — that comes into play in this storyline, but Johns works the necessary exposition into the script nicely. Also pleasing was Doug Mahnke’s artwork. Despite the fact that five inkers are credited in this issue, the line art looks quite seamless in style, and I love the detail that Mahnke brings to the Oa scenes. His new design for Krona is wonderfully creepy as well; the notion that evil and his thirst for revenge have literally corrupted and degraded his body makes for a much more effective villain visual than the muscle-bound cosmic warrior form that’s represented the character in the past. I enjoyed his designs of the GLs as lanterns of different colors, save for that of John Stewart as an Indigo Lantern. Military fatigues don’t scream out “compassion” or Indigo Tribe to me.
I was a bit disappointed that the story glosses over the concept of the “Green House,” a galactic safehouse of sorts established by Hal Jordan; I found I wanted to know more about it and why Jordan felt it was necessary. I was also disappointed that Hal and Guy’s challenge in reaching Oa and the solution made for such an inconsequential and fleeting tangent in the larger storyline. It felt as though Johns was just padding the story out so as to fit the pieces in with the other GL titles involved in this story arc. Speaking of padding, I was irked to find that six of the 20 pages in this comic book are splash pages (or at least “splashy pages” — featuring panels that make up two thirds or more of the page). Now that DC has reduced the page count of its standard-size comics, it would be nice if it worked to ensure readers were still getting as much story as possible. Some of the splashes here work with the drama and pacing of the story, but some weren’t necessary. 6/10
Invincible Iron Man #503 (Marvel Comics)
by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca/Fraction & Howard Chaykin
Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.
One of the big pitfalls about these company-wide crossover stories is that the larger event plot can derail the more focused plotting in ongoing titles in which regular readers have vested their time and money. That proves to be the case with Invincible Iron Man and Fear Itself. The Iron Man/Dr. Octopus confrontation comes to what feels like a sudden end to make room for scenes that serve as prologues to events we’ve already seen unfold in Fear Itself. The “Fix Me” story arc conclusion feels rushed; how Pepper defeats the two Spidey villains isn’t clear, nor is how they escape. The story seems to end because the crossover demands it. What’s most frustrating is that both titles — this one and the main event book — are written by Fraction. And if the writer those two comics have in common can’t reconcile the two divergent plotlines, what hope do Marvel’s other writers have? Larroca’s art is serviceable, but there’s never a strong sense of where the action is unfolding. Furthermore, the cover design for the regular edition cover isn’t strong. It features what appears to be a stock image that says nothing about the story, and the masthead makes it look as though this comic book is entitled Invincible Iron Man Fear Itself — no colon, no comma, no dash… nothing.
The backup story by Fraction and artist Howard Chaykin seems rather pointless. It’s the tale of how Tony Stark’s parents met, and it endeavors to present Howard Stark as a dashing James Bond type. But what I see is a small group of spoiled, bored, rich people trying to amuse themselves with privilege, rebellion and a carefree lifestyle that only ridiculous gobs of money can make a reality. Fans of Chaykin’s artwork will enjoy what they find here, but there’s nothing particularly remarkable about it. 4/10
Nonplayer #1 (Image Comics)
by Nate Simpson
I honestly didn’t think that this comic book would be for me. Yes, I picked up it based on all of the buzz preceding its release as well as due to the fact that Image Comics has had a strong track record as of late when it comes to the quality of the new material it offered and the new talent it’s discovered. Well, despite the fact that I’m not all that interested in gamer culture, Nonplayer blew me away. This first issue simply sets the stage for the premise — that something mysterious is happening within the lines of code that make up an online fantasy, multiplayer role-player game — and there are no real major surprises to be found. After all, the title of the book hints at its content, somewhat. Nevertheless, Simpson introduces a thoroughly likeable protagonist whose sense of melancholy and her feeling of being lost make her quite relatable. The action (within the confines of the game) is a lot of fun, as is the juxtaposition of the gamers’ modern dialogue and colloquialisms with the flowery, medieval words of the characters that are part of the game.
Still, while Simpson provides a solid introduction to the book’s heroine, he really doesn’t have a lot of space to delve too deeply into her character; he really has to focus on the dual worlds in which the story is set — the fantasy-scape of the game and the mechanized vision of the future that serves as “the real world” in this series. When it comes to the human characters, Simpson has a softer approach that reminds me a great deal of that of Jamie (Phonogram) McKelvie’s style, but the other elements — from the settings to alien animal life to mechanized conveniences — are rendered in meticulous and convincing detail. Take the reptilian steed depicted on the cover, for example; Simpson conveys the toughness of its hide with seeming ease. 8/10
Planet of the Apes #1
by Daryl Gregory & Carlos Magno
Though I know the general gist of the story and know the iconic lines and visuals, I’ve never watched the original Planet of the Apes movie from start to finish, nor have I ever seen any of the sequels. I did sit through director Tim Burton’s revival of the property a few years ago, but aside from the ludicrous ending, it wasn’t a memorable film at all. Given that information, you’d think I’d make a poor audience for a Planet of the Apes comic book; I thought so too. But I was surprised to find a compelling drama about a brewing civil war and a clash between classes. Daryl Gregory’s plot here, set more than a millennium before the original Charlton Heston-starring movie of 1968, boasts an interesting premise: two “sisters” in similar yet divergent leadership roles find themselves at odds in the wake of the murder of the man they saw as a father figure. In essence, the story is a murder mystery dressed up in sociological commentary. Another strength of Gregory’s script is just how accessible it is; one needn’t be familiar with the movies at all in order to enjoy this. And I love that the protagonist is a strong, level-headed woman who’s facing multiple challenges at once without missing a beat.
Carlos Magno’s artwork is as strong as the writing. The mix of early industrial urban landscapes with the untamed, natural jungle elements shows that he’s put a lot of thought into the world being constructed here. The characters’ clothing, the grandeur of the ape city while still maintaining a certain wild look and the detailed texture brought out by the meticulous linework… it’s all quite pleasing to the eye. There’s nothing about the artwork in this comic book that I didn’t enjoy. 8/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.