Captain America and Bucky #625 (Marvel Entertainment)
by James Asmus, Ed Brubaker & Francesco Francavilla
I was all set to leave this title behind when artist Chris Samnee left the series. His work was its greatest strength, but then I heard his replacement was to be Francesco Francavilla. I’ve enjoyed his recent work, and have been particularly impressed with his cover art on recent Hellboy comics and the classic-movie-poster-style pinups he’s done on Comic Twart. With that in mind, I was quite surprised at how his art on Cap and Bucky didn’t hook me. It looks rough, and the figures don’t seem as dynamic as what I expected based on his past efforts. The color scheme is off too; I don’t like the reds. And I wish Francavilla had included a better glimpse of the second Captain America’s previous identity, the Spirit of ’76.
I enjoyed the done-in-one stories that preceded this issue, but they were, for the most part, predictable. Unfortunately, the multi-issue arc getting underway here seems pretty transparent as well. The second Cap’s grandson’s appearance is all too convenient, and Asmus’ script all but tells us his true nature. The notion the title hero or the elderly former Bucky’s narration make no mention of suspicions seems pretty ridiculous. Still, I’m always interested when writers explore relatively obscure characters from decades past, and the narrator’s voice throughout the issue rings true. 5/10
DC Comics Presents: Elseworlds 80-Page Giant #1 (DC Comics)
It’s hard for this pseudo-reprint to liver up to its seemingly subversive reputation, given its previous rarity and the publisher’s original plan years ago to pulp the entire run, and due to the anticipation many likely experienced over the chance to finally read it. Given how much of the material I’d heard about when this oversized comic was originally released in the UK, I was surprised to find several stories in the book weren’t comedic in nature. I was expecting this to be primarily a humor book. As is the case with most anthologies, this is a mixed bag. None of the stories is poorly done, but a couple of the segments suffer from their limited length, notably D. Curtis Johnson’s detective story and Tom Peyer’s tale of Superman and Batman as cheesy entertainers. Conversely, Bronwyn Carlton’s story about Lex Luthor as an unethical record executive stretched the gag a little too far.
Still, the ideas behind each story or offbeat spin on familiar characters are a lot of fun, as is usually the case with DC’s Elseworlds bits. The highlights of the book are Mark Waid and Ty Templeton’s one-page, Silver Age sendups and Kyle Baker’s Letitia Lerner story. Of course, the latter’s been available online for years, so the novelty probably has worn off a bit for those who were genuinely interested in this comic. 6/10
Memorial #1 (IDW Publishing)
by Chris Roberson & Rich Ellis
Fans of Fables, Kill Shakespeare and TV’s Once Upon a Time will likely enjoy this latest foray into the subgenre of fairy tales/fictional characters crossing over into the real world, and while I enjoyed writer Chris Roberson’s take on the concept, I was struck by the fact some of the elements in the plot were more than a little familiar. Certainly, the tone of the plot and premise here is vastly different than that in Fables, but it nevertheless felt like I was drinking from the same well. That being said, the first issue of Memorial is entertaining. Em, the amnesiac heroine of the story, is eminently likeable, as is her rescuer later in the book (even if he’s more of a caricature than a character). The plot in the third act is more than a little predictable, and Em’s failure to realize something unusual and important was happening in the mysterious oddities shop wasn’t believable.
I liked the lighter tone Rich Ellis’s linework maintains throughout the issue. Despite the over-the-top villainy of a couple of key villains, this isn’t edgy, dark fare, nor should the creators strive for it to be. Ellis achieves a nice balance between the wonder of the storybook elements and the safe, mundane nature of the “real world” in which the heroine finds herself. The artist’s portrayal of Em conveys a sense of innocence and friendliness. Michael W. Kaluta’s cover, though lovely, brings far too much gravitas and realism to the property. Memorial‘s not anywhere as heavy or brooding as the Kaluta cover indicates. Of course, that’s not the artist’s failing, but rather a poor choice for the editorial folks at IDW. 6/10
Peanuts #1 (Boom! Studios/Kaboom imprint)
by Charles Schulz, Vicki Scott, Shane Houghton, Matt Whitlock & Paige Braddock
I must admit it was odd experiencing these characters and this property outside the media of comic strips and animation. The longer form comics stories here are entertaining, and the writers and artists here seem to have a fairly good handle on the characters. The characters are on model, so the comic looks right. It’s easy to tell. The new material is presented right alongside samples of strip creator Charles Schulz’ own classic work with the characters. Giving this endeavor some credibility is the fact inker Paige Braddock is also the creative director for Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, which I believe has been entrusted in preserving and enduring Sparky’s legacy. I’d say they do a good job of it.
Some might argue Peanuts shouldn’t go on like this, and I honestly don’t really know if they’re right or not. There’s a timelessness to the strip I’d like to see preserved; I don’t want to see Charlie Brown and company dealing with 21st century reality, and the new material here basically holds true to that. But that’s a double-edged sword. If Braddock and company don’t deal with new elements, I wonder what these creators could add to the long history and legacy Schulz established. 6/10
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