Green Lantern Annual #1 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, Pete Woods & Cam Smith
This annual certainly feels as though it merits the label. It feels like an important moment in the series, offering not only an end to the previous storyline — the Sinestro/Hal team — but also a launching point for the larger “Rise of the Third Army” crossover story about to run through all four of DC’s Green Lantern-related titles. Unfortunately, the Sinestro/Hal plot isn’t allowed to resolve on its own, and in order to follow this comic book, one is really required to be well versed in the past few years of GL continuity (notably, Blackest Night and the ethical deterioration of the Guardian of the Universe in its wake). There’s something surprisingly satisfying about seeing the Guardians become the villains of the story rather than simply an authoritarian obstacle for the title character to overcome. There’s something downright anti-Republican about their mission to make everyone in the universe to be and think just like them that somehow allowed this space-opera/fantasy story to resonate a little more with me, especially given current events in the United States. I continue to enjoy and appreciate Black Hand as a villain, which 20-30 years ago, when I first encountered the character, I would’ve thought to be impossible. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the feeling the reader has to be a devotee to Johns’s GL comics over the past few years to really get the most out of this story (and so many others before it).
Ethan Van Sciver’s meticulously detailed artwork serves the macabre elements of the story quite well. The corruption and decay that Black Hand represents come alive thanks to his linework, giving shape and form to the horrific and incredible. Woods does a good job of the gruesome mitosis in the closing scene. While the design for the Third Army is in keeping with the blank slate and mindlessness it’s meant to represent, it’s a little bland — monstrous, but bland. Of course, given the zombie-like, silent qualities of the creatures, I don’t expect they’ll prove to be a permanent fixture in the DC Universe. The one problem I had with the art in this comic book was the fact it wasn’t all rendered by the same artist or art team. The shift from Van Sciver’s work to Woods’ art in the epilogue at the end of the book was jarring. Furthermore, Woods’ take on the second member of the Third Army didn’t work. The notion these creatures keep their eyes is a chilling one, but the execution falls short. Instead of creepy, the figure looks cartoony, almost comedic. 6/10
Planetoid #3 (Image Comics)
by Ken Garing
I’ve been genuinely surprised by this series, which keeps drawing me further into the science-fiction survivalist story. I checked out the first issue just because Image Comics has had such a good trace record as of late, but gritty, sci-fi spin on a lone warrior making his way through a harsh, techno-wilderness struck me as the sort of Heavy Metal-esque fare that’s never really clicked for me in the past. But there was something about that first issue that compelled me to continue with the second, and here I am, back for the third episode. And now I’m definitely a fan of Ken Garing’s storytelling. At first, the series appealed to me on a different level, striking me as something akin to Prophet Lite. But now, it’s shaping up to be something more like The Walking Dead in Space. I’m not suggesting Garing is aping Robert Kirkman’s plotting. Instead, I enjoyed this issue’s focus on community building. The struggle is to survive not mainly by defeating a monstrous enemy, but by building infrastructure, by forging bonds among people, by developing trust and kinship. Garing moves the story along nicely. Whereas the story began with the hero Silas as a lone wolf, as a space-faring Conan, so to speak, now he’s a leader — not just when it comes to martial tactics and battle, but in inspiring people to strive for a better future.
Garing employs a gritty style that suits his seemingly barren, harsh title setting quite well. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but I finally realized what his artwork reminded me of: the style of Jim (Electric Warrior) Baikie. There’s also a strong Kevin (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) O’Neil riff in Garing’s figures and designs. He always seems to convey the immense, barren nature of the backdrop incredibly well, and the scope of the main undertaking here with the winch captures the enormity of what the survivors have set out to do, which makes there accomplishment seem like an even greater triumph. The flat colours, browns and greys, further reinforce the inhospitable nature of where the characters find themselves, and in turn, they allow the occasional splashes of green — representing life and nature — seem all the more encouraging. 8/10
Rachel Rising #10 (Abstract Studio)
by Terry Moore
This stands out as a unique issue in what has been an unusual and engaging series right from the start. The reason this issue stands out is clear: it offers the first real indication at what’s been going on from the start. While I have to admit I miss the complete mystery a little bit, it’s also nice to feel like there’s a clear direction at play and not a series of seemingly random but terribly cool, supernatural concepts being strung together. Unlike so many other genre properties these days, Moore’s story in Rachel Rising isn’t about the dead rising. It isn’t about a war between Heaven and Hell (as might have been the suggestion in the previous issue). Instead, it’s a simpler, classic tale of horror: it’s a ghost story. This small town is being haunted, and the grounded characters that have gone through the impossible are apparently vessels for something that’s returned for revenge. The interesting thing is that the ghosts seem to have chosen hosts that will serve as their opponents as well. The heroes and the villains are one and the same — at least, that’s how it seems at the moment. Moore has kept us guessing from the start, and while we finally have some answers now, there’s still plenty of mystery and guesswork to be found here. And that’s definitely the greatest strength of Rachel Rising. Of course, one also can’t discount the appeal of the convincing tone of Moore’s dialogue and his sense of humour.
Terry Moore has always boasted a soft style, which allows him to convey the vulnerability and humanity of his characters, and that’s an important element here. But there’s also a dark, supernatural element that plays a role in the story, conveyed by black eyes and Moore’s adeptness at conveying expression. The juxtaposition of the softer side of his art with the unnatural and corrupt supernatural elements makes a genuine impact, both visually and conceptually. As always, I love that Moore’s world is populated by people with real bodies. Even the beauties of his stories look like real women, not impossible figures with overinflated breasts and impossibly cinched waists. 8/10
The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1 (IDW Publishing)
by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee
I haven’t read a lot of Rocketeer comics, though I’m familiar with the concepts. Still, I’ve never felt particularly drawn (or particularly put off) by the property; I didn’t even delve into the recent anthology series despite the stellar array of comics talent that participated in the project. But when I saw the Daredevil creative team of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee was crafting this limited series, I couldn’t resist. Samnee’s artwork is, undoubtedly in this instance, the best thing this comic book has going for it. He’s demonstrated a flair for period pieces, and he does so again with this endeavor. I particularly enjoyed the lithe frame he provides for the title character. Cliff Secord doesn’t come off as a typically buff, lantern-jawed hero, but rather as a young hothead that could easily be the underdog in many circumstances. Samnee also instills larger-than-life personality in all of the characters by way of their reactions and body language. The artist is clearly comfortable with the darker moments in which the “cargo of doom” is (somewhat) depicted as well.
Waid offers a fun, pulpy story, but his script seems to refer to one of the characters’ past encounter with the title hero. As someone who’s not at all well versed in Rocketeer continuity, I felt a little out of the loop and worried later issues might be somewhat inaccessible as well. Then again, maybe scripts for subsequent issues will incorporate the exposition I need to follow along. Furthermore, I found Betty’s over-the-top annoyance with Cliff and her jealousy to be grating. Still, Sally’s plucky character is entertaining and charming, and Cliff’s down-on-his-luck, hothead qualities are appealing as well. To be honest, I was surprised to find I was a bit underwhelmed by the story, but I freely admit it could be my own personal lack of a connection with the property that interfered with my ability to appreciate the storytelling. 6/10
Supercrooks #4 (Marvel Entertainment/Icon imprint)
by Mark Millar, Nacho Vigalondo & Leinil Yu
I was taken aback when I picked up this comic book and saw the cover price was two bucks higher than the previous three issues. Mind you, the creators deliver 35 pages of story and art, and since a $2.99 comic usually offers 20-22 pages, I guess the ratio works out. Still, for a moment, I thought I was shelling out extra cash for the self-aggrandizing material in the back of the book, celebrating Millar’s trip to the Philippines to bask in the adoration of fans. That being said, I rather enjoyed this conclusion. I especially enjoyed the role the protagonists’ costumes had to play in the plot. Still, I felt the story fell a little short when it came to the big bad villain from whom the “heroes” were stealing. Millar built him up into such a menacing, all-powerful figure in the second and third issues, he fails to live up to that reputation here. Though not feeble, the old man doesn’t seem to really pose the massive threat I was led to expect. Nevertheless, it’s a fun heist story set against the backdrop of the super-hero (or villain) genre, and it’ll make a fun movie, I expect. After all, it seems that’s what most of Millar’s comics these days are designed to be.
Yu’s gritty style is often over the top, so it makes for a great fit with this material. He brings the goofy gore in a key sequence to life surprisingly well. I honestly can’t decide if the scene is in horribly bad taste or if it’s morbidly brilliant. There’s rarely a strong sense of place throughout the book, but that stems in part from the necessary but implausibly big backdrops in the bad guy’s mansion. Sometimes, it’s as though the characters exist in a void. Still, Yu brings a lot of energy and edge to the storytelling, and he serves the odder concepts in Millar and Vigalondo’s plot adeptly. 7/10
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