Collider #1 (DC Comics/Vertigo imprint)
by Simon Oliver & Robbi Rodriguez
When Vertigo founder and editor Karen Berger left DC Comics, many feared what it would mean for the publisher’s mature-readers imprint. Recent evidence would seem to indicate Vertigo is in good hands with longtime editor Shelly Bond, as recent releases have offered entertaining, intelligent and exciting creator-owned stories. Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake as proven to be a bonafide hit for the imprint, and people who enjoy that title ought to give Collider a look. Similar in tone to The Wake, Collider reads a lot like a Warren Ellis comic. It should also appeal to readers who are into Image’s Nowhere Men and The Manhattan Projects, with its realistic take on super-sciences and the smart people who create/deal with it. Oliver’s hero, Adam, is almost too perfect; he’s living an idyllic life full of action (both on the job and socially), but the writer humanizes him by rooting him in his connection to his late/missing father. Oliver’s move to blend manipulative politics into a world of physics gone haywire makes the impossible notions in the plot easier to connect with socially and intellectually.
Robbi Rodriguez’s art suits the extreme nature of the plot incredibly well, but it’s incredibly evocative of Murphy’s work on The Wake with its figures made up of elongated lines and sharp angles. Rico Renzi’s colors are a vital component to the storytelling here; the elements of physical laws going wild are conveyed a great deal through the color art, making it an even more important factor here than normal in color comics. Rodriguez handles the unusual, sci-fi aspects of the plot as adeptly as he does the mundane ones. The everyday backdrops are thoroughly convincing, making it easier to dive into this world of impossibilities and dangerous wonder. 8/10
Flash Annual #2 (DC Comics)
by Brian Buccellato & Sam Basri/Nicole Dubuc & Cully Hamner
There’s a lot to like about this annual. It offers two standalone stories and holds up well on its own. The main story by series co-writer Brian Buccellato, featuring the first meeting of the Flash and Green Lantern in the New 52 continuity is a fun tale in a Silver Age tradition; it’s a nice diversion, though ultimately inconsequential. Furthermore, the backup story features art by Cully Hamner, and that’s always a welcome treat. Unfortunately, there are a number of problems with this comic book as well. The most obvious is the cover art. Though I love me some Francis Manapul work, the image gives away the big payoff, the climactic moment of the main story. Furthermore, Sam Basri’s more realistic, detailed art style doesn’t really suit the old-school tone of the story, and overall, it looks rather ordinary. The visuals here should be larger than life, but instead, they’re kind of stiff and uninteresting. Though there’s some solid interaction between the two heroes, the villains are entirely forgettable, and efforts to make them seem like a genuine threat aren’t convincing.
The central concept of the backup story isn’t entirely original, but the theme — how everyone and every event is interconnected, sort of a social Butterfly Effect — is interesting nonetheless. Hamner plays with some unconventional panel layouts, which works sometimes but not always. The brevity of the story works against the piece; characters aren’t clearly established enough for the links suggested on the final page to be entirely discernible. The message at the heart of the plot — that the world is essentially a wonderful place and people are at their core good and of intrinsic value — is a heartening one. The positive tone of both stories is a welcome development, especially in an age in which super-heroes — especially those in DC titles — are being presented in darker ways. 5/10
Indestructible Hulk #11 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Mark Waid & Matteo Scalera
Maybe I’m just in a Sean Murphy frame of mind, because Matteo Scalera’s work on this title as of late reminds me a great deal of the style of the artist of The Wake and Punk Rock Jesus. And that’s a compliment, believe me. The most striking image in this issue — are there are many — is that of a S.H.I.E.L.D. whose body is mangled by the effects of time travel. It’s a horrific but ultimately cool notion that Scalera conveys well without making it seem too gory. His monstrous interpretation of a classic time-travelling villain from Marvel’s Silver Age is a novel interpretation that suits this story well, and his disembodied take on the robot head accompanying the Hulk on his mission is reminiscent of the Machine Man look Alex Ross developed for Marvel’s Earth X series from the 1990s. Hulk wears some S.H.I.E.L.D.-issue armor in this story, as he has in previous issues, and it’s somewhat generic in tone, but I think I like it. It’s not a costume, nor should it be; Hulk doesn’t need a costume.
The notion of S.H.I.E.L.D. having a super-secret, temporal-crisis division is laughable, cool and entertainingly campy all at once. Writer Mark Waid achieves a balance between Silver Age goofiness and a modern intensity in this story that could have fallen flat but somehow works nicely. He addresses the reckless notion of sending the Hulk through time logically in the plot, having the hero refuse the mission out of concern only to accept it out of emotion. This first part of the story arc mainly sets up the premise. The final page points to the fun to come, juxtaposing disparate time-travel elements. I have to admit, while I thought Age of Ultron was a poorly executed story, some stories that have spun off from it (such as this one and Hunger) have been entertaining. 7/10
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