Forever Evil #1 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, David Finch & Richard Friend
I’m a sucker for big super-hero events that bring disparate and normally unconnected colorful characters together — or at least, I used to be. I’ve been cooling to the event book for years now, but I have to admit, Forever Evil had its moments. The four-page spread featuring the Crime Syndicate’s address to the world’s super-villains was fun and reminded me a great deal of Crisis on Infinite Earths #9, the villain-driven issue. I also appreciated the opening scene featuring Luthor as a ruthless businessman and the closing scene in which we see him both cast in the role of the hero and longing for his longtime enemy to arrive to save the day. That being said, Forever Evil is an inherently flawed concept that just doesn’t work. the villains tell the masses the Justice League is dead; the reader knows this to be untrue. There’s never a moment of real tension for the audience, but it knows How These Things Work. How the heroes will return or the day will be saved, we don’t know, but we do know those things will happen. Maybe writer Geoff Johns will take us on an interesting journey at arrive at that destination, but I fear it’s shaping up to be a long road trip during which many will keep asking, “Are we there yet?”
Maybe the more interesting scenes and ideas floating around this comic book might have had more of an impact had they been presented in a more interesting visual manner. David Finch’s art here varies among cluttered, rushed, uneven, unclear, inconsistent and gratuitously dark. What’s more, I really don’t perceive that Finch, once a darling of Marvel’s stable of talent, has really connected with DC’s audience. While I was a fan of some of Finch’s work at marvel (such as early New Avengers v.1 issues), he just doesn’t seem to have found a proper niche at DC. Now, there are aspects of the art in this book for which he deserves credit. The four-page spread featuring the Ultimate Super-Villain Huddle is fun; the linework is a little loose, but given the sheer number of characters in the scene, it’s understandable and forgivable. Furthermore, while this story is about the bad guys, it seems to me it’s just too dark overall (not a failing of Finch’s, since Dark and Gritty are what he’s paid to do). With such a collection of villains, I found I longed for a more traditional, slightly brighter look to emphasize the fun side of the concept rather than the ultimately empty threat. 4/10
Mighty Avengers #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Al Ewing, Greg Land
I’m not familiar with writer Al Ewing’s work, but judging from his comments in the back of this inaugural issue, he has some particular affection for some of these characters (specifically Spectrum and Luke Cage). He does a particularly good job of taking the reader inside those two characters’ heads. We get a sense of their personalities and priorities. As the father of a toddler, I can easily relate to Cage’s thoughts in this story. As for Spectrum, formerly known as one of many characters to boast the codename of Captain Marvel, Ewing’s choices here are a bit more puzzling. Her perky and image-conscious demeanor throughout this story struck me as inconsistent with previous interpretations of the character. Now, I understand different writers opt to take characters in different directions and present them in different ways – that’s fine. But given Ewing’s gushing about her 1980s appearances in Avengers and more recent role in Warren Ellis’s NextWave, it seems odd he’d offer such a different take on the character after professing his love for how she was portrayed previously.
Ultimately, though, despite the more interesting bits of characterization, the plot itself is rather ho-hum. I understand the marketing philosophy behind the link here to the Infinity event, but it weakens the story itself. The big fight against Proxima Midnight lacks any hook for the reader. We knew the heroes won’t be successful, as we’re told outright, both here and in Infinity, the cosmic villainess is headed to Atlantis next, unfettered by this new team’s efforts.
Greg Land’s art tells the story clearly, and his realistic approach makes it easy to see these incredible figures as real people. He’s often criticized, though, for apparent lightboxed art stemming from strong photo reference. That appears to be the case again here, notably with his depiction of Spectrum. Her facial expressions in the costume shop scene seem particularly reminiscent of a supermodel photo shoot. It’s distracting and takes the reader out of the story. 5/10
Zero #1 (Image Comics)
by Ales Kot & Michael Walsh
I was drawn to this inaugural issue by the strength of the cover design and Image’s aforementioned track record. While I was lukewarm to the first issue of Reality Check, Zero‘s first issue doesn’t disappoint at all. It’s intense, boasting a tone that’s reminiscent of the convincing portrayal of black ops from Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country. Writer Ales Kot takes us into a harsh world where hardened men make hard choices and take harsh actions. It’s not at all relatable, but it’s engrossing and riveting, like a Doug Lyman-directed Bourne movie. While some might think the superhuman/sci-fi angle to this war story might be what serves as the book’s greatest hook, I think what’s most interesting about it is the protagonist’s role as an interloper in a conflict, belonging to neither side, favoring neither side, using the chaos to achieve his own ends. Zero is most comparable to another Image title: Who Is Jake Ellis? (and the sequel, Where Is Jake Ellis?) — not just in terms of the plotting and atmosphere, but visually as well.
Michael Walsh boasts a general approach to comics storytelling that’s grown throughout the medium in recent years. Such artists as Paul Azaceta, Tonci Zonjic, David Aja and Chris Samnee boast these styles that seem minimalist on the surface but actually convey so much in terms of texture and atmosphere. Walsh is another such talent. He achieves a realistic portrayal of unreal circumstances — and I don’t just mean the superhuman, tech alterations that seem to drive the plot. The notion of the armed conflict in which the action unfolds is quite conventional, but for people like me, that intensity and life-or-death circumstance are hard to imagine. Walsh captures the hectic and brutal context adeptly. 8/10
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