Final Crisis #3 (DC Comics)
by Grant Morrison & J.G. Jones
Some readers may feel this is something of a slow issue, that not much happens in this third episode of the series. It’s an understandable impression, given the explosive nature of the previous issue’s events and the focus on some quiet, personal moments for the characters in this one. Nevertheless, Grant Morrison’s tribute to the late Jack Kirby’s Fourth World myths gallops ahead. This is about Darkseid’s ultimate victory, cracking the Anti-Life Equation and moving toward physical and intellectual dominance over all things. It really helps to have a grounding in the Fourth World to appreciate what’s happening here, though. J.G. Jones’s art is lovely, but the density of the plot is apparent in the visuals. This is a big event book, but the artist has few opportunities to deliver big visuals, such as splash pages. The coloring looks a little washed out in this issue, not as crisp as what we saw last month. I remain puzzled by the disconnect between several of Jones’s cover images for this series and the actual content. For example, Supergirl’s prominence on one of the covers for this third issue doesn’t jibe with the minor moment the character has in this issue.
The most striking elements in this issue are the superhero draft and the submission-helmet technology that comes to the forefront in the action. Those resonated for me because they touched upon recent real-world history. The draft put me in mind of recruitment challenges faced by the U.S. military during the Bush administration’s tenure, as well as Patriot Act-driven invasions into private lives. And I suspect the Anti-Life helmets are actually meant to touch upon a now-rejected political mantra in the United States. There was a time when disagreeing with the Bush administration’s policies and actions was labelled as traitorous, and right-wing sentiment seemed to demand obedience and admiration of the country’s leadership. Of course, I’m not comparing George W. Bush to Darkseid. Dubya is hardly that competent. 7/10
Hyperkinetic #1 (Image Comics)
by Howard M. Shum & Matteo Scalera
Imagine, if you will, that Joss Whedon designed Firefly to feature an all-female cast, and the story was about a quartet of women who work as intergalactic bounty hunters. Now imagine if they’re all hot. Not just hot, but hawt. And sexy. And a little slutty (a couple of them, anyway). And they’re badass. And goofy. And completely superficial. Open your eyes, and you’re looking at the first issue of Hyperkinetic. Like the Firefly TV show, this comic derives its title from the ship the characters call home. Writer Howard (Gun Fu) Shum has developed this action-oriented book to be a completely tongue in cheek, but the lighter side of the book doesn’t hide its gratuitous, superfluous nature at all. I wasn’t taken in by any of the characters, and the plot (what little there is) and action are predictable and cliched. Matteo Scalera’s angular art is a good match for the overall tone of the book; he has an eye for action. His art strikes me as a cross between the styles of Jason (Body Bags) Pearson and Humberto (Revelations) Ramos. His efforts are focused on making everything look as cool as possible while also maintaining some focus on the main characters’ curves at all times.
The one aspect of this book that really caught my attention was the fact that the late Mike Wieringo provided one of the two cover images. His cover is much stronger than Matteo’s, as it brings a space-opera quality to the book and it doesn’t treat the heroines as solely sexual beings. Just my luck, though… my copy has a Matteo cover, not Wieringo’s image. 3/10
Light Children: The Invalid – Book One original graphic novel (Vortiscope)
by Andy Horner & Kyle T. Webster
At first glance, I didn’t think this small-press graphic novel would appeal to me. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, and the opening sequence is one that emphasizes the alien side of the property. I had thought it would be impossible to relate to the characters, but soon, a different side emerged in the book. This series of short stories, with a larger plot thread running through them, has a strong basis in characterization. Light Children is something like the Harry Potter books, only instead of Hogwart’s, the school in a dark, barren future and the orphaned students have various superhuman abilities instead of magical ones. The relationships and conflicts among the young characters are surprisingly familiar, and they’re far more interesting that the action and drama found later in the book (which is still well done). The script is well constructed, as it slowly introduces the main characters in focused segments before moving onto larger plotlines. Webster’s artwork, like the story, didn’t appeal to me at first, but it slowly won me over with his strong portrayal of the innocents at this unusual school. Aside from the wide, white he gives the characters to emphasize their special nature, his style reminds me of the works of such artists as Paul (The Devil’s Footprints) Lee and Cliff (Green Arrow/Black Canary) Chiang. Webster’s colors are muted in tone, and those browns and yellows reinforce the unusual, inhospitable nature of the backdrop. Horner and Webster are to be applauded for such a strong, independent effort. It serves as a solid showcase of their abilities, and it ought to get them noticed by publishers. 7/10
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Terry Moore & Craig Rousseau
I knew Terry (Strangers in Paradise, Echo) Moore had been tapped as the writer for this relaunched Marvel title, and when I saw his cover, I just couldn’t resist picking it up. I ought to have resisted a bit harder. There’s nothing wrong with this comic book. It’s well-crafted, cute and entertaining, but I am most definitely not the target audience for this book. This is clearly crafted with a younger, female readership in mind, and Moore has developed a light, personal story that’s engaging but not melodramatic. The Spider-Man element, despite its prominence in the opening dream sequence, takes a back seat to Mary Jane’s everyday life. The conflict between her and her unseen mother is surprisingly but effectively toned down; MJ resents the nature of their relationship, but she also accepts it as a reality in her life. This is a low-key issue, as Moore focuses on reintroducing the cast of characters and setting up plotlines. Artist Craig Rousseau — who’s worked on Impulse and DC’s animated-super-hero titles in the past and is now perhaps best known for his work on Perhapanauts — brings an appropriately light tone to the book. He conveys the characters’ youth clearly; they look like teens, not slightly shorter adults. Rousseau’s own style shines through, but it’s consistent with that of Takeshi Miyazawa, the artist on the previous incarnation of this title. I won’t be following this series, but as I noted before, it’s not because it’s not good. It’s just not meant for me. 6/10