Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Quick Critiques – March 15, 2015

Posted by Don MacPherson on March 15th, 2015

All-New Hawkeye #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Jeff Lemire & Ramón Pérez

This comic book interests me for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact it’s written by Jeff Lemire, who’s been one of DC’s go-to guys for the last several years. That he’s branched out to include Marvel among his mainstream comics work strikes me as a significant development. Mind you, it’s not particularly relevant in terms of the creative quality of this comic, which, fortunately, is quite solid. The other reason this new title was of such interest to me was that I was quite curious how Marvel planned to follow up on its much-lauded but oft-delayed Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction, David Aja and others. My impression was that previous run simply ran out of steam, so I wondered if this relaunch would follow its cues or head off in a new direction. The answer proved to be a little of both. Through some telling flashbacks, Lemire dwells on the relationship between the original titular character and his brother, while mirroring it with an adventure between the hero and his kid-sister-in-spirit Kate Bishop. While the Barton boys’ tale of an abusive childhood comes off as a little too familiar (the notion is one that’s used quite often in fiction), it nevertheless rings fairly true. With the two Hawkeyes, Lemire seems to have left the everyday, street-level conflict behind and embraced an international-intrigue genre vibe, which helps to distinguish this from the previous run while he nevertheless maintains a certain synergy with Fraction’s stories.

VariantVariantVariantRamón Pérez’s artwork is the real star of the show. While Lemire does a solid job with the plot and script, he’s not blazing a new trail either. But Pérez’s visuals do come off as somewhat different. His work is in keeping with the more airy flow and inventive layouts one finds in the work of such artists as Marco Rudy and Trevor McCarthy, and it’s safe to say they’re all taking cues from J.H. Williams III. Nevertheless, Pérez crafts some lovely visuals with the purple-toned flashback scenes; his and Ian Herring’s colors really make for some distinct artwork. I also appreciated the jarring contrast with the spy-genre adventure in the present-day scenes, which seem designed to link this book with the art we saw from Aja in the previous Hawkeye series. Those scenes also reminded me of the styles of Marcos Martin and Chris Samnee. 8/10

VariantDescender #1 (Image Comics)
by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen

Whereas Lemire’s new partnership with Marvel made me sit up and take notice of him doing work for his chief employer’s main competitor, the writer’s debut of a new creator-owned title under the Image is equally interesting, as his creator-owned, non-super-hero work has been published under DC’s Vertigo banner for a little while now. The move to the Image banner speaks not only to the growing strength of that publisher, but perhaps to something going on at DC as it shifts from its New 52 mode to its eventual post-Convergence mode. But again, that has nothing to do with this comic itself.

People have been raving about Descender for weeks now, even well in advance of its release. Both Lemire and Nguyen are great talents in the industry, and it definitely merits a look. But while I enjoyed the craft on display here, it didn’t strike me as the breakthrough book others perceive it to be. It’s a good comic, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t see it as being a great one. The reasons are clear to me. Firstly, Descender is all about plot. The premise is a solid one, using paranoia and hatred of robots as an analogy for real racism and prejudice. But there’s little here that’s actually rooted in the characters. There’s a story, but I don’t see the souls yet needed to really get me invested in the characters. Secondly, the sci-fi premise, while executed competently and clearly, feels a little familiar. It may be me, but again, it felt I was walking down a well-worn path as I thumbed through these pages.

As was the case with All-New Hawkeye, the art is Descender‘s greatest asset. I love how Nguyen’s art looks like more a collection of colors and shapes that forms the story and characters, rather than linework that’s been filled in later. There’s a painted look at play that helps to set it apart from typical genre fare in the medium. Nguyen’s main cover art suggests there will be a strong European look to the interior art, but the tone seems far more American and slightly less detailed inside. Still, he offers some impressive designs and future-scapes. 7/10

Justice League United #10 (DC Comics)
by Jeff Lemire, Neil Edwards, Jay Leisten & Keith Champagne

And now we arrive at Lemire’s bread and butter for the past few years: DC super-hero comics. When Justice League United (titled JL Canada on some alternate covers) debuted, I was quite interested. Not only did it feature the art of then-regular penciller Mike McKone, but the title team promised to be based in part in Canada, my true north, strong and free. I only stuck with the book for a couple of issues. While I enjoy super-hero team action, JLU struck me as little more than typical genre fare, offering only standard super-hero storytelling. Revisiting the title now, so many months later, I see little has changed, other than the quality of the visuals. I love a good meeting of colorful teams, such as the JLU/Legion pairing offered here, but this is all about action, devoid of characterization and actual suspense. I’m a longtime Legion fan, so I enjoyed reconnecting with these characters and seeing how DC is handling the property now. Of course, if I wasn’t so familiar with these characters, I likely would have been lost.

VariantVariantIn fairness to Lemire, I acknowledge I’m checking out the final chapter of his latest story arc, so its accessibility won’t be as strong as one might expect from the first part of such an arc. It also appears this is the conclusion of the story Lemire began in the first issue (#0, by the way), so it’s been a long haul. Nevertheless, the reintroduction of Ultra the Multi-Alien into the DC Universe has ended somewhat predictably.

Unlike the other two comics I examined for this post, the art on Justice League United #10 is far from its greatest asset. Neil Edwards boasts a photorealistic style that makes this wide array of colorful characters seem genuine, but it doesn’t look particularly fun. Super-hero action, especially in deep space with aliens, should be more about exaggeration and energy. The linework looks a little rough at times, giving it s rushed look, and the use of two inkers on the issue reinforces that impression somewhat. The art isn’t poor, per se; it just doesn’t seem like the right fit for a traditional super-hero romp. 3/10

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