So many comics, so little time to review, but I’ve managed to cobble together some thoughts on a quartet of recent releases: The Dead Hand #1, The Immortal Men #1, Exiles #1 and Oblivion Song #2.
by Kyle Higgins & Stephen Mooney
When I first saw the cover art for this new title, I was immediately interested in what writer Kyle Higgins had to offer. He doesn’t disappoint. At first, I thought this would mainly be a Cold War period piece featuring a super-spy/assassin, but as the latter act in this initial chapter reveals, it’s much more than that. Perhaps the most compelling and smart bit of writing was the flashback scene connecting the black-ops opening events with the present-day humdrum, small-town scenario, in which Higgins explores what drove a regular kid to grow up to become a living military weapon. It grounds the main character and makes the extreme and impossible circumstances of the rest of the story seem more plausible. What ties the various acts together, all set in different times, is the notion is that nothing is ever as it seems to be. I enjoyed the different takes on that theme. Another reason I so enjoyed this book is that it felt like a brother title to Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s fantastic Cold War spy drama, Velvet, also from Image.
I really enjoyed Stephen Mooney’s artwork here, but it also puzzled me at times. The central protagonist, Carter Carlson, is clearly modelled after actor Wentworth Miller on the cover, and the style for that image looks like a cross between the works of Phil Noto and Steve Epting. Inside, the art reminded me more of the style of Paul Azaceta, and the present-day Carter looks more like an aged Jeremy Renner. In any case, the art is effective and boasts a realistic tone that makes the conspiracy-riddled plot all the more convincing. 7/10
by Saladin Ahmed & Javier Rodriguez
The concept of a team of alternate incarnations of familiar (and even obscure) Marvel heroes jaunting through different realities is a solid one, bound to appeal to longtime readers interested in seeing new spins on characters they’ve followed for so long. I enjoyed a previous iteration of this title in the early 2000s, and I decided to see what these creators had to offer. Unfortunately, this first issue (and I suspect the next one) simply establishes the premise and offers the usual gathering-of-the-team beats, so there’s no much meat on the bone here. I like Blink’s lighter, more down-to-earth demeanor; there’s a youthful energy and sense of hope at play that make her a likeable protagonist. I wish the same could be said of the cosmic narrator that emerges at the outset of the issue. Transforming the original Nick Fury into “the Unseen” was a smart move on Marvel’s part so as to establish the second Nick Fury, who resembles Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of the character, as the “main” Fury in Marvel’s comics now. But the stilted dialogue writer Saladin Ahmed has provided the Unseen here means all traces of the character we once knew has been eradicated. I think a plain-talking grunt in the role of multiversal overseer would be a lot of fun, but instead, he’s just the new Watcher, lacking any humanity and therefore, anything interesting. Khan, the grizzled alt-reality and future self of Ms. Marvel, is stereotypically hardened and gruff, so what makes the “real” version of the character fun, relatable and novel is gone as well.
Javier Rodriguez’s artwork here strikes me as a cross between the styles of Marcos (The Private Eye) Martin and Daniel (Black Panther) Acuna. There’s a softer quality to his characters, which certainly works well for Blink, but it seems like an odd fit for the Unseen and Khan. The detail in the future cityscape of Iron Lad’s is impressive. Overall, the art is capable, but really, the reader has to rely on the script to full appreciate what’s going on. 6/10
by James Tynion IV, Jim Lee, Ryan Benjamin, Scott Williams & Richard Friend
Ever since I first “met” the Immortal Man when he was a member of the Forgotten Heroes in DC Comics Presents in the 1980s, I’ve been interested in the obscure character, and I followed a subsequent iteration — Resurrection Man — in the 1990s and as part of DC’s New 52 relaunch a few years ago as well. So when The Immortal Men was announced as one of the spinoff books from DC’s Dark Nights: Metal event, I was intrigued. After reading the first issue, I’m no longer the least bit interested. The Immortal Men is one part X-Men (the part dealing with a special school for unique individuals) and one part CW show about enigmatic, undying warriors. There’s nothing recognizable here from DC Universe lore, and the new character concepts seem so… uninspired. Ghost Fist? Reload? Timber? They all seem like a forgotten Rob Liefeld-created team. Furthermore, the appearance of the Batman Who Laughs contributes nothing to this story, so the cameo was clearly meant more as a marketing stunt.
Can everyone agree that Jim Lee can’t do monthly comics? That if he’s going to contribute art to a book, he needs to have it all done well ahead of time? Here, he only contributes about half of the art — basically, all of the pages featuring the Kewl new hero and villain concepts. The rest of the book are more mundane scenes featuring the central protagonist: a teeanger named Caden Park who dreams of a super-destiny. Those scenes are rendered by Ryan Benjamin, and pale in comparison to the flair and style Lee brings to his pages. Mind you, Lee’s designs for the various new characters aren’t all that interesting either. 4/10
by Robert Kirkman & Lorenzo De Felici
I thoroughly enjoyed the first issue of this series, but that opening chapter was about setting the stage. I was most impressed with Kirkman’s exploration of the political fallout and machinations in an America in which 300,000 people were lost to an other-dimensional incursion, but with this issue, the focus is on the characters, and specifically how they interact with one another. There’s a brief but powerful scene in which it’s clear just how well the central hero’s lover, Heather, knows Nathan, that there’s nothing she can do to stop him from his determination to delve back into Oblivion — to save people, yes, but also to reconnect with his brother. However, I also appreciate how she stands her ground, how she firmly but kindly lets Nathan know she can’t help him. The emergence of a love triangle among Oblivion survivor Duncan, his wife Bridge and the lover she took when she thought she’d lost her husband is incredibly compelling as well, because it absolutely stands to reason that there would be those who would have moved on after the Oblivion incident, thinking their loved ones lost. Kirkman continues to bring real human drama to an impossible scenario.
De Felici’s stylized artwork is perfect for the exaggerated organic world of Oblivion, but he shines here with his depiction of more mundane human moments. Honestly, my favorite aspect of the artwork in this issue is his design for Heather. I love that the protagonist’s love interest isn’t some 36-24-36, idealized woman who could’ve been a Victoria’s Secret model. She’s curvy and a bit padded in places, but De Felici still depicts her as beautiful and desirable. I was often reminded of Rick (Queen & Country, Batman) Burchett’s style here — a simpler tone that nevertheless manages to capture a convincing, grounded humanity in the characters. 8/10