This time, I offer some capsule reviews of comics featuring magicians, an alien marauder, a malleable man and some mutants.
by Mark Millar & Olivier Coipel
That the popularity of the Harry Potter franchise served as an inspiration for the Netflix-owned and produced comic book is undeniable. If I had to describe the comic succinctly to anyone, I’d call it a story about the Hogwart’s gang, all grown up, with fucking, drinking and stabbing. That doesn’t make The Magic Order a poor comic, though. It’s actually rather entertaining and diverting, though it doesn’t feel particularly inventive. There’s a distinctly creepy undercurrent to the story and characters that makes this feel more like horror than dark fantasy. I’m definitely interested enough to keep reading, though I suspect some die-hard Potter fans might take umbrage at the perceived perversion of the lucrative property they so love.
What really makes this comic worth checking out is Coipel’s artwork, which comes as no surprise. I can’t recall him ever delivering such dark and textured artwork before, and his depiction of the magical effects that emanate from and befall the characters is incredibly well done and visually original. Dave Stewart’s dark colors add a lot to the inky and dirty atmosphere that dominates the entire issue. 7/10
by Brian Michael Bendis, Ryan Sook, Jason Fabok & Wade Von Grawbadger
I’m still quite captivated by Bendis’s take on Superman – who he is, how he’s perceived by others and how his powers work – but this issue is definitely going to generate some controversy for its depiction of what is essentially a genocide. The suggestion in the plot is that the destruction of Krypton was the work of a crazed alien, but the notion of the planet’s explosion has been something we’ve had for 80 years. Here, we see an entire city wiped out, and it feels… excessive somehow. It feels like a stunt to get us to take the villain seriously, and I don’t know that it was entirely necessary. Yes, it’s in keeping with his motives and methods, but it feels overly harsh for a Superman story. Of course, it may not prove to be the development it appears to be – death in the super-hero genre is almost always an illusion – and while this struck me as a bump early in Bendis’s journey through the DC Universe, I’m still on board for what he has in store.
I also appreciate how this weekly series is using a variety of top talent to ensure its schedule. Ryan Sook is an artist whose work we see far too rarely these days, and he offers a striking take on the title character and the coolest depiction of Rogol Zaar we’ve seen so far. I’m starting to get a bit tired of the brief flashback scenes we’re getting from artist Jason Fabok, mainly because absolutely nothing new is offered on the single page he contributes here. 6/10
by Gail Simone & Adriana Melo
While I wasn’t taken with her new Domino project at Marvel, when it comes to writer Gail Simone, I’m always up to check out something new she’s got on the shelves, and her wit is certainly a good fit for DC’s oddball stretchable hero. This is a rather unusual take on Plastic Man, as Simone is clearly aiming to take him back to his roots; there’s a clear Jack Cole riff at play here, with Plas immersed in the underworld. Simone strives for something of a timeless feel here, with storytelling that features gangsters seemingly plucked from the 1940s but also references to modern technology. I’d have to say this is an out-of-continuity Plastic Man story, at perhaps a new take on his early days as a hero. There’s an undisputable edginess at play here as well, given the level of violence that unfolds. I was also reminded me Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s hugely popular take on Harley Quinn in the approach here. Honestly, I don’t know what to make on this spin on Plas, but I have to admit, I’m intrigued. The blend of the harsher underworld elements with the slapstick of the shape-shifting protagonist was weird, but I was taken in by the contrast.
When Adriana Melo was announced as the artist for this limited series, I was a bit taken aback. Sure, Melo had worked with Simone previously, but her conventional super-hero style worked with such fare as Birds of Prey and Rose and Thorn. But Plastic Man? I had my doubts. But Melo’s previously style isn’t to be found here. Instead, there’s a more exaggerated and even darker tone that works well with the character and the plot. I was reminded of Conner’s bombastic work on Harley Quinn, but also of Darick (Transmetropolitan, The Boys) Robertson’s grittier and highly detailed art as well. 7/10
by Cullen Bunn & Nathan Stockman
I knew nothing about what was going on with this X-Men book, but I recently discovered the strength of X-Men Red, so I figured this sister title was worth a shot. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the same strength here – far from it. It turns out the time-displaced, original teen X-Men are still running around the modern Marvel Universe; to what purpose, I have no idea, as this young X-Men concept feels as though it’s run its course. They’re joined by a couple of alt-reality mutants as well, one of whom has gone rogue. Cullen Bunn has chosen to continue his dimension-hopping symbiote storyline from Venomized in this book, with the infected son of Wolverine from the defunct Ultimate Universe being a key player. I wasn’t interested in the symbiote-driven story in the crossover book, and I’m no more interested here. Bunn failed to get me to care about any of these characters, and nothing about the plot felt terribly fresh.
Nathan Stockman’s artwork reminds me a little of the styles of Darick (The Boys) Robertson and Chris (The Nameless) Burnham, but it’s much softer. Too soft, really, for the nature of the Kewl, Venomized Wolverine knockoff at the heart of the plot. 4/10