Join me as I explore the offices of The Daily Bugle and the rooftops of Villa Hermosa, the Hall of Justice and a distant installation on a remote planet in my latest cluster of capsule reviews.
by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley & Cliff Rathburn
This latest incarnation of Amazing Spider-Man mainly promises to bring the fun back to the book and to take the title character back to its roots, and it delivers pretty well on that pledge. Writer Nick Spencer transforms Peter Parker back into the down-on-his-luck guy, and there’s definitely a more playful tone here. The Free Comic Book Day teaser for this relaunch made me think we’d see something of a sitcom approach, but there’s not a lot of that beyond the opening scene. The tone of the super-hero conflicts is much lighter; it no longer feels like life and death stuff, and it’s a nice change of pace. Spencer has crafted a Spidey script that should appeal to a wide variety of age levels, though it’s still burdened a bit by the title character’s long and convoluted history; Spencer endeavors to address all continuity-related issues, and even uses one from the Superior Spider-Man era as the catalyst for a key plotline.
Ryan Ottley’s exaggerated, angular but ultimately light tone is a good fit for this latest take on Spidey. There’s a lot of energy in the linework, and his depiction of Peter Parker instills a truly youthful quality in the character. I was especially taken with Ottley’s depiction of the villains the story; the Kingpin comes off as something of a cartoonish figure rather than the intimidating presence he’s been since the 1980s, for example. The only visual element of this book that disappointed is the ridiculous number of variant covers, as was the case with last week’s Captain America #1. Marvel has really been going overboard with multiple covers, and I think it damages the brand in the long run. 7/10
by Joelle Jones
While I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the Batman/Catwoman romance plot from Tom King in Batman, that’s not what drew me to this newly relaunched Catwoman title. No, instead it was writer/artist Joelle Jones. I’ve long been a fan of her small-press work and she’s offered some wonderful art through DC titles as of late, most notably with King on Batman. The grace and style she brings to the title character here is fantastic. Like others, I’m not entirely taken with her design for Selina’s new costume, but given the premise of the plot, I get why DC opted for a new look. I found Jones’ panel layouts to be just a little confusing on a couple of pages, as the progression didn’t trac naturally from one panel the next, but overall, her vision of the lithe and stylish Selina Kyle in what’s clearly a harsher backdrop works well. Laura Allred’s colors take a darkly surreal approach, which suits the tone of the story, though I think the colorist cheats a little with her contribution to the opening splash so as to keep the twist hidden from the reader. Mind you, given the unrestrained brutality of the Catwoman on that page, the secret ought to be easily gleaned by the audience.
The story here is a little more run-of-the-mill than I expected, given the resonant and inventive writing in Batman that gave rise to this new series. Still, the more traditional approach is entertaining, and I remain interested in where Jones is taking us. My biggest qualm with the writing is the script’s failure to give the reader a stronger sense of place. The setting is a place called Villa Hermosa, but I don’t have a strong impression of whether it’s some kind of foreign city state, a country or what. It’s clear it’s something of a lawless place, akin to Gotham, I suppose, but I found I didn’t have enough context to appreciate fully the backdrop against which Selina’s new life is unfolding. 7/10
by Scott Snyder & Jorge Jimenez
I want to love this book. I enjoy the work of the writer helming and I enjoy the styles of the artists contributing to it. I like the lineup of characters, and I’m enjoying Scott Snyder’s take on these heroes are good friends and on how they interact with one another. But the frenetic, scattered nature of the plot is just so off-putting. Snyder has developed some great, huge and cosmic ideas to drive this relaunched team book forward, but the problem is that he’s cramming too many of them into this arc too quickly. The Totality is an incredibly vague concept, so I’m not that interested. I love the Legion of Doom’s secret scheme against the heroes, but their advanced knowledge of something so powerful yet ambiguous just makes it so hard to swallow. And the introduction of Umbrax has a cool, old-school feel to it, but it feels like it should be its own story, not something attached to this one. Snyder is definitely trying to do too much at once, and coherence is the victim.
I loved Jorge Jimenez’s work on Super Sons, and he certainly brings a lot of energy to this insane, hectic and dizzying adventure. At times, though, I found his linework looser than normal and seemingly rushed. There are a couple of striking images in this issue, not the least of which is the undetected and looming threat that’s about to menace Hawkgirl later in the issue. 4/10
by Sean Kelley McKeever & Alexandre Tefenkgi
Sean McKeever was an omnipresent writer, especially at Marvel, in the early 2000s, and he’d cut his teeth before that in indy comics, notably with The Waiting Place. Both with that creator-owned title and his Marvel work, he demonstrated he had a particular affinity for writing young characters, notably teenagers. With this return to the comics form, he falls back on that strength, and it makes for a wonderfully resonant and poignantly melancholy story. Forget the fact that this story is set on an isolated outpost in deep space on some frozen chunk of rock that’s about to face a dire threat. It’s not really about that — though the sci-fi elements are intriguing and handled intelligently. No, what this is really about is adolescence and burgeoning identity, about expectations and independence. Outpost Zero is a place where one’s path into adulthood is decided for you, and that’s a hard pill to swallow as a teen. But then, we all face such pressures, regardless of any impossible backdrop. McKeever’s script is wholly relatable, and he balances a core cast of young characters among which just about every reader can find someone with whom s/he can identify.
Artist Alexandre Tefenkgi captures the youth of the main characters incredibly well. They don’t just look like slightly shorter adults; there’s a softer quality to them, an innocence that’s in keep with the vulnerable and confusing periods in their lives. His style reminds me a little of the work of Takeshi Miyazawa, in part due to the slightly Asian influence at play and the strength at conveying youthful characters. Tefenkgi also does a great job of conveying the immense scope of the impossible settings, be it the expansive biodome in which the characters live or the frozen expanses beyond its walls. I should also note that for a standard $3.99 US comic book, there’s an abundance of material here, with a longer-than-normal page count full of story and art. 8/10