Dark Reign: The Hood #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Jeff Parker & Kyle Hotz
One of my favorite developments from Brian Michael Bendis’s New Avengers in recent years (which extended into the “Dark Reign” event) was the excellent use he’s made of Brian K. Vaughan’s the Hood. However, the character’s depiction in various Marvel titles as of late has been inconsistent, and it’s definitely strayed pretty from the character’s origins. Writer Jeff Parker advances the title character’s story here by looking back at his roots and who the man really is. Parker recognizes that Vaughan’s criminal creation is a guy who’s smart but who’s also in over his head. The Hood’s persona as a criminal mastermind and leader of super-villains is as much of a mask as his demonic hood. Parker explains why he’s been more effective as a leader of villains as compared to others who’ve taken on that role in the past as well. Ultimately, the Hood is nothing more than Parker Robbins, a crook who just wants to protect and provide for his family, opting to do so in the most dangerous way possible. It’s just the only way he knows how.
I love that Marvel acknowledges where this character came from by hiring Kyle Hotz, the artist on the first Hood limited series, to bring him to life in this spotlight once again. Hotz gets the dark edges of the Marvel Universe, the quiet but pervading supernatural tone and the extreme personalities that gather in this story. He handles the crowded villain scenes quite well, but even with his exaggerated style, he able to convey Robbins’s humanity in later scenes. 8/10
Herogasm #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
by Garth Ennis, John McCrea & Keith Burns
Herogasm (which I assume derives its name somewhat from the Hedonism swingers resort in Jamaica) isn’t what it appears to be. I had thought this spinoff from The Boys would be, well, a spinoff, but this first issue simply reads like the first chapter in the latest Boys storyline. It continues plotlines from the main title, and other than the use of a different art team, I really didn’t see the point of this tangent title. Given the title, it’s not surprising that the plot focuses on the excesses of the corrupt super-heroes that Garth Ennis has crafted. We’ve seen such material from Ennis before; in fact, it’s so repetitive, the writer fails to set the Herogasm event apart from the usual debauchery we’ve seen these costumed characters engage in before. The book opens with an amusing, satirical comment on super-hero events in general, but it’s a fleeting gag.
McCrea and Burns offer exaggerated, twisted visuals that are in keeping with the excesses of the plot and characters, though it’s sketchy at times, lacking in detail when it comes to the peripheral players. The thing is that this story — meant to be an exploration of morals (or a lack thereof) — seems to call for a darker, more cynical tone, but the art is quite bright. That’s of course attributable in part to Tony Avina’s colors, but the line art is almost devoid of darkness and shadows. It’s understandable, given the tropical backdrop, but it feels as though a darker mood is still called for here. 5/10
Hulk #12 (Marvel Comics)
by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines & Mark Farmer
I applauded this big, goofy, simple study in super-hero excess when it began, and I enjoyed the story arc the whole way through… until this final chapter. It was clear from the start that Loeb was going to hit a cosmic reset button at the end of this story, given that it involved the Defenders and some foes from different time periods, but the way the writer opts to wrap things up comes across as completely pointless. Red Hulk wins, and for some reason, he sets out to kill not only the Hulk’s allies but his own as well. There’s clear explanation for his actions, or for the decisions made by the Grandmaster and the Collector, the cosmic characters that served as the story’s catalysts. Red Hulk is initially portrayed as being unbelievably powerful and unstoppable, but by the end of the issue, he comes off as ineffective and weak.
The one saving grace here is Ed McGuinness’s artwork. His over-the-top, cartoony style is a perfect fit for this Green Hulk/Red Hulk riff. As I’ve noted before, the artist has also done a great job of capturing the cosmic action and alien weirdness that’s been such a big part of this storyline. His tendency to depict beefy, thick figures suits the world of the Hulk perfectly, not to mention such Kirbyian designs as Galactus and the Psycho-Man. This book is a great fit for McGuinness, so it’s with some disappointment that I see that another past collaborator of Loeb’s, Ian Churchill, is joining the series with #14. 5/10
Muppet Robin Hood #1 (Boom! Comics/Boom Kids)
by Tim Beedle & Armand Villavert, Jr.
Beedle and Villavert’s foray into the world of the Muppets faces a significant challenge: it has to follow the first two issues of Roger Langridge’s wonderful The Muppet Show. Unfortunately, this effort pales in comparison, but that’s not really the fault of the creators. They’re following a different but just-as-valid Muppet tradition, and that’s the adaptation of a classic story or adventure. We’ve seen The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, so casting Muppets in the roles of Robin Hood, his Merry Men and enemies is a natural move. The choices to fill certain roles are predictable (though Sweetums as Little John was something of a surprise; he rarely gets such a spotlight). I really enjoyed how much the writer played around with the notion that Kermit is adopting his nephew’s name for the sake of the story. In fact, all of the Fourth-Wall-breaking dialogue is a lot of fun, standing out as the strongest elements in the book. The problem is with the plot and how overly familiar it is. I’m honestly just not all that interesting in yet another Robin Hood riff, even starring the Muppets.
The artwork is quite different from what we’ve seen from Langridge, but Villavert takes a similar approach. Instead of trying to reproduce photorealistic representations of the Muppets, he takes a more organic approach. The artist employs an elongated style that’s a bit distracting at times. Kermit often looks too tall, and Sweetums doesn’t seem to be nearly as imposing a figure as he has in the past. My favorite visual comes from the one of the two regular covers. That Kermit/Sweetums cover is by Mouse Guard creator David Peterson, and it demonstrates what a talented artist he truly is. 6/10