A robot hero, real American heroes, an anti-hero and two heroes merged into one… these are the subjects of this collection of capsule reviews. This time around, I review Aphrodite V #3, G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero #1, Harley Quinn #50 and Infinity Wars: Soldier Supreme #1.
by Bryan Hill & Jeff Spokes
I never read a single issue of Top Cow’s Aphrodite IX years ago, put off by the oversexualized qualities of the title character, as depicted on so many of its covers. But in recent years, some of those earlier Image properties have been modernized and approached with a less “Kewl” sensibility, so with that in mind, I decided to give this new spin on the android warrior character a look. The good news is that there’s far less emphasis on sexuality here. However, the plot — about a malevolent technological force plotting the demise of the human world, with a robot as opposition — feels more than a little familiar. This is Terminator 2, dressed up with corporate intrigue. Bryan Hill writes a competent plot, but it’s also unremarkable. I never felt the tension for which he’s striving. Furthermore, there are no relatable characters to be found here. Everyone is intense and distant and broken; this story really needs an everyman or everywoman to ground it.
Artist Jeff Spokes is clearly influenced by the style of Adam Hughes. It’s most apparent on the cover, but the Hughes factor is felt in the interiors as well. The detailed line art inside reminded me of a cross between the styles of Hughes and Tony Harris. The inky art is darkly colored, making some elements difficult to discern, and that approach keeps one getting a strong sense of place. Aphrodite V’s design strikes me as distinctly European in appearance; she could have leapt out of The Fifth Element or other Euro pop culture. 5/10
by Larry Hama, Netho Diaz, Alisson Rodrigues & Jagdish Kumar/Ryan Ferrier & Kenneth Loh
It’s been years — decades, really — since I read a G.I.Joe comic book, but like many kids of the 1980s, I definitely had a fondness and affinity for the toys, and that extended a bit to Marvel’s comics. IDW’s had the licence for some time, so when I saw this first issue for a spinoff series, I thought I’d give it a look. Larry Hama, who’s been associated with the property for as long as I can remember, and he certainly captures some of the same character here as he did in the 1980s. I especially liked the page introducing the Joe lineup for this team, as it reminded me of the character profiles from the back of the action figures’ packaging. Mind you, the level of violence and more realistic villains are radically different and much more intense here, and that took me aback a bit; conversely, the tone of the dialogue is fairly clean, which seemed contradictory. The art on the main story looks a bit like a cross between the styles of Patrick Olliffe and Mark Texeria; there’s a gritty tone that’s in keeping with the story.
The backup story, telling the origin of the enigmatic warrior woman Helix, boasts much more inventive and interesting visuals. Kenneth Loh’s work here is so much like the art of Sean Gordon Murphy, I had to double-check the credits to ensure it wasn’t Murphy’s work. The short story boasts the same kind of intensity as the main one. Of course, both stories give rise to a lot of questions for the uninitiated reader (or a reader such as me who’s initiation expired some time ago). I don’t quite get if the original Snake Eyes is called Throwdown now, or if this is a new character, and there’s nothing in the script to detail what Helix’s role with the Joe team was. This doesn’t read like a first issue, but rather like a chapter in a series that’s been running for a little while. A more accessible tone would have been appreciated. 6/10
by Sam Humphries, Whilce Portacio, Agnes Garbowska, John McCrea, Kelley Jones, Jon Davis-Hunt, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Scott Kolins, Dan Jurgens, Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo, Babs Tarr, Tom Grummett & Cam Smith
Shared super-hero universe continuity has always been a tricky thing, and publishers such as Marvel and DC, weighed down by decades of history, have struggled with it. Continuity is an important element in such shared realities, as the connections are part of the fun. But if a story is entertaining or compelling or even just silly, what the hell, who cares? That’s what Harley Quinn has become at DC. It’s almost impossible to rectify the Harley of this solo series with the prisoner we see in Suicide Squad, so why bother? That’s the point of this story, though it starts out by emphasizing the importance of continuity above all else. This was a thoroughly entertaining story, and it will be of particular appeal to longtime readers, given the Easter eggs to past stories peppered throughout the book. Writer Sam Humphries also does an excellent job of conveying the strength of the bond between Harley and her mom, so much so that I paid no attention to the fact that I had no idea how this reunion came to pass.
It’s easy to tell that the myriad of artists who contributed to this romp of a comic had a blast as they did so. So many characters — both familiar and new alternate visions of those properties — dazzle the eye, and it really calls on the devoted fan to scan is repeatedly to pick up all of the references. The repeated use of double-page spreads made it feel like the reader was really getting their money’s worth with this comic. I love the irreverent look of the diverse styles that bring this zany story to life. 8/10
by Gerry Duggan & Adam Kubert
There was perhaps no greater fun to be had in the mid 1990s than Marvel and DC’s Amalgam line of one-shots, in which properties from both universes were mashed together for weird and campy adventures. I had the same smile on my face and feeling of amusement when reading Soldier Supreme as I did when I devoured those Amalgam comics two decades ago. This blending of Captain America and Dr. Strange captures what’s fun and entertaining about those distinct characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed writer Gerry Duggan’s inventive melange of associated supporting players and antagonists.
Adam Kubert does a solid job in conveying the 1940s settings and balancing between the action of a Captain America yarn with the weirdness of the Sorcerer Supreme’s exploits. Kubert’s angular style certain brings a dynamic look to play throughout the story. Colorist Matthew Wilson merits mention as well. He captures the historical qualities of the story with an almost sepia-like tone throughout the issue, but the bright colors of the Soldier Supreme’s garb and especially his spells slather the visuals in a sense of wonder. 7/10