While reading the comics I’ve examined in this batch of capsule reviews, I met a king with no memory, the perfect undercover assassin, a blind man with an eye for revenge and a tattoo artist who wants nothing more than to leave her complicated past behind her. Join me as I discuss the latest issues of Aquaman, Hardcore, Old Man Hawkeye and Pearl.
by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robson Rocha & Daniel Henriques
I was drawn to this new creative direction on this title not because it’s happening in conjunction with the new movie, but rather because I’m interested to see what writer Kelly Sue DeConnick — a major talent in the industry whose tenure at DC begins here after a long run at Marvel — can do under the umbrella of another publisher. Her story is thoroughly accessible; one needn’t be familiar with what’s unfolded in this title before this point at all. DeConnick starts fresh — not a reboot, but rather offering a new odyssey for the title character. And “odyssey” seems a fitting description; there’s a sense of myth at play here, along with a mystery, and that made for an engaging reading experience. The thread running through this story is identity. Aquaman has literally forgotten who he is, so his arc is about rediscovering that. Meanwhile, a new character, a key figure in this drama, appears to have had her heritage hidden from her, and her plot appears to focus on her drive to connect with her past. This is a surprisingly quiet, reflective story, but DeConnick has definitely hooked me here.
Robson Rocha’s linework here is loose and dynamic, exaggerated but convincing. His backdrops are lovely, giving one a sense of the beauty of the island setting as well as its isolated nature. He instills a lot of personality into these characters, and since the reader will be familiar with only one of them, that gives the audience a stronger sense of who these new villagers are. I also appreciated the muted tone of Sunny Gho’s colors here, reinforcing the sense of mysticism and mystery flowing throughout the story. 7/10
by Robert Kirkman, Andy Diggle & Alessandro Vitti
The central premise for this new title is relatively straightforward: imagine if DC’s Deadman were a government agent, and he possessed people’s bodies in order to carry out black-ops missions. While the supernatural element has been replaced with a sci-fi plot device, that’s essentially the gist of Hardcore, and the idea’s so simple, one really has to wonder why we haven’t seen it before (I can’t recall of a previous instance of it, anyway). There’s an intensity and ugliness to the plotting here that’s in keeping with the espionage/assassination angle, and Andy Diggle’s script does a solid job of depicting a convincing portrayal of such an impossible scenario. I think the only real misstep in this first issue is that the writers don’t let the audience spend more time with the premise before they turn the entire operation on its ear through a betrayal. It feels as though there should have been more of a buildup to the antagonist’s plans.
Alessando Vitti’s art is a great fit for the darker, grittier tone of the story. His work here reminds me of a cross between the styles of Barry Kitson and Scott Kolins, and quite reminiscent of that of Carmine Di Giandomenico. I think the detail on the technological components of the plot device are a little over the top; it’s an impossible object, so the excessive detail seems unnecessary. Vitti’s eye for action, as evident in the opening scene, is undeniable. 7/10
by Ethan Sacks & Francesco Mobili
I was one of many who read and enjoyed (for the most part) Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s “Old Man Logan” story years ago, and given its popularity, I’m not surprised it has spawned a number of spinoffs and the main character’s incorporation into the regular, present-day Marvel Universe for a time. This spinoff of the alt-future incarnation of Hawkeye is diverting and fun. Writer Ethan Sacks has brought together an eclectic mix of Marvel characters one wouldn’t find together in the same story, but ultimately, the story is by the numbers, pretty much clichéd in its plotting — especially when dealing with Hawkeye’s blindness combined with his archery skills. And I could have done without the abundance of sight-related puns. Sacks wraps the story up nicely, but then again, he had to do so. Since this was a prequel story to “Old Man Logan,” it had to end in a particular place, in a particular way. That’s one of the inherent problems with prequels, one of the challenges of pulling them off. Going in, the reader knows too much about the outcome, and it’s difficult to pull off a sense of suspense — not impossible, but difficult. Sacks just didn’t get there with this story, though I should note that this was an accessible issue despite it being the final one in a 12-issue run.
Francesco Mobili’s style is a pleasant one; I’m reminded of the art of Lee Weeks here. He captures the action nicely, and he offers up some fun alternate takes on familiar Marvel characters. I think he falters a bit when it comes to depicting these characters in their later years. There’s more to age than grey hair and wrinkles; they still look like paragons of human physicality, and I think making them seem a little bulkier or a little frailer could have made them more convincing as heroes whose best days were behind them. 5/10
by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos
I’m a big fan of any Bendis/Gaydos collaboration, and that holds true with this project as well. But it occurs to me that up until this point, it wasn’t the least bit clear what was going on in this series. This fifth issue spells out the title character’s unique body art much more clearly, leaving me to realize I had no idea what was going on earlier in the series. I don’t mind an air of mystery, but the clues weren’t communicated clearly at all up to this point. Pearl is nevertheless a fascinating character, and I’m eager to learn more. I was also impressed with Bendis’ focus on the Endo Twins here, specifically Rumor. While both are portrayed as ambitious and devoid of any kind of moral center or empathy, she stands out as particularly intelligent. She’s the dominant force in the pair, but neither is she one to bulldoze over her sibling. They stand out as colorful, charismatic antagonists. I also find the alliterative nature of their given names – Rumor and Ryu to be interesting, as it put in mind of another set of twins whose relationship devolved into enmity: Remus and Romulus.
It’s usually Gaydos’ figures that grab the eye with his skill at conveying realistic representations of people, but here, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the backgrounds. His vision of San Francisco is not only incredibly convincing, but there’s a certain magic to it, and foreboding in darker corners the characters explore. Of course, I love how he uses the colors to convey Pearl’s non-ink tattoos. 7/10