With this latest batch of capsule reviews, I take to the skies with the Man of Steel and the Amazonian Princess, travel the world with teen heroes who champion the vulnerable and claw my way through the streets of a gloomy Alaskan town in search of a noteworthy mutant.
by Brian Michael Bendis & Ryan Sook
I continue to be impressed with Bendis’ work at DC Comics and with the Man of Steel in particular, and of the two ongoing Super-titles he’s writing, his work on Action definitely stands out as the superior efforts of the two. This book is as much about Metropolis as it is about the Last Son of Krypton, and there’s a lot more going on here. We have a crime drama, political commentary, workplace dynamics and some convincing characterization in world of impossible players. I enjoyed every moment of this issue, from Ms. Goode’s ambition to the secret thrill Superman offers to a wide-eyed kid as he changes from his mundane identity to his superhuman one, but what really blew me away was the reveal at the end of the issue, a callback to the first comic book in which Superman appeared. I also note with interest and applause the strong new female characters Bendis has introduced in this story arc, from the city’s new deputy fire chief to the antagonists who are far more clever than other villains we’ve seen in Superman’s world in recent years.
Ryan Sook’s artwork is absolutely lovely, capturing the wonder and power of the metahuman action brilliantly, but more importantly, the quieter moments of humanity that really allow the audience to connect with this fantastical plot. Colorist Brad Anderson brings some textured tones to bear that reinforce the grounded elements, but also includes some brilliant colors to convey the more amazing moments of the super-hero genre action. 8/10
by Jim Zub & Steven Cummings
Hey, it’s a new first issue for the Champions, because… because, well, I have no idea why this series was relaunched. It’s built on the previous series, and the only discernible reason for a new #1 is to boost sales. Of course, I suspect it will be for naught (or at least fleeting), since this doesn’t read like a jumping-on point. Zub has expanded the roster significantly; that’s fine, but we don’t get a clear introduction to all of the characters. Furthermore, his script is weighed down by recent continuity that will leave new readers (or lapsed ones like me) in the dark. It’s unfortunate, because I got a great classic Legion of Super-Heroes vibe from this book, but I was at such a disadvantage plot-wise, it failed to hold my interest. Given the prominent role that Miles Morales has in this series and his recent boost in popularity thanks to Into the Spider-Verse, it’s unfortunate that Marvel has failed to capitalize on that higher profile here with a clear and captivating story.
Steven Cummings delivers some capable artwork, but he doesn’t consistently convey the youthfulness of these characters, which is a key component to the book’s identity and appeal. His style reminded me of that of Tom Raney, and overall, it’s serviceable but it never really grabbed me. 5/10
by Benjamin Percy & Marcio Takara
One of my regrets in life is that I never took on a job in a remote location, notably in the far north. The mystery, the adventure, the culture… and the isolation pay. I find often fiction set in the Canadian north and Alaska to be quite riveting, and writer Benjamin Percy has definitely tapped into that mystique with this cold-noir story. He strikes an interesting balance — between the townsfolk’s ignorance of the title character and the audience’s awareness — but what makes it work are the FBI agents who know who and what they’re dealing with when it comes to Logan. Of course, there’s still an interesting mystery unfolding here; the reader knows Wolverine is on the side of the angels, even if he’s brutal. Percy’s definitely piqued my interest, getting me curious about exactly what’s going on. Overall, there’s an interesting vibe at play here, and it felt like a cross between an episode of The X-Files and Insomnia, a 2002 Al Pacino/Robin Williams serial-killer flick that didn’t get a lot of attention.
Marcio Takara’s art achieves a fairly realistic look that bolsters the credibility and insidious mood of the story. I detected the influences of various comic artists at play here, from Phil Noto to Kyle Baker. The bloodier elements of the story are presented in a surprisingly palatable way, and I suppose Marvel wouldn’t want something too gory adorning a title featuring one of its best-known and most popular properties, but I couldn’t help but wonder if more grisly visuals might have added to the tension here. 7/10
by G. Willow Wilson & Xermanico
When DC announced G. Willow Wilson as the new writer for this title, I was thrilled. The cultural, socio-political and personal storytelling she brought to Ms. Marvel was a landmark moment in modern Marvel history, and I was eager to see what she’d do with this iconic character. I was pleased to find that she’s incorporated developments in this title prior to her tenure instead of casting it all aside, but the side effect is that this doesn’t feel like the fresh take on Wonder Woman I was expecting from Wilson. Her interpretation of Aphrodite is interesting, but it doesn’t feel all that different from what we might have seen from Greg Rucka or Brian Azzarello in the past. Furthermore, that Diana is once again exploring the ethics of warfare with Ares as a foil is a little disappointing, as it’s been done repeatedly before. The script and plot are solidly entertaining, but they also strike me as somewhat… ordinary.
Xermanico’s art is a lot tighter and more realistic than what we’ve seen from series regular Cary Nord up to this point, but he performs well here. His work strikes me as a cross between the styles of such artists as Phil Jimenez and Doug Braithwaite, and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. brings added depth to the visuals with the texture his tones add to the mix. 6/10