Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Jerry Ordway, Rags Morales & Chris Samnee
This is far from required reading for the Blackest Night event, and like other anthology books, it’s something of a mixed bag. The editors wisely opt to start off with the strongest of the three stories. Johns’s story of the origin of Blue Lantern Saint Walker may be predictable, but it’s ballsy too in that it’s a story about religion, faith and hope. It’s not often you see a super-hero yarn from one of the big two genre publishers that so embraces a religious theme. Wisely, Johns’s script isn’t preachy even though the alien faith mirrors Judeo-Christian tenets in several ways. I wish that Johns’s other contribution — “Tales of the Indigo Tribe” — had been as satisfying. The story tells the audience nothing about this mysterious Indigo corps; the reader is left as frustrated and confused as the Green Lantern and Sinestro Corps member in the story. Mongul was an odd choice of subject for the Sinestro Corps story sandwiched in between Johns’s contributions. Tomasi tells us nothing new about the character; he doesn’t even portray the young Mongul II as pitiable, as he’s as heartless and cruel as his father.
Visually, all three segments are pretty strong. Ordway’s bright style is a nice match for the Saint Walker story about a test of faith. He captures a sense of the alien and tempers it with a familiar environment that allows the reader to see humanity in Walker and his people. While I was a bit bored with the Mongul story, I loved the way it looked. Chris Samnee has been doing good work on The Mighty, and he performs well here too. His Mongul Jr. is so cute, but he nevertheless instills a thoroughly devilish quality in him that still allows the reader to recognize him for the villain he is. If there hadn’t been any credits on the Indigo story, I would have assumed it was Doug Mahnke’s work rather than Rags Morales’s. He certainly captures the distant, mysterious and primal qualities of the bearers of the indigo power, as well as the arid, seemingly abandoned look of their home. 6/10
Descendant #1 (Image Comics)
by Michael Dolce, Marcus Perry & Mariano Navarro
“I was destined to be a heroine, both to the people of my village and people all over the world. Just look at me. I wear a corset on black-ops military missions, not to mention skin-tight pants that are so low riding that you can see the beginnings of my pubic area. And then there’s my name, ‘Rayne.’ How cool is that? My boyfriend is named simply ‘Priest,’ and I’ve just discovered that my arch-nemesis is a scientist with the unlikely surname of ‘Bane’ (she’s hot too, of course). I’m haunted by my past and have fiery powers. Did I mention my boobs are huge? They spill out of my strapless corset. Despite the gratuitousness of my appearance, I still want kids to ogle me, because I use insults like ‘fug-face’ instead of ‘fuck-face.’ I speak in catchphrases and cliches rather than any kind of meaningful dialogue. I am the savior of my village, because I am, um, a descendant, um, of… er, those villagers.”
This is the sort of fare that was typical of Image Comics in the 1990s, and we still see a lot more like it these days. I’m actually surprised this wasn’t produced by Image’s Top Cow Productions arm, since it’s the sort of fare for which it’s well known. Of course, the artwork doesn’t really fit in with that Top Cow house style. It’s much more reminiscent of Paul (War of Kings) Pelletier’s style. Mind you, the overall tone of the story and the Kewl, sex-bomb heroine is a poor fit for the artist’s approach here. 3/10
Iconic Volume One (Comicbook Artists Guild)
This 100-page-or-so, self-published comics anthology, which debuted at MOCCA this year, is a pretty good value at $9.99, and I was pleased to find there was a loose theme — new stories based on old stories, history or legends — to tie the disparate material together. Of course, like most anthologies, the diversity of material is both an asset and a liability. There are some solidly crafted segments in the book, but there are also some awkward, subpar ones. Among my favorite features was Robert Sodaro and Rick Lundeen’s sequence about Gustave Whitehead, the true father of flight; the historical piece had the same effect on me as it did on the characters in the story. The new spins on the Scrooge and Holmes characters were predictable but entertaining nonetheless. A lot of artists involved in this book need to work on such elements as flow from panel to panel, backgrounds and anatomy. While some of the efforts remain at an amateur level, the love of comics and the desire to contribute to the medium really comes through in just about every story.
Honestly, after reading the book, I realized the most interesting aspect that stuck with me was the introduction by Gary Cohn. Cohn was a mainstay of DC’s stable of writers in the 1980s and is best known as a co-creator of Blue Devil and Amethyst (sure, not exactly stalwarts of DC’s library of characters, but they certainly had an impact in their day). Cohn’s story about leaving comics as a career behind spotlights just how engrossing one’s passion for the medium can be. 5/10
Note: For more information about this book and the creators, visit the Comicbook Artists Guild website.
The Mighty Avengers #27 (Marvel Comics)
by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Khoi Pham & Allen Martinez
Dan Slott undertakes to establish a new major villain and power in the Marvel Universe, someone to rival Dr. Doom, Magneto and other notable antagonists. To do so, he turns his attention to the Inhumans and tells us of a forgotten, deposed and tyrannical king of the mutated race, and it’s not a bad idea… save for one important element: context. The Inhumans have set off for deep space and the events of War of Kings, and Christos Gage’s script, even with its flashbacks depicting the teenage doesn’t provide nearly enough exposition as to who the Inhumans are and why they wouldn’t be involved with the Avengers’ encounter with the Unspoken in the present. The story and script really count on the reader’s familiarity with Marvel continuity. Furthermore, there’s no nearly enough interplay among the heroes; the interpersonal dynamics among these unlikely teammates have been the highlights of previous issues of Slott’s run. While I think Slott has empowered hank Pym too much, I must admit I enjoy the notion of an infinite headquarters and easy worldwide travel.
I’ve enjoyed Khoi Pham’s art on other Marvel titles, notably The Incredible Hercules some time ago. However, I really don’t think his loose, sketchy style is a good fit for the sci-fi, borderline cosmic adventures of this team of Avengers. He conveys the youth of several characters (such as Amadeus Cho and the young Inhumans in the flashback) quite clearly, but other key players are so loosely rendered so as to make it seem as though the artist had to rush through the job at times. 5/10
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