Destroyer #5 (Marvel Comics/MAX Comics imprint)
by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker
Robert Kirkman brings this limited series to a close on a strong note. Given the overall violent tone of the story and the building plot about the title character’s health, it’s safe to say that most readers expected a particular ending. The writer throws his audience a curve ball, though, opting to take a completely different tack while staying true to the main character. Keene is a fighter, and he’s a man who never gives up. Those elements play a significant role in the “death scene” that makes up most of this issue. It’s a thoroughly entertaining scene, and while it’s as brutal as any other action scene that came before it, it lacks the gruesome gore, allowing it to come off as more comedic in tone. The notion of the reaper or reapers being afraid of a trained killer works quite well.
The nature of the plot for this final issue allows the reader to view Cory Walker’s artwork in a different light… a white light, actually. The main part of the story in this issue takes place in a void, so we’re faced with the figures and action out of any real context. There are no backgrounds, which in previous issues were just as well rendered as the super-heroes and villains. The blank backdrop allows Walker’s style to really come to the forefront; it’s interesting to see how he mixes a simpler look with the convincing detail of the effects of violence. Ultimately, my favorite aspect of the art here is what I’ve enjoyed the most from the start, and that’s Walker’s ability to balance the title character’s raw power with the aged, paunchy man behind the mask. Keene seems like a real guy, and that contrast with his unreal job and actions has really defined this series. 7/10
Doom Patrol #1 (DC Comics)
by Keith Giffen, Matthew Clark & Livesay/Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire
Ever since the Vertigo version of Doom Patrol (established by Grant Morrison) came to a close 14 years ago, DC Comics really hasn’t been able to rejuvenate the property as a traditional super-hero title. The title has been relaunched twice since then, and each of those incarnations lasted less than two years. After reading the main story in this latest attempt, I fear history is about to repeat itself. Writer Keith Giffen accomplishes two things with this inaugural issue: he erases any trace of John Byrne’s new Doom Patrol members and shows us how miserable and cold the original members have become. As a result, the surviving heroes don’t come off as terribly likeable. They seem callous. Now, the first story arc is likely about an emotional rebirth for these heroes, but the overall tone of this first chapter is so dreary and off-putting. Though I didn’t care for the gloomy and violent approach, Clark’s art is appropriately dark and intense in tone. However, there were some unclear transitions in the action (such as the villain’s transformation in the first act).
Fortunately, the Metal Men backup feature redeems this comic book somewhat. Giffen and DeMatteis deliver the same kind of fun they did with their various humor-era Justice League comics of the late 1980s. The Metal Men lend themselves to slapstick comedy, and the creators make the most of it. Kevin Maguire, the writers’ artistic collaborator from Justice League demonstrates he’s still a perfect fit for their brand of funny. While I’ve not read any of the original Silver Age Metal Men stories, I think the writers’ take on Gold’s personality here is a new one, and I like that the team leader now has personality flaws like the others. The running gag about the new team member, Copper, is a blast as well. 5/10
Reborn #2 (Marvel Comics)
by Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch & Butch Guice
In my review of the first issue of this limited series, I expressed some disappointment with the fact that the plot seemed to take Brubaker and his characters away from the strong espionage riff of the Captain America regular series and embraced more traditional super-hero/sci-fi elements to bring Cap back from the dead. Those super-hero/sci-fi aspects remain here, but the overall atmosphere shifts back more toward the spy genre again. That’s in part to Norman Osborn’s behind-the-scenes plotting as well as the notion that Steve Rogers, drifting through key moments of his own history, has essentially infiltrated the past and ensures that he remains “undercover” in his own life. It’s weird, but it works. I’m still not happy about how closely this story is tied to the events of “Dark Reign,” Marvel’s seemingly never-ending storyline about how the villains are running the Marvel Universe. Brubaker’s Cap essentially existed outside the convoluted continuity of the Marvel Universe, but that’s not the case with this series. Furthermore, there’s really no need for this to be published as a separate limited series. This is the logical continuation of everything Brubaker’s been doing with the Captain America series, but separating it out has led Marvel to publish what has essentially been filler material in Cap.
Bryan Hitch’s hyper-realistic style enhances the flashback/time-travel nicely. Those scenes bring Cap down to earth and drive home the real history that served as the integral context for the character. The realistic look of Prof. Erskine, who’s essentially been a throwaway character for decades, really makes him seem like a person than simply a catalyst. Hitch’s style, however, doesn’t really work as well for the super-hero action set in the present. His take on the Sinister Spider-Man/Venom is surprisingly uninteresting. Those scenes are about exaggeration and flair, so Hitch’s photorealistic approach doesn’t quite work for capturing the quick, unreal action. 7/10
The Red Circle: The Hangman #1 (DC Comics)
by J. Michael Straczynski, Tom Derenick & Bill Sienkiewicz
Despite the fact that this one-shot is penned by one of the most popular writers in super-hero comics, the most intriguing thing about this comic book is the artwork. Tom Derenick has been a consistently reliable performer for DC in recent years, especially with his contributions to DC’s last year-long weekly series, Trinity. Still, his style, at best, has never been all that striking, representing simply standard and reliable super-hero fare. Here, though, he’s paired with inker Bill Sienkiewicz, whose intense and exaggerated style has made for some memorable comics in the past. He certainly brings a darker, edgier tone to Derenick’s pencils, and that’s in keeping with the macabre tone that the writer wants to establish. Still, Derenick’s and Sienkiewicz’s styles just don’t mesh all that well. Furthermore, the design for the title character is rather uninteresting. The unfortunate part is that Jesus Siaz’s cover image of the hero is so much smoother and more attractive than the one we find within.
The same can be said of the title character’s origin and mission. Straczynski provides his readership with the latest spin on the supernatural, avenging-angel hero archetype. Essentially, he takes the Spectre origin and replaces the 1940s cop element with a Civil War-era doctor. Not only is the plotting generic, but the dialogue as well. This was a disappointing read, as this certainly doesn’t seem like the same kind of fare we got from the acclaimed writer of The Twelve and Thor over the past couple of years. 3/10
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