The Brave and the Bold #30 (DC Comics)
by J. Michael Straczynski & Jesus Saiz
Straczynski proves the strength he brought to the previous issue wasn’t just an aberration and that his first couple of middling issues on this series wouldn’t be characteristic of his stint as this title’s writer. When this pairing of heroes for the team-up title was announced a few months ago, I was puzzled; I didn’t think it would make for that interesting a story beyond a generic super-hero story. But the basis for his choices quickly became clear. Green Lantern’s ring power is fueled by his will power, while his mystic (or if you will, spiritual) ally in this story is named “Fate.” Straczynski explores the age-old debate of free will versus determinism by means of a plot premise only possible in the super-hero genre. One might find the circumstances that lead to the debate a bit forced, but it worked for me in the context of the DC Universe. The one element of the plot I didn’t enjoy was Straczynski’s use of a thoroughly obscure character from a Justice League comic of the 1980s as a catalyst for Dr. Fate’s introspection. Fortunately, that element is relegated to the prologue and doesn’t hinder the story that unfolds later on. For those familiar with the original incarnation of Dr. Fate, the story might resonate a bit more effectively, but there’s enough information here for newer readers about Kent Nelson that they’ll be able to follow along.
Saiz has also stepped up his game, as is evident in the rich backgrounds he provides for the extra-terrestrial setting. Whereas his work on #28 (the Flash/Blackhawks issue) lacked in terms of backgrounds, in this issue, he provides a fascinating glimpse into the impossible. The alien world on which the action unfolds features an interesting blend of antiquated relics and alien, unfamiliar landscapes. The ruins in which the heroes find themselves look both genuine, like something one would see on the History Channel, and completely new and alien, like something would find in a James Cameron sci-fi flick. Furthermore, the softer features that Saiz’s brings to the characters’ faces continue to emphasize the humanity of the superhuman players, which works well with the more character-driven ideas that the writer wants to examine. 8/10
Captain America: Reborn #5 (Marvel Comics)
by Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch & Butch Guice
I can only assume that writer Ed Brubaker either felt that Marvel editorial or he himself painted him into a corner, because the way out is far less interesting than the way in. The buildup to this resurrection story was one of espionage and intrigue, in which super-heroes were recast as spies and assassins. Unfortunately, the need (driven more by corporate protection of the character as a commodity) to bring the original Captain America back to life has led the writer to pen a story that embraces so many genre cliches that it evokes eye-rolling reactions from the audience and robs the plot of any kind of tension or suspense. The inner conflict unfolding in Cap’s mind is just as familiar and predictable as the physical fight between the new Cap and his mentor’s possessed body.
Bryan Hitch’s photorealistic art is attractive, and I do like the consistency that inker Butch Guice brings to the mix, making this book appear a bit more like what we got in the Captain America series leading up to this moment. But the meticulously detailed, convincing backdrops and action really aren’t necessary for this book. Brubaker has opted for a cliched approach to the plot, yes, but it’s also a thoroughly traditional super-hero story. Therefore, it really calls for a simpler and more exaggerate look in the artwork. Colorist Paul Mounts maintains an eerie tone throughout the book with some unusual colors, and that would’ve been perfect had this story maintained the same sort of atmosphere as the plotlines that led up to it. But instead, the bombastic, ham-fisted approach to the story really calls for a louder, more colorful and vibrant tone. It’s not really a failing of the artists, per se, but rather a mismatch between the writing and the visuals. 4/10
Forgetless #1 (Image Comics/Shadowline imprint)
by Nick Spencer, Scott Forbes & Marley Zarcone
The title of this comic book is derived from some kind of rave party, and as such, the two separate, distinct stories linked to said event are understandably immersed in youth culture… a culture from which I was more than a little bit removed. As such, I was a bit lost at first by writer Nick Spencer’s script, but really, I think that’s more of a compliment than a criticism. After a few pages, the first story came into focus for this particular old fogy, and what arises is a fun, oddball crime plot. Spencer’s use of Twitter-like feeds to enhance the story was a bit confusing at first (in that the tweets were initially from extraneous characters), but they eventually add to the storytelling, revealing more about the central characters and the plot in tiny bursts. The second story — about a trio of friends on a quest to get fake IDs so they can attend Forgetless — paints a harsh picture of these teens, especially the ringleader, as they’re portrayed as spoiled brats who really don’t know how the world works as well as they think. Still, there’s a certain genuine quality to the dialogue. With this title and Existence 2.0, Spencer is demonstrating that he favors darker plots and corrupt or distasteful protagonists, but he’s also showing us that he’s a talent worth watching.
Scott Forbes’s art on the first story looks a bit like a cross between the styles of Joshua (NYX) Middleton and Michael Avon (Powers) Oeming, and his colors certainly capture a slightly seedy tone for the world in which the characters exist. Marley Zarcone’s work on the second story immediately put me in mind of the style of Becky (Demo) Cloonan and, to a lesser extent, Ryan (Local) Kelly. The artist does a great job of conveying the characters’ youth and attitude, and the style seems well-suited for the slice-of-life appeal of the story. 7/10
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