Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Quick Critiques – Jan. 27, 2010

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 27th, 2010

The Atom & Hawkman #46 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Ryan Sook & Fernando Pasarin

Of the eight Blackest Night tie-ins in “resurrected” comic-book titles that DC published this month, this is the only one that’s actually integral to the larger plot of the event, but since this was penned by Blackest Night writer Geoff Johns, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Still, there should’ve been more of a cue to Blackest Night readers that they might not want to skip this tie-in. Despite the title, the focus is clearly on the Atom and his backstory. Johns shows some affection and respect for the character here, and judging from the prominent role he’s played in the event, it’s possible DC is trying to boost his profile in its stable of super-hero characters. Johns provides an accessible script (at least as far as the Atom’s background is concerned), and his take on Ray Palmer as someone who hides from the world is an interesting one. Still, I wasn’t all that interested in the larger role that the dead Jean Loring plays here. Hopefully, this will be the last we see of the character. Johns does advance the plot of the larger event somewhat by revealing a lot more about the Indigo Tribe and their powers. Of course, the revelation that the Indigo “Lanterns” can manifest the power and light of any other Lantern Corps left me wondering why they need the other Lanterns to help in this crisis.

As has been the case with a couple of the other “resurrected” comics DC issued this month, the publisher pulls a fast one on readers and retailers alike when it comes to the content. This was solicited as being illustrated by Ryan Sook, whose work on his last project (Wednesday Comics) was much celebrated. While Sook does provide some of the visuals in this issue, he’s joined fellow artist Fernando Pasarin, who provides linework for latter pages in the book in his competent but unremarkable style. Furthermore, Sook’s work here is far more conventional in tone than we’re accustomed to seeing from him. Still, I did like his take on Indigo 1 as well as multiple incarnations of the Black Lantern Hawks. 6/10

Incredible Hercules #140 (Marvel Comics)
by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Rodney Buchemi/Jeff Parker & Gabriel Hardman

Now this is what I started reading Incredible Hercules for in the first place. The larger plot has finally brought the title character and teen genius Amadeus Cho back into a heroic partnership, and the plot is all the more engaging and entertaining as a result. The other heroes — such as Spider-Man and Wolverine — involved in the “Assault on New Olympus” story arc are shunted off to the side, and thank goodness for that. It seems as though they were included only so the writers could pit them against counterparts from classic mythology; those brief conflicts might have been fun but they added nothing to the larger plot. Here, it’s all about brains and brawn coming together to fight ancient evil and overwrought emotion. And damn, but it’s fun. The resolution to the impossible trap in which the heroes were kept was a blast as well. This is the kind of energy and inventive writing that made people take notice of this series from the start. Rodney Buchemi’s bright art helps to maintain that vibrant sense of fun and adventure while also bringing out the cosmic level of power and weirdness inherent in so many of the characters.

The Agents of Atlas backup feature catches up with the main story but still stands up well on its own. The action between the heroes and the mythological monsters is a lot of fun, and the story is surprisingly accessible despite its links to “Assault on New Olympus” and past Atlas stories. The backup also looks great, as Gabriel Hardman’s slightly realistic look maintains the characters’ color and personality while also making them seem like human beings. 7/10

Stumptown #2 (Oni Press)
by Greg Rucka & Matthew Southworth

As Dex Parios’s missing-persons investigation continues in this issue, I was pleased to find that Rucka’s newest detective story avoids cliches. I honestly don’t know where he’s going with the plot, and that’s really what you want in a good private-eye story. While Dex doesn’t seem as flawed here as she did in the first issue, she’s clearly confused about who she is and how she’s to get through every day. One could argue that she’s good at finding missing people because she herself is a lost soul. She finds others who’ve lost their way but can’t guide herself onto a stable and reliable path. Rucka continues to build the supporting cast of characters as well, and for the most part, these additional characters are just as convincing as those that came before them and the realism of the storytelling. However, I got a weird vibe from Grey, friend to the Parios siblings. I hope it’s unintentional or imagined, because I don’t enjoy the notion that he might turn out to be some kind of predator.

Once again, Matthew Southworth offers up some convincing, realistic artwork that suits the slightly edgy tone of the plot and characters. The grittiness he brings to the visuals is reminiscent of Michael (Daredevil) Lark’s work; I suspect it won’t be long before we see Southworth’s linework bringing the adventures of a vigilante hero or two at DC or Marvel. He’s clearly a skilled storyteller. I also appreciated the text piece he provides in the back of the book, as he shares a great deal of insight into the creative process and how he captures such a genuine look in the characters, backdrops and “props.” 8/10

Foliogram variantVariant coverRegular coverUltimate Enemy #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Brian Michael Bendis, Rafa Sandoval & Roger Bonet

After reading this comic book, two words came to mind: “too soon.” Actually, I had that thought after reading just the first scene. A good chunk of this issue features a giant blob monster devastating New York City, and the whole thing struck me as being redundant given the fact that the last Ultimate Marvel event, Ultimatum, was mainly about another threat laying waste to the Big Apple. I know the economy is weak, but not in the Ultimate Universe, where there’s always work in construction (and in every other sector as they replace dead employees left and right). When this comic book was first announced, I wasn’t entirely sure what the point was meant to be. Now that I’ve read the first issue, I still don’t know. Some character moments work well; I like Bendis’s take on the Ultimate Spider-Woman and the scene between Ben Grimm and Sue Storm, for example. But without some sort of hint to the larger plot stringing those smaller moments together, the story just isn’t satisfying.

Rafa Sandoval’s art is dynamic and captures the chaotic tone of the action with unusual perspectives and angles, and the artist captures the youth of various key characters nicely. However, the art also isn’t as clear as it could be. I initially thought the opening scene featured the destruction of a Roxxon building by way of an explosion from within. It wasn’t until Spider-Woman says, “Tell me how to kill it!!” that I realized that it wasn’t an explosion, but some kind of organic blobbie thing instead. The regular cover artwork by Ed McGuinness is misleading as well. The main reason I was interested in this comic book is because that cover featured several key characters from Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, but Spidey, Kitty and the Human Torch aren’t to be found in this issue. 4/10

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4 Responses to “Quick Critiques – Jan. 27, 2010”

  1. Michel Nadorp Says:

    I think DC can’t be blamed for having Fernando Pasarin step in on the latter pages of The Atom & Hawkman. It seems to me Sook didn’t catch his deadlines and Pasarin had to step up to round out the issue on time. Too bad Sook isn’t capable of doing 20 pages a month ’cause I’d love to see it! Pasarin isn’t a hack so his art will do.

  2. Don MacPherson Says:

    DC does bear responsibility in this situation, Michel, as it’s the one that set the deadline. It seems pretty clear that these “resurrected” comics were something of a last-minute decision, to be cobbled together as quickly as possible, as this one wasn’t the only one to feature a different creator than those mentioned in the solicits.

    I’ll be curious to see if the issue is made returnable as a result of the difference between the promised and final products.

  3. Matthew Southworth Says:

    Thanks for all the kind words about Stumptown. I think your analysis of Dex — being good at finding others because she hasn’t found herself — is pretty astute.

    I don’t think Grey’s predatory, he’s just a little love-struck with Dex, and a little goofy, heart-on-his-sleeve. I hope that will come through more clearly in the future — he’s a singer-songwriter in a band, and we’ve even talked about putting together something where you could hear his songs…

    I really appreciate your taking the time to write a review. I learn a lot from reading them, and I’m looking forward to continuing to read them in the future. Thanks!

  4. Don MacPherson Says:

    Matthew wrote:
    I don’t think Grey’s predatory, he’s just a little love-struck with Dex, and a little goofy, heart-on-his-sleeve. I hope that will come through more clearly in the future

    That’s a relief; I’m guessing I was reading something into the storytelling that wasn’t there. I got the feeling Grey might be predatory, but not towards Dex. Glad to hear that’s not coming to pass.

    Loving the book; keep up the good work! And thanks for the kind words.