New Comics Reviews! (12-29-13)

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The Walking Dead #118

“All Out War pt. 4”

Robert Kirkman (writer), Charlie Adlard (artist and cover).

 Yes, I read non-Marvel and DC comics too. Shut up.

 Whether or not you’re a fan of the Walking Dead television series, the monthly comic continues to be one of the consistently best books on the rack. As it stands this month, we’re half way through the war between Rick Grimes and his allies, and the sadistic Negan and his Saviors. This is a comic where everything that happens has consequences, and when characters die- and they certainly do die- you never see it coming, so every single time it’s like a punch to the gut. Even minor characters in this series are so well developed that I’m completely drawn to all of them.

 It’s nothing short of incredible that even after ten years(!) The Walking Dead is still going stronger than ever. I have no doubt that when all is said and done, this series will be looked back on as one of the greatest non-superhero series in the history of the medium- hell, you could probably make that argument right now.

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Forever Evil #4

“Hide and Seek”

Geoff Johns (writer), David Finch (artist). Covers by Finch, Ethan Van Sciver and Gary Frank

 For all the complaining I do about the current state of DC Comics, I’m almost ashamed to say that I’m actually kind of digging Forever Evil. It’s absolutely a guilty pleasure, because this is a very, very stupid miniseries… but damned if I haven’t been having fun with it. Admittedly, it might be that my expectations for big crossover events are virtually nil- these are equivalent of the popcorn movies, enjoyable as long as you don’t expect anything intelligent.

 In this issue, with the Justice League still missing in action, Lex Luthor starts putting together his own team to take down the Crime Syndicate, while Batman and Catwoman dive deep into the Big Box of Contingency Plans to come up with a strategy of their own. Both groups end up in a three-way brawl with Power Ring and the Secret Society of Supervillains, Batman busts out a secret weapon that DC’s been teasing for the last six years, and a big name character makes a surprising return for a cliff-hanger ending. There’s even a weirdly touching scene between Luthor and his pet Bizarro, that’s among my favourite moments in recent history.

 Forever Evil is certainly less ambitious than something like Marvel’s recent Infinity crossover, or DC’s Final Crisis. And that’s a good thing, because if it got caught up in a false sense of self-importance, it would completely collapse under its own stupidity. But Geoff Johns and David Finch understand exactly what kind of comic they’re making here – of all the “New 52” books so far, this may be the New 52est – and for all its ridiculous excesses, it works.

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Justice League of America #26

“Forever Numb”

Geoff Johns (writer), Ivan Reis (artist). Covers by Reis and Aaron Kuder

 And on the flip side of the coin from Forever Evil, we have this comic, where a robot tries to learn to love by going over supervillain origin stories. That could be a ridiculous and fun idea, but instead it’s done completely po-faced as dour, emo nonsense. The origins themselves are relentlessly grim tales of torture and brutality. This comic is as ugly and joyless as they come- a completely unpleasant and joyless affair in every way.

 Oh, and the cover ruins the ending to Forever Evil #4 *and* depicts a scene that doesn’t happen in this comic- spoilers and false advertising in one. Just a special little “screw you” from DC Comics to wish its fans their seasons’ greetings.

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Avengers #24.NOW

“Rogue Planet pt. 1”

Jonathan Hickman (writer), Esad Ribic, Salvador Larroca, Mike Deodato and Butch Guice (artists); Covers by Daniel Acuna, Arthur Adams, Agustin Alessio, Mike Allred, Kris Anka, Carlo Barberi, Simone Bianchi, J. Scott Campbell, John Tyler Christopher, Deodato, Lee Garbett, David E. Peterson, Ribic, Tom Scioli and Walter Simonson

 If you know me and my particular peccadilloes, you might expect me to launch into a tirade against the stupid numbering for this issue, or the multiple art teams, or even the fact that this comic heralds in another relaunch of sorts, with a second run at the “Marvel Now!” formula. Honestly though, I don’t have the vitriol in me – this is another damned good comic book.

 The Iron Man of the year 3030 comes back in time and crashes the Avengers’ barbeque night, in order to prevent an imminent cataclysmic disaster. And as cool as the larger-than-life space adventure is, and the foreshadowing for the next bit Avengers tale, it pales in comparison before the almighty awesomeness that is Grill Master Thor.

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 This is a comic that gets it right. There’s a sense of new beginnings, but without rejecting the past. Multiple artists come in and jam on this issue together, but they each fill a particular role in the story, and even though each has their own distinct style, they compliment each other’s work instead of clashing with it. All of this is under the watchful eye of a writer who can work on the most grandiose of scales, or pull things back to a quiet moments like the barbecue. Each character is unique and well developed, each story beat is effective – this is masterful storytelling, and remains a standout in Marvel’s already impressive current line up of books.

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Origin II #1

Kieron Gillen (writer), Adam Kubert (artist). Covers by Kubert, Salva Espin, Salvador Larroca, Steve Lieber and Skottie Young

 Hey, look at that – I’ve reviewed every mainline Marvel and DC book this week. That doesn’t happen too often.

 As one would expect, this miniseries follows up on 2001’s Origin, which gave readers their first definitive look at Wolverine’s history. (Spoiler: He was a poncey kid from Victorian-era Canada). This time around, Kieron Gillen has taken over writing duty from original series creators Paul Jenkins, Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada, while original artist Andy Kubert has made the hot tag to his brother Adam. Also sadly gone is colorist Richard Isanove, whose work on the first series was critically lauded as being some of the best the medium has ever seen. No slight intended to his replacement Frank Martin though, who does a bang-up job here – as do Gillen and the elder Kubert brother.

 Our story begins with James Howlett having gone native, and joined a pack of wolves. However, fate has conspired against him, and he’s destined to soon return to the world of men. It might sound a little but Jungle Book-y, but it reads more like an issue of Conan – sparse on dialogue, long on mood, with a healthy splash of blood thrown in to the mix. I really liked this issue, and I’m excited to see where Gillen and Kubert go from here.

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