New Comic Reviews! (1-5-14)

ImageTalon #14

“End of the Run”

James Tynion IV (writer), Emanuel Simeoni (artist and cover)

Although Talon has been around for over a year now, this is the first time I’ve actually picked up an issue. I can’t really say why- the series is a spin-off from one of the best (non-Grant Morrison) Batman stories in years, James Tynion IV is a solid writer, the artwork is good – I guess the character just never really appealed to me. And of course, now that I’ve finally grabbed an issue and liked it, there’s a creative team shake up and all-new direction starting next month. Such is my luck.

As I said though, I enjoyed this issue. There’s a fun punch-up between Talon and the Gotham Butcher, and the tease of a new direction for the character moving forward. Admittedly, I’d probably appreciate the action more if this weren’t my first introduction to most of the characters, but with panels like this–

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–I might just have to go back and read what I missed.

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Aquaman #26

“Pressure”

Jeff Parker (writer), Netho Diaz and Paul Pelletier (artists). Cover by Pelletier

I’ve always felt that Aquaman gets a bad rap. As much as it’s a cliché to call him useless, or make fun of his powers, those jokes are usually the product of people who don’t know the character outside of the watered down– er, diminished– version seen on the Super Friends cartoons. The genuine article is actually a pretty cool character, a nice blend of contemporary heroics with the Arthurian mythology that gave him his name. When written well, Aquaman is as akin to Game of Thrones as it is to a traditional superhero book. And this is indeed a well-read book, as you would expect from new writer Jeff Parker, one of the most imaginative guys in the business today.

This month continues the political dissension in Atlantis, and pits our titular hero against a giant rampaging sea monster. It’s a fun little story, with excellent artwork from Paul Pelletier and Netho Diaz, one that’s far more accessible and even optimistic than the average “New 52” title. If you can get past Aquaman’s undeserved stigma, this title is well worth checking out.

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Teen Titans #26

“You Can’t Go Home Again”

Scott Lobdell (writer), Scott McDaniel and Tyler Kirkham (artists). Cover by Brett Booth

And we were doing so well, too.

So, this comic opens with Kid Flash witnessing his parents having their heads bashed in with a truncheon, followed by a scene where he undergoes the Ludovico Technique from A Clockwork Orange. This is part two of his new origin story, which began last month with the revelation that he’s a multiple murderer. Welcome to the “New 52”, everybody. And I swear, I tried to give this comic a fair chance, but by I was already pretty much done by the time we got around to the threat of child molestation eight pages in, after which Kid Flash murders someone by stabbing them in the neck with a shard of broken glass.

Seriously, fuck you Scott Lobdell. And fuck each and every person at DC who had a hand in approving any element of this piece of complete and utter trash. “You Can’t Go Home Again” is a great title, because this comic has almost singlehandedly convinced me to completely throw in the towel with anything to do with DC Comics.

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Catwoman #26

“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Worst Friend”

Ann Nocenti (writer), Rafa Sandoval (artist). Cover by Terry Dodson

In this comic, Catwoman finds herself caught up in the middle of a three-way war for control of the labyrinthine tunnels beneath GothamCity, and their population of societal washouts and rejects. Leading the conflict are the evil Doctor Phosphorus and his daughter Tinderbox, the certifiably insane Joker’s Daughter, and the survivalist scientist Warhog. Everything eventually comes to a head in a climax that leads me to believe Ann Nocenti is a big fan of the Hulk Hogan holiday classic Santa with Muscles.

First and foremost, this book features some of the most ham-fisted dialogue this side of an early Eighties Chris Claremont comic. With this much exposition forced down the your throat, you’d think everything would at least be crystal clear for the reader, but the story still often verges on the incomprehensible, in part due to Rafa Sandoval’s uncharacteristically cluttered artwork. This comic is a bit of a mess, but I will say one very positive thing about it– it’s a hell of a lot better than Teen Titans was.

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Black Science #2

Rick Remender (writer), Matteo Scalera (artist). Covers by Scalera and Robbi Rodriguez

 Black Science is a new creator-owned series from Image Comics, which sees an attempt to breach through the barriers between worlds go awry, stranding scientist Grant McKay, his team of experts and his two young children in an alternate dimension. With their reality-hopping device damaged – possibly sabotaged – McKay and his colleagues are stuck being shunted from one bizarre world to the next, hoping each time that their next leap will be the leap…home.

 Jokes aside, this is a pretty cool concept, a spiritual offspring of Jack Kirby stories and the kind of thing that might have popped up in an old issue of EC Comics’ Weird Science-Fantasy, with a healthy (one might say derivative) nod to Lost in Space. My biggest criticism however, as it often is with Rick Remender, is that a great idea ends up poorly executed. It happened with Remender’s Uncanny Avengers, Captain America, FrankenCastle… actually, scratch that, I was never on board with that one to begin with. The point is, a clever idea here is undercut by Remender’s slavish commitment to overly clichéd characters – the bitter ex-soldier, the obvious love interest, the wise-cracking black guy, the jerk-ass Doctor Smith. It just comes across as lazy, and turns what could have been a fresh idea into somewhat of a let down.

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New Avengers #13

“Inhumanity”

Jonathan Hickman (writer), Simone Bianchi (artist). Covers by Bianchi and Mike Deodato

The thing I love most about Jonathan Hickman is that no matter how high-stakes his stories seem to be, he always seems to be cooking up something even bigger and more mind-blowing. This issue gives us a peek into another aspect of the ongoing destruction of the Multiverse, and it’s a threat that makes Thanos look like Aunt May. New Avengers continues to be one of the biggest, most ambitious titles of recent memory, and it’ll be fascinating to see how this all ends up paying off.

Of special note with this issue is the always arresting artwork of Simone Bianchi, who absolutely kills it this month, particularly in a brief two-page spread featuring Doctor Strange which gave us the panel up above. It’s comics like this that make Marvel such an industry leader right now – it’s well written, visually striking, and leading to something big. Bravo, keep up the good work.

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