New Comic Reviews! (1-12-14)

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Sonic the Hedgehog #255

“Countdown to Chaos pt. 3- The Rabbot”

Ian Flynn (writer), Jerry Gaylord (artist). Covers by Ben Bates and Tyler Capps

 “Countdown to Chaos” finds Sonic thrust into a different version of his home reality, possessing memories and knowledge of a past he never experiences. He’s understandably a little confused… and boy, do I know the feeling.

 The Sonic comic may have stated its life as a simple video game tie in with typical Archie gag strips, but in the twenty years since its inception – I’ll give you a minute to digest that number – Sonic the Hedghehog has evolved into a complex and nuanced adventure series, albeit one with some pretty hefty continuity for new readers to try to slog through. It’s worth the effort though, this series is a ton of fun, and the action is solid, and thankfully it never falls into the trap of taking itself too seriously. Accordingly, Sonic himself has his defining streak of 90’s attitude, but unlike a lot of attempt to contemporize that type of style, he doesn’t come across as being an insufferable Mountain Dew-peddling schmuck.

 Sonic the Hedgehog is clearly a comic written for an established fandom, and for readers who need to understand every reference and identity every character to enjoy the comic they’re reading, I imagine this will be a frustrating experience. Readers who are prepared to just step back and enjoy the current story on its own merits will have an easier time, and since there are generously placed nametags and editor’s notes throughout the issue, you also have the option of going to one of the countless online fan-sites that can break the comic down panel-by-panel.

 It’s a difficult world to get into, but Sonic the Hedghog (and its sister title Sonic Universe) are both worth the time and investment. You heard it here first, folks – Sonic the Hedgehog: Not just for nineties kids and furries anymore.

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Batman: Black and White #5

“Hell Night”; “Cat and Mouse”; “I Killed the Bat”; “Flip Side!”; “Hope”

Ivan Brandon, Blair Butler, Keith Giffen, Jimmy Palmiotti and Len Wein (writers), Victor Ibáñez, Phil Noto, Javier Pulido, Paolo Rivera, Andrew Robinson and Chris Weston (artists); Cover by Joshua Middleton

 A recurring theme in Batman: Black and White (both this series and the 1996 miniseries) is really bad things happening to the Caped Crusader. Rather than just draw in a wide variety of creators to give their take on the iconic character, Black and White also traditionally seemed to be designed to let writers who hate Batman make the bastard suffer. It was always a bit of a geek show – with each new issue, you’d be treated to some new and clever way to see Batman get hurt, tortured, or straight up killed.

 While that’s certainly present in this month’s issue (particularly in the lead story, and the on-the-nose-named “I Killed the Bat”), there’s also a surprising amount of good humour present as well. Len Wein and Victor Ibáñez’s “Flip Side” delivers one of the pimpest Batman moments every written, and Jimmy Palmiotti and Andrew Robinson’s “Hope” is a surprisingly sweet story that lives up to its name. The artistic highlight is easily Paolo Rivera on “Hell Night” – Ivan Brandon’s story didn’t really work for me, but Rivera’s work is as gorgeous as always.

 It’s a mixed bag as many of these anthology books tend to be, but there’s enough to like here that it’s worth checking out.

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Shaolin Cowboy #4

Geof Darrow (writer, artist an cover)

 I’m really not sure what to say about this comic. It’s a twenty-nine page fight scene between a monk and an army of zombies, followed by a very abrupt ending. For the majority of the issue, there’s no dialogue, no sound effects, no anything outside of some very graphic kung fu face-kicking. For what it is, Shaolin Cowboy is exceedingly well done – Geof Darrow’s attention to detail is impeccable, and you certainly get what it says on the tin. And I get it, this is exactly the approach Darrow was going for, a four issue uninterrupted fight scene. But for my four bucks, I want something more, especially when I know Darrow is more than capable of delivering it. This feels less like high art than like self-indulgent wank. This may have worked as a six page story in an anthology book like Heavy Metal or 2000AD… but as a full length single issue, it’s pointless and repetitive.

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ImageForever Evil: Arkham War #4

“Empire of the Bat”

Peter J. Tomasi (writer), Scot Eaton (artist); Cover by Jason Fabok

 I haven’t touched on Arkham War until now, mainly because I haven’t really had much to say about it. The idea of a fractured Gotham City controlled by warring Arkham and Blackgate inmates while Batman is missing in action is pretty cool. In fact, it was pretty cool when DC did it the first time in 1998, with the Cataclysm storyline, which hit most of the same story beats. There are some new ideas thrown into the mix, like the post “New 52” Talons, but only with this issue has there been anything that felt overtly innovative.

 In this case, it’s Bane having usurped Batman’s identity, with the William Cobb Talon on board as his requisite sidekick. This is far from the only time Bane has been cast as Batman’s evil counterpart (one could argue it’s the defining aspect of his character), but it’s always an interesting card to play. I genuinely love the idea of Bane being an altruist, who acts as a champion of the downtrodden for his own reasons. It was the plot of one of the best issues of Batman Adventures, Gail Simone toyed with the idea to great effect in Secret Six, and it’s a big part of the reason that I loved Dark Knight Rises despite its many faults. It’s just a clever concept that a lot can be done with, and I’m interested to see where Peter Tomasi takes it next month.

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Young Avengers #15

“Resolution pt. 2”

Kieron Gillen (writer), Becky Cloonan, Ming Doyle, Joe Quinones and Jamie McKelvie (artists); cover by McKelvie

 Another week, another cancelled series. This one at least goes out on a high note, as series creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have gone on record as saying they had always planned to do a year-long “season” then move on. This is a satisfying enough end to things, as with all the villains having been thoroughly dispatched, the Young Avengers throw a party for themselves and their fellow young heroes. There’s dancing, young love, and whole lot of homosexual shenanigans (by issue’s end, there’s only one character on the team that self-identifies as being straight, and even that’s brought into question). It’s a fun story that puts a cap on everything – or almost, anyway. The identity of the mysterious not-Patriot is still left open, and there’s a tease that there are still big things in the team’s future. Exactly how and where that’ll take place is up in the air right now though.

 As an aside, the official solicitation for this issue was written using repurposed R. Kelly lyrics. I have no idea who writes those things (likely it’s someone from the distributor Diamond, not from Marvel’s marketing team directly), but I’m not sure you really want to associate your Young anything heroes with a dude with widely reported paedophilic proclivities. Just saying.

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Sex Criminals #4

“Sex Police”

Matt Fraction (writer), Chip Zdarsky (artist and cover)

 Not since Alan Moore’s porno about Alice in Wonderland shtupping Wendy from Peter Pan has a book about sex been so guaranteed to garner a boatload of awards down the line. But that shouldn’t be news to many of you – far better writers than me have spent the last three months waxing eloquent about how Sex Criminals is a masterpiece. To the shock of no one, I’m joining in on the chorus – this series is incredible.

 For anyone living under a rock (or depending on the iOS version of Comixology, which banned the series), Sex Criminals tells the story of librarian Suzie and banker Jon, a couple who possess the ability to freeze time by having orgasms. In addition to taking the first tentative steps towards falling in love with one another, the duo decide to use their unique ability to rob Jon’s bank, in order to come up with the money to save Suzie’s library from foreclosure. That’s the thirty second pitch, anyway, but Sex Criminals is about so, so much more.

 This series is about love, romance and exploration, about how traumatic the period of sexual awakening can be and how it can become entangled with so many different emotions and hang ups, like alienation and rebelliousness. It is about sex – not just the act, but all of the joy and fear, embarrassment and ecstasy that come with it. The series is also a compelling mystery, and exciting crime thriller, and one of the funniest comics on the shelves right now. It’s a book with what may be the best letter column ever, where correspondents learn the secrets of erotic pizza and buying dirty magazines at the airport. It is the sweetest and most touching comic series to ever see its main character get hit in the face by a flying dildo. Seriously, go out and buy this book.

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