New Comic Reviews! (2-4-14)

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Inhumanity #2

Matt Fraction (writer), Nick Bradshaw and Todd Nauck (artists). Cover by Bradshaw.

 Two issues in, I’m really digging Inhumanity. It’s a brilliant concept that embraces the history of the Marvel Universe, from the original Inhumans stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, up through the stuff Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Jonathan Hickman have all been doing in more recent years. I’ve always loved the concept of this effectively alien species that exists on the periphery of human society, a group even more removed from the common man than the mutants or even gods like Thor and Hercules – a culture so unknowable by outsiders, that has now been violently introduced to the rest of the world. There are some brilliant undertones that echo real-world tensions between far-removed societies, and the fear of an unseen threat as insidious as an epidemic – and what could be more frightening than to become that which you understand the least?

 Beyond any symbolism you choose to ascribe to Inhumanity, it’s also just a kick-ass superhero comic. Nick Bradshaw’s pencils are simply phenomenal – he’s been one of Marvel’s hidden gems on Wolverine and the X-Men, and it’s great to see him on such a high-profile project as this one. Todd Nauck’s pages don’t offer quite the same punch, but he certainly holds his own, and offers a sense of kinetic energy to the affair.

 Like a lot of fans, I have a love-hate relationship with “event books” and crossovers, especially when they come one after another, like they were rolling off an assembly line without any real creative impetus behind them. I like Inhumanity though, a lot. Give it a shot, and hopefully you’ll like it too.

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Ghostbusters #12

“Happy Horror Days! pt. 4- The Closing of the Year”

Erik Burnham (writer), Dan Schoening and Erik Evensen (artists). Covers by Schoening and Ricardo Sanchez Arreola.

 I grew up during the tail end of the Ghostbusters craze. I saw both movies as a kid, but was a bit young to fully appreciate them. I absolutely loved the cartoon though, and I had action figures of the full team, along with some ghosts with spring-loaded jaws that hurt like a bitch if they snapped shut on your fingers. So although I’m not a diehard fan like many Ghostbusters fans, a book like this certainly carries with it a twinge of nostalgia for me.

 Part four of “Happy Horror Days!” sees the Ghostbusters dealing with a bogeymen incursion at Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Not the timeliest of stories, perhaps, but I guess when your December release is your Christmas issue, that can’t really be helped. It’s a fun story that works well for fans of the films and new readers alike. There’s also a decent backup story featuring the Chicago Ghostbusters tackling some spooks inside a museum that calls back to the Gozer affair from the first flick.

 What’s really cool about this series is that it incorporates elements from all the past Ghostbusters stories. Kylie Griffin from the (admittedly terrible) Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon is a junior member of the team, while Ilyssa Selwyn and the unnamed Rookie from 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game pop up in the back-up. There’s even a visual nod to the bogeyman design from The Real Ghostbusters that brought me right back to the Saturday mornings of my childhood.

 This was a neat little story arc, which I quite enjoyed – pick it up in a few months when it’s collected in trade paperback.

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All Star Western #27

“The Unforgiving Truth”

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (writers), Moritat (artist). Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli.

 There I was, scanning the list of new comics released this week, and I spot the title All-Star Western. “Cool,” I thought, “I didn’t know DC was still publishing that one, I haven’t read a good western in ages… wait, why is Jonah Hex pulling a gun on Superman on the cover?”

 So yeah, this isn’t quite the Wild West story I was expecting, but it’s still pretty good. Hex has apparently been unwillingly travelling through time, and he’s landed in modern day Metropolis. He gets a chance to chat with the Man of Steel, before having a nasty encounter in a museum installation dedicated to his own past exploits. Then he sets a very poor example for the more impressionable readers out there, and pays dearly for it.

 Jonah Hex and time travel have a bit of a dodgy history together, but this story is better than most of that kind. And hey, how cool is it that DC even has a monthly Jonah Hex comic in 2014? Especially after the terrible movie from a few years back, that could have easily killed the character’s marketability completely. So even though I’d prefer a straight western, if only because I’d like to see a little more variety out of DC right now, this book gets a thumbs up from me.

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Batman: The Dark Knight #27

“Angel of Death”

Gregg Hurwitz (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist)

 Batman foils a human trafficking ring run by the Penguin, but the Penguin escapes justice thanks to his legal team. There, I just saved you the three bucks and five minutes it would’ve taken to read this piece of crap.

 “Angel of Death” is a silent issue, but there’s no reason for it to be, so it feels like Gregg Hurwitz was just too lazy to write any dialogue. Alberto Ponticelli’s artwork is dark and muddled, the story is inconsequential and needlessly brutal – a “highlight” is Batman maiming a thug by shattering one of his arms, while impaling the other on a combat knife – and there’s just generally nothing at all enjoyable about the whole sordid affair. Don’t waste your time or money.

 And why the hell is a Christmas story being released in the last week of January!?

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Uncanny Avengers #16

“Yesterday Didn’t Exist”

Rick Remender (writer), Steve McNiven (artist and cover)

 I’ve gone on record in the past saying that I’m not a fan of Rick Remender. I’ve often disagreed with his creative decisions, I’ve rankled at some of the messages and imagery he’s put into his stories, and I find the way he’s dealt with past criticism to be childish and unprofessional. I’ve especially disliked much of Uncanny Avengers, a book which was launched as a follow up to “Avengers vs. X-Men,” but quickly transformed into a continuation of Remender’s previous work in Uncanny X-Force (another book I wasn’t fond of). Putting aside certain political stances the book has taken, my chief criticism is that more often than not, members of the Uncanny Avengers act in very stupid and aberrant ways. I’m of the opinion that a good writer doesn’t force established heroes to act out of character in order to fit into his half-baked script, he goes back and writes a new draft that fixes those mistakes.

 With all of that said, I’m as surprised as anyone that I rather enjoyed this issue. I liked the scenes of the world’s heroes marshalling their forces against the Celestial that’s come to destroy the Earth. I really liked the battle between Thor and Uriel. I loved Steve McNiven’s artwork, but for me that goes without saying, as I consider him to be among the best in the business right now. It’s a shame that this comic doesn’t exist in a vacuum, or I’d find it easier to recommend it… as it is, it stands as a tiny island of quality among an ocean of mediocrity.

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Red Lanterns #27

“Hot and Cold”

Charles Soule (writer), Alessandro Vitti and J. Calafiore (artists). Cover by Vitti.

 Mourning for the loss of one of their own, the Red Lanterns make their way to Earth, so Guy Gardner can try to impress his ex-girlfriend Ice with his new Dennis Eckersley pornstache. Meanwhile, Zillius Zox and Skallox run afoul of the alien-hating Shadow Thief.

 Dubious facial hair not withstanding, there’s not much for me to say about this comic. The series has grown beyond its initial ridiculous premise to become a halfway decent book, but it’s also somewhat unexceptional. It’s funny, but not that funny, the artwork is good, but not great… it’s all just sort of there. And try as I might, I just can’t get behind a comic where vomiting blood on people is one of the heroes’ main tricks.

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