New(ish) Comic Reviews! (2-23-14)

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RoboCop: To Live and Die in Detroit

Joe Harris (writer), Piotr Kowalski (artist and cover)

 Well then. I haven’t seen the new RoboCop remake, but it can’t possibly suck any more than this one-shot tie-in does. To Live and Die in Detroit is one of the lamest comics I’ve read in years – it’s poorly written, poorly drawn, and left absolutely no lasting impression on me whatsoever. The new Daft Punk-looking RoboCop investigates a child slavery ring, involving idiotic cops, an idiotic main villain, and the title character acting like the biggest idiot of all. Few things galls me quite like plot-driven stupidity, and there isn’t a single character in this comic who isn’t required to be incredibly incompetent for the story to work.

 This is a comic where a villain tattoos his initials on his child slaves, so he can be instantly identified. It’s a comic where a dirty cop unironically calls RoboCop “bro”, before RoboCop threatens to taze him in the crotch. It’s a comic where writer Joe Harris didn’t even bother to look up whether “Kim” was a character’s first or last name. All in all, this was one of the laziest productions I’ve seen in years, and not even the creative teams’ immediate families should waste their money on it.

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All-New X-Men #23

“The Trial of Jean Grey pt. 3”

Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Stuart Immonen (artist). Covers by Immonen and Dale Keown.

 This month’s issue of All-New X-Men finds us smack-dab in the middle of a crossover with Marvel’s most unlikely movie stars-to-be, the Guardians of the Galaxy. Finally, someone has answered the burning question of what happens when you take a bunch of time-displaced teenage mutants and stick them on a spaceship with a talking tree, an angel in a metal bikini and Rocket Raccoon. Okay, maybe that was a question only I would ever ask, but it’s still a pretty cool pairing.

 Because apparently the broadcast signals of Minority Report’s HBO debut just hit Shi’ar space, the Imperium has shown up and abducted young Jean Grey, to stand trial for crimes that her future self will someday commit. In the past. And it wasn’t actually her, it was the Phoenix Force in her form, while the real Jean Grey was in suspended animation at the bottom of a lake. But then she later was – will be? – the Phoenix Force’s host. And she died, and came back, but then changed it so she stayed dead, and… you know what, I’ll leave it to wiki editors to make sense of Jean Grey’s continuity.

 Back to the issue at hand, this series continues to be a solid read every month, with witty dialogue, excellent artwork, and in this case, a very intriguing cliff hanger ending involving a meeting of characters that I hadn’t expected to see, but in hindsight is an obvious – though brilliant – idea. Between this book and Guardians of the Galaxy, “The Trial of Jean Grey” is well worth your time.

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ImageX-Force #1

“Offensive Acts”

Simon Spurrier (writer), Rock-He Kim (artist). Covers by Kim, Kate Cook and Phil Noto.

 Given that two relatively good series (Cable and X-Force and Uncanny X-Force) were cancelled and merged to create this new title, it’s rather astounding that the end result could be so utterly execrable. “Offensive Acts” lives up to its title by thoroughly insulting my intelligence as a reader.

 Where to start? The “new direction” promised by this relaunch sees X-Force acting as a black ops mutant strike team, a hoary old cliché that is laughably presented as a novel premise. In addition to members of the last two concurrent X-Force teams, this issue introduces Marrow to act as a point-of-view character, a curious choice given that she’s easily one of the least interesting or likable characters in the Marvel Universe. Even more irritating is Simon Spurrier’s inexplicable decision to have Fantomex communicate exclusively in an obnoxious Early-Nineties Gambit/Pepé Le Pew faux-French accent. Not even the artwork can save this title, as Rock-He Kim’s static, lifeless artwork just adds to the overall feeling of mediocrity.

 There is absolutely no reason for this comic to exist, and unless you are an absolute die-hard X-Force fan, AND you’re still mentally trapped in the year 1992, your time and money would be better spent almost anywhere else.

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Coffin Hill #5

“Newness of the Night”

Caitlin Kittredge (writer), Inaki Miranda (artist). Cover by Dave Johnson.

 Coffin Hill is a moody, atmospheric story about witchcraft and murder, and the seedy underbelly hiding just beneath the façade of a typical small town in New England. It’s basically a cross between the films The Craft and Blue Velvet, with a smattering of the Silent Hill games thrown in for good luck. And although this type of story isn’t exactly my cup of tea, it’s a solid first outing in the comics field from novelist Caitlin Kitteredge.

 One minor complaint though- can we officially retire the old cliché of a killer unwittingly revealing themselves to the cops by mentioning the one detail in a murder that was withheld from the public? I know, that’s the pivotal plot point for something like half of all thriller books and movies (and about ninety percent of all episodes of CSI), and it’s so ingrained in narrative convention that it’s almost inescapable. It still makes me roll my eyes, though – surely, there’s some more original way to have your villain reveal themselves.

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Smallville: Alien #9 (Digital Comic)

Bryan Q. Miller (writer), Edgar Salazar (artist). Cover by Cat Staggs.

 I’ve looked at a lot of different comics over the past few months, but one thing I haven’t touched on until now is DC’s line of week digital series. Designed for iPads and other e-readers, these digital comics are shorter than their paper counterparts (the digital issues are eventually reprinted three-to-an-issue in physical form), and priced at a reasonable ninety-nine cents a pop. That’s the theory, anyways – I find the whole experience somewhat unsatisfying. Call me a luddite, but I just don’t see the appeal.

 Alien is a continuation of the world created for the Smallville television series, which is most noteworthy for having the worst version of Superman this side of Man of Steel, a whinging and mopey putz who is outclassed by literally every other hero he comes across. This issue sees Superman and Lex Luthor on the run from a rogue Monitor, while Batman (who was absent from the show due to licensing issues, but was introduced in previous Smallville comics) investigates the death of a Clark Kent lookalike. And at the equivalent of about seven pages of story, that’s really all there is to say. If you’re a hardcore Smallville fan, you can pick up the back issues and follow this story weekly until it wraps up next month – personally, I’ll be saving my loonies for something better.

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Green Lantern Corps #28

“The Hunt”

Van Jensen (writer), Bernard Chang (artist). Covers by Chang and Howard Chaykin.

 Green Lantern Corps is probably the most impenetrable comic series on the racks today, written for hardcore fans of the Green Lantern mythos, but completely inaccessible to newer readers. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but unless you can tell off hand the difference between Maro, Morro and Mogo, this probably isn’t the book for you

 “The Hunt” sees John Stewart and a team of deputized former villains tracking down former Green Lantern operative Von Daggle, to recruit him in the war against his people, the shape-changing Durlans. The most notable thing about this comic is the unique coloring job, which sees some panels done in only black, white and red. From a creative standpoint, I’m not sure why it was done in the first place, but at least it’s something out of the ordinary.

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