New(ish) Comic Reviews! (3-1-14)

ImageA+X #17

Jeff Loveness and Gerry Duggan (writers), Paco Diaz and David Yardin (artists). Cover by Diaz.

 Once the bloom was off the rose for Marvel’s post-Avenger vs. X-Men “Heroic Age”, the appeal of A+X for me quickly became its pairings of characters who you would never ordinarily see together, a perfect example being this issue’s teaming of Iron Man and the Jean Grey School student Broo. The story does a fantastic job of capturing what makes both characters unique, and does a great job exploring Iron Man’s need to control the world, and Broo’s wide-eyed excitement at the world around him. Moreover, it’s just a fun story, which provides some hearty laughs, most of them at the expense of resurrected super-villain team The Chessmen.

 The back up story, an ongoing serial teaming Cyclops and Captain America is a bit weaker. It’s cool to see a group as obscure as Cadre K featured prominently in 2014 – they’re a group of Skrull mutants that hung out with Professor X for a few months almost fifteen years ago, in case you were wondering – but other than that, there’s very little about this one that drew me in. Still, the lead story is strong enough on its own to warrant a recommendation from me, so if you’re so inclined, give it a shot.

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Simpsons Comics #209

“American History F”

Tom Dougherty (writer), Rex Lindsey (artist). Cover by Jason Ho.

 A common criticism of the Simpsons television series is that the show has long since lost its creative spark, that the counter-culture rebelliousness of the early seasons has long since been dulled to empty and toothless satire. Whether that’s a valid complaint or not in regards to the show, it could easily be applied to the latest issue of Simpsons Comics, which is somewhat of a disjointed mess.

 

 As you might expect from the Citizen Kane-esque cover, “American History F” eventually features Grandpa Simpson going into politics, but Lord does it ever take a circuitous route to get there. The issue starts with Bart playing a typical prank, leads to Springfield going bankrupt and firing all its teachers, which results in Grandpa Simpson becoming a history teacher, followed by the students of Springfield Elementary going on a trivia game show, before Grandpa is finally lured away to lead a Tea Party analogue led by the Rich Texan. There are a lot of potentially funny premises there, but because of the lack of focus, the story lurches from one concept to the other without ever really drawing out any of the potential humour. As a result, the entire affair is unsatisfying, and a good bit of ammunition for those that would argue that the entire Simpsons franchise should have been euthanized years ago.

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He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #10

“What Lies Within pt. 4”

Dan Abnett (writer), Michael S. O’Hare (artist). Cover by Pop Mhan.

 I’m a bit too young to hold much nostalgia for the Masters of the Universe franchise – growing up, I knew a few kids who collected the toys, but I never had any of my own, and I only ever watched the cartoon a handful of times. As such, everything in this comic feels rather silly.

 Chapter four of “What Lies Within” finds He-Man and his allies trapped in the underworld, battling demons, unearthly storms, and chthonic serpent men. If you’re about five years older than me and were raised on Saturday morning cartoons, you’ll probably eat all this up, but personally, between the Snake Men and the faux-Shakespearean dialogue, I’d rather just strip out the science fiction elements and reread old issues of Conan the Barbarian.

 I will say this, though – I like He-Man’s new costume. Not that you’d have to do much to improve on his original “homoerotic Nazi” look, but the new look has a nice design and color scheme, and has just enough classic elements incorporated to still feel familiar, even without the furry brown El Gigante speedo.

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Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #10

Kevin Shinick (writer), Marco Checchetto (artist and cover).

 As we approach the return of Peter Parker, one of Otto Octavius’ (presumed) last outings as Spider-Man is set to be a showdown with the Green Goblin. This issue concludes the Goblin’s opening salvo, as the Superior Spider-Man, Daredevil and the Punisher face off against the treacherous Spider-Patrol, who have been armed with the weapons and accoutrements of Spidey’s deadliest enemies.

 There’s a lot to enjoy about this comic. I like Octavius’ descent into growing paranoia as the life he carefully crafted begins to crumble around him. I like that Daredevil clearly knows that something is wrong with Spider-Man, but he can’t quite bring himself to doubt his own superhuman senses. I like any comic that has the Punisher flying around on a Goblin Glider. It’s a well-writen, well-drawn outing (though not the best edited, as the wrong creative team is credited on the cover, and the wrong cover artist is credited inside the book). Overall though, good work.

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Wonder Woman #28

“Icy France”

Brian Azzarello (writer), Cliff Chiang and Goran Sudzuka (artists). Covers by Chiang and J.G. Jones)

 Ever since the “New 52” relaunch started, one of DC’s consistently best books has been Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman. Under Azzarello’s purview, the series has served as a sweeping epic of divine politics and betray, centered around the scions of Zeus. Included among them are Wonder Woman (who learned that the story of her being formed from clay was a lie told to protect her), the implacable warrior the First Born, the manipulative mind-controller Cassandra, and a young baby named Zeke that Diana has sworn to protect. This issue sees the series-long story building to a climax, as Apollo and the First Born battle for control of Olympus, and Cassandra makes a move of her own by kidnapping another god.

 In addition to the excellent story, Wonder Woman is also one of the best looking comics on the shelf, thanks to the fantastic pencils of Cliff Chiang, working with assists from other excellent artists, like this month’s collaborator Goran Sudzuka. Chiang’s eye for design and visual pacing is superb, with pop-art elements reminiscent of Mike Allred or Paul Chadwick, brought together in a style that’s all his own. If you haven’t been reading Wonder Woman, you’re really missing out on an absolute gem.

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New Warriors #1

Christopher Yost (writer), Marcus To (artist). Covers by To, J. Scott Campbell, Chris Samnee and Skottie Young

 We wrap up this week with a look at Marvel’s latest attempt to bring back the New Warriors, and honestly, this one over delivered. My expectations for this series weren’t high going in, but I ended up having a lot of fun with this one.

 There’s a lot to take in with this issue, which reaches into some rather obscure corners of the Marvel Universe. Aside from the New Warriors themselves, and the characters set to imminently join the team (Sun Girl, the Scarlet Spider, Hummingbird and a new Namora), this comic also features the New Men, the Morlocks, some Atlanteans, Salem’s Seven, Hybrid, the High Evolutionary, and some new robot baddies (which bear a strong resemblance to Salvador Larroca’s redesign of the Living Laser, but that might be coincidental).

 It’s a lot to take in, but it personally reminded me of Avengers #1 from that series’ 1998 relaunch, which brought together every single former member of the team and threw a truckload of mythological monsters at them. That’s the issue that I always credit as the one that turned me into a serious, life-long comic collector, so anything that brings it to mind will probably be met with a wave of nostalgic glee. That said, even if I’m not the most objective judge of this comic, I’d still say it’s well worth checking out.

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