New Comic Reviews! (9-4-14)

All-New Invaders 9

All-New Invaders #9

“Death-Locked! pt. 2”

James Robinson (writer), Steve Pugh (artist). Cover by Michael Komarck.

 When I looked at the first issue of All-New Invaders back in February, I came down rather hard on James Robinson – residual distaste from Cry for Justice and all that. At this point though, I’m more than willing to concede that his work on this book has been pretty damned great. Robinson has always been at his best when he’s given the opportunity to delve deep into established continuity and blend the classic with the contemporary, which anyone who read Starman or Golden Age can attest to. Playing to his strengths,  All-New Invaders is a title that’s richly steeped in the history of the Marvel Universe, from its very earliest days right up to the present. What really gets me though is the special attention paid to the wackiness of Marvel’s mid-1970s cult-classics – not only do we get Deathlok the Demolisher here, the issue ends with a revelation that’s set to introduce none other than Killraven(!) to the plot.

 At the same time, this is a story set squarely in the present day Marvel Universe. Major events like Infinity and Inhumanity are touched on, but instead of dominating and detracting from the story, Robinson folds them in organically, adding depth to the world that he’s developing and exploring. He manages the difficult trick of balancing the main characters’ complex histories with one another, without allowing their past to bog things down. In Robinson’s eyes, the Invaders aren’t an official team of any sort – they’re a fraternity, incontrovertibly bonded to one another by their shared experiences.

 This is an action-heavy issue, well served by Steve Pugh’s dynamic visual design, and some absolutely fantastic fight scenes. I’ve always tended to enjoy Pugh’s work, but when you just step back and compare his All-New Invaders pages to his work on, say, Animal Man, or Hotwire – also great, but miles apart stylistically – his versatility is nothing short of incredible.

 If I have anything to nitpick about this book, it’s that it seems counterintuitive to do a big Luther Manning Deathlok story so soon after Marvel introduced a brand new Deathlok (Henry Hayes) in Original Sins. It feels like a case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing – I’m not saying it’s Robinson’s fault or anything, but it seems like a strange choice, if only from an editorial strand point. That’s a very minor quibble though, and if that’s the biggest thing I can find to complain about this book, that’s just a greater testament to how great of a job Robinson and Pugh are doing.

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Sinestro 5

Sinestro #5

“The Demon Within”

Cullen Bunn (writer), Dale Eaglesham (artist). Cover by Rags Morales.

 In the aftermath of his battle against the Pailing, Sinestro now has to deal with his arch-frienemy, Hal Jordan. Unfortunately for Jordan, things have changed with Sinestro as of late – he’s more powerful and driven than we’ve ever seen before. And now that Sinestro has devoted himself to shepherding the last surviving members of his race – a people that hate him for his former dictatorial rule over them – Jordan and the other Green Lanterns opposing Sinestro and his Corps face a moral quandary that won’t be solved through fists and power rings alone.

 This has been a very well-written series so far, which does a great job of making the reader empathize with Sinestro, despite his Machiavellian, supervillainy tendencies. I love that since this is Sinestro’s book, Hal Jordan is portrayed as being just that little bit more obnoxious than usual – it’s subtle, but you can feel the smarmy arrogance peeking through, the self-satisfaction, the holier-than-though attitude. He’s like the DC Universe’s John Cena.

 Even before I knew anything of the storyline, this book was an easy sell for me, based solely on the art team involved. Dale Eaglesham is one of the most underappreciated artists in DC’s stable, and when he’s switching off issues with a big name like Rags Morales, you already know going in that this book is going to be gorgeous. And it is – from the space-bound slugfests to the quiet but tense conversations, everything Eaglesham draws has a kinetic energy to it, and when he finally lets loose with a big Parallax double-page spread near the end, he completely hits it out of the park.

 As the first story arc draws to a close, My only concern with Sinestro is that I’m worried that the book won’t maintain the momentum needed to sustain itself as an ongoing series. Next month starts a six part storyline involving the New Gods, which will dictate whether this title continues its rise as one of DC’s better under-the-radar series, or if interest will fall off, and we’ll see yet another early cancellation. Fingers crossed, folks.

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Doctor Who The Tenth Doctor 2

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #2

“Revolutions of Terror”

Nick Abadzis (writer), Elena Casagrande with Paolo Villanelli (artist). Covers by Casagrande, Alice X. Zhang, Rob Farmer and Arianna Florean.

 It’s been less than two weeks since the newest series of Doctor Who premiered, but for fans who still miss David Tennant, Titan Comics is here to hook you up, with this brand new series starring the Tenth Doctor. Trapped on a subway car with a Hispanic girl and her scary-ass monster doppelganger, the Doctor’s latest escapade finds him repelling yet another extra-dimensional invasion, this time by an army of invisible bug aliens that feed on people’s fears.

 “Revolution of Terror” isn’t really breaking any new ground, and at times the Doctor feels a little out of character – it seems very out of place for him to make a reference to something like the Ghostbusters films. Still, the Cerebravores are decent antagonists in the classic Doctor Who tradition – a friend of mine likened them to a scaled up version of the Vashta Nerada from the “Silence in the Library” serial, and that’s all that this book really needs. It’s marketed at pre-existing Doctor Who fans (I refuse to call them “Whovians”), and as long as you include a decent new threat for each story arc, and a convincing likeness of Tennant’s Doctor, those fans should be pleased easily enough.

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Batman Superman 11

Batman/Superman #13

“Eye of Satanus”

Greg Pak (writer), Jae Lee (writer). Covers by Lee, Ben Oliver and Dan Jurgens.

 Due to the machinations of the demonic Lord Satanus and the Apokoliptian trickster Kaiyo, Superman and Batman have been stripped of their memories – and in Superman’s case, his pants as well. Now they’re wandering through the usual chaos of Gotham City, which would be confusing enough, even before you throw in Catwoman, Lois Lane and a crazy mad scientist with an army of murder robots.

 Although using Batman and/or Superman to explore the issue of Nature versus Nurture is nothing new, Pak provides a decent enough spin on things. Both men clearly have an inborn instinct to act heroically, but can Superman still be Superman without the moral lessons instilled in him by Ma and Pa Kent? And what kind of hero can Batman be without the driving trauma of his parents’ murder?

 With the usual glut of Batman and Superman titles on the rack right now, the duo’s shared title is far from required reading, but it’s not bad, either. Pak’s story is just so decidedly middle-of-the-road that it leaves almost no impression on me. Jae Lee is always awesome, and I especially loved his cover this month, but does that justify spending your four dollars on Batman/Superman over any other half-way decent DC book? Not really – if you’re a completionist or a huge fan of the creative team, there’s nothing here that will offend you, and you might get more out of it than I did. Otherwise, this is a harmless but utterly skippable title.

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Catwoman 34

Catwoman #34

“Remote Life”

Ann Nocenti (writer), Patrick Olliffe (artist). Covers by Terry Dodson and Stephane Roux

 Hey, does anyone out there remember all those comics from the mid Nineties where people who didn’t really understand virtual reality or the internet would write stories about characters physically entering the World Wide Web? Remember how stupid they usually were? Well, Ann Nocenti has updated technological ignorance for the modern reader, only this time it’s in the form of a ludite’s view of online gaming. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Nocenti has never played World of Warcraft or Everquest or Ultima Online – if she has, she certainly doesn’t understand either the culture that’s developed among players of those kinds of games. That’s appropriate, I suppose, because Nocenti also doesn’t seem to really understand the process of videogame programming, or how 3D printers work, or the details of data encryptionw. Though to be fair, there’s at least one brief section without any glaring technical issues, that being when Catwoman picks up a club and starts smashing things like a Neanderthal.

 This entire book left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s the same old “look at the stupid nerds, they’re so socially awkward and neurotic” bullshit that was old hat decades ago. The tone to this book is right out of an 80s teen comedy, with Catwoman acting as Nocenti’s character-insert Biff Tannen. And maybe I’m being a bit harsh here, but when your villain shows up and he’s a pockmarked nerd in prosthetic elf ears, it comes across as being pretty goddamned condescending toward gamers. I’d be insulted, if the rest of the story wasn’t so terrible. As it is, I just want back the time I wasted reading this crap.

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Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Godstorm Hercules Payne 5

Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Godstorm: Hercules Payne #5

“The Watcher”

Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Pat Shand and Chuck Brown (writers), AC Osorio (artist). Covers by Paolo Pantalena, Eric J. and Vicenzo Cucca.

 Finally this week, we look at the last issue of a miniseries with a mouthful of a title. GFTPG:HP advances the brewing war between Zeus and Venus, as our hero with the kick-ass Blaxploitation name fights to face-punch his way through a bunch of criminal goons who kidnapped his girlfriend. If you’re a classic beat-‘em-up videogame player, this should all sound familiar… it’s basically the same plot as Double Dragon. And River City Ransom. And The Adventures of Bayou Billy. And Final Fight. And Super Mario Bros., come to think of it. Though in this case, the bad guys also murdered Hercules Payne’s brother, which is a slightly darker direction than the Mario games usually took.

 While there’s nothing really exceptional about GFTPG:HP, it’s a decent enough adventure story, set against the backdrop of a larger conflict. Once again I’m struck by how far Zenescope books have come from their early days of cheap T&A, broadening into one of the better fantasy/superhero setting in comics today. If you want to get a taste of what Grimm Fairy Tales is all about in 2014, this series is as good an entry point as any.

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