Thursday, May 12, 2016

Weekly Comic Pull #5: The Old 52 Edition

Welcome to this week's installment of WEEKLY COMIC PULL, where I go over all the new comics I'm reading this week, recommend new comics for you, and all in all, just nerd out for a bit. This week, we've got all sorts of neat things for you to check out as some of DC's long running series come to an end, some of Marvel's newer series find their footing, and everything else in between. Let's get started!

The Vision #7

Written by Tom King
Art by Michael Walsh

To get the gushing out of the way, the Vision is probably the best thing that Marvel is currently publishing right now. Probably one of the series I had the lowest expectations for when the All-New, All-Different Marvel was announced, Vision has quickly reached to the top of the list thanks to its tragic, heartbreaking, and very unique storytelling. This issue sees the situation for the Visions momentarily at peace, with most of the issue focusing on recapping the Vision's relationship with former Avengers teammate, and ex-wife, the Scarlet Witch, and it's an emotional rollercoaster. We don't get much in the present day, and everything that we go over is stuff that any long-time Avengers fan is already familiar with (Wanda's fake kids, Vision turning white, Wanda ending up with Wonder Man, ect.), but it's very well presented for any fans who are less familiar with Avengers history, or even just people like me who needed to brush up on their lore. The dialogue, which makes up pretty much all of the issue, is appropriately tender and endearing, which makes it heartbreaking when things start going wrong for the couple. The issue ends up coming full circle once it returns to the present day, an eerie cloud of familiarity hanging in the air, especially after a revelation that puts the series thus far into a whole new context. It's a series of secrets, sacrifice, and tragedy, and it's one that I don't hesitate to jump back into.

Tony's Score: 9/10

Darth Vader #20

Wrutten by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Larroca

This issue sees the start of a new arc, End of Games, and the resolution of a long running story in a very interesting fashion. For the last several issues, Vader has had to deal with a new handler, a wizened old Admiral who is very clearly aware that Vader has been up to something behind the scenes, making Vader's plans with Doctor Aphra all the more complicated. With this issue, after ending on a cliffhanger last issue promising that thread being resolved, it ends it in a way I didn't expect at all. When I got to that part, I expected Vader to have a new threat to contend with, a snake who was willing to throw Vader under the bus to forward his own ambitions. What I got instead was a chillingly real portrait of someone who genuinely believes in the ideals of the Empire and is willing to do anything to see them fulfilled, no matter the cost. It's a move that, without spoiling, actually makes me respect this guy a lot more, and I think it makes Vader respect him a good deal as well. The rest of the issue is mostly taken up by a pretty great encounter between Vader and the Emperor in which the Emperor seemingly shows his hand, though to what extent, I'm not sure. It's a bit drawn out, but it does manage to tie together the last couple arcs as being part of Vader proving his worth to the Emperor. This, along with a particularly entertaining back-up story featuring Vader's droids, makes for a solid issue and a great start to a new arc.

Tony's Score: 8.5/10

Action Comics #52

Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Dale Eaglesham & Scott Eaton

And with this, comes to an end the second volume of the longest running comic in DC, and comics, history. With next month's issue, Action Comics returns to its original volume 1 numbering, bringing the era of the New 52 to an end (almost, anyways). And for what it is, this issue does manage to set up some very interesting threads for not only the conclusion of this arc with both Superman/Wonder Woman #29 next week and with Superman #52 the week after, but also threads for the upcoming DC Rebirth. To wit, this issue sees the first meeting between the two...or I suppose the three Supermen, as the case may be. Batman, Wonder Woman, and an ever-growing weaker Superman track down the energy being that is claiming to be Superman to a small house that it's taken Lois Lane to. And this house just so happens to be the home of a Clark White, which is in fact the house of Superman and Lois Lane from the Superman: Lois & Clark series, both of whom hail from the old pre-Flashpoint universe. If that's a bit confusing, you're not the only one who's a bit lost, as the characters ask these same questions. Unfortunately, the meeting is cut short by the doppleganger, who comes in a promptly wrecks shop. This issue is somewhat light on story, but what it does manage to establish firmly that Lois & Clark take place in this DC universe, For what it is, this may be the weakest issue of this series so far, but it's still fairly competent, and the camaraderie between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman is infectious. It sets up a great brawl between the Trinity and this mysterious interloper, and really, who doesn't like a good brawl every now and then?

Tony's Score: 8/10

Batman #52

Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Riley Rossmo

This is a strange issue. It reads as an attempt to out-do the heartfelt sendoff from last issue and really kinda comes off as milking it because they have one more issue left. This issue sees Batman after a new villain who's origin, motive, and admittedly impressive power set is brushed aside for an excuse to go back and show more of young Bruce dealing with his parent's deaths and to show Batman punching a guy in the face (and sometimes through the face thanks to intangibility powers). The flashbacks are based in a notebook Bruce kept listing things Bruce could accomplish. Leslie Thompkins, who recommended the idea, said it was meant to be a list of things he could do to get a grasp on his life again, to feel he has control. As one would expect, it's instead full of things that seemed impossible at the time, but he'd later be able to do as Batman. It's interesting, but at times a bit too tongue in cheek, and the reveal at the end, while a bit touching, comes off as fairly anticlimactic. The villain also gets really shafted. Despite having a suit that lets him phase through objects Vision-style, we get literally nothing about him. I really hope this isn't the last we see of him, because, for a first appearance, it was pretty lazy. Even the art is somewhat substandard. Riley Rossomo does her best, but the art comes off as a little too awkward. With how note perfect last issue's send-off for Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo was, it's disappointing to see that the first issue without them, and the last issue before DC Rebirth puts Tom King in the writer's chair, is so painfully mediocre in its execution when it clearly wanted to be a hopeful look at things to come, especially since I've seen James Tynion do good work on Batman before in Batman & Robin Eternal (despite how flawed that series was at the outset). With how consistent Batman's been for the last 5 years, and with Tom King coming off the Vision to write for the Caped Crusader, let's hope this is but a small bump in an otherwise smooth road ahead.

Tony's Score: 6.5/10

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #3

Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Hendry Prasetya

I don't think it's unfair to say that, in 3 issues, Boom Studios and Kyle Higgins have explored the characters of the Power Rangers in greater details than the show has in 15 seasons of television, and that's mainly down to how less forgiving a written/artistic medium is. Barring flashy art, you can't do much distracting of the reader to keep them from realizing how surface everything is, and fortunately, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers manages to keep from feeling like that by putting some real substance into their series. This issue continues the story of Tommy, the Green Ranger, still feeling the lasting effects of being controlled by the Rangers' arch nemesis, Rita Repulsa. Whereas in previous issues, it's caused him issues with hearing voices and being distracted on the battlefield, now, it's manifesting in literal hallucinations that are putting the team at risk, a team that already distrusts him, for the most part. Each of the Rangers are characterized surprisingly faithfully to their show counterparts, but just have those one-note personalities filled out with real human emotion and thought that you rarely see in the show. Even villain, Rita Repulsa, is far more clever and methodical than she'd ever been in the show, laying down plans that, so far anyways, seem to really be working. The idea of having her still have some kind of influence on the Green Ranger is great because it required the Power Rangers to become a real working team the hard way instead of the show's logic of "they're a good team because they're all Rangers" approach. The Yellow Ranger, Trini, gets some interesting interaction with Tommy in this issue, along with Zack, the Black Ranger, really showing how much lingering doubt the team still has for their former-enemy. Hendry Prasetya's art helps a lot, being grounded but colorful enough to really feel like an adaptation of the source material. Even if the writing far surpasses anything from the show, the visual style doesn't seem too far off from the original Saban creation. It's just an all around solid issue, and the epic fight set up at the end has the potential to get really interesting. This time, it really is Morphin' Time!

Tony's Score: 8/10

Silk #8

Written by Robbie Thompson
Art by Tana Ford

Another month, another issue of Silk illustrated by Tana Ford. Oh well, at least it's a bit more understated this time. What isn't understated is the weird poles of this issue. This might be the worst issue of both this crossover and of Silk so far, but it's weirdly not even Silk's own fault. What really wears on me is the continued bad blood between Silk and Spider-Gwen, something I've never really understood. It's not a relationship that ever really felt like it was grounded in some kind of real difference and feels at times like artificial drama. The good stuff is what's actually going on plot-wise. Having returned to Earth-616, Silk finds that her alternate Earth-65 self has gone on a brutal crime spree in a fake Silk costume, pinning all the blame on our Silk. Worse yet, Mockingbird, who had previously been helping Silk work for Black Cat as a double agent in exchange for S.H.I.E.L.D. tracking down Silk's parents falls for this, meaning that now S.H.I.E.L.D. is after her too. This is actually pretty interesting, since the couple of issues or so before this crossover have dealt with the idea of Silk potentially liking this darker side of herself that she shows off to get in with Black Cat's gang, as well as some underlying anger issues. This makes it far more plausible that Mockingbird would think Silk's finally gone off the deep end after being entrenched for so long. It's just a shame the weird Silk/Spider-Gwen dynamic has to drag it down, with Gwen unfairly blaming things on Silk, both incarnations. It seems wildly out of character, and without Jessica Drew, it's the majority of the interaction we get in the issue. Next week, speaking of Jess, we'll get more of her story, so hopefully, things will turn out better.

Tony's Score: 7/10

The Unbelievable Gwenpool

Written by Christopher Hastings
Art by Gurihiru

It's a bit of a mistake to compare Gwenpool to Deadpool, I think. While I haven't exactly read a ton of Deadpool comics, his sense of humor and his self-referential humor seem to run on a different bandwidth than Gwenpool's. The thrust of Deadpool's joke is that he knows he's a comic book character, but more that he knows he's fictional. Gwenpool, though, runs on the idea that this girl not only knows she's in a comic, but is someone who comes from a world where she was the reader, so she knows all these characters, all these situations, and all these places as fictional locations while she was always real. It may seem like a small difference, but it's one that makes all the difference in tone, and this series has done a great job of exploring that new angle. In a weird way, Gwenpool acts as an everyman (or woman) since she really only acts as wild as she does because she thinks that she can play by the rules of this universe. This issue shows just how wrong this line of thinking really is. In this issue, we see Gwenpool being forced into working for a seemingly-reformed MODOK, a job that brings her into conflict with Thor, which is where this unique humor comes from. It's funny when Gwenpool points out how Jane Foster is played by Natalie Portman because she, like us, has seen those movies and knows why that would be funny, and it works pretty effectively. Once again, and I will never stop gushing about this, but Gurihiru's art is perfect and adorable and it really gets across this air of grounded comedy. It's a perfect balance of attitude, and the joke towards the end about Thor and Natalie Portman comes off excellently. The story is the one part that it somewhat reminiscent of Deadpool, but with Gwenpool. it's the style that counts, and style is something this series has in spades.

Tony's Score: 8.5/10

Black Panther #2

Written by Ta-Nahishi Coates
Art by Brian Stelfreeze

With his first issue, Coates has shown that, if anything, he has a good grasp on not only who Black Panther should be, but what his role as both a superhero and a leader of a sovereign African nation should be. With this issue, Coates grounds Panther more significantly, while not losing sight of the larger socio-political implications. It's pretty heady stuff. As this issue opens, the situation in Wakanda is getting worse. The people increasingly believe that the Black Panther and his people have turned their back on them and are taking advantage of them, and two warrior women have begun to form a kind of revolution meant to free the people from the reign of the Panther. Overall, I think this is a fine issue. If anything, what I think is emerging is the idea that this might not be the kind of book for me. It's not bad, not in the slightest, but it's perhaps not the kind of heady topic I'm really used to or looking for. It's finely crafted, looks great, and flows well. So if it's your kinda thing, feel free to jump in. For me, it's probably not what I'm up for reading, hence the score.

Tony's Score: 7.5/10

Uncanny Inhumans #8

Written by Charles Soule
Art by Kev Walker

Of all the weird decisions that somehow ended up working, I wouldn't have pegged the relationship between Medusa and Johnny Storm to be among those. I'm honestly not sure how they thought of putting these two together, and I'm not entirely sure why it works, but it does and this issue turns out to be a great start of what I hope is an interesting arc. This issue finds Medusa and Johnny trapped under a crumbling building saying their last words and reflecting on how they ended up together before they probably end up dying. Most of the issue is told in flashbacks, telling not only how Storm ended up with Medusa, but also how he became the human liaison to New Attilan. What's interesting about the latter in particular is it speaks directly to the absence of the other members of the Fantastic Four, with Ben Grimm in space and with Sue and Reed having gone after the events of Secret Wars. It doesn't exactly address what happened to those two from the Torch's perspective (readers of Secret Wars #9 know what ACTUALLY happened to them), but regardless, it does tell us that Johnny was something of a wreck after they left. The relationship is somewhat sped through, which is somewhat irksome, but the dialogue we get between them, both in flashback and in the present, sells their relationship for me, especially since they don't hesitate to bring up both Medusa's responsibilities and Storm's former relationship with Medusa's sister, Crystal. All in all, it's a solid issue with a great ending that I hope gets proper payoff next month, especially with Civil War II right around the corner.

Tony's Score: 8/10

Guardians of the Galaxy #8

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Valerio Schiti

And in this week's installment of Let's Start A Story That'll Probably Come Together Rushed At the End, we have Guardians of the Galaxy. I mentioned last issue how these issues are all pairing off members of the Guardians with each other, and it's in this issue that we get a look at why. It would seem that the Guardians are trying to rescue someone (who exactly, they don't mention despite the Thing and Venom asking several dozen times).This issue is mainly just fun because Venom can't understand a word Groot is saying. Everything else is interesting, but doesn't end up really going anywhere. We meet a group of imprisoned Skrulls, a group that had just happened to have been a part of the Secret Invasion some years ago who had tried to kill Venom, and we get an interesting set-up where he and Groot have to work with them to accomplish their mission, but it's too early to really say it's compelling. It's an okay issue. I really wish I had more to say about it.

Tony's Score: 7/10

And that brings this week's pull list to a close. As always, let me know what you're reading. Are you reading anything good? What's your favorite new comic this week? Let me know in the comments below, and I'll see you next week.

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