Friday, August 5, 2016

Weekly Comic Pull #14: All the World is Waiting

Welcome to this week's installment of the Weekly Comic Pull, where I go over everything I've been reading in the world of comics. This week, we'll be pulling double duty, as I figured, seeing as this week was short enough, I could do an extra large pull with a more interesting smattering of things. So, without further adeu, let's start off with something a bit more off the beaten path...

The Hellblazer Rebirth #1

Written by Simon Oliver
Art by Moritat

To start off, I've never actually read a Hellblazer or John Constantine comic before, so this issue is a perfect test balloon for seeing how effective these Rebirth issues seem to be for new audiences. And, for the most part, it does do good job at introducing the general tone of what the Hellblazer comic is going for. It's just a tad unfortunate that the story told here is a bit lackluster, though that's understandable given what they have to work with. This issue has Constantine returning to his home country of England, despite being told never to come back by an evil demon who has threatened to curse him if he should do so. As you can guess, Constantine has a plan to weasel his way out of it, and the journey to find out what that is is fairly interesting on its own. We learn a lot about the kind of guy Constantine is (not a very nice one), and we get a lot of reason to come back. The narrative is perhaps a bit lackluster, though. We don't get enough of who this demon is and why he has such a grudge against Constantine to ever really feel he's a threat. That being said, the narrative never really breaks down heavily, and it's good enough to work our way through the issue, as well as to introduce a character who, seemingly, is going to play a role in the upcoming series. It's a neat issue. Constantine himself is the big take away, and he's going to be our guide in a supernatural adventure (along with Swamp Thing, who's role in this is incredibly minor), that's alright with me.

Score: 7.5/10

Insexts #6

Written by Margueritte Bennett
Art by Ariela Kristantina

As this arc nears its climactic end, Insexts stumbles a bit trying to set up what I think will end up being quite a thrilling climax. In this issue, Lady Bertram, her lover, and one of Lady Bertram's close friends sneak their way into the brothel that serves as the lair for the evil Hag who's been stalking the streets of London while using the guise of a brothel owner as her cover. What's perhaps more disappointing is that this issue feels a bit too short for its own good. What SHOULD feel like something of an intimate dance feels a little more like a short detour before the real action begin. We get bits and pieces of the inner workings of the brothel, and even a bit of backstory for the Hag herself, but it all feels a bit like it's just killing time. Kristantina's art makes the place look beautiful, but surprisingly, while past issues have never shied away from the nudity (past issue have had a LOT of full frontal nudity and sex, in fact), this issue surprisingly stays away from that, which I suppose makes sense when the issue is trying to humanize the prostitutes as victims under the Hag's reign. The issue ends with Lady Bertram left in a grim spot, teasing the battle ahead. It's not exactly a great issue, but it also feels like a bit of a formality. Something that doesn't feel like it will be the norm, and, with luck, it won't be. 

Score: 7.5/10

Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat #8

Written by Kate Leth
Art by Brittney L. Williams

Ya know, for the most part, I've been making a point at avoiding Civil War II. Mainly because I've become incredibly frustrated with the willingness that Marvel has shown to completely disregard the current status quo before they've even really established a status quo for a meaningful amount of time. Which, I think, speaks wonders to the amount of confidence I have in Patsy Walker writer, Kate Leth, to be able to have a tie in without utterly upending what this book is all about, and surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly considering how much I like this series), she managed the task. This issue deals with the aftermath of the initial battle between the heroes and Thanos at the start of Civil War II, an event that left one of Patsy's closest friends, She-Hulk, in critical condition. Much of this issue decides to eschew any real connection to the conflict at hand and serve as Patsy reflecting on her friendship with She-Hulk, showing us why She-Hulk has been such a major character in this entire series, and probably the most important of her supporting cast. It's a heartwarming issue, especially since it confirms what has been somewhat vague since Civil War II began, that being the actual status of She-Hulk herself. I gotta admit, my heart lept for joy a bit at the fact that she didn't die, and even by the end of the issue, she's still alive, albeit in a coma. It's an issue that doesn't let the tie-in to an overblown and overhyped event take away from the real heart in the series, and it might be one of the series' best issues yet.

Score: 9/10

Superman #3

Written by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Art by Jorge Jimenez

This and the recent story arc in Action Comics serve to very succinctly contrast each other, I think. Whereas the Path of Doom story in Action Comics seems to very much be sacrificing any story progress on the altar of the Death of Superman, this story instead chooses to use one of the most recognizable pieces of that story, the Eradicator from Reign of the Supermen, as a way to drive its story and provide an emotional gut punch. In this issue, Superman and Lois Lane have traveled to the Fortress of Solitude to try to figure out why their son, Johnathan, seems to have somewhat inconsistent powers and durability where he's sometimes invulnerable but sometimes able to get a concussion from falling out of a tree. But instead, the trio finds this universe's Eradicator, a being whose purpose is to eliminate any non-Kryptonian material from any Kryptonian being...including the human half of Superman's son. What I find interesting is that this Superman really earnes his stripes by being a little too trustful to this new Eradicator. Despite his experience with a different Eradicator, Superman grants the being a bit of trust after it saves Johnathan and Lois. But, this being the Eradicator, that trust soon turns to be in vain, and in the resulting struggle, easily the most heartwrenching moment of the series happens. And Superman's reaction, as well as Johnathan's, is priceless. The final page follows up the emotional gut punch with probably one of the most powerful images in the entire run so far. Tomasi and Gleason handle the pacing of this story with a fine touch, and Jorge Jimenez brings the emotion to each panel, especially towards the end. 

Score: 9.5/10

Batman #3

Written by Tom King
Art by David Finch

In this issue, we gets a proper introduction to the two new superheroes in town, Gotham and Gotham Girl. We also get a peek into just why they do what they do, and how Batman fits into all of this. To that end, we get the story of a young man and his sister who were inspired after surviving a close encounter with a mugger, one that ended with the Batman saving them and imprinting his image in their minds for the rest of their lives. The extended flashback to seeing just how they became who they are today is probably one of the most fascinating elements of this series so far, and the ambiguity that it leaves as to how these two got their powers makes it all the more intriguing. I imagine the reasons will be revealed in time, but for now, they're a tantalizing mystery for the story ahead. The rest of the story does a great job of showing what kind of relationship Gotham and Gotham Girl have with Batman, with Batman serving as a great mentor figure for them. The issue ends with the reintroduction of one of Batman's oldest foes, as well as a classic DC villain who had been missing for quite some time, and who can only mean bad things to come. 

Score: 9/10

Justice League #1

Written by Bryan Hitch
Art by Tony S. Daniel

Something is attacking Earth, and it's up to the Justice League to save humanity and to figure out what exactly they're up against! This issue can be summed up in a single sentence, but the way Hitch and Daniel pull it off works wonders. This attack is on a global scale, and one that results in earthquakes shaking the very Earth, meaning that all the members of the League get their moments in this book. Cyborg gets to stop a speeding train with a callback to his background in football, the Flash is seen doing his best to keep up with all the destruction, Aquaman gets to save Atlanteans who are also affected by the quakes, the Green Lanterns get to save entire cities, Wonder Woman takes on a brigade of tanks, and Superman...well, Superman does his best wherever he can. It's an issue with less fighting and more saving, and it's a testament to Hitch's writing that he can make that as engrossing as fighting super villains, which it looks like we'll get to soon. If there's anything to really complain about, it's the art. Tony Daniel, for the most part, does a great job, but there's one too many times that I feel like his art is somewhat under-detailed for the scope he's going for. Because of that, some of the faces end up looking pretty wonky. It hardly diminishes an overall exciting issue, though.

Score: 9/10

Star Wars #21

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jorge Molina

THESE are the kind of stories that I like to see Star Wars tell. I'm as big a fan of the "good vs. evil, Luke vs. Vader" type stories as anyone else, but the stories in this universe that interest me the most are the ones that get skimmed over in the films. In this issue, we follow a squad of elite Stormtroopers in charge of clearing out a group of rebels on the battlefield, led by a new commanding officer with a few secrets and one or two tricks up his sleeve. In principle, we shouldn't be rooting for these guys. They're working for the Empire, which is run by the evil with a capital E Emperor. And yet, when you hear the commander tell his story about how he became a Stormtrooper and why he does what he does, it's surprisingly easy to find yourself rooting for them. Especially when he whips out his...well, I wouldn't want to spoil it. In doing so, we get a story that shares more in common with Band of Brothers than it does with Empire Strikes Back, and it's amazing that we can tell these kind of stories. Jorge Molina's guest art is fantastic, and is as dark as this story needs to be. By the end, I wanted a full story arc of this. Hell, I'd easily jump on board a Stormtroopers miniseries. This issue was too good to let this idea go to waste. Take note, Marvel, you have a gold mine here.

Score: 9.5/10

Darth Vader #23

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Larroca

As the series inches closer to its conclusion, Vader finds himself with his back against the wall, while Doctor Aphra makes a last ditch effort to survive. Everything is leading to one final confrontation. This is the beginning of the end. In this issue, Vader has narrowly survived his ship crashing headlong into another, and is making his way to the one man he needs to take out to save the Emperor's ship. The fighting is tense, the art is gorgeous, and the tension is palpable. And while that's going on, Doctor Aphra has managed to avoid being murdered at the hands of Beetee and Triple Zero, but if she wants to make it out alive, she has to make one final gambit. It makes me nervous, because Aphra is a character who I've grown to like so much that I fear for her life as we hurdle towards the penultimate issue of this excellent series. Kieron Gillen has shown himself to be a master at this kind of tense storytelling, and I eagerly await to see what kind of grand finale he has planned for the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Score: 9.5/10

Green Lanterns #3

Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Tom Derenick, Robson Rocha, Jack Herbert, & Neil Edwards

Before we go any further, no, I have no clue why the art credit on this one is so long. It's not even that there's any art style changes in this, it's actually kinda bizarre that so many artists did pencil work for this. Anyhow, the biggest problem with this issue is unrelated to the art, mainly because it's about how blindingly obvious it is which of our two leads Sam Humphries seems to favor over the other. Humphries seems to be far more interested in writing a Simon Baz solo series than he is writing a team book with him and Jessica Cruz, because he seems to be going out of his way to make Baz cooler and in the right more often than Jessica, who is just made to look like she has no clue what she's doing. And, to be fair, Cruz' arc is that she's still learning, but as she points out, Baz is about as new as she is, and while she hasn't even been able to make a construct yet, she seems to be far more bumbling than she should be. Aside from that, not much really happens in this issue other than a possibly interesting moment where Baz manages to "cure" a Red Lantern of her rage and frees her from the ring, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, it's used as little more than to (again) show how inexperienced Jessica is, and it's over about as quickly as it came. The stakes don't feel very real, and this series is quickly losing my interest. At this point, I'm unsure if I should continue, but if I do, I hope this series can pull itself by the bootstraps for the climax of this story. 

Score: 6/10

Wonder Woman #3

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Liam Sharpe

This MIGHT be the best thing Rebirth has put out so far. I'm not sure. Superman is in the running for that, but probably the BEST decision DC editorial has made is get Greg Rucka back on Wonder Woman, because he's delivering some of the best storytelling in Rebirth thus far and some of the best writing at DC in YEARS. This issue is the continuation of "The Lies," the story begun in #1. In this issue, Wonder Woman has tracked Cheetah down to a remote part of the African jungle, seeking her help in finding her way back home after the path to Themyschera has been lost to her. Unfortunately, Cheetah has her own problems, being chased by a demented monster who hunts her for sport and who has cursed her with a hunger for human flesh. The resulting struggle between Diana and Cheetah, culminating in a moment where Diana tries to get at whatever humanity remains within Cheetah, is easily one of the most emotionally powerful moments in the Rebirth line so far. Liam Sharpe's art accentuates every panel. Diana and Cheetah both look amazing, with every line of muscle and sinew establishing them as a powerful presence in this story. The jungle itself also looks amazing in this book, and the action is so dynamic and fluid that you lose yourself in the pages. Meanwhile, in the other story, we see Steve Trevor's unit finding themselves way in over their head trying to protect a small African village. It's a small development, but it's just enough to string the story along without losing it. The story never leaves the focus on Diana, though, and it's more than worth it. DO NOT make the mistake of missing out on this series. Greg Rucka is doing some of the best work on this book in the entire DC Rebirth line, and some of the best work at DC in years period.

Score: 10/10

Old Man Logan #9

Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino

This is a tough issue to review because it's so good but it also kinda feels like a missed opportunity. This issue features Logan's return to Japan, seeking Lady Deathstrike out for revenge for her attack on the small Alaskan town Logan was staying at during the Bordertown arc. Once he arrives, though, he finds more than he bargained for waiting for him. All the while, we get flashbacks to his original timeline when he met his wife and tried to escape by fleeing to, of all places, Japan. Probably the thing I was most disappointed in was the lack of any real vintage Japanese samurai style in it. Logan doesn't even get to fight ninjas, at least not yet. If anything, that does offer a bit of potential for later. Without spoiling, the stage is set for things to get way more stylish going forward. The flashbacks are quite tender, and the action is bloody good fun. In a series known to be quite heavy, this issue wasn't quote as dark as usual. Andrea Sorrentino delivers some great art as usual, and I'm especially excited to see her art once this arc really gets under way.

Score: 8/10

Detective Comics #937

Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Alvaro Martinez

The latest issue of Detective Comics offers a grim and chilling view at what happens when the techniques of one of the greatest heroes in the DC universe fall into the wrong hands. In this issue, Batman has been captured by the Colony, a military group that has modeled themselves after the Caped Crusader himself, and a group run by none other than General Kane, Batwoman's own father. Most of this issue consists of background on the Colony itself, getting some insight into how it works and why. Tynion expertly handles this, as Batman is relegated to the silent predator that we don't get as often in the comics, especially recently. We also get to meet a character who could be described as a twisted Batman fanboy, which really offers an interesting viewpoint to the Batman. The kid even has a picture that's identical to the cover of The Dark Knight Returns at his desk. It's an interesting issue that raises some interesting questions about the Batman, his role in society, and whether or not it's ethical to use the kind of force in real life combat situations. The end sets up a decisive battle for the fate of Gotham, and perhaps the world, so I'm eager to see what happens. 

Score: 8/10

Uncanny Avengers #11

Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Pepe Larraz

As an old school Avengers fan, it really does my heart good to see a classic-feeling Avengers story in Uncanny. In this issue, we get to see the fallout from the reveal that Ultron and Hank Pym have merged into one single (evil) being who seeks vengeance on the Avengers for abandoning him in space. Most of this issue is straight forward, no holds barred action. We get to see the entire team, joined by a few special guests, take on the returned Ultron in a great fight that just keeps getting bigger up until the very last few panels which ends with a great teaser for a fight between Ultron and the Hulkbuster. Story's not really much of a concern other than an interesting idea that this isn't Ultron having taken over Pym, but Ultron and Pym having harmonized as one. Other than that, this is an issue all about the fighting, and it most certainly pulls that off well. Pepe Larraz turns in some of his best panels in this entire series, and sets up perfectly the grand finale to this, easily the best arc of Uncanny Avengers so far.

Score: 8.5/10

That's gonna do it for me, this week, folks. As always, let me know what you're reading. Are you as wild about the new Wonder Woman as I am? What did you think of Star Wars? Are you still reading Green Lanterns? Let me know in the comments below, and I'll see you next time!

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