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The Flash #14 Review — December 24, 2012

The Flash #14 Review

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The Flash is doing everything I want it to, to be honest. It’s a superhero comic that is consistently fun to read that looks absolutely spectacular every issue and though the dialogue and over-arching plotlines aren’t anything the special the series benefits from expert pacing. My only real complaint is that the big showdown with Grodd doesn’t have as much gravitas as it should. There just isn’t the chemistry between hero and big bad here that there is between Batman and the Joker or any other historically brilliant superhero rivalry. And Gorilla Grodd is just that; He’s the big bad of the Flash’s world. He’s not bound by any honor-among-thieves like the Rogues. Grodd is a larger than life king mixed with a brutal savagery and while he has been suitably established as such thus far in the series there’s just nothing palpable between him and the Flash.

The already sizeable cast of this comic is expanded further as we find out about the Gorilla Solovar who appears to have been the same Gorilla that attacked Barry as a kid back in the flashback of issue 8. Turbine also gets more of a spotlight and to be honest I’m kind of hoping this guy turns into a recurring ally or villain of the Flash because he has a pretty cool backstory being a fighter pilot sucked into the speed force. It’s always entertaining to see the Rogues playing a heroic role and there’s even time to find out what Iris West has been up to (nothing interesting) and Patty Spivot finally learns Flash’s identity, which might inject some excitement into their vanilla relationship. All in all there’s a lot going on but I fear that Manapul is better at buildup than payoff. As we approach the big final punch-out between Flash and Grodd I realize that this is the climax the series has been building up to but the road here has been a lot more entertaining, paved as it was with Gorillas falling from the sky and fun banter from the Rogues.

Earlier I mentioned the pacing in the series and I stick by the idea that it’s the greatest strength of the writing. Francis Manapul has structured each issue so that it was an entertaining in and of itself but fed into a greater storyline, without either aspect detracting from the other. What we’re left with is something that many books in the New 52 envy; a product of world-building filled with challenges and allies for the protagonist. Frankly I think this is what should have been done across the board in the New 52, the Flash has almost his entire Rogues Gallery of villains with Zoom being the only major exception, and that is a lot more than books like Justice League can say, having used its 1+ year of content to encounter three whole antagonists.

Issue 14 isn’t the strongest issue but it’s entertaining and an important issue to a series that is worth sticking around for. If you want to see a truly great villain then do what everyone else is doing and go read Scott Snyder’s Batman – But for classic superhero fun I can’t see how you could do any better than the Flash.

8/10

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Teen Titans #14 Review —

Teen Titans #14 Review

Titans fans, this is the issue we’ve been waiting for. Finally Lobdell gives a hint of the kind of TT stories I want to read. The origin of wonder-girl arc, by far the best story arc in the Teen Titans so far, comes to a rather abrupt but all around satisfying conclusion. I’m not really reading to see how the story of Diesel ends seeing as he lacks substance as a character let alone a villain. The real reason to read this issue is seeing the interactions between DC’s junior trinity and seeing Kiran, Bart and Miguel just hanging out back home. Finally we get some believable teen writing in these three as they are just hanging out, out of costume. There’s also some foreshadowing to future plotlines with Kiran but who cares because these little hints always end up being unnecessary details that are covered later anyway. And man alive, there are so many little hints to other comics. We get plugs for Superman, Batman and Birds of Prey because that’s what happens when you have characters from the Super-family, Bat-family and Team 7 floating around.

The art by Alé Garza is, in retrospect, far more suited to Teen Titans than Brett Booth’s art. While I was originally a fan of Booth’s art it really fell apart when not doing blurry action scenes which frankly this series has had more than it’s fill of by now. Alé Garza’s more cartoonish style offers less realistic proportions but far more serviceable depictions of the Titans’ costumes and facial expressions. Superboy is back in his Super-tee & jeans look and though I liked his tron costume from earlier issues it makes sense that he’d drop it after leaving N.O.W.H.E.R.E and he looks a lot better in his usual outfit.

If I were to pick out one problem with this series it’s probably the fact that it hasn’t spent nearly enough establishing the team, meaning there’s no structure. These Titans have no Titans Tower, no specific roster, no credo, nothing binding them together other than the fact that the writers through them into a team together. And by the way, where the heck is Skitter? She disappeared while I snoozed through the bore-fest that was the Culling and no one’s even really made any attempt to find her. She had potentially the most interesting story of all!

I’m glad the book is doing some origins now but it really should have some time to settle down first and establish the team before it establishes the individuals. Who are the Titans, why are they hanging out together, what are the relationships? Who’s even in charge? What are their goals? Where’s that team member that went missing roughly five issues ago? What is their base of operations? Basically, I want to know what the Titans do besides just waiting around for another catastrophe to strike that they have to deal with. This series has already been derailed from these questions thanks to the Culling storyline and it’s about to happen again as Death of the Family is rearing it’s gargantuan head in the Titans world along with a Red Hood & the Outlaws crossover. I don’t know when this book is going to get a chance to take a breather and do some world-building but I hope it’s soon.

Either way, this is a solid issue on its own. If you need something to renew your faith that some good can come out of this series, pick up Teen Titans #14

8/10

Thor God of Thunder #1 Review — December 6, 2012

Thor God of Thunder #1 Review

Thor is a character whose potential is frequently under-utilized. Far too often is he reduced to merely a hammer-swinging meathead whose only purpose is to be thrown around in order to raise the stakes. Far too often it is forgotten that Thor is a magical space Viking who spends most of his leisure time cruising through the cosmos killing giant monsters and going to the ensuing parties where he impregnates all the women in the village/country/planet. Yeah, that’s awesome.

Marvel Now!’s new series dedicated solely to the Thunderer is much more on the mark, focusing on the magic and wonder of Thor’s world. We begin with foreshadowing in the form of a flashback to Thor’s younger days, in which he encountered a butchered god in the waters of Norway. The mystery of who or what exactly the “God Butcher” is gets left unanswered as we return to the present.

Here we see Thor answering the prayer of a young girl on an alien planet by ending a drought. This is a really cool scene. It’s always satisfying when writers realize that superheroes, especially a god like Thor, can accomplish a lot when they put their minds toward something instead of just waiting for the next apocalypse to show up at their door.

Moving on, Thor eventually is conveniently reminded of the flashback we just saw as he discovers the gods of this planet have been killed. Thor investigates the abandoned former home of these gods and there’s a weird scene where he goes totally Batman on us by inspecting the crime scene. Then again, I suppose Thor is sort of a hunter as well as a warrior – plus it’s nice to know there’s more to the guy than just being strong and gutsy. Thor totally goes looking for the God Butcher and finds some creepy monster thing and the issue ends with a flash-forward of Thor as an old man in a losing battle against the God Butcher and its forces, which raises the stakes for future issues pretty well.

All in all this issue plays with some interesting ideas. Its theme seems to be centred on gods and the roles they play in society, which I hope we see more of. There’s a sort of Neil Gaiman feel to it in that sense, albeit simplified. Speaking of which, there are some clumsily done parts. The theme is slightly heavy-handed as I’m pretty sure the writer uses the word “gods” so much that it had lost all meaning by the end. Similarly, the idea of the God Butcher is sort of weak. I can imagine writers thinking “What can be a believable threat to a bunch of gods?” and they came up with “How about something that kills gods?” And thus the God Butcher was born – it’s not the most inventive idea around and it feels like it’s been done a dozen times.

All in all, Thor God of Thunder has an ideal issue 1. It establishes the character and plays with some interesting ideas hinting at future story lines. Considering Thor is one of my favourite superheroes, I loved seeing him get reinstated as a classic character – This book definitely earns my recommendation.

8/10

FF #1 Review —

FF #1 Review

I was drawn to FF for two reasons – Matt Fraction and the whimsical cast of characters in the book(Scott Lang, She-Hulk, Medusa and “Miss Thing”). I’ve long been a fan of Matt Fraction (having enjoyed his work particularly in Immortal Iron Fist and his recent runs on the Defenders and Hawkeye) and I’m now a fan of Michael Allred. I’m not familiar with Allred’s own work, Madman, but I just might have to change that after having read FF #1. Allred’s style is camp and fun and it compliments Fraction so well that I feel like these two are a match made in Heaven. Laura Allred’s colours don’t disappoint either. The best way I can describe the art in this book is that it’s the visual equivalent of “easy to read”. In the same way that Fraction doesn’t abuse exposition or over-write his dialogue, Allred understands he doesn’t have to cram messy details into each panel. FF’s style might not be cut out for big sweeping battle scenes or widescreen story-telling but it nails the tone of this issue perfectly.

Speaking of Fraction’s writing, this issue is really quite an impressive tutorial on how to handle heavy exposition in the first issue. I’m not familiar with Hickman’s run on FF but I didn’t find myself confused or uncertain at any point and while I did read Fraction’s Fantastic Four #1, which links in with FF, it’s not necessary to do so. Fraction introduces the entire cast of Hickman’s FF and the idea of the Future Foundation as the kids of the FF explain it to Scott Lang. The exposition is woven into entertaining character moments where we learn about the people, the place and the plot all at the same time. It’s not easy to bring new readers up to speed without boring the regulars, and that’s without even addressing the problem of introducing the new characters of the FF.

So the Fantastic Four is leaving to go to a new dimension for a year, but only four minutes in our time, and Reed Richards has appointed a new team to take over just in case. Their task is to take care of the Future Foundation kids, and that’s what makes Scott Lang such an interesting choice, having lost his daughter Stature not too long ago. The Fantastic Four pair with respective members of the new four to persuade them to take the job and this offers some interesting character interaction. The talk between Richards and Lang is probably the best, offering insight to both men and Ben Grimm recruiting She-Hulk was an enjoyable scene. Johnny Storm’s girlfriend Miss Thing doesn’t really get the spotlight this issue and honestly I couldn’t tell you much about her (she’s not even really Miss Thing yet) but I assume we’ll get to see this deliciously absurd super-heroine soon enough. The part that bothers me is the conversation between Sue Storm and Medusa. It’s irritating how spectacularly it fails the ‘Bechdel Test’ as what should be a meeting of two queens discussing say, their teams or their leadership roles is instead a meeting of two wives talking about their husbands. Considering this book is one of the few titles where the main team is predominantly women (and not in a gimmicky way) that doesn’t really inspire confidence. Of course it’s nothing to turn you away from the book but it needs work.

Other than that, this comic is everything an Issue 1 should be.

9/10

Invincible #97 Review — November 16, 2012

Invincible #97 Review

Invincible #97 gives us the origin of Bulletproof, A.K.A Invincible – and it doesn’t quite work. Invincible, as a series, is not merely a good or adequate book. It is a book that is almost completely and consistently brilliant. I can’t remember the last time that an issue of Invincible has disappointed, but I can’t honestly say that this issue satisfied me.

Zandale’s origin is intriguing, but also… Odd. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. Yes, this issue is quite dark. Invincible has been dark before, however, and that’s not the issue. It’s just that Kirkman has always handled the gruesome and gory parts of his comic with elegance – it was never unnecessary and certainly never there for shock value. But this time around, the murder of Zandale’s parents feels not only jarring, but completely hard to swallow. It’s just not a believable scene by any measure. The new Invincible’s entire origin is rather difficult to swallow, in fact. The idea of Zandale posing as his twin brother all this time is strange enough, but the way the scene plays out where he tells his parents about it? Bizarre is an understatement.

But Kirkman has often delved into the bizarre. He has often taken the weird and taboo and worn them on his sleeve. This isn’t new territory. The thing that really grates with me is how he dealt with it – by addressing it.

Long-time readers of Invincible will be aware of Kirkman’s proxy in the book – the character who writes Science Dog – through whom Kirkman has spoken in the past, even pointing out and poking fun at flaws in his own book. And while I chuckled at the character’s presence this time around, he takes up a full page splash and an additional page after that justifying his decisions for the direction of the story.

I would take this a lot better if it was coming weeks after issue 97 hit the shelves – if it was in response to what critics had said, if it was a tongue-in-cheek hand wave of fan complaints. But the fact that it is literally the scene right after the story he’s defending makes it really hard for me to appreciate it. I simply can’t respect a story that Kirkman must basically break the fourth wall in order to defend. The story should speak for itself; It should not need the comic to come to a grinding halt to explain it.

Of course, #97 is the exception. A lot of this issue is, of course, set up for Invincible #100 (which Kirkman’s proxy sees fit to remind us… classy) such as Mark getting his powers back. Even so, don’t come into this issue expecting a good character study – 97 hardly delivers.

6/10

The Flash #13 Review — November 14, 2012

The Flash #13 Review

“The Flash” #13 is not particularly complex, nor does it boast much depth to its subject matter. Allow me to summarize it quickly – After being caught in between a grudge match between seven of his colourful villains, Barry was knocked unconscious seconds before King Grodd and his simian soldiers from Gorilla City could rain from the skies. I’ll say that again. Villain free-for-all. Gorrila army. Monkey king.

I love this book. It’s just plain fun and it gives me everything I want from a superhero comic. Don’t get me wrong, its fine for superhero comics to diversify themselves and explore grittier tones or more complex sub-texts. But forgive me for just enjoying a story about an evil gorilla fighting the scarlet speedster.

That said, that’s not all that Manapul and Buccellato are offering us here. It’s not just about throwing in some crazy ingredients. I really like the way that so far in this series we’ve really seen a superhero career forming for Flash. He’s encountered most of his rogues’ gallery, his Big Bad (Grodd) and a nice, new personal villain – Mob Rule (who I love, and can’t wait to see more of). The whole series was nicely paced so that by issue thirteen we have multiple plot threads converging and plenty of challenge for the hero to overcome. I’m not sure how easy it will be to lay all of the various side characters and sub-plots to rest, but let’s just say Manapul has his work cut out for him there.

Not to mention that we get fun dialogue and nice interplay between characters. Captain Cold and Heatwave have a chuckle-worthy exchange early on and there’s a surprising scene between Grodd and the Trickster that helps toward establishing Grodd as a savage, dangerous threat to our hero. All of this and I haven’t mentioned the art yet, which is possibly the series’ greatest asset. Buccellato’s soft, earthy backgrounds really accentuate the bright, varied colour schemes of the Flash and his Rogues, and the Manapul’s pencil work is ever-versatile in that can pull off dialogue and tone while staying sharp and dynamic for action scenes. This guys make the whole book a joy to behold, and it’s so refreshing to have such a bright, colourful book as opposed to some of the darker, greyer toned series around.

All in all, while The Flash probably isn’t perfect by any means, it’s never less than competent.

8/10

The Defenders #12 Review — November 13, 2012

The Defenders #12 Review


Matt Fraction completed his run on The Defenders this week, and while I enjoyed the heck out of these twelve issues, I can’t help but feel the series wasn’t done justice. Don’t get me wrong – I recommend this series strongly and the issue itself is not especially bad, it’s just that it has the task of concluding a lot of big ideas in a satisfactory way. The score I put at the end of this review is a reflection of how the series worked as a whole instead of just this issue on it’s own.

Looking back, this series has just done a spectacular job of assembling the weird and wonderful parts of Marvel. There are precious few other books with ensemble casts as diverse as Defenders, but it’s not quite enough to just throw together a bunch of characters. Fraction knows how to truly capitalize on the characters by accentuating their colourful differences. The Defenders consist of an ex-Sorcerer Supreme, a she-hulk, a thief, a super-spy, the king of the seas, a master of mystical kung fu, a cosmic space angel and a man who can talk to ants. The book takes every opportunity to remind you of the sheer variety of characters and their backgrounds. The gruff Nick Fury, the Noble Silver Surfer and the Arrogant Namor – everyone shines here, making up for the somewhat awkward balancing that we saw in the early issues.

The Defenders have long since been one of my favourite superhero teams, because their purpose is to unite and explore all of the weirdest corners of the Marvel Universe. It’s not easy to balance elements of a story that are related to cosmic energies, mysticism, intrigue and super-science, but issue 12 delivers. The story doesn’t try to force an explosive boss battle that would be oh-so-terribly out of place in a comic like this. Instead, we get a resolution that is subtle, personal and meaningful, if just a little lacking in substance. I don’t know if Fraction had intended further issues for this arc, but it all feels a bit rushed. An awful lot is left up to off-panel events and it would have been nice to have more light shed on them. Overall though, the ending will leave you mostly satisfied. However, some characters feel like they should have had a slightly bigger role in the final issue. Usually this comic juggles the team well, but I wish I could have heard more from Black Cat in these last few issues since she has been so exceptionally fun and well-written in this series. I would have like Scott Lang to have played a larger part in general, but at least we’ll see plenty of him in Fraction’s upcoming FF.

The art has stepped up in gravitas this issue, with a lot of intense lighting and heavy shadows. Though Mirco Pierfederici’s style lends itself quite nicely to the grand, sweeping set-pieces and wide-screen paneling, it doesn’t suit close-ups well and expressions in conversation sometimes fall flat. This is nothing that really holds the comic back however, as the art grants the sense of urgency and enormity required to support the big ideas that Fraction plays with.

At the end of the day, “The Defenders” is weird and wonderful in a way that we may not see again for a long time. 9/10