Review Round-Up: New directions for Action, Swamp Thing and Age of Ultron start here

Posted: April 3, 2013 in DC, Marvel, Reviews
Tags: , ,

By Alex Headley

This week brings a lot of change-ups in status quo for several books on my pull list. The highlights include the first and last issue of Andy Diggle’s Action Comics run and an Age of Ultron twist that sets the stage for what’s to come. I also have a brief reviews for Animal Man and Green Lantern.

Pictured: Not at all what this book looks like. Property of Marvel Comics.

Age of Ultron #4

Age of Ultron 4 picks up directly where 3 left off. With Luke Cage and She-Hulk facing down a heavily damaged Vision in Ultron’s fortress. The Vision’s reveal was a big deal last week but nothing compared to what we learn here: that Ultron is controlling events and exacting revenge on the heroes from the future. This time-travel twist isn’t totally unexpected, thanks to solicits and teaser images but it’s interesting nonetheless and it looks there may be some continuity tweaks happening as a result of this time travel, mostly involving Hank Pym and Ultron of course. In addition to that little revelation, everyone manages to make it to the Savage Land and meet up and prepare to execute a plan created by Nick Fury. There is a lot going on in this issue and to get it all in, Bendis has really picked up the pace of the storytelling. A lot goes down in this issue and it all has impact and weight to it. The series still has an alternate reality feel to it, something that is really driven home by the violence and darkness seen in this issue. Whether that’s Red Hulk smashing Taskmaster to pieces or She-Hulk’s unceremonious death at the hands of Ultron bots or Luke Cage’s slow, painful demise from radiation poisoning, the book obviously has no qualms with killing characters in gruesome manners. While that lends a sense of danger and immediacy to this story in the heat of the moment it also takes away from any impact it might have in the long run. Bendis is still delivering some of his best work in years on this book and I think as far as event books go this is still a worthy read. And although, Brian Hitch will be leaving the book after issue 5, it’s worth noting that he is knocking it out of the park in this story as well, Luke Cage’s weird hair notwithstanding. The scenery is especially interesting as Hitch continues to make the Marvel U a depressing, bombed out hellhole. You know, in a good way.

We could have had months and months of beautiful Superman books. Sadly it just wasn’t meant to be. Property of DC Comics.

Action Comics 19

I have good news and I have bad news. The good news first: Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel deliver a great Superman story in issue 19! I loved it. The bad news: it’s pretty much already over. Whatever Diggle’s professional reasons were, they must have been damned good to make him walk away from this story. It’s exciting and new but pays homage to the character in a timeless way. This was poised to be the best Superman book on the market and now all of that is undone with a tweet and, from the sound of it, poor conditions and management at DC. This saddens me greatly. I guess we will see how Daniel does on his own for the rest of the arc but if his run on Detective Comics is any indication at all, the quality will fall dramatically starting with next issue. The worst part is that Diggle really has a great interpretation of one the best characters in the Superman mythos, Lex Luthor and the story looks to deliver that characters first big story in the New 52. The Lex scene in this book is absolutely perfect and Diggle influence will be sorely missed come next issue. One thing that shouldn’t change in the next chapter is Tony Daniel’s fantastic pencils. He really has come into his own lately and knocks it out of the park in this issue. The pages are crisp and clearly drawn, with clean lines and dynamic lighting. Daniel really puts the Action in Action Comics this issue and at the very least, we can expect him to do the same for the rest of his run.

Swamp Thing 19

Ol’ Swampy gets a new status quo this week too, as a new creative team comes onboard and replaces the excellent Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. Despite the big shoes to fill, Charles Soule and Kano do a great job in this issue at making Swamp Thing more relevant to the greater DCU than he really has been, almost tying right in with Geoff Johns’ JLA and guest starring Superman. The duo also deliver a fun take on the Scarecrow, a villain I’ve always quite liked but that never gets enough to do. Alec still feels like Alec too and that’s a good thing. Having not read too many Swamp Thing stories before the New 52, I was worried that Soule’s Swampy would feel different from Snyder’s. That is not the case and I’m happy to say that this transition is pretty seamless. Alec has a new mystery to solve and a few new powers to explore and that lends some excitement to the issue. He’s keeping himself busy in the wake of Abby’s death and it feels like something the character would do and not at all like a new writer grasping at straws to pick up the pieces. Kano, whom I am utterly unfamiliar with, delivers some great visuals too. First with a dry and dusty setting, and Swamp Thing to match, and later with fuller colors with lush environments. His Scarecrow lurches and hunches in disturbing ways and has an aura of menace to him. Kano also delivers a very cool two-page spread of Holland traveling through the Green. I’m glad to see him working towards keeping the book visually distinctive, even if his palette and staging isn’t quite as good as Paquette’s. I was skeptical of the new team, but this issue won me over and it will officially stay on the pull list.

Green Lantern 19

Geoff Johns’ epic run on Green Lantern nears its final issue and although the First Lantern still doesn’t excite me very much, I very much enjoyed this issue. Largely because it focused on the greatest Green Lantern of them all, Sinestro! Johns lets the First Lantern dig into the life and mind of one of DC’s best characters and delivers a great tale in the process. We also see just how powerful this new villain really is and how Hal plans to escape the Dead Zone. Also, Korugar explodes. Lots of stuff going on in this issue and it all has to come to a head in issue 20 and end with a lead in to the new status quo. It’s a tall order to be sure but it should be exciting nonetheless. Ardian Syaf delivers some great visuals in this issue as well though I still miss Reis’s touch on the book.We’ll see how everything shakes out next month in #20.

Animal Man 19

Jeff Lemire has delivered a pretty big shakeup for Buddy Baker and his family and although it brings back that family drama I enjoyed so much in the book’s early days, it’s so dark and joyless that this is far from my favorite entry into the series. Everyone is angry and everything is bad. There’s a lot of yelling and crying and to be honest, a month of mourning for Damian over in the Batman books has left me tired of comic book grief. Cliff sure did choose an inconvenient time to go and die on us. But dark and gloomy feelings aside, Animal Man 19 is still a great book that sees Buddy Baker trying to make sense of the world after the death of his son and the events of Rotworld. Steve Pugh isn’t at his best with the dramatic emotional stuff apparently as many of the faces of grief and anger seen throughout the issue just look odd. Proportions are weird and although bathing the scenes in black and shadow makes sense for a funeral issue, it’s just too much. The scenes in the Red are far better though and in keeping with the book’s somewhat gory tradition. This is by no means a bad book, but  it’s not quite up to snuff compared to the rest of the series.

 

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