Posts Tagged ‘Action Comics’

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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By Alex Headley

The covers to Swamp Thing and Animal Man 16. Property of DC Comics.

Animal Man 16/Swamp Thing 16
Animal Man continues to be a great book and while the Rotworld event has focused more on action and gore than character development I still love the series. The book still feels like a big team up crossover event, and in a way it is, with characters from Justice League Dark( also written by Lemire) playing a prominent role. Sadly, this gives less screen time to Buddy Baker and his family, although Maxine Baker does grab the spotlight near the end of the issue. The bulk of this issue is spent in combat or with exposition from the new Green Lantern, Mephdyll. The fight with Blackbriar Thorn was fun and *MILD SPOILER* zombie flash is the best idea and was a great moment. The new GL’s presence helps explain why the more cosmic characters aren’t present here. It’s nice that the DCU is still so connected in a big event but it I think it hurts the pacing a little here. This story is about magic and horror and the sci-fi angle feels like just a little too much. Still, the cliffhanger for this issue was cool and I’m very much looking forward to the last entry in the Rotworld saga.

For the longest time, Animal Man was close to my favorite book in the New 52. Swamp Thing has taken that crown recently, I think Animal Man has suffered just a bit from the extended crossover while Snyder has thrived throughout it. I think the art is a factor in that as well. Swamp Thing has had the steady hand of Yanick Paquette for the entire run but Animal Man has seen several artists come and go. And none of them have quite lived up to Travel Foreman in the early issues. Still, this is a great series that you should be reading.
Swamp Thing is more personal story than Animal Man at the moment. While there is indeed a larger cast(Babs!) thanks to the crossover, Alec’s love of Abby and her role as the former Avatar of the Rot really ups the drama here and makes the flashbacks to a time before Rotworld all the more interesting. The flashbacks have been better in Swamp Thing from the beginning New Gotham, set in a shielded Arkham guarded by former super villains, is great here as is the Batman Family involvement. Of course Bruce had a plan in place for an event like this. And that plan just had to involve a giant bat-bot. This issue really gets into Holland’s head with some great narrative.

Snyder has a real handle on the character, which makes his imminent departure from the series all the sadder. That’s right, Snyder leaves after Rotworld wraps up and so is Yanick Paquette. This is a big loss, Snyder has created a new mythology for not only Swamp Thing but the DCU as a whole and Paquette has given the book a unique and compelling style. His layouts are just gorgeous and I don’t envy anyone that has to follow him on art duties. DC announced today that Charles Soule will be taking over with issue 19 and plans to bring Alec Holland into the DCU at large a little more. I’m not familar at all with Soule’s work, a creator owned series published by Image called 27, but ill be picking up issue 19 to see whats going on and judge from there whether to keep it on my pull.

Dimension 5 Doomsday returns. Property of DC Comics.

Action Comics 16
I owe you guys an apology. A month ago I claimed that Action Comics 16 would be Morrison’s last issue. In reality he has one more issue remaining and that’s a good thing because while 16 delivers some great moments its kind of a jumbled mess too. Morrison likes playing with time and while its been out to good use before, here it just doesn’t quite work. Mainly because in order for dire situations and whacky dimension jumping to work there has to be some heart, some motivation and some personality involved. None of that stuff really comes across properly here. This is a shame, especially for Mxyzptlk, because things were set up so nicely in 15. The stakes felt higher than a physical threat to Superman. The 5th dimension threatened everything about the character-his past, future and present and most importantly, his family. In 16 there are references to Doomsday and the die that Superman died. Did that still happen in the New 52 or did Mxyzptlk somehow merge the timelines again for a moment? The bits with the Legion of Superheroes were he most interesting part of the book, to the point where I would love to read a Morrison penned take on the team. But their presence, so far, had little to no impact on the story here. And even if they do play a large role in the last chapter of Morrison’s series, too much time was spent on them here to the detriment to the core cast. I suspect it may read a little better in sequence when I can catch all the clues in one read instead of waiting months between installments.

When Morrison’s run ends I’ll definitely go back and reread it. As far as what comes next, you should really read this interview with Andy Diggle over at Newsarama. I was skeptical of the change, specifically because Diggle is known for dark and gritty stuff, but this really won me over.
 

 

Fantastic Four 3

The cover to Fantastic Four 3. Property of Marvel Comics.

Fantastic Four #3 finally kicks the series into gear as the family embarks on their fist adventure of the new year. And of course things go wrong rather quickly and they do so in a very entertaining way. Fraction has a good handle on the team’s various personalities, especially Reed and uses that to continue to channel his trademark wit and humor. The threat his appropriately far out sci-fi and par for the course in a Fraction comic. The man is full of big ideas and this book seems like his oppurtunity to cut loose a bit over an extended period. I really hope that F4 keeps this one and done style for awhile as the family travels and encounters crazy stuff throughout space and time. Throw in some family drama as Reed’s secret comes to light and the kids develop a bit more and I think the future is very bright for this series. Speaking of the kids, Franklin and Val steal the show a bit in this issue as Reed leaves some big decisions up to them. Val attempting to find a peaceful solution is a great touch and Franklin’s quick decision making sets the two apart in a meaningful way. The Thing gets a great moment here too, but plot-wise I’m a little confused as to why he stayed on the ship in the first place. He didn’t seem to be doing anything and also seemed genuinely upset about the situation. It made Reed come off as a bit a jerk too.

Mark Bagley is growing on me as an artist, I’ve never been the biggest fan because he tends to be a little loose and his early Ultimate Spider-Man work was a little manga-esque for my taste. But the action here is a lot of fun and the quieter scenes with the kids and Reed were especially good. I think he’s a great fit for the kind of stuff that’s gonna be on display here.