Comics Round-up 01.05.2013

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Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings welcome you to the first comics round-up for May.

“After the excellent Rebirth, No Fear sadly fails fails to stir any interest. IDW,s G.I.Joe reboot goes full steam ahead with Chuck Dixon’s second G.I.Joe volume while Mike Costa and Christos Gage turn out an absolute cracker with the first volume of Cobra. And against all expectations, the Captain Marvel reboot disappoints spectacularly.” ~Shadowhawk

Aquaman is consistent whilst Justice League falters, and Superior Spider-man has a really strong opening four issues.” ” ~Bane of Kings

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Comics reviewed by Shadowhawk: Green Lantern Vol. 1: No Fear by Geoff Johns (DC Comics), G.I.Joe Vol.2 by Chuck Dixon (IDW Publishing), and, G.I.Joe: Cobra Vol.1 by Christos Gage and Mike Costa (IDW Publishing).

*****

Green Lantern Vol. 1: No Fear by Geoff Johns

GL No FearRebirth, the six-issue mini-series that marked the start of Geoff Johns’ nearly 9-year run on the Green Lantern book, was a story that completely blew me. It was pretty much a perfect graphic novel as far as I was concerned. Despite the fact that it was a transitional book and marked the return of Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern after spending a considerable amount of time as Parallax, and so would normally require catching up on years of continuity, it was a great intro-level book to the Green Lantern mythos. With such a fantastic experience from this book, my expectations from No Fear, the first volume of the fourth Green Lantern series, were pretty high. I expected a story that was at least as engaging and entertaining. Sadly, it was neither.

My biggest issues with the book were that there was a distinct lack of clarity in the book, the pacing was completely off, and the characters hardly got explored in any amount of detail.

With clarity I mean that there seemed to be no…. point to what was happening. Rebirth had already reestablished Hal’s background and given a solid grounding into the character. But then, No Fear seems to retread that ground, and to top it off, there wasn’t any references to the events of Rebirth. Nothing substantial anyway. It was as if none of the characters, such as Hal’s old friends, cared or even knew about what had happened. Personally, that disconnect was just too damn disappointing.

In terms of the pacing, the book was all over the place. The highs and lows came at really odd times, and the story never seemed to hits its stride. Now, after almost a year of reading various books within the New 52 setting, I’m used to reading big crossovers and “epic” storylines, story arcs that take place over six issues or more. Currently for DC, nfrom the books I’ve read, none of them fit the properly “monthly” mindset where each issue has a completely different story with only a slim connect to previous issues. The difference in the two story arcs within No Fear was just too jarring. At one time we are reading about the Manhunters, and then suddenly we are reading about a character who could possibly be King Shark, but the arc deals with that angle peripherally, and there’s little to no substance to it.

And then, the characters. None of them, barring the possible King Shark, made any kind of impression on me. Hal Jordan just felt bland and boring, with none of the fire to his character that was seen in Rebirth. The only remotely good scenes in the book involved Hal Jordan interacting with his brother Jim, and flashbacks that explained his relationship with his deceased mom. Hal Jordan became a much better sympathetic character through these scenes, but otherwise, none of it really mattered. Black Hand did show quite a bit of promise, but then

Speaking of art, I found it to be mostly serviceable. Decent enough I’d say. There are three changes in the art team through the course of the mini-series, with Carlos Pacheco leaving after the third issue, to be replaced by Ethan Van Sciver, who left after #5 to make room for Simone Bianchi. The art changes did jar as far as the internal artwork is concerned, since all three artists had different styles in drawing the same characters. Bianchi’s art for the sixth issue was the disappointing one here, since the visual look for a lot of these characters underwent an unnecessary and bland change. Other than that, one grump-point would be that often times the characters had indistinctly detailed facial expressions, as if the penciller was concerned only with getting the shape of a face on the pages rather than doing anything substantial.

Overall, No Fear fails to meet the standards set by Rebirth, or even Johns’ current New 52 run on the book. There are too many areas where the book disappoints and fails to capture the imagination. All the same, I’m looking forward to continuing with the meta-series since I love Green Lantern, and I really want to catch up on all of Geoff Johns’ work on the IP.

Rating: 3/10

More Green Lantern: Rebirth.

*****

G.I.Joe Vol.2 by Chuck Dixon

G.I.Joe Vol.2 IDWAfter reading the first volume of the rebooted series, I thought that it would be an uphill battle for Chuck Dixon to up the ante and deliver a better story. Within the very first pages of issue #7, the first of six for the second volume, I was proven wrong. Not only did Dixon successfully continue the arc involving Scarlett helping Snake Eyes with an off-the-book unsanctioned mission to track down COBRA, but he also introduced “new” characters in the form of Mainframe and Cover Girl, who are two of my favourite characters from the original Marvel series. Then there’s the whole sub-arc involving the Baroness being sent to Destro’s castle to keep on eye on him, which went from strength to strength in each issue. Honestly speakin, G.I.Joe Volume 2 is hands down one of the best IDW graphic novels I’ve read to date, definitely up there with Matt Forbeck’s Magic The Gathering Volume 1 or Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery’s Kill Shakespeare Volumes 1 and 2.

There is no one particular highlight to this volume, everything about it is excellent. What I definitely enjoyed more than others however, was the whole sub-arc involving Mainframe and Snake Eyes as they take on COBRA agents in an urban infiltration mission that has some really good kick-ass action involving my favourite ninja character in comics. And its mostly the dialogue here that helps set this entire sub-arc away from the rest of the book; Mainframe got the best lines by far, and he is also portrayed rather well by Dixon, who nails the character completely. Scarlett’s apparent insubordination and her “trial” by General Hawk also had some really thrilling scenes. These scenes added a lot to her character, and also helped show off Hawk in a very different light than how he is shown in the old Marvel series from Larry Hama. These scenes are about trust and loyalty as well, underscoring the lengths that any Joe will/can go to help his own friends.

And the scenes involving the Baroness and Destro were a remarkable stroke of genius. In this reboot, it is perhaps Destro who has gotten the biggest makeover in terms of personality, and the way Chuck Dixon has written it all, I think this is also the best representation of the character in any of the comics. It was a sheer delight to see the relationship between Destro and the Baroness starting out so well, and then continuing in the same vein. Dixon has established the Baroness as someone really, really tough, and someone who can very well take care of herself in any way necessary.

S L. Gallant is the penciller for this book, and he has done a great job on the internal art. He definitely gets the core ideas behind the characters, and he knows how to compromise between giving each character an updated look while also staying true to the A Real American Hero concept of the character. Joining him on the job is Andrew Crossley, who is the artist, and therefore one of the key people behind this project. Gallant’s pencils combined with Crossley’s colours make G.I.Joe Volume 2 one of the best visually-great books I’ve read to date.

Overall, if you aren’t following this series, then you are definitely missing out big time. Chuck Dixon has done a great job at carrying on with what he started in G.I.Joe Volume 1, and he has made G.I.Joe Volume 2 into a book that I can read again and again, even back-to-back.

Overall 9.5/10

More G.I.Joe: G.I.Joe Volume 1, Cobra Command Vol.1, Cobra Command Vol.2, and, Cobra Command Vol.3.

*****

G.I.Joe: Cobra Vol.1 by Christos Gage and Mike Costa

G.I.Joe Cobra Vol.1 IDWOne of the three series that IDW started as part of its reboot of the G.I.Joe franchise (the third one being Larry Hama continuing off from where he left the 155-issue Marvel series), G.I.Joe: Cobra charts the tale of how Joe special agent Chuckles infiltrates Cobra and how he progresses within the organisation. Going in, I expected to see the big-name COBRA characters like the Commander, Zartan, Baroness, Mindbender and others front and center. But that is not what the writing duo of Gage and Costa did here. Instead, they took the book to new heights and are showing us a side of COBRA and the villains from a perspective we haven’t yet seen in any of the comics.

Once I got over the surprise that the series would feature Chuckles in a prominent role and that he would essentially be the protagonist here, I really started to appreciate what Gage and Costa were trying to do here. One of my favourite characters from the original series, Chuck has had his coolness factor ramped up to eleven in this book. For the first time, I got a really in-depth exploration of his character, got right into his head to see what made him tick, and what his motivations and goals were. The book also reintroduced Jinx into the fold, this time as a Chinese American special Joe agent who is assigned as Chuckles’ handler while he infiltrates COBRA and works his way up the food chain.

Essentially, what Gage and Costa did here was to show the insidious effect of “evil”, and they laid Chuckles’ character bare to show the extent of these effects. Through him, we learn how much of a threat COBRA is, how it accumulates power and control, whether over their own people or their targets.

I wish that we had gotten to see a lot more big-name COBRA characters in this book, really my only complaint with the book, but seeing Tomax was quite entertaining nevertheless. The guy is shown so… normal here that it almost creeped me out. Tomax’s interactions with Chuckles made for some of the most introspective and fun scenes.

As far as the art is concerned, Antonio Fuso (penciller), Chris Chuckry with Lovern Kindzierski (colours), and Chris Mowry with Neil Uyetake (letters) made for a solid art team. While initially I had my reservations about Chuckry’s art, since it was very different from what Andrew Crossley did on G.I.Joe Volume 2, but once I got past that hurdle, I had a hell of a good time. There’s something very inviting in the way that the colours are handled in this 4-issue mini-series, making for a nice contrast with G.I.Joe Volume 2. While the two East Asian characters Jinx and Miss Le Tene were often too similar, that’s about my only complaint in the art department.

Rating: 9/10

More G.I.Joe: G.I.Joe Volume 1, Cobra Command Vol.1, Cobra Command Vol.2, and, Cobra Command Vol.3.

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Comics reviewed by Bane of Kings: New 52: Aquaman #4-6 by Geoff Johns, New 52: Justice League #10-14 by Geoff Johns, and, Marvel Now: Superior Spiderman #1-4 by Dan Slott.

*****

Aquaman #4-6 by Geoff Johns

Art: Ivan Reis, Joe Padro

#4 – There are parts of the ocean even Aquaman should not enter. Now Aquaman and Mera must descend into uncharted territory: the smoky black crevice at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, home of the cannibalistic creatures known only as the Trench. One last secret behind these loathsome creatures will be revealed as “The Trench” thunders toward its bloodcurdling conclusion!

#5 – Aquaman has been left for dead in the middle of the desert! But how did the King of Atlantis find himself marooned in such a hellish environment? As Aquaman struggles to survive impossible odds, what extreme measures will he resort to in order to stay alive?

#6 – Who sank Atlantis? Mera, the beautiful Atlantean assassin trained in the Bermuda Triangle, follows a trail of death and deceit to the one man who knows the ugly truth. But what does he want in return for his secrets – and how does it all tie into Mera’s own dark past?

AquamanComp02I loved the first three issues of Aquaman from DC’s New 52 when I first read them back in 2012, and I don’t know why I fell behind the series. But anyway, after a quick re-read to refresh my head of the earlier Aquaman issues, because if you’ve been following this series then you’ll no doubt notice that the latest issue, #19, comes out today, which I’ll certainly be picking up on the Friday when I head to the Comics Store. It’s been an interesting journey following Aquaman, and he’s a character that’s been very interesting to read about as Johns has turned him from a joke character to a badass one, and that is really enhanced in issues #4-6.

#4 sees the conclusion of Aquaman’s first storyline, the Trench – and as this series is my first exposure to Aquaman comics I really enjoyed the way that Johns, with help from Ivan Reis, the artist on board this book, has done some stellar work to make this ocean creepier than it was before. #4 sees the invading creatures that we were first introduced to on the surface in the water for the first time, with some great action sequences contained within, and whilst this does come to a conclusion, it seems like the first arc is over far too quickly. However, Johns has managed to not only bring the arc to a close but also to sow the seeds for the new arc that gets underway in #5, which takes predictability out of Aquaman comics and really makes the series very entertaining indeed.

At one point in #5, there’s a scene that resembles Luke Skywalker receiving a vision from Obi Wan’s force ghost whilst lying wounded in the empty frozen wastelands of Hoth in Empire Strikes Back, only it’s in the sand and Aquaman is receiving a vision from his father. This is one of my favourite moments in the issues that I’ve reviewed here and I love the nods to one of my favourite films of all time. However, whilst Johns’ narrative is strong in #5, it’s Reis who really shines. The desert scenes are superb, and his artwork really helps brings the series as a whole to life, and combined by Johns’ experience as a writer, the series is made even more engaging and captivating.

Aquaman #6 is the last issue that I’ll be covering from Aquaman in this roundup and it’s where the new, Who Sank Atlantis? Story arc really starts to kick off. Mera is given more pagetime here than Arthur Curry, which makes it a nice balance as #5 saw an Aquaman-heavy issue. Their characters are well defined, likeable and rootable. We want to get behind both Aquaman and Mera, and whilst the rest of the characters in these issues aren’t quite as memorable as them, they’re certainly the highlights of #4-6.

#6 however is probably the weakest of the three. The artwork is mainly designed by Joe Padro this time and unfortunately he’s doesn’t manage to get Aquaman like Ivan Reis seems to do. The issue is designed to serve as an introduction for people unfamiliar with Mera and her upbringing, however, the basic plot is kind of simple, predictable and dull in places. It wasn’t a bad issue as I still enjoyed reading a Mera-centric comic, but it just doesn’t deliver in the way that the previous two issues did. However, they’re all strong additions to Aquaman, and I can certainly say that you should certainly stick around for more in this series, having read the Throne of Atlantis Crossover; I can tell you that it’s really awesome, and one of the strongest comic reads that I’ve read so far this year.

Rating: 4/5

*****

Justice League #10-14 by Geoff Johns

Art: Jim Lee, Scott Williams (#10-12), Tony S. Daniel, Richard Friend (#13-14) | Backup Art: Gary Frank

#10 – “THE VILLAIN’S JOURNEY” part two! The identity of the Justice League’s newest and deadliest foe is revealed! Part four of the debut of SHAZAM!

#11 – “The Villain’s Journey” part three! • Batman, Cyborg and Aquaman battle Element Woman! • Continuing the origin of SHAZAM!

#12 – “THE VILLAIN’S JOURNEY” part four! • The team struggles to stay together as they try to combat their newest foe. • A shocking last page that will have the world talking about this issue!

#13 – GEOFF JOHNS is joined by TONY DANIEL for a two-part chapter in the Justice League saga marching toward TRINITY WAR. • JUSTICE LEAGUE #12 will have the world debating its shocking conclusion – and where it will lead from here! . • The League takes on a villain destined to be one of the greatest threats to the DC Universe in the year ahead – the mysterious Cheetah! But who is she? What is her connection to Wonder Woman? And how will this fundamentally change the relationships within the team? • Plus: The next chapter of the SHAZAM! backup epic by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank!

#14 – • The second chapter of a tale that lights the fuse that will ultimately explode in 2013’s TRINITY WAR. • The League must fight the mysterious Cheetah… AND a monstrous Superman! The result will radically change the dynamics of the entire team! • Amid all this, where is Green Lantern? • Plus: The next chapter of the SHAZAM backup epic by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank!

JLCompBane04Geoff Johns is doing a lot of titles for the New 52 right now. Aquaman, Justice League, Justice League of America and Green Lantern are all his (although his Green Lantern run is coming to an end soon) and he’s also co-written Justice League of America’s Vibe. Justice League is also the flagship series for DC’s New 52 and it’s important that this series demonstrates the best of the New 52. And with these four issues, does it?

No. Whilst #13 and #14 are strong additions to the series, I was really let down by #10-12, the Villain’s Journey storyline. The villain that we’re dealing here is Mr. Graves, the author of a book about the Justice League which made him famous, one that we saw first appear in Origin. Most of the New 52 books have offered old villains as well as newcomers to the universe, but the newcomers have never seemed to cement themselves as long lasting members of the rogue gallery in the book that they appear in, for example, the Dollmaker in Detective Comics. Johns tries to do the same here with combined present-day storyline and flashback scenes, but he can never quite hit the mark.

And it’s not just the villains that Johns has problems working with, for it’s the heroes too. For a team that’s been together for five years they still are pretty dysfunctional. There’s still hostility between the Leaguers and I’d have much rather Johns had got this out of the way in the Origin story arc and not dragged it on into a story set in the main New 52 timeline.

#12 itself is obviously going to be most talked about due to the whole Superman/Wonder Woman romance angle, which will overshadow what the rest of the book has to offer. Whilst most of the hype concerning this has built down now as we’re currently in #19 of Justice League, so much so that the Villain’s Journey story conclusion is shoved aside momentarily. #12 however is a jam packed issue and is probably the best of the previous three, even if #13 and #14 still overshadow them all. Of course, you know that the League are going to emerge on top when the storyline is concerned and Johns doesn’t make it unpredictable, which is a real shame. However, the end battle’s fallout is probably the strongest point of #12, with Jim Lee’s art really impressing here.

I loved Jim Lee’s art whilst reading this book, and he’s probably one of the best artists in the New 52 alongside Greg Capullo at the moment. The superheroes are sleek, powerful and very clean. The flashback sequences focused on Graves are dark and creepy indeed, and the art itself is one of the saving graces of the early issues that don’t feel as strong as #13-14 do.

JLCompBane05Speaking of #13-14, they are easily the best issues of the Justice League stories that I’ve reviewed in this roundup. #13 deals with a heavy focus on Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, and whilst Superman, Flash and Cyborg have a few good moments, Aquaman and Batman don’t show up much at all. Cheetah is the villain who the League find themselves up against in these two issues and it’s really engaging to watch her deal with the superheroes, particularly having never before encountered her, I was very interested to see how she could pose such a threat that it would take all of the aforementioned superheroes (minus Steve Trevor, who lacks superpowers), and as a result I was very impressed with how this book turned out.

It’s also nice to see that in #13 the League are working together as a team in an attempt to bring down Cheetah, something that they haven’t been doing much of since they first joined together. There’s genuine friendship amongst the superheroes and it makes the fact that they’ve not expanded in the five years much more believable. Tony S. Daniel is on hand with the artwork in both issues and he really impresses, drawing me in and making me really enjoy the book. I loved his artwork in the pages of Action Comics #19 and the first three issues that I’ve read of Detective Comics, and whilst the storyline suffered in the latter when he was working on both, it seems that he’s at his best when just doing the artwork.

You can’t really talk about these issues without talking about the stellar Shazam backstory, which is the one thing that has excelled all the way throughout this book and if the rumour about him getting his own ongoing series with Johns at the helm is true, then I shall certainly be on board. I love the way he’s managed to bring the character into the New 52 Universe and has made me care for a character that beforehand I didn’t even know existed.

Overall, Justice League has been a mix of the good and the bad, which is a shame, as I think for a flagship title it should be consistently performing like Snyder’s Batman, but thankfully, given the Throne of Atlantis Crossover which I’ve read but am yet to review, it’s a very entertaining saga and really proves that you should not give up on this title if you were disappointed by the second volume, and #19 which has started a new story arc is also pretty strong as well, proving that this series can really impress.

Rating: 3/5

*****

Superior Spiderman #1-4 by Dan Slott

Art: Ryan Stegman

#1 – Peter Parker spent a lifetime living up to the responsibilities his powers foisted upon him but his story has finally ended. NOW! the new Spider-Man has arrived and he is better, smarter, stronger, and superior in every single way!

#2 – The all-new Superior Spider-Man battles the all-new Sinister Six! Plus: Spider-Man and Mary Jane reunited!

#3 – Is this all-new Spider-Man in cahoots with J. Jonah Jameson? Has Carlie Cooper figured out the Superior Spider-Man’s secret identity? All this and the return of the villainous Vulture!

#4 – The previous Spider-Man promised that Massacre would never kill again… Can the new Spider-Man live up to that?

SuperiorSpiderComp01Let’s get this out of the way before we start this review. I haven’t read a lot of stories with Spiderman in them. I haven’t read anything in Amazing Spiderman before this aside from the odd free issue on Comixology, and the only Spiderman-Peter Parker centric graphic novel that I’ve read is Avenging Spiderman Vol. 1: My Friends Can Beat Up Your Friends, which I got from the library. Non Parker wise, I’ve read the first Volume of the Ultimate Comics Spiderman entitled Who is Miles Morales?  However, I didn’t have to have a PHD in Peter Parker’s corner of the Marvel Universe to know that a lot of people were seriously annoyed about Slott switching Parker and Doc Ock’s body around, but I couldn’t really pass such an opportunity by to get on board a title of one of the world’s most famous superheroes (I remember reading somewhere that the Top 3 most famous superheroes in the world are Batman, Spiderman and Superman, which makes sense), so I was very interested to see what direction Slott would take the title.

Superior Spiderman bares its namesake because Doc Ock’s new goal in life, after being transferred into Parker’s body, is to literally become Superior in every way – he’s got Peter’s body, and both Peter and his own memories to aid him in his quest. It’s certainly entertaining to watch him go about it over these four issues, all brought to life by the strong artwork by Ryan Stegman.

SuperiorSpiderComp02If you’ve been put off by the idea of hunting down a ridiculous amount of back issues, like I was, to get the full 700 of The Amazing Spiderman, then Superior Spider-Man might well be the perfect jumping on point for you. If you’re a fan of Peter Parker then you shouldn’t worry too much as the switch doesn’t seem to be permanent, with something game-changing planned for #9, which is released today. Peter’s still around during these four issues as well, only in ghost form, and it’s very interesting to see his struggles to try and get his body back with no clue how to do it.

As a whole, this series is a complete success and I urge anybody who has been thinking of reading a Spiderman title to try this book out. Slott is a strong writer and the art is pretty awesome as well throughout these four issues, and there’s some great action sequences to boot, making this a series that you’ll want to get on board for, even if the whole Ock/Mary Jane subplot is somewhat creepy, and Ock doesn’t really have enough redeeming qualities so far.

Rating: 4/5

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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