1.04.08 Reviews

And away we go with the first reviews of 2008…

The End League #1 (Dark Horse): Rick “Fear Agent” Remender brings us an interesting world, set after an apocalyptic event brought about by superheroes unwittingly creates thousands of additional powered individuals. As I enjoy the Samuel Clemens quotes in Fear Agent, I was tickled by the Socratic lines here from a monologuing protagonist full of honest regret and self-doubt. The art is a bit stiff in spots, but employs great character designs and rich panels full of backgrounds, movement, and detailed work. The loose character archetypes (a Captain America type, a speedster, a dead sidekick, a Hulk/Thor hybrid, a demon, a Western hero, the girl who looks like Emma Frost, etc.) play not like swipes, but as homage to the industry. This could very well be billed as “the last JLA story” or “the last superhero story,” aptly titled “End League” as it chronicles the final days of a core group of A-list superheroes trying to right a previous mistake. Mat Broome’s art is inconsistent, and I actually mean that as a compliment. Most of the panels capture decent superhero art, but then there are these little flashes of brilliance, where I swear I can see some Sean Phillips influence, particularly in the line weight of the facial expressions. He might be one to watch as an artist whose style develops and improves over time. All in all, a very dense read that makes you feel like you got your money’s worth and makes you think about the ideas presented a little while after you’ve put the book down. Grade A-.

Northlanders #2 (DC/Vertigo): I enjoyed the washed out, muted, color palette here that really does the gritty artwork justice and captures the intended mood of the story. Wood’s script hits some nice notes here about the wisdom of age, the blind vigor of youth, and a brutal quest for identity. It’s only the second issue, but already Sven is planting the seeds for what promises to be an exciting coup d’etat. We’re establishing intense and intricate double-crosses, sex, and violence of truly Shakespearean proportions. Grade A-.

Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #5 (Dark Horse): The final issue to a well done pulp adventure. Jason Armstrong has proven to be a nice addition to the stable of Hellboy/BPRD/Mignola-verse collaborators. This climactic and satisfying final battle boasts some inspiration from Das Boot and the work of Ian Fleming. Grade B.

Gravel #0 (Avatar Press): I applaud Avatar (which is increasingly becoming “the house that Ellis built”) for not shying away from violence and basically letting Ellis run wild with one idea after another. And the $1.99 #0 issue is a brilliant marketing device that worked quite well on Black Summer. The “Bill Gravel, combat magician” premise sounds sorta’ intriguing, and there’s even the occasional memorable line – “where you’re headed… there are no virgins,” but then I found stereotypical jihadists, British intel bits that play like watered down Queen & Country lines, and no real “hook” other than brutal violence and a tired mystical plot thread. Artistically, Caceres’ lines looked crisp and airy in Ellis’ recent Crecy (which was excellent), but here look heavy and muddy, perhaps due to the inking/coloring(?). Anyway, I’d prefer to stick to stronger works, like Ellis/Avatar’s own Black Summer. This is competent, but not terribly original. Grade C.

Teen Titans: Year One #1 (DC): The introductory character vignettes play like random non-sequiturs, thinly introducing the characters in the most simplistic terms. I think we’re meant to learn that Kid Flash is, umm… fast and impatient, Aqualad is intimidated(?) by Aquaman, Donna is lost(?) without Wonder Woman, and Robin umm… doesn’t like Bruce, apparently because he’s (once again) a raging asshole. And there’s no mention of Roy; wasn’t he one of the original five? In actuality, we don’t really learn anything about these characters themselves, we only learn about them as they’re defined by their mentors. This, to me, seems to run contrary to the spirit of the Teen Titans’ very core essence. They got together to establish their independence and unique identities separate from their mentors, and became an intimate family (instead of a stodgy League) in the process. That was the whole point. The worst part of the book though, is that it ostensibly looks like a cartoony, kid-friendly affair, but without warning introduces a most adult theme – Bruce striking Dick in an abusive manner. That stopped me cold. Not only is this horribly out of character for Bruce at this time period, but is horribly irresponsible of DC to surprise younger readers with that sort of out of place violence within a book that would otherwise seem to appeal to their very demographic. Sorry, but this was awful. Grade D-.

I also picked up;

Okko: The Cycle of Water (Archaia Studios Press): One of the best and most unique mini-series of last year, collected in a handsome hardcover edition, with breathtaking art by Hub. Check. This. Out.


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