9.05.12 Reviews

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Yesteryear Comics for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Valid until September 30th, new customers receive a promotional 25% discount on new releases. Starting October 1st, receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.

Think Tank #2 (Image): If Jonathan Hickman had created Tony Stark, he might look something like this. “We’re the good guys… or so I’ve been told.” That regretful sarcasm introduces us to an unflinching look at military apps and the moral fallout of the people involved in their creation. This looming ethical crisis provokes thought, like any great art. Writer Matt Hawkins weaves together a tale of cutting edge technology, psi-ops, and pop culture drops that is wicked smart and very entertaining. Artist Rahsan Ekedal makes the black and white art shine, delivering energetic off-kilter panel designs that emphasize the slightly skewed reality. The main character’s intellect gets him in trouble; he balances a military arrest with his personal exit strategy. His line about “selective choices” possibly guaranteeing success is a real clue to the emotional conflict of the series protagonist. In actuality, he really isn’t trying to rebel against his military handlers, but to rebel against his own inner nature. On top of the engaging story, the backmatter, which simultaneously reveals and debunks real-world technology, is top notch. Grade A.

Archer & Armstrong #2 (Valiant): There are parts of this I like and some parts that offer minor annoyance. When I read that Archer can mimic any skill and has been trained as an assassin, all I could think of was Batgirl Cassandra Cain. I’ve never been into Van Lente’s writing. His recurring “the 1%” stuff is what the Brits would call “too smart by half,” the  DaVinci Code bits, layoffs and downsizing jokes are all just too cutesie clever vs. being cool and smart. It’s as if the writer is just trying way too hard to stick the themes. The caricature of the religious zealot parents, tough satirical in tone, also gets boring really fast. On the positive side, this book has the best art of the entire Valiant relaunch so far, thanks to Clayton Henry. I like the unlikely duo of Archer & Armstrong, events in this issue nicely set their quest in clear motion, and the grand story idea is just fine, but the dialogue part of the writing is really what craps out on me. The Michelangelo tirade, the lengthy historical exposition in the middle of a collapsing church, etc. I might do one more ish to see if I can stick with this series, I might revisit a first trade. Hardly a ringing endorsement, so I’ll just consider myself still intrigued but not sold. Grade B+.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 (Dynamite): This book started strong for me, but ultimately just fizzled out. I like the idea that this nuclear world would be answered with the emergence of a new figure. I thought it was interesting to open with Thunderbolt revealing his identity to the world. The role of the media (including crowd scenes featuring Clark Kent and Peter Parker, among others) was a compelling theme to tackle. There's also the whole "Before Before Watchmen" angle vis-a-vis Charlton, Ozymandias, and the creators rights issue. Visually, I liked the initial effects of his powers swirling in the air, the motion of his hands, it was all very convincing and evocative thanks to artist Jonathan Lau. From that point forward, there was a combination of cliché and just too much being crammed into a single issue. The tired old expositional tool of extended news feed informs the world. There was the tired formula of the exotic man-servant to the wealthy philanthropist; this thing has been mined repetitively since its pulp origin. Several antagonists are being set up for Pete Cannon, the vilified military guys, the four “Sons of Adam” super-soldiers, the mysterious reporter woman with the eyes, the contact in Tokyo, the public who will turn on their false idol, etc. It feels like too much is being manically crammed in vs. happening at a more steady and organic pace. The expositional dialogue is met with art that degenerates to some instances of wonkiness, flawed proportions and perspective. There’s a lot of package here for the $3.99 price tag, with two back-up essays (one from Mark Waid) and even a lost story from the original creator. Ultimately, I just wanted to like it more than I did. Grade B.


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