1.15.14 [Weekly Reviews]

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Astro City #8 (DC/Vertigo): Hey, I really like the upgraded cover stock. I continue to be impressed with how consistent Kurt Busiek’s writing is on this title. I’ve enjoyed many of his longer runs before, from Avengers to Conan, and this is right up there. He’s got a way of fleshing out the world so effortlessly, making us care about bit players, and slowly, deliberately, exploring all the different character, class, gender, and genre perspectives in his analogue amalgamation world. Brent Anderson’s art is very graceful, there’s just a classic sense of beauty to it. It was also fun to see a house ad for the DMZ Deluxe Edition Hardcovers! Grade A.

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two #1 (DC): Well, the title is getting to be a mouthful, but this was otherwise very fun. The early pages, especially, have a confectionary quality to them that actually reminded me of Jamie McKelvie’s work in spots. They’re a joy to take in. Tom Taylor continues his bold storytelling choices, taking familiar relationships and sending them down dark paths with plausible projections of what could occur in such a shared universe. It’s bold, beautiful, and fun. It’s really no surprise that the best DCU book exists totally outside the scope of the mediocre New 52. It’s a testament to the fact that, continuity be damned – good storytelling comes first, you can hire talented people and let them run wild to get the most entertaining results. Grade A-.

Harbinger #20 (Valiant): I really enjoyed Joshua Dysart’s writing in this issue. He’s able to finally get away from crossovers and distractions and virtual reality constructs and find a sweet trajectory again for the title. There’s a firm raison d’etre for what The Renegades are trying to do vis-à-vis what Toyo Harada and the Harbinger Foundation are trying to do. Clayton Henry isn’t my first choice of artist for this, that’d be Clayton Crain, but he does offer a nice clean style, and the pencils are super consistent. He’s probably the best artist who has contributed regularly to the series, and I do wish Valiant would pick one solid artist and then just commit. This will sound repetitive in a bit, but that’s the glitch in the system at Valiant – art that doesn’t stand up to, or stand in parity with, the vibe of the writing at times. Grade A-.

Unity #3 (Valiant): Matt Kindt is such a good writer. He weaves together what would be disparate characters in the Valiant Universe and tells an engaging tale of an unlikely team of individuals coming together. The wrinkle in the plan is that Harada’s intended direction for the team takes a radically new turn by the end of the book. It’s like you can feel the “Act 1” of Kindt’s outline snap firmly into place by the last page. I’m a bit on the fence with Braithwaite’s art. There are times it looks slick and polished, then there are times when it looks, uh, “under-rendered,” or as if he’s changing his artistic style mid-issue. It’s been my gripe with Valiant’s entire line from the start: they nabbed some good writers and set them up with interesting directions, but then saddled them with inconsistent or mediocre artists. I’d pay $1 extra per issue if I could get Clayton Crain as the regular interior artist. Grade B+.

Gravel: Combat Magician #0 (Avatar Press): Ok, first off, I don’t really like paying $4.99 for half a comic. There was a proper comic up front, but as soon as I hit staples, it went into some illustrated recap nonsense that was so dry and rote and boring! Oh, but it’s oversized you say! Well, yes, but if you deduct the shoddy rehash pages, you’re still at 22 pages of proper comic for $4.99, so the price point actually gets even more ridiculous. I sort of enjoyed the writing, it does a good Warren Ellis impersonation, but the awkward visuals just don’t stand up to the swagger of the writing. Grade B-.


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