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Magneto #7 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Javier Fernandez (artists), Jordie Bellaire & Dan Brown (color artists)

The Story: “Are you not entertained!?”

The Review: With the Marauders adequately dealt with, Magneto turns his attention to a series of mutant disappearances in Hong Kong.

As ever, Cullen Bunn’s narration is razor-sharp and highly engaging. While the character is too big for it to be a definitive version, Bunn owns Magneto’s voice. Magneto’s appeal exists as much in the imagined diction of Bunn’s intense monologues as in the more tangible elements of the series.

As for the plot, this is probably the best since issue #3. The scenario is simple enough in its construction to allow full attention to be paid to the underlying complexities and the action is plenty gripping on a visceral level.

One of the most refreshing and frustrating elements of an issue like this is Bunn’s comfort in showing us a sliver of man’s depravity. There’s no need for a complete treatise to be forced into twenty-two pages, but that doesn’t stop the story from showing us simple, true to life monsters. Bunn captures that quality of malice that leaves you asking why, but, of course, you already know the answer.

The art is split between the book’s two major art teams. It’s lovely to have Gabriel Hernandez Walta back again, if only for part of the book, not to mention Jordie Bellaire. Walta’s art is slightly less polished than usual, but it’s a minor quibble compared to the air of seedy power that he provides the issue. The care that Walta puts into Erik’s stubble, his musculature focuses the eye on the minute and the dirty, daring you to engage with the grime and corruption of the setting without crossing into the adolescent revelry that dooms many comics’ attempts to be ‘realistic’.

This issue also demonstrates Walta’s skill with body language, particularly in the shoulders. The fear in the promoter’s nervous precision or the ‘sick of this’ exhaustion in Magneto’s tensed stance or even just the way that Erik crouches over his coffee all add to this comic’s impressive ability to communicate information unconsciously.
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Elektra #4 – Review

By: W. Haden Blackman (story), Michael Del Mundo (art) Marco D’Alfonso (colors)

The Story: Which assassin will have the better family reunion?

The Review: If there’s someone who fits the definition of antihero, Elektra does. Her methods are unapologetically brutal, her objectives not always for the greater good. In times past, she’s even been outright villain, I believe. Therefore, it’s important, for those of us who want to continue enjoying this book without feeling bad about ourselves, that we get a solid sense of where her morals land, so we’re not just getting entertainment out of a killer satiating her killer’s instinct.*

Indeed, that could be Blackman’s very purpose in kicking off the series with an arc involving a whole bunch of assassins. They provide the comparative framework we need to understand how Elektra places on the scale between good and evil. Putting her side-by-side with Bloody Lips seems particularly useful because they have the common ground of deep family tragedies in their past. The more similar two things are, the more profound their differences.
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Uncanny X-Men #23 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Kris Anka (artist)

The Story:Alison and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

The Review: Last month Uncanny X-Men’s first arc came to a rather definitive end. We saw the resolution of the vast majority of the title’s plot threads including Mystique’s rule of Genosha, Dazzler’s imprisonment, Hijack’s dismissal, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s war with the New Xavier School, and the overarching Sentinel plot. Given this significantly cleared agenda, it’s not surprising to see an Original Sin banner proudly flown across the cover.

Event tie-ins are frequently frustrating issues, but for any readers considering waiting for the next “real” story arc to begin, Uncanny X-Men #23 is worth picking up. “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” is a thematic tie-in at best with not a single mention of the events of “Original Sin”. Even if it were connected to “Original Sin”, this is barely a part of the “Last Will” story. Despite the unambiguous cover, this issue has a clear purpose and that’s hooking readers and setting up the first slew of new conflicts for the book’s second ‘season’.

In this role, as something of a ‘soft pilot’, the book is pretty great. Bendis provides the much needed fallout from last issue’s events, rededicates himself to interpersonal drama, and introduces multiple new plot threads.

One of the best things that Bendis does in this issue is step back and give the title a dose of perspective. We’re all able to accept some pretty wacky things while still holding a comic to some standard of logic and realism, but Bendis has his cake and eats it too by reminding us just how crazy it all is. The results are humorous but make enough sense in the characters’ world no to distract from the story. While one example from She-Hulk has been getting a lot of attention, the best one comes in the opening pages as Bendis reminds us of what it means to be an ant among gods.
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Teen Titans #1 – Review

By: Will Pfeifer (writer), Kenneth Rocafort (artist), Dan Brown (colorist)

The Story: Like many a teen protagonist, Cassie Sandsmark’s story begins racing to catch a bus…

The Review: Though the title remains inexorably linked to some of the most beloved stories of their eras, the latest volume of Teen Titans was something of a disaster. The N.O.W.H.E.R.E. story never really caught on, Trigon’s introduction to the New 52 squandered its potential, and a time-traveling attempt to reinvigorate the series left many readers frustrated. With Scott Lobdell’s complex mega arc concluded, DC has seen fit to relaunch the Teen Titans with Will Pfeifer at the helm. Will it be enough to revitalize one of DC’s most beloved franchises?

Well thankfully, Teen Titans #1 is not accurately represented by its rather obnoxious cover. Those worried that this would be a twenty-first century repeat of the original hip, happenin’ Titans can put those concerns to rest. There aren’t any ham-fisted references to social media or attempts to be particularly topical, instead the issue focuses almost entirely on action. We literally meet our villain in the issue’s third panel and Pfeifer wisely chooses to use the excitement to introduce us to the Titans in action.

Unfortunately our villain leaves something to be desired. The addition of a competent, non-sexualized female master planner to the DCU is appreciated, but our nameless antagonist remains fairly generic throughout this issue. The universal media broadcast and speeding hostage situation are classics of the genre, but there’s not much to set this caper apart from its fellows. Honestly after facing down Trigon, Deathstroke, and Brother Blood this kind of seems like a downgrade for the Titans.

Pfeifer does a solid job of sketching out the basic relationships between the Titans, but there’s a certain absence of joy. While it’s partially Red Robin’s stern management style, this is a very distant, businesslike team of teenagers. Admittedly Beast Boy feels a bit more youthful but, for the most part, there’s a lack of passion that feels off for a teen superhero team. And while I expect that later issues will show us a little more interpersonal interaction, small things like Raven explaining her powers to Gar make these Titans feel like strangers to one another. Admittedly, it seems like the groundwork is in place; the opening panel of Wonder Girl seems to hint at bigger things for her down the line and the implied relationships between Beast Boy and Bunker and Red Robin and Raven, respectively, are intriguing. However, it’s odd that the first issue only shows up phantoms of what may yet be, rather than what is.
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The Wicked + The Divine #2 – Review

By: Kieron Gillen (story), Jamie McKelvie (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: As you can well imagine, the devil doesn’t take kindly to being imprisoned.

The Review: Not to get too socio-political, but I think current affairs of recent weeks teach us that humans have awfully short memories, which explains why history so often repeats itself, which is to say we may all be doomed. You’d think, if something repeats itself often enough, we’d learn a little something from it each time and at least make some progress. More frequently, however, we end up practically starting over each time, learning the same lesson only when it’s too late.

Fortunately, repetitions in fiction are easier to keep track of. It doesn’t take an English major to recognize that if something is cyclical, you’d best be alert for constants, so as to better observe the changes. In the case of the Recurrence (the centennial appearance of gods that forms the premise of The Wicked + The Divine), our constant is Ananke, the elderly woman with the eye-mask who greets the gods when they return and bids them farewell when they depart.
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Silver Surfer #4 – Review

By: Dan Slott (Writer), Michael Allred & Laura Allred (Artists)

The Story: Surfer, I have a feeling you’re not in Kansas anymore.

The Review: This issue begins a new story arc for the Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood, one that essentially tells a pretty straightforward tale of a family reunion but with enough humor and hints of mystery as to genuinely leave the reader guessing about what’s really going on.

The Greenwood family seems more extended than I remember, but with the characteristic “down-home” attitude that made Dawn such a contrasting figure to the Surfer’s “alien-ness.” I love the line about how some people don’t follow sports or politics, so why do we expect everyone in the Marvel universe to know about the superhero gossip? Still, in a very intriguing visual sequence, in one panel the entire family is present, and in the other, a repeated panel is presented as an empty haunted house. Whether these people exist at all is even in question, and if that’s true then it would suddenly cast the whole scene as quite tragic; the warmth and comfort from the Greenwood family is poignant and sincere.

That warmth and comfort is in distinct contrast from the absolute strangeness of the past four issues, even with the horror/suspense backdrop. For those expecting wall-to-wall off-the-walledness from Slott and Allred might be surprised how quaint these issues feel by comparison (even the Silver Surfer was surprised– shown by his mistake of Dawn’s twin as a shape-shifting alien) and especially with such good-natured and sweet humor coming from the family. This is helped by art, too. The clean line and graphic style is just as fitting for the simplicity of domestic life, which of course makes the incursion of ghosts/monsters so incongruously suspenseful. One touch that I’m noticing as becoming distinct is the use of textures and patterns in the coloring. The Sufer’s skin looks almost burnished with a dry brush effect, and several spacescape panels use dot matrices for a vibrant effect.

There’s another reunion in the making, of course, with Doctor Strange and (some version of) the Hulk making a subplot that mirrors the strangeness of the Greenwood household. This one falls more on the humor side of the spectrum despite the horror elements (the monsters are expressly “old-timey” Universal movie monsters,) and we expect these storylines to converge in with the Defenders reuniting. There’s one more factor in play, too, and that’s the trap captures the Surfer and serves as our cliffhanger. This makes what could be two fairly-typical mysteries suddenly not as straightforward as we might expect. The cliffhanger then is in how we anticipate all these fragments coming together.
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Ms. Marvel #6 – Review

By: G. Willow Wilson (writer), Jacob Wyatt (art), Ian Herring (color art)

The Story: She’s the best at what she does and what she does is squee.

The Review: Our little Ms. Marvel’s growing up so fast. It seems like just last month she was still in origins stories and all of a sudden she’s already having her first superhero team up!

With the Inventor still looking for her, Kamala is slowly coming into her own as a hero. It seems like our bird/brain villain’s shadow is everywhere in Jersey City and it immediately sets up a tense and interesting status quo for the series.

This issue confirms the identity of the Inventor hinted at last month and establishes him as a perfect foil to Kamala. One part Kingpin, one part Ultra-Humanite, the Inventor walks the same line between the comical and the competent as Kamala, though he leans towards the later. If this were any other comic, his appearance could easily have been a scene-stealer, but this is Ms. Marvel.

G. Willow Wilson continues to build upon the groundwork she’s laid with Kamala’s character. She’s much more confident as a hero and has more opportunities to demonstrate her intelligence and bravery. I particularly love one moment when Kamala shows off her knowledge of physics as she tries to figure out how best to use her powers and it’s all the better for the frantic, dorky way she implements the idea. Indeed, despite a significant upswing in her competence, Ms. Marvel is still the lovable, everyman character we met half a year ago and Wilson knows how to draw the humor from that as well as how to endear the character to her audience.

There’s a rule of writing that says that, if possible, you should put your character in the most extreme situations possible, the ones that most stridently reveal their character. For a fangirl like Kamala, pairing her with Wolverine is just such a situation. The very sight of him reduces comics’ most beloved new heroine to doge speak!
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