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Batman Beyond Universe #13 – Review

By: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel, Phil Hester; Eric Gapshur; Craig Rousseau; & Thony Silas (art), Nick Fillardi & Guy Major (color)

The Story: What finally broke two generations of the Batfamily?

The Review: It kind of feels like a new dawn for Batman Beyond Universe. Gone is the JLB co-feature and much of the continuity the franchise has gained in comics. Bolstered by call backs to the DCAU’s two biggest animated features, Batman Beyond #13 feels like an event, even on the tails of the “Justice Lords Beyond” arc.

The one element that viewers of the classic television series might not be familiar with is the new Vigilante who the issue informs us teamed up with Terry in “Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns”. Vigilante is actually the instigator of most of the issue’s drama, but the core of this story lies solely on Bruce Wayne and his young protégés.

It must be somewhat intimidating to finally reveal the details of one of the DCAU’s biggest secrets after a little over fifteen years, but, if so, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel don’t show it for a moment, eagerly adding in the answer to one of this series’ most speculated upon questions. So if you want to know how Bruce fell out with Dick, Terry, and Barbara, this is required reading.

One of Kyle Higgins’ strengths over the course of his run has been giving the Bruce/Terry feud a respectful and visceral portrayal. That continues this issue, with Bruce’s need for control played as a flawed outgrowth of his concern for his partners. It’s not hard to see how his gruff demeanor strangles the best of intentions.
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Silver Surfer #5 – Review

By: Dan Slott (story), Michael Allred (art), Laura Allred (colors)

The Story: The Lord of Nightmares has his worst nightmare.

The Review: Of all the new Marvel titles I’ve picked up this year, Silver Surfer is probably the one I find hardest to review. It’s not enough for me to say that I enjoy it, which I do consistently; if my love for chicken nuggets taught me anything, it’s that enjoyment is a poor gauge for quality. My difficulty with Silver Surfer is figuring out what kind of title it wants to be. Is there any depth to be had, or is it just straight sci-fi-adventure?

This issue pushes the series toward the latter. From front to back, the plot is completely self-explanatory and almost childishly simple: the Lord of Nightmares has fallen asleep and must be awaken before the night has ended lest the world sleepwalk in bad dreams forever. That this is a done-in-one should already tell you that Norrin and Dawn have little difficulty with his particular challenge, making the situation seem less dire than everyone hypes it up to be.
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Wayward #1 – Review

By: Jim Zub (Writer), Steve Cummings (Artist), John Rauch and Jim Zub (Color Artists), Marshall Dillon (Letterer), Zack Davisson (Back Matter)

The Story: Rori Lane gets Spirited Away…

The Review: I wasn’t sure if I was ready to follow a new title, but the cover art was nice and the premise was a familiar but favorite set-up. And I’m really glad I did. This was a great comic, presented with true craft and care.

The story is pretty basic in its broad strokes– a young woman moves to Japan and finds a secret, supernatural reality to its urban mundaneness. So what can the creators do to explore this common trope? Simply by staying so earnestly true to the characters and to the world-building. The main character, Rori, displays appropriate emotions (loss, frustration, confusion, wonder) without resorting to melodrama. She’s coming to Japan for the first time, to help readers who are also new to this world, but she’s not so fish-out-of-water as to be helpless or cliché. This could easily be taken as a slice-of-life or travelogue story, except of course for the strange powers she discovers and the creatures she encounters.

What really shines here is the depiction of Tokyo. Having lived in Tokyo for five years, I have mixed feelings when I see it show up in entertainment. Too often it resorts to grand generalizations if not downright stereotype, and even after living there for five years I find it difficult to understand some otaku’s passion for the romanticized vision they have of it. Instead, the writer and artists here show us a completely realistic depiction, free from cliché and overwrought examples. Rori, for example, alights from the subway in Ikebukuro and is still just as overwhelmed with the experience as she would be if she emerged into Shibuya– the go-to example that *everyone* uses to announce to the reader/viewer “this is Japan.” We see Rori experiencing underground malls, escalator-less stairwells, crowded alleyways, and cramped apartments.

Every panel is lovingly detailed. Corrugated rooftops, set tables in the restaurant, public transport with individuals and background action, even the locks on the doors of the apartment– are all what you will find in Japan. You can even read the vending machines labels and almost every sign in the background.

This simple day-to-day living is presented with great care and highlights the appearance of the supernatural. Its a nice example of “magical realism” with just a suggestion of an unseen reality, whose worlds we want to see explored in coming issues.

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Bodies #2 – Review

By: Si Spencer (story), Meghan Hetrick, Dean Ornston, Tula Lotay, Phil Winslade (art), Lee Loughridge (colors)

The Story: Four detectives are better than one.

The Review: I speak from some experience when I say that when you have a lot of people working on the same project, no matter how different they may be from each other, there has to be some common ground for them to stand on or the project fails. In Bodies, the differences between our four detectives are even greater from the spans of time that lies between them, but there has to be some reason why these four were chosen, and the best way to discover it is to see what they have in common.

This issue makes that task easy by calling attention to something the last issue downplayed: each of our detectives live under the pressure of discrimination. Edmond muses how his closeted homosexuality may result in his imprisonment; Charles Whiteman changed his name (Karl Weissman) to escape from anti-Semitic barbs like the one thrown by Sean Mahoney, uncle of the man he interrogated; Shahara can’t freely discuss her Muslim faith with comrade/romantic interest Barber, much less the racist protestors bashing her car.
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Saga #22 – Review

By: Brian K. Vaughan (story), Fiona Staples (art)

The Story: Drugs, affairs, and murder. Alana and Marko sure live the celebrity life.

The Review: It’s not a pleasant experience to witness a couple’s row, but it has its fascinations. There’s a reason why these things are often referred to as train wrecks; from the outside, the disinterested bystander can clearly see what’s going wrong, though the people involved seem completely oblivious. And while the old adage is right in saying it takes two to tango, you can usually pin the larger share of blame to one person or the other.

Alana and Marko’s spat thus breaks against the mold in that you come away as bewildered and at a loss as to what happened as they, Klara, and Izabel do. When it starts, you’re ready to side with Marko on this: he’s the thankless stay-at-home parent who never gets a break ever while his wife’s flying high at her job. Even Alana’s anger about him muttering Ginny’s name in his sleep doesn’t shift your opinion much; we know Marko’s not actually cheating with the purple-skinned dancer. Marko’s actually in a very good position to be self-righteous—at first.

The problem is instead of engaging Alana on the Ginny thing and sweeping it out of the way, he very obviously changes the subject to whether she’s ever been high in front of Hazel, which is a vaguer point of contention. His avoidance means one thing: there’s a genuine interest in Ginny, even if it isn’t physical (yet). So when he finally lashes at Alana, there’s guilt mixed in with the insecurity of not being the breadwinner (he cuts off Alana’s complaints about working and finishes “—so you can take care of helpless me…”), and the resentment that his wife isn’t at home even when she’s at home.

Ultimately, you’ll be able to forgive Marko easier than Alana, probably. While he’s immediately apologetic for his loss of temper, Alana escalates, ordering him to leave the house, which she significantly refers to as “…,” just as she refers to Hazel as “my house,” just as she refers to Hazel as “my daughter.” Having taken ownership of the rest of Marko’s life, he leaves him with nothing except—guess who?—Ginny. That won’t excuse any funny business that will likely happen between the two afterward, but it’ll be Alana who drove him there.

By doing so, they are now at their most vulnerable just when forces threaten to converge on the family once again. Not only does the unstable Dengo reach Alana’s workplace and violently leaves it in disarray, Prince Robot is on his trail thanks to assistance from Gale. The Landfallian agent claims to be doing so out of respect to the late princess, but as King Robot mentions earlier, the contract on Alana and Marko is still outstanding and Gale doesn’t seem like the type who forgets such things. So we’ve got two off-balance killer robots drawing towards our favorite couple; the fact that Upsher recognizes Alana’s Heist quote on the Open Circuit is negligible by comparison.*
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Uncanny Avengers #23 – Review

By: Rick Remender (Writer), Sanford Greene (Penciller), Dean White (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer), Agustin Alessio (Cover Artist)

The Story: Whaddya know? Sometimes stories that say they were an event that “changes everything” actually do change pretty much everything.

The Review: The previous run on Uncanny Avengers could rightly be described as “epic,” and as I opened this issue, I was consciously hoping that we could get a more “downtime” story, as characters felt their way around its fallout and their new status quo. Thankfully, this issue was exactly what we needed.

Interestingly, the story begins a few weeks past the denouement of last issue, in case fans needed to reconcile whatever jumbled continuity got created by that a year-long story. What follows for 95% of the issue is really just characters talking to one another, but they treat each other as comrades-in-arms, as fellow veterans, as friends (or even more) as appropriate. The events of their time-traveling epic may have been erased, but that doesn’t mean they never happened, and these people have to deal with that.

Immortus, whose role in the previous arc was somewhat tenuous and thus relatively a weak link in an otherwise dense plot, shows up to offer, of all things, encouragement and promise, as long as they deal with the Red Skull, a teaser for the upcoming storyline and segue into an ominous Skull-focused cutscene. It’s an effective scene, taking the heinous Skull and matching him to the equally-heinous Ahab, throwing them both into Genosha. This is “high concept” that works, since there’s an immediate tension and horror-tinged atmosphere to lead into next issue.

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Fantastic Four #9 – Review

By: James Robinson (Writer), Marc Laming (Penciller), Scott Hanna (Inker, 4-6), Jesus Aburtov (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer), Leonard Kirk & Israel Silva (Cover Artists)

The Story: Problems are always made worse when running into your ex-girlfriend.

The Review: First of all, the cover. It’s something quite fun and exuberant, and it’s not often you can say that for today’s comics. Partly that comes from the smiles on the children’s faces, which, again, is not something that you’re likely to see on any given cover nowadays. (Assuming, of course, that Franklin’s expression is, in fact, a smile. How unfortunate that the most prominent face on the cover is also the most poorly depicted.) Also fun? The Kirby-crackle in the Human Torch’s powers, with flames that are also more bubbly instead of edgy.

Inside, it’s artist Laming’s turn to provide art, and he has a key set piece in presenting an Escher-like scientific Eden. By contrast, one of the other scenes really require much else, such as a window-paneled SHIELD headquarters and gray walls of a prison. What I’d like to see more of, overall, is some variety of expression by the characters. In general, everyone just slightly opens his/her mouth, as everyone is in a constant state of saying “uhhh….” until there is an occasional subtle smile. Push those expressions more, please, and have characters act/pose in a greater variety than simply lifting a hand to indicate they are talking.

I count a total of eight blows given by supervillains, making the first time in half a year or so that there’s been a hero-villain showdown, thanks to the Thing being imprisoned. It’s all a set-up for a surprising reveal of the She-Thing, which promises some interesting interaction for sure, at least for those that remember she was once Ms. Marvel, a member of the Fantastic Four, and love interest for Ben Grimm. (Still, some part of me wonders if there is a logical piece of the story missing– as in the actual investigation of Grimm’s accusation of murder. I get the sense that this is just taken for granted since the story that is “important” is the Thing’s life in prison, but it reflects poorly on any other aspect of the FF’s world.)

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