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Happy Batman Day!

Happy Batman Day, everyone! What are some of your most memorable moments of the Caped Crusader?

Superman #33 – Review

By: Geoff Johns (story), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Klaus Janson (inks), Laura Martin (colors)

The Story: Eat your heart out Woodward and Bernstein. It’s all about Kent and White now.

The Review: The special twist of Superman’s character has always been about his reputation for being the most human of superheroes despite his alien origins—which is a far cry from being the most relatable, apparently. At times, his moral perfection made him more foreign and unsettling than the fact that he comes from another planet. The new DCU has attempted to reconfigure his personality a bit, but making him more temperamental has done little to solve his self-righteousness problem.

Bringing back the Daily Planet in full force may be the answer. If you want to bring Superman down to Earth, he probably needs to interact with its denizens more. That won’t work, however, if the good folk at the Planet are thin, one-dimensional foils who exist solely to feed Clark free information. Which is to say I approve of this issue’s opening, in which the entire gang, sans Clark, sit for a team debriefing. Johns purposely stalls the plot—no one knows anything about the Ulysses situation, much to Perry’s chagrin—so as to give us a purer flavor of the Planet vibe.
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Mighty Avengers #12 – Review

By: Al Ewing (Writer), Greg Land (Penciller), Jay Leisten (Inker), Matt Milla (Color Artist), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer), Greg Land & Frank D’Armata (Cover Artists)

The Story:

They’re Talismaniacs, and they’re zany to the max!
Their half-animals attack; the Avengers will fight back!
They’re Talismaniacs!

The Review: It’s actually a pretty short list for what makes a satisfying comicbook read for me, and this book checks (nearly) all the boxes, and with a big fat maker too boot. It rounds out the Marvel universe mythos, introduces some intriguing new characters, and sets the scene for a big throwdown.

Apparently, the name “Mighty Avengers” had some previous useage, even if it was born from a bit of a tongue-in-cheek banter among the band of brothers and sisters and bears (oh my!) in the 1970s. This gives us established characters (Blade, Kaluu), rounds out some others (Cage by way of his dad, Blue Marvel), and provides some new ones (Constance Molina, The Bear.) There’s also, of course, more time given to the Deathwalkers, nearly demigod-like in their elemental power, reliant on human sacrifices.

The Deathwalkers are established both by others talking about them, which does tend to be a bit tell-not-showy, and by the action sequence of the book, as the 70′s-MA don’t really fare that well against them. What I mean is that, while it helps set the stakes of our villains, it doesn’t really give them a way to interact much with the heroes or even with themselves, keeping them relatively in set-piece mode rather than truly rounded characters.

It’s a little better with The Bear, who has the automatic complexity of her dual nature, but doesn’t really do much except rely on the dichotomy. You know, because she sexy-sassy but also a Bear? Get it? This plays to the strength of Land’s art here, giving him the opportunity to use some glamour shots and then show her bestial form. But overall perhaps we loose the opportunity to really connect with her since there’s very little vulnerability or self-doubt to allow us to sympathize with her. And what’s with the dogs that featured so prominently in her appearance last issue? And where is she now in 2014? At least one of these questions may be a deliberate mystery from the author and the other likely an oversight.
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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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