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Superman #34 – Review

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

The Story: Superman and Ulysses’ first official team-up may be their last.

The Review: I don’t often speculate as to how a story will go—partly because of my natural cautiousness and partly because I’m frequently wrong—but I’m about 99.99% sure that a big showdown between Neil (a.k.a. Ulysses) and Clark will ensue sooner or later. I base this on one theory only: you don’t create a direct Superman analogue without intending to match him up with the real thing. That’s just how things roll in superhero comics; it’s almost a waste otherwise.

So every issue, I’m looking for signs of where Neil and Clark’s relationship will go sour. It’s a difficult task because the two of them are as similar as they can get without actually being the same character from parallel universes. Both are gentle giants who believe deeply in peace and hope (and who don’t stand for threats to any of those things). Neil’s forgiveness of his parents for rocketing him away (and his dad for giving up on the search for him) is gratefully given and free from bitterness. Even Clark couldn’t have done better in that situation.
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Avengers Undercover #9 – Review

By: Dennis Hopeless (Writer), Timothy Green II (Artist), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (Color Artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Francesco Mattina (Cover Artist)

The Story: See what happens when you don’t have an Akbar to shout out “It’s a TRAP!”?

The Review: Interestingly, the cover of this issue does not feature any of the regular cast of Avengers Undercover. It’s still a dramatic and energetic picture, but it’s a telling sign how things have really shifted in this series, how the stakes have been raised, and how there are all kinds of wheels within wheels that the regular cast simply hasn’t seen.

And yet, the story does not abandon them. It’s still really about the young heroes of Avengers Academy/Arena/Etc., even with all the larger plots and machinations flying around them. This creates some tension and empathy for our characters, although it also contributes to a very rushed feeling as well. Some momentum is fine, and as a reader maybe even preferable, but here there are times when I wish the various story beats deserved a bit more room to breathe.   

This issue’s “point of view” is from Anachronism. There’s no ambiguity about that question, unlike the previous issue. There’s a panel with only him and a caption saying “This is me.” OK, gotcha.  And yet, this trick of using characters’ captions as a narrative frame worked for other issues, and it gets dropped here pretty quickly. The scenes are shifting to too many other characters and the plot is being driven so hard that it’s not longer a defining feature of the book. And then, suddenly, an omniscient narrator’s caption is telling me Cammi is breaking the fourth wall in order to shush me? That’s a bit too sudden a stylistic shift and ruins what could be a more effective cliffhanger.

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Daredevil #7 – Review

By: Mark Waid (story) Javier Rodriguez (art), Alvaro Lopez (inks)

The Story: It’s a jungle out there. Daredevil and confusion everywhere.

The Review: I tend to dread it when writers—specifically comic book writers and superhero writers especially—bring in political dimensions to their stories. Politics are an impenetrable morass of complications and the higher up you go, the worse it becomes. Once you get to the international stage, forget it; you need to be committed to understanding this stuff 24/7 before you can truly understand it. Superhero writers invariably oversimplify things and it almost always reflects poorly on the story.

Not even a great like Waid is immune. I confess I’m not up to speed on Wakandan politics, this being the side-effect of not being a total Marvel devotee. But I really don’t understand why, if Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, it would need to outsource its research to the U.S. at all. Even setting that aside, the plan to extradite the three protesting nun who didn’t actually expose Wakanda’s doings strikes me as overly complicated. Shuri justifies herself thusly, “Those women risked embarrassing Wakanda. If I declare that to be a crime, then it is.” She’s the Queen of Hearts in full-body black spandex.

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Transformers: Robots in Disguise #32 – Review

By: John Barber (writer), Andrew Griffith & Brendan Cahill (art), Josh Perez & Joana Lafuente (colors)

The Story: I come from the Cybernet Space Cube. Through systems, robots, and alt modes to this place: Earth. My format: kind of an asshole…

The Review: Things were looking bad for Optimus Prime and his Earth-based Autobots at the end of last issue, but it’s slowly becoming clear that this era of Transformers: Robots in Disguise is one of ideological warfare. Without Megatron to unite them, both Cybertronian factions have begun to squabble, using their newfound freedom to fight for their own personal version of their chosen cause.

Even if he hadn’t stated as such prior to the start of the arc, it would be painfully clear that writer John Barber holds a special place in his heart for Prowl, eclipsing even the prominent position he held in the title before “Dark Cybertron”. We know that he holds a special resentment for Spike Witwicky’s betrayal, that he’s still struggling with the disconnect from his peers that Bombshell’s manipulations instilled in him, and that Megatron’s defection severely upset his worldview – but, nonetheless, it’s hard to tell exactly what is driving him. Barber opens the issue with a scene that implies that such issues have weighed on Prowl for a long time, it seems like there must be a more recent trigger. The unraveling of “Cybertron’s greatest mind”, as he so humbly puts it, is a fascinating character study, but I’m ready to actually see some movement on this plotline.

As the second arc of this new wave of IDW Transformers comes to an end, it’s hard not to notice that the vast majority of RiD’s action since “Dark Cybertron” has just been Prowl toying with everyone. Excluding Prowl and, perhaps, two exceptions, I believe you could remove any one character from the rather large cast of this series and the majority of the plot would occur exactly the same way. The Autobots are completely subsumed into Prowl’s scheming. Thank goodness for Decepticons.
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WCBR Is Looking For A Few New Writers

Calling all fanboys and fangirls! WCBR is looking for a new writer to join our team! We’re looking for someone who can help contribute by posting at least 3 (or more) reviews per week on our site. Preferably reviews of books from the big two, but we also don’t mind a review of an indie gem that you think the world needs to know about.

Reviews hover around 500 words and we ask that they’re done in a tactful manner and occasionally conform to our format. Potential candidates should have a very good grasp on the English language and strong argumentative writing skills and a compelling voice. Please check out the format of our reviews to get a grasp on the writing style that we’re looking for.

If you’re interested, send us an email of a list of titles in your pull list, explain why you’d be a good fit, and please provide us a review of a book that came out within the last week that we haven’t reviewed. All candidates will be contacted via email.

Cheers,

Ray

The Wicked + The Divine #3 – Review

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

The Story: Baphomet and the Morrigan prove that sex and rage go hand-in-hand with religion.

The Review: Religion as reality TV seems to be the throughline of this series, and I’ll be very interested to see the point Gillen’s trying to make with that. The simplistic theory is religion is mere entertainment for the masses, vacuous and prone to unnecessary conflict. The squabbles among the different gods are motivated by competition for attention, to obtain the largest number of fans/believers, all of which seems pointless when the gods are doomed to disappear in a couple years anyway.

It’s easy to sign onto this theory as you watch the Morrigan and Baphomet confront each other in the Underground. After a romp in the sack a few days earlier (thus providing him with an alibi for Luci’s frame-up), they now bring their darkest powers to bear against each other simply because Baphomet tried to usurp the Morrigan’s chosen venue. Their blowout is pure overgrown drama, the toxic, juvenile stuff of Jersey Shore‘s worst nightmares.
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All-New X-Factor #12

By: Peter David (Writer), Carmine Di Giandomenico (Penciller), Lee Loughridge (Color Artist), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer), Kris Anka & Jared Fletcher (Cover Artist)

Peter David’s name has become firmly associated with key characters of the Marvel Universe, and most specifically the characters of X-Factor. He is credited with creating many of the definitive takes on them, and most specifically that of Quicksilver. This issue promises to be one of them.

It hearkens back to another of those early definitive takes, almost 25 years ago, in X-Factor volume 1 #72, 1991, in which the US government-sponsored version of X-Factor held a press conference to introduce their team to the public. Here, the corporate-sponsored version of X-Factor does the same. Knowing this gives the issue a bit of resonance, but there’s enough character building and genuine pathos that even if you are unaware of the parallels, you get a satisfying reading experience.

Quicksilver is arguably the star player here, as his development takes both the beginning and end scenes of the book. The former perhaps foreshadows more conflict to come, but the ending offers him a chance to rest in the moment, perhaps incongruously for a speedster character, and to receive affirmation from a surprising source, his daughter. This fits in line with what X-Factor is really giving us right now– themes revolving around the question of what it really means to be a hero, as well as around the question of what “family” is all about.

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