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Justice League: Futures End #1 – Review

By: Jeff Lemire (story), Jed Dougherty (art), Gabe Eltaeb (colors)

The Story: Among his many powers, Captain Atom demonstrates his nuclear temper.

The Review: One of the complications of reading comics (and part of why it can get a little tricky to review these things) is the synthesis of story and art, the way they build, play upon, and tear each other down. Strong art doesn’t always follow strong story, and vice versa, yet they do tend to gravitate toward each other, in the same way a Martin Scorsese film will attract the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Cate Blanchett, while Michael Bay has Megan Fox to grace his screen.

So just by looking at Dougherty’s art for this issue, you can get the measure of its story, and neither is very good. It should never be lost on anyone how often DC’s September line-wide Events are absent of the publisher’s usual stable of artists, replaced by those whose only apparent talent is to turn out an issue of minimally clear visuals by a given deadline. Such is the work of Dougherty, whose generic, slightly disheveled figures look as if they were churned out while he was daydreaming in class. Perspective is just barely present, and the energy blasts drawn as shapeless, fluttery blooms—the kind you might have drawn as an eager fifth-grader—is about as dynamic as the action gets.
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The Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes #1 – Review

By: Grant Morrison (story), Chris Sprouse (pencils), Karl Story & Walden Wong (inks), Dave McCaig (colors)

The Story: Introducing the super-hero team whose name makes you think of ABBA.

The Review: Among comic book writers, Morrison may be the one consummate thespian, entirely committed to whatever project he’s crafted for himself. His immersion into these fictional worlds is so complete that it should surprise no one when he regularly appears in a comic in his own likeness. Given how hokey, strange, and outright absurd some—many—of his ideas are, that level of conviction is not only useful, but necessary.

It may be the only way something as deliberately antiquated as the Society of Super-Heroes (S.O.S.) has a platform to exist upon. It’s also the only way Morrison can create what feels like a fully-realized world in thirty-odd pages so he can quickly get to the real business of tearing it all down. He has no time to waste with individual introductions and relationship-building; these things must come wholly formed so when their end draws near, you feel a genuine sense of peril for these characters you just met.
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Edge of Spider-Verse #2 -

By: Jason Latour (Writer), Robbi Rodriquez (Artist), Rico Renzi (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer & Production)

The Story: Spider-Woman, Spider-Woman! Doing whatever a spider doin’!

The Review: Teenage heroes coming into their own? All-girl rock bands? Classic “I-must-but-I-must-not” supporting cast members? Trying to do the right thing, getting hurt by it, and still doing it anyway? This is very nearly a perfect example of a comicbook, modeled, appropriately enough, on the winning formula started by Marvel’s original Spider-Man.

But this is a teenage Gwen Stacy, instead. Logically, her dilemmas set her up against her friends (MJ and the girls of the band “The Mary Janes”) as well as her father, police captain George Stacy, putting all the pieces of formula together in exactly the places we expect and presenting them through brilliant art and earnest pathos.

Several pages were simply beautiful. The art, colors, and letters/production all work together well, from the very first panel of The Mary Jane’s lyrics (and Gwen pounding on the drums on the next page) to the very quiet and poignant moment of Gwen on the rooftop– the music of her phone brilliantly represented by the colors of circles floating behind her. All the lettering, especially the sound effects, have wonderfully organic and natural quality about them. (Reinforcing the honesty and amateur-ity of the hero, perhaps?) Sure, I could complain about a few sequences that seemed awkward, usually when the artist tried to convey Spider-Woman moving through the space of the scene. Both on the platform with one cop and when facing her father, there was not a strong visual flow. And was she dancing/twirling over the body of Alexsei? Overall, though, the expression and dynamism of the characters were clear and strong. I really like Robbi Rodriguez’ style here.

The costume design for Spider-Woman, too, deserves special mention. The color choices are inspired, and the imbalance of the color actually works well. This is a wonderfully contemporary costume that takes advantage of modern-day color techniques and aesthetics. Also, the hoodie offers a visual clue about the momentum of the figure, making it feel like the figure’s in motion (which, you know, *capes* can do as well! Just sayin’.) I really hope this design (or its elements) catch on for a bit.

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Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #33 – Review

By: James Roberts (writer), Alex Milne (art), Joana Lafuente (colors)

The Story: The quantum crew must stop the quantum engines from spewing quantum foam before it causes a quantum explosion.

…Quantum.

The Review: The past six issues of Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye have seen nonstop surprises and brilliant, mind-bending ideas introduced one after another. This issue, while technically the climax of the season’s second arc, serves as a conclusion to most of these plot points, leaving everything tied up nicely and the reader’s mind – and heart – sufficiently blown.

One strength that James Roberts has brought to the title of late is the self-contained nature of the stories. While that may sound somewhat odd given that nearly everything in this issue references a past adventure, everything you need to solve the mysteries at hand is contained within these twenty pages. Even bearing a bold “Part 2” on its title page, this issue’s essential functions are separate from its predecessor’s. What that means for this issue is that, even though it’s deeply connected to past stories, there’s a full narrative arc in this issue, a new problem to be solved and complications arising from the proposed solution. While it’s possible that the benefit of this approach will be mitigated in trade, as a single issue, it does a lot for the series.

While I’ve just gone on at some length about the merits of this issue’s individuality, I can’t deny that it also reaps the rewards of thirty-three issues of character work. While much of the cast is missing, Roberts has made MTMTE a true ensemble book and the feeling that you know the whole crew is put to spectacular use. Megatron says it best. “Such a fuss,” Ravage mutters, “Is he important?” “Come now, Ravage. Everyone’s important these days.” And he’s right. Though there are favorites even among the handful of survivors, the knowledge that death, or worse, is a very real possibility gives this issue an edge above its fellows, and certainly above most other comics series out there. In fact, the premise of this issue seemingly requires a tragedy, but I’ll not say more.
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Uncanny X-Men #26 – Review

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

The Story: Scott and Christopher grapple with their delusions as the Iceman cometh, and angrily.

The Review: Generally speaking, I like the Schism. I like the idea of separating the X-Men into new and classic flavors, delving into the differences of opinion that besiege any movement for equality without labeling one side a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It’s not perfect, but I’m a fan. As “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” rolls on, the main event continues to be the X-Men’s reactions and the ability of this new information to present ever more variations of the X-Men philosophy.

Broadly, the characters fall into a couple of general positions, but the details are what make it engaging. Details like Scott and Logan’s odd respect for one another, still standing after being established in Wolverine and the X-Men #40, or the sharp edge that’s appeared on Bobby’s trademark humor. It helps that this issue corrects one of the most glaring problems of the Schism era: balance. Supporters of each side have frequently, and rightly, criticized many X-Men issues for presenting highly biased views of the opposing side. Luckily, Bendis breaks that trend, actively criticizing both sides. There’s still a little more time dedicated to absolving Cyclops, but the issue does so in a way that still acknowledges his flaws.

It’s not just the classic X-Men who are getting into it, either. While it’s hard to deny that well written interactions between the feuding X-Men are a treat, this is really the only book that provides a look at the New Xavier students. Back in Canada, Triage is starting to grasp precisely what Scott’s militant view of mutant rights will entail. While he puts it in rather simple terms, it’s not hard to agree with him, especially when the Stepford Cuckoos fall back into their obnoxious smugness to disprove him. It’s not quite up to the level that the scenes at the Jean Grey School manage, but it sets the stage for some fascinating drama as that same sort of individualism begins to stir in the next generation of mutants.
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Hawkeye #20 – Review

By: Matt Fraction (story), Annie Wu (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors)

The Story: It’s never a good day to find out your dad’s involved with a very bad woman.

The Review: Hawkeye has always operated on a loose structure, with an improvised quality that encourages Fraction, Wu, and David Aja to take the title in unexpected directions. This is especially the case for the Kate Bishop side of things, since her youth, inexperience, and utter lack of resources leave her no choice except to fake it until she makes it. This would be fine if you didn’t get the niggling feeling that Fraction’s doing the exact same thing.

Obviously, there is very little wrong (and everything right) about the premise of Kate broke and stuck in L.A., embroiled in a vendetta with Madame Masque. And if every issue of this series was about nothing except that, we’d have a very large time indeed. But this whole system of coming back to Kate’s story every couple months or so results in done-in-one chapters that don’t quite mesh once you try to fit them together. The standalone #16 is the best example, although really, it’s only been since #18 that we got the sense of an overarching plot.
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Amazing Spider-Man #6 – Review

By: Dan Slott (Writer), Humberto Ramos (Penciller), Victor Olazaba (Inker), Edgar Delgado (Color Artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer)

The Story: All of this could have been avoided if the Black Cat didn’t need an initiation ritual to lead some random Z-list bad guys.

The Review: There has to be a kind of optimism in every hero. There has to be, because it seems like it takes a lot of work to try to right the wrongs of the world without a lot of payoff. That observation is made by a few people in Spider-Man’s new supporting cast, Anna Marie and Sanjani, but Parker counts the events of this issue as a “win” because of his heroic optimism. This is a neat way to keep Spider-Man poised as a prime example of heroism in the Marvel universe, and it highlights one of the reasons that he’s been a favorite character for many years.

Other developments in this issue? Not so satisfying. For some reason, there’s an attraction between Spider-Man and Silk, which is annoying Anna Marie just as much as the readers. The whole thing seems to be playing more to comedy than anything, which is part of the annoyance, because all the characters don’t really take it seriously. I’m not sure it’s the best take, as it actually detracts from actual character-building. Wouldn’t Peter, the quintessential “responsible” hero, be dealing with this more deeply? Shouldn’t there be some logical questions and consequences to this? So far, aside from some eye-rolling from Anna Marie, there doesn’t appear to be. They do admit their attraction is stronger when there’s danger nearby, but that doesn’t really make sense. “Hey! Something bad is going to happen! Let’s stop and kiss!”

Developments like this rely on PIS, or “Plot-Induced Stupidity.” That’s been the reason behind my complaints of the Black Cat’s portrayal throughout this storyline, but even Anna Marie’s not immune, as she doesn’t recognize that the Cat (with glasses) isn’t a part of her own company. I’ll give Electro’s stupidity credit, though; he’s always been a bit dim, so to speak.

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