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Uncanny Avengers #24 – Review

By: Rick Remender (Writer), Salvador Larroca (Artist), Dean White (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer), Paul Renaud (Cover Artist)

The Story: The continuing saga of Havok and his Avenging Friends, now in Genosha.

The Review: Here’s one instance of a comicbook cover accurately reflecting the contents inside, in the sense that it’s focused on Havok, Rogue, and the Scarlet Witch. These characters really are the cornerstone of the themes and issues for the series, so it makes sense, but at the same time it’s hard to get a feeling of any larger world that these characters, and indeed the Unity Squad, occupy.

For example, Havok’s coping with his new disfigurement, and there’s a little bit of the “real world” in that he has to go shopping while in costume. But when he credits himself as “Havok, Semi-famous Avenger,” it still rings a bit weird to my ear. He may have been in the public eye for a press conference and one battle, but beyond that? We the readers have seen him in action for nearly two years, but the Marvel public?

The art for this scene works well, using a few tricks (and some clichés) to enhance our story, such as some deep shadows and a bird’s-eye view of a lonely lamppost and of course Havok’s face hidden from view. Another scene that works well is Rogue’s dream sequence, which features some really lovely colors, setting it apart from the rest of the book and also capturing that dreamy quality. That’s especially effective because of the surprising appearance of a “ghost.”

Of course, I still have huge problems with Larocca’s art style. I don’t find it appealing at all, particularly the line quality. Perhaps it would be different if he could have a strong inker, one who could make his lines bolder, more well-rendered. When combined with some of the coloring, the effect is actually over-colored, a kind of “uncanny valley” where the artists are trying for reality but by doing so actually make it worse. But there’s also so many incongruities between the figures and their relationships to each other and to backgrounds that it comes off as amateurish. In the first panel on the page with Wolverine/Rogue/Witch’s snack time conversation, there are sinks to Wolverine’s right, then on the very same page, last panel, the sinks are behind him to his left. The next page, they’re fully behind him, then he goes to a small refrigerator that’s somewhere out of the blue, and finally stands in the kitchen with an Escher-like chair stuck floating behind him somehow.

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Batman and Robin: Futures End #1 – Review

By: Ray Fawkes (story), Dustin Nguyen (pencils), Derek Fridolfs (inks), John Kalisz (colors)

The Story: In a shocking glimpse of the future, Alfred has finally lost all his hair.

The Review: For the past year and a half, Peter J. Tomasi has been slowly building up to the moment when Batman would have his Robin once more. He’s taken even greater care to conceal the new Robin’s identity, unwilling to commit to a resurrected Damian Wayne or deputized Carrie Kelly or someone else altogether. Right now, he’s in the middle of one of the most important arcs of his career, unleashing Batman upon Apokolips, all so that we can have someone in red and green at the end of it.

With that in mind, it’s hard to believe Tomasi would just let Fawkes spoil the big secret on the first page of a tie-in issue, lost in a month of tie-in issues. In fact, you don’t believe it. You absolutely refuse to believe that the next Robin will be some random character who appeared once in an entirely different Batman series. And if, God forbid, it turns out that [Spoiler alert!] Duke really will be the next Robin, then you’ll have no choice but to look down on Tomasi for letting the bird out of the bag this early.
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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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