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Transformers: Robots in Disguise #33 – Review

By: John Barber (writer), Sarah Stone (art)

The Story: “I can’t tell anymore. I can’t tell what’s good or bad… and I don’t know what’s gonna happen.
Heh. Pal. You just described bein’ alive.

The Review: Have I mentioned how much I loved Transformers: Windblade lately? No? I loved Transformers: Windblade. And while Mairghread Scott’s clever writing and distinct outlook on Cybertron was a big part of what made that book special, the opportunity to revisit the art and setting of the Windblade miniseries is plenty of cause for celebration, especially as written by John Barber.

Since the start of “Dawn of the Autobots”, Transformers: Robots in Disguise has been a very different title. When the series launched nearly three years ago, it was focused on the political machinations of a revived Cybertron and the continued adventures of many of the beloved 1984 cast. While the book has been solid in its return to Earth, this issue reminds us just how suited John Barber was to the previous status quo.

Those looking for large-scale action like Optimus’ crew have seen over the past months will be disappointed, as this issue exclusively follows Wheeljack’s revival and readjustment the new post-Shockwave Cybertron. It’s twenty-three whole pages of indecision, awkwardness, and peer-pressure. The cynical among us will also note that this somewhat jarring interruption to Optimus, Prowl, and Galvatron’s struggle is really just a questionably disguised lead-in for the upcoming “Combiner Wars” event. While these are not unreasonable concerns, it’s worth mentioning that we’ve seen this scenario play out before. Indeed, this issue is essentially a sequel, chronological and spiritual, to RiD #20’s “Three Monologues”.
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Cyclops #5 – Review

 

By: Greg Rucka (story), Carmen Carnero (pencils), Terry Pallot (inks), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

The Story: The Summers avoid another day of eating extraterrestrial chicken.

The Review: Being a straight action-adventure, Cyclops would be pretty difficult to review if it didn’t have the developing relationship between Scott and Chris to flesh it out. I don’t have much experience with Rucka’s work, but from these last few issues, I’m starting to think he either doesn’t fit well with the sci-fi genre or he’s run out of ideas. In the Pete Tomasi mold, Rucka thrives on meaningful character interaction and drama, but seems awkward in action scenarios.

This issue offers a good look at the type of material we’re likely to receive without the Summers bond to prop it up. There’s really very little to say about Chris and Scott’s escape plan, except that it works pretty much as expected: lure the bounty hunters, commandeer their ship, sigh with relief at avoiding another night on the planet of flesh-eating birds. Aside from Scott’s submarine approach to the ship, there’s not much cleverness (read: thought) put into the plan. Basically, Chris hides behind stuff and shoots stun-webs at each hunter. Rinse, repeat.
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Bodies #3 – Review

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

The Story: It’s hard—not impossible—to cooperate when you live in different decades.

The Review: Every good detective in every good detective story has a personal reason for solving their case. Sometimes it’s one that strikes them right off the bat; other times it’s something they discover as they go along, getting closer to the truth of themselves at the same time as that of their mystery. It’s what keeps them chasing after tail of a lead through every roadblock in their way, even when every rule of cost-benefit says it’s time to stop.

All four of our investigators have such a reason to get to the bottom of their respective cases. For Shahara, it’s about asserting her identity; for Charles, covering his tracks; self-protection for Edmond; and, whether Maplewood’s conscious of it or not, piecing together the creation of her world. In a series that’s obviously going to be dominated by the weight of its plot, these are the character arcs that will give it meaning.
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C.O.W.L. #5 – Review

By: Kyle Higgins and Alex Siegel (writers), Rod Reis (art)

The Story: How do you define a hero?

The Review: From the moment you open this issue and see that the cast list on the inside of the cover is only three characters long, you’ll know that you’re in for something big.

With the union on strike and a riot broken out at the end of last issue, Geoffrey Warner is scrambling to hold C.O.W.L. together. Warner is the primary character of this issue, as he has been in one form or another from the beginning of the series. The book is called C.O.W.L. and Geoffrey Warner is C.O.W.L. The question now is what that means when C.O.W.L.’s future is very much uncertain.

Most of the cast has been taken into custody, leaving only those who weren’t present at the protest. That leaves John Pierce, who was busy investigating the Skylancer case, and Tom Haydn, who was sleeping off a hangover and an altercation with a pimp in a cell.

This issue’s greatest strength is its ambiguity. Driven largely by his basest impulses, Arclight has been, in many ways, the series’ most simplistic character, but that begins to change this issue. Despite being more than a little detestable over the last four issues, Siegel and Higgins do an admirable job of balancing the self-inflicted nature of Arclight’s troubles with a legitimate feeling of estrangement, building upon interactions like his conversation with Radia in issue #3 and even the audience’s own derision. While I doubt you’ll walk away from C.O.W.L. #5 rooting for Arclight, it takes crucial steps in defining him as a significant player going forward and establishing his own view of what it means to be a hero.
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Loki: Agent of Asgard #6 – Review

By: Al Ewing (story), Jorge Coelho (art), Lee Loughridge (colors)

The Story: God versus man-who-thinks-he’s-a-god.

The Review: I’m not quite sure I understand the four-month break since #5. Loki‘s been a fun series so far, but it’s not such a masterpiece that it can withstand that kind of delay without losing readers along the way. I mean, this isn’t Saga or Hawkeye.* To bring back my favorite relationship metaphor, you’ve really got to be invested in the story, or else truly love the characters, to be away from them for that long and not develop a wandering eye. Or you’ve got to be a reviewer and this is your semi-job.

Frankly, you’re also not impressed that you have to read two separate series to understand the context of the returning issue. Most times, you don’t take those editor’s captions very seriously; they’re more like marketing-driven suggestions than required reading. But here, without reading Fantastic Four Annual #1 or Original Sin: The Tenth Realm, you’re left confused as to the current and future state of Latveria that drives our villain to target our hero.
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Saga #23 – Review

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

The Story: As always, children are the best guards against philandering.

The Review: Although the name of the creative game is to strive for the unexpected, Vaughan is one of the few writers who actually seems to do so regularly—which is why this last arc has been a bit of a puzzle. After firing a warning shot that this is the story of how Marko and Alana split up, Vaughan has proceeded on a very familiar trajectory of building up their mutual resentment and adding temptation in the form of Ginny. For once, it looked like Vaughan was going the predictable route.

But the point of Saga has always been about subverting its space opera background with the everyday anxieties and challenges of contemporary relationships, and the cheating partner definitely qualifies. [Spoiler alert!] So I don’t know what to make of this issue revealing Marko and Alana’s “split up” in its literal sense, with Marko left behind on Gardenia while his family is forced by Dengo to take off to parts unknown. Should we be giddy with relief that Vaughan defeated our expectations and our favorite couple still have a romantic future together, or should we suspect maybe he’s just pandering to popular demand and thus wimping out on an uncomfortable change?
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Superman: Doomed #2 – Review

By: Too many to list—check out the review.

The Story: Superman, now with the rage of a thousand suns and the brains of seven billion minds.

The Review: As you may know, it’s very important for me to make a good-faith attempt to figure out what a writer (or writers, as the case may be) is trying to do before passing judgment on it. Stories like Doomed are thus the most difficult for me to review because I never know whether it makes sense to criticize something for being over-the-top when its intention is to be so. In cases like these, you can only find the true merit of the story by peeling away its many distracting layers of plot twists.

If the intention of Doomed was to produce the biggest, wildest story possible, Greg Pak and Charles Soule have definitely succeeded: seven billion souls at risk, Superman as Doomsday, Wonder Woman coercing Mongul in the Phantom Zone, Lois Lane as a telepathic Brainiac-avatar, the list goes on. And by the issue’s end, there’s no denying that Pak-Soule manage to coordinate all their moving pieces to reach a sensible resolution that trails into a potentially even bigger storyline. Yes, it’s quite diverting, even entertaining. But is it satisfying? Well, that’s a more complicated question.
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