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The Multiversity: The Just #1 – Review

By: Grant Morrison (story), Ben Oliver (art), Dan Brown (colors)

The Story: Reading comics is ruinous to your mental health and global stability.

The Review: Grant Morrison is widely accepted as a great writer, possibly one of the greatest writers in his medium. That doesn’t mean that he’s somehow immune to missteps or clichés. Most definitely not. But it does mean that even when his writing stumbles or falls into familiar patterns, it still manages to move towards the unexpected, to challenge your ability and commitment as a reader. You can’t skim your way through Morrison’s writing; you must dive deep and prepare to drown.

These Multiversity issues follow essentially the same course: introduce the world and its heroes, expose the heroes to the cursed Ultra comics, watch the world and its heroes fall apart—the end. From any other writer, this would be hack work, but with Morrison, he uses formula to show the drastically different results he can get by inserting uncommon variables. Maybe it’s a god of gods passing judgment on the universe; or two pulp worlds, one golden, one dark, at war; or maybe it’s a world where all the great superhero battles have already been won. This last is Earth-16, home of the Just.
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The Flash S01E03 – Review

By: Alison Schapker & Grainne Godfree

The Story: As it turns out, some supervillains are a gas.

The Review: With every new show, the best you can hope for is that each week will see strengths bolstered and weaknesses ironed out. This doesn’t always happen. Some shows seem committed to repeating the same mistakes over and over, while others can’t figure out how to get rid of certain flaws (two years later, Arrow still struggles to find something for Dinah to do). The Flash had the good fortune of starting off strong, but there are plenty of areas in which it can improve.

To get the bad out of the way, decent villains will probably be an ongoing problem for the life of the show, because any Freak-of-the-Week show has that problem. While the second episode at least attempted to make Multiplex sympathetic, this one doesn’t bother with Kyle Nimbus (a.k.a. the Mist). A death row convict taking revenge on those who convicted him requires little depth; we get scant details even on what crimes he actually committed. He’s a purely functional villain, whose danger comes mostly from Anthony Carrigan’s genuinely menacing appearance and performance.
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #39 – Review

By: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz (story), Mateus Santolouco (art), Ronda Pattison (colors)

The Story: Among other vices, Old Hob is a specist.

The Review: I’m feeling pretty good about the future of this series because it just occurred to me how massive and colorful the cast has become since I first started reading. The best serial fiction requires exactly such a cast because that’s the only way it can sustain itself over the long term. Placing all your bets on your star is always a bad idea because eventually, he will collapse and no one else will have muscle to take his place. Isn’t that kind of what happened on Dexter?

Anyway, this issue shows how much potential TMNT has now to mix and match its characters in search of new storylines. Who’d have ever thought of pairing Alopex and Angel together, for instance? Yet when you see them together, it all makes sense: both are buttkicking females; both are sort of outsiders from the other groups in the series; both are seeking purpose. Although Alopex’s motive in reaching out to Angel may be another bid to curry the Turtles’ favor, I think she’s found her BFF right here.
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The Legend of Korra S04E03 – Review

By: Tim Hedrick (story)

The Story: Korra gets her butt kicked by a blind old woman.

The Review: Last episode represented something of a high water mark for the show in terms of psychological gravity, but if there’s one area in which the show still has little experience, it’s politics. From the season premiere, almost any viewer could see that Kuvira’s control issues and Prince Wu’s utter incompetence was going to lead to some kind of coup, yet it takes nearly every other character in the episode by surprise. Even for politicians, that’s a new low of shortsightedness.

Tenzin’s mostly a spiritual world leader, but at least he voices some misgivings about Kuvira. Leave it to the seasoned official to totally get the wrong call. In response to Tenzin’s concerns, Raiko says matter-of-factly, “She gave me her word she’d step down.” That pretty well sums up the level of sophistication in government affairs for the Avatar world: global power handed over on the basis of essentially a pinky-swear. Even Suyin, who’s openly hostile to Kuvira’s power grabs, labors under the assumption her future daughter-in-law will eventually relinquish that power. Thus the season’s biggest conflict arises from everyone else’s stupidity.
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Loki: Agent of Asgard #7 – Review

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

The Story: In which Doom doesn’t engage in self-discovery.

The Review: My unfamiliarity with Marvel canon means the films can be as influential on my understanding of the characters as the comics. Freyja, for example, I’m used to thinking of as the ultimate mother, full of unconditional love even for the reprobates in her family. So it’s rather jarring to see her manipulative strong-arming of Loki into a joyless future just to ensure the happiness of everyone else’s. Her rationalization for ensuring Old Loki’s existence is all queen, but little mother:

“He is the Loki we need now. In this time of change, he brings a promise of security. The future he promises is a golden one for us all.”

Even Odin, not exactly known for touchy-feelyness, has second thoughts about the trade-off. “All but him, cursed to ever play the villain, to ever lose… How does the younger Loki take it?”

His wife wavers, but stays on point. “He…he will come to his senses in time.”
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Fables #145 – Review

By: Bill Willingham (story), Mark Buckingham (pencils), Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy, Dan Green (inks), Lee Loughridge (colors)

The Story: Girl power isn’t quite enough to beat wolf god power.

The Review: As we get closer to the end of this series, I find a little less to say about it each issue. Of course, this may have something to do with Willingham killing off a character or two each month, but mostly it’s because we’re veering away from the stuff that makes Fables compelling—exploring and reimagining classic fairy tales—in favor of physical conflict, which isn’t Willingham’s strongest suit. There’s not much tactical brilliance at work in these battles; it’s simply a matter of who’s stronger.

Given that Bigby is just a couple steps short of godhood, that means only a few contenders can hope to face him and survive. A team-up of Rose and Totenkinder seems promising, and in fact the old Frau has Bigby on the ropes for a few panels. But even she is blind to Leigh’s part in all this, giving Bigby his second wind and comeback. The match ends in a draw, but it reveals how powerful Leigh has become—undeservedly, I should mention. Leigh is only this strong by virtue of her connection to Mr. Dark, not because she’s particularly formidable in herself.
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Daredevil #9 – Review

By: Mark Waid (story), Chris Samnee (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: It’s true that children can really drive you off the wall.

The Review: For those of you who don’t know, I work in the dependency system as minors’ counsel—yes, my actual day job—so I have a soft spot for abused, neglected, or otherwise troubled kids. A lot of people say it’s hard work I’m doing, dealing with such emotionally trying issues from day to day, but in some ways, I find the job easy because unlike many attorneys, I rarely have difficulty feeling sympathy for my clients. It doesn’t take much for a kid to pull your heartstrings.

Fictional children get similar benefits, which sort of makes up for their lack of substance. Not like there aren’t any young characters as complex and memorable as adults (e.g., Huckleberry Finn, Scout Finch), but they just don’t have the same richness of experience. They see things simpler and more intensely than grown-ups, which is exactly the power exerted by the Purple Kids (which is what I’m calling them until Waid tells me otherwise) over the people around them. They have no agenda beyond fulfilling their immediate impulses, and no motivation besides subconsciously inflicting the pain they’ve suffered on others.
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