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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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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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Superman Unchained #8 – Review

By: Scott Snyder (story), Jim Lee (pencils), Scott Williams (inks), Alex Sinclair (colors)

The Story: Superman calls upon his inner Batman.

The Review: I take back what I said about finishing Wraith off with teamwork. Disappointing as it is that Bruce’s genius and Diana’s warrior prowess make no further contribution to the story, perhaps it’s for the best that Clark faces Wraith alone. As with any battle between Superman analogues, the conflict is ideological as well as physical; more than being about who’s stronger or has the kewlest grasp of his powers, this fight is about who took the correct course in life.

Obviously, the answer’s Clark, though Snyder perhaps takes a slight logical liberty to get there. Much of Clark’s triumph arises supposedly out of Wraith’s inexperience at fighting openly and without backup, but I find this hard to accept. It just seems hypocritical for Clark to looks down at Wraith’s military support when he’s got the support of the Justice League, who are basically an army unto themselves. It also seems ludicrous that Wraith’s decades in the military would somehow yield less fighting prowess than Clark. It’d be more credible for Clark to brag on the skills he learned through the League or by facing the most dangerous opponents in the universe on his own.
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Annihilator #1 – Review

By: Grant Morrison (story), Frazier Irving (art)

The Story: If you haven’t learned this by now, stay away from deep, dark pits.

The Review: I’ve been at this gig for nearly four years and so I consider myself fairly deep in the comic book biz, but one of the ways in which I’m still a comics rookie is the fact that—are you ready for this?—I have never once read one of Morrison’s non-mainstream works.* It’s true. I always meant to get around to it; The Invisibles and his Vertigo works are right there on my reading list. But my time has mostly been occupied keeping up with what’s new rather than looking back at the past.

In this sense, Annihilator is perfectly suited to me because while it presents as a very different kind of Morrison work, it’s as obsessed with the intersection of fiction and reality as everything else Morrison does. Here, that intersection manifests as a black hole in space—2492.Sagittarius A, “the Great Annihilator”—which connects to a sinkhole on a Hollywood hone purchased by Ray Spass (pronounced “space”), a screenwriter working on the project that’ll top his past successes and seal his fame.
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Astro City #15 – Review

By: Kurt Busiek (story), Brent Eric Anderson (art), Wendy Broome (colors)

The Story: Family is always there for each other—even if it’s one of robots.

The Review: Part of the beauty of Astro City is its revolving door of new characters and how it places less emphasis on playing with the same core cast. Sure, the Honor Guard shows up on a monthly basis, but mostly as tangential figures, costumed eye-candy if you will. You can thus treat every issue of Astro City as a debut issue, with minimal strings of continuity to untangle and Busiek reliably delivering every fact you need to appreciate the story.

Which is why it’s a little jarring to run into an issue where weak backstory actually has the effect of a bump in the road. It’s only a small bump—as far as our protagonist goes, we get plenty of information to keep us grounded—but because the deficiency concerns our antagonist, it’s enough to rattle you. Most of the time, Busiek makes understanding of the villains’ motivations unnecessary, as the true conflict of any given issue usually arises from within a character. But Vivian Vincentia Viktor is solely responsible for introducing conflict into the happy-go-lucky Ellie’s life; that requires a little more insight than what Busiek ultimately offers.
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She-Hulk #8 – Review

By: Charles Soule (story), Javier Pulido (art), Muntsa Vicente (colors)

The Story: It takes a desperate man to sue an elderly Captain America.

The Review: There have been a few times since I picked up this series when I wondered whether other people would really enjoy a committed legal drama from a comic book, or whether it’s just my own legal background talking. I’m comforted, however, by the fact that people have been entertained by this kind of stuff from Perry Mason to Law & Order: [Insert Spin-Off Here]. Adding superheroes to the mix can only make the series more interesting, I figure.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to follow a trial involving Captain America? And not just that, but involving him as defendant? In a civil suit for wrongful death? With She-Hulk as his attorney and Daredevil as opposing counsel? Again, I could just be law-nerding out here, but the premise alone wins out against stacks of your run-of-the-mill superhero stories.
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