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Letter 44 #11 – Review

By: Charles Soule (story), Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque (art), Dan Jackson (colors)

The Story: Stephen makes it easier to be in the military just when it’s become the worst place to be.

The Review: If I sounded more than a bit cranky last time we were here, it’s because I was. Not that I expect fiction to reflect reality exactly—of course I don’t—but I don’t like it when writers dumb things down to make their own work easier. We already suffer from excessive oversimplification in our daily lives, and anyway, the best fiction isn’t afraid to tackle complications. When comics avoid that struggle, it only drags down the overall credibility of the medium.

Okay—end rant. Whew! Almost worked up a sweat, there. Getting back to this issue, Soule continues Stephen’s hilariously inept course, minimizing the most crucial issues of his presidency to focus on pointless distractions. Having just suffered one of the most serious military setbacks of his presidency—a base full of impossibly advanced weaponry just got nuked, for heaven’s sake—he decides the most appropriate response is to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Congratulations, Stephen, for catching up to the real world, three years too late.*
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Dead Boy Detectives #10 – Review

By: Toby Litt (story), Mark Buckingham (layouts), Ryan Kelly (finishes), Lee Loughridge (colors)

The Story: Nobody likes a bully, especially a big, furry one.

The Review: I’ve often found Dead Boy Detectives fun, but never really funny. I smile a good deal, maybe have a chuckle once in a while, but laughs are rare. Litt’s humor is of a very British kind, absurd, understated, and situational, so it takes a little more of your attention to catch on. A lot of it has also been buried under the series’ melodrama, so the jokes lose steam almost the moment after they’re told. Comedy depends on momentum; once you start laughing, it’s hard to stop.

Maybe that’s why this issue, despite taking place against the background of Rosa’s dwindling life, strikes you as the funniest Litt’s put out yet. Here, the heightened tension accentuates the dry remarks that just keep on coming, one after another. The black cat insists it can help convince Rosa’s parents that their child can be saved; its white partner retorts, “You underestimate the impact of an extremely cute visitation.” When Crystal tries to intervene, her mother says soothingly, “Crystal’s always been a bit weird,” and her dad chimes in, “Yeah, we usually find it’s sensible to ignore everything she says.” Once Crystal finally gets the Greens to listen, Julia says brusquely, “If this is about Jesus, I’ll be really annoyed.” You almost forget an innocent girl is dying here.
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Aquaman #35 – Review

By: Jeff Parker (story), Paul Pelletier (pencils), Sean Parsons (inks), Rain Beredo (colors)

The Story: Arthur shakes things up back in Atlantis.

The Review: As the most recent issues of this series show, Aquaman‘s not really cut out for your typical superheroics. Despite Geoff Johns and Parker’s best efforts to jazzy him up, Arthur’s power set is still pretty limited.* In the end, he’s just a watered down Wonder Woman with a fancy pitchfork and who can tell sea life what to do, except sometimes. Pitting him against monsters and supervillains on a regular basis won’t do anything for his profile except expose his weaknesses.

Better that the stories isolate him to within Atlantis, where his only competition is Mera—which is enough as it is. Challenge him with the burdens of a king, his one distinguishing factor, and he just might avoid embarrassing himself every other issue. Besides, it’s been a long time since he dealt with problems within the kingdom, and he’ll never build his popularity among the Atlanteans that way.
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The Legend of Korra S04E04 – Review

By: Katie Mattila (story)

The Story: Sending your kids to carry out a delicate political mission? Now, that’s bad parenting.

The Review: Of all the differences between Legend of Korra and Last Airbender, the most significant one that gets the most overlooked is probably the average age of the cast. We’re talking about characters who come in with more hang-ups and less optimism, who make fewer (but bigger) mistakes and consequently have fewer things to laugh about. Korra has learned to embrace these parts of itself, but the sunny, carefree adventures of Last Airbender will always be missed.

Jinora, Ikki, Meelo to a large extent represent the last vestige of those days (excepting Bolin’s infantile antics). Their occasional appearances have always been fun and enjoyable, but at odds with the older characters’ more businesslike attitudes. In Last Airbender, kids were the norm; they were protagonists and antagonists both and the adults served mostly as guides and obstacles. Here, Tenzin’s kids are too much at risk from the cruel likes of Amon or Zaheer, which is why only Jinora, the oldest, has had the privilege of fully participating in the story, a privilege Ikki and Meelo now share.
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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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