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Wonder Woman #33 – Review

By: Brian Azzarello (story), Cliff Chiang (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: Among other things, Diana is queen of rejection.

The Review: Just a word of warning that there’ll be delays in reviews this week. It’s Bar Exam times in California, so at least you’ll know that I’m not shirking my semi-duties for the fun of it. Believe me when I tell you that I would much rather be spending my day discussing Wonder Woman with you guys. But since that can’t be, we’ll just have to content ourselves with this passing, though potentially enlightening, review.

I don’t much like monsters for villains, except in cartoons. They’re easy to hate and kill, but that’s not a very interesting use of a character. Needless to say, I’ve had my issues with the First Born as the main antagonist for this series. When his ultimate goal is simply to destroy everything—not for any particular reason other than just to make sure everything’s destroyed—there’s not much more you can do with him except hope his defeat comes sooner rather than later.
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Godzilla: Rulers of Earth #14 – Review

By: Chris Mowry (writer), Matt Frank (art), Mostafa Moussa (ink assists), Priscilla Tramontano (colors)

The Story: See that, it cuts straight through ice, steel, even tough monster hide! Usually you’d have to pay DARPA’s entire budget for a Mechagodzilla of this quality but Showa Mechagodzilla can be yours to own for the low, low price of Russia.

The Review: With its first year completed, Godzilla: Rulers of Earth has jumped straight into its next story arc. As Godzilla and Anguirus both reappear, the Russian government has been approached by a private contractor who believes it holds the answer to national security in the age of titans: a brand new Mechagodzilla.

After the Americans created the Heisei Mechagodzilla in Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters and private enterprise brought us Kiryu in the Godzilla ongoing, it’s been a bit of a surprise to see the original Showa-era Mechagodzilla over these past two issues. Despite the charm of the design, the original Mechagodzilla is clearly a product of its time. It’s hard to take it seriously after seeing the sleek updates in action. Thankfully Chris Mowry comes up with an inventive and rather brilliant way to introduce the first iteration of Godzilla’s bionic doppelgänger.

If there’s one thing that the Showa Mechagodzilla had in its movies, it’s ordinance. If you’ve watched either of the mechanical saurian’s film outings you probably remember the lengthy montages of its various lasers and missiles firing. Mowry brings that same sense of overwhelming firepower to this issue. At times it can feel a little didactic to have Mechagodzilla’s capabilities outlined so brazenly, but it makes sense in story and gives us an impressive one-sided battle.

So Mowry’s given us a giant monster fight scene.
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Daredevil #6 – Review

By: Mark Waid (story) Javier Rodriguez (art), Alvaro Lopez (inks)

The Story: It’s a whole new low of villainy when nuns are your victims.

The Review: Even though I’ve picked up quite a few Marvel titles in the last year, I can’t say I’ve decamped altogether from my DC leanings. Case in point, I’m always up-to-date on the major going-ons in the DCU even if I’m not reading any of the relevant titles. Not so with Marvel. Lately, I’ve seen Original Sin stamped all over the place, but I still have almost no idea what it’s about. Something to do with somebody blabbing crucial secrets that makes everyone miserable?

Fortunately, Waid gives me just enough to understand the spark for this current arc, in which we reverse course from Matt’s bright, bouncy adventures in San Fran back to the grim, soul-sucking investigations of New York City. Actually, in terms of crossover premises, Original Sin is very promising in that it allows each participant to deal with the ramifications of their personal revelation on their own, no interference or collaboration with extraneous characters necessary. Now, that’s a crossover idea I can get behind.
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Saga #21 – Review

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

The Story: Usually, the revelation of your newborn son involves less homicide.

The Review: As I said last issue, the core of Saga is maintaining a typical domestic drama within a highly fantasized universe. For the most part, Vaughan succeeds in this endeavor; some of the series’ best, most poignant moments have been sympathizing with Alanna and Marko in managing their in-laws, debating the upbringing of their child, worrying over the staling of their lifestyle. Many’s the time when you overlook the galactic war around them altogether.

But always, in the background of things, the war quietly exerts pressure on the story when it’s not drawing them in outright. Almost every single character in Saga wants to live an ordinary life, and it’s always the war that gets in their way. If not for the Landfall-Wreath conflict, Alanna, Marko, and Klara could live openly and take any opportunity that comes their way, instead of settling for less. Prince Robot could have his idyllic family vacation by the sea, instead of it existing merely as a hopeless dream.
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Transformers: Windblade #4 – Review

By: Mairghread Scott (writer), Sarah Stone (artist)

The Story: Windblade runs up against one of the key problems of representative government – if you’re not willing to seize power, there’s someone else who will.

The Review: It’s hard to use words like best when you’re talking about the current IDW Transformers line. Robots in Disguise is rather underrated in my opinion, More Than Meets The Eye is acknowledged genius, but somehow there’s something special about Transformers: Windblade that makes it one of my favorite books month after month. Sadly this is the end for our little miniseries that could, but it certainly doesn’t go out quietly.

Transformers: Windblade #4 admittedly suffers from a common comic malady, the overstuffed conclusion. There’s a lot going on here and, if this were a movie or a TV show, it really should come after the climax rather than just starting off the issue. Nevertheless, it’s like that because it would be a shame to lose any of the action that Mairghread Scott has laid out for us.

Part of what’s made Windblade such a success is the infectious optimism of our title heroine. While it may have been a bit much for Windblade to start entirely ignorant of Starscream’s reputation, she’s generally avoided being pure maiden of pure purity while remaining hopeful for the future of Cybertron. Like most of us at some time or another, Windblade feels out of place, like she doesn’t quite belong, on Cybertron, but what’s so charming about her is the way that she earnestly, but not fearlessly throws herself into her new role and opens herself to the people of Cybertron, despite being a Camien. This issue, that’s going to be tested.

As readers we possess the necessary distance to see the flaws in both the Autobot and Decepticon ideologies. We see the tragic flaws that have doomed Megatron’s rebellion and the cracks in the Autobot myth that Optimus Prime is desperately trying to hold together and redeem by force of will alone. As an outsider, Windblade has a similar distance. She has the opportunity to show Cybertron a better way, but, if she can’t, Starscream has his own way of creating the Cybertronian Utopia, one that has always been at war with Eastasia.
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Ragnarök #1 – Review

By: Walter Simonson (writer & artist), Laura Martin (colorist)

The Story: “Would you know yet more?”

The Review: Full of strange ideas and epic dramas, Walter Simonson’s Thor remains one of the go-to answers when someone asks what they should read to get into Marvel’s god of thunder. It should come as no surprise, therefore, to hear that Simonson’s return to the realm of Norse Mythology has been hotly anticipated. But despite the undoubted similarity between the forms, Ragnarök #1 resembles traditional sword and sorcery more than the traditional fare of the Norse gods, Marvel-style or otherwise.

In fact, in keeping with the name, there are no gods in this issue, save for what appears to be a corpse in a couple of panels. Instead we explore the post-twilight world through the eyes of Brynja, a svartálfr or black elf. Brynja is an interesting protagonist for this story. While she’s certainly not busting down stereotypes of women or black elves, Simonson does a fine job of representing her complexity and competency. Despite holding the questionable position of assassin, Brynja shows remarkable compassion for her family and has a rather charming relationship with her husband and former sword master, Regn. All of this is expressed in a matter of pages and done in a way that, while it doesn’t sneak information to the reader, is integrated into the story well enough that readers won’t ever feel spoken down to.

Ragnarök obviously rewards those who have some familiarity with Norse mythology but, like many comics, it will likely be the expectation of not understanding that proves the greater barrier than Simonson’s writing. Indeed, much of the content is original and the Thor movies should provide enough background knowledge for most topics raised. As long as you come in with a basic understanding that the Norse gods were prophesized to die and that this was called Ragnarök, you should be able to get your feet, if not understand every nuance.
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Batman and Robin #33 – Review

By: Peter J. Tomasi (story), Patrick Gleason (pencils), Mick Gray (inks), John Kalisz (colors)

The Story: Friends don’t let friends fight evil gods alone.

The Review: I’m not a hardcore Bat-fan, but I can definitely see his massive appeal.* Despite his mortal frame, the man goes toe-to-toe alongside and against some of the most powerful forces in the universe and doesn’t even bat an eye—yes, pun intended. That kind of courage, guts, pluck, whatever you’d like to call it, always puts him on the verge of open conflict with somebody bigger than him, and it really doesn’t get bigger than the Justice League and Apokolips.

Bruce going rogue with the League goes about as well as you’d expect. He may be Batman, but getting past all his teammates by himself is beyond even him, as it should be. You couldn’t retain much respect for them otherwise. It’s also important that Bruce isn’t entirely in the right here. Vic and Arthur point out the folly of making an incursion into Apokolips and tackling something they’re not ready for, and they’re correct. The League may be party-poopers in this scenario, but they’re rightfully so.
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Storm #1 – Review

By: Greg Pak (writer), Victor Ibañez (artist), Ruth Redmond (color artist)

The Story: Sometimes, being where you need to be is more important than being where you should.

The Review: Despite being, in my estimation, one of the four most famous X-Men*, Storm has never held her own ongoing series. Almost forty years after her debut, Greg Pak has something to say about that.

It’s been a long time since Storm felt like a true A-Lister. While dull as dirt Cyclops has consistently tricked readers into thinking that his leadership position makes him more interesting, Storm has frequently faded into her own responsibilities. With this issue Pak needed to prove that Storm has the rich inner life and personal struggle that define Marvel’s greatest characters.

Thankfully, on that count, he succeeds with flying colors. From the first line, an English-professor-melting refrain of “When I was just a girl, I called myself Goddess…and I lived in the sky”, the essential warmth that has been absent from this character is alive and present. Pak defines Ororo Munroe by her compassion and pragmatism. When confronted with a Gordian Knot, she’s likely to simply cut it and struggles when the simplest solution is complicated by outside factors.

The story that Pak has chosen to tell is well suited to demonstrating these characteristics. It lacks extraneous elements without feeling overly constructed. That said this is a completely singular story. Marvel easily could have published this as a one-shot and it wouldn’t have even been one of those issues you put down and think, ‘man, this should be a series’ like with Superman: Lois Lane #1. That’s not to say that the issue doesn’t hook you, but there’s just not a sense of what the series will be like going forward, which is, in part, the purpose of a first issue.

While the specifics of the series aren’t quite laid out, Pak definitely demonstrates a grasp of character and a thoughtfulness that one would expect to reappear. Pak’s world is natural in a way that X-Men stories haven’t been in some time. Once again being a mutant isn’t a superpower it’s a culture, with all the privileges and prejudices that come with it. In a single issue the young mutant Creep has eclipsed Quentin Quire as the Jean Grey School’s most interesting critic. Likewise the way that Pak ties anti-mutant sentiment into real-life issues is respectful and engaging.
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Superman #33 – Review

By: Geoff Johns (story), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Klaus Janson (inks), Laura Martin (colors)

The Story: Eat your heart out Woodward and Bernstein. It’s all about Kent and White now.

The Review: The special twist of Superman’s character has always been about his reputation for being the most human of superheroes despite his alien origins—which is a far cry from being the most relatable, apparently. At times, his moral perfection made him more foreign and unsettling than the fact that he comes from another planet. The new DCU has attempted to reconfigure his personality a bit, but making him more temperamental has done little to solve his self-righteousness problem.

Bringing back the Daily Planet in full force may be the answer. If you want to bring Superman down to Earth, he probably needs to interact with its denizens more. That won’t work, however, if the good folk at the Planet are thin, one-dimensional foils who exist solely to feed Clark free information. Which is to say I approve of this issue’s opening, in which the entire gang, sans Clark, sit for a team debriefing. Johns purposely stalls the plot—no one knows anything about the Ulysses situation, much to Perry’s chagrin—so as to give us a purer flavor of the Planet vibe.
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The Legend of Korra S03E08 – Review

By: Joshua Hamilton (story)

The Story: Once someone invades your metal utopia, you can never feel safe there again.

The Review: By now, I’m sure most of you have heard about Nickelodeon’s plan to shift the remainder of Korra‘s episodes (after this one) to strictly online streaming. It’s a move that stops just short of canning the show outright. AV Club’s Oliver Sava has a sophisticated theory about the why and wherefore that has much to do with leaks, promotion, imprudent business decisions, all of which sounds very reasonable and I’m sure he has the right of it.

Personally, though, I think he doesn’t emphasize what I see as a critical factor for this ill treatment, which is that for most of its lifetime, Korra just wasn’t that great a show. Even if it didn’t have to compete with the glory days of Last Airbender (the ratings of which only grew with each season), Korra often failed to find compelling storylines or characters, or even a consistent direction. The tepid first season destroyed much of the confidence the show gleaned from its predecessor, and the second season reached a gruesome low of quality from which Korra never really recovered.
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Magneto #7 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Javier Fernandez (artists), Jordie Bellaire & Dan Brown (color artists)

The Story: “Are you not entertained!?”

The Review: With the Marauders adequately dealt with, Magneto turns his attention to a series of mutant disappearances in Hong Kong.

As ever, Cullen Bunn’s narration is razor-sharp and highly engaging. While the character is too big for it to be a definitive version, Bunn owns Magneto’s voice. Magneto’s appeal exists as much in the imagined diction of Bunn’s intense monologues as in the more tangible elements of the series.

As for the plot, this is probably the best since issue #3. The scenario is simple enough in its construction to allow full attention to be paid to the underlying complexities and the action is plenty gripping on a visceral level.

One of the most refreshing and frustrating elements of an issue like this is Bunn’s comfort in showing us a sliver of man’s depravity. There’s no need for a complete treatise to be forced into twenty-two pages, but that doesn’t stop the story from showing us simple, true to life monsters. Bunn captures that quality of malice that leaves you asking why, but, of course, you already know the answer.

The art is split between the book’s two major art teams. It’s lovely to have Gabriel Hernandez Walta back again, if only for part of the book, not to mention Jordie Bellaire. Walta’s art is slightly less polished than usual, but it’s a minor quibble compared to the air of seedy power that he provides the issue. The care that Walta puts into Erik’s stubble, his musculature focuses the eye on the minute and the dirty, daring you to engage with the grime and corruption of the setting without crossing into the adolescent revelry that dooms many comics’ attempts to be ‘realistic’.

This issue also demonstrates Walta’s skill with body language, particularly in the shoulders. The fear in the promoter’s nervous precision or the ‘sick of this’ exhaustion in Magneto’s tensed stance or even just the way that Erik crouches over his coffee all add to this comic’s impressive ability to communicate information unconsciously.
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Elektra #4 – Review

By: W. Haden Blackman (story), Michael Del Mundo (art) Marco D’Alfonso (colors)

The Story: Which assassin will have the better family reunion?

The Review: If there’s someone who fits the definition of antihero, Elektra does. Her methods are unapologetically brutal, her objectives not always for the greater good. In times past, she’s even been outright villain, I believe. Therefore, it’s important, for those of us who want to continue enjoying this book without feeling bad about ourselves, that we get a solid sense of where her morals land, so we’re not just getting entertainment out of a killer satiating her killer’s instinct.*

Indeed, that could be Blackman’s very purpose in kicking off the series with an arc involving a whole bunch of assassins. They provide the comparative framework we need to understand how Elektra places on the scale between good and evil. Putting her side-by-side with Bloody Lips seems particularly useful because they have the common ground of deep family tragedies in their past. The more similar two things are, the more profound their differences.
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Uncanny X-Men #23 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Kris Anka (artist)

The Story:Alison and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

The Review: Last month Uncanny X-Men’s first arc came to a rather definitive end. We saw the resolution of the vast majority of the title’s plot threads including Mystique’s rule of Genosha, Dazzler’s imprisonment, Hijack’s dismissal, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s war with the New Xavier School, and the overarching Sentinel plot. Given this significantly cleared agenda, it’s not surprising to see an Original Sin banner proudly flown across the cover.

Event tie-ins are frequently frustrating issues, but for any readers considering waiting for the next “real” story arc to begin, Uncanny X-Men #23 is worth picking up. “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” is a thematic tie-in at best with not a single mention of the events of “Original Sin”. Even if it were connected to “Original Sin”, this is barely a part of the “Last Will” story. Despite the unambiguous cover, this issue has a clear purpose and that’s hooking readers and setting up the first slew of new conflicts for the book’s second ‘season’.

In this role, as something of a ‘soft pilot’, the book is pretty great. Bendis provides the much needed fallout from last issue’s events, rededicates himself to interpersonal drama, and introduces multiple new plot threads.

One of the best things that Bendis does in this issue is step back and give the title a dose of perspective. We’re all able to accept some pretty wacky things while still holding a comic to some standard of logic and realism, but Bendis has his cake and eats it too by reminding us just how crazy it all is. The results are humorous but make enough sense in the characters’ world no to distract from the story. While one example from She-Hulk has been getting a lot of attention, the best one comes in the opening pages as Bendis reminds us of what it means to be an ant among gods.
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Teen Titans #1 – Review

By: Will Pfeifer (writer), Kenneth Rocafort (artist), Dan Brown (colorist)

The Story: Like many a teen protagonist, Cassie Sandsmark’s story begins racing to catch a bus…

The Review: Though the title remains inexorably linked to some of the most beloved stories of their eras, the latest volume of Teen Titans was something of a disaster. The N.O.W.H.E.R.E. story never really caught on, Trigon’s introduction to the New 52 squandered its potential, and a time-traveling attempt to reinvigorate the series left many readers frustrated. With Scott Lobdell’s complex mega arc concluded, DC has seen fit to relaunch the Teen Titans with Will Pfeifer at the helm. Will it be enough to revitalize one of DC’s most beloved franchises?

Well thankfully, Teen Titans #1 is not accurately represented by its rather obnoxious cover. Those worried that this would be a twenty-first century repeat of the original hip, happenin’ Titans can put those concerns to rest. There aren’t any ham-fisted references to social media or attempts to be particularly topical, instead the issue focuses almost entirely on action. We literally meet our villain in the issue’s third panel and Pfeifer wisely chooses to use the excitement to introduce us to the Titans in action.

Unfortunately our villain leaves something to be desired. The addition of a competent, non-sexualized female master planner to the DCU is appreciated, but our nameless antagonist remains fairly generic throughout this issue. The universal media broadcast and speeding hostage situation are classics of the genre, but there’s not much to set this caper apart from its fellows. Honestly after facing down Trigon, Deathstroke, and Brother Blood this kind of seems like a downgrade for the Titans.

Pfeifer does a solid job of sketching out the basic relationships between the Titans, but there’s a certain absence of joy. While it’s partially Red Robin’s stern management style, this is a very distant, businesslike team of teenagers. Admittedly Beast Boy feels a bit more youthful but, for the most part, there’s a lack of passion that feels off for a teen superhero team. And while I expect that later issues will show us a little more interpersonal interaction, small things like Raven explaining her powers to Gar make these Titans feel like strangers to one another. Admittedly, it seems like the groundwork is in place; the opening panel of Wonder Girl seems to hint at bigger things for her down the line and the implied relationships between Beast Boy and Bunker and Red Robin and Raven, respectively, are intriguing. However, it’s odd that the first issue only shows up phantoms of what may yet be, rather than what is.
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The Wicked + The Divine #2 – Review

By: Kieron Gillen (story), Jamie McKelvie (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: As you can well imagine, the devil doesn’t take kindly to being imprisoned.

The Review: Not to get too socio-political, but I think current affairs of recent weeks teach us that humans have awfully short memories, which explains why history so often repeats itself, which is to say we may all be doomed. You’d think, if something repeats itself often enough, we’d learn a little something from it each time and at least make some progress. More frequently, however, we end up practically starting over each time, learning the same lesson only when it’s too late.

Fortunately, repetitions in fiction are easier to keep track of. It doesn’t take an English major to recognize that if something is cyclical, you’d best be alert for constants, so as to better observe the changes. In the case of the Recurrence (the centennial appearance of gods that forms the premise of The Wicked + The Divine), our constant is Ananke, the elderly woman with the eye-mask who greets the gods when they return and bids them farewell when they depart.
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Ms. Marvel #6 – Review

By: G. Willow Wilson (writer), Jacob Wyatt (art), Ian Herring (color art)

The Story: She’s the best at what she does and what she does is squee.

The Review: Our little Ms. Marvel’s growing up so fast. It seems like just last month she was still in origins stories and all of a sudden she’s already having her first superhero team up!

With the Inventor still looking for her, Kamala is slowly coming into her own as a hero. It seems like our bird/brain villain’s shadow is everywhere in Jersey City and it immediately sets up a tense and interesting status quo for the series.

This issue confirms the identity of the Inventor hinted at last month and establishes him as a perfect foil to Kamala. One part Kingpin, one part Ultra-Humanite, the Inventor walks the same line between the comical and the competent as Kamala, though he leans towards the later. If this were any other comic, his appearance could easily have been a scene-stealer, but this is Ms. Marvel.

G. Willow Wilson continues to build upon the groundwork she’s laid with Kamala’s character. She’s much more confident as a hero and has more opportunities to demonstrate her intelligence and bravery. I particularly love one moment when Kamala shows off her knowledge of physics as she tries to figure out how best to use her powers and it’s all the better for the frantic, dorky way she implements the idea. Indeed, despite a significant upswing in her competence, Ms. Marvel is still the lovable, everyman character we met half a year ago and Wilson knows how to draw the humor from that as well as how to endear the character to her audience.

There’s a rule of writing that says that, if possible, you should put your character in the most extreme situations possible, the ones that most stridently reveal their character. For a fangirl like Kamala, pairing her with Wolverine is just such a situation. The very sight of him reduces comics’ most beloved new heroine to doge speak!
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Robin Rises: Omega #1 – Review

By: Peter J. Tomasi (story), Andy Kubert (pencils), Jonathan Glapion (inks), Brad Anderson (colors)

The Story: Invasion of the body-snatchers.

The Review: Superhero deaths and resurrections have become so commonplace nowadays that I do believe an unwritten etiquette has developed regarding the proper amount of time that must pass before publishers and writers can start thinking about bringing a character back from the dead. From my completely unscientific observations, it seems the mourning period is somewhere between one-and-a-half to two years, give or take a few months.

And what do you know, it’s been just about a year and a half since Damian Wayne was pincushioned to death in Batman Inc. #8, and now we have a storyline titled, quite explicitly, Robin Rises. There’s a possibility Damian might not come back—the title emphasizes it’s Robin who’s rising without specifying which one—but whoever picks up that red, green, and yellow mantle, it’s Damian who’ll carry this story along. Let’s hope for a good one, at least.
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #36 – Review

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

The Story: There are some rats even Splinter can’t stand.

The Review: As someone who considers himself a militant moderate who’d rather avoid unnecessary confrontation whenever possible, I always appreciate seeing characters who handle conflict appropriately. I wouldn’t like it all the time, of course; there wouldn’t be many stories if all problems end on a smile and a handshake. But it lends credibility to the characters when they tend to react with reason rather than hostility.

Take Splinter, whose entire personality is based on his Zen attitude toward everything. You respect him not only because he’s ostensibly the wisest figure in the series, but because he respects everyone else. Humility is as rare and powerful a quality in fiction as it is in real life. He doesn’t resent Leo’s less than total support for his plans to confront Shredder, nor does he dismiss his son’s concerns out of hand. By having Splinter take Leo’s objections seriously, Eastman-Curnow-Waltz avoid needless drama while still lending tension to the story.
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Fables #142 – Review

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

The Story: Sisters, sisters, never where there such destructive sisters.

The Review: Last issue, when Maddy came around Wolf Manor declaring that war between Snow and Rose was practically inevitable, I wondered idly how Maddy expected Snow to fight a war all by herself when Rose had an entire kingdom at her back. I had forgotten about Winter’s preparations for this very possibility back in #137, which goes to show just how involved and sprawling and foresighted Fables can be. [It also goes to show my memory is shot since bar prep began, but I digress.]

But what are Winter’s plans, anyway? There must be something more delicate going on than a meet-force-with-force strategy, otherwise she wouldn’t be so threatened by Maddy’s interference. Then again, considering the forces she’s gathered (which now includes all her wolfish uncles), the outcome can go either way: mutually assured destruction or stalemate by threat of the same.
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She-Hulk #6 – Review

By: Charles Soule (story), Ron Wimberly (art)

The Story: Jen has her own demons to confront.

The Review: Exposition is a necessary evil in storytelling. Without it, stories lose context, substance, pretty much everything that gives the characters and action real meaning. At the same time, nothing slows down a story more. Part of the art of writing is doling out enough of exposition so the story doesn’t devolve into a mindless series of dramatic outbursts and car explosions, while pacing it so you don’t just bury your audience in background facts.

If a long streak of exposition is bad, it’s even worse when you’ve heard it all before. Comics have a particularly bad habit of doing this, I imagine for purposes of being accessible to the fabled new readers. It’s not a great justification; when you consider most comics tend to peak at their debut and gradually lose readers afterward, the repeated exposition seems more likely to annoy loyalists than inform the uninitiated, which is exactly what happens here. All that recapping about Jen’s blue file and the parties involved and the fact you’re not meant to say the plaintiff’s name out loud just seems redundant when the issue has a recap page to rely on.
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The Legend of Korra S03E06-07

By: Katie Matilla & Tim Hedrick (story)

The Story: Family, the ties that bind and gag.

The Review: There was a long period, starting in Season 1 and gaining steam in Season 2, when it looked like Korra might turn into the least likable character in her own show—which would have been awkward, to say the least. You could forgive her hot temperament, impulsiveness, and pride, but her tendency to trust her enemies before her friends displayed such a severe lack of common sense that you couldn’t help feeling her position as avatar was ill-deserved.

But her spiritual experiences last season have done a lot to polish her personality and give her some measure of wisdom. She’s humble enough to freely admit her inability to metalbend, sensible enough for Tenzin to take her advice seriously, likable enough that even when she has the occasional outburst, she seems passionate rather than nauseatingly self-righteous. All this evolution is conveyed through Janet Varney’s centered voicing, which keeps Korra sounding firm and strong, but with gentler delivery.
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Superman/Wonder Woman #10 – Review

By: Charles Soule (story), Pascal Alixe (art), Paulo Siqueira (pencils), Hi-Fi (colors)

The Story: Lois always did want to conquer the world.

The Review: A shared universe can be a headache in more ways than one. Every single time a major crisis happens in a single title, there’s this mental effort you have to make to keep from wondering why no other hero in the universe notices. This is especially the case when the hero or heroes in question don’t seem to be handling the situation particularly well. What? Everyone else is so busy handling their own problems that they can’t be bothered?

That’s what’s so puzzling about this whole Doomed storyline. Superman’s been turned into a killing machine, an entire metropolis has fallen unconscious, so why is the League and every other A-list hero not on deck, especially since Superman isn’t there? Why does it suddenly seem like the world has no other resource except Wonder Woman, Steel, and Lana Lang? This is a difficult logistical problem to ignore, but Soule clearly would prefer that you don’t think about it at all.
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Daredevil #5 – Review

By: Mark Waid (story), Chris Samnee (art), Javier Rodriguez (colors)

The Story: When Daredevil isn’t enough to save the day, we need Foggy Nelson!

The Review: In the superhero world, much as in real life, it’s the lot of the supporting characters to be overshadowed, overlooked, marginalized by the heroes they support. The heroes can’t get along without them; how often do you see our costumed protagonists triumph thanks to the timely save or quick thinking of their faithful companions? Yet these brave men and women are rarely gratified by public admiration, even though they take relatively greater risks in involving themselves.

No one exemplifies this hapless lot better than Foggy, the very definition of everyman: average looks, flabby, intelligent, prone to fear and bravery in equal measure. As if he hasn’t already suffered enough as Matt’s best friend, now he faces the prospect of having to completely abandon his normal life for one as a hidden invalid. That’s a raw deal, any way you look at it.
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The Legend of Korra S03E01-05 – Review

By: Tim Hedrick, Joshua Hamilton, Michael Dante DiMartino (story)

The Story: Suddenly, being an airbender is a whole lot less special.

The Review: So for all those who thought that maybe I Dropped this series, my sincerest apologies. I hate to turn bar prep into my personal scapegoat for all my failings, but you have to admit, it’s a good one. Indeed, it wasn’t until commenters Daniel and Del Keyes mentioned it—thanks, pals!—that I remembered there was such a thing as Legend of Korra. Seriously, my reaction was something along the lines of, “Oh, yeah…”

I picked a real bad season to forget about the premiere, too, since the show came right out the gate with three episodes, and seems set to follow a two-episode-a-week schedule from now on. So just like my bar prep, I have a lot of catching up to do. To get started, let’s do as the show does and get the return of the spirits out of the way first. It’s exactly as disruptive as you’d expect, with vining habitats randomly popping up across Republic City, but since the show can’t exactly revive the spirit-human conflict without becoming repetitious, there’s not much anyone can do about the situation except deal with it, albeit sullenly.
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Justice League United #3 – Review

By: Jeff Lemire (story), Mike McKone (art), Cam Smith & Guillermo Ortego (inks), Marcelo Maiolo & Andrew Dalhouse (colors)

The Story: Dealing with a traumatized child is a lot easier if you have psychic powers.

The Review: Last month, I suggested that Justice League United may be the least enjoyable part of Justice League United, which I meant only partly in jest. Acknowledging that team chemistry is probably a difficult thing to generate from scratch, it must be said that the JLU has very little of it. That’s not totally unnatural, given how new the team is and how unformed their personalities are, but it does make for a duller read, and there seems to be little improvement in that respect on the horizon.

Lemire’s so distracted with carrying the plot forward that we get few interactions among the cast in the first place that isn’t exposition-related, and what few we do have rise to a very tepid degree of liveliness. After Kara socks Lobo into the stratosphere, Buddy remarks, “Wow. Nice punch, kid.”

“Hey, what about my arrow?” Ollie complains, referring to the shaft he just earlier put into Lobo’s shoulder.*

Buddy, unbothered: “Meh.”
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