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Superman/Wonder Woman #11 – Review

By: Charles Soule (story), Thony Silas (art), Tomev Morey & Ulises Arreola (colors)

The Story: Who says couples can’t save the world together?

The Review: When Bruce succeeded in removing the Kryptonite from Earth’s atmosphere, allowing Clark to repress the Doomsday inside once more, I breathed a sigh of relief that perhaps we were finally over and done with that horribly one-dimensional monster. I admit it: I was naïve and not a little bit stupid. After all, repressed or not, Doomsday was still inside Clark; it had to make one last appearance sometime, and unfortunately, that time is now.

And just when things were getting pretty good in Doomed. As Bruce observes during a particularly low moment for our heroes, the forces of good have been reduced to seven individuals, who must face against all of Brainiac’s collective forces. That’s an exciting scenario for them to be in—or it would be if the solution wasn’t still lurking within the recesses of Clark’s mind/body/soul. I can’t tell you how depressed I was to see SuperDoom unleashed again, bigger, spikier, craggier than ever. You can already feel the storyline becoming monotonously mindless once more.
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Justice League United #4 – Review

By: Jeff Lemire (story), Mike McKone (art), Cam Smith (inks), Marcelo Maiolo (colors)

The Story: Nothing like opposing dimensional polarities to put a crimp in the marriage.

The Review: So we’ve come to Justice League United‘s fourth issue, and as some of you may know, that means it’s time to decide whether to stick to the series or leave it by the wayside. I’ll cut to the chase: I’m not buying it. JLU just doesn’t really stand out in a market that’s lately crowded with ambitious and unusual concepts. It’s pretty much how I feel about In ‘n’ Out: I like it fine, but there are new burgers in the neighborhood that I’m more excited to try.

On the most basic level, JLU‘s cast has little chemistry going for it. The situation’s a bit like the early days of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., in which the characters woodenly played their archetypical roles for months. Eventually, things clicked together, but what a drag while it lasted. That’s exactly the word you’d use to describe the character interaction in this issue: a drag. Lemire labors to inject tension into the issue; the problem is you can see the sweat involved.
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Godzilla: Cataclysm #1 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), David Wachter (artist)

The Story: Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. But they all agree that it will end.

The Review: Though you wouldn’t know it at first glance, IDW’s Godzilla: Rulers of Earth is a direct sequel to its previous two Godzilla series. Particularly of late, I’ve been impressed by how that series’ writer Chris Mowry has handled the continuity, but when you’re dealing with giant monsters, it’s kind of rough knowing that nothing can change that a future series doesn’t have the option to change back. It’s a problem that most comics featuring long running characters face, but perhaps that’s why Godzilla: Cataclysm has such an innate energy about it.

Set twenty years after an all out monster invasion, Cataclysm introduces us to a world devastated by kaiju. Survivors live in shanty towns, hunting wildlife wandering through the ruins of “the world that was”. The whole thing is impressively atmospheric.

Cullen Bunn does an admirable job of giving us a taste of the monster action we came for through flashbacks, though I imagine that some readers will be disappointed with the long wait for a present day kaiju appearance. More important this issue is the human cast. Though the characterization they’re given is hardly conclusive, the attention paid to Arata and Shiori seems to imply that Bunn intends to tackle the frequent problems of human overexposure and irrelevance head on. They could become beloved figures, but for now I’m happy to see that the series has a way to give a human perspective on the age of monsters without propping up its characters like some kind of straw man observer. Of course the character who steals the show is Arata’s grandfather.

Though he appears limitedly, the unnamed old man is the one character who we get to know this issue. Clearly the same writer who gave us the beautiful, if wordy, Magneto, Bunn crafts an impressive monologue for the issue, one that immediately demonstrates the almost mystical power of the kaiju and the degree to which they dwarf human buildings, bodies, and pride. It’s a well written and intelligent way to open the series, but I hope that Bunn has some more original ideas to introduce or it may grow stale.

While the tone and characterization are resonant, it does feel like other elements were sacrificed for them. The world Bunn presents seems a little confused. Despite twenty years of silence and the claim that most people don’t even believe in kaiju any longer, Tokyo remains a ruin. It’s fun to see the gritty post-apocalyptic aesthetic applied to the daikaiju genre, but it doesn’t entirely make sense, nor does it seem the most interesting choice. At the risk of editorializing, I’d be much more interested to see how different parts of the world have dealt with the Cataclysm and the varying ways they’ve rebuilt.

Another problem is the pace. The book changes focus roughly every five pages and, while it benefits from the slow burn approach it takes, not all of these sections mesh with that decision. Particularly during action scenes it becomes apparent how significantly and unevenly decompressed this issue can be. In comics, time and space are one and the same and you only get so much.
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #37 – Review

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

The Story: Krang fails to appreciate that any invasion is improved with ninja.

The Review: I’d forgotten that Shredder had a preexisting relationship with Krang, but in my defense, I’m not sure I ever knew it in the first place. In Secret History of the Foot Clan, we saw Shredder consorting with and ultimately betraying someone who looked like Krang, but who was merely referred to as the “iron demon.” At the time, I thought maybe this was a predecessor of Krang’s, him appearing several hundred years in the past and all, but that he was Krang himself is a far better development.

For one thing, their past dealings eliminates any pretenses at pleasantries in their current meeting, with Krang openly hostile to Shredder’s offers of assistance. That kind of tension is needed to liven up an issue that is half conversation. There’s some interesting points in the discussion, including Shredder’s rather clever suggestion that he and his Foot Clan can be Krang’s puppet government to minimize human resistance to the alien’s control. But for the most part, the two villains are debriefing you on the actions they’ve taken against each other.
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Astro City #14 – Review

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

The Story: Reform school for robots.

The Review: Much as I love the superhero genre, I recognize its limitations as much as anyone else does, and Astro City frequently helps me in this regard. By constantly abridging the superhero material to their essence—hero versus villain; punches, blasts, explosions; rubble and property damage; inevitable triumph of good over evil—Busiek reveals that the most interesting parts of a superhero story are the things that take place outside of it.

Busiek applies this approach so often in Astro City that it’d almost be formulaic if it didn’t yield such wildly different results each time. This issue, he explores the aftermath of a common feature of superhero battles we often take for granted: the wanton destruction of robots, giant or otherwise. In doing so, he takes something we would never give a second thought to and finds the emotional layers hidden underneath.
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Green Arrow #34 – Review

By: Jeff Lemire (story), Andrea Sorrentino (art), Marcelo Maiolo (colors)

The Story: How to slay a Dragon with a single arrow.

The Review: Not that I don’t appreciate a bit of moralizing in my comics, but I also prefer that it not be overt. As any of us who have ever encountered a born-again evangelist screaming at joggers and bicyclists in a park know, preachiness can be a real drag. Once we reach a certain age, that After School Special (A.S.S.) tendency to say outright the moral of the episode is boring and tiresome. We know what the lesson is; we just choose not to use it sometimes.

Lemire’s a family man and a bit of an innocent in his writing, so maybe he can’t help himself, but it’s nonetheless disappointing when he resorts to a final cliché between Dragon and Ollie. As Dragon has Ollie in dire straits, he crows, “[Y]ou’re not good enough anymore, Arrow.”

“Maybe, Dragon,” Ollie admits. “But you know the difference between you and me? I don’t’ have to do it alone.” And like clockwork, Ollie’s supporting players fly into action and Dragon is defeated by that most wonderful of things, teamwork. It’s the kind of thing you’d find endearing in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but embarrassingly corny here.
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She-Hulk #7 – Review

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

The Story: Ant-Man and Hellcat cut She-Hulk down to size.

The Review: I’m sure Soule had his reasons, but it was still kind of bizarre for him to break off the one ongoing mystery of this series, just as it was really starting to take off. For one thing, his choice required all the characters involved to suddenly decide the case they had dedicated themselves to investigating wasn’t worth the effort anymore, going against all of their usual tenacity. That inconsistency would nearly be a plot hole if Soule hadn’t suggested a touch of the supernatural might be involved.

Still, shelving the Blue File for the time being allows Soule to take another stab at that delicate genre balance between superhero and legal drama, and he succeeds this issue. Past premises have been heavy on the law, light/repetitive with the vigilantism, but this one reverses that trend: Rufus, an inventor working out of Jen’s office building, wants her to negotiate a contract for the purchase of his and his partner Reza’s shrink-ray technology, but he needs her to find Reza first. Here’s the wrinkle: Reza, in a fit of proprietary rage, may have shrunken himself into hiding.
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Action Comics #34 – Review

By: Greg Pak (story), Aaron Kuder & Scott Kolins (art), Wil Quintana (colors)

The Story: Brainstorms aren’t always good things and this one seems to prove it.

The Review: Recently, I’ve thought that if we could just move past the Doomsday stuff, Doomed might be a pretty decent storyline. I’m glad I stuck to my guns in saying there’s nothing further to develop with Doomsday, not even in the body of Superman, because that’s largely turned out to be the case. Obviously, it’s not terrific that it took an excruciating number of issues to make that clear, but the important thing is we’ve finally gotten past that.

The way I see it, the story of Doomed only truly started once Brainiac started flatlining everybody on the planet, sparing neither superhero or supervillain, yet keeping them all alive for purposes we can only speculate to. Doesn’t that sound a lot more interesting than “Superman infected by Doomsday virus”? Now we’re talking about a legitimate global disaster that requires a proportionate response, which is going to be hard to come by when the threat is actually bigger than the planet itself.
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Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #5 – Review

By: Kaare Kyle Andrews (story & art)

The Story: Danny versus the machine.

The Review: Will you think less of me when I tell you that I’m a real coward where violence is concerned? It comes both from my non-confrontational personality and soft-handed upbringing, but I can’t help flinching at the sight of blood, even within the harmless confines of a comic book page. Injuries or wounds of any kind gives me a feeling one or two degrees removed from nausea. It’s not like I have a complex or anything; I’d just prefer not to see it.

So you can imagine that it was a fairly unpleasant experience for me to watch Danny getting beaten into a pulp by the creature wearing his father’s face. We’re talking mangled fingers and arms, smashed face, and degraded everything else. It’s definitely not the kind of thing you’d see in a Superman or even Batman comic, but I appreciate that. Violence is destructive; showing the graphic effects on its victims not only reminds you of their vulnerability, it discourages you from taking it for granted.
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The Woods #4 – Review

By: James Tynion IV (writer), Michael Dialynas (art), Josan Gonzalez (colors)

The Story: Who runs the school? Who owns the woods?

The Review: As we rejoin the stranded cast of James Tynion IV’s The Woods, a sense of hopelessness begins to creep in even further. The students and teachers are starting to understand that there may be no going home.

While we’re still waiting for a gamechanger that will differentiate this story from the countless others that share its basic question, The Woods continues to stand out based on the strength of its characters. Tynion cruelly but wisely denies us further exploration of some of the most interesting threads of last month’s issue while providing closure on others and giving readers a much needed glimpse at what the series will look at in coming months.

While this is very much an ensemble cast, it’s clear that Tynion has favorites and characters that stand out to him. This week finds Calder Macready in the spotlight. Calder has been a strong presence all through the series but, more than ever, he seems a player to keep an eye on. Calder represents a figure many of us know too well, the loudmouthed boy no one expected anything from who opted not to disappoint. There’s an innocence as he shows off, a morbidity in his dialogue, a power in his moments of intimacy that practically screams to tell you that still waters, or perhaps deceptively rough waters, run deep.

Though it would be nice to get such a sense from characters like Karen or Dominic, who haven’t had as many chances to shine, characters like Calder and Adrian remind you to stay aware. Even when characters play to type, it often feels like a conscious choice, and that’s a great strength of the series.

There is one featured monologue that feels a little disconnected from the matters at hand, but it’s a brief diversion and one that likely could have been great if it fit into the narrative a little cleaner.

The plot, overall, is a little slow. Some moments, while helpful or interesting, feel redundant when considering the month between chapters and twenty page chunks in which we are receiving the story. It’s not a serious failing of the story, after all it allows that careful characterization I mentioned earlier, but it does sap a little excitement from the issue. When you’re interested the story goes too fast. When the story loosens its hold on you it begins to drag. It’s a shame the whole issue doesn’t manage a more even distribution, but I know that Tynion has the technical prowess to get us to that place. But while the issue could have been more evenly paced, it’s hard to complain when one plotline, Coach Clay’s new government, sees such dramatic resolution. Those expecting a lengthy revolution or a new status quo for Maria will be surprised to see how it all goes down.
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Action Comics Annual #3 – Review

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

The Story: Oh, now we’re going to clean up the atmosphere?

The Review: I expressed some annoyance with how Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1 shifted the details of a major plot point—Batman’s dispersal of the kryptonite in the atmosphere—to a different annual altogether. I’m no less irritated going into the annual in question, which is not a great attitude to come from. I just don’t like the idea of forcing readers to buy all kinds of extraneous issues to keep apace with a story.

Anyway, once you set those feelings aside, this annual is about as decent as its sibling, and in the grand scheme of things, far more necessary. S/WWA #1 was really about Diana stalling Clark long enough for Bruce to do his work (and Steel’s potential crush on Lana); you can live without seeing that. Anyway, Pak does the courtesy of repeating the essentials for you: the arrival of Brainaic’s first wave of attack, the other heroes’ difficulty in dealing with it, and Brainiac’s big momma-ship pulling beside Earth at the end. You get all this and the most important happenings in the arc as well.
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Earth Two #26 – Review

By: Tom Taylor (story), Nicola Scott (pencils), Trevor Scott (inks), Pete Pantazis (colors)

A good twist is hard to come by in superhero comics. We’ve seen so many of the same kinds over and over—the long-dead character suddenly revealed alive, a major superhero ends up dead or kills someone, someone we trusted turns traitor—that even when you’re surprised, you’re not particularly affected.* The other kind of twist we frequently encounter is the kind that drops out of a clear blue sky. There’s not much craft to it; it’s purely WTF-worthy (which is not a compliment, DC).

It’s rare to get a twist that’s simultaneously surprising and enjoyable, where you realize the clues have been there all along. Taylor pulls off exactly that in this issue, which would make it rec-worthy even if he had accomplished nothing else. Over the past few months, he managed to convince us that Clark had finally been broken into a murder machine, that any hope of him being an imposter was merely wishful thinking. [Spoiler alert!] The revelation that he is actually a Bizarro (“Me am…Superman.”) is not only a great twist, it’s one we could’ve seen coming had we put the hints together: the chains hooked to his crest, the cracks around his eyes.
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Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1 – Review

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

The Story: Superman returns.

The Review: About a month ago, I decided to stick to Doomed despite many misgivings about the storyline. It was a close call, however. Part of what kept me onboard was the resignation that the event was nearly over anyway. A few more issues, I could handle. Had I known the Doomed showrunners planned to add two annuals to the mix, I probably would have reconsidered my commitment. Annuals are costly things, and the thought of putting that much more money into Doomed was hard to take.

On the plus side, the annuals confirm that what we thought was a Doomsday story is actually a Brainiac one, which is an improvement, sort of. It seems somewhat repetitive to make the villain yet again the center of a major Superman story (the last time being one of Superman’s earliest big adventures); can’t they come up with someone else to challenge our hero? Must we always turn to the usual suspects? Shouldn’t there be at least a three year moratorium on a supervillain after he’s been featured in a major story arc?
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Grayson #2 – Review

By: Tim Seeley (writer), Tim Seeley and Tom King (plot), Mikel Janin; Guillermo Ortega; and Juan Castro (art), Jeromy Cox (colorist)

The Story: Agent 27’s first mission with Spyral was a big success. Dick Grayson is playing the spy game now and you can’t deny that he has the skills for it. The question now is does he have the stomach for it.

…If you’ve read the issue you’ll know why I’m sorry about that last statement.

The Review: Apparently Spyral is operating out of St. Hadrian’s Finishing School and has taken over Leviathan’s task of teaching the next generation of young women to be prim, proper assassins. While the comic says Grayson on the cover, it’s clearly Matron Bertinelli who runs this school.

After running interference last time, Helena gets some time in the limelight this issue. In some ways she’s limited by the confines of her role, there’s a right way to do her job after all, but Tim Seeley does an admirable job of demonstrating Bertinelli’s competence and outlook on the job.

It does feel this month that Dick Grayson is a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of ideas in his title. Dick is a fine point of reference and allows Seeley to introduce some welcome levity into the story. Dick’s quips occasionally feel a little generic, like they would fit any character so inclined rather than being tuned to Dick’s personality, but at times it seems as though that’s intentional. In fact, the one great element of this issue that features Dick is the very real sense of Dick’s identity being challenged. Perhaps indicative of Tom King’s influence, Grayson #2 shows Dick’s sense of isolation beautifully. The final scene can read a little flat if you’re not in the mood to empathize, but in the right space it’s rather touching.

We also get a new character, if one whose personality is somewhat sublimated to the plot, as well as appearances from nearly all of the supporting characters from issue #1. Most interesting of these is Midnighter, who is apparently going to be a recurring antagonist for Agent 27 now that he’s fallen in with an organization called the God Garden.

It’s also very worth noting that your experience of this issue will likely differ dramatically based on your interest in the areas of the DCU King and Seeley are exploring. Those longing for more of the weird and wonderful present in Batman Incorporated will be happy to find that Seeley can’t hide his enthusiasm for it, but if you’re getting sick of unelaborated-upon organizations and awkward backronyms, I’m not sure that this will bring you around.
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Fatale #24 – Review

By: Ed Brubaker (story), Sean Phillips (art), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors)

The Story: Doomed by a beautiful woman’s kiss…

The Review: I’m kind of surprised to see the end come so soon, but I suppose allowances can’t be made just because I caught on to the series late. [Speaking of late, these reviews are late because I've been traveling—post-Bar relief, you know. More on that later.] Anyway, I have a feeling Brubaker realized that he was quickly reaching that limit when trying to plumb anything more from Fatale would just bum us out.

As you can probably expect, things don’t end very well for anybody in this series. In fact, they don’t end well at all. The more accurate evaluation of the situation is that things don’t end as badly as they could have for a couple people. [Spoiler alert!] While Nick and Jo do manage to survive the tribulations of the issue, there are scars. For Jo, all the years of her unnaturally long life finally catch up to her; Nick is left catatonic in an asylum, with Jo his sole visitor (and not for much longer, by her estimation). For all that, Jo reflects that “she’s the lucky one, not Nick. Because she got to escape.”
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Detective Comics #34 – Review

By: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato (storytellers)

The Story: Ever wanted to see Batman punch a flying motorcycle?

The Review: Detective Comics #34 starts with a bang. Well, perhaps more accurately, Tec #33 ended with one. Nonetheless, from the moment this issue opens there’s a sense that you’re racing towards the finale. That sense of momentum is a great asset for the book. It makes you want more, makes this issue feel big and meaningful. Written by a pair of artists, the book’s layouts build with the tension, leading to a pair of dramatic arrangements that really convey the showdown nature of the issue.

Unfortunately, that plot structure really only works if the mystery has already been revealed. It hasn’t. The issue is very rushed, partly to accommodate some of the more striking visuals. Despite Bullock’s claims that “The answer was right under [Batman’s] nose” there’s a lack of clarity in the reveal that leaves you feeling one step behind all throughout.

The final battle lends itself to some gorgeous panels but it’s highly confused at times and too unevenly matched to live up to its own hype. At one point Batman flat out socks an innocent child in the face, seemingly at terminal velocity. A few pages later this same recently introduced character jumps out of the comic, never to be mentioned again. Even worse the panel’s dialogue is completely unrelated and you’d not be blamed for having to back and make sure you read right..

Though there are still some staples of the Bronze Age present, the tone of hardboiled fantasy that Manapul and Buccellato have been cultivating is largely thrown out in favor of loud moments and fist-first problem solving. Throughout the issue you can feel the writers reaching back to previous thematic strands, notably those from the first issue of the storyline, but only pieces survive the translation to this chapter and the grab bag of plot threads doesn’t feel satisfying.
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Vertigo Quarterly: Magenta #1 – Review

By: Too many to list—or even to review. Just check out the issue.

The Story: You’ll be tickled pink by what you read.

The Review: I enjoyed the last quarterly just fine, but I couldn’t help being a little dismayed by the $7.99 price point. That’s a lot of money for a bunch of shorts, not all of which are gems. On the flipside, none of them sucked or anything, and for what is basically a collection of pieces by mostly unknown writers and artists, that’s pretty remarkable. You might say that what you’re really paying for is the dreams of some talented creators, for whom this might be an opening to a big break.

That just leaves the puzzle of the color themes for each quarterly. Cyan produced such a jumble of different pieces that it didn’t really seem to be much of a unifying theme at all. Magenta looks to be a very different story. There’s still plenty of variety in the stories generated in this issue, but certain patterns emerge, ones that just might have something to do with our psychological perception of magenta itself.
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Fairest #28 – Review

By: Mark Buckingham (story), Russ Braun (art), Lee Loughridge (colors)

The Story: Has Reynard found his rebound girl?

The Review: In what has to be a burst of psychological insight—or stating the obvious, you decide—I’ve realized why Reynard is so determined to make it with this human thing. The fact is he never needed a human body to succeed in anything; he was doing quite well without before he got his glamour. Being a handsome man is really only necessary for one thing: attracting the ladies. Small wonder that he thinks finding a woman to love is key to unlocking his potential as a man.

You might say it’s his final challenge, the last thing he needs to stand aside the likes of, say, Prince Charming. There’s really just one thing getting in his way: he’s not Prince Charming, which is to say that he doesn’t have Charming’s shameless addiction to conquest. His audacious move on Snow is driven by ignorance of human mores rather than lust, which makes his poor reception that much more pathetic. Reynard likes to be of service, but he won’t get that chance chasing after strong, independent women.
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Dead Boy Detectives #7 – Review

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

The Story: Even ghosts can have daddy issues.

The Review: We’ve had a lot of fun with the Dead Boy Detectives’ miscellaneous adventures, but now seems like the right time for us to grapple with more long-term material. I expect most of us are new to the characters, so we really know nothing about Charles and Edwin before they attended, died, and returned to St. Hilarion’s. If a ghost exists only because of unfinished business in its life, then it’s essential we learn more about that life, no?

It’s easy enough to see what was left unresolved with Charles’ untimely death: his feelings toward his father. We’ve seen hints that Charles’ dad wasn’t a very nice guy, but the nature of his cruelty is unclear, even after Charles recounts his boyhood memories of the man. Obviously, Charles’ dad was kind of a douche for receiving his son’s thoughtful, handmade gift with more thought to its flaws than delight, and the fact that he was constantly away isn’t great, either. But these seem like typical paternal failings, not the kinds of things that’d keep a long-dead boy attached to the world.
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Swamp Thing #34 – Review

By: Charles Soule (story), Javier Pina (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)

The Story: There ain’t no plan like a Weeds plan.

The Review: In the superhero genre, where it’s common practice for writers to constantly recycle established characters, it’s rare to encounter new characters who are as rich or intriguing as the old ones. Soule has been on a streak in that regard. True, it’s not as if Swamp Thing had a whole host of characters to draw from, so he had incentive to create new ones. But these creations have become a crucial part of his run’s enjoyment, which is no small achievement in this biz.

It’s possibly to classify Soule’s characters as either heroes or villains, but all of them are somewhat more complicated than that. Wolf and Weeds may be antagonists as a consequence of plotting against Alec, but their grievances against him are legitimate. Alec may disclaim any responsibility for their fates, arguing that it’s they who failed to roll with the punches, but this ignores his role in delivering the blows. After unleashing them from the Green, he never did give much thought to their fates afterward. If he had, maybe he could’ve kept them fixed on what they have instead of what they had.
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Transformers: Robots in Disguise #31 – Review

By: John Barber (writer); Andrew Griffith, Guido Guidi, and Brendan Cahill (art); Josh Perez and Joana Lafuente (colors)

The Story: Welcome to the Second Terran-Cybertronian War, the conflict where everything’s made up and the sides don’t matter.

The Review: One thing that I believe was a big part of Transformers’ success and longevity was a side effect of their, quite literally, commercial origins: character. While all comics and television shows have to demonstrate some level of characterization, Transformers had a mandate to sell toys, not only Optimus Prime and Bumblebee but of all of the bots. As such there was a necessity to endear each of the characters to the children watching.

This month’s issue not only reaps the rewards of such a strategy but continues the trend. After a long period of silence, John Barber finally gives Jazz some time in the spotlight. This issue’s take on Jazz does a great job of combining the upbeat attitude and easygoing outlook that have traditionally defined the character with the angst he picked up during the Transformers ongoing series. Admittedly, Jazz’s inner monologue is much stronger towards the beginning of the book where attention is squarely on him, but his presence helps to focus the book and gives us someone to root for.

While Jazz, Prime’s free spirited lieutenant, brings a dose of character to the story, the plot still belongs to Prowl, Prime’s master planner. Even as Optimus begins to chafe against Prowl’s…shall we say hands on style, it’s becoming clear that the Autobot commander is not fully in control of his unit. There are some big surprises for those who love, or perhaps love to hate, Prowl this issue and what he’ll do with the revelation of Scavenger’s uncertain loyalties may be the least of them.
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Uncanny X-Men #24 – Review

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

The Story: As the X-Men worry about Xavier’s final bequests, the will reveals a dark secret…and a gift to Emma Frost.

The Review: Let’s get this out of the way. Last issue Brian Bendis ended part I of “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” by revealing that Scott Summers had to be present to read said will. I hope you’ll forgive me saying so so early in the review, but if you suspected that we wouldn’t actually see that reading in this issue, you were right. We actually end the second issue of this arc just about to hear Xavier’s final orders to his X-Men. That means that there are twenty pages between last issue’s cliffhanger and actually hearing the will. So now the question is, what does Bendis use those pages for?

The answer, for the most part, is character. It’s slightly cynical, but, as comics have grown shorter and more decompressed, the traditional recipe of a superhero story – discovery, character development, b-plot, and conflict – has become largely untenable. A quality action scene requires at least a few pages and those pages are in short supply.

If a battle sequence is a requirement for you, you’re really better off avoiding this issue. There is a fairly tame action sequence in the middle of the book, but it’s neither here nor there and probably the story’s least interesting moment. No, this issue is all about exploring the X-Men.

Bendis gives us another particularly good example of his trademark wordiness this week, but rather than drag on the issue, it energizes it. Bendis knows exactly what voice he wants to use for the characters he’s using, perhaps even better than he does for the usual cast of this series. Though they tend to run a bit on the casual-side, as Bendis’ dialogue often does, the immediacy that this brings the issue just grabs the reader. There’s an illusion of naturalism that goes a long way.
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Cyclops #3 – Review

By: Greg Rucka (story), Russel Dauterman (art), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

The Story: Honestly, why wouldn’t you get high if you’re stranded on an empty alien planet?

The Review: Because I’m nothing if not a party animal, I just read an article on the value (or vice) of sentimentality in fiction. While I get the folks who say it’s a cheap way to emotionally manipulate an audience into thinking there’s more story than there really is, I personally think it’s no evil unless it takes over the story entirely. We read for an emotional experience as much as for an intellectual one, so if the relentlessly cerebral In Search of Lost Time is allowed to exist, why can’t Becoming the Stars?

Anyway, it’s kind of interesting to think of all this having just come from Sandman: Overture #3, which can only be described as abstract, and then plunge into Cyclops #3, which is almost pure emotional indulgence. There definitely is a plot at work: the Summers men experience an inexplicable malfunction mid-flight and crash-land on a barely habitable planet. This is the prelude to bigger developments ahead, I’m sure, but for now, it’s all about Chris and Scott bonding in a deeper way.
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Sinestro #4 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (story), Rags Morales (art), Jason Wright (colors)

The Story: Why does it always have to be about Hal Jordan? Jordan, Jordan, Jordan!

The Review: Around the fourth issue of a new series is usually the point when I know whether it’s a keeper or on the road to being Dropped. I’m more than happy to give every title a fair shake, recognizing that there are such things as sleeper hits, but my time is also better spent seeking out worthy replacements than sticking to the stubbornly mediocre. Also, and this is no minor point, I am not made of money.

In better economic times or with a leaner choice of titles out there, I might have stuck with Sinestro for a while yet. I remember the hard, early days on this site (and I shudder to think that was nearly four years ago) when I covered the consistently underperforming Doom Patrol, R.E.B.E.L.S., Justice Society of America, and Legion of Super-Heroes for months on end, mostly because I had few other options to turn to (or so I thought). Now, if I set aside Sinestro, there are at least three possibilities to take its place.*
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The Sandman: Overture #3 – Review

By: Neil Gaiman (story), J.H. Williams III (art), Dave Stewart (colors)

The Story: What’s a road trip without a hitchhiker?

The Review: I suppose we’ll have to resign ourselves to the fact that we’ll only get an issue from this series every few months—five between #1 and #2, and four between #2 and now. There are only three conditions under which that kind of timing is acceptable. First, it’s got to be expected; no one enjoys a surprise delay. Second, the creative team has to earn it; I think Gaiman-Williams get an easy pass here. Third, and most importantly, the issue you get hast to be worth the wait.

That means real progress in the story, but what that means in for the purposes of this title
is a little harder to make out. Sandman is not the type of series that advances by leaps and bounds. Its pacing is sedate and leisurely; at times, there’s little action at all. Yet all the while, Gaiman is moving the pieces of the plot, unobtrusively, like a chess player waiting for the precise moment to reveal that he’s had you in checkmate all along. Not very much may happen in an issue, but that’s not say it’s unproductive.
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