Best Shots Extra: TALON #3, MORBIUS #1 - Reviewed!

 

Talon #3

Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV

Art by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey

Lettering by Dezi Sienty

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

When it comes to superhero comics, popcorn action comes part and parcel with all those capes, tights and superpowers. But for my money, one of the comics that most exemplifies this sort of stylish but low-calorie storytelling has to be DC's Talon. This book isn't trying to change the DC Universe forever, it's got no established protagonist to try to change up — it's action for action's sake, and that isn't a bad thing.

The hook for this comic is the art by Guillem March. There's an exaggerated, infectious charm to his cartoony, over-the-top characters — think of those Disney-style open lines shoved into adulthood with liberal amounts of scruff and sexiness, and you get why March's work might catch so many eyes. From Calvin standing moodily on a rainy bridge to a surprisingly kinetic skirmish with a pair of trained assassins, March keeps his panels tight on his characters and produces some really memorable explosions of quick action — to be honest, these moments actually are quite brief, but are delivered so well that they feel much longer.

March may be maligned as an artist who plays up the sexuality of his women too much, and while those critics aren't wrong, it's actually a nice touch to put his exaggerated physiques into a title with a male lead, something that isn't going to be instantly defined or directed by sexy shots. His work with colorist Tomeu Morey is also very interesting, particularly when the palette takes an otherworldly green tinge on the cliffhanger splash page. That said, March isn't flawless — his backgrounds are a little conspicuously empty, particularly when Manhattan's skyline is absent in the first scene.

But to be honest, when you have a showcase for March's artwork, the story doesn't have to go that deep, does it? You're either into a dude in a costume staging a bank heist with a ragtag team of thieves, or you think that's stupid, no matter who drew it. Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV don't take a particularly sophisticated route introducing Calvin's long-lost love Casey, but they're also unapologetic for it — there's no backstory for somebody like Calvin, so there's actually fewer expectations for his character, fewer opportunities to say "that doesn't make any sense!"

Nope, this is a runaway from a secret society who wears his secret society t-shirt underneath his jacket at all times. His girlfriend has put together a motley crew of assassins that remind me of the crew from Blade II. It's okay — part of Talon's charm is it doesn't beat around the bush. It doesn't need to bore you with exposition, it doesn't need to put down a new direction or new insight to keep things fresh. It just wants to tell a story featuring an old school misunderstanding fight and a bank heist. Everybody cool with that?

I say that knowing plenty of people won't be. There are plenty of people who have higher standards for their comics, people who will cultivate a more rarified pull-list who require greater stakes than what Snyder and Tynion have to offer. They're not wrong. But in a lot of ways, Talon takes us back to the visceral charm of old-school superhero books, that kind of cool stuff for cool stuff's sake that's made palatable because it so cool on the page. Sometimes a comic doesn't have to be all-enduring, sometimes a series doesn't have to revolutionize the genre. Sometimes 20 pages of stylish, unapologetic fun are all you need. And if that's what you're looking for, Talon definitely delivers.

 

Morbius #1

Written by Joe Keatinge

Art by Richard Elson and Antonio Fabela

Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

It’s exciting when C-List characters get a chance to in the spotlight. The comics market of yesteryear is rife with extended runs on characters that would never get a shot in this day and age. But frequently when they’re brought back around, sometimes in an effort to capitalize on the cultural zeitgeist, their flaws are much more evident. I’m not saying that there can’t be a Morbius comic in 2012, but Morbius #1 isn’t the vampire book you thought you were getting.

That brings up a good point, though. What is a Morbius-led vampire comic book in today’s market? The cult hit that was was essentially a horror book at a time when you could actually sell genre work without a recurring main character. Assistant editor Sana Amanat puts together a neat pitch in the back matter. She says that the main drive behind Morbius is one question: “When your life depends on the suffering of some, while still having the ability to save others, what kind of person do you choose to be?” That’s an interesting concept and one that could potentially jumpstart a franchise.

The problem is that writer Joe Keatinge never truly gets there. Instead, he spends pages upon pages trying to prove that this isn’t going to be the mopey vampire drivel that permeates mainstream pop culture. But while screaming “This isn’t Twilight!” at the top of his lungs, Keatinge never tells us what Morbius is. His framing devices are cute. The advantages and disadvantages of being vampire-ish are a decent way to explain Morbius’ unique condition to readers who are unfamiliar. But the following nonlinear storytelling technique takes all of the energy and immediacy out of the opening sequence. And we don’t end up learning al that much about Michael Morbius. Sure, we know his backstory but we see that he has some heroic inclinations and we see that he mopes around in a hoodie in a town that superheroes have apparently forgotten about. This isn’t the same struggle that Amanat sells us in the back matter.

It isn’t all Keatinge’s fault that the issue falls flat. Richard Elson should take some of the heat. Elson’s a fine cartoonist but he’s not exactly setting the world on fire with his art. He’s gets from point A to point B without a problem. His work isn’t confusing. His characters are solidly designed. But his panel layouts are boring. I’m not suggesting that the artist is to blame for simply doing the job that he was assigned. But I think that it is clear how much faith Marvel has in a property if the best person they can put on an all-new project can be described at best as “palatable.”

Elson’s work does suffer from the dark tone of the coloring though. It makes his recent Spider-Man work looks leaps and bounds better simply because it isn’t drowning in black. Elson benefits from clean lines and big, bright colors. The dark blues and browns of Antonio Fabela serve only to muddy Elson’s work and while they do bring a definite coloring calling card to the book, it isn’t a good one. It’s forgettable because it doesn’t allow anything to stand out. Even in a dark book, contrast is necessary to make content memorable or at least some what compelling. But a lack of memorable images coupled with uninspired coloring makes this one drag in the art department.

Now, of course, this is only a first issue. Things can change quickly. By issue #2, maybe the creative team will have worked out some of the problems that plague this issue. But burying the potential hook that this series/character has and pedestrian artwork really start this one off on the wrong foot. Even if Morbius survives his current predicament, this book might not make it to 2014.

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