Best Shots: Hawkeye, Green Lantern & More
Preview: Dark Reign: Hawkeye #1
Dark Reign: Hawkeye #1
Writer: Andy Diggle
Penciller: Tom Raney
Inker: Scott Hannah
Colorist: Guru E-FX
Review by David Pepose:
Out of all the various players in Dark Reign, the one I've been most excited to watch has to be Bullseye.
Oh, I'm sorry, I meant Hawkeye.
With the villains dressing as heroes and the heroes now in hotter water than ever, the Marvel U doesn't really know which end is up. Norman Osborn is making deals upon deals, and is tightening his grasp further with every issue he's in.
And to me, the weak link in all this is Bullseye. This street-level criminal -- no Asgardian death hammers, no trillion-dollar suits of assault armor -- is one of the most dangerous men in Marvel right now because of what he knows, and the fact that he might not be able to control his bloodlust enough to keep Norman Osborn's secrets in the shadows where they belong. And smartly, Andy Diggle focuses Dark Reign: Hawkeye on this premise.
Mind you, this isn't a perfect intro for this well-thought mini-series: it begins with a slow and conflicted start by having to introduce Bullseye's teammates, the Dark Avengers, with a midtown brawl with a giant attack robot. While Diggle is able to single out "Hawkeye" as the most savvy Avenger in the room, the sequence isn't really clever enough to make either our protagonist or his teammates seem like striking villains, or even credible threats to the world at large. Norman Osborn struts and poses, and right now doesn't seem to have the creepy-but-authoritarian voice that Warren Ellis or Matt Fraction or Brian Michael Bendis has been giving him lately.
But where Diggle shines is when he deals with Bullseye. On the one hand, he curbs his bloodlust by "accidentally" flattening a busload of tourists during the giant robot attack; but on the other hand, his superhero disguise is more ill-fitting than most of his teammates, and he oftentimes can't go through a fight without letting it slip that he isn't really Hawkeye. Moments like his interview with Ben Urich become comedy gold: "Killing's an art, and that makes me Picasso," he tells the reporter. "Wait a second... do I know you?" Urich asks uneasily. Good thing Hawkeye doesn't have time to give him an answer.
The art by Tom Raney certainly is clear in terms of storytelling, and he excels especially when portraying Hawkeye in single combat. Every panel seems to have that Bullseye sneer, and I think it's a great way of having us warm up to the character, even if we're not really supposed to be warming up to the character. With a style not dissimilar to the Dodsons in terms of clarity and brightness, while it may not be the best fit for a story as rife with moral ambiguity as this one -- especially on the very crowded Dark Avengers fight scene in the beginning of the issue -- on its own merits it's great art to look at.
While the story itself may be a little bit light in terms of exploring Bullseye as a character, it certainly ends on a strong cliffhanger. At the end of the day, while knowing Bullseye's inner thoughts might be cool, sometimes it's just fun to see this guy kill a pack of muggers or the pilot of a giant robot, just because he can. Perhaps the focus of this series is fitting: Hawkeye, in all of his incarnations, has always been known as the loose cannon of the Avengers -- and even with a bloodthirsty Cabal now running the show, it's the man with the bow and arrow that could topple this Dark Reign to the ground.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Philip Tan
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: Randy Mayor w/ Gabe Eltaeb
Publisher: DC Comics Price: $2.99
Review by David Pepose
I dig Green Lantern. I truly do -- this is one of those few series out there that allows the writer to take a chance with a long-form story, and the planning truly shows. While this is not my favorite issue of Green Lantern, however, it's still a decent prelude issue to what looks to be some real fireworks.
The story is fairly simple for the issue -- the Controllers awaken an isolated power, while Hal Jordan struggles with his dueling power rings: Green for willpower, and Blue for hope. As Johns explains in a really interesting way, Blue may bolster Green, but cannot function offensively without it: as Jordan puts it, "I've met enough people in my life who do nothing but hope for the best -- but they don't get up and do anything about it." Yet to ratchet up the tension, Johns has the two rings interfering with one another, which makes the impending War of Light seem all the more insurmountable. Yet certain elements of the story -- namely, the Guardians summoning Jordan and interrogating him with methods seemingly akin to torture -- do feel a little too familiar. I understand that the Guardians' moral authority is eroding under Scar's leadership, but because we just saw similar characterizations in Final Crisis and Johns' Secret Origins arc, that scene in particular I feel needed a little bit of freshening up.
But if you're reading this review, you're probably wondering about the two new elements introduced in this issue: Agent Orange, who controls the power of avarice, and the work of new artist Philip Tan. Geoff Johns has spoken in the past about how Agent Orange is his new favorite character, and I'm hopeful that this enthusiasm will inspire some of the great characterization Johns has been known for in the past. Some people might see Agent Orange and write him off as a Gollum knock-off: I'm willing to withhold judgment for a little bit longer on this one. Of course, the interesting part about the character is that Agent Orange's power -- like that of the Green Lanterns, the Star Sapphires, and the Sinestro Corps -- is not really about emotion: it's about control. "You can only protect what you can hold," Orange says to himself. It's great food for thought, and I'm hoping that character gets fleshed out more as the series progresses.
Tan, meanwhile, has some big shoes to fill. Geoff Johns can be a bit verbose with his writing, and it takes some work on the artist's part to make those word bubbles not clash with the action. Ivan Reis was a pro at this, and so I unconsciously (and unfairly) can't help but make comparisons. Tan's work is a little sketchier than his predecessor's, at least in the first half of the book -- with almost a dash of Marc Silvestri to his style -- but his work suddenly gets noticeably cleaner in the second half of the book. I attribute a lot of this to Tan and Johns (and Tan's inker Jonathan Glapion) still getting a feel for one another and it'll hopefully improve the storytelling of the book.
Where Tan really shines, however, is on characters he can really put his signature on -- a brief space borne dogfight between robotic Green Lantern Stel and a fugitive Sinestro Corps member is really slick, and while his version of Agent Orange seems a bit different than on the Ivan Reis variant cover, it still has the wild-eyed furor that makes me interested in this unpredictable new factor in the War of Light.
The best science fiction out there has something that resonates with all-too-ordinary readers out there -- and Geoff Johns' use of the "emotional spectrum" to examine characterization and the nature of control is what makes this series so compelling. I'm hopeful that the art team will sync up more and more as the series progresses -- if that's the case, Green Lantern may continue to knock our socks off with clean storytelling and over-the-top imagery.
Writer: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art:Wellington Alves and Scott Hanna
Review by Mike Mullins
This issue picks up where the War of Kings: Darkhawk mini-series concluded with a rapid pace as Chris Powell is mentored in the capabilities of his raptor armor. The story moves briskly between action sequences and debates between Chris and his mentor, Talon. The closing of this issue further explains the influence that has been driving Chris into his self-defeating anger and why that aspect of the character has grown since the conclusion of the original Darkhawk series.
Of course, not all is what it seems with the raptor armor or Talon. In War of Kings: Darkhawk #2, Talon admits, “I myself have only recently awoken from dormancy.” With the stated mission of the Fraternity of Raptors, the easiest conclusion was that he had come out of a hibernation or suspended animation. The first three pages of Ascension appear to shed a slightly different light on the subject without beating the reader over the head.
Talon’s discussion of the Fraternity of Raptors is well versed and seems a complicated creation to simply gain Chris’s trust. Rather, it seems that there is probably a truth behind the words that will be explored in the subsequent issues of the mini-series. Hopefully subsequent issues address more on the history of the Fraternity of Raptors as well as the background of Razor and Talon, and finally resolve Chris Powell’s story.
The team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning show their skills as writers in that the carry over a consistent tone from C. B. Celbuski’s version of Chris Powell. They provide enough twists and turns in the development of the story to keep the reader turning the pages while hiding enough nuances to make a second reading of the comic enjoyable.
The art from Wellington Alves (penciller), Scott Hanna (inks), and Guru eFX (colorist) makes for visually delightful experience. While some of the new forms of the raptor armor are arguably more cheesy than the original Darkhawk armor, they are rendered well and the few scenes with Chris out of his armor relay Chris’s emotions and frustrations.
For former Darkhawk fans and those following War of Kings, Ascension #1 is worth the purchase and the promise for issue #2 is high.
Writer: Tony Daniel
Art: Daniel and Sandu Florea
Review by Mike Mullins
Tony Daniel continues to create a successful mini-series with Battle for the Cowl through his scripting and art. Even if Battle for the Cowl only maintains a holding pattern until the relaunch of Batman and Detective Comics and the launch of Batman and Robin, Red Robin, Gotham Sirens, and Streets of Gotham, that holding pattern has been very enjoyable.
Just as issue #1 was narrated by a character who would take up the mantle of Batman, this issue is narrated by another man who has decided to wear the cowl. Whether it is each Robin narrating an issue is still up for debate as the identity of this Batman is not confirmed. The narrator uses guns while wearing a variation of the Batman costume and has created his own Batcave. This Batman knows the identities of the Robins and understands Batman’s history and its impact on Gotham.
The characters of Tim and Dick are pegged with highlights on Tim’s detective skills leading to his confrontation to the gun-wielding Batman in a new Batcave. Dick finally feels pushed to take a more direct route to dealing with Bruce’s death. The scene with Alfred is great, but one of Alfred’s comments struck me as incorrect when he states that only Dick has wherewithal to uphold Bruce’s ideals of “justice consequence and ironclad resolve to protect.” While he may be saying this simply to prod Dick into action, Tim seems to share those characteristics with Dick.
While the bat-family copes with the change in the status quo of Gotham, Black Mask’s plans continue to evolve as the inmates he rescued from Gotham do his bidding. Meanwhile, the Penguin and Two-Face conflict heats up, while the Black Mask pulls the Gotham police into the conflict with the assassination of the new district attorney. This provides the opening for a new district attorney to arrive in Gotham in the form of Kate Spencer.
There is a lot left to resolve in issue #3, and some of it may spill into the ongoing titles that follow the conclusion of Battle for the Cowl. At the very least, we should see the reveal of the identities of the Black Mask and the gun-toting Batman, and who finally wins the right to take the mantle of Batman. While this mini-series is arguably only filler until Batman and Detective Comics return, the ride has been fast paced and enjoyable. I, for one, am looking forward to the conclusion.
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Peter Vale & Robert Atkins
Reviewed by Brian Andersen
I picked up this book despite my nerdy, fanboy anger over the fact that a book like this even exists. Do we really need another She-Hulk? Or worst yet, a “new” She-Hulk to replace the sensational one we’re luckily enough to already have? I think not. But being the lady-hero-lover that I am, and also being an emerging fan of writer Fred Van Lente’s work, I cautiously took it home - reading it with a disapproving scowl on my face the whole time. By the time I finished the first issue I was surprised to find that I didn’t hate it. In fact, I would venture to say I found myself slightly intrigued. Slightly.
Having the talented Van Lente’s scripting the book doesn’t hurt, as he always peppers his work with tons of wit, more than enough cleverness to make any hum drum superhero story sing. Van Lente is one of the rare creators that can take any Z-List character and deliver a terrific read, which is never more evident than his work on the Incredible Hercules (which FYI, you all SO need to be reading). As per usual, I’m happy to report that Van Lente was indeed able to humanize and make this questionable new character likable.
What I found most interesting about this new “savage” She-Hulk isn’t her Jean Grey hair, nor her lineage to both Thundra and the Hulk (she shares both of their DNA), nor the fact that she comes from a future world ruled by woman (who battle Wolverine-ish men that dwell in the forest), no, what I found most interesting was the way in which she handles her Hulk-ness. Of all the many Hulk peeps out there (more on this later) this new She-Hulk is a warrior, a tactician, and a military solider who can just as easily use guns, acrobatic handstands, and brute strength - like throwing subway cars to scatter her pursers at A.R.M.O.R (the Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response Agency) - to complete her mission. So if nothing else, little Miss Savage is already uniquely different than her older, more treasured counterpart. With the aid of her chatty wrist computer this new She-Hulk’s mission is to go back in time to present day Marvel U to repair the broken cloning/incubation machine that births and breeds the ruling women class from her era.
I’m actually looking forward to seeing where this story leads, and super excited for the next issue just so that I can enjoy the new Savage She-Hulk battle the one, the only, the true Sensational She-Hulk. I hope Van Lente doesn’t shortchange old Jennifer Walters just so his new character can look like a superstar. I’m expecting a fair, even, exciting battle. And when is all said and done, at the end of the series, my deepest wish for this new character, this new Hulk person, is to not usurp the present day She-Hulk’s name, savage or otherwise, but to find a more original, green-ish name for herself. Though I can’t understand why Marvel continues to dilute the Hulk with all these spin-off characters, as we now have this new She-Hulk, the original (and best) She-Hulk, Leonard Sampson, Rulk, Son of the Hulk, the new Hulk in the upcoming Fantastic Force comic, and the original Bruce Banner Hulk (that’s 7 Hulk related characters all running around the Marvel U at the same time. Maybe it’s time for the Scarlet Witch to say “no more Hulks.”). I hope Marvel won’t just willy nilly replace a pretty awesome character just “because”. 7 Hulk characters rampaging around is a wee bit too much as it is. I mean, can we say “overkill”? I’m beginning to understand why people say there are no new ideas, which is truly sad when it’s referring to the House of Ideas.
Writer: Alexander Irvine
Artist: Tomm Coker
Letterer: Joe Caramanga
Colorist: Daniel Freedman
Review By: Jeff Marsick
I said before that X-Men Noir would blow the curve and set a high benchmark for the rest of the Marvel Noir experiment to aspire to, and the new Daredevil take on the concept is Exhibit A in suffering by comparison.
The issue starts in the present, with a Prohibition-era Daredevil about to bring about an end to the Kingpin’s reign. But with the fateful words “To know the end of a story, you have to know the beginning…” the reader spends the next twenty-three pages mired in the past, playing catch-up to the opening scene. Twenty-three pages of mostly Elseworlds-ish rehashing of Daredevil’s origin, including an alley scene with Matt’s father, Battlin’ Jack Murdock, that looks astonishingly similar to Bruce Wayne’s defining moment in Crime Alley. In fact, change a few words around (and modify the “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moon light?”), add a girl and some pearls, and you’ve got the scene from Tim Burton’s first piece on the caped crusader. Later in the issue, the killer is seen again plying his trade while in the background the marquee announces the showing of…you guessed it: “The Mask of Zorro”. For the fanboys who rally round the flag that Daredevil is the Marvel Batman, it’s a moment of vindication. In all, though, it’s twenty-three pages of dull, re-telling us what we already know, but doing it in a rote, step-by-step cookbook method, handed to us on a panel-by-panel platter under the umbrella of Daredevil’s monologue.
Alexander Irvine tries way too hard to force across the issue’s noir. He writes Daredevil’s thoughts in staccato fashion, as if double-D was played by Bogey, but it comes out contrived and completely transparent that he’s swinging for the fences in an attempt to sound like Hammett or Chandler. I would rather Mr. Irvine innovated instead of emulated, which might have made the story more interesting than what it is essentially shaping up to be: Daredevil #170-172, only set in the 1930s.
Tomm Coker’s pencils are halfway between Paul Azaceta and Alex Maleev. The style is terrific and apropos for the story, but the colors at every opportunity wash out any details and make the book far too dark. No wonder there’s a gaping plot hole in that no one has connected the vigilante Daredevil with the vaudevillian stage act who wears a nearly identical headpiece: whenever the vigilante is in a panel, all one can barely make out is a horn or two and maybe some red. Mr. Coker’s legs are surely being cut out from under him by the rest of the art team.
There is so much that could have been done with Daredevil to make this fresh and exciting, but instead the creative team went with reheated and tame. Daredevil fans and completists will be disappointed with the result and would be better off skipping this or at the most, wait for the trade. Save your money and buy X-Men Noir instead.
Written & Illustrated by Kim Dong Hwa
Published by First Second
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah
I’ll never think of a persimmon seed the same way again.
The Color of Earth, the first book in Kim Dong Hwa’s Color trilogy (look for The Color of Water and The Color of Heaven later this year; I will) is a stirring and unique comics experience. A young widowed mother and her daughter, Ehwa, live together in a small Korean town many years ago. As the young mother finally learns to open her heart again following the death of her husband several years before, Ehwa herself is growing into a young woman, learning about both her own body and the travails of love.
Framing Ehwa’s experiences with colorful allusions to flowers and nature (the principle is obvious, the execution considerably better), Hwa explores the coming of age and re-awakening of daughter and mother, pupil and teacher, sharing the closest of bonds. It’s amazing that Hwa is a man, as his apparent understanding of the mother/daughter relationship is simply staggering. It’s a confusing, yet funny process, and Hwa allows both Ehwa and her mother to enjoy the questions that arise – her mother frequently chuckles or gasps in amazement at Ehwa’s discoveries. Using humor enforces the bond between the women, while offsetting the turmoil in Ehwa’s mind and heart.
The artwork, full of lush imagery captures the agrarian and calm setting of the women’s lives, yet Hwa easily slips cartoon exaggeration into sequences to capture the shock and embarrassment Ehwa faces as she learns about adult life. The visual storytelling flows easily across the pages, and let’s face it – the characters are pretty easy on the eyes.
The Color of Earth is only the first book in this trilogy, but it has me anticipating the rest of the series anxiously. First Second Books continues to set the standard for story-driven, well-drawn graphic novels, and Kim Dong Hwa’s first book under their umbrella is another gem in their crown.
Written by Joann Sfar & Lewis Trondheim
Illustrated by Boulet
Translated by Joe Johnson
Published by NBM
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah
Ah, Dungeon, what pleasures you bring me. In this third English language volume of Zenith – the time period when the Dungeon was at its height of power and recognition – continues the saga of Marvin, the Keeper, Herbert, Isis and the rest. Two European albums are reprinted here, the first telling of Herbert and Isis’s attempts to elope against the wishes of her family. The second finds the crew cast out of the Dungeon and attempting to find temporary shelter in Herbert’s homeland, from which – of course – Herbert has been banished with a penalty of beheading should he ever return.
As with previous volumes of the series, Back in Style is a relentless good, funny time. Trondheim and Sfar obviously enjoy the high fantasy concepts and have no compunctions coming up with one exotic twist after another, but they’re also humorous creators at heart, so Dungeon never takes itself too seriously. Heavy events occur, but the narrative never feels somber or overwhelming – this is a rollicking good, often silly adventure story, the type many of us cherished when we were younger but have a hard time finding nowadays. Here, we get to explore new realms, discover mystic secrets (although the question of why Herbert was transformed into a hulking monster will have to wait for another day to be answered), and peek into the chaotic and hilarious dynamics of Dungeon’s legalese!
Sfar and Trondheim come up with plenty of great ideas, and they even get to explore some intriguing notions – such as immature, unreliable Herbert cast in the role of family man, with fiancée, child and parents. Contrastly, his friendship with Marvin is put under considerable strain when Marvin chooses responsibility to the Keeper over Herbert’s friendship.
With illustrations by Boulet, who continues the tradition of lively and better-than-average artwork, the third book of Zenith doesn’t miss a beat. Boulet sticks to the models created by Dungeon’s creators, while he packs each page with panels (among my favorite thing about European albums is the high panel-per-page count) to fit in tons of story. Using shadows well and strong comic timing, while employing occasional half-splash pages to really drive a dramatic moment home, Boulet is comfortably upholding the artistic standards of previous forays into Dungeon.
Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim … man, these two guys can seemingly do no wrong. They’re leading lights in France’s comics scene, and it’s obvious why. Dungeon: Zenith vol. 3: Back in Style is witty, fun and adventurous. Readers of fantasy, of humor, of unapologetically fun comics are going to love it.
Superman: World of New Krypton #2 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow) Do you ever find yourself reading a book and find yourself enjoying it way more than you expected, or thought was possible? That's were I found myself with this new Superman series and this latest installment in particular. When the "New Krypton" epic kicked off many months ago, too often it felt, especially in Superman and Action Comics, like they were simply going through the motions, advancing to the next chapter with little consequence, and the individual chapters lacked substance. I can't quite pinpoint exactly what it is that all of the sudden clicked for me, but it has felt like things have settled down, and the Man of Steel, despite his self-imposed exile from Earth, is performing more assuredly than he has in a while, thanks to writers Greg Rucka and James Robinson. There is some serious class warfare developing on New Krypton, as the Labor Guild wishes to get recognized as equals to the Science and Military Guilds since they've reestablished themselves as a new nation. Much easier said than done seeing as Kal-El's Aunt Alura and General Zod are running the show. The Laborers clearly have an ally in Kal-El, but that won't get them very far on a world where all are equally superpowered and Zod's troops are now armed with guns that are lethal if used on any Kryptonian in their current environment. Artist Pete Woods delivers some excellent pencils and inks in this second issue too. I've suggested of late that Woods getting some inking assistance wouldn't be the worst idea, but he handles this issue very well, enough so that I was sure he did get a little help, and that's not the case. Where Woods succeeds is that there is quite the variety of landscape, architecture, characters and costumes to process in this issue alone, and he does it with a great aplomb. Lord knows I haven't been terribly excited about the whole New Krypton direction because of it taking our hero out of his element for such an extended period of time, but if Part Two of World of New Krypton is any indication, the Man of Steel's new challenges may be as compelling as anything we've ever seen. Great work right now by this creative team.
Batman Confidential #28 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow) With the third and final chapter of "A New Dawn" now in the books, I'd like to openly campaign for the creative team of Christina Weir, Nunzio DeFilippis, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan to continue to provide us with "classic" Batman stories. DC editorial should give this serious consideration since the Bat-books are currently sans Bruce Wayne and expect to be for a while. Not every Batman fan is necessarily wants to follow Battle For the Cowl and what will follow, and all of the sudden Batman Confidential can serve a most vital need. Food for thought, gents. While by no means groundbreaking, "A New Dawn" is a legitimate success in that it integrated King Tut into the DC Universe effectively. The Joker and Two-Face don't need to be looking over their shoulders in terms of villainous competition any time soon, but there's more than enough room in the Dark Knight's rogues gallery to allow for a character only seen before four decades prior in live-action television. This conclusion to King Tut's DCU indoctrination is solid all around even featuring a couple unexpected twists and turns along the way. Alliances are tentative, and the only character we can trust for sure is naturally the character whose name adorns the series's cover. When it's all settled, too, the table is set for King Tut to make a return, and now ("now" being a relative term since this is a flashback series) he's got help. No it is not the Riddler, though incorporating this A-list Batman foe certainly did add a special something to the 3-part story. My only negative issue with the story was that Batman was almost handled in "A New Dawn" as a perfunctory player, a mere referee in the competition between criminals with a shared modus operandi. Say they bring back King Tut when the present-day Batman books regain a sense of normalcy and consistency, I'd picture that whoever wears the cowl at that time getting a little more character development for the benefit of the story. But again, I could easily envision an increase in readership of Batman Confidential if this union of writers and artists (I think Garcia-Lopez and Nowlan only got better as the story progressed) is used more. They can count on at least one reader coming around more often should they heed this well-intended advice.
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