Wonder Woman #33Quick Self-Aggrandizing Announcement: ShotgunReviews.com has been online ten years today. An entirely new site design will be up before the clock strikes midnight, so please check it out. End shameless plug. Back here on the mighty Newsarama, these were the Best Shots Extras from the previous week . . .
As well as some reviews from Blog@ . . .
And finally, the bulk of books from this past week . . .
Wonder Woman #33
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan
Published by DC Comics
Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow
There was much promise of a major change in status quo once "Rise of the Olympian" reached its conclusion, and because I absolutely have to discuss what exactly that entailed to pull off this review, I am going to declare right up front that there are SPOILERS A'PLENTY from here on out. Those who still intend on reading Wonder Woman #33 are best served to move onto the next Best Shots review.
DC editorial promised big sweeping changes in 2009 for the holy trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, and while "Monarch of the Dead" is an excellent read, to be sure, the idea of Diana essentially breaking up with the Amazons struck me as the least consequential of the three. Not to diminish the dramatic heft of the Amazon princess no longer being welcome on her home island and lacking the support befitting a creation of the Greek gods themselves, but the DC Universe, if the previews of books remaining this year are any indication, seems to get to hold onto the one true Wonder Woman for the foreseeable future. Though how this affects her abilities on Man's World going forward remains to be seen.
If nothing else, the grand finale of "Rise of the Olympian" succeeds in bringing the whole gang back together, with all sides converging on the island of Themyscira for one last blowout battle. The male side, manipulated by the war god Ares and fronted by Jason and Achilles, has the benefit of Euphemus (son of sea god Poseidon) who commands an epic horde of beasties to attack the Amazons on their home turf. By all indications, the ladies are doomed. Queen Hippolyta orders all hands on deck, and that includes the prisoners from Gail Simone's "The Circle." Without giving anything away, the repercussions of the prisoners being freed, led by the still-delusional Alkyone, are hinted at by story's end.
I think what impressed me most with "Monarch of the Dead" was the accessibility of Gail Simone's script. An 8-part story (quite a trade they're gonna be selling there) could have the potential of collapsing under its own weight, but not once did I feel compelled to refer to one of the previous seven chapters to gather some deeper meaning to something referenced in this issue. There really did seem to be value in each page, and Simone paced the story here exceptionally well.
Of course Simone was aided in this epic by the ever-so-polished illustrating by Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan. I'd be inclined to jump on just about any book they'd be on at this point, but I sure hope Wonder Woman remains their gig for a long, long time. They capture just the right mix of beauty, power and sensitivity needed for Diana. Their ability to express the pain the lead character was in due to excessive injuries incurred over the previous chapters, fighting for her mother and the Amazons all along the way, was unmistakable.
So a new era for Diana kicks off a month from now. No family to speak of, it will be interesting to see what Simone & Co. have in store for our heroine. Now that we can put "Rise of the Olympian" in the rearview mirror, Wonder Woman has nowhere to go but up, but this issue hardly feels like a creative low point for the series. I've been following it from the beginning and this is as strong as the book's been.
Secret Warriors #5Secret Warriors; Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing #5
Written by Jonathan Hickman, with Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stefano Caselli
Colors by Daniele Rudoni
From Marvel Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
And thusly was Nick's righteous Fury revealed.
Secret Warriors is the strongest series to launch under the Dark Reign banner. The eclectic cast of 'caterpillars,' were inspired introductions to the Marvel Universe by Bendis and Alex Maleev during Secret Invasion, but the real draw of this series is Nick Fury in the central role. After a long hiatus, where America's general was relegated to the sidelines after his own Secret War went awry (so many secrets!), Norman Osborn's ascent to the role of the world's top cop proved to be the tipping point that forced Fury and his operatives out of obscurity, and into the fray.
The thing I find most unique about this series is that there really aren't many books that are about leaders. There are plenty of ensemble books, and there are books starring characters that are an inspiration to the worlds around them, but finding tales where the central character's main talent is moving the pieces he surrounds himself with is a greater rarity. Fury is almost never struggling within himself, he instead is forced to constantly grapple with the world around him, and most efficiently mold his green pupils into viable soldiers. Fury is equal parts ruthless and brilliant, and though he acts without conscience, he is intimately aware of the depth of commitment he demands from his warriors. He just can't afford to give a damn.
There's a sense of outrage that permeates this book. Hickman's Fury is just as callous as he is capable, and his charisma is evidenced by the strong-willed folks he chooses as his allies. In this issue, the new Warriors take a backseat to Nick's unretired S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents in the most overt assault on H.A.M.M.E.R. to date. The real enemy of the series is corruption, at any and all levels. Everything that S.H.I.E.L.D. stood for has been corrupted and compromised in every possible way, and it is Fury's clarity of task that makes him the steely leader that everyone with half a brain will listen to.
Stefano Caselli's work is dynamic and glossy, and gives the book a superheroic tenor that makes it unique among spy series'. It's easy to envision this book with dark, tonal and subtle visuals, but Caselli's bombastic work imbues the intricate espionage thriller story with a visceral summer blockbuster action-look that creates perfect balance. This is one of the prettiest, smartest books about guys hitting each other you'll find.
Skaar, Son of Hulk #12Skaar: Son of Hulk #12
Written by Greg Pak
Pencils by Ron Lim, with Rodney Buchemi
From Marvel Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
Oh reckonings, I suspect I'll never grow weary of you.
This was the biggest Hulk story I've read in a while. Sure, there have been more heavily hyped stories to grace the shelves, but this was the payoff of a long, earned series of stories. Skaar, the scion of Hulk, and the legacy of Sakaar, finally squares off against the one what sired him.
Skaar remains a fascinating book. It started as almost a swords and sorcery fantasy book, similar in tone to Planet Hulk, and has evolved to a more familiar Marvel series, with guest-stars and, well, humans. Ron Garney launched the series with art that was very appropriate to its intentions, but Ron Lim has firmly made this book his own. Right off the bat, it was a pleasure to see Lim draw the Silver Surfer, considering he's the artist most closely associated with the Sentinal of the Spaceways not named “Kirby” or “Buscema,” was a plus and a selling point. Since then, he's made the title his own with crystal-clear storytelling and panel-rupturing displays of power.
Greg Pak has built an incredible stable of characters to add to the Hulk mythos, pretty much been from the ground up. Skaar is a strong enough character on his own, but Kate Waynesboro and the Warbound are also effective in their roles as supporting players whose straight-mindedness accentuate both Hulk and Skaar's raging tenancies. The scope of the Hulk's universe only emphasizes the power he wields, and that power's deadly potential.
Cast off from his own dying world, Skaar has arrived on Earth to chew bubblegum, and kick his father's ***. And he's all out of bubblegum. But how does one savor revenge on a hated deadbeat dad if he lacks the mental facilities to comprehend the motivation? We don't know, but Skaar seems intent on finding out.
Skaar's hatred for Hulk's mental weakness is an interesting perversion of the Banner/ Hulk dynamic. Usually, the Hulk's struggle is thus- Banner hates Hulk for his recklessness and ignorance, and Hulk hates Banner for his inconsequential weakness. But Skaar hates Hulk for not living up to his billing as a great adversary- for being less than he imagined. Skaar hates him for the fact that he doesn't seem to matter to him nearly enough, and he hates that meeting Hulk does little to teach him more about himself. Both Banner and Hulk hate each other for what the other isn't, and Skaar shares the hatred of them both.
Skaar has an alter-ego of his own, and mastering his own demons will be a steep task. This all-out brawl issue did well to close the chapter of Skaar's petulant infancy, and begin his self-discovering teenage years. It will be a tough task to make Skaar a viable book without the fine handling of creator Greg Pak, but this foundation is strong enough that there should be room to grow.
Immortal Iron Fist #27The Immortal Iron Fist #27
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Travel Foreman, David Lapham, and Timothy Green II
From Marvel Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
It's just so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.
Everything about this volume of Iron Fist has been a success. Brubaker, Fraction and Aja were able to revitalize a character such that he reached a career pinnacle of relevance, and Swierczynski and Foreman were able to take that baton without missing a step in maintaining the book's quality.
So the tale went on, and it was good. Sadly, though, it was apparently not good enough, and this title has been put on hiatus. It will retool, and likely be relaunched to some fanfare, but for now, this is the end.
And this story makes for a satisfying ending. The thing that was most remarkable about Swierczynski's helming of this title is how true it was to the series' themes. Everything pertained to legacy, and to fate. And, of course, it starred a kung-fu billionaire. So it had all the pieces. The Fall of the House of Rand encompasses all that was right about this series. It's got Hydra, Luke Cage, Misty Knight and the Rand family's complicated relationship with K'un-Lun. It doesn't disappoint, (and even offers a divinely inspired suggestion at the demise of the Marvel U's world economy).
In more ways than one, this finale reminds me of the final issue of Alias. It is a conclusion that offers the promise of hope for the future. The character's aren't going away, but whatever happens going forward will be drastically different from what Immortal Iron Fist was. It is also reminiscent of the acclaimed MAX series because there was not one issue in this entire volume that came up short. The full run was the pinnacle of high caliber comic making, and for that each and every associated creator should take a bow.
Because quality is immortal.
Writer: John Arcudi
Pencils: Javier Saltares
Colorist: Wes Dzioba and Andrew Elder
Dark Horse Comics
Review By: Jeff Marsick
Dark Horse has been publishing Predator comic books for twenty years, can you believe it? After reading this first issue of a new mini-series, however, you can’t help but think that this franchise is all but dried up.
It’s a surprising judgment, too, given the veterans who are on the marquee: John Arcudi and Javier Saltares, who you would expect to bring something fresh to the table. Instead it’s the same old game mold, a paint-by-numbers pastiche of Predator books gone by. This time the conflict’s in Africa involving U.S. military contractors when the extra-terrestrial big-game hunters drop in, and hysteria ensues. John Arcudi’s written a script that’s listless and inert enough that when the bodies start to fall, the reader could care less. The Blackwater types are dressed in full cliché, and there’s the requisite antagonism between the unit’s Nathan Jessup Junior, Major Briggs, and the brash rebel/resident bad-ass, Thorpe, that’s not only annoyingly forced and distracting, but predictable as well.
This isn’t one of Javier Saltares’s best moments, either. Far from it. When the Predators first appear on page seven, they look so smooth and clean, like they just stepped out of a beauty salon all scrubbed and buffed and pretty, that I had to wonder if Mssr. Saltares even bothered to look at a Predator photo for reference. The rest of the issue vacillates between average and unremarkable, which isn’t surprising given such an uninspiring script. The best artwork, incidentally, is the cover by Raymond Swanland. The chaos of it takes a few minutes of getting used to and even though it’s a scene that doesn’t appear anywhere on the inside (though well it should!), the concept of Shocktrooper Predators is pretty darn cool and an idea that deserves consideration for a crossover with the Halo franchise. The cover for issue two, previewed on the letter page, is this issue’s other great piece of work and hopefully will be made available for purchase as a print by Dark Horse. Expect big things to come from Raymond Swanland, for he surely has talent and originality.
This issue disappoints on many levels and is definitely not worth the $3.50 cover price. If you’re a Predator fan jonesing for a fix, you’re better off spending your money on the collected editions of the past twenty years. I rate this issue a resounding Skip It.
Green Lantern #42Green Lantern #42
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Philip Tan
Review by Mike Mullins
Hal’s journey to possess and use the weapons of each color of the emotional spectrum takes its next step forward in an issue that feels incomplete while bringing the Agent Orange arc to its conclusion. The resolution of last issue’s cliffhanger, Hal losing his arm to Larfleeze, is resolved within two pages with little explanation as to why Jordan gets his arm back in addition to regaining the blue ring. The discussion of insubordination among the should have a little more focus and expansion given that this seems to be a growing plot point, but in a small panel that includes John Stewart and Hal Jordan, the insubordination comment could be read as relating to either of Earth’s Green Lanterns.
Balancing these missteps, the issue contains some great scenes first by focusing on John Stewart for a few pages, a nice change given Stewart’s typical absence from any Green Lantern comic and a sure sign that a major crossover is coming in the Green Lantern universe. The complete dismissal of the Green Lanterns by the Guardians is a great reminder of the attitude the Guardian’s have for the
members of their Corps, but the at the same time a chance to show more of the dissension among the Guardians could have been highlighted here when they negotiate with Larfleeze. Two splash pages promising major events for the War of Lights and Blackest Night end the issue and should be sufficient to entice any reader to come back for the Green Lantern #43.
While Green Lantern has shipped late before to allow its artist to complete the issue, such is not the case here. The outcome is a mishmash of artistic expressions that is more varied than a simple breakdown of two artists. In addition to having two pencillers, two inkers, and two colorists, there are some panels which look like they were penciled by Tan but without sufficient time for an inker. The coloration varies from a standard appearance to an almost painted feel. Any single artistic flavor would have worked for the issue, but the shifting from page-to-page and even panel-to-panel detracts from the overall quality of the book.
The Literals #3The Literals #3
From: DC Vertigo
Writer: Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges
Art: Mark Buckingham
Review by Mike Mullins
After nine installments, the Great Fables Crossover reaches its conclusion with minimal change to the Fables title and some significant alterations for Jack of Fables. Overall, the crossover was a success that created something unique by merging these two titles that typically have very different voices, but for
readers that do not pick up both Fables and Jack of Fables, I suspect there will be some relief as things return to normal next month. While the earlier issues of the Great Fables Crossover addressed the other storylines from Fables and Jack of Fables, with the Jack Frost storyline integrated with the crossover, the absence of the Farm or Mr. Dark makes this feel like the end of a Jack of Fables storyline except for the absence of Jack. In a title such as Fables with dozens of characters to spotlight, this crossover rewarded long-time readers by featuring Bigby and Snow, the two protagonists that originally hooked many readers on this series.
As always, Willingham and Sturges know their characters and from their dialogue and actions around established personalities while Buckingham is once again top notch (though I look forward to the return of the framing borders). Willingham once again proves that every detail in every panel may at some point be elaborated on as the Egg is indeed sitting on Snow’s desk
in Fables #1.
I could easily see mini-series spawned starring the Page sisters, given the status quo change among the Literals, or Jack Frost, who seems an interesting and impressionable character, along the lines of the forthcoming Cinderella as these characters now offer fresh perspectives within the Fables universe.
Dark Wolverine #75Dark Wolverine #75
Writers: Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu
Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks: Onofrio Catacchio
Colors: Marte Garcia and A. Street
Review by David Pepose
He's the best there is at what he does. But don't think this is your daddy's Wolverine -- when it comes to Daken Akihiro, or Dark Wolverine, this kid's got a brand new bag. Think of Wolverine meets James Bond, shaken not stirred with more than a hint of malevolence and killer instinct, and you've got yourself a great first issue, which sticks with you far longer than a book called "Dark Wolverine" ever really should.
The one problem I've found with some of Marvel's line of Dark Avengers minis is that, in essence, they're more or less telling the same story -- how a villain never really changes his spots, despite wearing a heroic outfit, and how long is it before his baser instincts out him to the public or otherwise do him in. But with Dark Wolverine, it's a little bit different -- he is, in many ways, his father's son, as his antisocial behavior really takes the Dark Avengers status quo and gives it a shot in the arm. Whereas the original clawed mutant would burst into any situation, claws (metaphorical and otherwise) bared, Daken has another weapon in his arsenal -- the power to manipulate emotions through specially triggered phermones.
It's within these parameters that Daniel Way, Marjorie Liu, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Onofio Catacchio really shine. Dark Wolverine, despite what you might think, is actually a largely actionless issue, with only a handful of panels depicting any sort of violence. No, this Wolverine is a stealthier creature, a human shark that is circling its unwary handlers. "Do you know what a hero is?" Norman Osborn asks the mohawked mutant. "You mean... like Spider-Man?" Daken replies, as we see Norman wince in fury. Later on, when Bullseye makes some less-than-subtle mentions about the original Wolverine, Daken asks with a sneer: "Tell me, Lester -- did you kill your father because he touched you... or because you liked it?"
But Daken's unique voice -- both menacing, insightful, and occasionally poetic -- only comes across as strong as the artists protraying it. Thankfully, Camuncoli and Catacchio do a great job of utilizing the "camera" of comics panels to their advantage, showing a hint of a smile, a strut, some hands artfully jabbed in the pockets of some designer jeans just to show what a cool customer Daken really is. With a literal love potion at his command -- as well as the flexibility to use it on anyone, male or female, friend or enemy -- Daken is portrayed as far more confident than his ill-tempered father, and it makes him a great romantic lead in the tradition of James Bond or Don Juan. Even the art team's use of fashion -- giving Daken a sort of hipster rock star look -- is a really refreshing take on a tried-and-true character. Yet even in the few panels where there is action, the art really explodes, with a great image of "Wolverine" slashing through some armed gunmen while screaming at an old lady to "move, you stupid bitch!"
While I know it was different for both Way and Liu to put aside their more individualistic writing styles to collaborate, this script certainly has a charisma to it, that makes Daken a far more interesting character than the shirtless, single-minded figure of Way's earlier exploits. By giving him deeper context within the rest of this darkening Marvel Universe -- as well as giving him free reign to skewer the likes of Bullseye and Venom emotionally rather than with deadly force -- I think this is a comic that people should really give a chance. While next issue -- which riffs off Mark Millar's "Enemy of the State" storyline by promising Dark Wolverine vs. the Fantastic Four -- might focus on action rather than Daken's cunning, Way and Liu have certainly transcended the tried and true antihero tropes, and made this Dark Reign arc a top-notch book.
Dark Reign: Elektra #4Dark Reign: Elektra #4
Writer: Zeb Wells
Pencils: Clay Mann
Inks: Mark Pennington
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Review by David Pepose
Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets, because Zeb Wells and company are taking readers through a royal rumble in this week's issue of Dark Reign: Elektra #4. This issue is certainly a treat to read, as it focuses on the battle royale that's been teased since issue #1: Elektra, assassin, versus Bullseye, Dark Avenger.
As always, Wells is a master of pacing, as he puts Elektra through her paces. She expects to find a sniper on the rooftop -- but as we saw at the end of the last issue, Bullseye does not like to share. Yet the choreography comes fast and furious, as Wells and his collaborators, Clay Mann and Mark Pennington, have a nicely kinetic style that's reminiscent of Olivier Coipel, yet with some great emotive faces -- as I've said in the past, Wells' greatest triumph is that he makes Elektra's silence seem into her natural voice, and he manages to get away with it with style.
But the real treat of this issue has to be Bullseye. Wells has a great, unique voice for the character that would be oddly romantic if it wasn't so lethal. "God, I love watching you bleed," he says in a pause in the action. That said, Bullseye isn't just talk -- Wells, Mann, and Pennington have a great moment where the master marksman pops a bullet from a sniper rifle, only to toss it at Elektra by hand. It's an image that really sticks with you, and really gives Elektra a great challenge, and the story a great villain.
Now, as I've written above, the art team of Mann, Pennington, and colorist Matt Hollingsworth really bring their A-game to this issue. Most of the panels are composed superbly, with Elektra catching bullets, arrows, and even using her sai to explode an unspent sniper shell in Bullseye's face. Their use of emotion is also great, as Elektra's lack of dialogue means they have to shoulder a lot of the "acting" involved -- whether it's Elektra questioning Bullseye's sniper rifle, or ending the sick thrill he gets of watching blood seep from her lips, it's beautiful to look at. While Hollingsworth isn't going crazy with his color palette in this issue, he gets the crew in safely, with the red and purple of Elektra and "Hawkeye" working great against a turquoise night sky.
With an issue like this, there are only a few middling complaints -- and one big worry. First and foremost, despite the cover, Wolverine only shows up at the end of the issue -- which makes me feel like there should have been a separate cover, so issue #3 (which had Bullseye on the front) could have been the image showcasing this fine book. The other thing is more of a concern -- for the past four issues, Wells and company have given us some great fight sequences, as Elektra has made her way from the clutches of Norman Osborn and HAMMER. But we're four issues in -- of a five issue series -- and Elektra is still busted up, bumping into various good samaritans to survive, with little indication of her regrouping and figuring out who has been plotting her death.
Now, one could argue that this is an unfair concern -- that I am worrying about the theme and overall character ramifications on Elektra, while all we're talking about is a miniseries. But I hope Wells, Mann, Pennington, and Hollingsworth know that this concern is me holding this mini in the highest esteem -- that I have high expectations from a top-notch creative team, and I hope that their last issue manages to cap this series with a radical dismount. If you haven't been reading this series, do yourself a favor and pick it up: it's not the sort of comic that readers might think they want, but let me tell you, it's the sort of comic that this industry needs.
Detective Comics #854Double-Shot Review: Detective Comics # 854
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: J.H. Williams III, Cully Hamner (second feature)
Colors: Dave Stewart, Laura Martin (second feature)
Letters: Todd Klein, Jared K. Fletcher (second feature)
Asst. Ed: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Published by DC
Review by Lan Pitts
To say this is the best Bat-book I've read in some time, is one hell of an understatement. It starts off pretty typical of a Bat-related title. Though, this time around it's not BatMAN interrogating thugs, but Batwoman, Kate Kane. Right off the bat (pardon the pun) we notice Williams' incredibly stellar art and interesting panel construction. The flow of the story reminds me of something Steranko might have pulled off in his hey-day. Batwoman is trying to figure out the new leader for some covens and their religion of crime and during her investigation she runs into the new Batman. They talk shop and she actually corrects him on the number of covens in the city. It made me think she got that information because she was a woman and he couldn't have done that otherwise. Sort of empowering if you think about it.
Next morning, Kate stops for breakfast with a woman (I'm sure by now, you've heard that Kate is a lesbian) who is rather upset with her for being late, among other things. The woman leaves frustrated with Kate and accusing her of tom-catting around and whatnot. The woman also says she should have never gotten involved with some one "so privileged." I think Rucka did a great job of paralleling that with the life of Bruce Wayne. Later, we see Kate at her home. We see her, not just as a civilian, we see her as the real Kate Kane. The Kate who was nearly killed by the Crime Bible. The Kate Kane who is trying to balance things between being Batwoman and an alternative socialite. The dialogue is just fantastic and incredibly strong. By the end of the issue, it's really difficult for the reader to NOT like Kane. She's living with some sort of father figure; I'm not sure who he is, he, or she acts as her sort of Oracle as well. He even mentions a "Bette". Hrm. Interesting since this could be something to do with my personal Batgirl theories.
So, she finally hunts down the covens. And in some pretty cool stylized pages too, I might add. One would think this book is called "Ass-Kicking Comics" as opposed to "Detective Comics" because of amount of vigilante justice being thrown around. Eventually, Batwoman is face-to-face with a woman called Alice, the new leader of the cult. And she is down-right creepy looking, and sort of like a Victorian noble and a porcelain doll; and in addition she has a peculiar vernacular. The story ends with Batwoman pulling out a gun and fires it! Now, I don't think it actually fires bullets, maybe some sort of pellets. Interesting to see somebody with a Bat-mantle using a gun. Love the cliffhanger angle.
Also featured in this book is a second story (entitled "Pipeline") starring the Question, Rene Montoya, and I must say it's a nice compliment to Batwoman’s story. It seems we’re going to get less capes and cowls and more street-level style attitude. Cully Hamner (Black Lightning, Blue Beetle) and Laura Martin (Thor, Astonishing X-Men) may not be Williams and Stewart, but they’re deserving of a fair amount of praise for the same reason: the art is captivating, yet gritty. This feature shows more of the "detective" side of the book's title. For the first few pages, it's dialogue heavy but the remaining pages have hardly any words at all, it's mainly Question, as I mentioned earlier, doing some actual detective work and the art tells the story by itself. She's on the look out for a Mexican immigrant's sister who had crossed the border illegally and now has gone missing. Though finding her maybe harder than she had originally intended.
This book is easily worth the $3.99 price tag. My one complaint is that in the Batwoman story, she has an older man as her "Oracle", as is the same deal with the Question. It doesn't take me out of the story, I just would have thought Rucka would have been slightly more careful about not sounding repetitive with dealing with two different characters in the same book. Bottom line though, get it. No question about it. And I'm not sorry about ending on a pun.
Moomin v 4Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip vol. 4
Written & Illustrated by Tove Jansson
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah
The fourth collection of Swedish children’s book author Tove Jansson’s popular comic strip collects five more storylines of the bizarre hippo-like family. Using their affinity for time travel, Moomin, Snorkmaiden, MoomimMamma and MoominPappa travel back to the Old West, then later to the “romantic” days of old Europe. In traditional Moomin style, they discover that these exotic times and places have their own tremendous downsides, and for the Moomins, home is truly where the heart is.
Jansson channels a very unlikely reality, a semi-stream of conscious vision of the world through the eyes of her assortment of peculiar, yet charmingly loveable characters. Any crazy thing can happen, but Jansson’s trippy vision of the Moomin universe makes it all somehow okay and even plausible. An asteroid is coming to destroy Moomin Valley, just as a tidal wave threatens to engulf the town – yet everyone comes out okay when the asteroid pounds a large hole, which swallows up the tidal wave, in the Earth.
However those outlandish elements, including time travel and asteroids vs. tidal waves, are secondary to the adorable and quirky character bits. Snorkmaiden’s pursuit of romantic ideals continues to pull her away from Moomin, yet simultaneously, she can’t accept anybody other than her beloved Moomin. With an asteroid threatening, the family’s camaraderie with a ghost – who is beautifully assured by MoominMamma that ghosts cannot be killed by asteroids – underscores the openness and acceptance evidence by the family in all walks to life.
Cartoony and open, with strong lines and extremely emotive characters, Jansson’s artwork captures the emotional ups and downs of her anthropomorphic cast pitch perfectly. The character designs are sharp and creative, and each day’s set of panels showcases the outlandish vision of Moomin Valley as seen through Jansson’s mind’s eye.
Moomin began life as a series of children’s books, and the narratives will engage young readers readily. Older readers, fortunately, will still find the stories twistedly upbeat and deliriously charming. It’s a cute series in the best sense of the word, just off-beat and unusual enough to seem foreign, yet comfortable enough to feel like an old friend. Drawn & Quarterly’s doing a great job with their Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip series, and vol. 4 is no exception.
Superman #689 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow) I found this particular chapter of "Mon-El in Metropolis" (my term, not theirs) to be positively sublime. The Daxamite's found out that he's not long for this world due to his issues with lead poisoning, and decides to use his shortened time to expose himself to the multifaceted jewel that is the planet Earth. Hopping from continent to continent, Mon-El takes in the sites of Moscow, Tokyo, Mexico City and all points in between, all along the way meeting the superheroic representation of each country. I appreciated the way writer James Robinson captured these scenes (lavishly illustrated by Renato Guedes and José Wilson Magalhães) with an internal monologue over verbal dialogue. Mon-El's narration is downright poetic at times. On a personal level, I liked the inclusion on Barcelona and citing "the singular genius of Gaudi," myself having gotten the chance in 2008 to see up close in person just what Mon-El was taking about. We also get a teaser at book's end of General Lane's covert operations against the heroes finally reaching bloom. Things don't look promising for John Henry Irons, that much is apparent. And I'm not sure exactly where he was last seen in the Superman books from years past, and I recognize that the Man of Steel's mythology is in the process of being retold, but it's nice to see Morgan Edge find his way back into this world, now as a television talking head campaigning against Metropolis' new guardian bearing all the characteristics of a Kryptonian, a big no-no on Earth right now. At first Edge comes off as a more measured version of Bill O'Reilly, but any similarity to the Fox News mouthpiece is blown out of the water when he actually let's his talk show guest, Guardian, express his point without interruption and subsequently issue a public mea culpa. The creators here certainly have nothing to apologize for as Superman is a fantastic read right now that's getting better with every issue.
Justice Society of America #28 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow) Just so we're clear, this Jerry Ordway-produced fill-in (warming the seat, so to speak, for the new ongoing creative team starting in July) is a perfectly serviceable JSA story, and the elements that invoked the All-Star Squadron stories of yesteryear were incredibly welcome. And though it's clear that the Spectre is not joining the team lineup any time soon, it was cool to see him prominently featured in this two-parter, especially when the team gets a few moments with the human side of the avenging spirit, Crispus Allen. What prompted this missive on issue #28 was really an open request to the new creative team to lay off the concept of Stargirl being involved in any sort of impropriety with an older team member. If this is really the best source of internal conflict that they can come up with for a team of this size, perhaps the creators and editorial should reevaluate their agenda. It's been done to death, and really is a subplot I'd like to see put to bed. I can't imagine that I'm alone in that sentiment.
Infinite Typewriters (Del Rey; by Mike) – Jonathan Rosenberg’s webcomic Goats is a poppy, pop culture festival. Now, typically, this isn’t really my thing; relying on a few cultural touchstones to get an easy reaction from an audience is lazy hackery, but Rosenberg’s Goats is definitely not your average inside-reference geekfest. The jokes are sharp, the pacing relentless, and the characters vibrantly, twistedly delightful. It’s silly, surprising fun, racing from out outlandish scenario about world conquest to visiting the dimension where the monkeys write the characters’ lives, all while mixing pop culture and political references that will tickle many a geek’s funny bone.
Viking #2 (Image; review by Brendan): This is the most quietly beautiful story about vikings you will ever read. Everything about this story is totally grounded, and there is no spectacle to anything besides Nic Klein's shining artwork. It isn't a grand or worldly adventure. It is a story about people, the choices they make, and the way that impacts the people around them. In this world violence runs rampant, but never desensitizes. There are consequences for actions, and those consequences accentuate the savagery of life, and the need for solace in sanctuary.
I'm reluctant to call this story “Shakespearean,” because it's something of a lazy oversimplification. Still, the epic dealings of the interpersonal relationships, and the way emotion leads to action, leads to life or death personal consequence evokes all the most classic sensibilities of love, loss and revenge in story. Klein's range seems boundless, effortlessly alternating styles panel to panel in order to most effectively convey the emotion of each story beat. Ivan Brandon's characters are as realized and real as any in fiction, and stand on their own, without resorting to clichés as stereotypical brutes.
This is a story with heart. The only problem is, it can't wait to tear that heart straight out of your chest.
Guardians of the Galaxy #15 (Marvel; by Troy): Marvel’s most enjoyable team book (yeah, I said it) clocks in with another stellar issue. It all hits the fan when the Inhuman Royal Family and the Sh’iar Imperial Guard both show up to attack our heroes after the events of the last (War of Kings tie-in) issue. There’s a tremendous amount of action punctuated by some terrific humor and character development on the run. In fact, my Favorite Panel of the Year might be in here (Russian telepathic space-dog Cosmo, recovering from a mental blast, gazes upward at a concerned Lockjaw, who is licking his forehead; Cosmo asks, “Are you God?” That’s comic book perfection, people.) If you aren’t reading this regularly, please give it a try. I’d hate to see it follow another Marvel team book that I loved, Captain Britain and MI13, into the abyss of cancellation.