Happy Thursday, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here! Ready for ten -- count 'em, TEN -- reviews from DC, Marvel, Top Cow, Dynamite, IDW and BOOM! Studios! And that's no April Fool's joke. Take a read!
Justice League of America #43 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): An interesting book, in an interesting period of time for the DC Universe. I think a lot of people are going to be focusing -- rightly so -- on Blackest Night, and it's clear that DC will be shaking up a lot of its core books (like this one) in its wake. James Robinson has the unenviable task of reflecting shake-ups like that and Cry for Justice in this book, and actually he manages to pull it off. His take on Green Arrow is obviously the strongest in the book, but structurally is where he does his best work, utilizing Mark Bagley's dynamic panels to link together Ollie's betrayal and the restructuring of the League itself. Obviously there are some flaws here -- the League still isn't as world-class as a lot of people would like, and I'm sure there are plenty of readers who would love to have seen the legacy of the Titans get a bit more play in this series -- but there are a lot of "aw yeah" moments that show this series may be headed for brighter days to come.
Dark Wolverine #84 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): The more I read this issue, the more food for thought it brings. It's certainly not your standard superhero tale, and harping on how structurally it's much looser than its first arc is a bit futile -- instead, if you look at this issue for what it is, it's certainly worth a look. Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu take on Daken in Asgard as more free-form poetry than hard-and-fast story arc, and so they're able to really allow Daken some interesting moments. This is a character being born through a series of arcs and stories, and seeing Daken try to fill his father's boots as a leader of men leads to the best moments in the book. But it's Guiseppe Camuncoli who really rocks this book -- the composition is immaculate, and he turns violence into such a sweet science. (Indeed, there's a splash page that's so good, the editors use it twice -- and they get away with it, too.) It's certainly not as deliberate a book as a lot of people in the market like -- but diversity is a good thing, and even with its flaws, Dark Wolverine #84 is a book that certainly should not be ignored.
Green Hornet #2 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose): Out of all the Kevin Smith comics I've read, this sophomore issue of Green Hornet easily has the strongest base for exposition I've ever seen -- a newspaper. It's a simple idea, but Smith runs with it, giving the readers just about everything they need to know about Century City. But the art here is what's positively intoxicating -- instead of opening up with action, Jonathan Lau and colorist Ivan Nunes go slow in this book, and it looks amazing. With a writer like Smith, it'd be easy to get choked with word balloons, but with Phil Hester helping with breakdowns, everything feels well-spaced, and the tone of Lau's art has hints of manga combined with an almost Gary Frank-style of classicism. There's emotion, there's a nice variation to break out all the dialogue -- this art team really is the full package, even before they go buck-wild with the fight sequence at the end of the book. There are few series out there whose second issue is better than their first, but Green Hornet is one of them. Get it.
Impaler #5 (Published by Top Cow; Review by David Pepose: You'd think with a name like Impaler that this would be standard ignorable horror/action fare. But this book surprisingly isn't, due to the striking artwork by Matt Timson. Reminding me a little bit of Mike Choi mixed with Jae Lee, he gives everything oppressive shadows and fangs, giving this vampire story a real menacing tone to it all. But William Harms adding in the storyline about new vampire Victor Dailey also provides new readers with a great jumping on point, as he begins his journey as a creature of the night with the titular Vlad the Impaler. Let's just say that the visuals are the real hook in this story, with this book looking every bit as threatening as any sort of horror film, down to the streaking across pale desert sands. While the end of the issue sort of falls back into familiar territory, you should at the very least take a look at the art, and let that decide if this book is your cup of hemoglobin.
She-Hulk Sensational #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): This is the sort of 30th birthday present any fans of the Jade Giantess would love. A giant-sized anthology, Peter David opens the story up with a bang, with a great sense of self-referential humor buoyed by Jonboy Meyers. But I think it's Brian Reed that really gives us some food for thought, with a She-Hulk/Ms. Marvel/Spider-Woman team-up that crackles with chemistry between the three heroines. While Shulkie might get the short end of the stick in that story, Iban Coello has a great cinematic style -- and each of these three protagonists give each other so much well-needed depth that I wouldn't mind seeing this as an ongoing (or at least a miniseries). The only stumbling block I see here is the price -- I think a third original story (as opposed to reprinting the famous "She-Hulk jump-roping" John Byrne issue) would have helped fans swallow the $4.99 price. But if you're a fan of the Glamourous Gammazon and have got some green to burn, this is a one great book.
Adventure Comics #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Ultimately more anthology than cohesive story, this is a mixed bag where the good certainly outweighs the bad. James Robinson really pulls more than his weight in this issue with a great introduction focusing on Brainiac 5 -- he's clearly a complex character, but Robinson takes his somewhat convoluted backstory and gives it a real sense of emotional heft, taking some of the admittedly awkward pseudo-science that (and a little bit of rough inks on top of Travis Moore's pencils) hinges this story and making it shine. Eric Trautmann, meanwhile, gives Kryptonian infiltrator Car-Vex a marvelously characterized story that takes a fairly mundane series of events -- killing a Kryptonian -- and makes it scream of guilt and broken glass. (And Pier Gallo's moody art doesn't hurt either -- the shadows and composition just ooze out power and mystique.) Out of all of the stories, Sterling Gates is the one that surprises me the most -- while I dig his take on Supergirl, his chapter was really grating to me, taking a complex problem like class structure and really (in my mind, anyway) trivializing it with his solution for it.
Transformers #5 (Published by IDW; Review by David Pepose): You might have to dig in deep, but there's some surprising depth under all that Autobot mythology. The introduction to this issue, with Optimus Prime baring his soul to Major Witwicky, is easily the strongest part of this book -- Mike Costa knows what he's doing in that regard, and he manages to transfer that feeling of moral ambiguity to Witwicky through most of the book. Don Figueroa, meanwhile, pretty much operates under two settings: Big, and Bigger. And that works out not just for the speed-chase action scenes (which are well choreographed up until the end, where it seems he runs out of space), but surprisingly for that introspective first scene, as well. Where this book sputters, however, is under the weight of the current Transformer mythology, with all the back-deals and leadership changes -- at that point, if you haven't already been keeping up, there's little hope for a new reader to hop on board. But if you're up to snuff on your Transformers-fu, you may want to give this book a look.
Incorruptible #4 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): This is the issue where things start heating up. Mark Waid manages to really elaborate upon the rules of Max Danger's existence, and the last page of this book really takes this series into some uncharted moral territories. Jean Diaz, meanwhile, is getting better and better every issue -- indeed, it's not just the action that works, but even the quieter moments get some really lavish attention (especially a scene where Max reflects following the Plutonian's rampage). While occasionally I think Waid might have been able to prune away some of the access verbiage in this final product, this is an extremely solid read that sets up some great seeds for future stories.
G.I. Joe: Operation Hiss #2 (Published by IDW; Review by David Pepose): From the first page, this book goes pedal to the metal -- which is a good thing, as the swift story goes head-to-head with some rough art. That's not to say that artist Agustin Padilla is a bad artist -- far from it -- but it's clear that a lush inker would have definitely given some more powerful definition to his lines. Think of the scratchiness of Bill Sienkewicz, but without the mood to sustain it. (That said, maybe I'm being too harsh here -- his scenes of the Joes jumping out a plane and reconning a base have some great composition to them... it's just the devil is in the details, and the harsh lines don't make for compelling art.) But Brian Reed does a great job focusing on Duke's infiltration of Venom PMC -- while the crucial initial hurdle does feel a little like writer fiat, he works his way to a great cliffhanger, and seeing the Duke/Blud relationship is a surprisingly compelling part of the book. That said, with there not being a strong artistic hook -- and very little in the way of exposition to hook the reader -- I don't know if Operation Hiss is a mission I would urge you to accept.
Prelude to Deadpool Corps #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): Ultimately, I think people will be split on this book based on Kyle Baker's computer generated art. I wasn't a fan, and it really detracted from a series that has otherwise been surreal and guiltily entertaining. For me, I felt Baker's art felt like a cross between Reboot and Robot Chicken, with the almost action-figure-like posing really interfering with Victor Gischler's storytelling, and even the punchlines. It's a shame, because Gischler does drop in a few gems here and there, whether it's DP's nicknames for his otherdimensional counterparts, or even the Contemplator's reasoning for picking this wackjob out of a universe of powerhouses. Ultimately, there's a lot of visual comedy that Deadpool can utilize to make the zany factor work, but this is an experiment that just did not work for me.