Best Shots Comic Reviews: ACTION COMICS, PUNISHER, More

Best Shots Comic Reviews: ACTION COMICS

Happy Monday, 'Rama Readers! Ready for some Best Shots action? I know we are! So let's kick off today's column with the Man of Steel, as Vanessa takes a look at Action Comics #5...

 

Action Comics #5

Written by Grant Morrison

Art by Andy Kubert, Jesse Delperdang and Brad Anderson

Lettering by Patrick Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by Vanessa Gabriel

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Click here for preview

It’s the “New 52,” and the new Action Comics. Therefore, we get to revisit the fall of Krypton. How many times and how many ways can Krypton be annihilated? In yet another take on Supes’ origin, Grant Morrison makes subtle tweaks to how it all went down in the House of El. With minor adjustments to previous continuity, Morrison paves the road for a plethora of possibilities for future stories. For now, we press pause on the events of issue #4 and focus on baby Kal-El making it to a planet with a yellow sun and less gravity, so he will be super. Superman’s cute baby self is escorted in a rocket powered by an artificial intelligence Jor-El calls Brainiac. It is Brainiac who narrates this issue, entitled, “Rocket Song.”

Morrison telling the story from the rocket’s point of view is rather brilliant. The Brainiac technology has traveled across galaxies and has a penchant for arrogance. “Jor-El of El, the father of such a mind!” Brainiac’s mind, I presume. “Apes with atom bombs” is the way it refers to humans as they descend upon the crash site. There is a matter of factness in the narration that feels stoic and extreme, perhaps what we imagine an alien to be. It works well.

I typically enjoy Morrison's work. I find his reference-heavy, symbolic writing to be thought-provoking. Up to this point, Action Comics has seemed a bit more straight-laced than what we usually get from Morrison. It is time to put your thinking caps back on, kids. Action Comics #5 is bringing the converging plotlines and a bit of time-travel fancy. I am certain it will be tied together, magically, at some point. We will have to wait for it, though. In the meantime, Issue #5 does give us a few “a-ha!” moments regarding the previous four issues.

What was that weird goat creature that Lex thought was an alien in issue #2? Where IS Krypto? Um, is Superman’s cape indestructible? How did the U.S. Army get possession of the rocket? These questions are answered in fairly satisfying ways. Still, for all the exposition in Action Comics #5, we are now faced with a heap of new questions. Who is the Anti-Superman Army? What the hell is Synthi-K? Wait. How is the Fortress of Solitude created? Is that the Legion? Did you just say "tesseract?"

Action Comics #5 succeeds by bringing richness and nuance to a long-loved story. But if someone picked up this comic and had not read any of the prior issues, they would be completely lost. This is where Action Comics #5 fails, because I thought that is what DC was trying to get away from. The purpose of the relaunch was to bring in new readers, particularly on flagship titles such as this. For a seasoned comic reader, the convoluted, esoteric elements that Morrison adds to his stories are part of his charm. But the truth is that Morrison’s writing has made Action Comics insular after a few issues. You simply must go back to Issue #1 to know what is going on.

Andy Kubert does a super job with the hand that he was dealt. He may have drawn the best Jon Kent I have ever seen. He has a knack for letting the eyes of the character tell the story in a panel. There is some really great expressiveness, which lends a lot of much needed emotion to the story. Where Grant goes off on a bit of an alien tangent, Kubert brings the issue back down to Earth with some classic (solid) comic art. I also think that Jesse Delperdang’s inks and Brad Anderson’s colors play a big part in the traditional feel of the issue.

While there is something fantastic in Morrison’s cryptic references and unabashed imagination, the feeling of “Oh my gosh! That was so good” does not dwell in these 20 pages. It is clever and interesting, but serves more as disjointed, ambiguous groundwork than an action comic.

 

Punisher #7

Written by Greg Rucka

Art by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano and Matt Hollingsworth

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Greg Rucka is a legend for a reason. Take a look at Punisher #7, for example. Who else would take a book with a notoriously fickle fanbase — sorry, but how many relaunches do you need to establish that fact? — and then write an engrossing, character-driven police procedural, all without any explosions or the typical bloodbath?

Oh, and did I mention Frank Castle barely even make an appearance in this book?

But even with Frank out of the picture, his restless spirit looms large over this latest issue of The Punisher, as a grizzled cop starts putting together the pieces of this vigilante's latest series of rampages. Sometimes, you can only get a sense of somebody's character based on what other people have to say about him. Other times, you can only know a man by his enemies. Rucka is a writer smart enough to know both.

And by having a pair of cops as his lead characters, Rucka also gets to play up theme and tension. While initially having a Morgan Freeman-esque detective hounding Frank Castle seemed a little off-putting, Rucka's finally giving these Officer Clemons some bite. It's not derivative anymore, it's a role, and the best part is that we not only get to see what Frank's up against — and Clemons and Bolt are a lot more with it than you'd expect — but we get to argue back and forth about the merits of the Punisher himself. Should he be allowed to operate? What makes people sympathize with him? These are questions that give an otherwise two-dimensional character some surprising depth.

Artwise, it's a kick to see Gotham Central alum Michael Lark reunite with Rucka. While initially it's a little jarring to see his art style, given the hyper-pretty renderings of Marco Checchetto in previous issues, but his scratchier, gnarlier lines give this book a new sense of purpose. You sense the intensity behind Clemons' build, you feel the nervousness behind Bolt's eyes, as he hopes to keep his secrets.

In a lot of ways, it's been an odd choice of Rucka's, to spend so much time looking at Frank Castle from the outside rather than from within. This issue, however, shows that he has some serious brass ones that he's not afraid to clank up and down the street. Who needs the Punisher when you can set up the chase? Even though our hero is largely absent — and almost completely a mystery — Rucka's still giving us plenty of reasons to root for him.

 

Artifacts #13

Written by Ron Marz

Art by Dale Keown, Sunny Gho, Gina Going, and Tom Raney

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Top Cow

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Holy cow!

When Top Cow was proposing that their mega event was going to change everything, they really meant it. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call a "game-changer" that is the key center around the Cow's "Rebirth" angle. Among all the ending scenarios I had thought story architect Ron Marz could have done, this ending even caught me by surprise. Also, since I read this after I read Witchblade #151, it filled in some spaces and answered some questions, so I advise you don't make the same mistake and read this first.

Marz has worked with some amazing talent over the course of this journey. For this finale, he's paired with Hulk and The Darkness alum, Dale Keown. The thing about Artifacts I really enjoyed was the rotating art team. Now, everybody since Michael Broussard set the bar in the first arc, each artist spared no expense in rolling out some great visuals. I had just gotten use to Jeremy Haun's style and the guy has been doing the best stuff of his career here. It's very opened and lets you appreciate the world around the characters, as well as the characters themselves. With Keown here, I loved his renderings and it's good to see him drawing Jackie again, but some panels and even pages, felt very closed in. More than a few pages, there is nothing but above-the-waist shots of dialog. It doesn't come until almost at the end where he loosens up and really hammers out some good stuff, including a two-page spread featuring Jackie Estacado doing what he does best. His compositions are great, but it all comes across as mild compared to earlier scenarios.

As usual for this series, there is a small back up origin story about one of the Artifacts. Tom Raney is on board for the art, and I'm not really familiar with this stuff prior to this. I do remember his Black Widow many from a couple years back, but that's mainly it. He has some fun here with Marz's imaginative back story. Big props to Sunny Gho as he's done a great job adapting to every artist along the way. I think his pallet comes across as a bit softer in this issue, but really does a great job balancing very bright scenarios to very dark (meaning use of shadows, not actual tone of the story).

Now, Marz has crafted quite an interesting beginning of sorts here for all the characters involved. I'm sure you've heard by now that Sara is relocating to Chicago and this is where she takes her first steps. I wanted to give it a perfect score here, but it just felt wrong. All the pieces come together and it is a great start for any new reader to jump on board here. But it's weird seeing certain characters moved around (and one in particular coming back) in this fashion. I'm looking forward to see what develops here, but I guess I'm still not over the shock. The execution, though, is tremendous and trust me when I say you don't want to miss this. Whatever Marz has planned for the Artifacts ongoing, I will be on board for, but readers, you are in for something quite rare with this read.

 

Animal Man #5

Written by Jeff Lemire

Art by Travel Foreman, Steve Pugh and Lovern Kindzierski

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by DC Comics

Review by Scott Cederlund

‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Click here for preview

It’s often said that horror is that the scary stuff that you don't see. It's the builds up as you wait to see the shark or the alien in movies that creates the suspense in those stories. In comics, it is the way that the zombies lumber along, extremely dangerous more because of the potential that is in them more than in anything they actually do.  A big part of horror stories is what you don't see and what your imagination fills in. But then you see the shark, the alien and the zombie and all of your fears are confirmed. Everything you imagined becomes real. That's what Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman focus on in Animal Man #5, showing us the real horror that Buddy Baler and his family's life has become.

This issue is Travel Foreman and colorist Lovern Kindzierski's book.  Foreman’s artwork makes the outrageous horrors that Lemire imagines come to life.  Foreman's characters, made up of thin lines and weird muscles and shadows, just don't look right in any way other than what works for Lemire's story. From the innocence of Animal Man's daughter and wife to his own shirtless body, rippling with unnatural shadows stand out against the stark flat backgrounds. Their world is made up of Foreman's sharp, thin contour lines.

Foreman doesn't hide anything from the reader.  The bulbous monsters and the horrible disfigurement that Buddy suffers battling it are front and center in this issue. Nothing is hidden or left to the reader's imagination. A vision of Animal Man's daughter Maxine as the corruptor of the world is made complete by her spider-like legs and a thoroughly dissected Animal Man. It gets far more shocking when she pulls the skin off of his face in the vision, an image repeated from the cover but the vision in the book is more vivid and terrifying. Foreman makes an image that's impossible not to see. His horror is presented so matter-of-factly that you can not avert your eyes from it. It's not hidden and it's not implied. Foreman is drawing a horror story that won't let you look away from it. It's the kind of horror that's terrible in idea and concept but beautiful in execution.

So much horror in other books and movies are hidden in the shadows.  Those stories take place in deep worlds where the hidden depths contains the stuff of nightmares. With Foreman's thin lines and Kindzierski's flat color, there is no visual depth to this book. There is no where for the monsters and the evil to hide.  Foreman’s art with Kindzierski’s colors is very two-dimensional and compressed.  There is very little space in these pages for anything other than Foreman’s foreground images. Steve Pugh provides the art for the last few pages and you can see there a deeper focus in his artwork.  Foreman keeps everything up front in a panel so you can’t turn away from it.

Lemire’s story feels about a half turn down the dial from reality.  One one hand, he’s crafting a family drama, complete with the mother-in-law that doesn’t understand our hero.  The one thing that Lemire is keeping from Grant Morrison’s memorable Animal Man early Vertigo run is that Buddy is a family man.  That is the core of his being.  He’s a father and a husband before he’s a superhero.  That’s what makes him a memorable hero.  Like a lot of Lemire’s stories, there’s the everyday life that should be easy in this story for us to recognize and admire.  But then he always manages to throw something else into the narrative that sends the reader reeling.  Here it’s this menagerie of grotesque horrors that he gives Foreman to draw.  It’s bad enough to worry about the boyfriend your daughter is going to bring home; Buddy has to worry about his daughter eating his face.

Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman have created one of the creepiest books from DC right now.  There is just enough of a Vertigo taste wrapped up in Animal Man #5 to show you can do fantastic horror with characters who run around in their long johns.  It does not try to hide what it is.  Usually you want to hide your cards but Lemire and Foreman show you just how far they’ll so to make you scared about what you can see as much as you’re scared about what you cannot.

 

Avengers X-Sanction #2

Written by Jeph Loeb

Art by Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines and Morry Hollowell

Lettering by A. Deschense

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Edward Kaye

‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Click here for preview

For those who have been following Cable’s ongoing story in X-Sanction, the premise of the series may seem a little shaky, but putting that aside, so far the series has hit all of the regular beats that a “versus” comic needs to hit.

This issue was pretty well paced, and the fight scenes throughout are quite involving and well plotted. Loeb also uses an interesting trick to make the fight between Cable and Iron Man take place on more even ground - by having Cable utilizing future Stark Tech to put him on a par with Tony’s Iron Man suit. The dialogue in the issue is quite good, but as it mostly comes in the form of banter, there are a few one-liners that come across as a bit cheesy, for example, “Meet the future -- Futurist.”

The issue isn’t narrated, but Cable’s inner monologue runs through most of the story, providing some light exposition in places. Loeb seems to have a decent grasp on the character of Cable, and his inner monologue feels very much like the Cable that we’ve come to know and love over the years. However, he uses a serious amount of ellipses, which starts to feel a bit silly after a while, and makes it seem like Cable is pausing between every other word he thinks. As "versus" comics go, this one was pretty fun, if not a little bit unfulfilling. It would have been nice to have a little more information on how Hope not being around lead to the bleak future that we saw in the first issue, and why exactly the Avengers felt they need to take her down. I understand that this is a four-issue series, but so far it’s felt quite a lot like a decompressed one-shot or two-parter.

The artwork on this issue is provided by frequent Loeb collaborators Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines. McGuinness’ art suits this title perfectly, as he does the “larger than life” superhero look impeccably well. His linework has a very clean and upbeat look to it that really seems to scream “fun”. He has a slightly exaggerated sense of anatomy, which works really well for illustrating characters like Red Hulk and Cable — especially as Cable is a Rob Liefeld creation and is know for his over-the-top musculature — though I always think it seems a little silly to see bulging muscles on Iron Man, as he’s wearing a metal suit. The characters all have a good range of facial expressions, which are highly emotive, and always appropriate for the scene. I particularly like the approach he took to drawing Hope as a young girl, as he gives her manga-like facial expressions and huge eyes to enhance the look of innocence about the character. His fight sequences all seem very well choreographed, and all have a strong feeling of action and motion about them. He also pays strong attention to detail, and draws some really intricate scenery and backgrounds.

Dexter Vines has inked so much of McGuinness’ work that the two feel almost inseparable. On this issue, he does an inking job that is generous on the heavy blacks, which works well to enhance the serious tone of the story. He utilizes an impressive range of techniques here to really accentuate the action occurring in panel, especially with his use of force-lines and Kirby Krackle. He also enhances light effects and explosions beautifully by illustrating the how the rays of light encroach into the surrounding darkness. I really like the fact that he doesn’t just fill blacks, but uses hatching, cross-hatching, and several other methods to add textures to shadows in place, which makes the panels look that bit more interesting.

Morry Hollowell is the series colorist, and does a nice job on this issue, picking colours that seem appropriate for each scene. He’s particularly good as coloring light effects, which are quite abundant in this issue, and making them look very natural without use of Photoshop effects. He also does a great job illustrating which scenes are flashbacks, by utilizing a much more muted palette on the scenes in question.

Avengers X-Sanction #2 is a fun read, featuring some exciting superhero battles. It’s a beautifully illustrated issue, but there is nothing here that really furthers the plot. I have a strong feeling this series might read a lot better as a trade collection.

NYCC 2011: DC All Access: BATMAN LIVE!
NYCC 2011: DC All Access: BATMAN LIVE!
 

Detective Comics #5

Written by Tony Daniel

Art by Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea, Rob Hunter and Tomeu Morey

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Review by Jake Baumgart

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Working as both the writer and an artist on a monthly title seems like a very steep mountain to climb. Sure, plenty of creators have done it time and time again, but it is fair to say these people are masters of the medium. With Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics #5, he has yet to reach that upper crust of legendary creators, but with a slow and steady pace he might just get there.

Detective Comics #5 sets up a new story arc right where the last one left off. The riotous citizens of Gotham, dressed in Joker masks, create a feeling that Daniel is drawing from both the protests in Zuccotti Park in New York and the newest Chris Nolan Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. Batman is struggling with a Gotham sympathetic to a possibly deceased Joker while trying to nail crooks and chase down perpetrators. The issue concerns itself more with setting up the new story arc and letting the reader know what Batman is up against even before introducing any sort of archvillain or serious conflict. For my money, this is the best way go for a longer story arc.

However, Tony Daniel as writer might be weaker than Tony Daniel as artist. The issue doesn’t delve into the psyche of Bruce Wayne or feature any colorful bits of dialogue. Daniel’s Batman is well-rounded as the issue shows the reader a Batman in action and Batman the detective. We’re not introduced to any new aspects of the Dark Knight’s life post-New 52 and that’s fine for Tony Daniel’s Batman. Daniel isn’t breaking the mold or reinventing the caped crusader but is instead working towards a broader view of Batman. What the creator is delivering is a basic first story in an arc and artwork for his audience and storylines going forward; a batman that is instantly recognizable to a new audience or fans of the Nolan films.

Tony Daniel the artist has mastered his version of Gotham City and all of its vivid characters. Although we are far from living in a Tony Daniel-era of the Batman, he is certainly one of the master minds behind the Caper Crusader in recent history and his influence is palpable. A reboot on the character has allowed Daniel to add things to the Dark Knight, such as a GPS in his gauntlet and an inner monologue more suited to Daniel's bare-bones writing style.

Inkers Sandu Florea and Rob Hunter do a great job keeping the line work clean while still giving the pencils their sense of movement and speed. It seems that the linework in this issue is much cleaner compared to Daniel’s work on Battle for the Cowl or Batman R.I.P. which definitely helps the new, sleeker approach DC seems to be going for in the New 52. The colors by Tomeu Morey are great. The city seems forever stuck at a permanent twilight and the coloring truly assists the artwork instead of covering it up. The contrast of the blue and blacks of night paired with the orange and browns of the streetlights creates a feeling of, even late at night Gotham is still very much awake and active. Every once and a while the figures seem a bit off in the panel, such as a victim of a throwing star early in the issue, but for the most part this is strong work from Daniel and his two inkers.

Perhaps the best part of Detective Comics #5 was the back-up story featuring Catwoman, written by Daniel and art by Szymon Kudranski. It is exactly the sort of thing a long time fan of the back-ups in Detective Comics might expect with a story focusing on a different, off beat, protagonist and the mob connections in Gotham City. Tony Daniel the writer is much stronger here and the art is really something special. You can almost scratch the rusty background of the gang’s hideout. The short story itself also seems to be setting the stage for a larger story with perfect pacing and narrative that genuinely leaves the reader wondering where the action is going. Fans of Selina Kyle who were put off by the reboot might enjoy this version better with this interpretation of Catwoman forgoing any sexiness besides the costume.

Although it feels like it is missing that edge to push it further, Daniel’s Batman is a lot of fun to read as a fan and it’s a great reminder of how it good it feels to have Bruce back under the cowl. Although far from the best of the Batbooks after the reboot, both stories are strong enough on their own and a positive read for a Batman fan, pre- or post- the New 52.

 

Life With Archie #16

Written by Paul Kupperberg

Art by Fernando Ruiz, Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy, Al Milgrom, Bob Smith, Jack Morelli and Glenn Whitmore

Published by Archie Comics

Review by Erika D. Peterman

’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

The Life With Archie series is no longer new, but no matter how many times I read it, I’m surprised by just how juicy it is. It’s fascinating to see Riverdale’s inhabitants in situations that are so far removed from the lighthearted shenanigans of main continuity. It’s become the comic book version of the awesome TV soap you don’t want to miss.

You’ve got to hand it to writer Paul Kupperberg, who has the task of crafting two interesting, separate narratives: One in which Archie is married to Veronica, and another where he and Betty are hitched. Sudsy goodness abounds in both scenarios, but Archie’s strained marriage to Veronica yields some of the strongest storytelling in this issue. While the two are separated, Ronnie has been living it up as tabloid catnip, and conspicuously so. When she hogs the spotlight at war veteran Kevin Keller’s wedding (more on that later), Archie goes completely off and confronts her in a manner that’s a tad unsettling.

“Don’t worry, Reggie. She’s done dishing it out to me. It’s my turn to start giving her grief,” he says before angrily grabbing Veronica’s arm. Yikes.

There’s a certain shock factor that works in this book’s favor, but what makes it a satisfying read is that the emotion is genuine and relatable. You really feel for the characters as they watch their relationships crumble, worry about making ends meet and generally struggle with the hardships of adulthood. Kupperberg has taken the former teens beyond the archetypes we grew up with and given them a refreshing complexity. And who knew that Hiram Lodge, cast here as a scheming, manipulative tycoon, would make such a great villain? Or that one-time timid genius Dilton Doiley could have such a commanding, creepy presence?

A book with more than 50 pages has room for a lot of story, and Kupperberg doesn’t waste a single page. Neither do illustrators Fernando Ruiz, and Pat and Tim Kennedy. One of the impressive things about their art is that they make the characters look like older versions of themselves without departing much from the Archie house style readers are used to. Panels overlap and brim with detail but never seem cluttered. The scenes of Kevin leading his fellow Army soldiers through enemy fire in an unnamed Middle East territory are particularly striking, and the colors throughout are vivid.

Speaking of Kevin, he and his boyfriend, Clay, make comics history by tying the knot. The significance is obvious, so Kupperberg simply tells the story behind their relationship and treats their marriage like any other joyous occasion. There is one element of the wedding that’s glaringly absent, especially in a comic with grown-up themes. But it’s still a touching and undeniably progressive story, one that you don’t have to be an Archie Comics fan to appreciate. Even if you have just a passing interest in the world of Riverdale, you should give this highly enjoyable series a chance.

 

Green Arrow #5

Written by Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens

Art by Dan Jurgens, Ray McCarthy, Tanya Horie and Richard Horie

Lettering by Rob Leigh

Review by Jake Baumgart

'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

Five issues deep into the DC Comics reboot of their entire universe, and Green Arrow is having a hard time finding his role in the larger picture of this new status quo. Issue #5 finds Oliver Queen (as the new, sleeker Green Arrow) going up against the new threat Midas with the ability to dissolve things that it comes into contact with. The brawling Green Arrow and monsterous Midas are in full action on the cover, there is little transition of this excitement to interior of the book.

With Giffen and Jurgens both plotting out the comic together, the layouts are by-the-book professional. No fancy angels or unique panel boarders, just straight-up story telling from A to B. I find that, more often than not, this lends to a very primitive form of storytelling without the flourishes of an artist really giving their all. The style of these two artists (with finishes from Ray McCarthy) harkens back to an era in comics that does not seem to fit in the with DC’s sleek, new, approach to the New 52. A long time reader might associate the Giffen/Jurgens style with the 1980s and early 90s with the heavy line work and busy details. Unfortunately, a new, young, reader (the kind DC is going after) might see this as his dad’s sort of comics. This is not to say that it’s bad in any way just that it is hard to see Green Arrow reaching the A-list of heroes in this fashion with new readers and a younger audience. With so many cooks in the kitchen, as far as art is concerned, the tone seems unfocused. With veterans like Giffen and Jurgens both doing layouts, it is hard to say how much McCarthy had to actually finish. The heavy hash mark style of shading and figures do not suggest McCarthy’s cleaner style as his work on other books suggest. The feel of the book, as far as art is concerned, does not fit with the new version of Green Arrow trying to be established. With J.T. Krul leaving the book after the last story line, one might assume that the shuffling of the creative team might have caused some lapse of performance on the book.

It’s clear that the tone of the book is to recreate Green Arrow as a younger and more contemporary figure in the DCU. The DCNU Oliver Queen, 30-something billionaire, is less Errol Flynn and more Steve Jobs in this new version of the character that battles villain after villain in his new monthly title. Since the reboot, it seems that is all Green Arrow does. Every issue features a new villain to the DCU that Green Arrow tangles with and each one is neutralized by a trick arrow. There doesn’t seem to a larger theme or goal that these stories are moving towards. In this aspect, Issue #5 is much of the same. Green Arrow is introduced to a new villain (Midas) while trying to leave work (again) and the conflict ensues with the villain defeated by the final page.

One of the aspects of the new Green Arrow that is really hurting this issue, and the series on a whole, is the lack of quality background characters. Instead of Speedy, Black Canary or Connor Hawke, Queen works with two nineties-esque gen-X’ers named Jax and Naomi that assist behind the scenes at Queen’s technology company. The new duo runs the R&D of Green Arrow’s equipment and as his own version of Batman’s Oracle. With a character background as long and rich as any other top gun in the DCU, it seems strange that the creative team is focusing on making these two characters so important to Green Arrow. Issue #5 finds GA’s new team laying the exposition on heavy and then giving Ollie someone to talk to in his ear. Here, again, the problems that face Oliver Queen are as drab as the villains he faces as Green Arrow. There are no stakes for this new Oliver Queen, or at least, the new Ollie doesn’t seem to think there are. Sure, he has to sign some paper work and make good with his love interest Adrien, but there is no threat or conflict besides controlling his company. This also goes for the rogue’s gallery of the Emerald Archer. Issues #4 and #5 introduced two new villains Blood Rose and the aforementioned Midas. It seems strange to introduce a very formulaic ninja girl and her monstrous boyfriend for the second story arc and these characters might just be filler until Nocenti gets a hold of the title. However, filler like this could be dangerous for a title because too much could turn off readers and threaten the existence of the book. I actually found it a bit distracting that Midas had the exact same origin story as Alec Holland/Swamp Thing.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine hardcore fans of the Emerald Archer enjoying this series or a brand new audience just getting into comics. This sets the stage for the new creative team of Ann Nocenti and Harvey Tolibaoto to really do something with the character that brings him into the fold of DC Comics' New 52. Unfortunately, with Green Arrow #5, they really missed their mark.

 

Stormwatch #5

Written by Paul Cornell

Art by Miguel Sepulveda and Allen Passalaqua

Lettering by Rob Leigh

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Stormwatch is a book that tries to juggle many things, and winds up dropping the ball on more than one occasion. Trying to blend epic-scale action with bits of comedy and exposition, this issue comes off as schizophrenic, too light for diehards and not resonant enough for new readers.

Considering Paul Cornell has said he will be off the book soon, perhaps the lack of focus in this issue is to be expected. It starts off with a death that is so understated that you almost forget it happened — not a great start, especially when the entire team just witnessed it happen. To make matters worse, that scene turns into a smorgasbord of mini-origin stories, none of which really hook the reader into caring about this team. If they can get pushed around in their homes this easily, why not just tune in to the world-shakers over in the Justice League?

Artwise, the book also suffers. Miguel Sepulveda just isn't given much to do here, so he's more or less jogging in place with fairly static page layouts. There are tons of horizontal panels in this book, and a lot of pages that are just plain hard to look at, because there's no visual "acting" cues to help propel the wordy writing. The result is few strong introductions, and characters that are extremely difficult to stay in your mind.

Where the book does succeed, however, is when the gloves finally come off. Midnighter versus the Swordsman is one of the best-looking fight sequences I've seen in the New 52, with Sepulveda really channeling that widescreen Hitch style. Debris flies everywhere, punches have weight, and the Swordsman's energy blades light up the page. It's here that you get the true potential this book carries, even as the moments are all too fleeting.

Considering its pedigree, you'd think Stormwatch would be one of those books that would push the envelope. Instead, it seems that this book doesn't know what it wants to be, and comes off as a B-list Justice League instead. Five issues in, "rough" is not the word you want to use to describe a book like this. Here's hoping this book picks a new direction and sticks with it.

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