Green Lantern #16

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, Mark Irwin, Tony Avina and Alex Sinclair

Lettering by Steve Wands

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

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It's taken longer than it should have to get to this point, but I'll say it — Simon Baz has potential. Originally as heavy-handed a character as he could be, this new Green Lantern has finally asserted the character and integrity that made Hal Jordan such an electrifying figure.

And much of that has to do with Geoff Johns. Now that he's gotten the mistaken-identity-as-a-falsely-accused-terrorist thing out of the way, he's able to focus on Baz as a character. He's not just a figure who has things happen to him, not just a masked man on the run, but a fledgling hero who makes choices, stands his ground and ultimately doesn't care what anybody thinks. This is a Green Lantern who wants to do right — as one particularly heartbreaking scene with his comatose brother illustrates — even as his own planet has put him on the defensive.

Johns also makes some smart moves with the mythology of the Lanterns, as well. Forget the Rainbow Lanterns or the Third Army for a second — not only does Baz get himself his own mentor in the form of the chipmunk-like B'dg, but he gets two warring Obi-Wans in the form of Hal Jordan and his archnemesis Sinestro. This is a hero who will ultimately stand on his own two feet, that much is clear, but hearing those two voices in his ear — both of which are probably pretty alien to this car thief from Michigan — adds some tension, because you don't know who he's going to listen to.

The artwork in this book is pretty solid, although I'll also be the first to admit that Doug Mahnke didn't really deliver too many memorable moments in this script. His figures look largely pretty clean and angular (although his army of inkers stumble near the end, lending a more sketchy, unfinished look), but this script is largely talking heads (with the occasional light show). I do like the flashes of emotion Mahnke gives his characters, however, like moments like the longing in Simon's eyes when he calls his sister, or the tears that run down his eyes as he tries to save the person who matters most to him.

Ultimately, this comic does have its hiccups, particularly with the disconnect between the verbal and visual action, making it feel more like an illustrated stage play than a fully realized comic. But the ideas here are strong — Simon Baz is strong. He's a character that already anticipates that people will not like him, will brush him aside, will call him a usurper, and then acts on his own accord, regardless of who approves. That's Green Lantern material in my book. Now let's just see if Johns can keep the pace going.


Uncanny Avengers #3

Written by Rick Remender

Art by John Cassaday and Laura Martin

Letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

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In Uncanny Avengers #3, Rick Remender has accomplished a feat that many writers in recent years have attempted and failed at miserably. By juxtaposing the brutality of the Red Skull's scheme with a script that could easily have been written by someone like Roy Thomas, Remender has successfully married the style of the old school with the aesthetic of the new, resulting in something that is, at once, bizarrely romanticized and thoroughly entertaining. It's no easy feat, as illustrated by the corpses of failed attempts that litter back issue bins, but somehow Remender pulls it all together, making it work, and more importantly, making it good.

Reading Uncanny Avengers #3 is almost jarring at first, with the Red Skull practically prancing through the streets of New York, telepathically inspiring humans to attack mutants, and bestowing on them the ability to sense the X-Gene. The story's intentions quickly become clear, however, when the script begins peppering in more and more ridiculous and explicit captions that echo the best of '60's Marvel. It's almost impossible to read sentences like "The crooked emerald inside the Tortoise Man's heart possesses the psyche of a long-dead African God, Mzee," and not feel entertained. As the insanity of both the script and the riot taking place escalates, the extremity and impact of the Red Skull's actions echo the ever spiraling madness inherent in Remender's storytelling, culminating in a moment of Avenger-on-Avenger violence of sickening weight.

Balancing these almost conflicting aesthetics — the weightless, madcap nature of classic style dialogue and captions, and the brutal, unforgiving solemnity of the modern comic book - is a delicate act, but by playing them against each other, and ramping each element in equal measure, Remender cultivates a dream-like feeling of chaos and decay that summons exactly the right emotions on impact. John Cassady does his part as well, and while his sneering, almost obvious take on the Red Skull is somewhat grating in the early panels, by the book's end it becomes emblematic of the issue's intent, a cackling symbol of insanity and brutality.

It's rare that mainstream comics broach a level of art like Uncanny Avengers #3, and for that, it may turn some readers off. The '60's style script could easily be a hard pill to swallow for readers who don't latch on to what Remender is trying to accomplish, using nostalgia as a weapon in much the same way the Red Skull uses the fear of an unforgiving future to conquer New York, but if you can dig deep enough, and peel enough layers off the onion, Uncanny Avengers #3 becomes something of a masterpiece of the post-modern superhero comic.


Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6

Written by Darwyn Cooke

Art by Darwyn Cooke and Phil Noto

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

"I did it thirty-five minutes ago."

The big twist of the original was as iconic a moment in comics history as anything else. It was the M. Night Shyamalan moment of the '80s, the big twist that hit you in the gut.

I'm not saying that Darwyn Cooke's Before Watchmen will be nearly as immortal as Alan Moore's masterpiece, but I will say this — this series has finally gotten its big twist.

There's an air of finality to this chapter, as Nite Owl and Mothman track down the unhinged vigilante Hooded Justice. Everything that was once good about this cabal of mystery men feels dirty and debased, especially when contrasted with Cooke's clean, Fleischer-inspired style. You sense Hollis's madness and loathing — both at Hooded Justice and himself — in every page. Some heroes are driven, but Hollis is driven in a way that you understand, and feel driven alongside him.

Cooke's artwork is just superb here, too. Clean figures, a lovely use of panel composition to both continue an image and give is a twist, a regular use of Dave Gibbons' nine-panel structure — Cooke is as methodical and deliberate an artist as anybody in the business, and that level of craft and care makes Before Watchmen worth the price of admission alone. Phil Noto also adds a nice depth as colorist here, particularly when he adds in shadows or bright bursts of color to add some punch to Cooke's characters.

And the twist. Wow. The twist. Cooke already has established a striking throughline with the untold story of Hooded Justice, but when you finally figure out the denouement, well, it's about as good of a gut punch as Alan Moore ever gave us. has always been about the degradation of dreams, the befouling of good intentions, and that theme does continue here. You feel dirty after reading it. You feel duped. You feel enthralled.

But there is no more, and perhaps that is for the best. Darwyn Cooke pulled off what many thought would be impossible — he did establish a solid niche within Alan Moore's airtight original story in which to make his own spin. The fact that its good makes it even more striking. And while the very, very end of this story fades away rather than ends with a bang, this last issue proves that Before Watchmen: Minutemen was the little prequel that could. This is one knockout read. 

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