Best Shots Comic Reviews: INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #6, More

Face front, 'Rama Readers!  Your usual host David Pepose is lost in the timestream, so you get to listen to me, George Marston, instead!  It's a week of throwbacks and flashbacks with several books taking literal or thematic jaunts into history.  Because I know how much you miss him already, I'll let David kick off the column with a look a Indestructible Hulk #6, which ups the nostalgia quotient with art from Walt Simonson!



Indestructible Hulk #6

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Walt Simonson and Andres Mossa

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

When I first heard about Walt Simonson jumping onto the art for Indestructible Hulk, I'll be the first to admit I had my worries. Leinil Francis Yu is a hell of an act to follow, and while Yu is very much one of the trendsetting artists of today, I couldn't help but think that Simonson's placement was a grab at the nostalgia market. Considering Simonson's team-up with Brian Michael Bendis on Avengers wound up being nothing to write home about, I felt justifiably worried that this was it for one of Marvel NOW!'s best new series.

Yes and no. By no, I mean that Indestructible Hulk proves to live up to its name, as this series continues to combine character moments with over-the-top action. But yes in the fact that Marvel -- and Mark Waid -- actually do try to swerve into the market of yesteryear, but they're not just banking on Simonson's name...

...No, they're banking on Simonson's run.

Simonson's run on Thor, to be exact, as Bruce Banner's experiments with a sliver of enchanted Uru metal means that Marvel's Unjolly Green Giant is going shoulder-to-shoulder with the Asgardian Avenger himself. While it could certainly be argued that Simonson's portrayal of Thor occasionally even steals the show from the Hulk himself, there's a joy and exuberance to this comic that winds up being contagious. There's as much heart to the art as there is to Mark Waid's carefully constructed characters, and that makes this a fun read for everybody.

Of course, it's not all hammers and Frost Giants this early on. No (or should I say "nay"?), Waid knows that it's not fisticuffs that are going to sell us, but it's Bruce Banner's quirky daily life. From the Hulk being used as almost a weaponized hurricane by SHIELD to Bruce Banner insisting on decaf before going into the pseudo-science of centrifuging an Uru shard to open an interdimensional portal, there is a great deal of care put into building an inner life around Bruce, not just defining him based on the enemies he fights. His Thor also really adds some sparks to the issue, as you sense this younger, cockier Asgardian could go from smiling to smiting just as fast as ol' Jadejaws.

But when Bruce does have to fight, well, that's when this team-up of creators really hits its stride. Waid amps up the tension nicely by not just allowing the Hulk to tear through everyone and everything -- a nice change of pace from the first few issues, where the Hulk has been essentially an unstoppable force of nature -- but actually gives him some human contacts to raise the stakes. Simonson, meanwhile, looks like he stepped into a time warp with his smiling, powerful Thor, and to be honest, it's a surprisingly good fit for this brighter, happier Hulk series. Simonson's eyes in particular tell us a world of storytelling, from Maria Hill warily eyeing her gamma-irradiated charge to the Hulk noticing a potential gamechanger on the battlefield.

There are a lot of ways that Mark Waid and Marvel could have screwed up the momentum they've been building on Indestructible Hulk, which is why it's so heartening to see that they've banked into Simonson's talent and history so shrewdly. They're not just playing to his strengths, they're playing to his greatest hits, and they're tapping into that crossover-friendly zeitgeist that the Avengers movie cultivated in today's fandom. Combined with a cliffhanger that's as intriguing as it is pure fan-baiting, it's nice to see that even with a new artist on board, Indestructible Hulk is still coming out swinging.


Green Lantern #19

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Adrian Syaf, Szymon Kudranski, Mark Irwin, Guillermo Ortego, Kudransky, Alex Sinclair, Tony Avina and David Sharpe

Letters by Dave Sharpe

Review by Brian Bannen

‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Geoff Johns really seems to be extending his final moments in the Green Lantern universe as his penultimate story delivers more exposition than action, resulting in an issue that is an uneven read with no real conclusion in sight, even if it’s climax is less than a month away.

For starters, Hal Jordan has been relegated to the world of the dead for three issues now, yet he’s no closer to being the hero he once was. Instead, he’s lacking the same confidence and daring that he usually displays, as he fails to make any significant moves in this issue despite a promise of action at the conclusion of last month’s comic.

Instead, Johns focuses his energy on Sinestro, but the humanization of the character works against him. Sinestro’s ego usually makes the character a great read, but here he acts more like a standard heroic character and in doing so loses some of his usual luster. His final moments promise a “return to form” but where the arc has been stuck in second gear, I’m not holding my breath for any great conclusion.

Where Adrian Syaf’s pencils were garish in comparison to Szymon Kudranski’s art in the previous issue, his work here is better received. Syaf draws a few great, full page character shots, and his designs are both clean and sharp. Kudranski’s time, however, is limited and his illustrations of the Shadow World don’t resonate as well as they did in previous issues.

I’m curious to see how Johns wraps up the whole First Lantern story in the next issue. One more comic doesn’t seem like enough space for all the story that needs to be told, especially considering how stalled this past arc has felt. But I have faith that Geoff Johns can pull it off and deliver a finale that will satisfy those of us who have been following Green Latnern since its return in 2004.


Deadpool #7

Written by Brian Posehn and Gerry Dugan

Art by Scott Koblish and Val Staples

Letters by Joe Sabino

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

I'll admit, it's been a while since I looked in on Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan's Deadpool. The first two issues didn't impress me, to say the least, and I've never been a fan of Deadpool as a character, but I wanted the book to work so badly that I gave it a shot, and it still fell flat. Now, 7 issues into their run, I'm back for this done-in-one "flashback" story that takes the Merc with a Mouth deep into a classic Marvel story, and mines some great material in the process.

First off, the biggest thing that's really striking about Deadpool #7 is that it's actually pretty funny. Posehn and Duggan take their time actually selling some pretty perfect gags, like their portrayal of early '80's Peter Parker, or the booze-filled Hostess Fruit-Pie parody in the middle of the book. Even the letter column was solid gold. There are still some duds, like Deadpool's lone fart joke, that drag things down just enough to render the book shy of perfect, but the fact that Posehn and Duggan manage to actually tell a story around a fairly simple gag and introduce some compelling concepts - like the idea of a demon lawyer embezzling power from Hell - to boot is a step up. It's just a shame that those concepts are undoubtedly going to be lost in the fray when this book goes back on whatever rails it was traveling down.

Scott Koblish and Val Staples are kind of a dream team when it comes to this style of throwback art. It captures the essence of the low paper stock days perfectly, while never truly eschewing entirely the modern sensibilities that make Deadpool #7 readable and fun. While Koblish's charming characters and pen and marker style inks are the perfect balance of nostalgic and current, Val Staples is the real stand-out. His ability to mimic the off-kilter printing and half-tone colors of the bronze age are what really sell the story. This issue - especially the spot on art - really makes me yearn for a series of "Quantum Leap" style stories shuffling Deadpool through different eras of Marvel Comics from this team. It's an idea that's been touched on before, and the gag involving 'Pool's occasional companion Cable at the end really sell that idea, though it's destined to be another good idea passed over in favor of more of the usual shtick.

Sadly, it seems it's back to business as usual next issue, though I will admit that this brief detour does make me want to give the regular team another shot at selling me on Deadpool. This issue, given as proof of concept, shows that Duggan and Posehn can balance their inherent humor with some semblance of storytelling, to the benefit of both. If nothing else, it would be great to see more issues from Scott Koblish, as he and regular colorist Val Staples seem to be on a much better wavelength than Staples and regular artist Tony Moore. Here's hoping some of what makes this issue so much fun finds its way into the creative team's standard arsenal.


Polarity #1

Written by Max Bemis

Art by Jorge Coelho and Felipe Sobreiro

Lettering by Steve Wands

Published by BOOM!

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

There's a line from the film "Amadeus" in which Emperor Joseph when asked about what he thought about Mozart's opera, it was suggested to Mozart that it had "too many notes". While BOOM's latest mini-series Polarity isn't exactly Classical opera, it is an original take on a young artist finding himself as both a person, an artist, and someone who can headbutt a man's head, crushing it into oblivion. However, it suffers from the same problem: just too many notes.

Written by Say Anything's front man  Max Bemis, Polarity explores the world of the elitist, hipster New York art scene for most of the issue. It lays it out pretty well for anybody who is unfamiliar with that universe, even if there are some liberties with exaggerations, but not bad for a first foray into comics. Just when you think there's no action and you feel like you're watching "High Fidelity" for the nth time, the action kicks in and catches you off guard.

The big problem  is the fact that the main character, Tim's, inner dialog just clutters up the pages. Letterer Steve Wands does a great job at controlling the flow, but a lot of it just seems like unnecessary detail. We get the idea that he's with a girl that he doesn't want to be with, and has a thing for another girl right off the bat. The repetition of the detail stalls the pacing a bit. Bemis' banter can be witty at times, but much like the art scene described here, comes across as trying too hard.

Now the reason to really try this book out is artist Jorge Coelho. With layouts that just seem out of this world, Coelho takes Tim's bipolarity and runs with it. His figure compositions are sort of a mix of Tradd Moore and Rob Guillory. Characters have cartoonish anatomy, but still maintain a sense of reality. Every panel is bursting with detail, but not in the way a lot of mainstream artists handle things. Since the story takes place in Brooklyn, everything seems more active and captivating. The bar scene with Tim and Lily especially stands out as a scene where nothing is wasted. Add in some great coloring by Felipe Sobreiro, and you've got a great looking book in your hands.

Polarity's shortcomings don't outweigh the positive here, and it's something to keep your eye on in the coming months.  How Bemis handles Tim's dialog even before he became manic and off his meds makes for a less than stellar debut, but Polarity is visually appealing nonetheless.


Animal Man #19

Written by Jeff Lemire

Art by Steve Pugh and Lovern Kindzierski

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

With all of the media attention surrounding the death of Damian Wayne, you might be forgiven if you missed out on the death of another child in the DC Universe. Cliff Baker, the son of Animal Man, gave his life defending his father, and this month, we finally get to see the boy laid to rest. In certain ways, Jeff Lemire is giving himself a soft new launchpad after the high concepts of "Rotworld," but ultimately the overgrown mythology winds up choking the life out of Buddy Baker like a ravenous anaconda.

But it does start out strong. Steve Pugh really knocks the silent pages out of the park, just drawing the utter pain and sadness that Buddy and Ellen Baker are facing. It's sort of a darker, harder version of Mike McKone and Andy Clarke, but seeing Buddy suffer in our world -- versus an amorphous world of tendrils and zombies and aliens -- makes him resonate so much more.

Lemire also gets some great bits in about the real human tragedy here -- it's not just Cliff (because to be honest, Cliff was never really built up enough for us to care about him), but it's about the loss of the partnership between Buddy and Ellen. The death of a child can sometimes push parents away from one another, and seeing Ellen rage against the strangeness and danger that the Red put into their lives is a human problem, not a supernatural one.

The problem is is that this book ultimately winds up going back to what it knows -- at least, for a little while. If you care about totems of the Red, well, then you're good, but if you found the "Rotworld" crossover to be a little too byzantine for your liking, well, you might also be good here, too, as Lemire goes for a status quo change that again doesn't make you feel so much tension, but opens up opportunities for Buddy's story to go in an altogether different direction. Still, getting there is half the battle, as some of the dialogue between Buddy and these totems (and their caretakers) feels a little stilted, a little on-the-nose. Pugh does sell the horror aspect of those scenes well however, particularly the weird, almost blender-like way Buddy is sent back to our world.

Yet there's something to be said about starting strong, and the human drama that dominates the first half of this book is a better Animal Man story than I've seen in quite some time. With Buddy Baker presumably taking a more down-to-earth role after this issue, there's a lot of potential for this superhero without a cause, without a mission, without a family. There's lot of human drama that can be mined here, if the book's creative team can ignore all the animal mythology for a bit.


Earth 2 #11

Written by James Robinson

Art by Nicola Scott, Trevor Scott, Alex Sinclair, and Pete Pantazis

Letters by Dezi Sienty

Published by DC Comics

Review by Brian Bannon

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

This month’s issue of Earth-2 gives readers a bit more with the wonders, particularly Dr. Fate, Mister Miracle and Big Barda. But the issue falls a bit flat in places, and the climax, while interesting, loses its punch over the course of the issue.

Even after the excessive amount of time he spent on Wotan in the previous issue, James Robinson still puts a lot of effort into Wotan’s story here, the final piece of which is more like a period at the end of a long paragraph. The focus on Wotan takes time away from Khalid and his quest to get the helm of Dr. Fate, and when he finally does don the costume, the moment doesn’t land as well as it should.

Much of the issue bounces to secondary characters, but these moments act as reminders -- place holders of the characters’ movements -- rather than having a significant impact on the story. The comic has a neat twist in the end, and Khalid’s reason for donning Dr. Fate’s helmet is nicely tied in with the man Garrick is becoming, but the shift towards other characters breaks up the fluidity of the story, and the issue becomes choppy rather than smooth.

While Alex Sinclair and Pete Pantazis provide some nice colorization, nothing in the art really jumps out at me like the previous issue. Nicola Scott’s labyrinthine Tower of Fate design has all but disappeared, so the setting lacks the same complexity we’ve seen before. Dr. Fate’s appearance makes up for this though, as pencillers, inkers and colorists work together to create a gorgeous final page.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the second arc of Earth-2 is suffering from the “sophomore slump,” but Wotan hasn’t really done anything, and much of the story is taken up by conversation rather than action. Still, I’m curious to see how Mister Miracle and Big Barda play into the next arc as Robinson is clearly setting up a showdown involving Fury and Steppenwolf.

In the meantime, Robinson is expanding the DC universe in creative ways, even if they are a bit weak in their delivery.

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