Written by Ian Churchill
Art by Chuchill and Alex Solazzo
Lettering by Richard Starkings, Jeremy Betancourt and J.G. Roshell
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
No bones about it, when I read the first issue of Ian Churchill's Marineman, I thought that it was pretty rough. You could tell that Churchill loved the idea of superheroes and marine exploration, but his enthusiasm also got the best of him, with overwhelming amounts of text and exposition. But four issues in, I'm just as surprised as any of you to be sticking my toe back in the water, and finding Marineman to be a much better fit.
To appreciate the character, you sort of have to take Steve Ocean for what he is — picture Superman as a water-breathing marine biologist. Boom. That's it — and in a lot of ways, these influences seem as comforting as they are apparent in Marineman #4. Steve comes across as calm and strong as any of Grant Morrison's All-Star work, and even if it comes off as perhaps overly familiar, it's also really charming, in its own fashion. For example, seeing Steve communicate with a sunken submarine using what is in essence a dry-erase board, is simple, yet surprisingly satisfying.
The other thing that Churchill does as far as his writing is concerned is that he largely gets out of his own way. As far as first impressions went, the book felt unpolished and all over the place, but now that he's gotten his first round of exposition carpet-bombing out of the way, Churchill is able to rein it in, with only a couple of instances — namely, the introduction of the love interest Charlie, as well as Steve cracking wise when he wakes up after an undersea attack — where the dialogue overstays its welcome. While I think the romantic tension comes off as a little bit creaky, in every other respect Churchill manages to keep the action simple — save the sunken sub, superhero — and lets the character work grow from there.
But I think, even with all that talk about the writing, it'll be the art that will make readers either love or hate Marineman. I don't mind the exaggerated cartoonishness as much — picture the animated style of Ed McGuinness and then make the characters even bigger — but there will be plenty of readers who might disagree. At the very least, Steve Ocean is a guy who looks like he can lift up a sub, and the lack of deep expressiveness fits because of the character's innate calm. Everything feels larger than life, and colorist Alex Solazzo definitely brings up the energy with all his colors.
With Aquaman's appearances coming somewhat sporadically in the greater scheme of Brightest Day, I couldn't help but think that this was a pretty good substitute for that undersea adventurer. I wouldn't call Marineman the most original concept in the world, but he does appeal based on that mix of familiarity and simplicity, all combined with an increasing confidence from its main creator. The first issue might have had a little bit of a chilly reception, but it seems that by the fourth issue, the water's just fine with Marineman.
Green Hornet #14
Written by Phil Hester
Art by Jonathan Lau and Ivan Nunes
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by David Pepose
From the very first issue, Green Hornet has excelled with the action, and that track record certainly doesn't get broken with this fourteenth issue. Concluding Phil Hester's arc with the mysterious Santa Muerte, this issue packs in more brawn than mystery-solving, but it looks so good that you may find it hard to argue.
Since I've been mentioning it so much, let's just start with the real hook here: Jonathan Lau. Lau is quickly becoming one of the best artists in the Dynamite freelance stable, as he pours on the speed and energy on just about every page. To be honest, Lau's delivering some superhero set pieces that are on-par with his counterparts at the Big Two, making a scene where Britt plays with a high-powered motorcycle suddenly turn into a one-page sequence with some real power behind it. And what's more, Lau is starting to really find his groove with the physical acting, as well — seeing Britt's anger is giving him some real room to play, especially as he cracks his knuckles to beat down a corrupt priest.
With all those fireworks, Phil Hester is clearly careful not to step on his colleague's toes, instead writing sequences that you know will play to Lau's strengths. Hester is a real team player here, even if that means not getting quite as clever or self-indulgent with the character as he might be entitled. In certain ways, Hester does come off as a little bit subdued here — with a Hornet-cave that does remind me just a tetch of Gotham — but I like the smoldering characterization he gives Britt, as you can tell this trust-fund baby just wants to go out and punch someone. Thankfully, that's where Hester delivers.
Still, there are some missteps in this book — some avoidable, some not. I think the big thing that might have been punched up here is the whole detective aspect of this book. Britt's method of finding out who's behind Santa Muerte comes off a little too neat — I really doubt any reporter has that spectacular of notes and photographs, even one that you might nominate for a Pulitzer — and the identity of Santa Muerte does feel a little bit like the end of an episode of Scooby-Doo, where you pull off the mask and feel just a bit dissatisfied with the set-up. As far as the unavoidable spectrum goes, this book is definitely self-contained and easy to jump into — but certain elements of the characterization, like Britt as a spoiled trust-fund baby, or the relationship between Kato and his daughter, those might be a little bit tougher to grasp for a brand-new reader.
All in all, however, for a concluding issue, this is extremely easy to jump into, and the manga-tinged sensibilities of Jonathan Lau make this book as stylish as it gets. Lots of action, some strong character work, and you've got the recipe for a fun hero comic. Even if the mystery of Santa Muerte isn't quite as enthralling as you might hope, Green Hornet is still chugging along with some top-notch quality.