Review Sex #11

Sex #11Sex #11 by Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski

Joe Casey would probably like readers to think of this series as something other than a thinly veiled Batman allegory, which is fair of him. Sex is more than a case study of Bruce Wayne plus explicit sex. That said, however, it is difficult to resist the temptation at times. One of the reasons is that Casey is continually shifting his focus, offering different perspectives on the life of Simon Cooke, who used to be the protector of Saturn City, its Armored Saint. Burned out on that former lifestyle, he is trying to readjust to an authentic civilian life. As might be expected, this transition is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

This issue begins with a confrontation between Simon and Keenan Wade, Simon’s former teen sidekick. Their brief partnership (lasting ten months) was a tense one. This issue provides a brief glimpse into their past dynamic with repeated flashback scenes of Simon berating Keenan. It would appear that Simon was never satisfied with Keenan, repeatedly questioning not only Keenan’s abilities, but his commitment as well. It is hard to read these scenes without thinking of the “tough love” Batman has dished out to all his assorted sidekicks and partners over time. The important difference is this is not Batman, a character with 75 years of pop cultural assumptions built into him. When Bruce would reprimand Dick/Jason/Tim etc, it might sound cruel, but we knew that Bruce would be proven right in the end. He’s The Batman after all—he knows exactly what he is doing.

And this leads me to one of the reasons Sex succeeds as more than a high concept gimmick. Casey has filled his story with people who are complex characters. In the debate between Simon and Keenan, it is not obvious who is “right” or “wrong.” Until this moment, I did not want to see Simon suit up again. He had served his tour of duty, and earned a civilian life. Yet, beneath Keenan’s bitter resentment, the young man has a point: there is a void which the Armored Saint’s absence leaves behind in Saturn City. Does not Simon have a responsibility to do what he can? Or has he earned his peace(such as it is)? Let someone else fight the good fight now. This debate raises an additional issue of class. It is easy for Simon to wave his hand, letting the problems fall on someone else’s head. He is a rich man, after all, surrounded by comfort. If street crime jumps, he will unlikely be personally effected. Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone has another life they might resume as if they had simply been on vacation.

The fact that Casey leaves his readers with no clear cut answer to these questions, is another reason why Sex continues to be so satisfying . . .

Cheers.   

Review of Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #5

Cataclysm Ultimates Last Stand #5 (of 5)Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #5 by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagely

I came to the Ultimate Universe rather late. I was not reading comics when the line was first launched and, for the most part, have never gone back to read any of its early triumphs. What I have the most experience with is Ultimate Spider-Man, and even there it was not until late into the Peter Parker days (i.e. post-Ultimatum). This is all to say that I did not approach this week’s issue with the same amount of emotion involvement as someone who has been following the line since its debut. At the same time, I am fully aware of the importance the Ultimates have played for Marvel.

Bendis comes in for a bit of heckling from some members of this site (myself included at times), but he can write. Even if some of his work has lost its original charm, he delivers with this issue. He balances the epic scope that is the menace of Galactus along with the individual human dramas. Kitty, Miles and Tony all have their moments of heroism and sacrifice. Then there is Thor, who Bendis gives a terrific Hail Mary scene. All of this is illustrated strongly by Bagley. The expressions on Galactus’ face, as he grows increasingly desperate, are chilling.    

As for the final fate of the Ultimate Universe, I shall refrain from spoiling it. Of course, given the new title announcements, we already know that not everyone and/or thing from the Ultimate Universe would be decimated by Galactus. Then, again, there was that dimensional portal which might allow a handful of characters to flee into the 616 proper. Or, Marvel might do their own version of Flashpoint, where everything is blended together. However, if you spared the Ultimate Earth, how do you resolve the problem of Galactus? Simply toss him back at the 616-Earth? Destroy him? Not likely. Simply put, Bendis finds a satisfactory solution to these problems. At the end of the day, Cataclysm may not have been the most earth shattering event (in a figural sense), but it was a satisfactory one.

As for whether there is real change in store after this storyline? Well, we’ll find that out soon enough . .  .

Cheers    

Review of Batman/Superman #8

download (2)by Greg Pak and Jae Lee

Solicitations were all over the place with this issue on art and what it was about. For the record yes it has Jae Lee and yes it is a crossover with another comic that you probably aren’t reading. As much as I hate crossovers like this Jae Lee art was something that I need in my life so I bit the bullet and picked this up. Art wise Lee is as spectacular as ever with his precision line work and contrast of empty space against large scale action. He brings a stunning and unique visual narrative that I wouldn’t expect from a Batman/Superman comic but it is wholly welcome and maintains a distinct style for a comic about two superhero’s that are literally everywhere, no small feat. Writing wise Pak has answered the question of how he is going to write Superman by contrasting his perception through other people around him. This has been interesting and well done so far here and even more so in Action Comics with Lana Lang but at this point that dynamic for Batman/Superman is starting to feel somewhat stagnant. It’s not the technique that’s wrong per say but more that we haven’t seen any growth in it between the two charterers since the first issue. That’s a shared problem that DC has had with New 52 titles like Aquaman and Swamp Thing that started out strong but got redundant over time as the series never went anywhere with the original concept. Batman/Superman seems to be in danger of that here but Pak has a long track record of taking his Superhero’s interesting places so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt for now. What we are left with is a good but not great first issue of a crossover. The art is worth your attention but the story probably isn’t worth continuing on another far less interesting title.

Review of Wolverine and The X-Men #42

WXBy Jason Aaron, Nick Bradshaw, Pepe Larraz, Ramon Perez, Shawn Crystal, Steve Sanders, Nuno Alves, Tim Townsend and Chris Bachalo

There was a time when this was one of the best comics being published, there was a time when it lost it’s luster, then there was a time when it appeared it was getting that back and now it’s just bittersweet to see it end. Through it all Wolverine and The X-Men was always the most heartfelt book out of the big two by a wide margin and Jason Aaron’s final issue encapsulates that greatly. It’s a touching moment as we get to see the kids on graduation day and also years forward in the future getting an idea of how the school had changed them after both one year and and much further into adulthood. More than anything this was a comic about the challenge and reward of positive growth and the final issue is a refreshing cap on that concept. Like any great journey the characters are different people then the ones we were introduced to in the beginning, no small feat for a superhero book, what makes it even better is that they’ve all grown for the better. Flash forwards to students Idie and Quinten as fully mature adults that still have the same personality traits but have molded and refined them for the best while Wolverine appears to truly be transitioned from the lone wolf ninja rebel that he’s been stuck in for decades for the empathetic and wise old educator. Sometimes certain people can completely change the trajectory of who you are just by randomly entering your life. Do Idie and Quentin survive without meeting Wolverine? Does Wolverine become the man he is now without Quentin and Idie? Does Jason Aaron become the writer he is without getting the characters on this book? Do the characters get to mature without him writing it? This comic was never perfect but it was almost that a few times and it was never without it’s center, it’s greatest strength; it’s undying love and heart that bleed out of the pages.

Review of A Voice In the Dark #4

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A Voice in the Dark #4 By Larime Taylor

“I just, like, want my friends and stuff to be, like, friends and stuff.” This issue was easily the funniest issue of the series.  A Voice in the Dark always has great dialogue and this issue was no different.  The issue spotlights Zoey and her roommates.  We get to spend some time with Krista and Ash. Most of this issue takes place at a college sorority party and Larime absolutely nails the college party dialogue.  It was fun and extremely funny with just the right splash of bitchy catty drama.  It is fitting that Ash is on the cover because she really steals the show.  The contrasting clash of Ash’s dark humor and Krista’s ditsy humor make for a satisfying blend of laughs.  Within the pages of issue #4 we also get back into the critical thinking class, which was my favorite part of the first issue.  This time in the class the professor and students discuss the death penalty.  It is a fantastic way to actually talk about the themes and moral dilemmas going on within the pages.  This issue was loads of fun with some spot on college drama.  I sound like a broken record but this book gets better with every issue.  The direction the book has taken, focusing on Zoey’s roommates has been a very strong choice.  I always dig a book with strong female characters and Larime is giving me just that. One of the funniest panels of the book is a cameo from Larime himself.  “Once you go gimp, you walk with a limp”.  Lastly I think I learned my new favorite insult from Ash, “Psycho cuntbeast”.  Hilarious issue!

Review of Daredevil #36

ddDaredevil #36 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Daredevil #36 is one of those bitter sweet books.  The issue was brilliant as usual but it’s a shame this is the final issue of the series. Yes the title is relaunching and yes it is still the same creative team, but the book will never be the same.  Daredevil has been one of the most consistent books of the last three years.  It is one of those books you forget about because it is always so brilliant.  It becomes the norm for the man without fear to deliver a top notch issue. There are no surprises with Mark Waid and Chris Samnee.  You are delivered a brilliant comic every time you exchange money for pages by these two guys.  Samnee is always top notch but his art on this issue was beyond fabulous.  I caught my self lingering on many occasions.

The issue opens on a touching conversation between Matt and Foggy.  If you have been reading this series you know it has been filled with touching moments between these two friends.  This opening scene drives the point home and sets a nice stage for the story to follow.  These best of friends would do anything for each other.  The combination of Waid’s dialogue and Samnee’s emotion filled expressions create a very powerful moment and make it easily accessible for the reader.

The serpents story comes to it’s satisfying conclusion.  Matt makes a decision that will change his future forever and therefore change the direction of the book forever.  I am excited to start reading All-New Daredevil and see what Matt is like on the West Coast but it is very sad to see this monumental run of Daredevil come to an end.  Waid and Samnee changed the face of Daredevil writing 36 amazing issues in the process.  I hope we get another 36 on the new title.

Review of X-Files: Conspiracy The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

downloadby Ed Brisson and Michael Walsh

When Michael Walsh and Ed Brisson released the mini series Comeback last year through Image Comics you could see the potential for bigger and better things in the future and for the most part that has come to fruition. Walsh did the debut favorite of creator owned force of nature Zero and is lined up for the initial arc on the high profile Secret Avengers relaunch while Brisson got a movie deal out of his next creator owned series Sheltered while getting work on Secret Avengers and the new ongoing 24 spin off. All of that has been or looks like it will be just fine but Brisson and Walsh complement each other so well with their pulp sensibilities that I for one was hoping to see them work together again. Well looks like I got it but I’ll tell you that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle/X-Files crossover was one of the last places I expected that from. While it doesn’t really play to their strength it does work on some level only because all parties involved realize how ridiculous this all is and pretty much run with that. Again this is a story where X-Files and The Turtles share the same universe and fight vampires together inside a pizzeria in upstate New York. Don’t expect Comeback part two with agent Mulder and Rapheal. Still this book is funny enough to sustain itself even if the premise makes no sense in the context of a single issue (They need Ninja Turtle blood to cure a deadly disease or something) I had a roommate that defended his love of Limp Bizkut over Nine Inch Nails in that they were “fun” which to me is essentially an excuse to enjoy something shitty because you don’t think very hard. I’ve never subscribed to that notion, quality is quality. This is fun without sacrificing that. That doesn’t make it great or even good. But it’s fine for what it is. That said Brisson and Walsh are better.

Review of Robocop: Momento Mori

download (1)by Frank Barbiere and Joao Vieria

Frank Barbiere is having a great week creatively. While the debut issue of White Suits was a revelation his stand alone Robocop Movie tie in Memento Mori is a dark, surreal and elusive psychological thriller that draws you into Alex Murphy’s mind before it’s wiped away clean. In it we follow Murphy’s psyche as it runs though his head watching his memories be erased by the computer that will replace his consciousness. Barbiere has shown that he could play between the lines of consciousness in Five Ghosts but here he is allowed to go full tilt into that concept as we watch Murphy run and fight a force he can’t stop and doesn’t understand. From the beginning the reader is dropped into the story without a clue as to what put us there only that this is his life or as Murphy says “What I can Remember of it” From there his surrounding begin to melt and Alex reacts by fighting what ultimately will be a losing battle he is incapable of comprehending. Artist Joao Vieria is amazing in his illustrations. His pencils bend from clean lines to rough ones as the interiors shift around from panel to panel and he uses bright colors to contract against dark black as the parameters of reality keep changing. You’ve seen this story before, you’ve seen this style and you know how this comic will end but that doesn’t take away from it’s greatness. This is pure excellence in craft that take several well worn idea’s and owns them as it’s own. Forget about this as a movie tie in because that’s essentially a template, this is the type of strange trip through the mind that makes your skin crawl in the best way possible

Staff Review: Nova #13.1

Nova #13

Nova #13.1 by Gerry Duggan & Paco Medina

This issue starts out with our young hero, Sam in a pretty good mood. His most recent Nova adventure, as seen last month, was a great success. He heeded a distress call, and rescued a spaceship, saving the lives of everyone on board. And so, for the whole first page of this week’s issue, everything seems to be coming up Milho—er, everything appears to be going great. Naturally, though, it doesn’t last.

First, he has a run in with school bully, Moffet. The fight between them is just escalating when Beta Ray Bill shows up proclaiming that someone must pay for their crimes. Moffet panics and flees as quickly as possible, right into a sign post. Human tormentor unconscious, Sam turns to Beta Ray. Having never met Beta Ray before, Sam does not know who this alien creature is. Sam does rush to Moffet’s side to make sure the boy is all right. See, Sam’s kind-hearted, always wanting to assist those in need, only, well, it turns out he helped the wrong person. Skaarn, the commander of the ship he rescued in the previous issue, is actually wanted by Beta Ray for grave crimes. It would seem that the learning curve for cosmic heroics is longer than Sam assumed. However, he volunteers to do the right thing, and help make his wrongs right. His determination to do the right thing, to live up to this legacy from his father, makes him a compelling character.

Sam and Beta Ray have a good dynamic together. (Also, Sam holds up pretty well against Beta Ray in a fight). Duggan also gives some time to Sam’s relationships with his family and classmate, Carrie, who I’m hoping to see more of as the series progresses. There are also some good uses of humor, which keeps the mood balanced. Overall, this is a promising start to the new arc.

Staff Review: Animal Man #28

Animal Man #28Animal Man #28 by Jeff Lemire & Rafael Albuquerque

This issue is an action packed conclusion to the current Brother Blood storyline. For the past several months, Brother Blood has been waging his campaign to seize control of The Red and with it mastery over all forms of animal life on the planet. As this plotline has progressed, his actions have grown more savage as he hunts for Animal Man’s young daughter Maxine, who happens to be the current Avatar of The Red. At the conclusion of last month’s chapter, the situation appeared pretty desperate for Little Wing, as her protector The Shepherd was dealt a mortal blow. Separated from both her parents, surrounded by adversaries, there seemed to be precious few options left for her.

For me, one of the most appealing aspects of Animal Man has always been his family life. Ever since he was revived by Grant Morrison, Buddy Baker’s wife and children have been an integral part of who he is. Ellen, Cliff and Maxine are not simply plot devices to be dragged out every once and awhile when the writer felt like it or needed some source of peril for the hero. No, they (along with all their everyday problems) are just as important as the more fantastic aspects of Buddy’s life. I suspect this is why the death of Cliff blindsided me more than that of Damian Wayne. I can easily imagine a Batman without a Robin, but the Bakers without Cliff? It has been nearly a year now, and I’m still not used to the idea . . .

The importance of family is a thread that weaves prominently throughout this issue. The story may be full of dramatic, large-scale battles between powerful creatures for earth-shattering stakes. Yet, again and again, Lemire reminds us that what Buddy is fighting for first of all is his family. Ever since Cliff died, they have been splintered, coping (or not) with the loss in their own individual ways. This week, Lemire finally reunites them once again. It may not be permanent; after all, there is one rather large source of unsettled business Buddy must still resolve. For the moment, though, they may take comfort from themselves once again.

I admit that Albuquerque is an artist whose work I enjoy sometimes more than others. For this issue, though, he is at the height of his powers. He captures both aspects of Lemire’s narrative, the personal and the spectacle, with equal skill. Then in the final page (see this week’s Freeze Frame, if you missed it), he combines both story elements for one of the most evocative pages of the week. Overall, this is an excellent penultimate chapter to Lemire’s Animal Man run. Here’s hoping that the conclusion can bring some peace of mind to the Baker clan. They’ve earned it.

Cheers.