Review of Manhattan Projects #19 By TheOtherBluth

img008Manhattan Projects #19: Finite Oppenheimers


Writer: Jonathan Hickman Art: Ryan Browne & Jordie Bellaire

Manhattan Projects is a book that will challenge you.  The story is not very straight forward, and it uses historical fiction to create a maniacally entertaining story. Fortunately for us, the ship is being steered by Jonathan Hickman; a man who knows how to weave complex and entertaining stories that reward our patience and examination.  It’s as if Hickman has a roulette wheel at his house, with all kinds of insane scenarios on it that he spins to see where he will take this very un-merry band of scientists and military men next.  For some that may result in a negative opinion of the story, but personally, I have loved the wild ride and all the ridiculous surprises along the way. Hickman and regular artist Nick Pitarra have clearly decided to go nth degree crazy with this book, and I think they are having a ball doing it.

Issue nineteen concludes The Oppenheimer Civil War, which has been going on for fifteen non-years–or three issues–inside the mind of the deranged twin of Robert, Joseph Oppenheimer.  Drawn by fill-in artist extraordinaire Ryan Browne–of “God Hates Astronauts” fame–these issues have taken the fantastic levels of crazy we’ve grown to love in this series, to wonderful new heights.  It has brought us moments that include Robert Oppenheimer storming into battle atop a headless horse to battle ninjas, barbarians, and all sorts of nutty iterations of Oppenheimer prime (Joseph).  Robert is joined by “redeemed” analogues of his adversary whose eyes he has cut out, a process that converts them to his side.  These three issues (10, 15, and now 19) have been some of my favorites of the series to date, for the unbridled approach and execution of such mind bending ideas.  One thing that bugged me was that Hickman mixes narrative caption boxes with regular dialogue to provide an objective historical perspective on the state of the war. I’m not a fan of this technique, because I find myself distracted a bit when reading it, the dialogue comes off stilted, and I lose the conversation threads when it occurs the entire issue.  Though most of the dialogue in this issue is limited to “Hmmm” and irrational numbers anyway, so not really a big deal, but it was one negative aspect I felt.  What has kept me wondering throughout these tangential chapters about the war; is how it all fits into the larger scheme of things in the “real” world of the title. What are the ramifications of the outcome of this war? Did this happen immediately after Roberts death, or is it happening in this book’s present time? Thankfully those issues are addressed at the conclusion of this book, and I have to say, I was simultaneously delighted and bummed. There’s no other way to put it, because I don’t want to spoil anything, so I will say no more than that.

Colorist Jordie Bellaire—who at this point has earned all of our admiration and awe—soaks these war issues in two main colors, blue and red; representing the two factions, with some gray scattered throughout for a neutral balance. This palette has been reflected in the series proper as well with red always representing the antagonist. Is this some sort of commentary on communism? I don’t know for sure, it could just be that red and blue are both highly contrasting primary colors that work well to establish sides when all the soldiers are analogues of the same person–yeah let’s go with that, fuck symbolism J Needless to say Jordie is killing it as usual, and I have to recognize her contributions to the overall look and feel of the art. Speaking of art, I can’t say enough good things about Ryan Browne’s work on this. His style fits perfectly with the tone established by Nick Pitarra, so the transition isn’t jarring at all. Browne has a wonderful ability to draw lines that appear sketchy and detailed at the same time. His facial expressions are phenomenal, and he can drawn the shit out of a horse with or without a head, or in this issue’s case with a badass armored-head adorned with a laser cannon and blue fire-breath! That’s right a fire-breathing horse! How can you not be reading and loving this book!

So to make a short review long, I found issue nineteen of Manhattan Projects to be another great issue in a fantastic series.  Hickman has been criticized in the past for his “cold” storytelling, and while this book doesn’t ooze with heart or feelings, it does deal with complex emotions and presents situations with bittersweet outcomes that left me feeling for the characters involved.  After reading this issue I can certainly say I have no idea where things are headed next, but I do know they will be exciting, crazy, and thought provoking. This book, in my opinion, is Hickman and company at their best, and I can’t wait to read the next installment.

Review of Hawkeye #18 By Reed Beebe

HEMarvel’s Hawkeye comic is about two superheroes (Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, both known as “Hawkeye”) whose crime-fighting paraphernalia of choice is the bow and arrow, a ranged weapon that requires distance to do its work. The heroes’ choice of weapon serves as a neat metaphor for two characters that are socially distant. Clint is often portrayed as an outsider: the reformed criminal mistrusted by his teammates, the non-superpowered guy on a team of very powerful superheroes, and the lover who just can’t seem to stay in a lasting romantic relationship. Clint is a misfit loner who always seems to stand apart from the characters that surround him. Kate shares her mentor’s distance – she is stubborn, often in conflict with her family and friends (including Clint), and unable to maintain lasting relationships; she recently moved from New York to Los Angeles to distance herself from Clint.

The genius of the Hawkeye creative team is that they force these two loners to have meaningful, entertaining connections with other characters. Over the course of the series, Clint is required to interact with the neighbors that live in his apartment building, his chronically troubled brother, and – before her departure to California – Kate. In Los Angeles, Kate becomes a self-proclaimed private investigator who gets involved with the interesting lives of her clients.

Hawkeye #18 maintains the series’ recurring tension between distance and intimacy as it focuses on Kate’s West Coast adventures. Kate becomes involved in the life of “Cat Food Aisle Man”, a mysterious, aloof stranger that Kate always encounters while shopping for cat food. The stranger announces that he is leaving town and asks Kate to take care of his cat, which triggers an adventure in which Kate learns all about “Cat Food Aisle Man” (including his identity, which should be a treat for fans of Marvel horror comics) and his connection to Kate’s enemies. Kate also learns that Clint is in trouble and that she will need to return to New York to help him.

Artist Annie Wu does an excellent job of conveying the humor and horror that writer Matt Fraction’s story requires and excels at rendering a range of human emotion on the characters’ faces. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth uses a dark palette that is appropriate for an issue that focuses on a character caught up in the secret darkness at the heart of Los Angeles.



Review of Ms Marvel #2

Ms Marvel #2Ms Marvel #2 by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

As I have discussed previously, there are only so many plot variations out there. Sole survivor/exile from a lost home world, family members brutally murdered, accepting a previously unknown heritage. As dedicated comic readers, we have seen them all so many times already that new origins are more about the execution than originality. Can the creators take an old routine and make it feel fresh once again. In the case of Ms Marvel, the answer is a resounding yes.

Wilson spent most of the first issue introducing readers to Kamala Khan, a 16 years old Pakistani-American in living Jersey City. She hangs out in convenience stores with her friend, writes Avengers fan fiction and tries to navigate conflicts with her parents. In other words, despite her minority ethnicity, she is a pretty typical American teenager. During the course of her debut issue, Kamala snuck out against her parents’ wishes to attend a party, only to find herself targeted for ridicule. Kamala stomps off just as the whole area is engulfed by a mysterious mist, which is where the second issue picks up.

Continue reading Review of Ms Marvel #2

Review of Sex Criminals #5

Sex Criminals #5Sex Criminals #5 by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

There comes a moment in every relationship where you have to face reality. The first days are full of giddy excitement, hormones raging and adrenaline surging. You have met someone you click with so easily, it’s just chemistry, there’s no other way to explain it. Sure he/she may not be perfect, but #### it, it’s not like you are. We all have flaws, but they’re irrelevant. What is important are all the ways in which you take delight in each other, cheer up each other and more or less improve your days. Nothing could be sweeter.

Or more vulnerable. Time is the true test of all relationships. Habits which might be endearing one day, seem oh-so-grating the next. The stress of work intervenes; family drama elbows for attention. The successful romances are the ones which find a balance between all the push and pull of life. The rub, of course, is figuring out how that is done.

Continue reading Review of Sex Criminals #5

Reveiw of New Avengers #15

imagesby Jonathan Hickman and Siomone Bianchi

Here’s the thing about Hickman’s exposition heavy Achilles heal: if he’s going on about the right subject it can be quite riveting. In New Avengers #15 we have the illuminati reviewing their findings from Reed Richards bridge between the multiverse and it is actually quite fascinating. There are probably two caveats that you have to enjoy in order to like this comic. One you have to like hearing people talk about science and the other is that you have to extend that idea to people talking about science in a fictional universe where fearing the Man Thing causes you to light yourself on fire. But if you can get past these hurdles you are actually in for what’s a rather fascinating debate about the how and ethical why of their actions interspersed with some reveling moments from The White Swans Past. Simone Bianchi is a large reason for this as he’s doing the illustrations of his life to sell these conversations and the narration they create. I’ve always felt that the knock on Hickman’s dialogue being too cold was a completely unfounded criticism. It’s as engaging as some of our best writers in comics. Turn your brain on it will all pay dividends.

Reveiw of Winter Soldier The Bitter March #2

Winter Soldier Bitter March #2 (of 5)by Rick Remender and Roland Boschi

In the first issue of The Winter Soldier: The Bitter March Rick Remender set up a nearly flawless premise of the Buck Barnes in full on Soviet Assassin mode in a story that played off the existentialist terror of a violent death looming around the corner. In issue that premise falls flat on it’s face with awful cliché’s and a meandering narrative that doesn’t appear to have any interest of going anywhere. The key to great horror is movement. The plot is supposed to run quickly as the fear encloses the protagonist. Here that momentum is shattered as we spend way too much on a train while subjecting you to every bad comic idea possible throughout. In this we get Bucky missing a kill shot because of repressed memory of Captain America, some horrible mustache twirling villainy, the most inessential bubble butt in a mini skirt that would make Black Chyna role her eyes and some seriously ham fisted political dialogue about men in power or something. The later part is probably the most disappointing as Remender has been improving in his comics as of late by utilizing political commentary within his narratives but this was just far too clunky to be effective in the micro sense of advancing a story let alone as conveying any kind of profound ideologies about systems of power. Roland Boschi’s art is fine but without a strong narrative to hold it up it feels as aimless as the rest of this comic. The first issue of this series showed so much promise. The second breaks all of it.

All-New Daredevil #1

Daredevil #1By Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

I’ll admit I was late to the Daredevil party, coming in a few issues after Waid’s series began.  But once I was in, I was hooked.  The upbeat tone (sans Foggy’s cancer subplot) and beautiful cartoon-esque artwork, now by the wonderfully talented Chris Samnee, helped to deliver a unique experience–especially in today’s comic world.  Where so many series rely on a dark, forever brooding character, Daredevil focuses on a colorful and fun experience.  Contributing to the lighter tone is Matt’s move to California, as is now the setting for the All-New Daredevil.
This was the first issue in pretty much the same series–with only the numbering changed and the move from New York.  The issue opens by showing a side of Daredevil we don’t normally see: him playing detective.  Now that his identity is no longer in question (see last issue), Matt is spending some time helping the police department.  Using his heightened senses, Matt traces a ransom letter back to an abandoned theme park, where a young girl is being held.  This is one of my favorite parts of the issue.  Samnee does a fantastic job keeping Matt shrouded in the shadows, giving the reader brief glimpses at him as he works in the station.  The pacing and tone add to his “badassery.”  We clearly know who we are watching, but it is how he is portrayed that carries the scene.
Another great aspect to the issue is how Waid shows just how difficult it is for a blind man to navigate unfamiliar territory.  Matt admits that he lived in San Francisco for about a year a long time ago, but during his time in New York, much had changed.  He no longer knows every nook and cranny like he did back home.  Instead he has to rely on his “friend” and new law partner Kristen McDuffie to read him directions.  Matt will need to become acclimated to his new setting, and it is intriguing to take the journey with him.
I won’t give away too much about the overall plot, other than it is an extremely fun read.  And the end will keep your mind spinning and intimating at what could possibly be the fate of one of the beloved characters.
The only issue I had with this issue was the increase in price.  It seemed like Marvel renumbered the series for no other reason than to bump the price by a buck.  Four dollars is quickly becoming the standard for many series published by nearly all publishers.  I fear that we are on the brink of yet another price hike, as some Batman and Avengers issues have held a cover price of five dollars or more.  Hopefully, I will be proven wrong…

Review of Rocket Girl #4

Rocket Girl #4Rocket Girl #4 by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder

After a short lull between issues, this Image series returns to stores this week. The first few installments of this title have (if you will pardon the pun) flown under the radar, which is a shame. Montclare and Reeder are crafting a fun storyline.

The premise is pretty straight-forward. DaYoung is a cop in the year 2013. For her, 2013 is a time full of advanced technology, much of it related to the mighty Quintum Mechanics Corporation. Patrolling the streets is a police force made up of teenagers. Everything seems to running fine, only Office DaYoung is convinced that this is not the world as it was meant to be. So, she sneaks into Quintum’s labs and is able to send herself back in time to 1986. She hopes that by cutting down Quintum in its infancy she can right her world. DaYoung is an immediately engaging character. Plucky, resourceful, she is determined to pursue her mission, while a tad careless of any consideration for the circumstances of another era.

Last issue concluded with the surprise appearance of two Quintum Enforcers from the future, aiming to rein in DaYoung; the focus of this issue is on the ensuing chase. Propelled by the rocket which gives the series its name, DaYoung tries her best to evade the Enforcers as they speed along on their futuristic hovercrafts. This sequence starts high in the air, before descending to the subway tunnels below Manhattan. Even with the occasional cut away scene, the creators keep the momentum flowing, as DaYoung dodges and finesses her way out of several tight spots. There is a genuine thrill to these pages, especially when she launches herself above ground once again. In these last two pages, as throughout, Montclare and Reeder make good use of their New York setting.

I have always enjoyed Reeder’s art, and this issue is no exception. She renders the action both clearly and dynamically. In the subway tunnels, she balances the excitement of the action with the (mostly) astonished reactions of commuters.

All in all, an enjoyable, exciting issue. I am looking forward to see where the creators send their heroine next.


Review of Political Power: Chris Christie

1924490_678317722231528_335615371_nby Michael L. Prizell and Jayfri Hashim

It’s says a lot about the current state of American politics that by being competent in the face of natural disaster, essentially the very reason for the governments existence, makes you a rock star politician but I suppose in a hurricane Katrina world this is the reality we live with. Christie didn’t fuck up which at this point is more then enough to make a front runner for the republican presidential nomination in the next election. PROGRESS. This is of course in spite of the privatization of NJ halfway houses that literally let inmates run the asylum, the closing of mental health facilities, higher unemployment rates then the historically high national average, the cancellation of a new tunnel to help commuters get to NYC AKA the majority of people with jobs in NJ, the “fuck Mitt Romney for choosing Paul Ryan” power moves and of course BRIDGEGATE. But Christie is a politician that people know exist so for that reason we get another issue of what is probably the most inessential comic in a market over saturated with inessential comics. If Star Wars, Robocop or My Little Pony comics “don’t matter” then Political Power is about ten places below that in essentially being “offensive to your intelligence” as a best case scenario. The comic line that thinks an attention whore that got all his money from his father, a fucking pundit that was too ridiculous to stay on Fox new who didn’t even go to college and a guy that has made a life long career out of being a race baiting troll deserves equal stature with actual elected officials is back because hey MSNBC isn’t the only one that’s going to milk the Christie name. Now just look at this cover. It’s a masters class in low effort giving no fucks. All they had to really illustrate is Christie’s face. Everything else could be photo-shopped and they can’t even get that remotely close. Instead of the round fat jovial face that we are used to seeing convince the people of NJ that his method of fucking us over is the best method we get this retired alcoholic middle school principle from Oklahoma. It’s like the artist just said “hey uncle George is obese and has black hair. I’ll just use that since my internet is down” This is also the most competent point of the comic. After that we get a fucking poem about a dog getting killed by pirates, Christie brooding into the Jersey Shore wreckage, a fucking Springsteen lyric even though the ideology of his music is pretty much the antithesis of Christie’s political beliefs, a girl stranded on the beach, a pro life message, some bullshit about being respected over being loved that his mom told him, his mom dying, Christie talking about Ashbury Park like it’s some glorious oasis even though it was essentially Gary Indiana by the Ocean until it was saved by gentrification from the gay community, some of that old tough guy Jersey bullshit that nobody that grew up in the town of Livingston has any right spewing and seriously what might be the worst art I’ve ever seen in a comic book. It’s looks like it was created by somebody that sucks at Bit Strips. This cute little girl that I guess is the ghost of the dog or something looks like a fucking gremlin. You know people complain about the quality of super hero comics and how they are all just a cash grab which to be fair they certainly are sometimes but then you see something like this and it makes the worst comic at Marvel and DC look like Jack Kirby drawing Alan Moore. This is by far the worst comic book I’ve ever seen and it’s probably the worst comic book ever created which considering all the bad comic books that have been created is really saying something.  If you are an aspiring comics creator or really aspiring to do anything really take solace in the fact you will never be as bad as these people. It’s virtually impossible.

Review of Astro City #10

Astro City #10Astro City #10 by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson

For the past three issues, readers have watched as Winged Victory’s life has crumbled apart around her. She had always prided herself on being more than simply a super-powered heroine, but also a role-model. She saw herself as a shining example to other women that they never had to accept being beaten down in any sense. To this end she opened women’s centers which were more than shelters for troubled women. These centers gave women a place to heal and learn. Most importantly, it gave them the space to find not merely a purpose for their lives, but the strength to realize it. In many ways, it is the good works of these centers that Winged Victory considers her greatest legacy.

So, when the villain Karnazon, sets about destroying Winged Victory’s life, he begins with sabotaging her work with women. He replaces former residents with doubles who smear Victory’s good name. These imposters claim she was always in league with the criminals she battled, their fights as faked as any film brawl. Her real motive was to lure unsuspecting women to her centers where she would turn them into cogs for her malicious enterprises. Winged Victory challenges these accusations as strongly as possible, while the falsified evidence continues to accumulate. Yet even if she does clear her name in a court of law, what of public opinion? Could it ever be possible for to recover her good will with the people?

Throughout this arc, Busiek has revisited the conflict which Winged Victory feels within herself. She is grateful for the support and assistance from fellow heroes The Confessor and Samaritan (the latter also being her lover), yet cannot shake the sensation that she should be working alone. How can she be a role model of independence for women, when she requires help from men herself? Shouldn’t she be able to do it all on her own? Busiek elaborates this theme when Winged Victory is summoned before The Council of Nike. The Council is a gathering of women who bestowed on Winged Victory her powers for the sole purposes of being a role model to women. The Council begins by berating Winged Victory for the bad publicity, yet, quickly moves to what they consider to be her worst offense: publically allying herself with Samaritan and other male heroes. The Council seems to imply that the second charge has tarnished her more in their eyes than the first.

The answer that Winged Victory ultimately gives The Council is one which accepts both potential and limitation. There are times when it is good to stand alone, while there are others when comrades are necessary. She is not a trophy for Samaritan to brag about, or an ornament amidst the male members of The Honor Guard. No, she is their equal who has earned her place in their ranks. Does she rely on them? At times, sure, just as at others her aid is required by them. She knows that she is not perfect, yet what use would she be if she were a perfect role model? Her imperfections make her human, something to which we can all relate. During the course of this issue, a role is played by an ordinary young man, who had come to Winged Victory seeking shelter, something never granted to a male applicant. Winged Victory sees a great potential in this young man, musing if maybe he could grow into a great hero himself someday, even if his heroism consists of nothing more than being “a good man who’ll leave the world a better place than he found it.”

Time and again, Busiek returns to stories of everyday people swept into the sphere of heroes. He uses this perspective not only to maintain a sense of wonder, but also that of example. As readers, it’s easy to look at Captain America or Superman or Winged Victory and say “of course they have the ability to do the right thing—for them it’s simple.” Busiek reminds us of the power of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. (For an early example, think back to the chapter of Marvels where Phil Sheldon wrestles with mutant prejudice). None of us live in isolation from others. We have our support systems, our friends and family who lend us strength in the tough times. In return, we lend a hand or provide a shoulder when it is their turn. Even if all we do is help a friend through a troubling time in life, we have made a difference. Within our own tiny corner of the world, we have left things better than we found it.

Busiek is working at the height of his powers in this issue and the results are truly lovely.