May 6, 2010 Leave a comment
Hey, folks. UE has been a little quiet, we’re all a little busy with external stuff, but nonetheless I’ll start a new feature somewhat inspired by Adam’s own, unfortunately not on this blog but at his personal placey-place. Here I’ll review the comics I pick up every week (excepting some stuff such as entire series’/books that I might give their own post) as well as anything my friends also picked up that I got around to reading. As usual my compatriots may also throw in their own two cents. So, new (and old, sort of) comics this week!
Brightest Day #1 – score: ** outta five
As much as I’ve been enjoying Geoff Johns and co.’s solid work on the GL titles and the multi-coloured myth-building, as much as I even enjoyed the silly zombie spectacle that was Blackest Night (I am getting sick of zombies and yet people keep managing to make them somewhat interesting), this is a dull next chapter, so far, in the never-ending series. In part this is because this title is a lot like Brightest Day #0 (except shorter). Blackest Night already ended on an anti-climactic note for the sake of setting up this new ‘event’ – 12 individuals came back from the dead but we don’t know why they were specifically picked by the White Entity, and there’s somethin’ strange about them. This comic jumps around to all the key players and what they’re doing, the Lanterns, Deadman (Aliveman?) and the other resurrected, trying to set up some mystery for what’s to come. And while I know this is just issue #1, I found it dull rather than intriguing. Because of the number of characters to cover, there was little time given to any of them, and it feels like a teaser more than anything, but again, not a very intriguing one. Ah well, at least it does look like issue #2 will get back on track to the crazy superhero spectacles we all love. At the very least, the art is solid as usual, quality stuff for standardish superhero ‘realism’, and the writing frames some cool art opportunities (like an undead giant squid splash page).
Secret Six #21 – score: ***** outta five
What can I say? Secret Six is at the very least among the best mainstream capes stuff DC puts out, and you should really be following this book. Since this is my first column I’ll allow myself to go into a little detail and back-story: Secret Six is about a bunch of villains who banded together and became mercenaries-for-hire. You’ll recognise some of them, if you’re a capes nerd. Simone is also one of the most competent capes writers around right now, with her ability to make interesting, funny characters and sometimes ‘cross lines’ with what she does (in terms of capes, anyways). Secret Six is probably the exemplary case of what she can do, with amusingly twisted and messed up tales full of violence and plenty of black humour, mixed in with the typical superhero absurdity. Not kid’s stuff, in any case. It’s pretty hard to write a team of villains: that’s why they always seem to destroy each other and come apart in hero books, but Simone manages to write characters of ‘dubious moral quality’, as someone called it, but still fit in character development and craft characters/violent sociopaths that you can empathise with. If anything it grounds the characters and makes them a little bit more likeable than your idealised Supermans and Green Lanternses (though the naïve idealism of stuff like that can be enjoyable sometimes, too). You see this sort of twisted stuff a lot in imprints like Vertigo and indie titles, but it’s fun to see it in a mainstream superhero book. I’ll only talk about the current artistic creative team, but the art is solid (forgive me if I overuse this word, but I just haven’t seen much in the way of amazingly exciting art today) and complements the story just fine. The characters all come off a little blocky, giving it a distinct (not bad) look, but the art is clean and straightforward and sometimes they throw in some interesting page/panel compositions so there’s not much at fault here. You won’t see any grand splash pages, but you will see dark and dirty action.
So, #21; Part three of the arc that started after the Blackest Night tie-in, focuses on Catman and his search for his kidnapped son/revenge on his kidnappers. Catman is intent on making them suffer, and it’s probably some of the most violent stuff yet in this book, at least in the last issue; it’s also one of the best arcs yet. This one is a little tamer than the last issue, but it also provides some nice character building in flashbacks into Catman’s unsurprisingly harsh childhood. Besides that we get the usual funny team interaction and dialogue you’d expect from Simone. I can’t really find fault with this issue (hence the rating), as Simone’s hold on these characters (and at this time, in particular, Catman) are just great and this series rarely lets down as a result of it. Also! The cover is awesome (and yes, it is sort of in the comic itself). Next month is the conclusion to Catman’s arc, and I look forward to it.
S.H.I.E.L.D #1 – score: **** outta five
Speaking of looking forward to, this comic had me sold on its premise alone. I’m honestly not too excited about the majority of the current-continuity mainstream books the Big Two are putting out, but this isn’t about the present but the past. The secret history of S.H.I.E.L.D is what this book is all about, dating back to the ‘founder’ of S.H.I.E.L.D, Imhotep, who helped counter a Brood invasion in ancient Egypt. And who else was secretly an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, an organisation that apparently with a reach so far back? Why, time traveling Leonardo Da Vinci of course! This comic is absurd and on concept very silly (though played straight-faced and seriously), and that’s exactly why it’s so great (or at least, it’s shaping up to be as such). While certainly not a totally original idea (and nothing is), taking history and mixing it with Marvel canon will probably lead to something fun, and more creative than usual. Nonetheless, the first issue isn’t perfect; We meet our main character Leonid in 1953, who is initiated into the mysterious and powerful organisation of humanity’s protectors, and using his initiation we get flashbacks into the great S.H.I.E.L.D agents of the past (like the ones mentioned), also setting up the time travel (err, I think) that leads into the plot for the next issue. While the stuff about S.H.I.E.L.D is great, we barely get anything about our protagonist and the stuff happening in the ‘present’ (1953) consequently isn’t too coherent, at this point. Most likely this’ll be addressed in the next issue though, as there probably just wasn’t enough room to fit all the ideas into the first issue, so it’s not a huge deal. The art is great; a nice pencilled look and the colouring gives it a warm feel. It’s packed with detail too, ranging from detailed landscapes across time to steampunk-ish gadgets and contraptions, along with the present day S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters which has an almost occult, otherworldly feel with the symbols and architecture around the place – not to mention the Immortals themselves. The book really does bring a mystic feel and scale to an organisation grounded in technology. This sort of combination is another absurdity, but again, the absurdity is what makes this series, or at least the idea of this series, awesome, and I very much look forward to the next issue.
And on a note I forgot to mention in the review itself, I wish I had picked up the original printing with the original cover, as the reprint cover, while cool, is a picture that exists within the comic itself (exactly the same), and the original cover was great. It’s also cool that this thing got a second printing so quickly though; it means it sold out, which means there’s interest, which means it won’t get cancelled after 5 issues to make way for another X-book. Hopefully.