Comics 8/8

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Aug 092018

The Dead Hand #5 – Higgins / Mooney / Bellaire / Cowles (Image)

Quite a lot of this issue is given over to explaining who Roger is and why there’s a whole fake American town hanging out in Siberia, as well as laying out more of the relationships between the principals of the story. It’s decent as far as it goes, but it’s kind of a weak, backward-looking issue with no real action to prick the present-day plot along. This book is at a real risk of getting bogged down. A lot will depend on how the cliffhanger at the end of this issue plays out in the next, which I’m still intrigued enough to check out.

Exiles #6 – Ahmed / Reis / Caramagna (Marvel)

Thank goodness this book is multiverse-hopping again. After a brief interlude of peace, Blink starts to feel troubled that she has lost track of her old team. As her new team resolves to help, the tallus yanks them into a version of the old west where Magneto’s Brotherhood is a gang of outlaws, with T’Challa on their trail. The conceit is kind of goofy but this team pulls it off with aplomb. Valkyrie comes off particularly well. Arc transition issues can be awkward, but this one is pacey and has great action.

My Hero Academia vol. 14 – Horikoshi (Shounen Jump)

The provisional hero license exam and the creation of “shoot style” were exceptionally weak chapters of this manga, to the point that I considered bailing after I finished vol 13. In this instance, I was well served by my habit of hanging on for a bit after I think a book has gone bad, because Horikoshi manages to turn it around. The starting brawl between Izuku and Kacchan is visually dynamic but emotionally a retread, so it’s fortunate the book basically ignores Bakugo’s existence afterwards, in favor of introducing a character who is a more natural fit to be All Might’s heir. While the book has spent a lot of time musing over Izuku’s physical inability to match All Might, it hasn’t really touched on the fact that he also lacks All Might’s emotional lightness and joy. It’s interesting to run into characters who highlight and resent that. The new villain seems boring, alas. Still, glad I stuck around.

Outpost Zero #2 – McKeever / Tefenkgi / Beaulieu / Maher (Image)

Well, considering the magnitude of the event that closed out issue #1, it’s to be expected that the bulk of this issue is focused on the crew’s reactions to that. I felt that the emotions of the characters were laid out really well, but the lack of action or revelations may make this issue seem a bit of a drag. A continuing sore point with this book is that one of the characters is almost laughably unsympathetic, and McKeever hasn’t really managed to pull off the trick of getting us to see why he behaves the way he does. As a standalone issue this is not great; this book may be one of those that’s best to grab in trades.

Titans #24 – Abnett / Peeples / Santorelli / Plascencia / Sharpe (DC)

At one point in Titans #24 a character says “I don’t care what you think but soon enough you will care by the time I’m done.” Not every line is quite as big a disaster, but… man, this book is a mess. The concept is worn, the action is poorly staged, the issue-ending twist is inexplicable, and it’s not clear if the people who made this book even read it. Sorry, BB, but this time hanging on did not pay off. I’m done with this one.

Comics 8/3

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Aug 042018

Captain America #1,2 – Coates / Yu / Alanguilan / Gho / Caramagna (Marvel)

I picked this up on a whim and… guys, I just don’t know. Spencer really messed up this character and while Coates is making a meaningful effort to turn him back into someone worth caring about, it’s a hard, hard slog. There are some stupidities that just ruin a character, and at a certain point it’s best to just cut your losses and let a character lay fallow for a few years. The current Captain America feels like it’s being retconned even as it’s being written, and at this point the plot feels more like a bout of flailing at the terrible state Spencer left this character in than any kind of coherent story. I’m just intrigued enough to maybe pick up one or two more issues of this but I am far from hooked.

Immortal Hulk #4 – Ewing / Bennet / José / Mounts / Petit (Marvel)

Well, what goes up must come down, and this week it’s Immortal Hulk‘s turn to fall. The whole issue is a huge whiff, overwhelmed by backstory and burdened with contemporary events that are borderline nonsensical. The issue spends what feels like 2/3 of its length on the origin of Sasquatch, all of which seems like nothing more than an elaborate way to set up a reveal that Langkowski, like Banner, can’t be killed anymore. Or rather, he can, but a more articulate version of his enraged alter ego shows up once the sun goes down. If Sasquatch and Langkowski are your faves this might be worthwhile but I couldn’t manage more than a roll of the eyes and a hope that something interesting happens next issue.

Comics 7/26

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Jul 262018

Go For It, Nakamura! – Syundei (Seven Seas / Macmillan)

Go For It, Nakamura! is a somewhat cute manga about a shy gay boy who finds it tough to talk to his crush. It does a reasonably good job of portraying Nakamura’s awkwardness, but there’s really not much substance here. The events of the story follow the sort of vignettes one can find in any high-school slice-of-life story from Japan, to the extent that they don’t really feel particular to these characters. Syundei’s willingness to indulge in absurd plots like that of the school play makes the book’s choice to avoid any kind of actual boy-boy action feel like a conscious tease. Also, that Nakamura! doesn’t really get into any high school experiences that are characteristically male substantiates the occasional criticism that yaoi books are stories about women written as men, a choice that disappears both women and gay men from their own stories. I can’t say any of this offended me, but the book just didn’t seem to have any angle or flavor, so I wouldn’t really recommend it.

Justice League Dark #1 – Tynion IV / Martinez Bueno / Fernandez / Anderson / Leigh (DC)

Coming out of No Justice I wanted to take a look at all the new Justice League books but thought that the squad that had the least grounding at that time was the new “Dark” roster. It’s a team of oddballs, pairing up traditional figures like Swamp Thing and Zatanna with Wonder Woman and oddball characters Detective Chimp and Man-Bat, with nary a chain-smoking English dude in sight. I still don’t know if I’m completely sold on this book: its central dilemma is one that probably has to be cheesed out of and this first issue doesn’t give the main villain, the Upside Down Man, much of a spotlight. Tynion, however, nails the characterization on Bobo and Langstrom, and makes the sale on why this team needs to be acting rather than the fractious and self-absorbed forces that consider themselves the heart of magic in the DC universe. He gets bonus points for Klarion’s little bit. The art is also stellar. This is a strong debut, definitely enough to get me to come back.

Comics 7/18

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Jul 182018

Gideon Falls #5 – Lemire / Sorrentino / Stewart / Wands (Image)

Well let me tell you I am really glad I picked this book up at random last month because it is great. The business with the red markings is such a smart piece of visual storytelling. The changes to the panels themselves after the door to the black barn is seen on page 21 are equally smart. Everybody on this book is playing at the top of their game and if you like horror at all you owe it to yourself to give it a spin.

The Immortal Hulk #3 – Ewing / Bennett / José / Romero / Hornschemeier / Sauvage / Brown / Mounts / Petit (Marvel)

There, I wrote down the whole friggin’ art team for this one, so don’t say I never did anything for you. Immortal Hulk continues its run of being a nigh-perfect motw comic. I have a real weakness for the core idea of this comic, where differing viewpoints are represented in completely different art styles and idioms. I absolutely love it, especially the cop’s very Silver-Age story. My complaint here is that the conceit pulls the story too far away from Banner, and unfortunately the divided viewpoints act to conceal, rather than reveal, the truth of the story. As such it ends up being a little too clever for its own good.

Port of Earth vol. 1 – Kaplan / Mutti / Popov / Peteri (Top Cow)

This was a random grab. It’s a science fiction story with the central conceit that aliens didn’t come here to conquer or ask for help, they came to do business. And business, for an extremely limited number of people who have been able to benefit from alien technology, is good. For everyone else it is varying degrees of bad, as the alien technology has led to widespread unemployment, and alien visitors who illicitly leave the port have a nasty habit of killing dozens of people. The story follows one of those incidents and is framed by its aftermath. I enjoyed the book but felt that the dialogue between the two police officers in the story felt contrived and inappropriate for men who had been working together for a substantial length of time. A fridging and a strange act of convenient stupidity also mar the late bits of this volume. I don’t regret the purchase and might grab the next trade, but am not interested enough to follow this month by month.

Comics 7/11

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Jul 122018

The Dead Hand #4 – Higgins / Mooney / Bellaire / Cowles  (Image)

This is a hard issue to say much about because it’s mostly absorbed with the plot mechanics necessary for Harriet to finally see who the dead hand is. Higgins smartly inserts the shootout in the spaceplane hangar between scenes of Harriet walking out on her mother and Harriet hiding in the back of the truck, because the logic of the whole thing doesn’t work particularly well. I loved the color work in the shootout, although again the amount of gunplay seems a little high. Nonetheless, the tension is ratcheting up nicely, as the town’s secrets start to get exposed, Roger’s systems begin to fail, and the spies draw nearer.

Exiles #5 – Ahmed / Rodriguez / Lopez / Caramagna (Marvel)

The real draw of this series has been the loopy alternate universes Blink’s team has gone to visit, and the absence of that sense of the bizarre is keenly felt in this arc-capping issue. The Exiles have found the villain who has been eating the multiverse so there’s no time to explore alternate realities. That alone would probably make this my least favorite issue so far, but I also just didn’t care for some of the events. Sabretooth’s cameo should have been skipped, and Khan’s death felt like a box-ticker rather than something supported by the drama or necessitated by the plot. The final assault with an army of Blinks and the pirate crews is great, as is Lil’ Wolvie, but overall I felt this was a weaker issue than the previous four. I’ll look forward to the next issue, when this book gets back to the universe-hopping it does best.

Outpost Zero #1 – McKeever / Tefengki / Beaulieu / Maher (Image)

A sci-fi tale set on a failing human colony on an icy planet that has lost touch with human civilization (if that even exists anymore). The focus of the story is a group of kids who are just about to be pushed into working for the colony. There’s an interesting subtext in that most of them are taking “aptitude tests” but somehow they end up doing the same jobs as their parents. The issue does a good job of drawing the kids and showing their relationships and motivations, except for the blond jerk. It also sets up mystery boxes it doesn’t need and that I frankly don’t care all that much about. That said, it’s got its hooks in me and I’ll be picking up the next issue.

Titans #23 – Abnett / Peterson / Plascencia / Sharpe (DC)

You can blame this on my lingering weakness for Beast Boy, without whom I probably wouldn’t have pulled this issue and despite whom I’m unlikely to pull any more. This new run kicks off with a sort of bare-bones motw that sends the power levels over 9000 to come up with a villain that threatens this multiply-redundant team of powerful heavy hitters. Nightwing has nothing to do this issue other than spar with Miss Martian over the fact that this is his team, consarn it, and he’ll give the orders. Despite having everybody in everybody else’s head thanks to MM’s telepathic link, no other interesting interactions really come up. This book needs to either come up with cool problems or interesting team dynamics and neither of those is in evidence. Without them, there’s just no hook, and considering the art style isn’t my taste, this is a probable drop.