Monday, May 8, 2017

QUICK HITS: Brief reivews for comics on-sale May 3, 2017


Well, it was kind of a big week for me at my local comics shop, with 11 new items in my pull file. That was considerably over the spouse-imposed weekly budget, but on the adage of, "Is we men, or is we mice," I elected to just go ahead and bite the bullet, laying down enough of the hard-earned to buy 'em all. After all, I already have a few things that have been sitting in my pull file for a fair amount of time, and I was loathe to add to the overset. In that regard, I'm not 100 percent sure who I fear more, my comics retailer (who doesn't like that I have not yet bought all the comics I've ordered). or my wife (who doesn't like that I buy so many comic books at all). 

Well, that's a battle to be lost another day. For now, let's yoikes and away, as it were, and have a look at what four color wonders we were fortunate enough to walk away with in this week's haul. 


AQUAMAN #22
DC Comics, $2.99

"H2.0, Part Four" (20 pages)
Story by Dan Abnett
Art by Philippe Briones

I was mildly disappointed in this issue. After all, Abnett set up a very interesting dynamic with the new world of Tethys. It's a shame that with so much of the Earth's oceans unexplored (by us Earth-Prime surface dwellers, at any rate) that Abnett had to create an entirely new planet in order to have a new setting to explore. But the even greater shame is that after getting just the barest glimpse of what that world is like last issue, Abnett complete jettisons it in this final chapter, closing the door permanently with a nuclear deadbolt. It would have been nice to have seen a bit more of Tethys, I think.

Of course, leaving the otherworld lands a question mark may have been the point. After all, as Mera points out, Aquaman was guilty in this issue of committing more or less the exact same shoot-first action that Atlanteans are forever grumbling about surface people doing. So, it seems likely we'll see Tethys again, and odd are, when it returns, it will come armed with more than a couple of Dead Water creatures to make its point about Aquaman's rude behavior.

Still, all-in-all, what we did get in this four-parter was really only plot enough for two issues, and that's before the explosive conclusion wrapped things up quick-like. I'm hoping that when this book drops to a monthly publishing schedule in July that Abnett can beef up his plots. I'd've been annoyed to have invested four months and $16 bucks into this same story, verses the two months and $12 I did pay.

GRADE: B
*** WETLY RECOMMENDED*** 




BATMAN #22
DC Comics, $2.99

"The Button, Part 3" (20 pages)
Story by Joshua Williamson and Tom King (plot)
Art by Jason Fabok

This book passed by in a blur. I looks great, no doubt about that, but beyond the pretty panels, there just wasn't a lot of there, there. Basically, it was just Batman meets Bat-Daddy, they fight the Amazons and Atlanteans, then Flash builds a Cosmic Treadmill and they all escape, except Bat-Daddy, who says behind as his timeline implodes. And then we we meet the Reverse-Flash inside the time stream to set up the next issue. This entire issue could have been done in a couple of pages in terms of the plot ground covered. Heck, back in the Silver Age, Julius Schwartz probably would've had it all done in a couple of panels! The leticular cover was cool. I don't know if it was an-extra-$1-cool, but cool.

GRADE: B-minus
***VERY MILDLY RECOMMENDED*** 




CHAMPIONS #8
Marvel Comics, $3.99

--no title-- (20 pages)
Story by Mark Waid
Art by Humerto Ramos (p) and Victor Olazaba (i)

A fun metatextual tale of the Champions dealing with the fallout of having lost the trademark to their own name. It's interesting to see Waid play with the super-hero team as youth movement concept that he never really developed fully in his Legion of Super-Heroes reboot, although he does beat the SJW drum a bit heavy for my tastes. It's be nice to have at least one member of the team occasionally give voice to other viewpoints, to the team does not come off as all-that-is-not-progressive-is-evil. Or maybe the Champions refuse to save lives in states that voted for Trump?

The side bits, with Cyclops practicing talking to adults like its a Danger Room simulation, and the T.A. Hulk/Viv Vision kiss fallout provided the highlights of the issue in an issue that did not lack for action even considering no villains to fight thisish. I was mildly annoyed at first that Viv is apparently going to be the team's token homosexual, but decided it made the most sense for her to explore that aspect of her personality, as she begins to develop a personality. At least Waid did not go the Iceman route and turn a formerly straight hero gay just for the sake of diversity.

Finally, I am interested to see just how serious Ms Marvel is about all those "I love you's." It would be interesting to see a relationship develop with Nova given the "barely tolerates" ground he and Kamala started on.

GRADE: B-plus
***LEGALLY RECOMMENDED*** 




THE FALL AND RISE OF CAPTAIN ATOM #5 (of 6)
DC Comics, $2.99

"QuantuMechanic" (20 pages)
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Will Conrad

There's no doubt Cary Bates is old school, and this issue is packed much more densely that the average comic book on the stands these days. I do appreciate that. I don't want more words just for the sake of more words, of course, but I also tend to feel like I didn't get my money's worth with I blow through a comic in six or seven minutes.

That said, I'm torn about this issue, this whole series, in fact. The most interesting parts of this issue are the scenes between Captain Atom and his son, but that hits all the familiar notes one would expect of such scenes. Meanwhile, the main part of the issue with Ultramax felt equally predictable and over-exposited. Even the artwork was kind of blasé. I mean, it did its job, it told the story, but it wasn't particularly arresting, visually. Overall, this issue felt less like reading a super-hero comic book that the storyboard for a bland television drama. The part with the best-potential for a gosh-wow — moment, the fight within the quantum field —is quickly cast aside with some quick Trek-babble and a, "Well, that happened," shrug.

So, this issue was more than the average comic on the market today, but also less. 

GRADE: C-plus
***HARDLY RECOMMENDED*** 




GREEN LANTERNS #22
DC Comics, $2.99

"Lost in Space, Part 1" (20 pages)
Story by Sam Humphries
Art by Ronan Cliquet

This is kind of a nothing-happened issue. Basically, Jessica gets separated from Simon on her way to Mogo and is rescued by Kyle Raynor. We're suppose to feel some of Jessica's wonder and awe as she and Kyle explore cosmic features and do a flyover of an actual alien world, but it all just feel like killing panel time until the real story starts.

Trouble is, it never really gets going. Once on Mogo, Jessica and Simon mingle with a few of the other Lanterns, and that's all fine and well, but what conflict there is — Jessica and Simon need training they don't feel they need — has all the emotional resonance of the alien planet flyby. And, when our starring lanterns are introduced to their trainer lanterns, the last panel reveal fails to deliver, in part because one of them has been all over this issue already.

GRADE: C
***WEAKLY RECOMMENDED*** 




JESSICA JONES #8
Marvel Comics, $3.99

--no title-- (20 pages)
Story by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Michael Gaydos

The strong point of this issue is, as one might expect, the superb monologuing as crafted by Bendis. It's great fun to have Jessica essentially say every thing Maria Hill is going to say, but go along with what is said anyway. And Gaydon packs the scenes with genuine tension. Even as Jessica is slowly buying into Maria's story, you can't help but feel like, at any moment, Jessica is going to say, "Nope, not buying it," and hurl Maria through a window, or wall.

The Raindrop character is a revelation. If she's not new here, I suddenly want to go back and buy every issue she's ever appeared in. The scene of Jessica strolling right past Raindrops guards was a bit too subtle, however. I actually had to go back once I read the next page to see, "oh, yeah, there's Jessica, totally missed her in the background there." Maybe that was intentional. Still, as I say, too subtle, as anything that takes one out of the story to go back and figure out what happened on a previous page is generally a bad thing.

I also did not like the chase scene that closed out the book. On the page where Jessica's cell phone is shot through, the panels are in the wrong order, as they only make sense when not read top-to-bottom, as one normally would, while on the following page I can see no alternative order in which to read the panels, but they still seem out of order.

Still, apart from the fact I kind of hate Life Model Decoys, and the $4 price tag, this was another solid issue of a solid series.

GRADE: B-plus
***RECOMMENDED*** 




JUSTICE LEAGUE #20
DC Comics, $2.99

"Endless, Part One" (20 pages)
Story by Bryan Hitch
Art by Bryan Hitch (p), Danial Henriques (i), Andrew Currie (i), and Paul Neary (i)

Last issue ended on something of a cliffhanger, yet this issue picks up Gardner Fox-style as if no previous issues ever happened. Maybe that's intentional, as the entire issue is a bit like reliving the movie Groundhog Day. So much so, in fact, that at one point Hitch has The Flash say, "Hey, this is just like reliving the movie Groundhog Day!" The difference is that each replay, from the point where things blow up and Green Lantern Jessica Cruz (on a date with The Flash!) gets killed, is slightly different, which allows The Flash to figure out what is going on. If you haven't guess by now, this is a pretty Flash-centric issues. The danger is that as The Flash is able to alter things a bit to involve his Justice League buddies, the explosions keep getting bigger, and he comes to realize that he's the one that caused it in the first place -- which seems off because in the opening version of the groundhog day he was not where near the accident that took place to cause the event in the first place.

Ah well, the book looks great, as it naturally would with Hitch on pencils as well as keyboard. Given that the last story was called "Timeless" and also involved time travel, I'm guess that cliffhanger will get resolved, or at least addressed, at some point during "Endless." It may take some time to get there, however, as "Timeless," while also pretty to look at with some very interesting springboard ideas, was a six-part story with about two issues of actual plot.

GRADE:A-minus
***RECOMMENDED*** 




MANIFEST DESTINY #28
Image Comics, $2.99

--no title-- (20 pages)
Story by Chris Dingess
Art by Matthew Roberts (p), and Tony Akins (i)

Ah, the superfluous middle chapter. You see it a lot in comics stories of the past few decades, a story written to be long enough to make up a trade paperback collection, but really lacking plot enough for six or so issues. So, you get middle chapters that are basically padding. Of course, another culprit of this phenomenon is when writers start an arc on a solid springboard, but really haven't fully fleshed out the tale when the first chapter is turned in and printed. So, not only do we end up with filler as the creative team tries to stretch to the set number of issues needed for the TPB, we also often tend to get stories that, after dragging on for five issues, get wrapped suddenly in the second half of the sixth.

We don't know yet if that usual wrap is what's destined to happen here, but this entire issue is completely unnecessary to the central plot. One could skip this issue entirely, proceed directly from Issue #27 to #29 and really not miss a thing. Everyone who was fighting amongst themselves, or trying to reason out what is happening at the end of last issue is still in the same situation at the end of this issue. We don't see the fog affect anyone any differently that it has already. Basically, the only new bit is that Lewis, deciding he hasn't time to test the effects of every plant sample he has in order to find one with properties that will counteract the fog, decides to burn his storehouse, and hope something in the smoke will halt the hallucinations his men are experiencing. Then something emerges from the flames that is also probably a hallucination. However, as long as the first panel of the next issue tries at all to explain the last issue of this one, this entire issue can be skipped with no loss of understanding for the story at hand.

GRADE:C-plus
*** NOT RECOMMENDED*** 




PAPER GIRLS #14
Image Comics, $2.99

--no title-- (20 pages)
Story by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Cliff Chiang

This title is starting to remind me a bit of another Image title, BLACK SCIENCE. I eventually dropped that one because it seemed like ti was just going on and on forever with no resolution to anything. This series is starting to give me the same sense of story fatigue. At one point in this issue, one of the girls says she hasn't eaten in a million years and (thanks to time travel) she may mean that literally. I feel the same way. I feel like I've been following this series for a million years, but the story never ends and there's never any time to digest what has happened. There are rough arcs, mainly for the purposes of establishing start and end points or tpb volumes, but otherwise, things just flow one issue into the next.

There is a trend away from episodic storytelling particularly in television, with plot lines running an entire season. But even so, that's generally 14 episodes released at once for binge-watching, not 14 issues spread over 19 months. And the story eventually has a conclusion of some kind. This thing just keeps going. And, worse, it becomes increasingly necessary to have read previous issues in order to know what's going on. There's a two-page spread here of K.J. jumping a canyon to escape a trio of "rapey cavemen," but the scene lacks resonance unless one read the issue where she found her boots, or the one were the future time traveller used a similar pair. With no reference point, the scene become a jump ex machina for anyone picking up this issue of PAPER GIRLS as their first.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that the setting is one of the main characters, in a sense, and I don't expect a complete story in ever single issue, this isn't 1970s Kamandi, after all. But, sheesh, much as I love the characters, and the art, and the entire set-up, but I am getting worn out. It's getting to the point where each new "arc" is less a jumping on point for new readers (because who could come in cold and figure out what's going on, at this point) than a jumping off point for me. I feel like this series needs a hard stop at some point, to give everyone a chance to take a breath, to say, okay, that's what happened, that story is done, then reset and go again. Because right now, as happened with BLACK SCIENCE for me, each issue is starting to take on a sameness to all the one's before, where, because nothing ever ends, everything is pretty much like everything that's come before.

GRADE: B
***WEARILY RECOMMENDED*** 




UNCLE SCROOGE #26
IDW Publishing, $3.99

"The Villainous Vase Case" (30 pages)
Story by Michele Gazzarri and Jonathan H. Gray (translation and dialogue)
Art by Giorgio Cavazzano

"The Droid I'm Looking For?" (2 pages)
Story by Sune Troelstrup and David Gerstein (dialogue)
Art by Francisco Rodriguez-Peinado

Four bucks is usually a tough sell for me, but one place I don't mind spending that much for the price of admission is IDW's Disney books. Each issue generally takes up enough of my time, with a fun story and compelling artwork, that it feels worth the fundage. No different here, with the longer story, a 1975 tale first published in Italy and get it's first U.S. outing here. The plot is basic enough, and there's an unfortunate scene with the Beagle Boys sitting around a table recounting to each other things they should already know, for the benefit of the reader and an eavesdropping Scrooge McDuck, and the Beagles looks a bit more svelte than I'm used to, but the plot works and the dialogue by Gray sparkles with wit and wordplay.

The backup story, from a 2014 Iceland comic, is basically filler, but its a cute little diversion.

I do still think these books would sell better on newsprint at $2.99 with no appreciable loss of quality, given the relatively basic (yet deceptively simple) line art and coloring. Heck, newsprint would actually be better for the presumed target audience, given that the paper is more subtle and thus can take more abuse than the glossy pages now used. Still, even at $4, I'll probably be buying this book for as long as IDW publishes it — although that may not be for long, given the sales stats.

GRADE: B-plus
***RECOMMENDED***




UNDERDOG #1
American Mythology, $3.99

"Split the Difference" (16 pages)
Story by Batton Lash
Art by Bill Galvan (p) and Bob Smith (i)

"The World of Commander McBragg" (1 page)
Story by James Huhoric
Art by Adrian Ropp

"Topsy Tepee" (2 pages)
Story by James Huhoric
Art by Adrian Ropp

"Ringer Dinger" (6 pages)
Story by --unknown--
Art by Frank Johnson

There's a reason I generally avoid DC's Demon — all those rhymed couplets get old fast. Just as the cover is an homage to ACTION COMICS #1, the story inside (or at least the splash page) is a send-up of BATMAN #183. It is hugely simplistic, however, and the glossy pages only enhance the sense of just how mundane both story and art truly are. Where I noted the UNCLE SCROOGE comic above might benefit from a lesser quality of paper, this book simply does not feel worthy of the format.

The McBragg and Go-Go Gopher stories are both groaners, lacking all the charm of the Jay Ward cartoons. Inside this issue there is a page of cringe-worthy kiddie jokes and all of the stories in this issue have the same feel, as if they were originally written for the side of a Dixie Cup.

The final story, reprinted from a 1970 Charlton comic, at least tries to be clever in its our right, rather than content itself with being a poor-man's rehash of the cartoons, but it comes off like an Electric Company skit designed to teach young children the concept of homonyms, which it probably was intended to do.

Basically, the only reason to buy this comic is to frame the fun homage cover. Otherwise, this is an easy miss.

GRADE:D-plus
***RECOMMENDED FOR FRAMING ONLY*** 



That's it for this week. Next week's quick hits, which hopefully will hit the blog by the weekend, should include the following pre-orders, which are scheduled to land in my pull file:

• Future Quest #12
• Wonder Woman #22
• Ms Marvel #18

Yup, just three books. Guess that'll give me a chance to dip into my pull file for some of by backlist items.








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