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Singles Going Steady 11/5/2013: Bulletproof Comics, Bulletproof Heroes, Bulletproof Franchises

A comic review article by: Zack Davisson, Jamil Scalese, Keith Silva, Robert Tacopina

Singles Going Steady

Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup. 

 

X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2

(Jason Aaron /Esad Ribic / Giuseppe Camuncoli / Andrew Currie / Tom Palmer / Ive Svorcina / Andres Mossa / Guru eFX / Matt Milla, / Brian Wood / Kristopher Anka/ Chris Bachalo / Mark Irwin / Victor Olazaba / Brian Michael Bendis / Stuart Immonen/  Wade von Grawbadger  Joe Caramagna; Marvel Comics)

3.5 stars

The big X-Men event "Battle of the Atom" has reached its conclusion but has it done so with a whimper or with a bang? That will be the big question that every X-fan will be asking themselves at the end of the day.
Battle of the Atom #2
 
Let's get the negative out of the way immediately--the art was the Achilles Heel of this book.
 
Featuring a cluster-fuck of seemingly half of the artists in the business only left the issue feeling rushed and half-assed. It should have been a masterpiece of artwork enveloping the scope of the story but instead wound up taking some of the breath out of the sails in an otherwise pretty damn good story. The fact that the creative billing on the cover reads Bendis/Cho/Gracia despite the fact that Cho and Gracia are nowhere to be found while Bendis only provided the final of four epilogues indicates just what a mad scramble this issue was to complete. The visuals suffered from a lack of cohesiveness that served to negate every single piece of positive art. It felt like editorial mandated that this issue HAD to hit the streets on release date which resulted in an erratic looking book. It's a shame that Marvel decided to keep the event on a monthly schedule instead of realizing that there was a problem and allow some breathing room for the artists to truly deliver the best pages possible.
Battle of the Atom #2
 
Thankfully the story was fantastic and contained plenty of story beats for the reader to chew on, even after the story was over. The X-Men have always been feared and hated. The events in this issue don't seem to leave the reader questioning is that will ever change as it is revealed that SHIELD has built a squadron of Sentinels. While the Brotherhood lifted the veil on SHIELD's dirty secret, unbeknownst to agency director Maria Hill, it just proves that regardless of whatever good mutants do there will always be distrust on the part of the humans.
 
There was action and drama aplenty as the X-Men from all timelines are confronted not only by each other but a pack of SHIELD created Sentinels. The story flowed wonderfully and highlighted some interesting topics such as Xorn/Jean Grey confronting Cyclops and Wolverine informing them that their petty "schism" resulted in the proverbial shit hitting the fan and leading the timeline to what transpired over the course of the event.
Battle of the Atom #2
 
Lives are lost, relationships shattered, philosophical differences bandied about, distrust sown amongst the X-Men and yet despite it all the ever present but often unattainable sense of hope-- hope that one day mutant and human can exist in peace without hate and discrimination--was prevalent throughout the story. That is the kind of soap opera storytelling that has hooked many readers on X-titles over the course of the past 50 years and it was fitting that was addressed and brought to the forefront.
 
Jason Aaron delivered a brilliant script that captured all the essence of X-Men history over this half century of their existence. It was a roller-coaster ride of emotion and turmoil all at the same time. Even the epilogue writers turned in excellent sections which added further conundrums to the future of the X-Men and where exactly they go from here. It is just tragic that the art let the weight of the words down so dramatically.
Battle of the Atom #2
 
X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2 was a damn fun read regardless of the fact that it was plagued with unfavorable art, at least in the main story. The couple of splash pages were arguably the very best images offered and one contained a brilliant homage to the cover of X-Men #1. The endgame is that BotA has set up the pieces remarkably for the next phase of X-Men comics and has left them in an awfully interesting state. Ice Master, the future Ganalf-esque Iceman summed up the X-Men, this event and comics in general perfectly when he said, "Even when you think you've seen it all....there will always be moments that amaze you".
 
- Robert Tacopina

Ash and the Army of Darkness #1

(Steve Niles, Dennis Calero; Dynamite )

2 stars

Ashley Williams is a character with legs, lovable for all the wrong reasons. Bruce Campbell's bumbling badass from the Evil Dead Trilogy somehow works as a protagonist, and has earned a loyal following and presence in nerd culture.

Ash and the Army of Darkness #1

Dynamite pumps out Army of Darkness comics with modest control on the spigot. The concept is teamed with any franchise willing to play ball, and you know what, for the most part it works. The publisher doesn't hesitate to reload one of its most popular brands when it sees fit. Just a few months back I took a look at the last Ash-centric ongoing, and well, it wasn't too good. A few appealing seeds in an untended garden.  The newest foray into the franchise barely seized my attention when it was announced, but again, Ash. Also, Steve Niles.

The writer of some very successful horror stories Niles seems to be a great candidate to take the reins and move this story and character in a new direction. Ash and the Army of Darkness #1 functions as a reboot, taking place directly after the event of the third movie.

Niles captures Ash's voice, and understands the brand of violence that made the movies so great, but I found no part of the plot compelling. The ideas used here are stagnant, and some lines and characters are plainly recycled. Again, like the last time I read a comic with Deadites, I found some parts amusing the and rest pitifully drab.

Ash and the Army of Darkness #1

Where the storytelling fails, however, is in the art. Dannis Calera's contrasted, bold and blocky look really fits the desired effect of doom, gloom and boom(sticks), but his sequentials need serious work.

The writer-artist connection is not an easy thing to pin down. Two talented artist might not immediately develop the synergy for conciseness. I'm not sure if that's what happened here but in this book I had a hell of a time following the logical movement paths, and that really hurt an action and grit heavy venture. The framing and angle of the shots are questionable, and it took me completely out of the reading.

This first issue did near to nothing to separate it from any other title out there right now. It's just a good character is a very nondescript adventure. Look elsewhere this week for your horror or comic needs.

Jamil Scalese


The Sandman: Overture #1

(Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III, Dave Stewart, Todd Klein; Vertigo)
4 stars
Full disclosure: Sandman: Overture marks the first Sandman anything I've read. Full(er) disclosure: Neil Gaiman once hit on my wife at an academic conference about twelve years ago. To be fair, she was dressed to the nines and even more ravishing than usual. It was harmless. She was flattered and Gaiman only human.
Sandman: Overture #1

Sandman: Overture #1 is a fine if unremarkable start to what promises to be a bestseller. It's Sandman. Even if you have to check your scorecard i.e. Google you'll know the players and the creators are top-notch. So what if Gaiman wants to play it safe with a beloved and established property? J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart are the risk-takers here not Gaiman and not Vertigo.

An artistic duo as cool as Butch and Sundance, J.H. Williams III and Stewart create a masterwork of style, -- even at $4.99 -- as Sandman: Overture marks ''gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh.'' From the paper itself to the overall look of each page, the design of this comic is so well done (such a dream) it's a wonder why all comic books couldn't be as cultivated, fussed over and well cared for as this.

Williams is matchless. It's cartooning porn, really. Like looking at 'Architectural Digest' and asking, 'do people really live in houses like this?' Williams's work doesn't feel cold, instead, it feels … perfect. Not a line out of place, everything exact and precise. For example, the art deco elements Williams uses as page borders in the scenes inside the London office of the Lord of Dreams fit the scene and setting like a Savile Row suit.

The Sandman: Overture #1

 

In a conversation about the act of creation, Dream tells the Corinthian: ''It is hard to create things. We have such high hopes for our creations.'' The meta-ness of this conversation feels palpable. Is this the naked truth? Does Gaiman harbor regret after all this time? Is this revisionist thinking on the author's part; his redux rationale? Gaiman made his bones by taking an unmemorable Jack Kirby creation and making it unforgettable, immortal. Few will deny or begrudge him if he takes (another) victory lap, right?

Imagine if Gaiman -- with Williams III and Stewart in tow -- let Sandman rest and instead of this overture what if he went back to the time when he was ushering Sandman into the public's consciousness. When he dressed like a Ramone, was all detached cool as he walked the corridors of the Fort Lauderdale Airport Hilton and chatted up hotties. Somewhere Tommy Tompkins of the Newsboy Legion weeps.

The Sandman: Overture #1

- Keith SIlva


Damian: Son Of Batman #1

(Andy Kubert/Brad Anderson/Nick Napolitano; DC Comics)
While reading this issue I couldn't help but to keep thinking that a more fitting title for this book would have been Damian: Who the Fuck is Batman? That is what had my attention the duration of this read as I couldn't determine just who was wearing the cape and cowl. It seemed to be an amalgamation of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson to be interchangeable at the discretion of writer/artist Andy Kubert and resulted in a somewhat disjointed experience. Understanding that this is a mini-series in an Elseworlds title helps to alleviate some of that initial confusion as to just where this story takes place and how it fits into the DCU proper.
Damian: Son Of Batman #1
 
Andy Kubert does an admirable job of attempting to craft a My story with Damian Wayne even though he oft times misses the mark by a wide margin. The biggest complaint is that the characterization of essentially every character involved is so far off the mark from their counterparts as we know them. This Batman, whoever the hell he may be, is scolding and apparently aloof to his surroundings as he is killed very early on here. It is almost as if Kubert used a random personality generator for each page and panel that is how each character differentiates from page to page.
Damian: Son Of Batman #1
 
The artwork wasn't up to Kubert's normal snuff either as some panels looked extremely awkward and facial expressions were wonky throughout. A prime example is on the last panel of the page where Damian realizes what Batman has walked into, the expression on Robin's face is that of horror and rightfully so. However, on the very next page--the second splash page-- Robin holds Batman's body, face upward to the sky, with his face in an apparent moment of relief. Sweet damn I never realized that holding the lifeless corpse of Batman would lift such a burden from my soul and this rainwater...it's so cool and refreshing.
Damian: Son Of Batman #1
 
Again, the fact that this is an Elseworlds tale gives Kubert a tremendous amount of leeway here to be somewhat free of the constraints of an in-continuity Batman title would have to adhere to and it is truly the saving grace of this issue. There is a very cool series showcasing Damian extracting his revenge on some of Batman's familiar rogues staking claim to the Bat's demise. But for every killer moment you have a totally off characterization like that of Talia who nonchalantly dismisses the death of Bruce Wayne(?) with a cold shrug and informs Robin of how she and Batman did the under-covers boogie. WTF??
Damian: Son Of Batman #1
 
It would be hard to recommend this issue to anyone but the most hardcore of Batman fans, those who need to devour everything Bat-related.
- Robert Tacopina

Sex #8

(Joe Casey, Piotr Kowalski, Brad Simpson, Rus Wooten, Sonia Harris; Image)
3.5 stars
Let me come out and say straight off: yes, I've read about Sex, of course, but, no, I'd never tried it. So since much of Sex #8 takes place at an orgy, now seems a good a time as any to join in the fun.

Sex #8

My guess is Sex is 'a grower' -- tumescent (perhaps) may be the better word choice here. Entitled 'Culmination,' Sex #8 offers a release (of sorts), not a refractory period, per se, more of a reflection and an affirmation of self.

Writer Joe Casey wants to hang his hat on 'sex,' to play provocateur, to titillate and teases -- he says as much in the backmatter, as if it's not clear enough in the content of the comic itself. Sex is a lie. Yes, Sex feels more earnest than the title implies and is thick (at times heavy-handed) with metaphor, symbolism, and innuendo. It's a tart with heart; however, a story about the hooker with a heart of gold, except it's Bruce Wayne stepping into Vivian Ward's shiny vinyl thigh-highs.

The phallophobic would do well to give Sex #8 a wide berth. Piotr Kowalski does well by ol' Priapus as he draws penises in several states: erect, flaccid and one bizarre scene, strapped-on. There's (almost) as many dicks in this comic as there are on the Herald Sun. Yet, Kowalski, like Casey, never provides release/relief with one exception: the bad guy, a Joker analogue with the unfortunate name of the Prank Addict, who looks like Watchmen's Walter Joseph Kovacs, is as twisted as a pretzel and, of course, gets his rocks off with women dressed to look like superheroes. Don't get your knickers in a twist because, as he says, ''I shoot blanks. Funny innit …?''  Symbolism!

Sex #8

Kowalski and Casey intercut this scene with the Prank Addict with a similar seduction scene between Sex's male and female leads, Simon Cooke and Annabelle Lagravenese. He ends up naked, she falls asleep. The intent is clear as is the outcome. Simon says, ''Right … guess we've both still got some road ahead of us.'' In a gorgeous almost wordless sequence, Kowalski and colorist Brad Simpson send Simon out into the world, still sexually unfulfilled and yet satisfied in the knowledge he's not a sex guy, not yet anyway. 

As creators, what Kowalski, Casey and Simpson love is pillow talk, which is perfect for a comic called Sex.

- Keith Silva


Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight – Bee Vixens from Mars #2

(Alex De Campi / Chris Peterson / Nolan Woodard; Dark Horse Comics)

When I reviewed the first issue of Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight – Bee Vixens from Mars, I said I thought it was one of those comics you had to be in the right mood for. And it turns out I was right; because I just wasn't as much in the mood for this second issue, and I didn't love it nearly as much as the first. Or maybe it just isn't as good.

Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight – Bee Vixens from Mars #2

It's the same big dumb fun as the first issue, but something was missing for me.  Maybe it was the lack of story or characterization, thin as they were. This is all just Bang! Boom! Shoot! Kill! Sure, it has some good bits of gore and a few happy twists and turns, but not really enough to take me on that same joyride that the first issue did.

This second issue the entire town has been taken over by the Queen Bee from Mars, whose special honey has some transformative effects on the local ladies.  Those crazy bee ladies are making babies (Somehow. I'm not quite sure of the mechanics) and pushing their little bee bundles of joy though the town on strollers. The only woman left is the one-eyed, tough-as-nails Deputy Garcia, who hasn't been called up because she is … Mexican. Apparently.

Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight – Bee Vixens from Mars #2

That was an odd twist for me, because I didn't really realize Deputy Garcia was Mexican, or I just didn't think about it. And it seems strange that a monster from Mars would be racist. And if it was racist, then why the Hell did it pick Texas to launch its evil scheme?  I'm sure there are a lot more honey-eating places on Earth it could have picked to launch its takeover that are better stocked with the particular racial characteristics this Martian bee monster enjoys. I realize I'm overthinking a comic that epitomizes "dumb fun," but that twist really took me out of the comic.

Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight – Bee Vixens from Mars #2

Which isn't to say there is no fun to be had. There are still some great moments in Bee Vixens from Mars, some kick-ass scenes that nailed the genre just right. The bit about the gay couple being immune to the invasion because they weren't interested in the lovely ladies special honey was well-played. It isn't often you get to see a gay couple ride in as the cavalry done entire straight and without eye-winking and camp.  Chris Peterson's art is good, and he gets to drawn some great scenes. An insect explosion from a human body is always good times, and Chris nails it.

But the issue on the whole just didn't do it for me. Apparently Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight is a series that will run a rotating but of shorts. Next up is Prisonship Antares. We'll see if they can recapture the magic of the first issue. Or maybe I'll just be in more of a mood to read it.

- Zack Davisson


Action Comics Annual #2 

(Scott Lobdell / Kenneth Rocafort / Dan Jurgens / Tomeu Morey / Blond / Taylor Esposito)

2.5 stars

Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy are unwillingly teleported out into the far reaches of space by the all-powerful Oracle of the Timeless, where they discover a seemingly resurrected Krypton under the rule of the not-quite-as-dead-as-they-thought H’el, and they join up with the resistance led by the hopefully reformed Faora, right hand woman of the infamous General Zod. 

Action Comics Annual #2

Scott Lobdell’s plot is something you’ve seen before if you’ve read superhero comics: our heroes (i.e. Supers man, girl, and boy) must do something terrible (i.e. travel back in time to ensure their homeworld of Krypton stays on a path of planetary doom) in order to prevent something even more terrible (i.e. the complete destruction of all time and space) from happening.  It has the potential to be a compelling plot structure with some gray areas for the characters to navigate, but the problem here is that there is very little moral gray area to explore when the fate of the entire universe is at stake, Krypton isn’t even supposed to be around anymore, and the heroes here are the Superman family, characters who count “self-sacrifice” (and apparently in this issue, “being able to carry entire conversations in the vacuum of space”) among their defining traits. 

It’s hard to believe that any of them would be so selfish that they’d choose Krypton over the countless lives of the universe, but then again it’s The New 52 so who knows?  Maybe dooming the universe will finally give Supergirl that hard edge that DC’s editors seem to want for all of their New 52-era characters (though I will admit I like that the new wrinkle for the New 52 Superboy is that everybody hates him).  It seems that in lieu of any actual complex moral dilemma, Lobdell chooses to dress up his plot with some flashy alternate timeline/time travel elements that really just serve to muddy up the story (or I could be wrong and these are integral to an eventual plot twist that will probably feel as muddy and tacked-on as most things having to do with fractured timelines).

Action Comics Annnual #2

Kenneth Rocafort’s art is exciting.  Every character has a distinct look that goes beyond the costumes they wear and every environment looks fantastic and alien.  He’s got a good handle on creating a sci-fi look that works very well for a story set on a distant, should-be-doomed planet.  My only problem is his odd layout choices.  Panels are set up as sharply angled things that almost seem to stab into the page, which I suppose is an attempt to bring in some dynamism to the page layout, but it makes certain two-page spreads difficult to read, and creates a lot of empty white space on the page itself.  Worse, none of these dynamic, angled panels seem to actually suit Lobdell’s storytelling.  I’m willing to give those problems a pass, though, as creating thirty eight pages on a deadline is difficult work, but handing off the last nine pages to Dan Jurgens is something have more trouble justifying. 

Usually in these fill-in situations I’d imagine editors would want an artist with a style similar to the main artist, or if they were going for a drastic change in style it would be to reflect a change in the story, but this isn’t the case at all.  You could argue for the latter since Jurgens comes in as the heroes are sent back in time, but he continues the pencilling duties when the story returns back to the present, so the switch in artists reveals itself more as deadline desperation than storytelling choice.  Jurgens’s work just clashes with Rocafort’s, especially with regards to the layouts.  The shift to Jurgens’s more traditional layouts and pencilling has a very jarring effect that really undercuts the end of this issue.

 This is the first New 52 Superman comic I’ve read, and I’ve come to realize that of all the New 52 books, I seem to enjoy the ones like this wherein the plot is a tried and true shambling mess with capable art.  Its flaws make it endearing to me, but like any delicate balancing act, one push in the wrong direction can make it all come crashing down.


Infinity: Heist #2

(Frank Tieri / Al Barrionuevo / Pete Pantazis / Andres Mossa; Marvel Comics)

The Bundys are Bored


Drumhellar #1

(Riley Rossmo / Alex Link; Image Comics/Shadowline)

Magic eye


Unity #1

(Matt Kindt / Doug Braithwaite / Brian Reber; Valiant Comics)

War and Fighting Men

 

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