Singles Going Steady 12/17/13: Tarnished Bronze

A comic review article by: Zack Davisson, Daniel Elkin, Bill Janzen, Taylor Lilley, Keith Silva

Singles Going Steady

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

 

Doc Savage #1

(Chris Roberson / Bilquis Evely; Dynamite)

1 star

Old heroes don't die, they just get rebooted. By different publishers and creators, at erratic intervals, for ever-dwindling audiences. Until. They. Disappear.

And so we get a Dynamite Entertainment #1 for Doc Savage, complete with Alex Ross cover, a writer with solid reboot form (Chris Roberson, of Masks fame), and bland visuals from relative unknown Bilquis Evely. Standard Operating Procedure for Dynamite #1's, see Red Sonja, Masks, Shadow, etc. Here's that cover, to entice you….

Doc Savage #1

Welcome, welcome one and all, and join Doc Savage on a journey deep within the sinkhole of the niche character! Gaze… upon the rarefied intrigues of well-to-do bros! Behold… as the 1930s appear before your eyes, just a little vaguer than you remembered!

We could recap the plot, but honestly? This is an "is that it?" read, whose meagre impact depends wholly on your ignorance of its specifics. Roberson tacks a foreboding sentence onto the opening and beginning, seemingly voiced by a narrator from the present, so this is clearly the set-up issue, "the adventure is just beginning!". If you're a #1 apologist, or just patient, maybe you won't mind the comprehensive dullness, the prototypical "rational man versus deluded malcontent" plot. You'll pick out the nuggets of Doc Savage lore seeded in there (like the HQ location, World War I reference, Doc's funny skin colour, and the two bickering Fab Fivers, who come off more bitchy dom/sub than brotherly Torch/Thing), and maybe you'll declare this a sign of (wait for it…) "world-building" (there it is!). Good for you.

Doc Savage #1

Otherwise, you may question the value of preserving these legacy characters so slavishly. Polishing their amber bespeaks a lack of faith in the characters themselves. If Doc Savage justifies publishing a comic, he's worth doing something interesting, progressive, or innovative with. Try something! If he's lasted this long, he must have something to him, something interesting, that's the logic, right? Right?

Instead, Doc Savage #1 is what Alan Moore thinks of on those rare lonely nights when he thinks of mainstream comics; just another tired rehash, a futile nostalgic flailing from modernity's waves. I hope, at least, that it brings some joy to the Doc Savage faithful. Because if they aren't pleased by this, then it really is a total bust.

- Taylor Lilley


Inhumanity - The Awakening #1

(Matt Kindt/Paul Davidson/Jean-Francois Beaulieu/ VC's Joe Caramagna; Marvel Comics)
 
1.5 stars
Inhumanity - The Awakening #1 serves to illustrate everything that is essentially wrong with Marvel and DC trying to oversaturate the market with tie-in comics to event titles. Inhumanity #1 was a fantastic read and brought about a tremendous numbrt of potential story lines due to the premise and execution. Instead of mining these elements at a nice steady pace, Marvel decides to just go balls to the walls and The Awakening #1 is the end result.
Inhumanity - the Awakening #1
 
I would like to take a moment and just state that I mean no disrespect to any of the creators on this title from writer Matt Kindt to letterer Joe Caramagna, but this book sucks. S-U-C-K-S!!! There is nothing to take away from this other than the fact that its existence just serves to line the coffers at Marvel HQ. No, the fault isn't with the creators but rather with editorial for allowing this to be printed in this current state.
 
The issue that was most problematic for me was the insistence to use social media as the backdrop for the entirety of the story. The reader has to trudge through inane babble over various social media outlets as a way to pander to the "in-thing" I suppose? Whatever the case may be the dialogue of miamimutantgrrl, westcoastavenger69, fionabestie01and super_troll10k consists of utter nonsense and stupidity which is an attempt at adding an element of humor to the story but fails in spectacular fashion and only serves to distance you from the story. Which is the entire problem with the book itself. If all that social media bullshit was struck from the script there would actually be a decent story to be had.
Inhumanity - the Awakening #1
 
The issue itself focuses on the aftermath of Black Bolt unleashing the Terrigen Bomb and triggering the transformation of dormant Inhumans. The young heroes from Wolverine & the X-Men and Avengers Academy/Arena play an integral part here and it is nice to see them have an opportunity to flex their muscles for a bit as they attempt to work damage control. Things are going fine until Pixie freaks out over the fact that a transformed Inhuman she has been following suddenly stops posting on Twitter. Pixie determines that this is a cry for help and this girl is going to commit suicide (are you kidding me?) and teleports the kids to intervene just in the nick of time.
Inhunamity - the Awakening #1
 
The rest of the story essentially is told through the tweets and insagram uploads of Fiona, the struggling new Inhuman and the other social media handles mentioned earlier. Again, it is all worthless with the exception of Fiona's entries which actually progress the story. The big reveal at the end is that her dick-head brother has also transformed and is in the process of blowing some shit up. Mediocre writing and art is the name here. Blah, blah, blah.
 
#whocares #canihavemymoneybackplease? #whatthefuckdidijustread? #imgonnaforgetitin5minutesanyway #dropped
 
- Robert Tacopina
 

WWE: Superstars #1

(Mick Foley (with Shane Riches) / Alitha Martinez / Jayjay Jackson / Tom Orzechowski / Super Genius/Papercutz)
5 stars

"You can't see me." Thus begins legendary professional wrestler Mick Foley's foray into the world of comic books. This is one of the (many) catch phrases said (often) by one of WWE's most popular (and most hated) superstars, John Cena, and by Foley using these words in the context of the fictional world of Titan City, WWE: Superstars #1 opens up meta-worlds within meta-worlds within worlds (within worlds).

See, the "real" world of professional wrestling is already filled with fictional characters – huge, over-the-top personalities, the more outlandish the better.  While their athletic ability is certainly part of their appeal, what truly distinguishes a WWE Superstar is his or her ability to convey character – wild, bombastic, larger-than-life. You can be good in the ring, but you sell the most t-shirts if you're good on "the mic".

The idea of an artist taking these hyperbolic and exaggerated creations of others, and then jamming them into a, by comparison, more mundane crime noir story, while still keeping true to both "realities," is either the most self-referential thing ever attempted, or the recipe for a great disaster.

WWE: Superstars #1 is not a good comic. The writing is stilted, the art devolves into sludge page by page, the coloring is inexcusable at times, and even the lettering wonks-out towards the end. As representational of the medium it presents itself in, it fails on almost every level. What it is, though, is a daring work of ART. It's commentary on what is already commentary and skews reality in such a manner that almost rips open an already wide hole.

This thing is relatively impossible to read without having prior knowledge of who the characters are.  Without an understanding of the Sophocleian narrative each one of these characters already provides with just their very presence in the "actual" ring in WWE, the average reader will miss the layers of creation that Foley has provided, and by doing so, miss what IS WWE: Superstars #1.

The artistic audacity of this book boggles the mind. Taking characters like the aforementioned John Cena or Randy Orton or CM Punk or Daniel Bryan or Zeb Colter and putting them in a Sin City-like tale of political intrigue and classic Dashiell Hammet crime drama while still giving them ample opportunity to use their signature finishing moves in wrestling rings while wearing wrestling speedos (or jorts) and sprinkling their dialogue with signature catch-phrases pushes boundaries that heretofore nobody even knew existed. And if that sentence seems bogged down in subordinate clauses, I'm sorry, it's only because that's what you have to do when you are describing this book.

Like I said, this is a truly shitty comic book, but that's ultimately NOT the purpose of WWE: Superstars #1. This book is the next step in artistic endeavor. As we cut and paste our way into a new dawn of consciousness created from the vision ensconced in that frightened but ironic eye we've turned away from the night of our present reality, the one too ugly to stare at head-on any more, it is books like this  that stand as a blueprint for what the new day brings.

Whatever it is, it knows how to choke-slam, five-knuckle shuffle, and use the RKO.

YES! YES! YES!

 


Daniel Elkin backs Damien Sandow all the way and cannot wait for the day they move Tyler Breeze up to the Main Roster. Then again, he still can't understand why 3MB aren't tag-team champs. He's on Twitter (@DanielElkin), so you can yell at him there.


Justice League #25

(Geoff Johns / Doug Mahnke; DC Comics)

4 stars

For fans of What If or Elseworlds style comics, DC's Forever Evil crossover has been a treasure trove. Justice League #25 is no different as in this issue we see the origin of Batman's counterpart, Owl Man, and how he's strategically working through the new world he's trying to control. 
Justice League #25
 
The issue starts off with a twisted re-telling of Batman's origin and continues on from there, exploring what would happen if someone with Batman's physical skills, strategic prowess and intelligence were evil. For some of you comic fans that might bring to mind the mini-series called Nemesis by Mark Millar from a few years back that explored the same kind of concept. One main difference here is that while this is a dark and distorted take on Batman it's not so dark as to be sickening. While I stopped reading Nemesis partway through this one I was able to fully enjoy. Along with that in this issue they are of course able to make the character look more similar and fully utilize the DC stable of characters unlike in Nemesis, making for a far more enjoyable read.
 
Johns's writing here is excellent. He bounces smoothly back and forth between flashbacks and modern day, making each scene fresh and interesting. Owl Man's hostile takeover of the criminal underworld is fun to watch but even more interesting is his interactions and dialogue with the regular DC Universe's Nightwing. This is great character-building story and a refreshing change from the grandiose focus and scale that so many comics always seem to go to these days. 
Justice League #25
 
The great writing is well complemented by excellent artwork from Doug Mankhe. Wide shot, close up, action, emotional, city scape, detail, he handles it all equally well. One side effect of the artwork being so great was that I received a fresh reminder of just how graphic comic violence is these days. By no means am I saying we should go back to Comics Code days but seriously, a little subtlety wouldn't hurt sometimes. Again, it never gets to the disturbing level that Nemesis did but this issue did more than a well enough job portraying how brutal Owl Man is without having to include a panel of a man being dissolved alive in acid. 
 
One downside I need to point out is that anyone that buys this book expecting to read about the Justice League will be disappointed as this whole issue doesn't show a single member of the League. That's not to say it's not a good read because it definitely is. It's just unfortunate how long this crossover (like all crossovers these days) is interrupting what seemed like the natural flow and focus of the series. I've been ready to see Forever Evil conclude for a while already. 
 
That having been said this is still an issue worth picking up. Whether you're a fan of Batman, Nightwing, alternate takes on characters or just plain interesting story telling this is worth a read.

- Bill Janzen

Conan the Barbarian: Queen of the Black Coast #23

(Brian Wood / Riccardo Burchielli / Dave Stewart; Dark Horse Comics)
4 stars

There are only two issues left on Brian Wood's run on Conan the Barbarian: Queen of the Black Coast and the series is ending with a weird vibe. It's like an election turn-over; everyone's so excited about the new guy (Fred Van Lente!) they don't really care what the old guy does in his last few days. Maybe if Wood's run had been more beloved there would be more excitement about his exit and swan song, but "mediocre to blah" pretty much sums up the entire series.

So issue #23. It's a good issue. But does that even matter? Taken by itself—and credit where credit is due—sure it matters. Wood and artist Riccard Burchielli do good work this issue. They effectively tell the story of the strange flying primates that haunt the island, evoking some of Howard's "past life regression"-style storytelling. Wood sticks mainly to the original description, but throws in a few of his own words. Burchielli's art is nice. The best praise I can give this issue is that is looks and feels like an old-school Conan comic.

Special praise for the King of Colors Dave Stewart this issue as well. He has had the unenviable task of trying to forge some consistency between Wood's Carousel O' Artists that each swing in and pencil a story arc, then swing out, never to return. I often wonder how much of the amazing color work comes from the artists' imaginations and how much is pure Stewart. But looking at some of his finished pages, I am just in awe of the guy and how he can boost the drama with simple color choice.

The flaws in this issue are all the same as for the series. We have some big showdowns, like the battle between Conan and N'Gora. This should be a bigger deal than it is, but because the relationships haven't really been built up over the course of the comic, it feels lifeless. And Belit's big scene … no spoilers to those who haven't read the book yet, but … I can't help but remember how Roy Thomas did this same scene in his adaptation for Marvel's Conan the Barbarian, and how much better it was.

This just feels like wrapping up loose ends rather than a climax. It's a good issue. It's well done. But I'll be glad when Wood's run is finished and we can move on to something cooler. 

- Zack Davisson


Alex + Ada #2

(Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughn; Image Comics)

2.5 stars

Prep to pine, prepare to swoon. Alex + Ada presents a precious story about ennui in the face of privilege. What does the man who appears to have everything really need? Love, actually. Alex stands in as the self-serve single person prototype, the loneliest guy at the party. So even when he is given the gift of companionship, Ada, he rejects it not because she's an android, no, but because he's still hurting seven months after a break-up. The heart wants what the heart wants and Alex isn't ready to move on.

Alex + Ada #2

This is a comic about thoughts, not actions. Writer Sarah Vaughn and artist Jonathan Luna draft a near silent interlude dependent upon subtlety, sterility and repetition. Alex + Ada #2 brims with careful differences in similar compositions. As a cartoonist, Luna has the exact line to repeat this visual motif with precision. The downside is such industrialism has the potential … to … get … very … very … tedious; add in the story's glacial pacing and it will be a miracle if these two canoodle by issue #47. For the reader on the prowl for lonely emasculated-male-on-female-android-sex, Alex + Ada ain't it.  

Alex + Ada #2

To further demonstrate Alex Wahl's languor -- yes, Wahl -- Vaughn has him prefer to communicate via a brain implant called 'Prime Wave.' So even when twee Alex talks, he's mute. Symbolism! In a cool bit of irony, his grandmother says: ''Why can't we talk screen-to-screen like civilized human beings?''

What about Ada? It's curious, Vaughn and Luna use a '+' in the title and not an ampersand or an 'and.' Is this down to design or does that '+' mean more? Could Ada be 'more human than human?'

Alex + Ada marks an advent story; it's about waiting, a will-they-won't-they-romance with appointments by Apple. The deliberate pace Vaughn and Luna set makes the story feel airless, that's the point. In twenty-two page portions Alex + Ada's hermetically sealed aestheticism feels like a playful choke hold. The trade-off may be this story reads best when it has room to breathe.

It's in the form and not the function where this story about a reluctant protagonist and his female android fails as serialized fiction. It would be like if Tim and Dawn or Mulder and Scully's romance played out once-a-month instead of once a week. Alex + Ada is as soapy as a Jane Austen drawing room dramedy. Either allow it its soapiness or get out of the Scandinavian-designed kitchen. 

- Keith Silva


Batman #26

(Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo/Danny Miki/FCO Plascencia/Steve Wands; DC Comics)
5 stars
How much more praise can be heaped upon Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's thus-far amazing run on Batman? Since the launch of the New 52 this title has without a doubt been the pinnacle of success for DC and the rebranding of their line. What has made it such an engaging read is obviously the fact that the creative team is top-notch but also that they are unafraid to take risks with introducing new elements, that can be seemingly controversial, to the already rich Batman mythos.
Batman #26
 
"Zero Year", the current story arc running in Batman, is a prime example of such a risk. In theory it doesn't particularly sound to appealing but holy crap has it turned out to be a truly mesmerizing look into the early years of Bruce Wayne's transformation into the Dark Knight. We see the animosity between Bruce and the Gotham Police Department, especially Jim Gordon. There is a flashback moment where the reader is treated with an awesome scene of a young Bruce, on a bout of truancy, being escorted from the Monarch Theater, and what looks to be a showing of The Mark of Zorro, by Jim Gordon and Dan Corrigan. This was an awesome nod to the fact that this was the same theater and movie that Bruce saw with his parents the night of their murder in a powerful nod to continuity but I digress. Bruce--finding himself temporarily handcuffed to a hospital bed by Gordon--retells the encounter to his captor admitting it was the moment where a young man discovers that even those sworn to serve and protect the citizens of Gotham are just as corrupt as those perpetrating crime in the city.
Batman #26
 
But wait, there's more!! So much more indeed. You have Bruce contending with the aftermath of his encounter with Dr. Death and the possible betrayal at the hands of Lucius Fox, you have a totally what the ?@#$ moment where an older Bruce is restrained in an environment not unlike the one in the Dark Knight Rises film but here Bruce receives a telephone call from his father!
 
Ultimately we learn of the massive hard-on that a certain member of the Gotham Police has for Batman as the issue ends with an onslaught of gunfire directed at Batman by the GCPD. There is so much to immerse yourself in here. Plot twists and threads are woven into the the issue under the intricate and delicate master tailor Scott Snyder. This has been the first real run that I have truly connected with Batman since the Hush storyline by Loeb & Lee years ago. Snyder and Capullo have merely deconstructed what makes Batman so awesome and rebuilt it from the ground up. They have combined both of their incredible talents and have created an awe-inspiring title that is synonymous with the proverbial delayering of an onion.
 
Batman #26
Scott Snyder continuously redefines Bats for the new era of DC comics and each step along the way introduces new and intriguing elements. In fact one could argue that he does so at a breakneck pace to which you often don't even have a moments notice to wrap your head around a plot point before another is introduced to the page. The pencils of Capullo are just as equal to the task as his strokes are brilliant and the detailing in every panel of every page of every issue reads like a love letter to Batman and the comic industry as a whole. Danny Miki's inks compliment Capullo perfectly and FCO Plascencia's rich color palette creates the perfect ambiance for this title.
 
Batman is a must read for any fan of superhero comics. Issue 26 just cements this book as one of the most amazing reads one can find every Wednesday at your local comic shop.
 
- Robert Tacopina

Criminal Macabre: Eyes of Frankenstein #4

(Steve Niles / Christopher Mitten; Dark Horse Comics)

4 stars

Well, that was unexpected …

Of all the things that happened in the conclusion of Criminal Macabre: Eyes of Frankenstein, the last on my list of things I expected would be Cal McDonald transforming into … I don't want to give away the surprise!

 

This was an excellent issue as always, and a nice conclusion to a fun mini-series. But that's just what I expected. Honestly, I don't think Steve Niles has it in him to write a bad issue of Criminal Macabre. Some are better than others, but they all dish up solid entertainment with a side of melancholy. This is a severely messed-up group of people and they keep getting more messed-up with every issue. If Niles keeps abusing and tearing chunks off of his characters like this he is going to be left with the ongoing adventures of Cal McDonald's left eyeball.

I'd still read it, though.

 Some great scenes in this final issue: Cal gets to show off exactly how powerful he is. We don't get to see that very often, as Cal is usually the self-depreciating underdog. His showdown with the giant red demon was fantastic. I was taken off-guard by that, as I thought Cal was finally out of his depth and would need some rescuing. I guess not. As always Adam—the Frankenstein Monster—gets the best lines. His dialog is sparse, but his plainspokenness and droll, dry sense of humor makes a nice contrast to Cal's bombast.

I feel like I bang this drum with every issue of Criminal Macabre, but here it is again for those who haven't read my past reviews—I think Christopher Mittens's art is good, but it just isn't my cup of tea. I don't think that's ever likely to change. He is an incredibly talented stylist, but that means that not everyone is going to like his style. I like some of his scenes, and his facial expressions are interesting, but I find the art over-lined in general. It's too busy. Too angular. At other times, however, he is right on the mark. He draws a demon getting its face ripped in two like nobody's business.


All in all, Criminal Macabre: Eyes of Frankenstein was a great series that leaves you wanting more. Things don't wrap up in a tidy little package, so I'm looking forward to the next mini so I can find out just what the hell happened.

- Zack Davisson


Star Trek #28

(Mike Johnson / Erfan Fajar / Beny Maulanan/ Gilberto Lazcano; IDW Publishing)


Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows #1

(Tim Siedell / Gabriel Guzman / Michael Atiyeh / Michael Heisler; Dark Horse Comics)

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