The GeekNation Pull List – 10/2/2014

By October 2, 2014
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This week on the GeekNation Pull List: the Justice League opens their ranks to an unstable young woman wielding a very powerful weapon, someone new is now worthy of Thor’s hammer, and a murder mystery during the golden age of Hollywood goes deeper! Check out this week’s comic book reviews below!

From DC: Justice League #34 by Geoff Johns (Script) and Scott Kolins (Art)

Cover art to Justice League #34, by Jason Fabok.

Cover art to Justice League #34, by Jason Fabok.

This issue serves as an epilogue to the latest “Injustice League” arc, and continues to show that Geoff Johns command of each character on the League’s roster is top-notch. Longtime DC Comics readers likely got a little bit of a kick out of seeing the Flash vs. Captain Cold on the very first page of this issue, written by Johns with art by Scott Kolins. Those two had a terrific run on the monthly Flash title in the early 2000’s, and it was pretty great seeing that Flash-centric reunion before we pressed on into the current issues of the title.

Probably the best thing going for Justice League at the moment is Johns’ command of the voices of every character. While early on in the New 52 some writers, including Johns, had tried to change the voices of the characters to emphasize that this was a “new” universe, in both this title and his current work on Superman, Johns is reverting back to more familiar territory when it comes to the dialogue and cadences of everyone. Things are a lot more familiar now than they’ve been in DC Comics since mid-2011, and this is definitely a positive thing. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this “back-to-basics” approach is the character of Lex Luthor, who is getting a serious examination here now that he finds himself standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his (former?) greatest enemies.

This issue was also refreshing because it was able to slow down a bit. The last story arc, which was basically the direct fallout from the Forever Evil crossover event, had so many rather exhausting (if excellent) moments, especially when it came to the clash in Wayne Manor between Bruce Wayne and Luthor. Now that the DC Universe’s most prominent villain is aware of the Dark Knight’s secret identity, things have a chance to get very “hairy” for Batman and his associates. Thankfully, as you’ll likely see from this issue, Batman has a big, blue ace in the hole.

I happen to really enjoy Scott Kolins’ artwork. His run with Johns on The Flash is one of my all-time favorites, and he has a style that is very well suited to comic book storytelling, especially when you’re talking characters with big, bombastic abilities. I’m not sure Kolins would be the right artist for an ongoing run on Batman, but working with characters like the Flash, Superman, and Wonder Woman definitely play to his strengths, and his style has only gotten cleaner on the line in recent years. Overall, Justice League #34 was a nice interlude of an issue with really solid character moments from practically all of the major players, and when it’s not acting as the primary vehicle for some big, DC Universe-wide tale, that’s exactly what you want from the publisher’s flagship book. 8.5/10

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Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Batman/Superman #14, Lobo #1

 

From Marvel: Thor #1 by Jason Aaron (Script) and Russell Dauterman (Art)

Cover art to Thor #1, by Russell Dauterman.

Cover art to Thor #1, by Russell Dauterman.

“They’re at it again!” I can almost hear the sterotypically over-cynical comic book fan complaining of gimmicks that apparently bastardize the characters and creations that they’ve come to love so much, and when it was initially announced that the new God of Thunder would be a woman in the pages of the Marvel Comics Universe, there were more than a few groans. I’ve learned a few things, though, in my long tenure as a fan and as a former comics retailer: these things are, in practically every single documented case, a temporary change. So, why not enjoy the ride? Sometimes those changes also end up being so good that you’ll find yourself missing it in the first place!

If I hate anything about the shake-up that Marvel has made with Thor, it’s that they spoiled it way too early. When it comes to these big shake-ups, Marvel loves to announce them through mainstream news outlets months in advance to try and drum up buzz. While I’m sure it works very well for them, it frankly sucks for comics readers, who lose the thrill of learning about these new shake-ups as they happen. It happened with Avengers vs. X-Men, it happened with the “deaths” of Steve Rogers and Peter Parker, and now it’s happened with the new Thor. It’s annoying.

That being said, the actual issue of Thor #1 was really intriguing, and that’s all it needed to be since it has a big “#1” plastered on the front cover. All it did was introduce the very basics of what the new conflict will be going forward, with some very familiar faces returning to the fold, and the necessity of someone to rise up and claim a Mjölnir that won’t even listen to the Odin the All-Father himself anymore. To that end, I’m really not giving a whole lot away when I say that the very end of the issue sees the new worthy one lift the hammer for the first time, and the answers about who she is and why she’s worthy will be left for future issues.

From a narrative perpective, it’s nothing groundbreaking. From a perspective of progress, though? It seems pretty cool that the new Thor (not “Thorina” or “Lady Thor”) is a woman. While it’s on the story going forward to present a compelling narrative with this new iteration of the character, this issue is definitely a fine start, and presents a lot of interesting premises to the world of Thor and Asgard (or “Asgardia”) going forward. Russell Dauterman’s artwork is also solid, giving credence to the more fanciful situations found in Thor when compared with other, more ground-level Marvel titles.

While I didn’t quite like this issue as much as Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder #1 from a couple of years ago, there’s plenty of time for this series to grow, and show us exactly what makes the new Thor more worthy to carry the hammer than the old guy. 8/10

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Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1, Uncanny Avengers #25

 

From Image: The Fade Out #2 by Ed Brubaker (Script) and Sean Phillips (Art)

Cover art to The Fade Out #2, by Elizabeth Breitweiser.

Cover art to The Fade Out #2, by Elizabeth Breitweiser.

The latest murder mystery from the creative team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, in many ways, seems like kind of a twisted love letter to old Hollwyood. If you’re even a moderate movie fan, chances are you’re at least passively familiar with stories of corruption in the old studio system, with names like Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cohn, and Jack Warner coming up more than once. Brubaker and Phillips have chosen to make the old Hollywood setting almost a character unto itself, with a lot of apparent reverence and willful historical accuracy going into the construction of this story’s world, which centers on fictional characters, studios, and executives living within that world. They’ve also specifically chosen an era in which the death of the old system as they all knew it was fast approaching thanks to the United States v. Paramount Supreme Court Case, which in an odd way helps add to the drama of everything going on by heightening the stakes of the work that the characters are doing.

After the events of the first issue, where main character Charlie tells his partner Gil what he had witnessed about the death of movie starlet Valeria Sommers, things begin to unravel both at home and at work. Sommers’ latest film was going to be her star-making vehicle, but with her death now a pall on production, the studio heads and the director are on the verge of making drastic changes to the final film in order to detach it from the neagtive word of mouth that could come from featuring a murdered actress. In his personal life, Charlie struggles with his “betrayal” of Valeria, and we learn a lot of interesting details about how he was affected by his service in World War II, and what exactly his partnership with Gil seems to yield both personally and professionally.

While there wasn’t a lot of forward momentum in this issue in terms of strict plot, the character development and the population of the story’s world was paid excellent service by the storytellers. Brubaker’s grasp of complex human emotion, particularly as a response to death, has been a primary showcase for much of his career. It’s allowed him to tell truly resonant stories in multiple genres, from his beloved noir on up through bombastic (if grounded) superhero fiction. Still, though, for every character benefit that Brubaker brings to the writing, much of that work wouldn’t stand out as much as it does if not for the atmospheric and beautiful visuals provided by artist Sean Phillips. It never manages to become self-indulgent, and seems to really evoke the imagery of modern neo-noir films like Body Heat and L.A. Confidential. It is very much its own work, though, and The Fade Out truly shines due in no small part to the talents of Sean Phillips. Overall, this is another solid outing from this creative team, but hopefully we’ll get a bit more plot alongside the already exquisite character work as we head into the next issue. 8.5/10

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Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Before You GoHerald: Lovecraft and Tesla #1

That does it for this week on the GeekNation Pull List! Have a great week, and we’ll see you in seven days!

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.