This week, the GeekNation Pull List goes on a surreal journey with the Joker’s main squeeze, takes a spin with the Man Without Fear, and discovers a new, digital-first series from Monkeybrain Comics about a robot with a mid-life crisis! Let’s take a look at this week’s comic picks!
From DC: Harley Quinn #0 by Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner (Script), and Seventeen Artists
I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with the character of Harley Quinn. I love that she became such a popular character in the incredible Batman: The Animated Series that DC felt compelled to incorporate her into the comics, and who doesn’t love her origin story? The individual issue and series episode “Mad Love” still stands as one of the best Batman stories of the 1990s, and Harley is an undeniable fan favorite for legions of comics fans. In a lot of ways, though, she really annoys me. Although Arleen Sorkin’s performance in the animated series is distinctive and quite good, it’s hard for me not to associate that loud squeal of a voice with her, and the mere fact that she is so unable to learn from her mistakes with the Joker makes me a bit more frustrated with her than I’d actually care to admit. Since the onset of “The New 52,” Harley’s fulfilled a bit of a different role in the DC Universe than she has in the past, as a member of the Suicide Squad and with less of an emphasis on her relationship with Batman’s arch enemy.
So, now we arrive at Harley Quinn #0, probably DC’s highest profile release of the week due in no small part to the small army of artists that have contributed to the pages here. Although Harley’s far from being my favorite character, a number of my favorite artists contributed to the book, so I had to see what their combined efforts added up to. In short, Harley Quinn #0 feels incredibly disjointed…but I think that’s exactly how it’s designed to feel. There’s no real overarching narrative to speak of, and Harley herself is openly communicating with writers Palmiotti and Conner throughout the entire thing. For someone who appreciates story structure, it was a little bit disorienting as a reading experience.
It’s hard to deny the sheer fun of seeing so many fantastic artists all in one place, though. When you can enjoy the likes of Amanda Conner, Jim Lee, Art Baltazar, Darwyn Cooke, Becky Cloonan, Charlie Adlard, Bruce Timm, and so many others, it tends to get a comic book fan’s blood pumping a little. Each artist depicts Harley in a different scenario as well, so there’s an element of surrealist humor at play that I appreciate. Harley openly and continuously breaks the fourth wall in this issue, and the zaniness in that department will likely bring up more than passing reminders of Marvel’s Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool. If we’re to believe the final page that sets up the story for the actual #1 issue, then that may be limited to this effort in #0. It’s hard to tell, though.
Although I’ve never been her biggest fan, I am a fan of the creative team of Palmiotti and Conner, and I couldn’t help but give a smile through most of this issue’s dialogue and scenarios. Add to that an all-star lineup of some of the best artists working in comics today, and you have an issue that’s definitely worth looking at. 8/10
Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Batman and Two-Face #25, Red Hood and the Outlaws #25
From Marvel: Daredevil #33 by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee (Script), and Jason Copland (Art)
Before Daredevil was relaunched into its current series, it had gotten so dark and depressing that it was nearly unreadable. When acclaimed writer Mark Waid came on the scene, though, he did something so simple and logical that I’m really surprised someone didn’t decide to do it sooner: he just decided to take things in the other direction. Strict darkness and brutality gave way to a new title that dared to be lighter, and maybe even a little whimsical from time-to-time. That’s not to say that things can’t get heavy, since they definitely can and have over the last thirty issues, but Mark Waid gave license for Daredevil to be fun again. And let me tell you, few people do “fun” better than he does.
The current story, though, has dealt with a group of white supremacists that have tried to capture a mystical power, and in this issue the Man Without Fear confronts the concepts of hate and bigotry head-on, and in a rather direct fashion. The issue also sees Matt going up against some pretty classic Universal monster movie magic and situations, which gives the overall feel of a fish-out-of-water scenario that you don’t often see in a comic book like Daredevil. Former series artist Chris Samnee acts as a co-writer on this issue with its longtime writer Waid, and in truth it’s pretty difficult to see where Waid’s influence ends and Samnee’s begins. This could be for one of two reasons: Samnee and Waid collaborated on the plot and Waid did the actual script writing, or their styles complement each other very well and perhaps aren’t that different from each other. Either way, the writing in the issue is top-notch, and both writers continue the great storytelling that has been a hallmark of this series since its first issue.
Artist Jason Copland has a conceptually similar style to that of Samnee’s work, but he doesn’t maintain as smooth a line as his predecessor. This isn’t a bad thing at all, it’s just indicative of his personal style, and the artwork on display still feels like it’s an extension of the work that Samnee has done on the series. Layouts range from a series of segmented and proportional square panels to a couple of splash pages, and that’s really where Copland shines. In one splash page in particular, with a scowling Daredevil and a lot of fire, he helps set his own tone pretty definitively. Overall, Daredevil is still one of Marvel’s best series, and it’s still a blast to read. 8/10
Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Avengers #23, Superior Spider-Man Annual #1
From Monkeybrain: D4VE #1 by Ryan Ferrier (Script) and Valentin Ramon (Art)
I don’t often read comics that are digital-only. I’m the kind of fan that prefers the tangible practice of reading a print book, the smell of the pages, the feel of the paper, all with a couple of well-placed staples holding everything together. When you get right down to it, though, the thing that I’m even more in love with than that tangible reading experience is the medium itself. When you’re talking about creative work within the same medium but across different reading formats and methods of delivery to the audience, no format has exclusivity to good ideas and fun storytelling. D4VE proves that pretty definitively.
Ryan Ferrier and Valentin Ramon do an incredible and hilarious job of building the world in which the book takes place before you even get to the first issue’s halfway point. It takes the familiar trope of a world overrun with robots (i.e. The Terminator and The Matrix), and quickly establishes that the robots killed us all a long time ago. What happened after that? They became us, or at least their perception of us: boring, uninteresting, lack-witted, and maybe a little too comfortable. The main character, D4VE, was a prominent defense bot that protected his home planet and eradicated everything else, and when defense wasn’t a priority, he had to take a boring desk job with a serious jerk for a boss. His home life is a wreck (with one moment featuring his wife bot, S4LLY, reminding him that their son is neglected by him: “we ordered him months ago!”), his job is even worse, and D4VE spends his time daydreaming (and sleep cycle imaging, or “night dreaming”) about his glory days, all the while an apparently new alien threat lands on the surface of the Earth. A robot with a mid-life crisis, about to potentially relive said glory days? That sounds awesome to me.
It’s kind of remarkable how human this book about robots is, but the writing really speaks for itself. Although D4VE was manufactured to the greatest of specifications and served prominently as a defending robot of the planet, he has a great deal of surprisingly human foibles and flaws that make it really fun and easy to engage with this issue. Valentin Ramon’s artwork is very clean and the design work employed is really distinctive. The vibe of D4VE never takes a dip below anything but funny, even in what might be considered somber moments. All in all, D4VE is a fantastic first issue, and is absolutely worth reading. Since it’s a full story for only .99 cents at ComiXology, there aren’t many excuses not to at least give it a try. 9/10
Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath #12, Rachel Rising #21
That does it for this week on the GeekNation Pull List, and we hope these looks help as you go in to pick up some comics! Have a great week, and we’ll see you next Thursday!
(Shameless Plug: If you think you’re in the market for a new game console this holiday season, be sure to check out GeekNation’s multi-part review of the Xbox One starting next week!)
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