This week on the GeekNation Pull List: Barry Allen heads to Gotham for “Zero Year,” a Hawkeye heads to L.A. for a new start, and a rabbit and a butterfly continue the story of Pretty Deadly! Check out this week’s comic reviews below!
From DC: The Flash #25 by Brian Buccellato (Script), Francis Manapul (Story and Art), and Chris Sprouse (Art)
When DC launched the New 52 back in September of 2011, I strongly felt that one of the standouts of the entire line of new titles was The Flash. Barry Allen is easily one of the most engaging, dynamic, and relatable characters in the entire DC Universe, and Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato were creating stories that fit very well with his career as a forensic investigator, as well as stories that feel like great exploitations of superheroes in general. Their run with Mr. Allen sadly comes to an end with this issue, and they’ll be headed to Gotham City to take up some new adventures of the Dark Knight in the pages of Detective Comics early next year. Before then, though, in a weirdly transitional issue, this month’s Flash takes Barry Allen to Gotham during the events of “Zero Year.” This means it’s about six years in the past, and takes place before the fateful lab accident that transformed Barry into the Scarlet Speedster.
As explained in the issue’s opening pages, the siege on Gotham by the Riddler (as explained in a previous Pull List) has left the city without power. Worse yet, a massive storm is oncoming, threatening to do serious damage to the now already-handicapped city. In a desperate plea for help in maintaining order within its limits, a call went out to any law enforcement organization that could spare some extra hands to try and keep things together while the city frantically tries to plug back into the power grid. One such officer was the recently graduated Barry Allen, paired with a couple of Gotham City cops, heading through the city in order to try and stay on top of things. Throughout most of the story, Barry is more than a little stunned by the cavalier attitude some Gotham cops seem to have for the rules that they’re supposed to enforce, and the cops are equally surprised by Barry’s willingness to put himself in direct physical harm if it means saving someone’s life.
At least one surprising Flash character also makes their way into Gotham while Barry’s there. At first I found this a little too coincidental, but the creative team used this character to good effect in the overall narrative. This was a fun done-in-one that, like the other “Zero Year” tie-ins, has little to no bearing on the actual story being told in Batman. But, if you like the Flash, and want to see Barry during his younger years along with the fact that he was a hero far before he was struck by lightning, then it’s a fun read.
Chris Sprouse does most of the issue’s art chores, and his work is gorgeous. By the end of the issue, Mr. Manapul picks things up. Though the two styles are considerably different and make the transition a little jarring, both artists are awesome, so there’s really nothing worth complaining about. At all. The team definitely proves that they know what they’re doing with Barry, and though it’ll be sad to see them leave the Flash and his world, it also makes me more excited to see what they have in store for Batman in the coming months. 8/10
Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Aquaman #25, Adventures of Superman #7
From Marvel: Hawkeye #14 by Matt Fraction (Script) and Annie Wu (Art)
Since debuting last year, Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series has been one of Marvel’s greatest critical darlings. A superhero book that reads far more like an intimate indie title, Hawkeye has followed the exploits of Clint Barton’s highly concerted effort to live as normal a life as possible. This isn’t exactly easy, because as a longtime member of the Marvel Universe’s premier team of superheroes in the Avengers, trouble tends to find him on a more than constant basis.
This issue, though, takes a bit of a different path by focusing on Kate Bishop. Who is Kate Bishop, you may ask? She’s the co-star of this series, a character introduced as the third hero known as Hawkeye in Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung’s series Young Avengers back in 2005. Kate is very level-headed, but also tends to be quite impulsive, which is partially how she now finds herself living alone, with very little money, in Los Angeles. In order to try and make something resembling a living for her new life, she starts typing up a flyer as a “hero for hire,” openly touting herself as an Avenger — well, kind of — and willing to fulfill any superheroic needs someone might have, as long as they wouldn’t mind throwing a few bucks her way. This leads her to knock on the door of a couple of strangers to ask if she could borrow their printer, which then leads her to overhear some details about a theft the couple experienced recently. Some careful (and delightfully unsubtle) interaction lands her the job of the case, which leads to some fun shenanigans and some mysterious new supporting characters.
Throughout his tenure as writer of this series, Fraction has done a tremendous job of keeping the overall vibe very fun and easy to attach to. He’s also a master at swiping that fun and irreverence out from under you at the most affecting times as well, and while there’s the slightest hint of that emotional play going on here, he mostly tends to keep the fun level pretty high. Annie Wu begins her tenure as co-lead artist in this issue alternating with David Aja, and her style fits the series very well. There’s a surprising amount of artistic continuity largely due to the efforts of colorist Matt Hollingsworth, though, so everything tends to feel very familiar even if the primary artist has a different style than what regular series readers are used to seeing.
Hawkeye #14 continues the fun and impeccable storytelling that have become series norms, and it’s hard to see that changing anytime soon if this is any indication. 9/10
Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Indestructible Hulk #16, Infinity #6
From Image: Pretty Deadly #2 by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Script) and Emma Ríos (Art)
There was a time when the Western genre dominated popular culture in a way that few things can claim today. The cliche of people your father or grandfather’s age playing Cowboys and Indians when they were children is one hint of that, as is most of the filmography of John Wayne and the early work of Clint Eastwood. Westerns also dominated comics for a good stretch of time, before and even during the era that was snatched up faster than a speeding bullet by an alien in a cape. In recent years, westerns have managed to make something of a return to the medium similarly to how they have in movies and on television. The latest independent comic series that takes place in that era, though, can’t be nailed down strictly into that genre’s territory. No, Pretty Deadly is something more: a hybrid of the western and a more profound mythology. How profound? One of the main characters is a gun-toting daughter of Death. That should give you an idea. Also, the first issue started with a story told by a dead rabbit to a butterfly.
Issue #2 is equally as enigmatic, with the entire story reading more like an eastern folk tale than some gritty Peckinpah-inspired fiction. DeConnick decides to give greater focus to the situations that arise from the character interactions a bit more than the characters themselves, which made me read this issue far more carefully than I perhaps would have otherwise.You’re dropped into the middle of things with very little context, and for me that translated into a more active reading experience than a passive one I might have elsewhere. It’s the unfamiliarity of the surroundings and the characters introduced that make the mystery something you imperatively want revealed as a reader, which shows the strength and suspense of how well the writer has managed to rope in readers.
Sometimes, it was a little too easy to wrap my head around exactly what was happening. With little ability to understand all facets of the characters at play along with a minimal use of exposition, issue #2 seemed a little too scattered in the important middle pages. That being said, the artwork of Emma Ríos is terrific, though a little (and appropriately) abstract, again adding to some of the mystery of exactly what’s happening. All in all, I find it easy to recommend Pretty Deadly as an interesting hybrid of two disparate genres, and though the clarity could be improved upon a little, two issues gives enough of a grounding to hop onto the events of issue #3 with enthusiasm. 8/10
Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Saga #16, Star Trek #27
That does it this week for the GeekNation Pull List! Be sure to come back next week and see our new comics reviews, and have a great Thanksgiving today!
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