The GeekNation Pull List is all about the alpha and the omega this week. In two “beginnings,” DC Comics is turning the corner on a new chapter set to unfold for the Dark Knight himself, and a young kid whose eyes are on national stardom in sports makes a very terrible mistake. In the beginning of an “end,” Marvel is closing the door on an ongoing series that single-handedly revitalized one of its most identifiable teams, written by one of its most prized current architects.
Check the reviews in this week’s GeekNation Pull List!
From DC: Batman #28 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV (Script), and Dustin Nguyen (Art)
Although we’re in the middle of the massive “Zero Year” story arc that is divulging the beginning of Batman’s career in the New 52, this month the main Batman title has taken a break from the ongoing arc to give us something of a “backdoor pilot” to a new, upcoming weekly series launching soon. That series, Batman: Eternal, will feature a rotating creative team and, if this issue is any indication, apparently casts Gotham in a different set of circumstances.
While I’m a little annoyed that the flow of “Zero Year” is interrupted by this pitch for the upcoming series, I have to hand it to the creative team: it was pretty full of surprises. One of those surprises involved Batman’s crimefighting team and the possibility of multiple new additions to it, and the other, while still related to the first, involved a character that has not been seen in DC Comics since before the New 52 relaunch. I won’t divulge exactly who it is here since it would be a massive spoiler, but this person has been requested, if not demanded by fans for as long as the New 52 has been in publication, so I anticipate that a lot of Bat-fans will have a smile on their face by the time they arrive at the final pages of Batman #28.
Beyond that, this issue was basically little more than a situational teaser for the upcoming Eternal series. We get a small look at one or two of the major players outside of Batman himself, and it had a couple of good moments that could only be achieved by the Guardian of Gotham himself, but as a reader that’s deeply invested in the “Zero Year” narrative I can’t help but fall back on my aforementioned annoyance. Batman is, by and large, DC’s most popular character, and because of that I question the basic necessity of having to pitch its circumstances to us in the main book that was already in the middle of a major story. While it was a good read in the end, this issue is not as good as its immediate predecessors.
One thing that absolutely cannot be faulted, though, is the art, provided by the capable and established Batman artist Dustin Nguyen. Nguyen was the artist on the majority of writer Paul Dini’s successful run on Detective Comics from a few years back, and seeing his distinctive and clear artistic style should be a welcome occurrence for any fan that enjoys his consistently good work. Overall, though, the narrative aim of the story didn’t have to interrupt “Zero Year,” and because it wasn’t a slam dunk, it makes that interruption feel both redundant and unnecessary, aside from a few pleasant character surprises. 6/10
Honorable Mentions at DC This Week: Justice League of America #12, Nightwing #28
From Marvel: Wolverine and the X-Men #41 by Jason Aaron (Script) and Pepe Larraz & Todd Nauck (Art)
I have to admit: I have a weird relationship with the X-Men. The concept is extraordinarily strong, and their corner of the Marvel Universe is populated by a multitude of memorable and fascinating characters, but their continuity can get so convoluted that I always had a hard time jumping into any ongoing X-titles or stories. Most of my X-Men reading revolved around back-issues and graphic novels: things that had a clear beginning, middle, and end. It seemed that the entire X-Men line was something to be avoided more than enjoyed because of the extreme density of continuity, and a hard time following exactly which books you were supposed to read next.
Then came an event called X-Men: Schism, written by Jason Aaron. A self-contained, dedicated mini-series that kicked off a new era for the characters with a clear beginning, and when I read it, I loved it. Schism created, well, a schism between Wolverine and Cyclops, causing both men to split the X-Men roster into two teams. Cyclops would lead his faction in a new volume of the Uncanny X-Men title, Wolverine would lead his group, the faculty of a new school for gifted youngsters, in a book called Wolverine and the X-Men. The book was fun, engaging, at times hilarious, but always true to the widely understood tenets of the X-Men narrative. Sadly, that book will be ending next issue, so this week’s #41 focuses on the end of the year at the Jean Grey School before Marvel closes the book on the title (before weirdly relaunching it with a new creative team).
The issue focuses on the mutant known as Toad, who has lost the trust of the Jean Grey faculty for conspiring with the Hellfire gang. As he’s let go by Logan, the issue goes a bit deeper into the mind and motivation of Toad, and makes a strong case for why he should likely be given a second chance by the staff since he actually seemed happy with his work. Here, Toad is something of a tragic figure, who has made an honest try at redemption from his days as a member of Magneto’s Brotherhood but still has foibles that make him a sympathetic character. The issue ends on something of a cliffhanger, and definitely proves to be an unexpectedly poignant read as we get ready to say goodbye to this iteration of the series.
The artwork this month is split between the two very different styles of artists Pepe Larraz and Todd Nauck, but the coloring on all of the pages helps to make the transition between artists smoother than it could have been. Both artists turn in good work here, with unique styles contributing to the same emotional arc of the characters, and thusly, serving the story presented equally well. Overall, I enjoyed this issue, but that enjoyment is slightly tempered by the fact that the series is coming to an end. I look forward to the finale, though, and this issue provides a good setup for the swan song. 8/10
Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Superior Spider-Man #27, She-Hulk #1
From NBM: All Star #1 by Jesse Lonergan (Script and Art)
Admittedly, the thing that drew me to giving All Star a try was its summary: “It’s the end of the school year in 1998. Mark McGwire is racing Sammy Sosa to break the home run record, Bill Clinton is being questioned about a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky, Semisonic’s Closing Time is on top of the charts, and Carl Carter is leading the Elizabeth Monarchs of rural Vermont to the state championship in his senior year. A full scholarship to the University of Maine is waiting for him, and everyone says he has a shot at the pros. He’s so good he can do whatever he wants…until he makes one very arrogant mistake.”
I was immediately drawn to the nostalgia of 1998 — a year I spent in 4th and 5th grade — and the overall simplicity and potential theme of the story presented. What I found was the first part of an eight part story that, as of now, has only incidental reliance on the period in which it takes place. All Star is the story of a high school senior named Carl Carter, a baseball star in his very small town of Elizabeth, Vermont, and a kid with a seemingly bright future in the form of a full-ride sports scholarship to the University of Maine. Carl seems like a good enough kid, but he can’t wait for high school to be over with. The story takes a bit of a turn with a slight focus on Carl’s best friend Esmond, and some of the difficulties his home life makes him endure. There’s an interesting but melancholy juxtaposition between Carl and Esmond’s lives that make for good, dramatic storytelling, and I’m interested to see how it will be explored — or rather, if it will be further explored — in subsequent parts.
Jesse Lonegran also performed the artistic duties on this work, a minimalist black and white style that fits in with the scale of the story presented. I found the emotions, and particularly the great deal of comical annoyance felt by some of the characters, very easy to tap into. It’s definitely one of the more stylistically unique comics I’ve read in awhile, which made for a refreshing narrative experience. Seven more serialized parts are promised from this series before the entire thing is released as an ebook sometime this April. Overall, I found All Star #1 to be a nice and interesting read, and I’m curious to see how Carl’s life is affected by the rest of the story. Part 1 can be purchased at ComiXology for only .99 cents, and if you’re in the mood for something a bit smaller but also rewarding, I’d seriously consider giving the Pull List’s Pick of the Week a try. 9/10
Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: X-Files Season 10 #9, RoboCop: To Live and Die in Detroit #1
That’ll do it for this week’s GeekNation Pull List, but be sure to come back next week and see what else is in store for comic readers in the next edition! Happy reading everyone, and we’ll be sure to see you next week!
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