The GeekNation Pull List – 2/27/2014

By February 27, 2014
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This week on the GeekNation Pull List: a new threat emerges in the DC Universe that kickstarts the latest story teaming the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel, Marvel’s “first family” returns in an all-new #1 issue, and the latest adventure of Captain Reynolds and his rickety old Firefly hits the stands with authority! Check out this week’s comic reviews below!

Cover art to Batman/Superman #8 by Jae Lee.

Cover art to Batman/Superman #8 by Jae Lee.

From DC: Batman/Superman #8 by Greg Pak (Script) and Jae Lee (Art)

Artist Jae Lee returns to the main illustrative duties of this title just in time to kick off a new story. In “First Contact” part 1, Batman and Superman meet Huntress and Power Girl for the first time. Both of those characters are starring in the World’s Finest title, and they hail from an alternate universe: Huntress is actually Helena Wayne, the daughter of Earth 2’s Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, and Power Girl is Karen Starr, the cousin of Earth 2’s Superman, who operated in her home universe as Supergirl. After a catastrophic event, both characters found themselves in the main DC Universe, and it’s in this story that they finally come face-to-face with “our” Superman and Batman. That’s a fun occurrence in and of itself for this issue, but writer Greg Pak knows just as well as his readers do that one fun little crossover does not make for a good comic book story. So, he uses that first meeting between characters to build a bigger plot involving something that makes Power Girl a bit…volatile.

As has become the standard with this title, we’re treated to some new and fun explorations of the relationship between Batman and Superman. While previous issues seemed to indicate that they’re getting a bit more friendly with each other, there’s still a ways to go in forging the powerful bond that old DC Universe fans have come to expect. Unsurprisingly, on Batman’s side there’s still a lack of full trust for his Kryptonian colleague, and when Batman can operate autonomously from Superman, even in a situation that might call for the Man of Steel’s involvement, Batman likely won’t reach out unless he feels it’s absolutely necessary. He’s kind of stubborn like that. Superman, on the other hand, seems perfectly willing to trust Batman, but also sees the Dark Knight’s somewhat pedantic and paranoid attitude as really annoying. In true Superman fashion, though, he gives Batman credit where it’s absolutely due when he says, “Batman isn’t just the most annoying hero on the planet…he’s also one of the smartest.”

Jae Lee’s return was well worth the wait. We last saw him doing the full page count on issue #4, the finale of the first story arc, and while his style may turn some more traditional superhero fans off at first glance, you absolutely cannot take fault with his impeccable attention to detail. Sometimes with stylized artists, consistency in dimension and structure can be a very hard thing to maintain (one of the problems I personally have with the style of Sam Kieth). Lee, though, manages to stay within the design and scale parameters in each successive page, and the sheer amount of dimension in his work makes it spectacular to look at.

If I have to knock this issue for anything, its that the next part of this story will be in World’s Finest and not the next issue of Batman/Superman. That’s a little annoying, but on its own merits, this issue is very solid and highly recommended. 8/10

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Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: The Flash #28, Superman: Lois Lane #1

 

Cover art to Fantastic Four #1, by Leonard Kirk.

Cover art to Fantastic Four #1, by Leonard Kirk.

From Marvel: Fantastic Four #1 by James Robinson (Script) and Leonard Kirk (Art)

Sometimes, Marvel frustrates me severely. I, and most other comic book fans, understand all too well that a big, shiny “#1” on a cover manages to sell a lot of books, but the cavalier attitude that the House of Ideas has towards issue numbering, and the continuous cycle of cancellation and relaunch for even the time-honored and popular characters, is frustrating for collectors. When you’re trying to organize a collection, where does this new #1 fit in relation to this issue #537 that I have from a previous series? Yes, the information is readily available, but for collectors trying to find where everything fits, it can be annoying. Also, Fantastic Four was just relaunched with the first wave of Marvel NOW! in 2012, and less than two years later, we have another new #1 featuring these characters. Really, what gives?

That’s just a geeky gripe I have though (we are at GeekNation, after all), and I don’t hold these criticisms against this issue at all. At least…not very much.

James Robinson is a writer I really enjoy. His new Invaders series at Marvel has kicked off very well, his legendary run on Starman is still held in high regard across the comic book world, and his versatility made a run on the Superman titles — without Superman himself — better than it likely had any right to be. So, when I saw that he was tapped to be the next steward of the Fantastic Four, I actually got pretty excited. The opening first few pages of the issue are very promising, since they detail some catastrophe that places the FF in some very dire circumstances. We don’t quite know how they get there, but then Robinson takes us back to the beginning and begins the journey that shows us exactly what happened. A promising start, until it gets bogged down by relative trivialities.

The story then goes on to try and tie up loose ends from the end of the last Fantastic Four series, which overall makes for kind of a disjointed reading experience. Valeria Richards, Reed and Sue’s daughter, is in Latveria at the end of the last series, and a couple of pages are spent reconciling that with the new status quo. Ben’s relationship with longtime on-again/off-again girlfriend Alicia is reignited, with service given to the events of the last series. Johnny Storm is shown talking with his new producer for including more tour dates, making reference to his absence from Earth in the last series. While the setup for the new story is strong, too many pages are spent in reconciling the events of the previous series with the new events of this series, which is a little frustrating. You’d think that those loose ends could’ve been tied up more efficiently in the final issues of the last series so that Robinson could then go forward unencumbered, but as a result of this format this issue feels less like a #1 and more like a #13. Still, I like where it’s headed.

Artistically, Leonard Kirk is a reliable and cleanly-lined artist that contributes positively to anything he works on. Everything from the layouts to characters felt precision-crafted, and I look forward to seeing some of the more bombastic situations that this series will likely call him to render. Overall, Fantastic Four #1 is a good issue, but it could’ve been great if the series’ previous writer had done away with the preliminaries that Robinson no doubt felt he had to address before kicking his story off in earnest. It feels a little more like an epilogue to the last series, so in that regard, issue #2 will hopefully be the one that truly kicks things off for the new creative team. 7/10

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Preview images courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Guardians of the Galaxy #12, Hawkeye #15

 

Cover art to Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #2 by Georges Jeanty.

Cover art to Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #2 by Georges Jeanty.

From Dark Horse: Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #2 by Zack Whedon (Script) and Georges Jeanty (Art)

The “Firefly” phenomenon is a story of practically unparalleled awesomeness wrapped in a tortilla of tragedy. The 14-episode series is highly regarded as one of the best TV series of the 2000s, but shortsightedness at FOX led to its cancellation before it could even fulfill a complete first season. When it was released on DVD it found great new life and popularity, which led to the 2005 film Serenity, but what was supposed to be a triumphant return for the franchise instead petered out once again since the film wasn’t nearly as successful as it was hoped to be. In the nine years since the release of the film, hope for some kind of full-motion reunion of the cast and crew still exists, but is far less pronounced than before. The show and its characters still have a vigorous fan following, though, and many people have waited to see the repercussions of the events of the film, and how the characters would continue on.

Enter the comic books.

Last month, writer Zack Whedon and artist (and GeekNation friend) Georges Jeanty started a new 6-issue series entitled Serenity: Leaves on the Wind that picks up soon after the events of the 2005 film. Publicly, the Alliance has severely downplayed the massive broadcast of the Miranda conspiracy made by the crew of Serenity, but privately they want Malcolm Reynolds and his entire remaining crew to pay – dearly – for what they’ve done. The end of the first issue sees Jubal Early, a bounty hunter defeated by the crew in the series’ final episode, return to the Alliance and offer his services in tracking down the ship and crew. The end of the first issue also sees Zoe, first mate of Mal Reynolds and widow of ship’s pilot Wash, give birth to her child Emma. Complications from the birth cause Mal to take his ship out of hiding and seek out a private hospital. This eventually leads to the Alliance zeroing in on their most wanted fugitive, and things get decidedly hairy.

One of the most astonishing things about this series thus far is how clearly the characters’ voices come through. Whether it’s Mal’s care for the crew wrapped in a sardonic front, or River’s eccentric desire to be a team player, down to Simon’s soothing doctoral care, these are definitively the characters that fans of the show will know and love. The scale of the story being told also retains much of its scope from the film, in that its decidedly larger and broader than the scope of the majority of episodes. In many ways, the events of this story feel like a rather organic extension of what might’ve happened if given more episodes, or another film, and while previous comic books have gone into the past, it’s nice to see a new series actually continuing the narrative as opposed to simply expanding prior continuity.

Georges Jeanty’s artwork is awesome, and highly appropriate for the kind of story we’re getting. He manages to evoke the prime emotions of each scene in the faces of the characters and even the environment to a degree, and his layouts are clean and narratively effective for the story being told. Serenity: Leaves on the Wind is an absolute must-read for fans of “Firefly,” and should certainly help fill some of the void that fans of the show have felt for so long. Because of that, this issue is easily the GeekNation Pull List’s Pick of the Week9/10

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Preview images courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Star Trek: Khan #5, Walking Dead #122

 

That does it for this week on the GeekNation Pull List, but be sure to come back and see what the comic book medium has in store next week! Let us know what you think of these issues (or others you think should have made the cut) in the comments below.

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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.