The GeekNation Pull List – 3/13/2014

By March 13, 2014
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The GeekNation Pull List is your one-stop every week to see reviews of the biggest comic book releases from DC, Marvel, and a multitude of independent publishers! This week, “Zero Year” finally continues in the pages of Batman, Matt Fraction continues his critically-acclaimed Hawkeye series, and IDW Publishing gives us the origin of a unique Into Darkness character in the latest issue of Star Trek. Check out this week’s reviews below!

 

Cover art to Batman #29 by Greg Capullo.

Cover art to Batman #29 by Greg Capullo.

From DC: Batman #29 by Scott Snyder (Script) and Greg Capullo (Art)

After a bit of an intermission with the last issue that had practically nothing to do with the current story, “Zero Year” finally resumes this week as Batman has to take on the mind of the Riddler, and the scientific abomination known as Dr. Death. Perhaps the most potent element of this issue that I felt while reading it was, quite simply, pandemonium. Gotham is under total siege at the beginning because of the raging storm and the loss of power, and all of the civic elements that are designed to keep people aware of problems are all just as in the dark as the people on the streets. Frantically working behind the scenes to stop the complex and heinous plot by the Riddler are both Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon, but by this point in the story, things aren’t looking like they’re going too well.

The rushing between different points in the city is given a couple of brief interludes, telling the story of Bruce’s interactions with his parents right before the fateful alley walk that will take Thomas and Martha Wayne away from their young son. I’m consistently surprised by Scott Snyder’s ability to make his new story scenarios fit in thematically with previously established continuity like the Wayne murders, and he doesn’t disappoint here either. He also gives something of a makeover to the demeanor of Thomas Wayne in this era of DC publishing, since in the past he was often depicted as caring, but harsh to Bruce. Now, Thomas seems to be much nicer and far more understanding, and while certain continuity nuts may take issue with that, in the moment it helps to punctuate the loss that young Bruce endures just pages later. By the end of the issue, and even though we’re coming into the last few issues of this story, it truly hits the fan and sets the stage for what the city is like during the final moments of this opening confrontation with the Riddler, and the scenario is unique, somewhat evocative of previous doomsday Batman stories, but definitely interesting.

Snyder’s voice for the Riddler feels very similar to the voice established by writer Paul Dini and voice actor Wally Wingert for the Arkham video games, which I’d argue is terrific. That’s likely the clearest, most interesting characterization of the Riddler since Frank Gorshin, and if the comics can take lessons from it then I’m all for it.

And, once again, Greg Capullo’s mastery of smooth characters and environments rendered with a thick, gritty surreal outer shell is of continuous amazement to me. For the type of story being told, the emotional beats just wouldn’t hit home nearly as much without Capullo’s clearly rendered and emotional artwork, that helps to give the entire story a massive sense of scale.

Overall, Batman #29 is a great comic book. Its page count is higher making the price tag $1 more expensive, but if you’re invested in “Zero Year” thus far, it might be worth putting another book back on the shelf and diving into Batman this week instead. 8.5/10

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Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Justice League of America #13, Superman/Wonder Woman #6

 

Cover art to Hawkeye #17, by David Aja.

Cover art to Hawkeye #17, by David Aja.

From Marvel: Hawkeye #17 by Matt Fraction (Script), Chris Eliopoulos, and David Aja (Art)

On its face, Hawkeye #17 is pretty unusual, because it looks like it’s attempting to be a Holiday Special of some kind.

Released in March.

Whether it’s way too late (or way too early) is kind of immaterial though, because this issue was an absolute blast. Only the first and last pages are handled by regular series artist David Aja, while the majority of the art chores are handled by cartoonist Chris Eliopoulos. While Eliopoulos normally serves as the series’ letterer, his artistic style is perfectly appropriate for this issue since it depicts, well, a goofy holiday cartoon that Clint watches on TV with a couple of kids. The zaniness and reflective nature of the cartoon also talks, in a slightly backhanded way, about the dynamic Hawkeye has as a member of the Avengers, which makes it all the more fun to read.

See, the cartoon is called “Winter Friends,” and depicts a group of superpowered animals representing various holidays celebrated during the end of the year. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are all represented, but I don’t really want to spoil exactly how since that’s part of the actual fun of reading the issue. When a winter day becomes as hot as summer, the Winter Friends are captured by a dastardly villain, leaving their rescue to the “dog they always let hang out with them,” a regular retriever named Steve. Steve feels like he doesn’t need any friends to accomplish the things he needs to do, and everyone he meets over the course of the cartoon continuously remind him that he’s not a “real” Winter Friend because he’s normal (Get it? Clint’s not a real Avenger because he has no powers).

The story then takes a fun turn by introducing other animal characters clearly based on other Marvel superheroes, and its message is one that is very well constructed because it both fits in perfectly with the kind of cartoon it’s portraying, and because it fits in with the overall tenor of the Hawkeye series. Pretty interesting way to kill two birds with one stone, I think!

Eliopoulos’ artwork is wonderful, and the bookeneded pages by Aja are also as top notch as the rest of his work here. Overall this is a fantastic issue, it’s the GeekNation Pull List’s Pick of the Week, and very highly recommended. 9/10

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Honorable Mentions at Marvel This Week: Captain Marvel #1, All-New X-Men #24

 

Cover art to Star Trek #31, by Garry Gastonny.

Cover art to Star Trek #31, by Garry Gastonny.

From IDW: Star Trek #31 by Mike Johnson (Script) and Erfan Fajar (Art)

Setting an ongoing comic book series within an active film franchise is a great idea. That’s the basic impetus behind Mike Johnson’s ongoing IDW series Star Trek, and with creative input from Star Trek and Into Darkness film writer Roberto Orci, it really does feel like a natural continuation from the events of the films. It also helped to tide over certain fans who felt like Kirk had maybe ascended to the role of the Federation flagship’s Captain a little too fast, by both reimagining scenarios from classic original Star Trek episodes with the aesthetics and characters of the new films, as well as giving them new stories based on lingering questions we had by the end of the 2009 film.

Star Trek Into Darkness did an enormous service to this ongoing series by opening up the concept of the five-year mission. That’s basically license for Johnson to take the crew of the Enterprise anywhere he wants (so long as it doesn’t step on the toes of the in-development third film), and it also helps harken back to one of the more promising ideals of the entire Star Trek franchise: that the future of humanity is best served when we’re out there exploring, and simply doing what we can to expand our knowledge of the universe around us.

This latest issue in particular is very interesting, because it tells us the origin story of, perhaps, one of the more interesting-looking characters we found on the bridge of the latest film.

Remember this guy?

Science Officer 0718 as he appeared in Star Trek Into Darkness, played by actor Joe Gatt.

Science Officer 0718 as he appeared in Star Trek Into Darkness, played by actor Joseph Gatt.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of Science Officer 0718, because the film gave practically no context as to who he was, what race he belonged to, or really, why he was even on the bridge. It wasn’t until actor Joseph Gatt talked about his character in an interview with TrekMovie.com right before the film was released in theaters that we learned the character had some kind of “telepathic” connection to the Enterprise‘s main computer. Naturally, seasoned Trek fans like myself thought he might be from a race called the Bynars, first introduced in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as a race that blurred the line between organic life and computer, but thankfully writer Mike Johnson is giving us our first, fully-explained origin story for perhaps the most visually interesting character in the newest Trek film.

The issue takes place before the events of Into Darkness when the Enterprise comes upon a planet-sized perfect sphere floating in space. When they decide to investigate, things get apparently hairy, with the ship’s systems going berserk. It’s not until a peek inside one of the regeneration pods in the medical bay that readers start to put together what’s going on, and exactly how Science Officer 0718 is connected. It’s imaginitive and interesting, and part 2 can’t come fast enough.

Erfan Fajar provides the artwork for this issue, and does a rather incredible job of preserving the likenesses of the various actors in every page they appear in. Overall, I’d say that this is one of the better issues of Star Trek, because not only does it answer a lingering question left for one of the new characters of Into Darkness, but it’s using that question as a springboard into a unique and totally Star Trek origin story. So, it gets a solid recommendation here at the Pull List. 8.5/10

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Honorable Mentions at Independents This Week: East of West #10, Uber #10

 

That does it this week for the GeekNation Pull List! As always, feel free to continue the conversation about this week’s comics in the comments below, and make your own recommendations! Is there a series you want to see reviewed in the Pull List? Leave a comment! You never know what will turn up if you ask for it! Happy reading, and we’ll see you next week.

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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.
  • Harold M Cauthen

    Fantastic. I always enjoy this segment. Keep up the good work coming.