The GeekNation Pull List – 3/20/2014

By March 20, 2014
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On this week’s new edition of the GeekNation Pull List, Batman enlists the aid of the fabled King of the Seven Seas, Daredevil returns in another new #1 issue from Marvel, and a young alien boy does his best to make his classmates survive his first day of school. Check out the reviews for this week’s comics below!

 

Cover art to Batman and Aquaman #29, by Patrick Gleason.

Cover art to Batman and Aquaman #29, by Patrick Gleason.

From DC: Batman and Aquaman #29 by Peter J. Tomasi (Script) and Patrick Gleason (Art)

The Batman and… series at DC is, easily, one of the best comics that the company puts out. It’s not as much of a sales juggernaut as Scott Snyder’s Batman title, and doesn’t capture as much attention as Forever Evil or the slew of tie-ins that series has produced, but since the beginning of the New 52 it has consistently been one of the best written, best looking, and most rewarding reading experiences that Batman fans – and now DC Universe-at-large fans – can have. After the death of Damian Wayne last year, the title transitioned from being called Batman and Robin to shuffling through a series of team-ups: first with immediate Batman supporting characters, but this month it opens up to the wider ranks of the Justice League by partnering Batman with one of his teammates that he actually respects more than many others: Aquaman.

This looks to be a single affair, as the end of the issue makes it pretty clear that Aquaman won’t be his partner for next month. What is clear is that this is a story still very much rooted in Bruce’s love for and desire to protect his son, as this is the first issue in an arc entitled “The Hunt for Robin.” Batman is led to an island hideaway of Ra’s al Ghul, who had previously successfully managed to steal the bodies of both Talia and Damian from Bruce’s backyard. Obviously, Batman is enraged by this violation and using some intelligence that he and Robin had acquired from an earlier adventure, the Dark Knight has cornered Ra’s on this island. Coincidentally, Aquaman has been led here too, and it becomes clear very quickly that Ra’s isn’t the perpetrator of only one atrocity this time: he’s committed multiple ones that make both Batman and Aquaman beyond angry. They want to make him scream.

It continually surprises me how Tomasi can create stories that are amazingly emotionally reverent, even though I should be used to it by now. He relies on the relationships between characters far more than he relies on plot twists, and because of that, each time opening up an issue of this series feels like a true emotional investment. Perhaps more than any other book that Batman has been featured in, the one-two punch of Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason get to the vibrant emotional core of Batman, and expose him in a way that few other creative teams have been able to do. The most astonishing part of this, perhaps, is the fact that the reader is given insight into the Dark Knight’s emotions even while he still manages to preserve the gruff exterior that he is so well-known for. I don’t really know how the team does it, but the fact that it works so successfully is a testament to their immense talent.

Gleason, who also had a stint on the Aquaman title in the early 2000s, has something of a homecoming in this issue, but his consistent style and sometimes jaw-dropping pages still help make for an issue that gives testament to the greatness of both Batman and Aquaman as their own characters. Tomasi definitely deserves credit for coming up with a story that brings both disparate characters together so efficiently, but it’s Gleason that helps make it shine beyond even the lofty expectations of the writing: he makes this book soar.

Batman and… adds Wonder Woman to the supporting role next month, and if this issue is any indication, it feels like we’re on the cusp of something both revelatory and exciting. That easily makes this one of the absolute best titles you can find on the racks in any comic book store. This particular issue is exceptional even by those standards, which makes it the GeekNation Pull List’s Pick of the Week9/10

 batmanandaquaman29_previewpg1 batmanandaquaman29_previewpg2 batmanandaquaman29_previewpg3

Preview images courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Superman Unchained #6, Wonder Woman #29

 

Cover art to Daredevil #1, by Chris Samnee.

Cover art to Daredevil #1, by Chris Samnee.

From Marvel: Daredevil #1 by Mark Waid (Script) and Chris Samnee (Art)

When Mark Waid began writing a new Daredevil series in 2012, he made a fundamental and needed change to the status quo of the character. For years, Matt Murdock’s life and the world around him had gotten so dark that the writing eventually caved in on itself, and was in desperate need of a creative shake-up. Waid brought that through a relatively simple concept: he’d just start taking things in another direction, and because Waid is nearly unmatched in his craft, he quickly brought Daredevil from one of Marvel’s most gloomy, depressing stops and made it one of the more fun books on the stands you can read. He accomplished this by preserving everything that came before, which was kind of an astonishing feat in and of itself. For some reason, though, Marvel has decided that it’s time to create yet another new #1 issue for the already successful series, as well as quietly bumping up the price of admission from $2.99 to $3.99. That, my friends, is absolutely aggravating, particularly because it seemed that Daredevil was one of the last Marvel books to maintain a $2.99 price point. But, we’re not here to review Marvel’s business practices! We’re here to review what those practices have yielded, and in the case of Daredevil #1, it’s hard to argue with the work of Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee.

A while back, I criticized the new Fantastic Four #1 issue for not feeling like, well, a #1. It had to tie up too many loose ends from the last series, and couldn’t really get going with its own story in earnest. The new Daredevil #1 does not have this problem: Matt’s in a new home. He has to re-acclimate his superhuman senses and radar to the smells, sounds, and architecture of San Francisco after becoming so accustomed to all of the idiosyncrasies of the Big Apple, and a lot of that unfamiliarity is what pushes forward a rather surprising and frenetic pacing in this issue. Both Matt Murdock and the audience alike are learning some of the new rules of this new series quite literally on the run, as Daredevil rushes through unfamiliar territory to save the life of a young girl who’s being used as a weapon of mass destruction by some unknown force. It’s tight, it’s fast, and it’s endlessly entertaining. While I may question the overall necessity of relaunching Daredevil for the second time in less than two years, a writer of Mark Waid’s caliber knows how to take advantage of the opportunity that the big “#1” on the cover represents to both bring new readers into the fold, and change the stakes and settings to arouse the curiosity of the seasoned diehard readers. In that respect, it’s an excellent first issue.

To the untrained observer, artist Chris Samnee’s work may look uncomplicated to a degree, and maybe even a bit cartoonish, but for my money he is absolutely one of the most consistent artists in all of comics. Even when changing angles and moving between wide shots or close-ups in his renderings, the anatomical dimensions and flow of each panel is very precisely maintained, and it’s very easy to make an emotional connection with his characters because he is so good at rendering facial emotion. That element of this issue is very important, because it’s that emotional recognition that fuels the fast pace of the story, and keeps you turning the page at a breakneck pace.

Daredevil #1 may not have been necessary, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not an excellent piece of superhero comic book storytelling. With new scenarios and situations awaiting Matt Murdock as he starts something of a new life for himself in San Francisco, along with the promise of some old friends turning up, it looks like fans of the ol’ Hornhead will be in for quite a treat as long as Waid and Samnee have more stories with him to tell. 9/10

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Preview images courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Iron Man #23, Thor: God of Thunder #20

 

Cover art to Albert the Alien #1 by Gabriel Bautista.

Cover art to Albert the Alien #1 by Gabriel Bautista.

From Thrillbent: Albert the Alien #1 by Trevor Mueller (Script) and Gabriel Bautista (Art)

While I love getting into the grit of solid, dark comic book storytelling, sometimes it’s fun to revisit comics that are designed for all ages. That’s the spirit I want to try and convey by picking a book like Albert the Alien, a cute-looking book that details an extra-terrestrial boy’s first day at school on the planet Earth. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in comics storytelling that’s aimed at teens and adults that we sometimes forget that this is a medium that was first designed to capture the imaginations of children, and I’d argue it’s good for the soul to indulge in that kind of storytelling once in a while just to make sure that your inner child is well fed.

Albert the Alien‘s eponymous character is a part of an interestellar foreign exchange student program, and is starting his first day of school on Earth. One of the more charming aspects of the book was the fact that it plays with the expectations of what a story like this is kind of supposed to be, in that you expect bullies in the school to be the big antagonists. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the school bullies are more of a nuisance than an enemy, and Albert is delightfully unaware of the fact that they’re trying to harm him, because any attempt they make to trick him into doing something is circumvented by his own advanced technology. Funnily enough, it’s the technology, specifically Albert’s own school supplies, that appear as the true villains of the story, and that struck me as a creative direction to take the story into.

Bautista’s art is perfect for this book: the character designs all have a unique style, and Albert himself is as cute as a button, making it very easy to root for him. When you combine the design of the character himself with the blissful unawareness and exceedingly good-natured attitude he has to all those around him, it makes for a nice, rather charming tale that looks like it’ll be fun, especially if you’re looking for a good book for kids. Within the story is a nice and succinct anti-bullying message as well, that will likely be easy to connect for other kids.

Albert the Alien #1 is a nice experience for adults, but a perfect book for younger readers. Its pages are wide and read a bit more like a storybook than a comic, but given the intended audience, that seems just fine with me. 8/10

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Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Sex Criminals #5, Helper Bot #0.1

 

That does it this week on the GeekNation Pull List, but be sure to come back next week for a whole new set of comic reviews! As always, feel free to leave questions, comments, or recommendations below, and they could be incorporated into a future edition of the List! Have a great 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.
  • Jerry Hudge

    Lots of good news at a time. Thanks for sharing!