The GeekNation Pull List – 3/27/2014

By March 27, 2014
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This week on the GeekNation Pull List: the Dark Knight faces off against Man-Bat in the final issue of a “New 52” launch title, the Uncanny Avengers kick off a new story arc in their ongoing title, and the continuing new adventures of Mal Reynolds and Serenity stretch further into “the black.” Check out this week’s reviews below in the GeekNation Pull List!

Cover art to Batman: The Dark Knight #29, by Ethan Van Sciver.

Cover art to Batman: The Dark Knight #29, by Ethan Van Sciver.

From DC: Batman: The Dark Knight #29 by Gregg Hurwitz (Script), Jorge Lucas, and Ethan Van Sciver (Art)

When the “New 52” publishing initiative began in September of 2011, it was pretty easy to see that the character given the most love in the launch lineup of titles was Batman. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo premiered the new volume of Batman, writer/artist Tony Daniel was tasked with kicking off the new era for Detective Comics, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason continued the adventures of Bruce and Damian in Batman and Robin, and writer Paul Jenkins and comic book superstar artist David Finch restarted a title that seemed like an odd choice to continue: Batman: The Dark Knight. The pre-New 52 version of the series only ran for five issues, and had been largely critically panned (save for the gorgeous art of David Finch and Jason Fabok). Although performing respectably when it began, the New 52 volume of The Dark Knight settled back into relative critical obscurity by the time issue #9 hit the stands in 2012.

Writer Gregg Hurwitz, who had made a noticeable splash in Gotham City for his terrific mini-series Penguin: Pain and Prejudice, was tapped to start writing a single six-issue arc beginning with #10, and many fans hailed it as a new go-to in the multitude of ongoing Batman comics available. Eventually another superstar artist joined the creative team: Ethan Van Sciver (Green LanternThe Flash: Rebirth). This then became the “new normal” for the series, and it has been a strong seller ever since. For whatever reason, though, DC has decided that the time for The Dark Knight has come to an end, and issue #29 is the series’ last. While a strong performer by any comic book sale standards, it has consistently been the weakest of the Batman line, and with a new weekly Batman series starting soon, perhaps DC felt they needed to ease up on the Batman line for a while.

So, you might be wondering, how does the book go out? Some massive, grand finale? A siege on Gotham by Two-Face or the Penguin? Maybe an appearance from the Joker? Well…no. It goes out by tying up the loose ends of the story it’s been telling with the new Man-Bat, and doesn’t draw attention to the fact that this is a final issue. Which, for my money, is a good thing.

Batman is in a bad way when the issue starts, free-falling straight to the Gotham streets with a shredded cape unable to break his fall: straight to the Earth without a parachute. He has to do something pretty risky and shoot his gauntlet grapplers without anything slowing down his momentum, which could easily rip his arms off. Fortunately for us, he finds a way to survive, and pushes forward in uncovering the machinations of the new Man-Bat. It’s well-written and concise, though a couple of attempts at humor hit me rather flatly. Overall, it was a good Batman comic that just happened to be the final issue of a New 52 launch title.

While Ethan Van Sciver only contributed a couple of pages to the final product, most of the art this month was handled by Jorge Lucas. Van Sciver’s blockbuster visuals started the issue, and the only real fault I can assign to the art is that the transition to Lucas from Van Sciver is rather jarring, since their artistic styles are so different. Other than that, though, it’s a fitting end for a title that has endured a roller coaster of derision and admiration. Van Sciver always elevates any project he’s a part of, and Hurwitz was an excellent choice to pick up the pieces and mold this series into something that both he and Batman fans could be proud of. Here’s hoping we’ll see this team in Gotham City again soon. 8/10

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Preview pages courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Suicide Squad: Amanda Waller #1, Superman #29

 

Cover art to Uncanny Avengers #18, by Daniel Acuña.

Cover art to Uncanny Avengers #18, by Daniel Acuña.

From Marvel: Uncanny Avengers #18 by Rick Remender (Script) and Daniel Acuña (Art)

Before you read this review, I have to admit that Uncanny Avengers is probably my absolute favorite Marvel title on the stands right now. When it was launched in the opening salvo of Marvel NOW!, it had finally done something that I had clamored for since I started reading the Marvel Universe: it had melded the normally disparate worlds of the Avengers and X-Men together. Keeping the stories and supporting casts of the two major franchises of the Marvel U always seemed stupid to me, but this title finally started to create new, good, consistent, and regular stories by mixing those two worlds together.

This issue was a bit heavier on the X-Men over the Avengers, but by the end of it you realize that it was just a means to an end: by the end of #18, we’re back to form, and writer Rick Remender is again showing a unique understanding and application of the wide variety of characters that can be involved. After the end of the last story, the Apocalypse Twins have migrated the human and mutant races to a new homeworld. Havok, leader of the Uncanny Avengers, takes serious issue with the machniations of the twins and the apparent leader, Magneto, and is doing everything he and his wife Wasp can do to try and set things on a more righteous path. To do that, they need Avengers, and they and Beast are trying to create a portal to another time and place that would allow them to get involved.

Although there’s a lot of history behind this current story, it’s surprisingly easy to read, and easy to get into the emotions of the characters. It feels like it’s being told on a massive scale, even company crossover-worthy scale, but without all of the extraneous and redundant tie-ins that can often give comic book readers “event fatigue.” Remender is telling the kind of story he wants to tell with these characters in a manner that is self-contained enough to be easy to jump into, yet big enough that any Marvel fan can appreciate what its aims seem to be. That easily helps make this issue an example of why Uncanny Avengers should really be the one basic stop on the story of today’s Marvel U, a sentiment many others have tried to acheive in the past, but that only Remender has really managed to accomplish.

Daniel Acuña’s artwork has evolved quite a bit over the time that I’ve been aware of it, going back to the mid 2000s with a few issues of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern. Oddly enough, he seems perfectly suited to the characters and situations of the Marvel Universe, since he has an inherent darkness and oddly detailed, yet smooth, artistic style. This issue is actually brighter than what I’ve seen from him in the past, and he seems very well suited to the story Remender has begun here.

Uncanny Avengers continues to be the perhaps-best title in Marvel’s library right now, and if you’re at all interested in this melding of the Avengers and X-Men worlds in the modern Marvel Universe, I would sincerely urge you to consider picking up this title’s first collected volume and read through it in its entirety. This issue is a great addition to the series, and I hope that Remender stays with this title for a long time to come. 9/10

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Honorable Mentions at Marvel This Week: Hawkeye #18, New Avengers #16

 

Cover art to Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3, by Dan Dos Santos.

Cover art to Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3, by Dan Dos Santos.

From Dark Horse: Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3 by Zack Whedon (Script) and Georges Jeanty (Art)

Last month on the Pull List, I reviewed issue #2 of this series since I hadn’t managed to review #1 previously. I’m returning to it here because it looks like it’ll be going deeper into one of the most interesting and enigmatic characters of the series and film: River Tam. Since Joss Whedon and the other members of the “Firefly” creative team thought they’d be getting more time to tell stories, a fair amount of creative seeds were planted for River to be developed in future seasons. Since we never got a second season, more of the answers surrounding River made up a significant part of the plot for the film Serenity, but it’s pretty plain to see that there’s plenty more material for the character that audiences have yet to discover. I was hoping to discover more of the answers to River when I opened up this issue, so as a fan of the franchise, I was understandably pretty anticipatory.

While it wasn’t as River-heavy as I would’ve initially thought, it was still a hell of a ride, and downright necessary reading for anyone who has enjoyed the “Firefly” franchise. Leaves on the Wind #3 starts by settling the cliffhanger from the end of issue #2, that involved the return of [Jubal Early, the bounty hunter from the series’ final episode]. From there, River tells the crew of Serenity that there are more people like her, who had their brains worked on by the Alliance at the mysterious “Academy” that she had attended. Zoe, meanwhile, has been thrown in an Alliance prison, making a promise to her cellmate that she will get out. By the final page of this issue, a rather shocking return of a character I certainly wasn’t expecting takes place, and you realize that a lot of things are about to go down in a big way.

The story is, again, extremely well written because of its evocative quality. You can almost hear the character’s voices as you read their dialogue in the word balloons, and while sometimes that kind of evocative writing has to be stagnant from a plot perspective, this series really does feel like a natural progression of the events we’ve seen in the series and the film. Zack Whedon knows these characters inside and out (which you may expect given his last name), but his plots are also substantive and cumulative, and forward-thinking.

Georges Jeanty’s artwork is practically perfect. The likenesses are spot-on, the layouts are clean and precise, and the environments are rendered with the grandeur they deserve. All in all, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3 is a fantastic issue in a stellar series thus far, and easily takes the title of GeekNation Pull List Pick of the Week. If you’re a fan of the franchise and haven’t checked this series out yet, it’s absolutely essential to check in on what Mal and the crew are up to right now. 9/10

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Preview images courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Sex Criminals #5, The Manhattan Projects #19

That does it this week on the GeekNation Pull List! Be sure to leave a comment below to continue the conversation, as well as any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have for forthcoming installments! Thanks for reading, and 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.