The GeekNation Pull List – 3/6/2014

By March 6, 2014
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This week on the GeekNation Pull List, we take a look at books featuring the final fate of Nightwing, the return of Moon Knight, and the launch of the Millarworld Universe! This week’s selections feature the work of Geoff Johns, David Finch, Warren Ellis, and Mark Millar, so check out this week’s reviews below!

Cover art to Forever Evil #6, by David Finch.

Cover art to Forever Evil #6, by David Finch.

From DC: Forever Evil #6 by Geoff Johns (Script) and David Finch (Art)

DC’s villain-centric event has reached its penultimate issue, and with one of the publisher’s most beloved characters in mortal danger for most of this series, things seem to come to a head in Forever Evil #6 with potentially dire consequences for the entire DC Universe. Beyond that, though, things also may be getting worse than a bad fate for Dick Grayson, since the Crime Syndicate, led by Ultraman, seem to be on edge about keeping the Earth under their control. A very powerful player makes their presence fully felt in the closing pages of this issue, and the energy as we head into the series finale seems to be hitting something of a fever pitch as we get ready to close this issue out.

One of the cooler elements of having a DC Comics series focus squarely on the villains, especially as protagonists, is that the regular rules governing the behavior of the people you root for basically go out the window. We may be able to expect a certain kind of behavior and solution from the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, or Green Lantern. When it comes to the likes of Captain Cold, Black Manta, Sinestro, and Lex Luthor? Chances are that the story is going to play out in a blatantly different way than it would with regular heroes fighting the major antagonists. Now, does Captain Cold’s brand of “heroism” (if you can call it that) serve as a suitable replacement for the Flash’s? Absolutely not, and by the time we get to the end of this series, we may end up needing a bit more old-fashioned heroism instead of the sheer brutality of DC’s villains.

The story also presents some interesting and solid character moments for the villains themselves. Although Johns managed to say a lot about Captain Cold and the Flash’s Rogues while he was the steward of The Flash ongoing series in the early 2000s, his perspective on Captain Cold in particular continues to be fascinating, and through the lens of the New 52, even a bit educational. He’s still largely the same character, but he gets into some interesting exposition about his relationship with the Flash, and why he won’t go to certain lengths even when facing off against his arch enemy. Reviving one of his most memorable characterizations from perhaps his most celebrated run on Green Lantern, Johns’ take on Sinestro is just as menacing, sardonic, and deliciously anti-heroic as ever, and makes the issue endlessly interesting as a result. And of course, only a few writers get what makes Lex Luthor the complex and fascinating character that he is, and Johns is definitely one of them.

David Finch’s artwork is just as stellar as ever, and gives the entire story a hard, gritty quality that is perfectly appropriate for the kind of story it aims to tell. As for the issue’s ending? It’s very much a cliffhanger, and I wouldn’t gear up for Chopin’s “Funeral March” just yet. A lot can happen in a single issue, and hopefully, the payoff will be well worth it. 8/10

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Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Batman/Superman Annual #1, Action Comics #29

 

Cover art to Moon Knight #1, by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire.

Cover art to Moon Knight #1, by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire.

From Marvel: Moon Knight #1 by Warren Ellis (Script) and Declan Shalvey (Art)

I have to admit that during my time as a comic book fan, Moon Knight is a character that I haven’t really been able to get into. Not for any specific reason, except for perhaps creative inconsistency. A couple of different things can happen with comic book superheroes that aren’t a part of the so-called “A-list”: one possibility is that the publisher gives the right creator an immense amount of freedom at the right time, and that creator truly manages to make a character, and comic book series, thrive under their guiding hands. Another possibility is that the publisher gives several creators the freedom to sort-of remake this lesser-known character with their own conceptions, and anyone trying to consistently follow the adventures and characterizations of that superhero will get lost because of a multitude of different takes in a relatively minimal amount of time. For me, this was what happened with Moon Knight. Too many creators tried to put their own stamp on the character so much, that anytime I wanted to check in on an issue featuring the character, it was virtually unrecognizable when compared with the last time I looked in on him.

So, I opened up the brand new Moon Knight #1 with a little trepidation, but was encouraged by the name of the writer on this series. Warren Ellis has a well-deserved reputation as one of the more enigmatic comic book creators out there, and his work tends to lean toward commentary on sociocultural themes and humanistic theory. Good examples of this are his acclaimed creator-owned series Planetary and Transmetropolitan, as well as his transformative Iron Man story “Extremis,” which the film Iron Man 3 was partially based upon.

So, I found myself getting excited about the series, by the simple virtue of Ellis’ involvement, and I wasn’t disappointed. Ellis is doing what seems to be the norm for Moon Knight and reinventing him a bit, but the core of this particular reinvention is at the root of the character’s origins as a man reborn under the shadow of the moon god Khonshu. I also found it pretty refreshing that in the pages of this single issue, one of the more elementary notions of the character, or at least what certain readers and creators thought was an elementary notion, was kind of thrown out the window in favor of a slightly new psychological profile. That made this experience probably more refreshing than it would’ve been otherwise, and the rest of the story is suitably gritty and even somewhat irreverent. It was a very enjoyable reading experience, relatively easy to jump into for Moon Knight neophytes, and I genuinely look forward to what will happen next.

I’d never before seen the work of Irish comic book artist Declan Shalvey, but his pencils are vitally important to the overall tone of this issue, and likely the series itself going forward. While there’s a smoothness and somewhat cartoonish quality to the human characters, Moon Knight’s costume almost gives him a more realistic quality when compared to the other characters in the story, which may be something of a psychological statement from the character himself. Is his life more real under the mask he wears? Something to consider! Solid artwork and an interesting opening story make this issue a solid recommendation for the week, and we’ll have to see what’s in store for the character next month. 8.5/10

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Preview images courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Captain America #18, Wolverine and the X-Men #1

 

Cover art to Starlight #1, by John Cassaday.

Cover art to Starlight #1, by John Cassaday.

From Image: Starlight #1 by Mark Millar (Script) and Goran Parlov (Art)

When it came to opening up this book for the first time, my trepidation came not from the character (since it’s a new creation), but from the creator. Mark Millar is admittedly a comic book writer I’ve had some difficulty getting into, because his work has ranged from absolute greatness (Superman: Red SonWolverine: Old Man Logan), to downright bizarre, disgusting, and maybe even uncalled for (NemesisKick-Ass 2). While I’m more than happy to give him some points for versatility, sometimes it seems as though he doesn’t exactly know what he wants to be as a comic book writer, and in more recent years has gone for shock value over substantive narrative. Still, when looking at pre-release materials for Starlight, this looked like an issue that would aim a little higher, and Millar can excel pretty well at giving a very human perspective to even the most bombastic characters, so as I went into this issue, I remained cautiously optimistic.

Thankfully, what I found was a story that had a truly resonant emotional core, and a delightfully evocative tone of 1950s sci-fi that really surprised me. Without giving too much away, Starlight #1 tells the story of a New York test pilot named Duke McQueen, who ended up on another planet after encountering some kind of wormhole. While there, he went on some Flash Gordon-esque adventures, deposed a vicious dictator, and had a life of adventure. When he came back to Earth and told people of his claims, he was shunned as a crackpot and a disgrace, but that didn’t bother him too much since the love of his life, Joanne, stayed at his side through it all.

The first issue picks up at least a couple of decades after his return to Earth, and starts at Joanne McQueen’s funeral. His sons are so distracted and lacking in compassion for their father that they end of neglecting him when he needs his family most, and Duke is left alone in his house thinking of everything he lost, and what he used to be…until something happens that may thrust him into space-faring adventure once again. When he really wants to, Millar can bring the emotional weight necessary to create a very resonant story, and I’m thrilled to recommend Starlight #1 to anyone who’d be willing to give it a try. This is probably the best Mark Millar issue I’ve read since the conclusion to Red Son in 2003.

Goran Parlov’s artwork is gorgeous, and exceedingly appropriate for the kind of story being told here. While it has an element of classic sci-fi to some of the environments and costumes, the simplicity and beauty of the “present day” scenes in the country, and the church, feel like classic Andrew Wyeth Americana in a lot of ways. The artwork wonderfully accentuates the story being told in this issue, and it’s the great combination of written word and beautiful art that easily make this the GeekNation Pull List’s Pick of the Week9/10

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Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Evil Empire #1, Velvet #4

 

That does it for this week on the GeekNation Pull List! Be sure to come back next week for a fresh new batch of comic book reviews, and feel free to continue the conversation for this week’s picks in the comments below! Thanks for reading, and feel free to share any questions, concerns, or suggestions for what you’d like to see covered!

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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.