This week on the GeekNation Pull List: the Dark Knight’s modern origins push into the final act by the acclaimed creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, the true wallcrawler is back in the mask — and mind — of the Amazing Spider-Man, and an independent comic portrays the levels we can push ourselves to just to take another fresh, life-giving breath. Check out this week’s comic book reviews in the latest edition of the GeekNation Pull List!
From DC: Batman #30 by Scott Snyder (Script) and Greg Capullo (Art)
I know that this is the third week of a Batman review from DC, but the fact of the matter is that his books are just in a really interesting place this month. Now that Eternal has gotten started, a title has been canceled, and Detective has a new creative team, we can finally get back into the meat of the primary title’s even story: the New 52 origin of the Dark Knight known as “Zero Year.” Batman #30 symbolizes the beginning of the end for the story that started nine months ago, as we now move into the final act of this rather expansive take on the beginnings of the modern Dark Knight. As I’ve alluded to before in this column, it’s hard to take on the responsibility of a new origin for the character since the pall of Frank Miller’s 1987 take on those same formative times, Batman: Year One, still manages to cast a long shadow nearly 30 years after its initial publication. This is rightfully so, because in only four issues, writer Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli managed to create an engaging, thought-provoking, fully modernized take on the character that still stands as highly influential, and following in the footsteps of Year One, even though it came out so long ago, would be the automatic reputation that any attempt at Batman’s origin would take on. Scott Snyder has put himself up to the task and has largely excelled, but he’s decided to tell a story that’s far more expansive than the one told by Frank Miller back in 1987.
The concepts for both stories are entirely different. Where Miller sought to firmly establish Batman as the ground-level vigilante we all now know him to be, Snyder’s origin feels far more expansive and appropriate to the heightened reality of the DC Universe. With more issues, though, come more places to potentially slip up, since Miller’s relatively short four-issue story managed to be just enough to largely be considered tight with minimal errors. Snyder’s boldness in stretching beyond even the lofty length of ten issues demonstrates the writer’s extreme confidence in his story, as well as DC’s confidence in the team they’ve hired to tell it.
In issue #30, Bruce Wayne has discovered the true lengths that the Riddler has gone to subjugate the people of Gotham, and takes steps to challenge him for the soul of the city he loves. By the time we get to the last page of the issue, a moment from Year One seems to be spiritually recreated: in the old story, the audience is brilliantly confronted with a juxtaposition of Lieutenant James Gordon’s hopelessness of encountering the beast that is Gotham City, and in that very same frame we see the first glimmer of the city’s dark hope in the window behind him. This issue gives a similar moment that manages to evoke a similar feeling, while also confronting Gordon with the possibility that all is far from lost, so long as the “crazy &!@# in the Batsuit” is still breathing.
Greg Capullo again turns in phenomenal artwork in Batman, which by nearly his third year on the title, means he’s spoiling us with how awesome his work is. The style and gritty texture he adds to both people and environments continue to amaze, and he makes it much easier to dive into the story and experience it along with the characters. As we finally push into the last leg of “Zero Year,” it still has room to trip and fall. This close to the end, though, it’d be pretty hard for it to fall very far. 8.5/10
Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Justice League #29, Batman and Wonder Woman #30
From Marvel: Superior Spider-Man #31 by Dan Slott (Main Script), Christos Gage (Backup Script), Giuseppe Camuncoli (Main Art), and Will Sliney (Backup Art)
Now, we move from a character who may have had too much attention in the Pull List to one who is making his debut, with a finale to what’s been the go-to Spider-Man comic for over a year. Superior Spider-Man‘s basic premise is that prime Spidey villain Dr. Octopus has managed to implant his mind into the body of Peter Parker. Now younger and far more capable than he’s ever been, you’d think that’d be the end of it for the heroic career of Spider-Man. With Peter’s body, though, came his set of responsibility, and as a result, Ock had resolved to be a “superior” Spider-Man, better than Parker ever was in the role. Recent issues have shown Ock that he actually has been far from being a better Spider-Man, and when he found evidence of Peter’s consciousness still alive in his body, he sacrificed himself so that the one, true Amazing Spider-Man could return. This is an issue with a higher page count that’s designed to do one basic thing: tie up Ock-Spidey’s loose ends, and celebrate the return of the real Peter Parker, back in the Marvel Universe for the first time since December 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man #700. And right when the character has a new movie coming out! Imagine that!
It’s pretty clear that Marvel’s timing has been entirely on purpose. The new Amazing Spider-Man #1 is due out in two weeks, just in time for the theatrical release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Writer Dan Slott, to his credit, doesn’t try and hide this fact in the letters pages at the end of this issue, and in the hands of a lesser creator, this entire series could have been nothing more than what it is by concept: a stunt. Slott, though, is a creator that thankfully believes enough in Spider-Man and his own storytelling that the majority of the series has been very good. As a huge fan of Spider-Man himself, Slott has not been ignorant of people missing the character, since the last few issue shave helped even the massively stubborn Otto Octavius come to the realization that, to steal a phrase form The Highlander, there can be only one.
One of the things that make this issue’s main story so interesting is how abruptly Slott drops Peter back in the mix of the moving train of events set up over the last several issues. The last issue went from starting with Otto in Peter’s head, all hell breaking loose, Otto’s discovery that Peter was still in his own brain, and BOOM, here we are. He thinks on his feet enormously well, and that classic sense of humor that I’ve certainly been missing makes a triumphant return, right into the ugly face of the Green Goblin. Everything about this issue screams “triumph,” from the character we all know and love finally returning to his rightful place, all the way down to he structure of the story. There’s very little work being laid for the future here: this is meant to be total payoff, and it works very well. Giuseppe Camuncoli’s artwork is consistent and adds to the energy coursing through the main story as well, so it’s difficult to find any fault with it.
The backup story is a much simpler tale by comparison, featuring Peter’s making amends (or attempts to, anyways) with Mary Jane, a confrontation with J. Jonah Jameson, and a bit of resolution with Carlie Cooper. Perfectly serviceable storytelling, but by the time the assaulting experience of the main story was finished, I was kind of done. Christos Gage and Will Sliney tell a good story, it’s just that the real star of this show was the triumphant return of Peter Parker. The energy is high going into Amazing Spider-Man #1, and I hope that Mr. Slott stays with the web-slinger for a long time to come. 8/10
Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Hulk #1, Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #3
From Independent: Last Breath #1 by Sam Eggleston (Script) and Jason Baroody (Art)
Some people who know me may be surprised to learn that superheroes weren’t my only obsession I had as a child. When I was six years old, I saw a movie that gave me an appreciation for the efforts of a legion of scientists, engineers, and explorers who would all go on to quite literally change the world. The movie was Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, and when I walked out of that theater, I became obsessed with knowing all there was to know about the most prosperous exploratory moment in America’s history. Naturally, when a comic book comes along that wants to tell a story that continues the lunar exploration of the human race, I become very interested, as has happened with Sam Eggleston’s Kickstarter-funded comic book project Last Breath. Eggleston tells the story of an American astronaut who had dreams of finding himself among the stars – dreams he actually realized, while also enduring horrific tragedy. You get the impression while reading Last Breath that the noble exercise of space travel has become infected by warfare, and a brief political history spelled out at the beginning of the issue helps us understand that relations between the United States and China leave a lot to be desired. So much so that explorers from both nations end up dead on the lunar surface.
Eggleston’s main character, Jason Gustafson, is a family man who has to witness a calamity on Earth from afar, not knowing whether or not his family has been affected. He’s also someone to be admired because unlike his superiors or much of the general public, he manages to rise above the trivialities of the lines on the map of the world and look toward a much more personal and substantive goal: survival. I don’t want to give too much away since this story should definitely be read by as many people as possible, but suffice it to say that there’s a great deal of human ingenuity and spirit on display, showing that Jason Gustafson embodies the best kind of explorer our country, and indeed our world, has ever produced. Space exploration is more than just a job for this character, it’s also a way of life. When you get down to it, though, no job, even one as specialized and heroic as that of an astronaut, is more important than one’s humanity. That’s largely my takeaway from reading Last Breath, and it’s a beautiful sentiment to be left with.
Jason Baroody’s artwork is very good, especially considering that this book has been entirely independently funded. His anatomical consistency and ability to forward the story through the facial emotions of the characters is very commendable, and I look forward to seeing where this artist goes next. The artistic collaborators, Josh Oakes and John Hunt, help fill out the artwork with wonderful work on inking and coloring, and really make this book shine with professionalism and good old-fashioned solid comic book storytelling.
Last Breath can be enjoyed through its wide online availability as a PDF from Eggleson’s website. A very select number of comic book stores stock it, but if you’re at all interested in purchasing it, I’d either recommend encouraging your local store to order some, or just buy it directly from the creator himself. Last Breath is a stellar example of independent comics work at its finest, and easily becomes the GeekNation Pull List Pick of the Week. To all involved, well done! 9/10
Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Captain Action Cat #1, Rover Red Charlie #5
That does it this week for the GeekNation Pull List! As always, feel free to leave any questions, comments, or suggestions for review titles in the comments below, and be sure to come back here in seven days for a brand new slate of comic book reviews! Have a great week, and happy reading!
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