The GeekNation Pull List – 5/22/2014

By May 22, 2014
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This week on the GeekNation Pull List: in the wake of Forever Evil, the Justice League welcomes two very unlikely new members, Marvel’s event series kicks into higher gear with the spread of Original Sin, and a nuclear apocalypse starts bending the laws of two men’s realities in a visually striking independent offering. Check out this week’s comic book reviews below!

 

From DC: Justice League #30 by Geoff Johns (Script), Ivan Reis, and Doug Mahnke (Art)

Cover art to Justice League #30 by Ivan Reis.

Cover art to Justice League #30 by Ivan Reis.

This week, both the concluding issue of Forever Evil and the newest issue of Justice League hit the stands, and it was kind of a toss-up in trying to decide which of these two books would get this week’s DC Comics nod in the Pull List. Ultimately, I decided on Justice League, because it represents a pretty fundamental shift in what the book has been going for thus far. For all of the previous 29 issues of this series, it’s been about the premiere DC Comics superhero team doing what they do best in an all-star setting. With the publication of this issue, and the two new members the team has taken on, we now move to a bit more of an intriguing if temporary status quo that sees, arguably, one of DC’s greatest villains step into a leadership position on the team due to his role in stopping the onslaught of the Crime Syndicate in Forever Evil. As you can easily see in the cover to your right, Lex Luthor has joined the Justice League.

It’s definitely a different direction for the team, but I and many other fans have felt for a long time that Luthor is arguably one of the most interesting, well-defined characters of the entire modern age of comics. While most of his history has seen him portrayed as little more than a career criminal, his 1986 re-imagining as a brilliant scientist and cunningly effective corporate mogul opened the floodgates for the kinds of stories you can tell with him. For most of the modern age of comics, he has always been able to stay one step ahead of the law (and Superman) by being the DC Universe’s brilliant and evil puppet master, delegating many of his nefarious enterprises to those with less of a reputation than his. Boiling below the surface of his cold, calculating demeanor, though, was the inherent belief that Superman, an alien that didn’t even have to try to achieve greatness, represented the single most malevolent force against humankind that ever existed.

For this narrative, though, Geoff Johns has crafted a Luthor that was proven wrong. The events of Forever Evil showed him that there is a stronger evil force out there that can decimate humanity, and in his ever self-serving quest to be humanity’s savior, Luthor makes the case for why that kind of evil necessitates his working with the Justice League to stop it, rather than against it. As usual, Ivan Reis’ artwork is practically flawless, and some pickup pages by Doug Mahnke only reinforce that DC’s best-of-the-best are helping to make Justice League the publisher’s premiere title. As a character study for Luthor and a very interesting setup that even includes Captain Cold joining the team’s ranks, this issue easily becomes the GeekNation Pull List’s Pick of the Week9/10

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Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Forever Evil #7, Batman/Superman #11

 

From Marvel: Original Sin #2 by Jason Aaron (Script) and Mike Deodato (Art)

Cover art to Original SIn #2, by Mike Deodato.

Cover art to Original SIn #2, by Mike Deodato.

While DC has just seen the end of a big crossover event, Marvel has just started one in the form of Original Sin. The first issue of the series saw a rather shocking fate befall a Marvel Universe staple: the Watcher, known for observing and never interfering with the biggest events to meet the heroes and villains across the Marvel U’s many different worlds, is shot and killed, and his eyes are recovered from his corpse. This leads Captain America, Black Widow, Wolverine, and the original Nick Fury to set out on the largest manhunt they may ever undertake, all to find out who shot the Watcher. The series also delves into the magical realms, with the unlikely team-up of Doctor Strange and the Punisher seeking information in many of the places the regular Marvel heroes can’t look, along with bringing in heroes like the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man to try and solve the mystery of who killed Uatu.

Having read many of writer Jason Aaron’s previous works, including his first forays into superhero writing with Wolverine on into his current stellar work in Thor: God of Thunder, I’m somewhat amazed at the command the writer has for each character’s voice. When it comes to wisecracking humor, Aaron is almost unparalleled, but he also has a distinctive and powerful handle on the more serious language that an event like the death of the Watcher really demands from the Marvel Universe. As a result, he can comfortably move from a wisecracking and perfectly in-sync Spider-Man to a somber and deadly serious Captain America at a moment’s notice, and it all manages to feel rather effortless. Not many writers have that kind of command of language, but Aaron manages to pull it off.

Mike Deodato’s artwork manages to fit the atmospheric, and relatively dark tone of the series very well, because the artist has always excelled in giving definition to his figures through the use of shadow and lighting. He’s also skilled with both his layouts and anatomical detail, easily being one of Marvel’s best artists. The work he’s done on the first two issues of Original Sin thus far may even be better than his work on Amazing Spider-Man and Dark Avengers, which I tend to feel is his best.

The story both creators are telling at this point in the series still manages to keep the overall aim and themes pretty close to the proverbial vest. The eyes of the Watcher can see everything, though, and as the title implies, we may learn some foundational and damaging secrets behind the normally virtuous Marvel heroes as the series goes on. Overall Original Sin is a satisfying series, and I hope to see that trend continue as the months and issues go on. 8/10

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Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Daredevil #3, The Amazing Spider-Man #2

 

From Gestalt: Broken Line #1 by Andrew Constant (Script) and Emily Smith (Art)

Cover art to Broken Line #1, by Emily Smith.

Cover art to Broken Line #1, by Emily Smith.

It’s always fun to take a chance on an independent comic book you have virtually no preconceived notion about. There’s no expectation, a lot of surprise, and exploring the ideas and executions of other creators is often fun and rewarding, especially if you’re a fan of the comic book medium. Maybe these creators will be in the pages of Marvel or DC some day. Maybe they don’t want to tell stories with capes and will instead do mindblowing creator-owned work at Image or IDW. The surprise from zero expectation is often a rewarding experience in and of itself,  and can lead to a new series that you may want to follow on a regular basis.

And sometimes, you have trouble understanding what an independent work is even talking about. That was the case with my reading of Broken Line #1.

As a comic book reader, I enjoy subtext and metaphor. I enjoy wordplay, and a reading experience that necessitates that reader to peddle a little bit faster to keep up with the broader aims of a particular narrative. Grant Morrison is probably my personal favorite comic book writer, and he’s not exactly known for delivering the ideas that he conjures up on a silver platter to those that read his work. With that in mind, Andrew Constant’s writing for Broken Line feels incomplete. You have two characters interacting within the setting of a nuclear disaster, one of which may be partially mad to begin with, and with virtually no context or understanding of the situation, both characters are thrown together in an antagonism that uses language that’s not easily understood. The sentences spoken by the characters create ideas in the reader’s mind, but the flow of ideas doesn’t translate into anything focused. If anything, reading this issue creates chaotic emotions from moment to moment, instead of working toward some kind of goal in sequential storytelling.

Although the scripting for the issue seems haphazard and fuzzy, one place that Broken Line cannot be faulted on is the artwork. Emily Smith’s lines are so precise, I found myself staring at her renderings for an unusually long period of time; even the way in which she’s drawn a nuclear explosion was particularly striking. There’s a sense of dimension and scale in the way that she renders objects and people, almost evoking 3D effects: characters’ faces seem to pop through the page, giving the book a visual feel that is both simple and yet pretty remarkable. I enjoyed every page of artwork that Broken Line had to show me.

Maybe future issues will help bring the ideas into greater focus, as well as provide some much needed context to the shape of the events. While this is definitely an interesting book with terrific artwork, I couldn’t really find myself getting very excited about the narrative aim that the writer’s going for. Maybe it’s just me. 6/10

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Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Velvet #5, Saga #19

That’ll finish up this week’s GeekNation Pull List! Feel free to leave any comments or suggestions below, and be sure to come back here in seven days for another fresh batch of comic book goodness! Take care!

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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.