This week on the GeekNation Pull List: Dick Grayson takes the first steps toward leaving his life as a Gotham Knight behind, the remaining Uncanny Avengers employ a last-ditch effort to save their former planet Earth, and we take a journey fifty years into the past to see the organization of heroes that protected Chicago in the 1960’s! Check out this week’s comic book reviews below!
From DC: Nightwing #30 by Tim Seeley, Tom King (Script), Mikel Janin, Jorge Lucas, Javier Garron, and Guillermo Ortego (Art)
Not too long ago, I wrote a news item here at GeekNation that detailed DC Comics’ plans to turn Dick Grayson – the original Robin and current Nightwing – into a secret agent. Forever Evil #7 was finally released last week, showing us the “death” of Grayson and the subsequent beginning of a new mission Batman has asked him to undertake. When I wrote that first article, the basic idea of putting Grayson into a pretty new situation for the character didn’t necessarily strike me as either good or bad. It was interesting, and it was when that information first broke that it became clear that this issue, Nightwing #30, would serve as both a finale to Grayson’s current superheroic ongoing series, and transition us, at least partially, into his new life as a secret agent.
After reading Nightwing #30, I have to admit: the concept of the upcoming Grayson ongoing series is starting to lose me before it’s even begun.
Before diving into specifics, I think most DC Comics fans understand that Dick Grayson, in his own way, is kind of the glue that holds the DC Universe together. Unlike his brooding mentor, he has positive relationships with practically every DCU hero. He has often served as the Bat-family’s ambassador to other corners of the DCU, because try as they might not to in some cases, everybody likes Nightwing. He’s a good man, an effective hero, and a well-rounded human being. While removing him from the stage of the Bat-family may prove interesting for a while (likely for a shorter period than DC editorial is planning), he’s a necessary cog in the machine, and it won’t be long before fans are screaming for Nightwing to be restored to his proper place.
That being said, Nightwing #30 presents the transition of Grayson from masked hero to secret agent in a particularly haphazard way, presenting his change in occupation as a favor from Batman, which doesn’t seem particularly appropriate. Most of the issue is built around a surreptitious sparring session in the Batcave between Bruce and Dick, with an even-keeled Batman giving exposition-filled dialogue in spurts as Dick shouts his objections over each new bit of information that Batman gives. It’s not a natural way to speak, or even read a conversation between these two characters, and though I understand what the co-writers were going for, it doesn’t feel as effective as it needs to. Several artists also worked on this issue, and while the work is good, the stylistic shift between each artist is jarring, again adding to a rather chaotic feel in the reading experience.
While in all reason I can’t automatically disqualify the upcoming Grayson series based on this introduction to its status quo, Nightwing #30 doesn’t succeed either as a “backdoor pilot” or as a fitting finale to the Nightwing series, which was one of the better New 52 launch titles in the hands of writer Kyle Higgins. I’m anticipating Grayson #1’s arrival this summer, but not nearly as much as I should be after getting this foretaste of what it’s going to be exploring. 6/10
Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Batman #31, Secret Origins #2
From Marvel: Uncanny Avengers #20 by Rick Remender (Script) and Daniel Acuña (Art)
Marvel is in a really good place right now. Many of their classic ongoing series are making a comeback (albeit in new numbering), and most of its high-profile entries feel like they’re in a great place creatively. Since the Marvel NOW! quasi-relaunch the publisher employed in 2012, one of the most consistently excellent comics they’ve been putting out has been Uncanny Avengers, melding the mutant and superhero sides of their shared universe into a series that feels, unequivocally, like it represents the best of their entire stable of characters. The current storyline, “Avenge the Earth,” further emphasizes this direction by having the assembled Avengers, heroes and mutant heroes alike, square off against several top-tier villains from both the Avengers and X-Men side of things. It’s particularly rewarding in this issue seeing a well-executed interaction between Cyclops and Magneto, which presents things in a bit more of a widely familiar context as opposed to the relationship between those two characters in the “present” Marvel Universe.
Unsurprisingly, one of the best character presentations in this issue is Havok, otherwise known as Alex Summers, the brother of Cyclops. I was never a very big Havok fan before the start of this series, but Remender’s characterization of him has won me over so much so that he’s become one of my favorite Marvel characters at the moment. While I admit a bias toward practically anyone endorsed by Captain America, Remender has presented Havok as a brilliant leader in his own right, with the appropriate leadership chops to truly be considered not just a great X-Man, but an effective leader of the Avengers. Coupling that with a great flavor of idealism passed down from Charles Xavier, and you have someone who’s become the poster character for an effective unification between the all-too-often disparate worlds of the Avengers and X-Men.
“Avenge the Earth” has also been memorable as a story. While some fans may roll their eyes at the concept of yet another alternate future like the classic “Days of Future Past,” Remender’s construction of “Avenge the Earth” feels more like an all-star iteration with a grander scale on that previously iterated concept. Daniel Acuña’s artwork only accentuates this feeling, by giving clearly delineated action scenes, great layouts, and accenting with light effects that made me stare for longer than normal at Cyclops’ headpiece. A beautiful book, a well-written book, and a great go-to for the diversity of Marvel characters still makes Uncanny Avengers one of the publisher’s stand-out titles. 8/10
Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: All-New Invaders #5, Guardians of the Galaxy #15
From Image: C.O.W.L. #1 by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel (Script), and Rod Reis (Art)
When it comes to superhero fiction, there are only so many places a writer can go. While we can see some new spins on classic characters like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, or Wolverine, the editorial control over the publisher’s characters can often prevent truly new territory from being explored, since the longevity of each character’s publication always needs to maintain a degree of normality in the status quo of the characters. So, if you find yourself a fan of capes and cowls but find the conventional fare a little too predictable, thankfully you should be able to find a creator-owned comics title that takes the DNA of what’s great about superhero storytelling, but is also free from the typical constraints of the “big two” publishers, allowing it to explore new territory. C.O.W.L. is one such title that fits into that mold, applying little-used ideas to a period superhero setting, taking place in a major American city that doesn’t seem as exploited as it likely should be for stories like these. Chicago is one of the biggest cities in the country, has a great deal of unique character, and has even played Batman’s hometown in the movies, but most superhero fiction seems to opt for New York, or their own fictional locales.
Writer Kyle Higgins is no stranger to superheroes, being a lifelong fan and prominent writer for DC Comics in recent years, launching the aforementioned Nightwing for the New 52, in addition to writing for Batman in a few different places. He also seems to be a fan of the city of Chicago, even relocating Dick Grayson there for awhile during his Nightwing run, and now helping to create this series that embraces the uniqueness of the Windy City as an important part of this new series. C.O.W.L. stands for the “Chicago Organized Workers League,” and is, basically, a superhero union. There’s a really interesting feel that the writing gives it of kind of a law enforcement precinct, but all of the characters we’re introduced to give a uniquely working class perspective on superheroism that feels both unique and, more importantly, very human.
Perhaps the greatest strength of C.O.W.L. #1 is the character work, since Higgins and Alec Siegel have woven both a rich history for the characters they’re introducing us to, while also giving us a great perspective on what their personalities are like. From the slight narcissism of retired hero the Grey Raven, to the legwork that you feel goes into the organizations investigative division, Higgins and Siegel have excelled at introducing us to a fully-formed mythology that can only be further fleshed out as the series goes on. Amazingly enough, even though this is our introduction to this world, the writing exercises a lot of efficiency, never overloading the reader with a lot of blatant exposition. Capping off the entire experience is the beautiful artwork of Rod Reis, helping add to the issue’s humanity with great facial emotion and clean layouts, all making for a very inviting comic book reading experience.
It’s always fun and interesting seeing a new, creator-owned world jump into the fold, and because it lays the groundowrk so effectively while giving the slightest interesting tease of the future, C.O.W.L. #1 is easily the GeekNation Pull List Pick of the Week. 9/10
Preview pages courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Star Trek Ongoing #23, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #5
That does it this week on the GeekNation Pull List! As always, feel free to leave any comments, questions or suggestions below, and be sure to come back here in one week for a fresh new batch of comic book reviews featuring picks from DC, Marvel, and independents!
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