This week on the GeekNation Pull List: DC’s most prominent superhero team collides with one of their more obscure, the Avengers reach the finale of their latest Uncanny story, and a tale of humanity’s desire to survive into the far future is explored in the depths of the Earth! Check out this week’s comic book reviews below.
From DC: Justice League #32 by Geoff Johns (Script) and Doug Mahnke (Art)
After a bit of a lull before the events of the Forever Evil crossover, it finally feels like the comics taking place in the New 52’s DC Universe are starting to hit a decent stride once again. With Superman’s supporting cast returning in that character’s main title, “Zero Year” leaving the origin of the Dark Knight in place, and now with one of the company’s most prominent villains joining the Justice League, things are interesting in a way that they frankly haven’t been in a long time. While it seemed that the first year (and perhaps two) of the New 52 initiative were more interested in catering to any newcomers that wanted to jump into ongoing DC series, the titles seem to be in a place now where they are back to embracing the mythology that has always set them apart from their competitors. If Marvel has a more “realistic” shared superhero universe, DC’s strength has always been in embracing slightly more bombastic, sometimes cosmic storytelling.
Justice League doesn’t exactly dive into the cosmic in its current story, but it does embrace more longstanding characterizations of many important DC icons. When it initially lunched in late 2011, some characters in the New 52 had become victims of re-imagination for the worse. Not all of them were bad re-imaginings, by any means, but many of them had seemed to lose the essence of what made them compelling. In Justice League, we’re starting to see the more familiar and solid conceptions return to the likes of Captain Cold, to Cyborg, to Superman, and to Lex Luthor. All of those characters were also written by Geoff Johns in prominent stories prior to the New 52: Captain Cold in Johns’ seminal run on The Flash, Cyborg during his rather definitive run on Teen Titans, and Luthor and Superman were, of course, very important pillars of his stories in Action Comics and Adventure Comics. To my infinite thrill, the versions of these characters present in the current arc of Justice League resemble those prior iterations now more than ever before in the New 52, and it feels like the DC Universe is getting back to a comfortable and critical place of familiarity.
That’s not all, though. As teased in the final pages of the last issue, Johns is also pulling out the Doom Patrol: a more obscure but very beloved DC Comics team that assembles a motley crew of heroes who aren’t exactly pretty, but they’re definitely effective. The story here also presents some very interesting implications for the DC Multiverse going forward, which Johns himself has also previously excelled at in series like Infinite Crisis.
Mahnke’s art is again top-notch, with definitive renderings presenting New 52 character designs in some of the best fashion that I’ve ever seen them. There’s also a gritty layer over the strong line he presents, and it makes his work stand out very well. Overall, Justice League is starting to become the go-to for DC Universe-wide stories again, and I’m beyond thrilled. 9/10
Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Aquaman Annual #2, Harley Quinn #8
From Marvel: Uncanny Avengers #22 by Rick Remender (Script) and Daniel Acuña (Art)
It seems like it’s been a long time coming, but Remender and Acuña have delivered the finale of their Uncanny Avengers cross-era/dimensional blockbuster “Avenge the Earth,” and it was immediately surprising to me how somber it was. While there is a great deal of bombastic action sequences granted by the use of some of Marvel’s most powerful heroes and villains (including the development of new powers), the end of the story did something I certainly didn’t expect by peeling back the layers of all the craziness we’ve endured for the last several issues, and focused solely on two characters in a bittersweet embrace. One of the most common misconceptions I hear about superhero comics is their purported “inability” to deliver on softer, dramatic moments. People making those generalizations obviously have never read an issue of Uncanny Avengers.
Along with the plethora of great Marvel Universe characters, Remender’s exploration of theme throughout this series has continually made Uncanny Avengers one of the absolute best titles in Marvel’s current publication catalog, and many of the elements he used in the beginning of “Avenge the Earth” are all brought full-circle in this finale. Beyond the more layered approach to the storytelling, though, this story on its own has been a great tour of the Marvel U across multiple times, characters, and planets. While a new reader may struggle slightly with some of the characters and their baselines of specialized knowledge, its actually remarkable to me how so many seemingly disparate elements all collate into one very competent and structured narrative.
Daniel Acuña’s artwork deserves a great deal of credit as well, since he has to juggle so many different characters, environments, and action set pieces and organize them in a way that’s relatively easy for a reader to follow. With all of those elements up in the air, he brings them down in an orderly fashion, using those building blocks to make a rather beautiful story – like using a game of Tetris to build the Mona Lisa.
Overall, “Avenge the Earth” has been a hell of a ride, and a great look at many different elements of the Marvel Universe. After this, I’m really interested to see how Remender can top it. 8.5/10
Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Cyclops #3, Guardians of the Galaxy #17
From Image: Low #1 by Rick Remender (Script) and Greg Tocchini (Art)
Things are a little different in this week’s Pull List, because I’m actually reviewing two books that were written by the same author: Rick Remender. This isn’t going to be a regular thing, but in this instance it definitely seemed that two of his books releasing this week deserved a spot here. Low is an imaginative story that Remender devised when revisiting one of the first encounters he had as a child with nihilist philosophy. In the backmatter to this issue, Remender mentions that when he learned that at some point in the far future the sun was going to basically envelop the Earth, he had a slight crisis of existence, wondering what the point of everything was if, at some point, the whole planet is going to be destroyed by a cosmic force beyond the control of humanity. In a weird way, that led the writer on a journey toward a more optimistic way of thinking, which in and of itself helped to create the story of Low.
The world created by Remender and artistic collaborator Greg Tocchini is one that takes place in the far future of the planet Earth, and the human race’s efforts to locate a new home. The story goes a bit deeper than even that broad concept, though, by focusing on a family that seems to have been entrusted with the task of shepherding the surviving members of humanity to that home. Early on, Remender introduces a threat that sees that family separated, and lays out how the unreasoning optimism of the mother will come to define the rest of the story presented in Low. Although there are a great deal of human elements that seem almost alien, likely due to the far-future setting, Remender taps into universal human elements with the familial characters that make it very easy to connect with them.
The parents have a specific way of interacting with each other that is fun and playful, while the children are given a surprisingly complete conception in the relatively low page count that they appear in here. And of course, the issue appeals to the instincts of motherhood. When the woman who will become the main character of the story sees her children put in danger, she reassures them while also despairing at the thought of any harm coming to them. Although the world itself and the situations the characters become embroiled in are rather fantastical, Remender deftly gets the humanity across as the most compelling factor. Even though there’s a lot of craziness and some pretty heavy drama going on, these are still people: children and a mother. The hook is definitely there for great storytelling.
Greg Tocchini’s artwork adds a sort of abstract humanity to the characters and environments of the issue. There are quite a few pages in here where I got the sense that this world was almost a bit of a dream. Detail is definitely interwoven into the machinery and the faces of the characters, but there’s a slight purposeful fuzziness to that detail that gives a very dreamlike feel to the pages. That, coupled with his heavy use of casting color in the predominant emotions of the scenes, gives Low a somewhat ethereal quality that I didn’t expect but definitely appreciated.
All in all, this looks like a really interesting independent tale from one of modern comics’ most prolific writers. Remender has a great home with the superheroic icons of the Marvel Universe, but he’s just as capable of bringing to life a story out of his own imagination, and Low is further proof of that. We’ll have to see where it goes, because if this GeekNation Pick of the Week has given us anything in its opening shot, it’s that there are a lot of different possibilities for the future of this story. 9/10
Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Caliban #5, The Manhattan Projects #22
That does it for this week, but be sure to come back here in seven days for new comic book reviews from the GeekNation Pull List! And please, don’t be afraid to leave any comments or suggestions for future titles to review in the section below! If you have an independent title that you’d like reviewed, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to get in touch with you!
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