The GeekNation Pull List – 8/21/2014

By August 21, 2014
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This week on the GeekNation Pull List: Grant Morrison returns to the cosmic craziness of DC’s multiverse, the New Avengers wait out the end of our world as we barrel toward their current story’s conclusion, and “Mad Men” meets murder and noir in a new offering from Image Comics! Check out this week’s comic book reviews below!

From DC: The Multiversity #1 by Grant Morrison (Script) and Ivan Reis (Art)

Cover art to The Multiversity #1, by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.

Cover art to The Multiversity #1, by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.

There are few active comic book creators working today that have the depth and hyper-awareness of Grant Morrison. That’s really saying something, too, because in a medium that is full of extraordinarily creative people with vibrant imaginations, Morrison still manages to stand out as incredibly unique from the rest of his peers. The Multiversity is a series that comic book fans have been aware of for several years, but for some reason or another, it has been continuously delayed. I believe Morrison first publicly mentioned The Multiversity as a project in a 2009 issue of the now-defunct Wizard Magazine, and how it would be a true follow-up to his then-recently completed DC Comics crossover event series Final Crisis.

Over the past five years, a lot of the structural makeup of the DC Universe has changed, especially with the collapse of four previous worlds in the multiverse into one in the wake of Geoff Johns’ Flashpoint series, and the beginning of the New 52. This seemed to precipitate yet another delay of Multiversity, although Morrison seemed unfazed when asked about whether or not the big editorial shakeup and universe relaunch would affect his plans for Multiversity going forward. After five years of waiting and a series of delays and perceived setbacks, The Multiversity #1 has finally arrived in comic shops. As a massive fan of the work of Grant Morrison, and a lover of his crazier series like Seaguy and Final Crisis, I couldn’t be happier.

Although the New 52 seemed to fundamentally affect the day-to-day adventures of all of the major heroes, Multiversity deals with larger stakes: the stakes of the very fabric of the multiverse itself, which heroes like Superman or Green Lantern couldn’t possibly deal with on their own. With the multiverse being invaded by a group of extra-dimensional demonic invaders known as “the Gentry,” it will take the combined might of the heroes of fifty-two worlds in order to try and put a decisive stop to it. Readers of stories like Final Crisis and the original Crisis on Infinite Earths will find some familiar stakes in play, with the concept of multiversal Monitors as well as a very familiar character from the original Crisis making an appearance here.

Also appearing is Nix Uotan, a very important character from Final Crisis as the last multiversal Monitor, who has become aware of this new threat through his normal life reading a comic book. What we have here is an extraordinarily metafictional reading experience that reaches through the page and at you, the reader, as a character that actively shapes the events that happen within the story’s pages. Morrison has often espoused his belief in fiction as a fluid construction of the human brain, and his execution in this issue brings back memories of many Silver Age comics that called to the reader to actively shape, or change, the events of a hero’s adventure. In addition to characters of his own creation, he also manages to fit characters that look remarkably like Captain America, Iron Man, Dr. Doom, and Mr. Fantastic into the events of the multiverse-spanning narrative for an all-encompassing comic book reading experience not attempted since his own work on Final Crisis.

Ivan Reis joins the long list of A-list collaborators with Morrison to bring this issue, and series, to life in grand fashion. The Multiversity #1 will likely take multiple readings both in single form and in context with everything that will follow in this series to fully grasp the scale and narrative complexities the writer is playing with, but as an engaging and unique reading experience, this is easily the GeekNation pull List’s Pick of the Week. A must-read, especially for fans of grand-scale epic fiction and of the very fabric of the DC Comics Universe. 9.5/10

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Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Batman and Robin #34, Teen Titans #2

 

From Marvel: New Avengers #23 by Jonathan Hickman (Script) and Kev Walker (Art)

Cover art to New Avengers #23, by Kev Walker.

Cover art to New Avengers #23, by Kev Walker.

If you knew the world was going to end, how would you spend its last few, precious moments? Would you be in the company of family, looking into the eyes of your loved ones? Would you be indulging in the richness of food or drink? Would you try to forget your troubles in the arms of a lover? These are the questions explored by characters like Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Beast, Black Panther, Bruce Banner, and Black Bolt in the latest issue of Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers, where the consequences of the Marvel Illuminati’s attempts to save the Earth will end, conceivably, with its destruction. As each character awaits the “incursion” that will wipe this planet out, we get a rare and rather intimate insight into how they all try and cope with an end that none of them can stop, even with their great powers and high intelligence. Rather unsurprisingly, Tony Stark lines up shot glasses from one end of his private bar to another, and starts filling each of them up while lamenting his own inability to stave off the end.

In a very literal bit of self-reflection, Beast is in conversation with his younger self (a regular of the All-New X-Men title) about what will happen, and where he may have “lost himself.” When something happens, or rather doesn’t happen in the way that everyone expects, we as readers are led to a horrifying conclusion about what’s really in play as other characters engage in a new cross-universal calamity that opens up the story possibilities as we head into the next issue.

Hickman, very clearly, comes from a similar school of thought in storytelling to Grant Morrison in the sense that he’s not afraid to throw his readers into the deep end of cosmic, cross-universal storytelling. He very clearly sets up the rules for what can and cannot happen (though there doesn’t seem to be much that cannot happen), introduces you to the relevant characters that will shape this story moving forward, and from there it’s up to you to keep up with all of the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the events as they unfold. There is very little “spoon-feeding” of the narrative elements that goes on within a Jonathan Hickman-written comic book, and in the context of this latest issue, it feels like everything first laid out in this series’ #1 issue are coming to a head.

Kev Walker’s artwork is easily very clear, and the most important element of this particular issue, the emotions of the characters, comes through very distinctly. From the anguish of Reed Richards looking into his daughter’s eyes, to the love of T’Challa when talking with Storm, to the horror of everyone on the final page, Walker is a good choice for the story being told here. All in all, Hickman lays the foundation of a suspense-filled tale to finish out his run on this title, and it’ll be really wild to see where things go from here. 8.5/10

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Preview pages courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Ms. Marvel #7, Elektra #5

 

From Image: The Fade Out #1 by Ed Brubaker (Script) and Sean Phillips (Art)

Cover art for the magazine-sized edition of The Fade Out #1, by Sean Phillips.

Cover art for the magazine-sized edition of The Fade Out #1, by Sean Phillips.

The team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips on a comic book usually comes with some preconceived notions before you open the first page: what you read is going to be ground-level, grimy, and harsh, and it will also likely feel very real. Both of these things are true going into The Fade Out #1, which tells a story of sex, murder, and exploitation in 1940s Hollywood. Brubaker creates a cast of characters that all have very different fundamental strengths in order to engage the reader with the events of the story, and it works very effectively to give a full, three-dimensional perspective on what is happening to these people, how they feel about what they’re doing, as well as the personal and professional climate that ties them all together.

The main principal character that we go on this journey with is a screenwriter working for a major studio. After a wild party the night before at the home of  well-known movie star, he awakens in a bungalow in Studio City to find the lead actress in his studio’s latest project dead in the other room, obviously a murder by strangulation. In a panic that this could’ve occurred while he was in the next room, he wipes away any trace of his being there, and returns to his office, only to learn of the starlet’s death at work. When he starts to learn more about the details of her death that have been made public, which directly contradict what he actively saw at the crime scene, it leads him to a choice that may not only threaten his life, but the lives of others as well.

The major element that really stood out to me upon my first read-through of The Fade Out #1 was its sense of authenticity to the period. 1940s Los Angeles landmarks make their way into the background elements of the artwork, and the overall feel of old Hollywood and how the movie business used to operate felt very true to the period that its aiming to represent. Brubaker details in the issue’s backmatter how he actualy employs both an editor and a research assistant, firsts for his collaborations with Phillips, in order to effectively capture the truth of what Hollywood used to be, in addition to the storytellers’ innate abilities to create new representations of the noir genre in the grand tradition of old storytellers like Billy Wilder and John Huston. The sweeping views of Los Angeles in the artwork reminded me in no small way of the aesthetic of The Maltese Falcon, which I’m sure was no accident.

Sean Phillips’ artwork greatly adds to the feeling authenticity, suspense, and noir that many of his collaborations with Brubaker have exhibited in the past. His style can be an odd mix of photorealism and stark lines with a gritted sense of atmosphere. Part of the authenticity also comes in a portion of Brubaker’s writing, and his devotion in representing a time in the film industry that was racist and outwardly anti-Semitic. In that way, some of the language can have a harsh bite to it, but Brubaker also explains that he’s trying to paint a picture of a period that’s uncompromising, and he definitely succeeds. The Fade Out is definitely a series to watch as we move forward, and it comes with a very high recommendation. 9/10

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Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: The Delinquents #1, Justice Inc. #1

That does it for the GeekNation Pull List! Please leave any comments in the section below, and we’ll be right back here in seven days with a fresh new batch of comic book critical analysis!

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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.