This week on the GeekNation Pull List: a new creative team arrives on the Dark Knight’s most time-honored title, a massive calamity threatens every fiber of Captain America’s existence (including his freedom), and an intriguing new independent title explores the less-explored third path of the afterlife. Check out this week’s comic book reviews for these selections in the latest GeekNation Pull List!
From DC: Detective Comics #30 by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato (Script/Art)
When the “New 52” kicked into high gear with the torrent of new #1 issues in September of 2011, there were a few particular series that easily rose above the pack, and the general hype surrounding so many new “jumping on” points. Among the “blockbusters” featuring the company’s major characters there was Action Comics, where Grant Morrison triumphantly returned to Superman for the first time since his landmark All Star Superman series; there was Batman, an engaging new exploration of the Dark Knight’s city by the engaging team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo; and there was Wonder Woman, an engaging and infinitely entertaining redefinition of the Amazon Princess that felt like the freshest take on her in years. Surprise hits included Aquaman, whom Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis were able to make cool, Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman was an unforeseen breakout hit, and standing out just as much was The Flash by the gifted team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.
Flash was cited as one of the best relaunches of the New 52, and the team only recently finished up their run a few months ago. In that time, Detective Comics had gone from one of the best Batman titles to one that didn’t really seem to have a lot of buzz around it anymore, until it was announced that the Flash team of Manapul and Buccellato would be bringing their unique artistic style and down-to-earth storytelling sensibilities to the title in an ongoing capacity. Issue #30 is their opening salvo, and it seems to promise the same creative reliability that readers enjoyed during the team’s time on the Scarlet Speedster.
Detective Comics #30 opens with a couple of junkies looking for their next high in the form of a new drug making its way through the Gotham streets. We also see that Bruce Wayne is about to strike a deal with a prominent businesswoman that would develop Gotham’s decaying waterfront district, at significant financial risk to Wayne and his company, Wayne Enterprises. It’s the opening issue to an arc that automatically feels more personal. This isn’t a plot that looks like it’ll threaten to destroy the entire city, nor is it some eco-terrorist holding the water supply to ransom. It’s smaller, which when dealt with in the right way only feels more intense for the characters involved, and that’s what Detective #30 feels like it’s going for. There are a couple of particularly well orchestrated moments in which Bruce is able to reflect on the loss of his son Damian in a way that we haven’t particularly seen in the other Batman titles, and they feel like fulfilling character moments that help connect you with the man a little more than the Bat, which doesn’t happen often enough in my opinion.
The artwork is just as gorgeous as ever from these two, and it helps present a very interesting and rather stark contrast between their work in Gotham and their work in The Flash‘s Central City. Manapul and Buccellato have a rather pastel-like finish to everything that almost feels like it’s putting air and ozone between the reader and the figures we’re seeing on the page, and that environment feels…well, thicker in their conception of Gotham City. Add to that the cleanliness of the lines, the creativity of the layouts, and the ease of following all of the action, and you have a great opening issue for the new creative team, along with the GeekNation Pull List’s Pick of the Week. I look forward to seeing what comes next from this team, and now, from this title. 9/10
Honorable Mentions from DC This Week: Action Comics #30, Aquaman and the Others #1
From Marvel: Captain America #19 by Rick Remender (Script) and Nic Klein (Art)
Since his new cinematic adventure is arriving in theaters this week, I thought it might be a good idea to check in on the adventures of the Star-Spangled Avenger. Luckily for me, a new issue of his ongoing title actually came out this week, so it made it a pretty easy choice.
When this series started as part of the “first wave” of “Marvel NOW!,” I have to admit that I wasn’t blown away. Expectations should be properly managed, though, since it would be difficult for any writer and artist to immediately follow up on a defining run on the title by writer Ed Brubaker, and in interviews leading up to the release of his first issue, Rick Remender seemed to understand that better than anyone. What I really respected out of his first full arc, though, was how different it already proved to be when compared with early Brubaker issues, since it went in an entirely different, sci-fi oriented direction that Brubaker wouldn’t even touch until he was nearly five years into his run. Remender knew he had to create a fundamentally different vibe for Captain America to both set himself apart, and to try and avoid any direct comparisons with his immediate predecessor.
For the most part, this current story seems to continue that trend, though it’s not nearly as fantastical as the “Dimension Z” story that kicked the series off. The villains that Remender is using for it, though, specifically new characters like the Iron Nail and Dr. Mindbubble, seem to have roots in that fundamental change in tone that the series has been going for. Characters like these, with abilities like the ones they have could easily be misconstrued as too wacky or out of step with a character like Steve Rogers. Remender, though, is up to the task of using their abilities just enough, and by making their motivations maniacal and antithetical to positive American values (to a degree), that makes Cap’s direct opposition to them a natural and interesting conflict. Remender is going for the proverbial jugular when it comes to creating ideological opponents for Steve, which only makes their outlandish abilities a rather appropriate means to an end. For that, I enjoy the story.
Nic Klein’s artwork isn’t quite as cleanly lined as what we’ve come to expect from previous artists on this series like Carlos Pacheco and maybe even John Romita, Jr., but what the guy excels at is action. The bombastic hellicarrier vs. hellicarrier scene at the beginning of the issue looks like a wet dream of Michael Bay’s, and his renderings of the Iron Nail also make for a couple of rather grotesque scenarios made all the more dangerous by the almost cute looking bubbles of Dr. Mindbubble — until you realize what they do to our hero. Overall, I enjoyed Captain America #19, but I’m not yet sure about the story. There’s plenty of time to bring me around, though. 8/10
Honorable Mentions from Marvel This Week: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #200, The Punisher #4
From BOOM!: Dead Letters #1 by Christopher Sebela (Script) and Chris Visions (Art)
I picked up Dead Letters completely cold, strictly on the recommendation of my comic book retailer. It’s always good to do that every once in awhile, and stray outside the comfort zone a bit. One thing that automatically made me comfortable about this issue was the name of BOOM!, a studio that I’ve come to respect quite a bit over the last several years. That being said, I’d never read the work of the creative team, and opened the page with the slightest bit of apprehension.
As I started reading, one of the things that struck me was how grimy it seemed to be, which made it a little difficult for me to follow at first. The story seemed to be about an amnesiac criminal, who was good at causing a lot of destruction, but wasn’t quite sure why: kind of like a low-level Jason Bourne. Things immediately got more interesting, though, when he seemed to blow off a guy’s head, and the guy got up really angrily. What was going on here?! It didn’t seem to be following the rules of a sort-of low-level crime drama if the dead people can talk with a missing brain cavity!
By the last page, it becomes exceedingly clear what Sebela and Visions are going for: this is a story about an afterlife. Not the afterlife, but one possible route that doesn’t seem to be nearly as well-explored as heaven and hell: the realm inbetween, what has been most commonly labelled to me as purgatory. It’s not that the guns don’t work, it’s that death doesn’t work here. Add to that a criminal who’s a recent arrival and hired to find someone by an associate of the “big man” in post-mortem affairs, and you have a new kind of crime story that becomes completely unshackled from many of the conventions that people so often associate with stories like these. What exactly does a crime-centric thriller look like in purgatory? We’ll find out next month in issue #2!
Much of the griminess I associated with my opening perceptions of the story came from the artwork of Chris Visions, which is entirely appropriate for the story being presented. His style is unique enough that it may take a little getting used to, but once you’re familiar with the artistic aesthetic and the tone of the story, it’s pretty easy to get inside the events of the issue and explore what it’s about. This is a fun first issue with a lot of interesting implications for future issues, and I look forward to seeing what comes next! 8.5/10
Honorable Mentions from Independents This Week: Pretty Deadly #5, Starlight #2
That does it this week on the Pull List! Thanks for reading, and be sure to speak up with any comments, concerns, or suggestions for future titles to review in the comments below! We’ll see you in seven days!
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