Thursday, January 31, 2013

Aquaman #16

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Paul Pelletier

Things take a surprising turn when the Justice League reserves join the fight against the atlanteans, and the creatures from the trench become an unexpected third party in the bellic conflict. Cyborg loses another shred of his humanity, Hawkman's character develops more with a few lines than it has with 16 issues of his own book, a mysterious Atom and bubbly Element Woman make their New 52 debut, and a revelation leading to the big conclusion makes everyone fall off their chair. A busy chapter with no dull moment. Using Cyborg and Mera as the cavalry is a nice touch, since Johns has worked hard on both characters to get them much deserved exposure and recognition. The whole thing with the big three trapped in cocoons is kind of silly, but at least it serves the purpose of getting the heroes to make amends, and even Batman to make a kind of admission/apology; it is very subtle -it's Batman after all- but it's there. Pelletier pulls some nice pages, but the kudos go to Rod Reis for bringing cohesiveness to the story by coloring the entire crossover.

Aquaman vs. The Trench. Art by Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons, and Rod Reis

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Uncanny X-Force #1

Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Ron Garney

Six months ago Elizabeth Braddock had found something resembling a happy ending; today, she is a haunted woman trying to bury the darkness left by her and her former companions. Unable to adapt to life at the School, Betsy has been assigned a new mission that will put her on a course to the rebirth of X-Force. Psylocke and Storm's friendship is one of the highlights of this issue; both women have deep wounds that need healing, and maybe this new venture is a way for them to get there. Spiral surfaces once again, and her link to Betsy is immediately brought to the forefront. How exactly she ends up on the side of the good guys will be a fun thing to see. Love. Ron. Garney's. Artwork. He draws a killer Psylocke and the hottest mohawk-sporting Storm. Meanwhile, Gracia and Gonzalez embellish the pages with a very interesting palette; lots of gray tones with bright, colorful accents. Very nice visuals. That last page? Eww!

Psylocke and Storm by Garney, Miki, Gracia, and Gonzalez

Monday, January 28, 2013

Green Lantern #16

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke

Green Lantern B'dg (the one that looks like a squirrel) shows up to lend Simon Baz a hand, and become his mentor as he learns to wield his power ring. Rather than making him the butt of a bad joke, Johns treats B'dg with such dignity that he actually comes off pretty cool. Mr. Baz suddenly becomes a very special Green Lantern, and the first threads of his joining the new JLoA are weaved here via agent Fed, who has ties to the always shady Amanda Waller. All that, plus a freaky twist in Hal and Sinestro's adventure in the beyond make of this chapter a great read. Thus far Simon's storyline and Mahnke's art have been enjoyable; what has been somewhat irritating lately is the use of so many inkers per single issue; this one had five of them, and the transitions are quite noticeable. While a delay of one or two weeks for the artists to catch up could become the beginning of a slippery slope schedule-wise, is it really that terrible in the bigger scheme of things when the end result is a better quality product?

Green Lantern Simon Baz. Art by Doug Mahnke

Sunday, January 27, 2013

FF #3

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Michael Allred

Move away Fantastic Four, because here's the third issue of the world's new greatest comic magazine! What was at first an unfounded concern is now a somber reality: The Fantastic Four are gone, and it's up to Ant-Man, Medusa, and She-Hulk to make things right. Top on their list is bringing Darla Deering back into the fold, and to do that, Scott Lang has to go through the Yancy Street Gang first. Nothing in the past few years has channeled the works of Lee and Kirby, or that 60's vibe like this little scuffle with the gang; an absolutely magical sequence. I will be frank: Years ago, during the X-Statics days, I was a big detractor of his work; cut to today, and I cannot imagine a world without Michael Allred's fascinating and unique style. His and Laura Allred's pages have beautiful finishes; they look as if done on animation cells, rather than the conventional Bristol board, and that's just one of the many features that make their art incomparable. FF is by far the funnest Marvel title in the market.

Darla Deering and Scott Lang. Art by Michael Allred and Laura Allred.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Justice League #16

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis

The third chapter of Throne of Atlantis puts Aquaman in a tough spot as he tries to reason with his brother Orm and stop the atlantean invasion of the surface, while entering in a philosophical and physical confrontation with the Big Three to prevent an all-out war. Geoff Johns succeeds in making Arthur's position a desperate one; it's almost like he's in a Twilight Zone episode where everyone is crazy except him; only here everyone is being stubborn instead. The new take on Orm's character is an interesting one. He is not shown as the mustache-twirling, muah-ha-ha villain of turn; he is a powerful king responding to an attack on his people. He is acting just like any other chief of state would -at least for now. Cyborg gets some screen time that allows him to showcase his powers and have some human interaction. Great art by Reis, Prado, and Reis; an exciting and long awaited cliffhanger, and Tula! Nice issue.

Don't mess with Wonder Woman. By Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Rod Reis

Friday, January 25, 2013

Avengers #3

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Jerome Opeña

The first arc of Avengers concludes with a major brawl between the revamped assembly and the god-like beings from The Garden. Jerome Opeña steals the show with blockbuster-level visuals, and the coloring team brings its class act with a wide-ranged, yet tenuous palette. The presentation of the book overall is very elegant, and well crafted. The story's reference to Earth being an Avengers World, and the constant use of the term expansion, bring to mind an old plot from Avengers Forever in which Immortus foresaw a future where Earth's Mightiest, driven by duty, started deploying space fortresses, growing into the first Terran empire. Is that where this is going? With Hickman's mastery in building massive overarching stories, it would be a great concept to explore. My only wish is that more classic members could join the team. Big guns like Sersi, Crystal, Moondragon, Monica Rambeau, and many other favorites, would truly bring that flavor that is still a bit elusive despite the current large cast.

From left to right: Shang-Chi, Captain Universe, Falcon, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Manifold, Wolverine, Captain Marvel, Sunspot, Cannonball. Art by Jerome Opeña.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Batwoman #16

Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J.H. Williams III

Batwoman and Wonder Woman descend on Gotham like guardian angels to stop the chaos unleashed by Medusa and her forces. Serpent's Homeland is an all-battle story, full of all the good stuff everyone loves to see in a superhero book. Each party gets a moment to shine amidst the war and destruction taking place. Batwoman's blinding rage, Diana's fight with the Hydra, Chase's ominous promise, and even the unexpected roles Director Bones and La Llorona play in the drama, are all continuous beats that build on each other to up the ante. A favorite moment, however, is the timely return of a familiar face that -as cliché as it sounds- rises from the ashes for a last-minute rescue; what is even more exciting about it, is that it is still up in the air whether this is a triumphant comeback or the meanest defeat ever. Medusa's rant about the mother of all monsters is the only part of the story that is probably unnecessary, but is by no means detrimental to the plot; if anything, is informative. Fantastic issue!

Medusa, Batwoman, and Wonder Woman by J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Captain Marvel #9

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Filipe Andrade

After an action-loaded start for the Captain Marvel title, Kelly Sue DeConnick changes the pace to present a more intimate story, as she shares a day in the life of Carol Danvers. The dialog is smart and entertaining, full of fun remarks and situations. Cap's supporting cast comes together to show how far the book has come in such a short time, and a new development for Earth's mightiest hero shocks not only her, but also the readers; great plot. The art is surely going to be the polarizing topic in this new phase of the title. The departure of Dexter Soy has left a huge void to fill; his work was not only different, but also very well received. Filipe Andrade takes over the art duties with a stylized technique that is more common in indie books; an acquired taste that might become divisive amongst fans. If Marvel truly feels this is top grade art, then why is it not being showcased in Avengers or Superior Spider-Man?

Captain Marvel and Spider Woman by Filipe Andrade and Jordie Bellaire

Monday, January 21, 2013

Avenging Spider-Man #16

Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Paco Medina

Otto Octavius' journey into super-heroing continues, and this time he crosses paths with the faculty members of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, a.k.a. The X-Men. Ock's perception of the mutant team is condescending at best, but critical at most; a spot-on portrayal, since this is an attitude typical of him and other evil geniuses. One thing he doesn't do, however, is underestimate them, and that is where the character development part of the story stems from. Peter Parker's personality has never been more notorious than now that he is absent; with Octavious learning to use sarcasm and witty lines to get him by, it is easy to see why the real Spider-Man is so well loved. The artwork is clean and crisp, the energetic panels and nice motion effects work really well, especially during the fight with Wolverine. The only significant oversight is the coloring of Rachel Grey's uniform; someone got her confused with Hope Summers and did not know which way to go with it.

The Superior Spider-Man vs. Wolverine by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, Dave Curiel

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Batman and Robin #16

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason

It is Robin's turn to be messed with by Joker, and this one is not fun at all -in a good way. Trapped in the aviary at the Gotham Zoo, drugged, and without backup, Damian faces a Batman loaded with Joker venom. The sinister threat puts the young man in a vulnerable position that forces him to come to terms with more of his unexpressed emotions; a recurring theme in Tomasi's run that reaches a peak of sorts with this issue. Patrick Gleason has proven to be one of the most consistent artists of The New 52, which in itself is already worthy of accolades; however, his depiction of Joker deserves a special commendation. Kudos as well to John Kalisz for his interesting palette choices Just like with the other Death of the Family tie-ins, this story works great when seen as its own thing rather than as part of a whole; the event has successfully explored some dark corners of the bat-world, but the timing just does not work.

Robin by Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Daredevil #22

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee

Daredevil becomes the quarry of none other than the Superior Spider-Man in a self-contained adventure by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. Otto Octavius -now possessing the body and abilities of Peter Parker- hunts the man without fear after being asked by an unknowing Kirsten McDuffie, who is concerned about Matt Murdock's already-fragile mental state. The fight between both characters turns out to be of much benefit for Doc Ock, who is slowly learning that it is not enough having his enemy's face, powers, and memories if he expects his ruse to work. Daredevil is the perfect man to teach him that lesson, and the way Waid writes it is fun, by making all the subtleties and small details count more than what's skin deep. Samnee and Rodriguez clearly have fun with the entire fight sequence, and it shows in their work. An upbeat issue that strongly contrasts with the final panel of the story.

Daredevil and Spider-Man against Stilt Man - By Samnee and Rodriguez

Friday, January 18, 2013

Batman #16

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

Joker's Magnum Opus continues as Batman enters Arkham Asylum to find that the place has been turned into a warped royal court where he is the unwilling king. Giving each of Batman's main enemies an office within this twisted noble household is one of Snyder's most ingenious contributions to the Dark Knight's mythos, as these are roles that could continue being played well beyond Death of the Family. Of particular interest in the story is the sick tapestry woven by Dollmaker and the intriguing images displayed on it; something big hides in plain sight, and it is almost better not knowing what it is. About the art, of course, what else is there to say except that it's magnificent? The sequence where Batman fights his royal knights is treated with a fantastic visual effect that makes it feel like a dreamscape, and Joker has never looked more terrifying. This one's a must read.

The Throne Room, by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, FCO Plascencia

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Avengers #2

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting

The Illuminaughty comes together once again, and what's on everyone's mind is whether the real threat is the chain reaction destroying the multiverse, or the fact that the gathering of heroes has decided to do something about it. Namor's arrogance in admitting his part in Wakanda's fall, and Black Panther's refusal to understand he was under the influence of the Phoenix, make of the private meeting between these two the highlight of this issue. Of the seven main characters, the one who seems most unlike himself is Reed Richards; he tends to be more like Cap, less willing to cross the line or justify the means to an end; however, he is suddenly ready to pull the stops knowing what's at stake. Steve Epting's artwork is usually more detailed than shown in this book; it's hard to tell whether the inks or the digital manipulation robbed it of its charm.

The Illuminati by Steve Epting and Frank D'Armata

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Batgirl #16

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ed Benes and Daniel Sampere

For the first time since The New 52 started, we get a glimpse of Barbara's life during the three years she was paralyzed,  and while it is understandable that she went to a dark place soon after her injury, the real kicker of the story is that she actually never left it, even after her recovery. The way Simone teases readers with that typical moment when the hero's values kick in at the last second -but surprises everyone by actually not making it happen- is proof of her talent. This move does not turn Barbara into an evil woman, or makes her seem out of character; it actually shows how human she is, flaws and all. Ed Benes and Daniel Sampere do a nice job with consistent artwork that Ulises Arreola makes even more seamless with his colors. The only objection with the story has more to do with the crossover itself than anything else; having Joker everywhere, attacking Batman and his allies all at the same time makes Death of the Family look like a poor remake of Night of the Owls. Great issue, nonetheless.

Young Batgirl by Ed Benes and Ulises Arreola

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Detective Comics #16

Writer: John Layman
Artist: Jason Fabok

John Layman takes on Joker's latest venture from a different angle, and instead of following the steps of the already busy and almost omnipresent clown of crime, he explores the effect his return has on the rest of Gotham. Layman gives Joker a kind of super-power, one that makes half the city hide in fear, and the other half turn into the sickest versions of themselves; this and other concepts that just sprout from every page make the issue quite entertaining. Nothing but Smiles starts with a global view of Gotham, and as it progresses, its scope narrows until it focuses on a new menace rising from amidst the chaos: Merrymaker, who along with his League of Smiles promises to give Batman a run for his money. Jason Fabok produces extremely elegant, high-quality artwork, while Jeromy Cox's coloring provides a somber atmosphere that matches the mood of the script. An unexpected, fun read.

Batman by Jason Fabok and Jeromy Cox

Monday, January 14, 2013

Scarlet Spider #13

Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Khoi Pham

With a great combination of real-life and make-believe, Chris Yost kicks off In the Midst of Wolves, Scarlet Spider's newest adventure. The opening pages of the book take a glance at a cruel and very real social issue that gets the reader engaged, then smoothly transitions to the fictional aspect of the story by revealing more about Aracely, the girl Kaine's been protecting since the series first started. The inclusion of obscure Spider-Man villain Carlos Lobo and his sister Esmeralda plays off well with the Aztec mythology theme being introduced; while Kaine's continuous struggle between his desire to become a better man and his instincts provides a great deal of character development. Khoi Pham's pencils improve with each installment; however, the use of three inkers and three colorists is somewhat disrupting. The cliffhanger of this first chapter is spine-chilling. Superb issue!

Scarlet Spider by Khoi Pham

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Wolverine and the X-Men #23

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nick Bradshaw

The Last Frankenstein brings the X-Men's circus adventure to a close. The story succeeds in capturing the essence of Chris Claremont's Kitty's Fairy Tale, published way back in Uncanny X-Men #153; with the evident difference that this time the quirky situation actually happens to the characters and it is not just a product of Ms. Pryde's vivid imagination. One would think that deranged murderous clowns are a sure thing -just ask DC about it- but I guess the concept doesnt translate that well when applied to Wolverine and company. Between the juvenile villains from the Hellfire Club, the whole circus thing, and the headache-inducing character making his return in the final page, this latest arc is a pretty-to-look-at-meh-fest; the pretty part is thanks to Nick Bradshaw and Laura Martin's clean and colorful art.

Wolverine and the X-Men by Nick Bradshaw and Laura Martin