Thursday, 27 September 2012

Review: FF # 22 - You are whatever you want to be

After a few weeks of waiting, issue 22 of FF was finally released, allowing me to finish reading this final story about the the Wizard and his "son", Bentley 23 of the Future Foundation.

However, unlike what I was expecting (a continuation of the last Fantastic Four issue), here we saw a story which moved concurrently with part 1 of this tale, occasionally crossing paths with it's big sister title. This side of the story focused more on Bentley 23, who has been dragged away from the Baxter Building by Val Richards to follow the first family to Barbuda in order to get to the Wizard before he escapes. This story then continues until it reaches Bentley's showdown with "father" in the prison cell as depicted previously.

In all honesty, this is a really sweet issue. It's a quaint story that not only focuses on one of Hickman's own additions to the lore of the Fantastic Four, but also focuses on the writers opinion to the answer "What makes you who you are? Nature or Nurture?" However, this is very quiet for a Jonathan Hickman book for my liking and a little bit short, although I think this may have something to do with many action scenes having already been seen previously. I liked this novel way of having a cross-over, but it just didn't feel as action packed. Despite this this issue held a lot of emotion and I really enjoyed it for that and the journey that Bentley 23 has finally concluded (after it started all the way at the start, remember?).

The main problem with this issue could be the art.Andre Araujo creates some beautiful panels and Cris Peter provides very fitting colors, but Araujo looks to struggle with realistic faces, which is a little off-putting. Despite that, he still puts in a good attempt as many of the set pieces have already been shown in the related Fantastic four issue, though with these Araujo is creative enough to put a new spin on them

I had expected an end where young Bentley becomes the new Wizard, which would be in keeping with Hickman's recent stories which appeared to have undone all his work to return things to the status quo. However, I'm pleasantly surprised and fully enjoyed the resolution. With one issue left before Hickman's tenure ends, I certainly can't wait to see how this book finishes it's term.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Who I want to see in the cast of Earth 2

Since being released in May, I've really been loving Justice Society relaunch Earth 2. Brought to us by James Robinson and Nicola Scott, this book has brought some of the classic DC characters from comics golden age and given them a revamp and modern day facelift. It is also a book which is separate from all other books amongst DC's new 52 and, as such, provides Robinson and Scott a certain freedom in what characters they use and how they use them.

The gang so far (Well, most of them anyway)

So far in this series we have seen revamped versions of the Flash(Jay Garrick), Green Lantern(Alan Scott), Hawkgirl(Kendra Saunders), mr Terrific(Michael Holt & Terry Sloane) and the Atom(Al Pratt). But as the series, and the stories, will continue to grow, what other classic characters should appear and be part of the team? I think the following should, one day, appear:

1.Sandman (Wesley Dodds) - I remember when the Justice Society episode of Smallville aired a few years back and I got to see a lot of the JSA characters in the flesh (so to speak). At one point, Wesley Dodds appears and, kitted out in his costume and Gas mask, awaits the end he has just dreamed. Seeing this made me realise just how much of a noir character Sandman is, in a similiar vein to the Shadow or the Green Hornet. Now, while I'm not sure if this Sandman is the same one from the Neil Gaiman epic (Yes I've never read Sandman, let the stoning commence), I think adding Wesley Doods to the ranks would give this current colourful cast of Wonders a darker tone. He could be the JSA equivalent of Batman (Justice League) or Rorschach (Watchman)

2.Wildcat (Ted Grant) - Now if this character doesn't show up in this series in the very near future, then you know that there is no justice in the world (no pun intended). The backstory is that Ted Grant is a boxer who dons a black cat-like costume to fight crime. He has no powers, just grit and determination (and sometimes a gruff attitude). While, he has already been hinted at in this series (A boxing poster seen in issue 2 or 3), to see him take his rightful place as a part of this teams big three would make me go nuts over it. Also, as a more "human" character he would be a great way for readers to jump into the series and relate to the world rising up around him.

3.Dr Fate (Kent Nelson) - In all honesty, this might be a bit of a given, seeing as Hawkgirl did mention Fate guiding her to the Flash in issue 3 and that Fate was a he. That said, Dr Fate is iconic and I think he really provides the aged wisdom and gravitas that would nicely balance by this rather young team. Also, given the worlds more mystical focus (Hermes and the green light of the planet), it seems like a perfect setting for the helmet of Nabu.

Hope they bring back the round table too

4.Red Tornado (Abigail Hunkel) - So, this one might be a little out of left field compared with other characters but this character is synonymous with Justice Society, as Abigail Hunkel has been, like, the Jarvis of the JSA for who knows how long. Also, it would be nice to have a little bit of diversity in a team which is predominatly an "all-boys club" (Yes, I'm throwing down the gender card. I hate doing it but sometimes it does have a point). In truth, the original Red Tornado looked a bit silly, but using the Red Tornado from Kingdom Come (which I think was Maxine Hunkel), it would maintain the youthful appearance of the book.

5.Power Girl (Karen Starr) - Now this one might be a bit difficult to implement but is definitely worth doing. In past incarnations of the team Power Girl has been the resident faux-Superman, and has often been chairperson. Now in the new 52 she, along with Huntress are stranded on Earth 1. But how difficult is it to return them to their rightful home? By bringing her back and inducting her into the JSA fold, it gives the team that powerhouse element as well as the Superman connection. One provision would be to change her costume to something similiar to what it used to be, not a fan of the current one.
Also, while not actually a hero or a member of the Justice society, I think this character deserves a special mention for inclusion. The Shade (Richard Swift) is a terrific classic comic book villain who (I believe) has tackled with several members of the JSA in the past. Now, I know the there was a recent maxi-series for him (Which Robinson wrote, I think?), but it didn't specifically connect him to the DCnU proper. This allows him to appear in Earth 2 with a minimum of effort. I mean, we have Solomon Grundy in this book so shouldn't we deserve a villain with a little more class (and how can a guy with a top hat not have class).

Now these are only my choices and there are still a couple of others who wouldn't go a miss (Dr. Mid-Nite, Liberty Belle etc). But to see these characters take their rightful place in this book would be unreal and (I think) make the story even more epic than it has already been.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Why I buy the Activity.

This week I've looking long and hard at all the comic book series I collect in the course of a month. Some have been no brainers as to why I pick them (Fantastic Four, Uncanny X-Force and Earth 2) while others I've had no clue and have resolved to remove from my buy pile as soon as possible (I mean you Action Comics and Dark Avengers).

If this isn't the comic book version
 of "The Unit", I dunno what is

And then we come to the Activity. Deciding to base all my decisions on the most recent issue of each series, I had decided that this book just wasn't cutting it and so needed to be cut (funny play on words there). However, something told me I was being rash and so, with today (mostly) spare(That was a Sunday), I decided to read the entire series so far, issues 1 to 8. In doing this I realised something about this book.

With Art and story like this, I dunno
why I considered dropping this book.

What i realised was The Activity, about a military unit of covert operatives who go about partaking in missions that require a smart, subtle and covert touch, is not so much a comic book than it is a guilty pleasure for someone like me who enjoys something with no major continuity. This book is, essentially, the comic book equivalent of the A-Team, a kind of "the Unit" meets "CSI", with each issue practically a self contained story that may, only partially, have an impact on future instalments.

Reading through the series so far made me realise that I had been simply blowing through each issue and savouring each instalment as it came. In a world where every comic series is designed from inception to contain an ongoing, 20 issue, slowly growing in importance story arc, it is actually refreshing to be reading something that doesn't rely on this but instead tells a single story in a single issue, which would allow anyone to pick up any issue and get into this.
Now this doesn't mean that each issue has absolutely no relevance to future instalments, the world doesn't work that way (and in truth neither does the military I'd wager), but it's most likely how these kinds of teams work in the world; do a job, go home, move onto the next. This also the book to maintain the illusion of believability while, at the same time, retains it's format and style.
In the end, reading this series from beginning to present was the smartest thing I've done. It reminded me not just why I bought this book (because after "Who is Jake Ellis?" Nathan Edmondson is a REALLY smart writer) but, most importantly, why I continue to buy it. It probably also gives a clue that I'll be buying for a fair while to come.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Review: Fantastic Four #610 - The Wizard

Fantastic Four #610 continued to wind up Jonathan Hickman's incredible run, this time with the beginnings of a crossover with sister book FF featuring the return of the Hickman run's premier Fan 4 foe, the Wizard.

The issue sees AIM, who are basically Microsoft with weird beekeeping outfits, takeover a small island called Barbuda (which I suspect is another Marvel-only country) with the plan of becoming legitimate. Cue Mr Fantastic (requested by the President himself) and his fantastic entourage travelling to the new AIM island to meet with their "head of state", who makes them quite the offer; the US consider them a sovereign state in exchange for the Wizard.

In a nutshell, I loved this issue. The story has very classic feel that I remember hearing Hickman speak off in an interview prior to starting the run.  The whole issue feels like a throwback to some of the Mark Waid issues, and even the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby issues at the beginning. Sure, compared to prior arcs by Hickman, this is a very simple tale, but it still emits an abundance of over the top ideas and fantastical (pardon the pun) plot elements that just makes this book something that is more than needed.

This is made all the more clear by the art, which is, in a word, gorgeous. Vibrant, dynamic and loud, Ryan Stegman is a perfect fit for this title making the book feel as fantastic as the title suggest. The colours by Paul Mounts help with this as they just bounce off the page, making each panel just blow up in your face. Not since the initial issue with Dale Eaglesham have I been so in love with the art on this book. It's actually a real shame there is only one issue left.

If there is a downside to this issue, it is that it is part of a crossover. To be honest, I despise crossovers, why should I buy an issue of a book I don't normally buy to complete a story. It's simply another way to extort money as where would be the harm in putting out one more issue. Nonetheless, this isn't that big a problem here as I already pick up FF and the story is written in such a way that, while it's a crossover, I don't foresee it being a necessary one.

With only 1 issue left, I'm as in love with this title now as I was at issue 571 (wow, that was a long time ago). I'll be looking forward to next months finale, but I'm gonna miss it when it's over. I just wonder now if Matt fraction can meet the high bar set from this run.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Review: Action Comics #0 - The boy who stole Superman's cape

If there was ever an issue which could convince me that there is a turning point in Grant Morrison's Action Comics series, it is most definitely issue 0.

Split between Action comics main story and back-up, the main feature in this title details Clark Kent's arrival in Metropolis and his first exploits in the occupation of superheroics. From getting his now famous "S" t-shirts and getting his job at the Daily Star to making his prescence known to the to the criminals of Metropolis, this is a telling of day 1 in the New 52verse. The story is pretty much explained in the title, during the events of this issue a boy steal Superman's cape. What follows is, not only the Man of Steel's daily interactions while setting up life in Metropolis, but also what happens to the young lad now he has an indestructible cape. Meanwhile, the back up story focuses on the previous arcs villain Adam and his encounter with Erik Dresden, the squid like creature from the Legion arc before he became squid-like.

After the massive fail I felt that came from the previous issue, and indeed much of this run, this "prequel" certainly provides a ray of hope, being much more engrossing and providing deeper emotional connection than previously. Morrison wisely focuses on the titular boy who, apparently coming from a broken home, is the kind of innocent that was going to be the focus when the title was announced last year. Also, the interactions between Superman (as Superman) and both the boy as well as some armed thugs feels more like Superman should be; he takes no prisoners with the guilty but will do everything for the innocent. This kind of depiction has been missing so far in my opinon. However, this book is not without its problems and they come in the form of the back-up story. I did not like this story, feeling that it was unnecessary and a little forced. I struggle to understand why DC continue to add back-up stories in this title because, apart from the Steel origin, they have been mostly a disappointment. If they read this, I'd much rather spend less on the title of get more pages of the main feature.

The art by Ben Oliver is fantastic. The digital art he provides for the main feature feels much more futuristic, and is incredibly fitting for a character known as "the man of tomorrow". The art for the backup feature is also solid and certainly keeps things vibrant, however it wasn't enough to save the story in my opinon.

If I'm lucky Action Comics may have turned a corner with this zero issue. However, if I'm not then this was a fluke and the run will return to its confusing, uninteresting worst. I'm willing to take a risk on the former, although I'm unsure how many chances I want to keep giving this book.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Review: Think Tank #2 - Hook, Line, Sinker

Think Tank issue 2 kicks the story into high gear as it begins to focus on the main plot of the book after its introductory first issue.

Following on from issue 1, the book begins with a flashback of one of the many inventions the David Loren has invented over the years and the damage it causes. The story then bounces back to the present as David has returned to the lab (or rather has BEEN returned to the lab) to be given a dressing down, a smack in the face and the realization that all his stuff has been taken away. From this point on it's decided that enough is enough and that David wants out. Cue the planning, MacGyver style, as this heroic brainiac brings together all his inventions to implement an escape plan that he has, apparently, been planning for quite some time.

Two issues in, and what I know is this, this story is incredibly well written and is SO much fun. Matt Hawkins moves this story forward at a nice pace while occasionally stopping to fill in the necessary gaps in the back story. This allows for a terrific start to the new plot of the book as the story remained totally engrossing throughout. This is achieved primarily through the writing of the books protagonist, Dr David Loren. Hawkins has made this guy into quite the dick, but he's also a dick that can be related to. This makes him easy to invest in as he attempts to free himself from this high-tech prison.

As for the art, well that, like the writing, is fantastic. The panels are clear to follow and beautifully rendered, with incredible detail every where I looked. The art isn't perfect, but I feel that's more by design than poor skill as Rahsan Ekedal gives this book a really unique look which really suits its sci-fiesque genre fit.

After Issue 1, I thought this book had the chance to be great, but after issue 2 I don't think it; I know it!!!! Whatever happens from here on in, the imagination put towards the environment and the intrigue of the story will keep me hooked for a good long while.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Review: Earth 2 #0 - A Hero's Tale

Earth 2 issue 0 takes us back to the beginning as James Robinson returns focus to the events that preceded and led up to issue 1 and beyond

The story focuses on Terry Sloan, the original Mr Terrific and the man who captured Michael Holt during issue 2, as he provides the narration for himself and the original wonders (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to name a few) as they battle to defeat the armies of Stepphenwolf and Apokolips. Sloan's story describes the players on his side, and the casualties caused by the other-worldly invaders before moving towards his plan to gain victory, which most likely will not sit well with his super-powered allies.

Despite being difficult to get into at beginning, this issue did eventually grow on me as time went by, for which I am glad. While expecting this to be more of a focus on the Trinity and their differences and similarities to their Earth 1 counterparts, Robinson side-steps this by focusing more on the one character who, we know is still relevant to this world, Terry Sloan. The issue provides a deep insight in Sloan's personality, displaying him as a very cold and calculating individual whose ends always justify the means and is more than willing to sacrifice anyone to achieve his objectives. This makes the character a much more interesting foil for the noble "JSA" that Robinson is putting together during this series.

As for the art, all I can say is that Tomas Giorello's work here is gorgeous. Every panel, every set piece and even every character felt vibrant and epic, which given what is transpiring through this story, is absolutely deserved. While I would attribute regular artist Nicola Scott's work as a movie level produced tv series, Giorello's stuff is most definitely summer blockbuster stuff in a way. Not to reduce the talent of Scott's artwork, which is consistently awesome, but daammmnnn, this work here is good.

Overall,  this story was intriguing and beautiful to look at. If there is one downside to this book it's that Robinson leaves more questions that can only really be answered in another issue zero. That said, although book may not be essential to overall story, it does provide more depth to the series and is well worth reading.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Review: FF #21 - Ronance

Jonathan Hickman continues the process of tying up his loose ends with issue 21 of FF, as the battle between the Inhumans and the Kree is brought to a close.
Following on from previous issue's set up, Black Bolt and Supreme Intelligence have brokered a peace which requires one concession, the return of Inhuman's Crystal's new husband of Ronan the Accuser. But the Accuser must return alone. As a result, Reed and Susan (with Johnny and Spider-man in tow) are called in to (individually) persuade Ronan and Crystal respectively that their parting is what must be done. Meanwhile, as this story is told, flashbacks tell the story of the meeting between Black Bolt and the Supreme Intelligence and shows us how this agreement was reached.
Jonathan Hickman continues to tie up the loose ends from his run, with plenty of throwback moments which reference to the previous issues in the series. This obviously includes the main story, but also reminds us of Johnny Storm's time in the Negative Zone as well as Johnny's apartment share with Spidey. However, despite these moments of continuity, the issue felt pretty boring for a Hickman book. With no big adventures, this book feels more like general housekeeping before the creative teams departure and the launch of Marvel Now. Despite that, I did enjoy the flashbacks which unveiled the point behind the story as it went along, which gave greater focus on the dynamic between the leaders of the Kree and the Inhumans. I continually find myself engrossed by Hickman's depiction of Reed Richards, who continuously feels like the hero every book should have. Genius, Envoy, Leader. I totally love the way this characters has been written in this run.
Nick Dragotta's art work in this book at first glance felt rather child like and wrong for the book. But more I look at it the more I realize that it suits. The panels look very pastoral and soft and indeed child like, but given what this book follows, a super class of genius children, it doesn't hurt to look like that. It feels like a throwback to the early years of modern comics (the two pages of dialogue between Mr and Mrs Richards stick in my mind) which inspires this awe of wonder which the book deserves. Not all the panels are perfect, depictions feel off for a couple of panels, but overall it's an ok job.
Unlike the big sister book of the Fantastic Four, which feels like it's trying to end as big as it began, FF gives me the impression of ending with a whimper rather than a bang, with issues focused more on clearing up rather than telling a story. Hopefully, with two issues left the title following Marvel's first family will prove me wrong.