Last week, I started a review of the many comics I read after returning from my travels in June and July. It was kind of fun to read two or three issues at a time. And it’s been just as much fun to review them that way as well.
GI Joe: Real American Hero 166-167: My patience has finally run out on the retro GI Joe title. It’s never been the best book but I had room for a mediocre comic with nostalgic appeal. The biggest problem is the dialogue. The old GI Joe always had a smattering of military jargon. At the time, it seemed designed to educate. But the current title is crowded with it, making every conversation stilted and awkward.
Green Lantern 66-67, Green Lantern Corps 60-61, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors 9-11, War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath 1: The last few months of Green Lantern have been unusually inconsistent. I had been enjoying the first half of the War of the Green Lanterns story. But the second half, represented in these issues, felt a little repetitive and drawn out. I was particularly disappointed that the four earth Green Lanterns went back to the same pairings after meeting up in the middle. The story could have introduced greater variety in character conflict if they had shuffled their partnerships. Post-War, the separate titles have focused on individual Green Lanterns in self-contained stories. While I appreciate the attempt at a change of pace, the stories themselves have been somewhat trite. The unfortunate result is that it feels like the titles are biding time until their re-launch in September rather than truly exploring the depths of their characters. The one exception is the War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath. That issue packed several strong emotional wallops such as Hal’s despair at being exiled to earth and Sinestro’s desperation to get rid of the green ring. The story also featured the great character conflict that had made the first half of the War worth reading.
The Guild: Bladezz: I’ve truly delighted in this series of one-shots. Earlier issues focused on Vork’s pathos and Tinkerballa’s mystery. This issue explored Bladezz’s home life. We learn how teenaged troublemaker Simon became sensational model Finn Smulders. More importantly, we peek in on his antagonistic relationship with his sister, his tempered affection for his mother and his youthful resentment of her new boyfriend. It’s a wonderful domestic drama that brings great depth to the main character- something that we don’t see in the more farcical web series.
Invincible 80/Guarding the Globe 5: Invincible, the hero, is back on earth after the long Viltrumite War story. And Invincible, the comic, is back to the combination of home life and super-heroics that made the book great. On the superhero side, Invincible is feeling quite confident. He has fully accepted his role as earth’s protector. He isn’t shy about rushing into danger or making major decisions. But that confidence may just lead him into trouble before the story is over. On the domestic side, Invincible is feeling out of his depth. He’s not quite ready to embrace the more adult role that he’s inherited. He feels a little lost without his mom, who went on a trip into space. And he’s hesitant about his relationship with Eve. He wants to be with her, but he’s not quite ready to make a home with her. Switching back and forth between the two storylines helps both move along briskly. And there are some great contrasts between civilian Mark Grayson and confident Invincible. Meanwhile, Guarding the Globe has been a minor disappointment. The story can’t quite decide what it wants to be. Is it the story of minor heroes saving the day in the absence of earth’s greatest hero? Or is it a super-human soap opera? The lack of commitment to either approach leaves the title with an uneven tone and a story that lurches from one situation to another.
iZombie 13-15: There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this comic. I read the first 12 issues in the span of two weeks as I caught up to the iZombie bandwagon. Now, I’m reading it in (mostly) monthly installments and it’s just as good. Chris Roberson does a great job keeping us invested in the main character, Gwen. Her personality is interesting and her problems are intriguing. I can see why Horatio is falling in love with her. On top of that, Roberson is doing a great job with the secondary characters too. Scenes concerning the vampire coven, Scott’s grandfather and Claire, the mad scientist assistant, are as enjoyable as the main story. I could do without the Dead Presidents back-up strip though.
Kirby Genesis 0 and 1: This has the potential to become my new favorite comic. Like Marvels and Kingdom Come, Genesis follows an unlikely lead in Kirby Freeman. He’s the slightly nerdy kid smitten with the hottest girl in school in a world that’s about to explode in wonder. He’s down to earth, yet knowledgeable. He’s a little bit awed but skeptical enough not to be carried away. He’s a little bit funny, but he’s not the class clown. He has a small dose of teen angst, but not so much to be off-putting. The art is also amazing, though that should be expected from a team headed by Alex Ross. I particularly appreciated the humorous style for the flashback scenes and the contrast of shadowed human beings with almost neon alien visitors.
Legion of Superheroes 13-15/Adventure Comics 526-528: This just isn’t working. The new Paul Levitz Legion hasn’t been awful. It’s even been great on occasion, particularly in the Annual and the Legion of Super-Villains one-shot. But as an ongoing title, it’s been mediocre more often than that. I almost think this would work better as an over-sized quarterly comic. There are too many storylines for any of them to move forward that much. And there are too many changes in direction- such as Mon’El leaving and then coming back right away again. Adventure has been slightly better thanks to a smaller cast and superior art by both Phil Jimenez (now departed) and Jimenez-influenced Geraldo Borges. Unfortunately, the kids are often unlikable and that makes it difficult to care about their triumphs or the their setbacks.
Red Skull: Incarnate 1: Wow, what a great comic. When I saw that Marvel was publishing a Red Skull origin story, I merely hoped that it would be as good as 2008’s Magneto Testament. I didn’t realize that this was an intentional follow-up by the same author, Greg Pak. The previous series explored the events that caused a young boy victimized by Nazis to become one of the world’s greatest villains. This series is an interesting counterpoint. What would cause a young boy to become one of the most fearsome Nazis in comic book history? It’s been an intriguing case study so far. We see a childhood penchant for cruelty and early lessons against weakness. Red Skull Incarnate is heading to a dark place. But, on occasion, that can make for a fascinating story.
The Red Wing 1: Jonathan Hickman’s new sci-fi series has the potential to be a really cool comic. The series focuses on a team of pilots, kind of like Kurt Busiek’s Shockrockets but with the added twist of time travel. That twist introduces unique dangers: instant aging, four-dimensional dogfights and being stranded in the age of dinosaurs. There’s a strong human angle as the two main characters are trying to follow in their famous father’s footsteps. And there’s a mystery to hook you in- are their fathers dead or merely lost in time? The art has a Frank Quitely influence, though it’s lacking his polish. Yet it’s strong enough to carry the story and convey the tension.
Rocketeer Adventures 1-3: Anthologies are a risky venture. They can be erratic from issue to issue, or even within a single issue. That problem has plagued recent character specific anthologies such as Dark Horse’s Escapist. But the Rocketeer sidesteps that obstacle with ease. The list of creators is top-notch and their contributions maintain a high level of quality throughout. There’s also a nice variety of tone and style. Some creators aim for action while others are more focused on humor. Some stories contain strong characterization, revealing Cliff’s jealousy over his girlfriend Betty, while others are light-hearted romps than provide more escape than analysis. There’s also an appropriate level of cheesecake- Betty is based on pin-up model Bettie Page after all- but it’s never exploitative. The Rocketeer Adventures are a model for how to do an anthology right.