Brief Reviews (8/24 to 9/7 – 2016)

Below are brief reviews of comics that came out August 24th and 31st, and September 7th, except for Superwoman #1, which was released August 10th. You can access previous reviews by clicking here.

The Flintstones #3
(released 9/7)
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Pugh (w/colors by Chris Chuckry)

In this issue, aliens discover Earth and Bedrock, and soon it becomes the destination of spring break vacationing adolescent little green folks who not only exploit the local culture, but use an app on their phones to disintegrate residents! They are “Space Bros” that constantly yell out, “Galactic Break!” and drink lots of beer. Among their victims is one of the only Black cave people, a guy named Joe, who suffers from PTSD from his time fighting in the Paleolithic Wars that Fred and Barney also fought in. Here’s the thing, I can see how Russell is trying  to satirize the tourist culture of the West as a kind of neo-colonial force, but there are two problems with this 1) it equates people of the so-called “underdeveloped” nations of our real world with the primitive people of Bedrock, literal stone-tool users, and the people of developed nations as unimaginably advanced cultures, and 2) since the violators are adolescents, it undermines the real damage such unfettered cultural contact can do. I did appreciate however, when Barney explains why he thinks they cannot possibly win in a fight against the aliens advanced technology, “Because they can come to our world, but we can’t go to theirs.” The issue ends with a little green man left behind as guardian against further intrusion, The Great Gazoo. This title remains on the bubble, but somehow its failures are what keep me returning to it. I can see myself writing about this series soon, which I am sure I will do soon after I get tired of picking this book up.

Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur #10 (released 8/24)
moon_girl_and_devil_dinosaur_vol_1_10Written by: Amy Reeder and Brandon Montlaire
Artists:: Natacha Bustos (w/colors by Tamra Bonvillain)

The thing I love about this book is what I loved about Louise Simonson’s Power Pack, it takes the feelings of children seriously in a way that asks us to not judge their reactions and choices by our easy access to experiences that a child may not have gotten the chance to absorb yet (and lets be honest, lot’s of adults make bad choices, too). The kids feel “authentic”.  Well, as authentic as super genius Inhumans who can switch their consciousness with a giant red dinosaur can feel. The art remains a delight. This book makes me happy, even if (just like Power Pack) it is not free of problems.

Ms. Marvel vol. 4, #10 (released 8/31)
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artists: Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona (w/colors by Ian Herring)

Wilson continues her master class in how to write a crossover event into your book, but keep the stakes tied to the cast and setting, creating a great story. Alphona and Miyazawa continue to split art duties, with the former doing the flashbacks, but rather than a flashback to Pakistan as in the recent issues, it is a flashback to when Kamala first met Bruno in 2nd grade. The scene not only sets up the length and strength of their relationship, but also nicely sets ups Kamala’s parents as sympathetic and generous people without being cloying, and thus reinforcing the basis for Kamala’s strong sense of compassion. Miyzawa’s art has signs of his getting comfortable with the characters, making them his own in a way that may be distinct from Alphona’s spectacular work, but is stronger for it. This series gives me hope for what so many Marvel titles could be.

Nighthawk vol. 2, #4 (released 8/24)
Writer: David Walker
Artists: Ramon Villalobos (w/colors by Tamra Bonvillain)

This book remains unapologetically violent and relevant to contemporary life in America with its grim superheroic take on racialized violence and police corruption, but as you many have heard, Nighthawk was recently cancelled. I may have felt ambivalent about this series at times, but there is something about its cancellation that made me realize how much I appreciated it. Not only is Villalobos’s art consistently amazing (aided by Bonvillain’s colors), but the superhero genre needs books like these about black characters navigating and engaging with corrupt systems seeking justice and tackling race unflinchingly. Joseph Illidge wrote a great analysis of the cancellation, but I can’t help but think that Marvel didn’t do enough to support this book, especially since it had so many critical accolades. Anyway, now this series will end with issue #6, which is a shame, because with issue #4 it feels like it is really coming together.

Sixpack And Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin’ Heroz #1
(released 8/24)
sixpack_and_dogwelder_hard-travelin_heroz_vol_1_1Writer: Garth Ennis
Artists:  Russel Braun (w/colors by John Kalisz)

I am a fan of Ennis’s Hit Man. In fact, I think it’s his best work (I fucking hate Preacher), but I’m starting to wonder if Hit Man would hold up for me these days. While Braun’s art is fantastic (a kind of hyper-gross realism that fits the weirdness of the Section 8 band of weirdo heroes), the issue feels unduly padded, and Ennis’s use of an unnecessary “retard” joke turned me off. I’ll probably get the next issue, but will be wary.

Spider-Man vol. 2, #7 (released 8/31)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Nico Leon (w/colors by Marte Garcia)

I was confused half the time while reading this comic. I had to go back and make sure I had not missed an issue, but I think my confusion was mostly borne of it having been so long since I read issue #6 and my own skewed sense of the time of events in Civil War II, which nominally crosses over with this issue. Furthermore, by bringing in a character named Bombshell, who I’d never seen or heard of before (for a brief moment I thought she might turn out to be Boom-Boom from late 80s X-Factor/New Mutants somehow made teen again) I thought I had missed something. Her overzealous handling of some pawnshop thieves just trying to steal back their own band equipment suggests that Bendis is trying to reinforce MIles’s concerns about the limits of what superheroing can achieve, and if maybe it often makes things more chaotic. Most of the issue deals with Miles being unsure about what to do about the brewing superhero “civil war” and having dreams  about the Hulk (I guess this takes place before Hawkeye kills Bruce Banner?), but there is also some stuff with his mom freaking out about Miles’s secret and her run-in with Jessica Jones.  The art is decent (despite no Sara Pichelli), but between a dream sequence, the foiling of a crime that does not involve Miles, and two different scenes focused on his mom’s anxieties, he issue still somehow feels like nothing really happens. It is as if this is some interstitial portion of Civil War II with some brief tangents. At $3.99, is felt like a rip-off.

Star Wars vol. 2, #22 (released 8/24)
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Jorge Molina (w/colors by Matt Milla)

This issue purports to continue the story from the previous issue, but it certainly isn’t clear how. I guess it has been so long that the connection is not apparent? Is the ship the too-talkative special Stormtrooper team infiltrates the same one we see Luke, Leia and the gang commandeer in this issue? Maybe. I need to go back and check. Aside from that, though, this issue gets back to the high action and space battles that made the early issues of this series crackle with energy. Also, Molina’s art seems improved since last time, or maybe last time he was rushed or something and this time he wasn’t.

Superwoman #1
(released 8/10)
Writer and Artist: Phil Jimenez (w/colors by Jeromy Cox and inks by Matt Santorelli)

I will admit that I picked up this book because Phil Jimenez is an acquaintance of mine, a friend of a friend who I finally got to meet in person after a couple of years of social media interaction. I also have to admit that while I admire his art, I can’t say I have purchased many comics he has worked on, and none he has written. Well, this comic makes me extra-ashamed of that because it is such a delight! Usually, as you may know from these reviews, I am very down on new books that begin immediately embroiled in detailed and confusing continuity, and sure that is something of a weakness here, but ultimately the details here don’t matter as much as the simple premise, Lois Lane and Lana Lang have acquired Superman’s powers when he died, and Lex Luthor is trying to claim the Superman legacy for himself using an updated version of the battle-armor he was frequently in back in the day (and in a bunch of Justice League cartoons). I won’t “spoil” the set-up and twist at the end of the issue, but that is the only other part of the story that felt weak (and that I hope is only temporary). The pleasure of the comic is Jimenez’s acumen with visual storytelling, his complex, yet clear, panel structure, and the feeling of tightly-packed and fast-paced action. I can tell Jimenez is inspired by the same kinds of comics I loved as a kid (and still love). No decompression or overuse of “cinematic” long panels here! It is also a delight to read a story about two women with a tradition of being rivals having to work through their tensions for the greater good and support each other. Looks like I will be adding a another DC book to my pull-list.

All New Wolverine Annual #1 (released 8/31)
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Marcio Takara (w/colors by Mat Lopes)

I usually skip annuals, which have notoriously bad stories by fill-in writers and artists, but when I saw that the regular writer wrote this, and then flipped though and saw the Takara art. I decided to get it. It was a mistake. This is a nothing story. Even the possibility for good characterization through the cliched body swap story was squandered. Disappointing.

Wonder Woman vol. 5, #5 (released 8/24)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Liam Sharp (w/colors by Laura Martin)

wonder_woman_vol_5_5_variantA return to “The Lies” storyline and I am still not quite feeling it.  I mean, this is better than the first two issues in this arc because we get to see Wonder Woman in action, but I am not a fan of the art, especially the coloring, and while I am glad to see some direction to the plot (in the inclusion of secret villain manipulating things), the underlying meta aspect of Wonder Woman’s confusing origins and previous relationship to Paradise Island has no appeal to me. Still, it is a glimmer of hope that this is moving in the right direction.  The Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang New 52 series may have ended up being a misguided and even offensive mess, but it did succeed in drawing the reader into an immediate compelling adventure. “The Lies” needs more of that.  I do love the Frank Cho variant cover I got because it is the perfect example of how he is capable of portraying the Amazon Princess in a way that is attractive, even sexy, without being oversexualized. I love how he draws her broad muscled shoulders.

On the Bubble: The Flintstones, Sixpack And Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin’ Heroz, Star Wars

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