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Review Swamp Thing #18

8 Mar

comics-swamp-thing-18Swamp Thing #18
DC Comics

Scott Snyder – writer
Yanick Paquette – artist
Colors – Nathan Fairbairn
Letters – Travis Lanham

Snyder and Paquette’s final issue gives us the bittersweet ending we were all hoping for. Swamp Thing #18 proves that when these two work together, it is magic.

Alec Holland and The Parliament of Decay bend space and time to allow Abigail to take her place as the avatar of death. This issue follows the climatic end of that quest. The final battle with Anton Arcane, who must be stripped of the mantle before Abigail can take it up, is the kind of outstanding action that sustained this series success in the beginning of this run. Full of tenderness, Snyder’s star-crossed lovers are given the treatment they so richly deserve. It is a satisfying conclusion to this eighteen issue run.

Abigail Arcane is given a chance to shine in this issue. Her character grows, as she becomes a powerful force to be reckoned with. The redemptive tone of issue #18 reveals Abigail to be strong and courageous to an even greater extent than we have seen preceding this point. She is capable of immense sacrifice and bravery. In addition to Snyder’s direction of Abigail’s story, Paquette quite literally paints her in a new light as well.  His character design in regard to Abigail is truly inspired, and singularly beautiful.

Snyder’s swansong is a near perfect ending to his epic saga; equally strong is the work of Paquette. Deftly personifying both death and rebirth, Paquette’s expressive artwork reaches new levels of intensity. Organic layouts and comprehensive aesthetic environments bring life to the story. Nostalgic symbols like orchids fill empty space, reminding us of all that Alec and Abbey have been through.

The culmination of this year-and-a-half long run brings the skills that Paquette and Snyder have shown over time to a new level of perfection. Swamp Thing #18 is full of high-quality action, strong character development, and emotional depth. In other words, it brings together the best parts of what we have come to expect from this incredible team.

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Review All New X-men #8

8 Mar

allnewx8All New X-men #8
Marvel Comics
Writer – Brian Michael Bendis
Artist – David Marquez
Color – Marte Garcia
Letterer – VC’s Cory Petit

Issue #8 of All New X-Men delivers humor, action, character development, and the realization that these characters are asking many of the same questions that we readers have been mulling over these last few months.

Bendis’ storytelling remains engaging. He shows his skill at juggling a large cast of characters while simultaneously advancing this high-concept plot. This series makes each character’s motivation clear, and deserves credit for allowing these motivations to matter. Each member of the team has agency and narrative weight, but somehow does not bog down the overall momentum of the story.

In this issue we finally get the opportunity to learn more about Warren as he fights alongside Angel to protect the Avenger’s Mansion from Hydra’s forces. Warren’s anxiety about his future crystallizes as he learns more about this contemporary version of himself. Bendis incorporates character development and action expertly in this stunning sequence. Just as the battle reaches its pinnacle, the Avengers make their appearance.

The realization that Hank McCoy has tampered with the space-time continuum does not sit well with the Avengers. They travel to the Jean Grey School to confront the doctor, with Captain America serving as ambassador. A conversation about ethics and consequences of scientific principles between a genius and a moral straight-arrow should not bring about much laughter. However, Bendis finds a way to diffuse the tension; giving the story a moment of levity as Kitty and Bobby approximate the exchange out of earshot of Cap and McCoy.

Warren’s apprehension about the future, and desire not to know what it holds for him lead him to make an ill-advised attempt to go home. Thankfully, there is a voice of reason to stop him. Despite the high-flying action sequence, the confrontation with the Avengers, and the breakdown of one of the main characters; the most important moment of this issue may be its reminder that Jean Grey is a wild card. What are the implications of such a young version of Jean having access to so much history that has not yet come to pass? If you are not asking yourself that question, you might be missing the point. This foreshadowing casts a long, dark, ominous shadow that plunges the series into a new level of darkness.

warrenMarquez artwork is very well suited for this series. He consistently brings a youthful exuberance to the page, and captures character with a seeming effortless. He gets the outside of the heads so right, that it is easy for the reader to get inside them. His work truly adds to the narrative quality of the book highlighting its themes and nuances, not in an obvious way, but by nudging readers to notice what Bendis has already put into the writing. A two page spread of Warren and Angel fighting Hydra’s goons reveals a great deal of contrast between where this character started, and what he has become. Marquez’s visual representation of this idea brings new clarity to a beautiful moment.

Do not miss an issue of this series. It bubbles with action, fizzes with humor, and beats with the pulse of a phenomenal cast of characters driving the book ever forward.

This review is also published at bagandbored.net

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Uncanny X-men #2 – Review

2 Mar

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Uncanny X-men #2

Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo

Published by Marvel Comics

The sister book to one of my favorite Big 2 on-goings, (All New X-men) offered up its second helping this week in the pages of Uncanny X-men #2 by Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo. As of now, I am having a hard time falling in love.

Brian Michael Bendis, master that he is, constructs a lovely, intimate narrative involving the lingering tensions between Scott Summers and Emma Frost. The pair shares a history that would make most Lifetime movies green with envy, and that is apparent in the way they interact here.

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Emma is not only struggling with the ramifications of a life-altering split with Scott, but also facing the terrifying prospect of living without her mutant abilities. Bendis does an incredible job portraying the storm of emotions raging inside of her. Facing the age-old dilemma, best defined by The Clash, “should I stay or should I go?” Emma makes the decision to stay.  She decides to serve as a mentor to the world’s newest mutants, whom she, Scott, Magneto, and Magik have been collecting. As the group attempts to explain the mutant way of life to their new recruits, they encounter trepidation from the initiates. Eva, one of the newest mutants, is concerned for the safety of her family. In a display of compassion, Cyclops and his team transport back to her home in Australia. They are unaware that a double agent, Magneto, has called in back up.

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So with such a solid storyline, why am I still hesitant to give away my heart? The answer is simple: I cannot embrace the art. Not only does the style of the art seem incongruent to the tone of the book, I question some of the choices made by the artist in a general sense. For instance, I cannot understand why in some when a full figure is shown the proportions of the characters seem altered, while in three-quarter view they retain standard dimensions. I am also leery of the cut and paste style used in some of the ensemble frames. The work looks like a collage of paper dolls pasted on a photo of the sky, because they have a white outline and none of the figures interact. This also makes the figures appear very static. Some pages have large white borders while the panels on the page seem squished. Scott Summers here looks younger (and a whole lot more like John Karsinski) than his younger counterpart featured in All New X-men.

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As you read this be aware that these critiques involve stylistic choices. Bachalo does not do anything wrong, these decisions just does not appeal to my tastes. The art is not bad, and I suppose that for readers who enjoy an Asian-inspired art style, it will seem particularly successful. Two pages in particular did impress me, the full page of Emma Frost in profile and Bachalo’s rendering of the Xavier School.

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Another frustrating feature of the book are the layouts. Bendis apparently favors confusing panel distribution in his scripts; I have encountered these snares in his other work. However, if you persevere and find the flow of the panels, you will be rewarded with a great story.

So there you have it, Bendis tells a great story; and I personally can’t get into the slightly manga-inspired art style. The world will eventually recover from the shock I am sure.

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This review was originally published on bagandbored.net, go check out the site!

Review Hawkeye #8

1 Mar

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Hawkeye #8

Matt Fraction & David Aja

Published by Marvel Comics

Hawkeye #8 starts with a visual bang of brilliant storytelling from Aja and Fraction. This issue marks the beginning of a new story arc centering on Clint Barton’s seemingly ill-advised involvement with a red-headed stranger, Penny, and her litany of complications. From the beginning of this series, Fraction and Aja have stressed that their focus is purely on what happens to Clint when he is not working with the Avengers. That’s for the best, because issue 8 takes him to some decidedly un-heroic (a strip club mafia-front and jail come to mind).

Clint gets tangled up in Penny’s charms and proceeds to make a series of questionable decisions. Fraction bravely allows Clint to be a guy, not a perfect, shining, armor-clad hero. Clint’s ability to (and at times downright insistence that he must) make bad decisions make him intensely relatable and endearing. The humorous tone of the book remains grounded firmly in Clint’s refusal to take himself seriously. Against all odds, Fraction is able to make an elderly man wearing a tracksuit and an oxygen mask work as a villain in a Marvel superhero book; this should give you some insight into the outrageous twists and turns you can expect in this series. Near the end of the of the issue Fraction relates these street level skirmishes to some truly heavy-hitting monuments of Marvel mythology, showcasing his skill as a writer, and setting the table for the next course.

While Fraction’s choices make the narrative of this book stand out, what cements this book’s must-read status for me is Aja’s artwork. Nowhere in the cape-wearing comic world is there a more identifiable trademark style than an Aja on Hawkeye. Not only his rendering style, but his aesthetic choices regarding everything from layout to the angles he chooses to show scenes might as well have his name in neon lights.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Aja’s style its somewhere between pop art and 1960s advertising graphics. Aja uses very little shading, and coloring is generally very monochromatic. Because he commonly fills a page with up to twenty-four frames, his canvases can be very small. So, considering that Aja works with a limited: color palette, linear variation, and space; and still manages to tell such incredible visual stories, I am going to go ahead and label him a genius. I am so glad that he’s back.

In addition to getting Aja back on the title this month, we have also been given the extraordinary gift of five big beautiful full-page illustrations from Annie Wu. Wu’s work evokes a completely different feeling than Aja’s and provides brilliant contrast by hearkening back to the genre of romance comics. I do not think there is another medium on the planet that allows you to purchase so much great art for $2.99.

Hawkeye is a completely original take on hero books tethered by Fraction’s bold storytelling and Aja’s signature artwork that hits the mark in a big way this month.

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This review was originally published on Bag & Bored, check out their site here:

http://bagandbored.net/

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Review of Saga #10 for Image Addiction

20 Feb

Review of Saga #10 for Image Addiction

I posted a review of Saga #10 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples on the Image Addiction website, go visit and find out more.

Link

Review of Revival #7 for Image Addiction

20 Feb

Review of Revival #7 for Image Addiction

I posted a review of Revival #7 by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton for Image Comics on the Image Addiction website, stop by and check it out!

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Review Batgirl #17

16 Feb

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Something Old, Something New, Something borrowed, Something better?

So, here we are, sans Gail Simone. I expected to be outraged, disappointed, and then finish off my pout by feeling an intense sense of relief that Simone would return to the title soon.

Instead, I read the book and realized what BATGIRL has been missing. Fawkes’ third person narration stuck me as emotionally rich and thought provoking. This story, told from the perspective of James Gordon, Junior, made me do two things I haven’t done when I read the title in the past: think and feel.

It’s really not fair to compare this issue to what Gail Simone has been doing on the book. It’s such a departure, residing inside the mind of a villainous character, and only partially concerned with Barbara’s self-affirming internal pep talks. When James, Jr. tells us that Barbara is ‘fascinating,’ it’s the first time in a while that I have considered that a possibility in a long while.

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I love Barbara, but recently I feel our relationship has devolved to one of those where I take her calls because imagining what happens if I don’t makes me very anxious. I listen to her talk about the same old things over and over, trying to seem interested—even though we’ve been over this and she is clearly making no progress. She never asks me how I feel about important issues, or makes me think about things in a different way. My love for her is very one-sided; I am not getting a lot out of the time we spend together. I expect at member of the Bat-team to be a bit more complex than the Barbara we have been presented with thus far.

This issue was very successful. It had a clear rise and fall in action. The twists and turns were thoughtful and surprising; and the voice used to tell the story was genuinely inspired and original.

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Sampere’s artwork is dynamic and visually appealing. I would love to see him stay on the book, I really love the way he draws Barbara. His representation of The Firebug helped characterize the villain even though he only appears in a few panels. The medals on his chest tell us that he was not always a menace, but in a past life might have even been a hero.

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The highlight of the issue for me was the large panel featuring James, Jr. sitting on a hotel bed in the dark. He looks just like his father here. The clear nod to BATMAN: YEAR ONE reminded me of everything the Gordon family has been through, and how truly horrifying it must be for Barbara and the commissioner to see their own flesh and blood as a force of evil. This scene had real resonance.

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This issue by Fawkes and Sampere was thoroughly successful. I am interested to find out what happens next month. Perhaps in the myriad of Bat-titles, one focusing on James, Junior could support its own weight. I’ll stick by Barbara and Simone, for all they have done to promote strong women in comics and female readership; I just hope to see ‘something better’ soon. If anyone can realize the full potential of BATGIRL, I believe it is Simone. I will be waiting and reading in the highest hopes that she will do so.

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Review of New Avengers #3

7 Feb

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Four men stand gazing at their feet, and a shield lies stripped from a warrior… you can hear a rumble coming from off in the distance that says, ‘something has happened, and its going to change everything.’

And that’s just Jock’s cover.

He tells us lightning has struck; we are left with visual thunder.

Hickman has been building to this moment, and what an architect he is. This team feels at home in the universe, all of the recent events occurring throughout other books anchor the points that actually move the plot along.

And here begin the SPOILERS

Dr. Hank McCoy joins the team in this issue, after inheriting the Mind Gem from the late Professor Charles Xavier. Hank stands in the place of the reader, learning as the story progresses what the team is planning, and the methods they will use to enact those plans. He is confronted with the realization that there is a shadowy group of heroes making the worlds decisions behind close doors. Flawed characters hold the fate of universes in their hands, Hickman continually questions the moral ramifications of this; but again and again asserts the necessity of this evil he has created.

One could question Hickman’s pacing, he moves to what might be perceived as the culmination of this three-issue arc abruptly, but it becomes clear that this series is less driven by action; and more focused on moral dilemmas, ethical questions, and character analysis. During the moment of incursion, the team makes a hasty decision that Captain America must wield the Infinity Gauntlet. Cap, or maybe Steve, hesitates for a moment.  This moment feels epic, it is the moment that the hero must step up to the challenge that faces him; the moment in which the choice to turn back has been taken away. Hickman is fittingly throwing down the gauntlet, and in the tradition of a true champion, Cap picks it up and accepts the challenge.

Cap accomplishes the task of saving two universes. However, as does all of the gems shatter (except for the Time Gem which disappears) and the celebratory tone is marred.

Back in Wakanda, the team sits down to discuss strategy. Cap tells them that he will not stand by and watch them toy with fate. He believes that the needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few. Cap’s character is his greatest asset, and in this instance, his greatest weakness.  He is Caesar before Brutus, Abel before Cain; despite their history, Tony executes the order to remove him from the team. Doctor Strange wipes Steve’s memory, and the group effectively silences their conscience.

I cannot separate the quality of this story from its events. It feels so important. The themes that Hickman touches on: the moral responsibility of leaders, trust and betrayal, the coercive nature of power, and moral gray area, are the stuff of parables and legends. What he accomplishes here is truly outstanding. After building a crisis situation that threatens two universes, he pauses and says; ‘no it’s bigger than that.’

The tension created by Captain America’s character has been essential to keeping the enlightened ones out of the dark. I am so curious to see where the series will go in his absence.Image

Actually if you look closely at Jock’s cover, you can see that Jiminy Cricket is squished under Iron Man’s boot. They will no longer be letting their conscience be their guide.

Epting’s artwork prevents the complicated story from reading to densely. He adds clarity to points that could have easily been obscured, and the quality of his work is artful and consistent throughout. I particularly enjoyed the way he represented the scene between Reed and the Black Swan.

As I end this long and winding review, I would like to highlight a few questions we might need to be asking ourselves:

  1. Why do the Swan’s eyes glow?
  2. Are they going to remember to take the communication device out of Cap’s hand?
  3. What happened to the Time Gem?
  4. When will they face the next incursion?
  5. Is there a McDonald’s in Wakanda?
  6. If Reed had time to whip up those nifty charts and graphs in the last issue, and feed a caged woman French fries; why did he not have time to bring up who would wield the gauntlet at the strategy meeting?

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

And pick up New Avengers #3 here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43517/new_avengers_2013_3

Review of Green Arrow #17

7 Feb

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Green Arrow #17 by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino published by DC Comics

At first glance, the seventeenth issue of a title I have not been reading should hold no interest for me, but the creative switch up caught my attention. I am so glad I picked up this book.

Sorrentino’s artwork soars. Removed from the darkness of the I, Vampire series and thrust under the fluorescent lights of Queen Industries; Sorrentino’s work retains that same ineffable foreboding quality we have seen in the past.

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This art is on par with the best in the industry. Through layered frames and unique layouts he builds a tense pulsing rhythm for the melody of Lemire’s writing to play over.

Lemire is systematically scrapping the infrastructure he inherited. He has big plans for Oliver, and they start with stripping away nearly everything he regained at the launch of The New 52. It is important to realize that Sorrentino’s art reaches the height it does because it is perfectly paired with Lemire’s methodically plotted action. I love what they have created together.

The issue ends as a sightless character tells Oliver that he was never supposed to leave the island. Oh, Mr. Lemire, what do you have in store for us? I for one cannot wait to find out.

A brief aside, if you were able to read the sentence, “You were never supposed to leave the island!” not in the voice of Jack Shephard you are a better fan than I.

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Hats off guys, this issue is full of promise and possibility.

Follow me on Twitter @comicsonice

Get this issue here:

http://www.readdcentertainment.com/Green-Arrow-2011-17/digital-comic/DEC120180

Also I am willing to bet this is going to be important.

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Review of Batman: The Dark Knight 16

2 Feb

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This is the Batman horror comic, and the tone, art, and subject matter taken on by the creative team do a great job reminding us of that.

Ethan Van Sciver draws like a dream. Batman’s intensity is evident in every panel in which he appears. The two page spread set around piano keys is innovative, thoughtful, and beautiful; its truly inspired. While I will miss David Finch’s almost baroque touches on the book (not to mention finding the occasional reproduction of Carravaggio’s greatest works in the background) I trust Van Scriver completely after this issue.

Gregg Hurwitz takes his time settling into this new story arc. The exposition is filled with outright action for Batman as well as personal conflict for Bruce. He must also be given due credit for writing a smart, self assured female character in Natalya (Bruce’s [ex?] love interest). Hurwitz’s Alfred is full of the paternal love and humor, he serves as a brilliant reminder of Bruce’s humanity.

As for the Mad Hatter himself, he’s truly diabolical and unhinged. His depravity comes through in Hurwitz’s writing. You can almost hear the screechy put-on British accent in the word balloons. I cannot wait to spend more time with the dastardly haberdasher as the story unfolds. The only reason I cannot say the book was perfect, is that I wanted a bit more villain; but if I know Hurwitz, that is exactly what is to come.

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